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distance makes the heart grow fonder

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It’s not a thing.

Sure, Dylan misses Connor, but he’s definitely /not/ jealous of Leon. Connor is happy with Leon. He’s so bubbly whenever Dylan talks to him after he’s been with Leon. Connor has never been the most talkative guy, usually content to just enjoy the silence together unless there’s something worth saying.

But it's almost like Leon is Connor’s own personal source of alcohol, a source straight to his brain that makes him lose all reservations. Dylan loves that smile, it reminds him of being young and dumb in Erie, celebrating wins like it was all they knew. He still gets nostalgic for those days.

With Connor being in Edmonton, it's hard for Dylan to ever really see him. And ever since Ryan got traded to the Rangers it’s been harder for Dylan to spy on Connor. More specifically on Connor and Leon. Leon is a great guy and logically Dylan knows that he should just let Connor find his own happiness, but it hurts so much to know that he isn’t a part of it.

They’re still friends obviously. They text everyday, asking about games and practices, what’s new with the other’s team, what line mates they’re playing with and what not. They have a group chat with Alex that they use pretty frequently, too. It’s just that sometimes Dylan misses being able to sit together on the bus to a game and shoot the shit with Connor, not having to stress about hockey related things.

In some ways, Dylan’s beyond ecstatic that him and Connor are playing in the NHL, for two esteemed franchises, excelling at the top level of the sport they love. But, every once in a while, Dylan thinks he would probably give it all up to be back with his best friend.

-

It’s hard to put into words what long-distance friendships feel like. Time zones make everything infinitely more difficult, and there’s no way to guarantee that the other person will be totally present during phone calls. Sure, FaceTime and Skype make everything easier, but nothing compares to the feeling of being in the same room as someone and having their undivided attention.

Dylan always thought he would have Connor’s undivided attention. It never really occurred to him that another person might come along and draw Connor’s focus away from him.

Dylan’s met Leon several times and he’s honestly a little offended by how great the guy is. He’s funny and charismatic is a way that exudes confidence without seeming cocky; he just seems to be totally comfortable in his own skin. Which, logistically speaking, Dylan would be that comfortable in his own skin too if he looked like that, geez. Tall, dark, and handsome doesn’t even begin to cut it with Leon. His broad shoulders and sharp jawline are beyond porn-worthy and are a stark contrast to his soft smile and gentle eyes. Some days, Dylan doesn’t know if he’s more jealous of Leon or Connor.

-

There’s no way to explain the feeling of excitement Dylan gets when he gets the call up to the Coyotes. Yes, he’s gonna be playing in the fucking NHL, where he belongs. But the Coyotes are about to go out on a three game, western Canada road trip, which includes Edmonton as it’s last stop. That means Dylan gets to see Connor. Sue him if he’s excited about the wrong aspect of this call up.

The Coyotes are leaving for Vancouver in a few hours, that’s what John Chayka tells him on the phone, tells Dylan to just get on a plane directly to Vancouver. Dylan literally throws his clothes into a bag and heads to the airport, the whole time drafting a text to Connor.

“Hey Con, guess what?! I just got-“

He deletes that one immediately. It sounds way too serious to send to his best friend.

“Chayka just called. I’m back up with the yotes and on my way to-“

He deletes that one, too. He needs less words, more meaning.

“Just got called up. See ya in a few days Con”

His finger hovers for a moment over the keyboard, debating.

He presses send.

-

Dylan’s boarding the plane and getting ready to put his phone away when Connor’s reply comes through.

“That’s great Dyl! Congrats! I can’t wait to see you”

Dylan smiles like an idiot, a warmth seeping through him at the thought of eyeing Connor in a few days.

-

Vancouver is awful. Objectively speaking, Dylan really doesn’t play that bad. He gets an assist on the second goal the Coyotes score, and they went into the first intermission up 2-0. But Italy went downhill from there. Two shitty penalties turned into two power play goals for the Canucks and everyone on the bench was beyond frustrated for having given up a two goal lead. They try to claw back but get caught on the long change at the end of the second period and Vancouver scores a goal on a breakaway.

The intermission is quiet and subdued, everyone stuck in their own heads. When they come out for the third, he gets a 2-on-1 with Vinnie and Dylan ends up hitting the crossbar, the PING ringing out loud and clear. He skates to the bench and avoids eye contact with everyone, so frustrated with himself and the team and the stupid, good for nothing Canucks.

The rest of the third is just bad pass after bad pass, missed shot after missed shot, and the Canucks get an empty netter with a minute left in regulation. When the buzzer sounds, it’s almost a relief to have tha game be over. Dylan is upset, sure, but he feels like he hasn’t been around the team enough to really try and reconcile any of them. He awkwardly sits in his locker to look through his phone before getting up to shower. There’s another text from Connor and based on the time stamp, it looks like it came through around the middle of the third period.

“Geez Stromer, that crossbar had a family”

Dylan hates him so much. That doesn’t explain why he can’t stop smiling as he heads towards the showers.

-

Calgary is good. They come out guns a blazin’, a fire lit under their asses by the shitty bag skate they had that morning before the game. Dylan’s flying (objectively speaking of course, he’s no Connor McDavid), and midway through the first when they get a power play, he gets a look on the second unit. They don’t convert but there are a few good looks and no shortys scored against them so he’ll take it as a win for now. Oliver scores with about three minutes left in the period, an absolute rocket that goes right through the goalie’s five hole. Dylan jumps up on the bench with the rest of the guys, beyond excited to get on the scoreboard first after the terrible game in Vancouver.

The second period is much of the same, a tight game with a few penalties and no goals until the fourteenth minute when Keller goes streaking up the right boards and
Drives hard to the net, flicking a beauty of a backhander top shelf. This time Dylan’s on the ice, about to change when he hears the goal horn. He turns around and races to Clayton, bumping into his side and giving him a couple of well deserved head pats.

They ride the adrenaline from that goal through to the third period when Clayton scores again, this time on the power play. He jumps up and down as the guys on the ice skate towards him to celebrate and Dylan can't fucking stop smiling. This is what he loves, that feeling of joy when you can feel the adrenaline coursing through your veins. A good check is usually good for the adrenaline, but nothing compares to the feeling of your team scoring a goal. Especially when it puts you up 3-0 halfway through the third period.

“Stromer, if you don’t quit smiling like an idiot people are going to actually think you’re, like, a happy person,” Lawson says as he bumps shoulders with Dylan, but honestly he couldn’t care less. He’s playing in the NHL, living his dream, and he’s going to see his best friend tomorrow. Life’s pretty great right now.

“Hey Lawson, Stromer, you too idiots gonna sit there and giggle all day or are you gonna get back out there?” Dylan looks down the bench to see Brad Richardson laughing at them. They both just shrug and hop over the boards.

When there’s two minutes left, Calgary pulls their goalie. It’s a last ditch effort, too little too late if you ask Dylan. He jumps over the boards as Clayton goes to change and notices that Calgary’s changing too.

“HEY! Empty netter, go for the hatty!” Dylan yells at him as Oliver passes him the puck. Clayton veers away from the bench and Dylan’s pass connects on his tape, off his stick in no less than a second. The goal horn goes off and a couple of hats fall onto the ice. Dylan smiles and skates towards the boys, banging into all of them as they all smile at each other. He’s so happy.

-

As he’s about to get on the plane to Edmonton, Dylan opens his text conversation with Connor.

“Hey Davo, getting ready to board. Pick me up at the hotel?”

Connor starts typing instantly.

“Sure, just drop me your location once you get there. Can’t wait to see you”

Dylan thinks about saying something sappy but opts out at the last minute and replies with “Ditto.”

-

Dylan walks out the door of the front of the hotel, looking to the right for Connor. As he goes to turn to the left, he gets crushed by a hug.

“I missed you, you big, tall, lanky dork,” Connor says through his laughter.

“Missed you too, Davo. Couldn’t have asked Edmonton for some nice weather while I’m here?” Dylan pulls away from the hug, fixing his snapback.

Connor shrugs. “Contrary to popular belief, I don’t control everything around here.”

“Could’ve fooled me,” Dylan replies, a smile on his face as he and Connor bump shoulders while they walk to Connor’s car.

When Connor turns the car on, Sicko Mode starts to blare over the speakers and Dylan laughs before starting to rap along. He doesn’t even realize Connor’s staring at him until he looks over and ends up staring right into Connor’s eyes.

“What?” Dylan asks.

“Never change, Dyl,” Connor says with a small smile, pulling away from the curb.

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