It was the worst summer of his life.
Patrick knew what a shit he was being - to his mom and dad, to Erica and Jessica. Even to Jackie - maybe especially to Jackie because she was only seven and just as unhappy as he was.
But at the time he was furious and lonely after his family had moved to Chicago for his mom’s job. He was thirteen, and filled with righteous teenage anger at being made to live so far from all of his friends.
So he spent most of the summer either riding the El or making his family miserable.
And it was while riding the El that he saw Jonny for the first time.
Patrick spent the day walking around Millenium Park, but when it was a quarter to five, he really couldn’t avoid going home any longer. He had to run up the stairs to catch the northbound Ravenswood as it pulled into the platform. It was a lot later than he’d meant to let it get, and he was going to have a hell of a time finding a seat amongst all the people heading home from work.
He just managed to make it onto the train, stepping through the door just as it was closing. He didn’t have to time to do more than get out of the way of the door before the train started moving with a lurch that sent him sprawling forward. He fell to one knee in the middle of the aisle, his backpack slipping off and landing with a thunk beside him, papers spilling out onto the floor.
“Fuck.” Patrick gathered the papers together and shoved them into his backback, cheeks burning as a man in a suit stepped over him.
“You okay, dude?” The guy in the row next to him asked.
“Yeah,” Patrick said, looking up.
The guy was wearing a stained soccer uniform, complete with cleats. His eye was swollen and he had a cut over one cheek.
He was gorgeous.
He was also sitting next to the only open seat on the train, and he squinted at Patrick, biting his cheek when Patrick just stared back at him mutely, his mouth dry and his heart racing a little.
After a long moment of staring, soccer-guy narrowed his eyes and tilted his head back, looking Patrick up and down.
“You wanna sit, or you planning on kneeling there like an asshole for the whole trip?”
“Fuck off,” Patrick scoffed, standing just as the train took a sharp turn. He pitched forward and falling into the seat, jostling hard into soccer-guy’s shoulder.
“Ow, fuck,” the guy said, rubbing his shoulder and looking as disgruntled as a wet cat. “Jesus, you’re a menace.”
“Oh, sorry, was this seat taken?” Patrick said brightly.
When the guy gave him a sour look, Patrick shrugged, grinning wide. The guy’s glare faded into something more assessing and he stared at Patrick for another long moment before his lips twitched into a smile.
“Asshole,” he said.
“Pretty much,” Patrick agreed, grinning. “And, uh. Sorry about that.” He bumped the guy’s shoulder.
“Don’t, fuck, that really hurts!” The guy snap, his smile fading and replaced by a pained expression as he rubbed his arm. “I think you might’ve broken it.”
“Fuck, man,” Patrick started, looking in concern at the shoulder the guy was rubbing gingerly. “Are you serious? I didn’t mean to - ” he broke off when the guy started to laugh.
Patrick scowled. “Are you fucking with me?”
That just made the guy laugh harder and Patrick huffed, crossing his arms and looking out the window. “Fuck off, man. I hope you did fucking break it.”
“Like a dude as little as you could break my anything. What do you weigh, 90, 95 pounds?”
Patrick’s head snapped back around. “Fuck you, I weigh 105!”
The guy just laughed harder, his face lit up, and Patrick had to bite his cheek to keep from smiling back. “Fuck you,” he muttered again.
“Nice come back,” the guy said, smirking.
They rode along in silence for a minute before Patrick asked, “so how come you’re riding the El in your soccer cleats with a shiner?”
The guy looked down and rubbed at a grass stain on his knee. “Got in a fight with one of my teammates,” he shrugged, his neck flushed red. “The guy’s brother was my ride and they left me. Fucking assholes.”
“Wow, man, I thought that just happened in hockey,” Patrick said, shaking his head. “Then again, you are kind of a dick, so.”
“Maybe, but - ” Soccer-guy said then cut himself, looking at Patrick, eyes wide. “Wait, you play hockey?”
When Patrick nodded, he grabbed his arm and shook it. “I play hockey!”
“Uh,” Patrick said, looking at where the guy was holding onto him, his cheeks warming again.
When he glanced up again, soccer-guy was watching him and he pulled at his hand until the guy let it go and sat back in his seat.
“Yeah, uh, I play right wing? And center, sometimes, but,” Patrick shrugged. “I like wing better.”
“I play center,” the guy said, a little quieter, and when Patrick sneaks a look at him, he’s staring intently, expression serious. “Who - where do you play?”
“I don’t know,” Patrick said, mouth twisting angrily. “My old team’s in Buffalo. We just moved here last month. I fucking hate it.” He kicked at the side of the train and crossed his arms, glaring out of the window again.
The guy was quiet for a minute before he bumped his knee against Patrick’s. “I know, man, I moved here about a year ago. Sucks finding a new team. I miss-” he stopped and Patrick looked over to see him biting his lip. “I miss everything.”
“Yeah,” Patrick sighed. “Me, too.”
Before either of them could say anything else, the next stop was called.
“So, uh, that’s my stop,” Patrick said, wishing he didn’t have to get off just when he’d finally met someone cool.
Or almost cool. The guy was wearing soccer cleats on the El.
But Patrick was late home for dinner the past three nights and his father was going to seriously kick his ass if he didn’t make it home in time tonight.
“Maybe-” they said at the same time and Patrick stopped, waving at soccer-guy to continue.
“I’m uh, I’m going to the Blackhawks’ training camp tomorrow, to watch the new players, If you - maybe you’d wanna come?” soccer-guy mumbled, his ears pink. He rubbed the back of his neck. “Or not, you know, if you’re busy.”
“No, man, I’d - that’d be awesome!” Patrick said, excited for something for the first time since he got to Chicago. “What time?”
“Meet me on this platform at 9:30?” When Patrick nodded, the guy smiled, huge and happy, and something in Patrick’s stomach swooped. “Cool.”
“Cool,” Patrick echoed dumbly and the guy snickered. “Shut up, ass-wipe.”
“Jonny,” the guy said, kicking at Patrick’s foot. “My name’s Jonny.”
“Kinda feels like ass-wipe fits better,” Patrick grinned. “But whatever. I’m Patrick. But everyone calls me Kaner.”
“Kaner,” Jonny said dubiously before shaking his head. “Nah, I think I like Patrick better.”
“Oh,” Patrick said, ducking his head. “That’s cool, too.”
The El was pulling into the stop, so he leaned down to grab his bag. Standing quickly, he dead-armed Jonny, sticking out his tongue and jumping off the train before Jonny can react.
When he looked back, Jonny was grinning at him through the window even while he rubbed his arm. Patrick waved, because he was a dork, but Jonny waved back, because he was an even bigger dork, and the sight made Patrick laugh.
He was still smiling when he got home, not even realizing until his mom did a double take.
“You look happy,” she said. “Did you have a nice day?”
“Yeah,” Patrick said, biting back a smile before giving in and letting it grow until he knew he was beaming. “Made a friend.”
“I’m so glad, honey,” his mom said. “I know this has been hard for you.”
Patrick shrugged, his smile fading a little. “Yeah.”
“Well, hopefully this is a new beginning,” she said.
“Maybe,” Patrick said, thinking of Jonny. “Maybe.”