"OK" John takes a breath before knocking on the door to Mitchs hotel room.
"JT," Mitch grins nervously, stepping aside to let him in. "Thanks."
"Anything," John says, and then winces for how honest it sounds when it comes out.
"Just…" Mitch waves his hand at the spare bed in the hotel room, "Take a seat."
"Sure." John can't fight the nervousness, "Just… What's this about?"
Mitch groans "Give me a moment JT," he groans throwing himself back on his bed, staring up at the ceiling, arm thrown across his eyes.
John takes a moment to gaze at the strip of skin where Mitchs t-shirt has risen up from the edge of his sweats. OK, maybe he takes more than a moment because when he drags his eyes back up to Mitch's face Mitch is staring at him with one open eye. John flushes, its not the first time Mitch has caught him staring.
"The boys say you have a thing for me." Mitch says with a sigh, "And like, I find it really hard to believe," he turns his attention back to the ceiling, "but I'm beginning to think it might be true."
John thinks he might not like the answer but he still asks anyway, "Why is it so hard to believe?"
Mitch groans again and rolls over onto his side, facing John, head propped up on one hand, "You've met you right? You've met me? You're John freakin Tavares and I'm…" he gestures down at himself "Just a gawky kid."
"Mitch," John sighs, "You're not a gawky kid, you're funny, and so fucking cute and you've gotta know by now I'd do anything for you." it's embarrassing to admit, but he'd embarrass himself a thousand times over if it made Mitch feel a little bit better about himself.
"Yeah," Mitch blushes a little, "I'm beginning to see that."
"I'm sorry," John scrubs at his face with his hands, "It's unprofessional, and I'll get over you I just need…"
"No." to his surprise, Mitch cuts him off, "That's not…"
John could swear his heart stops. “Do you…” he can’t bring himself to look at Mitch, and he understands why Mitch is staring at the ceiling to have this conversation, “Do you want me to crush on you?”
Mitch nods enthusiastically, and then winces, “Sorry.”
“Why are you sorry?” John asks, and then before Mitch can answer he realises, “Because you don’t feel the same way…” he trails off despondently.
“It’s not that!” Mitch is quick to protest, sitting up on the bed and reaching out for John’s hands, “I just…”
John winces, “If you don’t like me Mitch, I can take that, you just need to tell me.”
“I do!” Mitch protests, “It’s just I’m not sure…” he sighs, and flushes a little, “Fuck, this is so embarassing.”
John just raises an eyebrow at him, “You’re embarrassed?” He teases gently, “Because remember who the one in this room with an enormous crush is.”
Mitch flashes him a grin, and John bringing the embarrassment back around on himself seems to have done the trick, because Mitch opens up a little, “You know, I have like… issues right?”
John’s a little confused, and he expects it probably shows on his face, “We’re hockey players Mitchy, “None of us are emotionally healthy.” He sits down on the bed beside Mitchy, waiting for him to explain.
“Like, specific issues…” Mitch is blushing heavily now, “Like,” he lowers his voice like he doesn’t even want to admit what he’s about to say, “Daddy issues kind of issues.”
“Ah,” John can feel himself beginning to colour now.
“Look,” Mitch sighs again, “I know it’s no secret that my Dad has always been pretty hard on me, and you know what coaches are like in juniors, plus all that shit with babcock.”
John nods, he gets that, he’s met Paul Marner, he knows exactly what kind of a man he is, and exactly how hard he pushes his son.
“I just…” Mitch looks up at John through his eyelashes, probably completely unaware of what that precise look does to John, “I don’t know if I like you because I actually like you, or if I like you because…”
“Because I’m an older man who’s actually being nice to you?” John offers up.
Mitch wrinkles his nose up, and nods, and John has to fight himself against reaching out to brush his hand across Mitch’s face because he’s just so fucking cute. Instead he tucks his hands under his thighs, forcing himself to behave. “I don’t want to take advantage of you Mitchy, that’s the last thing I want.” He says sincerely.
“It’s the other way around,” Mitch says earnestly, “I’m the one who’s taking advantage.” At John’s confused frown, he continues, “Look, I like the fact you like me, I don’t want you to get over me, I like all the attention you give me…” he bites his lip, “I just don’t know what I can give you in return, or if I’ll ever be in a place where I can work out what the fuck is going on my head where you’re concerned.”
John goes to speak, but it seems like Mitch is on a roll and he steamrolls right over him.
“Look, if you were anyone else in the world I’d say fuck it, and sleep with you anyway, and if it turned out to be just me and my stupid issues, then I’d break up with you.” He gives a careless shrug, “But you’re my Captain JT, you’re my liney, my centre, I can’t risk fucking up what we have already, I can’t risk screwing around with that just because I don’t know what it is that I really want from life.”
“Mitch,” John says softly, “It’s ok.” At Mitch’s wide eyes he adds, “Look, I’m not promising to wait around for you forever, that’s not good for either of us, but maybe we can work something out that doesn’t hurt us both in the long run.”
“Well,” John grins, “We’re talking about it like adults, that’s step one right?”
Mitch grins at him, free and easy for a second, “That seems like a pretty big step for me.”
“I’m guessing asking how long you think you want to think stuff over isn’t going to help.” John offers.
Mitch grimaces and nods, “I just, I don’t know Johnny. I’ve been thinking about it for months already and I’m still no clearer.”
“Maybe it’ll help,” John offers, “Me knowing, being able to talk stuff through with me.” He nudges Mitch’s shoulder softly with his own, “Look, just because I won’t wait forever, doesn’t mean I won’t wait a while, and the world’s on pause at the moment anyway, so waiting doesn’t harm me.”
Mitch nods, and then leans his head softly against John’s shoulder, “Why are you so perfect?” he asks with a whine
John laughs, “I’m really not Mitchy,” he knocks their heads softly together, “Trust me on that one.”
“What would you want from me?” Mitch asks quietly, “While you were waiting…”
John frowns, “The whole point of it being me waiting, and not us decided anything is that you don’t owe me anything.” He shakes his head in despair, hating all the people that have gone before him in Mitch’s life.
“So,” Mitch’s blush brighten backs up, “You wouldn’t be expecting me to be celibate?”
John rolls his eyes, “You don’t owe me anything Mitchy.” He reinforces, even though he hates the idea of Mitch going to bed with anyone that isn’t him, he recognises that he doesn’t get to make that call.
“Cool,” Mitch nods, “Good, awesome.” He glances up at John with a little grin, “And what about us? Where are the lines there?”
“You don’t owe me Mitch.” John says, confused.
“No,” This time it’s Mitch bumping their shoulders together, “I mean, want if I want a cuddle or something.”
“Oh,” John flushes, “I mean, part of me says I’ll give you anything you want….” he offers up, and then adds reluctantly, “But that kind of defies the point of us not being in a relationship.”
Mitch hums in agreement.
“Nothing you wouldn’t do with Matts.” John says decisively, “That way we know it stays just buddies.” He doesn’t know if Matts and Mitch have ever slept together in the past, but Freddie is possessive enough that he’s pretty damn sure it isn’t happening now.
“Awesome,” Mitch grins, and then wraps both arms around John’s waist, resting his head on John’s chest, “Because I want cuddles.”
John wraps his arms around Mitch, “Anytime.” He promises sincerely, “I will always give you cuddles.”
“I will make a decision,” Mitch promises him, “Before next season.”
John runs a soft hand through Mitch’s hair, “I know Mitchy,” he says quietly, “I trust you.”
Mitch snuggles into John’s arms, “Will you stay tonight?” he asks.
John just raises an eyebrow at him.
Mitch shrugs, “Aus would.”
“I bet he would,” John says, stroking Mitch’s hair again, “But no, not because of anything to do with us, but just because even being here is breaking the rules enough.”
Mitch shoots him a flirty glance, “Will you think of me?” he asks, “Later, when you’re on your own.”
John chuckles, because he knows exactly what Mitch is alluding to, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to give him the satisfaction of admitting that of course he thinks about him when he jerks off. “I’m not sure there’s much time when I’m not thinking about you Mitchy.” he says instead.
“I’ll think of you.” Mitch gives him a filthy grin, “Help me make up my mind a little.”
John groans and buries his nose in Mitch’s hair, “You’re killing me Mitch.” He says with a laugh.
“Sorry.” Mitch laughs, sounding not sorry at all.
John just laughs soundlessly with him, and holds him that little bit tighter, because yes, he’ll have to go back to his room soon, but for now, he’s going to just enjoy being able to hold Mitch like this, not having to hide how he feels. It’s not the best outcome he could have hoped for, but it’s not the worst either, so for now, it feels like a win - or at least, they’re going to overtime on it, and he’ll get a point either way.