“You look like shit in orange.”
Kane blinks. “Fuck you.”
Jon shrugs. “It’s not your colour.”
They lean down, shoulder to shoulder. “Black’s not yours,” Kane mutters.
It’s black. It’s everybody’s colour.
“Tu peux pas t'en prendre à un vétéran, Jon,” Max says, exasperated.
“Je sais,” Jon says. “C'est juste que ce gars m'énerve vraiment.”
“C'est toi le capitaine maintenant?” Max says with a snort.
“Ouais,” Max says. “Alors ferme la.”
“I’d love to give you more minutes, Jon,” Dan says, sympathetic. “You know I trust you, but I’ve got two guys out front who’ve earned it.”
“I’ll play wing,” Jon says, fingers clenched tight in his lap. “If you don’t need me at centre—”
“Of course we need you at centre,” Dan says. “You’re the most defensively responsible man out there, on the front end. I know you’d like to get on the board, but you’re invaluable in the checking role, and I hope you know that. You make this team better, even at just eleven, twelve a night.”
Jon nods. It’s true. It’s still not—
He’s not Sid, or Geno. Jon’s a nobody on the team, third-line centre, sometimes second-line winger. Dan’s putting him on the PK more, which is good for everything but his numbers. His shorty against the Rangers the other night was nice, but Geno’s wide grin and “JT, full of surprise!” felt more bitter than sweet.
The guy at the desk of the hotel seems more interested in the flex of Jon’s biceps when he leans over the counter than the fifties he hands over. Whatever it is, it’s enough for a room number.
“Toews?” Kane says, blank-faced. “What are you doing here?”
“Jonny,” Jon insists, tight with anticipation. “It’s Jonny.”
“Yeah,” Pat says, pulling the door open wider. “Yeah, okay.”
It’s fumbling but not frantic. It’s not about Pat’s body, or Jon’s, except in all the ways it is. Jon holds Pat’s wrists to the bed in the gentle cages of his hands, his mouth pressed tight to Pat’s. They’re weapons, precise and perfect and meant for Jon.
When Pat presses his mouth to Jon’s knee, rests his cheek against Jon’s temple, licks along Jon’s lip, Jon knows he’s touching a history that hasn’t happened. It’s lost to them both.
“I’ve never done this,” Pat says, sounding small, spread out under Jon.
Jon strokes up the inside of his thigh, lines up with a shaking hand. “We aren’t supposed to,” Jon says.
“Fuck them,” Pat says fiercely. “Fuck them, they can’t—”
Jon pushes in, fills Pat up. It’s as close as they’re going to get.
Sometimes Jon checks Pat into the boards. Sometimes Pat slams him into a hotel-room dresser. Sometimes the rivalry is all Jon can see, and it makes him choke.
Sometimes on the ice, Jon has to remember not to pass to Pat.
He forgets, once. Sid finds him puking in the toilet during the intermission.
“What was that?” Sid asks. It isn’t scolding. Sid’s never looked at Jon like he’s Jon’s captain, and Jon’s grateful for it.
“I fucked it up,” Jon says, spitting out bile. Somebody did.
“Do you remember the first time we played together?” Pat asks.
“Junior Flyers,” Jon says, hand in Pat's hair. “Now you’re a senior Flyer, how does it feel?”
Pat tilts his head back on Jon’s thigh, lips red and swollen from sucking on Jon’s dick. “You know how it feels.”
“When did it go wrong?” Jon wonders. “I knew it was good, then.”
Pat’s silent, chewing his lip to a deeper red. Jon tugs it from between his teeth with his thumb, pulling at the truth.
“Sweden,” Pat says, finally. “When we beat Canada. That’s the first time it felt—”
“Yeah?” Jon says, drawing a wet line along Pat’s jaw.
“Don’t you remember?” Pat asks, eyes falling shut. “Top glove. Low blocker. Deke forehand.”
“I wasn’t there,” Jon says. “I was in Pittsburgh.” He can taste the ice, all the same.
Jon lifts the cup. It’s like all of his dreams (it’s like none of his dreams) come true.
He’s not first to touch it, and it still feels too early.
“I didn’t think I’d win it so soon,” he says to Tanger.
Tanger grins wide. “Ben oui?”
Pat doesn’t touch it at all. (Why would he? It’s not his. He’s not even here.)
There are stories. Press. The relentless Philly media. The Flyers’ talented number-one pick, drinking underage, doing it stupidly, publicly. Loudly. Not a big surprise, not with Richie and Carts beside him while he’s learning the ropes. Drunk fights in bars, drunk girls in bathrooms. Whispers of drunk boys, too.
“I don’t care who you fuck,” Jon says, bitter. It’s not permission.
“Maybe I want you to,” Pat says. “They’re nobody, it’s just sex. It doesn’t mean anything. I’m yours, Jonny.”
“You’re not mine,” Jon says, hanging up. It’s the truth, but it’s still wrong.
Pat drives five hours to get on his knees for Jon.
“If you want me to stop—”
“It’s never gonna matter,” Jon says. “It’s not real.”
“Why?” Pat says, cold and furious. “Just because it’s not that, none of this is real? Fuck you. Fuck you, Tazer.”
Pat drives the five hours back and misses practice. Hung over, says the press.
They end up at the same bar. Bad planning. Richie says hi to Jon, pulls him over. Giroux glares at Sid through Jon. Pat knocks over his beer.
“Had enough, eh Kane?” Jon says, sneering.
“Of your shit?” Pat says, smile all teeth.
Jon jerks him off in a grimy stall, one hand too tight on Pat’s cock, the other in his mouth. The grooves dug into his palm from those same teeth are so deep they’re still red in the morning.
The Flyers win the cup.
Now we’re the same, Jon sends in a text.
Did it feel like this for you? asks Pat.
Like the puck went in the wrong net.
Jon doesn’t reply.
He wakes to the early-rising sun in Winnipeg and six missed calls from Pat. There’s a text, too. It’s just a link to an article with the headline: Flyers trade problem-child Kane to Chicago.
Jon’s in Buffalo before the sun goes down.
“You can’t do this,” he yells. “You can’t go.”
“We’re not together, you asshole,” Pat yells back. “We’re on different teams. We’re on the wrong teams. I’m not leaving you, I’m trying to get closer.”
“We’re not even in the same fucking conference anymore,” Jon shouts, shaking Pat by the shoulders. “This is the end of it, you get that, right?”
“Then come to Chicago,” Pat says. “We can fix it this way.”
“I can’t,” Jon says, hands falling away from Pat. “I extended my contract.” His bridge deal—he hadn’t wanted more. Pittsburgh was wrong. But Pat—Pat was in Pennsylvania, at least. Was.
“You—” Pat’s white. “How long?”
“Four years,” Jon says, mouth dry. “They’re announcing tomorrow, but it’s done.”
Pat sits down hard in his kitchen chair.
“If you’d told me,” Jon says. “I wouldn’t have.”
“I didn’t know,” Pat says, face in his hands. “Fuck, you think if I’d known I wouldn’t have told you? I didn’t know they wanted to dump me.”
Jon steps forward, slides a hand in Pat’s hair. Pat presses his forehead to Jon’s stomach, shoulders shaking.
“Is this what you want?” Jon asks, rough but gentler. “Being there? It’s what’s right, isn’t it?”
“If I got to pick between you and them,” Pat says. “I’d pick you.”
It hurts. Jon thinks of his team; the one he has that isn’t his, the one he doesn’t have that is. He doesn’t know, some days, if he wants Pat so much because he’s right, or because he’s the closest Jon can get to it. Pat seems sure, and Jon—Jon isn’t.
“We don’t get to pick,” Jon says, fingers twisting tight, pulling until Pat’s head is tilted back. His eyes are red, wide and glassy. “We get picked. We get traded. We play where they say to play.”
“I’d pick you,” Pat repeats, stubborn.
Jon lets Pat fuck him for the first time. He doesn’t let them leave the kitchen, presses his palms to the table and tells Pat where to touch, when to move, how to push in. He feels split open. It’s too much, too fast. When Pat says, “Come on Jonny, come for me,” Jon can’t. He wishes he could.
“I feel like you’re taking a step back in your development this year, Jon,” Dan says.
“You’re valuable to us, JT,” Dan says.
“You give us the best third-line in the league, when your heart’s in it,” Dan says.
Jon plays. That’s all.
“If you want to talk, I’m here,” says Sid.
Jon laughs. Sid does, too, looking sheepish. “Yeah, maybe not,” Sid says.
“I’m okay,” Jon says.
“Tu te fous de ma gueule,” Flower says. “You’re fucked up.”
Jon presses his palms to his eyes, hard enough to see stars. It doesn’t block out the red and black.
“I can talk to Mario,” Sid says, tentative.
Jon breathes in.
“If you aren’t happy here, Jon,” Mario says, pouring Jon a glass of wine, “We aren’t going to force you to stay.”
“It’s not that I don’t want to be here,” Jon says, diplomatic.
Mario eyes him, thoughtful. “You and Patrick Kane.”
Jon flushes. He hides behind a swallow of wine. “It’s not about that,” he says.
“It’s okay if it is,” Mario says.
“It’s not,” Jon insists, but it’s easier to explain than the truth.
“I can’t trade you if you aren’t playing your best.”
Jon hears the offer. He plays to his limits and past them, buried and short-handed. It’s the most at home he’s felt on ice since he was eighteen and drafted, on behalf of the Pittsburgh Penguins, I’d like to welcome, from the University of North Dakota, Jonathan Toews.
Quenneville says, “We think you’ll fit our system well.”
Quenneville says, “I know you played fewer minutes in Pittsburgh, but we’d like to try you in our top six. You’ve got the talent if you're willing to work for it.”
Quenneville says, “Do you think you could play with a winger like Kane?”
Jon says, “Try me.”
“You look good in black,” Pat says.
Jon looks down at his jersey. “Fuck you,” he says.