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freedom is granted as soon as the damage arrives

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A name on your wrist is a part of life. The sky is blue, the Leafs haven’t won the Cup since 1967 and people’s souls find each other and bond in a blaze of heavenly glory.

It’s not like that for Tyler, not really. His experience goes down a different path completely.

 


 

Tyler has a name on his wrist, like the majority of the planet. The names fade if the bond is rejected, or if the bondmate dies. Those who don’t have a name just… don’t. Life goes on.

The name on Tyler’s wrist reads Philip. The scrawl is exactly the same as the one across the back of Phil’s credit cards, along his contract extensions and on the mortgage paperwork for his condo.

It’s on Tyler’s wrist and it’d be fine, it really would, except Phil’s wrist reads Brittany.

Phil has Brittany on his wrist and Tyler has Philip, in Phil’s handwriting. When he finds out, he wonders if he’ll ever find someone with Tyler on theirs, the way he signs his name when he’s making an effort, and what that’ll mean for him and Phil.

 


 

When Tyler makes it to the show and Phil makes it to Toronto, it takes two seasons together before the team, before Tyler, figures out what it means, that the names don’t match.

Dion takes one look at Tyler’s name when they’re out one night after a great win, peeking out from the sleeve of his henley, and swears into his microbrew.

“What?” Tyler asks, innocent. Naïve. Dion holds Tyler’s elbow and tugs up his sleeve. Tyler frowns -- he’s seen Phil’s, saw it in the locker room and saw the name, the girl name. So he’d shrugged and moved on, ready for another Philip. Ready for his Philip.

Phil’s sitting next to Tyler, draining his Bud and laughing at something dumb Naz is saying, but the entire table stops when Tyler’s wrist catches on the bar lights.

Phil stops.

“What?” Tyler repeats, feeling uncomfortable. Everyone’s staring at him like he’s a freak and he tries to tug his arm from Dion, but Phil leans over and grabs his arm with wet fingers, pulling it right up to his nose.

“This is my name,” he rasps and Tyler tries to swallow around the lump in his throat but the saliva just isn’t there.

“It’s not you, though. I’ve seen your wrist and my name isn’t on it, so. There’s a million Philips out there, mine’s probably richer than you,” Tyler tries to joke, ha ha, but it doesn’t work because Phil’s fingers are gripping him so tightly it’s starting to hurt.

“You don’t get it-- this is my handwriting. This is my name,” Phil says and Tyler’s heart is beating out of his chest because it can’t be, it doesn’t work like that.

He watches in horror as Phil grabs the Sharpie that he used to sign some chick’s tits with, and writes his name on a bar napkin. The P's are a looping mess and the l finishes in an elegant sweep, exactly as it does on Tyler’s skin, standing in stark relief against the bones and veins. Tyler watches as Phil sets the marker down and how can this be?

“What’s happening?” Tyler asks, and Phil is pale faced and sweaty.

“I don’t know.”

 


 

They go to a bonding specialist in Toronto named Dr. Yamagaki.

Dr. Yamagaki tells them that not having a reciprocal bond is extremely rare but there have been cases. Several, in fact, in Ontario alone.

“I’m American,” Phil says, at the same time Tyler says, “I’m from Saskatchewan.”

“Be that as it may,” she continues delicately, “I’m saying there’s precedent. You aren’t the first and you won’t be the last.”

“How do we do this? How is this supposed to work?” Tyler demands. He has Phil’s name on his fucking body while Phil has the name of someone else.

“There’s support groups, counseling, that sort of thing. Non-bonded pairs aren’t pariahs, gentlemen. You can lead long and very happy lives together.”

Phil’s furious as they leave and kicks a bin when they exit the foyer and hit the street. Tyler just digs his hands into his pockets, miserable.

“Fuckin’ support group my ass! Maybe we can find a doctor who can change my name or something?” Phil says. Tyler’s jaw drops.

“You can’t change your name, asshole!” he says. Phil mutters something about wishing it said Stella and Tyler can’t help but laugh.

“C’mon, I need comfort food. You’re buying,” Phil says and tugs at Tyler’s elbow, leading him back to the carpark.

 


 

Stals has no name on his wrist. Tyler had asked once, when they were fucked off their faces and Stals was singing some Swedish drinking song into his shot glass tower.

“My bondmate died,” Stals had said, before going to bed, and that was the last he’d said about bonding around Stals.

When he gets back from Dr. Yamagaki’s, Stals has five different dishes from Little China spread out over the breakfast counter and nudges an empty bowl towards Tyler.

“I just ate with Phil,” Tyler says but spoons helpings of mixed vegetables and honey chicken into the bowl before grabbing some chopsticks.

“I heard about your appointment. What they’d say?” Stals asks. Tyler hunches over the bowl and jabs at his chicken. He doesn’t want to talk about it but he knows Stals is probably one of the few people on the team, or in his life, that can understand.

“Nothing they can do. It’s rare but there’s cases, I’m in a non-reciprocal bond. Phil wants to find a doctor who can change the name on his wrist. He’s fucking crazy,” Tyler shakes his head and shovels some food in his mouth. Stals is silent, until he’s not.

“I told you my bondmate died, but uh… he actually rejected me. Repudiated the bond.”

Tyler looks up from his food and Stals is staring at the tabletop, tracing a finger along the marble. Tyler swallows and waits.

“I had another hockey player on my wrist, a guy who was on my college team, in Vermont. He had my name too. We were together for a year and it was like, the greatest I’ve ever felt. My stats were off the charts, I was a straight-A student, it was crazy. I was so fucking happy. I think it hurts more, knowing how good it can be and having him repudiate the bond.”

“Fuck,” Tyler chokes out. Stals looks up, blonde hair slipping from behind his ear and into his eyes. He looks hurt at the memories but he’s pushing through them for Tyler.

“Even a non-reciprocal bond is better than nothing, Bozie. Open up to Phil and just, fucking dive in, man. It’ll be oblivion but it’ll be worth it.”

“There’s nothing to dive into, Stals. There’s no bond connection in my head, or my heart, or anywhere. There’s a wall, there’s nothing.”

“There’s always a way, Bozie. You just haven’t realised what it is yet,” Stals says. His cell goes off on the table and he answers it, walking away to leave Tyler staring at the half-eaten Chinese and wondering what the fuck he’s supposed to do, yet again.

 


 

Another season goes by and nothing really changes. The biggest one is that Stals gets traded to Chicago and Steeger moves in with him, but then he goes to Philly and Tyler’s left alone. He wakes up every morning with Phil still on his body, and he sees Phil’s sometimes when they’re in the locker room. It still reads Brittany.

Tyler dates some, fucks more, stays in and watches bad television on top of that. He’s getting more time on Phil’s line, slotting more goals through, but the team still flounders and they can’t get there, can't get to the Cup. It’s always out of their reach, Tyler’s fingers outstretched and always unable to get over that last hurdle. Allegory for his life or what, fucking hell.

It all just feels so empty. He feels so empty.

 


 

“Move in with me,” Phil says at the end of the season. There’s no playoffs and no national team shit, and both of their summers are wide open. It’s been three years since Tyler made it to the Leafs, and a year since he found out Phil was his Phil.

“What?” Tyler asks. He’s half-asleep on Phil’s couch, burrito wrappers and empty nacho containers littering the coffee table. Stella’s sacked out and snoring on Tyler’s chest, his hand stroking down her tiny back while Phil flicks through to land on Animal Planet. They watch a gazelle being taken down by a leopard. It’s fucking majestic.

“Move in with me next season. You should, I mean,” Phil says. He’s not looking at Tyler, keeping his eyes focussed on the ridiculous amount of televisions he has and Tyler wonders how he’s supposed to answer that question.

“I have a condo,” he finally says, because he does. He’s got a mortgage and no roommates. The lockout’s probably going to happen so he’ll have to sell it or rent it out, whatever’s gonna cost him less money.

Phil flicks him a soft smile, the corners of his mouth tugging up, camouflaged amongst his beard.

“My condo’s better. It’s a penthouse and I have more TV’s than you… and my doorman’s nicer,” Phil tacks on at the end, frowning. Tyler’s doorman is a diehard Sens fan and regularly refuses to let Phil up until Tyler answers the condo phone or comes down to get him.

“My doorman is plenty nice, and your spare bedroom is the size of a fucking cupboard. How’m I supposed to do anything in there?” Tyler whines. Tyler’s current bedroom is huge and airy, with massive windows that he can watch the storms roll in through from his bed. He has an ensuite with a bathtub and shower big enough to fit at least three people each, and he’s got all his favourite take out places local and in his speed dial. He’s comfortable.

“You’re my soul mate, you should be living with me. We should be, y’know. Doing more things together, like people do when they’re… in our position,” Phil says when there’s a lull on the television, the leopard falling asleep amongst the grass. Tyler’s chest throbs, once, low and pained and he stiffens under Stella, causing her to whimper and shift in her sleep.

“But… your name,” Tyler starts. Nobody’s in their position, is the thing -- nobody that they know, anyway. Phil’s fingers, wrapped around the controller, tighten into a fist and the controller falls between the gap in the pillows.

“Fuck what my wrist says. My wrist says nothing good. Yours is the one we’re both gonna focus on from now on,” Phil snaps.

Tyler doesn’t know what this means, or how to deal with it, but he knows what his wrist says.

“Okay.”

 


 

He spends the summer between Muskoka and Regina with his buddies and his family before he makes the trip to Madison for a few weeks to see Phil. His mom had cried when he told them Phil was his Phil, but that Phil’s wrist said something else.

“At least you’re bonded to a good guy, reciprocal or not,” his dad had said, hugging him tightly the first night he was back in Regina. Tyler had just clung, not sure what to say or how to say it but appreciating the fuck out of his family nonetheless. He loves them so much.

Mandy and Blake are at Phil’s as well and Mandy picks him up from the airport looking tanned and gorgeous. She kisses his cheek and chirps him on being a duster the entire ride to Phil’s place. Tyler’s yelling at her by the time they pull up at Phil’s house, wishing he’d watched more of the games Phil had of her college hockey so he could chirp her the fuck back.

“Your hockey is shit!” he’s resorted to saying as Mandy hauls his gear bag out the trunk.

“Weak ass, Bozak. As expected,” she smirks as she heads inside, kicking Phil’s front door. Blake opens it dressed in shorts with a towel around his neck and Mandy barrels her way inside, leaving destruction in her wake.

“Hi Blake,” Tyler says and Blake grunts at him, nudging Tyler down the corridor so he can shut the door. It’s stifling outside, Wisconsin a fucking heatbox at this time of year and his shirt is sticking to his back. The AC is going full blast inside and it’s relief, paired with the fact Phil has a huge pool and deck out back -- where Blake was, it seems, as he heads out there. Mandy’s taking his bag into the garage and Phil’s grilling steaks on the deck, sunburned and looking pained.

“Hey,” he says and envelops Tyler in a hug. He’s got a cap on backwards and no shirt, the sun burning and tanning him in equal measure. Tyler’s stomach clenches and he squeezes Phil’s shoulder before letting go, his body aching to touch Phil’s again.

“Man, go have a swim before the steaks are done,” Phil says, pushing Tyler toward the pool. Blake’s on a lounge under the shade of a huge tree, and Mandy comes wandering out as Tyler’s headed back inside to change into his trunks.

“Where you going?” she asks, and Tyler shakes his duffle and asks what room he can take.

“Just dump it in Phil’s room, the master’s at the end of the hall, he can figure it out later.”

Of course Phil has a three-bedroom place, and his brother and sister are taking the other spares. Tyler changes, grabs a towel from the linen closet he discovers on the walk back and heads outside, Jays cap on backwards and sunnies on his face.

“You look like an idiot,” Mandy says from her perch on the side, drinking a bright pink margarita as he dumps his stuff and heads for the stairs into the pool

“Why you gotta chirp me so hard, Mandy?” Tyler sighs before diving in right next to her. She shrieks and tries to yank her legs out the pool, but Tyler grabs her ankle and exacts his revenge. He dunks the shit out of her until they crash into Blake and everyone ends up in a mess of wet limbs, screaming and laughing at each other. Phil just shakes his head from the deck and avoids the splashing, but Tyler can see him laughing.

 

 *

  

Tyler eats his weight in steak and salad while Phil takes the plates and beer bottles inside with Blake, leaving him and Mandy to digest together.

Mandy reaches over and holds his hand, picking it up from where its been sitting on his lap. The sun’s prickling pleasantly at his skin, already tanned from his summer on the lake so far, the chlorine starting to irritate his eyes. He stays still though, and lets Mandy trace her fingers along her brother’s name.

“I’m really glad you’re Phil’s mate,” she says after a minute of running her fingertip along the name. Tyler flushes.

“But I’m not, not really,” he says. Mandy looks sharply up at him, her blue eyes narrowed.

“Don’t even say that shit. Phil's on you and that’s all there is to it. For all we know your parents were gonna call you Brittany and Fate got confused.”

Tyler rolls his eyes and Mandy gives his hand back, tucking her legs underneath and showing him her name. David is printed there, blocky and solid. It looks dependable, although a little rigid.

“I’ve already met him, but he doesn’t know I know my name’s on him. He’s too scared to ask me, but I saw when we were at a frat party. We took statistics together in sophomore year,” she explains, tracing a finger along the 'v' in the middle.

“Why don’t you tell him, then? Start your lives together?” Tyler asks, feeling confused. There’s no real protocol on approaching your soul mate, and he doesn’t exactly have a leg to stand on considering he and Phil played together for two years before they found out what they were.

Phil comes back out with fresh beers and sits down next to Tyler, where he’s been since he served the food. Mandy sips at her beer and shrugs, rolling her neck until it cracks.

“Don’t wanna right now. I’ve got hockey and class and my friends and family, I don’t have room for him in my life right now. I don’t wanna just be a bonded player. Shit gets difficult. I wanna go as far as I can before I have to do that.”

Tyler looks at Phil, who shrugs and brings his bottle to his lips.

“Phil told me you guys are moving in together next season. You learn how to cook yet, Bozak?” she says, switching the attention off her right back to Tyler.

Tyler groans as Mandy throws her head back and laughs, bright and happy.

 


 

Predictably, Phil’s parents get wind that Tyler’s there after a few days of lazing about and insist he and their kids come around for dinner.

“She knows about the thing,” Phil says as they pull up out front the house. Tyler’s in the front next to him, while Mandy and Blake are in the back with two huge bags of washing for their mom to do. It’s pathetic, honestly -- Tyler might not be able to cook but he knows how to wash his own damn clothes.

“What thing?” Tyler asks, feeling stupid. Phil rolls his eyes and taps a finger to Tyler’s wrist. Tyler usually wears his watch on his left hand, not liking the  guards and not bothering during winter because jackets and longsleeved shirts hide it. The summer, however, is more awkward to deal with. Summer means no shirts or short sleeves, means questions and gazes.

“Phil…” Tyler starts and Phil’s fingertips press against his name, as if to push it further into Tyler’s skin. Mandy and Blake leave, sensing something is coming, heading to the front door.

“I’m serious, Boze. You’re my-- you’re for me, and I'm for you, and that’s it. Okay?”

Tyler’s gaze drops to his lap but he nods, sighing softly when Phil’s hand moves to cup the back of his neck and tug at his hair.

Phil Sr gets to him first and shakes his hand as soon as they cross the threshold and make their way to the kitchen. “Nice to see you Tyler, Phil here won’t shut up about you,” he booms as Phil howls behind him. Tyler laughs and shakes his head, agreeing when Phil’s dad asks him to come golfing tomorrow with his useless kids. “All the sports in the world to be shit at and they all hate golf. I make ‘em come anyway. Gives me a good laugh,” he chuckles.

“I’m not too bad, sir,” Tyler says and it’s the truth. His handicap is five under on a bad day. He wants to impress Phil’s parents, and Phil’s dad pats his shoulder.

“Anything’s better than Blake. One course we did, he managed to hit his balls into every sand trap, lake and tree there was. Christ, what a disaster.”

Tyler’s still laughing when Kathy appears, wiping her hands on a towel as Phil’s dad steps aside. Phil’s still there but the looseness in his shoulders is gone, and he’s shoved his hands deep into his khaki pockets. Tyler feels his nerves amp up in response, and Phil’s dad even looks a little resigned as his wife hugs Tyler.

“Let me see?” she asks. It’s not kosher to ask to see someone’s name, not really, but this is Phil’s mom and she has to. Tyler has to have her approve of him. He needs this, so he undoes the watch and tucks it in his pocket, letting her hold his left arm and turn it so it faces her.

“Jesus, Phil, look…” she chokes out, her spare hand coming to her face, tears in her eyes. Phil’s dad sighs heavily and wraps an arm around her shoulders.

“Mom,” Phil snaps and she shakes her head, stepping in closer and tracing a finger along the P's, going slowly along the l -- just how Phil does it.

“How can this be?” she asks them, swiping at her cheeks. Phil shrugs jerkily, jostling Tyler’s shoulder, but it’s a point of contact that Tyler desperately needs right now while he watches Phil’s mom cry about them.

“It’s rare but it happens. As far as I’m concerned, Bozie’s my soul mate and that’s all that matters. I don’t give a shit about this Brittany and I never will.”

Tyler shuts his eyes and counts to five as Kathy dabs at her eyes, but then she’s hugging Tyler so tightly he can barely breathe, her face pressed against his chest.

“Tyler Bozak, you… just, welcome to the family,” she says, her voice wavering but her eyes determined. Tyler feels himself tearing up in response as she steps away, leaning up to wipe at his face with her tissue and cupping his cheek with a watery smile.

“Thank you,” he says. Phil takes his hand out his pocket and grab’s for Tyler’s, holding onto it as Kathy asks Tyler if he likes chicken pasta.

“Of course, Mrs. Kessel,” he says thickly and she flushes, hands waving.

“Oh don’t be silly, I’m Kathy to you, baby.”

It’s far more than he expected, he thinks, as he follows Kathy into the kitchen, Phil still holding onto his hand. Phil doesn’t let go until they set the table for dinner, and even then he sticks close for the rest of the evening, keeping them in contact somehow.

 


 

It takes him half a day to move what he wants into Phil’s condo, before putting the rest in storage to sell later, once the lockout is finished and they all rush back to get to camp. They’d decided to meet up early to give Tyler more time, but then the lockout happened and suddenly going to informal skates and training in Regina seemed more important than sitting in Toronto and doing nothing, waiting for the NHL and NHLPA to unfuck the situation.

The spare bedroom in Phil’s is big enough for his bed, wardrobe, dresser and TV, and they keep one of his lounges and his dining table because it’s so much nicer than Phil’s. Beyond that, his life goes into a container and the rest of his shit mixes in with Phil’s.

It’s how it should be, if they were in a reciprocal bond.

Phil doesn’t touch him though, beyond nudges in the morning and pats on the back or kicks to the leg when he wants dinner or to change the channel. They hug on ice and celly together but everything’s so fucking platonic it makes Tyler want to scream. He just wants Phil to kiss him, to touch him and tell him he wants Tyler in every single way possible. Wants to take what’s written on his body in the flesh, wants to feel Phil against him, wants to know it all.

Then Phil meets Brittany. The real Brittany. The Brittany.

 


 

They’re in Chicago at Roof with a few of the Hawks boys after a loss that Tyler really wishes hadn’t happened. Kane and Toews are there with a few of their boys, and Phil gets an invite from Kane who wants to buy Phil a drink for the sweet wrister he slotted past Crawford late in the third. Phil brings Tyler, Naz and Loops because he never wants to go in public by himself and figures at least the other three will distract any attention off him.

Kane and Toews are bonded and play beautiful fucking hockey together. When Tyler and the boys arrive, Kane’s standing up in a booth while Toews tugs at his sleeve, and then Kane leans down and plants one on Toews. Tyler watches them kiss, open and free amongst hundreds of patrons and nobody bats an eye. He wonders if he and Phil will ever get to that point -- Phil’s not exactly huge on PDA but maybe one day, he’d hold Tyler’s hand in public. Tyler thinks that’d be enough.

Phil sighs about fighting his way to the bar and figures the others will have bottle service set up anyway, so they head to the VIP section and get waved on through. Stals is there and launches on Tyler and the spend the next hour or so shooting the shit and drinking together, catching up on all they’ve missed.

“How’s it, with you two?” Stals asks as Phil laughs at something Kane’s wildly gesticulating about. Phil’s body is warm and solid next to Tyler’s, sweating through his shirt from the heat of the bar, but Phil hasn’t moved from his side all night. It’s reassuring and Tyler smiles and ducks his head. It’s not perfect, but they’re getting somewhere.

A new bottle girl comes with their beers and looks at Phil as she sets them down. She’s gorgeous and tall, with caramel skin and brown hair. Tyler sees her fumbling with some bangles on her wrist and the happy high he’s been floating on for weeks disappears, comes all crashing down as she pulls the bangles off and leans in over the table to get to Phil.

“You’re Phil Kessel, right?” she asks. Phil nods slowly, and it feels like the world slows to a crawl when she gives him a huge smile and shows him her wrist. Shows him the P Kessel written along it and asks if he’s got a Brittany, with two t’s and an a, on his.

Stals swears and Tyler’s unable to tear his eyes away from the name on her arm. It’s his whole name, the signature he scrawls for media shit and fans, not the intimate Philip that Tyler has on him. It makes no fucking sense.

“Nope, sorry. Must be a different Kessel,” Phil says. Stals shakes his head, muttering into his beer, as the others shift uncomfortably. Her face falls.

“But I looked online, this is exactly like your signature,” she says, confusion on her face. She’s so perfect, Tyler doesn’t know what Phil’s doing.

Phil just shrugs and reaches for his beer. “Sorry, lady. Can’t help you.”

“What the fuck are you doing, Phil? That’s your--” Tyler whirls on him as she leaves, but Phil growls and looks straight at him, his eyes flashing in the dim light.

“I’ve fucking told you for years that you are my soul mate and that’s it. I don’t want some girl from Chicago.”

“Jesus,” he hears Kane say behind them.

“Phil,” Tyler chokes out and Phil drains his bottle and stands up.

“C’mon, let’s go back to the hotel. I’m done drinking. Thanks for inviting us out, Kaner.” Phil tugs Tyler up and they leave, waving goodbye to Naz and Loops on the dance floor.

“Phil, I can’t believe you did that,” Tyler groans as they get into Phil’s hotel room. Tyler kicks off his shoes and sits down at the end of Phil’s bed. His head is spinning and he feels like he’s going to faint or throw up, everything going too fast and too slow.

Phil sits next to him and puts his hand on Tyler’s thigh, squeezing it.

“I’m sorry I don’t have your name on me, Boze. You have no idea how much it... how much it fucking sucks for me. I’d give up just about anything to have your name on me too.”

“It’s not just that, Phil,” Tyler tries to explain but he doesn’t have the words, doesn’t know how to make Phil understand what he just gave up.

“I didn’t give up anything with her, Boze,” Phil says, like he’s reading Tyler’s mind. It’s the first time Tyler starts to believe him, believe their bond. “Because my thing,” he continues, “it’s with you. Like I keep fucking telling you. You are my soul mate. You, Tyler Bozak, shitty center who can’t cook for shit but does my laundry, and loves my dog and… and makes me feel comfortable all the time. You have no idea what that means to me.”

“She had your name, Phil, and you have hers. It’s reciprocal,” Tyler says, his voice shuddering. He’s so fucking sad he can barely sit up with it. Phil’s going to leave him and he’ll be that fuck up with Phil’s name on his wrist. There’s no way out of this.

“It’s not reciprocal because I don’t want it. How many times do I have to tell you?” Phil snaps.

“But--”

“But nothing, alright! I’ve met her and I felt nothing. You’re supposed to feel Earth move when you meet your bond, right? She showed me her name and nothing fucking happened because I already felt that shit happen the second I saw yours. I can’t bond when I’ve already bonded, asshole.”

Tyler blinks, dumbfounded.

“You never touch me like… like that,” Tyler says, hesitant. Phil takes his hand back and scrubs at his jeans, nervous.

“I didn’t know if you wanted me to. You gotta help me out, Boze, because I’m doing this just as blind as you are. We gotta be a team in this, alright?”

Tyler sags to the side, exhausted, and sighs as Phil wraps his free arm around him.

“Alright,” he breathes out and Phil finally relaxes underneath him.

“Stay with me tonight?” he asks and Tyler nods, pulling away to strip to his boxers. Phil does the same and turns down the bed. Tyler wraps himself around Phil, slipping a leg between and slinging an arm over Phil’s waist.

“Comfy there, octopus?” Phil grumbles as he turns off the lamp and plunges the room into darkness. Tyler hums, and Phil pats his hand, sort of distracted.

“Did you… the touching. What exactly did you mean?” Phil asks, his voice low. Tyler shrugs and drums his fingers along Phil’s belly.

“I just, like. Any touching, I guess. I want all of you, Phil. I think you want all of me too, don’t you?” he asks. Phil’s answer is to turn in Tyler’s arms and kiss him. It’s awkward and Phil tastes of beer and bar nuts, but he’s kissing Tyler and Tyler just grabs on and kisses back, trying to pour everything into it.

They grind together and Phil’s gasping into his mouth, his fingers digging into Tyler’s lower back and Tyler pulls to graze at Phil’s neck, sucking a bruise there and grinning as Phil’s fingers tug at his hair.

“Boze,” he groans and Tyler nods, pushing Phil onto his back and straddling his hips.

“I didn’t bring anything, but,” Tyler cuts off as he spits in his hand, taking them both and slicking them up. Phil bucks up and his hands come to sit at the cut of Tyler’s hips.

“Kiss,” Phil says and Tyler snorts but bends over and does as he’s told, biting at Phil’s bottom lip and soothing it in the next breath, letting Phil whimper in his mouth and doing the same.

“I’m never letting you go,” Phil grinds out as they get close, Tyler’s thrusts getting uneven and the pull of the foreskin over his dick on the right side of too much. Tyler nods furiously, Phil’s fingers coming to lace with his and that’s it -- he comes with a shout, squeezing his eyes shut and letting his jizz coat their hands.

Phil lasts a few more thrusts before he comes, almost sobbing Tyler’s name and it’s just, it’s everything and nothing Tyler’s ever expected, to have Phil like this for him.

He climbs off, thighs shaking, and grabs some tissues to clean them up. He tosses them on the floor and Phil sighs, watching him.

“Enough touching for you for tonight?” he chirps and Tyler socks him in the arm.

“Asshole,” he mutters but lets Phil pull him in with an arm, falling asleep between one breath and the other.

 


 

The morning after they’re tossed out the playoffs, Tyler wakes up to Phil sitting up against the headboard, holding his hand.

“What’s wrong?” Tyler asks, yawning widely and knuckling at his eyes.

Phil just shows Tyler, wordless. The name that’s haunted Tyler for years is gone -- Phil’s wrist is empty now.

Tyler smiles, feeling like he’s going to float away with it or something. For someone who just got kicked out the playoffs, he can’t remember a time when he’s felt more alive. Phil just rolls over and kisses him, the hand with his now bare wrist coming to cup at Tyler’s face.

“Nothing’s wrong,” Phil says when Tyler lets him pull back. Tyler just laughs, tugging until Phil sprawls on top of him and gets back to kissing.

Nothing’s wrong, not anymore.