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came out of the woods by choice (but hold me fast)

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John has no idea how Sam managed to hook up last night, but he's nodding along because that's what he does, until Sam tilts his head smugly at Nuge and says, "All I'm saying is, that mouth isn't false advertising."

John blinks. Oh.

He doesn't know how he missed that Sam does guys. They've known each other for a really long time. That seems sort of important.

Also, in retrospect, Sam and Nuge have been flirting kind of a lot this past week. Maybe he should have noticed that. The hickey was probably a clue too.

Sam's still grinning at him across the table, eyebrows raised. John tries to smile back, a little distracted by the way his mind is suddenly trying to catalogue Sam's face, like he doesn't know what his oldest friend looks like. Like it actually matters whether or not he's attractive now John technically has more of a chance.

"Nice," he mutters into his coffee, which is usually all the acknowledgement that Sam needs when it comes to his hookups. Sam still looks pretty pleased with himself, but he's talking about the plan for today's training now, which requires so much less brain power on John's part.

John thinks he should probably pay more attention to what Sam's saying, but his eyes wander to the fading mark on Sam's neck anyway, and the thought of what it might be like to kiss Sam, to be the one leaving those marks on his skin, meanders aimlessly through his head. He wonders if Ryan had kissed Sam hard enough to leave him breathless or if they'd kissed slower, less urgent maybe. It’s unsettling, and John’s not exactly sure how to feel about it.

Maybe it's because he's been so used to compartmentalizing the errant thoughts he's had about Sam over the years, he's not sure, but his stomach flips a little at the way Sam's throat moves as he talks.

"Are you even paying attention to what I'm saying? Rude."

He kicks Sam under the table. "Something about, whatever, fishing or something. It's not my fault you're boring."

Sam laughs. He has crumbs on his chin and jam on his front teeth. It's not attractive at all.

--

John skips out on fishing, in the end. It's nice to have a bit of a break, though, which is probably why everyone ends up a little tipsy after dinner.

It doesn't really explain how he finds himself trying to flirt with Sam.

He's terrible at it, even more than usual, and he's not sure if it's because he's known Sam for so long that anything other than completely overt, shameless flirting will be seen as the status quo or if he's just become even more pitiful at hitting on people this summer.

It's likely a combination of both, John decides, so he slams back a couple of shots of Patron in quick succession for a bit of liquid courage.

He doesn't really have a plan, not at all, so it takes him by surprise when he finds himself following Sam to the bathroom, pushing him inside one of the stalls. John kisses him, just a soft brush of his lips against Sam's. Sam stills for a moment, and John thinks Sam's about to push him away, but Sam relaxes under his touch a beat later, expelling a breath John didn't know he was holding back.

Sam kisses him back, smooth and deep, his hands curling against John's back. It's good, it's so good, and yet, when it's this easy, John feels little ridiculous making out in a tiny bar bathroom when they both have hotel rooms just down the street.

He pulls back just enough to say, "so, uh, you want to go back to the hotel?"

"...how romantic," Sam says solemnly. John can feel his ears going red, though the way Sam pulls him out of the bathroom is more than enough to take the sting out of the words.

He feels obvious as hell when they head out, but no one bats an eye, and he guesses they've been together enough all week that it's barely worth remarking on.

They're quiet on the way up, John following Sam's lead. He thinks Sam’s giving him long, searching looks, but John never meets his gaze fully, so he can't be sure. He feels nervous now, sort of twitchy, looking everywhere in the elevator except directly at Sam.

It doesn't take them long to get to Sam's room. His room is identical to John's, maybe a bit messier, a little more cluttered. It’s infinitely more like Sam.

He swallows hard when he hears the click of the door behind them.

"So," Sam starts, cutting into the quiet. "Did you want a drink? I think there's some stuff in the minibar?"

"I'm good," John says awkwardly. He's had enough tonight if they have to get back on the ice tomorrow. He swallows. "But, uh, if you...?" He doesn't know if this means Sam's rethinking the kiss, or what. He takes a step closer, unsure if he should touch Sam.

Sam smiles lopsidedly at him, eyes half-lidded in amusement. "Nah, I'm fine."

John's not really expecting to be tumbled down onto the bed, Sam's hands sneaking warm under his shirt, but it's not like he minds.

They stay like that for a while, half tangled together, hands roaming all over each other. John can taste the faint remnants of beer when he licks into Sam's mouth.

They're both hard. John feels like he's trying to melt their jeans away with his dick, he wants so badly to be skin on skin, and Sam's hand scrabbling at John's zipper feels like a gift. He pulls away from the kiss, looking at John inquisitively. John's not sure he can trust his voice, he nods rapidly, kissing Sam back again, pressing their bodies closer together.

"Jesus, Johnny," Sam says. He's breathing harshly, short, jagged gasps in between kisses, hot, warm air against Johnny's skin.

Sam wraps his hand around John's cock, John shaking against him. He shivers in Sam's grip, moans against his mouth when Sam strokes him. Sam kisses him again, lapping at the edge of his mouth, his smile against the curve of John's cheek, his jaw. John knows he's about to come embarrassingly quickly, and he tries to stop it, tries to make it last a little longer, but Sam's tightening his grip around John's cock, thumb running over the slit, and John's just done.

He could probably stay here forever, just like this, nose tucked into Sam's neck, except for the way Sam's pressing back against him, his dick hard against John's thigh. It's a split second decision, but the noise Sam makes deep in the back of his throat when John slips down the bed to lie between Sam's thighs makes his dick twitch stickily against the sheets.

John looks up once, through his eyelashes, as he goes to take Sam's dick in his mouth. Sam’s expression wavers between surprise and pleasure, eyes wide and mouth slack. If John had any brain left that wasn't wrapped up in what he was doing, he would laugh at how fitting it is: even with the taste of Sam spreading sharp on his tongue, he's still a little bit surprised that any of this is happening at all.

--

John wakes up to the sight of Sam's back pulling taut as Sam leans out of bed to slap at his phone alarm.

It shuts off, and Sam rolls onto his back, grinning up at the ceiling. John rests his chin on Sam's shoulder, runs his hand along the smooth muscles of Sam's arm. He's leaning in to kiss Sam's neck, when Sam sighs dramatically, scrubbing a hand through his hair. "We should really get down to breakfast before the boys eat it all, buddy."

John was willing to be conscious for sex, but if that's not on offer, he'd rather go back to sleep. Sam seems to be pretty hungry though, and prods him into getting dressed and going downstairs, far too cheerful for this time of day. John follows him through the buffet line, allowing Sam to nudge him towards Gabe and Nuge's table afterward.

He gives them a quick nod before sitting down beside Sam. He doesn't really know them well, but he's not an asshole, even if it is too early to socialize.

"What's with the face, Gags?" Ryan asks, arching an eyebrow.

Sam just grins at him. "I don't know what you're talking about," he replies. "It's a great day, Nugget. Great day."

Sam can always talk enough for both of them and Gabe and Ryan seem happy to listen, so John's focusing on his eggs when Sam kicks him lightly under the table.

"What?" he mumbles.

Sam grins at him. "C'mon, it's a wonderful morning. Good mood, skating later, it's going to be great."

John eyes him. Sam is undeterred, and giggly. "You have no excuse for being this grumpy, eh?" he says, loudly enough for the rest of the table to hear. It's well-meant, but John can't help tensing up, even if Ryan and Gabe seem to be politely not paying attention.

Sam nudges him when he doesn't reply. "God, I can't believe you're still this cranky in the mornings, Johnny," he says. "It's like you haven't changed since we were kids."

A surge of irritation claws at John’s stomach. It's irrational, he knows – this is Sam. He's the same Sam who never misses an opportunity to tease him and the same Sam who jokes about everything. They've done this a thousand times before: getting up too early in the morning, eating breakfast blearily together before skating. It's nothing new, and nothing's changed.

Except it has changed. For John, at least. Sometime between the cramped stall at that dingy bar last night and now, things have changed so, so drastically, and he's not quite sure if it's for the better.

It's not even like Sam is doing anything. Or not doing something. John isn't sure what he wants right now, except possibly more coffee, in the vain hope that it will make him make more sense in his own head.

Sam's still looking at him expectantly. John says, "uh, I guess?" which is apparently enough because Sam smirks at him again, and lets up, turning back to Ryan and Gabe, and letting John finish his breakfast sleepily.

--

John's quiet when they head out to the gym after breakfast. It's a little weird, if Sam's being honest. John's never been one to steal the show conversationally, but he's also not usually this aloof, either. Not with Sam.

Sam nudges him playfully after John just shrugs off his joke for the third time. "You're allowed to laugh, you know," Sam says. "They're not going to revoke your Canadian citizenship because you decided to have some fun."

John grunts, and Sam gives up, at least until they have a break, and he can drag John off to a corner. John comes easily, which is reassuring.

"Look, are you pissed because Nuge knows?" Sam starts, because he's been thinking about it all morning, and he's pretty sure that's when Johnny started being weird. "He'll be cool, seriously. I mean, he already knew, if you know what I mean?" He grins, and elbows John, who still looks grumpy.

"Yeah, I know," John says flatly.

"So we're fine then? He won't say shit, honestly. No room to talk, eh?"

"Good for him." John's voice is even tighter, and fuck John, if that's his problem. John fucking seemed like he was having a good time last night. They were both drunk, yeah, but they weren't that drunk. Besides, John's known about Sam since Pat, and then all about Andy and Taylor and Ryan and everyone so it's total bullshit for him to get weird about dudes now.

"Is this about—it doesn't have to be a big deal, okay? Last night? We can just forget it happened." It sucks if John regrets last night because it was fun. Unexpected, but fun. But whatever, he’s Sam's friend first, and if he wants to pretend it didn’t happen, then Sam can do that.

Johnny looks even more pinched, his forehead scrunching into a tight knot, and Sam doesn't know what more to say.

"It's not, I don't," Johnny starts, sounding exasperated. He shakes his head, huffing a little. "Let's just go to the gym. We're gonna be late, and I don't want to hear about it from the boys."

It's a terrible idea, because Johnny's still pissed, but it's true that they probably should be back by now. Sam waves a hand in surrender, and John takes off towards the gym.

Sam refuses to hurry, which means that he ends up on the other side of the gym from John, which is fine. Dutchy actually laughs at his jokes and isn't being a dick.

Johnny's still not talking to him at dinner though, which Sam hates, so it seems like the sensible move to invite him along when Dutchy asks him to round up guys for CoD later. (The thought that at least Johnny has no reason to be mad at Dutchy and Sid crosses his mind, but it's probably not important. John usually gets over things eventually anyway.)

--

Sam raps at John’s door five minutes before they're due in Dutchy's room. It's kind of ridiculous, because it's not like he needs directions – not when Dutchy's just one floor up – but it's hard to be annoyed when Sam's all smiles, waiting patiently – for Sam, anyway – for John to get dressed.

"You ready for this? Team Oakville versus everyone else, just like old times, eh?" Sam jokes as they're climbing up the stairs to Dutchy's floor.

"Ha, you wish," John says, mostly out of habit, but it comes out affectionate.

Sam beams at him.

He ends up on Sam's team anyway, fist-bumping him like it counts as an apology for earlier. It's stupid to be jealous over things that have nothing to do with him. He just needs to get over it.

After that they're busy, because none of them want to lose and Sid is fucking cheating, however exaggeratedly disbelieving Dutchy looks when John says what they're all thinking.

Sid's laughing too hard to defend himself, except to rasp out, "Too slow, Tavares!"

Sam kicks them both, and demands a rematch. He's grinning too, but at least he's on John's side against these assholes.

--

Camp gets more intense as the week goes on: the workouts get harder, the scrimmages run longer, and John absolutely loves it. Andy mixes up the lines, but John’s on a line with Ryan and Gabe more often than not. Sam ends up as Sidney's winger, and he's a dick, so he tries to distract Johnny from one side of the faceoff circle as much as he can.

John can't even be mad. He's just happy to be playing something close to real hockey again. It was sort of weird to take passes from someone other than Moulsy or Boyesy at first, but it hadn't taken long for the three of them to click. Getting to play against Sid's line and dekeing around Sam whenever he gets the chance - it makes everything so much more fun.

He's sore and aching by the end, but it's a good kind of aching, and John relishes it. It hasn't been long at all, but he's going to miss these guys, so he’s up for it when Talbot taps him on the shoulder after the last practice, to invite him for drinks out with everyone else later that night.

It's not exactly Andy's diet plan, but it's not like anyone gives a shit, and it's cool to get to hang out one last time before they stop seeing each other off the ice. If John's more than a little drunk, who cares, all he has to do tomorrow is sit on a plane.

There's a stab of triumph he can't shake when Sam waves off Gabe and Nuge and slings an arm around him on the sidewalk after the bar, shouting, "Good week, eh, Johnny?" in his ear.

They stumble their way back to the hotel, and if Sam clearly thinks he's walking John, well, John won't dissuade him. He grabs Sam's wrist as they get to the door of John's hotel room, and grins, stroking his thumb over Sam's pulse. "You wanna come in?"

Sam blinks at him and pushes him through the door. It's awesome, except that Sam steps away from him the second they're through and says, "What the fuck?" in a tone of righteous outrage that John's pretty sure he hasn't earned.

"It wasn't that bad last time, was it?" he says, maybe a little defensively.

Sam looks at him incredulously, like John's just grown two heads. He tries to run through the last few hours of the night, and John's pretty sure he didn't say or do anything dumb. They were fine at the bar, Sam leaning against him for most of the night, his weight firm and steadying, and Sam was flirting with him. Or, well, he thinks Sam was flirting with him.

"What the fuck was this whole week then, Johnny?" Sam says, frustrated, crossing his arms against his chest.

"This week what?" He steps closer to Sam, and tries to smile. "We've been good, right?" He leans in.

"It'll involve dick this time too," Sam snaps. "You sure you're ready for that?"

That doesn't make any sense at all. He sucked Sam off last time, of course he's into it. And if there's one thing John thinks he's learned this week, it's that Sam's pretty into it too, what with Nuge and everything, which is kind of infuriating now.

He pulls back. "If you'd prefer to go fuck infants, you can go right ahead."

John turns around as he angrily toes off his shoes, kicking them down further inside the room. For a moment, he thinks Sam's going to stalk off, but he catches at John's arm instead, pulling John around to face him again.

"What does that even mean?" Sam demands, and Sam's suddenly standing too close. "I just, I don't get you, Johnny."

John tugs his arm away from Sam and starts to undress, steadfastly refusing to look at Sam. He's not the one who's been giving mixed signals all week, and Sam has no right to be angry at him at all.

"Look, if you don't want to sleep with me, just go, okay?" John says, suddenly tired. "We can fucking forget this conversation happened."

"Hey, no, I said that first," Sam says firmly, "and then you tried this, so what the fuck? What are you doing?"

"I'm hitting on you, asshole," John says incredulously.

Sam is making aborted gestures in the air like he might strangle something. "Yeah, I noticed. But you fucking told me to back off, so what the fuck?"

John flops onto the bed, elbows on his knees, face in his hands. "What? No," he says. "I mean, fuck, whatever, drunken pass, it happens, you're not into it, whatever."

"No, you're the one who wasn't fucking into it."

John scoffs in disbelief. "Are you that dumb?." He closes his eyes, half hoping that Sam will take this as a cue to leave, but the bed dips beside him and Sam's thigh is pressing against his, hot and steady.

"You certainly acted like it was a mistake," Sam says, quieter this time, and John opens his mouth to protest, but Sam interrupts him and carries on. "You were there too, asshole. You'd have to be fucking blind to miss that I was into it."

John looks at him for what it feels like the first time since they started this conversation. Sam's lips are pursed, and he's looking at John searchingly. John breathes in. "What's the problem then?" he asks, his voice coming out rough, gritty.

Sam wrinkles his nose at him. "There isn't a problem."

"Fine," John says, which seems inadequate, especially given the silence that follows.

If John reaches for Sam entirely because the silence was getting to him, at least it seems to have had the same effect on Sam. They fall back awkwardly onto the bed. Sam elbows him in the side and whispers mock insults against his skin, but also kisses him long and firm and deep and this was really all John wanted from his night out, honestly.

--

The hangover in the morning, he could do without that.

--

 

They fly back to Pearson after Vail, and they go their separate ways – John to his condo in Mississauga, and Sam to his house in Oakville. It's a little weird to be home alone again after being in close proximity with a bunch of guys for a week, but it is pretty nice to be back in his own bed, Sam has to admit.

Johnny calls him the next day at an ungodly hour, and is entirely unsympathetic when Sam whines that they just got back from camp

"It's past noon, dickbag," John says dismissively. "You should be awake by now." Sam would feel slighted, except John says that his mom left a bunch of food for him when he got back and asks if Sam wants to come over for video games and dinner.

Sam would almost rather stay and lounge in bed, but he tells John yes, because like he’ll ever actually say no to Mrs. Tavares' cooking.

"Your condo looks like an empty frathouse," he says out of habit when he steps into John's place. He makes a beeline for the couch and languidly stretches over the length of it.

John just rolls his eyes. "Yeah, so you keep saying every time you come over. I don't even know why I let you in here."

Sam grins widely at him. "Because you can't live without me, obviously," he says as he props his feet on the coffee table.

Sam tries to decipher the look that flashes across John's face, but it's gone just as quickly as it came. Sam blinks.

"That must be why I'm the one feeding you, and not the other way around," John teases.

"Yeah, you're definitely the one making food here," Sam shouts from the other room.

John returns to shove a plate at Sam. "Fuck you, at least I could if I wanted," he says pleasantly. Sam grins.

It's been pretty chill, a break from the intensity of Vail, even with the way that John gets really, really into winning at Madden. All very normal, which is why Sam's surprised when John doesn't start a new game, puts an arm around his shoulders, and leans in instead.

If there's one thing Sam's good at, though, it's hooking up with his friends. He's just glad John's worked out whatever was bothering him and that they're still cool enough for this. It's easy to kiss back, slow and sweet.

John leads them to his bedroom, and pushes Sam down on the bed, covering him with his body. It's different, Sam thinks. Everything feels more leisurely, like they have all the time in the world, and Sam goes with it. They kiss for a while. It feels like Johnny's trying to map him out in that determined, focused way of his.

It feels good; Johnny's tracing small circles down Sam's chest now, and it's a mix of pleasure and frustration that makes Sam's head spin a little.

"Johnny, fucking get it on with it," Sam says, more needy than he'd ever care to admit.

John just laughs against his skin, shushing him. "I'm trying to work here, don't rush the professional," he says, deadpan, like he's talking about the weather.

Johnny's really kind of an asshole.

Good with his hands, though.

--

 

John's not sure how they end up hooking up regularly, but somehow they do. Not all the time, but when they're hanging out, so, fairly frequently. They're going to have to go live halfway across the country in a week or two; he wants to see Sam before he goes, obviously.

Sam goes home most nights, though, and he has his own shit going on, so it's not like John's even paying that much attention until the morning that Sam's almost late to the gym.

Sam's barely ever late, but that doesn't mean he gets a pass. Sam grins smugly when chirped though. "Whatever, blame Cogs. Morning sex was definitely worth it." He pauses. "And I wasn't even late, fucker."

John hadn’t expected Sam not to hook up with other people. It's just that he didn't quite expect him to hook up with other people either. Not that it matters.

He tries not to think about Sam and Cogs (and definitely not Sam and Cogs in bed), but he fails at it pretty miserably. By the time lunch rolls around, John feels out of sorts, like he doesn't quite know what to say or how to respond to Sam's jokes. He grunts and nods a lot where he thinks it's appropriate and forces a grin onto his face when he thinks it's necessary.

He really wants to head home and cool off.

"Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning," Sam comments when they're finishing up for the day. "So cranky, Johnny." Sam's smiling though, kicking at Johnny's feet a little as he does his stretches.

"Sorry," he mutters, scrubbing a hand through his hair. Sam grins before returning to his cool-down.

--

Sam's not entirely sure why John was cranky as hell all day. He wasn't even late, and John's usually actually fun. Sam should probably be on time though, especially this close to training camp, so he kicks Cogs out early that night, Cogs chirping him all the way about picking an early time slot at the gym.

He's early the next morning and prepared to really give it to Johnny about being prompt, but Johnny barely even responds to the provocation. It's unlike him: he's always been a terrible loser, but he's never cared this much about punctuality before.

John suggests they get lunch after and only looks bewildered when Sam rolls his eyes at him.

"You're so weird today," Sam says, half-teasing, a subject which keeps them fully occupied all the way back to John's condo.

John's back to normal by the end of lunch, and it’s like nothing’s happened by the time he blows Sam on the couch that afternoon between games of CoD. Sam can roll with it; he's never been good at staying mad at his friends, and they don’t have enough summer left to spend it fighting.

--

They go to New York for the last PA meeting before the season's supposed to start. It’s weird and uncomfortable. Everyone's twitchy afterward in the knowledge that things are probably going to go to shit, but haven't yet, not officially.

John finds he can't discuss it with Sam, even when they're training like they're actually about to take off for opposite sides of the continent, instead of sitting in Ontario for an unknown length of time. Not that there's much to discuss: it’s not like either of them know anything new.

They're still fucking as the days count down, more often now that Cogs has left for California again, under the pretense they're all making that things are relatively normal. It's back to CoD marathons on the couch and Sam attempting to burn down John's condo by trying to make his totally edible, amazing, and not-blackened cooking. It's back to drinking Bud Lights while watching B-movies, and it’s back to long, drawn out handjobs in the shower late at night. It's back to just the two of them, and John would be lying if he didn't say he can breathe easier.

John wonders if he should say something, now that they don't have a deadline for this thing. He doesn't know what to say though; it is what it is.

The lockout officially gets announced shortly after they get back from New York and John knows he should've seen it coming, but it somehow still comes as a surprise. He gets the call from DP when he's sprawled on the couch with Sam, still groggy from his afternoon nap.

John shakes Sam's shoulder gently. His breath catches a little when Sam's eyes flutter open, as he slowly adjusts to the glare of the afternoon sun coming from the balcony. Johnny doesn't even know why. Sam looks kind of stupid when he's sleeping, all slack jawed, open-mouthed, and drooling.

"What?" Sam says, his voice still raspy.

John blinks, then clears his throat. "Just got a call from DP," he says as he reaches for the remote. "It's official, Sam. We're locked out."

"Oh." Sam scrunches his nose, like he's deep in thought for a brief moment. "We knew that was coming, right?"

John nods, because yeah, he supposes they did know it was coming. Don wouldn’t stop talking about it when they were in New York. It still blows. "We should probably call our agents, huh?"

Sam shrugs. "They probably won't have anything ready for us to talk about yet, anyway," he says. Sam tugs at John's shirt, pulling him back down onto the couch. "Come on, go back to sleep. We'll figure it out later."

There ends up being a lot of later to try and figure things out in. Everything kind of continues as before, as if the lockout's likely to be called off any minute. (They know it's not; they voted to let Don keep things going until they get what they want. It doesn't make it less frustrating.)

They keep up their routine. The sex is basically part of it too now, which is one decent thing about being in Ontario this late. John wonders if he should bring up the fact that nights in each other’s beds are becoming routine, but he still doesn't know what to say about it.

Only his agent calls, and the contract with Bern is pretty much exactly what he wanted, and the decision is out of his hands. There isn't really any point in talking about their routine when the routine is going to have to stop.

He isn't running, he's just relieved that he finally gets to play hockey again.

--

John doesn't have much time between faxing the signed contract back to his agent and his flight to Switzerland. He's almost forgotten how normal it feels to see most of his life tucked away into two suitcases. He has hockey back. It's not what he would prefer, and it's not a brand of hockey that he's used to, but it's hockey nonetheless, and he's not going to complain about that.

Sam drives him to the airport a few hours before his flight. His parents had offered to drive him, but it would mean they'd have to take time off from work, so he declined and asked Sam instead. Besides, it's not like Sam's doing anything important, the bum.

"So much for union solidarity and all, eh?" Sam chirps as they're heading down the 401.

"Fuck off, I wasn't even the first the leave, so," John says, shaking his head. "Besides, you'll be on a plane to Europe soon enough, asshole."

“Yeah, maybe,” Sam says, “deserter,” and cackles. He doesn't really stop until they're pulling up outside Terminal 3.

John punches him in the shoulder as he gets out of the car. "See you soon, I guess?"

Sam waves. "Hopefully!" He doesn't help John with the bags because he's a dick like that, but it barely registers once John's in the airport, actually on his way to play real hockey again, after what feels like far too long.

--

John arrives in Zurich just after 7AM. He's kind of groggy since he didn't really sleep on the plane at all, so he's more than a little relieved when he sees someone holding a sign with his name on it after he leaves the baggage claim.

It's an hour and a half car ride from Zurich to Bern, but the ride feels a lot shorter than it is when he dozes off and wakes up to his driver pointing out landmarks that he's never even heard of before.

He shakes about a dozen hands on the way to the GM's office, and it's almost overwhelming in a way he hasn't felt since his rookie year. Everyone's all smiles, and they seem nice, but if John's being honest, he's still having trouble parsing the fact that he's in Switzerland and not in Canada or Long Island.

It's not any less confusing when they rush him off to Fribourg to meet the team and watch the away game.

Having Streiter there is sort of reassuring, and most of the helpful people whose names he's finding it impossible to keep straight speak pretty good English, but it's kind of weird going out on the ice to warm up for a game he isn't playing with twenty guys he's never met before.

It's easier watching the game, reminding himself of how the European game isn't quite the same. It's not a great game, and they lose 3-1, but John wants to be right there with them anyway. Mostly, he just wants to play, to get right in there and do something about it. It’s going to be great.

It really, really is. They have a few days of practice before the next game, which is different, but also just hockey, beautifully familiar, even in a new system with new guys in a new city. John has never before appreciated how great it is when reporters speak English, but he thinks he does okay in his presser, even if he still can't remember half his teammates' names.

The team puts him up in an apartment close to the rink. It's small, but it's cozy, and John's grateful he doesn't have to live in a hotel for however long he's staying in Switzerland. A couple of his new teammates live in the area, so they take it upon themselves to show John where the grocery store is, along with the bakery, the bank, and of course, the closest bar.

It's a lot harder than John thought it would be, if he's being honest. Simple things like shopping for food or buying clothes he's forgotten to take with him end up being an adventure he's not really sure he wants to repeat any time soon. He tags along with Streiter a week later on his grocery run. He feels like a kid again, but whatever, he's just being resourceful.

Sam doesn't agree when John tells him the story later that night on Skype, and he chirps Johnny mercilessly. Sam's the worst, though, so John thinks he shouldn't really talk at all.

--

Sam is basically never going to drop it that John can't do his own grocery shopping. The idiots on his team manage it; it's not that hard. Sure, Hallsy usually only manages to buy corndogs and beer, but if he can do that without fail, John should be more than capable of buying his own shit.

Sam regrets this approach slightly when he signs in Europe himself with Klagenfurter. Not a Swiss team, but he didn't really expect that. It's a good deal, and he just wants to play somewhere.

He Skypes with John while he's packing, and listens to him go from bitching about the lockout to chirping Sam for how he's going to have to deal with supermarkets that aren't in English, too. Sam may be mildly concerned himself, but he's not going to tell John that now.

He does look up the distance between Klagenfurt and Bern. They're not that close, but it's a ton closer than Edmonton and New York, which makes it seem more likely that they'll be able to meet up at some point and check out Europe together. At least John stops mocking him and starts checking their schedules when he mentions it.

--

Klagenfurt's nice. It's a mix of old world and modernity that Sam's never really experienced in any of the cities he grew up in. He could get used to it, but he also hopes the lockout ends soon so he can go back to Edmonton. Hockey is hockey though, and Sam gets to play, so he's not going to think too much about what's going on across the pond for now.

Sam's first couple of weeks are both easy and hard. Easy because the feel of the ice under his blades, the brisk wind on his face when he accelerates, the way the game sounds, even the guys in the locker room - in unfamiliar German, but still the rhythm of home – it's all a reminder of the things he loves.

It's also hard because it's all unfamiliar. He tells himself that it's a compliment to the League that they think he can do everything, but he's a little off-kilter, like he's relearning hockey again, and it's frustrating in ways he can't really describe.

It's good though, a challenge - upholding the honour of the NHL, he jokes to John - and everything starts falling into place soon enough. There's a part of Sam that wonders why he's never been given these opportunities back home, but Edmonton is thousands of miles away, and sometimes, it's easier to focus on what's here now.

He can worry about Edmonton later.

Adjusting to the language is a little harder. Sam finds he spends a lot of time on Skype, both back home to Canada, and with John, commiserating over how awkward it is to know almost no German. Not that the team haven't been accommodating as hell to him and Myesy, but that's exactly why he can't complain. John gets it, and it's sort of cool to actually be in the same timezone as him for once. Sam’s always been pretty terrible at remembering how late it is in New York when he's in Edmonton.

Their days off overlap briefly in early November and John comes by to check out Austria. Sam completely fails to show him around, and they mostly spend the two days in bed, but he's not going to take John's chirping about spending all his time at the rink seriously. Not when John's muttering it sleepily into Sam’s neck as they spoon.

It's not like they don't go out at all. Sam definitely is getting the hang of driving stick. He only stalls once the whole time, though John never, ever stops bringing it up.

It's awesome when Cogs gets signed by Klagenfurt as well. Sam nags him into moving in, not that Cogs makes much of a fuss, and it's almost like when they were rookies in Edmonton. Sam likes to think he's cleaner these days, though Cogs mocks him about every unwashed dish anyway.

This seems unfair when Cogs is wandering around the apartment shirtless because he hasn't done laundry in long enough that he's literally run out of clothing. Cogs is, however, all too willing to remind Sam of the million times Sam has had to do the same thing. Sam doesn't really have a response for that, just dirty socks to throw back, which is probably a moral victory or something anyway.

It's great having Cogs around. It's not even that big of an apartment, but it felt pretty empty with just him in it and it's cool to be living with Cogs again: he really doesn't get to see him enough during the season.

--

They don't really have a set time for their Skype conversations, and it's rare that they ever plan for it. It's been a pretty boring day, with no practice or team meeting scheduled, and John's just absentmindedly scrolling through to the KAC website when Sam's name pops up on Skype.

He'd be lying if he didn't say he's kind of glad to see Sam online.

"Hey assho---" he starts when Sam accepts the video call. He trails off when he sees Cogs behind Sam, shirtless and laughing at something Sam must have said.

Sam swats Cogs away, and the familiarity between them makes John shift in his chair. John thinks he should probably be happy for Sam, because Sam finally has someone he knows well with him, someone Sam can speak English to and remind him of home, but John's not, and he's not even really sure why.

Sam grins at him, a little grainy through the feed, and launches into a lengthy story about some people's failure to clean up after themselves. John can hear Cogs making comments from somewhere in the room, and it really is kind of funny, especially coming from Sam of all people. It's weird too, seeing Sam being domestic like that, not at all the way he is in Ontario, where he constantly abandons his barren house to impose on his parents or steal all of John's food.

It's dumb, but John feels like knowing Sam the longest should count for something, keep him from these kinds of surprises, even if he can't quite quash the little voice in his head that keeps pointing out that he didn't even know Sam was bi until last August. Cogs, on the other hand, has apparently been around for a long time in all kinds of ways. It's not John's fault he didn't realise who Andi was, he barely knows Cogs at all. But a lot of things about Sam's love life for the past million years now make a certain kind of sense.

Sam rolls his anecdote to a close, endlessly pleased with himself. "How's Cogs doing then?" John asks absently, and jumps at Cogs' bark of laughter.

Sam just smiles. "He's good, man. Team is clicking pretty great. I told you about going up to the mountains with the guys, right?" Cogs wanders out of the room in the background of the feed and Sam adds, "It's cool to have someone who speaks English around, you know?"

"Yeah," John agrees, spreading his hands. "I'm jealous, man, for sure."

Sam rolls his eyes. "C'mon, you'll have to get used to it eventually. If you're that desperate though, Cogs and I could probably come out for a couple days next time we have a break? You could show us Bern or whatever?"

It's almost embarrassing how quickly John agrees.

--

They don’t have a break for a month or so, which sucks, but Sam doesn't Skype John that much less now that Cogs is living with him, and it's not like Mouls and PK and the guys don't call him too. It's just weird sometimes, when Sam calls him, and John knows for sure that that's what Sam sounds like when he's just gotten laid. Besides, even if Sam didn't, Cogs is apparently still as dedicated to leaving marks on his neck as he was last summer. It’s not really a surprise, John guesses, just weird to see, that’s all.

--

Their December breaks don't completely align, but there's a three day stretch that works out for all of them. John's nervous when he makes his way to the train station to pick them up. He spots
Sam first, and winces openly because god, Sam's Movember mustache is all kinds of terrible. John has a chirp ready to roll off his tongue as Sam walks towards him, but he forgets it when Sam pulls him in for a hug.
Sam looks just the same as he did their last night in Klagenfurt, and John can't help but pull him closer as memories of his trip to Austria come flitting through his mind. Cogs clears his throat from behind them.

John pulls away from Sam and nods his head sheepishly at Cogs. "Hey buddy," he says, maybe a bit on the strained side. "How was the train ride?"

Sam rolls his eyes and gently pushes John towards the door. "It was long and we survived," Sam retorts. "You gonna welcome us to your apartment or are we sleeping at the train station?"

John just shakes his head, saying, "I'm pretty sure I asked Cogs," but he's smiling anyway as he leads them out of the station.

The drive back to his apartment is loud. Cogs and Sam have a million things to say about Austria and Bern and the sad lack of Tim Hortons and it's good. John's still a little wary of Cogs, but Sam's here, and it's hard to think of anything else when Sam's sitting on the passenger seat of his car, looking like he belongs there.

It's not until John's fishing for the keys in his pockets that he realises something big: his apartment only has one bedroom. If it's just Sam visiting, it wouldn't be a big deal. Sam would just sleep in his bed with him and hog the covers like he normally does. But Cogs is here and he and Sam are doing something and John really doesn't need to think about them fucking.

He doesn't exactly decide not to say anything, just waves vaguely at the apartment in lieu of a tour and drags them out on the street again because, hey, they wanted to see Bern.

When they stumble back in a lot later, John's regretting his decision to avoid the subject, but at least Cogs cuts off his rambling offer to take the couch before he can be too obvious. On the downside, what he says is that he's taking the damn couch and John can put up with Sam stealing the covers if he's so into it. John is also weirdly jealous of the subsequent wrestling match.

Sam cheerfully pins Cogs to the floor as John tries not to beat his head against the wall for setting himself up for two days of being jealous over the dumbest things in the world. But he can't help the way his stomach flips when Sam gets up and slings an arm across his shoulders.

"Whatever," Sam says, "he just doesn't appreciate my many charms. Show me to this bedroom!"

It's not actually that simple. John has to go and find blankets and shit for the couch and the three of them have to take turns in the bathroom, and John is pretty sure saying good night to a dude while heading to the bedroom you're about to share with the guy you're both sleeping with is something he never wants to do again.

He's almost grateful when Sam is straight-up already passed out on top of the covers because he doesn't know if he could actually manage to make out with him while Cogs is right there. He’s less pleased when Sam completely fails to wake up and help drag the covers out from under himself, but it is embarrassingly gratifying when Sam pulls him close the second John fights his way under the sheets.

He leans into Sam's touch, hooking his chin over Sam's shoulder. Sam's not much smaller than him, and he kind of marvels at how well they fit. John doesn't know how he's never noticed it before, not when Sam's arm is snug around his waist, Sam's lips pressed on his skin, and everything just feels so right.

John knows that Cogs is in the other room, but if he closes his eyes and breathes in the scent of the stupid cologne Sam insists on wearing, it's almost like he can believe it's just the two of them, just Johnny and Sammy, right here and right now, like it's always been.

Sam burrows closer against him, and John’s thankful Sam's basically unconscious, because it's times like this when he can pretend that Sam's his. John freezes, his breath hitching, because is that what this has been all about?

The uncomfortable feeling niggling at the pit of his stomach, the fits of jealousy, all those times he's wanted to bash Cogs' face against Sam’s stupid painting of an apple. Because he wants Sam to be his?

John feels like this should be more of a surprise, but he's not fooling anyone, and certainly not himself. He knows this – has known it for a while, probably, if he's being honest with himself. But he thought, when he was going to Europe instead of making a decision, that distance and time might change things. It's different when Sam's here beside him, solid and real, and none of it's gone away.

John's not sure how long he spends lying there with his arm tense around Sam, trying to come up with clever and not creepy ways to say, "Stop fucking that dude and only fuck me, please?" but he guesses he falls asleep because it's quite a lot brighter outside when he feels Sam rubbing his stubble companionably against John's shoulder. Sam's not quite awake, but he's getting there, and John can't believe that he knows that kind of thing about him and didn't think things were getting weird.

He also knows how easy it is to roll Sam over and kiss him when he's like this. Sam's pliant and relaxed, grinning pleasantly, his eyes still mostly shut. John's missed Sam's thing for morning sex quite a lot, but the sound of Cogs in the kitchen doing something terrible to the coffee maker kills John's boner pretty hard. Sam's inevitably made a cocoon of the sheets, but John drags himself out of it to go be a good host, however awkward he finds it.

John pads towards the kitchen and nods at Cogs before wordlessly putting him out of his misery by setting up the coffee machine. Cogs offers him a rueful grin and John tries to tamp down his irritation. "Sorry if I woke you up," Cogs says, "I tried to be quiet, I swear, your coffee machine requires like, quantum physics magic to operate it."

John forces a smile, looking around the room for something to occupy his hands. "It's fine. Was already awake anyway."

"Sam woke you up, huh?" Cogs gives him a knowing look. "He does that."

John reminds himself that nothing his parents ever taught him about manners and being a good host ever condoned punching a guest. He starts pouring coffee for them both to give him something to focus on while he says, trying to keep his voice light, "Oh, he's still asleep, I think."

"Yeah, like that matt‒" John guesses Cogs sees something in his face when John turns around because he cuts himself off and changes the subject loudly to the stuff they were planning to go do in Bern today.

John's pretending that making eggs excuses monosyllabic responses when Sam rolls into the kitchen, his usual morning wreck: hair everywhere, sweats drooping, eyes only half-open. John stiffens when Sam leans over his shoulder to groan "oh, fuck yes, eggs" in his ear because he really doesn't want to be in this position with someone else around, but Sam pulls away quickly to flop down at the kitchen table.

Cogs passes him some orange juice John hadn't even noticed him pouring, and he's seized again with loathing. This is going to be a very tiring day.

John plates the eggs and puts one in front of Sam. He sits beside him, idly playing with his food. It's awkward – really awkward – but John's not going to change his routine just because he's a little uncomfortable.

"You're my favourite, Johnny," Sam says. "How do you know me so well?"

"They're just eggs, asshole," John replies, pleased by the compliment, even if it's just
Sam talking out of his ass, still sleep-addled and barely coherent.

Sam scrunches his face up, like he’s deep in thought. "Wait, there's only two plates here. Where's the one for Cogs?"

"Uh, I didn't know he wanted any." John knows he's being petty, but the last thing he wants to do is cook breakfast for Sam's other fuckbuddy. If Cogs wants eggs, John's sure Cogs is capable of making them himself.

Sam nods and slides his plate over so it's between him and Cogs. "That's okay, we can share."

--

It really would have been much easier to distract Sam from John's general failure at Europe if he could just make out with him, but Cogs is always there and it would probably be awkward.

They end up wandering aimlessly around Old Town. It's pretty, John guesses. He doesn't really know what to say about houses. It is fucking amazing to be able to say it in English if he wants to though.

Sam likes the river, even though it's sort of dismal in December. "Kinda reminds you of Bronte, eh?" he says, though being able to see the other side sort of ruins the illusion.

John nods his agreement gravely. Cogs looks dubious and wrinkles his nose. They wander along beside it for a while, chucking sticks first in the river, and then at Cogs, when he starts to do his full imitation of Sam trying to use his three words of German on an unsuspecting cashier. That is, Sam does; John is an unfeeling bastard who refuses to help defend him against this defamation.

Sam does appreciate the level of work John is putting into not laughing openly. His lips are twitching, but it's a strong effort: Cogs is pretty funny, even if he sounds nothing whatsoever like Sam.

"You're lucky you're a good hockey player. Def shouldn't quit your day job," Sam says with a teasing lilt, nudging at John's side as they walk towards Bundesplatz. John's terrible at playing tour guide, and they get lost twice on the way to the main square, until Cogs finally throws his hands up, pulls his iPhone out, and Google Maps where they were.

Johnny makes a protesting noise. "It's not like I've had time to explore, okay, leave me alone," he says defensively, but there's a hint of a grin on his face, and Sam continues to chirp his ongoing failure at geography.

It's not too far of a walk from where they were, though the sun is starting to set. It's a little chilly out, so Sam wasn't expecting to see a lot of people out on the square, but it's busy, full of children running around in the snow and tourists taking pictures.

He catches shit from Johnny and Cogs, but Sam snaps a few pictures of the Parliament Buildings. Whatever, he's in Europe – he can play the tourist card if he wants to. Sam tosses his phone at Cogs, saying, "Here, take a picture of me and this asshole," then pulls Johnny close, throwing one arm casually around Johnny's shoulders.

Johnny shakes his head like Sam's crazy, but he pastes on a cheesy smile for the camera anyway.

Sam takes a few more pictures before Cogs starts to push him towards one of the restaurants just off the square, and fine, Sam can take a hint. The restaurant is fancy, but they have steak, so Sam's not going to complain.

They end up back at John's place fairly early because Sam and Cogs have a train to catch in the morning. John's not concentrating very well on CoD: Sam's leaning against John's side, loose and giggly with wine, even as he swears ferociously at the screen. John feels horrifically obvious when Cogs stretches theatrically and tells them that they should fuck off so he can get some sleep. Even more so when Sam winks back, laughing as he stands and holds out a hand to help John off the couch.

John rolls his eyes, but takes Sam's hand anyway and lets him pull him up. He's maybe less helpful than he means to be; Sam loses his footing a bit and he stumbles against John's chest, holding on to him for balance. It doesn't look like Sam's bothered; he lays his head bonelessly at the crook of John's neck, still giggling.

"Take me to bed, stud," Sam says dramatically, his breath hot on John's neck.

John kind of hates his life. Apparently he's pathetic enough that Sam's joke actually does something for him and the last thing he wants is to pop a boner in the same room as Cogs.

Cogs waves as John drags Sam off into the bedroom, trying to make it look like he's just supporting a tipsy friend, and totally failing to look Cogs in the eye. John's just grateful that Sam waits until he's got the door shut before plastering himself thoroughly against John and kissing him, hands tight in John's hair.

He should probably pull back, because Cogs is just outside, but Sam moans into his mouth and he just doesn't care anymore. He pulls Sam towards the bed with an arm around his waist.

It's not graceful the way he pushes Sam down, he just finds himself desperate to get under Sam's clothes, touch as much of his skin as possible. Sam is unhelpful, clinging ever tighter. He nips kisses down John's throat that make him bite his tongue to keep from making noise.

"Off, off," Sam whispers, clutching at John's shirt. Sam sounds wrecked and John can't help but grab Sam's face between his hands. He joins their mouths together again and, fuck, Sam tastes so good.

Sam groans when John gets a thigh between his legs, and god, the way Sam's eyes blaze hotly at him when he automatically claps a hand over Sam's mouth - because like fuck Cogs gets to hear Sam like this - sends a jolt straight to his cock.

John runs his other hand over Sam's stomach before pulling Sam’s shirt over his head. He tosses it to the ground and latches his teeth over Sam's exposed collarbone, nipping at the small strip of skin there. He can feel Sam's dick hard against his thigh, heavy and warm.

There's not a lot of finesse in it: his hips jerking helplessly against Sam's, Sam rubbing off just as frantically against his thigh. Sam smirks against John's palm. He kisses John's fingers as John takes his hand away, and whispers, "How are you going to keep me quiet then?" against John's lips. It’s unfairly hot, and John doesn't know how he could do anything other than drop his head to Sam's shoulder and pant against his skin, nudging his thigh even closer between Sam's legs. Sam's breath is hot, and John muffles the hitch in his own breath against Sam's neck when Sam licks along the curve of his ear, nips at his earlobe with sharp teeth.

John's beyond caring about quiet at this point. He wants to hear every hitch, every change in his breathing, every moan, everything Sam has to offer. Right now, it's just Sam and John, and nothing else exists except for them, in his room, on his bed. Sam's fingers work clumsily at John’s zip, one hand pressing against the outline of his dick, and John arches shamelessly against Sam's touch, wanting more.

His hands feel heavy as they reach to return the favour, but Sam bats him away. He settles for grabbing Sam's ass, pulling him closer. The purr that Sam makes is lost in John's own groan as Sam finally gets a warm, calloused hand around him, thumb pushing back his foreskin to stroke over the head of his cock and smear the wetness at the tip.

Sam kisses his way down John's body, one hand still firmly wrapped around John's cock. He watches as Sam starts from the juncture on his neck, trailing down to his collarbone to his chest to his stomach until Sam's lips are mere inches from his dick. Sam wraps his lips around the head of John's cock, and John’s eyes flutter shut. It's too much. Everything is wet, hot heat and his body shakes as Sam takes more of his dick.

His legs are trembling with the effort of not thrusting further into Sam's mouth, and even more when Sam strokes at them with his free hand, running his nails across the inside of John's thigh. He rests one hand on Sam's head; the other clutches involuntarily at the sheets with every hot, perfect suck, and the flutter of Sam's tongue against the underside of his dick. John bites at his lip so hard he thinks it might split, but it's not doing much to muffle the noises Sam is wringing out of him.

It's a little embarrassing, but he knows he's not going to last long. It's been a while since he's had anything other than his own hand on his dick, and god, the image of Sam bent over him, lips wrapped tight around his cock, is enough to undo him. It's obscene and fuck, is it ever hot. He tugs at Sam's hair gently, but the words to warn him don't come, and the most he can do is moan Sam's name breathlessly. Sam places a firm hand on his stomach, holding him still, and he sucks – long and hard and deep – and John is done. He comes down Sam's throat, legs shaking uncontrollably, eyes shut tight.

When he wrenches them open, Sam's smirking up at him, licking at his lips. It feels like the words are coming from a long way away when John croaks, "give me a second."

Sam smirks and rolls away from him to wrestle with his own jeans. He kicks them off and crawls back over John, who gasps as Sam's dick rubs against his own, now softening and oversensitive. He reaches down blindly as Sam kisses him, heat pooling in his belly at the taste of his own come on Sam's tongue, gets a hand around Sam's dick. Sam groans into the kiss, feathers kisses along John's jaw, rubs his stubble against John's shoulder as he shakes apart in John's hand.

John tightens his hold around Sam's dick, his thumb running over the head, spreading the leaking precome all over the length. Sam's breath is hot against John's skin and his name sounds a like a litany of prayers on Sam's lips. John wants nothing more than to keep it that way and take Sam apart.

Sam thrusts up into his grip, fingers tightening on John's bicep, and comes with a moan smothered in the crook of John's neck. Sam's hips jerk as John continues to stroke him, hands unclenching from John's flesh and smoothing lightly over the marks they left. "Fuck, stop," he mutters after a second, and John releases him. Sam cuddles closer, sticky but warm, and John's urge to clean up is dampened by Sam's comforting weight on him and Sam's hum of contentment against his throat.

John wipes his hand carelessly against the sheets and wraps an arm around Sam, tucking his chin over Sam's head. It's comfortable and John knows there's nowhere else he'd rather be. There's a sudden, sinking feeling at the pit of his stomach when he realises that this - having Sam bonelessly sprawled against him, his lips pressed against the crook of John's neck - it's not permanent. Sam's not his.

"Stop thinking, you non," Sam says, as he presses a kiss to John's neck. "Sleep." So John closes his eyes and does.

--

John wakes up to the sound of someone banging on his door. "Come on, you guys, wake up!" It's Cogs, and John groans, because it's far too early to get out of bed. John steals a glance at his bedside clock, and yeah, Cogs is right though. They still have enough time to get showered, dressed, and grab breakfast, but they do need to get up if they want to do all of that before Sam and Cogs' train leaves.

He shakes Sam's arm gently, and kisses his shoulder. "Wake up, Sammy, it's almost 7:30."

Sam grunts, burrowing his face even more in the pillow, and John chuckles, low and deep. "Seriously, Sammy, wake up," John repeats, but Sam just grumbles incoherently, and pulls John tighter towards him. Sam's warm, comfortable, and John pointedly tries not to think about the distance between Bern and Klagenfurt.

Sam finally stirs a few minutes later. "'Morning," he rasps, his voice still tinged with sleep, as he presses a kiss to John's lips. Sam's morning breath is kind of gross, but John finds he doesn't really care at all, not even a little bit.

They get out of bed and into the shower eventually after letting their hands wander, drawing out their orgasms like they have all the time in the world.

They're not actually that rushed: Sam keeps leaning over to kiss John as they get dressed, and the three of them have breakfast together, but there isn't really a moment for John to say anything to Sam without Cogs being right there, and he's still not exactly sure what he wants to ask.

Cogs gets out of John's car at the station and goes to check on the schedule, waving good-bye over his shoulder. Sam lingers to hug him, and John almost blurts something stupid, but it dies on his tongue when Sam says, "See you at Christmas, bud!" and leaves.

Sam texts John when he and Cogs arrive in Klagenfurt. Home now. Miss English yet?"

John does. Well, not English - he doesn't miss that, not exactly. But he does miss Sam, and he feels kind of dumb because it's only been ten hours since John last saw him.

He turns off his phone without replying and tosses it in the direction of his hockey bag. He goes to his room and tries to sleep, but his sheets still smell like Sam, so he moves to the living room and sits on his couch.

He can't even sit comfortably because the couch still has the sheets on it that he lent Cogs. He's in no mood to appreciate the fact that Cogs at least tried to fold them, and he takes out some of his frustrations on the washing machine in the basement, practically flinging the blankets at it, slamming the door, and pushing coins into it with enough force that he drops them and has to crawl around on the floor to pick them up swearing ferociously and uselessly.

By the time his laundry is done, he's calmed down enough that he can check his phone again when he goes back upstairs. Sam has texted him again, to thank him for letting him and Cogs hang out at John's, which makes him grind his teeth, and a last one that says, "not long til Christmasssss." John taps out a response to that one at least, just casual agreement, feeling all the while that it's nothing like what he really wants to say to Sam.

--

It's not like Sam isn't used to travelling, and the train is nicer than the team buses, honestly, but he's still too exhausted when they get back to Klagenfurt to do anything except crash. He feels fantastically at peace with the world the next morning, loose and easy in his skin.

"Good trip, eh?" Sam says sunnily to Cogs, who is glowering at him over his coffee.

Cogs runs a hand through his hair, looking uncomfortable. "Yeah, about that. Guess who's never going to bring me along on his booty calls ever again?"

Sam laughs. "C'mon, man, it wasn't like that. I mean, once, I guess, but whatever, Johnny's cool."

"Uh huh." Cogs sips at his coffee, draws it out. Sam rolls his eyes. "Seriously, just don't drag me into your thing, you know?"

"It's fine, we're casual and shit," Sam says, heading to the fridge. "Don't worry about it."

Behind him, Cogs snorts. "Because you're so great at that."

"Fuck you," Sam says as he rummages, looking for the juice, "we do fine, don't we?"

"Well, yeah, but we're not talking about us," Cogs says. "You have a tendency to – never mind, but what I said still stands. Definitely not tagging along on one of your booty calls again."

"Wait, what tendency?" Sam takes his findings from the fridge – orange juice and milk for the cereal – and drops them on the table, probably with more force than he intended, because what does Cogs even mean? He doesn't know why Cogs is making a big deal out of this at all. He's fine, Johnny's fine, everyone's fine!

Cogs just shakes his head. "Look it's not like, an insult to you or whatever, but you're not exactly good at setting boundaries, Sam."

"Is this about you hearing Johnny and I fuck the other night," Sam says pointedly, "you creeper."

"Yeah, no, I was smart enough to bring my Beats, thank god," Cogs replies. There's a pause, like Cogs is hesitant to tell him more. "It's not that. I mean, the whole thing was awkward as fuck, but no, it's that. Just – are you sure you're on the same page as Tavares?"

"For sure." Sam wrinkles his nose. "I don't know what you think you saw, but Johnny was just getting twitchy about the noise, seriously. Sorry it was weird for you, man, but don't worry about it." Just because John appreciates cuddling more than Cogs does, it doesn't mean they aren't cool with casual. "And it hasn't been that long," he adds, "you used to be fine with my hookups hanging around."

Cogs looks pitying, which Sam hates. "Yeah, that's why I know that you're shit at this. Whatever, I don't care, I just don't want to make stuff awkward for you guys, you know?"

Sam kicks him under the table. "Dude, seriously, it was fine. He knows about you: it's basically the same. Relax."

Cogs makes a vague noise and goes back to drinking his coffee, though the disadvantage of having known him for this long is that Sam can tell when he hasn't actually conceded the argument. It's dumb though. Sam has no idea why Cogs is being so weird about this now. This is what it's always been like with John, so there's no problem.

--

 

Things go back to normal for John – well, as normal as they're going to get, at least. He goes to the gym to train, he plays hockey, then trains again, and plays more hockey. Sometimes he goes out with his teammates, especially when Streiter chirps him about being a lonely old maid with a dozen cats (which, what even, he has no cats, okay?) and it's good. Fun. He mostly doesn’t think about Sam and the way Sam fit perfectly against him that last night.

He still has Skype dates with Sam. Not as frequent as before, not even close. Partly because Cogs is still there and Sam gets a little busy with hockey and Andrew and Austria, but also partly because John doesn't really know what to say a lot of the time. He finds himself close to telling Sam how he feels some nights, but he's not sure he's ready yet to hear Sam say he’d rather keep things casual.

He’s looking forward to going to Davos, and Sam's been pretty much counting down the days at him, but he's still not quite prepared for it until he actually arrives. He knows Sam got in the day before, but he doesn't have time to do more than text him, "I'm here", before Hockey Canada people drag him off to do jerseys and paperwork and other boring things.

John doesn't actually see Sam until dinner when the media scrum is over and he's finally allowed to escape. Sam closes the gap between them and John smiles tiredly into his shoulder.

Sam wraps his arms around John, his lips brushing against John's ear. "Hey," he says happily.

John's forgotten how good Sam feels, how good he smells, and he's unable to say anything other an a weak, "Hey back."

Sam slaps him on the back as he lets go. "This is gonna be great!" His grin is blinding.

The last thing John wants to do now is to have to go have dinner with their whole team, when all his brain is doing is reminding him how pleasant it is to curl up with Sam, all easy affection and smiles, but he does it anyway. It's not actually awful, he knows half the guys already, or has at least played against them here or at home. There's semi-mandatory bonding after the meal, a rec room with tvs and a ping pong table for them to hang out in. John thinks he could probably beg off early, claim fatigue, but Sam seems really into the ping-pong game he's playing, and John doesn't know how to separate him from it without making himself really obvious.

In spite of himself, he gets into the dubbed movie some of the guys are watching, or at least the extended debate that Segs and Bergy are having about whether the couple on screen are related or dating. He’s been forcing himself to not watch Sam's game, so it's a surprise when he drops onto the couch next to John, and says, abruptly, "Well, I lost. We should go catch up, hey?"

John nods and wipes his hands on his jeans. "You need practice," he says. Sam just rolls his eyes at him and pushes off the couch, turning to offer a hand to John.

"Well, you coming or not?"

John takes Sam's hand and stands up. He says his goodbye to the rest of the team and allows himself to be dragged away.

They have separate rooms, but Sam leads them wordlessly towards his and John doesn't question it. Not when Sam pushes him against the door as soon as they've shut it, kissing him deeply, his hands carding through John's hair.

He pulls Sam close with a hand on his ass, feels Sam grin against his lips and roll his hips against John's shamelessly, working one leg between John's thighs. John makes an embarrassingly high pitched noise when Sam dips his head and nips at the tendons in his throat, another when Sam licks at the bite, and he can feel the cool of the room sharp on his damp skin.

Sam wriggles against him and, when John tightens his grip on Sam's ass to hold him still - fuck, it's been too goddamn long to not draw this out - Sam fucking purrs, kissing John again, eyes hooded with lust.

John runs his tongue over Sam's lower lip before sucking on it. Sam tastes so fucking good and he hates that he's almost forgotten, that it's been too long. "Missed you," he pants in between kisses, his grip still firm over Sam's ass. "Missed you so fucking much, Sammy." He stills as soon as the words are out, because he isn't supposed to say that out loud.

He kisses Sam fiercely instead and pulls him towards the bed. He bunches Sam's shirt in his fingers, breaking the kiss just short enough to pull it over Sam's head. He doesn't want to hear Sam's reply, so he dives back, kissing Sam even more fiercely.

Sam doesn't seem to mind, he still has one hand tangled in John's hair, the other slipping under the hem of John's shirt to stroke along his back. John hisses when Sam runs his nails along his spine, caught between shuddering away from the pain and rolling into the pleasure of it.

Sam takes advantage of the broken kiss to yank John's shirt off. He presses close again after, chest to chest, and John closes his eyes to luxuriate in the warm solidity of Sam against him. Sam kisses him again, slowly, tongues slip-sliding against each other. John feels like he's breathing Sam in, holding onto him in a way that Sam can't walk away from. He's pretty sure he could do this forever, but Sam is more impatient, pressing closer, hands roaming restlessly, the hard line of his dick hot against John's hip, even through their jeans.

"Fuck me," Sam says, and pushes John back against the bed and straddles his hips, grinding against him slowly and deliberately.

John bites back the incoherent noise he wants to make, and says, slightly strangled, "Um, do you have...?"

Sam lifts an eyebrow. "Seriously? how long have you known me?"

He climbs off John's lap to rummage in a suitcase, leaving John to attempt to catch his breath and take off his pants. It's not exactly helping that he's staring at Sam's ass as he bends over, but he's pretty sure he would have to be a fucking saint not to.

Sam grins triumphantly as he tosses a tube and a packet at John, who barely catches them, distracted as he is by Sam shucking off his jeans. He dumps them on the bed somewhere when Sam sits down to pull off a sock, and leans over to press Sam into the bed, lick into his mouth, run his hands over Sam's chest.

Sam moans, and John feels a rush of pleasure; this isn't quite what he wants to say, but at least he can communicate, with his tongue and his hands, how he wants Sam to feel this good.

He nips at Sam's collarbones, runs his nails across Sam's ribs, Sam groaning and moving into his hands. He could go on longer, but Sam digs a heel into John's thigh as he presses a kiss to the cut of Sam's hipbones, hissing, "Fuck me," though the imperative is undercut by the breathy moan at the end.

John mouths at the shape of Sam's cock through the fabric of his briefs and Sam lets out a low whine. "Stop being a fucking tease, Johnny."

Sam's already leaking precome, and John can't help but lick at the wet spot, tasting Sam for the first time in weeks, before hooking his thumbs into Sam's briefs and pulling them off. He closes a hand around Sam's dick, his grip firm and steady, as he licks at the crown and laps at the slit.

He nudges Sam's legs open and runs his fingers gently across Sam's balls before ghosting them over Sam's hole. Sam's hips buck up, and John puts his hand on Sam's stomach in warning. He squeezes lube over his fingers, rubbing his thumb over the gel to warm it up before pressing one finger inside Sam.

He’s slow, controlled, until Sam's thrashing on the bed, hands grasping at the sheets. "More," Sam begs. "Now, Johnny."

John generally accepts that he can't put a condom on one-handed, but right now he hates that fact a lot. His hands are only off Sam for a moment, but it's a fucking gorgeous moment: Sam's hand on his own dick, head tipped back to groan, the sound feeling like it's resonating through John's bones.

Sam flashes a crooked grin as John lines himself up, which melts into a moan as he pushes his way inside, into heat and tightness. He stills for a second, panting into Sam's shoulder, but Sam goads him on with a heel in the back of his thigh and a high sweet sound in John's ear.

It's a familiar rhythm, slower at first, and Sam's hands roam across John's shoulders, nails sending shivers across his skin. They still as John speeds up and tries to get a hand on Sam's cock, Sam's fingers tight on his shoulders and bicep.

It's not a great angle and John almost shudders to a halt when Sam breathes, "Just fuck me," into his ear, replacing John's hand on his cock with his own, Sam's other hand tangled into John's hair.

John has no intention of making Sam wait any longer. He fucks into him, gripping Sam's waist tightly, hard enough to leave finger-shaped bruises in the morning. Sam urges him on, nails scraping sharp against John’s neck. John lays his head in the crook of Sam's shoulder, as he pushes deeper inside Sam, his thrusts matching the hitches in Sam's breathing.

John licks at the strip of skin right below Sam's ear, moaning against Sam's neck as he feels Sam tighten around him. Sam tugs at his hair gently, and pulls him closer before crushing their lips together, his tongue seeking entrance. They kiss like that for a while - intense and desperate and needy.

John can feel Sam's knuckles brush his stomach, Sam gasping silently when he speeds up. He tries to match Sam's pace, thinks he's got it when Sam groans and falls back against the pillow, panting, fingers tight against the back of John's neck. John's beyond the concentration needed to kiss as well, just presses his forehead into the crook of Sam's neck, back bent as he thrusts, increasingly shaky.

Sam comes first, hot and wet against John's stomach, nails digging into John's neck, mouth open as if he's about to scream. He falls back bonelessly, and there's something in the dazed pleasure in his eyes and how pliant he goes as John keeps fucking him, that pushes John over the edge.

His hips stutter to a stop as he slumps over Sam, who pulls him in close. He lies there for a moment, then tears himself away to deal with the condom, steeling himself against Sam's clutching hands and the way he mumbles, "Don't bother."

In the bathroom, the welts on his neck from Sam's nails are stark in the fluorescent light, one edged with blood where the skin was broken. He dabs at it, feeling an obscure pleasure not in the pain, but in how they don't quite look like sex marks, like Sam's given him something else for once.

It's a horrifyingly maudlin thought, but it returns once he's back in bed, when he points them out to Sam with a laugh, and Sam, voice rough and content, mutters an insincere 'sorry' against his lips, almost as if he'd made them on purpose.

Sam throws an arm around John's chest and burrows his face on John's neck. They're warm and sweaty and they're going to be disgusting tomorrow, but John just pulls Sam closer against him. It's the exact position they were in weeks ago at his apartment, and John feels a sharp pang at his chest at the reminder. He knows he's living on borrowed time here. Sam still isn't his and he doesn't get to be the only one who holds Sam close like this.

It doesn't take long for Sam to fall asleep, it never does, and John watches the rise and fall of his breathing for a little bit. It's probably a lot creepy, but John just wants to catalogue everything he can of Sam, uninterrupted, even if it's just for a little while. John sleeps restlessly. He can't fall into the same deep slumber as Sam, and when the clock on the bedside table reads 4:00, he decides that's it. John gingerly lifts Sam's arm from his chest and he moves around the room to pick up his clothes.

He walks towards the door, and, with one long last look at Sam, opens it and steps out.

He doesn't sleep that well in his own hotel room either, but he manages to get enough that he's pretty sure he can make up the difference with coffee. He's groggy all the way down to breakfast, and for once the sight of Sam's chipper morning face is irritating enough to drown out the helpless delight that wells up in his chest.

The annoyance is slightly mitigated when Sam waves him over to where he's sitting with some of the guys from Edmonton, and turns out to have gotten him a coffee already. He's only halfway through it when Duby leaves for some goalie thing, and he's starting to contemplate food when Smitty goes to get seconds from the buffet.

Sam leans over to him and drops his voice. "Dude, you know you could just use my shower, right?" he says with a grin, and John simply has no response to that, though it's no worse than any other cheerful obliviousness of Sam's.

He still doesn't really want to talk to other people, but he's grateful for the distraction when Segs joins them out of nowhere. Less so when he immediately points out the marks on John's neck, but at least he's easily diverted by the story of being bitten by an opposing player in Bern.

Sam tries to engage him in conversation, but John keeps his replies short. He knows he's probably being a dick, but he barely slept and he's still feeling groggy. Breakfast passes by quickly enough and John's saved by practice from having to deal with Sam's scrutiny.

The coaches decide in their first skate that John's centering the first line with Sam and Spezz on his wings, and he's equal parts excited at the prospect of playing on the same team as Sam again and a little bit annoyed at the universe because this isn't exactly going to help with his problem. It doesn't take more than a few minutes of ice time and drills to realise that something is off. None of his passes to Sam are connecting and it doesn't feel right. It makes no sense because playing on a line with Sam - it's nothing new. They’ve spent hours, months, years skating together, getting a feel for where the other is, and it shouldn't be like this.

Sam must feel it too, because he reaches for John right before they hit the bench and yanks roughly on John's jersey. "I don't know what's going on with you," he starts, "but whatever it is, get your head in the fucking game, John."

It's fucking embarrassing. Sam's right: he needs to get his shit together, at least on the damn ice. They are going to be representing Canada. It's a steadying thought.

The next drill is better, though it's an awful empty feeling after, acknowledging that he played better trying to think about his passes going to a Canada jersey than he did with his oldest friend. It's not even that cheering when Sam punches him in the shoulder after slipping a beaut past Duby, and says, "See? much better," smiling crookedly.

John smiles weakly and focuses on hockey exclusively for the rest of practice. It's almost back to normal by the end. He's sending and receiving clean passes and he even slips in a few goals on Duby. Hockey has always been able to balance him no matter what's going on around him. He focuses on the ice under his blades, on moving his legs in quick, steady strides.

He's taping his stick, centering himself on routine when Sam corners him in the locker room after practice, voice low and intent. "You wanna come back to my room? We can order room service."

Sam's words are innocent enough on the surface, but John knows better. He's tempted to say yes, because it's Sam, but he shakes his head and tries to grin. "Maybe later, buddy? I think I might want to get a nap in."

Sam's mouth tilts up, lopsided, as he whispers back, "We can do that, too."

God, John desperately wants that. He shifts from foot to foot, hands tight on his stick, and eventually says, "Alone, I meant. I think I might want to nap alone."

John thinks he sees something, hurt maybe, flash across Sam's face, but then Sam's chirping him for being an old man, and it seems like wishful thinking.

--

It's the sight of the freshly-made bed in his room that reminds Sam how weird it was that John wasn't there this morning. It hadn't seemed all that relevant at the time, Sam has never pretended that he's the most morning person around, and John often gets up first. When he's lucky, John comes back with coffee, but it's not like Sam expects that.

He doesn't really remember what happened though. John could have gotten up early this morning, but he could have left any time in the night. It nags at Sam that he doesn't really know. He goes to hang out with the guys and ends up losing horrifically at CoD to Duby because he can't stop stewing over what a fucking dick move it is to peace out right after sex without saying good-bye.

It's not like he did something wrong – or well, he doesn't think he did anything wrong. Sam tries to run through a mental list of events of the last twenty four hours, but he comes up empty. Sure, he directed his share of chirps at John yesterday, but it's John. Sam's thrown infinitely worse barbs at him that didn't result in John avoiding him all day and generally being a non.

The only significant incident Sam can think of is, well, the two of them fucking.

Except Sam was there; he's pretty sure he'd be entirely aware of it if fucking were the problem. Last night had been good – great, even. It always is with Johnny, and Sam's not sure what could've precipitated a change.

John had seemed pretty goddamn into it at the time; he'd just left after. Which, though Sam hates to admit it, probably means he's being pushy, the way Cogs complains he can be. He doesn't know why John didn't say anything though. He can take a hint, honestly. If Johnny wants them to chill out a bit, he can do that. Chilling out is easy.

Duby rolls his eyes when Sam rejoins the CoD group, but whatever, Sam's just playing the game now, he's not going to be a sore loser, or whatever Duby thinks he is. It's good to have that settled, and he's nearly serene as he loses again, three times in row.

John's at dinner, but he ends up way at the other end of the table so Sam can't do much more than nod at him. John smiles back, and Sam's glad that relaxing a bit seems to be working.

Everything's easier at dinner, but Sam knows he should probably make sure he and John are on the same page. They don't really get to spend too much time with each other at all until their bye day, though, because hockey comes first.

It feels a little wrong sometimes, like things are out of sorts, but they're busy and neither of them has the time to examine what's going on. There's a part of Sam that's grateful for the distraction, but then HC Davos beats Mannheim and they have a whole day of doing nothing before the semi-finals.

Sam finds himself squished into a tiny booth against Johnny in some corner pub in Davos proper by an overly enthusiastic Seguin and the rest of the team. John’s warm against Sam’s side as the rest of the team crushes them together.

John knows he's been a bit weird for a couple of days, but Sam doesn't seem to have noticed, if the way that he keeps grinning at John and nudging him in the side is anything to go on. Sam's not exactly bouncy, but he looks pretty pleased with the world, and more specifically them being there, winning things for Canada.

It's a good feeling, Sam's right, even when Segs chirps him and Bergy for being ridiculously patriotic and serious about the whole tournament. He could chirp back, but he just feels comfortable and happy right now. There's a lot of things John's achieved in his life, and a lot more he wants, but now, in this moment, there's nothing more he wants than to win for Canada. With Sam right beside him, on his line.

Sam's pretty sure he'd have to be dead not to laugh when someone toasts Canada, and John lifts his glass to clink Sam's with the goofiest damn grin all across his face, but he toasts him back anyway, blaming the rush of warmth in his stomach on lingering patriotism.

Sam's almost forgotten how easy it could be with Johnny sometimes. John's all smiles, loose and happy, and Sam almost lets out an audible sigh of relief. He's just glad he has his best friend back, that the awkwardness that permeated the air around them is nowhere in sight, even if John is being ridiculously in love with Canada.

It's almost adorable, he thinks, but Sam's not about to say that out loud.

Sam ends up talking across the table to Segs, telling him some awful story about teenage Kaner for Segs to annoy Pat with later. He’s not sure how the conversation turns from that to John telling embarrassing teenage stories about him, but he’s pretty sure it’s because Matty's a douche. Sam can't find it in himself to retort or do anything other than ruefully shake his head though because John's fingers are softly drumming against his thigh under the table and he can't really focus on anything else. He cracks up, because it’s a funny story for sure, but he's always aware that John’s right there beside him.

He tells him this later, as they're heading back to the hotel – "you've always got my back" – but John just laughs.

Sam can roll with that though, John looks more relaxed than he did before. All the more so when he leans in close and says, low in Sam's ear, "oh, is that what I've got?" Which is cool. Sam was being chill, but it's not pushing if John starts it.

John doesn't say anything when Sam follows him to his room, and John doesn't tell him to go when he shuts the door behind them. Instead, John pulls him close, breath ghosting over his ears. John doesn't speak, but he does kiss Sam, wet and pushy and desperate. It's good.

John's just tipsy enough that the thought that he can have this is overriding the thoughts of what he maybe can't have. This is pretty good anyway, especially when he remembers why exactly they're here and how well they've been doing and all the things that are going well right now. It sort of bubbles up out of him and he breaks off the kiss to grin at Sam and say, "semifinals, eh?"

Sam nearly falls over laughing. He wheezes out, between snorts, "I fucking love Canada, man, but this" - he punctuates it by squeezing John's ass - "is not about Canada."

John would protest that he didn't mean that, he's just happy, but Sam's kissing him again and his mouth is far more compelling.

John pulls them towards the bed, his hands roaming all over Sam's body because he can. They don't end up doing much, but the slick friction of Sam's dick moving against his own is enough, and when they come, John doesn't even bother to clean them up. He maneuvers their limbs, all loose and sticky, until Sam is pressed closed against him, his cheek on the crease of John's shoulder, arm splayed bonelessly over John's stomach, and it's enough. More than enough.

--

They win pretty decisively against Fribourg, and John's on a high. The guys chirp him about it, but John's missed this - donning a jersey with the Maple Leaf and winning for Canada. He didn't get a goal, but he did notch an assist, and he's happy.

He hasn't had very much to drink, but his belly feels warm. Sam's leaning against him and John knows he has a stupid grin on his face. He doesn't really care, though, because their shoulders and thighs are pressed together, and Sam feels solid against him.

They're not out late at all because of the final - the final! - tomorrow, and they all walk back to
the hotel together. John loses track of Sam in the lobby while Spezz is telling him about something cute his kid did the other day, and though they end up in the same elevator heading up to their rooms, he's not quite sure what to say with their teammates all around them.

He's watching Sam out of the corner of his eye all the way up, but Sam gives him no sign as he gets out at his floor, waving a good night to them all over his shoulder. It's probably for the best. It's not that that morning had been awkward, but John is pretty sure that he shouldn't let himself get used to that kind of thing when it doesn't mean what he'd like it to mean.

John heads to his room and starts getting ready for bed. It's not until he's about to turn in that he hears his phone beep.

We are with you, Johnny Canuck! For Canada, for freedom, to the death! Sam texts.

John rolls his eyes because Sam is ridiculous and he texts back, This isn't 300, asshole, but John can't help but smile, feeling a lot lighter.

Tomorrow's not going to be easy, but he's determined to win. He thinks Sam's gone to bed, because a reply doesn't come for a long time. His eyes are already closed when he feels his phone vibrate again.

I'm glad I got to play on your line

John types up a quick response before curling up against the blanket, eyes closing, feeling content like he hasn't been in a long time.

Me too, his response had said, me too.

--

Sam grins stupidly at his phone. He contemplates sending something else goofy to John, now that he's sure they're ok, but decides against it, too pleased by the confirmation that things aren't awkward between them anymore. He's glad they got back to where they wanted to be, that things are set up for tomorrow to be awesome, with nothing lingering on their minds. He stretches out comfortably in bed and falls asleep nearly at once.

--

The next morning passes by in a blur. John meets the team early for breakfast and a last-minute strategy meeting, and by the time he knows it, he's suiting up for the ice. He knocks his helmet against Sam's as they head out, his arm briefly touching the back of Sam's neck. They don't say anything to each other, but Sam's grinning, and John thinks - no, he knows they can do this.

They win 7-2. It's amazing and incredible, and he can't believe he's almost forgotten how good this feels. The atmosphere in the locker room after is insane; there's a vibrating hum in the air and it feels almost electric. John knows it's just the Spengler Cup, but he thinks it's still pretty awesome nonetheless.

Sam sidles up to him, draping his arm around John's shoulders. "We won," Sam says excitedly, still in his sweaty gear.

John's about to reply, but Segs bundles over to them and yells, "Pictures! Gimme your phone, Johnny, why aren’t you taking pictures?!"

John blinks at him. Segs huffs. "Nevermind, I'll take a picture and I'll send it to you, you old man." John just nods and smiles when Seguin aims his phone at them, but Seguin stops and clucks, "What is this? Do you two hate each other? Stand closer! We just won gold, motherfuckers. You could at least look a little happier!"

Sam elbows John in the side. "You heard him, cheer up! Did you forget we won?" he says, and laughs at the indignation on John's face. He makes Segs take one with his phone too, and then one of them with Spezz, and then what feels like a million more with basically everyone.

It's a while before anyone even settles down enough to take off their gear, a win is always a win, and it's always worth a party. John grins at Sam from across the room and wants to whoop back. He settles for waving exuberantly and unnecessarily.

It's New Year's Eve, so the alcohol is flowing and everything's raucous and loud. John has a good buzz going, but he's not quite that drunk, so he politely declines Seguin's request to join him on top of the bar counter. John knows he's not the best dancer on an actual dance floor to begin with - he doesn't think it'd be a great idea to add gravity to the mix.

Sam nudges him, voice soft and hoarse. "I don't know," he starts, "think you would've given a great show."

"Buddy, how much have you had?" John says, voice all mock concern. Sam just grins and throws an arm around his shoulders. They stand there watching Segs with everyone else. Sam's radiant, like he's on top of the world, and he's looking at John like he wants to kiss him out of sheer glee.

John's pretty sure even Segs' good time isn't compelling enough to make everyone else miss that, so he's glad Sam settles for stroking his thumb along John's neck instead. But, fuck, the way Sam scrapes over the welts he left that first night in Davos, just slightly, probably imperceptible to anyone not pressed as close as Sam is, makes John shiver.

It's a hell of a reminder.

He leans in, just close enough for Sam to hear him. "I'll be back real quick - just need some air."

He hops off the stool and heads towards the door, Sam trailing behind him. John leans against the wall just outside the exit, breathing in the cold night wind. Sam closes in beside him, his fingers brushing against John's wrist, and John has to look at him. Sam looks loose and relaxed. "Hey."

John rolls his eyes. "Hey back," he mumbles.

They stay there for a moment, the bricks rough and cold against their backs, just breathing. The corners of Sam’s mouth twitch with suppressed laughter; he looks elated, if a little frozen. John turns to go inside and Sam pulls him back, kisses him quick and dirty. He releases him and steps away, gesturing at the door back into the bar. "After you." John gives him a suspicious look, but mostly grins, and Sam only smacks his ass a little as they rejoin the group.

Two hours later, shortly after the clock strikes midnight, the fatigue from the last two days really hits John. He sees Spezz and a couple of other guys start to head out, so he makes his rounds around the room, congratulating all the guys again and wishing them a happy new year. Sam's the last one left, and John makes his way towards him. John doesn't remember when Patrick Kane got here, but the two of them are in a noisy battle about who had the worst smelling equipment when they played for the Knights. John nods at Sam and mimes that he's leaving, not wanting to interrupt.

Sam turns to him. "Do you want me to go with you?" John shakes his head. He really is tired and he'll probably just end up sleeping, anyway. No sense taking Sam away when he knows Sam hasn't seen Pat in a long time either.

"I'll meet you at breakfast tomorrow? Your flight doesn't leave 'til 10 something, right?" he offers. Sam nods. "Cool, then, I'll meet you for breakfast somewhere before that." He pats Sam's shoulders, then Patrick's, and heads out.

John is seriously rethinking the importance of breakfast when his phone shrills at him in the morning, but by the time he's showered, he's conscious enough to know that he'll regret not seeing Sam again before they leave.

Breakfast in the hotel isn't that different from all the other days they've been there. A little quieter maybe, just about everyone without a flight is still asleep, but Sam's chatty, telling John some long story he might have heard before, but isn't really processing this time around anyway.

He's mostly watching Sam's face, the way his mouth crooks to the right when he's amused by his own story, the way he leans back casually, eyes still half-lidded, like he's still riding the high from last night. He walks Sam back to his room after breakfast and hugs him fiercely before he leaves.

Sam kisses him when they separate, deep and wet, teeth sharp against John's tongue.

"Not that this wasn't awesome, but the next time I see you, I fucking hope we're playing in the NHL again," Sam says in response to John's farewell.

"See you there," John echoes, and goes back to his room to pack his own bags.

--

The lockout ends in early January. Sam feels a little guilty for ditching out on KAC, but he's excited, really excited, as he tries to get everything sorted and packed for the flight back to Canada. He can't quite believe it's all over, and Cogs has taken to teasing him mercilessly about the way he grins to himself at random. He can't help it: he's going back home, to Canada. Sam's just happy.

He flies back to Toronto first to see his parents and to gather the rest of his gear together. He doesn't have a lot of time in Oakville, but he does get to see Johnny the day before he has to fly out of Toronto. The old rink is set up at his parents' place, and they spend hours skating together, just like when they were kids. A few friends drop in over the course of the afternoon, but mostly it's just the two of them, the way they're used to.

It doesn't take long for the afternoon winter sun to sink into dusk, and Johnny comes home with Sam. Sam hadn't planned on it, but they sleep together anyway, slow and languid, like neither of them have flights out of there the next day.

"We're playing again, Sam," John breathes into Sam's hair a beat after they've come down from their orgasms.

It's kind of silly because they've been playing hockey, but Sam knows exactly what Johnny means. Austria is great, but Sam would be lying if he said he didn't want to play Oilers hockey again.

--

They get back to playing, but they don't get to see each other in person, not even once. It’s hectic and they barely even get to Skype until their seasons end, Sam's a little earlier than John's, but both of them earlier than they would like.

Wedding season’s started, so Sam’s in Florida when John gets back to Mississauga. They texted during the season, congratulations when the Isles made it, awkward acknowledgement when the Pens won. They have plans to hang out in the summer, they always have plans to hang out in the summer, but nothing's definite yet, so John tries to put it out of his mind.

He catches up with PK instead, and then everyone else who's trickling slowly back into the GTA. He's not sure what to make of it when Sam texts him, out of nowhere, just got off a plane, have to sleep for 12 hours, but then we’ll chill.

It's what he wants, to see Sam again, to be the person Sam texts the second he's home, but he can't tell if Sam means it like that, or if he's sent this to every hockey player in the GTA. In the end, he texts back k, bring beer i'm out, because that's safe, and he can't think of anything else to say.

His door buzzer goes off at 9AM. He drags himself out of bed and over to the intercom and Sam's voice, tinny over the shitty speaker.

John groans a little because Sam would come at 9AM instead of a more normal hour. He buzzes Sam in, unlocks his door and goes back to bed, because tough, Sam can deal. He half-expects Sam to yell at him and drag him out of bed, so he's taken aback when he feels the bed dip slightly, Sam's arm wrapping around his waist, Sam's lips brushing against his ear.

"You're a terrible host," Sam mutters in John's ear.

John slits one eye open, and grumbles, almost too low for Sam to hear, "shut up, it's 9, and it's summer."

"I fucked up my sleep schedule on the plane," Sam admits. "I've been up since six."

"Your terrible decisions aren't my fault," John grumbles. Sam tucks his chin comfortably into John's shoulder and he relents. "If you let me sleep another hour, I will make you food."

It doesn't sound like a terrible deal to Sam, and he's a lot more comfortable here than he was tossing in his own bed. He doesn't mean to fall asleep on John, but John is warm and comfortable and it's 11 before they wake up. John's migrated to leaning on Sam's shoulder, and is drooling on his t-shirt.

"You showed up in my bed," he insists when Sam points it out, but he does wander off into the kitchen, scrubbing a hand through his hair, to start a pot of coffee and cook some eggs and Sam isn't dumb enough to turn down food he didn't have to make himself.

John watches Sam settle down at his kitchen table and it's just like being back in his apartment in Bern cooking eggs for the two of them. Sam looks the same now as he did then; awful bed-head, eyes barely open, clothes wrinkled and disheveled. John has to look back at the eggs to keep from saying something stupid.

"Don't forget the cheese! And some milk!" Sam says.

John has to roll his eyes, because he's been making Sam breakfast since they were sixteen. It's not like he's suddenly forgotten how to do it over the course of the season. "Yes, dickhead. You want a bellini with that, too?" he chirps.

"Oh, juice is fine," Sam says, eyes guileless.

John mutters, "dick," and elbows him in passing, but Sam isn't paying attention to anything except his eggs.

They texted a ton all season, when the times matched up right, but it's not the same as having Sam here, in his kitchen, just catching up, the slow sweetness of his grin as he laughs at the story he's telling accompanied by the feeling of his knees knocking against John's under the table.

They end up sprawled lazily on the couch after breakfast, controller in hand, playing Islanders vs Edmonton on NHL 13. They don't speak much in between chirps and boos, but it's good - it's comfortable and John's missed this. He can't help but sneak glances at Sam, though, and he gets distracted by the way Sam bites his lower lip in concentration. He thinks he's being discreet, but Sam nudges him and says, "Pay attention, asshole."

He throws himself into beating Sam after that because whatever, he is actually awesome at this game. Possibly his shout of victory in the end is excessive: Sam topples against him, laughing so hard he's tearing up, wheezing helplessly on John's couch.

Sam fights to sit back up, biting at his lip to try and stop laughing. It's a struggle because fuck, John's face. John's watching Sam now though, eyes zeroed in on where Sam's biting his own lip, and that right there is another kind of reunion Sam would be happy to have, except that he's not actually sure John's into that anymore. He thinks there was some girl in NY during the season, John mentioned one a couple of times, and he'd looked pretty happy when Sam had seen him on Skype and tried to weasel details out of him, even if he'd been boringly close-lipped.

They're startlingly close, like they're both waiting for the other person to make the first move, but Sam can’t. "This is okay, right?" he asks, uncertain. He wants to lean in because John's right there. But he's not a dick; he's not going to make a move, not if someone's waiting for John back in NY.

John blinks in confusion, but he doesn't move away, either. "Why wouldn't it be?"

Sam shrugs. "There was that girl? In New York? I can't remember if you said that ended."

"Yeah," John says slowly, "that ended a while back." It sounds better than 'barely began' anyway: two, three pretty good dates and then a frankly pathetic slow drift apart as road trips happened and the season got even more intense.

Sam grins up at him. "Cool. Just wanted to make sure we were both still single." It's news to John because he never knows what the hell is up with Sam's love life, but Sam closes the gap between them and stops the questions forming on his tongue with a kiss.

They stay like that on the couch for a while, just a kissing, without any real sense of urgency. John's thinner under Sam's hands, worn down by the last few weeks of hockey, and Sam runs his fingers down the bumps of his spine. John's hands, however, are still broad and warm on Sam's thigh, against his neck, and Sam's breathing heavily when he tries to get up from the couch. John stares at him, just for a moment, before Sam is clutching at his shirt and pulling him up.

"I'm not gonna come on your couch," Sam says. "Let's go, you loser."

John tries to stifle a grin. "Wow, you're presumptuous. Who said that’s what’s happening here?" Sam ignores him and shoves him to his room, shutting the door firmly behind them.

It takes a long time before they leave his bedroom again.

--

Sam hangs around John's all afternoon. They can't stop talking: there’s an astonishing number of stories about the season that they didn't manage to tell each other despite texting constantly. It's getting late and Sam's starting in on his third beer when John narrows his eyes and says, in tones of dawning realisation, "You just haven't set your place up, have you?"

Sam grins back at him, shrugs one shoulder. "Nah. You got me."

He's got sheets and stuff, but he's still avoiding his suitcases and he definitely doesn't have food. It’s also really good to see John again, solid and familiar. He tips his head onto John's shoulder, and waves the bottle at him. "Anyway, it's not like I can drive tonight."

John's sigh ruffles against Sam's hair as he pulls Sam in with an arm around his shoulders, but Sam can hear the laugh in it.

John puts on Netflix and they sit there, just idly watching a movie, Sam's head on his shoulders, his arms around Sam, beers in their hands. John thinks he can stay like this forever, but he tries to shake the thought away, because it's pointless. So he just pulls Sam tighter, pulls him closer, and tries to get a few more laughs out of Sam as they watch the movie. It's good and it's enough.

Sam really does have to leave the next morning. Renée's coming over, and the last thing he wants is to give his little sister ammo about his inability to feed himself. He makes plans with Johnny for the weekend, though, as he heads out the door.

John nods along, trying not to stare too obviously at the mark on Sam's neck. He'd made it that morning, Sam making breathless noises all the while, and, fuck, thinking of the taste of Sam's skin is distracting as hell.

He thinks he agrees to a week up in Muskoka, but he's not quite sure what else. Sam looks knowingly at John as he leaves, and says, "oh, I'll be back" with a wink. John buries his head in his hands as Sam shuts the front door on the sound of his own laughter.

--

Sam bounces from place to place for the rest of May and early June. He goes back to Edmonton for a couple of days to tie up loose ends that he put off in his hurried escape back to Ontario, and it's kind of nice to be in the city again. He meets with Jonesy and Horcs for a round of golf, and honestly, fuck John for saying he's procrastinating. Sam just wants to hang out with his teammates, that's all.

He flies to Hanover after and tries not to feel too old, because his little sister is graduating. Sometimes he still has a hard time seeing Jessica as a grown up, much to his sister's chagrin, but now she's graduating, with arguably more life experiences than he'll ever have, and he's inordinately proud.

The rest of June is spent between Muskoka and Toronto. He's training with Andy again, sometimes with Dutchy, sometimes with Nate, and it's good. He's still starting slow, he doesn't want to do anything dumb and injure himself, and anyway Andy won't let him do more, but the past year was frustratingly good. Better than the year before - he can fucking feel how much better - and yet not quite enough.

Sam's happy he gets to train in Toronto this year instead of LA, loves that he has time to catch up with people now instead of constantly having to remember time differences and distance. Renée's done with her semester, and he torments her forever about how one year at university's changed her, just to make up for barely seeing her all year. He tries to get up to the cottage as much as possible, even if the first time he makes it up north, it's mostly just a reminder of how uncertain spring is in Ontario and he spends a few days being rained out with occasional hail.

The guys are more or less still around; some permanently in Ontario now, others trickling in and out as hockey seasons end. John's around pretty consistently, and his condo is a lot more likely to have food in it than Sam's fridge these days, so Sam spends a lot of time there.

Sam tries to spread his time around between all of his friends – Cody, Steps, and the boys – but he likes coming back to John's place the most. It's not even because of the sex, although that's obviously good, too, and Sam won't ever be complaining about that.

John's place is just comfortable. John's comfortable, if he's being more specific, and Sam finds himself rapping at John's door a lot of nights instead of going to home John chirps him about his inability to properly set up his apartment, which, really, there's a lot of truth to that, but it's okay because John doesn't ask him about Edmonton and next season. John doesn't ask him about plans Sam knows he doesn't really have, and John doesn't ever push.

It's nice, really nice.

--

John's condo is seriously comfortable, but even if they were inclined to hide away, PK and the guys would never let them. The bar he drags them, Mouls, Cody, and a bunch of guys to is empty on a random Tuesday night, but it's kind of nice to be able to just hang out like regular guys. There's no playoff game on TV, but TSN’s doing hockey news, and the whole table erupts in laughter when Johnny's face pops up on the screen with the other Hart nominees.

Sam would be the first to admit that John's grown into his face pretty nicely, but he looks like a teenager again when he screws up his face and glares at them.

"Congrats on the nom though," Cody says earnestly, when they've finished chirping John over the incredibly terrible pictures TSN has accompanied their story with. "You've got a chance, man, it's cool."

John perks up some at that, so Sam has to say, snorting audibly, "this guy? You kidding me? Yeah, right." He knocks his knee against John's under the table and grins. John doesn't quite go back to teenage scowling, but he shoots Sam a dirty look, and Sam can return to his beer, feeling accomplished as John elbows him back.

The tv turns to the baseball scores and the conversation moves on. It's only later, when they're hanging out on John's couch, trying to sober up a bit before bed, that it seems important that John know Sam was kidding. He pokes John, tilting his head to look John in the eye when John turns toward him. "About the Hart, yeah? You know I'm proud of you, right? You know, also you're terrible, and I'm never going to stop telling you, but you did good, and I'm proud."

John's mouth curls up on one side, and his fingers brush Sam's thigh. "Yeah, I saw it on twitter," he says lightly and Sam has to laugh.

John wrinkles his nose at that, but also leans over to kiss Sam, warm and amused.

--

Drinks aside, it takes Matt longer than John to settle back into Ontario; John guesses having a kid makes it more work. He ends up going over there a lot once Matt's stopped sending him panicked texts about unpacking, and where the hell did all of these baby things come from, and similar chaos. He sees Matt most days in Long Island, but it feels different here. More relaxed, probably, though the way Leesha seems totally willing to dump the baby on them while she goes out is a startling change as well.

It startles him at first, seeing Matt's kid again. John knows that babies grow up and get older, obviously, but it doesn't make it any less jarring when he sees how huge she’s become. She's starting to form words now. Nothing too impressive or coherent, but it's like she's growing into her own personality, and John’s mostly used to thinking of her as a purveyor of loud noises and unnerving smells.

She's a pretty good kid, John guesses. Doesn't scream much or anything, and he gets used to chatting while Matt wanders around the room behind her as she trudges determinedly through her toys, shouting as she goes, things that Matt seems to be able to understand, but that just sound like squeaking to John's ears.

He's impressed with himself when Matt has to go answer the phone and Mila doesn't kill herself during the five or six minutes they're left alone together, especially because there's no reason to tell Matt how long it took him to notice that she was eyeing the power cord on the lamp like it might be delicious. He'd stopped her before she'd actually put it in her mouth, which is the main thing, and everything was fine.

It doesn't make it any less overwhelming when Mila decides to use John as a pillow an hour later, her tiny fists mashed into John's cheeks, her head tucked against his neck. He tries to call Matt's name softly, and motion for him to come over without waking Mila, but Matt shakes his head and laughs mercilessly.

"I am not a crib," John says through gritted teeth, keeping his voice low.

Matt shrugs before plopping down on the chair across from John, legs stretched over the coffee table, comfortable and relaxed. "She's your problem now, Johnny."

Mila turns out to be a pretty good sleeper. She's not that heavy, so John forgets she's there as she sleeps through their increasingly loud argument about last week's golf game. He’s less impressed that she's still sleeping on him an hour later when Leesha gets home.

"You didn't tell me he babysat," she says, perching on the arm of Matt's chair and laughing at the two of them.

"I don't," John grumbles, a little terrified that they're going to leave him here.

Leesha takes Mila from him in one smooth motion; Mila sleeps on, feet kicking gently. "You're only getting out of it because Matt's mom would kill all three of us for it," she informs him with a worryingy evil smile, and leaves the room. John scowls at Matt, who's doubled over laughing.

"Your face, man," Matt says with a shrug and wipes his eyes.

When he complains about this later to Barbara, it somehow gets back to his mom who makes increasingly unsubtle queries for a week about whether he wants kids yet. He doesn't, not at all, but it's okay to hang out with Matt from time to time and watch Mila teaching herself to stand by climbing their pant legs.

Sam doesn't believe in his newfound prowess with children when he tells him about hanging out with Matt two days later after Sam gets back from LA, but whatever, it's not like Sam's any better. Sam's sisters told him about the cousin Annie story, so Sam has no room to talk at all.

"Are you going to be Mila's new nanny, then?" Sam asks while they’re cooking dinner.

John rolls his eyes. "Did the sun fry your brain?" He took care of a sleeping baby for less than an hour. He's under no illusion that he could handle any more than that.

It's good to have Sam back, John thinks, when they're both lying across the couch, squashed together in front of the television. It's not that he missed Sam. He was only gone for a couple of days, and John's not sure you can miss someone in such a short amount of time. He doesn't even see Sam every day as it is. But it's not the same when he's in LA and not around to potentially steal all of John's food and take up his couch.

Sam's around quite a lot, though. They work out together sometimes, or golf, or just chill at John's place. Sam doesn't stay over every night, but he does pretty regularly. When they're curled up together, sweaty and sated, Sam's breath warm on the back of John's neck, John's pretty sure he could get used to it, even if Sam can't.

--

Sam basically never stops talking about the cottage once the summer starts, and he keeps threatening to drag John up north, but they don’t get around to making firm plans until late June. At least that means it'll be warm enough to swim. John's in a good enough mood about summer and shit that he doesn't even mind that it takes for-fucking-ever to get out of the GTA. The sun is shining on the dismal industrial buildings that line the highway, and life feels pretty good. John spares a thought to wonder if he brought enough beer for this; Sam hadn't said how many people were coming, and he also didn't really want to bring Sam's parents a carload of booze, but whatever, it's not exactly the middle of nowhere, whatever Sam says when he's getting all sappy over nature, and they can always do another liquor store run later.

It doesn't take him too long to get to Sam's cottage once he leaves the GTA, and before he knows it, he's turning to the almost hidden gravel path off the main road that leads towards Sam's driveway. It's been a couple of years since John's made a trip up to the cottage, so it sort of surprises him to see everything's still the same. He spots Sam's car and parks right beside it. The driveway is bare, save for their cars. It's odd, but John guesses the boys are probably just coming a little later, that's all.

Sam comes bounding out of the front door as he gets out of the car. "Johnny!" Sam exclaims. "You made it! Took you long enough, asshole."

John grins and hugs him back. He pops the trunk and hefts two of the cases and Sam laughs. "Shit, Johnny, you planning on being wasted all week long?"

John hums acknowledgement, trying to balance the beer and see if he can snag his duffel at that same time. "Wasn't sure who'd be here," he says absently.

Sam bumps his hip. "It's just us, if that's cool? R&R, y'know?" John's stomach does flips, even though he tells it sternly not to read too much into anything.

"Sounds good," he mumbles, digging his fingers into flimsy cardboard instead of reaching out to hug Sam the way he wants to.

Sam takes the duffel, and leads the way into the house. He leaves John in the kitchen, shouting over his shoulder that he's going to drop John's bag upstairs.

They make another couple of trips from the car, and John does feel increasingly like he overbought, though Sam just grins at him and says, "Whatever, beer doesn't go off."

John stashes the last box in the kitchen and goes to drop down beside Sam on the couch. Sam's cottage is gorgeous, with high ceilings, wall to wall glass windows, and a giant TV as the centerpiece. They fight for the remote, hands lingering on each other longer than they probably should, and it's good. John tells himself he's letting Sam win because Sam's a sore loser, but really, Sam's grin is infectious and he doesn't even mind when Sam flips the TV on to something ridiculous.

"When did you get here, anyway," John asks after a while.

Sam shrugs, stretching on the couch until his legs are in John's lap. "Eight this morning? Something like that."

“I didn’t think you did mornings in the offseason.”

Sam laughs. "Fuck off, there's these things called alarm clocks, you know. And I didn't want to get caught in traffic on the QEW."

John shakes his head in mock disbelief, his hand on Sam's feet, absentmindedly running his thumb over Sam's anklebone.

"Besides," Sam continues, "I had to make sure the cottage was clean and shit. Can't expect you to put out if it's in shambles."

John rolls his eyes because honestly, he's been to Sam's mess of a house. They've fucked in Sam's mess of a house.

Sam grins back at him. "Well, you might have developed standards on the drive up, who knows?"

"Fuck you, my standards are awesome," John says, but there's no venom in it.

Sam flutters his eyelashes. "You say the sweetest things, Johnny-boy."

There isn't really a response John can make to that that isn't either far too revealing or the opposite of what he wants to say, so he settles for scuffling again.

John ends up flat on his back on the couch, mussed and grinning, with Sam kneeling over him. It's a good look, Sam thinks, as he leans in to kiss him.

John looks panicked, and Sam's about to pull away, hurt, when John blurts, "fuck, I feel like we're kids again, and I keep expecting your parents to show up. Is that weird?" and all Sam can do is laugh. "Shut up, I can't help it, okay? I feel like your mom's about to come out of the kitchen and ask us what we want for dinner," John says, a little indignantly. "...I guess that is a little weird."

Sam laughs even harder at that, but John tugs him closer, his hand curling around the back of Sam's neck. Sam's soft and pliable against him when John kisses him, his laughter still bubbling up in between them.

"Stop laughing at me," John whines, "that's not very nice."

Sam kisses him soundly. "You're such a non," he says. "Why do I even put up with you?"

John's about to make a retort, except Sam kisses down the curve of his neck, and John can't do anything but moan.

They make out for a while, but neither of them push it any further. It's a heady mix of intensity and sweetness and John can't get enough.

Sam makes dinner when they eventually drag themselves off the couch, laughing at the way John can't help but hover over the grill and fret wordlessly at him, daring him to comment. Seriously, he can handle this part, despite his lack of skills in an actual kitchen.

It's only been a couple of days since they've seen each other, but they talk long enough that the mosquitoes are coming out by the time they manage to move themselves off the deck. Sam almost feels like he should let them come, chalking up his vague feelings of affection toward them to just one more part of the cottage experience that he can already feel unwinding the tension in his bones, pure nostalgia overwhelming all the things he was worried about in the city. John's looking twitchy though, so Sam settles for sighing "aah, mosquitoes" as they go inside, and chirping John, who's looking like Sam's lost his mind, about how irresistibly delicious John must be that every bug north of Newmarket wants a piece of him.

They make their way back to the couch, Sam turning the TV on, and they watch the Jays vs Indians game in silence. At the bottom of the 7th inning, John stretches, limbs finally recovering from the long drive over. He takes a long look at Sam - he's sacked out on the couch, an almost blissed-out expression on his face, and can't not chirp him a little. "So this is the cottage life, huh? Kinda boring if you ask me."

Sam throws a pillow at him. "Whatever, you love it," he replies. John can't really mock Sam too much, because it's true, he does love being here, and today's been great. It's not like they’ve lacked any kind of togetherness: they've been seeing each other almost daily since they got back to Oakville. Maybe he's buying into Sam's affection for the woods, he's not sure, but this feels different.

The Jays eke out a win, and Sam looks at John blearily at the end of the game. "Bed?"

"Getting weak there in your old age, eh, Sammy?" John says without heat, and Sam just shakes his head.

John follows Sam upstairs. It's not until they're halfway up that he starts to wonder about their sleeping arrangement. He hadn't really known who was going to be here when he'd come up, knows they're not dating, wasn't expecting anything, but it's just the two of them now, and he's not sure if he's supposed to sleep in one of the other guest rooms. But he spots his duffle bag in the master bedroom along with Sam's things, and pads after Sam, closing the door behind them.

--

John wakes up the next morning to Sam nuzzling into his neck and they have slow, lazy morning sex, barely rocking against each other, as the sunlight streaming through the windows lights up the room.

They get out of bed eventually. They don't have the luxury of skipping workouts, even on vacation, and Sam has enough equipment to at least get them through their most basic routine. There's just a bike and a weight machine, but John only laughs when Sam apologises for the lack of facilities, and chirps him for living in the lap of luxury.

Most of the day is spent taking advantage of the lake. There isn't much of a beach, more of a clay mudflat, but there's a dock to jump off of and it's a nice little bay. The other cottages are barely visible, and seem to be empty anyhow, though when John voices the thought, Sam reminds him that other people actually work during the week, eh?

It feels quiet, is the thing. He's been here before, but it was a lot less peaceful with Sam's sisters and their friends running around as well. He flops back onto his deck chair and turns his face up to the sun.

They lay there companionably in the silence, John basking in the feeling of the sun's rays hitting his skin. It makes him feel a little sleepy, so he succumbs to it, his eyes closing involuntarily. Just for a few minutes, he thinks.

John’s woken by the intruding sound of a camera shutter clicking. He cracks one eye open and sees Sam with his iPhone on hand, still pointed at him, a small smile playing on his lips. John groans. "You better not tweet that, Sammy."

Sam chuckles. "Why not? I think the Twitter world would love to see that John Tavares, First Overall Pick, Hart Trophy Nominee, et cetera, et cetera, drools in his sleep."

John opens both his eyes, affronted, wiping at his mouth. "Shut up, I don't drool."

Sam's making fun of him, he knows, but whatever - he totally doesn't drool. Sam leans forward towards him. "You absolutely do. See, right--" Sam touches the side of his lips before kissing the spot gently, "--here."

John snakes his arms around Sam's waist, and lets Sam topple over him. "You're such a dork."

"Your face is a dork," Sam mutters nonsensically, but John can't care when Sam is biting kisses down his throat. His hips jerk as Sam reaches his collarbones; Sam doesn't stop, but his mouth curves against John's skin.

He can't help objecting that they're outside where people could see when Sam gets a hand into his shorts, but Sam just laughs – "c'mon Johnny, live a little" – and it's hard to keep his mind on the reasons why this is a bad idea with Sam kneeling between his legs, stroking him slowly, grip firm.

Sam always does this, pushes him, makes him want things he didn't know he wanted, but John can't come up with any reasonable way to thank Sam for being a weirdo. He tries to pour it all into the way he curls his hand around Sam's head and draws him in for a kiss. He can't tell if it comes across, but Sam looks pleased anyway, eyes dark with lust as he takes John apart with his hands and mouth.

Sam's hands are relentless, and John feels like his world is reduced to only Sam. "Fuck, you have to stop," he moans, "I'm close."

Sam trails his lips over John's neck again, biting at the skin right below John's ear. "That's the point, isn't it?" Sam tugs at his own shorts, pulling the front down slightly, his cock jutting out. Sam's hard and leaking and when he lines their cocks up, John buries his head in the juncture of Sam's neck to muffle the groan that sounds incredibly loud to his ears. John knows he's probably being hypersensitive, but they're not exactly being stealth, and it's such a fucking quiet bay.

"This is such a terrible idea, Sammy," John grumbles, trailing off at the end as he arches up against Sam, seeking more pressure, his hands sliding down to Sam's back, fingers slipping under the waistband of Sam's shorts to knead Sam's ass.

Sam rubs his thumb over the head of John's cock, pooling the precome that's already formed at the tip, spreading it all over both of them. John groans helplessly, his eyes shutting. It's pretty hot.

They really are pretty sheltered here. There's no one on this lake today, and they're hidden by the trees anyway, but it's still funny how worried John is about it. He's so damn easy to convince though, desperate under Sam's hands in seconds. It's not even that kinky, just a little outdoor sex, but Sam's ridiculously into the way that, despite his protests, John's so fucking up for it now, rutting up against Sam, and gasping into Sam's neck.

John knows he isn't helping much, but he can't let go of Sam's ass or stop grinding up against Sam. He tries to muffle his groans in Sam's neck so the whole world won't hear them, but Sam doesn't seem to care. John would cringe when Sam nearly shouts, "oh, fuck" and slumps against him, coming hotly over John's stomach, except that it seems impossibly hot and terrifying all at once and he's too busy coming himself, curled tense against Sam's shoulder.

"No, but, that was dumb," John croaks when he gets his brain back.

Sam grins, rubs up against him lazily. "Nah, that was hot," he corrects, and John grumbles into Sam's neck, but doesn't make them move. He lets Sam get comfortable on top of him, sticky and sun-warm.

The next few days are much the same. A little less peaceful maybe, once they make it into town and pick up gas for the boat, but John would still be hard-pressed to say what exactly they do, though he enjoys all of it, even Sam's rambling soliloquies on the beauty of nature. John reserves the right to not take them seriously, particularly when they're delivered from inside the air-conditioning and in front of the XBox, but it's easier to pull Sam close and mumble acknowledgement than to argue with him, and he has to admit it, it's not too bad up here.

--

It doesn't feel like they're doing much; they golf, they take the boat out, they even go to Ribfest once, but the last day sneaks up on them. John's tidying up the kitchen as best as he can while Sam is lounging at the breakfast bar. John should probably make Sam help, too, but Sam's the picture of relaxation and he likes that it gives him the opportunity to just look at Sam.

"We should finish the rest of the alcohol you brought," Sam says, like it's the only thing in the world he wants to do.

John scoffs. "You realise we still have half a two-four of Moosehead and some Grey Goose left, right?"

Sam eyes him speculatively. "You saying you can't handle your alcohol, Johnny? Need to have an expert teach you?"

John has to roll his eyes at that because, whatever, Sam's just barely a year older than he is. He pulls the refrigerator open anyway and grabs two bottles of Moosehead, handing one to Sam. "Just drink your beer, old man."

Sam grins crookedly at him and takes a long drink, eyes locked on John's. John blinks, and takes a sip of his own beer so he can stop watching the muscles work in Sam's throat.

They've migrated outside with the case by the second or third beer, and Sam's talking about the cottage again. John thinks it actually started as a story about something his sisters did when they were little, but it's just wistful now, long rhapsodies about how great the lake and the woods are, the peacefulness of it.

Sam sighs over how tragic it is that they've only had a week up here, and it makes John pause because it really has been a week, and that's kind of a long time. It's been just the two of them, and they're really never going to stop chirping each other, but they haven't actually fought or anything.

It's a lot of togetherness. John can't stop thinking about it, watching Sam's face light up as he talks about swimming in the lake and making fires, and he just wants. He doesn't know if Sam feels the same, but John knows they'd be so, so good together. Easy, like this whole week has been, and it's not like he didn't know what he wanted from Sam, but he can see now what they could have together, really see it, and it's fucking killing him.

He shakes his head, trying to stop staring at Sam, face half-lit in the twilight, but has to stop, head buzzing from the beer he's been killing. He scrubs a hand through his hair.

John's being eaten alive by mosquitoes, though he seems to have decided to be stoic about it, and Sam takes pity on him. He stands, clapping John on the shoulder. "C'mon, let's go inside." John stands and hugs him fiercely, which Sam can always appreciate, even if John seems to be drunk as shit.

He tugs John inside, and they flop down on the couch together. "See, no more bugs," Sam says giggling.

John laughs and leans his head against Sam's shoulder. "I love you, Sammy," he slurs out. He's definitely drunk. It's nothing Sam hasn't seen, but he'll have to mock him for it in the morning anyway.

For the moment, he settles for saying, "yeah, saved you from the mosquitoes, I'm pretty great," and finishing his drink, John tucked up close against his side, warm and steady.

--

For once, John's not awake before Sam is. Sam considers waking him for one last long lazy fuck in the sunshine, but he remembers how hammered Johnny got last night and decides he probably wouldn't be up for it anyway.

He feels virtuous as he sneaks out of bed to go clear up their mess, even though it's mainly because he knows Jessica will get on his case if it's a tip when she shows up next week. The feeling gets him through at least some of the cleaning, though he's seriously bored by the time he hears John's footsteps on the stairs and delighted by the excuse to take a break.

Johnny looks drawn and pale as he shuffles into the kitchen. Sam waves, slopping dishwater onto the floor. "So, how hungover are you, exactly?" he asks with a chuckle. "I could probably find you a raw egg and some cayenne, or something nice and greasy...?"

Johnny doesn't rise to the bait, just looks stiff and uncomfortable as he stands oddly far from Sam and says hoarsely, "so...I said some things last night and I'm sorry. I hope I didn't make things weird, and we're still okay."

Sam blinks, trying to remember any of the things John said last night when they were both plastered. "I think you're going to have to catch me up, because I don't remember you saying anythi--oh!" Sam pauses at the sudden recollection before chuckling. "Don't even worry about it, buddy, I love you, too."

Sam reaches over the counter to grab a couple of paper towels before kneeling down and wiping up the dishwater on the floor. "I'm pretty sure I said something worse like, 'I want to marry tacos' the last time I got that wasted. You're not alone in your mortification, buddy."

He wrinkles his nose as he smiles, because it was ridiculous, but whatever. John's forehead is still furrowed, face tight. "No, seriously, Johnny, it's fine."

John just stands there. The thought that he could just laugh this off keeps running through his head, but the relief of it is in sharp contrast to the sinking feeling in his gut. Waking up to an empty bed with no evidence that Sam had even slept there last night had been awful, but it had been sort of comforting to know that everything was out there, that he couldn't take it back anymore, that they'd have to deal with it.

Sam mops up most of the water, and walks past John to throw away the paper towels. John looks even paler up close, and he hasn't said anything else since his outburst; it's suddenly worrying. "Hey, are you ok? You gonna puke?" Sam says, putting a hand on John's shoulder.

John shakes him off. "Fuck, I'm not that hungover," he says, rubbing at his eyes with the heel of his hand. "I mean, I was plastered last night, okay, but I meant it. I love you and I still think it could work, and I know you don't feel the same, but you should know. I'm sorry."

Sam looks dumbstruck, but not angry, and John's stomach flips over because he knows Sammy, but maybe not enough for this and Sam isn't talking. He's just looking at him with an expression John can't read, like he's calculating and cataloguing something in his head. It makes John feel exposed, vulnerable.

"I'm just...I'm goi---" John starts. He tries to shake himself off, breathing deeply. "I'm going to go upstairs and pack, I think."

He turns away from Sam, but Sam stops him with a hand firm on his arm. “What- no,” Sam says. “Stop. Johnny.”

John stills. Sam's standing almost too close, and the proximity is killing him. He hears Sam expel a breath beside him, like he's about to start talking, but the words just doesn't want to come out.

Sam clears his throat. "How long have you felt this way?" he asks. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"I don't know. A while?" It's a lie; he does know, sort of, when this really started for him, but he's trying so hard not to scare Sam, not to be even creepier than he knows he's been already. "But I knew you didn't want it... I only really thought it could work after this week," he says, and this part is perfectly true. "It's been so good, you know? We could do this."

Sam strokes his arm softly. "Do what?" he says. "Johnny, just, what do you want?"

A million things fly through John's head, and he really, really wants all of them, but he doesn't know how to say any of them, finally picks the one that'll hurt least when he gets turned down. "We could date?" he croaks, and Sam's expression clears so rapidly John doesn't even know what to make of it.

Sam grins crookedly at him. "Oh, buddy... Johnny... you could have said. I thought you were cool with the casual thing. We could date, see how that goes?" He tugs John closer and John goes with it, stunned.

Sam wraps his arms around John, pulling him into a tight hug, tucking his chin on John's shoulder. John's still tense, like he's waiting for the ball to drop, and Sam gently rubs the small of John's back. "Hey, come on, asshole, breathe a little. You said it yourself - we'll be great together, right?"

John doesn't know what to think. He'd spent so long telling himself that it's okay if Sam doesn't want the same things he wants, that he'll be okay, because having Sam as his friend is enough. But Sam's still here, hasn't run away, and John doesn't know what to say. "This isn't a joke, Sammy," he blurts out almost helplessly.

Sam laughs a little, the sound mostly muffled by John's shoulder. “C’mon, Johnny,” Sam says, “my jokes are much better than that.”

John pulls Sam in abruptly and holds on, hooking his chin over Sam's shoulder. Sam grins, turning his face into John's neck. They stand like that for a while; Sam pats John's back.

John jumps when the dishwasher beeps and Sam laughs. "Shut up, who knew you even knew how to work it?" John grumbles, but he still has one hand on Sam's hip and the corners of his mouth keep twitching up.

"I do dishes all the time," Sam retorts, and has to kiss John again to stop him from rolling his eyes.

--

They have to spend most of the morning tidying up their crap. Sam complains endlessly that he doesn't know how they made this much mess while John laughs at him, though John can't stop staring when Sam isn't looking, caught off guard again and again by the recollection that things have changed, and yet not. It's not until they're carrying the empties out to their cars that it hits him that this was basically the worst time to start something: he just wants to sit with Sam and hold on tightly and process everything, and instead he has to drive alone for hours.

"This is going to be a shitty drive," is all he can manage to say aloud, but Sam grins back, nose scrunched like he knows all the things John is really thinking.

"Yeah, definitely," Sam says, "I've gotta drop some of this shit off at my place, but then I'll come over to yours after, if that's cool?" He squeezes John in a brief one-armed hug, and goes back into the cabin for another case.

The drive back to Oakville is painful and John's practically buzzing out of his skin when he finally makes it to his condo. He sends Sam a quick text letting him know he's home, not really knowing what more to say. Things have changed; he's in a relationship now. Is he supposed to be doing something else?

John ends up playing a couple of rounds of NHL 13 just so he has something to do with his hands, which turns into several rounds when DZ logs in and makes some challenges that John knows he just can't back up. John jumps when the buzzer rings, and he sees the missed notifications on his phone. There are a couple of texts from Sam, the last one being, "why aren't you answering ur texts, are u dead?"

John just rolls his eyes and buzzes Sam in. It’s automatic to wrap Sam up in a hug that's as tight as he can manage the second Sam walks through his door, and if it gets a little handsy, well, John can roll with that.

It's only later, when they're lying, sated, in John's bed, Sam tracing sleepy patterns with his fingertips across John's skin, that John remembers all the things he had time to dwell on as he drove back into the city. He moves so he can see Sam's face, ignoring Sam's grunt of protest.

"So, we're, what, a couple now?" he says, because he really needs to know where they stand now, for Sam to say it.

Sam smiles up at him. "Yeah, that works."

John grins back, relaxing, though Sam keeps going. "I mean, who knows about forever, eh? But I want to see if this is good, you know? You're right: we do okay together. It doesn't have to change much." Sam leans up, nuzzles at John's jaw until John turns to kiss him. John can go with this, warmed by the way that Sam seems to be seeing what he saw in the two of them. They can do this, he's sure of it.

--

Nothing much changes really. Sam stops pretending it's anywhere remotely near a surprise when he shows up at John's in the hope of dinner, but it's not like John was fooled in the first place. Sam's a little surprised how comfortable it is. He'd thought about it vaguely before, wondering early on if they were the kind of fuck-buddies who'd end up dating, but they hadn't, and hockey had intervened, and Sam isn't good at long-distance anyway. It's nice, though, to know for sure what's between them, and how much John wants him around, how much he honestly wants John to be there.

They go to dinner, which they always do, because John can cook, but doesn't like to. It's not the same, because it is a date, and they both know it, and that changes things, but their friendship fits into the shape of a date better than Sam expected. John chirping him about his hair and part nine million and five of their ongoing debate over putters slide in smoothly alongside the way John looks at Sam with intent as their knees bump under the table. The way he fucks John later, eager and a little bit amused, owes something to his relief that it does work that well, though he thinks John doesn't need to know that, and, in any case, John is ‒ Sam hopes ‒ too busy to ask.

Sam still goes to Hali alone, and he doesn't see John every day, but they go to some things together. Not officially, because that's a whole new can of worms that neither of them are really talking about yet, but still together. Not that it matters, when they know a lot of the same people. It's not exactly together when they get separate invitations to Cody's barbecue, or Stammer's baseball thing, but they arrive together from Sam's place, which is also not exactly new, but it is a change that this time it's planned and no one has had to wear borrowed clothes.

--

Sam and Whits are holding court on one of the picnic tables in the park, like they're competing to see who can be the loudest and most confident about their team winning as soon as this game starts. Probably at least a couple of the guys at their feet are are listening, though John's pretty sure at least half those nods are solely automatic. PK drops down on the grass beside him and clinks his beer against John's. "How's it going?"

"Can't complain."

"Not even about the baseball?" PK says, grin smug.

"It's just not as good as lacrosse," John shrugs and PK laughs familiarly, willing to let the old argument go without saying.

They don't speak for a while, letting the noise of the ballpark wash over them. PK breaks the silence. "What's this I hear about a couple’s retreat up in Muskoka?" he asks.

John shoves at him. "Shut up, asshole."

PK doesn't let up, nodding in Sam and Whits' direction. "Dude, you know I'm cool, right?" he stage-whispers. "You can talk to me and shit if you want."

John cuffs the back of PK's neck lightly. "You're the biggest gossip I know," he says. "You're worse than my sisters sometimes, I swear."

PK grins at him. "Well, if you're going to be like that, let me remind you that you, and your lacrosse-loving ways, are going down this afternoon."

John elbows him. "Remind me how much baseball you play when Stammer doesn't make you?"

PK shrugs. "More'n you, bud?" He runs a hand gleefully through John's hair, rumpling it thoroughly, and stands up, gesturing 'going down' again as he wanders off back toward the food.

Sam tilts his head slightly, inquisitive. John shrugs, waving a dismissive hand, before stretching his arms up, and dropping them behind his head. It's not that he dislikes baseball - he just dislikes being awake at a godawful time in the morning during the offseason.

Though, Sam had woken John up with his mouth around his dick, so he supposes it could be a lot worse. Still doesn't mean he's going to be happy about being up this early.

John feels the baseball cap make contact with his head before he sees it.

"Get up, loser, game's about to start. Wanna get on with beating your ass, so I can go about the rest of my day."

John peers through the top of his sunglasses. Stammer. "Them's fighting words, Steven," he replies. "You sure about that?"

Stammer just smirks at him, hands on his hips, looking as smug as ever. "You gonna prove me wrong, Tavares, or you just gonna sit on your ass there all day?"

John sighs and stands up, putting the cap on. He flips Stammer the bird. "You're on, asshole."

John's pretty determined not to lose, but they do anyway. Sam can't resist mocking his frustration after, just for a moment, though his attention's sort of split between leaning on him and laughing at the way that Hallsy's complaining about being on the losing side two years in a row. "Maybe it's you, bud?" he shouts at Hallsy, who just glowers and grumbles that he's the one who's actually played some baseball before.

There's more beer after, which is probably the real point of the whole adventure to everyone except maybe Stammer or Sam. John ends up chatting to some guy he knows Stammer's introduced him to maybe seventeen times and whose name he can never remember. He can hear Sam behind him, arguing with Taylor over Wilson's terrible hitting, while Wilson keeps complaining that he's right fucking here, assholes.

There's the sound of a scuffle and Taylor's barking laugh, but John's too busy defending his entirely reasonable decision to go for the slide in the first inning, whatever the state of his jeans now, to pay attention to how it ends.

He can't remember when another beer gets pressed into his hands, or who it's from, but he takes a swig anyway, chirping half-heartedly at Stammer for buying them cheap beer. He surveys the room, most of them piled on Stammer's sectional, with a few of the guys plastered against each other on the floor. PK’s telling a story about Prust’s girlfriend, and John chokes on laughter.

The stories invariably shift to tales of their Junior days, and John groans when DZ gets a glint in his eyes, and he just knows he's about to get slammed.

"I hate you," John grumbles, but DZ just laughs at him, then continues on with his story.

It gets worse when Sam joins in, high fiving DZ, and John wants to hide underneath one of Stammer's throw pillows. His friends are the fucking worst.

He rolls his eyes as Sam's story winds down. Sam kicks John's ankle as the room erupts in laughter, scrunching his nose up in amusement at John's pain, and pipes up again. This one is about Whitney, who responds from the floor with a hail of bottlecaps and indifferent aim. The punchline is lost in the retaliatory barrage from his collateral damage, but Sam laughs himself sick anyway.

Some of the guys start to leave around the eleven. Stammer chirps them for being old and boring, but John can see that Stammer looks a little worn around the edges, too, and probably wants some sleep himself. He pulls at Sam's shirt, trying to catch his attention. "Think I'm gonna head out," John says. He's sobered up a little, his head clearer.

Sam smiles lopsidedly. "'Kay, I'll come with, too, I think. I'm sick of these ugly mugs," he says, gesturing towards Taylor and Whits. Taylor takes offense and retorts that clearly, Sam is the uglier of the three of them, trying to get John to agree, but John holds up his hands and waves an invisible flag.

"Weak!" PK shouts from the couch, but he's gathering up his shit too.

A bunch of people end up stuck on the sidewalk outside Stammer's building waiting for cabs, but it's a gorgeous summer night, warm and just a little sticky with humidity, and Sam feels at peace with the world, though that may also be the amount of beer he's had.

John’s impatient, though when they finally get a cab, he leans his head against the window and appears to fall asleep nearly at once. Sam considers poking him to check, but feels too relaxed, watching the city go by, brightly-lit islands of movement and noise between dim, calm streets of houses.

--

The weather in Toronto in July is gorgeous. It's warm and sunny without the telltale sticky, sweltering signs of humidity. None of them are training too hard yet, fatigue still lining their muscles from the season, and they all take advantage of the respite. PK drags them to the golf course (they're both terrible, but Johnny thinks that's why PK keeps extending them an invite every Saturday morning), and Stammer challenges them to another baseball game or two. There are parties – some good, some bad – where Sam and John inevitably end up in a comfortable haze of alcohol mixed with friends and good conversations.

It's where they are now, huddled together on a sleek, black sofa, Sam practically on John's lap, vibrating along to the beat of the heavy bass pumping through the speakers. The club is loud, even from where they're at in the VIP section, music and people all fighting to be heard. They've maybe had more to drink than they should've, but Sam is grinning at him, lips glistening, and Johnny can't bring himself to care.

They don't stay too long, Sam whispering, "You ready to go home?" against his ear when the first round of people leave and John just nods, still taken aback by the way Sam says 'home'. He thinks he should be used to it by now, should be used to their togetherness, but he's not and he just smiles because yeah, he's coming home with Sam, and that's still the best feeling in the world.

The traffic on the QEW's petered off, and it doesn't take long for the cab to pull up in front of Sam’s house. Sam nudges him, tapping on John's thigh. "Wake up, Johnny, we're here.”

John murmurs a few words of protest, but he lets Sam push him out of the cab anyway. Sam digs through his pockets, pulling out his credit card. He settles the bill and gets out of the cab to John's looking at him blearily. "What?" he asks, pressing John onwards to the door.

John shakes his head. "Nothing."

Sam brushes his fingers across John’s wrist. “If you say so, babe."

John makes a face. "Okay, babe. It's still your turn to wake up and cook breakfast tomorrow."

Sam's eventual response to morning is to announce that he hates it and put a pillow over his head. Johnny sighs, but Sam's too busy falling asleep again to pay attention. He's not sure how much later it is when he wakes up again, but John is already making coffee when he makes his way out to the kitchen, smiling apologetically.

John looks settled in his kitchen, waiting for the coffee maker and putting dishes away while he does it. It's a good feeling, warm in the pit of Sam's stomach.

John’s bending over to put a plate in the dishwasher, when Sam leans on him and carols, "Love you."

"Yeah, yeah," he mutters. "At least one of us is trying to keep your cleaning lady from killing you. When did you last do dishes again?"

Sam grins against his neck. "Yeah, but, seriously, Johnny." He steps back, leaning comfortably against the countertop and, just as John's picking up another bowl, says again, "Love you."

John drops the bowl, which bounces on the open door of the dishwasher and shatters against the floor, shards of china skittering across in all directions. Sam laughs. "Yeah, my cleaner's going to love that ."

John blinks, spluttering, "Did you just—"

"You go deaf, Johnny? Do I need to say it again?" Sam replies. He takes a step closer to John, careful to sidestep the shards, and pulls him away from the kitchen, leading them both towards the living room.

John protests, pointing to the mess behind them, "But the—"

Sam shushes him, and maneuvers John towards the couch until they're both sitting down facing each other.

He grins. "Just, you know, now you know. Because you said it, and I wasn't sure then, but this is good, and it does work, and it turns out I do, so you should know, eh?" John still looks vaguely outraged, even more so when Sam makes to stand up. He grabs at Sam’s wrist, and it's easy to let himself be tugged down into John's lap and kissed thoroughly.

John licks into Sam's mouth, pushy and desperate, hands stroking warmly along Sam's bare back and pulling the two of them tighter together. Sam rocks down against him, and John whines in the back of his throat.

Sam breaks the kiss, nuzzling at the juncture of John's neck, mouthing over the spot right below John's ear.

John tugs Sam away from his neck, cradling his head, and kisses him again hungrily, teeth grazing sharp over Sam's lower lip. He grinds against Sam, hip to hip, their bodies sliding gracelessly over each other.

Sam's enjoying the friction, rocking down lazily against John, but John seems altogether more desperate, as though he wants to touch Sam everywhere at once. He presses frantic kisses against Sam’s shoulder, and Sam noses into his hair, letting John thrust up against him.

John fumbles with their boxers, hastily tugging at them until their cocks touch. They're both hard, and everything's hot and warm as Sam circles a hand around both of them, his thumb rubbing at the head of John's dick.

They're not so much kissing as panting into each other's mouths as Sam jerks them, slow at first, though he relents as John's hips rock up faster and faster into his grip. John's pupils are blown, mouth red and bitten-looking, and he gasps at every touch of Sam's hand.

Sam's mesmerized by the way John responds to his touch; John’s making raw, helpless noises, and Sam’s dick is really into it. He presses his forehead against John's, eyes closed, his breath coming in short, clipped pants.

John captures his lips, hard and bruising, and then he's coming, shaking, falling apart against him and Sam kisses him through his orgasm. It doesn't take long for Sam to follow, collapsing on top of John, their come a wet, sticky mess between them.

"You're such a fucking sap," Sam says against John's chest a beat later.

"F'k off," John mutters into his hair.

Sam pats him. They cuddle a moment longer, but Sam's feeling invigorated and restless. John squeezes him a little tighter when he starts to squirm away and stand, but is mostly acquiescent when Sam tugs him off the couch and back upstairs to go shower.

They exchange kisses under the spray, but they're mostly focused on getting clean. Sam's hungry anyway. He says so while John's kissing his neck in the steamy bathroom and John chirps him for it, but also makes him breakfast, even though it wasn't his turn.

They eat quietly together, Sam checking his email and twitter, John's toes hooked on the bar of Sam's stool under the table, just close enough to brush against his leg. Cogs is finally back in town this week, and he wants to make plans. John agrees absently when Sam says they should all hang out, still focused on his own phone.

--

They have a day off the next day and they take that as permission to sleep in. John wakes up when the doorbell rings at 11AM, though, Sam snoring beside him. He taps Sam on the shoulder, whispering, "go back to sleep, I'll get it," before getting up, slow and sluggish, still addled with sleep.

It takes John a few seconds to process what's going on when he opens the door and sees Cogs. Cogs shuffles, clearing his throat. "Uh, Sam not tell you I was coming?"

John blinks, remembering. "Yeah, he did," he says, opening the door wide and motioning for Cogs to come in. "Sorry, man, just woke up. Head's still not in the game." He grins sheepishly. "Let me just wake him up."

Cogs snorts, shaking his head a little. "Good luck with that."

Sam's surprisingly easy to wake up, particularly when John mentions that Cogs is here. "Hot damn, why I am up here with you then, loser?" he laughs, making his way out of the bedroom.

John grins back at him, and continues getting dressed. He can hear Sam shouting greetings at Cogs in the hallway, and they're sitting together in the kitchen by the time he comes back downstairs, Sam halfway through the story of the baseball game, waving his cereal spoon to emphasise the finer points.

John putters around making himself coffee, only half-listening to the story he's probably heard a half-dozen times. Cogs nods at him when he sits down at the table, and he nods back, still not really awake.

John's phone rings, and it startles him a little. He grabs it quickly, nodding an apology to Sam and Cogs, and takes the call out in the patio.

"'lo," he says, his voice still hoarse.

"Well what do you know, Johnny Tavares is actually awake!" the voice on the other line replies. PK. John rolls his eyes, shutting the patio door behind him and sits on one of the deck chairs.

PK has forty-five different things to say, as usual, which John is mostly listening to, though maybe not as attentively as he could be. This becomes apparent when he's actually called on to respond with something other than "yeah" or "mmhmm".

PK snickers. "As I was saying, unlike some lazyasses I won't mention, I was at the gym all this morning, and I have the afternoon off. We should go see a movie or some shit, eh? It's been ages."

It really has been. They bicker about what to see, but PK's the one who actually cares, so John gives up eventually, and just agrees to meet him downtown at three.

When John goes back inside, Sam and Cogs have migrated to the living room, controllers in hand with NHL 13 loading in the background. He sits with them for a while, fitting in a couple of games and playing the winner, teaming up with Cogs and chirping Sam at every turn he can. He gets so caught up in it that two o’clock arrives faster than he’d expected.

He tosses the controller back to Cogs. "Gonna go meet PK downtown for a movie," he says as he's getting up. He turns towards Cogs, nodding. "Make sure the Oilers keep losing, eh, buddy?"

--

John ends up meeting PK at Courtney Park for a matinee of Pacific Rim. The theatre's empty, save for a few people scattered several rows in front of them. It's ultimately for the best, because PK is loud, and they have a tendency to be super obnoxious when they're together.

John counts it as a success when they don't get kicked out halfway through the movie.

It's almost dinner by the time they get out of the theatre, and PK tries mightily to convince him to go downtown.

"Seriously, Johnny, best Korean barbeque you'll ever have," PK says, and he's practically salivating as he lists off a bunch of things John’s never heard of.

Johnny makes a face. Parking downtown is a menace. Parking at Yonge and Dundas? It's an impossibility. "Dude, there's a Korean barbeque place three minutes from my apartment. Let's just go there."

"Yeah, but it's not the Korean Grill House, man. Trust me, Johnny."

Parking is just as bad as John told PK it would be. He seethes as he inches along Dundas, being cut off by taxis every few seconds, and sulks about the price of parking when they finally find a city lot.

PK looks amused. "You live in New York."

"No, I live on Long Island," John says, shutting the car door with more force than necessary. “Fuck the city.” It's not really any kind of accurate statement about how he feels about New York, which has been nothing but good to him, but from the way PK laughs, he probably doesn't need to clarify. He elbows PK instead, or tries to, as PK sidesteps him and elbows him back.

John looks around as they walk in; he’s never actually been to a Korean barbeque place before. There's no line to get in, but it is busy, the place full of students who John guesses are from Ryerson across the street.

PK nudges him, pointing towards the long table with a couple of empty seats. "Let's go there."

There's a group of four girls already occupying it, and John tries to spot a table for two instead. "Over there, man," John says, motioning towards the back table that's being cleaned. "That seems better."

PK shakes his head. "Yeah, but there aren't any girls there, dude." PK pushes him towards the long table, and uses what he thinks is his most charming smile when he introduces them to the girls. John kind of has to judge PK a little

"I hope you don't mind if my buddy and I sit here, ladies," PK says, grinning.

The girls look sort of disbelieving, but wave a hand in the direction of the empty seats. One of them gives PK a quick up and down look before looking away quickly. He preens; John nods awkwardly and sits down.

PK at least seems pretty serious about this barbeque thing when he does join John. He names a million things John needs to try, to the point where John eventually throws it in and lets PK make the order

"You'll like it," PK says when the waitress leaves.

"You've been holding out on me, then?"

PK leans back comfortably in his chair. "Hey, man, if you want to hole up in the suburbs, you're going to miss what's going on in the city. It's all on you."

John balls up a napkin and throws it at PK. "I don't live in the suburbs. Unless you count a city of 750, 000 as a suburb, because then, whatever," John says, maybe a little more defensively than he means to. It's not his fault he chose to live in a more reasonable city like Mississauga where it doesn't cost him close to twenty dollars to park for a couple of hours.

PK quirks an eyebrow. "Johnny, Mississauga's downtown consists of like, Square One and fucking Playdium. It's not a city."

John's about to retort, but the waitress brings them back their order. "PK, what the fuck, it's all raw," he grits when the waitress is out of earshot. He hears one of the girls giggle beside them, and he tries his best not to blush.

PK laughs. "That's why they have the grills here, dude. We just grill whatever we want," PK explains as he turns on the grill. "Here, let's toss in the kalbi first. That shit's awesome."

John's just giving PK space as he puts the first meat on the grill. He can totally do this. It'll be just like barbecueing.

It sort of is. Or at least, enough that PK isn’t willing to stop eating in order to laugh at John.

It's tasty though, PK was right about that, as little as John wants to admit that PK's ever right about anything. He fills his mouth and chews pointedly when PK starts hinting that he is in fact still the best at finding restaurants.

PK raises an eyebrow - "I'll just take that as agreement then" - and grins when John scowls at him and tries to kick him under the table as subtly as possible.

PK flicks a look at the girls beside them and doesn't kick John back, which is a point to John, thank you very much. He grins and eats some more.

"How's training going? Are you finally gonna go to Biosteel this year with me?" PK asks when they're waiting for the chicken on the grill to finish cooking.

John shrugs. "Well? Tiring as fuck though." Training's been amping up since John got back from Muskoka. He isn't lying when he says it's going well, but he's also not lying when he says it's tiring as all get out. It’s good, when he remembers to think about the future as opposed to how his body's crying out for reprieve. "And I don't know, I think I'm doing that camp with Sid again?"

PK whistles. "It's Sid now, eh?" he teases. "I see how it is. It's okay, I'm just PK – I know I can't compete with your childhood superhe—"

John flings a piece of chicken at him. "You're such a dick.”

"Johnny, we're in public," PK says, fake-shocked.

John rolls his eyes. PK jabs him with a fork while he's not looking.

John would probably retaliate except that he’s better than that. He settles for countering all of PK's stories about his nephews, who are apparently incredibly charming, with lengthy digressions on his own goddaughter. He's surprised to find how much he has to say about Mila and her not-very-interesting adventures in standing and hitting things against each other. PK looks appropriately tolerant, which John thinks is fair, given how many years of nephews he’s had to listen to.

They hang around after they've finished their meal, just talking and catching up. It's kind of nice, even if PK is, well, PK.

"We gotta do this again, man," PK says as they're heading towards their cars. "Don't hole up in Mississauga of all places."

John scoffs. "Whatever, like you even live downtown. You live in Rexdale, you hypocritical non."

PK just laughs and ruffles John’s hair like he's six, and not twenty two. "See you 'round, Johnny."

--

The drive back goes by pretty fast. Rush hour's long gone, and there are fewer cars on the QEW. He gets distracted by the radio though, and he misses his exit by a lot. He's already past Erin Mills when he notices where he is, so he figures he might as well keep driving until he gets to Sam's place in Oakville.

He knocks on the door, and it takes Sam forever to answer it. "John! I didn’t expect you to come back tonight," Sam says, grinning.

John wonders if he should've gone home instead, but Sam's pulling him inside, leading him to the living room.

"I should probably give you a key here, huh?" Sam asks, and John's not really sure what to say back, because is this a thing that they're supposed to do now? Share keys?

"I guess? If you want to, I mean," John says. His cheeks feel hot, and John has to train his eyes on the TV to stop himself from fidgeting. "I can get you a key to the condo, too."

"Don't sound too excited there, bud," Sam jokes as he wrestles the remote away from John.

"Hey, no, it'll be good," John says. "Maybe one day, I'll actually come home to you surprising me with groceries and shit.”

Sam snorts. "I don't even buy groceries for myself, Johnny. Not gonna start buying for you." He pats John's thigh, and doesn't take his hand away. "Nice try though."

--

Sam's not even sure why he said that. It would be more convenient. John's here a lot. Sam obviously trusts him. But there's something about a key that says something about their relationship, about the permanence of their relationship, that he's avoided looking too closely at so far.

He thinks about it for a while, idly, when he has a spare moment on the bike or on the highway. He likes John. He doesn't want this thing to end. But he has a hard time seeing it last past the summer. Not that he plans to end it. But a key feels like he's saying something about that, and he isn't sure what he wants to say yet, if what they have now is going to be enough to cover most of a continent.

In the end, Sam decides he's overthinking it. He's been friends with John a long time. That'll outlast everything. There's no reason John, who is his friend, can't have a key, even if he didn't before. He'll do it the next time he's in a hardware store, it's not a big deal.

Only it takes a while for him to actually get it done.

It's not like he's delaying it on purpose. He's just been really busy. Between training and travel and splitting the remainder of his time between family, friends, and John, there hasn't been a lot of opportunities to stop by Canadian Tire.

He'll get to it eventually. It's on his list.

Sam hasn't been home a lot lately, anyway. John gave him a key to the condo a few days after their conversation about it, and Sam's been at his place more often than not. It's more convenient. He's been travelling a lot more, and John lives closer to the airport than Sam. It's an easier drive to John's condo in Mississauga, and coming home to John when he's had a long week, well, Sam's not going to complain about that.

Sam's home just enough to break things though, and he finds himself in line at the Canadian Tire clutching a package of lightbulbs when he remembers about keys and has to go back into the depths of the store to find the right counter. It only takes a moment for him to get a key cut, stick it on his keyring and promptly forget about it.

--

Sam goes off to Halifax a couple of days later. He's been doing that all summer really, but it's oddly different now. Like Sam really understands what John means when he texts him a dozen times over the afternoon, and then wants to Skype later. He grins goofily at Sam, who immediately starts in on his traditional enumeration of the glories of the ocean, even though John knows for a fact that he spends all his time there in the gym, and neither of them can get through even half of it without cracking up anymore.

Sometimes Sam wishes John was with him in Halifax, too, but he's a hockey player. They're both hockey players, and Sam knows the importance of routines and sticking to what's comfortable and what they know best. So Sam flies back and forth between Toronto and Halifax to train with Dutchy and Sid, and John stays in Mississauga to train with Matt and PK.

It works for them, and it's not like they're ever actually apart for more than a few days at a time. Maybe a little longer now that the season's coming up pretty fast, but that doesn't make it any less nice to be able to go directly from the airport to John's condo, where there's real food and a bedroom without the mess Sam still can't avoid making when he packs.

It's its own routine, down to the way that John always complains about him raiding the fridge, while buying about three times as much food as he actually needs.

He takes a shower to get rid of the sticky residue of airport air. John's still at the Training Centre, and Sam had meant to get started on dinner, but their bed looks too warm, too inviting, and Sam ends up face-planting on the mattress.

Sam stirs a couple of hours later to the faint sound of John shuffling across the apartment. He doesn't make a move to get out of bed, just sleepily waits for Johnny to notice his bag on the floor, and the open door to their bedroom.

...Tripping over it is like noticing it, Sam tells himself.

"I can see you laughing," John shouts from the hall, and Sam rolls over to mock John more easily. He squints at the silhouette in the doorway, trying to see if John's actually annoyed, and groans, covering his face with his arm as John flicks the light on in revenge.

"You're the worst," Sam says, his voice sounding garbled against his arm. "I don't see you for a few days, and this is the welcome I get?"

He hears John scoff. "You're only here for my food anyway."

The bed dips beside him and he feels John's hand on his back, firm and steady and warm. "That’s true, but like, it's only one of the reasons."

"So you say," John laughs. "Just to be safe, there's takeout in the kitchen anyway."

There really is. It's Sam's favourite. John is basically the best ever, and Sam attempts to convey this with his eyes without actually stopping eating for even a second.

John tilts his head inquisitively. "Is something wrong?"

Sam rolls his eyes. John grins smugly, and launches into a story Sam has heard about a thousand times before.

--

John explains over breakfast the next morning that he has a family thing in Kitchener. Sam's only half listening to his explanation of exactly which cousin organised it for which uncle, and why, though he's nodding pretty consistently, at least between yawns.

John looks annoyed and amused all at once. "Whatever. You're not awake. You should know I'll be home late. Who knows when this'll end, and I'll still have to drive home." He wrinkles his nose and drinks more coffee.

Sam yawns again. "I should go home actually. Do laundry and shit. But let yourself in whenever you get in, eh?" He digs in his pocket for the spare key and flips it at John.

John catches it. He sounds tentative when he says, "Uh, sure," but he's grinning when Sam looks back up from his eggs.

Sam waves a hand vaguely. "No problem."

--

John doesn’t even use the key that much, but he's about 30 seconds away from being late to pick Barbara up for tennis when he gets to the very back of his coat closet and realises that his racket really is at Sam's. The court is sort of closer to Sam's anyway, or at least closer than having to drive all the way to Sam's and back, not even counting how much shit he's going to get if he's late again.

He's barely late, but Barbara judges him anyway, all the more so when he has to shamefacedly admit that they're going to have to take a half-hour's worth of detour. She retaliates with cheerful stories about her new boyfriend, which make John grind his teeth. He only wants to threaten him, just slightly. Barbara asked him not to though, and, more importantly, she still hasn't told him this guy's name so John can't find him.

She sighs when John leaves her in the car, but it only takes two seconds to dash in Sam's door, grab the racket from where he knew he fucking left it in the hall, ready for him to take home two days ago, and come back out.

Barbara looks up, startled, from her phone. "That was fast," she says. "How's Sam?"

"Oh, he's in Hali still," John says, trying to remember if there's a tennis court nearer here than the one they usually go to.

There's a community centre a few blocks away with a tennis court, John thinks, but he's not entirely sure. He remembers possibly spotting one the last time he and Sam went for a run in the neighbourhood.

John turns to back out of the driveway. "Hey, I think there's a place kind of near here, did you wanna give that a try or go to the---" John pauses. "Why are you looking at me like that?"

Barbara raises a perfect eyebrow, and stares at John squarely. "Johnny," she starts firmly. "Sam's in Halifax."

John taps on the steering wheel as he drives them to where he thinks the community centre is located. "I said that, didn't I?" he says, a little distracted.

"Johnny, Sam's in Halifax," Barbara repeats.

They hit a fair bit of traffic, and John curses inwardly because of course they would hit traffic, in Oakville, when he's trying to get them somewhere. "Umm, yes? Like I said?" John replies. "You're gonna have to help me out here, Barbs."

"Why do you have a key to his house?"

"How long have I known him?" John says, slightly affronted. He knows what she means though, he's just not sure what to say. He doesn't know how to tell her that they're dating now, or if Sam wants him to tell her.

Barbara laughs. "Yeah, okay. Just saying: Renée's great too, but I don't have a key to her place."

John snorts, a little bit to give him time to think about his answer. It's still new, him-and-Sam, in a way, and he doesn't want to make it awkward later, make it sound like it was more permanent than it could turn out to be. On the other hand, he knows what he wants, and if it does last as long as he wants it to, Barbara's going to have to know at some point. It might be a lot more awkward later to have lied.

He coughs. "Yeah, uh, me and Sam, we're dating now." John glances at Barbara. He's actually managed to drag her attention away from her phone and she's looking at him intently, like she's trying to work out if it's a joke. He turns back to the traffic. "It's just new, you know? So, like, don't spread it around a ton?"

"If you weren't driving, I'd kick you, because that is not an explanation, Johnny," Barbara says indignantly.

They don't speak for a while, but John can feel Barbara sneaking glances at him. Driving's giving him a distraction, at least. It's not that he's ashamed of Sam or that he never intended on telling anyone about him – about them. He's thought about it before, but thinking about coming out, especially to his little sister, had been something he'd done in the abstract. Actually doing it, actually saying the words out loud, it kind of knocks him off kilter.

He finds the community centre eventually and to his relief, they do have a tennis court. John parks the car and just as he's about to open the door, he feels Barbara's hand on his arm pulling him back.

"I didn't even know you were---" Barbara stops herself mid-sentence, like she's not really sure what to say either. "Are you happy?"

John swallows, the question taking him by surprise. "Yes?" he says. It's an automatic response, but he finds himself saying it again, more firmly this time, because yeah, he is happy. "Yeah, Barb, I am."

Barbara grins, bright and young, and remarkably like when she was so, so tiny, and perfectly sure that he could do anything. "Cool," she says, and takes off for the courts. "I get first serve. Called it!"

Relief almost knocks the breath out of John, and, even better, she doesn't even make him talk about it as they play. He's shitty at tennis, but he's faster than Barbara is, which helps kind of a lot. Out of gratitude, John only chirps her a little bit for losing at the end, though he's pretty sure she can't tell why.

She hugs him tightly over the gear shift when he drives her home, but doesn't make him talk about it any more before going inside. It's nice that she knows, John thinks as he drives away. Makes it a little more real, maybe.

He’s going to have to tell Sam though, probably.

--

"Are you sure you don't need any help? I'd like my kitchen to remain intact, please," John bellows from the living room.

Sam shakes his head as he unwraps the packaging on the salmon. He's admittedly not the best at cooking – really, that's more of John's department – but he's not entirely hopeless at it either. For the most part. Sam's fairly sure he can season a couple of pieces of salmon and throw them in the oven without any incident.

Sam hears John pad towards the kitchen. It's an off day for them, and John's decided that he's going to spend the day dicking around his condo in a ratty old t-shirt and shorts. John comes up behind him and kisses his cheek.

"Hi," John says, grinning, when he finally breaks away to grab a couple of cans of beer from the fridge.

Sam smiles back. It's kind of nice, having a quiet day in like this. They've been busier lately, and having a day where they're not required to do anything or go anywhere, it's been good.

John takes a swig of his beer, then clears his throat. "So, um, I meant to tell you, but I kept forgetting," he starts, sounding a little hesitant. "I went to play tennis with Barbara the other day when you were in Hali and, uh, I may have told her about you?"

Sam furrows his brows, a little confused.

"About us, I mean," John amends sheepishly.

Sam blinks. They haven't really talked about this. It's possible they should have. "So, uh-" he begins, and tails off, not really sure if John looks this awkward because it went badly, "are things okay?"

John fidgets with the tab on his can. "Yeah, for sure. Just, you know, so you know, if she starts telling people. I mean, she probably won't. But in case."

Sam nudges him because it's cool, honestly. He doesn't know why John's acting like Sam's never met Barbara before. He doesn't know her as well as he does Johnny, but he didn't think she was going to tell the internet. "Do you want to tell more people?"

John looks taken aback by that. "I'm not sure?" he says, finally, though still sounding hesitant and unsure. "It just sort of came up with Barbara."

He's looking at Sam expectantly, only Sam's not really sure how to respond. John hadn't exactly asked a question. It's not a secret that Sam likes guys, not to his family. He hasn’t told them about Johnny yet, but his mom's been saying pointed things about how nice it would be to see John again a lot more lately, so he assumes they've sort of clued in.

Telling people about John isn't something he's actively thought about, but he’s never had a guy stick around long enough for that before.

It's new territory for him, too. Shit, he's barely had any long-term relationships with women either. Things always seem to drift away eventually, and sometimes it's fine, and sometimes it's shitty, but it makes it hard for Sam to imagine how long this is going to last. Fall looms ahead, and he's excited for hockey, for the team's fresh start, but he doesn't really know what it means for him and John.

He doesn't want to stop though, so he settles for reaching out for John and leaning on him. "It's fine," he says. "Babs'll be cool, I know. Don't worry about it, bro."

John laughs into Sam's hair. "Don't call her that, she'll murder you," he mutters, and Sam grins back.

"We'll take it as it comes, yeah?" Sam says softly. "If it comes up again, it comes up, and we deal with it then."

John nods against him, arms circling around his waist. "Yeah, we'll figure it out." He presses a kiss on Sam's head before pulling away, grin still in place. "What happened to that salmon you were cooking anyway? You still gonna dazzle me with your culinary abilities?"

Sam smirks and shoos John away. "That's the plan," he says, "now get the hell out."

They probably need to talk about this more. Maybe. Sam tries not to look at the calendar much, but summer's fading, and they're going to Colorado soon. Then comes New York and Edmonton, and a series of months with a lot of question marks attached.

Sam goes back to his salmon instead.

They have time to worry about it all later.

--

Despite the spectacularly awkward conversation they have before they head out to Andy's camp in Vail about separate hotel rooms and the importance thereof, Sam ends up in John's room a lot of nights anyway. John's comfy and doesn't complain too loudly when Sam steals all the blankets. It's just nice, even if the way the workouts are ramping up means they both pass out almost the instant they lie down every night.

It's a good time though. Sam hasn't seen Nuge or Horcs pretty much all summer and it really hits him that he’s not going to see Horcs in the fall either. It doesn’t prevent him, however from talking a hell of a lot with Nuge about what they're going to do in a month's time.

Nuge's shoulder looks a lot better than it was a few months ago, and Sam's excited that Nuge's rehab seems to be going well. Sam can feel it – they're just so close, so close in Edmonton and the prospect of getting the boys back, of working towards something again – it feels good.

Sam knows he says it every year, but this time, it's different. He's not entirely oblivious to what's being said about Edmonton, and sure, maybe he should've considered other options this summer. He had seen glimpses of how good they could be last season, and Sam hasn't lost hope in the team, in his team. Definitely his team now, for at least a little while.

He's put on Sid's wing again during scrimmages and he gives it his all, especially against Johnny's line. John's tough competition, and with Nuge and Landy as his wingers, he's even more dangerous. Sam's looking forward to finally playing against him for real again this season, though he's more than a little glad that Nuge isn't actually an Islander.

Despite all of that, Vail doesn't quite feel real. It's a little bubble of hockey, and amazing mountains, and focus, and insanely hard work. They emerge only a week away from training camp, and it's great, but Sam has no idea how this happened.

--

John's sleeping next to Sam on the plane, giving himself a crick in his neck and letting his limbs encroach dramatically on Sam's space, when Sam decides that they probably need to talk about what they're doing once the season starts. He fidgets the thought over for a while and comes to exactly no conclusion about how to manage it, tries to distract himself with music, and ends up falling asleep instead. When he wakes up, they're circling Toronto, and John’s chirping him about drooling on his shirt, which, plus the inevitable boredom of customs, keeps them busy for a while, even if Sam had wanted to blurt everything out in the terminal at Pearson.

It's like everything speeds up after that. His phone blows up with people who he wants to see one last time before he goes back to Edmonton, his dad's about to leave as well so there's a ton of family shit to do, and he doesn't know how he always forgets about what a pain it is to clear out his house for the season, but it takes a million years longer than he'd planned for. He still sees John regularly, but John's busy too, so they don't see each other nearly as much as they did earlier in the summer. John has requisite family appearances to make and his own place to clean and pack up.

They don't have a lot of time left, and Sam knows he probably needs to sit down with John soon and figure out what's going on. Figure out what's going to happen when they're several thousand miles apart. It's not a conversation he wants to have, because Sam's not really even sure what he wants. He knows he wants Johnny – he'll always want Johnny – but Edmonton is Edmonton, and the last time he checked, Long Island hasn't magically teleported itself to the province of Alberta.

They’re busy and distracted, but it's not like Sam planned for the two of them to have a lot on their plates a week before training camp. It's hard to sit down and talk when their days are filled with stuff, and the only thing they want to do after a long day is hide away in bed, their bodies tangled together under the covers.

Sam says tomorrow, tomorrow he'll do it for sure, and keeps saying it until the evening John asks for a ride to the airport the next day. Even then, the only response he really knows how to make is "sure," and whatever he's getting across when he kisses John thoroughly, fingers twisted in the front of John's shirt.

John hugs Sam back, arms locked tight around him. It's less a goodbye than an expression of distaste for goodbyes, which mirrors Sam's mood perfectly. Sam edges his hands under John's shirt , and his nails slip against John's back when John breaks the kiss to explore the curve of Sam's neck thoroughly, nipping softly down his pulse while Sam swears into his ear.

It feels good, and Sam tries to hold back a gasp when John laps at Sam's skin, sucking in a bruise that Sam knows will be there for days. Sam runs his hands across John's back in response, nails raking lines all over him. Sam's pressing harder than he probably means to, but if John gets to mark him, the he wants to leave a mark on John, too. John's leaving tomorrow, and Sam doesn't want him to forget.

John finds Sam’s lips again. It's softer this time, but there's a tinge of urgency in the way John places his hand on the back of Sam's head, his fingers tangling in Sam's hair, as he presses them closer together.

John nearly trips backwards over a suitcase as Sam steps into him, so they disentangle somewhat to make the eight steps toward the bedroom, weaving through the luggage. Sam pauses once they're naked together, braced above John on the bed, unable to decide what he wants. John looks up at him, eyes half-lidded, as he rocks against Sam lazily. It isn't, well, not the last time, but a last time, and therefore something that should be memorable, maybe.

John kisses Sam slow and dirty. "What do you want?" he says easily, voice a little rough around the edges. Sam kisses him again while he tries to decide, kisses down his jaw and his throat when he still can't, even though John's hands are warm on him, and the press of their dicks together makes Sam want to pick something, anything, right this second.

John nips at Sam's neck again. "What do you want, Sam?" John repeats. His hands are everywhere and nowhere they should be, fingers skirting teasingly over the waistband of Sam's jeans, and Sam jerks his hips up to meet John's involuntarily, needing more friction.

"More," Sam croaks almost helplessly.

John laughs, though not unkindly, hands tight on Sam's hips. "That's not really an answer."

He doesn't know what he wants, he just knows he wants more. More of John, more of this, more of everything. Sam leaves fleeting kisses all over John's jaw, stubble tickling his lips. He pushes John down on the bed, lining their hips up together. Sam grinds down against John until the press of their cocks makes John moan into his mouth.

"I want – god, I want – can I fuck you?" Sam says, and he barely recognizes his voice, strained and throaty.

"Yeah," John says, drawing it out at the end when Sam rocks against him, but easy with it, grinning up at Sam like it's any day and they've got all the time in the world.

Sam can kind of see his point once he manages to roll off John to find lube and condoms. It's less frantic watching John roll into every movement of Sam's fingers, feeling his thighs tremble where Sam's pressing kisses against them. John's flushed all the way down his chest, toes curling, but he doesn't seem desperate, not quite yet, just happy, making breathy noises when Sam curls his fingers up and rubs. His cock bobs against his stomach as he moves, wet and shiny at the tip, but John doesn't reach for it, though his fingers flex in the sheets.

Sam takes his time, his movements slow and deliberate, until John's rolling his hips down, tightening around Sam's fingers, his moans becoming slurred and incoherent. Sam leans over John's cock, tongue running firmly over the length. He licks at the slit, John's precome on his tongue. John arches his back, hips thrusting up roughly, and Sam has to hold him down with his other arm, his hand pressing heavily on John's stomach.

John's panting echoes in the room. "Sam, come on," he whines, soft and broken.

Sam means to fuck him slowly, make it last, but neither of them seem to have the patience left for it. John rolls his hips down against Sam with all the leverage he can muster, one hand vicious on his cock as he groans with every thrust. Sam's hands white-knuckle on John's hips as he thrusts, trying to keep his eyes open to watch John's face going slack with pleasure.

It's a long exhalation when John comes, wetness between them, and muscles flexing around Sam's dick, making him gasp. He's losing his rhythm, and John's hands are gentle on his arms, his chest, as Sam stutters to a halt, back bowed taut over John as he follows suit.

John's not much help after, panting smugly up at him, though Sam can't really complain about how fucked-out he looks. Sam cleans up, even though John looks relaxed enough that he might let him get away without it. John's slightly more alert when Sam comes back to bed, though he doesn't say more than good night, tucking himself in close against Sam's side. Sam wants to be awake a little longer, try to hold on to this some more, but it's familiar and comfortable and he slips away into sleep almost at once despite himself.

--

Sam's only been back for three days, but it feels so much longer than that. He’d flown to Edmonton a day after John left for New York, and since then, his time's been divided between a flurry of Oilers events and trying to make his house liveable again. The latter isn't too bad because he has Schultzy and Nuge to help, at least, but training camp is just as exhausting as it's ever been.

There are new people to get used to on the ice and a new coach with a new system. It's exhilarating, and Sam's missed this, no matter how good it was to train with Sid and even John over the summer. It's different. Being on the ice with his linemates and donning on an Oilers' sweater again – there's nothing better, and he's excited for the new season to come.

It's going to be good, he can feel it.

He's pretending to unpack, but mostly just watching Netflix, when John texts him asking to Skype. Nuge shouts, What about the boxes?" after him as he goes upstairs, but since he'd stretched out on the couch after carrying a single box into the room, Sam doesn't give a shit.

"Who ran you over?" Sam says when John's video image pops up.

John wrinkles his nose at him and runs a hand through his hair. It sticks that way, and doesn't help John's general air of sleepy dishevelment. "Missed you too. How's Edmonton?"

Sam almost reaches up to fix John's hair only to remember that John's not actually in the same space as him anymore, and it would be impossible to undo the mess via Skype. He clears his throat instead. "Same old, same old. My roommates are terrible and lazy," Sam says, straightfaced, but John just rolls his eyes and burrows his face into the pillow more.

"You sure they didn't get that from you? Vet influence and all," John replies.

Sam stretches out on top of his bed, cradling his iPad on his chest. He ignores John's jibe. "Did you just wake up from a nap? Weak, Johnny."

John lets out a low whine. "Cap had us skating suicides. I can't feel my legs anymore."

Sam makes sympathetic noises, and John grumbles at him. He looks less tired than John feels, though that's probably the time difference more than being worked less hard.

Sam just grins at him. "How's Colin doing? Did you make him unpack your shit?"

John breathes a tired laugh. "Oh, definitely. It went just about as well as I'm sure it's going with your kids."

John would have known Sam was lying when he says, "They're downstairs doing all my work right now, in fact," even without the faint NHL14 music he can hear in the background, but the way Sam can't keep a straight face about it is familiar in a way that makes his stomach twist. He's pretty sure he's making a sappy face, but it's hard not to.

John lets Sam's voice wash over him for a while. Sam's telling him a story about Hallsy and an embarrassing run-in with their new coach. He doesn't reply much, just hums in agreement and laughs when Sam gets to the funny parts. It's not that he's not listening, he is, he's listening raptly, but Sam sounds soothing and John finds himself watching the quirk of Sam's lips, mesmerized.

"Am I boring you?"

John blinks. "Always," he says automatically, but he's smiling, and Sam just shakes his head at him.

"You look really comfortable."

John nods, adjusting his laptop so Sam can see the mountain of pillows on his bed. "I am," he says, "you should join me."

Sam laughs, his eyes crinkling. "Transcontinental cuddle buddy flight?"

"Something like that." John looks at Sam intently. Sam still looks almost exactly the same as when John last saw him a few days ago, except for the growing stubble that Sam is apparently refusing to shave. He doesn't mean to get maudlin, but he does anyway, and John sighs a little before saying, "I miss you."

"Miss you too," Sam says easily, but his eyes are soft. His mouth curls to the right and John can't help watching the curve of it, just staring.

They break the awkward silence nearly simultaneously, talking over each other about nothing, and stutter to another stop. John laughs, and Sam teases him, and they go on like that until John can't really remember what he last said, just that Sam's teasing him for resting his eyes, and he has to sign off and go pass out.

--

Their schedules always line up shittily when the season's on. John texts Sam a pic of Colin taking boxes out of the car with a smug caption, and he's nearly forgotten about it three hours later when Sam texts him a picture of Justin asleep on the couch, until Sam follows it up with, "remind me, how do you make them work?"

John texts back, "natural charisma, bud" and Sam's two screens worth of laughter followed by "you wish" makes him grin, even if it doesn't show up until later that evening.

--

Sometimes they end up in the same timezone randomly. It's weird, but kind of useful. John's not sure if it's actually easier to remember when Sam's roadtrips are than it is to remember the difference between Edmonton and New York, but it is a nice surprise when he's hanging out in his hotel room and Sam pops up on Skype.

John's in a good mood about the game last night, though he only brags a little about the win, even though Sam looks amused rather than bored. Sam's looking at him from sleepy eyes, head tilted contemplatively the way he does before he goes to grab John's ass, and John misses him like crazy.

"I wanted you to be here," he mumbles, though that really doesn't get across the adrenaline rush, and how much he desperately wanted to hug Sam and get laid and everything all at once.

"You just want me for my body," Sam says like he's affronted, but he smiles anyway as he settles back in his bed.

"Well, maybe I do. They showed a clip of you scoring that goal from last night on tv," John starts. He whistles appreciatively. "Was pretty hot, Sammy."

Sam laughs, low and rumbling. "You freak."

John's not really entirely kidding, though. Sam's goal had definitely been hot. But he's not about to tell Sam that. John watches him instead as he tells him a story about his flight this morning. Sam's growing facial hair again, and John wants to reach out and feel the rough stubble under his hands. He just wants to touch Sam everywhere.

John stretches in bed. "I just wanted to get laid, you know?" he says, probably a little whiny, but whatever, he misses Sam a lot, he can be whiny if he likes.

Sam blinks at him. "Oh. Uh, you could? If you wanted?"

John fumbles his ipad. "What? But we're-?" He stops short, unsure of what to say, where he's misinterpreted something.

Sam grins. "I mean, not like that. But if you wanted to go get some casually, that'd be fine? We're pretty far away, it's only fair."

John pauses and looks at Sam searchingly. "Is that – is that what you want?" he asks, still unsure and caught a little off-guard.

"I want you, always," Sam says simply, like it's supposed to make things a lot clearer. He reaches for the screen, fingers flitting in view like he's trying to touch John, and John wants nothing more than to be able to hold his hand out and clasp Sam's hand back. "It's just, it's going to be a long time before we see each other again, you know?"

John nods. It's not something he likes to think about a lot, but yeah, he knows. He absolutely knows.

"I love you and I know that you love me, too," Sam continues. He gives John a small smile. "Some random guy – or girl – blowing you during the season isn't going to change that."

It makes sense when Sam puts it that way. He swallows. "Um, yeah. You too, obviously? I mean, if this is what you want."

"If it works," Sam says easily.

He looks relaxed and happy, and John's just going to have to deal with it. Compromise. Compromises are nice and adult and sensible. "Sure." He gulps. "I don't want to stifle you or anything, you know? I mean, I know you don't usually do monogamy?"

"Wait, wait, back up," Sam says, brows furrowing, looking confused. "What do you mean by that, exactly?"

John shrugs lightly. "It's fine, honest," he says, smiling in reassurance. "I sort of knew what I was getting into? I understand." And really, he does understand, though the last few months of the summer sort of lulled John into forgetting the possibility of Sam wanting more – wanting someone other than him.

Sam frowns. "At least one of us understands, apparently, because I don't. What do you mean, Johnny?" he asks again.

"Look, I know I sort of pushed you into a relationship, but like I said, I'm not – I'm not going to stifle you and stop you from sleeping with other people. Not if that’s what you want.

He's pretty sure he's being reasonable so he doesn't know why Sam looks so unhappy.

"That's not- Johnny, am I stifling you?" Sam says earnestly.

It's a ridiculous thought. "No, c'mon, it's not like that. It's harder for me. I miss you a lot is all. But it's cool if you need to hook up. I understand, seriously. I know this isn't your thing."

Sam rubs at his eyes. "What isn't my thing, Johnny? If you don't want to hook up, it's cool. You just seemed cranky about the distance and it's an option."

"Being with me. Being with just me."

Sam shakes his head, a noise escaping his throat in protest. "That's not fair, Johnny. I don't – There hasn't been anyone else; why the fuck would you think that?"

"No, I know. I know there hasn't been anyone else, but that's not the point," John says, frustrated, because he's not saying things right. He doesn't know how to express what he means, and he's trying, but Sam's obviously not on the same page.

"Then what do you mean, babe?" Sam says. "I told you, if you don't want to hook up, that's fine, we can forget about this conversation."

John shuts his eyes, sighing heavily. "I don't want to be the one stopping you from hooking up, and I don't want you to have to change just because of me."

"Change what?" Sam's hands are halfway visible at the bottom of the frame, moving like he might try to shake John if he was closer.

"Your relationships?" John says awkwardly. "I know Cogs has been around a long time for one? It's fine with me, honestly."

Sam looks distinctly unimpressed. "You think I'm cheating on you with Cogs?"

This is going to shit much faster than John anticipated. He swallows. "No, no, I trust you, Sammy, I do. I'm just saying, I know you've been fucking for ages, and I don't want to step on any toes."

"Yeah, when we're both single," Sam snaps.

John opens his mouth to speak, but Sam interrupts him. "I wouldn't – I didn't bring this whole thing up because you're not enough," Sam says quietly. "If you don't want to, then we don't. It's as simple as that. This isn't just about me, Johnny."

John slumps back. "Fuck, Sammy, I don't know, I just want you to be happy. I could get used to it, you know?"

Sam rolls his eyes. "Yeah, that sounds great. Fuck you, if you don't think I can do relationships. I don't know what the hell is wrong with you."

"I just didn't know if you wanted to," John mumbles. He's being a dumbass here, he knows it, but he's not sure what he can say.

Sam softens a bit. "Buddy, of course I do. I said so. Idiot."

"Shut up," John says automatically, colouring, because yeah, he probably should've talked about this with Sam earlier instead of bottling it all in.

They don't say anything for a while, until Sam clears his throat, the sound echoing in the silence. "I wouldn't anyway, you know, even if we did agree to sleep with other people during the season," Sam starts. "I wouldn't sleep with Cogs. Not if it's going to hurt you. I mean, fuck, I wouldn’t have before, either. If I knew it bugged you?"

Sam pauses, breathing deeply, before continuing. "I can't be there, but some random person giving you a hand doesn’t change things between us." Sam runs his hand over his face, rubbing his eyes, grinning. "You start taking other people to dinner though, well, I might have to come to Long Island and show them what's what."

"I wouldn't," John says. "And you can fuck Cogs if you want? I don't know, it's just weird, I never know what's up with you two."

Sam's laughing at him openly now, and John scowls, though it's better than mad. "Friends with benefits," Sam says with an airy wave of his hand. "Just, for a long time, eh?" He stops, snickering. "God, did I never tell you about the month we dated and what a shitshow it was? Never going back, man, I promise."

John huffs a laugh. "If you told me, you definitely didn't tell me it was Cogs."

"You're better anyway, you let me mooch off you a lot."

John rolls his eyes. "Yeah, thanks, so you do just like me for my food. I knew it!" John feels lighter and John's glad Sam's smiling again.

Sam's staring at him openly. "I don't want to pressure you in anything you don't want to do, Johnny," he says, quiet, as he tugs at the blankets around him. "It's just an option."

John nods. "I know and I do know what you're saying. It makes sense," John replies. "It just caught me by surprise, and I guess – I guess I needed to hear you say a couple of things first."

Sam yawns. "Sorry. We should probably have talked earlier, but how was I to know you had all these weird ideas?"

John bristles a little, but Sam looks more sheepish than serious, and he lets it go in one long breath. "We can do this. I just don't want details, eh?"

"But that's the best part!" Sam says, and cracks up at John's involuntary recoil, which sets John off too.

"Well, okay, if you end up boning Sidney or whatever, then maybe you can share some of the details," John says. He leers. "All of the details."

Sam laughs at him again, hearty and bright. "We're really going to do this?" Sam asks after a beat. "We're okay?"

John hums in agreement. "Yeah, we're definitely okay, Sammy," he says, feeling lighter than he has all night. "We're great." He means it. They're stepping on foreign territory – or well, he is – but John knows they'll be fine. They'll work it out.

Sam nods, biting his lips, eyes crinkling. "You know, we're both in hotel rooms alone, Johnny. Without any nosy housemates," he starts, voice edged with a playful lilt. "You thinking what I'm thinking?"

John definitely is. They still can't not crack up during phone sex, but he's embarrassingly into how good Sam looks when he laughs so it works out pretty well for both of them.

Sam kisses his sticky fingers at John afterward, and the affection that wants to melt John's insides blends oddly with how incredibly hot that is, until John's hiccuping with laughter again, all the more so when Sam teases him about it.

--

John is honestly a little embarrassed by how relieved he feels that Sam's happy with him. He hadn't thought he was dwelling that much, but he's astonished how easy it is to be relaxed when Sam Skypes him to say that the Oilers are going to be in Anaheim and is John okay with everything?

He really is, he finds, even afterward when Sam makes confusing faces at him for half an hour and finally blurts out, "So, do you want the details?"

He doesn't want them; he's okay with that.

John doesn't hook up a lot himself, only sometimes when Skype sex gets frustrating and he's going out of his mind.

He doesn't really have existing buddyfucks or whatever, so he typically hooks up on the road, finding people at random bars the boys take him to.

Mostly, John tends to pass out, bone-deep tired, at the end of a long day. The season's underway, and while the games aren't as compact as it was last season, it's not any less hectic and certainly not any less exhausting.

It's good though, and John finds a lot of satisfaction in the aches he feels on his body because it means they fought well. It's a slow grind trying to stay up in the standings, but they get their two points when they need it, when it counts, and John's happy.

Sam can see the happiness on him when they talk. It's weird to talk about, a bit, when the Oilers are inconsistent again and none of them seem to have any idea of how to slow things down, including him. Sam's not jealous, not exactly, not when he has so many friends in this league, and he's been friends with John for far too long to be anything other than proud of him personally, but it's still weird. Maybe that's why he ends up fishing a little bit, when John hints that the team went out last night and he didn't make it home until late.

He knows John doesn't do this a lot, even when they weren't dating, and he tells himself that's why he's asking, because he doesn't want John to hurt himself. John's not the most forthcoming with details, he never is about his hook ups, and Sam finds he has to needle John to get anything out of him. It's not that he doesn't trust John, he does, but he's curious. John's not interested at all in finding out about Sam’s hook ups on the road, and that's fine, Sam's not going to give him information he doesn't want.

Sam wants to know about Johnny's, though, and broaching the subject with him isn't exactly the easiest thing to do.

"What did you end up doing last night, then? Did you have fun?" Sam asks, with less finesse and subtlety than he means to.

John makes a face. "The usual, you know. Matt and Colin wanted to go somewhere after the game, and then I met this girl. You know."

Sam laughs. "You're a shitty storyteller. Johnny."

"There isn't really a story."

"Then you're not doing it right."

"Screw you, you know what I mean. It was fine," John grumbles. Sam snickers, though it fades when John looks up at him, more direct, less sullen. "I thought we weren't doing details," he says more sharply.

Sam sighs and leans back. "You're killing me here."

John makes a frustrated noise. "I don't know. She was cute. We fucked. It was fine. We're not fucking getting married."

Sam flinches a little. He hopes it's not visible on the video, but maybe it is because John's face goes soft.

"Is everything ok, man?" John says, less grumpily. "Seriously, it didn't mean anything. We can quit this if it's not cool with you."

"It's fine," Sam says, a little scratchily.

Really, it is. Fine. It would be hypocritical for Sam to think otherwise because John's not the only one who hooks up on the road. Still, Sam can't help but think about how inexperienced John is with the setup they have. How it would be so much easier for John to find someone in New York to settle down with.

It's not something that he thinks about much, but the thought of John finding someone a hell of a lot easier to deal with makes his stomach turn.

"Sam?" John says, his voice gentler this time.

Sam gives him a small smile. "It's fine, Johnny," he repeats. "Just, good to know you're not like, going off and finding the next Mrs Tavares or whatever." He tries to keep his tone light, joking, but John's frowning again, so he must not have succeeded.

"Were you worried?" John says. "You shouldn't be, seriously. I can stop?"

Sam fidgets when he tries to think how to answer that. He doesn't really want John to stop. It's just weird is all, and why can't John be a normal person who tells him about what it was like to fuck this girl instead of making him have this conversation. "It's fine," he repeats, for about the millionth time since they started talking. "I mean it," he adds,when John looks disbelieving.

"I miss you," John says earnestly.

It's sort of adorable. Sam snickers to himself when he says, "You too." John grins.

"Not long now though, right?" John says, hopeful. "I mean, we're obviously going to kick your ass, but I get to see you soon, Sammy."

Sam rolls his eyes because whatever, like he's going to let John win. Fuck the Islanders. But his own smile maybe gets brighter, just a little, because yeah, he gets to see John, and they even get another night before the Isles have to fly out.

It doesn't give them much time – just the night before the game and a little bit after the day of, but it doesn't matter because he gets to see John. It's more than enough.

--

It's frustrating to be in Edmonton and still stuck in a hotel room. John knows it's three a.m., and Sam's probably asleep already, but they haven't been in the same city for a long time. He should be more tired after the game, and the flight, and the usual production of checking in, but he's fidgety instead, checking his phone a dozen times like Sam's going to be awake to answer his texts.

He does get enough sleep in the end, and throws himself into working out at Twin Rinks like he's making up for wanting to ditch the team at the hotel last night. Matt chirps him when they're on the bus back to the hotel for how often he's checking his phone, and the terrible example he's setting the rookies by consorting with the enemy.

John glares at him. Matt cackles.

Sam texts him just as he's getting into his room. Nothing special or telling, just a quick note saying he's on the way and for John text back his room number. John fires back a response and goes to settle on the bed, idly flipping through channels, looking for something to distract him on TV. He doesn't feel nervous, and really, he shouldn't be because it's Sam, but he feels a quick surge of restlessness course through him as he waits.

It doesn't take long til he hears a knock on the door.

"One second," he yells before hopping off the bed. John opens the door, and before he can even say anything, Sam's on him, kicking the door closed behind them and pushing John against the wall.

He's almost forgotten what it feels like to kiss Sam, to have him pressed so close, breath hot on his skin.

"Fuck, I've missed you," Sam says.

John just pulls him closer and kisses the curve of his smile.

Sam's clingy in the afterglow, pressed sweatily against John's side, yawning against his shoulder. John pokes him. "We should go if we want to get dinner," he says into Sam's hair, "or the guys are going to be coming round to see if I want to get something with them, and they'll want to tag along."

Sam grumbles, but lets John up to go use the shower. He looks like he's sleeping when John finished, though he sits straight up when John says, "It's your turn," and chucks his damp towel at Sam’s head.

Sam takes long enough in the shower that John's surprised his team haven't come to fetch him. He feels dumb checking to see if anyone's in the hall before they leave, but he just wants to have one goddamn dinner with Sam without company.

Sam takes him to a bistro far away from downtown, edging closer towards what John assumes are the suburbs. The place is small, with tables and chairs that are well-worn, and John pokes at Sam, teasing him. "Think I'm a cheap date, eh, Sammy?"

Sam shakes his head, laughing, as they're led to an empty table by a pretty blonde girl. "Who said this was a date?" Sam says once they're seated, the corners of his lips curling upwards. "The food here's really good. Trust me, yeah?"

John nods. It's not like he has any better restaurant suggestions himself. Besides, John's pretty sure he'd be willing to eat anything and anywhere if it meant Sam gets to be with him, but he's not about to tell Sam that. Not unless he's under duress, anyway.

Sam has more to say than John does, which is typical, and John can't really mind. It's nice to sit here and eat slowly, watch Sam crack himself up before he even gets to the funny part of the story he's trying to tell.

"It was the funniest fucking thing, seriously," Sam says, still chuckling.

"I'm sure," John says peaceably, bumping Sam under the table, which sets Sam off again.

They fight quietly over the bill when the waitress drops it off, flicking cautious glances at the door to the kitchen as they try to elbow it away from each other more or less subtly. John wins, which he claims is height advantage. Sam scoffs theatrically, and tries to turn it into a cough when the waitress comes back with John's card.

John hipchecks Sam gently in the parking lot. "You can make it up to me later if it's that important to you," he says.

Sam ignores him in favour of opening his car door. "I don't know what you mean, man."

As they're leaving the parking lot he adds, "You've got time this evening to come over, right?"

"Yeah," John replies. "You'll have to drive me back to the hotel before curfew, but yeah, I want to. Come over, I mean." Sam's fiddling with his radio, and John can't help but look at Sam – really look at him. He feels kind of silly because he's been Skyping with Sam regularly. Sam doesn't look any different now than he did two days ago on his iPad, but John looks anyway because he can. Because he wants to.

Sam smiles. "Good." He places his free hand over John's, tangling their fingers together, and it takes John by surprise. They don't normally do this, or well, they didn't, but Sam's hand is warm as he squeezes John’s.

The drive to Sam's house doesn't take long. They pull up to the driveway, Sam leading him through the path to the front door. "I don't know if my roommates are home, but uh, they shouldn't bother us."

John doesn't know what Sam's told them – if Sam's even told them anything – so he just nods.

There's faint noise coming from the basement as they sneak through Sam's hallway. Sam grins at John, a finger to his lips. John trips over a pair of shoes left at the top of the stairs anyway.

Sam helps him up, laughing. "You've got no stealth, Johnny, none." He's louder than John's fall was, so John bumps him back, knocking him gently into the way. Sam kisses him quickly, and drags him into a bedroom, shutting the door firmly behind them.

They don't have that much time, but they pretend that they do, making out lazily on Sam's bed. John still wants to cling to Sam like crazy, but their previous fuck blunted the frantic edge of their enthusiasm, and Sam's mouth is soft and wet and perfect against his.

They pull at each other's clothes, hands seeking warm skin, but their touches don't get any more urgent, any more rushed, until they're both panting and out of breath.

John tries not to look at the faint flashing light of Sam's bedside alarm clock. It's a stark reminder of their reality, of time and distance and variables they can't control. Not during the season, not when John's in Long Island and Sam's in Edmonton.

The last few months haven't been easy, and the months ahead aren't going to be any better. But when Sam's under him like this, hot and tight around him, whispering his name against his lips, John knows it's worth it.

That Sam's worth it.

They have a game tomorrow, and tomorrow they'll just be 89 and 91, fighting for their teams, fighting to win. Though soon enough, it'll be summer, and they'll be Sammy and Johnny again, sun beaming brightly on their faces as they argue about Sam's terrible luck at fishing.

Johnny can't wait.

--

The drive back to his hotel is quiet. They both know that between pre-game skates, team meetings, and game day routines, they're not going to see each other until they're on the ice for warmups. It's too well-lit outside the hotel for them to kiss goodbye, but Sam hugs John fiercely, says, "See you tomorrow," like a promise and a threat.

The next day is occupied with the well-worn path of routine, even in a different city. He breathes deeply as he he waits with the team to come out on the ice, remembering.

John's not watching, exactly, but Sam's not quiet as he goofs around on the other side of the rink, chatting with teammates as he stretches. John does his own stretches quietly, skates around some for the feel of the ice under his blades, his stick.

It's all comfort and familiarity like this, even in someone else's barn, and John feels a deep satisfaction skating out to take the face off. It's not like last night, when he was so conscious of what it's like to miss Sam, what he's giving up. The game reminds John what he's getting instead, that here and now he can wait, because there's this game, and the game in two days, and John wants them all, wants them desperately, and Sam is going to be at the end of it either way, and John is so fucking happy about all the things that are happening in his life he can't fucking stand it.

(Until Nugent-Hopkins wins the fucking draw, and John is too goddamn busy to be thinking about anything but hockey. Fuck Sam's fucking team anyway. At least for the moment.)