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Forget-Me-Not

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Carey’s on the bench when it happens. It’s the second game of a back-to-back, and Dustin is handling the Kessel-less Leafs just fine. He doesn’t see who hit PK, but he sees PK’s helmet come off, sees PK hit the ice and just– stop moving.

Carey’s on his feet in a heartbeat, along with the rest of the bench. Gally’s yelling something, leaning way over the boards. There’s a lot of pushing and shoving on the ice, but Carey ignores all of it, can’t focus on anything except PK.

PK pushes himself to his knees by the time the trainers get there, and Carey can take a deep breath again. PK manages to skate off under his own power, gives the crowd a salute before he leaves the ice. The crowd cheers as PK goes down the tunnel. His head is down, and he doesn’t even try to fist bump Carey as he goes by.

The game starts again. Carey shoots Therrien a sidelong glance. Therrien is talking to Chucky’s line, and fuck it, Dustin’s got this. Carey slips down the tunnel and heads straight for the quiet room.

PK’s sitting on the exam table.

“Do you know where you are?” Lacroix is asking, checking PK’s pupils.

“The Bell Centre,” PK says promptly.

“Mmm hmmm,” Lacroix says. He sees Carey standing in the doorway. “And who is this handsome fellow?”

PK’s smile slips. “Carey Price?” he says, like it’s a trick question.

“And today’s date?”

“October twenty-fifth–” PK says

And, okay, that’s only one day off–

“Two thousand ten.”

Oh, fuck.

*

Carey lets the doctors break the news that it’s actually 2015. He’s got to get back to the bench. Therrien gives him a narrow-eyed look when he sits down.

“Pads felt loose,” Carey says blandly.

Therrien shakes his head and lets it go.

The guys are trying to catch his eye, too, looking for a thumbs up on PK, but Carey avoids their gaze, focuses on the action at the other end of the ice. Not remembering the hit is normal, not remembering the game or the day happens, too. But five years…

Carey makes sure Dustin gets his helmet tap after the win, and then showers and changes as fast as he can.

PK’s still in the quiet room. He’s not supposed to drive home alone.

“I’ll take him,” Carey says immediately.

PK gives him a weird look. “You don’t – Hal can take me.”

Carey grimaces. “Yeah, actually, he can’t.”

“Oh,” PK says.

“It would be ideal if someone stayed with him,” Lacroix says.

“Not a problem,” Carey says.

PK doesn’t say anything this time.

Lacroix gives them the rundown of symptoms to look out for, and then they’re on their way.

PK’s quiet in the car, holding himself stiff and awkward. Carey tries to remember how many games they’d played together by October of 2010. Not a lot. PK had only been called up a couple of times during the ‘09-10 season, and Carey hadn’t had a lot of time for cocky rookies during his own disaster of a sophomore season. No matter how great their smile was.

PK’s not smiling now.

The dogs at least make his face lighten up. Carey leaves him playing with them in the front hall and goes upstairs to find PK a change of clothes.

PK’s sweats and t-shirts are mixed in with Carey’s. The contents of PK’s dopp kit are scattered across the counter in the master bathroom. Carey doesn’t know how to explain any of that to someone who probably thinks he’s a stuck-up asshole. Or maybe just a crazy, sub-par goalie.

He goes back downstairs.

“Here,” he says, holding out the pile of clothes. “There should be a new toothbrush in the medicine cabinet in the guest bath.”

PK stands up, brushing at the dog hair on his suit. Duke makes a sad noise at the loss of belly rubs.

“Thanks,” PK says. He takes the clothes, studies Carey’s face for a long moment. “Are we– are we friends now?”

“Yeah,” Carey says. Which is true, it’s just – not the whole truth.

“Cool,” PK says, breaking into a dazzling grin.

It makes Carey’s breath catch, that vivid, open delight.

He has a hard time sleeping that night. His bed feels empty and too big.

*

Carey wakes up in the morning with his arm flung out across the sheets, reaching into the empty space where PK usually is.

PK is standing in the kitchen when Carey comes down, watching the coffee brew.

“Morning,” Carey says. He comes to stand next to PK, reaching for the cupboard with the coffee mugs, and PK takes a step back, giving him space.

“Morning,” PK says back.

“How’s the head?” Carey asks.

“Aside from the memory loss?” PK says with a quick, wry smile. “Good, the pain’s totally gone.”

“Good,” Carey says. He fidgets with his mug. He feels restless, unsettled, like he’s waiting for something to happen, but he’s not sure what. “Back to the rink today?”

“Yeah, I guess,” PK says. “Let them poke and prod me some more.”

“Okay,” Carey says.

It’s an optional skate, but Carey could use the excuse to burn off some this jitteriness.

*

“Good news,” PK says, when Carey’s in the middle of his post-skate snack. “They say I’m probably not going to drop dead at any second, so I don’t have to crash at your place tonight.”

Carey makes a noncommittal noise through a mouthful of smoothie.

The team doctors have decided there is nothing wrong with PK that medical technology can detect, and there’s nothing they can do except wait and hope PK’s brain fixes itself.

“Reassuring,” Carey says dryly.

PK snorts. “They said I can go with you guys on the road trip, though. Just in case.”

“You want a ride to the airport?” Carey asks, almost automatic, already thinking ahead to flight times.

PK gives him that look again, like Carey’s being weird. “Sure, I guess?”

Carey suppresses the urge to roll his eyes and tell him to take a damn cab if he doesn’t want the ride. It’s hard to remember sometimes, how long it took them to get to the point where showing up at the airport together is normal, routine.

*

PK’s waiting outside of his building when Carey pulls up. He puts his suitcase in the back and slides into the passenger seat.

Carey glances over and blinks. “You got rid of the beard,” he says.

“Uh, yeah,” PK says. “It was weirding me out, seeing it every time I looked in the mirror.”

He rubs at his chin, and Carey wants to touch the smooth skin there, feel the line of PK’s jaw and the crinkle of his smile under his hand. He grips the wheel tightly instead and pulls out into traffic.

*

PK seems to loosen up on the flight.

He bounces around between a couple of empty seats, joking with a bunch of the guys. Gally shows him whatever multiplayer thing thing they’re doing on the DS that month, and he gets into it, laughing and chirping along with everyone else.

He doesn’t come sit next to Carey, but that’s normal.

It’s normal enough that Carey can almost pretend everything is okay, right up until they’re standing the hotel lobby, waiting for room keys, and Chucky looks up from his phone to say, “Hey, dinner with Prusty at seven?”

PK’s face goes blank, and his shoulders tense up, all that easy energy gone. Carey can almost see him bite back the question, Who’s Prusty?

Carey looks away. “Sure, sounds good,” he says.

*

In the morning, PK sits down next to Larry at breakfast, even though there’s an empty seat next to Carey.

Which is fine. Carey’s fine with it.

(Carey is scowling at his eggs so hard Dustin turns around and sits down with Alexei and Nate instead.)

*

In the locker room after the game, Carey realizes what’s been bugging him this whole time.

They get the win, and PK’s there in his game day suit to high five everyone coming off the ice. He’s grinning.

“Yeah, baby, that’s what I’m talking about!” PK yells. He high fives Carey’s glove hand, punches his shoulder, and Carey can’t help grinning back.

PK does the exact same thing to the guys behind Carey.

Carey strips out of his pads. Music’s pumping through the room, everyone’s laughing, but Carey feels that itchy, sour, restless feeling creeping in under the buzz of victory, that sense of waiting for something.

PK laughs, and Carey looks over. PK meets his eyes and smiles. It’s bright and happy, but impersonal somehow, no different than the smile he turns back to Gally.

Carey watches PK look away, feels disappointment twist in his stomach, and realizes he’s waiting for PK to touch him. Waiting for PK to come over and throw his arm around Carey’s shoulders, scrub his hand through Carey’s sweaty hair, press a smacking kiss to the side of his head and call him Cash Money, all smug and warm and pleased.

Carey kind of didn’t realize how, how accustomed he’d gotten to PK’s cheerful, exuberant disregard for Carey’s personal space. But now that’s he’s paying attention, he can feel the way he always turns towards PK when PK comes into a room, the way he expects PK to make a detour to throw his arm around him, slap his back or palm the nape of his neck, or even just lean his weight into Carey’s side, warm and solid.

He misses the feeling of PK’s mouth under his, sure, misses the feel of PK’s bare skin, the way PK’s smile and laugh and eyes are softer, sweeter in the morning before they get out of bed.

But he hasn’t had as much time to get used to that, and he doesn’t miss it the way he misses the easy, generous, genuine affection in every casual touch that PK gives him.

*

The rest of the road trip doesn’t go so well.

The Oilers still can’t defend, but the Habs still can’t score, and their own defense is looking pretty thin with PK in the press box.

The Flames do not have a problem defending at all.

They take the Jets to overtime at home, at least. It’s not really a consolation.

In the car on the way home, PK taps out an anxious rhythm on his knee, jaw tight.

“You don’t have to give me a ride tomorrow,” he says abruptly. “I’m going to get a cab, go in early to talk to the trainers.”

It jolts Carey out of his own thoughts. “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine,” PK says. He dredges up a weak smile, but out of the corner of his eye, Carey sees him rubbing his temple like his head hurts.

*

Carey doesn’t see PK when he gets to practice, doesn’t see him when he gets off the ice. He tries not to worry about it.

He’s in the lounge with a couple of other guys when PK swaggers through the door.

“I’m back, boys!” he yells.

“What?” Larry says.

“All memories present and accounted for,” PK says, grinning. “Trainers say I can play tomorrow.”

Carey’s heart leaps, but when he meets PK’s eyes, PK’s smile doesn’t change at all. PK gets distracted by Pleky, who wants to know what the trainers did.

“It just got better on it’s own,” PK says. “Like they said it would.”

He doesn’t come over and touch Carey once.

*

Carey catches him when everyone starts filtering out.

“Want a ride?” Carey asks.

“Oh, uh, no thanks, I was just going to–”

“I know you’re faking,” Carey says flatly.

PK freezes. “Why do you say that?”

Carey makes an exasperated noise. “I know you don’t remember it, but I really do know you.”

“Are you going to say anything?”

Carey hesitates. It’s a head injury, he shouldn’t fuck around with that. But–

“I need to be on the ice,” PK says. “The team needs me on the ice. I feel, I’m fine.”

PK knows – knew – all the shit Carey played through, all the shit he lied to the trainers about, and he never said anything. If Carey tells the doctors, they’ll never believe anything PK says about his body again.

“Therrien’s system is different–” he tries.

“I know, I know,” PK says in a rush. “I’ve been paying attention at practice. I watched some of our games from last season. I can handle it.”

Carey grimaces. “Fine, just –try to avoid another head injury.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” PK says. He grins at Carey, like they’re in on a secret joke together, and for a second, it’s almost like old times.

God, this is a terrible idea.

*

It’s not a completely terrible idea. PK handles the next couple of games just fine. He hangs on to the puck a little more than Therrien really likes, but he wasn’t lying, he’s clearly been studying tape.

Carey wonders if anyone else is suspicious. If they are, they’re keeping it to themselves (or they’re afraid to ask about a memory lapse). But he really thinks PK could bluff his way through anything.

Carey doesn’t even have an excuse to drive PK places anymore. His house feels empty and quiet when he comes home from practice now. The dogs run up and lick his hands, then look behind him. Mody gives him a sad, confused look when he sees there’s no one else there.

“Sorry,” Carey says.

He wonders if PK would come over and hang out if Carey told him his dogs miss him.

*

Then Boston comes to town. It’s a rough, chippy game. Marchand slams into him in the crease, and Carey shoves him off, cursing. He’s more pissed than hurt or shaken up.

PK’s got his gloves off before Marchand is even done making a kissy face at Carey. Carey’s pretty sure Marchand didn’t mean to crash the net that hard, if only because he actually looks surprised when PK grabs his jersey and punches him.

Carey’s whole body goes cold. Fuck, fuck, this is what he was afraid of.

Marchand gets into the spirit of things immediately, the two of them trading windmilling punches. The refs are milling around, letting them have a minute. Marchand’s skate catches in a rut in the ice and he goes down, and the refs swoop in to break things up.

Marchand pops up again immediately, yelling back over his shoulder as the linesman steers him towards the penalty box.

PK is bent over, one hand pressed against his head. Carey’s at the top of his crease. One more minute and he’s going to–

PK straightens up. He skates to the bench instead of the box, goes off down the tunnel, and fuck, this is all Carey’s fault.

Carey doesn’t know how he gets through the rest of the period without a goal. Instinct and muscle memory.

He finds the quiet room as soon as he gets off the ice. PK’s sitting on the exam table, an ice pack pressed to his cheek.

Carey checks the hallway and closes the door behind him. He steps up close between PK’s knees to hiss, “I told you–”

PK wraps his arm around Carey’s waist and lets his forehead thunk against Carey’s chest. The words die in Carey’s throat.

“Yeah, yeah, no more head injuries,” PK says. “It’s just a shiner.”

Carey’s flutters strangely in his chest. He puts his hand on PK’s back, feels the steady beat of his heart. “You remember?”

“Yeah.”

“No, I mean – everything?”

PK tips his head to look up at Carey’s face. “Yeah,” he says. “Everything. Don’t tell Marchy he fixed me.”

“Okay,” Carey says dumbly.

“How’d you know?” PK asks.

“I told you,” Carey says. “I know you.”

PK smiles at him, slow and soft. “Yeah, you do.”

The door opens. Carey takes a step back. “I gotta–”

“Right,” PK says. “Get me the W.”

*

They do get the W, even if they need overtime to do it.

PK slings an arm around Carey’s shoulder in the locker room afterwards, gives him a shake. “The Price is right!” he yells and the whole locker room whoops. Carey leans into him, almost boneless with the win, with having PK back.

He wakes up in the middle of the night, and doesn’t even question that everything is all right, because he can hear PK snoring, can feel the warmth coming off his body in the dark.

Carey shifts so he can run his palm down PK’s back. PK makes a tiny, pleased noise in his sleep, and Carey thinks about how good that embrace in the quiet room felt.

*

When Carey comes into the lounge after morning skate, PK’s sitting on the couch watching day time tv with Gally and Chucky. He looks over at Carey and smiles when their eyes meet.

Carey hesitates for a second, then detours past the couch. He palms the back of PK’s head, lets his hand slide down to cup the back of his neck. PK looks up at him, surprised and happy.

“Hey,” PK says.

“Hey,” Carey says back. Then he goes to get himself a snack.

He could get used to this, too.