The slow buzzing of the heater kicks in as Ryan tucks his face further into Vinnie’s neck. “Finally,” he mutters against his skin. “I’m freezing.”
Vinnie tightens his hold on Ryan’s waist and places a light kiss on his forehead.
They’ve been cuddling in their hotel room for the better part of an hour now. They’re trying to kill time until they have to head over to the MTS Centre for their game.
“I totally caught Kaner staring at Jonny’s ass after practice,” Ryan says.
Vinnie chuckles. “Nice.”
“They have a thing, I just know it,” Ryan says.
Vinnie groans. “Not this again, Ry.”
Ryan pulls away slightly to look at his boyfriend. “But why won’t they just tell me? I’ve been giving them every opportunity to.”
“They’ll tell you on their own terms,” Vinnie says.
“I just want to know,” Ryan says.
“Do you want to tell them about us then?” Vinnie asks.
“No way,” Ryan says, quickly. “We have too much to lose.”
Vinnie gives him a look and Ryan shakes his head. “It’s not the same and you know it. They’re vets now. If they told me and I was a dick about it, I would still be fucked.”
“Just shut up,” Vinnie murmurs, sleepily. He tugs Ryan back down against his chest and threads a hand through his hair, instantly shutting him up.
The day PR announces Trevor as the You Can Play ambassador, he’s talking about it to a group of guys in the locker room. Ryan shoulders his way into the circle. He glances around it and sees Patrick and Jonny there.
“A friend of mine growing up is gay,” Ryan says when there is a lull in the conversation. It’s a not a complete lie, Vinnie was his friend growing up. He mentions this so that Patrick and Jonny know he’s cool with it, which, obviously.
Patrick and Jonny exchange a glance and Trevor raises an eyebrow. “And?”
“Oh, I just- it’s cool you’re doing this, y’know?” Ryan says.
“Thanks,” Trevor says, shrugging.
Ryan waits for either Patrick or Jonny to pull him aside the rest of the day and maybe let him in on their relationship, but it never happened.
He clearly needs to try harder.
The team’s at a bar a few night later, celebrating a close win. Ryan’s been watching Patrick nurse the same beer for over an hour now while making idle conversation with Schmaltzy. He's also kept an eye on Jonny chatting with a few of the married guys on the team.
“You stare anymore and I’ll start to get jealous,” Vinnie whispers in Ryan’s ear, tucked up against him in their booth.
Ryan rolls his eyes. “Don’t be an idiot, I’m observing.”
“Yup, gotta see how they behave in a public environment filled with couples, women, and alcohol,” Ryan explains.
“What have you learned?” Vinnie asks.
“They barely even look at each other,” Ryan says. “Weird, right?”
“I guess,” Vinnie responds.
“Like they don’t even talk or sit near each other. Do you think it’s because they don’t want the fact that neither of them ever pick up to be obvious?” Ryan asks.
Vinnie scoffs. “Maybe they just can’t trust themselves around each other in public while they’re drunk.”
“Can you trust yourself around me?” Ryan asks, wondering what the cause for the difference in the couples’ behavior is.
“Ry, I literally just gave you a blowjob in the bathroom five minutes ago,” Vinnie whispers.
“Shit, maybe we should take their lead and keep our distance from each other?”
“Why? No one’s said anything yet.”
“Yeah, yet. What if someone catches on?” Ryan asks.
“We deal with it then. Just relax, babe,” Vinnie says shaking his shoulder. “Maybe they’re just fighting.”
Ryan notices Schmaltzy’s left his spot. He pulls away from Vinnie and makes his way over to Patrick.
“Not gonna hook up tonight?” Ryan asks, settling into Schmaltzy’s empty seat.
“Nah,” Patrick says, taking a sip.
“I’ve noticed you don’t really pick up, why’s that?” he asks, trying to be causal about it.
Patrick smiles, weakly. “Just trying to focus on hockey right now, you know how it is.”
Ryan deflates at the answer. If there ever was a great time for Patrick to admit something it was then.
“Right, I feel you,” he says. He immediately heads back to Vinnie, desperate to get away from Patrick’s depressing aura.
The next step in Ryan’s plan is flirting. He corners Jonny during practice. He starts the conversation innocently enough, asking about a play they tried when they used to be on the same line.
“I like your stick,” Ryan blurts out. He meant to find a way to work the word ‘stick’ into the conversation, but word vomited instead.
“What?” Jonny asks, looking amused.
Ryan taps Jonny’s stick with his own. “You’ve got a nice stick,” Ryan says, winking. “I’d like to try it someday.”
He thinks he went too far, but just as he’s skating away with a furious blush, hoping for the ground to swallow him whole, Jonny catches up to him. “Just let me know when,” Jonny says, winking back before skating away.
Ryan wants to tell Vinnie what happened so badly, but he knows he’ll just hear a lecture in return so he spends the rest of the day avoiding him instead.
Ryan knocks on Jonny’s hotel room to put Step 398 into place.
“’Sup?” Jonny asks, opening the door and strolling back to his bed.
Ryan follows after him.
“I was bored, wondering what you were up to,” Ryan says.
Jonny shrugs and gestures at the TV where a rerun of Friends is playing.
Ryan eyes Jonny’s bed and gasps. “Your sheets are different than mine,” he says, walking over to sit on his bed. He bunches a corner of the sheets up in his hand. “They’re so much softer.”
“Uh, okay?” Jonny says.
Ryan swallows and gives himself a quick pep talk before crawling into Jonny’s bed with him.
“What are you-”
“So much softer, wow,” Ryan says once he’s in the bed.
“Uh… Hartzy…” Jonny trails off as Ryan wraps an arm around his waist and rests his head on his shoulder.
“You’re so warm,” Ryan says, thanking all deities that Jonny’s wearing a shirt.
The connecting door between Jonny and Patrick’s rooms opens and Patrick strolls in, stopping short at the sight of Ryan cuddling up to Jonny in bed.
“Uh, am I interrupting something?” Patrick asks, smirking.
Patrick walking in on them was not a part of the plan. Jonny was just supposed to push him away and say he’s seeing Patrick.
Jonny’s eyes widen and he profusely shakes his head as he tries to pry Ryan’s arms off of him.
Ryan holds on a second longer hoping for Patrick to stop smiling and start yelling.
When it’s clear that that’s not going to happen, he sighs and slowly gets out of the bed. “I was just testing out his bed,” Ryan explains. He knows it sounds sketchy but maybe that’s a good thing. “I’m gonna head back to my room. I’ll see you guys later,” he says.
“Bye, Ryan,” Patrick says, sounding like he’s on the verge of laughter.
Ryan stops and pokes his head back in the room. “Oh by the way, you smell really good, Jonny.”
Ryan has tried everything he can think of. It’s time to pull out the big guns.
A few days later, he visits Jonny’s room again in a last ditch attempt.
Jonny’s walking back into his room after opening the door for him. He stops him with a hand on his shoulder and gently pushes him against the wall.
Ryan slowly leans in and hovers his lips near Jonny’s. He tries to give Jonny ample time to shove him away or say something, but Jonny just stands there frozen and wide eyed.
Ryan has no choice but to close the gap and kiss him. He’s praying this works.
Just as his lips brush Jonny’s, someone walks through the connecting door.
Jonny shoves Ryan away as Patrick stomps back into his room, clearly angry.
“Shit,” Ryan mutters. “That wasn’t supposed to happen.”
“Oh yeah and what was?” Jonny asks, shoving him away even more and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
“You were supposed to push me away and say ‘Sorry I have a boyfriend,’” Ryan explains, defeated.
“I couldn’t think. Jesus, Hartzy. What’s your problem?” Jonny asks as he turns to leave, probably to run after Patrick.
Vinnie’s sliding his key card into the slot just as Patrick hurries out of his room a few doors down.
“Everything okay?” Vinnie asks as Patrick stomps down the hall.
“No,” Patrick says, upset. “I just caught Jonny kissing Hartzy.”
Vinnie blinks at him. All those words, in that order, don’t make sense to him.
“Come in,” he finally says, opening his room door and ushering Patrick inside.
“So, what happened?” Vinnie asks.
Patrick explains how he walked in on Jonny and Hartzy kissing. Vinnie’s known about Patrick and Jonny being a couple for a few months now. He caught them kissing in the parking lot after practice and they made him promise not to tell anyone.
“I don’t know exactly what Ryan’s been up to, but I know he’s been wanting us to come clean to him for some reason. He suspects that we’re together but I think he just wants proof or something,” Patrick says.
“You noticed that?” Vinnie asks.
“Of course. We aren’t idiots. He’s so fucking obvious with it, but this was taking it too far. It’s not funny anymore,” Patrick grumbles.
Vinnie sighs. “Yeah, it’s not.”
Vinnie knows it’s likely that Ryan didn’t really want to kiss Jonny. It was probably all a part of his stupid plan to get them to confess about their relationship. Vinnie caught on to the plan when he realized Ryan and him barely spent any time together lately. He started keeping tabs on Ryan and noticed he was always either with Patrick or Jonny.
But why would Ryan take it this far unless he really did like Jonny? Maybe that was the whole point in the first place. Maybe he’s crushing on Jonny and he wanted to know if he was single and gay. Maybe he’s with Vinnie because who else would he be with? It’s too dangerous to go out and try to hook up in the city, maybe he’s just been settling.
Patrick’s phone rings and brings Vinnie out of his thoughts.
“It’s Jonny,” Patrick says. “I’m gonna go find him. He probably thinks I’m mad at him.”
“You aren’t?” Vinnie asks.
“Nah, I know he wasn’t cheating or anything. This is all on Ryan,” Patrick says, heading towards the door. “It’s just not a good feeling seeing your boyfriend kissing someone else, regardless of the circumstance.”
Patrick opens the door just as Ryan's slipping his key into the slot.
“Oh, hey,” Ryan says. “I didn’t mean to-”
Patrick shoulders past him before Ryan finishes his sentence.
Vinnie retreats further into their room and sits at the head of the bed that they share.
“Did he tell you what happened?” Ryan asks, sitting at the foot of the bed.
“It wasn’t like that,” Ryan says, immediately. “I didn’t really mean to kiss him. He was supposed to push me away.”
“So why did you kiss him?” Vinnie asks.
“I had to follow through? I don’t know I just wanted him to say something but he just let it happen.”
Ryan’s answer does nothing to quiet all the questions and doubt running through Vinnie’s mind.
“What’s really going on here?” Vinnie asks.
“What do you mean?”
“Why would you go as far as kissing another guy just to find out if he’s gay when you have a boyfriend, Ry? It just doesn’t make sense,” Vinnie explains.
“I- I don’t know I just wanted him to admit it so badly that I did whatever I could think of,” Ryan admits.
The room is silent for a while, not even the heater makes a sound.
“Maybe we should take a break,” Vinnie says, making up his mind. If he has to question their relationship in the first place, then that’s a bad sign. Maybe they just need some time a part and not take each other for granted.
Ryan sighs and turns to face him. “Yeah, let’s just cuddle for a while and come back to this later.”
Vinnie shakes his head. “No I mean a break break, like a relationship break.”
Ryan’s eyes widen. “What? What are you talking about? I love you,” he says. “We’ve been together for five years.”
“I know. Maybe that’s the problem,” Vinnie admits, looking away. They met as kids and started going out as teenagers. They stayed together even as Vinnie went to play for Notre Dame and Ryan played for the Whalers. Getting drafted on the same team was almost impossible, but it happened to them.
“What?” Ryan asks.
“We’ve been together for so long. Do you actually love me or is it just because you’re kind of stuck with me?” Vinnie asks what’s been on his mind for a while now. It hurts to ask, but he knows it’ll hurt even more to find out later.
“Why would you ever think that?” Ryan asks, incredulous.
“I don’t know, maybe because you’re trying to get other guys to out themselves to you,” Vinnie says. “You want to know that they’re gay so that you have more options, more people you can maybe be with who understand your situation and not just me.”
Ryan makes a wounded sound. Vinnie finally glances at him and he looks like he’s about to cry.
“Vinnie, babe. No, I-no. That’s not it at all, it’s not. You have to believe me. The fact that you’re even thinking this hurts,” Ryan says, turning back around to face the TV.
“Finding out your boyfriend cares more about another couple’s relationship then his own hurts too,” Vinnie mutters.
They’re at a standstill. Neither of them knows the right words to say to the other when someone knocks on their door.
Vinnie doesn’t want to continue the conversation so he goes to open it. It’s Patrick and Jonny. They follow him inside and hover near the unused bed.
“We’ve been dating on and off for eight years now, happy?” Patrick announces.
Vinnie glances at Ryan to see his reaction. He figured Ryan would be jumping up and down, but he just looks broken.
Ryan sees Patrick and Jonny exchange looks out of the corner of his eyes.
“Why did you want to know so badly, Hartzy?”
Ryan shrugs. He doesn’t trust his voice right now.
Patrick walks over and sits next to him. “We aren’t mad at you. We’re just a bit confused.”
Ryan turns around and stares at Vinnie who sits by the pillows and refuses to meet his gaze. The explanation would out him too and he doesn’t know if that’s okay, but he doesn’t really have a choice anymore.
“I wanted to be able to talk about Vinnie with someone other than my family. They always complain I talk about him too much,” Ryan admits. “I was also sick of having to keep it all in. It was kind of obvious you two had something going on, but I didn’t know for sure so I thought if you guys admitted it, then I could talk to you about him and about us.”
Patrick nods his head in understanding. “Why didn’t you just ask or talk to us about him anyway? Why did you need definite proof?”
“It was too risky,” Ryan explains. “We’re rookies here and I didn’t want to fuck things up for us. I needed to be sure. It’s a sensitive topic.”
“Why can’t you just talk to me, why do you need other people?” Vinnie pipes up.
Ryan kicks at the ugly carpeting and scoffs. “What am I supposed to do when we fight? Complain to you about how wrong you are?” Ryan asks. “And how about when I get overwhelmed with how much I love you? It’s different, Vin, I can’t tell you all of that.”
“Well, you have us now,” Jonny says, coming over and gingerly patting Ryan on the back. “Let’s just pretend the whole, uh, kiss thing didn’t happen, okay? You can talk to us whenever you want, Ryan.”
Ryan gives them a weak smile. “I’m really sorry.”
“You’re forgiven,” Patrick says. “Don’t worry about it.”
“We’ll, uh, let you guys talk,” Jonny says. “See you in a few hours.”
Ryan watches them leave, walking so close that their arms brush.
“Were you telling the truth?” Vinnie asks as soon as the door closes.
Ryan stares at the reflection of Vinnie in the TV. “Of course I was,” he says. “I can’t believe you think I want to be with one of them? Have you seen Patrick’s hair? Jonny’s crazy eyes? Do you really think I have no taste?”
Vinnie lets out a watery laugh and crawls down the bed to him. He wraps his warm arms around Ryan from behind. “Why didn’t you just tell me the real reason?”
“I don’t know, it sounds stupid after everything I did,” Ryan says. “Like I was that desperate to just have someone to talk to.”
“It’s not stupid,” Vinnie says, lips brushing Ryan’s ear.
“No,” Vinnie says. “But, um, I gotta tell you something and you can’t get mad.”
“What?” Ryan says, cautiously.
“I knew about them,” Vinnie says. “I caught them kissing in the parking lot once.”
Ryan flails and struggles to get out of Vinnie’s arms. “Why didn’t you tell me?” he practically shouts.
“They made me promise,” Vinnie answers. “I love you, Ry, but that’s a pretty big secret and you know how seriously I take my promises.”
Vinnie’s an asshole, Ryan decides. “It would have saved me a lot of embarrassment. I can’t even face them now,” Ryan grumbles.
“Sorry,” Vinnie says, sounding anything but sorry. “They forgive you, though so it’s all good.”
Ryan sighs and lets Vinnie maneuver them into bed so that he’s wrapped around Vinnie’s arms, head resting on his chest.
“So how was the kiss?” Vinnie asks after a few minutes of silence.
Ryan laughs. “Like kissing a dead fish.”
“Yeah dude, it was gross,” Ryan says, almost shuddering at the memory of Jonny’s chapped lips against his.
Vinnie giggles and leans down to kiss him. Ryan meets him half way and feels a rush of warmth fill his stomach. When they first started dating he thought he’d get used to kissing Vinnie and that feeling would fade, but here he is, years later still getting butterflies for Vincent fucking Hinostroza.
“Mmm,” Ryan moans as Vinnie pulls away. Ryan slips a hand around his neck and tugs him back down for more. “It doesn’t even compare.”