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Three Isn't a Crowd

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"ROOMIES!" Connor cheered.

"BESTIES!" Dylan replied.

"THIS IS GONNA BE AMAZING!" Connor and Dylan chanted as they hugged before launching into an elaborate handshake.

"I love how well we do that," Dylan laughed once they were finished. "We never do it the same way twice, but we never miss a beat, either."

"That's the beauty of a soul bond, eh?" Connor smiled.

Connor and Dylan had been neighbors since birth and best friends since preschool. Neither of them could pinpoint the moment when their soul bond formed, but they agreed that it had evolved from platonic to romantic during their final year of high school. It had taken several weeks for the boys to figure out what the changes in the soul bond meant, but eventually they had figured out that they should be boyfriends. And that was what they were now, in addition to best friends and just-moved-in roommates in their first semester of college.

I'm hungry, Dylan announced through the soul bond.

Then let's get lunch, Connor suggested, leaning forward to kiss Dylan's nose. My treat.

They walked to the caf and exchanged groans of frustration through the soul bond when they saw just how crowded it was. They did say the caf would be the only place open during freshman orientation, Connor recalled. Not that I understand why they would do such a thing.

Bureaucrats aren't smart, Dylan replied. Don't worry. I'll just make friends with someone and we can sit with them. He laughed at Connor's frown and spoke out loud: "We both know you're better with hockey equipment than with humans."

"True - it's why I keep you around," Connor answered drily. Well, that and your good looks. And that thing you do with your tongue. He laughed as Dylan sputtered in bewilderment.

Eventually, they made their way inside the caf and spotted a table with two open spots. Dylan walked right up to the gangly boy sitting there and asked, "Mind if we join you?"

The boy looked up, smiling brightly. "I don't mind at all."

"Thanks." Dylan and Connor placed their wallets in front of the chairs and hurried to get food. They returned with their trays and sat down. "I'm Dylan. He's Connor."

"Mitch." He held out his hand, and Dylan shook it. Connor just nodded, so Mitch nodded back. "You're both freshmen, too?"

"Yeah," Dylan nodded. "What dorm do you live in?"

"London," Mitch replied. "You?"

"Erie."

"Roommates?" Mitch asked.

Dylan nodded. "We -"

Dylan William Strome, do not even think about outing us, Connor ordered through the soul bond.

Connor No-Middle-Name McDavid, have a little faith in me. Dylan pretended to cough on his food, then explained, "We've been best friends forever, so we requested to be roommates, and it worked. I give it a day before he regrets it." He threw an arm around Connor fondly.

Mitch laughed. "Too much of a good thing, eh?" He stared at Dylan's hand on Connor's shoulder for a few moments, then shook his head quickly. "I don't have a roommate - I had to ask for a room on the first floor, and I got a really small room next to the laundry machines."

"Hopefully nobody does laundry in the middle of the night, eh?" Dylan laughed.

Mitch blinked in surprise. "I thought you sounded familiar! Ontario?"

"Mississauga, dude!" Dylan grinned.

"Markham!" Mitch offered a high-five. "Three Ontario boys in college in Arizona! Wow!"

"Wow indeed! You a Leafs fan?"

"Born and bred! Can't wait for opening night - our power play looks much better!"

Connor snorted. "We've done nothing about the power play!"

"Oh, so you do know how to speak?" Mitch teased.

"He really, really loves hockey," Dylan explained. "More than anyone I know."

"Challenge accepted." Mitch launched into an intense debate with Connor that only ended when the staff told them it was time to go.

Connor gave Mitch his number and promised to share it with Dylan, who stared in shock as Mitch walked towards London, which was across campus from Erie. "You never do that, Connor!"

"I like him! He gets hockey! Is that a bad thing?"

"No, not at all!" Dylan held up his hands in surrender. "I like him, too. I think he'll be a good friend."

***

As promised, Connor shared Mitch's number with Dylan right away. A few days later, when classes began, they discovered that this hadn't been needed.

"Dude!" Mitch ran up to Dylan, who was staring at the building directory. "You don't understand this building, either?"

"Not at all," Dylan admitted. "I don't see anything named 'Maurice Richard Auditorium,' do you?"

"No...wait, you're in Intro to Sociology with Professor Peters?!" Mitch gasped. "Dude!"

"Dude!" Dylan high-fived him. "I want to major in it!"

"Same, dude!" Mitch laughed. "What about Connor?"

"Geology," Dylan sighed. "Boring."

Mitch nodded in agreement before staring at the directory again. "Do you think 'Rocket Richard Hall' is the same as 'Maurice Richard Auditorium,' maybe?"

Dylan looked at where Mitch was pointing. "Worth a shot."

They hurried down the hallway and saw a man in a suit fiddling with a ring of keys at the door to the hall. "Excuse me..." Dylan began.

"Yes," the man said, unlocking the door and holding it open. "Maurice's nickname was Rocket. You're in the right place for Intro to Sociology. I wish they'd relabel it on the directory."

Both boys laughed and entered the hall, sitting down next to each other in one of the middle rows. "This is gonna be amazing," Mitch declared.

"Absolutely," Dylan agreed.

***

The NHL season was still about a month away, but that didn't stop Connor from wanting to talk hockey at every opportunity. So on the first weekend of the semester, he texted Mitch to see if he wanted to hang out and talk about the Leafs. Mitch accepted immediately, offering his room so they wouldn't bother Dylan - or, to be more precise, so Dylan wouldn't bother them by sniggering over how obsessed they both were.

"Dude, I'm still annoyed about trading all our goalies," Mitch complained, flopping onto his bed while Connor sat at the desk. "Rebuilding is all fine and good, but none of the new guys have experience."

"Look, Dangle has a long-term plan for us, and it seems to be working so far," Connor argued. "Dubas brought us to a decent spot on the table, even though that meant a later draft pick. And we were able to protect a lot of guys from the expansion draft."

"I can't get over how hard Dangle laughed at the new team's name." Mitch shook his head in disbelief. "Yes, the Alaska Caribou is ridiculous, but you'd think he'd have more self-control than that during a nationally televised press conference!"

Connor opened his mouth to speak, but wound up laughing instead. Mitch joined in. They kept laughing until they were in tears, at which point Connor managed to gasp, "I can't believe we're going to be their first opponents."

"Yeah, dude - and then we open at home against the Stanley Cup champion Devils?" Mitch sighed, still smiling broadly.

"The schedule doesn't look all that bad," Connor said. "I think we'll have a really good run."

Mitch nodded in agreement. "This is gonna be amazing."

"Very much so."

***

Over the course of September, the three boys fell into an easy pattern: Mitch and Dylan would have lunch together after Intro to Sociology on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Connor and Mitch would have lunch together on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Dylan and Connor would have dinner together every night, with handjobs and/or blowjobs before bed on the weekends. And all three of them would have brunch together on Saturdays and Sundays.

When they put it that way, it seemed like a lot of time. In reality, however, they had other friends and did things by themselves. Mitch was...well, he was probably a third best friend at this point, if Connor and Dylan were honest. It was pretty amazing.

The Leafs' opening game was the first Friday in October, with puck drop scheduled for 7 PM. Mitch spent almost all of lunch talking about it, until he suddenly paused mid-sentence. "You really want to talk about something else, don't you."

"Uh..." Why didn't it sound like a question coming from Mitch?

"I can tell that there's something on the tip of your tongue," Mitch explained with a kind smile. "Come on, out with it."

"Do you want to do the midterm research project together?" Dylan said in one quick breath. To be completely honest, he could barely tell his words apart, having spoken so rapidly.

"Duh," Mitch chuckled. "That was worrying you so much?"

"No..." Dylan gulped as Mitch narrowed his gaze. "Okay, fine, I was worried that you would already have a partner and then I'd have to think of someone else to ask. Was it that obvious?"

"Only because I know you so well," Mitch replied. "Let's meet up over the weekend to work on it, okay?"

"Okay." Both boys stood up to get ready to leave. "Try to go easy on Connor tonight, eh? He tends to scream himself hoarse on opening night, and then he spends at least a week complaining about it."

"I won't goad him too much," Mitch promised. I'll hold a pillow to his face if I have to.

Dylan was so startled that he almost dropped his tray. "A pillow?"

"Who said anything about a pillow?" Mitch arched an eyebrow. "Are you and Connor thinking at each other again?"

"No, it's - it's nothing." Dylan placed his tray on the conveyor belt that led to the dishwasher and thought through the soul bond. Were you thinking about a pillow just now?

No. Connor sounded very annoyed through the bond. I was thinking about where I put my lucky snapback. I can't find it. Why, were you thinking about a pillow just now? I didn't hear anything through the bond.

No, it's nothing...I'll help you look for your lucky snapback after dinner. Dylan sighed and followed Mitch out of the caf. There was no way Mitch had thought something at him...right?

"You okay, dude?" Mitch asked. Or am I randomly able to think at you?

I think it's the second one... Dylan gasped as Mitch's eyes widened. "This is weird, Mitch."

"Yeah," Mitch nodded. "Let's see if anything happens with Connor."

Nothing happened with Connor.

Dylan had dinner with him, and everything was perfectly normal with the soul bond. Just to be on the safe side, Dylan texted Mitch after dinner and asked if he'd picked up any of the conversation; Mitch replied that he hadn't.

During the game, Connor and Mitch talked almost incessantly, and there was no hint of a soul bond. When Connor started shouting during the second period, Mitch deliberately thought, Connor, not so loud! But Connor didn't react. When Mitch said out loud, "Connor, Dylan made me promise you wouldn't lose your voice," Connor laughed, but quieted down.

Nothing, Mitch thought sadly at Dylan.

He's probably just being oblivious, Dylan replied. You've probably noticed by now that he's not very good at people stuff.

Yeah, and you're not very good at hockey stuff, but I love both of you anyway.

Dylan didn't respond. What was he supposed to make of that statement?

***

The next day, Dylan texted Mitch and asked if they could meet in the library to start working on the project. Mitch texted back his agreement to the plan and showed up right on time. "Dude, I -"

"You have nothing to apologize for," Dylan interrupted. "I wasn't sure what to think about what you thought, so I didn't think anything back." He smiled and thought, I love you, too, Mitchell Marner. And I still love Connor, even if he's being slow.

Mitch sighed in relief. "Then let's get started on this project."

They worked diligently until it was time for brunch with Connor. "Hey, guys!" he greeted them as they sat down at the table. I still can't believe you told Mitch to not let me lose my voice!

"Hey, babe," Dylan smiled.

Connor narrowed his eyebrows. What did you just say??

"I knew it!" Mitch grinned like a Cheshire cat. "I knew you two were more than best friends and roomies!" Good work, Dylan!

"We are," Connor confirmed. "I'm not a huge fan of 'babe' as a pet name, but that's beside the point." He rested his hand over Dylan's as they began to eat.

"You're not a huge fan of pet names in general," Dylan retorted. Thanks, Mitch.

Connor sighed in fond exasperation. But I'm a huge fan of you.

"Dylan, you're blushing," Mitch informed them. "What did Connor think at you?"

Connor looked confused for a moment, then relaxed again. "I almost forgot that Dylan asked if he could tell you when you guys were learning about it in your class."

"Just the usual sappy stuff Connor refuses to say out loud," Dylan told Mitch. Here's hoping he figures it out soon. I don't like having two separate conversations in my head when one group chat would make so much more sense.

***

About a month later, Professor Peters deviated from the syllabus to talk about his just-published paper about changing attitudes towards polyamory among college students. The data, which had been compiled during the previous academic year, showed that college students were much more open to the idea now than in the past, which made sense to both Dylan and Mitch. There were also some anecdotes about college students in polyamorous relationships who were 'out' to others on campus; Mitch and Dylan were pleasantly surprised to read that the resulting interactions had been overwhelmingly positive.

Connor expressed his surprise at the findings the following weekend at brunch. "It's one thing to say you'd be okay with it, but it's another thing to actually be okay with it when it happens," he mused. And it's good to know that you guys are okay with it.

Very okay with it, Mitch thought in response.

Dylan's jaw dropped. Mitch, you didn't actually speak just now, did you?

No, he didn't, Connor replied, his eyes widening. Since when can you do that?

With you, since right now, Mitch answered. With Dylan, since opening day - I thought a pillow would be useful if you needed shutting up.

That was the pillow thing! Connor laughed out loud. Dude...

"Connor, did you deliberately not think at me?" Dylan asked.

Connor nodded. Why didn't you tell me about this?

I figured it would all come together eventually, Dylan explained.

"And you two are at it again," Mitch observed. Took him long enough.

I know, Dylan thought, smiling fondly.

"So it looks like we can all share our thoughts, or we can share in pairs," Connor summarized. "It's like a group chat, but with one-on-one conversations still available on the side."

"Exactly," Dylan confirmed.

Mitch's eyes met Dylan's, then Connor's. The three of them launched into a ridiculously elaborate three-way handshake, not missing a beat.

So that's why I kept thinking about Mitch even without thinking about hockey, Connor realized. I love you, Mitch.

I love you, too, Connor.

The three of them gripped hands and said in unison, "This is gonna be amazing!"