Tyler hates losing. He really hates losing in the playoffs, and, he has just remembered, he really, really, really godsdamned hates losing games in the Stanley Cup Final.
He also hates losing when he's not scoring, and yeah, yeah, he's not team-oriented enough, and he's too focused on his own success, and he needs to focus more about what he can do for the team, but shit, Tyler knows himself, and he knows his style, and he knows that what he should be doing for the team is scoring. Which he hasn't exactly been doing much of since he got back from Switzerland, not the way he knows he's supposed to, anyway.
Still, he reminds himself. Game 4. The series is tied. There's still a chance.
He's quiet on the bus, knocking his head against the window and not talking to Bergy, who's been sitting next to him since Marchy started avoiding him. Out the window, Tyler sees twin temples, Apollo and Athena. Light glints off Athena's helmet, and he catches sight of her face. It looks distant, like most statues. Athena has always been Tyler's patron; he had a statue when he was a kid, Athena in her aspect as warrior, except she was wearing a hockey helmet and carrying a hockey stick, not a spear. But it's been a while since he made an offering, and most people on the team are for Hera or Zeus, gods Tyler's never really gotten along with.
The team piles off the bus when it arrives at the mandated-to-develop-team-playoff-togetherness-even-when-they're-at-home hotel, and Tyler stalks into his room without talking to anyone. Theoretically he's still on his ELC and should be sharing but he's escaped that, for a reason he hasn't questioned. He goes right to the minibar, grabs a tiny bottle of vodka, chugs it, and flings himself down onto his bed like Cassidy does when she's sulking, facefirst to yell into his pillow.
After relieving his feelings, he flips onto his back and lies there, staring up at the ceiling. He wants – he doesn't – Shit. Tyler can't stand to be alone with his thoughts for another second.
He gets jeans and a tight t-shirt out of his suitcase, contents half-spilled across the floor, and has another vodka. He grabs his phone, thinks about texting Marchy, decides emphatically against it.
He lets himself out of his room into the corridor, and stops. There's a tall woman leaning against the wall opposite. She's in some kind of uniform, private security, and she's looking right at him.
"Hi," Tyler tries, going for charming.
It pretty much bounces off her. "Go back in your room, Tyler," she says.
She looks familiar in a way he can't place, and it's not like it's that weird for someone to know his name even if he didn't recognise her, but – "What the fuck?" Tyler says. "Is someone paying you to watch me?"
Her mouth quirks. "In a manner of speaking." Her nose is crooked, her eyes dark and her arms beneath the grotty white shirt look strong; she's not the kind of girl Tyler goes for at all, but somehow she's unearthly, gorgeous, and something about her scares the shit out of Tyler. He can't meet her eyes.
"Fuck that," he says, though. "I'll go out if I fucking want to." He shuts his door behind him, but when he turns around she's there in front of him, and when he tries to push past her she puts one hand on his chest and it's like he's rooted to the ground.
"What –" he says, but she ignores him, coolly going through his pockets with her spare hand to come up with his keycard. She swipes it, pushes the door open, and says, "Go in."
Tyler swears he doesn't mean to do what she says, but it's like his feet aren't listening to him; he's in his room before he thinks about it.
She stands in his doorway and observes him dispassionately. "Good," she says.
She closes the door, and Tyler's just standing there like an idiot in the middle of his room. His hands are shaking. "Fuck," he says to the air, and goes for the minibar again.
She's there again five nights later, but this time Tyler doesn't even look at her, blows past her in the corridor. The season's over, they're done, Marchy isn't texting him back, so fine, he's going out, to get drunk, high, fucked-up, fucked – something, anything, that will make him forget how this season's gone.
"Tyler," she says from behind him. "Don't do anything stupid," but he does.
Then he gets traded.
He gets out of Boston as fast as he can, out to where he can avoid answering questions – from the media, from his mom, from strangers on the street, from Julien on the phone, from anyone. His bros don't ask questions, so he surrounds himself with his bros and girls they know, more drinking, dancing. Fuck, it's summer and he's just lost the Stanley Cup, he can have a bit of fun before he gets back to work.
He's in Cape Cod when Chiarelli calls.
Some of the Bruins text. Bergy does. Z does.
Tyler doesn't expect Marchy to. He doesn't.
He sticks around the Cape for a while but his heart isn't in it any more, and he ends up back in Toronto, kicking around the city with Brownie and periodically going home to get beat up by his sisters and fattened up by his mom.
"I'm good," he says, when she sits him down at the kitchen table and asks him, seriously, how he is. "Really, Mom. It's a good opportunity. I'll get to play with Benn, be the guy." He looks at his hands, fiddles with the coaster on the table. "If they didn't want me in Boston I'm better off."
"I think that's true, honey," she says, clearly not buying it but willing to play along. "You will let us know if you need anything, though, won't you?" She pauses, then says, "You know you could tell us anything about – anything."
He doesn't meet her gaze. "Yeah, Mom," he says. "I know."
He's taking Marshall for a run when he runs into a parade, and swears idly. The streets are jammed and, duh, it's summer; he's walked straight into the Panathenaia.
Marshall doesn't love the crowds, so Tyler takes him home, but something has him showering and heading back out, into the noise and yelling. He gets swept up in the crowd for a while, watching the parade – musicians, athletes, divines of Athena; there's a couple of teams of gymnasts, and Tyler gets stuck watching one guy in particular, short and muscled, turning a couple of flips and handsprings and coming out of one particularly thrilling tumble yelling Athena's name. He looks to the crowd, triumphant and proud, and his eyes meet Tyler's; Tyler, stumbling, looks away, and pulls himself back into the crowd.
Suddenly desperate to get out, Tyler walks aimlessly through the streets away from the parade until the crowd is thinned and gone, and he finds himself standing directly in front of the Hockey Hall of Fame. He stares up at it for a second, and on impulse walks in.
Tyler has a cap and sunglasses, but it's probably still a dumb idea. He sticks his hands in his pockets and slouches, shivering a little in the air conditioning. It's not crowded, though; everyone, Tyler guesses, is out at the parade, or enjoying the sun while they can. Maybe he can get away with this.
He's somehow not surprised when he ends up in the temple at the top of the building.
It's empty, which Tyler distantly realises is strange. Sun is coming through the stained-glass dome onto the Stanley Cup, but the statues of the gods lining the wall are in shadow. It's very quiet.
Tyler turns away from the Cup and looks at the statues. He's always liked them; they feature the gods interpreted as hockey players. Zeus wears a C, which Tyler thinks is a little on the nose. Hermes is caught as if he were skating hard with the puck. Athena brandishes a stick and wears her helmet, like the statue Tyler had as a kid. Hera is in the middle of a hip check.
The silence presses in on Tyler. He does a full circle, still avoiding the Cup, and winds up in front of Athena, looking up at her. The cool statue's eyes don't meet his, but Tyler suddenly knows why he's here, and fumbles in his wallet for some bills. He drops them in the honesty box and takes a candle, lights it, puts in in front of Athena. He licks his lips; he doesn't know what to say.
"Athena," he says, after a while. He breaks off, embarrassed, and looks around. He's still alone. "I don't know what to do." He takes a breath; his heart is hammering in his ears. Tyler is emphatically not religious, hasn't prayed since he was a kid; he doesn't know what the hell he's doing. "I need to know," he says, stops again. "I need – redemption, I guess." His breathing is harsh in the silence.
"You should have listened to me," someone says, and Tyler jumps.
He turns, and she's standing there: the woman from the hotel hallway. She's not in a security guard's uniform this time; she's in jeans and a t-shirt, he thinks, except when he looks again she's wearing hockey gear and carrying a stick. He blinks, and it's jeans again.
She bangs the stick he swears she isn't carrying on the ground to get his attention. "Hey," she says. "I told you not to go out."
"Who are you?" Tyler is – baffled. He doesn't know what's going on, he's starting to think –
"You asked for my help," she says. "You want it or not?"
"I didn't," said Tyler, but she looks pointedly at the statue behind him. He turns his head. Athena, cool and remote, looks over the chamber.
He looks at her. Athena, cool and not nearly so remote, looks back at him.
Tyler's mouth is very dry.
"Yeah," she says. "So this is the thing. You didn't listen to me. You went out. You got in trouble. So you're going to get to Dallas and you're going to go to the captain of your team and he's going to give you some things to do."
"Are you shitting me?" Tyler says. "Labours? I didn't fuckin' murder my family."
She shrugs. "You can do it or not, Tyler. You asked me what to do to get back into the gods' good graces. That's what you want, isn't it? To play like you used to? Find a team that plays you the way you know you can play?"
"Yes," Tyler says, unwillingly.
"This is it." Behind Tyler, the candle sputters, and he turns to look at it. Behind him, she says, "You can take it or leave it."
He looks back; she's gone. The candle goes out; its light goes, but somehow the room is lightened, its stillness leavened. Tyler hears traffic noise from outside. A couple of kids come in yelling, and their mom, carrying a camera, chases in after them, scolding.
Tyler repositions his cap over his eyes, takes one last look at Athena, and leaves.
He still doesn't know, when he gets to Dallas, whether he's going to do what she told him to. On the one hand, divine visitations are not exactly something that happens to him every day. Six months ago if you'd asked Tyler whether he was devout he would have answered with a pretty confident No. On the other hand, he could have been hallucinating. Maybe he had heatstroke, he tries to tell himself, but he knows even as he does that he's lying. Athena was there, with him. She spoke to him. She told him what he had to do. He knows it with the kind of perfect, unthinking certainty he has about his name, his body, his family.
But he's not sure he can exactly explain that to Jamie Benn, a guy he barely knows.
The Dallas front office gets him an apartment in the same building as the Benn brothers, but he avoids them his first night there, gets Marshall settled in and heats up something from his meal service. While eating he wanders around the apartment, poking into cupboards to see where movers put things and opening every door.
There's a niche by the door obviously intended for a home altar. Tyler forks a piece of chicken into his mouth and stands in front of it, chewing.
He gets his keys out of his pocket, dumps them in the niche, and walks away.
He can't avoid the Benns for much longer, though, and Jamie shows up at his door the next morning. He's broad in an unstudied kind of way – Tyler bets he doesn't have to spend hours in the gym to put on weight every summer – and sweating slightly despite the building's air conditioning. He has dark eyes; his hands are stuffed in his pockets.
"Uh, hi," Jamie says, and Tyler drags his eyes away from Jamie's shoulders. This is not going to happen again. Tyler can fucking learn.
"Right, sorry," he says, and swings the door open to let Jamie in.
They've met before but they've never talked, so Jamie makes awkward welcome-to-the-team small talk, looking like he wants to be anywhere but Tyler's living room, until Marshall comes up, tail wagging. Jamie grins and gets down on his knees to let Marshall lick his face, and Tyler laughs.
"Sorry," Tyler says. "He's usually more polite with strangers."
"Nah, he's great," says Jamie, scratching Marshall behind the ears. "He's just friendly, eh?"
"Yeah," says Tyler. "Keeps me company, don't you, Marshall?"
Marshall knows his name, and barks; Jamie laughs, then stands.
"Well, anyway," he says. "You should come up for dinner with me and Jordie tonight – you must be lonely."
"Yeah, I don't know anyone here yet," says Tyler. "That'd be great."
"Cool, I'll text you when we know what we're doing." Jamie tugs his cap back on and sticks his hand out again for Tyler to take. "Welcome to the team, man."
Tyler shakes. Jamie's palm is warm; Tyler feels himself flush.
Jamie turns around to leave, and Tyler thinks, shit. This might be his last chance to get Jamie alone before the season starts. Plus he's a rip-the-bandaid off kind of person: no point in procrastinating. If it's going to be weird, make it weird right away, he figures.
"Hey, hang on," he says.
Jamie turns back, smiling, and Tyler swallows.
"Are you religious?"
Jamie looks baffled. "Sure? Do you … want a recommendation or something?"
Tyler laughs. "Um, no, no. That's not – no. Um, this is going to sound kind of weird, but … you know the fable of Heracles?"
Jamie looks even more puzzled. "Demigod, killed his wife, did a bunch of labours?"
"Yes!" says Tyler. "Yes. Labours. That. Uh, so I might have pissed Athena off and now you have to set me labours to get me on the right side with the gods so I can score again," he says, rapidly.
Jamie, looking uncertain, scans Tyler's face, and then manages a laugh. "Come on, man, don't joke about that kind of thing."
Tyler sighs. "I'm not joking," he says, sort of hopelessly. "I don't know why, either, but I really need your help, man."
Jamie takes a step back. "Uh, I'm not – look, I'll see you at dinner, OK?" He turns on his heel and flees out of Tyler's apartment before Tyler can say anything.
"Shit." Tyler flings himself on his couch, and Marshall comes up and leans his head on his knee. Tyler tugs at one of his ears. "That didn't go so well, huh, bud."
He's still lying on the couch staring at the ceiling an hour later when his phone buzzes. Dinner 7pm bring Marshall if you want, it says, and Jamie's apartment number.
Tyler does a crunch to sit up and stares at his phone. He'd kind of assumed dinner was cancelled, but hey. He texts back, thanks, and flops back down again.
His phone buzzes again, but it's a Snapchat from Brownie, shirtless and by a pool somewhere, the fucker. Tyler extends his arm far enough to take a selfie of like, half his face, and sends it with a fuck u, then drops the phone on the floor and the arm over his face.
Marshall comes over and starts licking Tyler's face, which is both cute and disgusting. Tyler sits up properly to shove him away and wipe his face, then gets up to dig around for Marshall's leash. When he gets back and picks up his phone, Brownie's texted him. stop being a sadsack. Tyler hits call.
"I'm not being a sadsack," he says as soon as Brownie picks up.
"Stop lying, I always know," Brownie says. "You're probably lying on your couch with Marshall licking you right now."
"I'm about to take Marshall for a walk, actually," Tyler says, and Brownie just laughs.
"Good," he says. "Start making friends, you're such a shit when you're lonely."
"Fuck off," Tyler says.
"Why are we friends?" Tyler grabs his keys out of the niche and kicks his door shut.
"Because you fucking adore me," says Brownie.
"More like I can't get rid of you," Tyler says. "Ball and chain."
"Don't you forget it, wifey," Brownie says. "Gotta go, someone's about to throw me in the pool."
"Later," Tyler says, but he's already gone. "Just you and me, eh, buddy?"
Marshall doesn't even look at him, and Tyler has to laugh.
He takes Marshall for a run, showers, and hits the Benns' at 7:01 with a bottle of wine in some kind of aim-for-classy move he assumes he picked up from his parents.
"Hey, fancy," the other Benn brother says when he opens the door. Jordie, obviously; the beard is distinctive.
"Hey," Tyler says, sticking out the hand that's not holding the wine. "Segs."
Jordie shakes, takes the wine. "Jordie," he says. "Come in, man."
Jamie's out on the balcony grilling something and drinking a beer. He waves at Tyler. Jordie says, "Want a beer? Or," he says, dubiously, "I guess I can open this."
"Nah," Tyler says. "Beer is great." He shrugs. "I don't know why I brought wine."
"It's classy," Jordie says, cheerfully. "Not that you or Jamie would know anything about that."
"Fuck off," Tyler says automatically. Thank the gods hockey bros are pretty much the same everywhere, and Jordie just laughs and sends Tyler out to hang with Jamie.
Jamie's grilling steaks, pretty smokily, and they shoot the shit for a while without really saying much. Athena and Tyler's request don't come up, so Tyler guesses Jamie has decided to pretend it didn't happen, which is great until he thinks about the look on Athena's face in the temple and realises he's going to have to push it.
Not right now, though. He gives himself permission to put it off til tomorrow and puts it out of his mind.
It's a nice meal. Jordie's a funny guy, and Jamie's dorky sincerity peels back a little around his brother to reveal a quietly funny asshole, one of Tyler's favourite personality types. Tyler drinks a lot of beer and relaxes enough to send Brownie a snap of the Benns with I have new best friends now so u can fuck off, so he's kind of surprised when Jordie goes off to the bathroom and Jamie corners him in the kitchen.
Tyler's taking his plate to the kitchen, so his hands are full, and Jamie boxes him into a corner of the kitchen so he can basically whisper, "I'll do it."
"Um, what?" Tyler's mildly buzzed, so it takes him a minute to catch on.
Jamie rolls his eyes. "The Athena thing. The labours. Jobs. Whatever. I'll do it." His eyes are kind of … intense.
"Oh," Tyler says. "That's really cool, man. Thank you." Jamie's huge arms are taking half his focus, and Jamie's slightly crazy eyes are taking the other half.
Jamie just nods, shortly. "No problem," he says, and pulls away just as Jordie comes back from the bathroom.
Tyler doesn't see the Benns for a few days, but team obligations pretty quickly start throwing Jamie and Tyler together. They end up doing a shitload of media together for pre-season get-to-know-the-new-kid-and-the-new-captain puff pieces, and it turns out the effort of not rolling their eyes at the fifteenth time someone asks them the same question kind of clears the air. Jamie's on the quieter side compared to what Tyler knows is his own fairly exuberant personality, but, Tyler discovers, along with being a stealth asshole he has a filthy sense of humour, exchanging a series of off-colour jokes with one of the Stars' PR guys between interviews. He tunes out to text Brownie during one of them and zones back in on "But I bet you've had a cockatoo in your mouth," and Jamie cracking up, laughing without embarrassment at his own joke.
Tyler shakes his head at him. "And here I thought you were a nice BC boy."
"I'm as nice as BC boys get," Jamie says, grinning at him as the next journo comes in. Tyler shoots him a sceptical look before pasting his media smile back on.
They head out to their cars together after the extended bullshit session ends. They're just talking idly until Jamie says, "So I thought of the first … thing. For you to do. Um." He looks around and goes into a whisper. "Labour."
Tyler snorts at him. "You don't have to whisper, dude. But cool." He bites his lip. "I wasn't sure you were going to, so, you know. Thanks."
Jamie shrugs. "You really believe it, huh?"
"Yeah. I mean, I guess." Tyler ducks his head, wishing he could explain the moment of absolute certainty he'd experienced at the Hockey Hall of Fame. "Anyway, what is it?"
"Oh, yeah. It's cleaning Jordie's car."
"Really?" Tyler laughs out loud.
Jamie looks embarrassed. "You didn't give me parameters, man. Besides, it's disgusting. You have no idea the trash he's got in there, and he drives me around in it."
"Gross," says Tyler, cheerful. "But cool. When do you want it done by?"
"I--this weekend, I guess? Do I have to be there?"
"I don't know. Probably?" Tyler hazards.
"Okay, well, Sunday. I can get you Jordie's keys."
"Can't wait," says Tyler.
They park Jordie's car in the street so Tyler can work on it. He's come prepared: gloves, trash bags, soap and water, fancy (and disposable) car-cleaning crap and a tank top so douchey even Brownie thinks it's a bit much.
Jamie shakes his head at him. "Really?"
"Sun's out, guns out," Tyler says, and flexes his muscles.
"You're disgusting," Jamie says, flushing.
Tyler grins at him. "So anyway, cleaning," he says, and takes himself over to Jordie's car.
Jamie wasn't kidding about the mess; Jordie's footwells are basically all full of garbage, papers and balled-up stick tape and pucks and smoothie cups and Gatorade bottles and the occasional candy bar wrapper, and it takes Tyler half an hour to fill a couple of trash bags. He messes around with the interiors and the windows for a bit, and then goes for the soapy water to do the outside.
Jamie's leaning up against his own car watching him, and he shifts a little when Tyler bends over to work on the hood. Tyler glances back at him over his shoulder, but gets back to work. It's perfect carwash weather, hot and clear, and he gets into it, splashing around the water and having a good time; Jamie laughs at him, and Tyler picks up the bucket of water and gestures in his direction.
"Don't you fucking dare," Jamie says, still grinning, and Tyler goes, "Oh, OK," and fakes setting it down before flinging half the bucket at Jamie.
"Oh, no you didn't," Jamie says, and heads in Tyler's direction. He drops the bucket and runs away; Jamie grabs it and ends up trapping Tyler against the car, wrestling him into position for Jamie to tip the rest of the bucket's contents on him.
Tyler splutters; the water's surprisingly cold, and it's all he can do to gasp for a second.
"That's what you get," Jamie says, unimpressed, and then seems to realise all at once that he's pressing Tyler up against the car and they're not plausible deniability wrestling any more. He springs back, dropping the bucket, and coughs.
"Jerk," Tyler says, lamely.
"You deserved it," Jamie says. "Um, but it looks like you're nearly done, so I'm going to …" he gestures back at the building, and walks away.
"Sure," says Tyler to Jamie's back.
Getting the car dry and polished isn't really that much fun without Jamie there giving him shit, but Tyler finishes up pretty quickly and heads in.
When he gets out of the elevator she's there again, leaning against the wall by his door.
"I hope you don't think I'm going to invite you in," Tyler says, grimly.
"That's vampires," she says. "I can come in whether you want me there or not." She doesn't, though, just watches him walk past her and fiddle to get his key in the lock. "It's good that you've started."
"Really?" says Tyler, giving up on the lock and turning to her. "Why the hell could you want me to clean Jordie's car?"
"It's not about what I want," she says, expressionless and apparently unoffended. "It's not about the car, either."
"Right," Tyler says. He shakes his head and turns away. His key goes in this time, and he slams the door behind himself, uncomfortably aware that it's a completely meaningless gesture.
The season starts. Tyler feels like he's been waiting for a million years to get on the ice, to play a game as a Star. He also feels like he was losing to the Hawks five minutes ago, which, considering it's been a shorter summer for him than the rest of his teammates, he kind of was. They lose the home opener, which sucks, but win the next one; Jamie and Tyler both assist on Cole's goal, so at least Tyler's on the board now, feels like he's less of a waste of space.
He tells his mom when she asks that he's not thinking about it, but of course he is: he can feel everyone watching for him to be a bust, waiting for him to live down to Chiarelli's expectations. Fuck them, he tells Brownie when he calls, but the truth is Tyler doesn't know what he can do any more, either.
On the bus to the airport before the third game of the season, Tyler's phone buzzes with a text.
second task: win this game, it says.
Tyler twists around til he can see Jamie, sitting at the back of the bus. "Are you kidding?" he mouths.
Jamie pulls a dumb face at him, and Tyler's phone buzzes again.
just do it, Tyler
Right, Tyler thinks, bitterly. Like he hasn't been trying to win games. He can just do it, apparently, according to Jamie Benn.
He turns off his phone when they get on the plane and doesn't turn it back on again until after they've beaten Calgary 4-1. Tyler has two goals and two assists. Jamie has a goal and an assist, and he crushes Tyler against the glass after his second goal. "Told you so," he yells in Tyler's ear, and Tyler can't stop grinning at him.
They lose horribly the next day in Minnesota, but go out anyway, and late in the evening Tyler ends up in a dark booth at the back of the bar, under the little icon of Dionysus most bars have somewhere, with Jamie pressed up next to him and mumbling in his ear about the Calgary game. "What a shot," he says, and Tyler grins into his beer.
"Thanks, cap," he says. "Yours is pretty nice too."
Jamie pulls away to look at him with drunken seriousness. "Thank you," he says, owlishly.
His face is close to Tyler's; they're looking at each other, and Tyler sees Jamie's eyes go to his lips and feels his breath catch. He tries to make himself pull away, but can't. Jamie, moving slowly like he's expecting Tyler to spook and run like a rabbit, moves his hand from the back of the booth to Tyler's neck, and then he reels Tyler in, pressing their mouths together.
Tyler can't help himself, presses back, opens his mouth to Jamie for five seconds, ten, twenty, and then Jamie's pulling away, settling himself back down. "Don't worry about tonight," he says. "We'll get the next one."
"Yeah," Tyler says, after the silence has stretched long and he realises he's just sitting there, mouth open, looking at Jamie. "We will."
It feels like Tyler turns around twice and they're more than halfway through the season. The Stars win some games and lose some games, and Tyler guesses whatever he's doing with Jamie is working, because they're both scoring, enough to keep them in contention for a playoff spot and enough that Jamie gets the call for the Olympics.
Jordie embarrasses Jamie with congratulatory streamers and a bear hug in the dressing room, which makes him go red; everyone's pleased for Jamie, though, even the non-Canadians on the team, and they go out for lunch to celebrate for him, Val and Lehts. Val is obviously ecstatic to be playing for Russia in Russia, and Tyler watches Jamie take him aside to punch him on the arm and say something encouraging. Tyler can't hear what Jamie says, but it makes Val duck his head and smile.
"You're a good captain," Tyler says, when Jamie sits down next to him. Jamie glances at him sideways, and blushes himself.
"Thanks," he says, and busies himself with his meal for a minute. "Hey, I thought of another task," he says through his next mouthful.
Tyler, chewing himself, makes a questioning sound.
Jamie swallows. "Take Eaks' dog to the park with me."
Tyler gives him a weird look, and he shrugs. "I lost a bet and I don't wanna do it by myself. People always come up to me."
"Aw," Tyler teases. "You don't want to get dog-owning hot chicks' numbers?"
"Not really," says Jamie, not meeting Tyler's eyes, and Tyler looks away, trying not to remember drunkenly kissing Jamie.
"Anything to save you from that, I guess," he says, and they both go back to their meals.
They actually get one of their off days that week, and they head down to the park in the morning, late enough that most people will be at work. The park's pretty quiet; kids are in school, Tyler guesses, plus it's winter, and so the only people there are parents with preschoolers running around on the equipment and a couple of dogs and their humans.
Tyler brought Marshall, even though it probably makes this even less like this is something he's doing for Jamie and more like it's something he's doing and Jamie's doing at the same time, and he lets him off the leash pretty much right away. Jamie lets Eaks' dog go too, and they just stand around watching the dogs run around for a while.
"I can't believe he called his dog Jon Bones Jones," Jamie says after they've stood in silence for a while.
Tyler laughs. "Yeah, it's not exactly what I want to be yelling out in the middle of the park."
"Marshall's pretty great," Jamie says.
"Name or dog?"
"The name's fine, but I meant the dog."
"Yeah, he's my best friend," says Tyler. "After Brownie, anyway. It was nice to have him with the move, you know." Since he got to Dallas, they've never really talked about the trade; Jamie didn't say anything about it when he welcomed him to the team, and Tyler's not sure he wants to talk about it now. Instead, showing off a bit, he whistles, and Marshall runs over, panting. Tyler gets down on one knee to pet him and Marshall licks his face, making him splutter. "Come on, boy, lie down," he says, and Marshall rolls onto his back to get belly scritches.
Tyler looks over at Jamie; he's just standing there with his hands in his pockets, watching Tyler intently. Tyler looks away again, but now he feels the weight of Jamie's gaze on him, and he has to stand, fishing in his pocket for a ball. "Hey, Marshall," he says, and shows him the ball.
Marshall barks, with a look of doggy ecstasy, and Tyler throws the ball so Marshall can go bounding off after it. Jon Bones Jones heads off after him with a bark of his own. Tyler glances at Jamie; he's grinning.
They mess around with the dogs and the ball for an hour or so before a cool breeze kicks up and rain starts falling.
"Really?" says Tyler, looking up in disgust.
"You get used to rain instead of snow," Jamie says. "People around here drive like assholes in the snow anyway."
"You're from Vancouver, you must be plenty used to rain," Tyler says, and calls Marshall and Jon over. They get the leashes back on them for the walk to Jamie's truck, but on the way across the park the skies seem to open and suddenly they're drenched and running for the truck doors.
"Shit," Jamie says, swiping wet hair away from his face. He's soaked, rain pearling on his face; Tyler can't look away from him, until Jamie catches him looking, and then he's staring fixedly out the window.
"Tyler," Jamie says, and then sighs, and puts his truck into gear.
They drop Jon back at Eaks' place' and when they get back to the apartment block Jamie follows Tyler back to his place and sits on his couch uninvited. Tyler would complain, but he hasn't exactly made it a secret how much he loves company and he's pretty sure it wouldn't be believable, so he sits next to Jamie and starts fishing around for something on Netflix.
He comes up with Suits, which both he and Jamie find inoffensive enough for background noise, and they watch that for a while. Jamie's quiet beside Tyler, and Tyler gradually relaxes enough to kick his leg up against Jamie's. Jamie lets him and doesn't push back; Tyler starts to melt into his couch, quietly. This kind of thing is the reason he still misses his boys in Boston and Toronto, though he wouldn't admit it to Jamie if he asked; just hanging out next to someone, reliable physical contact.
An episode finishes, and Netflix's "Are you still watching?" box pops up. Tyler goes to click through for the next episode, but Jamie grabs his wrist, gently. Tyler turns to look at him; Jamie leans over and kisses him.
Tyler doesn't do anything, manages to keep still, and Jamie pulls away to look at him.
"Sorry," he says, going red slowly. "I thought you liked – you were – um, sorry." He looks miserable; Tyler's heart squeezes, and he says "I do," then breaks off. "I mean, I'm – I do. I am. I just." He has to stop again. Jamie looks – Tyler can't let him keep looking like that.
Tyler kisses Jamie, this time.
Tyler stops trying so hard after that. The Stars are fighting with Phoenix for the last wildcard spot, and he throws himself into that; he's on pace for more than thirty goals this season, which he tries not to think about too much but also can't help.
He doesn't stop what he's doing with Jamie, even though he knows he should, even though he knows this is just the kind of trouble-making that got him traded out of Dallas. Especially fucking with a star player, the new captain, the cornerstone of the team. But Jamie comes around after a night out, and they make out, and don't talk about it; Tyler goes to Jamie and Jordie's place when Jordie's out with his girlfriend and they kiss on the couch, rubbing off against each other like teenagers, and they don't talk about it. Tyler's been unhappy, and Jamie wants to make him feel good; it's hard to resist.
Jamie sucks Tyler off before he goes away for the Olympics. They're in a bed for a change, Tyler's bed, and he spreads Tyler out on the sheets and goes down. Jamie's funny in bed, awkward but weirdly confident; he pushes Tyler around and Tyler goes, even though he's kind of – he feels vulnerable, naked on his bed, legs spread. Tyler's not a prude or particularly modest, has never minded walking around naked in the dressing room, but Jamie pinning his hips down and taking his dick into his mouth is different, makes him shake.
He loses his self-consciousness, and then his self-control, pretty quickly when Jamie starts deepthroating, though.
"Where the hell," Tyler gasps, afterwards, "Did you learn that?"
Jamie shrugs. "Junior," he says, and starts laughing at the look on Tyler's face.
Outside the bedroom, they still don't talk about it.
Jamie goes to the Olympics. Tyler doesn't kiss him goodbye. Jamie comes back with a gold medal; Tyler blows him on his couch. Tyler get a hat trick and two assists on the way to crushing Vancouver 6-1 and they end up in a bar bathroom, wasted, Jamie trying to jerk Tyler off with drunken seriousness and drunken lack of coordination. They lose badly to Winnipeg and Tyler gets his 30th goal and can't decide whether to be thrilled or pissed off that it happened in a losing game.
Jamie finally gets around to setting Tyler another task in March.
"One of Crosby's garters," Jamie says. "I want you to steal one."
Tyler grins. "No problem," he says, and saunters off.
A couple of hours later he's kind of regretting his bravado.
"I'm not letting you into our locker room to fuck with Sid's shit," Kunitz says. "Are you high?"
"Fuck off," Tyler says. "I'm telling you, it's for Athena."
"Athena came to you and told you to steal one of Sid's garters?"
"Yes – kind of."
"I don't believe you," Kunitz says, and Tyler chokes in frustration.
"I'm begging here," he says.
"I'm not getting involved in your obscure sexual fetish," Kunitz says.
Tyler almost throws up in his mouth. "Ugh," he says. "That's not it at all."
Kunitz proves unbudgeable, and Tyler's basically ready to throw in the towel and get Jamie to set him something new - or at least to wait until the next time Crosby plays in Dallas, which Tyler has no idea when it's going to be but he could maybe, like, hide in the dressing room before the Pens get there, which would probably be more productive than what he's currently doing - when Crosby actually walks round the corner.
"For fuck's sake," Tyler says, hopelessly.
"Hi, Segs," Crosby says. "What's up?"
What the hell, it's worth a go, Tyler thinks. "I need one of your garters to fulfill a promise to Athena," he says.
Crosby purses his lips, then shrugs. "Sure," he says. "Hang on a sec." He heads into the dressing room.
Tyler exchanges a glance with Kunitz. He looks as baffled as Tyler feels.
"Here you go," Crosby says, coming back out. He hands Tyler a garter.
Tyler takes it. "This … is really yours?" he says, slowly. "I was expecting that to be harder, to be honest."
Crosby laughs. "It's new," he says. "I tried them last game and hated them, so, you know, whatever, take it. Especially if it's for Athena."
"Thanks," says Tyler, still a little bit confused but willing to go with it. "See you out there, I guess."
"Yep," says Crosby.
"Better not do that one again," Jamie says, later that night, as they file off Consol ice.
Thinking about the look Crosby gave him after scoring the goal that put the Penguins up 4-1, Tyler says, fervently, "Not ever."
Objectively, Tyler knows it's been a good season for him.
Subjectively, it's fucking hard to remember that as he files off the ice at the American Airlines Center with one goal and two assists in the six games that were all the Stars had of the playoffs.
"Nick Bonino," Jamie says, sitting down in the stall next to him. "Fuck that guy."
"Yeah," Tyler says. He's too tired to work up much of a temper, really, tired and down. He has no delusions about the Stars, or he thought he didn't, but being eliminated this early stings, even if it's what you'd expect for a wildcard team.
The rest of the team obviously feels similarly; guys file out to meet their wives or girlfriends or kids, and it ends up being just a handful of the younger guys left to go out when Jordie suggests it. They pile into taxis and out to a restaurant, stuffing themselves with food. Tyler sits between Val and Garbs, because neither of them are as miserable as they could be; Val's still buzzing about his first NHL playoffs, and it's infectious enough to have Tyler feeling better, more even-keeled by the time they're done eating and heading out to a bar.
He's made his way through half a bottle of wine during dinner, enough to be buzzed and warm but not enough that he hasn't noticed Jamie, sitting at one end of the table and saying barely one or two words to the guys sitting next to him. When they get to the bar, he muscles his way past Jordie and slings an arm around Jamie. "Buddy," he says. "Buy you a drink?"
Jamie looks at him, lip curling like he's caught between smiling and sneering. "I know what you're doing," he says.
"What?" Tyler grins, sanguine. "Buying you a drink? Big deal."
"Cheering me up."
"Me? Naw," Tyler says. "You must have me confused with big brother over there." He jerks his head towards Jordie, who is actually, Tyler notices, looking right at them with a little wrinkle between his brows.
Jamie shoves Tyler away from him. "Get me a beer, then, asshole."
Tyler salutes, and heads over to the bar.
He gets one more beer into Jamie, but he seems determined to have a quiet night, hanging out in the booth and chatting to guys when they come up. Tyler guesses he needs some space, so he drinks a little more and dances with the hottest chicks in the place, none of whom are particularly interested in him but all of whom will dance if he buys them a drink, which is just fine with Tyler, and periodically hangs out next to Jamie.
Around 1:30 he's taking a breather, drinking a glass of water and hanging next to Jamie, when Jamie turns to him. He gets up right next to Tyler's ear, and says, "I want you to fuck me."
Tyler nearly drops his water. He pulls away, and Jamie's just looking at him, steadily. "Are you drunk?" he says, yelling to be heard over the bass.
Jamie shakes his head. "No. A bit. But that's not why."
Tyler's heart is racing. He feels … he doesn't know. He's not sure if he wants to say yes or no. What they've been doing miraculously doesn't seem to have fucked the team up yet, and Tyler's never been one to think any sex act is more or less significant than any other one, but the way Jamie's looking at him ...
Jamie's still looking at him. He leans back to Tyler's ear. "Fifth task," he says.
That takes care of that, Tyler guesses. He nods, takes a big drink of water, killing time. "Now?" he shouts.
"Yeah," Jamie says, and stands, grabbing his jacket and looking around. Jordie's at the bar; Val's dancing; the other guys are spread out around the place, but nobody's looking their way.
Outside, Jamie texts Jordie and Tyler calls a cab. It gets to them pretty quickly, and Jamie's quiet on the way home, leaning against the window. He's still watching Tyler. Tyler feels himself start to blush.
Jamie pays the driver when they get home, and then follows Tyler home. Marshall comes running up to greet them, and Tyler pets him, grateful for the distraction, but sends him back to his bed.
Jamie, behind him, says, "You don't have to if you don't want to."
Tyler turns to look at him. He still looks a bit sad, but calmer.
"I shouldn't have said, you know," Jamie says. "I don't want to pressure you. Whatever. I can go."
"No," Tyler says. He gets up, goes over to Jamie, and puts his hand on Jamie's face. "I do want to," he says after a moment. "I'm just." He has to take a breath; there's a reason they haven't been talking about it. He hasn't been talking about it. "I'm afraid of doing something that will fuck up the team." He wants to look away, but he can't; Jamie's looking right at him.
"I promise it won't," Jamie says. "But you don't have to do this."
"I want to," Tyler says, suddenly very sure, and he reels Jamie in for a kiss.
What with all the deep and meaningful conversation, Tyler kind of expected the sex to be slow, but when Jamie gets a hand in his hair and pulls he has some kind of blackout and comes to with Jamie spread out on his bed, naked, pulling Tyler down on top of him to kiss him. Tyler's hard and aching, and Jamie's making noises into his mouth, wrapping one leg around Tyler's waist and pinning him there to be kissed.
Tyler goes with it, then pushes up onto one elbow and starts fumbling on the bedside cabinet for lube and a condom. He drops the rubber on the sheets by Jamie's hip and pops the cap on the lube, slicking up his fingers.
"Have you –" Jamie says.
Tyler makes a face, shrugs. "With girls," he says. "Same difference, right?"
"Right." Jamie makes a soothing noise, and Tyler gulps and eases one finger in.
Jamie's relaxed for it and Tyler goes in easy; it's no time at all before he's comfortable getting a second finger in, and Jamie makes a well-pleased noise above him and starts rocking back on Tyler's fingers. Tyler twists them in, crooks them, and hits the thing that makes Jamie grunt and his dick twitch; it's wet, a bead of precome at the tip, and Tyler's mouth is watering just looking at it.
Stay on task, he tells himself, and keeps fucking Jamie until Jamie says, between grunts, "OK, stop stalling now and fuck me."
"You're loving it," Tyler says, reflexively, but Jamie just laughs.
"Come on," he says. "Chicken?"
"Hell, no," Tyler says, and goes for the condom.
He's gone a little soft getting Jamie ready, but he jerks himself a few times and rolls the condom on. "Do you want to flip over?" he says, uncertainly.
Jamie grabs a pillow and stuffs it under his ass. "Like this," he says, and reaches for Tyler. Tyler bites his lip, and slides in.
It's not, he guesses, that different from fucking a girl like this, except it's completely different, because Jamie's sweating and swearing and telling him to move beneath him, Jamie who's just as big as Tyler, bigger really, with a soft belly and broad shoulders and scraggly hair on his chin that hasn't had a chance to turn into a playoff beard, Jamie his captain, Jamie who's wrapping a leg around Tyler again and dragging him down to be close enough to kiss.
It's a weird angle, tough to kiss from, but they manage, Jamie doing some kind of horrendous crunch and then collapsing back but staying close, close enough that they're breathing the same air, close enough that their eyes are meeting. Jamie grabs for Tyler's hand, and then they're fucking and holding hands. It's a lot.
They've both been drinking, so Tyler's surprised when he comes sort of quickly, and not that surprised that Jamie doesn't. Tyler keeps fucking Jamie for as long as he can, reaching for his dick, but he has to pull out to deal with the condom.
"Sorry," Tyler says, crimson.
"It's OK," Jamie says. "I know you've been wanting to get your mouth on my dick all night anyway."
Tyler smacks Jamie on the hip, but it's true, he has, and in the end Jamie comes pretty quickly when Tyler sucks his dick, keeping eye contact the entire time.
They stay in bed late the next morning, screwing around. It's the first time they've woken up together and Tyler kind of expects it to be weird, but it's not; they kiss and complain idly about the Ducks and Jamie gives Tyler a really spectacular handjob. He guesses morning hook-ups are something they do, now.
"You know," Tyler says, after he's finished Jamie off and is lying flat on his back, staring at the ceiling, "I think I'm gonna buy a house."
Jamie lifts his head up to look at Tyler. "You think you're gonna stick around here, huh?" He's grinning at Tyler.
"I guess maybe," Tyler says, and grabs a pillow to throw at Jamie.
That devolves into wrestling. Eventually Marshall jumps up on the bed, demanding to be taken out, and Jamie goes back to his place, but he kisses Tyler at the door, one big hand in Tyler's hair, and. It's good.
They clean out their lockers at the arena on Tuesday and Tyler calls a real estate agent, looks at some houses. He calls Jamie in Vancouver when he buys Mike Modano's old house, which is huge and ridiculous but feels like some kind of statement about his place in Dallas.
"You know, there's room to hang," Tyler says when he calls Jamie. "The team can come over. Lots of spare bedrooms."
"You just want room for your bros," Jamie says. Tyler can hear him smiling.
"Ah, you're just jealous I'll be stealing your job as captain and hosting the team all the time," Tyler says, and Jamie just laughs.
"We'll see," he says.
Tyler's glad to be settled, buys most of Modano's old furniture so he doesn't have to think about anything and heads back to Toronto, to catch up with Brownie and hang out with his parents and his sisters.
He doesn't get traded and there are absolutely no rumours about it, so despite the early finish this summer is better than last summer. Tyler works out, eats mostly right, fucks around with his boys and the dogs and takes what feels like one giant breath. The Panathenaia rolls around, and he takes his sisters to the parade. Candace and Cassidy like the gymnasts; Tyler keeps an eye out for the guy he noticed last year, but he doesn't seem to be there.
He goes to the Hockey Hall of Fame one weekday morning, trying to minimise the number of people likely to be there, and goes straight up to the temple, but Athena doesn't move. He circles the room, looking at the faces of all of the gods, before lighting a candle and heading out.
By the time training camp rolls around, he can't wait to get going.
Tyler's happy to be back in Dallas, happy to be in his new house, happy to see the team, happy to see Jamie.
He's really happy to see Jamie, he reflects as Jamie pulls off his dick and jerks Tyler until he comes all over his chest.
"Did I say I'm happy to see you?" Tyler asks, panting, as Jamie crawls back up the bed.
Jamie shrugs. "Naw. You could show me, though," he says.
Tyler leans over and puts his mouth on Jamie's shoulder, biting the flesh and then sucking a kiss into the developing bruise. "Mmhmm," he says, and lazily works his way down Jamie's body, stopping to say hi to his tattoos, his biceps, his flexing belly.
Jamie's cussing him out by the time Tyler gets face to face with his dick, and Tyler takes it in his hand without preamble. "I really did miss you," he says, and works his mouth over the tip.
Jamie bucks up and into Tyler's mouth, making him choke; tears form in the corners of his eyes, and he flings an arm over Jamie's hips, pinning him to the bed, but doesn't stop sucking, going down until his lips meet his fingers. He would take his time over it, really enjoy it, but Jamie's gasping, and hell, Tyler's not that much of a dick.
Tyler swallows when Jamie comes, and wriggles back up the bed to lie down with his head on Jamie's chest. Jamie slings an arm over Tyler, and Tyler sighs, and feels himself fall asleep.
The next morning Tyler drags Jamie around the house in their boxers. Jamie doesn't say much, just listens to Tyler run on, smiling, until his stomach rumbles and Tyler remembers he has no food in his kitchen yet, so they go out for breakfast.
Jamie texts Jordie on the way, and he shows up with his girlfriend. Tyler's met Vanessa before at team dinners and shit, but they've never really had a conversation; she turns out to be pretty funny, and it's not as awkward as it could have been. It feels weirdly like a double date.
At the end of the meal Jamie goes up to pay and Vanessa goes to the bathroom, so it's just Jordie and Tyler at the table. Jordie sits back in his chair, eyeing Tyler, who fiddles with his napkin. He's never really figured out exactly what Jordie knows, although it must have been obvious to him that Jamie spent the night with Tyler a lot towards the end of last year; he'd have had to be an idiot not to figure it out from that. Or wilfully blind. There's a lot of that going around the NHL, in Tyler's experience.
"So," Jordie says, and Tyler flinches. He looks kind of amused. "New house, huh?"
"Uh, yeah," Tyler says. "I figured, you know, get settled in. It looks like the team wants me around, so," he shuts his mouth before he can go much further. Jordie's expression switches from amusement to sympathy, and Tyler bristles. "And more space," he says. "You know, I can have the team over, all that."
"It's nice," Jordie says. "You inspired Jamie to move into a house finally, too."
"Yeah, he said," Tyler says. "What a copy-cat."
"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," Jordie says. He's smiling again, but he says it with weird intensity, enough that Tyler can't think of anything to say until Jamie comes back to the table.
Training camp is great; Tyler shoots the shit with Val, manages (with Jamie) to get a hilarious picture of Ruff getting a massage, has the team over for a cookout, and starts to feel pretty pumped about the upcoming season. He feels ready.
Honestly, he's kind of forgotten about Athena. Jamie set him five tasks already, they had a great season, they made the playoffs. It's enough, he thinks, until he's out with the guys a week before the season starts and realises that the girl he's dancing with is wearing a helmet. Not a hockey helmet, this time. An actual fucking helmet.
"It's a little edgy for club wear, isn't it?" he says, and Athena turns and gives him a frosty look. Except the helmet, she's dressed for the club, in a tight dress that does nothing to conceal her muscled shoulders. Her shoes are flat Roman sandals and she's still as tall as Tyler.
Maybe he's drunk, or maybe he's just getting used to her, because he's not quite as knee-wateringly awestruck as he has been previously, and he spins her out and back like they're at a high school dance. It's not the kind of club where there would usually be room for that kind of thing, but people are giving them space, all of a sudden, a couple of feet of clearance from the crowd. Nobody's looking at them; it's like they haven't noticed they're avoiding them.
She goes into the spin, not that gracefully, and when she comes back puts both arms around his neck and grinds up against him.
Now Tyler's knees are watery.
She gets her mouth next to his ear, and says, "I'm waiting on your last task, Tyler." She pulls back so he can see her. He opens his mouth to say something, and she shakes her head, and he suddenly can't say anything at all. "Tell Jamie," she says. "Something big." He nods, this time, instead of trying to speak, and she gives him her distant look. "I'll be waiting," she says, and she's gone, off into the crowd.
He tries to track her with his eyes for a moment, but she's gone, and then he tries to get back into dancing, but his pulse is racing, adrenaline flooding his system. He hits the bar.
The bar hits back, and Tyler wakes up the next morning feeling pretty miserable. Checking his phone to see if he's done anything embarrassing and permanent, he doesn't find much but an exchange with Jamie.
Athena says need one more, he texted, apparently, and, five minutes later, something big
OK, Jamie's said. I'll think of something
she scares me, Tyler's said.
I think gods are supposed to be scary
prob. wish u were there
Well, it could be more embarrassing, Tyler figures. He texts Jamie to ask if he's come up with anything yet, then rolls out of bed to shower.
It takes Jamie a few days, in the end, but he comes up with something and tells Tyler when they're driving back from a compulsory-team-bonding dinner.
"I thought of something, but it's kind of crazy," Jamie says.
"Lay it on me," says Tyler.
"Um. I thought you could get me the Art Ross."
Tyler sits bolt upright. "Say what?"
Jamie, driving, glances at Tyler quickly and then back to the road. "She said big," he says, defensively.
"That's fucking big, all right," Tyler says. "Seriously? You think I can? Hell, you think you can?"
Jamie shrugs. "We're going to be on the same line this year," he says. "And you've done everything else I asked."
"Yeah," Tyler says, still taken aback, "But this is … I mean …"
"We can come up with something else if you don't think you can manage it."
Tyler bristles. "Don't you think I can? Because I can," he says. "I just don't know if I can, you know, on demand."
"I think you can, too," says Jamie, placidly. "And I think it'd be fun to try."
"I guess," says Tyler, dubiously.
They pull up outside Tyler's place, and Tyler goes to get out. He goes round the other side of Jamie's truck and says, "Hey, want to come in?" He cocks a hip at Jamie.
Jamie leans out his window. "Nah," he says, and fits his hand behind Tyler's ear, reeling him in for a kiss.
Tyler stiffens – it's dark, but they're on a public street, and kissing out of the bedroom is, well, new – but he goes, and Jamie kisses him softly, just a gentle brush. Tyler's eyes are wide when he pulls back.
"I gotta get some sleep," Jamie says. "See you at the arena."
"Uh-huh," Tyler says. His cheeks are hot; he stands on the sidewalk and watches Jamie peel away.
They lose the first two games, and then they have the kind of game that makes Tyler think the Art Ross isn't a crazy proposition. Tyler gets a hat trick, and Jamie assists on every single one and then gets himself a goal. It's just the Blue Jackets, but that doesn't matter when Jamie slams him into the boards and yells in his face, or when Jamie spreads him out on the bed that night and fucks him until he can't see straight.
The season kinda goes like that. They win some, they lose some, and when they lose they sometimes lose big - 7-5 to the Islanders, 6-3 to Chicago, 5-3 to the Sharks. They even let Carolina score 6 goals. But even when they lose, Jamie and Tyler are scoring. Tyler would feel selfishly glad, but he's too busy wondering if he really can get Jamie the Art Ross to dwell on it.
There are ups and downs outside the points race, too, and Tyler guesses they're mostly ups. Brownie texts him in November to tell him he isn't looking like so much of a sadsack, and it's true. Tyler's settling into his house. Marshall and Cash are making friends. Tyler's got enough friends of his own on the team now that he doesn't have to be lonely if he doesn't want to be, and he feels needed. Hell, he's the first-line centre. Of course he's needed.
He guesses this is what it feels like to fit in on a team.
It's not until the winter break that Tyler thinks they maybe really have a chance to do it. He's still scoring; Jamie's still scoring. Actually, Tyler is maybe scoring a little more than Jamie is, but they're close, they're on the leaderboard, Tyler can taste it.
He can't taste playoffs. They're out of the picture at midwinter, and Tyler doesn't know if they can make it back in, fighting Minnesota, Winnipeg, LA for the last wildcard spot. That's bitter, and he can tell Jamie feels it, too, but they don't talk about it.
They don't talk about lots of things.
They're still fucking, more than they ever did last season. It feels like Jamie's at Tyler's place more often than he's at his own, and they usually fuck when he's over, which makes Tyler feel. He's not sure. It's great sex, which Tyler never turns down, but it's kind of a lot of sex for fuckbuddies, which is what they are, he thinks.
Not that they've ever talked about it, but dating's not exactly on the table.
He finds himself thinking about Marchy, for some reason, more than he ever did last year. He'd known it couldn't be anything, him and Marchy, but he hadn't been able to stop himself: from wanting, from wanting more. More sex, different sex, the kind of sex Marchy had never had with a guy, especially not a teammate, and didn't want to have a guy, especially not a teammate. Kissing. Dating.
"You have to see it'd just fuck with the team," Marchy had said, patiently, towards the end, and Tyler had just nodded. He'd known, he'd known, but he'd still – and eventually that still had become obvious even to Marchy, and he'd pulled away completely. He stopped texting Tyler back, stopped sitting next to him, started avoiding him at team events. He wasn't awful, wasn't the dick he might have been about it, and it hurt far worse than a vicious breakup to see exactly how upset Marchy wasn't.
So that's what Tyler starts thinking about when Jamie starts spending more and more time at his place, trying to remind himself exactly how that had felt, and how it had felt, months later, to be traded away from that mess. Tyler fits in on the Stars; he knows that's not a guarantee.
Then he fucking goes and gets fucking kneed by fucking Kulikov.
"Three to six weeks," he says to Jamie, when he comes by the trainer's room after the game finishes. "Good win, by the way."
Jamie makes a face. "Yeah, a great win, we lost you, Hemmer and Klinger all on one night."
"Sorry," Tyler says, feeling miserable. "I wanted to do it for you this season."
"Don't apologise," Jamie says, looking pissed. "It's that asshole's fault. Shitty hit."
Tyler privately agrees, but "It happened, I guess," he says. "Hey, I told the trainers you'd drive me home, so …"
"Yeah, sure," Jamie says. "Can you walk?"
"They gave me crutches," Tyler says.
"I'll get your stuff out of your locker," Jamie says, and does.
Jamie insists on coming in with Tyler and then sticking around to make sure he gets to bed OK. Tyler resists half-heartedly, but it's so much easier to tell Jamie how to feed Marshall and Cash than it is to do it himself right now, even if he feels silly basically getting tucked into bed by his captain and fuckbuddy.
"Anything else?" Jamie says, when Tyler's in bed with bottles of water and Gatorade within easy reach and crutches right next to the bed.
"Pain relief blowjob?" Tyler says, grinning.
Jamie nods, seriously, and gets on the bed.
"I was joking," Tyler said. "Come on, Jamie, I'm fine."
Jamie narrows his eyes at Tyler. "Do you not want a blowjob or something?"
"That's not what I said." Like, Tyler is not an idiot; he doesn't say no to blowjobs in the general way of things. But he's exhausted, and in no mood to reciprocate, and says so.
Jamie's brow clears. "You can owe me one," he says, and pulls back the covers.
Tyler considers protesting more, but he's only so strong, and when Jamie gets his mouth on him he gives up entirely.
It's shitty watching the Stars while he's out. It's shitty watching Jamie get a hat trick without a single assist from Tyler, although at least by then Tyler's recovered enough that he makes Jamie come and visit him as soon as the Stars get back in town so he can give him his righteously deserved blowjob.
"That was worth the wait," Jamie says, after, lying on his back looking thoroughly fucked out, and Tyler smiles.
Still, though, being injured sucks. Rehab is boring, taking it easy is boring, and watching the team get further and further from the playoffs is depressing. Not traveling with the team sucks, too, and Tyler texts Brownie so often Brownie starts just responding with single emojis.
Jamie replies to every text. Tyler tries not to read anything into it.
Jordie ends up pity-visiting Tyler just before he finally gets back into games. Tyler's sitting on the couch, and he joins him for a game of Call of Duty and then spends some time chasing the dogs around the garden while Tyler sits on the deck and watches him before coming up and sitting next to Tyler, drinking a beer.
"Hey," Jordie says after a while. "It's cool that you and Jamie are so happy."
With some effort, Tyler doesn't drop his bottle. It's not like you didn't know he probably knew something, he tells himself, but says, "What do you mean?"
Jordie gives him a look. "You know what I mean," he says, impatiently. "I'm not an idiot. I know where you're both disappearing off to all the time, and I don't care, obviously, except that it's making Jamie happy and that's, you know, good."
"That's good," Tyler says, slowly.
"That's what I said," Jordie says. He pauses. "You've been a great addition, Tyler. Not just on the team, although there, obviously."
"Not much use right now," says Tyler, with unconcealed bitterness.
"Everyone's injured sometimes, come on," says Jordie. "But I don't think you've realised how much you've done for Jamie outside the team. You didn't know him real well before, so. But anyway. I've noticed." He finishes his beer, and then stands to go. "Just, you know, keep it up," he says.
"That's the plan," Tyler says, and watches Jordie leave, feeling sort of shaken.
He means to talk to Jamie about it, but he's cleared to play and it's the end of the year and the Central division is fighting bitterly for the last wildcard spot, and that's all he has time for for a month – that and getting Jamie all the points Tyler can muster in a last-ditch effort to fulfill his promise. They work so, so damn hard, and Jamie's right up there, and finally there's one game left to play. They're not going to make the playoffs, that's clear, but there's still a chance for Jamie. Fucking Crosby is playing the Sabres, so it's a longshot, but Tyler is determined to do it for him.
Then Athena shows up again.
She's in his living room, this time, playing with Cash when Tyler gets up one morning. Marshall's sitting behind the couch, only his nose out, watching her suspiciously, but Cash is apparently too young and dumb to be scared, and he's chewing the end of her spear.
"Good morning, Tyler," she says, when he doesn't say anything, just stands there, staring at her.
"Good morning," he says. He's trying not to sound suspicious of the fucking god in his living room, and he's pretty sure he's failing.
She stands, gently pushing Cash away from her spear, and looks at him. She looks as cool and distant as she looked when he saw her in the temple, and she says, "You have to miss this game."
Tyler says, without thinking, "No." There's no fucking way he's missing the last game of the season, missing his best chance to help Jamie win the Art Ross.
She shrugs. "Jamie won't win the Art Ross if you play."
"But he will if I don't?
"I can't say," she says. "I only know he won't if you do."
"Are you fucking joking?"
Her silence is eloquent.
"For two fucking years I'm jumping through hoops for Jamie to please you, and now this?" Tyler is, abruptly, furious. "I don't even understand why you had me do any of this in the first place if you're going to make me do this."
"I'm not making you do anything." Her face is as remote as the moon. "I'm just telling you what to do if you want to complete your sixth task. It's up to you if you do it or not."
Tyler is speechless, which she can apparently tell, because she inclines her head at him, then turns and leaves. Tyler wants to stop her, to say something, but he knows there'd be no fucking point.
He tells himself that it takes him all night to make up his mind to do it, but really, he thinks, as he lies in bed watching the clock tick past the time he'd have to leave to make it to practice, he knew he was going to do what he was told. He just doesn't know how he can explain it to Jamie.
Marchy was right, he guesses. He has fucked up the team. Although he's not sure Marchy was thinking of capricious religious commands. Probably not, anyway.
Hoping thirty minutes will do it, because he can't fucking bear to delay it any longer, he shows up half an hour late. Colesy and Eaks got scratched for being late earlier in the year, and Lindy's one of those prides-himself-on-equal-treatment guys; he's pretty sure he'll get the same treatment, no matter how it seems to affect Jamie's chances.
He rushes in, pretending he's just woken up, and apologises to Lindy straight away, and then to the team after practice, but sure enough, Lindy calls him into his office when practice is done.
He comes out to find Jamie leaning against the wall, face expressionless.
"Scratched," Tyler says, cutting to the chase.
Jamie nods, and looks at the ground.
"I'm so, so sorry," Tyler says, feeling like scum. "But you know you can do this without me, right?"
Jamie nods, without looking at Tyler, and Tyler sighs. "I'll see you after the game," he says, hopelessly, and walks away. Good job, Tyler, he tells himself. You fucking did it.
It's maybe the worst press box game of Tyler's life. He's glued to the game from Jamie's opening goal, working desperately to restrain himself from yelling at the ice every time he sees an opening to get Jamie a point, but tears himself away every five minutes to refresh his app and see what Tavares and Crosby are doing. He swears when Tavares makes it to 86, and again when Jamie scores a fucking empty net hat trick goal to tie it; but that's it, he thinks. They got him close, but surely there's no way he can get anything else.
He doesn't yell when Jamie is credited with the assist on the last goal of the game, the assist that takes him to 97 points and sole possession of the lead, because his mind has whited out. He goes limp with relief; he's honestly not sure he could move if someone set him on fire.
When he gets to the dressing room, Jamie jumps him into a hug, yelling in his ear. He's sweaty and disgusting, and Tyler doesn't care; he holds on and doesn't care if it's weird.
When Jamie breaks away, he's red and grinning. "We did it," he tells Tyler, and Tyler grins back.
"You did it," he says, and Jamie says, "Come on. We did it. I told you we could," and gets pulled away by the press before Tyler can say anything, although he doesn't know what.
Jamie is exuberant at post-game dinner, happy enough to be almost gregarious. Everyone's happy, the whole team. They're not going to the playoffs, which sucks, but they got Jamie the Art Ross and that's as good an excuse to be happy as any they're going to get anytime soon.
They go out, of course, but Jamie grabs Tyler when he's barely two beers in, coming to the dancefloor in search of him and dancing up on him. Tyler laughs, and lets him. He tries to play it off, make it look like a joke to any asshole watching, but the club is dark and Tyler feels like he's had enough emotions today to last him a year; he's just too tired to protest against dancing with Jamie, so he doesn't.
Jamie is delighted at this, and turns Tyler until he's snugged up against Tyler's back, one hand on Tyler's waist. Jamie bends forward until Tyler feels his stubble on his cheeks. "Let's go," he says. "Victory sex, man."
Tyler turns his head. Jamie's eyes are happy, dark with lust and wanting, and Tyler feels trapped in his glance. "Yeah," he breathes. "Let's do that."
They slam through Tyler's door, stumble across his house shedding clothes and tripping on stupid sidetables – "Why do I have this much fucking furniture?" Tyler asks as he kicks another one – and are naked by the time they're sprawled on Tyler's bed, frame thumping the wall as they fall onto it on top of each other.
Jamie starts kissing Tyler enthusiastically, and Tyler wraps his arm around Jamie's shoulders and goes with it. Victory sex, after all.
The kisses slow after a while, go from frantic to hungry to sweet, almost tender, and Tyler sighs into Jamie's mouth. "I can't believe you're not mad," he says, without even thinking about it, and Jamie pulls back, frowns at him.
"Why would I be mad?"
"I missed the game, nearly blew your chances?" Tyler tries to tug him back down, but Jamie holds back.
"You slept in, Tyler," he says. "It sucks, but it's not a hanging offence, and it's not like we were trying for the playoffs."
"I didn't sleep in," Tyler says, deliberate. He doesn't really want to tell Jamie this, but feels some kind of sick compulsion to do it, to ruin everything again.
"Wait, what?" Jamie rolls away. "You said –"
"I said that because it was believable," Tyler said. "I was deliberately late."
Jamie pulls back further. "Well – why?" he says. He looks uncertain, but fully willing to believe whatever Tyler tells him, which makes Tyler want something, but he doesn't know what. To break that trust, to earn it – definitely one of those.
He rolls away so he doesn't have to look at Jamie any more. "Athena came," he says. "She said you wouldn't with the Art Ross if I played, so." He breaks off. "I'm so, so sorry," he says. "I didn't want to let the team down, but I believed her."
Tyler feels Jamie tense up behind him, and then relax. He runs a hand through Tyler's hair. "That sounds like a good reason to me," he says, easily. "You couldn't come between me and that trophy."
Tyler rolls over. "No," he says. "I couldn't." He manages to meet Jamie's eyes this time.
Jamie looks back at him. "It sucked," he says, frankly, "but I guess it is what I asked you to do at the beginning of the season. Why didn't you just tell me?"
Tyler lifts one shoulder, lets it drop. "I didn't want you to think I mess with the team dynamic – and don't say I don't, because this is."
Tyler gestures between them. "This," he says. "Fucking." Tonight's apparently the night for confessions. "I want too much. More than with Marchy, and that got me traded," he says. He doesn't even feel bitter about it any more: just scared, scared of repeating himself.
Jamie's brow furrows again. "Is this just fucking?" He actually starts to peel away from Tyler again, and Tyler, hopelessly, grabs at him. "Because I kinda thought it was more than that."
"I want it to be more," Tyler says. "I just thought –"
"It'd fuck with the team?"
"But we pretty much do everything a, you know, couple does anyway," Jamie says. "And we're not fucking with the team at all."
The distinction between what they were doing and stuff that would Fuck With The Team seemed so clear to Tyler a day ago; he can't find it now, though. "It isn't, is it?"
"Nope," Jamie says. "So, you know. How about it?"
"Yeah," says Tyler. "OK."
Jamie visits Tyler in Toronto that summer. He meets Brownie and the rest of Tyler's Toronto crew, charms Tyler's mom and sisters, and goes with Tyler to the Hockey Hall of Fame. They go straight to the temple.
"This is it," he tells Jamie. "She just showed up two years ago."
"Hm," Jamie says, and lights a candle. Tyler isn't expecting anything, so of course he gets something; there's movement among the statues in the distance, and there she is, back in her hockey helmet. The room is airless again; sound doesn't travel.
"Tyler," she says.
"Hi," he says. Jamie, beside him, is quiet, but present. "Come to ruin my life again?"
Her eyebrows go up. "What about your life is ruined?"
Stymied, Tyler goes silent.
She smirks, coolly triumphant. "That's what I thought," she said. "You're welcome," and weaves her way between the statues and out of the room.