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The Not-Very-Thrilling Life of Succulents

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The first person they tell is Auston.


He's been suspicious about them for a while, and they figure it's easier to just own up to it rather than keep it a secret from him. Once the Leafs get back from their Western Canada road trip, Morgan invites Auston over to watch the Raptors game and have some beers, and while he's there, they fire up a Facetime call with Brock.


Morgan watches him as Brock explains that he's gay, that he and Morgan have been hooking up for months, and they just now became official. Auston looks confused, but that's not necessarily a huge departure from normal. He turns to look at Morgan during a pause in Brock's explanation.


"So wait, I've totally seen you take girls home."


"I'm bi, so yeah, I'm into both men and women," Morgan is toying with the string from his hoodie--one of Brock's that he brought back from Vancouver--and hoping this goes well.


"Like, isn't that weird? Aren't you worried he's gonna want pussy some night when you're not here?" Auston directs the question at Brock.


To his relief, Brock merely smirks and snorts out a laugh. "Matts. Buddy. Have you met Morgan? Do you honestly think he's capable of cheating on anyone?"


Auston pauses and thinks this over, looks over at Morgan and then back to Brock on the screen. "Okay. Solid point."


"It's just like any other long-distance relationship, you know?" Morgan says. "You have to be able to trust each other. And we do."


"But like, you two will still go out with me? I know you aren't gonna pick up or anything, but you can hang out with me while I do?" Auston is looking back and forth, asking them both.


"Well yeah, we're dating, but we're not going to ignore our friends just because we're boyfriends." Brock makes a face at the implication.


Auston's eyes light up after a moment. "Holy shit, that means I'm not competing with you assholes. More pussy for me!"


Morgan can't stop himself from laughing. "Right, no competition from us."


"Fuck, I've got two wingmen! This is awesome!"


And just like that, they're talking about Auston picking up, and Morgan and Brock's big coming out moment is over.



Brock does the long drive back to Minnesota two days after his season ends. He spends most of it thinking about Morgan; he's going to fly to Toronto from Minneapolis, and he can't wait to see him. It's only been a few weeks apart, but they're very much still in the honeymoon phase so it still feels like too long. However, there's an important conversation he needs to have first.


He's talked to Jessica about it, ever since he and Morgan officially became a thing . He's always known that eventually he would have to come out to his parents, but he kept putting it off. Now though, he has a boyfriend, he's in love with that boyfriend, so he has to tell his parents.


He goes over the discussion out loud while he drives, rehearsing how he's going to word it, how he'll tell them. He worries over their reactions, wonders what kind of questions they'll ask. By the time he's pulling into his neighborhood in Minnesota, he has a full script planned out.


Jessica sits next to him, one hand steady and supportive on his knee, while he announces to his parents that he's gay. They ask about his high school girlfriends (he was still figuring himself out). They ask how long he's known (he knew for sure when he was 17). They ask if he's seeing anyone (he tells them that he is, but he's not ready for him to meet them just yet). Most importantly, they tell him they love him no matter what.


Overall it goes pretty well. He thinks that maybe his dad is a little bit less comfortable with it, but he still gives Brock a hug and tells him that of course he'll always support him. It's new information, and a big ball to drop, so Brock expected that it might take them some time to fully come to grips with it.


However long it takes for them to fully accept it, it feels good to no longer have to hide the truth from his parents.



When the Norris finalists get announced, Morgan is not among them. He would be lying if he said he isn't a little bit disappointed. But he finds out during the first intermission of Game 6 against Boston and in the moment he has more to worry about than a personal accolade.


And then two days later, for the third year in a row, Morgan is facing down a crowd of reporters and dealing with questions that he doesn't really have answers for after yet another first round exit. He aches all over, muscles tight and limbs fraught with exhaustion, and he can't remember the last time he actually slept well.


He gets home from Boston late, well past midnight, and Brock is there. Still awake, sitting on the couch in pajamas and one of Morgan's t-shirts, and as soon as Morgan walks inside, Brock holds his arms open. Morgan collapses onto the couch, resting his full weight against Brock's chest, melting into the embrace. He's just so tired , the thrill of adrenaline and competition gone, emptiness left in its wake. Brock pets through his hair and holds him, though he doesn't say much. Just having him there is enough.


Eventually they make it to bed, though Morgan only vaguely remembers being ushered down the hall and to his room. Brock strips him down and for once it's not sexual, there are no wandering hands or dark gazes, it's tender and careful, and Brock hisses at the bruises blooming dark on his skin from blocked shots and crosschecks.


He sleeps late the next morning, well into the afternoon, and by the time he wakes up, Brock is sitting next to him on the bed with a coffee in hand and the biggest cheese danish Morgan has ever seen. They don't move far from bed for the rest of the day.


Brock stays with him while he finishes everything he needs to do in Toronto before they part so Morgan can make his trek across Canada to Vancouver, to his parents and to Maggie. Brock goes home to Minnesota for a few weeks while Morgan settles in. Brock sends videos of himself hanging out on the lake, taking Coola for walks. Morgan returns the favor with selfies of himself cuddling with Maggie on the couch.


They're used to the distance now, but neither of them want to keep it up for very long.



Jessica is adamant that she wants to meet Morgan, no matter how many times Brock protests. He insists that it's too soon, that he's not ready; she counters that she's known about it for months anyhow, and he's in love with him, so it's just a matter of time anyway.


It's Morgan's second night in Minnesota when she shows up unexpectedly.


"Heeey Brock," she sing-songs, pushing past him when he opens the door. "I brought snacks. Where's Coola?"


"You're awful at playing it cool," Brock follows her into the kitchen.


"I don't know what you mean," she says breezily. "I just wanted to come hang out with my favorite brother."


Brock rolls his eyes and pulls her aside before she can head out onto the patio, where Morgan is sitting near the firepit. "Don't be weird, okay? I really like him."


She looks at him slowly, her lips pursed. "Oh really," she deadpans, "you like him? I never would've known."


Brock flips her off.


"You're the biggest nerd ever about him, you haven't stopped with the heart eyes in months." She grabs a beer from his fridge and heads toward the patio doors before he can yell at her that she's too young.


"This is what I mean about being weird!"


"I won't scare away your boyfriend," she calls back to him and heads outside, a wide grin splitting her face.


Brock rushes out to join them.


"Well hello!" Jessica chimes when Morgan looks over at her.


Morgan glances at Brock for a moment and then smiles warmly at his sister. "Hi, you're Jessica, right?"


"My brother has mentioned me? I'm flattered, I thought he was too busy keeping you all to himself."


" Jessica ."


Morgan stands and extends his hand to Jessica. "He says only good things, I promise. I'm Morgan, it's really nice to meet you."


"He's a dork anyway," she says. "But it's very nice to meet you too. Thank you for putting up with this weirdo."


Morgan chuckles and looks over at Brock, his gaze openly fond. "He's pretty easy to put up with, actually."


Jessica groans. "God, you're as sappy as he is. It's gross. Cute, but gross."


"You should probably be nicer to me if you're gonna be drinking my beer," Brock sits down by the fire and Morgan joins him. He sits close, their arms pressed together, but that's all the contact he offers with Jessica sitting there with them.


"Hey, this is an important discussion I need to have and you're not included." Jessica levels her eyes on Morgan. "Look, you seem like a good dude, but I just need you to know, my brother is completely head over heels for you--"


"Jessica, I'm gonna kill you."


Morgan just steals a sidelong glance at Brock, a soft grin on his lips.


Jessica barrels on. "So if you hurt him, I've gotta tell you, I can probably kill you if I have to. Or at least do some solid damage."


Morgan laughs and nudges his elbow softly into Brock's side. "Well I definitely don't plan on hurting him. I love him a lot too."


Jessica wrinkles her nose, but she smiles, satisfied with Morgan's answer. "Okay good. Also you're both still gross."



It's been a month since their season ended and Morgan is trying to adjust to the idea of what changes will await him when training camp starts up in November. Morgan has spent his entire career alongside Jake Gardiner, as a best friend off the ice and sometimes a partner on it. He doesn't know hockey without Jake being around: sitting next to him on the plane, walking into the arena with him, playing soccer before games with him. But now it appears as if Jake is going to be in some other room with some other team and Morgan is not really happy about the idea. He gets the invitation for Jake's birthday celebration on the Fourth of July, and there's no way he would miss it, especially not this year.


Jake knows Brock too, and he also gets an invitation to be included in the festivities. They're laying by the lake at Brock's house, and debating how they're going to handle the party. Their friendship is well known by now, but as of now the only people who really know about them are Auston and Brock's sister. Morgan has been on cloud nine for months and he hasn't really gotten to talk to anyone about it, and he really wants to.


"We should probably tell Jake." Morgan suggests, checking Brock's reaction. "He'll be offended if he finds out from someone else."


Brock is laying on him, back to Morgan's chest, between his legs, beer cradled against Morgan's thigh. "Do you think he'll be cool with it?"


Morgan thinks it over, the nights he and Jake stayed up bullshitting while they were roommates. Thinks about Jake when he told Morgan he was going to propose to Lucy. They've been really good friends for a long time. They've been through a lot together, on the ice and off. Even if Jake is unsure, Morgan knows him well enough to know that he'll be supportive.


"Yeah, he'll be good. And then we can just go together."


"Wanting to show me off?" Brock asks, turning to look at him, his eyes dancing.


Morgan pulls him closer and captures his mouth in a kiss. "Always."



Morgan and Brock are both unsure about introducing each other to their parents, with both still asking questions about their coming out revelations, and they decide to put that particular relationship milestone on hold for the moment.


While they aren't entirely ready for their families to merge, both decide that their dogs should meet. Brock and Morgan make the trek from Burnsville to Vancouver with Coola spending most of it asleep in the back seat, while they take turns driving and critiquing each other's music choices. After far too many hours they flop out together in Morgan's bed when they arrive, too tired to even strip each other naked, let alone do anything else.


The next morning Morgan goes to get Maggie from his parents' house and brings her to meet Coola. They sniff at each other, slow circles as they check each other out, and after a moment Maggie sits down and hangs her tongue out, her tail wagging wildly behind her. Coola takes it as a sign and starts dancing around her, Maggie taking the cue and following her out into the yard.


Brock sits next to Morgan on the porch to watch them play and slides his hand into Morgan's. He's pretty damn happy about where his life is right now.



It's not quite summer yet when the fruit from Paddington ripens. Just one of the blossoms actually grew anything, and the fruit is small, barely the size of the palm of Morgan's hand. Brock keeps joking about it, how it's Morgan's fault for not being a doting enough succulent dad.


"It's his first time growing anything, you can't expect anything yet!"


"Sure, Mo, sure. Blame Paddington for your failures."


They're back in Minnesota now, on the deck overlooking the lake behind Brock's house. They'd spent the day out on the water and are now watching the sun dip down toward the horizon. Morgan has the fruit from Paddington in one hand and a large knife in the other. "Hey, I read up on it, they usually don't produce any really good fruit until they're a couple of years old."


"Did you really need something that big? You could use a pocket knife!" Brock is taunting him now, standing next to him while he balances the fruit and cuts it down the middle.


"I'll show you something big," Morgan mutters and bumps his hip into Brock's.


"I'm holding you to that."


Morgan ignores him and looks at the inside of the fruit. It's got white flesh with black seeds speckled throughout. It smells good, even as tiny as it is. "Alright, here we go."


He holds up a piece for Brock and takes a bite himself. It's mildly sweet, though it tastes like someone watered it down. It doesn't have much in the way of flavor. Brock chews slowly and glances at Morgan, who purses his lips together and can't quite bite back a laugh.


"Disappointing, eh?"


"Pretty disappointing," Brock agrees. "But it's his first piece of fruit ever, it'll get better!"


"So we'll just have to give it another shot next year," Morgan says, and his voice is light, but he's watching Brock intently, his questioning tone evident.


"Next year," Brock confirms. "It'll be even better next year."