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Something Like A Winning Streak

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The locker room was raucous as ever after a win, although Nick Foligno found himself in a little pocket of silence as guys moved around, getting changed, flipping balls of tape at each other, joking and teasing while he just quietly watched. His gaze landed in the stall next to his and he frowned a little, brows drawn together as he noticed Saader sitting in his own stall, equally quiet--although at least for Saader that was nothing new--but still half undressed, grinning down at the phone in his hand.

It wasn't a look he'd seen Saader wear a whole lot, either; a little bit soft and clearly delighted, like he was getting really good news, or hearing from family or someone he loved. Nick blinked, and wondered if Saader had started seeing someone, maybe. He'd gotten the impression after he got traded that Brandon was leaving someone behind, maybe. Someone who couldn't or wouldn't travel to Columbus with him, someone whose shadow hovered behind Saader's expression sometimes, dimming his smile.

Good for him if that was what it was, Nick thought, and turned his attention back to getting dressed.

He didn't notice Boone noticing the same thing he had.

* * *

Brandon couldn't quite stop himself from grinning stupidly at his phone, the message that had been waiting for him when he'd picked it up after the game. He hadn't exactly had a banner night personally; one shot off the crossbar and a couple others that just straight up missed wasn't much to write home about, but knowing Nick had been watching made him feel even better than the 'good work' pat on the back he'd gotten from Dubi as they filed off the ice after decisively crushing the Bolts for the second time in a week.

A three game point streak was nice, feeling like things were really starting to click on the ice for them this year, the way they were supposed to have last year… that was even better. Not that Brandon wanted to spend a lot of time and energy thinking about last year. He knew well enough that was a bad idea on a couple of levels.

Instead, better to let himself focus on how well his teammates were playing, on the day off they'd earned for the next day, on the fact it was just over a week till the Islanders would be in town, too.

They'd closed out November pretty nicely, in the end, and sure as hell a lot better than most people thought they would, and that was satisfying in and of itself. And worthy of celebration.

That seemed to be on everyone's minds, more or less, and Brandon jumped as Boone flicked him with the corner of a towel to get his attention before drawling, "Saader, you're coming with us, yeah?"

Brandon blinked, gave him a second to decide if he was going to chirp him for being so far off in his own little world like that, and then asked, "Going where?"

Boone shrugged and gave him a grin that was all teeth. "Out," he repeated, in the tone that promised potentially unwise amounts of alcohol, a late night, and plenty of opportunities to mock the rest of his teammates for their inability to hold their liquor and their taste in women or men.

Brandon had been quietly relieved, the first time he'd gone out with the majority of the team after their win in LA and found that he wasn't the only one whose eyes followed the hipsterish-looking bartender with a well-groomed beard instead of the tall, stacked woman he was serving, who Brandon half thought might actually have been a model. And the completely unselfconscious chirping that Will got for asking for his number was refreshingly exactly the same as Brandon had heard teammates getting over the years when they tried to pick up anyone.

No one had said anything weird about it, and no one seemed to expect Brandon to say anything weird about it—although Boone had given him a quick look, clearly taking his temperature on the moment, before turning to say something to Murrs with a quick grin and an easy laugh.

Boone was straightforward in a way that Brandon appreciated; quick to look out for his guys, quick to read a situation, quick with a laugh and just as quick to grab someone and haul them off if they looked like they were getting out of line. He was so steady and grounded, so easy wearing a letter on the ice that Brandon forgot sometimes that they were more or less the same age. He knew everyone thought he was mature beyond his years too; Brandon had been working hard to shake that whole 'manchild' thing, thanks, but Boone seemed to come by that same attitude even more naturally.

Brandon knew he was being looked at as a veteran, a calming voice in the room, considered to be someone who'd been there before and knew what to expect, and he was happy to provide an example to lead that way…but there was a part of him sometimes that still doubted it, that wondered if he was doing as much as he should, if he was doing that right. He didn't think Boone had those kinds of doubts, even if he was fighting it on the ice at the moment and not scoring nearly as much as he had done last year.

Brandon wasn't exactly scoring at a great clip these days, either.

So, yeah, he could sympathize.

"Okay, sure," Brandon said, slipping his phone into the pocket of his jacket, tugging his cuffs down over his wrists and standing up. "I'm down for that, where are we heading?"

"The usual," Boone started to say, but it was drowned out by Wild Bill and Wenny whooping, and Andy and Zach joining in, and Brandon gave up on even trying to have any kind of conversation until they'd all finished up their obligations for the night and picked up at least a drink or two.

If past experience was anything to go by, they'd all wind up jammed into one booth arguing over whose turn it was to buy a round for at least an hour before anyone would have worked off the endorphin high or the smug satisfaction of a game where they'd played well enough to beat anyone in the league and they all knew it.

Brandon resigned himself to not getting to his bed until some time well after midnight, and after a moment's thought pulled his phone back out again just long enough to text Leds to let him know he'd talk to him tomorrow, or whenever it was that they next both had a day off.

It was good to know now that that wasn't going to be a problem, that neither of them was going to be upset or jealous or resentful, that Nick was probably just at home in New York, glad that Brandon had had a good game and pleased to hear that he was getting some quality time to spend with his teammates.

It helped that the Jackets weren't having an historically terrible start to their season, Brandon would be the first to admit that.

But having been through everything last year definitely made things feel much easier, and while Brandon still missed Nick—and everyone else, but Nick most of all—it wasn't nearly as acute as it had been.

"Good work tonight, Saader," Boone said, and pushed a glass closer to Brandon's hands where he was leaning on the table, lost in his thoughts all over again. He was going to get a reputation if he made a habit of that so often.

Brandon shook himself, let the mood drift away and let himself smile normally at Boone.

Well, okay. Smiled a little bit more than normal. So sue him, he liked Boone, and he wasn't exactly hard to look at, either.

"You too," he said, and took a healthy swallow of his drink. Boone apparently also had good taste in tap beer, which was something Brandon for sure appreciated in a teammate.

Boone shrugged at him, but looked pleased enough. He hadn't found himself on the scoresheet either, but he'd been hitting everything he could see in a white jersey, and Brandon knew he wasn't the only one who'd taken note of that.

"So, how long do you think it takes Jonesy to get back with the next round?" Boone asked, gesturing with his chin towards the bar, where Seth was deep in conversation with Josh and Zach and hadn't so much as looked at the bartender in a few minutes.

Brandon wasn't all that bothered really; he had a drink, and Boone was good company. And he was pretty sure the other three were talking football considering how they were all facing one of the big flatscreens behind the bar, and Brandon just wasn't that big on football, whether it was Ohio State or the NFL. Wenny and Bill could usually be depended on to change the subject—admittedly, often to soccer—but they'd made themselves scarce already.

Brandon had some sneaking suspicions about what exactly they were doing that wasn't quality time with their teammates, but he didn't exactly plan on saying anything about that. Not unless they started the conversation. Brandon wasn't blind, even if half the time people seemed to forget he was around for some conversations. It was easy to get overlooked when you didn't have to hear yourself talk constantly, or so he'd tried to tell Andy and Tro both over the years. Neither of them had taken that all that well, actually.

"I think we're on our own for the time being," Brandon said ruefully, figuring some kind of answer was expected of him, and Boone just laughed and said, "Yeah."

As it turned out, Zach and Andy and Jonesy did eventually work their way back to the booth, having collected Sedsy and a couple of the other younger guys on the way, and Brandon let himself get shuffled closer to Boone, pressed up warm against him while they tried to fit a few more people than were probably intended into the space.

It was easy to just sit there and let the conversation wash over him, add a comment or two when there was a gap to do so, and to join in on giving Zach shit for the completely pathetic fake that he was still using and somehow getting away with. Like anyone would believe he was 27, jeez.

Brandon should probably not be encouraging Zach to come out with them anyway, but at the same time…he wasn't the one at the table wearing a letter, and it wasn't like anything was going to happen while he was with the rest of the team. That was probably safer, really, than anything that might happen at a house party or whatever might be going on where there weren't older and wiser—or at least more sober—people. Brandon had had a couple drinks, sure, but he was still more than capable of looking out for himself and others. He'd had a lot of practice.

He also had a drink or two more than he'd quite intended to, and by the time they were completely failing to figure out how to split the bill—even with three iPhones out and using the calculator app—he felt the alcohol hitting him more than he usually indulged during the season. Definitely more than usual. He didn't feel bad, and he didn't think he'd be hungover or anything like that, but the world seemed warmer, and a little too bright, and something made it seem all too natural to drift back towards Boone, leaning into him while they stood around and argued over who was covering the tip.

Boone didn't seem to mind. Brandon would've thought he didn't even notice really, but for the fact that as Brandon shifted his weight from one foot to the other Boone slung an arm around him, hand settling at Brandon's hip to steady him. Brandon froze for a second and then mentally shrugged and decided to let himself just enjoy the moment. He was tipsy, Boone was there, all solid and warm and beardy and—

Yeah, okay, Brandon thought. So he had a type.

No harm done there.

"You wanna split an Uber, Saader?" Boone asked, as they all walked outside, talking too loudly even after getting out of the bar, cheerfully drunk enough to not remember to care about just how much of a spectacle they were making of themselves. It was reassuringly familiar, really; Brandon had been doing this with teammates almost longer than he could remember.

Definitely longer than it'd been legal for him to do it, that was for sure.

"Sure," Brandon said with a shrug, and he let his fingertips tuck under the waistband of Boone's pants, just to get a slightly better grip on him. It was fine. They were totally fine.

"Wait, did we lose Murrs?" he asked belatedly, glancing around the group of them and realizing he wasn't sure the last time he'd even seen Ryan.

Boone barked out a laugh and said, "Nah, he went straight home. He turns into a pumpkin around midnight, you know that."

"Right, right," Brandon replied, and he did know that. Did usually remember that as much as Ryan liked to hang out with the rest of the team, it was rare for him to actually do the whole loud bar with a lot of people and even more booze thing. Hell, it was rare enough for Brandon to do that, so he could probably be excused for forgetting.

Their car turned up shortly after, and Brandon just followed Boone into the backseat without waiting for any further discussion, waving at Josh and Zach, who were either still trying to work out who was going to actually pay for the car or whether they should just walk home anyway. It wasn't that cold out, and at least they lived close.

"They're probably fine, right?" Brandon said, mostly rhetorically, glancing over his shoulder out the back windscreen to check up on them. It seemed unlikely that either of them would somehow wander off and end up as an embarrassing front page story about falling into the river and drowning, at the very least.

"Yeah," Boone said with a shrug, and if Boone wasn't worried about them then Brandon wasn't going to, either.

He turned to glance out the window beside him instead, not really tracking much more than lights flashing by as they drove, the short drive seeming to stretch out longer than it could possibly be. The leather of the seat creaked beside him as Boone shifted his weight, and then Brandon had to work not to startle obviously as Boone stretched his legs out enough to kick gently at Brandon's ankle, getting his attention.

"Yeah?" Brandon said, turning back to look at him. Boone was wearing an expression that Brandon half recognized, but couldn't immediately place.

Boone licked his lips and swallowed, and Brandon forgot to pretend like he wasn't watching that, like he hadn't noticed. Boone grinned, and didn't seem even remotely flustered or uncomfortable. And, oh, right, Brandon thought, the obvious answer trickling through to the front of his mind at last: that was interest. That was the way Boone looked when he'd seen someone he liked the look of, someone he was into.

Brandon's seen it directed at more than one woman in Columbus and on the road; Boone's a shameless flirt and doesn't care who knows it. He's seen it directed at Murrs, too, and he'd really thought that he and Boone were—were something, anyhow. But then again, maybe Brandon was just projecting.

But Boone was definitely aiming that look in Brandon's direction, and, well. Brandon couldn't deny that he was interested in looking right back.

Inconveniently, that was exactly the point where the car pulled up out front of Brandon's place.

Their driver turned back to say, "Here you go," with a grin, and waited for Brandon to get his act together and get out. He paused for a second, and then made the decision.

"Well, uh, night," Brandon said, feeling awkward and kind of dumb.

He could see the invitation that Boone was offering, and a large part of him wanted to take him up on it, too. But he couldn't quite bring himself to make such a potentially huge decision on the spur of the moment, after more shots than he liked to think of. If this wasn't just a one-off thing then there'd be other opportunities, and his dick could damn well just deal with that.

Besides, it wasn't like he wanted to try and explain his relationship status while half-tipsy.

If Boone was disappointed, he covered it well, just reached over to give Brandon a friendly punch to his upper arm before saying, "Yeah. Night, Saader. Catch you later."

Brandon climbed out of the car and headed inside, and did not let himself turn around to watch Boone go. No matter how much he was tempted to.

* * *

With just a day between games and no major break in the schedule any time soon, they had the Wednesday morning off completely, with nothing planned before they were due to fly out late afternoon. That was probably for the best, because Brandon slept late into the morning, his body taking the opportunity with no alarms to keep him in bed well past when he'd usually be up.

He wandered into his kitchen late in the morning, barefoot on the tiles and wrapped up in his bathrobe over pajamas, feeling significantly better than he could have done, mercifully spared the hangover he probably deserved. With nowhere to go and nothing he absolutely had to do, for once more or less on top of most of the chores and errands that tended to pile up in the middle of the season when they were away from home for large chunks of time, even.

It was nice to be able to linger over his cup of tea with breakfast, and then to wander into the living room and put his feet up on the table, catch up on some of what was on his DVR.

His phone buzzed around lunch time, and Brandon hit pause on the remote, picked it up and couldn't help the grin that spread across his face as soon as he heard Nick's voice.

"Hey," Brandon said. "How's it going, Leds?"

"Not bad, not bad," Nick said, and Brandon could picture him so easily; sitting at his apartment on his couch, probably with his feet up on the coffee table as well, same as Brandon was. Brandon had seen him like that often enough. Had been right there next to him often enough, too. "Just got lunch, gonna nap soon, and then the game, you know how it is."

"Who've you guys got tonight again?" Brandon asked.

He had enough on his plate remembering his own team's schedule, and that got reinforced at practice and with video sessions; he pretty much only guaranteed he'd remember who the Isles were playing when it was the Jackets.

And that was its own separate issue, of course.

"Pens," Nick said, and Brandon said, "Ah," and then added, "Definitely finish them off before overtime, please."

Nick laughed, that time, and said, "Sure, just for you, babe."

"Ouch, uncalled for sarcasm," Brandon replied. "Anyway, sorry I didn't get to catch up last night. We, uh, went out after. I got in pretty late."

"It's all good," Nick said. "Have fun?"

Brandon paused, not sure how to best put it.

It wasn't as if he hadn't planned all along to tell Nick, anyway.
When they'd decided to stay together long distance, but that hookups were okay as long as they were safe, being able to talk about it was the one rule they'd decided to have. And so far it had worked out just fine; Brandon had picked up a couple of times—well, twice—and he'd had fun, and then he'd had even more fun telling Nick about it after. He'd been reassuringly pleased to get updates on Nick's low key flirtation with one of the Isles rookies, too, and whenever he thought about Nick maybe doing anything more than just making out with him, there was a decided lack of jealousy, other than for the fact that Brandon kind of wanted to watch. So he didn't anticipate a problem, but still—

It wasn't something he was used to talking about, yet. Even though they were both clear on what they were free to do.

"Saader," Nick said, after Brandon had been quiet for probably a couple seconds too long. "What happened?"

"Nothing bad," Brandon reassured him. "I, uh. Nothing happened, really."

There was a pause. "Did you want something to happen?" Nick asked, too perceptive as always.

"I think I was flirting with Boone," Brandon said.

Nick made a considering noise. "Jenner?" he asked. "Yeah, I can see it."

Brandon blinked, and wished they were on Skype or Facetime or something so he could see what Nick's expression was doing. Or so he could give him the kind of look that kind of comment deserved.

"Uh, yeah," he said, after a moment. "What do you mean you can see it?"

"I mean, he's hot," Nick said, and Brandon blinked. "And kind of your type, no wonder you want to flirt with him. Does he, uh. Do you know if he's into guys?"

"I'm pretty sure he's sleeping with his roommate. Or he was. I think, anyway."

Brandon wished that he had a better idea of what was going on there, because if Boone was interested—if Boone had been flirting seriously with him, and not just kind of drunk and easy and horny—then Brandon was interested right back, yeah. But not if there was any chance it could turn into some kind of drama inside the room. Brandon was never going to be hypocritical enough to think there was anything automatically wrong with hooking up with a teammate, but unnecessary drama was best to sidestep.

"Right, yeah, you should work that out," Nick agreed. He paused for a second. "And if that works out, find out if he's interested in a threesome."

Brandon's eyebrows raised without his conscious permission. "Nicholas Leddy," he said, unable to help the grin spreading across his face as he imagined that. "Are you suggesting you maybe have a thing for a guy on another team in your division?"

Nick laughed right back at him. "I'm sleeping with you, aren't I?"

Brandon had to give him that point.

"Sure, Leds, I'll let you know what happens," he promised.

"You better," Nick said. "You know I like the details," and he did, too. It made Brandon blush even thinking about it, let alone narrating it, but Nick really, really got off on hearing Brandon talk about sex with anyone, whether it was the cute guy he'd met at a club in LA, or just reminiscing about some of his hookups back when he was in Saginaw.

And Nick getting off got Brandon off, so really it was win-win all around.

* * *

This time around, they managed to beat the Avs, deeply satisfying after the OT loss earlier in the month, although it wasn't like any of them felt great about letting the 2-0 lead slip away. Brandon had scored early on, and picked up an assist, so he was feeling pretty good about his performance, and Boone crashing the net for a greasy one for the game-winner was the icing on the cake, felt somehow inevitable after how hard he'd been working without actually getting the results up till then.

Brandon had leapt to his feet on the bench when they saw the red light go off, and he hadn't been the only one; they'd all seen how Boone had been fighting it recently, and Brandon just hoped now that some of the pressure was off he'd be able to start putting the puck in a little more often again.

From there, it was on to Phoenix, and another win, and then home to beat the Yotes again even more comprehensively, and that was the end of the four in seven, all four wins, and a few days off to catch their breath between them.

They didn't go out again after that win, although Brandon figured no one would've been surprised if they had; 4-1 was enough of an ass-kicking to power anyone through a couple hours in a bar, but it had been a long week, and he figured he couldn't be the only one who was looking forward to sleeping in his own bed for a couple nights with nothing more pressing to worry about.

Still, he found that he and Boone kept gravitating together, sitting together on the plane and talking more when they went out for meals as a team, finding a new equilibrium. They hadn't talked about it really; not the look in the bar the other week, or the way Brandon had found himself leaning in in the car later, and kept leaning in every time they'd been around each other and not actively playing hockey all week.

It would have been easy to just tell himself that it didn't mean much of anything, except Brandon kept catching Boone watching him back. He'd got to know him well enough last year, although that had been a whirlwind of adjusting to a lot of new teammates, but Brandon had worked out quickly that Boone was a lot more perceptive than he got credit for, and it was no mystery why he was wearing one of the As for the team.

With all that in the back of his mind, it wasn't a shock at all when Boone caught his eye after practice and asked, "You wanna go get sushi or something, Saader?"

"Yeah, sounds good," Brandon said, and deliberately didn't look to see if anyone else was noticing that Boone hadn't invited any of the other usual suspects. He wasn't sure if it would be worse if anyone had, or if he'd just see a complete lack of surprise round the room. Better not to focus on that, really.

By sushi, Boone apparently meant stopping by the place they usually went downtown and then getting takeout, before heading back to his apartment. That was probably smart, it meant they wouldn't have to worry about being overheard. Or… anything else, Brandon thought, and felt his face flush, knew the tips of his ears were probably pink too.

"Murrs is over at Z and Andy's place," Boone said casually, digging chopsticks out of the drawer in the kitchen and handing them and a plate to Brandon before sitting back down at the kitchen table beside him.

"Right," Brandon said, and for lack of any better ideas, focused on eating his share just like they weren't sitting there with this awkward giant thing looming over them.

Lunch seemed to be over twice as quickly as Brandon was prepared for, and he found himself fidgeting with his chopsticks for lack of anything better to do with his hands. For some reason, this part never seemed to get any easier, no matter how comfortable he was with the person he was hoping to hook up with.

However well he knew them.

He'd probably been as attuned to Nick as it was possible for another person to be when they'd first gotten together back in Rockford, and it had still been one of the more uniquely awkward moments of Brandon's life.

"So," Brandon said, breaking the silence. Boone grinned at him.

Okay, so maybe this wasn't going to be that bad.

"I'm not misreading this, am I?" Brandon asked, and Boone almost didn't need to answer, not with the way the grin he was wearing stretched even wider.

"If you're reading, 'we don't have to worry about Murrs overhearing anything' and thinking about getting naked, then, no, you're not," Boone said, still smirking. He was awfully sure of himself, and Brandon would probably find that the slightest bit annoying if he wasn't also getting off on it. So Brandon has a type, take two.

"Not gonna make anything weird, right?" Brandon asked, trying to remember what else went on his mental checklist for these moments, and wondering if it would be weird to write that down. Then he wouldn't worry about forgetting anything, but then anyone could find it and that would be—even harder to explain. He was going to have to wing it.

"Nope," Boone said, pushing his chair back and standing up, walking over towards Brandon.

"Anything off the table, in particular?" Brandon asked. It was better to cover that kind of thing before they wound up in the bedroom, before anyone got naked and stupid or embarrassed.

"I think this is the most you've talked all at once in weeks," Boone said, pausing for a moment beside Brandon's chair. Brandon stilled, and worried.

"Is that a problem?" he asked.

"No," Boone rushed to assure him, "It's actually kind of—I dunno, I'm into it. You got a list, Saader?"

Brandon emphatically did not blush. "No," he said, and pushed back his own chair, standing up so that he was on Boone's level, face to face. Nose to nose.

…right about exactly lined up to kiss him just as easy as he could stare him down.

"Just before we do this," Brandon said, because that was the important thing, the bit that you couldn't exactly take back and undo afterward if you wanted to, "I, uh. You know I'm seeing someone else too, right?"

Boone nodded, slowly, but didn't step back. "Yeah, I thought you might be. It's why I didn't, uh. Say anything sooner."

"It's long distance," Brandon said, choosing his words carefully. "We're not exclusive, it's not cheating, or anything like that."

Boone didn't break eye contact, but he looked about as serious as Brandon had ever seen him—at least, as serious as he'd ever looked without that edge of mad, or sad, or the sheer furious heartbreak that had been Brandon's first eight games with the Blue Jackets all tied up in one awful expression.

"That's fine," Boone said, and corrected himself almost immediately. "I mean, that's good. I'm pretty much in a similar spot, but we can talk about that later, right?"

"Of course," Brandon said. He guessed that answered his question about Ryan, or—maybe it didn't. Time to think about that later, though, that was most emphatically not the time.

"Okay, so… we're doing this?" Boone said. "You should get naked already, Saader."

"Why did I know you'd be bossy," Brandon said under his breath, just loud enough for Boone to hear, and he grinned when Boone just swatted at his flank in response. "Okay, yours is the room on the right, yeah?"

"Yeah, the one where you can see the floor," Boone replied, and followed right on Brandon's heels as he headed down the hall.

Boone's bedroom was, as promised, tidy; his belongings set out neatly or put away in the closest and chest of drawers. His bed was made up in muted, soft grays with a checked pattern, something that Brandon didn't think looked like something he'd picked himself, but it looked comfortable and—when Brandon brushed his palm over the side of the sheets—it was soft.

"The thread count is like, some fucking ridiculous number," Boone said, his eyes tracking Brandon's movement.

"It's nice," Brandon said, and immediately wanted to kick himself for how trite that sounded. "I mean, I bet it's comfortable."

Boone gave him a heated look, and reached out to start tugging the buttons on Brandon's shirt undone. "Get undressed faster and find out," he said, before leaning in and completely unhelpfully pressing his lips to Brandon's. It was a rushed kiss, fast and hot and a little sloppy, but Brandon wasn't going to complain, not when it felt that good.

Slowly, and not particularly gracefully, they both shed their respective clothes, and Brandon wasn't terribly surprised to note that Boone set all of his down on a chair beside the dresser instead of just letting them drop. He wasn't sure what to do with his own—putting them with Boone's just seemed likely to end up in some kind of comedy of errors where he'd wind up seeing someone else with an incriminating 38 somewhere on his clothing without realizing.

"Here, let me," Boone said, seeming to notice Brandon's hesitation, and he held a hand out for Brandon's pants and shirt, waiting mostly patiently for Brandon to peel his undershirt off and then—after a heartbeat of hesitation—his briefs.

Brandon refused to look embarrassed—they were both adults, and it wasn't even as if they weren't naked around each other every second day anyway—but he could feel Boone's gaze as it tracked up and then down his body like it was a physical weight, the slow brush of attention prickling along his spine, making hairs on his arms stand on end.

He didn't have to ask if Boone liked what he saw, either, because Brandon could look right back, could see that Boone was just as turned on as he was.

"Right," Brandon said, tugging the covers down and climbing into the bed, looking up at Boone, daring him.

"Fuck, Saader," Boone said, and climbed right on top of him, slinging his knee over Brandon's waist, settling his weight heavy over Brandon's lower body.

He was careful as he shifted, making sure that what he was doing was more like a slow, steady pressure just where Brandon most wanted to be touched. Boone dug his toes into the mattress, leaned forward just enough to kiss Brandon again, keeping himself in place by bracing with his arms.

It felt good; his tongue slipping easily into Brandon's mouth, leading the easy give and take as they kissed and kissed and kissed. Brandon tried not to buck up too obviously, didn't want to put Boone off balance, although it was kind of killing him; Boone's dick pressed hot and obvious between their stomachs, leaking hot and slick onto Brandon's abdomen.

Brandon might have felt slightly left out—or just off balance, not that he couldn't wait and get Boone off first, Jesus, he wasn't that selfish—but just as Brandon was thinking that, Boone shifted his weight so that he only had one forearm braced high on Brandon's chest and sat up just enough that he could reach behind himself, shoulders and back twisting as his hand found Brandon's dick easily, as he ran his fingertips lightly over the head and then slickly down Brandon's length.

He gave Brandon a few more slow strokes like that, balancing carefully, his face turned to watch Brandon's expressions and his hand moving inexorably behind him, where neither of them could see it, but they could both feel it and fuck, Brandon would never have picked it, but that was—surprisingly hot. Was absolutely doing it for him.

He bit his lip, and then gave in, arched up into Boone's grip, let himself pant and moan the way he was desperate to. Boone looked pleased, but mostly like he was concentrating hard, his brows drawn together, muscles standing out in relief as he shifted and flexed. His dick bobbed rhythmically with Boone's movements, too, slapping against his own stomach as he bent backwards to keep working Brandon over.

And—right, there was more stuff Brandon could be doing there, too. Even if he was starting to shake a little, feeling the orgasm build up, an itch along the base of his spine that somehow felt like it had a direct line running right from his balls to his neck, or maybe the back of his teeth. Whatever it was, it felt good and impossible and absolutely imminent.

"God, that's so—good, fuck," Brandon panted. Boone's hand felt good on him and Boone's weight felt good on him, anchoring him in the moment, to the bed.

Boone just grinned tightly at him and didn't say anything, but he also sat up, arching his own back until he found his balance, and then got his other hand on his own dick, starting to jerk himself off. Brandon got caught up watching for a few seconds—that was so fucking hot too, Boone touching himself, Brandon wanted to watch that more, a lot. And then he blushed hard, because, right, he wasn't just a passenger there, he could actually do something too, and he said, "oh shit, can I—?" and reached down to cover Boone's hand on his dick, tightening his grip so that Boone slid forward an inch or two just in instinctive response, catching his breath and then murmuring, "Fuck."

"That a yes?" Brandon asked, and Boone nodded, disentangled his own hand to give Brandon free rein, and rolled his hips in rhythm with Brandon's touch.

It wasn't the easiest way they could be doing that, but it was working, building into a feedback loop where Brandon tightened his fist, or carefully slid Boone's foreskin back, working it over the head, and Boone rocked forward and dragged his own fist up and down Brandon's dick, and then switched it up by dropping lower to tug gently at his balls, making Brandon shiver and curse enthusiastically in response. Boone got his hand back on Brandon's dick again, his fingertips tracing over his slit experimentally as Brandon bit his lip and moaned, as he felt his dick twitch in Boone's grip, precome pooling and smearing all over Boone's hand and Brandon's dick.

Brandon's hand was pretty wet as well; Boone was so responsive and it felt like it took all of two minutes before he was arching his back and freezing his hand on Brandon's body, hips jerking forward as he gasped, "gonna come, Saader, oh god," and came all over both of them.

Brandon looked down to see Boone's come streak his chest and his eyes widened and he let himself follow suit, arching up before sinking back into the mattress, before Boone tipped forward and rolled slightly to the side, so that he was lying flat out as well, half on Brandon still, and breathing like he'd just run a couple miles. Looking a lot more wrecked than he had done when they'd all had to do that, even.

"I guess that worked out okay, then," Boone said peaceably, half mumbled into the side of Brandon's hair.

It was lucky Brandon was used to translating from other people who tended to be a lot more soft-spoken than Boone usually was, really.

"Yeah," Brandon said slowly, and maybe they should be talking about it more, but instead he found himself reaching over to touch Boone's shoulder.

As Boone snuggled closer and let his eyes close Brandon accepted the inevitable and reached out to try and grab the blanket with his toes. It took some undignified squirming and some stretching that he thought might be difficult even for Bob, but he managed to get it close enough to grab and pull over both of them eventually, and Boone just snuffled something incoherent into the pillow which Brandon thought-hoped-was a thank you.

He couldn't stop himself from letting his palm rest high on Boone's back, though; the skin surprisingly soft and smooth, easy under his hand when he let himself run his fingertips all the way down his back, tracing the curve of his spine, till his hand was brushing over his hip, his side, the generous curve of his ass.

God, Brandon really liked sleeping with hockey players. There was no point in even denying the fact he had a type, that was for sure.

It felt new and different, though, and not just because it was, technically.

Brandon loved Nick; this wasn't going to threaten that at all—add to it, maybe—but it'd been a while since he'd been with someone else, and the differences were all-too-easy to catalog. Not that Brandon was going to be in a position to throw any stones about body hair ever, but it was a little novel to run his hands over Boone and find so much smooth skin, just the faintest sprinkling of hair down the center of his chest, darkening and thickening in an arrow from his bellybutton down to his dick. Although given how thick Boone's beard came in when he let it, well. Brandon wondered, idly, if he waxed. Or shaved, or something. Ryan would probably know.

And, now that he was thinking about it again, Brandon definitely had some questions about Murrs. Or maybe for Murrs. But he could think about that later, that was for sure.

* * *

Brandon dropped off to sleep easily enough in the end, too; slept deep and dreamlessly for what felt like a solid couple of hours. He hadn't exactly looked at the time when he and Boone had gone to bed, but when he woke up again it was somewhere around what he'd classify as late afternoon. Maybe early evening. Late enough for dinner, if he'd been hungry again yet, which he wasn't, quite. And definitely early enough still to have visitors, for it to be entirely unexceptional that Brandon was at Boone and Murrs' place, that he was still there.

Of course, that theory was one that would cover nosy neighbors, and maybe even nosy teammates, but it did sweet fuck and all when the nosy teammate in question was also the roommate. And home unexpectedly early.

Or, Brandon thought, glancing outside the kitchen windows, stumbling to a guilty halt on the tiles, it probably wasn't unexpectedly early, Brandon just hadn't stopped to think before leaving Boone's room, with Boone still sacked out on the bed and dead to the world. He wondered for a split-second if it was worth trying to pretend like anything else had been going on, but he couldn't quite bring himself to do that. Besides, depending on how long Ryan had been home, that could be incredibly pointless anyway.

Brandon mostly just hoped he hadn't been home long. Boone was… not quiet.

"Hey," Brandon said after a moment, and forced himself to keep walking into the kitchen, going to grab a glass from the cabinet and helping himself to some water.

Ryan's face was carefully expressionless.

Brandon really, really hoped this wasn't about to get awkward. More awkward. Extra awkward. Fuck, maybe it was too late for that, given how close he felt like he was to freaking out.

"Hey Saader," Ryan said after a moment.

His voice was low, measured, easy. He sounded perfectly normal. Definitely not like a guy who was about to have some kind of homophobic freakout. Or a jealous one, which was the other option Brandon wasn't at all prepared to deal with on his own, thanks. So that was a good sign.

"You and Boone have fun?" Ryan asked, eyebrow raised.

His tone was so carefully neutral as he asked that that Brandon knew, absolutely, that he knew they'd slept together. He knew exactly what they'd been doing, and what he was asking. Brandon's brows bunched together and he threw Ryan a sharp look, and like it was choreographed, Ryan's pokerface cracked and he started snickering.

Brandon sat down at the counter, more heavily than he'd quite intended, and the chair creaked in protest as he glared at Ryan, trying to pretend like the corner of his mouth wasn't twitching. It wasn't like he couldn't see the funny side too, but Jesus, Murrs.

"Yeah, we did," Brandon said eventually. He raised an eyebrow right back. "Worried you're missing out?"

It wasn't like Murrs picked up a lot when the team went out, and Brandon didn't think that kind of teasing was out of bounds. Not when he was already getting it from him in the first place.

'He started it' was an excuse that had stopped holding water about the time Brandon was in preschool, sure, but that had never stopped him from wanting to use it occasionally. Especially when it was true.

Ryan gave him a distinctly unfamiliar smirk right back. Brandon hid the moment of shock, or at least hoped he had.

"Nah, I'm good," was all he said, letting the implications dangle, and Brandon wasn't sure whether he should start trying to pick his way through that tangle, or if he should just wait till he could talk to Boone.

They hadn't exactly planned much of this, or had any sort of a debrief. Brandon had never been one to do much more than doze after sex, satisfied and smug; he hadn't really ever gone for the kind of post-hookup chat that some of the guys he's been with seem to want. Nick had never needed it—he and Brandon were too much on the same page most of the time to need to do more than exchange looks or a few words when that suited—and Brandon had been happy enough to just nap with Boone warm at his side, figuring they could do any necessary talking afterward, but that didn't exactly leave him with a shared plan of action for right then and there.

He wished, briefly and passionately, that he had been inconsiderate enough to wake Boone up before going to find some water, to stretch his legs a bit as well. How long did Boone even nap for, usually? Brandon's body had woken him up automatically, knew exactly how long a nap would work for him most of the time, leave him refreshed and rested rather than stuck halfway through a REM cycle.

Something of that inner conflict must have crossed Brandon's face, because Ryan took pity on him and said, "He'll probably be up in fifteen minutes or so, if you guys went to sleep about the usual time."

"Uh, yeah," Brandon said, and wondered why he was blushing so hard now. This wasn't the embarrassing end of the conversation. "You're—this isn't too weird?" And maybe he should have waited for Boone to start that conversation, but maybe it would be easier with just the two of them. And that was important too; Ryan was Boone's roommate and friend, and both of those were important relationships, but Ryan was also Brandon's teammate, and they had to be okay, too.

"It's fine," Ryan said, and then astutely gathering that Brandon needed to hear more than that, he added, "Really, Saader, it is. We—did he say anything about that, yet?"

"Not so much," Brandon admitted. "We, um. Got distracted."

"Yeah, I know what that's like," Ryan said, making a vague and incredibly filthy gesture below his belt that Brandon had zero difficulty in translating as a reference to Boone's dick. Which…well, fair. His ass wasn't the only generously sized part of his anatomy, that was for sure.

"You're not expecting him to be exclusive, right?" Ryan asked, and Brandon had the feeling he was actually getting to the meat of it then, to what was most important to him, too. "I mean, if this is more than a one-off, scratch-the-itch type of thing."

"You guys get that a lot?" Brandon asked, curious. Not that it was any of his business, but—

"Yeah, sometimes," Ryan said with a shrug. "We used to be a package deal for that kind of thing," and Brandon definitely blushed again, imagining that. He couldn't say he'd have turned it down, either, if it was on the table. Although Nick might have something to say about Brandon getting the D from another dman, so to speak. "But it happens. You know, guys who need something, but haven't exactly been free to ask for it much."

There was an implication there that Brandon wasn't green enough to miss either, and he was answering that more than anything else Ryan had said when he replied, picking his words carefully. Tried not to focus on that 'used to be' and wonder just how past the past tense was.

"I think this might happen again," he said. "I mean, if Boone's interested, I'm not going to just assume. But I like him, and my boyfriend does too, and we haven't been exclusive for a long time now, so… it's not all new to me."

It was unspeakably relieving to actually say that, Brandon realized. It had been a while since he'd been in the position to just say, 'my boyfriend', casually, like it was something everyone knew, safe and easy and familiar. And he couldn't deny it felt good to have all his truths out there in the open, to not be hiding anything, no matter how pleasant or wicked or fun it was to play with secrets sometimes.

The weight of that had been bothering him more than he'd quite realized right up until the moment where he let himself shed it. Until the moment where he decided that, yeah, he did fit in Columbus and he was happy there. Admitted that he could be happy with everything he had and everything he could own up to now, that he could be private but he probably didn't have to be secretive anymore. Not that it'd probably been hidden at all from anyone who was looking, any time they'd been playing Nick's team.

Brandon knew what people said about him: that he was mature, quiet, grown up, reserved. But he'd never been able to keep his feelings for Nick off his face. He'd been giving those away just about from the moment they'd settled into his skin, the tiny delicate tendrils of affection taking root and blossoming into a deeper friendship, an unshakeable bond, undeniable fucking storybook l-o-v-e love.

Brandon didn't know a whole lot of love stories where the principals got to see and date and sleep with other people too, to fall in love with them as well and to fuck around when and where they wanted to, but god, it worked for them. And if it worked for them, it had to work for other people, too.

And now he was even more convinced than his half-baked suspicions earlier had been that Ryan and Boone were some of those same people. That they had been, whatever they were now.

Ryan nodded, understanding in his eyes.

"Boone usually tries to have this conversation before," Ryan said, with a rueful grin that was nonetheless fond, and maybe just a little resigned. "But I can't really blame him for getting, uh, distracted."

Brandon felt the faintest blush start creeping up his neck at that, his ears burning just a little at the openly speculative look Ryan gave him. He was glad he'd bothered getting dressed again before leaving Boone's bedroom; if he'd just wandered out in his shorts or something he'd be feeling a lot less sure of himself in this conversation. Brandon was happy enough not to be keeping secrets, but it didn't mean he enjoyed feeling vulnerable all that much, and however much he and Boone and Ryan were all on the same page, this still entailed a necessary amount of that. So yeah, he was pretty glad he wasn't half-naked for this conversation.

"He probably didn't think I'd come out here without waking him up first," Brandon said, trying to be fair. It was good that he felt comfortable enough in Boone and Ryan's place to do that, probably, but he definitely hadn't been prepped for a serious relationship-type talk-especially when it was with a person he wasn't sleeping with—when he was only three quarters awake and mildly dehydrated. Reminded, he helped himself to a bottle of Gatorade from the fridge and downed most of it in one go. He'd sweated a lot earlier, that was for sure.

"It's fine," Ryan said, grabbing a bottle for himself. He seemed to realize that wasn't quite as reassuring as he might have hoped, because he reached over and gave Brandon a none-too-gentle punch to the upper arm. "Seriously, Saader, it's fine. It's good. I mean, I'm assuming you guys had fun, so…"

"Yeah," Brandon said, with a helpless grin stretching across his face. He'd known Boone had good hands—you didn't put up thirty goals in a season without them, not these days—but imagination paled beside reality there. And he knew Ryan knew exactly what he was thinking about, too.

Ryan reached over and touched the top of his bottle to Brandon's, an ironic toast. "Yeah, exactly that," Ryan agreed.

"Thanks," Brandon said after pausing for a moment. He wasn't sure he'd be quite as gracious in Ryan's position, however well-intentioned or actually okay with it he might be. There was a difference between knowing what was happening when he wasn't there—knowing in detail, sometimes, because listening to Nick talk about it was fucking hot—and actually seeing it, and he wasn't sure whether that might matter to him or not. He was… probably going to find out next time they were in New York, he realized after a moment. Because Nick was interested, and Boone was maybe tentatively interested right back, and—

Well, come to think of it, now that he was imagining Nick's hands on Boone, well. Brandon was probably going to be okay with that after all.

But those were thoughts he could have on his own time, at home, with the privacy to pace a bit, or talk to himself, or at the very least without someone else sitting opposite him who could maybe read more than he wanted to be telling on his face.

"You wanna stay for dinner?" Ryan asked, peering into the fridge again, changing the subject smoothly like it was no big deal, like it was any other time Brandon had been at their apartment.

"Sure," Brandon said, pitching his tone somewhere around Ryan's, aiming for casual and maybe hitting within spitting distance. Good enough.

He and Boone would probably have to talk later—and maybe some other stuff, Brandon was definitely on board for a repeat if Boone was—but for the moment, it was simple enough to just help Ryan start putting together a meal for all three of them. By the time Boone wandered into the kitchen, sleepy-eyed, shirtless, and clearly only half awake himself, Ryan and Brandon were almost finished prepping, and were just talking normally, the same as any other time.

"Oh," was all Boone said, blinking, and he wasn't surprised to see Ryan back, apparently. Brandon made a mental note to give him shit for that, later; Brandon could have done with a warning at least, even though it had obviously turned out fine. "You guys are making food? Awesome."

"You're doing the dishes," Ryan warned, mock-serious, but Boone just smirked at him and—after a quick glance at Brandon to try and read the room—leaned in to press a kiss to the side of his mouth before saying, "I guess I can load the dishwasher."

"It's a dirty job but someone has to do it?" Brandon suggested, and he was only a little surprised by the way that Boone just smirked at him, too, before repeating the gesture.

Boone scratched the back of his neck, stretched again—Ryan and Brandon both openly watching appreciatively—and went to start setting the table for three. It was… remarkably unawkward, really. Brandon snuck a look at Ryan and couldn't see anything concerning in his posture or on his face, so—

Yeah, it really did look like things were fine.

Brandon could work with that.

* * *

"Babe," Nick said, his voice warm and familiar and Brandon ached for a moment, missing him.

They were going to be in New York soon, it wasn't like they hadn't waited longer to see each other. Brandon pushed the memory of his last season in Chicago away; he wasn't going to dwell on that now, not now that things were so good again, now that they had their shit together and knew what they were doing. It was fine, and soon he was going to see Nick and maybe they could take Boone out somewhere and it was going to be fine.

"…Saader?" Nick said, a few seconds later, like he was worried the line had cut out, or it wasn't really Brandon at all, and Brandon realized abruptly that while his mind had been wandering he hadn't actually said anything yet. He'd just seen Nick's name on the caller ID and hit accept call, going warm all over.

"Hi, sorry, yeah," Brandon said, all in a rush. "What's up?"

"I can't call just to check up on you?" Nick asked, low, joking, teasing Brandon just a little bit.

"I guess you can do that," Brandon said, and he leaned back into the couch cushions, let his head fall back, neck stretching out as his eyes closed.

His free hand was just resting on his thigh, and he hadn't been up to anything more than catching up on his Tivo—the episode now paused and muted since his phone had rung—but his body was having the familiar conditioned response to hearing Nick's voice on the phone; his dick starting to perk up, heart beating just a little faster than usual. They didn't even have phone sex that often, and some day Brandon's automatic responses were going to get him into trouble but right then and there he didn't have to question it at all.

"What's up, I figured it'd been a while," Nick said. "You got time to talk now?"

"Always," Brandon said, and opened one eye again to sneak a look at the time on the clock. Yeah, they had plenty of time before he should go take a nap. "Thought you were taking your boy out today, I wasn't expecting you to call till after."

"That was yesterday," Nick said promptly, and with enough of a hint in his voice that Brandon sat up straighter.

"Nick," he said. "Something you wanna tell me, babe?"

"I kinda feel like I don't have to," Nick said, and Brandon made a grumbling noise in the back of his throat.

"C'mon, I want details, I always give them to you," and he's relieved to find that he does, still. He wants to hear all about what Nick and his rookie got up to, wants to hear that Nick's being well taken care of, looked after, loved and appreciated the way Brandon would if he could be there all the time.

"We just went to a movie," Nick said, the airy tone belying the subject matter. "It was fun, but kind of predictable, so, uh. We might've made out in the back row for a bit."

Brandon laughed, warmth flooding through him as he pictured that. "Well, you are dating a teenager," he said. "I guess that's appropriate."

Nick made a noise that was a little more pained than he probably had meant it to be, protested, "he's almost twenty, Saader, c'mon."

"I'm just kidding," Brandon said, even though he was pretty sure Nick knew that. He paused for a moment, let the silence draw out. "So then what did you get up to?"

Nick hummed, slow and thoughtful, drawing the story out, and Brandon shivered. This usually meant one or both of them were going to get off, and yeah, Brandon was definitely in the mood for some fast, hot phone sex. And if Nick ran out of details too fast, well, Brandon had stories to share in return.

"Went back to my place," Nick said. "I figured maybe we'd make out on the couch some more or something, but…fuck, Saader, his hands. We'd been kissing for maybe a minute? Maybe even less, and then he just looked me in the eye and asked when we were going to bed."

Brandon groaned appreciatively, let his hand rest on his stomach, lightly over the flies of his jeans. Felt his dick stirring in his pants and rubbed his palm lightly over it, giving himself just a little pressure, just the slightest touch.

"Yeah, that was about what I said," Nick said, his voice rougher, going soft and low the way it did when he got turned on. He was right there with Brandon, that was for sure. "So we did. I sucked him off, let him fuck me with that toy—you remember, the blue one?"

The image was crystal clear in Brandon's mind; partly from how much Nick was telling him, building the picture up for them both, and partly just because Brandon knew him so well, knew how Nick looked, spread out naked in his bed, knew how he looked, sweating and twisting and moaning when Brandon pressed a toy inside him, knew exactly the curve of his spine as he arched and swore and pushed back against Brandon's hands.

"Fuck, yeah," Brandon said, and whoops, his jeans were undone now. He dragged the zipper down with his thumb, carefully got his dick out, slid his palm along the length, eased by the way he was sweating, the slow drip of precome from the slit smearing over his hand.

"Jerking off, Saader?" Nick asks, and hissed in a breath that made it clear he was doing the same. Brandon should've asked what he was wearing. "God, I miss you. So fucking hot like that, love to watch you."

That was something of an understatement; Nick really got off on watching, and Brandon liked to put on a show for him. It was a pity neither of them could be bothered getting on Skype for the conversation but then, Brandon could see in his minds eye what Nick must look like and that was good enough.

It was definitely going to be enough to get him there, especially when Nick went on to talk about how Beau felt, what he tasted like, how hard he made Nick come. Brandon got off fast and then slouched back into the couch, tucked his dick back inside his underwear and tried to find something within reach to wipe his hand off on before shrugging and just wiping it on his shirt. That'd be easier to clean than the couch.

Nick's voice got tight as he got closer, the words spaced out further, and Brandon took over, gave him a taste of what Brandon had done with Boone, how they'd had fun. How Boone had said that yeah, he might be on board to try something with Nick. That's what did it in the end, tipped Nick over the edge until he was moaning into the phone, panting harshly as he came.

"Fuck, that was good," Nick said, after he'd caught his breath, while Brandon was starting to feel somewhere between post-coitally sleepy and a little awkward. "I'm gonna nap now, you?"

"Yeah," Brandon said, and fought back a yawn. "Thanks for calling, Leds."

"Any time, babe," Nick said, and just as Brandon was about to say goodbye and hang up he added, just a trace of slyness in his voice, "Can't wait to see you next week. And your boy."

"You bet," Brandon said, and felt his dick give an optimistic twitch as he helplessly, automatically pictured what it might be like to get Boone and Nick in bed with him. Yeah, that was—that was a thought he was going to be taking out a few times later, jerk off fodder for sure. "Later, Nick."

"Night, Brandon," Nick said, and then they both hung up, and Brandon stared up at his ceiling and wondered just what, exactly, he was getting himself into. He used to have such a—he tried to find the word normal, and found that didn't fit any more, not really. This was just as natural as every other relationship he'd found himself in, just—more complicated, and usually the better for it.

Well, it wasn't like he didn't have plenty of reasons to look forward to the week ahead. He just needed to make sure he was in the best possible shape to enjoy it. And that meant plenty of sleep, eating well, keeping hydrated and making sure they banked as many points as possible before they got to New York.

* * *

They seemed to have trouble setting back into a rhythm after that loss to the Caps, despite the best efforts of both players and coaching staff.

Brandon couldn't quite work out exactly what had gone out of sync; they were playing almost every other day, and only short road trips, too, but by the time they clawed the win out of an overtime game against the Sens Brandon still wasn't sure they were back on an even keel. He got the impression Boone was finding it even more frustrating than he was, but Boone didn't want to talk about it, and Brandon didn't like pushing. At least, not for that kind of conversation.

He was looking forward to the All Star break, sure, they probably all were, even if it was a little bittersweet to know he wasn't going to make it again himself, but more than that was the knowledge that the closer they got to the All Star break, the closer they were to their next game against the Isles.

And Brandon wasn't the only one looking forward to that.

Not that they'd really talked about that any more yet, either.

Getting through customs and then the flight from Ottawa to New York meant that they didn't get to their beds in the hotel until well after midnight, and Brandon pretty much crawled under the covers and fell asleep instantly, too glad to finally be in bed to do anything like worry about how the next day was going to work out.

Breakfast was as much of a shitshow as it usually was with a full hockey team's worth of guys and the kind of punch-drunkness that tended to follow a late night. Brandon just kept his head down in the corner and tried to ignore the fact that he was pretty sure guys were flicking pieces of breakfast sausage at each other over the table. And making bad jokes about sausages of course, too. Sometimes they collectively regressed to about fourteen years old, he thought, and stole a piece of turkey bacon off Boone's plate before cheerfully setting up Cam to take the fall for it.

He wasn't that much older than most of the rest of them, really.

Team meetings took up most of the morning, but they were free after that, with nothing planned until curfew.

A bunch of the guys were going out sight-seeing, or at least that was what they claimed, but Brandon and Boone were able to make a relatively low key exit without copping too much chirping. Not much more than usual, anyhow. And Brandon figured the point where his teammates stopped giving him shit for that kind of thing was probably the point where he'd have to worry about it being an actual problem. Besides, it turned out under sustained teasing about just what he and Brandon were going off to do, Boone went hilariously red in a way that Brandon was kind of into.

They managed to get a car easily enough, and headed out of Manhattan towards Long Island, Brandon giving Nick's address from memory without even thinking twice. He was very conscious of Boone's hand beside him on the seat, and after a moment of second-guessing himself, reached that tiny bit further to take it, squeezing gently.

"You're still okay with this, right?" Brandon asked softly, not wanting to say more than that where the driver could hear them, but incapable of not asking.

"Yeah," Boone replied, and his chin came up, stubborn as ever, so Brandon let it go for the moment.

Nick met them at the door of his building, coat buttoned up but with his scarf loose around his neck, and Brandon was struck frozen for a second, overwhelmed by how much he missed him, how good he looked.

"Lunch?" Nick said, after hugging Brandon and, a vaguely awkward pause later, hugging Boone, too. "I figured you guys would wanna eat, and there's a good place just up the block."

"Sounds good to me," Boone said, and Brandon chimed in with a, "Yeah."

* * *

Lunch broke the tension between them a little, or just enough at the very least. Brandon tried to keep his pleasure at seeing Nick and Boone hit it off well hidden, or at least not obnoxiously obvious, but it seemed like a good sign. He hadn't expected they'd just… fall into bed, or anything like that, as nice as that might be, but this definitely felt like a good start. He made a mental note to say as much to Nick later, although he wasn't sure where he'd get a word in since Boone and Nick had been talking easily and just about nonstop from the point they'd sat down until their food arrived.

Lucky Brandon was used to being the quiet one.

"We could head back to my place now," Nick said carefully, after Brandon snatched the bill from his hands and fixed him with a look that dared him to argue about it. "Or, I mean, if you guys want to head back to your hotel or whatever, that's fine. But, uh. I'd like to spend some more time with you. Both of you, if you like."

Brandon glanced at Boone, happy enough to leave that decision with him. Boone had said earlier that week that he was more than fine with it if Brandon wanted some alone time with Nick for himself, so that question really was up to him.

"Sounds good to me," Boone said, with a grin that bordered on a smirk, and Brandon swallowed hard, because he knew the look on Boone's face and—

Well, it looked like he was going to have a very interesting afternoon.

* * *

Brandon found himself walking faster on the way back, his pace quickening almost without his conscious intent, but he wasn't the only one; Boone and Nick were both doing much the same.

Nick stepped around Brandon when they got back to his place, dug keys out of his coat pocket to let them in, and directed them up to his apartment, pointing the coat rack out as he closed the door behind them. It shut with a finality that sent Brandon's heart rate spiking up, anticipation bleeding into arousal.

It was cool and almost dark in the entry way; Nick's A/C set low like usual, and Brandon blinked hard for a couple of seconds when Nick reached over to flip the light switch, flooding the room with light, illuminating the back of the couch in the living room just a few steps away.

"Hey," Nick said quietly, and this time his eyes were solely on Brandon, the hot look for him alone. Brandon swallowed hard.

"Uh, do you mind if I—?" Nick asked, turning to check in with Boone.

Boone shrugged, making an effort to look relaxed, and gave them both a grin that was all teeth. "Go right ahead."

Nick didn't need more of an invitation than that, just stepped right into Brandon's space and murmured, "Missed you," before leaning in to kiss him.

Brandon let his eyes close, opened his mouth for Nick and kissed him back, hard, arms wrapping around him tightly. God, he'd missed this. He was lucky, so lucky to have Boone almost all of the time, but Nick was important too, and god, he hoped this worked out, because it might've only been a few weeks—a few months—so far, but he wasn't sure he could give either of them up.

They kissed for a few seconds, or at least that was what Brandon had meant to do, but the time stretched out, and he struggled more than usual with finding the willpower to step back, to break the kiss.

Nick was grinning by the time Brandon opened his eyes again, impossibly fond as ever. Brandon smiled back at him, and then heard Boone shift his weight from one foot to another, still standing right there next to them. Brandon took a deep breath and then turned to look at him, not sure what he was going to see.

Boone looked—interested.

There was a light in his eyes, a fierceness to his expression that Brandon usually only saw when he was really fired up, before a game against the Pens or the Rangers or the Caps, any of their division rivals who were the toughest to beat but the most satisfying to take the points from. He looked—

Hungry.

That was probably a good sign, Brandon figured.

"That was hot," Boone said, licking his lips, and Brandon's stomach flipped, arousal winding tighter around his backbone, his pants suddenly feeling much, much too tight.

Nick gave Brandon a little push, palm pressed to the middle of his chest. "Go on, Saader," he said, and glanced back at Boone.

Brandon suddenly got the impression that the two of them might just have been communicating without him, too.

Still, he liked kissing Boone, and he liked doing what Nick wanted him to, so it was easy enough to take the step over towards Boone, to tilt his head the right way to press their mouths together, kissing him just like he'd been kissing Nick.

Boone got his hands up, wrapped his arms around Brandon to anchor him in place, and sank into a heated kiss, his fingers pushing up into Brandon's hair, his palm warm on the nape of Brandon's neck. It felt a little different to how they usually kissed, and Brandon couldn't place it at first, wasn't sure if it was just him being a little off balance, or the fact that they had an audience that wasn't just Murrs throwing carrot sticks at them and telling them to get a room already. And then as Boone's teeth scraped over Brandon's lip he realized what it was; Boone was pushing back as hard as Brandon had ever known him to, tasting Nick on his lips, against his teeth, on his tongue.

Brandon made a tiny noise in the back of his throat, caught somewhere between turned on and embarrassed, maybe, if that was the right word. But whatever it was, Boone seemed to be enjoying it; there was no envy obvious in the lines of his body, in the way he held Brandon tight and close. There was only the heat of his mouth and the pressure of his touch, and the extremely clear evidence that Boone was just as turned on as Brandon was.

They broke apart eventually, and Brandon had to gulp for air, his head spinning a little, breathing too fast. Boone was still grinning at him, with that delicate edge of ferocity that Brandon was beginning to understand meant that he saw something he wanted, something he needed desperately. An indication of just how much he wanted Brandon. And Nick.

He caught Boone's eyes jumping back to Nick then, reading his body language, monitoring his reactions. Brandon swallowed hard, and then spoke up.

"I think, uh. You and Nick should kiss now," he said, and bit the inside of his mouth with the effort of trying to stay cool while he asked for that. Trying not to give away the nerves about whether this was about to go terribly badly for them. And worse, or maybe better, trying not to give away just how badly it he wanted it to work out. How much he wanted to watch.

"I think that can happen, sure," Nick said, sounding confident enough for both of them.

Boone—smirked at him, really. It was the only word for that expression. There was a tense moment where none of them moved, and Brandon could feel the subtle pressure building, the imminent potential where this could go either way. And then Boone inclined his head, ever so slightly, the gradation so faint that Brandon didn't think he'd even have registered it if he hadn't been staring so fixedly. Even if he'd had a camera on the moment, Brandon couldn't pick which one of them moved first, just that they both took a step in, and then Nick's hands were at Boone's hips, and Boone's were cupping Nick's jaw, and Brandon didn't think he took a breath in the time it took for them to come together, dipping in to a surprisingly gentle kiss.

Boone being Boone, he had to follow that up by nipping at Nick's bottom lip as he started to draw back, and Brandon's breath whistled back into his lungs as he relaxed at last.

"You better not be promising something you're not going to deliver," Nick warned Boone, his tongue prodding experimentally at the part of his lip Boone had caught between his teeth, his feet spread shoulders width apart, bracing him. Holding him steady as ever. His tone was as even as ever, soft and all the more ruthlessly promising for that.

Boone visibly swallowed hard and shifted his weight. Brandon just grinned. Yeah, this felt like it was going to work out just fine.

Brandon stepped closer to both of them, reached out to take Boone's hand in one of his, and Nick's in the other. He squeezed them both, brought his hands together to join theirs, too.

"This is going to be fun," Brandon said, letting his renewed confidence in that fact infuse his voice, filling him up with the same fierce joy he'd felt the first time Nick had kissed him back, when they'd won the Cup, when he'd been on the ice and set loose on a breakaway he knew he couldn't help but score on, the perfect dream.

Nick raised his free hand to Boone's face, brushed his thumb along the scruffy excuse for a beard that lined his jaw, and then looked to Brandon as if he was waiting for some other instructions.

"We can just—go to bed now, right?" Boone said, his gaze heated as he glanced between Brandon and Nick, turning his face ever so fractionally into Nick's palm.

"Sounds good to me," Nick said. "We're good, right Boone?" He didn't even stumble over the first name, said it as smoothly as if they'd known each other for months and not just in passing and on the ice, like Brandon wasn't absolutely certain that until this sparked between them all Nick had probably only ever thought of him by his last name, or, more likely, a series of not-entirely-flattering adjectives about an opposing power forward Nick's played against for most of their respective careers.

"Mmm," Boone said, mostly teasing, but with enough of an edge to make it feel better, teetering on the boundary between two opposing forces, enjoying the friction.

"I'm taking that as a yes," Nick said, twisting his hand from Brandon's grip and using that to tug both him and Boone in the direction of his bedroom. His other hand fell back to his side, fingertips rubbing against the seam of his pants like he was trying to settle himself again, pushing back what it had to have felt like to touch Boone like that.

"Good, because it was," Boone said, following along just as eagerly, his shoulder bumping against Brandon's as they stepped through the doorway, too impatient not to rush it.

Nick's bed, thank god, was big enough for the three of them, albeit just barely. Despite his best efforts—admittedly hampered by the fact that everything felt so good that it was hard to put more than a thought or two together sensibly—Brandon wound up in the middle, Nick and Boone stretched out beside him and their hands roaming easily over both familiar and unfamiliar terrain with equal ease.

They shed more clothing in fits and starts, interrupting themselves each time with more kisses, with careful touches, attuning to each other as individuals and as a whole, figuring out what worked.

It was also not terribly shocking, Brandon thought, that he was the first one pushed beyond his limits, crying out and coming hard with Boone's mouth on him. Nick's teeth worried at his hip as he watched Boone from up close, his fingers tangled in Boone's hair and tugging hard like Brandon would have wanted to if he'd had enough coordination left to do it. They both knew what he liked, how to get him off, this was the most familiar territory for all three of them. He had to lie there and pant helplessly for long minutes afterward, trying to get trembling muscles working again before rolling over and, after catching Nick's eyes to agree silently on their next steps, teaming up to get Boone to follow suit.

By the time it was Nick's turn, all three of them were sweaty and wrecked, pleasantly aching and worn out in the best possible way. Brandon let his eyes close for just a moment and wondered if he'd ever get to see anything hotter than Boone's fingers pressing into Nick's body and making him arch up and shout, dick jerking helplessly against his belly as Brandon kissed him and then Boone, his mouth moving from lips to jaw to neck, covering them both in marks that would almost certainly show up later, red-purple and livid.

"Okay, yeah, that worked," Boone said eventually, shoving at Brandon a little to get him to share the pillow his head was on. "We don't have to move again any time this century right?"

"Nope," Nick said, his arm slung possessively over both Brandon and Boone, low on their hips as he curled closer to Brandon. "Stay here, I could definitely get used to this."

"Curfew," Brandon reminded them both, not that he really wanted to move any more than they did.

"I have a plan," Boone said, mumbling half into the pillow. "At dawn, we sneak back in and pretend we were there all night."

Brandon couldn't deny he was tempted, although it wasn't like any of them were young and dumb enough to try and actually pull something like that off. "Like you could get up that early," he said instead.

"Hey, hypocrite much," Boone said, sounding indignant and a little more awake.

"Oh, I see you've tried to get him up in the morning too," Nick said, with the faint touch of smugness that came with being one of nature's morning people. Brandon mostly tried not to hold that against him.

"Alternately, nap and round two?" Brandon suggested. He'd probably be able to come up with a better plan after a nap, that was for sure. And he definitely wanted to do all of this some more before they had to head back to Columbus again.

"Definitely a fan of round two," Nick said. "Now stop hogging the pillows," and he jabbed Brandon in the ribs long enough to get him and Boone both to move around enough that they could all stretch out comfortably.

It was going to be a wrench to leave, Brandon knew, and difficult as always to look across the ice the next evening and see Nick there, to know that for the next two and a half hours they were committed to opposing needs, battling it out for the points and the bragging rights at stake. But they'd started building something good that night, something he thought might actually last well beyond the season, something that was going to be well worth whatever vicious mockery he and Boone eventually got for completely failing to be subtle about what they'd been doing all day.

Brandon was, quietly, suddenly and inexplicably convinced that they'd done exactly the right thing, that this was absolutely where they were all meant to be, how it was meant to go. It was like a glimpse of the future, a snapshot into the most reassuring of futures, letting him know they were on the right path. That this was something that was worth everything it took to build.

THE END