Nickelback is Eric’s absolute all time favorite band. It isn't just the music, he likes their everything. They seem like down-to-earth Canadian guys. They don't seem pretentious or ego driven, they seem like guys in a rock band who are dedicated to playing good music. Eric appreciates this.
Chad Kroeger is the lead singer of Nickelback. This makes him Eric's favorite musician pretty much by default. Eric respects Chad Kroeger.
Eric is subscribed to the Nickelback fan newsletter (which is a totally great resource that lets him know about new releases and upcoming tours and Marc should just shut up because he doesn't know anything) so he hears about it right away when Chad Kroeger gets engaged to Avril Lavigne. Eric's first thought is good for him! His second thought is wait, isn't she a lot younger than him?
A fast google search reveals that yes, Avril Lavigne is ten years younger than Kroeger, but whatever, they're getting married anyway, after dating for six months.
That's pretty cool. Eric has spent a lot of time thinking about age differences and relationships and how soon is too soon for big statements. It never used to be something that he thought about but then he started playing on the same team as Jeff Skinner. Jeff was just eighteen and way too adorable and for a while appropriate age differences in relationships was almost all Eric thought about; that and hockey.
Jeff is eight years younger than him. To put things in context that means that Jeff was four when Nickelback's first album came out. Eric was twelve and thought it was the coolest thing ever. Jeff was too young to have a favorite band.
Eric has mostly conditioned himself to not think about things like that. It took him awhile to get around to the idea that dating his rookie was actually a good idea, but since then things have been great. Jeff and him work really well together. They know how to communicate. It's everything Eric wants, comfortable and real; being with Jeff feels right.
Also there's a lot of spectacular sex.
But that is really not the point.
The point is that Eric really loves Jeff. He doesn't think he's ever going to want anyone else. And he thinks—He hopes—that Jeff feels the same way.
Only he can’t think about that for too long without remembering how young Jeff is. He’s really young, too young to reasonably be asked to make a commitment for forever.
Eric makes a point to give Jeff some space during the summer. Jeff hangs out with the young guys around Toronto and Eric hangs out with his brothers. They still text frequently and talk sometimes, but they’re mostly doing their own thing.
Eric’s family is distracting; he loves getting to spend time with them, but it can get to be a bit overwhelming. Sometimes he has to get away, just for a little while.
The next time Eric is at the grocery store he picks up a copy of Hello! Canada with them on the cover, because it’s his favorite musician and a pop star he kind of remembers from the Olympics living out a situation that’s near to his heart.
They look so happy on the cover. They’re smiling and that ring on her hand means forever. Eric really likes the sound of forever, or at least the promise of something more permanent than whatever they’re doing now.
He is also an actual adult, and is capable of asking for things he wants and initiating conversations about the future. He can ask his twenty year old boyfriend to move in with him. That is definitely something he is capable of doing. For sure. He just isn’t going to do it right now.
Eric’s copy of Hello! Canada is still sitting out the next time his brothers invade. It’s starting to fall apart, but that’s because it’s a cheaply made tabloid, not because he’s obsessed or anything. His brothers don’t know what they’re talking about.
“I really hope that there’s something else going on with this,” Marc says. “I know you like Nickelback, but if you’re really this invested in their singer’s relationship with Avril Lavigne I might have to disown you. I mean—they’re Nickelback.”
Sometime after moving to New York City Marc said he “outgrew” Nickelback. Eric knows that really means that he got peer pressured by snobby city folk who don’t know what they’re talking about. Eric worries about Marc. He’s certain that Marc would be much happier in Raleigh; it’s a beautiful place, and there’s family there.
“You should just call Skinner,” Marc says.
“This doesn’t have anything to do with Jeff,” Eric says.
“Of course it has to do with Jeff,” Marc says. “You basically care about three things: family, hockey, and Jeff. We’re fine, and there isn’t any hockey to worry about right now, so it has to be about Jeff.”
Marc is terrible. “You’re terrible.”
“Really, just call him, and figure whatever it is out now,” Jordan says. “If I have to deal with your rookie-romance drama I’m going to ask to get sent back to Pittsburgh. No one talks about their feelings there—at least not in English. It makes Sid nervous.”
Eric doesn’t understand what Jordy got up to with the Penguins, but he suspects that they weren’t a very good influence on Jordan. He’ll do much better in Raleigh.
“There isn’t anything to talk about,” Eric says. “Not with Jeff, not with anyone. There isn’t anything at all.”
“If you don’t call Skinner I’m telling mom about the time with the tractor and the canned peaches. I’m sure she’d love to hear about what happened to that lamp,” Jared says.
Eric always forgets this, but Jared really is the worst. It would be great if Jared played where Eric could keep an eye on him. He wants to ask why they’re all so mean to him, but really he knows the answer; they’re his brothers.
In the end he calls Jeff, but he’s doing it because it’s the right time, not because his brothers are terrible.
“Hey.” Jeff sounds good, and happy, and young.
“Hey.” Eric can totally do this, he just needs a moment. They talk about their training and their siblings; Jeff has sisters, a lot of sisters, which is weird, but they seem nice.
“Um, I have an idea. I have a question I want to ask you. You don’t have to answer right away, but I’m going to ask you now.” Eric knows he’s rambling. This isn’t easy. He wants Jeff to say yes. “Whatever you answer is fine. Seriously, this is all up to you.”
“What is it? You’re starting to make me worry.”
That’s the last thing Eric wants to do. This is a terrible idea. “Nevermind. It’s not important.”
“No. Eric, it’s obvious that you’re freaking out about something, and that’s not alright. So just ask me already.” When Jeff gets bossy it’s easy to forget his age. It’s reassuring how he sounds like someone capable of making decisions about their future. It’s enough to convince Eric it’s alright to ask.
“Do you want to move in with me?”
The question hangs in the air, creating silence that’s ready to ruined.
“Yes,” Jeff says. “Yes, yes, of course. That’s awesome. You sounded like it was something terrible, but this is great!”
Eric didn’t really expect this. “Are you sure?”
“Absolutely. There isn’t anyplace I’d rather be,” Jeff says. “I want to be with you.”
This is total greatness. This is gonna be awesome. This is proof that using Nickleback as an inspiration for major life choices is obviously a great idea. They’re just the best band ever. Seriously.