by Chris J

"You realize it's fucking cold in here, right?" said Joey, blowing on his hands then rubbing them briskly together.

JC waggled his gloved fingers at him and smiled. "I told you where we were going," he said. "Didn't your mother ever teach you to dress for the weather?"

"The weather outside is seventy-eight and sunny," protested Joey. "You're just lucky I thought to bring a jacket with me."

"No, actually, *you're* lucky you thought to bring a jacket with you," said JC. "Now sit down, sit down, the faster you sit, the faster you'll warm a spot on the bench. They'll be coming out onto the ice in a minute."

The rink was empty except for them, a young kid sweeping the seats opposite them, and the players who -- so far -- hadn't emerged from wherever players hide before practice. Joey couldn't think of the word, and didn't want to ask JC since he'd already asked him enough questions about this.

"I can't believe you talked me into coming to watch your boyfriend practice," he said, blowing on his hands again. The last time Chris had talked him into going to a hockey game with him, he remembered it being a lot warmer than this. Did professional players rate better heaters or something?

"I don't seem to remember it taking much convincing," said JC, leaning forward onto his elbows and watching the ice intently. "Actually, I think all I said was, 'You want to come meet my boyfriend?' "

"I remember that," said Joey bitterly. "You'll notice that there was no mention of sub-arctic temperatures in that invitation?"

"You're a wuss," laughed JC. "It's nice in here. They like to keep it cold so the ice doesn't melt."

"Thank you, Captain Obvious," said Joey, and sighed. He really hadn't expected quite this venue for their meeting, despite the fact that JC had mentioned about five hundred times that his boyfriend liked to play hockey. Five hundred times in the week since they started going out. Joey had just wanted to size up the guy, not freeze his extremities off.

"Hey, you're the one who didn't think it was going to be cold," said JC. "Oh, shh, look!"

Joey wasn't entirely sure why watching a handful of bulky men skate on the ice warranted his silence, but JC had clapped his hand over Joey's mouth so he didn't have much choice other than to shut up and look. He would have licked JC's hand, except the glove made that an unappealing prospect.

"You're way too into this," he said when JC finally pulled his hand away to prop up his chin again. "They aren't even doing anything. We could've come *after* the practice, you know."

"But then I wouldn't have gotten to see Jay skate," explained JC. "Isn't he a great skater?"

Joey rolled his eyes. "I don't even know which one he is," he said. "And what's so great about skating, anyway? It's just sliding your feet across ice. It's dumb." And his opinion had nothing to do with the fact that last time he tried he'd ended up on his ass in less than thirty seconds. "I'm sure he's a nice guy, though."

JC just gave him an absent nod and a grin, still watching. "He's in the blue sweater with the white collar. I gave that to him. Did I tell you?"

"Only a hundred times, Jace. I guess he's okay."

Already, Joey knew he could look forward to an entire practice full of "Did you see that?" and "Isn't Jay great?" and "Did I tell you...?" and it wasn't that Joey didn't want JC to be happy, but with *him*? A bank-teller-slash-hockey-player? JC could do better.

"He's making me dinner tomorrow," said JC. "No one's ever done that before. I'm really excited."

"Hey, *I* could make you dinner," said Joey. "You never told me you wanted dinner! I would've done that a long time ago, if you'd said."

"But that's different," said JC, and he wasn't even *looking* at Joey, just looking at his precious Jay who apparently had much better tolerance of cold. Like that was important or something. "And you never asked. Oh, did you see that?"

"Yeah, I saw," said Joey, and resigned himself to watching Wonder Boy for the rest of the afternoon. He hoped it warmed up soon.

* * *

JC could see Joey out of the corner of his eye while he watched the players, and he didn't think Joey knew it. Was pretty sure that Joey wouldn't have been wearing quite that expression if he thought JC could see.

"Having fun?" he asked, waggling his fingers at Jay as he left the ice before turning his head to look right at Joey again.

"Yeah, sure," said Joey, planting a smile on his face that JC knew from long experience was a fake. "Once my jaw froze up and my teeth stopped chattering, it was a blast."

"Thanks for coming," JC went on. "It means a lot to me that you did."

Joey's expression softened as soon as JC said it, and he even looked faintly embarrassed to have been complaining. Which hadn't been part of JC's plan, but it maybe worked to his advantage.

"Hey, any time," he said. "I just like to see you happy, you know?"

JC did know that; he was just waiting for Joey to clue in to what made him that way. "Come on, let's go meet him, okay?"

Joey looked so unthrilled that JC began to have second thoughts about the whole thing after all, maybe it was just a hugely bad idea. But he'd run out of other ones to try.

"Yeah, sure," said Joey after a moment. "And then how about a cup of coffee after, just you and me? We can catch up on other stuff. We haven't done that in a while."

JC smiled at him. "I think that sounds great," he said, and started leading Joey out of the stands and into the warm again.

It was another fifteen minutes before Jay came out, freshly showered and carrying his equipment like it weighed nothing. JC allowed himself a lingering look at his arms as he approached. Nice.

"Hey," Jay said, smiling broadly at the both of them. "Hey, I'm glad you made it." He gave JC a quick kiss on the cheek and held out his hand to Joey. "Nice to meet you."

"Yeah, you too," said Joey with his public face on. "You're a good player." Joey wouldn't know a good player from a zamboni driver, but JC didn't call him on it.

"Thanks," he said, and the conversation quickly descended into awkward silence.

"So hey," said JC cheerfully after a moment. "I'm glad you two finally got to meet. Joey, you wanna go bring the car around, meet me at the front doors?" They'd only parked about forty feet away, but Joey was just as quick to do it as JC expected him to be.

"You guys can kiss in front of me, you know," Joey said, "but hey, sure, no problem. See you around, Jay." Jay gave him a friendly wave, but Joey was too quick to leave for him to really reply.

"So, did it work?" he asked JC a moment later, lifting an eyebrow.

"I sure as hell hope so," said JC, eyeing the door Joey had disappeared through. "I think maybe yeah."

"Good," said Jay, hefting his bag over his shoulder. "And JC?"


"If you ever give up on getting Mr. Perfect there, my offer's still open..."

"I'll keep than in mind," said JC, but if it hadn't happened by now, he didn't think it was ever going to. "Thanks for everything, Jay. Seriously."

"Anything for you," he said, and gave JC a pat on the ass. "I've gotta get going. Good luck!"

"Thanks," said JC, and took a deep breath, and started off after Joey for their coffee date. It was a start.

Mprov for jawamonkey and velma. January 13, 2003

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