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Auston is looking for the bathroom in this godforsaken frat house when he’s almost barrelled down by a running Mitch Marner.

Mitch steadies himself by grabbing onto Auston’s shoulders, and says, “Yo, dude, I’m gonna kiss you right now.”

“Uh - fucking, what?”

“I’ll explain later. Just - go with it.” Then, Mitch grabs Auston’s face in his hands and presses their lips together.

It’s not the most graceful kiss, by any means, but Auston kind of loves it. And, so does Mitch, apparently, if the small groan he lets out when Auston grabs his hips is anything to go by.

They’re pretty much making out on the wall by the time Mitch pulls away. He glances around for a second before locking eyes with a boy across the hall. “Good, I think he saw.” Mitch pats Auston on the chest before saying, “Fucking thanks, dude, you’re such an awesome bro.”

Auston’s mouth feels really dry. “Yeah. A bro.” He clears his throat. “Why, uh, why did we do that?”

“That guy over there, Dylan,” Mitch points to a boy with bleached blonde hair, “is my kinda ex, and he ended our whatever to be with Connor, that guy who is now bringing him a drink. So. I wanted to show him that I have also moved on and can now be in an adult relationship, too.”

“Marns, I don’t know if you noticed, but you haven’t done either of those things.”

“Yeah, but he doesn’t have to know that! He just has to think it.”

Auston lets out a long, loud sigh. “I guess, man. I need a shot. Something strong.”

“I’ll grab us some fireball, bud.” Mitch claps Auston on the shoulder then walks away, and Auston is left alone with his thoughts and this very new, very scary feeling about Mitch.

***

Three shots and a few losing games of beer pong later, Auston has pretty much figured out that there’s nothing heterosexual about his thoughts on Mitch’s throat as Mitch downs a bottle of Heineken.

Yeah, at this point Auston is sure he’s at least 50% gay. Bisexual is probably a better word for it.

He just wishes he hadn’t been in the middle of a frat house full of drunk teenagers when he had this revelation.

This party has suddenly become too much for Auston. “Hey, Mitch, I’m gonna go back to the apartment. I’ll see you later.”

“But we were just about to play another round of beer pong! I really think we can win this time!” Mitch looks really sad that Auston’s leaving, and Auston loves it in a weird way.

“Just partner up with Willy, dude. I’m really tired.” Auston kinda feels bad for leaving Mitch, but he pulls on his coat anyway and heads out.

He’s maybe been in the apartment for ten minutes before he can hear the door opening, and he looks over to see Mitch walking in.

“Didn’t expect you to be back so soon.”

“Yeah, well.” Mitch shrugs. “The party wasn’t much fun anymore without you there.”

“Oh.” Auston doesn’t know what to say to that. “I’m, uh, gonna go to bed.”

Mitch yawns. “I’m gonna play some NHL 17 before I sleep.”

Auston lays down in his bed and wraps himself in what has to be, like, 4 blankets, but he’s still cold. “Hey, Mitch?” He calls out into the hallway. “Can you turn up the heat?”

“Dude, you know we can’t change it without paying more.” Auston can hear Mitch rolling his eyes.

“Yeah, I know,” Auston grumbles. “Do you have an extra blanket at least?”

And, they must be really drunk, because neither of them thinks it might be a bad idea when Mitch goes, “Just scoot over, loser,” and gets under the covers with Auston and lays up against him. “Goodnight.”

Auston feels like he can barely breathe. “Night.”

***

Waking up with Mitch wrapped around him like a koala is a thing that Auston had never expected having to deal with. He’s not complaining, but. It’s a lot.

Auston hasn’t had coffee yet, though, and Mitch isn’t awake, so he decides to just pull him closer and enjoy the moment.

Mitch has different ideas, because he wakes up just a second later, and sneezes right in Auston’s face.

Auston feels like he should be repulsed, or like he should smack Mitch for that, but objectively the whole situation is probably the funniest thing that’s ever happened to him, so he starts laughing.

Mitch laughs, too, and it’s really, really nice. Auston lets himself think back to their kiss last night, lets himself imagine what it would be like to kiss Mitch again, preferably when they’re 100% more sober.

Mitch is the first of them to get up, but he’s still giggling as he does. “Okay, we should get up. Team breakfast and all that.”

Auston checks the time on his phone. “Oh, shit, man. We have like, ten minutes to get across campus, and I am not doing bag skates again.” Auston looks at the shirt Mitch has changed into and stops. “Is that mine?”

Mitch looks down at his chest like he hadn’t noticed. “I mean, it’s not my USNTDP shirt if that’s what you’re asking.”

Auston can’t stop himself from rolling his eyes. “Whatever, let’s just go.”

***

They’re late anyway, but nobody notices at first because they’re very pointedly focused on two of their other teammates. Specifically, Willy and Kappy.

“Are you guys really fucking telling us,” Zach starts, “that you lost at beer pong five times in a row? That has to be, like, a fine or something.”

“It’s not, what a fucking shame.” Matt shakes his head as he takes a drink of his orange juice.

Mitch and Auston slide into their seats at the end of the table, hoping to just merge into the conversation and avoid punishment, but Mo catches them.

“Mitch, Auston, where have you been? You’re,” he checks his watch, “three minutes late.”

“We slept a little late. And, by Auston standards, we’re practically early. Maybe you guys are the late ones.” Mitch finishes his sentence very confidently for someone with such an awful argument.

Mo doesn’t take it. “Ha ha, very funny. Bag skates tomorrow for both of you.”

Both of them groan. “But dad..” Auston whines.

“No buts! Now, go get some food from the buffet, we have an early practice today.”

Mitch, who is usually pretty touchy, has apparently decided to up the ante and become the most tactile person in the world today, and drape himself over Auston’s shoulder, mumbling, “Give me a second, I just woke up.”

Auston flicks him on the nose. “Get off me, nerd, I wanna go get some bacon!”

“Get me some?” Mitch looks at Auston with his puppy dog eyes, and Auston immediately knows what his answer will be.

“You can grab your own,” he teases.

Auston comes back to the table with two plates.

***

It seems that Mitch is content to never talk about their kiss. Auston definitely, definitely never wants to mention it, because that would mean that he would have to tell Mitch about his crush, which sounds kind of like the worst idea ever. Yeah, he’ll just stick to pining quietly and hoping no one else on their team notices.

He’s doing exactly that right before their next game, a week after the kiss. Mitch is talking to Willy, and he’s laughing, and Auston is sure that he’s never seen a prettier picture in his life. He’s contemplating sneaking his phone out to take a picture, and if that’s as creepy as it sounds in his head, when Mitch looks over and catches his eye, and winks. Auston feels like the only appropriate reaction to that is to actually swoon, so he settles for just pretending to because he knows it’ll make Mitch laugh.

Mitch covers his mouth with his hand as he giggles (Auston thinks Mitch looks kind of like a Disney prince when he does that), which gets Willy’s attention. Willy gives Mitch a weird look, then sees that he’s looking at Auston, and gives Auston an even weirder look.

Willy leans over and whispers something into Mitch’s ear that makes him stop laughing. Mitch gives Willy a pleading look, but Willy just shrugs and starts talking to Freddie on his other side.

Auston’s not gonna lie, he’s extremely curious as to what Willy could have said to facilitate such a drastic change in mood. He doesn’t have time to dwell on it too much, though, because Babs walks in for his pregame speech, and all attention is turned to him.

***

The game doesn’t go well, to say the least.

To be even more specific, they lose 6-1.

Auston thinks that this is probably the worst he’s ever felt after a game. The locker room is bleak and silent, the only noise coming from Babcock pacing up and down the room. He takes a second before he starts yelling, and Auston is a little bit startled even though he fully expected this outcome after the way they played.

There’s nothing to do but sit there and take the lashing, even though it’s the last thing Auston wants to do. He’s just glad it was a home game so he doesn’t also have to endure the awkward bus ride back with everyone.

He does, however, have to deal with Mitch’s bad mood back at their apartment.

Mitch has started his usual post-bad game ritual of playing COD silently when Auston finally makes his way out of the rink.

Mitch looks over when he hears the door close, then goes back to his game.

“Hey, bud,” Auston says, his voice more soft and affectionate than he had expected it to be. “I know you’re doing your like, mopey shit, but it’s really late, and you have a test tomorrow. You should probably sleep.”

Mitch lets out a long sigh before tossing the controller onto the floor. “Yeah, you’re right.” Mitch still looks bothered, though, when he asks, “Can we cuddle?”

He sounds like he’s expecting a rejection, and Auston thinks that it’s insane that Mitch would ever expect rejection from him.

“Of course, dude.” The mood in the room is somber, too sad for Auston, so he adds, “but go brush your teeth first, your breath stinks.”

Mitch says, “fuck you,” but he’s smiling a little now, so Auston counts it as a win.

They get ready for bed next to each other, and it feels awfully domestic, and Auston wonders if it’s weird to want to spend the rest of his life brushing his teeth and giggling next to Mitch Marner.

It should be kind of telling that Mitch and Auston have a system for cuddling while they sleep. Mitch doesn’t even have to ask before he gets into bed after Auston and curls himself into Auston’s chest. Auston wraps his arms around Mitch and settles in for the night, trying desperately not to think about how this doesn’t help his crush problem at all.

***

It’s almost too much for Auston to handle when he wakes up with Mitch’s head on his chest. The feeling is familiar, because this isn’t the first time they’d shared a bed, but this is the first time the action had been accompanied by capital-f Feelings.

Mitch wakes up not too long later, all bleary eyed and soft, and smiles up at Auston. “Hey. Thanks for this. You always know how to make me feel better.”

Auston is silent for a beat. “You know the loss wasn’t your fault, right? Like, sure, a shot went in off of your stick, but that’s a relatively small goal in the grand scheme of things. It was on all of us.”

“It’s like, logically I know what you’re saying, but I still feel like shit.” Mitch has stopped looking at Auston by now, and he nuzzles himself more into Auston’s chest, making a content noise. “Does that make sense?”

“Yeah, it does. I still don’t like that you’re blaming yourself, though.” Auston allows himself the liberty of pulling Mitch closer in his arms.

“You’re my best friend, you know? And you’re, like, kind of the best friend ever.” Mitch turns his head where it’s laying gives Auston a lingering look. “I mean that, really.”

Auston smiles. “Sap,” he chirps, but he can’t really bring himself to mean it. “You’re kind of a great best friend, too, just for the record.”

“Damn, that was cute as hell, but we should get up.” Mitch lays there for a second, still in Auston’s arms, then pushes himself into a sitting position. He looks so pretty like that, Auston thinks, with the sun on his face, looking down at Auston. Auston hopes, somewhat desperately, that Mitch is thinking the same thing about him.

Mitch stands and holds his hand out to Auston. “Come on, lazy bones, up and at ‘em. Got a long day of tests, and probably a very stern talking to during practice.” Mitch thinks for a second. “Brunch?”

Auston takes his hand and pulls himself up with a decisive nod. “Brunch.”

***

Auston manages to avoid any more close calls with his Mitch related feelings until the next frat party they both go to.

It’s after a hard fought win, so Mitch started drinking as soon as they showed up and has since decided that he is going to act as Auston’s new coat.

There are upsides to this, like how Auston gets to feel Mitch pressed up against him, and how Auston gets to feel the vibrations from every word that Mitch says.

There are downsides, too, because of course there are, the main one being that every time Auston moves, Mitch rubs up on him in a different and more distracting way than the time before. And, honestly, with the influence of the alcohol in his system, it’s starting to get to Auston. Like, get to him, get to him.

This is probably the time for Auston to make a getaway back to the room, he thinks. Mitch rubs against him again, and okay, yeah, Auston should definitely be leaving now.

Auston knows that his voice must sound raw when he says, “Mitch, I’m gonna head back, okay? I’ll see you later.”

Mitch seems really out of it when he nods, eyes wide. “Yeah, yeah, bro, I’ll catch you soon.”

Auston all but runs out of the dingy frat house. The apartment is only a few blocks away, but once Auston had made his decision to leave, it was like he couldn’t get back to the apartment quick enough.

He makes it back in what has to be record time, and he sprints up the two flights of stairs and down the hall, key already out to unlock the door.

Auston debates for a second between sitting on his bed, or going to the bathroom, and figures that he has enough time before Mitch gets back that he can be comfortable for this one.

He settles in, feeling sleazy as anything as he shoves his pants down. Auston’s just got a good rhythm started, and he’s letting himself think not just of tonight, but of all of the other times Mitch has gotten Auston flustered and wanting.

He tightens his hand around his dick a bit, moving it faster. He feels close, so close, thinking about Mitch, and as he’s right, right there, the lock clicks, and the door opens, and Auston finds himself staring at Mitch while he’s jerking off.

Mitch ends up squeaking out, “uh, you can finish!” Before backing out of the room and slamming the door.

Auston can already feel himself getting soft at the situation. He yells, “well, I don’t want to finish, now!” at the closed door, knowing that Mitch can’t hear him. Auston pulls his pants up anyway and stalks over to the door, yanking it open and looking down at the floor where he knows Mitch will be waiting. “You can come in, you know.”

“You’re done? Is it safe?” Mitch asks, scrambling to stand up.

Auston rolls his eyes. “Yes, it’s fucking safe, you walking in on me pretty much killed the mood completely.”

Mitch looks more uncomfortable than Auston has seen him in a while. “You know,” Mitch coughs, glancing away. ‘You could pick up, you know, if you wanted. Just like, tell me before you do.”

“Oh my God, I’m gonna stop you right there. One; I would absolutely tell you before I brought someone home, or at least put a sock on the door, and two; we are not having this conversation, especially not right after you saw me jerking off.”

Mitch seems surprisingly sober now, given the amount of alcohol he had consumed earlier. “I’m just saying, you don’t have to, like, ditch me at parties if you want some alone time. You could just ask.”

Auston finds himself agreeing, if not just to get to the end of this conversation. “Yeah, no, sure, whatever. Can this be over now? I kind of wanna curl up under the covers and never come out or speak of this again, if that’s cool with you.”

“Yeah, I can definitely dig that,” Mitch says. He flops down onto his bed, landing on his stomach. “Cover me?”

Auston rolls his eyes, but still goes over to throw the covers onto Mitch. “Good night, you fucking child.”

Mitch’s voice is muffled by his pillows as he says, “you love me.”

Auston doesn’t respond as he lays down to sleep.

***

Things are a little weird between them the next day, which makes sense, given that Mitch had seen Auston’s dick. It’s not like it’s even the first time - they see each other undress in the locker room every day - but it’s the first time that one of them had been hard. It’s kind of a tough thing to let go so soon.

Auston thought he had been hiding his mild discomfort well, but apparently Willy is more perceptive than Auston had previously assumed.

“Hey, is something up with you and Mitch? He keeps giving you these fucking looks and he won’t tell me why,” Willy says, but it feels more like whining to Auston.

Auston considers lying, and starts to for a second, before he realizes that he’s really, really fucking tired of having no one to talk to about what’s going on. “I- yeah, can we talk later? In your apartment?”

Willy looks startled, like he didn’t expect Auston to open up so easily. “No, yeah, dude, of fucking course, we can walk back to mine together after practice. Kappy can find somewhere else to chill for a while.”

Auston clears his throat. “Thanks, man,” he says, and claps Willy on the shoulder. “Now let’s go shoot some fucking pucks.”

***

It takes a few beers and an episode of The Bachelorette for Auston to open up to Willy, but when he does, it’s like the floodgates have burst.

“Mitch is just- he’s so fuckin’ cute, dude, like, his smile and shit…” Auston must be drunker than he thought he was, because gushing about Mitch’s smile was definitely not on the schedule for tonight.

“I feel like we’ve established that you’re in love with Mitch at this point,” Willy says drily, taking another swig of his beer. “But, like, what the fuck are you gonna do about it?”

“Uh, fucking nothing, I guess? Like, I can’t tell him, because what if he like- hates me or something?”

Willy gives Auston a look. “You really think Mitch could ever hate you?”

“I don’t know! If you couldn’t tell, I’m kind of freaking out right now.”

“Oh, I could tell. Look, Auston, Mitch is a good dude. The worst that could happen is you tell him, and he says he’s not into you, then you go back to your day-to-day life.”

“But, like, what if.”

Exasperated, Willy says, “dude. If he suddenly hates you because you tell him you like him, I will personally knock some sense into him. How’s that sound?”

Auston is really touched, but he can’t just let Willy know that, so he just says a simple “thanks, bro,” and leans back in his seat. Willy taps him on the shoulder, twice, and Auston knows that he understands.

“So, are you gonna tell him?”

Auston is silent for a second as he mulls over his options. He could just continue his life as it is, silently pining over Mitch and watching him from afar, which has been working out pretty well so far, agonizing as it is. He could also tell Mitch that he’s got a huge crush on him, which would end in Mitch either leaving him in the dust, letting him down gently, or also professing his love.

And, as he thinks about it, Auston realizes how much he hated being alone in this. He’s spent the past few weeks with no one to talk to about what’s going on, and he’s somehow just realizing how suffocating that was. Auston never wants to feel like that around Mitch.

Auston has made up his mind. “Yeah, yeah I’m gonna fuckin’ tell him.” He makes to get up, to run back to his apartment and tell Mitch right that second, but Willy grabs his shoulder and pushes him back onto the couch.

“Nope! You’re not gonna tell Mitch you’re into him when you’re even a little bit drunk. You’re staying here tonight, and we’re gonna watch more of The Bachelorette, then you can tell him in the morning over brunch or something,” Willy says, like it’s final.

“Brunch? That’s so gay.”

“Then it perfect for you and Mitch.” Willy smiles mockingly at Auston then turns back to the TV. “Now shut up, I need to see what DeMario did.”

***

Auston texts Mitch when he wakes up, asking to talk in their apartment. Willy gives him shit for not asking him to brunch as suggested, but Auston is 100% against being that much of a gay stereotype.

Mitch just replies, yeah, brah, which is very on brand for him.

Auston is kind of freaking out by the time he walks up to the lobby.

Mitch is sitting at the coffee table, nursing a cup of OJ, when Auston walks in. “Hey, dude. You sounded kinda stressed in your texts, is everything cool?”

“Okay, we’re gonna have to delay the conversation I wanted to have,” Auston says as he slumps down into a seat at the table, “because how the fuck does someone sound stressed over a text?”

“I don’t know.” Mitch shrugs and ducks his head like he’s embarrassed. “When you’re chill your texts are chill, like, no caps, no punctuation, yadda yadda yadda, but when you’re stressed you suddenly have like perfect grammar and all that.”

Auston wants to press for more information, to find out just how many little things Mitch notices about him daily, but he can feel the word vomit about to come up, ready to tell Mitch everything.

“Okay, I know I don’t need, like, a reason to talk to you in our own apartment, but I, uh, have one.” Auston fidgets a little as he sits there, then flattens his hands on his thighs and takes a breath. “I-”

And then Auston gets a look at Mitch, his first good look at him, and he notices, “are you wearing my shirt?”

“Oh, yeah, I guess I am,” Mitch says, like he’s trying and failing to sound nonchalant. “Must’ve picked it out on accident.”

Auston must look a little dopey right now, staring at Mitch like this. He knows he hasn’t said anything in awhile when Mitch goes, “Are you mad at me?”

“No, god no, of course not, you’re just- really solidifying how I feel right now.”

“And how is that?” Mitch asks slowly, carefully, like he’s still waiting for Auston to yell at him for stealing his shirt or something.

“Okay, here goes. I have, like, the biggest crush on you.” Telling Mitch is like opening floodgates, like a dam breaking. All the tension from keeping this bottled up for so long suddenly leaves his body, and he lets out a huge breath. “Holy shit, that feels amazing to say. Mitch, I have a crush on you, and I totally don’t expect anything from you, I just want you to know.”

Mitch is smiling when Auston can finally convince himself to stop rambling.

“You’re such a nerd,” Mitch says, and Auston feels like a part could be offended by it, but Mitch sounds so fond, and that’s all Auston wants to focus on. “I feel like I’ve been pretty obvious about it, but that crush is very, very, reciprocated, Matts.”

Auston, who had been preparing to be let down gently, feels himself reeling. “You’re not just saying this to, like, spare my feelings, right? Because I can handle the rejection I promise-”

“Dude, fuck no, I have a huge crush on you. Why the fuck do you think I asked you to kiss me forever ago instead of, like, Willy? No offense, but he’s objectively the hottest dude I’ve ever seen.”

Auston grins. “You’re not helping your case, here,” he teases, even though he definitely doesn’t doubt Mitch anymore. “So, if this crush is as two-sided as you say it is, you definitely wouldn’t be opposed to some light making out right now, am I right?”

Mitch bursts into a laugh. “You’re very right, even though you said it in the weirdest fucking way.”

“So that’s a yes?” Auston doesn’t think he’s ever smiled this wide. He watches as Mitch gets up from his chair and stands in front of Auston’s knees.

Rolling his eyes, Mitch pulls Auston from sitting to standing, and puts his arms around Auston’s neck.

Mitch presses close to Auston, and as their lips touch, mumbles, “that’s a yes.”