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Auston looks peaceful when he sleeps. It’s maybe Mitch’s favourite thing about him, or at least top ten, along with ‘fucking gorgeous at hockey’ and ‘is somehow in love with me’ and ‘is currently lying in my bed’.

So, okay, the list is pretty flexible. Shut up.

Mitch drags a hand through Matts’ hair, gentle, careful not to wake him up. Offseason’s short enough that they need to sleep while they can, that he can’t begrudge Auston a few extra minutes. He looks like an angel, or, like, an instagram model, or something equally embarrassing.

“Hey, creeper,” Auston says without opening his eyes. It makes Mitch jump, and Auston smirks lazily. He’s in Mitch’s old ‘the A in LGBTQA stands for Auston Matthews’ t-shirt, a size too small. It’s tight enough on him to look both really hot and kind of stupid.

Mitch loves him so much he thinks he might literally explode, sometimes.

Auston opens an eye like it takes a real effort, pokes at Mitch’s stomach, and yawns, “What?”

“Nothing,” Mitch says, because it’s too early for lovey-dovey shit. “That shirt accentuates your moobs.”

“What the fuck is a moob?” His voice is still all gravelly with sleep.

“Moobs, plural,” Mitch says, and pulls himself over so he’s leaning on Auston’s chest, arms crossed. “Man boobs? Urban dictionary is a thing, Matty, y’know-”

“They’re not boobs,” Auston says, affronted. His face gets all crunched up. “They’re pecs.”

Mitch makes a face and opens his mouth to argue, only that plan goes sideways pretty quick when Auston leans up to kiss him, slow and lazy at first then with capital-I Intent.

“Eager,” Mitch chirps, when he remembers how to talk.

Auston doesn’t look bothered, trailing his fingers up and down Mitch’s side. “I like kissing you.”

“I like when you kiss me,” Mitch says back. “So hey, that’s pretty convenient.”

That’s a pretty boss advantage of dating your best friend, the ability to combine chirping and making out. Super time-efficient, as well. Mitch makes a mental note to tell Sid that when he goes back, ‘cause it seems like the kind of lameass thing he’d appreciate.

Auston just rolls his eyes, awake enough now to sit up and roll them over, swapping their positions so he’s on top of Mitch, pressing him into the mattress and proceeding to thoroughly kiss him. He puts all of his attention into it the way he always does, single-minded focus like a slow, morning-breath makeout is the most important thing in the world. Mitch could believe that.

He drags his toes down the back of Auston’s calf; bites Auston’s bottom lip, gentle, and basks in the sound it earns, the way Auston tugs at the hem of Mitch’s shirt, impatient. It’s still, like, this unreal thing, having the guy he’s been pining over since he was a literal teenager wanting him back at god-knows-what time of the morning. Mitch’s life is fucking goals.

He lifts his arms, lets Auston tug his shirt over his head and kiss a trail down his chest, slow, teasing these shaky breaths out of Mitch that’d be embarrassing if it was anyone else but Matts. He’s not fully hard yet, still sleepy, but he can feel himself getting there, is content to let Auston take the lead. Except then he catches sight of Matts’ shirt again and has to bite his lip.

It takes Auston a minute to notice him shaking, but he does, and he sits up, incredulous. “Are you laughing?”

“No,” Mitch lies. He lasts about half a second, face red and lips pressed together, before losing it again. “Okayokayokay,” he says, gasping for breath. “I’m sorry, but how do you not know what moobs are?”

Auston’s staring at him, trying to look annoyed and mostly failing. Mitch knows him too well. “Say ‘moobs’ one more fucking time, Marns, I dare you.”

“Moobs,” Mitch says obediently, still giggling, and Auston brains him with a pillow. “You- asshole!” He jabs at Auston’s stomach where he knows he’s ticklish, only it backfires because Auston loses his balance and falls down on top of him, pinning him down and pretending to fall back asleep while Mitch whacks him with the pillow and laughs until his stomach aches.

They’re going to have to get up and make breakfast, go for a run or something. Possibly also pick up with the sex thing again. Mitch figures they’ve got time, so they just lie there in a pile, laughing so hard that Fish comes in to leap on the bed and slobber all over both of them. It’s Mitch’s family, is what it is, and he’s the luckiest guy in Canada, in the world, and he gets to have this.

 

Toronto Maple Leafs @MapleLeafs

Once a Leaf, always a Leaf @Marner93 @AM34 instagram.com/p/4sic987

 

Pittsburgh Penguins @penguins

@MapleLeafs ok fine that’s cute

 

Toronto Maple Leafs @MapleLeafs

@penguins (Grinning Face )

 

They drive down to Wasaga, even though it’s the busiest part of tourist season and the boardwalk is packed out. Marns says that Auston has to see it, which- it’s a beach like any other beach in Canada, kind of gross water and a bunch of ice cream trucks and everyone in the country out to soak up the sun.

It’s pretty perfect.

They dump their stuff in the cabin they’re renting and clip on Fish’s leash, heading for the main beach. And Auston could get used to offseasons like this, he thinks, walking around with Marns talking about the Jays’ start to the season with the sun beating down on their heads.

They don’t hold hands or anything, but they’re walking close enough that their fingers brush sometimes, Mitch’s elbows knock against Auston’s; when they stop to get ice cream, Auston slips a hand in Marns’ back pocket. Stuff like that. It still feels kind of new, this almost scary thing that’d be scarier if it didn’t feel so normal. Marns doesn’t push. Auston probably loves him for that.

A kid in leafs swim trunks runs up and almost starts crying, he’s so starstruck, so they take turns holding each other’s ice cream and autographing a receipt that his mom has in her purse. They’re nice people, pretty lowkey as far as fan encounters go. Auston sits on the ground to pet Fish with the kid while his mom chatters with Mitch about some fish and chips place in town that they just have to try.

“You play hockey?” he asks, a little awkward. He’s not as good with little kids as Mitch, but the kid nods, scratching Fish’s ears.

“Double A,” he says, proud. “Me and my best friend Jacob are gonna be like you guys. Except I get to be you.”

Auston can’t help but smile. “Tell Jacob I said that’s pretty cool,” he says, and the kid grins before remembering that he’s supposed to be shy and grabbing at his mom’s hand.

They’re getting some looks after that, people recognizing them or noticing the fact that they just signed an autograph, so they dip pretty quick, racing each other back to the car. Auston’s ice cream is dripping down the cone, and Mitch laughs while he tries to wolf it down, tastes like mint chocolate when Auston drags him in and kisses him.

“Feel like fish and chips for dinner?” Mitch asks when they’re doing up their seatbelts.

Fish is peering out the window from the backseat, and Auston follows her gaze. “Sure,” he says, easy. “I want to be on the beach first, though.”

“We can do that,” Mitch agrees, and starts driving, cranks up the radio so Auston can feel it pounding in his chest.

He drives them back near their rental, away from the boardwalk and touristy stuff. There’s a beach just down the path from their place, hidden away by a few trees. It’s not as nice as the main beaches, empty except for a couple of old people. They don’t notice the ‘no dogs allowed’ sign until after, but none of the old people complain, so Auston figures they’re good.

It takes about a minute and a half ‘til Mitch has his jeans rolled up to his knees, running through the shallow water and tossing sticks for Fish and generally looking like a fucking dork. Auston sits down next to where Mitch abandoned his shoes and digs his toes into the sand. It’s mostly pebbles.

It’s quiet, the only sounds Mitch laughing and waves collapsing onto the shore. Auston takes out his phone, snaps a picture of Marns and Fish having a tug-of-war with a giant piece of driftwood. Hashtag-No-Filter. He doesn’t post it anywhere, just saves it and sends it to Willy with the caption u wish u were here.

i just threw up a little bit, Willy sends back, and Auston pockets his phone, grinning.

It’s maybe his favourite part of Canada, how sunny it gets in summer. Not Arizona-sunny, because nothing is, but it almost feels warmer for how cold it was just a couple months ago, how cold it’s going to get again way too soon.

“Hey, Matthews,” Mitch calls, jolting Auston out of his thoughts. “Get your pasty ass over here and jump over tiny waves with me like a man!”

Auston rolls his eyes so hard he thinks they might fall out, but the effect is sort of ruined by the smile that he can’t quite manage to hide. “I’ve seen your ass, dude, you should not be calling other people pasty.”

Mitch flips him off, middle fingers silhouetted in the sun. It’s pretty majestic.

He’s going back to Pittsburgh, next week.

Auston’s not entirely sure how he feels about that, yet. Like- not good, he knows that, because if he has the choice between waking up next to Marns or in a different country, it’s no contest. If he thinks about how much time they wasted, living out of each other’s pockets for six years without taking that final step...

Thing is, though, it’s not the same kind of outright dread as this time last year, either. He just- Mitch is it for him. That’s a sure thing, not even a question. It’s the two of them, and they’ve already booked Auston’s flight to Pennsylvania during bye week, and their parents have a groupchat, and they’re going to make it work. Auston knows that like he knew he was going to play in the NHL, like he knows this season’s going to be his season, so he’s not scared. Just. Steady. Excited.

Auston gets to his feet so he can join Mitch in the water, toes off his sandals in the sand.

They’ve got this.