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Phil likes quiet Mondays. Quiet Mondays aren’t always easy, especially when you’ve just lost for the third time in a row. They’re one of those things that got easier after Bozie moved in.

Tonight, Bozie’s phone keeps making noise. 

Phil nudges him in the shoulder. 

“Your phone is blowing up, man. What’s going on?”

“What?” Bozie still looks vague.

“I think somebody’s trying to call you.” Phil hasn’t worried too much about surprise trades lately, not for a couple of years. It’s still where his mind goes first.

Bozie picks up the phone and says hi. He doesn’t say anything for the next twenty seconds.

“Hey,” says Phil.

Bozie’s not moving. Phil goes for the phone and Bozie lets him pluck it out of his hand.

“Hi,” says Phil. “This is Phil.”

“Oh, good,” says Dave Nonis’s voice. “You’re both there.”

Phil watches Bozie and waits.

“There’s no good way to ask this,” says Dave. “But are you and Tyler—together? Like…dating?”

“Yeah,” says Phil.

“Because Steve Keogh just called me, and he— Oh. You are?”

“Yeah,” says Phil again.

“Ah. Well.” Dave takes a breath. “Well, that’s—good, then.” 

Some Canadian sports blog has gotten ahold of some photos.

They’re from Boca Grande, all the way back in last spring. Phil knows the day they’re from just by the description. Nobody knows whether someone had them all along and sat on them till now, or what.

“Bozie,” says Phil. “They want to put out a press release. This shit is going to be all over the internet tonight already.” 

Bozie says, “Your call.” 

“I’m gonna call my agent,” says Phil into the phone.

 

Wade has tried to call Bozie twice in the last fifteen minutes. His third try gets through while Bozie is scrolling through his contacts, getting ready to call him.

Bozie says, “Maybe you should talk to Phil.”

Wade has been Phil’s agent since way back in the days when Phil called him a family adviser. He was Bozie’s too, when the Leafs got him from Denver. Wade already knows a lot of shit.

“I can’t say I was expecting this,” says Wade. 

“It was in fucking Boca Grande,” says Phil.

Wade laughs. He sounds like he actually thinks it’s funny, which is more than Phil can say for anyone else.

“Are you ready?” asks Wade.

“Me?” says Phil. “Sure. Dunno about Bozie, though.”

Wade thinks that’s funny, too.

“Are we doing this?” Phil asks Bozie.

“Okay,” says Bozie. He looks even less sure than Phil feels.

“Are we confirming it?” asks Wade. Phil turns and asks Bozie that.

Bozie says, “Do we have a choice?”

Phil tells Wade to confirm it, because he doesn’t think they do. 

“We have a meeting tomorrow,” Phil tells Bozie after he hangs up. “10am. Did Wade send you the photos?”

He did. There are three, and they are all pretty obvious.

“We shouldn’t have done anything on the boat,” says Bozie.

“It was just kissing.” Out in the flats with no one around, or so Phil had thought.

“Didn’t anyone call you?” Bozie asks.

Phil fishes his phone out of the crack between the couch cushions and swipes it on. It had been on airplane mode. 

“Hah, whoops,” says Phil, and leaves it on airplane mode.

 

“I need to tell my parents,” says Bozie at 9:30am. 

“You can tell them after. I doubt they’re gonna see it in the next hour if they haven’t already.”

“About you, I meant.”

“They already know,” says Phil. “We’ve been over this before, remember?”

But Bozie still thinks his parents know nothing.

 

Everyone at the meeting is really upbeat. Phil thinks they’re afraid they’ll scare him off or something.

“It wasn’t something that was in the plan for our brand,” Shanahan says. “But we’ll work it out, don’t worry!” How nice of him to say so. Phil had been so concerned about the brand.

“There are a lot of opportunities here,” says Hopkinson. “It just depends how you want to handle it.”

Phil looks at Bozie.

“Tyler can do the talking,” Dave says, and laughs like it’s a joke, even though it isn’t.

“Yeah, I guess,” says Bozie.

“Don’t worry about it,” says Shanahan. “People will forget about it before too long. We’ve got the playoffs coming up.”

If they make the fucking playoffs. That’s not at all guaranteed. Nobody’s gonna say that, though. Phil and Bozie aren’t the ones in the room whose jobs are on the line. Phil’s kind of glad for it, in a way.

 

Phil wonders about this. It’s a done deal, no take-backs. Maybe he’ll be comfortable with that eventually.

Bozie has never, ever been comfortable with it. Not when Phil kissed him, late at night on the road, and not the next morning, either. Phil hadn’t talked to him much about it. He knew what Bozie wanted and what he didn’t. He wasn’t gonna ruin the whole thing by asking. And it worked out alright, after awhile.

“I guess we’re doing this,” says Bozie. 

“Yeah. I guess.”

“You alright?”

“Yeah. I’m fine. You?”

“Sure.”

Bozie carefully sorts through his stuff he wants for next game. Phil isn’t going to tell him otherwise.

 

“So,” says Dion. He’d gotten a call from Dave.

“This is gonna be ridiculous,” says Phil.

“Yeah. You got anything in particular you want me to say? Or not say?”

“I dunno.” Phil thinks about it. 

“Was he right? Since last April?”

“Since spring of 2013,” says Phil.

“Oh. Wow.” There’s a pause. “That’s—actually kind of impressive.”

“Thanks,” says Phil. They both laugh, then.

 

Morning skate is weird. Bozie doesn’t look at Phil when he laces up his skates. 

“So, you and Bozie,” says Loops, after Bozie’s gone quicker than he normally is.

“Yeah,” says Phil.

“You never said anything.”

“No.”

“Fair enough,” says Loops. “But it’s cool, alright?”

“Yeah, I know,” says Phil. “I didn’t think you would mind, or anything.”

“Did he?”

“Nah.” Bozie definitely never said so. 

“Okay,” says Loops. “But really. I’ve got your backs.”

“Thanks,” says Phil.

 

That makes it a little easier, during practice, when Randy decides to bring it up. Phil hasn’t really talked to Randy yet.

“So, you’ve heard the news,” he says. Phil feels kind of sympathetic about how awkward he looks.

Bozie is next to him, like he usually is. They shuffle a little closer together while everyone watches.

Dion says, “This doesn’t change anything. We’ve got a game to win tonight.”

The rest of them nod and make agreeing noises. They get back to it, like they were trying to do before Randy interrupted.

Phil notices three of the guys in the corner at one point, Loops presiding over them. They glance his way. Phil decides not to worry about it.

 

NHL stars come out as gay. Maple Leafs stars come out. Hockey stars come out as gay. They’re always stars.

“We’re stars,” says Phil.

“What?” Bozie is slumped low in the corner of the bigger couch, the way he gets when something’s hurting.

“Me and you. First openly gay NHL players.”

“Oh. Yeah.” Bozie looks up at Phil. “This is gonna be weird.”

It’s gonna be really fucking weird. Phil doesn’t feel like the guy they talk about in the articles. 

“Is your wrist alright?” asks Phil.

“What? Oh, it’s okay, I guess.” Bozie straightens. 

“You should talk to someone about that.”

“I can’t sit out this game. It would look like I was hiding.”

Phil rolls his eyes. “I’ll be out there. Anyways, who cares?”

“I’ll be fine.”

 

Phil figures that half the people here don’t know until the dedicated Twitter user next to them talks about it. It feels like there’s more conversation during stoppages of play than usual. He’s probably imagining it. It’s not like he can hear what they’re saying.

Naz gets them on the board near the end of the first, tying it up. Bozie’s wrist seems like it’s okay for now, and Phil likes games in here when they aren’t losing. Bozie nudges him on the bench and gives him a sideways glance. They ought to be able to get past the Jets’ defense a few more times.

Phil gets a goal off Bozie’s pass. It’s kind of a relief, even if Bozie ducks out of the hug early.

There’s gonna be an end to this game. There are gonna be questions in the locker room after. That’s probably why this feels like the best game ever. Phil really doesn’t want it to end.

It is a good game, though. Everyone in the building seems to like it a lot, except for the random Jets fans here and there. Those guys don’t have a bad team. It feels great to kick their asses.

 

“You’ve had a big day,” says the reporter from The Globe and Mail.

“What,” says Phil. The reporter looks unimpressed.

“Yeah, I mean, I just want to play hockey,” says Phil. “You don’t have to go making a big deal out of it.”

Someone asks a question about Reimer’s play.

 

This is a good bar. Their next game isn’t till Thursday, which makes it an even better bar, even if Jake has got Phil cornered.

“How the fuck did we not know,” says Jake.

“Yeah, seriously.” Morgan has popped up from somewhere. “Did you think we would mind?”

“Nah,” says Phil. “But c’mon. You’re shit at keeping secrets.”

“Oh fuck,” says Jake to Mo. “What do you think Dave Nonis would do to you if you accidentally told everyone on Twitter?”

“Why the fuck would it be my fault? It would be you, you know it would be you. Where’s Bozie?”

Nobody knows where Bozie is. Phil is supposed to, for some reason.

“Gotta keep an eye on your man,” says Jake.

“Oh, fuck off,” says Phil. It’s kind of weird that he isn’t around, though. It makes Phil worried about the wrist thing.

Phil has some drinks, but not enough that anyone can convince him to dance.

“Maybe we should go to a gay bar,” says Mo.

“No, we shouldn’t,” says Jake. “He’s got Bozie, he doesn’t need a gay bar. You’re a fucking homewrecker, Mo.”

“Maybe they would get him to dance. He doesn’t need to fuck them.”

“Nobody is getting me to dance,” says Phil, looking down at his phone. “Anyways, I’m going home.”

“Why?”

“Because Bozie is.”

That makes it really easy to get out of this, even if those mutts fucking whistle at him.

 

Bozie’s already on the couch when Phil gets back. He has Stella on his lap.

“How’s your wrist?” asks Phil.

“It’s fucking fine, okay.”

“Jeez. Who pissed in your cheerios?”

“How many questions did they ask you?”

“Like, not that many.” Phil thinks. “You mean the media or the guys?”

“Media. I guess the guys, too, although they were alright.”

“They were great,” says Phil. He sits down on the other couch and yawns. It’s been a long 24 hours. “Where the hell were you at, anyway?”

“Oh, around.” Bozie is petting Stella, like, really aggressively. “I’m gonna get an early night.”

Phil follows him to bed. In the dark, Bozie sighs and curls up against him. Everything feels normal for a minute. Phil wonders if it’s okay to deny any spooning when somebody inevitably accuses them.

 

The upside to how they might miss the playoffs is that the media has a lot of other things to talk about, mostly about whatever the fuck Randy Carlyle is doing. Phil sometimes wonders about that too, but it’s not like he’s gonna say so to any of those vultures.

“The timing of this is kind of shit,” says Bozie.

“Why? I think it’s pretty good. Lots of distractions.” 

There’s enough stress already that it’s hard to notice extra. The Flyers are getting their asses up to Toronto, and they are going to get fucked up, because if they don’t then Ottawa is one step closer to getting in instead. Phil wonders how many people a year the Leafs turn to atheists.

 

Phil’s gotten some calls from other guys around the NHL, mostly people he’s played with. Some other guys send texts. Sidney Crosby is one of the ones who calls. 

Phil wonders if it is his fault that he didn’t preemptively block this number.

“Well,” Crosby says. It’s been at least ten minutes. “Good on you, you know?”

“Uh,” says Phil. “Thanks?” It’s too bad it wasn’t Sidney Crosby instead, who probably would’ve had a serious discussion about brand direction with Brendan Shanahan.

The next conversation is easier, because he can tell Stastny all about the one with Crosby.

 

Phil goes to a Raptors game with a couple buddies, later that week. The Raptors aren’t all that great either.

Some guy in a Maple Leafs hat spots him. Phil sighs. There’s always somebody.

This time is a little different, though, and Phil can see what the guy’s thinking. It goes: hey, that’s Phil Kessel! Maybe he’ll sign something for me. But wait, Phil Kessel is gay now. Should I mention this? I don’t want to mention this, but what if he thinks I’m a homophobe or something if I don’t—

Oh shit, Phil Kessel is glaring right at me.

Phil watches the Maple Leafs toque zigzag away through the crowd.

 

Some people in management want them to do a sit-down interview for some program affiliated with You Can Play. 

“Bad timing,” says Phil. 

“Maybe in April?” says the You Can Play guy. Phil doesn’t tell him to go fuck himself. They can still get in.

They settle on just an ad for now.

 

The people writing articles don’t have that much information to go on. Shit, they don’t even have good photos, aside from the Boca Grande ones. It’s not like Phil’s gonna take Bozie to dinner at the CN Tower for everyone to look at.

So they’ve been asking other people for quotes, and Phil feels awkward just reading them. They can’t really say, oh, you’re so brave, because nobody was brave. They just got outed. Phil gets the idea that it doesn’t really count that way. It’s not inspiring just because he didn’t quit his job and run away. They can’t get much inspirational stuff out of his three-word answers to reporters, either.

“Maybe we should give them something to write about,” Phil tells Bozie. “This is kind of sad.”

“If we don’t do anything to remind them, they’ll forget about it eventually.”

“I don’t think it works like that,” says Phil.

 

Amanda calls Phil up over some of the dumb shit she read online somewhere.

“How’s it going?” she asks, after he tells her none of it was true.

“Oh, like. Fine, I guess.”

“Really?”

“I dunno. It hasn’t been very long. It’s not a big deal.”

“Oh, fuck off,” says Amanda. “This has got to be your worst nightmare.”

“I have to talk to the media about other shit already. They’re, like, more polite about this.”

“But that’s hockey,” says Amanda. “This is different.”

It is, but the thing is, it’s not different the way she thinks. Phil has always been more sure of Bozie than hockey. He doesn’t tell Amanda that. It’s none of her business.

 

They’re picking up groceries when a fan spots Bozie in the cereal aisle. He’s probably asking for a photo, and Phil tries to hide behind a large display of Cheerios boxes.

“Hey,” the guy’s saying to Bozie, “respect, man. That takes a lot of balls.” He spots Phil. “Oh, could we get you too?”

“Uh,” says Bozie. “Thanks? Um.” And he does the hover-hands on both Phil and the guy for the photo. 

“That was weird,” says Bozie when the fan goes away satisfied, with a terrible picture that will probably be on the internet later.

“Weirder than that girl in Montreal last year?”

“Don’t remind me about that. But, I mean. He’s going to think we were on a date or something.”

“At a grocery store?” asks Phil. “Come on, even we could do better than that.”

“Well, on the way to one. Or on the way back.”

“So what?”

“I—don’t want people to think about dates that I’m not on, I guess?”

“Uh, okay,” says Phil, and grabs one of the boxes of Cheerios.

 

“You’re really together, right?” asks Naz.

“Uh, yeah,” says Phil.

“You don’t seem any different, though.”

Phil shrugs. “Why should we change anything? We were already together.”

“Pete thought maybe you broke up.”

“Man, why would you start listening to him now?”

“Good point,” says Naz.

 

They win their next two games, 4-1 and 3-0, so everyone has a few days of talking like maybe they can take second in the division or something, even though everyone else in the NHL hasn’t died.

Bozie doesn’t sit by Phil when they go out for dinner after the second one. Phil thinks he would feel less weird if Bozie wasn’t so obvious about how weird he feels.

 

Bozie is reading Twitter again.

“Why are you on there,” says Phil.

Bozie jumps in his chair and slams the laptop shut. “You’re too fucking sneaky.”

“Don’t read Twitter,” says Phil.

“If I don’t read it I’ll just wonder about it all day.” 

They’re heading off on a road trip later. At some point Bozie is supposed to do an ESPN interview, so maybe it’s good to be prepared. Phil doesn’t really want him to do it like this, though.

“Would you consider yourself gay?” asks Bozie suddenly.

“God, I don’t know.” There were girls, back then, but Phil isn’t sure about any of them anymore.

“What about me?” asks Bozie.

“What, are you gay? How the fuck would I know?” Phil would’ve assumed no, because Bozie used to hook up with girls a lot and the only time he ever talked about a guy was once when he got drunk.

“That script for the You Can Play thing,” says Bozie, “I looked it over, and it has me saying I’m gay. Probably because I said yes when Steve asked if I was.” 

“Well, that would explain it,” says Phil. “You could just change it.”

Bozie shrugs and opens the laptop back up. “I don’t know if it matters. People will just assume we are anyway. And it’s not like I could see myself with a girl.”

“You can’t?”

“I mean, I can’t really see myself with other guys, either,” says Bozie.

 

There are a bunch of people, and not just on Twitter, who are scratching their heads over how no one noticed this whole thing ages ago. A couple bloggers have written posts where they sounded kind of offended over having been left out. Phil feels like every person he’s talked to thinks they were the last to know, when they were really just tied with almost everyone else in the world.

Some reporter asks Jake about it, whether he’d known. Phil watches him from across the room. Jake gets an innocent expression, which is something he probably practices in the mirror every morning.

“I had no idea,” says Jake immediately. “Yeah, they were tight, but they just seemed like friends. Still do, actually!”

 

“Why’d you say that?” asks Phil later. “You made it sound, like, like we aren’t even together.”

“Well, it’s true, okay. You’re not exactly obvious about it. And I didn’t want them to think you’d been, like, blowing each other in the locker room or something.”

“At least you didn’t say that,” says Phil.

“I wouldn’t!”

 

They go down to the Islanders. Phil keeps thinking about a shot he took in the third.

They’re on the outside of the playoff picture tonight, and Bozie took a nasty crosscheck in the course of it. He’s on his back in the middle of the bed where Phil pushed him down. In the dim light from the lamp by the window, Phil can just see the purple across his ribs where the guy’s stick got him.

“Damn,” says Phil.

“Good one, huh.” 

Bozie’s grabbing Phil’s wrist, and he presses Phil’s hand against it. Phil spreads his fingers, with the greenish edges still showing in between. 

“C’mon,” Bozie mutters, and Phil digs his fingers in. Bozie likes that sometimes.

 

There’s some weird-ass article on some blog that people apparently read, who knows why, with a compilation of pictures and video clips and the idea, they’re just floating it, you know, that Phil and Bozie might’ve broken up sometime since the Boca Grande photos, and are faking it now. Isn’t it weird, this idea goes, that they seemed closer last year? There’s been nothing since then. They aren’t even in each other’s instagram photos!

 

“That’s the biggest pile of bullshit I’ve ever heard,” says Phil.

“I know,” says Wade. “But you should probably know that it’s come up.”

“They must get their ideas from random people on Twitter.”

“Probably.”

“What’s the matter?” says Bozie, when Phil hangs up.

Phil wants to say it’s nothing. But he stopped doing that kind of thing awhile ago, so he just tells Bozie instead.

“Maybe we should, like, instagram our dates,” says Phil. Of course, first they would have to go on the dates.

“Uh. Wouldn’t that be kind of weird?”

“Hey, or I could post photos of you with your shirt off. Hashtag, mcm?”

Bozie laughs. 

 

But Bozie is pretty set on the no-photos thing. Phil chases him around with his phone that evening, but it’s not like actual photography was in any of his plans.

 

“Wow,” says Amanda, and laughs for like 30 seconds straight. Phil thinks that’s a total overreaction.

“C’mon, they’re always fucking stupid.”

“I know, but you guys are the lamest couple ever. Maybe you should put kissing photos on instagram.”

“No,” says Phil. “No kissing photos. Maybe we can just pose with our arms around each other?”

“That’s a terrible idea,” says Amanda. “Have you seen your face in photos? Then everyone will be sure that management made you say you’re together, and you’re really dating an underage rentboy from Eastern Europe.”

“Don’t go giving anyone ideas.”

 

Phil does post a photo of Bozie with Stella. That way people know they’re still living together.

“Why do you even want people to know?” asks Bozie. “I bet people will rewatch the 24/7 thing and be like, wow, he wasn’t really sleeping in that room.”

“So what,” says Phil. “We’re gay, not priests. We’re supposed to be having sex.”

“I guess.”

“You guess?” Phil laughs at the look on Bozie’s face. “Someone’s not getting any tonight.”

“Oh, yeah, that’s what you think,” says Bozie.

 

Bozie does the ESPN interview. Phil feels kind of bad about not doing it too, but fuck it, he’s not gonna be some spokesperson for the gay community or whatever. It’s too bad one of those guys like Ference isn’t gay.

Phil watches the interview later, because Wade told him he probably should. And, okay, Bozie is not God’s gift to You Can Play either. 

Bozie is all suited up and looking like his tie is too tight. Phil doesn’t recognize the lady interviewing him.

“You know, at the end of the day,” says Bozie, “you’re just one of the guys. I mean, it’s fine, because we’re not, you know, having some gay pride parade in the locker room.”

The ESPN lady asks if he feels like he can’t share details of his personal life with the other guys.

“I mean, you know, that kind of thing isn’t really hockey, right?” says Bozie. “It’s better if some stuff stays private.”

 

You Can Play turns out to be not really a huge fan of that quote. MLSE isn’t either, probably because it doesn’t mesh well with their current brand direction.

Someone at Huffington Post writes an article all about homophobia in sports that says some shit about Bozie that Phil doesn’t like too much. He wishes other people didn’t care so much about this shit.

And then there’s the fucking thing about a gay pride parade in the locker room, which a couple idiots on this team decide is really funny, for some reason. Phil thinks maybe it would be a sort of funny mental image if it had nothing to do with him. 

 

“I’m not used to talking about it,” says Bozie. “I guess I need practice, I don’t know.” 

“Yeah, maybe.” Someone will probably make him practice.

“Like, I get it, I guess, but I don’t see why it’s that big of a deal?”

“I dunno,” says Phil. “People get weird about this kind of stuff.”

 

“You know, like. You’re allowed to talk about it?” says Reemer.

“Yeah,” says Phil.

“Because, like, I don’t think what Bozie said was really true.”

“Tell that to Bozie, then.”

“I did,” says Reemer. “I wasn’t sure if he believed me.”

“Well, it’s weird.” This conversation is weird.

“Okay, but it’s fine. Seriously. It’s fine.”

 

“Why does Mo have pompoms?” asks Loops.

“For the parade,” says Mo.

Phil knew there was a good reason to just never talk to people in the first place.

 

Phil doesn’t really like Vancouver. There are guys on that team who piss him off, and the people are too interested in hockey. There probably isn’t one person who would say shit to him on the street in, like, Dallas. In Vancouver there are at least three. Phil hopes Mark Messier is on their TVs forever.

Bozie is around for the third guy. It’s right before morning skate, and he’s supposed to do some interview after, the kind that would typically be all about hockey and probably won’t be. He doesn’t say a word to Phil all practice long, which is getting to be sort of normal. There are always other guys in between. Phil figures, whatever, as long as he doesn’t do it during the game.

So Phil isn’t nearby for the first part of the interview, and only hears a little toward the end.

“Do you have any advice for gay kids who want to play hockey?” the Vancouver TV lady asks.

“Well, first of all: don’t,” says Bozie.

In some of the TV clips they cut off before he laughs awkwardly and says he’s just kidding. It doesn’t sound very good on the ones where they leave it in, either. Wade emailed Phil four different links and that didn’t even get the one on Sportsnet just now.

They still have a few hours of afternoon to kill. Bozie is the one who put the TV on this channel. They’re probably not talking about it on the real news.

“You’re an idiot,” says Phil.

“Fuck this.” Bozie slides down further against the pillows. “I wasn’t planning to say that.” 

“That lady’s face, man.”

“It was pretty bad,” Bozie agrees. “Shit, I shouldn’t even be in here.”

“Why?”

“Only one bed.”

“You’re crazy,” says Phil. Everybody in Vancouver has probably tried to picture them fucking.

“I don’t want to remind people.”

“Yeah, they’re just gonna forget,” says Phil. “After you told all the little kids not to be gay.”

“Actually, I told them not to play hockey.”

“I think that’s worse.”

There’s a Mark Messier Sportsnet ad playing on the TV. Mark Messier does look pretty evil, Phil has to admit.

“Did you mean it?” asks Phil. “Like, do you think it’s not worth it?”

“No,” says Bozie.

 

Some guys on the Canucks piss Phil off so much.

“You wanna go? You wanna?” 

Burrows’ voice sounds really fucking stupid when he’s mad. 

Phil drops his gloves instead of saying anything. Fucking—fuck hockey, sometimes.

 

The scrum wants to know what that was about. Whether there’d been an incident they hadn’t noticed earlier in the game. Whether Burrows said something.

“No,” says Phil. “Not everything has to be about being gay, seriously.” And even if it was, it would be nobody’s business but his own.

Nobody seems sure how to react to Phil bringing that up.

“So what was the reason for the fight?” the guy asks.

“Because I wanted to kick his ass,” says Phil.

 

It snows really fucking hard when they’re in Edmonton. Nobody wants to leave the hotel, so Phil does what he usually does when he’s bored, and finds Bozie.

“We could start sharing hotel rooms, you know,” says Phil. “Like, they would love it, it would save them money and everything.”

“We’d fuck up each other’s routines.” One of Bozie’s routines is not having sex with Phil in hotels the night before a game, which Phil used to think was more about the risk of getting caught, but apparently it’s not. 

“You’re boring,” says Phil.

Bozie has barely glanced up from his laptop. Phil has a look at the screen.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” says Phil. “Twitter again?”

“Hey, you’re the one who’s bored,” says Bozie.

Bozie has great ideas about Twitter sometimes, and they spend like an hour reading all the messages. Some of them are okay. Phil makes Bozie favorite those.

“Why can’t you?” asks Bozie.

“I’m not going to start trying now.”

Bozie is blocking more people than favoriting.

“This is a shitty way to kill time,” says Phil. “We should have just gone to that restaurant.”

“Then we’d have gotten stuck at the restaurant, probably.”

Outside the window, the snow is ridiculous. Phil wonders if anyone will make it to the game.

“Can I sleep in here tonight?” Phil asks.

“Why? Are you scared of the storm?”

“Oh, fuck off.”

Phil has to sleep on the wrong side of the bed, for some stupid hockey reason.

 

“How’s it going?” asks Dion. “You know, with the guys and everything. Nobody’s, you know. Avoiding you in the locker room or anything?”

“Nah. They’re not scared they’re gonna catch it. They’re not stupid.”

“Seriously, though,” says Dion. “Should we be having any talks about this, as a team?”

“No. We’re all good.”

“Well, you let me know.”

They really have been fine. Mostly not that weird. He thinks some of them asked Loops about it. Loops has actual gay friends who don’t play hockey, so he knows how to not be weird about it. Bozie should ask him for some tips.

 

Playing the Sabres is supposed to give them a cushion, or something. The media is really great about not jinxing everyone.

So obviously they get scored on within 30 seconds of the opening faceoff, and that’s in everyone’s heads. It was a fluke bounce but it doesn’t matter.

And then they’re down 3-1, and Bozie’s scrapping with some random guy, and Phil doesn’t know what the fuck. Bozie heads for the box with blood on his mouth and the crowd all cheering. They don’t do too much more cheering for the rest of the night.

Phil doesn’t fantasize a whole lot about running the NHL, because really, who the fuck would want to do that, but if he did he would definitely ban reporters from the locker room. He wishes they could at least get their quotes from some other poor bastard. Where the fuck has Bozie gotten to, anyway?

Some reporter asks him about homophobic language. The last thing Phil wants to do tonight is talk about this shit. They just lost to the goddamn Sabres, and there are bigger problems in his life right now. And some questions have such obvious answers that they’re pointless.

“No, of course I don’t think it has a place in hockey, like. That stuff isn’t necessary,” Phil says.

“Do you think there should be penalties for that?”

“Yeah, I guess,” says Phil, and wonders why the reporter looks like it’s fucking Christmas all of the sudden.

 

Phil figures it out when he sees the video. It’s Bozie’s fight, Bozie grabbing at the guy’s jersey and surprisingly clear audio of Bozie screaming that he’s a faggot.

 

NHL condemns Bozak’s use of anti-gay slur. Bozak apologises for homophobic slur. Kessel: homophobic language has no place in hockey. Tyler Bozak and the NHL’s image problem.

 

“Shit,” says Phil. “You’re really doing a great job with this gay rights thing.”

“Hey, fuck you,” says Bozie. “You aren’t helping, okay.”

“Jesus, man, you’re not usually like that. What’d you say that for?”

“He called me a faggot, and that pissed me off, so I figured it would piss him off if I called him one too. So I was like, no, you’re a faggot. I wasn’t really thinking about it.”

“Yeah,” says Phil. Real smooth fifth-grade stuff there.

“Don’t give me your thing about how homophobia has no place in hockey. I wouldn’t have called him a faggot if he was gay.”

 “How do you know? I thought that was your point with the whole ESPN thing. Maybe he just doesn’t have gay pride parades in the locker room either.”

“I swear to fucking god,” says Bozie, “the next time anyone says something about gay pride parades they’re getting my fist in their face. I didn’t mean it literally.”

“Yeah, okay,” says Phil.

“Whose side are you on here?”

“You keep digging holes.” This would be, like, half as awkward if Bozie would just figure out when to keep his mouth shut. It’s the same media coaching stuff as anything else.

“I’m not trying to! I’m not used to going over everything I say for whether You Can Play or whatever isn’t going to like it. For fuck’s sake.” Bozie stops. “It probably didn’t even piss him off that much, because he isn’t a faggot.”

“Bozie,” says Phil.

“I don’t want to fucking talk about it,” says Bozie, and slams the door behind him when he goes.

 

Bozie comes stomping in at around 4.

“I got another call from Steve,” he says. “Now he thinks my apology wasn’t good enough. I think the media people are literally stalking me.”

They are probably just doing their jobs.

“He called me too,” says Phil. “He said maybe we shouldn’t keep doing this thing where you do the talking, now.”

Bozie stops just at the edge of the rug. “Fuck.” He slaps his coat down on the back of the couch.

“It’s not that big of a deal,” says Phil. “We’ll just kind of switch, like, you say ‘no comment’ and I give them stuff.” He’ll figure out something. He probably can’t do worse.

“They’re the ones who keep making it a big deal. I don’t want us to have to talk about it at all.”

“Then they’ll talk about that. You know how they are. C’mere.” Phil pats the seat next to him.

Bozie comes around the couch and sits. He stays on his own cushion and leans forward, elbows on his knees.

“Maybe you should dump me,” says Bozie. 

“What,” says Phil.

“Not, like, literally dump me. Just tell people you dumped me. Then we don’t have to talk about it, and nobody will be following us around waiting for something to happen.”

“Come on,” says Phil. “That’s a terrible idea, even for you.”

Bozie rubs at his eyes. “Okay, yeah, probably. But I’m kinda making you look bad this way, you know?”

“Are you kidding me. I’m not telling my mom we broke up, get real.”

Bozie cracks a smile. “Still scared of your mom, huh.”

“Yeah, and so are you, don’t even lie about it.” Besides, everyone would talk about a breakup, including the idiots online who think it already happened.

 

“It sucks,” says Bozie, on the phone with someone Phil is pretty sure is his dad. “Like, with Phil I’m pretty sure that—” and he stops when he sees Phil come out of the kitchen.

“You’re pretty sure what?” Phil asks after he hangs up.

“What? Oh, nothing. I was just talking to my dad about stuff.”

Bozie’s dad seems to have been pretty good about everything. Phil thinks he was mostly relieved that Bozie had stopped lying to him about it.

“Good talk?” asks Phil.

Bozie shrugs. “I told him he would be better at being gay than me.”

“Huh,” says Phil. “And what did he say to that?"

“He laughed at me,” says Bozie, not looking all that amused by it, so Phil doesn’t.

 

They’re holed up in a hotel room in Boston. The weather’s bad again. Winter’s technically over, but it’s taking forever to end for real this year.

Bozie’s checking his emails, which is turning into a full-time job lately. There’s been a lot of stuff to keep track of. 

“Oh, no,” Bozie mutters. “It’s that fucking couple interview again, the You Can Play thing. For April. Are you sure we should do it at all?”

“C’mon,” says Phil, “that’s gonna be way better than the stuff after games. We get the questions first and everything.”

“Too bad they can’t just forget about it. Or, you know, forget in general. That would be nice.”

“They’re not gonna. You have to just wait until it starts being normal.” It feels like this process will take about 75 years. It seems a lot longer ago when this all started than it really was.

“Well, okay, sure,” says Bozie, “but I still don’t fucking like talking about it.”

“Tell me about it,” says Phil. “Steve literally called me and told me to post another photo of you on instagram.”

“He did? You didn’t take one.”

“Well, no.” He hadn’t wanted to bother Bozie with it, so he’d just posted an old one. And someone was probably going to figure it out and come up with a conspiracy theory about it. Deadspin would write a thing and it would be just awesome.

“And some of the guys are weird,” Bozie continues.

“They are?”

“They are so fucking weird,” says Bozie. “Come on, you can’t say you haven’t noticed.”

Phil thinks about it. “They’re weird, but they’re not like, bad weird.”

“But it’s like, they’re normal, until I do something to remind them about it.”

“They’ll get over it eventually,” says Phil. That seems to happen in other sports. It’s only been a few weeks, and you’ve gotta give some people time. Phil is very over it, but frankly, he thinks he’s the only one so far.

 

Patrick Burke calls Phil. He says the You Can Play ad has gotten a lot of positive responses.

“You have a really important opportunity here,” he says. Don’t piss it all away, he doesn’t say out loud.

 

Phil always thought that You Can Play was nice, and not very important to his life. Now he isn’t as certain about either of those things.

 

“Don’t do the interview unless you want to,” says Wade.

Wade has been a little concerned. For some reason he expected Phil to start caring more now.

It’s not that Phil doesn’t care. Everybody cares, whether they’re Bozie or Dave Nonis or their waiter from last night. Phil likes the clowns on Twitter even less than he did before. He’s really proud of himself that he hasn’t argued with any of them yet.

So yeah, it bothers him. But Phil could try to please them, and the clowns would still be clowns. They would still get under his skin, and he would’ve spent a bunch of time doing things he didn’t want to do. But at least he’s figured out how not to get under his own skin.

Bozie always wants to think that nothing gets under his.

 

“So, do you think you could give me Sidney Crosby’s number?” asks Mo.

“What?” says Phil.

“I know you have it. Reemer said you said he called you.”

“If he gave it to you, what would you do with it?” asks Fratts suspiciously.

“Well, I’m not sure,” says Mo.

“Realistically,” says Jake, “what you would do is you would butt dial him.”

“I thought you were gonna say I would drunk dial him,” says Mo. “I might do that.”

“Don’t do it, Phil,” says Fratts. “Nobody deserves that.”

Phil figures that is probably true.

 

Some LGBT charity is having an event downtown. Multiple people think it is a good idea to have Phil and Bozie there. It would help with the whole image thing. They won’t have to say more than, like, two words. Promise. Well, maybe a very short interview with a local TV station.

“Whatever,” says Phil, and shows up when and where they tell him. Bozie isn’t there yet. When he does get there, Phil can guess why he was late.

Bozie is drunk. Like, really drunk. Maybe no one else has noticed, because alcohol takes a little bit to catch up with Bozie. He can talk in full sentences now, but in like fifteen minutes he is going to be walking into walls. 

There are so many fucking people in this room. Lots of them want to talk to Phil, and all of them are in the way. This lady in a blue dress will not shut up. She’s been drinking too, though not as much as Bozie. There’s party drinking and drinking a bottle of vodka in the cab, or whatever the fuck Bozie did.

Phil shakes blue-dress loose and gets across to the other wall. Bozie’s laughing at something some girl is saying, but he stops laughing when Phil grabs him by the arm and hauls him out of the room. 

Phil blinks. It’s way darker in the hallway. There were private bathrooms around here somewhere, weren’t there? He hid in one for fifteen minutes last time he was at this place.

“Where’re we going…” Bozie staggers against him.

“What the fuck is wrong with you,” Phil hisses, pushing him on ahead. 

“I was drinking in the cab.”

“I fucking know you were drinking, Jesus!” Phil spots the bathroom and gets Bozie inside. Shit, he thinks, because there isn’t a part two to this plan. He probably can’t just lock Bozie in a bathroom for the whole evening.

“Can we tell someone you’re sick?” says Phil. “I can call Steve and tell him we had to go home.”

“‘m not sick.”

“Yeah, Bozie. I know.” Phil pushes him back against the wall and props him there while he feels in his pockets for his phone.

“Fuck,” says Bozie, with a weird look on his face. Phil shoves him down on his knees by the toilet just in time.

That goes on for awhile. Phil tells himself it’s even less fun for Bozie.

“Fuck,” says Bozie again. Phil’s on the floor next to him, one arm around him from behind, and he can feel him shaking. Phil pulls Bozie back against him.

“Any better?”

“I guess.” Bozie takes a breath. “I— I thought doing it this way would be easier?”

“You did?”

“But it still wasn’t easier by the time I got here.”

“Scratch drinking from your list of ways to deal with the media, okay?” Fuck knows why it was ever on there to begin with.

 

Phil calls Steve and then he takes Bozie home. So what if it looks shitty.

 

Phil makes Bozie sleep on the couch, because he doesn’t want to go to bed yet and wants to keep an eye on him. It’s not like Bozie cares at this point. He’s stretched out on his stomach, head at a weird angle and one arm dangling over the side. He’s still wearing his fucking suit.

Phil thinks that maybe he should have realized about Bozie.

Phil’s pretty sure he’s already asleep, and then Bozie opens his eyes and says, “I guess I’m just not comfortable with this.”

“You think?” says Phil.

 Bozie turns his head to look at him. “What, it wasn’t ever like this before. It wasn’t a problem until I had to talk to the media about it.”

“It’s been two fucking years. You always had a problem with it.” They probably should’ve talked about it more. Whatever. No point in crying over that now.

“Did I— do you.” Bozie takes a breath. “I’m pretty bad at this.”

“I dunno,” says Phil. “I’m not great either.”

Phil thinks they must’ve done something wrong, because it’s been two years, and some things should be easier by now. It ought to be true, the things they say in the stupidest articles, courage and pride and that shit. Maybe they’re true, and they just don’t help.

“I’m proud of you,” says Phil, in case they do.

“Don’t—shut up.” Bozie closes his eyes again. “You don’t have any reason to be.”

“Well,” Phil starts, “you’re still here.”

“That’s not a fucking sacrifice!”

“That’s not what I meant.” He goes over to Bozie. There isn’t room on the couch, so he sits on the floor next to it.

“I mean, you’re trying,” he says. “And I’m trying, and so’s everyone else.”

“It doesn’t count if you just fuck it up every time.”

“Yeah, it does,” says Phil. “It’s not a fucking hockey game. You don’t win or lose.” 

“This feels a lot like losing.”

Neither of them says anything for a minute.

“I hate this,” says Bozie. It’s almost a whisper. “I fucking hate it. And it’s like, I don’t even have an excuse. It’s not really that bad. And it still fucking sucks, and I’m not proud of any of it, but I’m not supposed to say that.”

“Yeah.”

“But it isn’t like that for you. You don’t give a fuck, not really.”

“I dunno.” Phil nudges Bozie aside, and he sits up slowly, leaving room for Phil at the end of the couch. “It’s just. People say a lot of shit, but like, I have you. I guess I don’t know why I wouldn’t be proud of that.”

“Fuck,” says Bozie, “I,” and stops.

The way he says it makes Phil pull Bozie closer and hold onto him for a minute. Bozie lets him, and turns his face against Phil’s shoulder.

They’ve said all that shit before, I love you and I can’t imagine my life without you and so on and so forth, and none of it had hurt. Phil doesn’t know why he feels like he can’t open his mouth this time.

 

You don’t win or lose. You just haul your man’s drunk ass home and go to bed, and it’s 3am and he’s getting up for more water when you tell him you love him, and it does hurt.

“I love you too,” whispers Bozie. Phil feels it like a bone bruise.

 

It’s hard to talk about it in the morning. Some things just feel embarrassing when it’s light outside.

“You look like shit,” Phil tells Bozie.

“Feel like shit,” Bozie mumbles. He looks like he’s going to pass out into his breakfast. “But I’ll be okay for this evening.”

“You’re not gonna pull something like last night, are you, because they might ask you stuff after the game?”

“Do we have to talk about it?” Bozie mutters.

“Not really.” Phil walks over to the fridge.

Behind him, Bozie sighs and says, “I just wish I wasn’t, you know? Not the being with you part. Just the part where it’s gay, and—a big deal.”

Phil figures lots of people wish they weren’t, and they have their reasons. Maybe sometimes they’re shit ones, but that probably just makes it worse.

The way Phil sees it, if he told everyone he was gay when he was 17, went and dated some kid at U of M, there’s a good chance he still would’ve ended up right here. And Bozie is someone who wouldn’t have. It makes a difference.

Phil says, “You make a big deal out of it too, you know.”

“Yeah,” says Bozie.

Phil thinks part of the problem is that everyone wants them to make it look easy. They’re pretty fucking invested in it, actually.

“Think you can stay on your feet at morning skate?” he asks.

“Yeah, sure,” says Bozie.

 

They’re down 2-0 to Ottawa after the first, even though everyone expected them to lose this one, and it’s not fair that reverse jinxing doesn’t work as well as doing it the normal way.

Bozie has managed to take two penalties and almost get in a fight. He’s not the only one playing stupidly. There is a lot of stupidity happening so far tonight. 

“Get your act together, Bozak,” says Randy. “Or I’m gonna have to stop putting you out there, and that wouldn’t look good.”

Phil thinks there are a decent number of Leafs fans who would have his back if he literally murdered Randy Carlyle.

 

Phil remembers the hit. It was Neil, he knows, and it wasn't dirty, just the kind of shit that happens sometimes. It’s the part after that’s kind of vague. 

There are people all around him, and there’s probably at least a few seconds in there where he isn’t sure where they went. Someone’s telling him not to move. He doesn’t really want to, since he didn’t come down in the most comfortable way ever.

“Okay,” says Phil, and he hears how the guy’s voice changes—it sounds like Marty. The crowd is making noise over top of him. He wonders why.

“Take it easy,” Marty’s saying, so Phil doesn’t turn and look. It’s all gone quiet soon enough. It stays quiet until Phil’s getting stretchered off the ice, and he gives a thumbs-up. Marty’s probably rolling his eyes. Phil feels okay, though. They could probably let him go back. They ignore this suggestion.

 

“I feel fine,” says Phil. “I could play the third. I really don’t need to go to the hospital.”

“Not happening,” says the good doctor. “We need you for the playoffs.”

Phil doesn’t really like it when people express their belief in the Leafs like that. It worries him.

Phil thinks of something before he leaves. “Tell Bozie I’m fine.” 

“Yeah, okay,” says Marty. “Don’t worry about it.”

 

They know all about the game at the hospital. The Leafs have scored two goals since Phil went down.

“Shit,” says Phil, “can’t you let me go back?”

They cannot.

 

Phil goes home later, with everyone telling him to be careful and take care of himself, and he feels pretty okay by now, but, like. He’s not gonna tell someone they won’t need him for the playoffs.

The Leafs win. He finds that out right before he heads home. 4-2, apparently, with the empty-netter to seal the deal. Zero points for Ottawa.

 

And some of them probably go out after, but Bozie’s back home before Phil is.

“Oh, thank fuck,” Bozie says.

“What. I’m fine. I promise I’m fine.”

“It took a fucking while for us to find out,” says Bozie. His hair is still damp.

“Take any more penalties?” asks Phil.

“Just the five minute major.”

“What the fuck was that for?” asks Phil.

“I guess you didn’t see it. I fought Neil, you should watch, it was pretty good.”

“Oh,” says Phil. “Well, they’re definitely gonna talk about that one.”

“Yeah,” says Bozie. “But I won. I think Randy liked it.”

Probably he did. Phil feels like the adrenaline hasn’t worn off yet, though he doesn’t think that could really be true. 

“Are you okay?” asks Phil.

“Why’re you asking me,” says Bozie, and then, “probably not.”

They’ve made it back to the bedroom, which Bozie calls Phil’s bedroom. Bozie has weird ideas about a lot of things.

“I should’ve noticed,” says Phil. It’s going to seem awkward again by tomorrow morning, probably. It wasn’t exactly that he hadn’t noticed, either. He just doesn’t know how else to say it. 

“I don’t know,” says Bozie.

They’re on their backs on the bed with a foot of space in between. 

“How was everything, after I left?”

“I don’t know,” says Bozie again. “We were all freaking out for a little. It felt, like.” He stops. “The guys were good.”

“They weren’t, like, weird?”

“Well, yeah. But, I mean. It was okay, like that.” He pauses. “Although sometimes I feel like I’d feel better if they were worse.”

“Probably you wouldn’t,” says Phil.

“Probably.”

“Maybe you should talk to, like, Patrick Burke about it,” says Phil.

“What? No.”

“Well, not literally him. Somebody. Who knows about stuff.”

“Yeah, I dunno,” says Bozie. He turns in toward Phil.

Phil likes the way Bozie’s shampoo smells, and how he never switched it again after Phil said so. 

“It’s not like I don’t want to be here,” says Bozie.

“Yeah, well. You’re here, so. That’s okay then.” 

Phil likes that Bozie was here when he got home, and the way he kisses. Phil kisses back, carefully over where Bozie just got the stitches out on his upper lip. Bozie’s grip on Phil’s shoulder tightens.

Phil likes everything, pretty much.

 

 

Phil tags along to practice, even though he’s been told not to skate today.

“Did you see Bozie’s fight?” is the first thing Reemer says. 

Phil hasn’t, so he gets to watch Bozie going fucking berserk on the guy.

“Uh,” says Phil. “Well, okay.”

Dion gives him a knowing look, as if he knows things.

“He had to know he couldn’t just do that,” says Bozie.

“It was a clean hit,” says Dion.

“Ask me how much I care,” says Bozie.

 

Leafs fight their way toward playoff berth. Bozak leaps to defense of Kessel [video]. 

“Well, that’s nice,” says Phil, looking at the big photos from The Globe and Mail, which some asshole helpfully taped to his locker so he wouldn’t miss it. Looking at this shit, you would think he’d died or something.

“It’s like Romeo and Juliet,” says Mo.

“Which one is Juliet?” asks Pete.

“Romeo and Juliet committed suicide, you dumbfuck,” says Jake. “They’d better not be like that.”

“Fine. Like Romeo and Juliet, but with more romance and less suicide. Like the Taylor Swift song.”

“Oh, fuck off,” says Phil, over Jake’s loud laughter.

 

Phil’s back skating two days later, although he’s scratched for the next game whether he likes it or not. Ottawa lost their last one. Phil’s trying not to think about it yet.

 

Reemer corners him after.

“I just wanted to say,” he says, looking all weird and intense about it, “I think it’s—shit, I don’t know.” Reemer can’t keep up intense for that long. “I know you guys didn’t want to do it, and I know you’ve gotten shit for it, especially Bozie, but I still think it’s cool. It’s good that someone did it.”

“Oh,” says Phil. “Well, yeah, sure.”

“Makes it easier for other people, you know? So. Good going.” Reemer pats him on the shoulder and walks away quickly.

Maybe Reemer has a gay uncle or something. Phil doesn’t ask if it’s one of the little bros.

 

Sometimes the Leafs make the playoffs, and sometimes the Leafs miss the playoffs. Either way, they’re pretty good about making people do math at this time of year. According to the math, they could clinch a spot tonight—as long as a couple other games they have no control over go the right way.

The media is just as understated about this as they have been about everything else.

It’s the Canadiens at the ACC, and they’re in already. Phil has retaped this stick three times. It’s so loud in here tonight, and he sings along to O Canada under his breath with the rest of them.

At the end of the first, Phil knows it’s one of those games. The ones where you should be leading—6-2, maybe, and instead it’s 0-0. The goaltending is something else. Everyone’s out of their seats and screaming several times with nothing to celebrate. Phil hates that.

There’s a bunch of shots on the Habs’ goal in the last 30 seconds of the third period, all the fans on the edge of their seats, waiting for it. 

It’s still 0-0 at the end of regulation.

 

Chris is the one who answers what nobody’s actually asked. Tonight’s the night. Two points will do it, one point won’t.

And everyone in the building knows that too, Phil’s sure of it, by the time they head back out. Phil makes eye contact with some kid up against the glass. She looks like she’s going to vomit.

It’s Naz, fucking Naz who gets the penalty for goalie interference, and it’s fucking bullshit, and this is the loudest the crowd’s been since the last time they thought the Leafs had scored and had been wrong about that. Dion’s arguing with the ref. Phil watches the clock tick down. For two minutes, Leafs fans are some of the most religious people on the planet.

Then he’s back out there, they’ve killed it, they’ve still got half a minute to go, and everyone is waiting for it, all believing in whatever gods they’ve been talking to.

And there’s the puck, off Reemer’s stick, right where it should be.

Sometimes you’ve got the perfect shot lined up, set to go top-shelf, short-side, a hole that no one could close in time. You’ve got it. And then you fuck it up, and it’s skidding across the ice and you’ve got a shoot-out coming up and maybe Randy won’t want you back out there after that whiff.

And sometimes pucks do things they shouldn’t, and they go in anyway.

 

Phil knows it happened from the way everyone piles on top of him, crushing him against the boards. And he knows by the goal horn that’s still loud in his ears, even over the top of the crowd. Cody is screaming something he can’t understand. Everyone’s fucking screaming. It hurts from how loud it is.

And then it's all over. People get ahold of themselves long enough to get confirmation about the playoffs, and lose their shit all over again. 

Phil’s pretty sure they hadn’t expected it. Maybe he hadn’t, either. It’s the biggest fucking relief he’s felt, next to that first time with Bozie, in a Tampa Bay hotel room after a loss and with none of it feeling anything like this.

And there’s Bozie, finally, coming at him from the other end of the rink. He’s laughing and looking like he doesn’t really think it happened, either. Phil doesn’t think he’d ever give back a minute between Tampa Bay and now.

Bozie kisses him, right at center ice, hard and not for very long. It’s long enough to get on the jumbotron, though. It’s kind of a big deal.

 

“Wow, you really are together,” says Naz in the locker room.

“What,” says Phil. “Did you think we weren’t?”

“We-ell,” says Naz. “I’ve seen my parents make out more than you two. It was kind of weird.”

“Is that what you meant about the...” Bozie starts, and then stops. “Wait. Never mind.”

Naz cackles happily to himself and refuses to explain.

 

Playoffs, playoffs, playoffs, say the reporters. You’re in the playoffs. What do you think about that? This has apparently never happened before, ever. 

The Leafs won’t even know who they’ll be playing until tomorrow at least. Phil tries to give them some reasonable answers. If he stood on his head and yelled incoherently this would probably be an equally acceptable answer for the people of Toronto, at least until they start thinking about the first round. So, maybe for five minutes.

 

“Fuck,” says Bozie, “I still can’t believe I did that. They’re gonna want to talk about it again.”

The regular season is over. They have a couple days to catch their breaths, now. A couple days where Phil will hopefully keep Bozie off Twitter and just relax for awhile instead.

This interview is probably the wrong way to be doing that. It’s the first sit-down one for Phil about any of this. It’s freaking him out a little.

“Is it okay if they do ask about it?” asks Phil.

“I dunno,” says Bozie. “I guess so.”

Bozie was on the phone with his dad for two hours last night. Phil hasn’t heard much about it but he thinks it maybe helped. 

“You don’t have to if you don’t want to,” says Phil.

“I do want to,” says Bozie. “Fuck this tie, though.” He wanders off into the bedroom.

This stuff doesn’t end just because you make the playoffs. If you survive a season, you don’t go home with a grand prize for any of it. It’s just your life, and you just go home. If you’re lucky, you go home with someone else.

Bozie wanders back out into the living room. He’s changed his shirt and kept the tie.

“That’s a very pink shirt,” says Phil.

“It isn’t pink. It’s, like, salmon or something, that’s what it said on the tag.”

“You look good in pink,” says Phil.

Bozie adjusts his tie. “You ready to go?”

“Sure. It’ll be fine.”

“You’re gonna hate it,” says Bozie. “You hate all this stuff, don’t even lie.”

“Yeah,” says Phil. “But I’ve always liked talking about you.”