The boys rush into the locker room after a rough practice and immediately start peeling off their tarps and gear. “Oh my GOD!” Mitch announces, and Willy chuckles. Before he can open his mouth to ask what’s up, Mitch rambles on.
“He’s fucking INCREDIBLE!” He yells.
“Who?” Mango asks, sitting in his stall.
“Auston.” Mitch drags out his name, sounding wistful. “He’s awesome.”
“Yeah, he’s a good player.”
“No, Mango, not just that. He’s beautiful, and smart, and funny, and sweet, and just so amazing.”
“You like him?” Johnny asks. Kappy throws his head back and laughs, cut off when Willy throws his jersey at him, hitting him in the face. He rips it off and throws it back at him, the two sharing a smile.
“He loves him,” Kappy drawls.
Mitch shoots him a look, and a finger, but nods solemnly. “Yeah, I like him. A lot.”
“Just, talk to him?” John asks.
Mitch shakes his head, sitting down to untie his skates. “He’s my best friend-“
“Hey!” Willy and Kappy both protest at the same time.
“Oh shut up, you two have each other. He’s my best friend and he means the world to me. If I were to tell him, and he doesn’t feel the same way, I would’ve just lost my best friend. And I don’t want that. I care about him too much. I’d rather swallow the feelings than lose Aus.”
The locker room goes silent, and Mitch looks at his buddies wide-eyed. “Guys?” Willy gulps, staring over Mitch’s shoulder. Mitch turns to meet his gaze. His eyes widen at the sight of Auston, and the look in his eyes show that he heard everything. Mitch is frozen in fear for a few seconds, then the whole situation hits him like a brick wall.
Auston heard everything. Mitch throws down his towel and runs around Auston and out the door he came through. The locker room is silent after Mitch leaves, everyone looking at anything other than Auston. He doesn’t move from his position.
“Willy,” he croaks. Will looks up to meet his eyes, and simply nods. Auston swallows and quickly unlaced his skates. He slips on his slides and dashed out the door he cane through, racking his brain for where his best friend could be.
He first goes to the showers, the closest door to the locker room. He puts his ear to the door and hears nothing, but steps in just to make sure. With no sign of Mitch, he makes his way down halls, peeking in each one.
He finally finds him in the workout room. The lights are shut and it’s pitch black, but when Auston opens the door he hears soft sobs and sees the outline of a figure crumpled on the floor next to a workout bicycle. Auston sighs and makes his way towards Mitch without turning the lights on, even though after the door closes he’s left in complete darkness.
“Mitch,” Auston starts, unsure of how he should continue. He doesn’t respond, and Auston takes this as Mitch telling him he doesn’t want to talk yet. Auston doesn’t hesitate before shifting closer to him, though, and putting an arm tight around his shoulders. He holds him as sobs rack his body.
Mitch sniffles and lifts his head out from between his knees, refusing to look at Auston. “You heard everything?” He whispers.
Auston hums affirmatively, his voice much louder. “And-“
“Wait, just, let me talk, okay?”
Auston nods and removes his arm from around Mitch’s shoulders. He immediately misses the warmth from his arm, but takes a breath. “So, I wasn’t lying. Everything you heard was true. I think you’re kind and sweet and funny and caring and beautiful,” his voice catches. “But just because I feel that way, I don’t expect anything to change. I know you don’t have any feelings for me, and that’s totally fine. I don’t expect you to say you feel the same, because I know you don’t, but I think I’m maybe in love with you and I’m really sorry, Auston.”
Tears start to fall down Mitch’s cheeks, and when Auston grabs his knees and turns Mitch to face him, their eyes adjusted to the dark, he sees that his eyes have spilled over too. Mitch gulps, waiting to hear Austons response. “Um, so I think you already know what I’m going to say, Mitchy.”
Mitch looks up, his tears threatening to fall harder. “Mitch, hey, look at me, please?” Auston begs, his voice cracking. “I love you, so much. You don’t have to be sorry about anything, okay? You’re my best friend too, and I would never drop you over something like this. You can’t control your feelings, bro.” Auston take Mitch’s hands in his own, holding them between each other. “You won’t lose me, Mitchy. I swear, I would kill for you. You won’t lose me.”
Now the tears are falling hard, but neither are making any effort to wipe them away.
“I’m so sorry, Auston,”
“I told you, there’s nothing to be sorry for. You can’t really control that. It’ll be okay, Marns, I promise.” Auston pulls him into his arms and they hold each other in the dark, way after everyone has changed and driven home.
After their eyes have dried, the two pick themselves up off the hardwood floor, change in the empty locker room, and Mitch drives Auston home as usual. They don’t speak the entire time, both mulling over the conversation in their heads. When they arrive outside Austons apartment building, Mitch puts the car into park and only glances at his best friend.
Auston gathers his things and reaches into the back seat to grab his hockey bag. “I swear to God, Mitch, you won’t lose me,” he says, standing outside the car. Mitch only nods, patting the steering wheel. “Call me tomorrow,” Auston reminds him, and Mitch drives away after Auston goes into his building and the door shuts behind him.