Davis gave Pax credit, watching him after the game, because he put on a good face. The kind of face that a leader would wear when one of his players had an extraordinary game, and Dylan undeniably had. He’d tied the record for the most field goals made in a single game.
Davis thought he might be the only one who saw the frustration lingering in Pax’s face. The only one who looked close enough to see it.
After he finished with the press conference, Davis went to find him.
And found him, just as he’d expected, back to the wall in a tiny empty hallway a few doors down from the media room.
This was always where he went to decompress after a game, and after the media had finished tearing him apart.
Davis knew it wasn’t goddamn easy, and he didn’t begrudge Pax the quiet time he needed. Whatever was required to rebuild the confidence, to shore up the walls that everyone constantly kept trying to tear down.
When he appeared in the mouth of the hallway, Pax glanced up. “I just need another minute,” he said.
“It’s cool,” Davis said. He took the spot right next to Pax, leaning against the wall, too. Didn’t say anything else. Just watched.
It wasn’t really allowed to watch him this way.
But he did it anyway.
Pax’s head was tipped back, eyes closed, as the stress of the day slowly slipped off his face. He had a good week’s worth of scruff, golden brown and glinting even in the darkened light of the hallway. He’d unbuttoned his suit jacket, and Davis could see the shadow of his torso under the white shirt he wore underneath it.
Davis’ fingers flexed. He wanted so bad to reach out and touch, even though he knew he couldn’t.
But for one minute, for sixty seconds, he let himself really want it; for once, didn’t try to bury the desire, just felt it. It didn’t make this any easier, but there was something freeing about letting himself have this. Even if it was only for a brief moment.
He was on second sixty-seven when finally, Pax spoke.
“My hips weren’t loose,” he said ruefully.
“What? I’m shocked,” Davis teased.
“No, you’re not.” Pax sighed. “What are we gonna do about it?”
“How do you know there’s something we’re going to do about it?”
Pax shot him a look. Hot, singeing him around the edges. The desire flared, but this time, Davis stuffed it right back down, right back into its box, straining at the corners and joints. But it held. Barely.
They’d won the game today. They were four and two, and they’d won their last four games. Pax had come so far. The last thing Davis needed to do was lose himself.
“Okay, fine, yeah, I’m gonna do something about it. But you’re not going to like it.”
“Oh, I didn’t think I was going to like it.” Pax’s voice was very dry. He still hadn’t opened his eyes, but Davis knew that if he did, he’d see amusement in them.
And trust. So much trust.
Was it any wonder he couldn’t betray that?
“If it’s any consolation, I’m not sure I’ll like it either.” He already knew he wouldn’t. But it would make Paxton a better football player, and that was the only thing that mattered. Not all of his sleepless nights, not all of his pointless yearning, not any of the feelings that he kept trying to push away.