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Linden curls back from the large needle that's advancing towards him. His chest is on fire, but he can't move, not with the trainers holding him down by his arms.

"Don't hold it back," murmurs the doctor, depressing the plunger on the syringe, and fuck, the fire roars up and down Linden's body. Sweat beads on Linden's temples, and he screams. He screams until he runs out of breath, and he screams again when the doctor slides the long needle out of his sternum.

Linden curls his hands, and he slowly sits up. His head is pounding from the stress  of having a huge needle shoved in his chest, and the stress of making this the game, of making sure they get to touch the Cup, even if he has to lie down for a dozen more needles like that.

He floats into the locker room, his heart racing and his hands clenched. Everyone looks at Linden with tired eyes, and Linden tries to take a deep breath, but can't, not with the broken ribs and his aching sternum. "Let's do this," rushes out of Linden's mouth. He can't add anything more. It's like he's speaking through a fog, and his head is killing him.

The glare of the ice, the screams of the people there, stings almost as badly as the needle. He can see the Rangers on the other side, fuzzes of blue with red-white numbers. Linden pulls himself up straight. They have  to win. Linden's worked too hard, they've worked too hard to stop now.

Heat curls around Linden's chest, prickly and uncomfortable, and Linden almost wishes he'd refused the cortisone injection. He'd rather have the dull aching pain of his ribs at this point, but too late.

The puck slips from the Canucks' grip every time they curl around it, and Linden's too busy trying to position himself to see Rangers' #11 line his elbow up just like this.

The elbow crumples Linden's nose with a sick crunch.

Linden's face goes numb, and he slips to the ice, licking futilely at the stream of blood under his nose. He slides his knees under himself, screaming at himself to get up get up , and his head feels like that elbow went through it. There's a voice saying "you know he'll play, you know he'll—"


Linden jerks awake, scrubbing at his face for blood, and even in the dark Linden knows it's not there. His head is screaming at him, and he fumbles for a glass of water. His chest aches, even though it's been two  years. Two years and he still dreams about that game. Gets a lot worse around May. He grips at the sheets. There's no point in going back to bed. Not when he's had that dream.

At least, this time, he woke up before Mark Messier bared his teeth across the ice at him .


 

"He's a monster, he's mean, and he'd do whatever it takes," gushes Quinn, while Linden stands alongside Bure.

Messier's flanking Quinn's other side, the C shinny on his new Canuck sweater. Messier has the number 11 plastered across his back and his arms, even though Linden knows the equipment guys weren't happy about giving Messier the number. Number eleven had been unofficially retired for a guy who died of brain cancer, but no, Messier had  to have #11. The new owners, the McCaw brothers, had actually intervened over a sweater. A sweater .

So Messier got his number.

Linden gave Messier the C. He didn't exactly want  to; but it made sense, didn't it? Messier, as evil and pathological as he may be, has six cups to his name. And he even won two without Wayne Gretzky.  Linden's known players who spent their whole careers without a cup. It's a long list. Linden doesn't want to be on it.

Linden wants  a Cup ring, so bad his chest hurts just thinking about it, so he gave that fuckface the C.

So Messier got his letter.

Messier's probably hell-bent on getting everything else. Linden doesn't care. His hands itch to punch Messier in the face, but they itch to hold that 35-pound grail even more.

Linden bites the inside of his cheek and forces himself to applaud Quinn as Messier takes the podium. Bure raises an eyebrow at him, and Linden shakes his head, says, "Don't worry about it, yeah?" Bure narrows his eyes but he turns back to watching Messier read his statement as the hot lights bounce off his bald head.

He half-wonders if Messier can feel anything on his scalp, as he's been bald for so long. Linden doesn't bother to pay attention; his job is to be here and not stumble into the scenery. Bure's job is to—

Be pretty, Linden guess. If that were Bure's only job, he'd be very good at it. He has those clear blue eyes, and those soft red lips that look like they just were used roughly all the time, and Bure's back curves into an ass that needs to be touched. Even if Bure's ill-fitting shirt makes him itch to take it off and palm those nipples and see how much Bure would blush, whether he'd be noisy or be quiet, whether he's grabby or restrained, how Bure would look like in his bed, with his ass spread for Linden to lick against—

Heat suffuses Linden's face, and he bites his cheek harder, enough to taste a small weal of blood. Linden is a god-damn professional.

Christ, can Messier talk any longer?


 

Bure turns to Linden, a frown on his sweat-stained face, and mutters, "Did Messier really pull up ?"

Linden flicks his eyes over at Messier, and sure enough, the guy he had lined up is still skating. Linden knows from bitter experience that Messier can hit hard, and this is fishy as hell.

He narrows his eyes, looking at Messier's glide , and it is a glide, not the churning everyone in Vancouver is expecting. Bure clenches his jaw, mutters, "I have excuse," pats his bum knee, "What does he have."

Linden stands up, watching Messier dump  the puck in, for fuckssakes, and curses. Linden's going have to dig the puck out of the Ducks' maw. Really, Messier, could that have been any lazier .

Coach Renney's swollen up like a toad, but for some reason he doesn't say anything as Messier climbs over the bench. Bure hops off, glaring at Messier and tries to dig out the puck. None of the boys want to lose  to a team that calls themselves the Mighty Ducks, for chrissakes.

Messier slides down against Linden's side, and Linden bites the inside of his cheek, inhales sharply and makes himself watch the Ducks' defence try to counteract Bure. Bure gets off a shot— but it's blocked, shit, and they're going to have to go to a faceoff.

"Pity, Bure doesn't have a good faceoff percentage," Messier says, "But no one's like Wayne."

Linden turns from the scene on the ice, and stares at Messer's profile squinting at Bure. He says, as slowly as he can with his heart curling around his reconstructed rib cage, "And what, exactly, do you mean by that, Mark."

A corner of Messier's lips curls up, "Nothing, Trev, don't take it personally, Bure is Bure, he's good, don't worry."

Bure loses the faceoff, but the Ducks lose control of the puck despite Sandstrom's efforts, so it's a wash. Linden hops over, and makes himself play hockey .

The buzzer sounds, and even though Linden and Bure got a goal each, they still lost to the Ducks by just  one. Linden makes himself put down his helmet gently, even though he's minus-one in his plus-minus and Messier managed to weasel his way into a plus -one despite not having any damn points.

The room's quiet, and Linden exchanges nods with most of the boys as they walk by his stall. Bure's fuming, like he always does after a loss. It's not a bad  fume, as fumes go, but Linden's never met anyone who liked to score goals more than Bure.

Linden bends down, and his ears lift up at some muffled shouts, a few sibilant sounds that sound like they belong to shit , and strains himself trying to put it together. Nazzy's actually leaning his ear against the wooden door, biting his lip like he's hearing something scandalously good— or bad.

Nazzy whips his head back just as Messier charges into the center of the room, his skates still on and his chest puffed out. The C on his sweater looks like a squiggle of toothpaste from this vantage point, and Messier says the standard stuff all captains say when their teams lose: "Gotta work harder— Better luck next time, boys— See you in the morning."

Messier storms out, and everyone can still hear the clatter of wooden sticks being pushed to the cement floor despite the closed door. The rest of the boys look at Linden, and Linden leans back, says, "We play the Rangers next. Rest up, we're going to need it, yeah?"

Thin smiles spread around the room, and there's clattering as everyone strips down and files towards the showers. It's going to be a long flight back to Van City, but at least they'll have a week to find their gearshifts.

Bure hangs back, down to just his jock, and Linden doesn't stare at him as he walks across the room, curving around the Orca. Linden doesn't.

"Captain," Bure tries, a smile starting on those lips, and Linden scoffs.

"Don't pull that with me, Bure," Linden says, smiling despite himself. He feels himself almost relaxing, despite his instincts screaming  at him to keep up his guard.

Bure smirks down at him, and says, "We all know who's the real captain, ok?"

God, Bure's pink across the bridge of his nose, and the medallion he claims is his lucky charm glints  in the harsh light. Linden scrubs his hands down the elastic of his garters, and says, "I'm not getting in his  way. Don't be reckless. Please ."

Bure lifts up a shoulder, "Things change, yes?"

He wills himself not to clutch at Bure, not to beg him to just keep his head down and play hockey and not meddle with Messier. They look at each other.

Linden can almost trace the sweep of Bure's eyelashes with his own eyes. Looking at him, being looked at by him—

It's a rush, more so than scoring that goal tonight was, and if he just reached across a little, brushed his hand across Bure's thigh, what would happen?

The door slams open, and they both turn to look at Messier, his lip curled up in contempt.

Linden says around the dryness in his throat, turning back to Bure, "We should talk about that penalty kill, right?"

Bure's eyes dart back to Messier, and then lock with Linden's, and he nods sharply before marching off to the shower.

"You're not captain anymore," Messier says, too lightly. Careful , Linden warns himself. Messier's eyes are small, like a scurrying creature in the middle of the night, and Linden tries to make himself look like an affable idiot:

"Eh, you know how people get after a game like that. It's just the second game, we're all trying to find our groove," Linden offers. Messier makes a noise with his throat, clearly not believing it. Linden shrugs, smiles, and gathers up his towel. He can feel Messier's eyes on his back as he walks towards the shower.

Messier's probably marking out a spot on Linden's back to stab .


 

Renney has a penchant for morning practices that take place closer to lunch than to breakfast, so the only reason Linden's up this early is to do a meet and greet with some schools at the practice rink. It's almost fun, shooting the puck around like he did as a kid in a rink, seeing the smiles on the kids' faces. Linden answers their smiles with a tired one.

He doesn't have to even open the papers to know that people are starting to speculate on how the Canucks are running themselves into a hole, how Messier is going to turn things around— he has to, right, with the amount of money he's getting paid?

Linden doesn't know the answer to the question. He waves everyone good-bye as they step off the ice, quietly talking to themselves, and Linden automatically walks towards the locker room out of habit ingrained in him from years in this arena. The halls, with their cinder block walls painted that shade of greyish white, is home , no matter what Messier may do.

His feet come to a stop in front of a door labeled Vancouver Canucks Locker Room: Authorized Personnel Only , and he raises his hand to push the door in.

Linden opens the door just a crack, but he can hear Messier's voice. Linden feels the breakfast in his stomach curdle, and the glimpse he gets of Bure's face makes him stay . Messier's saying something, Linden doesn't know what, but Bure's jaw is hard enough to cut glass. Linden wants to push in, to say something, but he's rooted to the spot, watching this disaster numbly.

Linden flashes on one of those articles he made himself read about the Canucks: "Pavel is a special player we need if we are to win a championship," says Messier.

He bites down on his lip, and watches Messier step closer to Bure, sliding a hand over Bure's shoulder. Bure knocks Messier's hand off violently, steps back, hisses something in Russian, and Messier still stalks him. They're closer now, and Linden can make out the words, "I can help motivate you, Pasha."

Bure stiffens, and his lips curl as he says, "Don't call me that."

A chuckle from Messier, and it's something that'd curl Linden's hair if he already didn't have curly hair. Damnit, Linden still  can't see Messier's face, but Bure doesn't like what he sees, staring at Messier like he's a poisonous snake.

Which is accurate enough. Linden pushes against the door, making the crack a little bigger, and Messier turns on his heel.

"Trevor!" Messier says through gritted teeth that's supposed to be a broad smile. Linden nods at Messier, not trusting himself to say anything. Bure angles himself so Messier isn't blocking his view, and Linden gives another nod to Bure.

Linden walks towards his stall, pretending to look for hockey tape, and Messier says, "Renney isn't going to be around much longer, you know."

Linden raises his eyebrow, "Is this something I'm supposed to know, Mark ?"

Messier has teeth like gravestones, and a smile to match, as he says, "You've a particular… influence , Trevor. I think you can use it wisely." He turns on his heel, and if he had a cloak it'd be billowing out behind him as he sweeps out of the room.

Linden thinks maliciously that the door would probably slam on that metaphorical cloak and maybe strangle Messier. It would solve their issues. He makes himself unclench his hands and look at Bure, who's looking at the door with hot eyes.

"You all right?" Linden asks.

Bure snorts harshly and says, "What's English for zalupats'a ? That what he does."

Linden smiles, "Dunno, but I wouldn't be surprised."

Bure licks his lips, and Linden's eyes slide down to that flash of his pink tongue before realizing that Messier probably did that too, the asshole. Linden makes himself step back, and look for that imaginary tape, leaning down against the stall, wishing the wood would swallow him up.

Linden turns at Bure's hand on his arm, and Linden finds himself saying, "Look, I didn't mean to—"

Bure presses two fingers against Linden's lips, cutting him off, and he's looking straight into Linden's eyes. Linden feels caught, hot, maybe a little bit trapped as he looks into Bure's clear eyes. He doesn't dare to move his mouth against Bure's rough fingers, or even to think  about the implications of doing so.

Bure says slowly, "He's not the only one who has friends."

The implication isn't lost on Linden. Rumors of Bure having connections  always have followed him, but that's what Linden thought they were, just rumors. Linden swallows, finds he can't swallow with a dry throat.

Linden gets a sharp smile from Bure as Bure takes in Linden's face, and Bure presses his fingers against Linden's lips just before he pulls them back. Linden licks his lips, and he'd like to think the flush on Bure's face is connected to that.

Linden scrubs his hands against his track pants and just makes himself keep to saying, "Sometimes the enemy of your enemy is just that."

Bure looks up at Linden from under his thick eyelashes, and the smirk makes Linden's insides twist fiercely and yeah, he'd be thinking about that  look tonight.

 


 

Linden looks at his car, a leaden weight in his stomach as he thinks about driving  into practice, playing  hockey, and then losing . He's had his bad seasons, sure, but the Canucks were supposed to be good this year.

They're not even at .300.

Linden sighs— even if he doesn't have the C, he has to be there. If only to make sure the rest of the boys don't get mowed down by Messier. He slides into the car and rests his head against the steering wheel, trying to get himself and the car in gear.

His mobile rings and Linden flips it open, saying, "Hello—?"

"Is this Pasha?" An accented voice asks, rapid-fire, and Linden thinks the accent is Russian, but he can't be sure.

Linden frowns, "No, I'm sorry, you have the wrong—"

The line beeps  and Linden looks at the screen, his brow creased in confusion. Mental note: ask Bure who'd be calling his phone and asking for Bure.

It has to be Bure, right? Linden and Bure do have the almost the same phone numbers except one digit off at the very end. Linden blows out a breath he didn't know he was holding, and peels out towards the practice arena.

Linden gets out of his car, and leans down to drag his spare clothes out of the trunk as his mobile rings again. He curses as he fumbles with the bag and tries to yank out the mobile out of his jacket pocket with a tearing noise.

Shit.

He pries it open and says, "This is Trevor Linden."

"Oh, Trev, this is Carol, from the front office?"

Linden smiles— not because he's happy, but because he read somewhere it made voices sound positive and upbeat over the phone, and he wants to make the gate-keeper to end all gate-keepers happy. Carol may "just be a secretary" but she's got a nose for scandal and probably reads each one of the confidential faxes that goes through.

"Hello, Carol!"

"Just to warn you, the McCaw brothers are talking to other NHL coaches right now for Renney's position. Keenan's in the front running. Thought you'd like to know."

Linden looks around the deserted parking lot, empty except for his car— and now Bure's car pulling in— and says, "Does Messier know?"

Carol scoffs, "Don't ask me ."

The subtext of that statement is a little too on the nose, but Linden dredges up a thank-you and a have-a-nice-day before he hangs up. Bure's making his way towards Linden's car in a bit of a hurry, and he's looking around like his head's on a swivel.

"Linden," Bure says, "Did you get any… phone calls?" Bure doesn't say the word odd  in between, but it's there nevertheless.

Linden arches his eyebrow, and leans against the side of his car, "What if I did?"

Bure licks his lips, rubs at his nose and shrugs, "Don't think anything, ok."

"Is this related to your connections?" Linden asks sharply, pushing off the car frame and stepping closer to Bure.

He sighs, folds his arms and looks up at Linden, his eyes hard, "My friends are just friends. Nothing to all of those—" he waves a hand— "things. Aslan and Vaya just try to help Russia, is not bad."

Linden curls his hands around Bure's shoulders, says, "Bullshit. The FBI don't just investigate on a whim—"

"Hah, you expect me  to believe they not like KGB?" Bure scoffs. Linden stares, and realizes there's no convincing Bure to let that go.

Might as well say something useful  for once— "Renney's getting fired."

Bure raises his eyebrows, "Not surprised, but still."

"Keenan's the number one guy," Linden says, running his hand through his hair. Bure curses. Keenan was the coach for the Rangers that  year, that year they almost had it— and then didn't.

They look at each other for a long moment, and Bure says, "You don't have to stay, Linden."

Linden barks a rough laugh, his hands cold on Bure's arms. He shakes his head, "I have to," waving a hand around the parking lot, "if I don't, then that means this season, the pain, the loss— it's all pointless."

Bure's eyes are weirdly shiny as he says, "Cut your loss, please, Trevor ."

Linden drops his arms dumbly at his sides. Bure's never said his name— his first name— more than a handful of times. Bure's blinking a lot, his whites of his eyes edging towards pink, and Linden looks away.

Linden fixes his eyes on the low winter sun and says, "You're a survivor."

Bure turns Linden around, clutches his face in between ice-roughened hands, and says, "Don't be a fool."

"I'm not," Linden croaks, and Bure kisses him hard before jerking away. Linden looks at the stiff line of Bure's back stalking towards the entrance, his heart pounding hard. He scrubs his sweaty palms on his pants and heaves his bag of spare clothes over his shoulder.

Linden's lips still buzz.


 

The newspaper has a full-color picture of Messier and Keenan sitting next to each other, fucking sharing popcorn at a Grizzlies game, and Linden just stares at it.

Keenan's actually smiling in the picture.

Linden feels ill.

He crumples up the paper and hurls it into the trash can, resisting the urge to stomp his leg down the narrow plastic tube just so it can be ground up with the rest of the trash. The cordless rings on his kitchen counter with a sharp shrill  and Linden grabs it, jerking it from the charger. He jams the answer button and says, "Hi, this is Trevor Linden—"

"Thisss isss Bobby Clarke, and I'm calling you to say congratulationsssss, Trevor, you're on the Olympic team," and Linden jerks the phone away from his ear, blinks. Not because of Bobby Clarke's false teeth making him hiss, but because he got on the Olympics team . Linden's going to Nagano.

Linden presses the phone back against his ear and says, "It's an honor, thank you, Mr. Clarke. I'll do my best to make Canada proud, sir."

"You better," Clarke says, "We'll see you in a few weekssss," and hangs up. Linden smiles to himself, and hums as he eats breakfast. The first Olympics to send NHL players and Linden gets to go. He really hopes  Bure gets to go.

Not because of— that .

Bure is  actually a talented hockey player.

Linden rubs his temples. He's not sure whether he can survive another transatlantic flight with Messier, let alone play with him on Team Canada. Messier'd be too distracted by his precious Wayne Gretzky to try anything actively psychopathic.

He hopes. And mentally cringes as he realizes that both Wayne Gretzky and Bure are:

  • blond

  • really good at hockey

Messier has a type. Eurgh . Linden forces back his cold tea and scoots off towards practice. If Messier is on Team Canada— and Linden has no reason to suspect otherwise— might as well hear if from the horse's mouth.

Correction: the ass' mouth.

The locker room's crammed with all of the Canucks, including Messier. Linden slides in next to Bure and nudges him in the side, "Playing for Mother Russia?"

Bure smirks, "Could always defect. But yes." Linden grins, and settles in against his stall.

"You? Team Canada, yes?" Bure says in his ear, and Linden raises his eyebrow.

"Do I want to know how you know?" he asks, and he just gets an arch expression from Bure in return. Figures .

Messier strides in, with a dark frown on his face, and Linden licks his lips nervously. Either Messier's pissed he has to deal with Linden for two weeks or… he didn't make the team. Keenan follows Messier, looking some flavor of… pleased?

The hair on the back of Linden's neck stands up. Keenan being happy means nothing good for Linden. He squeezes his good knee— fucking Yotes put out his other knee— and braces himself. He can feel Bure tense next to him, and Keenan opens his mouth.

"We've got two of our boys in Nagano," Keenan says, with a pasted smile, "Bure, for the Russkies—" Bure grins as he gets backslapped, "and Linden, for Canada," and everyone falls silent, although most of the boys are giving Linden small smiles.

One of the call-ups, Linden thinks it's Wotton, but he can't see him— "What, not Mess?"

Keenan glares, "Bobby Clarke can decide whatever he wants. Guess that's what he gets for chopping off a foot in the right time and place."

Never mind that Keenan probably cheered with most of the West when Clarke broke Kharlamov's ankle during the Summit Games in '72. It's Bure's turn to clench his fists, and Linden puts a hand over Bure's arm, mutters into his ear, "He's a blowhard."

Bure's still mad, two red spots high on his cheeks, and Linden can't say anything more without drawing attention to them. A small part of Linden is viciously, viciously pleased  that Messier isn't on Team Canada, that his lazy play's been obvious to everyone else but Keenan. Keenan goes over the drills, and Linden can see Messier lurking in the corner, his small eyes narrowed in thought.

Linden isn't going to like what Keenan and Messier have their sleeve. They're cozy— too cozy— and Linden has noticed Messier jawing at Keenan during practices instead of actually practicing. He feels stupid for being paranoid.

But is it really paranoia when they're out to get him?

Bure frowns when the Canucks get up to file out of the locker room, and says to Linden, "Watch yourself."

Linden swallows down his irritation, says, "I have been."

Bure shakes his head, and looks at Linden full in the face, his eyes still damnably blue, and says, "You on Team Canada makes you more tradeable."

Linden bites his lip, and Bure's eyes drop there , and Linden nods slowly. It's hard being a Canuck at this point, especially with the injuries he's had to deal with in addition to the tender mercies of the Keenan-Messier monster. But Linden can't imagine being anywhere else, not since the day his name was called by Quinn and he pulled on that sweater.

He doesn't know if Bure feels that way, if he'd rather be a Canuck at all costs. Bure's too. Practical . Not greedy, not like those rumors that claimed Bure demanded more money during the Stanley Cup  finals back in '94, but practical. Bure's in a trap as much as Linden is in, maybe more. The way Messier looks at Bure like a prize makes Linden's blood cold.

He shudders. Bure rubs his arms, says, "I know you love this city, but. You need to protect yourself."

Linden leans closer, makes Bure crane his neck up a little, says, "What if I want to protect you?"

Bure's eyes harden, and his lips set in a firm line, but he doesn't say anything.

"Charming," Messier drawls, and Bure springs away from Linden. Linden can feel his heart pounding in his ears and he curses himself for being so weak . Messier looks like he just got a million dollars handed to him which—

"Are you supposed to be doing sprints on ice, Messier," Bure says, "you need it."

Messier glares at Bure, but Bure doesn't back down, even adds viciously, "Not everyone can hide behind Keenan forever."

Bure and Messier stare at each other like that for a while, and Messier manages to turn his bald dome toward Linden and say, "Control your bitch."

Linden laughs at the absurdity of that , doesn't even think about driving his fist into Messier's throat. Messier blinks— that wasn't the reaction he was hunting for— and Linden says, "Crawl back to your trash can, Mess ."

He makes sure to drag Bure out with him while Messier's too stunned to say anything.

Bure raises his eyebrow, "Ok, maybe you smarter than I give you credit for." Linden feels his face warm despite the cool rink air and Bure smirks like he knows what kind of effect it has on Linden, like he knows Linden thinks about touching his mouth.

"I try," Linden shrugs.

Bure hums, "Think about that when Russia gets gold."

"They won't, come on, you think you can pull one over Wayne Gretzky?" Linden leans against Bure's side, and Bure turns and looks up at him. Shit, Linden's being insanely unprofessional  right now, if thinking about Bure sucking his dick falls within 'being unprofessional' instead of 'beyond it'. 

Bure shoves a hand through his hair, says, "He's old  now, I think I can do it," and that cockiness does things  to Linden.

"You like it," Bure says, stroking up Linden's arm, "when I'm a shit, hm?"

Linden says slowly, "We're at work , here, you know." That just gets a smile— a real one that reaches his eyes— from Bure.

Bure leans in, "You know where to find me after."

Linden does; even if he's never been to Bure's place in all the time Bure's been in Vancouver. Linden may have driven by. Just to make sure it was suitable. Once. Or twice.

He parks, gets out, and walks up to Bure's door, and Bure's right  there .

He steps in, and Bure presses him up against the door, his hands pushing up under his shirt, sritching against the hair underneath his navel. Linden licks his lips, and Bure presses against him, fuck . Linden can feel Bure's dick against his own, and he turns his head, half-embarrassed and half-aroused.

He jerks off about that kiss , for fuckssakes. Linden still thinks about the soft drag of Bure's teeth, the firm redness of his lips against his, the pressure of his hands.

Bure takes Linden by the chin and turns his face towards him, and Linden lets him. Bure presses his hips harder, and Linden clutches at Bure's ass. He wants to slide his dick against it, tangle his hands in Bure's hair, and Bure says, "You're a open book. So easy."

Linden chokes— Bure knows exactly what else that can mean— and Bure's fingers slide against the waistband of Linden's jeans, pressing in just against his hips, making his dick jump.

Bure stretches himself up against Linden, and Linden thinks, fuck it , and shoves his hands into Bure's hair, kissing him hard, sliding the edge of his teeth over Bure's lip. Bure shoves his hands deeper into Linden's pants, his palms warm against Linden's junk, and kisses back just as hard, making Linden rock against him.

" Blya'd ," Bure says, and Linden grins.

"That's the idea."

Bure rolls his eyes, says, "Bed."

Linden follows Bure, eyeing that ass freely, and he's about 87-percent sure that he can talk Bure into lying on the bed and letting Linden lick it until Bure cries. Linden takes off his shirt, and Bure just. Stares , like Linden has something worth looking at like Bure does, and Linden reaches over to take off Bure's shirt.

Just to let his thumbs slide over those nipples, and Bure looks at him hotly like he knows what Linden's doing. Linden bites his lip, and leans against Bure. Bure unzips his pants, and Linden tries not to groan at how good it feels not to be so constrained. But he does.

Bure smirks, and pushes down his own pants, and shit, Linden can see how hard Bure is even through those briefs. There's a wet  spot, for fuckssakes.

Linden licks his lips, and brushes them against Bure's ear, "I want to suck you," and presses him against the sheets.

"Please," Bure says, softly, and Linden scoots down, slides his fingers against the elastic in the legs, and god, Bure loves it, arching against his touch. Linden licks his lips, mouths the wet spot against the white of Bure's briefs, and he can hear Bure breathing hard, like he's made himself be quiet . Linden inhales sharply, thinking of a younger Bure with the CSKA, jerking off and breathing harshly, trying so hard .

Linden slides down Bure's underwear, and Bure slides his hand through Linden's hair, muttering in Russian. Linden doesn't know what he's saying, still slides his tongue up the underside of Bure's dick and sucks hard against the head. Bure's hand tightens in Linden's hair, and Linden can feel Bure quiver against his hands. Linden looks up briefly. Bure's red, his teeth buried in his lip, and he licks Bure slowly, making that mouth gasp.

Bure presses down on his head, and Linden goes easily, uses his hand to stroke Bure off as Bure fucks his mouth, and god, Bure's too good at being quiet. Linden slides his tongue underneath the head, presses against the foreskin with his fingers, and Bure thrusts up hard. He can feel his mouth being pulled out of true, Bure's hand trailing along his cheek. Linden closes his eyes harder, bobs his head, and Bure comes with a hissed gasp.

Linden pulls back, his mouth sticky with come, trying to get his breath back, with his head rested on Bure's thigh. Bure presses down on Linden's lip with his fingers, and Linden lets him slide them in.

He can feel Bure twitch underneath his hand, and Bure's looking at him so hard Linden feels like he's been thrust into a fire.

"Not what I," Bure trails off, and Linden can just hear the word expected .

Linden smirks, and slides his hand down to stroke his dick. Bure notices, and pulls him up, says, "Jerk yourself off," and god , it's like Bure wants to kill him, "show me how you think of me."

Linden swallows, and stares at Bure, from his face down to those thighs he's thought about marking up, to the small glimpse he gets of Bure's cleft, and jerks himself off, twisting with each upstroke. Bure just watches, and Linden can feel himself getting closer to the edge, thumbing at the slick head of his dick, thinking about Bure sucking on it, maybe letting him come against those lips and—

His spine curls up, and he comes on Bure's thighs in white streaks, panting like he doesn't know what.

Bure slides a finger down his thighs, and drags it up to his lips. Linden makes a wounded noise, watching Bure go down on his finger, and he cups his spent dick, thinking about getting hard again.

Linden slides down to the sheets, and Bure presses against him, his hand hot against his arm. He mutters, "Fuck."

Bure smirks, "Yeah."

 


 

Linden grits his teeth against the stretch in his groin, but he's not going to quit in front of Keenan, who's glowering at all of them from his position on the bench. There's a small voice in Linden's head that says he may be rushing coming back from injury, but he's missed eight games because of it, and he knows  Keenan is tallying each game against him.

Practice isn't easy, not with jet lag and Keenan bag-skating them near death. Linden pushes himself off his skates, and trudges into the locker room, easing his pants down with a sharp gasp.

Fuck groin injuries so hard.

Most of the boys send him half-sympathetic, half- glad-that's-not-me looks while Linden psyches himself to get up and take a shower. Linden makes a mental note to borrow a hot pad from the med room before he goes down for his pre-game nap. Bure's looking at him too, and Linden doesn't want to get up because he has his pride.

And he doesn't want to look weak. Stupid as hell, but.

Bure rolls his eyes and extends a hand, "Don't be stupid," he says shortly. Linden smiles ruefully, and manages to haul himself up without making Bure back up on his heels. Bure's hand is warm, and Linden slides his thumb over a small cut on the back of Bure's hand, running over the thin scab just because he wants to.

Bure licks his lips, and Linden looks away, slides his hand out of Bure's grip. He feels like an asshole now, too. Linden hasn't been alone with Bure since that night, but things were a little. Cramped, with what Messier lurking like an overgrown vulture between him and Bure.  

Linden mutters something about seeing Bure later and runs away.

Linden doesn't drown himself in the shower, but it's a while before he shuffles out and steals hot pads from the equipment room. He's looking forward to getting this game over with and to getting the hell out of St. Louis. Especially with Chris Pronger in the lineup, that devious bastard.

 

The Canucks are down one to four by the second intermission, and the atmosphere in the room is like cold oatmeal. Linden says small things— they've been working hard, they can still come back and tie and get those points, to the guys that file in looking like they have two millstones around their necks.

Keenan hears Linden— he has to have heard him, he's right across the doorway from Linden, flaking Messier, and he's chewing harder on his mustache with each word Linden says.

The room has an uneasy silence until Keenan breaks it. But instead of talking about drawing penalties or the Xs and the Os, Keenan swivels on Linden, beady eyes boring into Linden like .22s, and bile just spews  out of that mouth: 

"Shut the fuck up, shut the fuck up! Who in the fuck are you? Are you the fucking coach? Do you think a little pat on their dumb heads is going to win us this game? You were lazy out there, Linden—"

Linden bites down on his lip, holding his breath, not trusting himself to say anything—

"You play the fucking perimeter like a pussy, you a pussy, Linden? Who in the fuck are you? You're not even the fucking captain. You're a piece of shit, who shoots for shit, and who thinks for shit, who in the fuck are you?"

Linden's hands ache from clenching so long, and Keenan's still laying into him like he has a cat o' nine tails for a mouth. He can't say anything, and a sour taste smears itself over his tongue and his stomach. He only can just stare at some water spot on the wall over Keenan's ear and measure the borders with his eyes.

Keenan finishes, and breaks his clipboard over the door, screaming incoherently. Linden wants to punch Keenan, to throttle the smug grin off Messier's face until he turns purple and dies .

No one wants to meet Linden's eyes. Which is fine. Linden can feel his blood rushing through his body, and makes himself smooth out his hands on his thighs. He just has to wait for the clock to tick down.


The Blues win.

At least Keenan's too angry at this point to even say  another word, and it must sting , losing to a team he used to coach before he got ejected into orbit again. Linden's lips curl darkly.

Linden marinates in anger the whole bus ride back to the Millenium Hotel. It's dark— not a whole lot of streetlights— and Linden wants to lie down on his bed and close his eyes. Maybe have a couple.

He deserves it for not committing murder. He's pretty sure that'd keep him off Team Canada. Linden presses in the keycard, and throws his suit jacket off to the side. He drags out two cans of beer from his carry-on bag, and curses. He forgot to get ice, and they'll taste even worse warm.

Linden trudges down the carpeted hall towards the ice machine, and sees Bure jabbing at the button. He's shirtless, and Linden's eyes drift down to the reddened nipples on Bure's chest, thinking about touching them, biting them, but Linden just stands there like a plank. Bure startles, and raises his eyebrows at Linden, muttering something in Russian before saying, "I'm sorry."

Linden shrugs, manages to say, "Nothing for you to be sorry about."

Bure's eyes drop down a little, and then back up to Linden's again, and says, "I have vodka. Good stuff. Not the beer Gino has." Linden licks his lips. It does seems a lot better than those cans he has mouldering on the desk back in his room.

He nods, and follows Bure to his room. Linden bites his lip, watching Bure's ass flex, and Bure turns and smirks at him like he knows Linden was watching him.

Linden straightens up like a bolt, and Bure pushes him into his room. Linden sits awkwardly on the bed, watching Bure pour him a shot in those cheap plastic glasses, his hands smooth and confident. Their fingers touch when Bure hands him his glass, and Linden looks up into Bure's hooded eyes.

He could just slam his shot back and blow Bure from right here, make him fuck his mouth raw, make Bure pull his hair. Linden wonders how easy Bure'd get back into speaking Russian.

Linden doesn't slam his shot though. He sips at it, watching Bure slump halfway in the swivel chair, drinking his own shot just as slowly. Linden would straddle Bure, pin him down—

If only his groin was a bit better.

"You look at me," Bure says.

Linden colors, the leftover anger from earlier flaring hot and easy, mixing weirdly with this tension , says, "Yeah."

Linden licks his lips, and sips some more at the vodka. It slips easily into him, and maybe that's what makes Linden add, "You kissed me first."

Bure inhales sharply, tosses back his drink, and Linden wants  to leave Bure a mess, wet and covered in come, tangled in sheets. Bure steps closer, tangles his free hand in Linden's hair, and bends down to kiss him, hard and almost cutting, and Linden sighs, sucks on Bure's full lip.

He licks his lip, looks at Linden and says, "You ok?"

Linden leans back on the bed, "Not up for much, you know."

"Nothing wrong with a mouth," Bure says, and unzips Linden's pants slowly. Linden arches to make it easier for Bure to slide his pants down, and Bure smooths a careful hand over his hip. He kneels between Linden's thighs, and Linden can't look, can't watch Bure's beautiful lips curl around his dick.

Linden can't thrust from this angle; he has to let Bure do all of the work, and Bure is so slow, his tongue dragging  against skin in a way that makes Linden fist his hands in the bedspread. Linden can hear himself gasping hard, and Bure sucks gently, almost wetly. He can feel his thighs tremble a little, and when Bure presses his hand at the base of his dick Linden buries his teeth in his lip so hard he can almost taste blood.

Bure hums , and presses the tip of his tongue against the head, and Linden tosses his head back, coming into Bure's mouth. Bure sucks just as gently as he did before Linden came, and it's too much, too good . Linden rests a hand on Bure's head, and Bure looks up at him with those eyes.

Fuck, Linden can see his come on Bure's lip, like some kind of obscenity. It makes his spent dick twitch against his thigh, and Bure licks his lips before he tries to straighten up.

Linden curls his hand around Bure's wrist, says, "Don't go—" licks his lips, "let me repay you?"

It's Bure's turn to flush, and Linden can see he's hard in those pants. Linden urges Bure over, makes him strip and crawl over to Linden's mouth. Bure straddles his chest, and Linden just has to run his hands up Bure's thighs, going against the fine hair there before he mouths at the tip of Bure's dick, the same color as Bure's lips.

Bure moans, presses against Linden's mouth, and Linden's trying hard to remember what he learned in juniors, trying to make Bure come in his mouth. He's careful, just like Bure is careful, and Bure holds his head as he slides his dick over Linden's tongue. Linden looks up, and he can see Bure trying not to moan, trying so hard to be good .

Fuck that. Linden moans, sucks around Bure as hard he can manage, and Bure presses his fingers into Linden's scalp as he comes, shouting wordlessly. Bure looks down, breathing heavily, and strokes the side of Linden's face.

Linden licks his lips, not for the taste— nothing to write home about— but for how it makes Bure blush like he's been caught out. Linden eases himself up, and Bure slides down to the bed in a heap. Linden leans down and kisses Bure slowly, trying to make sure Bure knows he wants him.

Bure watches him zip up with fire half-banked in those eyes, and Linden wants to stroke, to caress . It's erotic, being clothed while looking at Bure's naked skin, and Bure smiles just like he knows what Linden's thinking.

"Next time," Bure says, almost a threat— but Bure doesn't make threats, he makes promises , and Linden has to leave before he does something even more foolish than blowing a teammate.

 


 

Linden heaves himself off the ice. His knee's still nagging him, sending dull bolts of pain if he shifts wrong on his blades. Not that he'd stop it from letting him go to the Olympics. There's a whole list of things to do before he flies to Japan, so he doesn't turn when Pat calls his name, at least not at first.

Linden stops, and gives him an embarrassed smile, "Sorry, I have a lot on my mind. Is there anything I can help you with?"

Pat blinks— he's the equipment manager, so yeah, Linden realizes he just sounded like a dork, but manners are important, damn it. Pat draws in a nervous breath and shifts his eyes around before he scrubs his hands on his pants.

Linden's gut sinks, and the words "trade" and "Islanders" and "good luck" make it to his brain. Linden blinks, feeling like he just tripped into a hole he was expecting to come up— but not like this . Keenan got the Islanders' captain, some prospect by the name of Bertuzzi and a draft pick. Linden laughs bitterly to himself; a captain for a former captain. He doesn't know what he says back, just walks away from Pat, feeling the wrong sort of tingly, edging towards numb.

The Islanders. Not a contender. And in a separate conference from Bure.

Linden bites his lip and jams himself into street clothes. He can taste bile in his mouth, thinking about Bure in the room, alone, and with fucking Messier. Does Bure know?

He closes his eyes against the itch that comes up around them, and forces himself to breathe deeply. He can't show weakness . Especially not here. Not when he has the Olympics to fly to in less than 24 hours.

Linden digs into his bag and yanks out a folded and beaten-up piece of paper, steals a marker from the whiteboard, and scribbles, I'm sorry .

He sticks the note in a corner of Bure's stall and leaves. Linden doesn't want to miss the flight.

 


 

Nagano's digs aren't as nice as Linden was hoping for, but the bed's just long enough for him to lie on without dangling his feet over the end. Not too much, at least. The walls are thin, and he can hear Team USA losing their shit and possibly throwing chairs against the walls. They took losing to the Czech hard. He smirks and turns on his side. Carefully.

18-hour flights are worse for knees than 3-hour flights, and Linden's allergic to something. What, he doesn't know, but he's been dealing with team functions while having a stopped-up throat and a dry mouth.

Everyone knows about the trade by now.  The pity they have grates  on his nerves, even if most of them haven't said anything to his face. Hell, even Gretzky— fucking Wayne Gretzky— kept his mouth shut.

Linden kicks off the sheets in irritation, feeling prickly with anger and the urge to cry. He takes in a deep breath, pinches the web of skin between his index finger and thumb and focuses on that , instead of how Bure would look across the ice at him.

Bure's in the Village, but breaking free from Team Canada and sneaking into wherever the Russians are just seems.

Incorrect? Questionable?

A spike of anger grows in his throat, and Linden hurls the thin pillow underneath his head across the room. It lands in a twisted position, and he looks at it. Screw it, he's not going to be able to sleep tonight. He stretches up and hauls himself to the side, strapping his brace on, and gets dressed enough to walk outside.

The air is cold against his skin, and he leans against a bench.

"Trevor?"

Linden turns to see Bure, who's flushed with cold and probably a fair amount of booze. Linden flicks his eyes over to where the Russians are staying, and Bure shrugs, "Just us."

"I don't know what to say," Linden says, maybe a little too honestly. He blinks his eyes against the wind, which's irritating his eyes a bit. He folds his arms, clutching at his biceps so he'd have something to touch. He's not sure whether he should even talk to Bure, not even when he's looking at Linden with those eyes that seem weirdly shiny under the dim streetlight.

This is like rubbing salt in a wound, even if Bure just got that dumb note.

"You—" Bure pauses, trying to find the words in English— " shouldn't ? be sorry. You didn't ask for it to happen."

Linden nods sharply, and makes himself smile and thump Bure's shoulder firmly, say good  luck . Linden gets a glimmer of a smile in return, and he has to walk away.

He just has to.

 


 

The 1980s festoon Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum: creaky seats, chipping stairs, and Stanley Cup Banners that dwarf even that big Slovakian guy trying to make the team. The echoes aren't not home.

Linden doesn't complain, just pulls his helmet on and skates through the warmups. He feels warm , not because of the skating, or even the sputtering heat in the stands. The Panthers are wearing their navy sweaters, and #10 stands out among the rest, almost gliding.

The Panther's nameplate reads Bure .

Linden knew Bure refused to sign with the Canucks after that— season , even held out for months. This is the first game Bure's played for them, and Bure doesn't seem the worse for wear. He even has a little extra burn, and that makes Linden hold his stick tighter.

Bure's dangerous when he's on , blazing past the defense and setting off red lights. Linden liked that before.

They were on the same team before.

Linden turns away, focuses on shooting pucks into the net. His number, 32 , still sits awkward on him, and despite the hope the local press whipped up, the Islanders haven't made the playoffs in five years.

This year isn't looking good either.

Milbury has. An unique  outlook. That's the best thing anyone could say about any guy who beat up another guy with his shoe. He compares better to Keenan, at least.

Linden shakes his head and skates off. He can feel Bure watching him, but he doesn't want to watch back. The pregame talk is a muddle, and Linden keeps dwelling on how tan Bure was. Which leads to thinking about Bure resting under the warm Florida sun shirtless and that stupid chain glinting.

The game is a disaster. Chara gets into a fight against a Panther, and the refs give him a game misconduct.

Their defense's already shaky, but with the Islanders down a D, Bure just burns  them. He shoots off two goals, and the joy that he has on his face makes Linden ache.

So the Panthers win, 5 to 2. Linden doesn't even know what he says to the press scrum, Bure's face still on his mind. They haven't— talked. Sounds stupid, but none of them are big on talking. Or calling. Or writing. He doesn't even know if Bure regrets—

Not leaving the Canucks, but. Linden shoves his hand through his hair furiously. Call it what it is. Fucking .

Linden walks out, his dress shirt sticking to his still-wet chest, and sees Bure leaning against the wall. Bure's lips are red, like he's been biting them. Linden swallows, and Bure juts his chin out in a challenge, looking strong and vital.

Linden's hands itch to touch Bure, to kiss those lips, but he stands there with his hands limp at his sides. Bure steps closer, says something Linden doesn't catch, but it sounds filthy. The slide of Bure's eyes over him makes Linden feel like he's out into the chill air already and Linden has to bite his tongue to keep from shivering.

"You look a bit thin," Bure says, and this close Linden can smell the soap he used to wash off.

Linden shrugs, gives Bure a sheepish smile. Bure narrows his eyes, and curl his hands against the front of Linden's shirt.

Linden looks down in surprise, and Bure smiles thinly, "You are a very bad liar." There's a sharp light in Bure's eyes, and Linden wants  even more.

He shifts from one foot to another, doesn't even try to step away from Bure's grip, and says, "Then, I hope you don't mind if I ask to see your room?"

Bure smiles, and shit, Linden still has dumb sappy thoughts about him looking like an angel. Those thoughts keep him warm as they sit in his car, waiting for it to warm up enough so they can—

Go back to the hotel and fuck. Linden licks his lips, and slides his hand carefully on Bure's knee. Bure sucks in a breath and pulls his hand further up, close enough that if Linden twitched his fingers he'd brush it against Bure's dick. Linden looks up from where his hand's been relocated and into Bure's eyes. Bure leans up and presses his chapped lips against Linden's mouth almost carefully.

Linden can take a hint, and smiles equally almost carefully at Bure while he gets the car into gear. They don't talk the entire drive there, and Bure's clever enough to sneak Linden up to his room without anyone seeing them.

The door closes, the lock clicks, and Bure presses Linden up against the door, carding his fingers through Linden's curls, and kisses him ferociously, dragging his teeth down Linden's lip. Linden grips at Bure, his fingers digging into the crest of Bure's ass, and lets himself be crowded.

Bure's clever with his fingers, slipping buttons open, pressing at the heavy fabric of Linden's pants until they're down around his knees and Linden is very conscious of the fire-proof metal cold against his bare back back. Bure stretches himself up to Linden, and Linden tugs at the slim gold necklace flat against Bure's collarbone. His mouth's dry, and Linden can't find any words.

" Ne ostanovit' seychas, ya propustil pal'tsy… " Bure says. Linden's hand seize against the hollow of his collarbone, and Bure grinds against his thin underwear, " Khochu k poshel na khuy."

Linden licks his lips. Bure's never spoken much Russian around him, but the emotion in those soft words makes him reach out and touch Bure's chin, hold him still for a wet kiss. Bure licks his lips, his lidded eyes triumphant, and says, "Bed."

He goes, almost crawling after Bure, wanting to smother him with touches, wanting to know this is real . Instead he lies on his side on the too-soft mattresses, watching Bure strip. His eyes slide down the thick strokes of Bure's torso, finding no end to that tan. Bure turns, catches him, and they grin at each other. Bure pushes Linden on his back, and Linden looks up, tugs Bure down by that chain, and kisses him like he means it, like—

Linden colors, like he wants to be fucked , and Bure realizes it, from the way he licks at his lips. But the image of Bure sliding those hands on him, holding him open, tilting the usual thoughts he dwells on in the protection of night into something even more visceral—

It makes Linden spread his thighs beneath Bure, and Bure's hands are hot as they slide against the lie of the hair on his legs. Bure rubs small circles into the skin, looks up at Linden, and Linden doesn't say anything, just shoves a not-very-used tube of lube into his hand. Bure looks down at it, and Linden can see his lips quirk.

"I'll be careful," Bure manages.

Linden's retort— "You better"— gets a bit lost when Bure jerks his dick firmly, rubbing at the base and pressing against his balls. Linden curls his fingers against Bure's chain, and rocks up into Bure's grip, the slide of his foreskin against Bure's palm agonizingly sweet. Bure leans down, and their lips bump against each other. Linden doesn't want to let go, and Bure presses his thumb carefully on the tip of his dick, his nail pressing in a way that makes Linden want to twist away.

"Ok?' Bure asks, and Linden manages to gasp out a yes . Linden must look wrecked, just because of a hand, but it makes Bure narrow his eyes like hes' going to make a penalty shot and scoot down Linden's torso. Linden thinks he's going to blow him, but Bure urges his hips up and—

The slick drag of Bure's tongue against Linden's asshole makes him throw his arm over his eyes. Linden's thought about doing it to Bure, licking into him until he's whimpering and bucking against Linden's hands but for some reason Linden never thought about Bure, with his perfect mouth, rimming him. He can't press against Bure's mouth; he doesn't want to break something so good.

Bure sucks, slides his mouth over the rim of his asshole, and then just presses a lubed fingertip at the edge of it. Linden bites his lips, and slides over Bure's fingertip, feeling overexposed, with his legs up and spread and Bure looking at him like that .

"Fuck," Linden mutters, and Bure's the one who moans now, a soft noise in the back of his throat that makes Linden arch and press himself further down on Bure's finger. Linden wants more, despite the burn and the sting, and Bure squirts out what feels like a lot of lube in between Linden's ass and his hand. Bure carefully slips in another fingertip, and Linden's almost surprised at how easy that is.

Bure stares at Linden like he's surprised too, and then leans over Linden, resting on his other elbow as he thrusts his fingers in slowly. Linden grips at Bure's necklace, making Bure hold himself still, and Linden says, "Don't you dare, Pavel—"

"Fuck." It's Bure's turn to say it as he pushes in and out a little roughly. Linden presses back, and Bure curls his fingers inside, gliding in and out, dry patches catching on the rim of Linden's asshole. It's strange, almost liquid, but Linden wants more, wants to Bure to touch him like this all the time.

Bure presses down in a curl, and Linden grips at him, breaks the chain he's holding, coming over himself and Bure in an arc of lighting.

Linden pants, and looks at the broken necklace coiled around the back of his hand. Bure licks his lips, and Linden grins, "I owe you."

Bure pulls him up roughly, "Yes, you do," and Linden slides down to suck Bure off, his lips curling up.

 


 

 

Linden hasn't seen Bure for years, not since he retired and went back to Russia. Much to his shame, Linden couldn't make to Bure's number retirement ceremony, not when the office finally decided to embrace Bure in a space of 15 minutes after almost 15 years. Hockey used to be when they intersected, but now it's when they don't .

They don't talk much these days, but they never did talk much. So Linden doesn't have any right to be surprised when he walks into his own office— the Canucks' President office— and sees Bure seated behind his desk.

They've seen pictures of each other, of Linden going more grey than he likes and of Bure going more soft than he likes. It's still a shock to see Bure here , and he wouldn't be here without a damn good reason. They're both too aware of how much distance is between them, but Linden knows it can be closed so easily.

Bure looks up from a stack of papers, and says, "Your office has interesting perception of player relations."

Linden scoffs, "Once a lawyer, always a lawyer, I suppose."

"I do have a— how does it go— a bone to pick with you," Bure says, leaning back in Linden's  chair, testing how easily it swivels under his weight.

Linden raises his eyebrow, "If this is about the retirement ceremony—"

Bure waves a hand, "Eh, you had a prior commitment, it happens," adds with that familiar old curl of his lips, "besides if you were there it would've been hour long instead of 20 minutes."

Linden colors, and Bure takes him in with those eyes— grey more than blue these days— and smooths his tie. Linden looks back. If Bure's not going to tell him straight off the bat, he might as well take his time to measure this man in front of him against the picture he has in his mind. The Bure in front of him is polished, trussed up in suits that hide as much of him as they can, and still Linden thinks about the last time they fucked.

It was in Vancouver, when Linden got back with the Canucks and Bure had moved on to the Rangers, and he still remembers it like it was last night, pressing carefully into Bure, sucking kisses from his lips. They always did fuck like it was the last time each time, and that wasn't any different, except  it was the last time.

Bure licks his lips, like he knows what Linden's thinking. Some things need no translation.

Linden says, "You going to let me think things, or say why you're here?"

"You don't have enough Russians in the pipeline."

Linden suppresses a smile, "It's hardly like they're eager  to play in the NHL when they can play somewhere where they can speak their own language and are encouraged  to be there. But I don't think I should lecture you, Pasha, you've been in that position yourself."

Bure looks at his nails, "The KHL. Is the KHL." He's not going to spell it out, but even Linden can pick up on the subtext.

"So, what, you want the Canucks to be an island of misfits?" Linden replies.

Bure stands up, leans over the desk like it's his , "Almost worked the last time, didn't it?"

"Until Messier. We just finished paying him money, you do realize."

"Fuck Messier," Bure snaps, "you know if it wasn't for him—"

"We'd never have made a move on each other, Pasha."

Bure flushes, "You really think that? I may have been dumb kid, but I wasn't blind. I know how you looked at me."

Linden bites his lips, "That was a long time ago."

"No, it wasn't," Bure says, his eyes hard and hot. He stalks around the desk, yanks Linden's tie down, and kisses him.

Linden kisses back— Bure still kisses the same, lush and hungry— but stops himself from curling his hands around Bure's arms. Linden can't step back, not with Bure's hand wrapped around his tie, and manages to say, "No, it wasn't."

Bure looks up at him with those same lidded eyes, and says, "I expect us to have good working relationship."

"Working? This is work?" Linden says, wrapping his hand around Bure's, stroking his tie in between Bure's fingers.

Bure kisses him in reply, and Linden allows himself to slide his fingers into Bure's shirt collar to hold him in place. Bure presses back into his hands, holds him closer.

Linden can clear his calendar for this .