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Yours Are the Sweetest Eyes I've Ever Seen

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September 2006

“Welcome fresh meat!” Sharp booms, spreading his arms wide. He is standing at the side of the video room flanked by two tall players at the side. “I’m your alternate captain Patrick Sharp,” he points at himself, “but you can call me Sharpy. That man at the corner,” he points at the right corner of the room to a senior who is crossing his arms, “is your captain Martin Lapointe and these two,” he wraps his arms around the tall players’ shoulders, “these are your other alternates Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith aka Seabs and Duncs,” Seabrook and Keith both shrug his arms off them, causing Sharp to stumble a little. The six freshmen in the room snicker.

Unfortunately, the stumble did not deter his enthusiasm. He plows on, “since we will be teammates for at least a year, we want to do an activity to get you to know each other. It’s a little bonding exercise.”

“The activity is that you will go around the places where the hockey team needs to go throughout the season for a scavenger hunt. You will be paired off and find the clues.”

“What’s the prize?” hollers a freshman.

“Hmm,” Sharp scratches his chin thoughtfully, “how about I don’t prank you for a week?” He says with a wicked gleam in his eyes. “Trust me, I’m a great prankster. I had these elaborate pranks to welcome you to the team but I won’t do it to the winning pair. Don’t believe me?” He looks at the faces of the unconvinced freshmen. “You can ask Duncs and Seabs, they’ll tell you that I’m a great prankster, right boys?” He turns around for confirmation.

“Guys,” Seabs resignedly sighs, “He’s right. You need to believe him. We didn’t either, at first. Learned it the hard way”

“I’ll pair you up now,” Sharp plays with his hands, giving the impression of a villain, “you and you,” he points at two freshmen, “you two,” he waggles his fingers, “and you go with him.”

“Now that you’re paired up. I’ll give you the first clue: it’s somewhere we go where we die and there’s a lot of metal.”

The freshmen raise their eyebrow in bewilderment. Their faces are scrunched up in confusion.

“Chop, chop!” he claps his hands and the freshmen disperse in the room.

“Where is it somewhere we die and has a lot of metal?” Jonny paces around, considering all the places a hockey team needs to go.

“Uhhh…OH MY GOD!” Patrick eyes widen, an imaginary light bulb goes off in his brain. He jumps excitedly then composes himself to not draw any suspicion. “I know where it is,” he whispers.

“Where?”

“The weight room. It’s somewhere we die and has a lot of metal, the weights!” he hisses.

Jonny’s eyes widen. “Oh shit! Yeah, you’re right. Let’s Go!”.

They scramble up the stairs to the weight room and notice a blue piece of paper taped to the bench press. They bolt to direction of the taped piece of paper. Patrick pulls it and reads the paper, “‘All the thing needed to keep an athlete in shape throughout the season.’ Where is that?” “Uh…” Jonny scratches his head, mind going a mile a minute to process the sentence and analyze the clue.

“So…um…you’re Canadian?” Patrick asks after moments of pondering, trying to lighten the mood with conversation.

“Winnipeg,” Jonny replies, “How’d you know?”

“Educated guess,” Pat shrugs. He then clarifies, “accent gave it away.”

“You’re not from here?”

“No, Buffalo.”
“Ohhhh. Pretty close to Canada.” Jonny smugly points out.

“Yeah, yeah,” he rolls his eyes, “USA’s still better.”

“So, what’re majoring in?”

“Math with stats as minor.” At the mention of math, Jonny raises his eyebrows, impressed. “What about you?”

“I’m…um…,” Jonny looks down and shuffles his shoes, “actually undecided. I took some management courses but…y’know…I’ll…choose whatever I like eventually…” Jonny trails off. An uncomfortable silence hangs in the air which is broken by sudden thuds of people running up the stairs.

“Oh shit,” Patrick frantically notices, “people are catching up.”

In a wonderful moment, they both share a triumphant moment and say in unison, “NUTRITION ROOM!”

They race down staircase with the two groups meeting them halfway. “Hey, you guys were already there?” One of the boys asks.

“No time,” Jonny pants, “gotta go. Good luck. See you soon.” Patrick is hot at his heels.

They thunder to the nutrition room and one of the staff members greets them by holding another piece of paper. “Good luck,” he wishes as he hands Jonny the note.

“Thank you,” Jonny replies. He reads the note, “‘your new home’ The locker room?” He looks at Patrick questioningly.

“Maybe our dorms. No, that makes no sense,” he absently chews his bottom lip. “Oh shit! It’s the rink! The rink!” He grabs Jonny’s arm, hoping he understands his direction of reason.

 “Oh fuck! Yeah! You’re right! Let’s go! Let’s go!”

They sprint to the rink, hears voices of two of their fellow freshmen from the hallway, urging them to run faster to their location. As they near towards the rink, no ice yet since it is preseason, they see the familiar faces of Sharp with his wolf-like grin, Seabrook and Keith and their captain. “Congrats, boys you are the first team to arrive at the destination which means you have successfully completed the scavenger hunt. So as promised, I will not prank you for a week,” he laments.

Patrick and Jonny share a quick grin. Jonny claps his shoulder, “Good job. You were great.” “You were pretty good.” Patrick says. His demeanors shifts and he shuffles awkwardly, “I don’t know if you remember. Well to be honest,” he aims for casual indifference but misses it by miles, “we played long time ago but um anyways we played together in Junior Flyers when we were 13.” He utters the last sentence as a question, uncertain of Toews’ reaction.

Jonny gives him a quick smirk. “I think I would be committing blasphemy if I didn’t remember the kid who showed up to practice in a pair flip-flops and had a mess of blond curls on his head. But then again, it’s easy to remember since you haven’t changed a bit.”

“Fuck you! I’m taller now.”

“What are you? 5’7, 5’8?”

“5’9, dipshit. I’m gonna be taller,” raises his chin up in defiance.

“Well good luck, bud. I’m already 6’2,” he casually shrugs. “Hey, did you go to your room yet?”

“No, I was gonna but then I was kinda rushing for this so my parents are probably at my room right now. Why?”

“Same with me. No, I was asking to see if we were in the same building or a different one.”

“Mine is Curran Hall. Room 309…” he trails off as he notices Jonny crack a smile. “Why are you smiling?”

“Because I’m also in Curran Hall and my room is 309 too so that means both of our parents are probably cooking up a storm right now.”

Patrick laughs, relieved. Hey, your roommate is not a total stranger! You’ve interacted with him. Soon Jonny joins in the laughter. It’s not gonna be awkward! You know the guy!

They share a quick grin again, affirming to themselves a start to a wonderful friendship.

 

Chapter Text

October 2006

The team is practising for the first game of the season vs Quinnipiac. The team has tried many line variations but has not properly jelled in yet. There are still many issues with regards to finding chemistry and solid line combinations. Patrick is spending most of his time in the second line with Robert Lang.

He is practicing his wrist shot in the corner when coach suddenly shouts, “Kane! Toews! Sharp! Proceed for the line rushes!”

The team witnesses a miracle. Sharpy passes the puck to Kaner who dodges through defenders and dishes out a beautiful no-look saucer pass. Jonny receives the saucer and buries a quick snap shot from the right, top shelf.

“Yeah,” Kaner screams in his ear, a wide grin stretched across his face with Sharpy trailing to give them celebratory head pats.

“I guess we found our top line,” Coach nods, satisfied with the result.

***

 

A week into their blossoming friendship, they are well into the preparation of dinner. Jonny is sautéing the onions and Kaner is chopping up carrots, green peppers for their whole wheat pasta. 

Suddenly, Jonny blurts, “I don't wanna call you Kaner.”

“Ok,” says Patrick, stops the chopping of vegetables, very befuddled, “you can call me Patrick.”

“No there's already a Patrick in our team,” he grouses, “I wanna call you something else. Something unique.”

"Uhh…only my teammates call me Kaner,” he points out.

“Yeah but that's also your dad's name.”

"So…what you're saying is that you would call my dad Kaner?" he raises his eyebrow puzzingly, voice pitched high.

"No—No!” Jon sputters, “of course not! But you know I mean,” Jonny says in irritation. “Patrick Kane already belongs to someone else. I wanna call you something that only I,” points at himself in a dignified fashion, “get to call you.”

“Well...what?” He leaves his knife on the chopping board, looking wary.

“I was thinking…” Jon stalls, “Peekaboo or just Peeksy and Peeks for short.”

“Oh my God,” Patrick groans, buries his face in his hands, “is it because I’m tiny?”

“Well...no,” Jonny says in a small voice. Patrick glares at him, stony. “No! No! No!” Jonny raises his hands in assurance and hurriedly continues, “because you just deke through the defencemen left and right like you're one second here,” he gesticulates his hands in a zigzagging motion, “and one second you're gone and they next thing you know the pucks in the back of the net.”

“Oh,” Patrick says awkwardly. “Yeah okay you can call me that,” he concedes. “Only Peeks or Peeksy though,” he points a passably intimidating finger at Jonny. Jonny grins.

“You know you're weirdly possessive?” Patrick remarks. “Since we’re discussing nicknames. We should be on fair ground,” he declares.

“What do you wanna call me?”

“Jon.”

“Ok,” he nods. “Sure,” he shrugs.

Throughout these weeks, Patrick starts to learn about Jon’s habits. He is an early riser, often going for runs at five in the morning. Patrick absolutely hates mornings and cannot believe a guy willingly goes to bed at quarter to twelve and wakes up happy. He has to drink three cups of coffee to at least somewhat function as a human being. One of his pet peeves is that Jon is very messy; his desk is always strewn with papers and he leaves Gatorade bottles surrounding his bed and sometimes they stray to his side of the room. Jon is also lactose intolerant so usually, he cooks them dinner with advice from the nutrition staff which is definitely a perk to be his roommate.

November 2006

It is early November in Grand Forks. Autumn is at its peak with temperatures dropping to mid 40s to even low 40s sometimes. The air is filled with the scent of maple, elm and crab apple trees. Meanwhile, the stereos are booming Justin Timberlake’s SexyBack. The hockey team by the grace of Patrick Sharp have managed to snag an invitation to a party hosted by Kappa Sigma frat two weeks before midterm: the prime time to get shitfaced. Jonny and Patrick decided to take a break from the somewhat claustrophobic environment and ascend upstairs. Thankfully, there is no one there they discover once they reach their destination.

“If you push me, I’m gonna throw you off the fucking roof,” Patrick shouts, clutching his bottle close to his heart.

“Have fun trying,” Jonny retorts, taking a swig from his beer.

“Your butt’s not even totally on the roof. It’s hanging a quarter off the edge. So yes, I can push you,” he retaliates.

“Peeks,” Jonny says nervously, licking his lips. Suddenly, the atmosphere feels sober now. The clear, starry night sky feels stuffy somehow, thrummed with tense energy. “I need to tell you something,” he says in an ominous voice.

“What is it?” Patrick touches his arm, alarmed by Jonny’s tone.

“I’m gay,” Jonny says in a rush, hands clammy despite the cooler weather.

“Oh,” says Patrick. “Well…I’m bi.” His eyes are steady and piercing blue.

“That’s‒that’s awesome!” Jonny’s face slowly transforms into a wide grin. He exhales a huge sigh of relief, shoulders drop an unsurmountable amount of weight.

“When did you know you’re gay?” Patrick asks.

“I was 13 when I noticed this kid named Shawn. He was new to school and I was fascinated by him. At first, I thought it was normal. He’s a new kid in school. Then, I realized that I wanted him to like me, not just as a friend but more. I knew about gay people because my mom’s friend is gay so that’s wasn’t a big deal. More important thing was for me was did this attraction thing started now or before? I tried to rake my brain for clues. My idolization of Joe Sakic may have been more than hockey,” Jonny looks at the ground, taps his bottle on the ledge.

“You had a crush on Joe Sakic?” Patrick asks, surprised. “Wow.” He smirks.

“I admired him because the way he played just like every other guy,” he says hotly, “I wanted to be like him. I idolized him, okay! I got a Sakic jersey on Christmas but also noticed his looks. He wasn’t terrible! Before you say,” he begins when he sees the leery expression on Peeks’ face “I did like him because of his hockey but a little bit of his looks,” at that Peeks looks triumphant. “A little bit! I think I had crushes on other players too.”

“Who?”

“Yzerman,” he scratches his neck, face flushing. “He was hot in the 90s!” He protests. “Anyways,” Jonny resumes, “my parents aren’t really religious so when I told them that I’m gay they were pretty acceptable. Though,” he cites, “they did say hockey was gonna be a little tough for me.”

“I realized I was bi when I had a crush on this kid named Derek. I was like ‘you always liked girls! Why are you all of a sudden crushing on this guy? What’s going on? Does that mean you’re gay now?’ I didn’t know what bi is that time until I heard older girls in the cafeteria talking about bisexuality one time and they were talking about this girl who started liking another girl. They kept saying how it’s a phase and she’ll get over it. That totally freaked me out,” Patrick recalls, gazing at the dotted sky, “I kept telling myself it’s just a phase but the thing is: it didn’t feel like a phase. I liked Derek but also, I noticed girls and thought they were pretty? Finally, I did the smart thing and looked it up on the internet. Thank God, I did because I felt so relieved and didn’t feel like I was cheating, you know? I can like both guys and girls!” He exclaims, “it wasn’t a choice where I can only like one or the other. Now,” he states, “the next problem was my parents. I have no idea how to tell them or they even know what bisexual means. One time, I just randomly told my parents to sit down somewhere without my sisters in the living room. At first, they were confused because why did I tell them to sit down and talk without my sisters? Then,” he pauses, biting his bottom lip, “I just took a deep breath to calm myself down I started to tell them that I like both guys and girls. For two minutes, they didn’t say shit and my heart was about to burst outta my ribcage, I swear to God,” Peeks exhales in a shaky breath, “I heard my heart pounding in my ears. I was so fucking anxious.” Jonny’s eyes widen in horror, imagining a young terrified Peeks, facing his parents and coming out to them, hoping that they accept him for who he is. He is thankful everyday that his parents are very accepting of his sexuality, never discouraged him from dating a guy.

“Finally,” Peeks says, bringing Jonny back to the present, “they said they have no problem with who I like as long as I was happy and I just burst into tears.” He laughs bashfully and Jon clasps his shoulder, rocking him gently. He sports a kind smile. “We all hugged each other and I was still sobbing. Mom was so scared she was going ‘why are you crying?’ I was like ‘I know we’re religious so I wasn’t sure how you were gonna take it.’ Dad was like ‘why would you ever think that we would be reacting negatively? We love you, Buzz. We love you just the way you are. Back in the 70s and 80s, we knew people who were like you. It wasn’t easy for them and it still isn’t but we’ve come a long way. I hope one day, you get to be happy with someone you love.’” Peeks recollects with a loving expression, pressing his lips to halt the quivering and a single tear rolls down his face. He wipes it quickly and continues with a lump in his throat, “Dad was also cautious too. ‘Hockey isn’t gonna be easy, Buzz. Just be careful. Okay?’”

“Canada is a pretty accepting country and I live in Winnipeg which is the biggest city in Manitoba but it wasn’t like I could around being gay and I would’ve been fine. Only two of my teammates knew I was gay that was because I was ogling this kid in grade-9,” Jonny smirks and Peeks laughs in delight, “when gay marriage was legalized in 2005, I was sitting on the couch with my parents and they were so happy. I was happy too. I can actually legally marry a guy now! That was probably one of the happiest moments of my life. I felt so proud to be a Canadian,” he puffs up his chest in pride.

“I remember that,” Patrick reminisces. Jonny raises his eyebrows, taken aback. “What?” says Patrick defensively, crosses his arms. “Just because I’m American doesn’t mean I didn’t know about it! I’m from Buffalo which is basically Canada. It takes one and a half hour for us to go to Canada,” he rolls his eyes, long-suffering. “We get Canadian channels so when gay marriage was legalized my family was celebrating. I think dad might have cried too,” He adds as an afterthought. Jonny bursts out in laughter, eyes crinkling at the corners. “Every time, July 1st came around, there would be fire works. Not just at the Canadian border but in Buffalo so it wasn’t like we believed in Canadian stereotypes. I started to distantly imagine a wedding with a guy. I was 16, Jonny!” He marvels. “America is still better than Canada but I guess you win in this round,” he says begrudgingly.

Jonny smirks, an air of smugness radiates from him. “America’s still great, eh? How come you don’t wanna go pro anymore?”

“I don’t know if could’ve hid myself in the league for 20 or so years then settle down with someone. I know what you’re thinking ‘you’re bi! You can just date girls and it wouldn’t have been a problem at all!’ Well, see,” Patrick points his bottle at Jon, “there’s the problem: I’m not straight. I couldn’t just have pretended to be one for my career. So, I didn’t,” he purses his lips. “What about you?”

“I’m a coward. I couldn’t be the first out player. I wanted to go pro till my junior year in high school. Like you said, I wanted to be free too, y’know? That’s why I’m here instead of going back to Winnipeg. I wanted a change of scenery. Maybe North Dakota is not the most liberal thinking states but at least it’s outside of Canada,” Jonny shrugs. “If I couldn’t play pro hockey I could still play NCAA hockey so why not.”

“Yeah I wanted to experience college hockey and get my education. London Knights drafted me,” he nods at Jon’s look of surprise, “I didn’t go at first, thought about only going for my draft-eligible year. When I realized that I’m pursuing the NHL, just didn’t ended up going altogether so I can keep my NCAA-eligibility. After graduating from Detroit Country Day School, here I am,” lifts his beer bottle to the sky.

“In North Dakota of all places?” Jon raises his eyebrow.

Patrick shrugs. “Change of scenery. Never really experienced the Midwest. Kinda wanted to get out of Buffalo, I guess.”

“I forgot to ask. I know that you’re really close to your sisters. Have you told them?”

“Erica’s only a year younger than me. She figured it out quickly and I didn’t wanna hide it from her. I wanted in confide in her about boys. Jessica wasn’t that hard really either. We would talk about my relationships a lot,” he smiles fondly, “the main problem was Jackie since she was so young. I eventually told her and she was totally okay with it. Did you and David ever talk about you being gay?”

“David’s only 2 years younger than me so it’s not like he couldn’t figure it out. He did find out about me in an interesting way,” Jonny’s cheeks pinken a bit.

“What do you mean by ‘in an interesting way?’” Patrick narrows his eyes.

“Ok so this was during summer of 2002: David caught me making out with one of my teammates from a hockey tournament in our garage. He barged in looking for sticks for street hockey. His eyes were as big as golf balls! I think he said, ‘Oh sorry. Didn’t think anyone was here. Sorry.’ And just bolted.”

“What did you do then?” Patrick asks.

“I went up to his room and asked if he was okay with me dating a guy. He was like ‘Yeah. I’m okay with it. Of course! You’re my brother. I know about gay people but you never told me, I was just surprised, not hurt.’ We aren’t like you and your sisters so I didn’t know how to bring it up to him properly but from that day we don’t tell each other everything but we’re definitely closer than before though.”

“You dated people from your school?”

“At Shattuck, one guy who was my second boyfriend but we broke up before university before that my first relationship was with this guy from my neighbourhood. We’re still friends.”

“I never dated anyone from school. Always from a different neighbourhood.”

“Why?”

“Didn’t want shit to get messy if I saw them in the hallway.” Peeks licks in lips, “I’ve never shared the whole story to a single soul,” he reveals, feet swinging from the ledge.

“Never?” Jonny inquires, with a hint of slight surprise.

Peeks shakes his head. They share a warm smile. Jonny feels a rush of admiration and strange delight that he is the first person that Peeks told his story to.

“Thanks for sharing with me,” Jonny clinks his bottle. “I know it was hard.”

“No problem, man. You’re my best friend. If I wasn’t gonna share with you then who else?” Patrick bumps his shoulders with Jonny companiobly.

Jonny rises, dusts off his pants and offers his hand. “Wanna go? It’s late. We have classes tomorrow,”

“Thanks,” Patrick takes the offered hand and hauls himself up.

***

At 8 pm on a Wednesday, Patrick and Jonny are studying tirelessly for their respective tests. Jonny runs his hands through his hair in aggravation and sighs resignedly.

“I don’t know what I’m gonna be,” he vocalises, interrupting the silence, “I don’t know where to go. I was so focused on hockey and now that I’m not pursuing it I have no idea what to do. How did you know?” He asks helplessly.

"I have always liked math,” he shrugs. “I would always annoy my sisters with stats about players, teams,” he smiles fondly, reminiscing some of his favourite childhood memories.  “I’ve always been the stats person in all the teams I’ve played in. So, I knew that I wanted to go into math maybe focus into the field of statistics.” “Besides,” he adds, “you took a lot of business and management courses you clearly know that you wanna be a business major."

“Yeah I like business and management but I don't like everything about business."

“Isn't there a major about business management? You clearly wanna be a leader so just minor in leadership.”

“How do you know there's a business management major?”

“Because,” he rolls his eyes, exasperated, “I did my research before applying.”

“Thanks Peeks,” his lips curl up a smile.

***

As reward for hurdling through their fist midterm of college, Sharpy announces a party must be thrown in celebration. Therefore, he takes matter in his own hands and hosts a boisterous party in the off-campus residence he shares with Duncs and Seabs before the team scatters for Thanksgiving. Seems like whole school is congregated in the apartment as Patrick and Jonny arrive with Buff, Khaby and Burr.

They settle at a corner in a kitchen, drinking cans of Bud Light. Patrick notices a guy eyeing Jon’s ass speculatively. He is in the living room, leaning against the wall. Patrick elbows Jon to get his attention.

“That guy’s got the hots for you,” he juts his chin out in the direction of the admirer.

Jonny’s eyes follow the motion and gives the guy a thorough once-over. He is wearing jeans and a Green Bay Packers t-shirt that strategically emphasises the muscles of his broad shoulders. He looks up to find the person winking with a sly smirk. He has wavy dirty blond hair down to his ears, swept to one side. It gives the impression that he has recently stepped outside of the beach. He has pale aquamarine eyes that are full of enticing mirth.

Peeks nudges his arms sharply, “go!” he hisses.

Licking his lips and exhaling deeply, he marches determinedly to the guy and flashes him a coy smile.

“Get it, Toews!” Patrick crows in glee.

Jon turns around and flips him the bird. In return, he flashes him a shit-eating grin.

He approaches the admirer, “my friend told me you were checking out my ass,” he says in a conversational tone.

“It is a good one,” the person says thoughtfully, tilting his head to eye his rear end in a suggestive manner.

“I’m Jonny,” he says as he takes his hand out of his pocket in offer of a handshake.

“Stephen,” he replies, shaking Jonny’s offered hand. He leans his head back, eyes going dark, “wanna get outta here?”

“Sure,” Jonny smiles, “somewhere particular in mind?”

“We can go to my place,” Stephen shrugs, “my roommate’s gone for the night.”

Jonny leans into his space, licks his lips deliberately and drags his tongue slowly over his bottom lip. “Let’s go then,” he whispers.

“Fuck, that’s hot,” Stephen pants, “let’s go.” He ushers Jonny through the crowd, keeping a hand low on his back.

“Where did Jonny go?” Sharpy asks, wrapping his arm around Patrick’s shoulders.

“Oh, he just went back to the dorm.”

“What?” Sharpy cries in outrage, “the party just started!”

“Well I guess he wasn’t feeling great and wanted to head back,” he shrugs casually.

“Ugh,” Sharpy whines, “he’s so boring.”
Patrick remembering how the blond guy squeezed Jon’s ass, can only nod in agreement. He hides his smile as he proceeds to take a sip of his beer.

***

Patrick knows he has been mooning over this girl in his Applied Calculus class for a very long time. He is unable to blame himself since she always sits in front of him, assisting him when he is unsure of something the professor mentions during the lecture. Over dinner, he presents his trying debacle to Jon, hoping he can provide him with some sage wisdom.

Jonny mulls it over for a minute before suggesting, “just ask her out for coffee. It’s convenient and easy conversation.”

Patrick contemplates the advice. “Huh. That’s actually a good idea. Thanks Jon.”

“No problem.”

The next day after the lecture, he sees the dispersing crowd. He realises this is his best chance.

“Hey Taylor,” he begins and she turns around. “You wanna go for some coffee today?”

Taylor gives him a dazzling smile. “Sure,” she beams, “I’d love to. I have a half-an-hour break before my next class.”
“Cool,” he says with a broad smile.

***

 

Patrick rises from his bed and smiles widely. Typically, he is not a cheerful person in the mornings however today is certainly an exception. It is 19th of November, also known as his birthday. He enters the adulthood officially, something that exhilarates and saddens him. He has formally left his childhood behind but he can vote now and has more responsibilities which on second thought does not sound that exciting.

His sudden turn for the morbid thoughts are interrupted by Jon’s greeting, “oh you’re finally awake. Happy birthday, Peeks,” he says with a warm smile, “I made your favourite breakfast: chocolate chip pancakes with bacon and an omelette.”

Patrick exclaims incredulously, “no you didn’t!” Pancakes are a rarity for them, reserved only for special occasions. Patrick feels a strong surge of affection and rushes forward to envelop Jon in an enormous big.

He can feel Jon’s amused chuckles as his breath ruffles the hairs by ear.

“I totally did,” Jonny mumbles.

“You’re awesome and I love you,” Patrick murmurs.

“I love you too, bud,” he pats his back and pulls away.

“Are you gonna freshen up? The food’s gonna cold,” he chides.

“Aye, aye, captain,” he says with mock-salute and heads for the communal washroom promting Jonny to sigh exasperatedly. Patrick knows that was fond exasperation. Who is he fooling?

Their settle down by their beds, scarfing down the food with gusto particularly Patrick. Jon even pours a heaping amount of syrup on his pancakes, leaving him absolutely astonished. He cleans his plate down to the last crumb.

Patrick leans back and covers his mouth before belching very loudly.

“That so good, Jon,” he moans, rubbing his belly, “why are you being so nice to me?”

Jonny flushes a pretty shade of pink and smiles softly. “It’s your birthday,” he shrugs.

“That was one of the best breakfasts I ever had in my life,” Patrick gushes. “Of course, mom’s the best,” he adds and Jonny laughs, “but like it’s right up there in the top three,” he says, motioning his hand to demonstrate a scale.

“Oh, that reminds me,” Jonny gasps slightly, “I have your birthday present.”

He goes to his side of the closet and produces a wrapped package. He hands it to Peeks, “open it,” nudging him.

Patrick tears open the package to reaveal an album of Lil Wayne’s Carter Ⅱ. Patrick bursts out in in delighted laughter, throwing his head back and clutching his stomach.

“This is amazing,” he wheezes, “I love this album.”

“Knew you like Lil Wayne so thought why not give you that as a present?”

“Weezy’s sick, dude.”

He rushes to hug Jon for the second time this morning.

“Thanks Jon.”

“Happy birthday Peeks.” He pulls away to ask, “you’re an adult now, Peeks. How do you feel?”

Patrick frowns. “Happy and kinda sad. Like I’m old now. I’m allowed to do shit but also, I’m old now. I can’t be a kid anymore.”

“Well, that’s what being a grown up feels like,” Jonny states, matter-of-factly.

“Yeah,” he sighs.

“Anyways,” Jonny says, content to change the subject. “Got any plans for today?”

“Yeah,” Patrick beams, “Taylor’s taking me to this nice restaurant for lunch and we’re doing some sightseeing.”

“Sharpy’s gonna kill you,” Jon reminds him, “he’s been waiting for this day for weeks.”

“Ugh, don’t remind me,” he bemoans, “I’m dreading it already.”

Sharpy has been waiting for this day to patiently and eagerly. They even started a countdown from the 1st of November. He has promised a day full of pranks since he is an adult now and Patrick is not looking forward to them is an understatement.

 

Chapter Text

December 2006

Jonny and Patrick are both a mess of nerves in the practice. They miss the net more times than usual, fumbling with the saucer passes, wrist shots going wide of the net. Patrick even takes a tumble during the routine practise of spin-o-rama. Fortunately, no bones are broken just soreness because of the impact of the fall on his back. He is looking forward to a wicked looking bruise tomorrow. They are grateful that neither the coach nor any of their teammates draw any attention to their inattentiveness even though they look very suspicious. Their nerves are fraying and it is hard to keep anxiety at bay as they head down the tunnel to the locker room.

Both of them are taking their time undressing themselves, looking for the right opportunity. Eventually, only Sharpy, Duncs, Seabs and Marty remain in the locker room.

Patrick looks to right for a cue. Jonny gives him a firm nod.

Jonny takes a deep breath and steels himself. “Hey guys, we wanted to tell you something,” he swallows with an audible gulp.

Their teammates halt their conversations and give them their undivided attention.

Patrick clears his throat. “Jon and I,” he starts, hands shaking, “um…Jon’s gay and I’m bi,” he finishes in a rush.

There is a pin drop silence in the room. Patrick heart rate quickens, thundering in his ears. Jon roughly grabs his hand, clammy and cold with sweat. Sweat is dripping from Patrick in buckets.

At last, Sharpy lightens the tense atmosphere. “That doesn't make either of you any less of a hockey player though you could both use a bit more work on your skating.”

Both of them exhale in relief and break out in a wide grin.

Jon bashfully scratches his head. “I’m actually dating someone. His name’s Stephen,”

Sharpy narrows his eyes, “what kind of guy is he?” he grills him, “do we need to do a background check on him? How long have you been dating? Is he serious about the relationship?”

Jonny rolls his eyes. “This is why I didn’t tell you before. Now you’re gonna freak him out.”

“Well we need to see if he’s good enough for you.”

“I can make my own judgement,” he says, dismissive. “Thanks.”

“We’ll see about that, Toes,” Sharpy says in a challenging tone.

Jonny sighs resignedly and shoulders his gear bag. He turns around and sees Seabs approaching him, “I’m glad you felt safe enough to tell us,” he pats Jonny’s shoulder.

“I wanted to for a while but didn’t know how.”

“I’m happy that you trust us. See ya, bud,” He clasps Jonny’s shoulders and opens the door to depart.

Sharpy suddenly grasps Patrick’s shoulders and he starts, “that was a brave thing to do,” Sharpy sounds uncharacteristically serious.

Patrick shrugs. “Couldn’t have done it without Jon, to be honest.”

“Thanks for trusting us, Peekaboo.” He smiles. With that he leaves the room, leaving only Jonny and Patrick.

“All in a good day’s work,” Jonny with a wide grin.

“Yep,” Patrick beams, popping the p.

Jon wraps an arm his shoulders. “Let’s go back our room.”

***

In the midst of their finals preparation at 2 am, Patrick’s caffeinated mind conjures up a brilliant idea but is unsure of the response he will receive from the guy across from him who is putting forth a brave effort to burn his management textbook by the sheer force of his eyes.

“Uh…Jon?” he asks timidly.

“Yeah,” he stops his glaring for a moment to look at Patrick, “what?”

“Are you going back to Winnipeg for spring break?”

“No, probably not. Why?” He questions.

“Well...I was thinking there's a Hawks game on the weekend and we can rent a car and go to Chicago.” He suggests.

“Peeks, are you a Hawks fan?” he gasps, a gleeful look on his face. “Why have you kept it a secret? I thought you were ride or die Sabres.”

“No, I’m not,” he whines, “they had a good run in 92. I know they got swept in the final but ever since then I don’t know…always had a soft spot for them.”

Jonny nods. “Yeah, we can go but I gotta ask my parents,” he smiles.  “They can give me some extra cash.”

“Yeah, gotta ask mine too.”

“It’d be nice to see a hockey game with someone besides my family,” Patrick says, lost in thought.

“Same here,” Jonny says, commiserating.

***

Today is the last day of the first semester. Patrick and Jonny are vigorously packing last minute items in the bags or in Jonny’s case, stuffing his suitcase messily with random clothing. They are sharing a cab to the airport bright and early tomorrow morning for their respective flights. Both of them are looking forward to the holidays: no school and quality time spent with the family. Jonny is excited to play some shinny with his friends in Winnipeg. It must be covered in snow by now, he ponders with giddiness.

Patrick is most looking forward to vising his wonderful grandfather. He has plenty of stories to share about college that happened so far. Other than his grandpa, he misses his sisters terribly and wants to spend as much as time with them as possible. He calls his family every weekend and has hour-long conversations with them and chats with them with his webcam but he needs to see them in flesh. Grainy pictures are not satisfying.

They finish their packing, zipping up their suitcases. Patrick finds the wrapped item when he puts the suitcase by the corner of his bed. The box is Jon’s Christmas present. He turns arounds and realises that Jon also has a wrapped package in his hand. They share an amused laugh and exchange their gifts.

Jon is about to unravel the tied bow when Peeks cries, “Don’t open it now! You’re supposed to open on the day of Christmas!”

“Oh my God,” Jonny says incredulously, “you totally open your presents on the 25th.”

“Well, obviously,” Peeks says in high-pitched voice. He is completely perplexed that some people actually open their presents before Christmas day. Is he fucking serious? That is absolutely an abomination in his opinion.

“Peeks,” he says slowly in a slightly patronising tone, “Santa doesn’t exist.”

“I know that, asshole,” Patrick snaps. “It’s the spirit of the holidays.”

“Fine,” Jonny huffs and promptly stuffs it in his bag.

In the airport, they exchange a warm embrace before heading their separate ways at the terminal.

“Have a great holiday, Peeks,” Jon says in his ear, voice muffled by his face pressing to Patrick’s shoulder.

“You too, Jon.” Jonny feels sentiment by Peeks speaking to his collarbone.

Eventually, they break apart. Jonny walks backwards in a dorky interpretation of the moonwalk while waving simultaneously which cracks an amused laugh out of Patrick. He slowly becomes a dot in the distance before disappearing completely.

Christmas Day in Buffalo is breathtaking. The picturesque snowy hills still have lingering marks from the children sledding last night. Patrick wakes up to the scene of heavy snowfall and he grins from ear to ear. This Christmas is already shaping up to be a great one from the start. The merry Kane residence is filled with festive cheer as they tear up the wrappers and give  tender embraces to each other. He opens his present from Jon last and to his utter delight, it is a Sabres hat. He can hear the cooing from his sisters, poking fun at involving Jon on his blind devotion to the Sabres.

Meanwhile in Winnipeg, Jonny opens his present from Peeks which reveals an Avs hat and to his dismay, a box of maple syrup candy. His family hoots in laughter. Jonny looks heavenward, oh my God I hate him.

“Patrick is a wonderful boy,” hi maman says between laughs.

“Sure,” he says, sulky. He shakes his head vehemently and walks over to the phone to call Peeks and give him a piece of his mind.

The phone rings in the living room and Patrick in gratitude, rises from the floor and answers the phone in order to escape his sisters’ jibes.

He picks up the phone. “Hello?”

“You. Are. The. Worst.”

“You’re welcome,” Patrick quips brightly.

“My family’s laughing at me and my mom thinks you’re wonderful.”

“Great minds think alike.”

“Ugh,” Jonny states with disgust.

“Besides,” he inputs, “my sisters are making fun of me because of the Sabres hat.”

“Good,” he says with vengeful satisfaction. “Did you like it?”

“Course!” He scoffs. “It’s a Sabres hat! Thanks Jon.”

“You’re welcome. Merry Christmas, Peeks.

“Merry Christmas, Jon,” Patrick replies. “Talk to you later?”

“Yeah sure. Bye.”
“Bye.”

***

It is the day after Christmas and the ruckus Kane house is full swing into dinner and predicting the scores for the World Juniors games which will start at 8 pm in the Eastern time.

“Hey Mom, Dad,” he interrupts and Jackie and Jess quit their bickering and face him, “is it okay if I go to Chicago for a weekend with Jon? We wanted to watch the Hawks game and do bit a bit of sightseeing.” All five sets of eyes are giving him undivided attention. “It’s only for three days,” he hastily adds.

His mom and dad pass an unsaid exchange and his hands are gradually clamping up with sweat.

“Yes, of course, Buzz! You can go to Chicago with Jonathan,” his dad smiles.

“I’m so happy that you found a friend, sweetie. Jonathan is really nice boy,” his mom gushes.

“Mom,” he groans, face quickly warming.

“You are an adult. It’s good that you asked our permission and venturing out on your own without supervision,” she continues, voice filled with pride.

“You wanna go to Chicago in dead winter?” Erica asks disbelievingly.

“Yeah. And?” he asks exasperatedly.

“Oh my God,” she groans, looking heavenward, “you two are such weirdos.”

“We like hockey and winter! Leave us alone,” he says, defensive.

Jess punches Erica. “Let him have fun. He’s in college. Supposed to be doing wild stuff,” she snickers.

“You know what,” he rises from his chair, “you can go like your summer all you want. I’m gonna call Jon to give the good news.”

He steadfastly ignores all the ribbings from his sisters and walks up to his room to use the landline.

“Hello?” Jon’s voice asks.

“Hey Jon,” he answers.

“Hey Peeks,” Jonny smiles, “how’s it going?”

“Good. How ‘bout you?”

“Pretty good. We were just about to start dinner.”
“Oh shit,” he says, apologetic. He glances at the clock on the table which reads 7:45. “I forgot you’re an hour back. I’ll call you later,” he proceeds to hang up.

“No Peeks! It’s fine,” Jonny assures, “what were you gonna tell me?”
“My parents said yes to Chicago!” He exclaims.

“That’s awesome! I was gonna ask today too,”

“Tell me what they say, eh?”

“They’re most likely gonna say yes,” Jon reassures for the umpteenth time.

“Hey, if they say yes, I was thinking that we could stay in a room with two twins like we do in college,” he suggests, “it’d be cheaper.”

“Yeah,” Jon agrees, “we can do that.”

“By the way, USA’s gonna kick ass today,” he adds.

“USA’s playing Norway,” Jon sputters in indignation, “of course they’re gonna win! You watching Canada’s game, right?”

“Duh,” he replies with a slight haughty tone. “Gotta keep an eye on the competition.”

“Alright. We already know who’s bringing the gold,” he boasts, “talk to you later?”

“It’s USA!” Patrick crows. “Yeah tell me what they say.”

“Bye Peeks.”
“Bye Jon.”

He cannot stop grinning like a madman. They said yes! He returns downstairs to watch Canada’s game with his family in the living room.

Towards the end of the first period, the home phone rings. All members of the household reluctantly gaze at the phone. Just as his mom is about to rise from the couch, Patrick says, “I’ll get it.”

“Hello?”

“Hey Peeks. My parents said yes!”

Patrick lets out a sigh of relief. “That’s great.”

“We can start planning.” Jon says cheerfully, “also, Canada’s winning!” He gloats.

“Relax, Mountie,” he rolls his eyes. “They’re only up two goals,” he reminds Jon.

“Yeah and that’s just the beginning,” he says smugly.

Patrick can clearly picture Jon raising his chin in pride. He shakes his head, amused.

“Talk to soon, Jon.” He says warmly.

“Bye Peeks.”

 

Chapter Text

January 2007

Today is the last game of the North Dakota Men’s Hockey team’s mini 2-away game series against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. There is less than 3 minutes left in the game, North Dakota is valiantly holding on to their 1-goal lead meanwhile Minnesota is trying their hardest to tie up the game.

As Jonny positions himself on the faceoff dot in the defensive zone, the opposing centre leans in to whisper, “what a fucking twink, eh?” Jonny grips his stick tight, knuckles going white. “With that height, wonder how many dicks he sucked to play college hockey?”

That’s it. All Jonny sees is red and next thing he knows he has dropped his gloves and punching the other player however the other player is bigger and stronger than him. After the initial surprise, he quickly gains the upper hand and takes Jonny down on the ice. For his actions, Jonny gets a five-minute major and additional two minutes for instigator. With the clock counting down to the last two minutes, he walks up the runway to the tunnel to ice his face which is blossoming into a terrifying black eye. It almost costs them the game but luckily the team holds on and wins the game.

Back in their room, Patrick slams the door and rounds on Jon. “YOU FUCKING DUMBASS!” He explodes, “HE’S 20 POUNDS HEAVIER AND GOT 4 INCHES ON YOU WHY THE FUCK WOULD YOU FIGHT HIM? YOU ALMOST COST US THE GAME, ASSHOLE!” “BECAUSE HE INSULTED YOU!” Jonny yells, shoulders hunched, “I CAN’T TOELRATE WHEN SOMEONE SAYS SOMETHING TERRIBLE ABOUT YOU!”

Patrick sucks in a quick breath. All the fight leaves from Patrick’s body, leaving him stupefied while Jonny’s now melted ice pack is slowly dripping water on the floor.  Jon is resolutely staring at the ground, cheeks and neck are flaming red.

“I’m getting you another icepack. That one’s liquid by now,” Patrick finally replies.

He arrives with an icepack shortly and urges Jon to sit down on his bed and applies the icepack to the bruised area, which is a swollen patch of black and deep purple, “Jon,” he sighs, resigned. “If I had a dollar for every time someone underestimated my skills or insulted me for my height, I would be a millionaire by now. You can’t fight my battles. Now you’re giving the other team leverage, all they have to do is insult me to rile you up,” he gently chides. “You need to trust me and let me fight my own battles,” he softly strokes Jon’s chin, a feather light touch. “Or do you think because I’m a weakling I can’t stand up for myself?” he snaps.

“No,” Jon emphatically disagrees, grabs Patrick’s wrist, brushing the vein with his thumb in a soothing motion, “you’re the strongest person I’ve met in my life,” he says vehemently, gazing fiercely at Patrick, “I know you’re tough as nails. It’s just I didn’t think straight. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you,” his shoulders slump.

“It’s fine. Just,” he swallows, “don’t throw away the game for me. Think of the team next time.”

“Thanks Peeks,” Jonny gives him a small, tentative smile. “Since when you been so wise?”

“I’ve been wise for a long time,” he rolls his eyes but is already cracking a smile, “you’ve just been too thick to see it.”

February 2007

Breakups are always terrible especially during the month of February however the top honour goes to the day before the 14th. Jonny knows he did the right thing breaking things off with Stephen but it does not completely justify the fact that now he is going to be single on Valentines’ Day. He feels like a piece of shit. With a dismaying sigh, he heads up to the roof for some fresh air and clear his head of oppressing thoughts. He has the wildest urge to bang on Stephen’s door and getting back together with him. Why the fuck you wanna do that, dipshit? You broke things off because he wasn’t making time for you! Don’t be that stupid! Just cause you don’t wanna be single on Valentines’ Day, you wanna get back together and break up again the next day? That’s a dick move. C’mon, you’re better than that. He grabs his coat and heads upstairs for the snowy February breeze.

He is swinging his legs on the ledge, contemplating about his life choices. He is thankful everyday that he decided to go to North Dakota. He has wonderful, accepting teammates and has found a life-long best friend in Peeks. The most ironic thing of all, he is finally himself to the core in the state of North Dakota. He has always been cautious of exposing his sexuality.

His thoughts are interrupted by clanking of metal. He turns around to inspect the noise and discovers Peeks holding a case of Guinness in one hand and a box of chocolate tucked under his other arm.

“Didn’t think I’d see you here,” Peeks muses, lifting an eyebrow questioningly.

Jonny looks at him with surprise. “What’re you doing here? I thought you’d be with Taylor.”

“Yeah…bout that,” he says, cheeks flaming and shuffling his foot, “we broke up.”

“What?” Jonny exclaims, “I thought you guys were solid.”

“Nah, we started to drift off. First, she started bailing on me then I started bailing on her. I didn’t wanna drag it cause shit’s gonna get messy. Plus, we’re in the same class for data management. I wanna stay in good terms with her. She’s a nice person, y’know?” He shrugs.

“Well if it makes you feel any better,” Jonny says consolingly, “I broke up with Stephen.”

“Wait, why?”

“Kinda the same reason. It got boring.”

“Good thing I brought Guinness then,” He holds up the case, “just in time for this special occasion.”

“Two very recent single guys on the day before Valentines’ Day! There couldn’t possibly a more special reason to celebrate,” he remarks sarcastically.

“Fuck Valentines’ Day!” Patrick shouts in bitter vehemence. “It’s a pile of bullshit that big corporation made up for profit! If you’re gonna show your love and appreciation to someone, do it everyday. What happened to the 364 days of the year? You’re gonna cramp shittonna things for one day and gonna be an asshole for the rest of the year? Space your things out, dumbass!”

Jonny hoots in laughter, clutching his stomach.

“So,” he asks between laughs, “you weren’t gonna give that ridiculous heart-shaped box of chocolate to Taylor, Mr. I-hate-capitalism?”

“Actually,” Patrick proclaims in dignified fashion, “I bought them after I broke with her. Wanted to treat myself, y’know? Just cause cause it’s a day where you display your love to someone doesn’t mean that you can’t express some self-love. Self-love is important.”

“Open the case. You already sound like you’re wasted.”

“I’m not wasted!” Patrick protests. Jon scoffs in skepticism. “No, my plan was to go to the roof, open the case and then wasted.”

Jonny grabs a can of Guinness. “You sound really philosophical but cheers to getting wasted.”

“Cheers,” Patrick clinks his can, “Hey, fuck you!” He punches Jon’s arm, “I have rational thoughts! I might be no Plato but I have a brain too, asshole.”

“Here’s to Plato and your philosophical brain,” Jonny raises his in toast.

“Plato and my philosophical brain.”
Jonny proceeds to open the box of chocolate and takes a chocolate from the assorted collection.

“Mmm, these are really good, Peeks.”

“They better be since I paid 30 bucks for that shit.”

“30 bucks?” Jon widens his eyes.

“Treat yo self,” he shrugs, popping a chocolate in his mouth.

“Treat yo self, indeed,” Jon nods in agreement.

He looks at Peeks’ direction and notices a smudge on the left corner of lip.

“You’ve got chocolate on your face.”

“Here?” Patrick wipes the corner of his bottom lip on the right side.

“No. Here let me.”

Jon starts swiping the corner of his bottom lip, close to his chin on the left side, occasionally touching his lower lip. A tingling sensation spreads all over his body.

Jonny is intensely aware of every breath Peeks exhales with his lips slightly parted, making direct eye-contact with him. He stops swiping, looks away and clears his throat thus breaking the spell. It is difficult to decipher the flush that is rising from his neck to cheeks.

Patrick begins telling an awful joke from his Algebra Prep class, hoping that it cuts the sudden tension. Thankfully, Jon bursts out in his trademark dorky laughter where his nose is adorably scrunches, eyes crinkling in the corners. His top row of teeth is stained with chocolate.

“You got chocolate on your teeth.”

“Oh shit,” Jon swipes his tongue slowly over his teeth and Patrick is transfixed by the motion.

“Better now?” Jon smiles exaggeratedly and he startles a little.

“Yes,” he rolls his eyes.

“Wanna finish the case?” Jonny offers him a can.

“Hell yeah! The night is still young, baby!” He hollers.

 

Chapter Text

March 2007

They are huddling in for coach's last remarks before the team splits up in spring break. “Take care of your bodies,” he barks, “just because you're away for 10 days doesn't mean you gain 10 pounds. Having said that," he says gruffly, “dismissed.”

As they're changing out of their gear, the conversation in the locker room turns to their spring break plans. One of the players can be heard asking Sharpy about his plans for the break.

“Cali with Abby,” he replies simply.

Patrick raises his eyebrows skeptically. “Isn't Cali like really far?”

“Yeah,” Sharpy says, waving his hand in a dismissive motion, “but we have 10 days so plenty of time. Besides,” he adds, “Seabs and Duncs are going to Vegas.”

 “Vegas?” Jonny rounds on them, a look of disbelief displaying on his face. “You're not 21 yet!”

“Yeah, we're not going there for gambling,” Duncs says in an exasperated tone, sounding like he has been defending his decision for the umpteenth time. “We're going for boxing.”

“Ooookay,” Jonny says, dubious.

Seabs towels off his hair. “Where are you going?”

“Um me and Peeks are going to Chicago for the weekend to watch the Hawks game.”

All the conversation in the room comes to a stop.

“I swear only you two would go to Chicago when it’s snowing like crazy to go to a hockey game,” Seabs shakes his head bemusedly.

Sharpy waggles his eyebrows with his trademark shit-eating grin. “Have fun,” he sing-songs, “no funny business there. We can’t supervise you.”

They groan in unison. “Fuck off, Sharpy.”

***

They both decide to do some sightseeing in the day and watch the Hawks game at night. The first item on their list is experiencing the SkyDeck of the Sears Tower.  

In the transparent glass elevator ascending to the top of the Sears tower, Jonny watches the lovely dimples appear on Peeks’ cheeks. Since day 1, he has been secretly mesmerised by them. A wave of satisfaction washes over him every time he makes Peeks laugh because those two cute indents on his cheeks always pop up with that radiant smile. He has always thought that Peeks is objectively attractive but he is having trouble comprehending why he is unexpectedly pondering about Peeks’ looks. It’s Peeks. Nothing earth-shattering.

Patrick presses his face to the elevator and watches the cars of and sights of the city steadily turn into dots but keeps returning his gaze to Jon who is leaning by the side, a casual pose yet he is captivating and somehow it makes him look even taller. Jon’s cherry red nose is poking through the layers of clothing, an endearing sight. From the day of orientation, Patrick has always been aware of Jon’s unfairly handsome profile but now he is paying attention to it in a subjective manner. You always thought he was hot. Why are you thinking about that now?

Suddenly against his mind’s wishes, Jonny blurts, “your dimples are really noticeable.” He snaps his mouth shut and immediately turns beet red. Why are you blurting out his dimples are noticeable? You have always noticed them!

Peeks laughs, cheeks tinged with a slight blush of pink. “They have been always noticeable.” Now, it is his turn for the case of verbal diarrhea. “Your nose is red.” Do you not see the weather? His mind berates. It’s fucking freezing!    

“Well,” Jon clears his throat, still very much red in the face. “Um it's cold outside."

They cast their eyes away from each other, observing the skyline of Chicago and the various skyscrapers. Patrick turns and continues to sneak glances at Jonny.

“Is there something on my face?” Jon asks worriedly.

Face flaming for getting caught, Patrick shakes his head, “No. Nothing.”

“Ok,” Jonny says, doubtful. “Let's get a picture from the top, eh?” he smirks.

Jonny hands his phone to the doorman, “Can you take a picture of us, please?” He requests.

The doorman takes a picture of them smiling, cheeks red with hair stuffed in beanies with the wintry Windy City in the horizon in the famous balcony of the building.

They find their seats quite easily since the arena is scarcely filled with people. The two were able to get lower section seats without much difficulty since Hawks hockey is not popular in Chicago on a Saturday night.

Jonny and Peeks settle down comfortably in their seats with a bag of popcorn shared between them.

“I have a family Christmas photo with everyone wearing Hawks jerseys,” Jonny says as they watch the players warm up.

“Do you have the picture on your phone?” Peeks asks eagerly.

 “Course not,” scoffs Jonny. “I’m not embarrassing myself.”

“Fine,” Peeks says in a pompous manner, “I’ll just ask your mom. Pretty sure she’ll show me.”

 The game is an absolute nail biter. The Hawks fortunately manage to hold on to the lead gained in the final two minutes to win the game 4-3.

Jonny rises from his seat. “Wanna grab some Mexican?”

“Sure.”

They discover a mid-scale Mexican restaurant in downtown. The lights are dimmed for ambiance. The dinner is full of laughs and playful banter which surprises Patrick since a tiny part of him prophesised that they would kill each other. Throughout the dinner, Patrick surreptitiously tries to observe Jon several times which fails when Jon finally catches him in the act. He gives him a soft smile, gentle brown eyes filled with warmth. They decide collectively to split the check and walk towards their hotel since it is only a five-minute walk.

 Jonny watches as Peeks’ impossibly long eyelashes catch some snowflakes and they curl slightly. He fondly replays the highlights of the dinner in his head: how easy the conversation flowed between them with good-natured bickering and how he chuckled when a when a particularly spicy dish left two flaming red spots high on Peeks’ cheeks. The most amazing part of the dinner was that they were not at each other’s throats.

“Are you listening to me, Jon?” Patrick repeats.

“Huh?” He asks absently, “Oh, sorry Peeks. What were you saying?”

“I was saying that the second period goal was a beauty.”

“Yeah,” Jonny agrees, “backhand top shelf.” He whistles appreciatively.

“That might have been one of the bright spots of this terrible season,” Peeks laments.

Talk of hockey keeps them occupied on the walk to the hotel. Once they check into their room, they both complete their bedtime routines. For Jon, it includes some light yoga for stretching as always clad only in his underwear. Patrick politely averts his eyes, feeling the warmth surge to his face. Never before has Jon’s strange routine unnerved him. Why is it happening now? You’ve seen him do this for months. He shakes his head to clear his head of peculiar thoughts. He settles under the covers to reread New Moon to stop his mind going to strange places, a distraction.

At last, Jonny gets in his bed and turns off his bedside lamp. “Goodnight Peeks,” he whispers.

In response, Patrick also turns his lamp off, inviting complete darkness in the room. “Good night, Jon,” he whispers back.

***

 

Patrick has been feeling this irrational anger a lot after spring break. At first, he chalked it off as something weird but now he is unable to shake it off. He cannot make head or tail of the reason of his recent development of jealousy. Perhaps, it is the fact that Jon is getting all the attention instead of him. Or maybe he just wants to be in a relationship again since him and Taylor have broken things off in early February. However, he is realising that his anger is not directed at Jon though; he is angry that the guy is running his hands along Jon’s strong, broad forearms. He acknowledges that has been staring at Jon a lot lately too. His attention sometimes diverts to the water droplets dripping down Jon’s toned stomach too long for appropriate amount of friendly appreciation in the locker room. Or how his stomach gets an exhilarating thrill every time Jon smiles at him. Or how sexy Jon looks when a fitted pair of jeans shows off the curve of his ass.

Then it dawns on him.

Oh fuck.

***

Jonny feels sick to his stomach, bile rises in his throat when he witnesses a guy unsubtly palms Peeks’ ass but he seems disinterested. Jonny has been having lingering subjective thoughts about Peeks’ good looks from spring break that is intensifying as the days are going by. Sometimes after studying intensely for a while he zones out. Often times, he gets distracted by the sight of Peeks absently chewing his plush, pink lips. Or sometimes when he sticks his tongue out in concentration. Embarrassingly, these images do a replay in his brain late at night. Oh no. He knows what is happening, an epiphany. In that moment, he has a terrible flashback to spring break when he said these words in his head. It’s Peeks. Nothing earth-shattering about it. Sadly, the irony is not lost on him. His stomach twists in bitterness and he laughs, self-loathing.

 

Chapter Text

April 2007

Jonny clenches his beer bottle tight, almost to the breaking point and gritting his teeth. He watches the exchange between Peeks and a tall brown-haired guy, leaning in too close for friendly territory.

“Whoa, if looks could kill. Tone down the laser,bud,” Seabs barges in, wrapping his arm across his shoulders, “I would say you’re jealous that Kaner’s getting all the guys.”

He turns away to take a swig from his warm beer. “Sure,” he says nonchalantly.

“Or,” Seabs says, slightly buzzed, “maybe you’re jealous of the fact that the guy is flirting with our precious Kaner.”

Jonny stills, trying to loosen himself up hoping that Seabs did not notice the tense set of his shoulders.

Unfortunately, Seabs felt it. He rapidly sobers up, “don’t tell me you’re crushing on Kaner.”

“No! Course not! He’s my best friend,” he denies, attempting to master the casual indifference. His pretence falls flat.

“Y’know Tazer, when you deny more than once that usually means that that it’s true,” he gently chides.

Jonny slumps in defeat. “Fine,” he exhales, “I do but I can’t do anything about it.”

“Since when?”

“After spring break.”

“I don’t know what to say,” Seabs says after a long pause. He frowns, “maybe tell him?”

“No Seabs,” he says despondently, “I’m not risking it.”

“Hang in there, bud,” Seabs claps his shoulder as he departs to find Duncs. Jonny lifts his bottle in thanks and returns to his melancholy.

***

“Jon, what the fuck?” Patrick shouts, stunned. “Why didn’t you wash the fucking dishes? It’s been three days! It fucking stinks here!”

“In my defence, I had assignments and in all the stress, I forgot about them,” he counters, “Also, I fucking cooked! So, you can be a nice roommate and wash the fucking dishes!”

“I washed all the dishes that I used and the pot. All you had to do was wash your fucking plate!” Patrick yells, “was that a fucking tall order to ask?”

Jonny fuming, storms out of the dorm before he says something he will regret later. The door shuts with a thunderous snap, threatening to come off the hinges. Patrick is seething that Jon just simply walked out of the room and clenches his fingers in a tight fist and his eyes well up with tears. He makes a frustrated noise and heads off to bed. His plan was to start writing his report for population census of the last decade but he is too keyed up in rage to concentrate.

Jonny returns to the dorm after long walk in the park to find all the lights turned off and Peeks fast asleep in his clothes with no covers. He gingerly walks to the bedroom, mindful of making any noise. He grabs the blanket by the side of Peeks’ bed and throws it across his body, tucking the corners in. He goes over to the kitchen and washes all the grimy dishes, grimacing at the mouldy smell. He sighs and heads over to sleep.

The next day, Patrick wakes up before Jonny and grabs a quick breakfast of toast and yogurt. He turns around to find Jon awake and staring at him. They share an uncomfortable, loaded silence and tension is hanging thick in the air. Patrick unsuccessfully attempts to look anywhere around the room but at Jon. After a few minutes of frozen silence, he curtly heads to the library without saying a greeting.

At the end of the lecture, one of Jonny’s classmates, Ryan turns around in his seat to ask eagerly, “Hey Jonny! We have this great party at my frat today. Wanna come?”

His initial thoughts were to decline the offer politely. He usually opts for parties on weekends unless he is with the team. Tonight, is Jonny and Peeks’ special Taco Tuesday, a night filled with tacos and ridiculous 80s comedies. Suddenly, he remembers the heated exchange from last night and the unpleasant scene from the morning. A hot wave of spite courses through his body. Fuck taco Tuesday! He didn’t say shit to you in the morning.

Jonny smiles. “Absolutely.”  

He arrives at the party already tipsy, having spent the past five hours pre-gaming and playing video games at one of his other classmates’ dorm. He heads straight for the booze by the corner of the kitchen and gulps tequila in three successive shots. He continues drinking shots of tequila for two hours then transitions to vodka. He eventually makes his way towards the beer pong table, losing three games and progressing to the most drunken version of himself. He tries to check his time on one occasion only to find it drained out of battery. Oh well, he shrugs. He can always borrow someone else’s phone to call.

Patrick’s mind is racing a thousand miles an hour. It is 3 in the morning and Jon is not picking up his cellphone; all the calls heading straight this voicemail. Tonight is Taco Tuesday and it was his turn to bring the tacos. He usually notifies him if he is somewhere. Patrick’s mind tries to come up with plausible reasons for his tardiness, each time coming with terrifying outcomes. What is he got beat up by someone? What if he got mugged? What is he’s unconscious somewhere?

He tries to calm his mind down. Maybe he asleep in the library, he reassures himself. What if he’s working on a group project? He’s somewhere safe, he tries to convince himself. Don’t worry. He continues to pace around the bedroom.

Elsewhere having lost the sense of time, Jonny miraculously exists the frat house without any injury considering he is tripping on his feet at every other step. He continues to stumble in the middle of the road on his drunken trek to return to his dorm. He does not notice the flash of headlights as a police car almost runs over him, swerving to the side just in time. The angry officer opens the door of the car and furiously walks towards him. He is swaying side to side, putting forth an unsuccessful attempt to stand upright.

The officer produces a flashlight from her pocket, clicks it on before directing at his face. “How old are you?” She interrogates. The boy has flushed cheeks and glazed eyes. He is definitely not old enough to drink, probably a sophomore.

He winces at the flash of the light directed at his eyes. “I’m 21,” he confidently slurs and the officer gives him an unimpressed look.

She puts his hands in cuffs and proclaims, “you’re under arrest for drinking under the legal age in the state of North Dakota.”

She drives them to the police station which two blocks off the campus and places him in a holding cell.

The officer asks, “is there's someone who can bail you out?”

“No,” he frowns, remembering the row he had earlier with Peeks but a split second later he shouts, “Peeks! Peeks!”

“Who is Peeks?” The police officer questions puzzlingly.

“My roommate and my teammate who is an amazing human being,” he says with a dreamy expression on his face.

The officer walks over to unlock the cell. She then directs him to the phone booth.

 Patrick picks up his phone. “Hello?”

“Hey Peeks!” Jon hollers.

Patrick frantically shrieks, “where the fuck are you?”

Jon very intoxicated, shouts gleefully, “I’m in jail!”

“Oh fuck,” Patrick stomach drops with dread, “I’m coming, Jon.”

Jonny’s reply is cut off by Patrick disconnecting the line, leaving a static on his side.

Patrick rushes off to Sharpy, Seabs and Duncs’ place which is thankfully only 5 minutes away from his dorm. He insistently bangs on the door and thank God Sharpy opens the door.

Sharpy is sleepily knuckling his eyes when he opens the door. “What the fuck, Kaner?” He asks grumpily. “Why the hell are you—”

“Jon’s been arrested for underage drinking,” Patrick interrupts.

All the sleep is gone from Sharpy. “Oh shit,” he says in horror.

“Can I borrow your car? I need to bail him out. I’ll return it back,” he quickly adds, “I promise.”

“Yeah. Of course,” Sharpy says. He returns with the set of keys. “Tell Tazer that he’s the dumbest person on earth,” he says, disappointed.

 Patrick nods. “I will.”  

He gets in the car and speeds towards the station, a quick three-minute drive nevertheless he is thrumming with nervous energy. He spends a portion of his Christmas money to bail Jon out. The police were giving him calculating looks to see the credibility of his age. They seemed somewhat satisfied when he showed his drivers’ license but were still a bit wary.

The walk to the dorms were absolutely brutal. He was supporting Jon’s full weight on his shoulders since he is completely trashed. Jon’s head was rolling back and forth by the motion of the stairs, mumbling incoherent nonsense. Patrick was panting, his grip on Jon’s waist going slack a few times but he manages to hold on and persevere. He deposits Jon on his bed and gets him to drink two bottles of Gatorade and swallow Tylenol pills.

Just before he is about to turn around, Jon catches his wrist to mumble, “Peeks you’ll always save me, eh?”

Patrick says with conviction, “Always, Jon. I will save you always.”

Jonny slumps back, sound asleep. In sleep, he looks youthful, numerous lines and creases on his face vanishes. Pat hastily looks away, not wanting to be creepy.  He’s drunk and almost gonna start snoring soon. He’s never gonna know that you were staring at him like Edward from Twilight, his conscience reminds him. Plus, you should make sure that he doesn’t die of alcohol poisoning, it smartly points out.

“Yeah, I should keep staring at him. Y’know, for his health purposes.” He nods to himself, “yeah.” Patrick cards his fingers through Jon’s short-cropped brown hair, a look of pure tenderness on his face, “you fucking dumbass,” he says with a fond smile.

Jonny for his foolish actions, was suspended two games as a punishment which were crucial since they are fighting for a position to compete in the NCAA tournament. He also accepted his probation sentence and order to perform community service. He knows it was absolute stupidity from his side and he sincerely apologized to his teammates, coaches and especially Peeks. He knew that the consequences could have easily been severe like getting his scholarship revoked and getting kicked out of the team. He saw that fear from Peeks in the morning after clearing his foggy mind from the brutal hangover. He is thankful that the coaches still hold a significant amount of faith and trust in him.

***

“Why don’t you just date someone to get over Kaner?” Seabs sagely advices for the millionth time. It is depressing to see Tazer break down in front of him.

“Because, Seabs, it’s not that easy,” he sighs, “I can’t do that. It’s not fair to the other person. While I am dating them, all I would be thinking about is Peeks,” morosely finishes his thought.

Back in their room, Patrick is the midst of folding his clothes and he relays, “hey, I know you’ve been single since you broke things off with Stephen. I know this guy in my Calculus class. His name is Robert. I think you two would be great for each other,” He says in a false display of enthusiasm.

He has long decided that as long as he gets to see Jon happy with someone, he will also find happiness in that. He is also well aware of the fact that he is a masochist.

“I don’t wanna date anyone right now,” Jonny says shortly.

“But— You’ve kind of been moping,”

“PEEKS WHAT PART OF ME SAYING NOT WANTING TO DATE DID YOU NOT UNDERSTAND!” He screams. Patrick flinches and takes a frightening step back. “LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE, OKAY! I CAN CHOOSE TO BE SINGLE IF I WANT TO,”

He wishes he could his best friend the real reason of his abstinence of dating. He feels miserable for the burst of anger he directed at Peeks. Before he could apologize however Peeks has already left the room.

Patrick is afraid that he overstepped in his boundaries. Therefore the next two days, he makes himself scarce in their room by spending his time studying in the library and heading to the opposite direction whenever he sees Jon making his way towards it.

In the practice, their attempts of subtlety with the silent treatment unfortunately backfires. Their teammates notice the palpable tension between them. None of the passes connected today, the chemistry the two usually have is nonexistent. The obligatory exchanges the two had were stiff. Overall, it was most disastrous practice the team had in this season. In the dressing room, Jonny throws his helmet in anger and viciously takes off his gear, the sound of Velcro ripping loud in the room.

Seabs unceremoniously drags Jonny to the video room and with dread he witnesses that Sharpy has done the same thing with Peeks.

“Ok I’ve had enough of this. You two need to talk. We’re not opening the door till you’ve solved your issues.” Sharpy says sternly.

“But—”

“Sharpy—”

“No ifs or buts.” He raises his hand, quelling their futile excuses and closes the door, leaving them standing in the room with a deafening silence.

Jonny is the first one to break the silence. He stares at the ground with slumped shoulders and mumbles, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have yelled at you.”

“I’m sorry too. I shouldn’t have meddled in your business. I should’ve realised you were still hung up on Stephen.”

“I’m not hung up on Stephen,” Jonny says shortly, “I just don’t wanna date.” Because I wanna date you, he does not say that regretfully.

 They share uncertain, hesitant smiles full of unsaid things that are buried deep inside their sorrowful hearts.

A knock interrupts their reverie. “I don’t hear anything from the other side,” Sharpy interjects, “did you two kill each other?”

Jonny and Patrick dissolve into helpless laughter. “Nah,” Jonny replies, shooting a quick grin towards Peeks. “We’re still alive.”

Sharpy opens the door and puts on a show of inspecting their bodies for any physical damages. Both Jonny and Patrick roll their eyes.

“Ok,” Sharpy pats Patrick’s shoulders, “no damage. Are you good?”

“Yeah,” Patrick nods. “we’re good.”

***

They’re at a sorority party and the pretty girl with brown hair has been eyeing him for half an hour now. Patrick decides to gulp his tequila shot and join her on the dancefloor.

“So, you can take a hint, huh?” she whispers in his ear seductively, grinding against his crotch with intent.

“Didn’t think you were checking me out to be honest with you,” he says honestly and the girl gives him a trilling laugh.

“Wanna take this somewhere else?” she purrs, hands already roaming his lower back, purposely skipping his bulge. Wonder where Jonny is? Is he grinding up against a guy? Or did he go to a room and already started fucking him? Stop! You are supposed to be getting over him! He berates himself, not digging yourself a deeper hole by spiralling about who Jon’s hooking up with!

For the first time, Patrick gives her a thorough once-over. She is wearing a tube top which is revealing a fair amount of cleavage with denim shorts that is barely covering any of her rear end.

“Where do you have in mind?” He leans in to whisper.

“My room,” she winks, “it’s upstairs.” She takes his hand to disperse through the sweaty crowd, bopping along to Beyonce’s Beautiful Liar. They finally reach the destination and frantically begin to take their clothes off.

Jonny attempts to not search for Peeks in the crowd which means of course he notices a girl wearing very short shorts is leading him upstairs, possibly to her room. Probably going to fuck, he concludes morosely.

He knocks his glass of jack and coke in one gulp. “I’m gonna head back,” he tells Seabs who is thankfully nearby, chatting with Duncs.

“Why? The party just started!”

“No, I’m not feeling great. Catch you later,” Seabs must know the reason why he is insistent because he simply nods in sympathy and claps his shoulders.

He gets his coat from the racks and commences the trek to his dorm in the chilly April night. Within moments later he arrives to his room, he throws his coat in general, flops on his bed and begins to cry. Soon, tears soak his pillow. You, dumbass! Why do you like making your complicated by falling that one person who will never like you? The cries eventually come to a halt as he fitfully falls asleep. This is a recurring theme in his life now. Sometimes, he dreams that he confided Peeks about his feelings and in return Peeks returned his feelings. Those are the days he wakes up feeling somewhat energized to begin his day. However, there are nightmares where when he confesses, Peeks lashes out and ends their friendship. He wakes up in cold sweat in the middle of night, gasping for breath.

The hookups become a cycle for Patrick, rinse and repeat. He only makes appearances to his dorm room for change of clothes, meals, hockey gear and books often times middle of the night, leaving Jonny concerned everyday. Sometimes the hookups last for three dates, sometimes just one. The scenario is the same: twin bed of a dorm room but the person changes. Sometimes it is a guy, sometimes a girl.

At 2 am, the night is freezing, temperature is in the range of 30s, he attempts to stealthily exit the building of a one-night stand. His name might have been Jordan or Jaeden; he cannot remember any of their names after the fifth one. Unfortunately, he misses one of the steps, causing him to stumble and scrape his elbows. That breaks open the dams as Patrick wrecks out a sob. He curls into a ball, head tucked into his elbows and lets the tears flow. Why are you hung up on one person? This has never happened to you before! Just get over him!

“Because he isn’t just any other person! This is Jon! Your best friend who stupidly started having feelings for,” he screams, throat raw.

Moments pass before his sobbing start to recede. He shows up to practice the next morning with hickies and scratches and bags under his eyes, ignores his teammates’ catcalls and whistles. The only people not cheering is Jonny and Sharpy whose disapproving look can be seen from miles.

“When was the last time you went to bed, Kaner?” demands Sharpy, after a rough practice. Coach made them bag skate as a punishment for losing embarrassingly to Notre Dame 6-2.

“I’m sleeping, Sharpy. Don’t worry about me. I’m fine,” Patrick waves him off.

“Bullshit!” he yells. Patrick flinches violently. “You have bloodshot eyes and the circles under your eye are purple. Don’t fuckin' tell me you’re fine! Do you wanna throw away your education and scholarship because you’re pining after someone?!” At that, Patrick shrinks and his shoulders hunch. “No, you don’t. So, stop throwing away your life! It’s not worth it,” he finishes, gently rubbing soothing circles on Kaner’s shoulders.

He lifts Kaner’s chin up whose piercing blue eyes are filled with unshed tears. Sharpy swiftly wraps him in his arms in a bear hug and Patrick allows his tears to fall. “I’m sorry, Sharpy,” voice shaky, full of anguish, “I’m trying to move on but it’s so hard.”

Patrick enters their dorm room after many nights, opting for a quiet night-in. He opens the door and stops dead in his tracks. Jon is sitting on his chair and giving him a cold, hard glare. Patrick heart jumps to his throat. Jon looks menacingly terrifying. They stare at each other for few minutes, waiting for either one to make the first move in the chessboard. Jon’s face is getting redder progressively as the seconds tick by. Patrick matches his furious anger, a stony face-off. Finally, Jonny makes the first move and breaks the terse silence.

He furiously gets up from the chair. “What have you been doing lately?” He demands. “Why are you not coming back to the dorm? Have you seen yourself? Do you not care about your health at all? You’re a fucking hockey player for fuck’s sake!” He yells.

Patrick miserably thinks, fucking my way through everyone in this college because I can’t get over you.

“You’re not my fucking mom,” Patrick shrieks, “I can take care of myself! And fyi,” he snarls viciously, “I’m fucking eating.”

Jonny screams in tightly coiled anger, “fucking bullshit! You are thin and you look tired.”

“Why do you give a shit?” Patrick shouts. He yearns badly for Jon to say because he cares about him.

Because I care about you, Jon desperately wants to say. “Because you’re my best friend,” he responds quietly.  Patrick’s mouth turns down in disappointment and shame. “Your wellbeing matters to me.”

Patrick collapses on his bed in weariness. Jon takes a hesitant step towards him and proceeds to comb his fingers through his unruly curls. He almost falls asleep due to lack of energy and the motion of Jon scratching his scalp is soothing.

In near sleep-state, he hears Jon mumble, “I’ll fix you up something, okay? Don’t fall asleep.”

***

Patrick is frantically pacing in the room, courtesy of their latest fight. Jon has stormed off to God knows where. He knows the anger was completely misguided towards Jon. His attempts at preventing hyperventilation are a success, somewhat. Fuck it, his mind resolves, you’re telling him. He walks out of the room, thinking where Jon could possibly be in this foggy weather. The roof. He resolutely storms to the roof and notices Jon by the ledge with his back to him. For a second, his bravado falters. He shakes off the second thoughts and determinedly marches towards him.

“Hey,” he starts. Jon turns around and crosses his arms, bracing for another fight. What happens next absolutely knocks the breath out of him. “I’m sorry for yelling at you. I was being a dick. I shouldn’t have taken my anger out on you but the thing is for past two months we have been pretty pissed at each other. I am largely at fault so I might as well tell you why,” he takes a deep breath to steel himself before blurting, “I like you, Jon. As in I like you more than a friend. Yes, I know you don’t feel the same way and that’s alright—”

No no no, repeats his mind emphatically to quell Peeks’ rambling. He then does the easiest thing in the world: leans in to crush his lips against Peeks’. For a split second, Patrick is frozen in surprise then parts his lips to give Jon better access.

Blood is rushing to Jonny’s head, similar to waves crashing on the shore of Lake Winnipeg on a particularly windy day.  I’m kissing Peeks, he marvels giddily. He is delighted to discover that his lips are soft although a bit chapped and very warm. Just as you imagined in your dreams, his mind helpfully supplies. The mid April North Dakota weather is putting a brave effort to hold on to winter. That’s okay. They both have created their own little space for warmth. He continues nipping Peeks’ luscious lips.

Eventually, Patrick pulls back to rest his head on Jon’s collarbone. They are both out of breath like they just finished an hour of bag skate. He is on cloud nine. Someone pinch me, he ponders wildly.  He has dreamt of this moment plenty of times, each time with a disastrous outcome. He laughs carelessly and happily; releasing the tension from past two months. Soon, Jon joins in to the joyous laughter. He rests his hand on Jonny’s chest, feeling the thunderous beat of the heart.

“I never thought this moment could actually happen, y’know?” he mumbles. “Every time I thought about telling you, I would get this wave of crippling anxiety griping me.”

“Peeks,” Jon lifts his chin, “you’re so fucking brave. I don’t think I would ever have the guts to confess my feelings like you did. Never.” He shakes his head.

“I thought I would lose you,” his luminous blues eyes are filled with tears. “You became my best friend in such a short amount of time. You mean a lot to me. You should know that,” he chokes out. Jon presses lips to both of his cheeks, cradling his face in his hands.

“You should know Peeks that there hasn’t been a person who meant more to me than you. The thought of losing you and our friendship haunted me.”

“Oh God,” Patrick widens his eyes in horror, “now everyone’s gonna think they were right all along.”

“Hang on a second, when did you start liking me?”

“After spring break…why are you smiling?”

“What if I tell you that so did I?” His brown eyes are sparkling.

“No…,” Patrick steps away, “No way! What? Really! Oh my God!” He runs his hand through the mess of blond curls.

“Yes, really.” Jonny bites his bottom to tamp down the intense wave of happiness that is threatening to release out of its cage.

“So that means we proved everyone wrong. We weren’t crushing on each other since the beginning of the year! It only started two months ago. Oh shit,” his sudden burst of joy disappears, “Sharpy’s gonna kick my ass.”

“Fuck Seabs! He’s gonna be happy but also royally pissed,” he groans.

“Well,” Peeks says coyly, migrating his hands to Jon’s lower back, “we’ve got plenty of time to tell them. It’s not that necessary.”

“What do you mean?” Jonny say slowly.

Peeks’ hooded eyes are looking at him through his lashes, “I mean, it’s a foggy night. We can stay in our room.” He punctuates the last bit with a firm squeeze of his ass.

“I like where this is going,” Jonny smirks, eyes doing dark with desire.

“You should,” Peeks says smugly, “since I’m about to rock your world.”

Jon’s face scrunches up in laughter, melting Patrick’s already smitten heart. What a fucking dork.

Jonny threads his fingers through Peeks’ and leads them towards their room for a highly anticipated night.

***

“Good morning, Sunshine,” Patrick greets, nuzzling his neck. He kisses Jon softly on the forehead.

“Mmm,” Jonny moans.

He slowly opens his eyes and discovers a radiantly smiling Peeks. He smiles in greeting.

Peeks gives him a sweet peck. “Happy birthday. I made you breakfast.”

Jonny rises from his bed, stretching his arms and cracking his back. “You made me breakfast?” he asks, surprised.

“Be warned,” Patrick says with caution, “it’s not as good as yours. I made French toast, poached eggs”
Jonny raises his eyebrows. “You made poached eggs?”
“Well, it’s your birthday,” he shrugs, “I wanted to make something special that doesn’t burn down the kitchen.”

Jon takes his face in his hands and kisses him swiftly. “You’re amazing.”

He is touched by Peeks’ gesture, heart melting. He feels an overwhelming amount of affection for him that is not love yet but he knows the emotion is pretty close it.

 Patrick beams. “I know. Now get dressed,” he admonishes with a playful slap on Jon’s butt.

 Almost like a déjà vu, they settle on the corner of Jon’s bed, eating side by side.

“Oh my god, Peeks,” Jonny moans in appreciation, “this is so good.”

“Thanks,” Patrick preens. “I’m glad you like it.”

“I love it. You should cook more often.”

Patrick vehemently shakes his head. “No thanks. This took a lot of time. I woke super early. I’m gonna leave the cooking to you,” he says, patting Jon’s knee.

“Wait here,” he motions, “I got your birthday present.”
he pulls a small wrapped rectangular shaped object from the drawer of his desk. He thrusts it to Jon, feeling very nervous.

Jonnty tears up the wrapper and inside, it reveals a blue velvety box. He opens the box and he goes still, eyes and mouth wide open in shock.

“You don’t like it?” Patrick worriedly asks, seeing the expression on Jon’s face.

“No, I love it. I’m just really speechless.”

Inside the box is a simple navy-blue tie. He holds the tie up gingerly and upon further inspection, there is a box of his favourite type of chocolate, hazelnut truffles.

“I stumbled upon it in a store, looking for more dress shirts and on a whim bought it,” Patrick explains. “Before you start complaining about how expensive it must’ve been,” he says when he sees Jon’s mouth open in protest, “it was on sale. That’s why I bought it.”

Jonny runs his hands through his hair. “God, Peeks. I‒,” he chokes out and decides to kiss him to show his appreciation.                                                                                                                   

May 2017

“Today is the last time the seniors will be at this annual meeting. I would like congratulate all the seniors who are graduating and wish them the best of luck in their future endeavours,” Coach says. “With that being said, our captain Martin Lapointe will be graduating this year so of course we are in need of a new captain.” Coach announces. “The captain of your University of North Dakota Men’s Hockey team for the 2007-2008 season by unanimous vote is,” he pauses for the appropriate suspense, “Jonathan Toews!”

Jonny widens his eyes in shock, absolutely floored. He feels like he is in a dream. He slowly rises from his chair. He can feel Seabs and Peeks patting him on the back and Sharpy hollering, “Captain Tazer!” He walks up to the podium in a trance, listening to the supportive whoops and cheers from his teammates.

“Wow,” he says in wonder. “I’m beyond honoured and speechless,” he says with a wide smile, a flush rising high on his cheeks. “Thank you for voting me as your captain. Thank you to all the coaches and staff for making my freshman year a very easy transition. This is a great privilege and Marty,” he looks towards the graduating senior, “you’ve been a great leader and I’ve learned many valuable lessons from you, on and off the ice. I will never be as great of a captain you were.” At that Marty rolls his eyes fondly. “But I will try my best to lead this team. I know we were very close to achieving our goal of capturing the championship but I believe next year is our year,” he says with conviction. “Thank you again.”

The room again erupts in applause. Amidst the applause, he scans across the table looking for a pair of beautiful, luminous blue eyes. He finally finds them, full of unabashed pride. He grins widely at Peeks who in turn gives him a dazzling smile. His claps are the loudest in the rowdy room.  He walks up to Peeks who wraps him in a warm, huge hug filled with affection. Patrick buries his face in Jon’s nape, presses a quick kiss at the soft skin. He deeply inhales the smell of clean linen, cologne, sweat and a scent that he calls ‘Just Jon.’ Jonny kisses the top of Peeks’ head. Peeks pulls back and smooths out the wrinkles of the suit on his shoulders.

His eyes are shining with mirth. “I’m so fucking proud of you,” he gushes. Jon flushes a brilliant shade of pink and a wide grin. He presses his forehead against Peeks’. They close their eyes, reveling in the moment.

“Oh my God,” Sharpy groans, ruining their sweet moment, “you two are disgusting! Take it to the bedroom. This is so sweet that it’s making my teeth rot.”

“Shut up, Sharpy,” they snap in unison.

“Y’know for once, Sharpy’s right,” Patrick points out, “we should head back to our room and celebrate properly.” His pupils dilate and he smiles coyly.

“What do you have in mind?” Jonny asks, biting his lower lip.

Patrick waggles his eyebrows. “So many things. You have no idea,” he teases, toying with the hem of Jon’s suit.

Jonny leans in to whisper, “we should go then. Get started on the things.”  His breath tickles the shell of Patrick’s ear, eliciting a delightful shiver from him.

Jon leans back and they share a heated gaze. He tangles his fingers with Peeks’ and leads them towards the late afternoon sun.