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Romantic Motherfucking Best

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They get into town around the same time, but don't actually see each other until the first day of training camp. Tyler spots Jamie from all the way down the hall and breaks into a run. He whistles sharply in warning, then pounces.

Jamie catches him, staggering, and hugs him back just as hard.

"Dude," Tyler says, dropping his feet to the ground and getting a solid grope of Jamie's guns. "Look at you. What'd you do, lift all summer?"

Jamie ducks his head like that's something to be ashamed of. "Maybe," he says. "I had some stuff to think about, so."

"Yeah?" Tyler palms the new density of muscle over Jamie's abs. "Good stuff?"

Jamie's mouth twists. "Doubt it, but we'll see," he says. "Did you—"

"Segs!" Dills shouts from down the hall. "Come gimme some of that sugar."

"Later," Tyler says, and dashes off for more hugs.


He and Jamie don't hook up during camp. Too busy, too tired, too many people constantly underfoot. And it doesn't seem to matter how fit you come in, camp always takes a little more than you've got.

It isn't until they do hook up, after their second pre-season game, that Tyler realizes how long it's been. The summer was great, just as busy as he likes it, but how has it been months since he got off with Jamie? Major fucking oversight. There is, in Tyler's extensive experience, a direct correlation between the quality of the bro and the quality of the benefits. And Jamie is a high-quality bro, no doubt about that.

"Aw man," Tyler says after an exchange of BJ's. He stretches hugely. "Good game."

"You too," Jamie says. He rolls over to look at Tyler head on. "Hey, so, I was wondering if we could—"

Tyler's phone beeps. "Hang on," he says. "That's Val." He types quickly in response to the text. "Sorry, what?" he says, looking up after a minute.

". . . Never mind," Jamie says, and rolls off the far side of the bed.


They beat the snot out of the Kings on their first roadie. Well, Jamie beats the snot out of the Kings; the rest of them are just along for the ride. Jamie's first and third goals are straight off Tyler's assists, sure, and the second pass – off the boards at a crazy angle between two defenders right to Jamie's tape – is pretty fucking baller. But Jamie owns the game, from start to finish.

Jamie's never been a showboater, so he just grins and lifts his hands in thanks as hats come down. And he only rolls his eyes and laughs a little when Tyler mimes hot hands, pointing emphatically at him from across the ice.

The locker room is pretty crazy after. Tyler lets everyone else get their turn first. Jamie doesn't say much, but he smiles through all the back slapping and head tapping. Success doesn't make Jamie strut and preen, it just makes him quietly happy. Like a good orgasm, come to think of it.

Tyler sidles up to him once most of the guys have gone in to shower. "So I guess you're kind of all right at this," he says.

Jamie ducks his head. "Our line changes were a mess," he says. Okay, yes, true – they avoided a too many men penalty by dumb luck, and that shit's just embarrassing. But seriously?

"Shut the fuck up, I'm propositioning you here," Tyler says, smacking his shoulder.

Jamie looks up, startled. Please. As if he doesn't know by now that hat tricks get Tyler hot. "Oh," Jamie says, and waves a magnanimous hand. "Sorry, carry on."

Tyler leans back in and goes for the smarmiest grin he's got. "You really seem to want to put it in tonight," he says. "How about you put it in me next?"

Jamie laughs hard, his head thrown back. "Oh my God," he says.

"There's more where that came from," Tyler threatens. "You in?"

Jamie makes this weird face Tyler can't immediately interpret. "Obviously," he says. "But we should go out with the guys, even if it's just for a bit."

"Yeah, of course." That shit's important for, like, team cohesion. "I'm in room 502," he murmurs. "Come get it when you want it."

Jamie nods. Tyler is close enough to see him swallow. He slaps Jamie on the chest and starts to step away, but Jamie snags him by the wrist.

"Hey," Jamie says. "That pass was beautiful." He catches himself. "The one on the ice. The one just now was terrible."

Tyler grins. "I know, right?" It was one of those crazy moves he did before he could think about it, which was probably good, because if he'd thought at all it would never have worked.

"Third goal was all you," Jamie says. "Thanks."

They end up at a rooftop bar that makes specialty locally-sourced organic artisanal gin cocktails because fucking L.A., that's why. They take over a half dozen tables along the rail. Tyler never bothers to claim a chair. He's not going to stay in it, so there's no point.

Val wanders up to him with the menu. "What is 'goji'?" he asks, pointing at the word.

"You know . . . I have no idea," Tyler says, and flags down the waiter to order one of whatever the fuck that is. He throws it down fast, then chases it with a grapefruit thing that he takes his time over, wandering from group to group.

It's good they're doing this now. Tyler's lived through much more dramatic roster shuffling than what they saw over the summer – Tyler's been more dramatic roster shuffling – but these things still take time. Jamie's been working his rah rah team integration rah shtick on the new guys. It's funny to watch from the outside; Tyler's used to having all that directed squarely at him. Not that it's quite the same. The new guys don't have a standing invitation to dinner, and Jamie doesn't spoil their dogs rotten with new toys, but hey, the dude's refining his technique, nothing wrong with that.

Tyler heads back to the hotel with the first wave of old marrieds. It gets him a fair amount of shit from everyone, but whatever, he's about to get some and most of them aren't. Jamie's at the far end of the roof, sharing a table with Spezza and Kari and Dills. Tyler makes eye contact as he leaves, and Jamie nods back with this look in his eyes. Oh yeah, Tyler's getting some.

He goes straight up to his room and fills the time waiting by picking up the mess he made earlier. Jamie's barely twenty minutes behind him, though, so Tyler's still wearing most of his suit and fucking around on Facebook when there's a knock on the door. He moves his laptop from the bed to the nightstand before answering, because he's really feeling it tonight and maybe they can get right to it.

"Hey." Jamie's taken off his tie sometime since the bar; his collar gapes open several buttons.

"Hey, hotshot." Tyler pulls him into the entryway, and hip checks the slowly closing door so he can get on Jamie faster. He backs Jamie against the wall and crowds in. "Hat trick blow job, yeah?"

He's close enough to hear Jamie's breath stutter. "Uh, I kind of wanted to talk to you about something?" Jamie's voice trails up into a question as Tyler runs his teeth down the side of his neck.

"Sure," Tyler says distractedly. "You can talk. My mouth'll be full, though."

"No, really, we should—" Jamie's hands close around his hips, squeezing hard. "I'm serious."

Tyler leans back, blinking. "Wait," he says. "You're not turning down a hat trick blow job. You can't. It's, like, tradition." Twice makes a tradition, right? Jamie bites his lip and looks actually conflicted. What the fuck is going on under his terrible hair? "Seriously, I think skipping a hat trick blow job is bad luck," Tyler says. "I think it means you never get another one."

Jamie's mouth twitches. "Hat trick or blow job?"

"Either," Tyler says. "This is serious business, dude." He licks his mouth and grinds into Jamie's semi. "Come on, I know you want it. We can talk about whatever after."

Something resolves in Jamie's expression and he exhales a long breath. "You're lucky you're so charming," he says. "Or else I might actually start to hate you." Which is a pretty weird thing to say, but before Tyler can ask, Jamie leans in to kiss him. "We'll talk after," he says.

"Awesome," Tyler says, and goes to his knees right there in the entryway.

Jamie might've wanted to analyze their line changes or whatever, but once he's committed, he's all in. He gets his belt unbuckled while Tyler deals with his zipper, and he grunts out an eager "ah" noise when Tyler opens up for his dick. Tyler knows what Jamie likes by now, so he works Jamie up to full salute with a lot of spit and noise. Enthusiasm does it for Jamie as much as technique does, which is fine. It's not like Tyler can argue with the appeal of having a dude moaning when he's all up on your dick. And it's not like doing that for Jamie is a hardship on the average day, let alone a hat trick blow job day. Tyler fucking loves hat trick blow jobs, no matter what end of them he's on.

But Tyler does have technique along with enthusiasm, and hat trick blow jobs are pretty special blow jobs. So he doesn't let Jamie participate like he normally would. Jamie doesn't catch on for a bit, but the third time he starts to thrust and Tyler backs off, he makes a questioning noise.

Tyler pulls off his dick for a second to talk. He's already breathless. "Hang on, this is going to take a minute."

"What?" Jamie says.

Tyler goes back down on him, pressing Jamie to the wall at the same time, one hand to his hip, the other forearm pinning his upper thighs with a lot of Tyler's weight behind it. Jamie has all the leverage here, but he doesn't actually need Tyler to hold him down for this like some guys do. He just needs the reminder to keep himself still while Tyler warms up a bit and works on his angles.

"Oh shit," Jamie says when he figures out what's happening. "Oh shit, oh—" He goes abruptly silent, holding himself absolutely still against the wall. Even his hands, fluttering around Tyler's shoulders and neck, go flat to the wall with a smack.

Tyler grins as best he can and goes for it, sucking Jamie down in long slides. He presses a thumb hard to the left side of his jaw, working at the resistant tension he always carries there. Jamie is quiet above him except for the suppressed, eager gulps of air he takes every time Tyler goes down a little deeper. Jamie wants it bad, but he doesn't move.

Finally Tyler's ready for it, he can tell. So he sinks deeper onto his knees, legs sliding apart, tips his head back, and eases Jamie's dick into his throat. He swallows convulsively, and then again with more control. He breathes a bit through his nose, loud in the silence; Jamie isn't breathing at all.

Tyler's only done this to him once before. He likes getting a guy into him like this. It's a crazy mix of power and vulnerability that really works for him. But he fucking hates choking on it, which means he's got to run the show all himself, which means there are only so many guys he can trust with this. Jamie's totally one of them; he listened to Tyler's injunctions the first time – "you can't move, not at all" – and swore he wouldn't. And he was as good as his word. He didn't move a muscle last time, even though Tyler was about 70% sure he'd blown Jamie to actual tears.

Tyler comes up to take a few deep breaths. Jamie gasps along with him, and Tyler could swear he hears a suppressed whine underneath. He goes back down again. It's easier this time; Jamie slides right in to the root. Tyler swallows, eases him out, swallows him again. He's getting spit everywhere, which is kind of gross, but it's just part of the whole package.

He works Jamie like that for a while, breathe-push-swallow, breathe-push-swallow. It's like doing reps, but reps don't usually get him this hot.

Tyler sits back eventually and scrubs a forearm across his face. "Hey," he says, his voice rough. "You want it like this?"

"What?" Jamie is sweating and flushed; he blinks down at Tyler in glassy-eyed confusion.

Tyler flicks him on the sensitive skin high up on his thigh. "Hat trick," he says pointedly. "This is your night, dude. So. You want it in my mouth, or you want something else?"

"Um." Jamie sounds as hoarse as Tyler does. He shakes himself, peels off the wall. "Yeah, no, let's--" he stumbles a step and leans down to pull Tyler up.

They go down hard on the bed, which squeaks and thumps incriminatingly into the wall. Most of the guys are still out, but Tyler doesn't actually remember who's next to him, and he can hear a TV playing in the distance somewhere.

"Shit," he says. "Hang on, let's move this party." He shoves Jamie off the bed and peels the comforter and blankets and sheets down in one giant yank, flinging them haphazardly onto the floor at the foot of the bed and throwing the pillows after them. Not the most comfortable thing in the world, but it works.

Jamie's apparently regained some of his faculties, because he's collected lube and condoms by the time Tyler's done.

"Come on," Tyler says, pulling Jamie down into the blanket nest with him. "Get your pants off."

Jamie's got shoes to wrangle, so Tyler beats him to naked. He waits impatiently for Jamie to catch up, then pushes him down onto his back, opening the lube with the other hand.

"I never did say what I wanted," Jamie says with a little laugh. Not complaining, just observing.

"Please." Tyler swings a leg across to straddle his hips. "I know what you like. Tell you what, why don't you let me know if I get any of this wrong." He slicks up his fingers and grins, because like hell he's wrong.

Jamie is tellingly silent while Tyler opens himself up on a couple of fingers. Okay, if he were doing this exactly as Jamie likes, he'd let Jamie handle this part. Dude loves doing it, for whatever reason. But he takes forever with it, and Tyler's not in the mood for that. He's in the mood to stretch a bit, get a condom in place, and screw himself open on Jamie's dick. And Jamie loves being ridden, so win-win.

It works out great for a couple minutes. Tyler can use one hand on the end of the bed for balance, and it's kind of intense there in the beginning, but he knows what he can take, and he can definitely take this. Jamie is quiet underneath him while Tyler eases through the first few strokes. Tyler has his eyes closed, but when he opens them for a second he's mildly disconcerted to find Jamie staring up at him with some serious motherfucking intensity going on.

Jamie starts to move with him once Tyler is more comfortable. He pushes up, steadying Tyler with a hand to his waist.

"There you go," Tyler says, rocking a little on the down stroke. "That's what you wanted."

Which, apparently, is the wrong thing to say, because Jamie gets this super weird expression and sits up.

"Can we switch this around?" he says.

"Um . . . sure?" Tyler fumbles for a minute to get his weight centered over his knees; Jamie apparently doesn't want to wait because he lifts Tyler bodily with a flex of biceps and shoulders and chest that, yeah, is really hot to watch up close and personal. "What's the play here?" Tyler asks, puzzled.

Jamie doesn't say anything, just manhandles Tyler down onto the blankets, rolling him onto his stomach. Okay then, Tyler's got no problem at all getting screwed into the floor.

But apparently that's not the plan. There's a pause while Jamie moves around and the blankets rustle, then he makes a frustrated noise and pulls Tyler right back up onto his knees.

"Sorry," Jamie says. He looks sheepish and weirdly flustered. "Can you – here, how about this?" He bends Tyler over the end of the bed with one big hand spread between his shoulder blades. It's more comfortable than the floor, actually – Tyler can spread out and take the weight off his knees – but there was a reason to be down there.

"Noise," he reminds Jamie.

"So keep it down," Jamie says. Tyler can't see his face, but Jamie sounds a lot steadier now.

And before Tyler can say anything else, Jamie spreads him open and – oh, new plan – goes down on him. It's payback, gotta be. Jamie's not pathologically competitive like a lot of pro players Tyler knows, but once he gets going, he wants to fucking destroy you. And clearly something has set him off, because the slick jab of his tongue is vicious.

Lucky for Tyler, he doesn't have to hold still for this. He arches his back, because really, what's the point of shame anyway. Then he draws one knee up onto the bed, groaning as his hip flexor complains, but who the fuck cares.

Jamie grunts in obvious satisfaction, running a hand up and down that thigh, pressing Tyler open even wider.

Tyler's already stretched from screwing, so Jamie can really get his tongue in. It's absolutely filthy, what Jamie's doing to him, and Tyler loves it.

"Fuck you, I hate you," he groans out, because that seems like the most expedient way of letting Jamie know.

Jamie laughs and bites him, a stinging press of teeth high on his thigh, then another, marginally gentler, on his rim.

"That's better," he says obscurely. Tyler has no idea what was wrong before, but whatever, as long as it's cool now. "You want to come back down here?" Jamie asks.

"You want to pick a plan and stick with it?" Tyler manages to sound cranky, but he slides off the bed anyway.

"Yeah, I really do," Jamie says. "C'mere."

He gets Tyler on the blankets, presses one leg up, and gets right back in him. They're face-to-face, so Tyler can watch the way his eyes flutter closed and then open in a long, pleasured blink.

And apparently this is the plan Jamie wants to stick with, because he settles in for the long haul. Tyler hooks his legs around Jamie's back and lets him do his thing. His thing is slow and steady for a while, then faster and rougher so Tyler thinks they're going for endgame here. But then Jamie slows down again, visibly mouthing a count to himself like he does when he needs to regulate his breathing in a workout.

"Hey," Tyler says after the second time Jamie fakes him out with a burst of speed. "You cool?"

"Yeah," Jamie says. He swallows, presses in deep and rocks there. "I don't want to stop." That hangs between them, weirdly heavy all of a sudden. "Here," Jamie says, and pauses to shove a pillow under Tyler's back. "You okay?"

"Yeah," Tyler says. "But if you're going to keep doing that, try not doing it so well, eh?"


Tyler cracks up, finding himself in the bizarre position of needing to direct a guy on how not to nail his prostate quite so hard. Jamie laughs with him, ducking his head like the bashful motherfucker he is sometimes. But he listens, like Tyler knew he would.

They settle closer together, just a pocket of quiet breathing between them. Jamie has his hands braced on either side of Tyler's head, but as soon as Tyler lets his eyes shut, he feels one hand slide under to hold the back of his neck.

They don't stop. Jamie won't, and it's increasingly clear that Tyler's just along for the ride here. Not that he's complaining, thanks.

It's this intense, long, slow-fast-slow fuck. They don't talk. It's just them and their breathing and the sounds of their bodies. Tyler barely registers anything outside of this bubble – he thinks he hears a bunch of the guys in the hall, but he really doesn't care.

Eventually, though, he starts to worry a little about Jamie. Every time the guy reins himself back in, it looks harder. Tyler watches his face contort like he's in actual pain when he slows down again. Which is totally baffling. Why put off an orgasm, is Tyler's philosophy. There's always another two or three where that came from.

Tyler almost says, Dude, is your dick broken, but it occurs to him that there's probably a more diplomatic way of going about this. And hey, there is, and, bonus, it's what he wants to do anyway.

"Hey," Tyler murmurs. He runs a hand down Jamie's spine. Jamie is slick with sweat, panting like he's doing deadlifts or something. "I'm gonna go for it, 'kay?"

Jamie blinks a couple times, shaking his head. "Yeah, sure, of course," he says. "Want me to--?" He centers his weight, hitching Tyler up with a hand under his ass.

And proceeds to nail him to the floor, exactly like Tyler was expecting – Christ, however long ago that was. Tyler has a moment of fleeting regret for ending this. It's not exactly what he had in mind, but it's also . . . surprising. Like it's taking him somewhere new in his head that sex hasn't before. Tyler kind of wants to know where that is. Kind of doesn't. Mostly just wants to come. Weird how opting for that feels like he's tapping out.

Except then he's not thinking about it anymore, because once he's trying for it, it's suddenly clear that he's right the fuck there and didn't know it. This long, slow build wound him up tight, and he's about to get it really, really good.

"Oh shit," he says, surprised, and grabs his dick. "Jamie, right there—" He completely fails to stay quiet when he comes.

Jamie's still moving when he's done, holy hell. He's got his chin tucked down; Tyler feels like he's being stripped to another level of naked under that stare.

"C'mon," Tyler says, pawing a little uncoordinatedly at him. "Jamie, c'mon. Let it go."

It looks like it hurts, is the thing. Jamie rears back onto his knees, jabs into Tyler hard a few times, then folds back down over him, face pressed to his shoulder, and shakes and shakes. Tyler touches a hand to the back of his head, amazed and honestly a little alarmed.

They don't move for a while after. Long enough for their sweat to start to cool and for Jamie's breathing to settle. He pulls out eventually, and disposes of the condom with the minimum of movement. Tyler just lies there, boggled.

"Okay," he says at last. "What the hell got into you, dude? That was, like, top ten material right there. And we're talking top ten ever, not top ten you and me."

Jamie turns his face into the corner of a sideways pillow he's laying on. He says something indistinct, and shows no inclination to repeat it when Tyler nudges him. Okay then. Tyler lifts Jamie's arm off his chest and rolls away. The air conditioner flicks on, and he shivers in the sudden blast.

"Shower," he says, and pats Jamie's head. "Take your time, dude."

He rinses off fast, no need to linger. There's a full length mirror in the bathroom, and Tyler pauses before it, whistling quietly to himself. Jamie left bite marks up the inside of one thigh, deep red ones that will last forever. Tyler doesn't even remember when that happened.

"Hey." Jamie appears in the bathroom doorway. He's cleaned himself up and put on his pants, even though he knows he's welcome to the shower.

Tyler nods at him in the mirror. "Seriously, dude, that was a lot of hat trick special sauce," he says, miming hot hands again.

Jamie goes a little red and makes a quiet, thoughtful sound. But all he says is, "We were gonna talk." He puts one hand on either side of the door, blocking Tyler in.

"Oh, right." Tyler digs through his toiletries bag, looking for the mouthwash. "I know the line changes were a mess, but I really think—"

Jamie lets out a harsh punch of breath. "It's not the line changes, come on." He takes a step into the bathroom.

Tyler looks up, startled. "Okay," he says slowly. "What, then?"

Jamie visibly squares his shoulders. "I get you don't want to hear this," he says. "And that I'm ruining--" he gestures between them " –things. And that really sucks, but it turns out I've gotta say it anyway."

Tyler sets down his bag, genuinely alarmed. The fuck is this? "Okay," he says. "Hit me."

Jamie's eyes snap to his. "I want more from you," he says.

Tyler blinks, processes. "We're not talking about hockey, are we?"

"No," Jamie says, obviously irritated. "Come on, this has nothing to do with hockey." Then he pauses, squints hard at Tyler. "Wait," he says in an entirely different tone. "You didn't see this coming?"

"Uh no," Tyler says. He's still not entirely sure he knows what they're talking about. Though there is an obvious answer, isn't there?

"But." Jamie looks baffled. "I'm crazy about you, you have to know that."

. . . Okay. That answers that then, doesn't it.

"You do know that," Jamie says, with more certainty.

"Sure, but that's—" Tyler gestures with both hands "—that's good sex and good hockey." And all the best things about screwing a dude you play with, and a dude you like.

"No," Jamie says steadily. "It's more than that. For me."

". . . Oh."

"And, like, I get this is really not what you're after here," Jamie says. "I realize you don't—"

Okay, what? Tyler is still a good three minutes behind here. "Whoa, whoa." He throws out a hand. "Dude, this'll work better if you're not the one having my part of the conversation, I don't even." He waves the hand around. "Back up. What exactly are we talking about here? You want . . . us to stop screwing other people?"

"Sorry." Jamie puffs out a breath. "Um. Exclusivity – yeah, sort of. I mean, it's on the list but it's not, like, at the top of it."

There's a list. There's a list?

"Okay," Tyler says. "So what's first? Are we talking—" he flicks through a number of possibilities, but none seems more to the point than "—Are we talking boyfriends?"

Jamie starts to say something, then stops and just nods silently.

". . . Huh," Tyler says.

"Yeah." Jamie's laugh is rueful, unhappy. He passes a hand over his face. "I thought you knew."

Tyler shakes his head. "No fuckin' clue," he says. Which is upsetting, come to think of it. Jamie's his linemate, his captain, his bro with awesome benefits. It's not just Tyler's job to know him well, it's personal, too. "I've had boyfriends before," Tyler says slowly. "And girlfriends." In the sense that there were people who'd called him their boyfriend for a few days or a week. They'd all gotten over the impulse pretty fast. ". . . Sort of," he adds conscientiously.

Jamie winces. "I'm not a sort of kind of guy," he says.

No shit. Tyler's never actually seen him date anybody, but he already knows that. And Jordie's muttered stories of Jamie's last relationship – and the drawn out implosion thereof – are kind of intimidating. Come to think of it, he had been a bit surprised when Jamie jumped into this casual thing of theirs so eagerly. But then it stopped being surprising, because Jamie does casual hookups more seriously than anyone else Tyler knows: he offers his STD result printouts instead of just making offhand promises, and seems to remember every little thing Tyler's ever said he likes in bed, and Tyler once caught him entering an actual appointment on his calendar like he really didn't want to be late when all Tyler had said was, "Hey, you wanna later?"

"Okay," Tyler says slowly. He's kind of got nothing here. "I should think about this. Can I think about this?"

"Yeah, yeah, of course." Jamie nods a couple times. He seems surprised, which makes sense if he went into this expecting to be immediately shot down.

"And nothing's ruined," Tyler says, thinking back to the grim look on Jamie's face at the beginning of this conversation. "You and me, we're solid." He smacks his hands together to demonstrate. "I'm not gonna kick you out of bed for having the good taste to fall for me."

The joke trips over Jamie's silence and goes flat. "Yeah," Jamie says slowly. "We're solid. But, um. I actually don't think I can keep—" he gestures between them, the sweep of his palm taking in Tyler's nakedness, the evidence of sex all over him. "That's kind of why I brought it up."

"Oh," Tyler says, startled.

"It's not an ultimatum," Jamie says quickly. "It's not like that. I just can't keep getting some of what I want and not the rest. That kind of sucks for me."

"Okay," Tyler says, even though he doesn't follow that logic. In his experience, getting part of what you want is the best way to get the rest of what you want.

"So yeah." Jamie takes a step back. "Think about it, I guess. That's, yeah, take whatever time you—"

"Yeah, no, we're good," Tyler says. "I'm in."

Jamie stops, blinks. "You're . . ."

"In." Tyler nods firmly. "Boyfriends. Let's do this thing."

Jamie doesn't light up like Tyler was expecting. Like he was looking forward to, actually. Instead, he frowns. "You heard the part where I said it wasn't an ultimatum, right?"

Tyler rolls his eyes. "Yeah, come on. If all I want is sex, I can get it. I don't need to date someone for it." Hm. Maybe that wasn't the best thing to say at this particular moment.

Jamie is looking pretty fucking unhappy. "Yeah," he says, in the flat voice he uses when he's genuinely pissed off at one of the guys and they're about to have A Talk. "You're not taking this seriously."

Tyler throws up his hands. "Dude, what do you want?" he says. "I just told you I'm on board here."

"Yeah," Jamie says. "After thinking about it for an entire thirty seconds. What the hell?"

"Yeah?" Tyler says. "So what?"

Jamie's jaw flexes. "So I need to know you're actually in this," he says. "I mean, I'd love it if you are, obviously, but if you're just saying what you think I want to hear or something like that—" he shakes his head. "I need you to take me seriously. Actually think about it."

"Dude, we don't all need to, like, diagram out our grocery runs," Tyler says, exasperated. "Okay, okay," he adds hastily as Jamie opens his mouth. "I'll think about it. Seriously, I swear."

Jamie studies him, then nods, apparently satisfied. "Thanks," he says. "And take your time." It sounds more like a threat than a courtesy.

"Sure," Tyler says. "I'll keep you hanging for days if that's the way you want it."

Jamie rolls his eyes, but he smiles a little too. "You do that," he says, and flicks Tyler lightly on the cheek. "I'm gonna head to bed."

He ducks out of the bathroom, and there are the quiet sounds of dressing. Tyler turns back to the mirror. He makes a what the fuck? face at himself, but his reflection doesn't have anything remotely helpful to add.

He can hear Jamie's footsteps in the entryway. Tyler blinks and flings himself out of the bathroom. He bounces off Jamie's shoulder and grabs on with both arms around his chest.

"Hey," he says, breathless with sudden urgency. "We're okay, right?" He means their hockey, their friendship, them.

Jamie seems to know that; his nod is immediate and certain. "Hey, yeah," he says. His smile is genuine. "You said it yourself, we're solid. Either way."

"Okay." Tyler nods back. "Just checking." He converts his grab into a hug, sliding over to lean into Jamie's chest.

That's all he intends to do, but then their cheeks brush, and Jamie turns his head, and okay, kissing. Slowly, intensely, with Jamie's hand cradling the side of his face. It's not a we're gonna get it on now kiss or a that was some sweet getting we just got on kiss, so it's not like any they've ever had before. Tyler can do nothing but cling to Jamie's shoulders and roll with it.

"There," Jamie says quietly when he pulls back. "You can think about that." And he strokes his thumb over Tyler's lips, smiles an unmistakable dare right into his eyes, and walks out.

Tyler touches his mouth, watching the door swing shut. "Dirty pool," he says wonderingly. He's not pathologically competitive either, but he and Jamie can get each other going like no other. It's just never followed them off the ice before.

Jamie wants him to think about it, sure, do the whole adult contemplation thing. But clearly he has no problem drawing a big goal circle around the answer he wants.

The thing is, though, Tyler doesn't really do the adult contemplation thing. It's never seemed to get him anywhere but confused and stuck. His impulses aren't always great, but at least with impulses he actually gets somewhere. Saying yes to Jamie was like making that pass in the game; do it, blink in surprise after.

He pads over to the night table, still naked, and reaches for his phone.

Jamie thinks I'm bf material wtf he texts to Brownie.

Brownie's not playing tonight, so there's a quick answer. ??????

ikr? Tyler texts, and really that seems to say it all.

He sleeps on it, like you're supposed to do, and wakes up feeling exactly the same. Which is, in short, why the fuck not?

He heads down for hotel breakfast, raids the buffet, and takes an empty seat across from Jamie without thinking about it. Jamie's talking to Kevin, so they just nod at each other.

But, okay, actually, Tyler might be having a thought about this after all. He cuts into his omelet and chases the thought down. He spends basically all day every day with Jamie during the season. Hockey stuff, of course, but even on their days off they tend to meet up for dinner at the least. And they watch movies together, and analyze games together, and periodically have a lot of great sex. Tyler sits by him at team meals so habitually, he didn't even notice until right this second.

So, really, they're basically already dating, right? At least during the season. That's what dating is, isn't it – spending lots of time with the main person you're also having sex with, and enjoying all of it? In that light, they're already 99% there. All that's left is calling it what it is.

. . . Huh.

Tangentially, it occurs to Tyler that he may have been dating some people before without knowing it. Wow, okay, yeah, that kind of explains a lot, doesn't it? Maybe . . . hm. Maybe he owes a few apology texts.

But live and learn, right? The important thing is, Jamie's clearly on to something here. And if all it takes to keep on doing it is to stop screwing other people, then, hey, Tyler can totally do that. Probably. Hm. What are Jamie's thoughts on threesomes?

He doesn't get a chance to convey these revelations to Jamie until they're getting on the plane to Vancouver. Jamie's already in a window seat when Tyler spots him. Jordie makes like he's heading for the aisle seat, so Tyler shoulder-checks him out of the way.

"Mine," he says, dropping his bag on the seat. The guys behind them make a chorus of oohs and someone calls, "Fight!"

Jordie puts his fists up, playing along.

"I can take you," Tyler lies outrageously. "And I pull hair," he adds, far more truthfully.

"He does," Jamie puts in, glancing up from his Kindle.

"Fine, fine." Jordie backs a few steps down the aisle. "Go ahead. But—" he makes an I’m watching you gesture, pointing two fingers at Tyler. And judging by the look on his face, that part might not be a joke.

Tyler moves his bag and drops into the seat. "Hey," he says, nudging Jamie. "Pay attention to me."

Jamie tilts his Kindle, turning his shoulder to Tyler, but he can't hide his smile. And Tyler knows this game, so he leans into Jamie's space, propping his chin on Jamie's shoulder and hugging his biceps. Which is a sweet armful, truth be told. "I'm bored," he says. Then more quietly into Jamie's ear, "Can we talk?"

A ripple of tension goes through Jamie's body; Tyler's pressed up so close he can feel it.

"During takeoff," Jamie says quietly. And he tilts his Kindle so Tyler can see. Which is as good an invitation as Tyler needs, so he just stays on Jamie's shoulder while the guys troop back and forth in the aisle and slowly settle down. Jamie reads faster than Tyler does, so all he gets are quick snatches of the middle of a novel. Something something pirates something British Navy something. But it's enough to keep him occupied while they wait.

Finally they're taxiing. Jamie lowers the Kindle. "Okay," he says softly over the engine noise. "Let's talk."

Tyler takes a deep breath. "I'm in," he says.

Jamie looks calm, but Tyler can feel his heart thumping in his ribs. "Be sure," Jamie says.

Tyler nods. "I am," he says. Then, when it seems like more might be needed, "Look, I did think about it. But that's not really how I operate, you know that."

Jamie makes a wry face. "What do you think keeps me up some nights?" he says.

Tyler jabs him in the side for that. "Exactly," he says. "You think about shit." To the point of madness, sometimes, but that isn't relevant here. "And clearly you picked up on something I didn't," he continues. "I mean, you think this could be good, right?"

"Yeah," Jamie says. "Really good."

Tyler nods. It's surprisingly pleasing to hear that. "I trust you," he says simply. "You're probably right. So . . . yeah. Definitely in." He decides to leave off the part where he figured out that they're already dating. He can impress Jamie with that insight bomb later.

Jamie's been staring straight ahead this whole time. But now he turns his head and – wow – his face is going all soft and happy. "You really mean it," he says.

"I totally do." Tyler makes his best trust me face, the one he pulls out on sympathetic reporters and that breed of vintage Stars fans who aren't really convinced he's here to stay. That makes Jamie snort and roll his eyes, but he also reaches up with his free hand and slides his fingers between Tyler's for a hard squeeze. Hey, hand-holding, that's definitely in the 1% of new stuff. Tyler decides instantly that he's cool with it.

"Okay," Jamie says. "Let's have dinner then, when we get home."

"Sure." Like they wouldn't do that anyway.

A spark of challenge ignites in Jamie's eyes and he leans in even closer. "It's going to be somewhere nice," he says.

"I can do nice," Tyler says. He's almost sure he remembers which fork goes with what and everything.

"There'll be candles on the table," Jamie says warningly.

Okay, new territory again, but Tyler is down with this jelly. "What, no romantic music?" he goads.

Jamie nods firmly. "Oh, definitely. Might go for a walk after. In the moonlight," he adds pointedly.

Tyler nods along. Challenge accepted.

"And I might not put out," Jamie adds. "First date and all."

"Whoa, what?" Tyler sits up. "The fuck?"

Jamie looks serious for a moment longer, then cracks up. "Gotcha," he says.

Tyler punches him hard in the arm, then slumps back against him. "Asshole," he says. "Of course you'll put out. Who do you think you're fooling?"

Jamie keeps laughing, but he squeezes Tyler's hand again, secret and hidden between them. "You're too sharp for me," he says, like a dick. He turns his head, pressing Tyler's hand into the heartbeat under his ribs. Their faces are very close, and they both stop laughing.

This . . . this is a moment, Tyler realizes. They're having a moment right here on the plane, where Jamie really wants to kiss him and Tyler wants him to do it. He wants it bad, all of a sudden, with a surprising surge of heat. He doesn't do this – hookups are for behind closed doors, he learned that lesson early – but right now, he doesn't care.

". . . When we get home," Jamie says, and wrenches his eyes away to his Kindle with an obvious effort.


It doesn't work out exactly like that.

They spend a day and a half in Vancouver, and pull out an OT win. Things are like they always are, except now Tyler is . . . aware. He notices every time Jamie leans their shoulders together on the bench, the way their feet tangle under the table at lunch, how Jamie knows where to find the roll of lucky stick tape Tyler thought he left in L.A.

And Jamie's really fucking happy, he's definitely aware of that. There's a lot of quiet smiling into the distance, and random sideways hugs for everyone, and terrible jokes. It's pretty cool, actually.

They fly home after the game and get in late. Skate is optional in the morning, but Tyler makes the effort. It's the beginning of the season, he can pace himself later. Jamie and Jordie show up too.

"So," Tyler says, leaning against Jamie's stall. "You were talking a big game the other day."

Jamie looks up. "You doubting my game, Seguin?"

Tyler snorts, because actually . . . yeah, he totally is. Jamie's got a lot of things: talent and heart and natural leadership. He ain't got game, though.

"You'll see," Jamie says, mouth setting mulishly. "Tonight. Prepare to be impressed."

"Whatever you say," Tyler says as dubiously as he can. Oh man, Jamie is totally getting fired up, he can already tell.

Practice is good. Well, the first half of practice is good. The PP units are firing on all cylinders, and Tyler makes his shoot-out goal even though Kari is really on today. Then they break up to do some scrimmages.

Tyler's staring right at the puck, is the hell of it. It's on Kevin's stick, and Tyler can't quite tell what he's intending to do with it. They're thirty feet apart, skating at oblique angles to each other – Kev might not even know Tyler's there.

So he's watching the puck, he's watching Kev's hands . . . and then he's sitting on the ice, his skates crossed, sliding on his ass and thinking what?

Someone says, "Shit!" above him, and there are the sounds of a couple hard stops. But Tyler isn't thinking about whether he's about to get run over, because the pain arrives in this slow, shocking bloom.

Jordie gets to him first. "Hey," he says, suddenly on his knees next to Tyler. "You okay, buddy?"

"Um," Tyler says slowly. ". . . Ow."

"What happened?" someone says, and then someone else: "Puck hit him. Not sure where, but—"

Oh, huh, that would explain it, yeah. Except Tyler's not entirely sure where either, because pain is rebounding from his fingers to his elbow, going bong bong bong with his pulse.

Dave arrives, sneakers squeaking on the ice. Tyler immediately puts his good hand down to push up, because it's generally advisable to look alive when a trainer's coming at you with that expression. But Dave shakes his head and drops down in front of him.

"Let's take a look first," he says. "Where did it hit?"

"I think my hand?" Tyler says. That seems to be where the pain is centering.

Dave eyes the way he's holding his arm, and starts at the elbow, bending the joint and palpating the bones. Nothing really hurts until he gets to Tyler's wrist, which twinges, and then Dave presses on his palm, Tyler's hand jostles a little in the air, and – he sucks air hard between his teeth.

"Okay," Dave says in that even voice that seems to mean don't scare the delicate athletes. "We're just going to cut your glove off and take a look. Need shears," he calls back over his shoulder. "And someone needs to stabilize his – yeah, sure, that's fine."

And suddenly Jamie is there, displacing Jordie at Tyler's shoulder. "Like this?" he says, gently taking Tyler by the forearm and the wrist.

"Yeah, that's good," Dave says, accepting a pair of shears.

Events catch up to him, and Tyler abruptly realizes they're thinking something is broken. God motherfucking damn it.

"You're kind of green," Jamie says to him, leaning in. "You need some water or something?"

Tyler shakes his head. "It's like a stubbed toe," he says, then elaborates off Jamie's confused blink. "Hurts like fuck but it's totally no big deal, right?"

Dave's been snipping away at his glove the whole time. Every minutest bump makes Tyler's whole hand light up. Like a stubbed toe, yeah. Totally.

"Uh-huh," Jamie says, playing along. He watches the action, and Tyler watches him. So he catches the exact moment Jamie's face goes oh shit.

Tyler looks down.

"Oh," he says. "Fingers shouldn't go that way."

"Not so much, no." Dave pats his knee. "Come on, let's get you up. We'll take a good look before the swelling starts. Thanks," he adds as Jamie shifts his grip to help, "but let me in there, okay?"

Jamie backs off, doing his scowling captain bear with injured cub routine. It's fucking precious like it always is, which at least distracts Tyler from how getting up jolts his hand.

The guys holler a bit once he's on his feet, and he waves his good hand at them like he's cool, all fine here. Thinking broken, motherfucking broken, fucking--

They give him a shot of the good stuff right away, which is nice, because then they set his fingers. It's the deep-down grinding sensation that really gets to him, even more than the pain. That all happens really fast, so Tyler doesn't even think practice is over by the time he's being put in the back seat of someone's car to go for a round of x-rays.

Those happen at the local clinic they use, not the hospital, so at least there's that. There's some more waiting then, and another shot, and a nurse who keeps cracking jokes while all Tyler wants to do is feel sorry for himself.

But when everyone troops back in to look at the x-rays, they're smiling. Tyler smiles back because it's polite, and also he's pretty fucking high.

"Dislocated," one of the clinic docs announces. "Pretty cleanly, too. I don't see any fractures. And with how fast you guys reset them, we're probably not even talking surgery."

There's a lot more back-and-forth about anti-inflammatories and splints and re-evaluation in a couple days. His wrist is a little swollen, too – apparently the official diagnosis is that the joint is "tweaked a bit." But they're talking about a few games, if that, not the month he was afraid of. Tyler listens to it all, beaming at the ceiling and thinking, not broken, not broken, so so so high.

That seems to encapsulate all the important points, so he says it to Jamie when the medical people leave and he comes in.

"Hang on," Tyler adds when Jamie stops laughing at him. "What're you doing here?"

"Someone's gotta take you home and help you with stuff," Jamie says. "That's your dominant hand, y'know."

"Is it?" Tyler does a quick left-right check. "Huh. It is."

Jamie laughs again and sits down next to him. "I can call someone else if you want," he says. "But you're definitely not walking Marshall today, for starters."

"Call someone else?" Tyler says, confused.

"If there's someone you want more," Jamie says patiently.

Tyler thinks hard about that. "Brownie can't come down," he says at last. "So nope."

"Huh. Nice to know where I rank," Jamie says. He sounds genuinely pleased, which is nice. Lots of people get weird about Brownie. Like they think somehow proximity means they're gonna get between Tyler and his platonic life partner. As if. Jamie's never acted that way, though.

The doctor comes back in then to immobilize Tyler's fingers. He does the wrist too, while he's at it, and bombards Tyler with a flurry of instructions about meds and RICE and shit. Tyler cuts his eyes to Jamie to make sure he's paying attention, discovers that Jamie is taking notes on his phone like a dork, and tunes out.

He's feeling pretty good all the way home. That's some quality shit they gave him. Jamie tells him he has a single dose of Vicodin to help him sleep tonight, and then it's down to OTC stuff tomorrow, so Tyler resolves to enjoy it while it lasts.

He crashes out on the couch when they get home. Jamie putters around him, stacking a few cushions to prop his hand on and bringing him Gatorade and ice and the remote.

"You good?" Jamie asks, hovering over him.

Tyler blinks vaguely. "Yup."

"Okay. I'll be back in a few." Jamie leans down and – huh, that's nice – kisses his forehead. Then there's the jingle of Marshall's leash, and the sound of the front door. Tyler never hears them come back.


He sleeps most of the afternoon away. The shots are starting to wear off when he wakes up, so he takes advantage of what's left to shower. It's a serious pain to manage everything with the plastic bag Jamie put over his hand, so Tyler just slaps some soap around and calls it good.

Getting dressed is also a pain. He settles for sweatpants, but gives up on a t-shirt after a half-assed try. He could get it done, but why make the effort, really. And the once-over he gets from Jamie downstairs doesn't hurt. Tyler likes being appreciated, even when he's pretty sure he's still too medicated to reliably get it up.

"Your phone has been going off," Jamie says, putting his iPad down. "And I think it's time to ice again."

"I got it." Tyler fetches himself an icepack and brings his phone back to the couch. He flops down, resting his back against Jamie's side.

His fingertips are sticking out of the wrapping, but his phone doesn't recognize his fingerprint. It takes Tyler a minute to realize that he's too swollen. Great. He types in his passcode with his good hand.

He's got texts from a bunch of people. About twenty in a row are from Kev, just a long string of sadfaces. First things first. Tyler opens up the camera and holds out his wrapped hand. The picture isn't that great, but it'll do. He attaches it to a text to Brownie and pecks out a quick not broken ftw!.

Then he goes back to his inbox and starts working his way through texts. It turns out to be way more annoying to type left-handed than he was expecting. Tyler tries a series of positions, increasingly frustrated. His thumb is fine as far as he can tell, but they even immobilized that because of his wrist.

Jamie looks over in time to catch him with the phone braced between his hands, jabbing at the keyboard with his free thumb and the tips of his immobilized fingers.

"Uh," Jamie says. "Pretty sure this is what Dave meant when he told me to stop you from doing anything you shouldn't be doing."

"Then you text for me," Tyler says, shoving the phone at him.

"Sure." Jamie takes it without complaint. "What am I saying?"

Tyler turns so they're looking at the phone together. Jamie hooks an arm around him, tilting the phone and typing obediently to Tyler's dictation.

"Everyone's totally going to know that isn't me," he says, watching Jamie meticulously spell out "dislocation" with all the vowels and everything.

Jamie ignores him and scrolls to the next text. It's from Cam back in Toronto and says aww want me 2 come down and kiss it better 4 u?. Awkward. But it's okay, Tyler totally knows this one.

"Nope," Tyler says promptly. "My boyfriend wouldn't like that."

Jamie transcribes and sends that rapid fire, like he's expecting Tyler to retract it or something. But he's smiling while he does it, the big, goofy, pleased one.

"Oh shit," Tyler says, remembering. "Tonight, we're supposed to do the thing. You're gonna show me your game."

"We can reschedule," Jamie says. "Preferably for when you can tie your own shoes again."

"Yeah, but—" It's not until that exact moment that Tyler realizes how much he's been looking forward to this. Jamie's supposed to boyfriend this shit right up, and Tyler wants to see that. Kind of a lot. It's not like he doesn't know how it's supposed to work; he's seen movies, he has lots of couple friends, he's gone through some of the motions here and there. But what he doesn't know is how Jamie does boyfriends. And that, it turns out, is a pretty interesting question.

"It's fine," Jamie says. "Shit happens. I'm just glad you're okay."

They spend a quiet evening on the couch. Tyler isn't hungry, even though he knows he should be. Jamie makes him a protein smoothie and a sandwich, cut in quarters for easier one-handed eating. Tyler's feeling much better by Marshall's usual evening walk, so he comes along, though Jamie is still in charge of the leash just in case. The shots have basically worn off and his hand throbs dully, with little starbursts of agony if he jostles it too hard. But mostly he's just tired and kind of emptied out. It's a pain hangover. He'd much rather have the tequila kind, given the option.

Jamie goes quiet when they get home. Tyler can't figure out what the deal is until Jamie's helping him out of the loose jersey he'd managed to throw on over his head.

Jamie sets it aside on the dresser and looks up. "So," he says. "I can go home to sleep. Or stay in the guest room."

Tyler tips his head curiously. "I think you're missing one," he says. "C'mon. There's plenty of room."

They've never slept slept together, discounting that time Tyler accidentally fell asleep on top of Jamie after one of their first hookups, and Jamie let him drool on his shoulder for over an hour like the best of bros.

Or . . . huh. Like the best of something. Maybe it's time Tyler seriously re-evaluated a lot of stuff from the past six months.

Jamie brings him the Vicodin tab, which he's pretty glad to see, truth be told, and then spends a fair amount of time fussing over how best to prop Tyler's hand so neither of them will damage it. Marshall comes in during all that; he's used to other people taking his spot on the bed, but he never likes it, so Tyler undoes all Jamie's careful arranging for some very important dog cuddles.

Brownie Skypes in the middle of cuddle time, and there's a pretty great fifteen minutes where Tyler slowly gets a Vicodin buzz going with his best dog in his lap and his best bro on the screen quizzing him about his hand. Jamie sits behind him on the floor the whole time, not saying much, just hanging out in borrowed pajama pants. Brownie's eyebrows go way up the first time he sees Jamie, but he doesn't say anything. Yet.

So they get into bed a full forty-five minutes after they meant to. Tyler crashes out pretty much immediately. He wakes up a few times in the night, once because he needs to move his hand, once to blearily stumble up for some water, only to realize when he comes back that Jamie left him a bottle beside the bed with the seal already cracked. That seems weirdly profound in Tyler's sleepy, drugged state. Everyone is always saying what a great guy Jamie is, but blinking at that water bottle, Tyler feels like he's one of the few who really gets that.

And this really great guy wants to be Tyler's boyfriend. Which continues to be somewhat boggling – Tyler keeps wanting to ask him why -- but he can totally recognize a good thing when it falls in his lap.

Jamie seems like much less of a great guy when his alarm goes off the next morning. There's an early afternoon game, and Jamie's doing exactly what they're supposed to by giving himself enough time for a big breakfast at home and then another meal at the rink, but ugh.

Tyler grumbles his way through a shower and breakfast, and then confronts the prospect of a suit. He gets himself as put together as he can, then goes in search of Jamie with his shirt and cuffs unbuttoned, his tie draped loosely, and his belt open. Jamie turns away from the breakfast dishes and grins.

"That's a good look on you," he says, and dries his hands to help. He leaves the tie for last, and has Tyler turn around since he can't do it face-on. It's hard to be cranky with Jamie pressed up close behind him, arms around Tyler's chest, snugging the knot of the tie to Tyler's throat. And then when he's done, Jamie kisses him under the jaw and says, "you'll be back out there soon," which is not anywhere on the long list of things Tyler has been muttering about this morning, but which makes all that shit suddenly bearable anyway.

They make a quick stop on the way for Jamie to throw on a suit. Tyler stays in the car, playing with the radio and waiting for the Aleve he just popped to do anything at all. Jordie comes down with Jamie, and there's a brief conversation with a lot of pointing and hand gestures; Tyler doesn't need to be able to hear them to recognize the Benns doing logistics.

"Separate cars?" Tyler asks when Jordie doesn't follow Jamie to the truck.

"Yeah." Jamie casts him a quick, sideways look as he's backing out. "I was thinking we could hit the grocery store after the game, if you're up to it."

"Sure?" Tyler says. He's terrible at grocery shopping, but none of the delivery services he's tried have worked out either. He just ends up with a fridge full of, like, endive and mushrooms and no idea what to do with any of it.

"I was thinking I could make dinner," Jamie says. "But that requires more than protein powder and takeout menus."

Yeah, okay, maybe it's time to try one of the delivery services again.

They go in opposite directions at the rink: Jamie off for pre-game, and Tyler to have his hand looked at. It's pretty spectacular once the wrappings come off; Tyler makes them wait while he Instagrams a picture of the bruising. Everything is looking good, though, and the second wrapping is far less restrictive.

Then he gets the singular misery of watching his guys lose on home ice. Tyler does want to be down there with them, of course he does. But there's also this tiny, guilty part of him that's glad he isn't, because it's so much easier to hear commentary about how the team would do better if he were on the ice than it is to hear, over and over again, how they would do better if he were off. Which is not a thing he's heard in a long time, to be fair. It just lingers, it turns out.

Jamie's generally pretty philosophical about losses, except on those rare occasions when he goes to fucking pieces. But either way what he wants most is to talk the game through, beginning to end. Tyler's still not really used to being the guy the captain turns to for that shit. Back in Boston, three-quarters of the team was in line ahead of him for it: in Dallas, he and Jordie share number one. But he does his best when he goes down to meet the guys in the locker room, and later in the car on the way to the grocery store.

"So, I mean, I guess it's a question of figuring out what parts of that you can control," Jamie concludes after an extended analysis of the reffing. He holds up a tomato in either hand like he thinks Tyler's going to have an opinion, rolls his eyes at Tyler's blank look, and chooses the left-hand tomato for no discernible reason. "Go get some feta, will you?"

Tyler can totally do that – one block of cheese is basically like any other. He gets beer while he's at it, some of that chipotle stuff from one of Jamie's favorite hipster breweries. When he comes back, though, there's already a six-pack in the cart, one of the intensely hoppy northeastern beers that Tyler likes. They both look into the cart, look at each other, and crack up.

"Okay," Jamie says, still sniggering. "Whole wheat flour. You think you can handle that, or do I need to come supervise?"

"I got it, I can read labels like a champ," Tyler says.

"Do you have olive oil?" Jamie asks when he comes back.

Tyler thinks about it. "Ye-es," he says. "Can olive oil go bad?" Jamie plucks a bottle off the shelf without comment. "What are we making, anyway?" Tyler asks, trailing after him.

Jamie glances up from a display of spinach. "Pizza."

"Oh," Tyler says, and points to the frozen section just to be a dick. "You know they have that over there, right?"

"From scratch," Jamie says firmly. "And you're gonna learn how."

Jamie is not the first person by far to think he can teach Tyler kitchen things. They've all been wrong so far, but, hey, let him try if it makes him happy.

The process is actually kind of interesting. Though by that Tyler mostly means the way Jamie's shoulders move as he kneads dough. Tyler isn't all that much help. He can sort of hold a paring knife, but Jamie's convinced he'll cut off a finger or something and keeps taking it away.

So Tyler fetches and carries, mostly. It's a gorgeous late afternoon, so he opens the doors onto the patio. One of the first things he did when he bought the house was get every room wired for a pretty rocking sound system, so all he has to do is stick his phone in the dock and turn on Spotify. Marshall wanders in and out, bringing a bone to each of them in turn to admire. Tyler gets Jamie a beer, and watches in satisfaction as the remaining tension of the loss drops off Jamie's shoulders.

"Shouldn't we pre-heat the oven?" Tyler asks, pretty smug he knows to do that.

"I was thinking grill," Jamie says.

"What grill?"

Jamie takes him by the shoulders, turns him around, walks him out the patio doors, and aims him at the tarp-covered something at the end of the patio. "That one," he says, and never let anyone say that Jamie being a good guy means he isn't also a sarcastic dick.

"Oh hey, that's what that is," Tyler says. "I have a grill. Huh!"

Getting it going is something Tyler's actually qualified to do. He handles that while Jamie assembles personal pizzas like something straight out of a nutritionist lecture: feta and one of the zillion Italian meats Tyler can't tell apart for protein and fat, spinach for iron, crust for carbs, tomatoes and olives and red onions and herbs for vitamins and deliciousness.

Jamie grills like he forechecks, which is to say with startling intensity. He's such a chill guy; Tyler's used to seeing the other side of him come out on the ice, but it still surprises him in other contexts. Like in bed, once in a while. Or over a gas grill, apparently.

It all goes perfectly, right up until the pizzas come off the heat, crispy and golden brown. Jamie leaves them on the outdoor table, wafting amazing smells, and goes to clatter around in the kitchen. He sticks his head out the back door after a few minutes.

"So," he says conversationally. "What are the odds you have a pizza cutter and you know where it is?"

"Why would I have a pizza cutter?" Tyler says. "Pizza comes already cut."

Jamie slaps his forehead and groans. All that shopping for basic staples, and it never occurred to either of them.

They make do with bread knives and, eventually, kitchen shears. Jamie's kind of disgruntled over the whole thing, but Tyler just thinks it's funny.

They eat outside as the sky darkens. The house came with these fancy candle lamps around the patio; Tyler's mom stuck candles in there sometime last spring, so he goes around and lights them all. They eat green salad and mangled slices of pizza – "tastes the same, dude, delicious" – and drink beer while the crickets sing. Jamie leaves the grill on low the whole time. "For dessert," is all he'll say.

They linger at the table once they're done, talking and being quiet by comfortable turns. Eventually, Marshall gets pretty insistent about his dinner, so Tyler gets up to carry the dishes in and pour kibble. When he comes back out, Jamie is standing at the patio railing, beer dangling from one hand, eyes tracking fireflies over the lawn. Tyler goes and leans against his shoulder, and Jamie's arm slides immediately around him.

The music transitioned to oldies over an hour ago. Tyler suspects some sly station tampering on the part of one J. Benn, but he'll let it pass this once. They ease into a gentle sway, shoulder-to-shoulder. After a while, Jamie puts his beer down on the rail and turns in to Tyler a bit, resting that hand at his waist. Tyler shifts too, automatically following the play. His cheek comes to rest naturally in the hollow of Jamie's shoulder. Jamie lifts Tyler's wrapped hand and drapes it carefully over his other shoulder, out of the way. Then he pulls Tyler closer, with intent this time, one hand at his waist and the other spread big and warm on his back.

They fold together, nearly cheek-to-cheek, moving gently. Tyler is full of good food, riding a nice buzz, feeling very little pain.

. . . And slow-dancing to the Eagles by the light of candles and fireflies and the moon, with his boyfriend. Whoa.

"Oh my God," Tyler says. He keeps his voice down because it seems like the right thing to do. "Holy shit. You do have game."

Jamie laughs in his ear. "I totally don't," he says. "You're just pretty easy."

Tyler nods, because that's generally a perfectly fair statement of facts. "Seriously, though," he says. "This is some impressive shit right here."

Jamie hums, still moving. Then he says quietly, "I didn't think you would."

"Would what?"

Jamie lifts a hand and runs his knuckles gently down the side of Tyler's face. "I didn't think you would like this," he says in a low murmur.

It's very clear what he means. And very clear that he has it all wrong.

"Turns out I do," Tyler says. "You never know until you try something, I guess. I mean, I had no idea I like getting tied up either until I tried that." Jamie's body quakes against his with a muffled cough of laughter. "But this is pretty great," Tyler continues. "We can, like, escalate this shit if you want."

"Yeah?" Jamie eases back just far enough to look down into his face. Tyler can't see his expression very well, but he knows that tone of voice. This is a challenge. "Okay," Jamie says. "I fell for you hard last year, over the winter and when I was in Russia."

Tyler swallows. "How do you fall for someone who isn't around?" That doesn't make sense to him. He has lots of friends all over the place, but aside from Brownie and his family, they're all proximity friends. The kind where he remembers how much he likes them, but he doesn't feel it until they're in the same city.

"That's the thing," Jamie says. "You weren't there for some of the most important games of my life. And I'd only really known you for a few months, but that wasn't okay."

Tyler breathes out carefully. He remembers sending Jamie texts from Mexico, some encouragement, some chirping, some suggestive selfies because he wanted to hit that and he wasn't sure Jamie would go for it. That all feels . . . very small, now. "So I'll be there next time," Tyler says, because if you have a rep for being reckless, you might as well make the promises to match.

"Of course you will," Jamie says instantly, like he can rehabilitate Tyler's image with Hockey Canada by pure stubbornness. It's not impossible – the guy's got so much good will going on there, some of it has already spilled in Tyler's direction.

They fall silent again for a while, swaying gently. This feels so amazingly good, it's revelatory. Tyler keeps thinking back to when he figured out he's bi: entire vistas of possibility had opened around him, and so much suddenly made sense. He told basically everyone he knew within the first twenty four hours, because it was just so awesome. Finding out he really digs the romance shit is like that. Tyler wants to text Brownie and tell him how baller slow-dancing is, just in case Brownie doesn't know. Because everyone should know!

It's Tyler's turn to put something out there.

"So a friend of mine just texted this afternoon," he says. "Trying to set up a booty call when we're in New York next week. If you wanna, you can text him back and turn him down for me later, I know you dig that."

"Sure," Jamie says, nodding. "Though, uh. We can talk about that, if you want. Other people."

Tyler thinks not first on his list. People talk about relationship compromise like it means everyone loses, but Jamie doesn't sound like that at all.

"Okay," Tyler says. "But not now." He hesitates, surprised to discover what he wants to say next. "I kind of want it to just be you and me for a while?"

Jamie's arms tighten around him. "Yeah, of course," he says. "I'd love that."

There. Tyler can take his romantic motherfucking best and raise him monogamy. Top that.

"Oh hey," Jamie says. "C'mere." He draws Tyler back to the grill with an arm around his shoulders. Something's been cooking on low; Jamie pulls a foil-wrapped bundle off with the tongs, then deftly unwraps it and sprinkles lime juice over it from a waiting bottle. He has some sort of spice, too – Tyler can't read the label, but he gets an unmistakable waft of cinnamon.

"Here," Jamie says, and offers something warm and sweet-smelling. Tyler licks it off his fingers reflexively – Jamie really likes his mouth – but then he's not thinking about being sexy anymore because oooh. It's pineapple, grilled warm and just a tiny bit caramelized, with bright splashes of lime and cinnamon.

Tyler moans around his first piece. "Damn," he says, because that does, in fact, top monogamy.

Jamie tries it himself and makes a thoughtful "hmm" sound. "Less cinnamon?" he says, like he's worried about what the Top Chef judges will say.

"Shut the fuck up," Tyler says, elbowing him. "Gimme."

They eat the whole pile of fruit right there at the grill. Every couple of bites Jamie will feed him a piece, his fingers lingering on Tyler's mouth. He likes it when Tyler sucks on them a bit, but mostly Tyler gets the idea that he just likes doing it. Likes that Tyler is letting him.

He feeds Tyler the last sliver that way. Tyler swallows it quickly, more intent on slipping his tongue between Jamie's sticky fingertips. It makes him think of deep-throating Jamie's dick, just a few days ago. It's still hot as fuck, but now there's also this feeling of . . . tenderness, for the way he can destroy Jamie with his mouth. Tyler feels suddenly worried by his use of that power, trying to think back, be sure he's always done right by Jamie.

"Hey," Tyler murmurs, sliding his mouth off Jamie's fingers and turning for a kiss. "Hey, right now, I want you."

Jamie inhales sharply against his mouth. "You up for it?"

"Of course, I'm fine." Tyler leans into him. "C'mon."

They stand there and make out for a while, which is not at all what Tyler had in mind, but it's really working for him anyway. Tyler loves making out: the feel of someone else's tongue in his mouth, the taste of skin, even the messiness. It's like blowing someone in that way, only making out always feels more personal to Tyler. He's made out with hookups before. Jamie wasn't one of them, and it occurs to Tyler in retrospect that maybe that wasn't an accident. Maybe Jamie kept it that way, preserving his distance or whatever.

Fuck that, obviously.

Jamie backs him up to the railing and presses close. His hand, cradling the side of Tyler's face, smells strongly of cinnamon. The other hand slides up under Tyler's shirt and strokes his abs with palpable appreciation. Tyler presses into him, Jamie shifts, and suddenly Tyler is riding his thigh without quite meaning to, and this is all going from slow sweet hot to slow grinding hot.

"We should go in," Jamie says, but he's groping Tyler's ass while he says it, and he clearly doesn't want to stop.

"Yeah," Tyler says between kisses. "Or, wait, we could just—" He points down the patio to the lounge chair he lies out on sometimes to catch some rays. There's a clean blanket folded over the back and everything.

"Yeah, perfect," Jamie breathes, and Tyler wonders if Jamie feels like he does, like there's a bubble around this candlelit patio that he doesn't want to leave.

They shuffle down the patio together, then Jamie disengages and starts undressing Tyler with the serious focus he brings to taping his sticks. He's ostensibly helping, but Tyler could manage on his own okay, and anyway, just helping doesn't account for the way Jamie keeps touching Tyler's bare skin with his fingertips, his head bent and eyes serious, as if he's never seen it before.

"This, right here," he murmurs, gently fingering the angle of muscle between Tyler's hip and groin – leg lift muscle, Tyler automatically classifies. "I love this," Jamie says. He looks up quickly, checking Tyler's expression.

"Yeah?" Tyler steps clear of his pants. "Do I get to pick a favorite bit, too? 'Cause it's definitely—" he encompasses the span of Jamie's broad shoulders between his two hands. "When you're lifting," he says, "I just wanna come up and bite you, right—" he presses his thumbs into the thick pad of Jamie's trapezius.

Jamie inhales, steps quickly in, and lifts Tyler easily by the hips. Tyler's got his hands in exactly the right position to feel him flex.

Jamie takes two steps and swings him down on the lounge chair. He comes down over Tyler, expression fierce.

"Hey," Tyler says before things can heat up any further. "You're forgetting a step."

Jamie looks blank for a second. Then he realizes he's still fully dressed and laughs. "Sorry," he says, flushing. "You're just so – hang on a second."

He flings off his clothes far more perfunctorily than he did Tyler's, and comes quickly back. The lounge chair isn't that wide, so Jamie's mostly on top of him by necessity. Tyler's absolutely fine with that.

"What do you want?" he asks, running his nails gently down Jamie's spine. "We don't have stuff."

"Don't care," Jamie says. He bends and kisses Tyler's neck. "I just—" he cuts himself off, bending his head again. Tyler can see the color sweeping up the back of his neck.

"Hey," Tyler says, touching him there. "Jamie, c'mon. Tell me." He wants to hear it, whatever Jamie might think to say to him right now. He wants it just as much as he wants Jamie's hands on him.

Jamie looks up, then down again. "I just want to touch you," he says, and sweeps a hand down Tyler's chest and belly. "That's all."

For some reason, that makes Tyler think of that hotel room floor in L.A., the catch in Jamie's voice when he said, "I don't want to stop." It makes his throat ache, suddenly.

"So touch me," he says. "C'mon, anywhere, I'll let you do whatever you want."

Apparently, Jamie wants to kiss his neck, get his nipples wet with a flicker of tongue and then rub over them the way he knows Tyler likes, and bite down above his belly button. Tyler moves with him as Jamie slides down; he lifts a knee and Jamie turns under it, propping that leg over his shoulder. Jamie bends his neck, breathes on the fragile skin of Tyler's groin.

Then he turns and sucks a deliberate, absolutely vicious hickey into the inside of Tyler's thigh. Tyler thrashes in surprise, groaning at the sting of teeth Jamie applies to finish it off.

"Oh shit," Tyler says, realizing he has a new mark to go with the fading ones from L.A. "Gimme another."

Jamie grunts in obvious satisfaction and complies. He puts this one low on Tyler's belly. He's slower about it, sucking in hard tugs that hurt so fucking good. Tyler cradles the back of his head, blinking dizzily up at the stars.

"One more?" Jamie asks, when he's good and done. Tyler reaches down and presses a finger there; he can feel the heat pooling beneath his skin already, the bruise coming up.

"One more," he says, swallowing.

He knows what's coming – it's the obvious move – but that doesn't stop him from whining out a desperate sound when Jamie fastens his mouth on the underside of his dick. Jamie's a little gentler there – barely a scrape of teeth – but that doesn't make it any less intense. Tyler freezes up for the whole thing; he doesn't even breathe until Jamie is done.

Then he grabs at Jamie's shoulders and tugs. "C'mere," he says urgently.

"I was going to suck you off," Jamie says, mildly put out. The look he gives Tyler's dick is nothing short of covetous.

"I know. Later, okay?"

Jamie acquiesces, sliding back up so they're face-to-face. Tyler's leg folds up between them – god bless yoga – and Jamie grunts when his dick slots in right next to Tyler's.

"Yeah," Tyler says, inspired. He just wanted to kiss, but now he's got other ideas. "You want to rub off on me? You like that spot, you said – you can come right there."

Jamie's hips buck against him. They're both sweating; it's not quite enough lube, but that just adds an edge of intensity. Jamie rocks into him, punching out quick breaths.

"Yeah," Tyler says, and grabs his flexing ass with one hand.

Jamie drops uncoordinated kisses on Tyler's throat, his jaw, his cheek. "I never thought," he says. "Never thought you would want – that you'd let me –"

"I know." Tyler strokes down his back. "But I do, okay? Jamie, I'm in – I'm all in, come on."

Jamie comes with a shudder, his hands clamping on Tyler's biceps hard enough to leave bruises. Tyler's starting to hurt – a burn in his folded up thigh, a needy ache in his balls – but he just hangs on and watches Jamie ride it out.

"There you go," he murmurs, and catches Jamie in a clumsy kiss.

"Here, sorry," Jamie says, breaking away. He eases back enough to let Tyler stretch his leg out. "I've got you." He runs his fingers through the mess he made on Tyler's groin and belly, and uses that to slick Tyler's dick. He leans over, one hand working Tyler in a steady rhythm, the other arm crooked up around Tyler's head. Jamie can't seem to decide where to look; his eyes keep skipping down to what he's doing, then coming back up to watch Tyler's face. He looks . . . dazzled.

Tyler moves under him, twists up a bit, presses into his grip. Then he jolts and hisses as he smacks his wrapped hand off the wooden arm of the chair. It's not enough to slow him down, but it hurts, and not in the fun way.

"Hey." Jamie pauses, hand warm and tight over the head of Tyler's dick. He catches Tyler by the injured wrist, lifting it carefully clear of danger. Then he leans over, mouth soft, and brushes the gentlest of kisses over each of Tyler's swollen fingertips, one after another.

Tyler's heart clenches up. He thinks, all right, you win, and comes into Jamie's still hand. He had this all wrong, that's clear now. They weren't 99% there already, they had barely begun. That 1% -- the easy part, the part he thought was just naming it – is flowering out into unknown vastness. Because it turns out putting a name to it is so fucking huge, he can't even get his head around it yet.

They lie together in their mess for a while. It's a warm night, and Jamie is a freaking furnace next to and on top of him, but Tyler doesn't care.

"I'm totally getting you flowers," Tyler says eventually. "And we're going on dumb dates to, like, the aquarium, I don't even fucking know."

Jamie blinks sleepily up at him. "Yeah?" he says. "Is that how it's going to be?"

"Yep." Tyler nods to himself. "And you're going to call me baby when we fuck." He considers the faintly guilty expression on Jamie's face, and wonders what Jamie has already said in the moment that he didn't hear. "Maybe sweetheart," he says.

Jamie's mouth tips up at the corner. "You'd like that, wouldn't you," he says. ". . . Baby."

Tyler shivers faintly, an echo of amazed delight. "Fuck, romantic shit is so hot," he says, and leans in for a kiss. "I wanna try everything."

Jamie touches his face. "We'll do everything," he promises. And okay, maybe he's not really talking about sex. But maybe Tyler wasn't either.