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As much as Luc tries sometimes, summer’s not just training, sleeping, and christening every square inch of their new house.  They go fishing pretty regularly – just the two of them sitting on the pier behind their house, or out in the canoe in the quiet early mornings. They go camping once or twice, more Jacks’ thing than Luc’s, but he doesn’t mind. They spend a few weeks in Vail training, a few more in Toronto training with Biosteel.

They show up for a few house parties with old friends and try not to let the “big hockey hero coming home” thing get too weird. They hit the beach every other week or so with the same groups too. They throw a few family barbeques, including a big one at their new place that doubles as a housewarming party and a “hey you assholes got married without inviting any of your family and we still want a party” reception.  Jacks’ mom bakes a cake.  Luc makes guacamole and a Brazilian ceviche and gets chirped about California.  Luc’s grandparents come down from Quebec and Jacks’ grandpa comes all the way over from Cape Breton, and they all sit around and congratulate themselves of having such nice grandsons, and weren’t they clever to have married into such nice families, and won’t it be nice to have great-grand-babies so soon (especially babies destined to be so very good at hockey, aren’t they lucky, won’t it be wonderful). Their parents keep chiding them, saying “they’re still kids, too young to start thinking about kids of their own, let them enjoy their youth” and getting hushed by baby-hungry grandparents.

“Don’t they know neither of us have a uterus” Luc huffs into his beer as he watches the grandparents from a safe distance near the grill that Jacks is manning.  He can literally see them plotting, like self-satisfied cats who’ve already gotten one canary and are now scheming on a bigger fatter bird.

Jacks snorts. “You know they’re all the sort of Catholic that think that children are a gift from baby-Jesus.  They probably think a stork is going to bring us one.”

“Right” Luc whines, “so what’s my mom’s excuse?”  Luc’s mother has a PhD in biology and zero interest in religion as anything other than a quaint but interesting human predilection towards systematic delusions. He’s pretty sure she understands reproduction in mammals.  Yet even she’s been getting a little weird about it, for all her “they’re still kids” protests.  In her first walk through of their new house she’d taken one look at one of the empty rooms near the master bedroom and said, “Oh won’t this be sweet for a nursery.”  She’d then blushed, looked a little embarrassed and surprised with herself, and said, “in a few years, of course.”

Jacks shrugs, like the mysteries of all this are just as beyond him, and fishes another beer for Luc out of the small cooler by his feet.

Luc wanders around the get together and only gets told he’s a “married such a nice boy” five or six times. Jacks’ aunt is tipsy on sangria and grabs him by the elbow and says, “Charlotte and Elise were so disappointed when they found out you’d eloped, they’d been planning your wedding for years, and you know Charlotte loves planning things. I’m so glad you boys decided to have this get together so that they could celebrate some. Charlotte was so excited to make that cake.”  Luc’s…confused…by that, but whatever.  Sangria always make people a little weird.  

Luc’s grand-maman describes Jacks as a “firecracker” and makes a joke in French that Luc is going to valiantly try to forget he heard.   He retreats back to the relative safety of Jacks and the grill and a couple of his very young cousins (sort of cousins, his parents have lots of old friends who he’s always called uncles and aunts, but his actual aunt has no children). The cousins are pestering Jacks with questions in French that Jacks is guaranteed not to understand without intervention.  He scoops one of the smaller ones up on his hip.   Somewhere over his shoulder on the deck, he hears collecting cooing.

“It’s weird that you just…like…have a brother all of a sudden” Luc begins, taking a sip of his 506 Logger.  Jacks looks over to where Sean is talking to some family friends and pokes some of the burgers on the grill.  

“Step-brother” Jacks corrects.

“He’s older than us.”

“Yeah”

“It’s fucking weird”

“Yeah”

“We’ve talked to him, like, three times, ever.”

“Yeah”

“Like it was fine while he was gone on his year abroad before your mom got married and we never had to see him. But now he’s just…here.”

Jacks makes a noncommittal sound.

Luc takes another swig and then says “I was gonna say it’s like…you’re my brother not his, but then I realized how fucking weird and gross that is.”

Jacks just busses Luc quickly on the cheek, ruffles Tiny Cousin #3’s hair, “I know what you mean though.  But I mean, he’s alright.”  As far as Luc has been able to tell, Jacks’ feelings about his stepfather are “better than the first one and good to my mom so he can stay.”  His feelings about his step-brother just that he’s absent enough that Jacks can normally forget he exists.  

“He’s studying to be a dentist.” Luc sighs, because there’s dentists and there’s dentists. There are the types of dentists that work for hockey clubs and fix your mouth when it’s all fucked up, and then there are fussy, fun hating, step brother dentists who use words like “barbaric” to describe hockey and don’t do a very good job hiding their smirks when you don’t know anything about whatever is currently going on with the Euro.

“It takes all kinds, Chants.”

“He thinks I’m an idiot.”

“That’s mostly because of how you dress.”   Jacks pauses, “and because you’ve literally never tried to talk to him about anything other than hockey. He doesn’t believe me when I tell him you’re smart.”

“Uh, whatever, what’s wrong with my clothes anyway.”

Jacks looks at him pointedly. Luc is barefoot, wearing a pair of $700 Oliver Peoples aviators, neon green board shorts (free, given to him by…Disko…or maybe Loops…someone with a sponsorship), a backwards snap-back that says “Pigeons ” (free, from his own Gongshow deal), and a muscle tank that says “Ruck Me Maul Me Make Me Scrum: USA Rugby” (free, a gift from the rugby team that had arrived a few days ago in a box with lots of other team swag, all of which Luc has been spamming pictures of on Instagram, partially because he loves it, partially because the tiny rugby shorts make Jacks handsy as hell, and partially because racking up ‘Don Cherry dislikes Luc Chantal points’ is Luc’s favorite low-key hobby).

“Nine times out of ten, Luc, you look like the world’s douchiest dude-bro meathead.”  

Because that’s neither here nor there, and Luc has saved the most important point for last, Luc continues, “He doesn’t like hockey players. He doesn’t even like hockey. Earlier he cornered me by the coolers and implied that it was my fault that you’re not wearing your falsie, like you didn’t just spend seven months with Giroux and Couturier. He kept trying to talk to me about how if you didn’t wear it, your teeth would shift.”

Jacks laughs a little at Luc’s outrage, “Yeah, I know.  When his dad was just starting to talk to mom and we were about to go into the Q, he was trying to convince Jim to convince my mom that I should go NCAA instead, evidently.”

“You’re fucking kidding me.”  Luc almost feels too shocked to be angry, but it’s there, in the background. What the fuck.  What bullshit…what…fucking…what….  Luc puts the tiny cousin down and she runs off to find the rest of the pack of children.

Jacks laughs, “calm down, Luc. That was three years ago.  It didn’t happen, obviously.”

“What an asshole.”

“I mean, yeah, it wasn’t his place. But, like, he was trying to help I guess? Education is important to him. Sports really aren’t.  He thought they were fucking up my chances to be a real person or something.”

Luc grumbles.  NCAA hockey is fine…if that’s your thing.  But the thought of a past where he’d had two years in the Q without Jacks, where they would have grown apart maybe, it’s too horrible to contemplate. “When is he going back to Toronto?” Luc asks, to stop himself from saying anything even more crazy.

Jacks just laughs and flips the burgers, “Tuesday.”

 

 

Later that night when everyone had gone home, Luc loads the dishwasher and takes out the recycling bags full of beer bottles and Jacks stacks lawn chairs up and puts leftovers away in Tupperware.  Luc’s scrubbing a few things that wouldn’t fit in the machine when Jacks comes up behind him, wraps his arms around and kisses the back of his neck.

“We throw good parties” Jacks said into Luc’s hair.

“Yeah we do. You cook good burgers.”

“Mmmm” Jacks’ hands wander, skimming down Luc’s chest to the button on his shorts.

Luc tilts his head a little, to give Jacks more room to kiss his neck and leans back into Jacks’ chest.  His mind is blissfully blank, sun warmed and beer lulled and getting sleepy but also pretty damn into wherever Jacks is going with this.  A thought crosses his mind. “Those landscaping people are coming tomorrow, they’re going to do….whatever it is we were going to get them to do with the backyard.”

“The riparian restoration people?” Jacks asks, at the same time that he flicks the button on Luc’s board shorts with one hand and squeezes Luc’s dick through the fabric with the other.

“Yeah” Luc huffs, “those guys.”

Jacks grinds his dick against Luc’s ass and bites his neck.

Luc starts laughing, he can’t help it, soft but bubbling up unstoppable.

“What are you laughing at?” Jacks smiles and then kisses the place right behind Luc’s ear. Luc feels a shiver run through his body.

“You. You’re so...god” he pauses for a second as Jacks pushes his shorts down and strokes his hand over Luc’s dick.  “You’re so turned on by this domestic shit. I never knew this did it for you so much.”

“I’m not-”

“You are. You so are. Next time I’m gonna talk about re-sealing the deck or cleaning the gutters and you’re going to be so fucking into it.”  Luc’s 99% sure that the reason he makes over a million a year is so that he can pay people to clean gutters for him, but he’ll do it, if Jacks is into it.  The blowjob Jacks gave him after Luc had spontaneously come home from Canadian Tire with three random plants in big clay pots to put on the deck, and some door mats had been really, really good. He’s pretty sure “I cleaned the gutters” reward sex might be even better.  

That makes Jacks jerk Luc’s dick roughly and grind against Luc’s bare ass a few times.  “The deck doesn’t need to be re-treated for like three years. And…” Jacks voice cracks for a second, his dick pushing between Luc’s thighs.  “And everyone has their kinks.”

“Yeah?” Luc asks, “What’s my kink then?”

Jacks moves a hand to Luc’s hair, cards his fingers through it for a second before tugging, jerking Luc’s head back “Winning ” he grins, as Luc groans, bucks back, trying to get more friction against Jacks’ other hand on his cock. Jacks lets his hair go, puts his hand in front of his Luc’s face. “Spit”

Luc licks Jacks’ hand a few times, as messy as he can make it, and then spits into his palm.

“Fuck” Jacks says and then uses the hand to slick up his dick and Luc’s thighs. “Clench those pretty thighs together for me, come on” he says, biting down a little on Luc’s shoulder, “c’mon make it tight for me.”

Luc clenches his thighs, rocks his hips a little, pushing into the tight grip of Jacks’ hand on his cock, rocking back into Jacks’ solid warm frame, feeling the slide and drag of his dick between Luc’s thighs, the way the head of his cock keeps bumping into Luc’s balls, dragging against his taint.

“Winning isn’t a kink” Luc pants. God he’s close. This isn’t going to take long at all.

“Last week” Jacks says, speeding his hand up on Luc’s dick. “Last week at that party at Chris’ pool, did you or did you not win that stupid, 2 hour long, ‘epic-floaty-pool-beer-pong-slash-made-up-rules-water-polo-tournament’, declare yourself ‘lord of all pong’ and then drag me into a bathroom and fuck my face?”

“Fuck” Luc hisses, shudders from his toes, and then promptly comes across their kitchen cabinets and Jacks’ hand.

Jacks shoves his come-covered fingers into Luc’s mouth, thrusts his hips with enough force that Luc’s bracing himself against the counter top, pushing back against him. “Thought so” Jacks chirps, winded, and then comes between Luc’s thighs.

 

*

 

Luc is lost . Like, alone, confused, isolated, separated from the herd, vulnerable, lost.  This is how wounded elk or antelope get taken down.  His phone is dead, he hasn’t eaten in hours, his head hurts, his feet hurt, his soul hurts.  Fucking Ikea.

Everything had been fine. Tedious, but fine. He’d been standing there with his hands in his pockets, making vague noises when prompted, while his mom and Marta told him all the things they thought he needed.  And then he’d thought he’d seen some sort of print thing Jacks might like and he’d walked over to look at it, and when he’d turned around they were gone.  And when he wandered around looking for them, they stayed gone, and he got more and more turned around.  And he couldn’t call them because his phone had already died while he was playing this stupid dragon game during the hour and half they’d spent picking out the perfect plates (white, round, like all the other round white plates they’d looked at but rejected).  

Luc had insisted that all he needed was a bed, a couch, a George Foreman grill, a pan to cook eggs in, and a blender.  Marta had called him her sweet boy and then put a cheese grater shaped like a giraffe in the cart.  But that had been hours ago.  Luc had somehow wound up back in the bedding section again, despite the fact that he’d thought he’d gone in the exact opposite direction.  Aren’t you supposed to stay in one spot and let help come to you if you’re lost in the wilderness?  Luc never had time to be in the Scouts. And now he can’t even find the meatballs place.  He sits down, because his feet hurt and decides he’ll just stay put. They’ll find him. Maybe. If they haven’t already forgotten about him and left.  

His mom loves Marta. Like, “hello older daughter I never had but always wanted” loves.   They’d bonded over the care-and-keeping-of-Luc when his parents had come down to help him get situated in his new apartment, and never really looked back.  Tomas and his dad had gone deep sea fishing today.  Because…Luc doesn’t actually know why they get to go fishing and he gets dragged to this hell-hole with the wives, but he’s pretty sure Crash would say it was the patriarchy and she’s probably right.  Anyway, they’re probably bonding over their shared of love of animal shaped kitchenware and half way out of Palo Alto by now.  Luc is so hungry he thinks he can actually feel himself losing mass. He can feel his summer gains literally burning away in a sad cloud of unused ATP.  But the display bed is actually really comfortable. Luc lies down, just to rest his eyes while he waits for them to find him and tries not to think about where he’s going to put all the shit they’re buying right now.  

The thing is, Luc doesn’t know how to explain it to them though, doesn’t know how to say that he and Jacks bought their set of (hand thrown, hand glazed stoneware) dishes at the farmers market in Moncton from some woman who looked like Emma Thompson in those Harry Potter  movies because Jacks had liked the colours of the glaze and Luc had said yeah, sure, let’s buy it. Because Jacks was smiling at him, eyes crinkled and cheeks pink, the late July morning sun catching in his hair like a halo of fire.   He can’t tell his mother that they picked their kitchen table based only on its sturdiness and height – sturdy enough for a 220 pound hockey player to get fucked on, just tall enough to put someone lying on it at “dick height”.  They picked their living room couch because it was wide enough for Luc to lay with his head pillowed on Jacks’ arm, his back leaning against Jacks’ chest as they watch TV in the evenings.   They’d picked their California king bed lying across from each other in the mattress store, aware that they were probably not being discreet enough, staring at each other across the distance of the mattress and saying “yeah I like this”, “are you sure this one is firm enough for your back”, “Yeah, do you like it too?”  Luc half-worried for days after that it’d make it to the news somehow – Luc Chantal and Oliver Jackson buy bed together in Moncton mattress store - but it didn’t, and maybe he wouldn’t have cared if it had.  Jacks had bought the sheets and bed set for it, bright white sheets and a duvet so pale green it was closer to white than pastel, because he said he liked the contrast of color against Luc’s tan skin, and “let’s face it, white will be easier to bleach.”  

On another subsequent trip to the farmer’s market they’d come back with a couple of throw blankets and a quilt to cover the increasing number of jizz stains on the couch before their parents came over to visit.

This San Jose apartment isn’t their home in New Brunswick.  It’s just a place for him to stay while he plays hockey, not a place to live.  He needs a bed, some sort of couch to put in front of the TV in case teammates come over and want to play chel. A pot to steam rice or make quinoa. A thing to grill chicken on. It doesn’t matter what the plates look like because Jacks will probably never see them.  There’ll be no need for a kitchen table, or a French Press coffee pot for Jacks’ preferred type of coffee.  

When he’d suggested that going to Ikea was a terrible idea, Marta and his parents had pointed out that he could, very easily and like most professional athletes with too much money and too few opinions about home furnishings, just hire an interior designer.  The suggestion had brought back unpleasant memories of a lawyer’s overdesigned home, bed with artfully arranged throw pillows, and Luc had shuddered, and firmly insisted that he could buy his own damn furniture without having to hire someone for it.  So here he is.  In Ikea. Lost.  Possibly starving to death.

“You” he wakes to hear a few moments (minutes? hours?) later, “are really sulking.”  It’s Marta, peering over him.  Oh shit he fell asleep. Was he drooling? Goddamnit, there’s no way this doesn’t wind up on Puck Daddy.

“J’veux mon mari ” Luc says “…and like…25 of those stupid meatballs.”

Marta laughs, “We thought you’d been kidnapped.”

“By who, Ducks fans?  Think someone took a hit out on me?”

“After that last series, maybe so.  Someone’s probably still a little pissed about Hamm’s ankle.”

“Clean hit” Luc grumbles reflexively, and sits up, “I hate this place. Can we please get food now? I don’t need curtains, I need a fucking sandwich.”

Luc’s mom looks pointedly at a mom with young children shopping not too far away, “langage” she says, “and I thought you wanted meatballs.”

“Sorry” Luc sighs, “I need a tabernak d’sandwich….made of meatballs.”

No one listens to him about what the apartment does or doesn’t need, but they do sit there and patiently watch him eat his weight in meatballs before they drag him to look at book cases.   The picture of him sleeping on a display bed absolutely does make it to Puck Daddy, as well as one of the Sharks fan blogs, with titles like “Hockey players: they’re just like us” and “Baby shark getting ready to leave nest - Luc Chantal moving out on his own.”

Before the season starts Luc buys Sleet’s cousin’s old Land Rover Defender.  It’s ancient, diesel, manual, a faded hunter green that’s more rust than paint.  He buys it for $2,000 and honestly probably should have haggled it down to less, but whatever.  He pays another 12K to have the motor/gear box/wiring/suspension/brakes all redone, but leaves the dry rotting, sand filled interior and patchy paint.  It’s entirely unsuited for the commute from his apartment to the rink, but he likes it, and it’s perfect for loading up with coolers and boards and driving down to the beach with Crash and her people on his days off.

He can’t really go to the beach without getting recognized a few times, but it’s nice anyway, and honestly Disko’s probably more famous than he is on the beach/surfing circuit.

Luc thinks for a while about trying to bike to practice – it seems like it’d be faster and easier with traffic. He does it once, and then front office finds out, throws a fit, and makes him promise never to do it again. There was a tense moment where he thought someone might try to like…confiscate the bike. Sometimes he just rides in with Neezy and May, who live not far away.  Sometimes he makes them all ride with him in the Defender while they bitch about there being no USB ports to charge their phones or play music, no tinted windows or ergonomic seating or power…anything. “The radio and AC work just fine” he assures them.

 

**

 

When Luc was eight he watched an ESPN 30 for 30 about the Soviet team that lost to the US in 1980.  Vladimir Tretiak had talked about how Anatoli Tarasov taught them that you have to love your team – love them with the purest love – to play good hockey. It’s a lesson that had resonated with Luc.

It’s something that he reminds himself of sometimes, even today.  Hockey teams play their best hockey when they play for each other.  Most of the time it’s easy to love your teammates.  But sometimes – like – random example – when you’re sitting in a Toronto hotel room getting talked into something you absolutely know is going to be a bad idea, it’s a little less easy.  Fucking Franasiak.  Who Luc does love, despite…all the reasons it’s sometimes difficult to do so.  It’s Neezy’s birthday. Neezy got a GWG tonight. He, understandably, wants to celebrate. Neezy is the kind of guy that thinks celebrations require strippers.

“We’re in Toronto” Luc explains for at least the 3rd time.

“Right” Neezy nods, “there’s this great place on-”

“I’ll go with you guys to dinner, Neez, but I can’t go with you guys afterwards.”

“Bro, is this your like...lady? Like are you seriously this whipped?”  Luc assumes Neezy means Crash, who Neezy had sex with last All-Star Break.  Which...you know…Luc’s pretty sure general locker room etiquette would suggest that if you think your buddy and his lady are serious enough that she doesn’t want him looking at strippers, you should probably not fuck her, but that’s probably a piece of logical reasoning that is a little beyond Neezy’s grasp at this moment. He’s been pre-partying pretty hard from the minibar already.

Luc stifles a sigh. “I don’t have a lady.”

Neezy downs another tiny bottle of vodka and scrunches his nose. “Or…like…your boy?” He sounds vaguely unsure, but Luc’s not sure whether that’s because he doesn’t know if he’s supposed to talk about it, or if he doesn’t know it’s true.  “Oh shit! Chants! We can like…equal opportunity this shit for you, bruh, you can –“

“Neez! Dude! Fuck no! I don’t need – crisse – that’d be so much worse. The problem isn’t the strippers, it’s that this is Toronto!”  Luc is so fucking tired of having this conversation.

“Luc Chantal can’t be photographed at a strip club, Neezy” Hallsy says from where’s he’s texting on his phone, bored, “he’s a Good Canadian Boy and the Next Next Next One.” He pushes the hair out of his eyes and pockets his phone. “This conversation would have been over 10 minutes ago if Chants wasn’t being extra fucking Canadian tonight for some reason, and too polite to say “I’m too famous to go out with you shmucks in Toronto. Can we leave now, I'm starving.”

“Oh” Light dawns on Neezy’s alcohol flushed face. “Bruh” he says significantly and then pulls Luc into a hug.

Luc sighs. “What are you even doing here, Hallsy? Aren’t you an actual adult who’s too old for this shit?”

Hallsy looks affronted, “Uh, excuse you, Chantal, you’re never too old for titties. And I’m 28, you jackass.”

“That’s like 196 in hockey years” Spats chirps, “can you even get it up, old man?”

“Why don’t you go next door and ask Burnsie if he can still get it up” Hallsy drawls, “since you’re so concerned about ages.”

“No fucking thanks” Spats laughs, “He’s got like 15 kids now. Everybody knows his dick still works.”

“Oh!” Neezy exclaims with the face of a man who just discovered the Pythagorean Theorem or water on Mars or some shit, “We could just order strippers here for the hotel!”

"Câlisse” Luc says and buries his head in his hands.

 

 

It goes like this:  strippers like to dance (presumably).  Luc also likes to dance…a lot.  And Luc has impeccable stripper etiquette, okay. He’s not an asshole.  He keeps his hands to himself, and tips generously, and doesn’t think that the girls are interested in anything other than having a productive and drama-free work night, even if they’re working a private party in a Toronto hotel room, not on a stage in a club.  But Luc likes dancing, and he likes music that has a good beat, and it’s easy to keep his hands to himself, but it’s tougher to keep his shoulders from moving or his feet from tapping along with the rhythm of the music, even when he’s getting a lap dance.  Which would be fine, of course, except that one of the girls notices.

 

 

Luc wakes up at 5am because his phone keeps ringing with Jacks’ ring tone and as soon as he answers it Jacks says “Neezy is a fucking idiot and you’re all idiots for letting him have a phone when he’s drunk. Get him to take his tweet down and then call me back later today after your front office balls you out so I can stop worrying about you” and then hangs up.   And Luc feels a lurch in his stomach and yells over to the sleeping pile of Neezy on the other bed, “Neez, what the fuck did you do on the internet, fix your fucking shit.”

His twitter is…blown up…and it’s easy to see why, even half drunk, half hungover and 75% still asleep.  Neezy had tried to send a DM to some friend from the O and instead had publicly tweeted a video.

 

 

It’s not the worst moment from last night that Neezy could have chosen to record and broadcast to the world.

 

 

The worst moment would probably have occurred 45 minutes later than this one, when the girls were off-the-clock but had decided to hang around a while longer, relaxed in some borrowed baggy t-shirts and sharing a mickey of Goldschläger between the two of them.  The moment where Neezy, with the blind confidence of the very drunk, had assured Spats and Hallsy that he was “the best” at eating girls out.  And Luc, who hadn’t even been part of whatever dumb conversation they’d been having, who’d been minding his own business playing Snap with May and the girls, had said (because he couldn’t not say it) “You are not the best at eating pussy, Knees.”

And Neezy, drunk and a little belligerent had said “Oh, you think you’re so much better at it, Chantal?”

Well. Yes, as a matter of fact. Luc is the best.  At all things. Including that.  He thought he’d made that kind of clear.

“Oh no” Spats had said.

“Fuck, Knees, you know the rule about daring him. Shut the fuck up” May groans.

Luc had set down his cards and squared his shoulders and squinted in Neezy’s general direction and said, firmly, “I can hold a fucking clinic on pussy eating, son.”

And Hallsy had buried his head in his hand and said “Oh fuck me, I am too old for this shit.”

And Temi had sighed and said, “Now look what you do, Neezy.”

And who knows what Neezy would have said because before he could say anything Crystal had said, “Please do” and Cinnamon had said “I volunteer as tribute!” and Crystal had looked at Neezy, and then back at Luc and then shared a look and a smirk with Cinnamon and said, “I mean, if you guys aren’t sure who’s the best we could always have a contest.”

The girls had shimmied out of their shirts and plopped down on the bed, laughing and telling them to hurry up and get to it, and someone (Cinnamon he thinks or maybe Temi) had changed the music to Nicki Minaj, and Hallsy had said “I’m going to bed, I am too old for this shit” and Temi had said “someone have to keep time, be zebra. Your watch have stopwatch” and pulled Hallsy back, and Luc had looked at Neezy and then at Cinnamon and shrugged and said “fastest to make them come wins?” and Hallsy had said “what the fuck Spats why is your phone out, you’re not going to record this idiocy” and Luc, who was too drunk to keep his trash talking to a minimum, had said “Neezy’s going to need to study all the tape he can get once he sees how badly he’s about get owned.”

And well….

That…and all of the moments after that were probably the worst things that could have wound up on the internet.   

The record should state, however, that Luc did win.  He and Cinnamon high-fived and did victory shots afterwards.  He remembers that part very distinctly. They’d made up their own winners-handshake.

 

 

But luckily that’s not what’s on the video.  

 

 

Instead it’s an hour or something earlier, when the girls noticed that Luc couldn’t keep his shoulders still and had laughed and asked him if he liked to dance, and dragged him out of his chair mid lap-dance.  It’s the moment where Cinnamon is sitting in the chair instead, legs spread, Luc’s baseball cap backwards on her head, and Luc, shirtless with a couple of $5 bills in the band of his sweat pants, is trying to dance up on her while Crystal gives him directions (“no, you gotta move your leg slow, drag it over her…no, like this, push your ass out more.”  “Now push your tits up in her face”) and the rest of the guys giggle hysterically and catcall him, and Missy Elliott plays in the background.

Luc is going to get chirped for rest of his life on the ice.

Later that morning Luc drags himself onto the plane, sunglasses and hat pulled low. Amanda slips into the seat next to him before Herts can claim it. “Hello, Luc” she smiles, glacial.

Luc winces. Oh shit.

“You’ve got some glitter, just here” Amanda says in the sinister tone of voice Bond villains usually reserve for saying “No, Bond, I expect you to die.”  She wipes the glitter off his cheek, and Luc has to work to not visibly flinch. He’s so fucking dead.  He’s going to kill Neezy. Or okay, he’s going to make all of them, himself included, skate suicides until they all want to die.

Neezy tries to sneak by her but her hand snaps out into the aisle and catches his wrist. “Oh no, Mr. Franasiak, I’ll need you too.”

“Now” she says, “Let’s talk about appropriate uses of social media.”

 

 

When they get to Ottawa, Luc does wind up making them all skate suicides after practice. He bag skates the hell out of them, because they kind of deserve it, and because he’d told Burnsie before practice that he would, but also just to make sure Coach doesn’t think they’re slacking off or not taking the game seriously or something.  Coach watches them drag ass back to the locker room 45 minutes after practice ended and claps them all on the back.  He squeezes Luc’s shoulder and says, “nothing wrong with blowing off a little steam, Chantal, just keep working hard. You’re a good kid, just stay off the spaceface and the instatweeting, okay.”

Luc does media afterwards and almost all of the questions are still about hockey. If he’d still been in California they all would have been. But Canadian hockey press gets a little crazy sometimes, and one guy brings it up at the end, something about professionalism or something.   Luc says something about comradery and team building and making sure they work as hard as they play and then, because he is very tired, and maybe isn’t getting enough oxygen to his brain post bag skate, and also still a little hungover, so maybe not really thinking about shutting his mouth as much as he should be, he says “anyway, dancers make their living through athleticism and performance and so do I. The only difference is that I make a lot more money and they don’t have to apologize if they go watch a hockey game.  I think that says more about the inherent misogyny of a system that consistently devalues historically female jobs and commodifies sexuality in a capitalist market than it does about the difference in validity of either one of our jobs.”

Whoops. He should probably stop reading some of those articles Crash sends him.

The entire press gang of reporters is actually shocked silent for two full seconds, and then all hell breaks loose in shouted questions, because nobody really gives that much of a shit about a professional athlete getting caught with strippers, even if it’s embarrassingly caught dancing for them, but Luc just went so off script he’s gonna catch hell about it for years. Fucking crisse.   Luc looks around the room. He is suddenly 100% done with this conversation, with press in general, with the whole fucking situation.  He must look like he’s got something else to say because three or four mics shove closer to his face. Luc looks right at the camera, and says in the bro-iest tone he can manage, “I mean, we’re just going to go out there, give 110%, get pucks to the net, and win one for the boys tomorrow.”

“No more questions” Amanda shouts from behind the press scrum.

“Luc” Amanda says, as press is ushered out. “What. The ever living fuck. Was that.”

“Someone’s been letting the rookie read books!” Burnsie crows from his bench.

“FINE! $500 fine for letting them know we know what words like “commodify” mean. You’re giving up our secrets, Chantal!”

“FINE!”  Hallsy shouts through a laugh, “$300 fine for reading books off the approved lists. You know we’re only allowed to read books about fishing, old dead white sports dudes, and sexy vampire chicks.”

“You forgot World War II” someone offers.

“Oh right, sexy vampire spies in WWII.”

“Fine for making your captain have to read whatever book I’m going to have to read about this shit before I can answer questions about it for the rest of my life” Burnsie says with affected grumpiness, “I don’t have time to read Simone de Beauvoir or whatever the fuck you’re talking about, Chantal, I’m trying to finish reading this autobiography about some old dead white dude talking about deep sea fishing.”

“Deep sea fishing with his DICK!” someone shouts from the other side of the room.

“Who’s letting Burnsie read Hemingway again??” Willy groans, throwing a tape ball.

“Hemingway write about vampire chicks with big tits?” Temi asks, all big eyes with fake innocence and Burnsie tackles him to give him a noogie.

Amanda has her head tilted back towards the ceiling, and Luc’s not sure whether she’s counting the seconds until she murders them all, or praying for the gods to dispatch her quickly themselves.

“Luc” Amanda says, when the room has quieted down, “I love these little adventures you take down vaguely Marxist feminist leanings, but keep it to your fucking self in the press scrums okay.  I am busy enough without recreating ‘Space humongous big’ this time with more Sylvia Plath, capiche? You’ve gone a whole ten years of your life speaking in nothing but sports clichés to the press, let’s aim for another decade at least.”

Luc sighs, “yes, ma’am.”

 

 

Jacks laughs at him for 15 minutes on Skype that night.  ‘Oh my god’ he gasps out in between laughs, “you are a fucking gem, and my favourite, I love you, you giant idiot.”

 

 

They win the next day and Luc gets two points.   The locker room has a court meeting afterwards.  Coach rolls his eyes and shuts the door firmly behind him on the way out, letting them to it.

Neezy gets fined $500 for “drunk tweeting dumb shit” and another $500 for breaking the “never dare/challenge Chantal into doing something dumb” rule which has been on the books since last year and that thing with Spats and the water bottles. Hallsy gets fined $500 for “letting Neezy touch his phone after three shots when you’re supposed to be babysitting the rookies.”   Luc gets fined $500 for the media thing because “now they know we know non hockey words, you blew our cover.”  

“Never let ‘em see you think, buddy” Herts says earnestly from where he’s sitting with the fine book and credit card reader.  

But Luc doesn’t get fined for anything from the hotel because, as Burnsie puts it, “You’re never going to hear the end of it on the ice, it’s punishment enough.”  At the end Burnsie solemnly takes all their phones and installs that app that doesn’t let you drunk post stuff.  

 

Front Office has them all scheduled for another one of Amanda’s “Social Media and You” seminars.   Luc sits down on the plane next to her on the way to Montreal with a hazelnut mocha, extra whip, and a box of pistachio macarons.  She raises her eyebrows when she takes them. Luc shrugs a shoulder and says, “sorry we made your job extra hard for a couple of days.”

“Aww, honey” she says giving him the first warm, non-pissed smile he’s gotten from her in days, “even when you’re getting into shit, it’s never awful shit.  You’re a good kid. Thanks for the chocolate and the caffeine.”  Luc smiles, forgiven, and goes off to his own seat where Herts is waiting.

“What, no cookies and chocolate drinks for me?” he chirps as Luc sits down next to him.  

Luc pats Hert’s belly, “don’t want you to get fat, old man.”

Herts laughs and fucks up his hair, and says, “you’re an idiot. Marta wants to know if you dance for her for her birthday.”  

 

 

Luc elevates his ‘bland-clichéd-post-games’ to a level previously only reached by Sidney Crosby for the next two months.  He is an impenetrable wall of bullshit and hockey banalities.

 

Amanda finds out about the other video during their social media seminar. The amount of panic it causes her is kind of funny, in a way that makes Luc feel kind of shitty for laughing.  She wants to know how many people it was sent to, can she have names, and is going into full PR “how many people do I need to get to sign an NDA mode.” Bewilderingly, Spats only sent the thing to Neezy and Jacks.  How does he even have Jacks’ phone number?  Luc buys Amanda fancy coffee and equally fancy muffins every morning for two weeks until he’s off her shit-list again.

 

***

 

 

Herts gets kicked out of a defensive zone faceoff and Luc goes in to take his place.   Hutchins leans over the puck, looks at Luc and says “damn, look at that mouth, bet you look as pretty on your knees as you do down shaking your ass, huh, pretty boy?”

Luc rolls his eyes, and says, “Seriously? The 1970s called, old man, they want their chirps back.” The ref drops the puck.  Luc wins it.  Passes it to Burns, who breaks out to the neutral zone and runs it up the wall across the blue line before passing to Temi. Luc skates fast into the O zone, sets himself up in position for the play Burns and Herts are throwing together.  Herts gets in close to the net, Temi passes to Luc and Luc shoots at the goal. Heikkilä just barely saves it, but Temi gets the rebound, jams it in behind the goalie’s foot, and the goal lights up.

As Luc skates to his bench he passes Hutchins. “Maybe worry less about me going down when your +/- is sinking so low” he chirps back, and blows him a kiss.

 

 

****

 

 

Stick drags them all out to some sort of theater thing and then coffee afterward, and Luc doesn’t really get it, not the way the rest of them seem to do at least. But they don’t seem to mind.  Stick keeps his arm around him all through coffee and Luc would think maybe he was trying to make a move except it’s Stick, and he doesn’t want anything like that.  Luc leans into it, because Stick is warm, and smells good, and with Stick’s thumb digging gently into his shoulder joint or curling around his bicep he doesn’t feel bad about not really getting what postmodernism is.

Crash talks him into splitting a piece of pie with her even though it’s not his cheat day. The pie is good but the tea Luc orders is amazing (he’s not really a huge coffee fan, that's more Jacks' thing, honestly). The tea's spicy and deep, mixed with hot almond milk not dairy and unsweetened, and Luc is surprised by how much he likes it.

That night Luc goes home with them, fucks Crash slow and content, Skypes Jacks from his tablet on her bed, and falls asleep between her and Stick.  His poster isn’t here, but on the wall by the corner of the bed there’s an 8x11 picture of Lemieux taped up. Luc didn’t put it there.  Crash had just shrugged and said, “you need what you need.”  And that night Luc kisses it, before he kisses Crash, and Stick’s cheek, and falls asleep thankful, for Jacks and Team and love and San Jose and hockey.

 

(Luc liked the tea so much so much he winds up going to the same place every morning on his way to the rink. The baristas behind the counter remember his name - they spell it Luke on his cups - and his drink, but obviously don’t recognize him. It’s nice.)

 

 

*****

 

 

“Chants?” Jacks asks as soon as Luc picks up the phone.

“Hey bro, what’s up?”

“Why are there giant bouquets of roses at my apartment?” His voice sounds a little weird.

“Uh” Luc looks down at his phone. There’s a little flower notification.  Oh right.  “It’s our anniversary.”

There is a good 10 seconds of silence and then Jacks says, “It’s totally not. Also, we’ve never done anything like that before.  Did you like…fuck up or something?”

“No, I didn’t fuck up.  It’s our anniversary. Not of our marriage, but uh…”  And actually, now that he’s going to say it out loud it sounds pretty fucking dumb, “kind of …uh, remember that time in Winnipeg?”

“Winnipeg, we’ve never…oh shit, like when we were kids?”

“Yeah, with the brick?”

“Wow” Jacks says.  “Wow. Are you serious right now?”

“Uh, happy…happy anniversary? Happy um…nine years?”

“I...think… that’s romantic?  Jesus…Chantsy…I don’t even...”

The truth is that Luc is not romantic. He doesn’t, for instance, understand giving flowers at all.  He cannot for the life of him understand why anyone would want to be on the receiving end of such a gift.  It had never occurred to him that Jacks might want…anything like that.

But.  Luc may not be…romantic…but he’s pretty damn invested in being Jacks’ husband.   And good husbands are probably romantic. Good husbands are probably romantic enough that their spouses are aware that they’re loved, and good husbands probably don’t get into situations where there has to be some dramatic revelation in a Vegas hotel garden.  And frankly, Luc is not really interested in being good at anything. Luc is only interested in being the best.  He’s the best at hockey, and he’s going to be the fucking best at husbanding too. So that means last summer, after Vegas, when he’d had some time to himself he’d googled “how to be romantic” and “how to be a good husband”, found a list that looked legit, copy and pasted the relevant parts to Google Drive, and then gone through the list, adding reminders to his calendar or Keep lists for stuff until it became more second nature. When he’d gotten to the bullet point about flowers he’d just google searched a national florist that had a convenient website, made an account, and loaded in some dates.  He wasn’t sure what date exactly counted as the most anniversary like of their anniversaries (since they’d never celebrated before), so he just…put in any and all dates he could think of that felt significant, along with some holidays that seemed like good flower holidays (Valentine’s day which he’d literally forgotten had existed last year, President’s Day, etc ), selected a shit load of flowers, and set it all up on automatic pay, automatic deliver.

Now, listening to the catch in Jacks’ voice, the warmth and the gratitude, Luc has that little moment of “Oh.”  Jacks does like that.  Luc doesn’t get flowers, but the pleasure in Jacks’ voice is making him understand a little more.

 

 

*********

 

 

The Sharks come through Philly a week or so before Christmas.  Luc doesn’t get a chance to see Jacks before the game, but after Jacks is waiting for him outside of the locker-room.  They drive back to Jacks’ apartment, empty because his roommates are going out to drink away their loss. Luc and Jacks rub off together, naked and kissing and hungry for the feel of each other’s skin, fall asleep without cleaning up, still tangled together in the blankets.  Luc’s alarm goes off too early, but Jacks won’t let him take a cab, just grumbles and pulls on some sweatpants and drives him to the hotel in time for Luc to make it onto the bus with his team.

It’s harder, it seems, to say good bye, every time they have to do it.  The time they get in the season so rare that Luc never wants to give it up, but he’s good at making himself do what he needs to do, so he smiles and takes some chirping from the guys about long distance and the Mrs, mostly from guys who think it really is a joke, who probably think Luc and Jacks played video games and gossiped about the league and fell asleep on separate beds.  By the time they’re filing onto the plane for Columbus, Luc almost has his game face back on.

 

 



They’re still on the road when Christmas arrives, and Luc flies back to New Brunswick instead of San Jose for the break.  He can’t keep his hands off Jacks, but the great thing about home is that he doesn’t have to.  They eat too much tourtière, drink too much hot chocolate and too much wine, and have the traditional family viewing of Die Hard, curled into each other on the couch while Luc’s dad snores in his recliner and their moms talk over coffee and pie next to them.  When they finally get up to drag themselves to bed Jacks says “G’night mom, night Jim, night papa, night maman.”  Luc’s mom smiles and says, “bonne nuit, mes oisillons.”  Apart from the few times Luc looped his arm around Jacks neck and pulled him in a for a quick kiss, it’s not really any different from any other Christmas they’ve spent together with their families.  And, oh, maybe that’s what his aunt had meant, about their moms wanting to plan a wedding.

Chapter Text

Luc and Jacks both get invited to All-Star Game.  His knee is kind of killing him, has been nagging him since November, and he kind of wants to take the one game suspension and stay home and rest.  Coach and the training staff put it forward as an option. But there’s no fucking way Luc is missing a long weekend in Montreal with Jacks. So he promises the trainers he’ll ice it religiously, wishes everyone relaxing times in Mexico, and goes to the All Star Game with Hallsy.

 

Luc steals Amanda’s media phone, crash’s Jacks’ press, and asks him a bunch of questions while recording on Periscope.

“How do you feel about the fact that Luc Chantal is currently leading you in goals?” he asks, grinning.

Jacks grins back and says “pretty good, since I’m beating him in points.  Is Luc Chantal a selfish player?”

“I’ll ask the questions here” Luc chirps, “How likely do you think Chantal is to beat you in the accuracy challenge?”

“I don’t know, Chantal’s pretty good with his stick” Jacks jokes and Luc giggles and the rest of the reporters chuckle like they’re not sure they’re allowed to laugh at that.  Eventually French media starts showing up, since Luc’s there to answer questions, and the press that had been planning on talking to him in the future just migrates over to Jacks table to merge the two pressers.  Luc squeezes through the reporters, and perches on half of Jacks’ chair behind the table.  They answer some English questions together and then questions in French, just like back in the Q: Jacks listening to the question in French, repeating it to Luc in English to check if he heard it correctly.  Jacks gives his answers in English and Luc “translates” for him, as inaccurately as possible.  It makes Luc feel like he’s sixteen again, giddy with hockey and Jacks and attention.  

"Pensez-vous que vous voulez être coéquipiers avec Conor Sheary”A reporter asks.

“Playing with Sheary?” Jacks checks, glancing at him, and when Luc nods, follows with “Sheary is a great player, it’ll be fun playing with him not against for a game.  We’re gonna take those lame West Coast guys down”, elbowing Luc in the side.

"Sheary est un grand joueur. Y est mon héros, j’aime tous l’pingouins.” Luc “translates” for him.

“Êtes-vous déçu que Giroux n'a pas pu le faire cette année?" Another reporter asks.

“Of course.  We’ll miss him in the lineup but it’s good that he’s getting the break to recover, take care of nagging things, and be in a good place to start down the stretch of the end of the season.”

"Giroux t’un diable.  La seule bonne chose à son sujet est qu'il est français”Jacks cuts him off there, just wraps a big hand over Luc’s mouth and pulls him into a headlock and struggles his way through two more questions with Luc laughing into his hand and kicking his feet and occasionally trying to half-heartedly wrestle his way free.

“Really.” Amanda says, after Jacks’ presser is over.

“Happy All Star Weekend” Luc smiles at her and drags Jacks off to lunch.  There’s a lunch place Luc went to with his grandparents once or twice, not far from here, and Luc’s never been in Montreal with Jacks before, he wants to show it to him.  Luc knows Amanda doesn’t actually mind, that’s what people want to see during All-Star weekend – jokes and games and nobody taking anything too seriously and all of the NHL acting like one big happy brotherhood of guys who are close.  Somebody will write a fluff piece about how Luc and Jacks’ friendship is still going strong, and everyone will smile about it, and nobody will think “wow those two kids are fucking.”  It should be really obvious that they are, but apparently, it’s not.

 

 

Later Luc sneaks into the Eastern Conference dressing room and snapchats (on Amanda’s media phone) leaving a “prank” for Jacks (he just fills his skates with Hershey kisses and then tapes his blades; the tape is the oldest prank in the books, the Hershey kisses he got off his Romantic List).

 

 

Hallsy drags them out to dinner with a bunch of other guys and they sit and eat and linger over their plates.

“Whatever” Luc laughs, letting his hand drape over Jacks’ shoulder while McDavid is complaining about the music Eberle plays in the locker room, “at least he’s not listening to like…who the fuck was it, like Gorgoroth or some shit. I put up with that for years.”

Jacks digs an elbow in Luc’s ribs, “Oh you were so much better, asshole, what were you listening to, Radio Radio?”

Luc pulls an affronted face, “Uh yeah, at least you can dance to it” because they were never his favorite, sure, but they were alright, and they didn’t like…crucify people at their shows or shower in pigs blood or whatever.  

Jacks smiles, “remember when Martin played “Cause I’m a Hoe” every time you walked into the locker room for a week.”

Luc laughs, “That song wasn’t even about that, he should have played Cliché Hot.”  Jacks just snorts, gives him half a face wash with his condensation wet hand and then eats some more fries.

Eberle chirps McDavid’s “soft indie” and conversation topics shift, and eventually they push themselves away from their plates and wander back to the hotel in a loud, laughing group.   

 

 

Luc and Jacks peel off from the rest of the group at the hotel.  Luc’s got his hand on the small of Jacks’ back in the elevator, pinky just dipping into his waistband, gently pushing Jacks forward when they come to their floor.  Jacks is warm and solid underneath his coat.

 

When they get inside their room, Luc pulls his shirt off and says “you should fuck me.” And Jacks, who was busy taking his wallet and keys out of his pocket and putting them on the table, says, “Woah. Why the fuck is it your turn to bottom?”

“Uh, because I asked first?”

“That is so not fair.”

Luc shrugs, “sounds like you were too slow, bruh.”

Jacks shakes his head and says “asshole” fondly, so Luc knows he’s gotten his way.

“Uh, I’m just going to go – bathroom stuff and shower,” Luc says, fighting down a blush, because that part of this whole thing still makes him uncomfortable.

But Jacks doesn’t chirp his blush, just shrugs in acknowledgement and opens a bottle of water, plopping down on the bed.

When Luc gets out of the shower Jacks is waiting in his boxer briefs and he pulls Luc into a filthy kiss, licks at the water still clinging to Luc’s neck and shoulder, making Luc shiver and his skin pebble.  He pulls away and starts to slip past Luc.  Luc shakes some of the lust out of his head and grabs Jacks’ arm. “Where you going?”

“Shower” Jacks smirks, like he’s got some tricks up his sleeve.

“You could have joined me before” Luc protests.

“Hmmmm” Jacks just hums, and goes into the bathroom.  “Why don’t you just get ready for me?” he calls out, “since you want to get fucked so bad,” and then shuts the bathroom door.   Luc drops his towel, and fishes around in the luggage until he finds the lube.  He gets himself situated on the bed and works a wet finger in, runs the fingers of his other hand up and down his cock without really gripping it, touches the head to spread around some of the moisture there.

He’s got two fingers inside, curling up just so, feet planted on the mattress and arching his hips up to get at just the right spot when Jacks comes back out, naked, wet curls pushed away from his face.  “Goddamn” he says, eyes dark, “what a fucking sight.”

Jacks knee walks over on the mattress to him and runs a hand over Luc’s abs. He fishes around for the lube bottle and pours some out straight onto Luc’s stomach.  Luc hisses. It’s cold, makes his abs clench although he’s pretty sure that was Jacks’ point, because  Jacks smiles watching him.  He dips his fingers into the puddle and Luc goes to pull his own fingers out of his hole. “Ah-ah” Jacks says, soft, “leave them there” and then he’s pushing a finger into to join Luc’s, one and then a second in quick succession and it’s... a lot.  Luc tenses and pushes himself up against it. Jacks breathes and says “Jesus fucking Christ you are so amazing.”

“Crisse,” Luc hisses, “stop fucking around, put your dick in me.”

Jacks swipes his hand across Luc’s abdomen, collecting all of the rest of the lube, uses it to slick his cock up. He grabs Luc’s legs, bends them over his shoulders, so Jacks is leaning over him, face close, hair dark and damp and swinging over his eyes, dripping a little bit onto Luc’s face. His eyes are blown and huge, just a tiny ring of brilliant blue around black, flush high on his cheeks.  Jacks licks his lips once, and then shoves in, all at once, arms bracketing Luc’s shoulders, and Luc moans and his breath catches, “fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck” he breathes through it.

Jacks sets up a savage rhythm that has the headboard thudding against the wall, mattress creaking, no more talk just grunting breaths and slick sounds.  The angle has his him so deep Luc feels like he can feel it in his throat, feels so full, flushed and feverish and shivering. Jacks drags past his prostate with every thrust and Luc’s right there, just needs a little more, just a little push.  He shivers again, and says “close, Jacks, I’m so close.”

Jacks moves his hand from where it was planted near his head and drags it over Luc’s cock.  He gives Luc three swift strokes, big hand wrapped around his dick, still a little slick with lube, and slicker still with the precome Luc’s been leaking steadily, and then, just as Luc tenses and is about to come on the next stroke, Jacks clamps his hand down hard at the base of Luc’s dick, and Luc shudders and curses, hips bucking, and doesn’t - doesn’t come.

“What the fuck!” Luc half shouts.

“Don’t come,” Jacks murmurs, unnecessarily, into Luc’s neck.

“Dirty pool,” Luc groans as Jacks releases his cock.

Jacks shrugs Luc’s legs off his shoulders and lowers himself down, skin on skin, face buried in Luc’s neck, “don’t. come.” he repeats, lips dragging over skin, and rutting into Luc in powerful thrusts, brutal and fast, chasing his own orgasm. Luc wraps his legs around Jacks’ waist. The friction of Jacks’ abs is rubbing against his dick and he’s so, so fucking close, again, and Jesus fucking Crisse it’s too much.  “Let me come, you bastard,” he manages.

“No.” Jacks huffs. Luc just moans in protest.

“I thought you always liked my plays” Jacks chirps, breathless, and Luc can hear the smirk in his voice and fuck, Jacks is the worst. Every muscle in his body wants to come. He’s so fucking turned on, all the way down to his fingernails, every touch of Jacks skin against him electric, every word Jacks says slicing through him.

“No, your plays are the worst, the fucking worst, let me come you bastard.”  Luc has never been so hard in his life.

He’s pretty sure he is going to come, no matter what Jacks says, so close to the edge that the friction is going to push him over whether he wants to or not, but just when he’s about to go, Jacks snakes a hand between them and squeezes the base of Luc’s dick again. “Don’t. Come.” he grits out, then bites Luc’s shoulder and comes himself, pulsing, inside Luc.

“Wow” Luc pants, breathless and pissed, into Jacks hair, “you are an asshole.”  Jacks rolls off him, flops over to his side, smug and flushed and smiling.  The flush goes all the way down his chest. Luc loves him.

Jacks lets his eyes flicker down to Luc’s cock where it’s still hard, angry, red, wet and neglected. “Huh” he says, like the raging asshole that he is. He brushes his knuckles over it, feather light, “Whatcha gonna do with this?”

Luc is going to strangle him. Or kiss him. Or both. “Take care of it myself, looks like.”

“You could do that” Jacks says, with faux casualness, “orrrrrrr, you could fuck me with it.”

Luc blinks. “Wow.”  Blinks again.  “Wow. I mean….wow. You are such an asshole. That is some shady Philly bullshit.”

Jacks laughs, open and warm, grin making his eyes crease, and Luc loves him so fucking much.

“I mean,” Jacks says, “if you think you’re not up for it, I can just jerk you off. You might be tired. We had a long day today.”

That fucker. “I’m a nineteen year old elite athlete,” Luc says, trying not to give Jacks the satisfaction of sounding affronted. “I’m up for it. I would have been up for it even if I’d come once.” He lets his eyes slip over to where Jacks’ dick is soft and flaccid, resting against one of his thighs, still shiny with lube. He flicks the head of it ever so gently and watches as Jacks’ doesn't stop smiling, even as the muscles in his thighs clench a little reflexively, “what about you, you gonna be up for it?”

“I’m a nineteen year old elite athlete,” Jacks says, corner of his mouth curling up even while he tries to force his face into earnest seriousness. Asshole. 

Luc hoists himself up, and crawls between Jacks’ legs.  “You could work me open with your mouth first” Jacks says, content and pleased with himself.

Luc flicks Jacks’ hole, a little less gently, but still not really hard.  “You don’t deserve it,” he replies, “If you wanted my tongue in you, you should have been nicer to me before.”  He traces his thumb around Jacks’ opening, so softly, and bites the inside of his thigh, hard.  Jacks’ dick, trying valiantly to get hard again, twitches.

Jacks breathes through his teeth and says “I was nice.”

“Hmmm…..but not nice enough” Luc works a finger in, and then another, using a lot of lube to counteract the absolute minimal patience he has to actually stretch him out.  “I think that’s probably enough,” he says using every single ounce of discipline he’s ever developed in his life to sound casual about it, “how do you want it, then, if you’re so desperate to get my dick in you? Want it like this, or hands and knees?”

Jacks rolls over and gets onto his knees, and Luc bites the inside of his cheek so that he doesn’t groan at the sight.

“Did I piss you off enough to really give it to me hard?” Jacks smirks over his shoulder. Luc smacks the back of his thigh in answer.  “Fuck yes” Jacks whispers and lets his head drop to the mattress, shoulders down, ass up.   Luc smacks the inside of his thigh this time, once, twice, three times in the same spot so that it’s bright red and hot to touch, and then slicks up his dick and shoves in.   Jacks is hot, and tight, so tight it’s almost a little uncomfortable, and he has to stay still for a few seconds, to catch his breath and not come right then.

Jacks gets tired of waiting, evidently, and rocks on his dick.  Luc smacks his ass cheek, hard. “None of that.”  He smooths his hand over the red bloom of his handprint on Jacks’ butt cheek. “You want hard, eh?”  He puts his hands on Jacks waist, pulling him into an angle where he knows he can hit Jacks prostate, pulls out, and fucks back in. He puts his back into it, as hard as he can.  The headboard bangs against the wall loudly, and the bed frame sort of shudders and creaks and Luc smiles, “think I can break the bed?”   

‘Try it and find out” Jacks moans.

He gets his hand in Jacks’ hair, pulls his head back, forcing his back into an arch, and pounds into him, listening to the breath catch in Jacks throat. Jacks’ hard again, and Luc lets go of his hip to get his fist around it – wraps his fingers around the base of Jacks’ dick and growls, “should I let you come?”

“Yes.”

“Wow. Really? Why?”

Luc’s not really sure how Jacks manages to look so fucking smug, back arched, head pulled back, flushed and needy and taking it up the ass, but he does.  “Because I make the best plays” he says, smiling and pleased with himself, and Luc grasps his dick more firmly, strokes him rough and steady and in time with his thrusts.

Luc lets Jacks’ hair go, curls over his back to rut into him, rubbing his face against Jacks’ shoulder blade, still working his dick in time with his thrusts. Jacks comes, clenching and curling up and cursing underneath him, and Luc thrusts once, twice, three more times inside him. When he comes it feels like it’s dragged out of his soul, like his mind just goes blank for a second, and he stays there, buried inside Jacks, shivering and dazed. He might actually be dead.

Fuck” he says, finally.  Jacks wriggles his shoulders and shrugs Luc off so that he falls to the side, soft cock sliding out.

Jacks rolls over to look at him. He’s still grinning, “Best plays, right?”

Luc’s mind is empty white noise. It takes him a while to make it work enough to think of words. “Ouias, d’accord, meilleurs jeux, Jacks, best plays.”  He feels like his brain just drained out through his dick, yes, but more so he feels like maybe it’d be alright if he just cut his heart out of his chest and handed that over too, buried it somewhere deep inside Jacks and left it there.  Also sleep would be good.

But the bed cover thing is disgusting and one of them really needs to get up and get a wash cloth at the least.  He closes his eyes for a second, and feels Jacks shift, his lips brush against Luc’s.  “I love you” Jacks says, softly, against his mouth.

Later, when the blanket is on the floor, replaced by the one from the other bed, and they’ve wiped up with a rag that Jacks got, when they’re in boxers, lights off, heads on their pillows, wrapped around each other, Jacks says into the quiet, “Hey, you remember when we were in the hotel in Winnipeg and we shared that room and pretended that we were in the NHL, on a roadie together, about to play a game the next day.”

“Yeah” Luc sighs, feeling a little absurdly like he might cry.

“Well” Jacks says, squeezes Luc’s hip, “here we are.”

“Yeah” Luc says, kisses Jacks hand, “here we are.”

 

 

The next day during the skills competition Luc and Jacks switch jerseys off to the side and then sneak onto each other’s benches. It’s the least stealthy thing in the world, done in front of 18 thousand fans, but still some guys don’t notice until they’re sitting next to them, or until their names are called up for the accuracy test and they skate up on the wrong sides and compete under each other’s names.  The crowd loves it and Luc returns to the Eastern conference bench where he’s elbowed and jostled good naturedly until Hanifin grabs him by the back of his jersey and drags him over to the Western conference bench, fake scolding him the whole way.   Domi and Hanny then start some old-west hostage exchange style negotiation. The crowd loves it, the benches are laughing and shouting, getting into it, and eventually they’re returned to their teams. Jacks is back on the West Coast bench five minutes later.   

 

During the actual game they skate over to each other’s benches during the commercial breaks and one time the camera people put them on the kiss cam. They’re not supposed to.  Twitter’s probably going to get salty about it – heteronormativity and poking fun at gayness or something or the other. Luc doesn’t care. He looks right at the camera, loops his arm around Jacks’ neck and plants a big, sloppy stage kiss right on Jacks cheek, maybe 3 millimeters from his mouth then winks at the camera and goes back to chirping the Eastern Conference bench and joking with Jacks.

 

There are literally five different articles written about the glorious purity of hockey friendships, bromance, and brotherly camaraderie because of their time at the All-star Game.  Jacks seems a little amazed. “I can’t believe I was ever scared about trying to stay in the closet,” he wonders over Skype once they’re back in their respective cities. “If I blew you on center ice they’d probably just write about how good our line chemistry is.”

“No” Jacks warns when he sees Luc’s face. “Don’t. No.  We are not sneaking into some place in the middle of the night. No.”

“You’re no fun now that you’re an old married person” Luc huffs.

 

 

*

 

 

The night before it happens Luc’s neighbor invites him over for dinner. Ryan’s a decent guy.  He’s a software engineer for some big company that Luc’s pretty sure he’s supposed to recognize but doesn’t. For a while he and Luc existed in the realm of polite bro-nods at the mailboxes but then there was a period of time while Luc was rehabbing a tweaked knee in late November, when he was no longer so immobile that he was staying at Herts’, leg wrapped in some chiller/pump thing, camped out on the couch with Discovery channel reruns and Marta’s sympathetic smoothies, but before he was better enough to actually play , despite being good enough to go back to his own apartment and drive himself to trainer and doctor appointments.

He’d been playing a lot of Halo and somehow that had led to Ryan and Luc playing a lot of Halo together, and then Luc playing with all of Ryan’s friends on Steam, and then somehow to Luc going to dinner parties at Ryan’s and meeting his friends and colleagues in real life – including a particularly awkward time when Luc had met Jess and Videep from Steam – and also apparently from Canada, and they’d taken two steps into Ryan’s apartment, seen Luc and said, “No way. No fucking way. You’re that Luc from Canada???”

Anyway, Ryan’s friend Lin got a job at the Paris office of some other company Luc doesn’t recognize, and Ryan has him over for a going away dinner. Ryan makes some sort of pizzas with figs and prosciutto and Luc lingers over a last glass of wine longer than he should on a night before a game, telling Lin all the Quebecois words he can use instead of French to confuse and annoy Parisians.  And then lingers even longer over stories of doing just that himself in Paris with Jacks after Worlds.

The stories bring back memories of the blush that would spread across Jacks’ face, down his neck and chest, every time Luc would do it, the fond-exasperate facepalm every time Luc smirked and a waiter sneered. Luc doesn’t tell that part of the stories though, because Ryan and his friends are all great, but they’re not team . Not the way Herts and Burnsie are, and not to Luc’s surprise the way Crash and her house are. They’re just friends, the type normal people have, and Luc trusts them, but he doesn’t trust them, so he keeps his memories of Jacks’ blushes to himself, finishes his last glass of wine, gives his goodbyes and well wishes to Lin, and walks himself across the hall to his own apartment.

Luc climbs into bed loose and warm and distracted by thoughts of Jacks in Paris, and falls asleep with half a thought that he forgot something.

 

The next day he has morning skate.  And after lunch, before his nap he thinks about Skyping Jacks but doesn’t because Jacks has a game tonight as well and the three hour time difference means he’d only be interrupting Jacks pregame stuff now.   He’d meant to go to the grocery store this week but had run out of time, and instead of making his normal pasta meal he just eats some leftovers Marta had sent over.  It’s carby – something with rice --  he doesn’t pay much attention. His phone is blowing up with group chat texts, and he’s more tired than he normally is before his nap.

 

He gets caught up in conversation with May about the Bolts’ power play and it pushes his stick preparation time back. He gets called away from that for two-touch.  Already late in joining the game, he puts his sticks down without thinking about it too much, and goes to join the soccer game.

 

They win, somehow.  Saved by their goalie basically, a win they didn’t really deserve especially after an embarrassing 2nd period of sloppy turnovers and missed passes and Luc playing like shit, legs feeling like lead for some reason.

Luc’s pulled aside by Amanda and Coach on his way into the dressing room after the game, which is pretty unusual.  Media hasn’t been let in the room yet and Amanda has her phone out. They don’t say anything really, just something about him needing to see this before someone asks him about it, and someone else puts an arm on his shoulder, a steady warm support, and then presses the play button on a video, and Luc watches the hit.

 

Jacks goes down hard in a dirty, late hit and doesn’t get back up.

 

Luc’s ears are ringing, vision going white at the edges.  He feels disconnected from himself.

“Get him out of here” he hears someone, Burns maybe, but it sounds far away and echoing, “get him into the showers or the changing rooms. I’ll take media tonight.”

“Is he okay?” Luc asks, voice echoing in his head strangely, when Amanda has helped into the changing room, got him sitting on the bench with his head between his knees.  His lips feel numb, and he feels so cold.  It’s a dumb question. Of course Jacks isn’t okay.

Amanda’s voice is soft and worried, “I don’t know, Luc, I don’t know. I haven’t been able to get in touch with Christie over there.”  She gets his phone for him from his stuff. “You’ve probably missed some calls. I’ll give you some privacy.”

Luc has missed calls from three Philadelphia numbers he doesn’t recognize and Jacks’ mom, but none from Jacks himself.  Luc stares at his voicemail for a solid five minutes before he’s brave enough to listen to them.

By the time Herts finds him he’s listened and he knows that Jacks is fine. Well. He’s not fine.  But he’s not dead. His spine’s not broken. He’s not in the hospital getting a hole cut into his skull to make from his swelling brain or something. He’s concussed, badly.  He was unconscious on the ice, but is aware now, if groggy and with a massive headache, but he’s at home not the hospital. He knows who he is, where he is, sort of when it is, even if he doesn’t really remember the hit or much from the game or anything directly after. He knows who Luc is.  So that’s enough.  That has to be enough.  He’s asking for Luc, groggy and confused in the background of one of the phone calls, and the sinking, sick, powerless, hopeless feeling of being 3,000 miles away and unable to go to him, unable to help him, not being able to do anything makes Luc’s throat ache, his hands clench, his heart tear itself up in his chest, and bile creep up his throat.  Luc has never felt so powerless in his life.

 

Herts finds him still in his clammy damp gear, skates still on, phone clutched in his hand, trying to get his breath and not really succeeding.  Herts and Shelby the equipment guy get him out of his gear and dress him in a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt like they're dressing a kid, and then Herts herds him to the car.

“He was unconscious for 38 seconds,” Luc tells Herts in the car, breaking the silence of the drive. They didn’t turn the way to Luc’s apartment. Luc guesses they’re going back to Herts’.

“I know, kid.” Herts says softly.

 

 

Luc wakes up in a cold sweat at 1 am remembering that last night he hadn’t kissed his Lemieux poster, hadn’t thanked the hockey gods, hadn’t thought of them at all that night or before the game, that before the game he hadn’t don’t anything in his pregame routine correctly at all.  He hadn’t been careful about the lines of tape on his stick, hadn’t checked them. He’d been distracted talking to May and might have walked around the room to his stall the wrong way.  He’d starting playing two-touch at the wrong time. He can’t remember if he’d touched his necklace at all during the anthems. He’d been so distracted all day, he hadn’t thought….he hadn’t thought at all. Hadn’t played well, either. He’d turned two pucks over, hadn’t been the first one on the ice for morning skate in the first time in…ever, maybe ever ever.  Herts had brought him back here, where his poster wasn’t , and so he hadn’t even touched it tonight either.  

He’d been ungrateful, undevout.   They’d given him everything he’d ever asked for, and he’d been careless and unappreciative and now they were striking him down for his hubris, reminding him of what they could take away.

He’s lying there, panicking, trying to figure out if it would make it worse or better if he went home now, how he’d even get there without his car, when his phone starts ringing with Jacks’ number.

 

It’s not Jacks.  It’s Claude Giroux, the usual dry chirping sarcasm Luc is used to hearing from his voice completely absent and replaced with exhaustion and worry. “Apparently,” Giroux starts with, “you’re his fucking medical power of attorney and his husband.” Luc takes a lurching breath as Giroux continues, “which is something we’re going to fucking talk about later, but for right now the doctor needs to talk to you.”

Jacks is not fine. Jacks got worse in the night, couldn’t stop vomiting. Now he’s in the hospital, sedated and being monitored but at least resting.  The doctor goes over CT and MRI scan results, assessments, tentative treatment plans, promises to call if there’s any change in his condition, etc.

Luc puts his phone down carefully after Giroux hangs up, and then lurches to the bathroom and promptly empties his stomach.  When he comes back out into the hallway, Marta is standing there in one of Herts’ old t-shirts and some shorts.

“Luc, what’s wrong?”

“Jacks. I can’t be here right now, Marta, I need to go back to my place and…”

 

 

At home, Luc sticks his Lemieux poster above the fake fireplace in the living room, breaks open a bag of 5 million tea lights Marta or his mom had bought at Ikea, and lines them along the mantle. He lights them all, falls to his knees and starts begging.

 

 

Luc wakes up at 4:10 am restless and anxious. He just needs to focus.  He can’t prove that he deserves to have Jacks if he’s playing shitty unfocused hockey. He needs to …to get himself together, get back on track. He can’t be letting himself slip, like he obviously has been. He can’t take it for granted.  

He’s desperate with his restlessness, can’t pace around the house anymore after a few minutes, so he shoves on his running shoes, and goes for a run.

10 miles later he comes back, shaking and tired but feeling less like he needs to tear a car apart with his hands.  He makes himself breakfast, but there’s all this…junk in his fridge.  Leftover pizza, beer, Tupperware of some heavy eastern European casserole Marta had made, chicken salad made with mayonnaise.  Had he really been eating so off meal plan?  He hadn’t thought… It doesn’t matter. It needs to go, obviously, so he spends a few minutes throwing out most of the contents of his fridge (except for the beer, he sets that on the mantle with the candles and his carefully hoarded bottles of good maple syrup that he keeps hidden in the back of the cupboards, because hey, it can’t hurt.)  

He makes himself an (egg white) omelet, a protein shake, some kale, skips the toast, because seriously pizza, what the fuck had he been thinking, and is showered and ready for practice when Giroux calls at 6:30 with his promised update on Jacks.

 

 

He gets into practice 45 minutes before anybody else, is already stretched, warmed up and in his gear when the first guys start filtering into the room.   “Hey Chants, how’s your boy doing?” a couple of them ask.

Luc frowns, straightens his gloves, grips his stick, “He’s fine. Hurry up and get dressed, last night’s zone entries were a fucking nightmare, if you guys stop messing around we can get in 20 minute of drills before Coach starts practice.”

He’s met with a room full of surprised stares.  “Uh, sure, bro, I know last night wasn’t great but anyway you can win it, right? We didn’t do that bad on-”

“Save it for video review” Luc interrupts and starts heading down the hall to the ice.

A few nights later they’re playing the Knights at home, and Luc’s concentrating, trying to get the tape on his stick just right.  He fucks it up, curses, peels the tape off, balls it up and throws it on the floor, before taping it again.

“Hey buddy?” Luc looks up when he feels a hand, solid and warm on his shoulder, “whatcha doing?”

“Taping my stick?” He asks, because it should be fucking obvious what he’s doing.  Is Burns having some sort of senior moment?  He is very old.

“Sure” Burns nods, and his eyes flicker down to the floor. Luc follows his gaze. The floor around him is surrounded by tape balls.  The equipment staff is usually better about keeping things tidy.   Luc frowns.

“That one looks really good. Perfect.” Burns jerks his head to Luc’s stick.  “But uh, we’re about to start two-touch.  It’s almost 5:35, you know the drill.  Don’t want to be late, right?”  

Luc glances uncertainly at his stick.  Burns reaches out with his hand, bumps his knuckle around each circle of tape, 1 through 9, counting them softly.  “See. 9 times around. All the angles the same, all the edges line up. Looks perfect, kiddo. Come on, we need you for soccer.” Burns reaches out gently, takes the stick from him, places it just as gently on the wall with all the other sticks.  

 

 

They win. Luc has a four point night.   The media asks him about the hit on Jacks.  Luc swallows, is glad that he pulled his ball cap on before he took media, that he can put his chin down and the brim will cover his eyes.  “It was late. It was high.  It was dirty as hell.  That’s all I have to say about it.”

 

He cools down on the bike for 66 minutes afterwards and the locker room is mostly empty by the time he gets out of the shower. Normally he stops at 45. He’d been close to stopping at 60, legs tired, but…66 felt better than 60, probably.  He’s not sure whether 99 would be better than 66. That’s…a debate he’s unwilling to admit he might be wrong about.  Herts is waiting for him in the changing room, thumbing through his phone.  “Hey, kid. Great night out there, huh?”

Luc nods, makes a face that probably looks like a smile, bumps his shoulder against Herts’, and then starts putting on clothes.  “Want a ride home tonight?  Marta make that rice thing you like the other day, she heat some up for you.”

“Thanks Herts,” Luc says, pulling on a sweatshirt, “but I’m just gonna go home, turn in.”

“Sure. Maybe we get drink on way home? Someplace lowkey.”

Luc claps Herts on the shoulder, “Nah, thanks Herts but I’m beat. Gonna go home and sleep.”

“Okay” Herts says, “anytime” he says, getting his own keys, “anytime you want to talk, okay?”

“I know Herts. Thanks. I know.”

 

 

Luc goes home and showers again, sets out three new shot glasses of whiskey on his mantle piece, lights the candles, does push-ups on the living room floor until his arms are shaking, and then falls asleep.  Ryan sends him a gaming invite over Steam. Luc turns his TV off.

He manages to sleep until four, wakes up restless, scared, sick in his chest and heart.  He runs. Weighs egg whites and cream of wheat and turkey bacon using the kitchen scale to precisely fit the macros he’d recalculated the other day. He’s in warm-up clothes and ready for the 6:30 call from Giroux.  He gets into the practice complex early enough that he can lift for an hour and a half before skate starts.

 

 

They play the Canucks.  Luc’s had half the guys running zone entries and passing drills before practice every day this week.  The Canucks are on a roll this year.  Luc gets a hat trick.  When it gets to 5-1, the Canucks start playing rough instead of smart.  Luc gets 2 minutes for roughing, and then, 6 minutes later, another 2 for slashing. The Sharks win, 6-1.   Luc smiles at the press cameras and talks about getting pucks to the net and how easy is to score when you have such great linemates.

He thanks the equipment guy who saved his hat trick puck for him, puts in his suit pocket.   He wants to go home, but good hockey players don’t go home when they score a hat trick and their team viciously routes rivals. So he trails along with everyone to the bar, does three shots in quick succession, pours another out on the floor with a quick touch to his necklace, and surreptitiously leaves after 45 minutes while no one’s paying much attention. Back home he puts the puck on the mantle and pours a shot of vodka over it. He does ab work until he pukes, brushes his teeth, falls asleep on the couch with the tea lights and the poster.

 

 

A week after Jacks gets hit, the Devils come through on their California roadie.  Wilson drifts over to the Sharks bench during a commercial break, mouthguard hanging out of one corner of his mouth. “Hey Chantal, saw that hit on your boy.”

Luc’s half way off the bench, gloves about to go off, but Wilson holds up his hands, “Peace, bruh, I’m not chirping, it was a bad hit.”

Luc sits back down and eyes Wilson skeptically.  “Okay” he says, “it was a bad hit. What the fuck is it to you, Wilson?”

Wilson just laughs a little and said “Was gonna see if you wanted to go?”

Luc thinks he hears Herts say “shit” under his breath a few seats over on the bench.

“Why?”

Wilson shrugs, “Just thought you looked like you wouldn’t mind throwing a few punches. Thought I’d offer.”

“Okay” Luc nods, “after the faceoff.”

 

He and Wilson are actually pretty well-matched, at least for size. There’s also that part where Tom Wilson has about a decade’s worth of time earning his paycheck through penalty minutes and Luc doesn’t.  Still, it’s a good fight. Luc gets a few good punches in, even if it’s Wilson who brings him down.  Wilson’s a little bloodied despite being the victor; it’s satisfying comfort.  Luc goes to the box and works at a tooth that he’s pretty sure is about to fall out and that is seeping blood, making his mouth taste like copper.  When his five minutes are up he skates a shift and then heads to the bench to let Rick take a look at it.  They pull it there on the bench, and Rick goes away to do whatever it is they do with teeth.

“Feel better?” Herts asks, dry.

Luc shrugs, tongues the hole in his mouth a little out of reflex. He does, but he also, no, not at all.  It feels like the rage that had been boiling under his skin, the worry, the fear, a little bit of the pressure had released, like from an escape valve, but the rest is still there, now even closer to the surface, desperate to get out.  “Sort of” Luc answers.

 

 

After he finishes with press he walks outside the locker room to see Wilson there waiting for him.  “Hey,” Wilson says, “walk with me.”

He and Wilson walk down one of the long empty corridors until they find a back room not being used.  “So” Wilson starts, “we play Philly in five days.  I know your bro probably can’t look at electronics very much right now, so you’re probably getting to talk to him less than you’re used to. Is there anything you want me to take him?”

Luc’s a little shocked by the offer, “Like...what?”

Wilson gives him a significant look but doesn’t offer any suggestion.

“Uh, I mean….”

And then Wilson just…sighs…like Luc is the most trying toddler, and leans forward, and suddenly he’s got his hands on Luc’s shoulders, bringing him in, lips just brushing across Luc’s before pressing more ardently.  It’s not a “hey there, how you doin’?’” kind of kiss. It’s not a kiss for a stranger. It’s a gentle, “I’m sorry you’re hurt and I miss you and please take care of yourself” kiss.   And just as quickly, it’s done.  Wilson pulls away, rolls his eyes, and says “I know it’s hard when you’re apart and someone’s hurt, okay? So should I give him your love or whatever the fuck?”

Luc blinks. Then blinks again. His lips are tingling. “Uh. How did you know-”

Wilson rolls his eyes again .  “Please. You think you two invented that ‘what a bromance’ shit? Latts and I fucking perfected it before you were out of Peewee.  So look, if there’s anything else you want to give him, a letter on actual paper not a computer screen, some book or a shirt or some shit, I don’t know what you guys do, just drop it off tomorrow morning at the hotel before I have to get on the bus. We’re at the Marriott. You can leave it at the front desk if you want.” And then he walks off down an access-hallway leaving Luc feeling confused as all fuck.

 

Luc drives by the Marriott at 5:30 am because he doesn’t know when the Devils are leaving but he also doesn’t really want to have to talk to Wilson again.  He leaves a letter, Jacks’ favorite one of his sweatshirts that he’d had to steal back before the start of the season, and a pack of Redvines.

 

 

They play the Stars, the Jets, the Flames, the Kings, the Canadiens, the ‘Yotes, the Red Wings. Luc’s on the longest running 3+ points a night streak in the NHL ever.  The media keeps talking about it.  Luc smiles the smile he’s been trained to smile since he was 12, and says the things he’s been trained to say since even earlier.   The media also keeps asking about his penalty minutes – he’s on a streak there too.  Luc talks about playing a fast paced game with passion, leaving it all on the ice, and praises the Sharks PK, the words more automatic than they are purposefully scripted.

He doesn’t say that he slashed Ron Newsome because he knew the guy had a temper and Luc wanted a fight, that the 4 roughing penalties and 4 major fighting penalties after Wilson are because he can’t stop his fists from clenching, can’t stop the helpless feeling from trying to claw its way out of his chest, that he started a line brawl with a team they see twice a year and have no rivalry with because it’s been weeks and he’s barely heard Jacks’ voice, just updates from Claude Giroux, who calls him dutifully every morning to say “he kept soup and half a grilled cheese down last night.”  “He has a doctor’s appointment today, I’m taking him after practice.”  “He still gets dizzy getting up to piss.” “He forgot he was in Philadelphia after his nap yesterday.”  “He asks for you every time he wakes up.” “He did good today, still a headache but not so much confusion.”  

Luc’s pretty sure he’d be hearing a lot more about it from Coach, from all of the front office, if he wasn’t putting up so many points every night.  Yeah, no one wants their elite goal scorer risking his soft hands in a bunch of dumb fights.  Luc knows it.  But he can’t stop doing it.  And he’s overheard some of the coaching staff and management talking about it.  Nobody’s ever gone on a point streak like this before.  “He’s a big guy,” Assistant Coach had hedged, “tough, big bodied.  He’s been okay so far. We don’t want to….do anything… to his momentum right now.”   Luc had kept walking past the office door.  Too many people in suits.  None of it mattered anyway. Luc was going to keep doing what he was doing.  The gods of hockey are the gods of hockey .  They don’t want guys in suits or calculated cost/benefit analysis. They want blood and sweat and goals.  Luc’s going to give it to them.

 

When all the shot glasses on his mantle are full he buys new glasses.  It’s harder, to go for his runs when they’re on the road, but the hotels always have gyms, and they’re almost always empty at 4 in the morning.

 

 

Luc’s going to fight Dasker. That’s…basic.  And he should be able to, hopefully. Dasker will be back from his suspension by the time the Jackets come through on their roadie, and unless the Jackets healthy scratch him, they’re going to fight.  But he’s not an asshole.  He’s gonna ask the guy. They’ll drop gloves, take their helmets off, he’s not gonna jump the guy from behind or something.  There’s a right way to do things. A code.

Coach knows he’s gonna fight Dasker. Everybody on the team knows it’s gonna go down. But Coach keeps them off the ice together for the 1st period, just saying “score as many fucking goals as you can for us, if you’re gonna go to the box later.”   Luc gets two goals within 32 seconds of each other and the Jackets are pissed.

In the 2nd period, Herts gets a goal off Luc and Temi’s assist and as the minutes of the period are creeping down coach sighs and “fine, go” and lets Luc over the boards while the Jackets 4th line is on.

Luc skates by Dasker and says “you and me are gonna go.”

“Oh yeah” Dasker smirks, “gonna show me a good time, Chantal?”

At the faceoff Dasker fakes him out, looks like he’s gonna drop gloves but doesn’t just as Luc does.  The linesman blows his whistle, and Luc goes to the box for 2 minutes for instigating without a single blow being thrown.  Luc’s…pissed.

The Jackets score on the power play.  Luc’s a little beyond pissed.

Dasker skates by the bench with 3 minutes left in the period and says “your boy still in the hospital? I hear I knocked him out pretty good.”

And Luc’s not really sure, after that, the exact sequence of events. But he’s not on the bench anymore, helmet, gloves somehow…gone…and he knows he’s shouting. Hears himself shouting “Ta gueule, crissement p’tite tabernaker queue!” Dasker’s laughing, and then he’s not, because his head is swinging, a wide arc of blood and teeth coming from his mouth.  Dasker shakes his head from Luc’s punch, grins, mouth a bloody mess.

Tenue en souriant, t’es pas game!  Tabarnak de plotte sale! ” someone is shouting and Luc is sort of, distantly, aware that it’s probably him. There’s a rushing, roaring sound in his ears that makes everything sort of hard to hear. Luc’s not sure if it’s the crowd or his blood in his veins.

Dasker swings at Luc – connects in a bone rattling hit - and then they’re falling, wrapped into each other, and Luc’s not thinking about fighting, he’s just thinking about hurting , about breaking as much of Dasker’s stupid face as he can, thinking about spilling enough blood on the ice as an offering (his or Dasker’s or both, it doesn’t matter), isn’t paying attention to how much Dasker is hitting back, or the shouting of the teams and the refs and the crowd behind him.  Dasker’s fist connects with Luc’s face twice in quick succession, and Luc hears it more than he feels it – just a loud crunch and grind. Something’s probably broken but Luc doesn’t feel anything except a sudden flood of warmth over his face.  Luc strikes and strikes again, rolls them until he’s on top, straddling him even as Dasker drives his own fist into Luc’s face once more. “Penche-toi chienne ” Luc snarls through a mouth suddenly filled with blood, grabbing Daskers sweater collar, slamming him against the ice and driving his fist into him again.  And then Luc is being dragged off and a ref is shouting at him, words that don’t really make sense, just loud disjointed syllables and someone else, a little gentler, is pulling him away. He doesn’t go to the box, they just push him down the corridor, so, oh, that’s…a game misconduct then, Luc’s not coming back tonight.   

It’s Luc’s fifth Gordie Howe in two weeks.

“Jesus Christ, kid” He hears Herts voice says.  Luc’s bleeding from somewhere, probably an eyebrow, badly enough that it’s hard for him to see exactly. The trainers cluster around him and Luc’s shaking, fine trembles of adrenaline still pumping through him, now with nowhere to go, even as exhaustion hits him.

“Don’t you need to be playing?” Luc asks.  It sounds weird when he talks and he lisps a little, like suddenly his tongue isn’t sure where it’s supposed to be.

“English, kid, I don’t speak French,” Herts says.  Luc’s shivering more now, but Herts is holding him tight.

“Game?” It’s about as much as he can manage.

“Take them a while to clean the ice. Too much blood, kid. Nobody playing just now.”

“I need to get to him, Tomas” he can hear Rick the trainer saying.

“Give me a second, he needs calm down before people start poke.” Herts answers back, pulling Luc in closer. Luc lets himself fall against Herts, buries his face in the collar of his sweater and shakes.

 

 

Luc winds up at the hospital, eventually, for X-rays because he cracked an orbital.  He’s missing….all of his front teeth, and his nose is broken.  He’s got boxer fractures in his 4th and 5th metacarpals.  Rick says he’s not sure if he’s passing the concussion protocol or not, can’t tell what’s adrenaline and crashing endorphins and what’s head injury symptoms, but just says they’ll test again tomorrow. They tape his fingers and give him pain meds that make him loopy and nauseated, and then stuff for the nausea that makes him more loopy and sleepy.   He falls asleep at the hospital and wakes up in Herts’ driveway, slumped against Herts’ shoulder.  Herts half walks half carries him into the house and into his old bed, still in the t-shirt and gym shorts he was wearing at the hospital.  Luc’s still out of it, a little dizzy from the morphine, but he thinks he can hear Marta fussing over him. He falls asleep almost immediately.

 

 

 

“The important thing is to sound contrite. You just want to go in, say you’re sorry, that emotions and the heat of the game got the better of you.”

“Yeah that’s going to be a problem, Coach” Luc says, setting his jaw, “I’m not sorry.”

“Son, you need to-”

“I’m not sorry.  What would you do if someone put your wife in the hospital?”

“My wife doesn’t play professional hockey,” Coach says, voice tinged a little bit with confusion.

“Right, but my husband does. So I’m not sorry, and the only reason Jeff Dasker isn’t actually dead is because I didn’t think San Jose Correctional Facility would let me play hockey on work release.”

“Oh hell, son,” Coach sighs, “I’m going to do you a favor and forget every word you just said. And you’re going to do me a favor and promise not to do anything stupid or homicidal for the rest of the season.  And Amanda is going to do us all a favor and give you a list of things you’re allowed to say at the committee hearing.”

“Oh I already have the list ready” Amanda’s smile is tight and angry, “You can say ‘yes sir’, ‘no sir’, ‘I’m very sorry sir’ and ‘thank you for your time, gentleman’.  Another thing that might be good for you to say, like right now for instance, might be ‘I’m sorry, Amanda, oh amazing PR person who has helped me many times in the past, for not telling you potentially important information about major personal life events like a marriage to another famous hockey player.’ Just a thought.”

 

Because there’s no such thing as privacy in hockey, and because Coach hadn’t shut the door all the way before their talk, and because all hockey players are nosy gossips, the entire conversation is general locker room knowledge by the time Luc has even walked out of Coach’s office.  (He’s pretty sure they were just live updating the proceedings through group chat.) When he walks into the room, Neezy says “Dude” with great gravitas and then hugs him.  

“Wait, Chants is married to Jackson ??”  Spats cries, crashing into the locker room.  “What the fuck?”

“Catch up, Spats.”

“Fuck you, I was in massage, I wasn’t looking at my phone.” Spats argues and then wheels around to stare at Luc incredulously, “Dude, you got married and didn’t tell us, so non-beauty, bro!”

“We didn’t even get to give you a bachelor party!” Neezy whines.

“Oh my god, does this mean Chants has been cheating on Jackson?” Someone shouts, indignant, into the chaos.

“Dude, you cheated on Oliver Jackson?  Holy shit, dude, how could you, he won the Arty last year! He’s a better play-maker than Datsuk!”

“If you can’t keep a man faithful with an Art Ross trophy, how can you?” Hallsy pouts, shaking his head with faux mournfulness.

Luc clenches his jaw and reminds himself that he’s not allowed to punch teammates, especially ones that are trying their best to be supportive, even if they’re all, massively, missing the point. The point isn’t…any of this bullshit. The point is that Jacks is hurt because Luc….because Luc wasn’t good enough to deserve him and now he has to shove as many goals as he can down the NHLs throat, until the hockey gods fix him .

Burnsie pulls him into a hug, but there’s zero surprise on his face.  Luc squints at him, “You knew?”

Burnsie shrugs, “My French is a little better than I let on, I’ve known since the beginning of last year, that time in the video room.”

“Wait.” Willie asks, “last year? Does that mean we have to get him candlesticks or not?”

“Dude,” Spats muses, “no wonder you were so fucking torn up about it.  You want us go to rough Dasker up some more?”

“No” Luc sighs, “I promised Coach no murder.”

 

 

Luc has his meeting with Player Safety over Skype an hour later.  His face is puffy and mottled purple with bruising and he’s basically toothless.  He doesn’t say he’s sorry, but he does stick to yes sir, no sir, and it won’t happen again sir.  He has to work not to lisp but he manages okay, some of his bottom teeth are just broken not gone.  He looks at Patrick Burke’s face and wonders if he’d consider the situation differently if Luc told him that Dasker had concussed his husband.  He doesn’t mention it. The Player Safety Committee fines him $2,500 and suspends him for 6 games for Intent to Injure.   Luc wants to argue, but instead he just grits his teeth, holds his tongue until he can force out a “thank you.”  Coach shrugs afterwards, “could have been worse. We’ll live for 6 games.  Don’t let it fucking happen again, Chantal. You don’t want that sort of reputation in the league.”  They’d probably be more pissed about it if Luc’s fevered point streak hadn’t just dragged the Sharks up 4 (tight) spaces in the conference rankings before he got suspended.  They’re pretty close to clinching a playoff spot already and it’s early yet.

 

Herts offers to take him back to his place again, but Luc declines, ignores Herts worried face,  avoids his protests, and drives himself to the dentist, before going home, pouring three shots of whisky into the shot glasses on the mantle, doing three sets of 66 burpees, taking his Ibuprofen and falling asleep.

 

The next morning he wakes up early, as usual, and goes for his run. It hurts, the bouncing impact not a great feeling in his ... entire face … but there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be able to run and if he sticks to the soft sand on the beach it’s not as bad.  When he gets back from his run he showers, makes himself a plate of scrambled egg whites and a bowl of yogurt, and is surprised when his usual phone call from Giroux comes over Jacks’ Skype account, not G’s phone.  He hits accept and is surprised to see Jacks instead of Giroux. He looks like shit, dark circles under his eyes, thin, in Luc’s ratty sweatshirt with two week’s worth of stubble. He also looks fucking pissed.

“What the fuck are you doing, Luc?”

“Jacks??? What are you doing, you’re not cleared for screen-time yet, are you?  Hang the fuck up, where’s G??”

“Shut up, Luc. I’m fine. We’re talking about you, not me. What the fuck are you doing?”

“Uh, just eating breakfast, Chants, getting ready for practice in a little while.”

“You’re not going to practice today. It’s optional.”

How the fuck does Jacks know that?  “Like fuck I’m not going to practice. Jacks you shouldn’t even be on a phone much less Skype, you need to-”

“You’re not going to practice, Luc.” Jacks said, voice flat, unwavering, face exactly the way it looks when he absolutely is about to win a faceoff.  “Do you know why you’re not going to practice?”

“No, because I definitely am going to practice. I passed my protocols. It’s been two days.  My face is just a little cracked. Everybody plays with missing teeth.”

“How many miles did you run this morning, Luc?”

Luc looks away.

“Fucking answer me.”

“13.”

“Right. So you’re not going to practice. It’s optional and you just ran half a fucking marathon and there are actual shadows in your cheek bones. The cheek bones that are actually broken because you picked a fight with a 6’7” enforcer who probably tapes his knuckles like it’s 1973, and he broke your face . Your extremely pretty face that I’m kind of partial to. You’re going to take a motherfucking maintenance day and rest, and then you’re going to pack your shit and move back in with Herts.”

“I’m not moving back in with Herts! He’s got another baby on the way. I’m perfectly fucking fine and-”

“I’ve already talked to Marta. She’s expecting you, got the guest bed made up and everything. You’re moving back in, and you’re going to eat her fucking cooking, every single thing she puts on the plate.”

“I’m not crisse d’ – you can’t just-"

“Luc. Look at me.”

“Fuck you.”

“Look. At. Me.”

Luc looks up and the absolute worst thing is that Jacks doesn’t even look angry anymore. He doesn’t look worried, which okay, maybe that would be worse. He looks fucking sure.  “Right now I’m setting the fucking play, so you’re going to get your ass into position and take the fucking pass.”

“I don’t-”

“It’s my fucking play, Luc, say it.”

Luc feels something crack in his chest. “It’s your play.”

“That’s right, and right now I want the best fucking goal scorer in the NHL ever to get his shit straight, eat some pudding or ice cream or whatever the hell you can eat with that face, enjoy your maintenance day, and play some good hockey. You play your best hockey when you’re loose and in the flow, Luc, you know that, that’s when all athletes play their best. Not when you’re freaking out in some self-destructive control-based religious shame spiral. Stop being so fucking Catholic about your heathen superstitions, okay?”

“It’s…”

“I’ve already called Rick. And you’re really fucking lucky I didn’t call your mom.”

Oh that is so fucking low.  Luc’s Mom is in the Balkans at a dig. She does not need to be worried with this shit. “What the fuck? Which Rick? You leave my fucking-”

“Rick the head trainer. And Rick the assistant coach. They’re not expecting you for practice but you are expected for a 2 pm appointment with the sports psych doctor.”

“What the fuck, Jacks. I’m not crazy!”

“I know you’re not. 99% of the time, Luc, you’re on the right side of the line.  Sometimes you’re on the fucking edge of it, but you always stay on the right side. But this, Luc, this is not okay. This is not healthy.  If we’re lucky, we could have 15 more years playing hockey, and you can’t play good hockey going into the postseason with barely 2% body fat, and you sure as fuck can’t play good hockey sitting in the fucking press box because you got your ass suspended for trying to murder some 4th line grinder.  Luc. I’m going to get injured.  I know you hate not being in control. I know you hate it when I’m hurt and there’s nothing you can do about it, but it’s going to happen.  Nobody’s going to lock you away for being nuts. They’re just going to give you some stuff you can do, some training exercises to handle it better when I’m out.  That’s what you do in good hockey, Luc: if you have a weakness you address it, and you train it until you get better.  And that’s what’s going to happen.”

“Because you make the plays.”

“When my winger needs it, yeah, I make the fucking plays.”

Luc feels himself just sort of …empty. All of a sudden he feels so fucking tired.  He wants to nap, and wishes desperately that Jacks was here to fall asleep with him on the couch.

“’So” Jacks continues in a different tone of voice, as if he hadn’t just chewed Luc out for the past 10 minutes.  “I need to turn the video off or stop looking at the camera because I’ve used up all my screen time, but I don’t want you to hang up. I haven’t talked to you in forever, Chants. Sit here and talk to me while I lie down, it’ll make me feel better.”

Luc feels something warm and impossibly fond growing in his chest. He knows what Jacks is doing, but he can’t find it in himself to resent it. It feels nice. “What do you want to talk about, did you see-”

“No. I don’t want to hear about the Capitals powerplay. I don’t want to talk about hockey. Talk to me about something else.”

“I don’t…”

“How about your mom?  Has she published anything recently?”

“Uhmm yeah…a couple of months ago I think.”

“Yeah?  Where it’d get published?”

“Uh… Nature I think.”

“Boss. What was it about?”

“Uh you know… primate stuff.”

“Luc.”

“Okay…so like…I guess they did some sort of DNA tests for this group of Neanderthal remains they found in Croatia and like…..well I mean they already knew they had this FoxP2 gene thing.”

“What’s that?”

“Uh…FoxP2…it’s like this gene that’s active in humans in a certain way and is linked to language. Neanderthals have it too, and like…uh, birds and shit, cause you know, birdsong, or whatever.  And like, in chimps, but there’s like uh, different amino acids in the human version vs the chimp version. Oh and even in humans it’s more active in females.”

Jacks laughs, “are you saying the reason it took you a year into our marriage to tell me you loved me is because dudes don’t have enough FOXP2 juice.”

“Uh, I mean, it’s bad science to say it’s definitively because of that, but, I guess people sometimes imply that there’s a correlation.”

“Alright, so I’m not even going to touch the irony of Luc ‘Once I walked to my stall from the left side of the room and got a hat trick and I haven’t walked around the other way since then’ Chantal preaching the importance of ‘correlation is not causation’ to me, but okay, back on topic, Neanderthals have this Fox gene but they already knew that. What boss-ass shit did your mom discover?”

Luc laughs a little at this, “well like, I guess, they looked at these tools found in this new dig, and people thought like, for sure they were human tools even though they were kind of different, or that maybe like, it was some intersection between the two species, and this guy in Switz was arguing that Neanderthals and early humans were trading technology? Which like sure, maybe, but that’s like…I don’t know. Anyway some of the remains were super well preserved, and maman found this way to test FOXP2 activity via this…uh… procuration… uhh...proxy? and anyway, and it was higher in this one group of Neanderthals, with the fancier tools, and she’s arguing that since FOXP2 has been shown to control brain…well neurons actually, um, neurone … souplesse … uhmm”

“Flexibility?” Jacks offers

“Yeah, flexibility…or well, plastic…plasticness?

“Plasticity”

“Right, so anyway, all that shit means better adaptability, at least in your brain, like the ability to adapt and learn new things, you could argue? And also better communication possibly? Which could support an hypothèse that this particular group of Neanderthals were more adaptive in their tool making because of increased communication. I guess. Or something. So they measured the FOXP2 activity levels in captive and wild chimps and then uh…..compared their tool making and found that chimps that had higher levels of FOXP2 activity also had greater interpersonal communication in the group and shared ideas about tool use.”

Jacks is silent for a few seconds and then says “So, this group of Neanderthals could have been more successful, adaptive hunters and tool makers because they were better at talking about shit than other Neanderthals?”

“Well...”

“How interesting” Jacks remarks dryly, “Lessons even modern humans can learn from.”

“Ha ha, Jacks.”

“Yeah yeah, dead horse. I love you.”

"J’t’aime aussi. What about your mom, Jacks. Gotta any crazy ER stories?”

“Oh my god, you wouldn’t believe.  She said this guy came in the ER the other day and….”

 

 

Luc falls asleep listening to Jacks describe all the ridiculous ways people wind up in the emergency room with various objects in various orifices.  When he wakes up the Skype call has ended and Marta is letting herself into the apartment with their spare key.

“Oh my sweet boy” she says when she comes into the living room and sees the mantle piece. She shoves a warm Tupperware container in his hand, “eat this now, I’m going to go pack your bag for you.”

Luc makes a face, “I’m not a kid, I don’t need-”

Marta gives a look and Luc just sighs. “Fine.”

 

 

 

The next day Luc gets a snapchat from Jack. It’s a video of the console and dash of some nice SUV, Lauryn Hill singing on the radio, “How you gonna win when you ain’t right within?  How you gonna win if you aint’ right within? How you gonna win if you aint’ right within ”, with no text, because Jack knows Luc went through a BIG Lauryn Hill phase circa grade 9, and he probably figures it should be self-explanatory. He brings up his most recent contacts and hits call.

“Bonjour, Chantal” Giroux’s voice answers, dry and a little chirpy.

“Pourquoi l’osti t’letté  Jacks ont son cell?”

“Tu fas cela juste pour faire mes dents démangeaisons.”

“T’as-tu des dents?”

“Connard” Giroux says cheerfully. “hows that grill of yours looking these days?”

“J’vas les remplacer tous avec l’or. Donnes-moé Jacks.”

“Hi Chants, calling G now instead of me?  Moving on to a different red-head, huh, eh?”  He’s joking but his voice still sounds a little tired and thin.  

“There is no world, no me that is right if I don’t have you, Jacks.” Luc states flatly, ignoring the chirp, “Stop looking at your cell phone screen and take care of your brain and I’ll take care of mine. J’t’aime tourjours” and hits end call.

 

 

**

 

 

Luc sleeps and eats and goes to his meetings like he’s supposed to. And Jacks, who is finally allowed 15 minutes of screen time a day, calls him every morning, early, when Luc would normally be pacing and itching to go run off his nervous energy. Instead Jacks calls every morning with some new demand: “tell me about this”, “order me these three obscure things off the internet after we hang up because I don’t want to waste my screen time looking for them”, “read me this book, I don’t like the Audible reader’s voice” and one memorable time “so, did Tom Wilson really come to G’s house, give me a pack of red vines and kiss me or was I hallucinating?”  It’s blatantly transparent, but Luc is grateful nonetheless.  It gives him something to do, some way that he can feel like he’s doing something, helping .

 

Luc’s terrified, the first time he finally mentions to the sports psych doctor about about the whole...gods...situation.  Like she’s going to write “RELIGIOUS DELUSIONS” in big red letters on some secret file and he’s never going to be able to play hockey again.  But she doesn’t even blink.  Then again, he’s not the first neurotically superstitious athlete she’s dealt with.  Mostly she talks to him about control, and breathing exercises and ways to recognize destructive and negative thought patterns and turn them around.  

 

Four days into his “recuperation” (i.e. suspension i.e. grounding), Luc gets sick.  Snotty nosed, coughing up his lungs, sick.  Rick (the trainer) makes a wry face at him while he coughs his way through a checkup.  “It’s almost like,” Rick says, as he unwinds the tape around Luc’s fingers, “we all know what we’re doing because it’s our jobs, and we have this whole meal and exercise plan made out for you to optimize your health and conditioning.”

“Yeah yeah” Luc sniffs.

“It’s not like we like to go easy on you. If we could work you harder and keep you leaner and it’d be better, we would.  Elite athletes are already on the narrow apex of the bell curve, my friend.  You work yourself too hard, limit your diet too much, you sneak in extra workouts or alter your meal plan without telling your trainers, you put too much stress on your body, it crashes the moment you give it time to rest.”

Luc sneezes, and tries to look pitiful enough that Rick will stop rubbing it in.

He doesn’t. He makes noises about the swelling in Luc’s hand going down nicely and wraps it up again, keeping up a steady flow of “serves you right.”

“Wait, I mean, I’m going with you guys on the next roadie right?” Luc interrupts after Rick mentions that he’ll be gone for the next week.

“Uh, no” Rick says, looking at him surprised, “you’re definitely not. Coaching staff wants you here.”

“But just because I’m suspended doesn’t mean I can’t skate and practice with the boys. Watch from the press box, I’ve got to support-”

“You’re staying here,” Rick says, “under the watchful eye of Marta Hertl who I’ve had many email conversations with. She has a meal plan list with a new set of macros for you while I’m gone. You need to be bulking.  She also has all your doctor appointment and training times.  She’s going to fatten you up and feed you Belarusian chicken soup and you’re going to thank her for it.”

Luc huffs and says “That’s not fair, I need to-”

“You’re lucky” Rick says, sharply.  He has Luc’s head between his hands, turns his head to examine the stitches on Luc’s face, “that you have such a strong support system. You’re not being ungrateful are you?”

“No” Luc sighs and then winces as Rick does something to the stitches above his eyebrow.  “I’m not ungrateful.”

“Good” Rick says pointedly, “Ungrateful is a really stupid thing for a kid in his sophomore year of the NHL to be. Especially a kid who spent the past month acting like an idiot. Besides, you have a dental surgery appointment at the end of the week, so you’ll need to be here for that.”  He lets Luc’s face go, steps back, and thumps Luc on the knee, “okay, looking good, healing up nicely.  Stop at the smoothie bar on your way out, I had Jase make you up something for your way out. You’ll love it, it tastes foul and has a lot of kale. And say hi to that husband of yours for me, he seems like a good egg.”

 

A couple of days later, Luc’s ensconced in the couch, obediently eating borscht and draniki and drinking some sort of steaming hot tea made with ginger and honey when Crash walks in, presumably from where Marta let her in.

“You’re an asshole” she says, eyeing Luc before sitting down next to him on the couch.

“I know” Luc sighs. He holds the plate of potato pancakes out to here, “draniki?”

Crash takes one, chews it speculatively, “we’ve been calling you for weeks. Stick’s feelings were really hurt.”

Luc winces. “I know. I’m sorry, I’m….I’m really sorry, Crash, j’suis désolé.”

“We were worried .” She continues.  Luc sneezes.  “We’re your friends.” She carries on, ruthless as always.

Luc puts his soup down, and grabs her hand. “I know. I’m sorry. I just….Jacks was all…”

Crash squeezes his fingers. “I know too. It’s okay. We know you went all ‘Achilles when Patroclus died’. I just want you to know, we’re your friends, we’re supposed to be there for you.”  

Luc nods and attempts his most remorseful face.

“Oh my god stop it with the eyes.”  She eyes the couch for a few seconds and says “Okay, so you want to cuddle on the couch and take a nap for a bit and then go see Stick’s dissertation defense? It’s today at 3pm.”

“Fuck” Luc hisses. Wow, he really is an asshole.

“Yeah” Crash says, and pushes him down onto the couch, “exactly. Come on, put on that kids cooking show you pretend you don’t like, we’ve got an hour and a half to sleep before we need to leave.  You’ve got nice jeans and like….a real shirt with actual sleeves here right? We’re going to dinner afterwards- the whole friends and family celebratory thing.”

“My face is too fucked up to meet parents” Luc protests, trying to get comfortable.

“Oh I know, it’s going to be hilarious.  But Anthony Richard DeRochier Senior used to be a boxer, in New Orleans. He’ll love you. He’ll be literally delighted that his son left the lab long enough to make friends with the type of guy who knows how to take a punch to the face, not us reefer smoking beach bums. Stop wiggling around, go to sleep.”

 

 

The next day Luc gets his mouth fixed (mostly), and Marta picks him up and stops on the way home to get him frozen yogurt. He has no memory of this, of course, still out of it from the anesthesia, but she records it and sends it to Herts who chirps him about via team group chat for the next few days.

 

 

The day after Luc gets his mouth fixed, he shows up afterwards at Ryan’s door with a six-pack of small batch apology beer and the newest Doom, still in its wrapper.

“Woah” Ryan says when he answers the door, “Holy shit. Your face, man. Like, Jess and Videep told me that you’d gone all like….wrathful vengeance, shock and awe on the NHL, but …wow.  You look like shit. Did you really rip a dude’s face off?”

“No” Luc said, “uh, can I come in? I wanna kill some alien demon things.”

“Sweet” Ryan said, “Also, apology accepted.  You can pay for delivery - is Indian okay, or do you want sushi?”

 

 

A week and a half later the Sharks are back home and the Flyers come through on their California roadie.  Luc watches the game from the press box, stiff in his game day suit, but goes downstairs for the last few minutes, and is waiting for the boys when they file through at the end. When he steps out of the dressing room while the guys shower and cool down he’s surprised to see Giroux, Couturier, Ghost, Teufel, and Kowalski all standing there, waiting for him.  And is even more surprised when Giroux pulls him into a hug.

Some media asshole takes a picture of it, puts it on Twitter.  Luc doesn’t normally get pissed when the press do stuff, they have a job too, but it chafes to see the picture of himself, face buried in Giroux’s shoulder, Couturier and Ghost looking worried and protective, Teufel and Kowalski standing there sympathetic.  It’s personal, and private, and none of anybody else’s goddamn business.   

 

Amanda, however, is pleased with it, despite Luc’s grumblings about privacy.  “I know you don’t like it, but it dovetails in very nicely,” she’d said.   Luc’d had a meeting with her, her PR team, and a few of front office brass as soon as the team had gotten back, about their “plan moving forward.”  Some of management had been concerned with Luc’s perception in media, etc.  But Amanda has been solid as a rock. She’d said “don’t worry about it, I can handle it, it will be easy.”

“Public perception can be hard to-” some old dude had started.

“Luc is very fortunate because up until the last month, he’s been everyone’s favorite Labrador retriever puppy – cute, good natured, but sometimes a little overly exuberant. All we need to do is make it clear that this was less a case of ‘family dog goes mad, bites everyone’, and more ‘beloved faithful friend bravely defends boy.’  I’ve got some talking points, Coach, that you can mention in post-games if it comes up, just stuff about work ethic, team player type stuff, but mostly we’ll drive it through twitter and Instagram: we’ve got a series of gifs and video clips that will emphasize the friendship narrative, as well as some of the team challenge videos with games and trivia things we do that will showcase how well he gets along with the team, his good nature, etc, and those will be going up soon.  We can schedule Luc for two upcoming community events while he’s still suspended, including one with kids ice hockey teams, and another for a local animal shelter, a 5k dog walk.  And I’m working closely with Christie in the Flyers PR department to put together a longer video of Jackson and Luc’s friendship. There’s a surprising amount of footage even from before Juniors, they've been in front of the camera for a long time.  National Best Friends day isn’t until June, but we can come up with another reason to post it. Otherwise we’ll just keep pushing stats about his point streak, leading scoring right now, etc.

“Is there anything else I can do?” Luc asks, because it sounds like everyone else has their marching orders.

“Yes” Amanda says, putting her phone down, “stick to the talking points we gave you in post-games, don’t gel your hair or pull it back in any media, make sure you leave it sort of …loose and fluffy, wear white or cool jewel tones, no primary colors especially red, and make that face that you do.”

“Uh” Luc says, because that’s all weirdly specific, but also “what face?”

Amanda is typing something on her tablet and doesn’t even look up, “that thing you do with your cheekbones and your …eyelashes. Do that as much as you can on camera. It’s almost impossible to stay mad at you when you make that face.”

“I can’t move my cheek bones…they’re attached to my skull,” Luc protests.

Amanda’s intern Haydn, who's been sitting quietly in the back, says, “the face that you make at Craft Service’s people when you want extra raspberries in your yogurt; the one that’s the reason why they always give you two pieces of salmon without you even asking. The face that is the reason that pilot once let you into the cockpit and let you look at all the buttons even though they're totally not allowed to do that ever at all now. That face.”

“Uh…smiling?” Luc asks, bewildered.

“Dude.” Haydn says, unimpressed, “don’t even front like you don’t know what I’m talking about it. You wield that thing with precision.”

 

So, Luc Chantal emotionally hugging Claude Giroux outside the locker room is something Luc hates being photographed, but a link Official Sharks PR shares on twitter (and Instagram, and Facebook), and Luc grits his teeth and reminds himself that there’s a reason that they call it The Show.

 

 

The Sharks clinch a playoff spot early. Luc’s...doing better. Mostly. Mostly because Jacks is slowly but surely doing better as well.  But he still can’t shake the feeling like he’s not doing enough.  Like he has to keep laying his point total at the alter.  He gained a little weight back during his 6 game suspension, but it’s late enough in the season that guys are burning down a little even if they hadn’t gotten a little...intense...for a month.  It takes Luc a game to get back into it, and then he starts racking up points again, maybe not at the same burning rate, but still on a roll, racking them up steadily.  He’s got two trainers specifically monitoring him though, pretty much constantly, people constantly shoving food at him, weighing him, counting his reps with more hawk-like vigilance than they ever did before.  Jacks still calls him every morning and evening, demanding and bossy. He’s gotten invested in an array of inane reality shows that Luc hates, but he refuses to give up his screen time minutes to watch them. He makes Luc watch them instead and then narrate over the phone in the evenings.  Luc is grateful for it.  

He has a folder of Rick-approved yoga videos that he is allowed to do when he gets too restless.  It’s not “power” yoga.  There’s a lot of holding stretches, a lot of breathing and centering, and not much sweat.  He puts them on in the mornings if he’s up before Jacks calls.  

 

Luc worries a little, when the Sharks have already clinched their playoff spot, that they’ll pull him from the lineup and rest him for the rest of the regular season, but they don’t.  

 

 

They play the Kings in the first round and dominate through the first two home games. And then Burnsie goes down at a bad angle during practice and breaks his ankle.  They do okay through the rest of the series, but the Kings play rough and the games get chippier and chippier.  Coach loosens up the reins a little on the fighting embargo Luc’s been operating under after Willie gets checked into the board in Game 5 and gets the sort of upper body injury that’s going to require surgery and 8 weeks to heal.  The series gets chippier.  By the time they win in game 7, Luc’s knee is mostly just sports tape and cortisone shots, most of their bottom six are new call-ups, and their d-core is so black and blue the trainers have them in ice baths twice a day.  

They play the Stars in the WCSF and Spats gets knocked out in the first game, just falls wrong in a jumble up in the crease, and tears something in his knee.  It’s bad fucking luck, but with their two best defenseman gone, and a slew of other injuries, they’re hobbled. They push it to game seven. It’s more than most people expected, but it still hurts to lose.

 

At locker clean out, Burnsie announces what they all knew was coming. He’d had a BBQ at his place a couple of nights before and told them all.  Amanda gets him set up in a separate media room with a table and a water bottle, so the press knows it’s going to be a big announcement and there’s really only one that it can be.  Nobody is all that surprised.  Luc and Herts and Hallsy and half the team line up along the walls to watch him speak and give their tacit support.  He says he’s retiring, says he knows he’s leaving the Sharks in good hands, with good leadership in the room.  He takes questions.  Hallsy leans his head against the back of Luc’s shoulder and Luc pretends he doesn’t notice the growing wet spot there from Hallsy’s eyes.  

 

Luc has meetings with team doctors after that, a bunch of people standing around and looking at images of his knee and ultimately deciding on rest, strengthening and no surgery.  He rides back with Herts after.  Marta’s close to her due date, lounging with her feet in the pool.  Luc jumps in, plays with Jonas and the dog and very wisely doesn’t splash her.  Herts brings him a beer, sits down on the side of the pool with his legs dangling in, and says, “They gave me the C.”   

Luc splashes water at him and whoops, before saying, “Good. Ha! You’re going to have to do so much more press! You're going to hate it!”  

Herts splashes water back in his face. “Nah, Gonna make my new A do all that for me, he has a prettier face for video.”

“Me?” Luc says surprised.  

“Duh, kid” Herts says, pulling Jonas onto his lap, “Any other team without so many old leadership, you’d have A already. You and Hallsy, next year.”

Luc leans back in the water, floats on his back.  “We’re going to do good next year, Herts” he grins.

 

The next day Luc cleans out his fridge and locks up his apartment, says goodbye to Ryan.  He drives to Crash’s place and spends the day on the beach with them all and the night curled on their ancient and dubious couch, making them watch playoff hockey.  He would maybe have already left town, except the Flyers are still playing, their first two games of the Eastern Conference Final away in Detroit.  

Jacks was cleared for play half way through the Flyer’s first series, came back in rusty as hell but got better quickly. Luc had been so fucking proud. And relieved.  He’d played good all through series 2, games that Luc had watched when he could, between his own train wreck of a series, and DVR’d the rest to watch on his rest days.  Luc had asked when he should fly out, and Jacks had said to meet him Philly for the home games, so that’s what Luc is doing.  

The Flyers started their series playing hard and Jacks looks like he’s on fire.  They lost game one in OT but win the next one, and going back to home ice with a split is huge.  “ Eastern Conference Final Viewing Party ” Luc tweets with a pic of a bunch of people who previously didn’t care about hockey sitting on the edge of the couch, rapt.  And then later, when Jacks makes a breathtaking pass to Teufel that he sinks into the five hole to pull the Flyers ahead, Luc retweets the myregularface gif of it with five heart-eyes emoji.  

 

 

If there’s any upside to the whole “terrible dangerous brain injury” incident, it’s that the cat is well and truly out of the bag on the Flyers team as well.  Luc takes an early morning flight, and is greeted at PHL by Claude Giroux’s wife, of all people, who waits for him at baggage and drops  him off at the practice rink. She’s nice. Pretty. Luc is reminded that this is the woman that has fed and nursed and tended to Jacks for a month with Giroux. He hugs her for a long minute there in baggage claim, and tries not to cry in gratitude. She has two ginger, curly haired poodles riding in the car with her.  “Oh wow” Luc laughs when he throws his bag in the back, “they look just like their papa, huh?”

 

He finds a comfy chair at Voorhees and plays on his phone for 30 minutes while Jacks finishes up with whatever it is they’re doing.  He spends most of the time Snapchatting Temi, who’s stuck in a long layover in Munich.  When Jacks comes out he’s tired looking but smiling, and Luc stands just in time for Jacks to launch himself at him into a hug.  But then Jacks pulls back and kisses him, and Luc’s shocked for a second but kisses back, and oh right, the team knows, the staff knows, they can’t do this on the street, but it’s fine here in the family lounge at Vorhees, and Luc buries his hands in Jacks’ hair and crowds into his space, and Jacks is here and he’s smiling and healthy and playing great hockey.  Jacks pulls away, reluctantly, when they start getting a few wolf whistles from other guys filing out.  Giroux slaps Jacks on the back on his way out the door. Jacks is smiling, that wide open grin with all his teeth, and he grabs one of Luc’s bags and says “c’mon, c’mon, let’s get out of here, I need to get you home.”  

“Don’t worry,” Teufel chirps from where he’s standing a few feet away talking to some other guys, “We’ll go to nice long dinner out. Won’t be until late.”  He winks, unsubtly.  

Jacks rolls his eyes. “Great,” he says, “you can bring us back takeout.”

“Ugh” Teufel fake groans, “So much high maintenance. Fine,” but he’s smiling.  

 

Luc rides with Jacks into morning skate, because he’s got no idea what else he’s supposed to do with himself.  He works out while they skate, and tries not to be too bored during their video review (which he was obviously not invited to).   He makes Jacks pasta after their nap, but doesn’t ride in with him. Jacks rides in with his roommates.  Luc drives in separately, so he doesn’t have to wait around for hours before the game starts.   

It’s not until halfway through the opening announcements, when he’s sipping on a glass of chardonnay and petting some small dogs, suit jacket unbuttoned, making conversation with Giroux’s wife and Couturier’s fiance, that he realizes that he’s in the family box, not the press box with the scratched and injured Flyers and PR.  That everyone in the Flyers organization has evidently just decided he’s Jacks’ Husband, not Luc Chantal, Sharks forward.  It’s bizarre.  He looks around. Looks back at the ice.  Coot’s fiance is talking about some charity they’re all involved with.  Something about libraries.  “What’s your email?” she asks, “I’ll put your in our gmail group.”  

Luc opens his mouth. Closes it. Opens it again and gives her his email, bemused.  

 

The Flyers take it all the way to game 7 too, but they don’t win.  The mood in the locker room after the final loss is pretty fucking low.  Luc’s disappointed for Jacks, but Jacks had played some of the best hockey Luc had ever seen in his life in this last series. In person or on television as a kid.  That’s not what Jacks wants to hear right now, of course, but it’s true.  It’s hard to be too sad when Jacks is healthy, whole, playing better hockey than anyone else on the ice.

 

 

“Do you want to go home first or do you want to go straight to vacation before we go back to New Brunswick?” Luc asks the next morning, after Jacks has fucked and kissed and slept and fucked away most of his bad mood.  

“Vacation” Jacks mutters into Luc’s neck.  They’re both putting off getting out of bed.  

“Maldives?” Luc asks, “somewhere warm and beachy?”

Jacks laughs softly and says, “You live somewhere warm and beachy almost nine months out of the year.  We live somewhere warm-in-the-summer and kind-of-lake-beachy all the rest of the months. Your life is a beach, Luc.”

“But you live somewhere cold and rainy and terrible most of the year.”

“Philadelphia is not terrible, it’s a great city,” Jacks says loyally, probably because of Stockholm Syndrome.

“Is it as nice as the Maldives?”

“Fine” Jacks huffs, “we can go to the Maldives.” he kisses Luc’s ear, “also you should suck my cock now.”  

“Oh should I?” Luc laughs, “I thought I already did that last night. Why should I do it again?”

“You’re still cheering me up, remember?  We lost the ECF. The Flyers still haven’t won a Cup since 1975.”  And Jacks really must be feeling better if he can joke about it like that.  

“Wow, you’re right, that’s pretty terrible” Luc grins, “I guess I should get to work, huh?”

Chapter Text

 

Luc whines for 5 days because Jacks can’t go to the ESPYS with him.

“But I’m your husband,” he tries, in a last ditch effort, “it’s like…your duty to support me.”

Jacks just laughs and keeps packing his duffel for Ottawa. “Right.  I’m not canceling on an event for kids with cancer for a fluff awards show. Especially one where I’m not receiving an award.  Go by yourself, bruh, you’ll be fine.”

“But”

“Chants, I don’t care about how terrible it is for you getting cornered by supermodels at every drinks table and their constant efforts to blow you so good you wife up or whatever. It’s a ridiculous thing to complain about.  If you don’t want to go alone, ask someone else, I’m not canceling on this hockey camp.”

  

“No” Crash says when he’s not even half way through his question.

“Aww, c’mon on, Crash.”

“Chants. Literally, what was one of the first things I ever said to you?”

“Uh, ‘that idiot in the Rockstar truck is gonna break his rear axle.’”

Crash just sighs. “I said I wasn’t going to be your girlfriend.”

“Oh. That.”

“So what exactly makes you think I’d want to be an NHL WAG, even temporarily?”

“…absolutely nothing?”

“Right, so you’re asking me why?”

“Because we’re friends, and friends have their buddies’ backs? These fucking models, Crash-“

“Finish that sentence and I hang up.”

Luc sighs. “Please?”

“Friends don’t support friends’ pandering to meaningless consumer driven capitalist machines of oppression. You realize pretty pictures of you at events like this are basically the equivalent of Romans giving out free bread at gladiator combats, right?”

“That doesn’t even make sense. C’mon Crash, isn’t Disko nominated for best male action…whatever…”

“So take Disko.  Don’t you have a list of women pro athletes numbers, any number of which would fucking love to get some publicity at the ESPYS?”

“Fuck, yeah, I guess.”

“So there you go.”

“Yeah, yeah, talk to you later.”

“Hang loose, brah.”

 

 

“Luc Chantal” Margaret Durham laughs when she answers the phone, “an actual phone call, during the off season.  You’re gonna have to call someone else for bail, baby, I play women’s basketball, we don’t get that NBA money.”

“Haha, actually, I actually need something worse.”

“Oh shit. You need me to sneak you over the border?”

“You going to the ESPYS?”

“He’s got jokes.”

“Whatever, I’ve seen the point totals you’re putting up, if they didn’t invite you they should have. So, wanna come with me?”

“It’s the middle of the season for us, asshole.”

“You have a game that day?”

“No, but I have one the day after, and believe me, if I’m dragging jet-lagged ass because I was too busy partying with Luc Chantal the night before….women’s sport press is…”

“Yeah yeah I get it.”

“Grab a drink next time we’re in the same city?”

“For sure. Bon chance with your season.”

 

 

I literally sent you a picture of a koala yesterday, Rogue texts him back after he asks her.   I was standing next to it and a giant sign that said Hello from Down Under.

Luc texts back.

You texted me back with ‘I’ll show you down under.’  Were you drunk? I’m in Australia. I can’t go to the ESPYS with you, ya bum.

okay but like airplanes r a thing that exist ill buy u a ticket

I’m here for a tournament.  YOU KNOW I’M HERE FOR A TOURNAMENT.

:(  :( :(

Why don’t you ask one of the many women you know that play WINTER SPORTS and aren’t in the middle of their season right now.  Crash says you fucked like half of the female pro snowboarders in Canada. Take one of them. Or a hockey player. Or one of those badass chicks that do that ski ski shoot thing.

biathlon and how would crash know how mny snowboarders i've fucked?

It’s like you think snowboarders and surfers don’t all hang out.

since when do u talk to crash anyway?

Uh, we’re bros, dude. She got my number out of your phone and we talk all the time now.   Rogue includes a peach emoji and three fire symbols, much to Luc’s distress.

no winter Olympians    u don’t knw what Canadian sports press is like about that shit.

…?

if I show up with a Canadian who has an Olympic medal in something vaguely related to frozen water press will already be planning my wedding by the time the event’s done. the Royal Canadian Winter Sports Athletic Breeding Committee will make me promise to make at least five good Canadian kids with her.

You're joking, right. Please tell me you're joking.

u think im joking but google “hockey, Staal, thunderbay”, and tell me they're not all clones.

.....   Oh my god.....  illuminati confirmed.

told ya.   He sends some maple leaf, skiing, trophy, church and baby emojis just for emphasis.

Sooo...Tennis?

it’s a little 2 late for me to start cruising wimbledon 4 a date dude.

You are the literal worst at this. Did you fuck up asking a girl to prom this bad too?

I didn’t go to prom    prom is during playoffs.  

That explains so much, honestly. Hooker?

  ur a hooker  Im asking u

The kind you pay money for.

is that a dig at how little ur team gets paid?

Fucking fight me, Chantal.

 

 

Crash calls him that night, after he’s eaten dinner and is watching TV alone on the couch, and texting with Jacks, who is making himself comfortable in his Ottawa hotel room.

“Did you honestly call Rogue and try to fly her out of Sydney last minute just to go to the ESPYS with you?”

“It’s creepy that you guys talk now.”

“…Did you not know about the phone tree?”

“What?”

“We’ve had a phone tree ever since, you know, the Dasker Incident.”

“Who’s on this phone tree?”

“It’s…a…network. Look, why don’t you ask…”

“Crash, please, will you just go with me. I don’t want to go with…whoever you’re thinking of.  I want to go with you.”

“I’m not wearing a dress that costs more than some people’s cars.”

“You can come wearing your wetsuit for all I care,” Luc says, realizing he’s won.

 

 

 

Luc’s at the ESPYS’ fancy open bar waiting on his drink when a giant dude in a very nice suit sits down next to him. He looks vaguely familiar, like Luc’s seen him on ESPN or something. He’s built like he probably plays football, and he orders brandy from the bartender and then looks over a Luc, smiles, and offers a hand: “Chantal, right?” he asks.

The bartender drops off their drinks as Luc says, “Yeah, that’s me, Luc.”

“Nice to meet you, Luc. I’m Devandre.”  Devandre takes a sip of his brandy. He’s got warm eyes, smiles lines at their creases, lots of mischief. His cologne is soft and faint and smells like cedar trees, if cedar trees wore cashmere sweaters and drove Aston Martins to beautiful ski chalets in the Swiss Alps. “So” he starts, setting his brandy down, “I hear we’re Eskimo brothers.”

Luc almost chokes on his whisky.  

Luc is about to say “who?” or “what?”, but what actually comes out is “Isn’t that racist?”

“Shit” the guy says, a little startled, “probably? I don’t know, I never thought about it before. But I mean, is there another word for it?”

Luc shrugs uncomfortably, “I don’t know, I don’t think so.”

Devandre follows his eyes to where Crash is talking to some Norwegian snowboarders across the room. She looks great, but essentially unchanged from how she normally looks - wild beach hair, sundress. She’s wearing shoes that aren’t flip flops or chacos which is novel.  She did something to her face that makes it more...shiny? Like she’s sort of glowing. It’s nice. And she seems like she’s having a good time. She knows more people here than Luc does, surprisingly. “Nah, man” Devandre says softly, “she’s not my type.”

Luc shrugs, because he has no idea, really, what do with this conversation at all.

“C’mon man,” Devandre laughs a little, softly, and then, even softer, “you know I’m talking about Oliver.”

 

Oliver.

 

It takes Luc an embarrassingly long time for his brain to connect and realize that he means Jacks.  But as soon as he does Luc feels like an idiot. The guy looks familiar because he’s Devandre Keita, of the Philadelphia Eagles, recent Super Bowl champion and MVP.   He is, Luc also realizes, feeling like an idiot, the guy Jacks talks fondly of as “Dre.”  

Oh.

The first thing Luc thinks is “holy fuck Jacks has great taste.”  And then just a flush of overwhelming pride that his boy managed such an impressive pull. Goddamn, Jacks can get it.  Then, he remembers that Hail Mary pass Keita had made during the playoffs last year and suddenly feels sort of warm and lightheaded.

“Your face, man,” Devandre chuckles softly, “I thought you knew.”

“I, uh…he just talks about Dre, bruh, I didn’t realize he meant you. I’m just impressed, he’s got good taste.”

“I’ll say he does” Devandre smirks a little, giving Luc a discrete once over.  Luc blushes. He didn’t even know he could anymore. Holy shit.  “Call me Dre, anyway” Devandre – Dre- continues, and holds his glass out to toast with Luc, “to good friends.”

Luc gets pulled away to network, and says good bye to Dre with a handshake, but they run into each other again as things are winding down.  “Strip clubs,” Devandre sighs, “fucking tedious” as he gestures towards a small knot of baseball and football players waiting for him.

Luc shrugs, motions toward where Crash is standing a few feet away talking to Disko and the snowboarders, “you could come with us, might be less of the same old thing.”

“Oh yeah?”  And he actually sounds sort of interested, “you hockey guys know how to party?”

“I don’t know about that, but I’m probably going to be the only hockey player there.”  He claps Dre on the shoulder, “come on, man, you’ll have more fun with us, promise.”

“A’igh, a’ight, I’m convinced, no sweat off my back.”

 

 

They wind up at a house party in Malibu, at a house that’s technically owned by Reef, but unlived in, right up on the beach.  Luc circulates for a while, introduces Dre to people, dances in the room where the DJ’s set up, and then eventually winds up on the upstairs patio to look at the ocean.  Dre and Crash join him not long after, and Disko, and then Crash wanders off again, before they’re joined by Disko’s old friend Jimmy, who sits down between them, pulls out a bag of sticky green pot and a glass bowl.  Jimmy passes towards Disko and Dre, doesn’t even bother with Luc.  When Dre’s done he tries to pass back around to Luc but Jimmy takes it instead, saying “nah, he’s all careful about his lungs.”  He takes a big puff and then lets it all out in a huff of “oh shit! That’ reminds me!” he fishes into one of his cargo pockets and produces a plastic bag which he tosses into Luc’s lap.   The bag’s got two brown misshapen lumps in it.

“What the fuck’s this?” Luc asks.

“Brownies” Jimmy says, handing the bowl over to Disko.  The patio door slides open and two rock climbers tumble outside.  Luc doesn’t know their names, but he thinks they’re from Germany.  Disko shotguns smoke into the mouth of one that winds up half in his lap.  “Crash made ‘em for you” Jimmy continues, “gave ‘em to me to keep for you, I forgot about them. They’re probably all mushed now.”

“What’s in ‘em?”

Jimmy laughs, “Buckwheat flour. Avocado oil. Carob powder. Stevia. Hash. Fucking strong hash. They probably taste like shit, dude, I’m using the word ‘brownie’ pretty generously.”

Luc is touched.  Crash went way out her way to make something he’d actually eat in the off season.  He breaks a piece off one and tries it. It does, objectively, taste pretty fucking terrible. He eats some more, offers the rest of the brownie around to the group. One of the rock climbers takes a corner, chews it and says something that sounds like "shmecked vie sheizah”. Luc pushes it towards Dre who just laughs and says “oh hell no, I’m not eating that white people shit, that’s all you.”

Luc drinks a glass of water, and dances until his shirt is soaked, does back flips off the back porch railing into the soft sand dunes with a bunch of guys for a while, laughing and wrestling in the sand until they wind up in a patch of spiney weeds that hurt like shit, then gravitates back to the patio after a while as the party starts to quiet down and people gradually leave.  Dre joins him a few minutes later. “Those guys are playing some Jefferson Airplane shit, man” he starts, “I had to come out here - I’m not here for that noise.”   

Luc laughs, “No one’s broken out their guitar for Wonderwall. We’re lucky.”

Dre’s smoking a joint, so Luc eats his other brownie, closes his eyes for a second as a wave of exhaustion hits him.   Dre still smells good, somehow.  Luc stinks like sweat and jager shots.  “So,” Dre says into the silence, “Oliver said something once, man, and I thought he was like…joking or some shit, but now I don’t know…he called you his hubby once.”

“Yeah” Luc says.  It feels like he says it really slow, but that could just be the second brownie.  He’s having trouble paying attention to anything other than the rhythmic push and pull of the waves, the way the moonlight sparkles on them. With the hyper-awareness of the very stoned he keeps noticing every time it sounds like a fish jumps.   “Got married after the draft,” he adds, an afterthought.  Tears his eyes away from the water to look at Dre, who is gorgeous in a way he doesn’t normally notice in men.  Jacks, man. Jacks has the best taste.  His fucking husband is so fucking great. Dre is great.

“Shit” Dre says, “I’m so fucking jealous, man.”

“Of Jacks?”  It feels like this conversation happened 10 minutes ago. Or like it last happened 10 minutes ago, but Luc is so, so stoned now.  Mostly he just wants to curl up into Dre’s warm, giant, arm and go to sleep.  

“Nah, of like….you guys can get away with that shit in the NHL, like no offense dude, but you know how it is, American hockey market, nobody really pays attention and shit, if I tried to do that shit in the NFL, somebody would notice quick.”

“No they wouldn’t” Luc says. He thinks about the time he kissed Jacks during the All-Star Game. People were fucking morons. They’d make up any explanation except the one they don’t want to see.

“Even if press never found out, management would flip their shit, my agent would kill me, fucking nightmare, man.”

“That’s bullshit” Luc says, suddenly and a little more fiercely than he means to. “It’s fucking bullshit. Who the fuck are you?”

“What the fuck you talking about, man?”

“Are you some basic ass joe shmoe, or are you a fucking Super Bowl champion, playoff MVP that just won fucking best NFL player, Devandre Keita?  I thought you were a fucking quarterback.  You can’t just sit there and live your life on somebody else’s playbook if it’s not the play that’s gonna get you what you want. That’s fucking bullshit.  We’re not...we’re not that type of men.  If you want something, you fucking go get it. That’s what we do. That’s what you do, you’re fucking… you’re great, you’re not the type of guy that says ‘oh well, I guess I can’t have that, because some stupid old fucks that don’t know what they’re talking about say I can’t.’  Did thinking like that win you a fucking Super Bowl?”

“No” Dre says, voice a little weird and thick.

“So why the fuck...how the fuck you can win at life like that.  You’re the best quarterback in the NFL. If you want a husband then you deserve a husband.”  Luc lets his head fall against the back of the couch, rolls it over so he’s looking at Devandre again, “unless you want Jacks as your husband. In that case disregard everything I said, you can’t have him, he’s mine. Anybody else though, like, you…you should have what you want. You should have whatever makes you happy.”

Dre’s face is doing something strange. Emotional. Maybe that’s the second brownie too.  Luc closes his eyes.  Dre is so close, warm and comfortable next to him.  “Hey” he says, fishing out his phone, “take a picture with me, for Jacks.”   Dre throws his arm around him, smiles for the camera, face still doing that thing with the emotion a little. Luc takes two pictures, one where they’re grinning into the camera, another where he’s kissing Dre’s cheek.”

“Sorry” Luc says, a little more clear headed for a second, “didn’t mean to lecture you, dude, you know your own shit, I just…you deserve what you want. Fuck old dudes who think they know shit about the game now.  They don’t know shit. Bigoted old fuckers. Hockey’s full of them.  It’s all bullshit. One of them talked for a while about how Jacks shouldn’t have been out so long for his concussion.Vieux dickbag hargneux, I should have given him a concussion, see how long it takes his head to get better.   Tabernac d’ ancien sac kétaine de farts.”  He’s trying to get the picture to send but mostly keeps fucking it up.

Dre just laughs at that, shaking his head and taking Luc’s phone, sends the picture with the kiss to Jacks, posts the other one on Instagram with a bunch of emojis that Luc can’t make his eyes focus on.  One of them looks like it’s a surfboard, maybe.  

Crash comes out a few minutes later, drags her fingers through Luc’s hair. “I’m about to go to bed” she says softly, “with Haukur and Kari, you joining us?”

Luc tilts his head up and kisses the inside of her palm, “nah, I’m okay Crash, thanks though.” He glances over at where Devandre is watching curiously, “Dre might wanna come with you though, if you’re interested.”

Crash’s eyebrows inch up a little, “for me, or for Haukur and Kari?”

“Not you” Luc smiles, kisses her palm again, “even though you’re lovely.”

She runs her hair through his hair again and looks at Devandre speculatively, “as really amazing as that sounds, if I whisked you off with us knowing you’re into men, Disko would be heartbroken. You’re so his type.  I just don’t think he realized there was a chance he could be your type too.”

“Disko?” Dre asks

“Surfer” Luc says through a yawn, “won best…action…surf…whatever…tonight. Has all those tats.”

“Oh damn really?” Dre says, looking less sleepy and more interested, “uhmmm, really?”

Devandre follows Crash back into the house, and Luc sinks further into the couch, lets himself drift with the sounds of the ocean, the glimmer of the waves in the dark.  He doesn’t know how long he stays like that, lost in some peaceful place of no thoughts, when he hears the screen door of the patio slide open again, smells the waft of perfume and looks up to see Loops. He almost never sees Loops, really, she's almost always gone somewhere competing, but she and Crash are old friends, from before they moved to California he thinks.  

“Loops? I didn’t know you were here.”

“Just got back from Mauii today. It’s nice, I could just fly straight into LA, didn’t have continue to San Jose.”  

“Just in time.”

“Hey” she says, pushing at his thigh with her knee, “scoot over.”

Luc scoots, and she plops down next to him, burrowing her head under his arm until she’s pressed up against him.

“Where’s Crash?” Loops asks, after a second.

“Haukur.”

“Hmmm.” She flicks her chacos off, reaches over and unfolds the blanket folded up in the corner and pulls it over herself, “Was there a giant football player here, wearing diamonds that are worth more than my life, or was I hallucinating that earlier.”

“He’s real. What’ya on that you think you’re seeing things?”

She laughs, “nothing…Cassie’s crazy homegrown chronic.  No hours of sleep. Jetlagged as fuck, dude. So where’d your fellow meathead go?”

“Disko” Luc leans over and finds his water bottle and hands it to her.

She takes a few sips, passes it back to him, “No shit?”

It’s Luc’s turn just to hum a little then, “keep that on the DL” he says after a second.

“Duh.  Can’t believe you’re not hooking up with anyone.”

Luc shrugs a little.  “Not feeling it tonight I guess.”

“Miss your boo?”

“Yeah, that’s part of it.  Tired, tired of press shit in the summer.  And I don’t know, just doesn’t feel like that kind of night. The ocean’s really…”

“I know that feel” she says softly, and then “wanna make out until we fall asleep?”

 

They don’t really make out, the way Luc tends to think of make out sessions, as they instead just sort of kiss, softly, sleepily, and talk and then kiss some more.  Loops tells him stories about her match in Maui.  She’s a good story teller, weaving these yarns about other surfers, her impersonations of them perfect.  Luc smiles, and laughs, and kisses her mouth when she looks like she wants a kiss, and falls asleep under the blanket with her, warm and listening to the sound of the ocean.

 

He wakes up in the middle of the night, a little cold, a little damp and uncomfortable, to the sound of the patio door sliding open and Crash standing there in a too big t-shirt.  She blinks muzzily at them for a second and says, “come to fucking bed, that can’t be comfortable for your backs.”  Luc shakes Loops half-awake and they follow Crash inside into one of the bedrooms.  “Where’s Haukur and Kari?” he says, confused.

Crash shrugs, “they like alone time with each other after, dude.  That’s all them. So I'm sleeping in this room.  Jan and Shel are in the master.”  The bed is a giant Californian king. Most of it is taken up by Disko and Devandre, who are mostly asleep but shift over when Crash and Loops and Luc crawl into bed and find spots.  Devandre brushes his hand against Luc’s hip, pulls him against him, and Loops curls up against Disko, Crash the smallest spoon between Luc and the edge of the bed. There’s really, really not room for five people, but they manage somehow.  “Gnight” someone says.

"Bonne nuit” Luc says although it’s probably closer to morning, and falls asleep again.

 

 

*

 

 

Luc goes to Fredericton to drop off some signed stuff for a charity auction and get the run-down for the next day when he and Jacks are showing up for the event, cutting the ribbon on opening a new facility, signing stuff and just generally being there to help raise money.  He gets…distracted.

“Hey Jacks?”  Luc calls walking into their house.

“Sup bruh?” Jacks calls from somewhere in the den where he’s probably been napping.

“How do you feel about being a daddy?” Luc asks, padding into the den where Jacks has indeed been napping but is now sitting up.

Jacks squints at him and drags a hand through his hair, “I don’t know which scenario is more distressing, that you’ve been trying to make yourself like gay porn again, or that you just got a call from your lawyer saying you’re going to need to supply some DNA for a paternity test.”

“Ha ha” Luc says and then brings his arms out from behind his back, “Or…option three, I saw this little girl and maybe already filled out the paperwork.”

“That” Jacks says, slowly, staring at the squirming gray thing in Luc’s hand that was at least 50% giant head and smiling jaws, “is a puppy.”

“It is”

“What the fuck happened to its ears.”

“Bad people, Jacks. Bad people happened to her ears.”

“Luc we’re not…a puppy is a lot of work and-“

“The shelter named her Mako , Jacks.  Because her coat’s all gray like a shark. A shark. It’s a sign, obviously. Look at her, she’s perfect…..she’s the best dog. Look at her little paws.”

“What happened to her coat?”

“She had mange when they found her, but she’s all better, yes she is, ouais elle est, huh, bébé, qui est le plus belle bébé?”  I’ve got before pictures on my phone, I was gonna show like…a before and after on Twitter. Look at her face, Jacks, how can you say no”

The puppy squirms in Luc’s hand and licks at Jacks face.  Jacks smiles reluctantly, “she’s precious.”  He scritches her ears.  “I guess, I mean, you’re taking her with you to San Jose, right?”

“Uh, I was planning on it …I mean…”

“No, no that’s best, I’ve got too many roommates already. And she’ll be good for you.”

Mako gnaws on one of his finger a little, “anyway, I guess if Tyler Seguin could manage to be a single doggy-dad for years without any terrible mishaps you can probably manage.”

“Ugh can you not” Luc says, “fuck Seguin, I don’t care how cute his dogs are.”  Because, sure, Seguin’s a great hockey player or whatever, but Luc’s still feeling a little tender about the Sharks early playoff exit.  Seguin can go fuck himself until Luc is no longer pissed about game 3.

“We’re bringing her to the dog walk tomorrow, obviously, and I got her a little harness, and a leash, and a dog bed, and some food, and they gave me a bunch of toys. She’s got all her shots up to 3 months and she’s already been spayed. Okay, I’m going to go put her in the yard so she can run around.”

 

 

While Mako runs around the backyard to run around and do her business and sniff,  Luc and Jacks stand on the deck and watch.  “Okay okay” Jacks sighs, as she tripps over her own feet while chasing a fly, “she’s cute as fuck.”

“Right?’  Luc gets out his phone to show him the “before” pictures from when she’d first been brought in.

“Okay, yes, thank you,” Jacks shudders, “I am significantly heart broken. She’s perfect. We love her forever. Hopefully whoever owned her before has died a gruesome death. I will slaughter anyone who ever hurts her again. Got it, no more please, I like to look at her now better.”  He kisses Luc on the cheek and watches her run around the yard and sniff things some more.

 

Later Luc scoops her up and snaps a picture of three of them on the pier to put on Instagram. He captions it “PROUD PAPAS #familyphoto #ourbabygirl #adoptibull #sheisthebestdog #alldogsarethebestdog<3<3<3<3” then shares it on Twitter.  Then he puts it down because his phone starts vibrating and doesn’t stop.

 

 

**

 

 

 

Luc heads to San Jose earlier than he’d like, really, but being an A means extra responsibilities, and he’d promised he’d help with some publicity stuff before training camp started – sled hockey for veterans, some promo shoots, kicking off the Little Sharks Learn to Play programs, handing out season tickets, all that sort of stuff.  May got traded over the summer to the Rangers for draft picks and cap space, and Temi’s housemate Sokolov, the grouchy old veteran D-man who’d taken Temi into his family when Temi had first come over from Russia, had gotten traded to Calgary for May’s replacement, so Temi was looking for a place to stay.  Luc offered his spare room and Temi texted back, “don’t know, Chants. Your apartment kind of small.”

“It’s small because it’s right on the beach.”

“Maybe.”

“I don’t leave my dirty socks everywhere like Neezy.”

“Okay, yes, I’m move in.”

 

Temi shows up at Luc’s apartment a week later with a truck of his stuff and a plastic animal carrier containing a small white and cream ragdoll cat.

“Oh. Ummm” Luc said when he saw it and gestures helplessly at Mako, who’s prancing around the kitchen trying to sniff the cat carrier while simultaneously licking Temi’s hand and gnawing on his shoelaces.

“Have cat, Chants” Temi says, narrowing his eyes, “have always had cat.  Should know this.”

“Oh, well…I...didn’t?”

“Cat okay for here?”  Temi asks.

“I’m not cleaning the cat box.”

Temi gives him the “no shit, Captain Obvious ” look and says, “housekeeping clean cat box, Chants.”

“Oh. Yeah.”

“Dog okay with cats?”

“She should be?  My parents have a cat and she’s fine with him. She likes to play but she won’t bite.”

Temi sets the cat carrier on the kitchen counter, probably so that the cat can have some elevation advantage before letting it out in a room with a strange dog, and eventually the cat slinks out to sniff around and then to sit primly on the edge of the counter and stare at the wagging puppy below with blatant distrust.

“How’s name dog?” Temi asks.

“Mako.”

“Mako” Temi says, “This Pepper.” He squints at the dog suspiciously, “maybe you best call Miss Potts, until sure you have good manners, Mako.”  Mako just whines and wiggles her butt, tongue lolling out of her mouth.

 

The new guys are settling in, and Luc’s getting used to being an A, which so far means pretending to like golf, answering ridiculous questions from the new rookies about laundry and food expiration dates and car insurance, and going out once to get drinks with Braggs when he accidentally broke up with his girlfriend the day before their first regular season game.    

They’re in the locker room after practice and Spat’s has been loudly complaining about Neezy’s many faults as a roommate.

“I’m not know” Temi says dubiously, “Chants is most worst roommate. Most bossy. Every morning he tell to me about evil Poptarts. ‘You better than this’ he tell me, ‘say no and I make you better breakfast.”

“Oh no, Temi” the half the guys in the room crow, “not POPTARTS, how could you?”

“You guys laugh but those things have a terrible sugar to protein ratio, their glycemic index is really bad, without enough protein to back up that much simple sugars it doesn’t give any sustainable-“ Luc protests.

“yes, yes” Temi cuts him off, hamming it up for the room, “always he tell me about Glycemic Index. He have chart on fridge.  Poptarts strawberry, Chants. Is most best.”

“I could make you strawberry protein pancakes, or greek yogurt with fresh strawberries and chia seeds, or “

“You make me cream of wheat with egg white mix in. Nasty , Chants. Taste like gruel, what they feed prisoners in gulag in Siberia. I’m eat poptarts, I still play good hockey.”

“I made a shit ton of peanut butter protein pancakes on Sunday. They’re in the freezer, you just have to put them in the toaster and they’re good.”  Luc pouts.  He catches Herts giving him a look which probably means something like “are you getting weird again, do I need to make Marta feed you into compliance, I’m going to grill you about this as soon as we get to the parking lot.”

He tries to give him a look that says “the pancakes are Rick approved, I’m doing really good,” solely through eyebrows, but they get interrupted by Mitch from the Front Office who comes in to talk to them about the YCP night in a few days.  He finishes going through all the normal disclaimers and bullshit, no one has to use Pride Tape or do a video if they don’t feel comfortable with it, blah blah blah. Luc looks up from his phone to feel the weight of a 23 sets of eyes all staring at him. “Crisse” he laughs, startled, “what the fuck are you all looking at me for?”

“We’re all doing it,” Hallsy says, suddenly, and Luc watches as they all nod at him solemnly.

“Oh, osti, come one, you guys don’t – you aren’t obligated to do this shit for me,” Luc objects, “I don’t give a fuck, this isn’t for me, it’s for like…little kids and shit, so…you know…little gay kids don’t stop playing hockey. You guys do what you want.”

“We’re all doing it.” Braggs says. Braggs has been in the Sharks organization for like three weeks tops.  Luc’s two beers and ‘here’s how-to-unbreak-up-with-your-girlfriend talk’ must have been pretty damn good. Or maybe Bragg’s that nice of a dude. Medina and Hayes high five and say “yeah buddy!”

Luc sighs.  “Okay but like, I’m not coming out or some shit. I don’t care how happy it’d make the Burkes, they can go fuck themselves, it’s none of their damn business. I’m just here to play hockey.”

Willy fist bumps him. Hallsy squeezes his shoulder. The locker room lets out a general cheer and a few whistles.  Luc feels a little confused.

 

Which is how Luc winds up going through a very surreal day that involves shaking Wayne Davis’ hand and saying some bullshit like “oh yeah, well it’s a good cause, I’m happy to support the LGBT community, it’s important that they feel welcome in the sport,” like he’s having some sort of out of body experience, all while Hallsy bites his cheek next to him to keep from laughing. And then he sits down next to his team in front of a bunch of cameras and film crew to say “If you can play, you can play.” He’s sort of amazed that his mouth doesn’t say, "Si je peux jouer, tu peux jouer” instead on its own. It doesn’t.

Every guy on the team tapes his stick up with ridiculous rainbow tape.  Luc looks over at where Temi is carefully wrapping his grip and says, “Hey, Tem, man, if this is going to like…get you in trouble back home, you don’t have to”

“Is fine, Chants” Temi says, shrugging, “Amanda and front office lawyers talk to me already, already go over Russian laws, no problem. Many other Russian players do already.”

“Alright, I just want you to-”

“No problem, Chants. Hurry up, tape stick, time for soccer so I’m beat you.”

 

 

Three days later, Jacks Skypes him during dinner.  Luc’s sitting on the couch eating Mama Temi’s pelmeni and trying to ignore Mako’s constant begging.  Pepper is sitting at Temi’s shoulder on the other side of the couch, pretending she’s too good to beg.  

“You fucker,” is the first thing Luc hears as soon as he answers on his tablet.

“Umm…I don’t know what I did, but I’m really sorry, and it was probably really dumb?” Luc replies with what he’s pretty sure is the marital argument equivalent of icing.

“What the fuck did you say to Dre?”  Jacks is pink the cheeks and wearing a hideous Flyer’s sweatshirt. He looks surly as fuck. Luc bites the inside of his cheek and tells himself that it’s not hot and he shouldn’t smile, probably.  Jacks glances to Luc’s left and says “Oh, hey Temi.”

“Hi Oliver Jackson” Temi says through a mouthful of dumplings, “Chants in dog house?  I’m leave and let you yell at him. You want him to sleep on couch tonight you tell me, I make sure he do.”

Luc throws a pillow at him, and concentrates on answering Jacks’ question and not thinking about his dick (which gets interested whenever Jacks is pink faced and bossy looking).   “Like recently? Nothing?  I texted him like a week ago to ask his advice on some brandy I wanted to buy as a Christmas present for Herts, why?”

“No not recently, at the ESPYS,” and then he glances over at Temi, “You can stay, Temi” Jacks says in a much less cantankerous tone of voice, before he narrows his very blue eyes at Luc and continues. “Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a closeted professional athlete to hook up with that isn’t a shit heel? There are fucking tons of dudes in sports who suck dick, but they are all assholes , Luc, they’re impossible and it sucks and they’re barely worth the effort.” He pauses for a second, for dramatic effect, clearly warming into his subject. “I liked Dre.  He was smart, and funny, and kind, and not a douche-canoe.  Do you have any idea how rare it is to find a football player who’s versatile about the top/bottom thing??” Somewhere to Luc’s left Temi almost chokes on a pelmeni.  “And isn’t insufferable and weird about it afterwards.  I liked Dre. Like actually liked and enjoyed his company even when we weren’t fucking.  I liked his dog.  We liked the same shows on Netflix and didn’t have contrary opinions about ham on pizza.  His house is the same direction as my favorite grocery store, which was convenient as fuck. He was the best bro with benefits and you fucking…you like leadership voiced him into some sort of life-compete-level bullshit and he got married and is stupidly happy with his husband and it’s all your fault .”   

Temi had abandoned his dinner somewhere around ‘leadership-voiced’ and is pressing his face into pillow, red faced and shoulder shaking with silent laughter.

“He got married?” Luc is legitimately surprised.

Jacks thrusts a photograph of Dre and a nerdy looking kid wearing a Nightvale shirt and a cardigan on his phone at the screen. The guy’s a solid foot shorter and 100 pounds lighter than Dre and they’re standing together on the front steps of some picturesque B&B in what looks like New England with fall leaves around them, looking incredibly pleased with each other. “To his fucking college chemistry tutor.  They were sweethearts on the down low or something until Dre went into the NFL and it was this big heart breaking thing or whatever and then you gave him your little motivational speech and shamed him back to his forever boy.”

Luc smiles. “Well good for him, but I’m sorry I cost you a hook up, dude. I didn’t know he had a long lost love.”

Jacks glowers at him.

“Seriously, Jacks, I’m sorry. I had no idea. And come on, you gotta be a little happy for him, that’s kinda sweet.”

“It’s fine,” Jacks grumbles, appeased, “I mean I am happy for him and shit, it just sucks because now I’m going to have to sift through the riff-raff again until I find someone who’ll let me touch his dick without having to say ‘no homo’ five times. It’s fucking tiresome.”

“That sucks, bro”

“Yeah, no kidding. Plus, I made the mistake of complaining about it to Coots and he went all “concerned A” and now half the team keeps telling me about, you know, their wife’s sister’s hairdresser/personal trainer/pediatrician/cousin’s roommate who's super cute and shit, and it’s just...like it’s nice that they’re being supportive of the whole gay thing or whatever, but they need to slow their roll, you know. I’m not looking for a date, I’m looking for a reliable hookup who won’t sell my dick pics to Deadspin, and that’s safer when there’s the whole mutually assured destruction thing.”

Luc makes a sympathetic noise and reaches a hand over to make sure Temi is still breathing. Also the cat is shamelessly licking the sour cream from Temi’s forgotten dumplings. Ew. Temi is going to get that weird brain worm from cats.

“Wellll” Luc says, turning back to the tablet, “since you’ve got no one to touch your dick tonight, I can always-”

Temi throws a pillow at him “TAKE TO BEDROOM CHANTS. MOST GROSS.”

Luc laughs and dodges a second pillow, jumping over the back of the couch, and giggles, fleeing to his room. “You should totally let me see your dick” he says as soon as he gets the door shut, “And then you should look through your grindr thing, because you know you’re going to anyway, and you should touch your dick while you do, and I should watch, and then after we come you can laugh about all the douchebags on there and you won’t be pissed anymore.”

“Is that what I should do?” Jacks says, a little dryly, but he’s smiling, and already pulling his sweatshirt off, so Luc’s totally going to get what he wants.

“It absolutely is.  Come on, take your pants off.  Tell me about TruTop97 and everything terrible in his profile.”

“Some guy sent me an unsolicited pic of his gross sock feet the other day” Jacks sighs, “like, what a way to open a conversation, right? Not even a ‘hey,’ or like…the super crucial ‘are you into gross sock feet’- just a pic of his nasty ass tube socks.”

“Okay, that is hilarious, but we need to stop talking about socks while your dick is looking so fucking pretty, it’s making me confused about whether I’m turned on or not.  Look how hard you are, slick yourself up, bro, let me see.”

“God” Jacks pants after he spat on his hand and stroked himself a few times, “you are all riled up tonight, huh.”

Luc fists his own cock through his basketball shorts and groans, “fuck yeah I am, love it when you get all worked up, you get all pink in the cheeks, chirping, god I fucking love it. Is this makeup sex? It should totally be hot makeup sex.”

Jacks smiles a little and says, “I wasn’t really pissed at you, I was just annoyed because I totally thought I was gonna get laid tonight and instead I got some fucking New Hampshire wedding announcement.”

“Shhh” Luc pushes his shorts down and runs his hand over his own cock, “don’t harsh my thing here man, it totally counts as makeup sex, we never fight.”

“Alright, fine, it’s makeup sex” Jacks is grinning, fist moving a little faster over his cock, and Luc groans at the sight of it.

 

 

 

***

 

Luc has an interview and photoshoot with GQ three days before the Flyers come to San Jose.  He’d done the ESPN Body Issue thing over the summer – apparently if you rack up 130 points and 117 penalty minutes in a season, even non-hockey sports press start taking more of an interest.  It’d been fine – chirping material forever probably, but at least they’d stuck to mostly hockey and conditioning questions. Luc can talk for hours to someone about macros and pregame workouts, so it’s whatever. The GQ thing – Luc’s got no idea why they asked him in the first place.  He sits down at his favorite coffee shop with the interviewer and says “Thanks, Zoe” when the barista brings over his tea-thing and Shawn-from-GQ’s pour over.  Shawn has a series of questions Luc has genuinely no good idea how to answer, that his years of hockey media training have not prepared him for.

How would he describe his sense of style?  He wouldn’t. He wants to say “fast aggressive offense.”  Instead he says “functional” and hopes that sounds like his closet has something other than a row of  game day suits and some cloth Ikea bins filled with unsorted athletic clothes and free t-shirts.  Shawn’s eyes sweep over Luc’s post practice outfit – sweatpants, flip flops, a shirt that used to have sleeves, and Luc’s pretty sure he’s not fooled. Luc smiles at him.

What cologne does he favor?  Luc has no idea, can’t remember the name, it was a gift anyway.

What’s music is he listening to these days?  He’s been on a Thunderheist kick.

What’s his dating style?   That question throws Luc off enough that he has to take a sip of his tea and honestly think for a second.  It isn’t?  He’s pretty sure he doesn’t have one because…he…hasn’t?

“I uh…” he laughs a little, this article is going to be a train wreck, honestly who thought this would be a good idea, “honestly I don’t think I’ve ever been on a date.”

“You haven’t been on a date?” Shawn repeats a little skeptically.

“I don’t think so? Not really…dating’s not really my thing?”

“More a love and leave ‘em type?” Shawn asks.

“Eh, more like a ‘this was supposed to be a one-time hookup but we accidentally became for-real friends’ type.”

“Huh” Shawn says.  “That’s honestly not what I would have expected.” He takes a sip of his coffee and continues, “this café isn’t really what I would have expected either. It seems a little –different than your aesthetic.”  Aesthetic. What is even happening?

Luc shrugs, and says “Bay Area, you know. Anyway, I like it. I came here first with some friends of mine, non-hockey friends.  They’re all, you know… free spirit surfer types, it’s kind of their scene, but it’s got good tea. It’s like a co-op, everything is fair trade. They do wheatgrass shots too.”

“Surfer types like Beatriz Teixeira?  She attended the ESPYS with you, right? Surely that counted as a date.”

Crash’s name is Beatriz ??? Holy shit. Luc is going to chirp her forever.  “Hahaha, no, not really. I mean, she came with me, but it wasn’t a date. We’re not dating.”

“She recently accepted a sponsorship from Billabong and is making an entrance into the professional surfing world. Has that had any impact on your relationship or decision not to date?”

“Wha? No...it’s got nothing to do with that, we’re just not dating.”

“So, would you say you’re single then? The NHL’s most eligible bachelor?”

“Ha, um, no.  Not single.”

“It’s complicated?”

“Not really, just…not single.”

Shawn looks like he’s going to ask further, but thinks better about it and the topic shifts to watches, a subject not so easy that he gets to say “pucks to the net” or “110%”, but is still something he can at least talk about it.  Luc talks for a bit about his Breitling, his Blancpain 50 Fathoms, and his Audemars Pigeut Offshore (all waterproof!).  “But honestly, dude, most of the time I just wear my fitbit, you know?”  Shawn grimaces.

Shawn asks him about hockey eventually, sort of.  He asks about the Dakser fight, and Luc tries to say something that doesn’t make him sound like a caveman but probably winds up somewhere between “talk shit get hit” and “fuck around and find out.” And then, surprisingly, Shawn brings up Luc’s post-stripper-gate comments, and Luc shrugs and says, “I didn’t say anything I didn’t mean,” and changes the subject.

From there the topics shift to his dog (Luc shows him approximately 300 pictures of Mako from his phone), and then non-profit work, which is easy, and lets Luc talk about how the Sharks finally have a girls-only team for each age group of the Little Sharks, including Little Sharks Elite AAA, and also the program (Dr.!) Stick is involved with through UC Santa Cruz called Guerilla Science that tries to take science out of the classroom.

 

Back at the…studio…office…place...Luc stands around while they discuss what to do with him. “You know what?” the photographer says after taking one look at Luc and then having a 5 minute huddled conversation with Shawn, and some guy named Dominic who looks like he makes a lot of decisions.  “We’re just going to run with the whole-” he makes a vague hand gesture towards Luc as if to indicate ‘this whole mess.’  

Dominic says, “Chloe, can you take this suit rack back to wardrobe and bring in that stuff that’s still in my office that we just got yesterday? And everyone else, let’s get all the equipment moved from where we had it set up to…let’s put him next door, with the windows.”

Chloe comes back 10 minutes later with three pairs of cashmere sweatpants and Luc follows the photographer (Desmond) to the next room over, which has floor to ceiling windows and a huge white bed and nothing else. “If this is porn, I should just warn you, Sharks PR will kill me and also you,” Luc laughs, eyeing the bed dubiously.

Desmond doesn’t look up from camera equipment and says “It’s not porn,” with the sort of abruptness that makes Luc think he’s gotten immersed into some sort of photography-brainspace and forgotten that Luc is in fact not a model.  He tosses Luc a pair of sweatpants, “put these on.”

 

 

Luc’s standing around in one of the pairs, arm up, head tilted 15 degrees towards the big floor to ceiling window.  “Move your left foot forward about 3 inches and then tilt your head about 5 degrees further away from me. No, lift up your chin a little, okay good, hold that.”  The photographer fiddles with something on his camera.  “You’re good at this” he says when he looks back at Luc.

“At what?” Luc asks without moving his head.

Desmond makes another vague hand gesture, “This. Doing what you’re told. Posing for the camera.”

“Coachable.” Luc says and keeps staring out the window.

“What’s that?”

“I’ve been skating since I was two years old, and I started hockey not much later.  People have been telling me how and where and when to move my body my whole life. The word you’re looking for is coachable.”

“Huh” Desmond says, and then “Okay now bring your arm down and turn-” From the corner of his eye, Luc can see Shawn watching him, eyes like a goalie, never missing anything.

 

 

 

Shawn sends him home with the sweatpants despite Luc’s protests.  Jacks finds them in his closet 3 days later and says, “dude, you have been in California too long, are these really cashmere?”

“GQ gave ‘em to me after the shoot.”

Jacks snorts, and says, “they’re soft as fuck.”

“They’re dumb as fuck. You can’t even wash them. They’re sweatpants and you can’t sweat in them. I’m pretty sure they only gave them to me because the photographer wouldn’t let me wear my boxers underneath them, and it’s not like they could wash them – so you know – gross stranger ball sweat. Stop staring at my pretentious active wear and come rub your dick on me.”

“Wow” Jacks says, even as he’s shuffling off his boxers and coming to bed, “The romance is overwhelming.”

“I gave you flowers.” Luc protests.

“You did.” The flowers in question, a huge mass of big weird fluffy roses, are in a vase on the kitchen island, making the cat sneeze. Jacks crawls over him and kisses the place behind his ear while pushing him down onto the mattress, “they’re beautiful. Thank you. Now, take off your hideous tanktop, so I can rub my dick on you.”

 

 

****

 

 

Christmas is too busy for either of them to fly anywhere, but it’s okay because they’re going to see each other soon at the Olympics, which makes everything better.  That’s not a day or two stolen together, that’s two whole weeks in the middle of the season.  And you know, the whole playing hockey for Canada thing too, that’s also important.   

Luc sits down in the bed as soon as they get to their rooms in the Olympic village, and Jacks puts his luggage down and shuffles around nervously, before finally saying he has something he wants to about.

“Look I know we said in our rules that when we're together we're together, but it's the Olympics and like, you know what the Olympics are supposed to be like....”

Luc nods because yes, he is aware of the epic international sex party that occurs when you have a whole bunch of really fit people locked together tapering before their competitions, and horny as hell because of it.

“And like, dudes on Olympic hall passes from their wives, looking for some dick.”

That startles a laugh out of Luc. He loops a finger into Jacks’ belt loop and pulls him onto his lap, “Oh yeah, you got some guys in mind or you just playing it by ear?”

Jacks bends over to bury his face in Luc’s shoulder, “You sure you don’t mind?”

“You're still gonna save some for me, right, Gonna have time to give it to me, gonna come back every night and tell me what you've been getting into?”

“Of course, Luc, of course, you know I-”

“Then I don't mind. I don't mind at all Jacks, anything you want, anyone you want.” He kisses at Jacks’ throat and runs his hands up the smooth lines of his back. “Seriously though, who are you thinking about, like ski, speed skaters? Fuck, Jacks, luge is fucking intense, you know those dudes have got to be wild in the sack.”

“Hmmmm” Jacks hums, kissing him for a while, and then he leans back and says, “Speaking of hot Olympians I was hoping to hook up with...”

“Oh?”

Jacks leans to his left to grab something out of his carry-on then straightens back up in Luc’s lap holding a copy of January’s GQ, opens it to a full page spread of Luc sitting on the edge of an artfully rumpled bed wearing not much more than a backwards ballcap and a watch so expensive Luc was never allowed to be alone with it for insurance reasons.

“Fuck” Luc laughs, embarrassed.

“The hidden facets of uber-bro, Luc Chantal” Jacks reads.

Ta geule”

“Fuckboy with a heart of gold? Unexpected feminist? Secret Bay-area beatnik? (Beatnik, Chants, beatnik , what the fuck time period is he writing about, 1959? Was he a hundred years old?  What the fuck did you do, read On the Road to him?) The surprising interview with the hockey player who lit the NHL on fire last season with a brutal, unreal, stat breaking point streak, and whose play has the hockey world saying “move over Great One here comes the new One. ”   Jacks reads from article, “Luc. LUC.  Luc...this guy wanted on your dick so bad. Oh my god , can we talk about this. Listen to the part where he describes how you drink your tea.”

“Can we not.”

“All these years I didn’t realize I was in the presence of The One.”

“He shouldn’t have said that, it’s sacrilegious, there was already a Great One, and it wasn’t me. The Great One can’t move over, that’s not how it works.”

“Luc Chantal” Jacks chirps, trying to make his voice go all breathless and star struck but mostly sounding like an asshole, “Will you sign this for me, I am such a fan.”

“Fuck off”

“We can do that too, but first I need an autograph.”

“Yeah? Sure you want me to sign that?” He slips his hands under Jacks’ shirt to spread them over his pecs, “sure you don't want me to sign you ? I can sign your tits, I’ve done that for fans before.”

He drags his thumb over one of Jacks’ nipples and watches his breath catch in his throat as he continues his chirping, “I can see the outline of your dick in these sweatpants on page 37.”

“You could see the outline of my dick right here if you weren’t too busy reading the stupidest magazine in the world.”

“Also, this tanktop is actually more hideous than the ones you actually own, how did they manage that.”

“I loved that tanktop, they let me keep it.”

“This whole shoot looks like a cologne ad.”

“Why are you talking about this instead of kissing me?”

“This watch is....really... a lot .”

“I had to listen to a 20 minute history tangent from Crash and Stick about conflict diamonds and how DeBeers fabricated the diamond industry out of mass marketing, British colonialism, and the patriarchy because of that watch. It was the like a stoner episode of Drunk History. Also it kept pinching the hair on my arm. That watch is the worst.” He plucks the magazine from Jacks hands and throws it behind him, leans forward to bite at Jacks’ nipple through his t-shirt.  Jacks lets out a soft little sound so Luc runs his tongue over the cloth a few times before sucking on it, getting it wet. Jacks grinds his hips down.

Luc slips a hand around Jacks’ waist to dip into the gap at the back of his jeans, sliding under the band of his briefs to ghost over his crack.  “Fuck” Jacks says, trying to move back on his hand, but caught a little as Luc still has his teeth worrying on one nipple.  

“Get your shirt off.” Luc grunts, and Jacks pulls it off and throws it somewhere lightning fast.  He keeps one hand working, teasing towards Jacks’ hole, the other pinching and teasing at his chest.  

He keeps that up for a few minutes, just worrying both of Jacks nipples with teeth and fingers, while working his finger around his hole. He doesn’t have any lube out, but there’s a little bit of sweat, and he’s just teasing the entrance with the tip of his finger.  

“More, c’mon on Chants, more” Jacks demands, breathy into the side of his neck.  Luc bites the inside of his cheek, because he’s so fucking turned on, having his lap full of breathless squirming Jacks is just about the hottest thing in the world and he just wants to throw him over and shove into him, but this, this, getting to tease him and take his time is good too.  

“No lube, Jacks.”

“Don’t care it’s fine, I’m good, just a little more Chants come on.”   Luc presses into Jacks a little more firmly, feels him give and take him so sweetly, bites down on Jacks’ neck to keep from coming in his pants.  Jacks makes some sort of high pitched groan and pushes back on it and Luc presses his thumb into his perineum, getting that sweetspot from the outside.

“Yeah, fuck yeah Jacks, come on, that’s it” Luc breathes as he drags his nail over Jack’s nipple another time.

Jacks squirms, turns his head, mouths wetly at Luc’s shoulder.  “Please...”

“Please what, Jacks? What do you want?”

“Want to come, Chants, please let me.” He’s rocking back steadily onto Luc’s finger, riding his hand, and it’s so breathtakingly hot, Luc wants to die.

“You can come anytime, mon chum. Anytime you want, just like this.”

“Fuck, Chantsy, touch me. I need you to touch me, please.”

“I am touching you.”  He sucks on Jacks’ nipple some more, dragging his tongue over it a few times, “You’re doing so good. Come on, Jacks, come for me.”

“Touch my dick, please, please Chants.”

“No, babe. I want to see you come just like this.”

“I can’t.”

“You can. I know you can. You’re the best thing, Jacks, the best, you can do anything I ask you, because you always, you always can do anything. I know you can, because I’m asking you to. That’s how Jacks, that’s how.  I’m not the one, we’re it together, deux Uns . I ask and you come and together we tear it all up and we win, because I’m good but when it’s us it's the best .  I want to you come, Jacks, just like this, want to see you come in your pants, right here on my lap, just like this.”

Jacks comes, curling up, biting at Luc’s shoulder, Luc’s hand twisting into the curls of his head, holding him close.  Luc twists, pushes Jacks over so he falls onto his back, dazed and flushed and fucking messy and gorgeous, gets his cock in his hand and starts jerking himself fast over Jacks’ face “Yeah, Jacks” he huffs, bumping the head of his dick against Jacks’ lips before shooting off himself, striping Jacks face and open waiting mouth, his chest and neck, and Luc’s own hand.  Luc collapses half on top of him, takes a few seconds to catch his breath and then says, “okay for an autograph?”

“10/10, would celeb-crush again.”

 

 

“You’re so sensitive here,” Luc muses, dragging a thumb over Jacks’ nipples again, a few minutes later, after they’ve washed up a little, and Jacks has changed into a cleaner pair of Team Canada sweats. Luc’s sitting with his back to the headboard, Jacks lying in the v-between his legs, as they go through all their Canada team roster meetings and time schedules.

Jacks makes a contented hum and wiggles a little to get more comfortable.

“I wonder” Luc starts, “what getting them pierced would do?”

“Can’t with hockey” Jacks murmurs, drowsy.

“Yeah, but…” He drags his thumb over once more, “but maybe after.”

Jacks’ eyes fly open. “Holy shit.”

“Is that a ‘holy shit what a good idea’ or a ‘holy shit stop being creepy, Luc’ kind of holy shit?”

“Holy shit, do you know what you just did?”

Luc winces, “too kinky?”

“No, you fucker. You just…you just had an actual, concrete, real, specific thought about after hockey.”

“Uh, I mean, I guess? I do that all the time though…”

“No. You have never, ever, in the whole time I’ve ever known you, done that Luc. Never.”

Luc goes to open his mouth.

“A house on a lake with a golden retriever and pond hockey doesn’t count. That is literally every Canadian hockey player’s default post NHL answer. It’s fucking basic as hell and it doesn’t count. It’s the free space on Canadian hockey cliché bingo.  This is literally the first time you’ve ever, EVER, talked about after hockey for real with something specific.”

What the fuck?

“Jacks” Luc sits up a little straighter, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, dude, but, bro. – we own a house on a lake.  I have a piece of legally binding paper with your name and mine on it that says it's ours.  Right now.  I’ve got another piece of paper with our names on it that says you’re my spouse ‘til death do us part, and another one for the damn dog that says she’s ours.  I don’t give a shit how basic it is, or if it’s what every hockey player dreams about it – it’s not a dream, it’s fucking reality, right now.  I’m not planning on changing any of that after we stop playing hockey. I may not talk about the future with you, but we’re...we’re making it happen, every day.  The only thing that’s worth talking about in the future is us being on the same NHL team and winning a Cup, because that’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted that I haven’t already gotten. Why do I need to talk about some abstract future when I’m living my best now?”

Jacks makes an ugly snuffling sound and buries his face in Luc’s thigh. There is some unexpected wetness, and Luc, because he is not always as tactful as he should be says, “Oh shit, are you crying?

“No”

“Oh my god, you are. I’m sorry, Jacks, what did ...I'm sorry, dude, don’t cry, please don’t cry.”

“I’m not upset, I’m just...I'm just really fucking happy dude.”

“Oh...oh okay...well...then...uh...carry on...I guess.”

 

Three minutes later there is a thunderous banging on their door.  Luc opens it to find Hallsy.

“Dude. Chow. You guys are coming with.” He wrinkles his nose, “Fuck it already reeks of sex in here, how did you even...ugh. FOOD IN 5 MINUTES MEET US DOWNSTAIRS.” and then flees.  Luc thinks he hears him saying something like “like fucking Edmonton all over again.”

 

 

The next morning Luc’s eating breakfast with Hallsy when Hallsy says, “Man, doesn’t that bother you a little bit?”  

“What’s that?”

Hallsy nods his head over to where Jacks is flirting with a speed skater.

Luc frowns, “you know we sleep with other people, dude. I do it all the time.”

“Yeah but like, I thought that was just a sort of don’t ask don’t tell what happens on the other side of the country type of thing. Doesn’t it bother to like...have to watch it.”

Luc looks over.  Jacks is smiling. He looks happy and handsome as fuck and the speed skater looks very interested.  “Nah man it doesn’t bother me at all.”

“I don’t get that, I think it’d bother me.”

Luc shrugs, “You ever have like...when you were a kid, a friend that you got into trouble with? Like, he said he was going to eat 10 worms so you said you’d eat 10 worms too, or whatever.”

Hallsy laughs, “yeah, man his name was Paul. Teachers wouldn't ever let us sit together in class.”

“Right, well, I mean, that’s Jacks for me, right? Like yeah, he’s my husband, we’ve been married like two years, but we’ve been best friends for 13.  He says he wants to do something, we do it. He thinks he can do a double flip off the tire swing into the pond, we stay out till dark figuring out how to do it. He says he wants to fuck his way through the entire men's speed skating team, I say I’ll make my way through the women's and we’ll meet in the middle.“

“Jesus” Hallsy laughs.

Luc shrugs again, “He’s not...he can’t be....He’s mine .  Like, he belongs to me . Nothing can change that, doesn’t matter how many people either of us sleep with, so like, when you think about it that way, fucking around is just...experiences, like going to a movie with someone or going for a run with them, going to Europe or something. Of course you want your friend to have good experiences and have a nice time with people or whatever, so,” Luc shrugs helplessly, “I don’t know man, it’s nice. He’s happy. He’s having fun, he’s gonna come back and tell me about all the fun he had and that’s an experience too.”

“Alright” Hallsy says, thoughtful over his eggs, “I can see that, it makes sense.” He grins, “did you idiots really eat worms when you were kids?”

 

 

The night after their game against Slovakia they’re lying on Jack’s bed, Luc’s head on his lap as they watch a movie on Jack’s laptop when Luc’s phone dings from the nightstand.

“You got a message,” Jacks says, dragging his fingers through Luc’s hair.

Luc has never been a big movie person and is already half asleep, “Yeah” he says, sleepy sounding, “what’s it say?”

Luc’s phone is locked but the message text comes up on the lock screen.  Jacks reads it, “It’s from, ‘Blonde Lisa – Anaheim’? She sent a pic but I can’t see it, but the text says, “How do I look?”

Luc snorts a little, like something amuses him.  Jacks goes to hand his phone to him, but Luc doesn’t move his hands to take it, just says, “Honestly, you’d be a better judge than me, answer her for me.”

“Doubtful, but sure. Your phone’s locked.”

“Like you don’t know my password.”

Jacks types in Luc’s passcode and stares at the text.   When he doesn’t respond for a second, Luc says, “Jacks?”

“This honestly isn’t what I was expecting to see.”

“Obviously.”  Luc answers, a little sarcastic, “how’s it look.”

It’s not a picture from “Blonde Lisa- Anaheim”, it’s a video. Luc can hear the sound from it as Jacks watches.

“How’s she look?”  Luc asks again.

“She’s the blonde one?”

“Yeah.”

“Pretty fucking bad.”

“No shit dude, she only started playing three years ago and she only started practicing for taking faceoffs like 2 weeks ago.  Constructive criticism dude, what does she need to change.”

“Her grips wrong in her left hand, she’s not getting low enough in her knees, and she’s not angling her body enough...just to start.”

“So tell her.”

Jacks looks down at Luc, “you sure, dude? It’s kind of an asshole thing to say, don’t you want to say good job or something first?”

Luc snorts again, “If she wanted someone to tell her what a good job she was doing she’d ask her friends.  She’s asking an NHL player, she wants an expert critique. I’m not going to insult her by wasting her time. If she knew it was coming from you, best faceoff percentage in the league, she’d be even more pissed if you patted her on the head and told her she was doing great.  Be specific about that left hand grip, bruh, it’s hard to give advice long distance, but ‘move your hand different’ isn’t really helpful advice, y’know?”

“You get texts like that a lot?” Jacks asks after he’s typed out a detailed assessment and suggestions.

“Nah, just from her.”

“How’d you even meet her?”

“I told you about her, bro.  That hook up turned cry-fest my first year in San Jose? She’s been playing ever since. She’s in this local women’s beer league now, it’s totally fucking sweet.  Anyway, they had her on right wing, but they lost a few of their best centers recently, like one’s having a baby, another had to move for work, so they’re hoping she can shift over.”

“Huh” Jacks says, and goes back to carding his fingers through Luc’s hair.

Luc falls asleep like that, although at some point Jacks must shift them around so they’re lying side by side, squeezed into one of the tiny twin beds, but comfortable wrapped up in each other.

 

 

 

Jacks knocks Hanifin off the puck with a beauty of a big hit in the neutral zone, turns on a dime, skates around Beopple like he’s a pylon, stutter steps around Moore, reads the ice and passes to Martin who shoots at the goal but somehow Nelson saves it.

Luc gets it on the rebound as it comes around the boards, battles for it for a few seconds before he gets it free, but doesn’t think he has a clean shot. He fakes a shot instead, and then no-look passes it to Jacks.

And Jacks, brilliant, beautiful, amazing Jacks is ready for it, just one times it straight into the top shelf. The buzzer goes off, the crowd is deafeningly loud. Luc drops his stick, runs at Jacks and leaps into his arms. And then O’Shea is there and Martin, Eloi, and Murray, pushing around them. Olympic Gold feels a thousand times sweeter than anything.

 

 

He and Jacks slip out of the party, drunk and giggling and probably not really as stealthy as they think they are. Luc backs Jacks up against the wall of whatever room they’re in, “Fuck Jacks, so good. Fucking beauty, fucking golden goal, Jacks.”  Luc laughs as he sinks down to his knees, “gonna blow you so good.”

Jacks is wet - not from his dick, but from the fucking buckets of champagne and beer that have been poured over him, clothes sopping, sticking to him. He stinks, like sweat and locker room, the tang of it is mixed with sweetness of the alcohol, and he’s sticky - his chest, his hands, his champagne drenched pubes.  

The door bangs open and sudden there’s VanWijk flooding the room with too-bright light and too much noise.  VanWijk blinks for a second and then opens his mouth and shouts “Côte, you bastard you own me $100!”

“What’s going on?” Côte says

“Chants was blowing Jacksy.”

O’Shea burps loudly, “fuck, somebody ought to be sucking his dick after a goal like that.”

“No, Shea. Chants was sucking his dick.”

“Oh,” McDavid says, “are we talking about that now? I thought we just like…didn’t mention it.”

“What’s going on” Marts says, wandering up.

“Chants,” Eloi says, offering Marts a swig from a champagne bottle, “blowing Jacks.” In case it wasn't clear exactly what he meant he makes an illustrative hand gesture.

“Oh,” Marts takes the bottle.  “Duh” and he walks off, taking the bottle with him.

“Get your own bottle, asshole,”  Eloi calls after him.

Marts just lifts a finger over his head as he walks away.

“So” Luc beings, “are you guys gonna keep standing around, or are you gonna fuck off, because I wasn’t done yet.”

“I don’t know” Côte begins, “are you gonna suck my dick too, if I hang around?” VanWijk smacks Côte in the shoulder and calls him a rude fuck.

“I’ll suck your dick” Jacks smirks, “if you’ll suck Luc’s.”  Luc’s jaw drops a little in surprise, but not as much as Côte’s does.

“I don’t know” Cote offers, “isn’t that kinda gay.  I mean, not that…no offense…but…”

VanWijk smirks, “it’s not gay if you’re wearing an Olympic Gold medal, Coats”, and he’s fucking with him, obviously, but there’s something else in his voice too, gentle, like he’s giving him a way out, “It’s like ancient Greeks and shit, it’s totally in the rules.”

“Is that true?” Côte looks at O’Shea and...evidently Hallsy’s here now too.

“Absolutely” they both nod, managing to keep reasonably straight poker faces.

“Uhhhh....maybe...next....ummmm” Côte says, “I mean I don’t...I sort of....I mean, you guys have fun. Great goal, Jacks!” and then turns on his heel and runs off.

 

Luc snorts, and VanWijk herds everybody away, shutting the door firmly as Luc starts to lick a stripe up Jacks champagne flavored victory dick.

 

 

 

The next morning Luc’s nursing the mother of all hangovers as he sinks down into airport VIP lounge that they’ve taken over.  Marts sits down in the chair next to him with a drink carrier full of coffee, hands Luc two for him and Jacks.  Jacks has walked off somewhere to take a phone call, so Luc puts his coffee down on the floor next to his seat.  

“Hey” Luc says after a few sips, a thought coming back to him from last night’s jumbled memories, “you weren’t...you knew? You weren’t surprised. How long have you known, did Hallsy tell you?”

Martin looks genuinely confused, “Uh,toujours? Come on,mon gar, I’ve known since Baie-Commeau, tout le monde savait.”

“But…there was nothing to know. We weren’t together then.”

“Sure” Martin says, obviously disbelieving.

“No, I’m…I’m serious, we weren’t…you guys kept always trying to hook Jacks up with girls! We weren’t…I was always with girls.”

“Well yeah, okay, ” Martin shrugs, slipping into French, “but that’s just…..I mean come on, 16 years old, in major junior hockey, that’s...and you guys were, you know how guys get sometimes, wrapped up in their liney and spending so much time together, you guys had been playing together forever, of course you were half stupid about each other, of course you were fucking around with each other, didn’t mean you didn’t deserve some pussy too, eh?”

“But all the girls that I got for him,” Luc says, thinking of all the sneaking they’d done, girls that had flirted with Jacks and gone to a room with him only to hook up with Luc instead.

“Yeah” Martin says, “I mean, we all just figured you guys liked to share?” he shrugs, “not the weirdest thing, I guess, made sense. We thought that was your thing. Macner used to think that’s how your line chemistry was so good.”

“But, we weren’t. We weren’t, we didn’t do any of that until we got married.”

“Married!” And now Martin looks as genuinely shocked, as shocked as Luc feels, “Well, I mean, I didn’t know it was like that.”  He looks at Luc searchingly, “I can see it though, I guess. Makes sense. That’s good, Chants, that’s good. I always thought, honestly, it was gonna wind up hurting for you two when you fell in love with some girls and grew apart. It’s good. Huh.” He looks bemused, “goddamn, eh? Brave new world, just marrying your fucking liney. Gay married in the NHL….”

“I’m not gay” Luc says and Martin makes a face like “duh,” but Luc says ‘but Jacks is.’”

“Shit” Martin says, taking a sip of his coffee.

“You can’t. You can’t ...Is that a problem” and he’s liked Martin, ever since he was 16 he’s liked him, looked up to him even, but he will absolutely punch him the face right here in the airport if he has to.

“Shit, no, it’s not…It’s not a problem…it’s just. Like gay gay? Like doesn’t like girls, like an… like actual gay? Not just dumb rookie kid stuff?”

“What the…That’s what...what dumb rookie kid stuff?”

“You know, handies on roadies when there’s no girls around to touch your dick, dumb stuff with your lineys because you’re stuck together all the time.”  Luc has no concept of this. What did he mean when there were no girls around? There were always girls around.

“That’s...who the fuck does that?  There were always girls, who the fuck…why would anyone…”

“Christ, I forgot what a lucky little shit you were back then, of course you were never so hard up you traded handies with your roommate.”

Luc is confused as all fuck. “But that’s still…that’s still bi, Marts.  That’s still liking it with a dude. That’s still...even if you only like a certain type of dude because they’re your friend or something, it’s still enjoying getting off with a dude. It still counts. And anyway, Jacks couldn’t with girls.”

“Well shit. All right. I never thought about it like that, but…well shit.”

“Are you…having a sexuality crisis? It’s okay if you are. Everyone is allowed one.”

Martin laughs, a little shakily, “No, I’m having a captaining crisis.”

“Umm?”

“I never noticed.  Was that why he was mopey as all fuck the last half your first season? I thought it was just because you two were fighting.”

“Yeah, he was...yeah, he was scared about being found out, scared to come out to me.”

“Goddamnit, I blew it, and I didn’t even realize it. Shit.”

“What are you talking about?”

“All that YCP stuff about making safe spaces and shit we had to do for Team Canada.  And I didn’t even notice.  That …you were really just sneaking girls around to make it look like he was hooking up? Shit, I owe him an apology.”

 

“Quit talking in French” Jacks says as he collapses into the chair and takes a huge gulp of his coffee, “my head hurts too much for French. Marts why do you look so fucking sad, what the hell, go kiss your medal some until you look happy again. Why the fuck are you hugging me, I’m gonna spill my coffee, jerk.”

 

 

*****

 

 

A month after the Olympics, Luc wakes up one morning to take the dog for a walk, and walks into his kitchen to find the 3rd baseman for the San Francisco Giants standing at the fridge in his underwear, drinking directly from Luc’s bottle of local, organic, artisanal squeezed, blood-orange and beet juice.  Luc blinks a few times then rubs his eyes with a fist, but nope, he’s still there. So he shoves his feet into his flip flops by the door, clips the leash onto Mako’s harness, and says “That’s my fucking juice, asshole,” as he walks out the door.

When he comes back 10 minutes later the dude is standing there, fully dressed, nervously playing with his keys.  Luc hangs the leash up by the door and kicks off his flip flops.

“So,” the guy begins.

“I don’t fucking care.” Luc says, because he’s pretty sure he knows where this is going.

“I just want to make sure you won’t…”

“Bro,” Luc says, “I don’t give a fuck what you do with your dick.” He opens the fridge. The asshole put the backwash laden juice back in the fridge. Ew. What the fuck is wrong with people? Why is there no common decency left in the world?  

“Man, I just want you to know, it wasn’t like, I mean, I’m not…”

If he says he’s not gay Luc might actually punch him.  Luc is contractually obligated by the spirit of good team camaraderie to be supportive and understanding when fellow teammates come to him with the “ is it gay if I -”, “ what if I just-, ” questions. He doesn’t owe the MLB anything.  Luc narrows his eyes and says, “Dude, I could literally not care less about your sexuality. Baseball is a boring and pointless sport. It has no moving plays, and no real concept of defense.  You just stand there yet for some reason it’s on ESPN all the fucking time . Temi’s business is Temi’s business.  The only time it becomes my business is if you hurt him or you get him into baseball ‘roids and he gets in trouble with the league.”

“Wow” Giants-infielder splutters, “fuck you.”

Luc shrugs. “I’m about to make breakfast and you’re standing in front of the toaster, bro. Move over and have some pancakes or fucking leave, it’s your choice, j’men calice.”

“Pancakes?”

“They’ve got 43 g of protein per serving.”

“Holy shit, really? What do you put in them? What flavor are they? What brand of whey protein-”

 

 

“Temi” Lucs says seriously later that morning after they’ve stopped at the coffee shop and are on their way to the rink, “I need to talk to you, bro, it’s important.”

Temi winces a little, “sorry if not okay to have guys over without ask, Chants.”

“No,`Tem, that’s fine, you know I don’t care.  But, dude. Bro. I know you’re from Russia so you might not know, so we need to have a talk.” They’re stopped a light so Luc turns to face him, puts his hand solemnly on Temi’s shoulder, “Temi, Baseball is a terrible sport.  It’s deadass boring, and inferior to hockey in all ways. Also, I looked up that dude’s stats and you could do better, okay?”

“Kind of an asshole, Chants.”

“Him or me?” Luc asks, because, well, that’s a reasonable question.

“Both” Temi huffs. Then a few seconds later, “still hungry.

Luc is not surprised. Temi got some sort of cranberry muffin at the coffeeshop. It was, obviously, not a sufficiently balanced breakfast for a professional athlete.  “There’s some Muscle Milk bars in the glovebox.”

“Gross. Grossest.”

“Muscle Milk bars have 35 grams of protein”

“Taste like dust and sorrow, Chants. Make me cry inside.”

“They’re not that bad.”

“French, Chantsy, you supposed to love food not hate.”

“That’s a cultural stereotype, also I’m Quebecois not French. Quebec invented dumping gravy on fries, that’s not haute cuisine. Eat your protein bar.”

Temi takes a bite of the Muscle Milk bar and makes a face, “Can’t believe Jackson live with you for years then still marry you.  Stockholm Syndrome is terrible. Tragic. Dostoevsky write sad stories about this.”

 

 

 

******

 

 

The playoffs are a thing that happens.  The less said about it the better, honestly, but Luc is fucking tired of losing.  He and Jacks lick their wounds and sulk for a day or two until finally Luc says, “beach, Jacks, it’s tradition - warm, sunny, fucking far away from this place.”

“Fiji”

“Okay, sounds good. What’s in Fiji?”

“Crash’s first really big competition.”

“Dude.” Luc says, “Dude. You...I don’t know.”

“Why the fuck not, what’s wrong with Fiji?”

“Jacks, I...we don’t need to, the summers are for...like I love Crash, man, but like...summers are for you. You don’t need to like...feel like we have to...”

Jacks just laughs and says, “She’s your friend. She’s my friend, in a less naked way.  I want to see a surf competition and she can get us super nice tickets or passes or whatever you call them. I’m not worried about having to share you, she’s barely going to have time to say hi to us I bet.  She’s going to be fucking busy, but we can watch and it will be fun. Also - you know - Fiji. I hear it’s pretty nice.”

 

So they go to Fiji, white sand and beautiful ocean-view villa room all to themselves, and Luc freaks out the first heat they watch Crash surf, because he had no idea, okay, no idea , he thought it was like...tricks on the type of waves they surf back home or something not.... These waves are like 20 feet tall, they’re huge and she’s going to die , how come no one is worried about dying. These waves look like they’re four times taller than her, they’re enormous walls of crashing water, and how is it even possible, and Luc is just...wow. Okay. This is really concerning but also she is really awesome.

 

Back in the US, the NHL is having their expansion draft today (or yesterday? Whatever, time zones are confusing, Luc tries not to think about it) - the Quebec City Nordiques choosing their players for their new team.  Luc and Jacks have both already signed bridge contracts with their own teams for the next couple of years since their ELC’s expire this summer.  The Sharks and the Flyers have been pretty upfront about the fact that they’re looking at them as face of the franchise type players for the long term - they’re protected from expansion draft, and Luc’s pretty sure half of why Jacks wanted to be away right now, somewhere as physically far from Philadelphia and hockey as you can get, with something engrossing and fascinating to watch, is because he’s worried about losing Giroux.  G’d been injured the last month of the regular season - out the Flyer’s whole short playoff run, and the Flyers hadn’t protected him.  Even if the Nordiques don’t chose him, the Flyers will probably trade him or put him on waivers or something, and Luc knows Jacks is pretty torn up about it.  

 

Luc wanders over to a stand to get two big drinks with umbrellas during a break between matches when his phone starts blowing up, just vibrating non-stop.  Luc puts it on Do Not Disturb, picks up his fancy drinks and goes to find Jacks again. “Your phone ringing?” he asks.

“Left it at the hotel” Jacks says, “gimme...oooh what is this?”

“Dunno, something with pineapple.”  Luc’s just in time to watch another heat, so they do that, and then Luc glances at his phone, and okay - something is wrong. Something is - Luc has 35 missed calls, 100+ texts, and Twitter is no longer telling him about notifications, because it stopped at 5,000.  

Luc opens a text from Amanda that says “I know you’re in the ass-end of the world, but CALL ME!” and one from Temi that has five eyeless frowny faces and says “know you in Fiji not watch TV, so link.” And then, five minutes later another text that’s just ten more frowny faces and “CHANNNTTSSS.”

Luc clicks the link and watches the Nordiques GM choose Claude Giroux from the Flyers, and then someone whose name he doesn’t hear because of noise from the crowd around them from the Coyotes and the Penguins, then Hollis from the Blues, and then, “From the San Jose Sharks,” the GM smiles, looks up at the camera, “The Quebec City Nordiques take Luc Chantal.”

 

Chapter Text

“Holy shit” Luc murmurs, watching the ESPN video (now at over a million views and going VIRAL fast) of the Sharks GM leap out of his seat in surprise and the heated – broadcasted live on NHL TV and ESPN2 – altercation between the Sharks GM and the Nordiques, complete with scrambling announcer, near fisticuffs and wild accusations of illegally stealing Luc and threats of legal action. ESPN has like three different NHL legal/contract experts giving some sort of technical breakdown on loopholes and debate on whether or not the Sharks will be able to retain Luc (they’re all leaning towards probably not), whether the Sharks will sue, whether or not the Players Association is going to demand a rewrite of the rules.

Shit.

He has to go take a shower and put on clothes that aren’t swim trunks, figure out how to look like a person who isn’t day drunk on pineapple cocktails in the middle of the afternoon in tropical paradise. He has to talk to Amanda, he has to talk to Pat Brisson, he has to talk to…shit…he doesn’t even know. He needs an adult. He needs at least five adults. They’re going to have to leave Fiji, obviously. He’s going to have to give an interview remotely probably from the hotel or the airport.

He looks down at his phone. There’s a text from his mom. “Well, your grandparents are very pleased, at least.”