Brad wouldn’t call it love at first sight, although it‘s a near thing. He meets Patrice at a team meeting at the beginning of the summer.
One of the “perks” of being a division one athlete was starting school three months earlier than all the other freshmen. He’s rooming with a wrestler because the school tries to room athletes with similar seasons together as much as possible. Something about “encouraging camaraderie”, but Brad’s pretty sure it’s just because they want them to lay off parties at the same time.
Brad’s mom has barely hugged him goodbye before he’s supposed to be going to the first meeting of the year for the hockey team. It’s not a practice, not yet, although Brad kind of wishes it was because even in all his new surroundings, the ice always feels the same.
Brad’s met the coach before, of course, was recruited by him, but this is the first time he’s met any of the other players. Coach Cassidy starts the meeting by handing out their summer practice schedule. There’s morning weights six days a week and nightly practice everyday. During the day they’re supposed to be taking classes, so they can take a light load during the season. Cassidy talks about things they already know- the minimum GPA they need, where they can find tutoring for athletes, and also lets them know that unless they’re knocking on death’s door, there is absolutely no acceptable reason to miss weights or practice.
After he’s finished talking, he introduces the captain- a senior named Zdeno Chara. Z talks about dedication, commitment, and being a family. He then introduces his alternate captain, whom he calls Bergy.
“Don’t think you don’t have to take him seriously because he’s only a sophomore. He earned the A more than anyone else on the team regardless of age. We’re here if you need something, but it’s also our responsibility to do what’s best for the team.”
Z continues to talk, but Brad’s completely lost focus. He’s too focused on the boy sitting next to Z, the A. He’s unnaturally handsome, and there’s a faint blush dusting his cheeks left over from when Z complimented him. When the boy finally does speak, Brad has to bite the inside of his cheek in order to focus on his words.
“Um hey, I’m-uh, Patrice Bergeron, but everyone calls me Bergy. I’m looking forward to a great season,” he says, and Brad almost chokes because the boy, Bergy, speaks with a distinct Québécois accent. He’d known, of course, that he wouldn’t be the only Canadian on the team, but this beautiful boy sharing his home was almost too much for him.
Cassidy nods once, tersely, and reminds them of morning weights before departing.
Z waits for him to leave and says, “Okay freshies, we’re having a team mixer at Pasta and Tuuka apartment right off campus. There’ll be beer, but if you show up to morning weights tomorrow hungover, no one is going to feel bad for you. If you need a ride, let me or someone else know. ‘cept Bergy ‘cause he still can’t fucking drive here.”
All of the returners chuckle like that’s an old joke, and Bergy’s cheeks turn the slightest bit of pink again.
Brad is just about to figure out how to wiggle his way into whichever car Bergy is riding in when the guy next to him turns to him.
“Hey, the name’s Charlie. You need a ride?” he says with just a hint of a smile.
Brad smiles back despite himself, “Yeah sure, man.”
Brad ends up riding shotgun in a full Pontiac of people heading to the party.
The guy riding in the middle in the back pipes up, “Hey, who decided to give the little short thing the front seat.”
Brad only has a second to feel embarrassed before Charlie responds, “Like I’m going to let one of you smelly assholes ride up front.”
All the guys laugh, and Brad starts to feel like maybe he could really belong here.
There’s pizza at the party, and Brad’s pretty sure he got the same dietician created meal plan as everyone else which definitely didn’t include pizza. He supposes though, that the season doesn’t technically start until tomorrow, and helps himself to a few slices.
He wanders over to a group of guys talking, and if that group happens to include Bergy, then that’s entirely coincidental. They smile at him when he comes over, but continue their conversation.
When Brad finally sees a lull in the conversation, he leaps at his chance, “Why don’t you have pizza?” he asks Bergy.
The guy next to Bergy tilts his head back in a laugh, “Saint Patrice? Breaking the meal plan? Never. The only time this man even drinks is when he’s nursing a heartache.”
Bergy rolls his eyes and gives a gentle reprimand of, “Pasta.”
For the rest of the conversation, Bergy doesn’t talk much, but everything he says just leads to Brad becoming more and more enamored. A few softly sarcastic remarks is all it takes for Brad to turn into a pile of mush, apparently.
It’s later, when Brad is three beers in and sitting with Tuuka that he gets caught staring at Bergy across the room.
Tuuka follows his gaze and smiles knowingly, “Our Patrice is very popular with the boys. You should know though, he kind of has a type.”
Despite Brad’s protests, Tuuka doesn’t elaborate, and it’s not until Brad’s in the privacy of his room that night that he gets the chance to comb through Bergy’s facebook to look for clues. He finds several pictures of Bergy taken over the last year of Bergy with different boys and he does notice a distinct commonality.
Two of the four are wearing leather jackets. Three are in grunge band shirts. One has a pack of smokes hanging out of his pocket. Two have nose rings. The boys are kind of the stereotypical bad boy.
Which- well, Brad isn’t exactly a bad boy. But he could be, maybe, for this beautiful boy. If that’s what he wanted. He gets on Amazon and orders a leather jacket to his dorm before he goes to sleep. It’s unrelated.
Outside of talk directly about hockey, Brad doesn’t get much of a chance to talk to Bergy again. Charlie ends up becoming a fast friend though, and with classmates and his roommate, Brad starts to really fit in. Morning weights are dreadful and practices are tough, but he loves it. Cassidy pulls him aside one day after practice, tells him he has a shot at starting as left wing. Everything is clicking into place.
Apparently, a lot of the guys go home for Father’s Day Weekend. Cassidy gives them the weekend off after Thursday morning weights which means they don’t have to do anything team related again until Monday morning.
At weights on Thursday, Brad is spotting Charlie on squat when he hears Bergy and Pasta talking.
“C’mon man, you’ve gotta get back out there.” Pasta is saying while Bergy does a leg press.
Bergy lifts the weight again, “Maybe. I don’t know.”
“It’s time. The world is your oyster!” Pasta says enthusiastically.
Brad wants to move closer to hear better when the trainer yells for them to switch and Brad ends up across the room.
He realizes though, that he’ll have to do something drastic and soon to get Bergy’s attention.
Pasta’s actually the first one to notice at weights on Monday.
“Marchand, what the fuck is on your face?” he half yells half laughs out.
Everyone turns their head and Brad tries to seem as cool and unbothered as possible. Bergy’s exes had had earrings or nose rings, but those were things that an opponent could end up pulling on during a fight. He needed something that would be covered by his helmet which left him with a pretty limited number of possibilities.
“Just a little something I picked up over the weekend. Why, you like it?”
Pasta lets out a laugh, and everyone goes back to what they were doing. Brad feels his chest heat when he notices Bergy still has his eyes on him, staring at the piercing. Bergy quickly swipes his tongue across his bottom lip, and then he seems to come out of whatever trance he was in, going back to lifting.
Later, after his shower, Brad is pretty sure he’s the last one in the locker room. He has to take extra time to wash carefully around the piercing, making sure to get all the sweat out of the area.
He’s sitting on the bench with the cream he’s supposed to put on it when Bergy comes up to him.
“Can I touch it?” Bergy asks softly.
“Yeah, yeah go ahead,” Brad says, trying not to preen as he tilts his head towards Bergy.
Bergy’s hand comes down and gently touches at the curved bar on Brad’s eyebrow. He feels along the metal, and Brad has to work to remain calm as Bergy touches at the slightly swollen skin around the piercing.
Bergy lets out a low breath, “It looks good.”
This is Brad’s chance, “Yeah? You think so? I bet you’d look good with something on your pretty little face as well.”
Bergy’s cheeks get that soft pink again, “I could never.”
Brad considers that thoughtfully for a second, “Yeah you don’t really seem the type. You’re the kind of guy who probably has vanilla sex while soft jazz plays in the background.”
Bergy’s full red now, stammering, “I- no. No.”
Brad quirks his eyebrow (the not pierced one) at him, “Yeah? Wanna prove it?”
It’s easy for Brad to fall into Bergy’s bed. It’s hard to not cuddle him afterwards, to distance himself. It’s hard to make cutting remarks when all he wants to do is say sweet nothings. It’s hard to act disinterested like he couldn’t care less whether or not Bergy stayed or left. But Brad gets to have Bergy like this which is really all he can ask for.
Although, the extra time around Bergy just serves to make his infatuation so much worse. Because he’s kind and funny and they have an endless amount in common.
They don’t act like a couple around the team, which Brad supposes they’re not one technically because bad boys don’t make things official. But after practice, Brad ends up in Bergy’s single more often than not. And a sick part of him likes knowing that if he’s there then no one else is. Because Brad’s heard enough from Bergy now to know that his past flings weren’t particularly nice to him which kind of makes Brad want to find them each and break their noses. He refrains though, and he works hard to make sure that even when he has to be (has to be, he reminds himself) a bit mean to Bergy, he’s never cruel.
It’s a delicate balance, and Brad supposes it was only a matter of time before he messes up. Although, he kind of thought it would be him accidentally saying one of the compliments for Bergy he always has sitting heavy on his tongue.
It’s not though, and it’s fucking stupid too. They’re at a fourth of July party with the hockey team, although practically everyone on campus during the summer is there (meaning, greek life and athletes). He and Bergy are sitting together on the couch. The team has noticed by now that they’re kind of always together, but other than a few eye rolls, no one has made any comments.
A baseball player strikes up a conversation with Brad about the band on his t-shirt. Brad only bought the t-shirt because it was black and cheap at the thrift store he went to when he realized his closet full of sweatpants and athletic shirts wouldn’t exactly suit his new bad boy look. But Brad knows how to fake his way through a conversation well enough, and he and the boy end up talking for a while. Eventually, one of the boy’s teammates comes to drag him away saying something about needing their DD.
Before the boy leaves though, he digs in his pocket and grabs out a receipt, writing his number on it, “Text me, yeah?”
Brad just takes the offered piece of paper without a word. He flicks his hand in a half wave goodbye and watches the boy scurry away with his friend.
It’s only then that Brad notices that Bergy has tensed up so much beside him he feels like a statue. Brad looks over, quirks his eyebrow in a question.
“You’re not actually going to text him, are you?” Bergy asks.
Brad wants to say, “Bergy, Patrice, babe. Of course not. I couldn’t even possibly look at another man when you’re sitting next to me. You are without a doubt the best looking man I’ve ever laid eyes on, not to mention that you’re my favorite person to talk to or to be around at all. That boy couldn’t hold a candle to you.”
But he can’t, so he says, “I don’t know. Seems like he might be a good lay.”
Bergy’s face shatters into hurt before he recovers, smoothing his expression and nodding once. Brad knows he’s done it, gone too far, hit a nerve he didn’t know Bergy had.
“I’m joking, babe. Don’t take everything so serious.”
Brad slings his arm around Bergy’s shoulders and feels Bergy slowly relax into it. It raises the bile in Brad’s stomach to think of how Bergy’s been conditioned to think that’s an adequate apology. Brad has to remind himself, again, that this is what Bergy wants. And Brad’s too much of a sucker to deny him anything really.
Bergy gets hurt at practice the following Friday. Nothing major, just an accidentally too hard bump that leads to a sprained wrist, ankle, and a banged up knee. Some ice and rest and it’ll be good by Monday. Brad waits for Bergy at the end of practice as he gets his ankle wrapped, tries to watch the way the trainer winds the bandage, so he can help Bergy with it later if necessary. Not that he would be allowed to offer, but he could maybe get away with roughly taking the bandage from him and wrapping it without a word.
Bergy smiles, looking surprised that Brad’s stuck around so long, “You didn’t have to stay.”
Brad shrugs, “Not like I have something better to do.”
Bergy keeps his smile, and Brad throws Bergy’s bag over his shoulder for their walk across campus. He’s found that sometimes he’s allowed to get away with stuff like this if it has just a bit of an air of possession. He’s learning the ways he can satiate his desire to have Bergy the way he wants with concessions like this one. Every once in a while he can even get away with a “fuck, you’re beautiful,” during sex which Bergy would preen at.
They get back to Bergy’s dorm and Brad sets the bags down in the corner. He’s starving and considers asking Bergy if he wants to order some food. Bergy really won’t deviate from the meal plan, but they’d found a Greek place that delivers good salads. He turns around to ask, but Bergy has an odd look on his face that makes him pause.
“I’m sorry I don’t think I can have sex tonight because I got injured. I’m sorry, but I could suck you off maybe, if you want? I understand if you just want to head out,” Bergy seems to rush the apology from his mouth.
“What the fuck?”
Bergy doesn’t answer, flinching a bit at the angry tone of Brad’s voice and looking at the floor.
“Fuck. Patrice. Look at me. Look at me,” Bergy meets Brad’s eyes slowly, “You’re injured. You’re hurt. You don’t owe me sex. Your fucking knee is injured; you cannot suck me off. What the fuck are you thinking?”
“I just don’t want you to call that baseball boy from the other night. I know we’re not dating, but I’d like to think we’re exclusive.”
“I don’t even have that guy’s number. I threw it away. And you think because you’re not available to fuck for one night I’m going to run to someone else? Is that who you think I am?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know who you are. Because sometimes you’re joking about fucking other people or laughing when I tell you something personal. But you also know exactly the way I like my salad, and you call me beautiful, and you carry my fucking bag, and you look at me like you care about me.”
Brad breathes out through his nose, “I can’t do this. I thought I could do this, but I can’t. I just liked you so much, ya know? I just wanted you to want me too. But this isn’t who I am.”
“What are you talking about?”
“The piercing, the leather, the asshole remarks that’s not- that’s not who I am. I can be a bit of a prick sometimes, but fuck, not like that. But well, Tuuka told me, and I looked at your exes and I saw that’s what you liked, and I thought I could- I don’t know, pretend.”
Bergy’s mouth hangs open for a second, “You did that for me? Because you thought I liked that?”
Brad nods morosely.
“All I’ve wanted you to do for the past month is be your softer self all the time.”
Brad’s heart skips half a beat, “Well, all I’ve wanted to do for the past month is fucking cuddle.”
Bergy smiles, a beautiful full face smile, “Sounds nice.”
Later, when Bergy’s arm is tucked gently around Brad and they’ve spent a couple hours clearing everything up, Bergy turns to Brad and says, “You should keep the piercing, though. It’s hot.”
“I knew you had a thing for bad boys.”
“Maybe I used to. Right now I just kind of have a thing for you.”