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Written in the Scars

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The good news, and Taylor’s internal monologue is still unsure if there can be good news in this situation. Anyway, the good news is that he drunkenly sent Ebs a picture of his post-piercing, swollen, red and mangled nipple before they put the gauze and bandage over it.

So really there’s no reason to worry about how exactly to explain to his boyfriend that he went to a Jays game and then out drinking in Toronto with some Spits boys and ended the night with a 14 gauge barbell through his nipple.

To be clear, Taylor will blame Henny for this until the day he dies. And if in blaming Henny it turns out that the entire roster of the New Jersey Devils and possibly state of New Jersey is also to blame for corrupting his boy - well so be it.

The bad news [realized much, much later] is that it’s the dog days of summer, and so even though he’s having a super fun weekend hanging out with his boys, when it’s over he’s going home. To where his parents live. With a newly pierced and bandaged right nipple.

[When the piercing dude asked him which side he wanted done Henny had thrown his arms in the air and yelled “Both!” before gracefully falling off the sagging couch in the corner. Luckily someone had talked him out of that. And then there was an intense discussion about left or right. The final answer turned out to be his right nipple, because he shoots left, and Jesse had diagrammed something completely insane with regards to his shot and his stick and balance and who the fuck knows, probably the cycles of the moon or something, it all made sense in green pen on the back of a napkin.]

It doesn’t start out as sore [the piercer says that’s because of the gigantic shot of adrenaline coursing through his body] mostly it feels weird, like something is crawling on him that he needs to brush off. He’s thankful for the original cotton ball and tape that protects it from catching on his tshirt, but that doesn’t stop him from holding his upper body out of the way every time one of the guys throws an arm around him. Because dude, he’s the only one who got a nipple pierced, everyone else got stupid shit pierced like ears [Winnie wanted to get his tongue pierced, but that only lasted about 40 minutes because seriously, hockey player, tongue piercing, even after a couple of beers and riding the nipple piercing adrenaline wave Taylor can tell you that that’s a bad idea.]

By Tuesday morning his chest is filled with a weird feeling of achy and itchy and when he’s driving back to Kingston he’s super thankful for a bag of frozen corn and the fact that he’s alone in his truck and no one can judge him for pulling on one of Ebs’ discarded cutoff Under Armor tshirts and using the just-a-little-too-small fit plus elasticity to hold the corn in place.

The thing that sucks is that he didn’t get very much sleep because they all piled into one hotel room like they’re still teenagers who don’t make a gajillion dollars a year. So even though his bed at home is seriously the most awesome bed ever and he’s totally and completely exhausted by the time he collapses in it, he doesn't sleep well because he keeps forgetting and rolling over onto his sore nipple to sleep on his stomach.

* * *

The conversation with his mom goes a lot like this.

“Mom I need to tell you something,”

“Taylor Strba Hall, if you and Jordan got married and didn’t tell anyone I will kill you, and Lisa will help me,” Taylor is used to getting grief from the guys because his middle name is his mom’s last name, but the truth is, somehow it makes it more effective when she uses his full name, like somehow she’s summoning the powers of all the Strba’s and all the Hall’s with her potential rage.

“We aren’t getting married yet, we want to win the Cup first,,” Taylor says absently, digging through the fridge for a Gatorade.

He doesn’t really think about what he said, because sure, they’ve talked about it, the nebulous future of their relationship, but first they have goals, life goals and career goals and goals to bury in the back of the net. And so it isn’t that strange to him to point out that that decision has been made and they’re moving on now.

So while his mom’s digesting that little tidbit, looking at him a little shell-shocked with her jaw slightly ajar, he figures that this is the perfect opportunity to spill the beans.

“So while Henny and I were in Toronto we hung out with a bunch of Spits’ boys,”

“Yes,” she still looks dazed, but her eyes sharpen, probably because she has a lifetime of experience knowing exactly what kind of trouble his Windsor crew can get into.

His mom is looking more and more concerned so he just spits it out.

And then, after she’s done standing there with a completely blank look on her face, she demands to see it.

There’s also the possibility that at this point she freaks out and decides that he has some kind of back-alley piercing disease and hasn’t been taking care of it and now his nipple is going to turn black and fall off.

He puts up a token protest, because seriously, it’s not like he and Henny were piercing things in a locker room in Windsor or something. They play in the NHL now - there’s no need for safety pins and potatoes and ice cubes.

[it’s a weird situation having a shitload of money at his age, he isn’t like going to get stupid shit shaved into the back of his head or anything, but there’s a lot of digits in the balance of his bank account and it’s kind of a trip, honestly.]

And while he’s off on that particular brain vacation his mom is moving right up into his space, manhandling him against the island and pulling his shirt off right there next to the dishwasher.

And screw that because it isn’t like he doesn’t know how to take care of it and despite things he said in season 1 of Oil Change he does shower regularly and he has been following the directions just fine and it’s seriously only a little swollen and doesn’t look completely insane anymore [thank god]

When his dad wanders in from the backyard Taylor’s leaning against the counter, wearing nothing but a pair of mesh shorts, subjecting himself to unending embarrassment while his mom peels back the fabric tape and inspects his chest for infection and like the bubonic plague or something.

His dad rolls his eyes, grabs a beer from the fridge, turns around and goes straight into the garage.

It’s a new level of parental-induced embarrassment.

After about five minutes he passes his mom’s investigation, she moves on to googling the potential tragedies that can now befall him, no one can blame him if he grabs his trusty bag of corn from the freezer and the previously abandoned Gatorade and goes upstairs to sulk and also attempt to recover from familial trauma.

He fucks around on his phone for a little bit, sending off accusatory texts to Henny and Winnie and a picture of his elbow for Ebs [there’s no real reason for it, sometimes he doesn’t have anything to say but wants Jordan to know he’s thinking of him, random body part photos are like the Taylor Hall special love language]. He retweets some random shit on twitter, a random thing about someone’s dog and summer and the lake. He closes his eyes and lays still and tries valiantly to ignore how badly he wants to dump the corn and just play with the curved bar a little, just to see.

He ends up falling asleep instead and taking a totally awesome summer nap, stretched out on his stomach with the warm lazy sunlight from his window drifting across his back [he’s learning that if he’s really careful, and lays pretty flat it’s OK]. When he wakes up his phone is vibrating across the bed and Ebs’ gap-tooth smile on the screen is grinning up at him.

They chat idly while Taylor works his way from sleep toward coherency. The problem with he and Ebs relationship is that their lives are so all or nothing. They’re either together all day everyday or they’re thousands of kilometers apart. And they both have trouble with the adjustment between those two very separate worlds.

Once Taylor’s awake he relays the story of his mom’s total freak out and third-degree in the kitchen and Jordan laughs so hard he snorts. Which is really undignified but succeeds in making Taylor laugh at the absurdity of the situation and then they talk about baseball and summer workouts and cottage parties on the weekend.

* * *

The biggest dichotomy of being a professional athlete is this - Taylor is 20 years old, he makes a better than respectable amount of money to score goals, hit the lane with a full head of speed and throw big hits once in a while.

And in the summer he goes home and lives with his parents and works out and hangs out and gets yelled at for leaving his clothes on the bathroom floor. This is all thrown into obvious relief when 2 weeks post-piercing he wakes up to a list of tasks from his mom that needs to be completed before she gets home from work.

And it really, really isn’t worth it to say screw it, and watch Cartoon Network all day instead. Everyone is happier when his mom is happy.

So Taylor spends his summer doing a shitload of conditioning and then running errands and mowing the lawn and learning that if he puts on a hat and goes out between the hours of 11 am and 3 pm, no one in Kingston really recognizes Taylor Hall first round draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers as the guy in line at Costco buying 3 flats of Gatorade, a 27 pound bag of Pita chips and fertilizer for the yard.

And in between he runs around with the same guys he was friends with when he was 13 and some of the Spits boys who drop in occasionally and really it’s like he’s still in school, home for the summer and not really doing much but working out and making sure his checklist is complete before 4:50 every afternoon.

When his mom gets home they hang out. They’ve always been close, his early exit to live in Windsor combined with being an only child and his dad’s long hours have made it a necessity. But now they have the actual opportunity for family time and most summer nights turn into cheese and crackers and a beer on the deck while they wait for his dad to be home, and then something grilled for dinner followed by Hall men loading the dishwasher and then everyone drifts to their respective corners for evening projects and entertainment.

All in all it’s a relaxing summer.

* * *

When he’s in for a midsummer physical the doc looks at his nipple too. He deems it healing nicely and tells Taylor to keep doing what he’s doing and try to leave it alone as much as possible.

The best part is that the nurse gives him these sweet bandages that are like a softer, clear version of duct tape that can he wear while he’s working out. They're totally awesome and it keeps the bar out of the way and protects it and still looks pretty badass when he pulls off his shirt for one last set of reps on the weight bench.

He honestly forgets it’s there for pretty big chunks of his day and then his t-shirt catches on one of the balls and suddenly there’s a terrifying bolt of pain combined with a twinge of vibrant pleasure that’s so strong sometimes he feels like he needs to sit and suck down breaths like he just hit the bench after getting double-shifted in the third period.

* * *

In addition to a running commentary of text messages, Jordan and Taylor talk almost every night, trying to recreate the closeness that comes from living together by hanging out on Skype [Taylor can’t really call it talking anymore, because half the time they don't really talk so much as hang out, usually Taylor takes his laptop into the kitchen and eats cereal at the island and Jordan lays in his bed paging through a magazine and later they’ll play Netflix roulette and pick a movie to watch together, from thousands of kilometers away], the bar piercing Taylor’s skin becomes a part of that ritual, making its way into the rhythm of their conversation until it always comes after workouts and gossiping about their teammates but before movie watching.

And it sometimes makes a return appearance just prior to hanging up.

“I can’t help touching it,” Taylor admits, laying shirtless on his bed watching Jordan sort his laundry.

“You really aren’t supposed to. I read on the internet that that’s how the bad shit happens,”

“It just,” Taylor slides in the bar back and forth a little, it isn’t anything more than he does after showering when he’s cleaning it, but it’s enough of a tug to shoot little rays of pleasure through his stomach, “I can’t believe how good just this feels Ebby, how good is it actually going to feel when I can do more,”

Jordan clutches a tshirt in his hands and groans, low through the speakers on Taylor’s computer, eyes tracking his fingers as they dance and fiddle with the bar that Taylor’s quickly become attached to.

“You don’t play fair,” Jordan mutters throwing the tshirt in a pile and climbing onto the bed. Taylor grins and slides the bar back again shivering at the feeling.

Jordan yanks off his shirt and Taylor laughs, a little breathlessly, when he obviously considers just dumping it over the side of the bed, before actually throwing it into what Taylor imagines is the correct pile just off-screen [Jordan’s laundry system is complicated. He doesn't sort by color like everyone else in the world, instead it has to do with clothing type, and a sliding scale of how much Jordan likes a given article of clothing]

“I wanna see you,” Taylor nods at the screen and waits while Jordan adjusts the screen. He likes to watch Jordan like this. He’s bulked up for summer, post-season training camp leaving him full of well-defined muscles in the same way he’ll be sleek and wirey by the end of January. Taylor loves all the different incarnations of Jordan equally, but hates that he sees this one mostly on the internet. He’s a tactile guy and there’s not a lot of touching during the summer months. Just regular Skype conversations that make up the majority of their relationship.

It’s an adjustment every summer to go from touching to watching, from taking care of each other to taking care of themselves. Sometimes they talk, sometimes they remember, and sometimes they just watch, eyes tracing the familiar lines of nearly naked bodies on the computer screen.

They’re so in sync most nights that this is second nature. They barely have to talk to know what the other wants. Jordan holds his dick loosely in his hand while he watches Taylor fuck around with his nipple, sliding the bar back and forth to watch the skin tighten and the goosebumps spread across his bare chest.

When Taylor slides his hand down and into his shorts Jordan moves his hand a little faster. Sliding his hand with a gentle, lazy rhythm to start with and kicking his shorts toward the foot of his bed. But once Taylor gets naked the game is on. Jordan can’t help but watch the pull and bunch of Taylor’s golden skin as he works his own body.

Once Jordan tried to watch, while Taylor jerked off for him. But it turns out that it’s weird for both parties involved when one person is putting on the show while the other one watches. There’s too much focus on technique and on noises and on the truly fucked up faces that they both make when they’re coming.

So it’s probably good that they know each other well enough that they usually end up tipping over the edge in quick succession, because it provides enough of a distraction to not get hung up on the actual mechanics of having regular sex via webcam.

The part that Taylor doesn’t like is when they’re done. When he’s snagged a dirty t-shirt from his floor and cleaned off his stomach and is relaxed and tired and the sweat is cooling on his shoulders and there’s no warm body to curl around. Sometimes they fall asleep together, laptop screens angled so they can almost pretend that they’re laying side by side.

It isn’t the same though, it isn’t taking reps next to each other in the gym and piling into one car to get to practice or laying on the couch collapsed into each other at the end of a long day. Despite a lifetime of loving summer, Taylor’s kind of starting to think that summer sucks.

In the summer they have to find new ways to live in each others pockets. Because it turns out that they can’t function any other way.

* * *

Taylor flies to Edmonton in August. Normally he and Ebs are better about seeing each other on a semi regular basis. But this summer they’ve both been swamped with an exhausting combination of training and family stuff - to the point where for the last week in July most of the working out that Taylor did consisted of long runs on lonely gravel roads around his aunt’s cottage and jerking off in the shower because the closest cell reception was a pull-out 12 miles down the road.

So when Taylor has the opportunity, he blessedly bails from what is quickly becoming the epic summer of relatives, house guests and explaining to his entire extended family over and over again what exactly is going on with the Oilers power play.

* * *

“I want to see,” Jordan’s grabbing at the hem of his t-shirt and walking him towards the bedroom door as soon as the front door swings closed behind them. They both laugh a little when he tries to yank the shirt over Taylor’s head while nipping at the tip of his tongue at the same time.

“Can I,” he trails off, fingers reaching toward Taylor’s chest but falling just short of actually touching.

“Yea,” Taylor breathes, tucking his fingers in the waistband of Jordan’s shorts and tipping his head back against the wall. “Just,” Jordan looks up eyes questioning, “gentle,” Taylor whispers, touching his lips to Jordan’s. “It isn’t really healed for something like 8 months and god knows I’ve been out for every imaginable injury, they’ll probably trade me for a piercing related injury.”

Jordan frowns at the sentiment, but can’t help but reach out and circle a finger gently around the nipple - the skin tightens, just as he’d expected, but this time he can chase the goosebumps with his mouth, instead of watching them on a computer screen.

“I want,” Jordan slides his mouth back toward Taylor’s nipple, opening it to loop his tongue lightly around the bar and tug gently before letting go and soothing it with the flat of his tongue.

“Missed you,” Jordan groans as Taylor sinks into him, “missed this.”

“Can’t believe how good you look like this Ebby,” Taylor rolls his hips slowly, evenly, content to watch the emotion flicker across Jordan’s face and let the slow burn build.

Jordan stretches his neck to kiss Taylor and slide his tongue across the generous lower lip that makes him laugh every day and makes him crazy every night. He draws a hand across Taylor’s chest to flick gently at the bar that hangs there.

Taylor moans and snaps his hips and Jordan can’t hold back the gasp. When Taylor sinks his fingers deep in the soft skin of Jordan’s hips he comes untouched between them, imagining the bruises that will be there tomorrow. The perfectly spaced finger-tip shaped discolorations that will last until Taylor’s back on a plane and Jordan’s busting his ass in the gym and counting the days until camp starts again.

Taylor pushes forward until he bottoms out and then holds still as Jordan tightens beneath him, head thrown back against the pillows, hair a sweaty, curly, freakishly attractive mess. When Jordan hooks his feet behind Taylors thighs and arches his hips he’s back again, faster this time, savoring the hot squeeze of Jordan’s body around his and the light exploring touch of Jordan’s hands sliding across his body.

Maybe it’s because they haven’t seen each other in months, maybe a nipple ring really does add spice to your relationship, but when finally comes, he practically blacks out the feeling is so intense.

He pulls carefully out and Jordan tips them slightly so their bodies curl around each other, heat seeking missiles of attachment and love. Taylor presses a kiss to his temple and closes his eyes.

He lays still, feeling his heart still pounding in his chest and while his toes are tingling and his brain is blessedly blank the high is so high he can’t imagine anything will ever feel as good as this. He can’t imagine any goal bringing him this much satisfaction, goals and trophies and cups included Taylor can’t imagine ever wanting anything more than he wants this.