It was bound to happen eventually, JT reasons the first time Tyson ends up in his lap. The team is made up of very large men prone to squeezing themselves into small spaces, such as their favorite bar in Denver, which has a great dance floor but sacrificed booth space for it. Still, they keep going there because all the servers know them and they can sit at the back and not be hassled.
So when the dust settles one night after a win at home and they’re all squeezed into the largest booth Spirits has to offer, Tyson is somehow just… on top of JT.
He’s warm and solid and heavy, and JT loops an arm around his waist to keep him in place, leaning forward to tell the server his order. She looks amused, probably at the way Tyson is wriggling to make himself comfortable.
JT smacks his thigh. “Be still,” he orders over the music.
Grubi snickers and Gabe arches an eyebrow.
“Keep it at home,” he says.
“What?” JT and Tyson say simultaneously. They turn to look at each other and JT shrugs. Who knows what Gabe ever means. Barrie’s the only one who seems to understand him.
Besides, JT likes this. Tyson fits perfectly in his lap, just the right height for JT to hook his chin over his shoulder when he wants to contribute to the conversation. Sure, his butt’s a little bony, but when he sits still and doesn’t squirm, JT feels oddly… right.
He doesn’t look too closely at the feeling.
He’s sacked out on the couch when Tyson comes home from shopping a few days later, half-asleep. The door slamming rouses him briefly, but he doesn’t bother moving as Tyson goes into the kitchen and starts putting groceries away.
He’s drifting off again when Tyson comes into the living room and pushes at his legs.
JT grumbles and doesn’t budge.
Tyson sighs and lifts JT’s feet, flopping down on the cushions and letting JT drape his legs over his lap. He rubs JT’s shin with one warm palm and JT can hear the XBox spinning up as sleep pulls him under.
“When’s the wedding?” Roman snipes during a faceoff.
“Last week and you weren’t invited,” JT shoots back. He steals the puck and races off with it, Roman in hot pursuit.
Somehow, it’s become standard practice for Tyson to be in JT’s lap at Spirits. So when they arrive one day and Tyson sits next to him instead of on him, JT feels oddly unbalanced, like something’s missing.
Tyson keeps shooting him sideways looks as if concerned for his mental state, and JT forces a smile and doesn’t ask Tyson to sit in his lap because that would be weird and whatever else JT is, he’s not weird.
Still, he’s distracted and moody, staring into his beer as if it will give him some answers, and when Barrie drags Tyson out on the dance floor, JT doesn’t follow.
Gabe nudges his foot under the table and raises a perfect golden brow when JT looks up. “Figured it out yet?” he asks dryly.
JT blinks at him. “Figured what out?”
Gabe just sighs. “Never mind.”
Barrie shows up suddenly and grabs Gabe’s hand, hauling him from the booth. “Your turn, Landesnerd,” he says, grinning up at him.
JT watches the way Gabe’s expression softens, how he leans into Barrie’s touch, and shakes his head as Tyson flops back in the booth beside him. He’s squeezed right up against JT even though there’s plenty of room for them with the others on the dance floor, but JT feels better suddenly, more stable, and he doesn’t say anything. Instead he slides Tyson another beer and Tyson grins at him, curls falling into his eyes.
“Your turn to vacuum,” JT tells him.
Tyson scowls but doesn’t argue. On JT’s other side, Gravy is discussing horoscopes with Ghetto, and JT tunes them out. Tyson runs hot, like an out of control space heater, and JT likes the feeling of their thighs pressed together. He leans into Tyson’s side and watches Barrie bouncing around Gabe on the dance floor, eyes bright and arms waving.
“Ten bucks says Gabe kisses him before the song is over,” Tyson says in his ear.
JT snorts. “Not in public.”
“But he wants to,” Tyson murmurs. His lips are right up against the shell of JT’s ear and JT suppresses a shiver. “Look at the way he looks at him.”
On the dance floor, Gabe is smiling helplessly down at Barrie, who seems to be telling a story in the middle of the dance.
“Where does he get that energy?” JT briefly wonders aloud.
Tyson laughs quietly and sits back. They watch as the song ends and Barrie heads in the direction of the bathroom. Gabe stands for a minute, then seems to make a decision and follows.
“They better not have sex in there,” Grubi mutters.
“Gross,” Nate informs him.
Tyson yawns and puts his head on JT’s shoulder.
“Ready to go home, bud?” JT asks him.
Tyson makes a dissenting noise and rubs his cheek against JT’s shirt. His curls are soft and smell like pine needles, and JT hides the smile as he sips his beer.
He has to nearly carry Tyson from the bar, and he buckles him into the back of the car he’d called before climbing in beside him. Tyson immediately shifts sideways until he’s lying down, head in JT’s lap.
JT suppresses the urge to pet the curls from his face, mindful of the eyes of the driver in the rearview mirror.
He wakes up the next morning disoriented, his surroundings unfamiliar. It takes him a minute to realize he’s in Tyson’s bed, and that’s Tyson curled up against him, one thigh over both of JT’s. He doesn’t remember how he got there, but he’s warm and comfortable and doesn’t want to move. Eventually, though, his bladder wins out and he wriggles out from under Tyson’s weight, moving slowly to keep from waking him.
He’s making breakfast when Tyson wanders into the kitchen, shirtless and yawning. His sleep pants are riding low on his hips and he’s sleep-tousled and soft-eyed. JT flips the egg in the skillet as Tyson slides onto a barstool and props his chin on one hand.
“Any idea why we were in the same bed this morning?” JT asks.
Tyson shrugs, eyes half-closed. “Your room was too far,” he mumbles.
JT slides the egg onto a plate and sets it in front of him.
It’s a day off, so there’s no urgency to get moving, although they have practice that afternoon. They end up on the couch, legs tangled together as they watch a morning show with hosts that are far too perky.
Halfway through, JT dozes off again. He wakes briefly when Tyson shifts around and settles against him, pressed up along his back with an arm around his waist, and then slides back under with a contented sigh.
“You get that that’s not normal, right?” Kerf asks him during practice.
JT, dripping sweat from breakaway drills, spares him a glance. “What’s not?”
“The way you two are—” Kerf gestures.
“Are what?” JT asks, faintly alarmed.
Kerf sighs. “Never mind.” He scoops up a puck and heads for the net, where Varlamov is waiting.
JT shares a glance with Tyson, who looks just as baffled.
Tyson ends up in his lap at Spirits again after their next game. He’d scored twice and he’s lit up with residual excitement, unable to hold still as he relives his moments of glory. JT wraps his arm around Tyson’s waist to keep him in place and sets to work demolishing a beer.
“For fuck’s sake,” Barrie exclaims when he shows up unannounced at their apartment for lunch and discovers Tyson sound asleep with his head in JT’s lap.
JT hushes him with a finger to his lips. “He didn’t sleep well,” he whispers.
Barrie throws his hands in the air. “Fucking ridiculous!” he shouts, and stomps back out.
Tyson rubs his face against JT’s thigh and sighs, relaxing into deeper sleep. JT gives into temptation and strokes his hair from his face with one gentle hand.
When Gabe shows up while Tyson’s out for a run, JT knows it’s serious. He steps back to let him in, rubbing suddenly sweaty palms against his shirt.
“Did I do something?” he asks.
“No!” Gabe says. He looks uncomfortable, all golden and handsome in JT’s kitchen, shifting his feet as if trying to decide what to say. “I just—the team wanted me to talk to you.”
“Okay?” JT can’t shake the feeling that he’s done something wrong.
“Look, tell me it’s none of my business if you want, because it’s not, I know that. But—” Gabe chews his lip briefly. "Are you in love with Josty?"
JT stares at him.
The silence stretches between them until Gabe coughs and scrubs both hands through his hair.
“This is even more awkward than I expected,” he mutters. “Look, JT, if you’re not, that’s fine. But either way, you kinda need to tone down the PDA, okay? Because we don’t need to make the news for that just yet, but—”
“Would it matter?” JT interrupts.
Gabe stops, hesitates, opens his mouth to speak and then closes it again. “Would it matter like would it bother the team?” he finally asks.
“Yeah, I guess.”
“No, JT, it wouldn’t matter.” Gabe’s eyes are honest, piercing and obnoxiously blue as he gazes earnestly at JT. “We’re your family. And we want you to be happy.”
“I am happy,” JT says blankly. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
Gabe shrugs. “I’m just saying. So are you?”
“I—” JT snaps his mouth shut. “I don’t know,” he finally says. “I don’t—I’ve never—”
“Me either,” Gabe says quietly. There’s something in his eyes like fear, but there’s happiness there too.
“Barrie?” JT asks, and Gabe nods, unable to stop his smile.
“I’m freaked the fuck out,” he says, honesty raw in his voice. “But I have to… I have to try. You know?”
JT doesn’t know. He nods because Gabe seems to expect it, but his head is swimming.
“I’m not in love with Tyson,” he says.
Gabe looks dubious but says nothing.
“It’s just. It’s easier, with him. To be… together. He’s—” JT can’t think of the word. “Safe? Or like… right. I don’t know.”
“You fit,” Gabe suggests gently.
“Yeah, sure. Like, I don’t have to worry about saying the wrong thing. I can tell him anything and he’ll listen. Sometimes I think he knows more about my hockey than I do, and he always tells me when I need to fix something. I do the same for him. He’s… he’s there, you know? He’s home. Like—oh, shit.”
Gabe says nothing, but he looks so smug JT would consider punching him if he could breathe. As it is, the bottom has fallen out of his world and he’s having a hard time staying upright.
“I’m—I’m in love with Tyson?” he whispers. He clutches at the counter to keep his balance.
“Breathe through it,” Gabe says. He sounds sympathetic but JT still kind of wants to punch him. “It hit me the same way, if it helps.”
“Not really,” JT wheezes. His vision is blurring at the edges and he bends over, knees weak, as the door opens.
“JT?” Tyson sounds terrified. He rushes to his side, hands warm as he grips JT’s shoulder. “What happened? Gabe, what happened? What did you do?”
“Why is this my fault?” Gabe protests. “He’s just—he’s fine, okay? He just had a personal revelation and he’s working through it.”
JT clutches at Tyson’s arm, still trying to breathe. Tyson’s eyes are huge with worry and he wraps an arm around JT’s waist, guiding him out of the kitchen and to the living room, where he pulls him down after him onto the couch.
“What happened?” he whispers, tugging JT against him. Gabe has followed, but he’s lingering at the door, just out of earshot.
“Apparently I’m in love with you?” JT’s mouth says with no input from his brain.
Tyson goes very still, and Gabe clears his throat.
“I’m, ah—gonna go.” He’s gone before anyone can say anything.
The door closes behind him and JT sits up.
“Sorry,” he mumbles. He feels unutterably stupid. “I don’t know why I said that.” He dares to sneak a look at him, expecting to see anger, or worse, pity, on Tyson’s face.
Instead he just looks… frozen.
“In love.” Tyson sounds shell-shocked. JT can relate. “With me?”
“I guess?” JT says, mostly to his lap. “Sorry,” he repeats. “I’ll, um—” He makes as if to get up and Tyson snakes out a hand, latching onto his bicep.
“Just—give me a second.” He’s staring straight ahead, but his fingers are like iron, clinging in desperation to JT’s arm, so JT subsides back to the couch.
“Why?” Tyson finally says.
“Dude, like I know?” JT squirms on the cushion. “I’ve had like five minutes more than you to process this.”
“But like. You’re in love. With me.”
“I guess?” JT cringes. “Look, it doesn’t have to change anything. We’re still bros, right? Everything’s cool. Just forget about it, we’ll pretend it never happened.” He shakes off Tyson’s hand and scrambles to his feet. Tyson’s still sitting frozen, and JT swallows misery and guilt as he bolts for the bedroom.
Alone in his room, he turns in a circle. He wants nothing more than to climb out a window and never face Tyson again, but that would probably violate the terms of his contract. He doesn’t think the team would be thrilled with him breaking his leg just to avoid an awkward situation.
He’s still trying to figure out what to do when Tyson knocks on the door.
“Can I come in?” His voice is small and JT hates that he made him sound like that. He’s moving before he makes a conscious decision, swinging the door open.
Tyson steps inside, big brown eyes unsure. They stand for a minute, just looking at each other, and then Tyson swallows audibly.
“I want—can I just—”
He takes a step, then another, until they’re toe-to-toe. JT stares down at him, spellbound, as Tyson lifts his head, looking determined, and leans up to press their mouths together.
His lips are soft and dry and it doesn’t feel like much of anything except it’s Tyson, which means it feels like worlds crashing together in JT’s mind, everything he thought he knew shaking itself apart and reforming in the space between heartbeats.
Tyson parts his lips and licks gently at JT’s mouth, hands on JT’s shoulders to steady himself, and JT takes a shaky breath and gathers himself enough to kiss back. Tyson hums as if pleased by this development, and JT’s not the only one who shudders when their tongues brush.
When Tyson eases back, he’s breathing hard and he looks shaken to his core.
“Okay,” he says, and stops to swallow. “Okay, so. Um. I think, uh… I am too?”
“Really?” JT asks, even as his heart lurches dangerously in his chest.
Tyson nods, a smile curving his mouth, and JT almost laughs as he pulls him back in for another kiss.
Later, he’s going to have to plan some sort of revenge on Gabe for springing this on them so unexpectedly. That or send him a fruit basket.