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The Sweetest Sounds I'll Ever Hear

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They go clothes shopping the next afternoon.

It’s a relief when Jonny suggests it, because Patrick’s tired of wearing jeans that won’t stay up over his ass, but then it’s just as quickly a source of panic, because Patrick doesn’t have any money yet.

Everything he earned at the UC went into his sisters’ account, and he hasn’t gotten his first paycheck yet. So he’s tense as they leave the car to go into the mall. He must be walking slowly, too, because Jonny gets ahead of him, and then turns and waits, brow furrowing a little as he watches Patrick approach.

“Are you okay?” he asks.

“Yeah.” Patrick nods a couple of times for good measure. “It’s just that I don’t, um…I don’t have any…”

“Oh.” Jonny’s face clears. “Well, I can take care of that.”

Patrick bites his lip and doesn’t say anything. He knows Jonny has enough money, and it’s not that he doesn’t want the clothes, but he hates feeling helpless like this. Hates feeling like he’s always taking, never giving. But he doesn’t really have a choice. “Okay,” he says.

Jonny shrugs. “I mean, you can pay me back if you want to. Once you get your first paycheck. But, um, I’d kind of rather you didn’t?” He’s talking kind of fast now, and his eyes dart to Patrick and then back down. “I’m just, I’m, well. Really happy you’re here. And I’d like to do this for you, if you’ll let me.”

Patrick’s stomach does something funny, and it probably shouldn’t be a good feeling, but it is. “I guess that’s okay,” he says. He wants to reach out and touch Jonny, but that would be weird, so he doesn’t.

Jonny ducks his head a little. “The Gap?” he says.

Neither of them really knows much about clothes shopping, so mostly they go to a bunch of stores and try on a ludicrous amount of things and hope that some of them fit. Although Patrick would probably try on more, actually, if Jonny didn’t keep trying to cramp his style.

“No, you can’t get a ‘Sun’s out, guns out’ tank top,” Jonny says, glaring at him across a table of the most delightful shirts Patrick’s ever seen.

“What’s wrong?” Patrick asks with a grin. “Worried my gun show is going to be better than yours?”

Jonny just looks befuddled. “No.”

Patrick laughs, because yeah, that’s totally fair—Jonny’s arms are forces to be reckoned with—but give him a couple of years, and Patrick will absolutely get there. “You are. You’re afraid I’ll look better than you.”

Jonny’s frown gets murderous. “Give me that,” he says, yanking the tank out of Patrick’s hands, and he adds it to their pile of things to be bought.

He does make Patrick buy some less interesting items of clothing, though, like button-down shirts. “We should get them loose,” he says, frowning at Patrick in the changing room. He’s been doing a lot of that today. “Because you’ll be getting bigger, here.”

His hands skim Patrick’s shoulders, and a shiver runs down Patrick’s whole body. “Yeah,” Patrick says breathlessly. “Yeah, okay.”

Jonny also makes him get a suit, even though Patrick tries to get out of it by saying he’ll grow. “So we’ll get you another suit later,” Jonny says, and then Patrick has to stand to be fitted.

If he leans against Jonny a little bit after, when they’re waiting in line to check out, well. Jonny’s just—really broad, and really nice to lean on, and Patrick’s tired after shopping and skating all morning and doing the weight room. So sue him.

***

Patrick has to go back to school on Thursday. Jonny looks kind of grumpy about the idea, but he doesn’t suggest calling the school and canceling again, so Patrick knows he really has to do it this time. He can’t stay out of school forever, not when he’s barely even seventeen yet, and they can only claim the bond as an excuse for so long.

He expects it to be kind of annoying, having to sit in class all day instead of doing any of the exciting things he’s been doing over the last few days, like skating. He’s wrong, though. It isn’t annoying.

It’s awful.

The headache starts almost as soon as he walks through the doors. He made Jonny let him take the subway—he’s going to have to, when Jonny’s out of town or at practice, and he doesn’t want to start counting on something he’ll have to give up—and he was fine for the trip, more or less, but as he’s walking into the school, a pounding starts up at his temples.

He doesn’t think much of it. It’s school; it’s basically governmentally required to give you a headache. But it doesn’t let up throughout math, or history, and by the time he’s in English class, he feels like someone is picking up a desk and slamming it against his head. He’s also queasy, though that might just be because of the pain. And he wants to call Jonny more than he’s ever wanted anything in his life.

There’s a phone in his backpack now; Jonny got it for him the day before, signing a bunch of contract stuff while Patrick felt its large cool weight and tried not to feel dizzy about being put on a family plan. It’ll get confiscated if he takes it out at school, but he can probably use it in the hallway or the bathroom without getting caught.

He almost does; almost shoots off a text to Jonny about five hundred different times. But Jonny’s working out, and doing team stuff, and the thought that Jonny might take a while to respond is enough to keep Patrick’s thumb away from the home button. He’d rather not text at all than know that Jonny doesn’t feel this like he does.

The headache stops getting worse sometime around eleven in the morning, but it doesn’t get much better, either. Patrick barely eats any lunch, and he doesn’t think he absorbs any actual information in his classes. His notes are a mess of scribbles where he wrote Jonny over and over in the margins and then covered it over so that no one would see him being pathetic.

He stumbles out of the building as soon as the bell goes, heading toward the subway, and stops short when he sees Jonny standing in the pickup area in front of his car.

His headache immediately gets about ten thousand times better. He staggers forward again, faster, and Jonny’s coming to meet him, and then they’re holding each other tight, tight, tight and the relief of it is like air after being underwater.

“Fuck, that was awful, that was awful,” Jonny says into his hair, and Patrick just grips harder.

He’d like to stay like that for a while, but they’re in front of his school, and he doesn’t actually need kids making fun of him until the day he graduates. “Let’s go home,” he says instead.

“Uh,” Jonny says, “there might be a few people at the apartment.”

“Yeah?” Patrick says.

“Well, apparently the guys thought I looked a little off today,” Jonny says, looking really adorably embarrassed. “They may have invited themselves over for video games.”

“That’s cool,” Patrick says, because he doesn’t really care about anything right now. As long as Jonny’s there.

Once they get back to Jonny’s, he catches on pretty fast that the guys are mostly there to meet him, what with the way they crowd in around him and ask him about a million questions. He doesn’t mind: they seem cool, and he’s already met a bunch of them, anyway. Most of the guys from the bonding weekend are there, Seabs and Sharpy and Duncan Keith, along with Dustin Byfuglian and Adam Burish, who is sarcastic enough that Patrick likes him right way. And yeah, okay, he can take a few hours out of his busy schedule to beat these guys at video games.

It turns out he doesn’t beat them, probably because he hasn’t actually gotten much of a chance to play video games over the past four years. But Jonny’s even worse than him, and way more competitive, so it ends up being hilarious.

Patrick’s feeling great for the first hour or two. Then Jonny goes into the kitchen to get more snacks, and his stomach turns, and an ache starts pinging away at his right temple.

“You okay?” Seabs asks him, from the couch where they’re both waiting their turn at Mario Kart.

“Yeah,” Patrick says. He puts his hand to his temple. “Just, um.”

“New bond.” Seabs nods knowingly, and Patrick looks at him in surprise. “I remember when Duncs and I had to be apart for the first time. I thought I was going to pass out or something.”

Patrick nods. Yes, he is now intimately familiar with that feeling.

Seabs claps him on the back, and Patrick winces a little at the touch that is not Jonny. “It gets better,” Seabs says. “You’re just riding the aftermath now. By tomorrow you’ll probably be fine.”

Right. Good. But that doesn’t help him now, when his head is aching like Jonny’s across town and not just in the kitchen, fifteen feet away and not—

Jonny comes back into the living room and comes up to the couch behind Patrick. Patrick can feel his presence, and it helps, but it’s not enough until Jonny puts his hands on Patrick’s shoulders and rests his chin on top of his head. “Who’s winning?” he asks, and warmth is flowing from his hands all through Patrick’s body, making his shoulders relax.

“This asshole,” Burs says, jerking a thumb at Sharpy. “Hey, where’s the snacks?”

“Oh.” Jonny takes his chin off Patrick’s head, and Patrick tries not to feel bereft.

“Get distracted, did you?” Sharpy says with a smirk.

“Shut the fuck up,” Jonny says, and plucks at Patrick’s collar. “Hey, help me in the kitchen?”

Patrick’s only too happy to.

***

Going to school again the next day is one of the hardest things Patrick’s ever done.

He’d be tempted to try to get out of it, but Jonny’s got his first day of training camp, and Patrick knows he can’t go to that. Or, well, maybe he could, but then he’d have to stand by the sidelines watching Jonny skate with people who are not him, and that seems too painful. But every time he flashes back on what the pain was like yesterday, he almost gives in and asks to skip again.

Jonny seems like he’s thinking about the same thing, if the way he insists on driving Patrick to school is any indication. He stops the car even though you’re not supposed to do that in the drop-off lane and leans over to give Patrick a really long hug.

“I have to,” Jonny says when they separate.

“What? I know,” Patrick says, because obviously Jonny has to go to training camp. Patrick’s not asking him to do anything different.

“I just—have to know that I can skate when you’re not there,” Jonny says, and he looks scared, and Patrick gets it, suddenly, how hard this is for Jonny. As if Patrick’s inability to function at school is anything next to Jonny’s potential inability to function at training camp.

“You’ll be great,” he says, meaning it, and he wants to lean in and kiss Jonny but doesn’t.

School is…actually not that bad. Patrick’s relieved for himself, of course, but when he thinks of what that probably means for Jonny at training camp he’s fiercely glad of it. He has a little bit of a headache, but it’s the kind where if he gets absorbed in something he doesn’t notice it much. Of course, he’s at school, so that doesn’t happen that often, but he thinks it’ll be okay for Jonny skating. He would still rather be with Jonny, still feels that pull, but he can make it through the next eight hours like that.

He’s six hours in when Chris corners him outside of Chemistry.

Patrick does a double-take when he sees him. It’s not that he’d forgotten Chris existed, it’s just…well, yeah, he sort of had. Chris feels like part of a life Patrick left behind years ago. Seeing him in the hallway of the school, looking just the same as last week, makes him feel like he’s stepped through time.

“Hey,” he says, before he can think better of it.

It’s not loaded—just a greeting, but Chris’s face gets hard, and he plows forward and slams Patrick into the lockers.

There are dozens of kids around, going from one class to another, but Patrick has no illusions that any of them would intervene. Chris’s enraged face is two inches from his.

“Hey, loser,” Chris says through his teeth. “You think that was funny, what you did last weekend? Walking out on my family?”

Patrick’s pulse is pounding under Chris’s grip. He remembers the feeling of crouching on the soot-ridden carpet, dust clogging his lungs and ammonia burning his hands, while Chris towered smugly over him. “You told me to go,” he says, even though that’s not why he left; it was…

“You’re a fucking pervert and I oughta give that Toews pansy something better to come home to,” Chris says, and draws his fist back.

Patrick sees it coming and ducks in a flash. He’s not used to moving this fast off the ice, and there’s a part of him that doesn’t believe he’s contemplating this with his foster brother, the one who once had the power to get him kicked back to the mercy of Social Services. But the rest of him is bringing his fist up to nail Chris in the belly.

He feels the impact through his whole arm, and Chris doubles over. Patrick doesn’t hesitate: he brings his foot up and slams his shin into Chris’s groin. It’s not a very direct hit—Chris’s torso is in the way—but it still has some power, and he hears Chris’s new whoosh of breath as he falls to his knees.

Patrick takes a step back. He’s shaking. “And you stay away from me, got it?” he says, and his voice isn’t steady, but he doesn’t care. He picks up his bag and staggers into Chemistry class.

His phone buzzes in his pocket as soon as he sits down. He puts his bag in his lap as cover and sneaks a look at the phone screen. Two texts from Jonny: R u okay? and then, a second later, What the fuck was that?

Patrick unlocks the phone. I’m good, tell u later, he sends, and then he puts his head down on the desk and waits for the shaking to go away.

***

He’s expecting to get called to the principal’s office for the rest of the day, but nothing happens. The last bell rings, and Patrick hightails it to the UC.

It’s weird, walking in and knowing he’s not an employee anymore. He could have kept working there—wanted to, a little, but Stan and Q talked him out of it. They want him to focus on training.

He should probably be training now, but the pull to be with Jonny is still strong, and he follows it into the main stadium.

Jonny’s on the ice. God, Patrick loves watching him on the ice: loved it even before the bond, and now he just feels more in tune with it, can pick him out without even looking for the name and number on the back of his jersey. They’re playing three-on-three, and as soon as Patrick walks into the stands, Jonny looks up at him, finding him without a search.

Patrick grins at him. And then grins more broadly when Sharpy steals the puck out from under him.

After that it’s like Jonny has a fire behind him. He takes off after Sharpy and steals the puck back and slices a sweet pass to Duncs, who gets it past Khabibulin like he’s not even there. Patrick cheers and settles in to watch.

He does eventually get down to the gym, but as soon as camp is over for the day, he makes his way to the locker room like he’s been magnetized.

Jonny’s on the other side of the door, and he sweeps Patrick into his arms as soon as he comes in. Then he pulls back and looks at his face. “Are you okay?” he asks. “That was fucking scary, that thing this afternoon.”

Patrick is definitely okay. So much more okay right now than he was before, even though both he and Jonny are sweaty and gross. “You could feel it, huh?”

“Oh yeah, what the fuck was that?” Duncs asks from his stall. “Jonny just went really weird around one o’clock, stopped skating and ran for the tunnel.”

“I did not ‘go weird,’” Jonny mumbles.

“Um, hi.” Sharpy pokes his head over Jonny’s shoulder. “Yes, you did.” He pats Patrick on the head. “Glad you’re not dead.”

Jonny elbows Sharpy out of the way. “But you’re okay?” he says to Patrick. He still has his hands on Patrick’s back, and Patrick’s kind of embarrassed, but it’s not like he’s going to ask him to stop. Even if he can see the other guys grinning and nudging each other.

“Yeah, fine,” Patrick says. “It was just…Chris. My foster brother. He, uh, was kind of mad.”

Jonny’s eyes go dark, and Patrick’s seen him glare, but this is something totally different. His hands go tighter on Patrick’s back. “What did he do to you?” he asks. “Did he—”

“No, he didn’t do anything.” Patrick lets himself smile a little. “I, uh, sort of beat him up.”

“Yeah, you did,” Burs says, and holds up his fist for a fist bump. “Nice.”

Patrick gives him the fist bump, embarrassed but grinning.

Jonny doesn’t look satisfied, but he does let Patrick go, at least long enough for them to shower. And Patrick is good about not looking at Jonny in the shower, even if he really wants to.

Jonny still looks a little squirrelly when they get home, so Patrick doesn’t object when they end up curled on the couch watching Netflix. Not that he would object anyway. But, you know, this way it’s selfless.