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am I more than you bargained for yet?

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It happens after the game against Tampa.

The Lightning are arguably the best team in the league at the moment and Tyler is enough of a realist to be aware that no one’s expecting the Stars to win overwhelmingly. All Tyler wants is for the game to go better than the first time they played this season.

And it does.

They lose in OT, but they get a point and it’s a point many people didn't think they could get. The thing is, it’s still a loss and Jamie has always been bad at taking losses. His interviews after losses are so depressing that Tyler would rather watch ‘Marley and Me’ instead (and that’s saying something).

It doesn't help that Conacher scores the game winning goal when Jamie’s trailing besides him. Tyler knows that a) stupid people on the internet will blame the loss on Jamie and b) Jamie himself will do the exact same thing. With Jordie gone, it’s up to Tyler to try to get him in a more positive mood. He normally wouldn't bother but Jamie’s play hasn’t been so great lately and Tyler’s pretty sure that all the negativity isn't helping.

Jamie basically bolts out of the locker room so Tyler has to approach him (more like run after him but whatever) in the darkness of the parking lot.

“Hey Chubbs, hold up!” Tyler says just as Jamie is about to get in his car.

“What do you want?” Jamie replies without looking up from his keys.

“Let’s go out for drinks. Or dinner. Whatever you want,” Tyler tells him, but Jamie only turns around to shake his head. “Come on, dude. I’ll buy.”

“I’m not in the mood to go out, Tyler,” Jamie says, sounding tired and defeated and not at all like someone who just took the best team in the league to OT should sound like.

“Alright, then we can stay in. Come over and have some beer. Or some Gatorade. Whichever you like best.” Tyler knows Gatorade is better for like hydration and shit, but he’s never known it to have any sort of effect on a person’s demeanor.

“I’m really not in the mood for-”

“I know you’re not in the mood. The point of hanging out is that you’ll be in a better mood afterwards,” Tyler explains.

“Look, I just-”

“Come on, it’ll be fun,” Tyler continues, waving off Jamie’s excuses. “We’ll order food and we can even watch that boring show you like .”

“Jesus, Tyler, can’t you take a fucking hint?!” Jamie yells with exasperation, slamming his hand into the roof of his car hard enough to make Tyler flinch. “I don’t want to hang out. Especially not with you. You’re literally the last person I want to be around. Do I have to spell it out for you ?”

It’s not the first time Jamie has blown him off, and it’s not the first time he’s yelled at him either. But he’s never outright said that it’s because of Tyler specifically. The words “You’re literally the last person I want to be around” flow into Tyler’s brain and nest there so he can hear them again and again until they’re ingrained into his soul. He’d compare it to a tattoo, but he knows a tattoo would hurt a lot less.

“Sorry,” Tyler says.

It’s all he trusts himself to muster so his voice doesn’t break. He’s never wanted to be Sidney Crosby more than he does right now. Not because he’s won three cups or because Malkin has probably never snapped at him like Jamie just did at Tyler, but because of how he always manages to keep his emotions in complete and absolute control. Crosby has always been extremely difficult to read, whereas Tyler has always been the most open of books. A pop-up book, with lots of pictures and huge fucking letters. One that even someone as dense as Jamie Benn can easily read. Jamie takes one look at Tyler’s face and his eyes immediately soften in realization.

“Tyler, I-“

“Don’t,” Tyler cuts him off. He doesn’t want to hear Jamie’s meaningless, half-assed apologies. Tyler knows Jamie only says them to avoid affecting their hockey and not because he actually cares about how Tyler feels.

He turns around and walks away because he doesn’t trust his face right now.

“It’s fine. I’ll see you at practice,” he says over his shoulder.

It’s meant to be reassuring. A way to say “Relax. Our hockey will be fine.” so that Jamie doesn’t feel like he needs to worry about that and a way to discourage him from coming after Tyler.

Although if he’s being realistic, Jamie wasn't going to come after him in the first place.

“That wasn’t what-” Jamie yells but Tyler doesn't hear the rest of the sentence, because he shuts the door to his car and drives off without a second thought.

 

Can’t you take a fucking hint?

 

Tyler can, in fact, take a hint. He’s been taking hints from people his entire life. He took hints from Brownie, he took them from Ali and Danielle every other person he’s ever been involved with. He’s taken these hints from most of his friends and even his own parents on occasion. People always end up getting tired of him. It’s just a fact of life. He always ends up being too much to handle .

In retrospect, Tyler really should have seen this coming. He should have known Jamie would be no different than everyone else. He’s been down this road so many times that he should just know it’s bound to happen. Not to mention the fact that things with Jamie haven’t been so great in a while. A long while.

 The last good moment they had was almost two years ago. It had been the night before game 7 against the Blues. They were sitting on Tyler’s couch, watching some dumb TV show on TLC, or trying to anyway. Jamie was too anxious and restless to concentrate on it. Tyler took notice of it and turned off the TV.

“Dude, it’s all gonna be alright. Stop worrying so much,” he told Jamie.

“I can’t not worry,” Jamie had said, “It’s the fucking Blues. They always seem to manage to beat us. This game is too important and I have to win it, Tyler. Have to.”

“Did no one ever tell you there’s no I in team?” Tyler had joked but Jamie’s frown didn't ease. He shuffled closer to Jamie and took his face in his hands. It didn't feel like a risky move at the time. Tyler had always been touchy and Jamie had never showed any objections to it.

“Look at me. I know it’s tougher ‘cause I’m not out there with you guys. I don’t think I have to tell you how much I want to be out there. That I would be if I could. And that I’m sorry I can’t be.”

“Don’t apologize for being injured. It’s not your fault,” Jamie replied, still frowning.

“I’m not apologizing. All I’m saying is...” Tyler had paused, not exactly sure what it was that he wanted to say. “It’s only one game. Just one. You’ve won dozens of games without me before. Hell, you won the Art Ross without me. You can definitely pull this off, alright? Doctor said I can probably come back for the next series. So all you gotta do is hold on. For one game. And then I’ll be back.”

“Just one more game,” Jamie repeated absentmindedly.

“Yeah, just one. After that, we’ll beat whoever’s in our way and we’re gonna get that Cup. I promise.”

Jamie finally stopped frowning after that. His gaze immediately softened up and turned into what Tyler had cleverly named The Look™️. Whenever Jamie was proud of him or simply happy to be around him, he’d look at Tyler softly, with nothing but pride and appreciation in his eyes. It was a very particular look, one he didn't give at any moment or to anyone else.

Getting The Look™️ always made Tyler want to kiss Jamie more than he usually did, because it made him feel like maybe Jamie would kiss him back.

Tyler almost went for it that night, but he restrained himself and settled for a hug. The last thing Jamie needed was the added stress of dealing with Tyler’s dumb feelings for him.

When we win the cup,” Tyler had thought to himself, “Then I’ll kiss him.”

 

As always, things didn’t go according to Tyler’s plan. The Stars lost the game against the Blues and Tyler never got to return to the ice, never got to fulfill his promise.

 

Jamie didn't talk to him that whole offseason. Which Tyler understood. They hadn't talked a whole lot the previous offseason, either. There was some resentment involved, from Jamie’s part, and Tyler got that. He was okay with it.

Except that unlike the year before, Jamie’s coldness didn’t cease once training camp rolled around. It went on and on throughout the season. He kept leaving Tyler’s texts on read, turning down his offers to hang out, and all but stopped talking to him about anything that wasn't hockey related.

Basically, their off-ice interactions became non-existent.

One night after a rare win, (and boy, were wins rare that season), the guys in the team decided to go out and get some drinks. Jamie, in typical Jamie fashion, had made up an excuse and bailed. Instead of moping about it, Tyler had decided to get spectacularly drunk, since Jamie wasn't there to judge him for it. Tyler’s always been the happy kind of drunk, the kind who belts out random 90s songs, who tries twerking even when he doesn’t have the ass or the rhythm for it, and who always ends up giving compliments to everyone who comes near his path.

“Your eyes are so fucking blue. The bluest. Like my pool. Or like… the ocean. They're great eyes,” he told Klingberg.

“Your beard is the greatest beard in sports history. The greatest! No one has a better beard than you, Patty. No one! ” he told Eaves.

“You’re my favorite Benn,” he told Jordie.

Jordie, who wasn't nearly as drunk as Tyler was, threw his head back in laughter. “Dude, that’s the biggest fucking lie you’ve ever told.”

“I’m not lying, though. Pure truth. Who else if not you?” Tyler said, his speech slurring.

“Who else? How about the Batman to your Robin? The cheese to your quesadilla? The jelly to your peanut butter? Oh captain your captain? Not ringing any bells, really?” Jordie asked. “Seggy, come on. There’s no universe where you actually like me more than you like Jamie.”

“I don’t know about other universes but in this universe, you’re here with me and Jamie’s not,” Tyler explained, not sounding as upbeat as he had been earlier that night. “He’s never with me anymore.”

“Oh,” Jordie replied. “You know that’s not about you right? It’s not something you did. Jamie just likes being on his own. With his own thoughts. You two were too much in each other’s space during your first years here. Like way too much. Like when Daddy first got here after the trade, he legit asked me if you two were fucking.”

Tyler’s self-preservation instincts don’t disappear when he’s drunk. His shirt and dignity might but never his self-preservation instincts.

So he forced himself to chuckle then said, “Yeah, as if. Like I would ever touch your brother’s dick. Or anyone’s dick. Anyone’s dick other than mine obviously. Gross.”

“Yeah, yeah. The point is, you two got a little sick of each other. It happens. Just give Jamie his space and things will settle back to normal. Alright?”

“Sure.”

Tyler didn't try to tell Jordie that he hadn't gotten sick of Jamie in the slightest, not even a little bit. He just took another shot and told himself that Jordie was likely giving him solid advice.

So he followed that advice. Or tried to, anyways. Even after Jordie got traded to Montreal and Tyler knew Jamie was all alone in his big empty house, probably brooding, he still gave Jamie his space.

The thing is, Jamie never gave him any indication that wasn't what he wanted. He never made any effort at all to talk to Tyler. And unlike what Jordie had said, things never went back to normal. Tyler used to think normal meant somewhere in between the close-knit friendship they used to have and the coldness they have now.

But it’s been two whole years of that now. Two years since the last time Jamie gave him The Look™. So maybe the coldness is their normal point.

 


 

You’re literally the last person I want to be around.

 

Tyler crawls into bed and tries to stop thinking about it. He tries to forget it, although he knows he won’t be able to until he’s older and dealing with the aftermath of all the concussions he ever got.

Maybe not even then.

He scratches the spot behind Gerry’s ears, “You’re probably gonna get sick of me too, aren't you? ”

Gerry only licks his hand in reply.

 


 

“Hey, I gotta talk to you,” Jamie says to Tyler, standing in front of his stall while he’s lacing up his skates.

It’s before practice. A whole day after Jamie basically told Tyler to fuck off.

“About what?” Tyler asks without looking up.

“About what I said the other night. I shouldn't have talked to you like that. It wasn’t-”

“I told you it was fine. Don’t worry about it.”

“It wasn’t fine, though,” Jamie insists.

It really wasn't. But Tyler’s not about to let him know that.

“Emotions are always running high after games. Adrenaline and all that,” he tries smiling, “You hate losing, I get it. Don’t worry about it.”

Jamie apparently buys Tyler’s fake tiny smile and returns it in the exact same manner before walking away. If Tyler were less professional, he’d tell Jamie that his little outburst was the farthest thing from fine as it could be, that it actually hurt enough to break something inside of Tyler.

But for the sake of the team, Tyler keeps his mouth shut.

 

It pays off. They manage to beat the Blues in overtime a day later. Jamie scores the game winning goal and breaks his stick in celebration. He gives Tyler something that’s like a hint of The Look™, a light version of it, perhaps. But it’s not the actual thing, and even if it was, it’s lost meaning to Tyler. He’s actually beginning to think The Look™ was a never a real thing to begin with.

Jamie asks him if he wants to go out for drinks.

For a second, Tyler wants to be petty and throw Jamie’s words back at him. (“You’re literally the last person I want to be around”). But all Tyler does is give him a fake smile and lie by saying he already had plans. A week ago, Tyler would have jumped at the chance of hanging out with Jamie. Today, he doesn’t see the point in pretending like they’re still friends.

 


 

The Stars don’t win a lot after that. In fact, besides the game against Anaheim, they don't win at all.

It’s not for lack of trying. Things just don't ever seem to go their way. The playoffs seem to be slipping away from them and it’s frustrating as fuck.

Jamie takes it harder than everyone else. The happiness he had after the Blues game turned out to be incredibly short-lived and he becomes withdrawn again.

Jamie sits by himself on the plane, on the bus, at breakfast, and he’d probably sit alone on the bench if he could.

Devin keeps throwing these nudging looks at Tyler, as if to tell him “Aren't you gonna do anything about this?” and maybe Tyler should. It’s kind of part of the job description of wearing an A.

But Jamie has made it perfectly clear that he wants to be left alone. With all the losing, Tyler is not really in the mood to be yelled at and told how much of a nuisance he is. He just can’t take it again. There are three other A’s in the team. Jamie would probably be nicer to any of them.

There are moments when Tyler feels like maybe Jamie’s trying to reach out to him. Like the game in Toronto, where they finally managed to score more than 2 goals just to lose anyway. Jamie kept touching him all throughout the game, kept throwing him little smiles up until they blew their lead in the third period, and the smiles turned into frowns. Tyler wasn't able to score in the shootout and Jamie couldn't even look him in the eye. He made a point to avoid Jamie after the game was over. He already knew the loss was on him and there was zero need for Jamie to tell him that as well.

 


 

Reading stuff about himself online usually cheers him up. It’s usually light hearted. Random girls saying he’s beautiful, random girls saying he’s ugly, middle-aged Bruins fans still bitter about his trade, etcetera, etcetera.

These days, reading what people say is not as fun.

They don’t say anything bad about him, but they do about pretty much anyone else. There are people demanding that Jim Nill is fired for not making any moves before the trade. Others think Kari needs to be cut from the team, as if it was solely on him that they can’t seem to be able to score.

The phrase “Wasting the Prime Years of Seguin and Benn” is used a lot and Tyler wonders if maybe those so called prime years are long behind them now.

The posts that shock Tyler the most are the ones who think Jamie should be stripped from the captaincy. “Give Seguin the C,” some rando tweeted, “He’s the only one who’s actually trying to win. It’s pretty clear Benn can’t lead this team.”

There was a time where Tyler would have straight up fought anyone who doubted Jamie’s leadership skills, a time where Tyler would have said Jamie was the best captain he ever played with.

But telling your teammate to fuck off when he’s just trying to help, just trying to be a good friend isn’t very captainly, is it?

Regardless of that, to say that no one else but him is trying to win is flat out stupid. He sees the frustration in every single player on the team and he can’t see how anyone would think they're not trying.

There’s one tweet, one that really makes him think, makes him reconsider things he’d never thought he’d have to reconsider:

“5 years as a Dallas Star and he’s only made one Playoff Series. If you’re Tyler Seguin and the Stars miss the playoffs again, would you actually want to stay here for the rest of your career?”

 

Short answer:

 

(“You’re literally the last person I want to be around”)

 

Probably not.

 


 

Tyler scores his 38th goal of the season against the Sens.

It’s yet another loss in OT, but people are still congratulating him on reaching an individual milestone, as if that even mattered to him at all.

He knows it will only fuel what the people online say, specifically the ones who keep whining about how he’s carrying the team. If he was actually carrying the team, then they would be doing much worse than they are now, since he’s not even playing as great some seem to think. He’s annoyed and tired of everything and he’s all but answering his post-game questions on automatic mode.

And then Scott Burnside, with his long ass questions  and his weird inability to ever look at anyone in the eye, asks him something that can only add fuel to the fire.

“Tyler, you're, uhm, having what is, well, arguably the best season of your career. Your performance has really been out of the charts lately. And well, it’s no secret you’re up for a contract extension this off season. Has that been on your mind at all?”

“It’s not really what I’ve been focusing on, no,” Tyler answers. It’s a stupid question and it implies that the only reason he’s been trying his best is to get paid more.

“So, uhm, you really haven’t given it any thought at all? The contract extension, I mean,” Scott adds, giving Tyler a short glance before looking away again, “A lot of the public can’t help but wonder whether you’ll stay or-”

“Nothing is for certain,” Tyler cuts him off. “I want play where I feel wanted. Valued. That may be in Dallas or it may not. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Maybe it’s not the answer he should have given, but it’s the truth, and he’s too tired to care about any possible consequences.

 


 

 

It blows up in his face the next day, because of course it does. 

Jamie is in a mood during practice. Not his usual quiet, brooding, withdrawn mood. But an actually mean, angry mood. Tyler would avoid him if he could. The last thing he wants right now is a repeat of what happened after the game against the Lightning.

But he can’t avoid Jamie at practice, especially when they’re on the same line. The circumstances force him to endure Jamie’s snide sarcastic comments every time he does something wrong. They’re mostly harmless so he stays quiet.

But then, during a scrimmage, Tyler fucks up a pass and sends it straight to Janmark, who was on the opposing team. Stuff like that isn't usually a big deal, except today Jamie decided it is.

“Are you gonna pull that crap tonight against the Jets?” Jamie asks him when they're on the bench.

“No,” Tyler answers dryly.

“You sure? ‘Cause it seems to me like you don’t actually want this team to win anymore.”

And that’s the drop that spills the glass.

“What do you want from me?” Tyler asks, raising his voice. He didn't mean to be, but he was loud enough that everyone turns their heads towards them in shock. Even Jamie looks a little surprised at Tyler.

“What’s going on here?” Hitch asks them as he walks in front of them.

“Nothing,” Jamie says quickly.

“You need to change the lines, coach. I can’t play on a line with him tonight.”

Tyler isn't usually one to mess with the lines but he knows if they go out there together with the current state of things, it won’t be pretty.

“That’s not for you to say,” Jamie protests.

“Benn’s right. It’s not,” Hitch tells Tyler, “But just this one time, I think you have a valid point. I’ll switch the lines. Benn, you’re with Shore and Ritchie now. Tell Janmark he’s on the first line tonight.”

Jamie skates away after throwing an odd glance at Tyler.

“Do you wanna tell me what that was about?” Hitch asks him.

“Not really,” Tyler replies sighing and Hitch shrugs and leaves.

“How about me? Would you want to tell me?” Radulov asks him with a nudge. He had been sitting there awkwardly through the entire exchange and haven't made any noise until now.

“Rads, I would but I’m not even sure what it was about,” Tyler says sighing again. He’s sighing so much lately he feels like he’s about to deflate.

“I think I might. Discuss it over lunch, yes?” Radulov proposes and Tyler nods in response.

After practice, they have lunch at a place Tyler’s never heard of before but Rads swears the food is great. Radulov is not a big feelings guy, and neither is Tyler, to be honest, (not out loud anyways). But they are friends and they are somewhat close, so Tyler feels comfortable telling him things.

“He’s just being a dick lately,” Tyler tells him after they order. “He’s been distant for a while now but the last few weeks he’s been a straight up asshole.”

“He was better before, yes?” Radulov asks, “Jordie said to me, before I come to Dallas, that you and Jamie were very close. That I shouldn’t… freak out about it.”

“We used to be close. I used to know him like the back of my hand,” Tyler says and rubs his face in frustration, “But his little outburst this morning? I don’t know what the hell that was.  I got no clue.”

“He’s just disappointed, Seggy,” Radulov replies, obviously trying to sound comforting.

“In me? But why? I’ve done-”

“Not in you. In how things are,” Rads explained, “He was very optimistic at the beginning of the season and it’s not looking very good right now. So he’s upset about that and then your comments yesterday probably made things worse.”

“What comments?” Tyler doesn’t recall talking to Jamie at all yesterday.

“What you said to Burnside. About not re-signing in Dallas? I think maybe Jamie took it as you, umm, how you say it… jumping ship?”

“That’s not what I meant at all. You know that, right?” The last thing Tyler needs is his teammates thinking he’s quitting on them.

“I know. Everybody knows that you would do anything for this team,” Radulov says, probably sensing Tyler’s worrying, “And I think Jamie knows it too.”

“Rads, I appreciate your intentions but it should be Jamie saying all these things, not you,” Tyler says and takes a long sip from his beer. “I’m done trying to get him to talk to me. I can’t force him to do it.”

“Maybe you can force him. Tie him up? I can help if you want,” Radulov suggests and Tyler chuckles because he doesn't know if Rads means it for real. “You guys are friends. You should try making things right.”

“That’s the thing, Rads. I don’t think me and Jamie are friends anymore,” Tyler sighs yet again, “Hell, maybe we never were. Maybe he was just being polite all along and I was too dumb not to realize it. Just saw what I wanted to see or something.”

“Hmm. Maybe.” Radulov says, looking at him with either confusion or pity, he can’t tell for sure but it’s probably the latter. Tyler basically begs him to change the subject after that.

 


 

Tyler’s about to take his pregame nap, or about to try to anyways, when he hears someone knock on his door. He opens to find Jamie standing outside, already wearing his game day suit.

“Can we talk?” Jamie says. He looks nervous and unconfident but then he changes his expression to a sterner one. “We need to talk,” he corrects himself and walks inside without Tyler telling him to.

“What’s there to talk about?” Tyler asks, unamused. He hasn’t been sleeping so great lately and he really needs his nap.

“What happened at practice…” Jamie starts, “we can’t let things like that. Cause it’ll show on-”

“It won’t show on the ice. We’re not on the same line tonight, remember?” Tyler cuts him off. Whatever this interaction is about, Tyler would like to keep it as short as possible.

“We’re still on the same team, Tyler. Still and for another year at least,” Jamie says and sighs loudly, runs a hand through the atrocity he calls a beard. “Look, I’m apologizing for what I did. We gotta compromise here. You don’t have to apologize if you don't want to, but-”

“Wait, why the fuck would I want to apologize?” Tyler interrupts Jamie again. He’s gone from annoyed to rightfully angry.

“I said you don't have to,” Jamie says frowning in confusion.

“Yeah, I got that but what would I even apologize for?” Tyler isn’t someone who gets angry easily but right now he’s starting to raise his voice.

“Calm down, just let me explain,” Jamie says, “It’s just...what you said about your contract extension the other day, it bothered me.”

“That’s not really my problem,” Tyler replies because really, he didn't say anything offensive. If Jamie wants to take it as such, that’s his own issue.

“I understand why you said it. The part about not feeling valued, I get it. You’re having such a great season and we might miss the playoffs so I do understand why you’d want to leave. I really do,” Jamie says, without looking at Tyler at all. “I know it’s not worth much, but I promise things will get better. We’ll start winning again and-”

“You think the reason I want to leave is ‘cause we’re not winning?” Tyler asks squinting his eyes in confusion.

“It’s not?” Jamie raises his eyes from the floor, “Cause wanting to play for winning team is perfectly understandable and I-”

“All I want is a linemate who can actually stand me. That’s all.”

“What?” Jamie yelps, “Why would you think that I-”

“Because you told me so.  After the Tampa Game,” Tyler explains but Jamie doesn’t look any less confused. “‘You’re literally the last person I want to be around’. That’s what you told me. Doesn’t ring a bell?”

“Jesus, Tyler. I didn't mean-”

“Don’t bother telling me you didn't mean it.” Tyler waves a hand in Jamie’s face to shush him, “You also asked me if I could take hint and I can. I’ve taken enough of your hints to know that you meant it. You and I haven’t had an actual conversation in months and it’s been like two years since the last time we hung out. It’s pretty clear you don’t want me around so... really, don’t bother.”

Jamie goes on a facial journey after hearing that. “Tyler, I’m sorry, I just-”

“Don’t be. You don’t have anything to be sorry for. This sort of thing happens all the time. I’m used to it by now. I know how I can be,” Tyler explains but Jamie doesn’t look any less confused and it looks like he still wants to talk. “Look, I mean it. You don’t need to apologize.”

“But things aren’t okay between us and they should be and I should-”

“Just because you don’t need to apologize doesn’t mean you can ask me not be to hurt. You can’t expect things to be all fine and dandy,” Tyler says, raising his voice again. “All we gotta do is hold on for what’s left of this season and only some of the next.” 

From what Tyler’s been reading, the Stars might trade him if he asks for too much money or if they just feel like they can’t afford him.

“Just hold on?” Jamie repeats, dumbfounded.

“Yeah, we just gotta ride this out and then you won’t have to deal with me any longer.”

“Tyler, can’t you- I’m just- I don’t get- You’re not-” Jamie says stuttering, and clearly with no idea of what to say. His eyes haven’t left the floor for most of the conversation.

“Can’t you just leave? It’s done. There’s really nothing left to discuss,” Tyler looks at his watch. Great, his pregame nap is gonna have to be cut in half.

“How can you say that? “Jamie asks, finally finding his words. “How can you just be okay with not fixing things?”

“I’m just not sure they can be fixed anymore,” Tyler admits. The minute he says it, he realizes how final it sounds. As if they were somehow breaking up without even starting a relationship. Pretty unfair that he somehow got the heartbreak without getting any of the good parts of being in love. 

“And you don’t think it’s even worth a try?” Jamie pleads, his gaze looking soft and yet nowhere close Tyler.

Tyler knows that it doesn't matter what he does, he can’t make Jamie like him. As a friend or anything else. He’s always known that. Pretending like he doesn’t is only going to cause him more pain.

“No,” he answers and opens the door to his hotel room, signaling Jamie to leave.

Jamie stands there for a few seconds and the walks out without saying a word or glancing at Tyler at all.

 


 

The Winnipeg game doesn’t go too great. But anyone could have predicted that, since the Jets always seem to have the Stars’ number. Although to be fair, every team in the league seems to have their number these days.

Tyler does the whole “Rock, Paper, Scissors” thing with Mark Scheifele before the game and makes plans for dinner with him afterwards. He likes Mark. They don’t know each other that well, apart from a few commercial shoots and some other random events here and there, but they have hung out a couple times. Tyler believes they'd be much closer friends if he saw Mark more often. Maybe they’d be more than friends, if Mark turned out not to be straight. He’s not as big as the guys Tyler usually goes for but he’s still reasonably attractive; so if he was offering, Tyler wouldn’t refuse him. He starts picturing how it would be like to be with Mark and then mentally slaps himself because he really shouldn’t be fantasizing about that while they’re in the middle of a game.

Tyler also tries not to think about it while he’s having dinner with Mark. They’re at a somewhat fancy bar & grill place, chill enough for him to drink but classy enough that he can’t get actually drunk. Mark is currently talking about something regarding either his neighbor or his sister, Tyler isn't really playing attention. There’s a question that’s been bugging him the whole night so he goes ahead and ask it.

“What’s your cap space situation?” he interrupts Mark, “I mean, your team- the Jets’ cap space situation.”

“Um,” Mark’s blue eyes widen in surprise, “I wouldn’t really know. It’s not really something I keep up with. That’s what my agent is for.”

“Oh. Do you think maybe you could ask him and tell me?” Tyler says, hoping he doesn’t sound too stupid or too desperate.

“Why would you even want to know? Are you on a spy mission or something?” Mark says smiling. He’s got a nice smile, Tyler thinks.

“I’m a free agent next year,” Tyler explains, “and I gotta start thinking about my options and all that so...”

“So you’re pulling a Kevin Durant? ‘If you can’t beat them, join them’?” Mark jokes, doing air quotes. Tyler doesn’t laugh. “Oh, wait. You’re being serious? You’re actually thinking about leaving Dallas?”

“It just hasn’t being too great lately so I’m just... re-considering some things,” Tyler tells him running a hand through his hair.

“Look, I know you guys are struggling right now but you got a lot of great players and I’m sure next year will be much better,” Mark says, the joking tone long-gone from his voice. “I mean, we didn't make the playoffs last year either. Or the year before that. And now we’re cup contenders, so you just gotta be patient, man.”

“I can be patient. I have been and I could be for many more years,” Tyler replies and he means it. He could wait decades if only he knew he was actually wanted there. “It’s not really about the team’s performance. I just… have issues. With a teammate.”

“Oh shit, did you sleep with someone’s wife again?” Mark asks, half serious, half chirping him.

Tyler rolls his eyes and chuckles. “I wish it were that simple. Don’t ask me to explain it, it’s kinda complicated. Just answer me something. Do you think it’d be a good fit for me? Winnipeg, I mean.”

“Personally, I think it’d be amazing if you were here. I think we’d be pretty much unstoppable,” Mark answers.

Tyler feels his cheeks blush but he thinks there's a ‘but’ in there. He tells Mark as much.

“But,” Mark sighs, “If I’m being truly honest and just overall unselfish, I’d say you’d hate it here.”

“I wouldn’t. Winnipeg isn’t as bad as they say, really. I think I could get used to it.”

“I didn’t mean because of the city,” Mark rolls his eyes, “I meant that I think you’d miss Jamie Benn too much.”

Tyler feels like he just got hit hard in the chest. “I wouldn’t,” he says but his voice quivers a little and it just doesn't sound like he means it at all.

“Come on, Segs. You don’t fool me. You don’t fool anyone, really,” Mark chuckles, “I play against you guys 5 times a year. I see the way you two look at each other. There’s clearly a lot there and-”

“There’s nothing there,” Tyler says with finality, trying to force his face into a neutral expression.

“Oh.” Mark whispers in realization. “Well, I think whatever happened between you two- you don’t have to tell me if you don't want to- but I think you should try fixing it.”

“It’s not worth it,” he says. I’m not worth it, he says inwardly. “Let’s change the subject. What were you telling me about your neighbor?”

“It was about my sister but alright…”

 


 

 

It’s during warmups before the game against the Capitals that Tyler gets an idea. He’s looking at Backstrom and Ovechkin, who are talking to some younger player he doesn’t know, and they just look so...content. He skates over to Tom Wilson, who’s the only guy he sorta knows on that team.

“Hey,” Tyler greets him.

“Uh... hey?” Tom replies, raising one eyebrow at Tyler, clearly surprised to be approached.

“I know we don’t really know each other that well,” Tyler starts, “but I was just wondering, how’s your cap space situation?”

Wilson literally laughs in his face. “Do I look like the GM to you, Seguin?” He chirps, “How the fuck would I know what the cap space is like? Why do you want to know anyway?”

“I’m just looking at my options. That’s all,” Tyler tells him. He’s not gonna give the whole explanation to Tom Wilson, who’s clearly got the emotional range of a teaspoon. He would obviously give Tyler a ton of shit for his issues.

“I thought you and Benn were like two peas in a pod, all palsy-walsy and whatnot,” Wilson says and Tyler sighs in what feels like the millionth time this month. At that, Wilson’s expression changes into a much more serious one. “Listen to me, Seguin. I don’t know shit about cap space. All I know is that at one point, there wasn’t enough of it to re-sign Latts and now... he’s gone and I just miss him every single day. I miss him a lot, okay?”

Maybe Tyler misjudged Tom Wilson. His eyes almost seem glassy. “I’m sorry, I didn’t-”

“Don’t be sorry. Just don’t be fucking ungrateful. If Dallas can afford you then stay there,” Wilson says pointedly and throws a glance at Jamie, “Don’t do that to him.”

“He doesn’t-” Tyler begins to say but Wilson skates away before he can elaborate further.

 


 

The road trip from hell ends at last and Tyler finally gets to be home with his dogs. Cash and Marshall act like they don’t give a damn that he’s back but Gerry literally pees in excitement the minute Tyler walks in. All Tyler wants to do is crawl into bed with all three of them and sleep until the season is done.

Their next game is against the Bruins and Tyler’s not as affected by it as he would have been in the past. Sure, he still has his issues from the trade but they’re sort of overshadowed by more recent ones. Besides, most of the people involved in the trade aren’t even in the Bruins organization anymore. They got a different GM and a different coach, plus many different players that Tyler never even got to meet. Basically, there aren’t as many hard feelings as they once were. So when he’s out for lunch with Brad Marchand a few hours before the game, he asks his question.

“Marchy, how’s the Bruins cap space situation?”

Marchand chokes on his drink and nearly spits it out. “Why would you need to know that?”

“My contract ends next year so I’ve been thinking about where I’d wanna go,” Tyler says, “Winnipeg is currently my top choice but maybe the familiarity of Boston would be nice.”

“And why not stick with the familiarity of Dallas? Why would you want to leave?” Marchy asks. He frowns in realization, “Something happened with Benn, didn’t it?  Did you finally tell him how you feel and-”

“I didn't tell him anything but he might have figured it out on his own.” One of Tyler’s theories to explain why Jamie got so distant is that he realized how Tyler felt about him and freaked out about it.

“So he figured it out and then went all Fred Phelps on you?” Marchy says, still frowning and clenching his fists.

“He didn’t really say anything about that,” Tyler tells him. “Who’s Fred Phelps?”

“The founder of the Westboro Baptist Church. He’s like Voldemort for the LGBT community. Come on, dude, you should know these things,” Marchand gives a light punch in the shoulder.

Tyler just shrugs in response. He’s in the closet and will probably be for the rest of his life. He doesn’t feel like he’s part of any sort of community at all. Plus, he’s never been one to keep up with current events. So yeah, there’s about a million things he should know but doesn’t.

“So if it wasn't about your undying love for him, what are you guys fighting about?” Marchy asks, scratching his chin pensively

“We’re not really fighting,” Tyler explains, “He just got tired of me. It was literally bound to happen. I overwhelmed him, I guess. It’s what I do.”

“What in the world are you talking about, Seggy?”

“Don’t act like you don’t know what I mean. It happened with you too, after all. If I hadn’t gotten traded, we probably wouldn’t be friends by this point.”

“Dude, what? I’m a pretty smart guy and you’re making me feel really dumb right now, Segs ‘cause I got zero fucking clue what you’re even saying,” Marchy insisted.

“Look, I’m just-” Tyler trails off. He doesn’t know how to explain things without sounding pathetic. “I’m too much for most people. Too loud, too clingy, too overbearing. It’s just a lot to handle, alright? So pretty much everyone I know gets tired of it eventually.”

“That’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard,” Marchand scoffs.

“It’s the truth and you know it. I’m not saying I’m like bad or unlovable or anything that extreme,” Tyler continues, “It’s like... chocolate... or pizza. It’s pretty good but if you have a lot of it too often you start to hate it. I’m like that. And Jamie... well, he basically had to eat pizza every day for three whole years. And after that, he obviously can’t stand the taste anymore.”

“Funny, I wouldn’t have guessed that from looking at how fat he is,” Marchand chuckles meanly.

“He’s not fat, you jackass,” Tyler argues. He’s on bad terms with Jamie and he still can’t help to defend him. “He eats perfectly healthy, I’m sure. I was just speaking in metaphor.”

“Well, don’t quit your day job, Segs cause you suck ass at metaphors,” Marchy says sarcastically.

Tyler rolls his eyes and hisses in annoyance. Can’t Brad Marchand take something seriously for once in his life? “Forget I said anything,” he tells him and forcefully stabs his food with a fork.

“No, I’m not forgetting it. Look at me, Tyler,” Marchy says, finally speaking in a much more serious tone. He never calls him Tyler unless they are dealing with a serious matter. “Listen very carefully to what I’m going to say. I’m only gonna say this once because god knows you’re one conceited motherfucker and this whole ‘Everyone gets tired of me and nobody loves me’ thing is just a phase.”

“It’s not but go off, I guess,” Tyler replies, unsure of what his friend is trying to get at.

“I will go off, thank you very much,” Marchand says and takes a deep breath. “You are loyal and caring and fun. You can literally make anyone smile. You’ve got more empathy in your pinky finger than a lot of people have in their entire bodies. Overall, you’re a great friend. One of the best I’ve ever had. And no one, no one in their right mind, would ever get sick of you, you hear me?”

“But it’s happened before and-” Tyler interjects but Marchand cuts him off.

“Tyler, people grow apart. It can happen to anyone. It’s not necessarily your fault. It just happens. People change and not all friendships are meant forever, alright?” Marchy takes a sip from his drink before continuing, “Whatever’s going on with Benn… it’ll sort itself out. He’ll come around.”

“What if he doesn't?” Tyler asks, because right now it’s looking like a very real possibility.

“If he doesn’t, he’s even dumber than I thought,” Marchy answers, “If he can’t value you as a friend, or even respect you as a teammate… then it says a lot more about him than it does about you. So stop shitting on yourself already, okay?”

Tyler nods in response. He wants to react more because Marchy just told him very nice things. But he doesn’t want to make scene in public so he doesn’t cry, doesn’t hug Marchy as tight as he wants too. He just smiles, says a quiet “Thank you”, and hopes Marchand truly understands how much his words meant to him.

 


 

Off the ice, Tyler loves Brad Marchand, he really does. But on the ice, there’s a lot of things Marchand does that Tyler just can’t wrap his head around. Whether it’s purposely injuring other players or saying the most of cruelest of insults or picking fights with guys who are almost twice his size. Guys like Jamie Benn.

Marchy spends most of the game yapping at Jamie but Tyler is not close enough to hear any of it. Until the third period when Jamie is headed to the bench for a line change and runs straight into Marchand. Tyler was also headed to the bench so he gets to listen a part of Marchy’s mean spirited sentence.

“...you losers suck so much Seggy’s literally begging us to take him back,” Marchand sneers, “Literally asked me what our cap space was.”

Jamie doesn’t speak, doesn’t make a sound. He just skates closer to into Marchand’s space and stares at him with murder in his eyes. Tyler pleadingly looks at Rous, who’s the closest one to the scene, and by some miracle of God, Rous understands exactly what Tyler is asking. He grabs and pulls at Jamie’s jersey and says something in his ear. Jamie’s an incredibly stubborn guy but when Antoine Roussel of all people says the trouble isn’t worth it… he was obviously going to listen. Jamie finally walks into the bench and Tyler sighs in relief, thinking, Crisis averted.

He takes his spot next to Jamie on the bench and doesn’t think he’s going to say anything. But he does.

“Is it true?” Jamie asks, his voice barely above a whisper.

“Is what true?” Tyler asks in return, but he already knows what Jamie means.

“What Marchand said, about you and the cap space, did you really…” Jamie doesn’t finish his sentence. He just lets the question hang in the air, doesn’t even turn to look at Tyler.

“Yeah,” Tyler answers because there’s no use in lying about it.

Jamie nods, as if he’s agreeing, except Tyler doesn’t know what he’s even agreeing with.

 


 

 

A day later, he realizes what Jamie’s nod meant.

“I got something for you,” Jamie tells him in the AAC’s parking lot after practice.

It can’t be anything good, Tyler thinks. Nothing about Jamie’s face indicates it’s good. There are dark circles under his eyes, which don’t look nearly as soft and kind as they once did, and his beard looks way more out of control than ever before.

“Here,” Jamie says and hands him a folder, “I did some research for you. It’s about the teams you could go to next year, the ones that would be the best fit. I took more into consideration than just cap space. For example, I didn’t include the Coyotes because their management is pretty bad. Same with the Oilers, last thing you probably want is having to deal with Chiarelli as GM.”

Tyler opens the folder and goes through the pages. There are charts, maps, graphs, and even some fucking Venn Diagrams. It’s clearly a very comprehensive research . “This is…” Tyler says under his breath, “...a lot.”

“I included the Habs but I don’t think you’d wanna go there. Jordie says the media is toxic and you might not enjoy playing under Claude Julien again, so… maybe ignore that section if you want,” Jamie says and Tyler is currently baffled by what’s happening, specifically the fact that Jamie is talking so much. “If you ask me, the best fits are probably Carolina, Florida, Vegas and Colorado. The Canes haven’t been to playoffs in ages but they probably would if you were there. Florida and Vegas, they both got potential as teams and I think you’d enjoy living there. The Avs… well, they’re in the same division as Dallas so maybe that’s not ideal. But Tyson says they got a great team atmosphere; he’s always going on and on about how much of great captain Landeskog is.”

“Is this the part where I’m supposed to tell you that you’re a great captain too?” Tyler sneers. He wants to tear Jamie’s stupid research to shreds.

Jamie just blinks and continues as if Tyler hadn’t said anything. “The Bruins aren’t on the list. They got too many big contracts and very little cap space. The only way you could go back to them is if you played for free. Washington is in the same boat. They’ve been struggling with that for a few years now. It’s fairly well known so I got no clue why you thought asking Tom Wilson was a good idea.”

Tyler doesn’t even want to ask how Jamie knows about his brief conversation with Wilson. “What am I supposed to with this?” Tyler asks instead.

“Read it. Give it to your agent. I don’t know,” Jamie answers, “Do whatever you want, just stop asking opposing players about their cap space. It gives a bad image of our team. Which, at least for the time being, is still your team. Just think about what you say to people. For once in your life. Please.”

“Fuck you,” Tyler says, unable to keep his voice from breaking. He all but runs to his car and drives home almost furiously.

His eyes hurt but he won’t cry. He won’t.

He sits on his couch and tries reading the document, tries to take comfort in the fact that Winnipeg is on the list. But no matter how Tyler tries to spins this, Jamie’s stupid research can only mean one thing: Jamie actually, truly and unapologetically wants Tyler to leave.

Tyler tries not to but he spills tears all over the pages, smearing the ink.

 


 

When it rains, it pours.

The Stars lose against the Canucks. Their eighth loss in a row.

The whole team feels like shit, not just Tyler. The thing is, they’ve all got someone to go home to. Someone who will understand, rub their backs and tell them it’s all going to be okay. Tyler goes home to nothing but three dogs.

 


 

It’s Monday night and Tyler’s cooking dinner. He would usually put on a playlist while he’s doing it, to feel less alone. But right now he’s not in the mood to listen to any sort of music and his house feels painfully quiet. It’s so quiet that when his doorbell rings, it seems louder than usual.

Tyler’ looks through the peephole and he’s not expecting to see Jamie standing on the other side of the door but there he is, looking sheepish and anxious. He opens the door but stands firmly in the way, so Jamie can’t walk in.

“Hi,” Jamie says, “Can I come in? I need to talk to you.”

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” Tyler mutters. Every conversation he’s had with Jamie in the past few weeks has been nothing but painful. He’s tired of feeling like this.

“Please, Tyler. I swear I’ll never ask anything of you ever again,” Jamie begs, “There’s things I need to say to you and I got to say them so please just-”

“Fine,” Tyler interrupts him, annoyed by his babbling. Maybe this will really be the last time they have to do this. Jamie will say whatever shit is on his mind and they’ll finally be done. “Come on. You can talk while I finish making dinner.”

Jamie nods almost enthusiastically and follows him into the kitchen. Cash barks at Jamie in excitement and jumps around him, licks his cheek when Jamie kneels down to pet him. Out of the three dogs, Cash has always been the one who seems to adore Jamie.

Stupid dog’, Tyler wants to tell Cash, ‘He doesn’t like you as much as you like him.

“I’m not making you food but do you want a drink? Beer or something?” Tyler asks. He’s painfully bothered by Jamie’s presence in his house but he’s still a somewhat gracious host.

“Beer is fine, if you somehow have anything other than Bud Light,” Jamie answers, the hint of a small smile in lips. He always gave Tyler shit for liking cheap beer.

Tyler reaches into the back of his fridge and places a bottle in front of Jamie. It’s from that weird artisanal brand that tastes like shit but that Jamie really likes.

“You finally came to your senses and started liking craft beer?” Jamie says, fully smiling this time.

“No, I still think it’s garbage,” Tyler replies, trying to focus better on cooking his chicken. He knows he’ll burn it if he doesn't. “The taste is way too strong for me.”

“Then why would you buy beer you hate?” Jamie wonders, looking a little confused but still smiling softly.

“Because it’s the beer you like. I always made a point of having some around in case you ever came over,” Tyler explains. The second he’s done saying it he regrets it.

Jamie drops his smile and stares at the bottle in hand. He just sits there and stares at the beer in silence.

“It’s just beer,” Tyler scoffs. There’s not need to make a big deal about it. Jamie can take the rest of the beers home and Tyler won’t buy it anymore. Problem solved.

“It’s not just beer...” Jamie murmurs and keeps staring at the damn bottle as if it somehow holds the secrets of the universe.

“Look, you said you wanted to talk. If you’re not going to say anything, then please get out of my house, okay?” Tyler says, trying to sound commanding.

Jamie doesn't move an inch, keeps his gaze on the bottle. “You bought beer you hate… In case I ever came over…” Jamie says, almost in a whisper, “And I stopped coming over.”

Tyler was already aware of that and he really doesn’t appreciate the reminder. “Can you please just say whatever it is you wanted to say and leave me alone? Please?”

“Sorry, I just um… I just realized how much I truly fucked up,” Jamie clears his throat and looks away from the beer at last. He looks into Tyler’s eyes instead, for the first time in weeks. “I really miss Jordie, you know?”

“What does Jordie have to do with anything?” Tyler asks.

“A lot, actually. It might be hard to believe, but a lot of my common sense came from him. Since he got traded, I don’t talk to him as much as I used to. I don’t tell him everything that happens and since he’s not here to witness it, he can’t be the voice of reason any longer,” Jamie says. Tyler’s still confused as to how Jordie’s related in their mess. “I hadn’t told him about our whole…. argument. Because I didn’t want to talk about it. I felt like when I discussed it, it would become more real.”

“That’s stupid,” Tyler tells him as he finishes cooking his chicken. “It’s already real. I talked about it with a whole lot of people.”

“Yeah, I know. But I’m not like you, alright? I don’t like talking about things,” Jamie admits. “I ended up telling Jordie last night. I told him I didn’t understand why you reacted so badly to the research I made for you. He told me I was a stupid asshole.”

Tyler lets out an ironic chuckle. “He’s not wrong.”

“No, he really isn't,” Jamie also chuckles, kind of sadly, “I was too much of an idiot to realize that you’d probably see it as me telling you I wanted you gone.”

“Well isn’t that what you wanted?” Tyler scoffs, “Cause it’s pretty obvious to me that it is. You straight up told me I’m the last person you-”

“That didn’t mean what you think it did,” Jamie cuts him off, and reached into his jacket to take out some cards. “I can explain it. And I need to. But can you please just stand there and listen? I wanted to explain it in Winnipeg, but I kept losing track of what I wanted to say.”

“Did you seriously make actual fucking flashcards for this?” Tyler says, holding back a gasp.

“Jordie suggested it. You know I’m not good at talking.”

“You used to be good at talking to me,” Tyler murmurs. “I don’t know what happened. I tried so hard not to fuck things up with you and I did anyways.” He’s saying too much and it’s embarrassing.

“You didn’t fuck anything up, Ty,” Jamie says, his voice softer than Tyler has heard it in months. “I’m gonna start explaining now, so please try not to interrupt so much. Otherwise it’ll take all night for me to finish.” Tyler nods and Jamie takes a deep breath before looking down at his first card, “When you first got here, after the trade, I took one look at you and I knew you were miserable so-”

“I was not miserable!” Tyler yells in disagreement, ignoring that he wasn’t supposed to interrupt.

“Alright, fine,” Jamie concedes, “Maybe you weren’t miserable. But you weren’t happy either. You would smile and it never reached your eyes. I could tell you were upset and trying to hide it.”

Tyler would like to say that yes, he was upset. But only for the first few weeks maybe. It didn’t take long for him to feel at home. It didn’t take long for Jamie to grow on him either. Tyler’s stupid feelings crept up on him almost immediately. Before the first October had even ended, Tyler had already fallen for Jamie. He doesn’t say anything, though. Because if he keeps interrupting, Jamie will take longer to finish and leave.

“I really hated seeing you like that. I didn’t know you very well yet, but I still didn’t want you to be miserable,” Jamie continues, “I really wanted you to be happy. I wanted you to feel like the Stars were the best fit for you. So I made a promise to myself. To you also, but I obviously didn't tell you about it. I promised that I would try my hardest to make you feel like this team was worthy of you, of your talent. I wanted us to be good enough so that you would never long to be somewhere else. Not Boston or Toronto or any other team. Just here.  I wanted to truly prove people wrong, like you had said. I wanted us to win a cup together; make memories that we could look back on and cherish when we were both old and retired.”

“And you don’t want all that anymore?” Tyler says, almost whimpering. His throat feels tight and his eyes blurry but he rubs his face and forces himself not to cry. He can’t cry in front of Jamie. His pride won’t bear it.

“Of course I do, Tyler. The fact that you would even doubt that I do shows how much I truly fucked this up,” Jamie answers and he’s clearly also trying to stay composed. “The promise I made… I keep being unable to fulfill it. I’ve tried so hard all these years and it hasn’t been enough. It’s so far from being enough that the fans and the media wonder if I’m even trying at all. They all talk about how I’m not leading, not playing like I should be, and I can’t prove them wrong because I know they’re probably right.” Jamie pauses and blinks hard a couple times. “I keep letting you down. Two years ago, that felt like it was our season. All I had to do was hold on for one game and I couldn’t even hold on for one fucking period of it. After that, I just couldn’t look at you knowing that I failed you. And then last season, we just kept fucking losing. We played like garbage from start to finish. The Bruins made the playoffs and we didn’t and I just didn't want to face you after that. I didn’t want to see how you wished you were still with them. And now this year, they're the best team in their conference while we’ve lost eight games in a row. That promise I made five years ago feels like nothing more than an impossible dream at this point.”

Tyler’s emotions are all over the place. He wants to hug Jamie but he also wants to smack him for being so wrong, “Jamie, I really don’t care about Boston. I swear I just-”

“You don’t have to explain it. That doesn't matter anymore. I just want you to understand,” Jamie says. He looks and sounds worse than if he was giving an interview after a loss. “I drifted away because I thought I was doing both of us a favor. Not because of something you did or because I got tired of you or anything like that, okay? What I said after the game against the Lighting… that you were the last person I wanted to be around, I only meant it for that night specifically, not in general. You scored two goals and we still lost. I just couldn’t bear to be around you knowing that your efforts went to waste because of me. Jordie says it’s stupid for me to feel like that and he’s probably right. I’m stupid. I took my frustration out on you and it’s fucked up because you were literally the last person I should have done that to. I somehow managed to make you think you weren’t good enough, when I’m the one who wasn’t.”

“So you’re not sick of me?” Tyler asks and he’s surprised about how young his own voice sounds. “You don’t want me to leave?”

Jamie lets out a deep sigh and runs a hand through his face. He smiles and says, “Tyler, I could never in a million years get tired of you. Never. You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to this team.” Jamie steps closer and gazes deep into Tyler’s eyes. It takes a moment for Tyler to realize that Jamie’s finally giving him The Look™️ again. “You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I don’t want you to leave. I really don’t. But if that’s what you want, I respect it. I can’t force you to stay. That’s not what I’m asking here. Don’t get me wrong, okay? I would hate losing you as a teammate but I could probably live with it. The truth is, I just don’t think I could live with losing you as a friend.”

Tyler tries to process all of what Jamie just said. It’s all too much but he stuck on one particular sentence. “You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” He wants to remember it word for word and every detail of the moment Jamie said it. He wants to kiss Jamie, more than anything.

But they’re just barely returning to good terms so what he does instead is crash into Jamie’s chest, hugging tighter than he’s ever done before. Jamie’s arms come around him instantly, holding him as close as it’s physically possible. He feels drops of something running down his neck and he illogically thinks they're his own tears before realizing they’re Jamie’s.

“I am so sorry, Tyler,” Jamie cries into his neck, “Please forgive me. I can’t bear- If you don’t I-”

“It’s okay. We’re okay,” Tyler says. He’s crying too at this point. He’s done pretending that he’s not allowed to.

“I promise- no, I swear I’ll stop pushing you away. I’m going to be better,” Jamie tells him, removing his face from Tyler’s neck to press their foreheads together.

Tyler doesn’t say anything. He just nods lightly and holds on to Jamie.

The hug (Tyler might start referring to it as The Hug™️) lasts for almost an entire hour. It doesn’t feel like it, though. They probably would have stood there wrapped around each other until their legs gave out. The only reason they break apart is because Tyler’s stomach rumbles loudly and he remembers that he never actually ate his dinner. Jamie grabs the long forgotten plate and microwaves it for Tyler.

“Are you hungry too?” Tyler asks Jamie, “Maybe I could cook something quick for you.”

“I haven’t been eating too well these days. I’m actually kind of starving,” Jamie says rubbing his belly, “I don’t trust your cooking very much, though.”

“I’ve gotten way better at it,” Tyler says, feigning offense. The microwave beeps and Tyler takes out his plate, “Try this chicken and you’ll see I’m basically a master chef.”

The chicken tastes like shit. Tyler fucked it up when he was cooking it so that the exterior is crispy and nearly burned while the inside is practically raw. Plus, Tyler forgot to add the spices so it’s a tragedy dish altogether.

They end up ordering a couple pizzas.

“We’re not watching your boring show,” Tyler tells him when they’ve settled to eat on the couch.

“Segs, it’s Game of Thrones. It’s the literally the greatest show of our generation,” Jamie says, rolling his eyes at him fondly.

“Well, I think it’s boring and stressful,” Tyler argues, “One Tree Hill is much more enjoyable.”

“But One Tree Hill doesn’t have any dragons.”

“Dragons have got nothing on Brooke Davis, Chubbs. Nothing!” Tyler says effusively.

Jamie throws his head back in loud laughter. He nearly spits out a bite of pizza and Tyler laughs at him. They sit there on Tyler’s couch, comfortable and giggling loudly, with the dogs looking up at them to see if one of them will be charitable enough to give them a slice of pizza. It’s a simple moment but Tyler finally feels happy and fulfilled for the first time in a long time.

 


 

Jamie shaves off his ugly beard and they snap the losing streak against the Flyers. Tyler doesn’t score his elusive 40th goal. But he does get two assists including one on Radulov’s game winning goal. That seems to be enough for Jamie to give him The Look™️ all throughout their post-game celebration. They play Stayin’ Alive in the locker room and everyone seems incredibly happy. Tyler sings along, off-key and as loudly as he can while throwing some purposefully bad dance moves. Jamie doesn’t sing or dance with him, but he does laugh and claps at him to egg him on.

“I’m so glad you guys made up,” Devin tells them. “I literally felt like I was going through my parents’ divorce all over again.”

“Don’t worry, Shoresy,” Jamie says smiling bright. He puts an arm and around Tyler, bringing him close. “Everything’s alright now.”

 


 

Things aren’t alright for very long. 

The Stars’ playoffs hopes take a huge hit when they lose to the Wild two days later. It’s frustrating, because the game actually starts fairly well for them, with Jamie scoring the first goal off a pass from Tyler.

But as has become normal, it ends up going to shit and they lose 5-2. To make matters worse, Tyler still doesn’t score his 40th goal. He’s starting to feel like maybe he’ll never get it. Looking at Jamie’s sad face does not help. Especially knowing what Jamie’s likely thinking and that he’ll probably shut out Tyler all over again. Tyler’s so frustrated with the overall situation that he smashes his stick against a goal post. Breaking sticks has always been more of Jamie’s thing rather than his. Once he does it, he doesn’t understand why Jamie loves doing it so much. It’s oddly liberating but he still feels very disheartened by the turn of events.

He’s in his hotel room, watching NHL Network and trying not to feel too sorry for himself, when his phone buzzes with a text from Jamie.

are you in your room?

yeah why? Tyler replies but minutes go by and Jamie doesn’t text back. “Typical,” Tyler thinks out loud. He really should have known Jamie would pull this crap again, should have known that what he swore didn’t mean crap, should have-

A knock on his door interrupts his pity party. He opens the door to find Jamie standing in the hallway.

“Hey,” he greets Tyler. He doesn’t look as sad anymore but there’s concern on his eyes. “I just wanted to check up on you. You seemed upset after the game.”

“I’m better now,” Tyler replies, and it’s not a lie. The fact that Jamie is actually talking to him even when they lost means a lot to him. “I’m watching NHL Network. You wanna hang around a while and watch with me?”

“Yeah, of course,” Jamie smiles at him, bright and real.

The sit on the bed, leaning against the headboard and pressed up together side by side. Jamie’s telling him stupid jokes about whatever shows up on screen. From Phil Kessel’s crazy hair to the weird laxatives commercial. It’s weird because it was usually Tyler who was in charge of doing most of the talking, including jokes. It’s obvious that Jamie’s trying to cheer him up and Tyler’s enjoying himself too much to let him know he cheered up since the moment Jamie showed up at his door.

Tyler’s laughing enough for it to start to hurt a little. He’s so out of breath Jamie asks him if he’s alright.

“I’m tired,” Tyler says.

“Hi, Tired. I’m Jamie,” Jamie replies and bursts out in giggles. Tyler throws a pillow at him because, Jesus Christ, that was the worst joke ever.

They both settle down eventually and start paying attention to what’s happening on TV. Jamie’s fingers are lightly touching Tyler’s thigh, tracing patterns on it. Tyler doesn’t think Jamie’s even doing it consciously but he won’t stop him. He’s enjoying every second of it, feeling so aware of it he can’t focus on anything but Jamie.

Then Jamie suddenly removes his hand and frowns. For a painful second, Tyler thinks he did something wrong to spoil Jamie’s mood but he realizes Jamie’s eyes are centered on the TV screen. Tyler turns to look, expecting to see show hosts talking about the Stars’ implosion or highlights of their game tonight. Instead, it’s Connor McDavid getting interviewed after an Oilers loss.

“Since when do you have beef with McDavid?” Tyler nudges Jamie with his elbow.

“I don’t. I just…” Jamie trails off, clearly losing track of his thoughts. “Please promise me you won’t make any rash decisions about your contract.”

“Huh?” Tyler gasps in confusion. “I thought we agreed that I would stay.”

“No, the only thing we agreed on was that you’d give me another chance and I’d stop being a stupid asshole to you,” Jamie says, speaking slowly as if Tyler didn't remember that conversation. 

“You said you didn’t want me to leave,” Tyler replies. Just when he thinks they're past this shit, it’s brought up again.

“And I meant it. I don’t want you to leave,” Jamie says and his hand returns to Tyler’s thigh. “I just don’t want you to waste the rest of your career. I mean, look at McDavid! He looks like he’s aged 10 years in a single season and he basically already signed his life away to them.”

“You make it sound like he’s in slavery. They’re paying him a shit ton of money, remember?”

“All that money can’t buy him the Stanley Cup,” Jamie says glumly, “Just do yourself a favor and don’t sign anything this summer. And don’t sign anything next summer either if we miss the playoffs again. Three years in a row is too pathetic. You deserve better than that.”

“Well, I want to stay and I don’t think it’s up to you to say what I do or don’t deserve,” Tyler assures him with a smile. He’s really not up to rehash this whole thing again.

Jamie’s frown doesn’t ease up. “You know we’re not gonna make the playoffs this year, right?”

“Yeah, we’re not and so fucking what? Nobody’s dying because of it,” Tyler says but Jamie’s frown somehow deepens. “It’s not that I don’t care about winning. I really do. I just…” He’s gotta choose next words carefully. He wants Jamie to understand but saying too much is a risk.

“I’d rather miss the playoffs ten seasons in a row with you than win ten Stanley cups without you, alright? So you better drop this whole ‘you deserve better’ bullshit. I’m exactly where I want to be.”

Jamie’s gaze immediately softens. His frown is gone from his face at last and replaced with a small smile instead. Tyler is about to mentally high five himself when Jamie’s eyes somehow soften even further. He’s giving him The Look for what feels like the hundredth time this week and Tyler can’t take it anymore. His self-control flies out the window and he leans in to press his lips against Jamie’s.

It only lasts a second before Tyler realizes what he just did.

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry. That wasn’t- I shouldn’t,” Tyler rambles moving away from Jamie who’s looking at him like a scared deer.

“Tyler, calm down. It’s alright,” Jamie tells him with nothing but kindness in his voice. He knew Jamie wouldn’t a dick about it. He’s not surprised by his niceness at all. But they're gonna have to have real awkward conversations and things will go to shit all over again.

“No no no, it’s so not alright,” Tyler stammers, running his hand through his face. “We literally just fixed things a few days ago and now I’m fucking them up again. I’m so sorry, I stopped thinking and I-”

“Hey, you didn’t do anything wrong,” Jamie says, cupping Tyler’s face with both of his hands.  The Look is back on his face again and Tyler doesn’t know what’s happening anymore. “You didn’t do anything wrong at all,” he repeats quietly and kisses Tyler.

It’s a soft kiss, slow and close-mouthed, and Tyler feels absolutely overwhelmed. He almost feels like it’s a dream, too good to be true, like Ashton Kutcher is about to burst into the room and tell him he just got punk’d.

Jamie breaks the kiss and slowly pulls away but presses their foreheads together. His thumb is gently caressing Tyler’s cheek and he’s looking at him with so much affection that he wonders how he could have ever thought the Look wasn’t real. He wonders if Jamie really gets it, if he knows just how much Tyler wants him, how much he loves him. He needs Jamie to know but he can’t find his voice right now so he'll have to show him.

He reaches to cup his hand around Jamie’s neck and pull him back in. This time the kiss is deeper. Tyler’s over his initial shock and now he knows what he wants and that Jamie wants it too. Jamie’s hands are running through Tyler’s hair, pulling at it so he won’t get away. As if Tyler would even think about getting away.

He swings his leg over Jamie to straddle his lap. He tries doing it without breaking the kiss but he’s not the most coordinated right now so he fails. Their lips are apart for only a short moment before Jamie pulls him in close with an arm around his back and covers his mouth again. Tyler clings back tightly, arms wrapped around the back of his neck, grabbing at the hair from his nape.  Jamie seems to be trying to keep the kisses slow, as if he wanted to make it last longer. Tyler’s having none of that. He’s wanted this for far too long to go slow. He’s done being patient.

Jamie seems to get the memo and gives him what he wants, kisses him hard and demanding, swallowing Tyler’s moans. They break away for a moment because unfortunately they’re both still human and they need air to breathe. Tyler takes the opportunity to peel off his shirt and a soft gasp escapes Jamie’s mouth, as if he hadn’t seen Tyler shirtless a million times before. He runs his calloused hands all over Tyler’s torso, like he can’t decide where he wants to put them. He trails kisses from Tyler’s ear and down to the juncture of his neck and shoulder, where he bites at the skin to leave what will probably be an obscene hickey. Jamie’s already hard cock is pressing onto the inside of his thigh and Tyler feels claimed.

He reaches behind Jamie’s shoulders to pull his shirt off too. He suddenly notices that Jamie’s wearing the NHL Pride t-shirt with the rainbow colored logo and he almost laughs at the irony. Once the shirt is out of the way, Tyler gets even and bites down at Jamie’s neck to mark him up. Jamie makes a sound low in the back of his throat that can’t be described as anything other than a grunt.

“Tyler,” Jamie whines but Tyler doesn’t look up from his neck, keeps kissing and biting at it. “Do you by any chance… have stuff?”

“Stuff? What kind of stuff?” Tyler murmurs into Jamie’s skin. He’s too dazed and turned on to realize it instantly but the gears in his mind start working again and oh… He lifts his head to grin at Jamie. “You mean stuff for fucking? Is that what you want?”

“I think it’s pretty obvious that I do,” Jamie says and rocks his hips up against Tyler’s, grinding their cocks together. “Do I have to spell it out for you?”

Tyler wants to say yes just to give Jamie crap but he’s not interested in wasting any more time. He plants a wet kiss on Jamie’s lips and hops off the bed to fetch his bathroom bag, where he’s bound to have lube and condoms.

“Don’t worry. I’m always prepared,” Tyler tells him with a seductive smirk.

Jamie bites his lower lip, his eyes looking lustful. “Good to know,” he says in a deep, husky voice.

 


 

“You’re so dumb,” Jamie whispers with fondness, pressing a kiss on Tyler’s forehead.

“Mmm, yeah I am,” Tyler mumbles against Jamie’s chest. Jamie’s tracing his fingers along Tyler’s back making him shiver. He’s fucked out and floating in a post-orgasm blissed haze. But then his senses slowly come back to him and he lifts his head to look at Jamie, “Wait, why am I dumb?”

“Uh, because of your little freak out after you kissed me?” Jamie says smiling at him, “You actually thought I wouldn’t kiss you back.”

“Well, in my defense, a week ago I was convinced you hated me,” Tyler argues. He should really get some credit here

“Yeah, but then I literally told you were the best thing that’s ever happened to me. What exactly did you think I meant by that?”

“I don’t know. I guess I thought you meant it like hockey wise or something,” Tyler says.

Jamie laughs and Tyler can feel his chest vibrate with it, from where he’s pressed up against him. “Like I said, you’re so dumb,” Jamie says, “But I love you anyway.”

Tyler’s heart feels like it’s gonna burst. He reaches up to kiss Jamie again. Softer than before, because he wants to convey a point, not trying to start anything. “I love you too… Even though you’re way dumber than me.” he tells him, making Jamie laugh again. “I’m serious. You’re dumb enough to think I’d actually want to play on any other team.”

“I just want you to be happy,” Jamie says. “You know that.”

“I am happy,” Tyler assures him, “And don’t even worry about next year. Now that we’re gonna be together, we’re going to play so much better. You’ll see.”

“I highly doubt us having sex has any impact on our on ice performance.”

“It totally does! It’s because of endorphins and hormones and all that,” Tyler explains, trying to sound like he knows what he’s talking about.

“Just go to sleep, dumb-dumb.” Jamie says and Tyler really hopes he comes up with a better pet name than that.

“I mean it, though. Tomorrow I’m calling my agent to tell him to start drafting my contract extension,” Tyler tells him with finality and presses down a finger into Jamie’s chest. “There’s literally nothing you can do about it.”

“Alright,” Jamie gives up, with a contented sigh and pulls Tyler closer before shutting his eyes.

Tyler sleeps better than he has in weeks.

 


 

They win their next game. Tyler finally scores his 40th goal and he gets to go home to three amazing dogs and the person he loves the most.