Ryan didn't know how to say it other than that he was so overwhelmed by zach every single time he fell in love. He wasn't the mushy, lovey-dovey type and was usually very stoic and almost as married to hockey as one of tjhe greats, but somehow Zach changed that at times He first admitted to himself he liked Zach in 2000. Of course back then, he was an idiot. He tried to repress it as most teenage boys and force himself into hiding the feelings. He was always close with Zach too, which killed him. In the summer of 2001 Zach told him he really liked him, in somewhat of a bro way too and casually crawled into Ryan's bed on Fourth of July, threw on some headphones plugged into an original iPod and fell asleep. Ryan crawled in right next to him and didn't even know why. In September of 2002 they kissed for the first time. As drunk as they were Ryan still remembered it so well. It was the 9th of September, he was drunk off his ass on gross cheap beer and Zach was wearing both skinny jeans and a t shirtt that absolutely didn't fit. It was zach who initiated the kiss after swiping Ryan's beer bottle out of his hand. It was sloppy and messy and awkward, but that's what they were. The first time they realized they were in love was the combine and the draft. They were just eighteen and so passionate about each other in such a stupid way. They were both idiots and others in their draft class absolutely agreed. They were all over each other, zach sloppily kissing ryan and not even double checking to make sure he wouldn't get caught. Fleury of course likes to claim he saw them making out one day, and Zach always reminds him he was at the all star game that one year. The first time both Ryan and Zach truly felt like what it was like to miss someone was when they were drafted too far away from each other. He missed touching zach, he missed playing with his hair, he missed his bright smile and oh how he missed waking up to a ray of sunshine every morning. The first time he felt so emotional and happy at the same time was reuniting with Zach during the holiday break. They hugged compassionately in the airport, somewhat desperately; both of them still in center ice gear of their current team. They made out for the first time in months in the backseat of Zach's car. Ryan didn't want to forget the taste of Zach's lips and how perfect the moment was. The windows were covered in snow and the sky was just fading into deeper shades of blue and it was a scene out of a movie. The first time they had (actual) sex was at the 2010 Olympics after winning, or really losing with the silver medal. They were both so mad an upset at themselves and needed something more to numb the pain, because sometimes second really is the first to lose.
The first time they'd felt loss was very different. Ryan's was when the preds lost an ugly game to the devils with a goal from none other than Zach. Zach's was obviously much different, it was losing in the cup finals. He'll never forget calling ryan at some ungodly hour of the morning and crying into the phone when they lost. All ryan said is "babe, it's okay. You'll win one day, maybe even we'll win it, together". All zach had wanted in that moment was to tell Ryan he loved him. He didn't have it in him because he was too tired and too scared. He's always liked Ryan, but they'd never formally said I love you in a way that meant it. Ryan nearly read his mind and flew into Jersey just to comfort Zach. He knocked on the door late that June morning. The air was cool, body east coast summers weren't hot until July anyway and the sun was shining way too brightly for a day after a loss like that. Zach was physically a mess. His dark circles looked more like bruises and his eyes were red from crying. When he opened the door he was wearing nothing but devils sweatpants with his number on them. He reached out and hugged Ryan. He smelled like an airport, his hair was soft and ryan just felt like home to him somehow. Ryan kissed Zach right on his front porch, sloppily and messy. It just made Zach so happy.
They spent a lot of the summer talking on the phone to each other talking about all their newfound freedom in the beauty of NHL free agency. They wanted to play together, they really did. It came down to Detroit or Minnesota and they ultimately chose Minnesota and signed matching thirteen year contracts on July 4th. The first time they said I love you to each other, in a truly meaningful way was that night. It was Zach who said it in their hotel room they were sharing until they could get a house. It was a cute clichéd moment too. Ryan was sitting on their bed and Zach came up and hugged him from behind and kissed Ryan's neck and whispered
"I love you" into his ear. It felt like years of stress and fear had been lifted off of them. "I love you too", ryan said back kissing Zach on the lips. The first time they truly made love, not just for experimentation or for the sake of being young, horny and dumb happened to be on the 11th anniversary of their first kiss. Everything about it was perfect from the way they made out, the way Ryan sucked bruises into Zach's thighs and collar bones and the way zach opened up for him. Zach's face was flushed and red and sweaty and Ryan's blonde curls were a mess in his face and his eyes were filled with lust. The first time they played together on the same team in the NHL made them feel like soul mates. They played so well together and although it was pressuring they knew they'd bring hope to Minnesota.
That brings them to where they are now. They're so deeply in love with each other it's gross, as their team mates sometimes like to describe it. Even being so public they have private moments together. Sometimes when there's no cameras Zach will nestle his head into the crook of Ryan's neck and ryan will play with his hair and Zach will close his eyes just so Ryan can see his beautiful fluttering eyelashes and he'll smile his adorable energetic smile that could bring joy to literally anyone. That's what they live for and that's what they're overwhelmingly in love for.