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This Heart Is Not For Wasting

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Patrick's been with Krysta for going on three years now, ever since they met at the activity's bazaar when they were sophomores. Which is why, late at night, playing this fucking stupid couple's drinking game, he honestly had no idea they were going to lose like this. Abby and Sharpy are cleaning house. That surprises no one. Seabs and Dayna have only been together a short time. And Brandy keeps saying the wrong answers about Laddy just to piss him off and get him to drink.

But Krysta has only gotten three of Patrick's answers right. Did he have any pets growing up, his favorite candy bar, and what was the hardest class he took this last semester. As far as he knows, she’s not doing it on purpose.

After she answers The Departed for his most watched movie, and Patrick says 'nope' for the fifth straight time everybody around the shitty table covered with drinking glasses and bottles in various states of emptiness is silent. It's so awkwardly quiet that the only sound in the room is that of the surf hitting the shore outside the house they've rented.

"The Goonies," Jonny says from the couch where he's reading some shitty John Grisham novel on his iPad, avoiding the fucking couples game. Jonny doesn't do girlfriends, although he's already hooked up with two local girls since they got down to Charleston on Wednesday.

Patrick's well into buzzed by now, since he has to drink from his shitty way too strong jack and coke every time Krysta gets a question wrong. He looks at the cup and shakes his head and tosses another one back.

It goes around the table again. Sharpy finally misses one and Abby is forced to drink.

It's Abby's turn and she draws from the deck. "Oh, hey, this is a good one! Krysta, would Patrick ever get a tattoo?"

Krysta cracks up, nudging his shoulder. "No!"

Patrick shakes his head. Another wrong answer.

"Yeah, he would," Jonny says dryly, eyes never leaving the iPad. "I had to drag him out of that parlor on Crown street after we won the title. He wanted to get some line from an Eminem song over his heart."

"'Their loyalty to us is worth more than any award is,'" Patrick says. The line’s from ‘Like Toy Soldiers’ and that song is epic, so Jonny can sit the fuck down. "It's a great line! It's about brotherhood."

Everybody around the table laughs. Sharpy puts his face in his hands. “You are so predictable, Peeks.”

"It's from a diss track," Jonny adds, "Trust me, I did you a favor."

"Yeah, whatevs, what about your stupid tattoo?"

Jonny has three isosceles triangles on the outside of his forearm. It’s crisp linework, pretty sick really, but Patrick has never understood what Jonny was trying to do with that one. What symbolism or whatever three fucking triangles had. Jonny majored in mechanical engineering, it certainly wasn’t related to that. Jonny flips him off with the same arm that has the tattoos.

The questions take a dirty bent after that. Seabs magically gets all of these right. Which, okay, the room Patrick and Krysta have shares a wall. This does not come as a surprise. He answers a few correctly for Krysta, shanks the one about her least sexy fantasy, which hey, they don’t really talk about the shit they absolutely DON’T want to do, so how the fuck would he know? Brandy asks Krysta how old Patrick was for his first blow job, the first one they’ve posed to her in a while. Probably because it was getting fucking uncomfortable.

The door opens with a creak and Duncs and Kelly-Rae walk back in, soaking, with towels wrapped around their shoulders. The crazy fuckers went for a midnight surf together and they’re finally back. This is good, because if they’d gotten hurt out there, they all would’ve been too drunk to call a search party for them.

“Hey, guys,” Kelly-Rae says, toweling off her hair vigorously. “I see you broke out the liquor.”

“We did,” Brandy says, “and Krysta owes me an answer about blowjobs.”

“Not until college,” she says, which okay, Patrick may not have told her the horrifying tale of his first blowjob, but he definitely told her that it had happened in high school.

“He was fifteen,” Jonny answers, before Patrick can even say ‘wrong.’ “It is the fucking best story on the planet.”

Patrick turns around in his chair. “And nobody in here EVER, EVER needs to know about it.”

Jonny grins. “Sure, buddy.”

Patrick glares at him and then turns back to the table. He salutes them with his cup. “Well, bottoms up.”

“I don’t think you have to drink,” Duncs says, walking to the little kitchenette, wetsuit half-peeled down his body. “After all, at least one of your girlfriends got the answer right.”

“Ah fuck off,” Jonny says good-naturedly and lifts the iPad back up again.

Krysta exhales and keeps her eyes on the table. Patrick watches her, wincing a little inside. They should never have done this--he just had no idea it would be such a disaster. After a moment she pushes back her chair.

“You know what? I need a moment,” she says and walks right out of the house, screen door slamming behind her.

Duncs pauses holding a bottle of powerade halfway up to his mouth. “What? What did I say?”

Seabs leans back in his chair and shakes his head. “You got miserable timing, bro. Miserable.”

Patrick puts his head in his hands. “How could this get any worse?”

“Wait, it’s not like, a big deal is it?” Duncs asks, looking at him and Jonny in turn. “The way you and Jonny are weird about each other? She’s gotta have made her peace with it ages ago.”

Jonny shrugs.

Patrick knows he has to go after her.

He finds her outside, lying flat on her back, at the end of the dock where the speed boat Jonny rented is tied up. She’s smoking a joint, looking up at the stars.

“Hey,” Patrick says softly, sitting down next to her cross-legged.

“Hey,” she replies, and passes the joint over to him.

He takes it between two fingers and takes a puff.

“Maybe I would know,” she says, sounding lackadaisical more than anything, “if you talked to me, Pat.”

“What do you mean?” he says, furrowing his brows. He passes the joint back.

She sighs, takes a hit, and lies there in silence, clearly marshalling her thoughts. He wonders what’s going through her head, how he’s going to fix it. She’s steady, great sense of humor, great legs, always makes him laugh. He remembers rapidfire listing her attributes to Jonny drunk at a DKE party the night he met her.

She reaches out and puts her hand on his knee, squeezing gently. “I think we should break up,” she tells him.

Patrick breathes in hard, a little shocked. They’re graduating in a week. His whole family is talking about how excited they are to see her again, his sisters love her, she was included in all kinds of family shit--what’s he going to tell them?

“Because you got all those questions wrong? That’s just stupid stuff. It’s not like that’s anything real.”

Krysta ashes the joint before it burns down to her fingers. She puts her hands behind her head and sighs. “Your other girlfriend,” she says to the night sky more than him. “Shit.”

“He’s my best friend,” Patrick replies helplessly.

She sits up straight. “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” she says, voice sounding strange and thick. He realizes she’s crying when she swipes roughly at her eyes. “Patrick, whatever you feel for me? It isn’t enough.”

She gets to her feet and strides up off the dock before he can protest.

What the fuck just happened?

*

“I think I just got dumped,” Patrick says, barging into the bathroom off of Jonny’s room. It’s filled with steam, mirror fogged up, Jonny must have the shower on really hot. He wants to be much drunker than this, but then he’d have to go out to the living room and drink with everybody, because he knows they won’t fucking let him drink alone. Jonny especially would not let him drink alone. Patrick has tried that tack a couple of times before. Once, after the shittiest game in his entire NCAA career, he even snuck a bottle of Jim Beam up to a forgotten corner of the library and set in to get mind numbingly drunk. Jonny still found him.

He’d shaken his head and sunk down beside him, stolen the whiskey and drank straight from the bottle. Two’s a party, he’d explained, that made it not depressing.

Patrick throws himself down on top of the closed toilet.

“Get out, I’m jerking off,” Jonny replies.

“So?” Patrick slumps, leaning his head back against the mirror. “Learn to multitask! I have problems.”

“Yeah? Like what? Seabs and Dayna going at it again while you’re trying to sleep?”

Patrick closes his eyes. “No, man, she really just dumped me.”

“What?” Jonny pokes his head around the shower curtain. He looks about as shocked as Patrick feels. “Because she didn’t know when you got your first blowjob? Man, I only know that because I was in the other room.”

“Yeah, I know, fuckhead,” Patrick replies, looking down at his hands, “you like to remind me about that night all the time.”

They’d been playing against each other at another tournament that year and there’d been a party afterwards. The worst party in the whole of human history, Patrick was convinced. Jonny has never let him forget it. They weren’t even friends at the time, and Patrick never EVER thought they’d end up being athlete recruits at the same school.

Jonny shuts off the shower and steps out, wrapping a towel around his waist. He looks down at Patrick with narrowed eyes. “You okay?” he says, running a hand through his wet hair.

Patrick shrugs weakly. Jonny’s flushed from the too hot water, wet eyelashes gone ink dark against his skin.

He sighs and says, “Give her a little space, maybe?”

Patrick feels a horrible gnawing emptiness when he thinks about it. Not because it’s over, but because, well, he doesn’t know if he even cares enough to bother. It shouldn’t be so hard to find her and say he’s sorry, he doesn’t understand what she’s talking about, but they’ve been together for a long time and he loves her. He doesn’t do any of those things.

*

The next morning Krysta wakes him up just after 8 by thumping down a packed backpack and duffel in front of the door. Patrick slept on the couch. He hadn’t even gone into his room to retrieve pajamas. The house is quiet. Nobody will be up before eleven.

“Hmm?” he says groggily. His back is one long line of sore stiffness. He should’ve played the sympathy card and kicked Jonny out of his bed. He probably would’ve done it, too, even as he grumbled that Patrick was being a little bitch.

“Can you drive me up to Myrtle?” she says, arms wrapped around herself in a hug.

He slowly sits up, blinking away the crust of sleep sand and letting out a jaw cracking yawn. Her friends are in Myrtle Beach with most of the rest of the senior class. She only came down to the Isle of Palms because that’s where Patrick and his friends had decided to go and he’d said over and over that he really didn’t want to go to Myrtle.

Now he wonders if he should’ve just let it go. Done the whole Myrtle thing. He rubs at his forehead and sighs. “Yeah, sure, if that’s what you want.”

She purses her lips. “Yeah, it’s what I want. ”

He’d been with her for going on three years. Long enough to know the look on her face. Somewhere between now and last night she went from being resigned and sad to angry. It’s a two hour drive to Myrtle Beach from the cabin, he thinks, dreading every moment of it.

Walking out after her into the weak morning sun, it occurs to him that this really is it. He keeps wondering if he should say something, anything. What if he’s making a tremendous mistake? What if he’s losing the love of his life? He looks at her and her tense profile and knows, as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, that if he tells her she’s wrong and he doesn’t want to end it like this, she’ll change her mind.

He clicks open the passenger and driver’s side door, turns the key in the ignition while she’s still climbing inside. This would be the moment. He doesn’t open his mouth. Instead he turns up the Jez Dior song playing on the radio and pulls out of the driveway.

*

He lets her off at the Bayview where her friends had booked a bunch of rooms and turns right around and gets back on the highway. They didn’t speak the entire ride up and when she offered him a soft goodbye before leaving, he’d just shrugged.

“Take care of yourself,” he told her, trying to figure out why the hell he felt so numb.

He gets a text from Jonny around eleven when he’s stopped at a light. The text informs him that Jonny was planning a run along the beach and where had Patrick left his iPod? About half an hour later he got another message: “nickleback is on your most frequently played list” followed by “i have failed you.”

He laughs and relaxes back into his seat. Well, at least one thing isn’t changing, but fuck that noise. Jonny likes country and not even the good stuff like Neil Young or Johnny Cash. He sends back a middle finger emoji, driving one handed and then winces when he sees a cop car pull out ahead of him.

He gets back a little after noon, starving and cranky. Jonny meets him on the porch, takes one look at his face and says, “Gimme the keys.”

Patrick pegs him with a frosty glare, but he tosses him the keys to his truck. Jonny catches them out of the air and obnoxiously gestures him to the passenger side.

“Fucking really? I just drove four hours.”

“Yeah, and ten more minutes won’t kill you.”

Refusing to let Patrick touch the music, he drives them out to Jack’s Cosmic Dogs. There’s a huge crowd of cars parked in the little dirt lot right off of Highway 17. Jonny tucks the truck into a tight spot, making Patrick think he’s going to skim the SUV on the passenger’s side the whole time. He doesn’t say anything, because Jonny gets all tightlipped and annoying when Patrick criticizes his driving. Whatever, his truck’s a fucking beater. One more ding won’t make it look any worse.

Jonny doesn’t ding the car. For some reason, that just pisses Patrick off.

“Duncs and Seabs went when they got here on Tuesday. Couldn’t stop raving about it,” he says. Patrick shrugs and follows him inside.

Between them they order four hot dogs, two milkshakes, and a basket of cheese fries. He makes Jonny pay, because it was his stupid plan.

He starts to feel a little less raw with food in him. Nobody likes to get dumped. Nobody likes to get dumped like that. He reminds himself that people move on from shit like this. They get over it. There are plenty of other fish in the sea after all. Spooning the last of his vanilla shake into his mouth, he finally surfaces for air and says, “This was a good idea.”

Jonny flicks a ketchup covered fry at him. “All my ideas are good ideas.”

Yeah, like the time when they were freshman that he thought it would be a good idea to walk up East Rock during the first snowfall of the year at 11 O’Clock at night. Patrick has never been so cold and wet and yes, not afraid to admit it, scared, in his life. Or during their junior year, when he decided the team all had to go Women’s Table sliding and Yak took a running jump and took out both Landy and Guddy in his mad slide across the flat fountain. And truly, who could forget the time he said the private beach in Guildford was totally open to students. First and only time Patrick Kane has been arrested and it was for trespassing on a beach in broad daylight.

He looks at Jonny and hopes that everything he’s thinking about is conveyed in that glance.

*

The next few days speed by as he drinks himself into cheerful oblivion. There are many reasons to get trashed. The fact that he’s graduating and doesn’t really know what he’s going to do next for example. There’s an AHL contract waiting for him if he wants it, but Jonny’s already got a job at UrbanLab in Chicago, and as stupid as it is, Patrick doesn’t want to play without him.

He’s never gonna see a lot of these guys again. They’re scattering off into the wide, wide world to jobs and grad school and Fulbright scholarships. He’ll see Jonny. That’s the only thing he can count on. Everybody else though, who knows. Forget his girlfriend dumping him two weeks before go time, he’s got other more pressing issues. That’s what he tries to tell himself anyway. So they go out drinking every night and he spends most of the day high as a kite off of Seabs’ Redwood Kush stash while sunning himself on the beach.

He doubles the number of people that he’s slept with by the end of the week.

“Shit, man, you can count on more than one hand now,” Jonny says on their second to last morning after the girl Patrick took home emerges from his bedroom in one of Patrick’s shirts and runs to the bathroom. Jonny’s cooking a huge breakfast, and Patrick steals a strip of bacon off of the plate Jonny’s been draining it on. Jonny gestures with the spatula at the girl, Alex-something, and mouths ‘nice.’

Patrick shrugs. He got off. That’s about the only thing that stood out from the experience.

“Why do you always gotta do it so crispy?” Patrick asks, crunching down on his stolen bacon.

Jonny rolls his eyes. “Do it your damn self if you want it wet.”

Patrick snorts with laughter. “Not the only thing I want wet, babe.”

“Gross,” Dayna says, walking into the kitchen with her hair in disarray. Another late night with Seabs, Patrick thinks. She goes to pour herself a glass of orange juice. “Jonny, is this fresh squeezed?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Dayna grins and settles herself at the breakfast bar. “That’s excellent.”

“Such an overachiever,” Patrick tells him, getting in his way to steal another slice of bacon. Jonny shoves him, hooking his arm around Patrick’s neck in a headlock, and goes back to flipping pancakes. Patrick shoves back, trying to work himself free, but Jonny just tightens his hold, squeezing down on Patrick’s airway.

“Is Jonny making us all look bad?” Sharpy says, wandering in with Abby on his heels.

“Surely you’re used to the experience,” Jonny replies without even looking up. He lets his arm relax around Patrick’s neck when Patrick starts punching him in the ribs.

Abby cackles. “Walked right into that one.”

“Woman, you are not to assist Jonny in mocking me,” Sharpy orders.

“I won’t when you start making me breakfast.”

Sharpy just laughs and lays a kiss on the tip of her nose. It makes Patrick’s heart hurt.

That night he doesn’t score.

They go to this bar called the Recovery Room, because Sharpy thinks it’s hilarious. There aren’t any cute chicks there. No chicks at all actually, except for Dayna and Brandy who came with. This seems to offend Jonny more than Patrick, but then he hasn’t been getting laid even half so much as Patrick has in the last couple of days. It isn’t a total loss though, Patrick wins $200 at pool from these guys he and Jonny hustled. He gets so drunk off of the celebratory shots of Cuervo, Jonny has to practically haul him back to the house afterwards.

He doesn’t want to go back to the his empty room. The queen’s a weird reminder that he came here with somebody, even if he’s been fucking other women in that bed all week. He winds up climbing into Jonny’s full instead. It seems like the thing to do. The room spins pleasantly from his alcohol buzz and he lays there listening to the sound of Jonny’s breathing.

“I wish you’d been born a girl, man,” he says into the velvety skin at the back of Jonny’s neck just as he’s on the cusp of passing out. “That woulda been perfect.”

Jonny rolls over. The bed dips and shifts underneath them, throwing off his drunken equilibrium even further.

“Fuck you, you be the girl,” Jonny says.

*

They get back to an emptied-out campus at two in the morning after a seventeen hour drive north from South Carolina. Jonny originally drove down south with Sharpy in his rental, but he drives back up with Patrick, which is good because Patrick is so hungover he can barely hold his hands steady. He isn’t good to drive until they stop at a Friendly’s in Maryland.

There’s no parking available to students on campus, so he keeps the truck at a garage on Temple. Tonight he’s too tired for the walk back to campus, so he just parks it out on the street in front of the dorms, says goodbye to Jonny, and takes a long hot shower before crashing. The next day he wakes up to about a million emails for the upcoming campus events before parents and family show up to make everything awkward. There are only a few more days left. They’re going to be insane, between baccalaureate and class day and then actual graduation, but Patrick hasn’t even started packing up his single yet.

There’s a ridiculous message with an all-caps header about the Last Chance Dance.

PLAY THE MATCH GAME!!!!!!!!! it says on the first line.

JUST SO YOU DON’T MISS OUT ON THAT SPECIAL SOMEONE, WE’VE GIVEN EVERYBODY TEN SLOTS TO FILL WITH YOUR FELLOW STUDENTS NAMES. YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO REVEAL YOUR IDENTITY. YOU MAY ONLY PROVIDE A HINT ALLOWING THEM TO GUESS WHO IT IS. IF YOUR CHOSEN HOTTIE HAS NAMED YOU BACK, YOUR IDENTITIES WILL BE REVEALED.

He hadn’t planned to go back when the dance was first announced. It’s supposed to be at one of the shitty clubs off campus and at the time, he had a girlfriend, and he wouldn’t have been able to hook up with anybody in the first place. Now though, he supposes, since he’s no longer in a relationship, he can actually try for any of the people he ever thought about over the years.

He uses a slot on a girl on the women’s hockey team, another one for a girl in his thesis class, a third goes to the girl who always worked behind the circulation desk late nights at the library. After that, he draws a blank. It’s not like he hasn’t thought about other women besides Krysta over the years. He’s a dude. He was good, even on road trips. Certainly not everybody on the team always was. There are plenty of hot chicks on campus.

For the most part he can’t come up with any interesting hints. He struggles for the rest of the morning trying to fill it out. Finally, he uses the last on Jonny, with a hint suggesting it’s the girl who lives in the neighboring suite on his floor that he absolutely hates. He can picture Jonny’s terrified skulking around at the dance unable to put the moves on anybody. For all that he’s a player, he’s a surprising wuss about turning girls down.

Zach invites him, Ryan, Jonny and Sharpy for lunch. Patrick shows up early to catch up with Zach, because like the rest of the guys, he’d gone to Myrtle. Except for Phil and Bozie, who for reasons unknown to anybody alive or dead, went to Maine, where it probably hadn’t even seen the spring thaw yet. Patrick hadn’t even thought about how few single guys there were on the team until he’s confronted with everybody lamenting the fact that they can’t play the fucking match game. There’s just him, Jonny, and well, Phil and Bozie--he’s not entirely certain those two count. Jonny rolls his eyes and fiddles with his cellphone the whole time. Periodically through lunch Patrick gets emails with various hints for girls (something about meeting one time in the Branford Courtyard, another about Safety Dance last year, and so on). Patrick’s surprised by how many there are. Zach gets two while they’re sitting there, both of which intimate that they don’t care that he’s got a girlfriend.

“Do you know who either of them are?” Ryan asks.

“Nope,” Zach says, shaking his head. “I think that’s for the best.”

Spinning the phone around to show them the second hint, he says, “Can you believe this shit?”

‘you can come through my backdoor any time’ it says.

Patrick socks Jonny’s shoulder. “Sounds like your type of girl.”

“All girls let me come through their backdoor,” Jonny says distractedly, eyes still on his phone. The fucker’s probably playing 2048. Everybody at the table groans at him and Jonny grins without looking up.

A few moments later, Patrick gets his seventh match email of the day. He goes to look and is pleasantly surprised. “Ahah! Circulation desk girl’s into it.”

“Oh yeah?” Sharpy says, sliding Patrick’s phone over to read the hint. He reads it out loud. “ ‘Saw you trying to check me out like I was another one of your books. Shoulda just asked for my number.’”

“Nice, bro,” Zach says. “You’re the only success story I know of.”

Sharpy laughs. “I’m sure Kaner’s total lack of game will blow that up in short order.”

“Hey man, I was doing fine down in South Carolina,” Patrick points out as he waits for the follow up email revealing her name, which he still doesn’t know.

The phone buzzes a second time and he pulls down the notification eagerly, only to find ‘Congratulations! You made a match! Jonathan Toews is lusting after you too.’

“What?” he says blankly, wondering what the hell that means, when suddenly it dawns on him--Jonny fucking around on his phone just now, grinning, while they talked about matches. “Oh, fuck you, man. Getting my hopes up.”

Everybody around the table starts cracking up. “You listed Jonny,” Ryan says between chuckles. “Of course you listed Jonny.”

“It was such a good joke!” Patrick protests. “Not my fault he’s got no original ideas.”

Jonny rolls his eyes and displays his own congratulations notification. “You pretended to be Constance? Amateur.”

Patrick scoffs. “Yeah, you act all tough. I bet you wet yourself when you got that hint.”

*

Patrick doesn’t get any other matches besides Jonny. Of course. Because that is how the universe works. By the end of the day, he’s got 13 hints and he’s only got a good idea for maybe two or three of them, and the dance is in an hour. He wonders if any of them will try to make a move. They’ll have to, because Patrick’s not gonna be any help.

“What? Am I just stupid?” he says staring at the list in his email. He’s been sprawled out in Jonny’s dish chair for the last hour, pre-gaming straight from a bottle of Absolut and trying to puzzle the hints out.

“That is a distinct possibility,” Sharpy says, lying on the floor, blowing smoke rings in the air from the Hookah pipe he bought last year off of Amazon like the tool that he is.

Sharpy, Jonny, a dude on the lacrosse team, Evander, who refers to Patrick as evil twin, and EJ, who transferred in from Westpoint (and is therefore slightly insane) when they were sophomores, have lived together for the last two years. The suite is a disaster at all times, but now that there are boxes and the furniture of the juniors who’ll be moving in next year scattered about. It’s a warzone. Jonny’s tripped four times in the last half-hour just attempting to move around.

“It’s not like you’re required to bang the chicks who put you down,” Jonny points out, in between mixing more drinks on the scarred table they pulled out of a dumpster last year. “Pretty sure you can go rogue.”

They seriously overestimated their alcohol consumption this year, and now have to find a way to down several handles of cheap whiskey, an entire case of Smirnoff Ice, peppermint schnapps left over from the Christmas party, and a violently green bottle of Absinthe Sharpy brought back from a trip to Italy. A trip that he also claims he got the hookah pipe on, as if they weren’t all there when he picked up the package in the university post office.

“How many ladies listed you, hot stuff?” Sharpy asks, getting all set to poke at Jonny, who always makes himself an easy target.

Jonny shrugs. A lot of girls have had a turn on that ride. Jonny gets all weird and bashful about it though, saying things like “I do all right” when asked about his sex life.

“Not as many as you hoped, eh?” Sharpy says, kicking out at Jonny’s ankle. The season’s over, in Jonny’s case forever now that he’s got his job, but if that had been a month ago, Jonny would’ve flipped out and tackled Sharpy for playing too rough, conveniently forgetting that he himself was playing too rough. Sometimes Patrick wonders why it is that Jonny was so ready to give hockey up, when everybody knows he lives and breathes it. Patrick thinks he wouldn’t feel so fucking weird about playing for the Monarchs if Jonny was also trying to make a run of it in the AHL.

Sharpy keeps teasing Jonny, blowing raspberry flavored smoke in Jonny’s face. “Was Patty Cake the only one who listed you?”

“Nope,” Jonny laughs, taking it in good stride for once in his life. He’s buzzed off his fucking disgusting peppermint schnapps and merry with it--clearly they just need to keep him at a certain level of drunk to deal with Sharpy. Jonny gestures at Patrick with a solo cup. “But he sure is the easiest lay on that list.”

“Amen to that,” Patrick shouts, lifting his own solo cup high.

*

The dance itself is exactly as awful as Patrick expected. The club’s interiors are painted all black in the vain hope of hiding the skuzziness. It’s too hot, the open bar is mobbed, and the music is for shit (‘Talk Dirty’ hard on the heels of the worst of Katy Perry’s catalogue and then that mess followed by Calvin Harris’s ‘Summer’). Everywhere he looks, he sees Krysta in this skimpy black lace thing. Which, he guesses she’s trying to prove a point. But he’s not jealous, just pissed off she’s so obviously trying to stick it to him. He gets it, but Jesus. Who dumped who, here?

Surprisingly, people keep asking him to dance, some of them girls he’s never even met before, he’s pretty sure. Before too long he’s sweat through his t-shirt with big thick droplets periodically running down along his spine. The hair at the nape of his neck is damp and clinging. Typically he’s a disaster at dancing, but it’s not like grinding requires any actually know how. The crush of bodies is so tight, he doesn’t have to care if he looks like a fucking freak. Nobody would notice and if they did, the liberal alcohol-lubrication makes it very easy to set any shame aside.

At the end of a song he finally breaks for water. Of course all they give him is like a shot’s worth in a tiny plastic cup. He glares at the bartender who stares back in challenge. Fuck, is Patrick expected to tip him for water now? He throws down a single and then turns his back to him. He wasn’t expecting such a workout, but you can’t be stuffing people full of cheap liquor and then only giving them a thimbleful of water.

Another girl comes up, he knows her from one of his senior seminars--she tugs at his hands and says, “C’mon, you know you wanna!” as a Rihanna song starts playing.

“Hang on, hang on,” he says, amused. “I need a bit of a breather. Find me later.”

He hasn’t seen any of his friends in a while. Sharpy and Abby were getting pretty hot and heavy on one of the low couches lined up against the wall, and the last he saw Evander was sandwiched between two chicks. Evil twin definitely has better game than Patrick.

He finds Jonny leaning against a wall, eyes closed, positioned right under an air conditioning vent. He’s got his Toronto Raptors hat flipped backwards (Jonny’s never going to be over that one, ever, which hah, go Brooklyn) and his cheeks are red. Rather than looking like a sweaty mess, it covers him in a fine sheen, like his skin is glowing. Patrick has no idea how Jonny manages that.

“You okay, bro?” Patrick asks with a laugh.

Jonny’s blinks one eye open, peering at Patrick. He straightens up from his slump. “Yeah, yeah, just fucking hot, man. The air feels like soup in here.”

Patrick takes a position next to him, letting the cool air filter down over him.

“So.” Jonny nudges him. “Anybody catch your eye?”

Patrick shakes his head. “Not yet.”

“It’s probably the shit-spastic dancing,” Jonny says, loftily. “Keepin’ all the ladies away.”

“Oh yeah?” Patrick says as Pitbull’s Timber comes on. He thrusts himself in front of Jonny, rubbing his ass on Jonny’s middle. “How do you like my dancing now.”

“Oh, Christ,” Jonny says, trying to shove him off, “Spare me.”

Patrick pushes back, getting really into the song, arms up in the air. Jonny catches at them, trying to fend off his purposely flailing elbows.

“ ‘It’s going down, I’m yelling timber, you better move, you better dance,’” he sings, rocking his hips.

Jonny catches at his waist, digging in hard with his fingertips. “Jesus, Peeks, take it easy on my nuts.”

“Yeah? I’ll take it real easy on your nuts,” Patrick replies, wiggling. “You know you want this ass, babe.”

Jonny laughs helplessly, trying to shift his body away before Patrick crushes something vital. “Ow, ow, fucking bad touch,” he says, trying to push off from the wall, but Patrick’s not letting him move. He’s going to take Patrick’s awesome dancing and he’s going to like it.

“You little shit,” Jonny cries, exasperated.

Patrick cranes his head on his neck, intending to make kissy faces at Jonny, but he must move at the exact moment that Jonny dips his head, because their mouths collide.

Patrick’s hips jerk in surprise, pushing back harder than he intended. Jonny grunts in protest. Patrick’s already moving to put distance between them, hoping they can shrug it off and nobody notices how hot his cheeks have gone. But that thought is arrested pretty quick. Jonny catches Patrick’s chin, turning his head at a near impossible angle.

“What?” Patrick asks.

Jonny doesn’t reply, just closes the distance between them to brush their lips together. The kiss breaks through Patrick’s alcohol haze. Jonny carefully sips at his lips, sweeping his tongue just inside. In a week of hookups it’s the first kiss he can remember actually feeling straight down to his gut. The thought makes him shudder.

Jonny breaks away from him, slumping back into the wall again, with his forehead coming to rest on Patrick’s shoulder. “Fuck,” he says, eloquently.

Patrick swallows and then slowly circles his hips. He doesn’t think about the fact that he’s pressing his ass against Jonny’s package with intent. Fuck context right now, that shit doesn’t matter. Jonny’s pinched his ball sac while wrestling just to get Patrick to stop wailing on him. Patrick’s licked him before, right on the neck. Fuck the fact that this time, grinding back into him the same way girls have been grinding up on Patrick all night, he’s actually trying to turn Jonny on. Patrick wants Jonny to stiffen up in his shorts so Patrick can feel it.

Jonny’s fingers flex on his hips. For a long moment neither of them do anything. And then finally, Jonny says with a voice like sandpaper, “Wanna be my last chance?”

Patrick finds himself nodding, drunk and stupid, and unable to think of a single reason why not. Because really, why the fuck not?

“Yeah,” he says superfluously and starts cracking up.

Jonny shoves him away, pushing past to stalk towards the door. Patrick follows a few seconds later. It takes them forever to get out. Everybody has to say hi. Girls keep asking if they’re going to see Patrick later. Patrick’s shocked to see that Jonny’s not paying a single one a moment’s worth of attention. By the time they’re out in the cool night air, Patrick is thoroughly bewildered.

“What’s up with that?” he asks, gesturing back inside.

“You’re unconquered territory. I envy you, man,” Jonny says, like Patrick’s not taking him back to his single to do...well, something.

The walk back is silent. It’s only a couple of blocks, but it’s long enough for second thoughts. When Patrick unlocks the door he kind of expects Jonny to call it off. They could easily pretend it was all a joke and just drop down on Patrick’s queen and play Madden until morning, just as they’ve done countless times.

Patrick swallows hard, meeting Jonny’s eyes. He follows Patrick into the room without comment, letting the door slam shut behind him. Patrick stares at him, mouth dry, and just when Patrick is ready to laugh and say ‘jk, man,’ Jonny ducks in and kisses him again.

They’re sweaty and sticky, it’s almost more noticeable in the cooler air. Patrick’s familiar with the particular smell of Jonny’s sweat from years of conditioning and lift with Jonny always positioned on the bike next to his. He doesn’t know why thinking of Jonny sweating hard after a tough workout is hitting him this way. Nothing about this makes any sense. All he knows is that Jonny’s mouth is soft and sure against his. It’s wet and perfect, and the way he flicks his tongue--it’s almost like Jonny was made to kiss him. Patrick gets harder, blood rushing south with every beat of his heart.

“So weird, man,” he says, getting his hands under Jonny’s damp shirt, rucking it up at the small of his back. He presses in with his fingertips to bring Jonny’s hips closer.

“Yeah,” Jonny says, letting Patrick tow him in.

They tumble back to his bed. It’s a fucking awesome bed. It’s the one piece of furniture that didn’t come with the room. Jonny’s always lying all over it whenever he’s over. And fuck, he has really got to stop thinking about context. Tonight, this just happens to be one more thing they do.

Patrick widens his legs to cradle Johnny’s weight and determinedly doesn’t think about the lean cut of his hips against his inner thighs. It feels good--Jonny stretched out over him like this, kissing Patrick like it’s a competition he’s planning to win.

He doesn’t care so much about getting Jonny naked. He just wants to keep Jonny’s mouth on his and the rocking of their hips steady. His brain clearly isn’t thinking big picture, because when Jonny practically tugs his t-shirt from his body, fingers skimming over Patrick’s nipples, it lights him up like a candle. Patrick sucks in a breath and reflexively tightens his thighs around him, not even caring about the sharp bite of those same hips into his abductors. It makes Jonny curse and dive back in, hands cupping Patrick’s jaw. He drags his hips over Patrick’s dick until Patrick’s crying out into his mouth with every push.

He hasn’t done something like this, rubbing dry with all his clothes on, in years. Not since high school maybe. He feels about as insane and euphoric as he probably did then too, unable to believe that it was really happening to him. Patrick’s drops his hands to Jonny’s ass, fingers digging into the muscle that overwhelms his spread-fingered palms. Jonny’s sweet ass, the butt of so many locker room jokes--god, now that he’s got his hands on it, he knows it really is perfect.

Jonny tugs his mouth away to breathe. “Yeah, shit, yeah,” he says, stupidly. “This shouldn’t be--”

He breaks off when Patrick slides one of his hands further back, fingers shoved between Jonny’s legs to push down just behind his balls. Jonny makes a noise like Patrick socked him the gut and Patrick wants more of that sound. Needs to hear it again and again.

Patrick knows the exact outline of Jonny’s dick through the fabric. He flexes up into it, wondering vaguely, what it would feel like if there wasn’t clothing in the way, if Jonny was driving his cock along Patrick’s belly, if Patrick could sink two fingers into the heat of him. Would Jonny like that, being fingered open? Would he thrust himself back into it, try to get more?

Jonny comes first, gasping harshly against Patrick’s throat, muscles going so tight Patrick feels like he’s got his fingers clenching down into stone. Patrick lies underneath him, feels Jonny's orgasm go through him, and gets a little frantic. He can’t stay on the edge like this much longer. He fucking has to come.

Jonny takes a moment. “Hold on,” he says between breaths and then shifts, arranging himself so that Patrick can grind up against his thigh. He kisses Patrick through it, thumb tugging at the corner of his mouth so that he can thrust deep with his tongue.

Patrick clings to him when he comes, spurt after spurt gumming up his boxers. Soon there’ll be a wet spot on the front of his chinos. They lie there, Jonny slumped over him, Patrick trapped beneath his weight and yet unwilling to move, for a long time. He needs to do something about the mess between them and also drink some water. It doesn’t happen. He thinks he says Jonny’s name, and a bunch of stupid shit about his ass, but everything goes fuzzy and black after that.

*

The sun shines down on him so bright the next morning it makes his eyes hurt. He wakes up by degrees, uncomfortably hungover and muzzy. His mouth is desert dry, he’s still wearing most of his clothes and a cursory glance reveals that yes, that is Jonny’s morning wood pressed to his thigh. Patrick slowly sits up, head pounding, pulling the blankets with him. Jonny turns over onto his back with a small noise of protest, fabric of his shorts pulling tight over his REM-induced erection. It makes every memory Patrick’s ever had where he’s seen Jonny’s morning wood seem obscene. Jonny’s unselfconsciousness about it as he wandered around their shared hotel room every morning before an away game seems pornographic now.

Patrick struggles up from the bed with a groan, stomach sloshing around. He has to take a moment just to breathe and reassure himself that he’s not going to puke. He shoves a hanger between the door and the door frame, and goes to the bathroom to brush his teeth and guzzle down some water. He’s starting to think the effects of alcohol are cumulative. Because he didn’t even have that much yesterday, especially not compared to earlier in the week, but he feels like death in a way he hasn’t in a long time

Jonny’s just waking up when Patrick gets back. “Fuck,” Jonny says and lifts himself up on one elbow to tug Patrick’s blinds closed. He squints up at Patrick. “Do you have tylenol?”

Patrick tosses him the bottle and then hands over the half full plastic cup he was drinking from. Jonny takes about four too many pills and swallows them in one go with the rest of Patrick’s water. He collapses back to the bed with an arm over his eyes, dropping the empty cup to the floor.

Patrick doesn’t think he can stand any longer so he gets back into bed. Whatever this is, it can wait ‘til morning. Next thing he knows he’s fallen back asleep, tucked to Jonny’s side.

The second time he wakes up, he feels sticky and uncomfortable, but his head feels about a million times better. The sheets are damp with sweat. Patrick doesn’t have an AC unit in his bedroom and it seems like Connecticut has finally decided to surrender to the oncoming summer, because his room feels about 100 degrees too warm.

This time he pokes Jonny in the side until he’s awake. “Jonny, were we supposed to do anything today?”

Jonny doesn’t open his eyes, just bats Patrick’s hands away. When Patrick doesn’t stop he finally rolls over and says, “Not that I know of, god.”

He brushes sleep sand out of his eyes and then blinks up at Patrick. The way he looks at Patrick makes his cheeks flame up. He curses his fair-skinned Irish DNA.

“So, uh, that was a terrible idea…” Patrick says, biting at his lip.

“The worst,” Jonny agrees, not taking his eyes off of him.

Patrick’s not sure what to do here. Tell Jonny to forget about it? Patrick’s not going to be able to for a long while. For all that he was drunk, it’s seared onto the back of his eyelids in technicolor. Just the thought of it makes him a little hot. Jesus, after everybody that he hooked up with in the last week, why did the best sex have to be with Jonny of all people?

When he says as much, Jonny shrugs weakly at him and rubs at his face. “I dunno, man.”

He doesn’t stop Patrick when he leans down, crashing their lips together, nor does he stop him when they start jerking themselves off, side-by-side in Patrick’s bed, making out the whole time.

*

It’s not a thing. Maybe it should be, but it’s not. For the rest of the day, all Jonny has to do is look at him and he gets hard, thinking about the night before, Jonny’s soft hitching gasps, the way he looked with his eyes closed, teeth sunk into his lower lip. It’s just a reality--one they’re not examining too closely. He doesn’t know what that’s about and he’s doing his best not to analyze it too hard. He’s getting his, end of story. Besides, it’s not like it could be anything other than two friends fucking around. Jonny’s moving to Chicago and Patrick still has to figure out if he’s going to go play for the Monarchs and the time to decide is closing in.

Should he say something, he wonders? After a while it becomes clear Jonny isn’t going to, so Patrick lets it go.

Every Saturday there’s a dance party at this shitty bar called Toad’s Place on York Street. Patrick has always hated dance parties at Toad’s. If the Last Chance Dance was bad, Toad’s is a million times worse, and brimming with townies who hate the students’ guts with a fiery burning passion to boot. But Sharpy gets all nostalgic about it, so of course they all have to troop out. Apparently a lot of people had the same feeling as Sharpy, because it’s full to bursting.

Patrick winds up having fun despite himself, partially because there’s a really hot go-go dancer gyrating on a raised platform to the side. She winks at him when she catches him staring.

“God, her legs,” Patrick says to Jonny, watching her bend over and then pop back up. He’s staked out a perfect position to watch her from and he’s not moving.

Jonny squints up at her. “Eh, not much in the tits department.”

Patrick rolls his eyes. Everybody knows Jonathan Toews’ celebrated love of breasts.

Jonny abandons him at the bar to go dance with some girl. Patrick feels easy and free, maybe that’s just the three rounds of beer he downed, but he likes the sudden new found space in his chest. Today at least, nothing feel complicated.

“Hey, Kaner,” Subban and his buddy Carey say, passing him at the bar. They’re both in Pierson with Patrick--they had the same Freshman counselor their first year. “What’s up?”

Patrick breathes in. “Just chillin’.”

They nod at him before disappearing off into the crush of bodies.

Patrick spent most of his four years in college barely spending any time in his residential college because he was always with the team. Morning lift, afternoon practice, games--sometimes they even took classes together, all 26 guys. For the last two years, by strange accident, he’s been the only guy in Pierson on the entire hockey team. He’s pretty sure most people think he’s in Davenport with Jonny and Sharpy. And over the course of the evening it surprises him how many people in his year at Pierson come up to him to chat or check in with his future plans. They ask about the AHL contract a lot. Word travels fast. Patrick doesn’t have much to say about it. If he thinks about it too hard he goes cold at the thought of playing up in New Hampshire at all. But it would be stupid not to. His dad has certainly told him that enough times. Everybody has told him that enough times. Jonny’s never said anything, and that’s just as well, because if he did all Patrick would have to point out is that job at UrbanLab waiting for him. There sure as hell was attention from the professional hockey world, Jonny didn’t have to just put it aside the way he did. He was nominated for the Hobey Baker award this year, even if he lost to Patrick. He shrugs it off. Tonight, that shit doesn’t matter.

Afterwards Sharpy drags them into Yorkside, the twenty-four hour pizzeria next door, to have one last shittastic pizza and wings night. Patrick orders a moose tracks shake and winds up making Jonny drink most of it.

“I’m gonna miss this place,” Sharpy says, sadly, drunk and maudlin with it. Everybody around the table starts laughing.

“Shut up, you sappy bastard!” Duncs tosses a wadded up napkin at his head.

Patrick leans back in his chair and watches everybody laugh uproariously. He keeps his eyes on Jonny’s face in particular, the way he smiles, too big, like his face can’t contain it. Patrick thinks he understands, as sappy as it is. They’ll never have this moment, with this group of people, again.

*

Jonny comes home with him again that night.

“Shouldn’t have drunk so much,” he slurs, Patrick swaying into him.

Patrick grins and taunts him, “Why? Don’t think you can get it up?”

“Nah, man, gonna be another hangover,” Jonny says, either ignoring or totally missing the barb. Patrick laughs uproariously at it and Jonny just stares at him. Yup, missed it. This is the funniest shit Patrick’s drunk self has ever heard. They’re both in bad shape and Jonny has to prop himself up against the wall while he waits for Patrick to wrestle his door open.

When he finally gets through the door, Jonny backs him into his desk, kissing him deep and slow, like he’s trying to own Patrick’s mouth.

“You really like making out,” Patrick says, fingertips on the soft skin just under the line of Jonny’s pelvic cut. Jonny’s skin is so soft and smooth. Patrick imagines that he could spending long minutes just running his hands over it.

“I like making out with you,” Jonny corrects. He leans back, reaching up to trace over Patrick’s lower lip with delicate fingertips. Patrick shivers at the whisper-light contact and Jonny breathes in deep, eyes going dark. He does it a second time, apparently unable to help himself. “Ah, fuck, your lips.”

Patrick knows about his mouth. It’s a pretty common chirp on the ice. It’s different though with Jonny running the pad of his index finger along the bow of his lower lip, raising Patrick's awareness of just how many nerve endings he has there. Unconsciously, he swipes his tongue out to follow Jonny’s finger, tracking the way Jonny’s eyes go slit-lidded and hazy.

“Want your mouth on me,” Jonny says.

So he does it.

He gets Jonny laid flat out on his bed, peels his preppy J. Crew shorts down his legs and puts his mouth on Jonny’s uncut dick. It’s sloppy head. Patrick’s gotten some sloppy head in his life so he knows that's exactly what this is. Jonny seems into it anyway. If anything he looks like he's getting off more on just watching Patrick take him into his mouth than he is into any specific thing that Patrick does. He keeps himself propped up on his elbows, staring as Patrick bobs his head forward, taking more of him into his mouth. Jonny closes his eyes periodically, like it’s getting to be too much, breathing like he’s just done bag skate. It surprises Patrick that he likes doing it--he likes Jonny’s dick stretching his lips, the rosy head sliding back over his tongue. He likes mouthing at the shaft and drawing a line with his tongue just under the crown, looking up to catch Jonny’s mouth drop open in dumb shock.

Jonny doesn’t last long--and he warns Patrick before he comes with a muttered, “Peeks, I’m gonna…”

It makes Patrick’s hips jerk against the sheets. That nickname here in this moment--the use of it reaches inside him and tugs just where he lives. Fuck, when Jonny whispers it again Patrick has to picture of every single unsexy thing possible before he loses it without a hand on him. He doesn’t swallow, but he thinks, if they do this again, maybe he will next time.

Jonny lies prone in the aftermath, just staring up at the ceiling, chest rising and falling softly.

“Did I kill you?” Patrick asks, crawling up to lie besides him.

“Maybe,” Jonny says. He leans in and kisses Patrick, reaching down to grind the heel of his palm over Patrick’s erection.

He lets Jonny push him flat on the bed, easily accepting his weight when he drapes himself half over Patrick. It’s comfortable, lying like this, the insistent ache in his balls aside. Jonny starts to jack him through his shorts, kissing Patrick like he can’t get enough. Maybe Jonny can’t, because he does it the whole time, even through Patrick’s orgasm and afterwards.

The next morning, Patrick wakes up, mostly sober. The night before takes a while to filter back into his consciousness. Pressing fingers to his lips, he finds them swollen and abraded. If he talked now, his voice would be scratchy like he was recovering from a cold. And worse, he liked it, that used feeling. It had got him so hot and hard, Jonny had barely had to do anything to get him off. He squeezes his eyes shut tight--his first moment of doubt filtering in about this whole thing.

What does that say about him? All of the chirps over the years, about his cocksucking whore mouth, his pretty face, and his too long lashes come rushing back. He liked going down on Krysta. He’d done it a lot. He’d never really thought anything of it, but now--now he’s had a man’s cock in his mouth, Jonny’s cock in his mouth. And he would have done it again and again. Just picturing the way Jonny had crumbled makes his breaths come a little faster and that terrifies him.

“You okay?” Jonny asks, sleepily, noticing his tension.

Patrick stares at him helplessly. “I can’t believe...I did that,” he says finally.

Jonny stretches his arms above his head, cracking his back with a yawn. “Can’t believe what?”

“I can’t believe I blew you!” Patrick hisses.

Jonny stares at him and then shakes his head, crawling down the bed until he’s at Patrick waist. At some point in the night, Patrick had managed to get his clothes off. He doesn’t remember how or where, because he’s pretty sure he fell asleep in them. Now though, he’s naked, dick lying semi-soft against his thigh--his constant state around Jonny these days. Not even the uncomfortable thoughts roiling through his head could make it go away.

“What are you doing?” he asks, fingers fisting in the sheets.

“Really?” Jonny asks dryly, eyebrows raised in one of his most judgmental looks. He wraps his fist around Patrick’s dick, jacking him to hardness. Patrick nearly chokes on his tongue when Jonny gets his mouth on him.

Patrick could take or leave most blowjobs--probably the result of the great trauma so many years ago. This one though is on a different plane altogether. Patrick doesn’t know what to do with his hands, he wants to bury them in Jonny’s hair, direct him exactly the way he wants him. He doesn’t think Jonny would appreciate that for a second though.

Jonny must notice his indecision, because he pulls off with a sucking pop, a shimmering thread of saliva stretching from his lip to the fat, flared head of Patrick’s dick before snapping. He seizes Patrick’s hand and presses a kiss to the inside of his wrist.

“You can do whatever the hell you want,” he says. When Patrick cries out, unexpected and sharp, Jonny’s eyes focus in on him, like he’s figuring something out.

He drags his tongue over Patrick’s pulse and down over the carpal bones just below his thumb. Patrick shivers uncontrollably.

“Your wrists?” Jonny says incredulously. “Your wrists are an erogenous zone? You’re a parody of yourself.”

“Shut the fuck up,” Patrick grits out, barely able to parse words, because teasing or no, Jonny keeps lapping over the blue tracery of veins in his right wrist, switching back to his dick just when he’s already at the edge of overload, and then pulling off again to press fierce biting kisses down the inner forearm of Patrick’s opposite arm. He prolongs it this way until seconds seem to stretch into hours. Until Patrick feels like crying, overwrought, on the edge of saying 'no more'. When he orgasms, come running over Jonny’s lips, it’s such an overwhelming relief, he very nearly does cry.

Afterwards, with Jonny lying with his head pillowed on Patrick’s thigh, Patrick flaps his hand weakly and says, “Uh, you don’t...you didn’t have to do that.”

Jonny lays a stinging swat on the inside of his thigh. “Don’t be an idiot.”

*

Patrick goes running up Prospect street later that day, past Ingalls Rink, which he’ll never play in again, past all the buildings on Science Hill. He stops at Farnham Park and collapses into the swing hung from one of the trees. It wasn’t too bad of a run for all that it was uphill, but it’s hot today, and he hasn’t been as good as Jonny about keeping up with his conditioning. Other joggers pass blazing up the hill faster than he was going. He rocks the swing back and forth, not really swinging so much as swaying.

He thinks about what happens next and his brain just hits a barrier. There’s a stone in his gut telling him there’s something he needs to do, but he’s got no idea what it’s supposed to be. Where the fuck do you go from having zero direction at all? Where do you go from casually fooling around with your best friend after your girlfriend dumps you for being emotionally detached? He keeps waiting for an answer, something that makes sense. Something besides Jonny.

It just gets hotter and hotter throughout the day. Patrick showers twice, once when he gets back from his run, and again after playing touch football with a couple of people in Pierson. When he meets up with the guys, he already wants to climb back in again. They get pizza for dinner--definitely one of the things he’ll miss about this place. Good pizza everywhere.

With the evening sky going purple after they've finished up dinner and settled the bill, they walk back to campus in a big crowd. Jonny stands close to him, their hands brushing. It's such a deliberate non-touch, like he would like to reach out and grab Patrick's hand, but he won't. Patrick feels the millimeters of air between them as though Jonny really does have a hand on him. Only a few more days now and this will be over.

They skip going out afterwards, waving off everybody else heading for $4 martinis at the Taft. It’s the first time neither Jonny nor Patrick have hit the alcohol with a vengeance since they finished up their finals. Ostensibly they’re just being smart. Their families will start arriving tomorrow for the parade of events that are for parents more than students. He’s already threatened every one of his friends about staying the fuck away from his sisters. Most especially Jonny, who just let him rant, clearly amused. He wonders for a minute, walking down York in companionable silence, if Jonny will branch off at the gate for Davenport, or if he’s once again following Patrick back to his single. They’re not drunk this time. It’s anyone’s guess. He gets his answer when Jonny badges them through the Pierson gate, holding it open for Patrick to go first.

It’s hot in Patrick’s room. They don’t fool around, although Patrick thinks about it the entire time. They watch a movie with all the windows thrown open, with Patrick’s one fan up on the highest setting even though it’s so loud they have to put subtitles on the TV. He goes to the bathroom and when he comes back, Jonny is sprawled out face down on his mattress, completely naked, sweat already beading on his skin

“Too hot for clothes,” he says, sleepily. Patrick’s already down to his boxers, but he strips those off as well--he’s got a point after all. Jonny takes up almost the entire bed, spread out as he is. He doesn’t make any attempt to move over for Patrick, so Patrick climbs up onto the bed and straddles Jonny’s hips, setting his weight down hard enough that it makes Jonny grunt.

“Fucking selfish,” he says, jabbing Jonny in the side just where he knows he’s ticklish.

“Get off,” Jonny orders, tensing under him, getting ready to throw Patrick off.

“I aim to,” Patrick replies, rocking his hips so that his dick rides the crease of Jonny’s ass.

“Peeks, quit fucking around,” Jonny tells him.

Patrick reaches behind him to smack one firm ass cheek. “Shouldna made it so easy.”

He rocks his hips again just as Jonny says, “The level of ‘I’m not fucking kidding’ right now is--” he breaks off, voice caught in his throat when the head of Patrick’s dick catches on his rim.

When Patrick does it a third time, they groan in unison, Jonny’s back muscles bunching up beneath Patrick’s palms. Jonny tightens his thighs, in a seemingly involuntary reaction. Patrick feels like he’s lost all his air.

“Oh god, that’s good,” Patrick breathes, driving his hips down. Jonny shudders and moans underneath him. He pushes back into Patrick’s thrusts, trying to get more. Patrick has never seen him like this, not even over the last couple of days with them hooking up all the time. He looks out of his head, face mashed into the pillow and eyes squeezed shut tight.

“Come on,” Jonny says, rolling his hips into the bed as Patrick thrusts against him. Jonny pushes up on one knee, raising himself up a few inches, forcing Patrick to adjust. When he does, he’s frotting his cock between Jonny’s strong thighs. It’s not quite enough to get Patrick there, but he doesn’t stop. He gets his hand between them, helping to guide his dick from the edge of Jonny’s entrance and down, down, down until he catches the back of Jonny’s balls. The friction should be too much, but they’re both sweating profusely and they slip-slide together so easy.

“Jesus, Jonny,” Patrick says, “are you rubbing off on the bed?”

Jonny swears at him, caught in the moment. He shivers, shocky sweet, every time Patrick’s dick drags over his hole. He’s so turned on, relaxed and open with it, that Patrick thinks he’s could stuff the head in easy. He wants to. He thinks about it, fucking Jonny like this, hard and deep, leaning down over him to mouth at the back of his neck, which just keeps getting redder and redder.

Patrick comes with Jonny’s name on his lips. The viscous fluid drips down along Jonny’s perineum, spilling over the fragile skin of Jonny’s scrotum, Patrick feels it rather than sees it, jizz-sticky as he is. Jonny’s back muscles ripple, he clenches his hands tight in his pillow.

“I want to fuck you,” Patrick gasps. “God, I want to fuck you.”

Patrick sits back on Jonny’s thighs, spreads Jonny’s cheeks wide with his thumbs, and before he even knows what he’s doing, he’s leaned down and licked a stripe right over Jonny’s hole, lapping up his own come. He does it again and again. When Jonny starts shuddering, he pulls back, using just the point of tongue, until the only way to describe the sounds coming out of Jonny’s throat are harsh sobs.

He comes, shaking hard, reddened rim shiny with Patrick’s saliva.

Slowly, Patrick climbs off of him. “You okay?” he asks, settling himself back down onto the bed.

Jonny trembles a little still, like he’s just been zapped at an electrical socket. “Fuck...you…” he hesitates like he’s struggling to put the words together, “that never happened.”

Patrick grins at Jonny’s flushed face, the way he’s lying curled in on himself, and proudly puts his arms up underneath his head. “If that’s what you gotta tell yourself.”

*

His family arrives a little after noon the next day. They drove over from Buffalo and they’re clearly exhausted and rung out by the time they arrive.

“Erica nearly killed us on I-86,” Jackie says over lunch at one of the burger places in town. It’s just his parents and his sisters, because Grandma and Grandpa are staying in the hotel to nap.

Patrick steals one of her fries. “Oh yeah?”

“Oh shut up,” Erica snaps, “that Mazda was going way too fast.”

“You didn’t look! You never look!” Jackie shoots back.

“Settle down!” His dad tells them, clearly at the end of his patience. Both girls fall silent, looking down at their plates. His dad sighs in relief and then smiles. “Hey, Buzz, what are you thinking about the Rangers' chances?”

“Good.” Patrick wipes his mouth on his napkin. “I’m thinking good.”

“Are you kidding? They’re going to get blown out by the Kings,” Jackie says.

“The Kings haven’t even made it to the final yet!” Erica protests. They descend into bickering.

Jessica makes a face at him. “It’s been like this the whole day.”

“Joy,” Patrick replies dryly. “How have you been?”

She shrugs. “Same old, same old.”

Patrick nods, even though, really, he doesn’t know what that means. He’s never been as close to Jessica. Growing up he and Jackie were more similar than they were different and Erica was closest to him in age and was his companion by default. He’s tighter with his sisters than most guys, even Jessica, but there’s still a distance between them. He knows the name of the guy she’s dating, what movies she wants to see this coming summer, and how she’s nervous about her internship. And he only knows these things because his mother told him.

“How’s Krysta?” she asks him, trying hard to make conversation.

He hesitates for a moment. He probably should’ve mentioned this earlier. Too late now. “We uh...we broke up.” The table falls silent right then, everybody pausing to look at him.

“Wait, what?” Jackie says at the same time that his mother sighs and says, “Oh, Pat, honey.”

“It’s fine, it’s fine,” Patrick says. He smiles a little. It is fine.

He ran into Sharpy this morning after Jonny left and Patrick had changed his sheets for the third time in as many days. He’d been bitching about how Jonny must be tearing through the ladies in his last week, because he hadn’t been back to the suite at night at all. He’d asked Patrick exactly who it was that Jonny was hooking up with. Patrick had nearly laughed himself sick.

He clears his throat and looks up at his mother. “It was time.”

“But--” Jackie says, cutting herself off when Jessica elbows her hard in the side. Patrick pretends not to notice.

After a moment of tense silence, his father finally says. “So, what’s happening with the Monarchs?”

Patrick sighs. Great, his other favorite topic.

*

They run into Jonny and his family out on the Green when lunch is over. Jonny’s mom hugs him. “It’s good to see you, Patrick, and all your beautiful sisters,” she says looking over at them. Patrick wonders a little if she’s imagining any of them with her son. People have suggested it before. Jonny making himself part of the family. It’s never really bothered him, beyond the obvious fact that he doesn’t want Jonathan Toews’ dick anywhere near his sisters. Now though, the thought sits kind of sour in his gut.

Their mothers make plans for dinner that night while they stand there. Jacks spends the entire time teasing David, who barely looks up from his cellphone. She asks questions about his midget career, poking at him about his stats, asking him if he’s enjoying UND. Erica tells her to leave him alone, which of course provokes another fight. David, long-suffering, stands between them as they shout. Patrick has to hold back a laugh.

“Hey, I’m doing family stuff until late,” Jonny says low enough for just Patrick to hear, “but I’m gonna stop by around 11, okay?”

Patrick goes warm all over. He ducks his head so that nobody has to see his red face. “Whatever floats your boat.”

That night, lying in his bed, his room half-packed up, Patrick considers his options.

He hasn’t made any real plans, because when push came to shove, there was always that contract hanging above him. That weight dragging at him--the thing he’s supposed to do. He could turn it down, go back to Buffalo and apply for a job. His degree is in statistics, he’s gonna graduate with distinctions in the major. He has opportunities. There was a kid that Patrick liked in his program the year ahead of him that had a sick job at Google doing web analytics. Patrick’s data mining and machine learning class this last year was awesome, so it’s not like he doesn’t know he could enjoy that shit. His dad would be disappointed, angry even. He’d tell Patrick he was letting everybody down, the same way he did when he chose not to go to Detroit to play hockey for Honeybaked. But his grandpa, at least, would understand. He and Patrick used to spend hours watching baseball games, marking up scorecards--the love of numbers and data, it had started there. He’d taken Patrick to see Bill James speak once when he was still in high school.

Patrick’s phone buzzes with an incoming email, startling him a little bit. He wonders if it’s Jonny calling it off. That might be for the best. He’s sinking into a blacker and blacker mood. He doesn’t feel in the mood for anything besides feeling sorry for himself.

He opens it up with a sigh, already weighing responses to whoever it is, and nearly drops the phone when he reads who it’s from.

When Jonny finally shows up a few minutes after eleven, Patrick feels like he’s paced a hole into the floor. He kept trying to pack, but he’d get distracted, mind going a mile a minute, and find himself pacing again.

“What’s up with you?” Jonny asks, settling himself on the edge of Patrick’s bed.

Patrick shakes his head. “I just got a email from Mark Kelley.”

“Who’s that?” Jonny asks, toeing off his Vans LoPros.

Patrick clears his throat. “He does amateur scouting for the Blackhawks.”

“What?” Jonny pushes himself back up off the bed.

Patrick’s still unable to believe it. “He uh...he wants to talk to me about prospect camp.”

“Patrick,” Jonny says, seizing him by the shoulders. “That’s amazing!”

Patrick shakes his head helplessly. “I went undrafted, Jonny, and even if I did, I--I’d be playing without you.”

It hadn’t been much of a shock, going undrafted. He knew his size was going to be knock against him going into the NHL. He’d done it just before his freshman year, because everybody said he had to try. And then afterwards everybody said ‘there are other ways of getting to the NHL.’ He’d gotten a spot on the team here, playing on a line with Jonny, lighting it up night after night in Ingalls. Last year they’d won the Frozen Four. It had stopped hurting so much. The AHL bid had been the next step--a chance to play in the Kings’ system. There were a couple of alums there, it was...New Hampshire, but it wouldn’t be so bad. Yet everything inside of him had resisted so hard.

“Fucking A, Jonny,” Patrick says. And now he’s considering it again. It’s so stupid, latching onto this crazy dream. Latching onto it just because--just because Jonny was going to be in Chicago.

Jonny sits back down on the bed, tugging Patrick in by the hips. “I haven’t said anything about playing for Manchester, okay? But I’m telling you right now, you have to do this.”

Patrick laughs without humor, a little broken. He nearly says something then--to tell Jonny it’s not just messing around for him. That Krysta had been right to break up with him, that she’d been right to say he wasn’t all there when he was with her. He leans in and kisses Jonny instead, biting at his mouth, trying to get as much of him as he can.

Jonny finally pulls away, breathless, and says, “I was thinking...I was thinking maybe you could fuck me.”

Patrick blinks at him, struck dumb. “Uhhh…”

“Have you done that before?” Jonny asks.

“I was with Krysta for three years…” he trails off, assuming Jonny isn’t asking if he fucked a guy.

“So?” Jonny puts forward, tentative.

“You uh...you really want that?”

Jonny blushes and drops his eyes. “Don’t make me ask twice.”

*

They spend a while opening Jonny up.

He’s tight and hot and keeps clenching down reflexively on Patrick’s fingers and then moaning every time he does. There are rents in Patrick’s sheets from where he’s been digging his fingers in. Patrick gets sidetracked watching his fingers slide in and out of Jonny’s opening that he totally doesn’t even notice the uncapped bottle of lube spilling all over his sheets until Jonny accidentally swipes his hand through it. He wipes his fingers off on his thigh, leaving a shiny trail behind that Patrick wants to lick up.

It’s strawberry flavored, a prank gift he’d gotten Krysta and then never used. Jonny was there when he bought it. The whole team stopped at the VIP just off of I-95 on the way back from playing Princeton. They’d been a little drunk, drinking 40s on the bus, and everything had seemed so hilarious. It’s especially funny now, thinking about the way he’d held up the bottle of watermelon and strawberry lube and asked Jonny which one was better.

“Strawberry,” Jonny told him. “What, do you want her pussy to taste like a Jolly Rancher?”

Now it’s slicked all over Jonny’s skin, left there by Patrick’s hands.

Jonny keeps ordering Patrick around, just like on the ice.

“Not so deep! Careful, eh?” he says in one moment and then in another is telling him, “Harder, Patrick, fuck.”

He likes it when Patrick pauses with just the tips of his fingers inside, hole stretching wide around his knuckles. Jonny curses and starts jacking his dick until he’s leaking and there’s a flush spread so far down his chest it’s almost at his belly button. Patrick can’t even believe what he’s seeing, that this moment is real. Jonny breathes deep, harsh breaths when Patrick pushes a third finger inside. His thigh muscles tremble and he bites down at his lip with so much force the flesh goes white.

“Take it easy,” Patrick says, knocking Jonny’s hand off his dick. Jonny moans like he’s in pain, hips lifting off the bed for contact that’s no longer there.

Patrick fumbles a little bit with the condom, the packet slipping right out of his fingers twice while he’s trying to tear it open,

“Ugh,” Jonny says, thumping his head back down on Patrick’s pillows while he watches Patrick carefully roll the Trojan on. “Inept.”

“Fucking shut up, already,” Patrick replies, smacking the outside of Jonny’s thigh as he positions himself between his legs.

“Make me,” Jonny bites back.

Patrick grabs his wrists and pins them above his head with his right hand. When Jonny pushes back he tightens his grip to a dangerous level, backing off when Jonny stops struggling. With his left, he positions himself at Jonny’s opening, forcing his cock in nice and slow. It’s so much pressure, hot and perfect, he doesn’t know how he manages to hold himself back from coming right then, barely two inches inside. Underneath him Jonny stops breathing, forearms flexing against Patrick's hold as he steadily bottoms out.

He doesn’t ask if Jonny’s okay. He already knows that Jonny would tell him to go fuck himself, so he just pulls out as smoothly as possible and thrusts back in with a snap of his hips. Jonny breathes then, humid gasps against Patrick’s throat, pinned beneath him, taking Patrick’s cock so good. Patrick lifts up a little to glance between their bodies and has to shut them against the sight of Jonny speared on his dick, lest he lose it altogether.

Jonny’s cock lies hard between them, hot and swollen, caught between their bellies. Patrick didn’t know that was possible.

He twists against him when Patrick slides over his prostate, precome drooling off the head of his dick onto his abs. Floored, Patrick drops his forehead to Jonny’s shoulder. Jonny doesn’t protest when Patrick drives in harder. He doesn’t say anything at all, just takes it, head stretched back on his neck and forehead furrowed. His cock stays stiff, a hard, hot line that runs up the groove in Patrick’s abdominals with every stroke. Every time Patrick catches that spot inside of him, he cries out, so Patrick doesn’t ease off.

Jonny comes like that, silent, cheek pressed to his own bicep, right there on Patrick’s cock, without a hand on him. Afterwards, when Patrick withdraws and then pushes back in with all the strength of his thighs, he shivers. These little caught hiccuping gasps keep spilling out of his mouth.

Patrick’s right there on the precipice, the sensation building so much in the center of him he feels quite literally that he’ll burst. At the same time, he never wants to come. He wants this to go on forever, with Jonny gone soft and pliable underneath him, the way he looks wrung out after that orgasm. But he can’t stop it, and he doesn’t manage to hold on much longer after that--the clutch of Jonny’s body is too sweet, the sounds he’s making too raw. Balls drawing up tight, Patrick’s feels like he’s been waiting to do this for years.

He empties himself with a whispered curse.

This can’t be the last time this happens. It can’t be.

They shower together afterwards, pressed together in the little metal stall in the bathroom on Patrick’s floor. Jonny props himself up against the tile with his eyes closed, lets the water run down over him. They kiss like that, lukewarm shower water running into their mouths, sluicing over their skin. They stay there until it runs completely cold.

Back in his bedroom, he realizes the bed is trashed, lube and jizz and sweat smeared liberally all over the rucked up sheets. The sight of it makes warmth pool in Patrick’s middle and when he looks over to meet Jonny’s eyes, he can tell from the tightening of his lips that he feels similarly. They strips the sheets and refit the bed with Patrick’s last clean set. He looks at the blanket shoved at the foot of the bed and wonders if they’ll need it. The heat finally broke an hour or so ago, but Jonny throws off so much warmth it’ll probably be overkill.

“You really are a slut for my dick,” Patrick says, stretching out beside him after he shuts out the light.

Jonny laughs, soft and exhausted. “You expected anything else?”

Patrick looks at him, but he can’t make out Jonny’s expression. He knows Jonny so well. Sometimes Patrick would even say he could tell you exactly what Jonny was thinking in a given moment. Now though, he hasn’t got a clue.

He deliberates for a moment. “Can I ask you something?”

“Shoot,” Jonny says with a yawn.

“I know you had interest,” Patrick says, “but recently we haven’t talked about you playing hockey past this year. And we used to, man. You’re telling me I have to do this, but...Jonny, I see you out there and I think you could be great, a future hall-of-famer.”

Jonny sighs, a long, weary exhale. “I’m done, Patrick,” he says.

“You don’t want to play anymore?” Patrick asks scandalized, sitting up to squint down at Jonny in the darkness. “Bullshit!”

“No, I’m--it’s over for me,” Jonny says, refusing to meet Patrick’s eyes.

“What? Why?”

Jonny breathes deep. “The accident,” he says, meaning the time he drove his car into a concrete barrier on George Street after fucking hiding a concussion just to get them through the finals last year. “It was too many concussions.”

Patrick stills beside him, remembering that horrifying time, visiting him at the hospital a week after they won, furious and scared.

“I shouldn’t have played this season, but I couldn’t--I couldn’t give it up,” he sounds resigned, like he’s made his peace with it. “I didn’t know how to tell you.”

Patrick doesn’t realize that he’s crying until he says, “Well you fucking should’ve figured it out!” and it comes out all choked up.

“You fucking should have,” he repeats, but at the same time he’s cursing himself for not noticing. Jonny had been so weird last summer. Tense and high-strung. They’d gone to LA for a few weeks and that’s when he’d ended up with the douchey hipster tattoo slapped on his arm. He probably would’ve gotten more if Coach hadn’t thrown a fit. He kept talking about it afterwards, about parlors down in New York City and designs. He wonders now if that was Jonny trying desperately to exercise some control over his body.

Once the tears start, they don’t stop. He cries for a long time after that, for lost dreams and killed hopes and the end of the best time of his life. He cries because he loves Jonny and he doesn’t know what this is. He cries because he’s afraid to believe in himself and what that email from Mark Kelley means. Jonny doesn’t say anything, just lies there beside him, a strong silent presence. His anchor through the storm, the best person Patrick’s ever skated on a line with who will never skate on any line again.

*

He wakes up the next morning by himself, eyes swollen and head pounding from dehydration. When he looks at his watch he realizes he’s got twenty minutes to get outside so he can make the processional and get his diploma. He scrambles into his khaki pants and blue blazer, and nearly kills himself when he gets his feet tangled up in the legs of his trousers. His class is just starting to leave when he makes it downstairs, gown thrown over his shoulder and mortarboard in hand.

His buddy Mason laughs at him and says, “I saved you a spot in line. Knew you’d be late.”

“Yeah thanks,” Patrick replies, out of breath.

The day passes in a blur of congratulations and backslapping. People unsurprisingly keep asking him what he’s going to do next. He doesn’t tell his family about the email about Blackhawks camp. He wants to wait until he speaks to Mark Kelley before he says anything. His dad we’ll blow it up into something way too big and then be devastated if it’s nothing. He can tell his grandfather knows something’s up.

He doesn’t see most of his teammates. They’re all in their respective residential colleges, getting their diplomas. HIs mom keeps remarking how sad it is that Jonny’s not in Pierson right now, because she’d love to get photos of them together. Every time she brings up his name, Patrick remembers last night, buried inside his body, and his face burns. He wonders why it is Jonny left without saying anything. If he’s mad at Patrick some how for last night. Patrick can’t understand why. Jonny’s the one who lied to him--lied to everybody--about his health, as if none of them would be devastated if he’d been seriously and permanently injured.

Nausea wells up in his stomach just thinking about it.

That night his sisters help him pack the last of his room. They’re leaving early tomorrow morning, driving back to Buffalo first thing. Patrick wants to say goodbye to everybody, but there’s so much that needs to be done and so little time. He thinks about maybe not saying goodbye to Jonny and has to take a moment just to breathe.

“You okay?” Jessica asks, pausing in the middle of packing up the last of his books.

Patrick summons up a smile for her. “Yeah, just a little overwhelmed.”

She smiles back in commiseration. “Oof, yeah.”

He goes to the bathroom to splash water onto his face when they’re done. It’s been completely cleaned out. All the other seniors have packed up and left already, only his toiletries remain on the silver metal shelf next to the sink. He breathes deep. He’s got to stop this. Just because college is over doesn’t mean it’s the end of happiness or whatever. If he can, god willing, make it to the NHL that’ll be a whole new world. The best he ever could’ve dreamed of.

“Yo, Patrick,” Jackie calls from inside his room. “P-Sharp won’t stop calling. Quit freaking out and pick up your freakin’ phone.”

Patrick laughs, weak and watery. Fucking Sharpy.

Sharpy’s already calling again when he gets back to the room. “What?” Patrick asks, a little harsher than he intended.

“Manners, Kaner, manners,” Sharpy admonishes. “You need to come up to Farnham Park.”

Patrick looks down at his watch and sighs. 11:17 PM. “I’m with my sisters and I have to be up early tomorrow.”

“Son, if you don’t get your ass up to Farnham Park I will make you very unhappy.”

His sisters must be able to hear Sharpy over the phone, because Erica says “You should go, Pat, you’re going to be able to spend all summer with us.”

“See? Hear that?” Sharpy crows. “You’re going to be able to spend all summer long with them. Now, I’m not kidding. If you’re not here in fifteen, I’m going to tell everyone it was you who stole the Tyng Cup freshman year and lost us the ski trip.”

“You were the one who stole the Tyng Cup!” Patrick protests.

“Yeah, but nobody else knows that, do they?”

Sharpy is the worst. Seriously. There has never been a worse human than him. Patrick is quite convinced. “I have to walk my sisters back to the Marriott, you’re not expecting me to just let them wander around downtown late at night are you?”

“I suppose your request can be accommodated,” Sharpy tells him after pretending to deliberate.

Patrick laughs. “Thanks, asshole.”

*

When he gets up to Farnham all of the seniors on the team, assorted girlfriends, and various buddies are there. There are a bunch of picnic blankets laid out, some spread with junk food that was probably purchased last minute at Durfee’s Sweet Shoppe. There’s like ten different cannisters of Pringles, Tostito’s lime chips, Queso, Cheetos puffs, and a bunch of six packs of soda and bags of candy. All the stuff they lived off of late night when nothing else was open.

“Really?” he says out loud when he sees it.

“We got real food too,” Abby explains, turning up at his side. “Seabs and Dayna are picking up wings and pizza right now, and Phil and Tyler went to Broadway Liquor earlier and should be bringing us beer real soon.”

“How long did you guys plan this?”

“Spur of the moment thing,” she says. She’s got a light up frisbee in her hands and she holds it up. “Fancy a game?”

Patrick plays for a little while. It’s kind of a disaster, because Farnham Park’s just a lawn with a few trees on a downward slope, and people keep falling over chasing after the frisbee. But after a while, he starts wondering why he still hasn’t seen Jonny. What the hell is up with that? There’s no way Sharpy wasn’t bugging him to come up here. Jonny probably knew all about it ahead of time. At this point Patrick’s beginning to suspect Jonny’s avoiding him.

He begs out of the frisbee game and snags a beer from the cooler Phil and Bozie dragged up the hill. Nobody’s using the tree swing at the moment, so he sits down on it, sipping his beer and looking at the sky.

He hears Jonny coming up behind him before he sees him. Funny to think that he recognizes even the way Jonny walks.

“Hey,” he says, taking another pull on his beer.

“Hey.”

“Congratulations, man,” Patrick says, plastering a smile on his face. “We did it.”

Graduation, he means. And senior theses, and all four years. He remembers convocation and his first month thinking he was going to wash out for sure, unable to keep up with everybody who seemed so smart and so fucking talented.

“I’m sorry for running out this morning, I uh...just needed to think…” Jonny tells him, moving in close to push Patrick forward on the swing. He’s still wearing the outfit he must have worn at graduation, a cream button-up tucked into dark slacks. Typical Jonny though, he’s got the sleeves rolled up his forearms and the collar undone by at least two buttons. Patrick wants to drag his tongue over the soft skin in the exposed hollow of his throat.

Maybe if he tries hard enough, that desire will go away.

“Okay,” Patrick says. “It’s fine, whatever. Don’t worry about it.”

Jonny gives him a second push, stronger this time. “So, I was thinking…”

Patrick chuckles. “Oh, you’re still doing that, huh?”

Jonny flicks his ear and then gives him another gentle push so that Patrick’s swaying gently backwards and forwards on the swing. He has to lift his feet so that his sneakers aren’t dragging on the ground.

“I want you to come to Chicago,” Jonny tells him.

Patrick cranes his head on his neck to look at him. It’s dark out here with only a few street lights out on Prospect and a couple of camping lanterns Sharpy had located to provide light. Patrick can’t really read Jonny’s face. But he’s been doing this a lot lately in dim rooms and dark clubs, and he thinks he’s getting a little better at it.

“Like, whatever happens at camp or whatever, I want you to come with me to Chicago,” Jonny says. “If hockey doesn’t work out, you’re smart, you’ll be able to get a job wherever you want. And like, I dunno, man. Come to Chicago with me.”

Patrick’s heart is caught in his throat, he can’t believe it. “Kinda sounds like you’re asking me to be with you.”

Jonny shrugs and gives him another push. “Yeah? I guess it does.”

“Okay then,” Patrick says.

“Okay?” Jonny asks, closes his hands over Patrick’s on the ropes of the swing, arresting it in its path.

“Yes,” Patrick laughs, “Okay.”

“Shithead,” Jonny replies, and then bends down, capturing Patrick’s mouth in a kiss.

Patrick frees a hand and reaches up to tangle it in Jonny’s hair, pulling him further down to just the right angle.

“What the fuck!”

They part at Sharpy’s startled shout and find him, Seabs, and Duncs all standing together at the base of the tree, frozen in surprise.

“Uh, we were just coming looking for you. There’s cake,” Seabs says helplessly.

“You know, I’m shocked,” Duncs announces to the world at large, “and yet also, not at all.”

“We’re uh...leaving!” Seabs says brightly, he grabs both Duncs and Sharpy by the shoulders and starts dragging them back around the tree. “Sorry for interrupting,” he calls back over his shoulder, towing his teammates behind him.

Patrick and Jonny sit there in frozen silence for one moment, until Jonny descends into helpless fits of laughter. It’s not funny, but it kind of is also. Who would’ve thought that this would happen? Nobody. And yet, Patrick thinks, it’s not a surprise, not even to themselves.

“That was stealth, bro,” Patrick says in between chuckles. He flexes his fingers on the rope where Jonny’s still gripping his hand tightly and smiles inwardly when Jonny doesn’t let go. “So, Chicago?”

“Yeah,” Jonny says, voice far off, clearly thinking. He clears his throat. “We’re gonna have to up your training regimen if you’re going to be ready for camp in a month.”

“Ah, jesus,” Patrick says. He can already picture Jonny making out lists and schedules and chasing Patrick around until he sticks to them. Basically no different from the last four years. Maybe that should really tell him something. He’s pretty sure Jonny, captain though he was, didn’t invest even half so much nagging into anybody else on the team.

“It gets results!” Jonny protests.

“Come and get your fucking cake, you assholes,” Sharpy yells. “We’re waiting on you.”

*

October 25th, 2014

Where has Patrick Kane come from? The undrafted winger out of the NCAA has taken the Blackhawks organization and the entire NHL by storm this last month. The ‘Hawks, a long struggling team, made an insane gamble on an underwritten and overlooked player this summer that nobody thought would pay off. But after 7 points in just 5 games, Kane’s thumbing his nose at the doubters and proving himself a force to be reckoned with. Everywhere you go, people are talking about his knife-precise puck handling and how they've never seen a kid with hands quite like this. When asked exactly how it is he does what he does, the 22-year-old Kane laughs and shrugs. “I don’t know,” he says, “for me it’s just normal.” If this is what’s normal for this young player, it makes you wonder what the hell he’s gonna be capable of at his very best.