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Transferring schools isn’t the worst thing that’s ever happened to Tyler, he knows. It just feels like it. Like, he knows it’s the right move, that his mom was really worried and he wasn’t putting up the points he could, but still. Texas. He doesn’t know much about Texas, just that it’s basically an entire country away from Toronto, and also hockey isn’t exactly a big deal there.

Still, it’s what he’s got, so he nods earnestly as the coaches talk to him about “acceptable behavior” and “being a good role model” and all that shit. Like, Tyler knows, okay? He gets he went too hard in Boston. But he also knows that Dallas isn’t a hockey school, and the team needs him if they want to put up points, so he’s not kidding himself here.

He nods and smiles and pours on all the charm he can—which is a lot—until the coaches are smiling reluctantly too. “Okay, we’ll let you get settled in,” the coach finally says, and Tyler’s mouth aches from smiling. He nods to one of his assistants. “Jordie here will give you a quick tour of the rink. You’re staying in the dorms?”

“Yeah.” Tyler manages not to make a face, because he is Putting His Best Foot Forward and Making a Good Impression, thank you Mom, but—dorms. He didn’t know enough to get an apartment, but he’s still sort of hoping someone on the team will have a place with a couch he can crash on. He’s already older than most of the Juniors here, after 2 years playing in juniors. He doesn’t really want to deal with that many teenagers.

The coach nods. “Okay, well, if you have any trouble getting settled, let someone know. We’re here to help.” Here to make sure you can play, Tyler translates. He’s good with that. Tyler’s good at settling in places. “Jordie?”

“Yep.” The guy the coach had gestured at gets up. He’s a big dude, with red hair and a bushy beard covering a friendly smile. “Come on, Seguin. I’ll give you the nickel tour.”

Tyler shakes the coach’s hand, follows Jordie out. Once the door is closed, his shoulder seems to relax, and he grins at Tyler as they start down the hall. “So, as you heard, I’m Jordie Benn. I’m the low man on the totem pole, so it’s definitely just Jordie.”

“That’s why you get to show the newbie around?”

“Exactly.” Jordie agrees easily. There’s something about him that Tyler thinks he should know, but it’s not connecting, so Tyler goes with it. He sticks out his hand, and Tyler shakes it. “It also means that if anything’s up, I’m probably the one who’s going to have to deal with it anyway, so you should come to me. And if you don’t tell me, I’ll probably hear about it anyway, so it’s best to just tell me right away.”

Tyler keeps his skepticism off his face. Coaches, in his experience, talk a big game about knowing what’s up with the team, but they don’t really know the half of it.

“Anyway. Nothing surprising here.” Jordie shows him around the rink, which for someone like Tyler, who’s been in and out of more rinks than he can count his whole life, holds nothing surprising. It’s not in disrepair or anything, even if the ice clearly isn’t as good as it was in Boston. It’s easy to like Jordie and, Tyler’s glad to see, easy to get him into conversation and make him like Tyler. They’re shooting the shit about the Canucks—apparently Jordie’s from BC—when they pass another student on the way towards the rink.

They’ve passed a bunch of people, staff and students, but this time Jordie reaches out and grabs the guy’s arm, then moves quickly to something that clearly would be a headlock if there was a little more room. “And this,” Jordie says, laughing as the guy lets out a long, exasperated breath that makes it clear this is not the first time this has happened. “Is our star Star, our fearless leader, and my dork of a younger brother—Jamie Benn. Chubbs, this is Tyler Seguin.”

“Don’t call me that,” The guy—Jamie—mutters, which just gets him a friendly shake from his older brother.

“I thought your name sounded familiar,” Tyler says, and takes a step away from the scuffling brothers. He’ll let Jamie figure out how to get himself out of that. “You guys used to play together, right?”

“I couldn’t just leave and leave Jamie hear hanging, could I? He’d be lost without me, and the team would be lost without him.” Jordie tries to squeeze again, but he must have done something wrong, because Jamie manages to break away and shove at his brother’s shoulder.

“Shut up,” he mutters. “that’s not true.”

“Being lost without him, or the team being lost without you?” Tyler asked.

Jamie ducks his head, shrugged. Now that he’s upright, it strikes Tyler again how big he was—not like, Chara big, but way too big to have the speed on ice that Tyler knew he had. The sort of big that looked like he could take anything thrown at him and not move—solid, sort of. “Neither,” Jamie says, more to the ground.

“Don’t be ridiculous. Jamie leads our team in points,” Jordie told Tyler, like Tyler hadn’t looked up the captain of his new team. “He’s just being modest.”

“Ignore him.” Jamie shoves at his brother again, and finally looks up to meet Tyler’s eyes. He isn’t really hot in a traditional sense, but there’s something about him, about those big calm eyes and full lips. He’s the sort of guy someone might take as a challenge to mess up a bit. “He just likes to embarrass me.”

“Well it’s so easy.”

Jamie takes his own advice and ignores Jordie. “And, um, we’ve met? I don’t know if you remember, but we played sometimes—”

“In juniors, yeah.” Tyler does remember him vaguely—he hadn’t been on anyone’s radar then, and they lived an entire country apart, but he does remember Jamie and how he’d been so much more than Tyler had expected. He doesn’t remember them meeting officially, but Tyler’s met a lot of people, he can’t expect to remember them all. “Nice to see you again, man.”

“You too.” Jamie sticks out a hand and Tyler takes it. Jamie’s handshake, for all the fact that he doesn’t seem to like to meet Tyler’s gaze, is firm. “We’re really excited you’re here.” The way he says it makes it sound undeniable.

“So am I.” Tyler isn’t exactly lying. “Can’t wait to make some sweet, sweet hockey with you.”

Jamie’s cheeks go red as Jordie snorts. Tyler wonders for a second if he’d gone too far, but whatever, going too far is part of his charm. And Jamie’s smiling too, under that blush. “Yeah, um. Me too.”

“What are you here for?” Jordie jumps in. “I thought you were unpacking.”

Jamie gives another one of those sheepish grins, which make Tyler sort of want to pinch his cheeks, and raises the gym bag over his shoulder. “I wanted to get some ice time, before practices started.”

Jordie rolls his eyes. “Seriously, Chubbs? You’re still a student, you still have summer vacation. Savor it.”

Jamie just shrugs. “I’ll be home in time for dinner.”

“Yeah you better be.” Jordie and Jamie’s eyes meet, and some communication goes through. Then Jordie raises his eyebrows, and Jamie makes a face back.

“Are you guys going to talk any time soon, or do I have to learn the secret language of the Benns to get along here?” Tyler puts in.

Jordie makes one more insistent face, then Jamie looks at Tyler. It’s much better than being ignored. “Do you want to come to dinner?” he asks. “Unless you have other plans, I mean. But, it won’t be fancy or anything, but it’s not dorm food.”

“Yeah!” Tyler will take a lot not to eat dorm food. And making good with the captain is never not a good way to start with a team. “That’d be great.”

“Awesome.” Jamie smiles at him then, not the sheepish little thing he’d given Tyler earlier, but something warm and pleased and intent, like that smile wasn’t for anyone other than Tyler.

Tyler blinks. That was…some smile, there. He hadn’t expected it, off of someone like Jamie Benn. “Yeah. Um. Cool.” Tyler takes a breath.

“So, anyway.” Jordie inserts. “We’ll leave you to your unnecessary work out, and I’ll finish the tour. Unless you want to—”

“If I did it, what would they pay you for?” Jamie chirps back, then adds, “See you later, Tyler!” as he continues down the hall towards the locker room.

Tyler glances back at him. So that’s his new captain.

“Don’t be offended if Jamie’s weird at you for a bit,” Jordie says, starting to walk again. “He’s just awkward. I’ve been trying to socialize him for twenty-two years, it’s barely worked.”

Tyler didn’t notice weird, really. Or, he did, but it wasn’t offensive sort of weird, just clearly a shy sort of weird. “So you two live together?” he asks, scampering a little to catch up with Jordie. “Even though he’s still a student?”

“Yeah. We lived together my senior year and his sophomore year, to save on rent and shit, and then when I stuck around it didn’t make sense for him to move out.” Jordie sighs, but it’s so clearly full of affection for his brother that Tyler’s a bit charmed. “I just can’t escape taking care of him, you know.”

“I know. Oldest,” Tyler explains. “I’ve got two little sisters.”

“I’m actually the middle, but with hockey and shit—it’s always been me and Jamie.”

“Was he ever your captain?”

“No—this is his first year as captain—but it wouldn’t matter.” Jordie shrugs, a mannerism oddly like his brother’s. He shoots a sidelong glance at Tyler, his eyes a little narrowed. “Jamie’s a great hockey player, and he’s a great captain. Just because he’s a little shy doesn’t mean he can’t do his job.”

“Sure,” Tyler agrees, because it seems like he’s supposed to. Jordie gives him another one of those looks, then they keep going.

///

After the tour, Jordie goes back to work, and Tyler heads to his dorm room. It’s empty and boring, and he hasn’t bothered unpacking yet, but it’s not like he has anywhere else to go. He snapchats a picture of it to send to Brownie, because if Brownie couldn’t be there then he expected daily updates, then looked at his phone.

If he were in Boston, Tyler could text someone right now, go out to get food or a drink or something. The team, his other friends; someone wouldn’t be busy. He’ll get friends soon, he knows, but for right now, there’s nothing to do but stare up at the ceiling.

He could text one of the guys from Boston, Tyler guesses, but that wouldn’t really get him anywhere. He’d chatted with a few of them over the summer, once everyone knew he was transferring, but he didn’t have anything to say now that wasn’t complaining about Dallas, and they didn’t care about that.

He checked the time on his phone again. Still hours until he was supposed to be at the Benns’, and no one else was on his hall yet for him to go introduce himself to.

I don’t think anything happens in Dallas, Tyler texts to Brownie, then turns to instagram to amuse himself.

///

Tyler shows up at the address Jordie gave him five minutes late with a six pack of beer. It’s an apartment in a building a few blocks off campus, the kind of place Tyler expects a lot of students live in. He catches the door to the building before he can ring the bell to get buzzed up, so he just goes upstairs and knocks on the door.

“See, Jamie, I told you he wasn’t bailing,” he hears, as the door is opening.

“Not bailing,” Tyler agrees, and grins at Jamie’s slight blush. He holds up the six-pack in explanation. “Just picking this up.”

“I didn’t really think you were bailing,” Jamie explains, as he shuts the door behind Tyler. The apartment on the inside looks like every other hockey bro apartment has looked like, maybe on the neater end—a living room with a couch and a TV, an attached kitchen where Jordie’s standing at the stove stirring something, and gear bags sitting in the entranceway. “Jordie’s exaggerating.”

“Jamie frets,” Jordie retorts. “He’s our mother hen.”

“Well someone needs to look after the freshmen.” Jamie looks over at Tyler. “One’s Russian.” The way he says Russian communicates most of what Tyler needs to know.

“Russians do know how to party,” Tyler agrees. Jamie shifts a little awkwardly, like he’s not sure what he’s supposed to say there—he probably heard about why it was best for Tyler to transfer, if not as captain then through Jordie. Tyler keeps going. They’re going to be friends if it kills him. “So, what were you doing for vacation?”

“Oh, um.” Jamie looks a little surprised Tyler’s talking to him. “I was interning, at a sports therapist back in Victoria. And, you know, working so I can actually spend some money this year.” Tyler can see Jamie bite back the instinct to ask what he was doing, then reconsider and wonder if not asking is weird. He’s gotten that reaction a lot this summer.

“That’s cool. I was mainly just chilling with my dog and working.”

“Your dog?” Jamie asks, and that’s all Tyler needs. Forcing Jamie to look at pictures of Marshall on Tyler’s phone takes up all the rest of the time until Jordie calls that dinner is ready. It seems like a good activity for them both—Jamie doesn’t have to make small talk, and Tyler is always happy to talk about Marshall for as long as someone will listen. Jamie makes the right sort of cooing noises in all the right places, too, which endears Tyler to him a lot. Anyone who recognizes that Marshall is cute has to be a decent dude.

Dinner is a lot of Jamie and Jordie chirping each other, brother style, but something about it is inviting enough that Tyler never feels left out. He hears all about their sister, about the other guys on the team, about Jordie’s new girlfriend.

“What about you?” Jordie asks, as that topic finishes out and he’s clearly ready to move on. “Leaving behind any broken hearts in Boston? Or long distance?”

Tyler snorts. “No.” He gestures to himself. “Why would I keep all this to one person?”

Jordie chuckles, but Jamie looks down at his pasta. Tyler swallows. Good impressions. “I mean. I’ve just, I don’t know. I just want to have fun, eh? I don’t want to settle down yet.”

“Whatever, you have to do better than Jamie.”

Tyler looks at Jamie, who’s still staring at his pasta, his cheeks red again. He—well, Tyler knows he’s hot, and he’s proud of his body and he knows what he can do in a club. He’s pretty sure that a club is not Jamie’s forte. But still, Jamie’s got those massive arms and that sweet smile and those very kissable lips and that air, of innocence waiting to be sullied. Tyler might generally prefer people who know what’s what and are generally on the same page as him when it comes to having a fun night and that’s it, there are probably a lot of people into what Jamie’s putting down.

“No, really?”

“Really. Not even being captain’s helped him.”

“Shut up, Jordie.” Jamie’s lips are pressed together, and the note has changed—it’s not the friendly embarrassment anymore.

“It’s just this sad lack of appreciation people have for hockey,” Tyler puts in, “They don’t appreciate a man who spends most of his life bruised. I just don’t get it.”

That makes Jordie laugh, and Jamie look up from his pasta to meet Tyler’s gaze, thanks in it.

Tyler shifts in his seat, and looks away. He’s not sure why, but the sincerity in Jamie’s look is just—a lot to face.

The rest of dinner goes by without any further mishaps, and then Tyler’s back in his dorm, in his little single with barely enough room for a desk and a dresser and a bed. He hasn’t had time to get any of his pictures up yet, or even to really unpack his suitcases. Coming from someplace like the Benn’s—full of warmth and the brothers’ easy affection and banter—the contrast is, well, stark.

But still, lying in bed, he can’t find it in him to really believe that transferring is the worst. If nothing else, he thinks he and Jamie were getting along, despite Jamie’s shyness; maybe they’ll be friends. This could be good.

///

After their first time on the ice, Tyler revises that opinion. This could be great.

“Damn!” Tyler yells, after Jamie snipes one past the goalie off of his pass. “Nice!”

Jamie grins back at him, fierce. Here, on the ice, the uncertainty and awkwardness is gone—on ice Jamie is apparently intense and aggressive and plays beautiful beautiful hockey that fits like a glove with Tyler’s hockey.

“Nice yourself,” Jamie shouts back, circling back to him. He watches another possible line take their turn at the drill. “I think, try going around the net next time, I’ll get it back to you, and you can—”

“Yeah,” Tyler agrees, seeing the play. “Yeah, for sure.”

Jamie gives him that smile again. Tyler matches it, and it doesn’t fade when this time, it’s his goal.

///

 “Hey, Jamie!” Tyler gives the concession stand girl a final grin and a promise to see her later, then jogs to catch up to Jamie. Apparently being captain meant he had to take longer in the locker room, so Tyler had gotten bored and come out to flirt with Keisha the concession stand girl, but he wants to talk to Jamie, because damn.

 “I know I said I we were going to make sweet, sweet hockey together, but man, that was sweet!” He says, as he catches up.

Jamie grins back at him, a shadow of the grin that Tyler had gotten on the ice. “It was,” he agrees. He’s walking fast, clearly still buzzing with the same energy Tyler is.

“Like, we’re both pretty damn good at hockey, but that was—is that what, like, Crosby and Malkin feel like?” Tyler’s buzzing. He’s never been in love, but he wonders if it could ever feel like this. Like fitting together.

Jamie snorts. “Don’t—we’re not Crosby and Malkin,” he warns, though his smile hasn’t faded either. “We’ve still got work to do, and coach might not even put us on the same line.”

“He’d be an idiot not to,” Tyler demurs, and throws an arm over Jamie’s shoulders. Jamie goes a little tense, but Tyler powers through it. He’s a physical guy. “Stop harshing my vibe, bro. This is a good day.”

Jamie’s eying him a little warily. “Are you always this optimistic?”

“Nah, I’m a moody shit, according to Brownie, but like, whatever!” It’s not easy to walk like this—Jamie’s too much taller than Tyler, and his shoulders are about a kilometer wide—so Tyler lets his arm drop. He stays close enough their shoulders brush, though. “Keisha was telling me about a party later? At some frat?”

“Yeah, Spezz was saying. I think some of the guys are going.”

“Are you?”

Jamie gives him another wary look. “Frat parties aren’t really my thing.”

“Don’t be stupid, you just haven’t gone to one with me,” Tyler decides. “I’ll wingman you, it’ll be great, you haven’t been wingmanned until I’ve done it.” Jamie’s still giving him that wary look, and Tyler rolls his eyes. “I won’t go crazy, don’t worry. Just—aren’t you pumped, man? This season’s going to be great!”

That gets a smile from Jamie, and a companionable bump of his shoulders that has Tyler grinning too, maybe more than the move deserved. “Yeah it is,” Jamie agrees, as they walk out into the sun.

///

Tyler ends up pregaming with a couple of the guys on his floor, so he shows up to the party just the right level of drunk to really appreciate the party—not trashed, just pumped. It’s easy to hit that point, still riding off of a good practice and knowing that he’ll fit in here and also just the ease of going to a party again. It was really weird picking up at home—even if his mom didn’t know, she knew—and this feels, like, a christening or something.

“I don’t think that’s how baptism works,” Spezza says, when he finds them at the party and tells them this. He sounds skeptical but amused, which is basically the sweet spot for Tyler.

“No it definitely is,” Tyler tells him. “Baptism by beer.” He toasts him with his beer bottle.

Spezza laughs. “I think you had that a while ago, I’ve heard.”

“Well, yeah. But not in Dallas.” Tyler grins at him. He can already tell, they’re going to be friends. “So—baptism.”

“If you pour beer on yourself, I’m not getting near you,” Jamie puts in, wrinkling his nose. He’s laughing a bit though, finally relaxing like not everyone at the party is out to get him. Which maybe he should stay on edge for, because his t-shirt is tight enough that his arms look at risk of bursting out of the sleeves and it’s a good look. Especially when paired with his whole face thing, even if his hair is over-gelled.

“Lucky you didn’t drive me then,” Tyler retorts, and Jamie laughs. Tyler finishes his beer, and tosses it aside. “Okay, more beer. Who’s with me?”

They make their way to more beer, and then to the beer pong table. Unsurprisingly, Tyler and Jamie kill at beer pong, which doesn’t help Tyler’s ‘get drunk’ plans but does help with his ‘be awesome’ plans. By the time they’ve defeated all comers, Tyler’s tipsy and on top of the world, and Jamie’s flushed and pleased too, giggling as Tyler raises their hands in the air. “The champions!” Tyler announces, in the tone of voice that makes drunk people cheer. The party, sure enough, does not disappoint, and they get a toast that makes Tyler bow and almost knock over the pong table, and Jamie blush but laugh again.

“We are officially beer pong partners,” Tyler announces, once he’s retrieved them more beer. “I’m sorry, you can’t get away now.”

“Damn. There goes all my plans to partner with Spezza.”

 “Nope, sorry. You’re mine now.” Jamie makes a horrified face, and Tyler punches his shoulder. Jamie doesn’t move, damn. “Beer pong champions makes an unbreakable bond, bro. You don’t mess with that.”

“I definitely wouldn’t dare,” Jamie agrees. He leans back against the wall nearest them, pushes the hand not holding his beer through his hair. He’s sweated through the gel, and now it’s falling into his eyes a little.

“Yeah, um, good.” What was Jamie talking about? It doesn’t matter. Tyler blinks, and joins him next to the wall. He should go find more hockey players. Or more beer. Or meet more people. But he doesn’t want to leave Jamie here.

They shoot the shit about the NHL and the team for a while, as the party swirls around them. It’s a long time to stay in one place, but it’s also long enough that Tyler notices the blonde girl standing with some friends across the room, in leggings and a shirt that shows off her breasts. She’s been looking their way, he thinks. Maybe.

“So, want that wingman?” he asks. Jamie blinks, and his brow furrows a little. His mouth opens, then closes, then he shakes his head as he follows Tyler’s line of sight.

“Seriously? She’s hot.”

“Exactly.” Tyler waggles his eyebrows. “Plenty of friends to go around. Coming?”

Jamie shakes his head again. “I’m good. Have fun.”

“I will, thanks.” Tyler gives him another smirk, just to make sure he gets the innuendo—Jamie rolls his eyes—and then leaves Jamie behind to ease himself into the conversation with the girl.

It’s not hard, is the thing. Not when you look like Tyler and know what to say. Girls love the dimples. And also—Tyler likes this stage too. He likes to get to know the people he sleeps with. And the girl—Becca—is pretty cool too, gives him a lot of shit even while she lets him run his hand down her arm, while she leans into his space too. Her friends are giving her thumbs up as they leave the party. Tyler spares a thought for letting Jamie know he’d left, because he’s not sure of the etiquette here but he knows some bros think they have to, but whatever. Jamie had known the plan.

///

Things in Dallas fall into a routine quickly. Tyler has hockey, which, while not nearly as intense as it was in Boston, is still fun and still hockey, and he likes all the guys and they seem to like him too, even look up to him sometimes, which is weird as fuck. Most of his credits for his communications major transferred, so he’s not behind or anything, and classes are what they are, which means he goes enough that he’ll be able to pull passing grades and doesn’t think about them any more than that. And around it he hangs out with the hockey guys or the people on his hall or the assorted people he’s met at parties, all of whom are pretty chill.

And then there’s Jamie. Jamie is the opposite of all of those party and hall friends, the opposite of basically everyone Tyler’s been friends with before. He’s quiet and a little shy and he’d usually rather stay in playing video games than go out, and he really studies for all of his classes. He’s also a beast on the ice, and throws himself as hard into hockey as Tyler does, and he’s funny and an asshole in the best way and will throw Tyler’s bullshit back at him and somehow, he’s Tyler’s best friend in Dallas. Possibly ever, except Brownie, who’s somehow different. Tyler finds himself on the Benns’ couch more often than he’s in his own room, probably, playing video games or being bullied into studying or watching hockey games or TV or doing whatever, because it’s all so much better there, with Jamie.

All of it falls together so fast, it feels a little like Tyler just blinked and suddenly it’s the season, and then everything gets even more crazy. He doesn’t know how Jamie does it, because he’s doing everything Tyler is plus actually working at his classes and all the stuff he does as captain.

“You need a night off,” Tyler tells Jamie, one night when he’s lying on the couch fucking around on Instagram and Jamie’s sitting on the floor, finishing a problem set for one of his bio classes on the coffee table.

“Hm?” Jamie hums. He’s clearly not paying attention to Tyler, which is unacceptable.

“You need a night off,” Tyler repeats, and kicks at Jamie’s shoulder. “A night where you don’t work. If you remember what that feels like.”

Jamie looks up from his notebook. He’s a little bit of a mess, because he’s been working at this problem set for hours—his hair messy and his lips chapped from how much he’s been biting them in thought. Tyler sits up, and reaches out to neaten his hair. Jamie goes still under his hands, lets him fuss. His hair’s surprisingly soft, without all the gel he normally puts in it. “When would I be able to do that?”

“Tomorrow? It’s a Friday, we don’t have a game ‘til Tuesday, and you don’t have anything due until Wednesday.”

“I have—”

“Your problem set will be in by then, and exams aren’t for ages, and you don’t have anything else due, come on, Jamie.” Tyler uses his grip on Jamie’s hair to make sure he’s looking at him, so he gets the full force of Tyler’s pout. “Don’t you want to hang out with me?”

“I hang out with you all the time,” Jamie says, but he’s smiling and it’s obvious he’s caving. Tyler’s the best, frankly.

“Fine, don’t you want to hang out with Jordie? And the rest of the team?”

“I’m staying out of this,” Jordie calls from the kitchen table, where he’s been doing what he claims is work but Tyler suspects is actually texting his girlfriend. “But I am free Friday.”

“Also, I live with him. I think I see him enough,” Jamie adds. “Maybe I’m just sick of you.”

“Don’t lie, you aren’t sick of me,” Tyler tells him. Jamie waits a beat, his lips pressed together, and suddenly it occurs to Tyler—maybe Jamie is sick of him. Jamie’s an introverted kind of guy, and Tyler’s, well, not; he’s basically been over here every day. Maybe Jamie does want time to himself, away from Tyler. He’s somehow become the foundation of Tyler’s life here, but that doesn’t mean it goes the other way; people usually don’t want Tyler around all the time, just when they want to have fun. Jamie had a life here before Tyler came and what if—

Jamie bursts out laughing, and Tyler kicks at his side and pretends like he hadn’t just been, like, panicking or something. That was ridiculous. Of course Jamie wants to hang with him.

“Your face, man,” Jamie laughs, and Tyler kicks him again. Jamie catches his ankle. His hands are warm as they wrap around his socked foot, his fingers spanning the whole thing. He’s still laughing, but he’s giving Tyler this look as he goes on, something warm that seems like it sees right into Tyler’s panic. “Don’t worry. You know you’re welcome here whenever.”

“Whatever. Maybe I’m sick of you,” Tyler retorts, but his heart is very clearly not in it, given that his hands are still sunk into Jamie’s hair. Which, they still are. And probably have been for a while.

He lets go and leans back. Jamie lets his foot go, but he scoots out of range. “So, anyway. Friday?” Tyler goes on before Jamie can protest. “We’ll go to Kelley’s, it’s not too loud. I’ll see who else can come. I’ll be by here at ten.” He cranes his neck to look at Jordie. “Make sure he’s ready by then.”

Jordie salutes absently. Jamie’s scowling a little at Tyler. “I can get ready by myself.”

“Yeah, but your hair will be a horror show. You need supervision.”

“You could just supervise, instead of delegating it to my big brother.”

Tyler could. He could come over early, and make sure Jamie didn’t fuck up his hair too much, and make sure he wore good clothes, the jeans that fit his ass well and the polo that showed off the solid muscle of his shoulders and chest. He’d have to make sure everything was right, would probably have to have Jamie just sit in front of him and let him play with his hair and have Jamie watch him like there wasn’t anything else in the world…

“Um, yeah, I mean.” Tyler reached up a hand to play with the rim of his snapback.  “I need to get ready too, you know? This much perfection takes work.”

Jamie didn’t seem to notice that Tyler was suddenly stumbling over his words. “I thought it was effortless,” he replied, his eyes wide and innocent in that way they only were when he was bullshitting. “I thought you were just naturally perfection.”

“Fuck off,” Tyler retorts. “I am perfection. Perfect at Call of Duty, anyway. Which you’d know if you’d just play with me.”

“I’ve got to finish this, Segs.”

“Then finish.” Tyler wasn’t pouting.

Jamie reached over his shoulder to idly pat at the closest part of Tyler he could reach, which turned out to be his thigh. Damn, but his hands were big.

///

Friday night turned into a whole team thing—Tyler texting Daddy and Val if they were free apparently meant a free for all. It was kind of nice; Kelly’s was the kind of place that didn’t really look too hard at the underclassmen IDs but also isn’t too loud to hear yourself think. Tyler likes those sort of places, where body language and a smile can matter as much as anything, but not for nights out with his bros.

“Chubbs!” Daddy raises his beer at them, as Tyler, Jamie, and Jordie get to the table they’ve staked out in the back. “You actually came. Pay up,” he demands from Pevs, who sighs but pulls out his wallet.

“I didn’t have much of a choice,” Jamie says, giving Tyler and Jordie—who maybe are flanking him a little like guards, but it’s really just coincidence—a mock-glare. Still, he takes a seat at the table with good grace.

Tyler scoots in next to him, leaving Jordie to take the seat on the end. There are too many hockey-sized people around this table, so Tyler needs to push his chair close enough over to Jamie so that their thighs are brushing. 

“You’re here now, though, captain,” Daddy salutes him with his glass. “So go get drinking.”

“Yes please,” Jamie agrees, and gets up again. It’s a whole production getting him out, but then he is, and he’s turning to Jordie and Tyler. “What do you want?”

Neither of them are very interesting—Tyler still maintains that PBR is a perfectly fine beer, and Jordie’s a rum and coke guy—but Jamie still looks like he’s committing them to memory like coach is talking before he heads to the bar.

“I want a cut of that cash,” Tyler demands of Jason, as soon as Jamie’s out of earshot. “Given that it was all me.”

“Then I get some too,” Jordie puts in. “It was not all you, Segs.”

“You’re just some weirdo old guy who still likes to hang out with undergrads,” Tyler shoves his hand out of the way and holds out his hand to Jason. “Give.”

“Nope. If you wanted the cash, you should have gotten in the pot.” Jason pats his wallet.

“There’s still time,” Pevs points out. “The pot on Jamie picking up is way bigger.”

“Seriously?” Tyler demands. He glances over at the bar, where Jamie’s somehow made his way to the bar, despite his good Canadian boy reluctance to push. “It’s that rare?” Thinking back, he’s not sure he’s ever seen Jamie pick up, but he’d figured it was more that Jamie and him weren’t always going to the same parties.

“No,” Jordie said, with a warning glare at the other guys. “He’s just not a hook up at a party sort of guy.”

“Our captain,” Val agrees, looking at his beer. “Good at many things. Not flirting.”

“Like you’re any better,” Jason chirps back. It gets them firmly off the topic of Jamie and his flirting prowess, or lack thereof, and onto whether or not the girl in Val’s history section is into him or just feels sorry for him. Tyler actually has a lot of opinions on the subject—in his experience, girls aren’t going to invite themselves over if they just feel sorry for the guy—but he’s distracted, when he looks back at the bar to see how Jamie’s doing.

Jamie’s still there, but now there’s a girl next to him. She’s tall, skinny; her finger is twining in her long red hair as she tilts her head up to talk to him. Tyler knows that move. He’s seen that move done on him any number of times. It’s a good move.

And apparently it’s working, because Jamie’s smiling and listening—that sort of intent listen that Tyler’s never seen in anyone else, the way Jamie makes Tyler always feel like no matter how much bullshit he’s spouting, Jamie’s not only hearing it but also hearing what’s beneath it.

“I think your pool might be going,” Tyler interrupts whatever Dales was trying to say, nodding towards the bar. Jamie’s rubbing at the back of his neck now, flushed like he gets when someone compliments him. It’s not Tyler’s style, but he can see how it would work—Jamie’s got the whole adorable thing going for him. Makes him seem safe, or whatever, like he could provide for someone.

Jason looks around the table, his brow furrowing. “Um—”

“Don’t worry about it,” Jordie inserts. Tyler hears him, but—on a second look, Jamie looks nervous. He’s definitely tense. And he’s not a pick up in bars sort of guy, so he probably doesn’t want this. Tyler should give him an out. He dragged him here, after all; he feels a little responsible.

“I’m going to go give him a wingman boost,” Tyler says, and gets out of his chair.

“But—” he hears behind him, and ignores it. He’s a good wingman. If Jamie’s into it, he’ll help him get in—god knows he needs it, he’s missed like three opportunities to touch her already. If he’s not into it, which definitely seems more likely, he’ll help with that too.

“Hey,” Tyler says when he gets to the bar, sliding up next to Jamie. Both Jamie and the girl give him a surprised look. “Wanted to check in on our drinks.”

“Oh, yeah, they’re coming.” Jamie waves to the bar. “This is Melissa,” he adds, gesturing towards the girl, who’s giving Tyler a more evaluating look now.

“Tyler,” Tyler says, with his best wingman grin—a dial or two below where it’d be if he was going after her for himself, but enough to make sure she understands that Jamie’s friends are awesome and therefore Jamie is awesome too, and deserves only the best. “Has Jamie been taking good care of you?”

Jamie shoots Tyler a look, but Tyler knows what he’s doing. “Definitely,” Melissa says, and she’s looking at Jamie rather than Tyler, her gaze lingering on his shoulders. Jamie is definitely in there, if he wants to be.

But Jamie’s looking at Tyler, not Melissa, and Tyler’s gotten pretty good at reading Jamie’s ‘please get me out of this social situation I don’t know how to deal with’ looks in the past few months. Okay. Does not want to be. Something settles in Tyler’s stomach. He’d wanted a night out with his boys, it’s good Jamie’s not leaving immediately.

“Jordie was getting pissy about the beers,” Tyler lies, and gives Melissa an apologetic sort of smile. “We should probably go.”

“Oh, yeah. Nice meeting you, Melissa,” Jamie says, with one of his awkward, earnest grins, and Melissa smiles back, charmed despite the blow off. Tyler herds Jamie away before he can accidentally get into another conversation with her because he’s too polite to actually blow her off.

“So,” he says, as they make their way back to the table. “Redheads not your type?”

“I, um. I mean, redheads are fine?” Jamie replies, shrugging. He hands his brother his drink, then manages to fit back into his chair.  

“Oh are they?” Jordie drawls, clearly teasing and clearly meaning something else. “So we’re not talking about…”

“Jordie!”

“Jamie.” Their eyes meet, and it’s another one of those secret language of the Benns moments, when they’re communicating a lot with their eyebrows and the width of their eyes. No one else seems to be paying attention, but Tyler wants to be in on the conversation.

“What’s so important?” he asks, edging closer to Jamie so he can elbow him.

“You’re seriously five years old, aren’t you?” Jamie asks, but he looks away from his brother, laughing at Tyler.

“I don’t like to be ignored,” Tyler retorts, which is maybe the understatement of the century.

“Don’t worry, I wasn’t ignoring you.” Jamie ruffles at Tyler’s hair. He ducks away before Jamie can mess it up, but then somehow Jamie’s arm ends up across the back of Tyler’s chair, because his wingspan is too big to be contained to just his chair.

“Chubbs,” Jordie says, like a warning.

“Yeah, I know,” Jamie retorts. “Later.”

It looks like it’s going to devolve again, so Tyler cuts in before he can. “Where does Chubbs come from, anyway?” he asks. He gives Jamie a once over. He’s not Tyler levels of cut, but Tyler’s seen Jamie working out, and he’s seen him in the locker room. The guy’s all solid strength.

“Well,” Jordie starts, leaning forward gleefully. Jamie’s cheeks are already red. “When we were kids, Jamie here was, let’s say, a little pudgy. And he hadn’t shed that by the time he hit midget, or juniors. So—Chubbs!”

Jamie really is red now, and he’s hunched over his beer like he’s wincing from a hit. Tyler regrets ever asking this question.

“So it’s like, ironic, or whatever, then,” Tyler states. As he watches, Jamie unfolds a little, though he’s still not looking at the anyone else. “For the hottest captain out there?”

“Segs,” Jamie mutters, all Canadian ‘aw shucks,’ which is bullshit. Tyler doesn’t know what issues Jamie has—clearly there are some here—but like, if Jamie doesn’t know he’s a hot commodity, then Tyler will have to fix that.

“Hottest captain,” Tyler repeats, and extricates himself from Jamie’s outstretched arm so he can throw his arm over Jamie’s shoulders instead. Jamie’s warm, like he’s overheating here, and Tyler has to stretch out his arm to properly get it around Jamie’s shoulders. Seriously, he doesn’t know why Jamie isn’t hooking up all the time. “Mr. Bigshot over here.”

Jamie really is bright red. Tyler isn’t going to pinch his cheek or anything, because that would be weird, but he can’t help but wonder if Jamie blushes that easily all the time. “Anyway,” Jamie says loudly. “What about that Cowboys game?”

Tyler laughs, and pats Jamie on the cheek. “Don’t worry, I’ll stop complimenting you now,” he tells him. Jamie’s beard is scraping under his hand.

Jordie is looking at Tyler strangely when Tyler backs off. Tyler just takes another swig of his beer. Jamie’s his bro, he doesn’t want his bro thinking he’s not hot. Just because he’s got a kind of fucked up nickname that apparently hits all his insecurities doesn’t mean Tyler shouldn’t compliment him. Tyler believes in compliments. He tells Jordie his beard is magnificent like, twice daily.

Despite its sort of weird beginnings, it’s a fun night out. They drink and argue about the Rangers’ defensive line and whether they’re allowed to root for Dallas teams instead of their hometown teams, and then it’s late and they all split off, and somehow Tyler is following the Benns back to their place instead of going to his. It’s just so much nicer there, where Jordie gives all three of them glasses of water and Tyler can stretch out on the couch and kick his legs onto Jamie’s lap, still arguing their eternal Leafs vs. Canucks debate, which is stupid because like, statistics show that the Leafs are better, forever and ever amen.

“Okay, that’s enough, I’m going to bed,” Jordie announces.

“Night!” Tyler toasts him with his water glass. He’s not really drunk, but there’s something almost like a buzz in just being here.

“Night,” Jordie says. Then he looks at his brother. “Jamie.”

Jamie looks back, then nods. “Yeah. Night.”   

“You know—”

“I know,” Jamie finishes, and smiles. “Go to sleep, Darth. You’re old, you need it.”

“Yeah!” Tyler puts in on a cheer, which makes Jamie look back at him like he’s just remembered he’s there, which, good. He should remember Tyler’s there.

Jordie flips them both off, then disappears into his room. His door closing feels louder than usual, somehow. Like a period.

“Everything okay?” Tyler asks. He might not have known Jamie long, but he can tell something was weird about him and his brother tonight.

“Yeah.” Jamie nods, then presses his lips together, then nods again. He sets his shoulders, and it looks like he’s going to battle—like he’s about to go out into a hard game that he’s not sure he’ll win but he’ll give everything trying. Having all that looking at Tyler…Tyler swallows, and shifts on the couch. Takes a deep breath to remind himself he can.

“So.” Jamie starts. He stops, then tries again, “I have, like. There’s something I should have told you.” He’s dying, Tyler immediately fills in. He’s transferring. He’s been drafted into the KHL.

Some of that must have shown on his face, because Jamie shakes his head, almost smiles. “No, it’s not. It’s not bad. But—you know Melissa, that girl tonight?” Tyler nods. This is maybe more non-hockey-related sentences in a row from Jamie that Tyler’s ever heard. “She wasn’t my type, but not because of the red-head thing.” Tyler waits, as patiently as he can, as Jamie clearly gathers himself. But he’s looking right at Tyler as he says what comes next. “It’s more the, uh. Girl thing. That isn’t my type.”

Tyler blinks. “Oh.” Jamie isn’t into girls. Okay. “So, then—boys, or no one?”

“Oh.” Jamie echoes. That clearly wasn’t the question he was expecting. “Um, boys.” He’s still looking at Tyler, and it suddenly occurs to Tyler that he’s been quiet an awfully long time and Jamie is clearly freaking the fuck out. He’s not entirely sure what to do here, so he defaults and holds up his hand.

Jamie eyes it. “What?”

“High five!”

“What?” Jamie repeats, but he sounds more like he’s laughing than halfway to panicking now, so Tyler counts it as a win.

“High five! Great coming out, bro. Five out of five. Gold star.”

Still looking at him like he might be crazy, Jamie reaches out and high fives him. Tyler makes sure to hit extra hard, to make sure Jamie knows he means it.

“You’re okay with that, then?” Jamie asks. He looks less tense, but he’s still holding himself like Tyler might punch him.

“Jamie.” Tyler pushes himself up so he can get on his knees, put a hand on either one of Jamie’s shoulders, and look right at him. “You are my best bro. I don’t give a fuck who you fuck. Except if, like, you fucked cows or something, that’d be weird. Or dead people.”

“Dead people?” Jamie echoes, and he’s smiling now, looking like he’s trying not to laugh.

“People want weird shit. Once a girl asked me to fuck her ear,” Tyler replies, trying and failing to dead-pan, and that’s it, Jamie breaks into giggles. Tyler lets himself go too, and then they’re just giggling on the couch together, like it’s normal.

“Hey.” Tyler shoves his toe into Jamie’s thigh, when they’ve calmed down again. “Who else knows?”

“Most people on the team. Upperclassmen, at least. I don’t like, make a deal of it, but I don’t try to hide it.” Tonight makes a lot more sense, suddenly—Daddy’s cut off comments.

Tyler tries not to be hurt, but he has to ask. “Is there a reason you didn’t tell me, then?”

“Um well.” Jamie bites his lip. “First, like, there were rumors, about you, in Boston? I heard that you didn’t always, um, react well.” That’s fair. Tyler hasn’t. He’s aware of that. “And then, like. I don’t know. Talking about it is weird.” Jamie makes a face. “Usually the guys find out because someone makes a joke or they see me with a guy, I don’t have to talk about it.”

“So I’m so special I made you use your words,” Tyler teases, and Jamie kicks back at him. It ends in them just kicking aimlessly at each other’s ankles, until they tire of that and their feet are just sitting next to each other, sort of leaning against each other. It’s nice to look at. Jamie’s nice to look at, clearly more relaxed now that that’s out.

“I should go to bed,” Jamie says at last. “Are you staying?”

“Yeah.” Tyler stands up as Jamie does. “I’m not giving up breakfast tomorrow.”

“Good call.” Jamie looks at him. There aren’t many lights on in the apartment, and his face is sort of shadowy; it makes his eyes somehow impossibly larger, softens everything in the room. And Jamie’s looking at him like he does after a good goal, or when they’re playing video games and he gets in a sick shot on Jordie and Jamie cheers and punches him in the arm. Like the entire world is just the two of them. “Thanks, Segs. For tonight, and for being so cool about this. And for just—thanks.”

Tyler swallows. “Um. Yeah. Of course.” He doesn’t know what he’s saying. “It’s—you’re—yeah,” he finishes, because apparently he can’t talk anymore. “No problem.”

Jamie smiles at him one more time, than disappears into his bedroom.

Tyler goes to the bathroom, fills up his water glass again, grabs the blanket that sits out on the Benn’s chair and which he uses enough that it’s effectively his at this point, and lies back down so he can stare at the ceiling.

So. Jamie’s gay. It sinks in slowly, now that he has time to think. Tyler’s not exactly big on thinking, or on the whole introspection thing, but he figures he should give this some thought. It’s only been a few months, but Jamie’s important to him, and he thinks he didn’t fuck up too badly but that was probably mostly luck and the fact that Jamie wanted to GTFO of the conversation as quickly as possible too. But he is going to do this right. Jamie deserves only the best of bros, and he is going to provide that if it kills him.

Which it won’t. He knows he had some, well, rough spots when he was an idiot kid, but he thinks he’s grown up now and figured himself out enough to know that this isn’t going to be a thing. He’s hooked up with a few guys at parties, when he’s drunk and it doesn’t really matter; it’s not a thing. It’s not a thing he brings to locker rooms, because he’s not stupid, but he guesses maybe he could to this one.

But that’s not what matters, because Tyler is like, trying to be mature and not selfish. What matters is that he’s okay with Jamie being gay.

That decided, Tyler rolls over onto his side, and closes his eyes.

He wonders what Jamie’s type is, then. Is he looking for an athlete like him, someone with enough muscle to match him strength for strength? Or is he looking for some skinny hipster nerd type? Tyler can see the appeal of both, but he doesn’t think Jamie could be with someone who didn’t love hockey. It’s too much of Jamie’s life. But maybe hipster guy could just be a fan, not a player. That might work. Except the image just doesn’t fit, somehow, and Tyler falls asleep trying to figure out why.

///

Tyler wakes up to the sound of pans in the kitchen, which is always the best way to wake up because it means breakfast is right there. He drags himself up—sure enough, Jordie is in the kitchen, and Jamie’s sitting at the table with a cup of coffee, looking into it like it holds all the answers to the universe—and stumbles into the bathroom to piss and fingerbrush his teeth. He really should just bring a toothbrush here.

When he gets back out, he collapses into the chair next to Jamie, and steals his mug.

Jamie gives him the most offended face he’s ever seen. Combined with his bedhead and still bleary eyes, it’s adorable. “Get your own!”

“But this is right here,” Tyler counters, and takes a sip. Jamie never puts enough sugar in for him, but it’s caffeine so he’ll take it.

Jamie elbows him, and reaches over to try to take the mug back, but Tyler curls around it protectively.  Jamie just grabs his shoulder and tugs; Tyler could resist, but it’s early and also Jamie is looking very pathetic and cute, so he lets Jamie peel him off the coffee and take it back.

“Jordie,” Tyler whines instead.

“I’m already making breakfast,” Jordie didn’t turn away from the stove. “Get your own coffee.”

“But you’re already standing up!” Tyler pouts at his back.

“And you just sat down, so.”

“Just here.” Jamie shoves his coffee back at Tyler, and puts his head down on the table. He’s so bad at mornings. Tyler ruffles his hair, then lets his hand rest on the nape of Jamie’s neck, so he can rub at the muscle there. It’s easy, a natural touch, he’s thankful. He’s not being weird at all.

Also, he gets coffee. So he takes a sip of that instead. It’s still not sweet enough, but he didn’t have to get up to get it, so it tastes sweet with victory.

Eventually, Jamie wakes up enough to manage to lift up his head, and Tyler’s hand falls away, back to his side.

“Welcome to the land of the living,” Tyler says. Jamie scowls at him. Still not completely awake, then. “So nice to see your smiling face!”

“Fuck off,” Jamie mutters, but he takes back the mug that Tyler hands him, and mournfully piles pancakes onto his plate when Jordie puts them in front of him.

Tyler looks at the pancakes, then at Jordie, who, now that he’s facing them, is definitely giving Jamie what Tyler has classified as the ‘concerned older brother’ look. “Are these like, sad pancakes or something?”

“These are emotional hangover pancakes,” Jordie says, and takes some for himself. “Also, ‘I told you Tyler wouldn’t be a dick’ pancakes.”

“Did you really think I’d be a dick?” Tyler asks Jamie. Jamie makes a face and stuffs some pancakes into his mouth. It’s clearly too early for him to be having this conversation, but Tyler really does want to know.

Jamies swallows before he talks, and he’s surprisingly serious for not really being awake. “No, I just. It could’ve changed shit, you know?” Jamie shrugs. “Could have fucked up the team, even if you weren’t violently opposed.” He ducks his head a little, so he’s not looking at them. “And I like being your friend. I didn’t want that to change.”  

Tyler opens his mouth to start—to say something, because he’s not sure anyone’s ever been worried Tyler would stop being their friend, had cared enough, but—

“But it didn’t,” Jordie inserts. “Because Tyler wasn’t a dick.” He emphasizes the last words, and his eyes are narrowed at Tyler as he says them. Honestly, his warning’s a little late, because Tyler wasn’t a dick and isn’t being one now, but Tyler can respect the impulse. If someone is giving Jamie a hard time, Tyler’s going to be next in line after Jordie to fuck him up. Probably less effectively, but he can try.

“Not about this, at least,” Tyler tells them, and grabs some pancakes. “But you have severely been limiting my wingman skills, bro. Give me some deets. What are we looking for here?”

Jordie snorts. Jamie, predictably given he’s being asked to talk about emotions, flushes. “Um, I mean. I really don’t like to pick up at parties, that’s not—that’s real.”

“Why not?” Tyler pours some syrup over his pancakes, then takes a cut of them. “Party hook ups are easy.”

Jamie is still looking at his plate. “Yeah, but I’ve done that. I, um. Want something, like. Permanent?”

“He wants twue wuv,” Jordie fills in, laughing around his own mouthful of coffee.

“You can find that at a party!” Tyler objects.

“Yeah? How’s that been going for you?”

“Well I’m not trying,” Tyler retorts, waving a forkful of pancakes at Jamie. “Relationships aren’t where I’m at. But if they’re where you’re at, we will relationship you up.”

“Really?” Jordie says, glancing at Tyler. He’s got that skeptical look on again.

“I am at the ‘having a lot of sex and a lot of fun’ stage,” Tyler explains. He thought Jordie already knew that, but he’s happy to expound on it. It is a lot of fun. He can have relationships—sometime, he guesses. It’s not that he doesn’t ever want one. But he’s never had one before, and he’s having plenty of fun now with the hooking up, so he doesn’t see why he should get, like, emotions involved or whatever. “It’s where you get your dick sucked a lot and don’t have to call the next day.”

“Classy,” Jamie retorts, and Tyler grins.

“I call it like I see it. So,” he goes on, turning to Jamie. “No party hook ups. But are we just looking for hot guys, or do we have more filters? Because I can get you hot guys.”

“I mean, I don’t know. I like guys I get along with?”

“No duh.” Tyler rolls his eyes.

“This was his last boyfriend,” Jordie contributes, and hands his phone across the table, ignoring the death glare Jamie’s shooting at him. Tyler takes the phone.

It’s the guy’s facebook profile—Paul, apparently. He looks like…well, blah. He’s just a boring white guy like half the guys on campus, with a badly-fitting cowboy hat in his profile picture and a doughy sort of face. He’s about as tall as Jamie is, and the sort of body that says that he doesn’t prioritize working out. Tyler can’t even find any evidence he likes hockey on his facebook page—there’s some stuff about the Cowboys, but nothing about hockey at all. Even his favorite movies are douchy—Dumb and Dumber, seriously? It’s a fucking hysterical movie, but you don’t put it on your facebook.

“Seriously, Jamie?” Tyler asks, flicking through the pictures. There is one of him and a cute dog, which is one upside. “This guy?”

Jamie shrugs. “Paul was nice.”

“Yeah, nice and boring, it looks like.” Tyler gives the phone one more glare and hands it back to Jordie. “You can do so much better than that.”

“I don’t—he was nice, though, you know?” Jamie says. “We could chill. He didn’t…”

“He was boring as fuck,” Jordie tells Tyler. “He and Jamie would just sit around and work all the time.”

“Not all the time,” Jamie adds, and he’s blushing but there’s a smirk there too.

Tyler whistles, because he has to. Even if he can’t imagine Boring Paul having any sort of game. He’ll need to find Jamie a guy who knows how to have fun. Even if he wants to be in a relationship, he should still be having good, fun sex. Tyler won’t stand for it otherwise.

“I don’t need to know that.” Jordie covers his ears.

They finish the rest of breakfast as quickly as three hockey players know how, then Tyler reluctantly heads back to his dorm so he can shower and change and maybe do some homework or something.

He gets as far as the going home and showering before he ends up lying on his bed on his phone. It’s not hard to find Boring Paul’s Instagram. He looks just as boring on it as he does on facebook, without even the cute dog picture to make it better.

That’s not at all what Jamie needs. Tyler’s not a romantic or anything—see, the fun stage of his life—but he’s got two sisters, he knows what romance is. And he thinks he’s got a good handle on Jamie. Jamie needs someone who will remind him to have fun when he gets too caught up in all his work, and to make sure he doesn’t get trapped in all the shyness in his head so he remembers he’s awesome. And he needs someone who will appreciate hockey with him, because honestly, Tyler doesn’t know how a relationship could survive without that.

Tyler will just have to make sure Jamie ends up with a guy like that. It’ll be like, his great wingman challenge. To make sure Jamie doesn’t end up with some ugly boring guy who doesn’t like hockey. Fuck Paul, honestly.

Tyler’s phone buzzes in his hands, and he almost drops it. It’s a text from Jamie, complaining about how now he’s behind on his work for Monday and it’s all Tyler’s fault. Tyler smiles at the phone. But u had fun! he texts back. Then adds, I’ll b over later for Bachelor watching.

Knew you were into it! Jamie sends back, which is bullshit, Tyler just likes to laugh at Jamie’s face. He is not at all invested in how Tanya is clearly right for Eric, seriously man, just choose her already.

///

The next game—it sucks, there’s no two ways about it. The bounces don’t go their way, and Kari tries his best to keep them in it, but the offense just can’t deliver, and they’re crushed. Tyler got their lone goal though, off an assist from Jamie, so even if he fucking hates losing he’s more okay than some of the others. There’s still time for them to fight their way to the playoffs.

Jamie, though—he’d been getting more and more wound up on the ice, throwing his weight around more, and when the buzzer sounded he’d looked about ready to break his stick, but now he’s doing the good captain thing. He’s talking to all the underclassmen and saying encouraging things, making sure they know none of it was their fault, then moving on to Kari, because goalies need special care sometimes. It’s a shitty situation, but Tyler sort of likes to watch Jamie like this, in captain mode. It’s so different from out of the the rink Jamie, who stutters and blushes until he gets comfortable. Jamie in captain mode knows what he’s doing and carries everyone else with him.

Kari smiles at last, and Jamie pats him on the shoulder, then sits down in his stall, closes his eyes and breathes. The mood in the locker room is still subdued.

“Hey Daddy, catch!” Tyler yells, and flicks his sock at Daddy.

Jason was just looking up at Tyler’s yell; he doesn’t manage to catch it, and gets a faceful of sweaty sock instead.

“The fuck, Segs?” he swears.

“Reflexes getting weak in your old age?” Tyler chirps, and Daddy rolls his eyes.

“I’ll show you weak,” he retorts, and chucks the sock back at Tyler, then his under armor shirt and also other articles of clothing Tyler really doesn’t want to identify. Tyler dodges them all, and dances around so that the next sock hits Dills in the side.

“Watch it!” Dills warns Jason, and then it’s on, and the tension is broken. It doesn’t get to an actual sweaty clothes fight—everyone’s too tired for that—but at least no one is acting like anyone died anymore.

Or, no one except for Jamie, who’s still sitting in his stall.

Tyler slips around Jason, so he can fit himself into Jamie’s stall too. His hand slides over Jamie’s shoulders.

Jamie lets out a sigh, barely audible over the team’s renewed chatter. “Thanks.”

“For what?”

Jamie opens his eyes at that, gives Tyler a look. “You know for what.”

“I should be thanking you, that was a pretty pass you sent me.”

“Tyler.” Jamie’s still looking up at him, those big eyes and serious, earnest face. “Take the thanks. You deserve it.”

Tyler’s stomach twists. Maybe Boston fucked him up more than he thought, if praise from his captain does this to him. “Yeah, well. So do you.”

Jamie snorts, shakes his head. “Not for—this,” he says, and waves at the room. “You make the team better on and off the ice.”

This is where Tyler says something casual and joking, where he goes in for a laugh. Or if he wants to be sincere, it’s where he says something about how the team’s great anyway, he’s just glad to be here, which is true, he is—but somehow none of that makes it to his mouth, when Jamie’s there complimenting him and being earnest and captainly and shit. He’s not sure he’s ever made anything better before. More fun, yeah, but not better. “Um. I.” Tyler’s blushing. Tyler hasn’t blushed in years.

And so is Jamie, now, this is just a dumpster fire of awkwardness. “I mean, I just wanted to be sure you knew that,” Jamie mutters, and gets up. Tyler hadn’t been ready for it, so suddenly Jamie’s really close, and he’s big enough that Tyler’s almost boxed in, like there’s nowhere to look or be that isn’t Jamie. It should be gross—Jamie hasn’t showered yet, and neither has Tyler, so there’s a lot of bad smells all around—but instead it’s just…comforting. Grounding. Maybe Tyler’s spent too long in locker rooms.

“Well, I do know.”

“I know.” Jamie’s smiling at him now, and the loss is still in his eyes and his shoulders, but he’s smiling at Tyler, and Tyler can’t help but smile back. He’s incapable of doing anything else, apparently.

“Hey, Segs!” someone calls. Tyler jolts, stumbles back out of Jamie’s stall and the weird captain-hypnosis he has going on. “What’s happening tonight?”

“I—” Tyler looks back at Jamie, who shrugs as he strips off his shirt. He really needs to do that out where guys can see him, Tyler thinks, eying that expanse of skin. He’d get all the guys.

Jamie moves Tyler slightly to the side as he heads to the shower, and Tyler shakes his head. Right. “Kappa party!” he calls back. “Who else is in?”

///

Tyler is very drunk. Maybe he was fucked up about the loss, because somehow he went to the Kappa party and then there were kegstands and beer pong—without Jamie, he doesn’t like playing beer pong without Jamie, he’s still awesome at it but not quite as awesome—and then there was a guy with broad shoulders and weird floppy hair who gave great head but now Tyler’s just drunk.

“Where’s Jamie?” Tyler yells at one of his new friends, who is possibly named Sam. She has very pretty hair.

“Jamie?” she yells back. It’s the only way to be heard in here.

“Jamie!” Tyler agrees, and smiles at her before he stumbles downstairs. He high fives three people he knows and a few more he doesn’t on the way down, nearly trips on the last stair but manages to make it into him just jumping down. He lands with a bow, which gets some cheers from onlookers, then manages to make it outside.

It’s not cold out, because Dallas doesn’t do cold, which weirded Tyler out at first but now he’s pretty okay with because he gets to wear tank tops, like, year round, which he’s decided he’ll give up seasons for. It means he can lean against a wall—not that he has to, he’s drunk but not falling down drunk, he decides, because all that partying in Boston gave him something—and pull out his phone.

“Jamie!” he yells, when the call connects.

“Segs!” Jamie yells back. It’s loud where he is—not as loud as it was in Kappa, but loud. Tyler can hear music behind him. “What’s up?”

“Where are you?” Tyler demands. It’s not what he thinks he meant to say, but it’s what’s important now. “Did you go out without me?”

“Jordie and Daddy dragged me out, yeah,” Jamie says. It gets quieter on his end—maybe he’s outside too. Maybe they’re both outside, looking at the same barely-visible moon. “Sorry.”

“Don’t apologize, stop being so Canadian.”

“You’re Canadian.”

“Your mom is Canadian.”

“So’s yours!” Tyler’s drunk enough that that seems like the funniest comeback ever, and he collapses against the wall laughing. On the other end of the phone he can hear Jamie laughing too, quiet the way he gets when he’s not in a place where he feels like he can really let go.

“Where are you?” Tyler repeats, when he can get his breath back.

“Oh, um.” There’s noise like Jamie’s moving. “It’s a bar? I think it’s one of Jordie’s friend’s birthdays?”

Tyler rolls his eyes. “Which bar, dumbass.”

“Oh!” Jamie takes another second to think. “I, uh. Let me ask Jordie.” Tyler finds himself smiling at his phone as it goes quiet for a second. Jamie’s so cute when he’s drunk and following his brother around blindly. When he comes back, he tells Tyler the bar name, then adds, “Jordie said that you won’t be allowed in because you’re too sloppy, though.”

Tyler snorts. “I’m never sloppy.”

“You’re a sloppy sober,” Jamie chirps back. “Aren’t you at the Kappa party anyway?”

“Yeah, but you’re there,” Tyler explains. It should be obvious. He’s partied out this party anyway. He wants everything to stop spinning. Jamie will make everything stop spinning. And he doesn’t want to go back to his room his room is empty and sad and quiet. “I’ll be there in like fifteen minutes.”

“Be careful,” Jamie warns, and Tyler rolls his eyes at the phone.

“Babe, the day I can’t walk fifteen minutes drunk is the day I—do something drastic,” Tyler retorts, and it gets another giggle from Jamie.

“I can’t have my center getting run over,” Jamie says, though.

“Well, I can’t have my winger partying without me, so.” Tyler feels like that’s enough of a retort. It feels like enough of one, to get something turning over in his stomach. “Fifteen. Don’t go all hermit-Jamie on me before I get there.”

He hangs up before Jamie can retort, and sets off.

It takes him thirteen minutes to get to the bar Jamie’s at, but it does in fact take him another five to flirt and charm his way past the bouncer. By the time he gets inside, he’s somewhere closer to sober, though definitely not there yet.

The bar’s loud and busy, but it’s somehow still classier than the Kappa party. Maybe it’s because Tyler’s the only one there in a tank top. Maybe it’s because there aren’t any red solo cups. Tyler doesn’t really care. There are still pretty people eying his arms and when he winks at one girl she flips her hair like she doesn’t care but she does care, and it’s all good.

Tyler pushes his way through. He is a man with a plan. Or well, a goal. Or well, a bro he wants to find. Jamie better not have left yet. He could sense the waver in Jamie’s voice on the phone.

Finally, he locates Jamie. He’s sitting at a booth with Jordie and two guys Tyler doesn’t know, one of whom is talking to Jamie and the other of whom is talking to Jordie. Tyler throws himself into the booth next to Jamie, which because Jamie and Jordie are both big dudes means that Tyler ends up basically draped over Jamie. It’s comfortable. Jamie’s warm and solid. He was right, nothing’s spinny when Jamie’s here.

“Jamie!” he says into Jamie’s ear, like Jamie wasn’t aware he’d just been hit by 91 kilograms of hockey player. Maybe he wasn’t. Jamie being Jamie, he hadn’t moved. Fucking tank, Tyler thinks fondly, and shifts so he’s more comfortable against Jamie’s side.

“Hey, Segs,” Jamie laughs. He moves over, but Tyler stays where he is. There really isn’t enough room on this bench. “You found us.”

“I found you,” Tyler agrees, and turns to look at the guy Jamie was talking to. He’s hot, Tyler guesses, if you like built guys—he looks short and his hair is long enough it could probably be in a bun if he wanted it to be and he’s the sort of built that comes not just form playing sports but from going to the gym a lot. Tyler should know.

“Hey! I’m Tyler.”

“I gathered,” the guy drawls, long and sarcastic. His gaze flicks from Tyler, to Jamie, then to where Tyler’s arm is draped over Jamie’s shoulders.   

Jamie doesn’t seem to notice, bless him. “This is Rob,” Jamie tells Tyler, all drunken enthusiasm. “He was classmates with Jordie.”

“So you have embarrassing stories about him?” Tyler asks. He thinks about extracting his right arm from where it’s behind Jamie’s shoulder, decides it seems like a lot of work, and holds out his left fist to be fist bumped in greeting instead.

Rob does, still with that skeptical look but smiling also. Tyler’s awesome at this. “Oh, I have plenty. Has he told you about the time with the goat?”

Jamie bursts into laughter at that, presumably because he already knows the one with the goat. His laughter makes him curl up a little, his head resting on Tyler’s shoulder, and his whole body shakes. Tyler pats him on the head. His hair’s got a lot of gel in it but it’s still nice.

Rob’s watching Jamie too, and there’s a smile in it. Tyler gets it—people not wanting Jamie is shit, because it’s Jamie and people should want him. He’s glad someone appreciates him right.

“So you guys go way back then?” Tyler asks, nudging Jamie’s head a little so he’ll sit up. He’s not going to get laid hiding his face.

“Since Jamie here was a tiny freshman following his brother around,” Rob agrees, and Jamie makes a face.

“I wasn’t!”

“Jamie was ever tiny?” Tyler asks, eying Jamie. He’s seen baby pictures at this point. Jamie’s always been massive.

Rob gives Jamie a quick look too, and Jamie’s turning red under all this looking. Tyler pats his head again. He needs to stop blushing and start making moves if he wants hot older men to make their moves. “Nah, Jamie was never tiny,” Rob says, with that drawl again. “Maybe a little smaller though.”

Jamie’s mouth twists. “Probably a little bigger, honestly.”

Tyler and Rob exchange a look that means at least they agree in this. Someday, Tyler will convince Jamie he’s hot as fuck and deserves everything.

“Definitely wide-eyed, though,” Rob goes on, which Tyler gives him a mental high five for. “Just a small town boy.”

“Living in a lonely world,” Tyler warbles. Jamie shoves at him, rolling his eyes.

“Victoria is the capital of BC!” He protests.

“It’s okay, we know you came from a country music song.”

“Like you didn’t come from Red Solo Cup,” Jamie shoots back, and Tyler laughs again. Jamie’s just funny. And he always gets this grin when he makes Tyler laugh, like he’s surprised by how funny he is. It’s adorable. Jamie’s adorable.

“And I wasn’t that bad,” Jamie tells Rob, turning away from Tyler. Tyler stares at the side of his face for a second. It’s because he’s staring like that that he sees the way Jamie’s looking at Rob, with his head tilted a little, the spark there. Tyler knows that spark. Tyler is the king of that spark.

“You really were,” Rob teases back, gentle. “Don’t worry, though. It was cute.”

“Cute is Jamie’s middle name,” Tyler inserts. Jamie glances at him, but he’s really looking at Rob. “We were considering that or Hulk, and we thought cute would fit better.”

“It does,” Rob says, and he’s still looking at Jamie too.

Well, Tyler can read this room. Apparently he’s not needed here. Though somehow it feels like the room is still spinny.

“I’m going to go get a drink,” he announces, and gets up. Rob nods in goodbye. Jamie turns to Tyler with big eyes, a little panicked—Tyler does his best to communicate ‘bro whatever you’re doing is working so just keep it up and you’ll get very laid tonight’ with a look. He must succeed, because Jamie bites at his lip, which he should do facing Rob, seriously, and then gives Tyler a nod too.

Tyler doesn’t look back until he’s at the bar. Jamie and Rob are leaning closer, and Tyler is glad that someone’s properly appreciating Jamie like this. He didn’t think Jamie was up for just hook ups, but apparently being friends with his brother goes far with him, which makes sense, because Jamie’s never really gotten over his hero worship for his brother. Or maybe Rob’s just that hot. Tyler eyes him again. He’s got a good body, and his face wasn’t bad if you liked the sort of chiseled look. If Jamie’s into bodies like that, though, Tyler would hope Jamie would have better taste. He has plenty of people to compare it to, from hockey locker rooms. Tyler’s definitely in better shape than Rob.

“Oh, fuck, sorry!” Tyler looks to his side, and there’s a guy there, who stumbled into him. The drink he was carrying didn’t quite fall onto Tyler, but it was pretty close, and he definitely lost most of his beer.

“No problem.” Tyler inspects his shirt, but there’s no more damage than the Kappa party did, then he looks at the guy. He’s hot, in a nerdy sort of way. Tyler flicks on his grin. “But you can buy me a drink to make up for it.”

“Even though it didn’t get on you?” the guy retorts, but Tyler knows he’s got him pegged—he’s looking at Tyler’s lips now.

“If it had, I’d be asking for two drinks.”

“Must be my lucky day, then.”

Tyler glances over the guy’s shoulder. Rob and Jamie are still talking. “It must be,” Tyler agrees.

He drinks that drink with the guy—Dave—and then he drinks another with him, and then someone else buys him one, and then he buys a round because he’s a good sport, and then he thinks he might have been on the table at some point but he’s not sure, the point is he is very drunk and loves everyone in this bar.

“Okay, Segs,” someone laughs, when Tyler yells it at him. “I think it’s time for you to say good-bye to your new friends and come home.”

Tyler knows that laugh. “Jamie!” he yells. Jamie wasn’t supposed to be here. “Where’s Rob?”

“He went home,” Jamie says. He puts an arm around Tyler. Tyler leans into him. It’s nice that Jamie can hold him up. Jamie really does stop everything being spinny. “And so should you. Time to go.”

“I don’t want to go back to my room. It’s so empty,” Tyler complains.

“Which is why you’re coming back with us,” Jamie explains. That makes Tyler perk up. He liked the Benns’.

“Okay. Bye, bros!” Tyler tells the people he was drinking with—he thinks their numbers are in his phone, if not, he’ll run into them again.

“Bye Tyler!” they chorus. Someone adds, “And friend!” which makes Tyler laugh, and Jamie snort.

Tyler sort of zones out for the getting back to the Benns’ part of the evening, though he knows Jamie and Jordie were talking over his head. It’s not fair, he’s a tall guy, they shouldn’t be able to do that, but Tyler’s given up figuring out how Jordie and Jamie talk to each other.

Then he’s in their apartment, and he’s on the couch and Jamie’s throwing his blanket over him.

“You really are cute, you know,” Tyler says, when Jamie goes to leave. Jamie stops. He makes some sort of face, but he just does something that Tyler thinks is meant to be a pat on the shoulder but ends up being more of a flail. It’s very cute.

“Okay, Segs,” Jamie says. Tyler doesn’t think he believes Tyler. “Get some sleep.”

Tyler nods, because that sounds like good advice and he wants to do what his captain tells him, and he’s asleep before the door to Jamie’s room closes.

///

Tyler wakes up with the headache to end all headaches and the vague feeling that something fucked up last night. He doesn’t feel like he had sex, so there’s that; he doesn’t even think he was browning out. But still, something feels off.

He gets up, downs a glass of water at the sink, then pours himself another one, and goes back to the couch. Jordie’s door is cracked open, but the light is off; he must have already left for the day. Jamie wouldn’t have left without waking Tyler up or at least putting out a glass of water for him, though, so he’s got to still be asleep.

Tyler could just head out now—the door locks automatically, it’s not like he’d be abandoning Jamie to his fate or anything—but it’s not like he’d be getting anything done there. If he stays, he can maybe get Jamie to get breakfast with him.

He flips through Instagram—likes the picture his sister posted of Marshall and comments about what a good boy he is, likes Brownie’s pic of a protein shake and adds a frownie face, likes Val’s picture of him doing a kegstand at what must have been the Kappa party, because Tyler’s in the background laughing. He remembers that kegstand, vaguely. Val’s always good for it.

By the time he’s investigated the other pictures of him, Brownie’s texted.

Bro u should feel my pain. You’ve got to bulk up too.    

And lose my bodalicious bod? Tyler retorts. You would leave me for a trophy wife.

Like u haven’t already replaced me, Brownie shoots back. Tyler raises his eyebrows at the phone. He’s making a life here, and it’s a good one, but Brownie’s basically blood at this point.  

U know you’re irreplaceable to me, Tyler tells him, along with a full two rows of hearts and kissy face emojis, just to be an ass.

Tell that to this face, Brownie sends, and attaches a picture he must have grabbed off of someone’s social media—Brownie follows a bunch of the Stars, Tyler knows, because he’s a good bro like that. Tyler doesn’t know when the picture is, but it’s of a bunch of the team in a booth at some restaurant. Tyler’s crammed in next to Jamie, and they’re laughing; Tyler knows Jamie is because he knows how Jamie hunches when he really laughs, and he knows he is because he can see his face, can see how he’s looking at Jamie like he’s the best person in the universe. It’s nothing they don’t do all the time, but something in it makes Tyler’s stomach turn over.

Oh yeah jamie’s def replacing you is what he tells Brownie, though. He’s like two of you

Rude! Brownie sends back, with a bunch of crying faces. He’ll never love you like I do.

Tyler stares at the screen, at those words and the picture. It’s not—he and Brownie are the kind of rock solid that comes from Brownie having known and loved Tyler at his worst. There’s nothing Tyler can do that will shock Brownie or make Brownie not be his bro, because he’s been there done that; was there for the worst of the Boston craziness and that time a girl Tyler fucked had a pregnancy scare and Tyler had freaked the fuck out because he was the least ready to be a father, ever. Brownie had patted his back when that was happening and told him it wouldn’t be that bad, that chances were it wasn’t anything and they could work it out.

But Jamie—it’s not that he loves Jamie more, because Brownie’s his boy, always. But Jamie makes him want to be better. Jamie makes him want not to do anything too crazy because then Jamie would look disappointed or worse, just sad. If Jamie had been there during the pregnancy scare, he’d have been with Tyler too, but he’d probably have like, been making plans for what Tyler could do if it was true. He’d have believed Tyler could be a dad, and that sort of faith makes Tyler believe too. It’s so much.

He’s nicer to me Tyler responds at last, with a winky face.

But not too nice, I hope.

Jamie might be too nice, but Tyler thinks that might not always be true. Off ice Jamie is nice and sweet. On ice Jamie, though—if Tyler caught that intensity, that sheer physicality that always made Tyler’s mouth go a little dry—

He def doesn’t ditch me for lame-ass booze

That was once and she was hot!

Bro code, bro. Bro code.

A door opens, and Tyler looks up as Jamie stumbles out of it, clearly just woken up and still super zoned, his hair messy and his face still flushed and soft from sleep. He makes an inquiring sort of grunt as he throws himself onto the couch next to Tyler.

“You’re replacing Brownie,” Tyler answers the grunt. Jamie says he’d never.

Jamie opens his mouth, but all that comes out is a yawn. He closes his mouth, swallows, and tries again. “That you proposing?” he asks. His voice is rough from sleep, and when he lifts his arm to scrub at his eyes, his shirt twists and pulls against his biceps, pulls up so Tyler can catch a hint of the trail of hair at his navel. “Because I’m not saying yes for anything less than bended knee.”

Tyler can just picture it so clearly—Jamie’s face lit up with joy, like he gets when he wins a game but a thousand times more, like he’s won the fucking Stanley Cup, like Tyler won him the Stanley Cup. Marshall as ringbearer and Brownie and Jordie as best men, and—

“What? Um no,” Tyler stammers, and looks back at his phone. That’s bc Jamie doesn’t care how hot a girl is, Brownie’s retorted, which is fair, but also not helpful. “If I propose, you’d know.”

“I can only imagine,” Jamie shudders. It’s fair too; Tyler’s not a subtle guy and he could see himself proposing with like, fireworks or on a kisscam at a game or some shirt like that. If he were ever to propose, which is nowhere near in the cards at all. But Jamie would hate that; he’d want something quiet and intimate and just for them, which wouldn’t be so bad. It’d make him happy, and that’s what matters.

Whatever he still loves me more, Tyler tells Brownie, and puts his phone away. That conversation just went weird places.

He looks up at Jamie instead. Jamie’s eyes are half-closed, and his head is tipped back as he seems to consider whether or not he should just go to sleep right here. His legs are spread a little, because he just takes up so much space whether he likes it or not. Tyler honestly doesn’t get why guys aren’t clamoring to fit between those legs.

“Diner?” Tyler suggests, for something to say. It makes Jamie looks at him, his eyes still half-lidded as he smiles, and Tyler can feel himself flush.

“Yeah for sure. Let me just…” Jamie waves at himself as he levers himself to his feet. “Pants.”

“I’m the one walk of shaming here!” Tyler calls after him, just a little too loud for his hangover.

“That only works if you have shame!” Jamie tosses back, which makes Tyler laugh as the door closes behind Jamie.

The diner’s two blocks away from the Benns’ apartment and a standard post-drinking cheap greasy food place, so the workers there are pretty used to hungover college kids. Still, they aren’t always used to hockey players, so the waitress raises her eyebrows in disbelief at the amount of waffles and eggs they order. Jamie ducks his head at the look, but Tyler just grins and shrugs at her. He’s a growing boy still, and Jamie needs to eat like, three times as much as anyone else just to fill him up. It’s all mostly in their diet plan, anyway.

“So,” Tyler says, once the waitress goes away. “I think I need to apologize?”

“You? Apologize?” Jamie retorts, pushing at his hair. It’s still a little sleep-messy, not messed up by all the gel he puts in it sometimes, but he seems marginally more awake.

“Savor the moment,” Tyler agrees, even if he thinks he’s pretty decent at apologizing, all told. Jamie’s the one who’s stubborn as shit. “But like, I think I cockblocked you last night? So, sorry.”

“What, with Rob?” Tyler rolls his eyes with his best duh expression. Jamie goes red again, but with a little smugness in it. “Whatever. I’m not going to ditch you to go hook up with a dude.”

See! Tyler tells an imaginary Brownie. But of course Jamie wouldn’t. Not solid, reliable Jamie, who Tyler never had to look at to know he’d be there for Tyler. “Still, I shouldn’t’ve. You get like, a party foul on me or something.”

Jamie shrugs. “Well, he texted this morning and we’re going to get dinner, so. I think I’m okay.”

“What?” Tyler asks, and his mind goes white.

He recovers as quickly as he can, and he doesn’t think Jamie noticed, because he covers it up by holding up a hand with a whoop that makes the table next to them turn and glare. “Way to go Jamie! Get some!”

Jamie really is bright red now, but he high fives Tyler. “Yeah, it’s weird. He was always one of Jordie’s friends, you know?” The way he says Jordie’s friends makes it clear that Jordie’s friends are a cut above the rest of the world. “I never thought he might be interested.”

“Trust me, bro, I was there last night, and he was interested.” Which is good, Tyler reminds himself. Rob was into Jamie and Jamie was into Rob and Tyler approved of his best friend getting laid.

“Yeah, well. Whatever.” Jamie waves a hand. “How was the Kappa party?”

Tyler thinks about the guy there, the one with big hands and brown eyes and wicked lips. Thinks of Jamie and how he’d looked at Rob. “Pretty good. I hooked up.”

“Of course you did.” Jamie rolls his eyes, but he holds out his hand for the requisite high five.

Tyler smirks back. Holds onto the glee of tugging the guy into the bathroom and watching him go to his knees. “He was great with his mouth, though.”

Tyler can see it hit Jamie, can see him take it in with a blink of an eye. His lips twist, but that’s the only reaction, and Tyler can only see it because he knows Jamie so well and is watching him so closely. But all he says is, “He?”

“Yeah.” Tyler’s not worried, he finds. Not just because Jamie already came out to him, so this is sort of anticlimactic. But also because this is Jamie. Jamie wouldn’t.

Jamie nods solemnly, then holds his hand up for another high five. Tyler looks at it.

“Great coming out, bro,” Jamie parrots, because he is such an asshole when he’s comfortable. “Five out of five.”

Tyler manages to high five him through his laughter. Jamie manages to keep it together for maybe a second more, but then he’s breaking down too, clutching at his stomach. That just sets Tyler off more, and they keep laughing until the waitress comes back with their food and gives them an even weirder look than the last one.

Tyler waits til she’s gone before he says, “It’s not just—I mean, it just doesn’t matter to me, you know? Both, whatever. It’s all hot. It’s not a big deal. That’s why I didn’t say anything earlier.”

Jamie nods, absorbing the information. Then he leans forward, his hand on the table and his face so intent and sure, his captain face. “If anyone gives you any trouble, you tell me. On the ice or off of it. I’ll make sure it stops.”

Tyler opens his mouth to say something flippant about how he’s happy to play the damsel in distress. But Jamie’s looking at him so earnest, so ready to protect and make sure Tyler is comfortable here, and what comes out is just, “Yeah, for sure. I will.”

“Good.” Jamie sits back, and stares at his eggs with a mournful face. “Why did I go out last night?”

“Because Jordie still knows how to boss you around,” Tyler replies, grinning. Apparently they’re done with that serious conversation. He is very okay with that. Then he sobers. “And you needed to drown your sorrows.”

“Yeah.” Jamie’s expression falters, at the memory of the game. “We need to figure our PK out.”

Tyler nods. “I was thinking,” he starts, and Jamie leans in to listen. He’s halfway through diagramming his idea for new plays, starring him as the pepper shaker and Jamie as the salt shaker, when he glances up at Jamie. He’s staring at Tyler, listening like the whole world’s fallen by the wayside and only Tyler is left. It makes Tyler want to preen. He’d like to see Rob get that look.

///

The plays sort of work, at least in practice. In games they’re still iffy, but they’re definitely improving as a team, and so Tyler shows up to practice hyped and ready to go. The whole locker room feels like that—tired but in a good way, not the sort of funk they can get into after a bad loss.

Jamie’s grinning too, as he checks his phone. It’s not a grin Tyler’s really seen before, so he pauses midway through getting undressed to whip his shirt at Jamie. Jamie winces away, then smacks at Tyler’s hand blindly.

“What’s with you?” Tyler asks.

“Nothing,” Jamie tells him, and he is honestly the worst liar ever.

Demers must notice, because he whistles. “Chubbs has got a da-ate,” he sing-songs.

“Daddy!” Jamie snaps, sounding far more scandalized than a man calling another grown man daddy has a right to. “The fuck?”

“Jordie told me,” Jason explains. Then, to the room, “With an older man.”

“Get some!” Dills calls, and Eaks starts demanding to know what this means for their pools.

Tyler gulps down air. He hadn’t known, even if he had known Jamie and Rob were texting. Whatever. Jamie doesn’t have to tell him everything.

“He only asked, like, right when I was walking over,” Jamie says, under the sound of everyone else debating his love life. His cheeks are a little pink, but his eyes are serious. “It wasn’t a secret. I don’t even know when Jordie managed to tell Jason.”

Tyler manages a grin, as he pulls off his pants to change into his underarmor. “Of course it wasn’t. Who else would dress you for the date?” he asks.

“I managed to dress myself for 22 years before I met you,” Jamie retorts. His cheeks are pinker now, and he’s looking very concentratedly at Tyler’s face.

“Did you though? Did you really?” Tyler chirps back, and gets ready as quickly as he possibly can. Jamie’s snatched up by Spezza anyway, so Tyler has some time on the ice with only a few freshmen out there.

He circles the ice, going fast enough that no one’s going to interrupt him. Jamie has a date tonight. Great. He’s happy. Rob seemed cool enough, if kind of boring, and too quiet. He might not even like hockey, for all Tyler knows. He’s friends with Jordie, which means a certain level of hockey knowledge, but he’s not on the team. He might not really get it. And he was hot, but he’s not an athlete. Tyler thinks.

Jamie had smiled at him, though. Like none of that mattered. He’d smiled at Rob like they were the only two people in the world, which, good for him, that was how Jamie would get guys. It’s not Tyler’s move, really, but it works for Jamie’s earnest sincerity.

Tyler makes one more circuit of the ice before Jamie and Kari get on the ice, the last two there, and practice starts.

During shooting drills, Jamie stops next to Tyler as they wait their turn, nudges his shoulder with his pad. “We okay?” he asks.

Tyler blinks. “Yeah,” he replies, because of course. Why wouldn’t they be?

Jamie still looks relieved. Like he thought there was a world where Tyler would let him go. “Good,” he says, and then their line is going. Tyler gets in a goal, and Jamie grins at him, proud like Tyler’s done something amazing even if it’s just practice.

///

Jamie’s date is set for the next Saturday, because they have games and then Jamie has some assignments and then it’s American Thanksgiving, which Rob celebrates (not everyone can be Canadian, Jamie tells Tyler, with a knowingly rueful look that Tyler returns).

Tyler doesn’t think about that much, though. The lead up to fake Thanksgiving is a rush of sick games, of the intense focus of the ice and the roar of crowds and Jamie crashing into him as they score. Tyler rides that high right into vacation, which isn’t long enough for him to go home so he spent it on the Benns’ couch. Jordie still has work for most of it, but Jamie’s off too and not even he can fill it all up with prepping for exams this far in advance, so they spend most of their day playing video games in their boxers, ordering food and making a mess that makes Jordie roll his eyes at them when he gets back.

On fake Thanksgiving proper, they refuse to have a big meal out of some combination of laziness and national pride, so instead they have a Fast and the Furious marathon and order pizza. Jordie sits around for most of it, but he bows out at around midnight, throwing the last of his popcorn into Jamie’s face and hitting Tyler’s in the process too, from where he’s sprawled against Jamie’s shoulder.

“I don’t want to hear anything,” Jordie warns. It strikes Tyler as an odd warning. Sure he and Jamie sometimes end up wrestling over controllers when a game gets really intense, but they’re clearly too chill for that now. Though, Tyler admits, it wouldn’t be the first time what had started as a chill hangout turned into some sort of wrestling match. And maybe those do sometimes end up loud, because Jamie has a few centimeters and few kilograms on Tyler, but he’s much more careful using that strength than Tyler is, so they’re well matched. Half the time it’s Tyler on his back on the floor, Jamie pinning his thighs and hands down so it’d be impossible to get away; half the time Tyler gets leverage over Jamie so that he couldn’t move him without hurting him, and Tyler’s the one weighing down the thickness of his thighs with all his body, leaning down over Jamie’s laughing, flushed face and watching him try to get around saying uncle. There’s a lot of laughter, he’ll admit; maybe it gets loud. But he’s eaten way too much pizza for it tonight.

“Go to bed, old man,” Jamie tells his brother, and Tyler accompanies it with a lazy middle finger, because it seems like the thing to do.  

“I’ll leave you two to it,” Jordie agrees. His door slam seems like it’s a statement about something.

The sound echoes for a second, then Jamie shrugs, like he’s ignoring whatever his brother had to say. “Want to watch another one?” he asks, gesturing to the movie with the hand not pinned by Tyler’s shoulder.

Tyler always wants to watch another Fast and the Furious movie, but he also finds himself unwilling to say yes, to put on a movie and have this quiet space around them turn into the shouting and gunshots of the movie. If he turned on the movie, one of them would have to move—you couldn’t watch Don Toretto race lying down, you had to be up and cheering him on. And also, someone would have to unpause the computer hooked up to the TV. And Jamie’s warm and comfortable beneath him, and for once in his life, Tyler finds himself preferring the quiet. He can feel Jamie breathing, his own breath syncing up, and it’s just—all quiet, in his head.

“Nah,” Tyler says. Jamie breathes in and out. “’m getting tired.”

“Lame,” Jamie teases, and flicks at his hair. Tyler swats at his hand, but it’s half-hearted. “Are you getting old too?”

Tyler elbows him, a little less half-heartedly. “You’re the old one here,” he shoots back. “Maybe I just actually put in the work in the gym today.” It’s a lie; Jamie was there too, matching him rep for rep. But it’s always something that gets a rise out of Jamie, suggesting he’s not working hard enough. Tyler expects Jamie to scoff and chirp back, or to start making excuses that Tyler will laugh away.

Instead, he gets, “It’s been paying off,” in a low, affectionate voice, and that makes Tyler pull back so he can look at Jamie properly. Was that—the work at the gym was what made Tyler’s body look the way it did, but Jamie didn’t compliment him like that; he wasn’t even sure Jamie knew what he looked like. He was pretty sure that he was securely in a sexless, body is only for hockey, teammate box for Jamie. That would be the only reason for why Jamie didn’t appreciate his body for what it was.

“I—what?” Tyler stammers. He can feel his ears getting red.

Jamie looks confused at his stammering. “I mean, you’ve been lighting it up out there recently. Four game streak, man! That’s awesome.”

Tyler’s heart thumps as his stomach twists. So Jamie was recognizing how sick his hockey had been recently. It had been awesome, and Jamie’s smiling at him soft and proud, a warmth in his gaze that’s translating to Tyler’s skin in a way Tyler doesn’t know what to do with. It’s not the usual pleased satisfaction of someone admiring his hockey skills, or the low thrum of someone checking him out. It’s just—different.

“It’s been a team effort,” he replies, but he doesn’t think he sells it. It’s true; hockey’s a team sport and he knows it, but these last few games have been his, and he’s been pushing himself to make that true, and he wants Jamie to recognize that.

Jamie smiles at him again, and Tyler resists the urge to preen under that smile. That’s not even just Jamie’s hockey smile, it’s more than that. “Then you’ve been doing really well for the team,” he says. Tyler knows he’s red now, so he just gently punches Jamie’s shoulder.

“A team’s only as good as its captain,” he tosses back—which is true and he’ll defend it to the death, that Jamie’s leading them to these victories, that Tyler’s captain is the best captain there is.

Jamie chuckles and shakes his head, rubbing his neck. “I just—I’m really glad you’re fitting in here, I mean. That you’re happy here.”

The last one is a little bit of a question, and that’s unacceptable. “Of course I’m happy here, idiot,” Tyler tells him, and Jamie’s smile curls into the corners of those big eyes and full lips, and Tyler wants to keep that smile there forever. “You make me happy,” he adds before he thinks better of it, then hears himself and keeps going. “And Jordie, and the team, and even classes, and—shit, Jamie, everything’s so much better here. You guys made this, like, a home.”

That smile is still in Jamie’s eyes. “Wow, that was super sappy.”

“Oh, fuck off, I have emotions,” Tyler retorts, but his heart is thumping. He can feel every line of Jamie’s body where they’re touching.

“But for things other than hockey, beer, and hook-ups! Who knew?” Jamie teases back, but there’s no malice in it—no malice in Jamie, not for Tyler, not ever, and he knows that; like Tyler knows that he can leer back,

“Well what else is there that matters?” and Jamie will just laugh.

“Okay, I need to reclaim my masculinity,” Tyler announces, and gets up to go over to the laptop. “Fast Five?”

“Fast Five,” Jamie agrees easily, and leans forward, eager, as Tyler starts the movie.

///

Tyler’s playing NHL16 with Jordie as Jamie gets ready for his date. He’s losing, badly, mainly because Jordie is used to Jamie coming out every five minutes in a different outfit demanding if this one is right, and Tyler still gets distracted by just how bad Jamie’s fashion sense is and how much gel he puts in his hair, and he has to chirp each time.

“Okay. This is what I’m going in because I don’t think I have any more clothes and he’ll be here in five minutes,” Jamie announces, and walks out into the living room. He’s circled back around into simplicity; he’s just wearing nice jeans and a polo shirt. But the jeans are tight enough that they show off his hockey ass and just how thick his thighs are, and the polo is a shade of green that brings out his eyes and it looks like, a minute away from giving up on holding in his shoulders and biceps. His hair is still way too gelled, but it’s trying it’s best to escape and curl around his forehead, and he’s shaved so that Tyler can’t help but notice his lips and he knows Rob won’t be able to help it either.

“Segs?” Jamie asks, anxious now, and Tyler swallows.

“Fuck, Jamie,” he says, and it makes Jamie’s cheeks go red again.

“Good or bad?”

“Good, duh.” Tyler leers, because he that’s what he’s supposed to do. “I’d hit that.”

Jamie’s cheeks really are red now, but he finds it in him to chirp back, “Yeah, but that’s not a standard.”

“Jamie.” Tyler gets up before he can process why he’s doing it. It means he can look right into Jamie’s eyes, at least, and see the nerves in them. “He’d be stupid as fuck not to be into this.”

“And he’s not that stupid,” Jordie adds, and Tyler jolts back. He’d forgotten Jordie was there. “He’s a good guy, Chubbs. It’ll be fine.”

“Yeah.” Jamie swallows. “But—”

A knock on the door cuts off Jamie’s worrying, and his head jerks towards the door. He really does look nervous—not just first date nervous, but something deeper.

“Hey.” Tyler catches Jamie’s face, turns it to look at him. “You’re a catch, okay?” His voice feels oddly thick. “Anyone would be lucky to go on a date with you.”

Jamie gives him a long look, then nods, and sets his shoulders like he’s going out on the ice for a game. Tyler lets his hand drop, and retreats back to the living room. He can’t be that close.

There’s another knock, and Jamie answers the door this time. “Hey,” he says, soft, and he’s blocking the door so Tyler can’t see Rob, but he hears his louder, “Hey. Ready to go?”

“Yeah,” Jamie replies, and he has to step aside to grab his jacket. Rob is wearing jeans and a button down shirt, and he does look good. Tyler still isn’t sure if that’s Jamie’s type. He isn’t telling Jamie this, but the whole nice restaurant thing seems like a date for someone who doesn’t know Jamie. If Tyler were doing it, he’d have somewhere with a distraction, so Jamie wouldn’t get nervous having to make conversation all the time. “I’d, um, ask you in, but I’ve got some idiots in here, and I don’t want them to ruin it.”

“Hey Rob!” Jordie yells, stepping into eyesight. He’s smiling, but he has his arms crossed over his chest, and he’s looming with every bit of his six feet.

“Hey, Jordie. Tyler,” Rob adds, when he sees Tyler. Something like surprise registers in his gaze. Tyler nods back.

“Have fun, you two,” Jordie goes on, but he’s still looking at Rob, and he’s not bothering not to make his tone a threat. Jamie rolls his eyes, and steps to the door.

“Ignore him,” he mutters, and smiles at Rob. It’s not the smile that he uses for Tyler; it’s nervous and tight.

Tyler throws himself at Jordie, draping himself against his side with a loud sigh. “Oh, our little boy is growing up so fast!” he coos, loud. “It seems like just yesterday he was throwing up from too much tequila.”

“Ignore them both,” Jamie adds, but he’s smiling more easily now as he glares at Tyler. “Let’s go.”

“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!” Tyler calls after them, which gets Jamie’s snort before the door closes.

As soon as it does, Tyler separates himself from Jordie, and heads to the kitchen. He needs a drink.

Jordie follows him slowly, watching him like Tyler would watch a stray dog. Tyler’s not so sure that’s not an apt comparison.

“You okay?” Jordie asks, as Tyler grabs a beer and pops it open. It’s some of the weird craft shit that Jamie likes and Tyler can’t get into, but it’s something.

“Of course.” Tyler takes a long drink. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

Jordie’s eyebrows go up. “Are you sticking around?” he asks instead of saying anything.

Tyler shouldn’t. He should go back to his room and do homework, or maybe go to the gym and work out until it closes, or, most likely given it’s a Saturday night, go find some of the guys on his hall and go out. He wants to dance, wants to lose himself in it; wants to find a warm body to lose himself in too, who will look at him like he’s the only person in the moment for them and like he’s the one they want, like they’re choosing him. He should do that. He and Jordie are friends, bros, but he’d only come over to see Jamie off.

“Yeah,” he says anyway. Jordie’s still giving him that wary eye.  

“Jamie doesn’t normally bring guys home, and not on the first date” Jordie tells him slowly, like he’s trying to warn him of something. “But it does happen.”

Tyler shrugs. He’s slept through worse. He can’t imagine Jamie would be loud in bed anyway, not unless whoever he was with really worked at it; spent hours coaxing him up and up until he was begging for it, all that strength and will turned into desperation. But that’s not a first date sort of thing; Jamie doesn’t trust like that, so easily. It’d have to be someone he knew well, who he’d trust to take care of him and watch him come to pieces. And anyway, Rob isn’t that good in bed. Tyler doesn’t know how he knows, but he’s sure.

“As long as you’re sure,” Jordie says, and reaches around him to grab his own beer. “Back to the game??”

“Fuck yeah,” Tyler agrees, and leads the way to the couch.

It’s the most enthusiasm he has all night. Tyler’s usually a pretty chill, optimistic sort of guy, but Jordie crushes him again and again, and Tyler’s competitive enough to be a college athlete, sue him. He doesn’t like losing. And he knows it’s because he’s being stupid and distracted, jumping at every sound outside the apartment and keeping a close eye on his phone. Rob is Jordie’s friend and a good guy, and Jamie can take care of himself, Tyler knows that—but he also knows how uncomfortable Jamie can get and how he doesn’t always know how to extricate himself from situations he doesn’t want to be in. They should have set up an emergency code, something so Tyler would know how to bail him out if it got bad. Rob definitely wouldn’t know the signs, like he wouldn’t know the signs of when Jamie was done with social interaction and needed to be alone. He wouldn’t—

“Okay, this isn’t even fun anymore,” Jordie announces, after killing Tyler yet again. “I’m going to go get some work done. Let me know if you decide to leave.”

“Savor it,” Tyler shoots back. He’s pretty sure winning is always fun.

Jordie just rolls his eyes and gets up. He punches Tyler’s shoulder in what feels like sympathy before he goes, which is nice. Jordie’s good at big brothering, even if he is an asshole.

But that leaves Tyler on the couch, and no competition to distract him. He tries to play a few rounds by himself, but losing to the computer is worse than losing to Jordie.

I’m booooored, he texts Brownie, because bugging Brownie is always a good way to pass the time, then flips to Instagram. Looking at cute dogs and hot girls is always a good way to calm him down.

On a Friday night? Brownie replies, a few minutes later. Tyler checks his watch; it’s late enough that Brownie’s probably out already. Go to another party

Not at a party

Go to 1

Dont want to

Who are u and wut have you done with Segs?

Tyler scowls at his phone. He does other things. Fine, it’s not normal for him to stay in, but he does. And can. Maybe more since he got to Dallas, and there was someone to stay in with, but he does it.

Jamie had a date. Hanging around to see how it goes.

Brownie sends back a row of eggplant emojis. Tyler sends back a middle finger and a glaring face.

Srsly tho what are you waiting for? To see if he gets laid?

Everyone seems to be obsessed with if Jamie gets laid, Tyler doesn’t get it. Like, he hopes Jamie does, because dude deserves it, but that’s not the point. He just. Isn’t going to leave.

I set them up Im invested in how it goes

You set them up? For real? Why’d you do that?

Because Im a good bro and Jamie needs the help

Brownie spends a long time typing his next text. your ok tho, right?

Tyler looks at the other end of the couch; remembers a few days ago, wrapped in the dark and Jamie and how encompassing it had felt, to have Jamie making sure he was happy. Thinks about the rush of the ice and how it feels to win here, where he’s a linchpin; thinks of Jamie’s fierce grin as he slams into him. He misses things about Boston sometimes, sure—being close to home, to his dog, to his friends there. He misses Brownie like a limb sometimes. But he doesn’t miss Boston, not really.

Yeah, he replies. What are you doing anyway? Need to text me because you cant get laid?

Still pregaming, Brownie shoots back, fast, and then keeps him amused with updates about the pregame and the shitshow that is their old friends for another hour until he’s off to a party.

It’s latish, by that time. It’s gotten to the point where if Jamie’s going to come home, he probably will be soon. If he doesn’t—Tyler will give him another hour, he decides, and then if Jamie’s not home he’ll go back to his dorm. He doesn’t like the idea of sleeping on the couch when Jamie’s out, for some reason. When Jamie’s out with someone. It feels weird.

He turns on the TV, flips through until a hockey game comes on that he can watch. It’s just highlights of a game last week, but it’s enough. Tyler can’t help but focus on hockey, so he actually isn’t expecting it when there’s a key in the lock and the door swings open.

Tyler freezes. It only just hit him now, what would happen if Jamie did bring Rob back—that they’d have to walk past him to get to Jamie’s room. Tyler doesn’t care, of course, but it’ll make Jamie awkward, and probably break the mood, and Tyler’s not going to do that. Unless Jamie looks like he doesn’t want it, obviously, but at that point he’d have to get in line behind Jordie.

But Jamie’s the only one through the door, so Tyler doesn’t have to throw himself on the ground or whatever other solution he’d come up with in the moment. Instead, he waits, as Jamie slowly takes off his shoes. It’s not a bad taking off his shoes—there’s none of the tension of a really bad date—but it’s more thoughtful than the sort of walking on air, head in the clouds infatuation Tyler associates with seeing friends come back from dates where they’d decided they were falling in love, or whatever.

“So?” Tyler asks, before Jamie can start taking off his jacket. Jamie doesn’t jump, just gives Tyler a tired sort of smile. “How’d it go?” he holds the last syllable, trying to sound as much like his sisters as teenagers as he can.

Jamie takes a long breath, takes off his jacket and throws it onto the tree, then comes over to the couch so he can drop down next to Tyler. He takes another long breath.

“That bad?” Tyler asks. He looks over Jamie, like he can see through his skin to what’s wrong.

Jamie shrugs, and bites at his lip. “It wasn’t bad,” he says, slowly. He runs a hand through his hair, messing up the gel, then stretches out his arm over the top of the couch. It reaches almost all the way to where Tyler’s sitting, on the other end. “Just, I don’t know…”

Tyler waits, but when it doesn’t look like Jamie’s going to say anything, will just stare at the coffee table and Tyler’s long since empty beer for the foreseeable future, he kicks Jamie’s shin. “What?”

Jamie sighs again. “Rob’s great. He’s always been great. But…”

Tyler doesn’t wait as long this time. “You’ve got to finish a thought sometime.”

Jamie rolls his eyes and stretches out to cuff his head. Tyler dodges easily, but Jamie’s smiling a little, which is good.

“But,” Jamie goes on, “I don’t know. It just. I’m also so, you know? Like I was fine in the bar, with you there, but at the restaurant I was just…” he shakes his head again. “He’s so great, you know? And out of my league, and I know that, and so I have to measure up, and I can’t, and…” he bites at his lip again, and they’re even fuller than usual—more biting? Or maybe Rob—but that’s not the point. “You know. Or no, you probably don’t.” He makes the face he makes when he misses a goal in a shootout, and looks down at his lap. Tyler hates that face with a passion.

Tyler eyes the curve of his neck, the part of his shoulder bared by the angle he’s holding his head at; the messy sweep of his hair. The droop of his shoulders, the uncertainty. He has no idea what to do. This isn’t—he’s not the guy you come to, for emotional support. Jamie does that shit. Spezza, maybe. Tyler’s the guy you go to for a distraction, not for a fix.

But god, for Jamie, he wants to be that guy. He’d swim oceans to make Jamie stop looking like that.

“Hey, no.” Tyler doesn’t just sit up; he swings out so he can sit on the coffee table, facing Jamie. Jamie can’t escape him that easily. “That’s bullshit.”

“Easy for you to say,” Jamie snorts, still looking at his lap. “You’re—you know.”

“What am I?”

Jamie makes a move that Tyler knows is him rolling his eyes, even if he can’t see them. “You know, you’re hot and you know what to say and you’re the guy who’s out of people’s leagues, not the other way around.”

“Bullshit,” Tyler says again. Somehow, his hand is on Jamie’s knee, and Jamie’s looking at him, big doe eyes somehow very young looking and very old at once. “I mean, yeah, I’m a catch, for sure, but so are you. You’re Jamie Benn. You’re the captain of the hockey team, and our leading points scorer. You’re going to graduate like, fucking summa cum laude.”

“And I can’t even finish a sentence with my best friend,” Jamie retorts, bitter, “Let alone with a date.”

“You talk when it counts.” Tyler should call out Jordie, he thinks. Jordie probably knows what to do with Jamie’s crises of confidence. This is so not Tyler’s area of expertise. He’s got a lot of issues, but confidence has never been one of them. He doesn’t know how to make Jamie understand that he’s the best person Tyler’s ever known, and if he’s not dating anyone it’s because no one deserves to date him. But Tyler doesn’t. Instead, he’s somehow rubbing at Jamie’s knee, comforting. “Trust me, I’ve lost enough arguments to you to know.”

It gets a snort, and Jamie looks up at him again. Tyler hadn’t noticed how much he’d leaned in until he sees how close they are—he can see the flecks of green in Jamie’s eyes, the indentations from Jamie’s teeth on his lips. If he leaned in just a tiny bit more—

“Fine, maybe I just wish I could be as comfortable on dates as I am with you,” Jamie sighs, and bites at his lip again. Tyler really tries not to notice, but he’s only human. “Fuck, I don’t even know, the date was fine. I’m fine. It’s probably all in my head. Rob said he’d text me.” Jamie makes a face. “And like, even if he doesn’t want to, he can’t make it too awkward, he’s friends with Jordie.”

Any date who makes Jamie feel this shitty isn’t worth it, in Tyler’s opinion, but he’s not a dater and he doesn’t have Jamie’s issues, so maybe he’s wrong. “You know Jordie’ll kill him if he does make it weird. And I’ll be there too, but I think I’ll be more help cheering him on.”

Jamie swallows, but he’s smiling, and something lightens in Tyler’s chest, seeing it. “Thanks, Segs.” His hand is over Tyler’s on Jamie’s knee, big and warm and grounding, and Tyler can’t help but stare at it, at them. His breath is coming faster, somehow. “Sorry to dump this on you.” He narrows his eyes as he straightens. “Wait, why are you here? Isn’t there that party at the lax house that you wanted to go to? The one where they make the really legit jello shots?”

Tyler’s still looking at their hands, so it takes him a moment to register what Jamie’s said. Then, “And leave you in your moment of need?” he jokes, but his voice comes out hoarse.

Jamie smiles, then, for real, and it pierces through Tyler, the sweetness of it, the affection and how he’s been fucked up today and still can spare that smile for Tyler. It makes Tyler smile back, helpless.

“So?” Jordie’s voice cuts through whatever haze Jamie’s smile has put Tyler in, and he jerks—not enough to pull his hand away, but enough that it’s clear he hadn’t noticed Jordie.

Jamie glances up, over Tyler, to where Jordie must be standing. Tyler twists with him—and sure enough, Jordie’s leaning in the doorway from his room, watching with his face neutral. Tyler’s not even sure how long he was there for. Jamie shrugs, and there’s clearly something going on with how he looks at Jordie, because Jordie sighs, and walks over to ruffle Jamie’s hair.

“You’ll figure it out,” Jordie says, like it’s a statement, and Jamie’s looking up at him with big eyes like just because his big brother said it, he believes it. Tyler crushes down the part of him that feels horribly like anger that Jordie could make Jamie feel better like that and Tyler hadn’t. Jordie’s his big brother. Of course Tyler can’t be that. He just—wanted to make Jamie feel better. Wishes he was the one to do it. Wishes he could be that person for Jamie.

///

Tyler wakes up early the next morning. They’d stayed up after Jamie got back, watching stupid movies on youtube so that Jamie would forget about what he felt like, and then that had turned into watching compilations of the best goals of the year, and that had kept them up about as late as Tyler would normally stay out on a Friday. But he still wakes up early, feeling more awake than he usually does in mornings.

On a whim, he paws through the Benn’s rummage door to grab the spare key, then heads out the door, ordering on his phone as he goes. He might not be able to cook for shit, but this counts as something.

No one is up when he gets back, so he just lays out the food on the table, then sits back down on the couch. They’ll be up soon—Jamie hates mornings but won’t let himself sleep in too late.

Sure enough, not five minutes later, Jamie stumbles out of his room. He takes one look at the spread Tyler had picked up from the diner—waffles and Canadian bacon and scrambled eggs and the sugary Starbucks coffee Jamie pretends that he doesn’t like but totally does—and blinks, then looks in confusion at Tyler.

“Tyler?” he asks, his voice hoarse with waking up. He rubs at his eyes, like he thinks this might still be a dream.  

Tyler doesn’t actually fidget in his chair like he’s Marshall waiting for a treat for doing a trick, but he sort of feels like that. “I was up early. Got breakfast.”

“Oh.” Jamie looks at it again—all of his favorites—then grins, and it’s like last night’s crisis never happened. Tyler grins back. “You didn’t have to.”

“You feed me enough,” Tyler points out. He can feel himself flushing. Jamie’s earnest appreciation is a lot to take.

“You mean, I feed you enough,” Jordie cuts in, coming out of his room. He’s fully dressed and showered, and grabs a waffle with his bare hands and the coffee Tyler’d gotten for him. “Let’s be clear about who’s doing the cooking here.”

“I help!” Jamie protests, more of a whine than anything else, and throws himself into his chair, snagging his coffee as he goes. He gives Tyler one more confused but pleased smile before he engulfs himself in his coffee. Tyler doesn’t know what to say, for once, so he shoves a waffle into his mouth. It works well enough.

After breakfast Jamie and Tyler go to the gym and Jordie goes to work somewhere, then they split off, Jamie to the library and Tyler back to his room to hypothetically study. He does get some work done, mainly because Jamie checks in every once in a while which guilts him into actually doing something instead of playing video games.

His phone buzzes partway through his reading, and Tyler checks it, figuring it’s Jamie complaining about his stats homework again. It’s not.

Seggy! The text reads, from a number he hasn’t seen since he left Boston. Tyler stares at it. He never really expected to see that number again, either. He’d been friends with Chad, in the sense that they’d been on the team together and had fun together, but when Tyler had left and they couldn’t go out together he’d figured that had been gone. Chad was like that—all sharpness and glamour and noise and fun, and it was a whirlwind when you were in it and nothing when you were out. Busy tonight?

In Dallas tonight, Tyler replies. Had Chad forgotten?

The reply comes almost immediately. So am I! You gonna show me a good time?

Tyler looks at his books, but he was planning to go out anyway. There’s a few parties and an itch under his skin that means he needs the thrum of the bass and everybody wrapped up together in the moment and something so that he stops checking his texts every thirty seconds to see if Jamie texted him back. He never used to be so needy, or not with people other than Brownie who didn’t count. But now he’s staring at his phone willing Jamie to text him back, and he hadn’t gone out yesterday because he was waiting for Jamie, and—that feeling, of Jamie encompassing him, of what he’d give or do to make Jamie smile.

Believe it, Tyler texts back, and sets up a meeting point.

///

Chad looks the same as he did when they’d last gone out, which shouldn’t be a surprise given that it was actually only like 6 months ago. But he grins at Tyler like he’d never left, and greets him with a quick one-armed hug and a cheer.

And it’s easy, from there. There’s no weird feeling in Tyler’s stomach, none of the weird intensity of last night with Jamie. It’s like being in Boston again, like nothing matters and Tyler can just drift on by with his grin and his body and not have to think about anything else.

They go to the first party Tyler’s heard about, and ingratiate themselves with the guys there by doing a kegstand and then kicking ass at flipcup. Tyler pulls up his stomach to show off the bruise up and down his side, courtesy of a hard hit from their latest game, and it gets oohs of approval from everyone and more than one considering look; Tyler gives everyone giving him that look an indiscriminate flirty grin and takes another shot when it’s offered to him.

They go with those guys to a house party at one of the guy’s girlfriend’s house; the music’s loud there, the sort of bass that thrums in Tyler’s bones, and the energy is in everyone in the house and in Tyler when he whoops as he goes in. Chad grins back at him, that energy in his eyes too, and they’re swept in.

It’s sweaty and crowded and Tyler can’t hear anyone—the sort of place Jamie would hate, he thinks before he takes another shot and chases it with a Natty Light—and when he stumbles onto the dance floor he can’t even hear himself anymore. He ends up dancing with a girl, who grinds her ass against his dick and tilts her head back so he can smell the sweat and flowery perfume on her neck. It’s fun, but when the crowd and the music sweeps them apart, Tyler lets it, grabs another beer and finds someone else to dance with.

It’s so easy like this, not to think, just to be. He yells that to some dude he’s standing next to as he finds another beer, who probably can’t hear him but toasts him all the same. He’s a big dude, as tall as Tyler if not taller, and broad-shouldered; in the dim light Tyler thinks he has brown hair and eyes, and those eyes are looking at Tyler with clear appreciation for how his sweat-soaked t-shirt is sticking to his body.

Tyler gives the guy a long look, not bothering to hide what he’s thinking; the guy grins, big and easy. It makes something weird go in Tyler’s stomach, but he ignores it and leads the way back to where he thinks he saw a bathroom.

It was, in fact, a bathroom, and the guy gets the door closed before Tyler’s on him. He doesn’t want him to talk, just wants to feel his body against Tyler’s and his big hands on Tyler’s hips, his shoulders. The guy goes with it, and it’s wet and sloppy and good and Tyler closes his eyes, feels the strength in those big hands, even if Tyler can tell this guy isn’t an athlete and isn’t really that strong.

He doesn’t need to be, though, to be hot enough for this, and Tyler fucks his tongue into his mouth and gets the guy to groan into his mouth. “You’re really fucking hot,” he says roughly, too loudly. “You want me to suck you off?”

“I’ll never say no to that,” Tyler replies, smirking back, and the guy grins back and sinks to his knees as Tyler gets his dick out.

It’s not particularly elegant, but it doesn’t have to be; Tyler’s buzzed and horny and he looks down to see the guy with his lips around Tyler’s cock and his brown hair on his neck and those broad shoulders and Tyler shoves a hand into his mouth and the other against the wall. It doesn’t take long for him to come, and the guy sits back, rubbing a hand over his mouth to wipe away the last of the cum with a satisfied smile. He’s got smaller eyes than it had looked like downstairs, Tyler notices, and pulls him up so Tyler can get a hand down his pants and reciprocate.

After, the guy nods at Tyler. “Dylan,” he says, gesturing to himself. “Thanks.”

“Tyler,” Tyler replies, and smirks again, as much innuendo in it as possible. “And it was my pleasure.”

And that’s that; Dylan goes downstairs and Tyler washes his hands and follows. The beer is really hitting him now, or maybe it’s just mixing weirdly with the orgasm; he’s downstairs before he can quite figure out why.

The music’s still there, as loud as before, but it’s not in Tyler like it was before. He gets another beer, but it doesn’t make it better. It’s bullshit; that was a good orgasm and it shouldn’t make him feel like this, like he’s emptied out, like something’s missing. He wants—he needs—something, he’s not sure what.

He wanders through the party, trying to find Chad, or the guys he came with, or someone he knows, but he doesn’t see anyone. Or he sees plenty of people he knows, he can nod to and grin at, who take a shot with him, but no one is right. There’s still this pit in his stomach. And also a lot of beer that’s not making him feel great. More beer is probably the answer to that, so he has another beer.

“Tyler,” Jamie’s saying into his ear, and huh, Tyler must have called him. He has the phone to his ear, anyway.

“Jamie!” Tyler tells him, and leans against the wall. It makes the world stop spinning. “I called you?”

“Yeah.” Jamie sounds tired, the way he does when he just got up and he’s all rumpled and kissable. “Are you drunk dialing me at 4 in the morning?” 

“I guess,” Tyler looks at his phone. It is 4 am. Huh. “I didn’t mean to.”

“Didn’t mean to?” That’s Jamie’s captain voice. Tyler stands up straighter on instinct. “Are you okay?”

Tyler looks up. Jamie’s there. He doesn’t know when that happened.

“Jamie?” he asks. He didn’t think he’s drunk enough to hallucinate shit, unless someone slipped him something. “What’re you doing here?”

Jamie’s face does something Tyler wants to stop. Tyler reaches up to shove at it, and Jamie catches his hands. His hands are so big. They’re really strong. “You called me,” Jamie tells him, and tugs him up. Tyler sways, but Jamie catches him. Jamie always catches him.

Tyler only sort of remembers calling Jamie, but that makes sense. He always wants to call Jamie. He wanted Jamie here tonight, except he and Chad would hate each other, and Jamie would have hated this, but he was here anyway, because Tyler needed him. “You’re here,” Tyler tells him, and Jamie’s sort of smiling at him, though his face is still grumpy. It is past his bedtime. But he came.

“Okay, Segs. Come on. Let’s go home.”

“I want to go home,” Tyler agrees, and he doesn’t worry about leaning on Jamie. He’s a lot, but Jamie can carry his weight. Jamie will take him home. “I’m glad you’re here.”

“You said,” Jamie agrees. “Who’d you come with? Do you want me to find them?”

“Chad,” Tyler says, but he shakes his head. “I don’t know where he is. He’s fine.”

“Are you sure? I can go—”

Tyler thinks he remembers—he opens his phone, and there’s a text there, from Chad; he’s at another party apparently. He shows it to Jamie, who’s doing that face again.

“You wouldn’t like Chad,” Tyler informs him. “He’s not like you.”

“Yeah, I can see that.” They’re out of the house now. There’s a car there—Jamie doesn’t have a car. But Jamie still gets Tyler into the passenger seat.

“Car?” Tyler asks, as he collapses against the door.

“I had to wake Jordie up to get the keys, so you can deal with that tomorrow,” Jamie tells him. “You’re lucky he’s still happy about breakfast.”

“Wake up?”

“Because it’s four am,” Jamie tells him. He’s in the driver’s seat, pulling away.

Tyler turns to look at him. Everything is spinning, but Jamie’s steady and still. Tyler’s not drifting anymore, not with Jamie here; Jamie’s here to tether him down, to keep him steady. Jamie never blurs. Jamie comes to pick him up even though he’s drunk and he had to wake him up. Jamie’s so pretty, the lights from the streets catching his skin, highlighting his hands on the wheel. He has such long fingers. Such good hands.

They’re at the Benn’s. It didn’t occur to Tyler until they got there that Jamie didn’t have to bring him here.

“Dorm?” he asks, as he gets out of the car and falls onto Jamie. “I could…”

“Not when you could be choking on your own vomit in an hour.” Jamie sounds so sure. He didn’t leave Tyler behind. He never leaves Tyler behind. He wouldn’t. “Come on, Segs.”

“Don’t leave,” Tyler tells him, and he’s on the couch, and Jamie’s kneeling next to him tugging off his shoes. His head is bent down, hair curling at his neck, messy and a little longer than he usually keeps it, but he looks up when Tyler talks. His eyes glint in the darkness, and Tyler shifts, suddenly warm.

“I’m going to have to go to bed.”

“No, just—” Tyler shakes his head. “I’m so glad you’re here. You’re so good. You don’t leave. Don’t leave?”

“Don’t worry,” Jamie says, his hand on Tyler’s head. “I won’t.”

///

Tyler does not puke, which he is very proud of. He does, however, wake up confused, because he doesn’t entirely remember why he’s at the Benn’s. He was going out with Chad? He’d hooked up with that guy? When had he gotten here?

It doesn’t matter, but he takes the water and advil that someone—Tyler’s betting on Jamie—set out for him. It’s bright out, and both Jamie and Jordie’s doors are cracked open in the way they are when they’re out for the day. He must have slept through it.

He drags himself up, goes to the bathroom. When he gets back, there’s a text from Chad, proposing brunch—Tyler’s a little pissed at him for leaving him behind, but it’s not like he expected anything else, so he says yes and proposes the diner in half an hour—and Jordie’s in the kitchen in gym clothes, making himself a smoothie.

Jordie raises his eyebrows when Tyler stumbles in. “You’re alive.”

“Apparently,” Tyler groans, and rubs at his head. “Is there coffee?”

Jordie steps to the side so that Tyler can get to the coffee machine. He’s still eying Tyler warily, which is weird.

“Hey, thanks for the car last night,” Tyler says, to try out the room. He has to go soon, but he doesn’t like this weird vibe with Jordie. He likes Jordie. “Sorry Jamie had to wake you up.”

Jordie shrugs. Tyler’s never been on the other side of this staredown; it’s a little intimidating.

“If I was loud getting in, sorry for that too?” Tyler tries. It doesn’t get the reaction it would if that was the issue. “So, I have to go meet a friend for brunch, so…tell Jamie thanks and I’ll see him later?” Jordie blinks. “You know what, actually I’ll text him.”

The coffee’s finished brewing by now, thankfully, so Tyler pours it into his favorite mug, which is a ridiculous picture of Jamie, Jordie, and Jenny as kids on a white mug. Jamie and Jordie are both in pads, and Jenny’s between them, an arm over both her brothers’ shoulders; Jamie’s grinning at the camera like he can’t believe that he’s really there. He’s missing one tooth, and not because hockey. It’s adorable.

The coffee’s still hot, but Tyler takes a gulp anyway. He does need to get going.

“Look, Tyler,” Jordie says. His voice is loud and sudden, and uncharacteristically serious. He’s definitely giving Tyler his serious face. “You know I like you, right?”

“Yeah?” They’re friends, so Tyler had assumed.

“You’re a good kid, and you’re good for Jamie.” Tyler hides his involuntary smile with his mug. He likes to think so, but no one knows Jamie like Jordie does. 

But Jordie’s still giving him serious eyes. “But if you mess with him, you know I have to fuck you up.”

“I wouldn’t!” The protest is instinctive, and enough that Tyler almost chokes on his coffee.  He splutters for a second. “I mean, what the fuck, Jordie? You know I wouldn’t.”

“Just making sure we were on the same page.” Jordie pats Tyler’s shoulder a little more heavily than he needs to. “Good talk.”

“What?” Tyler repeats, but Jordie’s already moving past him, towards his room. Tyler stares after him. He is way too hungover for whatever cryptic shit Jordie is pulling. Of course he’s not going to mess with Jamie. He wouldn’t do anything to fuck with their hockey. And, more importantly, it’s Jamie. Tyler’s not going to fuck with him. Or like, not as something other than a prank, and even then, he wouldn’t do it to be mean. He’s the one who’s right behind Jordie to fuck with anyone who messes with Jamie. Why would Jordie need to say that? Was it just because he’d woken him up?

Sorry for waking you up last night! Tyler sends to Jamie, just in case. He takes another gulp of coffee as he waits for a response. His stomach isn’t feeling great.

The thinking dots pop up, and a second later Jamie texts back. No problem. Feeling okay?

Tyler blinks down at it. Jamie can’t actually be that okay with it. He knows it was annoying, and Jamie’s no saint. And he takes his sleep seriously.

Yeah, he replies. For real? You didnt have to come get me.

It was your turn, after Friday night, Jamie says almost immediately, which makes more sense. Jamie always feels better taking care of people than being taken care of. And it was shitty of your friend to leave you behind.

Should have expected it

No you shouldn’t. Tyler grins at the phone, then another text comes in, from Chad.

Be there soon.

Same, Tyler tells him, puts the mug in the sink, and heads out.

He gets to the diner a few minutes before Chad does, so he gets a booth and checks scores from last night for his fantasy league while he waits. Ten minutes later, Chad slides into the booth. He’s still in the same clothes from last night, but with a satisfied grin and a bruise on his neck that says very clearly where he slept.

“Good night?” Tyler drawls, putting his phone away. Chad’s grin grows.

“Fuck yeah,” he agrees. “These Texas girls, man. They know how to ride, if you know what I mean.”

Tyler snorts. “Classy.”

“Since when am I classy?” Chad retorts. The waitress comes by, and Tyler orders his usual eggs, and Chad gets strawberry pancakes. When she leaves, Chad goes on with, “Sorry I ditched you though, man, but last I saw you were pretty busy.”  He waggles his eyebrows.

He must have seen Tyler going upstairs with that guy. Tyler smirks back, because it was good.

“That’s the Seggy I know!” Chad cheers, and holds out his fist for a bump. “He didn’t look like your type, but he was hot.”

“Of course he was,” Tyler retorts, a little offended. He hooked up with hot people.

“Go home with him?”

Tyler shook his head. “I haven’t changed that much,” he tells Chad. “I don’t do that shit.”

“So I just wasn’t good enough to get changed for?” Chad gives his last night’s clothes a once over.

“What? Oh.” Tyler grabs his water. Maybe if he drinks enough water his stomach will settle. “I was shitfaced and you ditched me, so Jamie came and got me. I spent the night at his.”

“Jamie? Benn?”

“No, my other bro Jamie.”

“Was he at the party?” Chad asks, his brow wrinkling as he thought. “I didn’t think I saw him.”

“No, I guess I called him?” Tyler shrugs.

“And he came and got you? That’s cool.” Chad nods in respect. “Maybe there are good things about Texas.”

“Hey, I’m here.”

“Yeah, but you’re not really here.” Chad rolls his eyes, but he shuts up as the waitress comes back with their food. “Come on, don’t you miss playing hockey for a real team?”

“We are a real team,” Tyler shifts his hand around his fork. He’s a pretty chill guy, but that’s his team.

“Sure, they’re fine, but like. You can’t tell me it compares to Boston.” Chad cuts off a bite of his pancake, dips it in syrup, and stuffs it in his mouth. “Come on, you got drafted by one of the best hockey schools in the country. The captain here was barely even drafted. You can’t tell me it compares.”

“It fucking compares,” Tyler makes a sound he didn’t even know he was capable of, but it feels like a growl. Chad’s eyes go wide and surprised. “Just because we aren’t in a fucking hockey town doesn’t mean we can’t play great hockey, and Jamie’s the best fucking captain I’ve ever had, and just—the best person I know, so you can fuck right off with that.”

Chad’s eyebrows are still up. “Okay, shit. If I’d known you had such a crush on him I’d have laid off, sorry. I’m sure he’s great. I’m sure Dallas is great,” he adds in a drawl that makes it very clear how much he doesn’t believe it, but Tyler doesn’t hear it. Chad’s words are echoing in his head.

“He’s my captain,” Tyler replies, but it’s weak. Such a crush. A crush. Tyler doesn’t—he doesn’t do shit like that, not since he was like sixteen, but—

The way he stutters when Jamie looks at him right. The frantic need to make Jamie look at him, to smile. The way Jordie had warned him just this morning, because he must have known, fuck, known what Tyler hadn’t yet. Even, shit, that guy last night, with his broad shoulders and brown hair, and then Jamie taking off his shoes, and fuck how creepy was he?

Chad’s talking about something, but Tyler gets through the rest of the brunch on autopilot. He bids Chad goodbye with a bro hug and a promise to look him up if he’s ever in Boston, then starts walking. In only a few steps, though, he realizes he’s instinctively going back to the Benn’s and he can’t do that. What if Jamie’s there? What’s he supposed to do then?

He pivots and goes back to his room instead. He’s opening his phone as soon as he gets there.

“Why didn’t you tell me I was in love with Jamie?” he demands, as soon as Brownie’s picked up.

Brownie, because he’s the best, isn’t phased. “Um, because I figured you knew?”

“How was I supposed to know?” Tyler throws himself back on the bed. His Yzerman poster looks back. It feels judgmental. Yzerman probably never fell in love with his captain.

“Because it’s really obvious? And everyone knows? Like, dude, I’m not even in Dallas, and I know everyone knows, that’s how obvious it is.”

“I didn’t know!”

“How the fuck did you not know? He’s literally all you talk about. You went on a full hour rant about that guy he had a date with and why he wasn’t good enough for him.”

“Rob isn’t!” Tyler snaps, reflexive, then thinks about it. “Oh.”

“Yeah, oh.” Brownie waits a second, then adds, “You seriously didn’t know? How deep is your denial?”

“I don’t know! I just—I don’t do this shit! I don’t get crushes or fall in love or whatever.”

“I think that boat sailed when you hit Dallas.”

“Fuck.” Tyler lifts his head just so he can drop it back against the bed. “What do I do now?”

“Well,” Brownie replies, with his rarely used but always helpful sensible voice on, “What do you want?”

Tyler closes his eyes against Yzerman’s judgment. What does he want? He wants things to be like they were before he noticed this. He wants Jamie and him playing video games and laughing over stupid shit and lighting it up on ice. He wants to lean into Jamie and trust that he’ll catch him. He wants to be the one Jamie was really comfortable with. He wants—but fuck, the memory flashes across his eyes, Jamie on his knees in front of him last night, melding with that guy, and it’s—yeah he definitely wants that too, more than he’d let himself think.

“Jamie,” he says slowly, surely. As sure as he’s ever been of anything. Then he opens his eyes. “But how the fuck do I do that?”

“Are you asking how to pick up? Because I think you’ve got that.”

“Brownie,” Tyler whines. “Come on. It’s different.”

“Take your shirt off a lot. That usually works for you.”

“I’ve been doing that already, and it hasn’t.” Tyler swallows. “Look, if I’m so obvious that everyone and their brother knows—”

“Did his brother say something?”

“Yeah, this morning he gave me the shovel talk, fuck off. But if everyone knows, and Jamie hasn’t said anything, then—he’s not into me, right?” It hurts to say, but it’s true. And Tyler’s not going to mess with them. He’s not going to be the one that makes Jamie uncomfortable.

Brownie pauses. Then, “Segs.”

“Yeah.”

“Tyler.”

“Yes?”

“Tyler Seguin.”

“What?”

“Tell me what you just said.”

“That he isn’t into me.” Making Tyler say it again isn’t making it easier.

“Segs, I once saw you hook up with a girl you spilled your beer all over. I’ve seen you manage to hook up with a Habs fan in Boston.”  

“This is different.”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t just want to fuck him!” It comes out loud, and Tyler quiets down. “I want to—I don’t know. Hold his hand or something.”

“You’re such a romantic.”

“Fuck you, I can be a romantic.”

Brownie laughs. “I’d like to see that.”

“I can be romantic.” Tyler sits up. “I will woo the fuck out of him.” Tyler knows precisely what Brownie was doing, but he’s right. Tyler is good at this. If he can charm the pants off of anyone, as his mom has been saying about him since he was born, then he can charm Jamie into dating him. It might not be easy, but Tyler’s a hockey player. He works at the things that matter to him. And Jamie—Jamie matters. Jamie could matter even more.

“There you go!” Brownie cheers. Tyler loves him a lot, and tells him so. Brownie laughs. “As long as you don’t replace me with Benn.”

“Nah.” Tyler gets to his feet. He has planning to do, or something. Or maybe he should just go for a run, because he’s got energy now. Maybe he should go get Jamie out of the library so he’ll go work out with him. Now that he realizes what he’s doing, he can be much more effective with ogling Jamie lifting and also making sure he’s shown to his best advantage while lifting. “That’s something different.”

You free? He texts Jamie.

“I’ll say it is,” Brownie agrees, “Now, can I go back to sleep, or are you going to have another crisis?”

“Fuck you too,” Tyler informs him, and hangs up.

Bio problem set, in the library until forever probably.

What about practice?

Until practice then. You feeling okay?

Tyler grins at his phone. Probably stupidly, but whatever. Then he gets off his ass and heads to the shower.

It doesn’t take him very long to get dressed into a clean pair of sweats and a tank top, then he sets off towards the library, stopping at Starbucks on the way there.

The library is getting to the point in the semester where it’s more crowded, as the end of the semester approaches and people start getting serious about exams. Tyler should probably do that too, he admits, but right now he is on a mission. He sidles up to the girl at the counter, who’s looking very bored, which Tyler can’t blame her for. Working in the library seems like maybe the most boring work study job one could have.

“Hey, Alicia.” He smiles at her, and she gives him an unimpressed look back, which turns into a smile when she sees him. He’s seen her here before, chatted as he waited for Jamie, and they’ve run into each other at parties before. “’sup?”

“So much, clearly,” she drawls, gesturing to the table. “Have a good weekend?”

“You know it.” He winks. “Better now.” She rolls her eyes, but she giggles too. He leans in, leers cheerfully at her. “Are you ready to ditch your girlfriend and see my stick handling skills?”

“Somehow I think I’ll pass,” she replies drily. “Your boy is down in the carrels, I saw him an hour or so ago.”

“Maybe I just wanted to show you a picture of my dog,” Tyler protests with a laugh. Your boy. Apparently even casual acquaintances knew about him.

“Oh, just go and let me get back to work.”

“Yes ma’am.” Tyler salutes with the hand holding his coffee, and heads downstairs.

He’s been in the library more often this semester than in all his years in Boston, probably; Jamie likes to study here because apparently it’s quieter than his apartment. Less distractions, he’s said, with a pointed look at Tyler, but Tyler’s always dismissed that. Jamie needs his distractions or else he gets too into his own head about his assignments and forgets that in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a big deal. Not like a hockey game.

So Tyler knows where to go, threading his way through the shelves and stressed out students down to the carrel Jamie likes best. It faces the window, away from the opening in the books where Tyler’s walking, so Tyler sees his back first, then the backwards rim of his baseball hat, his hair just peeking out from under it.

When Tyler decides that just looking at Jamie is probably creepy, he goes over, kicks at the back of Jamie’s chair. Jamie jumps like he thought it was a joke, and Tyler cracks up, can’t help it.

Jamie’s scowling at him when he manages to stop, but it’s not a real scowl. “Oh, shut up. It’s been quiet in here.”

“If I was a murderer you’d be so dead right now,” Tyler points out, still laughing.

Jamie wrinkles his nose at him. “I could take you.”

“Not that scared, you couldn’t.”

Jamie half-rises from his seat, like he’s ready to prove it, before he clearly realizes that he’s in a library and this is not the place to get into a wrestling match like he wants to. “Maybe I just didn’t believe anyone I knew knows what a library is.”

“Ouch,” Tyler drawls back. “See if I give you your coffee, after that.”

“Coffee?” Jamie’s eyebrows go up. “This is the second time in two days, dude.”

“Yeah well, I woke you up last night, so this is to make up for that.”

“I told you it was okay.”

“Drunk me is pretty great,” Tyler agrees. He perches on the end of it. His thigh is brushing Jamie’s knee. “But it still gets a thank you coffee.”

Jamie opens his mouth to protest, and Tyler shoves the coffee into his hands instead. Jamie relaxes, takes a sip. The noise he makes is not good for Tyler’s composure. “Thanks,” Jamie says, and smiles as Tyler over the top of it. “That’s really awesome of you.”

Take that, Brownie. Tyler can totally be romantic.

Except Jamie is still smiling at him, that easy, fond smile like he really believes Tyler is that awesome.

“Um, yeah.” Tyler can’t quite look at him. “I was coming this way anyway, so.”

“You were coming to the library?” Jamie asks, that smile in his eyes again.

“Yes, because I was giving you coffee, if you aren’t going to be a dick about it.” Tyler grabs the coffee back out of Jamie’s hands, but Jamie holds on, so they’re just sort of both holding the coffee and Jamie’s hands are warm next to Tyler’s. He’s probably really good at holding hands.

Tyler has the thought, and it makes him drop the coffee, lean back. “I, um. Hope I wasn’t too annoying last night.”

“Nah.” Jamie shrugs, and takes another sip of the coffee. “I heard a lot about some kegstand and also how good it feels to get your dick sucked.”

“What?” Tyler squawks, and Jamie’s the one laughing now, because he’s an asshole and Tyler hates him.

“I think a poem was involved,” Jamie goes on, pretending to be straight faced. “An ode to the dude who sucked my dick.”

Tyler grins back, now that he’s got his sea legs under him. This is what they do—give each other shit like this. This is what he needs to keep. “I believe in showing my appreciation.”

“I hope you showed your…appreciation to the guy,” Jamie retorts. Tyler smirks, and licks his lips slowly, obviously.

“Don’t worry, I’m very good at appreciation,” he says, before he thinks about it, then he can feel himself go red. He didn’t—fuck, he doesn’t want Jamie to think that’s all he wants, he—shit, he has no idea how to do this.

But Jamie’s just laughing, and shoving at his thigh with his knee. “I hope you’re better at it than poetry.”

“Fuck you, I could write an awesome poem.”

“You can barely say a sentence without using the word bro.”

“Bro can be in poetry! Roses are red, violets are blue, you’re pretty hot, bro I l—” Tyler cuts himself off, shakes his head. He can’t say that. Not like that. “I mean. Maybe you’re right.”

Jamie’s brow furrows, and he leans forward. “I’m right? Are you sure you’re okay?”

“You know you’re always right in my heart, captain my captain.”

Jamie rolls his eyes again. “Segs…” He glances around, then puts on his serious captain face. “If your Boston friend being back was weird, or if you like, need to talk or something—you know I’m here, right?”

Tyler doesn’t even know what his face is doing, but he’s sure it’s ridiculous. “Yeah,” he says, and he can barely get the breath for that. “I know.”

Jamie glances up at him, clearly hearing the weird note in his voice, and he looks concerned and caring and fond and like he’d never falter in being there for Tyler even when Tyler is drunk and annoying and talking about some other dude’s dick. He’s probably been really frustrated; his lips are even plumper than usual, like he’s been biting at them. Tyler wants to bite at them, fuck.

“I, um. You should, with the studying.” What is he even saying? “I’ll—go. Practice! Later.”

“Segs—” Jamie starts, clearly confused, but Tyler’s already gone. He makes it upstairs before he feels like he’s far enough away to think properly, then bangs his head against the wall a few times, ignoring the people giving him weird looks as he does it. How does he have no idea what he’s doing? 

///

Jamie, Tyler comes very quickly to realize, is an idiot. Tyler is too, of course, but he’s accepted that a while ago and he’s okay with it. He had higher standards for Jamie. But he’s coming to realize fast that maybe his standards were too high, because Tyler is the most obvious person in existence.

He was obvious before, he’s sure, but now he’s even more obvious. It’s been a week of wearing as little as possible in early December in Dallas and spending a lot of time with things in his mouth—tried and true methods, which Tyler isn’t going to mess with, because he’s not just going to ignore his best assets—and, honestly, bringing Jamie a lot of coffee, because reading week has started and Jamie is devolving into a stressed out mess of messy hair and crazy eyes that isn’t even quite what he’s ever been like at the worst game. Tyler starts bringing him coffee just so he can make sure Jamie’s not dying. And it’s not like it’s hard, to bring Jamie coffee and watch him smile at Tyler like he’s his personal savior and try to tempt him into taking a breather.

And Tyler’s busier than he’s ever been too; it’s hard not to, when Jamie looks at him and asks him if he’s going to study too. Tyler’s got it enough to pass, but he can’t stand up to Jamie’s confused, entreating face, like he thinks it’s obvious that Tyler will put the work in. It makes Tyler want to; makes Tyler want to be the person Jamie thinks he is. So instead of just partying reading week away, Tyler spends a lot of it in the Benn’s apartment, trying to catch up on his reading as Jamie spreads out all of his notes on the kitchen table and stares at them and does something Tyler doesn’t understand because it has shit to do with numbers.

“Food?” Tyler asks, one night when he cannot stand staring at his computer anymore. He just needs to pass. Or like, he’d like a good grade, and he thinks he can BS one, but it’ll be enough. He’ll get some sort of job after college hockey-adjacent, even if he’s not going to go pro, and he’ll figure it out. He’s not like Jamie with his impossible fucking major.

Jamie doesn’t answer right away, so Tyler kicks at his shin. “Chubbs, food?”

“Don’t call me that,” Jamie says, on reflex. He’s got his hands in his hair, his hat mostly pushed off, and his eyes are a little bloodshot; Tyler’s not sure what it says about him that he still wants to push him into bed and ease that tension out of him. He wonders what Jamie would say if he did that—if he just took him to bed right now. Part of Tyler, the part that his mom’s always called impulsive, wants to just try it. A year ago, maybe he would have. But Jamie doesn’t do hook ups, and Tyler doesn’t want that with Jamie. 

“Then answer me. Food? Have you left the apartment today?”

“I went to the gym.”

“Jamie.” Tyler kicks him again, harder. “Come on, we’re going to the diner.”

“I really should—”

“Take a study break, up.” Tyler stands up, grabs Jamie’s wrists. “Come on, man, not even you can work all the time. Let’s get food.”

“Segs, I—” Tyler gives him his sternest look, which he’s pretty sure isn’t very stern, but it makes Jamie take a breath.

“Come on, let’s go. Studying diet plan includes carbs.”

“Says who?”

“Says me. Up.” Tyler tugs, and Jamie’s smiling a little, as he gets up. They grab hoodies and head outside. It’s late enough that there aren’t many people in the diner and not so late that people are there for drunk food, so they get seated at a window booth fairly quickly.

Jamie wraps his hand around the mug of coffee and inhales with a moan that Tyler’s not thinking about too much. “Better?” Tyler asks, pointedly.

“Shut up,” Jamie mutters, and takes a sip.

“No, I want to hear you say it. Tyler, you were…”

“Nope.” Jamie takes another sip. Tyler can actually see his shoulders relaxing. He might not be able to pull Jamie into bed, but this works.

“Hey.” Tyler kicks at Jamie’s leg, once they’ve put in their orders. “What’s with the workhorse routine?”

“What do you mean?”

“You don’t need to work like this, man. You’re super smart, and you’ve got grades, and you’re the fucking captain of the hockey team. You’ll get a job.”

Jamie looks down at his coffee for a long minute.  He rotates it in his hands—big hands looking even bigger around the little cup. “It’s not—” He takes a breath. “I do need to, Segs. I don’t…things don’t come easy to me like they do for you.” He turns the cup around again, still not looking at Tyler. “I’m still working my ass off just to be a decent hockey player, and I need to do this much studying to get good grades, and I’m not—I don’t interview well, so jobs are going to be hard. I need this.”

“Jamie,” Tyler sighs. This bullshit again. “Come on.”

“No, it’s just true.” Jamie does look up now, and there’s no anger in his face, or even resignation. It’s just a fact. “I have to work hard. It’s what I’m good at.” He shrugs. “And I’m fine. I’ve done this every year.” Tyler must be making a face at that. “Come on, like you’ve never played injured.”

“That’s not the same, that’s a game.”

“And this is a few weeks.”

“And you’re still injured from that last game, too,” Tyler points out, because Jamie had a bad hit a week ago, that had gotten him limping for days.

Jamie shrugs. “I’ve already got Jordie doing this shit, I don’t need another big brother.”

Big brother. Tyler snorts. “Sue me if I’m worried about you.”

That gets a smile out of Jamie. “You don’t have to be.”

Now it’s Tyler’s turn to look down. He doesn’t—he doesn’t do these sort of emotions. He’s never had to say this shit. He definitely can’t look at Jamie’s face when he says it. “Have doesn’t really come into it.”

“Ty.” Tyler’s still looking down, so it’s Jamie’s turn to kick at him. He glances up, and Jamie’s smiling at him again, that sheepish intent smile. “You really don’t have to. I’m the captain, it’s my job to worry about you.”

“Yeah, well.” Tyler tries to keep looking. Should make a joke. But he can’t, in the face of Jamie’s big eyes. So instead he looks down again. “Maybe I want to.”

He can hear Jamie’s inhale. “Segs.”

Tyler can’t help it—he looks up. Jamie’s got soft eyes as he looks at Tyler, and his lips are curved into a pleased smile. “I—”

“Here are your pancakes,” the waitress says, and Tyler starts, and jerks his gaze away. What was that? In a fucking diner, when Jamie’s barely conscious and more turned on by his coffee than by Tyler? Seriously, he needs to get it together.

///

Tyler does not get it together. Instead, he focuses on actually passing his exams, because he can’t take another disappointed look from his mom. It’s the part of school he’s really bad at, the buckle down and work and concentrate, but somehow it’s easier this time around—maybe because Jamie’s there. If reading week was drawn out, overworked Jamie, as soon as exams start Jamie settles into the same intense focus he brings to games. It’s just as easy to be pulled along by that in exams as it is on the rink, apparently; that and the memory of his mom’s face when he got some of his last grades carries Tyler all through his exams until finally, it’s done.

FREEDOM!!!! he texts Jamie, as soon as he’s out. Jamie’s last exam was this afternoon too, but his went an hour later, and Jamie’s definitely going to be there the whole time. So he texts Brownie the same thing. Tyler doesn’t get an answer from him his whole way back to the dorm, which he takes as a betrayal—Brownie’s been amusing himself laughing at the whole Jamie Situation, and now he won’t even text Tyler back to celebrate. He’s probably still asleep or doing his own work, but whatever, Tyler’s still going to nag him about it for weeks.

Once he gets back to his room, though, he just stares at his bed. He’s too keyed up by the idea of freedom to sleep, but he’s not going to pack or anything, even if he’s leaving day after tomorrow. He should maybe do laundry, but he can get by for another few days and bring the rest home, that’ll be fine.

He looks at his phone—still no text from Jamie. Fuck this, he won’t be this person, he decides, and texts that same thing to the team group chat. 

He gets an immediate response of a row of angry demon faces from Kari, who has an exam tomorrow on the absolute last day of exams and a Fuck yeah going out tonight? from Eaks. Tyler starts to type hell yeah back, but pauses before he hits send. Flips back to his text chain with just Jamie. Still no word, but the exam probably isn’t out yet.

Tyler throws the phone down onto the bed then throws himself down after it. He doesn’t need Jamie to go out. He usually doesn’t have Jamie when he’s going out. He could definitely do with going out.

He just—Jamie’s leaving tomorrow, and then it’ll be weeks until they see each other, and that’s the longest it’s been since they met. Which was maybe only months ago, but it feels like longer. He wasn’t even this needy with Brownie when they first met. He just—he thinks he owned that exam and he wants to tell that to Jamie. He wants to share all his good times with Jamie. It’s fucking sappy and ridiculous, but he does. And if Jamie’s not in a going out mood, which he isn’t a lot more than Tyler is, than Tyler’d rather stay in with him. That’s never happened before. He doesn’t know what to do about it. Would Jamie notice? Would that be enough?

His phone buzzes. Tyler is glad no one is there to see how quickly he grabs for it. So I’m not good enough, you have to text the whole group? Jamie’s texted, and Tyler can’t help but laugh.

You know you’re the only one for me, baby, he types—then stops. Erases. He’d send that to Brownie, or Jordie, or any of the guys. He had sent that to Jamie, before he figured out he meant it. He can’t send it now. Or maybe he should?

The questioning is tiring, and he’s done with it.  This is what you get for triple checking, he chirps, and then adds. Go okay?

He can almost hear Jamie’s sigh. Who knows

Tyler’s been around Jamie after a bad game, where he didn’t feel like he played his best. I’m coming over, he announces.

You don’t have to, Jamie tells him, which in Jamie-speak means he wants Tyler to.

Bullshit. We need to celebrate freedom! Tyler replies, and gets up. He’d showered before the exam because it was supposed to improve his mental readiness, or some shit like that, but now he changes out of sweatpants and into dark jeans and a t-shirt that’s just on the acceptable edge of tightness, and spends some time making his hair into something acceptable. It’s not like Jamie hasn’t seen him with the worst sort of helmet hair and in all stages of gross and undressed, but Tyler can’t help himself.

When he gets to the Benns’, it’s almost dark. Tyler leans on the buzzer constantly until someone lets him in, then heads upstairs and knocks crisply on the door.  

“It’s open!” Jamie calls through the door, and so Tyler pushes the door open.

Jordie must not be home yet, but Jamie’s sprawled on the couch, still in the sweats he probably took the exam in. He’s got his head tipped back onto the back of the couch and his eyes closed like he’s halfway asleep and his hair is messy from Jamie messing with it in the exam and if Tyler just got his shit together maybe he could climb onto his lap and like, fuck all that quiet exhaustion away.

Jamie’s eyes flutter open when Tyler closes the door, and he turns his head to look at Tyler. “How’d it go?” he asks.

“Whatever, it’s done.” Tyler throws himself onto the other side of the couch from Jamie. “You? All that studying pay off?”

Jamie makes the face he makes after a bad game. “I don’t know. It was harder than I thought, and I didn’t—”

“Jamie,” Tyler whines, cutting him off. “Don’t do this, you rocked it.”

“We’ll see.” Jamie shrugs. Then he takes another look at Tyler, and blinks, his gaze skirting up and down Tyler, catching on where his shirt hugs his abs. While he’s there, Tyler stretches, so the shirt rides up. Let it never be said he doesn’t know how to put on a show.

“I, um.” Jamie’s eyes are back on his now. Tyler stays posed, just in case. He thinks Jamie’s face might be a little red. “Are you going out, then?”

“What?”

“You’re in your picking up shirt,” Jamie points out. “I could go out. We should celebrate.”

“Should we?” Tyler can’t keep the incredulity out of his voice. It’s not what he was hoping, or what he was expecting. In a perfect world, Jamie would have taken the hint of the shirt. Or maybe been so turned on he just had to press Tyler back into the couch.

“Yeah. We’re done, right? Freedom.” Jamie grins at Tyler, and Tyler grins back, because he can’t not. “And we won’t see anyone for weeks. We should do some bonding first.”

“Bonding?” Tyler asks, waggling his eyebrows. “I do love some bonding.” Jamie snorts.

“Trust me, I know.” He pushes his hair back, and Tyler can’t help but watch the muscles of his arms move. He wonders if Jamie would let him lick them. “NHL16 before that?”

Tyler blinks at Jamie. “No, we’re getting dinner.”

“Jordie won’t be back until late, and we’re going home so we don’t really have anything.” Jamie purses his lips, thinking. “We could order from—”

“We’re going out, go get dressed.”

“Ty…”

“Up,” Tyler orders, shoving at Jamie’s thigh.

“I am dressed, though. This is good enough for the diner.”

“We’re not going to the diner. Up,” Tyler repeats. Jamie makes a face that should not be as cute as it is, and gets up.

“Do I have time for a shower, or is that not in your schedule?”

Tyler glances at his watch. “Yes, shower, please. You reek.”

“Sorry some of us don’t have time to shower every hour.”

“Sorry some of us take care of our bodies,” Tyler retorts, and tightens his stomach so his abs will really show. Jamie’s eyes do another quick dart down and up. Success. “Shower. No sweatpants. You do own other clothes, right?”

“I even own clothes that actually fit,” Jamie retorts, but he’s going.

Tyler waits—and fine, watches—until Jamie shuts the bathroom door behind him, then he goes to his phone.

Jamie takes forever to get ready, mainly because he’s never satisfied with his hair, so Tyler has time to figure out what they’re doing and then have a minor freak out to Brownie that hopefully he’ll respond to sometime in the next decade.

Jamie’s not in date clothes when he comes out, but Tyler might like this even more—he looks like himself, like the Jamie Tyler messes around with on the ice and off of it, a Jamie who’s not uncomfortable in his own skin but instead owns it. Tyler’d take that over a nice shirt any day. Also, the jeans are doing great things to Jamie’s ass.

“Acceptable?” Jamie asks, holding out his arms. “For this fancy food we’re getting?”

“Um.” Tyler licks his lips, watches as a stray drop of water makes its way down from Jamie’s hair over his neck, down to his collarbone. “Um. Yeah. Acceptable.”

“You sure know how to treat a guy right,” Jamie drawls, and goes to ruffle Tyler’s hair as he walks back over to the couch. Tyler ducks away so he doesn’t fuck with his hair.

“You know you’re always acceptable to me,” Tyler retorts. It’s very much not a lie. “Come on. Dinner.”

Jamie follows him willingly enough, even if it’s clear he’s still confused. To be fair, so is Tyler; he’s no expert, but he’s pretty sure it can’t count as a date if no one’s really sure if it is one. But whatever. A bro can go out and get a nice dinner with another bro if he wants. And if said bro also wants to woo the other bro and treat him right and maybe play footsie under the table, that’s whatever.

Tyler hasn’t planned out a first date—he’s not a thirteen year old girl—but if he had, then he wouldn’t take Jamie to a dinner because he wouldn’t want that much pressure and he’d have planned better and gotten like, sports tickets or something. Because this is more spur of the moment, he compromises by not going somewhere super fancy that neither of them can afford or really have the clothes for, and instead goes to one of the brewpubs near campus that have real tables and everything but don’t go so far as tablecloths.

Still, Jamie looks a little surprised when Tyler ushers him in. “What’s the splurge for?”

“Isn’t being done with the semester enough?” Tyler asks, and Jamie lifts his eyebrows at him.

“Is that any different from the rest of your semester?” he asks, and Tyler shoves him to the side. Jamie shoves back, hard enough to make Tyler stumble, and they’re about to devolve into a shoving war when the hostess shows up, giving them the sort of look that asks very clearly if they should be allowed out without parents.

Jamie ducks his head immediately, goes sheepish and all good Canadian boy, muttering an apology; Tyler grins at her, trying to communicate the best he can in that look that if she had a chance to wrestle with Jamie Benn, she’d take it too. Being maybe twice their age, she doesn’t seem impressed, but one of the two of their strategies must have worked enough that she takes them to a table and throws two menus down.

“Looking forward to being home?” Jamie asks, glancing at the menu.

“Yeah.” Tyler scans the menu too. They both know they’re both going to get burgers, but it does make it feel more adult.

“Looking forward to seeing Marshall?” Jamie specifies, and Tyler laughs.

“Most important part. I don’t think he gets Skype, I want to make sure my baby remembers me!” Because that’s all the provocation Tyler needs, he takes out his phone to show Jamie the latest pictures his mom sent.

“I’m thinking of seeing if I can move him down here next year,” Tyler says, while Jamie makes the appropriate cooing noises over him.

“Dorms won’t allow pets.”

“I’m not staying in the dorms any longer than I have to.” Tyler flips to the next photo. “I figure I can get my own place next year.”

“That’s great.” Tyler glances up at Jamie—then back down. He can’t look at Jamie’s crinkle-eyed smile pointed at him, not without jumping him over the table. He has more self-control than that. “Know where you want to look?”

“There’s still a semester.” Tyler shrugs. “But near you guys, clearly.”

“Yeah?”

Now Tyler does look at Jamie, because that was a lot of uncertainty in a word. Jamie’s looking down at the picture of Marshall, and there’s a line on his forehead. “Yeah, duh. How else am I supposed to mooch meals off of you all the time?”

Jamie’s lips twitch. “You could make your own food.”

“We all know that’s not going to happen.” Tyler nudges Jamie’s foot with his. “And Marshall’s going to need to know his favorite uncle, come on.”

“Brownie isn’t his favorite?”

“Brownie doesn’t count.” Tyler dismisses him with a wave. “Also, he can’t walk the dog when I’m not there, so…”

Jamie is smiling now, fond and just on the edge of rolling his eyes. “You realize we’re away at the same times, right?”

“Fine, you’ll help me find a dog walker. You know responsible people, right?”

“I might have met one or two.”

“Awesome. Oh, here’s one of him with his sweater!”

“I’ve seen this one before,” Jamie says, but he leans over the picture obediently. It’s one of the cutest photos, Tyler doesn’t know why anyone would protest looking at it again.

“Hi, I’m Caroline, I’ll be your waitress today.” They both look up from where they’re looking at Tyler’s phone. The new waitress is much less grumpy looking than the hostess, and much younger and hotter, and she’s giving them the sort of assessing look of someone who likes what they see. “Drinks, boys?”

Tyler and Jamie look at each other, then both nod. “Yeah,” Jamie says, and stretches up to look at the draught menu on the wall, in a move that Tyler and Caroline both clearly appreciate. “What’s the best IPA you have?”

“Hmm. What do you like?”

“Darker, more. But with a lot of spice. Something interesting, you know?” Tyler wonders if Jamie knows what he sounds like. He must not. He must not know that he’s making everyone in hearing distance want to proposition him with something interesting and spicy.

“I’ve got one I think you’ll like. It’s strong, though.” She winks. Tyler likes her. “If you can handle that.”

Jamie’s face goes red, like he just realized he was having a conversation. “Oh, um.”

“He can handle strong,” Tyler jumps in, and smirks at her. “We both can, don’t worry.”

“Yeah?” she turns her attention away from Jamie to Tyler. “What’s your poison then?”

Tyler glances at the menu, but he doesn’t care. “Whatever you think is best,” he replies, with a self-deprecating laugh. “I’m still a beer novice.”

“He likes PBR,” Jamie puts in, which makes the waitress laugh, and Tyler glare at Jamie.

“Come on, man!”

“I’m just telling the truth,” Jamie replies, with his most innocent big eyes. It’s really hard to be mad at that expression, but Tyler manages to narrow his eyes for a second before he cracks into laughter.

“Oh, screw you, we can’t all be hipster craft beer people.” Tyler complains, which makes Jamie smirk at him.

“You aren’t a real Texan until you can talk beers.”

“You’re a Texan now, BC boy?”

“More than you.” Jamie gives the waitress an apologetic look. “I’m sorry he’s so uneducated.”

“You’ll just have to get him caught up.” Something’s changed in how she looks at them, though; her eyes widened and she’s standing straighter now, not as into their space. Tyler’s not sure what they did to turn her off—he’s been informed his bro-bickering is charming—but something definitely did. “Seriously, though, what do you want?”

Tyler gives Jamie a ‘I have no fucking idea man bail a bro out’ look, and Jamie chuckles, low and deep in chest. Tyler wants to ride that chuckle into the fucking sunset. “Get him blonde ale on tap,” he suggests. “It’s like PBR, but it’s drinkable.”

“Hey, PBR is drinkable.”

“If you like drinking water, sure.”

“I’ll get those for you,” she says, and gives them one more look before she walks away, her lips curled in a smile that’s more like how Tyler looks at Marshall than someone he wants to bang.

“Seriously, you need to learn how to drink decent beer.”

“My beer is fine. It gets me drunk.”

“But at what cost?” Jamie wrinkles his nose.

“Fine, you can take me to a brewery when we get back and get me properly educated.”

“Maybe I will.”

“Looking forward to it.” It comes out more sincere than Tyler meant. He didn’t think they had just set up a second date? He wasn’t sure. Either way, he was looking forward to spending more time with Jamie. “So, what does a Benn family Christmas look like?”

Jamie lights up at that, like he always does talking about his family. The Christmas he describes is what Tyler would have expected, knowing Jordie and Jamie and how they interact—loud and loving and big, with lots of good cheer and shinny. It makes sense for Jamie, the most grounded person Tyler knows, to have a home like that. Not that Tyler’s isn’t going to be great, but there’s something idyllic sounding about Jamie’s.

“Hardly,” Jamie laughs, when Tyler says that. “Jordie’s there too, so I get chirped about everything that happens during the semester. You get to keep some secrets from your family.”

“So everyone’s going to know about the pineapple thing?”

“Yeah,” Jamie says, with a sigh like it’s the worst thing in the world instead of maybe the funniest thing that ever happened. “If they don’t already.”

“And the—”

“Whatever it is, Jordie’s going to tell.” Jamie makes a face. “Sometimes I can rat him out for shit with a girlfriend, but if I do that this year he’s just going to make mom start asking me about boyfriends.”

Tyler swallows. “Oh? They ready for you to settle down with a nice boy?”

“Very.” Jamie bites at his lip.

“Not too nice though, I hope,” Tyler retorts, throwing on the innuendo. “Too nice is no fun.”

Jamie goes a little flushed. “Well, no. But. That’s not something my mom needs to know.”

“Maybe—”

“Here are your beers,” Caroline says, setting down the two beers. “Do you know what you want to eat?”

They order quickly, and get diverted onto the latest Cowboys game that’s playing on one of the screens. It’s fun, like it always is, arguing about a sport neither of them is an expert in and whether or not Tyler’s beer really is better than PBR—it tastes basically the same, he doesn’t get the big deal—and whether Tyler should get the tattoo he’s planning. Tyler sometimes forgets he’s supposed to be wooing, it’s so fun and easy, until sometimes Jamie looks at him sideways or licks his lip or does something that makes Tyler really wish he could hold his hand.

They sit there for a while after they’ve finished eating and they get the check, watching TV and sipping their beers, until their phones buzz at the same time.

Seriously, are we going out? Eaks has asked, and Tyler looks at Jamie, who shrugs and nods.

Captain says yes! Tyler tells the chat.

What did you slip him to get him to agree to that, Seggy? Daddy asks, and Jamie makes a face at his phone as Tyler snorts.

Same thing I slipped your mom, Tyler retorts, because he’s never been mature. Ever mature, Val replies with a cascade of eggplants, which makes both Tyler and Jamie choke.

Callahan’s at 10, Jamie announces, ignoring the eggplants everyone on the team is still sending, though his cheeks are a little red. “That’s plenty of time for us to finish up, right?” he asks Tyler.

“If you flex some more, it’ll take me even less time,” Tyler quips back, and this time Jamie really does go bright red.

“Fuck off,” he mutters, and shoves his phone into his pocket despite the fact that it’s still buzzing with an emoji war. He makes a move for the check, but Tyler snatches it away.

“I got it.”

Jamie gives him an odd look. Which is maybe justified, if he is even less aware of if they’re on a date or not. “I’ll venmo you, then?”

“No.” Jamie’s still looking at him, and Tyler thinks—maybe. He could—but they’re going on break, and this is just some pub, and what if—“I mean, consider this a thank you, for getting me through the semester.”

“I didn’t do anything.”

“Jamie. You know you did, okay?” Tyler grabs his wrist, because he has to. Has to make sure Jamie knows this, at least. “You fucking made Texas a place where I could do good—where I wanted to.”

“You didn’t need me to do that.”

“James Randolph Benn.”

“Not my name.”

“Chubbs Randolph Benn.”

“Even less my name,” Jamie retorts, but he’s laughing and apparently distracted enough that he doesn’t protest when Caroline takes their check, barely raising an eyebrow at the one card.

They make it to the bar about on time, even though they stayed a few more minutes to see if the Cowboys make the last down. It’s barely cool enough that they need jackets—Tyler is not looking forward to going back to Toronto and its below zero temperatures—but Jamie still looks warm and cozy in his shearling jacket. Tyler could definitely just tuck himself into his side and they’d both be warm. It sounds like a great plan.

Instead, he just bumps their shoulders companionably as they walk. Tyler’s saying something he’s not even keeping track of—something about who he’s going to hang out with in Toronto?—but Jamie’s flicking his eyes to Tyler every once in a while as they walk, still so obviously paying attention to Tyler’s bullshit, and he’s smiling like he’s amused by it. When they get to the bar and Jamie reaches for the door, Tyler doesn’t want it to end.

“Wait a sec.” Tyler puts his hand on Jamie’s forearm to stop him, and only gets distracted for a moment because damn, he can feel those muscles through the jacket.

Jamie pauses, and draws his hand back. “Yeah?”

“I just—” They got close, in Tyler stopping Jamie from opening the door, and now that Tyler’s looking at Jamie, looking up that bare inch into those big eyes, and—well, if this was one of Cassidy’s rom-coms, he knows what comes now. This is the kiss at the end of the date, soft and sweet and chaste and like, romantic and shit. Something that doesn’t say ‘take me upstairs’ but does say ‘I want to do this again and again and again’. Tyler’s not sure he knows how to kiss like that.

“Um, I just had a good time tonight,” Tyler mutters. “We should do it more often.”

“Well I still owe you a brewery trip,” Jamie says, teasing but with a look on his face like he clearly sees something is off with Tyler. He opens his mouth to ask, and Tyler thinks, for a second, that if he asks the right question Tyler will tell him the truth. Will tell him what’s right there, at the tip of his tongue, that for some fucking reason he can’t get off of his tongue and into the air. Tyler’s never had any problems with his tongue before. This is bullshit. “Ty—”

“Trust me, if you guys spent any more time together, we’d be worried about whether you can grow to be Siamese twins,” Jason says, pushing through them to get to the door.

“Yeah come on, I thought I was the codependent one with Chubbs,” Jordie adds, ruffling Jamie’s hair as he passes too. He at least throws Tyler an apologetic look, like maybe he got what he was interrupting.

“You’re the one I didn’t get a choice about,” Jamie retorts to his brother, and then he’s drawn away from Tyler, bickering with Jordie as they head towards a booth in the back. Tyler follows them. He wasn’t sure what he was going to say anyway, maybe this was for the best. He still has more wooing to do, or . He’ll be fucking romantic.

On that point, he manages to get himself next to Jamie on the bench, which, with the combination of large hockey players and not too large booths, means they’re pressed against each other. He angles himself so he can throw one arm over the back of the seat, his hand brushing against the nape of Jamie’s neck, and still use his other one to take the drink that Pevs delivers to all of them.  

“To all you younglings surviving a semester,” Jordie cheers, and they all toast and down the beer.

One beer turns into two, into three, and then Tyler is loudly defending the honor of the Daniel Craig James Bond movies, and Jamie has given up trying to pretend not to laugh instead has his head resting against Tyler’s shoulder, his whole body shaking with giggles. Maybe Tyler’s hand is also in his hair, whatever. He’s not really going for subtle here.  

“So who next?” Jordie asks. He’s many fewer beers in, and watching Tyler and Jamie closely.  It’s not a disapproving look, Tyler thinks, but it is a warning, like what he said a few weeks ago was a warning. “When Daniel Craig finally ends. Are you an Idris Elba kind of guy?”

“Who isn’t an Idris Elba kind of guy?” Tyler points out, which gets agreeing murmurs from a number of straight men at the table and a ‘amen’ from Jamie that he feels against his neck, even as Jamie uncurls himself and straightens back up. “Man could get it.”

“Yeah?” Jordie asks, and then his gaze flicks around the table. “Okay, which of us would you cast as Bond?”

Jordie, with the assist. Tyler could kiss him, if he didn’t want to kiss his brother so much. “Got to be our captain, eh?” he says, and watches Jamie flush as he grins, pleased. He grabs Jamie’s arm nearest to him, turns it into a bicep curl. “Look at these muscles. He could punch out some bad guys.”

“Don’t think I’m exactly smooth enough for it,” Jamie laughs, but he doesn’t pull his arm away. “Maybe you’d be better for it.”

“Nah, I’m the Bond girl, clearly.” Tyler flutters his eyelashes. “Come to seduce the information out of you. If only your dick wasn’t good enough to turn me good…”

Jamie is scarlet, and everyone at the table are laughing their asses off, but Tyler still has his hand on Jamie’s arm and he’s got his lips in an exaggerated put that Jamie’s definitely looking at, so he’s counting it as a win. And as long as he’s winning, Tyler’s going to keep going. “Or maybe you have to seduce the information out of me,” he goes on, and drops his voice into something husky. “What’ll it take to get it, Bond? What do you want from me?”

Jamie’s mouth is gaping open, just a little, those swollen lips parted like a tease; Tyler keeps eye contact as he runs his tongue over his lower lip, which is almost always a successful move. Jamie’s definitely watching. Tyler can feel his thigh quivering against Tyler’s, under the table.

“Okay, yeah, Segs is definitely a Bond girl,” Jason agrees, and the team laughs, and Jamie’s gaze jerks away from Tyler’s lips. Tyler settles back in his chair. He’s not pouting, but seriously, fuck Jason.

“Fuck you,” He tells Jason, and he hopes he understands it’s for more than the comment.

“He’s definitely proved he can flirt with anyone,” Jamie agrees. He’s not looking at Tyler anymore, though he has a hand up on his chin, running his fingers on the beard under his lips. It’s unfair on so many levels. “We’ll find you someone to point that at here Segs, don’t worry.”

Tyler stares. Seriously?

Jamie apparently doesn’t notice, because he detaches himself from the hand Tyler has on his bicep and the one on the back of his neck and shoves Jordie, sitting at the head of the booth, out of the way. “Another round?” he proposes, and gets a chorus of agreement.

Tyler stares at him, as he leaves. “Was that not—am I not being obvious enough?” he asks, mainly towards Jordie, but he’ll take the table as a whole. He was basically sitting in Jamie’s lap, and apparently Jamie still wasn’t going to take his flirting seriously.

“I don’t think you could be more obvious without shoving your tongue down his throat,” Jordie says, tipping back on the back two legs of the chair. “Which, don’t, please. I don’t need to see my baby brother like that.”

Tyler snorts. He wishes, but he’s not going to do that if he doesn’t think Jamie wants it. He’s not going to make Jamie awkward around him all over again. “I’m not even sure he’d notice that.” He drops his head onto the table, partly because he’s getting to the point where he’s kind of tipsy, but mainly because he’s never been this frustrated before off the rink. His flirting works. It always works. Sure, maybe he’s going for a different end goal this time, but that doesn’t mean his methods should be failing him this badly.

“Look, we both know my brother’s not the smartest tool in the box,” Jordie says, from somewhere above him. “But he really does like you, Segs. You’re his best friend.”

Tyler lifts his head. “I know that.” That much isn’t in question. That much is solid. Tyler just also wants to be able to kiss him. It doesn’t feel like too much to ask.

“He’ll get it eventually,” Jordie goes on, which makes Tyler just make a face at him. Patience is not known as his strong point. He doesn’t want eventually, he wants it now. Preferably, where ‘it’ is Jamie’s dick.

Where is Jamie anyway? Even if he isn’t taking Tyler’s flirting seriously, Tyler still wants him to pay attention to Tyler. He looks to the bar—and Jamie is talking to some guy there, a guy who looks vaguely familiar. And who is making Jamie on edge like he gets when the other team’s been playing a checking game and he’s ready to get out there and push them around too. Tyler’s always down for that look, because Jamie throwing his strength around is fucking hot, but also—not here.

“Do we know him?” Tyler asks, gesturing towards the bar.

Jordie turns to look, and, “Oh, shit. That’s Paul.”

“Ex-boyfriend Paul?” Tyler looks closer. He’s even more boring looking in person. He probably sucks in bed, Tyler can tell just from looking at him.

“Oooh.” Eaks leans in to the conversation too, watching Jamie. “Do we hate him? Should we go beat him up?”

“We could go beat him up!” agrees Rous. His eyes are bright with excitement, and more than a little beer.

“I think if fighting were necessary, the captain could take him,” Spezza cautions dryly, with a hand on Rous’s arm. But he’s looking to Jordie for guidance too.

Jordie shakes his head tightly, but he’s got his protective big brother face on at full, and it’s hella intimidating. If Tyler already didn’t want to hurt Jamie because it’s Jamie, he super doesn’t want to because of that look. “It was an okay break up. Chubbs’ll be fine. He just.” His face twists, into something bitter and angry. “Put a lot of ideas in Jamie’s head that he still hasn’t gotten out.”

“Ideas?” Tyler asks, still watching Jamie. He’s not awkward looking; Tyler guesses he spent enough time with Paul to be comfortable around him even now, which is not an idea that makes Tyler feel great.

“Just bullshit that hit all of Jamie’s insecurities.”

“So we should go beat him up!”

“No, Antoine.”

Paul reaches out, puts a hand on Jamie’s arm with just a hint of purpose, and Jamie looks down at it, and fuck this shit. Tyler gets up.

“Segs—”

“Don’t worry, I’m not going to fight,” Tyler tells Spezza, and heads over to Jamie.

Whatever conversation they’re having, it’s clearly engrossing, because neither of them notice Tyler until he drapes himself over Jamie’s back, standing on tip-toes so he can hook his chin over Jamie’s shoulder and let his other arm hang proprietarily over Jamie’s other shoulder. “Hey, babe,” Tyler announces himself cheerily, bringing his face close to Jamie’s. “Where’s my beer?”

“If you can’t wait five minutes I think you have a problem,” Jamie retorts, but the tension that had hit him as soon as someone had ambushed him relaxes with Tyler’s voice.

“I definitely have a problem, and it’s that you’re over here and not back at the booth,” Tyler agrees, with a meaningful look. Jamie looks back at him, and there’s clear confusion in his eyes but also that easy trust he always gave Tyler, that he’ll back Tyler’s play whatever the fuck he’s doing. Tyler turns to Paul, with a meaningful look at the hand still on Jamie’s arm. “Hi. I’m Tyler.”

Paul slowly removes his hand, which means that at least he, like every other fucking person in existence other than Jamie, gets the vibes Tyler is putting off. “Right, you’re Jamie’s teammate. He was excited you were coming.”

Tyler very manfully does not the make the joke despite the perfect setup. “Aw, you were excited for me?” he asks Jamie instead, who’s flushing but also mid-eye roll.

“I was excited for your hockey,” Jamie tells him. “Off the ice…”

“You love me,” Tyler informs him, because he is sure of that much. Jamie completes his eye roll, but he’s grinning. And paying attention to Tyler, not Paul, so definitely a win all around.

But Paul is still watching them, and his gaze is going over Tyler, from his snapback to the sharp lines of his beard to his shoulders to his ass, and it’s less interested and more assessing. As much as Tyler enjoys people looking at him, he’s not a fan of this. His face is doing something that makes it even more unattractive, contracting into something bitter and mean. “I’m impressed, Jamie,” Paul drawls, eyes going to back to Jamie like he’s dismissing Tyler from his attention. Dick. Tyler knew it. “Still punching out of your league.”

Jamie flushes again, and not in a good way. “It’s—”

Tyler cuts him off with a laugh, and a squeeze to Jamie’s neck. “Aw, that’s cute. I’m out of your league, babe! Did you hear?” He doesn’t let Jamie respond. “And here I was thinking being captain of the team and gorgeous put you out of my league.”

“Segs…” Jamie mutters, but Tyler’s not looking at him, he’s looking at Paul, and he hopes that his look is communicating murder the way Jordie’s protective big brother look did. Paul takes a step back. That’s right, fucker, Tyler tries to tell him with his glare, you fucking gave this up and now you have to live with that shit. Now I get to touch him and you don’t. Which is maybe more aspirational than true, but Paul doesn’t have to know that.

“It was good seeing you, Jamie,” Paul says slowly. He’s looking at Tyler in something like surprise. “I’ll see you around.”

“It was good seeing you too, Paul,” Jamie agrees, and the idiot actually sounds like he means it. Paul nods, then pushes his way towards the other side of the bar.

“You didn’t have to do that,” Jamie says quietly, when Paul’s out of earshot. “Paul wasn’t—we’re fine. I’m over it.”

“Sure I did. Liney loyalty, bro. You’ve got to win the breakup.” Tyler doesn’t move. He’s comfortable, and Jamie’s warm and solid under him, and maybe Jamie will get it now.

“It’s not about—”

“It’s always about winning, Benn,” Tyler says, and Jamie laughs and doesn’t deny it.

“You still didn’t have to, with the whole pretend thing.” Jamie waves a hand like that’ll encompass Tyler’s current position on him. “Should have sent someone Paul would have believed, anyway.”

“You saying you wouldn’t go for me?” Tyler scoffs, even as his heart thumps loudly enough that he wonders if Jamie can feel it. He’s so much hotter than Paul, and he knows Jamie likes him, but—Paul had that hipster vibe that Rob did too, which Tyler resolutely does not, and he knows he’s not intellectual or whatever. Maybe that’s what Jamie wants.

Jamie scoffs. “You heard Paul, he knows what leagues we’re in.” Jamie flexes, sidesteps, and gets out of Tyler’s hold. It helps that Tyler’s stunned enough not to hang on. Jamie believes that bullshit? “Come on, let’s get the beers before Jordie starts a fight.”

“It was going to be Rous, actually,” Tyler tells him, and follows him to the bar.

They get a shitton of chirping when they get back to the table, because the whole team was watching the show, but only Jordie and Spezza give Tyler looks like they get what’s going on. Tyler suspects that only Jordie actually does, and anyway, Tyler’s spending his time watching Jamie. Big, gorgeous, earnest, captain, Jamie, with his lips made for sucking dick and his massive hands and the way he uses those hands with easy competence that make Tyler’s mouth dry. Jamie who manages the table of guys without hesitation, who still stammers a little and flushes so prettily when he’s teased about his crush on Sidney Crosby. Jamie who’s going places. Who’s getting progressively gigglier and looser and louder as he drinks more and more.

“Hey,” Tyler says in an undertone to Jordie, when Jamie gets involved in a shouting match with Eaks about some game Tyler’s never played before, “What sort of shit did Paul put in Jamie’s head?”

Jordie’s eyebrows go up. “You should ask Jamie about that.”

Tyler gives a meaningful look to Jamie, who’s busy yelling over Eaks to make his point, his arms waving wildly enough that Tyler has to keep an eye on them for when to dodge. Jordie chuckles.

“Maybe not right now,” he agrees.   

“Come on, Darth. I just want…” Tyler trails off. What doesn’t he want. “I think I’d be good for him,” he says, even more quietly. Or he wants to be, which is the same thing, because Tyler can be good at the things he wants to be.

Jordie seems to read that on his face, as he nods slowly. “Yeah, fine. You really do need to talk to Jamie about this, though.”

“When he’s sober,” Tyler agrees. “Cross my heart.” He makes the motion over his heart.

Jordie gives him a very older brother exasperated look. “All I know—” which is bullshit, because Jordie definitely knows everything about the breakup and the relationship, because there’s nothing Jamie knows that Jordie doesn’t, but Tyler’s not going to call him on that. “Is that part of the fight that ended in them breaking up was Paul telling Jamie that he’d always been dating down, and Jamie would never get someone as out of his league as him.”

“Bullshit!” Tyler snaps, and Jordie shrugs and nods.

“Duh. But he said it, and I’m pretty sure he always thought it, and Jamie, well. You know Chubbs.”

Tyler does know Jamie, and his self-effacing work ethic, and the way he never seems to understand just how good he is at everything he puts his mind to.

He looks over at Jamie, who’s laughing with his head tipped back, and his smile is lighting up the room.

“Seriously?” Tyler asks. Jamie actually believed fucking Paul was out of his league?

“I’m just reporting what I heard.” Jordie’s watching him with those dangerous, big brother eyes. “So don’t fuck this up, eh?”

“Segs!” Jamie yells, and loops a hand around the nape of Tyler’s neck to get his attention. Tyler doesn’t even pretend he doesn’t melt at it. “Come on, Seggy, tell them I’m right.”

“I disagree with whatever Jamie said,” Tyler announces, with one last look at Jordie. He’s not going to fuck this up, whatever it is.

At the end of the night, it takes Jordie and Tyler to get Jamie back to their apartment, or at least that’s what Tyler’s claiming as a reason to keep Jamie propped up against him, drunk and happy and nuzzling into the side of Tyler’s head. He’s not sure it’s not true, though; Jamie’s fucking heavy when he’s like this, and Tyler can only barely hold him up.

“You got him from here?” Jordie asks, when he lets them into the apartment.

Jamie’s still laughing into Tyler’s hair. “Yeah.”

Jordie nods, but his eyes are serious. “Tyler. Don’t…”

“I wouldn’t!” Tyler protests, to whatever Jordie was implying. Jamie’s drunk as fuck. He’s not going to do—anything, fuck.

“Good.” Jordie doesn’t look ashamed at implying anything, instead just gives Tyler one more warning look and heads to his room.

“Come on, you,” Tyler tells Jamie. “Bedtime.”

“Yeah.” Jamie walks with him obediently towards his room, though he’s drunk enough that he’s stumbling. Tyler’s never really had to put anyone to bed like this before—in Boston he was more the let them fall asleep on the couch type, like his friends were with him—but he doesn’t think it’s so bad, if this is what it’s always like. It’s a little annoying having Jamie tripping over his feet and giggling about it, but it’s cute too, watching Jamie’s concentrating face as he tries to put one foot in front of the other.

They finally get to Jamie’s room, and Tyler dumps him into bed. Jamie falls back against it, grinning up at Tyler, which is definitely going to fuel Tyler’s jerk off fantasies for the next forever. 

What comes next? Tyler thinks to what Jamie’s done, when he’s taking care of Tyler. Shoes.

“Feet,” Tyler tells Jamie, and Jamie lifts his foot so Tyler can get to it.

“Thank you, Tyler,” Jamie slurs, watching him as Tyler pulls his shoes off. “You’re the best.”

“Just repaying the favor,” Tyler tells him. He throws Jamie’s shoes towards the door. “Do you want jeans on or off?”

“Off,” Jamie decides, and goes for the button. Tyler does not have the sort of self control that includes not staring at Jamie as he strips off his pants on his bed, but there’s also a very angry older brother in the next room, so he goes to get Jamie some water and advil.

When he gets back, Jamie’s in bed under the covers, so Tyler’s spared or deprieved of that much sanity. “Water,” Tyler tells him, putting the glass on the table next to the bed.

Jamie looks at it, then at Tyler. “Thank you,” He says again, so earnestly.

“What we do, eh?” Tyler tells him. Because Jamie’s really drunk, and he’s never claimed to discipline, Tyler reaches out to push Jamie’s hair out of his face. His hair sweaty and he can still feel the crunch of leftover gel in it, but it still feels perfect under Tyler’s hand. Jamie’s eyes are very wide as Tyler does it.

“No, you’re just the best,” Jamie informs him. “You’re so good, you know? I don’t think you do know, but you are. Take such good care of me, of everyone.”

Tyler is chirping him from here to BC about this. “I really don’t.”

“You do.” Jamie grabs at Tyler’s hand with both of his, and Tyler can’t help but stare at that point of contact, of the strength and size of Jamie’s hands. “You’ve made everything so much better, and your hockey is so pretty, and you’re so hot.”  

“Well that’s true,” Tyler agrees. He’s hovering awkwardly by the bed, and he should go now, but he’s not going to leave when Jamie is babbling praise at him. 

“It’s not fair,” Jamie complains, letting go of Tyler and flopping back against the bed. “You’re so much and I’m me and it’s not fair.”

“You is more than enough,” Tyler tells him, which he’s not sure makes any sense but Jamie isn’t making sense either anymore. “Now get to sleep, bro. You’re going to have a horrible flight tomorrow.”

“You too,” Jamie tells Tyler, waving vaguely at him. “Water, and shit.”

Tyler can’t help his smile. Always his captain, even falling down drunk. “I will,” he agrees, and heads towards the door. As far as he can tell, Jamie’s already sacked out when he gets to the door.

He can’t stay at the Benns tonight; they’re leaving too early in the morning, and also he can only hear Jamie’s slurred praise in his head. So he goes back to his dorm, and jerks off hard and fast, his eyes closed with the memory of Jamie’s ‘you’re so good’ and how he’d felt pressed against Tyler and his hand on Tyler’s neck.  

///

When Tyler wakes up, there are a series of texts from Jamie already on his phone.

Sorry about last night!

Jordie is looking at me like I did something weird did I do something weird or is he being an asshole?

Well he’s always an asshole but is he being more of an asshole?

Anyway we’re boarding now, so sorry I didn’t get to say good-bye. Have a good break, and say hi to Marshall for me!

Tyler beams stupidly enough at his phone that he’s glad no one can see it for a few minutes, then groans and shoves his head back into the pillow.

You were only as embarrassing as usual, he texts back to Jamie, have a good break too! And I’ll skype you in to Marshall so he can say hi too.

Then he flips to the next message, to Brownie. How did I get so fucked?

Brownie’s message comes back quickly. I think the problem is that you aren’t fucked, actually.

Tyler groans again. Brownie has a point. 

///

Tyler spends break barely moving from his couch, cuddling with his puppy, and hanging out with all the guys still in Toronto, which is basically everything he wants about break. Cassidy teases him more than a little about who he’s texting all the time, but she’s also used to how much he texts Brownie, so she doesn’t really catch on to how there’s something different to how he’s texting Jamie all the time too. Even if there’s not, really; Tyler’s a needy best friend and his best bros need to deal with the fact that spending this much time apart isn’t good for him. Though maybe he also is still jerking off to Jamie’s power plays and how he’d looked on his knees and maybe he’s picking apart each text Jamie sends to see if anything in it bodes well for Tyler, but he thinks he’s keeping that on the DL.

Keeping it from his mom is pointless, though, and she corners him about it after he spent an hour on Skype with Jamie, introducing him to Marshall and then exchanging chirps about the other’s vacation hair and life. Tyler maybe couldn’t control his face when he was looking at Jamie, but that’s nothing new.

“So,” she says, taking the seat next to him when Tyler finally hangs up because Jamie has to go get lunch with his sister. “Jamie.”

“Jamie?”

“Jamie,” she says, and it’s not a question.

“Yeah,” Tyler agrees, with a sigh. “Jamie.”

“I didn’t know you were dating anyone,” she says, slowly. They’ve never really talked about the whole bi thing, but she definitely knows. 

“I’m not.” He makes a face at his computer. “Yet.”

“I didn’t know you wanted to date anyone,” she goes on. Which is fair—he doesn’t like, tell her all about the people he hooks up with, but his mom knows everything so he’s pretty sure she understands his lifestyle.

“I didn’t.” He shrugs. “But then…”

She laughs. “Your captain, though? Really? You’ve never taken the easy road.”

“It’s not—he’s so.” Tyler takes a breath. How does he describe Jamie? His mom has met him over Skype a few times, when he happened to be facetiming with her in the Benns’ apartment, but that was parents Jamie, who is not the asshole Tyler loves. “He makes me want to be better,” he says softly, which feels girly and emotional, but it’s true. “I’ve never felt like that before.”

“Oh, Tyler.” She opens her arms, and Tyler falls into them. He’s so much bigger than her now, but he still feels like a kid. “It’s about time.”

“Mom!”

“I always knew you’d do this someday,” she goes on, pointedly oblivious to Tyler’s offended face. “You’ve got so much love to give, baby. I’m glad you’ve found someone to give it to.”

“Mom,” Tyler complains again, though this time he’s less offended and more just blushing. He’s not a kid, he doesn’t need this.

“But if he hurts you, then I’ll fly down there and give him a piece of my mind,” she says, and now Tyler’s imagining his mom cowing Jamie, which is totally realistic and totally hysterical, and gets him some snuffles against her shoulder.

“I’m serious,” she says, and that makes Tyler laugh more.

“I know.” He swallows, and then says, serious, “But he wouldn’t.” He trusts Jamie that much.

“Good.” She loosens her hold, and Tyler sits back up. His back was hurting anyway. “So then why aren’t you dating him already? It’s not like you not to get something you want. Or somebody.”

“Mom!” Tyler protests again, because he really didn’t want his mom to know about any of that.

“I know what you get up to,” she goes on, clearly teasing now. “So what’s the delay? I want to meet this boy.”

“Ugh.” Tyler groans. He’s already ranted to Brownie and also anyone who will listen about this for long enough that Brownie’s declared that he’s owed three drinks per minute Tyler complains, but his mom can’t do that. “He thinks I’m out of his league, or something.”

“I like him already.”

“I’m not, though. He’s—” a lot of things Tyler’s not going to say to his mom. “We’re definitely in the same league.”

“You’ll convince him of that,” his mom tells him, confident. “You’ve always been too charming for your own good. Use that.”

“I’ve been trying!” Tyler whines. It doesn’t fix anything, but his mom’s confidence helps, at least.

///

Tyler’s plane back to Dallas is delayed almost eight hours, because fuck Toronto weather, so he misses the first practice back from vacation and gets in too late to do anything but fall onto his bed and pass out. He barely wakes up for practice the next morning, but like hell is he going to get scratched from their game the next day, so he manages to get out of bed and to the rink.

“Look who managed to grace us with his presence,” Daddy announces, when Tyler walks into the locker room. Someone throws a pair of socks at him; Tyler catches them.

“I heard you guys were lost without me,” Tyler agrees, chucking the socks back at Daddy, because he spoke.

“There was much less strutting around naked in the locker room,” Spezza agrees, making a face at them all. “We definitely missed that.”

“I know you did, baby.” Tyler winks. “Don’t worry, you can look your fill now.” He drops his shit at his stall, and immediately strips off his shirt, just for the boos.

“Come on guys, get ready,” Jamie says, quiet but cutting through the noise. He’s mostly dressed already, and he’s got a serious face on as he watches the locker room settle back in. For a second, Tyler panics—then Jamie grins. “We’ve all seen everything Segs has to offer anyway.”

Someone whoops, and Tyler makes his most offended face.

“Don’t front, Cap,” Kari calls. “He didn’t know what to do without you, Segs.”

“Like a lost little lamb,” Val agrees, and Jamie’s grin melts into a scowl, even if his eyes are glinting with good cheer. Tyler gets it. Vacation’s great, but it’s good to be back.  

“Yeah?” Tyler asks, sidling up to Jamie. He still doesn’t have a shirt on, and he’d been working out over break. Take that, nothing more to offer. “You didn’t miss me?”

“Not even a little,” Jamie tells him, smiling at him in the way that makes it clear he’s the worst liar in the history of liars, and Tyler preens a little. He glances down at Tyler, and his eyes definitely slow. Tyler preens a little more. “Now, um.” He swallows. “Let’s get out on the ice, guys.”

“He pined,” Val whispers loudly to Tyler, as he passes him on his way to the ice. “Like I was not good enough liney.”

“It’s because you aren’t,” Tyler tells him, and slaps his ass as Val laughs and heads out.  

Practice is fine, getting back into the swing of things, then they all head out for sushi before Tyler follows Jamie back to his apartment. He should maybe unpack, but it feels more necessary to sit on the Benns’ couch and show Jamie all the pictures of Marshall he didn’t see yet, and discuss more in depth the NHL games they’d been texting during. Jamie’s loose and relaxed sprawled on the couch bickering with Jamie about the Ranger’s PK, and he looks kissable and ruinable and fuck Tyler hadn’t forgotten how much he wanted him, but he’d forgotten the punch of it. The way it moved in him whenever Jamie moved, the way Jamie smiled at him-just-him and he wanted to go to his knees to keep that happening always.

“Hey, Jamie,” Tyler starts, cutting Jamie off in the middle of his ode to Eric Staal.

“Yeah?” Jamie’s clearly still worked up about Eric Staal—really, who can blame him—and he’s blinking those big eyes and Tyler just—fuck, he just likes him a lot, and he wants to fuck him, and he can’t get the words out to say that. What words are there to say that? Tyler’s good with words, and he can’t figure it out.

“You know Marc Staal is really the best Staal,” Tyler concludes, and Jamie scoffs and starts back up on his rant. Tyler watches him, and it’s good no one’s there to see what his face looks like because he really doesn’t want to get chirped until eternity for it.

///

The game the next day is brutal. Maybe it’s because they’re out of shape because of vacation, or maybe they aren’t clicking, and at the end of the second period they’re down a hard fought 3-0. Everyone’s exhausted and downtrodden, and Tyler knows as they sit down in the locker room he should try to lighten the mood, but he can’t manage it. He’s tired, and aching, and every shot he’s made has been shut down.

Coach talks for a little bit, tries to get them up, talk about what’s not working, which is a lot. Tyler’s hands are tight on his stick as he retapes it, trying to listen to coach and get his breath back and figure out what the fuck is going wrong. It’s not bad bounces. It’s them.

Coach finally finishes, and looks over to Jamie, who stands up. Jamie’s not a speech-making sort of captain, but it doesn’t mean that everyone doesn’t immediately look to him, wait for what he’s going to say. He turns his head, slowly, so that it’s like he’s meeting everyone’s eyes. “Let’s show them what we can do,” he says, simple, and heads back out.

The team follows. Tyler still feels like he should say something, should push everyone up, but he just—he can’t bring himself to.

They get back on the bench, Tyler sits down next to Jamie, like usual. Jamie’s got his shoulders squared and his chin up, and as Tyler watches, he takes a breath, and nods to himself.

Tyler nudges him through their pads. “Okay?” he asks.

Jamie looks over at him like he’s surprised someone else is there. His face is set, determined. Implacable. “Yeah,” he says. “I’m—let’s get some points, okay?”

“Deal,” Tyler agrees, and bumps Jamie’s fists.

It’s a thing they say, and Tyler knows that Jamie’s just trying to keep up morale, but then the period starts, and Jamie explodes. Tyler’s seen Jamie play good games and bad, seen him on fire and on a slump, and tonight he’s pushing, physical and fast and demanding and if Tyler weren’t pushing himself to keep up, he’d be breathless from it.

One minute in, and Tyler to Jamie and Jamie puts it in over the goalie’s shoulder. The team whoops, and Tyler grins at Jamie. Jamie nods back, his gaze still flinty and set.

A few more minutes, and Jamie’s shoving his way through again, another shot—blocked this time, but still close enough that the team is getting revved up again. Tyler can feel it too, the way they’re rallying, the way Jamie seems determined to carry them through this game on his own if he has to and the way the team won’t let their captain do that by himself. Tyler certainly won’t.

Another play, and Jamie feeds Tyler a gorgeous no-look pass that he puts neatly in. Jamie’s smiles then, all steel, and Tyler knows he looks the same.

The other team seems to realize what’s happening then, and they get their back up, pushing back harder, but Kari’s standing on his head now, as revved as the rest of the team. Spezza gets a goal next, nothing pretty but it’s enough, and Jamie slaps his palm as he comes back to the bench, with a nod.

Two minutes left, and Jamie’s eyes narrow, and he glances at Tyler as their line goes over the boards, something like a dare in it. Tyler grins back. He’s never met a dare he didn’t like, and there are twenty seconds left on the clock when Tyler gives it to Val—he shoots, blocked, and Jamie picks it up and gives it back to Tyler and it’s fucking in.

“Fuck yeah!” Tyler yells, and Jamie’s really grinning now, bright and hot and Tyler wants to taste that smile.

The locker room is jubilant—the game might not have counted for anything really but they fucking fought their way to an improbable win and they’re all high on it. Jamie’s attacked by back slaps and hugs as he comes in, and a cheer for their captain, and Jamie’s glowing back, proud and intense and Tyler can only stare at him, his mouth dry, as the win and adrenaline and Jamie’s fierce, implacable look beats in him.

Tyler keeps on failing to get changed, distracted by Jamie’s—everything, but eventually they all get dressed and agree to meet in a few hours to head to a bar, because no one else is on campus yet. Tyler falls into step with Jamie as they leave, and Jamie doesn’t even question it, makes room next to him. He’s still bright and satisfied and quiet as he thinks about the game and god, Tyler loves awkward stumbling Jamie and he loves his captain and he loves his best friend and he loves them all altogether, and fuck this shit, he decides, fuck all of it.

Jordie meets them as they leave the rink, and he slaps Jamie on the back and puts him into a headlock in congratulations, and Jamie fights his way out of it. Tyler is overflowing, buzzing, and he laughs just to watch the brothers fight and for the dimples that come out in Jamie’s cheeks.

He joins in on the post mortem of the game as they walk back, picking apart the mess of the first two periods and then embarrassing Jamie with praise over the third, which he throws back at Tyler like he didn’t carry the team. It just sets the fire in Tyler going higher, so when they finally reach the Benn’s apartment, Jordie barely shuts the door before Tyler warns,

“Hey Jordie. You’re probably going to want to cover your eyes.”

“What?” Jordie starts, but Tyler’s ignoring that, and instead he’s grabbed onto Jamie and is kissing him.

Jamie’s hands close around his waist mainly on instinct, Tyler thinks, but he tastes like sweat and chapstick and his lips are everything Tyler dreamed about. Vaguely, he hears Jordie make a disgusted sort of noise, but then Jamie is making an incredulous, confused sort of noise into Tyler’s mouth, and that’s much more important.

Then Jamie’s hand is on his chest, pushing him away gently. “Tyler?” he asks, blinking his big, guileless eyes, and now Tyler knows what his lips taste like and what Jamie’s hands feel like on his hips and he’s never going to be satisfied with anything else. He already wants to kiss him again. Wants to shove him against the wall and really show him his appreciation for the game he just played.

“Jamie,” Tyler maybe whines, pushing against Jamie’s hand. Fuck romance. This is what he’s good at.

A door slams. Tyler and Jamie both jerk, look over; Jordie’s door is very firmly shut.

When Tyler looks back at Jamie, he’s swallowing, and all that incandescent strength is muted beneath something that looks like worry. “Ty, why—”

“You,” Tyler starts, and he should be trying to articulate everything he feels, the need and the warmth and the love and the way Jamie’s the foundation on which he builds, but he’s staring at Jamie’s lips and he might be drunk on them, because all that comes out is, “And that fucking game, and—”

“If it’s just because of the game—like, a reward or something, you don’t—” Jamie scowls at Tyler, because he can’t help his laughter at that, fucking hell. “What? You’re the one who kissed me!”

Tyler thumps his forehead against Jamie’s shoulder once, then looks up again at Jamie. “Jamie, I have been trying to, like, woo you for months.” Jamie’s forehead furrows, like he seriously didn’t notice.

“You have?”

Tyler laughs again, because at this point it’s too much to be anything but hilarious. “I was being obvious before I even knew I was doing it, Jamie. Come on. I spend nights basically sitting in your lap.”

“Yeah, but you—I mean, you flirt with everyone.” Jamie still looks like someone checked him too hard, like something’s not computing. “Why would you—with me? But you’re…”

Tyler is going to fucking kill Paul. “And you’re,” Tyler echoes, trailing off. Jamie’s hand’s gone limp in surprise, so Tyler pushes against it, slides his arms so that they’re planted above Jamie’s shoulders on the door. He’s not really pinned, he’s still bigger than Tyler, but it makes the point. “Fucking gorgeous, Jamie, how often do I have to say it?”

“I—”

Apparently more times. Tyler’s pretty okay with that. He lets his voice drop a register. “Thought about this since I first met you,” he purrs, and licks his lips. Jamie watches, transfixed. “Your hands and your shoulders and you’re so fucking strong, Jamie. God, it’s so hot.” He drags his lips over the hinge of Jamie’s jaw, down his neck. Jamie’s panting, and Tyler can feel the fast beat of his heart as Tyler nips at his pulse point.

“Ty,” Jamie breathes, and it goes right to Tyler’s dick, fuck, he needs Jamie to say that a lot and in a lot of different tones like that one. But then he says it again, in a sterner voice, more of his captain voice—which, huh, Tyler would definitely not object to more of either. “Tyler.”

“Yeah?” Tyler hums, still mouthing at Jamie’s neck.

“I don’t. Fucking hell, I—” He can feel Jamie try to take a breath. “I know you just do hook ups, but—if you just want to fuck, then we have to think about the team, and I can’t really do fuckbuddies, so—”

Tyler leaves the spot on Jamie’s neck—he’ll get back to that, if Jamie lets him. But he swallows. This is what he’d tried to ignore, to gloss over, but of course Jamie will make him say it. Looking into Jamie’s face, somehow, it’s easy to say it. “I don’t just want to hook up, Jamie. I want—I don’t know, I want to like, cuddle and hold hands and take care of you and shit.”

There’s a beat of silence. Then Jamie snorts. “Real romantic, Segs. Cuddle and hold hands and shit?”

“Oh, fuck you, I’ve never had a boyfriend before, I don’t know what I’m doing.”

“I thought you were supposed to be smooth,” Jamie chirps.

Tyler ducks his head so he can look up at Jamie, that hint of smug innocence that always gets guys going. Jamie’s gulp seems to say that he’s no exception. “I can be smooth,” he murmurs.

“Fuck.” Jamie swallows. He’s still letting himself be pushed against the door, taut and on edge. Tyler wants him like that, but in another way. “Tyler—for real? Me? I never even—I mean, you’re so out of—”

“If you finish that with ‘my league’, I’m not going to blow you,” Tyler warns, and Jamie goes bright red and looks at Tyler’s mouth. Excellent. “But—yeah, for real.” Tyler takes his own breath. “I mean, if you don’t want me, or this, then we don’t—we’ll be bros, and it’ll be fine. But—yeah. You.”

“Oh,” Jamie says on a long, low breath, and Tyler’s not exactly expecting Jamie to say no, but he’s also not entirely expecting the tug on his shirt and Jamie’s lips on his, either.

Kissing Jamie when he’s with the program is a thousand times better than before. Jamie kisses about like Tyler would expect, intent and overwhelming and focused and Tyler grabs on and pushes back, because he is fucking good at this and he wants to make sure Jamie knows that.

Jamie’s hands are just as big and feel even better on him than he expected, on his waist then his hips then grabbing his ass, pulling him close enough that Tyler can grind his semi onto Jamie’s thigh.

It brings Tyler up short, makes him drag himself away from where he was working on making a real mark on Jamie’s neck, a nice ‘fuck you he’s mine’ to display to everyone.

Then he forgets his words for a second, because he’d known Jamie would look good messed up, had thought about it even before he’d realized he’d wanted to do it, but dream paled compared to the reality of Jamie with swollen lips and messy hair and dazed, turned on eyes.

“Um.” Tyler swallowed, licked his lips. “We don’t—I mean, I know you aren’t a first date sort of guy, so no—”

“Who said I didn’t hook up on the first date?” Jamie asks, and his hips roll against Tyler’s and he can definitely feel how much Jamie wants it, and also he’s seen that dick in the locker room and he wants to see it where he can get a good look at it, asap.

“Um. Jordie?” Tyler can barely remember.

Jamie chuckles, and it’s that low rumble that makes Tyler wants to feel it. “You think I tell my big brother everything about when I hook up?”

“Honestly, yeah,” Tyler says, but then he catches Jamie’s mock-offended laughter with his mouth. Tyler’s about ready to just shove his hand in Jamie’s pants when—

A whistle blows. Years of conditioning makes both Tyler and Jamie freeze.

“The fuck, Jordie!” Jamie mutters, looking over Tyler’s shoulder. Tyler starts laughing, can’t help it, dropping his head onto Jamie’s shoulder. Jamie’s hands don’t move from his ass, which he’s pretty okay with.

“The fuck is you have a perfectly nice room and you don’t have to defile our door,” Jordie says. “And if you move from the door I’m getting the fuck out of here so you guys can be as loud as you want.”

“It’s a good point,” Tyler observes, when he catches his breath. Jamie’s red from more than just arousal, but he’s laughing too. Tyler doesn’t bother lowering his voice when he adds, “I want you to get loud.” Jamie jerks against him.

“Tell the team we aren’t coming out,” Jamie tells Jordie, who snorts.

“You’re certainly coming somewhere.”

“We are!” Tyler agrees, and Jordie makes a strangled sound.

“Keep it in your pants until you get to your room, Chubbs, please. I’m happy for you two, but please.”

“No promises,” Jamie retorts, and pushes off the wall. Admittedly Tyler hadn’t exactly been pinning him there anymore, but he was very right about how hot it was that Jamie just moved them away from it, towards the living room. Though he was less excited about Jamie letting go of his ass.

“Yeah yeah, be safe, all that.” Jordie isn’t looking at them as he skirts the room towards the door. But he does look up at the door, focusing on Tyler’s face. “Seguin—remember what I said.”

“Yes sir!” Tyler salutes, and Jordie rolls his eyes and shuts the front door firmly behind him.

When Tyler turns back around, Jamie’s watching him, and Tyler wants to bottle that look and keep it forever, the heat of it, the need and the want and how it’s Jamie doing it. “Yeah?” he says, though, because he’ll never not be a little shit about this stuff.

“I heard blowing me was on the table,” Jamie says, and Tyler has to laugh because Jamie is about as unsubtle as him and it makes everything so much easier.

“It could be,” he agrees, licking his lips again to make Jamie look. Jamie swears and grabs his wrist, dragging him towards his room. Tyler lets himself be dragged, because Jamie exerting all his strength is getting him going pretty well. He hasn’t slept with many guys who are maybe-even-though-he-won’t-admit-it stronger than him. He’s a fan.

Jamie gets the door closed, then he’s got his hands on Tyler’s hips again, drawing him in to kiss him, long and deep. Tyler lets him, but he wants Jamie’s dick in his mouth yesterday, so pretty quickly he turns it filthy, fucking his tongue into Jamie’s mouth and swallowing his moan as he backs Jamie up towards the bed.

Jamie’s hands are on his ass, then they’re moving up, to his shirt, tugging it off. No fumbling for Jamie, Tyler notes with approval, and he shimmies out of his shirt quickly, then, wanting to minimize the time when he’s not touching Jamie, strips out of his pants and boxers too. He doesn’t make it as much of a tease as he can, because he’s impatient and there will be time for that later. It’s an odd thought he might linger on if he’s not already dealing with how Jamie’s looking at his naked body, that there will be a next time for sure.

But right now, there are better things to think about, like how Jamie’s staring. Tyler cocks his hips, lets him look. “Like what you see?” he asks.

Jamie rolls his eyes. “Yeah, you’re really fucking hot, we all know that.” His scorn would be a lot more believable if he wasn’t obviously hard and also obviously staring.

Tyler smirks, and he closes the distance between him and Jamie. “It’d be hotter if you were naked too,” he suggests, and Jamie snorts.

“That’s not a good line, Tyler.”

It doesn’t put Tyler off. He doesn’t have good lines, necessarily; he has lines that work.

“Yeah, but you’re going to get naked,” he points out, and runs his hands under Jamie’s shirt. Jamie hesitates, and Tyler hums, kissing him again. That’ll never get old. “Nothing I haven’t seen before,” he says, a centimeter away from Jamie’s lips.

“It’s different,” Jamie replies, but he reaches down and strips off his shirt. It’s a lot of skin all at once, and damn, he was right. It is different here, when Tyler’s allowed to gape, allowed to run his hands over Jamie’s back and shoulders and chest and feel it. Jamie shivers under his touch, even before Tyler reaches his nipples and Jamie full on shudders. Tyler gets the feeling—Jamie’s hands are on him, and he can’t concentrate on anything with his palms against Tyler’s back, his ass, tugging him closer so Jamie can kiss him again.

Kissing is good. Kissing is great. Sucking Jamie’s dick would be better, and Tyler remembers that eventually. “Sit,” he says, pulling himself away only be reminding himself that there’s a treat coming. He’s seen Jamie’s dick. He knows it’ll be good.

Jamie drops to bed. He looks drunk, flushed and hazy-eyed and messy, and Tyler wants to keep him like that always.

He drops to his knees to do just that. Jamie’s quiet “fuck,” is very loud in the room.

Tyler grins into Jamie’s thigh, as he undoes the buttons on Jamie’s jeans. It doesn’t take long to pull them off and down, along with his boxers, and—yep. Tyler licks his lips again. Jamie’s dick is as pretty and big as he thought it would be.

“Tyler…” Jamie breathes, and he’s looking at Tyler like he can’t believe this is happening and Tyler’s the best and only thing in the world, which starts something hot in Tyler’s dick and somewhere he thinks might be his heart too.

Tyler smirks at him, then gets down to work. He is undeniably very good at this, and he wants to blow Jamie’s mind. He wants to make Jamie fall apart and forget that anyone else every existed, wants to get him loud and unrestrained and the person he is when he forgets the world is watching.

He’s not sure if he quite gets there, and Jamie’s not really loud, but he is responsive, all quiet gasps and his fingers curling in the sheets next to his hips, his knuckles white. Sometime Tyler will let him grab his head and keep him there, but that’s not really first time material, and doesn’t let Tyler show off like he wants to, so instead he keeps Jamie in place with a hand on his hip and goes to town.

“Fuck, Ty, you’re so—fuck, this is so—,” Jamie’s murmuring, quiet but constant, then, “I’m gonna—Tyler—”

It’s cute that he thinks he needs the warning, but of course Jamie’s polite; Tyler just sucks and moves his hand on Jamie’s dick faster and then Jamie’s coming with a low, drawn out sound that might be Tyler’s name.

Tyler swallows it down, wipes what he didn’t get off with the back of his mouth, then settles back on his heels and grins up at Jamie. 

Jamie is a mess, sweaty and lost and totally fucked out, and Tyler pats his knee. “Alive?”

“Barely,” Jamie tells him, and grabs at his arm to pull him up. “Come here.”

He tugs and Tyler goes, lets him pull him back onto the bed with him. He’s really fucking hard and has been for what feels like hours—probably since Jamie decided they were winning that game come hell or high water, at the very least since he’d gotten Jamie against the door—and he might be happy just like, rubbing off against one of Jamie’s thighs because they’re big enough to do that, but instead Jamie pushes him onto his back, then props himself up over him. He’s not quite pinning him down, but he’s not not pinning him down either, and the way he’s looking at Tyler—Tyler shifts, turned on and impatient and almost uncomfortable under that look.

“Jamie,” he moans, and Jamie grins, a hint of wickedness to it that generally only comes out on the ice.

“Yeah?”

“Fucking—do something before I do,” Tyler tells him, and Jamie shakes his head.

“You got your turn,” he says, and kisses Tyler again. It’s—god, it’s good, but Tyler wants pressure on his dick and he wants to get off and Jamie’s weighing him down and he feels enveloped by Jamie, by everything. He’s been with big guys before, and big guys who he let pin him down and push him around a little, but it’s never been like this.

Finally, Jamie relents, and somehow he has a hand around Tyler’s dick. It’s—fuck Tyler’s dreamed of it but it’s so good, Jamie’s got good big hands and he’s kissing Tyler as he strokes him off and biting at his skin like he’s claiming him and murmuring about how good he is and Tyler knows he’s being loud, begging and moaning Jamie’s name and shameless about it because he’s so close but Jamie’s not quite giving him enough pressure to get there.

“Jamie, fuck,” he moans, when Jamie finishes kissing him and moves to nuzzle at his neck. “I’m so close.”

“Yeah?” Jamie says with a hint of smugness, his hand still moving, inexorable, and then his voice changes, gets a hint of the captain voice, and his hand tightens. “Come then, Ty, you can come for me.”

Tyler does as if on cue, his head falling back as Jamie strokes him through it.

When he’s totally spent, Jamie grabs the nearest piece of clothing to wipe his hand off, then collapses next to him, close enough that the whole line of their side is touching.

“Well, you’re never going to be able to use your captain voice on me at practice again,” Tyler says, when he gets his breath back.

Jamie lets out an exhale that’s half a laugh. “I have a captain voice?”

“You know you do.”

Jamie rolls onto his side, so he’s looking at Tyler. He’s probably looking seriously, but it’s hard to pay attention when Jamie is stretched out and naked and very satisfied looking next to Tyler.  There’s a bruise on his neck from Tyler’s teeth. That’s his. He’s the only one who gets to see Jamie like this, who gets to take Jamie apart like he did. He’s the only one Jamie will look at like this, warm and smug and with a simmering sort of hot appreciation. It’s a vicious thought, more intense than Tyler’s used to outside of the rink, but Tyler leans into it. He thinks he likes it.

“So,” Jamie says, slowly. “You’re serious.”

“Rarely.”

“About me, I mean.” Jamie’s watching him, with that look he’s somehow had since the beginning, like he can see through Tyler’s bullshit. “You wouldn’t have done this is you weren’t.”

It’s a fact, in Jamie’s mouth. That’s a lot of trust, and it settles in Tyler like a good pass into his stick. Jamie trusts him not to be messing with him, despite everything he knows about Tyler.

Tyler swallows. It’s not quite afterglow, that trust, but it’s not not afterglow, either. “Yeah,” he agrees, and stretches ostentatiously, so Jamie will keep looking at him like that. “I’ve been, like, hell, Jamie. I know I don’t usually do this, but…” he can’t look at Jamie as he says this, so he looks at the pillow instead. “Yeah, I’m serious. Fuck, Jamie. How could I not be about you?”

“Oh.” It’s so soft, Tyler has to look—and Jamie is just beaming at Tyler, the smile crinkling in the corner of his eyes, still with that hint of surprise.

“Seriously?” Tyler props himself up on his elbow. “I have been so obvious, man. Like, everyone who has ever seen us knows how I feel about you. Random waitresses know how I feel about you. I think people I hooked up with know how I feel about you. Definitely everyone on the team knows. Anyone you’ve ever talked to in a bar knows. Your brother already gave me the shovel talk. You honestly didn’t notice?”

“I mean, I noticed you were flirting, but you flirt with everyone.” Jamie shrugs. “It didn’t occur to me that you might mean it.”

“I am going to kill your ex,” Tyler announces, and Jamie makes a face that probably should be irritated but doesn’t make it there.

“No, it’s not—I mean, yeah, but come on, Tyler.” Jamie shrugs as best he can while on his side. “You’re ridiculously hot and you always know what to say and everything comes so easily to you and—” Tyler is trying to listen, he really is, but also it’s hard to concentrate when Jamie’s naked and praising him like this. “Segs.”

“What? I’ll listen when you start saying shit I don’t know.” Jamie punches his side, light enough that it doesn’t hurt, and Tyler laughs and shoves at him so he falls back onto his back. Tyler rolls with it, so he can prop himself up over Jamie. “And just because that is all very true doesn’t mean that you’re not also a catch that I’ll be bragging about from now until forever.”

Jamie makes a face that is obviously him realizing just what being Tyler’s boyfriend might mean. “Segs.”

“Think I can insta this?” Tyler asks, going for his phone. Like he expected, Jamie grabs him and tugs him back, laughing even as he protests. “Snapchat, then! It won’t last!”

“Only if its tasteful,” Jamie tells him, pulling Tyler close. Apparently he is a cuddler. Tyler hasn’t really cuddled before with people he slept with, but he can dig this.

“And you’re judging the tastefulness of something?”

“I have taste!”

“Your idea of taste is nice sweatpants.”

“And yours is a tank top,” Jamie retorts. He looks very proud of this retort, and still very wrecked, and it means Tyler really doesn’t have a choice but kissing him again. And then they’re both still naked and they have the apartment to themselves, and really, it seems like a waste not to use it.

 

The room is dark when Tyler lets himself in, but Tyler’s had plenty of practice moving through Jamie’s room in the dark in the past month, and so he doesn’t trip on anything as he moves through it, stripping off his clothes as he goes. It’s not too late, so he doesn’t even feel guilty when he gets on the bed and there’s a,

“Tyler?” from Jamie, muffled and quiet from the blankets.

“It’s me,” Tyler bypasses lying on the bed to climbing over Jamie’s hips to straddle him. Jamie props himself up on his elbows. He doesn’t look like he was quite asleep, but he’s bare chested and clearly on his way there. Tyler likes all Jamies, but this is one only he gets to see, so it’s one of his favorites.

“You’re early,” Jamie observes. Tyler glances at the clock. It’s barely one. “I figured you’d be out late.”

Tyler shrugs. The party had been fun, but then it had gotten to the point where he’d rather be here, with Jamie. “Have a good night?”

“Yeah, hung with Jordie and some of the guys, it was fun.”

“Fun, hm?” Tyler rocks his hips, just enough to be a tease. “How fun?”

“Not as much fun as if you’d been there,” Jamie says honestly, and Tyler grins at that.

“I’m here now.”

“You are,” Jamie agrees. He’s watching Tyler move with unabashed interest. Tyler is working on making him as shameless as Tyler is; it’s a long road but one Tyler’s willing to walk. Especially as it means lots of sex for him. “You have a good night?”

“Good, but something was missing.”

“If you say my dick, we’re not fucking tonight.”

That’s a lie if Tyler’s ever heard one. Jamie’s never been able to turn him down. Or well, not since he knew what was on offer. “He’s about six one, big guy, really fucking hot, looks like he could throw you over his shoulder and carry you off but he’s too nice to do it.”

In the shadows of the room, Tyler can see Jamie blushing again. It’s been Tyler’s new favorite pastime, getting that blush out of Jamie with compliments. “Haven’t seen him,” Jamie replies though, straight-faced. “Maybe you’re in the wrong apartment.”

“Hm, then. You’ll have to do.” Tyler grins down at Jamie, who’s grinning up at him, so soft and warm and pleased.

A bang on the wall interrupts them. “Oh my god, stop flirting and fuck so I can get to sleep!” comes Jordie’s yell. “These walls aren’t that thin.”

“You’re just jealous we’re getting some!” Tyler yells back. 

“I’m getting a spray bottle, I swear!” Jordie yells. Jamie’s just giggling uncontrollably now, which shakes Tyler enough that he falls over, has to catch himself with his arms on either side of Jamie’s head.

“Hey,” Jamie murmurs, his laughter fading. “I’m glad you’re here early.” He brings one hand up, to cup the back of Tyler’s head, to bring him down to kiss Tyler, long and slow and comfortable, like it never occurred to him not to trust what Tyler might be up to at the party, that Tyler might not have come back to him. It had never occurred to Tyler either, he realizes, falling into the kiss; he’d never questioned this tether that lets him go out and party and tugs him back to Jamie, to this center.

“Yeah,” Tyler agrees into Jamie’s mouth, settling against him so he can feel Jamie’s heartbeat against his skin. “Same.”