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It's a fucking excellent morning. Jamie stayed over, which means Tyler sleeps like a baller the way he always does with someone else in the bed. He gets up half an hour before his alarm and takes Marshall out for a quick jog around the neighborhood. The shower is running when he gets home. Tyler pours out dog kibble and slugs down a protein shake, thinking about skate today, and whether he wants an omelet or not, and how it's just seven more days before he'll get to lie down and take the burn of inked needles under his skin again.

He gets back into the bedroom with perfect timing; Jamie is just coming out of the bathroom, a towel slung around his neck.

"Aw, just for me?" Tyler gestures up and down Jamie's body, twiddling his fingers at his favorite bits. "You shouldn't have."

Jamie turns pink, predictably. Dude can wander buck-ass naked through a locker room full of more than thirty people without blinking, but the second Tyler makes the slightest reference to wanting a piece of that, he goes all bashful. It's adorable.

It's less adorable the way he seems to think that he's imposing on Tyler with his dick, sometimes. That's just fucking bizarre. Jamie is, to put it mildly, hung. And he takes direction regarding what to do with it like a prospect told to do another set of reps at the combine. Tyler has it really fucking good here, is the point.

"Morning," Jamie says, padding over. He's weirdly light-footed for such a big dude. "Do you want to go out for breakfast, maybe?"

"Yeah." Tyler pops up on his toes for a kiss. "But you've gotta do me first."

Flatteringly, Jamie leans in, running his hands up Tyler's chest to his shoulders, before it occurs to him to look at the clock.

"The place with the good huevos rancheros is going to be slow," he says, visibly torn.

Okay, that's a really good point. They're pretty epic huevos. But come on, there's a solution to every problem.

"So you'd better do me fast then," Tyler says. He stopped mistaking Jamie's shyness for prudishness pretty damn quick. Because it turns out the best way for Tyler to get what he wants is to say it as explicitly as possible.

Yeah, an excellent morning: great sleep, some quality dog time, and a quickie on the covers of the unmade bed, just wham-bam-thank-you-Jamie. And then huevos and black beans and tortillas and whatever is in the magic sauce.

The day keeps being excellent right up until they're getting changed in the locker room before skate. Tyler is mostly dressed and wrestling with Val when he hears his phone go off. Val clings around his shoulders like a monkey, and the call has gone to voicemail by the time Tyler makes it back to his stall. He flicks at the screen one-handed, fixing his shoulder pads with the other. It's Duncey; he probably wants to argue about shading again.

Except, when Tyler plays the message, Duncey sounds tired instead of his usual work wired. "Tyler, bro," he says. "I'm so sorry, but I've got to cancel on you. I'm not going to make it to Austin at all. Family shit, you know? But we can reschedule – you know you've just got to say when, right? Anyway. Sorry, seriously. I know how you – just. Sorry."

And that. That just sucks. So much more than it should, but Tyler's too suddenly and overwhelmingly unhappy to rein it in. He locks his phone, then turns the screen back on and stands there for a while, flicking the lock bar back and forth.

He snaps out of it when Dills clatters by and smacks him on the ass with a stick. "Let's go, Seggy," he says. "Last one out cleans up the pucks."

Tyler tosses his phone onto the bench and reaches for his skates.

It takes him the entire length of practice to get his head where it needs to be. Jamie's frowning at him by the end of the opening drill, after the fourth pass in a row goes wide. Tyler stamps down on the urge to snap his stick like a fucking diva. Instead he catches Ruff's eye, pointing at himself and gesturing a few laps around the rink. Ruff waves acknowledgment, blowing the whistle to call up the PK team.

He just meant to buy himself a little more time to settle down, but once he's moving, he gets into it. Tyler skates hard, his head down, thinking about his stride and his breathing and getting the fuck over himself.

Sometimes, in Boston, he'd get distracted when a practice was going bad and start fucking around with trick shots. Later, after the third person told him to grow some professionalism, he'd gotten off the ice instead and done pushups until everything burned, because being kind of flakey and weird was a step up. It usually helped, but he's been working hard on not being that guy here. A first line center doesn't have time to be that guy, for one thing.

He's paying enough attention to know when the PK drills are done and everyone starts lining up for shooting. He turns for the bench, slowing hard enough to spray snow.

Jamie's waiting for him with a bottle of Gatorade and an assessing look.

"Something hurting?" Jamie asks, tossing him the bottle. He frets over all of them as much as the trainers do, swear to God.

Tyler slugs half of the Gatorade down in a long guzzle. He skated hard enough to work up a sweat. "Naw," he says. "I'm fine. It's—" he taps his temple. "Just distracted."

Jamie comes half a step closer. "Okay," he says, and tips his head. ". . . Something hurting?" A softer voice for that, an entirely different kind of caring. Fuck, Tyler just doesn't know what to do with this guy sometimes.

"Duncey's not coming to Austin," he blurts.

Jamie's face instantly falls. "Dude, that sucks," he says.

Weirdly, seeing Jamie get upset about it makes Tyler feel a little better. "I can reschedule. Next time we go to Boston won't work, but." He chews his lip. There's so little time during the season to do the sort of long sittings that ink like his needs. That was why it was so great that a tattoo expo in Austin coincided with their upcoming three-day break. "Maybe in the offseason," he says, trying to sound like he's cool with waiting that long.

Jamie nods. "Just say when." He pulls himself up short. "Um. I can still come watch, right?" He was ridiculously excited about that, and genuinely interested in the endless design back-and-forth with Duncey. He poured over every revision with Tyler, asked questions about the process – Tyler even caught him reading a Wikipedia entry on body modification. Tyler tried to tell him it wasn't that for him, some sort of, like, deep proclamation of self or whatever. Jamie listened to him, and said only, "But it's important to you," like that was the beginning and end of it. Which it is, but Jamie made it sound like – like something it isn't.

The whistle blows, and Tyler jumps. "Shit," he says, and pitches the Gatorade over the boards. "Of course you can still watch. Let's go."

He skates to the back of the line of shooters, aware of Jamie just a stride behind him. Jamie stops right up against his back, a solid presence through both their pads. He circles Tyler's upper arm with a big hand, right about where the new ink was supposed to go.

"Sorry," he murmurs, quiet under the clatter of sticks and Val's howl as he scores.

Tyler dips his chin in acknowledgment. He kind of wishes Jamie hadn't tapped in so effortlessly to just how upset he is. It would be easier to shut it down if Jamie acted like it was no big deal.

"Yeah," Tyler says, swallowing. "Me too."

*

They've mostly synced up their schedule of off-ice conditioning, sort of by accident, sort of not. So it's easy for both of them to stay after skate for gym time so they can leave together. Tyler goes hard on the bike, trying to remember to keep an eye on his heart rate readout instead of spacing out like he usually does. Jamie sticks to the core bodywork he loves, the planks and brutal-looking weight routines. That stuff never seems to do anything aesthetically to him, like it does other people. Jamie's never going to have a carved set of abs – his body just doesn't work like that. But it's what makes him so devastatingly strong in ways Tyler can only aspire to.

Often after practice, they go back to Jamie's to hang out with Jordie and Dills and some of the other guys. But today they go back to Tyler's instead, without actually talking about it.

Tyler gets distracted by Marshall for a while. The two of them roll around on the living room floor; Tyler grabs the free end of the rope tug in both hands and pretends to growl over it, which always makes Marshall crazy. Jamie's got lunch mostly assembled by the time Tyler drags himself away and washes the dog slobber off.

"Thanks," Tyler says, because he still can't reliably manage anything more complicated than a sandwich, and he's genuinely grateful to every person in his life who keeps ensuring he doesn't have to learn.

He moves around Jamie, getting plates and silverware. He's digging for water bottles when he gets an inspiration and goes for the freezer instead. Behind the frozen waffles he could totally quit if he wanted to and the salmon burgers Jamie must have brought over – yep, there are a few cans of that frozen Bacardi margarita mix. It's objectively terrible shit – Tyler grew out of genuinely liking it when he was, like, seventeen – but that doesn't seem to matter. Brownie thinks it's hilarious that Tyler has comfort margaritas when everyone else has comfort food, but Tyler thinks a dude who goes for KD with the orange powder whenever he has a bad day can shut his face.

It probably says something that he knows the instructions by heart. Tyler pulls out the blender, smacking the can until the frozen mix comes out in one big glop. Then he thinks fuck it and adds another can.

He adds the water, the extra ice, then goes for the liquor cabinet. Jamie's watching him when he re-emerges with the tequila. Tyler pours, measuring by eye and being pretty damn generous.

"Are we inviting people over?" Jamie asks mildly.

Tyler snorts. "No, dude, I know better than to spring that shit on you." Jamie's kind of a homebody. He loves hanging out with the team, but having more than two or three people over is something he has to work up to over a day at least. It was painfully adorable watching him trying to fulfill the social obligations of captain, way back in the beginning. Tyler eventually took over because seriously, all you have to do is stand up in the locker room and tell people when and where and how much beer, and yet Jamie made it look like a complicated math problem. Tyler takes care of all that shit now. Jordie calls him Jamie's social secretary or, when he's feeling like more of a dick, Madam First Lady of the Stars.

Tyler pulses the blender to break up the ice, then runs it on high for a minute. "This is for me," he says, deciding that shame is for losers and going straight for pint glasses. "Guess I can let you have some."

Jamie snorts, but accepts a glass willingly enough. He gets water bottles for them, too, which is probably a good idea.

They eat Jamie's stir fry in front of the TV. It's hard for them to agree on movies, so they stick to NHLN. Once they're done, they turn on the Playstation.

You only have to learn the lesson about not pouring tequila down your throat right after vigorous exercise three or four times before it sticks. So Tyler does the responsible thing and eats most of his lunch before he starts drinking. Jamie keeps up with him for the first round, enough to be sitting a little looser, trash talking a bit more over the game. But then he slows way down; he's barely touched his second by the time Tyler is pouring his third.

Jamie eventually suggests that they turn the game off. Tyler realizes, several minutes after the fact, that it was probably because he isn't coordinated enough anymore. He ends up slumped sideways, his head resting on Jamie's thigh, making 'mmm' sounds as Jamie slowly talks his way through their play on the upcoming road trip.

This is better. Jamie keeps running his hand from the crown of Tyler's head all the way down his spine. There's maybe half a glass left in the blender on the coffee table, and Tyler does want it, but that would involve sitting up.

He's maybe a tiny bit drunker than he'd been aiming for. Just a little. Tequila fucks him, always has. That's why he likes it.

Jamie's fingers catch in the collar of his t-shirt and slip briefly beneath it. Tyler makes a complaining noise, then another louder one when Jamie totally doesn't get it and just murmurs an apology. Tyler pushes up on his elbows just enough to get out of his t-shirt. He throws it across the room, then flops back over Jamie's lap.

"Okay," he says, "Do that some more."

Jamie snorts out a laugh, but puts his big warm hand on Tyler's neck again, running it down and back up. Tyler sighs, relaxing into it.

"We had this cat when I was growing up," Jamie says. "Once you started petting it, it would bite you if you stopped."

Tyler takes a minute to process that. "I don't bite," he finally protests.

"That's a flat out lie," Jamie says, laughing for real.

"Okay, okay. But it doesn't count when we're fucking. That's, like, involuntary."

"How about when you're turning me down?" Jamie asks lightly.

Tyler rolls enough to stare up at him. "I've never turned you down," he says, astonished.

"Sure you have." Jamie is grinning. "Not surprised you don't remember. You were mostly asleep. I asked if you wanted to fool around and you muttered something and bit me. I figured that was a no."

"But--" Tyler is appalled that there was a time they could have had sex and didn't. It makes him sad just thinking about it. "Next time, wake me up," he says, poking Jamie for emphasis. "You know I'm a sure thing for you."

Jamie's ears turn red. "I'll keep that in mind."

"I just like sex so much," Tyler says earnestly. "It's so great, you know?"

Jamie cracks up. "Okay," he says. "Sex or hockey, only one for the rest of your life, pick."

Tyler opens his mouth, shuts it, struggling. Jamie watches him for a minute, still laughing.

"Whoa, okay," he says, "I didn't mean to, like, short-circuit your brain. Don't answer that."

Tyler relaxes back onto Jamie's thighs, relieved. "I just like it so much," he says again.

Jamie's face softens. "I know." He runs the back of his hand down Tyler's cheek. "The way you like it – it's really beautiful."

Tyler blinks. "You mean hot."

Jamie looks him in the eye. "I said what I mean." He breathes in, like he's going to say something else. Then he stops and shakes his head a little. "Are you going to ink anywhere else on your chest?" he asks. "Or your back?"

Tyler turns over again, waiting to speak until Jamie starts rubbing up and down his spine. "Definitely," he says. "But it's kind of hard."

Mmm?"

"Well, I want to do it. But once I do, I can't do it again, you know?"

Jamie considers this. "Yeah. You will run out of skin, eventually."

"Exactly." Thinking about that has kept Tyler up at night a few times. He stretches his arms forward over his head, looking up at the bare places on his right arm. The compulsion to fill them rises up again. He wants the needles, he wants it to hurt, he wants the aftercare and the gross peeling and, when it's all done, the images, the permanence. "Speaking of sex," he murmurs.

Jamie makes an inquiring noise.

"I guess I never told you." Tyler sighs regretfully. "We were seriously going to have awesome sex in Austin. Post tattoo sex is--" He sucks on his lower lip. "I get really stoned and it's super fucking intense."

Jamie's hand pauses on the back of his neck, tightens. "Wouldn't that hurt? Moving around right after?"

"Yeah," Tyler says dreamily. He catches himself. "Um. No. It's more . . . intense."

There's a brief silence. "Okay," Jamie says finally. "But, um, you know it's cool, right? If you – if you want it to hurt a little. You could tell me about that."

Tyler cranks his head up and around, because he's really gotta see this. Jamie's bright red, biting his lip, with that dogged look he gets.

"Are you saying you'd be into it?" Tyler asks. He's a little incredulous, because seriously, this is the guy who honest to god hovered when Tyler tore a fingernail off. Yeah, it hurt like a mofo, but for real, a fingernail.

Jamie shakes his head. "I'm saying I don't know." He pauses. "Yet."

If Jamie has a superpower, it's carrying off awkward-sexy so damn well. "Okay," Tyler says. "So you're definitely coming to Boston with me, then."

Jamie nods vigorously. "Wouldn't miss it." He scratches his nails down Tyler's back. "You know I like it when you tell me things. About you. What you like."

That's a really nice spin on the fact that Tyler is a bossy motherfucker in bed. He's never been able to help that, and there's something about Jamie that makes him not want to. It's just so easy to say, "Touch me here, fuck me this way, harder, like that, let me ride you, don't come yet." Jamie's way into it. Kind of like he's into Tyler organizing his social calendar, only sexier.

That doesn't mean Tyler tells him about every passing desire. He . . . has a lot of desires. He's learned, over time, to slap a filter over a lot of that shit. But if Jamie's asking . . .

"Kinky fresh tattoo sex in Boston," Tyler says. "Definitely penciling you in."

Jamie gets redder, but he smiles, nodding. "Yes, please." He runs his hand up this time instead of down, brushing over the finished parts of Tyler's right sleeve. "Tell me about this one?" he says, tapping a small, abstract design near the inside of Tyler's elbow.

"Brownie drew that when we were on vacation once," Tyler says. "In permanent marker on my back. I was asleep and he felt like doodling or something. And I liked it, so."

Jamie hums thoughtfully. "And this? I can't quite read it."

Tyler talks about losing his virginity to an Eminem album and how he's never going to forget the lyrics, and then about the pair of dice just above that, a reminder of a crazy awesome weekend in Atlantic City. Jamie absorbs the stories interestedly, like he always does. He's been asking about the ink for months, little bit by little bit. Tyler doesn't really know why, but it's not like he minds talking about it. And the blatant admiration really doesn't hurt.

"What about that?" Jamie touches the faint tracing of letters tucked around other images. Tyler's surprised he can even see it. "Remember/forget," Jamie reads out, leaning close.

Tyler shrugs. "Oh, you know." He was asked a while ago to do an in-depth magazine feature on his ink, lots of photos and an interview about each piece. It sounded awesome at first, but he quickly realized he had to turn it down. The ink is . . . some of it is easy to talk about. Most of it is, actually. But some of it . . . he has this idea in his head, something complicated and important. And he gets that idea down onto his skin, somehow. But explaining the way from one to the other is impossible. The tree is like that. And a few other things.

"Um," he says. "It's just to remind me." He struggles briefly with words. He wants Jamie to understand. Tyler crushes on pretty much anyone he's around for more than a few days; the first time he realized there was moore to his thing for Jamie was the night they stayed up until four in the morning on Jamie's couch, just talking. He hadn't done that with anyone but Brownie in a really long time. And as much as Jamie likes being told things, Tyler likes telling them, too.

Also, tequila.

"There are things I've gotta remember," Tyler says. "And things I'd be better off forgetting. So it's about knowing the difference." He pauses. "And the stuff that's both."

"Like what?" Jamie traces the letters. He sounds puzzled.

"Like there was this one time," Tyler says. "I was at this party, and I was kind of drunk but not that drunk, you know? Except I totally blacked out for hours and when I woke up I thought, hey, that was weird, and it took me days to realize someone put something in my drink."

Jamie sounds a little freaked out. "What happened? Do you remember?"

"No. Not really. A little." Tyler shrugs, shakes his head. "Bits and pieces." At first, he only thought it was a little weird. Not the first time he'd woken up on someone's living room floor without being able to remember how he got there. Except that he really hadn't been that drunk. And he had bruises in weird places. And he'd obviously had sex. Kind of a lot of it. And he thought, hey, shame I can't remember that, but still, score.

"Like what?"

He started to remember weeks later. Just bits, here and there. Lying on something hard, like tile. Being really, really cold. A couple of people talking over him. Trying to move and feeling like he was under water. Saying, "hey, I don't feel—" and knowing, knowing no one was listening, because they hadn't before.

"Come on," Tyler says lightly. "There are only two reasons to drug someone's drink at a party. And I woke up with both my kidneys, so." He pulls his arms down and folds them under his face. Jamie's thighs are tense under him, and it's seriously killing the buzz.

"Um," Jamie says, into this totally fucking weird silence. "I'm sorry."

Tyler shrugs. He turns his face into his inked arm, pretty sure he didn't actually manage to explain his tattoo after all. He can hear a very quiet drip-drip noise, and eventually he realizes it's condensation from the blender. There's still some margarita left, but that's far away, and he's kind of over it. Mostly, he wants a nap.

After a while Jamie's hand comes to rest on his back. It stays there, then starts with the slow strokes down his spine, the ones he likes so much. Tyler sighs into it, relaxing, sleepy. Definitely naptime.

*

He wakes up with his face in a pillow and Jamie's hand in his hair. Tyler turns his head, squinting. It's late afternoon, it looks like. Jamie's clearly gotten up and come back at least once, because the dishes and blender are gone from the coffee table and the pillow was on Tyler's bed. Marshall's nails click quietly across the kitchen tile, and Jamie's watching something on mute.

Tyler stretches, sighing. He has always metabolized alcohol really fast, so he's pretty much sober. And thirsty as hell.

"Hey." Jamie tugs gently at his hair.

Tyler grunts, hoping it comes across as affectionate. He rolls out of Jamie's lap and wanders off to drink a few quarts of water.

It's a weird night. Jamie's really quiet, his attention mostly on his iPad. They're just starting to talk about dinner when Dills texts to say he's going for steak. Tyler's all in on that, and Jamie comes along as a matter of course. Half the team does, too, and it's a loud good time for everyone. Tyler likes these guys. It's kind of redundant to say that – he's never been on a team of guys he collectively disliked, though he knows it happens. But he genuinely likes this mix, likes who he is with them.

Jamie's quiet there, too. He makes a round of the table, checking in with everyone, going down his captain list. And he smiles the way he always does when Tyler is in and out of his seat every three minutes, snatching bites of dinner in between conversations. But he doesn't have much to say, and Tyler sees Jordie frowning at him more than once.

At least until they're leaving, when Jamie catches Tyler by the wrist. "Okay if I stay over again?" he asks.

That's usually code for sex. "Sure," Tyler says. "But I'm pretty wiped out, man."

"No, me too," Jamie says. "But it's okay anyway?"

"Yeah, of course." Jamie knows he hates sleeping alone. What's he going to say here, no?

Jamie clearly got the message about being tired, because he doesn't even hint at starting something. He just presses up behind Tyler in bed, both arms around him. That's not really his thing; Tyler can sleep with someone all over him or under him or whatever, but Jamie needs a bit more room. He's not about to argue, though, and with Jamie breathing quietly in his ear, he sleeps like a baby.

*

Tyler has this morning coffee ritual. Nothing too complicated, basically just: start coffeemaker, lean on counter, think about nothing, let coffee cool, drink coffee. Jamie comes up behind him during the thinking nothing phase. He puts his arms around Tyler's waist and leans his cheek against Tyler's temple.

"Hey," he says softly. "You awake enough to talk?"

"Hmm," Tyler says. Then, with an effort, "Sure."

"Okay." Jamie takes a deep breath, exactly like he does when he's about to make a prepared speech to the media. "I, uh, kind of sucked yesterday," he says. "So I wanted to say some of the stuff I should have said then."

"Huh?" Tyler says. The coffee is ready, and he pours for two, breathing it in.

"Like, um." Jamie stays with him, swaying as Tyler reaches for the cream. "I'm pretty sure – I hope this goes without saying, but. If you're ever uncomfortable with something we're doing in bed, you'd say, right?"

Tyler almost says "Huh?" again, but he realizes what Jamie's getting at just in time. It's not like he forgot dropping some unpleasant ancient history on Jamie yesterday. He just hadn't been thinking about it.

Tyler pours in more cream than he usually likes, just to cool the coffee down. Then he slugs a third of the mug in one go, trying to jumpstart his brain.

"No," he says, putting the mug down. "I probably wouldn't."

Jamie makes the same sound he does when he gets sucker punched by some asshole on the ice.

"Look," Tyler says hastily. "You know I like what we do. We just had an entire conversation about how much I like it."

"Yeah," Jamie says. "But if you didn't."

Tyler sighs, drinks more coffee. "It doesn't matter," he says. "Ninety percent of the time, swear to God, it doesn't matter. I don't even remember it ever happened." It still surprises him now and then, like oh yeah, that's still there when it bobs to the surface of his mind.

"And the other ten percent?"

Explaining this is, if possible, harder than explaining some of his tattoos. "You know what I want to be thinking about when we're fucking?" he says. "I want to be thinking about us fucking. I want to be in it, you know? With you. That's pretty much it."

"But that's what I'm saying." Jamie leans harder into him. "If that's not all you're thinking about. You could tell me, that would be fine."

Tyler is suddenly, for the first time, grateful for the six-month off-and-on running argument he'd had with Brownie about this. Well, not about sex, but close enough. It means he actually does have an answer worked out for this.

"Okay," he says, "You know how when you're on a breakaway, and you've got a couple D-men on you? Like, right behind you. You can't see them, but you can feel them right there coming for you?" Jamie nods. "The only thing to do is to be faster than them." Tyler says. "You can't turn and look, you can't slow down. You've just . . . you've just got to skate harder. It's like that."

Jamie is silent for a long time. Tyler eventually nudges Jamie's hand off his stomach and to the second coffee cup. Jamie takes the hint and leans away from him enough to start drinking.

"Skating harder meaning . . . having sex?" Jamie says finally.

"Or other stuff, yeah." Like actually skating. Or hitting that perfect second drink buzz. Or getting new ink. His mug is empty, so Tyler finally turns around. Jamie looks like he didn't get enough sleep, and he's got that worried furrow between his eyes.

"Hey." Tyler nudges him. "We're cool, right?"

"Yeah, of course," Jamie says hastily. "I just – yeah. We're cool."

"Okay." Tyler shoulder-bumps him and goes to put his mug in the dishwasher. "By the way, you don't suck," he says. "While we're clearing the air or whatever."

That, at least, makes Jamie smile.

*

Pre-game skate is way better than yesterday's practice. Tyler feels like he's in the right gear again; he can do that thing where he knows where Jamie and Val are going to be before they do. Everyone else is feeling good, too. There's a lot of shoving and fucking around at the end of practice; Tyler's smack in the middle of it because at least half the time he doesn't need to start shit, shit just starts around him. It's a gift.

And then, when the lot of them finally get kicked off the ice by incoming Sharks players, one of the trainers flags Tyler down and reminds him that it's his turn in the rotation for a maintenance massage. Fucking beauty.

Tyler got kind of spoiled in Boston. He knew that then, and he definitely knows it now. Spoiled with guaranteed playoff spots, and not having to be The Guy most of the time, and the piles of money. The truth is, though, getting unspoiled has its perks. It turns out a playoff spot means more when you played out of your mind for it, and being The Guy is actually okay when Jamie is The Other Guy. And yeah, money doesn't get thrown around on the off-ice stuff here because it can't really be spared. But Tyler sincerely does not give a fuck about all that, just as long as they keep paying Cleo. Cleo is the massage guy, and Cleo is fucking magic.

It doesn't all feel good. Some of the deep tissue work is going to be painful no matter who's doing it. But the dude's got this way of tracking down sore spots and pressing just a little off-center of them that makes Tyler want to cry in the best way.

Also, it makes him pretty fucking loud. It turned out to be a great icebreaker back at training camp, right after the trade. He knew Jamie and Jordie, a little, but everyone was still being really polite and careful with each other. And then Tyler got a badly-needed massage, because new team, new city, kind of stressful. And it turns out there's nothing like letting twenty guys give you epic shit for your porn noises to help with team integration.

Tyler's face down on the table, groaning a little to himself with both Cleo's hands and most of his body weight working at the stubborn tension at the very tops of his thighs, when he hears the training room door open.

Cleo pauses, heel of one hand digging up into Tyler's ass. "You need him?"

"I'll wait, go on," he hears Jamie say, and then the rattle as Jamie pulls up one of the rolling stools. And if there's one thing Tyler loves, it's an audience. Not to mention how Jamie's his favorite audience. So he lets himself go, and maybe even cranks it up a bit, because fuuuuck that feels good.

He knows they're done when Cleo drops a steaming towel over his back. "Wait for that to cool," Cleo says. ". . . And clean up if you drooled on my table."

Tyler mutters thanks, listening to him walk away. There's a brief pause, then Jamie starts slow-clapping.

"Such a fucking showboater," he says.

Tyler grunts something close to, "You like it."

The stool rattles again. Tyler is staring at a patch of floor through the face rest in the table, and Jamie's sneakered feet slide into view.

"So." The table moves, and Tyler can picture Jamie leaning his elbows on it like he does when he's trying to be cool. He sounds nervous, and Tyler's heart sinks. Are they about to have another Talk? Two in one day is so over quota. "I was wondering."

Tyler makes a questioning noise.

"Have you thought about what you want to do with the break?" Jamie asks.

I want a tattoo, Tyler thinks, and it's whiny even inside his own head. "Uh-uh," he says.

"I mean, we've still got a hotel in Austin," Jamie says. "But maybe you don't want to do that without, like, a reason to go there? So I was thinking, maybe we could do something else."

"Like what?"

"Our last game is in Colorado," Jamie says. "So we could just stay there? Get a cabin or – or a B&B or whatever. There's, like, mountains and shit, we could go skiing or I think there's ice fishing or--"

"Hey." Tyler waggles his fingers, which is the extent of physical effort he feels up to. "Dude, you don't have to sell me on this, I'm in."

Jamie lets out a huge breath, like he was genuinely nervous about this. The absolute dork. What, like he's going to suggest a few days alone together in a mountain cabin and Tyler's going to be all, eh, no, I've got to wash my hair?

"Awesome." Jamie leans in – there's a waft of soap and clean hair – and drops a sneaky kiss under Tyler's ear. "Do you have any preference, or—"

"I," Tyler says, "prefer to show up. Tell me when, tell me where."

"Okay, good." Jamie catches himself. "I mean, uh—"

Tyler laughs. "Shut up, you hate it whenever I get involved in anything you're planning, don't even." The exact phrase, the last time Tyler had tried to help with some special project of Jamie's, was something like agent of chaos.

"No comment," Jamie says.

*

The drive out of Denver in the early evening is harder than either of them expect. Texas is spoiling both of them. The rental has snow tires and four-wheel drive, but the farther into the mountains they get, the shittier the ploughing. And then it starts snowing, the really dry powder kind that seems to come down in a solid sheet. Jamie turns Tyler's iPod off half an hour in with an apologetic murmur about needing to concentrate.

"S'fine," Tyler says, and works hard to hold still and be quiet, which for him takes nearly as much concentration as driving on icy roads.

They stop at a gas station as it's getting dark. Jamie goes in for coffee and leaves the keys; Tyler switches to the driver's seat while he's gone. Jamie doesn't argue when he gets back, even though he's a fucking terrible passenger. He just puts his gloved hand on the back of Tyler's neck for a minute while they sit in the darkening lot and trade the coffee back and forth.

The last fifteen miles are a crawl. By the time Tyler's gotten them up the treacherously steep driveway, his neck and back are a solid block of tension. He doesn't even look around for a minute, just gets out of the car and paces in a small circle, shaking his whole body out.

Then Jamie bangs the trunk closed and comes around the car with both their bags. "C'mon," he says. His voice seems to vanish into the night, and it's only then that Tyler notices the vastness of the silence, just them and miles of mountain and the subliminal whisper of snow.

There's a porch light, probably on a timer or something. Jamie fumbles with keys one-handed. Tyler crowds up behind him, lifting a bag off Jamie's shoulder and peering curiously past him. This place is – well, it's fucking adorable is what it is. Tyler knocks his knuckles against the actual log cabin wall, already starting to grin.

Jamie finally gets the door open and the light on, and there's a flurry of bags and boots and gloves. Tyler leaves everything in a pile in front of the door, sliding into the main room on the slick hardwood in his socks.

It's even more ridiculous inside. Tyler's grin widens when he clocks the bottle of wine tied with a ribbon on the coffee table, the warm mood lighting, the fireplace with a giant rug in front of it. The whole first floor is open plan. There's a little kitchen nook in the corner, but it's clearly not that important. Why would you want to eat when you could be gazing into each other's eyes is basically the message.

"Aw, Jamie," he says helplessly.

"Shut up, it's what was available," Jamie says.

"Bet you fifty bucks this place comes with, like, courtesy condoms," Tyler says.

"Ugh, classy is a totally foreign concept to you," Jamie says. Then, after a brief pause, "You're on."

There isn't a tasteful basket of sex toys left out in the loft bedroom, though there are roses and cinnamon scented candles.

"Ha," Jamie says triumphantly. "Next steak is on you."

"Hang on." Tyler crosses to the closed door opposite the stairs. He sticks his head through, flicks on the light, and busts up laughing. "Nope," he says, "sorry, I think I win this one." He gestures at the covered hot tub, the walls of glass looking out over a deck and glowing snow, the massage table in the corner, the empty ice bucket and wine glasses, the – for fucking real – selection of scented oils.

"Shut up," Jamie says, jostling their shoulders together.

"You picked this out special, don't even lie," Tyler says. "I've got your number, Benn."

He watches the color sweep up Jamie's neck. "You can't wait to get in that thing, don't even lie," Jamie fires back, gesturing at the hot tub.

Tyler stops laughing because, now that he mentions it . . .

"Uh-huh," Jamie says knowingly.

"Whatever." Tyler points at himself. "I'm not hard to figure out. What you see is what you get."

Jamie gives him this long, steady look, like he thinks that's bullshit and he wants Tyler to know it. But all he says is, "Too much, do you think?"

And the thing is, Tyler actually does have Jamie's number. So he knows Jamie really did pick this place out, that it's part of some big idea he has about how things ought to be done. About the kind of boyfriend he wants to be.

Tyler leans over and hugs him, both arms tight around his ribs. "Naw man, it's cool. You do you, don't let me stop you."

Jamie snorts, but hugs him back, bending a little to kiss Tyler's neck. "We should eat before we soak," he says.

They get the cover off the hot tub first, and Tyler punches buttons until it starts bubbling and steaming. He leans over, feeling the heat beginning to wash up over his face.

"We can eat up here," Jamie says, towing him backwards by the arm.

The place comes stocked, but they stopped for food anyway, because no way will there be enough otherwise. Jamie sets up in the kitchen while Tyler gets their bags upstairs, then goes to consider the fireplace. It's the real kind with, like, newspapers for kindling. Tyler pokes at it for a bit, then discovers that he has no 3G coverage when he goes to look up an instructional YouTube video. It's cool, he's seen this done plenty of times, he's totally got this.

He does, eventually, though it's kind of smoky there for a while and Jamie sounds like he can't decide whether to mock or worry when he asks if Tyler needs help.

"All good," Tyler says, and goes to hang over Jamie's shoulder. Now that food is happening, the game is catching up with him and he wants a piece of whatever Jamie's doing right the fuck now. Jamie is slicing big piles of Italian meats and cheeses, with a stack of juicy tomato rounds and a loaf of French bread at his elbow.

"Go on," Jamie says, elbowing him away the second time Tyler darts his fingers in around the knife to snatch something. "Get in the water, I'll bring everything up."

Tyler's been told to get the fuck out of the kitchen plenty of times by one Benn or the other. Jamie's way more polite about it now that he's getting his dick in on the regular. He's more polite about most things, which is saying something. It's not something Tyler needs – he's not about to cut him off for getting a little salty -- it's just one of those things that's important to Jamie.

Tyler leaves his clothes in a trail across the bedroom. If his boxers were rose petals, he'd totally be getting into the spirit here.

He takes it up another notch by lighting a bunch of candles around the hot tub and starting his calm the fuck down playlist going on his phone.

Then he takes the handful of steps up onto the platform around the hot tub, and groans his way down into it inch-by-inch. He slumps until the water laps up his neck, then holds his breath and slides down. The water covers his face, his ears, his eyes, and everything goes away except for the glorious heat.

He's just running out of air when Jamie's big hand spreads over the crown of his head.

"Food," Jamie says, tugging gently on his hair as Tyler sits up.

"Nice," Tyler says, taking in the spread. Jamie's made them giant sandwiches, with an even bigger bowl of pasta salad with sausage to share. He sets the loaded tray within reach, then pours a bag of ice into the waiting bucket and produces a bottle of wine from under his arm.

"Are we going to wait for this to chill?" he says.

Tyler snorts. "Have you met us?"

"Right." Jamie digs in his pockets and comes up with a corkscrew.

Tyler's watched him open countless bottles of beer, but they don't really do wine. The furrow of concentration between Jamie's eyes as he works the cork out is adorable.

Jamie pours for both of them, then finally starts taking his clothes off. Tyler rests his chin in his hands to watch, because hello, that's a lot of nice-looking man right there.

Tyler waits until Jamie has settled across from him before reaching for a wine glass. "So, what are we toasting? . . . What? You're going all out, I can too."

"Up to you," Jamie says, smiling crookedly.

Tyler thinks about it for a minute. "To ink," he says.

Jamie leans over to touch their glasses together. "Your ink," he says.

They plow through the food in five minutes flat, then loll around in the hot water drinking wine like they do this grown-up romantic shit all the time. In actuality, Tyler's never done anything quite like this in his life, and he's pretty sure Jamie hasn't either. Jamie's his longest relationship by several orders of magnitude; before him, Tyler either had a lot of love to give or a really short attention span, depending on whom you asked.

It's not like Jamie's cured him of looking. Or of wanting other people. Or falling for them a little, even. Tyler's pretty sure he's always going to do that. It's just that there's a piece of him that's always paying attention to Jamie, no matter what. That's what's new.

Jamie scoots closer on the bench seat and drapes an arm over Tyler's shoulders. His hand comes to rest comfortably curved around Tyler's ribs while they talk quietly about beating the Avs and complain about skating at this altitude.

Tyler's damn good at what he does, and he's getting better all the time. But he's a this-moment player. He's thinking about the next thirty seconds, maybe the rest of the shift at the most. Jamie's not like that. He can fit so much more in his head that sometimes when they're talking hockey, it's like they're speaking different languages. Jamie isn't just thinking about this shift or this period or even this game; he's thinking season-long and conference-wide, or maybe past that, who the hell knows.

That figures, though. Tyler can't reliably project what groceries he'll need more than two days out, whereas he once saw Jamie buy his dad a Christmas present in February.

"Hey," Jamie says unexpectedly. "You know when you keep getting tats, you're going to have to leave room, right?"

"For what?"

Jamie smiles, self-conscious. "For another one of these," he says, tapping Tyler's Stanley Cup tattoo. "And I want a good spot, Seguin. We're not talking tramp stamp real estate here."

"Oh, come on, you'd love it if I got that right on my ass," Tyler says, smirking. "With the amount of time you spend looking at it . . ." He glances down at himself, though, thinking about it. On his back, right between the shoulder blades? It's such big, beautiful open space. But then he couldn't directly see it. The other side of his ribs, maybe? Or down his side, like a list?

The tattoos Tyler wants are always tied to things, mementos or whatever. And it's like he's trained his brain to filter life that way, because sometimes, for him, thinking about something happening and thinking about getting the tattoo to remember it are the same thing. He wants to stamp that date – whatever it will be – into his skin forever, because that will feel exactly like it will feel when Jamie hands him the cup.

"Tell you what," he says. "You can pick."

Jamie looks up sharply. "Really? You'd let me do that?"

Oh yeah, does he have good ideas or what. Tyler gestures invitingly down his body, and Jamie's eyes follow his hand. "Yeah," Tyler says. "All up to you. Hell, you can write 'reserved' on it for the time being, if you want."

Jamie's hand moves down his side, and Tyler is really digging that speculative look. He leans in, and they kiss, slow and dirty. Tyler swings around, weightless, and straddles him, the water splashing between them as they press close. He's pretty sure Jamie isn't thinking about tattoo placement anymore, not squeezing Tyler's thigh like that.

"Hey," Tyler murmurs. "You wanna do something for me?"

Jamie nods, breath coming faster. "Tell me."

"Put your fingers in me," Tyler says. "I want that."

Jamie hesitates. "We don't have lube?"

"The water will help," Tyler says. "Come on, just one. Go slow."

Jamie tips his head. "It'll hurt." It's not a question, he's confirming.

Tyler nods. "Not much. A little, though."

Jamie's still hesitating. ". . . You sure?"

For a moment, Tyler is baffled. Jamie hasn't been like this since the second time they fucked. Then he realizes what's going on here, and he sits back, feeling cold. He knew it, he fucking knew Jamie would be weird.

"Yeah, I'm sure," he says, and okay, maybe he's coming across a little combative. "Are you?"

"Yeah, of course," Jamie nods. Then he slumps. "No." He says. "Fuck, I'm sorry. I'm not."

Tyler is very close to snapping something that would likely ruin this entire night. Brownie always says he's never bitchier than when he's not getting his way. Tyler bites it back hard enough to hurt.

Jamie wants to be the kind of boyfriend who cooks for him and spends romantic weekends with him and who, well. Worries like it's what they gave him the gold medal for. Tyler's cool with all of that, pretty much. It's just been raising the question, more and more pointedly, of what kind of boyfriend he wants to be. Tyler has no fucking idea.

"Okay," Tyler says. It's easier than he expects to keep it polite. "Remember that whole thing I said about just wanting to be here when we're fucking?" Jamie nods. "Yeah, well, I'd really rather you were all here, too."

Jamie winces. "Yeah, I know. Sorry." He chews on his lip. "Can you . . ."

"What?" Tyler spreads his hands, trying to look inviting and shit. He's surprised to realize that if Jamie wants to stop everything and rehash the whole conversation, he's good with that. Well. Not thrilled. But he'll do it. Huh. Who knew.

"Tell me again?" Jamie says. "What you want me to do."

"Oh." Tyler blinks. That is so in his wheelhouse. "Sure." He leans back in, hooks his arms around Jamie's neck. "I want you to finger me," he says, making eye contact. "Dry. Really slow. You good with that?"

Jamie takes a breath big enough to move his whole body under Tyler. He nods back. His eyes are huge in the candlelight as he reaches around with both hands to pull Tyler open.

Jamie does go slow. Considering it's been over a week since Tyler had anything in him, that's probably good. He's sweating by the time Jamie's in him to the first knuckle, clutching too hard at Jamie's shoulders. The water does help, but yes, it burns. Tyler turns his face into Jamie's neck, biting down a little because seriously, it's involuntary.

"Hey, no," Jamie says unexpectedly. "I need you to keep your head up, okay?"

"Huh?" Tyler straightens, willing but not getting it.

"Sorry," Jamie says, and starts easing his finger in again, so Tyler's barely listening when he adds, "I need to be able to see your face, that's all."

It's just one finger. Tyler's had four in him before – hell, four of Jamie's, even, and his nice big dick, and lots of other big dicks because yeah, Tyler has a type. But this one finger feels like a lot. Jamie's knuckles are huge, his callouses and rough skin just the right side of too much. Tyler has no leverage, spread over Jamie's lap like this, his legs starting to float whenever he gets distracted. He can't do anything but hold still and let Jamie give it to him.

They're both breathing hard by the time Jamie's as far into him as he can get. He pauses there, makes eye contact.

"You want to do something for me now?" he says. Tyler nods. "Tighten up on me," Jamie says, going dark red as the words come out.

It's by far the dirtiest thing Tyler's ever heard him say – usually, Tyler comes out with the filthy stuff for both of them. But hell yeah he wants to encourage this, so he rocks back a little, concentrates, tightens up from his abs all the way down. Jamie inhales, and Tyler can actually watch his eyes widen.

"Fuck that's hot," Jamie blurts.

"You thinking about getting your dick in?" Tyler asks, not to be outdone. "Because I totally am."

Jamie nods, his mouth hanging open. Sex stupid is a great look for him. He pulls his finger out a little and rocks back in. He's being less careful now, so it's fucking intense, just that quick slide.

"Yeah," Tyler says. "Keep doing that." He tips his head back, whining a little on each breath as Jamie fingers him. It's stopped snowing and the stars have come out. He can just see them beyond the lights out on the deck. And the sight of it – the stars and the snow – reminds him of something dumb they used to do, the winter before the draft.

"Have you ever," he starts, and Jamie makes an interested noise. He's said several times that he's guaranteed to at least get a kick out of any sentence Tyler starts that way. "Rolled naked in the snow?"

That is clearly not where Jamie thought he was going. "Um . . . no?" he says. "Is this a sex thing I've never heard of?"

"No." Tyler waves a hand. "Well, okay, probably for somebody." He touches Jamie's wrist and Jamie pulls out. Nice and slow, but it still makes Tyler lean back in the water and groan.

"Wait, you're serious," Jamie says as Tyler climbs out of the tub.

"Yeah." Tyler is possessed by the idea, suddenly. He doesn't remember what it felt like, but he definitely remembers the rush.

He pads over to the sliding glass door and squints out into the night. Yeah, there's a set of wooden stairs going down into the snow.

Jamie's right at his shoulder when he turns around. Hard as hell, but not complaining about the detour. He looks more curious than anything, willing to play along.

"You want to come with?" Tyler asks.

Jamie thinks about it for a second, then shakes his head. "I'm good watching," he says. He taps the door. "I keep imagining the two of us locking ourselves out."

Tyler instantly decides not to tell him about the dude he knows who actually did that. "That's cool," he says. "Be right back."

He takes a deep breath, pulls the door open, and runs for it. The fresh powder is perfect, he can already tell. It's piled up on the steps, so he has to slow down. Plenty of time to scope out the huge drift waiting at the bottom.

He steps right into knee-deep snow, turns, and lets himself fall, arms out.

It doesn't feel cold, at first. It just feels, this massive body spasm of holy shit, what?

Tyler rolls. He sees snow, cabin lights, stars, trees. He fetches up against a hillock of older snow, the hard compacted stuff, and as soon as he holds still, he slides back into the fresh stuff, sinking.

It's like going underwater in the tub, pressing down, feeling it close over his head. But this is cold, he can feel that now, cold that seems to burrow through him and meet in the middle.

Tyler holds still. He stops breathing. All he can hear is his own blood rushing, all he can feel is cold, cold everywhere.

And then he hears Jamie calling his name.

Tyler sits up, gasps. Waves that he's okay in the general direction of the light. He staggers to his feet. He came farther than he thought, but there's a long path of smashed snow to follow back.

Tyler goes, stumbling a bit at the bottom of the stairs. His feet are numb.

Jamie's waiting for him at the top, the door left wide open. He looks pretty cool standing there naked with steam flowing out the door all around him.

He grabs Tyler by the arm and hauls him up the last few steps.

"Jesus, you're freezing," he says, and he sounds like he can't decide whether to be amused or horrified.

Tyler just nods. He doesn't think he can talk. Jamie guides him back inside; the hot air hits him like a slap.

Tyler goes straight for the tub. He's still not very coordinated, so he slips with just one foot in, nearly takes a header, and goes down with a huge splash.

And fuck fuck motherfucking fuck, it's not like the cold. His body knows what this is right away. It's hot, and it hurts. Tyler goes under the water again. He can feel the ice crackling as it melts out of his hair, his eyelashes, his pubes. The heat is like a thousand tattoo needles, pushed in all at once. Tyler tucks his chin down and kind of screams his face off for a minute under the surface.

Jamie catches him when he flounders up, panting.

"Okay?" Jamie says. He's smiling, and it takes Tyler a second to realize that wouldn't be happening if he weren't smiling too.

"Holy shit," Tyler says, and laughs helplessly.

"How are you possibly still hard?" Jamie asks, amazed.

Tyler tips his head back, breathing. Now that Jamie mentions it, yep, he sure is. "Okay, wow," Tyler says. "Remember how I told you about the awesome sex we were going to have in Austin?" Jamie nods. "Yeah, how about we do that now." It's not the same high – he doesn't think this will last as long, for one thing. But Tyler's never met an endorphin that he didn't think was foreplay. There's nothing else like this.

Jamie blinks, his smile going crooked. "Pretty sure it was going to be good anyway," he says. "But if it's of interest, it turns out we have lube after all." He points over to the massage table in the corner, and the shelf of oils Tyler was laughing at earlier.

"Nice." Tyler heaves himself up out of the water. His nerves – overloaded and shot to hell – send out confused signals of alarm at the comparatively cooler air. Tyler briefly thinks about drying off and going out to the bedroom, where they have proper lube, even. But he's honestly not sure he can get that far.

So instead he knocks over the huge stack of towels, sort of spreading them all over the platform around the tub, and sprawls out on them.

Jamie comes back with a fancy glass bottle and crawls right on top of him. He seems to have caught Tyler's mood, because he meets Tyler's grabby hands with a hard kiss.

Tyler reaches for Jamie's dick, and Jamie lets him go at it for a minute, thrusting down hard. Tyler thinks this is going to be fierce and quick, which is fine with him.

But then Jamie sits partway up and knocks his hand away. "Hey," he says. "Can I get you first?"

"Oh, yeah, no," Tyler says, rolling his eyes. "Gosh, I just don't really want to get off, so--"

Jamie starts ignoring him somewhere in there. Tyler stops talking when Jamie hitches one leg up into the crook of his arm, opening the bottle purposefully. A familiar smell wafts up, something crisp that reminds him, incongruously, of the locker room, but he's too distracted to place it.

"Yeah?" Jamie asks, slicking up his fingers.

"Definitely," Tyler says, bending his other leg.

"Good," Jamie says, and grins, smug as all fuck, like he's getting away with something.

He pushes two slick fingers in, sure. For a second it feels like it should – pressure, stretching, little jolts of sharper pleasure. Then it goes weird – cold, and tingly, then more and more until Tyler shivers hard, making shocked, high-pitched noises. He thrashes on Jamie's fingers, confused, not sure whether he likes it or not, only sure he doesn't want it to stop until he knows.

"What—" he says. Then he catches sight of the bottle, left by his shoulder, and the word menthol jumps out at him. "You motherfucker," he says, pretty fucking impressed, to tell the truth.

"Thought you might like that," Jamie says, even smugger now. It's a good look on him, this confidence. Tyler thinks of the guy who used to feel better with constant directions for a hand job, and shudders at another push of Jamie's fingers, and thinks I did that with a surge of pride.

"I'm going to get you back for this," Tyler threatens. His voice is shaking. His legs are shaking. He can't tell if he's hot or cold anymore, doesn't care. He knows whether he likes it now, and yes, he motherfucking does.

They roll around on the towels, clinched together, while Jamie fingerbangs the hell out of him and Tyler makes an absolute racket about itt.

Somewhere in there, with Jamie's mouth slanted messily over his, Tyler thinks very clearly, Remember this. Always remember this.

They nearly go right back into the hot tub: one of the wine glasses does go in.

"Shit," Tyler gasps, hoping it didn't break, not wanting to stop and see.

"Don't care," Jamie says, and sticks another finger in him, no warning. "You gonna come?"

"Almost," Tyler says. He curls up a little, aching, pretty sure he can rub one out in five seconds flat, not sure he wants to yet.

Then Jamie leans way over him, stretching. There's a rattle, a clink, and Jamie comes back with a closed fist. Tyler gets one second's warning as Jamie opens his fingers, then there's a piece of ice sliding down his sternum, bumping into his belly button, slipping down further, and down, into the heated throbbing space at the base of his dick.

Parts of Tyler's brain light up, unsure at this point whether that burns or what. And he comes messily all over himself. The first drops actually do burn, falling hot over the ice trail, and that makes him come harder, his whole body jerking it out.

"Jamie," he says after. "Holy shit, Jamie." He rolls; Jamie goes with him, unresisting, and Tyler ends up on top of him. He's struggling to catch his breath, and he's shaking. But Jamie is hard against his stomach. "Sorry, gimme just a second," Tyler says.

"I'm good," Jamie says, which is a blatant fucking lie.

"Why don't we," Tyler starts to say, waving toward the bedroom. Rational thought is slowly trickling back, and it's occurring to him that a couple of towels over hardwood are not enough padding for Jamie's tricky knee. That, and the condoms are in the other room.

Except . . . hm. Tyler leans over with a sinking feeling and reaches for the bottle.

"Aw, Jamie, you doof," he says, smacking vaguely at Jamie's chest. "This is oil-based."

"Huh?" Jamie says, not getting it. Then, ". . . Oh. Oops."

"Damn," Tyler says with feeling. He has this thing for getting fucked when he's just come. And right now, Jamie looks like he could make it a quick, wild ride.

Tyler bites his lip. It's not like he hasn't gone bare before. Yeah, that was years ago, and yeah, all it netted him was that very special regret called gonorrhea, but come on, this is Jamie and this is now.

He's thisclose to saying fuck it, asking if Jamie wants to go anyway, when Jamie touches his face.

"I seriously don't care how I come," Jamie says. "I just, uh, sometime soon? Please?"

"I'm on it," Tyler says, and winks. "Only, you know, not—"

"You're terrible," Jamie says, laughing.

"S'why you love me," Tyler says lightly. Jamie makes this hilarious face like he badly wants to dispute that, but can't.

Tyler jerks him off, making it slick and tight, just how Jamie wants. Jamie watches him the whole time, his fingers skittering up and down Tyler's biceps, his chest, his cheek. When he's getting close, Tyler asks him, "Where do you want it?"

Jamie rolls him over, not saying anything. He gets up on his knees, straddling Tyler's torso. Tyler thinks Jamie is going for his face, which hey, A+ for initiative. But Jamie stops with his knees bracketing Tyler's ribs. And when he comes, he does it with a shudder and a sigh right onto the center of Tyler's chest.

"Right there," he says, looking up.

"Mmm," Tyler says, stretching.

"No." Jamie catches him by the wrist. "I mean, uh. Reserved. Okay?"

". . . Oh," Tyler says. He looks down at himself. He's an absolute mess in the best way. "Right here?" he taps his chest, and Jamie nods. "Okay," Tyler says. "You got it."

They wipe down with damp towels, eventually, and fish the wine glass out of the tub, and stagger off to bed. The chimney feeds up through the bedroom, so everything is toasty warm. They curl up back-to-back, talking a little to stay awake, just because.

"Sorry we're not in Austin," Jamie says eventually.

Tyler yawns. "Yeah. Me too. But this worked out well."

"It did." Jamie reaches back and catches hold of his wrist. "And sorry about, uh. Earlier. Flaking on you."

"Oh." Tyler swallows. "It's fine. Are you, um. Are you okay?"

Jamie squeezes his wrist. "I'm fine," he says, and they both ignore the rasp of some raw emotion right under the surface. "You?"

"I'm good." Then, "This offseason, in Boston," he says, unconnected to the thread of the conversation. "It'll be great."

"Yeah," Jamie agrees. "Definitely. You'll get what you need."