Ritter’s brows are furrowed, eyes narrowed, tongue poking out teasingly from between his lips. Every so often he mutters something Matt could never hope to understand, but damn does it sound good coming from his mouth. The controller is clenched tightly in his hands and if Matt pulled it away it would probably be hot and sweaty and gross to the touch. Ritter mumbles something about Wario’s momma. His trash talk is honestly the worst.
I want to date you, Matt thinks.
It’s sure as hell not a new thought, more like an old friend that he’s known for ages, comfortable to be around, leaves him feeling content. He knows the thought inside and out, they’ve had their ups and downs and come out stronger for it.
There’s a smudge of powdered cheese by the corner of his lips. Matt has the overwhelming desire to wipe it away. Considering how they are with each other it wouldn’t be out of character at all.
Ritter lets out a triumphant laugh and Matt tears his gaze belatedly back to the screen where he’s crashed off into space.
“You let me win.” Ritter tosses the controller to the side and stretches his long arms above his head. His shirt rides up in the front, revealing a tantalizing strip of pale skin that Matt aches to touch. He could, he thinks, Ritter would probably let him. Call him a weirdo, but let him. “Too distracted.”
It used to be I want you to fuck me , but somewhere down the line he’d fallen hard and fast and had ended up with I want you to date me.
Followed closely by marriage, retirement together, kids and a dog.
Ritter reaches over and flicks Matt in the forehead, which fair, he deserved that. But he can’t just let Ritter get away with that so he leans in, fingers seeking out those ticklish spots he knows he has. Ritter yelps and fights back and it devolves from there.
“Hey, can I get a ride with you?”
Matt glances up from where he’s tossing his gear bag in his trunk, surprised to find Ritter there.
“What happened to Smitty?”
“Stuck with coach.” Ritter gives him a lopsided smile like he already knows Matt will say yes. He takes Ritter’s bag and tosses it into the trunk, heading for the driver’s side while Ritter climbs in on the passenger side.
It’s a cool day in Calgary but the sun is shining bright overhead so they roll down the windows. Traffic is slow and Matt is twitchy, full of all the energy he picks up at practice every time. He slides his sunglasses up, on top of his head, reaching out to fiddle with the dial for the radio as they ground to a halt again. There are different ways he deals with this energy, sometimes he works out more, sometimes he just jerks off. It’s too early in the day to pick up and honestly, he hasn’t wanted to in awhile. Marner had laughed his ass off when he’d told him and welcomed him to being an adult, like the little shit wasn’t only a few months older than him.
The radio lets out some spectacular static and Ritter slaps his hand away, grabbing his phone to plug it in. He settles on some country/rock playlist that Matt can get into, his fingers tapping away on the wheel as they inch along.
He glances over at Ritter to see him staring out the window, arm on the door, hand propping up his head.
I want to date him, he thinks fondly.
Ritter looks over and catches him staring.
“What? Is something on my face?”
“Nah.” Matt laughs, reaching over and grasping Ritter’s chin, shaking his head gently. Ritter lets him. “Your face is perfect, man.”
Ritter rolls his eyes but Matt can still see his smile when he turns away.
It’s the end of the second period and they’re up by one.
The locker room is buzzing as they trudge in, as coach walks them through what they’re doing well and what they need to change. Matt grabs a gatorade from the cooler and takes a seat next to Ritter. He drops his helmet to the floor, swiping a hand across his forehead, pushing his sweaty curls back. He downs half the bottle quickly, then hands it to Ritter.
They’re done strategizing early, coach having a quick word with Gio about their defence, and that leaves Matt to rest.
“You see that beauty of a goal?”
Ritter isn’t sweating at all, on the bench while Smitty starts in net, but he’s in full gear looking huge and imposing in all the padding.
“You mean Johnny’s?” He glances at Matt, a hint of a smirk tugging at his lips, so, so red from the gatorade they just shared. He wonders if they taste like the artificial flavoring of the fruit punch.
“Come on, man,” Matt whines, nudging at Ritter to be annoying. “Perfect five hole ! How can you not be amazed.”
“Amazed by the size of your ego maybe.”
Matt laughs and Ritter nudges him back. It feels a little like tugging on a girls’ pigtails in grade school, or like passing a note- do you like me, check yes or no.
I want to date him, Matt thinks as Ritter smacks him with the empty bottle.
“Just wait,” Matt hears himself say. “I’ll score a goal for you. Then you’ll be impressed.”
Ritter rolls his eyes, expression fond.
“You don’t have to score for me.”
“I want to,” Matt insists, feeling a little reckless. “Next one’s for you.”
Ritter studies him for a long moment. Matt wonders what he sees, if he can see how much Matt wants.
“Alright,” he says, settling back against the locker. He keeps his head turned towards Matt, a small smile just for him gracing his lips. “Next one’s mine.”
They end up at the Alberta Children’s Hospital a few days before Halloween. A bunch of guys volunteer, more wish they could be there, but it’s a last minute event and they had other plans they couldn’t get out of.
Matt has no life outside of the team and the sport, so he’s there bright and early.
The guys get dressed up and decked out as they arrive, sent off to different wards with a few camera crews. Matt gets handed a Batman suit full of extra padding for the muscles he definitely doesn’t have and told he has five minutes to get changed. Hanny wanders by dressed as Captain America, so Matt figures he lucked out.
Ritter’s there when he gets back, chatting with Hanny and dressed as a gladiator. Matt is more than happy to ogle his muscular arms.
“What are you supposed to be?”
Ritter glances over at the sound of Matt’s voice and breaks out into a wide grin as he spots the costume.
“Hercules.” He waves his little plastic sword. “Superman, right?”
“I know you’re just doing this to mess with me,” Matt mutters. He can’t stop himself from puffing out his chest. “Batman,” he says in his best Christian Bale voice.
“Very scary.” Ritter nods solemnly but his eyes are sparkling with mirth.
“Hey, I’m fu-” A very scary nurse catches his eye. “Flipping terrifying.” He gives her a big grin as Ritter and Hanny try to muffle their laughter.
Matt discreetly flips them off.
They go to a few rooms, meet a bunch of really cool kids and hopefully brighten a few days. The kids go crazy over Matt’s costume, less so over Hanny and Ritter’s, which is a shame, because Ritter’s really rocking the whole gladiator thing. They let him keep his pants on under the skirt, which, damn, but Matt spends the morning happily watching the stretch and play of the muscles in his arms and shoulders as he lifts kids up and makes them giggle as they get bounced gently. It probably makes a few of the nurses on the floor nervous, but in all the time he’s known him, Ritter’s never dropped Matt, he’s sure as hell not going to drop a kid.
I want to date him, Matt thinks and it feels like an idea. Something to look into.
Ritter catches him watching him and smiles, warm and so sweet and Matt is dying to know what it would feel like pressed against his lips.
Two am and Matt can’t sleep.
They’ve made it into the first round of the playoffs, even if it doesn’t start for another week, and the thought of having to sit around for those seven days is driving him crazy.
He calls Ritter, wakes him up and then drives over.
They end up at a Denny’s. There’s a couple in a booth by the window, a collection of college kids looking like they haven’t slept in days, and a trucker on what could be his fifth coffee if the packages of creamer are anything to go by.
They both get Grandslams- eggs, toast, bacon, hashbrowns and pancakes- and balance it with water and coffee. They can work it off at practice the next day. Ritter doesn’t seem quite awake and Matt feels a little bad about waking him up, so he mostly chatters away, carrying the conversation as Ritter inhales his eggs and toast.
It’s late enough that time feels suspended, sitting in their little corner of the restaurant. The waitress has left them alone with a jug of water and refills of their coffees and Ritter still has these soft edges to him, still vaguely sleep warm and so touchable Matt has to sit on his fingers more than once to keep from reaching out. His hair is ruffled, eyes sleepy and he’s basically melted into the booth as he listens to Matt talk and works on his food.
I want to date him, Matt thinks for the millionth time.
Only this time Ritter freezes, fork held midair, piled precariously high with pancakes. His eyes meet Matt’s and suddenly they’re wide awake.
“You want to date me?”
“Um.” Matt’s brain chooses this moment to go offline. He could have used that four hours ago.
Ritter seems to remember he’s holding his pancake and hurriedly brings it to his mouth, chewing. Matt...is still trying to reboot.
Finally, Ritter swallows, takes a sip of his water and says, with a small smile, “I want to date you too.”
“Oh,” Matt says ever so eloquently.
Ritter rolls his eyes and kicks Matt lightly under the table.
“Okay, cool.” He digs back into his own food. “Cause I want to date you.”
“You already said that,” Ritter mutters but he can’t hide the pleased smile that sneaks across his face. Matt’s mirrors it.
Under the table he stretches out, tangling their feet together.
“Next time though,” Ritter continues. “Maybe when it’s not the middle of the night?”
Matt shrugs. “Can’t schedule romance, baby.”
Ritter laughs, startling the college kids a few rows away.
“I can’t wait to see what else you have planned then.”
I get to date this guy, Matt thinks, chest tight with affection.
He steals a piece of pancake off of Ritter’s plate just to hear him squawk and swear at him in Czech. He can’t believe how lucky he is.