Both his phone and his wallet are in the pocket of his jacket. Patrick has time to be grateful for that when he gets to the lobby of Jonny’s building—for that, and for his shoes, because he has to get out of there as soon as possible. He could walk to the subway, but what if Jonny is worried and comes after him? What if he has to talk to Jonny again and he can’t, he can’t, not now that Jonny knows—not now that he knows Jonny doesn’t—
He realizes he’s standing just inside the doors, staring blankly ahead, and the doorman is giving him a look. “Can I help you with anything, Mr. Kane?” he says, and Patrick finds himself saying, “Actually, yeah.”
He’s never been so glad for his newly populated bank account as when he sinks into the backseat of the cab a minute later. “It’s going to be kind of a long trip,” he says to the cab driver, and the guy just nods and punches the address into the GPS.
For a second after he gets there, Patrick’s afraid none of his sisters are home.
His phone is dead, so he couldn’t call ahead. And it’s okay if they’re not here—he could go into the backyard, hang out on the swing set, wait for them to get back, but his head is killing him and he just spent a two-hour cab ride replaying that moment in the kitchen and he thinks if he doesn’t get to talk to somebody soon—
The door finally opens, and it’s Mrs. Rozier, in dirty jeans with a bandanna around her hair. “Patrick, are you all right?” she asks, and the next minute he’s sobbing, crying into her shirt as her arms come around him and she holds him like no mother has held him for four long years.
It takes a few minutes for him to calm down. Once he does, the Roziers give him breakfast and make him some tea and his sisters crowd around him, solemn and concerned. He doesn’t really want to tell them what happened—doesn’t want to recount his humiliation—but Jackie pulls him into the pillow fort she’s built in her room, Erica and Jess crawling in behind until they’re all piled together in the tiny darkness of sofa cushions and sheets, and Patrick finds the whole story spilling out of him.
“And I shouldn’t have, I was right the whole time,” he says. “I’ve ruined it, and now he knows, and I just couldn’t keep standing there, I couldn’t,” he ends on a whisper.
His sisters are all sort of petting him now, hands stroking his shoulders and arms and hair. “What a stinkface,” Jess says.
“I’m so sorry, Patty,” Erica says. “We’ll see if you can stay here.”
“I can’t stay,” Patrick says, even though it’s the only thing he can imagine doing. He just can’t face Jonny again.
“For tonight, then,” Erica says firmly.
“We can watch Finding Nemo,” Jackie says, and Patrick does love that movie.
It helps, being comforted by his sisters, not a lot, but the aching pit in his gut is only about three-quarters as wide as it was.
The feel of Jonny’s muscles, going stiff and unresponsive under his hands. The look on Jonny’s face after he’d pulled away.
The Roziers do let him stay, at least for the night, and they make Jackie give up the sofa cushions so he’ll have somewhere to sleep later. They even give him their spare iPhone charger, which Patrick has mixed feelings about.
He could just leave his phone off. It would be easier. But maybe he should plug it in and keep it on silent, just in case. Even if there's no one in the outside world he can imagine wanting to talk to right now.
He's going to plug it in and leave it alone, but as soon as it turns on, it starts ringing. Patrick’s heart does something desperate inside his throat until he looks at the screen.
It’s not Jonny. It’s Sharpy.
Patrick bites his lip and debates answering it long enough that the phone stops ringing. But then it starts up again, a second later, and he finally gives in and hits accept. “Hey, Sharpy.”
“Oh, so you are alive,” Sharpy says. Then, “He’s alive!” like he’s calling out to other people in the room. Patrick can hear voices.
“What the f—heck did you think had happened?” Patrick asks, shooting a glance at the Roziers, in the kitchen but not necessarily out of earshot.
“Hey, don’t ask me, it was Jonny with all the theories,” Sharpy says. “Oh, and he wants to talk to you.”
“No,” Patrick says quickly, then, “No. No,” at escalating volumes in case Sharpy’s pulled the phone away from his ear.
“Okay, okay, fine,” Sharpy says. “But for the record, I think you’re both being idiots.”
Patrick takes a second for the wave of humiliation to roll through him. That probably means—Jonny told them, then. What Patrick did. “Can you just…tell him I’m sorry?”
“If that’s what you want,” Sharpy says. His voice gets softer. “You need anything?”
“No.” Patrick closes his eyes and leans against the side of the couch. “I’m at my sisters’. They’re letting me stay for a while.”
“Okay, well, let me know if you need a ride back,” Sharpy says, like he doesn’t hate Patrick now, like maybe he’s his friend, not just his sort-of almost teammate. Then the call is over and Patrick does put the phone on silent and just sits there for long minutes, trying to let all the feelings inside him settle.
He doesn’t let himself check his phone for the rest of the day. He hangs out with his sisters instead, and plays Barbies with Jackie and ends up judging a new version of the hallway Olympics he remembers from when they were tiny.
He hasn’t lived with them, really lived, for four years. But they still look to him after they finish the pillow long jump to see if they won, and it makes him want to cry a little.
It would all be great if it weren’t for the pounding in his temples and the yawning ache in his gut. If he didn’t keep looking around to find Jonny, only to remember a split second later and have everything go hollow on him. If his sisters were still the only people in the world he loved, and not—
His headache gets worse as the day goes on. By the time he’s been at the Roziers’ for a few hours, he feels like he can practically see it: a red pulsing just beyond the corners of his eyes.
He’s kind of used to it by now. But it finally gets bad enough that he asks the Roziers for pain meds. Mr. Rozier takes one look at his face and pours four extra-strength Tylenol into his hand.
“I remember the first time Deborah and I had a fight,” he says to Patrick, voice pitched mercifully low. “We’d been dating for a couple of months, and—well, it seems silly now. But I woke up the next morning thinking I was going to vomit.”
That’s how I feel every morning, Patrick thinks, even though it’s not quite true: it’s only after he’s left the house for school that he feels like that. But he knows the feeling: the deep, unsteadying unwellness in your gut that comes from walking away from the one person you only want to be closer to.
Mr. Rozier puts a hand on his shoulder. “You’ll be back in his arms soon enough,” he says, and Patrick blinks in surprise.
“We’re not—it’s not like that,” he says. “It’s just a hockey bond.”
Mr. Rozier’s eyebrows go up. “Oh,” he says. “I’m sorry, I thought—but I guess all bonds operate more or less the same,” and Patrick swallows down how true that is, how much Jonny’s gotten under his skin and made him ache.
They have meatloaf for dinner, everyone talking and laughing around the table and Patrick trying not to look like his head hurts too much when anybody’s looking at him. After dinner they pile on the couch in the living room to watch Finding Nemo, and it’s good except for how Patrick keeps thinking—how every second they’re all cuddled up together it feels more and more wrong, that he’s cuddled up with them and not with—
“Are you okay?” Erica whispers.
“Fine,” he whispers back, and tries to stop squirming. He loves them; he loves cuddling with them. It should be enough.
Jackie runs up to get the door when the bell rings. Patrick doesn’t pay much attention, just rearranges himself on Jess’s legs instead and winces when it jostles his head. But then Jackie gives a loud yelp.
They’re all up, springing to their feet, Patrick the fastest. He rounds the corner into the hall and sees—
Patrick’s whole body lurches at the sight of him. Jonny’s eyes jump to him right away, wide and almost…desperate, is the only word Patrick can put to him. The look in them is flaying the skin from Patrick's body.
“Jonathan,” Mrs. Rozier says. “I suppose you’ve come to see Patrick?”
Jonny’s face looks so right, even pale and frightened and wild about the eyes. Patrick can’t believe he went almost a whole day without seeing it. He can barely breathe for it.
“Um,” Jonny says, and Patrick can’t do this here, can’t make a scene in front of the Roziers.
“I’ll just,” he says, and grabs his shoes and coat and stumbles to the door, heart racing as it brings him near Jonny and the look in his eyes.
He's expecting Jonny to back up and keep his distance. But as soon as the door is shut behind him, one of them moves, or maybe both, and the next think Patrick knows he’s breathing in the smell of Jonny’s skin and Jonny’s arms are around him tight enough to bruise.
“Oh, fuck, Patrick, fuck,” Jonny whispers into his hair. “I know I shouldn’t have come, I just…oh my God, it’s so good to see you. I thought…”
Patrick makes a noise that sounds suspiciously like a sob. He feels like he’s finally breathing, after a whole day of holding his breath, and every breath is Jonny. Jonny’s hands on his back and face pressed to his hair and neck warm and clean-smelling by Patrick’s face. Patrick nudges his nose against it and breathes in and—
Jonny’s gone, out of his arms, moving ten feet across the porch. “God,” he says. “God, I’m sorry, I thought I wouldn’t do that.”
Patrick wavers, off-balance from the speed of the change. But his body gets it before his mind, and there’s a sharp drop in the pit of his stomach. “Oh,” he says.
Jonny’s staring at the floorboards of the porch. “I’m so sorry,” he says.
“Right. Okay.” Patrick leans back against the wall of the house. He feels so tired suddenly, headache roaring against his temples. He wants to sink to his knees on the porch and lay his head on the boards. “Is this why you came? Just to do this again?”
Jonny’s eyes dart to him, widening. “No! I just…came to see you.”
“Right,” Patrick says. He wraps his arms around his chest. Jonny’s so far away, like he’s afraid… “You don’t have to stand over there, you know. I’m not going to jump you again.”
Jonny’s brow furrows. “I didn’t think…”
“I mean, it was pretty obvious that you hated it.” It’s getting hard to talk, the way his throat is closing down. This is what he was afraid of: Jonny ten feet away, afraid to come closer. “I’m not dumb, okay? I wouldn’t do that to you again. You don’t have to treat me like I’ll…like…”
Jonny’s staring at him now, hard, and he does take a tiny step closer, but it’s not enough. “I’m—no. Patrick. That’s not how it is.”
“I didn’t mean to—shit.” Patrick doesn't want to start crying. It’s just that—Jonny is standing so far away, and Patrick’s cold, and he’s alone, and it will be like this always—
“Sh, sh, no,” Jonny says, and then—oh, then, finally, he’s there again, warm and close, one arm pulling Patrick close with a hand at the small of Patrick’s back. The other hand wipes the tears from under Patrick’s eyes.
Patrick sucks in a breath. He didn't think he'd get this again. Jonny’s barely six inches away, and the way his fingers are brushing his cheek makes Patrick go lax in his arms. The tired feeling of a second before is gone. It’s all Jonny now: Jonny’s hands, Jonny’s face, Jonny’s eyes on Patrick. It’s everything he wanted, and maybe it’s not the way he wanted it, but it’s good enough that all he can think is, Please, no, please don’t take it away this time, please don’t leave me like before…
“Do you think you’re the one who did something wrong?” Jonny says, sharp, like this is a new idea.
“I know I did,” Patrick says, whispers.
“Fuck, Patrick, no, I—I’m the one who messed up,” Jonny says. His hand is still on Patrick’s cheek, his eyes intent on him. “You’re—for God's sake, you're fucking seventeen years old.”
That cuts through the haze of Jonny’s skin on his, just a little. “What?”
“I took you out of a foster home,” Jonny says. He looks down. “I basically—Sharpy told me, when we first bonded, he warned me, he told me I’d better not mess with you, and I wasn’t going to, I couldn’t—”
He breaks off, breathing out sharply. Patrick feels his words like stones in his gut, and he stiffens. “Is that why you didn’t want to kiss me? Because you think I’m too young?”
“No!” Jonny’s eyes flare. “It’s not that, it’s—I never wanted to make you feel—I mean, I was giving you shelter, and—and money, and..." He huffs a breath. “Fuck, I gave you the NHL.”
“So what?” Patrick says faintly.
Jonny takes a shuddery breath. “I just never meant for you to think that you owed me anything.”
Patrick takes a second, breathes. He feels everything whirling around him. “You…think I kissed you because I owed you something.”
“I know I wasn’t good at hiding the way I—but I really don't need that from you. I can give you space.” Jonny takes his hand off Patrick’s face, takes a step away. “We can sleep in separate beds, anything you want. I’ll keep my distance. You don’t have to do anything to—to earn your keep, now or ever, just—" He breaks off, closes his eyes for a moment. "Just please, please say you’ll come back with me—”
Patrick takes a step closer and fists his hands in Jonny’s coat. Jonny’s eyes pop open.
“My head hurts any time you’re not touching me,” Patrick says.
Jonny stares at him.
“I want you so badly I can barely sleep some nights,” Patrick says. He’s breathing hard, now that he’s saying this. “I’ve been going crazy, Jonny, fuck. Every second of every day—every morning when I had to walk out the door without—it’s been killing me, don’t you get it?”
Jonny just keeps looking at him, eyes wide and startled, like he can’t look away.
“You think you’ve given me all this stuff, but it’s you—” Fuck, Patrick isn’t good enough at words for this. “You’re the best thing I’ve ever gotten, and—shit, Jonny, if it was a choice between you or the NHL, the NHL wouldn’t matter at all. You hear that? I would take you over hockey.” Patrick leans forward and presses their foreheads together and feels how true it is, and tries to put all of that into his words. “I would take you over hockey.”
Jonny’s voice is barely there, and his breath is warm and fast against Patrick’s face. “Really?”
Patrick breathes in the smell of him. “I mean,” he says, “I’m not saying I don’t want the hockey.”
Jonny lets out this sound that’s halfway between a sob and a laugh, and his hand clenches on Patrick’s back. “Fuck,” he breathes.
“Yeah,” Patrick whispers.
Jonny’s hand comes back up to brush the side of Patrick’s face. His thumb presses into the corner of Patrick’s mouth, and Patrick can feel his lips part and tingle and his mouth fill with saliva. His body is priming for it, heat running through his veins. Jonny’s thumb slides over, across his lower lip, presses into the center of the plush curve. Patrick sucks in a breath with a little whimper on the tail of it.
“So you really…want this,” Jonny says, breath washing over Patrick’s mouth.
“Oh my God, Jonny, I don’t know how many other ways I can say it,” Patrick says, and Jonny makes a little sound and tips his head forward and kisses him, hard and fierce.
He steals Patrick’s breath in a rush. Patrick moans and arches his back, and Jonny licks inside his mouth and presses closer, fisting his hands in Patrick’s coat and kissing urgent and deep and hungry. Patrick can hear himself making noises, but it’s so good that he can barely think. Can only keep kissing Jonny—keep chasing his taste, that smooth spot on the inside of his lip, the rasp when their tongues slide together. It vibrates up and down his body until he feels like he’s shaking apart.
“God, Patrick, want you so bad,” Jonny whispers into his mouth, and that's it, Patrick's gone. He whines and tries to scramble closer. He wants to climb Jonny, wants to fall apart in his arms, doesn’t even care if he’s on the Roziers’ porch when he does it.
He bites at Jonny’s lip, and Jonny shoves him back against the wall, pinning him there with his body, and that makes it so much better: Jonny’s heat against him, Jonny eating into Patrick’s mouth and gasping for air. His dick is a hard line of heat that's making Patrick crazy. He throws a leg up around Jonny’s waist and grinds their hips together with a delicious shiver that runs from his dick to his scalp and that’s when his elbow presses the doorbell.
“Shit,” Jonny says, stumbling back, and when the door opens a second later, they’re standing there, maybe six inches apart, hair rumpled and coats askew, under the wide eyes of Mr. and Mrs. Rozier.
Patrick’s breathing really hard, and he can feel the flush spread up his cheeks. “I think, uh, maybe I’m going to go back to the city now,” he says.
The Roziers stare back at him for a minute before nodding silently, and a suspicious burst of giggling comes from inside the house behind them.