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Thick Ice, Thin Ice (The Work-Life Balance Remix)

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This is the second time they've had to do this, the second time they've boarded a plane in Helsinki together, landed at Heathrow, and been forced by the realities of NHL life to go their separate ways in the International Terminal. The first time it had been a choice made entirely because it allowed them to travel part of the way together. But Sebastian has since come to appreciate that amongst the Heathrow crowds they're nobody special.

Just another pair of travelers, forced to say goodbye in public.

Not that either of them is saying much at the moment. Sebastian is fussing with his Costa coffee, making up for the having to get up early to get to the airport - and fortifying himself for the hours of layover he still has ahead of him. He can feel Teuvo watching him, silently amused by all the stirring and tasting. He doesn't have a cup of anything to hand - his flight leaves in less than an hour, but he wouldn't anyway. He's the only Finn Sebastian knows who doesn't have the slightest interest in coffee.

"Sepe," he says, then, voice fond.

"Yes?" Sebastian says, looking up from watching the cream mix in.

"Come watch planes with me?" Teuvo says.

And he sounds so eager - and so much like the small boy Sebastian never knew him as, even though he's only a year or two from 30 - that even if Sebastian had minded the idea he wouldn't have been able to bring himself to say no. "And hold hands like an old married couple?"

Teuvo's smile grows even more impossibly fond at that. "Of course," he says, and reaches out to take Sebastian's free hand.

There'll be a kiss when Teuvo gets called for boarding, but he appreciates this quiet, public touch of hands in a different, but equally good way. He hitches his backpack up his shoulder, grabs hold, gives Teuvo's hand a squeeze. "Lead on."

***

Sex isn't the only thing Skype is good for - it wasn't so long ago that he and Jesse used it to keep in touch and play video games with each other. But now the tables are turned: he shares a rented house with Jesse, just outside Phoenix, and sees more of him than he has since Junior, while Teuvo remains behind in Raleigh, in the house they bought together, alone except for their dog.

He's talked about inviting a rookie to live with him, but Sebastian doesn't at all mind that that hasn't gone anywhere, yet - it does keep their options for what to use Skype for a bit more open, after all.

Of course, right now what they're using it for is showing off the dog's new trick, fetching street hockey pucks that Teuvo whacks down the hall using a mini-stick. Sebastian laughs every time she goes skidding off after one, nails clacking scattershot against the hardwood, and overshoots. "Reminds me of the rookies."

"Still growing into their paws," Teuvo agrees.

But they aren't their shared rookies - though Sebastian does know some of the ones from the Canes system, the ones who've taken a few years to stick in the NHL - so he has to tell Teuvo about the ones made fools of themselves dancing when the team went out for his birthday the other day. And the one who earned himself puck pick-up duty for the rest of training camp because he nearly took OEL's head off with an errant slapshot. And the ones who looked so surprised and disappointed when they came up against US drinking laws.

And then Teuvo returns the favor - telling him all about who has promise and might actually make the team, who'll get sent back to their Junior team or down to the AHL, who's obviously never lived on their own before. And Sebastian can't find it in himself to suggest that Teuvo not take in the stray Swede who burnt a hole in his gameday suit trying to iron it.

They'll figure out scheduling somehow.

***

It's probably terrible for their phones to take them into the sauna, but they've done it anyway, because while sharing this over Skype isn't the same as having it in person, it's a good excuse to do naked things together, that don't sound like sex things. Because if Finns are known for one thing, it's definitely taking their saunas seriously.

So the Swedish rookie won't intrude.

Which is good, because this sauna time is definitely at least a prelude to doing naked sexy things with each other. Even if those sexy things don't actually take place in the sauna. Because Sebastian and Teuvo do, in fact, actually take their sauna time seriously.

Right now, Sebastian is enjoying watching the sweat drip down Teuvo's pinked cheeks, sheening his flushed shoulders and chest, slicking down his hair everywhere. It's a good look on him, like game exertion, but with less padding in the way. It makes Sebastian want to reach out and touch. Unfortunately, there's two screens and a few thousand miles standing in the way of that.

From the look on Teuvo's face, he's thinking much the same thing, even if the towel wrapped politely about his hips refuses to confirm or deny. But then he's asking, "When's the first Canes/Yotes game, again?" And, yep, they're definitely on the same page: they need to be in the same space again yesterday. Which is to say: they're really going to have to figure out a better solution sooner rather than later.

And that might, unfortunately, mean actually telling management things. But for the moment, all he can do is stare intensely down the phone connection at Teuvo and say, "Not nearly soon enough." Because that's really all there is to it: being on opposite sides of the country, and by extension in different conferences, has nothing to recommend it. And there isn't any way to fix it that doesn't involve telling people things. And even that isn't a guarantee of anything.

"Let's not think about that," Teuvo says, decisive.

"And take this somewhere more horizontal?"

"In a few more minutes," because they really do take their sauna seriously.