It's the last practice before the first game of the season (finally), and they're all a little on edge. The coaches try to calm them down, try to get them into a steadier rhythm, and for the most part it works.
Gabe does his best to reinforce it, tries for relaxed and focused instead of the steely intensity he's felt building inside him all week. For the most part that works, too, and he can feel the guys unwinding just enough in response that it feels less like they're going to spin themselves to pieces before even getting to the game.
The official part of practice ends at the usual time, but more guys than usual stay out on the ice after, taking shots and running little skating drills for themselves. Gabe stays out with them and cycles between groups, doing a little of this, a little of that. After a while, they start to trickle off the ice in fits and starts, for showers and cool down routines and massages and trainer visits and lunch and naps and all of the other post-practice routines that come with being a hockey player.
Eventually, as usual, it's just Factor left. Well, Factor and Gabe. They run some passing plays, practice takeaways, pick corners and take some shots. For most of the week, Gabe has been content to let Ryan close out the sessions on his own, just like last year. But today, right now? Gabe finds himself strangely reluctant to leave Ryan on the ice.
Factor has always skated like he has something to prove. But it feels different today, like the undercurrent of anxiety from the beginning of practice is back and more vicious than ever. Maybe it had never left, maybe it had just been masked by Ryan's quick smile and stable, hard-working demeanor.
"C'mon," Gabe hears himself say. "Let's go. We can grab lunch or something."
Ryan shakes his head. "You go ahead. I wanna do some stickhandling drills, maybe take some more shots." The surety in his voice pushes Gabe halfway off the ice between he even realizes it. When he turns back, Factor's got the puck balanced on his blade at waist height, eyes focused on the puck as he flips it into midair and then catches it on the blade again. His form looks off, though, his shoulders crunched up around his ears and hands clutching his stick harder than they should.
"Factor." Ryan glances sharply at Gabe and the puck falls off his stick. Gabe waves his hand toward the locker room. "Game tomorrow. Rest now."
Ryan's jaw clenches, and he deliberately looks over Gabe's shoulder instead of meeting his eyes. When he speaks, his voice is tense. "Not yet, okay. I still have work to do."
"For sure, we all still have work to do. It's just the start of the season. But it's enough for today. Come off the ice."
Ryan shakes his head again, squeezes his eyes shut. "Look, Landy. I just, I need to do this." He meets Gabe's eyes and smiles wryly. "Just because you're wearing the C now doesn't mean you know what's best for everybody all the time."
Gabe feels a flare of frustration. "I know that. And I don't, I don't think that. But right now…" He scrubs a hand through his hair as he skates back to Ryan. "We have a game tomorrow. How are you going to play tomorrow if you spin yourself up into exhaustion today?"
Looking at him up close, really looking at him, Ryan already looks exhausted under all that scruff. But still he shakes his head. "Look. If you want me off the ice now, you're going to have to drag me off it." He pushes off to skate backwards, away from Gabe, and something in Gabe snaps.
He dives forward, grabs onto Factor's wrist. "Okay, then." He grins recklessly and yanks Ryan off balance to get him in a headlock.
"Shit," Factor yelps, and flails about, trying to push Gabe off of him. But Gabe has the leverage, so even though he probably only has ten pounds on Ryan he manages to pull him across the ice and into the bench area. At that point Factor stops resisting and starts laughing, and lets himself be dragged down the hall and into the locker room.
Gabe lets go of him in front of his stall, and both of them stand there for a second, half doubled over and breathing hard. "Now do I have to take your gear off for you, too?"
Ryan laughs and waves him off, face red from exertion. "No, no, I think I can handle it."
Gabe puts on his best captain-y face and points at him. "You better." They both laugh, then strip quickly out of their gear, shower, and change.
Post-shower, Factor still looks jittery, and as they walk to the parking lot together, Gabe keeps sneaking glances at the tense lines of his shoulders and the way his hand keeps flexing on his gear bag.
They get to Ryan's truck, and Gabe turns to look at him. "You're going to nap when you get home, right?"
Ryan takes a deep breath, lets it out on a long sigh. He meets Gabe's eyes. "I don't know if I'm going to be able to, dude. I just." He closes his eyes, slumps against the side of his truck for a moment before straightening up again. "Maybe I won't even go home. I just don't think I can sleep right now."
Gabe narrows his eyes at him, then reaches out to take his gear bag off his shoulder. "Unlock the doors. I'm coming home with you."
Ryan opens his mouth to protest, then seems to think better of it. He unlocks the doors. Gabe tosses both their bags in the back and gets in the passenger seat.
They don't speak at all during the drive, though Ryan glances over at Gabe a few times like he wants to say something but isn't sure what.
When they get to Ryan's place they drop the gear in the entry way and Ryan leads Gabe to the kitchen, where they both down some gatorade. But when Ryan turns toward the living room, Gabe grabs his wrist again.
Ryan gives him a slightly shocked look, and Gabe feels his face flushing when he replays the moment in his head, because, uh. He hadn't meant that the way it sounded.
Belatedly, he lets go of Ryan's wrist. Coughs. Smiles his most normal smile.
"After you." He gestures toward the hall; he's pretty sure Ryan's bedroom has to be in that direction.
Ryan still has his dubious face on, but heads down the hall anyway. He stops at the foot of the bed and turns back to Gabe. He throws his hands up. "I don't get why you're here. It's not like you can make me sleep."
For the second time today, Gabe feels something snap inside him. "Oh, I think I can," he says, and reaches out to yank Ryan's shirt over his head and off.
"Ack!" Factor takes one step away from him, but when Gabe gets his hands on the button of Ryan's cargo shorts, Ryan stops moving in what appears to be shock. Gabe pushes them down off Ryan's hips and his boxers get caught up and slide down his legs along with them, so when Gabe nudges on Ryan's shoulder until he flops back onto the bed, Ryan's completely naked.
Gabe keeps nudging until Ryan's head hits his pillows and then crawls onto the bed to kneel between Ryan's knees.
Ryan's staring at him with wide eyes, mouth hanging open. Gabe smiles up at him.
"Is this okay?" He taps on Ryan's hip with two fingers, glances down at his rapidly hardening dick and then back up at his face.
"Uh," Ryan says. He blinks. "Uh, yeah? I mean, yes." He nods a few times, eyes still wide, wide open with surprise. "Yes, definitely okay."
Gabe grins, and wraps his hand around Ryan's cock. He jacks it a few times, feels the length of it grow. He braces himself on the bed with his other hand and leans down until his mouth is just a few inches away, then looks back up at Ryan. "Still okay?"
Ryan digs his fingers into the sheets on either side of his body and swallows hard. "Yeah. Yeah, still okay."
"Good," Gabe says, and fits his mouth over as much of Ryan's dick as he can and sucks.
Ryan makes a strangled half-yell sort of sound, and shoves his fist in his mouth to muffle the sounds that escape steadily as Gabe sets a rapid, determined pace with his mouth and hand.
Gabe has done this some but not a whole lot, so his technique isn't that fancy, but he likes to think he makes what he does have work pretty well. Normally he'd try to draw it out a bit more, but at the moment he has a very specific goal, so he just barrels ahead as Ryan's noises get louder and his hips start to move with the rhythm of Gabe's mouth on him.
"Fuck," Gabe hears above him. He feels Ryan's fingers tug on his hair, but just keeps going. "Fuck." Ryan spills into his mouth, and Gabe manages a couple swallows before the rest kind of dribbles down his chin as he tries to stay with Ryan through the aftershocks.
He gives the head of Ryan's dick one last teasing suck -- Ryan huffs out of breathless laugh as his whole body shudders -- before sitting back on his heels and wiping off his mouth with the back of his hand as he surveys his work.
Ryan's sprawled on the bed, boneless and spent, with his arm thrown over his eyes as he catches his breath. Gabe grins, and tugs Ryan's arm away from his eyes so he can see his face. "So you think you can sleep now?"
Ryan throws his head back and laughs, and something about the line of his neck makes Gabe realize that he's still fully dressed and so fucking hard in his jeans there's gonna be chafing if he doesn't do something about it soon.
He starts shuffling himself off the bed but before he gets very far Ryan reaches out and grabs onto his wrist. Ryan grins at him. "I'll sleep, I promise, but first I think it's my turn." He gives Gabe a long once-over, and Gabe can feel himself blushing all the way down his chest. "Get your clothes off and come up here."
Gabe does. He hovers uncertainly above Ryan for a second or two before Ryan laughs, hooks his hand around the nape of Gabe's neck, and pulls him down for a kiss. They make out with sloppy enthusiasm and Ryan jerks Gabe off with strong, efficient strokes, and after Gabe comes, wipes them both off with a corner of the sheet.
Gabe's still a little shaky from his orgasm as Ryan arranges them on the bed, Gabe on his back and Ryan on his side with the head pillowed on Gabe's shoulder, arm thrown over his chest.
Ryan sounds more cheerful and relaxed than he has in days when he says, sleepily, "There. Now I can nap."