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Art by: maxbegone

 


David Rose: "I like the wine, not the label"
Former Junior Olympian 'comes out' as pansexual


O Captain, My Captain: Meet the Maple Leafs' newest leader, Patrick Brewer


Olympian Stevie Budd to Retire
Is coaching in her future? Sources say yes.


David Rose on the Hunt Again
Why can't the ice's golden boy keep a partner?


Maple Leafs captain, Patrick Brewer, officially retires due to injury



David Rose: Without a Partner Again?
Former partners describe working with him as "difficult"

BY: DARLENE SMITH

Between his impressive run on the Juvenile circuit, his performance at the first Youth Olympic Games in 2010, and the Olympic qualifiers in 2018, David Rose has made a name for himself as one of Canada's best figure skaters.

Though, as the son of Moira and Johnny Rose (the self-proclaimed queen of daytime and the patriarch of the Rose Video empire, respectively), it's unsurprising that he has a talent for garnering attention. Whether it's his athletic achievements, his eclectic style, gender-defying costumes, or his status as a queer icon, there's plenty to keep people talking.

You may recall him causing quite the stir when he arrived at the Sunrise Bay revival premiere with not one but two dates — fellow figure skater, Stevie Budd, who is now Rose's coach, and an unidentified male. His response regarding his sexuality ("I like the wine, not the label") was later seen at NYC Pride and on unofficial merchandise.

However, he's also made a name for himself for something less flattering:

He can't seem to keep a partner.

Since he hit the ice for the qualifiers in 2018, he has performed with over a dozen partners, all of whom had less-than-kind things to say about working with the star on the ice.

"Difficult to work with," is one of the most common complaints I received from former partners, along with "finicky," "perfectionist," and "impossible to please."

None of the skaters I spoke to were willing to associate these comments with their name.

His last partner, Sebastien Raine, is a different story, however. Sources say the two were involved romantically, and a personal fallout is what inevitably caused the split.

"I'd rather not comment on David's usual dramatics, but I think we're all used to them by now. He doesn't have a reputation for being pleasant to work with," Raine said when I reached him directly. "I only hope he transcends from the rigid prison he's created for himself."

Raine has already found a new partner, Klair Ward, with whom he is slated to compete.

David Rose himself declined to comment (via his sister-slash-publicist), but with the deadline to register approaching, it's unknown if he will be eligible for the upcoming National qualifier.

 


 

TRANSITION:
A movement (such as a crossover) that connects
one skating element (spin, jump, etc.) to the next

 


 

David tosses the tabloid onto the table with a flourish.

This is far (far) from the first time that David's name has appeared in a tabloid or internet article next to the words "difficult" or "finicky," nor is it the first time someone's published a story on him needing a new partner. However, it is the first time his boyfriend — ex-boyfriend — called him a drama queen in a prison (???) or whatever the fuck that was, so he's understandably a bit more upset about this particular article. So upset, he's about halfway through a Bordeaux (that isn't meant to be chugged, by the way), a neighborhood grocery store's attempt at a charcuterie plate (a.k.a., cheap cheese with salami wrapped around it)... and he can't stop thinking about going to the stand by Central Park to buy a soft pretzel (or three). 

"Honestly, who does this Darlene person think she is?" he asks, glaring at his wine glass as if it'd somehow grown hands and written the article itself. "I mean, it's not my fault that I know what looks correct!" He looks up at Stevie, but doesn't wait for an answer. "Bad posture is incorrect. Uneven strides are incorrect. Those disgusting, ten-year-old skates Karina wouldn't replace?"

Stevie sighs and says, "Incorrect," in unison with him. She's heard this rant before. "Mmhm, you've mentioned that once or twice."

“You know, and I would expect this from her, or Nicholas, or Yvanna." He cringes at the thought; those had been some of his worst "breakups," so David is pretty sure they're who he can thank for those flattering adjectives. He's only surprised that they didn't proudly attach their name to the jabs. "But Sebastien? All of this is his fault. None of this would be happening if he hadn't cheated on me for two months. None of it. Like, a 'personal fallout?' Is that what we're calling it now? What, like his dick just couldn't help but fall out of his pants?”

At that, Stevie snorts, covering it behind the rim of her wine glass. 

"It's not fucking funny, Stevie!"

“Did you hear what you just said? It's a little funny.” Stevie shoots him a look. When he doesn't react, she rolls her eyes and sets her glass onto the coffee table. “David," she says, voice a smidge softer. "It’s Sebastien Raine. He doesn't think he did anything wrong, and even if he did, he’d do anything to get his name circling — you know that.” 

David does know that, as well as Stevie knows him

She’s been his coach for the better part of the last decade, correcting his form and pushing his buttons long before she hung up her skates and became his official coach. (In her words, “I realized I liked yelling at people — mostly you — more than I liked a crowd of people watching me skate.”) Having Stevie as a coach means brutally honest critiques and very little emotional sincerity… However, having Stevie as a friend means having her unique (but bulletproof) brand of support. It means she shows up at his penthouse, armed with wine and cheese when an article smears his reputation. Since his split with Sebastien three weeks ago, that's been happening more frequently. They don't have any proof that Sebastien is the one pointing "journalists" in his direction, but... they don't have any evidence that he isn't either.

Still, no matter what becomes of David's reputation, nothing gets to Stevie; it never has. Whether it's his mess of a family, his nerves that function more like live wires or watching heartbreak after heartbreak, Stevie barely bats an eye. Hell, not even a brief fling or attempt at a throple was enough to destroy their relationship (professionally or personally), and that's more than he can say about literally anyone else. For the first time in his life, David is confident that his bond with someone is indestructible. And, if there is one thing David Rose lacks, it’s people willing to stick around.

The only other person consistently on that list is his sister, whose incessant (and ignored) text messages light up his phone screen, abandoned on the table beside the couch. 

“Fuck, transcend from my rigid prison — what does that even mean?” He flaps his hand in the direction of the paper, gesturing towards it while grinding his teeth. “Also, ‘I’d rather not comment, but...’ is still a comment.” He kicks the coffee table with the toe of his boot, forcing Stevie to lunge forward and rescue her now-wobbling wine glass from his tantrum. 

“I still don’t know why you let him get to you,” she says (for probably the millionth time since Sebastien sauntered into their lives), bringing her glass to her lips. “He’s a pretentious asshole, and he’s always treated you like shit.”

David rolls his eyes. “Okay, first of all,"—he holds up his index finger—"I don’t let him get to me, Stevie — he just does. Because I have these things called feelings. Ever heard of those?” He grabs his own wine glass from the side table and gives her a pointed look. “We can't all be creepy vampires who can switch their emotions on and off.”

“Hm." Stevie tilts her head. "Is someone binging The Vampire Diaries again?” she asks dryly.

David sniffs. “It’s getting me through this very difficult time.” Just publish another article about it. Olympic Stars: They're Just Like Us! Nothing makes David feel better about his life than terrible television shows that prove it absolutely could be worse. He could be surrounded by vampires, or Satanic witches, or... personal trainers. “You know, unlike my so-called best friend who is judging me in my hour of need.”

“To be clear," Stevie says, smirking. "I’m always judging you.”

“Mmkay, you can leave now — thanks so much.”

He doesn’t mean that, obviously, and she knows that, also obviously. When it comes down to it, she knows him better than anyone. Sometimes, it's actually more unsettling than it is comforting.  Still, the fact remains that she’s his longest-lasting relationship and possibly his only real friend. Like, ever. 

Yes, it’s sad. Yes, he knows. You don’t need to tell him that. 

David's phone vibrates again, and, with a drawn-out sigh, he turns to pick it up. His wallpaper — a photo of him, Stevie, and Alexis at Rockefeller Center — stares at him until he swipes his thumb to unlock his phone; it's immediately replaced with a lengthy one-sided conversation thread. 

 

ALEXIS (6:55 PM):
Have u seen The Guardian?

ALEXIS (7:02 PM):
They didn't tell me what Sebastien was saying when I declined to comment

ALEXIS (7:04 PM):
OMG, don't tell me ur mad, David

ALEXIS (7:06 PM):
David! 
Don't be a dick

ALEXIS (7:10 PM):
whatever

 

David pops a piece of Manchego into his mouth and sits back in his chair, trying to come up with a single way to fight back from this. After all, if he doesn't register soon, he'll have to sit out the remainder of the season. If he doesn't place at Nationals, he won't appear at Internationals, and any hope to be selected to compete in the Olympics goes up in smoke for another four years... Fuck, if he doesn't turn this around and repair all of this damage to his credibility, his shot at competing even then might be already dead in the water. He sighs and types a quick reply.

 

DAVID (7:12 PM):
ok, chill. I'm not mad at you. Just with stevie.

 

Stevie's voice breaks him out of his thoughts: “You never answered me earlier. About Brewer?”

Brewer. Right. Apparently, she thinks now is the time to discuss what is, perhaps, the worst suggestion she has ever made: partnering up with a hockey player.

“That's because I didn’t actually think you were serious,” he says.

“He’s a talented skater, David.”

Oh. So she is serious. Clearly, she's started experimenting with methamphetamines.

“Then why doesn’t he go back to competing with his violent stick game?”

Stevie rolls her eyes. “He can’t play hockey anymore because of a head injury or something.”

“So he thought, hey,”—David gesticulates wildly—“let me try figure skating? That looks like fun!”

“No.” Stevie pauses in the way she does when she knows something will set him off. “I found him myself.” 

David searches her face for some hint that she’s joking and he'd missed it the first time — some clue that she hasn't committed a betrayal heinous as asking a hockey player to dance with him — but he doesn’t find one. With a steel jaw, he leans forward and puts his glass down on the table.  

“Um,” he says, glaring. “What actual the fuck, Stevie?”

“Look,” she says, “I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, David, but your reputation is fucking shot — you need someone who doesn’t know about the runaway-partner drama, and I heard this guy was looking for a way to get back on the ice. Alexis and I thought it seemed kinda perfect.”

David's jaw drops. Et Tu, Alexis? His own flesh and blood?

"I'm sorry... Did you say Alexis had something to do with this?"

Stevie shrugs a shoulder. "You're the one who hired her as your,"—she puts on what David thinks is her best Alexis voice—"Publicist slash life coach slash slash."

It’s David’s turn to roll his eyes. He picks his phone back up. “Un-fucking-believable.”

 

DAVID (7:21 PM):
stevie just told me you're with her on this hockey player bs
now i'm mad at you.

ALEXIS (7:21 PM):
omg it's a good idea, david.
plus, he's a qt

DAVID (7:22 PM):
not my type.

 

ALEXIS (7:22 PM):
have you seen him??

DAVID (7:23 PM):
don't need to

 

“It’s this, or you don’t compete,” Stevie says, bluntly, “and, let’s be real, you’re not getting any younger —”

“—O-kay—”

“—and you only have so many rounds left—”

“—Oh my god, Stevie.” He cuts that off before it gets dark. “I get it.”

David chews on the inside of his cheek. Unfortunately, she has a point. He chose a career path with an expiration date, and that’s just a fact. Eventually, he won’t be eligible to compete anymore, and the thought of potentially never making it to Nationals (or even further) again because of Sebastien is an unbearable thought. Whatever Patrick Brewer is like to work with, he can’t be worse than that asshole. If nothing else, David won't have to find Patrick in bed with two other men, nor would he have to be upset if he did. 

Stevie must know she's won because she crosses her arms over her chest.

“So… Rehearsal starts tomorrow?" she asks. "I’ll tell him to be at the rink at seven sharp?”

David cringes. “Eight.”

“Seven-thirty,” Stevie smirks.

David throws his hands up. “You are a monster.”

“I take that as a compliment.” Stevie preens. “Especially coming from Skate-Zilla.”

“Oh my god, Stevie — a reporter used that one time.”

 


 

Just meet the hockey player, Stevie said; it won’t be so bad, Stevie said.

David pulls up to the rink with a cold feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach. On some level, he knows that this is his fault — contrary to popular belief, he isn't delusional (like his mother) or naive (like his father). He knows who he is. He knows nothing that's been said about him is fundamentally... well... incorrect. David is a perfectionist. He's not ashamed of that. He knows what's right and wrong, and he expects anyone who works with him to be equally devoted to the precision of their routine. After all, figure skating is about precision. It's about control. Even the way it's scored reflects the importance of every single step...

See, all of this started with David's crush on Michelle Kwan. 

The thing about being raised by people who display their affection with money, rather than quality time and attention, is that David and Alexis got to try on whatever hats they wanted. They had acting lessons, riding lessons, vocal coaches (that definitely didn’t stick), and all kinds of art classes (for David, those did). During his Michelle Kwan phase, he took up figure skating, and his parents — skilled in the art of bad decisions with good intentions — decided he should attend the classes for pairs. He'd always been a bit of a loner, and they figured it was a good way to get him out of his shell. The problem was that figure skating was not the activity to make anyone loosen up. If his parents wanted to encourage him to be less "particular" and more social, they should've pushed him towards an activity that didn't deduct points for pointing his toes in the wrong direction.

Regardless, he fell in love with the sport. From the choreography to the costumes, David was enthralled from the first day he’d stepped onto the ice. It was in those classes that he was seen by the right people (who his mother may or may not have put in the room), and, soon enough, it became his whole life. Now, his therapist would tell you that skating became a way for him to process his emotions, maintain control, and garner attention in a world where he felt neglected and alone... Whatever. He'll tell you he loves the way that it combines art with order and aesthetics. Choreography is creative, but it's precise. It's easy for him to lose himself in something like that.

Unfortunately, entering the world of competitive sports did eventually mean throwing himself into the same arena as toxic masculinity. It meant being in the same arena as men who think they’re superior to the figure skaters and gymnasts at the games. He’s gotten fed up with the attitude that they’re somehow less deserving or, like they’re less athletic in some way because they aren’t hitting balls with sticks or tackling each other into the dirt. Most people see the art, but not the athleticism. 

David’s had plenty of run-ins with (usually homophobic) assholes like that over the years, and he can feel himself already preparing to shoot this guy down. He can't imagine a world where a hockey-playing oaf can learn to be graceful on the ice. Don't they spend half the game, like, trying to knock each other over? Patrick can't play anymore because of a head injury. That tells David everything he needs to know.

But then Patrick Brewer walks into the arena and David… Hm.

Patrick is not what David expects to walk through those doors. When Stevie told him she was bringing a hockey player in as his new partner, he immediately started picturing a hulky man with greasy, overgrown hair and missing front teeth… however, not only is Patrick’s smile completely intact (and gorgeous), but he’s nothing like David pictured. Sure, he looks strong, obviously; he's muscular, but not in the same way as someone who threw him into lockers in high school. He’s shorter than David, even in skates, and way less stocky than he'd pictured. Patrick's entire, like, vibe completely lacks the asshole, sports-bro thing David was expecting. It helps, he thinks, that Patrick’s eyes are huge, like doe eyes; they're warm and the color of honey whiskey.

David makes a deliberate effort not to seem taken aback.

“Hi, I’m —”

David nods. “—Patrick, mmhm, Stevie told me you were coming.” He drops his hands to his hips. “I’m—”

“—David Rose, yeah,” Patrick regards him carefully as he steps onto the ice, then extends his hand, like a business major or something. Patrick is already wearing a pair of skates, clearly new and bought for the occasion (distinctly not hockey skates, though, thank god). “So, we’re going to be partners, huh?” he asks.

David makes a face as he very loosely shakes his hand. “Hmm, I don’t think I actually agreed to that yet, exactly?”

This surprises him, apparently. “I’m sorry?” He drops his hand.

“Yeah, did Stevie not tell you?” He tilts his head and looks over at his coach, who does not look even halfway amused. That doesn’t stop him. “This is actually an audition. So.” David gestures with both his hands as if to say, go ahead. 

Doe eyes blink at him. “Are you serious?” 

And there’s the cocky, don’t-you-know-who-I-am attitude David expects from a star hockey player.

David points to his face and moves his hand in a little circle. “Does this look like the face of someone that’s kidding?”

Patrick sucks in a little breath. “Okay,” he says, and — oh no — it’s hot. His cheeks tinge just a little, and his jaw clenches, so it flexes when he swallows. He skates backward a few paces with ease, at least, but then performs the sloppiest, choppiest spin David ever seen in his life — and he’s gotten drunk with Johnny Weir. 

Completely ignoring Patrick’s shit-eating grin, he turns to Stevie.

“You've got to be fucking kidding me,” he deadpans.

Stevie presses her lips together like she’s trying not to laugh. Of course, she's enjoying herself, the little gremlin. “Okay,” she says, “so he needs to work on his moves….”

Work on his moves?” David punctuates his words with broad hand gestures. “That would imply that he knows moves in the first place.” He turns to Patrick so fast; he almost makes his own head spin. “Have you ever done choreography?”

“I’m a quick study,” Patrick says.

It's an obnoxious response, full of misplaced confidence. This isn't going to work. How did Stevie ever think this was going to work? Instead of saying all of that, though, David simply snorts. “Yeah, I bet you are.”

Patrick's barely-there-brows pull together. “Hey, I’m doing you a favor here—”

And that's it; that's what completely sends David over the edge.

“—I'm sorry, doing me a favor?” David cuts him off before that gets any further. His voice is doing that shrill thing he's apparently well-known for, but he can replay the memory and hate himself for it later. Right now, he's pissed. “How about you do me a favor and take your little hockey bat and sh—”

“O-ookay!” Stevie half-yells, literally stomping her way between them. Her angry expression turns to David first and, somehow, that always makes him feel seen, down into his very soul — like Stevie is looking directly at the ugliest parts of him.

“David, he is your only shot at competing this year. Literally your only option.” She turns that look in the other direction, and he almost (almost) feels bad for the guy; Patrick isn't used to be threatened with the daggers behind Stevie's most impressive glare. “Patrick, this is your only shot at competing again at all. Literally, no one else on this planet is desperate enough to teach an NHL retiree how to dance on ice.” She folds her arms over her chest. “So, either suck it up now or quit.”

"Desperate enough?" David echoes. "I don't love the way you phrased that."

Stevie turns back to him. "Suck it up now," she repeats, "or quit."

David narrows his eyes. Patrick presses his lips together.

Neither says a word.

Stevie takes their silence as compliance.

“That’s what I thought,” she says, clapping her hands together. “Let’s start with some basic crossover drills — David? Go ahead.”

 

 

 

 

From Stick Handling to Pirouetting:
Former hockey captain to join David Rose on the ice

BY: KEN MANALO

Patrick Brewer, former captain of one of the highest-ranking teams in the NHL, is trading his stick and helmet for a leotard. Yep, you read that correctly — he will be joining David Rose at the National qualifiers for figure skating.

Previously, he was on track to lead his team — the Toronto Maple Leafs — to the Stanley Cup Finals. Those dreams were dashed after Brewer suffered a head injury on the ice last winter, which caused him partial Peripheral Vision Loss (PVL).

“Everybody wants to go out in a blaze of glory and retire on their own terms — but we play a dangerous game. Not many people get a chance to do that,” Brewer told reporters shortly after he announced his retirement. “I have no regrets. I played the game the best I knew how and I’m proud of what I did accomplish.”

To provide some context, peripheral vision — the ability to see things to the left or right of you without completely turning your head — is key in the game of hockey. It’s what allows players to focus on the puck’s movement and the movement of other players, scoreboards, and anything else that isn’t directly in front of them.

This same injury has forced dozens of hockey players into retirement, including Chris Pronger of the Philadelphia Flyers and former Boston Bruin, Johnny Boychuk.

“The ice is where I feel most at home,” Brewer told us. “I had an opportunity to learn something new and compete in a rink again — how could I say no?”

Brewer’s partner in this new endeavor, David Rose, is known for his no-nonsense tactics and perfectionism. He’s also known for being dropped by partners as a result.

Only time will tell if Brewer will be the match Rose has been looking for… and how far Patrick Brewer can take his new career.


Budd on coaching: "I'm happier."


Locker Room Talk: former NHL captain opens up about coming out


Sebastien Raine "not worried" about upcoming national qualifiers


Maple Leafs show support for "PBrew"

Instagram video shows teammates attempting twirls

 

 

 


 

COMBINATION
Two or more elements (jumps, spin positions) performed
in succession. See: jump combination, spin combination.

 


 

David’s morning is not going well. First, he’d overslept, which left him no choice but to rush through an abridged version of his morning skincare routine. Either that, or he'd have to sacrifice his morning visit to Starbucks for his coffee. If David had to choose between doing all nine steps and being caffeinated… Well, actually, it was a harder decision than you’d think, but still pretty obvious.

(Nobody wants to train with a decaffeinated Rose — trust him.)

Unfortunately, the morning did not improve from there. By the time he makes it to the arena, he’s spilled some of his caramel macchiato onto his favorite dark-wash jeans and his favorite high-tops. He’s listened to his mother's tirade about Gloria something on speakerphone while in traffic (and that’s its own, special circle of hell). Then, finally, he's nearly hit by a departing car in the near-empty parking lot. He's already looking forward to lunch when he steps inside.

With a deep breath, he surveys the floor; he and Stevie have been reserving time at the same arena for the last five years, and it's barely changed. There are three ice rinks in the building: a recreational ring where the general public can come and skate (it's especially popular for kids' parties), and two "rentable" spaces. Due to both his and Stevie's general dislike for people — especially screaming youths hopped up on ice cream cake — their regular slot begins at 8 AM and ends at eleven, Monday through Friday. He's back at his penthouse, taking an afternoon nap before the public takes over and makes the place unbearable.

Now, though, he apparently has Patrick to make the place unbearable.

They spend the first half-hour stretching, warming up, and practicing some basic glides. Within minutes, they find out that Patrick’s posture absolutely sucks. Apparently, a slouching troll pose is standard for hockey players (it’s literally called “hockey stance”), but it definitely has no place here. Just that first day, David closes the distance between them at least five times to pull his shoulders up. 

(“Fuck,” Stevie finally says, “What do we have to do? Balance a book on your head? David, go find a book.”)

They're trying to give Patrick some time to adjust to his new skates, which is all well and good, except the cocky bastard refuses to admit he's in over his head. He's so fucking eager to go further, trying to brush off some of the fundamentals because, as he insists, he "can do that in his sleep." Clearly, he's pretty used to being the best in the room... and it's really grating at David's (admittedly sensitive) nerves.

“Okay, so put your hand on David’s hip," Stevie says. "We’re going to take this slow.”

Behind David, Patrick sighs. “I think I can handle it,” he says. “This isn’t my first time on the ice.” 

“So you keep reminding us,” David snaps; at the same time, Stevie says, “But’s your first time in ice skates.” 

Patrick's eyes stay only on David. “I keep reminding you because you keep acting like I have no idea what I’m doing."

“Just… humor me, Patrick," she says, ignoring their spat. "It’ll take a minute.”

Patrick skates up behind him, and David tries not to feel the electricity crackling between their bodies. Patrick’s chest feels so warm against his back, it might as well be bare, and his hand feels like a brand against his side. But David ignores it. He ignores it so hard that, when they start skating, he ignores what Stevie said about taking it slow. Instead, David lengthens his stride and, as Patrick tries to keep up, he tips forward. Patrick immediately stops short and almost knocks David over on his way down to the cold, hard ice, just as David anticipated. Because he might not know the first thing about playing hockey, but he does know a lot about skates.

For instance, he knows that ice skates are very different from hockey skates, which Patrick is used to skating in. For one, figure skating blades are longer, and their edges are far more distinct (figure skaters use them to control their stride and balance, among other things). There’s also something called a toe-pick, which… is not a gross hygiene device: it’s a jagged, flat edge at the very top of the blade. It’s what dancers use to push themselves up for a jump and sometimes to stop. 

Now, here's the tricky part: there’s a different curvature to a hockey blade. It’s bent a bit, just a little flatter than the feet of a rocking chair. So, to gain momentum, hockey players lean forward and push their weight into their forward stride. In a dancer’s skate, however, that’s rocking right onto the toe-pick. Instead of speeding up, all momentum stops... like the yank of an emergency brake. David has seen recreational skaters switch between skates and make this mistake plenty over the years.

Patrick may have been one of the best skaters in the NHL — seriously, David looked him up and what he could understand among the numbers was impressive — but David knows this isn’t going to be a piece of cake… He needs Patrick to know it too. 

So, yeah, David enjoys watching him fall on his cocky little face.

He never claimed to be nice.

“David,” Stevie barks. “Come on. You couldn’t slow it down?”

“What? He said he could handle it.” David shrugs. “Whatever, I think this is a learning opportunity for all of us. Now he knows what a toe-pick is, and I know he can't handle full speed just yet.” Dropping his head, he looks at his new partner. “Welcome to real ice skating, Patrick. It’s not about macho-man force anymore. It’s about balance.” 

He skates away, leaving Stevie to help Patrick to his feet. 

This was her stupid idea, anyway. She can deal with him.

 

❄️❄️❄️

 

The following morning, David walks into the arena to find Patrick and Stevie practically giggling on benches. They're mirroring each other: Stevie on one bench, facing the ice, and Patrick sitting backward on the row beneath hers. Worse, the insufferable sports boy leans over to tell her something in earnest, and she starts laughing so hard a snort comes out of her nose. It's absolutely horrifying.

(The pair of them bonding, that is, not the snort.)

Overwhelmed by this betrayal, David clears his throat as he approaches. Neither of them bothers to even feign guilt.

"We're all just hanging out before practice, hm?" he asks, pushing his sunglasses onto the top of his head. "Is there a... text chain I'm not on, or something?"

Patrick flicks his gaze to Stevie, then back to David. "Well, it's not really before practice since we were supposed to start twenty-five minutes ago."

Stevie, on the other hand, boldly grins at him. "But, yes, there's a chain, and no, you're not on it." 

"You're kind," David deadpans. 

He sets his bag onto a nearby bench — decidedly not either of theirs — before plopping down to unlace his Rick Owens high-tops.

"We were just trying to decide if Patrick could handle some drills today," Stevie baits him casually. When David looks up, she's got her bottom lip between her teeth, and her eyes are like saucers.

He hums with faux intrigue. "Mm, really? And what did you decide?"

"Oh, I can handle them," Patrick replies, armed with a confidence that makes David almost wish his sport involved shouldering teammates into walls  — never before Patrick Brewer has he been envious of the rules of hockey. It's also, much to David's dismay, impossibly hot. How can something that makes him want to smack Patrick upside the head also really do something for him? One way or another, that arrogance is going to be the death of him.

Stevie looks positively gleeful, so he's not feeling particularly fond of her this morning, either.

She hops up. "See you on the ice, David."

As they head to the rink, David rips his sneakers off and laces his skates with perhaps a bit more force than necessary.

(If they end up a little too tight as a result, he's not telling anybody.)

After warming up, they move into the basics: one-foot spins, bunny hops, mazurkas... The standard beginners' tricks. Once Patrick gets used to the new shape of the blade and starts working to redistribute his weight properly, his spins and jumps improve... at least technically. He still does them with all the grace of a baby giraffe... Who happens to be drunk.

Not to mention, his edges, predictably, also need work…

“Four?” Patrick echoes, after being told ‘inside and outside’ are not the only edges on his new blades. “How are there four edges on these things?” According to David's Google search for 'figure skating vs. hockey skating' last night, Patrick is used to using his "edges" very differently, so this reaction isn't totally surprising.

“I’m not going to explain edging to you, Patrick. Do some research.”

David regrets it as soon as it leaves his mouth, mostly because of the way Stevie snorts but also because of the way Patrick’s cheeks flush ever-so-slightly. It’s absolutely adorable, and Patrick is not allowed to be adorable because he is a menace. He takes a deep breath. “And that is a thing that I just said… to you…”

“Don’t worry, David,” Patrick says, his innocent blush looking out of place alongside the smirk his lips curve into. “I know how to do my research.”

He punctuates that by skating away, and David exchanges a look with Stevie while wondering how the hell Patrick Brewer just made doing his research sound kinda sexy.

What the actual fuck?

 


 

The next few weeks continue like that. That is... pure torture.

Patrick is unbearably arrogant, claiming that he can do anything they throw at him — only to find that the exercise is completely different in ice skates, OR to execute the move perfectly and look at David with a smug little smirk that he's becoming increasingly desperate to kiss off Patrick’s mouth… but, like, not in an affectionate, “he likes him,” way, obviously. No, just in an angry, slamming-him-against-a-locker-and-pulling-Patrick’s-bottom-lip-between-his-teeth-to-shut-him-up… kind of way…

…Or maybe he kinda wants Patrick to slam him against a locker… See what those chiseled arms look like when they’re being used to pin David down…

“David," Stevie’s voice snaps him out of it. "Hello? You in there?”

“Yep, mmhm." He looks up, nodding like a bobblehead. "What?”

"I said: you better be back on the ice in ten minutes." She looks at him, arms folded over her chest and one eyebrow perfectly arched. “Where’d you go there, David?” 

David looks behind him as if he expects to find that he somehow, unknowingly moved since they called a thirty — he looks at his watch — shit, about twenty minutes ago.

“A beach in Bali,” he lies.

Stevie sees through him, as she almost always does, and takes the seat beside him.

“Fantasizing about Bali, huh?” she says, a knowing smirk on her lips. “Was Patrick there?”

“Stevie,” he hisses, once again looking around, this time a bit frantically, to make sure that Patrick isn’t in earshot. Is she trying to ruin his life? “No, because I hate him.”

She wiggles her brows. “Sometimes that’s even better.”

“Ugh,” David huffs and looks up at the ceiling. “I hate you too.”

“Hm, not your best counterargument, considering.”

He lowers his head to balk at her, mouth slightly open as he fights a smile. They don’t talk much about their little tryst a couple of years back, but… Whenever they do, it’s usually to make a point, exactly like this. David bites the inside of his cheek. “You’re a menace.”

“And you liii-ke him.” 

He bites down a little harder on his cheek while Stevie watches him for a moment, long enough to be uncomfortable.

“Fuck, Stevie, what?” David blurts.

“I like this for you,” she says.

“There’s nothing to like,” he says. David tries not to let his smile sneak into his voice. “He’s my partner. My skating partner. And he’s an arrogant troll.”

“I think you know that’s not true.”

David shoots her a look.

“Okay, the arrogant part isn’t true,” she amends. “Your last partner? That was arrogance. This is…” She sighs. “He’s trying. He’s re-learning how to do something he’s been doing his whole life. Give him a break.”

“Well, he needs to stop sassing me and try harder.”

“Then you need to stop antagonizing him and start helping him!” 

David glares. “Whose side are you on?”

“Yours, for some reason,” she says, rolling her eyes, "This can work, David — way better than the last couple assholes.” She gives him a nudge. "I like him. He doesn't put up with your shit, first of all, and he makes you work harder. So, as your coach, I am telling you to get your head out of your ass and start acting like a gold medalist if you actually want to be a gold medalist." 

David rolls that over in his head for a moment. “And as my friend?”

“As your friend, I say you get the fuck over yourself and tap that already.”

David snorts. “Oh, that’s classy.”

“What can I say? I’m a class act.” Stevie smirks, then looks down at her watch. “Okay, now you have eight minutes to get back on the ice. You might wanna actually eat something instead of fantasizing about your skating partner.”

As she’s walking away, he calls, “You’re the worst,” at her back; she holds a middle finger in the air. 

 

❄️❄️❄️

 

By the time David makes it back onto the ice, Stevie is walking Patrick through some basic warmups, but David breezes past them to do a couple of jogs around the rink by himself. Nothing clears his head better than that. There's something about the rhythmic sound of his skates against the ice that works like a metronome, coaxing everything to move in its time. David counts his strokes with his exhales and focuses on the slight burn in his thighs; he reaches above his head to feel the pull in his core, then stretches his arms out to the sides. He lifts his left foot off the ice, bends at his waist and raises his leg behind him to glide on only his right for a stretch. Balance. That's what the ice helps him find, both physically and literally. When the world goes quiet like that, it's easy for him to remember why he's here. 

David realizes, as he returns to the center of the rink, that Patrick has been watching him. Blood runs to his face.

"What?" he asks, self-consciously shifting his weight between his feet.

Patrick smiles. "Nothing," he replies, scratching the back of his neck. “You, uh, gonna trip me this time?”

David tucks his lips into the corner of his mouth. “I have no idea what you’re talking about."

“Okay, let’s warm up with some speed skating,” Stevie barks. “Back and forth — you know how this goes. Whoever completes the most dashes in sixty seconds wins.”

David looks at her. “What do we get if we win?”

“You might actually impress me, that’s what.”

Patrick is wearing what David has learned is his game-face, like that’s an actual incentive, and David rolls his eyes.

"You were the teacher's pet in school, weren't you?"

"Brought 'em a card every year for National Teacher's Day," Patrick replies, entirely too proud about being a nerd.

Despite the innocence of that admission, he takes off like a shot when Stevie blows her obnoxious little whistle, before David has time to blink. He actually has to work to catch up, but once he does, they go neck-and-neck for a few rounds, exchanging the occasional glance. Patrick turns his entire face to him, and it gives David a clear view of his competitive smirk. It only makes him push harder. Because skating like this is different than what he was doing just a few minutes ago. Instead of grounding himself, he's flying. It’s exhilarating, actually — the most exciting skating has felt in a while — especially when he looks to his left and meets those warm brown eyes. 

David blames those eyes for the falter that nearly trips him, and allows Patrick to round the last corner. He wins by a hair, then turns to David and performs what is probably supposed to be a wink. Fuck. He's never going to live this down, is he?

“Better luck next time, David."

He scowls. “Next time, there should be a better incentive.”

Nonplussed, Patrick shrugs. "I’m sure we can come up with something else that's motivating enough for you."

Something in David’s stomach drops. And then sets itself on fire. From the sidelines, Stevie looks at him with a pleased expression and a thumbs up — eyes wide and round.

Maybe, just maybe, she's onto something...

... About their partnership.

Just their partnership.

 

❄️❄️❄️

 

When David finishes his cool-down lap a couple of hours later, he notices that Patrick doesn't seem to be wrapping up at all, despite the fact that Stevie called practice five minutes ago. Quite the opposite, he's still in the center of the ice and skating backward — away from the exit rather than toward it. So, David stops at the gate.

"You know someone else has the rink in fifteen minutes, right?" he asks.

Whatever Patrick mumbles in response, it doesn't sound like an affirmative. David isn't even sure it's directed at him, actually, because Patrick's gaze certainly isn't; his eyes don't turn away from his feet.

"Are you... okay?" David forces the words and drops his hands to his hips.

“Yeah," Patrick replies, more clearly this time. He looks up for a split second. "I'm just..." He huffs, looks down again as he swivels his left foot behind him. "This is ridiculous. I know how to do this.”

David sighs, turning to watch Stevie ascend the bleacher stairs to the exit. She wasn’t kidding about the ‘hard stop at eleven.’ 

Stop antagonizing him and start helping him. 

Fuck, he hates it when she's right.

He pushes off the wall. “Mmkay, you know how to crossover on hockey blades,” he says, “it’s not the same.” 

David skates to stand in front of him, then demonstrates crossing one of his legs behind the other. Patrick follows, except: David swivels his other blade around to switch, while Patrick shifts his weight and actually lifts his foot. This would work (does work, for hockey players), but his blades clank against each other, and Patrick nearly falls on his ass. 

Frankly, the frustrated sound he makes is entirely too endearing, and David’s answering chuckle is, surprisingly, not at his expense. 

“There’s the difference,” he explains. “Our blades are longer, so you need to keep your crossing foot on the ice. Don't lift it.” He guides Patrick through another cross. “See, it’s not a hop. It’s a scissor motion. You need to — Mmhm, yep, like that.” 

Patrick makes a noise of understanding as he follows David's movement. “So, kinda more like a c-cut, almost.”

“Umm, sure.”

Patrick’s lips curve into a smile. He tries the crossover again, and it’s a little wobbly, but it’s much better — thank god for whatever a c-cut is. Maybe David should look up a hockey glossary or something if referencing different moves is going to help… David sighs. He’s actually considering a sports glossary. This is so much work.

“You’re getting there,” he tells him. “That’s enough for today, okay? C’mon. Get some rest. We’ll perfect it tomorrow.”

(When they exit the rink, take off their skates, and walk out together, it’s just because they’re literally leaving at the same time — that’s it. They're not actually, like... walking out together.)

But, before Patrick turns to walk out to his car, he smiles at David, and it feels different.

“Goodnight, David.”

David smiles back, a little easier this time. “Goodnight, Patrick.”

 


 

David walks into the arena, coffee in hand, desperately missing the off-season days where he could sleep in. Early morning practices are his least favorite part of his job and to blame for his coffee addiction. David always strolls in with his third cup of the day, and it’s still not enough caffeine to make him a morning person. 

Patrick, on the other hand, has never complained about their hours — and, this morning, he’s already on the ice and practicing his spirals when David walks in. So he takes a moment to watch… purely for instructional purposes, of course. He watches Patrick turn, admiring — professionally — the clean line from his fingertips, to his hips, to his raised leg. He’s still a little tilted, but his form has improved, even since yesterday. The one main mistake is…

“Head up,” David says, suddenly. “Don’t look at the ice.”

Patrick looks up and grins at him, which is impossibly adorable, and David watches (professionally) as he slowly, slowly lowers his leg and digs his toe-pick into the ice.

“How long have you been here?” David asks, setting his bag down on the bench.

“Since five,” Patrick replies, gliding to the edge of the ice.

He says it like it’s nothing — like it’s perfectly normal for him to show up three hours early and practice alone in a cold, empty ice rink. David’s surprise must show on his face because Patrick’s smile softens, and he lets out an airy chuckle.

“You might find this hard to believe,” he says, “but… I’m really trying here, David.” He folds his arms over his chest. “This is important to me, too.”

David swallows a lump in his throat. “I’m… starting to piece that together, yeah.”

“I worked my entire life to get to the NHL." Patrick shakes his head. "Do you have any idea what it was like to wake up and have a doctor tell me I can never play again? It was the worst day of my life, David.”

Patrick’s voice wavers when he says his name, and it makes David’s heart flip. So he tries to ignore that and imagine what it must’ve been like for Patrick. What would David do if he suddenly couldn’t dance anymore? The thought literally makes him shudder.

“That… yeah, that must’ve been really hard,” he says lamely.

“This is my one shot at getting back on the ice,” Patrick continues. “If, after all of this, I get to skate at the Olympics, even if it’s not playing hockey, it’ll… all be worth it, you know?” (David doesn’t know.) “I can’t have just wasted half my life on something else.”

“Something else?” David slowly lowers himself down onto the bench.

“I’m gay,” he says, shoving his hands in his pockets. “And I spent over half my life trying to fit into this box everyone told me I belonged in. I dated my best friend for fifteen years, on and off, but it never felt right with her.” 

Patrick blows out a breath as David holds his. 

“I broke it off for the last time a couple of months ago — we were engaged, but I ended it — and I had no idea what I was gonna do with the rest of my life… I’d lost my career, my best friend… but then Stevie found me.” He shrugs. “I met you, and…”

David breathes out. “And?”

“And it finally feels right. Skating like this. With you.” Patrick smiles shyly. “For the first time, I feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I mean, I loved the game — I really did, still do — but there… hm. It was almost tainted, you know? Because there was this part of me that I was always hiding. But now I’m… free.” As soon as he says it, he makes a face and lets out a nervous laugh. “That sounds stupid.”

“It doesn’t sound stupid.” 

Patrick’s whiskey eyes are so, so loud — almost as loud as the silence that falls — and David knows he’s wading into dangerous territory. He can get addicted to the feeling of being looked at like that. His stomach swoops. His lips twitch, and he tucks them off to the side for safe-keeping (as if that can hide how desperately he wants to smile). Patrick looks at him like it’s Christmas morning, and David’s just handed him a puppy. There’s gratefulness in his gaze, a warmth… God, and a softness he’s not used to at all.

He thinks about the day Patrick walked onto the ice for the first time. He was so eager, and David was such a dick to him… How did misjudge him so, so badly? David isn’t wrong often, especially when it comes to character. Because he’d like to say that he was surprised by Sebastian’s actions (or Paula’s, or Javier’s or Crystal’s or…) but, the truth is, they did exactly what he expected, and he was drawn to them anyway. 

He’d say “like a moth to a flame,” but the thought of comparing himself to the earth’s foulest creature is too much self-deprecation, even for David.

Maybe he thinks he deserves to be treated that way, or maybe it’s a twisted act of self-preservation that blows up every time. He goes into everything knowing it’ll disappoint him, and it’s much less risky than actually pursuing something that gives him hope. 

Patrick is hope personified. David sees that now. 

And it’s dangerous.

 “I just want to get it right,” Patrick says suddenly, breaking David’s train of thought. 

Fuck. Okay. This is where he makes up for being such a tool.

“You will,” he says, standing up and approaching the half-wall between himself and Patrick — and, oh fuck, if that isn’t a goddamn metaphor. He sets that aside to put his hands on Patrick’s forearms instead. “You’re amazing on the ice. It’s just… an adjustment and some new tricks. You can do this.”

Patrick smirks. “You didn’t think so when we first met.”

David winces. He deserves that. “Yeah, I was… I was angry about a lot of things, and you were the one I could yell at… but that wasn’t fair to you.”

Patrick surprises him (for the millionth time before noon) and shrugs. “I dunno,” he says. “I think it lit a fire in me. Made me want to prove you wrong.”

“In that case…” David smirks. “You’re an abhorrent skater.”

Patrick smiles. “Thank you, David.”

This time, the silence is warm. It wraps around him like a blanket, welcoming him home.

“Come on,” he says after clearing his throat. “Let me show you everything you were doing wrong a minute ago.”

 


 

Months pass.

Over time, Patrick proves he was right: he is a quick study. All he needed to do, apparently, was unlearn the hockey techniques that were standing in his way. Once he replaces those habits, things get easier, and he's able to nail down the basics. They start teaching him actual choreography.  

Actually, the three of them turn out to be a great team. Stevie and Patrick have nearly identical senses of humor, which means David gets ganged up on more often than not… and he pretends to be bothered by it, curses their “unbalanced social dynamic,” but it’s at least 87 percent for show. They light fires for each other — not just to push each other’s buttons but to keep each other warm.

They even start to carpool, like suburban moms or something.

On the way home, they often stop at a little cafe near the rink, where they end up with a “usual” booth and “usual” orders. Not to mention, one of the waitresses — an eclectic woman named Twyla — ends up with this cute little back-and-forth with Stevie, so David finally has something to needle her about when she gets on him about Patrick. 

Because, oh, does she get on him about Patrick.

Okay, and David can’t pretend they’re not dancing around… something. Literally dancing around it, actually, because so much comes out on the ice. It’s in brief brushes of their hands and Patrick’s strong grip on his waist. It’s in lingering glances when they circle each other, or smiles across the rink… It’s in the very air between them, like sparkling embers, just waiting for someone to drop a match and start a fire.

Stevie needles him constantly, telling him to stop being such an idiot, but…

David thinks he’s actually being smart, for once?

Jumping into bed with anyone who shows him the slightest interest and attention? That’s the old David. The New David is smarter. More mature. He takes his job seriously, and he doesn’t risk the best partnership he’s ever had just because they’re attracted to each other. Not when he actually believes he — they — have a shot at really making it for the first time in a long time.

He won’t take that away from them.

Because if he gives in, their partnership will tank just like every one of his relationships before. He’ll push Patrick away by being too needy, too clingy, too much. He’ll become unbearable to be around, working together will become impossible, and it’ll all slip from their hands.

David won’t be something else — someone else — Patrick wastes his time with. He won’t be the reason Patrick loses his shot to make everything he’s done to get here worth something. He’s getting them that fucking medal.

 


 

“David?” Twyla says cheerily. “Is it pancakes or waffles today?”

It's such a simple question... or it should be. It should be a nice question, even — something that makes David feel at home because Twyla knows him (or, at least, she knows his food preferences). It's not simple, though, not for David, because David has this… thing.

He's never verbally acknowledged it, but he has this recurring thing with food, in that he goes through periods where he doesn’t want any.

It’s always been there, he thinks. Or, at the very least, it’s been around for as long as he's been skating professionally. Because here's the thing they don't tell you about tight spandex costumes: they don’t hide shit. Sure, they can sometimes help push everything down, like Spanx, but, most of the time, they cling to (and highlight) every pouch, bump, dimple, and imperfection. 

As a general rule, David Rose struggles with imperfection.

Not to mention, since they started allowing same-sex pairs in the last eight years or so, the possibility (read: concern) that David wouldn't always be the only one doing the lifting — that he's someone who could be lifted — has lived rent-free in his head, banging pots and pans together in the middle of the night. It makes for much more balanced routines, yeah, but… it's another reason to pay close attention to his physical weight.

Sebastian, specifically, hadn't helped with backhand compliments like, “You’re looking healthy,” or “It’s very bold of you to wear that. You’re so brave.” David's other partners simply didn't look closely enough see it, or they ignored whatever they did see.

Anyway, now, David, Patrick, and Stevie have fallen into a routine with their visits to the cafe, and it's usually fine... but, today, David had tried on a costume for Nationals and it turned into a whole Thing between himself and the mirror, so... Being here, where the plates piled high and the smell of grease is everywhere, his stomach churns in a very confusing combination of both want and disgust. He shifts uncomfortably in his seat while Twyla waits for him to answer her should-be-simple-but-is-actually-earth-shattering question.

“Um," he says, "I’ll actually just have a scrambled egg and a side of bacon.”

He hands her the menu he'd barely looked at, and she leaves to give their orders to the kitchen.

One look across the table, and he knows Stevie noticed. Unlike his former partners, his coach has become particularly attuned to these low swings. But, because she’s just as allergic to feelings as David is (maybe even more so), she chooses to nudge him wordlessly. If she senses an episode, she'll casually bring fruit to the arena every day. She’ll drop it into his lap on breaks, make him take breaks in the first place, and generally keep an eye on him without saying a single word about it. Right now, for example, she lightly taps his leg under the table with her foot, as if to say 'I see you.'

Here's the thing: it's not just Stevie anymore.

Patrick, too, raises a brow immediately. “You feeling okay?”

David’s eyes dart to Stevie, who looks at him with her staple, ‘Go ahead, deny it,’ expression.

He sighs. “Yeah, um, I’m just… not super hungry.”

One of the things that sets Patrick apart as a partner is that he’s intuitive. Like, he’s scarily intuitive. He reads David like a book that he just can’t put down, and he listens. Patrick makes fun of him constantly, and David pokes fun right back, but it never feels like it's at David's expense. He's learned how to determine if he can tease David about something, or if it's the kind of thing he doesn't want to joke about... and something in David's voice must give him away because Patrick just nudges him and says:

“What, I didn’t work you hard enough to get the appetite going today?”

He's joking with him, instead of pressing on David's lame excuse. Because Patrick knows when it's time to pry, and time to tease.

So, David happily takes the bait. “I’m sorry," he says, "Who is working who now?”

“I think I’m actually working both of you,” Stevie says behind her coffee cup.

They laugh, the subject drops, and David breathes a sigh of relief.

 

❄️❄️❄️

 

However, when Patrick pulls up to David’s building later that afternoon, it comes up again. Sort of.

“I’ll see you in the morning?” David asks, lifting his bag off the floor and dropping it onto his lap. It's what he always does now, though he knows the answer will always be, verbatim: “See you in the morning, David.”  (It’s just, like… a bit they do, or whatever.)

So he starts for the door, but Patrick’s hand stops him, falling to David’s grip on the strap of his duffle. When he looks up, Patrick’s warm eyes are soft but intent on his. The intimacy of it sends a little shiver down David’s spine.

“Hey,” Patrick says, “You know you can talk to me, right?”

David blinks, and it’s almost a relief to break eye contact. The only noise he can manage is a hum of agreement.

“I mean it, David. About anything,” Patrick presses, squeezing his hand. “You don’t have to, but I just want to make sure you know that you… you can if you want to.”

David wracks his brain, trying to think of another time anyone has said anything even remotely like that to him. Stevie, he guesses, tells him in her own way, but hearing the words out loud — hearing them from Patrick — makes his eyes water just a bit.

“Um.” He swallows the lump in his throat. “Thank you, um. For saying that.”

Patrick smiles softly. “I mean it.”

“I know you do.” His voice is soft, but David surprises himself with the level of conviction behind the words anyway. 

The hand holding his squeezes again, then releases him. Before he does something super fucking embarrassing — like cry (or kiss him, or kiss him while crying) — David reaches for the door, but he only puts one foot out before something occurs to him. He turns around.

“You know that… You can talk to me too, you know.” He clears his throat. “If that’s ever something… you want to do. I mean, I’m hardly an expert on, like, nearly any human emotion, and I might give you horrible advice, but… you can.”

Patrick smiles an upside-down sort of smile. “I know.”

David physically shakes the emotion off his shoulders. Clears his throat. Steps out of the car. But, before he goes, he says into the open window: 

“See you in the morning?”

He’s already turned around by the time he hears it.

“See you in the morning, David.”

 


 

CHEATED
A jump that was not fully rotated in midair, with either the first
rotation starting on the ice or the final rotation finishing after the landing

 


 

David plops onto the bench nearest to the rink exit, heavily and with a dramatic sigh. "I can't wait to get back to my bed."

A warm laugh comes from just above his head. "No cafe today?" Patrick asks, lowering himself onto the same bench with approximately 90% less drama. His question, of course, is more than it seems, now that Patrick seems to have figured him out. David thinks it's his way of checking in, and it's charming.

"I could go for some pancakes first," he says, hoping Patrick knows it translates to I'm okay, thank you for asking.

Patrick's answering smile is radiant. "Okay, we'll get you some pancakes first."

It's just the two of them today; Stevie had to fly back to Ontario for a funeral that she's only attending because of — and he quotes — "obligation and free beer." Carl was apparently her cousin's husband's... something or another. (David stopped listening at a point because the podunk connection got too complicated.) Anyway, they weren't close, so she insisted David say home and rehearse, thank god.

There's a comfortable silence while David tugs at his laces until, apropos of nothing, Patrick bumps his shoulder against his.

“I’m really glad I decided to be your partner, David.”

It's such a simple thing, but it might also be the nicest simple thing anyone has ever said to him. Frankly, he doesn't think anyone's been happy with the decision to work with him before (and he has a string of disappeared partners to support that). Not just that, but this declaration feels like it's more than that, in the same way, his question about the cafe wasn't just about lunch. It feels like Patrick is saying, I'm glad to know you, David. And that's something he's definitely never heard before.

David pulls his lips into his mouth, poorly disguising his smile. “Um," he manages. "Where did that come from?”

“Just thinking,” Patrick replies, shrugging. “I feel like I’m getting the hang of this. Made me think about how glad I am that I’m here.”

David blinks a few times and smiles down at his feet; as much as he’d like to try and act aloof about this, he can't turn his face off.

“Well, thank you,” he says, looking back up at Patrick. “That is… a very nice thing for you to say." He takes a breath. "And you are. Getting the hang of it.”

There’s this gross moment where they just smile at each other for a split second, but then Patrick raises a scarce brow. “And thank you, Patrick," he says, poorly impersonating David, "because you’re half the reason our routine is as good as it is now.”

“Mm.” David grins. “A bold claim.”

At this point, their faces are absolutely closer than they need to be; David doesn’t even realize it until right then, as Patrick’s warm, adoring gaze drops down to his lips. God, and this is always David’s favorite part. It’s that pause right before a first kiss, where the air feels electric and anticipation flutters in his chest — but it’s never been quite like this. His first kisses are usually just a precursor to more; clothes are typically flying off by now. That’s not what this is, though, and he feels the difference in his bones. 

This is different. Patrick is different. So David leans in…

…And a door slams at the top of the bleachers.

Naturally, David jumps halfway out of his skin and pulls back to look for the source of the sound, but the moment between them is broken. The charge fizzles when all of the reasons they absolutely cannot be doing this come rushing back, like a cold splash of water to the face. The competition. The routine. The Olympics. Their partnership. Everything he can't stand to lose depends on what he does next. So, naturally, David does what he does best. He runs.

Not literally — David doesn’t do cardio — but it’s pretty damn close.

He blurts, “Okay, well, see you tomorrow,” hops up, and power-walks to the door on the lower level like an 80s soccer mom on her morning walk. 

 

❄️❄️❄️

 

It's not for another few hours that he remembers to return for his skates — leaving skates out for anyone to take or trip over is incorrect — but there’s another pair in the rink when he arrives. 

Initially, he plans to just walk there anyway; he can pick up his skates and be out the door again in five seconds. They might not even notice, as focused as they are on their routine. But then he sees who it is and jumps back behind the wall like a startled cat: Sebastian and Klair. He didn’t even know they rehearsed here. 

And, okay, so it’s a little petty — it’s more than a little petty — but curiosity gets the better of him. He just wants to see if they’re any good, that’s all. Scoping out the competition is totally a thing people do, even when the competition isn’t their ex who betrayed them and trashed their reputation… Whatever. David can watch a minute and go home (where he will proceed to drown his sorrows in a bottle of red, but nobody needs to know that but him). Except… As he stands, peeking around the corner like a child, he notices there’s something familiar about the choreography.

It only takes a few steps for him to realize: they’re doing his and Patrick’s routine. 

For a moment, he tries to deny it — they just have similar styles after working together, right? — but, no, it’s his choreography. The damn routine lives in his mind 24/7; he’ll know it anywhere. And this is it. Down to the letter — fuck, there’s the axel Patrick was struggling to land and everything. Sebastien has, without a doubt, ripped him off.

What the actual fuck?

Part of him wants to march out onto that ice and make one hell of a scene — one that even his mother would be proud of — but another part of him clings to what he learned from the six months they trained together. And making that scene? It wouldn't get him anywhere.

(You don’t shout at a snake. You outsmart it.)

The reality is, Sebastien doesn’t care about anyone but Sebastien. David isn’t even convinced he has a soul. He’ll do whatever it takes to win, apparently including outright theft… and, as satisfying as it’d be to go out there and scream his lungs out, it’d be wasted breath and tears. He can’t appeal to Sebastien’s emotions when he doesn’t have any.

So, he needs to tell Patrick. 

Because, in short, they are royally screwed.

 


 

David slams his flat palm against an apartment door he's only seen from a distance. "Patrick," he nearly yells, then slaps the door again. "Patrick, I need to talk to you."

Patrick opens the door to his apartment just a few moments later, and David storms in like a bat out of hell. He doesn't really know what he's doing. He just knows that he forgot how his lungs work on the way here, and it hurts. His chest is heaving with the weight of his short, sharp intakes of air. His head is spinning. Honestly, he feels like a cartoon character that just got hit over the head with an anvil — like little ice skates are floating around his head and whiting out the corners of his vision.

How did he let this happen? Why did he think Sebastien was done fucking with him?

“I'm so glad you came over. I wanted to call you, I—” Patrick’s voice is quiet; David can barely hear it over the ringing in his ears. But then Patrick is right in front of him, eyes filled with worry. “David, hey, talk to me.”

“He stole our routine.” 

 “What?” Patrick blinks twice, clearly confused. “Who? Where?”

“Sebastien,” David says his name, and grim recognition crosses Patrick’s face. “What the fuck did he do? Hide in the bleachers with a video camera? Is this fucking Bring it On?”

Patrick steps closer. “Hey,” he tries again. Ugh, and his voice is like butter. “It’s okay, we’ll—”

“We’ll what?” David cuts him off anyway. His voice is getting shrill again. Some part of his brain screams for him to shut up before he chases Patrick off, but his hands are trembling, and he can’t seem to stop. “It’s not okay, Patrick. We’ve been working for a year on this routine, and Nationals is in six months."

The words keep tumbling out of his mouth; he shakes his hands out at his wrists.

"I mean, I could learn a new routine pretty quickly. I’ve been doing this for so long, I can choreograph in my sleep, but you… Can you memorize all-new choreography and, like, perfect it in a few months? I don’t know if even I could perfect it in that time frame.” David sucks in a breath. “We’re fucked. We're —”

Patrick’s hands fall to David’s shoulders, strong and steady and sure.

How is he always so calm?

"Breathe, David,” Patrick says. “We’re not fucked. We'll figure something out, but you need to take some deep breaths with me first, okay?” Patrick pulls one of his hands back to take one of David’s, then places it over his chest. Below his palm, David can feel Patrick’s lungs fill; he naturally tries to do the same. 

“In, out. Good. That’s better.” David takes a few more breaths with him, Patrick’s soothing voice close to his ear. (“There you go — good, just breathe. I’m right here. I've got you.”) After a few moments, David stops seeing spots. His breathing evens out. His head doesn’t quite stop spinning, but it’s still a significant improvement. 

“It’s just that…” he says, his voice much less frantic but no less emotional, “you’re not used to choreography. Dancers, we… We learn to absorb it really quickly, but…”

He trails off, and Patrick pauses, thumb brushing over the top of David’s hand, where… oh, it’s still on Patrick’s chest. He curls his fingers to lightly fist into his shirt.

“You know,” Patrick starts, “Hockey plays are a lot like a dance.”

David slowly pulls back. “I’m sorry, what?”

“Plays and choreography, they’re not that different.” This is supposedly Patrick elaborating, but David just blinks. “Skate here, skate there, stop here… It’s a lot of movement to memorize.”

“What’s your point?” David asks, a little too sharply.

Patrick takes his hands again, this time to pull him over to the couch.“We just need to choreograph it like it’s a play,” he explains, “Map it out—”

“—I don’t know what that means.”

“I’ll show you,” Patrick’s voice is firm but… gentle. It might be the most calming thing on the planet. How can he not be enraptured when someone is so calmly confident? It’s almost hypnotizing. “It's like you told me before, I know what I’m doing. It’s just an adjustment. Right? That's what you said. All I need is for you to meet me halfway here.”

David chews on his lip.

“We can do this,” Patrick squeezes his hand. “Just gotta work together. Okay?”

When all of this started, David was struggling to imagine himself doing anything in full cooperation with Patrick Brewer, but now... At this moment, it feels like Patrick is the only thing holding David together. His hands over his are solid, steady; they aren't shaking like David's at all. His gaze is warm. Calm, even. He's keeping David from crumpling, reminding him to breathe. And David trusts him. By some fucking miracle (more like Patrick's sheer force of will to win him over), David feels safe in his hands. 

“Okay.” He nods. “Yeah, okay. Okay. Together.”

 


DANCE JUMP:
A small jump used to change direction. The jump is performed
by both partners while in hold or while very close together.


 

TO BE CONTINUED...
See you in Part II. 😉