panfix (panfix) wrote,
panfix
panfix

Hockey Fic: Nothing Worth Knowing 4/4

Notes & Headers | Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four


He falls asleep feeling uneasy and doesn't sleep well. When his alarm goes off, he slams it off, intending to stay in bed. Then he remembers his World Lit paper is due and groans. He stumbles out of bed and into some clothes.

After GSA today, Ladd will finally leave him alone for good, he remembers when he's putting his paper in his backpack. It doesn't fill him with the relief he thought it would. Whatever, he’s exhausted. He doesn't have the energy for deep emotions right now.

After World Lit, he forgoes coffee completely and buys a big Red Bull on his way to practice.

He feels slightly more awake while he's suiting up, but still off. Ladd's next to him at his stall, joking with the guys. Jesus, Ryan can't wait to just play some fucking hockey.

Practice is good. He doesn't think about Ladd, except when he has to pass the puck to him, and he's right there, waiting for it where Ryan's dished it to. The time passes quickly, and they skip any post practice deviations to head to GSA.

It's -- it's fucking weird. Ryan's kind of looking forward to it, even though he's 'breaking up' with Ladd almost immediately after the meeting. If ending this weird week even counts as a break up. But it's not like he's had a lot of opportunities to be out with another guy in public even a little before, so he lets Ladd take his hand when they walk into the room and doesn't even object when Ladd pulls him down onto his lap, instead of letting him take the free seat next to him.

People pay them a whole hell of a lot less attention than they did the last time. Well, mostly.

"Jesus, Andy, haven't you ever heard of Febreze? My entire car smelled like jizz," Ben says loudly, even though he's only sitting a few seats over from them.

Everyone laughs, and again when Jane says, "Oh, Ben, don't even pretend like that isn't why you lent him the car in the first place."

She gives Ryan and Ladd a look, and Ryan shrugs just a little as Ladd tightens his arm around Ryan's waist for just a moment. Jane rolls her eyes and goes back to talking to Lucy until Erin calls everyone to order.

Ryan lets his mind blank during the meeting. He pays not a bit of attention to the business or gossip going around. He doesn't think about what will happen after the meeting, when he'll go back to the house, and he won't be dating Ladd anymore. He just sits on Ladd's lap and concentrates on the feeling of Ladd brushing his thumb over Ryan's hip, right above his jeans. He lets his fingers rest on the back of Ladd's neck and scratch it lightly. He enjoys the lack of negative attention their displays garner.

Toward the end of the meeting, he starts paying attention again and realizes that Jane keeps shooting him these really worried looks. And she keeps shooting some other kind of look at Ladd, but Ryan can't see the look Ladd's giving her back, so he has no idea what it means. He makes a note to avoid Jane when the meeting is done.

When the meeting is over and everyone is just standing around talking, Ryan waits until Lucy is distracting Jane, then drags Ladd by the hand out of the room. He drops Ladd's hand in the hallway and starts walking back to the house. Ladd walks besides him, a good two feet between them.

When they're within sight of the house, Ryan turns to Ladd. "Okay."

"Give me til the end of the night," Ladd says immediately.

"No. That wasn't part of the deal. A week, Ladd."

Ladd steps into his space. It's dark and no one can see them, but Ryan's heartbeat picks up. "Ryan," Ladd says, "Just give me to the end of the night. I want you to fuck me."

Ladd says it very matter-of-factly, not in a sexy way at all, but all of Ryan's blood rushes to his dick.

"I --" Ryan says.

"Come on, Ryan," Ladd says, stepping even closer, so their chests are touching. And fuck it, Ryan’s only human.

"Okay," he says.

"My room," Ladd says, and he walks off to the house without waiting for Ryan.

Ryan just stares after him for a minute, maybe checking out his ass climbing the stairs, before following him. He doesn't know how Ladd knows Jonesy won't be coming back to the room any time soon, or if Ladd expects Ryan to spend the night, or what.

When he gets to the room, Ladd's already got his shirt off, and Ryan quickly locks the door behind him. "You don't have to do this, you know," Ryan says. He doesn't want Ladd to do this just to prove something to Ryan. That's a fucking stupid reason to do it and won't change anything.

"Fuck you," Ladd says easily, "I want to. I want your cock in my ass, I want you inside me."

Christ, that's just not fair. Ladd starts on his belt, and he looks like something out of a soft core porno, all built and clean-shaven and undressing himself. But Ryan steps towards him and catches his hand. He doesn't want to just watch. So he kisses Ladd and undoes his belt after rubbing his crotch through his jeans a few times.

Ladd just practically melts into Ryan when he kisses him. He's warm and heavy, and Ryan is almost the only thing keeping him upright as he unzips his fly.

"Mmm, yeah, Ryan," Ladd says, and his voice is already rough. Ryan nudges him back toward his bed.

"Come on," he says. "Sit down before I drop you."

"You won't drop me," Ladd says, but he sits on the bed anyway and toes off his sneakers.

"I might," Kesler says, but he doesn't mean it, and he's already grabbing Ladd's waistband and pulling down his jeans. The second they hit the floor, Ladd grabs Ryan, pulls him close, and kisses him, rough and sloppy.

"Too many clothes," Ladd says after a few minutes. "Off."

"Pushy," Ryan says, but pulls his shirt off and starts on his jeans, which feels fantastic because his dick is so hard right now. When he's down to his boxers, he pushes Ladd down onto the bed and climbs on top of him. He bites his way up Ladd's chest, listening to the choked-off sounds Ladd makes and trying to make them happen again. He spends some time on Ladd's nipples while he's there, licking and sucking and biting softly. Ladd is covering his mouth with his forearm now, trying to cover his moans. His hips are moving restlessly under Ryan’s. Shit. At this rate neither of them are gonna last long enough to fuck.

He moves back up to Ladd's mouth, trying to slow it down a little. Ladd seems perfectly content to kiss him, but he's not getting any less desperate. He wraps his arms around Ryan and holds them so they're pressed together from mouth to toes, with no space in between. He's kissing Ryan so deeply it feels a little like he's sucking out Ryan's soul.

And fuck, but it's hot.

After a few minutes of that, Ryan realizes that Ladd is whining a little in the back of his throat. He pulls away slightly.

"Want you in me now, Ryan, God, please," Ladd babbles.

"Yeah, yeah, okay," Ryan says, because what else can you say to that? "You have --"

"Desk drawer." Ladd points. Ryan sits up and pauses a second to look at Ladd. His lips are red and swollen, his cheeks red with stubble burn, his hair is standing on end, there's a bruise flowering on his collarbone, and his boxers are tented with a dark patch of pre-come.

Shit, Ryan has to press down on his dick and think of really unsexy things for a minute. He turns to the desk, hoping for bit of control.

There's lube and condoms in the top drawer. Ryan grabs a condom and the bottle, which has clearly been opened before. He wonders if Ladd used it on himself. If he stuck his fingers in his ass while he was jerking off, trying to figure out if he liked it. Or maybe if he bought it after Ryan fingered him. Christ, this isn't helping him regain control.

He takes a deep breath and turns back to Ladd. Ladd has shed his boxers, and he's looking at Ryan like ... Ryan doesn't even know what. Like affection and determination and something else that Ryan can't describe because only his lower brain is working right now. Ladd is rubbing his dick, not like he's trying to get off, but like he can't help it, and Ryan is done thinking for the moment.

He bats Ladd's hand away and replaces it with his own. Ladd's back arches, and his hips thrust, and he moans, "Fuck," all drawn out, and then Ryan stops because Ladd can't come yet. Ladd lays there panting while Ryan lubes up his fingers, and he says "Fuck yeah," when Ryan circles his asshole and pushes two in at a time. He should probably be more careful, but he really can't be, and Ladd isn't complaining -- he's thrusting down like he wants more right now.

Ryan’s only done this once, but he remembers what it was like to be fucked for the first time. It wasn't all that great, and it hurt a lot, so he really tries to concentrate on stretching Ladd. He presses his fingers apart, and he pours more lube on, and he adds a third. Ladd is panting and cursing and his hands are gripping his sheets, and he's practically begging, "come on Ryan, put your dick in me, god, fuck, Ryan please."

"Fuck, yeah, okay," Ryan says finally. He pushes his boxers off, and takes out the condom, and if his hands are shaking a little, it's probably because he's been so goddamn turned on for what feels like forever.

When he's lubed up and starting to push at Ladd's entrance, he glances up, and Ladd is just looking at him. He doesn't even look scared or nervous or anything, and Ryan has to kiss him.

"Now, Ryan," Ladd says into his mouth, and god. Ryan pushes in, probably a little faster than he meant to, but Ladd is relaxed. He just takes it with this low moan that makes Ryan want to hold him down and fuck him so hard. But he stops when he's all the way inside to let Ladd adjust, until Ladd starts bucking his hips a little and saying, "Fuck me, Ryan."

And that's one order from Ladd Ryan has no problem following. He tries to take it easy a little bit, but Ladd is having none of that, so Ryan fucks him hard, and reaches between them to jerk Ladd off, because there is no way he's going to last a long time.

He's watching Ladd's face when he tenses and comes all over Ryan's hand. Objectively, it's a really dumb orgasm face, but at the moment it's the hottest thing Ryan can think of, and his hips stutter as he thrusts twice, three more times and comes.

He doesn't bother trying to keep himself off of Ladd when his arms can no longer support him. He just lays heavily on top of him, sweaty and sticky and not really giving a damn.

Ladd's hand comes around to rest on his back, but Ryan still has to pull out, which he does as gently as possible - he knows it feels weird - and ties it off before tossing it in the trash can.

He lays down next to Ladd then, knowing he should get up and leave. This is finally over, and he's sure he'll be glad about it once his brain is back online. But Ladd rolls over into his space and throws an arm across his chest. Ryan considers just shoving it off, but it's hard to be that much of a dick after sex.

He ends up dozing off, he doesn't know for how long. He rouses briefly when he feels Ladd move off of him.

"Go back to sleep," Ladd says softly. "I'm just telling Jonesy not to come back. I'll set the alarm, okay?"

"Mmm," Ryan grunts, and he turns over without really waking up. He feels Ladd settle in front of him, wraps his arm around him, and falls into a much deeper sleep.

---

He wakes up when the sun is just starting to rise and the room is filled with gray light. He's confused at first. The light is coming in at the wrong angle, and there's a warmth against his back and across his chest.

He's in Ladd's room, he remembers, as his brain wakes up a little more. And that's Ladd spooned up against his back, his face tucked against the back of Ryan's neck, breathing deeply.

Shit, he thinks.

It's over. This is done, and he can leave. He carefully removes Ladd's arm from around him. He doesn't want to disturb him. Not that he cares how much sleep Ladd gets, but if he wakes up, he'll probably make some big thing out of Ryan leaving, and he doesn't want to deal with that before 7 AM.

He moves slowly and quietly, gathering his clothes from the floor and redressing. He smells like sex, the whole room does, so instead of going straight back to his room, he hits the shower.

If anyone else is up this early, they'll think it's weird he's up and showered already, but at least he wasn't caught smelling like that coming out of Ladd's room. Fuck, they were so fucking stupid.

He gets more and more pissed at himself the more he thinks about it, until he's too riled up to sleep. He grabs a change of clothes from his room and his backpack. He's probably got some homework that needs doing.

On his way to the library, he changes his mind and heads to the weight room at The Gut. They have practice later, but Ryan hops on the treadmill and runs until his legs feel like jelly.

He showers, again, and the dining halls are open now, so he goes to get breakfast at the dining hall near the rink instead of going back to the house.

His phone rings while he's eating. It's Jane, but Ryan dismisses the call. There are no other missed calls or texts. Ryan wonders if Ladd is even awake yet. His first class starts in 15 minutes. Not that Ryan cares or anything.

When he can't stretch out breakfast anymore, he goes to the library. He has class now, but he doesn't feel like dealing with people, and it's a big lecture anyway.

He grabs a study desk in the corner, turns his phone on silent, and pulls out his books.

He wakes up when someone hits him on the back of his head, and he has to peel his face from his backpack to glare at them.

"Fuck off," he mumbles.

"You've got zipper marks on your face," Jane says. "And your answer to number three is wrong."

"No one asked you," Ryan says, shoving his papers back into his French book.

"I'm helping you, you're my friend. And as a friend, let me tell you, you look like shit."

"I maybe overdid it working out this morning," Ryan says, stealing her bottle of orange juice.

"You've got practice in an hour," Jane says. "Why are you working out too much and skipping class?"

"Because I couldn't sleep, and because I didn't feel like going. How did you even find me?"

"That would be telling," Jane says. "Maybe if you didn't ignore my calls and texts, I wouldn't have to come bug you in person."

"My phone's on silent," Ryan says.

Jane gives him a thorough look over, and Ryan feels kind of uncomfortable. He must really look like shit, because she doesn't even say anything else about it.

"We have time to get lunch before you have to go to practice," she says finally. "And you owe me another orange juice."

He ends up buying her entire lunch.

"You don't have to walk me to practice, I'm not going to risk the wrath of Coach just because --" He cuts himself off.

"Because?"

"Because Ladd's probably going to be acting all weird. It doesn't matter, things are back to normal now," he says.

"Sure," Jane says. She doesn't sound like she agrees with him, but she also manages not to sound entirely skeptical, which is nice.

They stop outside The Gut, and Ryan isn't stalling when he says, "So I'll see you at dinner?"

"For sure," Jane says. He's kind of surprised when she hugs him before shoving him inside.

Tim's only a few steps behind him. "Hey dude, glad to see you're not dead."

"Huh?" Ryan asks.

"You don't come home last night, you skip French this morning, the pot was split between 'dead in a ditch' and 'with your lady friend.'"

He almost corrects Tim, but realizes there's no reason to. Like, so what if Ladd's pissed at him? "Well, I'm definitely not dead."

Tim laughs and slaps him on the shoulder. "Way to go, Kes."

Practice sucks.

Ryan is exhausted and out of it, so he's slow and sloppy. Ladd is never there when Ryan tries to pass to him, and he's skating gingerly, almost like he's injured. It takes Ryan half of practice to realize that he's probably sore as hell from last night. As soon as Ryan realizes that, he plays even worse.

Coach keeps him back after practice and doesn't even yell at him. He looks concerned, which is worse.

"You don't look well, Kesler."

"I'm feeling a little under the weather," Ryan says, and it's not even a lie.

Coach pats him on the shoulder. "Get a good night's sleep tonight, and a lot of rest. Let me know if you need a note for classes. I want you ready to go for Maine this weekend."

"Sure thing, Coach," Ryan says, and he trudges back to the locker room.

The locker room is loud and boisterous, as usual. Ryan sits at his spot and avoids looking over at Ladd. When he's no longer drowning in gear, he pulls out his phone and texts Jane. Your dining hall for dinner? It's farther away, but Ladd won't be there.

"Texting your lady love?" Tim leers at him. Ryan doesn't even get a chance to tell him to shut up, because Jonesy stands up and shouts,

"Hey, boys, Kes isn't the only one who got laid last night! Ain't that right, Laddy?"

The guys whoop and holler, and Ladd says, "Shut up, Jonesy."

Jonesy doesn't listen to him, though. "I had to spend the night on Jimmy's floor, and there were condoms in the trash when I got back!"

Ryan concentrates on changing and tries as hard as he can not to blush.

"I told you you'd like Brittany!" Jared shouts.

"It wasn't --" Ladd starts, but he's hollered down by the guys.

Ryan shoves his feet into his shoes and grabs his bag. "Gotta go, see you boys later." He's out of the locker room before they're even done replying.

Jane must still be worried, because she sits him down at a table and fixes him a plate of food. With extra mashed potatoes. She uses his meal card, of course, but that's not important.

"I'm just tired," Ryan insists, spooning the potatoes into his mouth.

"So you were up late last night?" Jane asks.

"Jane," Ryan says.

"Ryan," she echoes back. "You got a pass this morning, but I'm done waiting."

"Nothing --" Jane snorts. "Fine. He asked me to fuck him, so I did."

"And?" Jane asks. "Was it any good?"

"It was fine, it was sex," Ryan says. "I fell asleep after, and then I left."

"So let me get this straight. Out of the goodness of your heart, you decided to fuck Andrew even though you knew you were going to break up with him..."

"Oh Christ."

"And then after you fucked him, you left while he was sleeping?"

Ryan glares. "If this is just going to be another 'Ryan is a dick' list, I could be sleeping right now." He starts to get up but Jane reaches out and grabs his arm.

"Wait, I'm sorry. I'm just trying to figure it all out so I can help you. Sit down."

Ryan sighs and sits. "I don't need help, okay? It's over. It's done."

"But you really do look awful. I'm telling you I'm worried about you, Ryan."

"Seriously," Kesler says. "I'm tired. I didn't sleep well the night before last, and then last night I fell asleep in Ladd's room, and I woke up really early, and I couldn't stay because if people saw me leaving his room, that would pretty much be that. And I couldn't fall back asleep, so I went to work out, and I had practice today too, and it sucked, and I really just want to go to sleep, all right?"

"All right," Jane says. "Finish up and you can go to sleep." And she doesn't say anything else. Jesus, Ryan must really look awful.

He's not really hungry, but he knows his body needs the fuel, so he eats. He listens to Jane talk about the cute girl in her Women’s Studies class and how she can't tell if the girl is queer or not.

She walks him back to the house, gives him a hug, and ruffles his hair. "Sleep well. It'll be better tomorrow."

"Okay," Ryan says, and he goes to his room, avoiding everyone in the house. It'll be better tomorrow, he tells himself as he gets into bed.

---

It's not better the next day.

He actually goes to class, so that's an automatic downgrade. Practice is a little better, if only because his legs don't feel like they're going to fall off, but the passes aren't any cleaner, and he and Ladd aren't clicking.

He must look better, because Coach actually yells at them before they head to the showers.

Ryan's halfway back to the house before he remembers the GSA meeting. He stands in the middle of the quad getting buffeted by the wind, debating whether or not to go, but fuck it. Andrew Ladd isn't going to keep Ryan from going to a club made for guys like him, not guys like Ladd.

He's a few minutes late, but Jane saved him a seat. He loves Jane. He wishes he could date Jane, and that either one of them would be into it.

"Hey, Ryan," Devon, one of the sophomores, asks during a break. "Where's Andrew?"

"I don't know," Ryan says. He doesn't. He barely even noticed Ladd wasn't there. Okay, he had noticed when he was trying to figure out where not to sit, but it didn't matter, and he doesn't care.

"Come on, really?" Devon asks. "I'm supposed to interview him for the paper."

"So call him." Ryan shrugs. "The team didn't outfit us with GPS or anything like that."

"Yeah, but --" Devon says, and Ryan really doesn't want to hear it.

"Do you need his number?" he asks, and he pulls out his phone like he really thinks Devon needs Ladd's number.

"No, I got it. It's fine," Devon says, and thankfully he stops bothering Ryan.

The thing is, he knows he could say, “We broke up, I don't even want to know where he is,” and that would probably make his life easier. But then the entire GSA would want to know what happened, and they would all have opinions, and they'd want to share them all with Ryan. Ryan is so not up for that right now.

He sleeps only marginally better that night, and the whole house is awake at 5 AM the next day, stumbling around, making sure they have all their equipment so they can make the 6 AM bus call and go to Maine.

Ryan collapses into a seat next to Jared. Ladd is sitting across the aisle with Jonesy. He looks about as exhausted as Ryan feels. Not that Ryan cares or anything.

They lose pretty pathetically. The only consolation Ryan has is that he and Ladd weren't the only ones who sucked. And they did suck.

After the game, he can feel Ladd's eyes on him from across the locker room. He can't help but look up to meet them, and he can see that Ladd feels as horrible as he does about the game. Then Ladd's jaw clenches, and he looks away.

Well, good. Ryan doesn't want Ladd staring at him.

No one is in a particularly good mood as they eat dinner, but that works for Ryan. He's not really in the mood to pretend to care about Jonesy's stupid jokes.

Conversation drifts around to the NHL, with everyone offering up the gossip about their favorite teams or teams they've been drafted to.

"Who’s got your rights now, Timmy?" Ryan teases. Poor kid has had his rights traded between four teams in the last two years.

"Hell if I know." Tim shrugs. "Just so long as I don't have to play with you assholes when I go pro."

And oh, jeez, there's a thought. But the odds of Ladd getting packaged up for Vancouver or Ryan being traded to Carolina are slim. Or so he tells himself.

And if they keep playing like they did today, no one's going to think their history of playing together is a good reason to do it.

Of course, if Ryan keeps playing like he did tonight, the Canucks aren't going to want his rights either.

He vows to himself right then and there that he'll really start concentrating on hockey. He's not here to date or join clubs or whatever else. He's here to play hockey. Coach has already called an extra practice for Sunday, and that's just fine with Ryan.

He goes back to the dorms they're staying in, feeling slightly settled for the first time in weeks.

---

For almost a week, Ryan thinks of nothing but hockey and keeping his grades up so that he can keep playing hockey. He practices hard, he works out. He still eats meals with Jane, but he stops going to GSA meetings in favor of practicing his shot on the back lawn of the house.

Practices get a little better. He and Ladd never manage to play as well together as they did before last week, but they manage to not play as awfully as they did in Maine. Cam is getting closer to returning to the team, so they may not even be on a line together for much longer.

The weirdest thing that happens is that some of the other guys notice his renewed focus and decide to follow suit. Coach notices and raises his eyebrows at Ryan in practice, but otherwise says nothing.

On Thursday it rains. It's barely above freezing, which makes the rain doubly uncomfortable. Not even Ryan and his renewed focus are going to be taking shots in the yard in that, so he and some of the guys have a brilliant idea to set up a net and some targets in the basement. This requires moving the beer pong table and the beer can sculpture, and somewhere in the middle of all that, someone shouts down the stairs, "Kes! You've got a visitor!"

He frowns before jogging up the stairs, trying to figure out if he forgot that he'd made plans with someone. He really hopes he didn't forget something, because Jane's standing near the front door soaking wet and looking miserable, and Jared's standing awkwardly across from her, like he doesn't know what to do with her.

"Hey, Ry," she sighs.

"Hey, what're you doing here?" he asks.

"I've been sexiled," Jane says. "And I have all this reading I need to do, and it wasn't sleeting like this when I left earlier, but I couldn't get in to get my coat or an umbrella, and I tried to call you, but you didn't answer, and I'm sorry for just showing up, but --"

"Hey, no, Janie, it's fine," Ryan says, approaching her with his hands out like he would a wounded predator. "You can hang out here tonight --"

"-- I don't know if they'll be finishing up any time soon."

"-- you can spend the night, it's cool. It's cool, right, Jared?" Ryan asks.

"Uh, yeah, totally," Jared says as he tries to slip away.

"And we've got a couple of washers and dryers. You can borrow some of my stuff, and we'll throw yours in there," Ryan suggests. The tension is bleeding out of Jane's shoulders with every suggestion. "And maybe we'll get you some coffee."

At that, she flings her arms around him in a fierce, desperate hug. "Thanks."

Ryan hugs back even though she's freezing. "No problem, you've dealt with all of my shitty days."

"I have," she agrees, letting him go. Ryan laughs.

"Come on. You want a shower?"

"Oh god, yes."

He gets her a clean towel, a pair of his shorts, and a Vermont Hockey hoodie, and shows her to the showers.

"These are the smallest things I have," he says. Jane shrugs. "Throw your wet clothes out to me, and I'll put them in the dryer and make you some coffee."

Tim comes in while Jane is in the midst of throwing her wet clothing at Ryan from behind the shower curtain, one piece at a time.

"Dude," he says.

"Don't even," Ryan warns.

"I can find another room to sleep in tonight, if you wanna, you know..."

Ryan wants to bang his head against the wall. From inside the shower, Jane starts cracking up.

"That's really not necessary," Ryan says.

"Okay," Tim says. "Let me know if you change your mind." He stands around awkwardly for a minute. "Dude, I gotta..."

"I know what peeing sounds like!" Jane shouts from the shower. Ryan laughs and raises his eyebrows at Tim before leaving with Jane's clothes.

He takes out the clothes that have been in the dryer for 3 days running now and throws Jane's in. Then he starts the coffee, washes a mug so she'll have something to drink out of that isn't disgusting, and gets out the sugar. There is no milk in the fridge that hasn't been there a frighteningly long time, so she'll just have to do without.

Jane comes downstairs when the coffee is almost done, looking completely ridiculous in Ryan's way-too-large clothes and bare feet.

"Shut the fuck up," she says when Ryan points this out to her. "Not my fault you're a giant."

"I am perfectly normal-sized," Ryan informs her loftily, "for a hockey player."

She smacks him on the shoulder and fixes her coffee.

A bunch of guys are in the den watching the Bruins on TV, and they clear out some space for Ryan and Jane. Jane brings her book and her highlighter and tucks her feet underneath Ryan's thigh.

When Ladd gets back, Jane has finished her reading, and the Bruins are up by 1 with 6 minutes left Ryan and Cam are trying to explain the intricacies of hockey with expansive hand gestures, despite Jane's constant fit of giggles.

Ryan fights to keep the smile from sliding off his face, but it must not work, because Jane turns around and says, "Hey Andrew."

Ladd clears his throat. "Hey, Jane, didn't think I'd be seeing you here."

"Sexiled." Jane shrugs. "So I'm imposing on Ryan."

"Oh," Ladd says. "You look good in the green and yellow."

She snorts. "Butch, right?"

"Your clothes are probably dry, if you want to change back," Ryan says, interrupting them.

"I'm probably going to have to wear them again tomorrow." Jane shrugs. "So I'll probably just sleep in these, if you don't mind."

"I've got like, eight of those, Janie, I can share."

"Ugh, don't call me that," she says, making a face. "I'm not one of your hockey bros, you can use my actual name." She turns to the rest of the room. “No offense.”

“‘Sall good,” Jonesy says lazily.

She glances back at the television then. "Wait, where did the blue goalie go?"

In the time it takes Ryan and Cam to explain the empty net strategy, Ladd disappears.

Jane has class earlier than Ryan, so they head up to bed after the game.

Tim's at his computer when they get there. "Are you guys sure you don't want me to leave?"

Jane snorts.

"Extremely sure," Ryan says firmly. They go to bed, and Jane curls up against his back. It feels nice, if not even remotely sexy.

---

Jane's phone alarm goes off way too early. Ryan grunts as she climbs over him and pulls his blanket over his head.

"You don't have to get up," she says softly. "Just tell me where the dryer is."

Ryan mumbles directions and dozes back off until Jane comes back and starts getting dressed. He opens his eyes to Jane's bare chest.

"Christ, Janie, warn a guy."

"Oh, like you care -- and stop calling me that."

"I'll walk you down," Ryan groans, and he throws the covers off. "I have to be up in half an hour anyway."

"Thanks again," Jane says.

"Any time," Ryan says. "I mean it." He does. He likes having friends outside of hockey who can help him take the blinders off every once in a while.

"See you later." She squeezes his hand and he tugs on her braid, which gets him a mutinous look before she finally leaves. It makes him smile.

"She didn't just leave while you were sleeping?" Ladd asks from the hall behind Ryan. "What a novelty," he adds under his breath as he pushes past him to the empty kitchen.

"Fuck you," Ryan says.

"Did that already," Ladd mutters.

Ryan glances over his shoulder automatically, but no one is around. "You're an asshole."

"There's a person attached to it," Ladd says cattily.

A thousand things he can't say in this house rest on the tip of his tongue. But he can't do this here -- he won't. He grabs a cup of coffee for himself and turns to leave the kitchen. What the fuck is even wrong with Ladd? He doesn't get his way, so he gets to try and ruin Ryan's life? Fuck him.

His exit is blocked by Tim and some of the other guys who share the same class. "Kes, I'm sorry, dude," Tim says, clapping him on the shoulder. "I didn't mean to, but --"

"Didn't mean to what?" Ryan asks. He should've let Jane see herself out.

"I totally saw your girlfriend's tits this morning. It was an accident!"

"She's not my girlfriend," Ryan sighs.

"Dude, you cuddled last night. Without even making out. She's your girlfriend."

"No," Ryan says, after briefly considering just throwing his coffee on them all and running for the stairs. "She's a lesbian."

"Oh shit, bro!" Jared says. "You're fucking a lesbian?"

"Way to go," Tim says, giving him the thumbs up.

Ryan just stares at them all. "I -- I have to get dressed."

He doesn't even realize that Ladd is following him until they're right outside Ryan’s door and Ladd speaks from behind him.

"So I guess it's okay for you to sleep with a girl, let her wear your clothes, cuddle with her. But when I fucking talk to a girl, it's an offense worth a break-up?"

"What?" Ryan looks around in panic, but there's no one in the hall. He pulls Ladd into his room and shuts the door.

"Okay, first of all, nothing is going to happen between Jane and me because we're both gay. Second of all, it's none of your fucking business -- we are not dating anymore. Third of all, we were breaking up anyway."

"What?" Ladd says.

Ryan levels a stare at him. "You blackmailed me into dating you. You didn't actually think it was going to lead to some fairy-tale ending, did you?"

"Blackmail?" Ladd hisses. It'd be hilarious how offended he sounds if it weren't so true.

"And I'd like to point out that you aren't holding up your end of it. You're supposed to leave me alone, not act like a jealous harpy." Ryan turns away from him then, and rummages through his dresser for something to wear.

Ladd's still standing there staring at him, but Ryan barely looks back. "You can leave now, your right to a free show has expired."

The door slams hard behind him, and Ryan takes a deep breath, easing the grip he has on his drawer. That's it. That should be the end. For real this time. He doesn't feel relieved, just tired.

Class, he tells himself. And hockey. These are the important things. They've got a game tonight, and it has to go better than last week's.

---

It does go better, sort of. The team plays well. Ryan plays well. Ladd plays well. They win. The problem is that Ryan and Ladd aren't playing well together. They keep missing each other's passes, and almost colliding, and by the third period Ryan is using Chris as a go-between just to limit the turnovers.

In the locker room, Ryan feels anxious, like he's waiting for something to happen. It's ridiculous. He turns to Ladd, because most things that are wrong with Ryan are Ladd's fault, but Ladd isn't looking at him. He's talking to Eric. Ryan realizes he can't actually remember the last time he looked and Ladd wasn't looking back at him.

Well, good. That's what Ryan wanted. Wants. It'll be better this way.

Monday after practice, Eric holds him back while everyone is leaving. He has his captain face on, and Ryan suppresses a wince.

"You and Laddy need to work your shit out," Eric says bluntly when everyone has gone.

"We're not fighting," Ryan says.

"I know," Eric says. "It was kinda better when you were. At least then you'd look at each other."

Ryan tries very hard not to react to that.

"Kinda hard to pass to someone you won't look at," Eric continues. And that's not fair. Ryan looks at Ladd on the ice. Or, at his number, anyway, if not his face. "What happened? Did he sleep with your girlfriend or something?"

"She's not -- No. Nothing like that. We just. We don't get along."

"But you were getting along for a while there?" Eric makes it into a question, and Ryan doesn't even know how to explain it. "Well, look," Eric says when Ryan's silence goes on long enough, "we can make the playoffs if we play well from here on out. And this team needs you two working together if we're gonna do that. Whatever it is between you, you can't let it affect the team anymore. Got it?"

"Got it," Ryan says.

Eric slaps him on the shoulder and smiles. "You're a good kid, and a damn fine hockey player. I know you can do it. Now let's go get some food."

---

The next day, he's having lunch with Jane in town again, and she seems a little subdued.

"Is Andrew mad at me?" she asks finally.

"What? Why would you think that?" Jane and Ladd had always got along, since before Ryan knew Jane.

"I don't know, I saw him when I was leaving campus earlier, and I waved and said hi, and I know he saw me because he looked right at me, but then he looked away and pretended he didn't. But why would he be mad at me?"

Ryan clenches his jaw. "He's not mad you, he's mad at me. And if he's taking it out on you, he's an even bigger asshole than I thought."

Jane nods, but she still looks unhappy about it.

"Maybe you can talk to him at the meeting today?" Ryan can't believe he's suggesting Jane actually make an effort to be friends with Ladd. "You can tell him he's an idiot. It always makes you feel better when you tell people they're idiots."

Jane smiles. "Maybe I will."

The next morning, he heads to the student union to study for a French quiz -- there's too much going on in the house, and the library just makes him sleepy, so he grabs a table in the union and spreads out.

He's halfway through his list of irregular verbs when a voice interrupts his study flow.

"Uh, hey, Ryan, is anyone sitting here?"

Ryan looks up, and Mike is standing behind the empty chair on the other side of the table. "Oh, no, go ahead."

Mike sits and sets his bag down. "Haven't seen you around lately."

"Yeah, things got a little crazy, had to focus more on hockey." Ryan shrugs.

Mike nods and pulls out a chem book. "Gotta find your balance."

"Exactly." Ryan nods. "Fortunately, my course load isn't quite as heavy as that."

Mike rolls his eyes. "Yeah, I probably spend as much time on this as you do hockey."

"No offense, man, but I think I made the better choice," Ryan says, glancing at the open page of Mike's book.

"It's not all bad," Mike insists. "Sometimes we get to explode things."

Ryan laughs. "Remind me to stay on your good side."

Mike grins. "I think you’re safe. So, sorry if I'm prying, but you and Andrew..."

Ryan grimaces.

"Yeah, okay," Mike says. "Don't have to say more."

"Thanks," Ryan says, picking up his French notes.

"Sorry, didn't mean to interrupt your studying."

"No, don't worry about it, it's just a quiz," Ryan says.

They both study in silence for another half hour before Ryan looks at his phone. "I gotta go."

"Good luck," Mike says, removing his highlighter from his mouth.

"Thanks," Ryan says, stuffing his stuff into his bag.

"Do you maybe wanna grab some coffee after your quiz?" Mike asks. He's biting his lip like he's a little nervous.

Oh.

"I -- I'm sorry, Mike," Ryan says, shrugging his backpack on awkwardly.

"No, don't worry about it."

"I'm just not in a place for any of that right now, you know?" Ryan tries.

"Oh, totally," Mike says. "Good luck on your quiz."

Halfway through French, when they're done with their quiz and going through some dialogue, Ryan wonders why he didn't just say he'd go out for coffee with Mike. Mike is nice, and good-looking, but Ryan didn't even think of saying yes.

Maybe he's just too used to being in the closet. But Mike seems cool, and he'd probably understand Ryan's reasons for not wanting to come out. Jane probably has his number, and he could call him up, and they could have coffee, and maybe Mike would be a good kisser. He thinks about it, but the idea doesn't stir anything in him except a vague sense of unease.

He has to focus on hockey anyway. The next few weeks are important if they're gonna make the playoffs. He doesn't have time to start dating anyone.

The professor calls on him then, so he reads out loud and doesn't think about Mike anymore.

---

Ryan doesn't actually talk to Ladd like Eric wanted before Friday's game. He tries once, but there are other guys around, and it's not really a conversation they can have then. And they're never actually alone together the rest of the week. Which Ryan appreciates, so he works on looking at Ladd when appropriate during practice, and things click a little bit more. They can do this, they've been just teammates before. Hell, they've been teammates who hate each other before -- they just needed time to get back to that.

The Red Hawks are giving the fits, but there's no way they're dropping two in-conference games in a row. Everyone on their bench is pushing for it, while both goalies are making insane saves.

So the hits start coming a little harder and a little faster, and it's not that surprising when the giant defenseman wearing #12 slams into Ladd and sends him crashing into the boards.

Ryan passes back to Brian, waiting for Ladd to get up so they can reorganize their breakout. Ladd isn't getting up.

Shit.

Ryan's about to skate over there when Ladd makes it to his knees, then his feet, but he's still leaning on the boards like they're what's holding him up. Ryan glances to the bench and meets Coach's eye. Jonesy and Jared already have a leg over the boards, waiting to change.

But it will be easier if the puck's in Lowell's zone, so he takes a look at their positioning, taking special note of where big #12 is, calls for the puck, and skates it through the neutral zone. He blows by two of the forwards, passes to himself around the second defenseman, and wrists it toward the net. The goalie stops it with his pad, but the rebound comes right back to Ryan. He can hear Jonesy and Jared on the ice and in the zone now, and he passes it to Jared while the Red Hawks are still trying to figure out what's going on.

He sets up in front of the net while Jared and Jonesy play keepaway and look for a good shot. #12 comes over and gives him a little bump to remind him to stay out of his goalie's way, and that is what Ryan was waiting for. He shoves back. He's smaller, but #12 wasn't expecting Ryan to shove so hard and he wobbles.

"What the fuck?" he yells, and shoves Ryan back when he regains his balance.

"Shove it up your ass, dickweed," Kesler sneers.

"What, you wanna go, pipsqueak?"

"Bring it on." And Ryan throws off his gloves.

He doesn't remember specifics of the fight, just trying to not get killed, and the cheers of his teammates and the fans. They both lose their helmets at some point, and #12's meaty fist gets his cheek, but Ryan gets a few of his own in, and in the end they fall over together before the refs break it up.

The team really starts clicking while Ryan's in the box, and he's just waiting for the puck to go into the net. It's Eric who finally does it, chipping it top shelf, blocker side. Ryan yells so loud the official sitting next to him looks a little alarmed.

But when he glances over at the bench, he notices Ladd's still not back. It's only been four minutes, but still. He drinks a little more Gatorade as he waits for the okay to hit the ice again.

He and #12 hit the ice again at the same time, but Ryan jumps into the play while the asshole skates back to the bench. He manages a shot on goal that rings off the post before skating back to the bench. Everyone slaps him on the back, even the coaches, but he doesn't get a chance to ask what's going on with Ladd.

The period ends before his next shift, and Ryan's glad. The intermission will give the trainers a chance to tape Ladd up or whatever so he can get back on Ryan's wing for the final period. Because Ladd's going to be fine. Obviously, Ladd is going to be fine. He skated off under his own power. He's probably just rattled and winded.

The guys are flying high in the locker room, and the coaches can barely make them pay attention. Ryan can't get his heartbeat under control. It's racing with the adrenaline from the fight and the goal. It would be really bad for the team if Ladd was seriously hurt. They can't afford to lose Ladd. Especially not with Cam still out.

Tim shouts when Ladd walks back into the room, drawing everyone's attention. He smiles and waves grandly to everyone, even though he's walking carefully. He's been stripped to his waist, and his ribs are taped. Peeking above the tape, Ryan can see the start of bruising, red and angry against the pale skin of Ladd's chest.

Ryan looks down at his skates quickly.

"Ready to get back out there, Laddy?" Coach asks.

"You bet, Coach!" Ladd calls, and the guys all shout their encouragement.

"Then get suited up! You're gonna be back on Kes's left. Carry this momentum, and let's finish them off, boys."

Lowell has some good chances in the opening minutes of the period, but they're able to shut them down. And when Jonesy wrists a shot in from the top of the circles, Ryan swears he can see the guys in red deflate.

During the final scramble with the empty net, Ryan blocks a shot off his shin, and it hurts like a motherfucker, but he doesn't care. They've won, and no one was seriously injured. The fuckery from last week hasn't completely screwed the team.

The locker room is hopping after the game, so it's not a surprise that the second they're left alone by the coaching staff, someone yells, "We're gonna fucking rage!"

It's Friday night, they've got the whole weekend to recover, and Ryan thinks it's a fucking awesome idea.

By the time Ryan gets back to the house, it's already crowded, music blaring and kegs in the kitchen. Ryan has no idea how they pull that off, but he's not gonna complain. He grabs a beer and immediately gets called downstairs to be on Tim's team in beer pong.

He's back in the kitchen half an hour later considerably tipsier, and he fills up his beer and wanders into the den. It's crowded. A few people are moving a little to the music, but nobody's really dancing. He recognizes a bunch of the puck bunnies on the other side of the room and steers clear, even though he's offended most of them by now and they leave him alone. He literally bumps into a goalie from the women's hockey team, and they get into a spirited, drunken conversation about the game earlier and the Bruins' chances this year.

When he looks back across the room, he sees a flash of shiny hair and big tits and yeah, it's Brittany, and there's Ladd, leaning against the wall in a way that clearly telegraphs the pain in his ribs. Ryan watches as Brittany reaches out to touch Ladd's chest, and Ladd bats her hand away before it can touch him. She says something, and Ladd rolls his eyes and says something back, and she pulls away, stung. Ladd pushes himself off the wall and walks into the hallway toward his room. Brittany wanders back to her friends, her arms crossed over her impressive chest.

"Earth to Kes," the goalie, he thinks her name is Sarah, says, snapping her fingers in front of his face.

"I'm here," he says. "You were saying?"

"You all right there, kiddo?" she asks.

"I'm fucking great," Ryan says, and smiles.

He throws himself into the rest of the party, taking up another round of beer pong and losing on purpose. The guys just keep feeding him drinks and recreating his fight -- though they usually trip before the actual fight ended. But it makes him laugh, even though Jonesy seems pretty set on referring to the fight as "Kes defending Laddy's honor."

He catches Ladd's eye one of the times it's said, but Ladd doesn't hear it, or doesn't care. Or maybe Ryan's too drunk to try and read any in-depth facial expressions.

---

Saturday morning -- or more accurately, Saturday afternoon -- Ladd's not the only one moving like he's been hit by a Mack truck. Alex lets out an impressive litany of curses when he stumbles into the kitchen, and the blinds are open with the sun streaming in. Ryan doesn't actually mind, and that gets some disgruntled looks thrown his way.

"I know you drank at least as much as I did," Tim bitches. "Why do you look so damn cheerful?"

"It's a beautiful day, Timmy." Ryan grins. He's not really sure himself, but he's willing to go with it.

"Oh my God, what happened to your face?" Jane yells when they get together to study later. Midterms are coming up, and Ryan really wishes they didn't have to be right before the playoffs.

"Fight." Ryan grins. "I'll show you. The footage should be up on Youtube now."

"Why are you in such a good mood?" Jane asks suspiciously. Why do people keep being weirded out just because he's cheerful?

"We won the game, I had a good time at the party last night, and now I get to spend time with you." Ryan smiles charmingly. "Why wouldn't I be in a good mood?"

Jane doesn't look convinced, but she does open her books, so that's good enough.

---

Ryan's good mood lasts straight until Monday morning, when going back to class brings him back down to earth.

They have practice that afternoon. Changing in the locker room beforehand, Ryan catches sight of Ladd taking off his t-shirt. The tape's been taken off his ribs and the bruises are darkening to deep purple from his pecs to his hips.

He doesn't even realize he's maybe staring until Ladd says, "What? Ryan snaps his head up, and Ladd is looking right at him.

"Um, nothing," he says. Then, "Your ribs feeling okay?"

"Sure," Ladd says, giving him a confused look.

Ryan notices that Ladd's skating a little gingerly without the adrenaline of a game to help him push through the pain. Ryan can't help wincing with him when he takes a hit from Smitty during a drill, and when he skates over to see if he needs help up, it's just a team thing. Ladd gives him a weird look, but Ryan just shrugs it off.

Jonesy's being Jonesy -- a dick -- towards the end of practice when he goes to poke Ladd in the side with his stick. But he's reaching across Ryan, so he slaps the stick down after it brushes Ladd's jersey. "Don't be a dick," Ryan snaps.

"Worried someone's going to steal your title?" Jonesy laughs. "Relax, man, Ladder doesn't mind. And we have to toughen him up a bit."

"He's plenty tough. Just let him heal, fuckface," Ryan says. But when he glances back to Ladd, there's only an empty spot on the ice. Ladd's at the other side of the ice, talking with Eric and Alex.

They have a weight training session Tuesday afternoon, and Ryan is surprised when Ladd shows up with the rest of them.

"Should you be lifting weights with your ribs?" Ryan asks softly in the hallway.

Ladd throws him a look. "I've been cleared by the trainers."

"Okay," Ryan says, but he keeps an eye on him anyway. He's taking it easier than he usually does, which Ryan approves of, but toward the end of the session, his face is lined with pain. He stops before Ryan can decide if he should say something, so that's good.

"Do you need some ice?" Ryan asks Ladd when they're all getting dressed.

"I'm good."

"Are you sure?" Ryan asks. "Because I could grab some and --"

"I'm sure," Ladd says, a little too loudly. A few of the guys give them weird looks, and Ryan focuses on tying his shoelaces. He dawdles a little, and pretends to search for something in his bad so that he and Ladd are the last ones out.

"Hey," Ryan says, "do you feel --"

"What is your problem?" Ladd bursts out.

"Wha --?" Ryan says, taken aback. "What do you mean?"

"You! You're fucking hovering," Ladd says, jabbing a finger at him.

"No, I'm not!" Ryan protests automatically.

"Yeah, you are," Ladd snaps. "Stop it. Stop pretending like you care."

"I'm not pretending. We're..." friends is a gross overstatement and probably a lie. "We're teammates," Ryan finishes lamely.

"You never hovered over Cam like this, and you actually like him," Ladd says. "So whatever it is you're doing. Just. Just stop."

I like you, Ryan almost says. But the truth of it startles him into silence.

"I'm leaving you alone, okay? It's what you wanted, so how about you return the favor?"

Ladd is right. Ladd is totally right, and Ryan should leave him alone if that's what he wants. But he's also suddenly certain that he can't let Ladd walk away.

"We're linemates," he insists. "I'm supposed to watch out for you."

He really isn't expecting Ladd to to grab him by the shirt and push him against the wall. "Since when?" Ladd growls in his face. "Since when does it even matter to you?"

Ryan reaches out and grabs Ladd's shirt, to push him away, he thinks. But what he actually does is pull until Ladd is falling against him, and then he kisses him.

Ladd makes a startled noise, and Ryan lets go of his shirt to wrap his arms around Ladd's waist and pull him closer, careful of his ribs. Ladd starts kissing him back then, hard, and Ryan swears muscles he didn't even know he had relax, and he opens his mouth to let Ladd's tongue inside.

After a minute, Ladd tears his mouth away and pushes until he's an arm's length away from Ryan. "What the hell are you doing?" he asks. "Anyone could walk by."

"I don't care," Ryan says.

"Yes, you do. What the fuck?"

Ryan licks his lips, and he can see Ladd's eyes follow the movement -- and maybe he has a point. "Maybe we should go --"

Ladd hauls him into one of the trainers’ rooms, where someone's left an Ace bandage out on the table.

"Explain," Ladd says, taking a step back from Ryan.

"I -- I want you," Ryan says.

Ladd frowns, which wasn't really the reaction he was expecting. "Yeah, well, I want Datsuyk's takeaway numbers, so tough shit."

Ryan huffs. He's not saying this right, and Ladd's just not getting it.

"No, you don't get to be huffy just because I won't be a place for you to stick your dick and then leave when you're done," Ladd says.

Ryan winces. Okay, yeah.

"I'm sorry," Ryan says. Ladd's eyes widen. "I, uh, I was kind of freaking out, and I didn't think you'd care that much, but I shouldn't have left like that, and I'm sorry."

"You're apologizing? To me?"

"Yes," Ryan says more firmly. Jesus, trust Ladd to make this as difficult as possible. "And what you said before, I do like you, okay?" He swallows. "I like you a lot."

Ladd just stands there, looking at him, and Ryan sighs and pushes his hair back from his face. "I'm not saying this right."

"Are you fucking with me?" Ladd asks finally.

"What? No!"

"Because if you're fucking with me --" Ladd points at him, "I will beat you to a pulp."

Ryan grabs the hand Ladd's pointing at him and uses it to drag him around and up against the table. He leans in close to Ladd's face.

"I am not fucking with you, you dumb fuck! I like you. I think about you all the time, and I worry about you, and I fought a giant for you, and I hate it when other people touch you, because I want to be the only one touching you. I. Like. You." He gentles his grip on Ladd's arms and steps back a little, takes a deep breath. "And if I've already blown it, then I guess that's my fault, but just fucking tell me that, instead of letting me make a fool of myself all over the place here."

"I kinda like it when you make a fool of yourself."

Ryan squeezes his eyes shut. "Andrew --" Ryan lets go of Ladd's arm, only to have Ladd grab his wrist.

"It just seems fair," Ladd says, his voice no longer tense. "I've been acting like an idiot over you for weeks now."

"No, you haven't," Ryan says. He's pretty sure he would've noticed.

"Yeah, I have," Ladd says. "I like you. I think about you all the time, and I hate it when other people touch you, because I want to be the only one touching you. I get jealous of lesbians, for fuck's sake."

Ryan laughs a little at that, and Ladd grins, and holy shit, he hadn't realized how much he missed seeing that directed at him. "So, we're good?" Ryan asks.

"Almost," Ladd says, tugging Ryan towards him by his arm until he can just lean in to kiss him.

God, Ryan missed this, and it's such a relief to finally be able to admit that. He kisses Ladd slow and deep, and it's so damn good his knees feel a little weak with it.

He makes a small whining sound that he will never admit to when Ladd pulls away.

"We really shouldn't do this here," Ladd says, and then kisses Ryan again like he just can't help himself. Ryan knows he's right, but he thinks if he doesn't get to touch Ladd soon he's going to go crazy.

"My room?" he suggests, hoping like hell that Tim isn't around.

"Yeah," Ladd says, and Ryan has to duck in and kiss him again because he can.

Tim isn't there, thank god, and Ryan throws his bag down, flops on his bed, and pulls Ladd on top of him.

Ladd kisses him frantically, and Ryan kisses him back just as frantically. He tugs at Ladd's shirt until he can get it up and off and runs his hands over Ladd's bruises.

"Are you really okay?"

Ladd rolls his eyes, but he's smiling. "Yes, Ryan, god."

He reaches out and touches the bruise on Ryan's face. "Are you okay?"

"I'm great," Kesler says.

Ladd kisses him again and starts working at getting his pants off, an admirable plan of action in Ryan’s opinion. Then his phone starts ringing in his pocket and whoa, that's an interesting sensation, compounded by Ladd reaching in and pulling it out. Ryan would've preferred he ignore the phone to pull out something else.

"Hey, Jane, he's kind of busy right now...Yeah, tomorrow's probably best," Ladd says cheerfully into the phone.

Ryan can hear her laughing on the other end of the line.

"You could've let that go to voicemail," Ryan points out.

"Where's the fun in that?" Ladd asks, tossing the phone on the floor and returning his attention to Ryan's pants.

---

They just lay there, skin to skin, for a while after, Ryan tracing the line of Ladd's spine with the tips of his fingers.

"So, I'm pretty dumb, huh?" he says softly.

Ladd huffs a laugh into his neck. "Yeah," he says, "but I like you anyway."

“Shut up,” Ryan says, and smacks him lightly on the ass. Ladd's hips shift when he does, and, oh shit.

"We really don't have time for that," Ladd says, a little breathlessly.

"Yeah, Tim'll probably be back soon," Ryan says. Someday, though, he promises himself, they are coming back to that.

"Ugh," Ladd says, and he burrows back into Ryan's chest. Ryan can't think of a single reason to protest.

A few minutes later, they hear Tim shouting downstairs, and then it's a mad scramble to find their clothes and get them all in order. Ryan ends up in Ladd's shirt, and they don't have time to switch.

When Tim comes in, they have their books out and are the very picture of diligent studying, except for the blush that Ryan is probably sporting. Tim doesn't seem to notice. He just gives them a look and declares, "You guys are weird, you know that?"

"You're weird," Kesler shoots back.

About 10 minutes later, Ladd gets up.

"I should go," he says. "I gotta call Seabs."

"Tell him I said hi." Ryan smirks. Ladd hovers over Ryan for a second, but they can't exactly kiss goodbye with Tim right there, so Ladd just says, "See you tomorrow?"

"Breakfast?" Ryan suggests. It'll mean getting up earlier, but it won't be very crowded.
"Yeah," Ladd smiles, and he lets himself out.

Ryan finishes his reading and moves to his desk to screw around on the internet for a while. Jane IMs him immediately, and he spends a while explaining that yes, he's back with Ladd; yes, for good this time; yes, she's a genius, and he should listen to her always.

He gets an email about 45 minutes later from Facebook. “Brent Seabrook wrote on your wall,” it says. Ryan opens up his Facebook page, and in all caps, Seabs has written, ABOUT TIME, FUCKHEAD.

Ryan laughs. Then he looks around his page. He's been pretty much ignoring it for the last week and a half. It's complicated with Andrew Ladd, it still says. He clicks on edit and changes it to In A Relationship.

It’s not exactly shouting it from the rooftops, but it works.
Tags: blackhawks, canucks, hockey, hockeyrpf, ladd/kesler
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