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Patrick stands in front of the Sharps’ door feeling like he’s going to throw up and then feeling annoyed that he feels like he’s going to throw up—this is Secret Santa, not Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.  

It’s generally a pretty low-key affair, just a quick way to celebrate with the team before the break—and have a good laugh at some of the stupid presents people get. (Although Abby, who organized it this year, instituted a rule that said if you were going to do a gag gift, you had to buy an actual nice gift too). 

But then again, playoff games don’t involve trying to make amends with grumpy Canadian captains, so maybe Patrick’s stomach is justified in being a little queasy. Plus now that he’s less than an hour from executing his plan, he can’t help but feel like maybe this isn’t quite the brilliant idea he initially thought it was.     

His fingers feel like they’re about five seconds away from freezing solid and falling off—he’d learnt years ago that going outside in Chicago during December without proper winter wear was asking for trouble, but visions of the present slipping out of his gloved hands and smashing to pieces on the floor made him paranoid enough to ditch the gloves so he could get a better grip.

He had to wrap it himself—there had been a long, awkward pause on the line with the nursery when Patrick had asked if they offered gift wrapping. Patrick resisted the urge to smother himself with his lone decorative throw pillow (a relic from an ex-girlfriend who had attempted and failed to spruce up his apartment). Of course they didn’t offer gift wrapping, who the fuck gift wrapped plants? Well, except for him, he supposes.

It had been a hard fought battle involving a flurry of wrapping paper and scissors and tape, but Patrick finally managed to cover the plant, paper wrapped tight around the pot and looser at the top so as not to crush the flowers. The result was a very lumpy, very ugly package.

Patrick takes a deep breath and releases it, air fogging up in front of him as he jabs the doorbell with his elbow. The door swings open a few seconds later, and Patrick rocks back on his heels, leaning away so it doesn’t hit him in the face. 

“Peeks!” Sharpy greets him, blindly pulling Patrick in for a hug, forcing him to quickly set down his pathetically wrapped gift on the door mat so it doesn’t get crushed during the onslaught of Sharpy’s affection. It’s only when Sharpy pulls back and Patrick leans down to scoop up his present that Sharpy processes its existence, eyes going wide and brows creeping up towards his hairline. 

“What the fuck is that?” Sharpy says, eyeing the misshapen package in Patrick’s arms with a mixture of amusement and horror. 

“It’s my Secret Santa gift,” Patrick says loftily, keeping his chin held high. 

Sharpy snickers. “It looks like it was wrapped by Maddy. No, Sadie,” he corrects. “Actually, you know what? I’m not going to insult my daughters like that.”

Patrick scowls. “Whatever, asshole,” he says, lightly kicking Sharpy in the shin as he lets out an indignant squawk. “Please let me in before I turn into a fucking popsicle.” 

Sharpy’s eyes light up. “A peeks-icle, I think you mean,” he says with relish, clearly mentally patting himself on the back for his perceived masterful stroke of wit. “How sweet.” He smirks, but he finally stands back so Patrick can squeeze inside. 

It looks like something straight out of a Christmas-themed issue of an interior decorating magazine. Every square inch of the house is plastered in tasteful yet festive decor, glittering garlands draped elegantly on the walls and dainty fairy lights twinkling prettily all over the place. The tree is a thing of beauty—massive and covered in colorful baubles and ornaments. 

Each Hawks player has their own ornament, which is pretty awesome. He finds his chilling right next to Jonny’s—Sharpy’s handiwork, no doubt. Patrick looks amazing in his picture—duh—but Sharpy chose an old picture of Jonny from before he learned how to pose for the camera. 

He’s smiling awkwardly and his eyes are so blank they make him look dead inside—he’d probably been counting down the seconds until the photoshoot ended. Patrick snorts. It’s kind of hilarious (and kind of adorable, if he’s being honest). It also makes him weirdly sad, because oh yeah Jonny’s not talking to him, so the whole Patrick-and-Jonny ornament duo is false advertising at the moment. But he’s going to fix that. Hopefully.  

Of course, the success of Operation Tazer hinges on the poorly wrapped package in his hands, so he deposits it underneath the tree with the rest of the presents before those visions of it shattering into a million tiny pieces come to life. He takes a quick look around to make sure no one’s watching before peeling the sticker with Jonny’s name on it off the sticker name sheet Abby had left out by the tree and slapping it on. Well, that’s that, he supposes. 

Patrick parks himself on the couch with Duncs and Seabs after hanging his coat up, taking a moment to carefully scan the area. About half the guys are already there, milling around the living room and kitchen with beers in their hands, but Jonny’s nowhere to be seen. Oh cool, the whole I’m-gonna-throw-up-my-lunch sensation is back—what if Jonny doesn’t show up? He’s not late by normal standards, but he usually shows up at least fifteen minutes early to everything, whether it be practice or a meal out. 

Patrick wouldn’t say he’s freaking out , because that would be stupid—but, like, Operation Tazer kind of requires the presence of, well, Tazer. Thankfully, Patrick hears a familiar, deep voice carry over from the entrance. He swivels on the couch, trying to subtly crane his neck towards the door. Jonny’s stepping inside, shrugging off his thick coat. 

There’s a beanie shoved onto his head and his cheeks are all pink from the cold. Patrick watches Jonny take the beanie off and card his long fingers through his hair a few times, crooked smile lighting up his face as he talks to Sharpy. 

Patrick can actually feel his heart rate physically speed up. Jesus Christ. He forces himself to turn around and try to calm the fuck down, because he’s an adult—even though his body’s reacting like a teenage girl who just saw her crush walk in, and that’s just—

Ugh, whatever, nerves are weird. It’s just Jonny. “Kaner?” Patrick startles, snapping his head to the side. Seabs and Duncs are looking at him with matching odd expressions. “You good, bud?” Seabs asks. Patrick realizes he’s kind of scowling down at the carpet.

My stupid brain and body are teaming up to sabotage me by flipping out over this thing with Jonny even though it’s stupid and he’s stupid because yeah I said something dumb but we’re best friends and I care about him so much and he can’t fucking see that because he’s stupid and I don’t even know why he’s mad but I bought a fucking plant to try and fix things and WHO DOES THAT and I’m so fucking annoyed at him but mostly I just want this to be over because yeah it’s only been a few days and it’s stupid but I miss him. 

Woah, buddy—talk about psycho babble he’s taking to the grave. “Yeah,” Patrick says, trying to put on his brightest grin. “I’m great!” He lets them rope him into a spirited debate about if Elf or Bad Santa is the superior Christmas movie. He tries to participate fully—he actually does have strong opinions on the matter—but he keeps getting distracted by the annoyingly large part of his brain that’s hyper-aware of Jonny’s presence. 

Jonny just looks so—warm. Happy. Chatting easily with Shawzy in the corner while a bottle of beer dangles loosely from his fingers. It’s not like Patrick wants Jonny to be miserable or anything—just the opposite. But looking at Jonny’s relaxed features while Patrick’s all twisted up inside makes him feel unexpectedly hurt, like Jonny doesn’t care at all that they’re not talking when it’s all Patrick can think about. 

Patrick excuses himself to go to the bathroom so he can splash some cold water on his face and give himself a pep talk (which is objectively pathetic, but the finger guns legitimately make him feel better). Of course, because the universe hates him, he has to run into Jonny on his way out. Patrick’s not paying attention, looking down at the floor as he exits, and then he feels his shoulder ram against something solid. 

“Shit, sorr—” he says, looking up and then freezing. Jonny’s staring at him, dropping his eyes the second Patrick’s gaze connects with his. 

“It’s okay,” Jonny says, and his voice is so measured and polite it makes Patrick want to scream. 

“Right,” Patrick says, searching for something else to say. But Jonny doesn’t seem particularly interested in making conversation, hands shoved in the pockets of his slacks and eyes on the floor, occasionally flicking to the bathroom door, like he’s counting down the seconds until Patrick gets out of his way. Well, Patrick guesses that answers the question of whether Jonny’s still mad at him or not. 

Now he feels extra stupid about the Our Lady Peace tickets stuffed in his pockets—he’d naively brought them along in hopes that things would go well with his Secret Santa gift and then he could give them to Jonny like he originally planned. “Well, I’m gonna—” Patrick says, jabbing a thumb towards the living room. “Right. Bye.” 

He escapes past Jonny, fighting the urge to grab his present from under the tree and make a dash for the door. He forces himself to go sit down on the couch instead, because while fleeing from Secret Santa sounds tempting in the moment, it’s a surefire way to get himself booked for an appointment with a pesky Assistant Captain who’ll no doubt ask him too many questions he doesn’t want to answer. 

By the time they all gather by the tree to start, Patrick’s not in any kind of headspace to be keeping up conversations, so he stakes his claim on a solitary spot on the fringes of the clumsy circle the team makes around the tree. Abby had left them a bucket with slips of paper with everyone’s names. Sharpy, of course, declares himself to be the host of Secret Santa and starts doing dramatic drawings of people’s names from the bucket. 

Patrick barely registers anything as the first few people open their presents and start guessing which one of their teammates gave them to them. He cracks a small smile as Sharpy fawns exaggeratedly over the bottle of ridiculously expensive French conditioner Shawzy got him (which impressively straddles the line between being a gag gift and a nice gift, because Sharpy is totally going to use it) while everyone else laughs. But then he goes right back to staring at his shittily wrapped present, still hidden in the back but getting increasingly more visible as the presents in front of it start to thin out. 

“Tazer!” Sharpy crows, “You’re up, bud.” He slaps a hand onto Jonny’s back as Jonny makes his way to the tree amidst sarcastic cheers and hollers from their teammates. Jonny’s grinning as he crouches down, starting to look through the packages for the one with his name on it. 

Patrick feels sick, mind spinning out of control. Holy fuck, he got Jonny a plant. A plant. He hurt Jonny so badly that Jonny doesn’t even want to talk to him, and his solution was to get him a fucking. Plant. God, why the fuck does he have the stupidest ideas? Duncs had gotten Shawzy a set of personalized golf balls. Seabs had gotten Duncs a silk tie. Patrick’s gift by comparison cost next to nothing—Jonny’s probably going to think Patrick doesn’t give a shit. 

Jonny’s eyes finally land on his gift, grin fading to a perplexed frown as he retrieves the package from under the tree. He cradles it carefully in his hands and gets up, meeting an explosion of jeers the second he turns around. 

“Who let their kid wrap their gift?”

“What the fuck is that?”

Jonny isn’t saying a thing, just eyeing the package with an unreadable look on his face, rotating it slightly in his hands. 

“Open it!” Seabs calls out, prompting a group chant. Patrick realizes his hands are shaking, so he clenches them into fists, nails digging into his palms. 

Jonny complies, neatly unwrapping the present with far more care than the shoddy wrapping-job deserves. He meticulously peels back every piece of tape at the seams, ignoring all the groans of his teammates telling him to hurry the fuck up. Patrick can’t help but agree—he wishes Jonny would just tear into the paper and get it over with, but he just keeps pulling it apart little by little until the last of the paper falls away. 

The room is silent for a moment, staring at the potted bluebells in Jonny’s hands with confusion. 

“Flowers?” Shawzy asks finally, squinting hard. 

“No, they’re golf clubs,” Saader says sarcastically. “Obviously they’re flowers, moron.” That seems to break the tension in the room, everyone erupting into a lively discussion about why the fuck someone got Jonny flowers. 

“Can you use them, as like, a garnish?” pipes up from the back before someone else informs them that they’re an idiot. 

Jonny’s still silent, staring down at the flowers with the full force of his intense dark eyes. Patrick feels like he can’t breathe—he wants to look away so, so badly, but at the same time his eyes feel like they’re super-glued to Jonny’s face because he can’t. Jonny’s brows are furrowed, lips turned down slightly at the corners—it’s what he looks like when he’s figuring out a play. 

“What’s your guess, Taze?” Sharpy asks, coming up to swing an arm around Jonny’s shoulders. “Who do you think is your Secret Santa?” 

Jonny finally wrenches his gaze up from the flowers. His thumb comes up to carefully stroke at a petal. It’s such an obscure reference. A tiny moment in their friendship of no particular significance. There’s no way Jonny’s going to put it together—he probably doesn’t even fucking remember. Patrick doesn’t know why he remembers or why he thought Jonny would get it. This is going to be so fucking awk—

Jonny’s eyes land on his. For the first time in days, they don’t look away. “Patrick,” Jonny says, voice a little hoarse. He clears it. “Patrick’s my Secret Santa.” Everyone turns their heads towards Patrick. 

“Yeah,” Patrick says, own voice coming out quiet, mind reeling from the way Jonny’s looking at him, eyes scanning carefully over his face. 

“Why the flowers, Kaner?” Saader asks curiously, and Patrick freezes, mind going blank. He’d been so focused on Jonny’s reaction to the gift that he hadn’t spared a single thought for how everyone else would react. How the hell was he supposed to explain this? 

“It’s Kaner’s Jonny mind-reading powers,” Sharpy says like Saader’s stupid for even asking, coming to Patrick’s rescue. “He got them because he knew that’s what Jonny wanted, isn’t that right?” Patrick opens his mouth to respond, but nothing comes out. 

“That’s right.” Patrick closes his mouth, eyes going wide in surprise, because that was Jonny who spoke. Jonny, who hated the whole mind-reading gag. There’s a small smile on Jonny’s face, and Patrick’s heartbeat quickens in his chest. 

Saader nods like everything suddenly makes sense. “Of course, how could I forget?” he says. “Flowers, huh? Would’ve never guessed that would make the cut on Tazer’s Christmas wish list. Shit Kaner, don’t mind if I consult you next year, eh?”

And with that, everyone moves on, and Patrick takes a second to step back and marvel at the utter ridiculousness of his life that his teammates seem to accept “mind-reading” as a legitimate reason for why he got Jonny flowers as a gift. 

If Patrick thought he was unfocused before, it’s nothing compared to how he feels now. Every part of him is itching for this whole thing to be over so he can talk to Jonny. He accepts his own gift from Crow—an autographed Tom Petty record—with grace before completely tuning out, shamelessly checking his phone for the time. Patrick can’t help but sneak a few glances at Jonny. Sometimes Jonny looks back, and Patrick quickly averts his eyes the second their gazes connect. 

Secret Santa finally ends, some people lingering inside to hang out for a while longer while others carry their gifts out to their cars and get ready to go home. Patrick loses sight of Jonny as people disperse. He grabs his coat from the rack and buttons up, shoving his toque back on his head, looking around all the while. Shit, he hopes Jonny didn’t go home—

Patrick feels a warm hand on his shoulder. He turns around, startled. It’s Jonny, bundled up in his winter coat with his other arm wrapped around the bluebells so the pot is tucked snugly against his side. Patrick’s nerves return full force. “Can we talk outside?” Jonny asks hesitantly, and it’s so good to hear Jonny talking to him that for a second, a rush of joy overtakes Patrick’s anxiety. 

“Yeah, of course,” he says, throat dry. They say goodbye to everyone and walk outside together, the air growing silent except for the sound of their shoes crunching across the gravel as they get further from the Sharps’ house. 

It’s Jonny who finally stops, slowly spinning towards Patrick. He sways a bit, switching the bluebells from one arm to the other. “Plant symbolism?” he asks finally, looking up at Patrick through his dark lashes. 

“Yeah,” Patrick says shyly. “I didn’t know if you would remember—it was a long time ago, so.” He stops, mentally hitting himself. He finally has the chance to make things right with Jonny, but all of a sudden he feels like he has the vocabulary of a five-year-old. 

“I remember,” Jonny says softly. Silence falls between them, and Patrick panics. 

“I’m so fucking sorry Jonny,” he says in a rush, words tripping out of his mouth. “I didn’t mean to hurt you. Everything that day came out all wrong. I was just trying to—”

And then Jonny’s setting the bluebells down on the ground and hugging him, arms wrapped so tightly around Patrick he can barely breathe. Patrick lets the shock course through his system before hugging back, burying his head in Jonny’s chest. 

“I’ve been a dick,” Jonny says into the side of Patrick’s neck. He finally pulls back and Patrick tries not to mourn the loss. “I’m sorry.” His eyes are all dark and wide and dumb and sincere and Patrick searches for a hint of annoyance or frustration inside him, but all he feels is pure relief flooding through his veins. 

“It’s okay,” he says, knowing he’s probably beaming like an idiot. “I mean, I could’ve done without the silent treatment, but, like, I said something really stupid, so,” he shrugs.

It’s too dark to tell for sure, but Patrick swears Jonny goes a little pink. He ducks down to pick up the pot again and clears his throat. “Uh, I shouldn’t have done that,” he mumbles, scratching at the side of his neck. “I—” he starts, dropping his head on a sigh. “I was being dumb and projecting about some other stuff, and I kind of put it all together in my head when I shouldn’t have,” he says, shrugging. “I know it’s a shitty excuse.”  

Patrick blinks. He’s kind of surprised at first, but actually—it explains a lot. He’d been super fucking confused as to why Jonny’d gotten so upset, so it makes sense that there had been other factors at play besides Patrick’s own blunder. But what were they? “You wanna talk about it?” he asks, watching Jonny’s face. 

Jonny shakes his head. “Nah, I think I worked it out,” he says, voice steady and meeting Patrick’s eyes with this weirdly intense gaze. Patrick swallows. He’s still kind of curious—he feels like there’s something Jonny’s not telling him. And he’s not used to not knowing stuff about Jonny—it feels wrong. But Jonny’s finally talking to him again, and he doesn’t want to mess things up again, so he decides he should probably let this one go. 

“Okay,” Patrick says easily. “Always knew your big ole’ overthinking brain would get you into trouble one day.” Jonny rolls his eyes, but he’s smiling. “Lucky for you, I’m well-versed in the mechanics of your emotional constipation, so I’ll give you a pass,” Patrick finishes and then freezes. Uh. He’s not sure if it’s too early to be cracking jokes about how well he knows Jonny. 

But Jonny scoots closer and gives him a little nudge with his elbow. “Yeah you are,” he says softly, and—

Patrick gets this weird swoopy feeling in his chest, and he can feel himself blushing, what the fuck. Clearly, his body is having some sort of hormonal malfunction. “Uh,” he says dumbly, stalling for something to say. Oh wait—

He fishes around in his pocket, fingers closing around the stubs. “Here,” he says, thrusting the Our Lady Peace tickets into Jonny’s free hand. Jonny blinks for a second and then brings the tickets up to his face to squint at them. “Our Lady Peace tickets?” he says in a strange voice, lowering them and looking back at Patrick. 

“They were your original Secret Santa gift,” Patrick explains, suddenly self-conscious. “But I didn’t think you’d wanna go, with us not talking and everything.” And then something hits him. The whole reason he got Jonny a new Secret Santa gift is because it would’ve been awkward as fuck to hand Jonny joint concert tickets—except they’re not joint concert tickets. 

They don’t have “Patrick Kane” and “Jonathan Toews” printed on them—he’d just, like, assumed they’d go together, which is shitty and stupid. “I mean, not that you have to go with me, obviously,” Patrick says quickly. “They’re your tickets, you can go with whoever you want—like, Sharpy,” he continues and oh my god he’s totally fucking babbling but he can’t stop himself. “He’s Canadian and probably has the same dumb taste in music—and Our Lady Peace is a Canadian band, so, like, he’d probably really enjoy himself. Not that the point is to make Sharpy happy!” Patrick says hastily, “Like you don’t have to take Sharpy, he was just an example, like you could take—mmph!”

Jonny’s hand is slapped over his mouth, and he’s looking down at Patrick with a crinkly-eyed smile. “I don’t want to go with Sharpy,” Jonny says, clearly holding back a laugh. “But I do want to go with you—unless you’d rather go through the entire Hawks roster and tell me why I should take them instead.”

Jonny takes his hand off Patrick’s mouth. “Uh, no, that’s okay—I’ll go,” Patrick says, trying to play it cool—but from the way Jonny’s smirking, he has a suspicion he’s not doing a very good job. 

“Great,” Jonny grins, giving him a little fist bump against his upper arm. He holds up the tickets. “These are awesome, though—thanks Kaner.” 

Patrick shrugs, feeling warm. “Yeah, man.”

And then Jonny’s eyes go wide. “Shit,” he says, digging his phone out of his pocket and scrolling through before his shoulders drop. “Patrick, I’m so sorry—I have a webinar scheduled during the same time as the concert tomorrow with Dr. Tovar, he’s—”

“A revolutionary researcher in the field of treating mental health issues with psychedelics, I know,” Patrick says, biting down on a grin. “You only have four of his books. Also, he’s not giving a webinar.”

Jonny stares at him.

“I may or may not have hacked into your Google Calendar and put in a fake event so you’d for sure be free during the concert,” Patrick says sheepishly. 

“You hacked into my Google Calendar?” Jonny says faintly, looking like a mixture between horrified and amused. “There’s no webinar?” And goddamnit, Jonny actually sounds a little sad. 

“Uh, no,” Patrick says, feeling absurdly guilty. “But on the bright side—concert!” He makes a note to reach out to Dr. Tovar and see if he can’t get Jonny, like, a personalized powerpoint or some shit for his birthday. 

“I feel like I should be mad about this,” Jonny says, mouth twitching. “ But you just voluntarily agreed to go to an Our Lady Peace concert, so I think you’re being punished enough.” 

Patrick had been so caught up in the idea of giving Jonny the tickets that he hadn’t actually processed the whole going to the concert bit and the reality of suffering through hours of shitty alt-rock, but he’s definitely processing it now. “Oh god,” he says weakly, “What have I done?”

He gets ready for Jonny to chirp the fuck out of him, because honestly—he deserves it. “Given me the second-best gift I’ve ever gotten in my life,” Jonny says instead, smiling at him. And that gives Patrick a heady rush for a second, because hell yeah he’s a gift-giving- god, but then—

“What’s the first?” he asks casually, trying not to pout like a little kid. Like, second-best gift Jonny’s ever gotten? That’s fucking amazing, but he can’t help but feel absurdly jealous of whoever got Jonny the best gift he’d ever gotten—shit, he needs to amp up his research for next Christmas. No, Jonny’s birthday. Maybe, he could like, fly Dr. Tovar out to Chicago or something—

Jonny touches his elbow, startling Patrick into looking up. “This,” he says, raising the bluebells in his other arm. “Nothing else comes close.” There’s a soft smile playing on his lips. 

For the third time that night, Patrick’s heart rate speeds up. “Oh,” he says, feeling his face flush and feeling absurdly pleased. There’s this weird, fraught moment where they don’t speak—Jonny’s still looking at him, all—fond. And it’s just really fucking nice, and Patrick is just—happy. Really, really happy. 

“Uh, I should probably head out,” Patrick says regretfully, because his hands are starting to freeze again despite the fact that he has them stuffed in his pockets. He takes them out and rubs them together hard, trying to get them warm. 

“Here,” Jonny says, digging into his pockets. “Put these on.” He throws something at Patrick, and Patrick catches them on instinct—Jonny’s gloves. He’d probably taken them off so he could hold the potted bluebells—so Patrick’s not the only one with pot-shattering visions. “I figure one of us needs to keep our fingers from falling off, and yours are worth a bit more than mine,” Jonny teases. 

Patrick blinks down at them for a second before putting them on, fingers immediately thawing out. “Thanks Jonny,” he says, strangely touched. “I’ll give them back,” he promises. 

“Nah,” Jonny says easily. “You probably won’t.” But he doesn’t sound particularly upset about it, grinning down at Patrick. 

They walk back down the path towards the house where their cars are parked, talking and laughing and just slipping back into their usual routine, and it’s stupid, but—

Patrick feels like everything’s right in the world. 

“I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?” Jonny says when they finally reach Patrick’s car. They’d passed his a while back, but he insisted on walking Patrick to his car because he’s a weirdo ( you mean thoughtful, caring, good, Patrick’s brain supplies, but he squashes it down). 

“Yeah,” Patrick says, unable to stop smiling. “See you tomorrow.” It’s a surprisingly comforting thought. He watches Jonny walk back towards his car, bluebells secure in his arms. 

Looks like Operation Tazer was a success.