Morgan was maybe the best friend Joel had ever had. From day one they just clicked. And, yeah, Joel maybe had a slight crush on him but Joel had always been quick to a crush. He had a little bit of a crush on everyone he met.
But Morgan…. Morgan was different. And Joel was very surprised that he hadn’t caught on yet. And there were moments where it seemed like they came close to something. And Joel didn’t know what the result of that something would be, or even what that something would be in the first place.
But the first incident that had stuck in Joel’s head was during that first training camp. They had been wrestling for the remote and Joel had Morgan pinned to the bed. They had both frozen and Morgan had blushed lightly, his eyelashes fluttered, and they had leaned in closer to each other before Morgan freed a hand and face-washed him with it - smirking up at him and relaxing back against the bed, seemingly content to let Joel stay where he was. And Joel hadn’t known what to do with that, so he picked up the remote from the bed next to Morgan’s hand and rolled off him and changed the channel. He also pulled Morgan into his side because he loved a good cuddle session and Morgan was a good cuddler.
Ever since then, the little moments have been frequent, whether in person or over the phone. Joel had definitely been flirting. Like, heavy flirting. Like, should have been obvious that he was flirting. And he didn’t know if Morgan had been picking up what Joel had clearly been laying down for him.
But Morgan must have just assumed that that was just the way Joel was because Joel had been like that for as long as they had known each other. Claude had rolled his eyes plenty of times when Joel said something particularly dumb or when he walked past them and saw Morgan curled against Joel or when Morgan smiled and Joel got the dumb look on his face he couldn’t control.
Sean would snort and mutter something under his breath about them being worse than Claude and Danny had been before he would yelp because Claude chucked the closest object at him. TK would grin widely and shoot him a thumbs up and Nolan would roll his eyes affectionately from where he was tucked into Travis’ side.
And Joel would blush and wonder at how Morgan never noticed their reactions.
But Joel kept flirting, kept cuddling, kept letting Morgan pick what they watched, kept surprising Morgan with little things. Because he had been doing that since they met. Why would he stop? It would just make Morgan suspicious.
Most of the time Joel was sure Morgan felt the same way. Was almost positive. Morgan had always been the one to initiate the cuddling. He would push himself into Joel’s space. He would look up at Joel with shining eyes and a small, special smile that Joel never noticed him direct at anyone else.
Once, when they were sitting on a hotel balcony in Florida, cradling their Starbucks drinks - Joel with hot chocolate and Morgan with a chai latte because the January night breeze was a little chilly - looking out at the ocean as the waves crashed on the beach. Morgan had been quiet all day and Joel knew something was wrong. He just had to wait for Morgan to say it.
“I was talking to Robby Thomas this morning,” Morgan’s voice was soft, barely audible above the crashing waves.
“Yeah?” Joel replied. Morgan talked to Robby a lot. They grew up together, Aurora Proud or whatever.
“Brady Tkachuck apparently accidently let slip that Matthew is planning on proposing in the off season.”
“They’ve been together for a long time.” Joel nodded.
“I know. And I’m happy for him. You know, I knew from the first time Robby talked to me about Matthew that they were gonna go the distance. And…”
“Are you jealous?”
“No! Maybe. A little. Not of Robby. I’m not harboring feelings for Matthew Tkachuk or anything. Robby can keep that walking disaster all to himself. But I think I’m a little jealous of what they have.”
“You mean -”
“To have someone who loves you so much it hurts. To love someone so much it hurts. To know that you have someone one hundred percent in your corner one hundred percent of the time. Someone who loves you because of your flaws, not in spite of them.”
“I wish I could find someone like that for me. Someone like you, if I’m being honest. Someone who gets me the way you do, the way you always have.”
And Joel opened his mouth to say something stupid like “you can have me” but decided not to because he was coward and instead said, “I want you to have someone like that.”
Morgan had looked over at him and Joel thought he was about to say something but then he turned his gaze back out to the ocean and someone started knocking obnoxiously on the door to their room and Joel remembered that he had promised to let TK kick his ass at COD as penance for Joel accidentally crashing Date Night.
Since then Joel hadn’t been able to get that look out of his head. The way Morgan seemed to be assessing his face, looking for something. And Joel had wondered if he had found it. Wondered if his face betrayed his feelings for Morgan or - worse - if his face hid them. What if Morgan had been looking for a sign from him and his face didn’t give Morgan what he was looking for? What if he had gotten too good at hiding his feelings for Morgan?
So - after inviting himself over for taco night at the Brioux’s and passing out on Danny and Claude’s couch after rambling on about his face betraying him - decided to make it obvious. He ignored Claude’s mumbling about how he was always obvious as he set pancakes down in front of Joel. G was the best Dad-Captain Joel had ever had even if his clear favorite kid was Carson, who wasn’t even one of his teammates.
When he got back to his apartment, he started curating the perfect playlist. Starting with ‘I Have to Say I Love You In A Song’ and ending with ‘Obvious’ before burning the songs onto a cd and carefully tucking it into his bag.
When Joel walked into the locker room the next day, he made a beeline for his stall next to Morgan and pulled the cd out, handing it over silently.
“You finish your mixtape?” Morgan asked with a grin.
“It’s a different kind of mixtape.” Joel mumbled.
“Just… listen to it when you get home, okay?”
Morgan looked at him for a minute before nodding and tucking the cd safely into his bag.
Joel tried to ignore it, tried to stay occupied and focused. And, for the most part, he at least pulled it off on the surface. At least, he didn’t get yelled at by Coach, judged by the Gingers, or made fun of by TK.
And when he finally got back to his place, he couldn’t make himself stay still. He tried that meditation shit Patty and Carter swore by. He called his mom and talked about everything but the reason he needed to be distracted. He almost texted G to see if he had heard anything along the lines of Morgan dying in a fiery car crash when there was a knock on his door.
A part of his brain jumped to G coming by to break the news of Morgan untimely death in person before he shook that thought out of his head. And headed toward the door.
“Did this mean what I think it does?” Morgan demanded, holding up the cd and remaining in the doorway, like he was preparing to run away if Joel gave anything but the answer he was looking for.
“What do you think it means?” Joel replied.
“Joel, please,” Morgan’s voice was small and he was holding his head up high, the way he did when he was putting on a front.
“I think it’s pretty obvious what it means.”
“I need to hear you say it.”
“I’m crazy about you, Frosty. Bordering on obsessed. And… I thought that was clear but… anyway, you know what they say, ‘say it in a song’. So… I made you a mixtape... of the songs that make me think about you.”
Morgan’s expression softened and his posture relaxed as a smile formed, “I’m kind of crazy about you, too.”
“I assure you, I am much worse.”
Morgan laughed and said, “It’s not a competition.”
“I’m just saying, I got pity tacos from G.”
And Morgan threw his head back and laughed and Joel gently took one of his hands and pulled him into the apartment and shut the door.
“Hi,” his voice was soft as he looked down at Morgan.
“Hi,” Morgan smiled up at him, “You gonna do something?”
Joel just laughed and leaned in, kissing Morgan chaistly.
“That all you got?” Morgan raised an eyebrow, “I’ve only been waiting for this for -”
And Joel cut him off with another kiss.