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At first, when everyone is trying to visit him, all Tomáš wants is some quiet. His head is cloudy from the painkillers, and his knee is throbbing despite them. He tries to muster up a grin for the teammates crowding around his bedside, but it's frankly a relief when they leave again.

Then his prescription runs out and his mother flies home and he starts physical therapy and rehab. Returning to silent, empty rooms after those grueling sessions gives Tomáš a new appreciation for company and distraction, but as is the way with these things, the stream of visitors has trailed off almost entirely by now too. The team goes on the road again, and even when they come back, the guys have their own lives to attend to during the short stints at home. The only one who still comes by with any regularity is Joe.

Joe always brings something with him– groceries, even though Tomáš has a delivery service, or box sets of DVDs to watch, even though Tomáš has Netflix, or a teal-colored swim cap, even though Tomáš doesn't need to wear one for his pool exercises. Tomáš thinks Joe's being overprotective, or trying to compensate for not having protected Tomáš in the first place. Then he starts noticing how Joe thrusts the things forward as soon as he comes in the door, like a talisman, like an excuse for being there– because, Tomáš realizes, Joe isn't just visiting because it's his duty as captain toward an injured rookie. Joe is making up reasons to come because he thinks he needs a reason besides wanting to, and he does want to.

That's something to think about. Tomáš hasn't let himself look at Joe in that light, because Joe is captain and so much older, and the odds didn't seem good. But if Joe is seeking him out... he looks at the line of the nape of Joe's neck and thinks, yes.

"Joe," Tomáš says, holding up the Czech flag T-shirt that's Joe's latest offering, "this is great. I love it! But you can come here without bring presents, you know? I give you permission."

Joe's cheeks go pink and he dips his eyes. That's interesting, too.

 

Patty, Pickles, Pavs, and Nemo fly off to Sochi, and the rest of the team scatters for the break. Joe looks a little sour when he tells Tomáš about the sendoff speeches made in the room after the media left.

"Are you going to watch the games?" Tomáš asks.

Joe looks even more sour. "Yeah, probably," he says.

"Come over here and watch with me," Tomáš says. He doesn't want Joe to watch alone. Joe will surely just get stuck in his own head if he does that.

Joe hesitates. Tomáš says, "Czechs play first of all!"

That actually gets a grin from Joe. "Ok," he says. "I'll be here."

 

They eat enormous sandwiches for lunch while they watch the Czechs lose to the Swedes. The final score isn't quite the blowout it looked like it might be halfway through, but the result is the same, a loss to start the tournament.

"Sucks," Joe says.

"Yes," Tomáš says.

Joe leans over and knocks his shoulder against Tomáš's.

Tomáš sighs and says, "Come over again tomorrow?"

"It starts at, like, 2:00 AM," Joe says.

"So come tonight. I will set an alarm, we can get up then."

"Well," Joe says. He looks like he wants to object, but can't think of a reason. "Ok."

 

He shows up in the evening with the same duffel bag he brings on road trips. They eat an early dinner and then head to bed immediately after, Tomáš to his own room and Joe to the guest room.

Tomáš's head is too full to let him fall asleep right away. He likes having Joe sleeping under his roof, maybe more than he should– more than Joe has agreed to, anyway. But it would be even more rude to kick Joe out now. So he may as well let himself enjoy it.

At 1:45 Tomáš gets up, limps his way out into the hallway, and knocks on Joe's door. "Joe," he says. "Time to get up."

There's a tiny pause. "Yeah," Joe says. "Be right there."

There's something nice about sitting together wrapped up in blankets with only a few lamps and the television on against the dark. They don't talk much, and Tomáš turns the volume down till Doc Emrick is nothing but a background murmur.

Joe stretches his legs out in front of him and slouches to lean back against the sofa cushions. By the second period of the U.S.-Slovakia game, he's slumped far enough over that his head is resting against Tomáš's arm. Tomáš tries to avoid moving, afraid of dislodging him, but Tomáš twitches when the Slovaks score, and Joe startles awake, blinking hard.

"Sh," Tomáš says, laying his palm over Joe's eyes. Joe goes still.

"Tomáš?" he says after a moment.

"Sleep more. I will wake you for Canada."

Joe makes a vague sound in his throat, but doesn't move away from Tomáš's hand. Tomáš soaks in the warmth of Joe's skin against his palm, Joe's breaths brushing the side of his thumb. He leaves his hand there till he's sure Joe is really asleep.

 

"Sorry about before," Joe says later, when they're eating cereal in the kitchen in broad daylight. "I didn't mean to fall asleep on you."

"I don't mind," Tomáš says. "I like to take care of you."

Joe glances up at that. Tomáš smiles at him. Joe looks quickly away again.

 

The following day Joe sits stubbornly upright, eyes fixed firmly on the television. Tomáš sighs a little and tries not to take it to heart. It wouldn't be in Joe's nature to let himself have this so easily. Tomáš can wait a little longer.

 

Tomáš has PT, and while Joe doesn't have practice during the break, he still needs to work out. "I'll drive you," Joe says. "I can swing by and get you again when I'm done at the gym."

"All right," Tomáš says. Being behind the wheel will help Joe calm down, hopefully, and will also make him come back home with Tomáš again.

PT is good, in the way Tomáš can tell it's helping his strength and flexibility, but it's also exhausting. "Can we get food?" Tomáš says when they're back in the car.

"Ok," Joe says.

They get so much food that they actually eat at the kitchen table in order to have room to spread out all the boxes. They don't talk a lot while they're eating, except to pass different dishes back and forth. Tomáš feels a lot better when he's done, and Joe looks more relaxed too. When they get up from the table, Tomáš's knee holds up surprisingly well. He packs the leftovers away into the fridge while Joe loads up the dishwasher.

Joe turns toward the living room, and Tomáš says, "Wait."

"Hm?" Joe says, turning back.

Tomáš takes Joe's wrists in his hands and leans in to kiss him.

Joe melts against him for a long moment. Then Tomáš feels Joe tensing up, and he pulls back in turn, letting Joe's hands drop.

"Joe?" he says.

Joe draws in a breath and lets it out again. "I don't think this is really a good idea," he says.

"Why not?" Tomáš says. "I think we fit together good."

"What do you mean," Joe says. It's something of a stalling question, but Tomáš doesn't mind spelling it out.

"I like to have control, and I think you like to give it up."

Joe's eyes go wide, like he hadn't expected to hear it said so bluntly.

"Also I like you," Tomáš hurries to add. "Anyway, with the rest or not."

"Tomáš, I-" Joe says, but then he can't seem to decide what to say next. He scrubs a hand over his forehead and then through the short hairs of his beard. "Look," he starts again, "I don't know how you figured it out, but I- I mean, it's been a while, but..." He takes another deep breath. "I have done that. But that doesn't mean it would be very smart to- to start something here."

Joe's face is drawn tight; it's clearly cost him a lot to say even this much. There's nothing to be gained by pushing him now. "Ok," Tomáš says.

Joe keeps looking at Tomáš with his mouth in an unhappy line.

"It's ok, Joe," Tomáš repeats. "You want to get up same time for game tomorrow? I will wake you."

"You still want me to stay?"

"Of course," Tomáš says.

 

The next morning, when Joe yawns during the second intermission of the U.S. game, Tomáš puts a pillow on his good leg and taps it. "Here, lie down," he says. "Will be better for your back."

Joe frowns at him uncertainly.

"Just a nap," Tomáš says. "That's all."

Joe yawns again while he's trying to answer. "Ok," he says then. He shifts around to lay his head on the pillow and stretch his legs out along the rest of the couch. He seems to fall asleep within moments.

Pavs gets three assists in the game. Tomáš is proud and jealous at the same time, and once again he can't help aching to be there. But Joe's trusting weight in his lap is a pleasure all its own.

 

Joe goes home to his own place that night, saying he's going to skip the American women's semifinal to get a full night's sleep for once. Tomáš has to concede that that's probably not a bad idea. And being in his own space might help Joe relax, much as Tomáš would like to keep him close.

"But come back for Canada at lunch?" Tomáš says.

Joe's smile is fleeting but real. "Sure."

 

"Can I ask you something?" Tomáš says, when the Canadians have dispatched the Swiss women in a surprisingly close game.

Joe turns to face him, looking a little unenthusiastic but also unsurprised. "About..." he says.

"Why you think it's not good idea," Tomáš says.

Joe doesn't pretend not to understand, but, Tomáš thinks, he's still far too tense. The answer he gives now will not be the real reason yet, or at least not the most important.

"We're teammates," Joe says.

"That did not stop you before," Tomáš says. He doesn't know that for a fact, as such, but he can see in Joe's face that it's true.

"Maybe it should have," Joe answers.

"It went bad?"

"I got traded."

"Traded because bad?" Tomáš presses.

Joe grimaces. "Not directly," he says. "I mean, nobody knew– a few guys might have figured out that we were fucking, I guess, but nobody knew about the rest of it. But it made things complicated in the room."

Tomáš hmms a little in the back of his throat. "Complicated can be worth it," he points out. "Have to talk about how to handle it, but it doesn't mean automatic problem."

"I don't know," Joe says. "I don't- I don't- I just don't think it's a good idea. It's too close."

"It's close," Tomáš agrees. Joe looks unhappy and agitated, and that's not at all what Tomáš is going for. So he lets the subject drop.

 

The qualification games take place the next day. Tomáš and Joe head to the kitchen to eat breakfast in between Russia's game and the Czech Republic's. Tomáš actually hadn't planned to bring up any more serious question today, but as soon as they're sitting at the table Joe launches into a speech about it, like he's been thinking about it and has spent some time figuring out what to say.

"Look," Joe says. "You wanted to know why I can't, uh, get involved with anyone. So: I can't have someone undermining me as captain, who would challenge me in the room. And I can't have someone trying to tell me what to do on the ice– to, to wear a visor or not fight or not block shots or shit like that. And, I can't have any marks or- aftereffects, that would affect my play."

"Ok," Tomáš says. "Those are fair. What else?"

"What do you mean, what else? That's it. That's why I can't."

"Joe," Tomáš says, "you don't want those things, it's a reason not to do those things. It's not a reason to do nothing."

Joe huffs out a breath and shakes his head. "That easy, huh?" he says. "I guess you've got it all figured out?"

"No," Tomáš says. "What I had in my last team did not work either. But I know more what I don't like, now."

"Oh yeah? What's that?"

Joe's tone is sarcastic, but Tomáš pauses and takes a breath; this is something he's been thinking about since he and Pavel separated.

"I don't like to give punishment for how you play," he says. "You make mistakes on ice, coaches can tell you so. You deal with it there. If I tell you commands, if I hurt you, it's because we like it."

Joe takes a sharp breath.

Tomáš wants desperately to reach for him. He picks up his fork and eats a mouthful of eggs to keep his hands busy instead.

Joe looks down at his plate and starts spreading butter on his toast. They eat in silence for a few minutes.

"If you don't go with teammates, you go with someone outside?" Tomáš says.

"Uh," Joe says. He picks up his water glass and drinks. "Not for a while now," he says then. "I tried going to some places in the city, you know? But it's hard to know who you can trust."

Tomáš nods. "A person you know is better," he says. Joe flicks a glance up and away again before Tomáš can read it.

 

The Czechs go out against the U.S. in the quarterfinal, and Tomáš is not in any mood to be proud of Pavs for getting an assist in the game.

"We should have a cookout when the guys get back," Joe says. "Grill some stuff. Get everyone to feel like team again."

Tomáš grins despite himself. "Yes," he says. "At your house? Pool party?"

"You really love pools now."

"It's good exercise," Tomáš says. Joe raises his eyebrows. "And it's fun!" Tomáš admits.

Joe smiles. "Fine, ok. Cookout by the pool. I'll send out a message."

 

The buzzer sounds on the second period of the women's final, and Tomáš mutes the TV as the commercials come on.

"You like to do pain stuff?" Joe says.

Tomáš blinks; the last thing Joe had said before that was a yell of disappointment at a save. Tomáš is certainly not sorry to find Joe thinking about this, though.

"Yes," he says. "I like to make someone feel a lot."

"Like, ah. What do you do?"

"Spanking," Tomáš says. "Sometimes with my hand, sometimes other things. Or sometimes just bite, pinch. Or play with bruises already there."

Joe's gaze drops to his own thigh.

Tomáš heroically resists the temptation to reach a hand out and touch. Instead, he lets the subject rest for a minute. Then he says, "What about you? What do you like? What do you miss doing?"

"I, uh." Joe fixes his eyes on the talking heads on the TV screen, but answers promptly enough. "I liked being tied up." He clears his throat. "Uh, sometimes handcuffs. A blindfold. Kneeling."

Tomáš nods. "Those are good." He waits to see if Joe will add anything else, but Joe has fallen silent, staring at the TV. Tomáš can't resist pressing a little more, though. "You try a gag?"

Joe lifts one shoulder in a shrug. "I didn't mind it," he says. That's a little disappointing; Jan and Pavel had each responded strongly to being gagged, and Tomáš had hoped Joe might, too. Still, if Joe is willing, perhaps Tomáš could get him to enjoy obeying the command, if not the gag itself.

"How about ropes-" Tomáš waves his hand in a circle. "I mean, all over?"

"Yeah," Joe says, and now his voice is thick in his throat. Tomáš smiles.

When the broadcast returns, Tomáš turns the sound back on. Joe is flushed and twitchy during the third period, and Tomáš is feeling pretty keyed up himself. He aches to take Joe's energy, hold it, channel it. But when Tomáš makes himself look closely, Joe still seems embarrassed and uneasy as well as turned on, keeping space between them on the couch and not meeting Tomáš's eyes. So Tomáš holds back and lets Joe merge that excitement into the thrill of the Canadians' comeback and overtime win instead.

 

Rask goes out sick, so Nemo dresses for the Finns' semifinal, and they yell whenever they get a glimpse of him sitting stoically on the bench. Joe is quieter overall than he was the day before, though; less tense, but more self-contained. He pulls his legs up instead of stretching them out and wraps his arms around his knees.

"You want a snack?" Tomáš says when the Finns' time has run out.

Joe turns his head. "What?"

"Food." Tomáš gestures at the kitchen.

"Oh! Uh, sure, sounds good."

Tomáš stands up and winces a little when he puts weight on his bad leg.

"I can get it, though!" Joe says hurriedly. "You don't have to-"

Tomáš smiles. "I will get it," he says.

"Ok," Joe says uncertainly.

He takes a carrot stick from the plate Tomáš brings back and eats it in three bites, then reaches for another, and another. His expression is still somewhat distant, but the pile is three-quarters gone by the time the Canada-U.S. game starts, and that's satisfaction enough for Tomáš.

The game does pull Joe out of his head again; he puts his feet back down on the floor and leans forward toward the TV with his elbows on his thighs. Tomáš for his part spends more time watching Joe than the plays. Unlike Nemo, Joe has a very expressive face, and Tomáš enjoys tracking the progression of interest, anxiety, disappointment, pride, and triumph across his features.

Joe glances over during a commercial. Tomáš smiles at him. Joe twists his mouth into a wry shape and turns back to the screen.

When the last buzzer sounds, Joe cheers out loud again. Tomáš grins and holds his hand up for the high five, not because he cares so much about a Canadian win but because it's such a pleasure to see Joe's smile.

 

The bronze medal game is brutal to watch. The Americans have let themselves go completely, and when the camera pans past Pavs on the bench, his face is a mask of bleakness.

"Well," Tomáš says when it's over, "Nemo will get a medal."

Joe snorts. "I guess he will." But they both know Nemo won't take much pleasure in something he didn't even touch a blade to the ice for, so it's not a very cheering thought.

Joe gets up and drapes his blanket over the arm of the couch. "See you tomorrow?" he says.

"Tomorrow," Tomáš says.

 

The gold medal game is something else entirely. Joe is on the edge of his seat the whole time, and he shouts out loud at each Canadian goal. Tomáš has no reason to care about the Swedes' feelings, and Joe only looks faintly jealous around the edges of his smile, so Tomáš just sits back and enjoys it.

When the game ends, Joe leans over and throws his arms around Tomáš. "I can't fucking believe it!" he says.

"Amazing!" Tomáš agrees. He brings his hands up to rest lightly on Joe's back. Joe's body is lean and warm against him.

"Holy fuck!" Joe says. Then he seems to recall himself. Dropping his arms and shifting back to his spot, he says, "Look, there's Pickles."

They keep watching through the medal ceremony and the interviews and all, until the TV coverage finally dwindles to an end. Joe helps carry their various dishes and trash into the kitchen while Tomáš loads the dishwasher. Then Joe lifts a hand to scratch at the back of his neck.

"I'll get out of your hair now," he says. "Thanks for, uh, having me over, though."

"My pleasure," Tomáš says.

"See you at my place on Tuesday?"

"Yes," Tomáš says. "See you then."

Then Joe is out the door and gone.

The apartment is very quiet. Tomáš goes and takes the blankets off the couch and the sheets off the guest bed and throws them firmly into the washing machine.

 

The party at Joe's house is lively but not wild, which is just as well considering most of them will be flying out on the road trip the next day. Pat and Eddie accept high fives and backslaps but hang back a little in conversation, asking everyone else about their own trips instead. Pat in particular seems to be on a mission to see everyone's vacation photos. Jason jumps into the pool with an enormous splash, and Logan gets thrown in. Tomáš settles for sliding slowly into the water from the edge. It feels good once he's in, though, the subtle easing of pressure on his leg and the warmth from the pool's heating system.

It's not until he pulls himself back out of the water and tries to stand up that he realizes he may have overdone it. His knee hurts, not a sharp pain, thankfully, but the ache that says he needs to rest it right now.

Tommy sees him limping and rushes over, getting his own shoulder under Tomáš's arm to help him inside. Tomáš sinks down into a corner of the couch. A couple of the guys crowd around asking him how he is, and then Joe comes in from the kitchen.

"Tomáš!" he says.

"It's fine! I'm fine," Tomáš says. "Just need to sit a little."

Joe bites his lip. He hasn't talked much with Tomáš since greeting him at the door, but now he comes close and looks down at Tomáš's leg with worried eyes.

"It's better already," Tomáš tells him.

"Let me get you an ice pack," Joe says.

Tomáš manages a smile. "Ok."

Joe doesn't quite hover, but he does look in frequently. Tomáš makes a point of smiling when he catches Joe's eye, and Joe gradually seems to relax.

"Ok, boys!" Dan says when it's gotten late. "Time to clean up and clear out, eh? Go home and pack for tomorrow, because I know you fuckers haven't done it yet."

"Oh, and you have," Logan says. Dan just laughs.

Tomáš shifts to get up, but Dan turns and points at him. "Not you," he says. "You can supervise from there."

Joe laughs softly. Tomáš probably wouldn't even have heard it if Joe weren't standing right next to him. He looks up, trying to see Joe's face. Joe flushes when he notices, but doesn't look away.

The house slowly goes quiet as the guys head out. Tommy offers Tomáš a ride home, but accepts his refusal easily enough when Tomáš says he's going to call a car. Finally the front door bangs shut behind Pat and Dan, the last ones to go. Tomáš sets the ice pack aside and stretches his leg out. He's relieved to feel his knee much improved, only the slightest twinge left when he moves it.

Joe comes in with a garbage sack and gathers a few more bottles and cans from around the living room. "Oh, are you done with that?" he says, nodding at the ice pack. "Need another one?"

"No, but thank you," Tomáš says. He hands the pack over, letting his fingers brush Joe's as he does.

Joe swallows. "I'm gonna stick these in the kitchen," he says.

He lingers in the archway when he comes back, no longer carrying anything.

"Come here?" Tomáš says. Joe comes forward then to stand in front of him.

Tomáš circles his fingers around Joe's wrist and strokes his thumb over the veins on the inside. Then he lets go.

"Joe," he says, "what's stopping you?"

Joe is silent. Tomáš waits. Joe's breaths sound loud in the stillness of the room around them.

"You're barely twenty," Joe says. "You're practically still a kid."

Tomáš nods. "I have things to learn," he says. "Lots of things! But I know myself, and I know you. I understand what you like and I like it too. I can take care of you, if you come to me."

Joe looks down at Tomáš.

Then he folds to his knees. "Please," he says, head bowed. "Tomáš, please."

It hits Tomáš like a full body check. His head is buzzing and his whole chest feels hot.

"Yes," he says. "Of course." He sets his hands on either side of Joe's face and tilts Joe's head up so he can kiss him.

When both of them are breathless, Tomáš draws back so he can look at Joe. Joe blinks his eyes open, and there are no worries lined into his face anymore; he's smiling. "You make me so happy," Tomáš says, and kisses him again.

"Are you ready? You want to start tonight?" Tomáš murmurs into Joe's ear some time later.

"Yes," Joe says.

Tomáš smiles. "Stand up, then, and give me your clothes."

Tomáš had plenty of plans and fantasies for this, but somehow he'd always pictured it happening at his own place, with his own tools and supplies. He'll have to improvise a little here. But he can do enough to show Joe how good it can be between them.

Joe strips with professional efficiency and hands Tomáš the little pile of cloth. Tomáš takes his time looking at Joe's body, especially his cock. Joe's chin goes up a fraction of an inch, but otherwise he stands patiently under Tomáš's gaze.

"Turn around," Tomáš says. He picks out Joe's T-shirt, sets the rest aside, then rolls and twists the cloth into a rope shape. "I will tie your hands now."

Joe puts his wrists behind his back without further prompting. Tomáš grins. "You are so good for me."

He loops the shirt loosely around Joe's wrists and ties it in a simple knot. Joe could shrug out of it immediately if he chooses, but Tomáš can tell from his breathing that the mere feeling of the restraint is having its effect. And of course, Tomáš likes the look. He can give Joe more thorough helplessness later.

He drops a cushion to the floor and tells Joe, "Turn again and kneel here." Joe looks so good when he does it that Tomáš has to spend long minutes kissing him some more.

Tomáš manages to work himself up so much that it's a real relief to lean back and get his dick out of his shorts. He shifts his leg to ease his knee and then strokes himself lazily a few times. "You are being so good," he says. "Should I let you have my cock?"

"Yeah," Joe says hoarsely, "please."

"You want it?"

"Please-" Joe swallows- "please let me blow you."

"Yes, you deserve it," Tomáš says. He pets Joe's head a little, smoothing his hair back. "Come here, then."

Joe resettles himself on his knees for better balance, and Tomáš makes it easy for Joe by steadying the base of his dick with his own hand. The first touch of Joe's mouth, tentative as it is, makes him gasp with pleasure, and it only gets better as Joe finds his rhythm. Even when Joe pauses to catch his breath, Tomáš is so very pleased with him. And when Joe leans back and takes Tomáš's come in streaks across his chest, Tomáš finds himself brimming with satisfaction.

He bends forward and wipes the sweat from Joe's temples with his thumbs. "You are amazing," he says, and Joe's face goes even redder than before. He kisses Joe, lingering as Joe's lips fall open for him again. Then Tomáš leans as far over as he can. "I take this off now," he says, tucking his fingers under the loop of the T-shirt, "so you come sit here."

Joe has to clear his throat before he can get a sound out. "Yeah."

Tomáš loosens the knot enough for the cloth to fall away, and Joe moves a little stiffly to stand up and then sit where Tomáš guides him, leaning into Tomáš's shoulder with his legs swung sideways over Tomáš's lap. Tomáš ignores Joe's beautifully hard dick for now and instead spends some time rubbing down Joe's shoulders, arms, and wrists. Next he strokes a little, as far as he can reach, along Joe's thighs. He finds the yellowed remains of the bruise Joe was looking at a few days ago and brushes his fingers lightly over it. Joe's breath catches at that, but he controls it quickly. Tomáš rubs over the bruise once more and then leaves it be; he wants to ask Joe some more questions before he decides what to do with that.

"Close your eyes," he says instead, and when Joe does, Tomáš wraps an arm around his neck and covers Joe's eyes with his hand. It's beautiful how Joe settles at that, his face gone calm and open even while his dick must be aching. And now it's time Tomáš did something about that, too. He lets the next stroke of the hand he still has on Joe's leg move over his balls and up the length of his cock. Joe shudders against him, and Tomáš turns his head a little awkwardly to kiss Joe's cheek.

"I want you to come for me now," he tells Joe. He strokes Joe with a firm grip and drinks in the feeling of Joe trembling and straining in his arms. And then Joe does come, gasping loudly, and sinks back against Tomáš with a sigh.

Tomáš moves both hands to wrap his arms around Joe as tightly as he can. He presses his lips to the side of Joe's head that's closest to him and closes his own eyes for a while.

When Joe stirs, Tomáš shifts so that they can both sit up and stretch their legs out. He keeps one arm around Joe's shoulders and stretches the other out to grab the water bottle still sitting on the side table. Joe drinks and passes the bottle back to him, and Tomáš swallows a little of the water himself.

"How do you feel?" Tomáš asks.

"Good," Joe says, and he does sound good, the answer coming alertly and easily. He rolls his shoulders and leans his head from side to side to stretch his neck. Then he turns quickly back to Tomáš. "Uh, thank you."

Tomáš smiles and turns Joe's chin with his fingers to kiss him again.

"I can't believe I have to fly to Philly tomorrow," Joe says when they draw apart.

Tomáš wrinkles his nose. It's definitely not ideal, and yet he can't muster up any regrets. "Call me when you can?" he says. "I like to hear from you, even if it's late."

"Yeah, ok," Joe says.

"I wish I go with you all," Tomáš can't help saying.

Joe lays his hand very lightly over Tomáš's bad knee, which fortunately isn't protesting any more than the other one. "You'll be back," he says. "You'll come back, and then we're gonna light it up together."

Tomáš smiles and toasts with the water bottle. "Together," he says.