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“Tanger,” Sid calls, but Tanger doesn’t hear anyone right now, hunched on the bench, fixing that dead-eye stare on anything in red that crosses his vision. He’ll feel a tap, if Sullivan or Martin gives it. If Olli nudges him to make some comment, he’ll know. But otherwise: no.

He cut his hair off, but he’s let it grow back enough now that it plasters to his forehead, channeling sweat in his eyes. A scrap of it curls out from under his helmet and over his ear. If Sid could catch his eyes, they’d be wide, fixed. Furious.

Sid is no saint, except maybe in Cole Harbour if you count the golden goal as a miracle and his local jersey/trophy display as a kind of shrine, and probably someone there has saved a lock of his hair they could make a reliquary from, and—okay, aside from that, he’s no saint. He gets slew footed, crosschecked, and you bet he’s swearing a blue streak. Sometimes that gets him in trouble; sometimes it puts him in the box. He fought Giroux once, right, and fucking Dubinsky. Not a saint.

But Tanger? Tanger is really, really not a saint.

Sid tells Horny: “Tell Tanger to calm the fuck down. Tell him I said we need a goal.”

Horny rolls his eyes, but he turns to Hags and repeats it. It travels down the line like fire down a trail of gasoline. At the end there might be an explosion. Sid’s banking on not.

Olli turns, says it in Tanger’s ear over the organ blare of the Game of Thrones intro song. There’s a pause, the moment before the windows all blow out.

Or not.

Tanger lifts his gaze, glares slow, tortuous death at Sid, but grudgingly he dips his chin.

He holds himself in somehow – not entirely this side of the line, but not all the way over, either, nothing the refs can’t ignore in a tie game this close to the end of regulation. Bonesy scores the go-ahead goal off of Dales’s gorgeous pass. The clock ticks down. Horny tosses in an empty netter to seal it.

After they skate out to Flower and back, as Tanger steps off the ice, he looks at Sid, gaze still burning. He mouths, clear as day: you owe me. Then he’s gone, stomping down the tunnel with the rest of them.

Sid finds him in the showers, still standing under the spray after everyone else has washed and gone. “Good job,” Sid said, bare feet slapping on the tiles. He’s in here naked all the time, surrounded by a group of two dozen, and yet it’s now, with just the two of them, that he feels bare.

Tanger laughs, sharp. “I was going to fucking kill that motherfucker.” It shouldn’t sound more ominous in the slant of Tanger’s Frenchie accent. It does.

“But you didn’t,” Sid said, approaching. Not cautious, because he knows all the moves in this game. Sometimes he thinks it’s good he and Tanger grew into this together, like two saplings twisted into a single trunk. Try it with adult trees, and both would suffer.

Tanger’s laugh this time is real: temper past. “You gonna reward me? Keep me in line?” He twists the water off and turns finally, as naked as Sid and yet somehow less bare dressed in a smirk and a half-chub than Sid ever is in a full suit. “Captain?”

“Yeah,” Sid said, closing in. Tanger steps back and Sid follows, one step, then another, until Tanger’s pressed to the tile and grinning, fierce as he ever is on the ice and almost as joyous, and Sid kisses him. Tanger’s teeth are still bared, not even trying to kiss back, and Sid slides a thigh in between Tanger’s two and finds him there. Tanger gasps in Sid’s mouth, a single sharp huff, and now it’s Sid who can’t keep from grinning. “Yeah?” he whispers.

“Fucker,” Tanger gasps again, because he’s a pit bull on the ice but here he’s so easy. He ruts up against Sid’s thigh. Sid withdraws, just inches back. Waits until Tanger gets it and scowls. This time when Sid goes in for a kiss, Tanger meets him halfway, kisses back. A hand finds the back of Sid’s head and tugs him in. Sid slides a hand between them and finds Tanger again, harder now.

“You did good,” Sid says. He pulls a groan from Tanger with a twist of his wrist.

“Fucker,” Tanger repeats. He shoves at Sid, weak, unconvincing; he doesn’t want Sid going anywhere now. “You did, too. Captain.”

Sid gives him another stroke for that. “Yeah?” He can’t help but grin. He should feel weird about that. He’s fucking his 1D in the fucking shower; it shouldn’t be this much fun.

“Yeah,” Tanger says, shoving a little deeper into Sid’s grip. His breath is hot on Sid’s shoulder. It’s hot when he comes with a shuddering groan. He presses into Sid, trapping Sid’s now-sticky hand between them. Trapping Sid’s hard-on, too. The pressure is good. Friction is better, as Tanger shifts against him.

He makes some kind of noise. Tanger laughs and takes Sid in his grip. When Tanger wants to, he knows how to get Sid there fast. He’s good at this. They both are. They’ve been doing it a long, long time.

Sid’s orgasm hits him hard, sharp. It folds him against Tanger, and he sags when it recedes. He’s forgotten the game. He’s forgotten the shots that went wide, the missed passes, the giveaway in the third that Flower saved his ass on. For these few moments, there is no place but here.

They pretend this is only for Tanger.

Who knows how long it is before Tanger speaks. “You keep me in line,” he says – not a taunt anymore. A pledge. A certainty. His hands finds the space between Sid’s shoulder blades, and he rubs circles there. “All of us.”

“Not all of you,” Sid tells Tanger’s shoulder. “Not like this.”

Tanger pulls back, eyes clear. Intent. “Not like this,” he says. He waits until he finds in Sid’s face whatever acknowledgment he’s looking for. Only then does he pull Sid in for another kiss, bruising, certain.

[end]