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Working Out, Watching Sports, and Breaking the Fourth Wall

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There's a goalie in the Aces showers, laughing at Kent’s shampoo. He’s not wearing his pads or anything, but Kent knows he’s a goalie because who the fuck else would be in the showers laughing at shampoo?

“What’s so funny?” Kent asks, a little annoyed that the guy is touching his shit.

“It specifically mentions cowlicks on the label,” the guy wheezes. “God, I love that kind of detail.”

Okay, now Kent really is pissed. Nobody gets to mock the cowlick until they’ve achieved true bro status. “Who the hell are you?” he demands.

The guy sticks out a hand politely. “Johnson. I’m in for Daveson, he had to go to the hospital this morning.”

Kent accepts the handshake, although not with a whole ton of grace. “So where’d you spring from?”

Johnson shrugs. “I’ve probably been in the AHL since I graduated from Samwell. That would make the most sense, given this situation. I dunno for sure, though. If you’re looking for well-thought-out backstory, I’m not really your guy.”

“How the hell did you get here so fast, if Daveson only got sick today?” Kent asks suspiciously.

“Three,” says Johnson. “Two… one…”

Kent freezes. “Wait. Did you say... Samwell?

*

Johnson has to go in for the third period that night, after three goals in five minutes at the end of the second put them down 6-1. He sees twelve shots and doesn’t let any past him, which is all anyone else on the team cares about.

Kent has other things on his mind. Things like: is he okay? Does he have a boyfriend? Is he clean? Is he happy? Does he still leave those dumb post-it to-do lists on his laptop screen? He doesn’t say anything in front of the team, but he’s got to get this Johnson guy alone. He hasn't heard from anyone who really knows Jack in years.

“Yeah, I know whose well-thought-out backstory you wanna hear about,” Johnson says to him in the locker room. “Chillax, my friend, what kind of character development device would I be if I peaced out now? Buy me some beer and I promise I'll infodump all you want.”

Kent turns to Jeff. “Is it just me, or is this guy even weirder than most goalies?”

Jeff shrugs. “They’re all pretty weird.”

“You can’t really expect much in the way of observational skills from unnamed background characters,” Johnson advises him sagely.

“Hey,” Jeff protests.

“Oh, whoops.” Johnson snaps his fingers. “Forgot about that one extra. Sorry, Jeff.”

*

“So you think you can see the future or some shit?”

Johnson helps himself to a beer from Kent's fridge. “Not at all. Well, not unless I catch a glimpse of the storyboards in progress. I read all the Year One scripts ahead of time, but the updates just didn’t really tickle my dick when I knew what was coming, so I’m opting to stay unspoiled this year, see how it goes. So now my prescience is really more educated guessing. I have a pretty solid grip on structural tropes in this genre.”

“Uh… huh,” says Kent. “So were you actually friends with Jack, or just teammates?”

“Teammates,” says Johnson. “Co-characters. Narrative ships in the night. Knew him pretty well, though.”

Kent struggles with which question to ask first, and settles on, “Is he happy?”

Johnson chugs half his beer. “Depends on your definition,” he says when he comes up for air. “He’s nowhere near the end of his character arc, but that trajectory doesn’t need any insider skinny to plot. It’s a romance, he’s the love interest, two plus two is never gonna be five. He'll be in good shape by the end.”

Kent blinks. “Did you just call Jack my love interest?

“Ah,” says Johnson. “Yooouuur… hm. How to put this.”

*

Kent stares at the ceiling, blinking.

“They’re not dating yet,” Johnson says.

“Yet,” repeats Kent. He blinks faster.

“Yeah.” Johnson pats his knee. “Sorry. That trajectory is pretty much carved in stone.”

Kent sits up and gets in Johnson’s face. “Who is he?” he demands. “How did they meet? Does he play hockey? Tell me everything.”

“Sorry, bud,” says Johnson. “That’s not part of my role in your story.”

“My story?” Kent snorts. “I’m not part of the story, apparently.”

Johnson lays a hand on his shoulder. “Bro, you’ve got your own story. Everyone has their own story, even if nobody writes it. And yours is about moving on.”

Kent realizes, suddenly, how close their faces are. He parts his lips and watches Johnson smile.

“You too, huh?” he murmurs, leaning in.

“Nope,” Johnson breathes. “But you’ll undergo an Act II setback in a second here and never get anywhere near my dick, so it’s all good.”

Kent brushes their lips together. “Thought you didn’t see the future.”

“Not the canonical future.” Johnson kisses him for real, then pulls back to say, “This shit here is way more fun when you read ahead.”

Another kiss, and another, and then their tongues are intertwined. Kent shifts closer and feels up Johnson’s chest, which is nice and firm. Shit, it feels good to kiss a man. He hasn’t been with another guy since--

“Fuck.” Kent jerks back. “He’s single? This other guy you think he’s destined to love forever isn’t even dating him?

*

Kent throws two snapbacks and a change of underwear into a bag. Johnson leans against the doorway of his bedroom. “Hope you find your closure, man," he says. "I won’t be in Vegas when you get back, I’ve got some team-photo fanart lined up next. This artist doesn't really get the concept of continuity, so I get to hang out with Chowder. Lil buddy's a good guy. Hell of a lot more subtle about steering the narrative than me."

“Get the hell out of my house, you nutjob,” Kent says, trying to book a plane ticket on his phone with one hand and pack his laptop charger with the other.

“K, bye,” says Johnson. He salutes. “It’s been real,” he adds, and snickers his way out the door.