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sunrise in sight

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Every player on the Cup-winning team gets a day with it to spend however they like. Sometimes, if they're the C, or they win the Conn Smythe, or score the series-winning goal, they get an extra day. Even if they're still in the shit about coming out with no plan.

Jack doesn't tell anyone about his first day, the one he's going to take in Kent's family's cabin in the Finger Lakes. He doesn't even tell Kent.

 

He's lucky Kent was even there; he'd almost gone up to Toronto for his birthday.

“Well, we did promise,” Jack says to Kent's dumbfounded face, after he spots Jack's car on the gravel drive coming back from his run. “You did it for me, the first time you won.”

“That's true,” Kent admits. He doesn't mention that that particular adventure ended with a screaming match. And fourteen months of radio silence.

“I missed you,” Kent says.

Jack sighs. “Parse, —”

“I was talking to the Cup,” Kent interjects. “Not everything is about you.”

Jack rolls his eyes.

Kent grabs the shirt he'd tucked into the back of his shorts and wipes his face. He just needs a second.

“Well, come on, then,” Kent says, not checking to see if Jack is following. He knows the way.

 

“No one else is here,” he tells Jack, by way of greeting, as Jack creaks up the rickety steps, cradling the Cup like a baby.

“I figured.”

The Cup is nearly blinding in the sunlight, the glare setting off purple spots in Kent's field of view. He squints at them. “So, what, you just wanted to hang out? Bird-watch on my deck?”

There's not really all that much to do, out here. Not that he and Jack had noticed, the last time Jack came up. They'd done a bunch of things to pass the time. Well, really one thing, a bunch of times.

“Maybe,” Jack says. “What have you been getting up to?”

“Fishing, mostly.”

Jack's brow crinkles in disbelief.

“Fishing.” He eyes Kent. “Really.”

And, you know, screw Jack for thinking he knows everything there is to know about him.

“Yes, really,” Kent snits. “People change.”

“Okay,” Jack says, like he doesn't believe Kent for a second, “I'd love to see your stash, then. Where's your freezer?”

So Kent sucks at fishing, so what?

“It's more about the quiet,” he deflects. “Being able to hear myself think.” That's never been Jack's problem, he knows.

 

Jack refuses to go out on the boat. He doesn't want to be that far from the Cup, but he won't take it with them, either. Kent doesn't blame him. He wouldn't want to be the guy who lost the Stanley Cup in Seneca Lake.

They agree to go swimming instead, the Cup sitting pretty at the far end of the dock, where they both can keep an eye on it. Jack neglects to mention that he didn't bring a suit until after Kent's already neck deep in lake water, treading vigorously to ward off the chill.

“Just skinnydip,” Kent breezes, instead of offering to lend him one. He's got dozens in his drawer.

“In front of the Cup?”

“I'm sure it's seen worse.” Kent knows for a fact that it's seen worse, he was even there for some of it.

Jack considers, then shrugs.

Kent averts his eyes. Mostly.

 

They spend the rest of the afternoon lazing on Kent's deck, sipping at sweaty beers and playing poker. Jack wins six hands in a row before Kent starts to get suspicious.

“Wait a minute,” Kent says. “How many of those are you holding?” He makes a grab for Jack's cards. He's got more than five in his hand for sure, nine or ten, maybe. Kent gasps in playful outrage. “You dirty cheat!”

“Took you long enough,” Jack laughs at him. “I've only been doing this since we were sixteen.”

Kent flicks a card at his face.

 

When it's time for dinner, Jack commandeers the grill, giant control freak that he is. Kent doesn't complain. His eye catches on the Cup standing guard at the table while they eat. “You're not going to put anything in it?” he asks Jack. “We could make a sundae or something.”

Jack shakes his head. “It's enough to look at it, you know?”

Kent knows.

They have s'mores instead. Kent does the marshmallows for both of them. Jack always burns his.

 

Fireworks start up like clockwork as soon as the sun goes down. He and Jack drag lawn chairs out to the perfect spot on his property, the bit of high ground with no trees to obstruct their view. The temperature drops as they sit, the darkness bringing relief from the heat of the day, a soft caressing breeze at their backs.

The Cup gleams between them, reflecting the flashes in the sky, red and blue and gold.

Kent dangles his hand down and plucks idly at the tall summer grass. At some point, he just has to ask. He's been chewing on it all day. “Why are you really here, Jack?”

“We promised.”

Kent makes a skeptical noise. They'd made a lot of promises.

“And I...guess I wanted to thank you,” Jack adds. “You're a big part of why I have this.”

Kent snorts. “Yeah, you're welcome for getting knocked out of conference finals.”

“That's not what I meant.”

Another firework shoots up, higher than the rest. It crackles red before spilling down in shimmering fountains of sparks, like comet trails.

“I know.”

“Do you?”

He can tell Jack's looking at him without needing to turn his head, the same way he always could when they were on the ice together. Old habits die hard, he guesses.

Kent sighs. “I guess we really made it now, huh?”

Jack doesn't answer.

Kent closes his eyes and listens to the distant booms until the world goes still, silence fading into the low hum of a million crickets.

 

He gets to his feet reluctantly. “We should go inside,” he says. “We're going to get eaten alive out here.” He holds out a hand to help Jack up. “C'mon, Zimms.”

Jack's expression is hard to read in the dark. He takes Kent's hand and pulls himself to standing. He doesn't let go.

Kent's heart thumps.

Jack shuffles closer. Kent takes a step back and nearly trips over his lawn chair. “Jack, what—”

His voice catches in his throat when Jack's other hand slides up his jaw.

“We made it,” Jack whispers. He closes the distance slowly, one aching millimeter at a time. Kent stands stunned, helpless to resist.

He sucks in a breath. Jack tastes like burnt marshmallow, sweet and a little bitter.

 

It's over in a blink.

“I have to go back now,” Jack tells him. “Chain of custody and all that.”

Kent nods. “Yeah, custody, of course.” Jack has to return the Cup. Then he'll go back to his normal life, the one without Kent in it, and this day will just be a strange blip disappearing on the horizon.

“S'more for the road?” he asks.

 

Kent watches Jack load the Cup into his car, wrapped in a blanket and seatbelted for safety. When he's done, he walks back up to the edge of the deck, where Kent's sitting hugging his knees to his chest.

Kent wishes he had something more to say.

Jack's quiet for a long breath. “See you around, Parse.”

“Bye, Jack.”

The gravel crunches under Jack's feet, each step carrying him a little further out of reach.

 

Unless—

 

“Jack,” he calls.

Jack turns.

“You could come back, if you wanted. I'll be here.”

The words linger awkwardly in the air. Kent rubs at the back of his neck, embarrassed. What had possessed him to say that?

“Yeah?”

Kent jerks his head up. “Yeah,” he replies, his voice barely audible.

Jack hears him anyway.

“Okay,” he says, one of his old smiles spreading across his face, the kind of smile that lit up his eyes and made Kent's heart leap in his chest, just exactly the way it was leaping now. “I think I will.”

Hope tingles up Kent's spine. Maybe old habits die hard for Jack, too.