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The Centre of My Heart

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It’s a warm summer day and all the Mathesons, plus Elaine, are hanging out at the cabin. Jared still can’t believe he owns a cabin -- well, half of one, at any rate -- much less one large enough to hold not just him and Bryce but his parents, Elaine, and Erin, with no one sleeping on the floor in a sleeping bag. Apparently it’s now a tradition that Jared’s wedding anniversary is a family get-together. 

The parents are all… actually, he has no idea what they’re doing, and he doesn’t much care, because Jared is down at the dock with Bryce and Erin. Erin is on her phone, Bryce is messing with the canoe, and Jared is staring at Bryce’s ass while he messes with the canoe. 

Suddenly, Erin elbows Jared. He reluctantly tears his eyes away from the best ass ever (sure he’s biased, but it is also objectively the best ass ever, and Jared is a hockey player, he should know) and looks over. 

Erin is smiling. Erin is smiling in a way that means Jared is absolutely going to hate whatever comes out of her mouth, because she’s as much a hobgoblin as the rest of them, and if she looks that pleased it’s probably bad.

Jared knows that he shouldn’t be the first to break--he can tell she’s dying for him to ask her what’s up, but he doesn’t want to, because he knows he’s not going to like it.  On the other hand, if he asks, maybe they can get this all over with faster, and Jared can get back to ogling his husband’s ass like God intended. It’s a toss-up between which will suck more. 

Apparently he’s been thinking about this too long, because Erin says, “Jared, guess what I found online!” 

Shit. 

Erin didn’t wait him out, which means that whatever she’s got is worth more than the point she just gave up by going first. This is going to be so bad. 

Jared wonders if he can plead sudden exhaustion and leave. He gives her his best flat stare, but before he can say anything else, Bryce walks over to join them and sits down next to Jared. 

Bryce, sweet, oblivious man that he is, smiles at Erin and says, “Did you find something interesting?” 

Jared wants to bang his head against the dock. No matter how often he explains things to Bryce, Bryce continues to believe that Erin is “sweet.” 

Erin’s smile wavers for a second--aha! Jared knows she’s pretending to be nice to keep impressing Bryce, maybe this is how he can escape!--but then she focusses on Jared with laser precision and says sweetly, “oh this is just something I think Jared would find interesting. I didn’t mean to distract you.”

Jared sees his opportunity. “Anything you say to me, of course you can say to my HUSBAND,” he says. 

Erin glares at him while smiling at Bryce. Jared really wants to know how she manages to do that, it’s impressive, not that he would ever tell her so. 

Erin seems to make up her mind, because she stops smiling at Bryce--she never stopped glaring at Jared, for the record--and says to Jared, “Remember, you asked for this!” 

“I didn’t ask for anything,” he protests, but she’s decided to ignore what he says. Also as usual. 

“I,” she says dramatically, “have found a fansite for Jared.” 

Bryce perks up. “That’s great!” 

Jared does not think it’s great. Jared’s pretty sure that if Erin wants to show him a fansite, it’s not a fansite he wants to see. “I don’t read my own press,” he says. 

“Oh, this isn’t press. This is all fanfiction about you.”  

Jared blurts out, “I didn’t think I was famous enough to get fanfiction written about me!” 

He regrets it instantly, because Erin is practically glowing with glee. 

Bryce looks at him, confused, and says, “Why wouldn’t you be famous? You’re a really good hockey player, and your numbers this past season were great!” 

It’s really nice to be married to a non-hobgoblin, Jared thinks, not for the first time. 

Erin says gleefully, “Did you know that there’s a story here where--”

“I’m not discussing this with you,” Jared says firmly.  He has heard about fanfiction, and this is something he has zero intention of discussing with his sister. His younger sister.

Erin opens her mouth, and Jared interrupts, “I’m sorry, what was that about a downpayment for a car I *was* going to give you?” 

Erin snaps her mouth shut. She glares some more, and then mutters, “You’re no fun.” 

Bryce nods solemnly. “It’s true,” Bryce says. “Jared is no fun. He wouldn’t let me buy him a watch as an anniversary gift!” 

“That watch costs more than a CAR,” Jared says. 

“Not more than my car,” Bryce mutters. 

“You’re not helping yourself out here, buddy,” replies Jared. 

They keep going back and forth about this and eventually the subject has been dropped, much to  Jared’s relief.


Jared is not so relieved later in the day, when his curiosity won’t let him stop thinking about it. Now he’s curious, dammit, and he kind of wants to know, so when everyone else is occupied, he pulls out his phone and starts searching. 

Apparently there are lots of stories about him. And Julius??? Hunh. He clicks on one randomly, and starts reading. 

Twenty minutes later, he goes to find Bryce, because he cannot be the only one reading all this. He can’t wait to see Bryce’s reaction. He never said Erin was the only hobgoblin.

He manages to drag Bryce away from… “What were you doing?” Jared asks. 

“Your dad was showing me something about the porch and how I might rebuild it. Your dad really likes renos, hunh,” Bryce says. 

Ever since they got married, his dad has really mellowed out around Bryce, Jared reflects. Now he mostly tries to out-manly him around house stuff, and seems vaguely disappointed that Bryce genuinely doesn’t care that he has no idea how to build stuff and is happy that Don does.

 “What’s up?” Bryce asks. 

Jared grins and says, “So, if I told you I found those stories Erin was talking about, and they’re fictional stories written about me and various people and various relationships, and they are hilarious, would it be ok if I read one to you?” 

Jared can’t wait to see Bryce’s reaction, but only if Bryce is ok with him reading this to him. 

Bryce says, “Wait, so… people… make stuff up? About you?” 

“Oh, not just about me, apparently about lots of hockey players, and people from books, and all sorts of things,” says Jared. 

“Hunh. Well, if it’s about you, of course I want to hear it,” says Bryce.

Jared clears his throat. “The title is ‘The Centre of My Heart.’ Uh. Wow.  This was written by… Oilerzfan4lyfe. I mean, that’s a choice.” 

Even though he’s still an Oiler, and he’s gotten to kind of like the guys on the team, he still judges Oilers fans. They have choices and yet they choose to support the Oilers.

 “Hockey RPF,” he reads. “Tags: hurt/comfort, Hallason, Julius Halla/Jared Matheson, trades, idiots in love, pining, first time, getting together, friends to lovers, unresolved sexual tension, resolved sexual tension. I don’t actually know what they mean by all of that.”

“Hallason?” asks Bryce. 

“I think that's our ship name. Like Brangelina,” Jared says gleefully. 

Bryce eyes Jared and says, “I think you’re maybe enjoying this too much.”  

Jared says, “May I continue?” 

Bryce gestures him to go on.

Jared reads, “Author’s notes: This is my first time writing in this fandom, but did you guys see that video with Jared and Julius in Julius’ apartment, and Jared is like, there? It’s like they live together. They were so cute, omg, you could cut the sexual tension with a knife.”

Jared pauses.“Sexual tension? Really? That’s not what it felt like.” 

Bryce says, “It didn’t look like that to me. You just looked kind of resigned.” 

Jared says, “You watched that?” 

Bryce looks at him like this is the most obvious thing ever. “Well, yeah. You were in it.” The duh is implied.

Jared blinks, and then says, “That’s both incredibly sweet and also really dumb.” 

Jared does not mention all the videos he’s watched with Bryce in them, because he totally judges himself for doing that. 

Jared goes back to reading from his phone: “This is still the author’s note. ‘And then they spent Christmas together! Happy Christmas to me!’” 

“I was at Christmas!” Bryce interrupts. 

Jared gives him a look and then goes back to reading. “‘I hope I got Julius’ voice right, it’s really hard, because he doesn’t say much, but I bet Jared likes his men stoic.” 

Jared interrupts himself to say, “No, I think one hobgoblin per relationship is more than enough.” 

“You’re not a hobgoblin,” Bryce says loyally. 

Jared gives him yet another look. “Bryce. I totally am. For some reason I’m the luckiest guy on earth and you don’t mind, but I really really am. Hmm, this one is pretty long, actually, so I’m going to summarize a bit, ok?” 

Bryce nods, and Jared continues.  “Ok, so it starts when I’m traded to the Flames.” 

“What?” Bryce says. “The Oilers would be stupid to trade you, you’ve been getting great numbers and you’re still on an ELC, and we don’t have anything that would make a good trade for that right now, and--” 

“Babe. Bryce. It’s fiction.” 

Bryce subsides but still looks slightly mutinous. 

“Ok. So here Julius and I are friends, and then I get traded. So I’m in Calgary but I text Julius all the time and I’m complaining about the Flames, and oh wow, it says here that I’m complaining to Julius about how horrible you are, and--”

“I’m not that person anymore,” Bryce says quietly. 

Oh. Jared looks at him and sees that he looks a little upset, so he rushes to say, “Do you really expect some Oilers fan to know that? I mean, would you trust the judgment of an Oilers fan? They like the OILERS.” 

Bryce smiles a little, and says, “Well, yeah, ok. Fair.” 

Jared adds, “Besides, you’re the best and most famous player on the Flames, of course they’re going to mention you! Look, their writer name is Oilerzfan4lyfe, they’re going to hate you because you score like, more than my team put together.” 

Bryce doesn’t say anything, but he’s now looking quietly pleased, so Jared is totally going to count that as a win.

Jared goes back to reading. “Where was I? Oh right, so now it’s my first game against the Oilers since I was traded, and oh wow, you said something to Julius and Julius is all jealous apparently, because you and I play on a line together and he doesn’t like that. He’s weirdly jealous that you’re my center now. Hunh. Also, I don’t think they’d put me on your line.“ 

“Don’t sell yourself short,” Bryce says. 

“That’s very kind of you, and it would be awesome to play with you obviously, but no, really. They’d be pretty stupid to put me on your line. There are many better players,” Jared replies. 

Bryce frowns and says, “But you’re on Halla’s line!” 

“Yeah,” says Jared, rolling his eyes, “but on the OILERS."

“Let’s see, now you’re facing off, and Julius is apparently ‘nervous but determined’--did I mention this is like, Julius’ thoughts? Anyway -- wait what? -- now Julius is fighting you???” Jared says incredulously. 

“Why would I fight Halla?” asks Bryce. 

“Apparently he fought you,” replies Jared. “Wow, that’s not going to go well for him.” 

Bryce doesn’t say anything, but Jared can totally tell that he agrees. 

“Ok, anyway, oh, now we have a flashback. I’m packing to leave Edmonton--ok, I really wouldn’t be that upset about that trade, except I would miss Julius? But it would be so awesome to be with you. Anyway, in the story I’m super upset, and oh my GOD—-” and Jared starts cackling. 

Bryce elbows him and says, “Keep going!” 

Jared is wheezing at this point, and all he can do is point his phone in Bryce’s direction. 

Bryce grabs it and starts reading, and then exclaims, “Brojob? What the hell is a brojob???” 

Jared wheezes some more, and manages to gasp out, “It’s a blowjob between bros, I guess! It’s no homo, just bromo!” 

Bryce says, “I’m pretty sure a blowjob is pretty gay, or at least pretty bi or something. Like, they definitely count.” 

Jared nods emphatically while trying to catch his breath. 

He’s not going to say it, because it would make Bryce feel super self-conscious, but he’s secretly super proud of Bryce for recognizing it and saying it. Bryce has come such a long way, and like, they’re married, so obviously, but still. He’s proud that Bryce can say the word gay without flinching. Like, that’s been true for a while, but every time, he notices and feels super proud.

Jared, now that’s he’s calmed down enough to be able to speak, takes his phone and gets back to summarizing. 

“Apparently this is the first time I’ve seen Julius since the brojob,” and here Jared snickers a bit, “so I guess that explains why Julius was all weird? Ok, so after the game Julius comes over to my apartment, and --“

 “You don’t have your own apartment, we share an apartment!” Bryce exclaims. 

“Bryce, you know. I know. This writer doesn’t know. Moving on.” 

Bryce grumbles a bit, but nods. 

“Julius says, ‘I missed you being near me.’ Oh wow no, that would never happen. I cannot imagine that many words that might have to do with a feeling ever coming out of Julius’ mouth,” Jared says. 

Now it’s Bryce’s turn to give Jared a look, and Jared says, “I’m the same, that’s how I know!” 

Bryce says, “You’ve said that to me.” 

Jared feels weirdly embarrassed. “Well yeah, but you’re you. That’s different.” And it is different, he thinks. Bryce really loves hearing words, even though he’s so great at not demanding them, so Jared tries to say stuff about feelings. Bryce is so good at it, and even after a few years of marriage, Jared really isn’t, but he can at least say he misses his husband. 

Jared gets back to reading. “Hunh, so I’m yelling at Julius about the fight and saying that he was crazy to fight with Marcus and he could have gotten seriously hurt. Ok, that part is accurate, at least. He would be totally crazy to fight you. Also, we can’t afford for him to be out with injuries. 

“Oh wait, this is amazing, I have to read it exactly-- ‘Julius knew words were difficult, even more so in another language. How could he explain the turmoil within? Suddenly, it came to him--and he leaned forward and mashed his mouth against Jared’s. Jared froze, and then his mouth opened sweetly to Julius’ invading tongue.’” The last part was hard to hear through Jared’s snickering. “Mashed? MASHED? Also, sweetly? What the hell?” 

Bryce looks thoughtful and says, “Well, that part seems pretty accurate. Your mouth is very sweet.” 

“Bryce!” 

Bryce grins unrepentantly.

Jared shakes his head but can’t help the slight grin on his own face.

“Where was I?” Jared asks. “Something about invading tongues,” Bryce oh-so-helpfully volunteers. 

Jared eyes him. “Moving along, here, Marcus. Ok, let’s see… listen to this! ‘Their tongues dueled hotly for dominance.’ Dueling? Really? I guess it goes with invading.” 

Bryce shrugs.

“There’s still lots left!” Jared takes a deep breath. “I’ve brought Julius back to my apartment, we’re kissing, and apparently this is somehow different than the brojob,” and here Jared pauses to snicker again. He’s probably never going to not snicker at that. Brojob. 

He picks the story up again. “This is different because… oh, it’s different because there was kissing. Really? That’s not a thing. This isn’t Pretty Woman!” Bryce says, “I like that movie!” Jared sighs. “I am judging you so hard right now, Bryce. So hard.” Bryce shrugs, “That’s not news.” 

That’s fair, Jared thinks. Having started this, he is now determined to get through it. Grit and determination. “Kissing, feelings, and now oh, oh, wow, amazing, we’re having sex, and oh my god --” and Jared breaks off because he’s laughing too hard to continue. Bryce is staring at Jared incomprehensibly, and Jared realizes that Bryce didn’t understand a word he said because Jared was wheezing with laughter. 

Jared takes a few deep breaths and tries to go back to the story, but every time he looks at it he cracks up again. Eventually he calms down, and Bryce asks, “But why Halla? I’m a much better player than him. Why aren’t they pairing me with you? If I’m your center and everything?”

Jared gives Bryce a look. “It’s fiction.”

“Well, at least it’s not Raf,” Bryce says.

Jared gives Bryce his very best flat glare, the one he’s been using on Erin forever. “Really. Really, Marcus. That’s what you’re going with.” 

“I’m kidding!” Bryce says.

Jared raises an eyebrow. “Don’t worry, babe, you rock my world more than fictional Julius does… although it does say here that “I didn’t know it could be like that!” Jared pauses thoughtfully. “I don’t think Julius is actually that flexible. I know I’m not.” 

“Does it end with you guys breaking up?” Bryce asks hopefully.

Jared’s eyebrow is getting a workout. “I feel like you’re maybe taking this a little too seriously. It ends with Julius and me in a long-distance relationship, and I say, ‘You will always be the centre of my heart.’” Jared snickers. “That’s what I should have included in my wedding vows!”

“Your vows were perfect,” Bryce exclaims. “They really weren’t, but you’re perfect because you thought they were perfect.” See, with lots of practice Jared can also say sappy stuff. Sort of. A little. 

Bryce hums, and says, “I think it should end with you two breaking up, and then I can console you. In fact, I think that --” Jared interrupts him before things get out of hand. Well, more out of hand. “Please tell me you’re not going to write one of these. Dave would kill you. And then me.”

Bryce looks offended. “I wouldn’t do it under my own name! See, this person probably isn’t named Oilerzfan4lyfe!”

“Probably?” Jared wants to know.

“I wouldn’t want to assume,” Bryce says primly. 

Jared knows he had better nip this in the bud or Dave really will kill him. Over the past several years, he’s managed to build a solid working relationship with Dave, and he doesn’t want to see it go down in flames. So to speak. 

“No.” Jared is strong. Jared is firm. Bryce pouts. Jared is a pushover.

Jared sighs. “You can write one just for me. Don’t post it anywhere!” Bryce grins, that sweet and dirty smile that Jared loves so much. “I know I *am* that flexible, so this will be fun!”  Jared laughs and says, “Write later, show me more of this flexibility now!”