Pairing/Characters: Jack Johnson/Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson/Sidney Crosby, Dustin Brown, Matt Greene, Wayne Simmonds, Anze Kopitar
Dedication: herwhereabouts, for all the encouragement/enabling. early_afternoon andbackcheck for babbling about the Kings with me.
Disclaimer: It's all lies!
Author's Notes: This is set just after the 2010 Vancouver Olympics where Doughty won gold with Team Canada and Johnson won silver with Team USA. Johnson and Crosby were teammates at Shattuck-St. Mary's for a year, where they became good friends. They were also roommates at the 2005 NHL Draft. Who are these guys?
Tangled Up in Blue
Drew Doughty was annoying.
He had an annoying smirk, an annoying aura of calm no matter what was happening around him, an annoying laugh, an annoying fondness for country music and worst of all--an annoying gold medal around his neck.
He wasn’t actually wearing his medal at the time, but it didn’t really matter; I could still see it when I looked at his chest. I could practically see the glint of the heavy gold when he turned around.
I looked up to see Drew staring back at me, a quizzical expression on his face.
"What?" I responded, irritated that he’d caught me looking at him. Or maybe just irritated that he was talking to me.
Drew blinked at me. He looked like he was going to say something else, and I frowned, ready to yell at him if he gave me the smallest excuse, but then he shrugged and skated away.
Coach told us the D pairings for practice and my shitty morning just got worse; he'd paired me up with Drew. I knew the Olympics were over and done with, and we were supposed to forget about them and focus on the rest of the season and get back to the grind, but I couldn’t do it; I couldn’t stop thinking about what could have been and how close we were to winning it all.
I looked over at Brownie, but it was hard to tell what he was thinking. You couldn’t really talk to him or read his expression to figure out what his state of mind was. You had to watch the way he played and practice didn’t count. I remember him sitting at his locker after the gold medal game, staring at the ground for ten minutes before he flung his helmet to the ground and buried his head in his hands. Was he still pissed off?
Or was I the only one who couldn’t let things go?
I tried to focus, tried to skate hard, tried to control my passes and my shots, but nothing was working. Coach was yelling at me and I started to tune him out until he said, "Just watch Drew do it; just like that---that’s what I want you to do."
I’m not sure how successful I was at imitating Drew’s perfect moves, but I did manage to shatter a pane of glass with a slapshot that missed high.
After practice, Drew took the seat next to me on the team bus and I got my earphones out, trying to stuff them in my ears before he could start talking to me, but I wasn’t quick enough.
"Hey Jack, want to grab lunch when we get back to the hotel?" He smiled his annoying little smile at me, and I felt like punching him in the face.
"No," I answered, trying to come up with an excuse; nothing came to mind so I ended up just silently glaring at him.
"No?" he asked finally in disbelief.
"I have plans," I said, knowing that it sounded like complete bullshit because nobody ever has plans in Dallas.
Drew was about to respond, but my phone beeped, indicating that I'd gotten a text. I pulled my phone out and read the message:
Hi jack, it's your mom! I'll give you anal tonight. Love you, mom
I stared at my phone, trying to decipher what she could possibly have meant, but was rudely interrupted by Drew laughing loudly right into my ear. I punched him hard in the shoulder, trying to get him to stop, but he just laughed louder.
He stood up, turned around and started yelling, "Hey, guys, Jack's mom wants to give him--" I slapped my hand over his mouth to stop him from finishing his sentence and hissed, "Shut the fuck up!"
Drew grabbed my wrist and pushed my hand away as he started giggling. "What the fuck, man? Is your mom going to show up at our hotel tonight with a strap-on?"
"I just got her an iPhone, okay? She's not really good with the keyboard yet, or something." I felt my face starting to get red.
"Uh huh. I guess I won't ask you about your plans again." He grinned and got his earphones out too, nodding to the music as he leaned back in his seat.
At least his laugh wasn't completely annoying.
By the end of our game against the Stars that night, Drew as a whole had become much less annoying. A 5-1 win made life in general less annoying. Drew and I had worked together poorly in practice that morning, but something about getting back into a game situation brought out the best in us. It was like we'd picked up where we left off in Vancouver, except that we were playing for each other instead of against each other.
I started to remember that I'd only found him mildly annoying before the Olympics, and we'd actually had some good conversations - all hockey-related - a few times. I'd preferred to just avoid him if I could, though. It bothered me to see how easy everything was for him; it wasn't so much that I was jealous, but I just didn't think it was right that hockey should be so effortless for anyone. Hockey should be a tough sport; something that's earned and worked at constantly, something that you bleed for.
I didn't fall the first time I put skates on when I was a little boy, but I'd worked my ass off to get where I was and I wouldn't have had it any other way.
"Hey JJ, want to get a drink when we get back?"
Drew was smiling as he put his jacket on, shaking his unruly mess of wet hair and spraying the guys around with him droplets of water as they prepared to exit the building. Even when he was fully dressed in his suit, there was still something stubbornly casual about him, as if he was secretly wearing flip flops under his dress shoes.
"Sure, I could use one," I grinned. "Or two."
"Hey Brownie, want to come, old man?" Drew threw a towel at him to get his attention. He scowled in response, but nodded. "Sure, if you're buying."
"You're such a cheapass," Greener said fondly, ruffling Brownie's hair as he walked past him.
"Hey, I have two kids to feed," he whined. "And I'm not talking about these two idiots."
"What?" Drew feigned outrage. "Oh, I'm definitely not buying now."
Despite his protests, Brownie did join us when we headed out to a bar after we got back to the hotel. We didn't go too far, just went into the first place we found that didn't look half bad. I just wanted to grab a couple of beers then go to bed, and I think the other guys had the same idea as me.
We sat down at the bar - Drew in the middle - and I ordered a Sam Adams. Brownie got one as well, but Drew asked what single malt Scotch they had. The bartender stared at him briefly, then shrugged. "We got Jim Beam and Jack Daniels."
Drew looked disappointed and asked for a Sam Adams instead, sighing.
"Since when are you into drinking Scotch?" I asked.
"Since my buddy gave me a bottle of Glenlivet yesterday. That stuff is really fucking good."
I was skeptical. "I don't really like whiskey."
"It's not like other whiskey. It's really smooth; you guys should come over and try some."
"I don't know how much better it could be, but I guess we'll see." The bartender placed our beers in front of us and I took a long sip from mine. That was all I needed after a hard-fought game, a nice cold beer.
"I gotta say, it feels really weird sitting here having a beer with you," Brownie said, looking at Drew.
"Why?" he asked.
"Because two days ago, I wanted to kill you," he said calmly, setting his mug down.
"Feels pretty weird for me, too," I agreed.
"Wow." Drew looked genuinely surprised. "I mean, that's just--that's not how I felt at all."
"Really? So how did you feel about us?" I asked.
He thought for a moment, staring into his beer. "I guess I was just doing what I was doing; I wasn't thinking about you guys."
I bristled, and Brownie didn't look too happy either, but there was something in the tone of Drew's voice that made it clear he didn't mean that he had taken us lightly. He just meant that he hadn't seen us as the enemy because he never looked across the ice in any game and saw enemies. I guess he just saw guys he had to stop from getting to his net and guys he had to get around to get to the other net.
"Yeah, well, fuck you too," Brownie grumbled, draining the rest of his beer. He raised his arm to order another, but his phone rang and he pulled it out of his pocket, checking to see who the call was from. He looked up at us and said, "It's my wife. I gotta take this."
Brownie went over to an empty table against the back wall to continue his conversation and Drew and I ordered another round of beers.
"I don't want to talk about this anymore. It's fucking depressing," I sighed.
"You did good tonight, JJ," Drew said, patting my cheek lightly. "And you did good in Vancouver," he added, more quietly.
I should have been annoyed, but I guess I just didn't have the energy for it that night.
We lost our next game in Nashville, and we lost the one after that at home to the Habs. I guess it was our come down from the high of the Olympics. I didn't believe I'd be tired, but I was; I'd been going full throttle for two weeks and I couldn't sustain it. Brownie did his captainly best to keep going, but I could tell that even he was struggling a little.
Drew seemed mostly unaffected by the post-Olympic blues as far his play went. Maybe it was because he'd won and that was sustaining him that extra bit. Losing those two games bugged him, though. His annoying smirk didn't make as much of an appearance as it usually did, and he snapped at me a couple of times on the bench during the Habs game when he had to repeat himself to get his point across. I snapped back, of course, but we weren't really mad at each other, just frustrated in general. I think he hated losing as much as I did.
"I'm sorry," he said to me later while Kopi was talking to the media. "I shouldn't have yelled at you earlier."
I looked over at him, a little surprised. There was no need for him to apologize to me at all. We all got impatient and pissed off during tough games, and it was understood that it was nothing personal even if it sounded that way in the heat of the moment.
"No worries," I said, pulling my undershirt off. "I don't even remember what you said."
Drew smiled. "Hey, you want to find out what single malt Scotch tastes like?"
"Maybe," I said, quickly averting my eyes as he removed his jockstrap. I'd been in locker rooms thousands of times, but I'd never gotten rid of the fear that somebody would catch me staring, or notice that I was trying too hard not to look. I wondered if the fear would ever go away, no matter how long I played.
"Come on, I don't want to drink by myself. And I could really use a drink tonight." He widened his eyes and gave me what I assumed was his best puppy dog expression.
"Get Simmer to drink with you," I said, stripping off the rest of my equipment.
"He doesn't like scotch, but that's because he sucks."
"Hey, I can hear you!" Simmer bellowed. He was standing right next to Drew and punched him in the shoulder.
"Seriously, you're missing out if you don't try it, Jack," he continued, ignoring Simmer and rubbing his shoulder lightly where he'd been punched.
"Okay, okay," I said, giving in. "But you've built it up so much I'm probably going to be disappointed."
"You won't be," he promised, grinning and completely unaware of the jockstrap Simmer was about to throw at his head.
Drew hadn't exaggerated about the scotch. I'd had a shot of Jim Beam when I was fifteen and decided that whiskey wasn't for me, but the stuff he'd poured for me was a totally different animal. It went down smooth and the aftertaste was amazing.
"So what's this called?" I asked, setting my empty shot glass back on the table.
"Glenlivet," he answered, refilling our glasses. "Or maybe 'The Glenlivet'. That sounds weird."
"Well, I gotta say you were right. This is good shit. Thanks, man." We raised our shot glasses to each other and downed them. It felt like a waste, like I was drinking too fast to really enjoy it, but I couldn't help myself.
"No problem, I'm just happy you appreciate it, unlike some people," he said, glancing up in the direction of Simmer's room.
He poured us some more scotch and we leaned back into his couch, sipping more slowly this time. We sat in a comfortable silence for a while, the adrenaline from the game slowly fading away.
"I'm tired," I said, not really directing my words at Drew. "I want to go lay on a beach for a day."
"You could do that," Drew said, laying his head back on top of the couch and staring up at the ceiling. "Head over to Venice Beach after practice and do it."
"Not that kind of beach. I want to be somewhere by myself, with nobody around for miles. Maybe some private island in the South Pacific or something."
"Sounds nice. I want one of those private island things too."
"You can share mine as long as you stay out of sight," I said, generously, reaching for the bottle to top off our glasses.
Drew and I kept talking and taking turns to pour more scotch. He told me that being in LA was tough; he liked the fact that you could wear shorts year round and he'd accumulated favorite restaurants and bars and clubs, but there was just something missing for him. He felt like he was in a bubble, in his own world separate from the world around him and he didn't like it. I understood what he meant. I was settled in and I had my own favorite places: beaches and department stores and bars (I didn't tell him which ones). But I felt a little disconnected, and I think he felt the same way.
Before we knew it, most of the bottle was gone and it was almost one o'clock in the morning. I stood up to leave and I knew right away that I wasn't okay to drive. The scotch had done a number on me.
"You can crash here if you want," Drew offered before I could say anything. I nodded and sat back down.
"Hey, since you're staying, you want to finish the rest of this?" he asked, picking the bottle up and swishing it around a little.
"Sure." I held my glass out to him and he spilled a little on my hand as he poured.
I licked my hand clean as Drew stared at me. I didn't know why he was staring, it wasn't like he didn't see grosser things than that at least ten times a day being with the guys.
"Hey Jack, why don't you like me?"
"Uhh, what?" I frowned. "Where did that come from?"
"Everyone else, you're okay with them. But me; you're different to me. So why don't you like me?" He was looking right at me, drunk but serious.
"You know why, gold medal boy," I chuckled, looking down at my knees to avoid his gaze.
"That's not it--it started before that." He sighed and closed his eyes. "I don't know why you have a problem with me; I've always liked you."
Something in the tone of his voice was off. It was the way he lingered on the word "liked", as if he meant something else. I opened my mouth, knowing that I should have just kept it shut, but I was too drunk to be smart. "It's not your fault, you... you just--I don't know, you just, everything just seems so easy for you, you know? You're always yourself, and you're always totally fine with it. And I can't do that."
"You can't? Why not?" Drew rested his hand lightly on my thigh, just above my knee, and I started to panic. I'd said too much and I was trapped, pinned down by his hand and his cool gaze.
"Because I'm..." I trailed off because drunk as I was, I couldn't say the words that I'd never said to anyone before. I needed to get out of there; I needed to escape.
And then his hand was on my cheek, turning my face towards him as he leaned in to kiss me. He pulled back, looking at me uncertainly as if he was trying to gauge my reaction and I'd never seen him that unsure before; the guy who always seemed so sure of himself, the guy who always seemed to have all the answers inside him--that guy was looking at me with the first question I'd ever seen on his face.
I didn't hesitate; I wrapped my arms around him and kissed him hard, giving him the answer I knew he wanted.
I didn't feel all that great the next morning.
The light streaming through the curtains woke me up and I stared at them, feeling confused. It had been months since I'd been woken up by sunlight in the morning; I'd put thick vampire drapes up in my bedroom to avoid that very problem.
It slowly dawned on me that I wasn't in my bedroom.
I checked the other side of the bed, a little nervous about who or what I'd see there and found Drew sleeping on his side peacefully, despite being naked and completely uncovered. I would have felt cold looking at him if I hadn't been buried under the covers I'd stolen from him.
Seeing him brought back some memories of what we'd done the night before. I'd like to say that I remembered it all, that it was an amazing and mind-blowing first time with him, but the best I could do was the general feeling that it had been nice and nothing had gone horribly wrong.
His eyelids fluttered a little and I immediately panicked at the thought of him waking up and wanting to talk. It had been a long time since I'd woken up next to a person I couldn't just say goodbye to and then never have to see again. It was what I was used to, and it was easy, and I wasn't in a state where I could handle anything more than easy.
I got out of bed as slowly as I could, careful not to jostle him as I looked around the room for my clothes. They lay on the ground in a trail from the door to the bed - shirt, jeans, boxers - and I tiptoed over, bending over to pick up each item. I didn't want to walk out into the hallway naked in case Simmer was out there so I moved stealthily into the adjoining bathroom, closed the door and got dressed in there.
I took a deep breath. I had never even suspected that Drew was into guys, let alone that he was into me. And then it occurred to me that maybe he hadn't been into me before he downed his sixth shot of scotch. I was even more motivated to get out of there as quickly as I could.
I stole a quick glance at him as I made my way across the floor to freedom and I couldn't help but think that he looked good just laying there, stretched lazily over the bed, the curve of his ass just the perfect size and shape for me to rest my hand on. The night we'd spent together came back to me in flashes; him on top of me, fucking me slowly; me on top of him, much less patient and pinning his wrists above his head. I had to get out of there; I put my hand on the doorknob and turned it, inching the door open.
"Hey, where are you going?"
I turned around and Drew was slowly sitting up in bed, rubbing his eyes. He smiled and flipped his hair back from his face. "Why are you leaving?"
"I uhh... I gotta go home. Before practice." It didn't make any sense, but I had to make up something that sounded like an excuse.
Drew frowned. "Are you--hey, are you doing the walk of shame?"
"What? No!" I said indignantly as I tried to think of something else to say, but failed. "Maybe."
He laughed and leaned forward, smiling. "Please don't go. I want you to stay with me. Come back to bed."
He was being Drew, cool and calm and annoyingly charming. We'd had sex the night before and he wasn't freaked out or awkward and he still wanted me to stay. All the worry and reluctance I had about talking to him melted away when I saw his smile and the look in his eyes. He seemed happy and I was pretty sure that I had something to do with that.
I walked over to him as he reached for the covers. He grinned up at me. "Hurry up and get into bed so you can warm me up. Some idiot stole all the covers from me last night."
I stripped down to my boxers and got into bed, easing under the sheets with him. "Really? What an asshole. I'll kick his ass for you if you want."
"Nah, he made up for it by doing some other stuff."
"Yeah? What kind of other stuff?" I asked softly, moving closer to stroke his hair.
Drew didn't say anything in response, kissing me lightly instead, and it felt even better doing it sober. Just lying with him like that felt so good. I was aware of every part of me that was touching a part of him, and I hadn't had this kind of comfortable closeness in a while. It had been a series of one night stands where I'd wanted to get as far away as I could from the other person after I'd come. But this was something more. Stupid, annoying, perfect Drew was pulling me closer to him and I liked it.
"When you said you always liked me..." I started to ask between kisses, letting the rest of the question fade away.
"I always liked you, but I could tell you didn't like me." He slid his hand down the side of my body and I bit my lip in anticipation, but he darted his hand over to start tickling my tummy instead.
"Stop that!" I laughed, grabbing his wrist and pushing his hand away. I rolled on top of him and kissed him through our laughter. "You still think I don't like you?"
"Hmm, I don't know. There's got to be something I can do to find out for sure." He wrapped his legs around my waist, bucking up against me and I inhaled sharply, pushing back against him.
The only thing that saved us from missing practice completely was Simmer knocking loudly on the door later, threatening to come in and drag Drew's lazy ass out by his ankle.
Practice wasn't fun that morning. It usually wasn't fun the morning after a game where it was obvious we could have done better, but it definitely wasn't fun when you still had a low grade hangover and wanted nothing more than to get back to what you were doing an hour earlier.
Drew was leaning against the boards, catching his breath and looking uncharacteristically grumpy. I guess he felt the same way I did. I shot him a quick smile and he brightened a little.
Coach told us he was splitting Drew and I up; he was pairing him with Scuds and me with Sean O'Donnell because Drew and I just didn't work well together. Drew snorted when he finished his sentence and I had to cover my mouth to stop myself from cracking up. A tiny part of me was disappointed, but I did think it would work better to not have the two of us offensive guys paired up, stepping on each other's toes so to speak.
Simmer skated over to stretch beside us, beaming like he was having the best morning ever. "So are Tweedledum and Tweedledee feeling any better?"
Drew and I swore at him half-heartedly in response.
"What's wrong with them?" Brownie asked, right in front of us.
"Oh, they drank a bottle of scotch and then they had drunken sex all night."
I was looking down when Simmer spoke - in the middle of a lunge to stretch my hamstrings - and I threw my head back up, seized by a mini heart attack.
Drew just started laughing. "Yeah, and then he hogged the covers afterwards."
Brownie stared at Simmer, frowning in confusion, and Simmer shrugged. "I don't know, man. When I went up to my room last night, there was a full bottle of scotch on the table and JJ was around. This morning there was an empty bottle and JJ was still around, sleeping in Dewey's room."
I looked around at the other guys, still panicked, but after the initial chuckles subsided, everyone had just gone back to their stretching routines. I started to calm down, releasing the breath I hadn't been aware that I was holding.
"Aren't you going to defend yourself?" Brownie asked, playfully tapping my calf with his stick.
"He can't," Greener said loudly from somewhere behind me. "He always steals the covers from those girls he brings back to our room." His face suddenly popped up over my shoulder, startling me. "Not that I mind seeing them naked, buddy."
"Jesus Christ, too close!" I shouted, dodging away from him. Drew, Brownie, Simmer and Greener were all looking at me with mild amusement. So maybe I did get cold in the middle of the night sometimes. But Greener was exaggerating grossly, and I was beginning to feel a little persecuted.
"I'm not putting up with this anymore," I said defiantly, skating away from them to the other side of the stretching group, ending up next to Kopi. He turned to me and frowned. "You don't look so good today, JJ."
I couldn't bring myself to say anything in response.
I was thinking about stuff I needed to pick up from the supermarket when I left El Segundo; Drew and Simmer had very little food at their place that wasn't full of sugar, refined carbs or trans fats. All I'd been able to scrounge up for breakfast was an egg white scramble (made from his last egg), half a glass of whole milk (he'd used the rest of the carton to drown his frosted flakes) and a highly dubious banana. I was starving.
"You look like you're deep in thought about something." Drew was walking by my side, adjusting his baseball cap and squinting in the bright mid-morning sun.
I shrugged. "Just thinking about going to the store. Hey, you should come with me; I'll help you pick out some actual food."
"That sounds very romantic," he said, grinning. "Hey, pretty funny what Simmer said earlier, huh?"
"No! Not funny. Not funny at all! I thought he heard us or something and he was telling everyone." I frowned at the memory of how I'd felt earlier.
Drew shrugged. "He probably did hear us. But he wouldn't have known what he was hearing anyway. Or, you know, wanted to know what he was hearing."
"Nobody expects a teammate to be gay. They wouldn't believe it unless they saw me actually giving you a blowjob or something."
"I'd rather not test that theory out, if we can avoid it." We'd reached my car and I tossed my bag into the back seat, then closed the door and leaned against it.
"Even if they did find out, it wouldn't be a problem." Drew nudged me aside and tossed his bag into the back seat as well. It appeared that he was taking me up on my offer to go to the supermarket.
"Are you kidding? They would freak out," I said incredulously.
He tilted his head. "Who exactly would freak out?"
I thought for a while, going through the list of guys on our team. "Brownie."
"He's one of your best friends. You really think that would change if he found out you're attracted to guys?"
"I don't know, he's pretty religious." I crossed my arms. "Haven't you heard the names? The way the guys say it--it's like we're the worst possible thing to be."
"They're just words used as insults because it's what everyone else says." He lowered his voice and put his arm around my shoulder. "If he found out, you think Brownie would come up to you and call you a fag to your face?"
I flinched; he had just described the scenario that had been one of my greatest fears since I'd figured out I was gay. The entire team turning on me and hating me; losing hard-earned friendships in an instant.
Someone whistled loudly to our left. It was Simmer, looking impatiently at us. "Yo! Let's go already!"
"Just go without me. Jack's going to teach me how to go grocery shopping or something," Drew yelled back at him.
Simmer rolled his eyes so hard I could practically hear it. "Okay, see you at home then."
Drew waved at Simmer, then leaned back against my car as well, tilting his head back and closing his eyes to bask in the sun. He seemed so calm; he got angry sometimes, but his natural state was calm and I didn't know how he could be that way, dealing with the same things that I'd had to deal with through the years. He gave my hand a quick squeeze, turned to me and said, "People are better than you think they are."
I looked in his eyes and I could see that he really believed what he was saying, and I wished that I could believe it too.
In the end, I convinced Drew to make some substitutions for breakfast: lightly sweetened whole grain cereal instead of Frosted Flakes and 1% instead of whole milk. I tried to get him to add some protein, but he was too lazy to make eggs, and my other suggestions were shot down as being "gross", "scary" or "too healthy", which apparently was a bad thing in his world.
"Do you want to go to the beach?" he asked me in the dairy aisle.
"When? Next weekend?" I responded distractedly, trying to find the non-fat yogurt shelf.
"No," he laughed. "I mean after we're done grocery shopping."
"Oh." My immediate reaction to the idea was a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach, as if something would go wrong if I said yes. It made no sense - what could possibly go wrong? - but there it was, stopping me from saying anything more.
"Should I take that as a no?" Drew asked, eventually. "It's cool if you've got other stuff to do."
"No," I answered.
"Is that 'no, don't take it as a no' or 'no, I don't want to go'?"
"It's--" I paused. "I'm sorry, it's just a little weird for me."
"Going to the beach is weird?" he grinned.
I tried to figure out what was bothering me, and when I did, I realized that there were too many people walking through the dairy aisle for the kind of conversation I wanted to have with him. It was the middle of the day so it wasn't like we had a huge audience, but I led him over to an empty aisle anyway.
"It's weird going to the beach with you as a friend," I said, clearing my throat.
"I think somewhere around the time I started fucking you in the ass, we became a little more than friends," he said, matter-of-factly.
"I can't do 'more than friends'. I mean, I haven't."
"You haven't? What, you've never had a boyfriend?"
"I did once, but that was when I was a kid." I took a deep breath. "I have guy friends - teammates, college buddies - and they're off-limits; I don't think of them as people I can be attracted to. And there are the guys I meet at bars and clubs and I fuck them and then I never see them again."
Drew was quiet for a while, looking thoughtful. "And you don't know what to do with me."
I nodded. "I can't never see you again and you're my teammate and I want to fuck you."
"Ditto," Drew said, smiling. "Although that's one of the strangest things anyone's ever said to me."
"It just always felt too risky--having a relationship, I mean. It would mean being really careful, and the longer it went on, the higher the chances of someone finding out. It just didn't seem like it was worth it."
"Is that how you felt about your first boyfriend?" Drew asked. "Because he might have just sucked and you could have a much better relationship with someone else who would be worth it."
"Someone like you, you mean?" I said, grinning.
"Could be me, could be one of your college buddies, could be one of your one night stands. The point is, you should give it a shot. And you might as well start with me." He brushed his hair back from his face, looked pleased with himself.
I thought about what he said, whether it was enough to outweigh my misgivings, and I thought about how calm he looked standing there, and how if I kissed him right there in the store he would have just kissed me back and thought nothing of it. It drove me nuts sometimes how easy things seemed to be for him, but maybe easy was a choice he made.
"Maybe I should," I said, and it felt like it was worth it just to see the way he lit up when he heard me. "But let's stop at my place before the beach. I think you need to throw in a blowjob for me to be fully convinced."
"You got a deal," he said, laughing and holding his arm out for a handshake.
We never quite made it to the beach. A blowjob for me was followed by a blowjob for him, which was followed by laying in bed together just kissing and talking. Laying in bed together naked led to slow, lazy handjobs, stopping and starting a half-dozen times, but not in a way that was frustrating; it was trying to draw it out and make it last, needing to feel his hand on me for as long as possible.
I was a fuck and run kind of guy, and it was strange to not want to fuck and run. I was a kid the last time I'd wanted to just lay there with someone else after sex. But it was different with Drew; he made me want to stay.
By the time we'd dragged ourselves out of bed and showered, there wasn't much daylight left and neither of us felt like going out anymore. We played Madden instead, but I kept crushing Drew - he complained about how he ended up with the shitty controller, so we switched and I owned him anyway - so we ended up taking turns to play Battlefield: Bad Company 2, a new game I'd just picked up. We concluded that in a combat situation, Drew wouldn't be at the top of anyone's list of guys to send in.
I was still feeling lazy, so instead of cooking dinner, I let Drew talk me into ordering a pizza for dinner. My small victory was getting him to back off on getting the pepperoni. He decided to go home before Simmer started wondering about the longest grocery shopping trip in history and I settled back into my couch for another session of BC2, feeling for the first time since I'd moved into my house that my living room felt empty.
The next day was game day. Columbus was in town and we were leaving the morning after the game for a short road trip to Chicago and Dallas. Drew and I talked a little at morning skate and we decided that we were going to stick to our game day routines, which meant that we'd both be on our own until we showed up at the rink later that night.
I was happy to have the time on my own. Drew messed me up; it was a great way to be messed up, but it wasn't the way to prepare for a game. I felt like I was fifteen years old again, consumed by a schoolboy crush. I thought about how that had turned out, and it sobered me up a bit.
Right on cue, my phone rang and I swore when I saw the caller's name and remembered why he was calling.
"Hi. I just bought my plane ticket. I get into Chicago at 2:30; should I just give you a call when I get in?"
"Sure. Do you have a game tonight?" I asked, still feeling a little blindsided.
"Nah, I played yesterday. I'm off until Thursday. Are you playing tonight?" Sid sounded cheerful and relaxed, the opposite of my state.
"Yeah," I answered. "Blue Jackets."
"Well, good luck. I gotta go but I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"
"Thanks. I'll see you."
I hung up and started thinking about whether I should have told him about what had happened with me and Drew. It felt unfair to let him make the trip to Chicago without that knowledge. But he deserved to hear it from me in person; I owed him that at least. Even if it was just to let him punch me in the face and then get right back on a plane back to Pittsburgh.
Between thinking about Sid and Drew I was hopelessly distracted. I might as well have had Drew bent over my coffee table--at least that would have been more fun. I thought about what Sid would want from me the next day--the same thing he wanted every time he saw me. I thought about what Drew would say if he knew what we'd been doing for the past seven years.
I finally managed to quiet my mind long enough to take my pregame nap and I felt a lot better when I woke up. I'd be honest and be accountable for my actions and deal with whatever happened the best I could; everything else was out of my hands. It was a freeing realization.
Drew was sitting at his locker when I got to the rink, wearing his earphones and nodding his head slightly to the music. He smiled when he saw me and pulled one of his earbuds out. "Hey, do you have that photo of the funny road sign we saw last month? I want to show Brownie."
"Oh, the one about the zombies?" I asked, pulling my phone out to scroll through the photos.
"Yep, that's it," he confirmed. I handed him the phone and Brownie came over to look at it. They had a quick chuckle, and Drew was handing my phone back to me when it beeped, indicating I had a text message. He glanced at the message, frowning a little as he tried to read it, then burst into laughter, handing the phone over to Brownie, who also started laughing after he'd read the message.
"What? What's it say?" I asked, reaching for my phone, but Brownie had already passed my phone over to Greener who read the message with Simmer. They both dissolved into a synchronized giggling fit.
"Hey, give it back!" I went over to Greener, but he'd already tossed the phone to Kopi.
"Hey, Jack, does your mom know something we don't?" Greener gasped in between laughing fits.
I'd had about enough. I took a running tackle at Kopi - whose smile turned into mild fear when he saw me approaching - and I wrestled the phone out of his hands, finally getting the chance to read the message:
Hi jack, it's your mom! Good luck against the blue jacked tonight. Lick their asses! Love you, mom
I looked up at the guys, annoyed. Simmer was literally on the floor, laughing, Brownie's eyes were red and teary and Drew was bent over double, holding his stomach.
"Look, it's a new phone for her, okay? She still has issues with the auto-correct thing. She's not used to -" The guys just started laughing harder. "Okay, you know what? Fuck all of you. Fucking assholes."
I sat down to reply to my mom, trying to look angry, but I couldn't stop myself from smiling a little. Drew came over and ruffled my hair, smiling. "Your mom sure has interesting ideas about how to treat opposing teams."
"Keep talking and there's going to be no hot chocolate for you after the game," I said softly, finishing my reply and sending it.
"When you say hot chocolate..."
I looked up at him and grinned. "I don't mean hot chocolate."
We beat the Jackets 6-0 that night, which was a wonderful and terrible thing. Wonderful because we'd beaten them 6-0 and terrible because they decided that from them on, my mom was required to send me a "lick their asses" text before every game. I had to put Greener into a headlock to stop him from calling my mom.
Drew got some hot chocolate after the game.
If the Pens were playing us, or we were playing them, Sid and I would go to dinner together the night before. It didn't happen very often, but our teammates knew that we'd definitely spend time together if we had the opportunity. That was the part that everyone knew, the part the world could see.
The other part - the part that was hidden - was seedy motels, never the same place twice, fake names, check outs two hours after check ins, baseball caps and shades. It was just Sid who tried to hide his face; I'd laugh at him and say he was paranoid, but I wasn't the one with my face on billboards and in magazines. He'd insist that I use a fake name which I never understood because my real name was probably a better fake name than anything else I could have used.
Sid was tough to say no to, though, and so I found myself signing in as Alex Ovechkin to a shitty motel near Midway.
"Ovechkin? Seriously? What were you thinking?" Sid snapped at me when I got to the lobby door where he'd been waiting for me because he didn't want the clerk to see him. His eyes flashed with anger and I could tell he was simmering, his jaw clenched tight.
"I thought it was funny," I explained, putting my arm around his shoulder as we walked over to our room. "Come on, lighten up."
"Would it be funny if he saw me and made the connection? This isn't LA, Jack." He was unyielding, unwilling to relax into my arm.
I removed my arm and put my hand under his chin, forcing him to turn his head and face me. "You are such a fucktard. Ovechkin and Crosby checking into a motel room together sounds like the beginning of a horrible joke. Nobody would believe it."
The anger faded from his face and he gave me a small smile, not the big, confident smile you see in his endorsement ads and in the magazines, but the smile he used to have when he was a kid and happy to beat a level of Medal of Honor: Frontline.
I unlocked the room door and pushed it open, letting him in first. I'd barely stepped in the room when he slammed the door shut and pushed me hard against the wall, shoving his hand down my pants.
"Sid, wait-" I groaned loudly as he wrapped his hand around my dick, rubbing his thumb just under my dickhead, right where he knew I liked being touched. I grabbed his arm and - somewhat unwillingly - pushed it away, walking away from him to sit on the bed.
"What's wrong?" He sat down next to me, looking confused.
"I uhh..." I looked him right in his eyes. "After we got back from Vancouver, I slept with Drew Doughty."
He looked briefly hurt, but then he shook his head. "I don't care. I know it's not just the girls on the road; I know there's been guys too."
"He's not just a guy," I said, and Sid's eyes started to narrow. "I like him; I think it's going somewhere."
"Jesus, Jack, are you fucking stupid? He's your teammate." He spat the words out at me, sneering tone and condescension, and that was the old Sid too, the one who could be mean and spiteful when things didn't go his way.
"It'll be okay," I said, stinging a little from his words. "After all, I'm not you."
It was the wrong thing to say, and I regretted it the instant I said it. He wasn't the only one who regressed when we were together, and he wasn't the only one who used to be mean.
"Fine, do what you want, then. Fuck your life up. I don't care, just-" Sid paused, calming down a little. "Just give me this."
"I can't." I swallowed hard. "I can't do this with you and lie to him about it. I'd never tell him about you, I'd never tell anyone, swear to God. But I don't want to do this and have to lie."
"It wouldn't be a lie," he said. "This is a truth that isn't yours to tell; it doesn't belong to you, it belongs to me. You can fuck anyone you want, you could have anyone you want--I can't; I only have you."
His voice cracked at the end, and I hadn't thought about what it truly meant to be who he was. He was trapped, and he'd tell me he was trapped by the world, by the expectations and the pressure, but he was trapped by himself and what he'd chosen to be. I could see the pleading in his eyes, but I knew he'd never beg for anything, no matter how much he needed it. His pride had endured from his childhood.
"Shh, lie down," I said, kissing him lightly. "It's okay."
I pulled his shirt off and he kicked off his shoes and lay back on the bed, tilting his head down to watch me as I undid his jeans and pulled them off, along with his boxers. I kissed up along his thigh, starting just above his knee and he shivered as I stopped when I reached the crease of his thigh, licking slowly along it. He'd always liked that, and by the time my lips touched his dick, he was already fully hard.
Sid put his hands on my shoulders, stopping me and pulling me up to kiss me. He rolled on top of me and started fumbling impatiently with my belt, pushing my pants down. I pulled my shirt off and we were both completely naked, Sid nudging my legs apart just like he did that first time in my bedroom when we were fifteen, scared and excited and hungry for each other.
Later, when the light coming through the curtains had started to fade, and we were lying on our sides face to face, kissing lazily, he whispered, "I love you."
I started stroking his hair, unable to say anything because I didn't love him, not anymore. We'd both grown up and changed, even if we hadn't exactly moved on; we'd always be there for each other because of what we'd been at fifteen and nothing could take that away.
Then he smiled at me, and I looked into his eyes and I understood. He didn't love me anymore either, he just loved what we could be when we were together. We were in a place where he could be in love and be happy just being himself; no compromises, no lies, no need to keep his guard up all the time.
"I love you too. Forever and ever." I kissed him and I felt it for a moment, the way I felt the first time I said those words to him.
Sid beamed and I knew I'd done the right thing. We didn't talk as we got dressed, every piece of clothing bringing us closer to our real lives. By the time he left the room, he had become the loneliest man in the world again.
I got back to my room in the team hotel and found Greener watching some cartoon. He quickly turned the TV off when I came in and he looked a little sheepish, so it must have been something embarrassing. I wondered if it had been anime porn, but I realized that he wouldn't have been embarrassed about that.
"Hey, man." He nodded to me and sat up a little straighter in his bed.
"Hi. What are you up to?" I flopped onto my bed, stretching my arms and closing my eyes.
"Uhh, nothing much. Where'd you go?"
"Went to get a drink with an old friend," I said. "Michigan buddy."
"Oh. Anyone I know?"
"I don't think so," I said, smiling. "Hey, you hungry yet? Want to get dinner?"
"Sure," he said enthusiastically, getting out of bed. I had never heard Greener turn down an invitation to get food, ever. "You want to see if anyone else wants to go to?"
I knew that "anyone else" would include Drew and I didn't feel like talking to him or seeing him just yet. "Nah, let's just go. I don't want to wait for their slow asses."
Greener grabbed his wallet and coat and opened the door. I was about to follow him out, but curiosity got the better of me and I turned the TV on to see what he'd been watching and trying to hide from me.
"Seriously? The Little Mermaid?" I looked at him incredulously, starting to laugh.
"Oh shut the fuck up," he said, sourly. "Go lick someone's ass."
"Would you fuckers give it a rest already?" I turned the TV off and followed him outside.
We insulted each other pretty much the whole way down the elevator, out to the lobby, and in the cab on the way to the steakhouse. This was nothing out of the ordinary for road trips when it was just the two of us hanging out. Greener was also pretty content to be quiet when there was nothing to say - he wasn't one of those guys who felt they had to force conversation over silence - so we just had a comfortable dinner, giving me the chance to mull over what had happened that afternoon.
I'd spent most of my life living in the moment. I'd always worked towards the future and I was always aware what I had to do to get to my goals, but the actual practice of getting there involved not thinking too far ahead because that would kill you in hockey games. Being with Sid had always felt good, but being with him that day had been like having a mirror on my life, and I didn't want to have that life and future anymore.
I wanted something else because of Drew.
"You okay? You seem kinda' out of it," Greener said between bites of steak.
"Yeah. I was just thinking about how things turned out for me and my friend."
"Oh yeah, I know what you mean. One of my college buddies is in Doctors Without Borders now, helping people out in some villages in Africa or whatever. I used to shotgun beers with that guy!"
"I guess there are just some people out there who are willing to sacrifice for a greater cause," I said. "I get that."
"Yeah, it's pretty tough. His girlfriend's still in Grand Forks and he really misses her when he's over there. But you know, he made his choice; he'll live with it even if he's not happy sometimes."
I nodded, feeling better than I had before.
We lost the game against the Blackhawks the next night in overtime. Brad Richardson gave the puck away at center ice as I was rushing into the offensive zone and Patrick Sharp took it the other way and scored with a quick wrister.
It was disappointing, but the loss motivated us for our next game in Dallas. That game went down to the last guy in the shootout, and Stolly pulled out the win for us. We were all in a good mood for the flight back and it took a while for the jokes and laughter and loud conversation to die down.
I was sitting next to Drew, my arm around his shoulder and rubbing his arm gently, knowing nobody could see what I was doing. We'd put the armrest up so there was nothing between our seats and he was stroking the outside of my thigh, trying to make me squirm.
I didn't tell him about what I'd done with Sid in Chicago; that would have hurt everyone and helped nobody. We'd talked the day before in his room and I warned him that he'd have to be patient with me because I'd never been in a normal relationship before. He laughed and told me that any relationship with him could never be normal and he kissed me, telling me that it was time to shut up.
Drew had logged a lot of ice time that night, and he was trying to pay attention to Simmer and Brownie's argument about what the best ice cream sandwich was, but after a while I heard him snoring softly into my ear. I reclined his seat slowly so I wouldn't wake him and reclined mine as well, turning onto my side with my back against him.
I was just about to fall asleep when I sensed someone's presence next to me. I cracked an eye open and Brownie was standing there, staring at me with a confused expression on his face. I tried to say something, but couldn't quite get anything out. I felt Drew's arm around me, then realized he'd also wrapped a leg around me and was essentially spooning me in his sleep.
Still looking up at Brownie, I raised my hand and placed it over Drew's, squeezing it gently. Brownie frowned at me, looking even more confused, followed by shock when he realized the implications of my action. He blinked at me a few times, and I held my breath, not knowing what he was going to do.
"Oh, for fuck's sake," he finally muttered softly, then grabbed a blanket from the overhead bin and covered us gently with it. He stroked my hair and nodded at me, then went back to his seat.
I smiled in relief, closing my eyes. I felt Drew shift behind me, snuggling closer. His lips brushed against the back of my neck and he wrapped his arm tight around me, making me feel warm and safe.
"I want to watch the FA Cup," Drew said, finishing up his meal of chicken breast, broccoli and whole wheat spaghetti.
"Huh?" I blinked at him, picking up our empty plates and walking over to the dishwasher to load it.
"It's on right now," he said, practically bouncing in his chair.
"Umm, no," I crossed my arms and leaned against the counter. "The NFC Wildcard game is about to start."
"I want to watch soccer," he pouted.
"Football! It's the playoffs!" I said, slightly outraged.
"It's only the first round," he said dismissively. "The FA Cup is in the third round!"
"It's football," I repeated. "Go watch your soccer in the bedroom."
"I want to watch it on the big TV. It's got like, 120 Hz or 240 Hz or something." Drew crossed his arms as well, trying to stare me down.
"I know, I bought it," I grumbled.
"Simmer always let me watch soccer. Maybe I should kick your ass out and ask him to move back in. He lets me eat anything I want too," he said, somewhat wistfully.
"Fine, ask him to move back in," I said shortly. "But I bet my blowjob skills are much better than his."
Drew grinned and said, "Maybe if you give me a little demonstration of your skills, I'll let you have the big TV."
"I'm taking the big TV, whether you like it or not," I said, but I got down on my knees in front of him anyway, tugging his shorts down.
We moved in together just before training camp. Simmer had decided in the off-season that he was moving into his own place and Drew called me immediately when he found out. It wasn't that much of a change for us. A lot of my stuff was at his place already since I'd spent almost every night there after we got back from that road trip to Chicago and Dallas.
Simmer didn't mind me staying over so often; his only request was that he never, ever hear any sounds that could be even remotely construed as sexual coming from Drew's bedroom.
After Brownie found out about us, it was only a matter of time before the rest of the team knew. They didn't find out from him, though; Drew told Simmer the next morning, I told Greener on our next road trip, Quickie got suspicious when he saw all my stuff at Drew's place and we answered honestly when he asked what was up.
Everyone else who'd noticed how close Drew and I had become asked one of the guys in the know when curiosity got the better of them, and they answered truthfully. Some guys just chose to ignore what they saw. It happened just like how Drew thought it would. We didn't exactly get warm hugs of encouragement, but we didn't get any bad treatment either.
People were better than I thought they were.
Drew slumped back in his chair, gasping a little as he tried to catch his breath. I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand and he grabbed a fistful of my shirt, tugging me up to kiss me, taking his time.
"Okay, let's go watch some football," he mumbled, brushing my hair back from my face.
"Uh-huh," I answered. "Can I get a blowjob too? I've always wanted to get a blowjob while watching a football game."
"What are you talking about? I've blown you lots of times while you were watching Michigan football games," he said indignantly, like he was irritated that I didn't remember.
"Those were college games, and two times is not 'lots of times'," I pointed out, standing up and leading him into the living room. "I did appreciate them, though."
"The things I do for love," he muttered as I sat on the couch and unzipped my fly.
The way he said 'love' made me feel strange for a moment, but then I realized it wasn't actually the way he said it--it was the word itself. It was the word for how he felt about me and how I felt about him, and it wasn't a word that was trapped in a protective bubble; it was a part of the world along with everyone and everything else, a part of hockey and beaches and playoff football on big screen TVs. It belonged with my teammates and our friends and families, and I was starting to forget the time I thought any differently.
Drew's lips closed over my cock and I groaned, losing my train of thought. I fumbled with the remote a bit, distracted by his mouth, trying to find the channel for the game. I finally got the right one and dropped the remote, slumping back on the couch and cupping the back of his head as he swallowed me deep.
"You are so good to me," I gasped.
He glanced up at me with a smile in his eyes, and I smiled back at him before turning my attention back to the game.
"I have something to tell you," I told him as we were laying in bed after our pregame nap, both of us reluctant to get up.
"What's that?" he said, yawning and stretching.
"I was going to let you find out later with everyone else, but I couldn't wait. I got my deal done this morning," I said, smiling.
"What? You did?" he asked, suddenly fully awake. "How long? How much?"
"Seven years. Three-and-a-half the first three, five the last four."
"That's awesome!" he exclaimed, and gave me a big kiss. "That's really great."
"Now you have to get yours done too," I said, sitting up.
"And get stuck with you? No fucking way!" he laughed, already preparing to defend himself from the tackle he knew was headed his way.
"You're stuck with me, contract or no contract," I said, pinning him down and punching him in his side, hard enough to cause pain but not hard enough to hurt.
"You know what this means, right?" he said softly.
"You're totally buying me a case of scotch."