In the meantime: four snapshots of marriage stories. All hockey RPF.
ETA: Since I am an AWFUL PERSON, I forgot to thank my betas! thehoyden beta-read the whole thing, anna_unfolding was the Anze/Bobby beta, and shihadchick was the Oilers beta. And, of course, Best Beloved was the alpha-reader. Thanks, all.
Some people don't need to be drunk to have a marriage based on extremely shaky reasoning.
Summary: No knife can cut their broship in two.
Like five minutes after Jordan wakes up - way before Hallsy manages to drag his ass out of bed - someone's knocking on their hotel room door. Jordan's not even dressed, and Hallsy is still pretending he's asleep, so it's early enough to be fucking rude, but whatever. He answers the door with his boxers in one hand and a t-shirt in the other.
"Hey," Jeff Skinner says, looking awkward and intent, leaning forward a little and keeping his voice pitched low. "How are you two feeling this morning?"
Jordan shrugs. "Hallsy's pissed off that mornings happen, but I'm good." The truth is, he's fucking tired, but it's time to get up, and unlike certain people, he can accept that.
Skinner's face wrinkles up a little. "Hey, can I come in?"
Jordan rolls his eyes, because Swedish people apparently don't believe in hotels with space in them, and basically two hockey players are already more than will fit in their room, but he gestures Skinner in anyway. Skinner's not that big. And maybe it will make Hallsy get out of bed faster.
Skinner just stands there while Jordan gets dressed, shifting from foot to foot, looking like he wishes he was somewhere else, which is just dumb. He can go be somewhere else, anytime he wants; Jordan's not keeping him here. After a few minutes, Skinner finally says, "How much do you remember about last night?"
"Um, I had like three beers, and I'm not twelve," Jordan says. "I remember everything."
"You had that while I was with you, yeah. But you were wasted when I got there."
Jordan just blinks at him. "No, I wasn't. Hallsy and me got there like two minutes before you did. We had press shit, dude."
"But -" and Skinner looks genuinely confused now. "You were all over each other and laughing and - stuff." He makes a hand gesture that means nothing to Jordan.
"Oh, like you aren't stoked to be here," Jordan says, because Skinner was grinning like a fucking loon all night long. He's got no call to be chirping other people for being happy.
"Yeah, but." Skinner sighs. "Okay. What about the rings?"
Jordan glances down at his hand. He's not used to wearing the ring yet, and he keeps worrying something will happen to it, but it's still there, so obviously nothing weird went down with it last night. "Yeah?" he says, completely lost. He kind of thought Skinner made sense most of the time, but apparently he's all out of that right now.
"Um, I don't know if you remember," and Skinner's looking seriously embarrassed now, blushing bright pink, "but you and Hall said you were engaged? Because you were, ummmm, 'forever bros'?"
"I remember," Jordan says, waiting for the punchline or whatever.
Hallsy sits up in bed and groans. "Would you fuckers stop talking?"
"Get dressed," Jordan tells him. "You're going to miss breakfast."
Hallsy gets up and stumbles to the bathroom, managing to trip over his own bed on the way. Skinner watches him go, his eyes big. "Okay, so, um," Skinner says. "So, so, you guys were sleeping together naked, and you exchanged rings, but you weren't drunk and haven't done anything you regret?"
"We weren't sleeping together," Jordan says. "These beds are fucking tiny, man." They're so small Hallsy rolled out of his during the night, actually. That's probably where he got the bruises on his ass.
"Right, okay," Skinner says, stumbling over his words a little. "But basically you're - fine. And engaged! And fine?" His voice goes up ridiculously on the last word, and Jordan laughs, but not to be mean or anything.
"We're fine," Jordan assures him. "You seem wound up, though. Don't let it get to you, dude." International competition is a little stressful, sure, but Skinner should be used to it.
"No! No, I'm great," Skinner says. "Just - uh, so I can tell Eric you're fine, and you're both just - fine?"
Jordan stares at him for a few seconds. "Yes, Skinner," he says slowly and carefully. "Hallsy and me are fine."
"Great!" Skinner says, and basically bolts from the room.
The toilet flushes, and Hallsy comes back out and starts looking for underwear. "Why was he here?" he asks.
Jordan shrugs. "No clue, dude. Maybe he's against bro marriage?"
"Then fuck him," Hallsy says. "Hey, if I go commando, you think anyone'll chirp me?"
Jordan's pretty sure they'll chirp him blind. "Nah, it's fine," he says helpfully. He's the best bro in the world. They're going to make such great husbands.
"Awesome," Hallsy says, and pulls on a pair of sweatpants. "I think maybe I forgot to pack any boxers."
Jordan hits him between the shoulder blades for being an idiot, and they head down to breakfast.
Danny Briere's a stay-at-home dad.
Summary: He's looked at road trips from both sides now. [SORRY.]
The boys scatter to the four corners of the house, as usual - Danny's well-versed in the miracle of parenthood that makes three boys able to mess up every inch of a five thousand square foot house simultaneously. Sylvie says, "Got a minute? We have to talk about Carson's math situation."
And Danny does have time. It's the first time in two decades, in Carson's whole life, that he's had time. So he makes coffee for them, allows himself a whole cup - he doesn't have to worry about hand tremors, and if he doesn't sleep too well tonight it won't make much of a difference. Sylvie watches him drink the coffee with a strange look on her face. He's pretty sure he doesn't want to know what she's thinking.
They talk about Carson's systematic refusal to do his math homework, and Danny nods his way through Sylvie's description of how they're handling it. At the end, Sylvia says, "Do you have any ideas?"
It's a weird thing for her to say. They've been parents for seventeen years, and in all that time, Sylvie was the authority. The person who knew what was going on with the boys, the person who made all the major decisions, the person who decided on discipline. The person who carried the discipline out. But Danny's going to be here all winter this year. He's going to have the boys exactly half the time, which is more time than he's ever spent with them before.
He's a real father now. A full-time father. It's a strange, bittersweet moment when he realizes that. Danny half-asses his way through the rest of the discussion with Sylvie. When she gets up to leave, she has one more thing to say. "How are you handling it?"
Danny shrugs. "I miss hockey, but I always knew I would. No one can play forever, and I had a good run."
She says, "I meant with Claude. With him still playing."
Danny winces, because - yeah, that hit home. "Fine," he says shortly.
Sylvie says softly, "It's not easy to be the one always left behind. I know that." And Danny's painfully sure she really does. "Good luck, Daniel," she says, and she leaves.
When Claude calls that night, Danny holds his phone too tightly. He can hear the TV running in the background, the noise that Claude likes to have in his room on the road. He knows Claude just ate dinner in Raleigh. He knows what the hotel the team is staying in looks like. He can remember the scratchy feel of the bedspreads. It's like he's there, except he's not. Claude chatters through a description of the trip down, laughs about something they did to prank Laughton. Then he says, "How are things up there?"
"Fine," Danny says, knowing Claude's got his mind on other things. Then he remembers having this conversation with Sylvie, thousands of times over the years. She almost always said things were fine, and he - he desperately doesn't want to have the same conversation with Claude. "Carson's going to fail math unless we get him to do his homework, and Cameron got in a fight at school."
"He does have a nice right hook," Claude says, and he sounds like he's grinning.
"Claude," Danny snaps.
"But, yeah, we can't encourage that," Claude says, and Danny can hear him switching into parent mode. "Did you get the name of the kid he fought?"
"Henry something," Danny says. "Does it matter?"
"Well, yeah, because there's a handful of kids who are giving him shit for having a gay dad," Claude says matter-of-factly. "One of them is named Henry. Maybe bring that up in the meeting with the headmaster."
"Principal," Danny corrects, but he's already making notes.
When they hang up, Claude says, "I love you," and Danny can tell he's already thinking about the team, about the game. Which is as it should be. Danny's career is over, but Claude's is peaking, and he should have the best hockey he can.
But maybe. Maybe Danny can do a better job from this end than he ever did from Claude's.
He goes to sleep that night aching for the sound of an arena. He misses Claude, too, but Claude will come back. Smelling like hockey.
And now it's Danny's job to give him something to come back to.
Some people weren't meant for marriage.
Summary: Bobby Ryan is a real commitment-phobe.
The third time it happens, Bobby snaps. It's getting to the part of the summer where they have to start ramping up their workouts, and they're doing a shit-ton of press on top of everything else. He needs to be able to sleep.
He needs to be able to fucking breathe.
He sits in the living room and tries not to think about it, tries not to feel the weight of the ring on his hand. It's just jewelry, he tells himself. Don't be an idiot. Nothing's changed.
But his heart is pounding, and he can't stop watching the door, and he doesn't know why he feels so shitty but he's just too tired to care anymore. He does what he promised he'd never do, just three weeks ago: he takes the ring off.
In his hand it doesn't feel so heavy or so dangerous, and after ten minutes or so of holding it he thinks he can sleep. He goes upstairs, turning on the hall light so he can get into bed without tripping over a cat. Anze's a heavy sleeper. He's not going to wake him up.
Bobby puts the ring on his bedside table and slips into bed. Anze doesn't move, sound asleep like he's been for hours. Bobby slides close to him, puts an arm around him, tries not to feel like he's already betrayed him just by taking off the ring. "Love you," he whispers, and he feels better for having said it, because it's true. It's totally true.
Whatever the deal with the ring is, it has nothing to do with Anze.
Bobby sleeps late, of course, because he hasn't been sleeping. When he wakes up, Anze's not in bed anymore. And the ring's not on Bobby's nightstand.
Bobby makes sure to use the bathroom, brush his teeth, get dressed before he heads downstairs; if there's going to be a fight, he wants to be ready before it happens. And then he walks down the stairs carefully, wishing he could see Anze first, get some idea of what's going on, the lay of the land. But he can't, so he just readies himself for anything and heads into the kitchen.
Anze's made protein shakes and coffee, so that's good news. He's not gone, he's not packing, and he wasn't too pissed off to work the blender. "Hey," Bobby says cautiously, accepting the glass and the mug from Anze. "Good morning."
Anze smiles and gestures to the table, so Bobby sits down and starts drinking. It's surprisingly hard to do while he's braced for a fight, and he can't take the anticipation, so after a few sips he says, "Uh, about the ring."
Anze nods. "I was wondering."
"I just - I'm not used to wearing it. It feels weird. I couldn't sleep with it on. It wasn't -" Bobby gestures at the house around them "- this." It wasn't you, he wants to say, but he doesn't. "Just that the ring felt weird."
Anze reaches into the pocket of his jeans and pulls out the ring. He puts it on the table and plays with it a little. "In Turks," he says. "When you said you weren't feeling well."
Fuck. Sometimes Bobby wishes Anze wasn't so smart. "Yeah," he says, trying for noncommittal, but Anze looks up at him, waiting him out, and he has to add, "it was the same thing. But not - it's not - it's nothing."
"It isn't nothing. You aren't sleeping enough. You have nightmares when you do. And you look at your hand like it's a stranger's."
"It's just," and he hates sounding so fucking stupid, so weird, "the ring freaks me out a little. I'll get used to it."
Anze nods and hands the ring back to Bobby. "We have a big interview today. Ellen?"
Right. The reason Bobby didn't want to spend another night not sleeping. The non-sports journalists always expect him to do the talking, like they looked at Anze's name and birthplace but not his interviews or his life. And Bobby's not great at being the spokesman. He tries to step up, though. What they're doing is important.
His minor freakouts aside.
After Ellen, they have dinner with Anze's family, who, as usual, try to feed Bobby all his favorite foods and laugh really loudly and kiss a lot, and it's as great and weird as it always has been. He doesn't even notice wearing the ring all during dinner. But after - after.
Gasper is teasing Anze heavy-handedly and affectionately, pouring him a drink and toasting him. "Three weeks married!" he says. "I thought sure Bobby would run away by now."
And suddenly the ring is - it's stupid, because it's not around his neck, but it's choking him. Bobby needs air. He gets up, stumbles out on the deck of Anze's old house, stares down at the beach, the people walking their dogs after dark. He tries counting his breaths, tries to slow his breathing down. There's plenty of air, it's all around him. But he still can't get it into his lungs.
Anze comes out and closes the sliding glass door behind him. "Gasper's an idiot," he starts, and then his voices changes. "Hey," he says, and he puts his hands on Bobby's shoulders. "What's wrong?"
Bobby can't tell him. Bobby can't talk. Anze runs his hands down Bobby's arms to where his hands are clenched tight around the balcony's railing. "Bobby, it's okay," Anze says, and more nonsense words Bobby can't follow. But just hearing Anze's voice is soothing, and Bobby listens to it and lets himself not think about anything else. Anze's got his hand over Bobby's left hand, and he's lifting it, and Bobby lets him. Anze takes the ring off.
Relief comes first, then a powerful wave of embarrassment. "Sorry," Bobby says.
"No reason to be," Anze tells him. "This isn't." He hesitates the way he rarely does anymore, working on a concept he's never had to put into English before. "This isn't something you're doing. It's just happening to you."
"I guess this isn't exactly what you signed up for, huh?" Bobby says, trying to pass it off as a joke.
"I signed up for all of it," Anze says. He turns Bobby around so he can see his face as he adds, "Forever."
Bobby hugs Anze a little blindly, and Anze wraps his arms around him and holds on. After a couple of minutes, Bobby says, "We should go back inside." He takes a deep breath. "Give me the ring."
"No," Anze says. "This is your home. One of them. You should be comfortable here."
"I can't not wear the ring in front of your parents," Bobby says.
But Anze says he can, and the truth is Bobby isn't entirely ready to put it back on. When they go back inside, Anze says a couple of sentences in Slovene to his family, and then everyone acts like nothing happened, except Gasper puts his hand on Bobby's head and says, "Sorry, Bobby," all basset hound eyes.
"It's okay," Bobby says. "Just - you know." He gestures at his stupid brain.
Gasper hugs him. Anze's whole family hugs like they have some kind of minimum daily quota, and Bobby's gotten used to it, so he hugs back sincerely.
Anze has a quiet talk with his mother before they drive back home, and the next day, she shows up with a notebook and a pen and a determined look in her eyes. "Go for your run," Anze says. "We're going to get started on the white and silver mountain."
The white and silver mountain is what they call their wedding gifts; they've been accumulating in a giant heap in the unused front room downstairs. Bobby's been avoiding them, and it's kind of shaming to think Anze has noticed. But it is a running day for him, and that has to come first, so he takes off.
When he gets back, the hallway is lined with boxes. He showers and then pokes his head in. As he watches, Mateja reaches for a package. She hands the card to Anze and takes off the wrapping, inspects the contents - from the picture on the box, it's a silver vase, and Bobby once again curses himself for thinking they didn't need to register for gifts. What are they going to do with a silver vase? Mateja says something to Anze, who is writing in the notebook, and he nods. She stuffs all the wrapping in a garbage bag and puts the box next to a bunch of others. Then she reaches for another.
Anze looks up and smiles at Bobby. "You want to make coffee?" he says. "This is -" he gestures at the garbage bags full of wrapping, the huge pile of gifts still to do, the boxes everywhere "- a lot."
Bobby makes coffee and automatically puts together a plate of cookies. He's about to carry the whole thing in to the front room when Anze yells, "Ne mati!"
Bobby runs to the front room and finds Mateja looking in bemusement at a package containing - holy FUCK. Containing the biggest dildo Bobby has ever seen or even imagined. In a bright, lurid purple. Anze is clearly frozen in horror, just staring, so Bobby goes and takes the - the thing out of Mateja's hands.
Anze opens a card, apparently the one that came with it. "I'm going to kill Richards," he mutters, writing in the notebook, and Bobby makes a mental note to hit him extra hard the next time they play the Kings.
"Maybe you keep this one?" Mateja says, gesturing at the Purple Terror. She's obviously trying not to smile.
"For what?" Bobby asks, genuinely horrified.
She's smiling bigger now. "Maybe for pretty?" She waves at the mostly empty curio cabinet Bobby's decorator put in the front room. Bobby pictures the giant dildo in the antique cabinet, imagines it sitting there, looming and purple, when reporters come to the house. He loses it. He laughs so hard he has to sit down, and Anze and Mateja are laughing, too, which makes him laugh harder. By the time he stops, his abs are aching, and Anze has actual tears on his cheeks.
"I changed my mind," Anze says, grinning. "I am going to write Richards the most extensive, most personal thank you note he's ever had. With details about how this gift changed our lives. Lots and lots of details." And that's it, Bobby's laughing again.
It's not until later he realizes the implications of what Mateja said. They aren't keeping most of the wedding gifts? Bobby knows he should be pissed off Anze didn't ask him about it, but instead he feels deeply, deeply relieved.
And then he wants to kick himself again. Bobby's having a lot of moods lately.
Bobby insists on at least helping with the thank you cards, all eighteen billion of them. He writes all the ones to his teammates. He starts with the more - well, normal gifts, thanking Teemu for the amazing wines and Saku for the woolen throw, and then he moves on to the stranger stuff. Eight of the younger guys clubbed together to get them a table hockey game. He's not sure why, although Anze likes it.
He also helps Anze with the thank you note to Mike Richards, which has expanded to include pictures downloaded from the internet and two diagrams. Bobby won't let him throw away Big Purple, though.
"You're not using it on me," Anze says definitely. "I'd never skate again."
"I don't think it's intended for use," Bobby says, glancing over at it. It's. Arresting.
"Oh, I'm sure it is. Did you read the warnings?" Anze is smiling now.
"Well, I'm not planning on doing anything with it," Bobby says. He doesn't want to say that it's his favorite of all the wedding gifts he's seen so far. That would sound - weird. He's been weird enough lately.
"Maybe we can decorate it for Christmas," Anze says. "A few lights, a tree skirt, an angel on top -" and then they both picture it and crack up simultaneously.
The problem is - the problem is that Bobby isn't doing his share, basically. Anze's made a huge number of concessions, way more than he should have to. Bobby should step up by stopping his bullshit. And he's trying, but somehow the more effort he puts in, the worse it gets. He figures, hey, Mateja and Anze did basically all the presents. He can let his husband see the ring on his finger, where it belongs, in their own fucking house.
And he lies in bed trying to will himself to sleep and failing. He can't calm down enough to get close to sleep; his pulse is pounding like he's just come off a shift and his hands keeping clenching into fists. It takes all his willpower just to keep his eyes closed.
He gets up after two hours to check that they set the security system. They did, of course, and it doesn't help. Bobby isn't worried about anything out there.
At four in the morning, he gives up. He concedes defeat, surrenders, takes off the ring. He's asleep half an hour later.
The next night Anze catches Bobby at the bottom of the stairs. He says, "Wait, you forgot something," and reaches for Bobby's hand. Bobby closes his hand automatically, trying to hold the ring on - Anze's taken it off him way more than he's put it on him, at this point.
"I can beat this," Bobby tells him. "I'm working on it."
Anze says, "I don't want you to." Bobby feels kind of like he just got punched, and probably it shows on his face, because Anze says, "this isn't supposed to be a battle. You shouldn't have to fight yourself to do it."
"It's just taking me a while to get used to it," Bobby says, and he feels like an idiot defending the ring he's started to hate, but - he wants this, he does, he wants Anze with him forever, and that's what the ring means.
"You can be with me just the same, ring or not," Anze says, and waits, hand over Bobby's. Bobby isn't sure he manages to hide his relief when Anze has it again.
Two days later, Anze comes home with a small gift-wrapped box. Bobby spends a few panicked moments trying to figure out if he's missed an anniversary or something, but Anze just passes it over and says, "Just because."
It's a chain, a nice one. With his wedding ring hanging from it.
The Carter-Richards marriage is a secret from everyone. Including Carter.
Summary: They can be bigger than their old habits.
Carts drums his fingers on the window of Mike's car. "So, what's up?"
"We've got a maintenance day tomorrow," Mike tells him.
Carts blinks. "Uh, why?"
Mike's pretty sure it's so that they don't have to practice with massive hangovers, and he kind of wants to take advantage of that. No, fuck it, he really wants to take advantage of that. But that's getting off on the wrong foot, doing exactly what Pat warned him not to do again. So that's not going to happen. He has a plan, and it's time to run it.
Carts doesn't need to know his role to play it, but he does need Mike to lead the way. So Mike shrugs. "No clue."
Carts grins at him. "Well, I'll take it. We going out?"
Mike shrugs. "If you want, we can."
Carts, as always, picks up his cue perfectly. "No need to catch hell the first night on a new team." Carts is so happy he can barely sit still. He is just so fucking stoked to be out of Columbus, and Mike doesn't mean to smile at him, but he finds himself doing it anyway. It feels a little weird on his face. It's maybe been a while. Carts fucking beams back at Mike, like he's just won a playoff series. "So, what's the plan?"
"I figured we'd eat in. Watch a movie." Mike's pretty sure that's what married people do. Well, his parents mostly watch the Weather Channel, but probably there's no need to go that far. Scuds is the most boring married dude in the world, but even he doesn't watch tornadoes like they're porn.
"Awesome," Carts says, and goes back to looking out the window at the freeway. He says it again when he sees Mike's place, and again when he sees Arnold.
They spend maybe fifteen minutes bonding, Arnold clearly thrilled as hell to see Carts again and Carts almost tearing up, the dumb fuck, and then Carts heads for the kitchen. "Hey, you got food," he yells.
"Yeah, I figured we'd need it," Mike calls back. He'd filled out the grocery order pretty much at random - lots of meat, lots of pasta and rice, some random shit. He figured if he had food in the kitchen Carts would cook it. Carts is great like that. And unlike Mike, he can actually make food that people would freely choose to eat.
Mike waits until he smells cooking happening and sets the table. He hesitates choosing plates, because Carts knows his date in routine way too well, but in the end he gets out the good tableware, the stuff his mom made him buy. He opens a bottle of wine. They're going to be classy as fuck.
Carts doesn't see the table until he's finished cooking. He pauses for a second when he walks in, but then he looks up at Mike and grins. "Makes sense. We're celebrating. Oh, hey, you let the wine breathe. Excellent."
Mike has no clue what it means to let the wine breathe, but apparently he gets bonus points for it, and he'll take them. Carts serves them big, in-season portions - steak, wild rice, egg-stuffed baked potatoes - and fills his wineglass.
It's - nice. It's not like they normally are - no, like they used to be - but it's nice. And it's not like dating a girl, either; they talk about hockey and video games and porn and the assholes they know around the league. Mike doesn't have to pretend to have manners or be nice; Carts already knows what a dick he is, and he doesn't care. And Carts is interested in the same shit Mike is. No need to fake it.
Of course, he won't be getting laid. There's always a downside. But the fact is, he really wasn't getting much in LA anyway. Too much work to go out, too busy trying to adjust to the new team, the new city. He spent most of his nights in, Skyping with Carts. So it doesn't matter. He can make his dick happy in the offseason. The season is for hockey. And, from now on, for Carts.
They watch a movie, a good one with no plot and a lot of fucking explosions. Then Carts heads up to his room to get some sleep. "You can show me around tomorrow, right?" he says. "Since we won't be hungover."
"Yeah, sure. We'll hit the beach, have lunch," Mike says.
Carts hesitates for a minute, looking like he wants to say something else, but finally he just says, "'Night, Richie." He smiles, and it's not the beaming I'm-not-in-Columbus grin he's had since his plane touched down. It's softer, but still totally sincere, Mike can tell.
"'Night," Mike says.
As soon as Carts is upstairs, Mike pulls out his phone and hits reply to Tazer's latest doom-predicting email.
It's working great. I'm a fucking genius. Don't be jealous cuz you can't plan like me.
And then Mike heads up to bed himself. Married people probably get up early and make breakfast for their spouse. So that's exactly what Mike will do. He'll be married to Carts, and it'll settle him down just like his agent said he needed, and no one has to know a thing about it.
Tazer's a moron. There's no way this plan can fail.
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