Charlie sat in the chair in front of his desk. He toyed with his cellphone, spinning it on the wood. He looked out the window. He tapped his feet to a song in his head. He listened for any sounds in the hall. The dorms were too quiet this close to finals and winter break. After a few moments, he seemed to come to a decision. He opened the phone and made a call.
“Hello?” said the voice on the other end. It sounded tinny.
“Banksy!” Charlie said.
Adam laughed. “Conway! What's up, man, how are you?”
“I'm good, I'm good. Can't complain.”
“I saw that you whupped some Wolverine ass last week. That was a hell of an assist on the second goal.”
Charlie smiled. It had been a sweet assist. “Haha, thanks, dude. Are you keeping tabs on me now?”
“You know your mom sends me all of your youtube highlights.”
“I have to tell her to stop doing that one of these days.” Charlie was the one who showed her how to upload a video in the first place. “You still got a couple more games left?” Charlie asked. He didn’t let Adam know that he had the 67’s schedule up on the mini-fridge.
“Yeah, like four more. The last one’s in fucking Saginaw, Michigan. I don’t look forward to the bus ride all the way back to Ottawa.”
“Hey, it’s not that far to fucking Saginaw for me and I’ve got shit to do on campus until I go home anyway,” Charlie said, spinning slowly in his chair.
“Don’t you have finals or something?”
Charlies made a dismissive noise. “Only two.” There were four, one of which was a paper worth half the class’s overall grade. But he only really had to study for two and they would be over by the Saginaw game.
“Yeah, man, it would be awesome to hang out.”
The drive up to Saginaw was a boring one, but the roads were clear and Charlie felt good. It had been a while since he'd seen Adam, since any of the old team had seen him, it seemed. Charlie liked to keep in touch with them all. Fulton constantly reminded him, Once a captain, always a captain. But they hadn't seen much of Adam since he got the call to play in the CHL and that was two years ago.
The game was a close one up until the last five minutes. The Spirit were playing physical in front of a pretty boisterous home crowd and Charlie felt the itch to get out on the ice. Especially when Banks took a few too many hard checks in the corners. Funny, Charlie never remembered Adam playing like that, grinding in the corners. When they played, he would always be wheeling out by the circles or in the slot, waiting to one-time a good pass. Guess someone had to teach him to add another dimension to his game.
With just over four minutes left in the third, Adam scored the go-ahead goal. He dangled the Spirit defenseman right out of his skates. Some things never changed. An empty netter with less than a minute left put the game away for the 67s.
Charlie hung around after the game, feeling creepy while he waited for the visiting team to leave. It was the last game for the 67s before the holiday break and it looked like a lot of the American guys were heading straight home, not even bothering to get back on the bus for the long trip back to Ottawa. Adam was one of the last guys out.
“Hey man, sorry to keep you waiting,” said Adam as he jogged over and caught Charlie in a quick hug.
“Not a problem.” Charlie patted him on the back. “Are you wearing dress shoes?” he asked, stepping back a bit. Their breath hung in small white clouds in the air.
Adam laughed and shrugged “Gotta look professional.”
“Hey, you gotta catch your bus or something?” Charlie asked, pointing back towards the idling bus. “I don't want to hold you up.”
“Don't know,” said Adam, running his hand through his hair. “I hadn't really figured out what I was gonna do for the next couple of days. I should visit the folks, I guess. Or I could go back to Ottawa.”
“I'm heading back to Minneapolis tomorrow,” Charlie said, shifting back and forth on his feet.
“Isn't that kind of a long drive?”
Charlie shrugged. “I stop in Madison and pick up Averman. He lets me crash for the night in exchange for the ride. You're welcome to tag along.”
“He's still playing?”
Charlie shook his head. “Nah, he's an assistant team manager, or something.”
“You really don't mind? I haven't been home in a while,” said Adam, adjusting his bag on his shoulder.
“I'll enjoy the company.”
The drive back went quicker than the one up. They had a lot to catch up on. They were still wide awake when they got into East Lansing. Post-game adrenaline still running it's course. "I'm sure your apartment is much swanker than this," Charlie said, gesturing at the cramped dorm room as he let them inside. Adam had an apartment in Ottawa he shared with two other 67s. He’d caught a scout’s eye their senior year at Eden Hall and just like that, Banksy was off to major juniors. He'd even missed graduation.
“The apartment's owned by the club,” said Adam, dropping his bag on the ground in a corner. “Do you know how many hockey players have lived there? I think it'll always smell like a locker room.”
Charlie heard him sit on the bed while he crouched down to dig through the mini fridge. “I've been saving this for a special occasion.” He pulled out a bottle of JD. “I think this counts.”
Adam let out a low whistle. “I'm not playing for a week, I guess I can get shitfaced.”
“That's the spirit,” said Charlie, sitting next to Adam, his back against the wall and passing him the bottle. “Game-winners first.”
Adam unscrewed the cap and took a swig. “You're such a fucking sap,” he said, grimacing around the burn of the whiskey. He pointed up at the small Ducks sweater hanging over Charlie's desk.
Charlie took the bottle back from Adam. “Like you don't have yours up in a frame at the Banks manor.” He took a drink.
“My mom still keeps them all. Don't know if she ever got them framed.”
“She should, they'll be collectibles some day.” He watched Adam drink, sigh and look around the room.
“I still can't believe you went to Michigan State. Traitor.” Adam poked the bottle into Charlie's chest.
“Oh, I'm the traitor? Which one of us is the Canadian cake eater?” Charlie took the bottle back and a long drink.
“You're never gonna stop calling me that, are you?”
Charlie shook his head and took another drink for good measure.
Half of the bottle was gone before they decided to slow down. Charlie could feel the alcohol coursing through him; tingling in his fingers. Adam was asking about each old Duck, guess Charlie had been the only one keeping up with Banksy.
“Goldberg's in pre-law.”
“I know. He's good at it too, which is scary.”
“He could always argue his way out of almost anything. How are the Bash brothers?”
“Haven't talked to them too much lately. Last I heard, Dean was starting his own business. I was planning on catching up with them over the holidays.”
Adam nodded. “Connie still tearing it up in Boston?”
“Yeah. I think she got an offer to tryout for the junior world's team.”
“Damn.” Adam turned his head to look at Charlie. “You two ever date?”
“For like two weeks, senior year. It was after you left. Pretty much the worst idea we ever had, combined.”
“Still, though,” Adam said, bumping Charlie's arm with his elbow.
Charlie smirked. “Yeah, it was worth it. How about you, man? Canadian girls must go crazy for you.”
Adam chuckled and shook his head. “They know better than to date hockey players. There was this one girl though-”
“I'll bet there was,” said Charlie, leering.
Adam snickered. “Whatever, it didn't work out. We were fine over the summer, but as soon as the season started up...” He shrugged and trailed off.
“It all went to shit? Yeah, been there, done that.” Twice now. The girls he dated just didn't seem to get that hockey was more than a game. It was his future. Well, hopefully.
Adam picked the bottle up off the bed, unscrewed the cap, and tipped his head back, taking a long swig. He swallowed, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and stared at the bottle now sitting on his legs. Charlie thought that Adam looked lonely. It couldn't be easy, never knowing when you were going to get a phone call that you were traded or called up and you had to pack up all your shit and just go.
Charlie plucked the JD out of his hand, took one last drink and closed the bottle. He leaned over to put it on his desk
“Thanks, man,” Adam said.
“Anytime,” Charlie replied. He knew they weren't talking about the JD. Adam's cheeks were flushed like he'd been out in the cold. It was probably the whiskey.
Charlie felt Adam's hand on his face before he felt the kiss. It caught him by surprise, but in a way, it didn't. He shifted on the bed, turning his body towards Adam, turning into the kiss. His hands found Adam's sides and they started to slide down the wall, moving to lay on the bed.
Charlie only started to feel weird when Adam slipped him some tongue. It made him want to grind his hips down into Adam's, press closer to him. So he did. Adam let out a soft noise, like a gasp. Fuck, it had been too long since he had gotten laid.
But then the whiskey caught up with him. “Goddamnit,” Charlie sighed, rolling off of Adam and getting up. His head spun a little. He saw Adam, still laying down, his pressed shirt rumpled, cover his face with the back of his arm.
“Hey, I'm sorry,” said Adam, his voice low. “I-”
“I just gotta take a piss real bad, man. Don't, uhh.” Charlie ran his hand through his hair, his mouth felt sore from more than the whiskey. “Don't go anywhere.” Charlie couldn't keep the grin off of his face, even if he wanted to. Adam smiled back.