When Tyler gets to the rink, he's met by an older man named Gus. Gus feels like a neutral, and he shakes Tyler's hand and gives him his ID for entry and writes down his car information for the parking staff. Everything feels normal, but it doesn't quiet the rolling nervousness in Tyler's stomach.
He's been going over and over it for three nights now, trying to remember all the ways he fucked up when he first got to the Bruins, and practicing so he won't fuck it up again. He doesn't want to go back to the minors, or fucking get kicked out all together, so he's got to get this right. He's going to be perfect even if it kills him.
Gus gives him a quick tour, which is mostly the path to the locker room where he dumps his stuff for the practice after lunch. His stall already has his name on it, and a bunch of brightly-colored sticky notes that must have greetings from his new teammates. He tries to tamp down the sudden bubble of optimism that maybe things would be different here, and snaps a quick picture but doesn't make Gus wait for him to read them all.
They told him it wasn't a dressy lunch, but he still wore a snug-fitting henley and some newer jeans, with boots instead of sneakers. He trimmed his beard too, and wore a thick black leather bracelet on his left wrist with the Stars logo on it. He bought it online last week; he assumes the team will give him an official one today for his right wrist. It's a little stiff, but he'll wear them both at night to soften them up with his body heat.
They can hear a mingle of loud voices the closer they get to the large conference room, and Tyler sees a couple of faces peeking out of the door just until they can see it's him, and then they disappear back into the room. There's some unintelligible hollering, and then the sound fades. Tyler has a sudden spike of nerves, his knees wobbling just a little but he holds steady. He will enter this room proud, with his head held high. They chose him, and he will do right by them.
When he enters, he only has time to register the sea of faces waiting for him before he clocks the space inside the door and makes his move, stepping just to the side so he doesn't block Gus's entrance. He's already on his way to his knees when he realizes they're all applauding, clapping and hollering for him, but it's too late to change now, so he sticks to his plan. The floor is carpeted so he doesn't hurt too much when he lands, and he pulls his arms behind him, left hand gripping bare right wrist. Knees open a little, shoulders dropped, head slightly lowered. A perfect standard sub position, just the way he practiced it.
The cheering fades immediately, replaced by a low murmur, and Tyler's stomach sinks. He thought it was going to be just right, but somehow he's already fucked up. A voice says softly, "I've got it," and then there's the sound of someone coming closer, and a pair of legs with dark blue jeans and clean sneakers appears in his narrow field of view. "Hi Tyler. We're glad you're here."
Tyler should look up, he has to, but he just feels frozen. He's already fucked up, and he feels sick to his stomach with it. Whoever's gentle voice that is, he can't bring himself to face it. And then, suddenly, he kneels too, whoever it is kneels down right in front of him, their hands landing palms down on their knees. No bracelet, so this is a dom that's kneeling in front of him, like they're equal.
"Hi, I'm Jamie Benn, I'm the captain. Would you look at me, please?"
The fucking captain, on his knees in front of a sub. People told him the Stars were going to be a different kind of team, but Tyler is so fucking surprised that he has to look up, just to see what the hell happens next. Jamie catches his gaze and grins, and Tyler can't help but return it, though a little dimmer, because Jamie looks like Tyler is the best thing he's seen all day.
"Hi." Jamie's voice is quieter now, meant just for Tyler. "You look really good, your position is perfect." He starts to lift a hand, as if to touch Tyler, but then seems to think better of it and puts his hand back on his knee. "Do you want to stay here, or do you want to get up and meet the team? Your choice, but they're all looking forward to shaking your hand and introducing themselves."
Tyler shoots a quick look over Jamie's shoulder to the crowd behind him, still standing where they were when he came in. He can't see them all, but what he doesn't see is a single person kneeling, even though he knows there are subs on this team. He feels that bubble of optimism again. Maybe this place really is going to be different.
"I'd... like to meet them, yeah," he answers, just for Jamie to hear. Jamie's grin is blinding, like he said just the right thing. He stands, Tyler's gaze following him all the way, and then he reaches down to offer Tyler a hand up. Tyler should stand on his own, but he takes the offered hand instead.
The guys give a little cheer then, and crowd around to introduce themselves, shaking his hand and clapping him on the shoulders. He won't remember all their names yet, but he tries, riding a little high on the easy new camaraderie.
They eat, a nice spread of food, and he chats with people as they come up, but eventually they start peeling off to get ready for practice. Soon it's just him and Jamie again, and Jamie's holding a skinny black box. Tyler braces himself for it, to be pushed back to his knees, but after a moment of clear waffling Jamie just holds the box out for Tyler to take.
"The guys helped me pick it out. I hope you like it. Welcome to the team."
Tyler feels his eyebrows raise, but he takes the box anyway, opening it to reveal... a long silver chain, thick, with a little metal Stars logo at one end that matches the one on the bracelet he bought himself. Before he can ask, Jamie says, "A few years back someone fucked up his wrist because his cuff got caught in his glove. After that, we started giving necklaces instead. Not a... it's not meant to be a collar. Should be plenty long to not look like one, go under your pads so someone can't pull it. It's just safer. I... hope that's okay."
Tyler pulls it free from the box, and it's long enough to go over his head without being opened, the chain heavy against his chest when it's in place. He's almost... disappointed that Jamie didn't put it on him. "Yeah, that's okay. Thanks, Jamie."
"Sure. Now, let's go show them what you can do, eh?"