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a little less lonely together

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They are sitting next to one another on the couch, drinking wine, the weekend before the trade deadline. Brad is staring down at his phone, becoming increasingly more agitated in posture and in his mutterings under his breath. Patrice tries to soothe his love, rubbing his hand gently over Brad's thigh. But his quiet presence isn't calming Brad as it usually does, and Patrice knows he's going to have to dig a little deeper to find out what is bothering his other half.

"What's wrong, ange?" Patrice asks, moving closer to Brad on the couch and wrapping an arm around his shoulders. "You've been staring at your phone and muttering to yourself for at least an hour. Maybe it's time to stop looking at whatever is bothering you, eh?"

Brad glowers at his phone as though *it* is the one telling him to put it down. But when he sets it on the coffee table and turns to Patrice, the left winger's expression is considerably softer. Instead of looking angry, Brad just looks defeated. The sight breaks Patrice's heart, and makes him want to fight off every unknown and invisible force that dares attack the love of his life.

"I don't know," Brad starts. "It's just…I get strategically why trades have to happen twice a year, but emotionally, I hate it. I hate seeing my friends--our friends--get shuffled off to different cities that they didn't ask to be in. I hate knowing that *something* is coming, but not knowing what that something is. It makes me feel lonely, even though I have you, and I know neither of us are going anywhere for a long time."

As he bares his soul to Patrice, Brad sighs, shrugs, and hangs his head. He looks like he is preparing to withdraw into himself, and Patrice knows he has to stop that from happening. He pulls Brad into his arms, and holds him against his chest, kissing the top of his head softly.

"I know," the alternate captain murmurs. "I know it feels that way. I'm not going to tell you not to think about it, because that's next to impossible. But, I will tell you that no matter what happens, I will still be here. Wherever you go, I'll follow."

Brad sits up, and leans back in Patrice's arms so he can see his love's face. "Do you promise?" He asks. "I don't think I could survive feeling lonely like this every time trade deadline rolls around without you here to ride it out with me." His voice is timid, like a frightened child, and Patrice just wants to shield him from the world.

Patrice nods, a gentle smile crossing his lips. "I promise," he says. "You'll never have to. We'll be lonely together, okay, mon amour?"

This time, it is Brad's turn to nod. He looks less defeated, less sad now, and when a tiny smile breaks out on his face, Patrice's heart skips a beat. He's always loved that smile, after all.

Brad breaks away from Patrice's grasp, confusing the alternate captain, but this confusion is momentary. The left winger grabs his wine glass from the coffee table, and holds it up, motioning for Patrice to do the same. (He does).

"I could drink to that," Brad says. "To being lonely together?"

Patrice smiles, and touches his glass to Brad's. "To being lonely together."