1. Magnus Paajarvi
By the time their rookie season was only half-over, Magnus, Jordan, and Taylor had probably spent enough time together for an entire lifetime. It would have been more than most people could stand- media availability, rookie showcases, photo shoots, and not to mention meetings and practice and games and road trips and long flights- but somehow, an impressive feat for the three of them, they had managed not to kill each other- to this point in their friendship, anyway.
In fact, easy as it would have been to take their days off as an excuse to not see each other, they seemed to gravitate towards each other anyway, even when others might see it as a blessing to be given the opportunity to be apart. Magnus had his own apartment- only a few stories above Taylor and Jordan’s- a safe haven, his own space, where he could be free from Taylor’s rambunctious and often destructive energy and Jordan’s small-man complex, always trying to be heard and constantly tugging at Taylor’s reins to draw him back in, but even so, he found himself at their place more often than not. He’d never felt unwelcome in their apartment, in fact, they’d gotten into the habit of leaving the door unlocked when they were home so they wouldn’t have to pause their games of NHL to let him in when he knocked. Their dynamic was exhausting, but Magnus thrived from it- Taylor helped remind him that even after three and a half years of pro hockey, he was still young, dammit, and Jordan was as easy-going as he was easy-to-pick-on.
This particular off-day wasn’t different from any other off-day. It wasn’t special or remarkable in any way- the only thing that might have been strange about it was the fact that Taylor was the only one of them to opt-in on the optional skate.
“His shoulder’s been buggin’ him,” Jordan explains as he digs through the fridge to find Magnus a beer, cracking one open for himself. “I think he wanted to get some extra work in.”
“Cool,” Magnus shrugs- just two less hands fighting for Xbox controllers. “Wanna play NHL?”
“In a little bit,” Jordan replies, knocking back a gulp of his Pilsner. “I gotta finish doing laundry and then we’re good to go.”
Magnus follows him down the hallway to their laundry room, where they are subsequently greeted by an enormous pile of clothes.
“Vad fan- do you ever wash your clothes? Like at all this season? Why do you even have so many clothes?” He says, gaping at the waist-high mountain in front of them.
“Shut up, Maggie, we’ve been busy,” Jordan mutters indignantly as he starts to throw clothes haphazardly into the machine.
“Well, I am at least as busy as you and I have not been living in filth. This is gross. You’re gross.”
“Well you’re just one person!” Jordan retorts defensively, grabbing a cardigan out of Maggie’s hands. Strange, because Maggie has known Jordan for a little while now and has seen him almost every single day and is confident enough in their friendship to know that Jordan does not own a cardigan.
Maggie works the translation back and forth in his head, while staring at his friend, confirming that he understands what Jordan is implying- he’s pretty sure he’s got it right, but if playing in the NHL has taught him anything, it’s that his English apparently isn’t as good as he thinks it is. He watches as Jordan’s cheeks flush and he looks away as though he’s just admitted to an embarrassing secret, and- has he?
“Are you- is that,” Magnus tries, pointing at the pile of dirty clothes, “You do Hallsy’s laundry?”
“No!” Jordan says quickly, fidgeting with the grey sweater in his hands- another one of Taylor’s, which Maggie thinks weakens his defense substantially. “I mean, not all the time! And only when- it’s just because, like, he’s so dumb that…” Jordan trails off, his line of sight following Maggie’s eyebrows up into his hair line. “Well, er… yea.”
“Hey, calm down,” Maggie smiles, putting a gentle hand on Jordan’s shoulder and shaking it a little. Jordan’s breath hitches before slowing back down to normal. “Your secret is safe with me,” he continues, so that they can both mean to say more than they actually do.
2. Sam Gagner
When Sam was a rookie, he and Cogs had done pretty well to create a bit of a reputation for themselves at the bars around Edmonton which, in hindsight, he sometimes wishes he’d avoided instead of encouraged. But as a bonafide veteran at this point in his career (at 22, and if he’d said a few years ago that he’d be a five-year pro before he turned 23, he’s pretty sure he’d have been laughed at (Pat) or hit (JT and probably his dad) before the words got out of his mouth) he knows that it’s best to learn by trial and error, so he does nothing to deter Hallsy and Ebs in their rookie year, and they prove well enough that they can handle themselves alright. And just like him, the trend continues well into their second year, which is going a lot better than his second year, so he figures it’s alright to be there right alongside them.
With Andrew’s trade and Maggie’s demotion to Oklahoma City, the three of them fall together naturally- even on the ice, sometimes, when Renney breaks out the blender. It’s habit now to go out together after wins, and for the most part, they’re all smart enough now to take it easy. Unless one of them has a particularly good night, they make an effort to show some moderation.
One night in February, “moderation” goes out the window.
They’ve been pretty awesome against the Blackhawks so far- Taylor had a hattrick in a blowout win against them earlier in the season, and Sam’s been having some of his best games against the Hawks since he came into the league, pushing a little harder every game in the on-going competition with Pat. But this night, though. This night is something else entirely.
He’s vaguely aware that he’s tied some records, but he had text messages from Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier and Darryl Sittler when he checked his phone after the game, so everything is kind of a blur. He’s not entirely sure what bar they’re even at, but apparently the drinks are free and Taylor’s been pouring it down his throat for most of the night, and matching him shot-for-shot. Jordan usually keeps it pretty together in an attempt to look out for Taylor, but he’s looking a lot worse than usual. And fuckin’ rights he should be- eight points.
It’s past two by the time they even consider slowing down, and the rest of the team has already begged off, but with sixteen points between them, the three of them are all too jacked to go home yet. Taylor’s hanging off of Ebs and slurring loudly, his hands sloppily making their way between the buttons on Jordan’s shirt as he retells the story of Sam’s fourth goal of the night.
“And the look on his face! Ebs! You shoulda seen his face when that goal went in. And you passed it to him!” He’s practically yelling, tapping Jordan on the chest incessantly with his full palm to make his point.
“I know, Tay, I was there! I passed it to him!” Jordan’s laughing as he tries to push Taylor off, and Sam is laughing too, because Taylor is nothing if not a handsy drunk.
“Dude,” Taylor says seriously, fisting the front of Jordan’s shirt now and looking him right in the eye, “it was beautiful.” There’s only a moment’s pause before he breaks eye contact and releases the fabric clutched in his hand, and stumbles out of the booth. “I gotta go to the bathroom.”
Sam and Jordan continue laughing without him, and are arguing who had the prettiest point of the night when Jordan stops to look at his watch, knitting his brow.
“Taylor’s been gone for a while. I should go find him and make sure that shitshow isn’t dead somewhere.”
“Bring me back a beer!” Sam calls after him, even though it feels like it’s only been five minutes since Hallsy left, and winks at the pretty blonde at the bar who’s been eyeing him up like a gazelle all night.
The conversation with the girl is just getting started about ten minutes later when Taylor and Jordan stumble back to the table through the crowd. Taylor’s hair is sticking up in a really strange direction on one side and there’s a button missing on Jordan’s shirt. Sam’s lost track of the amount of drinks they’ve had, but even he knows that’s suspicious. What Sam’s actually most concerned about is the fact that Jordan doesn’t have a beer with him.
“Uh, yea, I think I should probably get this guy home before he causes any real damage,” Jordan says, jabbing his thumb in Taylor’s direction as Hallsy leans into him, grinning dumbly. Jordan claps down on Sam’s shoulder, taking his other hand and pulling him half out of his seat for a very manly half-hug. “You were incredible tonight, Gags, I am so-”
“Have a good night Sam!” Taylor cuts in, grabbing Jordan tightly around the wrist and pulling him away, waving behind him as they head straight for the door. Jordan looks a little stunned but recovers quickly enough to wave before he’s dragged out of the building.
“Well, that was weird?” The girl says, raising her eyebrows a little judgementally. Sam shrugs and turns back to her, rolling his eyes at his teammates.
If he were sober enough to remember this in the morning, he’d probably make a note to teach them a thing or two about subtlety. Because Sam is drunk, and probably more than a little confused, but even he noticed that Taylor magically stopped slurring and that the hickey on Jordan’s neck wasn’t there when he left the table.
3. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Ryan really appreciates that Taylor and Jordan try so hard to make him feel comfortable in Edmonton. He doesn’t need it as much as they think he does, of course- this isn’t his first rodeo, he can take the pressure, and he’s pretty sure he’s about a hundred times more mature than the two of them put together- but still, the effort is sweet, and even though most of his friends are only a couple of hours down the highway in Red Deer, it’s nice to have some guys his own age around to goof off with if he feels like letting loose once in a while.
He doesn’t always need it- he’s a pretty independent guy- but he can’t say that he isn’t glad for the company sometimes.
As nice as it is- their constant invitations to join them for dinner, or a mall-outing, or whatever it might be- Ryan can’t help but feel like he’s intruding on something, most of the time. It was the same when he first got to Red Deer, or growing up, when he was younger than everyone around him, always the new kid on the team, and everyone else had just known each other longer and already had solidly forged bonds of friendship. It’s like that- Jordan and Taylor are already two halves of a whole, best friends, so alike and complimentary that it makes everyone feel left out, not just Ryan, so he doesn’t feel so bad about it. Again- just the effort is nice.
He tells himself this when the third-wheeling kicks into overdrive- like when they’re in the middle of a game of mini-golf and Taylor decides it’s a good time to tackle Ebs around the waist and start a wrestling match on the damn fairway, or when they forget he’s there while they fight over the menu at Earls about what Jordan may or may not have had last time. Because he’s in the show now, and as dumb as these guys can be away from the rink, they’re probably the two best players he’s ever played with, so he’ll put up with them and feeling left out for as long as it takes- as long as they’re still including him on the ice.
They’re on a homestand in January when it really hits him.
He’s known them for a few months now, he’s more comfortable around them and he’s spent enough time with them to just be able to smile and roll his eyes when they’re being weird. It was a bit of a shock when he realized that the weird shit they pull was becoming normal to him. Oh, it’s a Tuesday normal.
It’s the evening before gameday, and they finally take him to their super-secret ice cream location- which turns out to be an actual hole-in-the-wall local place and not a Dairy Queen, as most of the lockerroom had speculated on account of Hallsy’s reputation as a notoriously cheap date- and he ends up feeling the most included he’s ever been and the least, simultaneously.
It’s not the way they shove each other as they survey the flavours available, or the way they argue over whose turn it is to pay, because those things are normal. It’s not even the way they sit down on the same side of the table to face Ryan alone on the other side, because there’s three of them, obviously two of them would have to sit next to each other.
What throws him off is the way Taylor is staring at Jordan hungrily as he licks at his ice cream, because Ryan knows Taylor isn’t just coveting Jordan’s choice, because he had commented pretty loudly a couple minutes earlier about how much he hates anything cherry flavoured. It’s the way Jordan catches him and looks up through his eye lashes while he takes another long lick, and the way Taylor inadvertently kicks him in the shin a moment after Jordan drops a hand beneath the table for a second. That, Ryan thinks, is decidedly not normal.
He wonders, briefly, just how long he’s been missing this, how obvious they must be. He thinks of mentioning something to Jeff when he gets home, subtly, just to see if he’s the only one who didn’t see it right away- but he’s always prided himself on being pretty observant, and to a man, the rest of the team has proved themselves to be pretty oblivious in the past, so he kind of doubts that.
He starts to decline their invitations after that, and eats a few more dinners at home, but he feels like he understands them a little better, anyway.
4. Ryan Whitney
Whits hates pretty much everything.
It’s actually common knowledge amongst all of his teammates, past and present- he’s not even sure Brooks was joking that time he mentioned the “Post-Ryan Whitney Trade Support Group” he’d set up for ex-teammates.
“You’re loud, bitter, obnoxious, and like, huge. And you’re from Boston.” Orp had said over the phone at some point during his stint in Anaheim, “What did you expect?”
Well, fuck him, anyway. He had pretty much all the same problems, except maybe the loud part, which Whits probably had him beat in, and he might as well be from Boston anyway, plus he’s old, so. Whatever. His teammates love him.
And it’s not like he doesn’t love them back, at least most of the time. But, there’s only so much of the Hall-and-Ebs show one guy can put up with, and he doesn’t actualy think he’s alone in that. Really, he should be given sainthood for how much of those kids he sees on a regular basis. Most of the time they make him feel like even more of a bitter old man, rather than like they’ve been “keeping him young” like he’s been spewing to the media, but. They’re good kids, who luckily don’t really remind him of his younger self, but more of like, Staalsy or TK’s younger selves, who his younger self didn’t mind hanging around with, so. He sticks around, they make him laugh, he tweets about how dumb they are. It’s a healthy relationship.
It is hard, though, sometimes- they can be annoying at the best of times and absolutely insufferable at the worst- and Whits has found himself resorting to deep breaths and thoughts of the ‘A’ stitched on his chest to get him through some days.
He rooms with Ebs on the road, and that’s usually comedic gold because Jordan is actually about as dumb as Hallsy, even though he usually gets the brunt of those jokes, but only because he’s usually just dumb louder. Ebs argued some ‘scholastic player’ thing to him at dinner one night, but, well, he went to college, and he figures the WHL has some lower standards about that, so, he ignored him. Or threw something at him to shut him up, one of those.
Sometimes rooming with Ebs sucks, for the record. Call him an old man, but Whits needs his sleep, and apparently what Ebs needs to do is talk to Taylor every night until he passes out. Whether it’s on the phone or Taylor’s direct presence is required, they talk in circles until Whits has either threatened to beat the shit out of one or both of them, or if Hallsy is physically there, left to go sleep in the vacant bed in Hordi’s room.
It’s after a pretty rough game in Vancouver when he inadvertently finds out just how much rooming with Ebs can kind of suck. He’s just coming back from being out drowning the sorrows a little with Suttsy, cursing both Sedins- especially whichever one it was that totally exposed him on their third goal- and totally ready to just crash into bed and sleep it off. Being from Boston and playing for the Oilers, it was kind of the perfect storm of hate. Fuck that team, seriously.
It’s a little after midnight, which, with no game or practice the next day- just the short flight home- is still pretty early for Hallsy-and-Ebs-Epic-Bromance-Time. He stills a little before pushing his keycard into the slot. There isn’t any noise coming from the other side of the door, which is kind of weird, but it could be Ebs just wanted to sleep after what was a weak game from him, or they’re down in Hallsy’s room pestering Hordi instead.
However, when he does open the door, he sees two bodies on Ebs’ bed and his hand flies up instinctively to cover his eyes- he’s been in this league long enough at this point to have that reaction permanently imbedded in his brain- before he realizes that he didn’t really see anything at all, and it’s still really quiet.
He peeks out from between fingers to see Jordan on the far bed, facing him- but fully clothed, and sleeping. He hasn’t really made any noise, and Ebs is one of the heaviest sleepers he’s ever roomed with, so it’s not entirely surprising that he hasn’t woken him up. There’s an arm slung around his waist- unmistakably Hallsy, holding him tight from behind.
In all of his years, he has never actually walked in on spooning.
Taylor stirs a little, but doesn’t seem to notice Whits standing there, as he pulls his head up and blinks sleepily, peering down at Jordan’s sleeping form, a bit of concern written on his face. He leans down to press a kiss to Jordan’s neck, and Whits almost wishes he did walk in on someone having sex, because he feels like he’s seriously interrupting something, something that no one should get to see. It’s so simple and intimate and obvious that he’s kind of ashamed- ashamed that he didn’t know, ashamed that he’s found out now, without them knowing. Fuckin’ kids should be more careful, but- at the same time, they have to know that Whits wouldn’t care. And he doesn’t, he’s happy for them, but this is still the NHL, and this isn’t really the place for… the ice and the metal and the blood and the hate- it’s not the best place to nurture love.
Taylor rubs a hand over Jordan’s shoulder and lies back down, reaching over uncoordinatedly to slap at the switch on the bedside lamp. He still hasn’t noticed Whits, standing silently in the doorway, so he slips back out, closing the door behind him softly.
Even if his bed is going to be unoccupied, he’ll still room with Hordi, just for tonight.
Tomorrow, though, he’s slapping the both of them.
5. Shawn Horcoff
The whole bench goes silent when Taylor goes down, but only for a moment, like a vacuum- like their collective gasps have sucked in all the sound, too. Then there’s some shouting, and some anger, but. Everybody knows there’s nothing they can do for him, now.
It happens so fast, and everything happens at once- they’re both going for the puck, Sarich pinching and Taylor with single-minded determination, the same way he always does- and then Taylor’s slipping and Sarich’s elbow is up and then…
Taylor’s on the ice, flat, staring up into the rafters of Rexall Place, and Shawn can’t even tell if he’s conscious from here. It’s only for a few seconds though, and he’s struggling to crawl to his feet, and Shawn knows this kid, knows he’s probably thinking about running Sarich into the boards, like right now. And not for the first time, Shawn is thinking God, kid, just stay down.
He watches from the bench as Whits controls things on the ice, and Taylor is actually arguing to stay in the game- he’ll pull him out himself, if he has to, because Taylor is headstrong and antagonistic but he always listens to his Captain.
Eventually both Taylor and Sarich are escorted off the ice, and Shawn looks around to rile the troops, but then he sees Jordan’s face, and his stomach drops. The kids face is just devoid of colour, pale white, like he’s about to throw up- and he probably is. He pretty much just saw his best friend collect some brain damage, so he doesn’t blame him.
He doesn’t know what he could say to make Jordan feel better, so he punches him lightly on the arm to bring him back to reality. Jordan looks up at him and his face steels, and Shawn’s seen that look before. He knows what’s about to happen. He’s seen Jordan do some amazing things when he’s got a little extra motivation.
Just as he predicted, Jordan finishes the period with a couple of highlight-reel plays and a couple points on the board, practically willing the puck into the net on both occasions. They barely make it to the locker room before Jordan is throwing his equipment off, ready to run out of the room again.
“Whoa, Ebs,” Shawn says, catching Jordan by the elbow as he hurries by, “it can wait, okay? T.D.’s got this. He’ll be alright until the end of the game.”
Jordan stiffens and looks back at Shawn, right into his eyes, and he’s still got that fire, that do-whatever-it-takes look in his eyes. “Horc,” he begs, “please, I have to see him.”
Shawn knows this argument could last a long time with no end, and there’s something in Jordan’s voice that tells him that Jordan will need to see that Taylor is alright with his own eyes before he believes it. He sighs heavily and releases the kid’s arm.
“Go,” he says- there’s nothing Tom can say that’ll make him play better, anyway. “I’ll talk to Coach.”
Jordan thanks him with a look and is gone, moving almost as quickly as he does on the ice.
Intermission goes by quickly- Renney tells them to keep the fire, to keep playing for Taylor, but none of them need to hear it. They’re all thinking the same thing.
“Okay boys, on in five, let’s keep it going here,” Tom says, and the guys all clap as he exits the room, ready for another twenty minutes. Jordan isn’t back yet.
Shawn walks down the hall to the medical area to retrieve their star- unfortunately, only one of them. He turns into the treatment room and nearly falls off his skates, but manages to grab tightly onto the doorframe to steady himself.
Jordan’s got one hand braced on the exam table and the other tangled tight in Taylor’s hair, leaning over him with their lips fused tightly together. Taylor is clinging back just as hard, his fingers clenched in the fabric of Jordan’s undershirt. They’re kissing like- well, like they were afraid they were never going to do it again.
“I was so scared,” Jordan whispers to Taylor as he breaks away, “please don’t ever do that again.”
“I didn’t mean to, Ebby, I-” Jordan kisses him again, then, abruptly and quickly, “I won’t, I swear.”
He’s the captain of this team- he curses himself for not knowing this was going on before, as it so obviously has. It’s something he’ll have to deal with later- they’ve still got 40 minutes to play, tonight. He clears his throat, awkwardly, and the two spring apart- and for the second time tonight, he’s not exactly sure what to say to Jordan, but he settles with “Time to go, Ebs.”
Jordan glances at Taylor, a little panicked, but Taylor squeezes his hand and looks right at Shawn, challenging him. It’s not exactly an uncommon look from Taylor, but he gets the feeling that he isn’t going to back down from this one just because Shawn is his captain.
Jordan slips past him in the doorway, and Shawn catches him once again, making Jordan turn to look at him.
“Hey, Ebs, listen,” he starts, and he’s got no practice with this speech, but he’s trying, “we- me and the team, we’ll support you guys, alright? Through anything. You guys are safe around us, and anyone who says anything, well- you don’t have to worry about that, okay?” He pauses, making sure Jordan understands what he’s trying to say. “Everyone will be fine with it. You guys are- this is obviously the real deal, right?” Jordan nods, and Shawn smiles. “You guys should tell the team. At least then we’d know to knock.”
Jordan blushes a little at that, scratching at the back of his neck. “We were going to,” he laughs a little, awkwardly, “after the season. We didn’t want to be a distraction, you know? But, yea. It’s serious, and- well. Thanks, Horc.”
Shawn just smiles again and pushes him down the hallway, “Come on, kid, let’s go win this for your boy.”
It’s garbage day at Rexall Place- also known as Taylor’s least favourite day of the entire fucking year day. And this year, that includes the date of his concussion and his surgery, so it’s really saying something.
This garbage day is a little different than last year, though, because he’s got his boyfriend’s hand clasped tightly in his own, and they’re having one last huddle before heading into the locker room together, like they always do, except it won’t be the same this time.
“It’s gonna be okay, right?” Jordan says against his lips, asking for what’s probably the 11th time that morning.
“It’s gonna be okay,” Taylor confirms, pressing their lips together one final time before pulling him along into the locker room. None of the media has been allowed in yet, and they’ll probably be around for the rest of the day, and the whole team is here, so it’s really now or never. “Let’s do this.
It takes a while for all the boys to notice that they’re standing there holding hands, in the middle of the room, right above the Oilers crest on the floor. But it turns out that when they do, Taylor doesn’t have to worry about what they were going to say because the room goes from the steady din of rustling equipment to a raucous wall of noise and cat calls from every direction within a split second.
“Dude, I knew it!” Theo shouts, punching Duby in the arm harshly, “You owe me so much money!”
“Whoa, whoa, hang on here boys,” Jonesy says, quieting the room with a few dramatic waves of his arms. He pauses for a second to make sure everyone is listening. “What day is it today? Did anyone have April 9th in the pool?”
The room goes back to full volume- guys arguing who was closest in the goddamn pool they had going, whistles, slaps on the back from at least 7 different guys, and Tubes loudly proclaiming “I can’t believe none of you guys knew!”- and Jordan has his face planted firmly on Taylor’s good shoulder the whole time, laughing hysterically into the fabric of his sweater, and this is already going a lot better than he’d dared to hope.
He looks around the room and sees Nuge grinning at him, like he knew all along- and he probably did, the little shit- and there’s Whits, laughing and shaking his fist at him, and Taylor has to blush at that, because he’ll never forget the talking to Whitter gave them the night after he apparently “walked in on the goddamn Stanley Cup playoffs of cuddle sessions”. Sam gives him a wink and a thumbs up and Horc is standing in the corner quietly, arms folded across his chest and giving him an approving look.
He jostles Ebs’ head on his shoulder a little and looks down at him, unable to keep the wide smile off his face, and leans down for a kiss, short and sweet.
The noise that explodes around them is deafening, and this is the best garbage day ever.