Jeff sighed as he sat down in front of his locker, letting the quiet chatter of his teammates wash over him. They had won the game, but just barely, and it had been an exhausting battle from the first puck drop. Jeff was angry at himself. He had taken two stupid penalties, one of which was the opening Seguin needed to tie the game towards the end of the third period. When Jordan finally snuck one past Bishop in the final minutes, Jeff had been relieved, but only a little bit. He still felt the weight of his penalties, along with not getting a single point the whole game.
“Jeff?” It was Eric’s voice, and Jeff’s head jerked up to look his captain in the eye. Eric was standing in front of him, looking down at him with concern. Jeff realized he hadn’t moved in a few minutes and wasn’t sure how long Eric had been standing there. “We won, bud, chin up.” Eric tapped Jeff’s chin and Jeff couldn’t help the small smile that slipped onto his face. He felt a flush creeping up his cheeks and he looked away from Eric, down at the floor.
“I know,” Jeff sighed. “It’s just… I was…” Jeff didn’t know how to finish that sentence and he felt Eric sit down beside him. Jeff’s heartbeat sped up and he looked around the locker room. No one was paying attention to them, of course. Eric was just being the captain, checking up on his teammate. This didn’t mean anything more than that, no matter what the butterflies in Jeff’s stomach were saying. Having Eric’s full attention was always a little bit nerve wracking for Jeff. “I was stupid.” Jeff finally settled on. Eric shifted and bumped shoulders with Jeff.
“You weren’t stupid, Jeff. You played a great game. You opened up a lot of scoring opportunities.” Eric left his shoulder pressed to Jeff’s and Jeff found it hard to concentrate. His entire body turned toward Eric without conscious thought from his brain and he caught Eric’s eye. Jeff opened his mouth to speak, to argue, but was left gaping like a fish when Eric scooted infinitesimally closer until they were pressed together from shoulder to knee. Eric was smiling softly, not breaking eye contact.
“Hey cap! Skins! You guys are going out with us, right?” Cam shouted across the locker room. Jeff’s mouth snapped shut with a click and Eric jerked away from Jeff in surprise. Jeff felt even more heat on his face as he looked at Cam. There was a glimmer in Cam’s eye and a small smirk on his face as he looked between the two of them.
“What do you say, Jeff? You wanna go out?” Eric asked, turning to look at him again. Jeff knew he didn’t mean it the way it sounded, but images flashed through Jeff’s mind of candlelit dinners and movie nights spent cuddling on the couch. The yes slipped out before he could stop it. “Great! We’re in.” Eric responded to Cam. He smiled at Jeff again before standing up to shower and get changed. Jeff groaned internally. He really didn’t want to go out but he knew if he didn’t show up, Eric would be disappointed. Steeling himself, Jeff headed to the showers.
Jeff was four beers in, but it wasn’t his fault. The boys kept buying rounds and Eric wasn’t drinking his; just kept sliding them over to Jeff. He wasn’t sure what Eric’s game here was, but his Canadian politeness kept him from refusing the drinks. Jeff has always been a cuddly, sleepy drunk, which he is chirped for constantly. But tonight, it’s Eric who has pulled Jeff in close with an arm around his shoulder, allowing Jeff to rest his head on his shoulder. Jeff’s just drunk enough that he doesn’t care what anyone’s going to say about it, but isn’t drunk enough to let out all of the things he wants to say to Eric. Most of them are things like you have pretty eyes or you’re my favorite person on the planet and you always know how to take care of me . Basically all ways of saying I love you without actually saying the words. Jeff has slowed down on the alcohol intake to make sure he keeps his wits about him, but the warm line of Eric down Jeff’s right side is causing his brain to short circuit. Most of the younger, single boys are out on the dance floor trying to pick up. The married guys are sitting around the table. Eric is having a quiet conversation with Cam, who is sitting across the table, and Jeff lets their voices lull him into a half-sleep. Jeff is startled into opening his eyes when he feels a hand gently settle on the top of his head. He knows it’s Eric’s hand. What he doesn’t know is what it’s doing on his head.
Jeff slants his eyes up to try to catch a glimpse of Eric’s hand, which hasn’t moved except to gently stroke Jeff’s curls with his thumb. When he’s unsuccessful with that mission, Jeff looks to Cam to see if he’s noticed. Of course, because it’s Cam, he has. He has that amused look on his face, that I know something you don’t know look. He subtly winks at Jeff before returning his attention to Eric, and Jeff is even more confused than before. Giving up on subtlety, Jeff turns his head and looks up at Eric, who responds by turning to Jeff. Eric looks down at him with a smile that lights up his face as he pulls on one of Jeff’s curls. That smile takes Jeff’s breath away and all he can think is oh . He licks his lips and watches Eric track the motion with his eyes. They stay like that for a few breaths before Eric finally speaks.
“Jeff, I think it’s about time that I take you home.”
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