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Jamie didn't get to see the house until it was a done deal. He saw lots of pictures off the official listing and Tyler's phone camera, and Tyler asked him to come see it on two separate occasions. But the spring was crazy, their schedules never lined up right, and in the course of just a few days it suddenly wasn't the house Tyler was thinking about anymore, it was the house he was buying.

The whole process looked, from the outside, like absolute hell. There was a seller's agent, a buyer's agent, two banks – one Canadian, one U.S. – a separate mortgage company, and endless rounds of phone calls from one to the next, all going through Tyler. But when Jamie asked about it, Tyler just shrugged and said, "Yeah, that's how it goes," like hey, no big deal.

But that was Tyler for you. Dude got flustered trying to replace the striker plate on a light switch, but ask him to lay down seven figures on an absolute fuckton of house, and he didn't blink. It was the same way he couldn't reliably feed himself, but he could devote himself to everything Marshall demanded while Jamie and Jordie didn't feel equal to a goldfish. It was contradictory. And interesting as hell.

So Jamie didn't see the house in person until three days after closing. Tyler drove them over in the late afternoon, talking about paint colors and new windows and re-tiling. Jamie grinned the whole way, because Tyler might as well have been saying, "I'm putting down roots, watch me, I'm doing it."

Tyler paused at the front door, the key in the lock and the security code ready on his phone. "Hey," he said, glancing back over his shoulder. "If you don't like it . . . lie, okay?"

"You got it," Jamie said, touched by the flash of nerves. He wasn't worried: he was a terrible liar by all accounts, including Tyler's, but seriously, what was there to dislike? A house was a house was a house, when you got right down to it. Jamie had picked his and Jordie's place off the website of the first building the team recommended, and he'd never looked back.

It was, after all the suspense, a gorgeous place. Even Jamie could recognize that. Tyler showed him the backyard first; Marshall's schedule was a lot more flexible than Jamie's, so he'd apparently had a chance to sniff it thoroughly before purchase. Jamie was absolutely positive that, if Marshall hadn't signed off, Tyler wouldn't have either.

The kitchen was big, with double ovens and expanses of granite counter. Kind of hilarious, considering what Tyler was likely to do with it. Or not do, more to the point.

The rest of the house was a mess of dropcloths and equipment. Most of the new windows were in, but a few were still boarded up. Tyler walked him through the open plan living room, sketching in his media setup with big gestures, and then the den and laundry room and dining room and breakfast nook and home gym. "What are you going to do with four bedrooms?" Jamie asked, halfway through the second floor.

Tyler shrugged airily. "Oh, you know. People will visit."

It was a good point. Tyler had once hosted six out-of-town friends in his apartment simultaneously. Jamie had been ravenously curious to find out who was sleeping where – at least one person was bunking in with Tyler, that was clear – but he was just self-aware enough to realize he was better off not knowing. Used to be, Jamie had mantras about Tyler, and how futile it was to be jealous over his time and attention and affection. Jamie had worried it would get worse, now that they were . . . doing what they were doing. But actually the opposite seemed to be true; they'd barely started this thing between them, but it had settled Jamie, made him feel like he was on solid ground for the first time all year.

"Well?" Tyler asked, when they eventually fetched up in the giant, echoing master bedroom.

"I like it," Jamie said immediately, not equivocating in the slightest. "Really, it's awesome."

"Right?" Tyler's smile was blinding. He turned a slow circle in the middle of the room. "Most of the work is superficial – the guys'll be done in a few days."

"Will you actually move in then?" Jamie asked a little dubiously. The end of the season was approaching at an absolutely screaming pace.

Tyler sighed regretfully. "Not really. I've gotta . . . nest, you know? And there's no time." He brightened. "But Brownie's sending down a bunch of the stuff I stored in Toronto, that'll start to fill the place up at least."

Jamie nodded, kind of impressed. He was perfectly comfortable in a thousand square feet; he wouldn't know what to do with a place this size. But Tyler seemed to expand to fill whatever space he was put in: a big house, big ice at first line center.

"I can help unpack," Jamie said. He still remembered the disaster Tyler's move into the apartment had been. Tyler had showed up in Dallas with two suitcases and a lot of smiling "I'm just happy to be here" hastily slapped over an ocean of unhappiness. When boxes started arriving from Boston, he'd let them pile up. Jamie was sure he'd lived out of those two suitcases until mid-October; it had taken some epic judging from Tyler Brown on a weekend visit to get him interested in settling. And when he'd finally unpacked he'd done it all in one overnight fugue, ensuring that he couldn't find a single thing he needed for the next six months.

Jamie liked to think this time would be different. He was positive – almost positive it would be. Still. Brown wasn't around at the moment. At least these days Tyler did actually give a shit what Jamie judged him on. Except for his cooking. And his taste in TV.

"You're going to regret that," Tyler said cheerfully. "I have a lot of shit, you know. I don't even remember most of it."

"I'll survive," Jamie said. "Just say when."

Tyler tipped his head wryly. "When we're not skating. Or working out. Or doing promo. Or –"

Jamie stepped closer and fitted his hands to Tyler's waist. He already loved the cut of muscle above Tyler's hips, even though Jamie had held him like this all of twice. Tyler turned into him immediately, chin tipping up.

They kissed, one of those easy transitions where Jamie couldn't tell who initiated and really didn't care. Tyler's arms came up around his neck and they shuffled closer, a little awkward, bodies not quite sure how to line up yet. It was still so good, though. Tyler wasn't wearing cologne, so he smelled like clean skin and a hint of sweat.

Jamie was used to thinking of other men in two distinct categories: there were the dudes he worked with, who existed in a near constant cloud of locker room funk and gross personal habits, and then there were the men he looked at sometimes, the untouchable, pretty actors and porn stars and strangers he would never speak to.

Yet here was Tyler. His socks smelled as rank as anyone's, but Jamie hadn't been able to stop thinking about him since day one, and he was still so pretty. And so touchable, at least in theory. Jamie had a lot of theories.

"Um," Jamie said when their lips parted. "What were we talking about?"

Tyler's calendar alert went off. He groaned and banged his forehead against Jamie's collarbone a couple times. "We were talking about scheduling," he said. "Fucking – I've got a gym date with Dave."

Jamie stamped down on his disappointment. He'd kept the rest of his day clear; he'd been harboring notions of dinner together, maybe somewhere nice with, like, a wine list. It had gone pretty great the one previous time they'd managed. Still. The end-of-season crunch was what it was, and this one more than any other. They were so close . . .

"Are we still on for Tuesday?" Jamie asked, stepping back.

Tyler looked up from his phone, nodding. "Definitely. I've got epic plans."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah." Tyler stuffed his phone back in his pocket. "I'm gonna nap, like, all day, with food breaks. It's going to be awesome. Then it'll just be you and me and some good music."

Jamie had been expecting some elaboration on their plans – their date, thank you very much -- but actually . . . the napping part sounded just as good. Tuesday was their first full day off in way too long.

"You should rest up," Tyler said. "You look tired." He winked. "And you'll need your energy."

Jamie grinned back; no way he was pulling off that level of sexy confidence, but that was okay, Tyler had plenty to spare. "Noted," he said.

*

Tyler dropped him off back home, then went on to his appointment with Dave. Jamie was distracted on his way upstairs, so it scared the hell out of him when Jordie popped up over the back of the couch, took one look at him, and busted up laughing.

"Seriously?" Jordie said. "I was so sure you were going to spend all afternoon banging."

Jamie felt himself go red, ugh. "We were looking at his new place," he said. "Which is currently full of, like, paint fumes. And we've been on one date. And – shut up."

"Uh-huh," Jordie said, collapsing back onto the couch. "All I know is you can't get Tyler Seguin to put out, and I hope it never stops because this is hilarious."

"Hey," Jamie said mildly.

Jordie tipped his head to squint at him upside down. "Sorry, sorry," he said. He didn't sound sorry. "I'll, like, stop talking about your forever girl now." Jamie rolled his eyes and headed for his room. "Cold showers help!" Jordie shouted after him.

Jamie didn't need a cold shower. He needed it to be Tuesday. And a user's guide would be helpful, if he were making a wish list. Dating he could do. He was allegedly pretty good at it, actually, though it never felt like it from his end. He could take Tyler to dinner and go to a concert with him and have an amazing conversation. Hell, they'd been doing things like that for months; there was just that little extra weight to it now.

But then there was all the stuff that might come after the date. And Jamie wanted him – oh fuck yeah he wanted him – but. There was only so far that lots and lots of theoretical knowledge about dudes would take him. Jamie didn't so much mind putting himself out there and looking like an idiot. But it was one thing to know he could, and another to worry that, overwhelmed in the moment, all he'd manage to do would be to rub himself all over Tyler and beg.

*

Time went weird at the end of every season. The space between games seemed to compress to a sprint, while the games themselves stretched longer and longer, more intense, a harder strain on tired bodies. And this year it was even weirder; Jamie wasn't counting time in days or weeks anymore, just game-by-game, point-by-point. Tuesday wasn't five days away, it was two games away.

Two good games, at least. They were so. Fucking. Close. He could taste it.

With all that taking up brain space, it was hard to get truly nervous about their second date. Jamie gave it a good try, but by Monday night, he was mostly just excited. He hadn't seen Tyler alone, without Jordie or a whole pack of the other guys, since they'd gone to the house.

He slept late on Tuesday and then wandered around the apartment for a couple of hours in pajama pants, eating random things and thinking vaguely about doing laundry. The laziness felt like pure luxury.

Eventually, he went up to the gym on the top floor. He didn't have anything strenuous in mind, just an easy forty-five minutes of conditioning. Apparently he wasn't the only one with that idea; Tyler was just finishing up his light day upper body routine. He was red-faced and sweaty, lying flat on his back under one of the machines and grumbling to himself.

"Hey," Jamie said, stopping next to him. His shadow blocked the afternoon sun on Tyler's face.

"Hey." Tyler waved a listless hand at him. It was funny – he could make hours of cardio work look easy and come out the other side all but glowing, but weights always took it out of him. Jamie was the exact opposite. "So I was thinking burgers tonight?" Tyler said.

"That works." Jamie smiled down at him. "This is your show."

Tyler snorted and rolled his eyes. "Whatever, like you wouldn't take over the second something went wrong," he said cheerfully. "Seven thirty all right?"

"Perfect." Jamie bent over and scrubbed his knuckles through Tyler's sweaty hair. "Looking forward to it."

He actually was, terrible music and all. Originally, Val was supposed to go with Tyler. The two of them were forever swapping mp3's and using a headphone splitter to listen to things on the plane. It was great for Val's English. Not that Tyler needed to speak the same language as someone to make friends with them, it turned out. He and Val were solid buddies by the end of training camp, way back when all Val could manage was "yes," "no," and "food." These days Val had a vastly expanded vocabulary. Unfortunately, he was still mostly incomprehensible to Jamie since he spoke entirely in hip-hop lyrics. Jamie knew exactly who to blame for that.

But Val's parents were in town, and he'd backed out, and Tyler had asked, and well. Like Jamie was going to say no to a second date, even if it was going to be a very loud date. It was definitely Tyler's turn, or so Jamie had been informed. Which was fair enough; he was happy to let Tyler take over for a bit. Jamie was still kind of recovering from the shock of actually getting it together enough to make his big move.

Tyler showed up ten minutes late, which meant, in Tyler time, that he was flatteringly early. And he looked amazing, there was also that.

They went for burgers at one of their favorite places. Tyler liked the fries, and Jamie secretly liked the ambiance. It was one of those old-fashioned diners with jukeboxes on the tables and root beer listed above Coke on the menu.

They both ordered large shakes, because dairy fats were a good way to combat end-of-season weight loss, and also because they were delicious. And easy to swap, it turned out. They sat in the booth, trading glasses back-and-forth while they talked, long after the food was gone.

Tyler was easy to talk to. He always had been; it was one of his gifts. Jamie had seen him effortlessly draw out shy kids and charm enemy fans. Tyler turned it on deliberately sometimes – he'd clearly been doing that with Jamie, back when he'd first come to Dallas. It had gotten them past that awkward sticking point of going from acquaintances to friends, where Jamie usually snagged, so he didn't mind. But most of a season and a pretty intense friendship later, Jamie could honestly say it was more effective when Tyler wasn't consciously trying.

He wasn't now, which was nice. It was good that one of them wasn't nervous, at least.

The venue was only six blocks away, so they walked. Jamie had been to more clubs in the past year than in his entire prior career in Dallas. It had started out a duty – a captain needed to spend time with his guys, know them better, be available to them. Which was true, and made a great story. It was truer to say that Tyler almost never said no when the guys asked, and Jamie almost never said no when Tyler asked. But neither of them had been to this club before.

Tyler headed for the general admission line, cheerful about the long wait ahead.

"No VIP?" Jamie asked, surprised. The guys had given Tyler endless shit for how much he loved VIP boxes. Tyler did love them for their own sake, and he could never resist bottle service. But Jamie had eventually figured out that a lot of it was habit from when Tyler could expect to be recognized almost anywhere he went.

"Not this time," Tyler said. They were jostled together as the line moved, and he leaned easily into Jamie's shoulder. "Shows like this are way better from the floor."

Said like someone who genuinely enjoyed crowds. Jamie did not. But he wasn't too worried about it. This was a date; it was totally fine – expected even – for him to attach himself to Tyler's side for the whole night.

They got their hands stamped and made it in. House music was still playing, and the bar was open. Tyler performed his usual magic and made it to the front without seeming to try. He ordered drinks for both of them, not bothering to ask what Jamie wanted because he already knew.

They ended up at stage right, about fifteen people back. It was prime real estate with a pillar to lean their backs against. Jamie had no idea how Tyler made that happen.

The music was everything Jamie had expected – loud, all bass and hard rhythms. Tyler apparently wasn't interested in the first act, so they just leaned shoulder to shoulder, drinking and playing people-watching games, communicating entirely by hand gesture. Tyler kept staring at a guy near the stage; it took Jamie a while to realize he was looking at the hardware in the dude's face rather than checking him out. Did Tyler want piercings? Of course he did. That was the same yearning look he got whenever he spotted a good tattoo or, God help them all, a tattoo parlor. Piercings were impossible in their line of work, but Jamie could picture it with ease. An eyebrow stud, maybe, or – no – did dudes still get tongue studs? Fuck, that was hot.

Tyler was way into the second act. So was the rest of the crowd, apparently, because the place lit up. They were jostled repeatedly; Jamie planted his feet and held his ground, but Tyler ended up in front of him. Their drinks were gone, so Jamie put both arms around him from behind and pulled him close. He loved the lean solidity under Tyler's t-shirt, the promise of strength in him. And, honestly, with Tyler gyrating like that right in front of him, it was hard not to like the music a little bit.

There was a brief break after that set. Tyler mimed drinking something and plunged off into the crowd like a fish through the ocean. He returned with water bottles and mixed drinks. The crowding had eased a bit, but he slid right back into the spot against Jamie's chest. They were both sweating like it was the middle of a game, but Jamie didn't care.

Tyler turned against him a few minutes later and closed Jamie's hand around his drink. "Bathroom," he shouted. "Watch this for me?" He had this weird thing about his drink; he would always specifically seek someone out to give it to. It made no sense, considering the way he would cavalierly leave his jacket and wallet and phone absolutely anywhere.

Tyler was gone and back before the next act started. He was even more into that one. Jamie just rested his hands on Tyler's hips and let his focus narrow to the sweat on the back of his neck, the smell of his hair, his grinding rhythm. Tyler's face was open and happy whenever Jamie caught a glimpse of it. He was lost in the music the same way he could get lost in a game. Jamie envied that ability to let go and just . . . be. It was something he didn't have.

The fourth act was apparently what everyone had been waiting for. The club pumped up the speakers even more, and everyone went nuts. Jamie could feel the vibrations as Tyler shouted along with the first song. He was dancing hard by the second, his hands up, his whole body loose. Jamie could dance as long as someone else was there cuing him, so it was easy to follow Tyler's lead, to let his shoulders drop and his hips move.

And then the music changed – it was just a lone woman on stage, rapping about justice and anger and growing up too fast in a hard, slow rhythm to a single drummer and a violin, of all things. Tyler pressed back into Jamie; his eyes were on the stage, but his attention wasn't all there, not anymore. He was still moving to the music, but he was moving against Jamie specifically now, his hips working under Jamie's hands. Jamie breathed in and out in a rush, squeezing Tyler's hips, giving the grind right back.

The song sped, slowed, sped again. Jamie was just tracking enough to know the woman was rapping about fucking now, doing it outside in the rain with someone she'd loved. Tyler tipped his head back onto Jamie's shoulder. The lights spun, flashed over them, and their eyes met for a second, held. Jamie bent his head and pressed his mouth to Tyler's neck. Kissed him there, and sucked, gently.
Then they were in the dark again, together, pressed so close that Jamie could feel the faintest of shivers go through Tyler.

Well, the rubbing himself all over Tyler part was turning out pretty great. Unfortunately, Jamie was thisclose to the begging for it.

And then the show was over in a last crescendo of drums and bass. The sudden exodus of people felt like the building was exhaling.

The two of them stood still for a minute, just letting the tide swirl around them. Then Tyler reached down and took Jamie's hand off his hip to lace their fingers together. Jamie followed him out, just a step behind.

They made it most of the way back to the car before Tyler gently bumped him. "Thanks for putting up with that," he said. "Not your thing, I know."

"It was pretty cool," Jamie said honestly. He was even talking about the music, a little bit.

Clubs were always disorienting, so he was startled to realize when they got back to the car that it was almost one. Already tomorrow, technically. Already a day that wasn't a day off.

Jamie squashed that flat. Tyler was good at being in the moment, and right now Jamie entirely understood the appeal.

They talked in fits and starts on the way home. Jamie's ears were still ringing, and apparently Tyler's were too, because he turned the music entirely off for the first time in Jamie's memory.

Things got weird back home in the elevator. Jamie went in first, so he was faced with the impossible question of what buttons to push: both their floors? Just Tyler's? It felt like a statement, whatever he did.

But this was the time for bold moves, wasn't it? And he could still feel that violin in his bones, could still taste the salt of Tyler's sweat. So he hit Tyler's floor only.

Tyler didn't say anything until Jamie had walked him all the way to his door. Then he spent an inordinately long time with his keys, his head down. Jamie could hear Marshall scrambling on the other side, eager to say hi.

"Okay," Tyler said when the lock finally clicked. "Here's the thing. I'm not inviting you in."

Jamie took half a step back, his stomach dropping. ". . . Okay?" he said. "Um, I wasn't—" Except he was, that was blatantly obvious.

"I mean, we've got a flight first thing in the morning, so," Tyler said.

Jamie swallowed. Right. "Right," he said.

Tyler finally looked up. He was biting his lip hard, but he stopped at whatever he saw on Jamie's face.

"Motherfucker," he said explosively. "Were you going to put out? God damn it."

"Um," Jamie said, confused and feeling himself flush.

"Motherfucker," Tyler said again. He left the key in the lock and turned to Jamie, thumping his head against Jamie's chest. "I spent the entire ride home talking myself into being the responsible one for once, since I always make you do it, and you weren't going to," he wailed. "Jamie, you're killing me."

"Oh." Jamie breathed out a huge breath. "That's –" It was sweet, was what it was. This was Tyler's date, and apparently he was taking that pretty seriously.

"Wait." Tyler's head popped up and he squinted at Jamie's expression. "Did you think I was brushing you off? Seriously?" He looked genuinely surprised, as if it wouldn't make perfect sense for him to decide that no, this thing with all its insane complications wasn't something he wanted. "Dude," Tyler said, laughing a little incredulously. "I would do you on the floor, right now. Right here."

Jamie sucked in a breath. "Yeah," he said raspily. "I . . . yeah." Tyler nodded, just as if that was something suave and hot, or even articulate. "But . . . you're right," Jamie added after a second. "Early flight. This isn't – our timing sucks."

"Yeah." Tyler sighed and leaned into him for real. "It does."

Jamie hugged him. "Does it help at all to say that you're really hot when you're being the responsible one?"

Tyler snorted into his neck. "Please, don't get carried away, I was just doing it for brownie points from my captain," he said, exactly like he did whenever Jamie caught him staying late with the rookies or pulling his weight in a hundred other ways. Tell him what a great shot he'd made, he'd grin and say, "I know," but tell him what a great guy he was and he'd just get confused.

"You don't need points from me," Jamie said. "You're – you're already winning." That didn't even make sense, but it felt like the right thing to say. And it made Tyler go quiet.

Tyler tipped his face up again, after a minute. "I would, you know," he said. It was softer this time, with this little unreadable quirk to his mouth. "Right now, I would."

Jamie touched his cheek. "Yeah," he said, his voice dropping to match. "Yeah, Tyler. Me too."

They kissed for a long minute against Tyler's door, both making the effort to keep it PG-13.

"Sleep well," Jamie said, when he finally pulled away.

Tyler was pleasingly pink. "See you in the morning," he said, and went inside alone.

*

They clinched against the Blues. It was the sort of game that Jamie didn't really believe in, where he stopped thinking and worrying at it by the end of the first period. They had it; he knew it. Tyler's goal was inevitable, the outcome clear.

When it was over, Tyler was right there with him, screaming. Just as if he hadn't been here before, every year of his career. They all dogpiled on Kari, then Trev, and then the tide turned and everyone was all over Tyler.

Jamie let that happen, fading back. Jordie spotted him and came straight over.

"Fuck," he said, and hugged the crap out of Jamie. "I mean, fuck. . . . Hey. Are you okay?"

"Yeah," Jamie said. "I've just gotta." He waved toward the bathroom and escaped to have his minor panic attack in private.

He tried to pull it together fast. There was no time for this. And no point. It was just so much, so quick. This whole year was like that: the captaincy, playoffs for the first time. Meeting a person he was pretty sure he could have something serious with.

Okay. Dead sure, with his gut and his dick and the marrow of his bones sure.

Jamie had spent his entire career looking forward. Everything was "when I can," and "someday when we." And then, this year, all the somedays and maybes were now, right fucking now. The C was on his chest, and they were going to the playoffs, and the guy he wanted – the big fish, the one he would have to go all in on – might actually want him back.

Jamie had learned to skate by watching Jordie learn. He'd spent so long watching that, by the time he stepped on the ice himself, his feet were miraculously solid under him. But Jordie wasn't ahead of him now, showing the way; he'd never wanted to lead, and the playoffs were as foreign to him as they were to Jamie, and his serial dating was exactly what Jamie wanted to stop doing. There was no one to show the way here; the only options left were bold moves.

Jamie grabbed either side of the sink, bent his head, and panic-breathed for a minute. Then he got it together, splashed water on his face until he didn't look like he wanted to hurl, and went out to deal with the media.

*

Tyler called him half an hour after the first round schedule came out and ten minutes after Ruff's follow-up email to the team.

"So we've got a day off," Tyler said right away.

"I saw," Jamie said. Ruff wanted them all to take 24 hours before everything. It was a good idea, in principal. Assuming any of them could calm down enough to benefit from it.

Which, hm.

"Oh," Jamie said, a light bulb turning on. "We could – do you want to have dinner?"

Tyler laughed warmly in his ear. "Duh. I thought I'd have to, like, get cue cards for you."

"Shut up." Jamie flopped back onto his bed, smiling helplessly. "It's my turn again, right?"

"Yeah. Show me what you've got," Tyler said. "I'll be at the house all day, so just say when."

"Moving stuff over?"

"Yeah, a bit. And the boxes Brownie sent are there, so I figured I'd unpack."

"I can help if you want," Jamie said immediately.

"Yeah?"

"I told you I would." And it even sounded nice, some simple, manual labor.

"Okay." Tyler's voice was low and warm. "And we don't have an early flight the next morning."

Jamie swallowed. That . . . was not simple manual labor. "We don't," he said.

*

There was a delivery truck pulling away when Jamie showed up at the new house. The front door was wide open; Jamie could see Tyler bent over a box left haphazardly at the bottom of the stairs, and piles of other sealed boxes beyond him in the living room.

"Hey," Jamie said, knocking on the doorframe.

"Oh, awesome." Tyler waved him in. "Are you any good with a screwdriver?" He didn't put any innuendo into that, which was surprising.

"I know which is the business end," Jamie said, closing the door behind him and dropping his bag against the wall. "What's up?"

"I got a new bed," Tyler explained, standing up with a toolkit in hand. "The one in the apartment is starting to hurt my back so I figured hey, why move it. Except apparently I paid for delivery but not assembly." He made a rueful face.

Which was how Jamie ended up stretched out on his stomach on the master bedroom carpet, putting a metal bedframe together with the only Phillips screwdriver Tyler owned. On reflection, it was a little surprising he owned one at all.

"It was a gift from my mom," Tyler said when Jamie asked. "You know, where she's hoping I'll learn to do shit if she gives me things." He lifted his end of a long metal rod at Jamie's gesture. "She still gets me pots and pans sometimes, too, if that tells you anything."

Jamie had met Tyler's mom a few times; a commitment to overweening optimism in the face of reality sounded about right, yeah.

"There should be two more screws that look like this one," he said, holding it up. "Are they over on your end?"

"This is why I always pay people to do this shit," Tyler muttered, combing through the pile of parts next to him.

"Do I get paid?" Jamie asked, distracted.

The silence pulled his eyes back up. Tyler didn't have to say anything; he just looked at Jamie, up and down, an absolutely filthy smirk on his face. Jamie felt himself go red. Used to be, he thought Tyler flirted outrageously with him. Used to be, he didn't have a clue.

They got the frame together, eventually, and heaved the box spring down onto it. Tyler cheerfully proclaimed himself far better qualified to move furniture than assemble it; Jamie watched his biceps flex as they lifted the mattress, and wholeheartedly agreed.

Tyler flopped face-down on the bed when they were done. He had sweated through the back of his t-shirt a little. Jamie wanted to crawl on top of him, put his full weight down, and bite the back of his neck. He settled for sitting on the edge of the bed and scruffing his hand through Tyler's hair.

"Mmm." Tyler rolled his neck to the side. "So," he said conversationally. "There are a hundred boxes downstairs that need to be unpacked. Or you could come here and we could make out for a while."

Jamie pretended like he was thinking hard about it. That just made Tyler laugh, open and happy. He knew he had Jamie by the dick, the gorgeous asshole.

Jamie leaned over, one hand on either side of him. Tyler turned, still smiling, and Jamie folded carefully down over him, ducking to press his face to Tyler's neck. Tyler liked to be kissed just over the pulse point, he discovered. And it further developed several minutes later, with their mouths numb from kissing and many of Jamie's inhibitions fled, that he liked being bitten there even more.

Tyler broke away eventually. "When's our reservation?"

"Seven. But . . ." Jamie looked futilely around for a clock – the bed was the only thing in the room – and dug out his phone. "There'll be traffic."

He looked up to meet Tyler's steady stare. "Okay," Tyler said, no smirk in evidence. "So we've got time to find the sheets and make up the bed."

Gulp. That blew straight past flirting into serious motherfucking intent. "Yeah," Jamie said hoarsely. "We've got time." He cleared his throat. "Please tell me the boxes are at least labeled?"

Tyler made a face. "Well . . . most of them have words written on them," he said. "By someone. Who might or might not have been sober. And who might or might not have known what was in the box."

Jamie rolled his eyes. He was seriously not the most put-together person – he was perpetually missing one glove from each pair, and his taxes got done at the very last second every year even though his accountant did 99% of the work, and his and Jordie's place would never win any awards for organization. But honestly.

Tyler's assessment turned out to be dead accurate. About a third of the boxes appeared to be labeled sensibly and comprehensibly in an assortment of handwritings -- ski gear, and DVDs action/comedy, and spare speakers. Jamie opened a few at random, and found that most even contained what they were supposed to.

The rest of the boxes were labeled legibly, more or less, though sense and accuracy were thinner on the ground. Jamie found one marked kitchen: random shit drawer, in Tyler's messy handwriting. He opened it, indulging in a bit of nosiness, wanting to poke through the archaeology of Tyler's old life. But instead of the pile of crap dumped out of a drawer he'd been expecting, he found the entire drawer removed from some kitchen in Boston or Toronto for some inexplicable reason, all its contents held in by a layer of plastic wrap.

It was almost enough to distract him from the point of the whole exercise, but Jamie had his eye on the prize. Quite literally, considering the way Tyler kept bending and stretching in those jeans.

"Who wrote in purple?" Jamie asked, jerking his eyes away.

"Let me see? Oh." Tyler snorted. "That's Brownie. Anything with, like, editorial comments is him."

Once he'd said that, Brown's handwriting leapt out. Jamie found himself snickering as he read, CDs from your fucking unfortunate punk phase, and posters of dudes you've totally jerked off to, and dishes you bought so people would come over and cook you food. At the bottom of one stack, there was a big box that said only SERIOUSLY, BRO? Intrigued, Jamie shifted boxes and reached for the scissors.

Once he got it open, he was just confused. The box contained a partially disassembled . . . something or other, but Jamie couldn't make sense out of the pile of metal bars and funny-shaped plastic bits and padded leather things with screws sticking out the back. He poked around for a minute, puzzled by Brown's judginess of what seemed like gym equipment. There was a fancy leather case wedged in beside the pieces. Jamie rotated it and flipped the latch and – o . . . kay.

Those were not the hand weights or resistance bands he'd been expecting. Those were sex toys. Those were dildos, a whole cornucopia of colors and shapes and girths, each slotted into a custom place in the box. It reminded Jamie, more than anything, of one of those fancy boxes of art supplies with spots for markers and crayons and 32 shades of colored pencil.

There was movement at his shoulder. Jamie looked up in time to watch Tyler clock the contents of the box. He looked briefly confused, like Jamie had, then a light bulb seemed to turn on and Tyler laughed so hard he sat down on the carpet.

"Oh my God," he wheezed. "Holy shit." He flipped up the box flap, read the label, and cracked up again. Jamie waited him out, smiling along helplessly. "Sorry, dude," Tyler said eventually. "I really did not know this was in here. I forgot I even had this."

"It's fine," Jamie said. "Um. What . . . is it?"

"Oh." Tyler actually went red from embarrassment rather than exertion; Jamie could count on one hand the number of times he'd seen that. "It's a fucking machine."

"A—"

"Yeah. When you put it together there's this spot to lean back and hook your knees over these rests. And you pick your – weapon of choice –" he gestured at the box of dildos "—and fire it up, and."

Jamie had figured out what they were talking about a second after asking for clarification. Porn could be incredibly educational. But he was enjoying the explanatory hand gestures too much to interrupt.

"Um," Tyler said, watching him closely and chewing at his lip. "I'm no expert, but pretty sure this is, like, a major date foul. . . Sorry?"

"No," Jamie said quickly. "This is—" he stuttered to a stop. ". . . Pretty cool, actually."

"Really?" A dubious look from Jamie to the dildos.

Tyler's hands were clenched together between his knees on the carpet; Jamie reached over and put his hand over them. "Seriously, this is good," he said. He didn't have the words to explain what he meant. Tyler was vocal about sex, how much of it he'd had, things he'd liked. By the time they'd been playing together for a few months, Jamie had known more about Tyler's sex life than he'd known about women he'd actually slept with. Yet, for all that, he'd had the feeling there was so much more. Tyler had done a hundred things Jamie desperately wanted to do; he was like a sexual treasure box Jamie wanted to fling wide open.

Which was another great theory in his giant pile of theories. It was much harder to ever start a conversation about it.

It was, however, a little easier with a visual aid.

"So, uh," Jamie said. "You . . . like this?"

Tyler considered him for a moment. "Yeah." His confidence seemed to be reigniting with just that small evidence of interest. "I mean, it was a gag gift, sort of? But, like, sometimes the best gag gifts are from people who really get you, so." He switched his speculative look to the box. "Don't get me wrong, it's not a substitute for the real thing."

"Well no," Jamie said, and bumped shoulders with him. "Pretty sure this thing won't cuddle you after. Or before. Or during."

Tyler's grin was blinding. "Aw, baby, you know what I like," he said.

"Come on, like that's hard to figure out," Jamie said. He seriously didn't need to sleep with Tyler to know that. "Other stuff, not so much," he added. "I mean, um. What I was trying to ask is if you like, you know." He almost said receiving, but made a frantic save at the last second and got out, "Getting fucked?"

Tyler didn't look away from the box. "I do," he said. He casually turned his hands over and laced the fingers of one through Jamie's.

"You like it the other way too, right?" Jamie pressed.

"Oh, yeah." Tyler nodded. "That's fun too. But it's, like, a particular mood thing, you know? When I'm into it I'm way into it, but sometimes I'm not." He finally looked up, straight into Jamie's eyes. "But for the record, I'm pretty much always in the mood for taking it." Jamie swallowed painfully with a dry throat. "You cool?" Tyler asked.

"Yeah, definitely," Jamie nodded, maybe a little too hard. Truthfully, Tyler could have told him he only did penetration once every seven full moons, and Jamie would be cool with it. Just having a chance to try . . . He squeezed Tyler's hand. "Can I – you don't have to keep answering this shit."

Tyler snorted. "Dude, I can talk about sex all day, you know that." He gestured expansively with his free hand. "Best shot, hit me."

"Okay." Jamie caught himself straightening his shoulders. "Which one is your favorite?" he asked, pointing at the selection of dildos.

"Oh, nice one," Tyler said conspiratorially. He leaned over and carefully surveyed his menu of options. "That's actually a complicated question," he said, and tipped Jamie a quick, sly smile. "There are all these variables, you know?" Jamie did not know. Jamie really wanted Tyler to tell him all about it, at great length and in explicit detail. But instead, Tyler reached out a decisive finger and tapped his choice. "But if we're talking desert island sex toys here," he said. "Definitely this dude."

It was on the smaller end, and less lifelike than many, with a pronounced curve and a pebbled texture. Jamie considered, not sure what to make of it. Tyler waited him out for a minute, then when there were no more questions, gently said, "I found the sheets."

"Oh yeah," Jamie said. "We were gonna--" He pushed to his feet and pulled Tyler up.

Tyler had found a full set of bedding, sheets and shams and matching comforter still in the original plastic and apparently never used. "I dunno, sometimes I forget whether I have things and end up buying them twice. Or three times," he said when Jamie asked.

They humped it all upstairs to the master suite and started unpacking. They worked in silence, mostly, just a touch for attention, a gesture to indicate who would grab each end of the fitted sheet as they unfolded it. It could have been uncomfortable, but it wasn't.

They each took one side and made the bed methodically, fitted sheet, top sheet, comforter, pillows. It was . . . Jamie had not, in his life, been much acquainted with eroticism. Horniness, sure, and frustration and satisfaction both. But nothing quite like this slow anticipation. Setting the scene together, their eyes meeting across the pristine expanse of sheets and both of them knowing.

"Okay," Tyler said, plumping the last pillow and stepping back. "This place we're going is nice, right?"

"Not, like, annoyingly nice," Jamie said. He'd briefly dated a girl who preferred places so upscale, he'd felt uncouth for walking too heavily.

"Okay, well, we're a mess," Tyler said. Jamie certainly was, but unfairly, Tyler even made sweat and unpacking grime look good. "The shower in the bathroom off the kitchen is stocked, if you want it."

They separated at the bottom of the stairs, Jamie to retrieve his bag and Tyler to go find some acceptable clothes he swore he knew exactly where to locate in the boxes. Jamie kind of wanted to ask if they would be packed alongside a sex swing. It was one of those things he thought all the time but would never say, except that stuff like that seemed to want to actually come out of his mouth around Tyler.

He showered quickly, then wasted a stupid amount of time on his hair. As usual, it didn't do anything he wanted, so he relied on his technique of add product, style, swear, repeat until can't style any more.

The clothes were easy, at least. He'd worn the slacks and striped button-down before and Tyler had said, "looking sharp!" Tyler had come right out and told him he used the same positive reinforcement techniques on Jamie regarding his clothing choices as he did on Marshall to get him to stop alert barking. Jamie was totally fine with that, since it meant he got a reliable stream of feedback. Previously his main regular critic was Jordie, who had only incrementally more fashion sense than Jamie, and who occasionally offered up particularly strong opinions just to fuck with him.

Tyler was waiting for him in the kitchen, half-heartedly shifting dishes from cabinet to cabinet. He looked effortlessly good in tight, dark-wash jeans and a green shirt with the sleeves rolled to the elbow.

"Done getting pretty?" he asked, mocking but friendly.

"Some of us have to work for it," Jamie said. "Come on."

He expected a tussle over who would drive. Tyler didn't actually care who was behind the wheel; he just had very strong opinions about Jamie's music. Jamie didn't give a shit about the music, but other people's driving made him tense. But Tyler headed to the passenger side of Jamie's car without saying a word. His knowing, amused look over the hood said a lot, though.

Jamie had opted for sushi. They both liked it, and the nutritionists were always telling them to add more fish. The place was new to both of them, just that little bit fancier than they would usually choose when out with the guys.

Jamie had worried, before he'd made his big move, that it would be hard to date someone when they already lived in each other's pockets. The two of them drank morning coffee together on a regular basis, no sleepovers required; he worried about making things like that into couple things. Jamie liked couple things. He loved the whole package: planning dates, carrying them off well, the way ordinary gestures had this extra weight of you and me, right? about them.

He wasn't worried about that anymore. It was easy to add in that extra something. It turned out, the trick had been holding it back before.

And everything about this said date, from the way Jamie's hand settled naturally onto Tyler's back as they followed the hostess to their table, to how the first question wasn't whether they would split some sake, but which one.

Talking about the house made Tyler happy, and watching that made Jamie happy, so he kept asking questions about it all through ordering and the delivery of their drinks and appetizers.

"It just always seemed like so much work," Jamie said, pausing to pop edamame out with his teeth. "I mean, I figure I'll buy a place someday, but that's a pretty far off someday."

"I've got Marshall," Tyler said. "Things are different when there's a baby at home, you know."

That was more or less what he'd said when he'd announced back in February that he was looking to buy. On the one hand, if there was a person in the world who would buy a multi-million dollar home for his dog, he was sitting across the table. On the other hand, Jamie had never believed that was the whole story. But even if Jamie figured out a way to ask, it was one of those questions that Tyler would just go blank at and shrug.

"I thought I'd find roommates," Tyler said unexpectedly.

Jamie blinked. "For the house?"

"No, for wherever I went after the apartment." Tyler rolled his shoulders. "I've always had roommates. Going back to junior, always. And I like it. So I figured I'd meet some local people, find a condo or whatever with them. It's what I've always done."

Jamie had met a lot of Tyler's Boston and Toronto friends, at least in passing. Looking back on it, a large number of the introductions had included something like, "we lived together when we were," or "we bunked up in this terrible apartment…." It probably spoke well of Tyler that he was still on good terms with all of them. For his part, Jamie had hated pretty much everything about assigned road roomies. He just couldn't quite relax that last bit with someone else in his space, except for Jordie.

"But you didn't do that," Jamie said.

Tyler shrugged and shook his head at the same time. "Yeah, I don't know. I kept meaning to, but then the house happened, and it's mine, you know?" He reached to refill both their glasses. "And I've got Marshall, so I can pretend I'm talking to him instead of myself. And you and Jordie are always around, so."

That was a kind of answer to the question Jamie hadn't asked, if only he knew how to interpret it. "It's a lot of house," he said.

Tyler waved dismissively. "The way I see it, if you're going to own something, own something," he said.

"So, like, go big and go home?" Jamie asked.

Tyler made a face and kicked him under the table. "Dude, that was terrible," he said.

Awful jokes had gotten Jamie surprisingly far on dates, and everyone always said to stick to your strengths, so he just grinned unrepentantly. "Watch out," he said. "Sometimes, when I'm really into somebody, I make puns."

"Oh, Jesus." Tyler hunched protectively over his dragon roll. "That was never on my list."

"What list?"

"You know." Tyler waved his chopsticks. "Never do a dude who's older than your dad or younger than your sisters. Never do a dude who has funny sores on his dick." He narrowed his eyes meaningfully. "Never do a dude who puns."

"Well then," Jamie said, and mimed zipping his lips and throwing away the key.

Tyler went pink and ducked his head, but not before Jamie saw the small, pleased curve to his mouth. It was nice that Tyler knew full well he could have Jamie on the first available flat surface if he just snapped his fingers, but still liked hearing it.

They ate absolute piles of sushi and gossiped about Jordie's new girlfriend – a huge trade-up from the last one, was the consensus – and complained about Game of Thrones and, inevitably, slipped into playoff talk. It was a long dinner; neither of them got more than gently buzzed. And Jamie thought, as they lingered over red bean ice cream, that this was a seriously rocking date, one of the best he'd ever been on. And he figured hey, why not, and shared that observation with Tyler.

"Really?" Tyler said. "I mean, I totally thought so, but it's not like I have many comparisons."

Jamie blinked. "You don't? But you . . ."

"Yeah, I get around," Tyler said easily. "But that was a lot of hookups and friends-with-benefits and stuff. I almost never did—" he gestured between them, around the table "—this."

"Huh." Jamie sat back, some fundamental assumptions rearranging themselves. He was so used to thinking of Tyler as the experienced one. Tyler had a lot of notches on his bedpost, and he also had a Cup ring. There were times Jamie honestly wasn't sure which was sexier.

"Did I just blow your mind?" Tyler asked. He was smiling, but it didn't sit quite right.

"Yeah," Jamie said honestly. "But it's not like it matters. . . . Right?"

Tyler shook his head quickly. "No, exactly." The smile settled more comfortably. "It's just nice to know that I was right about what an awesome date this is." He finger-gunned himself like a tool. "Doing good, Seguin."

Jamie had read a couple books on leadership, back when he got the C, and the season itself was one long crash course. Finding out this was new territory for Tyler moved him suddenly into the rookie category in Jamie's head; he wanted to clap Tyler on the shoulder and tell him what a great job he was doing.

They did tussle over the check. Tyler had no shame about initiating a slap fight in the middle of the restaurant, but Jamie had bigger hands and a longer reach.

"You can get the next one," he said, fending Tyler off. He paused in the act of pulling out his credit card. "Though, uh, I hope it doesn't sound weird if I say I hope it's a while before we have time again." These few hours were the first in a long while he hadn't spent thinking constantly and foremost of the playoffs. Tomorrow's return to reality loomed, equal parts exciting and terrifying.

"No, I get you," Tyler said. "I'll drink to that." And he tossed down the dregs of his sake.

They were quiet on the drive back to the house, the music turned down low. It occurred to Jamie as he was pulling up the driveway that it was kind of silly to be spending the night here. They both had fully furnished apartments waiting across town. Still. This felt right, new beginnings and all that shit.

Tyler touched his wrist as Jamie set the parking brake. "Just checking – you're coming in, right?"

Jamie gave him an incredulous look. "Um, yes," he said.

"Okay, good." Tyler's smile flashed in the dimness. "I was just making sure you weren't gonna have a fit of responsibility or something."

Jamie was pretty sure that, at this point, the responsible thing was to go inside with Tyler and screw their brains out, just to dissipate some of the tension before he blew a fuse. "No," Jamie said pointedly. "I'll leave that to you." He got out of the car and headed for the house.

Tyler followed him, grumbling. "Calling me responsible," he was muttering as he came up beside Jamie with the keys. "I should make you sleep on the couch if you keep spreading lies like that."

As the door closed behind them, Jamie felt like they were switching leads. And he had no problem with that – this was solidly Tyler's territory.

"You want a beer?" Tyler asked. His shoulders were relaxed, his smile open, all happy confidence. Jamie was nowhere near any of that himself, so a beer sounded like a pretty good idea.

He followed Tyler into the kitchen and peered over his shoulder into the fridge. It contained three six-packs, a flat of Gatorade, a pizza box, and a whole lot of emptiness.

"Shut up," Tyler said before Jamie even opened his mouth. "It's moving-in supplies."

"Right," Jamie said. "So the reason it looks exactly like your fridge always does is . . ."

Tyler elbowed him and opened their beers in dignified silence. Jamie accepted one, most of his attention on watching Tyler take his first sip.

Jamie's pulse was going too fast. And yeah, he trusted Tyler to get them where they were going, but he also kind of wanted to cut to the chase, spare his nerves. So he set his untouched beer on the counter and reached for Tyler, telegraphing every move. Tyler's smile widened, and he reached back.

They made out against the fridge for a long time. The pace they settled on was slower than Jamie was expecting. Tyler's hand was warm and steadying on the back of his neck, his mouth soft under Jamie's. Jamie was restless; he touched Tyler's face, his shoulders, his back, his waist. He ducked his head and eased two buttons of Tyler's shirt open. It was as exciting as unbuttoning a woman's blouse had been the first time. There was something irresistibly hot about getting an eyeful of muscle instead of cleavage, even though he'd seen it a hundred times before.

Tyler shifted, his breath brushing the side of Jamie's neck. He turned them with a few adroit pushes until he had Jamie's back to the fridge. They kissed again, slow and intense, and Tyler's hand slid deliberately from Jamie's neck down his chest, his stomach, past his belt, and cupped his dick through his pants. Tyler made a happy little noise in the back of his throat, and Jamie breathed out hard. Tyler spread his fingers and rubbed firmly with the heel of his hand. Jamie thunked his head back into the freezer and ground it in. It was better than grabbing Tyler's hand and grinding into that.

"So," Jamie said hoarsely. "I might have forgotten to mention . . . that I haven't done this?"

Tyler's hand went still. "Sorry?"

"With a guy," Jamie clarified.

Tyler blinked. ". . . Oh," he said, drawing it out like something had just become clear to him. "Awesome, you've come to the right place. I'm, like, a wizard with virgins."

"I'm not a—" Jamie began, then broke off in a long groan as Tyler started rubbing him off again.

"Seriously though," Tyler said in a close murmur. "Just tell me what you want to do, okay?"

"Everything," Jamie said involuntarily. "Twice."

Tyler laughed warmly. "Yeah, dude, I hear you," he said. "Do you want me to narrow it down a bit?"

"That might be good." Jamie rolled his hips, keeping it to as small a motion as possible. Judging by Tyler's smirk, it definitely wasn't small enough to go unnoticed.

"Well," Tyler said. He kept his hand where it was on Jamie's dick but started gesturing with the other like a waiter indicating menu choices. "I could blow you. I'd be way into that, and trust me, by the time I was done, so would you." Jamie was into that now. And Tyler said it so matter-of-factly, not boasting or smirking, just facts-is-facts. "Or I could get you off like this," Tyler continued, twisting his hand. "Or we could get naked and rub off all over each other, that's a classic for a reason. Or we could go assemble that bad boy--" he jerked a thumb out the kitchen door to the box they'd left open in the living room "--and we could—" He stopped, blinked. Looked down at Jamie's dick and up at his face. "Really? That last one? I was kidding."

"Um." Jamie could feel the blush coming, which didn't mean he could do anything about it. "I, uh. Yes?"

Tyler's head tipped to the side. "Yeah, all right," he said, smiling speculatively. "We can totally do that."

"I don't," Jamie started, then lacked anything to say. He just felt a vague need to protest that this wasn't – that he didn't. He didn't know why he wanted to do it, for one. Tyler had just thrown it out there and something in Jamie's gut had gone yeah, that.

Tyler waited him out, displaying the sort of patience he generally only ever had for intricate goal set-up. "Or not," he said into the silence.

Jamie shook his head immediately. "No," he said. "I mean yes. Yes, definitely, let's do that."

"Okay then." Tyler stepped back. "Go get the screwdriver, slick."

Which was how Jamie found himself on the living room floor of Tyler's unfurnished house in the middle of the best third date of his life, arguing over sex toy assembly. The box contained many bits and pieces, but no instructions. So they were left with Tyler's dubious memory and even more dubious mechanical skills. There was a lot of "It goes like this." "I think that's upside down." "No, I swear, give me the screwdriver, it's – yeah, that's totally upside down."

Eventually, Jamie found a manufacturer's stamp and did some quick googling on his phone. It was very difficult not to get sidetracked by the results that popped up. But there was a goal here, even if he still wasn't entirely clear on the details. And once Jamie had a photo of an assembled product, things went faster.

"Okay," Tyler said finally, lifting the power cord. "Are we set?"

Jamie eyed the – it was most definitely a machine, now that it was assembled. Not a toy. "I think so," he said.

Tyler plugged it in, and the control panel lit up. There was a remote control, too, but Jamie had his doubts about the batteries.

Tyler scooted over until they were sitting shoulder to shoulder, considering their handiwork.

"So," Tyler said conversationally. "Clue me in – what're we doing here?"

Jamie chewed his lip. "I don't know," he said. "Sorry. I was just . . . curious."

"Curious like you want to try it out? Or curious like you want me to so you can watch?"

Those were the obvious options, but as usual, it was so much easier to have them spelled out. "The second one," Jamie said. "Can we do that?"

"Dude," Tyler said, elbowing him. "It's like you think I'm not way into this." He crawled around to the front of the machine. The empty socket where the dildo would go stuck out on a curved metal arm. It looked vaguely threatening, like lasers might come on if you plugged in the wrong toy. "So there are lots of ways to do this," Tyler said. He pulled, and the bar swung upward. "I can get on my knees – there's this thing that swings out so I have something to lean on. Or I think there's a way to do this sitting, though I'm not sure we have all those parts." He flashed a mischievous grin. "That might be, like, the expansion pack."

"What's your favorite?" Jamie asked.

Tyler pushed the bar down, rotating to change the angle. "On my back," he said, and briskly turned to pull the case of toys closer. He opened it with a flourish. "Preferences?" Jamie silently tapped the dildo Tyler had chosen earlier. "Right," Tyler said. "Should have known." He picked up the toy, studied it, then considered Jamie's crotch with frank, interested appraisal. Then he shrugged and wriggled, reaching to get his wallet out of his back pocket. "Easier this way," he said, extracting a condom and ripping it open one-handed. Then he glanced up at Jamie, winked, popped the condom in his mouth, and slid the toy in after. Jamie leaned in, mesmerized, watching Tyler's lips work. When he pulled the toy out again, the condom was in place, glistening faintly with spit.

"I want to learn to do that," Jamie said immediately.

Tyler grinned, the big, beautiful one that always, inexplicably, hurt a little to see. "Oh, totally. But that's, like, intermediate level shit—" What, Jamie wondered dizzily, did Tyler consider the advanced class? "—so maybe not tonight."

He turned and screwed the dildo into place, adjusting the angle until he was satisfied. "Is there lube in the case?"

There was. Jamie started to hand it over, then thought better of it and pulled it back to check the expiration date. "Shut up," he muttered when Tyler laughed at him. "I remember the cold cuts incident, okay? Here, this is fine."

"Cool," Tyler said, and shucked his jeans and underwear in a few efficient gestures. He paused with his fingers on the buttons of his shirt, one eyebrow raised. Instead of just saying yes, Jamie leaned in and did it for him. There was a peculiar, intimate pleasure to unrolling the sleeves, thumbing over Tyler's inked forearms, and unbuttoning all the way down his chest.

Tyler shrugged the shirt away and was unselfconsciously naked. Not that he had a damn thing to be self-conscious about. Not that it would probably stop him even if he did. Jamie was still fully dressed, and he was clearly the only one feeling weird about how to sit, the angle of his shoulders, all of that.

Tyler turned back to the machine, then paused. "Damn," he said. "That's a problem."

"What?"

"I used to have this padded wedge thing," Tyler said. "To put behind my back. It doesn't actually work very well otherwise. Have you seen--"

He started to get up, like he was actually going to wander around the house completely naked, opening boxes.

"Will this work?" Jamie asked. He knee-walked around behind Tyler and sat down, legs stretched out to either side. "If you lean on me?"

Tyler did, his head settling under Jamie's chin. "Hi," he said, smiling up.

"Hi." Jamie craned his head down and kissed his forehead. "This what you need?"

"It's great," Tyler said. "But you won't really be able to see the action."

Jamie's eyes flicked involuntarily down. He could see the whole length of Tyler's body, the part of his thighs, his half-hard dick. He wouldn't be getting the up close and explicit camera angle or anything, but he didn't care much. Definitely not enough to move.

"I'm good holding you," he said, wrapping his arms around Tyler's chest and squeezing.

"Aw, for real." Tyler laughed, his body shaking against Jamie's. "How are you making this so wholesome, you nut?" And he reached for the lube.

He was right; Jamie didn't get to see all that much. Just Tyler slicking two fingers, lifting one knee, and reaching down. But even the slow flex of his arm was fascinating. Jamie could feel his breath hitch, like it felt good to him right away. Then Tyler sighed, visibly pushing in, and murmured a soft, pleased sound.

"Just two?" Jamie asked quietly. He'd never managed more than that when doing this to himself.

"That's plenty for this," Tyler said, gesturing vaguely at the dildo with his free hand. His eyes had fallen shut.

Jamie fell quiet again, mostly so he could listen. Tyler wasn't loud, exactly, but he was vocal: lots of breath sounds and back-of-the-throat articulations. It was fascinating.

"Okay," Tyler said, after what Jamie thought was not long at all. "That'll do it. Help me—"

Jamie supported his weight while he slid down further. There were two padded bars sticking out from either side of the center axis of the machine; Jamie realized they were knee rests when Tyler hooked one leg over. That opened him up, and, cocking his head to the side, Jamie could see him hitching closer to the machine, tilting his hips. He knew the exact moment the toy pressed home, because Tyler hissed quietly between his teeth.

"Okay?" Jamie asked.

Tyler nodded, waving an I’m busy hand at him. He curled up, making minute adjustments. Then he hooked his other leg over the second bar. For a minute, all his weight was balanced there, held by the machine and Jamie. Then he relaxed, bit by bit – Jamie could actually see the tension flowing out of the muscle groups in his thighs and abs. And he sank down on the toy with a groan.

"Can you reach?" he said. His voice seemed to have dropped in pitch. "Hit the – yeah, that button."

The control panel was a little intimidating. Start and stop were easy enough, but then there were a whole range of other settings for speed and force and rhythm and rotation. Jamie had to work hard not to reach for his phone to Google for the manual.

"Just hit the 2," Tyler said. "I think there are pre-sets – yeah."

The machine hummed quietly and a flashing number counted down from five, just like a treadmill. Then the business end moved and Tyler jerked.

"Wait, not quite," Tyler said, wriggling. "I think there's a way to move those bars, maybe hit that – yeah."

They both reached for the same lever – Jamie had longer arms and more freedom so he got there first. "Say when," he said, carefully notching Tyler's knee rests up one increment at a time.

"There." Tyler reached up and clenched his bicep. "Yeah, sit back—" He slid down, his head coming to rest right below Jamie's sternum. The machine had been moving all that time, slowly but inexorably. The first time it pushed in all the way in the new position, Tyler wriggled in an entirely different way. "Oh yeah, that's the stuff," he said.

He did a crunch, pushing up just enough to hit the 4 button, then collapsed back onto Jamie. The machine's hum deepened slightly, the arm picking up the pace.

And Jamie watched, rapt, as it worked and worked between Tyler's thighs. Tyler got louder every minute; he grabbed hold of Jamie's forearms and squeezed like he needed to hold onto something.

"Is that good?" Jamie asked, even though it obviously was.

Tyler nodded. A hectic flush was rising up his chest to his neck. "Gets me right. There."

Jamie held him tighter, so turned on he was a little dizzy. He shifted his grip and touched Tyler's nipples, curious. Tyler arched into his hands and said, "Yeah, do that."

Jamie did, eyes flicking from his fingers down to Tyler's dick, flushed red and standing fully up, to the relentless rocking metal arm that disappeared into the shadows between his legs.

"I'm gonna—" Jamie said, and reached for Tyler's dick. It was hot in his hand. At this angle, he could almost pretend he was touching himself. He didn't want to pretend, but the familiarity made it easier to circle his fingers, slick them up at the head of Tyler's dick, then stroke firmly down.

Tyler liked that. He told Jamie so at great length, using very few words but being quite emphatic nonetheless. He was moving more, too, rocking up into Jamie's hand and then pressing deliberately down.

"Hit the—" Tyler said after a minute, then gave up and flailed at the control panel himself, eventually hitting the 6. Jamie braced himself just in time; Tyler thrashed as the machine went faster, his feet kicking in midair and his hands grabbing at nothing.

Jamie jerked him off and watched him fall apart. Tyler was making no effort to restrain himself in any way; he whined and bucked, twisted down onto the dildo and swore in a breathless shout. Jamie could feel the rhythm of the machine in the way Tyler's body rocked against his.

"Wait a second," Tyler said after a while, catching Jamie's arm. "Stop, let me just – I can – I wanna—"

Jamie let go of his dick, puzzled. Tyler moved hard into each thrust, his dick bouncing against his belly. He turned his head and his open mouth latched onto the inside of Jamie's arm, where he sucked, then bit. Then he pulled away, reaching for his dick. And caught himself, jerking his hands back.

"Hold my hands," he said. "Hold me down, don't let me – I just want to come."

Jamie caught him by both wrists. He pinned Tyler's hands to either side of his head, not quite sure he was following the plot.

"You're close?" he said.

"So close," Tyler said through gritted teeth. "I just wanna – it can make me come."

Jamie found his mouth hanging open, and he really didn't care. Okay, yeah, he'd seen guys do things like that in porn, but he'd never thought actual people could. To say nothing of the actual guy sweating and cursing in his lap, holy shit.

Tyler turned a little onto his side. He unhooked one knee from the support bar and let it fall wide open, twisting his pelvis the other way until he got what he wanted. Then he held there, muscles quivering, saying "yeah, yeah, yeah," every time the dildo pushed into him.

And this. This was what Jamie had wanted. To see him like this, to be right here with him but not a star player in the action, so he could watch Tyler's body, learn what he loved, what got him off.

"You're so perfect," Jamie blurted, not processing the words until they were out.

Tyler might have heard him, might not have. The machine was working him hard, arm pistoning into him. And Tyler – Tyler was using it, riding it with his back arched and his free foot digging into the carpet.

He came all over his belly, wrists flexing in Jamie's hands, a shout strangling down to a breathless whine by the end.

Jamie watched, heart thundering in his ears, so hard in his slacks it was painful.

"Oh," he said softly.

Then he crashed back to reality and lunged up, dropping Tyler's wrists to hit the stop button. That was probably going to hurt, if it didn't already.

Tyler made a disappointed sound, though, like he hadn't wanted it to stop even though his dick was softening on his stomach.

He collapsed fully onto Jamie, sighing out a huge breath and patting uncoordinatedly at Jamie's biceps.

Jamie held him for a long moment of silence, just looking down at his lashes on his flushed cheeks, the satisfied curve of his smile.

Then he lifted Tyler's wrists again and said, "You are such a showoff."

Tyler blinked his eyes lazily open. "Yeah," he said unapologetically. "Pretty fucking cool, right?"

"Pretty fucking cool," Jamie said. He wanted to ask how Tyler had learned to do that. Was it a talent, like shooting, that could be improved with practice but that, fundamentally, you just had to have?

Tyler rolled his neck. "Was it good for you?"

"Obviously." Jamie flicked him on the forehead.

"'Kay." Tyler's smile was dopey. "I'm getting up. Swear."

"Take your time." Jamie was hard as hell, but it was easy to just sit there and hold Tyler a little longer. This was the most relaxed Jamie had ever seen him, aside from when he was asleep.

"No, I'm . . ." Tyler put his hand flat to the floor and lifted himself off the dildo with a hissed breath. He flopped to the side, one leg still extended. "I'm totally about to get you off," he said to the carpet.

Jamie patted his back supportively. "I believe you," he said. "Totally. Any second now."

Tyler made it all the way over onto his back. "Fuck you," he said, still smiling widely. ". . . No. Wait. I meant the other thing. You wanna fuck me, right?"

"Well . . . yeah," Jamie said. "But you just--" He gestured at the machine.

"Exactly." Tyler stretched his arms over his head. "Right after, it's the best, swear."

"You sure it's okay?" Jamie hadn't known that was still on the table. On the table tonight at all, come to think of it. But the idea was irresistible, once suggested.

"Take your pants off," Tyler said, and that, apparently, was that.

Jamie got up on his knees, then hesitated. "Could we . . . go up to bed?" he asked. Somehow, that seemed like an alarming new intimacy, even after what they'd just done.

"Yeah, good call." Tyler started to sit up. He made it on the second try, and snagged the lube. "You might have to carry me, though. Fuck, that was a good one."

Jamie didn't carry him, but he followed close behind Tyler all the way up the stairs, both hands steadying him by the hips. Tyler flopped face down on the bed when they got upstairs, stretching and groaning.

Then he flipped over and waved a hand at Jamie. "Okay, pants off now?" he asked plaintively.

"Yeah." Jamie reached for his belt. Tyler was so cheerful about displaying himself; it honestly hadn't occurred to Jamie until just that moment that it might feel to Tyler like he was withholding in comparison.

He'd undressed next to Tyler a hundred times, but doing it while Tyler blatantly watched was still nerve-wracking, enough to make his erection flag a little. Probably a good thing; one less way to embarrass himself.

He got one knee up on the bed before he remembered – oh yeah – condom. Get it now? Get it later when he really wouldn't want to? Okay, get it now. He went back to dig through his jeans, pretty sure this whole thing was the exact opposite of smooth.

Tyler was still smiling when he got back, though. And it was amazingly easy to crawl up next to him, to drop the condom somewhere and forget about it as they rolled together. Tyler still had spunk all over his stomach; it made him smell like sex, which was really working for Jamie. And happiness seemed to roll off Tyler as they made out. It was probably just the orgasm and not anything Jamie was doing, but yeah, he'd take it.

There was so much skin. Jamie ran his hands down Tyler's arms and skated a finger along the edge of the slickness on his abs. He would never say it out loud, but there was something charming about how shitty some of Tyler's early tattoos were.

Tyler groped him right back, and his hands were way more adventurous. He squeezed Jamie's ass, scratched down his happy trail, and made unselfconsciously pleased noises over his dick. It was ridiculously ego-boosting.

Tyler took hold of him in a loose grip. "You still up for this?"

He didn't mean literally – that part was more than obvious. "Yeah, of course," Jamie said. He'd been trying not to think too hard about the plan here. He was trying to get into the headspace he'd found right before the gold medal game: don't think, just do, and do well.

"C'mere," Tyler said. He rolled onto his back and Jamie came with him. He tried to take some of his weight on his knees, but Tyler just grumbled and tangled their legs, tugging, until Jamie gave in and pressed down over him. "That's better," Tyler said, squeezing him with arms and legs. "I knew you'd cuddle me during."

Jamie snorted a laugh into his neck. "Tell me how you want to do this?"

"This is good," Tyler said immediately. "But we can try different things to figure out what you like."

I like you, Jamie thought. It didn't pop right out of his mouth, which was probably good given the epic amount of shit he'd get for a line that cheesy.

"Where's the—" Tyler patted uncoordinatedly around the comforter and came up with the condom packet. "Here, sit up."

Jamie did, spotting the lube and grabbing it. Tyler got the condom open while he was distracted, and applied it with two fingers, one sliding firmly down each side of Jamie's dick. That felt so good, it was an actual relief he hadn't done the mouth trick again.

Okay, showtime. Jamie slicked up two fingers, thought about it, and did a third. Tyler's legs were sprawled wide around him, so it was easy to lean over and reach. And if he'd been feeling any lack of a view earlier, it was more than made up for now.

Except Tyler caught him by the wrist and stopped him mid-reach.

"Nah, you don't need to," Tyler said.

Jamie looked up, dubious. "No?"

"No, for real. Just use that to slick yourself up, it'll be fine."

"But—" It turned out there really wasn't a not-weird way to say, but my dick is pretty big. "That toy was small," he settled on eventually.

Tyler looked down like he'd seen right through that. His grin was gorgeous. "Yeah," he said. "That just means I'll be tight. It'll make it better for both of us, trust me."

One of these days, it would have to stop socking Jamie in the gut whenever Tyler said anything dirty like that. Probably.

And okay, he'd kind of been looking forward to fingering – he'd specifically wanted to do it to someone else for a long time – but it could wait. And he did trust Tyler. So he slicked himself up and scooted in closer.

Tyler moved, bending with him and making it easy. He didn't even chirp when Jamie's first try was . . . somewhat less than successful. He just spread a warm hand at the base of Jamie's spine, guiding him in again.

"Harder than that," he said. "It's okay, I know it's weird, just push harder than you think you need to."

That managed to shut down the voice frantically gabbling at the back of Jamie's mind that he was going to hurt Tyler or do this wrong or – or.

They both breathed out at the same time, Tyler's thigh slid up Jamie's ribs as he folded his leg up tighter, and Jamie was in with an uncontrolled, breathless effort.

"There you go," he heard Tyler say, but mostly he was thinking about the steady pressure of Tyler's hands, both on his back now, guiding him through a series of slow, deep thrusts. "You like that?" Tyler asked eventually, right into his ear.

Jamie had slumped down over him; he was embarrassed to discover he'd been gasping into Tyler's shoulder. "Yeah," he said, propping himself up and nodding too much.

"Awesome." Tyler knocked his forehead against Jamie's cheek. It was weird, but obviously affectionate. "Do your thing, go to town."

Everything about fucking him was different: the angle, the force, the smell of him, the unmistakably masculine sounds he made. It was amazing. Jamie just wallowed in it, in Tyler, for a while. He found his rhythm easily, a little uneven, not like the machine. Tyler went with it; his hands were loose around Jamie's shoulders now, just holding on.

It eventually dawned on Jamie that he was not really getting the job done here – that he was doing exactly what he'd been afraid of.

"Hey," he said, slowing down. Tyler was sporting a semi, like he had been basically this whole time, unchanging. Humility would taste better than selfishness, right? "Um. Sorry. What – can I make this better for you?"

"Aw, dude, no, you're fine." Tyler squeezed the back of his neck. "I'm just probably out of the game for another half hour at least."

Oh. Oops. "We can—" Jamie started to sit up.

"Don't you dare." Tyler's legs clamped hard around his waist. "You are not running off after I worked so hard to get your dick in me."

"I'm not," Jamie started, then changed it to, "You did not work that hard."

Tyler laughed, his whole body shaking under Jamie. "Nah," he agreed, "you were pretty easy. But I totally would have! That counts, right?"

There was absolutely nothing Jamie could say to that, so he went with, "Seriously, I can wait if you want."

Tyler shook his head definitively. "I told you, I like taking it right after I come. It's awesome, seriously. I'm digging this. You should keep on going."

Jamie chewed his lip. It felt weird, just going for it. Not just selfish – Tyler was telling him to, after all – but also . . . vulnerable.

Then again, that was fair, wasn't it? Tyler had let him watch a sex toy take him to pieces. Maybe, after that, reciprocation meant something different. Not just orgasms but also . . .
He took a deep breath. "You're sure."

"Positive. Tyler squeezed his legs tighter. "Come on, babe, get yours, I want it."

Jamie thought babe? but now was not the time. Instead he leaned in and kissed Tyler on the mouth, a little off center, but still good. And he got his.

He kept it easy for a while longer, but he'd been hard for a long time, and everything about Tyler was turning him on tonight. Tyler met every thrust, responsive. Jamie was pretty sure Tyler was doing it on purpose, making a show out of enjoying this. But it was genuine, for all that – he could pretty much always tell, with Tyler.

Jamie lost it, eventually. He could feel it coming, knew there was no point to stopping it. He pressed harder into Tyler, grinding his hips a little experimentally. He liked that. So did Tyler. They both liked it even more when Jamie wedged a hand underneath him and propped him up a little bit.

"Oh yeah," Tyler said. "That's great, do me like that."

"You are so—" Jamie said, and stopped. Too many ways to end that sentence – filthy, manipulative, amazing, perfect.

He went a little crazy then, bit-by-bit so he didn't even notice until he tuned in to the noise he was making, the noise Tyler was making, the thump of the bed into the wall.

"Yeah," Tyler was saying. "That's it, get it, just like that."

Filthy perfect, Jamie thought dizzily, and came in him, grinding deep, hips jerking helplessly.

Tyler held him through it, nails digging painfully into Jamie's shoulders like he was feeling a bit of that, too. And he didn't let go after when Jamie dropped his hips back to the bed and tried to slump to the side. Jamie slumped on Tyler instead, sweaty and blown away. Tyler rubbed a hand up and down the groove of his spine for a long time, apparently content to wait it out.

Jamie extracted himself eventually and rolled over. They'd totally messed up the brand new comforter. But seriously, no regrets.

He turned onto his side to stare at Tyler, who was looking pleased as hell with life, or himself, or whatever. Jamie had one of those moments then, the kind that kept happening around Tyler, where his chest got tight and his throat hurt a little. He breathed out carefully and nuzzled the skin of Tyler's biceps. There was a different texture where the ink was; Jamie could feel it under his lips.

He opened his mouth, not sure what would come out. "Told you I was into you," he said.

There was a brief pause, then Tyler quivered, jerked, and shook in a full-body laugh. "Oh my God," Tyler said. "What – that wasn't even a pun, what was that?"

"I dunno," Jamie said, and slung an arm across him.

"That was terrible, that's what it was." Tyler elbowed him. "I don't even know – why do I like you?"

"I don't know either," Jamie said comfortably. But Tyler did, that was the important thing. They lay there for a while longer. Eventually, Jamie laced their hands together, just because.

"Tomorrow," Tyler said, but seemed disinclined to add anything.

Tomorrow. Practice, and a team meeting, and beyond that the flight to Anaheim, and –

"We got this, right?" Jamie asked. He didn't even mean winning, for some reason. He just meant . . . doing it.

Tyler squeezed his hand. "We got this."