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you, i just want you

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"Lottie, no!" shouts Jeff, throwing himself between the boards and the oncoming freight train of a six year-old on ice skates.

He gets a solid punch of perspex to his back, and Lottie crashing full-speed into his front. He groans, winded and probably more than a little bruised.

"Ow," he says belatedly.

"Sorry!" says Lottie breathlessly, looking up at him with wide eyes. "Sorry, Jeff, I forgot how to stop!"

"It's okay," says Jeff, wheezing a little. "Just don't go so fast, okay? Don't wanna hurt yourself or anyone else, yeah?"

She nods frantically.

"'Kay," says Jeff, grinning at her. "Go on, you're missing out!"

She makes a distressed noise and actually executes a pretty perfect turn to go whizz back into the throng of kids further out on the ice. Jeff watches her proudly, then winces when he tries to move. He bends over with his hands on his knees and coughs a little, drawing in a couple of long, slow breaths.

"Whoa, hey," says a voice, and then there's a hand on Jeff's elbow, and Jeff glances up at-- oh God, at Eric Staal, looking all concerned and touching Jeff. "You okay?"

"I'm good," says Jeff, straightening and trying not to look too much like a gaping moron, because fuck, Eric Staal is even taller and stronger and more insanely good-looking in real life. "Kids, you know?" he adds, just for the sake of saying something. "I'm used to it."

"You sure?" says Eric. "That looked pretty brutal, even from a pro."

Jeff laughs. "Yeah, she's a tough one," he says fondly. "Seriously though, I'm fine."

"Okay," says Eric. "I'm Eric, by the way," he adds, holding out a hand.

"I know," says Jeff stupidly, and then flushes, ducking his head. "Sorry, I mean-- shit. Uh, Jeff," he finishes, taking Eric's hand.

Eric grins. "Hockey fan?" he says.

"Yeah," says Jeff. "I mean, of course."

Eric looks really pleased, and then he says, looking at Jeff seriously, "So are you supervising, or actually part of the group?"

Jeff just stares at him, gaping a little, because that's-- is he serious? Eric lasts all of five seconds before he ducks his head though, laughing quietly, and Jeff rolls his eyes. "Wow," he says, grinning, because Eric Staal is so lame, it's kind of awesome, "Nice, never heard that one before. Also, that was kind of awful. Gotta lift your game, man, jokes are an art."

Eric laughs more loudly. "Sorry," he says. "I had to."

"Yeah, yeah, baby face, I know," says Jeff, sighing. "I'm a hundred per cent legal, I'll have you know."

"I-- well, that's a relief," says Eric. "Hey, I meant to say, you know, thanks for doing this, with the kids, being part of it and everything. It's really great. I'm really glad we can help out."

"Oh," says Jeff, smiling kind of stupidly, because Eric sounds so fucking earnest, like he wants Jeff to know he really means it, isn't just saying it for the sake of the PR department or whatever. "I mean, no worries, man. Not that I have anything to do with organising this stuff, but it's so awesome we get to do it. The kids love it. They were so excited. So thank you guys, I guess."

Eric grins again, and bumps Jeff's shoulder with his own, turning to look fondly out over the kids on the ice. "I should go join them," he says, sounding adorably happy about the prospect.

"Yeah," says Jeff. "Me too. And hey, don't tell them any jokes, okay? Dazzle them with your skating or whatever. Kids can be pretty brutal and your jokes are terrible."

Eric blinks at him, surprised, and Jeff wonders for a moment whether he's gone too far, except then Eric bursts out laughing. "You always talk back this much to famous hockey players?" he says, still grinning wide. "Famous hockey player captains?" he amends, chuckling.

Jeff shrugs casually. "Only the cute ones," he says brazenly, and skates off immediately to join the throng of kids, putting a steadying hand on Lottie's shoulder as she wobbles slightly trying to slow down. When he glances back Eric is still standing where he left him, making fish faces at Jeff.

Jeff ducks his head, flushing and smiling helplessly.

 

Jeff's stacking his gear into his trunk after the skate, along with a bunch of the kids' stuff, moving a little slower than he normally would because he's feeling kind of stiff from his hit earlier.

"Need any help?" says Eric at his elbow, and Jeff jumps about a foot.

"Shit," he says. "Um. Hi."

"Hi," says Eric, smiling brilliantly. Jeff swallows.

"Um," he says again. "I think I'm good?"

Eric clicks his tongue and lifts the last bag anyway, throwing it into the trunk. "You're moving kind of stiff," he says.

"If you're trying to get me to admit I'm in pain from being boarded by a six year-old," says Jeff, biting down on his lip, "It's not gonna happen. I'm totally fine."

Eric laughs. "I wouldn't tell anyone," he says.

"Still not admitting to anything," says Jeff.

Eric rolls his eyes, but lets it go. "So," he says instead. "How come I haven't seen you around before? We've done a few things with this group."

"Oh," says Jeff. "Yeah, I know. This is actually my first event. I started helping out about a month ago-- I'm an education major, so figured it would be good work experience. Not that, uh." He stops, shaking his head. "Not that I wouldn't anyway. The kids are so great."

"Yeah, they are," says Eric, smiling at him.

Jeff smiles back helplessly, and Eric clears his throat, darting his eyes away.

"You skate pretty good," he says. "You play much hockey?"

"Some," says Jeff, trying not to thrill too much like a teenage girl just because Eric Staal said he skates good. "But mostly figure skating." He ducks his head.

"You-- figure skating?" says Eric, staring at him.

"Yeah, what?" says Jeff, straightening his shoulders.

"Nothing." Eric shakes his head. "I mean, that's really cool! Takes a lot of skill, you know? I'm just trying to picture you in a figure skating outfit." He laughs.

"Shut up," mumbles Jeff, flushing. "We don't look as badass as hockey players, I know."

"It's not a bad picture," says Eric, and Jeff snaps his eyes back to him, because-- what?

Eric is a little flushed, and he palms the back of his neck. "Uh," he says.

"Are you flirting with me?" demands Jeff, and then kind of wants to bite his tongue off.

"I think so?" says Eric, and laughs at himself self-deprecatingly.

"Holy shit," says Jeff, staring.

"I-- should I not?" says Eric anxiously, biting his lip.

"No," says Jeff, and Eric's face falls. "I mean no, you should, that's-- I just-- uh. You should," he finishes lamely, licking his lips. "It's just kinda-- unexpected."

"I don't think so," says Eric quietly, but he's smiling.

Jeff blushes bright red. "You're kinda crazy," he says, which makes Eric laugh.

"Maybe," he says. "So. You wanna grab dinner or something, so I can flirt with you some more?"

"Yes," says Jeff immediately. "I mean," he adds, trying for casual even though he suspects it's way too late for that, "You could probably use the practice."

Eric laughs and looks so pleased, Jeff has a hard time not jumping him right there. "Brat," he says. "But uh, awesome. You wanna follow me? There's a good place not too far."

"Sure," says Jeff, and Eric nudges him softly before he heads for his own car.

 

It doesn't hit Jeff until he's started the car and manoeuvred out onto the road behind Eric that he's about to go on a date with Eric Staal. A date, holy shit, how is this even his life?

He has a minor panic attack, tugging the sun visor down to look at himself in the mirror and despairing over his hair, which is still slightly damp and totally untamable, curls everywhere.

Then he realises that Eric can probably see him checking himself out like a loser and snaps the visor closed, figuring, well, Eric asked him out looking like this, so it can't be too bad.

Eric pulls into the parking lot of a Mexican place not too far from the PNC, and he's already walking over to meet Jeff as he hops out of his car.

"Hey," he says dorkily, grinning.

"Hi," says Jeff, smiling helplessly.

"You cool with Mexican?" says Eric, tilting his head toward the restaurant.

"More than cool," says Jeff, nodding. "Fuck, I'm starving."

"Great," says Eric. "Come on." He puts a hand on the small of Jeff's back to guide him inside, and Jeff has to bite down hard on his lip to distract himself from how badly he wants to push back into it. God, this is getting crazy kind of fast. Not that it wasn't crazy to begin with.

It makes him feel a bit better about his dumb hormones or whatever.

Also, Eric is just hot.

"So," he says as they slide into a booth. "You ask out a lot of volunteers at your charity gigs?"

"Only the cute ones," says Eric, grinning.

Jeff rolls his eyes. "What else do you do with them?" he says, leaning forward a little. "I mean, say the date goes well."

"I-- " says Eric, staring at him.

"Do you make out with them?" says Jeff. "I hope you do. 'Cause, uh. I kinda wanna kiss you a lot right now."

"Jesus Christ, Jeff," says Eric weakly, eyes dropping to Jeff's mouth.

"Sorry," says Jeff, sitting back again. "I just-- yeah."

"Don't be sorry," says Eric quickly. "I mean, I-- yeah. I-- I want that. Definitely."

"Yeah?" says Jeff, smiling slowly. "Okay. Awesome. How fast is the service in this place? 'Cause I'm totally not as starving as I said I was two minutes ago. We could go. Right now."

Eric laughs, knocking his ankle under the table. "They're fast," he says. "And I wanna buy you dinner. We got time."

"Oh," says Jeff, smiling down at his menu. "Yeah, I guess so."

 

"So," says Jeff later in the parking lot. "About that making out."

Eric huffs a startled laugh, and Jeff licks his lips. "Oh," says Eric, looking kinda punched, "We, uh, we could go back to my place? If you want, I mean, I don't-- is that too much? Too fast?"

"Not fast enough," says Jeff firmly, and sucks in a breath, because shit. Eric's place.

Eric laughs again. "Okay," he says. "Uh, you wanna follow me?"

"Sure," says Jeff. "I mean, yes."

 

Eric stands kind of awkwardly once they're inside his place, clenching and unclenching his hands by his sides. "Um-- "

"Kiss me," says Jeff breathlessly, and Eric groans, jerking forward to grab Jeff's face between both hands and slamming their mouths together, hard and bruising.

"Oh, fuck yeah," mumbles Jeff, grabbing onto Eric's hips and opening his mouth.

Eric gets him pushed up against the door, groaning and kissing Jeff desperately, fucking into Jeff's mouth with his tongue, dirty and full of promise. His hands are somehow still so gentle on Jeff's face, thumbs stroking his cheekbones, and Jeff can barely handle that, let alone the way Eric gets a thigh between his legs and makes encouraging noises when Jeff grinds down.

"Oh my God," gasps Jeff, head falling back against the door.

Eric hums and goes for his neck, pressing his open mouth there and then sucking a little when Jeff just stretches encouragingly.

Jeff shivers, riding Eric's thigh harder, and says, "Fuck, harder, Eric."

Eric complies, biting down a little too, and Jeff tightens his hands to bruising on Eric's hips.

"Shit," says Eric, detouring back up to his mouth. "Jeff, that's-- you're so hot."

Jeff shakes his head stupidly and bites down on Eric's plush bottom lip, which makes him groan.

"What do you want?" he whispers. "Jeff? Anything, you can-- "

"I-- " says Jeff, trying to think, God. "I don't, just-- bed?"

"Yeah," agrees Eric, pulling back a little. He pushes his thumb into the corner of Jeff's mouth, eyes going dark when Jeff bites down, sucks a little. "Fuck. Come on."

Jeff grins and pushes off the door to follow close behind as Eric leads him upstairs.

He stops just inside his bedroom, turning to look at Jeff, and Jeff steps right up close, winding his arms around Eric's neck. "Hi," he whispers, smiling.

"Hi," says Eric, ducking his head to kiss him, slower this time, kind of sweet.

He nudges his nose against Jeff's temple, just holding onto him, not making a move towards the bed, which is lame, and Jeff pulls back after a moment to look at him.

"Are you nervous?" he says incredulously, poking him. "Stop it. What am I supposed to do if you're nervous?"

"Take your clothes off?" suggests Eric, and Jeff bursts out laughing.

"Oh my God," he says, and then, "Yeah, fuck, terrible joke but awesome idea," and strips his shirt off.

"Fuck, Jeff," says Eric, pulling back a little and just staring at him.

Jeff rolls his eyes. "Come on," he says. "I'm not the stupidly built athlete here."

"You're fucking gorgeous," says Eric, stripping his shirt off too. "And you blush all the way down, God."

Jeff goes even redder and does some staring of his own, because fuck. "Fuck," he says eloquently, running his hands all over Eric's chest, loving the way it makes Eric's eyes flutter and his face go almost pained. "Oh my God, this is so crazy."

Eric blinks, and gets a dumb anxious look on his face. "Is this okay?" he says. "Are you-- we can slow down, if you want, I just-- I can't-- sorry." He shakes his head.

"Eric," says Jeff, rolling his eyes and trying to push him back towards the bed, "If you try to slow down on me I will-- I'll-- fuck, I don't know, but it'll be drastic, because I need to get my mouth on your dick yesterday."

Eric opens and closes his mouth stupidly.

"Okay?" says Jeff.

"More than okay, holy shit," says Eric.

Jeff grins. He takes a little time working his way down Eric's chest, because it would be really fucking stupid of him not to, with all that skin and muscle and the way it makes Eric groan under his breath and arch his back towards Jeff's mouth a little.

Jeff is impatient though, and after sucking a couple of experimental hickeys just to the side of Eric's hipbones, which makes him hiss and breathe out, "Fuck, yes," he gets Eric's pants open and off, and his dick in his mouth.

Jeff groans helplessly around his mouthful of Eric's dick. It's just-- he's done this before, more than a few times, but it's never been quite like this.

He's never wanted it so bad before, never thought he could get off so fucking fast just from the taste and feel of a dick in his mouth. Eric is amazing; he's long and heavy, silky-hot in Jeff's mouth and leaking precome, and he can't stop touching Jeff, dragging his hands through Jeff's hair and stroking his temples, the sides of his neck, his shoulders.

He's shaking with the effort of holding still, too, and Jeff appreciates that even though he doesn't have to, even though he kind of wants Eric to just use his mouth and make Jeff take it. He gets the feeling that's something he might have to work up to though, with Eric, so he makes up for it by taking Eric in as far as he can, deepthroating him until he chokes and only giving himself a second to catch his breath before he sucks hard on the head of his dick, curling his tongue and tasting.

Eric looks like he's been punched, whenever Jeff glances up at him, so flushed and damp and desperate, mouth working silently between groans and occasionally mumbling things like, "Shit, Jeff, oh my God, you-- you don't have to, you-- oh, fuck. Look at you, Jeff, Jesus."

Jeff closes his eyes, moaning around Eric's dick, and drags his thumb over Eric's balls.

Eric shudders, hands tightening to bruising on Jeff's shoulders, and fuck, that's awesome, that's what Jeff wants, so he does it again, sliding his free hand down from Eric's thigh to press against his erection, squeeze almost painfully and wonder if he can coordinate jerking himself off.

"Are you-- oh God, Jeff," breathes Eric. "You like this, huh? Fuck, you're so gorgeous."

Jeff just sucks harder, because God, he can't deal with this, he needs to come, he needs Eric to come so he can climb back up him and kiss him stupid, but he also kind of never wants to stop doing this. Eric makes it easy for him, in the end, arching his hips like he hasn't the whole time and gasping, "Fuck, fuck, I'm gonna come, Jeff-- "

Jeff groans and sucks harder, and Eric's fingers dig in painful and delicious as he comes, shaking, into Jeff's mouth. Jeff pulls off to swallow, breathing hard, and then just puts his mouth right back on Eric's dick, sucking him through it messy and obscene, loving it.

"Oh my fucking God," says Eric weakly, slumping back. He pats ineffectually at Jeff's hair and says, sounding hurt in an awesome way, "Jeff, Jeff, fuck, I'm good, c'mere."

Jeff sighs but pulls off, running his hands over Eric's thighs before he slides back up to tuck his face into Eric's damp neck, worming a hand into his jeans.

Eric puts his hands on Jeff's back and whispers, "Hey, no, stop. Jeff."

Jeff actually whines. "I can't," he says, thrusting his hips mindlessly.

Eric huffs a laugh. "Come on, Jeff," he breathes, sliding his hands in soothing circles over the small of Jeff's back. "I want to do it, I want to see, just-- just gimme a second."

Jeff groans and mumbles, "I hate you," but uncurls his fingers from around his dick, because apparently saying no to Eric is a thing he doesn't know how to do.

Eric laughs again and stretches, then rolls them over so he's pressing Jeff down into the mattress, kissing him sloppy and slow and sliding his hands down to settle on Jeff's hips.

Jeff squirms and says, "Come on, Eric, fuck, I need-- "

"Yeah," says Eric dazedly, and gets his hands on Jeff's waistband, tugging his jeans and boxers off and then just sitting back on Jeff's thighs to look, mouth open.

"Eric," says Jeff, flushing even hotter and turning his cheek into the pillows.

"You're so gorgeous," says Eric, curling a slow hand around Jeff's dick. "So hot, Jeff."

"Ngh," says Jeff, not really agreeing but happy to go with it if it means Eric will touch him.

"Look at you," whispers Eric, stroking Jeff slowly from base to tip.

Jeff feels a helpless shudder go through his whole body, and arches his back encouragingly.

"Jesus Christ," continues Eric, still stroking him leisurely, driving him crazy, "I wanted this, the first second I saw you, wanted to get you naked, see how you looked, all that skin, Jeff." He tightens his hand and Jeff makes a broken noise, feeling like he's going to burst out of his skin. "It's even better than I thought," says Eric, stroking slow, smooth circles over Jeff's hip with his free hand. "I could do this all day, you-- "

Jeff moans loud and shameless at that, trying to imagine this going on any longer and nearly begging, because he can't, he needs to come, his skin feels like it's on fire and he knows he's writhing like crazy but he can't help it, he needs to do something to take the edge off.

Eric laughs like he gets it and breathes, "Maybe not this time. I got you, Jeff." He speeds up his hand, twisting his wrist and starting to jerk him fast and tight, just what Jeff needs, and Jeff gasps out, "Yes, yes, oh God, just like that, Eric, more, harder-- " and Eric gives it to him, because he's awesome, and Jeff comes hard all over himself and Eric's hand, shouting.

"Holy shit, Jeff," says Eric, stroking him through it gently. "God. I want to get my mouth all over you."

Jeff opens his eyes to look at him. "You-- fuck," he says. "Stop it."

Eric laughs and drops onto the mattress beside him, pushing Jeff's sweaty hair off his face.

"Mmm," says Jeff, stretching. Fuck, he feels awesome. "I'm all dirty."

"Yeah, you are," says Eric, dragging a thumb through the jizz on Jeff's chest.

Jeff opens his eyes to glare at him, but Eric just laughs and looks inordinately fond.

"Here," he says, grabbing a handful of tissues off his bedside table and cleaning Jeff carefully.

"Thanks," mumbles Jeff.

Eric puts his hand back on Jeff's chest, dragging rough fingertips all over his skin. "Still want to get my mouth on this," he whispers, and Jeff screws his eyes shut.

"Gimme five," he says. "I'll be good to go."

Eric snorts. "College kids," he says.

"Mmm, you love it," says Jeff. He opens his eyes. "Clearly."

Eric blushes, which makes Jeff laugh.

"Hey, we all got our things," he says. "Hot hockey players for me." He yawns.

"It's not a thing," says Eric, poking him. "It's you."

"I-- oh," says Jeff stupidly. He doesn't really know what to say to that.

Eric stretches to suck lightly on his neck, and Jeff tilts his head encouragingly, sliding his hands over the solid planes of Eric's back.

"You tired?" says Eric, moving down to scrape his teeth over Jeff's collarbone, "Or can I just keep doing this until you get hard again?"

"Pretty sure-- oh, fuck-- pretty sure I'm supposed to be asking you that," breathes Jeff.

Eric pulls back to look at him incredulously. "Old jokes?" he says. "Seriously?"

Jeff smirks.

"Brat," says Eric fondly, and closes his mouth over Jeff's right nipple.

 

"Oh my God," slurs Jeff later. He has no idea how long it's been. He's completely fucked, in every way possible, and it feels a bit like his bones have turned to liquid.

Eric had fucked him hard and slow dragging and forever, holding out longer this time, not so desperate to come so soon. Jeff doesn't ever think he'll get that image-- Eric braced over him with his eyes blown and his forehead furrowed in pleasure-pain, dripping sweat and shaking with the effort, thrusting into him over and over and over-- out of his head, and he doesn't want to.

"Yeah," says Eric, still breathing hard.

"You're really good at that," says Jeff stupidly. He totally can't be held responsible for anything he's saying right now. "I like your dick. A lot."

Eric snorts, turning his head to look at him. "Thanks?" he says.

Jeff hums and stretches, testing the ache in his hamstrings, the used, stretched-out burn in his ass. He's going to feel it tomorrow, but he doesn't exactly mind. He loves getting fucked.

Getting fucked by Eric is-- well, he likes the thought that he'll be able to feel it, have the aches and marks to remember it by.

"Hey," says Eric quietly. "You okay?"

"I'm great," says Jeff, smiling at him. "Seriously. Awesome."

Eric smiles back. "Awesome," he echoes.

"Kinda dirty though," says Jeff.

Eric laughs and reaches for the bedside table to snag another handful of tissues. He wipes Jeff off carefully, then collapses again with a groan.

"Thanks," says Jeff. "You probably shouldn't move again for a while."

"Wasn't planning to," mumbles Eric.

They're silent then, and Jeff wonders whether this is the point he should get up and go.

"Um," he says, biting down on his lip. He rolls his head to look at Eric, and then thinks that was probably the wrong decision, because Eric is so gorgeous, all damp flushed cheeks and swollen lips and long, lean-muscled lines twined up with the sheets. "Do you want me to go?"

Eric blinks. "I-- do you want to go?" he says, and then laughs a little, scrubbing a hand through his hair. "Sorry, I-- I don't really do this much. I don't want you to go. It's cool if you do though."

"Oh," says Jeff, smiling stupidly and happily, stomach swooping. He shifts closer to Eric and nudges his head up under his arm. "I really don't wanna, actually."

"Yeah?" says Eric softly, looking down at him. He swipes a thumb over Jeff's temple.

"Yeah," says Jeff.

"Good," says Eric, smiling. "Great. Stay."

 

Jeff wakes with his face tucked up against Eric's warm skin, Eric's arm wedged beneath his neck and his other hand splayed out wide on his ribs. It's really nice.

Eric is still sleeping, breathing deep and slow, but he stirs when Jeff shifts so he's not leaning quite so heavily on his arm, and kisses the skin right near Eric's mouth, because he can't not.

"Hey," he says throatily, blinking down at Jeff.

"Hey," whispers Jeff, smiling carefully.

Eric smiles back and crooks his arm to gather him close and kiss him.

"Morning breath," mumbles Jeff apologetically, but still kisses back.

"Don't care," says Eric, thumbing the notches of Jeff's ribs.

Jeff laughs and twists, because that tickles. "Hey," he says. "Do you have to get up, or do I have time to blow you?"

"Oh," says Eric hoarsely. He stretches to look at the clock and makes a face. "I have practice," he says, carding a hand apologetically through Jeff's hair. "But um, we could-- rain check? I kinda wanted to blow you, actually."

"I-- yeah," says Jeff stupidly, thinking about that. "I mean, definitely."

"Yeah?" says Eric. "Great. I'm gonna go shower real quick, if you wanna start some coffee?"

"Sure," says Jeff, stretching as Eric climbs out of bed. Eric just stands there looking at him for a moment, so Jeff smirks and makes a show of it, rolling his hips a little.

Eric shakes his head. "Menace," he says.

Jeff smiles brightly. "Seriously though," he says throatily. "Your bed is amazing. How does anything even get this comfortable? I might never move."

"I think I'd be okay with that," says Eric, laughing quietly, and Jeff rolls his eyes so he doesn't do something more ridiculous, or grin like a total lunatic.

 

Jeff's just filled Eric's toaster when Eric shuffles into the kitchen, yawning and pressing up against Jeff's back immediately, arms around his waist. Jeff grins and leans into him.

"You smell good," he says. "I put some toast on, is that okay?"

"Mmm," says Eric, nuzzling Jeff's neck. "You can have whatever you want."

"Mostly I just want you," says Jeff, rolling his eyes at himself, but he figures he may as well be honest. It's not like he has anything to lose, and it might get him more of Eric.

Eric groans and tightens his arms. "Tomorrow," he says. "You free?"

"Classes in the morning, but after that, yeah," says Jeff.

"Great," says Eric. "Give me your address, I'll pick you up."

"Awesome," breathes Jeff, and turns around to kiss Eric stupid until the toast is done.

 

Eric picks him up at four the next afternoon.

He grins at Jeff and leans over to kiss him once they're in his car, and Jeff strains over the gears to get closer, his knee wedging in uncomfortably. He loses his balance a bit, but it tips him right up against Eric's chest, so he doesn't really care.

Eric steadies him anyway, laughing, and pushes him gently back into his seat.

"Hey," he says, licking his lips. "So it's too early for dinner, but I thought we could get some food anyway, and then maybe takeout later, if you wanna stick around?"

"Um," says Jeff, "Yes," and Eric looks so pleased, Jeff doesn't really know what to do with himself.

Eric takes them to a diner this time, and leads Jeff to a booth in the corner.

"You want food?" he says, as they sit down.

"French toast," says Jeff immediately.

Eric laughs. "Sure," he says. "Coffee?"

"Yeah," says Jeff, and watches Eric order, with some eggs for himself as well.

"So hey," says Eric, when he's done. "What's the volunteer gig like? I'd love to do more stuff with you guys if we can."

"Really?" says Jeff, leaning forward. "It's awesome. I wish I could do it full time, you know? The kids are so great, like-- " He breaks off, shaking his head. "They're so tough, it's crazy."

"The one who checked you into the boards?" says Eric, smirking.

"Lottie," says Jeff. "She's-- I love her. She's one of the toughest."

"Yeah?" says Eric, smiling softly. "Is she-- I mean, is she okay?"

"She is now," says Jeff. "She's in remission, so, you know. Fingers crossed. It's still hard though. She still has to have chemo to stay healthy, plus she-- her dad left, you know, not long after she was diagnosed." He clenches his jaw, shaking his head. "Asshole."

"I-- wow," says Eric. "That's-- God. That's so shitty. I can't even imagine."

"Me either," says Jeff. "I'm glad I can help, even just to cheer her up."

"I bet you do an amazing job," says Eric sincerely, and Jeff ducks his head.

"It doesn't hurt getting to skate with the Canes either," he says.

Eric laughs, then bites down on his lip. "I want-- like I said, I'd love to do more. You should tell me, if we can. I can talk to PR and, you know. Get stuff organised."

"I will," says Jeff. "You could even-- I mean, if you wanna come in sometime, just you, they'd-- that'd be amazing. More than amazing."

"I-- " says Eric. "I mean, yeah, fuck, I'd love to. You should tell me when you're there."

"Sure," says Jeff, smiling at him.

Their food arrives then, and Jeff digs into his French toast right away, because he's starving and the food is actually kind of amazing. Eric laughs and says, "Hey, come on, don't forget the best bit," nudging the maple syrup towards him, and Jeff rolls his eyes but pours a good half of the bottle onto his plate, shoving a syrupy forkful into his mouth.

It's probably kind of gross, but Eric is still looking at him fondly, so whatever.

"So, um," says Eric, starting more slowly on his eggs. "I thought I'd ask before we-- you know-- " He waves a hand, flushing a little.

Jeff swallows his mouthful. "Have sex?" he suggests. "Fuck?"

"Shut up," says Eric, kicking him under the table. "But yeah. Look, I-- I really like you, and. I'd like to keep doing this, hanging out, if-- you know, if you want to as well. Obviously."

Jeff bites down on his lip, going warm all over. "Are you asking me to go steady?" he says casually, fiddling with his cutlery like a total loser.

Eric laughs, breathing out. "I guess I am," he says. And then, carefully, "So?"

"I'd really like that," says Jeff, looking at him and figuring cool is a lost cause.

"Yeah?" says Eric, smiling slowly and brilliantly.

"Definitely," says Jeff, nodding.

"That's so great, Jeff," says Eric quietly, a little hoarse. "I mean, you're really awesome."

Jeff rolls his eyes. His cheeks are so hot. "Yeah, well, I guess you're okay too," he says, shrugging. "You know, for a super hot, crazy nice captain of an NHL team."

"Shut up," says Eric, kicking him again, but he's smiling like he can't help it. "You're gonna be terrible for my ego, aren't you?"

"Right, 'cause you say such horrible things to me," says Jeff. "That's what dating is all about, dude. We're supposed to be awful to be around and piss all our friends off."

Eric laughs. "Cam is going to love you," he says.

 

Eric grabs Jeff by the hips as soon as they're inside his place, drawing him close and kissing him breathless. "I'm gonna blow you," he whispers against Jeff's mouth. "That okay?"

"Oh my God," says Jeff, and Eric pulls back to grin at him, then drops to his knees.

He's-- he's really good, fuck, tight and precise and the things he does with his tongue are-- well, Jeff's just glad Eric found him a wall to lean against, because it's too much, too awesome, that and the image of Eric on his knees for him, those gorgeous fucking lips stretched around Jeff's dick, his hair getting all mussed from the fingers Jeff keeps scrubbing through it.

He sinks to the floor as soon as he's done, getting his hands on Eric's face and tugging him into a kiss, messy and wet, chasing the taste of himself in Eric's mouth.

Eric groans and fumbles for his fly, but Jeff grabs his wrist and whispers, "Fuck me."

Eric snaps his eyes up, breathing hard. "But you just-- "

"I don't care," says Jeff. "I want it, Eric, please."

"Oh my God, Jeff," says Eric, sounding like someone's hit him over the head and he's not exactly sure how words work anymore. Jeff's not lying though, he wants it; he can see how keyed-up Eric is and he wants to feel that, wants it hard and fast and desperate, wants to feel Eric not quite in control because of Jeff.

Eric is still just staring at him, and Jeff goes for the kill, leaning in and whispering, "Besides, if you fuck me hard enough, I can probably come again."

Eric groans and manhandles Jeff roughly to his feet and upstairs to the bed, stretching him with sharp, jerky fingers, which means Jeff can never quite catch his breath. Eric leans in to kiss him every time his breath hitches and mumbles, "Sorry, sorry, I can't-- tell me if I'm hurting you, I just-- "

Jeff grips the back of his neck and says, "You're not, Eric, I love it, keep going."

Eric closes his eyes and presses in with his fingers and gets Jeff right there. Jeff moans loud and helpless and Eric whispers, "Yeah," and, "Is it-- can I?"

Jeff just gasps "Yes, yes," moving his hips uncontrollably, and Eric snaps back into action and gets himself covered and slicked up and lined up to push inside Jeff, which he does in one long, firm stroke.

Jeff's whole spine melts with it and he groans, "Do it, oh my God, don't go slow."

Eric laughs dazedly and says, "I don't think I could even if I wanted to."

"Good," says Jeff, and Eric starts thrusting into him properly.

He's got a little rhythm at first, but pretty soon he's just braced over Jeff thrusting mindlessly, and he gasps, "I can't-- Jeff, I'm not gonna last, are you-- "

"I got it," says Jeff. "Me too, just-- just-- harder."

Eric groans and thrusts in hard right there, and Jeff shudders and comes, just like that. Eric grabs his wrists as he rides it through and presses them down into the mattress, keeps on pumping his hips sharp and brutal until he pushes in one last time and just stays, grinding it out into Jeff. Then he collapses, hands going loose around Jeff's wrists, and Jeff twists them out of his hold to slide his palms up and down Eric's damp back and blink into his hair, whisper, "Holy shit."

Eric hums in agreement and rolls to the side, tying off the condom with clumsy hands and throwing it away. "C'mere," he whispers, tugging Jeff close.

Jeff sighs happily and closes his eyes. "Nap?" he says.

"Definitely," says Eric. He yawns, stretching. "Fuck. You're a real workout. My trainers are gonna wonder where all this extra stamina is coming from."

Jeff snorts. "You could tell them you're trying out figure skating?" he suggests.

Eric chuckles, nudging him.

 

When they wake a couple of hours later, Jeff jumps in the shower, since he's now covered in dried come, while Eric orders them takeout.

"Hey," he says, sticking his head into the bathroom, "Chinese okay? Anything you don't like?"

"Fine," says Jeff. "Uh. No celery, otherwise I'm good."

"Got it," says Eric, ducking back out again.

When he's done he finds Eric on the couch and curls up against his side, still slightly damp from the shower, and settles down with a sigh. "What're we watching?" he mumbles.

"Uh," says Eric, and Jeff blinks to take in the TV.

"Toddlers and Tiaras?" he says, smirking.

"I'm learning how not to raise my future kids, shut up," says Eric, pinching his side.

Jeff cracks up, hiding his laugh in Eric's shoulder. "Aw," he says. "But think of the glory!"

Eric rolls his eyes. "You would've made a good pageant kid," he says. "Those dimples."

"Eh," says Jeff. "They would've loved you though. Blonde hair, blue eyes-- you're like a pageant mom's dream."

Eric makes a face. "Too much dancing," he says. "There's a reason I'm just a hockey player. You got the figure skating moves."

"Oh my God, I totally have to get you drunk and make you dance sometime," says Jeff, laughing.

"Don't say I didn't warn you," says Eric, shrugging.

"Also, just a hockey player, shut the fuck up."

Eric snorts, scrubbing his hand through Jeff's hair.

 

He hangs out with Eric a couple more weeks before he brings up the charity thing again.

It's mostly easy and awesome, being with Eric; or well, it's hard to make time between Eric's hockey schedule, especially now the season's getting so close, and Jeff's classes plus work, but they figure it out. Jeff stays over a lot of nights, because they're both usually free, unless Eric's on a roadtrip, and even if Eric's too beat for much on nights he has preseason games, it's cool to just chill.

Plus it means they get to set the alarm for a little earlier than usual and have sex before they start the day, which is always awesome, in Jeff's opinion.

On the days they don't see each other Eric always calls him, every night without fail, to check in and ask about Jeff's day. Jeff kind of loves what a romantic dork he is.

It means they actually get to talk a little without getting distracted by sex, too, which helps a lot with the whole going steady thing. Jeff's just liking Eric more and more: he's hilarious and lame and gets anxious about dumb things, and he's so nice, and he always laughs at Jeff's jokes. He likes talking to Eric about hockey and he likes telling Eric about his day and feeling like Eric is actually interested. Eric switches between funny stories about locker room pranks and game strategies and little tidbits about his brothers and his family, and it's makes Jeff feel warm and hopeful, knowing that Eric's so happy to talk about these bits of his life with him.

He's also still reeling a little-- or okay, a lot-- though over the fact that he's apparently dating Eric Staal now, which is why he waits a little on bringing up the charity thing.

It's just, he doesn't know, but he kinda wants to get comfortable with it himself-- the idea, moreso than the reality-- before he starts taking their thing around other people, even if it's not like Eric will be showing up as his boyfriend or whatever; just a hockey player Jeff happens to know.

He also feels a little bit like he might be setting a precedent for the kids, bringing Eric Staal along for a random visit rather than an official event, so he wants it to be something they can maybe look forward to happening again, which means he needs to be a bit more sure of it, a bit more settled in this thing he has going with Eric.

He feels pretty good about it all when he's at Eric's place on a Sunday nearly three weeks since they started dating. It's still kind of crazy, for sure, but also still easy to relax around Eric, to not think too much when they're hanging out. He definitely feels like it's something Eric wants to keep doing, anyway, which is the main thing when it comes to the kids.

They're watching TV, and Jeff is leaning into Eric's side while Eric plays absently with his hair, tugging on the curls Jeff should probably get cut sometime soon.

He'd make a token protest, maybe, but it actually feels insanely good.

"Mmm, fuck," he mumbles as Eric scrapes his nails across his scalp. "Gotta stop doing that or go harder, I'ma fall asleep."

"Harder?" says Eric curiously, tugging more sharply on a curl. Jeff's breath hitches.

"Yeah," he says throatily. "Then put your dick in my mouth."

Eric laughs his startled, dorky laugh, and tips Jeff's face up to kiss him. "One day you're actually gonna kill me," he mumbles against Jeff's mouth, grinning.

"Poor form," says Jeff, laughing quietly. He lets Eric kiss him for a while, then pulls back and settles against him again, sighing. "So hey," he adds, as Eric starts up stroking his hair again, detouring to slide his fingers down Jeff's neck, dig into his shoulders a little. "I volunteer most Thursdays after class, in the afternoon, if you wanna drop in any time."

"Oh," says Eric, hand stilling.

"I mean," says Jeff, "You don't have to, obviously, I just thought-- "

"No, I'd love to, shut up," says Eric, squeezing his shoulder.

"Oh," says Jeff. "Great. That's really awesome, I mean, the kids would be so happy, most of them love hockey and not all of them were well enough to come to the skate, so."

"I-- I didn't know that," says Eric, frowning.

Jeff shrugs. "Kinda par for the course," he says.

"Yeah, I guess," says Eric. He bites down on his lip thoughtfully. "I can't do this Thursday, got a preseason thing, but I'm pretty sure next week is good? I'll have to check, since it's the last week before the season starts, but it should be fine. I'll let you know."

"Sweet," says Jeff, stretching. "Hey, can I blow you now?"

Eric coughs. "Oh my God," he says, and when Jeff looks at him he's flushed pink, staring at Jeff stupidly. "Like you even have to ask, fuck."

Jeff shrugs, grinning and sliding down so he's on his knees between Eric's spread legs, pushing them wider and getting his pants undone. "Just tryna be polite," he says.

"Pretty sure you-- oh." Eric cuts himself off sharply when Jeff gets his mouth on his dick, and he sucks long and hard before he pulls off with a wet sound, smirking.

"Sorry, what?" he says.

"Brat," says Eric, groaning. "Nothing, fuck."

Jeff huffs a laugh and goes back to blowing him, fast and sloppy and happy.

 

He stays at Eric's place that night, and Eric wakes him with a blowjob in the morning. It's so good that Jeff feels too light and liquid to do anything other than fall back asleep after, and by the time he wakes up for the second time he's missed his morning lecture.

"Oh my God," he groans, making faces at his phone like that's gonna get the clock to wind back a few hours. "You're the worst. You and your mouth, ugh."

"Sorry," says Eric, looking genuinely guilty. "You should've said, I would've made sure you got there."

"Shut up, it's not your fault," says Jeff, rolling his eyes.

"But you just said-- "

"I'm being a dick, apparently I tend to do that," says Jeff, grinning.

"Not a dick," says Eric, nudging him. "Little shit, maybe."

Jeff leans in to kiss him, humming into his mouth. "'S all good, can still make my afternoon classes," he mumbles. "They're more important than the lecture, anyway."

"Well, that's good," says Eric, smiling at him so earnestly, Jeff doesn't even know what to do.

"Yeah," agrees Jeff. "So, uh, I have a paper I really need to work on tonight, but we can-- I'll call you tomorrow?"

"Sure," says Eric. "Although, uh-- is it weird if I say you can totally study here, if you want?"

"Um," says Jeff. "I don't know? It's your house, man."

"No, I know," says Eric. "I just-- is that something-- is it too soon? Jordy says I always get way ahead of myself when I'm dating someone, and I don't want to freak you out."

Jeff laughs, kissing Eric again. "I think you're safe asking me to study here."

"Oh," says Eric, smiling. "Good. So, uh, you wanna?"

Jeff giggles, pushing his face into Eric's neck and holding him tight. "Sure."

 

Eric is kind of adorable when Jeff comes back after his classes, laptop and books in tow. Jeff sets up on the couch, and Eric just hovers anxiously like a total weirdo until Jeff tips his head back to look at him, rolling his eyes. "Dude," he says. "You're not gonna, like, ruin my flow by doing whatever you wanna do. This is actually way more distracting, you moron."

"Oh," says Eric, biting his lip and looking guilty. "Sorry. I just-- I don't know how you study."

"Relax," says Jeff, laughing and catching the hem of Eric's t-shirt to pull him down onto the couch. "You wanna watch TV? I keep it on a lot when I'm writing papers."

"Sure," says Eric, smiling at him and flicking it on, scrolling through the channels until he finds some cooking show, and then he leans back into the cushions, looking vaguely interested and also a little sleepy.

Jeff stretches his legs out from under his laptop, smiling fondly, and tucks his socked toes under Eric's thigh. Eric drops a hand to curl over his ankle, warm and heavy, thumb stroking absently.

It's really fucking nice.

 

"Hey," murmurs Eric a little while later. Jeff blinks; he's not sure how much time has passed, he's been kind of caught up in his paper, but he's managed to get a whole chunk of it done. Eric must've turned the TV off when he wasn't paying attention, and he's leaning in close, lips brushing Jeff's cheek.

"Hey," says Jeff, turning his head so their mouths touch.

Eric smiles. "I'm gonna go work out a bit, then get some dinner together. How's the paper going?"

"Good," says Jeff. "Really good. I can probably finish by the time we eat."

"Awesome," says Eric, tugging lightly on the ends of his hair.

"Yeah," says Jeff. "Look at you, rubbing off on me with your super NHL motivation."

Eric rolls his eyes. "I don't know about that," he says. "Well," he amends, "I know I've definitely been rubbing off on you."

Jeff stares incredulously and then cracks up, dropping his head onto Eric's shoulder to laugh helplessly. "Oh my God," he groans. "Oh my God, Eric, that was so bad."

Eric chuckles, squeezing the back of his neck. "I know," he says. "Sorry."

"Shut up, it's awesome," says Jeff. "Go get buff, loser."

Eric presses a kiss to his temple, still laughing, and goes.

 

Eric meets him outside the charity's building a couple Thursdays later. He's got a bag slung over his shoulder, and Jeff brushes his arm when he gets close, smiling up at him.

"What's with the bag?" he says.

Eric shrugs. "I brought some gear," he says. "You know, signed stuff, for the kids who didn't get to make the skate."

Jeff opens and closes his mouth. His chest feels strangely tight. "Oh," he says quietly. "That's-- you didn't have to do that."

"Shut up," says Eric, nudging him. "I wanted to. Of course I wanted to, come on."

"Yeah," says Jeff. He takes a deep breath. "Okay. Everyone knows you're coming, apart from the kids, so. You ready?"

"'Course," says Eric, smiling brilliantly.

 

Eric is great with the kids, like Jeff knew he would be. It's mayhem for a while, everyone clamouring for pictures and autographs and to ask questions, and Eric deals with it all happy and patient in a way that makes Jeff think he'd be a really good dad. He just-- he looks so glad to be here, and he takes care to give everyone exactly the same amount of attention.

They're working on art projects today, so when everyone's calmed down enough to focus on them again, and Eric's handed out the gear he brought, Jeff steps in to take Eric around to some of the kids individually. The other parents and volunteers who'd been standing back like Jeff to let the kids focus on Eric start slotting into various tables as well, helping out.

He takes Eric to Lottie first, because it's not like Jeff has favourites, but if he did, Lottie would totally be one of them.

Okay, so maybe he does have favourites. She's so awesome though, he can't help it.

"Hey, Lottie," says Jeff, grinning and sliding into the seat next to her. "You wanna show Eric what you're painting?"

Lottie looks up at Eric with wide eyes, biting her lip.

"Hey, Lottie," says Eric. "You're the one who boarded Jeff at the skate, right?"

Lottie giggles, ducking her head, and nods.

"That was awesome," says Eric sincerely. Jeff rolls his eyes. "You're gonna be a real tough player someday."

Lottie beams proudly. "Thanks!" she says. Then she tilts her head. "Jeff's pretty small."

"Hey!" says Jeff.

Eric bursts out laughing. "You're not wrong," he says to Lottie, winking.

"If you two are gonna gang up on me, I'll just be over there," says Jeff, pointing to the other side of the room and pretending to get up.

"Stop it, you baby," says Lottie, punching him with a tiny fist.

Jeff sighs and says, "Fine," grinning over at Eric. Eric just-- he looks so thoroughly charmed, Jeff doesn't know what to do.

He sits back and lets them talk a bit about hockey-- Lottie tells Eric about the peewee league she wants to join when she's strong enough, bouncing a little. "Soon now!" she says. "My doctor says I can maybe play next season."

"Well," says Eric, "I'm not a doctor, but I think he's right, you were impressive out there."

"Thanks!" says Lottie. "I practice with Jeff sometimes. He teaches me figure skating and hockey. He's really good at figure skating. And hockey too, I guess. But not as good as you."

"Thanks," says Eric, laughing. "I probably practice a bit more than Jeff."

Lottie leans across the table a little, towards Eric. "I like hockey better than figure skating," she says, glancing at Jeff.

Jeff laughs. "Lost cause," he says, shaking his head.

"It's still fun!" she says. "I like watching! But spinning makes me dizzy."

"Yeah, it's not as fun as hockey, am I right?" says Eric, grinning at her.

She nods earnestly. "I like scoring," she says. "And playing with my friends."

"It's the best," says Eric, nodding back.

"And if people are mean to me I can pretend I crash into them on accident," adds Lottie.

Eric laughs again, loud and bright.

"Have you seen Jeff skate but?" says Lottie, grinning wide. "He's really good."

"I saw him skating with you guys," says Eric.

Lottie shakes her head vigorously. "Oh no, you have to see him skate properly! He can spin and-- and do fancy jumps, it's so cool. Hockey doesn't have those."

"It definitely doesn't," says Eric, looking at Jeff interestedly.

"I painted him jumping, look," says Lottie, pulling out one of her sheets. "He said he didn't wear sparkly costumes, but I think it's prettier, so I painted it anyway."

"Much better," agrees Eric, nodding and biting back a smile. "He should have worn that."

"You'd look much better in it than me," says Jeff to Lottie.

"Well, I know," she says, and Eric chuckles, delighted. "You should still wear it but," adds Lottie, smiling at Eric. "Everyone looks good in sparkles."

"I agree, totally," says Eric, grinning wide.

"You're ganging up on me again," says Jeff, narrowing his eyes.

Predictably, Lottie punches him again.

"Ow," says Jeff, rubbing his arm and putting on a pout.

"Don't be a baby, then I won't punch you," says Lottie smugly.

"Fine. Maybe I'll dress up in a sparkly costume for Halloween, how does that sound?"

"Yay!" says Lottie.

Eric laughs again, eyes creased up, warm.

 

"Hey," says Jeff quietly, after they've helped pack up and made it to the carpark. He pushes Eric up against the side of the car, safe in the shadows and the corner of the lot, and presses into him. "Thank you. Seriously, I don't-- you were amazing."

"You were amazing," says Eric, shaking his head and bringing up a hand to cup the back of Jeff's skull. "Are amazing. I just brought some signed gear and whatever, you're the one who's here every week. That's-- fuck, I don't even know. I just-- I really like you."

"Oh," says Jeff hoarsely. "Well, okay, we can argue about this all night, or you can take me back to your place so I can blow you. Only you're not allowed to come, 'cause I want you to fuck me."

"Jeff," says Eric helplessly.

"I really like you too, by the way," whispers Jeff.

He tries not to think too hard about just how much, because it feels like something that could overwhelm him if he let it, and right now he just wants to get Eric somewhere less public.

Eric groans and jerks forward to kiss him. "C'mon," he breathes when he pulls back, stroking Jeff's cheek. "Let's go home."

Jeff's heart stutters a little over the way he says home, like it's already someplace Jeff belongs, and maybe it's a lot so soon, but-- but all he can do right now is smile, helpless and happy.

 

The Canes lose their first game of the season in OT. Jeff sees Eric the day after, on Saturday, and says, "Hey, good game," scrubbing a hand through Eric's hair, because it was.

"Thanks," says Eric, sighing. "Uh, I mean, you watched, right? We lost?"

Jeff snorts. "Yeah, I watched," he says. "Still a good game."

"I guess," says Eric. "Still kinda sucks to start off the season like that."

Jeff nudges him. "Plenty of games in the season," he says.

Eric grins. "True. The guys are still pumped, so that's good. We'll kill the next one."

"That's the spirit," says Jeff encouragingly. "Now fuck me."

Eric coughs out a startled laugh. "So you're only cheering me up to get sex?"

"Please," says Jeff. "You weren't that down. Also, angry sex can be hot."

Eric frowns. "I don't know if I'd ever get angry at you," he says, looking stupidly anxious.

Jeff bursts out laughing, burying his face in Eric's shoulder. "You," he says, "Are my favourite."

"Yeah?" says Eric, sliding a hand up Jeff's spine. "So you're not, like, unsatisfied and secretly want angry sex?"

"Not at all," says Jeff. "It's totally overrated."

"But you just said-- "

"I say a lot of shit," says Jeff. "Also, I can be a bit of a shit, so, you know. Don't count it out."

"But I like that," says Eric. "I like you."

Jeff smiles helplessly, pulling back and beaming it up at Eric. "Good," he says. "Let's have happy, I-like-you sex then. Honestly, as long as you stick it in me, I don't really care."

Eric chuckles even as his eyes darken hungrily. "So easy," he whispers, kissing Jeff.

"For you, baby?" Jeff flutters his lashes.

"Oh my God," says Eric. "Bed, now."

"Yeah," agrees Jeff, and leads the way.

 

Eric has the following Saturday off. Jeff is made aware of this when his phone rings barely past seven in the morning. He's still in bed, obviously, and he startles awake at the noise, groaning and bringing the phone to his ear with his head still mostly buried under a pillow.

"'Lo?" he says throatily, yawning.

"Hey," says Eric, warm in his ear. "Guess I woke you?"

"It's barely even light yet," says Jeff blankly.

Eric laughs quietly. "Sorry. I just thought-- you have plans today?"

"No," says Jeff through another yawn.

"Great," says Eric. "Can I come pick you up in like, half an hour?"

"Sure," says Jeff, blinking. "What are we doing?"

"You'll see," says Eric. "Wear exercise clothes."

"Exercise?" says Jeff dubiously. "I hope you mean sex."

"Well, that too," says Eric, laughing.

"Ugh," says Jeff. "Okay, fine. Bring me coffee and you've got a deal."

"Done," says Eric. "I'll see you soon."

 

Eric, because Jeff is dating a total dork, takes them hiking.

Actual hiking, with a trail and a map in case they get lost in the vast wilderness of Raleigh and water bottles he's brought along for each of them. Jeff is stupidly charmed.

It's just so-- so Eric, kind of dumb and definitely athletic, lame in a way that's actually really fun, and also just a tiny bit romantic. Fuck, Jeff just likes him a whole lot.

"You do this a lot with all your dates?" says Jeff as Eric slathers sunblock across his nose. He screws his eyes shut to avoid getting any in them. "Is this a Canadian thing?"

"You're Canadian," says Eric, tugging on the end of a curl.

"Yeah, but you're from the Canadian wilderness," says Jeff, opening his eyes and grinning.

Eric rolls his eyes. "I've never brought a date hiking, actually," he says. He shrugs. "I thought it could be fun. We don't have to, though, if you'd rather-- "

"No, I want to," says Jeff, nudging him. "You come here a lot?"

"Sometimes," says Eric. "I guess I thought it'd be nice to do it with someone else. Someone like-- well, you." He ducks his head.

Jeff bunches a fist in Eric's t-shirt and tugs him close. "Is there a makeout spot at the end?"

Eric laughs softly, ghosting his lips over Jeff's. "There could be," he says.

"Do we get to Christen it?" Jeff grins wide. "Is that the plan?"

"Call it motivation," says Eric, kissing him hard before he pulls back. "You ready?"

"Let's do this," says Jeff.

 

The hike is only an hour all the way to the end, but it's a decent trail, uphill a lot of the way and definitely not smooth-going. It's also just-- it's such a date that Jeff barely notices the time passing. Eric keeps a light hand on the small of his back around the particularly tough spots, and talks about the things he used to do outdoors with his brothers back in Thunder Bay, besides hockey, and gets Jeff talking about similar things he did with his huge bunch of siblings. After he boggles at the thought of six kids, of course, and shakes his head, muttering, "I thought four was bad."

"Well, I think four giant hockey playing dudes is probably about the equivalent of my family, to be fair," says Jeff, laughing.

Eric talks a lot about fishing, which makes Jeff wrinkle his nose and Eric elbow him in retaliation.

"It's fun," he says. "Shut up."

"Uh huh," says Jeff, smirking. "Sure, I mean, you have to, in the wilderness, to survive, right?"

Eric just gives him a flat look, which makes Jeff giggle.

"I took dance classes," he says. "For figure skating, you know."

Eric blinks at him. "Yeah?" he says slowly.

Jeff nods. "I still do, sometimes," he says. "It's fun. Good way to stay in shape, too."

Eric looks fascinated. "You should show me sometime," he says.

"I thought you hated dancing," says Jeff.

"No, I just suck at it." Eric shrugs. "Maybe you can help me improve."

"Anything to see you dance," says Jeff. "Besides, you can't be that bad. No one who moves as well as you on the ice can be that bad. It's all about balance."

Eric hums. "I'm too tall," he says. "I just look stupid."

"Well, there's a difference between shaking it on the dancefloor and dancing," says Jeff.

"I guess." Eric laughs. "One time I gave Jordy a black eye on the dancefloor."

Jeff bursts out laughing, delighted, and Eric smiles ruefully.

"He still hasn't forgiven me," he adds.

Jeff snorts. "Everyone's lame when they're drunk."

"True," says Eric. "The first time Jared got drunk he came home at three in the morning and tried to make pancakes. Mom caught him just before he set the kitchen on fire."

"See, that's why family's awesome," says Jeff, laughing some more. "You know no one's gonna betray you, because you've all got the same amount of shit on each other."

"Is that what it is?" says Eric. "Not the whole love and loyalty thing?"

"Yeah, most people make that mistake," says Jeff, throwing him a grin.

Eric shakes his head, chuckling. "You like having a big family?" he says.

"Love it," says Jeff. He thinks about his place back home, his mom and his dad and his sisters, his little brother, and smiles softly. "It's crazy and loud and we fight a lot, but it's so awesome. I can't imagine not having a huge family, you know? It's like-- I guess it's like having your team, almost." He glances at Eric. "It's not always easy, but it doesn't matter 'cause you love each other and everyone's always got your back." He flushes a little. "Plus, you know. It's fun."

"Yeah," says Eric quietly. "I mean, I get that. The team thing, and the family thing. I love it too."

When Jeff glances over Eric is looking at him kind of strangely, mouth quirked up slightly but not smiling, just soft and-- and really fond. It makes Jeff's chest tighten, his breath suddenly a little more laboured, and he has to look away, ducking his head, until Eric catches the back of his shirt and tugs him to a halt. He turns Jeff towards him and tips his head up with his long fingers, cradling Jeff's jaw in the hollow of his palm, and ducks in to kiss him, deep and warm.

"What was that for?" says Jeff, blinking, when Eric pulls back.

Eric shrugs, thumbing over the corner of Jeff's mouth. "You," he says, because he is simultaneously the lamest and sweetest person Jeff knows.

Jeff wants to roll his eyes, or maybe say something fond and mildly insulting, but he opens his mouth under Eric's thumb instead, letting it slide onto the wet of his bottom lip.

Eric's eyes are soft and dark, and he leans in to kiss one corner of Jeff's mouth, then the other, spreading his fingers wide over Jeff's cheek. It feels-- it feels like a moment, moreso than when he asked Jeff out that first time, or when he wanted to go steady, or even that time at the charity.

Like he's acknowledging that this really is something real and a little bit special, happy to just kiss Jeff softly here in the middle of a hiking trail, with no motive or expectation.

Just because he wants to.

Like he has all the time in the world and he's happy to spend it with Jeff.

It's the most slowed-down Jeff has felt with Eric while also thinking about being with Eric, the most settled, like the idea and the reality are finally lining up, like something has finally clicked into place and it's not so much a crazy thing now, dating Eric.

It just is, and it's suddenly easier to believe, and believe in.

It's also the first time he lets himself think he might be-- or okay, is-- a little bit in love with Eric.

It's always been easy with Eric, is the thing, strangely so, but the rush of too much in his own head, the whirlwind of surprise over meeting him and Eric wanting him and everything he feels whenever he looks at Eric has definitely been less so, until now.

It's awesome to realise that maybe loving Eric can be as easy as being around him.

That maybe it's the same thing, for Jeff.

"We should keep going," says Eric roughly.

"Yeah," says Jeff, breathing out. He smiles at Eric, wide and bright and happy. Easy.

"Come on," says Eric, stepping back.

He grabs Jeff's hand, and holds it the rest of the way.

It's really nice, and Jeff is breathless by the time they make it to the end, a high point overlooking the park, partly from the exertion, and partly because he's just so into Eric.

Eric grins at him when they finally stop, bright and flushed, and doesn't give Jeff time to slow his breathing before he's pressing in for a kiss, slow and sweat-hot, lots of tongue.

Jeff groans and arches up into the heat of his body, clutching at his shoulders.

The sun is out, touching Eric's hair to molten gold and flushing up the skin on both of them, cutting through the beginnings of the fall chill in the morning air. Eric is hot to the touch, sun and blood and exertion, and Jeff could stay here just kissing him for approximately ever.

He slides his palms over Eric's sides, pushing under his t-shirt to trace the damp skin around his hips, and sighs happily when Eric slides his mouth away to kiss under his jaw.

"This was cool," he murmurs, tucking his fingers under Eric's waistband. "Thanks."

Eric hums, tugging the ends of Jeff's hair to tilt his head up and smile at him. "Anytime," he says.

Jeff's fingers tease the topmost swell of Eric's ass, and Eric's eyes flutter.

"We should head back," he murmurs.

"Yeah?" says Jeff, smirking. "What's my motivation?"

Eric chuckles, tugging harder on Jeff's hair. "My place," he says. "TV. Takeout. Sex."

"Damn," says Jeff, grinning. "You know how to fire a guy up."

"Well, I am captain," agrees Eric.

Jeff laughs and draws him into one last, messy kiss, then pulls back. "Let's go, captain."

 

Eric has a two-game road trip that week. He's due back late Thursday night, but Jeff isn't expecting to see him until Friday at the earliest, if then, since Eric has another game.

There's a knock on his door somewhere around one in the morning though. Jeff is just drifting off to sleep, and he startles awake abruptly, knuckling his eyes as he shuffles to the door.

He peers through the gap at Eric, blinking.

"Hey," he says, sleep-throaty, and pulls the door wide. "What-- what are you doing here?"

"Ready to party, obviously," says Eric, the corner of his mouth tilting up. Then he yawns.

Jeff coughs out a startled laugh. "You're beat," he says. "Shoulda gone home."

Eric shrugs. "I wanted to see you," he says. "You have a bed."

"I do," agrees Jeff. He steps to the side. "Come on, then. I was already in it."

"Thanks," says Eric quietly, ducking his head and shuffling wearily inside.

Jeff makes a noise and lifts the bag from Eric's shoulder, setting it by the couch and putting his hand on Eric's hip as he walks with him to the bedroom. "Congrats on tonight, by the way," he says, pushing Eric's suit jacket off his shoulders and tugging on his belt.

"Thanks," says Eric again. He tugs his tie off and starts undoing the buttons on his shirt.

Jeff gets his pants undone and pushes them down over his hips. They pool around his ankles, and he skates his fingertips lightly up over Eric's bare stomach. He shivers.

"I'm-- I'm kinda tired," he says, ducking his head to press his mouth against Jeff's temple. "Not that I don't want to, but I-- "

"Hey." Jeff tilts his head up to roll his eyes and smile, kissing him lightly. "I don't care. This isn't-- we're dating, not just fucking, right? I was already asleep anyway, let's just-- "

"Right," says Eric, smiling back. "I mean, definitely."

Jeff brushes his thumb over the thin skin under Eric's eyes, the tired-looking bruises. "Come to bed," he says, dropping his hand to grab Eric's wrist.

"Yeah," says Eric, breathing out. "Yeah."

Jeff gets the light and slides under the covers beside Eric, and Eric curls around him immediately, drawing Jeff against his chest and tucking a heavy arm around his waist.

"Glad you came," mumbles Jeff, already halfway back to sleep.

"Me too," whispers Eric, dropping a kiss against the back of his neck.

 

"You have class today, right?" says Eric in the morning, wrapping his arms around Jeff from behind while Jeff cooks eggs at the stove.

"Mmm," says Jeff, leaning back into him. "You got a game tonight, yeah?"

Eric hums in agreement, nosing along Jeff's neck. "Sunday and Tuesday too," he adds. "Roadtrip Thursday."

Jeff sighs. Hockey schedules kind of suck. Doubly when they're paired up with college schedules.

"We can do something Sunday real quick?" says Eric. "The game's in the afternoon this time, so I'll be free later. And we can definitely hang out on Monday."

"Sure," says Jeff. "I mean, definitely."

Eric smiles into his skin. "You should hang out with your friends, anyway," he says. "You know, go out, do young people stuff."

"Stop acting like you're ninety, loser," says Jeff, rolling his eyes. "You go out plenty."

"Not like you, I bet," says Eric, laughing.

"You trying to get rid of me?" says Jeff.

"No," says Eric, squeezing him tighter. "Just don't want you to miss out on stuff for me."

"I'd rather miss out on stuff than you," says Jeff, flushing a little and ducking his head, kind of glad he has an excuse not to meet Eric's eyes. But well, it's true.

Eric makes a small, pleased noise and scrapes his teeth over the soft skin under Jeff's ear.

"Besides," adds Jeff. "I'm not missing out. It's good, you know?"

"Yeah," says Eric quietly.

"But I'll go out and get hammered while you're gone, just for you." Jeff smirks.

Eric pinches his side and Jeff slaps him with the spatula, laughing as Eric ducks away.

 

They don't get around to making any actual plans for Monday, and Jeff's still not sure what's going on when Eric turns up at his place in the afternoon, grinning when Jeff opens the door, and says, "Come on."

"Are you kidnapping me?" says Jeff, blinking.

"Do people usually ask first when they kidnap you?" says Eric.

Jeff grins, shrugging and stepping closer to him. "I dunno, I've never been kidnapped."

"Loser," says Eric fondly, and kisses him. "Bring your skates," he adds against Jeff's mouth.

"We're going skating?" says Jeff as Eric steps back.

Eric rolls his eyes. "No, I'm actually just here to kidnap your skates."

Jeff shakes his head despairingly, but goes to dig up the skates. "Terrible," he says over his shoulder. "Awful. Your jokes are the worst."

"You love them," says Eric easily, and Jeff comes back to grin at him, skates in hand, and says, "Yeah, I do." It makes Eric smile, eyes going warm and creased, and he reels Jeff in to kiss him some more before they leave, settling a warm, heavy hand over the nape of his neck.

 

"So what's with the skating?" says Jeff once they're in Eric's car. "Don't get enough of it at work?"

"Nah," says Eric, shrugging. "I just wanna see what you got. Been kinda curious about all this fancy figure-skating."

Jeff blushes. "Oh," he says, ducking his head. "I'm really rusty."

"I don't care," says Eric.

Jeff blushes some more and tries, "And I can't put too much pressure on my left knee."

Eric glances at him. "Old injury?" he says.

Jeff nods. "Never really went away. 'S why I came to college instead of going on with it."

"Shit," says Eric quietly. "That sucks, Jeff."

"Yeah." Jeff sighs. "Worked out okay though. I got in a lot of good time with the skating, and this is good too, now. I'm happy, you know?"

"That's-- that's really good," says Eric, reaching over to squeeze his thigh. "Are you sure you're okay to skate? We don't have to."

"It's fine," says Jeff, grinning at him. "I still do it as much as I can, especially with the kids."

"Awesome," says Eric. "I really do want to see you skate some more."

Jeff bites down on his lip. "I really am rusty," he says. "I know Lottie said-- but kids are easily impressed, I'm not-- "

"Hey," says Eric. "It's fine, you'll be great. We can do this more often, if-- if you like it. Get your ice time up, get back into it a bit more."

"I'd like that," says Jeff quietly. "If my knee holds up."

"I'll catch you if it doesn't," says Eric, grinning at him.

Jeff rolls his eyes.

"And, I don't know." Eric shrugs. "If you want, I could get you onto some of our trainers."

"Oh," says Jeff. He tilts his head thoughtfully. "That's-- maybe? I guess I'll see. Seems kinda unnecessary if I'm just skating for fun. I still do the strengthening stuff for it anyway."

"It's not unnecessary," says Eric firmly. "And that sounds good. Just have fun tonight, yeah?"

"Definitely," says Jeff, nodding.

Eric squeezes his thigh once more before he puts both hands back on the wheel.

 

He takes them to the fucking PNC, which is a little bit much, Jeff thinks, but he's so adorably earnest about it, looking at Jeff with wide, hopeful eyes, that he can't really mind.

Eric tugs him close by the edge of the rink and whispers, "Show me what you got," against his mouth, and Jeff laughs, kissing him quick before he shoves him away to get onto the ice.

He skates a few easy loops around the boards to warm up, while Eric sticks to the middle of the ice, skating backwards and forwards to keep up with him. Jeff kind of wants to see him skate, honestly; he's beautiful even just like this, his long limbs so thoughtless and graceful as he moves, and Jeff knows it would be kind of breathtaking seeing him close-up in some one-on-one, the ridiculous footwork, the strength, the stick-handling. Jeff loves hockey a lot, and Eric is-- Eric is a fucking amazing player, solid and commanding and dependable.

He's grinning at Jeff though, flushed and expectant, so Jeff rolls his eyes and curls off into a spin, which is easy enough, one of the moves he practices a lot still, for the kids.

Eric whoops, the loser, and Jeff skates over to him, nudging his side.

"What do I get for the show, huh?" he says breathlessly.

"What do you want?" says Eric, smiling slowly.

"One-on-one," says Jeff immediately. "I show you mine, you show me yours."

"We can do that," says Eric, laughing. "But I better get more than one lousy spin."

"Lousy?" says Jeff, raising his eyebrows. "I'd like to see you try."

"Okay, not lousy," says Eric, laughing some more. "It was pretty good, actually. You move really well."

"I'm rusty and you know it," says Jeff, rolling his eyes. "'Kay. I'm gonna try some jumps, and I'm definitely gonna fall, so no laughing."

"I won't," says Eric seriously.

Jeff sighs and takes off again, looping around the rink once more before he starts the lead into a loop jump. He actually pulls it off without falling, and it feels kind of awesome. He's always loved the rush of landing a jump, even the easy ones. He goes straight into a toe loop, and Eric wolf-whistles when he pulls that one off too. Jeff laughs, skating up to him again.

"Those were the easy ones," he says.

Eric shrugs. "Like I'd know. You were awesome."

"You just wanna have sex with me later," says Jeff, sticking out his tongue.

"Can't it be both?" says Eric, pushing himself forward to grab hold of Jeff's hips. He ducks his head to smile against the corner of Jeff's mouth. "Got anything else?"

"Kiss me and we'll see," says Jeff, tipping his head up invitingly.

Eric makes a noise and does, biting gently on Jeff's bottom lip to open him up and licking inside, slow and easy, sliding a hand up over Jeff's neck to cradle his jaw.

"Mmm," says Jeff when he pulls back. "Might have a double axel in there for you."

"Hot," murmurs Eric, kissing the corner of his mouth.

Jeff laughs and shoves him back. "Stop, I can't jump with a boner."

"Sure you can," says Eric easily, and Jeff snorts, skating away.

He lands the double as well, and then decides fuck it, he's on a roll, and goes for a triple. He falls, which he'd kind of expected, but Eric skates over to him immediately, looking anxious.

"I'm fine," says Jeff, letting Eric help him up. "Was never gonna land that one first go."

"You could've," says Eric loyally, and Jeff laughs, bright and happy.

"Lemme try again, I'll get it," he says, and Eric lets him go.

He lands it this time, and the rush is so awesome he segues off into a snatch of one of his old routines, angling himself so he finishes right in front of Eric, bowing elaborately.

"Holy shit, Jeff," says Eric, pushing the damp hair away from Jeff's forehead when he straightens. "That was amazing."

Jeff shrugs, thrilling a little. "I was okay, back in my day," he says, grinning.

"In your day," echoes Eric, rolling his eyes. "You're still pretty okay."

"Yeah?" says Jeff. "Your turn now, come on."

"You're on," says Eric, skating back to the bench to grab a couple of sticks, and a puck.

 

Jeff is pretty dismal against Eric in one-on-one. Partly because he's really rusty, even worse than the figure-skating, and partly because he's too distracted watching Eric with the puck.

He manages to get halfway across the ice one time, with Eric giving chase, and then Eric dekes around him with some ridiculous stick-handling and even more insane footwork, stealing the puck and taking off towards the other end to slot it neatly into the net.

Jeff doesn't even try to go after him, just stands there watching and admiring.

"Giving up?" says Eric with a gorgeous, flushed grin, sliding to a neat stop in front of Jeff.

"Yeah, I think I might be just a tiny bit out of my league here," deadpans Jeff.

Eric laughs. "You're actually not that bad," he says. "Could be awesome, with some practice."

"Guess we'll just have to do this more often then," says Jeff.

"Guess we will," says Eric, eyes creasing up fondly.

 

Afterwards they sit pressed together on the bench, cooling off, and Eric says, "So, are you gonna work with kids after you finish college?"

Jeff takes a long drink from his water bottle and nods. "Yeah, I think so," he says.

"Teaching, or-- "

"I'm not sure," says Jeff. "I mean, I'd love that, but I'd also love to get more involved in the charity, or other organisations like it. I'm taking some courses in business as well, might make it my minor."

"Wow," says Eric. "That's-- that sounds so awesome, Jeff."

Jeff smiles happily and nudges him. "Yeah, almost as awesome as playing hockey for a living, am I right?"

"I know you're joking," says Eric, "But it really is."

"Yeah," says Jeff quietly, leaning into him. "Yeah, maybe."

 

They don't have time to see each other again before Eric goes on the road, so Jeff winds up going out with his college buddies on Friday. He's pretty pumped, actually; lately he's spent most of his time hurtling between classes and work, when he's not with Eric, and it's not that he minds, or would change anything, but it's nice to be able to cut loose for once, just relax with his friends and not have to worry about being anywhere afterwards or in the morning.

It'd be cool if he could do stuff like this with Eric, too; maybe hang out with his friends or have Eric come out with his, but he gets that it's more easily said than done.

Still, he can't and doesn't really want to help the way Eric is still so much on his mind, and of course he winds up texting Eric later on, when he's pleasantly buzzed, collapsed into a booth after a turn on the dancefloor, flushed and damp. It's just-- it's been nice, being able to do this, go out drinking with his buddies like nothing has changed except it has, except now he's dating Eric Staal and sometimes gets to turn down a night out for hanging with Eric instead, and spends most of the time thinking about him either way. Life is pretty good right now.

Like, he's got a pretty good balance going on, he thinks, even if it is super busy sometimes. School and work and friends and boyfriend. It's all settling into place in a way that's just-- it makes him happy.

He grins stupidly at his phone and sends, heeeey i went out like you told me to!

are you drunk? Eric replies.

mabye, says Jeff.

well your spelling's gone so im guessing yes, says Eric.

MAYBE drunk knot hammered tho, sends Jeff.

that's good since it's a school night and all, sends Eric.

omg im not in SCHOOL, says Jeff.

you still got homework so it counts, says Eric.

youre the worst i kinda miss you, says Jeff.

even though im the worst? says Eric.

shh ur not allowed to ask me how much i like you when iim durnk thats no fair, says Jeff.

but i didnt ask, sends Eric.

well not i hve to tell you i like you cas dont want you to think i think ur the worst, says Jeff.

im glad you dont think that, sends Eric. i like you a lot too.

me too. i like you i mean. a lot. like reaallyy a lot.

thanks, sends Eric. And, you should drink some water.

already on it stuffs kinda spinning are your laughing at me??

maybe a little, sends Eric. but mostly i just wish i could see you now.

wanna see you too we could totally hve sex its would be awesome.

its always awesome, sends Eric, which makes Jeff groan and his stomach flutter.

mmiss you, he sends. think i siad tht already but wever.

i miss you too. you should get some sleep. ill call you in the morning ok?

ok, says Jeff. sorry f i woke you just wanted to say hi.

dont be sorry im glad you messaged. night, jeff x

niiight xxxxx

 

Eric calls him at nine the next morning. Jeff's still asleep, and he groans when he sees Eric's name on the caller ID, flashing back to the ridiculous series of texts.

"Um," he says throatily when he answers, closing his eyes.

"Hey there," says Eric. It sounds like he's trying not to laugh. "How're you feeling?"

"I've been better," says Jeff. "I, uh. Sorry. About last night."

"Why?" says Eric.

"You know, bugging you with dumb messages." Jeff makes a face at the ceiling.

"We're dating, I'm pretty sure it's allowed," says Eric. Jeff feels kind of dumb about the way Eric saying we're dating so casually makes his stomach swoop. "Besides, it was cute."

"Ugh," says Jeff, which makes Eric laugh, low and fond in his ear.

"You gotta come out with us sometime, I wanna see you like that," says Eric.

"Trying to corrupt me some more?" says Jeff, smirking.

"What?" says Eric. "I'm not-- I mean, I wouldn't let you-- "

"Relax, oh my God," says Jeff. "Pretty sure the damage was done before you came along."

"Wow, that makes me feel better," says Eric dryly. "Anyway, no, I just-- it could be fun."

"It'd definitely be fun," says Jeff.

"I got a feeling you'd be kind of hilarious," says Eric, chuckling.

"Fuck you," says Jeff, but he snorts.

"Besides, I kinda want you to meet the guys sometime," says Eric. "I mean, only if you want to, obviously. They'd really like you though. They're pretty cool."

"Oh," says Jeff, blinking. "I mean, yeah, definitely, I-- I think I'd like that."

"Awesome," says Eric. "We'll do it sometime."

"Sweet." Jeff grins to himself. "Hey, you're back next Saturday, right?"

"Hmm, yeah," says Eric, yawning through the phone.

"Wanna come over?" says Jeff. "I know my place isn't as awesome as yours, but I thought I'd cook something, maybe." He flushes even though Eric can't see him.

"You cook?" says Eric.

"Some," says Jeff. "I always used to help out in the kitchen at home. Mom made sure I knew how to make some of my favourites before I left, so. I think I do an okay job."

"Sounds awesome," says Eric. "We get in around six, I think? I can come by after."

"Cool." Jeff nods. "I'll see you then, I guess."

"Definitely," says Eric. "I'll leave you to your hangover."

"Asshole," says Jeff fondly. "Good luck today, yeah?"

"Thanks," says Eric. "Bye, Jeff."

"Bye," says Jeff, hanging up and unable to stop smiling, even though his head is kind of killing.

 

Eric drops by Jeff's place late the following Saturday afternoon.

"Hey, honey," says Jeff with a smirk, pressing into his chest immediately. "How was the roadtrip?"

Eric snorts, tangling a hand in Jeff's hair and drawing him into a kiss. "Long," he says against Jeff's lips, biting down a little. "We did okay. Fifty fifty."

"I watched," says Jeff, winding his arms around Eric's neck. "You wanna come in?"

Eric tilts his head, eyeing him with dark eyes, blown pupils. "I guess I can do that," he says, pushing his thumb into the corner of Jeff's mouth.

"Stop that," says Jeff, slapping his hand away. "Or the food'll burn and you'll get no dinner."

"Oh no, are we at that stage already?" says Eric, but he grins, following Jeff inside. "I know we're moving kinda fast, but that's a bit depressing."

"What stage?" says Jeff, rolling his eyes.

"You know," says Eric, pressing up against Jeff's back as he checks on the casserole, "Putting off sex for housework, too domestic to mess around."

Jeff snorts. "I'm never too domestic to mess around," he says. "Anyway, it's not that fast, right? Nearly two months."

"You keeping count?" says Eric, pressing a smile to the nape of Jeff's neck.

Jeff ducks his head. "So what if I am?" It's dumb, maybe, and he feels kind of dumb for admitting it, but well, it's hard not to count, when every day he's dating Eric is something he'd never imagined he'd get at all, let alone two months of it and counting.

"Nothing," says Eric, pinching his hip. "Guess it just feels kinda like more than that."

Jeff hums. "Yeah," he says, leaning into Eric a little. Then he reaches out to switch the stove off, turning in Eric's arms and grinning brightly up at him. "But just so you know, even when it is more than that, there won't be any of this housework before sex bullshit."

Eric laughs, ducking to brush his lips against the corner of Jeff's mouth. "Good to know."

"Uh huh," says Jeff. "So you gonna fuck me now? It's been over a week."

"That long, huh?" says Eric, smiling and thumbing Jeff's temple. "No dinner first?"

"Oh my God," says Jeff. "You think I'm too domestic to mess around? Do me first, then I'll feed you."

"So romantic," says Eric, chuckling and nudging Jeff towards the couch. "Where's the lube?"

"Now you're talking," says Jeff approvingly. He grabs the lube from the coffee table. "Here."

"Awesome," says Eric. He fucks Jeff with his legs spread wide and slightly awkward on the couch, one resting in the crook of Eric's elbow, the other falling gracelessly to the floor as Eric leans over him and thrusts in hard, jerky and fast and perfect. Jeff arches into it and scrabbles at Eric's chest, scratching with blunt nails and making Eric hiss. He jerks Jeff with his free hand and holds out until Jeff comes messily all over himself, gasping and shaking. When he comes he collapses onto Jeff's chest, sweaty and half-clothed, stretching Jeff's spread legs.

"Fuck," gasps Jeff, stroking lazily over Eric's spine. "Fuck, awesome."

"Good enough for food?" mumbles Eric against his throat, smiling.

"Good enough for food and then a blowjob," says Jeff.

Eric hums. "Should move. You're gonna get a sore neck."

Jeff shifts slightly, stretching his neck to the side so it's not wedged quite so uncomfortably against the back of the couch. "I'm good," he says. "Not a hockey player."

Eric huffs a laugh and lifts himself up, pulling out with a wince and tugging Jeff so he's sprawled out on top of Eric's chest instead, lying properly on the couch. "Better?" he says.

"Yeah, okay," says Jeff, sighing happily. "We can eat soon. Gimme a minute."

"I'm good," says Eric quietly, tangling a hand in Jeff's hair.

 

Eric has a game on Monday and Jeff has classes all week, but Eric calls him on Tuesday and says, "So hey, you probably have plans for Halloween, but if you want-- "

"I don't," says Jeff. "I mean, I kinda do, but it's the same thing every year, no big deal."

"Oh," says Eric. "Well, if you want I'm just gonna hang with some of the guys, nothing huge 'cause we've got a game Friday, but you should come if you want. It'll be fun, and you should meet them. I mean, if you want to. I'd like you to, but you don't-- "

"Eric," says Jeff, laughing. "I'd like that."

"Yeah?" says Eric. He laughs a little too. "Okay, sorry. Awesome. I'll-- I can pick you up?"

"Sounds good," says Jeff.

 

Eric looks kind of shell-shocked when Jeff answers the door on Thursday night.

"What?" says Jeff innocently, looking down at himself. And then, taking a proper look at Eric, "Oh my God."

"I can see you smirking," says Eric, stepping forward to push Jeff inside and close the door. "I'm just not sure if it's because of my costume or yours."

"Uh," says Jeff. "Me either?" Eric is wearing some kind of athletic bodysuit, and it's-- it's tight.

Really fucking tight. Holy shit.

Eric chuckles quietly and presses in close.

"I thought we were going out," says Jeff, blinking up at him.

"We are," says Eric absently, trailing a finger over the line of sequins running over Jeff's shoulder and down his chest, leaving his collarbones bare. He shivers.

"I thought you knew I'd be wearing my sparkly figure skating outfit," says Jeff.

"I-- yeah," says Eric stupidly.

"I don't know if I'm glad or sad I didn't go with the mesh as well," says Jeff.

Eric hums. "We probably wouldn't've made it out at all." He bends to press his mouth just below the hollow of Jeff's throat, tongue flicking out briefly. Jeff groans.

"Keep that up, we still won't," he says. He runs his hands over the clearly defined muscles on Eric's sides, squeezing his hips a little and arching his own for good measure.

Eric laughs. "I like the black," he says, running a hand down Jeff's chest.

"Yeah, well." Jeff shrugs. "I promised Lottie sparkles. Had to keep it manly somehow."

"You look really good," says Eric, tracing over the asymmetrical line of silver again, framing Jeff's throat and tapering off down his chest, leaving a wide plane of bare skin.

"Thanks," whispers Jeff, pushing up on his toes to steal a kiss. The outfit feels nice: the shirt is fitted but still a little loose, light fabric just this side of see-through that feels really good on his skin. The pants are tighter, which Eric must like, since his hand is stealing down to cup Jeff's ass appreciatively. The good thing about figure skating outfits though is that they're designed for movement, so even with the way the fabric hugs his ass and thighs, it's not uncomfortable.

He grins against Eric's mouth. "You look pretty great too."

"Okay," says Eric, pulling back. His hand is still on Jeff's ass. "We should go."

"Uh huh," says Jeff, smirking. "Your hand is on my ass."

"Is it?" says Eric, squeezing slightly.

Jeff snorts and leans up to to whisper, "Later, it's all yours," biting down a little on Eric's ear.

Eric groans. "Awful," he says.

Jeff just shrugs. "You're still gonna hit it."

"Well, obviously," says Eric, dragging him out the door.

 

Eric takes them to this swanky looking bar, but it's pretty chilled inside. Jeff spots a bunch of Eric's teammates scattered around the place, and what he figures are the wives and girlfriends and other people working for the team. Everyone's in costume, which is great-- not that Jeff thought Eric would let him come along as the only one dressed up.

Eric leads him over to a Superman and an 80s rock star, who on closer inspection Jeff realises are Jordan Staal and Cam Ward. Holy shit.

"Hey, guys," says Eric. "This is Jeff. He works with those kids we skated with a couple months back."

"Are you confusing 'works with' and 'one of'?" says Cam, raising an eyebrow.

Jordan snickers.

"Shut up," says Eric. "Be nice."

"Good to meet you," says Jordan, holding out a hand. "Jordy."

"Uh, Jeff," says Jeff, shaking his hand. "You too."

Cam offers his hand as well, with a smirk, and then Jordy says, "Did you two match on the skating theme?" grinning.

"Oh, is that what you are?" says Jeff, looking at Eric.

"What, it's obvious!" says Eric, frowning a little.

"You could've been a sprinter, I don't know," says Jeff, shrugging and grinning.

Eric rolls his eyes.

"Are you ever not going to go with the sports theme though?" says Cam, shaking his head.

"I will as soon as you stop using Halloween as an excuse to wear whatever you secretly think is cool," says Eric. "It's not, by the way," he adds, eyeing Cam's leather vest.

"Hey, it was Cody's idea," says Cam, shrugging.

"Well, I'm sure she looks much better than you," says Eric.

Cam punches him. "You look stupid," he says.

"Hey, that's my line," says Jordy. He shakes his head. "So Jeff. You work with the kids, seriously?"

"Uh, well, I just volunteer right now. I'm in college."

"I knew it!" says Cam, pointing at him.

Jeff rolls his eyes. "Yeah, yeah. Eric already made the 'sure you're not one of the kids' joke months ago."

"Well, obviously. No one's as lame as Eric."

Eric punches him. "You just made the exact same joke, moron."

"You made it two months before me. Which means you're two months lamer," says Cam smugly.

"Oh my God," says Eric.

Jeff tries to muffle his laugh behind his hand.

"It's true, big bro, you inherited the dad jokes from dad," says Jordy, patting Eric's shoulder consolingly.

"I like them," says Jeff, bumping Eric's shoulder.

"You don't have to lie, Jeff, he already likes you," says Jordy, snorting.

"Jordy," hisses Eric, flushing.

Jeff's attempts to muffle his laughter become a lot more difficult.

"Oh, shut up, all of you," says Eric. "I'm getting a drink. You want one, Jeff?"

"Yes, please," says Jeff, following him to the bar.

"Sorry about them," says Eric immediately. "They're-- "

"I like them," says Jeff, elbowing him.

"Oh," says Eric, letting out a breath and smiling. "Yeah?"

"Yeah, they're cool." Jeff nods.

"They like you too," says Eric. "I mean, if they didn't, they wouldn't tease, so."

"Awesome," says Jeff.

 

It's a pretty great night. The guys don't go too hard because they have games coming up, and Jeff gets pleasantly buzzed but not messy. Eric is a touchy drunk, which isn't really a surprise, but it's harder to stop himself from touching back with intent when he's not totally sober. Sometime around one in the morning Eric's hand is creeping a little too far up Jeff's thigh again, and Jeff grabs his wrist desperately, swaying towards him and hissing, "Eric, you gotta-- you gotta stop or like, I'm gonna blow you right here, or climb all over you or something, fuck."

Eric just grins disgustingly brightly, which doesn't really help. "Yeah?" he says, licking his lips.

"Oh my God," groans Jeff, dropping his head onto his arms.

Eric's hand goes right back to stealing upwards along Jeff's thigh, teasing between his legs.

"Eric," says Jeff.

"Sorry, sorry," says Eric, snatching his hand back.

"You shouldn't-- we gotta-- oh God, these outfits are really not good at hiding boners."

Eric snorts, breaking into laughter. "Am I-- can people see?"

Jeff looks down at his lap. "Uh," he says, swallowing.

"Shit," says Eric.

"We should-- we should go?" Jeff licks his lips.

"Yeah," says Eric. "Yes, definitely, let's go."

Jeff giggles, standing and tugging Eric upright. "Is anyone looking?" he whispers.

"No," says Eric. "Quick, before they do."

They make a break for it, laughing breathlessly and sliding into a car. Jeff can barely keep his hands to himself, and by the time they make it into Eric's place he's got both arms around Eric's neck, tugging him down into a sloppy, messy kiss, all tongue and no finesse.

"Fuck," he moans, drawing back and staring desperately down at Eric's costume. "Shit, okay, get naked. I'm not even gonna try getting you out of that." He tugs on the hem of his own shirt.

"You too," says Eric, already reaching behind himself to get to some kind of zipper. "Bedroom."

"Yeah," says Jeff stupidly, finally getting his shirt off and throwing it carelessly to the side.

He shoves his pants off and lets himself fall back onto Eric's bed, spreading his legs wide and palming himself, watching Eric strip the skin-tight fabric off his own body, pushing the costume down around his hips and then sitting down to shimmy it over his legs and off.

"C'mere," says Jeff, making grabby hands, and Eric laughs, spreading his weight out over Jeff.

"What do you want?" he whispers, dipping in for a hard, deep kiss.

"I don't-- your mouth," says Jeff, mostly without his permission, but well, it's been driving Jeff crazy all night. Eric has a gorgeous mouth, plush and pink, and when he chews on his lips and chases the sting with his tongue and gets them all slick with alcohol like he has been tonight, it leaves Jeff pretty much on a hair trigger, desperate to feel them on him, against his mouth, his skin, wrapped around his cock. Eric smiles at him, flushed and pleased.

"Yeah?" he says, voice low.

Jeff nods dumbly, and Eric slides down his body without preamble, no teasing this time, swallowing Jeff down to suck him off fast and messy and sweet.

Jeff shouts, arching his hips and groaning, anchoring a hand in Eric's hair.

"Sorry, sorry," he breathes, trying to get a hold of his limbs, stop himself from pushing up.

Eric pulls off with a wet noise and kisses the inside of Jeff's thigh, the tips of his long fingers tracing Jeff's hips, down to nudge his balls, trail around the base of his cock.

"It's okay," he says. "Whatever you want."

"Eric," breathes Jeff, eyes wide. "I don't-- "

"I want it," says Eric. "Come on. Love how responsive you are. Don't hold back."

Jeff moans and tightens his hand a little in Eric's hair, pushing up into his mouth again.

He doesn't fuck Eric's face, not quite, but it's this delicious push-pull, Eric sucking him, all spit and enthusiasm masking some sharp technique, and Jeff arching his hips, letting himself go and feeling Eric shift to take it, relaxing his throat and taking Jeff deep, swallowing around him.

He comes hard and sustained, falling over the crest of a long night of wanting, and it's such a relief, so good, like he's shaking apart. Eric swallows and pulls off to breathe wetly against Jeff's thigh, and Jeff cards his fingers restlessly through Eric's hair while he catches his breath.

"Jeff," groans Eric, scraping his teeth a little against Jeff's skin.

Jeff twitches, so sensitive, and mumbles, "Fuck, Eric, come here, come on."

Eric makes a hurt noise and does, scrambling up to drape himself over Jeff again, and Jeff gets his hands around Eric's thighs, tugging so he's straddling Jeff high up on his chest, and starts jerking him with slow, clumsy fingers. Eric doesn't seem to mind though, gripping the headboard and gazing down at Jeff with blown, over-bright eyes, mouth shocked open and so red, used.

He's fucking gorgeous, coming apart over Jeff, and when he comes it coats Jeff everywhere, it feels like, catching on his cheeks and chin and mouth, the hollow of his neck.

Jeff lets his eyes flutter closed, darting his tongue out to taste.

Eric makes a low, breathless noise, thighs shaking under Jeff's hands. Jeff strokes his hot skin absently, glancing up through his lashes as Eric sags forward a little, mouth open.

"Hey," he murmurs, smiling.

Eric groans and climbs clumsily to the side, collapsing next to Jeff.

"God," he whispers, turning Jeff's face with light fingers on his cheek, kissing him.

Jeff hums happily, opening his mouth, and Eric slides his hand down to curve around the side of Jeff's neck, cleans him up with soft, lush kisses. When he's done he settles onto his back again, gathering Jeff close and tugging the ends of his hair. "Okay?" he says.

"Yeah," breathes Jeff, and falls asleep with his mouth pressed to Eric's skin.

 

Eric leaves for a roadtrip to New York on Friday. He herds Jeff into the shower when they wake up and then tugs him back against Eric's chest, fucking his dick into the water-slick crease of Jeff's ass and jerking him off with one firm, steady hand, the other pressed flat to Jeff's belly, holding him in place. Jeff's still not quite with it, shaking and gasping, scrabbling uselessly at Eric's forearms. It's hot everywhere: in the veins under his skin, the water soothing his itching sweat, the circle of Eric's fingers squeezing his cock, Eric's smooth hard chest against his back, his dick fitting snug and huge into the curve of Jeff's ass.

When he comes he feels punched stupid with it, choking on a mouthful of water and probably only avoiding braining himself on the taps because Eric's still holding him up.

He feels Eric grin against his neck, hand still curled loose around Jeff's spent cock.

"You gonna come?" he gasps, tugging Eric's hand off him and threading their fingers together.

Eric hums, rolling his hips. It feels so good, the slide of his dick, all the more erotic in an entirely different and awesome way for how it's on him but not in him. He likes the hot slide of it, the silky swollen-hard weight pushing into the crease of his ass, rubbing over his hole in fleeting, barely-there passes that make him shiver and ache, like the flutter of fingertips over the sensitive inside of a wrist or elbow. He bites down on his lip and arches his back for Eric, which makes Eric groan and suck a desperate hickey onto his neck.

When he comes Jeff zeroes in on the heat of it on the small of his back before the water washes it away, the shape of Eric's mouth panting harshly against his skin. He turns in Eric's arms and holds onto him tight, keeping each other steady as they breathe.

"Should probably get clean now," he mumbles after a moment.

"Probably," agrees Eric.

Jeff laughs and nudges him away so he can get to the soap.

They eat breakfast at the table in Eric's kitchen, Eric's ridiculous long legs stretched out to nudge against Jeff's, and he tugs Jeff close in the doorway as Jeff's leaving.

"Kill 'em," says Jeff, fitting his arms around Eric's waist and grinning up at him.

"Always try," says Eric, ducking to brush an answering smile against Jeff's mouth.

"Try extra hard," says Jeff. "Don't want your brother to be too annoying at the next family gathering." He squeezes Eric's waist tighter, leaning into his warmth.

Eric laughs, carding his hands through Jeff's hair. "Gotcha," he says.

 

Despite this, the Canes lose to the Rangers. Jeff watches with his lip between his teeth, hoping uselessly that Eric isn't too beat up about it. It's their fifth loss in a row, and that's gotta sting, infinitely more for someone like Eric, who carries the weight of the entire team on his shoulders and has an overblown sense of guilt and responsibility even without the whole captain thing added to the equation. Jeff loves him for it, because it's so much of what makes him Eric, but it can't be great for him when things suck so bad with the team. Especially because hockey matters so much to him, which is another thing Jeff loves, but it's just-- it definitely all adds up to Eric probably feeling super shitty right now.

He flies back in on Sunday, but Jeff's not sure whether he'll see him or not.

He wants to, wants to at least try to cheer him up, but maybe Eric wants space to brood or decompress or whatever, and Jeff's not gonna push. He figures Eric knows by now what he needs, and he'll come to Jeff if he wants to, if he thinks that'll help.

He does, it turns out. Jeff feels such a heady rush of pride and affection when he answers the door and it's Eric, it's a little bit ridiculous, so he just tugs Eric close and presses his face into his shoulder, letting Eric settle his hands on Jeff's hips and breathe out against his hair.

"Hey," he mumbles, squeezing Eric's shoulders.

"Hey," says Eric. He sounds hoarse, exhausted. Jeff kisses the underside of his jaw.

"Wanna come in?" he says.

"Yeah," says Eric. He shuffles forward without letting go of Jeff, kicking the door closed.

"Bed?" says Jeff. "Or food? Or shower? Or TV?"

Eric draws back, considering. "Bed," he says after a moment. "I want-- can you-- "

"Yes," says Jeff immediately.

Eric's mouth twitches. Jeff fistpumps internally. "You didn't let me finish."

"Don't have to," says Jeff easily, grabbing his hand and tugging him to the bedroom.

"You might not want to," says Eric, although he doesn't really sound serious.

"I definitely want to," says Jeff.

Eric rolls his eyes and reels Jeff in to kiss him. "What 'm I supposed to do with that, huh?"

"You could tell me what you want, maybe?" tries Jeff, grinning.

"I was doing that," says Eric. "You interrupted me."

"To make a point," says Jeff.

"Uh huh," says Eric. He looks more amused now, less tired, and Jeff feels stupidly proud. "Which is?"

"You don't have to ask," says Jeff. "Just tell me what you want, and you got it."

Eric stares at him. "God," he says after a moment, shaking his head. He kisses Jeff again, then drops onto the bed, kicking his shoes off and scooting back.

Jeff crawls over him and kisses his cheek, the corner of his mouth, his bottom lip. "So?"

"Fuck me," says Eric on a breath, cupping the back of Jeff's skull.

Jeff freezes with his hands on Eric's sides. "Um."

"Okay?" says Eric, flushing.

Jeff blinks and nods so hard he gives himself whiplash, biting into Eric's mouth.

"Way to prove my point," he whispers, and Eric laughs, drawing him closer so their chests are pressed flush together, long legs coming up to bracket Jeff's thighs.

Eric is loose and pliant, limbs heavy with tiredness, moving easily anywhere Jeff nudges him as he gets Eric naked, letting his legs sprawl wide as Jeff shuffles in close with the lube.

He lets out quiet, wet gasps as Jeff fingers him open, head dropped back, long neck stretched taut and gorgeous, hips moving minutely in time with Jeff's jerky fingers.

Jeff can't quite get himself under control, because Eric is so hot and tight around his knuckles, spread out so open and easy for Jeff, like it costs him nothing, like he wants it.

Jeff rubs his thigh restlessly as he crooks his fingers and murmurs half-words and encouragement, feeling the sweat on his temples already just from how beautiful Eric is. When he gets Eric's prostate Eric cries out and arches his back, mouth shocked open, and Jeff has to lean up to kiss it, adding an extra stretch with the odd angle of his hand.

"Fuck," groans Eric. "Fuck, Jeff, do it, come on."

"Yeah," breathes Jeff. "Yeah, yes, okay, hang on." He pulls his fingers out too fast and bites his lip, muttering, "Sorry, sorry, hang on," as he fumbles with the condom.

Eric shakes his head and says, "It's okay, just-- just do it."

"Yeah," says Jeff again, lining up and pushing into Eric with one hard stroke.

Eric lets out a choked breath, like it's been punched out of him, and draws his legs up against Jeff's hips, knees digging into the flesh and feet planted on the mattress so he can press his hips up into it, making Jeff groan and shake, clutching Eric's shoulders.

"Come on," says Eric, hoarse. "Come on, Jeff, feels so good, come on."

Jeff makes a hurt noise and lets himself go, building up a slightly clumsy rhythm that matches the encouraging push-pull of Eric's hips, dragging his fingertips through Eric's hair so he can brace his elbows on the mattress. Eric gets his arms around Jeff and drags him into a wet, messy kiss, breathing harshly against his lips as Jeff builds up the pace.

"Okay?" he manages to gasp, sweat stinging his eyes. Eric is so tight, so hot, so good.

"Yes," hisses Eric. "Jeff, just-- "

Jeff drags his knees a little further up the sheets so he can get more control of the angle, and Eric gasps, head dropping back like a string's been cut, mouth open.

"Oh, fuck," he says. "Fuck, Jeff, right there, keep-- keep going."

"Yeah," says Jeff stupidly, fumbling blindly between them to get a hand on Eric's dick.

Eric jerks, nails digging into Jeff's back, tightening around Jeff's dick. It feels so fucking good, and Jeff can already feel the heat coiling low in his belly, the base of his spine, more insistent with each new drag of friction as he thrusts into Eric, but he-- he needs Eric to come first.

He tightens his fist, pressing his thumb up under the head of Eric's dick and hoping it's enough to make up for the kind of frantic, off-beat rhythm. It must be, because Eric groans, eyes squeezed shut and cheek turned into the pillow, brow creased in desperate pleasure.

When he comes Jeff feels it everywhere, clenching around his dick so hard and so good it makes his eyes water, spilling into the sweat-damp space between them. He strokes Eric through it until his hand goes lax as he comes too, pushed in hard, collapsing into the cradle of Eric's legs. He feels like his bones have melted inside him, like his skin is quivering with the molten heat of it, wrung-out and fizzing all over with slowing, sweet pleasure.

"Holy shit," he breathes.

Eric hums, fingertips tracing the bumps of Jeff's vertebrae.

"Gimme-- gimme a sec," says Jeff, still totally unable to move.

"You're good," whispers Eric. "You're great. God, Jeff."

Jeff scrapes his teeth lightly against Eric's neck and then forces himself to pull out, rolling over so he can tie off the condom and throw it in the bin. Eric shifts beside him, groping around for tissues to clean himself off, and then he drops his head onto Jeff's chest, slinging an arm and a leg across him and breathing out damply against Jeff's skin. "Thanks," he mumbles.

Jeff shakes his head. "You," he says stupidly.

Eric's hand moves slowly over his ribs. "Needed that," he says. "Wanted it. Thought about it the whole time on the plane, so I-- it made me feel better. So. Thanks."

"Oh," says Jeff, heart clenching. "Well, anytime."

Eric smiles. It fades, after a moment, and he sighs.

"Hey," says Jeff, carding his hands through Eric's hair, "Guess you'll just have to beat up your brother extra hard next time you wrestle, right?"

"What?" says Eric, blinking slowly. "We don't wrestle."

Jeff raises his eyebrows.

"Okay, Marc doesn't wrestle," says Eric, snorting and rolling his eyes.

"Sneak attack," says Jeff easily.

Eric turns his mouth into Jeff's chest and laughs, squeezing Jeff's side.

Jeff grins stupidly to himself, sweeping a thumb across Eric's temple. "Sleep?" he says.

"Yeah," says Eric. "Yeah, definitely."

 

Jeff has a bunch of major papers due as it heads into November, as well as studying for finals. He knows it's going to cut back a lot of his free time, especially because he's not really willing to give up any of his time with the charity. He's not sure how to bring it up with Eric; he knows Eric has a long homestand the first half of the month, and he doesn't really want to hole up at his own place and not see Eric, but he doesn't want to impose on Eric with his studying and possible shitty moods either. Or well, he does, but he doesn't want Eric to feel obliged, or worse, get frustrated at him. Eric saves him the hassle, though. He nudges Jeff's ankle as they're having breakfast in the morning and says, "You have finals coming up soon, right?"

Jeff nods. "Yeah," he says, sighing. "Bunch of papers, too. I don't-- "

"You could," says Eric, "I mean, if you want, you could just-- crash at mine, if you want?"

Jeff blinks. "What," he says, "Like-- "

Eric shrugs. "I figure you're not gonna have much free time, with the studying and stuff, and I want to see you but I don't want you to wear yourself out or worry about it or anything, so you could just do your work at my place and we don't have to worry about making extra time."

Jeff just stares at him.

"I mean," says Eric, flushing a little, "I'll leave you alone, obviously, but I'll be there when you take study breaks, and when you crash you'll have all your stuff there, so we don't have to worry about going back and forth, and I just-- I'd like that. If you want, obviously."

"I-- of course I do, that-- that sounds great," says Jeff, and Eric beams. "But," he adds, "I mean, are you sure? I don't want to, like, be a pain, or accidentally get pissy at you, or-- "

"You won't," says Eric. "I mean, you definitely won't be a pain, and if you get pissy that's-- that's fine. I know what stress is like, Jeff. And I want-- I want you to feel comfortable. I mean, you don't have to be-- be in a great mood all the time, if you're actually not, you know? I just want you around. For everything. That's real, right? I want this to be real. I mean, not that it isn't, but-- "

"I get it," says Jeff, laughing. "I-- I appreciate that. I mean, you're right, it is real, and I didn't think you'd mind, but I guess it's different if I'm in your space 24/7. I didn't want to, like, impose."

"You're not," says Eric. "I'm asking."

"Well, in that case, sure," says Jeff, kicking him lightly.

"Besides," says Eric, "I figured, you know, you're pretty great when I have a bad game and stuff. I want to at least try and return the favour. If I can, I mean."

"You can," says Jeff softly. "I-- it's just-- it's easy, with you." He blushes.

"We can do that for each other then, right?" says Eric quietly, smiling and tipping Jeff's chin up.

Jeff smiles back helplessly and Eric leans in to kiss him, soft and wet. It's good, Jeff thinks. Really good, the way he likes being able to cheer Eric up when he's not feeling so great, and Eric wants to do the same for him, and maybe that means they won't ever get too bad anyway, not if they make the time instead of shutting each other out when the possibility looms.

He can't imagine ever not wanting to be around Eric, no matter how shitty Eric might be, and it's nice to know that maybe Eric is the same with him, that Jeff doesn't have to keep himself in check or worry how he's coming across because Eric wants everything, just like Jeff.

 

Jeff's half asleep on Eric's couch when he hears Eric come back in from his trip to Boston.

It's Saturday, and he's been kind of half-studying all day, apart from a break to watch the game. He must've dozed off at some point though, because it's well and truly dark now, and Eric is back, which-- shit, Jeff had planned on having some dinner ready.

"Hey," he says fuzzily, sitting up when Eric comes into the room.

"Hey," says Eric, quirking a soft smile at him. "You look kinda how I feel."

Jeff hums and stretches. "Was gonna make some dinner, but I, uh. Fell asleep."

Eric laughs quietly, dropping next to Jeff on the couch. "You doing okay?" he says, tugging Jeff against his side and scrubbing a hand through his hair. Jeff closes his eyes.

"Yeah," he mumbles. "Kinda beat, I guess. Fuckin' classes. We got all this extra study and a ton of papers, but we don't get to cut back on going to class." He presses closer to Eric.

"Doesn't seem fair," says Eric.

"I know, right?" Jeff lifts his head to grin at him.

Eric laughs again and leans in for a kiss, slow and easy.

"You okay?" says Jeff when they pull apart.

Eric shrugs. "Shitty trip," he says with a sigh. "And gotta play again tomorrow, but then we get a couple days off. I told the guys we're not going into a break without a win."

"Sounds good," says Jeff. "The win bit, I mean."

"I figured," says Eric, smiling.

"Good captain," says Jeff, yawning.

Eric leans in to kiss the corner of his mouth, pressing his smile there. "Thanks," he says softly.

Jeff grins at him. "You hungry?" he says, struggling to sit up properly.

"Kinda," says Eric.

"Well, I'm kinda starving," says Jeff. He looks longingly at the kitchen. Getting a meal together seems like an insurmountable task right now, but he really is starving.

Eric watches him, amused. "Think we can manage something together?" he says.

"Probably," says Jeff doubtfully.

Eric nudges him. "No leftovers?"

"I finished them for lunch," says Jeff.

"It's a tough life," says Eric, chuckling and standing. He holds out a hand to Jeff, and Jeff lets himself be pulled upright. "How does breakfast for dinner sound?"

Jeff tilts his head, biting back a smirk. "Like we might not actually burn down the house."

"Good enough for me," says Eric.

 

"Hey," says Eric, as they settle back on the couch with their food. "You got plans for Thanksgiving?"

Jeff blinks at him. "Uh, Thanksgiving was last month?"

"American Thanksgiving," says Eric, rolling his eyes.

"Oh, obviously," says Jeff, nudging Eric's thigh with his foot. "You've been living here too long, you disgrace to Canada."

"Excuse me," says Eric, mock-glaring. "I have a gold medal. For Canada."

Jeff bites his lip. "Okay," he says after a moment, "I have no comeback for that."

"Damn right," says Eric, grinning. "So, plans?"

Jeff shrugs. "Not really. Or well, not at all."

Eric laughs. "You wanna spend fake Thanksgiving here, then?" he says. "We can do the whole Canadian patriot thing-- bad Chinese takeout, movies, whatever. Stick it to the States."

Jeff laughs too. "Dork," he says fondly. "Sounds good."

"Cool." Eric sets his empty plate on the coffee table and leans back into the couch, closing his eyes. "I'm in New Jersey the day before, but we got the day off."

"I'll be here," says Jeff, leaning into him.

 

Jeff spends the night before Thanksgiving at his place, since Eric's on a road trip and he hasn't been there properly in a while. He really needs to clean up, at the very least, as well as grab some fresh stuff. Plus he decides to take the night off and bake a pie, which is a lot nicer than studying, and it'll be good to have something homemade alongside the takeout. He heads back to Eric's in the morning, leaving it a little later so Eric can get a decent sleep-in.

Eric answers the door very clearly fresh from bed: shirtless, soft flannel pants hanging low on his hips, eyes creased up against the light and cheeks flushed sleep-warm. His hair is a disaster.

Jeff bites his lip on a smile. "Hey," he says. "Uh, guess I woke you?"

Eric just hums and tugs Jeff inside so he can close the door, wrapping around him immediately.

"Lemme put the pie down first," says Jeff, laughing and hugging Eric with one arm.

"'Kay," mumbles Eric, stepping back and tugging the bag from Jeff's shoulder as Jeff passes.

Jeff sets the pie on the counter and turns around to find Eric crowding in close, tugging Jeff against his chest and hugging him tight. Jeff grins into his shoulder and hugs back.

"Come back to bed," says Eric. His voice is still a little sleep-rough.

"It's ten-thirty," says Jeff.

"It's Thanksgiving," says Eric.

Jeff scoffs. "It's Thursday," he says.

"Mmm," says Eric. "I didn't mean to sleep."

Jeff pulls back far enough to look at Eric and rolls his eyes. "Should've just said so."

"So you only wanna sleep with me if it's for sex?" says Eric, pouting. It's unfairly adorable.

"Haven't caught on yet?" Jeff grins his most shit-eating grin.

Eric cuffs the back of his head and then tangles a hand in his hair, drawing him into a kiss.

"You brought a pie," he says when he pulls back.

"Huh?" says Jeff, a little dazed. That was a very thorough kiss.

"Pie," says Eric again.

"Oh," says Jeff. He shrugs. "Didn't feel like studying last night, so. I thought it'd be nice?"

Eric smiles at him. "Yeah," he says. "You didn't have to."

"I know," says Jeff. He fists a hand in the waistband of Eric's pants. "Sex?"

"Upstairs," says Eric.

 

"Fuck me," groans Jeff later, dropping a heavy arm across Eric's hips.

Eric hums. "Thought I just did," he mumbles.

Jeff swats at him weakly. "Jokes," he says. "Worst."

Eric snorts out a laugh, carding a hand through Jeff's sweaty hair.

"'S it time for food yet?" says Jeff, yawning.

"It can be," says Eric. "You don't wanna nap?"

Jeff bites his lip, torn.

Eric chuckles quietly. "How 'bout I order, and you nap until it comes?"

"Mmm," says Jeff. "Perfect."

It's pretty much a perfect day, actually. Jeff dozes a little before he stumbles downstairs at the sound of the door, and they spend the hours alternating between eating, watching dumb movies and making out a whole lot. Eric makes pleased noises over his pie, and they fuck again on the couch as it darkens outside, slow and lazy and awesome. Jeff falls asleep smiling and content.

 

Once his classes end Jeff has four days until the start of exams, which he spends in a haze of revision. During the day Eric is in and out of his setup on the couch, soft hands and gentle kisses and warm body in Jeff's periphery. At night he tugs Jeff to bed, never too late, even after a game, jerking him off slow and easy and then curling around him to sleep.

It's basically the best exam prep Jeff's ever had.

Eric heads to Vancouver for the start of a four-game road trip the day before Jeff's first exam. He tugs Jeff off the couch before he has to leave, already in his travel suit, tipping his head into the light with a feathery brush of his rough fingertips. "Hey," he says, smiling.

Jeff blinks. "Hey," he says. "You heading out?"

"Nah, just like wearing a suit around the house," says Eric.

Jeff just shakes his head and groans, burying it in Eric's shoulder.

"Sorry," says Eric, chuckling and carding a hand through Jeff's hair.

"'S okay," says Jeff, pulling back to look at him.

"Well, thanks," says Eric, grinning. "Anyway, I just wanted to say good luck for tomorrow. I won't be back 'til Saturday night, but I'll call you after you're done. You'll kill it."

"Thanks," says Jeff, kissing the corner of his mouth. "You too."

Eric kisses him properly, biting down on his lip. "Your last exam's next Monday, right?"

"Yeah," says Jeff. "You gonna be here to motivate me?"

Eric rolls his eyes, but he says, "I'll be here," thumbing over Jeff's cheek.

"Awesome," says Jeff. "Get out of here before I mess up your suit. You look really hot."

"Hold that thought," says Eric, kissing him quick one more time before he steps back. "And take care of yourself, okay? Don't get too worn out or, like, forget to sleep or something."

"Sure thing, mom," says Jeff. "Like you're not gonna call every day anyway."

"And you better convince me you're okay, or I'll send someone over." Eric smirks.

Jeff punches his arm lightly. "Stop worrying, I'll be fine."

"Can't help it," says Eric, shrugging. "I kinda like you."

"Oh my God," says Jeff. He steps back in to kiss Eric again, fast and messy and wet, then steps back and shoves him towards the door. "I kinda like you too, you giant loser."

The smile Eric tosses back over his shoulder is brilliant.

 

Jeff's first three exams go pretty well, as far as he can guess. He can't really tell whether it's easier or not, without Eric around, but he feels good enough about the study he's put in that he doesn't get too worked up between the tests. Mostly he eats, goes to his exam, reviews everything for the next one, and then passes the fuck out. He definitely misses Eric, regardless of things going well. He misses his easy warmth in bed at night, and he misses the sex.

He's a little punch-drunk by the time Eric makes it home on Saturday night, which is probably why he can only blink up at Eric from the couch, smiling dopily, and reach out with stupid grabby hands while he spreads his legs a little and says, "Eric, we need to have sex, like, right now."

Eric snorts and dumps his bag right there in the middle of the living room. He's also flushed all the way under the collar of his shirt, Jeff notes, pleased. "Yeah?" he says, the corners of his mouth quirking up as he lowers his weight to settle over Jeff on the couch.

Jeff hums, putting his mouth on the hinge of Eric's jaw and sliding his palms up his thighs.

"Jeff," breathes Eric. His hands tangle in Jeff's hair. "You're not too tired?"

"No," mumbles Jeff. He is tired, but not so much he can't do this, can't feel the hot shiver of anticipatory need thrumming down his spine and settling low in his belly, drowning out the rest.

"Okay," says Eric. "What do you want?"

Jeff pushes Eric off his lap and says, "Get naked."

Eric chuckles and complies while Jeff shucks his own clothes and grabs the condoms and lube he threw onto the coffee table earlier. He's been waiting for this all day. Once Eric's clothes are pooled in a pile at their feet he climbs over to straddle Eric's thighs himself, letting Eric take his weight as he leans forward and reaches behind himself to circle a slick finger around his hole.

"Jeff," says Eric quietly, a little hoarse, hands flexing on Jeff's hips.

Jeff bites his lip as the first finger sinks in, shivering a little. He goes quick, sliding in a second finger just a little too soon, painful but still so good, and then a third, wanting to get Eric inside him, free up his hands to hold onto Eric and just-- just settle, just be filled up. He sinks down onto Eric's dick with his open mouth pressed to Eric's shoulder, arms around Eric's neck. Eric exhales sharply against Jeff's hair, fingers tightening their hold on his hips.

"Okay?" he says, voice gone low and rough.

Jeff nods, circling his hips a little, and Eric arches up to meet him. Jeff's too tired and slow to really lift himself up very far; instead he grinds on Eric's dick, pushed in deep, pressing right fucking there. His hips circle and hitch, and Eric's hands move him more than Jeff moves himself. It's honey-slow and shivery-good, the aching itch that builds under Jeff's skin, the sweat-slick slide of their bodies together, Eric's hot open mouth pressed to his cheek, the corner of his lips.

When he gets close he digs his nails into Eric's shoulder blades, too far gone to form words, eyes stinging and insides wound tight. He's stretched wide and flushed everywhere, trembling with how badly he needs to come but too far out of his head to do anything about it. Eric's hand wraps around his dick just when he thinks he can't take it anymore, and he comes with a strangled sob, drowning gratefully in the sweeping, heavy crush of relief and overwhelming pleasure. It's so, so good, still shaking through him long after he's finished coming, and he barely registers Eric's groans, doesn't realise Eric's coming too until Eric presses in hard against his prostate and Jeff feels the whine punched out of him, oversensitive and wrung out.

"Fuck," breathes Eric, slumping back against the couch and holding Jeff tight to his chest.

Jeff just hums, eyes almost too heavy to open.

Eric strokes light fingertips up and down along his spine. "Good?" he says into Jeff's hair.

"So good," slurs Jeff sleepily.

Eric laughs quietly. "Think you can make it upstairs?"

Jeff grimaces into Eric's shoulder. "No," he says.

"I guess I could try carrying you," says Eric thoughtfully, squeezing the back of Jeff's neck. "I mean, I'll probably put my back out, and you'll have to help me come up with a convincing excuse, and Jordy will probably figure it out anyway. Possibly Cam too, and then-- "

"Oh my God," says Jeff, sitting up at batting blearily at Eric's face. "Okay, I'm moving, Jesus."

Eric grins at him, fond and bright, just a little bit smug. Jeff rolls his eyes, then hisses slightly when he levers himself off of Eric, swaying on his feet. Eric catches hold of his wrist.

"Just get in bed, yeah?" he says, kissing the corner of Jeff's mouth. "I'll clean up."

"Thanks," says Jeff, yawning.

 

They sleep indulgently late Sunday morning. Jeff wakes to the bright glare of the winter sun pushing through the cracks in the curtains and Eric kissing his way down Jeff's bare chest. The smile he shoots up at Jeff when he realises he's awake is just as blinding as the light in the room.

"Hey," says Jeff, throaty. "You're in a good mood."

Eric hums, scraping his teeth over the cut of Jeff's abs. "Yeah," he says. "Well, you know. We won our last game. It's Sunday today, and I have the next five days off. And when I woke up, there was this really gorgeous guy in my bed, and he was naked, so."

Jeff grins stupidly at the ceiling. "You're so lame," he says, stretching a little.

"Uh huh," says Eric. His mouth trails, wet, down the jut of Jeff's hips. "Gonna blow you now."

"Fuck," groans Jeff, sinking his hands into Eric's hair as Eric sinks down on his cock.

 

Jeff goes back to Eric's place after his last exam on Monday feeling light and a little floaty, a combination of happy and exhausted that feels kind of nice, in the same way a few drinks at the end of a long week will do. Eric's on the couch, when Jeff lets himself in, and he slumps down with his head on Eric's lap, grinning up at him. "Hey," he says, stretching.

"Hey," says Eric, smiling back. He threads his fingers through Jeff's hair, massaging his scalp. Jeff lets his eyes slip closed. "Congrats on being done. How was the exam?"

"Okay, I think," says Jeff. "Fuck, I don't even care. I'm done."

"Yeah," says Eric. "You did really good, Jeff."

"Thanks," says Jeff. "Do I get a party?" he adds, cheeky.

"You want a party?" says Eric, like he's seriously considering it.

"Ugh, no," says Jeff, yawning. "Just food. Maybe a beer. And, you know. You."

"Well," says Eric. "I haven't organised anything, but I could call somewhere and namedrop to get us a reservation, I guess. Or we could order a ton of pizza, grab some beers from the fridge, maybe watch a movie. And then I was thinking maybe I could eat you out. If you want."

Jeff chokes on absolutely nothing. Eric is flushed, just the tiniest bit, his hand still in Jeff's hair.

"Fuck," says Jeff hoarsely. "The second thing. Like, all of it. Please."

"Yeah?" says Eric.

Jeff jerks upright to kiss him, messy and open-mouthed. "Yeah," he breathes.

 

Jeff is full and tired and loose-limbed when Eric gets him naked and spreads him out on the bed, pulls his cheeks apart and gets his mouth on him. It's a good place to start from, he thinks, because otherwise it would be too much, too hot, too fast. This way Eric starts up a simmering spark that burns through him slowly, building gradually from the shuddering jolts of Eric's tongue working into his hole, getting him sloppy and wet, into the full-blown, gut-twisting desperation Jeff finds himself in after some indeterminable length of time filled with nothing but Eric, Eric's big hands spread out over his ass, holding him open, his tongue working Jeff loose.

"Eric," he gasps, as Eric finally works a finger into him. It goes so easy. "Eric, please."

Eric licks around his rim while his long finger pushes in deep.

"Shit." Jeff's tongue feels heavy in his mouth. His cock is leaking onto the sheets. "Eric-- "

"I got you," whispers Eric. He pushes a second finger in, scissoring, still licking inside.

Jeff groans, trying to push back, arching his spine and writhing obscenely. He hopes Eric gets that he needs more, because he's pretty sure he can't form words anymore.

"One more," murmurs Eric. "One more, then I'm gonna fuck you, okay?"

Jeff gasps, turning his burning cheek into the mattress. "Yes," he manages.

Eric thrusts the third finger in and Jeff keens as Eric gets his prostate, shifting his mouth to bite at one of Jeff's cheeks, a sharp sting to counterpoint the dragging, desperate ache of need.

"So good," says Eric. "You're so good, Jeff, you look-- fuck, so gorgeous."

Jeff brings his arms up to clutch the pillows, makes an inarticulate sound into his elbow.

"Okay," says Eric. "Okay, just give me one second, I'm gonna-- " He pulls his fingers out, which makes Jeff moan, too empty too quick, but then he hears Eric fumbling with the condom, so he arches again, pushing his ass up, hoping to get Eric inside him faster.

"Fuck," Eric bites out. "Fuck, Jeff, God-- " He pushes in with one long, hard thrust, and Jeff bites into the meat of his bicep, squeezing his eyes closed, because that's-- that's it.

He gasps, pushing back into the cradle of Eric's hips, babbles, "Fast, Eric, just-- give it to me."

"Yeah," says Eric stupidly. "Yeah, okay, I got you."

He does, he always does. He knows how to give it to Jeff just right, how to tilt his hips so Jeff feels everything, feels the hot, soft width of him splitting Jeff open, dragging fast and just a little bit nasty on every stroke until he plunges hard against Jeff's prostate, over and over. Jeff loves it, loves the hot weight of Eric behind him, the solid grip of his hands on Jeff's hips, the heavy drag of his cock over his rim and inside him, lighting him up from the base of his spine outwards. He loves the way Eric folds over him when he gets close, the way he trails his open mouth across Jeff's shoulder, sticky-sweet and wet. He loves the way Eric's strokes get shorter but deeper, pushed into Jeff so snug and insistent, the way he chases his pleasure and it's so good for Jeff, greedy and giving all at once. He loves the way he blinks the sweat and tears out of his eyes and feels like he might die if he doesn't get to come, but also like he needs this to never stop, needs Eric in him always.

He's strung so tight, and it's so hot in the room, so thick and suffocating Jeff can barely draw breath, and everything in him fucking hurts with pleasure, with the way his skin feels too small, like his blood and his insides are fighting to burst out of him and there's just not enough room.

It's too much and fucking perfect, maybe because somewhere underneath the messy tangle of his thoughts and the overwhelming rush of feeling he knows Eric is going to take care of him, and he does, reaches down to wrap a hand tight around Jeff's slick cock and twist in time with the push of his thrusts. Jeff shouts and comes fucking everywhere, wrenched out of him with that final touch, that last perfect slide into place of the puzzle piece. Eric works him through it, teeth grazing Jeff's skin, keeping his hips tilted up with his other hand as Jeff's hole clenches and pulses around him.

"God," he gasps, "Fuck, Jeff, 'm gonna-- "

"Yeah," says Jeff wetly. "Come on, come on, fuckin' come in me, Eric-- "

Eric moans, burying his face in Jeff's neck and pushing them both flat into the mattress as he comes, pushed balls-deep into Jeff's ass and grinding it out with little hitches of his hips.

Jeff makes a garbled, satisfied sound and slides a shaky palm up Eric's back.

"Gimme a minute," mumbles Eric.

"'S good," says Jeff. He could probably fall asleep even like this.

Eric does roll to the side eventually, and Jeff vaguely registers him cleaning up, and then he's tucked in close, pulling the covers over them, murmuring goodnight just as Jeff drops off.

 

Jeff sleeps late enough Tuesday morning that he wakes to an empty bed, although the sheets are still warm and he can smell vague hints of coffee and breakfast. He stretches, basking in the satisfied ache in his muscles, a good night's sleep and the first day of vacation.

Eric already has eggs and toast piled on the counter when Jeff shuffles into the kitchen, and he slides a mug of coffee close when he catches sight of Jeff, which Jeff bypasses momentarily to crowd in close and tilt his head up for a kiss. Eric smiles and complies.

"Sleep okay?" asks Eric when Jeff goes for the coffee.

Jeff hums. "Awesome," he says after his first sip. "Thanks for that."

"You were pretty beat from finals," says Eric.

"Right," agrees Jeff. "Then you did a great job, you know, fucking me."

Eric rolls his eyes and flushes and looks pleased all at once. Jeff grins.

"So," says Eric, sparing a moment to tug on Jeff's hair before he starts piling food onto his plate. "You're heading home on Saturday, right?"

"Uh huh," says Jeff.

"Presents Friday?"

"Sure," says Jeff. "Sounds good."

"Cool." Eric nods. "And, uh. My parents are gonna be in town this week, since Jordy and I have the time off, and Jared's gonna be around too. We're doing dinner on Thursday, if, uh. If you want to come? I mean, I'd like that, but you totally don't have to, if. Whatever."

"Oh," says Jeff. "Shit. I, uh. I have a Christmas dinner thing Thursday with some friends from my course. But I can definitely bail, I mean, it's not an excuse or anything, I want to hang out with your family, and I-- I don't want them to think I'm a flake or something. I'll-- "

"Hey, no," says Eric, reaching out to grab Jeff's wrist. "Come on, you should do your Christmas thing with your friends, it's important, and my parents come down pretty often anyway, we can definitely do it another time. Plus I don't wanna, you know, put too much on you. You've just had exams and you're about to go home for Christmas. I don't mind at all, we can-- if you want to, I mean-- we can figure something out after the New Year. They'll definitely love you, so."

Jeff bites down on his lip. "Are you sure?" he says.

Eric smiles, turning Jeff's hand over so they're palm-to-palm, threading their fingers together. "Yeah, Jeff," he says. "I think we'll-- I think we've got time, you know?"

Jeff flushes and smiles back and says, "Yeah, okay. I'd like that."

 

"I have Christmas drinks and Christmas food," says Eric when Jeff gets to his place on Friday evening, fresh from some last-minute errands and gift-shopping.

"What're Christmas drinks and Christmas food?" says Jeff curiously.

"Well, okay." Eric laughs. "Beer and pizza and candy canes."

Jeff snorts. "So festive," he says. "You are the lamest."

"Uh huh," says Eric, grinning. "You love it."

"Well." Jeff shrugs. "At least you get points for being, like, on-theme two times over."

"Oh yeah?" says Eric, drawing Jeff close. "How'd I manage that?"

"Candy Canes," says Jeff, grinning wide.

Eric rolls his eyes. "Oh my God," he says. "And you think I'm lame."

"I learned from the best," says Jeff brightly.

Eric kisses him, laughing into his mouth.

 

They exchange presents later, full of food and soft with beer. Jeff's lips are still sticky from the candy canes. Eric's turned the lights off, just the muted glow of the Christmas tree illuminating the room. It feels warm and hazy and comfortable, nothing but good things.

"You first," says Eric, handing Jeff a wrapped box with a smile.

Jeff unwraps the present with no finesse, ripping the paper to shreds and tugging open the box. He blinks down at the pair of brand new, stupidly expensive hockey skates, and then bursts out laughing, long and loud, shaking with it a little. "Oh my God," he says when he can breathe.

Eric frowns, his dumb anxious frown, and says, "I-- is it dumb? I mean, I know it's dumb, but I thought it'd be cool, you know, so you have proper skates when we do one-on-one, 'cause you'll injure yourself again if you keep using the figure skating ones, but do you-- you don't like it?"

"Fuck, no, I love it," says Jeff, nudging Eric's thigh with his toe. "I just-- I-- well, open yours."

Eric's brow furrows in confusion, but he unwraps Jeff's gift for him, more slowly than Jeff, fingers careful over the shitty wrapping job, like he's savouring it or something.

Jeff is so stupidly fond of him, it's a little bit ridiculous.

"Oh," says Eric when he gets his box open, comprehension dawning. He blinks at the figure skates Jeff got him for a moment, mouth quirked happily and eyes soft, and then he glances over at Jeff and starts chuckling. "Oh my God," he says, tugging Jeff close and burying his face against Jeff's neck, pressing his wide grin there. "Shit, we're losers, aren't we?"

"Yep," says Jeff happily, smiling into Eric's hair.

"We're totally that couple," adds Eric.

"We really are," agrees Jeff.

"I really like them," says Eric. "You can teach me how to use them."

"That was the plan," says Jeff.

 

Eric isn't in town the day Jeff heads home for Christmas. He's in Florida for a game against the Lightning. Jeff isn't mad or anything; it sucks a little, maybe, but they've done their present exchange, they've said goodbye, and Jeff's sure there'll be Christmas phonecalls, maybe even a Skype session or two, and a lot of texting, obviously. He suspects Eric maybe feels worse about it than him, because he'd said something about wanting to drive Jeff to the airport, and made a stupidly sad face when he realised their schedule wouldn't allow it.

Mostly Jeff just found it cute. He won't be gone for long, anyway, and it's just nice to know that Eric wants to do something as mundane as drop him off for his flight.

Even if he were more upset about it, he wouldn't have time to be. It's a Saturday, and he still hasn't packed, plus later he's got a Christmas party to get to for the kids at the charity, and then has to get to the airport pretty quickly right after, and before all that he has presents to wrap for the kids, so he's got a lot to think about.

Also he's just really looking forward to seeing his family. He misses them a lot, and he's always loved the loud, chaotic affairs that are holidays in his house.

There's a part of him that kind of wants Eric to be part of that, but he gets that it's not really possible, and maybe even that it's too early for that. Everything's so great already, honestly, and he can set that wish aside as something to look forward to in the future without too much fuss.

He likes that, having something so good now but also so much to look forward to.

 

By the time he gets to wrapping the presents, Jeff is running stupidly late. He's cursing himself for not time-managing better, or at least for not getting shit done faster. The pile of unwrapped gifts is mercifully low when Jeff's phone lights up with a call from Eric, but he's still late, and Jeff curses again before he answers, mumbling a distracted, "Hey."

"Hey," says Eric. "Everything okay?"

"Yeah," says Jeff, trying to rip off a piece of tape with his teeth.

"You sound kinda-- "

"Trying to wrap the presents for the kids," says Jeff, giving up and wedging the phone between his cheek and shoulder so he can use both hands. "I'm running kinda late."

"Oh," says Eric. "Sorry, I didn't-- "

"It's fine," says Jeff. He looks down at the latest wrapped present. It isn't an improvement on the others. He doesn't think the kids will notice or mind, but still. There will be other adults around, and he doesn't like the idea of looking like a mess in front of people he wants to impress at someplace he'd maybe like to actually be employed someday. "You okay?"

"Huh?" says Eric. "Oh, yeah. I'm at the hotel. We're heading out pretty soon."

"Cool," says Jeff. He starts on another present, glancing at the time. "Ugh, fuck."

"What?" says Eric anxiously.

"It's fine, I'm just cutting it close. Shouldn't've taken so long to pack."

"Sorry," says Eric again. "I'll just-- I just wanted to call before you left. I know your plane's leaving pretty late but I don't know how long the party will go, and-- "

"I get it," says Jeff, fumbling with the wrapping paper.

"Cool," says Eric. "You good to get to the airport?"

"Yeah," says Jeff. "Gonna leave my car in a long-term spot. I won't be gone long, anyway."

"Okay," says Eric. "I'm really sorry I can't-- "

"It's fine," says Jeff, frowning. "It's your job. Not like you can control the schedule."

"I know," says Eric. "I still-- I'm still sorry."

"Seriously, stop it," says Jeff, making a face at his latest shitty wrapping job and adding it to the pile. There's only one more to go, thank God. He starts on it quickly. He should be on the road already. "I said it was fine, do you think I'm lying? You're making me feel kinda shitty, man."

"Sorry," says Eric immediately.

Jeff rolls his eyes. "Yeah," he says. "Look, I really gotta go, so if you just wanted to apologise for something that isn't actually your fault, you've done it about ten times now. Merry Christmas."

"Jeff," says Eric.

"Bye, Eric," says Jeff, and hangs up.

He feels a pang of guilt as soon as he sets the phone down, but he really has to go, so he sets it aside for the moment and shoves the presents into a bag, his phone into his pocket, grabs his duffel for the plane, and hauls everything down to his car.

 

He can't really ignore it anymore once he's set the presents for the kids under the big Christmas tree at the charity. The party hasn't really swung into action yet, so he pulls his phone out and texts Eric kind of desperately, one eye on the room so he doesn't miss anything, typing without really thinking, lip between his teeth. Sorry I was so pissy on the phone, he sends. That was shitty of me. You didn't do anything wrong, I was just super rushed and in a bad mood and I hate that you feel bad because you shouldn't, it's not your fault and I just appreciate that you want to be around and drive me to the airport or whatever. Seriously, that's more important than actually being able to do it, you know? Don't want to leave while you're pissed at me or you think I'm pissed at you cause I actually kinda love you and you're awesome and I really, really don't mind your schedule, okay? You love what you do and you're great at it and I think that's amazing, I wouldn't change it. Merry Christmas for real, Eric. Kill em tonight.

He doesn't read it back until after he's hit send and then he freaks out a little, because shit, he said love, and that's-- they haven't said that yet. He's felt it for a while now though, is the problem, and it just slipped out, he didn't realise it at all. It was just a-- a total stream of conscious message and-- and that's just what's in his head all the time when it comes to Eric.

Fuck. Eric is probably in the locker room by now, probably won't see it for a couple of hours, but that doesn't really make much of a difference. He's going to see it eventually.

Jeff turns his phone off then and focuses on the kids. It's great, they all look so happy and healthy, at least for tonight, smiles wide and faces glowing with excitement. Jeff feels warm and proud, so glad he gets to do this, and the nerves only creep back when he turns his phone on afterwards. He's glad he waited; he definitely doesn't feel as panicky as earlier, but he still bites his lip when he sees a new message from Eric, and opens it with his heart in his throat.

Eric has just sent Jeff, which-- which doesn't really help at all.

It could mean anything. He could've sent it by accident without finishing the thought, or it could mean something in itself, but Jeff has no idea what. He doesn't even know if he should reply or not, so he pockets his phone and heads outside to the parking lot, at a bit of a loss.

He pulls up short near his car, staring. Eric is-- Eric is here, still dressed in his stupid gorgeous game-day suit and probably fresh off a plane, leaning against the passenger door with his hands in his pockets. When he spots Jeff he takes them out and straightens.

"Um," says Jeff hoarsely. "Hi?" He takes a step closer, swallowing. "What-- "

"I love you too," Eric blurts out, and Jeff freezes. His chest feels all wrong, his lungs too small and his heart too big, like he can't breathe, like his pulse is going to beat right out of his skin.

"I-- what?" he says stupidly.

Eric steps up close to him, sliding a thumb over his jaw. "Your message," he says. "I-- I didn't want you to leave without-- well, without telling you. I mean, you-- you meant it, right?"

"Of course I meant it," says Jeff, flushing.

Eric smiles, soft and beautiful. "Good," he whispers. "I love you too."

Jeff lifts a hand to clench in the front of Eric's jacket. "Eric," he says, and Eric kisses him, hard and deep, hands cradling Jeff's face. He pulls back pretty quickly, because they're still outside, but Jeff is already breathing hard, already dazed. He sways into Eric's chest.

"I got a cab here," says Eric quietly. "I'll drive you to the airport and get a cab home."

"Okay," says Jeff slowly. He shuffles closer to Eric, as close as he can.

"Come on," says Eric, smiling. "Let's get in the car."

"Yeah," says Jeff. He fumbles in his pocket and unlocks the car, then hands the keys to Eric and climbs in the passenger side. He's still not quite with it, but he just-- he feels so warm.

When he's settled in the driver's side Eric tugs Jeff close over the gears and kisses him again, slower this time, lingering, pressing his fingertips against Jeff's cheek gently, carding through his hair with his other hand. Jeff groans a little and pushes into it. It feels so good.

Eric pulls back eventually, swiping his thumb over Jeff's wet bottom lip.

"I'm still sorry, by the way," says Eric. "Not because I want you to feel bad. I just-- because I'm selfish and I like having you around all the time and if I didn't have a game tonight I would've come here with you, and I don't wish things were different but I still wish I could've done that. I want everything, with you, and I'm not gonna stop, so, you know. Deal with that."

Jeff bursts out laughing, startled and happy. "I know," he says. "I didn't really think you were trying to-- I didn't mean it. I wasn't really thinking, and mostly I just don't ever want to be the reason you're beating yourself up when it's not your fault and I honestly don't mind. I just, you're always great, more than great. You should know that. But I-- I get it, and I'm not mad you said sorry, 'cause I-- I want everything too. Like, I dunno, I don't wish I wasn't going home but I still wish I could spend Christmas with you, and that's-- that's just the way it is, I guess."

"I wasn't beating myself up," says Eric. He shrugs. "You know I just always want-- "

"Yeah," says Jeff, laughing some more. "And you flew all the way back here like a crazy person to tell me before I went home." He pokes Eric's chest, grinning wide.

Eric rolls his eyes and flushes a little. "Well," he says, "If someone hadn't said 'I love you' for the first time in a text, maybe I wouldn't have had to."

It's Jeff's turn to blush. "Shut up," he mumbles. "It was an accident."

"An accident?" Eric raises his eyebrows. "You didn't mean it?"

"Of course I meant it, don't be dumb," says Jeff. "I just didn't plan to do it that way. But I didn't want you to be mad at me and I wasn't paying attention and I kinda always-- you know."

"Yeah," says Eric softly. He tugs Jeff close again. "Me too."

Jeff makes a low noise and kisses him, wet and lush.

"I'm really glad you're going home, Jeff," says Eric when they settle back in their seats. "I know you miss your family. And I'll be here when you get back, and it's-- it'll be great."

"Yeah," says Jeff quietly, smiling. "Yeah, it will."