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Jamie’s trying not to let it get to him, but he hates the Hawks. Hates this team, hates what this organization represents. He looks around, looking for Segs, and then he remembers. Tyler is back home, rehabbing with Matt. He’s not here, he’s not going to catch Jamie’s eye and take the face-off because he knows Jamie’s a jerk at the dot. Jamie takes a deep breath and watches as the puck drops.

He doesn’t mean to slam into DeBrincat quite so hard, but he’s certainly not sorry—or surprised when he hears the whistle. He knows. It’s fine. A couple of minutes, he’ll be back out there.

That night, he calls Tyler from a drab hotel room, missing him even more here. “Don’t be such an obstinate goat. Need you on the ice, not in the sin bin.” Jamie can practically hear the wink in Tyler’s voice.

Jamie grins at the ceiling, some of his stress draining away. “Wish you were here.” It’s hard not having Tyler with him, in the locker room handing him tape, bumping him after a good play, on the bus. He didn’t realize how falling asleep next to a familiar body made the strange beds feel more like somewhere he belonged.

“Soon,” Tyler promises.

“So how’d it go today?” Jamie asks, getting comfortable as Tyler explains his tediously grueling day, making the same minute motions over and over. Jamie vows to appreciate his ice time enough for both of them.

**

Jamie checks the board again. On time. He’s here way too early, but he doesn't care. Jamie ate some sad microwave burrito over the sink, which felt like a fitting send-off to all this time alone. He’s been pacing in the arrivals area like some animal at the zoo. He’s got his hat pulled down as far as it’ll go, an old HarbourCats hat Jordie got him as a joke.

Jamie watches some footage on mute and sends it to Pavs—they look good, but if he works with Roope to tighten their plays up a little, they’ll be unstoppable.

Landed.

Jamie paces faster, willing Tyler to be the first one down here. He’s the last instead, in a black t-shirt, on crutches, scowling. Jamie runs over.

“Show-off.” Tyler winces.

Jamie resists the urge to scoop Tyler up and carry him to the baggage carousel and instead settles for gently taking Tyler’s face in his hands and leaning in to kiss him hello. He only means for it to be a quick thing, but he can’t stop himself—pressing kiss after kiss to Tyler’s lips until Tyler’s laughing too hard for the kisses to land.

“My luggage, Jam.”

Jamie nods. “Yeah, I’ll get it. Stay here.”

Tyler doesn't listen, shifting his weight on the crutches and following anyway.

Jamie pulls the two bags off the belt. “Should I get you—”

“If you say wheelchair, you’ll never see my dick again.”

Jamie laughs. “I wasn’t going to say that.” He was going to say that.

“Take me home.”

Jamie wants to ask Tyler a million questions, wants to chant I missed you over and over and over again, at each stop sign and red light, every time he puts the blinker on. He holds his hand just above Tyler’s thigh. “Can I?”

“Yeah.” Tyler’s answers are down to one word, so Jamie takes the hint, giving Tyler’s leg a squeeze and shutting up.

When they get home, Tyler stands in the entryway.

“Pavs took the dogs til tomorrow—I thought…”

“Smart, but I wanted to see those idiots.”

“You’ll have to settle for me,” Jamie jokes, wrestling Tyler’s luggage in. “Do you want to go up?”

“I—I’m tired.” Tyler glances at the sofa, then back at the stairs.

“I can carry you?” Jamie offers, expecting to get shot down. He’s shocked when Tyler pauses.

“On those chicken legs? Please.” Tyler swings himself toward the stairs. “Just—”

“Yeah.” Jamie positions himself behind Tyler, a human safety net, and they make their way up, step by step. Jamie can see both how far Tyler’s come and how far he has to go before he’s back on the ice. Tyler collapses on the bed, shoes still on and Jamie wordlessly takes them off.

“Thought we could order from Terry’s?”

Tyler smiles, the first real smile since they got into the car. “I want brisket and one of those big ass ribs.” He pats the bed next to him. “Come here though, I missed you.”

Jamie kicks off his shoes and curls up around Tyler, as close as he can get without touching him. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

“You won’t.” Tyler grins and grabs Jamie’s shirt, pulling him closer. “This hat is so ugly.” Tyler plucks it off his head. Jamie doesn’t see where Tyler throws it though, because then Tyler is kissing him and fuck, Jamie missed him so much.

“Welcome home, babe.”

**

The flight was long, and felt longer without Tyler next to him, warm, cracking jokes while they all played cards, showing him dumb videos on his phone. At least Tyler’s home now, and Jamie won’t be going home to an empty house.

By the time he gets there, it’s late and he’s worried Tyler might be asleep already. Jamie doesn’t want to wake him up, but he wants to hear Tyler’s voice, wants Tyler to kiss him and tell him they’ll get them next time, wants to hear how Tyler’s rehab is going. Jamie stopped being good at being away from Tyler a long time ago, and he spends all the away games staring at his phone, mad at it.

“There he is, my forlorn little retriever,” Tyler greets him from the sofa, legs spread out in front of him, one slightly elevated.

Jamie wants to argue, he’s not a dog but he practically bounds across the room. He’d be embarrassed, but Tyler’s smiling, his face already angled up for a kiss, which Jamie happily gives him. “I missed you,” he whispers against Tyler’s lips.

**

Jamie hates this drill on the best of days, and today is not that. They’re coming off their third loss in a row, and they need to turn this around. They came so close last year—the closest they’ve ever been. Jamie wants it. He’s wanted it, but knowing they have what it takes to almost win the Cup—he doesn’t want almost anymore.

He messes up again and then again, can’t seem to shake it off.

He skates off to get some water, watching the boys do it correctly without him in the way.

“Hey.” Tyler’s next to him suddenly, he must have just finished up PT with Dave.

“They look good.”

“They do,” Tyler agrees. “Real good. So why are you being such a prickly goose today?”

“Goose? Really?”

“Yup. Just flapping around out there.” Tyler starts to laugh. “Honking. Is that what geese do?”

“I’m not—I’m not doing that.”

“Sure you’re not.” Tyler’s laughing for real now, head thrown back, neck exposed. Jamie’s torn between wanting to laugh and wanting to kiss him.

“I’m not.”

“Get back out there. Honk!” Tyler shoves him off from the boards, and Jamie giggles as he skates off.

**

“There he is, my eager elephant.”

Jamie shakes his head as he steps off the ice. The animals are getting somehow more ridiculous and more accurate. Jamie felt like a monolith today in practice, tall and strong and unyielding. “I didn’t know you were gonna be here today.”

“Yup, Dave’s adding more PT now that I’m a little more healed.” Tyler’s voice is nonchalant, but his eyes look tired, flat. Today’s session must have been exhausting.

“Not feeling great? I’ll drive us home. I’ll just go and change. We’ll get your car tomorrow.”

Tyler nods.

“You’ll be ready when you’re ready. Don’t push too hard.”

Tyler glares at him and Jamie ducks down to kiss it away.

“I know, but I want to be out there.”

“You will be.” I want that too, Jamie doesn't say. Doesn’t have to.

**

Jamie’s fucking…tired. This schedule sucks. It’s too many games, there are too many injuries. It’d be one thing if they were winning, but they’re not. Jamie tries to rally, to seem optimistic, to feel worthy of his C. He’d rather drink half a bottle of tequila and sleep for 3 days. Worst of all, still no Tyler. Jamie doesn’t even try to cheer up the boys tonight, just showers and changes, he just needs to get home to too many dogs and Tyler.

The house is dark when he gets home, not a dog or a Tyler in sight. Tyler must be asleep. Jamie knows Tyler needs rest, but tonight he needed his boyfriend.

He kicks off his shoes, one of them hitting the wall hard, and heads to the kitchen. He grabs a beer and tosses the cap in the sink.

“Fuck.” He sighs and drains half the beer in one go. “Fuck.”

“Tough game.” Jamie spins around and there’s Tyler, in sweats, low on his hips, with nothing else on. His hair is going in five directions and his beard needs to be trimmed and Jamie loves him.

Jamie exhales. “Yeah. It was.”

Tyler walks over, he’s getting faster and Jamie’s learning not to baby him. He skated the other day—he’s doing great according to Dave. Jamie waits for whatever ridiculous animal Tyler’s going to call him. Maybe a porcupine, something prickly to match his mood.

Instead, Tyler reaches up and cups Jamie’s face, so gently, it makes Jamie feel like he could cry, which is stupid. Tyler’s thumb sweeps back and forth, back and forth, his eyes locked on Jamie’s. They stand there for a long minute, in a weird bubble of intimacy, looking at each other, Tyler smoothing the stress and disappointment and exhaustion away, until Jamie leans his forehead against Tyler’s and closes his eyes. Tyler doesn’t stop though, he just stands there, his thumb soft against the small patch of skin above Jamie’s beard.

“Ready for bed, my maudlin little mongoose?” Tyler whispers.

Jamie grins. There it is, of course. He doesn't even know what a mongoose is. “I don’t even know what that is. But yeah. Take me to bed.”

**

Jamie gives himself one last look in the mirror. He looks good. Well, he feels good at least. He thinks he looks good. Of all the gifts Tyler’s given him, this might be the one that means the most—the way Tyler looks at him. It makes Jamie feel confident and pleased and, if he’s being honest, hot. Tyler makes him feel attractive, looking at him until Jamie squirms, until Jamie can’t wait to get him alone and out of the very clothes that have gotten them into this.

Growing up, Jamie didn’t think he’d ever know how this felt, the nickname Chubbs looming over him for most of his life. He feels good about himself now though, and it definitely started with Tyler.

Jamie got this shirt a couple of years ago, one time when they went shopping together. Tyler barged into the fitting room with a sweater and when he saw Jamie in this shirt, he pressed him against the wall. Jamie left the room with a hickey and Tyler insisted on buying the shirt for him.

They usually get ready together now, but Tyler had PT. He’s getting ready there, then getting a ride from Tom to the big team dinner tonight at Pav’s place. It reminds Jamie of those early days, when he would get dressed with Tyler in mind, loving when Tyler would check him out.

Jamie glances around Pav’s until he spots Tyler’s hovering near the big island in the kitchen. Tyler clearly remembers the fitting room incident, his face full of wanting, and he takes a step toward Jamie. “My fashion flamingo.”

Jamie blushes, kissing Tyler hello.

“You know I love that shirt.” Tyler grins. “You are so getting laid tonight.”

**

Jamie watches Tyler move across the practice ice. He looks pretty good, but Jamie can tell he’s tentative. The way he’s pushing off, his turns. He’s not quite ready yet, but it gives Jamie a thrill watching Tyler skate, the silent slicing promise of their skates being on the ice together soon.

They all said Tyler needed the ice to himself, needs time to get comfortable again. Jamie’s trying not to hover, like some drone parent or whatever they fuck they are.

“Babe, get out here!” Tyler yells.

Rads, who must have been here for PT, makes a big show of it, giving a little shimmy, yelling. “You want me, Segs?”

Jamie turns to Dave, hopeful.

“If I say no, would that even matter?” Dave’s laughing and shaking his head.

“Jam—come on!” Tyler calls again.

Jamie laughs. “Not really.” He skates over—he never says no to Ty.

“Finally,” Tyler laughs, holding open his arms for Jamie to skate into. Jamie’s careful, making sure not to jostle him but, fuck—it feels good to be on the ice in Tyler’s arms again. They hold it for a beat too long considering everyone is watching, before pulling apart.

“How do you feel?”

“Feel good. Little stiff but I missed this. How do I look?”

“Like a baby deer.” Jamie grins.

“That’s my thing. You can’t have it.”

“Last night says otherwise.”

“Well, you can always have that thing.” Tyler raises his eyebrows and bats his eyelashes all at once, and Jamie bites his lip to keep from kissing him right here on the ice. Tyler skates off with a wink, calling out over his shoulder. “C’mon, let this baby deer show you how it's done.”

**

“I don’t think they serve food here,” Tyler says when Jamie pulls into the practice facility.

Jamie shoots him a look. They’ve eaten more meals here together than Jamie can count.

“I thought you were taking me out.”

“We are out,” Jamie counters. “Trust me?”

“Don’t give me that look.”

“I’m not.” He is. Tyler calls it his convincing cow face, which is insulting, even though it does usually result in getting his way.

“Trust me,” Jamie repeats as he gets out of the car. Tyler does too, that face always works. He grabs Ty’s hands and pulls him toward the entrance.

“So what’s the plan—a romantic PT session and then a steak dinner?” The ice looks perfect, not a single mark.

“Thought you wanted a burrito?”

Tyler glares at him.

“Thought we could skate. Maybe I’ll blow you in the locker room before dinner.”

“Dude.” Tyler looks around.

“Nah, just us. Talked to Jack, he said he’d swing by after and kill all the lights and clean up the ice.”

“Damn, I thought I was gonna get my spotlight center ice kiss.”

“Next time,” Jamie promises.

They lace up, and Jamie nods his head at the ice. “You first.”

Tyler holds out his hand. Jamie grabs it, and they do a lap together, holding hands, four perfect tracks in an oval. Tyler checks him lightly into the boards. “Boarding,” Jamie manages to yell before Tyler kisses him. The kiss is half laughter, until it’s not, until Tyler is pressed all the way against him, until Jamie’s hands are in Ty’s hair. Tyler pulls back eventually. “C’mon let’s play for a little. And then I hope you weren’t kidding about sucking my dick.”

“I never joke about that,” Jamie says seriously, already knowing he’s going to drag it out, until Tyler’s begging for it.

Tyler grabs a stick and takes off. He looks good out there, already better than a few days ago. Steadier, sharper. More like Segs should look on the ice.

“I’m gonna take you out for steak after,” Tyler yells, hitting the puck into the net.

**

Tyler looks good at morning skate—Tyler’s first full morning skate back. Jamie knew he missed it, but he didn’t realize how much. Tyler’s always where Jamie expects him to be. He was worried that after Tyler’s recovery being longer than planned, after not playing together since the weird bubble season, that they would need time to settle back in, to find their rhythm. The muscle memory of Tyler takes over though, and it’s effortless. Jamie watches him move, transfixed by the quick glide, the smooth turns, the long lines of Tyler’s body.

He misses an easy pass from Delly and shakes his head, trying to clear it. He still knows where Tyler is all the time, but he needs to make sure he knows where the puck is too.

Tyler skates by, going to grab his water. “Feels good, man, to be back.”

“It’s good to have you back.” Jamie doesn't even try to stop his smile.

“I could tell. You were quite the observant owl out there, head on a swivel.”

“Still looking for you after all this time.”

Jamie watches Tyler’s face go soft and shy, a grin spreading out across his face. Tyler rubs the edges of his mouth, trying to hide it, but Jamie knows. Jamie knows how much this means to both of them. To get to do all of this together—on and off the ice.

Tyler gives Jamie’s shoulder a bump, whispering I know before skating off.

**

Jamie looks down at his phone and laughs.

“What’s so funny?” Tyler asks, spread out across the couch, legs over Jamie’s lap.

Jamie holds his phone out so Tyler can see the text from Tom. It’s a picture of them from this morning, bodies angled toward each other making Jamie think about all the other ways they fit together, Tyler’s small smile—and gloves touching. Jamie didn’t even realize.

“I didn’t realize.”

“Me either. He’s gonna wish I was still on the injured list.”

“He will not. He loves us.” Jamie laughs. “You looked great out there today. How do you feel?”

“I’d feel better if you’d stop asking. That’s what—the third time? Since we got home.”

“I just—” Jamie turns to Tyler and shuts up when he sees the look on Tyler’s face. “It felt good.” Jamie mutters, because it did, because he wants Tyler to know. Jamie’s phone buzzes. Tyler give Jamie back his phone.

“What did you say to Tom?”

Tyler laughs and shimmies, an attempt to be sexy that mostly just makes Jamie giggle.

Jamie flicks his thumb up over his screen and sees the string of eggplant emojis and stars in the blue bubble. “Poor Tom.”

“We make his life interesting,” Tyler says.

“I don’t know if that’s what he’d say. We should invite him over for a barbeque,” Jamie says. “If you’re up for it.”

“Not tonight, but maybe this weekend.” Tyler stretches his leg, flexing his foot.

“Yeah, not tonight,” Jamie agrees. He’ll text Tom later.

**

Tyler’s finally back on the road with them, waiting for Jamie in the tunnel, even if he’s not playing yet. Soon. Jamie concentrates on taping his stick, focusing, getting himself in the right headspace. He wants to win tonight. He is so fucking tired of going into OT with the goddamn Predators.

He’s always found this part of the pre-game stuff the best, something to do with his hands, something with a purpose, something he can do in his sleep. Tyler would say it’s meditative, but Jamie’s not sold on all that.

“Otter!” Tyler calls out. Jamie picks his head up. “You rocked last night. You feelin’ it again?”

Jamie’s confused, he didn’t play that great last night.

“Hell yeah,” Oettinger answers, bumping his fist against Tyler’s.

Oh. Right. Jamie feels his face get hot. Tyler’s not talking to him.

Tyler sits next to him on the bench, slipping a hand under the edge of Jamie’s shorts, warm and heavy on his knee. “You were good last night too, babe.” His voice is so low Jamie can barely hear him over the noise of the locker room. This is just for him.

Jamie nods, then again more decisively. “Thanks.”

Tyler’s thumb traces a soft circle, erasing Jamie’s embarrassment.

“Hey,” Tyler whispers, giving his knee a squeeze. “You’re gonna be great tonight.”

Jamie exhales and smiles. “Having you here helps.”

**

Morning skate was good. It feels good. The boys look good. Jamie isn’t sure why they keep fucking losing in overtime, because in practice it’s all good.

He pulls off his jersey and grabs his phone. Heasked Tyler what he wanted for lunch, offering to get it on the way home. They haven’t had a cheat day in forever. Maybe all the steamed veggies are the problem. Maybe fries will cure this losing streak.

Don’t care. Surprise me. I’m upstairs.

That means Seggy’s PT was brutal and he’s in bed, doing whatever combo of ice and rest and sulking. Jamie decides to swing by Keller’s—it’s not his favorite burger but Tyler loves their tater tots. He starts to untape his wrists, and decides to leave it. If the tots don’t cheer up Tyler, the tape will.

“Want this upstairs?” Jamie calls out when he walks in the door. Cash comes skittering down the stairs and Jamie laughs. What a dope.

“Yeah, babe.”

Tyler is sitting against the headboard, legs stretched in front of him, and his face lights up when he sees the bag. “You drove all the way there?”

“Got you two orders of tots with cheese, and onion rings.”

“And a No. 8 and a cheeseburger—”

“And a chocolate shake.” Jamie finishes, setting the bags of food on the bed.

Jamie pulls off his hoodie and tosses it on the floor.

“Is that for me?” Tyler asks, touching his own wrist.

“Yeah—I, um, I know you like it.”

“C’mere.” Tyler shoves the food over and pulls him onto the bed, until Jamie’s straddling him.

“Is this—? I’m heavy.”

“Shut up.” Tyler grabs his wrists, long fingers covering the tape, and pulls him close for a kiss that goes on just long enough that Jamie forgets he’s hungry. When Tyler pulls back, his mouth and chin are red from Jamie’s beard and he can’t help but duck down and press a soft kiss there.

Tyler reaches into a bag and grabs a tater tot and pops it in his mouth. “You’re the best.”

**

“I think the Preds are the only ones more thirsty for your thighs than me,” Tyler teases, trailing kisses down Jamie’s torso. “400 assists. A generous giraffe.”

Jamie laughs and squirms, trying to get Tyler’s mouth where he wants it.

“Not yet.” Tyler presses a kiss to the center of Jamie’s chest. Jamie lifts his head up to watch Tyler move down the bed. He’s moving with his old ease, agile and light, holding himself up over Jamie so his cock just brushes against Jamie’s dick. Jamie thrusts up, he wants. But Tyler lifts higher, moving until he’s between Jamie’s legs pushing them apart. He leans down, and Jamie watches as he bites the top of Jamie’s thigh hard, leaving a red mark on the inkless skin. Jamie doubts he’ll ever get a tattoo there at this rate, he loves the way it looks when Tyler marks him there, loves the way Tyler looks at the marks he leaves. Tyler bites again in the same spot, making Jamie groan, turned on out of his mind already, distantly aware the mark might show during practice but unable to care.

“Yeah, no, more,” Jamie gasps. “I think you still like my thighs more.”

“I think you’re right, babe. Gonna come all over them tonight, okay?”

“Yeah—okay.” Jamie nods.

Tyler wasn’t kidding when he said not yet, keeps pressing kisses up Jamies thigh, into the crease of hips, moving over to the other side. Jamie doesn’t even know when Tyler got lube, but he gasps when Tyler slowly teases one finger in. It goes on so long—Tyler’s mouth and fingers, Jamie’s so desperate—he thinks there could have been another 400 assists. He’s open and wet from Tyler—for Tyler. He wants to tell Tyler to get on with it, to touch his dick, to fuck him. He opens his mouth to demand more and instead a broken please floats through their bedroom.

Tyler pulls away from Jamie, mouth and cheeks pink. “Yeah, you wanna get fucked don’t you?”

Jamie nods. “I do. Please. Ty—I need it.”

Tyler repositions them, Jamie’s so easy for it—willing, letting Tyler put him however he wants. When he finally, finally fucks into the slick space between Jamie’s thighs, they both groan. It’s not slow anymore, both of them frantic, hands everywhere, wildly thrusting. Tyler bites down on his shoulder and wraps his fist around Jamie for him to fuck into, until they’re both coming all over Jamie’s thighs.

Jamie collapses onto his front and even though it’s a mess, it’s perfect. Tyler’s laying on top of him, his chest fitting against Jamie’s back. Tyler’s heavy on him, in a good way, kissing whatever skin is near. Jamie moves his hand, until Tyler grabs it, lacing their fingers together. Jamie gets like this sometimes, needs infinite contact and affection. He used to hate it, but with Tyler it’s easy to give in, to let Tyler give him what he needs.

“Love you.” Jamie mumbles into the pillow.

“Love you, too. I’ll clean us up when you’re ready.” Tyler whispers.

Jamie squeezes Tyler’s hand.

“Not yet, don’t worry.” He drops another kiss to Jamie’s back.

**

“Bro, they aren't trading you.” Jamie watches as Tyler competes his fourteenth lap around the sofa. “They can’t.”

“Would you blame them this year?” Tyler pauses long enough to gesture at his hip.

“I don’t think they make decisions based on your dick.” Jamie laughs.

“Benn. You know what I mean.” Tyler starts pacing again.

“I have a clause—in my contract. They can’t trade you without checking with me.” Jamie should see if he can get a clause like that. First time for everything.

“Liar.”

“Don’t want to do this without you.” Jamie holds up a hand, willing Tyler closer to him.

“That’s true. But not in your control.” Tyler keeps pacing.

“Babe. They are not trading you. Are you really gonna make me list your accomplishments?”

“Yeah, maybe. That might help. Tell me how great I am.” Tyler stops again.

“The greatest, Seggy. You and your dick are unstoppable, on and off the ice.”

Tyler grabs a couch cushion and chucks it at Jamie’s head. Jamie giggles and pretends he’s wounded.

“You really haven’t heard anything, right?”

Jamie sits back up, and tries to look serious. “Really haven’t heard anything. You have a No Move. And you’ve been with us for eight years, you’ve been working your ass off to get back on the ice. They’re not gonna request to trade you—or bump you back to the AHL. They’re giving you the time you need to get back to one hundred percent.”

Tyler shrugs.

“They’re not trading you,” Jamie repeats. “They can’t, and they don’t want to.”

Tyler finally sits down next to Jamie, and Jamie throws his arm around Tyler’s shoulders. “I’m gonna kick your ass if you’re wrong.”

“I’m not wrong about you.”

**

Another shootout. Another loss. Jamie wants to smash his fist through the fucking glass. He played his ass off tonight and they still lost. Again. Jamie wants to make the playoffs so he can play with Ty so bad he can taste it, him and Tyler and the ice, that connection. Jamie misses it. Jamie misses him. He doesn’t want to be here, he tosses his gear on the floor. Someone will have to clean it up. Normally Jamie feels bad about that but tonight he just pulls on his jeans. He’ll shower when he gets home.

“Sorry boys.” Jamie isn’t sure if he’s apologizing for acting like a sullen teen, for not winning them the game, or for the fact that he has nothing left to give right now. He tugs on a t-shirt and heads out the door.

He hears Delly ask someone what his deal is and worse, he hears Klinger’s reply. “He just wants to get home.” The to Tyler hangs in the air, unsaid, as the door closes behind Jamie. Thank god he doesn’t have to do media tonight. He can’t. Winning is fun, he’d said to Saad the other night. Jamie cringes, wishing for the millionth time he could handle the press like Tyler. But he fucking can’t, he can’t do anything right.

He drives home mad and parks mad and goes into the house mad. Tyler is on the sofa surrounded by the dogs and Jamie just nods and heads straight up to the shower. The hot water loosens some of the rage, leaving behind a dull ache of powerlessness.

Tyler is sitting on the bed waiting for him, watching as Jamie pulls on shorts and a t-shirt.

“Want a beer?” Jamie asks, wanting to avoid this.

“Want to talk about this?” Tyler counters.

“No.”

Jamie stands there, until Tyler continues. “You were great tonight. Like, really fucking great.”

“Didn’t matter.”

“I’ll take a beer,” Tyler says.

Jamie knows what Tyler is doing. He goes downstairs and Cash follows him to the fridge. “You already ate, buddy.” Jamie gives him a treat anyway. He grabs two beers and heads back upstairs, which is the last place and the only place he wants to be.

He sits next to Tyler on the edge of the bed and Tyler scoots closer, until their thighs are pressed together in a long line.

“I just really want to make the playoffs.” Jamie wiggles the tab on the can.

Tyler bumps his shoulder into Jamie’s. “I know.”

“Feels far away right now.”

“Always does, this close.”

“You’re right.” Jamie exhales for the first time since he left the ice.

“Always am.” Tyler bumps his shoulder again and hands his beer to Jamie before flopping back on the bed. He opens up his arms. “C’mere.”

Jamie wants to be difficult, wants to tell Tyler to fuck off, wants to curl up into his arms. Jamie sets the cans down, and gives in to his best instinct, resting his face on Tyler’s chest. His legs are awkwardly still half off the bed, but Tyler’s arms go around him, one hand running through his hair. “Almost time for a haircut.”

“You like it,” Jamie mutters into Tyler’s shirt.

Tyler makes a noncommittal noise and keeps moving his fingers gently, easing away the frustration and disappointment and anger, into a smooth stone Jamie can keep in his pocket, that he can rub against without hurting himself.

“Your elfin prince was right,” Jamie mumbles.

“What?” Tyler laughs, jostling Jamie.

“Klinger. Said I needed to get home to you.”

“Can’t believe you still need the boys to tell you that, after all this time.” Tyler’s voice is soft and fond.

“I’m here now.” Jamie can’t help but point out.

“You are, babe.” Tyler pulls him in tighter.

Jamie preses a kiss to his chest. “Yeah. I am.”

**

“You shouldn’t have worn those pants,” Jamie said as soon as they were on the plane. There are going to be approximately fifteen hundred photos of him checking out Tyler’s ass in his white jeans as they boarded. Even now, across the hotel lobby, Jamie can’t stop glancing over at where Tyler is talking to Robo by the front desk.

“Did everyone check in?” Jamie asks when he walks over because he can’t help himself. One time there was a problem and only half the rooms were ready and it was a whole thing and Jamie’s always nervous it’ll happen again. He doesn’t expect anyone to answer, he just can’t stop himself from asking. Tyler smiles and rolls his eyes at Jamie.

“Which room are you?” Jamie asks.

“812,” Robo answers.

“I didn’t check in,” Tyler says.

“Well, what are you waiting for?” Jamie asks. The game is in a few hours, Jamie wants to get upstairs for his nap.

“Don’t you live together?” Robo blurts out at the same time.

“Yeah, we do. But the nap. Jam has a whole routine that our success as a team hinges on.” Tyler laughs. Jamie's cheeks get hot. “It’s true, I don’t know why you’re being a bashful badger about it,” Tyler teases, bumping his shoulder into Jamie’s.

“I’m going up.”

“I’m coming.” Tyler smiles at Robo. “Talk to you later, man,”

In the elevator, Jamie realizes Tyler never checked-in. “Your room?”

“Didn’t get one.”

Jamie freezes. They’ve won four games in a row. Sometimes they nap together at home, but Tyler’s chaotic I’m not superstitious brand of being superstitious means the only constant is Jamie’s routine.

“Told them to get you a suite, I’ll stay out of the way for your precious pre-game rituals.”

“Oh. Yeah, that works.” Jamie is used to hearing Tyler putter around in the background as he falls asleep. “That’s okay.”

“I know you,” Tyler whispers as the doors open.

“You do,” Jamie agrees, leading the way to their room.

**

The only thing better than coming home to Tyler is coming home with him. Jamie wraps his arms around Tyler’s waist as Tyler opens the door. Jamie braces both of them for the onslaught of love that’s about to attack them, and sure enough, Gerry barrels into them. Tyler laughs, tipping his head back into Jamie’s shoulder. He angles his face and presses a kiss to Jamie’s beard, missing Jamie’s cheek and making himself laugh harder. He sits down on the floor to properly greet their little family. Jamie’s not even a dog person, but he’s a Tyler person, and it feels right. Jamie sits down too, and Marshall settles on Jamie’s lap like he fits there.

“I’m gonna take them outside,” Tyler says. He stands easily, Jamie notices.

“Shower?” Jamie asks.

“I’ll meet you up there,” Tyler grins. They both know Jamie will be long out of the shower by the time Tyler heads up. Jamie loves how much Tyler loves the dogs. Tyler will sit on the floor and dole out ear scratches and too many treats and leave Jamie waiting.

Sure enough, Jamie is showered, hair wetly combed back off his face, in shorts and t-shirt, almost finished unpacking when Tyler comes in, discarding clothes across the floor of their bedroom.

Tyler looks sheepish but Jamie just grins at him.

“Grilled chicken tonight, my hungry antelope?” Tyler asks.

“Yeah, I’ll finish up here then get started.” Jamie laughs when realizes what Tyler just said. “That doesn’t even make sense.”

“They’re part of the bovine family,” Tyler counters.

More cow jokes. “You’re a dick, Seggs. Go shower.”

“I’ll hurry, I swear,” he kisses Jamie and heads into the bathroom.

Jamie unpacks the rest of his stuff and half of Tyler’s—he’ll start a load of wash before dinner. If he doesn’t, the room gets taken over by daunting mountains of dirty laundry. One time they let it get so bad, they slept in one of the spare rooms for a week until they ran out of clean underwear entirely.

Tyler is fast, and they move around each other in the kitchen easily, Tyler marinating the chicken and Jamie making a salad. Tyler grabs them beers and heads out back. “I’ll get the grill on.”

He’s on a lounge chair when Jamie goes out into the yard, hair soft over his forehead, the sunlight golden around them, Gerry sprawled across Tyler’s legs and his torso. “Do you mind?” Tyler gestures at the grill and then at Gerry.

Jamie shakes his head. “I don’t mind.”

He knows Tyler will end up coming over, arms snaking around Jamie’s waist while he grills, knows Tyler will whisper plans for their day off into Jamie’s ear, knows tomorrow Tyler will make sure everything single thing he mentioned happens. He flips the chicken and smiles when Tyler presses himself against Jamie’s back. “Tomorrow…”

**

Jamie shuts his eyes. He hears Tyler talking to—Jamie peeks his eyes open. Klinger. They’re taking off in about ten minutes for Tampa. They’re still in it, and tomorrow will be tough, but Jamie believes in these guys.

He doesn’t think Tyler will play until Saturday, but he hasn’t asked. He learned a long time ago that questions don’t speed up Tyler’s process. Jamie waited for Tyler to put Boston behind him, for Tyler to fly across the ice into his arms, for Tyler to be ready to hear Jamie loved him, for them to move in together.

That last one—Jamie cringes, remembering the way he told Tyler it was stupid for them to have two houses, instead of admitting how much he hated being apart. Tyler told him to get a payment plan for his electric bill if he was so worried, before storming out. This is easy, in comparison, because he already has Tyler.

Tyler sits down next to him, snapping the hairband he put on Jamie’s wrist this morning. Jamie opens his eyes and grins. He puts his hand on Tyler’s thigh, because he can, because Tyler’s here. “Hi.”

“Hi.” Tyler shakes his head. “We’ve been apart for—” he checks his watch. “Ten minutes.”

“Hi,” Jamie says again, just to be a dick.

“I like those pants,” Tyler traces lines across Jamie’s arm, following some pattern in his tattoo.

“Yeah? How much?”

Tyler looks at him for a long second. “Enough that I thought about breaking our rule about the jet.”

“Oh.” Jamie takes a deep breath.

“Yeah.” Tyler sighs. “Not used to having rules.”

It’s true. When Tyler was recovering, they were alone a lot more than they used to be. He squeezes Tyler’s thigh lightly. “Later.”

“I got a room this time. In case.”

Jamie grins. “Whenever you’re ready.”

**

Jamie watches as Tyler slides on his pads. He watches as he slips his jersey on. He watches Tyler tape his wrist. Jamie looks down at his own wrist, which he has no memory of taping, too focused and excited and happy to have Tyler back.

He hears Klinger tell Pavs “How many fights do you think ol’ Benny here is gonna get in tonight protecting his boyfriend?”

Like he’s going to let anyone get near Tyler. Jamie looks away from Tyler, but only long enough to glare at Klinger.

When he looks back, Tyler’s taping his other wrist, and Jamie mirrors him. It feels so awesome to be back here, together.

Tyler stands up when he’s done, looks happy and pumped and under all that, a little nervous. “Jam,” he shakes his head. “C’mere.”

Jamie stands up too, and steps closer. He wants to take another, wants to kiss him, but they keep that out of the room. Tyler grabs Jamie’s bare wrist and takes the tape out of his hands, and finishes taping Jamie’s wrist. Tyler wraps the tape exactly right, just tight enough. The rest of the room falls away and it’s them, like it has been hundreds of times before, getting ready to play.

“You need to stop hovering like a butterfly on meth. I’m gonna be okay. I’m ready.” Tyler gives Jamie’s wrist a squeeze. “We’re gonna crush those assholes, I can feel it. Long as you don’t spend half the game in the box.”

Jamie laughs and looks down. Tyler squeezes his wrist again, and Jame looks up, meeting Tyler’s gaze and holding it, giving him a small nod.

Having Tyler back is amazing, especially when he takes the face-off from Jamie, even when he chirps Jamie for breaking that camera. It’s better than amazing when Tyler scores, tripping up Knight and getting it past him. Otter does his best, and the loss fucking stings.

Tyler finds Jamie the second he’s done with his presser. “I feel good, all adrenaline,” he says before Jamie can even ask. He played twice as much as they thought he’d be up for. Tyler looks real good, post-game glow, hair a mess, arms huge in his t-shirt.

“Benny, take good care of him tonight,” Dicky yells.

“Always does. Such a good captain,” Tyler yells back, then turns to Jamie with a look that makes him feel naked. Jamie wants to say a good captain would have won the game, but instead he makes himself wink at Tyler.

His presser ends up being fucked, and he’s glad when he’s finally back on the bus. What did they want him to say—it was dogshit. The turnovers in neutral ice. Fuck. Jamie takes a deep breath and Tyler squeezes his hand.

“Pretty good?” Tyler teases. “I was fucking great. Should have been two goals though.”

“You were great. Sorry.” Jamie apologizes, talking about Tyler was the only good part of the whole thing. He pushes away thoughts about what they need to tighten up and how hard it’s going to be now that how hard it's been all season to work on that stuff when they don't have practices. A few hours, just them, on the ice would help, but it’s tiring to even think about that.

He doesn’t say anything else the rest of the ride, just plays and replays the game over and over in his head. Otter—did so much and Jamie let him down.

When they get back to their room, Jamie heads right for the shower. “I get it if you want to stay in your nap room.”

Tyler just nods and Jamie instantly regrets the offer. Of course Tyler doesn’t want to be around him right now, sullen and mad. Jamie carefully closes the door so he doesn’t slam it. He’s too old to punch a wall, but not too old to want to. The shower helps, water as hot as he can stand. He hears the bathroom door open and tenses, waiting for Tyler to say good night. It doesn’t come though, Tyler doesn’t say anything. Jamie watches as Tyler strips and joins him in the shower. Jamie feels the knot in his chest dissolve a little.

“I wanted a win for you,” Jamie admits.

Tyler nods. “Wanted one too, but I’m glad I scored.”

“Sorry,” Jamie whispers. He doesn’t even know for what exactly. For tonight, the whole season coming down to a few games, for ruining Tyler’s night.

Tyler shakes his head and pulls Jamie in for a hug. Jamie buries his face in the crook of Tyler’s neck and breathes. They stand there for a long time, or it feels like it, all slippery skin and steamy air, Tyler’s hand lightly rubbing the nape of his neck.

Jamie pulls back and kisses Tyler, he means for it to be soft and gentle but Tyler presses him against the wall and kisses him hard and hot and fierce. “You’re amazing,” Jamie whispers against Tyler’s mouth before kissing him back.

**

“Where are we going?” Jamie asks, sliding on the shirt Tyler left out for him.

“Don’t you trust me.” Tyler doesn’t even make it sound like a question.

“That’s not even a question,” Jamie protests. “You know I do.”

“So then what’s the problem?” Tyler looks at him, expectantly, in dark jeans and a button down and the watch Jamie got him for their anniversary last year.

“You—we should be resting,” Jamie says. “We have a game tomorrow.”

“We don’t need rest—you need to let me take you out.” Tyler grins. “And I know we have a game tomorrow, thanks Cap.”

“But—”

“Jamie. Last night sucked. We can’t change it. We can’t make Nashville lose. Tomorrow’s another day. Tonight, I want to have a beer and watch a sport that doesn’t require my participation.”

“Did you—”

“Raptors game. And—the best part?”

“Up top?” Jamie asks, even though he knows the answer. They love sitting up high, blending in. When they first got together, when they realized it was going to be more than just friends with benefits, Tyler took him on a date to a Raptors game. It was one of the best dates Jamie had ever been on, drinking cheap beer, cheering for Canada, Tyler whispering in his ear how lucky he was going to get later.

“Nosebleeds, baby.” Tyler does a ridiculously cute fist bump.

“I—thanks.” It’s exactly what Jamie didn’t even know he needed. “How’d you know?”

“Because I know you, something you seem incapable of remembering. What’s an animal that forgets? You’re like—was it koalas? Do they have bad memories? I guess at least you eat more than eucalyptus. You do nap a lot, though.”

“I remember things!”

“Well why don’t you remember to finish getting dressed for our hot date.”

Jamie looks down, his shirt is half buttoned. “I can’t remember how.”

Tyler laughs, really laughs, and walks over to button Jamie’s shirt. Last night feels far away now, and so does tomorrow. It’s just now, with Tyler and a beer and some basketball, up high, away from everything. Tyler turns dressing him into a tease, fingers grazing up Jamie’s chest.

“I’ll remember this,” Jamie promises.

**

“What?” Jamie asks, looking up from his eggs. Tyler is staring at him, his face fond and questioning. He takes another bite of the mediocre room service food. “Your eggs are better,” he adds. “Now, at least.”

“Do you miss living with your brother?” Tyler asks, like he can read Jamie’s mind. Like he knows Tyler was remembering all those breakfasts Jordie made them when Tyler first moved to Dallas.

“Sometimes—yeah. I want to spend some time there in the off season. Maybe before camp. Then head to see your fam?”

Tyler nods. “Sure, sure, make me wait.”

“We can—” Jamie frowns.

Tyler shakes his head. “You’re so easy, a gullible little gopher.”

Jamie laughs and takes another bite. “I realized I was in love with you in Chicago.”

Tyler's cheeks go pink and he sets his fork down. “That night?”

That night. Jamie doesn’t even know how to explain it, didn’t even really know that night was so important for Tyler, too. They had won a game everyone said they’d lose, and Tyler snuck up to his room. Jamie had expected something fast and frantic, all that game energy in bed and instead it was soft and slow, and the way Tyler looked at Jamie—Jamie knew. It had never been like this, with anyone, and Jamie didn’t think it ever would be again.

Now he knows it won’t be, and it makes him want to hang on to Tyler even tighter.

“Yeah. That night. I should have told you then.” Jamie danced around it another couple of months, too scared to say I love you, but then one morning on the way home from practice Tyler said it first and—it was like a really good breakaway, finding the perfect lane, a clean check, all rolled into one.

Jamie hasn’t stopped saying it since.

**

There’s Tyler in the tunnel, tapping Jamie’s helmet and then there’s shitty pizza and cheering for Robo and Jamie tells them all there’s no better men in the league and it’s been an honor to play with them this season. He tries not to think about how this wasn’t the end to the season he wanted and how it came down to fucking OT again. He tries not to think about all those OT losses and how terrible the schedule was this year and how much he missed Tyler.

He can’t even find Tyler right now in the madness, which isn’t helping. He tosses his jersey on the pile and tries not to think about how much he just needs to be home.

He rallies through the flight, talking to the guys, telling them how important they are—how great they played. He interrupts Pavs and Roope to tell Roope he deserves that award, and makes sure Otter knows he crushed it tonight.

When they land, Jamie tosses Tyler the keys. He’s done doing things. Tyler seems to know and they ride home through dark streets, Tyler singing along to some song, belting out a line about wasn't much but it's what we had. Jamie feels wrung out, tired, like he’s been skating into the boards at full speed over and over again, which he guesses he has been. He closes his eyes and lets the sounds of the car and Tyler wash over him. He doesn't open them again until they’re home.

Tyler lets the dogs out, and Jamie heads right for the shower. He should do laundry but what’s the point? No games until October.

Tyler’s stretched out on the bed, in a pair of gym shorts and an old t-shirt from Jamie’s days on the Texas Stars. Jamie pulls on shorts and collapses next to Tyler.

“Want to talk about it?” Tyler asks.

“Do you?” Jamie counters. What is there to say? Sorry, I couldn’t get us to the playoffs? Sorry, I failed?

“Fucking sucks. I hate that it took me so long to get back.”

“Ty—you pushed so hard. I’m sorry we didn’t have the playoffs clinched for you.”

“Jam—you can’t take that on.”

“Well, neither can you,” Jamie snaps and immediately regrets it. “I’m sorry.”

“Me too,” Tyler says.

“I just—” Jamie trails off, feeling weirdly emotional and off kilter.

“Me too,” Tyler says again, rolling over to face Jamie.

Jamie rubs his thumb across the top of Tyler’s forehead, where the red mark from his helmet usually is.

“We should go on vacation.”

“Okay,” Jamie agrees, because they should, because at least this is something he can give Tyler.

“We’ll come up with a plan tomorrow.” Tyler leans in and kisses him and the weird knot of emotion in Jamie’s chest tightens and expands and dissolves, all at once, overwhelming Jamie in an avalanche of feelings.

“Yeah, tomorrow,” Jamie whispers against Tyler’s lips, pulling him closer. “Tomorrow.”