“Obviously I should open a bar,” Patrick says without preamble.
“That is the worst idea I have ever heard,” Jonny informs him. He’s rifling through Patrick’s fridge, trying to find something healthy enough to cook them for dinner. How is it possible that Patrick is 33 years old and still thinks that Kraft Dinner is a food group? God. And after all Jonny’s hard work trying to, like, Better Him for the Sake of the Team. “So it’s really lucky,” Jonny continues, tossing what looks like week-old kung pow chicken into the garbage can, “that you don’t have time to run a bar.”
“I will when my contract is up,” Patrick says, shrugging nonchalantly.
Jonny drops a package of moldy Oscar Meyer hot dogs on the floor. “What,” he says, in the most serious of his many serious voices. “The fuck. Are you talking about.”
“Was that a question?” asks Patrick, picking up the hot dogs and throwing them at the garbage himself. “Because there was a 'what' involved, but it somehow didn’t sound very question-y.”
“Patrick,” Jonny presses.
Patrick looks uncharacteristically serious as he stares at the kitchen counter. “Come on, Jonathan,” he mumbles. Patrick never calls him Jonathan. “This can’t possibly be a surprise. You know my wrist is fucked.”
Patrick’s wrist has, in fact, undergone a grand total of three surgeries, and it was never quite the same after the last one. Lately, Patrick spends so much game-time clenching his teeth through the ache that his mouth guard actually stays in for entire games. It’s weird and un-Kaner-like.
“Your wrist is fine,” Jonny grits out, clenching his own teeth.
“Jonny, come on,” Patrick says.
“Your wrist is fucking fine,” Jonny repeats. “And you aren’t opening a fucking bar. Also, I’m making a salad, and you will fucking eat it and like it. End of discussion, Kaner.”
And that is the end of the discussion.
“I should be a cab driver,” Patrick giggles. He’s drunk, of course. He’s also splayed all over Jonny’s couch.
“Shut the fuck up,” Jonny says. He’s not as drunk as Patrick, and he’s definitely not drunk enough for this.
“All of Chicago would appreciate the irony,” Kaner continues, undeterred.
“Who taught you what irony is?” Jonny asks.
“Erica,” says Patrick, like it should be obvious. It sort of is, in hindsight.
“I’m not letting you drive a cab,” Jonny says. “You get enough speeding tickets as it is. And, more to the point, I’m not letting you quit hockey.”
“You can’t actually stop me,” Patrick says.
“Watch me,” says Jonny.
“Do you think I could be, like, Stefenie Meyer’s publisher?” Patrick asks eagerly. They’re sprawled across Jonny’s bed in yet another hotel room on yet another road trip, and they’re watching a Twilight movie marathon on the Sci Fi channel because Patrick was disgustingly insistent on it and Jonny doesn’t have the energy to argue with him like he used to. "Then I'd get to read all of her books before everyone else! Maybe she'd let me see the rest of Midnight Sun!"
“Publishers need college degrees, fucknuts. And I’m still not letting you quit hockey,” Jonny reminds him.
Patrick is quiet for long enough that Jonny’s sure he’s won.
Then, out of nowhere, “Jonny. My wrist hurts.”
Patrick tries to reach for him but Jonny rolls out of his grasp and off the bed before he can touch him. He grabs the ice bucket before storming out the door and down the hall to where the machine is. There are plastic bags inside the bucket already, so he fills all three of them.
Patrick hasn’t moved when he gets back. On the TV screen, Bella and that vampire dude are lying in a meadow, gazing into each other’s eyes. Jonny thinks the coloring looks weird. He takes one of the bags of ice out of the bucket, slides back into his place at Patrick’s side, and gently lays it over the little bone on the side of Patrick’s wrist.
“Jonny,” Patrick starts.
“Don’t fucking say anything,” Jonny says.
Patrick, for once, obeys.
“Maybe I’ll go to college, get me a degree,” Patrick says. They’re in the locker room, and Patrick is Velcro-ing up his wrist brace, talking to Morin. Jonny has his back to both of them.
“Kaner,” says Morin. “If I thought you were really in it for the degree, I’d be proud of your growth as a person. But you are way too old to shotgun beer and hit on sorority girls, man."
Jonny slams his locker shut.
“I could always go back to Buffalo,” Patrick says. He’s picking at the kale Jonny sautéed like a pro, pushing it around the edge of his plate. “Work with my dad.” He’s not really looking at Jonny, and he sounds sort of serious. More serious than he was about the bar or the cab driving, anyway.
Jonny opens his mouth to remind him that he’s not quitting, but something makes him close it. He takes a large gulp of water, and then shoves an enormous forkful of his own kale into his mouth. Patrick still hasn’t looked up.
“Don’t move back to Buffalo, man,” he says quietly a few minutes later.
“Why not?” Pat jerks his head up, like he’s looking for something in Jonny’s face.
Jonny shrugs uncomfortably. “Hockey or no hockey, this is our home. Right?”
“Yeah,” Patrick agrees, and finally takes a bite of his own leafy greens.
“You know,” Jonny says, trying and probably failing to sound casual, “maybe you’re right. Maybe we’re getting a little old for this.”
Patrick chokes on his kale. “There’s nothing wrong with your wrist!” he says.
Jonny just shrugs. “Maybe not, but if I lose any more brain cells to head trauma, I’ll actually be as dumb as you. And then there would be no responsible adult supervising you, and I’m frankly not sure Chicago is ready for that.”
Patrick snorts into his dinner in a distinctly unattractive manner. He’s pretty awful. It’s a good thing Jonny’s around to bear the burden of his constant company.
“You’re teaching them bad habits!” Jonny fumes.
“There’s no harm in a little pizza, Coach,” Patrick insists. Two of their pint-sized hockey players are clinging to his legs, and one of them has somehow managed to scale his back to perch himself on Patrick’s shoulders.
“Pizza has no nutritional value,” Jonny reminds him. “And,” he redirects his attention towards their enthusiastically climbing charges, “Coach Kane is not a jungle gym.”
Eric, the tiny menace wrapped around Patrick’s left leg like some sort of evil tree sloth, giggles. The kids don’t climb on Jonny too much, but they also do what he says more.
“Boys,” Patrick addresses the tiny mob surrounding them. “Look pathetic and adorable at Coach Serious!”
Jonny grinds his teeth and hefts the bag of midget gear that is slung across his shoulder. “Fine!” he concedes. “But only one slice each. And we’re getting vegetables as the topping! No sausage!”
A dozen high pitched voices erupt around him, and he feels sort of like he’s surrounded by a horde of athletically gifted midget ringwraiths.
“You don’t fool me, you know,” Patrick says through the din, peeling children off his legs as he speaks. “I know you’re not that serious.”
“Shut up, Kaner,” Jonny says.