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Until the Whistle

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“You’ve got a reputation of being a guy not afraid to throw off the mitts.”  
“I enjoy fighting, but I’m not out there looking for beef, I’m there to play hockey” Chantal says, flashing his trademark grin.
“Don’t start nothin’, won’t be nothin?”
Chantal laughs, drags his hand through his hair, “yeah, something like that I guess.”
“And if someone starts something?”
Chantal sets his coffee cup down, and shrugs. “To quote the poet Wiz Khalifa, someone wants beef, they can come get it raw.”

-Chantal, Raw   ESPN Magazine, December 2027

 

It’s probably their busiest summer, never in one place very long. The older they get, it’s like the more people they build up around the world -- friends and family, social commitments that have to get put off to the summer, mixed in with hockey stuff, all crammed into a few months. Vegas for the Awards, and then Martha’s Vineyard, Kenora, New Brunswick, California, Vail, Tahiti. Luc’s not complaining, it’s not like any of those places are terrible, but it’s busy.  

They go to London -- just for a few days, early in the summer, for the singular purpose of knocking someone up.  Not just any someone, a specific someone -- namely Mason Picard’s girlfriend, Jenna Wessyngton-St. John.  Because Jenna and Mason wanted to have a kid together, and they wanted Jacks to contribute a spare chromosome, basically.  Lots of lawyers had been involved.  Lots of signed documents locked up in a million NDAs.  Lots of conversations between Luc and Jacks, and Luc-and-Jacks and Mason-and-Jenna.  

The clinic is very nice, and very discreet, and Jacks goes to a room to jerk off in a cup, and Luc fucks around on his phone in the waiting room, and then, essentially, their contribution to the proceedings are over.

They spend the rest of the day walking around museums, being tourists.

 

Luc’s staring at an Anselm Kiefer in the Tate, when Jacks throws his arm over his shoulder and says, “Just text her, Luc.”

Luc sighs and takes out his phone, snaps a pic of the painting, and sends it to Svets, captionless, because he's pretty sure the painting speaks for itself.

He gets back a snap, almost immediately, of paint on a canvas, but the bright golden light and the gray-blue water sparkling behind it is all Luc needs to know she’s sending it to him from California. One day, Luc will be able to look at the California coastline with something other than longing. Maybe.

He stares at it while the seconds tick down, and at the last second, screenshots it. Jams his phone back in his pocket and wriggles himself deeper under Jacks’ shoulder, looks back at the Kiefer.  

Finally he huffs out half a laugh.  

Jacks squeezes his shoulder. “What are you thinking about?”

Luc snorts out another dry laugh.  “Something Mac told me, once, back in Baie Comeau.”

“What’s that?”

“Women make things complicated.”

Jacks snorts.  “Mac’s kinda an asshole, Luc.”

Luc shrugs. “He’s a hockey player, it comes with the territory.” He sighs. “Come on, you wanted to see the sculpture stuff, right?”

 

That night, in their hotel, after dinner with Mason and her girlfriend, Luc lies in bed and all he can think about is Jacks, and a new tiny baby Jacks somewhere in the world.  About how Mason’s girlfriend, Jenna, who’s going to carry the baby, has light blue eyes and blonde hair. His mind’s stuck on recessive alleles, on how the baby will definitely have blue eyes.  But will they be Jacks’ bright blue ones, or Jenna’s pale ones?  Will the baby have Jacks’ freckles?  His deep red curls?  His height? His soft hands?  His laugh?  Will Mason and Jenna make sure their kid knows how to skate? They’d promised him, the only parameter Luc had placed on their agreement (“You don't have to make the kid play a sport they don't want to, but if they learn to skate too late their stride won’t ever be good, they’ll lose even the opportunity for the potential of--” “It's fine, Luc, we’ll do skating lessons.”). But what if…  

“Who would have thought you’d be the first of us to knock someone up?” Luc asks, instead of the mess running through his head.  

Jacks is reading on his phone. “Not me, that’s for fucking sure,” he answers, without looking up.

Luc takes the phone out of his hand.

“Hello,” Jacks says, looking half annoyed, half amused, as Luc sits down in his lap in its place.

“Hi,” Luc says, and kisses him with intent.

Jacks kisses back, with just as much force, and Luc shudders, brings his hands up and squeezes Jacks’ pecs, rubbing his thumbs over them, as Jacks groans underneath him.  Keeps kissing him, for a few long minutes, until they’re more horizontal than before, Jacks on his back, staring up at him.  When Luc finally rolls him over, sitting on his legs, and squeezing Jacks’ ass, Jacks is flushed and sweating, hips moving underneath him, begging for it.

“Fuck,” Luc breathes, reverently, “come on, Jacks,” and pulls Jacks’ boxers down.  

After that, it's all breathless silence and slick skin noises, and Luc can't think of anything except working Jacks open, about driving himself as deep as he can into Jacks and staying there.  

“You want me to put a pillow underneath my hips,” Jacks smirks at him afterwards.

“Shut. Up,” Luc grumbles.

“I’m just saying, if you want me to keep my legs elevated…”

Luc hits him with a pillow.  “Stop making it weird.”

“I am not the one that made that weird.”

 

 

 

They road-trip it up from Philly to Québec, to move Jacks’ stuff. Jacks’ Range Rover is black, and sleek and literally 50 years newer than Luc’s Land Rover, so it has all sorts of fancy things like GPS and heated (and air conditioned!) seats and Bluetooth that talks to them about traffic like it’s a fucking spaceship.  

“Your windows roll up by themselves!” Luc teases.

“Uh-huh, it’s got one of those newfangled automatic transmission, too. You doing okay there, grandpa, you want to listen to something on the wireless?”

“Shut up.” Luc smiles. “My truck is awesome.”

“Your truck is a rust-bucket that always smells vaguely of sunscreen and BO. If you think I’m riding in it to the arena every day you’re wrong.”

“Harsh, bro.”

“True, bro.”

 

In the wilds of upstate New York, Luc gets bored, takes a picture of them while they’re stopped at a light.  He hands it over to Jacks to check over before he hits post and Jacks reads them over and snorts.  “Beyonce? Are you secretly conducting a scientific experiment to find out how blatant you have to be before someone realizes we’re together?”

“Well,” Luc says, “for it to really be an experiment I’d have to be gathering actual data about numbers of people reactions on each tweet.”

“You’re such a fucking asshole,” Jacks says, fond and sounding charmed, “and no one ever believes me when I try to tell them. They’re all ‘What a nice boy’ and I'm all ‘he’s a fucking troll’ and they still don’t believe me.”

Luc licks his finger and sticks it in Jacks’ ear.  Jacks flicks his nose and then abruptly realizes he needs to be paying attention to traffic.  Luc posts the picture of him and Jacks with the caption “Me and my boo and my boo coup ridin’   #AintaDamnThingChanged”.

 

When they cross the border into Québec the border agent looks at Luc’s passport, at Jacks’, at the truck loaded down with boxes and suitcases, and grins . “Bienvenue, Monsieur Jackson,” he says, shaking Jacks’ hand, “welcome home.”

“I’m not from here ,” Jacks grumbles as they pull away.

Luc shrugs. “I’m surprised he was so cheerful -- we’re closer to Montreal, you’d think he’d be pissed. The Canadiens’ top six needs help and their cap space is fucked .”

 

It’s too dark, and they’re too tired to notice much but their beds that night, but the next morning Luc wanders around. In their absence over the summer, the house in Québec has sprouted a new chicken coop, an abundant amount of wild and hybrid rose bushes, a row of saplings -- fruit trees all meticulously labeled with long strings of numbers -- and a goat. Mako is a big fan of the goat. The goat is dubious about Mako. The inside of the house seems mostly unchanged except the samovar has been relocated to a more a prominent and permanent position on the counter, there's evidence of a frankly unnecessary amount of pickling of asparagus, and the troubling addition of a small, bald, bat-eared goblin sitting on the back of the couch in a Puma hoodie, the presence of which seems to share some correlation with the presence of a cat door into Sveta’s studio. The thing yowls like some sort of banshee then leaps onto a bookshelf, yawns in disdain, curls itself up a ball and proceeds to sleep in pointed indifference.

“The fuck is that thing?” Luc asks, watching it in horror.

“Name Brody,” Buddy answers at the same time that Yasha says, “Sveta get. C’est petite koshka.”

“Wow,” Jacks laughs, giving Luc a look, “I can't believe you thought Sveta wasn't pissed at you anymore.”

 

Despite what Jacks says, Luc isn’t really sure how Svets feels about anything because he doesn’t see her. Sure, she’s around -- he sees her car in their driveway, her terrifying hellbeast chases Mako up and down the stairs, wakes him up by sitting on his chest and purring loudly, claws flexing ominously into his neck.

Anyway Luc’s barely around himself. It’s a few weeks before training camp starts, but Luc’s busy as fuck. There’s pick-up practices at the rink, stopping by to catch up with all the guys that are in town already, all sorts of team obligations like making the rounds to hand out season tickets and standing for way too many photos.

Luc is fucking excited to take Jacks to his coffee shop, that’s definitely on the top of his Back in Québec list.  “They play the shittiest music,” he explains to Jacks as they stop there on the way to the practice facility so that the PTs can check out his knee, “like, so awful.”

“Yeah,” Jacks says, “you’re really selling it here for me, Chants.”

“Oh, and the barista is this chirpy little shit. You’ll love him,” Luc continues, ignoring him.

 

As it turns out, Honoré’s the only person at the shop when they get there, except for a girl in the back corner with her headphones on, buried deep in a stack of books and her laptop.

“Chantal.”  He takes two paper to-go  cups out from under the counter. “Oliver. Bienvenue à la ville de Québec.”  Formal, painfully polite, dry as fuck, and possibly the least welcoming welcome Luc’s ever heard in his life.

The fuck.  

“Oh shit,” Jacks whispers.

And then there’s a lot of awkward staring, which finally breaks when Honoré turns his back to finish making Luc’s drink. Luc looks over at Jacks. He’s pale and his face is doing something complicated. “The fuck,” Luc repeats.

“How come,” Jacks whispers, “you didn’t tell me your ‘barista bro’ was Honoré?”

“How did you know his name is Honoré?” Luc whispers back, confused as all fuck.

“How did you not...”

Honoré thumps their drinks down on the counter, not that he actually ever asked them their order. Luc’s tea definitely doesn’t have any nutmeg on top. Honoré is pissed and Luc has no idea why.

“He doesn’t recognize me,” Honoré says. To Jacks.

“Luc,” Jacks sighs, “this is Honoré Leblanc.”

Duh, dude, I lived here for a year. How do you know that?”

“He’s from Moncton. His parents live about two blocks from yours. He went to our high school.”

What? He did? Luc tries to remember, but he…. Really? This feels distinctly unfair. Luc can’t be expected to remember people from high school that weren’t on the hockey team or didn’t like… touch his dick.

Oh.

Oh god. Honoré totally touched Jacks’ dick. That’s what’s going on with all this emotional silence happening around him. Ew.

“You guys hooked up?” Luc knows he sounds shocked. But really????? Of all the semi- hostile pretentious indie coffee collectives in all the world.

Jacks crosses his arms over his chest, and Luc tries not to get distracted by how huge it makes his biceps look. “He was my boyfriend.”

“I honestly never thought you’d admit that.”

“Yeah.” Jacks shrugs. “Well, I was a little slow catching on, but I got it, eventually.”

“You had a boyfriend and didn’t tell me?”

In the truck, Jacks looks over at Luc and says, “You don’t actually have the right to every single piece of personal information about me, you know.”

Luc fights back the impulse to say, “Yes, I do.” Instead he says, “I mean, I get why you didn’t while you were still keeping shit a secret, but why not tell me after I knew you liked dudes?”

“Come on, Luc, really? Look at him.”

What? “Jacks, I wouldn’t have given a shit if he was like some weird indie kid. I’m not an asshole. I didn’t give a shit about that Jason dude in Toronto and he was weird as fuck.”

Jacks thunks his head gently against the steering wheel several times. Finally, he takes a big breath and sits up. “You’ve got like probably 75 pounds on him now, and he’s got all that ink, but when we were 15 you didn’t look that different.”

Oh. Oh…

“Obviously, if I’d known you had no idea he existed, I would have told you, because you wouldn’t have… made the connection. I was trying to not make it weird.”

 

“Okay,” Luc begins again, sitting in one of the trainer’s room and he’s aware that he's not letting this go very gracefully, but c’mon. Jacks is sitting in one of the chairs to the side, looking at his phone. Stacey’s sitting on one of those little rolling stools, prodding at his knee. “Okay, but like, I still don’t get it, like… I mean, so you wanted me. That's… I mean, everyone sort of wants me. Like I knew you wouldn’t have minded fucking me, even before we got together. I’m hot, that’s not…I wouldn’t have minded, Jacks. If I minded that people want to fuck me, I’d have big problems.”

Stacey snorts and mutters something about conceited assholes. But she sounds fond. Stacey is Luc’s favorite PT. He owes half a season of play to her efforts on his knee.

“I didn’t just want you. I loved you, Luc, don’t be obtuse, we've talked about this.”

“I know that.”

“Do you guys need some privacy?”

“No,” Luc and Jacks both say at the same time.

“Okay, look.” Jacks sighs. “I’m sorry that I kept a secret from you, but at first it was just… you know… I was used to keeping that sort of shit a secret, I didn’t know how to not try to hide it, Chants. And after that, once we were together and everything was out in the open, I just didn’t think about it. I was trying not to think about it. I was kind of an asshole to him. I wasn’t trying to think about what a shithead I was to someone.”

“Okay,” Luc says, chewing on his necklace. “I’m sorry that I’m being… uh… all up in your shit.  I mean, you’re entitled to your privacy or whatever.”

“Okay, Chants, your knee looks solid, it healed really well over the summer. Take it easy on the impact stuff for me, okay?” Stacey continues, thankfully ignoring them. “You want cardio, stick to the bike, and we can start mixing in swimming and some other stuff too. Jackson why don’t you hop up here. I talked to Frank from the Flyers, he sent me some of your imaging studies, I just want to look at that shoulder, make sure it’s doing good for season, okay?”  

“Okay,” Luc says, sliding off the table, “but I refuse to lose my favorite tea place because of high school dick-touching feelings, okay. You guys are gonna have to sort that shit out, because I’m not switching cafes.”

Jacks hops up in his place, pulls his shirt over his head. “I’ll stop by after we get home, talk to him, okay?”  

 

Jacks does drive over to the cafe after they get back, while Luc throws the frisbee for Mako in the backyard for a while, and catches up some with Buddy about his summer.  He comes back looking tired and drained, but he smiles and kisses Luc, and then insists they’re going out to dinner.

“It was good,” is all he’ll say, “it was good for us to get some closure. It’d be nice if we could be friends, eventually.”  

“Are you going to going to get back together?”

“No?” Jacks says, looking kind of confused. “That would be messy as fuck, Luc.” He takes a bite of scallops. Swallows. “Wait, is he the guy at the cafe who offered you a blowjob?”

“Yeah.”

“That little shit.” Jacks huffs out a laugh.

 

Luc doesn’t get a chance to test out if the cafe atmosphere is fixed, or if he’s back to special nutmeg sprinkles status, because they have to leave early the next morning for media day in New York.

 

Luc doesn’t love having to go to New York for media day, but it is what it is.  Jacks goes with him, because the ‘diques want to push the whole best friends reunited on-the-same-line-again schtick for all their promo pictures.  After the trade, there’d been an article that had said something like “Thanks for the gift, Philly.”  It’d pissed Philadelphia off, more than a little. And, well, Luc’s city was filled with salty assholes who enjoyed getting to chirp the rest of the NHL with their good fortune (it’s probably Luc’s favorite thing about their fan base but he tries not to admit it), so they haven’t dropped it. Jacks has been called Le Cadeau de Philly in at least two QC newspaper articles.  Jacks has been grumbling about it since the article dropped, so Luc tried to not make it obvious how much he loved it. How fitting he thinks it is.

Still, NHL media is easy. Luc’s been trained how to do that -- pucks to the net, integrity, spirit of the game, grit and heart, one of the boys --  his whole life. He could do it with his eyes closed. But it’s tiring, and a long day of getting shepherded around. They read not-so-mean Tweets, play some sort of emoji game, film a short little thing for a NHL commercial, and do some kind of round-table discussion thing with a couple of other guys from around the League, get lunch with them in between events.  

He and Jacks get dinner that night at the hotel restaurant. Jacks orders some sort of rye cocktail, and looks hot as fuck, grown up and adult in a polished, New York kind of way, the first button of his dress shirt undone, hair still slicked back from media. Luc doesn’t know why it strikes him so much -- he’s been seeing Jacks in nice suits for years, they’ve been adults for years, this is hardly their first rodeo -- maybe it’s just the dim light of the hotel bar, the way the whiskey looks in Jacks’ tumblr, his five o’clock shadow all red and gold in the low light, or the confident, relaxed set of his shoulders, but it hits Luc hard. This is it. They’re here. They’re everything Luc ever hoped they’d be as adults, and it’s so much better than he even dreamed.  

“I think,” Luc says, pushing his plate away, “that we need to go upstairs right now.”

“You okay?” Jacks asks, shifting forward in his seat.

“I’m fine, I just need you to fuck me into the mattress, like, yesterday.”

 

The next day they finish up a few media things in the morning, and then they have a meeting with Luc’s publicist and Adidas while they’re here, to iron out the details of a commercial Luc’s going to be filming with them when they get back to Québec.  

Luc has a publicist now because in May, when he’d been confined to the couch, Cinnamon had sent him a snap.  A smiling selfie of herself in black cap and gown, gold honor cords around her neck, parents’ arms around her shoulders, all standing in the sun on the steps of some building at the University of Toronto. Luc had sent back a selfie of himself grinning, thumbs up, a quick congrats broooooooooo.  And then overnighted her a Ballon Bleu in brown leather and rose gold, because he’s pretty sure you’re supposed to get watches for graduation. Right?

In early August she’d sent him a snap of her, bummed and pouting in a Starbucks in what was clearly “job interview clothes”, with the caption just reading interviews  :( :( :( And Luc had asked back what’s your degree in again and she’d said double major in Marketing/ PR with a minor in dance.

Now he has a publicist, whose real name is actually Ava Smith on her diploma, even though when Luc had tried to call her that they’d both cringed at the awkwardness of it, and she’d said, “How about we stick to Cinnamon unless we’re somewhere official and then you can just call me Ms. Smith,” and Luc had said, “Oh, thank fuck.”  

So now there’s a person who does amazing things like answer all his sponsor emails for him, and screen interviewers, and tell AskMen.com to take a fucking hike, and it’s just…  great. Luc can’t believe he went so long without someone doing this for him.  

Jacks is doing a separate Adidas commercial, in a separate meeting, although Adidas had talked a lot about wanting to do another one with them together, later in the year. The execs take a break, leave Luc and Cinnamon alone to read over the rough script for the shoot.  Luc reads through and laughs, “Did you come up with this?”

“Of course not.” She takes a big sip of her latte, plays with the cardboard of the sleeve. “They may have asked me about any sort of directions you were trying to go with your image and given me a couple of options, asked me which one fit better, I may have picked that one.”

Luc grins. “That’s my dude.”

Cinnamon shrugs. “You know my motto, ‘get paid, and if you can, get another girl paid too.’”

“So how much are Carr and Les Louves getting for this?”

“Not as much as you, unfortunately, but Adidas is doubling down on all their NWHL sponsorships. So… a lot more than they got last year.”

 


When they’re done with Adidas, they get a late lunch, the three of them, before Luc and Jacks have a fitting appointment at a tailor.  “Your interview with Men’s Health is tomorrow at ten,” Cinnamon says, after the waiter has set down their drinks, “Here’s the questions they’re going to ask.”

“What are the crossed out ones?”

“The ones that I told them they weren’t allowed to ask.”

“We can do that?”

“Oh, you sweet summer child.”

 

In the end it’s four days after they get back to Quéebec, right before the start of training camp, when Luc finally sees Svets. He and Jacks throw a BBQ for all the teammates and their families before the season starts.  Luc introduces Jacks all around to people he hasn’t gotten a chance to meet officially yet, and Jacks grins and shakes hands and slaps shoulders and gets told welcome a hundred times.

“Oh, hey,” Luc says when Holly hands his infant over for Luc to hold, “aren’t you… small.”

Holly rolls his eyes, “Her name’s Flora.”

Flora lets out a giant fart, then blinks up at him in surprise, and starts squirming. “Uhh,” Luc says, in panic. “You should take this back.”

Flora grabs his hand. “Oh,” Luc says because her grip is surprisingly strong, “look at that grip, you gonna be tough like your papa, huh? Gonna drop some mitts?”

Holly scoops her out of his arms, huffs out a “Please stop talking my infant into her own HockeyFights page, and go talk to your girlfriend, eh?” And when Luc looks up, Sveta’s standing there, leaning against the doorframe, watching him.

In the end they wind up in her sunroom, because it’s empty and quiet.

“How was California?” Luc asks, because he still trying to wrap his brain around Crash and Sveta hanging out for two weeks.

“Good, how was Tahiti?”

“Good. Crash is… pretty awesome, right?”

That earns him a smile. “Yeah, yeah she really is.”

“Look, Svets,” Luc begins, at the same time that she says, “I’m sorry I haven't been around.”

Luc drags his hand through his hair. Gives half a smile. “Don’t apologize for that, Svets, I get it.”

“I’ll… I mean… I’ll probably be around more. Now that… I was hoping to… still.”

“Yeah, I know. I already… Well. Ryanne and Tess already talked to me, I already told them I don’t mind you doing the whole team SO thing, if you don’t mind. I know they were good friends, you don’t need to break up the band.” In reality, Ryanne and Tess and Em had cornered him in the pantry about an hour ago. They’d been polite, smiling, and utterly terrifying. As if Luc would ever mind Sveta hanging around, anyway.

They sit in silence for a few minutes, but it’s not too awkward.

“I need to ask you something.”

“Sure.”

“I want to be on Hockey Wives again this year.”

Luc blinks. Takes a second. Blinks again. Looks at Sveta. She looks tense. Miserable.

“Okay,” Luc says.

Sveta looks at him. “That’s it? Okay?”

“Yes?”

“You don’t want to know why?”

“Uh? No?”  Luc watches something… irritated, angry, bitter flicker across Svets face before she schools it into something more grateful. He sighs. Takes a breath.  Grabs her hand. She doesn’t hold his back but doesn’t pull away.

“Okay. Apparently, according to Crash, and Jacks, communication is a skill I need to put a few more reps into, so. What I meant is I’m going to say yes, so it doesn’t matter whatever your reason for asking is. If you're asking, it’s obviously important. So I’m going to say yes. But, bro, if you want to tell me why, because you like… want to talk about it, then I’m here. We can get deep with it. But honestly, Svets, you don’t look like you want to talk about it.”

Sveta takes three big breaths, then says, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Okay.” Luc shrugs. “Cool. So, let me know about the dates for the Hockey Wives stuff okay? And if I need to sign whatever. I can get you in contact with my publicist, she’ll probably need to go over stuff too. And Dan From PR.”

“Ava already contacted me, actually, about other stuff.”

“Oh, sweet. Well then, just shoot her the paperwork, we can all go over it.”

“I liked her, your publicist.”

“Badass, right? She’s a good bro.”

“Are you two…”

“No.” Luc laughs, standing up and stretching. “Definitely not. Okay, so, we good?”

Svets stands too, holds out her hand. Her handshake is firm. “We’re good.”

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

Jacks is a great Room guy.  Part of that, of course, is that Jacks is just a great guy, and so of course he’s a great guy in the Room. But Luc knows the other part of it is that Jacks has worked his whole career in hockey to be the sort of glue guy whose place no one ever doubted in a locker room. It makes sense, in that light, that he’d be a little on overdrive, coming into a room where a reputation preceded him, not just as a great center, an Art Ross winner, but as the husband of the captain. Luc gets it. He’s trying to give Jacks space.

The first official day is only slightly weird for a little while. The guys have met Jacks already, most already pretty friendly with him. But there’s still a lingering, “how much are we allowed to talk about the whole… gay married… thing,” some uncertainty on if the boundaries of chirping/politeness are different now.

It lasts until they actually need to start undressing and Jacks drops his pants and Bergie, of course Bergie, shouts, “Holy fuck, you are not allowed to fuck our captain with that thing during the season, he needs to skate.” And Jimmy throws a tape ball at him, and Jacks smirks at Luc.  

And Luc stretches out, snaps Bergie with his towel, says, “It’s okay, Tallberg, I promise I’ll keep my CORSI up,” which gets them all laughing, because the guys chirped Bergie for months about that last season.

 

They drive into practice together every day, but try get lunch separately at least half the time.

“Where’s your better half?” Rosie asks when Luc rides with him to a sandwich place.  

“Getting pho with Bergie and Charmander. Where’s yours?”

Rosie glances at his watch, looks hesitantly up at Luc, “Uh….probably finishing up with her French language lab, and about to head into pathology?”

“Bro.” Luc says, slapping Rosie on the back and then squeezing his arm. “Bro.”

“Ha, yeah, it’s.... Been an adjustment, but,” he nods to himself, “she’s really happy. Stressing the fuck out but... It’s good.”

 

Jacks goes to lunch with Holly and Rosie and G, when Luc goes with Socks, Buddy, and Bianchi out for Chipotle. Has dinner with G and Ryanne, takes the rookies to a food truck one day. Luc’s happy to sit back and watch him do his thing. It’s not like he’s not busy himself, but it does feel a little weird -- trying to find their balance.  Trying to relearn what being on a team together is going to be like, now that they’re 23, not 16.

On a preseason away game day that Jacks is in the lineup for and Luc isn’t, Luc shoots his Adidas commercial, which turns out to be more fun than expected. Carr is almost as competitive as he is, and the shots turn into a challenging game of on-ice Simon Says, each of them trying to come up with footwork or drills or shots the other can’t exactly duplicate, the camera guys making them repeat them over and over again until they do.

“Tuck your arms in more,” Luc says later when they’re both doing pushups on opposite sides of the locker room floor, room full of cameras.

“Get off my dick, Chantal,” Carr snaps with a roll of her eyes.

“I’m just saying, if it’s supposed to look identical, your form needs to be…”

“I’m gonna punch him in his face,” Carr tells the director and switches to one-handed push ups.

Luc laughs, tucks an arm behind his back.

 

Their first regular season game they play is at Toronto, and it’s chippy as hell, lots of playoff feelings to work out against the boards, but god it’s amazing to have Jacks back on his line again. They get a hat-trick, between them.  Two goals and an assist from Luc, two apples and a goal from Jacks.

G loops his arm around Jacks’ neck in the locker room after the game, drags his head down, shakes him. “Hey, kid,” he laughs, “if you want them to knock it out with the Le Cadeau stuff, maybe don’t kick the snot out of Toronto so bad, huh?”

Road trips are always good for team building shit. On a win like that, everyone wants to go out afterwards.

“Okay,” Holly says, draining a beer, “tell me stories from your crazy-ass summer.  I saw the instagram pics. I spent my summer cleaning up baby shit. Make me jealous.”

“Crash punched a shark in the face,” Luc offers.

“It's just…” Rosie wonders at Jacks, “you married him. Like that's a choice you made.”

“To be fair,” Jacks grins, knocking his knee against Luc's under the table, “I was super drunk at the time.”

 

“You fighting Wilson when we get to Jersey?” Rosie asks, later as they’re loading back into the cars.

“If Coach’ll let me,” Luc yawns.

 

 


Their first home game, Daniel From PR sets Jacks up at his own table for press, after practice. Luc showers and changes, since press had already been told he’d been answering questions after the game but not after practice, and then goes and lurks around the door into Jacks’ press conference.

“I’d have thought they’d all be in English.” Luc says to Daniel, who’s also around standing around the back of the room.

“Oliver says his French is okay.”

Luc winces.

Afterwards, Jacks is short tempered and curt, obviously in a shitty mood. “Sorry,” he says, still half snapping, in the car on the drive home, “I’m just ready for lunch and a nap.”

He’s quiet through lunch but wriggles right up to Luc for their nap, insists on being the little spoon.  

 

“So,” Jacks begins, finally. They’re standing in their big walk-in closet. Jacks is staring at his dress shoes, in an unconvincing display of faux-casualness.  Luc is fastening his socks to his shirt-stays.

“‘Sup, bro?”

“I think we should go French only at home.”

Luc’s… fucking surprised. But okay.

He must look it, because Jacks explains further. “English with the team, on the road, etc. French in the house.”  He makes a vague gesture with a hand. “For me. Obviously. I’m not going to try to fuck with the Russécois, though I think having more French at home will help Buddy, too.”

“Jacks…”   

Jacks has… a weird set to his jaw.  He’s finally picked shoes. Oxblood boots with his gray suit. He’s lacing them up, quick and brusque.

Luc’s suit is some color he doesn’t know the name of, somewhere between gray and brown. Different enough from his normal suit colors that he was initially hesitant, but there’s really only so many times you can buy a gray or navy blue suit before your tailor starts getting bored and putting other things in front of you with increasing persistence. It’s cut like most of his suits -- closely tailored, Italian style. The shirt is a really really pale blue. When he steps out into the bedroom, Jacks’ already at the dresser, strapping on his watch, and Luc hands him his tie.  

“You don’t need to learn French for me, Jacks,” he says as Jacks drapes the cloth around his neck.

“I’m aware.” Jacks hums. “Your collar spread is a little wider than on some of your shirts, do you want a half-windsor?”

Luc shrugs. “Seriously, Jacks, I… Look, I just… this is your house. We don’t have to… I want you to be comfortable in your own house, dude. You don’t have to… be…”

“Dimple or no dimple?” Jacks ignores him.

“Say it in French,” Luc snaps, because this is dumb.

“Un dimple ou pas dimple?” Jacks snaps back, sarcastic. Flat American vowels, like he's speaking English.

Luc snorts. “C’est pas vral?”

“Luc,” Jacks says as he tugs the tie-knot into place, “I appreciate your opinion, and your concern, and I love you, but not everything is about you.” He hands Luc his own tie, tilts his head up a little, to give Luc a little room to work. It’s deep maroon, rough silk. The combination of Jacks’... everything… in combination with his red hair is making everything very autumnal. Like Jacks is going to strolling through some sort of leaf-scattered brick sidewalk, not wear the suit for the duration of the walk down the blue carpet from the car to the arena, then change into sweats.

“This is my team. I’m a professional. I signed an 8 year contract to Québec City. This isn’t some weird domestic shit about our relationship, it’s about my responsibility to my team and to my city. And the press. Yes, I hate having to do press in another language. I’ve always hated it. I hate my accent and I hate knowing I’m being recorded talking in a language I’m guaranteed to fuck up in. But I’m not a kid anymore. This my job.” Jacks continues with a sigh, “French at home, English on the road. I’m not going to get better unless I get the fuck over it, and I’m not going to do that unless we do the whole immersion thing.”

Luc sighs and does not mention the fact that Jacks has lived in French-speaking homes for most of his life because he knows it’s not the same. Luc and his parents may have spoken French amongst themselves, but they always switched to English for Jacks. He’s sure G did too most of the time, just like their billet family in Baie Comeau had, to the extent they could. “Okay, but only for regular day to day shit. I’m not having conversations about important shit or our relationship with an unnecessary language barrier. If we’re in our bedroom, talking about important shit, we can do it in English,” Luc argues.  He finishes the knot, adjusts it a little so it sits just right. This close Luc can see the little scar just underneath Jacks’ lower lip. He kisses it.

Jacks kisses him back, automatically, then raises an eyebrow. Reaches over to the dresser and picks up a tie clip, puts it on. “Cuffs,” he says and Luc holds out his right arm, then his left. The cufflinks Jacks picks are chain, dark blue enamel and silver, small white enamel fleur-de-lis in their center, a gift from Luc’s grandparents, his great-great-grandfather’s from the 1930s. Because apparently Jacks is not interested in being subtle about his point tonight.

“That’s fine, Luc.”  Jacks’ smile loosens up some, he looks fond. “It’s a good idea.” He glances over Luc, up and down. “You look nice tonight.”

“That’s 75% Elana’s tailoring, 25% my parents’ genetics. You look like the best part of Fall.” He grins, dragging a hand appreciatively up Jacks’ side, and then ruffling his hair, before putting his watch on.  He fights the urge to apologize for taking Jacks away from Philly, putting him in a new city with a different set of problems, where something that should be easy as breathing, talking, suddenly is complicated and frustrating for him. He doesn’t. He’s not going to apologize for Jacks being by his side. Or for being a fucking sap about it how grateful he is that Jacks is here. Or even about the possessive weird squirming part deep inside him that’s honestly a little thrilled at the prospect of Jacks speaking French in their house. Jacks here, with him, in his home, permanent.

Jacks rolls his eyes. “That’s 100% your obsession with my hair,” but he’s smirking, pleased with himself, with knowing he looks as good as he does. Luc kisses him again.

 

They win that game too. Luc pulls Jacks out of his suit when they get home, pushes him down on the bed, sucks him off until he’s gasping, hands tugging at Luc’s hair, fucks between Jacks’ thighs, slicked with Jacks’ own come.  Having Jacks here every day, during the season is seriously the best.

 

 

 

In Boston Luc tells Jacks, in the hotel before the game, that he’s planning on getting dinner with Rogue after the game.  

“Cool,” Jacks says, “I’ll grab dinner with G and then catch up on some internet stuff.”

Luc pauses in the midst of brushing his teeth to stare at Jacks.  “Wha….why aren’t you coming with me?” he asks finally.  

Jacks looks back at him equally confused.  “Uh, why the fuck would I go with you to your hook up, Chants?”

“It’s not a hook up. It’s Rogue. I always have dinner with her when I’m in Boston.”

“Right…? And then you always hook up.”

“Not always. Not if she has a boyfriend at the time. But like, what the fuck, dude. You’re here now. I’m not going to… we’re… I thought… because… you’re. Here. That we’re….. I mean, I thought we weren’t….”

“Huh,” Jacks says, looking a little surprised, “I sort of thought you’d want to keep… I mean, I thought we were still… with other…”

“I thought we weren’t?”

“But do you want…?” They both ask at the same time.  

“This is maybe a thing we should talk about for real,” Jacks says, finally, “some time when we’re not rushing to get ready before a game.”

“Yeah,” Luc says, “but either way it doesn’t matter. Rogue has a boyfriend right now. It’s just dinner, not a hook up. You should come with me, because I know you guys get along. She’d like to see you too. We can talk about the other stuff when we get back home.”

 

Luc scores that night on Jacks’ pass, a slapshot from just over the blue line that still somehow threads the needle between one of the Boston D’s legs and then right through their goalie’s five hole. Then scores again in the third period off of Jimmy’s forecheck

The entire Boston rugby team wind up at the game with signage, which is great.  Some of the guys go out after the game with friends of Bianchi and Pendowski. But Rogue comes to dinner with Luc and Jacks and no beefy rugby dude accompanies her.  

“We broke up,” she says over a shared appetizer.  “Like, two days ago.”  She drinks like half her glass of water in one chug and says, “It really fucking blows.”

“Do you want…” Luc casts about in his head for what the fuck people do when they break up. “Like… ice cream, or something? Is that a thing.”

“Wow,” Rogue says, giving him a friendly slap on the shoulder. “You tried. I’m proud. But no. I don’t. I did the Chubby Monkey, Much Ado About Nothing, cry into my wine glass thing with my girls last night.”

“Cool. Cool.” Luc is breathtakingly glad he’s going to be spared that horror.  

“I was thinking more about hot rebound threesomes.”

Jacks coughs into his wine glass.  

“Yeah,” Luc agrees, “I mean, that’s probably better for you, really, than ice cream. Better for your cholesterol.”

“Pretty sure she means with us, Luc.”

“Oh!” Luc looks questioningly towards Rogue.  

She shrugs a little apologetically. “I mean, I don’t want to be that person, or whatever. Like, if it’s rude, tell me to fuck off. But it’d be hot.”

“I mean, Rogue. It’d be hot, but Jacks is not into the whole…girl…thing.”

“Sure,” Rogue says with another shrug, pops some sushi into her mouth. “But I was thinking less about me being the center of attention and more about you. I’ve got a strap-on I haven’t gotten to use in the whole six months I was dating Chad. You could suck Jacks off while I use it on you.”

“Oh,” Luc says, a little thrown and very glad they’re alone in a private room in a tiny Japanese restaurant. “I still don’t think he’d…”

“He’s right here,” Jacks interrupts. “Speak for yourself, Luc. That sounds hot as fuck.”

 

On the walk back to Rogue’s apartment, Luc says, “But you never wanted to have threesomes back in the Q.”

Jacks rolls his eyes. “Yeah, Luc. I said no when I was 16 because I was desperately, secretly, in love with you and I didn’t think going through a threesome while making sure our dicks never touched and that I said ‘no homo’ the appropriate number of times was going to make that any better.  You get this is completely different, right?”

“Oh,” Luc says, “yeah. Sorry about that, dude.” And knocks his shoulder against Jacks’.

“’S okay” Jacks says with a smile, “it’s better now. Anyway, we’ve had threesomes together, Luc, including with a woman.”

Luc blinks. “No, we haven’t. Not with a girl.”

Jacks legit stops on the street. “Uh...Tahiti? Crash?”

“That wasn’t a threesome?”  Luc had been a little drunk, a little cross-faded on some kinda crazy designer indica, his once yearly off-season THC indulgence, but he doesn’t not remember.  He remembers Jacks over top of him in the hotel room in Teahupo'o, the push of Jacks’ dick into him, drunk, and sweaty, and filthy and everything smelling like salt-water and sweat, and the heavy floral scent of the tree outside their patio door.  He remembers enjoying the sticky afterglow, and then somehow… Crash there, sure and happy, tumbling into their room from celebrating her win, laughing and crawling into Luc’s lap, the sensation of her wet and hot around him, while Jacks’ arms held him tight, Jacks’ mouth in his hair, Crash bracing herself, hand on Jacks’ shoulder as she rode Luc.  

“How was it not a threesome? What the fuck did you think it was?”

Luc blinked again. “Uh, two people having sex and then a five minute break and then two people having sex?”

“It was a threesome.”

“But you didn’t do anything the second time -- with your dick, I mean -- you were just holding me. That… doesn’t count, right?”

“Yes, Luc. That counts.”

“Oh,” Luc says, as his mind drastically rearranges itself around that.  “I… might have had more threesomes than I previously realized.”  

“You want to do this, though, right?” Rogue asks, suddenly, from his other side. “Like this isn’t just me and Jacks bulldozing over you, right?”

“Uh, yeah,” Luc says throwing his arm over her, “I’m definitely not complaining. I just… figured Jacks wouldn’t be into it.”

Jacks snorts. “I’m into almost anything that involves your mouth on my dick, Luc.”

 

In the living room of Rogue’s apartment, though, the reality of the situation hits him.  

“So, the thing is,” Luc says, while awkwardly petting Rogue’s cat. The cat is much more interested in Jacks.  “I definitely did not come to dinner tonight thinking my ass was going to be the center of festivities. Like I was pretty sure the night was going to end with kissing you on the cheek and putting you in a cab, and then like, maybe me and Jacks frotting a little before going to sleep, ya know?”

Rogue stares at him blankly. Jacks rolls his eyes but looks fond and his voice is gentle when he says,  “I’m sure Rogue will let you use her shower real quick, Luc, it’s fine.”

Luc feels himself go distinctly pink across the bridge of his nose.  

“Ohhh,” Rogue says. “Oh, yeah, of course. Dude. Don’t even, of course. Here, let me go get…”

“I mean, if there’s going to be like…with a thing” A strap-on. Pegging. What is Luc’s life. “… just a shower’s not really…”  He feels Jacks hand, soothing and warm on his back between his shoulder blades, can feel Jacks opening his mouth to speak.  

“I got you,” Rogue says instead, serious and not laughing at him and Luc just breathes through it and follows her into the bathroom. Behind the closed bathroom door, Rogue fishes around under the sink until she removes an unopened cardboard box from CVS. “I swear this is unused, I got it before I started dating Chad and then…well….things were boring. Anyway, you can use this, if you feel comfortable, but if you don’t, seriously, dude, just…. It’s sex, it’s not going to freak me out if it’s a little dirty.”

“It freaks me out,” Luc hisses.

“Okay, then. Luc. Seriously, if you don’t want to bottom tonight, we don’t have to. I was just throwing out ideas. I can be the one taking it tonight. Jacks can. No one can. We can all just make out and do only hands and mouths or whatever. We can all put on pjs and watch HGTV for all I care.”

Luc sits down on the closed toilet lid and says, “It’s fine. Seriously, it’s fine.”

Rogue bites her lip. “We’re friends, Luc. You’ve seen me with puke in my hair. You’ve seen me when I had that cut on my arm where you could see the bone summer before last. We can talk about the cruder parts of sex. We’re bros. I’ve got your back. And so does Jacks, obviously.”

“Okay,” Luc says and smiles a little.

“Okay,” Rogue says and kisses his forehead.  And then “You take your time, do whatever you’re comfortable with. Jacks and I are going to go watch Wales vs New Zealand, which I have DVR’d, and talk about Brynn Davies' thighs. Whatever you want to do when you come out, we’re fine with.”

 

Luc does his thing in the bathroom. When he gets out, Jacks and Rogue are both dressed, leaning against her headboard side by side, making appreciative noises about Davies' shorts. Rogue looks like she always does: broad through her shoulders, shoulder length hair, sunburned cheeks. Jacks looks relaxed but excited, he’s lost the suit jacket, tie and shoes, looks soft and comfortable in sock feet and unbuttoned collar. Luc is clean and happy and feels the anxiety slip away from in the face of their smiles.  

“So,” Rogue says. “Rules?”

He and Jacks just shrug. Rogue sighs, “Okay, so just traffic lights? I know we’re staying pretty vanilla, but you know, I just want to make sure…”

“Traffic lights work,” Jacks interrupts and Luc nods along because he’s not particularly worried about it. The only thing that might possibly have made him uneasy has already passed, he’s not worried about anything else tonight.  

Luc drops his towel and climbs onto the bed, lies down on his stomach, facing towards them.

“Goddamn,” Rogue breathes.

“Right?” Jacks smiles at her. “It’s a lot.” He smoothes his hand up Luc’s arm, through his hair, proprietary and proud.  Luc kisses Jacks’ knee. Then Rogue’s. Rogue gets up on her knees, moves around on the bed until she’s behind him, losing her sweatpants and t-shirt along the way.  “Fuck” she breathes.  Luc spreads his legs helpfully, feels her hands ghost over his ass.  

“Do you want help opening him up?” Jacks offers.  

Jacks stands and strips off shirt and pants, kneels on the bed next to Rogue. Luc puts his head down on his arms, spreads his legs a little wider.  Feels Jacks’ big hand push at his thighs moving them farther apart, spread his ass cheeks. Luc feels on display.  It’s a sensation from hockey and media that he taught himself to be comfortable with from an early age. But in front of Jacks and Rogue, in this context, it’s not just tolerable, it feels good.  

“Hey, Luc,” Jacks says, soft, “Can we lick you out first?”  

“Fuck yes.”  

“Oops, sorry,” Luc hears Rogue say behind him, as the bed shifts, and he realizes Jacks and Rogue must have bumped against each other as they arranged themselves over his thighs.  

“It’s okay,” Jacks answers, laughing a little. “You can touch me. I’m gay, not allergic to women.”  Luc shifts a little to look through his arms at them.

“Just trying to respect boundaries, bro,” Rogue answers.  

Jacks blinks a few times. “Did you just… ’no hetero’ me?”

Rogue stares back at him. They both start smiling. “Oh my god.” Rogue laughs.

Luc huffs and sits up on his elbows, looks over his shoulder at them. “Seriously? I’m happy you guys are like… having a moment or whatever, and we’ve established everything is queer enough for everyone involved, but if someone wants to hurry up and put their mouth on me, it’d be appreciated.”

Two sets of blue eyes turn to him. “Wow,” Rogue says.  “He’s bossy tonight.”

“He is, isn’t he?” Jacks smirks. “We should do something about that.”

“Bro,” Rogue says appreciatively and offers him a fist bump.  

“I did not take a shower just so you guys could invent a new handshake down there.”

Rogue shimmies out of her panties and then shoves them into his mouth.  Luc blinks in startled surprise.  “If you need them out to say something or you want me to stop, pinch my arm,” she says, smiling blithely.  “Or take them out, of course, we’re not doing anything to your hands.”

Jacks is staring at him in wonder. “That is such a good look on you,” he half-laughs.

And then Luc groans, because he can feel Jacks’ mouth on him, the alternating sensations of Jacks’ big hands, the scruff on his face, and the smoothness of Rogue’s mouth, the slenderness of her fingers.

 

On the plane the next day to Chicago, Luc says, “So. Other people?”

“I mean, I guess I just figured you’d want to keep doing what we had been doing?”

“What we’d been doing is fucking each other when we’re in the same city and fucking other people when we’re not, but now we’re always in the same city, so what would be the point of other people?”

Jacks just raises an eyebrow and pokes at the mouth-shaped bruise just visible at Luc’s collar line.

“Well, that doesn’t count, obviously.” Luc rolls his eyes. “That’s a threesome. That doesn’t have anything to do with it. That’s like an activity we do together with friends.”

“Wow,” Holly says, from where he’s leaned forward, chin resting on the back of their seats. In fact, Luc realizes, pretty much every dude in an adjacent seat has abandoned all pretenses of not eavesdropping.  Charmander passes Salad a bag of SmartPop. “Don’t stop on our account,” he grins, “this is better than the in-flight.”  

“Holly,” Luc huffs, “I’m giving Socks your A.”

 

It takes them an OT, but they win against Chicago.  Coach is shuffling guys in and out of Jacks’ other wing. Buddy, often, but just as often Goose or Rosie. “It’s not that I’m trying to put you on a second line, Buddy,” Coach said, “it’s just that having two first lines is a really really nice position to be in, if we can manage it.”

“Yes, I’m know,” Buddy grins. “My line better.”

 

That night, Jacks lies down next to Luc on the hotel bed and says, “I just don’t want to be your peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you know?”

“No.” Luc says, “I don’t know what that means. What the fuck.”  

“You’re the most disciplined guy I’ve ever met in my life, Chants. I have zero doubts that if I said I wanted us to be monogamous you would be completely faithful. I’m not worried about that. I just… don’t really want sex to be a thing you have to be disciplined about. I don’t want you to think about our sex life the same way you think about baked chicken and quinoa. I’ve always liked… I just don’t want you to have to change that about yourself, the way you are about sex.”

“Slutty?”

“Open. Honest. Uncomplicated. Easy and happy and kinda… pure… in your motives, in a way.”

Luc snorts. “I can’t even imagine having the time, even if I wanted to pull people. My life’s kinda full already, dude, I don’t have the time to spend with new people.”

“Not new people. But what about all your old people?”

Luc lies there on the bed next to him for a few minutes. They’re holding hands, but he shifts a little closer, so he’s flush up against Jacks. Finally he says, “So, let’s just… grandfather people in. And any new people it has to be both of us together?”

Jacks squeezes his hand, and says, “Yeah, that works. That sounds good.”

“You can have Taylor Mitchells on your list,” Luc offers, in what he’s pretty sure is the largest act of generosity he’s ever shown.

“Fuck no. Bro. Luc. Honeybro. That was fuckbuddies of convenience, why the fuck would I bother with all his bullshit if I didn’t have to? Ugh.”

Honeybro?????

“Honeybro?” Luc grins.

“Seriously? Honeybro?” Jacks sounds incredulous, “You like that. I was chirping you. Honeybro, seriously?”

Luc feels his grin get even bigger. “It's like I’m your bro, but sweeter. ”  His chest feels all bubbly.

“Oh my god,” Jacks laughs, and pulls Luc on top of him.

 

Later, after they've rubbed off against each other, and Luc’s come against the clench of Jacks’ thighs, and they’ve cleaned themselves with a washcloth, Jacks wraps his arms around him and says, “Are there things you regret about Sveta?”

There are things that Luc misses, sometimes, about Sveta. He misses the way her long nails, always so perfectly manicured, felt scratching against his scalp, carding through his hair.  He misses, if he’s being honest, her truly spectacular tits and her long legs.  He misses the way her hair smelled like perfume, and her mouth tasted like smoky tea, and the nighttime “balancing serum” she put on her face made the pillows smell like ylang-ylang. There are other things he appreciates and loves about Sveta, but he doesn’t miss them because he hasn’t really lost them, even though they’ve broken up – the way she sits on the porch sometimes in the morning and talks to the chickens while sipping her tea.  Her sarcastic commentary during overly dramatic TV shows. The way she snapchats him every time she discovers a really good salad somewhere in the city at a restaurant they’ve never been to before. The collection of books on the walls in the sun room and her eternal willingness to watch weird survival shows with him.  

Luc leans back against Jacks' chest, feels the heavy weight of his arms settle around him. “I guess you mean something a little more deep than the fact that she’s got the most perfect tits I’ve ever seen in my life and for some reason I never put my dick between them.”

Jacks pinches his side, but laughs.

“What?” Luc huffs. “It seems like a pretty terrible oversight on my part.”

Jacks pinches him again. “Seriously, Luc.”

Luc hums, lets his head fall back against Jacks’ frame.  “I don’t know. I just… I don’t know, Oli, I just… No? Yes? I don’t regret being with her. I wish… I mean. I regret hurting her. I guess I regret that I didn’t know how to tell her, how to talk to her about what we were doing and to explain what I’m… But I don’t. It feels like even if I had told her, we’d still have wound up in the same place, you know? And I can’t regret the time we spent together, or that I got to have her in my life, get to have her now, even if it’s in a weird way. I guess that’s kind of shitty of me. Selfish. But… I like her. I’m glad she’s here, even if it’s all fucked up.”

They’re almost asleep when Jacks mumbles, “Her tits aren’t even all that amazing.”

Luc laughs fondly. “What the fuck would you know about it?”

“I mean, I’m not talking shit or anything, she’s great.” Jacks huffs. “I just… like of all the tits? Out of every set of tits in your wide experience of tits??  Really? They’re fake.”

Luc yawns. “Existence precedes essence, Jacks. Duh. There’s no such thing as fake tits.”

 

Luc goes to the coffee shop one afternoon when Jacks is filming a ‘Diques no Dekes episode with G, sits in the back with his laptop to answer emails. Eventually Honoré comes over, makes a fuss over Mako.

“Hey,” Luc says, while Honoré’s scratching Mako’s ears, “are you pissed at me because of Jacks or because of high school?

“Like I gave a shit about you in high school,” Honoré answers, not looking up from Mako.

“Okay.” Luc bites his lip, “but we’re cool now, right? Friends?”

“I mean, you didn’t tell me you were married to my ex boyfriend.”

“I didn’t know.”

“Instead of talking about this, how about you talk about that friend of yours you brought in here who thinks Folgers counts as coffee.”

“Ryder? He’s an AHL call-up, played in the W.” Luc shrugs. “Uh, he’s got a decent wrist shot? Good edges. I think Coach is still trying to decide whether she’s gonna keep him up or send him back down for more development. It really, you know, it’s a matter of ice time, you don’t want--”

“Yes,” Honoré’ interrupts, “that’s exactly the sort of information I wanted to know about him. How did you know?

Luc narrows his eyes. “He would not shut up about how good that cup of coffee you made him was.”

“Hmm…” Honoré gives Mako one last head pat. “Interesting.”

 

Everything is going great. Luc throws Thanksgiving for anyone who doesn’t have somewhere else to be. And then Sveta and Jacks inform him he’s been relieved of his Halloween duties, and that they’ll be taking over.  

“Génial,” Luc says to that, although he’s not sure what the fuck Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries are. But Sveta seems happy, smiling in a way he hasn’t seen in awhile, and Jacks is obviously having fun plotting with her.  

Jacks shows Luc a picture of G playing beer pong circa 2012 with both wrists in casts and Luc spends most of Halloween being outraged G never told him about his obviously deep devotion to the game, or has never been his pong partner before.

“I am too old for this,” G grumbles when he finally relents.

“Dude,” Luc hugs him, “welcome back to the game.”

Jacks and Ryanne watch them, with wine, and give them high fives when they beat Bianchi and Pendowski.

 

 

 

They’re winning. Not every game, but enough of them. Enough of them that people are noticing.  And he and Jacks are just stacking up points. They win against Washington and Buffalo and drop one at home against Vegas, but win another one against Carolina.

 

And then a puck hits Luc’s hand in the second period of a home game against Florida.  Luc lets out a string of curses and skates back to the bench since the whistle blew.  

“Let me see your hand,” Dan the Trainer says.

“It’s fine,” Luc grits out. Florida got two lucky goals at the beginning of the period and Luc has shit to do.

“Uh-huh, let me see you make a fist with that hand.”

Luc… does. Sort of. He clenches his jaw.

“Yup,” Dan-the-asshole says, and tries to pull the glove off Luc’s hand.

Luc’s stick breaks in his other hand.

“Okay, so that’s not coming off, someone get me some shears. Chantal, we’re going to the locker room.”

 

“On a scale of 1 to 10, where’s your pain?” Stacey asks in the locker room.

“Just numb it up and wrap it, and get me a new glove. There’s like 10 minutes left.”

“Ha. Funny. You’re about to go to imaging. What’s your pain at?”

“Just. Fucking. Numb. It. We’re down two. I don’t have time for this bullshit.”

“You are not my boss, Chantal, and you definitely don’t get to raise your voice at me. No one is going to risk hands as expensive as yours this early in the season, now shut the fuck up and hold this ice on your hand until the ortho gets here. You can wait until the doc gives you meds if you’re going to be an asshole about it.”

10 minutes later, there’s a group of people staring at a computer screen with an X-ray of Luc’s fingers, and the adrenaline of the game and the hit has finally drained out of him enough to leave the throbbing pain of his finger and the knowledge of his own dickishness.  

“Stace,” he says softly from where he’s sitting on the doctor’s table. “Can I have that shot now?”

Stace turns away from the group and comes over, stares at him for a second before shifting the ice pack over his hand. “Ortho’s about to give you a digital block before they set it. But if you want some morphine...”

Luc makes a face. “I really really don’t. All it ever makes me is sick.” and then “Sorry I’m an asshole.”

Stacey squeezes his good hand. The ortho doc is coming over along with a couple of other people.  “Apology accepted, but don’t do it again.”

“I won’t,” Luc sighs and then the doc says, “Big poke, and then you shouldn’t feel anything past your knuckle. Deep breath.”

 

Being on IR fucking sucks. Luc’s out all of November, and the annoying thing about a finger injury is that it’s not something like a leg, or your head, or whatever, where it hurts just to move. Luc feels fine, except for his stupid hand, and it makes him restless.

Luc can skate at least, before practices, and sit around in all the meetings and video reviews. He spends time on the empty ice and in their backyard, practicing one-hand shots with his left hand, but god, he’s fucking bored.

“Stop loitering sadly,” Honoré snaps at him one afternoon when he’s sitting at the cafe.

“I’m a paying customer!” Luc says, holding up his drink, which is sadly still lacking nutmeg sprinkles, but at least he’s been given his cup back.

 

It’s all right for home games -- he skates with the boys when he can, suffers the tragedy of a game night spent in his suit, in the press box. Takes Jacks out on his birthday to some place fancy and Italian with warm lighting and good desserts, and tries not to burn up with jealousy that Jacks is leaving tomorrow to play against the Sens, the Sabres, and the Red Wings over the next seven days.

He watches the Sens game the next night from the couch. Yasha curls up next to his side with Mako and Brody comes and stares at him for a while before hopping into his lap and starting to purr.  Around the time of the first puck drop Sveta slips into the room and onto his other side.  

“Wine?” She offers the second glass in her hand.

“No thanks.” Luc holds up his own cup. “I’ve got this kelp thing.”

Sveta gives him a long look.

“Kelp has a ton of calcium,” he explains. She keeps looking at him. “I’m trying to grow bone faster, okay?”  She sighs.

“I take.” Yasha mumbles from Luc’s shoulder and reaches over for the wine glass. “Chants, have to learn to relax, being S.O. stressful, have to let it go, learn to just enjoy watch game, not care if win or lose.”

“Well, that’s balls.” Luc says.

 

Jacks is a saint who Facetimes him from the locker room, lets him say hi to his boys.

“Life on Jacks’ left wing’s pretty great,” Bergie, high on his two point night, chirps, “I think I might stay here.”

“You know my mother works with human bones all the time, Tallberg. I will kill you and hide your body in a museum and no one will ever know.”

“Way to make it weird, Cap,” Bergie laughs in delight.

Jacks Skypes him again from his hotel room, soft and sleepy looking in the bed. “I am too tired for phone sex,” he warns, in French.

“Jacks, I’m still on the sad significant others couch with our son, Yasha, keep it PG, eh?”

Jacks laughs, and Yasha elbows him in the ribs, affronted.

 

The next day Sveta takes him to their favorite lunch place with giant kale salads. “I’m taking you here,” she says, “as an intervention so you’ll stop drinking that disgusting kelp stuff in front of me. Kale has just as much calcium. If I have to watch you drink that green sludge one more time I’m divorcing you and leaving you for Oliver.”

“Harsh,” Luc grins, but honestly he’s just happy they’re back to their usual weekly lunches and Sveta’s back to joking with him.

“You could also,” she says, at the end of the meal as they’re getting into the car, “drink a milkshake, if you’re trying to get so much calcium.”

Luc snorts. “Yeah, sure, Svets. I’ll drink one if you do.”

Sveta drums her fingers against the armrest of the car. “We could split one.”

Luc risks a glance from the road to make sure that she actually still Sveta, not a clever imposter. Or joking.

“Uh.”

Well, crisse. Now he has to say yes, really, now that Sveta’s got them locked into some kind of double-dare.

“A small one,” she adds, jaw a little tight.

 

They get a milkshake, vanilla-cinnamon with cinnamon dusted on top and no whipped cream.  They stare at it in the car, and Luc pulls off the road into a park.  He takes a sip. Sveta takes a sip. It’s cold and raining and the heater’s on, as well as the defrost, and the park is empty except for some seagulls. Luc takes another sip. “Why do I feel scared that the police are going to come knock on the window?” Luc asks.

Sveta snorts. “It’s too bad Mako’s not with us, we could have gotten her one too.”

“Yeah sure, and then who’d be stuck having to smell her dog-farts all night.”

Halfway through their cup, Luc finally asks, “Did Jacks ask you to do this? This is the kind of thing he does, when he’s worried I’m getting weird about food shit because I’m stressed.”

“He didn’t ask,” Svets says carefully, “but I told him I would try.” Luc can’t really imagine Sveta willingly drinking a milkshake, even half of one, for anyone.  Luc feels suddenly, stupidly, touched.

“Why the fuck are you so good to me, Svets, when I’m pretty sure I don’t deserve it.”

Sveta spends long enough staring out the truck window Luc thinks she’s just not going to answer, took his question as rhetorical. “Every man I’ve ever dated,” Svets says finally, “has either been an asshole who treated me like…” She makes a frustrated hand gesture.

“Like a super hot piece of arm candy?”

“Yes,” Sveta bites. “Or. The other type was… Great. Sweet. Romantic. Treated me…” she sighs, “like a princess. Took me out to dinner and told me I was beautiful, and  treated me like I was special.”  She sighs again and then turns to look at Luc.  “You never treated me like either. You never… It used to make me so mad. Why didn’t you care how much work I’d put into how great I looked. And then, when I stopped, I thought, I don’t know, you’d miss it, or... Or you’d… I don’t know. I don’t know what I thought, but I thought you’d care, and it used to drive me crazy, wondering why you didn’t care. What was wrong with me, did you think I was beautiful at all? Were you just with me because of inertia? Because you needed me to be there, filling this role that you needed on your team? How could you really love me, if you didn’t want to dress me up and take me out where everyone could see how beautiful your girlfriend was?  

Svets wipes at her cheeks where they’re wet and swallows before continuing.  “And then we broke up, and I tried to go on a few dates. I dated this guy… he wasn’t awful. He didn’t do anything wrong. He wasn’t rude to the server or ask for a threesome with any of my ‘hot model friends’. He kissed me on the cheek when he picked me up and told me I looked gorgeous, and he took my coat, and pulled the chair out for me at a restaurant with candles on the table and no prices on the menu, and he was charming and gracious and all I could think of was why isn’t he calling me dude? Why didn’t he shake my hand when we first met, why doesn’t he want to stay at home and laugh at Master Chef, eating our dinner on the couch?

“That’s when I realized, you never treated me like I was special. But you always treated me like we were equal. And then I realized. Then I realized no one else I’ve ever dated before had ever treated me like that. Like I was just… just like another man they knew.” She shrugs, wipes her face again, “you always treated me like a friend.”

Luc loops his arm, pulls her into his chest across the center console, and she just breaks apart, starts sobbing into his chest.  When it seems like she’s gotten some of it out of her system and her sobs are calming down a little, Luc says, “Svetochka… aw, Svets… Svetochenka...”

“I don’t want to move out,” Svets says finally, voice all stuffy from crying.

“Dude, of course not, you know you never have to, plus we’ve got Hockey Wives, and whatever it is you’ve got going on with that. I haven’t forgotten.”

“No, I mean, even when that’s done, regardless how it turns out, I don’t want… I like the house. I like my place in it. And Oliver and I talked. He said he didn’t mind, if you and I got back together again,”  Which. Woah. Luc’s not surprised, but he didn’t know Svets and Oli had sat down and talked about it like that. “But,” Sveta continues, “I don’t think I can be a third in that kind of relationship. I mean, I understand it better now. California… was really good. Crash is… she was .... ‘ awesome’ . I’m surprised, how good of a friend, you know? But I don’t think. You and Oliver mean so much to each other, I don’t think I would like feeling… less than that.”

Luc kisses her hair. “Svets, we don’t need to be together, in any way, for you to still be in our house, okay? For you to be part of this… family. I just don’t want to make you uncomfortable. You’ve got all these like… delicate feelings, and I just feel like this…” He shrugs. “Like a bull in a china shop, but I mean you get it now, right? Like I love you, I just don’t… like you get that I’m different about that.”

“Aromantic,” she says, in English.

“Yeah. That.”

Sveta pushes the cup back to him. “Come on,” she says, “we’re committed to it now, half a cup left.”

Luc squeezes her hand. “All right,” he groans, “game faces on.”

When the cup’s empty, he fishes his phone out of his pocket and loops his arm around Sveta’s shoulder again, “I’mma snap Jacks that we did it,” he explains.

In the snap, Sveta’s eyes are still red from crying but she’s smiling and Luc writes, “we got emotionally heavy with it, but we made it through” and then two little little shaka symbols.

Jacks sends him a snap of himself from the plane, the corner of G’s shoulder just barely visible in the frame. It reads, “I’m proud of you.”

 

Jacks comes back, goes on the road again, calls and texts and Skypes Luc just like all the times they were traveling on different teams. It sucks. It sucks a lot because Jacks is playing hockey and Luc is not. Luc is sitting at home drinking pinot with the WAGs (sorry -- the SOs), and trying to keep himself from backseat captaining from a thousand miles away. Luc trains, does a lot of of modified exercises, shows up unexpectedly a few times at p’tite Nordiques/Louves practice, disappoints a whole bunch of little girls by not being Coach Ouellette, but still probably teaches some good hockey. Jacks keeps Facetiming him from the locker room when he can, and the guys are always happy to talk to him, making appreciative noises about his Movember ‘stache. Luc praises them for their wins, and tries not to take each loss as a direct result of his absence.

 

Luc normally sees his sports psychologist like once a month, but he’s on IR, the exact sort of time when everyone would want him to be talking to someone and he’s not surprised when he winds up with another appointment booked after a checkup on his hand.

“Everything is chill,” Luc tells Greg.

“We’ve talked a lot about control, how have you been managing the stress of having to give up some of that control while not traveling with the team?”

“Okay…” Luc hedges. “Better than other times, definitely.”

“And how are things at home?”

“Look,” Luc says, crossing his arms, “just because I’m with Jacks doesn’t mean that the team doctors get to go nosing through our relationship, okay? We know our shit, we’ve been doing this a long time.”

Greg leans back in his chair. “I promise you I ask every client on IR how their home life is doing. Professional athletes and their families, however their families are structured, get used to a certain pattern in their homes, being home instead of traveling, not playing games, that disrupts things. It’s an added source of stress.”

“I mean, it’s whatever.”

“Have you noticed any change in division of labor?”

“What?”

“You know, who does--”

“I’m familiar with the term,” Luc interrupts, “there just isn’t any. Jacks and I are bros, not some weird 50’s couple named Hank and Barb.”

“Okay,” Greg says calmly, “so who remembers to pay the power bill every month?”

“Megan,” Luc says flatly.  “Our accountant.”

“And who takes out the trash?”

“Annette. From City Best Housekeeping Service. Or her brother-in-law, Marc.”

“And who takes the cars to have the oil changed?”

Luc sighs. “Everyone in the house, except for me, owns the sort of car that the dealership comes and gets. They all have spaceship commuters that send some fucking bat-signal to the dealership when it’s close to needing an oil change and some asshole in a suit just shows up with a loner whip and a bottle of champagne. Seriously, bro, it’s just not like that, okay. We’re bros.

“Who cooks dinner?” Greg says, sitting forward.

“Me. And Yasha sometimes.”

“And why is that?”

“Probably because he’s the only one that’s not making NHL kinda money and he wants to contribute some. And I don’t want him to feel weird about shit, so I let him do his thing. He’s always growing vegetables and shit anyway.”

“You let him. But you’re the primary cook in the house. Why is that?”

Luc rolls his eyes “You know why.”

“Why doesn’t Oliver ever cook? Do you not trust him to make food you’re comfortable eating?”

“I always trust him. Look, we’ve been doing this shit for years, it’s not any different now that we’re on the same NHL team. Or whether one of us is on IR or not.”

Greg cocks his head to the side, like he’s trying to figure out whether he believes that. “Does Svetlana ever cook?”

Luc snorts.

“Why is that funny?”

Luc takes his phone out. Googles ‘Svetlana Volkov’, hits ‘images’, clicks the first one and holds his phone out for Greg to look at. “Does she look like she cooks dinner?”

 

Ironically enough, they film a Nordiques episode of Hockey Wives a few days later, and Luc’s actually around for the filming this time. Last season Luc’s involvement had been pretty minimal -- a few snippets here and there, maybe half a filmed Skype convo, a few scenes at Skates and Plates, but most of it had just been Sveta and the other women, doing their thing. This one probably would have been more of the same, except Luc’s unexpectedly around. Sveta cooks dinner for him, which in and of itself is hilarious. Luc’s never seen her touch a stove in the entirety of their acquaintance and her normal contribution to meals is to occasionally surface from her studio around meal time, sometimes supplying a bottle of wine. Luc’s not expecting dinner to be good, but it’s cabbage rolls, i.e. meat wrapped in a cruciferous vegetable, i.e. protein wrapped in vitamins, so it’s not like he’s not going to eat it.

It’s really good. Luc tries not to act too surprised because he doesn’t want to ruin whatever angle Sveta’s trying to work here. They joke around while washing up together, share a cup of tea, and Luc rolls with whatever she’s working towards for the night, sweetens his tea with jam like he does it all the time, makes sure he stands around in such a way that camera gets a few shots of Buddy’s Kharlamov jersey hanging on the living room wall.

“Svets,” Luc says when the camera guys leave for the evening, “you’ve been holding out.”

“My mother always told me ‘never let a man know you can cook or he’ll expect you to do it for for the rest of your life.’”

Luc turns the TV on. “Imagine what she’d say if she knew you lived with four dudes who did all the cooking for you.”

“It’s hilarious that you think what you do is cooking.”

“I can’t believe I’ve played your weird Russian Stepford Wife game all night, and you’re just coming for me like this.”

 

The absolute worst part about this whole last roadie was that they went to California and Luc didn’t get to go.

“Are you pissed at me?” Jacks asks over the phone, late for him and later for Luc three time zones ahead. “Are you like… jealous?”

Luc is absolutely burning with… something… That Jacks had dinner with the Hertls and played with their kids and pet their dogs, and got to check Neezy into the boards and hug Crash and steal the puck from Temi. It is not a good feeling.

“I’m trying not to be,” is what he says. “Will you let me run down every single play that everyone did wrong against the Ducks?”

“Yes,” Jacks smiles, “but I’m definitely not going to relay it to Holly. You can tell him yourself when we’re back.

“He and G are doing a good job,” Luc admits.  Of course G is doing a great job, he was a captain for a lot longer than Luc.

“Yes,” Jacks says, “but we still miss you, Chants.”

 

Jacks comes home two days later, and two days after that Luc gets to skate in practice in a yellow jersey, which is better than nothing. Luc and Jacks shave their mustaches at the end of November and Luc is honestly a little sorry to see Jacks’ go, it’s so much better than his high school attempts, although he can’t help to think Jacks’ playoff scruff looks better.

“This is a reward,” Honoré says, when he and Jacks go back to the cafe. “For taking mercy on all of us and shaving those things off your faces.” But Luc’s tea has nutmeg again, and Honoré sits with them during his break, talks to Jacks about local concerts until another customer comes in and he has to get up.

A week after that Luc finally gets to play again.  

“Thank god,” Charmander says, “I love you, Chantsy, but I am so done with getting between period texts, you bossy fuck.”

 

Luc’s first game back they play against Colorado. Luc flies out to join the team, coming in after a brutal loss against Arizona. They scrape out a W against the Avs and everyone heads out to a bar to celebrate, spreading over an expanse of tables. Luc spends the night nursing a beer, arm around Jacks, happy to be back where he’s supposed to be. Bergie gives Latte, three tables over, an exaggerated thumbs up and Jacks follows his gaze to where a group of the younger guys are all flirting pretty seriously with a brunette.

Jacks looks back at Luc and Luc shrugs. When the table stands up and starts putting on coats, Socks helping the girl into hers, and Evangelista’s arm wrapping around her shoulder, Rosie rolls his eyes and Jacks gives Luc a quick searching glance, like “Is this going to stress you out?”  

“I’m not worried,” Luc answers his unspoken question, not even bothering to look back over to where Pendowski, Socks, McComeau, Evangelista, Percy, and Latte are all pulling on their coats and following after the brunette now like a bumbling, eager pile of puppies. “They know the team bonding rules.”  

Next to him Holly snorts and Rosie rolls his eyes again.  

“Team bonding rules?” Jacks looks skeptical and not very impressed.

“This fucker,” Holly jerks a thumb in Luc’s direction, “freaked the fuck out, for unknown reasons, early last spring, and made us all sign some fucking oath, in blood, to make sure we all followed the gentleman’s guide to gangbangs, or whatever the fuck.”

Luc can feel himself blushing a little, aware that there were some times, in the latter half of last season, where he got a little... intense, but he shrugs cavalierly. “You did not sign in blood, stop being so dramatic.”

“So I didn’t have to prick my fucking finger and put some kinda OSHA violation of a thumb print on a fucking piece of parchment, at midnight, standing in a circle around the logo on the locker room floor?”

“It was not midnight, it was just after we were all cooled down and changed, after a game, you are such a little shit, Holly.”

“I don’t know why I had to sign it in the first place, Em never lets me have any fun anymore, the point’s kinda moot.”

“Because team unity, alternate captain.”

“So...what are…” Jacks cuts him off

“The gentleman’s guide to --” Holly starts to fill in but Luc interrupts.

“That is not what they are. They’re just guidelines to being a good bro during, you know… team bonding activities.”

“Team bonding activities.”

Luc shrugs.  

“Right.” Jacks says, putting his pint glass down, “so obviously G missed this part of the rule book when he was running through it for me at the start of the season. What are the team-bonding rules?”  He looks expectantly around the table.  

Rosie half stands up from the booth, whistles a little and gestures at the group of guys about to leave. Latte comes loping over. “‘sup, Rosie?” he asks, glancing back at the door where the rest of his party is waiting for him.  

“What are the team bonding rules?” Rosie asks.  

“Oh.” Latte is in the process of wrapping his scarf up around his neck. He tucks the ends into his peacoat and then starts ticking things off on his fingers while pulling on gloves, “The girl can’t be drunk or anything. You have to check and make sure she knows what’s she getting into and wants it before you leave wherever you met her. Yes, you have to explicitly make sure she’s wants to fuck all of you. You have to ask her again when you get back to wherever you’re going and make sure she knows she can say no and leave without anyone getting pissed.  No phones, no cameras, no video, no pics.  Condoms always. No springing kinky shit on anyone without talking about it before the fucking starts. No going in the backdoor without her saying it’s okay before it starts. Afterwards you have to offer her the shower, get her a Gatorade and a cab ride home. Uhhh, pretty sure that’s it, I gotta go, bye,” he says, and runs off back to the door.  

Jacks eyebrows are up towards his hairline. “Well, those sound like pretty reasonable and very-Luc like rules. You guys do this a lot?”

“No,” Holly snorts, “basically never, except...” he nods over to the receding group of coats just stepping out onto the street, “every once in awhile the babies, when they’re feeling their oats, will share. Which is why it was so fucking weird when Captain train-conductor over here got all worked up about it. Honestly, I don’t think half the guys had even thought about it until this guy started lecturing them about what kinds of protein bars are acceptable to give a girl after you and your linemates have re-enacted something from pornhub. Apparently...” He takes a long drink. “Lara bars, after much heated debate, are okay despite their high glycemic index value, which is apparently a positive point, after that much cardio.”  

Rosie laughs again behind his drink and G mutters something about missing his wife.

Holly looks more serious for a second, hesitates, and finally says, “Seriously, cap, you know no one here was fucking around with girls in a way that was sketchy or fucked up right? This is a good room. Even when it gets a little wild.”

“I know that, bruh,” Luc says and squeezes his arm, grateful.

“So the rules?”

Luc shrugs. “Sometimes new guys come in, you know, now they know how it is here.”

Holly searches his face for a second, Luc tries to stay chill through it, finally says, “Anyway, it’s good to remind people about the Gatorade. Hydration is key and people always forget.”

 

They win, they lose, they beat the Habs, and Luc feels like he’s finally shaken the rust off his skates. The weather gets cold quick, snow arriving late, but heavy, and Jacks bitches about it for the whole week.

“Cette marde blanche,” Jacks growls on their drive back from an afternoon home.  Ten got a shut-out, 1-0, and Salad and Percy had scored the only point of the night on a beautiful passing play that had made Coach smile on the bench.

“It’s not like cold and rainy in Philly is any better,” Luc grumbles. “You know it’s like a sunny 20C in San Jose right now.”

They’ve pulled into the driveway of the house. Jacks kills the headlights, but not the engine. “One: That would be a less irritating fact if you were telling me that because the Nordiques were being relocated because three hockey teams just isn’t enough for California. Two: Have you really spent this entire week thinking I’m bitching about the temperature?”

“Umm… yes? It’s cold as balls and I had to actually put on real pants today. Why wouldn’t you be?”

Jacks gestures at the driveway, “Luc. Look at this bullshit.”

“Yeah, I know, it’s fucking horrible, right? Like… 20 in San Jose right now. Palm trees. Avocados.”

Jacks takes a breath. Then another one. “Luc, we’re parked in the driveway.”

“Yes?”

“Chants. Did you know that you make roughly 800k a month. American. After taxes.”

“Um… yes? But that’s like… I mean, you know how Megan is, bro. Like sure I make that much but then it … goes…. Somewhere. Responsible. Diversification of investment… things. I have the pdf. She has all those opinions about athletes and longevity and we have a very responsible long term ... plan. It’s not tax sheltering, and it definitely doesn’t go to the Seychelles, I asked.”

“That’s great, Luc, but five people live in our house, four of them make over six figures a year, and this house has a fucking two-car garage that’s smaller than your parents’, a driveway, and street parking.”

“Okay.”

“Five people means five cars. At least. And the two cars in the garage are your rookie’s fucking Ferarri and your ex-girlfriend’s Maserati.” Which they’re not even driving, of course, now that the snow’s started, but Luc’s definitely not going to mention that. Buddy’s more reasonable all-wheel drive BMW is parked in the driveway too, after all.  

“Well,” Luc says, “You can’t park a Ferrari on the street, it’d get covered when the snow plows go through, and the salt’s terrible for the paint. Plus the neighbor kids are constantly playing street hockey and…”

“LUC. WE ARE MILLIONAIRES AND I’M TIRED OF SCRAPING ICE OFF OUR CAR EVERY MORNING. WE NEED A BIGGER GARAGE.”

“Oh.”

“Yes, oh. This shit is not acceptable.”

Luc grins. “What? Oliver Jackson’s too good to scrape his car in the mornings? Fame has changed you, bro, where’s your humble northern roots? I thought you were a good Canadian boy?”

“You’re wearing a $75,000 watch, and I can’t have a warm, un-iced car in the mornings? Also, you’re one to talk, when was the last time you scraped a windshield? Because you sure as fuck haven’t done it any morning this year.”

Luc grins. “Dude, since the Q, at least. I made Buddy do it last year.”

Jacks stares at him.

“What? He’s my rookie. Also, he was constantly going on about how Canadian winters are nothing compared to Russian ones. Served him right.”

Jacks pinches the bridge of his nose and spends a minute massaging his temples. But Luc can tell he’s trying not to smile too.  “You need to fix the garage problem,” Jacks says finally, “and the fix cannot be making Buddy do it.”

“Wait,” Luc says, as Jacks is getting out of the Range Rover. “How come I’m the one who has to figure this shit out?”

“Because,” Jacks snaps, sticking his head back in through the half open door, “I’m the one who scraped the ice and snow off the windows every morning for the past week when it was 10 below.”

“Fair enough,” Luc answers, to himself, the empty Range Rover, and Jacks’ receding figure going towards the front door.  He gets out his phone and starts making calls.

 

It turns out, that if you try to arrange an immediate construction project to be done in the middle of winter, in Canada, everyone just laughs at you and tells you about realistic expectations using phrases like “after plans have been approved,” and “city council,” and “when it’s warmer and the concrete will set right.”  Even if you just shut out the Habs at home.

After the fourth explanation of how that’s just not actually physically possible, Luc sighs, hangs up, and calls the one person he knows, out of anyone, who knows how to be the sort of demanding, rich asshole who can get a miracle building built in a matter of weeks under impossible conditions if you throw enough money at it.

“Hey, Grant, hey, sorry, I hope I’m not disturbing your dinner. Oh, Hong Kong, oh, wow, it’s… wow, I woke you up, désolé, my dude, I just… you wouldn’t happen to know a general contractor, would you? Preferably one that comes with a magic wand?”

 

Luc calls a “family meeting,” and informs everyone that their contributions to the “garage problem” will be a percentage based on income. “You don’t have to worry about this, obviously,” Luc says to McComeau, the baby rookie who’s up and down frequently from Syracuse and who’s staying with Luc this week because Richie and his wife have terrible colds. “You’re just here because I didn’t want you to feel like you weren’t part of the family meeting. And, Yasha, you don’t have to pay either, obviously, you’re a student and your education is very important to us. How are your exams this semester?”

“Have first one Wednesday.” Yasha says, “And paper due. But... I think good so far.”

“That’s awesome, bro.”

“So back to the garage,” Pendowski says.

“The fuck are you even doing here, Penny?”

“I’m visiting McComeau, obviously. How the fuck are you building a garage in the middle of the winter?”

“Well we’re not, exactly. Grant’s contractor, Dennis, is going to be here tomorrow to start setting up a temporary structure and talk to zoning people and then something is going to happen and then something else that I didn’t pay attention to and then we’re going to give him a lot of money and then there’s going to be a place for Jacks to park. Basically. Pendowski, why is your phone out, no phones during family meetings.”

“Dude.” Pendowski says, “I’m snapchatting this, obviously. So the rest of the boys can see.”

 

“So,” Luc says later that night, after he and Jacks have brushed their teeth and changed into PJs and crawled into bed, “I did a pretty great job, huh, getting shit taken care, doing husband stuff?”

Jacks looks up from his book, a smile pulling up at the corners of his mouth. “Is that so?”

“Yeah, I mean, like… A+ husbanding, amiright? I probably deserve some sort of husbandly reward.”

Jacks is laughing at him, even has he leans over to kiss the side of Luc’s neck. “What kind of reward exactly would that be? You want extra chia seeds in your oatmeal tomorrow morning?”

“Blowies,” Luc smirks back, running his hand down Jacks’ back. “Obviously.”

“Obviously.” The shaking laughter of Jacks against him, on top of him, is the best feeling in the world.

 

They play the Blues and Luc is aware, okay, that he’s taken more than one dumb penalty, but he’s not prepared for Jacks to grab him by the arm and drag him into a trainer’s room during intermission to hiss, “What the fuck, Chants, get out of the fucking box and start playing hockey.”

“What the fuck,” Luc hisses back.

“I’m a big boy, Chants, I promise I can take care of myself, leave the bullshit to Richie and Bianchi and concentrate on being where I need you so we can put some fucking pucks in the net. I sent a pass to thin air because I expected you on my left, and instead you were tangled up in fucking bullshit on the side boards.”  

“I would have been pissed about that hit if it was on anyone on the team,” Luc argues.

Jacks just raises his eyes. “Stay out of the fucking box, Chants.”

Luc swallows back the “go fuck yourself” he’d probably give anyone else, but silence is about all he can manage. Still, when Jones chirps him during the next period, Luc just dekes around him like a pylon, captures the puck behind the net when Jacks sends it to him, and puts the biscuit in the basket.

 

“Chantal,” Coach says, after press and showers, “5 minutes.”

Luc sits in the tiny guest office and Coach leans against the desk and finally says, “I’m saying this as a person who was, is,  married to a teammate. You have to work, to learn how to separate the emotion of your relationship from the emotion of the game. It takes practice, like everything else, to find the balance.”

“We’re not…” Luc protests.

“You're doing good,” she assures him. “Seriously, better than I would have thought. But it still takes practice. You’re not bad at hockey, but you still keep practicing, yeah?”

“All right,” Luc says, “Yeah, all right, I got it.”

“Good game.” She slaps his shoulder. “Video tomorrow at 9, go get some sleep, okay?”

 

Christmas is coming and before it comes Stick, coincidentally, doing some sort of research colab with a someone at Laval for some kind of wave measurements, and with him comes Crash and a huge box of Surf House Christmas tamales.  

“So, what… I try to get you here all last year and you’re busy, but now Jacks is here and Sveta’s your buddy and you just show up for Christmas?”

“This place is cold as balls.” Crash hugs him. “What the fuck, why is the air burning my nose.”

“I missed you so much,” Luc says into her hair.

 

The next day after practice, Daniel From PR gently reminds him that Road to Winter Classic film crews that have been tagging around on some of the roadies and stuff will be going to Luc’s house the next day, and Luc tries not to freak out about it.

“Yes. You signed paperwork for that months ago. It’s on your calendar.”

“Okay, yeah but I totally forgot. And also, uh, nobody with a camera needs to be anywhere near our house.”

Daniel From PR’s brows creep up over his glasses frames.  “Is there something going on that the front office or PR should know about?”

“No! Just... c’mon. Have you forgotten the whole… living with my husband thing. Husband.”

“The cameramen know not to go into any personal bedrooms. Unless you were planning on making out with Oliver on camera, I hardly see how it would be a problem. If that’s all...”

“No! I just… Look. My house is just… insanity right now. You can’t… there can’t be film crews.”

“Insanity.”

“Buddy and Yasha are still there. Svetlana still lives there!”

Daniel From PR’s eyebrows creep up to his bangs. “Didn’t you and Ms Volkov take part in an episode of Hockey Wives, in your home, just last month.”

“Yasha’s fucking chickens hatched chicks the other day, and it’s ‘too cold’ for them in the chicken house, so the whole fucking downstairs is filled with these little fucking birds that won’t shut up!  Sveta’s paintings are all over the place!  She’s got this like…horrifying looking cat with no fur. It looks like a fucking goblin and it just perches on the tops of chairs and stares at people and it always gets on my lap and like … aggressively purrs at me.  Stick… I mean, Anthony from San Jose is here visiting because he’s doing some collaboration with some guy at Laval and he’s setting up a kombucha system in my kitchen!  So like…that means Crash is there too. Seriously, bro, the house is chaos right now -- you can’t put this all on video. Also, there’s some very important but not necessarily licenced by the zoning department things happening to the garage right now, also, that the cameras should not be involved with.”

“If it will make you more comfortable I’ll come with them for the home visit to make sure nothing makes it onto camera that you’re uncomfortable with.”

“Thank you,” Luc says, but still.

 

Luc finds the post has delivered a giant box when they get home.  

“Why Mike Richards send like 15 kilos frozen fish?” Buddy asks, staring over Luc's shoulder into the vacuum packed, dry ice filled cooler.  

“Oh, you know what they say,” Luc sighs, “give a man a fish, he’s fed for the day, suck the dick of Stanley Cup champion who’s compulsively fishing through his retirement, and you’ll get random packages of fish for the rest of your life.”

Buddy squints at him.  “Where they say that.”

“The bible, probably. Oh, wow, bass tonight, huh? Look at this guy. Stick? Jacks? How do we cook bass?”

“That’s probably,” Jacks chirps, dry and two seconds away from an eyeroll, “the sort of thing you should not say tomorrow when the cameras are here.”

 

The filming goes… fine. “McComeau is not my rookie,” Luc explains, “Not that he’s not a very nice rookie. But he doesn’t normally stay here, he stays with Richie, but Richie and his wife have the plague. And G says he’s too old for anymore babies.” Actually, the Richies are better now, but then the baby chicks had happened, and the Surf House visit, and McComeau’s somehow still here.

Rosie and Holly’d come over yesterday, said, “You’re still here, kid?” and Stick had hummed the chorus of “Hotel California” and Luc had flicked a carrot slice at him, and Stick had taken cover behind the kitchen island, lobbed at a chestnut at him.

“I am not a baby,” McComeau protests.

“Shhh,” Bergie hushes him, “so loud for a baby,” and then grapples him into a headlock.

“Why are you even here, Bergie?”

“For the Christmas tamales, duh.”

But it doesn’t matter -- the camera crew has discovered the baby animals.

 

“Yes,” Daniel From PR says as he watches Mako gently nuzzle the tiny chicks. “I can see how you would be super uncomfortable with viewers seeing this wild hidden side of your life.”

“Ta gueule.” Luc rolls his eyes.

Buddy smiles at the camera and holds a tiny chirping chick up to it. “See! Most small. Cutest! Mako is like mama, da? Such good mama.”

“We’re just going to have to cut this whole part out, of course, sure the ratings would skyrocket, but we’d never recover from the scandal,” Daniel From PR chirps, dry as a bone.

 

They play the Habs for the Winter Classic, in Montreal. Because that’s a rivalry the NHL is apparently really trying to bring back. Luc’s bonpapa is delighted, decked out in blue and white and talking fondly of the good ol’ days of the Battle For Quebec, and La bataille du Vendredi saint with a jovial sort of blood-lust. Jacks’ grandad comes all the way in from Cape Breton, and Luc’s mom and dad insisted Stick and Crash come with them and Sveta and Yasha, too, and Jacks even gives a pair of tickets to Honoré, who’s probably going to show up in a Habs sweater, but Luc’s mom had said “Oh, that nice Leblanc boy from down the street! Isn’t he getting his MFA now?”

“Did you know,” Jacks says two nights before the game, at their New Year’s Eve dinner, tree decked out in blue and Buddy dressed as Grandfather Frost, “there's a conspiracy theory on Twitter that the NHL made the Flyers give me to the Nordiques to fabricate a rivalry.”

Luc’s bonpapa launches into further explanation of why that’s ridiculous and Luc’s mom smiles and squeezes Luc’s arm and says, “It’s been really nice to get to spend the whole holiday week with you, baby, I can’t remember the last time we got to do this.”

 

They win against the Habs, again, but Drouin slides into Ten in a play up in the crease, and it’s an accident, obviously, but Ten goes down and Latte has to come in for him. Luc’s pissed, and then Salo collides with Jacks behind the net and Jacks goes down because the outdoor ice is shit at the edges and …

Jacks gets up, looks right at Luc, shakes his hand in a quick shaka, right at Luc, to tell him he’s all right, and Luc takes three big breaths and skates up to his place outside the faceoff circle. Jacks wins it, gets the puck to Luc, and they start the battle to backcheck the puck out of their zone and back behind the Habs’ blueline. 

After the game they find out Ten’s going to be out at least 8 weeks.

 

It starts a string of injuries that seem like a fucking curse. By February they’re thinned out enough the 3rd and 4th lines are almost entirely AHL callups. O’Quinn, the poor bastard, had been playing for the fucking Swamp Rabbits last year.

“I swear to god, Chantal,” Stacey says during a checkup, “If you’re lying to me about your knee just because the roster’s a mess....”

“It’s fine, still feeling really solid, Stace, I swear it doesn’t hurt at all.”

Stacey sighs. “I hope you know that I trust you about as far as I can throw you on this, so I’m just going to ask Oliver if he thinks it’s been bothering you.”

 

“Hey,” Jacks says one day towards the end of a home stretch when they have two days with no games coming up. They stopped for acai-bowls on the way back from an early morning video and short practice.  Luc’s has pomegranate seeds. “Can I tie you up?”

Luc finishes chewing before he says, “What, like, right now? We’re in the car.”

“No. At home. In bed.”

“Huh,” Luc says and then, “yeah, sure.”

“Are you sure?”

“Jacks.” Luc rolls his eyes. “You know I’m down for literally anything you want to try.”

“Huh,” Jacks says.  

“I’m riding with Buddy tomorrow,” McComeau says.  

“You could ride with Richie,” Luc says, “since you live in his house.”

 

“What, like now now?” Luc asks again when Jacks gently herds him up the steps with one hand low on his back when they get home.  

“I’ve been thinking about it, I guess.”

Jacks has a coil of bright white rope in his sock drawer.  “You’ve been thinking about it for awhile.”   

Jacks blushes.

“Jacks.” Luc kisses him, soft, just a breath across his mouth. “How long have you been thinking about it?”

“Since Tahiti.”

It will never not feel good, knowing how much Jacks wants him.  Luc kisses him again, rubs his hand down Jacks’ shoulders and across his back.  

“You fell asleep in that rope hammock and the webbing looked so good against your skin,” he breathes, “when you got up, I could see the impressions. Luc.”

 

“We need to actually talk about like… limits and rules and shit, maybe,” Jacks says, in English, when Luc is naked and waiting patiently on the bed while Jacks fiddles with things.

“Safe word?” Luc asks, skeptically.

“Yeah, like, I don’t know, red for stop, yellow for slow down…”

“Am I supposed to be… protesting. Pretending like I don’t want it or something?”

“No! I’m not… we’re not doing any sort of consent play, Luc.”

“So why can’t I just say STOP if I want you to stop?”

“This is so that if for some reason you can’t think to say stop…”

“If I’m so panicked I’m just going off instinct I’m not going to remember some dumb code word, ” Luc protests, “I’ll just say stop, because that’s what people say when they want something to stop. Or of you really want a safe word, mine can just be Safe Word.”

“Luc, please.” And Luc is suddenly, immediately reminded of everytime Jacks had switched the password for every new tablet or laptop Luc had ever bought from “password” to something 16 characters long with a mix of symbols numbers and letters, usually sighing “Luc” as he did it in the exact same tone. God, Jacks was always taking care of him. Luc loved him so fucking much.

“We can do the stoplights things if you want, Oli. I’m just saying. It’s you. I’ve known you my whole life. There’s nobody in the world who knows me better. Who I trust more. I could literally… It literally doesn’t matter what you want to do to me, okay? You’re never going to do anything that would actually injure me. I know you. We don’t have to have stuff… to like… build trust. I’ve trusted you since I was seven.”

“What if you get scared by something -- being  constrained. I don’t know, something you’ve never tried before.”

Luc rolls his eyes. “How could I ever be scared of anything, Oli, if you’re there.”

“Jesus, Luc.”

 

Luc lies on the bed and Jacks starts doing things with rope. He has his phone out and Luc’s pretty sure he’s like… consulting a diagram. Possibly notes. It’s nice… Quiet. “Intimate,” he guesses, since his dick’s out. But it doesn’t really feel like sex. It feels sort of like playing pretend. Like how it felt when they were kids, and Jacks wanted to pretend they were on an “away vessel”, or that they were cowboys, or they were “anything other than hockey players, Luc, c’mon.” He doesn’t know why it feels like that, there’s no pretense, Luc’s not trying to get away. It doesn’t feel like that’s the point of any of this. Maybe it’s just that everything about this feels a little silly, in the same way that Luc always felt a little silly pretending he was holding a tricorder and that Harold the Bulldog was a sentient silica-based rock lifeform that was trapped on an alien planet.

Luc’s mind wanders. Jacks’ hands are cool and the bed is soft, and there’s low murmurs of noise from downstairs, the life of a house with a lot of people in it, and that always make Luc feel happy and content. Occasionally Jacks mutters something, undoes a knot and backtrack, and then re-ties them how he wants them. Luc’s full, his bladder’s empty because Jacks reminded him to piss before they got started. Jacks is talking to him in a low calm voice, walking him through what he’s doing. It’s nice. Relaxing. A little like the meditation and yoga tapes he still does. Things get a little more interesting while Jacks is wrapping some of the rope around his thighs, around his balls, big hands cupping his sack and running down his dick once, twice, before moving away again. Luc doesn’t try to move, because Jacks is concentrating and he doesn’t want to mess him up, and why would he move anyway?  

“There we go,” Jacks says finally and steps back, arms crossed over his chest, looking over Luc with the satisfied air of a man who knows he’s done good work.  

Luc’s arms are straight by his sides. “I’m not doing anything that’s going to have your shoulder joints at a weird angle,” Jacks had said, “I’m not tying anything around your wrists, okay, we’re not fucking with the circulation to those hands.” Luc had just smiled and kissed the top of Jacks’ head when it moved within reach. Jacks looked up at him and rolled his eyes. He has a freckle right under the corner of his right eye, and two across his eyelid. He’s so pretty.

“So,” Jacks says, “go on, try it out.”

Luc’s not sure he gets the point, but he indulges him. He tries to move and he….

Oh.

He can’t move.

Nothing is tight and cutting into him. Nothing hurts or pinches. He just can’t get out. He can’t move his arms or his legs and he could sit up into a half bow with just his core strength if he really wanted except it'd probably kinda pull at his sack uncomfortably and he… can’t…. He can’t move. Holy shit.

“Luc?” Jacks says, urgent, “hey, Luc, c’mon are you okay?”

“I’m…” Luc says but he doesn’t know what he’s supposed to say.

He can’t… his brain is not thinking. He’s not panicked. He’s not scared. His brain is just disintegrating rapidly into vapor.  He’s just… He can’t move, because Jacks doesn’t want him to. He can’t because Jacks has him, and has him, and Jacks…

And Jacks is going to keep him.

“Luc, give me a color.”

“Okay.” Luc agrees because he'll give Jacks whatever he wants.

“Luc.”

“Which color do you want?”

Jacks pinches his side. Luc blinks. “Do you want me to cut you out of these?”

“No!” Luc says. “No, don’t. Please don’t, Oli, please don’t.”

“Jesus, Luc, your pupils are... are you…”

“Oli, come on kiss me.”

Jacks kisses him, hungry and sweet, and his hands roam down Luc’s chest and Luc groans.

“Oh, shit, you are so into this,” Jacks breathes, and Luc just groans again, and tries to wriggle closer into Jacks’ hands.

Jacks hands close around his hips, push down into the bed and Luc groans.

Jacks trails his fingers down Luc's torso and all Luc wants in the world is for Jacks to never stop touching him.

“The next time we're in San Jose,” Jacks hums, “I'm going to tie you up, and tease you like this while Crash sits on your face.”

Jacks slicks his hand and stroke’s Luc’s dick and Luc tries to buck against his hand, without much success.  And then Jacks swings a leg over him and just… sits down on his dick.  Luc had fucked Jacks this morning before practice, so he’ a little open still, and Jacks had got him really wet, but still, it’s fucking tight and it’s gotta burn for Jacks a little bit, but he just sits there, while Luc breathes through his nose and tries not to come despite all the rope wrapped around his balls.

“Fuck,” Luc hisses, “fuck. Fuck.”

And then Jacks starts the slowest fucking ride of Luc’s life, and Luc pushes his head back into the pillow and says, “Holy shit, you’re evil, oh my god, don’t stop.”

 

Luc wakes up the next morning feeling loose and relaxed, like it’s the middle of summer, not half way through the season.  His head emptied out and replaced with nothing but what feels like a cool refreshing sea breeze of calm.

“Jesus, what is your face doing.” Holly grumbles when Luc comes into the arena the next day. Holly has an infant, a permanent five o’clock shadow, and a sleep debt that makes him cranky.  He should see if Em would tie him up.  

“Just having a good morning, Hollyberries.”

“Oh, god, please go away.”

 

Luc looks relaxed enough that at least six of their teammates slap Jacks on the back in congratulations during team breakfast and Bergie, who throws himself into a chair across from Luc, shoves an entire turkey sausage patty in his mouth and says, “Wow Jackson, guess you give that good dick, huh?”

 

They go to New York the next day, play a Saturday afternoon game against the Islanders, then a day off before they play the Rangers. Salad send Luc a cross-ice pass in a play Coach had them practicing last week, and Jacks just fucking...comes up, right where Luc needs him, making traffic where Luc needs it and tying up their fucking D so Luc can get the puck sinking into the net behind behind Gilley.

Then Luc takes a hit in the last period that rings his bell pretty hard.  He goes down but gets back up on his skates right away, but they get him off the ice and make him go through concussion protocol.  Luc know’s he’s not concussed -- he’s FINE, but it’s still the last ten minutes of the game that he missed.  

 

Jacks calls Cinnamon, for some reason, after the game, then drags his fingers through Luc’s sweaty hair and says, “You definitely can’t go to Sveta’s gala thing tonight, Luc.”

“I’m fine.”

“Maybe,” Jacks hums, “we’ll see what they say tomorrow, but it’d look bad, you having to sit out the last ten of the game because of concussion protocol and then going out to a red carpet event that same night in front of a bunch of flashing cameras and drinking champagne.”

Luc leans his head into Jacks’ thigh and says, “But I thought it was super important to her and you made me remember to bring my tux. It’s like… in honor of that designer dude who helped her when she was a kid, remember?”

“I know, Luc, but you can’t.”

“Why don’t you go with her?”

“Obviously I can’t go with your ex girlfriend to a giant New York gala, Luc, there’d be ten articles the next morning about tension and drama in the locker room. Also, you brought a tux, I didn’t.”  

In the end, Luc uses his eyelashes, and wins.

Luc takes a picture of them in the hotel suite they’d upgraded to, anticipating Sveta meeting them here and the whole event. He’s not exactly an artist, but he thinks it turns out pretty well -- he manages to get all three of them in the frame: Jacks, looking suave as hell, leaning against the wall, adjusting the cuff on his leather jacket, Svets, leaning towards the mirror, putting on her earrings, a couple million in rental diamonds hanging around her neck and dripping enticingly down her back, and Luc, visible only in the reflection of the mirror, sitting on the foot of the bed in sweatpants and a ‘diques tank top, half of his grin visible behind his phone as he takes the picture.  He posts it on instagram and twitter with the caption, “Double shifting for me off ice tonight too #beautymoves #bestbro #NYFW”

 

“I'm a genius and all my ideas are good ideas,” Luc says smugly from where he’s watching Jacks and Sveta get ready, because he gets to spend the evening in sweats, eating room service, and watching ESPN.

Jacks shoots him a dry look while he straightens his tie. He's wearing Luc’s black Cartier skeleton watch and he looks hot as fuck.

 

They make Luc take it easy for practice the next day, even though a second concussion test confirms that he’s still fine.  They win against the Rangers and Luc’s hoping it will ease a little of Jacks’ pre-Philly jitters, because it’s not the first time they’ve played against them this year but it is the first time they've played in their barn, and Jacks is nervous.

“Did you tie me up before we left home because you’re nervous about going back to Philly?” Luc asks the night before their game at the Wells Fargo center.

“No,” Jacks says. Then a deep breath and “Okay, so maybe a little.”

Luc stares at him.

“Okay, a lot.” Jacks shrugs. “I mean part of is like… I don’t know how pissed they're going to be? Like if they boo me and are really terrible, I fucking loved that town, you know?  That’s gonna hurt some, but that’s.... I’m pretty prepared for that, that’s hockey.” He’s silent for a while and then finally says, “I guess I’m just worried, going back, that I’ll miss it too much, you know?”

“You’re worried you’ll… regret it?”

“Not… not regret. I wouldn’t ever. I can't regret moving to play with you, Luc, I would never. I just… I liked it there a lot.”

Luc hums a little because he doesn’t know exactly what to say that.  “I guess… I mean you don’t hate Québec, do you? Like you’re… your French has gotten better, and you don’t… you like it, right?

“I like it, Luc. It’s a good team. I wish they’d stop it with the Le Cadeau stuff. It seems, I don’t know. But I’m not… I like where I am. I just liked where I was, too, you know? You get that, you loved San Jose, too.”

“Yeah.”

“The thing is,” Jacks says, carefully, “The thing is, Luc, in Philly I existed because of myself, you know? Not because I was like… gifted to you by the hockey gods. I was just… a guy playing hockey.”

Luc feels his entire brain come crashing to screeching halt.

“Jacks, I … you don’t… I never believed you existed because of me. I can’t believe you’d...  Jacks you’re amazing. You’re wonderful. You’re so… But that’s all you. Everything about you that’s so fucking amazing is you, not me. You were born before me, you fucking asshole, how could I…. You precede me. I didn’t conjure you into existence. I never thought that. Just that… Never that my wish made you into anything, only that it brought you to me. That it introduced me to you. That’s all. Just that it put us together in the same place, you in all that you are, and me and what I am. It didn’t make you into anything, you were already perfect, it just… made sure I knew you. And knew how amazing you are.”

“Oh,” Jacks says after a few moments of stunned silence.

“Yeah, oh.”

“Huh.”

Luc punches him, gently, in the arm.  “Asshole.”

Jacks pulls him into his chest, “Okay,” Jacks says, voice a little broken up sounding, “Okay, that’s not such a bad gift, eh?”

“No,” Luc grumbles, “it’s not.”

 

Philly definitely boos. And throws stuff. Jacks sets his jaw and concentrates on shutting them up with points and it works, mostly.

 

“If you say one word about Jacks,” Luc says as he’s crossing sticks with Teufel outside a faceoff, “I will knock the last fucking tooth out of your skull, Teufel.”

“I’m not an asshole.” Teufel mutters. And then “Now, your goalie, that goal from Ghost shook him, huh, He’s off tonight, we’re gonna…”

Jacks wins the faceoff, and Luc’s not paying anymore attention to Teufel’s toothless mug, because he’s got the puck and an empty lane right to Holly.

       

“God that was brutal,” Jacks says after the game, but he pulls on his suit and tells Luc he’s going out for drinks with Teufel and some of the other guys.

Luc squeezes his shoulder. “You gonna be alright?”

“It’ll be fine, Chants.”

 

“Please, Coach?” Luc asks two nights later when they play Jersey.

“No” Coach says

“But.”

“You had a hit to your head less than a week ago, and you know the rules, you get one Wilson fight a year. It’s not my fault you blew your wad in the first month of the season.”

Luc heaves a dramatic sigh, but says, “Sure Coach.”

 

A week after they get back, two days before the trade deadline, Luc’s in the kitchen throwing together some wild rice, when Svets comes clickety-clacking down the hall and across the tile in a pair of sky-high heels.  Her hair’s all blown-out, and she’s in a dress that’s… slinky.  Luc’s pretty sure the best word to describe it is slinky.  

“Wow, Svets,” he says, “got a hot date tonight?”  He’s kinda surprised honestly, because he’d sorta thought, going off of Christmas, and some snaps back to California, and a like… a general gut feeling… that Svets had been continuing on with whatever tender, hesitant, charmingly romantic thing that had looked like it was starting with Stick when Stick had hesitantly told her how her wave painting had been a perfect example of the continuity equation and then geeked out hard, blushing and smiling at her, sketching quick equations on a napkin and Sveta had pulled her hair back from her face, scooted her chair closer, and said, “Explain.”  

“No,” she says, a little snappier than she’s been in a while.  She’s fiddling with a band of diamonds around her wrist, and Luc steps over to get the watch’s clasp for her.

“Work thing?” he offers and he clicks the band closed while she holds her wrist still. It’s her Patek Philippe watch , the one that she wears hardly never.  That never really looks like her. Now Luc can’t help but feeling a little concerned.

“No.”

“Just going out for some poutine and maybe some bowling?” he jokes.

“Luc.” And yeah now she’s definitely snapping.  

“What’cha doin’, Svetochenka?” Soft as a sigh, because there’s never any point in snapping back with her.

Svets steps away, pulls on her long dress coat, fluffs her hair out from under the collar.  “What I always do,” she says, half sharp, half...weary.  And exasperated.  Luc follows her out the kitchen the hall and the front door.  

She tucks her clutch under her arm. “What is necessary,” she finishes. Then rolls her eyes. “Don’t wait up.”

When she steps outside, Luc can see that there’s a car parked along the curb in front of their driveway -- a sleek black 7 series BMW with deeply tinted windows and a lot of gleaming chrome.  What takes him by surprise though is the four of other vehicles -- two black SUVs in front of it, engines running, two behind.  

“Crisse, Svets,” Luc mutters to himself, “the fuck are you mixed up in.”

 

Luc waits up. He doesn’t even pretend not to.  Jacks waits up with him for a little while, but eventually heads to bed with Mako.  Buddy gives him a knowing look as he heads to bed, and Yasha a worried one.  Luc’s not… he’s not worried.  Svets knows her own shit. Luc’s not into stepping on her toes or second guessing her judgement. Anyway, he has lots of other shit keeping him up to worry about. Who they’re going to lose, who they’re going to get in the next day or so through trades, what kind of lineup he and Jacks are going to have to work with going into the postseason.

Sveta rolls in around 2 am, looking tired, but somehow her hair still looks perfect. Luc’s never been sure how she does it.  

She looks surprised and a little stricken to see Luc, curled up on the couch under a giant throw blanket, and half nodding off to a rerun of Man U vs Chelsea on ESPN 4.

“I thought I told you not to wait up.”

Luc snorts but doesn’t even try to protest, there’s no way he’s ever convincing anyone he stayed up for a soccer game.  “Wanna watch the rest with me, they’re doing a great job of…” He casts about in his head for some kind of praise. “Running.”

That makes the corners of Svet’s lips curl up in a little bit of a smirk.  “I need to change” is all so she says, though.  

When she comes back, she’s in sweats and an old Nordiques tee.  Luc just lifts up the corner of his blanket in a silent invitation.  Svets curls up next to him under it.  

She’s tense next to him, muscles tight.  Luc drapes an arm around her.  Guys in red and blue continuing chasing each other up and down the field.

“Aren’t you going to ask?” she says finally, jaw tight.

Luc turns his head to look at her.  “What’s to ask?” he says finally.  Then because that just made her look even more tense. “Svets, look. Did you get what you wanted?”

“What?”

“Whatever you were doing… did you get what you wanted?”

Svets stares at him, shocked. Finally she says, “Yes. Yes. I think I did.”

Luc smiles. Shifts around in the couch to get more comfortable.  “So. It doesn’t matter how you get it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 5 point lead early in the second that you never lose, or if you’re fighting to the last whistle, if the whole game was nothing but garbage goals and roughing calls. It’s still two points at the end of the night. It’s still a fucking victory. Every W counts.”

Svets looks like she’s going to cry.

Luc shrugs again. “You obviously had a pregame strategy, you worked your game-play, and you got the W. What is there to say, Svets, except tell you ‘good game’ and remind you to hydrate.” He wiggles an arm free to reach over the side of the couch, grabs the unopened Gatorade there, tosses it to her. “So hydrate, champ.”

Svets buries her face in the armpit of his t-shirt and he can feel her shake against him. For a second he’s afraid she’s sobbing, but when he hears the gasp of her voice he realizes she’s laughing.  And she keeps laughing, until she’s breathless and wiping tears from her eyes.  

“I love you,” she says finally, red-faced, “you ridiculous man.”

 

They play Columbus (a win), and then Toronto again (a loss) and then Buffalo.

“Okay” O’Quinn exclaims in the middle of the changing room, after the last of press has gone and everyone is showered, “Is no one going to mention this?? Do we just not talk about it?”

A room full of heads slowly turn to look at him. “About what?” Holly asks slowly, voice a little hard.

O’Quinn gestures at Luc. “About CHANTS.”

“What about him,” Bergie says, careful.

“He just… He just handed McComeau a Gatorade.”

“Look kid if you’ve got some kind of problem.” Holly says, voice all threatening edges.

“No. I just… fuck. He walked in from the showers. He handed McComeau a Gatorade, right?”

“Mickey played more minutes than usual this game, hydration is important.” Luc shrugs and pulls on some track pants. Rookies are so exhausting.

“No, that's fine. I just...Chants’ HANDS WERE EMPTY.”

That’s mostly met by bewildered silence.

“His hands were empty and he was wearing a towel. WHERE DID THE GATORADE COME FROM?”

“From the bench?” Luc suggests, because he wasn’t really paying attention, but there’s drinks everywhere -- there’s a lot of people who make sure nothing’s really out of the way for them.

“You manifested it out of thin air.” O’Quinn points a finger at him, “I swear to god… he’s fucking magic? Are we just not supposed to mention it? It is like… just one of those hockey things we don’t talk about?”

Bergie starts laughing so hard Luc’s afraid he’s going to choke, and Holly loops his arm around O’Quinn’s neck, smiling now. “Oh kid,” he says fondly, “it’s okay, everyone gets hockey crushes, I know Chants’ eyelashes are like… giant and mysterious, and his backhand seems unreal, but I promise that’s just your hockey-dick talking, it’ll pass.”

“Oh my god,” Luc groans, pulling on a hoodie. “Holly, stop. O’Quinn, there’s Gatorade everywhere around here, welcome to the world of corporate sponsorships. I’m getting on the bus. Are we going somewhere tonight for food, or just ordering at the hotel?”

 

That night Jacks pulls Luc down on top of him, laughs into his mouth, “Oh my god,” he laughs, “jesus christ, the rookies think you’re magic and Holly mentioned your eyelashes, my life is complete, God, I hope Charmander got that on video, holy shit, come on Chants, fuck me with your interdimensional magic hockey powers.”

“Ta gueule.” Luc grins even as he’s sliding his hand down Jacks’ pants.

 

They hobble their way through March towards getting at least part of their roster back from IR.

Luc’s dad comes along with them on the Dads’ trip to Florida, with a custom made jersey that says “Jackson-Chantal”, spends a half a plane ride talking to Jimmy’s dad about some kind of endangered nuthatch that lives in Algeria and the other half spectating G and Jacks’ usual chess game, until he finally jumps in on the second game, cracking his knuckles and grinning.

And then Mason Picard texts them a picture of a little red faced baby with tiny hands and big eyes, all swaddled up in white cotton, staring at the camera with hazy dark blue baby-eyes.

“Just told her about her uncles,” the text reads, and then “We’re not doing like...a christening christening, but can you come out in the summer for a party, we want you to be godfathers?” And Luc shows the photo to his dad, while they’re like… touring the Everglades and says, “hey so you’re like… half way kind of a granddad, sort of.” And his dad gets all misty eyed, and Jacks looks all goofy about it.

“It’s not our kid,” Jacks says that night in their hotel room.

“It’s not,” Luc agrees, because biologically it’s whatever, but it’s definitely not their kid. There’s a giant stack of legal documents that say so.

“But we could have a kid,” Jacks says, “at some point. Not now…. Obviously but there’s lots of ways we could do that.”

“Yeah,” Luc says. “Yeah, we could...we could definitely do that.”

 

Luc’s knee really is fine, but there’s no one in a locker room at this point of the year that doesn't have something that’s twinging at least a little, and it seems like every moment that’s not hockey is press press press because of injuries, because of their playoff spot (better than anyone had predicted), because of still missing a goalie. They get a little break the night before they play the Wild in Minnesota, and Luc finally gets to catch one of the NWHL Isobel Cup games -- Les Louves vs The Whitecaps.  Jacks comes with him, of course, and somehow they collect a group of guys trailing along with them from the hotel. Evangelista’s no surprise, of course, but by the time they get there, half the team’s joined.

“I can’t believe you can just… buy tickets at the door, on a Championship game, for $30,” Ryder wonders as they take their seats. Although, to be fair -- the seats are filling pretty well, considering the Flames did lend them their barn for the night, so it’s a bigger venue than normal.

“The patriarchy,” Socks agrees sadly as he sits down next to Ryder.

Jacks raises his eyebrows at Luc. Luc shrugs. “You saw how much Mario Kart he played with Crash and everyone over the holidays.”

“Oh,” Latte says when the Whitecaps goalie makes an amazing save. “Okay. Wow.”

By the end of the game, Charmander, Socks and Buddy are standing, screaming, and Holly’s nervously sitting on the edge of his seat. “Jesus, just get it in the fucking, nooooo, come on, pass the fucking….YESSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What a goal!!! What a fucking goal!!!!!!!!”

 

The next night they play the Wild and Luc gets his second hat trick of the season, and Jacks with an apple on every one of them.

“Fuck, you guys are unreal,” Holly mutters on the bench. “How did you know where’d he be?”

Luc shrugs. “Intuition, I guess.”

 

In St. Louis they all wind up in Kale’s hotel’s room with McComeau, Teilyr, Socks, Bianchi, Jimmy, Buddy and Ryder, where they are apparently playing a horrifying drinking game that someone probably learned in the O, involving every flavor of Doritos they could find at the gas station across the street from the hotel, and a blindfold.

“NOPE” Bianchi crows, “WRONG, that’s not Nacho flavor, that’s Supreme Cheddar, DRINK!”  

“You up next, Chants,” Buddy says after he’s pulled off the blindfold and finished his beer.

“Fuck no,” Luc laughs, “I am not eating that shit,” but he takes a beer, and later, after he’s gone back to his room for his own snacks, he intercepts Sock’s attempt to put a Chile limon dorito in Ryder’s mouth and sticks a kale chip in there instead.

Ryder gags and splutters and shouts about fouls and penalties and Luc laughs and eats his kale chips and Jacks’ knees knock companionably against his, and it’s fine that half the team’s day-to-day, for the night.

 

At the end of March, Sergei Melnyk shows up on their doorstep. There are a lot of dramatic feelings that happen all over the living room, and then Buddy goes to his favorite deli and comes back with his weight in zakuski, and a large bottle of cognac, because for all he chirps Sveta constantly, he really is a good dude. Luc and Jacks and Buddy all sweat their hangovers out during practice the next day while the rest of the house sleeps in.

 

A week later, Jacks surprises him for his birthday by not taking him out to dinner, but instead inviting a bunch of people over and queuing up The Crossfit Games on Netflix for Luc to hate watch.

“Fuck, Jacks, you are so good to me,” Luc sighs, as Jacks drapes his arm over his shoulder and he watches the opening blurb. “Look at these assholes, oh my god… that fucking clean and jerk.... He’s going to die… what the fuck is… someone stop him, he’s going to break his neck.”

Most of the team is there, and even Honoré showed up with two bottles of wine and a wry half smile directed at Jacks and then a blink of surprise at the couch where Bianchi’s sitting half on Jimmy’s lap, stealing his popcorn.

Luc spends the evening squished up on the couch, in a room full of his friends and his dog, happily bitching about people’s lifting form. It’s perfect.

“Have you thought about personal training?” Holly asks Sergei, “you know your shit, and I bet Svets knows people who are looking for fitness coaches.”

That night Luc works Jacks open with his tongue before pressing into him, comes to Jacks’ shuddering underneath him, clenching around him as he comes too.

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

 

“The Pens have been a behemoth this year. President’s Cup, clenched their playoff space in March. Unbreachable defense. What makes you think the Nordiques have a chance to get through them? 

“We’re hungry for it.” Chantal says, eerily calm and certain, flint in his eyes older than his years, “We’re the wolves at their door. They’re going to let us in.”
-Luc Chantal, Nordiques press day, May 2028

 

 

They blast through the Sens in five games, and then the Rangers in another five. It feels good, like they’re hitting their stride, peaking exactly at the right time in the season, and it’s just… fuck it feels good, to play that kind of hockey.

 

And then they go against the Pens in the Conference final and just hit a fucking wall. The wall is like 95% their tendie, but the puck just won’t fucking go in the net. Ever goal feels like a labor of Hercules. They win one, then drop the next two, and Luc’s knee is fine, it’s not re-injured but it aches, and finally, finally they win another one, in a mess of a game with more fights than goals, though at the cost of Bergie’s ankle, and G... well G’s hip has been aching since February, and hurting probably since Ottawa.

“I’m surprised you didn’t want to talk to Jacks,” Luc says when he slides into the booth across from G at a quiet little place near his house, on their rest day after their win.   

G makes a face at him from behind his beer. Says, “He might be all grown up, but Oliver’s still my rookie. Anyway, I already know what he’s going to say, he’s too fond of my wife. They tend to gang up on me.”

Luc shrugs. “So, what they’d say, the docs?”

G shrugs back. “Not good, but they’re leaving the choice to me.”  

Ahh.

Of course, if they thought he had another season of play in him, they wouldn’t.  His hip would be worth more to them, in the long term. But G’s retiring this year, so.

The waitress comes and Luc orders a drink, G orders food. When she’s gone, G asks, “You’re not going to ask what I’m going to do?”

Luc leans back against the booth. “If you wanted to talk to me, not Jacks or your wife, I guess I already know. But, you know, as your captain, I’d say that the choice is up to you, no one’s going to respect you less if you spend the rest of your post season in the press box, you’ll still be with us. Take some time, talk to your family, and whatever decision you make, your team will support you, you know that. Your health is important.”

G nods. “And not as my captain, as my friend?”

Luc sighs. “As your friend, all I can say is that if you play, I’ll do everything in my power to get us there, to make it count.” He sighs again, “and I’ll help your wife carry your dumb ass up the stairs when your arthritis is acting up.”

“Like I’m going to choose to live that close to you when I’m retired,” G chirps.

Luc rolls his eyes. “How are you and Ryanne going to have wine nights with your last rookie, if you don’t??”

 

The next day, Giroux has his meetings with medical and coaching staff, squeezes Luc’s shoulder when he comes back into the locker room, but doesn’t say anything.  Luc’s coming back from doing some PR stuff the next day when he sees Stacey standing outside an exam room.  She's got stuff for what looks like a cortisone shot in one hand and fuck, Luc’s pretty sure she’s crying. The doc’s probably waiting for her in the room.

“You okay, bro?” Luc asks.

“You are not my favorite person right now, Chantal. Every single one of you are so dumb. This is the worst part of my job, watching guys make stupid decisions about their body. The damage he’s doing is permanent.

“No glory is bought without sacrifice,” Luc answers, solemnly.

“Don't you feed your brainwashed Hockey Canada kool-aid to me, Chantal!”

Luc shrugs hopelessly. What does she expect him to do?  Say G shouldn’t play? Doesn’t she understand it’s the Cup??? “The price is blood and pain and sweat, Stace. That’s the price it’s always been, that’s the deal we’ve all been promised, that we’ve all been making, from the first time we put on our kit. It’s a deal that we all have to pay on, eventually. G knows that.”

Stacie wipes her hand across her cheek, furiously, and sniffs.

“Stacey. There’s 10 possible games left in this postseason. That’s 10 NHL games left in G’s life. Your job is to make sure that he’s on the ice for every one of them we play. My job is to make sure that it’s worth it, at the end.”

“It’s a fucking punchbowl. A 33-pound punch bowl.” Stacey sniffs and walks back into the PT room without another word.

 

Jacks is silent that afternoon when they get in the car.

“Are you mad at me?” Luc asks, as he fastens his seatbelt.

“I’m not mad.” Jacks says in an unconvincing tone.

“It’s his last shot at the Cup.”

“I’m not mad,” Jacks repeats, “I’m just preparing myself for how mad I’m going to be at you in 15 years when you make the same decision.”

Luc squeezes Jacks’ knee. “And I’ll be mad when you do the same.”

Jacks opens his mouth to argue, snaps it shut and turns his head to stare out the window.

 

Somehow, they make it to game seven. They score one early and can’t get it in the rest of the fucking night. At least the Pens can’t either. Ten’s been back since the playoffs and he make so many saves, so many stupid chances that they're fucking giving up to the Pens, that Luc grabs him during the first intermission, pulls him into a bear hug, goalie pads and all, kisses his forehead and keeps muttering, “Crisse, mon gar, mon gar, mon gar.”

In the second, the Pens score one to even it out and then the ‘diques answer back with one that gets turned over because of goalie interference. Fucking bullshit. Luc screams, and breaks his stick so that he doesn’t break the ref’s face, and then screams some more. There’s 8 minutes left in the period, up and back the ice over and over again with nothing, and then, just before the end of the period the Pens score again.  

The mood in the locker room during the break is pretty fucking bleak. Coach does what she does best -- wheels out the white board and starts breaking down the Pens play, where they’re tripping the ‘diques up. “Here,” she says, making big red circles with her marker, “here’s where you’re getting caught up, you can’t let them slow you down.”

When she’s done, and everyone has their marching orders for the next period, Luc takes  a deep breath.

“I know you’re all tired,” Luc says, “I know it feels impossible right now. But I’m telling you it’s not. We need three goals and we’ve got a whole twenty minutes to get ‘em.  We’re going to do it. I know it feels like it’s impossible.”  Luc takes a big breath, looks at the men sitting around the room, looking at him.  “But all I’m asking for is everything you have. Nothing more. But nothing less. Not a drop, not a breath, not a second less. Everything you have, leave it on the ice, and we’ll make it into June.

 

They don’t get three goals, but they do get two -- enough to take it to OT.  

They’re doing everything they can to keep the Pens out of their fucking crease, to snarl up their chances and to spend more time behind the Pens’ blue line, but even though they’re generating more chances, the Pens’ goalie’s still a fucking wall.

Nobody scores the whole period.

“One play at a time,” Coach says when they go back to the room, while they chug Gatorade. “You boys were making progress, it doesn’t feel like it, but you were. Just keep your heads, and keep taking each moment.”

Nobody scores in the second OT either.

Coach doesn’t talk as much in the room after that one, lets PT staff fuss over everyone’s hydration levels and reapply sports tape where they can instead, walks around individually to run through some plays with people.

Luc’s brain is stuck on the ice, on the sound of the skates, on the movement of each play.  “If you’re breathing,” Luc tells them, as they’re shuffling back out to the ice, “you’ve still got breath left to fight, come on, boys.”

Five minutes into the third OT, G draws a penalty and they get a PP. A minute and twenty seconds into the penalty, Jimmy gets the puck on a turnover, gets it out of the neutral zone before sending it to Luc. Luc’s got guys all around him, but he keeps the puck, dangles it around one of the Pens’ D, guards with some footwork for a few steps, turns with it so he can get the shot, and sends it straight to Jacks’ tape. Jacks never hesitates for a second, just sends the puck flying, right over the goalie’s shoulder into the net, upper deck, glove side.

 

There’s a lot of screaming. Luc’s pretty sure he’s crying, face shoved into the crook of Jacks’ neck as the boys crowd around them, but he’s too tired to tell, really.  Luc holds the Prince of Wales cup when they bring it out, says words to the press on the ice, although he doesn’t remember them, and then they all get herded back to the locker rooms.

You’d think after a Conference final win, there’d be some celebration planned for the evening. And you’d think after a triple over-time that they’d all just go back to their hotel and collapse in bed. What really happens is that the locker room has been turned into a mini triage clinic as the training and med staff tries to sort out what needs to be treated Right Away and what can wait until they’re back home. Luc takes his skates off and half of his right sock is bright red with blood from some place on his toe that’s been rubbed beyond raw. Luc hadn’t even felt it.

“What you need is three minutes in a cryotank.” Stace informs him, poking at his knee, his shoulder, his hamstrings, after Rick has told him he’s going to lose the toenail but they can deal with it later and is busy wrapping it up so he can get in the showers.  

Luc grunts.

“But we don’t have that here, obviously. If I asked you to take an ice bath back at the hotel, would you do it? Oliver too. Here, drink… all of these… and I won’t have to put an IV in, we’re running out of stands, honestly.”

Luc drinks some Gatorade. She scrubs her hand over her face. “We get like.. Barely 3 recovery days not counting travel, because it went to game 7. We just can’t really wait…”

“Stace,” Luc sighs, “I’ll take an ice bath, if someone will bring the ice.”

“Good.” Someone plops a paper plate with two slices of pizza and chicken breast cut into strips on it onto Luc’s lap.

“Oli?” But Jacks is not far from him, with his own crowd of people fussing and his own paper plate of carbs and protein. Dennis is wrapping his elbow.

 

Luc was prepared for it to be hard. It’s not like he’d never been in the playoffs before. It’s not like he’d never been playing into June before, even if it was in juniors. He’d read stuff, he’d talked to guys. He knew it was a push. But no amount of knowing is really knowing it in your bones when you’re living it, of the aching nauseating exhaustion. He wasn’t prepared for how much his body would try to betray him -- to tell him he was too tired, or too sore, for his legs to not want to move fast.  On paper, Luc would say the ‘diques were a better team than the Knights, but the Knights won their conference final in 5.  

Stacie may have said they had three days recovery, but at least one of those days is spent almost entirely in media, as Stanley Cup Fever runs through the city.

They play their first game at home, and get the absolute shit kicked out of them. The game starts getting ugly when the ‘diques are down four, and after that it’s nothing but a gong show of penalties. Luc goes over the fucking gate during a scuffle at one point, and then takes a bad check and falls wrong not long after, and the sudden stabbing in his side is all he needs to know he’s broken a rib or two. “Probably broken” one of the sports med guys says during the next intermission.

“No shit.”

He listens with his stethoscope. “Well, your lung’s fine right now. You’re cleared, but I’ll need to keep checking through the game to make sure your lung’s not going to collapse, since we don’t have time for imaging.”

“Génial,” Luc hisses, because he’s poking at it again, and then gets up to go listen to Coach’s whiteboard talk.

 

Losing at home during the first Stanley Cup Final game in Québec City since … ever... the first time  Québec City’s EVER been in the Stanley Cup finals is pretty much the worst feeling in the world. Facing media afterwards is even worse. Doing it while pretending that it doesn’t hurt to breathe is actual hell.   

“Well,” Luc says. Jacks collapses into bed and Luc follows him much more gingerly. “That was fucking awful, let’s never do it again.”

Jacks throws an arm behind him for an exhausted fist bump, “‘kay.”

 

“We are not losing this game.” Luc says two nights later, just before they line up to go out. “It’s not an option.”

There's a pregnant pause as the boys wait for him to say something more.

“That’s it.” Luc says, “fucking get it done, okay, boys?”

 

They get it done. Three times. Three fucking times. A win at home that has Québec City losing its fucking shit in excitement, then two wins back to back in Vegas. There’s so much press. There’s so. Much. Fucking press. Everything is a narrative. Québec in its first ever real shot at a Cup. Luc and Jacks and their friendship through the ages. Two new expansion teams going against each other for the Cup when 2/3rds of the Original Six didn’t even make it to the playoffs this year. A woman head coach whose name might make history, pressed into silver.

Luc is tired, but mostly he’s tired of talking.

That night in the hotel room Luc lies down on a strategically arranged nest of pillows. “I want to come,” Luc sighs, “but I don’t want to move.”

Jacks laughs softly. “I’d suck you off but…” But Jacks took an elbow from Taggins in the 2nd period tonight, has a blossoming bruise, three loose teeth and a sore jaw. Luc’s not even going to bother thinking about a handie. Rick would fucking murder him if Jacks used his wrist for anything other than hockey right now, since Jacks’ wrist got bruised three games ago in a crush up against the boards.

Before he can think anymore about it, he falls asleep.

 

They lose the next one. At home. On a game that could have been it. When… it… the Cup was sitting in a room, waiting for someone to win it. Waiting just out of reach. It sits sour in Luc’s gut, even though he knows they played well, the way they should be playing. A bad call, an overturned goal. Some nights you just don’t have the puck luck, Luc finds himself saying on repeat to the press after the game, while he assures the press, the city, that they’re not going to lose their grasp of the series.

“I am proud of you boys,” Coach said. “I know it feels like shit, but you played the right way. You rallied after a bad start, you got the momentum back, won both your games in a hostile barn, and even though you lost tonight, you played the right way. Keep playing like you did tonight, don’t let it get to you. Keep playing like this, and we’ll get there.”

 

Luc spends a lot of the plane ride to Vegas overthinking shit.  It’s just that... they’re exhausted. Sure they’d had the lead early in the series, but the Knights had won one away and were now going back to their home crowd. This is how teams lose momentum, giving up a home game and then going away, and if they had to push it to another game seven…

“I’m not worried,” Jacks says simply, when Luc brings that up, plucking Jacks’ headphones out of his ears and elbowing him awake.  

“Why not?”

“It’s June, Luc.”

“Yeah, dude, I know. It’s the Finals.”

“No it’s… the playoffs are going pretty far into June. It’s really not that far from our anniversary.”

Luc squeezes his hand.

“We’re in Vegas,” Jacks says simply. “We’re going to be playing this game 3 blocks away from the place we got married.” He squeezes Luc’s hand back. “It's going to be there, right next to where we promised we’d do it. We’re not going to lose this game, Luc.”

 

In the end, they score first -- a shorthanded goal that slips in between the pipes off Buddy’s wrist shot when G outworks the Knight’s backcheck, and waits out the play with all his veteran experience. Vegas evens it up at the end of the period, but Luc still feels buoyed. He can feel it in his bones. Still, the whole second period goes scoreless. The mood in the room during the second intermission is quiet, but positive.

“Boys,” Coach says, “we know our game, we know we can do it. Let’s go play some hockey.”

Luc scores a little less than halfway through the 3rd period: Jacks gets the puck to him somehow, through traffic, and Luc sneaks it behind Persson’s blocker.

Goose gets them an insurance goal three minutes later, and after that the Knights seem to crumple. Charmander and Salad get a tip in, and then Rosie scores on the empty net before the buzzer.

They won. They won the fucking Stanley Cup.

 

They bring the Cup out and Luc skates forward. He feels… elevated. Like he’s floating, like the thundering noise in the stadium around them is a distant roar, nothing but the shine of the Cup and the feel of his team around him. It’s heavy, when he takes it, but he can’t even feel his ribs when he lifts it above his head. He’s supposed to do a lap, of course, but his skates take him straight to Jacks.

“Lift it with me,” Luc shouts above the noise. Jacks grabs the other side and they take their lap, Cup held high between them.

“Jacks,” Luc says, when they coast to a stop by the team, “Jacks, here we are.” and he kisses him. The Cup in between them, he sinks his spare hand into Jacks hair, and pulls Jacks into him. “J’t’aime toujours,” Luc says into Jacks mouth and kisses him again. When he opens his eyes he’s blinded, for a second, by the flashes all around him. He closes them again and finishes kissing his husband.

When he stops, Jacks is flushed, but grinning. Luc doesn’t even have to say anything. Jacks takes the Cup, skates it to G.

 

Once the Cup’s gone to the team, Luc’s surrounded by press.

“You made history out there,” one of the journos shouts.

“Yeah,” Luc grins, “first Cup for Québec City!”

“‘Diques ‘diques ‘diques,” a chorus of chanting starts up behind from Bergie, Latte and Salad.

“I meant the kiss.”

“Nah,” Luc says, “I kiss Jacks all the time.”

And then Holly and Ten pull him away in a chorus of chanting, absorb him back into the mob of team and family for pictures, to his parents and Sveta and Crash, and everyone else that’s down on the ice now.

 

Jacks wins the Conn-Smythe, and, god, he fucking deserves it. Luc gets pulled aside eventually for more press, but somehow keeps it mostly to hockey. How does it feel to win -- great. What does he have to say about the kiss -- that was great too. Anything else great, the press guy jokes, and Luc says yeah our goalie. And their D-corps for keeping them in the game. What's he going to do now, someone else asks.

“Celebrate,” Luc says, “with my family,” and then Cinnamon is there, and Daniel from PR, and he doesn’t have to talk to press anymore, just go back to the locker room and starting opening champagne.

 

After that it’s a bit of a blur. Luc’s… drunk. Like… really, really, really drunk, at a level he hasn’t been in years, juniors maybe.  Or the Olympics.  They wind up at a club. Luc doesn’t care where they are. The Cup is here, and Jacks is here, and there’s no more reason anymore that he can’t kiss him, anywhere and anytime he likes, and there’s music to dance to, and the heavy weight and shine of the Cup always moving somewhere in his vision, on the floor sandwiched between the team as they dance, or up in the VIP room, nestled in pillows, and glittering under shimmering lights.  

Eventually they wind up back in the hotel, herded not to their rooms but a giant penthouse suite at the top of the building.  

Luc’s exhausted, the playoff run catching up with him, even through all the adrenaline, but every time he thinks about calling it for the night, there’s something else in his hand to drink, another chorus of shouts, some new arrival and round of hugs.  Eventually the night quiets down, but nobody really wants to leave. Leaving, going back to their own rooms, would mean going away from the Cup, and no one wants to do that.  Luc could take it, if he wanted, haul it off to his own bedroom with Jacks, Captain’s rights, but currently Jordy and Ingvaldson are staring at it, like they can’t believe it’s real, and Bianchi’s asleep on the floor, one hand on its base, and G’s sitting next to it, Ryanne asleep in his lap, his hand in her hair, but his eyes fixed on it, like he doesn’t want to forget a second that it exists in his sight.  Luc can’t do it.  

He can’t go to sleep either. There’s a low murmur of conversation, punctuated by deep content silences, all of it too perfect to waste with sleep, the close companionable warmth of his teammates against him on the couch, the low murmur of voices, shared memories of the season, of the night, of The Game. How could Luc sleep, when the lights of the city outside keep catching in the glow of the Cup, reflecting in the curl of Jacks’ hair, the tired smiled in his eyes.  

They watch the dawn break through the balcony doors, shimmering desert sun and Jacks says, soft, “It doesn’t seem real.” There’s a murmur of assent from the room. “Not just the Cup, but everything. The morning. The city. The sun.”

“I think that’s the lack of sleep,” Rosie jokes.

“No,” G says, soft and dreamy, “it’s the Cup. It's magic. It really is magic.”

At eight am, just as Luc’s in danger of actually sobering up, breakfast arrives, enough to feed two whole teams, and with it trays of bloody marys and bottles of champagne and orange juice.  

Luc thinks he might sleep on the plane, after such a big breakfast, but by the time they pour themselves on, it’s apparent that’s not going to happen either. The Cup gets its own seat, but never sits there, passed back and forth and up and down the plane, and things get rowdy again. The staff are all laughing, and it’s a long flight back to Québec, but nobody sleeps for it, especially when everyone knows the whole city’s going to be there, waiting for them, when they land.  

The road along the airport back home is lined with people and flags. Luc’s street -- every house they drive past on the way to his house lined with fluttering flags -- not just the blue and white of the fleur-de-lis, but rainbows too.

“Shit, Luc,” Jacks breathes as he drives, “holy shit.”

There’s a party that night. It’s at Luc’s house, although damned if he knows who planned it or how it came to be.  He’ll have to thank someone.  “Invite Les Louves,” Luc had said, on the plane, when people were talking about it, “have them bring their Cup too.” He’s pretty sure he’d directed that part at Daniel From PR, who was at least partially sober.  And then, on his phone, to Crash, he’d just texted a picture of his credit card front and back, and said “too drnnk, buy plane tickAEWTS for everyone from hte HOuse, PARADE day after we get back be there o b lammmmmmmmmmme”   

His house really isn’t meant to hold this many people.  There’s catering? Who did that? Not Luc.  Luc’s so glad other people are taking care of shit.  

It’s weird. At the beginning of the party. Because there’s so much family there. Both sets of Luc’s grandparents, Jacks’ grandda, too, everyone else’s family, there to see the Cup and drink wine and beer and eat hamburgers, but everyone is so drunk and somehow Luc winds up talking to Bianchi’s nana for like 10 minutes while they do shots, and the music is Loud and everyone is so happy. Luc has never been this drunk in front of his parents before.  Or tried to talk to his grandmother while holding someone up for a keg stand. But the person attempting the keg stand is Coach, so that’s probably ok.  

Luc hugs his mother and says “I won the Cup” over and over again into her shoulder and she pats his head and says “You did, bébé, but you need to change your clothes, you’re kind of smelly.”  

Instead they fill the Cup up again with champagne and Luc pours it for it Les Louves, while Carr stands beside him with the Isobel-Clarkson Cup and pours it for his boys, a laughing line of Nordiques waiting to drink from it.

Eventually the old people go home, but no one goes to sleep.  Luc’s pretty sure he doesn’t actually remember how to sleep. Instead Luc eats a burger, drinks a Gatorade, and rallies for the rest of the night.

 

The back of their truck is crowded the next day for the parade, and the streets are wild. Blue and white fleur-de-lis everywhere: painted on faces, painted on the sides of buildings, spray painted onto street signs and post boxes and chalked onto Business windows. Everything is blue and white except for all the rainbows.  Rainbow fleur-de-lis.  Rainbow igloo and hockey stick nordique symbols.

“Oh my god,” Jacks whispers next to him on the truck as he stares at the crowd, “Oh my god, Luc,” and then promptly shotguns a beer someone tosses onto the back of the truck from the street.  

Luc also sort of forgot that he was expected to speak at the Parade. Whoops. He should probably be more sober for this.  

Luc goes through all the expected things he’s supposed to say. Thanks the city for their love and support, calls them all fucking beauties.  Thanks the front office and the back office, and the trainers and the Equipment guys, and Stacey for keeping his knee patched together for the whole of last year, thanks his boys and his As and then loops his arm around Jacks shoulder. ”Especially this one, hein? Look, for real, when we were like...10… we promised. We made a vow, that we’d lift The Cup together, one day.  I knew, then, that I was going to spend the rest of my life playing hockey with this fucking beauty next to me. And that every minute of it was going to be a gift. He’s been my best friend since I was seven years old. He’s been the center of my line for just as long. And now, he’s our Conn Smythe winner, Oliver Jackson!!!”

 

The parade ends, and the after party, and the Cup goes on its way, home with the coaches for the night, and Luc falls into his bed, out of sight of the Cup’s silver gleam for the first time in 3 days, but wrapped up around Jacks, and sleeps for 18 hours straight.

 

When he wakes up he staggers downstairs to find Cinnamon sitting at his kitchen table, laptop open, glasses perched on her nose.  Luc pours himself a glass of kombucha and starts rifling through the fridge for breakfast.  

“Hey,” Cinnamon says, “I know you don’t want to think about it right now, but eventually you’re going to have to make a statement.” She pauses.

“Actually, I’ve been thinking about it,” Luc agrees, “I’ve got it all planned out.”

 

It takes a little doing. They eat breakfast first, well closer to brunch, okay maybe it’s late enough to just be lunch, but Luc makes omelets for his house full of family and friends. And then they have to get the external hard drive with the video out of the wall safe, and then get it transferred to Luc’s phone, but eventually he gets the Tweet all typed out, the video attached, and hands it over to Cinnamon to okay.

Jacks peers over her shoulder and says, “You’re such a smug little shit.”

Luc had gotten an email from YCP, some other stuff forwarded to him, suggestions for ways to formally respond, ways to discuss it, etc. Luc… well this tweet pretty much ignores all of it.  

It just says “Five year plan: ✓

                  what’s next???”

And then his wedding video.  

 

Luc’s not done with the petty tweets. He takes a picture that evening of him and Jacks on the couch, arm slung over Jacks’ shoulder, dog curled in their lap, attaches it to a tweet with a link to that old article he’d bookmarked years ago at the ASG, types out “Conn-Smythe-ing it tonight,” hits post. Then, he turns his phone off, tighten's his arm around Jacks' shoulder and smiles.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Locker clean out day, June 2028

 

“How long have you and Jackson been together?”

Luc rubs the back of his neck, grins and says with deliberate misunderstanding. “I mean you guys already know this, right? We met when we were seven.”

“But how long have you been together romantically?”  

Luc makes himself laugh lightly, in the tone Holly uses when he’s talking about being in the shit with his wife, and says, “I mean, I’m not a super romantic kinda guy, you know, Jacks probably has some opinions about that, but I try.”

It’s really actively hard to keep himself from smirking at the rising levels of frustration coming from the media scrum.  Everyone was probably expecting something maybe poignant enough to match the gravitas of the first out player in the NHL, he guesses. No one really knows what to do with that player when he’s evidently too much of a dumb fuckboy to realize there’s any gravitas to begin with.  

“But how long have you…” A different journalist half starts.

“Oh” Luc says, “yeah, like, we got married forever ago? Like right after the draft basically, so you know, I guess that long.”

“Was it hard to maintain that relationship in the NHL?” Someone asks.

“No? We totally Skyped and whatever.”

“I think they mean more was it hard to maintain that relationship due to the pressures of being in the closet?”

“Who’s in the closet?” Luc asks, utilizing “you might have to diagram that out for me, Coach” face #12.

“During the years you and Jackson were in the closet.”

“Uh,” Luc laughs, “brah, we haven’t been in the closet? Like for serious everyone knew. It was really kinda weird that you guys didn’t? I thought we were being kinda obvious, to be honest.”

“So were you and Jackson together during your time in the Q?”

“C’mon, guys, you know we played for the Drakkar together.” Luc laughs

“Together romantically” a journo almost snaps.  

“Like for sure we’ve been best bros forever, man.” Luc nods at the snapping journo.

No one, apparently, knows what to do with that.  Finally someone asks something about chirping on the ice.  

“What?” Luc asks. “not sure I heard you.”

“Are you expecting more friction on the ice, you know, chirps, trash talking, penalties, now that you’ve come out?”  Luc is a total adult and doesn’t make any friction related dick jokes.   

Luc is also approximately 5000% done with this interview.  He puts on “I’m dumb and confused but pretty and very good at hockey” Face #47 and says “No? I mean I don’t know why anyone would start saying shit now when everyone’s known for years.”  Luc shrugs his shoulders in a way that emphasizes both his lack of thoughts on any subject not directly related to hockey mechanics, and the fact that his traps are looking really good for someone whose postseason made it all the way into mid-June, and says “Anyway, what would they even say about it? Like remind me that I’m married to someone that’s better at hockey than they are?”  Luc shrugs again, adjusts his ballcap and says, “Nah, man, everyone’s been pretty chill.”