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It's hard to start over... so hard. There's a new place in front of him and an old love behind him and it's difficult to stomach in a lot of ways. He loved his team, adored them and thought they adored him in return... and he has to remind himself that this wasn't the guy's decision, it was management. Management who didn't have the first clue about team dynamic, about friendship, about fucking brotherhood. Management who definitely didn't know the secrets he'd let his boys in on and how they'd made him feel at home, welcome in a place he'd feared he absolutely wouldn't be. It hadn't been his team, his friends... it was only his life.

He tells himself this is hockey, this is how the world works. It's not him and it's definitely not that his secret has been told to the wrong person. No one hated him, no one used it against him on or off the ice. He leans forward and presses his face against his palms and swallows hard. He thinks of the interview he gave yesterday, thinks of how he was lead into choked up tears, thinks of what his new team will think of him for that little display of weakness. He reminds himself how that guy broke down on the bench a few years ago and how protective the league was of him.

He thinks he'll be okay. That little moment doesn't give away his secret. It's okay, he can go back to living under a rock, to pretending he doesn't want to pick up, doesn't want to feel someone pressed against him on a dancefloor. Honestly, he's surprised he hasn't been caught and maybe he was getting too comfortable. He wonders if he should care and it's a new thought in the sea of old ones.

His new team is the Washington Capitals. He takes a deep breath and makes peace with that. It's not like he has a choice and he's heard they're pretty tight. Maybe they can be tight with him.

The flight is brutal, the time difference is worse. His head throbs and his legs feel like they're cramping by the time he gets there. He wants to make a good impression but trades this time of the year come with little recovery time, little time to deal with shit worth of anything. He puts three bags of his belongings down and tells himself to breathe. It won't be the last time he has to tell himself that.

He thinks he proves himself the first game out, but he also doesn't meet his personal standards. He knows they're high, knows they verge on unattainable and he'd never dream of holding someone else to them. He thinks he's unfair to himself and he knows its true but knows he won't change. He's always felt like he has to be a little bit better than anyone else... just in case.

He goes through the motions. He shows the public his smile, tells them he's happy to be there. He shows the boys his smile and pretends like it didn't hurt to get traded. He shows the ice how to be his bitch and he eventually shows the Pens he knows how this rivalry goes. He thinks he's shown the fans he wants to be here.

Now if only he could show himself he wants to be.

Quiet time is precious, few and far between, and since he's the new guy they have him bunking up with someone at each away game. It's frustrating but it's also kind of what he needs and the juxtaposition of it frustrates him to no end. He wants to be alone to wallow, to hurt, to just be sad for a goddamn minute. He wants to be alone to soothe the hollow ache inside him with a phone call to someone who actually knows who he is. All of who he is. By the same token, he shouldn't be alone because he'll wallow, he'll fall apart and he's not sure there's enough glue in the world to put that part of him back together.

It's not easy, going back to hiding who he is, hiding all the things he laid on the table with his old team. If anything it's an exercise is how to make his life harder than it should ever have to be and now that he knows freedom, his cage feels like claustrophobia. Like it wants to kill him. He thinks about telling them, but he knows he doesn't have that kind of trust yet. Won't for probably long enough he'll second guess himself when the time comes anyway. He wants to cry, but he's already done that once in front of people. He wants to scream, but normal people don't start yelling while standing in a parking lot. He shows another person who's boss on the ice instead. It doesn't work how he thought it would.

They keep making their run for the cup and while he's happy to be on a team that's likely to make it, he's also dwelling too hard in his past to be as useful as he's supposed to be. He still feels separate from the team, like there's a barrier wall between them. There is. A huge wall none of them know about that he can't show them without admitting he's holding this huge part of himself back.

In some way he expects it to be Ovi that comes and gets up in his face about holding himself back. He even half expects it to be Carlson. He absolutely does not expect it to be Garnet and Nic. Zero percent of him expected to be wrangled in the hallway and introduced into one of their rooms and corralled like he's a wild horse and they're cowboys and wow that gives him all the wrong images to go with all the words that go with horse and cowboy and context is everything, but his brain doesn't care. It recycles ridden and saddle up and that one time he bedded a guy in Texas and he yelled yeehaw while riding his dick and... just no. No.

He sits in the chair they direct him to and does his best impression of a human that's perfectly okay and is totally not thinking about that time a stunning young man rode his dick while wearing a cowboy hat.

"You realize you can tell us anything and it'll stay with the team, right?" Dowder looks vaguely upset, like he think Dilly doesn't trust him and well... he doesn't, does he? He doesn't trust many people.

Garney leans back on the dresser and finally pulls himself up on it and settles, his hands between his legs, gripping the edge of the wood. "Or it can stay in this room and never leave. No one else ever has to know."

He wonders what he did to scream so loudly that he has a secret that needs out. He wonders what his tells are, what things he needs to work on hiding better, what else he needs to change about himself so he doesn't give himself away.

He feels flayed open and exposed and damn it hurts. He swallows and looks down at his hands because looking up at them makes something ache deep inside him and he knows the answers to all of his questions. He looks like a man who needs to run. He looks like he's running just as scared as he is and he looks tired, like something's weighing on him that wasn't before he was traded here.

"Maybe I don't feel like I can talk about it." It's more honest than he meant to be, but he sort of feels like he doesn't have a filter anymore. Feels like he's about to rip himself open and show himself to anyone who asks.

Nic's so quiet with his reply that it makes Dilly look up. "You don't trust us." It's not a question, it's a statement, as if he's already made that determination. Their eyes meet and he sees the hurt shining bright in Dowders eyes and god, that hurts more than he'd have thought.

"What reason does he have to?" Garnet asks, leaning back against the mirror. "It's not like we've let him in either."

It feels... well, it feels like everything around these two does. Like they can hold their own conversation beneath the one they're having out loud. Like their strings are deeper than what's shown on the surface and something about it tugs at him, makes him examine it closer, in a light he usually avoids. His gaze flicks back and forth between them, seeing how close they are even with Garnet on the dresser and Dowder standing beside it. And well... well that's something. The united front on consistency they present is unheard of.

He thinks of the videos the Caps put out. The ones of Vrana and Osh, the bromance they push between those two. He thinks of the background noise, the things hidden behind the loudness of Osh's way of warming up, the things in the shadows. He squints and debates the soft looks, the tender smiles, the way these two are absolutely glued to one another. He thinks of the podcast and the teasing and the video where they keep trying to put their feet in one another's laps and it's loud and blatant and he considers what its hiding. His heart beats faster and he wonders if he's reading too far into it. His gaze meets Dowder's again and he watches him smile.

"I think he's getting it."

Garnet hums, sliding his foot closer to hook around the back of Nic's thigh and... yeah, Dilly's getting it. Loud and clear now that he's seeing it. All the tension slides out of him at once and he sags in his chair, reaches up to push his hand through his hair and he tries to let the words out, tries to trust these two and that they're not playing him.

"There's things my old team knew... it made me feel safe and open for them to know and now... no one knows." He's trying, he really is, but it's so hard to just spit out something he hasn't had to say in so many years. It was just known. A given. Not an announcement. This is an announcement and he hates the taste of it on his tongue.

"The guys know about us... have for a while." Garnet slowly rubs his foot over Nic's leg as he speaks, the top of his shoe lightly running over Nic's pants.

Dilly looks toward Nic's finger and he's rewarded with a small huff of a laugh. "Open relationship, buddy. I'm no cheater."

And that... well it's a relief. He doesn't like to think about cheating or sham marriages or beards or any of that bullshit. Open or poly relationships he can deal with. That's fine and he's fine and he feels like he can tell the truth now if he just opens his mouth and spits it out. It's only once he has to say it.

"The guys all knew..." he sighs, leaning forward and pushing both hands into his hair, feeling the chair strain against his hips, ridiculously too much for this tiny pathetic chair. He focuses on that long enough to find the rest of his courage. "It was so easy there, it felt like I didn't need to hide, you know? I was just like everyone else and it wasn't some huge thing. I'm just not used to it being a secret anymore and it kind of... hurts." He made a face, realized he was still very much hiding the words he didn't want to say beneath all the ones he was. This wasn't a closet, he didn't want to come out of it again. It was a wall and he had choices. Stand behind it, go around it, go over it, scream into the air and let the people on the other side hear him. Disintegrate it.

"No one's a bigot here, man. We're family, even in the off-season. Just... be you. Be who you were with the Sharks, okay?" Of course its Garney being this blunt.

"You don't have to say shit, just be you. All of you." Dowder with the follow up.

It feels like he can breathe again and he slides his hands through his hair again, scrubs a little and sits up straight, gaze flicking between them. "I think I can do that."

"Good." Garnet hops down from the dresser and stands a little too close to Nic and that... well, it seems normal. Because it's been normal since he got here. He really should have noticed, but the boys do such a good job of misdirection with them and it's so protective and beautiful and he thinks he wants in on that. The protection and the ability to be who he is.

He leaves mostly because he feels like they're still in the same room for a reason and that perhaps that reason isn't him and when he gets back to the room he's sharing with Vrana, he fails real hard at not thinking about what they might be up to in the room across the hall. V's single and Dilly's... well, he's aching for someone to touch him. Not even sexually, really. He just wants to be cuddled up to, held. He wonders if V would hold it against him if he asks him to go to a club. He doesn't want to be looked at like he's a player or something, but it's difficult to get away with trying to find someone to date when he's still hiding from the outside world... and if he's honest, still hiding from all but two of the team.

Eleven comes and goes and he finally makes his decision closer to midnight. It leaves him an hour and he doesn't think he can get into that much trouble in an hour. He stands up and goes to get his phone and wallet and shove his feet back in his shoes and tugs a navy hoodie on that doesn't have a trace of any team logo on it. "Heading to the bar, wanna go?"

Vrana looks up from his tablet and their eyes catch in the mirror and he watches the easy grin slide over V's lips. He's gorgeous and that's a thought Dilly definitely has to tamp down on. Objectively he's allowed to look, realistically it makes things weird in the locker room if he's thirsty for a teammate. He's been there and done that and never again. "Yeah." V's out of bed and dressed in under five minutes and he's absolutely glowing and Jesus. It's like looking into a sun.

He wonders if they'll be on display because of Jakub freaking Varna or if Vrana will hide his presence with his overwhelming one. His very own distraction. He wonders if his room assignment was on purpose, too. He thinks maybe it was.

They hit the bar and it's apparently a popular local hangout and its swimming with people of all types. People watching the TVs over the bar, people there to drown their sorrows, people dancing on the tiny dance floor and yet others sitting in the tables around the edges. It's a steady sort of roll and he lets himself get lost in it, doesn't even really notice how close V's sticking to him until he finds himself in the crowd on the dance floor and gets passed between two or three people only to end up with V all but grinding against him from behind. His blood runs hot and he has to swallow down his immediate reaction to being touched how he wants to. It's probably V being friendly or... or. He turns slightly and V's eyes are bright, his breath smells of beer but Dilly knows he's only had one. He looks happy, bright and at home, and... yeah. This feels intentional though he's not sure if it's the 'I'm okay with you' intentional or the 'I want a piece of you' intentional and he really wishes he could work that one out.

Two random girls slide up on V's side and he lets them, just like he lets the guy in platform boots and raging black eyeliner plaster himself against them both. There's hands everywhere and while some of them area girls, well... at least two sets of them are guys and Dilly can get behind this. Or in front of it, technically speaking. He relaxes into dancing with this crowd and he lets hands go wherever they may, no matter whose they are, because he's wanted to be touched so bad it's been eating away at him.

Hands find his thighs, his ass, his abs, one trails up under his hoodie and stays on his stomach and thumbs at his pants and he just lets his mind decide its one of these two guys touching him this way. The music is filthy and the lights are lower the later it gets. It's like the place is encouraging them to be doing exactly what they are. His dick is hard and he's really damn glad his hoodie is as long as it is. He keeps his front side pointedly away from the girls so they don't get the wrong idea about why he's turned on. He's already done that dance a few times in his life and trying to let down a girl who thinks you've got it for her is honestly a horrifying experience.

The music thrums and the crowd writhes and Dilly only decides he's done when he can barely stand to keep himself from grinding up on V and this other guy in all the inappropriate ways. He extracts himself from the sea and goes to get a water from the bar, downs the room temperature liquid and waits until V joins him to lean in and tell him he's headed back to the room. He watches V's gaze flick to the guy who had been dancing with them, where he's still laughing and dancing with the group of girls they've left behind. There's a silent question there and he's not wholly prepared for it. He wets his lips and shakes his head a little, nodding toward the lobby before ducking out.

V follows and once they've navigated the elevators and are back in their room, Dilly takes his chances. "You didn't seem to mind that guy all up in your space." He makes sure he sounds even, completely level, no hints of anything in his voice. He hopes like hell he doesn't come across like an asshole.

Vrana just laughs. "I mean, I was pretty okay with being up in your junk, too, right?"

Well.. okay then. Dilly tosses his hoodie on the floor, removes his shirt and turns to find V far more stripped than that, his boxer briefs all that's covering him and that does things to Dilly he's not sure he's ready for. He blames all of that on how he does the one thing he didn't want to ever have to do and spits out, "I'm gay."

Vrana just gives him an amused look and plops his ass on the edge of the bed. "I'm refusing to have labels." V shrugs and eases himself back, spreading his legs and just smiles even wider.

Dilly swallows and absolutely looks at what Vrana's showing him. He's only human and his teammate is on goddamn display for him right now, open and showing and aroused. Holy fuck. Dilly feels the answering pang of arousal in his body as his gaze slides over the obvious length of V's dick down the right leg of his underwear. He looks thick. Images of Dowder and Garnet flood his brain again and lord, he's hopeless. Gone over three of his teammates now and god, how many people on this team are something other than straight? Then again, how many people in the rest of the world are, too, and are just afraid to be completely open about it? He thinks the number is far larger than people like to think it is.

"Just going to stare all day or... want something?" V bites his lower lip and Dilly can't help but stare at that, too. V's young... but not that young. There's only five years between them and he thinks that's nothing in this business. They're all old men by the time they've beat the shit out of their bodies. He takes his chances and hopes like hell this doesn't fuck up anything in the team dynamic as he steps up to Vrana's bed and just does what he wants to. He goes to his knees and places his hands on Jakub's thighs and looks up at him, waiting on it to fall apart, to have been a joke. But V's looking at him like he could eat him and when he moves his hand to cup his erection, V arches into it with a low moan.

Yeah, he could get used to this.

He leans down and drags his lips along V's length through the cotton of his shorts, feels the warm hard press of his dick and nothing in the world could stop him now. He tugs the waistband down and extracts him from his shorts and wastes absolutely no time in pushing his mouth down over his dick. It seats something inside him, pushes it back into level with the rest of his being, and he feels whole again for the first time since he left he Sharks. Sure, he never had a relationship like this with one of his teammates, but he had acceptance, no questions asked, people who'd stand up for him in a heartbeat. Now he has... well, he has that here too, he thinks. That and a dick in his mouth and something settling in his soul he hadn't been sure would be settled again in his career and it feels good.

He sucks dick like he fucking means it and from the look on Vrana's face, he can feel every ounce of that dedication right up through all his nerve endings and straight up into every endorphin his brain is releasing. Vrana's hips rock in a way that doesn’t shove his dick down his throat but gives V something to do, some way to participate. He watches Vrana's mouth fall open, his gaze go fuzzy, his breath start coming in shaky and needy and when the little wanton sounds start, Dilly's gone. Absolutely gone over how perfect this is, over how gorgeous V is, over having this man's dick in his mouth when V could have picked anyone to come back up here with tonight.

He works him harder, fits all of him into his mouth, the head just barely nestled in his throat, and he swallows and that's it. That's all Vrana can take and the strangled attempt at a warning is lost on the moan that follows it up as V shoots right down his throat, cock pulsing on his tongue. His muscles are taut, straining, his thighs trembling, and then V's hand is in his hair and he's holding on tight and Dilly can barely think. This is something he knows he likes. He likes his hair being pulled, he likes being slightly manhandled... only slightly. It's like being on the receiving end of a good clean hit. It hurts but it's also exhilarating and there's nothing to be mad about because it was clean. V pulls him off his dick and hauls him up to his mouth and if he holds some of V's cum in his mouth to share, well... he's just testing the waters .

V passes with flying colors, licking the taste out of his mouth like a starving man, moaning like he didn't just cum so hard he couldn't breathe. Dilly lets himself be pressed down to the mattress and questions nothing about V opening his pants or how he plants his ass on his chest and leans down that way to suck him. It's clearly not the first dick Vrana's sucked. He's too good at it; hitting all the right places, sucking in all the right ways. Even though guys know what they like it's different executing it, it's not like its second nature to suck a cock. It takes just as much practice as it would for a girl, really. V's definitely gone down on some guys in his past and Dilly finds himself wondering who. He imagines what 'open relationship' means and thinks about V with Garney and Dowder. He can't breathe through the image of all that hotness in one place and has to reroute his brain.

He focuses on V's ass and he grabs it and Vrana moans. Okay... alright, that's why he's here and he wants to laugh. Twenty four is such an easy age to still be riled up after cumming just minutes before. He remembers twenty four very well. All the dicks, all the incessant need, all the boiling desire every single minute of every single day. He gropes Vrana's ass until V's grinding his hard dick on his chest and then slips his shorts down to get ahold of the perky globes without anything in the way. He squeezes and lightly spanks and parts them to see his bright pink hole and so sue him if he rubs it with the pad of his index finger and that just happens to make Vrana suck him harder.

V gets loud. It's almost obnoxious how loud he is with a dick shoved down his throat. It's also incredibly hot.

Dilly spits on his finger and presses it to Vrana's hole, watches him open for him and slides it up inside and begins what he's always entitled 'the hunt'. Of course he coined this when he was a Shark and it just made sense. Now... well... it just fits is all. Vrana bucks when he finds it, comes up off his dick and moans out, "Dill... Dilly... Brenden," and then, "Fuck!" And yeah, he has the right spot and he's merciless in coming after it. Vrana humps against his chest and Dilly gets his free hand involved, getting material out of the way and letting V basically fuck his abs, so completely gone he's not sucking Dilly's dick anymore, but hell if he cares. He's got this hot as hell man fucking his finger and riding him and he fails to see how this is any sort of problem.

Vrana comes apart on top of him, shakes apart and stripes his abdomen with cum and he's so very quick to get his mouth back on Dilly's dick. So fast he's not prepared for it and it's all he can do to warn him just seconds before he loses it and cums with Vrana's name on his lips, his hips faintly arched, his entire body pulled tight and needy and god it feels so good.

He comes down from it and eases back against the bed and only half expects it when Vrana slides off and reaches for the tissue box beside the bed. He's discrete about spitting and its kind of endearing. He also cleans up his mess from Dilly's abdomen and then flops down beside him, looking pleased with himself. It's hot... really hot and Dilly tugs him in and kisses him until he can't taste anything but Vrana and then noses up under his jaw to murmur, "I don't do regrets... so we're real clear here."

V laughs and it's a beautiful breathless thing. "Neither do I, man. I'm not gonna wake up and regret this tomorrow, promise."

That's all Dilly needs to hear. Just a promise not to make things weird, not to regret... and well, he feels better than he has in weeks and now three people know his secret and three people don't hate him for it and... it's a start. A damn good one. He'll wait and watch and he'll say and do the things he wants to as he feels safe to do them. The wall's still there but its maybe glass now. He can see through it. He can make decisions about the other side now.

He thinks he'll like it on the other side.