Hank wears the John Varvatos with the shawl collar. He doesn’t even pretend to himself that he’s thinking about wearing anything else. It’s three years old and the fact that Manon even paid enough attention to what-he’d-been-photographed-wearing-when to know it exists makes something like hope fizz in his chest.
He wears his ring too. Not his wedding ring. That’s at home, on the wood and felt tray where he keeps his wallet, phone and watch at night -- where he’d taken it off and put it down after signing his divorce papers and never picked it up again. But his Cup ring, that’s in his parents’ wall safe, and they bring it with them when they fly into Toronto, when he asks.
He puts the ring on in his kitchen while his dad makes a pot of coffee for them all and Sasha lounges with his feet on the table flicking playing cards into a light fixture, and Bells fusses with the flowers in his mom’s hair and his papa squeezes his shoulder when he hands the little velvet box to him. Hank used to play with his dads’ Cup rings as a little kid. Used to stack them, jangling and too big, on his fingers, more than could fit on one hand.
He was in the hospital when they brought him his own ring. It had taken him years before he could even stand to look at it.
“Hey,” he tells Katya when she walks into the kitchen too and she gives a him fist bump. He elbows Mavs when he says next, “you’re gonna have to loan a ring to Mavs so he has something to wear.”
“Such a dickweed.” Mavs says, halfway through eating a kabob, and flips him off lazily.
Sometimes life is fucking hard, but he'll be dead in the grave before he lets a chance to chirp his ridiculous goofball of a little brother get past him.
There’s a lot of boring shit about functions like this. There’s the walk in. The press. The photos. The soundbites. The mixing and the handshaking, the seating and the speeches and the room of assholes glad handing and networking and shit talking. Tonight, at least, over half of the people invited are his dads’ rookies, teammates, or guys they coached -- so they’re actually here to be here, not just because they’re other NHL Hall of Famers who could give a shit.
They bring the Cup out and Hank has an emotional moment that he covers easily enough behind his champagne glass. He stands for pictures with it and his fathers, with Vanya who won it five years ago for the Rangers, and Katya and Elizabeth Wessyngton-Picard. The band of his ring clinks against it as he holds it, warm and metal and electric like a conduit as it hums through him. His chest clenches.
Hello old friend he thinks, I missed you. He can almost hear its answer in the echoing thrum.
“Hurry up, Mavs,” he says when he’s done and has made his way back over to the rest of his siblings.
“Exercise patience, bro,” Mavs elbows him back, “our fourth line is most depleted and our tendie needs to find his groove.”
Hank kind of thinks the Flames goalie needs to find his fucking crease and stay there, but, you know, not his team, not his problem. And sure he loves to chirp his little brother but he’s not going to shit-talk a man’s goalie off-ice. That’s just rude.
He’s seen Duncs and Manon here - saw them when he entered, paused and let people take some pictures of them together, so that people could see him not be mad that his ex liney brought his ex wife. But it’s been busy, and they all keep getting herded around for different things, never quite in each other's orbit.
When the lights dim and the DJ starts playing music, Hank dances a dance each with his mom, his sisters. Duncs is posing for press photos, a big group of all the rookies that have ever lived in Hank’s house and Manon slips in between Hank's arms after he sends Leonie twirling over towards her sister.
“Hi,” Hank says, and tries not to notice that she’s wearing her ring too.
Not her wedding ring. That she apparently threw into Lake Ontario.
She’s wearing her spouse Cup ring, little emerald and ruby bear on a diamond field. He's never seen it on her before.
And, you know, good for her. She deserved it. She put up with garden variety playoff bullshit that postseason like a champ, which is enough for any SO to earn their own ring, for sure. And then Hank let a semi-truck make their car into a pancake and she put up with … everything after. Longer than anyone should have expected her to.
It matches his, but it matches Duncs’ too, so.
“Do you wanna...?” she asks, gesturing towards seating, concern wrinkling her forehead, after he twirls her around a few times through the end of a slow song and the music changes to something with more bass. Hank tries and fails to stop his back in tensing with defensiveness, to keep the frustration from his face.
“Not really,” he snaps.
It’s not her fault. She’s being kind. She’s being considerate. She was raised to be kind and considerate and it’s in her nature to be kind and considerate and it’s not a flaw. Her soft heart was one of the reasons he fell in love with her in the first place.
“Désolé,” she says, soft and sad and like she knows, like she realized too late she put her foot in it and Hank can’t… He just… there’s no way this is going to work.
“Hank,” Duncs says, out of nowhere, hand on Hank’s shoulder, “let me steal a dance?”
Hank’s shoulders drop. Good. Duncs is here and he’ll take her, and make her happy and Hank can continue dancing until his leg freezes up for the night. Just like he planned. He steps back, to let Duncs take her and instead gets Dunc’s hands settling on his waist and Manon giving him a little kiss on the cheek and wandering off in the direction of Vinny’s wife and a brunette Hank doesn’t recognize, talking to Bells.
“Since we’re getting to the part where you get shitty and defensive,” Duncs begins, “how much is tonight fucking you up? Your dads, the Cup, everything.”
When Hank was seven years old, he went to “school” at the Nordiques training arena with a handful of other kids whose dads were also NHL players. So it took awhile for him to really realize that there was something remarkable about his family. That his dads weren’t just good at hockey the way all dads must be good at hockey (or any dads he knew, at least) but were famously, infamously, ridiculously Good at Hockey in a way that literally the entire planet knew about it.
It kind of fucked him up, briefly. In that he spent an entire game thinking about it when he should have been thinking about getting the fucking puck to the net, and then, when they lost, he’d holed himself up in the locker room toilet, sobbing, because his parents were legends and he turned the puck over 20 times in two periods.
His papa had fished him out of the bathroom, given him a Gatorade, knelt down on the floor to get him out of his gear, and when Hank had blubberingly apologized for failing the most sacred sport, said, solemnly, “Bro. I’m pretty fucking happy with my own career. I don’t need yours too. We put you kids in hockey because it’s fun and playing it made me happy so I thought it might make you happy too. If you don’t like it, fuck it. If you do like it, then play it to make yourself happy and fuck everyone else, okay, my dude?”
Hank had nodded, sniffing and wiping his face with the sleeve of his jersey and his papa had kissed his forehead, pulling him in tight to his chest, and told him he loved him, was proud of him.
In the car, his dad had put a sleeping Katya in her car seat and, looking over at Hank, asked, “Everything okay?” and his papa had said, “Nothing a little perspective can't fix. Hank, buddy, what do we say when assholes on TV won’t shut up about legacies?”
“J’men calice,” Hank had repeated, grinning at the swear, and his dads grinned along with him.
Anyway, Hank was plenty fucked up about losing hockey but he was fucked up because he’d loved playing it. Because he was fucking good at it. Because every moment on the ice was a fucking joy and he missed it and he resented the shit out of a random fucking event that took it away from him. He wasn’t fucked up about his dads. He didn’t think he’d disappointed them. He didn’t worry about his career, in comparison to theirs, except to be envious, when he let himself think about it, of the length of theirs. He didn’t mind listening to an hour of people talk about how amazing his dads were. His parents weren't perfect, but they loved him, were proud of him, unconditionally. He'd always grown up knowing that.
It would have been impossible a few years ago maybe, just because there were so many hockey people here, because Hank would have felt scraped raw just looking at guys he used to play with, like fate had forced him to stand outside and look in at something he loved. Part of that, he realized was his own fault, that just because he’d thought he’d lost something didn’t mean he’d lost all of it. It had taken him longer than it should have, maybe, to figure that out, but he’d gotten there in the end. It was… better. He was here. Sure, it hurts, but there's hurts and then there's hurts and it isn’t fucking him up.
“Fuck you too,” Dunc says, amicably, “you’re not the only asshole here who misses it. It’s fucking me up a little bit, and I’m not even,” he wiggles his hand, “like, part of this whole fucking legacy thing.”
“No, you’re just some dude who lived in my parent’s house and fucked--” Hank snaps his mouth shut before he says something he really doesn’t want to. He’s not letting himself get like that tonight.
Duncs squeezes his hip. “Oh, hi, there you are.”
“J’men calice.” Hank glares at him as best he can but Duncs just looks fond.
“Yeah yeah yeah, you’re fine, you’re Hank Teixeira and you’re always fine, but I’m old, and I want a drink and to sit down. Humor an old man in his retirement.”
It’s annoying, but Hank finds that whatever poisonous bile had been welling up just drains away in the face of Duncs’s steady good humor. He’d been like that, always, in the Room too. Always that guy who could sap the tension out of a room and get people laughing.
A glue guy.
“Désolé,” Hank says, after they’ve gotten their drinks and found a spare seat on a bench, the reassuring presence of Duncs’s leg, warm and solid and pressed against his where they’re sitting. “I’ll apologize to Manon. I know she was just looking out for me.”
Duncs is quiet for a moment and then says, “You look like your leg hurts, that’s probably why she asked.”
Hank sets his drink down so he doesn’t crack the glass with his hands clenching and says, “My leg does hurt, that’s probably why I’m snapping.” He should have taken a break a while ago, but.
Hank realizes Duncs is watching the dance floor. Finally Duncs says “Your whole family likes dancing. I remember that about living there. My family’s not like that, but Coach and Jacks would dance in the kitchen all the time.”
Everyone knows how much his papa loves dancing. They’d played the video of him dancing for the strippers tonight. Ms. Smith had hidden behind her folded paper program, laughing. His papa had stood up, taken a joking bow. His dad had shoved a folded dollar bill into his cummerbund.
But it wasn’t just his papa. It was a house full of cousins and siblings. His mom’s brother’s kids who all did capoeira. It was pajama dance parties with his siblings. It was parties and family gatherings. Wedding receptions that went to six am and then found their way to an after party. Being able to pull any girl in a club and keep her -- spending an hour getting sweaty before they even left the dance floor. His ankle wouldn’t hold his weight on ice well now, and something about his stride was just permanently fucked for skating, but he could still manage to dance sometimes. With the help of a heck of a PT regiment and the three hours of massage and hot stone therapy he had blocked out for tomorrow in advance.
Hank was all about taking his joy where he could get it, these days.
“Do you mind when she gets like that with you? All… fretting and overbearing?”
Duncs laughs, “Do I mind when the woman I love shows she cares about me by worrying about my health?”
Duncs laughs, “Hank, she’s not…. She’s not overbearing, at least with me. Maybe she gets a little like that with you, I don’t know, but with me she’s a normal amount of like… not unconcerned. Also, maybe you’re just fucking hypersensitive to it, but hey, what the fuck do I know. Maybe you just bring it out in her.”
Hank wouldn’t be surprised if he did. Manon spent the better part of two years doing nothing but worrying about him. She’s got some kind of eagle eye for every time his own eyes get tight from over extending. She’s probably fucking triggered into mother henning just by some tic of his jaw muscle or something.
His therapist would be so proud of him for realizing that. And also, for maybe acknowledging, just a little bit, possibly, that Duncs might be right about Hank being a little bit too easy to see that in her and get weird about it.
Manon’s therapist is probably equally proud of her when she comes up five minutes later, sits down next to them on the bench and says, “You’re a grownass man who can make his own decisions about muscle spasms,” jaw set and determined.
“I shouldn’t have snapped.” Hank finishes his drink, stands and says, “Dance with me tonight?” Because if he says anything else it's going to be I love you, I never stopped loving you, but I love you even more when you have that look on your face.
Manon stands, holds her hand out, smiles a little hesitantly, “Okay, let’s try again.”
“You coming?” Hank asks Dunc as he takes her hand, trying to ignore her question, to not think of it as too much of a promise.
“Uh, no, I remember clubbing with you, asshole. I know when I’m outmatched. Have fun, kids.”
He manages four songs. Loses his tie and jacket, runs Manon up and down the floor, and fucking gets down before his leg and back finally scream to a stop. The sheen of sweat shimmering on Manon's collar bones, the flush on her cheeks has him in such a good mood he doesn't even mind the way she wiggles under his shoulder for him to lean on as he hobbles over to the bench with Duncs.
“What the fuck are we doing?” Hank asks when Duncs throws one long arm over both of them and Manon slips her feet out of her heels and puts her bare feet in his lap.
“Look, if you guys are just… having fun… I can’t. Duncs, I can’t.”
Manon makes a noise, a sad little hum.
Duncs says, “I was there the night you met Manon. You remember? I know you’ve never been anything but dead fucking serious about her.”
“I’m pretty fucking serious about her too, Teixeira.” He kisses the top of her head when he says it.
“No shit.” Hank sighs.
“She’s right here,” Manon flexes her toes into Hank’s thigh, “You are both seriously ridiculous. Also both seriously dumb about each other.”
“But that’s…” Hank shifts in his seat. “You’re not.... Duncs. I know you. You’re not….”
“Poly?” Duncs interrupts.
“Into men,” Hank finishes.
Duncs shrugs. “Not really. But…” He shrugs again. “I like this. What we’re doing right now.”
Hank looks around. “We’re… sitting… together.”
“You like… sitting next to me.”
“Huh,” Hank says. He spreads his legs a little so his knee knocks against Duncs’. Presses back against him, shifts so his elbow rests against Duncs’ ribs, lets his hand settle on Manon’s leg.
“I like it too,” Hank says finally.
“It’s late,” Manon says, “are you two sorted, then?”
“What about us, are we ‘sorted’?”
Manon snorts. “I'll have my therapist call your therapist.”
“Oh, good,” Hank jokes, “they can work it out between them and tell us when it's handled.”
It's not an answer, not really, but there's something about her face, the look in her eye, the determined way she'd danced with him, the ease in her shoulders that had never been there when they were younger. And, if Hank was being honest, something about the comforting presence of Duncs next to him. Like this time it will be alright, because he's got his liney there with him, they’ll keep each other from fucking up too much.
“I love Michael,” she says, softly, gently, “but I never stopped loving you either. Come home with us?”
Hank kisses the inside of her wrist as answer, even as he feels Duncs drop his arm, hand sliding down his back. “Ok.”
“So, how are we doing this?” Duncs asks when they step into the hotel room he had booked months ago, with the foresight of a man who’s wisened with age and realized he absolutely wasn’t going to want to drive anywhere this late at night, especially all the way across town.
“Well, evidently Duncs really likes sitting next to me,” Hank chirps, and shrugs out of his dinner jacket.
Manon runs her hand over the breadth of Duncs’ shoulders before helping him out of his jacket as well. “Well, then you two should definitely do that.” She grins, looking smug. “After you’ve removed some more clothing, if you please.”
Duncs unbuttons his shirt exactly the way Hank remembers, remembers his socks halfway through pulling his trousers off, exactly the way he used to. The hotel setting, Duncs a little drunk, undressing on his side of the room, it lurches Hank back to his 20s, to sharing a room with Duncs on the road and Hank feels so fucking… fond it hurts. He doesn’t realize he’s stopped halfway through his own zipper, until Manon leans against him and says, “You’re staring.”
“I missed him,” Hank whispers.
“I missed you too, Manon. Fuck, I missed you.”
“Do you think it would have been different?” she whispers back, “if we’d done this in the beginning?”
It’s impossible to imagine, to guess. “We would probably have cocked that up too.”
“Hey, assholes,” Duncs tosses his pants over a chair and looks at them, naked and laughing, “are you done whispering in the corner yet?” He lobs a balled up sock in their direction. “Get naked, Teixeira.”
Hank gets naked. He braces himself for some kind of sappy commentary about the visual legacy of his injuries, but realizes as soon as Duncs rolls his eyes that he shouldn’t have. “Jesus fuck,” Duncs says, eyeing him up and down, “couldn’t you tone it down in retirement like the rest of us?”
Hank opens his mouth to snark about needing as much muscle strength as possible to support injured bones and joints. Instead he says, “Well, at least I’ve kept my hairline.”
“Oh, fuck you,” Duncs half laughs, half winces, “God, I keep forgetting what a shit you are. Get over here, asshole, come sit next to me.”
Manon laughs and pushes him forward, and somehow Hank is sitting next to Duncs at the foot of the bed. The strap of her dress slithers off her shoulder as she comes to stand in front of them and Hank forgets to feel ridiculous. He even forgets that he was going to chirp Duncs some more when the dress slides all the way down to the floor.
“Oh, babe,” Duncs sighs, and kisses her, just below her belly button. Hank trails his hand, slowly, gently, up the outside of her thigh, over her hip. For all she’s smirking above them, fingers in their hair, her knee trembles, just a little, where it’s leaning against Hank’s.
“Do we have to talk about feelings now?” Hank asks afterwards, sleep pulling at his eyelids.
“Everyone knows your feelings on the subject, you big sap.” Duncs says directly into his hair.
“We can do it tomorrow,” Manon assures him, soft, into his sternum.
“I have family brunch tomorrow.” Hank yawns. “Will… will you both come with me?”
“I already told Katya I was coming,” and Hank can feel the curve of Manon’s smile against his chest.
“Hey,” Duncs says, “You think Sasha Volkov will give me an autograph? I’ve got a poster of--”
Hank elbows him in the belly and Duncs laughs. “Alright, alright, jeez.”
“You’re an asshole,” Hank smiles, and then goes to sleep, wrapped up tight in both of them.