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“You’re with me, I guess,” Olli said. He took the seat next to Brian while other guys filtered down the aisle. The bus rumbled under Brian’s feet. Across the aisle, Desi’s face glowed softly, suffused with that inner light that came out every time they won—a gift he got no end of teasing about.

Brian took an earbud out—a silent one, because he hadn’t settled on his postgame jams yet. He needed something special for this: the night after his first NHL game. His first NHL win. “With you?” he repeated.

“Rooming,” Olli said. “You’re rooming with me tonight.”

“Awesome, man,” Brian said, grinning ear to ear. He was high on all of it, buzzed to hell. Right this minute he didn’t give a shit that this kid had leapfrogged Brian and Desi and all of them in Wilkes-Barre to grab a roster spot with the big club.

Olli looked a little wary now. Brian tried to rein his enthusiam a little; he didn’t know how well he succeeded. “Feels like a big deal, you know,” he said. “But I guess you’re used to it, huh? Playing with these guys? I bet you’re not nervous at all anymore.”

“Sure,” Olli said after a moment, and then he slid his headphones on and closed his eyes.

Brian continued scrolling through songs on his phone before settling on some Kendrick Lamar, and that kept him going on the short drive to the hotel. Olli opened the door into their room and stepped aside to let Brian drag all his luggage in. Brian had gotten into Detroit that afternoon just in time to meet with the trainers and equipment guys to get his gear sorted out and then go to dinner with the team.

Brian started unpacking. Olli disappeared into the bathroom. By the time he came out again, exhaustion had hit Brian like a freight train. “Early flight this morning,” he said, explaining his yawn.

“We got in last night around two-thirty,” Olli said.

“Ouch.”

Olli shrugged.

Brian realized with alarm that Olli was kind of cute. Brian didn’t really remember that from training camp. Olli was an inch or two shorter than Brian, almost as solid, his skin so pale it was practically translucent except where it was spotted with acne. His eyes were pale, too, nearly colorless, like a sky that promised snow.

Snow, for fuck’s sake. Brian was so fucking tired. “G’night, man,” he said, and crawled into bed.

--

Brian’s car was still in Wilkes-Barre, of course. “You’re staying at the hotel, right?” Olli asked as they deplaned in Pittsburgh. The heavy overcast sky hung above their heads like it might fall at any moment, not as snow but as a solid, suffocating chill.

Brian ducked deeper into his coat. “Yeah.”

“I can give you a ride.”

“Awesome.”

Olli pointed out landmarks on the short drive: the twenty-four hour coffee place, the park with a nice jogging path looping around it. “I was here for training camp,” Brian said mildly, and Olli clammed up. Shit.

The thing was, while Brian had been taking road trips with the Baby Pens on actual buses and playing back-to-back-to-backs, Olli was finding all the best places to eat in Pittsburgh and sharing ice with Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang.

Fuck, Brian was an asshole. “You’ll have to take me to that place,” he said. “Where they put the fries in the sandwich.”

“Okay,” Olli said, and it was hard to tell, but Brian thought he’d brightened a little.

Olli hung around while Brian checked in at the hotel. “That’s my floor,” Olli said, when the receptionist handed Brian his key. In fact, Brian’s door was almost directly across from Olli’s. Olli followed Brian in and gave him a mini-tour of the bedroom, the living area, the bathroom, and the tiny kitchenette. “I don’t really use it,” Olli said. “I eat at Jussi’s a lot.”

Brian decided then and there that if he was up for more than two days, Olli was coming over for some decent mac and cheese, at the very least.

“Let me know if you need anything,” Olli said, very seriously, before disappearing across the hall to his own suite.

Brian took his time unpacking, and for a few minutes he let the resentment simmer about nineteen-year-old pimple-faced Olli Maatta offering to show Brian around. And then Brian let it go, dissipated and gone like it had never been, and Brian was left hoping Olli meant it about going to check out those sandwiches with the fries.

--

Brian woke up expecting snow, but when he peeked out the window, he saw the same leaden sky of the day before: precipitation imminent, but not yet arrived. The dull quality of the light weighed on him through his shower, through meeting Desi for breakfast and a ride out to the practice facility half an hour south of the city.

Eventually Desi noticed him looking out the window. “It hasn’t snowed for a couple of weeks,” Desi said.

“What?”

Desi shrugged and took a moment to change lanes. “Everyone’s talking about it. It’s just like this, all the time.”

“Huh,” Brian said.

Training camp had been one thing: fifty guys split up into squads, getting told everything three times, herded from one place to another and fed en masse. Now they numbered just twenty-two, not counting the guys on injured reserve. Brian had his own locker between Desi and Robert Bortuzzo, and the equipment manager, Dana, asked Brian a lot of questions about how he liked his sticks and his skates and his gloves and basically every single piece of Brian’s gear.

“What about magic?” Dana asked, clipboard in hand. “Affinities, antipathies?”

“Oh, I’m not magic,” Brian said, laughing. “No fucking skill at all. I can’t even juggle with my eyes closed.” The guys at BC kept trying to teach him with a blindfold on, but no luck. If Brian couldn’t see it, he couldn’t juggle it.

Once Brian was on the ice, he spent a few moments watching in awe as Crosby joked around with Fleury. Then one of the assistant coaches blew his whistle and called the D together for drills, and it was like any hockey practice Brian had ever had.

After a few drills, Olli and Matt Niskanen got pulled away to work on the power play. Brian ended up hanging out against the glass with Desi and Sammy and Bortuzzo. Brian’s eye kept getting pulled over to Olli, out at the point for the second unit. Olli had great lateral movement and good vision, his head up all the time as he watched the traffic in front of him. He shot a big slapper into a sea of bodies around the crease, and Brian felt the last final trace of envy turn to admiration.

“He’s good, right?” Desi said, yanking Brian’s attention to the conversation he’d lost track of.

“Yeah,” Brian said.

“Kind of an asshole, though,” Sammy said.

“He’s not an asshole,” Bortuzzo said, rolling his eyes. “He’s just quiet.”

“Focused,” Sammy said, skeptically, like he was quoting an old conversation.

The whistle blew, calling them all over for another drill. Brian cast a last glance behind him. Olli looked pretty damn focused to him.

--

Thirty-nine seconds into Brian’s second NHL game, he assisted on a goal. Brian took a slapshot from the point, Chris Connor tipped it in, and there it was: Brian’s first NHL point. He flew the bench grinning like a total idiot. He took his place next to Olli, and the guys slapped his back and knees in congratulations. When most everyone’s attention was turned to the next play, Olli said, “Nice shot.”

Brian grinned at him, too. “Thanks.”

A few of the guys were going out for drinks after. “For your assist,” Desi said.

So after getting into his street clothes, Brian went looking for Olli. He found him in the gym doing lunges, his face dripping with exertion. Brian waited for him to finish the set, and then he said, “You coming out with us?”

Olli lowered the bar to the mat and pushed his damp hair out of his eyes. “I’ve got some work to do here.”

He had to have been there for half an hour already. “It’s just a couple of drinks,” Brian said. Desi promised Brian they wouldn’t be out late. Which, Brian went to college; he wasn’t afraid of a few beers. But maybe Olli was.

Olli shook his head. “I’m just going to finish up here.”

“Okay,” Brian said dubiously.

Two hours later, Brian walked the hall to his room, tired down to his bones. He eyed Olli’s door curiously, but it was maybe a little later than Desi had promised Brian, and Olli was surely asleep. Brian turned away to his own room to do the same.

--

Now that Brian was watching, he had to agree with Sammy’s assessment: Olli was really fucking focused. Or standoffish, depending on your perspective, but Brian thought it was the first thing. Olli sat with Jussi at the airport, speaking quietly every so often in what Brian supposed was Finnish, but otherwise looking at his phone. He was either texting or playing some kind of game, given how his thumbs were flying.

Desi kicked at Brian’s ankle and lifted his eyebrows. What the fuck,, Desi mouthed. Brian gave up on his supposedly discreet surveillance, got up, and dropped into the empty seat next to Olli. Olli looked up, startled and—tense. Definitely tense.

“You mind?” Brian said.

Olli shook his head. “It’s fine.”

“Whatcha doing?” Brian asked, nodding at Olli’s phone.

“Nothing.” Olli flashed his screen at Brian: some game Brian didn’t recognize.

Brian nodded sagely. “You play the Rangers before?”

Olli nodded. “On a roadie in October. They beat us five to one.”

“Ouch. How’d you do? Assist on that goal?” Brian gave Olli’s elbow a friendly jostle.

“Minus three,” Olli said quietly. “My worst game of the season.”

Brian gave a low whistle. “Okay, so, we’re not going to let that happen this time.”

“We’re not?”

“We’re not,” Brian said firmly, never mind that he wouldn’t even be sharing ice with Olli unless something went badly wrong. He couldn’t do anything for goals Olli might or might not allow. But he could do other things. He dug his phone out of his pocket. “Hey, what music do you like?”

Olli eyed him dubiously.

Olli was dubious about a lot of things. He was definitely dubious about Brian, but Brian could work with that. He began scrolling through his catalog and listing the least likely options. “What about Taylor?” he tried eventually. “You’re totally into some TSwift, right?”

Olli shook his head, a smile beginning to curl at the corner of his mouth. Brian felt like he’d just scored a goal. He’d have to examine that thought later, when Olli wasn’t sitting right in front of him.

“Seriously, though,” Brian said, scrolling again. “What about dubstep? Are you into that at all?”

“I don’t know,” Olli said.

“Awesome, let’s start there.” Brian queued up the Chase & Status remix of “White Lies” and offered Olli an earbud. Brian put the other one in his own ear and closed his eyes, half to listen for himself and half because the world’s worst thing was having someone watch you while you listened to something for the first time. How could anyone tell if they liked anything under those conditions?

He let the song unspool in his ear, saving just enough attention for Olli, in case Olli started to fidget. But Olli held completely still for all five minutes, all the way to the last fade-out. Finally Brian opened his eyes and paused the autoplay.

“Wow,” Olli said.

“You like it?”

“That was cool. Wow.” Olli looked a little dazed, but—good, Brian thought. Not so tight around the eyes.

The guys closest to the gate were getting to their feet. “Gotta get my bag,” Brian told Olli, a little sheepishly. Silently Olli watched him go.

“So what was that all about?” Desi asked, once he and Brian were settled in their seats on the plane. Brian had the window, because Desi did not actually like flying very much. “With Olli?”

“Just trying some stuff out on him,” Brian said.

“Working your magic,” Desi said.

“Shut up, I do not have magic.”

“So what were you listening to?” Brian hesitated, because Desi was more into hip-hop. Desi huffed. “Come on, man, only Olli gets your best stuff?”

“Fine,” Brian said, laughing, and queued up the song.

Desi hated it. The face he made was worth it, though.

--

When Brian got back from dinner with some of the call-ups, Olli was already in their room, sitting on the edge of the bed he’d claimed. “Hey,” Brian said.

“Hey,” Olli said, eyes fixed on his phone.

Brian got out of his dinner clothes and put on sweats. He took a piss. When he came out of the bathroom, Olli didn’t look like he’d moved a muscle. Brian watched him for a good fifteen seconds or so. “Are you, like, freaking out about tomorrow?”

Olli looked up finally. “What?”

Brian hesitated. They weren’t quite buddies yet. And Olli had that whole stoic thing going on, so maybe he’d just rather Brian stayed out of his business, like the other call-ups did.

But the other call-ups thought Olli was an asshole, and Brian thought that maybe they were, a little bit. He thought maybe everyone was getting Olli wrong. “I dunno, you just—you seem wound kind of tight?”

Olli shrugged. Tightly. “I’m fine.”

At BC, there’d been a quiet kid they all called Stoofy for reasons nobody remembered. Left wing, some wheels but no hands, not a ton of hockey sense, if Brian was being totally honest. But Stoofy was fucking awesome at talking guys down from a freakout. If the coach benched you or you couldn’t hit the side of a barn one week or your girlfriend broke up with you, Stoofy listened. When Brian realized maybe he didn’t want another girlfriend at all, ever, he went to Stoofy.

Which was to say, Stoofy was good at coaxing shit out of guys and listening to their feelings.

Brian had picked up no such skills in college—his ran more to creative methods of chugging beer. He sat down next to Olli on the bed. “Do you want something else to listen to?”

“Like that stuff from this morning?”

“Sure. I’ve got a playlist you could try.”

Olli gave that a moment’s thought, his expression blank. Brian couldn’t begin to imagine what was going on inside his head. “Okay,” Olli said finally.

So Brian got him set up with his dubstep playlist and advised Olli on which tracks he might want to skip. “Thanks,” Olli said. “Sorry for, uh—tying up your phone?”

“It’s cool,” Brian said. He propped himself against the headboard with his tablet. Slowly Olli slumped until he was sprawled out on his belly, head pillowed on his folded hands, eyes closed. It gave Brian a really good look at just how long Olli was, at the wings his shoulder blades made under his Henley. Brian finally had to cut himself off from sneaking peeks like a creeper.

Brian was two episodes into The Great British Bake-Off—he couldn’t bake for shit, but he had a hell of a lot of respect for people who could—when Olli sat up at the corner of Brian’s eye and removed the earbuds. He reached between the beds and handed Brian his phone. “Thanks,” Olli said.

“Better?”

Olli made a face—a real, actual expression. He heaved a sigh. “Yeah, I guess.”

Brian put his tablet down and cast his mind back to Stoofy. “Anything going on?” That was a standard Stoofy question.

Olli shook his head. His eyes were fixed on the carpet.

Stoofy was good at waiting guys out. Brian contemplated his knuckles and kept his mouth shut.

“There’s a lot of guys injured,” Olli said.

“No fucking kidding,” Brian agreed. Orpik, Martin, Scuderi, Letang, and that was just the D corps. Conveniently for Brian. “That’s why I’m here, right?” He offered Olli a grin.

Olli didn’t take it. “I’m playing twenty minutes a night now. Twenty-four minutes last game.”

“It’s a lot,” Brian said slowly.

“I’m really lucky,” Olli said, like Brian hadn’t spoken. “Most guys don’t get to play in the NHL this soon, or this much. And I’m healthy. Fuck, you don’t want to hear this. You’re all—you’re just happy to be here. Fuck.” Olli buried his face in his hands.

“Hey,” Brian said softly. Okay, the just happy to be here bit stung a little, but Olli clearly wasn’t aiming for that.

“Sorry,” Olli said, getting to his feet.

Brian caught his wrist. “It’s a lot,” he repeated.

Olli slumped back down, all the air whooshing out of him like a stuck balloon. Now that the blankness had finally cracked, he looked exhausted. “Yeah,” Olli said.

Stoofy would have some comforting words here. Brian didn’t have any. He let go of Olli’s wrist. “Do you want to come over to my place, when we get back to Pittsburgh? I’ll cook.”

“You mean your place across the hall?” Olli asked, eyebrows raised.

“Yeah.” Brian gave him a winning smile.

Olli’s expression softened just a little.

--

Olli played twenty-eight fucking minutes the next night—Brian checked after—and assisted on a goal along the way to the Pens’ shootout win over the Rangers. Brian played twenty minutes, blocked two shots, and was a minus one. It was not Brian’s most stellar performance.

“Next time,” Olli earnestly told him after. Brian bit his tongue and kept his frustration to himself.

--

They flew back home after the game and deplaned under the same heavy overcast sky that had hung over the city when they left. It reflected the city’s night lights back down on them, casting eerie, misshapen shadows.

On the way home from practice the day after next, Brian made Desi stop at the grocery store for supplies: eggs, cheese, some vegetables, pasta, a couple of rotisserie chickens, beer. “Are you cooking?” Desi asked hopefully.

“Not for you, asshole,” Brian said, laughing. At Desi’s forlorn look, he relented a little. “Maybe, uh.” Brian paused to try and remember when the non-game day at home was, but he got lost about three games out. “Like next week? I’ll have you over, for sure, if I’m still here.”

Brian crashed for a nap when he got home. When he woke up, he started working on dinner: the mac and cheese, the green beans with vinegar and garlic and dill. He popped the mac and cheese into the oven – thank fuck the kitchenette had one of those – and then he realized he didn’t have Olli’s number. Also, maybe this was weird. Olli had said yes, but yeah, probably Brian was being weird.

Brian had a fix for one of those things, anyway. He went across the hall and knocked on Olli’s door.

“Yeah?” Olli said, after he swung the door open. His straw-colored hair stuck up in a lot of directions, and he didn’t look quite awake.

“Sorry, man. Uh, dinner’s going to be ready in a bit. If you’re still on?”

“Okay,” Olli said. Definitely not awake.

Brian retreated back to his suite. He had failed to define in a bit and he still didn’t have Olli’s phone number, but half an hour later, a knock came on his door. Olli looked awake now, and he’d brushed his hair and put on a clean shirt, and he looked—really good.

This was not what Brian had planned when he had invited Olli over for dinner. Shit. “I made mac and cheese,” he told Olli, and closed the door behind him.

Olli’s eyes got big when he saw the spread Brian had laid on the suite’s largest flat surface, which amounted to a glorified card table. “Wow.”

“I like cooking,” Brian said, a shade too defensive. He could feel his face heating.

“Awesome.” Olli said it like he meant it. He filled a plate with chicken and beans and pasta. Brian did the same and joined Olli on the couch. Brian put on the NHL network for company, volume set to low.

“So like, what’s Finland like?” Brian asked, and Olli’s eyes lit up.

“There’s a lot of trees,” he began. “And lakes.”

That took them through the rest of the meal. Olli was especially enthusiastic about the chicken, which Brian had to tell him came precooked, but Olli also had three helpings of beans and enthused about the vinegar dressing.

There was only room for one at the kitchenette sink, but Olli stood at the end of the counter and dried the dishes after Brian washed them. “You can hang out if you want,” Brian said, when the last dish was washed and the one remaining serving of mac and cheese was put away in the fridge. “We could put on a game.”

The Bruins were up in Toronto that night. Olli teased Brian about his lingering Boston loyalties, looking very pleased with himself. Smugness was a good look on him. At intermission Brian went for the beers he’d picked up. “You don’t really hang out with the other guys,” Brian said when he came back.

“I hang out with Jussi,” Olli said. He had that dubious look again, like Brian’s motives might be suspect.

“Yeah, but I mean—you don’t hang out with anyone else? Really?”

“They’re mostly a lot older than me.”

“Yeah...” Brian said slowly.

Olli bowed his head. “I have to focus on hockey.”

“All the time?” Brian asked. Olli shrugged weakly, mouth twisting as he looked down at his half-empty bottle. Brian felt a stab of regret. “Look, I’m sorry. It’s not my business. You should just tell me to fuck off.”

Olli shrugged. He just looked so fucking unhappy. It was a little difficult for Brian to imagine being that unhappy, getting big minutes in the National Hockey League at nineteen years old, but Olli clearly was.

Brian reached out and squeezed Olli’s shoulder. Olli allowed it for a moment, and then he shifted away and got to his feet. For one sharp, still moment Brian thought he was leaving, but instead Olli walked over to the window and swept the curtain aside to look out onto Brian’s balcony.

Uncertain, Brian got up and joined him. Together they looked out into the night, Pittsburgh’s lights a dull, ominous reflection against the overcast sky. Brian reached past Olli to press his hand to windowpane: cold. Below freezing for sure.

“It’s my fault,” Olli said.

“Hmm?”

Olli nodded out the window. “I’m fucking up the weather.”

What.

“What,” Brian said.

Olli licked his lips. “That’s my affinity. Snow. It’s supposed to snow, but I’m—holding it back, or something.”

“On purpose?” Brian said. Olli controlled the weather. Could this kid do literally everything.

Olli shook his head vigorously. “I can’t make it snow or not snow. It just kind of—knows how I’m feeling.”

Brian couldn’t see Olli’s eyes from this angle, but he could remember what he’d seen in them that first day. Snow. “So,” he said slowly, “you’re freaking out, so the weather’s freaking out.”

“Yeah.”

“And that makes you freak out more.”

“Yeah.”

“That sucks, man.”

Olli huffed sadly, and Brian felt totally fucking inadequate. He took a chance and put his arm around Olli’s shoulders. Olli stiffened for an instant, and then he leaned into Brian’s side. Brian held him tighter. After a moment, Olli turned into Brian’s arms and let out a long, shaky breath against Brian’s shoulder—not hugging Brian, just standing there, arms hanging at his sides. Maybe that’s how they did in Finland, but Brian was not Finnish, so he pulled Olli in with both hands and held on tight.

Olli wriggled free after a moment and turned away, hands going to his face. Brian took a long, deliberate look out the window while Olli got himself together. “Sorry,” Olli said finally. His voice was like gravel. “Fuck, sorry.”

“It’s cool, man,” Brian said, as casual as he knew how.

“No, you don’t need—you shouldn’t—you don’t even know me.”

Brian wanted to say something about those other guys who supposedly knew Olli but didn’t invite him over for dinner or involve him in other activities that required less culinary skill. But Olli didn’t need to hear that, probably. “Just being a bro,” he said.

Olli huffed, disbelieving.

Brian felt a twinge of guilt. “Okay, if we’re being completely honest, I also kind of have a crush on you. Sorry. But it’s not like—I’d give a shit anyway, you know? I’m not—fuck, never mind.” Should have kept that thought on the inside. Brian rubbed his hand over his face, which was hot and probably bright red.

Olli squinted at him. “You have a crush on me?”

“Yeah.” Brian rolled his eyes to the ceiling. Now Olli was going to think Brian just wanted in his pants. Which—okay, yes, but that wasn’t the only thing Brian wanted. Or even the first thing.

“Like a gay crush?”

Brian laughed outright. He’d done this to himself. “Yes, fucker. Like a gay crush.”

“Oh.” Olli’s brow was furrowed with thought.

“Don’t hurt yourself,” Brian said, elbowing Olli. “You don’t have to, like, say anything. I shouldn’t have mentioned it.”

“Okay,” Olli agreed.

On the plus side, Brian had definitely distracted Olli from both hockey and snow. “Uh, so you want to finish that beer? Or you headed out?” Out being across the hall. It was like Brian was a freshman again, with half his teammates on the same dorm floor.

Olli considered that for a moment. It looked like his gears were still turning a little slow, but finally he said, “The beer sounds good.”

The puck had dropped for second period a while back, and the Bruins were up now, three to two. Olli got up to at a commercial break and went to use Brian’s bathroom, and when he came back to couch he ended up—closer to Brian. By several feet. Brian looked hard at Olli, and Olli looked hard at the screen.

Five minutes into the middle of the third, Olli pressed his knee against Brian’s, extremely nonchalantly. Brian tried really hard to keep a straight face, but eventually he noticed Olli’s mouth curling, and then Brian gave it up for a lost cause and grinned all through the end of the game.

Afterwards, he shut the TV off, throwing his living room into darkness. He stumbled to the wall to turn on some lights. When he turned around, he found Olli watching him. “Hey,” Brian said.

“Hey.” Olli considered him a moment longer, and then he got to his feet and approached Brian with ferocious and single-minded determination, his gaze fixed on Brian’s lips. Brian held still as Olli leaned in and kissed him, dry and closed-mouthed.

“You don’t have to—” Brian began.

“Shut up,” Olli grumbled. He leaned into Brian, his hand falling to Brian’s hip as he kissed Brian again. Brian brushed along Olli’s arm, not sure what to do with his hands, before letting them settle on Olli’s shoulder. Olli’s lips were dry and chapped, but he kissed with the same focus Brian had kept seeing everywhere else. He wasn’t shy at all, and his mouth was warm, and it was pretty great all around.

After a couple of minutes Olli let go and stepped back. He looked shyly pleased with himself, like he had chirping Brian earlier. It was still a fucking great look on him.

“Okay,” Brian began, but then he didn’t know where to go from there. Maybe because some of the blood he usually used for thinking was located elsewhere.

Olli grinned wider. “I’m going to go.”

“Okay.”

Sobering, Olli pressed his shoulder to Brian’s. “Thanks,” he said.

“Anytime,” Brian said, unthinking, and then flushed again. But he definitely meant it, so.

--

The Pens were hosting the Flames the next night. Olli sat three seats down from Brian in video review, and Brian let his gaze drift over every so often. One time, he caught Olli looking back. Olli’s mouth curled a little before he turned back to the screen, about the time Desi elbowed Brian in the ribs.

“So, Olli,” Desi said in the changing room later.

“What about him?” Brian said. Desi only smirked. “Look, you guys should ease up on him. I think he’s just—shy.” Well, not quite, but that came close enough.

Desi shook his head. “He’s not interested in us. Just you.” He gave Brian another smirk.

“Shut up,” Brian said, grinning. His face had started to heat. “You’re all a bunch of lazy shits, that’s the problem. Can’t handle adversity.” It was one of Bylsma’s favorite words. “Need to try a little harder.”

“Fuck you,” Desi said, giving Brian a shove, but he looked thoughtful as he finished putting on his street clothes.

--

They led the Flames the whole game, eventually beating them four to three. Brian got a full three minutes on the power play, and though the Pens didn’t score on any of them, he was on ice for three goals for. (And one against, but he knew the mistake he’d made, and he wasn’t going to make it again.)

“Good job tonight, boys,” Crosby said after. “One more before the break.” Bortuzzo whooped. A couple of other guys echoed him.

Brian rode back to the hotel with Desi, but Olli met them in the lobby and took the elevator with them. Desi gave Brian a meaningful look as he got off, one floor before theirs. When the door closed, Brian found Olli grinning at him. “Nice job tonight,” Olli said, as smug as if he were personally responsible.

“You too,” Brian said.

Olli shrugged, expression dimming. “Not my best night.”

Brian elbowed him companionably. “Can’t have one every night.” The wrinkle of Olli’s nose said he disagreed with this assessment.

Brian hesitated when they got to his door, and he was just turning to Olli when’s Olli’s fingers caught his. Olli bit his lip, looking uncertain.

“Do you want to come in?” Brian asked.

“Yes,” Olli said, decisive.

They made out in the hallway inside Brian’s door for a good twenty minutes before Olli disentangled himself. “I need to call my parents,” he said.

“Seriously?” Brian said, not sure whether he should laugh.

“I have to tell them about the game,” Olli said, but then he got this sly look and sidled in close to palm Brian’s crotch. Olli gave him a little squeeze and then stepped back again.

“Oh my god,” Brian said, slumping against the wall. Olli grinned at him, cheeks as round as a chipmunk’s. He turned and headed for the door. “You are killing me,” Brian called. As soon as the door shut behind Olli, Brian shucked his pants off, flopped onto the couch, and stuck his hand down his underwear. He was hard enough that just holding himself felt good. He thumbed over the head a couple of times and gave himself a few dry-handed strokes. Enjoyed the slight catch of the friction. Then he brought Olli to mind, his hands roving Brian’s body as he nibbled under Brian’s jaw. Then Olli’s pale blue eyes, lit up and happy.

It didn’t take Brian all that long to get off. He collapsed back against the sofa for a bit to catch his breath. Finally he pulled his sticky hand out of his pants. Without thinking too hard, he stripped out of his shirt and tossed it aside. With his clean hand he grabbed his phone and took a selfie. It was a nice tame one, just from the chest up, but he always turned red as hell, and he was reliably informed that his come-drunk face was pretty dumb. But like, in a hot way, Ace had told him.

Brian texted the photo to Olli and went to clean off. When he came back, he had new messages: a long string of okay hands, the words sorry I was in the shower, and a wink.

You’re a fucking tease, Brian replied. All he got back were more winky faces.

--

They flew out to Ottawa the next morning. Brian talked Olli into joining some of the WBS guys for a video game tournament during the flight. Olli didn’t look entirely certain about it, but pretty soon he was smiling down at his PSP while Desi chirped him for a bad play, and half an hour in, he was chirping back.

“I didn’t think this guy talked,” Bortz said from across the aisle.

“You guys are boring,” Olli said. Bortz barked a laugh, looking delighted.

Olli flipped the switch at practice, frowning to himself and giving every drill as much focus as a coach could ask for, but he sat with the guys again at dinner that night. Sometimes he talked to Jokinen, sitting on his right, but he listened to the WBS guys talk shit, too, and every so often he offered a little bit of his own.

Brian felt good, going back to the hotel: easy and loose, with a couple of beers in him to warm him up and chill him out. He scrolled through his phone while Olli puttered around the room and took a shower. Brian was pretty deep into an analysis of the Patriots when Olli came back out, so it took a few moments to seep into Brian’s consciousness that Olli hadn’t put his clothes back on—that Olli was, in fact, wearing a fuzzy white hotel bathrobe.

“Oh my god,” Brian said, in wonder.

Olli looked over, toothbrush in his mouth. “What?” he mumbled.

Brian wanted to run his hands all over Olli, because the robe looked pretty soft. He wanted to tease Olli for how his long legs stuck out the bottom. But most of all what he wanted to do was tug on the tie of the robe until Olli’s careful little half-knot came loose.

“You’re wearing a robe,” he said.

“Yeah?” Olli said, but he was smiling now.

“You should come here.”

Olli hummed thoughtfully and took his own sweet time finishing. He spit out his toothpaste and rinsed, and then he strolled over to Brian’s bed and stood between Brian’s legs, really casual. “Okay?”

Brian rested his hand on knotted belt. His mouth had gone dry. He hesitated, because teasing was one thing, but that was definitely not all he wanted to do now.

Olli looked a little overwhelmed, too. He’d lost his smirk. “You can, if you want.”

Slowly Brian tugged the end of the tie until it came free. The robe fell open a little, just enough for Brian to glimpse a sliver of skin. He pushed the panels of the robe back and let his hands fall on Olli’s bare hips. Olli was pale everywhere except where he had bruises—all different shades, new and old. His nipples were small and dark, starting to stiffen in the open air, and Brian wanted to put his mouth on them.

Olli’s dick hung pink and lax between his legs, and Brian wanted to put his mouth on that even more. “Can I suck you?”

Olli huffed, a single disbelieving puff of air. “Be my guest.”

He got kind of formal when he was unnerved, Brian realized. “Come on,” Brian said, standing up and walking Olli gently backward until he was sitting on his own bed, robe and legs wide open. Brian grabbed a pillow for his knees and settled in, hands braced on Olli’s thighs. Olli trembled beneath his touch. “You’re going to like this,” Brian promised.

“I believe you,” Olli said.

Brian’s first impression was that Olli was very clean. There was a hint of soap, which was not Brian’s most favorite dick flavor, but Olli’s weight felt fucking awesome in his mouth. It didn’t take Olli long at all to get into it. Teenagers, Brian thought fondly. He had to pull off a couple of times to work his jaw; the second time he said, “You can pull on my hair a little if you want.”

“Okay,” Olli said smiling wide and a little dazed. He didn’t look nervous at all anymore.

When Brian ducked back in again, Olli’s fingers curled in his hair and tugged, just gently. His hips started to hitch minutely, despite his obvious efforts to keep them still. Eventually he let go of Brian with one hand so he could grip the edge of the bed.

A sharp grunt was Brian’s warning. After he pulled off, Olli took himself in hand and got off in four strokes, spurting white strings across his stomach. His breath heaved. “Shit.”

“Yeah?” Brian asked, grinning broadly despite the ache in his jaw. The ache was totally worth it.

Once Olli had recovered a little while, he jerked Brian off, and they dozed for a little while. Eventually Brian woke up enough to roll over on his side and trace the veins along Olli’s dick until Olli woke up, too.

“Hey,” Brian said, gripping Olli loosely. Olli shoved up into Brian’s hand, like a reflex. Brian laughed at him and started to stroke. After, Olli worked Brian—with some lotion, for variety—and then Brian went for a washcloth to clean then both off.

“I was clean before,” Olli complained sleepily. “I took a shower.”

“Sucks, getting your dick sucked.”

Olli hummed, self-satisfied and more relaxed than Brian had ever seen him. Brian took the washcloth away, and when he came back, Olli was sprawled on the bedspread, eyes already closed.

“You’re going to get cold,” Brian said.

Olli’s eyes opened to slits. “You could sleep with me.”

Brian hadn’t thought that far ahead before, but now the offer felt—a little momentous. But he’d just come twice after a long day, and he didn’t give a fuck. “I’m sleeping under the fucking covers,” he said. Olli grumbled, but he got up long enough that Brian could peel the sheets back. Brian was almost gone in the ten seconds it took Olli to crawl in next to him.

--

Brian woke in the dark. He squinted at the bedside clock, which told him it was, in fact, the middle of the night. The glowing blue numerals left afterimages on his eyes, and maybe that’s why it took him a moment to realize that someone was standing at the window, drawing the curtain aside. Another couple of seconds, and Brian realized it was probably Olli.

“What’s up?” Brian croaked.

“It’s nothing. Go back to sleep.”

It was really fucking tempting. Brian almost obeyed before some instinct dragged him upright to stumble around the end of the bed—and over somebody’s dress shoes, fuck, ow. He peered over Olli’s shoulder. “What’s up?” he said again.

“I thought it would snow,” Olli said.

Brian looked out over the hotel parking lot. A single car sped down the highway just beyond. On the other side of it was a suburb, the houses all dark. The Canadian Tire Centre really was out in the middle of fucking nowhere.

All the pavement was bare. The sky was clear, though there were too many streetlights for Brian to make out any stars. “Maybe it wasn’t going to anyway.”

“No, but—I felt really good. I thought—” But Olli didn’t say what it was he thought.

Brian stretched an arm across Olli’s shoulders and squeezed his bicep. “You gotta sleep, man.”

Olli slumped in defeat. “Yeah, okay.”

--

The locker room was raucous the next morning. Guys were full of plans for the three-day Christmas break, and someone was playing a pop Christmas remix Spotify station on their phone. “What are you doing for the break?” Desi asked Brian.

Brian yanked his laces tighter. “Wasn’t really thinking about it. I’ve been kind of busy.”

“Mm, yes,” Desi agreed.

It took Brian a moment to realize that Desi was looking significantly at Olli, quietly putting his gear on across the room. Brian elbowed him. “I meant playing hockey, asshole. The NHL. The big enchilada.” Desi was grinning openly now, and Brian shoved him again for good measure.

After recovering, Desi said, “Siller’s having a bunch of the Wilkes-Barre guys over to his room for drinks tomorrow night. There’s an—elephant ?” He offered the phrase uncertainly. “Everybody brings a bottle or some six-packs and then—trades them. Or something. And we’re ordering in food.”

“Sounds awesome.”

“You should get Olli to come.”

Brian glanced over at Olli. He was still working on his skates, the whole world apparently tuned out. “Yeah, man, for sure.”

Brian brought it up at the hotel, as he and Olli stripped down for their pregame naps. “It’s a Christmas Eve thing. A lot of booze and stuff, over at Siller’s room. You should come.”

“Maybe,” Olli said. He didn’t sound enthused.

“It’ll be fun.”

“Maybe.” Olli looked mulish now, and he wouldn’t quite meet Brian’s eye.

“Whatever, man,” Brian said, suddenly exhausted by Olli’s skittishness and his shyness and his focus. “Nobody’s going to make you.” Brian crawled under the covers and rolled onto his side, his back to Olli’s bed.

It was quiet in the car on the way back to the rink. Brian caught Olli opening his mouth a couple of times, but never quite managing to say anything. Finally, as they turned into the Consol parking garage, Brian said, “One more win for the break, right?”

Olli broke into a smile. “Let’s do it.”

--

The Senators shut them out. The Pens had seven power plays and couldn’t score on any of them. The minutes dragged on and on, and the Pens kept firing shots, and Craig Anderson stopped every one. Brian was on ice for the first goal against, and it was all on him, too—blown coverage, a Senator all alone in the slot.

At the end of it, Brian had to stomp back to the locker room past all the injured scratches in their suits. He couldn’t help noticing Scuderi and Orpik in particular.

None of the media cared about talking to Brian tonight—they had bigger scapegoats—so he stuck his earbuds in and scrolled until he found something with a lot of yelling. Awkwardly, he navigated around the wires as he stripped.

Desi caught him on the way out of the showers. “Tomorrow night, right? Siller’s.”

“Right.” Brian didn’t know Siller’s room number. He could find out tomorrow.

The ride home was even quieter than the ride in. Brian played Yeezy in one ear, loud enough that noise blared tinnily from the other earbud, lying on his lap. He closed his eyes and saw the Sen loitering in the corner, puck on his stick, while Desi blocked out another Sen in front of the goal. Brian took the bait, took a few strides towards the guy who had the puck. In one smooth motion, the Sen passed to the forward Brian hadn’t seen, sitting right there between the dots. It was a beautiful pass, tape-to-tape, and the next moment the puck was in the back of the net.

Brian made the play again. Again. Every time, he made the same boneheaded move.

Finally, he yanked the earbud out viciously. “Fuck.”

Olli gave him a side-eye, but didn’t comment. They were almost to the hotel. Brian didn’t know if he could sleep yet. Maybe he’d start Siller’s wet elephant party a day early. He had most of a six-pack left in his fridge.

Well, he had three beers left, it turned out, barely enough to take the sharpest edges off the world. He tried to contemplate going out and getting more, but that sounded like so much fucking work.

He’d drink what he had and then go bug Desi for more, he decided. Desi’d been on for a couple of goals against, too.

He was sprawled out on his couch with the last bottle and watching college football news when a knock came at his door. On the other side of the door was Olli, that now-familiar furrow of concentration in his brow. He walked right in past Brian. “You can come in if you want,” Brian called after him, closing the door. Fuck. He was angry, and it was going to make him ugly. Olli should go home.

“My mom sent me chocolate for Christmas,” Olli said. “I thought you might want some.”

“Olli, man…”

Olli looked at him for a long moment, and then he set the candy bar teetering on the back of the couch and walked up to Brian with the same deliberate caution he had the first time. Brian stood stock-still as Olli framed Brian’s face with his hands and leaned up to kiss him. Olli’s breath seemed loud in the late-night quiet.

After little while of Olli mouthing gently at Brian’s lips, Brian gave in, pressing his hands to Olli’s hips and kissing back.

Eventually Olli stepped back and searched Brian’s eyes. Brian didn’t know what he the hell he hoped to find in them, but he seemed dissatisfied. “Come on,” Olli said. “Come try the chocolate. It’s from Finland.”

Sometime during the kissing Brian’s anger had deflated. Now he was just sad. “Yeah, okay.”

They sat on the couch, and Olli broke off a square for Brian. It tasted like chocolate. “They’re going to send me down,” Brian said.

“It was one bad game.”

Brian shook his head. “Brooksie and Scuds are both coming back. There’s no room for me anyway. And let’s be honest, this is not the only game I’ve sucked.”

“You’ll be back,” Olli said, so full of confidence.

“Just impatient, I guess. Fuck.” Brian flopped his head back against the sofa, his eyes to the ceiling. “I know I’ve got a lot of shit to work on. Gap control, reading the plays. Not blowing my fucking coverage to hell and back. You know, in college I thought I was pretty good at this hockey thing.” He attempted a smile.

“Now you’re just feeling sorry for yourself.”

“Fuck you,” Brian said, startled into a laugh. He felt suddenly lighter.

Olli shifted on the couch. The next moment he straddled Brian’s thighs, settling carefully, and then he took Brian’s face in his hands and kissed him again. Now he tasted of chocolate. Brian closed everything else out—the recent past, the very likely near-future, the world beyond this room—and focused on Olli’s weight steadying him. On Olli’s thumb brushing along his cheekbone, on the meaty curve of Olli’s ass under Brian’s hands.

Finally, Brian said, “I think my legs are going to sleep, man.”

Olli sat up, mouth red and swollen and smiling. “Oh yeah?”

“Yeah.” Brian shoved at Olli until he slid off Brian and stood up. “Come on, I’ve got lube in the bedroom.”

Olli held up progress by pressing Brian into the wall just inside the bedroom door and kissing him some more. Brian retaliated by tugging Olli’s shirt off, then yanking at Olli’s belt until Olli unbuckled it in self-defense. Finally Brian got his own clothes off. Then they were both naked, both flushed and hard. Brian pulled Olli in by the hips until their dicks were lined up and then gripped them both at once. Olli gasped.

“Yeah?” Brian said.

“Yeah.” The word was a puff of warm breath against his shoulder.

So Brian retreated briefly to squeeze some lube into his hand and then dragged Olli down onto the bed, lining them up on their sides and then jerking them off together. Olli threw a leg over Brian’s thigh to stabilize them. He gasped in short, sharp exhales, his eyes squeezed shut. His fingernails dug into Brian’s shoulder, and then he came, spurting over Brian’s hand. “Fuck,” he said, going lax.

“Hey, roll over,” Brian said.

“Nngh?” Olli said, but he rolled over onto his back, and just watched, heavy-lidded, as Brian crawled on top of him and then ground down into the mess on Olli’s belly. Heat sparked all along Brian’s dick and grew in his gut, molten and heavy.

Brian groaned and came. As the aftershocks rolled though him, he settled fully onto Olli, his chin hooked over Olli’s shoulder and his face buried in the pillow. Olli was warm beneath him, solid and sure. There was something Brian had been upset about, but it escaped him now. “You feel really fucking good,” he mumbled.

“Mm.” A hand stroked along Brian’s ribs and down to his ass. The next moment, a finger pressed between his cheeks.

“Oh yeah?” Brian said. He wasn’t hard again yet, but fuck if it’d take him long. He pushed up onto his hands and kissed Olli’s grinning mouth. They needed more lube, but it could wait a moment, he thought.

Brian never did go down to Desi’s for more beer. When he finally fell asleep, he was fucked-out and still filthy despite some feeble attempts with a washcloth, and Olli was spooned up against his chest.

--

Consciousness seeped in slowly. Brian became aware of dull, wintery daylight, Olli breathing quietly next to him. Brian blinked his eyes open and watched Olli for a while. He looked even younger like this, eyes closed, mouth slack. Brian felt a flush of unexpected fondness. Giving a damn about your teammates was one thing, wanting to fuck them was something else again, but this—Brian was not prepared for it.

He shifted closer and pressed a dry kiss to Olli’s mouth. Olli grunted, his eyes fluttering open. “You’re good,” Brian said, and kissed him again. “You can stay. I’m going to take a shower.”

It took some scrubbing to get himself clean, and then he stood under the hot spray for a little while longer. Yesterday’s game was yesterday, his almost-certain trip back to Wilkes-Barre was in the future, and right now he had three days off that would be chock full of beer and food and Olli Maatta, if Brian had anything to say about it.

When he got out of the bathroom, Olli was standing at the window, bare-ass naked. Brian stepped up next to him and looked out on a world full of white. A good four inches of snow was piled up on the railing of Brian’s balcony, and the tracks of cars in the street below were dark against a blanket of white.

“Will you look at that,” Brian said. He tucked Olli into his side. “Good timing, dude. White Christmas.”

Olli slid a hand around Brian’s waist. “I’ll go to that thing with you tonight,” Olli said. “At Siller’s. If you want.”

“Awesome,” Brian said.

Silently they watched as fat white flakes fell from a gray sky.

[end]