Oooooh how about NHL Chowder? Or really NHL anybody that isn't Jack. ❤️❤️❤️❤️
“I can’t do this,” Chris says, his forehead pressed into the cool wood of the table in the hotel room. “Oh my God. I can’t do this.”
“Chris.” Long fingers press into his hair, and he picks his head up in time to see Derek sit down across from him. He holds both his hands out and makes a c’mon gesture with them, and Chris takes both of them, squeezing hard and then dropping his head to inhale the smell of Derek’s skin, still fresh and clean from his post-game shower.
God. The game. The game that they won. They won the Frozen fucking Four, and Chris only let one goal in the whole time, practically a fucking shutout, and that was why–
He sucks in a breath.
“Hey.” Chris makes himself look up. Derek’s watching him calmly–not with his chill face, because Chris knows that one’s totally fake, but actually calmly, gently. When Chris meets his eyes, he smiles. Chris smiles back, a little. He likes soft Derek. “Lemme in that brain of yours, Chow.”
“I just…” Chris swallows, motioning down at the papers in front of him, a little helpless. “I just–things? Like, things. I’m having…I’m having feelings. Like, a lot of feelings.”
Derek raises an eyebrow. “Okay,” he says. He nods toward the papers. “Can I look, or…”
Chris shakes his head. He’s not ready to show him yet. “Um. I need to hold your hands right now.”
“Okay.” Derek squeezes his hands. He’s quiet for a moment, and then says, “So, not the Sharks, then?”
“Not the Sharks.”
Derek nods slowly, then tilts his head to one side. His hair’s grown out a little–thanks, playoffs–and it makes his curls flop with the motion. “Gonna make me guess?”
“The Schooners,” Chris says. He hesitates. “And the Rangers.”
He sees the moment it clicks for Derek. “Oh,” he says. And then, “Oh,” again, softer, gentler, almost to himself.
Because Derek’s going back to New York for grad school, and Cait’s job search is wide open right now, but she’s been looking at tech firms in Manhattan, and it’s not like Derek doesn’t know Chris has been looking at diamonds online for months, but what Derek actually doesn’t know is that he’s been looking at wider, more masculine bands, too, because it’s not just him and Cait anymore, hasn’t been for a long time, and–
“C,” Derek says, carefully, “You shouldn’t make your call based on–I mean, you–” He takes a breath, squeezes Chris’s hands, and then says, “Lemme back up. What’s freaking you out?”
“All the things?” Chris guesses. He sighs. “Like, it’s real? I mean, it was always the dream, but now it’s like–it’s real. Going pro, it’s an option, teams want me, teams are actually looking at me and trying to get me to sign with them, and I just–I don’t know how to–It just feels big, you know?”
Derek nods. He strokes the pads of his thumbs over the backs of Chris’s knuckles. It’s probably an absent motion, but it’s soft, soothing. Chris relaxes a little. “You know you deserve it,” he says softly. “Right? You’re the fucking league, Chowder. You deserve everything.”
“But–” Chris swallows. “But what if I fuck up?”
This is the insecurity he never lets his parents see, because he has to show them that hockey can be a Real Thing, that his computer science degree is just a backup. He’ll show Caitlyn, and he knows she’d never, ever judge him, but she doesn’t get it, either–she loves him so much, but she just doesn’t really understand the pressure, the need to be not just good but better, because good enough is never enough.
But Derek–Derek gets it. Derek knows. He squeezes his hand. “Then you do your fucking best,” he says. “And if they cut you, you come move in with me, and you can live off my generous trust fund as my live-in kept boy.”
It’s such an unexpected response that it startles a laugh out of him. “Derek, what the fuck,” Chris says, but he sniffles and laughs and lets go of one of Derek’s hands and wipes his eyes. “I was being serious.”
“So was I,” Derek says, grinning. He leans across the table and kisses Chris’s cheek, way up on the corner of his cheekbone, almost at the edge of his eye. It’s his favorite spot. “Got your back doesn’t end when we leave Samwell,” he says, sitting back in his chair. “Okay?”
Chris takes a breath. “Okay,” he says. “You promise?”
Derek smiles. “Yeah,” he says. “Of course.”
“Okay.” Chris smiles, the last, lingering tension finally loosening from his chest. With a shaking hand, he turns over one of the stacks of paper in front of him, and pushes the Rangers contract–already signed–across the table so Derek can see. “I was hoping you’d say that.”