mom ∙ 12/9 ∙ 10:15 AM
Eight days until you’re home!
dylan ∙ 12/9 ∙ 10:28 AM
You missed a call from mom on 12/9 at 10:29 AM
mom ∙ 12/9 ∙ 10:30 AM
What are you screening your mother’s calls now?
dylan ∙ 12/9 ∙ 10:34 AM
no wtf I’m in class??
mom ∙ 12/9 ∙ 10:35 AM
Then why are you texting me?!
Rolling his eyes, Dylan clicks his phone screen off and pockets it. It isn’t going to kill him to pretend to listen for the next twenty-five minutes, and then he can call his mom back and see what she wanted before she turns the guilt trip up any more notches.
He does survive, if without a little bit of his will to live, because The History of Pastry is perhaps the most boring class he’s ever had to suffer through, despite its campy rhyme-y title. At least it was the last lecture of the semester; it’s all exams and practicals from here—and with that cheerful thought, he calls his mom back, because Dylan’s a Good Son.
"Texting in class, really?" she says when she answers.
Dylan sighs as loudly as possible. "You text me at work all the time!"
"…All right, touché," she says with a laugh. "Anyway, I was just calling to tell you that the McDavids are moving back into the neighborhood!"
It takes a second, but then the name clicks in Dylan’s mind—the McDavids and their younger son Connor, who was Dylan’s best friend from birth until age 9. That’s when they moved to Edmonton and Dylan cried for a week, a story which his mom is now fondly recounting.
"—and you wouldn’t even come out of your room to go to Wonderland—"
"I know, Mom, I lived it," Dylan interrupts quickly. "Uh, anyway, that’s cool. When?"
"Oh, they’re here already! I only found out because Kelly stopped by yesterday to say hello—they just got settled in last week. She said Connor’s heading back for the holidays around the same time you are; maybe the two of you can get together and catch up. Like old times, only hopefully with less destruction of the basement."
"That was one time," Dylan protests, rolling his eyes again. "But uh, yeah, maybe. That’d be cool."
There’s not much else to say about the McDavids, though—it’s honestly been years since Dylan has even thought of his once-bestie—and the conversation easily shifts to an update on a bunch of other extended family members. Dylan doesn’t really care much about the topic of conversation, but the cadence of his mom’s voice is sort of comforting, and okay, maybe it really is time to go home for a while if he’s getting this sentimental without even a hangover as an excuse.
Dylan forgets entirely about his mom’s news until later that day, when he’s procrastinating on studying and his mom texts him a picture of him and Connor as kids. The excuse is right there: naturally, Facebook-stalking Connor to see what Dylan needs to prepare for is way more important than flashcards.
There are a few results when he types "Connor McDavid" into Facebook’s search bar, so he clicks on the bottom of the search bar to see all results, then filters by people. Right at the top there’s a result that lives in Edmonton, Alberta, which makes sense if they only moved back a couple weeks ago, so Dylan clicks.
His first thought is: Yep, I’d know those cheeks anywhere. His second thought is Holy shit because at some point in the last ten years, Connor went from a cute kid to a really good looking adult. His profile picture is him in a suit laughing at something off-camera to the left, and Dylan is honestly not sure if someone nearby is getting festive too loudly or there is an actual choir of angels here, because the level of attractiveness on his laptop screen right now is just unfair.
Not least because Dylan can sort of see his own reflection in the dark parts of the screen at this angle, and his hair’s a greasy disaster and it looks like his dark circles might collapse into twin black holes any day now, so seriously, how did he end up here and Connor end up…there.
"Woah, who is that," says Mitch from way too close to Dylan’s ear, and Dylan screams, which is embarrassing. Whatever, Mitch creeping in the room like a secret agent or something is way weirder.
And yet Mitch is frowning at him like he’s the weird one. "Dude, I literally started talking to you the moment I walked in, how did you not even hear any of that?"
So maybe it is Dylan who’s the weird one. Okay, fine. Whatever. He shuts his laptop and scrubs his hand over his face, willing his heart to stop trying to beat its way out of his chest because he kind of needs it to stay in there, thanks. "Ugh, it’s—like, he was my best friend when I was nine? But then his family moved?"
"So now you’re Facebook stalking him and he accidentally got hot? That’s kinda sad, man, like, I don’t wanna study either, but you could at least get drunk or something," says Mitch in an almost pitying voice.
"It’s not random Facebook stalking," Dylan clarifies. "My mom called to say his family moved back and he’s gonna be there for Christmas at the same time as I am."
"Ahhhh, I see, so you were trying to see if you should try to bang him or not. Well, you definitely should. Solid eight point five out of ten, would definitely bang," Mitch says, because he’s a disgusting human being.
"You’re a disgusting human being," Dylan says.
"And you know who’s not? That dude. You are though, maybe he won’t wanna bang you…guess you’ll have to work the nostalgia angle hard," Mitch says, his usual shit-eating grin getting even wider.
Now Dylan can use wrestling with Mitch as a study-avoidance tactic, and frankly, that’s even better than the Facebook stalking.
A few days later, Dylan's well into finals hell and has tucked himself into a study carrel in the library. He didn't bring his laptop in the interest of concentrating, but he couldn't leave his phone, and honestly, if he does one more sample question for Hospitality Accounting right now, he's going to scream.
So really, it's in everyone's best interest that once he runs out of new posts on Facebook to look at, he looks up Connor again and actually starts scrolling through his profile. He got interrupted the first time, so this is totally a reasonable thing to do. He wasn't done finding out what kind of guy Connor grew up to be.
On mobile, it's kind of hard to miss the little 'Single' heart marker right above 'From Newmarket, Ontario' at the top of Connor's profile, but Dylan is resolutely not thinking about what Mitch said about hooking up with Connor. Anything that Mitch suggests really needs to be approached with extreme caution… or actually, not at all. Whatever, Dylan's scrolling now.
Connor has decent privacy settings, but Dylan has the advantage of having a couple mutual friends, so he can see a fair amount of pictures Connor's been tagged in. The longer he scrolls, though, the more he kind of wishes he couldn't. It turns out Connor's the kind of wholesome, successful student who's somehow always attending both typical college parties and fancy academic dinners or whatever. And he always looks good, even when Dylan's pretty sure he's drunk in the picture. That shit's just not fair.
He swipes the screen to return to the top of Connor's profile and tosses his phone onto the table in front of him in disgust. He should really love himself more than this and stop looking—but then he glances at his notes, and no, he's not going back to that yet. He picks his phone back up and goes to hit the back button, then freezes with his thumb hovering above the screen. The little friend request button has turned from a grey plus to a bright blue mocking checkmark, and Dylan only has enough time to think oh, shit, before his phone vibrates in his hand with a notification that Connor McDavid has accepted his friend request.
Fuck. What is he supposed to do now? Should he make that seem intentional and message Connor? But what would he even say? Maybe he should just leave it alone entirely. Or maybe he should turn his phone off forever and live as a hermit, that seems like a reasonable reaction. Suddenly his Hospitality Accounting notes don't seem like the worst thing in his life.
He goes with putting down the phone and going back to studying, but he's barely finished reading over the first question when his phone vibrates again. He unlocks it to discover a tiny bubble of Connor's dumb attractive profile picture on his screen.
Connor McDavid | Active just now
DEC 14 AT 1:42 PM
Hey man, heard the good news? Are you gonna be home for christmas? Maybe we can meet for lunch or something
Dylan has even less of an idea what he's supposed to do with that. He stares, trying to figure out what to say in response, until his phone vibrates with a text from Lawson that's just a string of panicked emojis. Dylan closes Connor's bubble and goes to reply to Lawson, because dealing with a college friend panicking about finals is about ten million times easier than dealing with a now-hot childhood friend asking if he wants to get lunch with him. It's fine. He can figure out what to say to Connor later.
When Dylan happens to open Messenger and see Connor's message four days after he originally sent it, it certainly is later, and Dylan is definitely the worst person ever.
He considers, for an insane moment, replying now, then immediately dismisses it. The shame of not responding for this long is already overwhelming him, and he can't possibly draw attention to said shame. There's nothing for it: Dylan will just have to avoid Connor. It shouldn't be that hard; he's only home for a couple weeks, and he's perfectly okay with spending that entire time hiding in his house.
Dylan closes Messenger. Everything is 100% fine.
You're a fucking idiot, a voice in his head that sounds suspiciously like Mitch says. Dylan ignores that, too. He's an expert ignorer.
The whole hiding in the house thing works perfectly fine until Dylan's mother reminds him that he's entirely in charge of making dessert and baked goods for Christmas, and when he investigates the ingredient situation, it's… not good.
"I thought you could go get what you need yourself," his mom says when he points this out. "You're the professional."
"Fair enough, but I don't see how that's an excuse for there only being one stick of butter in the entire house," Dylan complains. "Now I have to go out there."
"You'll be fine," his mom says. "Wal-Mart won't be that busy."
To be fair, Wal-Mart could be busier, and they have enough butter in stock for Dylan not to feel guilty about how much he puts in his cart, which is not always the case even when it's not three days before Christmas, but it's still annoying that he had to venture out at all. He's heading for the baking aisle with singular focus, trying to get this trip over with, when he has to stop short to avoid hitting someone stepping out of an aisle.
"Sorry," he says automatically.
"Oh," Dylan says, because standing in front of him is none other than Connor McDavid. Of course. "Uh, Connor, wow, hi." Fuck, he sounds stupid.
"Hi!" Connor says brightly. "Wasn't expecting to see you here."
There are nine pounds of butter in Dylan's cart and nothing else, and it's all he can think about. Connor is going to think he's lost control of his life. "Yeah, well, I, er…" He glances down at his cart, and Connor's gaze follows his. Rookie fucking mistake, Strome.
"Oh, yeah," Connor says, looking up and smiling. "My mom mentioned you're studying to be a… pastry chef, right?"
Dylan nods dumbly.
"So you must be permanently on Christmas dessert duty, eh?"
"Until the day I die, yeah," Dylan agrees. He's becoming increasingly convinced that today might be that day, because Connor's profile picture really did not do him justice. He looks adorable with his fluffy hair and soft-looking scarf, and Dylan wants so badly to touch. He tightens his grip on the shopping cart. "My, uh, mom stalks my Instagram all semester and picks out what she wants."
Connor laughs. "She was always a smart woman."
"Yeah," Dylan says, nodding. There's an awkward pause that Dylan rushes to fill. "So how's it feel to be back?"
"Kinda weird, kinda cool," Connor says, shrugging. "Lots of stuff that's changed, but also things that are strangely the same."
"I can't imagine," Dylan says truthfully.
"Mostly it means that this Christmas is chock-full of extended family we haven't seen for years," Connor says. "My mom sent me out to buy last minute gifts for some cousins we didn't know we were going to be seeing. This seems good enough, right?" He holds up the boxes of chocolate Dylan hadn't even noticed he was carrying.
"Absolutely," Dylan says. "Who doesn't like chocolate?"
"Hopefully not my family," Connor jokes. "It would be embarrassing to be related to such imbeciles."
Dylan laughs. "Honestly."
There's a long pause where they both just kind of look at each other. Dylan is trying to figure out how to either casually extract himself from this conversation or throw caution to the wind and apologize for the whole Facebook message thing when Connor saves him from doing either by saying, "Let me give you my phone number. It'd be cool to catch up more when we're not standing in the middle of Wal-Mart, right?"
Dylan nods. "Sure, totally," he says, fumbling to get his phone out of his pocket. "Here, you give me yours, too."
They exchange phones and input their contact information before swapping them back. Dylan can't get over how strangely surreal this all feels. "It was nice seeing you, Dylan," Connor says, flashing yet another devastatingly crooked smile.
"Nice seeing you, too," Dylan says faintly. Connor continues on past Dylan in the direction he was going in the first place, and Dylan resolutely does not turn around to watch him go. That would just be pathetic.
After that whole embarrassing incident with the accidentally ignoring Connor’s Facebook message, Dylan resolves to be less of a disaster person with his actual number. He tells himself he’ll text Connor first thing in the morning, but then he wakes up at six, which is not an appropriate time to be texting anyone. It’s only an appropriate time to roll out a ridiculous amount of puff pastry, so that’s what Dylan does, and then he texts Connor a picture of his first batch of palmiers once they’re out of the oven.
He expects that to be it: a perfectly normal social interaction ticked off his list of things to do today. Connor evidently has other plans, though, because he responds right away.
Connor McDavid ∙ 12/23 ∙ 9:48 AM
OMG. I don’t even know what those are but they look amazing.
If I come over right now can I have some?
dylan ∙ 12/23 ∙ 9:49 AM
sure as long as you’re doing the dishes
It’s Dylan’s stock response in this situation, and it usually gets a friendly laugh and a subject change. But seconds after he pockets his phone, it buzzes at him again.
Connor McDavid ∙ 12/23 ∙ 9:49 AM
Tough but fair Stromer. OMW
Dylan resolutely does not panic. Instead, he tries to do a little math in his head. The McDavids didn’t move into their old house down the street because somebody else lives there now, but his mom had said that they had managed to find a house in the neighbourhood, so that means Connor will be here in five, tops. He checks his reflection: his hair’s a mess like it always is when he’s baking, and there’s flour on his cheek, but that’s fixable at least.
Less fixable is the meticulously scheduled to-do list stuck to the fridge, which is the only way Dylan’s going to get eight different desserts made in time for his dad’s family’s traditionally early Christmas party tonight. If Connor wants to come over and be stupidly gorgeous in Dylan’s kitchen, that’s fine, as long as he can do it while he works. Dylan could use the extra set of hands.
Dylan’s interrupted from his stressing by the doorbell, which of course is Connor beaming on Dylan’s doorstep in an Oilers toque. "It smells amazing even all the way out here," he says, which would be a nice compliment if Dylan wasn’t busy being appalled by his choice of headgear.
"Don’t tell me you switched allegiances on me," Dylan says, pointing at Connor’s hat. He does back up to let him in, though, because even Oilers fans don’t deserve to freeze to death right before Christmas.
"Come on, they don’t even suck that bad anymore! They’ve got a lot of good young guys," Connor argues, shedding his coat on the coat rack that hasn’t moved in the last ten years and following Dylan to the kitchen.
"Do you hear yourself?" says Dylan. Connor reaches for a cookie off the cooling rack, and Dylan knocks his hand away. "I don’t think these are for Oilers fans."
Connor looks so pathetic that Dylan relents almost at once. "Leafs versus Oilers, Stanley Cup Final, who are you rooting for?"
"Well, the Leafs, obviously," says Connor.
"Right answer," Dylan says with a nod, and Connor eagerly snatches up a cookie.
"I’m allowed to have a team in the west," Connor says with an eye roll. "They barely even play each other." Then he takes a bite of the cookie, and his whole expression shifts to one of pure pleasure. He makes a sound that’s not far from a moan, and Dylan bites his lip to keep from looking too smug.
He also resolves not to think about what else might make Connor have this reaction.
"You know what? Toronto produced you, and you produced these cookies, so you’re right. Leafs ride or die," Connor says when he finishes the cookie. Dramatically, he tugs his toque off and stuffs it into his back pocket.
Even his hat hair is cute. Dylan is fucked.
Dylan tears his eyes away from that and instead notices the way Connor is hopefully eyeing the cooling rack. "You can have one more, but then I seriously do need your help, I gotta make like six more things today."
"Deal," says Connor seriously. He takes a cookie with his left hand and extends his right for Dylan to shake. Dylan’s just glad they’ve both grown out of the spitting into their palms first phase.
Connor turns out to be a surprisingly useful sous chef: once he’s finished his second palmier, he rolls up his sleeves and tackles the mountain of dishes Dylan’s made so far, and then says "Now what?" without complaint.
"Uh, that chocolate needs chopping?" Dylan suggests, gesturing to a pile of still-wrapped chocolate bars.
"Cool, how small?"
"About like this?" Dylan makes a vague gesture with his thumb and first finger. "It doesn’t need to be super exact, I’m just gonna melt it anyway."
Connor nods, then asks, "What cupboard are your glasses in?"
That seems like a strange request for chopping chocolate, but Dylan points it out anyway, then goes back to measuring cocoa powder for his batter. A few seconds later, he hears the unmistakable first strains of Mariah Carey’s "All I Want For Christmas Is You" and when he turns around, he sees Connor carefully balancing his phone inside a glass.
"Nice," says Dylan approvingly.
Connor grins, and then joins in with Mariah. "There is just one thing I need," he sings along. His voice is not great, but somehow Dylan just finds that charming.
Dylan’s feeling a strong temptation to just stand around his kitchen and stare at Connor singing, but that would be embarrassing and he doesn’t have time for it, so he joins in instead. Connor turns around to flash him a grin when he does and then they’re off, singing along as loud as they can and even starting to dance.
It’s kind of incredible, Dylan thinks as he shimmies his hips, how easy he’s finding it to fit back together with Connor. He’s sure they’ve both changed a lot since they were nine, and with other long-lost friends he’s encountered, he never got past a bit of polite, awkward small talk. But whatever it was that made him and Connor mesh as kids must still exist, because right now, Dylan feels like they never stopped talking in the first place.
Of course, that’s when a giggle from the doorway breaks him out of his reverie. It’s Matt, filming the pair of them on his phone, because of course it is. Dylan immediately stops dancing, wipes his hands on his apron, and advances on Matt, but Matt says, "It’s too late—I went Live on Facebook, it’s already up there!"
"You’re about to go dead on Facebook when I get my hands on you," says Dylan threateningly. Matt, who has been Dylan’s little brother all his life and therefore knows exactly how serious he is, takes off running.
dylan ∙ 12/23 ∙ 10:12 PM
mission accomplished! thanks for your help
[image description: twelve cookie plates that are at least 3/4 of the way empty; in the foreground, a small child on the floor who appears to be suffering from a stomach ache]
Connor McDavid ∙ 12/23 ∙ 10:18 PM
Whoo! I'm not sure dancing in your kitchen and getting in your way is exactly "helping" tho
dylan ∙ 12/23 ∙ 10:19 PM
idk I found it pretty motivational
Connor McDavid ∙ 12/23 ∙ 10:19 PM
Connor McDavid ∙ 12/24 ∙ 11:23 AM
Twas the day before Christmas
And all through the house…
Literally everyone was stirring, it's a madhouse over here, dyl
dylan ∙ 12/24 ∙ 11:23 AM
Connor ∙ 12/24 ∙ 11:27 AM
I regret getting out of bed so much what do you think my chances of hiding from my mom are?
dylan ∙ 12/24 ∙ 11:28 AM
if memory serves? very bad tbh
Connor ∙ 12/24 ∙ 11:31 AM
FML, she wants me to entertain my little cousins… remember me fondly when I'm dead………
dylan ∙ 12/24 ∙ 11:32 AM
I'll make sure to invite the oilers to ur funeral
Connor ∙ 12/24 ∙ 11:34 AM
Wow ur a true friend! so selfless
dylan ∙ 12/24 ∙ 11:34 AM
just 4 u
Connor ∙ 12/25 ∙ 10:07 AM
dylan ∙ 12/25 ∙ 10:09 AM
Connor ∙ 12/25 ∙ 10:13 AM
Santa brought me cookies for breakfast and a new sweater… sweater's dece but I've had better cookies
[image description: a selfie of connor from a fairly flattering angle. he's wearing a dark red cable-knit sweater, a chocolate chip cookie is hanging out of his mouth, and he's frowning.]
Dylan stares at the selfie Connor texted him and contemplates how, mere days ago, he'd thought he was in deep. As it turns out, he had no idea how deep he could get, and he has the sinking suspicion that he's still only scratching the surface of the kinds of feelings Connor can inspire.
It's not like this is his fault. He didn't ask Connor to be good looking and funny and easy to text, Connor just did that all on his own. He didn't ask for Connor to send him winking emojis, either. Dylan's a victim here. A confused, not-entirely-unwilling victim, but a victim nonetheless.
The real problem is that Dylan doesn't actually know if the flirting subtext of their conversations is there or if he just really wants it to be. Much as it feels like the years since they last talked don't matter, the fact is that Dylan doesn't actually know Connor that well. This could just be how Connor talks to his friends. And even if he does mean it like that, what the hell is Dylan supposed to do with that? This was easier when he was just a Facebook stalker.
Dylan forces himself to stop staring at Connor's adorable pout and takes a screencap of his latest conversation with him. He sends it to Mitch to ask if Connor is flirting with him and is unsurprised when the response is prompt.
Mitch ∙ 12/25 ∙ 10:22 AM
UH, YEAH HE IS. Why are you so stupid??? Go get Christmas sex, bro!!!!!
dylan ∙ 12/25 ∙ 10:22 AM
Well, that's certainly a…somewhat impartial opinion. Dylan's willing to believe Mitch, but it doesn't exactly solve the problem where he has to, like, figure out where the flirting is going, if anywhere. He's pretty sure the answer isn't Christmas sex, no matter what Mitch says. Casual sex is fine and all, but Dylan's not going to go there with Connor. The way they’ve easily fit back together after years apart is too special, too…important, Dylan supposes. Also, it would make coming home supremely awkward for the rest of forever, and Dylan is not about that.
Dylan opens his text conversation with Connor back up and stares at the selfie for another long moment. He saves it, because you never know, and then tries to figure out how to appropriately reply. He's pretty sure Let me bake you cookies for the rest of our lives is too far, but that's about the point where his brain short-circuits and just outputs question marks. Fuck, he's terrible at this.
"Dylan, what are you doing over there?" Ryan asks loudly from the other side of the living room.
"Nothing," Dylan says quickly.
Ryan raises his eyebrows. "Oh, really? So nothing's got you grinning like a dumbass one minute and looking like you're trying to figure out the meaning of life the next? I'm glad that nothing is interrupting family time right now."
Dylan rolls his eyes. "But nobody was doing anything," he points out.
"We weren’t, but now we're going to play cards, and Mom just asked you twice and you didn't even hear her."
Dylan's mom is, in fact, giving him a look halfway between amused and unimpressed. Dylan tries not to visibly cringe. "I'm so glad you got me all this guilt for Christmas," he says dryly to Ryan. "Really, you shouldn't have."
He does put his phone away—but not before firing off one more quick text to Connor.
dylan ∙ 12/25 ∙ 10:27 AM
dylan ∙ 12/26 ∙ 1:13 PM
I think I just ate my entire weight in leftovers…never gonna move again
Connor ∙ 12/26 ∙ 1:15 PM
Connor ∙ 12/26 ∙ 1:17 PM
What's ur fam up to today?
dylan ∙ 12/26 ∙ 1:18 PM
Hell of a lot of nothing. Think we're all gonna either fall asleep or pick a fight for entertainment any min now. U still got a madhouse over there?
Connor ∙ 12/26 ∙ 1:19 PM
No thank god but Cam's gf wanted to go shopping and somehow my parents thought this was a good idea also? So they're all… out there
dylan ∙ 12/26 ∙ 1:19 PM
Connor ∙ 12/26 ∙ 1:19 PM
ikr? couldn't pay me to deal with that but now I'm bored af
dylan ∙ 12/26 ∙ 1:21 PM
do u rmr those epic snowball fights we used to have?
Connor ∙ 12/26 ∙ 1:21 PM
The ones I always won? Yes of course
dylan ∙ 12/26 ∙ 1:22 PM
Pretty sure I always won, but ok, whatever makes u happy
Connor ∙ 12/26 ∙ 1:22 PM
maybe we both won Friendship is half the battle
dylan ∙ 12/26 ∙ 1:22 PM
Connor ∙ 12/26 ∙ 1:23 PM
Oooh do you remember our friendship snowman?
dylan ∙ 12/26 ∙ 1:23 PM
Sidney Snowsby? Of course
Connor ∙ 12/26 ∙ 1:24 PM
A faithful friend… til he melted
dylan ∙ 12/26 ∙ 1:25 PM
[Frozen - Do You Want to Build a Snowman HD
This time when Connor appears at Dylan's door, both the Oilers toque and the adorable scarf are present, plus a pair of well-worn Canada mittens from the 2010 Winter Olympics. Dylan immediately holds up his own hands. "Twinsies," he says.
Connor grins. "Us and the rest of Canada," he says, but he holds up a fist, and Dylan bumps it.
"We've got prime real estate in the backyard, nobody goes back there anymore," Dylan tells him as he puts on his boots. "We can go through the side gate instead of you having to take your shoes off to go through the house and then put them back on."
"Sweet," Connor says. "Pretty sure the snow is perfect for this right now."
Sure enough, it's exactly the right weather for sticky snow. When they get out to the backyard, Dylan scoops up a handful of it and easily shapes it into a snowball. He looks up at Connor, who immediately gives him a warning look. "Don't you dare throw that at me," he says.
"I wasn't going to," Dylan says innocently, even though he'd definitely been thinking about it.
"Sidney Snowsby is serious business, Strome," Connor says. "Get to work."
"Sir, yes, sir," Dylan says, giving a mocking salute. Connor grins at him before crouching down to start assembling his own snowball.
Without talking about it, they start rolling their snowballs in opposite directions, circling the backyard and passing each other by the back fence. The way Connor bites his lower lip in concentration as the snowball gets bigger and he turns it to make sure it's even on all sides is so exactly like he did when he was eight that Dylan kind of feels like they are eight again.
Then Connor catches his eye as they pass and gives him a crooked smile that makes Dylan's heart beat double time, and that is definitely not a feeling Dylan was having when they were eight.
Still, though, Dylan can't help but feel like there's a magical quality to the whole thing, like the universe meant for them to be here together, building a snowman in exactly the same way they did years ago: working together to stack the sections together, Connor carefully smoothing the edges of the snow, Dylan breaking sticks off a tree for Snowsby's arms.
"Do you think," Dylan says while Connor is looping an old scarf Dylan stole from the hall closet around the snowman's neck, "that naming our snowman after Crosby was good luck?"
Connor steps back so he's standing right next to Dylan and inspects his work. "Sure it was," he says. He glances sideways at Dylan. "Maybe not for us, considering, but Crosby definitely benefited."
"We should get a thank you card," Dylan jokes, and Connor laughs. "And, I mean, we're here with Sidney Snowsby 2.0, so…"
Connor hums thoughtfully, and when Dylan looks over at him, he's looking back. "Good point," he says, voice even softer than usual, and Dylan's breath catches in his throat. He doesn't dare move, and he has ample time to catalogue the shades of grey in Connor's eyes before Connor looks away again. "The name was your idea, wasn’t it?" he says.
Dylan frowns, trying to think. "Honestly, I don’t remember."
"I’m pretty sure it was," says Connor. "I remember cracking up for like ten minutes when you thought of it. You always did make me laugh, Stromer," he says, looking at Dylan again.
It feels sort of serious, and Dylan’s not sure how to take that, so he shrugs and makes a self-deprecating joke, like always. "It’s easy to be funny when you’re funny-looking."
"Yeah, right," Connor snorts. What does that mean? Before Dylan can try to figure it out, Connor gestures at the snowman. "You wanna see funny looking, look at this guy. His nose is crooked."
Dylan forces himself to look back at the snowman. The carrot nose is, indeed, crooked. "I kind of like it," he says.
"Yeah," Connor agrees. "Me too."
They stand there for another long moment until Dylan can't stand the tension anymore. He leans down and grabs a handful of snow, not even trying to make it into a ball before chucking it at Connor's head.
"Hey! Oh, fuck you!" Connor sputters as Dylan starts putting distance between them. "Don't you run away from me!"
"Come and get me!" Dylan calls back.
dylan ∙ 12/28 ∙ 12:18 PM
mom dug out the photo albums this morning
[image description: a young dylan and connor on an ice rink, arms around each other’s shoulders, grinning]
Connor ∙ 12/28 ∙ 12:20 PM
Awww look at the cutie!
dylan ∙ 12/28 ∙ 12:20 PM
*those cuties, ftfy
Connor ∙ 12/28 ∙ 12:21 PM
Are you busy today?
dylan ∙ 12/28 ∙ 12:21 PM
Connor ∙ 12/28 ∙ 12:24 PM
There’s public skating downtown if you wanna try to recreate that pic
dylan ∙ 12/28 ∙ 12:25 PM
hell yeah let’s go
Connor ∙ 12/28 ∙ 12:29 PM
I’ll pick you up in 15?
dylan ∙ 12/28 ∙ 12:30 PM
"Fuck, I hope I still remember how to do this," says Dylan half-jokingly as he laces up his skates. It’s pretty well ingrained, from years of spending every second of winter outside on the ice, but it’s been over a year since he last skated at this point.
"What, you don’t play anymore?" Connor asks.
"Nah, I quit after high school. My college doesn’t have a team, and joining a rec league or something seemed like a lot with class and everything," says Dylan, shrugging. Fortunately for his pride, it doesn’t seem like he’s forgotten just yet.
"Oh," says Connor. "I still play, but it’s just a club team at my university."
"Not still holding onto that dream of being The Next One?" Dylan jokes, jostling Connor with his shoulder.
Connor laughs. "Don’t quite think that’s in the cards."
When they step out onto the ice, the nostalgia hits Dylan like a tidal wave. Even on a crowded public rink with shitty ice, the sensations of his skates cutting through the ice, the smell of the brisk air—he immediately makes a resolution to force himself to go to the rink more often, because he’s missed this.
Then he turns to his left and sees Connor watching him, smiling a little.
"You good over there?" Connor says. "Because you looked like you were either having an epiphany or a stroke."
Dylan hip-checks Connor and the element of surprise means it nearly knocks Connor off his skates. Dylan takes off immediately, because he knows Connor’s going to want revenge.
They chase each other around the rink a few times, laughing as they weave in and out of the crowd of small children with their parents and teenagers on dates. Eventually Connor catches up with Dylan and showers him with snow.
"You’re a jerk," says Dylan, but there’s absolutely no heat in it.
"Yep," Connor agrees cheerfully. "So how about we recreate that picture now?"
Dylan nods, and Connor skates off to tap a nice-looking older lady on the shoulder. Dylan can’t hear the conversation, but she’s nodding, and then Connor skates back over to him.
"Okay, so…" Connor trails off, obviously waiting for direction.
"Arms around each other’s shoulders, like this," says Dylan, wrapping his arm around Connor and distinctly not having any feelings about that whatsoever. Connor returns the gesture, and then Dylan adds, "And we were smiling really big, I guess. I think that’s basically it?"
"Cool," says Connor. They smile really big, Connor gives the lady a thumbs up, and she takes the picture.
It’s quick, and then Connor’s taking his arm back so that he can go retrieve his phone. Dylan instantly feels cold, which is stupid. When Connor gets back with his phone, Dylan says, "Hot chocolate?"
Then he realizes that Connor said the same thing at the same time, and they both crack up.
They shuffle off the ice and into the hot chocolate line, and then Dylan pulls out his phone and makes an impatient noise. "Text me that pic, I wanna see how it came out."
"Oh yeah," says Connor, and does. They both look at the text conversation, where the two pictures are both visible if you scroll a little bit.
"Gross," Dylan declares.
"Completely disgusting," Connor agrees.
As the line creeps forward, Dylan saves the picture to his phone, then starts putting together a collage. It’s a little sappy, but he can get away with a #tbt post this time of year. But before he’s even done, his phone buzzes in his hand to tell him Connor McDavid has tagged him in a photo.
Dylan looks at him as the Facebook app loads, but Connor’s eyes are glued to his phone. Once it’s done, Dylan can see that Connor beat him to the punch, sharing his own collage with the caption "Reunited and it feels so good!"
Ur gross, Dylan comments on the picture. Connor likes his comment almost instantly.
Once they have their cocoa, they decide to sit for a few minutes and drink it rather than try to drink and skate at the same time, which has ended in disaster every single time Dylan has ever tried it.
They’re quiet for a few moments, blowing on their hot chocolate and watching the skaters, and then Connor says, "It’s kind of crazy, isn’t it?"
"Hmm?" says Dylan.
"Like—this, us? We were best friends as kids, but then I came back and—I don’t know, don’t you think it’s like we’re back exactly where we were even though it’s been ten years?"
"Yeah," Dylan agrees. "It is pretty crazy."
Connor takes a drink of his hot cocoa. "I don’t know if I believe in—fate, or something. And it sounds dumb. But…"
"But yeah," Dylan agrees. "It’s like—serendipity." He immediately wants to shove that word back into his mouth; it’s only on his mind because his mom watched it last night and he was in the living room at the time and definitely not watching with her. "Or, uh. Or whatever."
"Yeah. Like that," Connor agrees, as if calling it serendipity were a totally fucking normal thing to do.
Dylan relaxes. It’s weirdly nice to just feel—on the same page with someone, all the time. He loves Mitch and all his other college friends, but he only feels like they get him when everybody’s had way too much to drink. Sitting here with Connor, pressed shoulder to shoulder even though there’s plenty of room on this bench, is quietly comfortable in a way Dylan's never experienced with anyone else.
When Dylan finds the end of his cup, he jostles Connor gently. "Time to get back out there?"
Connor nods, then grins. "Race you."
The relatively nice weather they've been having for most of the holidays is rudely interrupted with a cold snap the day after Dylan and Connor go skating, and all the slushy snow turns into ice. It gets even colder on Friday, with a dark sky threatening flurries, and that's how Dylan ends up volunteering to drive his grandmother to her weekly bingo. It's about eighty percent because he's worried for her safety and twenty percent because he might murder Ryan and/or Matt if he has to spend another evening playing games with them.
Dylan escorts his grandma safely through the doors of the Elks hall where bingo is hosted without sliding at a single stop sign or slipping while walking across the parking lot, which is honestly more than he thought himself capable of. His grandma pats his arm with approval as she's letting him go. "Should I get you a bingo card for your trouble, or are you just going to steal cookies and sit at the back of the room?" she asks.
"Uh," Dylan says intelligently, having just caught sight of none other than Connor across the room. He's standing next to a lady who must be his own grandmother, so he's probably here for the same reason Dylan is, and he's laughing at something another man is saying.
Dylan's grandma follows his gaze. "Oh, there's Beatrice, excellent. We'll go sit over there. Weren't you friends with her grandson when they still lived around here?"
"Ah, yeah," Dylan says. "And we've, uh, been in touch lately."
"Oh, that's nice," she says. "It's always lucky to get back in touch with old friends, isn't it?"
Dylan nods. "Lucky, yeah."
They make their way across the room, and the broad smile Connor gives Dylan when he spots him is enough to make Dylan wish his grandmother was still holding his arm for support, because he thinks his own knees might give out. "Fancy seeing you here," Connor says, cheerful.
Dylan shrugs and tries to seem nonchalant. "Ice, you know," he says.
"Same," Connor says, nodding.
"Our grandsons are such nice young men, don't you think, Norma?" Beatrice asks.
"Of course," Dylan's grandma agrees.
Dylan exchanges a look with Connor and has to look away and bite his lip to stop himself from laughing.
There are a few minutes left before bingo actually starts, which Dylan and Connor use to fill tiny styrofoam plates with cookies and tiny styrofoam cups with bright red punch for both themselves and their grandmas. Beatrice and Norma leave the seats at the end of the table open for them, which is convenient since Dylan was already trying to figure out how to casually sit next to Connor.
After they sit down, Connor gives Dylan an almost challenging look as he uncaps his dauber, and Dylan raises his eyebrows.
"Are you trying to silently tell me I'm going down?" he asks quietly, leaning his head toward Connor. "Because this is a game of chance."
Connor leans in as well. "Chance, huh? Sounds like something a loser would say."
Dylan scoffs and pulls the cap off his own dauber, tossing it on the table with a little too much force in a gesture not unlike throwing down gloves on the ice. Connor leans back, looking satisfied.
It turns out that bingo is just as fucking boring as Dylan would have expected—but the punch isn't half bad, and he gets a certain kind of thrill from stealing cookies off Connor's plate. Connor is staring at the bingo caller like his life depends on her, but he gives a tiny smirk whenever Dylan reaches over to take another cookie.
At one point, when the caller is checking on someone's bingo, Connor picks up his punch and takes a long sip from it. He looks at Dylan from under his eyelashes, smiling slightly around the rim of the cup, and Dylan can't tear his eyes away from him. Connor casually puts the cup back down and takes a cookie off Dylan's plate, still looking at him, Dylan wonders if he might actually die at this stupid bingo night. That would look great in his obituary, he's sure.
Whoever called bingo did get it, so they start again with new cards. Dylan takes Connor's old card and flips it over, shielding it from Connor's view with his arm. He pauses, glancing over at Connor, and then starts stamping the shape of a heart on it.
He's pretty sure he misses a couple numbers being called in the process, but whatever. He considers putting their initials in the heart when it's done, then decides that would be overkill and slides it over the table to Connor before he can second guess himself.
Connor looks down at the card when it bumps his arm and immediately grins, glancing back up at Dylan before looking back at the card. He slides the heart card under his current one and stamps a number—presumably the one the caller just said, because he raises his other hand and says, "Bingo!" at the same time.
Connor takes his card up to the front to get it checked and comes back a couple minutes later with a movie night gift basket. Dylan barely has a moment to huff about Connor actually winning like he implied he would before Connor's putting the basket down in front of Dylan's grandma. "I won't be able to use this all the way from school," he says. "Here, Norma, you take it."
The basket has certificates for the local movie theatre, sure, but Dylan can see that it also has a few DVDs and an assortment of candy and popcorn that definitely aren't restricted to a certain region. Norma clearly knows that as well, because she frowns slightly at Connor. "Are you sure?"
"Oh, absolutely," Connor says. "I wouldn't even normally be here." He shakes his head when Norma looks like she's going to continue to protest. "I insist."
"Well… all right," Norma says. She gives Dylan a meaningful look that makes him blush, then addresses Beatrice. "A nice young man, Connor is, just as you said."
Dylan doesn't hear Beatrice's response because he's too busy raising his eyebrows as high as he can at Connor. Connor shrugs and makes a show of carefully folding the heart Dylan gave him and tucking it into the inside pocket of his jacket.
dylan ∙ 12/31 ∙ 3:24 PM
I see you're 'maybe' attending the mcleods party tonight?
Connor ∙ 12/31 ∙ 3:24 PM
Forgot I clicked that! U going?
dylan ∙ 12/31 ∙ 3:26 PM
yeah you wanna come with me?
Connor ∙ 12/31 ∙ 3:26 PM
dylan ∙ 12/31 ∙ 3:26 PM
Pick you up at 8?
Connor ∙ 12/31 ∙ 3:27 PM
I'll be ready with my dancing shoes
Considering the McLeods live just down the street from Dylan's house and he's definitely going to get drunk at this party, picking Connor up actually consists of walking over to his new house. He shows up kind of ridiculously early because he didn't want to wait anymore, so he wheedles a mini-tour out of Connor and says hi to his parents before they leave for real.
"Nice dancing shoes," he says as they're walking. Connor laughs, pausing to shake a winter-boot-covered foot at Dylan, and Dylan tries not to pass out because of how attractive Connor looks lit softly by the streetlights.
"You haven't seen anything yet," Connor tells him.
"Looking forward to it," Dylan says. It comes out a bit more honestly than he meant it to, but Connor just smiles at him.
Mikey opens the front door of his house before Dylan even has time to ring the doorbell. "Stromer!" he yells, throwing his arms around Dylan and dragging him bodily into the house.
Dylan hugs him back, laughing. He'd think Mikey has been majorly pre-gaming, but this is also just how Mikey acts most of the time. "Hey, Mikey. How ya been?"
"Totally good, what about you?" Mikey asks as he lets Dylan go. "You haven't texted me that you're bored every thirty seconds like you usually do all break, what's up with that?"
"Uh," Dylan says, caught, but he's saved from answering when Mikey spots Connor and shoves past Dylan to hug him as well.
"Welcome back to the neighbourhood, dude," he says, slapping Connor on the back. Connor makes an amused face at Dylan over Mikey's shoulder. "Glad you came, we're gonna ring this new year in right, eh?"
"Hell yeah," Connor agrees. "Glad to be back."
Mikey ushers them the rest of the way into the house and closes the door behind them. When Connor turns away to hang up his coat, he looks meaningfully from Dylan to Connor and back again. Dylan rolls his eyes at him, and Mikey grins wide. "Let's get you guys some drinks."
They're some of the first to get there, but the house fills up with people pretty quickly, the noise level gradually edging upward. Dylan drifts around the party, stopping to talk to various people and nursing at his drink. Connor stays at his side, sipping his own drink and contributing to the conversation where he can, and when they both run out of alcohol, he volunteers to go get them new ones himself.
The more they drink, the looser and easier everything feels. Connor leans into Dylan's side and puts his hand on the small of his back while Dylan’s talking to a girl he knew in high school, and Dylan leans right back, wrapping his arm around Connor's back and resting his hand on Connor's hip. Dylan kind of feels like he's showing Connor off, which is just fine with him as long as it's fine with Connor.
He and Maggie have mostly been talking about what they've been up to at school—there was a good couple minutes where Dylan got to show off all the pictures of his baking he hasn't posted on Instagram, and in turn she showed him pictures from her rugby tournaments—but Connor's been quiet for most of the conversation. It must be making Maggie feel guilty, because she turns to him and says, "You just moved back here, right? Is it nice to be back?"
Connor gives a kind of half-shrug. "My parents moved back, really, and all my stuff is still in Alberta for school, so it feels more like I'm visiting," he says. "But it's been awesome getting to see Dylan again."
Dylan's stomach swoops at that, and he grins dumbly at Connor, which is fine because Connor is smiling back at him. "Been awesome seeing you, too," Dylan murmurs, and Connor's smile gets impossibly bigger.
"That's great," Maggie says. "What are you studying?"
"Finance," Connor replies, and he and Maggie talk about weird math things for a couple minutes before one of Maggie's friends drags her away, leaving them alone.
Dylan doesn't really feel a need to move away from where they are for any reason, considering that might make Connor stop touching him, so he just focuses on finishing his drink. Connor puts his own cup down on the table next to him and digs his phone out of his pocket.
"Someone texting?" Dylan asks, resisting the urge to actually read Connor's screen.
"Mmmm," Connor hums, then locks his phone again. "Nobody more interesting than you." He puts his phone in his pocket and rests his forehead against Dylan's shoulder.
"Good," Dylan mumbles, somehow remembering how to talk even while Connor is touching him in this many places. He's pretty impressed with himself. He wants to touch Connor's face to bring it closer to his own face, but neither of his hands are free, and he really doesn't want to move, which makes this simultaneously the best and most inconvenient position he's ever been in.
"Should we go get more alcohol?" Connor says into Dylan’s shoulder.
"Okay," Dylan agrees, because he'd pretty much agree to anything Connor suggested right now.
It means they have to move, but when Connor takes Dylan's hand as they head toward the kitchen, Dylan doesn't really mind anymore. Connor has the best ideas. Dylan was right not to doubt him.
They're about to step into the kitchen when Mikey makes a loud ooh'ing noise from where he's sitting on a chair near the doorway. "You've been caught," he says, pointing upward.
Dylan looks up to see familiar white and green mistletoe. He raises his eyebrows at Mikey. "Are you the mistletoe police?" he asks.
Mikey rolls his eyes, but Connor laughs, so Dylan's satisfied. "You know what you have to do now," Mikey says, a shit-eating grin on his face. "I'm just here to let you know."
Connor looks at Dylan, a question on his face, and Dylan shrugs minutely, trying not to betray the way his heart is beating too fast. For all Mikey had been quick to point it out, it's clear he doesn't really care—he's already turning away from them, not paying attention. It would be entirely possible to just continue into the kitchen and not do anything at all, but Connor appears to have already decided for both of them.
He takes Dylan's cup out of his hand, stacks it with his, and puts them both on the counter without looking away from Dylan. Dylan steps closer at the same time Connor does, and they meet halfway. Connor rests his hands on Dylan's hips and raises one challenging eyebrow at him. Dylan gives in to temptation and slides his fingers into the hair at the base of Connor's neck, running his thumb along Connor's cheekbone. Connor's eyes close, his lips parting slightly, and Dylan does the only thing he can and kisses him.
Dylan kind of means for it to be quick, but Connor kisses him back hard, his hands tightening on Dylan's hips, and Dylan forgets that entirely. Connor's mouth is soft and warm and tastes faintly of rum, and Dylan would gladly kiss him just like this for the rest of time, party going on around them or no.
They're both breathless and grinning when they do pull back. Connor raises a hand to press his thumb against the corner of Dylan's mouth, looking at him like he can't believe what just happened. Dylan gets the feeling. "Well, that was…"
"Yeah," Dylan says weakly.
Connor drops his hand to Dylan's shoulder. "Not really a friendship mistletoe kiss," he says.
"No," Dylan agrees.
"So," Connor says, still smiling, "we doing this, then?"
Dylan could ask what this is supposed to mean, but really—they've been building up to this for long enough that he doesn't feel like he has to. "Yeah," he says. "I think we're doing this."
"Good," Connor says, and then he kisses Dylan again.
Dylan doesn't know exactly how this is going to work, considering how much they still don't know about each other and the distance that will be separating them in only a few days, but he's excited to figure it out. Standing here, kissing Connor over and over with the whole of the new year stretching out before them, Dylan feels like they can accomplish anything. It's not quite midnight yet, but Dylan doesn't really think it matters: he suspects they'll be kissing then, too.
dylan ∙ 1/1 ∙ 2:46 AM
happy new year
con ∙ 1/1 ∙ 2:47 AM
Yes it is