“You have to tell him,” Erica says the next day at their foster home. It’s Saturday, and the Hawks have a game that night, but Jonny let Patrick borrow his car while he stayed home for his pre-game nap.
“Are you crazy?” Patrick says. “I’m not telling him anything.”
Jess shakes her head. “No, you have to,” she says. She’s sitting on his other side, Jackie across from him, the four of them in a tight huddle on the grass in the Roziers’ family room. “Otherwise what if he’s in love with you, too, and he just doesn’t want to say anything?”
Patrick sighs. “Jess…”
“Jonny’s awesome.” Jackie looks across the circle at him with her big eleven-year-old eyes. “He should be in love with you.”
Patrick lets his head drop. He doesn’t want to feel this, not now when—“That’s not how love works, Jacks,” he says.
He feels little hands on the top of his head. “Do you want head scratches?” Jackie asks. He nods, and her nails scritch away the top surface of his headache, the one that’s always lurking just behind his temples these days.
The Hawks win the game that night, and it’s a shutout: four-nothing against Arizona. Jonny has two goals, the second one of them the prettiest thing Patrick’s ever seen, and no one argues against the general roar in the locker room in favor of going out.
They go to one of the few bars that will let Patrick in without a fake ID—too risky, the fake ID thing, if he might be high-profile next year—and Patrick wonders when that became the team default, is warm with the feeling of belonging.
He gets a big black X on the back of his hand, but he’s in a booth with seven enormous hockey players; no one’s going to see if he takes a sip of beer every once in a while. Jonny’s underage, too, but Seabs slips him a victory beer, and Patrick gets to steal sips. He keeps nudging Jonny, and Jonny keeps sliding his glass over to him while Sharpy makes jokes about Patrick becoming a lush and Patrick loudly tells Jonny how he needs to defend his honor.
Jonny just laughs. He’s bright-eyed and animated, clearly still flying off that last goal. Patrick can almost feel it: the tug of elation, that endless moment when the puck sailed right over the goalie’s knee and into the back of the net. Maybe because Jonny can’t stop talking about it. Patrick would think it was funny if he weren’t so busy thinking it’s adorable and charming and other adjectives he shouldn’t say out loud.
“Oh—I’m sorry,” Patrick says the next time Jonny starts telling the story, “did you score in this game? I must have missed it.”
“Shut the fuck up,” Jonny says, jostling him, but the gleam in his eyes is bright and happy. He’s pushing into Patrick’s shoulder, face tipped toward him and flushed red along his cheekbones, and Patrick’s stomach is bubbling, sweet and hot. He thinks about what Jess said: that maybe, maybe there’s a chance that it’s not just him. That maybe Jonny feels the same buzz, the same yearning pull. That maybe if Patrick just told him…
He almost feels like he could do it, when they’re like this. But if Jonny doesn’t feel the same thing—if he pulls away, if it all falls down dead and cold at Patrick’s feet—then Patrick will lose so much. Everything.
Jonny’s too high on his goal to notice if Patrick’s expression falters for a moment. Patrick lets it go, dives back into the conversation, watches how Jonny’s face lights up.
Jonny’s leaning in toward Patrick, telling him for maybe the third time about the look on the one D-man’s face when he saw the puck go in, when Buff comes up to them. “Hey, Tazer,” he says. “Don’t look now, but super hot girl is macking on you from the bar.”
Jonny looks, right away, head jerking up and toward the bar. Patrick feels it like a spray of ice on his face. He leans back a little, feels his ribs go tight. This is it: this is the thing, how it starts.
“Fuck,” Burs says across the table, “total ten. Go get it, Taze.”
“Um,” Jonny says, “I,” and he looks at Patrick.
Patrick jolts a little because—no. Jonny can’t think Patrick would—he can’t know. Patrick presses his mouth into some sort of smile and makes himself look at the bar. “Yeah, she’s super hot,” he says, even though his eyes aren’t quite focusing quite well enough for him to be sure what she looks like.
There’s a pause from Jonny. “You think?”
And…what can Patrick say? He doesn’t want Jonny to be with her, doesn’t want him to be with anyone, but he can’t tell him that. Feels his stomach crawling up his throat at the very thought of it. “Yeah, you should go talk to her,” he says, the brightness of the words tasting sharp and wrong in his mouth.
“Oh,” Jonny says. “Okay. I guess, uh, I will, then.”
Patrick can’t watch him go. Can’t quite see anything, for a moment. He hears Burs cheer for Jonny, and then he’s cold all along the side where Jonny was pressed against him.
He turns back towards the table. There’s kind of—a rushing sound, in his ears, and it’s really hard to breathe. Like there are weights on his chest. But he can do this; it’s fine. He just needs to sit here, and breathe, and—he knew this was coming. He’s fine.
He can feel Sharpy’s eyes on him, and his eye sockets feel hot and dull. He looks away, over to the bar.
His eyes go to Jonny right away. It’s what they do, the two of them: they look at each other, unprompted, faster than thought, eyes locking together like they’re magnetized. Patrick’s gotten used to Jonny’s dark brown eyes snapping to his as soon as he walks into a room, as soon as he seeks him out. Except this time—this time Jonny’s not looking back.
He’s looking at the girl. The girl who’s smiling up at him. Patrick can see that she’s hot—can’t make himself care about that, not when Jonny’s right there, looking the way he does, but he can see, objectively, that she’s attractive. She’s laughing, like maybe Jonny said something funny, and he’s smiling back at her a little. And then he reaches out and touches her arm.
The pain is sudden and fierce: it shoots through Patrick’s head like an ice pick jammed through the back of his skull. He thinks maybe he cries out, but then it’s like everything’s seized up, and all he can do is squeeze his eyes shut and pain pain pain. It’s not a headache like any he’s had before; it’s debilitating, and he feels it radiating through his whole body. His stomach is trying to lurch its way out of his mouth, and he can’t draw enough breath, and the noises of the bar are like bright hammer strikes on his skull—
There are voices around him, rising in alarm, and unfamiliar hands touch him and do nothing to help. Then—a pair of hands that does help, that beats the pain back just a little, and Patrick relaxes a tiny bit into Jonny’s grasp.
“Patrick, oh my God, what happened?” Jonny’s voice is sharp, urgent. Patrick can’t reply, just pushes himself farther towards where Jonny must be. Jonny’s side comes up against his, and the veil of pain lightens a little.
“Should we call someone?” Duncs asks. “Nine-one-one?”
“We probably should,” Seabs says. “He just keeled over, fuck, maybe he’s—”
“No,” Patrick manages to bite out. If they call someone, he’ll have to get farther from Jonny, and that’s—he turns his face into Jonny’s shoulder and breathes in the scent of him. “Just,” he grates out, “migraine,” and Jonny’s hands squeeze and relax a little.
“I think I’m just gonna take him home,” Jonny says. Then the next moment, Patrick’s being moved—but it’s Jonny, so it’s all right. Jonny gathers him up into a standing position against his chest, and Patrick’s head still hurts, but this is better. He holds on tight.
“Pat,” Jonny says, soft, into his ear, “baby, can you walk like this?” and Patrick manages to move himself around, lean against Jonny’s side so Jonny can help him out of the bar.
They wait for a cab like that, Patrick tucked into Jonny’s chest again and Jonny’s cheek resting on his head. Then they’re sliding onto the worn vinyl of a cab seat and Patrick can sit down properly and slump into Jonny’s neck.
This—this is good. His head is still pounding, but every breath is making it better. He feels like it could be even better: if he opened his mouth on Jonny’s skin, maybe, sucked on the collarbone he can see right in front of his eyes. Got his teeth in there and bit. He licks his lip, and his tongue feels thick with want: the desire to slide his mouth along Jonny’s skin and find the places that would make Jonny gasp. To take Jonny’s mouth with his own and lick in deep and spell out mine with every flick of his tongue.
He doesn’t do any of those things. He just presses his lips together and squeezes his eyes shut and stays where he is. The migraine thrums along inside his skull, and Jonny’s hands clutch him tight, and Patrick holds on.
He only remembers a few things about getting home after that. Remembers the relief of falling into bed in a dark room and letting his eyes close. Remembers Jonny’s soft, “Should I go?” and his own hand reaching out to keep him there. Remembers the glow of finally drifting off in Jonny’s arms, pain receding at last under the soft brush of Jonny’s fingers over his scalp.
Patrick wakes up the next morning, utterly humiliated.
He…he gave himself a migraine. He was so upset about Jonny touching some woman’s arm that he gave himself a migraine so bad he couldn’t even walk out of the bar alone. Just because Jonny was touching someone’s arm. What the fuck is wrong with him?
Well: it could be worse. Jonny could know.
Jonny’s up already, sheets a little warm where he must have been lying. Patrick chases the warmth, curls up where Jonny was lying and remembers: that desperate, pulsing desire to have Jonny under his hands, to place his mouth on that skin. It makes heat trickle through his blood, and he forces it away. Drags himself out of bed, limbs still a little shaky from last night, and pulls on some clothes and goes into the hall.
Jonny’s in the kitchen, making breakfast. His head snaps up as soon as Patrick comes into the room, and he crosses to him right away and puts his hands on either side of Patrick’s face. “Are you okay?” Jonny asks, hands carding back through his curls like he’s going to find a bump or something.
“Yeah,” Patrick says, and he can’t help pushing into the touch. “It was just a migraine.”
“It was awful.” Jonny’s hands slow down, less seeking, more stroking, and tingly pressure races down Patrick’s spine. “I could feel it: like a sharp stabbing, and it was just…fuck, I’m so glad nothing happened to you.”
Jonny’s fingers on his scalp are making his eyes want to flutter shut, and Patrick can feel heat building at the base of his spine again. “I didn’t know the bond worked like that.”
Jonny regards his face: eyes dark, intent, so close. “They vary,” he says in a low voice.
Patrick feels his pulse pick up. It’s suddenly hard to breathe, hard not to be conscious of Jonny’s breath, so close, a gentle brush on his face. Of Jonny’s lips, slightly parted, the soft pink tip of a tongue coming out to press against the bottom one.
“Did you, um,” Patrick says, and he can’t quite talk without panting. “Are you okay? Now?”
“Yeah,” Jonny says, just a soft gust of air against his face. His eyes drop, looking at Patrick’s mouth, and then—then Patrick can’t stop himself, can’t think about it, just leans forward to press their mouths together.
Jonny’s mouth—fuck, it’s the softest, most wonderful thing he’s ever felt. Patrick’s been kissed before—Lucy Raftery in ninth grade—but it was nothing like this. This makes him want to melt, or float, or die just because he knows nothing will ever feel this good again. Jonny’s lips move gently under his, opening a little, and then it’s warm and wet and oh, something surges in Patrick’s belly—he licks into Jonny’s mouth and his stomach goes molten and his fingers go numb and he makes a little noise and—
And Jonny goes still.
He doesn’t pull away exactly, just goes rigid and unmoving everywhere Patrick’s touching, and it’s like hitting a brick wall. Patrick goes cold. He stumbles back, looks at him.
Jonny’s fists are clenched. His face is screwed up, and he’s not looking at Patrick. “Patrick,” he says, and his voice sounds forced out of him, like he doesn’t want to be talking at all. “I’m…I’m so sorry, I didn’t want…”
“Oh fuck,” Patrick whispers, and turns and runs.