Most of that first evening is Jonny taking care of Patrick. Patrick feels like maybe he should be embarrassed by it, but it’s so nice, having someone look out for him like this. It’s been so long.
“Are you hungry?” Jonny asks. They’re sitting in the backseat of Brent Seabrook’s—Seabs’s—car, and Patrick kind of wants to slide over, snuggle into Jonny’s side, but he doesn’t know if Jonny wants that. Besides, he’s still soot-ridden and gross. Jonny has his hand, though, fingers warm and tight.
“God, yes,“ Patrick says, to the hunger question, and they go through the drive-thru at the nearest McDonald’s.
“Enjoy it,” Sharp says. “This is the only time Jonny will ever let you eat McDonald’s without hassling you about your nutrition plan.”
“Shut up,” Jonny says. “He needs food.”
Patrick does need food. He hadn’t realized quite how starving he was, but he basically inhales three Big Macs and a thing of fries.
“Where to?” Seabs asks when Patrick’s down to the little nubbins of fries at the bottom of the bag.
“He can come to my place if he wants,” Sharp says. (Sharpy; Patrick has to get used to calling these larger-than-life players by their nicknames. Especially after they’ve seen him get ketchup all over his shirt.)
“No,” Jonny says, a little too fast, and then looks embarrassed. “I mean, no, he should stay at mine.”
“That makes sense,” Seabs says mildly, while Sharpy smirks at Jonny. “Have to cement the bond and all that.”
Jonny puts his hand back over Patrick’s. He took it away when Patrick was eating, and Patrick is so glad to have it back now. Every time Jonny touches him, he can feel the bond flare up, like little invisible electrical wires in his abdomen connecting him to Jonny.
If he were back at his foster home, he’d still be on his hands and knees on the carpet right now. He wonders if they’ve called social services yet. If they’ve—
“Shit,” he says. “I need to call my sisters.”
For a second he wonders whether he can make them pull over so he can find a payphone. But then Jonny just hands him his cell, and—and of course he does, of course he has one, but it feels like a miracle right now.
He punches in the numbers with his left hand, because Jonny still has hold of his right. Jess answers on the third ring, and she may not recognize the number, but she does recognize his voice. “Pat? What’s up?”
Okay, so they haven’t heard anything yet. “I just wanted to give you a heads up that, uh, something kind of weird happened.”
“Are you okay?” He can hear her voice getting sharper.
“Yeah, yeah,” he says. “I’m just…going to be staying with a friend for a while. It’s nothing to worry about.”
Patrick looks across at Jonny, who’s still holding his hand and not even pretending not to listen. “Jonathan Toews,” he says, and he hears Sharpy snort.
“The Blackhawk?” Jess asks, voice rising. He hears other voices in the background, loud and skeptical.
“Look, I have to go,” he says, “but tell the others I’m okay, all right?”
“Okay,” she says, “but if you’re not telling the truth, Erica’s going to kill you.”
He laughs, and Jonny squeezes his hand. “I’ll explain later,” he says. “It’s…kind of a crazy story.”
“You’d better!” he hears Erica shout into the line, and it sounds like Jackie’s there, too, and…soon. He’ll talk to them soon.
It’s quiet in the car after he hangs up. Then Sharpy says, “Hey, kid, how old are you?”
“Seventeen in November,” Patrick says, and he sees Seabs give Jonny a glance in the rear-view mirror. Jonny’s hand tightens on his.
“So you won’t be able to play in the league this year,” Sharpy says.
“He could train, though,” Seabs says. “We’ll have to talk to Q and—”
“Tomorrow,” Jonny says. His thumb strokes over Patrick’s hand. “Take us home first.”
Jonny’s place, when Seabs drops them off, turns out to be a fancy condo. Patrick’s afraid to step into it with his sooty feet.
“Don’t worry about it,” Jonny says when he sees Patrick hesitating in the doorway.
“But the carpet,” Patrick says, because there’s carpet in the hallway, and Patrick knows how tough this stuff is to get out.
“You’re more important,” Jonny says, and goes back and takes his hand and pulls him towards the bathroom.
Jonny leaves him alone to shower. Patrick’s not thrilled about the door shutting between them—even though he knows Jonny isn’t going to disappear; it’s Jonny’s home—but getting into the shower is amazing. The water pressure is way better than at his foster home, and he can stay in there for as long as he wants without anyone pounding on the door. He tips his head under the water and watches the soot-blackened water flow off his skin and disappear down the drain.
When he comes out, he gets into the sweatpants and t-shirt Jonny’s left for him. They’re soft and worn and smell like fabric softener and Jonny. They hang off him a little, but he likes that, too, the way it makes it more obvious they’re not his.
He’s in Jonathan Toews’s house, in Jonathan Toews’s clothes, and he’s somehow expected to stay here. Like it isn’t a dream.
Jonny’s cooking eggs in the kitchen when Patrick comes in. Which is maybe ridiculous, considering how much Patrick ate in the car, but Patrick’s face breaks into a smile anyway. “Awesome.”
“Who says they’re for you?” Jonny grumbles, and Patrick’s smile just gets broader.
Jonny serves them each a big veggie-stuffed omelet, and Patrick’s halfway through his—it’s delicious—before Jonny stops him and grabs his hand. “What happened?” he asks.
“What? Oh.” Patrick looks down at his hand, where the skin is dry and red now that it’s clean. “Carpet cleaner.”
Jonny makes a face and gets up from the table. Patrick eats the rest of his eggs, a little disconcerted by Jonny’s sudden absence, but Jonny comes back a couple of minutes later with a bottle of something.
“Give me your hands,” he says, and when Patrick does, Jonny starts massaging lotion into them, slowly, his big hands gentle on Patrick’s cracked skin.
Patrick swallows. His skin kind of hurts, but Jonny’s being really careful with it, fingers skating over Patrick’s like they’re infinitely breakable. His touch is sending tingles all through Patrick’s chest and torso and down to his groin.
He shifts his knee so that Jonny won’t see him reacting. They haven’t talked about what kind of bond they have, but most hockey bonds aren’t romantic. It would be stupid to assume this one is any different. Jonny wants to play hockey with him; that doesn’t mean he wants to do anything else, like lean forward and kiss him, and wow, Patrick should definitely stop thinking about this while Jonny’s hands are on him.
Jonny keeps massaging until all the lotion’s absorbed into Patrick’s skin, and then he does another coat, fingers working slowly into the pads of his fingers and the center of his palm until Patrick’s drifting on the warm pleasure of it and can barely keep his eyes open. He tries to hide it—doesn’t want this to ever end—but Jonny catches him yawning.
“Sleepy?” Jonny’s voice is soft as it breaks into the silence of the kitchen.
“A little,” Patrick admits.
“Let me go set things up,” Jonny says, and disappears down the hallway towards the bedrooms.
He has a guest room; Patrick saw it, on his way to the bathroom. A nice guest room, with a bed bigger than any Patrick’s had before and linens that are probably wonderfully soft.
Patrick doesn’t want to sleep in it. As soon as he thinks of it, he gets this panicked fluttery feeling in his chest and has to get up and take the dishes to the sink just for something to do. He just—he can’t imagine being in that big room alone, no matter how nicely decorated or soft the bed is. It’s only because everything is so new, because he feels so unsettled, but he can’t imagine being that far from Jonny all night.
He can’t say anything about that. It would be ridiculous. Jonny’s let him into his home, been so nice already, and Patrick can’t ask for…. He grips the edge of the sink and squeezes his eyes shut and prepares himself not to show Jonny anything.
“I, um,” Jonny says, and Patrick turns around. Jonny’s standing in the doorway of the kitchen, looking kind of awkward. “Look, you don’t have to do this, and you should tell me if it’s weird, but I’ve done a lot of reading about bonds.”
“Okay,” Patrick says slowly. That makes sense: the one hockey player who couldn’t bond with anybody. He’s probably read everything that’s ever been written on the subject.
Jonny’s twisting his hands together. “Anyway, it’s really important to—cement them, I guess, in the first few days.”
“Yeah?” Patrick says. He knows that. Everyone does.
“And one of the best ways is proximity,” Jonny says in a rush. He looks up and meets Patrick’s eyes, and he looks, if possible, even more awkward than he did when he first came in. “So, I mean, again, you don’t have to, if you think it’s weird or anything, but I was thinking maybe you could—sleep in my bed? With me?”
“Oh.” Patrick lets go of the sink edge. He can feel his eyes going wide.
“Unless you don’t want to!” Jonny says quickly. “There’s a guest room—it would be totally fine—”
“No, no, I do,” Patrick says. He was so prepared to not show anything, and now—he can feel his face stretching in a silly smile. Jonny grins back at him, tentative at first, and then wider once it becomes clear Patrick isn’t changing his mind, until they’re two idiots grinning across the room at each other.
Patrick can’t quite look Jonny in the face as they get ready for bed. He still doesn’t know what Jonny’s expecting. Jonny’s question made it clear that he’s not assuming their bond will be a romantic one. But Patrick almost doesn’t care how much Jonny wants to give: Patrick’s going to be climbing into bed next to him tonight, and that feels like more than enough.
He was right about the beds. Jonny’s is huge and so soft it feels like he’s lying on nothing at all. It’s not like Patrick’s had terrible beds in his foster homes or anything. But he’s never had a bed bigger than a twin or a mattress as fancy as this one, and he’s definitely never had anyone in there with him.
He lies down and looks across the pillows. Jonny blinks back at him, eyes big and brown, and for a second Patrick can’t breathe properly. He wonders if it would be okay if he slid closer, if Jonny would put his arms around him like he did in the hallway of the foster home. He really wants to feel that again. He doesn’t want to risk it, though. But then Jonny—Jonny reaches out a hand, under the covers, and his fingers brush against Patrick’s.
Patrick opens to it and lets Jonny slide their palms together. It’s not the same as Jonny’s arms around him, but it sends the tingling warmth of connection up Patrick’s arm and into his chest. The warmth of the bond.
Jonny’s eyelids close, and Patrick lets his own slide shut. The warmth of Jonny’s hand is pulling him down, deep into slumber like a rock falling through the sea.
When he wakes up, Jonny is wrapped all around him.
Patrick’s first thought is warm. Jonny’s plastered to his back, arms and legs thrown over Patrick’s body, and maybe it should feel like too much, but instead it feels like it’s filling up a void in his chest. Like Patrick has been hungry for this.
He can feel the thrum of the bond under his skin. It’s just a faint awareness, the feeling of Jonny. He doesn’t know what Jonny’s thinking. Most bonds never get strong enough for that: physical presence only, maybe really intense emotions. But Patrick’s whole body is singing with Jonny’s presence right now.
It feels late. The sun coming through the windows is bright. Patrick feels well-rested, in a way he hasn’t felt in weeks. Maybe even years. He’d forgotten what it felt like, to get all the sleep he needs.
Jonny stirs a little behind him. “Hi,” he says into Patrick’s hair, and a shiver goes down Patrick’s spine. Wow, he really shouldn’t be feeling like this with Jonny so close, even if Jonny can’t read his emotions. If this goes on too much longer, there’ll be other ways that Jonny will be able to tell how good this feels to him.
But he can’t quite bring himself to move away. He pushes back a little closer into Jonny’s embrace.
“Skating today,” Jonny says, like it’s something to look forward to, which—Patrick will always agree with that.
“Mm,” he says. Then—“Oh, fuck.” He makes a face. “Um. I’m pretty sure I was supposed to go to school.”
He can feel Jonny’s surprise in the way he stiffens momentarily. “Oh,” he says, and Patrick waits for him to pull away and send Patrick off. But the next thing he says is: “Well, obviously you can’t do that. You have to be here.”
Patrick smiles and has to hide it in the pillow. Yes, here. Here, in Jonny’s arms. “Yeah?” he mumbles. “You gonna defend me when the truant officer shows up?”
“Like they’d ever find you here,” Jonny says, but he’s reaching for his phone anyway, reaching over Patrick to get at the night table. It presses him more firmly against Patrick’s back, and Patrick hopes he can’t feel him shudder.
“What’s your school?” Jonny asks, and then he types some stuff into his smart phone, and the next thing Patrick knows, Jonny’s on the line with the front office. “Yes, this is Jonathan Toews with the Chicago Blackhawks,” he says, sounding all official.
Patrick snorts. He turns over onto his back so that he can see Jonny’s face without properly leaving his arms. Jonny gives him a stern look, but his lips are working not to smile.
“I wanted to inform you that Patrick Kane won’t be in school for a few days.” A pause. “Thanks for your concern, but he’s fine. He’s dealing with a bonding issue.”
Patrick feels a warm glow in his stomach, and he knows his face is doing that stupid smiling thing again. He can’t help it, though. Bonding. They’re bonded.
Jonny’s smiling, too, whether in response to the person on the phone or Patrick’s smile, Patrick doesn’t know. Jonny leans over and tangles their fingers together. Patrick watches as his eyes light in surprise at whatever the person is saying. “Thank you, ma’am, it does look like the preseason games will be—yes, those do sound like great seats.”
Patrick bites his lip to keep from laughing, and Jonny uses their joined hands to smack him on the chest a little. “Yes, thanks, I—yes, I will. Bye.”
He hangs up, but he’s smirking. “She’s going to come see us play the Blue Jackets.”
“Yeah?” Patrick moves their hands a little, brushing them on his chest. “I want to come see you play the Blue Jackets.”
Jonny smiles down at him. His eyes are so warm. “I’m sure you will,” he says, and for a second Patrick is sure, absolutely, completely positive, that Jonny’s going to lean down and kiss him. His lips part in anticipation.
But Jonny doesn’t lean down. He blinks, and then his eyes go distant, and he says, “So, skating?”
“Um,” Patrick says. “Yeah, for sure,” and he follows Jonny out of bed, lips buzzing from the kiss that didn’t happen.