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In the Silence of the Night

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There’s a bitter wind blowing when they pull off the long gravel drive. An ominous grey sky looms above the two story, ranch-style house, promising another night of snow. No one’s been out this way in a while and it shows- the snow is deep, covering the walk and front steps and threatening to slip in under Jamie’s jeans and into his short boots as he climbs out of the rental.

The wind whips around them, frigid fingers creeping down his spine.

“This place is awesome .” Tyler hops out of the truck behind him. His hair is a curly mess, swept up in the wind, but otherwise you’d never be able to tell he’d been sound asleep across the back bench until about five minutes before. “Look at all this snow !”

“We have snow in Texas.” Rads looks completely at ease with the deep snowbanks, coming out from behind the wheel. Despite Dallas’ best intentions it’s clear the harsh Russian winters haven’t left his blood.

“Not like this.” Tyler scoops up a handful, cupping his hands together and sculpting a quick snowball. There’s a mischievous glint to his eyes that has been missing lately.

“Don’t even think about it.” Rads trudges through the shin deep snow and Jamie spots his chance, stepping in the impressions Rads leaves in the snow to keep the worst of it out of his boots.

Something goes flying over his head and a moment later there’s a burst of snow from where the ball has hit Rads’ back.

“Seguin!” He tries to whirl around but the snow is deep and thick and Rads nearly ends up in a snow bank instead.

“Jamie! Protect me!” Tyler squeals as Rads lunges his way through the snow, scooping up a handful as he goes.

“You’re on your own,” Jamie calls back, resigning himself to wet feet by the time he reaches the wrap around porch. “Aren’t you cold ?”

“Isn’t it great?”

The front steps creak and crack under his weight, sounding brittle from the cold. The listing Jordie had sent him had described the place as rustic but with updated amenities. The house could be well over a hundred years old, but it’s been well loved and renovated. The barebones of the original place remain, but there’s fresh boards, fresh paint- someone’s clearly put some effort into it.

The key is hidden under a pot at the far end of the porch and Jamie quickly retrieves it, unlocking the front door. It’s cool inside, but not as cold as outside. The heat’s been kept on just enough to keep the pipes from freezing, but it’s not quite enough to keep the chill from the open plan first floor.

It’s silent and the emptiness feels like a physical weight as Jamie stomps the snow off his boots and goes looking for the switch box. There’s a flashlight by the stairs to the basement and he grabs it, heading down. It’s colder down there, pitch black save for his light, but from what he can see, it’s fully furnished.

He follows Jordie’s instructions and finds the switch box easily enough, flipping on the heat, water, and power. The basement lights flicker on, revealing a large sitting room, two full couches and a big screen television. The sound of the furnace kicking on fills the room, and then the floorboards above him creak. Sounds like the idiots have finally given in to the cold.

He takes the flashlight with him and heads back upstairs, dropping it on the kitchen counter. The front door swings open, bringing with it a fresh burst of frigid air and Tyler comes trooping in, laughing, cheeks pink and eyes sparking.

Jamie gets caught up watching for a moment before he manages to tear his gaze away.

“You found everything okay?” Tyler shrugs out of his coat, hanging it up and reaching for Jamie’s. They kick off their boots and leave them in a pile by the door, out of the way.

“Got everything turned on, just need the guys with the rest of the food now.” He glances out the window and spots Rads lugging their bags towards the house. “How’d you get Rads to carry everything?”

Tyler’s grin is wide and wicked.

“Kicked his ass.”

Rads bursts through the door, tossing the duffels as he goes, muttering angrily in Russian.

“He fight dirty .”

“There’s nothing dirty about snowball fights!” Tyler crows, scooping up his and Jamie’s duffels. “How many rooms does this place have?”

“Five I think.”

“Better grab ours before the other guys get here!”

A little thrill shoots through Jamie at that, but he shoves it aside. They’re not sharing a room, or a bed for that matter.

“We should be good.” Jamie obediently follows Tyler up the stairs, down the hall as he sticks his head through each doorway they come to. “You know Jordie and Daddy are sharing.”

“That’s not the point, Jameson.” Tyler comes to a stop at the end of the hall. There’s a large window overlooking the field, bordered by a thick forest behind the house. On either side of the window is a bedroom, and Tyler hooks one hand into Jamie’s sweater, dragging him into the one on the left.

There’s a queen size bed in the middle of the room made of mahogany and covered in a plush-looking quilt. The room is shades of blue and grey, with a dresser and twin bedside tables that match the bed, and a thick carpet. The blinds are pulled back from the windows, showcasing the untouched landscape. In an hour or so there should be a gorgeous sunset filtering in.

“You take this one, I’ll take the one across the hall.” Tyler drops Jamie’s bag on the bed. “If we’re lucky Jordie and Daddy will take the one down the hallway. They’re always so loud .”

Jamie grimaces.

“At least we know they’re having fun, I guess.” Tyler waggles his eyebrows at him.

“There are some things I just don’t want to know.”

Tyler laughs and heads for his room, leaving Jamie to get settled in. He leaves the door open so Jamie can hear him just across the hall, moving around, unpacking. They’re there for the week if all goes well, but part of Jamie is tempted to just live out of his bag. It’s just the guys, they won’t care if he stays in the same sweats and hoodie for it.

The front door slams, which Jamie assumes means Rads is done lugging the cooler in, so he leaves his bag on the desk and heads down to help.

 

::

 

It’s another two hours before Jordie’s truck pulls up the drive.

The sun is sitting heavy in the sky, darkness creeping in and casting long shadows across the snow. They’ve got a fire going to warm the place up a little faster, the television in the den playing Die Hard 2, which Rads had dug out of the movie cabinet. He’s sprawled in the armchair, snoring, while Jamie and Tyler are curled up on the couch, Tyler’s arm thrown haphazardly across his shoulders, a warm weight against his side.

Jamie relaxes a little at Jordie and Jason’s arrival; the roads had been a little treacherous coming in. The front door slamming open is enough to wake Rads, and Jamie reluctantly pulls away from Tyler’s warmth to greet his brother.

Jordie pulls him in for a tight hug like it’s been months since they’ve seen each other and not weeks. Jamie clings back just as tightly, his chest feeling tight.

“Move your big ass.” Jason nudges them aside, tugging Rads and Tyler in for a quick hug each.

Jordie huffs out a laugh, rubbing his beard against Jamie’s to make him squawk and pull away.

“I’m not the one with the big ass, baby.” Jordie smacks Jason’s cheerfully as they shed their outer layers. “Arizona’s been making you lazy.”

“Want a beer?” Jamie interrupts loudly. Jason laughs and accepts one easily, leaning against the island set up between the kitchen and the den. “How were the roads?”

“Crappy.” Jordie ends up on one of the stools, beer in one hand, leaning against Jason’s side. “Picking this one up at the airport was fine, but there was a storm rolling in when we left Montreal. You know how people drive when there’s gonna be snow.”

“Think it’s heading this way?” Tyler ends up at the end of the island, elbows braced on the smooth counter.

“Yeah, we’ll probably get it in a day or two.” Jordie winks at Jason. “Guess we’ll have to find some way to stay warm.”

“They’re going to scar me.” Jamie is completely deadpan as he catches Tyler’s gaze. Tyler breaks into ridiculously charming giggles.

“Stuff it, Chubbs.” Jordie finishes off his beer and pushes to his feet. “Or you don’t get the pizza we brought with us.”

 

::

 

The house has warmed up by the time they’re ready to turn in hours later. Jamie’s down to his boxers and a t-shirt, feeling the heat. He’s trying to figure out where he stashed his toothbrush when Tyler pokes his head in.

“Hey, going to sleep?”

Jamie glances at the bed, then back at Tyler.

“Was thinking about it.” They’re both a few beers in, tired from a long drive from Montreal. Tyler looks unbearably soft as he hovers in the door, down to sweats and a long sleeved shirt. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah.” Tyler glances over his shoulder. “It’s just my room.”

“You picked it.” Jamie feels the need to point out.

“No, it’s great. It’s just, really cold?”

Jamie’s own room feels borderline sweltering.

“Is your window open or something?”

“No, I checked. It was fine earlier.” Tyler shrugs. “I can’t tell where it’s coming from.”

It’s late. They’ve had a few beers. Jamie blames this when he opens his mouth and says, “Why don’t you sleep in here then?”

Tyler brightens immediately. “Sharing, right? I’m not kicking you out of your own room.”

Jamie swallows heavily.

“Yeah, sure.” He ducks his head and goes back to rummaging for his toothbrush. “Just grab what you need.”

Tyler’s tucked up in bed by the time Jamie gets back from the washroom. He’s taken the right hand side, and Jamie tries not to think too much as he crawls in next to him. The heavy quilt has been kicked off down by their feet, leaving them in a thin sheet.

It’s not the first time they’ve shared a bed, probably won’t be the last.

Jamie lies there in the dark for a long moment, listening to the sounds of the house settling around them, the soft sound of Tyler breathing next to him.

“Hey.” Tyler’s hand brushes against his, sending a wave of warmth over him. “You alright?”

And Jamie knows what he’s asking but he chooses to play dumb regardless.

“Fine, just tired.” But he doesn’t pull his hand away.

It takes awhile but eventually he manages to drift off to the heat of Tyler next to him.

 

::

 

Jamie wakes briefly during the night with the sudden knowledge that someone else is in the room.

He sits up, scrubbing at his eyes and flicks on the lamp beside the bed. It momentarily blinds him but he blinks it away, taking in the empty room. Next to him Tyler is still sleeping soundly, curled on his side towards Jamie, face relaxed.

Jamie watches him for a moment, taking in the peace surrounding them, then reaches out, turning the lamp off again.

By morning he’s forgotten what woke him up in the first place.

He hasn’t forgotten the way Tyler looked.

 

::

 

There are snowshoes and skis in the basement for them to use, so after breakfast the next morning they dig them out and get bundled up.

Jamie’s only been cross country skiing a handful of times, so he’s not feeling very confident as he gets his boots locked in, poles dug into the snow.

Rads takes to it like a duck to water, taking off around the clearing between them and the treeline. Jamie can just make out the path they’re supposed to take before it takes a sharp turn and disappears into the forest. Jamie’s feeling unsteady, his knees locked in a way he isn’t used to, but he consoles himself that Jason looks just as wobbly as he feels.

Tyler has apparently always been a natural at this and winks at Jamie, promising to “show him how it’s done”.

The five of them take off into the forest. The trees close in on them and that cuts off the wind, but it’s dimmer as well with the sun blocked by the evergreens.

It’s quiet out there; the steady swish of their skis on the snow, the trickle of an iced-over creek, and their heavy breathing are the only sounds. Jamie strains his ears but he can’t hear any animals.

The ground is mostly flat, thankfully, and Jamie keeps up with Rads and Tyler. Jordie and Jason take up the rear. He’s working up a sweat, muscles straining, unused to this kind of movement, but it’s a good, worn kind of feeling.

Somehow he even manages to enjoy himself.

They stay out until their stomachs start rumbling, circling around back towards the house. Jamie follows along dutifully, turned around but trusting the others to get them back. They’re breaking the treeline when Jamie catches movement out of the corner of his eye. For a moment he swears he sees someone. It’s so sudden after the stillness of the past few hours that it startles him and he loses his balance, feeling his skis go out from under him.

He falls, landing on the back of his skis, cracking his head. He sees stars.

“Shit!” Someone drops to their knees next to him and he manages to pry his eyes open, unsure when he closed them. Jordie’s peering down at him, worried frown in place. “You okay, Chubbs?”

“What happened?” Tyler calls.

“Jamie wiped out!”

“I’m okay.” He tries to rub at his head but his poles are still looped around his wrists and are tangled up under him. He yanks at them, frustration building.

“Hold still.” Tyler appears next to them, helping him get the poles off his wrists. He catches hold of Jamie’s hand and refuses to let go. “Did you hit your head?”

“Yeah, but I’m fine.” There’s a pounding starting up behind his eyes and it’s making him snappish. Tyler and Jordie arch their eyebrows at him, eerily in sync. “I just want to get back to the house.”

He goes to sit up, and they don’t stop him. In return, Jamie doesn’t shake their hands off when they help him to his feet. He doesn’t feel very steady on the skis but he’ll be damned if he has to lug them back to the house instead, so he accepts the poles.

Tyler sticks close to his side as they breach the treeline, but Jamie doesn’t wipe out again. He ditches the skis as quickly as possible when they reach the house.

Jamie leaves the guys to figure out lunch, settling into the plush couch and feeling some of the tension release from his aching muscles. He tips his head back, closing his eyes against the headache that’s settled in. He could go for a hot shower, or hell, even a bath. The washroom upstairs has been remodeled at some point in the past few years and there’s a gorgeous shower and giant bathtub just waiting to be used. At the moment though, he’s too tired and sore to work up the enthusiasm for it.

The couch dips next to him and he cracks open an eye to find Tyler there. He hands over a bottle of water and a few ibuprofen.

“For your head.”

Jamie downs the pills gratefully. Gentle fingers prod at the back of his skull, brushing through his hair and he lets his eyes flutter shut at the sensation.

“No bumps,” Tyler murmurs. Jamie hums sinking further into the couch. “Why don’t you go have a shower while these idiots fight over lunch? You’ll feel better.”

Tyler pulls away almost reluctantly and Jamie mourns the loss of his touch.

He manages to haul himself up and off the couch, finishing the water quickly and handing Tyler back the empty bottle. Tyler’s gaze is warm and concerned, and Jamie briefly squeezes his hand, reassuring him.

“Call me when they get it figured out.”

He feels Tyler’s gaze, heavy on his back, the entire way up the stairs.

 

::

 

A hot shower and meal help and he’s feeling more like himself again by the afternoon. They laze around for so long after lunch that it’s too dark to really do anything outside by the time they get moving again.

The house is apparently full of closets stocked full of games, so they dig out a few. Monopoly goes pretty well until Rads manages to completely take over and Jamie ends up bankrupt, so they switch to Clue.

For dinner Jordie and Jamie brush off the barbeque on the porch and grill up an assortment of steaks and foil-wrapped baked potatoes. It’s freezing out, even with the heat coming off the barbeque, but both Benns are too stubborn to abandon the grill, so Tyler ends up ducking outside with hats and gloves for the pair of them so they don’t end up with frostbite.

They’re all pretty wiped by the time they finish dinner, but reluctant to turn in so early, so Jason grabs a horror movie and they pile onto the couches in the basement to watch it. Jamie ends up sandwiched between Tyler and Rads, a bowl of popcorn in his lap. He jumps a lot, can feel Rads giggling next to him at it but ignores him. Tyler’s hand brushes his and he startles, nearly dumping the popcorn.

Rads mutters something in Russian and pries the bowl out of his hands.

“Feeling okay, Jameson?” Tyler nudges him gently, humor clear in his expression. “Don’t worry, I’ll protect you.”

Jamie rolls his eyes, sinking deeper into the couch.

“Who’s gonna protect you then?” Jordie chirps and gets a pillow thrown at him for his troubles.

“Daddy will.”

“No, I’ll be running away like a sane person.”

“Guess it’ll have to be Jamie then.” Tyler sinks against his side, batting his eyes. His hand finds Jamie’s, fingers linked together. Jamie flushes, warmth suffusing him. He knows it’s not real, not what he wants it to be, but moments like this make it worth it.

Tyler’s head comes to rest on his shoulder, his soft curls brushing against Jamie’s cheek. Jamie holds very still and tries to remember how to breathe.

Eventually they turn in, and Jamie stamps down on the disappointment when Tyler heads back to his own room.

Jamie strips down to his boxers and t-shirt and climbs under the sheets. The bed feels too big, too empty. He pulls the quilt up, sprawls out on his stomach and tries to ignore the feeling.

It’s harder to shut down tonight.

The past few weeks have been draining.

Being away from Dallas isn’t helping. He should be there, should be supporting the team. He doesn’t know why he let Jordie talk him into this trip.

His phone vibrates where he’s plugged it in next to the bed. Blearily, he reaches for it, grimaces when he sees who it is. The clock says it’s just before midnight, so whatever management wants, it must be important.

It feels like there’s a lead weight in his stomach as he answers.

“Jamie?” The line is full of static but he’s become well acquainted with Jim Lite’s voice in the past few weeks. “Sorry to be calling you so late, did I wake you?”

“No,” Jamie sits up, blanket pooling around his hips. “I was up. What can I do for you?”

“I just wanted to talk to you before the news hits the internet.”

Dread pools in his stomach, twisting it into knots.

“What news?”

“I wanted to personally thank you for what you and Tyler have done for the team...”

No, no, no , Jamie’s free hand comes up, grips his hair, pulling until it stings hoping it’s a nightmare, hoping he’ll wake up.

“...But we’ve had to think about the future, Jamie. Unfortunately, it will not involve either of you continuing with the Dallas Stars.”

Jamie feels like he’s going to be sick.

“I don’t understand.”

“Effective immediately you will be a member of the Anaheim Ducks.”

The room spins. Jamie feels cold all over, his chest tight.

But.

“And Tyler?”

“It was hard to find anyone willing to take him considering past problems , but the Ottawa Senators believe it will help them with their chances for the playoffs.”

Fuck. Fuck.

The phone slips from nerveless fingers. It feels like there’s a steel band around his chest.

He can’t seem to catch his breath as it slowly sinks in. He’s gone. He’s done. And Tyler . God this is going to kill him.

The room feels too small, too hot- he needs to get out .

The sheets get tangled up around his legs, twisting tighter and tighter the more he fights against it. Frustration and anger and grief is mixing together, he’s panicking, and he knows it but he can’t stop it .

His hands scrabble against the sheets, tear at the blankets- he can’t get any air, there’s something solid, heavy lodged in his throat.

“Jamie?”  

He can feel it all slipping away from him.

Jamie!” There’s a weight on his chest, the world is shaking. “ Wake up!”

His eyes snap open. The ceiling swims into focus, the light blinding him, and then there’s Tyler, eyes wide and terrified.

“Come on, Jamie, breathe for me.”

Jamie focuses on that, focuses on Tyler’s voice, on his weight, and drags a ragged gasping breath in.

The second breath comes easier, the third even easier after that.

“Shit, okay, are you back with me?” Tyler’s curls hang down over his forehead, skin pale.

“What.” His throat is sore.

“You were screaming.” Tyler smooths a hand across Jamie’s cheek, his touch warm, grounding. Jamie feels shaky, untethered. His shirt and boxers are soaked through with sweat, the sheets underneath as well, cooling and leaving him shaking.

“Sorry,” he mumbles, unable to quite meet Tyler’s gaze. He tries to sit up but his legs are still caught up in the sheets. Some of the panic starts to set back in and Tyler hurries to help him get untangled.

He’s there when Jamie stumbles out of the bed, catching him when his legs don’t want to work, and together they sink to the floor, Jamie clutching at Tyler’s shoulders, Tyler’s arms wrapped tight around his waist.

They sit there like that for who knows how long, until Jamie starts to shiver, from the cold, from the fading adrenaline.

“Come on,” Tyler whispers, his lips brushing Jamie’s cheek. “Let’s get you warmed up.”

The house is silent as Tyler bullies Jamie out of his soaked clothes, and into a pair of sweats and a fresh t-shirt. Jamie lets himself be moved, focuses on Tyler and tries to ignore the memory- the nightmare.

“Wanna talk about it?”

Jamie shakes his head, mutely. He doesn’t want to put it into words. It’d make it too real then.

Tyler takes him by the hand and leads him across the hall into his own room without a word. Jamie thinks about protesting, about turning around and going back to his own, thinks about locking the door and seeing how long he can stay awake, how long he can keep the nightmares at bay.

They’re not usually this bad.

Instead he lets Tyler help him into bed, sinks into it as Tyler curls around him like he can somehow keep back the worst of the dreams with his body.

It takes a long time for either of them to fall back asleep.

 

::

 

“You look like shit.” Jordie’s in the kitchen when Jamie and Tyler come stumbling down late the following morning. His eyebrows shoot up, concern on his face but Jamie barely takes note of this, sinking into a stool at the island with a jaw-cracking yawn.

“Thanks,” Tyler mutters, settling in next to Jamie. There are bowls of scrambled eggs and fried potatoes, plates of bacon and toast, but the smell just makes Jamie’s stomach twist and churn.

A moment later two mugs are set down in front of them with steaming hot coffee.

Jamie inhales the aroma for a moment, hands cupped around the mug, leeching the warmth from it. He burns his tongue happily downing half of it in one gulp.

“What happened to you two?”

“Nothing.” Jamie carefully doesn’t look at Tyler. “Where’d the others go?”

Jordie clearly isn’t impressed, but he lets it go- for now. “You just missed them, they went into town to stock up the liquor cabinet and grab a few groceries just in case we get that storm the news is talking about.”

“When’s that supposed to hit?” Tyler trails off into a  yawn. A wave of guilt crashes over Jamie.

“Probably not till tomorrow.” Jordie is a saint- he deftly refills their mugs for them. “If we’re snowed in at the end of the week someone will come up with a plow to get us out.”

“We could head home early,” Jamie suggests. Two sets of frowns are his response. “I just don’t want to be trapped in here with you dicks all week.” He tries to joke but it falls flat.

“Jamie.” Jordie’s wearing his concerned face. “Why don’t we talk about it.”

There’s no question of what it is. Jordie was the first person he’d called after the news had broken, had been the one to coach him on what to say when it feels like the franchise you’ve bled for has stabbed you in the back. Tyler hadn’t needed the coaching, he’s already been through this before.

“There’s nothing to talk about.” Jamie waves him off. He finishes off his coffee and carries the mug over to the sink for something to do.

“There clearly is.”

“Fine,” Jamie snaps, anxiety and frustration rising. “I don’t want to talk about it.” He grips the edge of the counter, breathing hard. Someone comes up behind him but he shrugs them off.

“Fuck !”

Startled, both Benns whip around to find Tyler cradling his hand, expression pinched.

“What happened?” Tensions forgotten, Jamie is by Tyler’s side in an instant, cupping his hand in his own. Tyler’s palm is bright red and sore looking.

“The coffee pot is fucking hot ,” Tyler bites out.

Jamie leads Tyler over to the sink, gets the tap running as cold as he can and then eases Tyler’s hand under the spray. Tyler hisses, jerks in his grasp, but Jamie doesn’t let go and eventually he starts to relax.

“Is it helping?” He asks quietly. Tyler nods mutely, leaning more of his weight against Jamie.

“The pot isn’t hot at all,” Jordie calls over and they glance over to find him poking at the coffee pot. Then he grabs it and Tyler yanks out of Jamie’s grasp.

“What are you doing?” he yells, trying to knock it out of Jordie’s hands.

“Chill, Seggy, it’s cold.” Jordie sets the coffee pot back down, showing off his unharmed hands. Tyler stares down at them, dumbstruck.

“I just burnt myself on that.”

“Are you sure it wasn’t something else?”

Tyler gives Jordie a scathing look.

“The other option is that you’re just that delicate, Seggy,” Jordie offers.

Tyler whacks him with his good hand before turning back to Jamie. “It was boiling!”

“Hey.” Jamie closes the space between them, hands resting on Tyler’s shoulders. “I believe you. But what matters right now is getting something on that burn.”

Tyler sags a little in his grip, the burn must be aching something fierce with how easily he gives in, letting Jamie steer him towards the couch so he can run and grab the first aid kit.

The burn cream he finds helps, as does the ibuprofen he has Tyler take. They leave it to air dry but already his palm is looking better, less red, less sore. None of them feel up to much of anything so they leave the breakfast dishes for the moment. Jordie ends up in the recliner, while Jamie takes one corner of the couch, Tyler sprawled out with his head in Jamie’s lap and feet hanging over the armrest. Tyler’s hair looks soft to the touch, with beautiful, messy curls that make Jamie’s hands twitch just thinking about how they would feel if he were to run his fingers through them.

He makes the mistake of catching Jordie’s eye, flushing at the knowing look he gets.

It’s easy to fall into a light doze, listening to the soft sound of Tyler’s breathing, feeling his warmth. He’s exhausted. His head feels heavy, a tight, sore tension sits high in his shoulders and neck. It feels like it’s been ages since he actually slept well, slept through the night. But here, with Tyler’s weight on him, Jordie close by, maybe he can rest.

His head swims, and all he’s aware of is the soft sounds of the house, of Tyler’s steady breathing, and slowly he starts to relax.

Dimly he’s aware of fingers brushing along the back of his neck, a light caress, before they’re gone.

 

::

 

Rads and Jason come back with half the grocery store, arms laden full of bags and boxes. Jamie shoves his feet into his boots, throws on his coat and helps them move it from the truck to the front door where Jordie and Tyler take over, carrying the packages into the kitchen to be sorted out.

“How hungry were you when you bought all of this?” Jordie calls out as Jason deposits a few bags full of muffins and chips in his arms.

“Starving,” Jason laughs. “When’s lunch?”

“I try stop him.” Rads pushes past them into the house, arms full of liquor store bags. Something about his tone makes Jamie believe otherwise.

They make sandwiches for lunch and Jamie devours three, suddenly starving. The sky is a brilliant blue, the few clouds gathering on the horizon still far enough that they’re not worried, so they grab their skates and sticks and pile back into the truck.

There’s a frozen-over pond about a ten minutes drive away, well-kept by the farmer who owns the property, for his grandchildren. They get permission to use it for the afternoon, signing a few pucks in exchange.

It’s not very big but the ice is smooth so they put Jason between two rocks and take turns shooting the puck at him. The glide of his skates on the ice, the biting wind against his cheeks has something tight and bitter in Jamie easing. It’s a beautiful day out, even with the clouds rolling in, and it reminds Jamie why he loves hockey as much as he does.

They play two on two, Jordie and Jamie against Tyler and Rads, and it devolves into a rough game of shoulders in sides, grabbing at sweaters, laughing as they go. Eventually Jason gets tired of being in net and steals the puck right out from under Tyler, playing keep away until Jamie manages to get it back.

Tyler comes barrelling into him and they go tumbling, off the ice and into a deep snow bank, gasping with laughter. Their sticks are long gone and Tyler’s weight presses him further down into the snow. Jamie grabs a handful of snow, shoving it up and under the back of Tyler’s sweater for the way he shrieks and squirms, expression evil as he tries to rub a handful of snow into Jamie’s face.

They’re still grinning at each other when Jamie realizes abruptly that he’s hard.

And so is Tyler.

Tyler must realize it a beat after him because his smile flickers, fades, and suddenly Jamie’s left feeling stripped bare under the intense gaze directed at him.

“Get your asses up!” Jordie shouts, startling them both.

Tyler scrambles off of him and for one horrible moment Jamie knows that he’s fucked up again .

“Come on, Jameson.” Tyler holds out his hand. “Let’s show these old men how to play.”

Jamie stares dumbly at his hand for a moment, confused. He catches Tyler’s eye and something there is enough to get him moving, to tell him that he hasn’t royally fucked this up. Whatever this is.

He grasps Tyler’s hand and lets himself be pulled to his feet.

 

::

 

They get back to the house as the sun is starting to sink down past the horizon. Long shadows stretch across the clearing, the forest looking dark and ominous. A frigid wind has picked up, whipping his hair around his face, free of its gel, and stinging his cheeks.

He hurries in after Rads, ready to get warm.

“Fuck.” Jamie curls his fingers into his pockets as Rads fiddles with the light switch. It’s almost as cold inside as out. The lights don’t come on for them, the fading sun filtering in through the large bay windows their only light.

“Power must have gone out.” Jordie doesn’t bother pulling off his boots, just stomps the snow from them and heads for the basement. “Switchbox is on the far wall, right Chubbs?”

“Yeah, and there’s a flashlight by the stairs.”

“Got it.” Jordie flicks it on and disappears down the stairs.

“I’ll grab some wood from outside.” Tyler squints out the window. “Before it gets too dark.”

“I might as well see what spare blankets they’ve got. It’s going to take awhile for this place to heat up if Jordie can get the fuses fixed.” Jason and Rads head in search of a linen closet, leaving Jamie by himself.

He might as well make himself useful.

Outside the clouds have finally reached them and fat, heavy flakes start falling from the sky. Jamie tugs his hat down in an attempt to ward off the wind and heads down the front steps and around to the wood pile at the side of the house.

Tyler’s not there.

The snows been disturbed, a few logs missing he thinks, but no sign of Tyler. Figuring he can catch up to him, Jamie hurries after the footprints, sinking up to his ankles in the fresh snow.

He follows them around to the back of the house where they suddenly veer off. The setting sun is in his eyes as he peers across the clearing. At the treeline he can just make out movement. Squinting, it resolves itself into what must be Tyler.

“What the hell is he doing over there?” he mutters to himself, then, setting off across the clearing at a brisk pace, he calls, louder, “Tyler!”

Cast in shadows so Jamie can’t see his face,Tyler hesitates before disappearing into the forest. He feels a flash of irritation but hurries on, committed to catching up to him. He reaches the treeline, and the path they’d taken the previous day on their skis. The thick canopy blocks out most of the sunset and Jamie fumbles in his pocket for his phone, pulling up the flashlight to cut through the gloom.

He catches sight of Tyler up ahead, just his back, before he’s gone again.

Jamie curses and calls out to Tyler again, wondering if maybe he just hadn’t heard him. The trees close in around him, darker and more ominous than he remembers, and without the sun the temperature seems to drop even further. He follows the path, eyes straining in the dark for any sign of Tyler. Every so often he sees movement, enough to keep him going forwards, enough to convince himself that if he keeps going he’ll catch up to Tyler and then he’ll explain what the hell he’s doing out there.

He can’t be looking for kindling this far out, could he?

Or is he just trying to avoid Jamie?

Things hadn’t seemed strained on the way back from the pond, just... different. But maybe Jamie had been reading the situation wrong.

His phone doesn’t even flash a warning at him before suddenly it’s just dead.

The light cuts off so suddenly Jamie stumbles and barely manages to right himself on a tree.

Then he’s left standing in the dark.

The forest is silent around him, muffled by the snow and the trees. His breathing is loud, heavy over the sound of the light wind that has managed to make it through the thick canopy. Snow continues to fall softly around him. He can feel it against his bare cheeks, cool and wet. His heart is thundering in his chest as he shoves his phone back in his pocket.

“Tyler?” he calls out. Fear slowly starts to snake its way through his veins.

There’s no response.

He’s starting to wonder if maybe he’d imagined seeing Tyler.

Very carefully he turns around, hoping he’s facing the right direction on the path. He can’t stay out here, but will wandering in the dark alone help?

A sound echoes out of the darkness- like something shuffling through the snow, and that decides it.

Jamie goes slow, one careful step after another. His eyes adjust as he goes, enough that it’s not pitch black, just dark enough that he could easily lose the path if he’s not careful. The idea of wandering through the forest, alone, in the cold, is enough to have fear lodged sharp and bitter in his chest.

The snow picks up, quickly covering up any footsteps he might have been able to pick out. He checks phone but the battery is still dead. The sound of the iced-over bubbling brook reaches his ears and relief hits him, it had been right along the path, close to the treeline, he must be going the right way.

Jordie’s never going to let him live this down.

There’s this feeling of more suddenly, like something is there with him, and he flinches. His foot gets hooked in an exposed root and he falls, tumbling down a short bank and landing in the water below. It’s a shock to the system and he gasps, landing half in the brook, legs soaked through. The water isn’t deep, but it is frigid and he scrambles up and out of it, slipping and sliding his way back up the short bank to what he desperately hopes is the path.

Jamie’s shaking, trying to catch his breath. He’s fucked . He needs to find his way back out of the forest.

He sets off again, faster this time. His jeans are soaked through, his skin sore and colder than he’s ever been. It’s worse than an early spring swim in BC waters, worse than any cold shower he’s stepped into accidentally or to get rid of a early morning problem. The cold spreads from his legs, up towards his stomach as he stumbles in what he hopes is the right direction. His gloves are soaked so he tears them off, shoving his hands into his pockets in the vague hope it’ll warm them up a bit.

His legs stiffen up as he goes, the ice seeping into his veins. It gets harder to think.

Eventually he gets lost in the repetitiveness of it, of one foot in front of the other, and lets his mind drift as a fog settles over him.

He barely registers it when suddenly the trees part before him.

Jamie blinks slowly, peering through the darkness.

There’s someone there.

A shadowy figure is moving along the gloomy path towards him. He should probably feel fear, or relief, but he’s having trouble feeling anything.

“Jamie?” the person calls out, and then breaks into a run.

He’s wrapped up in a tight hug before he realizes it’s Jordie. It hurts to unfold, to get his hands out of his pockets, but then he’s clinging just as desperately to his brother, shaking as Jordie holds him up.

“Shit, kid, you’re freezing- and soaked !” Jordie pulls back but doesn’t go far, wraps an arm around his waist and starts tugging him towards the break in the trees. “What the hell happened to you?”

The sky is dark overhead when they reach the clearing and Jamie nearly sags to his knees at the sight of the house up ahead, light coming from the windows. Snow is coming down steadily now, whipped into a tizzy by a harsh wind that Jamie can feel down to his core.

“Followed Ty,” he slurs and Jordie shoots him a worried look.

It’s slow going getting across the clearing but then Jordie is yelling and Rads comes hurrying around the side of the house to get Jamie’s arm over his shoulders and the pair half carry him up the front porch and into the house.

The heat, when they get through the door, hurts .

It’s so loud, voices yelling, talking over each other as he’s manhandled, stripped of his clothes and wrapped up in a big, soft blanket, then bustled over to a roaring fire. His skin is sore, sharp pain travelling along his arms to his fingers, and his legs down to his toes. He tries to curl away from the warmth he’s being assaulted with but then there’s someone in front of him, their hands burning his cheeks where they touch him.

“Babe, Jamie- I need you to talk to me.” Tyler’s voice is shaking nearly as much as Jamie is. Once he recognizes it, it’s like he can’t control it, shivers wracking his frame, making his teeth chatter until his jaw aches. He clenches his teeth, feeling like he’s about to shake apart. Jamie whines, skin feeling too tight, too thin. “Come on Jamie, focus on me.”

“I got some more blankets.” He recognizes Jordie’s voice, fights at the warmth as another blanket is wrapped snugly around him. Tyler’s hands fall from his face, wrap around him and hold him still. He’s too weak to fight him.

“We should get him to a hospital.”

“I don’t think the truck will get down the drive now, too much snow’s fallen.”

Jamie lets himself drift. Tyler’s still crouched before him. He lets his head fall to rest on his shoulder, getting lost in the rise and fall as Tyler breathes, as he speaks. It’s all white noise to him as he slowly regains control of his body. There’s a crick in his neck and he’s not shaking quite as badly when Tyler shifts.

“Come on Jamie.” His lips brush Jamie’s ear. “We’re going to get you warmer.”

Jamie could protest that he is warming up, but the heat from the fire doesn’t feel like it’s reaching him anymore and he’s starting to realize, even through a mountain of blankets, that the house isn’t as hot as it had felt.

Tyler and Jordie get him off the rug, keeping him wrapped securely in the blankets. A cold draft manages to creep in anyways and he shivers. It’s a slow walk to the stairs, even worse when they climb them. He’s walking on shaky legs, muscles weak and uncooperative, but Tyler and Jordie don’t let him fall.

They get him into his room, and Jordie grabs a pair of fresh sweats, a hoodie and some socks. Somehow between the three of them they manage to get him dressed and tucked into the bed, the spare blankets piled on top. Rads and Jason show up, the former with a steaming hot mug of tea. Jason’s got his phone to his ear, rattling off Jamie’s symptoms to whoever is on the other end. They help him drink the tea and it helps, warmth spreading through him, chasing some of the lingering cold away.

He’s still shivering, but he’s surrounded by his friends and family and the panic eases in his chest.

“You wanna tell us why you were out in the woods?” Jordie eventually asks. He’s on one side of Jamie, Tyler on the other, with Jason and Rads by his feet, effectively boxing him in. He’s got nowhere to run even if he wanted to.

“I thought I saw Tyler,” he mumbles, cheeks flushing. He’s tucked in up to his chin, back propped up by a pair of pillows.

“Me?” Tyler’s brows furrow. “I wasn’t anywhere near the treeline.”

“I thought I saw you duck into the forest so I went after you.” Jamie clears his throat, feeling suddenly silly for having his eyes play tricks on him.

“He’s the one who figured out you’d disappeared.” Jordie nods at Tyler, eyes dark with worry. “Came and got us. Fuck, Jamie, what if I hadn’t found you?” He scrubs his hands over his face, shoulders slumping.

“M’okay.” Guilt churns in his stomach. Tyler shifts next to him, cards his fingers through Jamie’s hair soothing him.

“I know.” Jordie squeezes Jamie’s ankle through the blankets. “Thank fuck.”

 

::

 

The four of them camp out on Jamie’s bed, alternating between who has to refill his mug, chatting idly and trying not to acknowledge the near miss. Tension sits heavy in the room. Eventually Jamie can’t ignore his bladder any longer and pushes and shoves until they- reluctantly- let him out of bed. Even through his heavy layers the house feels cold to him, a lingering chill in his bones that the blankets and tea just can’t quite shake. He makes it to the washroom on shaky legs and Tyler is there when he opens the door again.

He takes one look at Jamie still shivering and bullies him back into the washroom, has him sit on the edge of the sink while he puts the stopper in the large tub and turns the water on.

“The hot water will help.” He steps between Jamie’s thighs, smooths a hand across his cheek and Jamie can’t help but lean into the touch. He’s following Tyler’s lead here, willing to take whatever he wants to give. “And I don’t think you’ll be able to stand up long enough for a shower.”

“Don’t drown!” Jordie calls through the door. “I’ll kill you myself if you do!”

Tyler snorts, but pulls away, checking the temperature of the water.

And then he starts stripping.

Jamie quickly averts his gaze, cheeks burning. It’s not the first time he’s seen Tyler naked, hell not the first time he’s looked , but he isn’t sure what’s allowed now.

“Come on.” Tyler’s suddenly in his space again, tugging the hoodie over Jamie’s head before he can think to protest. He’s helped to his feet, hands on Tyler’s shoulders as his socks and sweats are stripped.

Tyler steps into the bath first, helps Jamie steady himself as he steps in after him, hissing at the heat. Steam is rising off the water in slow, lazy swirls. Tyler sits down and beckons Jamie to do the same, maneuvering him how he wants when Jamie doesn’t move fast enough. He ends up with his back pressed against Tyler’s chest, a wall of heat and solid muscles, Tyler’s arms held loosely around his chest. The water easily reaches his shoulders with how deep the tub is and he can almost stretch his legs out. The hot water quickly eases the worst of the lingering chill, helps relax muscles he hadn’t even realized were tense, were frozen. Tyler’s presence calms him, and he sinks happily into the embrace. He doesn’t know what he did to deserve this intimacy with Tyler, but whatever it is he’ll do it a thousand times over to keep it.

“I came back in.” Tyler’s voice is barely more than a whisper. “And you weren’t there. I just knew something was wrong.”

Jamie rests his hands on Tyler’s, squeezing, trying to convey without words that he’s alright, that he’s still there.

Tyler presses his cheek to Jamie’s, and he can feel the shuddering breath Tyler lets out.

“I saw someone,” Jamie says, because here, between the two of them, it feels less crazy, less like his eyes were playing tricks on him. “Someone was out in the trees.”

“Who the hell would be wandering around in this weather? Why did you follow them?”

“I thought it was you.” Like he wouldn’t follow Tyler anywhere . “That you just couldn’t hear me.”

Tyler’s grip tightens around him but it’s comforting.

Never scare me like that again, Jamie.”

Jamie finds himself nodding easily, willing to agree to anything Tyler asks to keep the fear and pain from his voice.

“Fuck, with everything going on lately, and now this. What a way to start the new year.”

Guilt washes over him.

“I’m sorry Segs. For this, for everything.” He hates how broken his voice sounds.

“Jamie Benn, none of this is on you.” Tyler’s voice is fierce. He frees his hand to tilt Jamie’s chin up, to meet his gaze. His eyes are dark and angry. “Fuck anyone who says it is. It’s on management and any one dumb enough to believe a word some bitter old men say. But it’s not on you or me.”

He knows it’s not on Tyler, but he’s the captain. He should be better.

“Who’s more important, Jamie? Management? Or the guys, and me?”

“You.” It slips out so easily- easy as breathing. Tyler’s expression softens, lips pulling up into a sweet smile, and Jamie swallows, finds the courage to say, “It’s always you.”

“Same here.” Tyler leans in, brushes their lips together in a featherlite kiss. And that’s new for them. New but as easy as breathing. “Jamie, you have to know that.”

Part of him does, he thinks, but it’s buried so far under doubts and fear that he isn’t sure how to reach it. Instead he tries to get it across without words, tilting his head up, catching Tyler’s lips again. It’s off center, and there’s an awful crick building in his neck, but Tyler leans in again, makes it easier to reach him and then they’re really kissing. The wet glide of tongues, the warmth of Tyler’s mouth, it sets Jamie’s blood alight. The sound of their kisses is shockingly loud, lewd in the silence of the washroom. Jamie moans as one of Tyler’s hands tilts his chin up, the other travels down, across his chest.

There’s a sharp rap on the door and Jordie’s voice filters in.

“Uh boys, we’re still out here.”

Flushing, they separate.

“You could go downstairs!” Jamie calls back, voice hoarse. His lips feel swollen, well kissed.

“You were literally just frozen, Chubbs.” Jordie sounds like he’s right outside the door. Jamie wouldn’t put it past him to just walk in on them. “All you’re doing is sleeping tonight. If you guys aren’t out in five minutes I’m making Seggy sleep in a different room and Rads will be your cuddle buddy.”

“Fuck,” Jamie groans, dropping his head back against Tyler’s shoulder. He can feel where Tyler is half hard, pressed against his lower back and he bites his lip, tempted. But. “As much as I hate to admit it, I don’t think I could get it up, even for you.”

Tyler huffs out a laugh, pressing one last smacking kiss to Jamie’s cheek, before he starts to maneuver them up and out of the water.

“Raincheck.” He dries Jamie off quickly, gets him wrapped up, and then dries himself. His expression is happy, warm, when he meets Jamie’s gaze. “We have plenty of time.”

Yeah, they do.

 

::

 

Jamie wakes twice during the night. The first time he’s almost too hot, Tyler curled around him, blankets piled on top. There’s someone next to the bed and he startles.

“It’s okay,” Jordie soothes him, brushes a hand across his head. “Just checking. Go back to sleep.”

Between one breath and the next, Jamie’s sound asleep.

The second time he wakes Jordie’s down by the foot of the bed. Tyler’s shifted at some point during the night and has sprawled across most of the bed, and Jamie, an arm tossed across his chest and the massive pile of blankets kicked down by their feet.

“Hey.” Jamie rubs a hand over his eyes. There’s a chill to the room and he gently eases Tyler’s arm off of him so he can sit up and grab the blankets. “I’m okay, get some sleep.”

Jordie says something but it’s too quiet to make out.

“What?”

Jordie says it again but it sounds like he’s whispering. Jamie frowns, swinging his legs over the side of the bed.

“You know Tyler will sleep through anything, speak up, man.”

Jordie’s shoulders start to shake but it’s too dark for Jamie to see anything more than the vague outline of him. A vague feeling of unease settles over him.

“Jordie?” he calls as he realizes he can’t actually see Jordie’s face.

Jamie reaches out, fumbling for the lamp. He has to tear his gaze away to find the switch, but then the room is cast in a warm glow.

There’s no one at the foot of the bed.

Jamie’s heart is thundering in his chest as he eases out of bed. The hallway is just as empty, but he can’t shake the feeling of eyes on him as he makes his way quietly to the other end. The door’s closed but he pushes it open enough to peer inside. There’s not enough light to make out more than two vague lumps in the bed.

“Jordie?” He calls out softly, unsure if he actually wants his brother to answer. “Jordie?” He tries again, louder.

“Mmm, Jamie?” Jordie’s voice is rough from sleep. “You okay?”

“Were you just in my room?”

One of the lumps shifts, sitting up.

“No,” Jordie yawns. “It’s been a little bit. Why? Do you need something?”

“No, I’m fine,” Jamie says quickly, starting to feel guilty at waking his brother up. “Just a weird dream. I’m gonna head back to bed.”

“Okay, just wake me up if you need anything, Chubbs.”

Jamie eases the door shut behind him.

 

::

 

Late morning sun is filtering in through the windows when Jamie wakes again. It casts a warm, comfortable light across the bed, and for a moment it’s easy to forget that the previous day had even happened.

His body is sore but not like yesterday, not with the chill that had sunk its claws into him, refusing to let go. He aches, but nothing worse than after a long shift on the ice. The bed’s empty next to him, but the sheets are still warm. The door to the washroom swings open and Tyler steps out, dressed in a pair of sweatpants that ride low on his hips and nothing else.

Jamie swallows hard.

“Hey.” Tyler’s eyes light up when he catches sight of Jamie. “Morning, how’re you feeling?”

“Better,” Jamie admits. He sits up, the blankets pooling around his waist and Tyler takes it as an invitation to straddle his lap. For a moment Jamie flounders, unsure of where to put his hands, before they land, tentatively, on Tyler’s hips. His skin is smooth and warm in his grasp. Jamie’s cheeks heat, his body reacting to having Tyler so close.

“This okay?” Tyler’s hands come to rest on his shoulders and Jamie nods quickly. “Cool.” Tyler grins happily and ducks in to kiss him.

His breath is minty and Jamie takes a moment to wince at how bad his morning breath must be, but Tyler doesn’t seem to mind, licking into Jamie’s mouth with a single minded focus. Tyler’s big hands come up to cup his cheeks while Jamie lets his roam, across Tyler’s back, up his sides, restless. Their kisses turn deep, open-mouthed, a frantic edge to them. Jamie’s hard in his sweats, can feel Tyler pressed against his stomach through his own.

“Can I blow you?” Tyler’s flushed, pupils blown wide. Heat surges through Jamie and he groans, gaze dropping to those kiss swollen lips. Tyler scoots back a little, legs spread wide across Jamie’s broad thighs. He cups Jamie’s cock through the fabric of his sweats, gives him a light, teasing stroke that has Jamie gritting his teeth so he doesn’t come before they’ve even gotten started. “Come on, Jamie.” He presses their foreheads together. “I wanna make you feel good.”

God, Jamie would give Tyler anything .

“Yeah.” His voice comes out rough, soft, and Tyler ducks in to press a quick kiss to his lips before scrambling back off his lap.

Tyler settles himself between Jamie’s thighs, uses his shoulders to make space for himself there. He tugs the waistband of Jamie’s sweats down, eases his cock out, and wraps a warm hand around him. Jamie bites his lip hard, overwhelmed by the sight before him. Tyler glances up at him, expression heated, a smirk pulling at his lips, then swallows him down.

Jamie gasps at the wet heat, scrambling for something to hold on to before he floats away. Tyler pulls off and Jamie whines as the cold air hits him.

“Just don’t give me a bald spot.” Tyler directs Jamie’s hands to his hair, winks at him, and ducks back down.

Jamie swears, fingers tangling in those gorgeous curls.

Tyler alternates between taking him all the way down and sucking lightly on the head and tonguing at his leaking slit, and Jamie’s close embarrassingly fast.

“Tyler,” he moans and Tyler hums around him. He tries to warn him, tries to pull him off but Tyler fights his hold, swallows around him and that’s it, Jamie’s done. His vision whites out, muscles locking up as he spills down Tyler’s throat.

Tyler gets him tucked back into his sweats as Jamie lays there, trying to catch his breath.

“C’mere.” Jamie paws at him, gets Tyler up the bed and urges him back into his lap. He’s not feeling very coordinated, but he does manage to get his hand down Tyler’s pants, curling his palm around his hard, leaking cock. It doesn’t take much before Tyler’s whining, hips rocking to meet Jamie’s strokes. He’s beautiful as he comes, fucking Jamie’s fist, mouth hanging open and cheeks flushed.

Jamie wipes his hand off on Tyler’s sweats- they need to be washed now anyways- and sinks down into the pillows. Tyler curls against him with a happy sound, looking for all intents and purposes like he’s ready for a nap. Jamie can relate.

Downstairs there’s the sound of something shattering, and then yelling.

They jolt out of bed, hearts pounding.

Downstairs Jordie and Rads are shoving their boots on by the door, Jason standing frozen in the middle of the kitchen. Jason spots them first, and throws up his hands. His left hand is bleeding.

“Stay on the stairs!”

Jamie freezes, grabbing Tyler and yanking him back as he stumbles, half a step ahead of Jamie.

“What happened?” Jamie demands, gaze raking over the room. It takes him a moment to spot it, the cupboards open, empty.

“All of the fucking glasses exploded .” Jordie stalks over to the kitchen. He grabs a hand towel off the counter and presses it gently to Jason’s hand, then, to Jason’s obvious dismay, bends his knees and scoops him up in his arms. Jason looks heavy but Jordie doesn’t complain, crossing the distance back to the couch where he deposits Jason. “Keep your feet up till we get this all cleaned up.”

Rads shoves a broom at Jordie then disappears for a moment, returning with the vacuum. Jamie thinks he can see the little shards of glass sparkling on the wood flooring.

“Can we help?”

“Maybe Seggy should get changed?” Jason snorts, and Jamie turns scarlet when he realizes the state of Tyler’s sweats.

Tyler flushes. “Don’t be jealous, Daddy, you have your own Benn.”

“Oh my god.” Jordie pauses in his sweeping to cover his eyes. “I don’t want to see this. Tyler, go get changed already.”

Tyler, undeterred, plants a loud, smacking kiss on Jamie’s cheek, then hurries back up the stairs.

“How do glasses just explode?” Jamie gets settled on the stairs, watching as the pair get the area cleaned up. He keeps his eye on Jason but the hand towel seems to have stopped, or at least slowed, the bleeding.

“It must have been the sound you made when you…” Jason makes a lewd gesture. “Too high pitched.”

“Fuck you.” Jamie flips him off.

“It’s like you’re trying to scar me, babe.” Jordie glares at Jason. Rads crosses between them with the vacuum and that effectively ends the conversation for the moment.

Jamie’s stomach is rumbling by the time they’re allowed off the stairs and he heads straight for the kitchen. Jason gets seated at the island, Jordie grabbing the first aid kit. The cut isn’t deep and has stopped bleeding, so he cleans it and bandages it, pressing a kiss to the bandage after.

Tyler throws together a couple of omelettes for them with what they have in the fridge and Jamie devours his, and then a second when Tyler takes pity on him. He’s starving, tired, and vaguely sore, but anything is better than last night so he’ll take it.

It’s still snowing outside, though it’s lighter than the storm overnight. Jamie peers out at the untouched snow- at least a foot must have fallen throughout the night and the vehicles look like oddly shaped snowbanks, completely blocked in.

It’s pretty clear they’re not going anywhere.

 

::

 

They spend a lazy day inside - no one wants to venture out in the cold, and with Jason’s hand and Jamie’s near miss, they’re all feeling on edge.

They marathon the first three Indiana Jones movies as more snow starts to fall . Jamie ducks out of the second movie, dragging Tyler with him. It’s his least favourite of the original trilogy, and there’s something he’d much rather be doing. The guys chirp them as they head upstairs, but Jamie just flips them off, unperturbed.

Turns out Tyler makes the best sounds.

He pushes Tyler so he’s seated on the bed and drops to his knees on the floor, using his shoulders to make space for himself between Tyler’s spread thighs. The jeans that Tyler changed into take more effort than his sweats had, and Jamie carefully undoes the top button, tugging down the zipper. Together they get his jeans and boxer briefs off. Tyler’s cock is soft, but starting to harden as Jamie wraps his hand around it, feeling the warmth and the weight, giving a few gentle tugs.

“There’s no way the guys don’t know what we’re doing,” Tyler murmurs, his hand stroking over the back of Jamie’s head, eyes half lidded and expression warm.

“Fuck em.” Jamie mouths at the head of Tyler’s cock, humming happily. The guys can chirp them all they want, he’s waited so long for this, didn’t think he could have this, and now that he does he can’t get enough.

Tyler’s long fingers tangle in his hair, not moving him, just resting there.

He takes his time, learning the taste of Tyler, dragging exquisite little moans and whimpers from him when he finds a particularly sensitive part or when he takes Tyler as far as he can. His jaw aches in the best ways, lips swollen and used. Tyler’s cursing, hands tangled tight in Jamie’s hair, hips rocking, cock leaking, when something crashes out in the hallway.

Jamie pulls off, wiping the spit off his chin with the back of his hand.

“Ignore it,” Tyler whines, using his grip to try and tug Jamie back in.

“Hello?” Jamie calls out, voice rough, wrecked, and yeah, the guys are going to give him hell for it. No one replies, it’s silent save for their heavy breathing. Jamie shrugs it off and gets back to work driving Tyler crazy.

After, they get cleaned up, kissing lazily before they have to head back downstairs. Tyler spots it first, a few of the paintings that had lined the walls have fallen, scattered across the hall.

“I swear we’re going to get blamed for this place falling apart,” Tyler mutters as they scoop them up. Jamie eyes the nails in the walls but they look fine, and they quickly rehang the paintings.

The boys give them shit when they reappear but it’s easy for Jamie to ignore, focusing on the happiness welling up inside of him instead when Tyler curls up against his side.

Rads gets dinner duty, leaving them to finish watching the movie, and it’s not long before the delicious smells emanating from the stove have Jamie’s stomach rumbling.

They’ve barely used the large dining room table, tucked off the side of the kitchen, but tonight seems like as good an occasion as any. Jamie grabs plates and cutlery, Jordie grabbing the beer from the fridge. Rads takes baked chicken out of the oven and sets out a fresh garden salad and potato wedges. A lot of the guys on the team may be useless in the kitchen, but Rads has never been one of them. From the stories they’ve heard, Rads grew up cooking with his mama, soaking up whatever he could when he wasn’t out on the ice.

It looks amazing and Jamie is quick to dig in.

And just as quick to spit it back out again.

“That’s gross , Jameson!” Tyler jerks away from the spray even as Rads spits his own mouthful of chicken back out onto his plate.

Jamie feels like he’s going to be sick.

He grabs his beer, trying to wash the putrid, rancid taste from his mouth. Rads jerks to his feet, crossing to the kitchen to shove his mouth under the tap, swishing around and spitting out mouthfuls of water.

“What the fuck?” Jordie drops his fork with a clatter, shoving his plate away from himself.

His plate looks the same as Jamie’s, as the others- the chicken is rotten , a sour smell coming from it. The potatoes have a light fuzz covering them and the salad is brown and wet, the smell of spoiled food is nauseating.

Jamie’s stomach rolls.

He shoves to his feet and manages to stumble into the washroom before he vomits.

God, he can’t get the smell out of his nose, the taste off his tongue.

He clings to the toilet bowl as he empties out his already empty stomach.

“Breathe.” A warm hand rubs his back as his stomach cramps painfully. There’s nothing coming up but acid. “Nice and slow. You’re alright.”

“Tyler,” he groans, throat burning.

“Jason’s getting everything cleaned up.” Tyler cups the back of his neck, squeezing. It helps settle him, a little. “You’re okay.”

It takes longer than he’d care to admit for his stomach to settle, and when it does Tyler is there with water to sooth his burning throat and to rinse his mouth out with.

He’s standing on shaky legs when they join the others in the kitchen. Jason’s just dumping a bag outside.

“It fine when I cook it.” Rads doesn’t look much better than Jamie feels, ashen, seated on a stool at the island with a mug before him.

“We just picked that up yesterday,” Jason adds, washing his hands. “I thought it looked fine. Maybe we missed it?”

“How could you miss something that looked like that?” Jordie demands.

Rads lets out a stream of angry Russian and Tyler has to step between the two before either one of them goes looking for a fight.

“There’s no way he or Jason would have missed something that rotten.”

“So, what? It rotted in the oven?”

No one seems to have an answer for that.

Jamie slides onto the stool next to Rads, knocking their shoulders together in comfort.

“This place fucking weird,” Rads mutters to himself.

Frigid fingers dance down his spine and he jerks, shaken.

“I’m still starving,” Jason is saying.

“After that?”

He shrugs. “I didn’t actually try to put any in my mouth.”

Jamie’s not feeling very hungry.

“Chips?” Tyler suggests, ever the optimist, and Jamie loves him more than he can stand in that moment. “We’ve got some sealed bags.”

It’s a skeptical group that tears open the first of the bags of chips, but the sense of relief that goes around at the sight of them, untouched and fresh, is palpable. Jamie declines the offer for any, stomach still churning, notices that Rads does the same. They get settled in the living room, passing the bags around, carefully avoiding the elephant in the room.

It’s a tense group that decides to turn in early.

 

::

 

It’s the cold that wakes Jamie.

He’s shivering; the blankets having shifted during the night, leaving him with only a thin sheet. With the cold comes panic, curling long tendrils of fear around his chest and squeezing tight. He reaches for Tyler but the space next to him is empty, the sheets cool.

Jamie sits up, heart thundering in his chest. Logically he knows there’s no need for panic, that he’s safe inside, he just needs to grab the blankets and he’ll warm up in no time. It doesn’t stop the memories of the forest and the snow and the bitter cold from seeping back in.

The bedroom door is open a crack, and Tyler’s voice filters through, low and hurried. Jamie crawls out of bed - what he needs is Tyler to  hold him, tell him he’s safe when his mind is playing tricks on him.

Tyler’s on the phone, he notices as he pulls open the door. He has his back to Jamie, but his shoulders are tense, body hunched like he’s expecting a blow. Concern mixes with the panic, leaving Jamie jittery as he reaches out, rests his hand on Tyler’s shoulder to let him know he’s there.

Tyler flinches and then whips his phone as hard as he can down the hall where it crashes to the floor and disappears into the shadows. Startled, Jamie jerks back, and that’s when Tyler rounds on him. In the dim light Jamie can see the tear tracks on Tyler’s cheeks, the grief and fury in his gaze, and Jamie shrinks back under it.

“It’s all your fault,” Tyler’s shaking, voice hard as steel.

“Tyler? What happened?” Jamie tries reaching for him again but Tyler jerks back away from his touch.

Don’t touch me,” he snarls.

“Are you alright?” Jamie tries again, at a loss.

No I’m not fucking alright!” They’re going to wake the rest of the guys, Jamie realizes distantly as he shrinks back from Tyler’s anger. “I’m done, Jamie. I’m not a Star anymore.”

The bottom of his stomach drops out, head spinning.

“No, they wouldn’t…”

“They did ,” Tyler interrupts, letting out a harsh laugh. “And the irony of it? They’re sending me back to Boston.”

For the second time that night, Jamie feels like he’s going to be sick.

“We’ll stop them, your contract-”

“You’ve done enough.” Tyler meets his eyes and there’s nothing but hatred in his gaze.

Jamie’s chest is too tight, he can’t breathe.

He stumbles away from Tyler, away from the disgust in his eyes. He needs to call someone, he needs to make this right. He needs some air.

Outside. He needs to get outside.

He makes it to the stairs, takes the first step and then something shoves him hard - two hands in the center of his back - and suddenly he’s falling, tumbling down -

“Jamie!”

He lands on the floor in a tangle of blankets, heartbeat thundering in his ears.

The bedside lamp is turned on and the room is lit up in a soft glow. A moment later Tyler is scrambling down beside him, tearing at the blankets wrapped around him in a vice. He realizes abruptly that he’s gasping for air, his chest too tight. His head is spinning.

“Fucking blankets,” Tyler’s muttering to himself and Jamie focuses on it, tries to center himself with it. Tyler gets them unwrapped from around him and it eases some of the tension. “It’s okay, its okay, whatever it was it was just a dream.”

Tyler crouches over him, face cast in shadows and suddenly Jamie needs to see, needs to know . He jerks upright, startling Tyler but he can see now, in the warm light, can see the concern in Tyler’s expressive eyes. There’s no disgust, no hatred.

Relief hits him like a sledgehammer and he sags. Tyler catches him, letting out an alarmed sound.

“You’re freaking me out here, Jameson.” Tyler wraps his arms around him, holding him tight. “Say something? Please?”

“M’fine,” he mumbles against Tyler’s shoulder, lips brushing his warm skin. It sparks something in him, lights a fire in his chest, and he presses his lips more firmly, sucks kisses into Tyler’s skin, along his shoulder, up his neck, biting down and leaving his mark as Tyler groans, baring his throat. Tyler’s here, Tyler’s not leaving. Jamie just needs to lay claim to Tyler, to create some sort of permanence, no matter how fleeting it might be.

He threads his hands through Tyler’s hair and yanks, swallows the muffled groan as he licks his way into Tyler’s mouth.

They make it back up onto the bed, barely separating to breathe, blankets forgotten in a messy pile on the floor. Tyler is quick to shimmy out of his boxers, dragging Jamie’s off as well, then reaching for his t-shirt.

Jamie covers Tyler, presses him back down into the mattress, feeling the hot, hard line of his cock nestled against his hip. It’s a little too dry like this, rutting against each other, fire rushing through his veins, as Tyler leaves marks on his back as he rakes his nails across his skin, but neither of them can stop. There’s an edge of desperation to it, one they can’t quite control and are unwilling to try.

The room feels too hot, stuffy, as they pant into each other’s mouths, helplessly rocking together, chasing their release. Jamie mouths at Tyler’s jaw, his neck, any piece of skin he can reach, tasting the salt and sweat. His cock is aching, leaking, he’s so hard he feels like he’s going to burst. Tyler digs his hands into Jamie’s ass, grinds harder against him and then stills with a low groan as he spills between them.

Straddling his thighs, Jamie sits up, gets a hand on his cock and it’s only a handful of strokes before he comes, painting Tyler’s chest with his release.

Then he sags to the side, panting, legs tangled with Tyler’s as he comes down from his orgasm.

Tyler tilts his head on the pillow, grinning dopily at him and for a moment everything is perfect.

Shock spreads across Tyler’s face just as quickly, his gaze on something just behind Jamie.

Jamie twists, catches sight of someone cast in shadows. They lunge for him. Tyler grabs and rolls them. They land in a pile on the floor. Jamie’s already searching for a weapon, for something, when it registers that they’re alone in the room.

“Where the fuck did he go?” Tyler yanks the door open.

Jamie checks under the bed but there’s nothing there save for a few cobwebs.

Tyler checks the washroom but it’s empty as well.

“You didn’t hear him leave the room, right?” Tyler checks as he comes back from the washroom, having cleaned their come off his chest. Jamie tosses him his boxers, tugging on his own.

“No.” Jamie checks but the window hasn’t been touched and there’s no one in the closet.

It’s like he just disappeared.

A sense of unease settles over him. He’d written the previous night off as a dream.

“What the fuck?” Jamie hastens over to Tyler where he’s standing by the side of the bed. He’s pale in the soft lighting, eyes wide as he stares down at the shredded sheets. Where Jamie had been lying. “Jamie…”

The bottom of his stomach drops out and he feels cold all over.

He can’t tear his gaze away from the ruined sheets when he says, “Maybe we should wake the others.”

 

::

 

They search the house from top to bottom but there’s no sign that anyone else has been in there.

“Run this by me again.” Jordie’s managed to find two baseball bats in the back of the sporting goods closet, keeping one for himself and handing the other off to Rads. For some reason Jamie isn’t feeling very reassured by their presence.

“He just appeared in our room,” Tyler answers for them. “Went after Jamie, and then disappeared.”

“What did he look like?”

Jamie glances at Tyler.

“Tall?” he hazards, trying to recall what the man's face looked like. He had been a foot away from Jamie, one of them must have seen his face.

Tyler looks just as lost.

“What colour was his hair? Did he have a beard?” Jordie presses but it’s like the harder Jamie tries to grasp the image, the more it slips through his fingers.

They’ve checked and double checked all of the locks on the windows and doors of the house, reconvening in the living room. It’s pitch black outside, and the light from the living room reflects their images back at them. Jamie squints, tries to see past it. Anyone could be standing out there and they’d never know.

“People don’t just disappear.” Jason looks the way they all feel - tired, anxious, out of their depth.

“No shit,” Tyler snaps.

“Okay,” Jordie interrupts before they can go at it. “We’re all a little on edge but we checked the place over and it’s sealed tight. There’s no one inside, there’s no one getting inside. We should try and get some sleep.”

“That’s what they say in horror movies before the serial killer shows up and chops their heads off,” Jason mutters. Jordie gives him a dirty look.

“We’re not in a horror movie.”

“You think this is guy from forest?” Rads asks.

Jamie shrugs. He hadn’t thought about that - hadn’t wanted to think about that. Cold fingers trail down his spine and he shivers.

“You think they’re coming back to finish what they started?” Tyler looks alarmed.

“They didn’t start anything,” Jamie rests his hand on Tyler’s thigh, trying to calm him. “I’m the one that went wandering in the forest.”

“You thought you were following me.”

“I still knew it was a dumb idea and did it anyways.” He squeezes Tyler’s thigh.

A loud yawn startles them.

“Sorry.” Rads looks sheepish.

“It’s been a tiring couple of days,” Jamie admits easily. A large part of it has been his fault. He should be taking better care of them. “Jordie’s right, we should get some sleep.”

“If there’s any sign of him in the morning we can call the cops,” Jordie adds. “But they’re not getting up here without a plow, and that’s not coming for another two days.”

The room is silent.

 

::

 

It’s a quiet group that heads back upstairs.

They keep their phones next to their beds, within easy reach. Each room gets a baseball bat or, in Jamie and Tyler’s case, one of the pokers from the fireplace.

They lock their doors, double check the windows, and then Tyler pushes and shoves until he gets the desk situated in front of their door. It’s heavy enough that even if it doesn’t keep everyone out, it will give them more than enough time to be prepared.

“He’s not getting you.” Tyler’s expression is fierce in the warm glow of the lamps. Jamie’s chest aches with how much he loves him.

They crawl back into bed, curled together. Jamie doesn’t think he’ll be able to sleep, wound tight as he is. Tyler is tense against him, probably doing the same as Jamie- ears straining for any sound, ready for what feels like an inevitable attack.

The time ticks by, and Tyler loses the tension in his frame bit by bit until he’s snoring gently in Jamie’s ear, a warm wall tucked up against him. And that, it turns out, is enough to put Jamie to sleep.

 

::

By morning nothing has happened.

Tyler and Jamie pull the desk away from the door, happy to find out that no one has chopped off their heads during the night. Breakfast is a quiet affair. The snow has finally stopped outside, but it doesn’t look like anyone will be getting up the road anytime soon. Their trucks are snowed in and they’ll have to shovel them out, but no one is in any hurry to head outside right now.

They all do their own thing, never straying far from each other, and by mid-morning the tension has risen again. Rads snaps, grabbing Operation from the games closet and forcing them all around the island to play it. As a distraction it works, and slowly the tension starts to leave the room.

At lunch they decide to risk it. After being cooped up inside so long the brisk winter air is a relief as Jamie and Jordie man the grill on the porch. They cook up burgers and hotdogs, add a few vegetables to the grill out of guilt. Jason bundles up and keeps an eye out just in case but no one appears out of the woods, and the snow around the house is pristine, not a footprint in sight.

If it weren’t for the shredded sheets, Jamie would swear he had imagined the whole thing.

Feeling a lot braver, they spend an hour outside, building snowmen, shoving handfuls of snow down each other’s coats when they’re not paying attention. Jamie and Rads build Bish and Dobby snowmen, complete with little snow nets for them to protect, as Jason and Jordie gang up on Tyler, armed with snowballs.

The mood is bright and happy when they trudge back inside, soaked through and grinning. It feels like all of the strain of the past few days is flowing off of them like melting snow, like only now can they start to breathe again.

Jamie steals the first shower, the cold starting to make him anxious. No one argues with him over it, and he quickly drags Tyler off with him. They’re conserving water.

The hot water quickly chases away any lingering chill, the steam rising up around them in a hazy cloud. Tyler’s body is slick and warm under his hands, all long, lean muscle and glorious tanned skin. Jamie kisses him, loves how Tyler’s mouth opens easily for him, runs his hands over his body and tries to press closer. Their kisses are wet, hot and messy, as Jamie gets his hand between them, grips their cocks together and strokes them slowly. They rock their hips into the motion, in no real hurry to come, just enjoying as the sweet tension builds higher and higher until they can’t last any longer.

The water washes away any evidence and they stumble from the shower on weak legs, hands still roaming, taking turns to dry one another off. Afterglow sounds like as good an excuse as any for a nap so they tumble into bed naked, falling together as easy as breathing.

 

::

 

It’s getting dark outside when Jamie wakes, the sun sitting heavy in the sky. Long shadows stretch across the room. His stomach rumbles, letting him know it must be close to dinner by now. Next to him Tyler is curled up on his side, just watching him, face cast in shadows, eyes dark and glittering.

“Hey,” Jamie murmurs, slinging an arm across his waist to tug him closer. He doesn’t like the distance between them.

“Have a good nap?” Tyler teases and Jamie hums, feeling pretty damn relaxed for once. It feels like it’s been ages since he’s felt this way. It probably has.

Jamie presses his face against the pillow, lets out a long breath and then faces Tyler again, finally noticing the strange, hesitant look on his face.

“What is it?”

“Nothing.” Tyler tries to pull him closer but Jamie holds his ground. He sighs. “Fine. I just, I got thinking- about this.” He glances at the space between them and something in Jamie’s chest tightens.

“What about it?” He keeps his face carefully blank but Tyler can read him like a book, has always been able to. Tyler slides his hand over Jamie’s shoulder, down his bicep, thumb stroking at the warm, bare skin.

“Does this keep going when we get back?”

Alarm shoots through Jamie like an electric current.

“Do you want to?” He can’t quite keep his voice even, or the way his muscles tense under Tyler’s touch.

Tyler searches his gaze and for one terrifying moment Jamie can’t breathe.

His lips quirk up, “Yeah, I want this. Want you.”
The relief is like a punch to the gut.

He clears his throat.

“Same.” It doesn’t really cover how much Jamie wants this , but at the moment it’s all he’s got. Tyler’s smile brightens, like he knows what Jamie means, what he’s having trouble saying- like he somehow always does. He pushes at Jamie, rolls them so he’s on top, straddling Jamie’s waist, looming over him in the dim light. Jamie’s breath catches for an entirely different reason as Tyler runs his hands down his chest, tracing his muscles, the warm, smooth skin.
God, he feels like a teenager again with how fast his body reacts to Tyler. It’s not that different, though, from how his body reacts to Tyler on the ice, hardwired to read his signals and know what he’s thinking. Tyler rubs his thumbs over Jamie’s nipples, squeezing and teasing until they’re hard little points and Jamie’s cock is swelling.

“Did you bring any lube?”

Jamie chokes a little as Tyler licks a wet stripe down his neck, biting into the thick muscle at the base.

“No.” He’d left it at home like an idiot. “You?”

“Across the hall in my duffle.” Tyler hums, rocking his hips. Jamie groans, loud in the quiet of the room. “And I don’t really want to grab it right now, even if I really want to fuck you.”

Fuck .” Jamie bites his lip, hands coming up to dig into Tyler’s hips at the image it elicits. He’s torn between wanting Tyler’s cock now and not wanting Tyler to leave even for a minute.

“Next time,” Tyler promises.

“You fucking better.” Jamie manages to let go of Tyler’s hip to wrap his hand around his cock, watching with rapt attention as Tyler rolls his hips into the grip, mouth falling open in bliss. He jacks his cock slowly, trails his fingers down the hot, hard length to tease his heavy balls. Tyler bites his lip as Jamie rocks his hips, his cock sliding against Tyler’s ass, leaving a wet trail where he’s leaking.

It’s a sight, Tyler in his lap, his cock an angry red in Jamie’s fist, grinding between his hand and his cock, bringing them both closer and closer to the edge. Jamie’s never going to forget the sight of Tyler flushed red and close to coming, or the sounds he makes when Jamie grips his ass, feeling the play of his muscles.

Jamie comes just looking at him, holds Tyler still as he stripes his ass. Tyler gets impatient quickly, jerking his cock with a rough grip until he tilts forwards and comes all over Jamie’s abs and chest. Then he sinks down, plastering himself to Jamie.

The room is quiet as they try and catch their breath, sweat and come cooling between them and leaving them sticky and cool.

“We’re gonna need another shower,” Jamie mutters and Tyler laughs, twisting until he can catch Jamie’s lips for a deep, sweet kiss.

 

::



They eventually make it back downstairs to find the guys starting dinner. Jamie peers over Rads’ shoulder, hungry, but stomach twisting at the memory of the night before. They’re putting pizzas together and everything looks fine. He steals a handful of sliced pepperoni before he’s caught and sent off to the living room.

Tyler grabs a log from next to the fire and tosses it in, toying idly with the poker to get the flames built up. The sun’s disappeared, night has settled in and, despite everything that’s happened, Jamie can see the appeal of the place.

He’s content to settle on the couch while they wait for dinner, reel Tyler in when he gets bored playing with the fire, and get his cuddling on while the boys are too distracted to chirp them.

There’s someone standing between him and the couch.

Jamie jerks back and bangs the side of his leg off the coffee table, heart pounding.

The guy’s easily his height and size, with dark hair, wearing old, ragged clothes. That’s as far as Jamie gets before the man lunges at him. Jamie braces himself, he can’t just dodge, Tyler’s behind him at the fire and he’ll be damned if he lets anything happen to him. He’s got the weight and the size and it’s not often he finds guys that can take him down- he’s not risking anyone else getting hurt.

The stranger grabs his wrists, and his grip is strong - a lot stronger than Jamie expected. It feels like the thin bones in his wrists are grinding together, pain blooming sharp and distracting. What he isn’t prepared for is the cold. Ice travels through his veins, stemming from the touch, and he gasps, brought back for one terrible moment to that night in the forest.

His grip shifts on Jamie’s wrists and he forces Jamie to his knees. There’s yelling. Jamie’s having trouble breathing, he’s so, so cold . He tries to meet the man’s eyes but for some reason he can’t focus on the man’s face, can only see a sepia smudge, like an old, out of focus photo. And yet, he knows the stranger is smiling.

“Hey!” The stranger has to release one of Jamie’s wrists as Rads and Jordie charge him. He bats them away like they’re nothing. Jason comes at him with the baseball bat but the stranger just grabs it, shakes Jason off and sends him toppling as well.

Jamie!”

Jamie tries to get his feet under him, tugs against the iron grip, drives his fist into the stranger’s stomach but nothing seems to work.

And then Tyler is there swinging his poker hard enough to make a Texas Ranger proud.

It goes right through the stranger.

He disperses like a cloud of smoke, cut in half and slowly disappearing before their eyes.

Jamie scrambles away, eyes wide and heart thundering in his ears. The others are slowly picking themselves up, looking just as shell-shocked.

Tyler drops the poker and for a moment there’s silence.

“Did everyone else see that?”

 

::

 

“Ghosts don’t fucking exist ,” Jason insists.

They’ve taken refuge in Jason and Jordie’s bedroom. It’s the largest and farthest away from Jamie’s. They’re all armed now, three pokers, and the iron broom and dustpan that go with the fireplace set, because as Tyler says, “It worked on Supernatural, okay?”.

“You wanna tell that to him then?” Jamie gestures at the door. They haven’t barricaded it this time because if a murderous ghost wants to come in, a desk in front of the door isn’t going to stop it.

“Shit,” Jordie hisses in sympathy, catching Jamie’s hand and eyeing the dark bruises blooming across his skin. By tomorrow he’ll have matching bruises on each wrist in the perfect shapes of handprints.

Jamie yanks his hand back, feeling raw, exposed.

“So we should definitely be leaving then, right?” There’s a sharp edge to Tyler’s voice, a hard set to his shoulders that brings Jamie back to his nightmare. His stomach twists. He wants to reach out but the fear of being rejected leaves him feeling brittle. Tyler’s eyes meet his own and his expression softens. “Because I’m not risking Jamie’s life when whatever this thing is clearly has it out for him.”

“How the hell are we supposed to get anywhere? The trucks are snowed in .” Jamie feels compelled to point out. There’s a foot or two of snow covering the area and the engines haven’t been started up in at least two days- they’re going to need the snowplow to get anywhere.

“We’ll get the old man to come up now then,” Jordie pulls his phone out. He frowns down at the black screen. “Jase, let me see yours.”

Jason dutifully gives up his own but the results are the same. The other three fish out their own phones but the screens refuse to light up no matter what they do.

“I had mine charging in the kitchen earlier.” Jason tosses his onto the bed in disgust.

“There’s phone in living room,” Rads points out, earning uneasy glances. In this room they at least have some pretense of safety, but going back down to where they saw it last?

“I’ll go,” Jamie offers. If it really is after him, at least it won’t go after the others when it has a chance at him.

It gets shot down immediately.

“Well someone has to go,” Jamie snaps, frustrated. “We can’t just hide in here forever.”

“Rads and I will go,” Jordie volunteers.

“I thought people weren’t supposed to split up in horror movies?” Jason demands.

“This isn’t a horror movie.”

“And ghosts aren’t real and yet here we are!” Jason looks a little wild around the eyes.

“Babe.” Jordie reels him in with a hand on his waist. Jason goes easily. “Everything’s gonna be fine.”

Jamie has to look away, his chest tight.

 

::

 

While Jordie and Rads hurry downstairs, they set to work packing. Jamie and Tyler toss Jordie’s stuff into his bag for him, stuffing clothes in any way they’ll fit. Everything can be sorted later. Jason sets to work on his own, head down, shoulders tense. There’s a strained silence over the room, everyone hyper aware of each other.

It isn’t long before the pair return looking frustrated.

“The line’s dead.” Jordie sinks down on the edge of the bed, scrubbing a hand through his beard.

“Could dig out trucks.” Rads peers out the window. It’s pitch black outside now and the thought of the dark and cold sends shivers along Jamie’s spine. “Make sure engines start.”

Horror movie ,” Jason mutters and Jamie can’t help but agree.

“Let's finish getting packed up first,” he suggests before it can devolve into arguing again.

They gather up Jason and Jordie’s bags and then, as a group, head down the hall to Rads’ room. It’s at the opposite end of the hall, closer to Jamie and Tyler’s rooms, on the other side of the staircase. Crossing the open space, Jamie glances down into the living room. It’s still brightly lit, they’ve got most of the lights in the place turned on like it can somehow hold off a malevolent spirit. For a second he swears he sees someone standing there, but when he blinks they’re gone.

He urges the guys to move faster.

 

::

 

It’s a reluctant group that heads back downstairs.

They’d argued over whether they should split up again, send two of them out to check the trucks, but no one had wanted to separate.

Jason and Jamie end up carrying the bags, surrounded by the others, all armed with their impromptu weapons. Apprehension builds in Jamie’s chest, his heart thundering in his ears, but downstairs everything is quiet.

The bags get dropped next to the door, easy to grab and go should the need arise. They throw on their winter clothes, stuff their feet into their boots, and Rads grabs the shovel from the closet.

Jamie feels like he can barely breathe, tension thick in the air, suffocating him.

It’s out there somewhere.

They’re exposed here, in the open, so what the hell is it waiting for?

“Stay here, be ready to go.” Jordie pauses by the door.

“You’re not going out there without someone to watch your back,” Jason argues, expression daring anyone to fight him. “We’re coming.”

Jordie sends Rads an imploring look but he just shrugs, yanking open the door. A burst of frigid air sweeps over them and Jamie shudders even through all of his layers.

Tyler squeezes his arm. “We’re getting out of here,” he promises.

Jamie nods along, wanting more than anything to believe him.

They hover on the porch as Jordie hurries over to the trucks. The light from the house spills out across the frozen landscape and they wait with bated breath.

Jamie’s rental doesn’t start up.

No one says anything as Jordie hops back down and heads for his own.

Jamie’s breath catches at the first hopeful splutter. It feels like his heart is about to burst from his chest. The engine turns over, the headlights blinding in the dark.

The relief that washes over him leaves his knees weak.

“Get the bags,” Rads hollers as he hurries over with the shovel.

Jason hurries to comply.

Tyler and Jamie are a beat behind him when the door slams shut between them.

There’s a moment where they lock eyes through the glass panes of the door, confusion clear on Jason’s face. Tyler reaches for the door but the handle won’t budge.

“Tyler.” Jamie shoulders in front of him, tries to put his weight into it, but the handle still won’t budge.

“What’s going on?” Rads calls over.

“The door.” Jamie steps aside. “We’re locked out.”

Jordie comes around the truck.

“Jason?”  

Rads steps up, tries the handle, and when that fails, reaches for the iron poker.

“We’re never getting our deposit back,” Jordie mutters as he joins them on the porch, but his expression is pinched with worry.

“Try kicking it down,” Tyler suggests.

They all back up, out of Rads’ way. Jamie ends up down in the snow, hands shoved in his pockets to try and ward off the cold. The night is silent around them, settled over them like a heavy blanket. Rads kicks at the door, the sound echoing throughout the clearing. Jamie glances around, the hairs on the back of his neck standing up. Icy fingers run down his spine and he shivers, a sense of apprehension sweeping over him the longer they stand there.

Rads puts his weight into it and the door frame splinters under his boot. Jordie’s through the door in an instant, tugging Jason into his arms, gaze raking over him, reassuring himself.

“What the fuck was that?” Jason demands, shaken.

And then Jamie is yanked off his feet as something grabs the collar of his coat.

His hoarse scream is muffled as the zipper digs into his throat, the air knocked from his lungs as he hits the ground. He’s dragged through the snow, faster than any human ever could, kicking, hands scrabbling to his collar to try and alleviate the pressure, to let some air in.

He twists, catches sight of a sepia coloured smudge, of old clothes and broad shoulders. Panic and fear sweep over him, turning his blood cold, his chest tight. He thinks he hears someone call his name but he can’t be sure over the roaring in his ears.

Jamie tries to grab at the hands holding him, blunt nails digging in, trying to pry off the iron grip.

The man yanks and Jamie chokes, numb fingers fighting at his zipper. Through the spots in his vision he can make out the house, lit up against the dark night sky. He can see the guys, tiny black shadows running towards him, but it’s like they’re getting further and further away.

Horror blooms sharp in his chest as he looks up and all he can see are trees.

They’re in the forest.

Fueled by panic Jamie yanks at the zipper of his coat as hard as he can. It breaks but the teeth part and he rips at them, oxygen rushing to his lungs as gravity does the rest, sliding free from his coat.

He lands in the snow, sweater riding up and giving him a frigid shock. Instinct has him pushing back to his feet, stumbling on shaky legs back towards the tree line.

A bellow echoes through the forest, shaking the trees, filled with rage. Jamie’s heart is pounding so hard he’s surprised it hasn’t just stopped . He hits some ice, nearly loses his balance, but keeps going.

He can hear yelling, can hear them calling his name and he thinks maybe, maybe he can make it out . Hope is a sick, addictive thing fluttering around his chest.

Something hits him from behind and he goes flying, tumbling, down into the cold snow. Jamie’s taken enough hits in his career that he knows how to go with it, braces himself, and is back on his feet as fast as he can.

His boots slip and slide on the ice. The man reaches for him and Jamie can feel the fury radiating off of him.

Jamie!”

“I’m here!” he calls back, stumbling out of reach. Find me .

Jordie comes skidding into sight. He doesn’t break stride, poker in hand and Jamie knows he just has to get to him.

And then the man is between them, blocking the path.

“Fuck it.” Jamie puts on a burst of speed, lowers his shoulder and delivers a hit worthy of one of the greats.

The man doesn’t even flinch.

It’s like hitting a brick wall at full speed. Pain blooms sharp and throbbing from his shoulder. Jamie stumbles, loses his footing and ends up on his back in the snow. It feels like the air’s been knocked from him as the cold seeps in. He can hear the others now.

Jordie swears, lets out a pained sound and Jamie struggles to sit up but then the man is there, leaning over Jamie. His hand curls around his neck, and god he’s so strong . He squeezes and Jamie chokes, terrified.

Get away from him !” Tyler swings with the poker but this time he’s swatted away, tumbling into the snow. Rage and panic fill him when Tyler doesn’t immediately get back up.

The grip on his throat tightens and he looks up at the smudged face realizing for the first time he can see the thing’s eyes- glittering and dark and hungry .

Jamie scrambles for something, anything that can help. He doesn’t want to die, he doesn’t want to die .

His fingers brush something cold and he grabs it, using the last of his strength to stab the iron poker through the man's stomach.

There’s no blood, no screaming- he just disappears, drifts away like smoke.

And Jamie can breathe.

He drops the poker, scrambling over to Tyler.

The others are there, climbing to their feet slowly. Tyler’s moving by the time Jamie gets to his side, just winded.

Jamie.” Tyler lunges at him when he’s close enough, and Jamie catches him, wraps him tight in his arms and doesn’t let go.

“Jesus, Chubbs.” Jordie drops down next to them, cupping Jamie’s cheeks with frozen hands and tilting his head back to get a good look at his neck. He can only imagine how it looks with how viciously his throat is aching.

“Let's get the fuck out of here.” Rads scoops up the poker, clinging to it.

Jamie’s more than happy to follow his lead.

 

::

 

The truck manages to get down the drive okay. They keep the bags piled in the back, the five of them squishing into the cab with the heat blaring. Jordie gets behind the wheel, turns on a local station and keeps it on a low setting just to kill the silence that has settled over them all.

It’s a bit of a drive back to Montreal but at this time of the night the roads are empty and they make good time.

Jason drifts off, exhausted as the adrenaline wears off, head propped up on Tyler’s shoulder. Jamie can’t sleep. Everytime he closes his eyes he sees the man’s- the ghost’s- hungry gaze.

They get a few hotel rooms in the early hours of the morning as the sun is just a dusty haze on the horizon. They’re reluctant to split up but two queen sized beds aren’t enough for five full-sized hockey players.

Jordie pulls Jamie in for a long, tight hug before letting him head to his own room.

Rads ends up in his own room, off to charge his phone and skype someone back home. Jamie and Tyler get the room next door. It has two queen sized beds but they both head for the one farthest from the door. They strip down, out of their mostly dried clothes, tugging on sweats and t-shirts before crawling under the covers, curling together. Their flight doesn’t leave until late that night so they have the day to spend together.

Despite the horrors of the night, of the week , they’re both asleep minutes after their heads hit the pillows.

 

::

 

Jamie wakes with a start, heart pounding, confused as the last whispers of a dream slip away.

He’s warm, wrapped up in something living, breathing, and the fear eases with each soft exhale against his skin.

Tyler.

They’re tangled together, sharing a pillow, arms wrapped around one another. Tyler’s eyelashes are long, dark smudges against his cheeks and this close Jamie can make out the faint freckles across the bridge of his nose. His lips are just barely parted, pink and so inviting that Jamie can’t help but duck close, feel them against his own.

Tyler stirs, letting out a happy sigh, and Jamie pulls back just far enough to rest their foreheads together, to breathe the same air.

He can’t get over how lucky he is to have this.

“Morning.” Tyler’s voice is thick and slow with sleep and it sends a little thrill through Jamie that he gets to hear it.

“Afternoon I think.” He’s too content to get up and check the clock next to the bed but there’s sunlight streaming through the blinds they forgot to close and he can hear busy Montreal traffic outside.

The others must still be sleeping if they’re not at their door.

“Mm.” Tyler peers at him, eyes half lidded and content. Jamie closes the distance between them, pressing slow, easy good morning kisses to his lips.

They kiss until their lips are swollen and tingle, until their slow, easy caresses turn more desperate, until they’re rocking together, heat building between them.

Jamie’s cock is hard in his sweats, trapped against Tyler’s thigh. There’s a hum running across his skin, an electric current that sparks every time Tyler touches him. It’s so, so good. But it’s not enough.

He sits up, strips his shirt off and tosses it away. Tyler’s quick to follow, shirt gone and sweats off before Jamie can get his own off. Tyler lays back in the pillows and Jamie takes a moment to just bask in the sight of Tyler, all golden skin and defined muscles, before Tyler gets impatient, urging him close again.

Jamie brackets him, covers him with his body and meets him for another deep, hot kiss. His moan is swallowed up between them, hands roaming, hips grinding as sweat blooms across their skin making everything slicker.

Tyler’s hands rove across his shoulders, his back and down across his ass. He squeezes and Jamie has to break the kiss, trying to catch his breath. He feels like he’s on a hair trigger with Tyler.

Tyler’s grip becomes more exploratory, his long, sinful fingers dipping between Jamie’s cheeks and teasing over his hole and Jamie has to bite his lip to keep the embrassaring sounds from escaping. Tyler kisses his way along Jamie’s neck where it’s sore and tender, pressing gentle, sweet kisses to the skin that have Jamie’s pulse fluttering in an entirely different way.

He drops his head, overwhelmed by the contrast of Tyler’s kisses and his fingers.

“Hey.” Tyler’s voice is so full of love and it’s the only reason Jamie finds it in himself to look him in the eye when he says, “Baby, look at me.”

Tyler’s freehand comes up to cup his cheek, thumb brushing across his overheated cheeks and Jamie can’t bear the look of absolute adoration he finds reflected back in Tyler’s expression, so he ducks down, kisses him again and tries to get across what he can’t find the words to say.

He gets lost in it, in the kiss, in the steady rock of their hips, of Tyler’s long fingers teasing at his hole, and it isn’t until he’s pushing back against Tyler’s hands, frustration growing in his chest, that he realizes it’s not enough.

He pulls back, a bolt of heat coiling low in his belly at the way Tyler tries to chase his lips mindlessly.

“Lube?” He thinks he phrases it as a question, but honestly it might be a demand. Either way Tyler groans, a hurt, punched out sound, and pulls his hands back.

“Yeah, okay.”

Jamie has to roll off of him so he can grab it from his bag, which he hates , but he consoles himself with what will come next. He lays on his back, slowly jerking his cock, watching Tyler like a hawk as he stumbles around the room, searching in his duffle.

It feels like ages before he’s back, crawling onto the bed with a small tube and a triumphant grin.

“How do you wanna do this?”

Jamie considers it, then flips to his stomach, getting up on his hands and knees. His cheeks flush a little and he feels open, exposed. Tyler’s warm hand smooths across his back and he jumps at the touch, forcing himself to relax tense muscles. It’s been awhile, and never with someone like Tyler.

“God.” Tyler sounds wrecked . He spreads Jamie’s cheeks. “Sometime soon I’m gonna spend an hour eating you out.”

Fuck .” Jamie grabs at the base of his cock awkwardly, eyes closing at the image. “You’re such an asshole.”

Tyler laughs and a moment later cold lube hits his hole. Jamie hisses, jerking away, but Tyler manages to hold him in place, using his thumb to rub the lube against Jamie’s hole until it warms. He feels soaked . Embarrassment flushes through him but it’s with a strong hit of arousal leaving Jamie spinning.

Tyler works his thumb in slowly, letting Jamie get used to the intrusion. It’s a burn at first, but nothing worse than a shift on the ice and he gets used to it quickly, pushing back against it when it becomes clear that it’s still not enough.

Tyler pulls his thumb out and comes back with two fingers, and more lube. Jamie drops down onto his elbows, head hanging, a pleased sigh escaping him. This , this is what he’s looking for. Something he knows he’ll feel . Tyler doesn’t tease too much, which is a bit of a shame- Jamie loves getting fingered, but that’s something to explore when they’re not so on edge.

Three fingers has him rocking into it, biting his lip, hands gripping the sheets as Tyler manages to find his prostate, rubbing slow, little circles around it as Jamie’s cock drips precome onto the sheets below.

Ty ,” he gasps, shuddering. His cock is aching, hanging heavy between his legs and he feels like he’s too big for his skin. “ Come on .”

“Ask nicely.” Tyler sounds far too smug, albeit winded. His fingers pick up the pace a little, hitting Jamie’s prostate dead on and Jamie swears, considers just getting his hand on his cock and making himself come.

“Tyler—” He has to clear his throat, repeat himself because the first attempt comes out as more of a broken sound than anything else. “ Please .”

Anything .” Tyler’s voice is fierce and he shoves his fingers in deep one last time, wrenching a sob from Jamie, before pulling out and leaving him feeling disturbingly empty.

There’s the crinkle of a wrapper and Jamie twists, blinking sluggishly at the sight of Tyler rolling a condom down his hard cock.

“You brought condoms to a guys’ week?”

“Never know what might come up.” Tyler winks at him, giving his cock a quick stroke.

He’s in love with an idiot.

“Just fuck me already—” It comes out as less of a demand as Tyler sinks in, in one smooth roll of his hips. Jamie’s arms do give out then and he’s panting into the sheets, gripping them tight to keep himself anchored. Tyler’s got a solid grip on his hips, keeping them up, and he stills, giving Jamie time to adjust to the stretch. And fuck it’s a stretch. He bites his lip and tries to remember how to breathe. Eventually the roaring in his ears subsides enough that he can hear Tyler mumbling filth. It comes as no surprise that Tyler loves to talk during sex.

“You’re so tight , so hot. Better than I ever imagined-”

Jamie groans and tries to push back, tries to get Tyler moving.

It works, forcing a punched out moan from Tyler as he slowly rocks his hips. The drag of his cock feels sinfully good, heavy and thick. Tyler picks up the pace, fingers digging into Jamie’s hips, hips snapping forwards as Jamie holds on and tries to breathe. It’s good, it’s so good .

“I love the sounds you make,” Tyler pants, curling over him and it’s a whole new feeling, a deep grind that lights him up from the inside out. “Like you can’t help it, like you love taking my cock.”

“God, shut up,” Jamie groans, flustered and turned on.

Tyler chuckles, low and dark and nips at Jamie’s ear.

“Wanna see you come for me, Jamie.”

His name on Tyler’s lips is so dirty and perfect and he moans, caught off guard.

“Then make me come,” Jamie hisses.

Tyler doesn’t laugh this time, doesn’t have a smart remark. He gets back up on his knees, hoists Jamie up with him and then he’s sinking down into Tyler’s lap, eyes wide and mouth hanging open. He’s so deep .

They both groan and Tyler snakes his hand around to start jerking Jamie off, his hand just this shade of too tight, moving in time with his hips.

Jamie tries to help, to fuck himself between Tyler’s cock and his hand, chasing the pressure that’s building low in his gut and along his spine. Tyler’s movements get jerky, rougher and then he pushes in one last time and stills, coming. He bites down on Jamie’s shoulder as he does and the pain is so sharp, so sweet.

Impatient, Jamie bats Tyler’s hand away from his own cock, fucking into his own fist with Tyler still buried deep within him. It sweeps over him suddenly, leaving him breathless and panting, his fist covered in come and Tyler groaning sweetly when Jamie comes around him.

Slowly, gently, Tyler helps Jamie up, helps him get settled on the bed and wipes him down with the top sheet. Jamie hisses when Tyler pulls out, hating the empty feeling that’s left but loving the fucked out feeling that washes over him.

It feels like an enormous feat, keeping his eyes open until Tyler gets back from disposing of the condom, but it’s worth it for the kiss he receives as Tyler tucks them both in under the covers. He curls around Jamie, head on his chest as they catch their breath, sleep quickly pulling them under.

It’s early afternoon, they’re safe, and they have nowhere else they need to be for hours. Sleep sounds perfect.

 

::

 

It’s a tired, sore group that arrives at the airport later that afternoon.

Jamie keeps his scarf looped around his neck having seen just how vivid the bruises are now, knows how much worse they’re going to look in the coming days. He’s going to get chirped mercilessly.

“We’ll just tell them they’re from kinky sex games.” Tyler’s smile falls flat, can’t wipe out the concern in his warm brown eyes when his gaze lingers on the bruises.

It’s just the three of them heading out, Jason’s pulled some strings to stay a few extra days- the Coyotes don’t have any games for a bit still. Jamie gets it, he’s reluctant to let Jordie out of his sight too. Unfortunately they don’t have the luxury of staying, they have a game in two days, are expected at practice tomorrow morning.

He isn’t sure how to just go back like nothing happened.

“Hey,” Jordie reels him in for a bone crushing hug. Jamie clings back and if there’s a sore, ugly lump in his throat, it’s because of his bruises, nothing more. “It’s okay. We’re okay.”

He isn’t sure which one of them Jordie is trying to convince.

 

::



They part ways with Rads at the airport in Dallas. The big Russian is noticeably quiet, almost reluctant to leave them, but he does and Jamie and Tyler grab their own Uber home.

The dogs come running to greet them as soon as they’re through the door and Jamie lets Cash bowl him over, lets them cover him in slobbering, messy kisses, until Tyler calls them off to get their dinner ready and let them out into the yard.

They haven’t talked about it, about Jamie staying here or going home, but Jamie takes his bag up to Tyler’s room like he’s made the trek a million times. He hops in the shower, washing off the recycled airplane air and hopefully the stress of the week.

He’s feeling a bit better when he gets out, some of the tension slipping away now that he’s back on familiar soil. Tyler’s waiting for him when he gets out of the shower, hungry gaze watching as he drops his towel and tugs on a pair of fresh boxers. Instead of acting on it though, he grabs his own quick shower and then curls up with Jamie under the covers. Despite sleeping all day they’re both exhausted, worn out mentally and emotionally.

The dogs end up curled up on the carpet by the bed, Marshall hopping up to settle partially across Jamie’s legs, a warm welcomed weight. Tyler snuggles close, pressing a sweet soft kiss to his lips.

Finally, finally Jamie feels himself relaxing.

He’s safe here, wrapped up in Tyler’s arms.

At the foot of the bed Marshall lifts his head.

“Go to sleep, bud.” Tyler mumbles, eyes already shut, sleep slowly sinking its claws into him.

Marshall lets out of a sharp huff, pushes to his feet, growling low and vicious, Cash and Gerry following a moment later. Their barking fills the room. Tyler and Jamie jerk upright, hearts pounding.

In the dark of the room they can just make out a familiar smudged figure in the doorway.

No,” Jamie’s having a nightmare. He’s asleep. He must be. “ No no no no no…”

But he knows, it’s not a dream.