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Bringing in the Artillery

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The stupid Tigers, who are fucking last place, right off two straight losses to the fucking Blades, who didn’t even crack twenty wins last season, the fucking goddamn Medicine Hat bullshit Tigers —

“Fucking chill, Matheson,” Krz says, and he’s lucky Coach is like, right fucking there, or Jared would wring his scrawny neck. Goalies are supposed to keep shit out, Krz.

Well, maybe that isn’t the best thing to throw at him, considering he spent the entire game on the bench, and is therefore the sole Hitmen player who wasn’t at least somewhat responsible for that absolute clusterfuck of a game, but Jared stands by it. Like, he’s not going to say it out loud or anything, but. Stands by it.

“Fucking get a vowel in your name, Krz,” Jared mutters instead.

“Never heard that one before,” Krz says. “Creative.”

“Not as creative as your parents,” Jared says.

He takes a longer than usual shower, afraid he’s going to snap at someone more at fault than Krz — especially since everyone’s more at fault than Krz — comes back out to a text from Bryce.

brutal, Bryce has sent, along with a sad face emoji, which means he watched it, because the final score of 4-2 does not accurately reflect how fucking awful every single one of the Hitmen played, Jared included, and that’s just — that’s great. That’s wonderful. Jared’s parents watched it, and his boyfriend, and inevitably this would be like, the day one of the Calgary Flames scouts came by, he just bets, there to watch Jared’s complete and utter humiliation —

Like, the fucking Medicine Hat Tigers? That’s the kind of team they’re losing to?

Tristyn heads off for yet another video game session when they get back to the hotel, and Jared doesn’t fucking approve of them all apparently forgetting how shit they played barely an hour later, but at least that means he doesn’t have to deal with him. He does a bunch of homework before Tristyn gets back, because it’s got to get done, and at least he isn’t like, enjoying himself.

“What’s up with you?” Tristyn says when Jared refuses to applaud — even sarcastically — his stupid video game prowess.

What’s up with your shot block ending up in the back of our net? Jared thinks, but violently bullet points the primary causes of the fall of the Roman Empire instead.

*

Jared knows he shouldn’t be dwelling on it — for fuck’s sakes, he just patted himself on the back for not taking the Hurricanes loss hard, so turning around and seething about the Tigers, no matter how shitty they are, makes him look like a hypocrite.

But —

“The fucking Tigers, Chaz,” Jared says on the drive home. “We lost to the fucking Tigers.”

“Dwelling on yesterday won’t help us win the next game,” Chaz says, and hey, Jared does not fucking sound like that, all whiny and smug.

“Suck my dick,” Jared mutters.

“Thought that’s what you had BJ for,” Chaz says, and Jared snorts reluctantly.

*

It’s not like Jared wants to dwell on it, no one would want to keep thinking about a game like that, unless they were, like, on the winning side of it (fucking Tigers), it’s just really hard not to.

Him and his dad spend literal hours breaking down all the fuck ups when he gets home, because honestly, counting the fuck ups takes more time than the actual game did. Well, maybe it isn’t that long, because they’re doing it in front of the Flames game, and when the game’s on, their attention’s on it, but during every stoppage in play, commercial break, intermission, they get back to cataloguing.

“Can I mute you?” his mom mutters late in the second, and turns the TV up louder every time they get back to it, until it’s a choice of either shouting over a Tim Hortons ad or shutting up and sulking until she turns the volume back down to a normal level.

Jared goes with the second, just because it’s a tight game, the Flames down by one as they enter the third. Bryce ties it up with twelve minutes left, and his dad doesn’t cheer, exactly, but he grunts, like — approvingly? Is Jared imagining that?

He looks over at his mom, and she’s smirking a bit, so he doesn’t think he’s imagining it.

“Nice goal, eh?” Jared says.

His dad grunts again. It’s back to the normal, disapproving grunt.

Jared sighs so loudly his mom turns the TV up again.

*

Jared kind of figured the second he walked into Bryce’s condo everything would drop from his shoulders, the way it always has before, but it doesn’t. Like, he’s definitely distracted when they hit the sheets, and that lasts as long as he does. Well, a little past that, feeling loose, lazy with his head on Bryce’s chest and Bryce’s hand carding through his hair, but once he puts his clothes back on it’s like he puts all that damn baggage back on too, shrugs when Bryce asks what he wants to eat, what he wants to watch, incapable of focusing on whatever it is Bryce picks because he’s right back in that damn game.

“Did I do something wrong?” Bryce asks as Jared picks at the green curry Bryce ended up ordering for him, and Jared is so close to snapping that his world doesn’t revolve around Bryce, but Bryce sounds genuinely worried, and Jared’s aware that taking out a bad loss on your boyfriend is pretty fucking shitty.

“We lost to the fucking Tigers, Bryce,” Jared says. He’s getting kind of sick of saying it. Like, sick of the fact it’s true. Also sick of the fact that no one’s taking it as seriously as he is. He knows it’s just one game. He knows shitty teams have to win at some point, and that sometimes they win against better teams — well, inevitably they always win against better teams if they’re dead last. He knows that.

It’s not really the Tigers themselves — though it kind of is, fuck the Tigers — but dropping two games to teams they should have had — the Hurricanes may have Raf, but they’ve got basically zero depth on their back end this year. It’s the way that, just as when you’re in a win streak you don’t think about losing, when you start to lose it feels like you’re never going to win again, as ridiculous as that might be.

It’s the fact that Jared knows he’s constantly being evaluated, knows that every single night there could be someone in the crowd who likes what he does, or doesn’t, that a single great or fucking awful game could have an impact on who wants him, where he goes, on the rest of his career, the rest of his life, and it’s fucking terrifying.

Some of that comes out, but not like, coherently, and Bryce frowns and interrupts him when he starts mumbling about not getting tapped.

“You’re obviously getting drafted,” Bryce says.

“I know,” Jared says, and intellectually he does. You don’t drop a hundred spots in a year from a draft forecast even if you spend the whole thing on IR — man, Jared’s not even superstitious and he wants to knock on wood just thinking about that.

And even if he somehow did — which, again, doesn’t happen — he’d still be eligible next year, the year after that, and there are undrafted players in the NHL, some really good ones. He knows all of that.

And getting drafted isn’t a guarantee anyway, he knows that too. There are dudes who were drafted in the first round that never played a single NHL game in their life, either because of injury or failure to transition or whatever. The draft’s just the first step, Jared could be drafted and still never play a game past the WHL, he’s — he’s not putting the weight on they want him to, is putting on some, but not enough, not yet, maybe not ever, maybe he can’t, and the early scouting reports mentioned that he has to work more on his defensive play, and he’s been trying, but anyone who watched that Tigers game would come to the conclusion that he was complete garbage defensively, and —

“Hey,” Bryce says. “Jared.”

“What?” Jared manages, though his throat feels tight, closing around him.

“C’mere,” Bryce says, taking his carton out of his hand before pulling him into a hug, and Jared breathes too fast against Bryce’s shoulder.

“You’re getting drafted,” Bryce says, which doesn’t help, and then, “I love you, okay?”, which isn’t even remotely relevant to the situation, but somehow does.

“And I’m not going easy on you if you don’t end up a Flame,” Bryce says, “I’m gonna kick your ass, Matheson.”

“Knowing how you play, I’m kind of afraid you mean that literally,” Jared mumbles into his shirt. “Skate right to the pants.”

“Nah, wouldn’t hurt this ass,” Bryce says, reaching down to pat it lightly, and Jared snorts, turns his head to press a kiss against Bryce’s neck.

“Thanks,” he says.

“I’ll kick your ass any time,” Bryce says. “Just say the word.”

*

Jared didn’t think Bryce meant it literally. Though he guesses literally isn’t the word, there — no skate to the pants or anything.

But still, Bryce telling him to bring his gear when he comes over on Sunday is…weird, but Jared does it, and basically the second Jared steps in the door Bryce is hustling them right back out of his place because he’s booked them ice time.

“Why?” Jared finally thinks to ask when they’re halfway to the arena Bryce booked. Like, he doesn’t mind getting on the ice or anything, obviously he doesn’t, but he’d have honestly preferred a day of vegging and like, a couple lazy handjobs or something.

“Figure we can work on some of the stuff you’re worried about,” Bryce says.

Jared isn’t as resistant to the idea of Bryce coaching him as he was during camp — though he still stands by his stretch, and he’s now wondering why Bryce was so concerned about his groin anyway. Well, obviously Bryce has some interest in that part of his anatomy (and like, a great deal of experience with it, by now), but Jared’s wondering if that interest started practically day one, Bryce all ‘no, don’t hurt the groin I want to touch!’

“What’re you grinning at?” Bryce asks, looking over at him when they hit a red light.

“Nothing,” Jared says, and grins out the window instead.

*

Jared’s come early to practices before to get some extra ice time, stuck around after them to run through stuff with the coach, or give the goalies some extra practice or whatever, but it’s really different to be changing into his gear in a completely deserted dressing room, stepping onto a clean sheet of ice that’s just for the two of them. Ice time’s not cheap at all, definitely out of Jared’s budget, and even though he knows it’s easily in Bryce’s, he still feels bad that Bryce shelled out like, actual hundreds of dollars just to help Jared out.

That doesn’t last.

“One on one,” Bryce says. “Try to take the puck from me before I reach the net.”

The thing is, Jared’s obviously aware that Bryce is really great at hockey. He was a top draft pick, and definitely not one of the wash outs that inevitably come out of that, you can tell that even two years in. He’s leading the Flames in scoring, he’s been murmured about as the damn saviour of the Flames before he even played a single game, and the murmurs have gotten louder and louder. Obviously Bryce is great.

But something Jared didn’t know, though he probably should have, is that it’s really goddamn annoying to play against him.

Bryce doesn’t go easy on him, and he gets past him. He gets past him the first time, and the second time, and every fucking time after that, crowing every single time he gets a puck into the empty net.

Jared’s frustrated, and kind of pissed because Bryce keeps showing off, and it’s obnoxious, how good he is, how easy it comes to him, and also he’s like…vaguely turned on, which is confusing, because he doesn’t usually want to kiss the smug fucking grin off an annoying opponent’s face. Punch it off, maybe.

Jared’s seen elite fucking defencemen look like pylons when Bryce gets going, so he knows this says more about how fucking great Bryce’s puck handling is than how bad Jared is defensively, but fuck, man. At this rate Jared isn’t getting the puck unless he commits to fucking interference.

He obviously commits to interference, because if Bryce scores on that empty net one more time Jared’s going to explode.

“Not part of the drill!” Bryce says from under him after Jared body slams him onto the ice.

“You didn’t say I couldn’t,” Jared counters.

Bryce laughs, a little breathless, probably because Jared knocked the wind from him, and Jared wants to kiss him, but as empty is the place seems, it isn’t actually empty, so he rolls off Bryce, offers him a hand up.

“You wanted to improve your defensive play,” Bryce says. “You can’t do that if you’re in the box.”

“But now I just want to kill you,” Jared mutters, and Bryce grins. And Jared’s seen Bryce grin before, obviously, seen a whole bunch of them, ranging from like, straight up joy to ‘I totally know how bad you want me right now’ to ‘I just kicked your ass at FIFA’, but this one is all ‘I’m hot shit and I fucking know it’, and seriously, Jared’s going to strangle him.

Like, right after he sucks his dick, because unfortunately, that grin still gets him wired as much as it infuriates him.

*

Jared doesn’t suck him off in the locker room or anything, because gross, seriously, it smells like — well, like every locker room, so fucking awful — and just because Bryce booked the place doesn’t mean someone isn’t going to wander in early for their own practice or something.

He doesn’t have a lot of patience on the drive back, though. Like, who is this Bryce, sticking to the speed limit? Jared doesn’t like it. He does not approve of it. Doesn’t Bryce want to get his dick sucked?

“Come on, I’m trying to drive!” Bryce says, kind of squeaky, when Jared says as much out loud, which is hilarious.

Bryce parks too slowly. The elevator, which is pretty damn fast, honestly, completely drags, and the only reason Jared doesn’t push Bryce right up against the wall of it is the tiny camera blinking at them from the corner. Jared resists the urge to wrestle the keys out of Bryce’s hand when he takes too long to find the one for his door.

Jared doesn’t like, drop to his knees in the hallway. Well, he does, but like, it’s more of a sink than a drop. Jared’s got to play tomorrow, and wood’s pretty unforgiving.

“Whoa,” Bryce says, then, as Jared reaches for his belt, “Wait, we can—”

“Or we can not wait,” Jared says, and glares up at him when Bryce interferes, hands nudging Jared’s away from his belt buckle.

“C’mon,” Bryce says, hauling Jared up by the armpits with like, zero assistance from Jared, and that effortless strength just revs Jared up more, even though it’s taking him away from what he wants. “Bedroom.”

“Here,” Jared counters.

“Don’t want you to hurt your knees,” Bryce says. “C’mon.”

Jared reluctantly follows him to the bedroom, because Bryce has this stubborn look on his face, plus, like, he guesses his knees would prefer it. Also, way more importantly, he gets all of Bryce that way, all that skin, Bryce’s abs going tight under his mouth as he kisses his way down the plane of his stomach, his thighs flexing when Jared kisses a bruise that hurts to look at, less than an inch from the crease of his hip and his thigh.

He can take his time like he probably wouldn’t have been able to kneeling on the floor: Bryce’s fingers tightening painfully in his hair before a desperate ‘sorry, sorry’ when Jared completely bypasses his dick to press an open-mouthed kiss against his balls, can back off whenever Bryce gets close until he can’t shut up, a stream of shit Jared doesn’t think he even knows he’s saying, but two things always repeated: Jared, and please, his own hips restless against the sheets because Bryce isn’t cocky now, not even close, voice frayed and desperate, and after he finally lets Bryce come he makes it maybe a dozen strokes before he’s streaking Bryce’s wet cock, his hip, Bryce still gasping like Jared sucked the goddamn air out of him.

And, goddamn. They are going to have to get back on the ice, because again: goddamn.

“C’mere,” Bryce says, rolling onto his side and tucking Jared in. Jared doesn’t think it’s fair he’s always the little spoon, even if Bryce is bigger than him — for now, c’mon growth spurt — plus like, gross, now he’s got fucking come on his ass. Is it his? Yes, but still.

“Jesus,” Bryce exhales, and Jared is in agreement.

Jared wonders what the sex will be like after they play each other for real, but there are too many assumptions there: him drafted somewhere other than Calgary, which is probably going to happen but he doesn’t want to think about it, them at least hundreds of kilometres from each other, probably thousands, assuming they’re even still together —

Yeah, Jared’s slamming the brakes hard on his brain.

“What’re thinking about?” Bryce mumbles, pressing a kiss to the back of Jared’s neck, so some of that, at least, must have made it into Jared’s body language or something.

“How fucking annoying you are to play against,” Jared says, turning in his arms, and Bryce grins, then, like it’s the supreme compliment, which Jared guesses it is.

“I’m pretty good, huh,” Bryce says, that cocky ass grin back on his face, and Jared wrestles him onto his back. He’s pretty sure Bryce lets him, honestly, which is, again, annoying, but the end result is Bryce beneath him, his wrists pinned in Jared’s hands as Jared straddles his hips, which is, you know. Good result. He’s still smiling, but it’s not the cocky one, something softer.

“Okay,” Bryce says, wrists flexing a little in Jared’s grip. “You got me.”

“Yep,” Jared says.

“What’re you going to do with me now?” Bryce asks, and his grin this time is pure fucking sleaze, so it’s completely mortifying how much Jared likes it.