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the things you said

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*

Jack Zimmermann is nineteen years old. He’s one of the top Junior hockey players in Canada. Everyone expects him to go early in the draft a few months from now. His father is a Stanley Cup champion and a beloved ambassador for the sport who wholeheartedly supports Jack in every step of his career. His mother just got nominated for an Emmy. Two nights ago a girl offered to such his dick in a bar bathroom, and that happens to him often enough that he wasn’t even tempted to say yes. Everything in his life is stretched out before him, a moving walkway of success that he just needs to step onto and ride.

He’s got four different anxiety meds in his luggage, and his fingernails have left deep gouges in his palms from where he’s gripped hard enough to feel something.

*

“Have you spoken to Bakken yet, Jack? The goalie coach? He’s an old teammate of mine from Juniors and he can definitely be a resource for you. Maybe introduce you to some of the guys I don’t know.”

“Not yet, Papa. We haven’t met any of the coaches. I just arrived.”

“Well, make sure you do. He’s connected at a lot of levels.”

Ouais, Papa. I will.”

Jack is unpacking his duffel for the week-long camp in Vancouver. Top prospects from all over the provinces are here. The hotel room is huge and cold, and his roommate hasn’t arrived yet. Jack takes the bed closest to the door, and stashes his gear right where he can get to it, by the headboard. He eyes the evacuation map on the back of the door, and quickly plots out his escape route, committing it to memory. He hates being this high up, on the 14th floor.

His father is still speaking. “This is a great opportunity for you, Jack. I know you’ll get everything out of it that you can.”

“I promise.”

“Call me later, after you are back from the first skate. I’d like to hear how it went.”

“Yeah, okay.”

“Keep those eyes up. And pay attention to your left side.”

“I will.”

“Don’t let yourself down.”

“I won’t.”

Jack ends the call. His breath hitches and the tightness in his chest starts to press in just enough to form a painful knot right where he knows his heart must be.

As he unpacks his toiletries in the bathroom, he pops half a Lorazepam, just enough to take the edge off. He has to be at his best. He promised.

*

A half hour later, Jack is reclined on his bed and enjoying the cool trickle of dullness in his veins, when a loud voice jolts him back up. Someone busts in the through the door.

“Yeah, I’m at my room.” The large kid in the doorway is on his phone, but eyeing Jack as he pulls out his keycard and lets the door slam behind him. “Shit. Gotta meet the roomie now. See you in five?”

Jack sits up on the edge of his bed. The kid is very tall, with long limbs and a thick mop of curly brown hair.

“Hey, I’m Kyle.” He sticks out his hand, right in Jack’s face. Jack shakes it.

“Jack.”

Jack can see the wheels turning as Kyle looks at him, hard. Then, the light bulb.

“Oh, holy shit! You’re Bob Zimmermann’s kid, right? Oh fuck. Figures I would get you as a roommate. Damn. Your dad is a legend, dude.”

Jack never knows what to say to that. He tries, “Thanks.”

“Fuck, so unfair. I mean, no offense, but what did you actually have to do to get here? Breathe?” Kyle laughs, and tosses his suitcase and backpack onto the other bed, not even looking at Jack.

The knot in Jack’s chest contracts hard, and he can feel a line of sweat break out on the back of his neck. He tries to smile and laugh it off, but that only makes the knot pull tighter.

Kyle is haphazardly throwing clothes into the dresser drawers. “So Zimmermann, I’m meeting up with a couple of guys down in the lobby in a minute. You want to join?”

“Don’t we have to get to the arena?” Jack reaches for the binder on his night stand that has the full schedule for the week. He’s sure the bus leaves in fifteen minutes for a late afternoon skate.

“Nah, downstairs they told us there’s some figure skating thing wrapping up right now that ran long, and our schedule is pushed by an hour.”

“Oh.”

“So?”

“I think I’ll stay here.”

Kyle gives him a look that Jack can only interpret as of course you will, asshole. What he says is, “Suit yourself.”

After the door slams behind Kyle, Jack counts to twenty and then walks to the bathroom and swallows the other half of the Lorazepam.

*

Jack Hey, Kenny. Having to wait for some figure skaters to get off the ice. Everything's delayed for an hour.

Parse What kind of bullshit is that?

Jack Vancouver bullshit.

Parse Heh. How’s everything else?

Jack My room is really cold.

Parse Here’s an idea, genius. Turn up the heat.

Jack Right. Found the controls. I forgot you could do that in a hotel.

Parse Damn, you get invited to one lousy camp by yourself and look what happens.

Jack knows he’s trying, but it’s been a long, awkward month since Jack got the invite to Vancouver and Kent didn’t.

Jack Sorry, Kenny.

Parse Watch your back or everyone there will realize you’re nothing without me, Zimms.

Jack’s chest clenches, even through the gentle haze of the Lorazepam.

Jack Wish you were here.

Parse I bet.

*

Jack spends the next hour flipping through the binder of materials for the week, not taking a word of it in, and then watching the last half of an old episode of M*A*S*H. He’s just starting to pull together his gear bag when he hears the beep of the card reader and Kyle and two other guys come barreling into the room.

“Jack fucking Zimmermann, get your ass movin’! Bus is out there, loading up. Word is there’s gonna be at least twelve scouts in the house, and that’s just for this warm-up!”

Kyle’s voice is particularly loud, and shatters right through Jack’s calm. The two other guys have gear bags slung over their shoulders. One of them has earbuds in and is bopping to an unheard beat, and the second is staring at Jack like he’s an exhibit at a museum.

Jack grabs his hoodie and his bag, and follows them out into the hall. The pressure in his chest is a steady and strong ache. The door is about to shut behind him, but he jams his foot in to stop it.

“I forgot something. Just a minute.”

Jack dashes to the bathroom and grabs a bottle of meds from the top of his toiletries bag, then stuffs it down to the bottom of his gear, into his extra socks. Just in case.

*

It’s chaos when they get to the arena. The figure skating crowd is trickling out and a number of skaters are still finishing up in the locker room when the bus full of hockey players unloads. There’s a bit of a scramble that Jack avoids by staying in the bus for as long as possible, and then darting into the first open stall he finds once he’s inside. He can hear one of the program organizers (Dave? David?) on his phone, obviously trying to find someone else to blame for this scheduling mess.

“Fuck. Those fruits left their damn fairy dust all over everything.”

Jack looks up just enough to see that it is one of Kyle’s friends, the huge one with the earbuds, holding up what looks to be two sequins on his finger tip.

Jack glances quickly over to the corner where a couple of the figure skaters are still clearing their gear out of stalls. It’s clear from their silence and the looks pinging between them that they heard him loud and clear.

“You’re a fucking fairy, Baz,” Kyle says, and he starts a bit of a shoving match that gets loud enough that one of the coaches has to come in and blow his whistle to calm them down.

Jack just keeps his head down and gets geared up (he’s definitely still a little stoned, more than he wants to be at this point). When he looks back to the corner a few minutes later, all of the figure skaters have gone.

*

Jack is ready before almost anyone else, but he’s heavy-headed and unfocused and not in any mood to banter with strangers. He grabs his phone and ducks out into a side corridor, just down from the locker room, loping along on his skates. He needs something to help ground him.

She picks up after five rings.

“Jack! Honey!”

“Maman. Hi.”

His mother’s voice is so light; she sounds like sunshine. Jack lets his entire body sag into the cinder block wall of the hallway.

“I just have a few minutes before I’m called back, Jack. I’m surprised to hear from you. Isn’t it getting a little late for you to call?”

Jack’s mother has been in Los Angeles for three months on a shoot.

“I’m in Vancouver, Maman. Remember?”

“Oh that’s right! I completely forgot, honey. So we’re in the same time zone for a few days?”

In the background, Jack can hear loud banging and a voice saying something like, “To the left, Alicia.”

“You sound busy, Maman.”

“This is quite a production, Jack. I wish you could see this set today! I’m getting a touch up on my makeup while they reset cameras. But I have a moment. How’s Vancouver?”

Hard and lonely and I need you, Jack doesn’t say.

“Fine, I guess. The camp is just starting. We have a short skate in a few minutes.”

There’s a pause on the other end of the line, and Jack can hear muffled murmurings and the scrape of something against the phone.

“Sorry, Jack. I missed that. Paul came over to give me a note. Say again?”

“It’s fine.”

“Oh good! I’m so glad. Is Kent with you?”

“No, he’s not.”

Another long pause, loud murmurs. Jack can feel the shaking start in his knees, so he crouches down so his legs don’t give way.

“Shoot, honey. I have to go. I’m so sorry. Let's talk again tomorrow, okay? While you are a west coaster?”

Jack can hear her smile.

“Sure, Maman.”

“I love you, honey.”

The call disconnects before Jack can say it back. He lets his head hang down, his breath coming in short, sharp gasps, and he can’t think of anything but the bottle of pills resting in his gear bag.

*

It takes about five minutes for the wave to pass over him, until he can catch his breath again and remember that he’s supposed to be out on the ice and that he can’t blow this. The only thing that can calm him as well as the Benzos is skating. He should be out there. Jack pulls himself up and starts off down the hallway.

He must have gotten turned around, though, because he strides purposefully around the next corner and right into a dead end. Where there’s another person.

It’s one of the figure skating kids, and he looks like a cornered fox. The kid is standing with his back to the wall, his palms pressed against the cinder blocks. He has impossibly huge eyes that are staring at Jack with what Jack can only describe as terror.

Jack pulls himself to a stop, suddenly really aware of how out of it he still is and how tall he is on his skates.

“Hey, sorry,” Jack stutters out.

“It’s all right,” the kid says. His voice has a bit of a drawl.

“I didn’t know anyone was down here.”

The kid relaxes his grip on the wall a fraction. “You one of the hockey players?”

It’s a ridiculous question, seeing as how Jack is fully geared up and holding a hockey stick. “Yeah. I am. I think I got turned around on the way to the rink.” The kid has a golden cap of curls, Jack notices.

“Oh.” The kid looks confused. “That wasn’t you on the phone just now?”

Oh god. Jack’s heart stutters. “I...yeah. No. I was just…”

The kid waves off Jack’s muttering. “I didn’t listen in, I swear. But…,” the kid gets a little worried crease between his big eyes, “...you okay?”

Jack can feel his face heat with embarrassment. “Yeah.”

The kid nods and looks like he’s working up the courage to say something more.

Jack quickly clears his throat, trying to shake off the last of the his fog. “So why are you hiding down here?”

Now it’s the kid’s turn to blush crimson. Jack wishes he could unsay that word. Hiding. “Oh, I left my skates in the locker room and I was just… waiting for it to clear out.”

Jack thinks about Kyle and Baz and sequins, then nods. “You want me to go see if it’s empty in there?”

The kid shakes his head. “Nah, I’ll just wait. You go on along. Don’t be late to your… thing.”

Jack nods. It feels like he should say something more, but he has no idea what. The kid meets his gaze for just a little too long (really compelling eyes, huge and brown), until Jack can’t take it and has to look away. He turns around and walks off down the hallway without looking back.

Behind him, he thinks he hears the kid mutter “Oh Lord Almighty. What the hell?” just before he’s too far away to hear anything more.

*

Cool, flat nothingness- the ice.

Jack glides out onto the fresh surface, onto the one place where he knows exactly who he is and what he can do, and the rest of the world falls away. The final dregs of his drifty drug haze dissipate as he lets himself build up speed, ignoring all of the others and finding his own perfect track around the edge by the boards.

Sometimes, when things get really hard and it's late at night and he can't sleep, Jack thinks his life might be better without hockey, that maybe if he gave it all up and became a firefighter or a gardener or a chef, if he left the ice forever, maybe then he wouldn’t need to have that bottle of pills in his bag anymore.

But every time he’s back on the ice, he remembers. This is the only place where his life actually makes any sense.

*

The two hours pass quickly: speed drills, passing drills, shooting drills, and then some dizzying stick-handling drills that Jack is sure he will dream about later (if he’s lucky enough to get any sleep).

He knows quite a few of the other guys from around the league, but no one is attending the camp who Jack considers to be a friend. He wonders again how different this week would feel if Kenny was there with him.

Back in the locker room, after, Kyle nudges up to Jack as he pulls off his pads.

“Sweet shit out there, Zimmermann.”

“Thanks. You, too.” Jack had been impressed by Kyle’s shooting, hard and accurate.

“You’re coming to dinner with me and the guys.”

“Oh…” Jack had been planning to go back to the hotel room to order a sandwich from room service.

“We’re just gonna chow down in the hotel restaurant. Looks decent. Maybe go out after.”

Jack thinks for a moment about the long night alone in his room, if Kyle’s going out. “Yeah, sure. Okay.”

“Cool, bro.” Kyle heads back to his own stall, elbowing the other guy (Baz, right?) as he walks past.

It takes a minute to hit. Jack sits down and starts to pull off his underarmor, think about his routine for the morning, and then suddenly his body is flooded with panic. His heart rate takes off like a rocket, his neck starts to sweat and his hands begin to shake. He’s just agreed to have dinner with strangers, two of whom he’s already decided he really doesn’t like. His breath shallows. He can’t have this happen here, right in front of everybody. That thought only makes it worse.

Desperate, Jack grapples into the bottom of his gear bag and finds the bottle he stashed earlier. When he gets the label into the light he can see it’s his Xanax. (He’s had so many doctors over the years, and they’ve all prescribed him something.) He opens the bottle, palms one inside the bag, and then sneaks it to his mouth as he pretends to yawn and stretch.

Just getting the pill swallowed makes his heart rate drop. Fine. He’s fine.

*

The pill has Jack entirely chilled out in a matter of minutes. On the bus, he just leans back in his seat and closes his eyes, the past few hours drifting away on a sea of not giving a shit.

Jack knows how to manage himself on meds now. Low enough dose, he knows he’ll remember what he’s doing and where he is, with a low probability of being called out. He’s made the mistake of trying to function on a higher dose in public before, and failed, ended up being snuck home from a team birthday party by Kenny to sleep it off- Jack has no memory of the entire night. He is nothing if not meticulous, even in this.

Jack’s aware he’s slow getting out of the bus though, and when he says, “See ya,” to a couple of the guys he knows as they walk into the hotel, he can feel the cement in his tongue.

He takes a quick, cold shower. When he comes out, he’s a little more in control. Kyle has changed into jeans and a t-shirt and is tapping at his phone. When he sees Jack is ready, he hops up.

“Dinner, Zimmermann,” Kyle says. Then, “Damn, you look like you need to eat or something.”

Jack just nods.

*

Dinner passes in a haze. Jack makes excuses for himself about being tired, and the time change, and his dinner companions seem to buy it.

The hotel restaurant is set up like a diner, with big booths and a huge menu. Jack struggles to focus on it, and for ease just orders a burger.

Kyle’s friends are called Baz and Elvie. Jack assumes these are hockey nicknames, but he doesn’t have it in him to ask to be sure.

He manages to tune out the majority of the conversation, which seems to be mostly replaying the afternoon session, trying to guess who the scouts are looking at, and then chirping each other about hook-ups and girlfriends. Jack just works on his food and tries to look interested.

Baz orders a pitcher of beer, and they pour a pint for Jack. He sips it, being careful not to drink too much and throw off the fine balance he has achieved of not caring about anything, yet still remaining conscious.

Jack doesn’t follow any particular thread of conversation until he hears Elvie say, under his breath and into his beer, “Don’t look now, but holy shit, there are some of those fancy-assed figure skating fags.”

Jack turns around in the booth to look. There are four of them, sitting at a booth several tables away, but all Jack can focus on when he looks is a curly shock of golden hair. The kid from the hallway. My blond friend, Jack’s sluggish brain thinks, and he doesn’t have the will to correct it.

“Jesus, Zimmermann, I said don’t look.”

“Whenever I see a bunch of those fancy fags, I always wonder which one sucks the best cock,” Baz says, and Kyle snickers.

“Why? You gonna try and get some, bro?”

“Nah, I was wonderin’ for you.”

“Aww, shit, dude…”

There’s a loud sound, a bang and a rattle, that jolts Jack more awake and alert. It takes his brain a few seconds to catch up and realize that his own hand aches, and that it aches because he has slammed it down on to the table, hard. His dinner-mates are all frozen and staring at him.

“What the fuck, Zimmermann?”

“Sorry.” Jack shakes his head to try and clear it. “Sorry.”

“Almost spilled my brew, dude.”

“Sorry.”

The guys mutter some more and wipe up a couple of spills, but when they start talking again, they don’t mention the figure skaters any more.

Jack takes a deep gulp of his beer and peeks back over his shoulder to see if the skaters are still there. They are.

*

After another round of beers (Jack finishes his first and Baz pours him a second), the other three guys start to pull on jackets and hoodies and make ready to leave.

“We’re gonna check out a club Elvie heard was pretty fuckin’ hot,” Kyle says. “You coming?”

Jack shakes his head. “What about curfew.”

Kyle waves a hand dismissively. “We’ll make it. And if we don’t, you’re not gonna rat us out, are you?”

Jack can’t pull his thoughts together fast enough to reply with more than a shrug. Their harried waitress hurries over with the bill. Kyle doesn’t stop winding his scarf around his neck as he nods towards it.

“You'll get dinner, right Zimmermann? I mean, your dad is fucking loaded, yeah?”

They grab their shit and walk out. Jack just watches them go.

*

Jack sits at the booth by himself for a while, nursing his beer and fighting the fatigue that the drug has forced into his veins. He knows his own metabolism, knows the effects of the Xanax should have peaked about twenty minutes ago, and that if he wants to stay numb, he either needs to go to sleep, or keep drinking.

He keeps drinking.

His phone buzzes, eventually, just after the waitress brings back his credit card and receipt. It’s Kenny.

Parse Bedtime?

Jack focuses hard on his fingers to get them to cooperate with texting.

Jack Not yet. Dinner with roommate.

Parse Your new best friend?

Jack He’s an asshole.

Parse Whoa. Strong words, Jack Zimmermann.

Jack looks over his shoulder. One of the figure skaters is gone, but the blond and two of the other guys are still leaned in at the booth, talking and laughing. Jack’s heart gives a little flutter through the sludge of his emotions.

Jack There’s other guys I could hang with, but I’m probably going up to sleep. I’m kind of fucked up.

Parse Don’t waste a good fucked up on sleep, Zimms. Just pretend I’m there and forcing your sorry ass to have a good time.

Jack If you were here, I would be having a good time.

Parse Aww, shit. That’s kind of sweet, Zimms. You are fucked up, aren’t you?

Jack takes a long breath and realizes he’s smiling at his own phone.

Jack Night, Kenny.

Parse Do things I would do, Zimms.

Jack stares at the table surface. It’s an intricate imitation wood grain, and his brain gets caught up in the spirals, just rolling and riding the pattern for a few minutes, finding an edge of calm again.

When he comes back to himself, he signals to the waitress, orders a black coffee, and then tries not to overthink his next move. He carries his beer and his coffee across the restaurant to where the figure skaters are still lingering.

One of them sees him coming and nudges the others. When the blond turns and sees him, he leans in and whispers something to his companions, then smiles back at Jack and waves him over.

“Hey there. Fancy meeting you here,” the kid says, with the same lilt as at the arena, but far more cheerful. Jack isn’t great at identifying regional American accents, but he thinks maybe Southern?

“Saw you over here.” Jack hopes he’s not slurring too hard. The kid’s big eyes are on him again, like a spotlight.

“Yes, indeed. Here I am,” the kid says, after a moment’s hesitation, which makes Jack pretty sure he is slurring.

One of the other guys pipes up and says, “You sitting down?”

Jack honestly hadn’t thought that far, but he sets down his beverages and pulls a chair over the end of the booth and sits.

The skaters are all looking at each other, and Jack doesn’t know what to say. Finally, one of them ventures, “I’m Brian. What’s your name?”

Jack isn’t sure why he says, “Laurent,” instead of Jack, but he does.

“Nice to meet you, Laurent,” the kid says. He pronounces Jack’s name long and drawn out, like it has five more vowels than it does. “I’m Eric. That’s Colin.”

Eric. Jack lets his name rattle around in his brain. Eric. Eric.

“You play hockey, right?” Brian asks.

“Yeah. I do.” Jack sips his coffee.

The three guys exchange glances again, and seem to be waiting for something more. Jack stares back at them.

“Well, we can be dang sure this boy doesn’t go out for speech and debate,” Eric says with a grin. Jack’s stomach does a pleasant little roll at the chirp.

“No,” Jack slurs back. “I’m more of a spoken word poet.”

The table all giggles at that, and then conversation is easy.

*

At some point (while Eric is animatedly telling Jack the details of the skating circuit schedule while he sips his beer), Colin and Brian make their excuses and slip out of the booth, giving Eric little pats on the head as they go.

“Be good, Bittle,” Colin says, and winks.

As they retreat, Jack leans over and whispers to Eric, “They aren’t gonna go hook up, are they?”

“Oh Lord, hockey boy, stop makin’ assumptions. Not all figure skaters are gay, you know.” Eric pulls back and his stern expression hits Jack right in the gut. But then his face softens and he looks off after his friends. “But Christ, they probably are. Oh hell, that’s not gonna end well for anyone.”

Eric laughs and then launches into a rambling story about… something. Jack can’t really follow it, but he likes listening to Eric talk. He just keeps drinking and nodding and trying to keep himself upright.

It’s somewhere in the middle of this dizzying conversation that Jack realizes he has screwed up. He’s not sobering up the way he should. He can feel his self-control slipping away and it occurs to some still-functioning part of his brain that he’s forgotten to account for the Lorazepam earlier, that he’s never actually taken those two pills so close together before, and definitely not with an alcohol kicker.

Eric is still talking, something about spins? A bubbling thought, something scary, makes it way up through Jack’s sedation, desperate to be heard.

“You know, those guys I ate dinner with were calling all of you fags.”

Eric stops talking and freezes, big eyes wide, the terror back in his expression. “Pardon me?”

Jack can’t stop to explain. He has to go on. “I kept thinking what a chicken I was, cause I didn’t say anything back. I just let them spout their shit and think I was going along.”

Eric is very still and staring at Jack. He swallows hard. “You weren’t?”

Jack inches his hand away from his beer glass until his pinky finger is pressed against Eric’s forearm where he’s leaning on the table. “No.”

Eric looks at Jack’s fingers for a long moment. “I’m not...I haven’t…” He stops and licks his lips, very slowly. “You know, Laurent, I don’t think you know what you’re doin’.”

Jack doesn’t look away. “I don’t.”

It takes a moment, but then Eric pulls his arm back. “I think you should have more coffee, honey.”

Suddenly Jack is so tired that he almost puts his head down on the table to get some rest.

“Um, Laurent? What’s your room number? Um, why don’t I help get you there?”

Jack realizes that his head is actually on the table. Shit. He lifts himself up and blinks hard, trying to clear his vision, salvage the moment. “So, what’s your dad like?”

Eric is just a blur. “He’s quite a piece of work, actually, but I don’t think we should talk about that right now.”

“Okay. I hate my roommate. He called you a fag.”

“That’s not a nice word, hon.”

“I know. Sorry.”

“It’s okay. Let’s get you up.”

Jack hasn’t really been able to judge how tall Eric is until the kid is trying to hold him up and Jack is grabbing on to his shoulders like a life raft.

“You’re a good size for leaning,” Jack says. Eric smells nice, too.

“Well aren’t you sweet,” Eric replies, and then Jack doesn’t remember for a while.

*

The next thing Jack is aware of, they are on an elevator. He knows there’s something important he meant to tell Eric before, but he can’t really remember what it was. But maybe his mouth remembers, because it’s talking.

“People offer to suck my dick all the time, you know.”

“Oh? Do they?” Jack thinks he’s probably not a great judge at the moment, but Eric’s voice sounds really high-pitched.

“But here’s what’s different. This time, I’m gonna suck your dick.” Yes, that was it.

“Oh Lord, let's get you to the room, honey. Just keep your voice down.”

*

The next flash of awareness Jack has, and he’s on a bed, and it’s not his bed at home. His shirt is somewhere else and he’s kissing something. Someone. Eric? Yes, the kid. Eric. Right. On his chest, where his shirt is also missing.

Jack inhales hard and sits up. Eric is laid out beneath him, eyes closed, chest and throat flushed deep red. He has no idea how they’ve gotten here.

“You are so fucking beautiful,” Jack says, although he’s not sure if the words come out in that order or not. Eric’s eyes open, wide. “We’re gonna have sex now, okay?” He gets really close to Eric’s face, to be sure he hears him.

Eric presses up and kisses him on the mouth, and a tiny voice in Jack’s brain reminds him he’s never actually kissed another man before, only imagined it a thousand times while some girl is going down on him and he has his eyes shut tight.

Jack fumbles around with the elastic of Eric’s underwear while their kiss goes on and Eric wraps a leg around Jack’s back and, fuck, he’s so exhausted.

After that, Jack remembers hot skin under his hands and his lips, and the ache of his jaw, and the salty taste of come at the back of his throat, but then there’s nothing more.

*

Jack wakes up the next morning in his own hotel room, the alarm blaring it’s warning that they have an hour until the bus leaves for the arena.

His entire body is concrete.

He has no memory of getting back to his room.

Jack hasn’t blacked out in three months. He thought he had this beat.

Kyle moans from the bed next to him. “What a night, bro. Sorry you missed it. You must have knocked out early, eh?”

Jack tries to move his mouth. Eventually, it works. “Why do you say that?”

“You were sound asleep when I got back, Zimmermann. You sleep like the goddamn dead, you know.”

Jack’s phone buzzes and he has to force himself roll over and check it.

Papa Heard the Pens and Habs have scouts there today. Thought of a couple more things for you to work on. Call me.

Jack lets his head fall back onto the mattress.

*

Before he gets on the bus, Jack stops at the desk in the lobby to ask, but they won’t tell him if anyone named Eric is still checked in. The concierge tells him the figure skaters finished their events yesterday, and that as far as she knows, they’d all left together on an early shuttle to the airport.

Jack thanks her. As he walks to the bus, all he can think about is the bottle of pills in his gear bag.

*