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A Sure Thing

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Patrick feels like he's floating on air over the next few weeks. And then there are the times he spends worrying about crashing back down to earth.

It scares him, sometimes. He's never thought he could be this happy - never thought he'd find someone like Jonny, who could overlook his past and his occupation, who'd love him and treat him with respect. And the fact that he has that now - sometimes it's too much for him to think about. Who'd have thought a nobody sex worker from Buffalo would end up falling in love with Jonathan Toews, captain of the Blackhawks, and even more unbelievably still - have Jonny love him back?

So - it's scary, really. There's still a little something in his head that keeps telling him something's going to go wrong, that Murphy's Law always happens, that all of these good, wonderful things - having Jonny, being loved, being safe - aren't meant for someone like him. It's like he's waiting for the other shoe to drop all the time - and sometimes it gets exhausting.

Even now, when he's in Jonny's bed, tucked in close against Jonny's body skin to skin and listening to his soft, steady breathing, that little niggle of doubt and insecurity is still keeping him awake. He blinks into the darkness, wishing he could just - relax. Jesus. He's got everything he's ever wanted, so why is he feeling this way?

He thinks, maybe, he should get out of bed and go make himself a cup of tea in the kitchen. Jonny has some chamomile tea; that should help him fall asleep. He sits up carefully; Jonny's arm, slung over his stomach, rolls down until it's draped over his bare upper thighs, and he gingerly lifts it off his body, placing it onto the bed between them both.

Unfortunately, Jonny stirs, rolling over onto his back. "Pat?" he says, his voice cracked from sleep, and Patrick feels bad immediately. The Blackhawks aren't playing tomorrow, but Jonny has practice in the morning, and in the evening they're supposed to go to the Sharps for that dinner Abby promised them.

"I'm here," Patrick says, lying back down; he doesn't want to let Jonny know how he's staying awake worrying about stupid things. Things that probably will never happen, except his dumb brain isn't listening to reason. "I was just going to the bathroom."

"C'mere," Jonny says, sleepy, groping for him again, and Patrick gives up the idea of chamomile tea when Jonny drags him close, cradles him against his chest, and presses kisses on his cheeks and lips. "Don't go."

"Don't go to the bathroom?" Patrick says; he can't help smiling and teasing a little when Jonny's like this, warm and sleep-soft, enveloping Patrick with his body so Patrick feels safe, and wanted, instead of - whatever his lizard brain wants to tell him. "You want me to pee in your bed?"

"Our bed," Jonny murmurs, nuzzling into the curls at the top of his head. "You pee in it, you sleep in it. It's yours too."

And god, god, Patrick doesnt even know why that makes him so happy, but it does. Their bed. Their home. Jonny thinks of him as part of his life. Not something temporary, not something ephemeral that's going to disappear.

It definitely settles the little worm of insecurity in his mind, at least for now.

So he burrows his face into Jonny's neck, taking in deep breaths of Jonny's warm scent, so familiar to him by now. He thinks he might not be able to sleep at all without Jonny's body and smell wrapped around him like this anymore.

And yet he's still scared, but it's something else that does it. It's the depth of feeling he has for Jonny that's shaking him now. It's so much, so fast. How do you fall in love this quickly? How do you protect yourself when you love someone so hard and so fast?

"I'm not going anywhere," he says out loud. He doesn't want to. He wants to be right here where Jonny's holding him tight and chasing all the gloom and doom away. He wants to believe Jonny loves him just as much.

Jonny sighs; his breath ruffles over Patrick's hair. "Good," he says. "I don't want you to." He cups his hand over the back of Patrick's head as he speaks, the way Patrick likes it, as if he knows Patrick needs this right now; and like his body's on autopilot, Patrick feels himself relax, the tension draining out of him.

He's not going to lose this. He won't. He can't.

Jonny wants him - Jonny doesn't want him to leave. That means something, Patrick thinks. That means much more than all his doubts and fears, because Jonny chose him.

He just hopes he's worthy.

---

The next morning, though, Jonny piles onto the sofa next to him, and gives him a look that makes Patrick kind of sit up straight. Jonny looks serious - well, way more serious than usual - and it's obvious he wants to talk to Patrick.

"What is it?" Patrick asks, feeling his anxiety spike again. Oh god, oh god, what if - Jonny wants to break up? What if Jonny wants him to leave right now?

He doesn't know how he looks, but Jonny stares at his face, and his eyes widen a little. "Oh, baby," he says, reaching out and wrapping an arm around Patrick's shoulders. Patrick feels himself sag a little in relief, both at the endearment and the touch. Jonny's big on endearments, peppers them freely in conversation, and Patrick - before Jonny, he'd have thought it would be incredibly cheesy, but he finds that he really, really likes it. "You - why do you look so worried?"

"I - do?" Patrick says, biting his lip. "No, I'm not, I'm just - "

"I just wanted to ask why you haven't been sleeping," Jonny says gently. "And now you look like a deer in headlights, just because I'm asking you a question. Wanna tell me what's going on?"

"How do you know I haven't been sleeping?" Patrick says, before he can stop himself. Damn it.

Jonny arches an eyebrow at him. "I feel you toss and turn next to me all night. And I know you sometimes get up and go out of the room, and come back in. I know you're having trouble falling asleep, and I want to know why. Are you worried about something? I can help, whatever it is. Is it the girls?"

Patrick blinks at him. That's - totally unexpected.

Jonny hesitates, and then he holds something out to Patrick, a folded piece of what looks like cream-coloured paper. "Take it," he says.

Patrick takes it from him, utterly bewildered at first; but when it's in his fingers he realises all at once what it is. It's a check, and when he unfolds it, it says seventy-five thousand dollars.

It feels as if he's transported back in time to that moment weeks ago, when he'd sat at the kitchen island and Jonny had given him his first payment. Except - except he doesn't know what this one means, now. Their contract - do they even still have a contract, now that they're actually dating? Or - oh, fuck - is this Jonny's way of paying him off, wanting Patrick to leave? If he pays Patrick this money, it means he no longer owes Patrick anything, and -

"Okay, wait, wait," Jonny says, breaking through his increasingly panicked thoughts. "Patrick - I know what you're thinking, and this isn't it. I promise."

Patrick tears his eyes away from the check in his hands; they're starting to tremble, the numbers and words on the paper blurring before his eyes. "But - "

"No, listen," Jonny says. "This is why I wanted to talk to you - I thought maybe this was what you were worried about. That you were thinking us being together - maybe it renders the payment void, or whatever. And I know you need the money. So here's the thing: I'll still pay you what we agreed, but I'll talk to my lawyers, we'll void the contract. We don't need it anymore. You're not a - you're not someone I'm paying to fake it with me. You're my boyfriend, and I want to help you. That's it."

And - holy shit. Patrick feels a little dizzy with the way his emotions are being spun one way and then the other. His first reaction is relief that Jonny's not actually intending to break up with him; and then he's overwhelmed by the fact that Jonny's willing to nullify that contract and make it - all of this - real after all. And still pay him the money he'd agreed to, on top of it all.

The worst part, maybe, is how Jonny actually thinks this is what he's anxious about: money. That's the last thing on his mind and basically the last thing he chose to be with Jonny for. He just - he doesn't know how to make Jonny understand that he's not in this for the money, not anymore. But telling Jonny hey, I worry constantly that you're going to dump me or decide you're making a mistake sounds kind of stupid.

He looks back down at the check in his hands, biting his lip. He shouldn't take this, especially not when Jonny thinks this is why he's hanging around. Hell, if he's going to get completely pedantic about this, he didn't even finish out the full two months.

"You know that - you don't need to give me this, right?" he says. Shit, his voice sounds all - cracked. "I mean - I'm a sure thing. For you. Whether you pay me or not."

Jonny shuts him up with a sweet, abrupt kiss. "I know," he says, soft and reassuring. "Just take it."

Patrick swallows. "I need to tell you - I'm not here with you because of this. Because of money. Even if you didn't give me this, I'd still be here. And I really - I need you to understand this, Jonny."

"I know," Jonny says again. There's a small smile playing about his lips. "And I love you for it. Take it, babe."

Oh. Oh.

"I - love you too," Patrick says, and tries to ignore the truly embarrassing, high-pitched whimper in which his words come out. Fuck. Jonny loves him. And Patrick - he's never said this to anyone, never felt like he could actually be in love with anyone - but he's saying this to Jonny.

Maybe - maybe he should stop worrying so much about Jonny leaving.

"I guess I've been - overly worried about things," Patrick says quietly. "Not about money - it was never about that. I just thought, maybe, you'd - change your mind. About us."

Jonny nods calmly, like he already knows. "You don't have to worry about anything anymore. I'm here. I'm always going to be here."

Patrick believes him, and feels himself relax for the first time in months.

---

Now that he's Jonny's real, actual boyfriend, he goes to every Blackhawks home game he can, and even feels confident enough to sit out in the crowd with the other players' spouses and partners. They accept him into the fold naturally, spend time chatting with him and making him feel comfortable, introducing their kids to him; and Patrick loves kids, so it's not like he minds having Theo or Colton or Maddy on his lap while he takes in a game. There are a lot of pictures popping up on social media of Patrick with the players' kids, and apparently all this positive publicity surrounding Patrick really pleases Blackhawks PR, so he guesses it's win-win for everyone involved.

One night, when Patrick's waiting for Jonny in the family room as usual after the game, Jonny comes in with someone - Patrick doesn't know who he is, but he's seen him occasionally around the arena, usually with Stan Bowman, so he's obviously one of the front office executives. He's surprised when Jonny comes up to him, the man following right next to him, and says, "Patrick, I'd like you to meet Al MacIsaac, our head of hockey operations."

"Hi," Patrick says, standing up and shaking Al's hand, even though he's kind of weirded out by this. "I'm Patrick."

"Al, like I told you - Patrick's got a double degree in math and statistics from NYU - what'd you graduate with again? Summa cum laude?"

"I - yeah," Patrick says, swallowing. Holy shit. He wishes Jonny had kind of given him some prior warning about this, so he'd at least have done something about his messy curls and maybe worn something nicer than baggy jeans and Jonny's even baggier jersey.

"And he's got that great analytics site I showed you," Jonny continues; and he sounds and looks so unbearably proud that Patrick feels himself turning red.

"Yeah, I thought that was amazing work," Al says. "Really great job with that."

"Thanks," Patrick manages. "But, uh - "

"Jon mentioned you might be interested in looking for a job in sports analytics, and honestly, we're always on the lookout for someone smart and good at statistical analysis, so we'd like to set up an interview for you. How's next Wednesday?"

Patrick feels like he's been stunned over the head, or something. Wow. He hadn't actually thought Jonny would do this - had forgotten about it, really, since Jonny first mentioned it all those weeks ago and he'd turned him down. But here it is, Jonny giving his dream back to him.

For some reason, this is the moment it really, really sinks in for him, that he's got a chance at getting his life back, that he can take care of the girls without needing to continue escorting, that Jonny's truly got his back.

He has to sit down for a moment because he's feeling a little dizzy at the enormity of it all; and then he makes himself stand up again, because Al's staring at him, and - fuck - he just made himself look ridiculous in front of who could possibly be his future boss.

"I'm sorry," he says. "It's just - it's a lot to take in right now. But - Wednesday's perfect, and I'm really grateful for the opportunity. Thank you."

Al smiles, very genial and understanding. "That's great. I'll have someone call you soon to set it up."

"Thank you so much," Patrick says, and manages a smile. Jonny puts his arm around him and gives him a squeeze; so proud, he's so proud of Patrick, and it makes Patrick's heart feel full to bursting.

---

Jonny stretches himself out on the sofa once they're home and turns the TV on to watch whatever West Coast game is on; a cursory glance at the TV tells Patrick it's the third period of Vegas against Anaheim. Good. That means the game will be done soon and Jonny will be coming to bed.

He hops into the bathroom for a quick shower and gets himself ready, his skin prickling with anticipation. Jonny's going to be away for the next three days on a road trip to St. Louis and then to Minnesota, which means he's probably going to want to fuck Patrick through the mattress the moment he steps into the bedroom, which - Patrick's not at all opposed to.

The best thing about sex with Jonny now, Patrick thinks, is that a couple of weeks ago Jonny came home with a piece of paper, which he'd basically shoved in Patrick's face as soon as he'd stepped indoors. "I got tested," he said without preamble. "I'm clean."

Patrick had been stunned into silence for a while; and then all at once it had hit him, what Jonny meant and what he wanted, and a rush of warmth had flooded his body at the implications of it.

"Oh," he'd said, stupidly happy. He'd never been exclusive with a guy before, never dated anyone long enough that they'd get to this point; and when he started escorting he had to be painstakingly scrupulous about safe sex. "I - I'll get myself checked out too. Tomorrow."

Jonny had smiled and kissed him, and that kissing had turned into Jonny fucking him over the day bed in their bedroom.

That had been the last time they'd used condoms. It still makes Patrick smile to think about it.

The heating in the apartment is always turned lower than what Patrick would like, thanks to Jonny and his overheated body, so the cool air on his bare, damp skin makes goosebumps rise immediately and sends him straight to the bed. He climbs in, shivering a little, and burrows under the thick down comforter, sinking gratefully into the softness of the sheets.

And then he waits. And waits. And waits.

No Jonny appears; Patrick's getting more restless and impatient by the minute.

He tosses and turns, looking over at the door, which remains resolutely closed. Damn, what if Jonny's somehow fallen asleep on the sofa, while here he is, lying naked in bed, lube making his inner thighs uncomfortably sticky as he waits to be fucked? Wouldn't that be annoying, not to mention embarrassing, if Jonny stumbles in a couple of hours later and finds him waiting like this.

Patrick sits up; the comforter falls off him and the cold air that hits his body makes him suck in a breath. He looks around and sees the Toews jersey he'd worn to the game earlier tonight; not that one that kickstarted this whole thing - Patrick's taken it to get framed after that night, since he figures Jonny's never going to do it - but a normal one, and he grabs it on the way out of the bedroom, slipping it over his head. It falls nearly to mid-thigh, just barely covering the swell of his ass, but it's enough to keep him fairly warm, at least until Jonny warms him up the rest of the way.

The thought makes him bite back a grin as he slips into the living room; the TV's still on, Patrick can hear it, and when he comes into view of it he can see it's showing some fishing show - Deadliest Catch or something similar. Jonny's wide awake on the sofa, staring at the screen, and Patrick has to smile, because this - this is the man he's fallen in love with, this dork who watches shows about fishing and giant tuna late at night.

"Hi, you," he says as he approaches Jonny. Jonny looks up, and the surprise on his face melts into a warm, soft smile as Patrick climbs into his lap, perching himself on his thighs, and loops his arms around Jonny's neck.

"Hey," Jonny says, his hands coming up to slide under the jersey - his jersey - and close around Patrick's bare hips, squeezing gently. "What are you doing?"

"I was waiting for you," Patrick says. "Why aren't you coming to bed?"

Jonny tosses a guilty glance over Patrick's shoulder at the TV, but Patrick's gratified to see that he's no longer focused on the show but on him. "I guess I got distracted," he says, and tugs Patrick a little bit closer until Patrick can feel the half-hard bulge of Jonny's cock in his boxers nestling into the cradle of his cheeks.

"I can see that," Patrick says, amused. "Fishing is that interesting, huh?"

Jonny leans forward and catches his lips in a sweet, breath-stealing kiss. "It's relaxing," he murmurs against Patrick's mouth. "You'll see in the summer. I'll take you up to the lake in Winnipeg. We can stay in my cottage and I'll teach you how to fish."

Patrick sucks in a shocked breath and sits upright, pulling himself away from Jonny's mouth. "Really?" he asks, barely believing his ears. Jonny wants to take him to Winnipeg, spend the summer with him?

"Yeah," Jonny says, pulling Patrick towards him again, nosing along the hinge of his jaw. "I'd love to show you - it's my home, you know? Unless - maybe you want to stay in Chicago. Or go back to Buffalo. And I'm fine with that, you know, we don't have to spend the whole summer together -"

"I'd love to," Patrick interrupts. The happiness that's rising in him is making him feel almost breathless; every day that he's with Jonny brings him some new and wondrous reminder that Jonny's with him, and Jonny loves and wants him, and Patrick wants this intoxicating joy to never end. "And maybe we could - go to Buffalo too, for a while. And you can meet my sisters."

Jonny chuckles against his skin. "Yeah, we can do that. Anything you want." He moves up to kiss Patrick again, deep and slow this time, and Patrick feels him trail his hands down lower until he's cupping Patrick's ass, lifting and hefting it gently in his hands. "Are you wearing anything under this thing?"

Patrick wriggles a little more purposefully against Jonny's cock, stirring under him. "Why don't you take it off me and find out?"

Jonny pulls back and runs his eyes over Patrick up and down, in a slow intense way that makes Patrick's dick chub up even more under Jonny's jersey. Jonny's fingers are skimming over the cleft of his ass, tips just barely dipping in, where he'll find Patrick loose and open and slick if he pushes in further.

"No, you know what, I don't think I will," Jonny says after a long beat. "My name and number look good on you."

Patrick laughs, leaning his forehead against Jonny's. "Yeah?" he asks, licking his lips. "Guess I'd better keep it on then."

"Yeah," Jonny agrees; and then Patrick feels his fingers slip in between his cheeks, sliding over his rim, sticky-slick with the lube Patrick had used earlier in the shower. Jonny takes a deep breath and looks up at Patrick; his eyes are darkening to nearly black, a smile curling about his lips.

"You're already - ?"

"This is why I was waiting for you," Patrick says, grinning. He rocks his hips down with purpose, sucking in his bottom lip when the tips of Jonny's fingers dip into him, easy and smooth with his prep.

"Oh, I'm sorry," Jonny says, all sarcastic and teasing and shit, the asshole, and pushes in deeper; Patrick gasps against the feel of his thick, amazing fingers stretching him open, filling him up in a way he never can himself. "Let me make it up to you now, eh?"

"You better," Patrick says, tipping his head back, he lets his eyes flutter closed as he grinds himself down on Jonny's fingers, working to find that perfect angle which - fuck, yeah, he's got it, fingertips pressing firmly into that spot inside Patrick that makes starbursts appear behind his closed eyelids. "Oh, that's good, you're right there - "

Jonny bites a kiss into the exposed column of his throat, right in the hollow where his clavicle meets his chest, and Patrick's skin tingles. "Ride me," he says, a growl low in his voice which brooks no argument. Not that Patrick's going to argue against that.

He has to lift himself off Jonny's fingers, regretfully, to get Jonny's boxer briefs off him; his cock juts up from between his thick thighs, fat and wet at the tip, and the sight of it makes Patrick's mouth water. He has to bend down and press a kiss to Jonny's full, swollen cockhead, even if it means he's perched uncomfortably on the very edge of Jonny's knees, and is rewarded with a low groan from Jonny when he sucks the head into his mouth, relishing the bitter-salt of his precome on his tongue, the breathtaking thickness of it.

"Oh, you look good," Jonny sighs from above him; when he reaches down to press his thumb at the corner of Patrick's mouth, Patrick lets his mouth go slack, lets Jonny push his thumb in alongside his cock, his lips stretched tight around them both. "So gorgeous."

Patrick flicks a glance up at him through his lashes, and then very deliberately drags his lips down the shaft of Jonny's cock, taking more of it into his mouth inch by slow inch, until Jonny has to pull his thumb out and allow his cock to bump softly into the back of Patrick's throat, Patrick's nose nestled into the thatch of dark hair at the base of Jonny's cock, filled with the earthy, musky scent that's all pure Jonny. Jonny gasps, hips twitching, and swears when Patrick swallows around his dick, throat muscles working.

"Fuck, so good," Jonny says hoarsely. "Fuckin' love this."

Patrick loves this too: the weight and thickness of Jonny's cock plugging his mouth full, the way his cockhead slides so easy into his throat, like it's meant to be there, meant for Patrick milk him with his mouth and tongue and throat until he loses it. But he feels Jonny grip the back of his neck, gently coaxing him upright and off his cock; he pulls off it with a wet slurp, licks the drool off his lower lip as he blinks up at Jonny.

"No - come up here, baby," Jonny says, pulling him up until he's sitting in Jonny's lap again, the jersey puddling around his thighs, Jonny's spit-wet cock sliding between his cheeks. The feel of it riding over his hole, so close to where he wants it, makes Patrick clench up a little, his hole empty and grasping at nothing but air. Fuck. He wants Jonny so much, in every way, and it's just - he's never before wanted and needed someone this much. "You're supposed to ride me."

"I want to," Patrick rasps. And he does, he really does, but he also wishes there was a way he could ride and suck Jonny at the same time, because he absolutely loves that dick.

Jonny tugs him closer, getting his hands under the jersey again, squeezing handfuls of his ass. "Come on, babe," he says persuasively, and spreads Patrick's cheeks open, fucking his cock in between them, the fat shaft riding over Patrick's soft, open rim. "Take it if you want it."

"Yeah," Patrick breathes, rising up on his knees and bracing himself with his hands on Jonny's shoulders. "Can you - ?"

Jonny gets what he wants, and grips his cock by the base, holding it upright and steady as Patrick positions himself over it. Jonny's shoulders are thick and solid under his fingers, traps bunching, when Patrick seats himself on his cock; it slips at first, not quite catching on his slippery hole, but Jonny adjusts his hold, and Patrick feels his cockhead slip in.

"Oh fuck," he says out loud, catching his breath; they hadn't lubed Jonny up apart from Patrick's spit, and even though he's wet and open from his prep earlier, there's still a sharp bite to the feeling of Jonny's cock stretching him wide open. But Patrick likes it; he likes to feel Jonny inside him all the way till the next day, reminding him of how good it feels like this, sinking down slowly on Jonny's dick. "Jonny - come here."

"Mm," Jonny murmurs agreeably, and kisses him, swallowing his breathy gasps and moans as Patrick lets himself go down the tiniest bit further, the friction of Jonny's cock almost too much to bear.

There's always a moment whenever they fuck, when Patrick feels like Jonny can go no further, that he's too big and he's too much and Patrick's too tight for this; it's an interminable wait when he gets to that point, his hole clenching tight, his eyes squeezed shut as he tries to breathe through it. Then Jonny says against his lips, "Baby, you're doing so good - relax for me", and Patrick feels his body opening up with a shudder to let Jonny in the rest of the way, until his ass is flush against Jonny's thighs and Jonny's fully seated in him, his fat cock stretching Patrick's hole wide.

Fuck. This is, beyond a doubt, one of Patrick's favourite things in the whole world, stuffed so full with Jonny's dick that he can't move, can't breathe, can't do anything but roll his hips gently, letting Jonny's cock work him open. It's still a little too dry, and that edge of pain is making Patrick's eyes water, but - fuck - it's also making fire dance along all his nerve endings, his body thrumming with need.

"Is this okay?" Jonny asks, like he knows, and Patrick's filled with a rush of gratitude that Jonny always seems to know exactly what he needs. "Do you need more lube - "

"No," Patrick gasps, "no, this is - this is good."

He lifts himself on his knees again, relishing the sweet, delicious drag of Jonny's cock inside him as his hole reluctantly gives up its tight clutch on it; Jonny's fingers press deep into the meat of his ass as he moves, and Patrick thinks there might be finger-shaped bruises on it tomorrow, but Jonny knows by now how much he likes to be marked up, how he likes to see these visual reminders of Jonny on his body.

It's strange, he thinks to himself, feeling slightly loopy; when sex was his job, he'd never let any client leave a mark on him. But with Jonny - he wants Jonny's teeth and fingers all over him, he wants to see these marks in the morning and press into them and remember how Jonny made them.

"Pat," Jonny says, and before Patrick can react, he rocks his hips upwards, fucking his cock back into him. "You with me?"

Patrick gasps out loud, pleasure humming across his entire body. "Fuck - yes," he says, feeling hot and desperate all over. He rises up on his knees again until Jonny's cock is halfway out of him, and then pushes himself back down, listening to Jonny's low groan of pleasure. "God - it just - it always feels so good like this."

"That's it," Jonny encourages, kissing him again; it's almost sweet the way he's pressing kisses to Patrick's lips and jaw and neck, in contrast to the dirty-quick grind Patrick's got going on his cock, lifting up and sinking back down. Jonny's dick is pushing perfectly against his prostate with each rise and fall, and when he lifts the hem of the jersey to look down at himself, bleary with the feel of Jonny pressed into the deepest parts of him, his cock is leaking clear drops of precome onto Jonny's abs, red and swollen and so hard he thinks he might explode.

He moans when Jonny strokes a finger around his rim, where it's stretched so tight around the width of his cock, swollen and puffy from being just that bit too dry for Patrick. "Love feeling you like this," Jonny breathes. "When you've got me so deep inside you and you're still wanting more."

"Jonny," Patrick says breathlessly, squeezing his eyes shut. He lets go of Jonny's shoulders, leans back and braces himself with his hands on Jonny's thighs instead; the change of angle allows Jonny's dick to rub right up against his prostate with every movement, whichever way he moves, and it's easy, so easy like this to chase his orgasm. "Oh fuck, Jonny, you feel so good - "

He feels, dimly, Jonny running his hands over his arms, lingering on the numbers at the sleeves. "I fuckin' love seeing you in my number," Jonny murmurs. "My name on your back. Fuck - you know how good you look with my name on you?"

Patrick can't speak; all he can do is grip Jonny's thighs tighter as he fucks himself up and down on Jonny's cock, breathing hard, trying to slow himself down so he won't come too fast, because he wants to savour every second of this. But Jonny's making it hard for him with the way he's touching Patrick all over, kissing his lips and cheeks and neck, his hands sliding under the jersey to find his tight, peaked nipples and pinching them the way Patrick likes it. It makes Patrick jerk and cry out and his cock leak a little more precome over them both, his balls drawing up tight.

"So gorgeous," Jonny says, closing his fist around Patrick's cock, stroking the pad of his thumb over the wet, slick head; and that's it, that's all he needs, just that little touch from Jonny and the delicious, sweet drag of his cock against Patrick's oversensitive rim and hole, and Patrick's orgasm hits him in a glorious wave of pure, mindless, choking pleasure.

"That's good, you're so good," he hears Jonny say, soft and blurred, and the next thing he knows is Jonny's hand clamping down hard on his hip, and Jonny's long low groan as he empties himself into Patrick, his hips stuttering, shoving his cock in as deep as it can go while Patrick shakes apart on him.

He's almost sobbing by the time it ebbs away into little shudders that wrack his body, clinging on desperately to Jonny through the aftershocks of it. Jonny's got a hand on his back, running it up and down in a slow, soothing motion, like he's calming a wild animal, and Patrick blinks the haze away from his eyes, looks down to see the wet patch on the jersey where he's come all over it and Jonny's hand.

"You okay, babe?" Jonny says, looking at him with a small smile. His eyes are soft and heavy and content, and Patrick wants to sink into this look, into Jonny, and just - stay here forever.

"Mm," he mumbles, leaning forward blindly to search for Jonny's mouth; Jonny gives him the kiss he needs, deep and careful and slow. The movement makes his cock slip partway out of him, and Patrick sucks in a breath at the feel of the warm, slow flood of Jonny's come trickling out of him, over his sore, sensitive rim.

"Did I hurt you?" Jonny asks, immediately concerned.

"No," Patrick says, clinging on to him, breathing in the scent of sex and Jonny and them. "No, you could never hurt me."

"Good," Jonny says into his mouth. "I don't want to."

Jonny's not going to. Patrick has never been more sure of anything in his life. He knows this in his heart, in the way Jonny cradles him close and holds him like he never wants to let Patrick go, and all he has to do is hold on tight and let Jonny love him.

---

The rest of the week, Patrick spends most of his time brushing up on his statistics; it's been a long time since he's really actually had to apply his knowledge to actual analysis instead of just building tools for his site, so he works on that as much as he can. He doesn't know what he's going to be asked in his interview, but the lady who'd called him up to arrange it had told him he'd need to sit for a written and a software test before the actual interview, so he digs around online until he finds some sample test papers he can work on.

He's relieved to find that he hasn't forgotten that much; doing the sample tests kind of kicks his memory into gear again. Math and statistics are just logic, after all; remember the first step in a formula, and the next step follows easily as long as you've got the logical progression down.

He probably should feel more nervous about the interview, but he's mostly excited about it. This is really all he's ever wanted to do, and now that he has a shot at it, he's going to make the most of it. And he's good at this; he knows he's good, and the fact that the Blackhawks aren't going easy on him just because he's with Jonny and he still needs to sit through tests and three rounds of interviews - it all makes him feel oddly glad.

On Monday morning, after breakfast, Jonny tells him that his lawyer's going to be coming by in a while.

"Oh yeah?" Patrick asks, barely listening; he's distracted writing an algorithm on MATLAB, trying to see if it works.

"He's bringing over the papers for us to sign," Jonny says, coming over and pressing a kiss on top of his head. "You know, the ones to void our contract thing."

Patrick looks up. "Oh," he says, and can't help the smile that spreads helplessly across his face.

"Yep," Jonny says, popping the P, and then ducks to steal another sweet kiss, this time on Patrick's mouth. "I'm going for skate now, but he'll be here in an hour or two and he'll explain everything in there to you. Rob Bennett - that's his name."

"Okay," Patrick says. "I'll buzz him in when he's here. What time will you be back?"

"About two, maybe," Jonny says, frowning; Patrick hears the clink of his car keys as he grabs them from the keyholder near the door. "There's a video interview I have to do for the NHLPA after practice. So I'll be home a bit later."

"That's okay," Patrick says. "I'm going to be working on this algorithm for a while more. See you later."

"Think about where you want to go for lunch!" Jonny calls as he leaves.

---

When the intercom rings, Patrick starts; he's been deeply engrossed in his work, and he's a little shocked to see that it's already noon. Wow. He hadn't even realised how much time had passed. Maybe he should take a break, he thinks as he clicks the intercom on, and rubs his eyes. "Hello?"

"Hi, my name is James Moretti," an unfamiliar male voice says. "I'm representing Rob Bennett, here to drop some papers off for Mr. Toews?"

"Oh," Patrick says. He's surprised that Jonny's lawyer sent a representative, especially when Jonny hadn't mentioned anything about someone else coming, but it makes sense when he thinks about it. Of course a lawyer wouldn't make these deliveries personally - they'd send a courier service or something, and maybe Mr. Bennett is going to wait till he can get both Jonny and Patrick together to explain all the stuff he needs to. "Sure, I'll buzz you up."

The doorbell sounds a minute later, and Patrick opens the door; the man standing outside is younger than he'd expected, perhaps in his late twenties, tall with carefully-styled dark hair. When he smiles at Patrick, his teeth are very white. "Hi, I called from downstairs. James Moretti."

"Yeah," Patrick says, stepping aside. "Come in, Mr. Moretti."

Moretti turns another blinding smile on him. "Please, just call me James."

Patrick can't help but run his eyes down his body as he enters - he's not dressed in corporate attire, instead wearing a pair of jeans and a tight t-shirt that shows off a gym-honed body, a backpack slung across his back. He's surprisingly good-looking, with broad shoulders and that charming smile, and when Patrick looks up again, he realises, to his embarrassment, that Moretti has been looking at him, and probably noticed Patrick checking him out. Damn.

"Have a seat," he says, clearing his throat and gesturing at the dining table. "Would you like something to drink first? Jonny said Mr. Bennett would be here personally to go through the papers with me, so I'm not sure if you - "

"Mr. Bennett's not coming," Moretti says, settling himself down at the table. He's still smiling, and his grin seems to grow wider.

"Oh," Patrick says, confused. "Are you going to discuss the papers with me, or - "

"Actually, I just want to talk to you," Moretti says. He digs in his backpack as he speaks, and takes out something small and white that he puts on the table; Patrick hears an audible click as he presses a button on it.

Patrick has no idea what that thing is, and he's about to ask when Moretti speaks again. "So, you're Patrick Kane."

"Uh," Patrick says. Weird, he thinks. This is weird. "Yes."

"The escort who somehow managed to seduce the captain of the Blackhawks. Not a bad feat, I'd say. You've done well for yourself, huh?"

Danger. Danger. An alarm is beginning to toll in Patrick's head now, loud and getting louder by the second. Something's wrong - he just doesn't know what it is, he's not getting it.

"What - what are you talking about?" he manages to say. Danger.

"How about this," Moretti says. He leans back in the chair and crosses his long legs at the ankle, looking unbelievably relaxed, while the weird tension is ratcheting up in Patrick's body. "You've heard of the term quid pro quo? Let's make a deal. I'll tell you who I am, and you tell me exactly how you managed to get your little escort claws into Toews. How's that?"

"Who are you?" Patrick blurts out before he can stop himself. His heart is pounding in his chest, picking up speed. Something's desperately wrong. He needs to call Jonny, maybe. He needs to get Moretti out of here.

"Well, I'm not actually from Bennett's law firm," Moretti says, flashing another grin at Patrick. But now it's no longer charming; there's a dangerous, predatory look to it. "I'm a reporter, and I'm on the edge of my first big story. Come on, Patrick. You could make it big with me. All you have to do is tell me all about your little business arrangement with Toews, and what a lying shitheel he is, deceiving paying Blackhawks fans like this. Maybe spice it up a bit, tell me how you seduced him into believing you're actually in love with him. Readers love that kind of salacious detail."

Danger.

"Get out," Patrick says. "Get the hell out right now."

Moretti doesn't move and the infuriating, insolent grin doesn't slip from his face. "Listen up, pretty boy. I know all about it. I know he paid you. I also know your arrangement is due to expire soon. And I know Toews told his lawyers to void your original contract. So - you've been paid, there's no reason for you to stay loyal to him. If you give me this story, it'll blow up and you could make a lot more going on the tabloid circuit."

Jesus. Patrick feels sick at heart. How did this guy find out about all of that? Oh god, he thinks frantically to himself. Jonny - if this guy does what he's saying, if this story gets out, Jonny's career is going to be destroyed -

"You don't know what you're saying," he says, trying to keep his voice steady. "Get the hell out."

Moretti stands up and for one brief moment Patrick thinks he did it, that he's really going to leave; but instead of moving to the door Moretti starts coming towards him. Slowly, step by deliberate step. Almost like a hunter stalking its prey, Patrick thinks hysterically, and finds himself taking a step backwards before he forces himself to stay in place.

"I mean, now that I'm seeing you, I totally get why Toews fell under your spell," Moretti says. He drags his eyes down Patrick's body as he speaks, purposeful and calculated, and now the alarms are all going off in Patrick's head and gut and everywhere else. "You're very pretty. That mouth! And that tight little body of yours. Delicious. I bet Toews has had lots of fun with you."

Patrick's been stared at countless times in his life. He's had worse things said to him. He's slept with too many men, and not all of them have been respectful. But none of them have ever made him feel the way Moretti does now with the way he's looking at Patrick - dirty, humiliated, scared, trapped with nowhere to go in his own home. The home he shares with Jonny, the one place he's supposed to be safe.

"Shut - the fuck up," Patrick hisses, forcing the words out between his teeth. He clenches his fists when Moretti steps closer and keeps his feet planted, even though every fibre of his body is screaming at him to run, run now.

"And you're a whore, so I bet you knew exactly what you were doing." Another step. "Made Toews think you were so into him, didn't you? And now the poor man's fallen hook, line and sinker for you. Just another money-grabbing gold digger."

"I'm not," Patrick bursts out; he doesn't mean to speak, he knows he shouldn't, but -

The grin on Moretti's face grows sharper, and now - now Patrick really feels sick. There's a heavy weight in his throat and his chest that feels like it's choking him. Fuck, fuck, he's fallen right into the trap.

"Alright, I get it," Moretti says. "Wanting to protect your golden goose, huh? Drain him a little longer? Hey, I can't blame you. He's worth, what, like twenty million? I get it. I'm in this to make my name for the big bucks too - which I'm sure is something you're familiar with. So you know, you're going to have to give me a little something, make it worth my while to not run the story."

"Get out," Patrick says. Moretti's stopped advancing towards him, standing three paces away, still with that sharp, dirty smile. Patrick wishes he could punch it off his face. "I don't know what the fuck you're talking about. Just - go away."

"I'll make it easy for you. Toews is worth a lot of money. He could share that love. I mean, he's paying you off already, so what's a couple million more for me, right? Pocket change to keep his nice, captainly reputation intact."

"Fuck you," Patrick manages to say. He can't breathe. It feels like someone's gripped his rib cage with a giant's hand, squeezing, squeezing.

Moretti's grin grows even dirtier. There's something about it that makes Patrick feel like he's being stripped, even though Moretti's not moving, not standing close. "That's a good idea, actually."

And then he begins to undo his jeans.

Run, Patrick's brain screams.

His body moves automatically, turning towards the door, taking two strides; and then the breath is knocked out of him when Moretti grabs his arm and shoves him against the wall.

Fuck. He's tall, and he's big, and Patrick's twisting and struggling, but his grip is so tight that he can't break free. And Patrick knows there's no way he could outrun this guy even if he gets free.

Moretti is looming over him, still smiling, his torso pressed up close against Patrick, so tight and close the smell of his cologne is filling Patrick's nostrils, choking him. When he moves closer, Patrick realises with a shock that he's got his dick out. He's got his fucking dick out and he's pushing it up against Patrick's thigh.

Patrick wants to knee him in the balls. But he can't move. He's frozen, unable to breathe, unable to speak, his body shutting down.

"If you're not going to pay me," Moretti says, "you can give me something else. You can either tell me what I want to know, or you can give me this." The half-boner he's pressing against Patrick's body leaves Patrick in no doubt as to what 'this' is.

He can't. He can't do this. He left that life behind when he found Jonny. He'd rather die than betray Jonny, when Jonny saved him, saw something good and beautiful in him that no one else ever has.

"It's nothing you haven't done before anyway, it's your job, isn't it?" Moretti says, taunting. "So why don't you show me what that pretty mouth can do? And don't pretend you don't want this - I saw you checking me out when I walked in. How about it? Give me some of that magic you worked on Toews."

"No," Patrick chokes out. He tries, fruitlessly, to pull free of Moretti's grip, but his body won't listen to him, and all he can muster are a few ineffectual tugs against Moretti's hand. "Let me go."

"It's your choice, pretty boy," Moretti drawls, and his fist clamps down so tight on Patrick's wrist that Patrick can feel the bones grinding; he goes limp right away, and stops struggling just so his wrist won't be broken.

Moretti must take it as a sign of surrender or something, because his smile grows dangerously wide, and then Patrick feels his other hand pull at his sweatpants, yanking them down roughly. He can't help the sob that escapes him; and then he clamps his mouth shut, because he's fucked if he's going to let this scummy piece of shit know how terrified he is.

And it'll be even worse if Moretti figures out that he's not afraid for himself. He's afraid for Jonny.

Moretti's not wrong. This isn't something he's never done. Trading his body for something in return, using it as a transactional chip - it's been his job for the past three years. What does it matter if he uses it one last time?

He'd thought he couldn't do it, that he'd be betraying Jonny.

But what's the bigger betrayal - letting Moretti do what he wants with him, so he doesn't run his story, and Jonny's kept safe; or fighting back, and watching Jonny's whole career and life and everything he's worked so hard for end up in flames?

When he turns these options over in his mind, it's not really a hard choice after all.

Jonny's done so much for him. Jonny saved him. And now he's been given a chance to save Jonny in return, and all he has to do is shut his eyes and grit his teeth and let Moretti do - whatever it is. It'll be over in a few minutes. Just a few minutes, and he can buy Jonny's security.

Patrick lets his eyes fall shut against the tears that are already threatening to fall.

And then he hears, suddenly, the click of the front door opening, and Jonny's blessed, welcome voice saying, "Babe, I'm home, the interview got cancelled - "

He forces his eyes open just as Jonny comes into view. The tears are making his vision blurry, but he can make out Jonny standing at the other end of the living room, taking in the scene in front of him.

All at once it occurs to him how this must look: Patrick, pushed against the wall by a strange man Jonny's never seen, his sweatpants halfway down, Moretti's dick hanging out of his jeans and hard.

Oh god, oh god, if Jonny thinks Patrick's been - cheating on him, or something -

It's more than Patrick can deal with right now. He can't lose Jonny. Not because of this, not because of someone like Moretti.

"Jonny," he says, his voice choked up in a sob. "Please - "

Jonny moves so fast that Patrick doesn't even see it happen. One moment Jonny's standing twenty feet away; the next moment Patrick feels Moretti being dragged off him, and he takes in a great, gulping, cleansing breath of air as the stink of his cologne is lifted away. He blinks, and Jonny's holding Moretti by the throat, slamming him against the wall next to where Patrick's still standing and shaking, over and over.

"Who are you?" Jonny's shouting. "What the fuck did you do? What did you fucking do, you fucking - "

He's taller than Moretti by a couple of inches, and much stronger; Moretti looks like he's a rag doll, struggling against Jonny's chokehold on his neck. Jonny slams him one more time into the wall with a loud, audible thud, and pins him there by his throat. He's breathing hard, his face red, and he looks more furious than Patrick's ever seen him. The waves of anger and danger emanating off him are almost palpable.

"Jonny," Patrick manages to say. He can barely get the words out past his bone-dry throat and tongue.

Jonny doesn't even look at him. "Patrick," he says, the veins in his neck popping. "What did he do to you?"

Patrick can't speak. Because if he does, Jonny might know that he'd actually - thought about it, thought about letting Moretti touch him, and he won't be able to explain that it was all for Jonny. All he can do is shake his head, biting his lip until he tastes blood, so he won't start crying.

"He was trying to - get me to fuck him," Moretti says, his voice garbled through the tight hold Jonny has on him. "Like how he seduced you, probably. He's a slut - "

Jonny punches him right across the face with his other hand, splitting Moretti's lip open. Patrick catches a glimpse of a smear of blood across Jonny's knuckles when he pulls his fist back, ready for another blow.

"You lie," Jonny says, and his whole demeanor's changed. He'd been furious and yelling before; now his entire being seems to go calm and still, the blood flush in his face rapidly ebbing until his face and lips are white and bloodless. But Patrick knows, he can see, all the tension and strength coiled up in Jonny, barely held in check.

Waiting to strike. Like a python with its fangs in its prey.

"Now tell me who the fuck you are and what you're doing in my home."

"Told you," Moretti rasps. "Your whore wanted me to fuck him."

Jonny punches him again, but the wild savagery from earlier is gone, replaced by a deceptively mild stillness that somehow makes Patrick even more afraid; there's a sickening crack as Jonny's fist makes contact with Moretti's cheekbone, and despite himself, Patrick winces when he jerks and grunts in pain. The blood from his already-cut lip is flowing faster now.

"Who. Are. You," Jonny says. His eyes are cold and dark, his voice low and menacing, and Patrick almost can't recognise that this is the Jonny who kisses and cuddles him and laughs with him and takes care of him.

"Jesus - fuck, I'm a reporter, okay?" Moretti snarls. "I found out about your dumb fucking arrangement with your escort, and I needed a big story - "

"So you thought you'd break in here and try to rape my boyfriend?"

Patrick's first reaction is a massive wave of pure relief. Jonny believes him. Jonny believes him, and he hasn't even needed to say anything or explain anything. His second thought is that he wants to pass out, or throw up, or something, because jesus. Fuck. It had been so close, and if Jonny hadn't come back when he had -

Patrick thinks he genuinely might be sick. His legs and hands are still shaking, tiny tremors rumbling through his body. He's not sure how he's still standing upright.

"I didn't break in, okay?" Moretti's saying. "Listen, I found out your boy here was working as an escort, because after his face came out in all the blogs and papers, someone from his agency called me up and told me all about him. Seems like he thought of Kane as a competitor, but in any case he was furious that Kane managed to get himself a rich man like you and quit the agency. And then after that, it was easy for me to find out who was representing you, get into his office with my press credentials pretending I needed some legal advice on some copyright bullshit, and tap up his phone."

Holy shit. Patrick almost can't believe his ears. This man is crazy.

"You - wiretapped Rob's phone?" Jonny says. His voice is still low, deadly.

"It wasn't hard," Moretti says. He makes an attempt to shrug Jonny's hand off his neck; quick as a flash, Jonny slams him back against the wall so hard his head cracks back against it. Patrick can see the corded muscle standing out starkly under the skin of his forearm, he's grabbing Moretti by the throat so tight.

"Fuck - fine," Moretti chokes. "I needed a big story, yeah. But more than that - I needed money. And when I found out about Bennett's appointment with you from the wiretap, I got this idea. I called him up and told him I was calling from the Blackhawks, that your meeting would need to be postponed. And then I came here."

"And then?"

Jonny's grip must be tightening, because Moretti reaches up with a flailing hand and grabs hold of Jonny's wrist, where he's pushing into Moretti's throat with the heel of his hand. Patrick has a sudden, abrupt flashback to earlier, when Moretti had grabbed his wrist, and it's only when he glances down that he can see a dark bruise forming in a ring around it.

"Thought I could - tell your escort to pay up, if he didn't want this getting out," Moretti gasps, and he's definitely struggling to speak now. "He refused, so I figured, I might as well fuck him and have some fun, since we both know he doesn't give a shit about you, he's just protecting the money he's gonna get from you - "

His words are cut off as Jonny squeezes; Patrick watches with growing horror as Jonny's knuckles whiten, as Moretti's face begins to turn a shade of pale red that grows progressively darker with each second, as he starts to grab hold of Jonny's hand on his throat with both hands. He's trying desperately to peel Jonny's fingers off his throat, but he can't. Patrick knows he can't, not when Jonny's hands are as strong as they are, built for a professional sport where he relies so much on his hands.

Moretti's choking now, his gasps for air growing laboured, and Jonny's not letting up. The look on his face is pure, cold fury, and it sends a chill down Patrick's spine.

"You bastard," Jonny says, deadly quiet. "You fucking piece of shit - "

Patrick finds his voice. "Jonny," he says, fighting against the looming panic in him.

Jonny doesn't respond, but he's now gripping Moretti's throat so tight that Patrick can see his fingers sink into either side of his neck. Moretti is practically clawing at Jonny's hand now.

"Stop, Jonny!" Patrick cries. He lunges forward and grabs Jonny's arm, shaking him as hard as he can. "Stop - please, you're going to kill him - "

"I should kill him," Jonny grunts.

"No," Patrick says, pulling at his arm, fighting against the scared tears prickling behind his eyelids. "Listen to me - stop, think about what you're doing - "

And slowly - too slowly for Patrick's liking - he sees Jonny release his death grip on Moretti's throat, fingers unclenching from around it. Moretti crumples to the floor when Jonny lets go fully, coughing and choking, taking in huge gasps of air, his face nearly purple.

"Get the fuck out of my house," Jonny says coldly to the pathetic, snivelling heap at his feet, fists clenched.

Moretti struggles upright and throws Jonny such a terrified look that it would make Patrick laugh, if not for the whole crazy, horrifying situation right now. He stumbles towards the dining table where he'd left his backpack, and suddenly Patrick remembers that white thing he'd clicked on and put on the table. He still has no idea what it is, but something makes him dart across and swipe the thing before Moretti can reach it.

Moretti sees him holding it, and his face turns pale.

"Jonny," Patrick says, handing it to him. Jonny glances at it, and his face grows darker.

"So you thought you'd try to trick Patrick into talking about us, and record him doing it?" he asks.

A voice recorder. Fuck. Of course Jonny knows what it is, after the thousands of interviews he's sat through before. And of course Moretti would try to do that. He's wiretapped Jonny's lawyer, tried to assault and blackmail; there's nothing too low for him to stoop to.

But Jonny's now looking at Moretti with a sort of grim satisfaction on his face, as he slips the recorder into his pocket. "I want you to get out," he says. "And I want you to count yourself lucky that I'm not taking this recorder to the police or my lawyers right now. I can get you run out of town and put in jail, and you know I can do it. I've got proof you tried to blackmail and rape my partner. Proof that you illegally wiretapped my attorney."

The fear visible now on Moretti's face is probably close to what Patrick was feeling earlier when he'd been trapped between him and the wall.

"And if you ever write or say anything - anything at all about us, for the rest of your miserable life - I'm taking this straight to the police," Jonny says, almost spitting. "Now fuck off."

Moretti can't even muster a response; he turns tail and flees, slamming the door behind him. Coward, Patrick thinks bitterly. Such a coward, when he'd come in here bold as brass, tried to touch Patrick, tried to destroy Jonny's whole life -

Fuck. Jonny.

Patrick turns around, and Jonny's still standing there, like a statue in marble. He's breathing hard and fast, like he'd been holding his breath all this while and needs to breathe now, and he's staring at the door through which Moretti disappeared as if he wants to punch through it. It makes Patrick remember the way he'd punched Moretti, and the blood on his knuckles.

He steps close to Jonny, and finds Jonny looking at him but his eyes are unseeing; he reaches out tentatively, takes Jonny's hand, still fisted at his side. He'd cut his knuckles when he hit Moretti, and his blood is mingling with Moretti's, smeared over the backs of his fingers.

And this, of all things, this is what makes Patrick start crying, seeing the cuts and the blood on Jonny's hand, because Jonny could have hurt himself, he could have broken his hand, and his hockey -

Jonny only moves when he begins to cry, as if galvanised into action, and then there's the familiar feel of Jonny wrapping his arm around him.

"Baby," he hears Jonny say, through the shock and the tears, and then Jonny's folding him into his chest while Patrick holds on to his bloodied fist and cries and cries. "It's okay. You're safe now. He's not going to bother you again. You're safe."

And how can Patrick explain that he's not crying because of Moretti - he's crying for Jonny, for the kind of shit Jonny's probably going to have to go through, time and time again, just because he had the misfortune to bring Patrick into his life?

He's a liability. All he's ever going to do is drag Jonny down with his past. For the rest of his life, Jonny's probably going to have to fight off blackmailers. Moretti's just the first - but what would have happened if Jonny had actually hurt himself, or if Moretti had hurt him? What if Jonny had lost control and actually killed him?

Liability, Patrick thinks. Blackmailers aren't who will destroy Jonny's life. Patrick's the one who will.

He wants to vomit. He's going to ruin Jonny and Jonny doesn't even realise it.

"You're safe," Jonny repeats, curling his hand around the back of Patrick's neck, soft and gentle, and all Patrick can think of is how Jonny almost killed someone because of him.

He keeps crying.

---

It's his fourth sleepless night in a row when Patrick pulls himself upright into a seated position, leaning against the headboard. He's not going to be able to sleep again tonight.

He turns to look at Jonny, sprawled on his front next to him. He's fast asleep, his breathing regular and soft, his face relaxed. It helps to settle the roiling anxiety inside Patrick a little to see Jonny sleeping deeply like this. His hands are spread out on both sides of his pillow, and Patrick can see the cuts on his knuckles almost totally healed, save for some yellowing bruises.

Jonny had been fine, thank fuck, nothing wrong with his hands that would have kept him out of a game, apart from the cuts and bruising. He'd been busy too, the past couple of days; he'd had lots of meetings with his lawyer and agent and the Blackhawks high-ups, to tell them what happened, and dealing with whatever he needs to deal with from this whole mess.

But these days Patrick feels jumpy, anxious; every time the bell rings or the door clicks, it makes him startle. He can't sleep, waking up in a cold sweat each night before he turns to make sure Jonny's next to him, that Jonny's okay. Jonny had noticed, of course, except that he thinks Patrick's scared for himself. He'd offered to pay for a bodyguard for Patrick, which Patrick had shot down immediately.

There's just no way for Patrick to tell Jonny how absolutely afraid he is that something like this is going to happen again, and the next time they might not be so lucky. The next time Jonny might get seriously hurt. Or even if he comes to no physical harm, he could be destroyed just as easily, if someone else gets wind of all this and exposes them both. A bodyguard for Patrick isn't going to save Jonny from that.

He keeps turning the incident over in his mind: Moretti's predatory grin as he advanced towards Patrick; the sickening feel of his dick against his thigh; the things he'd said about Patrick and Jonny. And most of all, he can't forget the sight of Jonny's white, cold face as he throttled Moretti, seconds away from losing it all just because Patrick's too dangerous for Jonny to keep in his life.

He's been stupid. So fucking stupid. He'd actually believed someone like Jonny was meant for him, that this whole perfect life could be his.

He remembers when they'd first got together, how happy he'd been, and how scared he'd felt, because it had felt too good to be true. He hadn't been wrong. It is too good for someone like him.

Patrick stares at Jonny's face and feels his heart seize up. He loves Jonny, so fucking much, and he's going to bring about Jonny's downfall if he stays with him.

He should have known, really. After all, it was with him that Jonny got outed; it's because of what he does that Jonny's at risk of blackmail.

He can't do this anymore to Jonny. He can't tear his life down any further. Jonny's got too much at stake, has worked too hard his whole life, to risk it on someone like Patrick.

He draws his knees up to his chest and drops his forehead to his knees, curling into himself, wishing he could disappear so Jonny's life can right itself again, back to the time before he'd met Patrick and let Patrick break him apart.

---

Jonny has to fly to Toronto for a day, for some shoot with Canadian Tire. "You'll be okay, right?" he asks, standing at the door with his overnight bag.

He asks Patrick this all the time now, every time he leaves the condo, even if it's just for a few hours; Patrick practically had to peel Jonny away from him and push him out of the door, the first time he had to leave for a road trip, after the incident. And each time he hates himself a little bit more for making Jonny feel this insecure about leaving him.

"Yes," Patrick says. "Go already before you miss your flight."

"Love you," Jonny says, and Patrick swallows against the lump in his throat.

"Love you too."

Jonny bends down to kiss him, and Patrick - he wants to cling to Jonny and keep him here and never let him go. His fingers actually twitch with how badly he wants to hold on to Jonny.

He settles instead for kissing him back, instead of letting Jonny peck him once and leave. Kisses Jonny slow and deep, savouring every second of it, committing to memory the taste and feel and scent of Jonny like this, lips pressed to lips, Jonny's hands on his hips and his body pressed close against Jonny.

He needs to remember this, because it's the last time he's going to have it.

When he finally drags his mouth away from Jonny's, Jonny looks down at him, pleased and a little dazed. "Wow," he says. "What was that?"

"Just - gonna miss you," Patrick tells him. It's not a lie.

Jonny's eyes turn soft. "It's just for a day," he says. "I'll be home before you know it. Call me if there's anything, okay?"

"Okay," Patrick says.

Jonny takes a step out, and Patrick - he can't help himself.

"Jonny," he says, and Jonny turns around. "I love you. You know this, right?"

It's really important to him that Jonny remembers this. That Jonny knows how much Patrick loves him and cares for him. Enough to give him up.

"I know, babe," Jonny says, smiling, and Patrick knows this isn't a lie too.

When Jonny enters the elevator and the door shuts on him, Patrick feels like someone's twisted a knife in his gut.

He takes a deep breath, and goes into the bedroom to start packing.

---

His apartment looks even more grimy and dirty than Patrick remembers. There's a film of dust on the floor, and it's only been three months since Patrick left.

He just feels grateful that he hadn't cancelled the lease. Jonny's been paying the rent on it, but they were going to cancel after they'd signed the papers to void the contract. He needs to make arrangements to stop Jonny's payments on his rent, he thinks, as he wanders numbly around the tiny, dark space. Back here again. Back home - to his real home, his real life.

He hadn't cashed the check for the seventy-five thousand dollars Jonny had given him, so he'd left it in Jonny's condo. He's got a little money put away, so he should be okay for a few weeks, but after that - he'll need to go back to work.

It's soul crushing to think he's going to have to go back to that life after he'd thought he could leave it behind him - but he needs to.

These three months with Jonny? Just a beautiful, unreal memory.

This is what's real.

---

Jonny starts calling him the next morning.

Patrick can imagine it in his mind's eye - Jonny coming into his condo, calling out for him, completely unsuspecting. Going into the bedroom, seeing the empty spaces where Patrick's clothes and stuff had been. Finding the check and Jonny's credit card that he'd given him, placed neatly next to the Macbook Pro on the bed, so there's no way Jonny can miss it.

Maybe Jonny panicked. Maybe he got angry. Maybe he still doesn't get it.

Either way, he's blowing Patrick's phone up now.

Patrick looks at it, at Jonny's face flashing on his screen. He'd stupidly changed Jonny's call profile picture some time ago to one of the both of them together, Jonny's arm around his shoulders, cheek pressed against his. They're both laughing into the camera, Jonny's eyes crinkled at the corners with happiness.

So happy. They'd been so happy.

Patrick really should delete this picture. Or better still, change his phone number.

Remember to change my number tomorrow, he thinks to himself dully as he switches his phone off.

He just feels - numb. He wishes he could feel something, anything. Sadness. Rage at this situation. But all he feels is this sort of weary numbness. It's weird.

Patrick sits silently on the lumpy, dusty mattress of his bed and stares at nothing until the shadows lengthen on the wall, until everything grows dark around him and he can't see anything anymore.

---

He must have fallen asleep, because the next thing he realises is someone hammering on the door; he jolts upright, his heart pounding. They're beating on it really hard too, like they're about to break it down.

Patrick's first fearful thought is that it's Moretti - he's found out where Patrick lives and he's here to take his revenge - and looks around wildly for a weapon. But the apartment is bare and empty, because Patrick's never kept much in here anyway, and fuck -

His heart's pounding so fast that he can hear it throbbing in his ears. Stay calm, he tells himself, groping around for his phone. Shit, why did he turn it off? He can't find it in this darkness.

And then he hears Jonny's voice. "Patrick? Patrick! Please, open the door."

What the fuck.

Jonny's not supposed to know where he is. He never gave Jonny his address, not even when he signed the contract. What the fuck?

Maybe it's not Jonny. Maybe his brain's going crazy, because he's been so stressed and upset and thinking of Jonny so much.

"Patrick, please. I know you're here. Please open the door."

And that is Jonny's voice, no doubt, Patrick would know it anywhere.

He somehow stumbles over to his front door and manages to get it open; and it's really Jonny standing out there, hair wild, a deep frown cutting into his forehead. There's a sunken, panicked look in his eyes that makes him look like death warmed over, and it sickens Patrick to see Jonny like this.

"Jonny?" he croaks.

"Oh my god," Jonny breathes; and then he's reaching out, grabbing him, folding him into a tight hug. "Oh my god. I thought I'd lost you. I thought you'd - "

It takes Patrick some time to get what Jonny means, and the horror that dawns on him feels like a splash of ice-cold water in his face. Holy shit, Jonny had actually thought that Patrick maybe - hurt himself or something. That Patrick hadn't just left him, but had left him -

"No," he hears himself say, moving on autopilot to grasp Jonny's shoulders. "No, I'm here."

"Oh my god," Jonny says again. "Patrick - why - what happened? Why did you go? Did something happen again - "

"No," Patrick says, pulling himself away from Jonny. "Nothing happened. I just - I had to leave."

"Why?"

Jonny's really not getting it, Patrick thinks. He'd left quietly, just to avoid a confrontation like this, but now Jonny's found his way here somehow.

"How did you - find me here?" he asks.

Jonny scrubs a hand over his face. "I got a P.I. to look for you."

Patrick looks at him, disbelieving. "I've been gone for like, less than a day."

Jonny laughs, a short mirthless sound. "I gave him eight hours to find you, once I got home and saw you were gone. It took him three. I guess he should get a bonus for that."

"I'm sorry," Patrick whispers.

Jonny shakes his head. "There's nothing to be sorry for. I know you got scared. I know maybe you don't feel safe in our home anymore. But I promise, I'll do anything you need. Get more security, find a new place to live, whatever. Please, just - come home."

Patrick swallows the lump forming in his throat. "I can't."

"What do you mean?"

"I didn't leave because I was scared for myself," Patrick says. "I left because I was scared - for you."

A beat ticks by, then two. Jonny's staring at him. He really doesn't understand.

"Don't you get it?" Patrick says. He licks his lips; they're dry and chapped, and he feels like there's cardboard in his mouth. "If I stay with you, this is always going to happen. Over and over. People are going to find out about me and my past, and they're going to use it as a weapon to hurt you. And - I can't let that happen to you. You've worked your whole life to build your career and reputation - I can't watch that be destroyed because of me."

The furrow between Jonny's eyebrows is deepening as he stares at Patrick; Patrick has no idea if Jonny's absorbing what he's saying, but he ploughs on.

"I'm a liability," Patrick says. He looks right into Jonny's eyes. They're laser-intense, boring right through him, and he takes a deep breath to steady himself. "Staying with you means I'd be making you risk it all. You can't protect yourself, if you're trying to protect me. And I can't do that to you. I'm sorry."

He takes a step back, his hand on the door.

"Thank you for everything," he says softly. "Forget me, Jonny. You and me - it was always too good to be true."

He tries to shut the door; and Jonny's hand shoots out, keeping it open.

"No," Jonny says, sounding strangled.

"Listen to me," Patrick says. A wave of exhaustion sweeps over him, making him dizzy; he shuts his eyes for a moment. "You cannot - cannot - lose everything you've worked your entire life for, for me."

"But I'm willing to," Jonny rasps.

Fuck. Patrick's heart thumps in his chest.

"I love you," Jonny continues. "Enough to risk it all. Enough to lose it all. And I wouldn't even care if I did. Because none of this - it all means nothing without you. Yeah, hockey was the most important thing in my life - you're right, I've spent my whole life working towards this goal. But that was because - I hadn't met you. I didn't know I could meet someone I'd love more than hockey - and then I found you."

Oh god, oh god. Patrick - he's going to cry, and he can't, he needs to be firm. Why is Jonny making this so hard?

"That's how much you mean to me," Jonny says. "And - I need you to want me enough to try. At the very least, to try this with me. But if you don't - "

He pauses, swallows; Patrick watches the bob of his Adam's apple as Jonny gathers himself together.

"If you don't, I'll walk away. If that's what you really want. If you don't want me."

I do want you, Patrick shouts in his mind. Oh god, he loves and needs Jonny so much that it hurts. But - he'll hurt Jonny even more if he stays, he knows this -

"Please, Patrick," Jonny says, his voice breaking, and it's the most awful sound Patrick's ever heard in his life. "I love you. Please tell me you love me enough to try."

It's on the tip of Patrick's tongue to say it. He wavers, wobbles, caught between his love and his fear, like Odysseus between Scylla and Charybdis.

He can't. He can't. He doesn't know what to do. He can't give Jonny up. But he can't ask Jonny to risk this for him. It's too selfish.

He bites his lip hard, letting the pain ground him, staying silent, trying to think.

And then Jonny - he steps backwards, and the look on his face hits Patrick like a stab in the chest. He looks devastated, worn out; he barely even looks like Jonny anymore.

"Okay," Jonny says, and his voice - oh fuck - it's all choked up, and Patrick doesn't think he can bear to see and hear Jonny like this for one more second. "I understand."

He takes a step back, and another. He's still staring at Patrick, his face white, and all Patrick can think is no.

"Take care of yourself," he says, and turns to leave.

Jonny's leaving. He's going.

Patrick stares dumbly at his receding back as he walks down the hallway, his head down, looking like a man who's been beaten down.

When Jonny enters the elevator and the doors shut behind him, Patrick's body jolts, as if it's coming alive from a paralysis that he couldn't break free from.

What is he doing? He just - he let the love of his life walk away from him. Like Jonny meant nothing at all, when Jonny means everything. Enough for Patrick to want to give it all up.

The thought strikes him like a lightning bolt in his head. Suddenly, Patrick feels that he's made the biggest mistake of his life.

"Jonny," he says out loud, shaking. The elevator doors remain resolutely closed.

And then Patrick knows what he has to do.

---

"Jonny!" he shouts - nearly screams, to hell with all the neighbours and barking dogs - as he bursts through the door of the fire escape, where he's just run down five floors. "Jonny!"

And oh god, thank god, Jonny's there, halfway across the debris-strewn parking lot in front of the building, slowly turning towards him, his eyes widening.

"I do want you," Patrick cries, running towards him; he sees Jonny open his arms automatically to catch him, and he flings himself the last few steps bodily into Jonny, slamming into him with a force that knocks the breath out of his lungs.

"I love you," he says, clutching at him. Greedy for this, the feel of being in Jonny's arms. "I do want you. I do want to try. But I - I'm so afraid. Not for me - for you."

"There's nothing to be afraid of," Jonny says, and his voice is shaking just as much as Patrick is. "I promise you. Whatever happens - we can get through it together. I'm proud of you. I'm proud to have you. And no one's going to destroy that."

Patrick can't speak. All he can do is press his face into Jonny's neck and try to remember how to breathe.

"Come home," Jonny says quietly. He squeezes Patrick's waist, a warm reassuring touch, and it makes Patrick feel like - like he's already home.

"Okay," he says out loud, and breathes Jonny in.

He is home.