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A Fool for Lesser Things

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Jamie thinks Jordie’s joking when he first tells him what year it is. “Dude, don’t mess with me right now,” Jamie says. “My head is killing me.”

Jordie looks really uncomfortable, and kind of like he’s too tall for the hospital room. Maybe just because Jamie’s so low down on the bed. “I’m not joking,” he says, really quietly, and that’s what gives Jamie his first moment of doubt: the tension in Jordie’s voice. This isn’t how Jordie sounds when he’s joking. “It’s 2016.”

Still, though—no way. People don’t just forget four years of their lives. “You’re gonna need to give me way more than that if you want me to believe you,” Jamie says.

“Did he wake up yet?” someone asks, and Tyler fucking Seguin walks into the room.

***

“He’s on our team,” Jamie is still repeating a few minutes later, to Jordie. Seguin’s still there, hovering near the corner of the tiny room with his hands in his pockets. The excitement in his face when he saw Jamie awake is gone now. He looks like someone kicked his puppy.

“I can show you game tape if it would make you believe it,” Jordie says, and yes, Jamie thinks that would help, but the nurse swoops into the room as Jordie takes out his phone.

“No screens,” the nurse says, and then bustles around the bed fixing the IV and shit like that, like it’s no big deal that Jamie’s awake after being unconscious for twelve hours.

The nurse shines a light in his eyes and goes to get a neurologist, and the neurologist does a bunch of really boring tests (yes, of course Jamie can put his finger to his nose) and then sits back in her chair.

“You’re doing remarkably well for the hit you took,” she says. “But I hear you have some memory loss?”

Jamie doesn’t feel like he has memory loss. He remembers last week perfectly well: Jordie got called up to the NHL again, and they went out for a steak dinner to celebrate. Jordie brought a bigger suitcase of stuff to Jamie’s apartment and chirped him about the hits he was going to lay on him in practice. “Um, I guess so,” he says.

Jordie and Seguin are still in the room. The doctor had asked if they wanted to leave before Jamie did the tests, but Jamie had felt awkward and said no, they could stay, even though it’s weird having Seguin there. Like he’s someone Jamie knows, and not a dude he met once last month at the All-Star Game. Seguin doesn’t really look like he wants to be there, either: he’s hunched up by the radiator, not even looking like he’s listening, unlike Jordie who’s sitting on the other side of Jamie’s bed and nodding along with what the doctor’s saying.

“What can we do?” Jordie asks, and the doctor goes into her spiel: normal concussion stuff, at least until the headaches fade, and gradual reintroduction to his current life.

“Don’t overwhelm him,” she says to Jordie. “I know it can be a temptation to try to catch him up and make things normal right away, but it’s better if the memories can return in their own time.”

“So we shouldn’t tell him stuff?” Seguin asks, the first thing he’s said in a while.

The doctor tips her head back and forth. “You don’t need to keep things from him if he asks. But accept that for a while, he’s not going to be the person you know. You need to accept that, too,” she says to Jamie. “Don’t try to be that person yet. But keep an open mind, and most likely it will all come back before you know it.”

“You hear that?” Jordie says, nudging him with a foot. “No powering through this one.”

Jamie rolls his eyes. “Yeah, yeah.” If nothing else, his relationship with Jordie feels normal enough.

***

Jamie’s conscious and stable, so there’s no reason to keep him at the hospital. His parents haven’t even had a chance to buy plane tickets yet. Jamie calls them to let them know they don’t have to rush down, and Jordie drives him home. Jamie follows along mindlessly with the journey until suddenly he sits up straight.

“Hey, whoa,” he says. “Where are we going?”

There’s a pause. “Oh, right,” Jordie say. “Well, I guess you were going to find this out anyway, so…you have a house now. Congrats?”

“A…” Whoa. Jamie hadn’t even been thinking about buying a house. Like, he thought maybe someday, but…

“It’s not bad,” Jordie says. “I mean, you suck at decorating, but nothing new there.”

Jamie’s trying to picture it: a house that’s his home. A home he’s never seen. “Hey,” he says as something occurs to him, “there’s no one…I mean, like, waiting for me, there’s not gonna be…”

It takes Jordie a minute to get what he’s asking. “Oh. Shit, no,” he says. “Sorry, Jame, you’re still just as pathetic with the ladies as you’ve always been.”

It makes sense—if Jamie had had someone, he figures she would have been there, in the hospital room. But: “Thank fuck.” Then, “Not that—it’s just—”

Jordie’s laughing at him now. “No, I get it,” he says. “It would be weird, finding out you’re supposed to be with this woman you don’t even know, right?”

“Seriously,” Jamie says fervently. He’s bad enough with strangers when he’s not supposed to be already in love with them or whatever.

The house is strange enough. Jordie pulls through the gate, and at first Jamie thinks they’re making a stop on the way. But then he realizes this is it. This huge, gorgeous house is supposed to be his.

“What?” he says blankly, staring up at the facade.

“Welcome home,” Jordie says, getting out.

It feels so wrong. Jamie feels like, somewhere he’s been living for a couple of years—he should be able to walk in and feel a sense of familiarity, know how many steps up there are to the front door, which way to turn to get to the kitchen, that sort of thing. But it’s like a stranger’s house—a stranger without a lot of belongings.

“There’s like nothing in here,” he says wandering into a TV room. The room is way too big for the two couches and entertainment center in there.

“Told you you sucked at decorating,” Jordie says.

***

Jordie stays the night. Jamie tells him he doesn’t have to, but it actually makes him feel a lot better. Who knows what the fuck else his mind will try in the night?

It’s already pretty late, and Jamie’s head hurts, but he can’t resist the temptation to poke around when he goes up to his room. It’s pretty basic: big bed in the middle of the floor, clothes he half recognizes in the closet. Lube and condoms in the nightstand where he always keeps them. A door leading into a bathroom.

He goes into the bathroom. He knows maybe eighty percent of the products in the shower; apparently he’s using new body wash, and there’s some fancy-looking hair gel he’s never seen before. Then he catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror, and he stops cold.

The tiny toilet nook in the hospital room didn’t have a mirror. This is the first time Jamie’s seen himself since he woke up. The face that looks back at him is completely different than the one he expects: hard-angled where his has always been soft, scruffy where he was clean-shaven, short-haired where he was growing his out. Put it all together, and this is the face of someone Jamie’s never met. Someone older. Someone more imposing.

His heart is beating faster than it was. Of all the things he’s seen since waking up—the house, the seriousness in Jordie’s eyes, the sight of Tyler Seguin walking into his hospital room—this is the thing that makes him believe it. This can’t be set dressing or a joke or a mistake. This is him.

“You okay in there?” Jordie calls.

“Yeah,” Jamie says, but he’s not so sure.

He…just lost four years of his life.

***

The next day is predictably shitty. He’s stuck at home—doctor’s orders to rest, and Jordie probably wouldn’t let him leave, anyway—and he can’t even Google himself, which he’s been dying to do since last night.

Some of the guys from the team come by, and it’s nice of them but also sort of exhausting. Jamie knows so few of them. Golly, Fidds, sure, but the rest of them…a couple of them he recognizes from playing them on other teams. The younger guys look like they should be his age, but Jamie knows he doesn’t look that age anymore. It’s super weird. And they’re all good sports about not being recognized, but Jamie feels guilty anyway.

Jason Demers seems to be buddies with Jordie, and he stays for a while. “No Tyler?” he asks when he’s been there an hour or so.

“Not yet,” Jamie says. The team is being good at staggering their visits. He thinks maybe Jordie’s coordinating it. He hasn’t seen Seguin since the hospital room.

He doesn’t think much about it, until he gets the same question from this other kid, Cody Eakin. “Tyler’s not here?” Cody says, looking around.

“No, I’m hiding him under the sofa,” Jamie says, and then he’s brought up short: that’s not the kind of thing he’d expect himself to actually say out loud, especially to someone he doesn’t know well. But Eakin just says, “Okay, okay,” like he’s not surprised by it at all.

“So what’s the deal with Seguin?” Jamie asks when Eakin’s gone. “Why does everyone expect him to be here?”

“Okay, first of all, don’t call him ‘Seguin,’” Jordie says. “It’s weird. Also, yeah, I mean, you guys are pretty good friends, so I guess they expect him here?”

“Huh,” Jamie says. It’s so weird to think about having a significant friendship with someone he remembers exchanging maybe fifty words with ever.

He wants to ask more: wants to ask how he and Seguin—Tyler, whatever—became friends, what they do together, all that, but it sounds like the kind of thing the doctor told him not to rush. He just has to wait; it’ll come back eventually.

***

Aside from the memory loss, Jamie’s concussion doesn’t seem that severe. By the time he goes to bed that night, he’s already feeling a lot better. Better enough that he keeps finding himself walking by the dresser with his phone on it, tapping his fingers against the cover.

It…probably wouldn’t do him any actual harm. He’ll notice if it starts to hurt. No harm in trying for a couple of minutes, right?

His old passcode doesn’t work anymore. But while he’s staring at the screen, tapping his thumb on the home button and trying to think what else it would be, the screen unlocks itself somehow, so that’s okay. The home screen looks weird—the font is different than he was expecting, and there’s something off about the way the icons are rounded—but it seems like it works pretty much the same.

A few minutes later, he looks up from his Wikipedia entry and stares at the wall. He…the team captaincy. Olympic Gold. The Art fucking Ross.

He clicks over to his email, urgent in a way he hadn’t been a few minutes before. Junk mail, a couple of things from his agent, some pictures from his mom of the lake house they’ve had for years. Nothing helpful. His texts aren’t much better: he has a bunch of new ones, but they’re mostly from old friends wondering how he’s doing. There’s nothing in any of them that makes him feel like it’ll give him a grip on those four years he’s missing.

His text conversation with Tyler is just below all the unread ones. It seems like Jordie was right: they are friends, if the number of random texts they send to each other is any indication. A bunch of the texts are just tiny little symbols—since when do phones have so many pictures of random shit?—or, like, a number with a question mark and then a thumbs up, like they were deciding when to meet. The last text reads, hly fuck ru okay txt me when u cn!!! and then there’s no reply, because of course Jamie wasn’t okay. Tyler already knows that, though.

Jamie’s head isn’t starting to hurt yet, but he doesn’t want to push it. He clicks the off button and goes to get ready for bed, the words of his Wikipedia entry still loud in his mind. It feels like his whole life has changed while he wasn’t looking.

***

The team has a game the next day, so no one has time to come visit. Jamie wants to go, if only to sit in the press box, but the team doctors decide it’s too soon for that. Which means he’s home alone, with nothing to do but wait for his memories to come back.

He generally tries to be patient about stuff like this. Injuries always suck. But it’s worse this time, when it still doesn’t really feel like his home, and he can’t even watch the game on TV. What the fuck is he supposed to do with himself?

He puts the game on for a while for the audio, but it’s too hard not to watch, so he has to turn it off. Instead he uses his phone to play music for a while, not too loud, until he finally caves and picks it up to poke at the screen.

He hasn’t checked his Instagram yet. He still has an account, but it doesn’t look like he’s used it much. Nothing new there; he’s never liked being on display. He follows some people, though—mostly teammates, some cute dogs or whatever. A lot of cute dogs, actually. He spots a person in the frame with one of the dogs, and he realizes it’s Tyler Seguin’s account.

Wow. Tyler posts a lot of pictures of his dogs. He has three of them, it looks like: a chocolate lab named Marshall, a black lab named Cash, and a yellow lab named Gerry who’s only a puppy and ridiculously adorable. Jamie watches this one video of him getting his chin scratched over and over.

Tyler in the photos is pretty much like Jamie remembers him from 2012: kind of showy, smiles a lot. He obviously likes getting his photo taken way more than Jamie does. Unless that’s changed about Jamie over the past four years?

Fuck. Jamie is so sick of not knowing anything about himself.

There are still a few hours left before the game is over. Jamie gets up off the couch and wanders around the house, feeling vaguely guilty for all the snooping even though it’s his own life. There has to be something here that’ll tell him more about who he is now.

There…isn’t a lot. The food in the fridge obviously came from a meal service; the jackets in the front hall are unfamiliar but pretty standard; the bags of hockey gear spilling out of the hall closet are basically the same as always. He seems to like olives now, or at least he buys them for some reason. His dress shoes are better polished than he usually keeps them. None of it triggers anything.

He’s in the bedroom when it occurs to him there’s one place he hasn’t checked.

Jamie knows it’s dumb to leave porn under the mattress. It’s the most cliché thing ever, and in retrospect he’s sure his mom knew exactly where he was keeping it the whole time he was a teenager. But he’s an adult now, and no one’s allowed to poke around his room except his cleaning service, and they don’t look under his mattress. There’s a good chance he still keeps something there.

He’s bummed when his hand doesn’t hit anything on the first pass. But he lifts the mattress a little and gets his arm in there farther, and yup, there it is: a wrinkled magazine.

Jamie pulls it out, grinning in triumph. What was that about not knowing himself, again? Then he frowns, because…it’s ESPN Magazine. What the fuck is he doing keeping ESPN Magazine under his mattress instead of porn?

Although, it is the body issue. And there are definitely some dog-eared pages there. Maybe it is porn. Jamie opens to the most wrinkled of the pages and sees: Tyler Seguin, buck naked on a zamboni.

Jamie lets out an involuntary yelp and drops the magazine. Then he blinks down at the image again, because…wow. That is a lot of naked skin, there. And muscles. A lot of muscles.

Jamie’s skin feels hot all over. This can’t be what he uses to—maybe there are a lot of different players in here. Players who aren’t on his team. Maybe there are women. He still jerks off to women sometimes, right?

He turns the page, and there’s Tyler again, still on the zamboni, fellating a popsicle.

Jamie feels heat lick its way through his body. Okay, he can see why he would want to keep this under his mattress. Tyler is, like…is he deliberately trying to drive gay men crazy? Or all men, really, because Jamie can’t imagine any guy looking at that image and not wanting to put his dick in Tyler’s mouth.

There’s no way Tyler realizes what he looks like. There’s no way ESPN realizes what he looks like. They would never have printed it otherwise.

Jamie’s dick is feeling a little bit confined in his shorts. He’s not going to jerk off to this, though. He doesn’t care that he’s obviously done it before. This is…creepy.

Instead, he shoves the magazine back under his mattress and gets up to brush his teeth. When he gets into bed a few minutes later, his dick is still hard, and he doesn’t feel too guilty when he wraps his hand around it. It’s probably a good sign, that he feels like jerking off again. If certain images float through his mind while he pulls himself to a gasping finish…well, no one can control what they think about while they’re coming.

***

The magazine is still on his mind the next morning when he goes down to breakfast. “You said I wasn’t dating anyone, right?” he says to Jordie.

Jordie gives him a weird look. “You’re not. I wouldn’t lie to you.”

“Is there anyone I…” Jamie falters. “I mean, do you think there’s anyone I’m, like, more interested in than, um…”

A slow smile grows across Jordie’s face. “That was some goal last night, eh?”

“Huh?” Jamie says. He really didn’t watch the game—he knows they won, but only because he looked up the box score on his phone. Which he also wasn’t supposed to do, but it only took a minute.

“Tyler’s goal in the third,” Jordie says, and Jamie feels his face heat.

“So…you know…”

“About your epic crush on Segs?” Jordie says. “The way you’ve been mooning over him since the day he got here? The way if you pined any harder you’d turn into a forest?”

Jamie can feel the heat radiating from his cheeks. “I have not been—”

“Trust me,” Jordie says. “I was there, and you can’t remember it. You could not have been more obvious about it if you tried.”

This is so much worse than Jamie thought it would be. “Fuck,” he says, tipping his head forward onto the kitchen island.

“It’s okay,” Jordie says, patting him on the back. “I’m pretty sure only, like, seventy-five percent of the team knows.”

“Does that include Tyler?” Jamie asks the counter.

Jordie is quiet for an ominous second. “Just remember, he’s friends with you anyway,” Jordie says, and Jamie actually wants to die.

***

Tyler hasn’t come to visit yet. Jamie doesn’t know if he’s relieved or upset about that; at least if Tyler had come by before now, Jamie could have dealt with him like a halfway normal human. Now he’s going to be tripping over his words like crazy.

Patrick Sharp comes by around lunchtime, though (and what the fuck, Patrick fucking Sharp is on his team, Jamie feels like he’s giving away team secrets just by talking to the guy). Jamie tries to slip in an offhand question about Tyler, but he must not do it very well, because Sharpy’s face lights up right away and he says, “Aw, missing your boy?”

“He’s not my,” Jamie mumbles, cheeks on fire.

“Hey, I lived through the entire Kane/Toews saga, you are not convincing me you’re not into him,” Sharpy says, and fuck. Fuck everything.

There is some good news later that day: Jordie drives him to another doctor’s appointment, and the doctor clears him to do basically everything except play hockey. “Light workouts only,” she says. “Non-contact skating. We don’t want to risk another blow to the head before your memory comes back.”

Jamie celebrates by doing half an hour on the standing bike, then fucking around on the internet for the fifteen minutes he’s allowed. There are a bunch of new sites in his history he hasn’t heard of before, and he pokes around his favorites for a bit before realizing the entire folder labeled “Sick” is just links to clips of Tyler skating.

For fuck’s sake. Just how pathetic is he?

Very, he thinks, as a clip plays of Tyler on a breakaway, but maybe with good reason. Because that was…that was some shot.

They’re all like that. Jamie’s still horrified at himself for having this list of links, but he can see why he did it. The way Tyler skates, handles the puck, sees the plays, charges down the ice—it’s hard to look away. That makes it all feel weirder, somehow: like this crush is something that could conceivably happen to him, not just this random thing that happened to someone else who was wearing his body.

It makes him extra nervous the next morning when he goes into the rink for practice. “You’ll be fine,” Jordie says when Jamie’s clenching and unclenching his fists in the passenger seat on the way to practice, and Jamie doesn’t know how to tell him that it’s not just the medical stuff that’s worrying him. He’s not quite pathetic enough to say it out loud.

Jamie has to check in with the trainers at the rink, and by the time he gets to the locker room everyone else is already changing. “Hey!” someone shouts when he comes in, one of the new guys, and then everyone’s greeting him, slapping him on the back and surrounding him. Jamie grins and tries to look like he knows who they are.

Tyler’s near the back of the room, and he’s one of the last to come up. Jamie’s stomach is turning over itself a little, but Tyler is smiling wide and seems—well, Jamie doesn’t know what normal is for him, but it seems like this could be it. “Good to see you in the land of the living,” Tyler says, gripping Jamie’s elbow. He looks different in person than he did in the video clips or the pictures: there’s more motion in his face, more life. “Still don’t remember us?”

“Nope, sorry,” Jamie says, but mostly he just feels relieved: that Tyler isn’t saying anything, which is ludicrous, because why would he, and that he and Tyler can apparently interact like normal people.

“Eh, no worries, I’m sure you’ll get us back,” Tyler says, letting go of his elbow and stepping away, and Jamie feels like he’s gotten away with something.

***

It’s strange, putting on a jersey with a C on it. Stranger still to be out on the ice with these guys, most of them people he doesn’t know, and to think: this is his team now. This is who he’s leading.

He feels the weight of it, of the responsibility. Some version of him maybe deserved that responsibility at some point, but it isn’t the version he is now. He finds himself tracking the different players’ skating, trying to memorize where their strengths and weaknesses are. How they react to failure, to success. He feels dumb when he realizes he’s doing it, because his memory is probably going to return any day now. But he feels the need to do it anyway.

He finds himself watching Tyler, too, but that’s more because he can’t look away.

He knew Tyler was good. He’s seen the video clips. But those were highlights. This is just normal, everyday skating, and still, Tyler’s edge is so obvious. All his maneuvers are just a little faster than everyone else’s, a little cleaner. It’s amazing to watch.

Jamie notices it even more when he skates with Tyler later on in the practice. He isn’t supposed to be practicing for real—no scrimmages or anything—but he does some drills with Tyler, and right away can feel the way they click.

This must be part of it, Jamie thinks, as Tyler passes to him without even looking. Of course he’d get hooked on this: on the way they don’t seem to need words: just the easy motion of their bodies together, connected even when they’re apart. Of course Jamie would let himself get swept away.

He’s breathless when he goes to sit down, and he doesn’t think it’s all from the injury.

He looks for Tyler in the locker room after—not a conscious decision, just a vague desire to see how the chemistry they had on the ice translates to off of it. But the trainer waylays him again to check on his symptoms, and by the time that’s done, Tyler’s already changed and left.

Sharpy sees him looking at Tyler’s empty stall and winks. Jamie flushes and looks away. It’s not a big deal. He’s just—he’s curious, is all. That’s all it is.

***

He calls his mom when he gets back from practice. He’s talked to her a few times he woke up, but it’s mostly been Jordie having the long conversations—the two of them discussing his progress, he’s pretty sure. But it’s nice to talk to her the way it’s nice to talk to Jordie: here’s a relationship so rooted that it hasn’t changed much in the years he forgot.

He tells her about practice (good), and she asks about his headaches (pretty much gone), and then she says, “And how’s Tyler taking it?”

“Tyler?” he repeats, voice squeakier than he intends.

“It must be hard on him,” she says. “Not having you recognize him.”

Jamie wonders if Jordie’s said something, or if she’s just extrapolating. She couldn’t know anything. “Do I,” he says, and then he has to stop and clear his throat. “Um, do I talk to you about him a lot?”

“Not a lot,” she says, and now he can hear the way she’s smiling. “But I know he’s important to you.”

Fuck. Jamie wishes he’d had any ability to hide any of his feelings at all over the past four years. He wonders if she guessed, or if his past self was braver than he feels right now. “I don’t know how he’s taking it. I haven’t seen much of him.”

“Oh, that must be tough.”

“Not really,” he says, a little edgier than he means to be. “I don’t remember him, so.”

“Right.” She seems to take that one in. “But it must be difficult, not having your normal support networks in place.”

“I guess.” He has Jordie, and that’s the big one. Even if Jordie is snickering at him when he gets off the phone and goes into the living room.

“Mom was asking you about Tyler, huh?” Jordie says.

“Shut the fuck up.” Jamie hits him in the head with a pillow. “I told her you were neglecting me.”

“Bet she didn’t believe that,” Jordie says, shoving his new pillow behind him without looking up from his phone.

“Maybe I wish you would,” Jamie mumbles, leaving the room, and Jordie shouts “Lies!” after him.

***

Jamie doesn’t really wish it. It’s key, having Jordie around, with so few of the players he knows around him and no normal games to make him feel like part of the team. Jamie gets to keep practicing with them, non-contact, but he doesn’t go on their quick road jaunt to St. Louis, and when he sees the neurologist at the hospital a couple of days later, she doesn’t tell him anything different about going back to full play.

“Your other symptoms seem to be clearing up,” she says, “but I’m concerned about the memory loss. We don’t want you to risk another head injury while your brain is still trying to recover.”

Jamie creases the piece of paper she gave him with his approved activities on it. “But it’s still going to come back, right?”

She hesitates for a terrifying second. “The more time passes, the lower the odds of a full memory recovery. But the odds are still very good at this point.”

Jamie nods. His mouth is dry.

“Tell you what,” she says. “Why don’t you come back in a week. We’ll see how things are going then.”

***

Jamie has weird dreams that week: vivid, anxious ones that disappear as soon as he wakes up. Some of them are slower-moving and hotter and leave him sweating under his blankets when he wakes, and he’s pretty sure he knows what those ones were about.

Hanging out with the team is a nice distraction. He knows everyone’s name by now, and every time he recognizes a new player’s face, he pokes at his memory to see if he’s remembering them from before the accident. But all that time is still a blank.

Later in the week, he watches from the press box as the the team beats the Wild. Everyone’s going out afterward, and Jamie probably shouldn’t go—he still can’t drink—but he can’t face the idea of going home alone to sit on his couch again. There’s also the faint hope in the back of his mind that doing more of the familiar things he used to do will spark a magical memory return.

On that theory, he should be hanging out with some of the newer guys, but he still feels so much more comfortable with the ones he remembers. He ends up in a booth with Fidds while a bunch of the other guys go up to the bar.

“Gotta say,” Fidds says, after they’ve gone over the game for a while, “it’s weird seeing you and Tyler not interact.”

Jamie hopes the bar is dark enough that Fidds can’t see his face get hot. Jamie and Tyler did interact tonight: Jamie congratulated him on his goal, and Tyler slapped him on the arm and gave him a grin that made Jamie’s breath catch. Then Tyler went to the bar with some of the other guys and Jamie hasn’t talked to him since. “Do we usually—more?”

“Are you kidding?” Fidds says. “You’re usually inseparable. This is like…seeing a hockey player without his stick, or something.”

Shit. Jamie must…he can’t believe he made himself so annoying.

He looks over at the bar, where Tyler’s standing under the lights. Jamie can’t deny it, looking at him like this: Tyler is about nine thousand percent his type. Sculpted muscles, dark ink running down his arms, abs Jamie remembers from the magazine spread and wants to drag his tongue across. Right now, Tyler’s laughing: head tipped back, eyes crinkling, cheeks dimpling. He looks…

Fuck. He’s so far out of Jamie’s league. Jamie must have been making such an idiot of himself.

“Don’t worry,” Fidds says, smirking. “I’m sure you’ll go back to being obnoxiously close as soon as your memory’s back.”

“Right,” Jamie says. Jamie can go back to his humiliating crush, and Tyler can go back to pretending he doesn’t know about it. Jamie can’t wait.

He looks back over at the bar and catches a glimpse of Tyler turning away from the others: withdrawing a little. Some of the light going out of his face. The sight catches at Jamie’s chest even more than the laughter did. He wants to go over there and find out what’s wrong.

Yeah, because Tyler wants a virtual stranger coming up and interrogating him about his feelings. Jamie ducks his head and finishes his beer.

***

He’s hoping he’ll have something to tell the neurologist at their appointment the next day: some snippet of a memory, something. But if his dreams give him anything helpful, he doesn’t remember it the next morning.

He thinks, for just a moment, about lying to her when she asks him how he’s been doing. But he knows better than to lie about a concussion.

Her brow furrows as he tells her how much better he’s feeling in all other respects. “I think it’s time to step things up,” she says. “Is there anything else in your life that’s different than it was before the accident?”

“I’m, uh, not playing,” he says, though he doesn’t really think that tack’s going to work.

“We could have you travel with the team, maybe,” she says, and he’ll take it. Way better than nothing.

He tells Jordie on the drive home—still no operating heavy machinery for Jamie—and Jordie’s happy for him, obviously. Then he’s quiet for a while, and while they’re stopped at a light he says, “I think you should start hanging out with Tyler again.”

Jamie startles a little. “What? Why?”

“You guys were together, like, all the time before this. You’re supposed to be recreating your past life, right?”

“Yeah, I guess,” Jamie says, though he wants to say no.

Jordie rolls his eyes. “Come on, I promise you know how to do this. You guys got along ridiculously well when he first got here. This won’t be any different.”

Right, except that when Tyler first got here, seventy-five percent of the team didn’t know about Jamie’s hopeless and humiliating crush on him. “Sure,” Jamie says, and resigns himself to the most awkward evening ever.

***

Jordie promises to be there. He promises a bunch of times, and then, on the way to Jamie’s house, he gets stuck in traffic.

Jamie is texting him frantically when the doorbell rings. He freezes and thinks about pretending no one’s home. He has a basement to hide in, right?

It takes him an embarrassingly long time to open the door. When he does, Tyler’s on the other side, grinning and holding up a six-pack. “Hey, I brought beer,” he says.

“Awesome,” Jamie says, which it is, except: “I mean, I’m still not really supposed to drink it, but…”

Tyler’s face falls a little. “Shit. I forgot.”

“No, it’s okay, you and Jordie can—”

“Yeah,” Tyler says, a little too brightly. There’s an awkward pause, and then he smacks Jamie in the shoulder and comes in and starts taking off his shoes.

Jamie can feel himself hovering as they go into the den. He can’t help it; he doesn’t remember how he ever used to interact with people. He’s not this weird with Jordie, right? What does he do? Where does he put his hands?

Tyler collapses on one of the sofas. “So, CoD?”

Jamie winces. He kind of wants to just not say anything, after the thing with the beer, but… “Um, I’m…video games are actually worse than alcohol, so…”

“Fuck,” Tyler says, half-laughing. “Shit, dude, I’m sorry, I’m so bad at this.”

He’s smiling apologetically. Jamie’s eyes get stuck on it for a second; it’s just a really good smile. Then he thinks, surprising himself: it’s a fake smile.

Not totally. Not like Tyler is lying to him or anything. It’s just that Jamie has this weird flash of what Tyler’s smile could look like, and this is nothing like it.

“Um,” Jamie says. He sits down on the couch, palms already sweating. “So. What do we, uh, what do we usually do when we hang out?”

Tyler shrugs, stretching back against the couch a little. It rucks his shirt up a little, and Jamie has to tear his eyes away. “The usual. Watch shit, play shit.” He waves at the entertainment center. “Work out. Go out for food. Play with my kids.”

Jamie has a moment of startled disorientation before he realizes Tyler doesn’t mean actual kids. “Oh yeah,” he says. “I saw their pictures on Instagram.”

Tyler’s face lights up. It’s an amazing change: it makes Jamie’s breath catch, a million worlds away from the smile Tyler gave him a minute ago. “They’re amazing, right? I have more pictures of Gerry I haven’t posted yet. You wanna see?”

Tyler sits down right in his space like it’s nothing. Jamie isn’t expecting it; he’s never been the kind of guy to get really physical with other guys on his team. Jordie won’t stay out of his space for anything, but Jamie never felt close enough to anyone on the Stars for that. He wonders if Tyler was like this from the very beginning. Whether that was part of the problem.

He shivers when Tyler puts his hand on his thigh for a second to steady himself while he pulls out his phone. When Tyler resettles, it’s a little farther away—which is good, because Jamie probably wouldn’t be able to focus his eyes well enough to register anything on his phone screen with him that close—but their shoulders still brush, little touches that zing through Jamie’s body.

Gerry is just as cute as Tyler thinks he is. Jamie can’t help making these aw sounds that are probably super dumb, but Tyler giggles like he likes them. “It’s the craziest story, how I got him,” Tyler says, and it’s not a crazy story at all—it would probably be super boring, except that Tyler tells it like it’s the most exciting thing ever, and Jamie’s grinning and laughing along by the time Jordie finally gets there.

Jordie’s arrival changes things. Jamie hears the key in the lock, and he pulls back from Tyler instinctively, even though they aren’t doing anything wrong. “Jordie, my man!” Tyler says, getting up to slap him on the back, and when he sits down again, it’s on the other couch. Jamie feels the lack of closeness like a chill on his skin.

“Sorry I’m late, traffic was insane,” Jordie says, sending Jamie an assessing look that Jamie can’t figure out how to answer.

It’s awkward after that. Tyler’s quieter now, and Jamie can’t think of anything to say. Even Jordie being there doesn’t move things along. Every time Jamie tries to speak, it comes out as a mumble.

“Bro, I’m so sorry,” Jordie says when Tyler gets up to use the bathroom. “I was going to be here early, I just had to get my suits to the cleaner’s today, and the traffic—”

“No, it’s okay,” Jamie says. “We were actually…I think we were having a good time. Before.”

Jordie doesn’t look quite convinced, but he shrugs. “If you say so.”

Fortunately, it’s late enough that they can start making dinner, and that makes everyone loosen up. Tyler’s hilariously incompetent in the kitchen, it turns out. “You should have seen me a couple of years ago,” Tyler says while Jamie watches him attempt to chop a pepper. “You guys trained me up good.”

Jamie looks at the sad mess Tyler’s making of the pepper, and something must show in his expression, because Tyler starts giggling.

“Is he lying?” Jamie asks Jordie.

“Nope, that’s true,” Jordie says. “Once he tried to cook pasta without water.”

“It was Jordie’s fault,” Tyler says. “He told me I wasn’t allowed to Google it.”

Jordie rolls his eyes behind Tyler. Jamie finds himself starting to smile.

He laughs more during dinner than he has in two weeks. He’s not even drunk. Jordie and Tyler go through most of the six-pack with dinner, but Jamie doesn’t even miss having a beer in his hand. He feels like he’s floating high on the way Tyler will catch his eye every once in a while.

“This was really fun,” Jamie says when he’s showing Tyler out, after Tyler started yawning over his last beer.

“Yeah, it’s been weird not having you around as much,” Tyler says.

“I’ll make it up to you,” Jamie says. “Once I have my memory back,” and Tyler’s smile goes a little stiff.

Fuck—why did he say that? Does he want Tyler to think he’s going back to pathetically pining over him? “Not that we can’t hang out sooner—”

“Nah, you’re good, I get it,” Tyler says, with one of those big smiles that aren’t quite as real as Jamie thinks they could be. He slaps Jamie on the shoulder. “Catch you soon, yeah?” he says, and he’s gone, leaving Jamie’s face hot with humiliation.

***

The team leaves for a swing through Canada the next day, and Jamie decides to use the time getting to know the other new players.

It’s not just Tyler, after all. All these guys were a part of his life. Getting to know them again could help reel back in the drifting pieces of his mind. And also, they’re much less likely to make him want to die of embarrassment.

“You know,” Sharpy says on the plane to Calgary, “you can go over there if you want.”

Jamie jerks his eyes from across the aisle, where he can just see Tyler laughing with Klingberg one row back. “Um, what?” he says.

Sharpy was in the middle of a story about his daughters, Jamie’s pretty sure, but he just arches an eyebrow. Jamie feels his face getting hot.

“I don’t want to, um,” Jamie mumbles. “I…barely even know him.”

“Yeah, I can tell you’re real indifferent,” Sharpy says, as Tyler’s laugh sounds again and Jamie’s eyes snap back over. He rips them away again.

“Shut up,” he says to Sharpy. “Don’t you have any more boring stories to tell?” And then he tries to pretend he can’t see the way Sharpy’s smirking at him for the rest of the flight.

***

Even without knowing most of the team as well as he should, it’s good to be on the road with them. Jamie’s done this kind of thing his whole adult life. It feels kind of nice to get up and report to team breakfast, then crowd onto a bus to go to morning skate, even if he’s still in a no-contact jersey. He may not know these guys, but he knows teams. He knows how to feel like the new or out-of-place guy for a while.

The bad thing about being on road is that he has to deal with the media a whole lot more. He’s been pretty shielded from that, hasn’t had to do more than a couple of quick interviews, but he’s with the team all the time now. He makes the mistake of going down to the locker room after they lose to Calgary in overtime, and gets cornered by a TV crew.

He doesn’t recognize them. Doesn’t even know if they’re Dallas reporters or Calgary. Can’t ask, because the media knows about the concussion but not about the memory loss. “Yeah, I, uh,” he says in response to a question. “I mean, it’s obviously tough being out, and I just, uh, just want to get out there and play again.”

“Sorry, can you say that a little louder, for the cameras?” the reporter asks, and Jamie can feel his cheeks getting redder than they’d be if he’d played.

He escapes eventually, only to be caught in the locker room by the sight of Tyler shirtless.

He’s seen it before. Lots of times, probably—even a few he remembers. But there’s something about it now—the flush running down his neck towards his pecs, the gleam of sweat on his skin. Jamie just—he wants to—

“Don’t worry, no one will care,” Tyler says, and Jamie jerks his eyes up.

“W-what?”

“About the media,” Tyler says, and Jamie relaxes.

“Like you’d know, you’re probably great with them,” Jamie mumbles.

“Yeah, right,” Tyler says with a snort. Then, “Oh, you’re, uh, you’re serious.” He shrugs, offhand. “No, the media is kind of a problem for me, actually.”

“What?” Jamie can’t help staring a little. At Tyler’s face, the easy charm he wears even when he’s obviously uncomfortable.

“You don’t remember?” Tyler asks. “I figured…everyone kind of knew. Back when I was with Boston and shit.”

Jamie does remember, sort of. The media liked to talk about Tyler as this crazy party kid. Jamie even vaguely remembers seeing some of the pictures, but Tyler was always smiling in them—the ones he knew were being taken, anyway. Like he was happy. “It didn’t seem that bad.”

Tyler looks down, lips quirking ruefully. “Got worse.”

Jamie kind of wants to ask. But he doesn’t want to make Tyler talk about it, when it’s obviously not fun for him. “But you’re, um, you’re okay here. Right? So…so who cares what they think? Boston doesn’t know what it’s missing.”

Tyler’s eyes dart to him, and he smiles, a real one that transforms his face. “That’s what you told me when I first got here.”

It’s so much, having Tyler’s smile turned toward him. “Sounds like I was pretty smart, then,” Jamie says, and he’s rewarded with Tyler’s laugh, warm and bright.

***

Tyler sits as far as possible from him on the plane to Edmonton, though, and Jamie doesn’t know what to think. Doesn’t know if Tyler’s annoyed, if he’s trying to make it less awkward, if this is all normal and Jamie’s just imagining things. He puts his headphones in and tries not to think about it.

They beat the Oilers, 5-2. The game-winning goal comes on an assist from Jordie, and Jamie screams himself hoarse in the press box. It’s the kind of game they’d go out after, but Edmonton’s no fun when you’ve just beaten the home team, so they do a liquor-store run and crowd into someone’s room instead. Jamie still can’t drink, but he goes, too. It’s fun to be around the team when they’re this happy.

Tyler has a few shots of something and ends up crammed on the bed next to Jamie. Jamie tries to be cool, but Tyler’s fidgety, and every time he moves his hand his knuckles brush Jamie’s thigh. Jamie could pull away, probably, but instead he lifts his other knee so that nothing will be obvious.

Drunk Tyler is handsy. Tyler’s always handsy, sort of, but this version of him is extra friendly and tactile. He puts his hands on Cody’s shoulders, congratulating him on his assist, and Jamie is unreasonably jealous until Tyler slings an arm around him and tilts his head onto Jamie’s shoulder. Jamie pushes into it and feels like he’s going to burn up from the inside.

“We’re so good together,” Tyler says. “You should come back.”

“I want to,” Jamie says, feeling too honest, but it’s not like Tyler’s in a state to be evaluating his tone of voice right now.

“No, I mean,” Tyler says, a whine in his voice, “you should come back.

Jamie doesn’t actually see the distinction, and he doesn’t know what to say—is using all his brain power to keep from turning toward Tyler and putting his hands on his body. It’s almost a relief when Tyler gets up a couple of minutes later, drawn by some of the guys who are trying to set up flip cup.

Jordie takes his place, thunking down next to Jamie. He doesn’t look happy. “What’s wrong?” Jamie asks.

Jordie shrugs and nods his head across the room. Jamie follows his gaze to Tyler: Tyler, who’s laughing as he tries to flip a cup off the room’s desk. “What?” Jamie asks.

“Haven’t seen him drunk like this in a while,” Jordie says.

Jamie frowns. “I thought he drank a lot.”

Jordie shakes his head. “Not anymore.”

Jamie looks back over at Tyler. His face is flushed, but he looks happy. Not like he’s about to fall over or black out or anything. “He seems okay.”

“Maybe,” Jordie says.

Jamie can see more clearly what Jordie meant the next morning, when Tyler’s quiet and withdrawn at breakfast. Jamie hadn’t thought he’d drunk enough to be hungover this morning, but evidently he had. He has that downcast look, the one he had in the bar when Jamie saw him turn away from the others. Jamie doesn’t like seeing that look. Want to change it, even though it’s not his place.

He probably can’t change it, but he can at least sit down across from Tyler. “You okay this morning?” he asks.

Tyler looks up, and for a second Jamie sees—he’s not sure what. Then Tyler smiles like it’s all fine.

“Yeah, of course,” Tyler says, and Jamie doesn’t know what he could even say to argue.

***

They go to Vancouver, eke out an overtime win against the Canucks. Jamie can’t tell if Tyler’s actually avoiding him, or if they just don’t cross paths. He tries not to notice every time Tyler doesn’t come near him.

On the flight back to Dallas that night, though, Jamie has an empty seat next to him—Jordie’s sitting with Demers—and Tyler’s coming down the aisle. Jamie knows he shouldn’t, doesn’t want to make things awkward, but he’s meeting Tyler’s eyes and raising his eyebrows before he can think better of it.

For a second he thinks Tyler’s going to say no. Then Tyler turns and drops into the seat and leans back with his eyes closed.

“Fuck, road trips are exhausting,” he says, and Jamie feels unaccountably relieved to have Tyler beside him. To know he’ll probably be here for the whole flight.

He thinks…he’d really like to touch him. That’s not a surprise, after the past few days. But this feels different: he doesn’t want to do anything huge here. Hhe just wants…to brush a hand against his knee. Maybe tangle their fingers together. Do something to connect them.

Jamie pins his hands under his thighs so he isn’t too tempted. That would be the worst thing he could do.

“We’ll be in our own beds soon,” he says.

Tyler rolls his head to the side and opens his eyes. “Yeah,” he says, and the way he’s looking at Jamie, up close like that—Jamie closes his own eyes before he can do something his future self, the self with the memories intact, would definitely regret.

***

The flight gets in late enough that there’s no practice the next morning. Jamie rolls out of bed at ten to a text from Jordie, asking when he should pick him up for the neurologist.

Jamie almost doesn’t want to go. He can’t cite any memories that have come back, if he doesn’t count his desire to touch Tyler. He probably shouldn’t count that.

“There really hasn’t been anything?” Jordie asks in the car on the way over. Jamie shakes his head. He doesn’t say anything about what that means; neither of them does. They don’t have to.

The neurologist listens to him narrate his experience of the road trip, the utter absence of any memories coming back. When he’s done, she says, “The physical symptoms of your concussion are virtually gone. That’s the good news.”

Jamie nods, feeling sick.

“The bad news is that your memories don’t seem to be coming back on their own,” she says. “I’m afraid there’s not a lot more my office can do for you,” and that’s it, he can hear it: the finality in her words.

He never thought it would come to this. Literally never: didn’t have any kind of backup plan for what would happen if he never got better. Hadn’t even thought the words career-ending injury. But if she’s right—

“So I don’t see any reason why you can’t start playing again,” she says, and he can’t even understand her words at first.

“W-what?” he says when his brain comes back on line. “But you…you just said…”

“If we aren’t waiting for your memories to come back, then there’s no reason to keep you benched,” she says. “They might still come back, and you might slow that down by playing. But it’s up to you, and I’m guessing you don’t want to wait around for months to see if that’s true, right?”

“Right,” he says quickly, and, “Yes,” to everything else she says, and then he’s shaking her hand and coming out of her office, dazed but ecstatic.

“Bro,” Jordie says, smiling hugely at him when he hears.

“I know,” Jamie says. He can’t stop smiling.

“We’d better get home for your pre-game nap, then,” Jordie says, and Jamie rolls his eyes and steals the keys.

It feels great to drive. It feels normal. Jamie lies down for his pre-game nap, and that feels normal, too, and by the time he goes to the rink, it’s hard to believe everything hasn’t been normal, these past few weeks. He has to keep reminding himself it’s not 2012.

It’s easier to remember when he’s in a locker room of half-familiar players and Lindy Ruff is saying, “Guess who’s joining us again, boys!” Jamie gets mobbed, way more aggressively than he did when he first showed up after the accident, and when he makes it through the mob, Tyler is waiting on the other side again, practically glowing.

“Fucking finally,” he says, throwing himself at Jamie, and Jamie laughs and holds on, happier than he remembers being in a long time.

Getting on the ice feels amazing. They’re playing the Preds; they’ve got a decent team this year, and Jamie hasn’t been practicing properly for weeks, so it should be a shit show. But it just feels so good to get back in the swing of things. He’s playing on a line with Tyler, and Tyler wins the very first face-off, gets the puck to Jamie, and they’re off.

“Fuck, I missed you out there,” Tyler says to him after their first shift, punching Jamie on the arm, as charged up as Jamie’s ever seen him. Jamie grins and ducks his head and bumps their shoulders together. “Let’s fucking tear them up.

“You’ve got it,” Jamie says, and they do. Tyler scores at the end of the first, a beauty of a goal off a pass from Jamie, and as soon as it arcs towards the goal Jamie knows, is already turning towards Tyler. Tyler turns back to face him, mouth falling open in a whoop as he leaps on Jamie. Jamie feels the thud in his bones, feels it deeper than that, too.

“Let’s prove them wrong, eh?” Tyler shouts in his ear, and Jamie says, “Huh?” and then the other Stars on the ice are mobbing them. Jamie just catches enough of a glimpse to see Tyler’s face going weird, and then they’re skating over to smack hands with the guys on the bench and the next shift starts and Jamie forgets about it until the buzzer sounds for the end of the period, and Tyler turns away from him on the way to the locker room.

It’s startling. It’s too weird to be a coincidence. Jamie sits and listens to Ruff talk about their first period play, the plan for the second, and he knows Tyler’s avoiding his gaze. Can feel the hugeness of the change. But he can’t think what he could have done to cause it.

“So how did it happen?” Spezza asks next to him, and Jamie snaps his head over.

“Huh?”

“How did your memories come back,” Spezza says, impatient. “Was it all in a rush, or…”

“Oh,” Jamie says. Oh. “No, they’re not…they’re not back. The neurologist just decided I could play anyway. She said, you know, they don’t know about the timeline, so.”

“Wait, you still don’t remember us?” Eakin asks loudly, and other people start paying attention.

“No, I mean, not the past four years,” Jamie says, and there’s some disappointed ragging on him. He doesn’t pay a lot of attention to it, though, because he’s too busy wondering where Tyler went.

***

The Preds tie it up in the second, and it ends up going to a shootout. Jamie gets tapped for the shootout, and Pekka Rinne is a fucking stone wall. He skates back to the bench with frustration tight in his chest. Then Forsberg gets one in on Kari, and Jamie wants to smash something.

“Good game,” he says to everyone, because he’s the captain, and he has to. Then he goes to check in with the trainers, who give him a clean bill of health, and when he gets to the locker room, Tyler takes three steps away so that Jamie won’t be near enough talk to him.

It shouldn’t feel like this. It shouldn’t even be a surprise, after the last couple of hours. But Jamie feels like his chest is slowly compressing as he talks to the media about his return to the ice. When he’s done and finally showered, Tyler is long gone.

“Want company?” Jordie asks, but Jamie shakes his head. He just wants to go home and be alone.

He regrets that when he gets to his huge, empty house. It’s just so big. What did he want with all that space, anyway? Why didn’t he buy, like…he doesn’t know. But he doesn’t want to be alone.

He grabs himself a Gatorade and sits at the counter in his too-big kitchen to drink it. He feels like shit, and he knows it should be because of his shot bouncing off Rinne’s blocker. But the image in his head is Tyler, turning away from him on the bench.

It shouldn’t matter like this, is the thing. He’s just someone Jamie’s known for a month. They haven’t spent that much time together. Maybe it’s a good thing Jamie might not get his memories back. If this is what he’s like after a month, what must he have been like after two and a half years?

Humiliation is a line of hot coals in Jamie’s stomach, and the Gatorade is hard to swallow. He just wishes—there’s nothing he can really wish for, here. There’s clearly no way for him to get to know Tyler like a normal person. He could lose his memory again tomorrow, and he’d see Tyler’s ridiculous smile across the locker room, and he’d fall, and fall, and fall. There is no way out.

He finishes his bottle of Gatorade and is heading up to bed when the doorbell rings.

Tyler’s on the front stoop. “Sorry to bug you,” he says, while Jamie stares, hand on the doorknob. “I just—can I come in?”

Jamie steps back wordlessly to let him in. Tyler’s antsy, fidgeting, and for once there’s no trace of a smile on his face.

“I’m sorry.” Tyler takes in a breath that’s more like a shudder. “I know I’m not supposed to, I just—I miss you so fucking much.” And he puts his hands on Jamie’s face and kisses him.

For a second Jamie freezes in shock. Then he’s kissing back, opening his mouth, hungry and hot and desperate.

Tyler wrestles him for control of the kiss for a minute. Then Jamie wraps his arms around him, really holds him, and Tyler fucking melts. Makes a noise against Jamie’s mouth, puts his hand around the back of Jamie’s head and pulls him down so there’s not even a breath air between their mouths. Jamie doesn’t care. He’ll breathe in Tyler instead.

It’s long minutes before they separate, panting, foreheads pressed together. “Is this—” Jamie whispers. He feels too full for it to be real. “Do we—”

Tyler gets his hands in Jamie’s sweatshirt and clutches tight. His head is bowed, the breath gusting out of him. “You love me,” he says fiercely, and Jamie feels the words like a blow: bursting his chest open, impossible to resist.

“I do,” he whispers, tasting the truth of it, and Tyler lets out a shuddering breath.

“Then take me to fucking bed,” he says, lifting his head to meet Jamie’s eyes, and Jamie takes his face in his hands and kisses him.

They get clumsy in Jamie’s room: fingers too eager, too hungry. Jamie’s fingers get caught on Tyler’s fly, and Tyler laughs, and Jamie gets his tongue in his dimple like he can taste the happiness through his skin. Tyler turns his head and captures Jamie’s mouth again, still laughing. He’s so beautiful. He’s so—

“What do we usually do?” Jamie asks against his mouth, knowing what he wants the answer to be. Trying not to count on it, in case Tyler doesn’t say…

“Fuck me,” Tyler says. “Please, Jamie, fuck me,” and Jamie groans and thunks his head against Tyler’s shoulder and slides his hands down to grip his ass.

It’s gorgeous, the sight of Tyler on Jamie’s bed, taking his fingers. He’s holding his knees up, head tilted back, these little sounds coming out of him, and Jamie can’t believe he gets to do this. It feels like a gift from his past self: something he would never have thought to ask for, wouldn’t have thought he could have for any price in the world. Tyler spread out in front of him, giggling when Jamie brushes a ticklish spot on his inner thigh and moaning the next second as Jamie twists his fingers against his prostate. Jamie wants to breathe in every sound he makes. Wants to make him feel everything all at once.

“Come on, come on,” Tyler says, while Jamie fumbles with the condom. “Come on, just—” and Jamie finally gets it on and sinks into him, his cock disappearing into that tight grasping hole as his eyes roll back in his head and white sparks fill his vision.

“Holy fuck,” he says, or maybe something more garbled than that, and then he and Tyler are both making sounds as Jamie pushes all the way into him and starts rocking. Tyler leans up to take a kiss, abs working, and Jamie can feel the shivers that run over his skin. Tyler’s sweaty and panting and flushed like he gets after games and Jamie’s pupils must be the size of saucers right now because he wants to take in the sight before him and keep it forever. Never forget.

“Harder, a little up—there, oh, fuck, Jamie—” And then Tyler’s coming, eyelids fluttering and cock shooting and hole clenching down on Jamie’s dick, fuck, Jamie can’t take it, he’s going to—

His cock stutters inside Tyler’s hole. It’s all rolling through him: the tight cling of Tyler’s body and the smell of sweat and spunk and the look on Tyler’s face as he came and yes, yes, yessss.

He collapses next to Tyler, his whole body humming. Tyler makes this little noise and turns over to lie on Jamie’s chest, snuggling in. Jamie drags a hand up and buries it in Tyler’s hair. It’s damp with sweat, and Tyler doesn’t make any noise when Jamie runs his fingers over his scalp, but Jamie can feel from the laxness of his body how much he’s enjoying it. He can feel sleep tugging at both of them.

“Have we…how long?” he asks.

“Mm. Two weeks,” Tyler mumbles into Jamie’s skin, sounding just as sleepy as he feels, and Jamie sucks in a breath.

“Two…” That’s nothing like what he thought, when Tyler kissed him. Nothing like how it felt, just now. “I told you I—after two weeks, I told you—”

Tyler pushes himself up and looks Jamie in the eye, frightened-looking but defiant. “No,” he says. “You told me at the start of the two weeks.”

“Oh,” Jamie breathes. He puts his hand on Tyler’s face, and he can see Tyler relax a few degrees. Jamie’s starting to understand—can at least feel the edge of what’s between them: two years and change, something building and building until they couldn’t hold it back. “You should have told me.”

Tyler’s face twists. Something in Jamie’s chest twists, too. “You didn’t remember me,” Tyler says, and his voice—

“I’m so sorry,” Jamie says, meaning it entirely.

Tyler’s mouth quirks into a half-smile, his gaze dropping. “You had amnesia.”

“No, but.” Jamie keeps his hand on Tyler’s face, strokes his hand over his cheekbone until he looks up. “I’m so sorry,” he says again, and Tyler holds his gaze this time, and then Jamie pulls him down and kisses him.

They kiss for a long time, until the tension’s drained out of Tyler’s body and he’s grinning a little against Jamie’s mouth. Jamie gets a flash of how this is between them, how it could be: stolen kisses on the plane, Tyler bright-eyed and making a game out of giving each other this. Giving more, and more, until they’re both overflowing.

“You know,” he says, when their kisses have gotten slow and languid, “everyone thinks I have a hopeless crush on you,” and Tyler cracks up.

Jamie’s not—well, he’s not expecting it, but he’s not surprised, either. This is Tyler he has in his bed, after all. “Shut up,” he says, not trying too hard to hold back his own grin. “It was embarrassing. Jordie kept laughing at me. And I found—under my bed, there’s this magazine—”

Tyler starts laughing harder, not even making sound anymore, and Jamie laughs a little too and punches him in the arm. Tyler flops over onto him still laughing. “I gave that to you,” he wheezes finally. “When, uh—after you told me—”

“Oh, you fucker,” Jamie says, punching his arm again and wrestling him to the bed. “I thought I, like—”

Tyler’s pinned under him, not fighting anymore, his eyes dancing and his tongue in his cheek. “What? You thought you jerked off to me?” He rolls against Jamie, slowly, just enough to make his muscles work. “I bet you thought you used to lie awake at night, staring at my naked body, fisting your cock while you pictured—”

Asshole,” Jamie says, and takes his mouth.

Jamie, it turns out, is good at sucking cock. Seems like he’s done it more times than he remembers.

***

Jamie doesn’t want to let go of Tyler in the morning. Tyler clung to him hard the whole night, and Jamie doesn’t want him to think—he wants to be there for him. The way he wasn’t these past few weeks.

“Gotta get dressed,” Tyler mumbles, though he’s not doing much to pull his face away from its spot on Jamie’s chest. “Jordie might come over.”

Tyler’s so warm against his skin. Jamie feels like his whole body is larger whenever Tyler touches it: like it’s opening up to make room for this feeling he can barely contain. “What if we didn’t?” he says. “I mean, what if, like—what if we didn’t hide it from him?”

Tyler pulls away, and for a second Jamie thinks he’s done something wrong. Then he gets a good look at Tyler’s face and knows that whatever he’s done, it’s not wrong.

They don’t lie around naked waiting for Jordie. They go down and start making breakfast, and Tyler’s just…so happy. Jamie has to keep stopping and staring at him. He doesn’t know how he kept this secret for even two weeks, if Tyler was like this the whole time. Jamie wants to grab him and kiss him right in the middle of scrambling eggs.

He does just that, actually, and that’s when Jordie comes in.

“Holy fuck!” Jordie shouts, and Jamie and Tyler start giggling, and the eggs gets burned.

They make a new batch and sit around eating it while they answer Jordie’s questions. “I knew you guys were weirdly busy for a couple of weeks there,” Jordie says, and Tyler laughs, eyes crinkling up, and honestly, in this moment, Jamie doesn’t care whether he ever gets his memories back at all.

***

It’s two days later when he wakes up with a weird sense of displacement. He’s where he’s supposed to be, in bed with Tyler, but there’s a weird echo-y feeling in his head, like something’s doubling itself, only he can’t quite track it down—

“You texted me,” he says, and Tyler blinks his eyes open from where he’s drowsing in a sunbeam. “When you first got traded to Dallas. You texted me and told me we were going to prove them wrong,” and Tyler’s face lights up with the brightest and most beautiful smile Jamie’s seen from him in the whole two and a half years they’ve played together.

“You’re back,” Tyler says, leaping at him, and Jamie catches him up and rolls them over and pins him to the mattress, memorizing the feel of Tyler’s smile against his face. This time around, he’s not forgetting anything.