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House Rules

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When Jordie signs his first real contract with the Stars, he doesn't really look for his own place in Dallas. He clicks on a couple of listings and calls an agent or two, but none of it goes anywhere. Jamie's place is plenty big enough for him to move in, and Jamie's happy to have him. He's never come out and said it, but he's been lonely with Jordie mostly playing down in Cedar Park, even though the guys on the team are all great and he gets along with all of them.

Living together feels like every fantasy Jamie'd had about growing up and playing hockey. He spends more time with Jordie than anybody else, just like when they were kids, and he loves it, even the stupid parts like bickering about whose turn it is to take down the trash. It brings back a lot of their habits and quirks from home too, the silly secret language they'd invented together, their weekly MarioKart competitions, rules for sharing space, all the stuff they'd never gotten back into the groove of, with Jordie up and down from Cedar Park so much.

Some of the rules are explicit--no hooking up on the couch or in the shower--and some are just understood--if the door's unlocked when the shower's running, it's okay to come in to take care of business--and things roll along smoothly right through training camp and into the regular season. He and Jordie room together on the road too, and it makes things about a hundred times less stressful to have Jordie's steady, familiar presence sharing his space. Jamie doesn't have to worry about being rude or embarrassing himself or wondering if the guy he's rooming with secretly hates him. Going out with the guys to celebrate wins is a lot more fun now too.

He's in the shower after an early run, appreciating their building's industrial hot water heaters, when he hears the door open. Part of the unspoken bathroom-sharing rule is that they don't acknowledge each other when somebody comes in to use the throne, so Jamie lathers up his hair and thinks about whether or not he can justify a Coke with lunch. He's taking his time, but by the time he's done, he still hasn't heard Jordie leave yet. So he turns the water up just a little hotter and lets it scald his back for a while, til he feels tender and loose, like an overcooked noodle. Maybe he just missed Jordie leaving.

Jamie shuts the water off and pushes the curtain back. The mirrors are all fogged over and there's steam hanging in the air, and Jordie's still sitting on the toilet, basketball shorts pooled around his feet, his chin tucked down to his chest.

"Be done in a minute," he grunts and doesn't look up from his knees.

"No problem," Jamie says, looking at his blurry reflection in the mirror, trying to give Jordie some privacy.

But Jordie still hasn't moved by the time Jamie's brushed his teeth. Jamie can hear his breath catching in quiet little grunts.

"Hey Darth, you okay?" He's still looking in the mirror, not at Jordie.

"Fine," Jordie grits.

"I could go pick you up something from the pharmacy," Jamie presses. Jordie seems really, really uncomfortable, and Jamie wants to help, if he can.

"Nuh-uh, said I'm fine," Jordie says. "Just taking longer than I thought. Sorry."

Jamie finally darts a glance at him. There's a dark blush spreading across his cheekbones and down into his beard, and he's curled into himself, arms wrapped around his stomach and shoulders pulled up high nearly to his ears. Jamie wants to reach out and put his hands on Jordie's shoulders, dig his fingers into the muscles til they relax back down.

"It's not a problem," Jamie says again. There's sweat beading on Jordie's temples and the back of his neck. His eyes are glassy and his cheeks flushed from more than embarrassment. Exertion, maybe, or the heat of the shower or maybe he really is sick. Without really thinking about it, Jamie reaches out and puts the back of his wrist on Jordie's forehead, like mom used to do when they were little. Jordie feels hot and clammy, but Jamie has no idea if that actually means he has a fever. It's really warm in here.

Jordie's still not looking at him, and Jamie should leave, but Jordie hasn't actually told him to, and he wants to help. He runs a facecloth under cold water and pats at Jordie's forehead, and when Jordie doesn't protest, presses it to his temples and the back of his neck too. Feeling a little braver, Jamie presses his thumb in a little, rubbing at the tight ridge of Jordie's trapezius.

"S' that okay?" he asks. It's kind of weird to realize he's hoping that Jordie will say yes, but it's just because he doesn't want to leave Jordie alone when he's clearly so uncomfortable. This is just like the locker room, where they've both seen each other in plenty of disgusting and embarrassing states.

"Yeah." Jordie takes a shuddery, deep breath. "You can keep doing that. If you want."

'''Course," Jamie says. He moves the facecloth in little circles across the width of Jordie's shoulders and down his spine, wiping away sweat and making the skin there prickle with goosebumps. "Try to relax, eh?" He puts his palms on Jordie's shoulders and pushes them down, and Jordie straights up a fraction, wincing.

"There you go," Jamie murmurs. He starts working his fingers in, firm little strokes against the hard muscles. "Doing real good, Jord." The words just kind of spill out, soothing, gentle nonsense, but it seems to help. Jordie's shoulders are looser now, and his eyes have drifted shut, the tension lines around his mouth smoothed out a little. It makes Jamie feel good, helping Jordie be more comfortable.

He thinks Jordie's almost done, because he bites his lip and plants his feet a little wider on the tiles, but Jamie doesn't stop, running his hand up and down the length of Jordie's back now, reminding him to breathe, telling him he's almost there. Jordie grunts, soft and strangled like he's trying to keep quiet, and the muscles in his shoulders go tight again before he finally finishes. He slumps heavily against Jamie and lets out a sigh of relief.

"You did great," Jamie says, feeling kind of stupid, but Jordie's trembling and breathing hard, and Jamie feels like he does after he's watched Jordie successfully work out a complicated play. "Do you need anything else?"

For a second, Jordie looks like he's going to say that yeah, he does, and a thrill of anticipation shivers up Jamie's spine, but then Jordie swallows hard and drops his eyes again. "Nah, man. Uhm. Thanks."

"Anytime," Jamie says. Jordie nods woodenly, lips pressed into a thin line, and Jamie hates that Jordie thinks there could ever be anything he needed weird enough that Jamie wouldn't have his back, no matter what. "I mean it, okay? I liked doing that. So if you need anything, you can tell me." He folds over to press a quick kiss to Jordie's forehead without thinking too hard about why it feels like the right thing to do.

"Thanks, Chubbs," Jordie says, real quiet. "I'll let you know."

It sounds like a promise, and it's one Jamie really hopes he delivers on.