Jeff is startled awake by a body falling on him and Parser’s voice muttering, “Shit! Fuck, didn’t mean to do that.”
It’s too goddamn early to deal with this but he guesses he wished that upon himself when he let Parser make a copy of his key. With a groan, Jeff shoves him off and squints at the blond as he bounces over to the other side of the bed. He doesn’t have his contacts in, but he sees the low lights of early morning streaming in through the windows and a blurry version of Parser’s stupid face. “The fuck you want?” he drawls, still half asleep.
Curling himself up on the free pillow at his side of the bed, the blond just shrugs. He seems almost sheepish now for sneaking in, his cheek smooshed into the pillow and his hair wilder than usual. “Just wanted to come say hi before you leave for the World Cup today.”
That’s so Parser of him, boldly stepping into something and then trying to retreat as if he realizes too late that he’s not welcomed. Jeff knows this, has seen him do this many times. “Okay, fine. I’ll accept your pre-flight cuddles. You don’t need to beg,” he mutters as if that was so difficult for him to admit.
That’s enough to have Parser to roll on top of him, pinning him into the bed despite his slightly smaller stature. “Hey, by the way, you suck for being too young to play with Team USA. Now you have to play with the lame North Americans.”
Parser is kinda crushing his ribs, sinking him into the mattress, but Jeff doesn’t mind it. “I can’t help it,” he answers with as much of a shrug as he could give. “Maybe you’re too old.”
Parser scoffs at him, some of that cocky brightness coming back to him, and drops himself on his chest to rest his head there. “Fuck you, I’m perfect.”
“You do know you’re technically North American,” Jeff points out. “Anyway, Crosby and the Canadians are gonna whip all our asses, so it doesn’t matter.”
Parser exhales with a raspberry, slacking against Jeff, and then is silent. Jeff lets him be silent.
Jeff really isn’t sure where they stand.
They’re teammates, duh. Teammates that cuddle on occasion, but Parser is touchy feely with everyone on the team, like when he tries to climb over the back of giant d-men or drapes himself across everyone’s lap on the bench because he can.
Parser knows Jeff likes guys. (A bit. Maybe. He isn’t sure of what he likes.) All the Aces know Parser likes guys, as an open secret. It’s logical in a dumb obvious way that the two guys on the team that like guys would at least hook up at some point.
Except they haven’t.
It’s a bit of a relief. It would just make it weird, if they did it out of some unspoken obligation. They’re just close friends, share a line together. Nothing big.
Still, Parser does shit like sneak into his place, inflict cuddles on him, make sure he’s hydrated when the guys are bar hopping, and countless other things he does almost without meaning to that makes Jeff think things and consider things that make him hesitate.
Pre-tournament is weird.
Jeff has gotten used to the Aces and the well-oiled machine they were, helmed by Parser. The guys on the team are great, though it does sometimes feel like he’s back at rookie year with all these kids. He’s the oldest one here, and he really wishes his birthday was a month earlier.
His teammates are nice, but Jeff knows he isn’t quite clicking with them. On the ice, they’re wrecking it, but everyone goes back to their hotel rooms or to the little pockets of friends they have. It’s not bad, but he misses the comradery of the Aces. At least he has it better than Parser. He tells Jeff through text that he’s just glad that no one on his own team actively hates him. It sucks that they’re the only Aces here and they’re playing different teams.
He and Parser have successful runs before they head over to the real deal. As soon as he lands at Toronto, he’s thinking of looking for Parser to catch up after being away for so long.
They manage to meet at the hotel bar to have a beer after a day being tangled up with their teams. If Jeff thinks he misses the Aces, Parser is close to walking straight to Las Vegas this very moment.
“Y’know, the new guys are coming in, and I feel like I haven’t settled them in yet,” Kent says. Jeff is half sure he’s said that a few times now, but Kent was midway through his third glass of IPA from the tap and had practically chugged the first two. He can see how he’s wavering already. Fucking lightweight. “Like, I’ve found them all places to stay and they all got my number and email and stuff, but still! The year you came in, I’d already had you all set up in all the Ace’s social media, and I barely touched with them how to act on social media without looking like dicks.”
Jeff is just nodding along as he nurses his Blue Moon. “They’ve set fire to T-Mobile Arena by now, I’m sure,” he deadpans. Parser kicks his shin underneath the table, but he only flinches. “Oh, and Snapchatted the whole thing. You can check Kelly’s story right now.”
“Asshole,” Parser groans.
Now Jeff snickers. “Ow, that kick hurt. I’m calling the committee on you for assaulting a player from another team.”
But Parser sighs, resting his head on his chin. “You think they’ll be okay?” he asks. If there’s one Parser can’t hide about himself, as dodgy he is about his emotions, it’s how much he cares for his team. “I haven’t clicked with them yet, I think.”
Jeff lets out a sigh. “They’ll be calling you Dad in no time. Don’t worry.”
That does bring out a small smile from Kent.
They’re playing at different groups. The North Americans kick ass at their first game, but Team USA doesn’t. That’s not bad. Just great chirp fodder.
Parser, I wanna play against you. Play better
Also you look hideous in navy
Is this your way of showing love? By insulting me?
That actually makes Jeff pause. He considers giving him a hint, at least a chirp at the weird swooping his stomach did.
Nah I just like insulting you to insult you
This time, Jeff is awoken by the rhythmic bouncing and creaking on his mattress. He groans and throws his arm over his face, not needing to look up to know it’s Kent jumping on his bed for some goddamn reason. “How the fuck did you get in my room?” he grumbles.
Kent drops himself on the empty side of the mattress, making Jeff glare at him for almost launching him off the bed. With a bright grin and a twinkle in his eye, Kent flashes at him a key card with TEMPORARY printed on it with bold, red letters. “I told the front desk lady that you’d locked yourself out of your room and sent me to get a spare key card. Security here is shit.”
Jeff shakes his head as he scrubs the sleep off his face. “And to what do I owe this breaking and entering?”
He’s got a weird expression on his face. “Nah, I just got kinda bummed out that were won’t play against each other, after the US lost last night. Wanted to see you,” Kent mutters, ending it with a shrug. There’s an oddly tense moment there, Jeff looking at Kent as he didn’t meet his eye, long blond lashes lidded down. Kent then exhales and looks up at him, the twinkle back. “But it’s cool. We play better together, yeah? My team sucked anyway.”
“Hell yeah, we do,” Jeff says, just a moment too late as he’s still considering why Kent is here. He wants to comfort him, but he knows Kent wouldn’t let him. “Your team wasn’t so bad. Just, I dunno, bad chemistry.”
“Or they all suck,” Kent insists, but the smirk he pops up doesn’t look so cocky.
Jeff gives him his usual longsuffering sigh but opens an arm up to let Kent bury himself against him. “You better kick ass tonight,” Kent mutters, muffled by the pillow. “Make me proud out there.”
“I will, I will.”
Jeff does make him proud, given by how tightly Kent hugged him when they met at the bar after the game, but it’s still not enough points to move up to the knockout stage.
“Hey, no biggie,” Kent says as he steps away from him to lean against the bar. “Now you can hang out with me and the other losers.”
“Hey, you could still score, like, ten points against the Czechs tomorrow,” Jeff offers, making Kent almost choke with how hard he snorts before he jumps into a spiel about his shit team.
Jeff manages to drag him over to a table with their beers and lets Kent rant at him about how this player wouldn’t listen to him or how this guy didn’t give him a pass and had made them miss a scoring opportunity.
The team must have not been super welcoming to the asshole that likes to rush into goalies and start fights but not get in them.
“Hey, thanks for sitting out here with me,” Kent says, giving Jeff a glimpse at that soft side of his.
Kent has one more game the next day, one that Jeff can see he didn’t really put his spirit into it despite how hard the team fought.
He isn’t surprised when Kent appeared at his room a while after the game finished. Well, he’s surprised that he could just walk in like that.
“I haven’t handed in your temp card,” Kent answers before he crawled into the bed and draped himself across it, falling face down on Jeff's legs.
Jeff just looks over Kent’s prone body for a second before he spoke up. “So, uh, officially free?”
“Yeah,” Kent groans as he rolls onto his back and off Jeff’s legs. And thank goodness for that, since he was starting to get a cramp there.
Jeff takes a moment to consider what he wants to say. “You’re rooming with someone, right? You can bring your stuff over and stay with me. I jumped to get my own room.”
He’s glad he hadn’t backed away from the offer because Kent just lights up and dashes out to grab his things.
They lost, but they still have to stay for the rest of the Cup. The first day is pure laziness. With everyone focused on the semi-finalists, they can put their guard down. They both did have morning ice and some meetings in the morning, but after that it's back to lounging around Jeff’s room.
It’s rather nice. They stay in bed watching tape and gossiping. Kent has longer legs that Jeff had expected, lifted up behind him as he stretched out on the bed and fiddled with his computer. He would sometimes get bored and crawl over to Jeff’s side to take up his space, which he welcomes with minimal grumbling. Really, they mean to be productive and plan out the new season, but they end up just looking at pictures sent by Kit’s kittysitter. It’s easy, doing this with Kent.
The next day, they wake up in the same bed, have breakfast together, go their separate ways to meet with their teams, and it takes Jeff seeing Kent again when they meet up to watch the game together to notice something off about him.
“That’s my hoodie,” Jeff says to him, dryly, as he approached.
Hands shoved in the hoodie pocket, Kent glances down at himself as if just noticing it and then looks up at him to give him a mild shrug. “Your hoodie’s bigger, and I like baggy hoodies, so I swiped it before we left this morning.” Then his expression changes just a bit, and Jeff can see the change of gears going on in his head. “But, ah, I can give this one back, if you want it.”
“Keep it.” Jeff does want his hoodie back, but he hates seeing Kent backpedal like this, when he thinks he’s truly crossing a line. He either backs up or blows up when he thinks he’s gone too far, and Jeff is glad to generally see more of the former instead of seeing Kent push on like he’s spraying words out of a flame thrower.
At the answer, Kent scoffs and says, chin held high, “I was going to keep it anyway,” but Jeff sees a bit of a softness that he tries not to hope for or focus on.
Jeff tries to chalk it up to being the only Aces here, but he doesn’t see himself doing these things with Sunny or Ivan or Bennie or any of the other Aces.
It’s been an hour, and Kent has yet to sink in a basket. Jeff is disappointed and unsurprised.
They’re at the hotel’s basketball court that’s thankfully empty because everyone is at the game but they got sick of watching other people win. They’ll have to appear at some point of the final, but no rush. A shower and a change shouldn’t take that long, if Kent doesn’t just take an hour-long shower for shits and giggles.
Also, Jeff is probably the only hockey player dumb enough to know how to play basketball. Except for Kent, who lets Jeff inflict basketball at him.
“Don’t quit your day job, Parser,” Jeff calls over at him as he chases the missed free throw.
Kent scowls at him from the free throw line. “Fuck off, Swoops. If you love basketball so much, why don’t you play for the NBA?”
“I’m too damn short. Almost as short as you.” He bounces over the ball at Kent and then bursts out laughing when he isn’t able to catch it. “God, you suck.”
Jeff catches his breath enough to walk, clutching his stomach, and jogs over to the ball to grab it. “You’re holding the ball wrong. And bend your knees more.” This time he walks over to Kent and hands him the ball.
Kent, with his fucking tongue sticking over the edge of his mouth, again awkwardly launches the ball at the hoop and completely misses it.
“No, no, not like that,” Jeff mutters. This time, he actually takes Kent’s hands and positions them on the ball. Then he goes to stand behind him to push him down enough to get him to bend his knees. He misses that time again, but it’s closer. Jeff again gets him to the right position, unable to help how his hands lingered for a second longer.
He feels something, he’s sure, but doesn’t say anything. Kent finally scores a basket and Jeff feels such a strong, dumb feeling of pride for him.
Jeff is glad to be heading back home, even if he had enjoyed his time at Toronto with Kent. Now it’s back to the usual. Kent is going to go all captain on the poor rookies until they call him Dad too, and Jeff is going to go back to his liney that’s stuck wondering if that soft look did happen and if the breaking and entering means something.
Kent has his headphones on, subtly shimmying from side to side to whatever poppy music he’s listening to. Jeff is standing behind him on the security line at the airport.
Without thinking about it too much, Jeff tugs on the baggy sleeve of his-but-now-Kent’s hoodie. “Hey.”
Glancing back at him with a frown, Kent pushes his headphones down to his neck and almost pulls away when Jeff wraps his fingers around his wrist, leaning away from him. “Hey?”
Time to jump in feet first. No hesitation. “When we land, let’s go get dinner. Together,” he says, sounding surer than he thought he would.
Jeff sees confusion flash through Kent’s eyes before he pulls up his usual smirk. “What, like a date?” he chirps.
“Yes.” And that catches Kent off guard. Jeff can see it on his face, the twitch on his smirk. Kent looks ready to deliver another chirp, but Jeff cuts him off. “No, don’t do that. I’m not letting you do that this time.” He lightly tugs on his wrist. “Dinner? Tonight? Yeah?”
Kent looks over Jeff’s face, studying in, before he slacks his shoulder in a way that looks like a weight had been lifted off of them. “Yeah, dinner sounds nice.”