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(All My Life I've Been) Burdened by the Dreams

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Patrick has two goals for himself when he comes to Chicago:

Win the Stanley Cup.

And don’t let anyone find out he’s a wolf.

He’s pretty confident about the first one. He always has been, of course, but it gets cemented when Jonny catches him after one of their first practices, when they’re heading off the ice. They’d been on a line together in the scrimmage and had lit it up, avoiding the other side’s players as if they weren’t even moving. “We’re going to do it, you know,” Jonny says to him, voice low but serious. “We’re going to bring the Cup back to Chicago.”

Patrick looks at him, remembering the way it felt to have Jonny’s puck sliding straight to his tape. “Yeah,” he says. “Yeah, we will.”

So he’s feeling pretty good about that one.

The wolf thing is harder. Well, not harder, exactly. Hockey’s plenty hard, pushing himself to be the best every second of every workout and every practice and every game. But that’s Patrick being honest about himself. Wholehearted. He’s pouring himself into every moment on the ice. The wolf thing is about holding back, and that’s always been harder for him.

He’s had practice at it, though. He’s practically been hiding his whole life, from everyone except his family—and the other wolves in Buffalo, of course. Hiding from other wolves is basically unheard of. Not only can they smell it on you right away, but wolves are all about community. No one wants to be without a pack.

When Patrick’s drafted number one overall, though, he knows some things are going to have to change. Suddenly he has a whole lot more to lose than any other wolf he might run into. Outing another wolf is a pretty crap thing to do, so much so that it almost never happens—but Patrick can’t take that risk.

So he makes a few rules for himself. They’re pretty straightforward: don’t act like a wolf. Don’t shift. And don’t be around any other wolves, ever.

The second thing helps with the third one because it cuts his scent way down. Wolves shift all the time. Most don’t go more than a week or two without shifting; almost no one ever goes more than one full moon. Patrick knows from his experience in Juniors that by the time he’s been a few months out of wolf skin, he barely even smells like one anymore. Enough so that he can smell another wolf coming way before they can smell him, and he has time get the hell out of Dodge.

He does worry a little bit about what will happen if he has to play against another wolf. It’s statistically probable that he isn’t the only one in the NHL: wolves love organized sports, as a general rule, and while the prejudice against them is still heavy, some of them have to have made the choice Patrick did. There aren’t any out wolves in the NHL, though, and it’s easier for the world to pretend they don’t exist. Patrick’s not going to be the one to disprove that.

***

Jackie cries when he leaves for Chicago. Well, everyone cries, Patrick included, but Jackie clings to him extra long. She’s the only other wolf in their family, and it’s one of the hardest things about going: knowing he’ll be leaving her alone.

“Not alone,” she tells him the night before, when they’re curled up in her bed. She wanted to do it in wolf form, but Patrick can’t do that—can’t have the smell on him if he’s going to hide in Chicago. The touch is good, though. Wolves need touch, way more than people do. “I’ll have Emily and Dax.”

Emily and Dax are her best friends at school. They’re wolves, too, and are bonded even though they’re only thirteen. That happens sometimes with pre-heat alphas and omegas who are insanely compatible. Patrick’s glad that Jackie’s a beta and doesn’t have to worry about it.

“You, though,” she says, snuggling in. This close, he can smell her anxiety and realizes it’s for him. “You’ll be really alone.”

He strokes her hair. “I’ll be okay,” he says. “I’ll have the team.”

She burrows her face into his chest, and he knows she’s not satisfied with that answer, but she lets it go.

They fall asleep like that: a tiny pack, one beta and one omega who’s about to leave her.

***

It was partly something to tell Jackie to make her less worried about him, but it turns out to be true: the team does feel like a pack, in a lot of ways. There aren’t any other wolves, but they’re working and playing together every day, and it’s only a few days before Patrick feels like he can trust these guys to have his back. Unless Sharpy’s playing a prank, that is.

Road trip roommates also help, and moving in with the Bowmans. Patrick doesn’t know what he would do if he had to go into a hotel room and sleep alone every night on the road. He hasn’t slept alone on a regular basis since Jackie first presented at age seven: it’s always been at least the two of them, often with Emily and Dax and any other wolves in their loose pack whose parents aren’t too frightened or repulsed to admit what their kids are. Having Gags around in London helped a lot, and now, knowing Jonny will be coming back to their room and stretching out in the bed by the door is the only thing that makes all the strange rooms and strange smells bearable a lot of the time.

It’s still not the same as sleeping in a bed with someone else. Sometimes when he’s at home, he lets the Bowman kids snuggle up to him while they’re all watching TV, and they all fall asleep that way for a few hours. But then he has to go to his bed alone, and it almost feels worse for having had that contact.

On the road, he doesn’t get any of that. Jonny seems like a decent-enough guy—they’re getting along really well, when they aren’t screaming at each other on the ice, and even that Patrick secretly enjoys—but he knows better than to go up to this new teammate of his and ask if he wants to snuggle. So he keeps his hands to himself and spends a lot of time looking across the gap between beds and wishing that he were on the other side of it.

***

No one seems to guess, on the team. Patrick doesn’t really expect them to: none of them are wolves—Patrick is a hundred percent certain of that—and none of the humans he’s ever met has had any kind of functioning wolfdar. But still, it’s a relief when the team starts chirping him for a million things and none of them is his ability to grow four legs and a tail.

It’s also a relief when he starts having interviews, and none of the questions are about what it’s like to be a wolf in the NHL. It’s two weeks before he realizes he’s still tensing for that question every time, and then he makes himself put it out of his mind. It’s not like they can tell.

There’s one time, though, that the door opens to let a few reporters in, and Patrick catches it. The unmistakable scent of a wolf.

An unbonded alpha, from the smell of it. That’s the worst, because it means Patrick’s omega scent will be way more obvious to him. The guy is still in the hall. Patrick’s just gotten out of the shower, but he turns around and goes right back in.

He stays in there and tries not to freak out. He knows that he doesn’t smell much, that no one would be able to pick up his scent from the next room when he hasn’t been a wolf in a year and is currently under a stream of water, but if anyone could do it, it would be an alpha. Hell, Patrick can smell him from in here, and he’s trying to pretend it doesn’t have an effect on him. He turns the water to cold and doesn’t touch his dick.

After a while, maybe half an hour, footsteps come into the showers. Patrick tenses until he realizes it isn’t the alpha reporter, but Jonny.

“Are you trying to drown yourself in here?” Jonny asks. “We won, you know.”

Patrick turns the water off. The alpha scent is faint now, just lingering traces, and he thinks the coast is clear. “Yeah,” he says. His heart is still beating faster than normal. “Just got distracted.”

“You’re not dwelling on stuff, are you?” Jonny asks.

“Asswipe.” Patrick wraps a towel around his waist. “Got nothing to dwell on. I played like a champ.”

“Sure you did,” Jonny says, but he claps him on the shoulder, and it feels like he means it.

***

Jackie calls him at least once a week. Patrick talks to the rest of the family too, but the calls with Jackie are special. Sometimes they’ll just put each other on speaker phone and lie there and breathe next to each other, and it’s almost like having a wolf there with him. He needs that.

They do talk a lot, though, because Patrick’s a talker and so is Jackie. “How goes the love life, bro?” she asks him at least every other week, because she’s decided that the solution to him being alone in Chicago is for him to get into a relationship with someone. “Meet any hot chicks?”

Patrick scowls. “You know it’s not that easy.”

“You’re saying you’re not that easy?” she says, and he regrets the day he ever thought it would be okay for her to enter high school.

The thing is, it’s really not that easy. Forget the relationship thing—just picking up is complicated. He can’t get too close to other wolves in bars, or they would know, so a lot of times he has to leave a club suddenly to avoid being caught out on the dance floor. When he does manage to pick up—girls only, because he doesn’t need the story to get out that he’s a wolf who also likes dick—he has to work hard not to let any wolf behavior show. Which means he needs to be more sober than he wants to be, which also means it’s harder to be into the girls.

He picks up one girl in early December: tall, stacked, maybe not conventionally beautiful, but pushy in just the way he likes it and with a great smell. She smells familiar, almost, like sweat and padding, and he wonders if she’s an athlete.

He goes down on her to get more of her smell, and after she rides him, it’s all he can do not to rub up under her chin to get her scent all over him.

“Cuddly, aren’t you?” she says, laughing a little, so he guesses he didn’t do a great job curbing that impulse. But she doesn’t guess the reason, and she lets him curl around her as they go to sleep. That night, at least, Patrick doesn’t have to sleep alone.

***

All in all, Patrick feels lucky that hockey players touch each other a lot. Contact with other wolves is best, but human touch is good, too. It calms something in his wolf when Jonny grabs him around the shoulders and taps their foreheads together after a goal, or when Sharpy lets him slump into his side on the bus. The taps and noogies and half-hugs of the locker room are a language his wolf speaks: team, pack.

It also makes it easy to forget, sometimes, that he’s supposed to be hiding.

Tonight it’s Jonny’s side that he’s snuggled against, in the bar. It’s a couple months into the season, and he’s done this enough to know that Jonny won’t get pissed off and shove him away. Especially not when he’s like this, alcohol-warm with his arm slung over Patrick’s shoulders, thumb rubbing little circles into Patrick’s skin and soothing something deep within him.

“The group of girls at the bar,” Burs says across from them. “Ranking, one to ten.”

Jonny makes a disparaging sound. “Classy.”

“I am all class,” Burs says, slurring. “Peeks is on board, aren’t you, Peeksy?”

Patrick is drunk. He got a goal and two assists today and has his head on Jonny’s shoulder and doesn’t care about anything else right now, really. “That’s what your mom said last night.”

Sharpy laughs. “Weak. And a lie. Burs’ mom told me I was the only man in her life.”

“I hate you all,” Burs says. “A lot.”

Seabs crashes into their table, a little wild-eyed and a lot drunk. “Jonny! Need a wingman.”

Jonny grumbles a little but detaches his arm from Patrick’s shoulder. Patrick doesn’t quite realize what’s going on while it’s happening—just feels the loss of warmth, and that’s not okay. Jonny was touching him. He got a goal and two assists today and Jonny was touching him and he deserved it, okay, so Seabs can just step off and find someone else to bother.

He doesn’t realize he’s growling until everyone at the table is staring at him.

He stops right away. Seabs has backed up a few steps and is looking at him like he’s deranged.

“I, uh.” Patrick’s at a loss. How do you explain why you were growling at your teammate?

Fortunately, Sharpy starts laughing. “Had one too many, Peeksy?”

The others all kind of relax at this. “Seems like it’s time for our little Peekaboo to go home,” Burs says. “Before he scares the locals.”

“Your face does that anyway,” Patrick mumbles. His cheeks feel hot.

“You are so drunk,” Jonny says, but it’s fond. “Come on, I’ll take you home.”

Then it’s all right, because Patrick gets to lean on Jonny all the way out of the bar and in the cab on the way home. He knows he shouldn’t, not after what he just did—doesn’t deserve it, anyway—but his head is hazy and Jonny feels so good. Jonny drops him off at his door and goes away, but first he ruffles Patrick’s hair, and Patrick knows that means it’s all right.

***

The next morning he’s horrified with himself. He wakes up with a pounding headache and the memory of himself growling at Seabs. Growling. He doesn’t think he’s ever done that at anyone before, even as a wolf.

He finds Seabs before practice and makes a stuttering apology, which Seabs laughs off. “Whatever, Kaner. You were drunk,” he says. “I’ve done weirder shit than that drunk.”

“Yeah,” Patrick says, like it really isn’t a big deal. And he guesses it isn’t, if they haven’t figured things out. But he remembers the way he clung to Jonny on the way home, and he doesn’t sit next to Jonny on their flight to Dallas that night. It just feels safer.

***

Patrick goes home for Christmas, even though they only have a few days off. It’s been months since he got to spend any time with his family. He hugs them all for a long time. His mom strokes his hair, and he can feel something in his equilibrium shifting back into place.

He spends most of the first afternoon curled up with Jackie in her bed, napping. It feels like he’s soaking up something he’s missed. At one point she tries to get up, and he tightens his arms instinctively, half asleep.

“Jeez, Pat,” she says. “I just need to go to the bathroom.”

“Oh. Sorry.” He makes himself let go and tries not to look like he misses her touch. It might not work, though, because she comes back a couple of minutes later and curls up with him again.

“Lonely in Chicago?” she whispers.

“No,” he says. And he’s not. He’s with the team all the time—hell, even when they’re not playing, he’s having brunch with Sharpy or Burs or over at Seabs’ place, playing video games with Jonny and chirping the hell out of each other. So he’s not lonely. He just wishes he got to do this kind of thing more: curling up on a bed with someone and touching.

“I still think it would make it better if you started to date someone,” Jackie says.

It probably would—if he could date them without them finding out about him. “Maybe I’ll have a spontaneous bond,” he says.

“Yeah, right, old man,” she says. “Like you’d be willing to put up with any alpha telling you what to do anyway.”

She has a point. He probably wouldn’t. But he’s successfully steered the subject away from dating, and she lets it go.

***

He feels better when he heads back to Chicago after Christmas. Better balanced, maybe.

Jonny notices. “You look good,” he says when they’re in their hotel room on the first post-Christmas road trip.

“Thanks, asshole,” Patrick said. “You saying I don’t usually?”

“No,” Jonny answers seriously. Of course. “You just—I don’t know. You look happier than usual.”

Patrick wonders just what vibe he’s giving off to make Jonny say that. Whatever it is, he should probably quit it. “It was good to see the family, is all.”

Jonny nods like Patrick’s said something profound. “Yeah, I know what you mean,” he says, though Patrick knows he couldn’t possibly. Jonny’s not a wolf living without a pack.

***

There are a couple of awkward things that winter.

The first is when he and Jonny are out at lunch after practice, and Patrick has no sooner sat down at the table than he realizes the waitress coming towards them with menus is a wolf.

It shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s almost more of a surprise that this is the first time it’s happened. But wolves don’t generally like the city, and there aren’t that many of them in Chicago.

It’s the kind of thing that, if things were different, would have made him nod at her in solidarity. He still wants to: wants to make that connection, is surprised at how strong the desire is. But he can’t. He can’t let her know at all. And if she keeps coming toward them, she’s going to find out in about ten seconds.

“Um, I’m going to go to the bathroom,” Patrick says, standing up a little too fast. “Get me a Diet Coke?”

“Sure,” Jonny says, all casual. He obviously has no reason to think anything’s wrong.

Patrick goes to the bathroom and locks himself in a stall. He puts his hands against the wall and just breathes, in and out, until his heart rate slows. She hasn’t noticed anything. Won’t notice anything. And at least she’s not an alpha. She’s an omega, like him, smells unbonded. He wonders if she has a pack, if there’s anyone she might bond with. If she feels like he does sometimes, where—

He doesn’t wonder anything. He only cares about her not finding out about him.

He’s in the bathroom long enough that his phone beeps: Jonny, wondering if he’s all right. It’s cool, he texts back. Order me a burger?

?, Jonny types in return, then, I don’t think that’s on your meal plan, because he’s a tool like that. Patrick doesn’t respond.

“Sorry,” he says when he gets out of the bathroom. “Just feeling kind of weird.”

“Okay,” Jonny says. He looks like he wants to ask more, but doesn’t.

Patrick is jumpy as hell the rest of the meal. When the waitress comes with their food—a burger, like Patrick requested—he leans so far away from her that Jonny gives him a weird look. Fortunately, it’s busy enough in the restaurant that the waitress doesn’t seem notice.

When she comes up behind them to check on their food, though, he scrambles out of his chair like it’s on fire. “I, uh,” he says. “Dropped something.”

“Um…” Jonny says, but the waitress is talking to him, asking if everything’s all right in that food service way that’s really just making sure she gets a good tip.

“It’s all fine,” Jonny says to her. Patrick doesn’t say anything, because he’s under the table, pretending to have dropped something and trying not to hyperventilate.

He gets up as soon as she’s gone. Jonny is glaring at him. “Want to tell me what that was?” he asks.

Patrick’s hands are shaking. He really, really doesn’t. “Actually,” he says. He puts his napkin on the table and pulls a couple of twenties out of his wallet. “I’m not feeling too well. I’m going to take off, okay?”

Jonny opens his mouth, like he wants to ask more or maybe just like he’s really confused. But Patrick can feel his own heartbeat slamming in his neck, and his nose is full of wolf smell, and he just needs to get out of there.

“See you later,” he says to Jonny and doesn’t wait for a response before he flees for the exit.

***

He apologizes to Jonny next time he sees him, makes up some excuse about food poisoning. It seems to go over okay, and things are fine. Until the next week when they play the Oilers.

Patrick’s been excited to see Sam again—won’t shut up about it, if you listen to Jonny’s side of things, which Patrick makes it a rule not to, because Jonny is ridiculous—and he catches up to him outside the locker room and leaps on him a little, because Sam gives good hugs, okay?

Sam laughs. “Nice goal today.”

“Thanks.” Patrick lets go and grins in the way that he knows is annoying. What does he care when he just won them the game and got a Sam hug as a bonus?

Sam cuffs him on the shoulder. “Meet any other wolves lately?” he asks, and Patrick drops his Gatorade all over the floor.

“I didn’t know the whole time,” Sam says later, when they’re sitting across from each other at a restaurant. Patrick’s not sure which restaurant, but he knows his hands are shaking too badly to cut his steak. “I just saw a text you got from Jackie once, and I figured it out.”

Patrick nods. He’s still breathing, and that feels like an accomplishment.

“It’s not like I’m going to tell anyone,” Sam says.

It’s ridiculous how much of a relief it is to hear that. Patrick manages to cut off a piece of steak without stabbing himself in the hand. “So no one—” He coughs and swallows. “No one else knows?”

“Not that I know of.” Sam leans in, looking a little worried about him. “Like I said, I haven’t told anyone. I wouldn’t do that to you.”

Patrick nods again. He puts another piece of steak in his mouth and tries to chew through the rubbery taste. “And you’re—okay with this?”

Sam looks at him for a second that lasts for a year. “You’re one of my best friends. Of course I’m okay with this.”

Patrick sets down his knife and takes a shaky breath. There’s an alarming feeling behind his eyeballs that might be incipient tears. “Thanks, man.”

“Hey, anytime you want me not to act like a lupophobic asshole,” Sam says with a laugh. “How are you doing with it, though?”

“Fine,” Patrick says. “No, really,” he says when Sam gives him a skeptical look. “I have the team, and I have hockey. That’s what matters, right?”

“’Course,” Sam says.

Patrick changes the subject after that. They talk about the Oilers for a while, and the Hawks, and how difficult rebuilding is. Patrick’s on the alert for Sam treating him differently now, but it doesn’t feel any different from the hundreds of other conversations they’ve had about hockey over the years.

Sam even hugs him when they leave. Patrick isn’t expecting it, and he’s stiff for a moment, but then he sinks into it. It’s good to be hugged by someone who knows.

“It’s going to be okay,” Sam says, before they leave, which is a little annoying, because Patrick already told him it’s okay. Patrick’s okay.

When he goes home that night, he changes his phone settings so that texts don’t display on the front screen.

Chapter Text

The first time it happens, Patrick doesn’t mean for it to. They’re on a road trip, a long one, and Patrick’s feeling particularly thin and stretched. Maybe it’s because they haven’t been playing very well, or maybe it’s the way Jonny hasn’t been going out with them this week. No one else puts up with him snuggling up against their side at a bar for nearly as long as Jonny does. And it’s the full moon tomorrow, which always makes Patrick feel more wolf-like.

Usually when he feels like this, he calls Jackie and stays on the phone with her for hours. But Jonny’s in the room, lying on his bed and watching some terrible nature documentary, and Patrick can’t really talk with him there.

Instead he flops on the bed next to him. “Watcha doing?” he asks, even though it’s obvious.

Jonny gives him a glare. “Going skydiving,” he says.

It’s not really funny at all, but Patrick giggles. Jonny’s mouth quirks a little in self-satisfaction at having made a joke.

Jonny’s lying on his stomach, head pillowed on his arms at the end of the bed. He’s wearing a t-shirt and boxer-briefs, and the long line of his body looks like it would be warm to lie against. Patrick shifts a little closer, not close enough to touch, and looks up at the screen. “Urgh,” he says.

“It’s nature,” Jonny says, like that makes the thing clawing its way out of the belly of a fish any less disgusting.

“Wake me up when nature is over,” Patrick says, and curls on his side. He wants to close the last couple of inches between them, but he doesn’t, not quite.

Jonny hits him with a pillow anyway. “You have your own bed, douche,” he says. But he doesn’t make Patrick move, and when he settles after the pillow thing, it’s with his side firmly against Patrick’s back.

Patrick’s eyes fly open in surprise at the touch. It’s so warm, and so close: if he listens carefully, he can hear Jonny’s heartbeat.

For some reason that makes it a little bit of a struggle to breathe normally. Patrick tries to relax into it, because he doesn’t want Jonny to move. Wants to fall asleep like this, Jonny’s body snug against his.

The touch along his side relaxes him soon enough. It’s like a drug, lulling Patrick into sleepiness, so that he can feel himself falling down, down, submerging into the feeling of Jonny.

When he wakes up again, it feels much later. The lights are still on in the room, but the TV is off, and Jonny’s curled fully around him: his chest to Patrick’s back, his leg thrown over Patrick’s, his arm around Patrick’s belly. The wolf in Patrick is practically purring with contentment. Patrick nestles closer and drops off again, sleeps better than he has in months.

He feels awesome all the next day. He’s smiling so much that Sharpy looks at him suspiciously and makes a show of checking all his gear before putting it on. Jonny seems to be in a good mood as well: he slaps Patrick’s shoulder as they’re leaving the ice after they win the game, and he doesn’t complain when Patrick drops off to sleep on his shoulder on the plane that night.

It’s late when he gets back, but he calls Jackie anyway. It’s a long-standing agreement between the two of them that he’ll call her after he gets back from road trips, because he can’t call her as much during. “You sound all giddy,” she says, almost as soon as he says hello.

“Do I?” he says, with a little laugh that he knows does nothing to disprove her point.

“What happened?” she asks. “Did you meet someone?”

“Yeah, right,” he says. “Who am I going to meet?”

She makes a hm sound. “I don’t know,” she says. “But I still think it’s about a girl.”

“Just shows what you know,” he says, and she growls at him in frustration until he laughs.

***

After that, it happens at least once per road trip: Patrick collapsing on the bed where Jonny’s watching TV and, more often than not, falling asleep there. He always wakes up to find Jonny wrapped around him. It’s not enough—there are plenty of nights he still has to sleep alone—but it’s more than he had before. He almost doesn’t miss shifting, when he has this.

***

They don’t make the playoffs. No one’s surprised by that, but Patrick’s still disappointed.

His flight out to Buffalo isn’t till a couple of days after their last game, so he goes over to play video games with Jonny. Since they started their same-bed TV routine, they’ve been spending more time together, and Patrick’s gotten more comfortable slumping down next to Jonny when they’re on the couch.

This time they get tired of video games after a couple of hours and end up watching sitcom reruns. Patrick slips down until his head is on Jonny’s thigh, and Jonny threads his fingers through his hair and scratches his head.

“I guess that’s it for this year,” Jonny says. He has his stony face on, but his fingers are gentle on Patrick’s scalp.

“Mm.” Patrick’s upset too, but it’s hard to really feel it when Jonny’s scratching his head like this. It’s just so exactly what he wants that he has trouble not baring his throat to Jonny and whining for more.

“Next year, though,” Jonny says, voice firmer. “Next year we’ll be better.”

“The summer’s long,” Patrick says, somewhat nonsensically. He doesn’t even know why he says it, when going home to his sisters and parents is the only good thing to come out of not making the playoffs. But right now, with Jonny’s fingers in his hair, next year seems really far away.

“More time to train,” Jonny says, and he keeps scratching until Patrick falls asleep.

***

Patrick goes home the next day and proceeds to cuddle with his sisters as much as they’ll let him. Which is a lot. Erica and Jess may not be wolves, but they don’t object to a good cuddle pile now and then. Kane women are awesome, basically.

He’s doesn’t hear anything from Jonny until he’s been home for a couple of days, and then he gets a text. “What the…” he says.

“Hm?” Erica says. She and Jess and Jacks are all lying with him in a pile on the living room couch.

“Just Jonny.” The text is nothing but a picture of a training plan with Patrick’s name at the top. It’s obviously in Jonny’s handwriting. That’s what we have trainers for, you idiot, he texts back.

“Yeah? How’s Jonny?” Erica asks, in a voice that makes Patrick look over at her. She has enough of a silly smile on his face that he frowns.

“You are not allowed to date hockey players. Remember?”

“Double standard,” Jackie grouses, and Patrick’s been lured into conversations about feminism enough times to know when to disengage.

His phone beeps. Like you listen to the trainers.

Shut up, I so do, he writes back, because he does. He’s baller like that.

“I wish I had a boyfriend to text me,” Jess says in a teasing voice that doesn’t even make sense. Patrick’s had enough of this.

“Who wants to go on a shopping trip?” he asks, and of course they all do.

He thinks about deleting Jonny’s training schedule photo, but he ends up hanging onto it. It looks like it could be useful.

***

Patrick does a lot of training that summer. He also cuddles Jackie a hell of a lot, and his other sisters almost as much, and he texts Jonny basically every day and Sharpy pretty at least once a week. He’s feeling pretty good about life by the time he gets back to Chicago.

He breaks his third rule for himself almost right away.

It’s just that he’s so glad to be back. He wasn’t happy to leave home—there may or may not have been more crying involved—but even since he got together with the team last night, sat next to Jonny and let Sharpy chirp him for his new haircut and laughed at Duncs and Seabs for being codependent losers and talked about how they’re going to win the cup this year, he’s been flying on that feeling of team. So he may not be paying the most attention when rounds the corner outside Starbucks.

“Oops,” he says to the guy he bumped into. “Sorry, man.”

“No big,” the guy says. He doesn’t seem to be injured, so Patrick figures it really is no big.

It’s only as the guy straightens up that Patrick realizes he’s a wolf.

Patrick jumps back, blood running hot, then cold. The guy looks at him, and Patrick can see the moment he figures out that Patrick is a wolf, and then the moment that he recognizes him.

“Hey, easy,” the guy says, grabbing Patrick’s elbow, probably because it looked—rightly—like Patrick was about to bolt. The guy is a beta, and he smells bonded, so it’s not as aggressive a move as it might be. But it still makes Patrick’s hackles rise.

“I’m not going to—” the guy says, but Patrick growls at him.

“Get off me, man,” he says, and shoves the guy. It’s a clear threat: a mess with me and pay move. Patrick’s never done anything like it off the ice.

The guy’s face goes through fear, then annoyance, then understanding. Patrick doesn’t stick around to see anything else. He’s out of there and not looking back.

Chapter Text

Patrick goes home as fast as he can and spends that night curled up in his bed, holding his knees against his chest. When he lies like this, he can almost pretend he’s holding somebody else. He’s never wanted somebody else to curl up with more than right now, and there’s never been a worse time to do it.

Someone knows about him now. He’s just a rando, but he’s a wolf, and if he tells someone, the story will have enough credibility to at least get in the tabloids. Even if everyone who reads it dismisses it as a rumor, it will get people watching him, and then they’ll see something to confirm it. Patrick’s not good enough at hiding to be able to do it when people are watching.

He wishes he had somebody to talk to. He could call Jackie, but he doesn’t want to have to tell her. Doesn’t want to hear his fear spoken out loud.

What he really wants isn’t the talking, anyway. He wants someone to lie next to him and hold him until everything feels a little better. He could maybe get that, if he called up Jonny and got him to slump on the couch with him and watch a movie until Patrick was curled into his side, but Jonny would notice something was wrong, and then Patrick would have to explain. And he can’t explain.

What he wants is pack, and he can't have that. So he lies there alone, until the shaking goes down and he can fall asleep.

Jonny notices anyway, of course. “Rough night?” he asks at practice the next morning. It’s a question that could be judgy, that has been judgy many times before, coming from Jonny, but it doesn’t sound judgy right now. Patrick wonders how bad he looks, for Jonny to sound like that.

“Just couldn’t sleep,” he says. He’s still feeling shaky, has been since he woke up, and he tries to keep his hands steady as he unpacks his bag.

“You’re not getting sick, are you?” Jonny asks. “You look a little pale.”

He puts his hand on Patrick’s forehead, and, God help him, Patrick leans into it. He just can’t help it: Jonny’s touch is so incredibly grounding, and this is what he’s wanted since yesterday. He has the urge to roll onto the ground and show Jonny his belly and let him rub it, the way he would if Jonny were real pack instead of just team.

“You don’t feel warm,” Jonny says, and takes his hand away.

Patrick makes a noise. He winces right after he does it, because it’s such a needy, mewling noise, but he wasn’t done yet. He wants Jonny to keep touching him.

Jonny’s giving him a weird look. “Maybe you should see the trainers anyway.”

“Yeah,” Patrick says, forcing himself to step away and sit down. “I’ll do that.”

He doesn’t see the trainers. He knows what’s wrong with him, and the trainers don’t have anything to help with it.

It’s two days later when he sees the guy again. He’s leaving the UC, and the guy is just standing there on the sidewalk, like it’s okay to stalk NHL players at their place of work.

Patrick stops as soon as he sees him and goes stiff. “What are you doing here?” he growls.

The guy is far enough away that he wouldn’t have heard if he were human. But he hears. Patrick can tell he hears, by the way he drops his head a little, opens his stance to be nonthreatening. “I just have something to say to you,” he says, at the same volume Patrick used.

Patrick looks around. None of his teammates are nearby. He moves a little closer to the guy, so that it won’t look too strange if anyone comes by. Just two people having a normal conversation. “I’m not interested in anything you have to say.”

“I know,” the guy says quickly. He’s in his thirties, maybe, thinning hair, shirt and tie. “Just—there’s a place you might want to go.” He holds out a card, like a business card.

Patrick stares at it. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“Sometimes some of us like the chance to relax,” the guy says. “In a place where everyone knows not to start rumors.”

Patrick keeps looking at the card. He can’t imagine a place like that.

“It’s up to you,” the guy says. “I just thought you might want to know about it.”

Patrick makes himself breathe. “Everyone there is…” he asks in a voice that sounds too low and scratchy to be his own.

The guy nods. “Can’t get in otherwise. You’d be safe.”

Patrick closes his eyes for a beat. His stomach is roiling. “I don’t know, man,” he says, and it’s more honest than he wanted to be.

The guy shrugs. “That’s fine.” He tosses the card at Patrick, and Patrick’s surprised into catching it. “If you do go, though, tell them Josh sent you.” He grins. “I get a free beer for that.”

Patrick snorts. The card between his fingers is blank white, with nothing but an address on it. He closes his hand around it to hide it from view.

“Good luck, man,” Josh says, and turns and walks away.

There’s a sudden noise behind him, and Patrick turns to see Jonny coming up the walk. Jonny’s looking after Josh as he walks away. “What was that?”

“Some fan,” Patrick says. “I don’t know. He was weird.”

Jonny puts his hand on Patrick’s shoulder, heavy, protective, and looks up and down the sidewalk as if for signs of trouble. Patrick wants to nuzzle Jonny’s hand and climb into his jacket.

“Looks like he’s gone now,” Jonny says. “You okay?”

“Yeah. It was no big deal,” Patrick says. He slips the card into his pocket.

***

The card sits on Patrick’s dresser for two weeks.

To be more accurate, the card sits on his dresser, underneath a box of cufflinks his parents gave him for his eighteenth birthday. There’s nothing on the card that’s at all identifying, but Patrick can’t help imagining that someone will find it, make the connection.

It stays there until the day after they come back from a road trip. It’s a good trip: they win two out of three games, and Patrick pulls off sleeping in Jonny’s bed three times. That usually makes him feel good, sets him up for a couple of weeks without much contact, but right now he just feels antsy. Itchy. It’s not even the full moon, but he feels like wolfing out and howling until some other wolves hear him and come join.

No, he tells the wolf, like he always does. When it gets like this, he usually goes out for a run until the urge to wolf out subsides, but he doesn’t feel like going for a run tonight. His eyes keep straying to the box of cufflinks on his dresser.

He goes over and pulls the card out from underneath it. The address is only a fifteen-minute walk away. He could just drop in. He wouldn’t need to stay very long.

It takes him a while to get ready, because he can’t figure out what to wear. What do wolves wear, when they go out to…clubs? Is it even a club? He’s heard about places like that, but usually from people decrying the wolf population—dens of iniquity, and all that. That seems unlikely, but he doesn’t know what to expect.

In the end, he puts on jeans and a button-down. It feels safe. Anonymous.

The walk to the address feels longer than it is. Patrick keeps looking around, as if someone might notice him and guess where he’s going. It’s crazy—no one can tell where he’s headed; they probably don’t even know this place exists—but he’s jittery anyway.

When he gets there, it turns out to be just an unmarked door in a plain-looking wall. He knocks on it, feeling like someone out of a spy movie.

The woman who opens it is wearing black leather and has multiple piercings in her lip. She’s an alpha—bonded, by the scent, but her smell still hits Patrick and tugs on something within him.

She looks at him, unimpressed. “Yes?” she says, blandly, and then she sniffs and her face changes. “Oh! Sorry, I didn’t realize…”

“Yeah,” Patrick says. He knows he doesn’t smell much like a wolf. He’s worked hard at that. He wonders if this is going to mess that up, but it feels a little late for that now. “Um, Josh sent me?”

That gets him a smile. “Great; I’ll tell the bartender.” She turns and beckons him after her. “Come with me.”

He gets a warm feeling at being given the order. He wants to obey a little more than he should, bear his throat and maybe let her bite it a little. He doesn’t—just follows her back.

The room is dimly lit and set up vaguely like a bar. Except only about half the room has tables and booths: the rest is piles of cushions and low couches. People are cuddling in twos and threes and sixes. Most people are in human form, but everyone smells like a wolf.

Patrick stops in the doorway and tries not to hyperventilate. He was hoping that once he got here, he’d feel less nervous, but instead he just feels it more. There are actual wolves lying around, in public. What if this place gets raided? He doesn’t think that happens anymore—it’s not like being a wolf is still illegal—but if it does, he can’t be caught here. Deadspin would have a field day. He might as well wolf out in the middle of the ice.

He came here for a reason, though. He goes up to the bar. “One of whatever’s on tap,” he says to the red-haired beta who’s bartending. She gives him a smile and slides him a pint of something dark and bitter.

Patrick sips his beer and surveys the room. No one’s staring at him. They’re all having conversations, like people at a normal bar, except there’s so much more touching. Everywhere he looks, people are in groups, draped over each other or snuggling with their head on a wolf’s belly. It makes him ache.

He wonders if he can just approach a strange pack and strike up a conversation. Everyone here seems to know each other already. Normally at a bar he’d find a hot girl and hit on her, but that’s not what he wants to do here. He doesn’t want to pick up. He just wants to—

“New here?” someone asks from his other side.

Patrick turns to see a woman, maybe thirty-five, decently attractive. She’s a beta and smells very bonded.

“Yeah,” he says, trying on a smile. “How could you tell?”

She smiles to acknowledge the question. “Lisa,” she says, holding out a hand. He gives his name, shakes it, holds on for what would be too long in any other setting but isn’t here. She gestures behind her. “My partner and some of ours are over there. Want to join us?”

Patrick follows her over to a pile of cushions where a few people are lounging with a few wolves. Lisa sits down next to a woman who puts her arms around her, and Patrick perches nearby. He’s not sure what the rules are for touch here, yet. He can’t be sure—he hasn’t spent a lot of time around adult wolves—but he’s pretty sure they smell like a pack.

Lisa introduces him around, to the humans as well as to the wolves. Patrick shakes hands with the humans and scratches the heads of the wolves. Then he folds his hands in his lap.

There are a few glances among the group. “We don’t stand on ceremony here,” Lisa’s bondmate, Tammy, says. It’s friendly, if a little bit amused. She reaches her hand out to him again. “Want to join us?”

Patrick puts down his beer and takes her hand, not quite sure what’s going to happen, and she pulls him forward. He lands with an oof between her and one of the men, a bonded omega, with the man’s alpha partner in wolf form at his back. Patrick hesitates for a moment before leaning against the furry side.

It feels—strange, having wolves around him, pressed so close. Everyone settles their limbs again, incorporating Patrick into the pile. The guy next to him (Nick? He can’t quite remember) slings an arm around his back. Tammy leans against his shoulder, and the alpha behind him (Brian, Patrick thinks) leans forward and gives his ear a nuzzle and a little lick: a friendly greeting, acceptance.

“So, what do you do?” Lisa asks, as if this is a normal thing, to engage in small talk while snuggling in a big pile.

“I play hockey,” Patrick says.

He sees the flash of recognition in Tammy’s face, and he knows he’s been caught. They’ll all know who he is, as soon as he leaves. But he was resigned to that already.

“My nephew plays hockey,” Nick says. Patrick doesn’t think he realizes who he is yet. “Out in Evanston. Did you grow up around here?”

“No, in Buffalo,” Patrick says.

“Long way from home,” Lisa says, an edge of something like sympathy in her voice, and Patrick nods. Suddenly he feels near tears: the warm bodies around him, the wolf smell in the air, the acceptance he feels thrumming through all of them. He feels like he doesn’t deserve this. He blinks his eyes and tries to hide it, but they’re wolves, so of course they notice. They don’t say anything, though: just move a little closer, the ones that are touching him, and the alpha, Brian, puts his nose on Patrick’s shoulder and breathes into his neck.

Patrick clears his throat and feels the lump mostly go away. “What do you all do?” he asks.

They are a pack, as he guessed: the four of them as well as a few others who aren’t there tonight. They don’t all live together, but they live on the same street—”And end up in the same bed, more often than not,” Tammy says, making everyone smile. With the team, it would be innuendo, but it’s not here. They sleep in piles. It’s how they are.

Brian’s the alpha, and Patrick watches out of the corner of his eye as they all interact with him. It’s different with Nick, of course: he gets the surreptitious nips and licks that only belong to an alpha’s mate. But even the rest of them—Lisa goes up to get a round for the others at one point, and when she gets back, kneeling before the group as she passes out the beer, Brian spend a moment just looking at her, then touches his wolf nose to her forehead. She breaks into this small and really happy smile. It’s so easy, natural. Patrick tries to imagine what it would feel like, having someone act like that toward him. It’s a little too easy to imagine and too difficult at the same time.

More and more of the people in the room wolf out as the evening goes on. They don’t usually get a chance to, in Chicago: it’s not illegal to be a wolf, but it’s illegal to be in wolf form in public in most major cities, and wolves don’t get a lot of chances to be wolves together outside of their own pack.

Brian and Nick trade places after a while, Nick wolfing out and Brian going human again. “We like to take turns,” Brian says to Patrick. “Otherwise it’s too easy to disconnect from the room, forget where you are.”

Patrick nods. He remembers that: the essential feeling of wolfness, like your body and the other wolves around you are the most important things in the world. Like human problems don’t matter. It’s great, until you have to go back to being human and find out you’ve caused yourself some new ones.

“How about you?” Lisa asks him, her hands in Tammy’s fur.

He shakes his head. “Can’t,” he says, and they don’t ask any more questions.

***

Patrick wants to wolf out, though. He goes home and dreams about it: that he’s on four legs, running and running on ground that never ends. There are other wolves all around him, and when they’re done running, they collapse in a pile on the ground and nuzzle each other into sleep.

When he wakes up, Patrick’s relieved to see that he’s still in human form. He gets up and takes a very long shower.

It feels like he got away with this huge thing, last night. He’s sure everyone will know when he walks into practice the next morning. But no one even looks twice at him—and why would they? It’s not like he has fur on his clothing.

He goes extra hard at practice. Part of it is the leftover frustration of not being able to wolf out like he wants to. But he’s also just more on than usual, more precise, more aware of his own limbs.

Naturally, Jonny notices. He’d probably have to be struck with temporary blindness not to notice, the way he constantly critiques everyone’s play. He stops in front of Patrick’s stall when they’re all changing and fixes Patrick with that intense stare of his.

Patrick’s gotten used to that look over the past year-plus, but for some reason it makes him squirm more than usual. “See something you like?” he jokes.

“You did good today,” Jonny says, tone completely serious, and Patrick’s uneasiness melts. In its place is a sudden desire to show Jonny how much he liked that. It’s kind of intense, actually: the urge to nuzzle at Jonny’s jaw, maybe drop to the ground and show him how good he is, how much better he can be for him. It’s the way he would behave towards his—

Well, shit.

Chapter Text

Patrick doesn’t think about it.

It’s pretty easy not to think about, because he really doesn’t want to. He goes over it in his head a few times right after it happens, when he’s gone home and is freaking out on the couch a little bit, before he realizes that it makes perfect sense. The team is a pack. Jonny’s in charge of the team. Of course Patrick would think of him as his alpha. It’s just his wolf biology interpreting the situation.

He doesn’t tell Jackie about it when he calls her later. He does tell her about the club, though. “It was crazy,” he says. “They were just—all wolves, Jacks, all of them, and—and they were just together. Wolfed out, some of them. But all together, no one hiding.”

“That’s awesome,” she says. “I wish we had someplace like that here.”

“The people are all so normal,” he says, fishing cold cuts out of the fridge. He’s hungry the way he usually only is after games, or when he was a kid and would run as a wolf. “They’re, like, accountants and stuff.”

“Duh,” she says. “Did you meet anyone…special?”

He can hear the grin in her voice, and he rolls his eyes while he spreads mayo. “Like I could ever date a wolf. I might as well just announce myself to the team.”

“Well, maybe that’s not such a bad idea,” she says, and Patrick drops his sandwich on the floor.

“What?” he says, too high and squeaky, but he can’t control it right now.

“It’s the twenty-first century,” she says. “It’s not like they’re still burning wolves at the stake.”

His sandwich fixings are all over the floor now. He stares at them. “That’s a pretty low bar, Jacks.”

“Look,” she says. “You know Cody and Beth at school? In my class?”

“Um. Maybe?” He doesn’t remember anyone from her class except the wolves.

“They found out last week,” she says, and he goes tense, but she goes on. “I thought it would be awful, but, Pat, they were okay with it.” Her voice is trembling with happiness, and oh, he didn’t know this was the conversation they were having. “They said they think all the prejudice against wolves is closed-minded and dumb, and then we hung out some more later in the weekend, and it was so normal. They really didn’t care.”

“That’s awesome, Jacks.” Patrick’s voice cracks a little.

“I was thinking,” she says, “it could be the same for you.”

He clenches his fingers around the edge of the counter top. “Jackie. I’m a professional hockey player.”

“I know,” she says. “But—”

“Yeah,” he says. He looks at the spilled cold cuts around his feet. “Okay. I’ll think about it.”

***

He doesn’t think about it. There are a lot of things he’s not thinking about these days.

He doesn’t go back to the club for a while, either. He does google his name a little obsessively for a week or so, to see if anyone who saw him there decided to leak the news. There isn’t anything—he didn’t really think there would be, with what Josh told him and the vibe he got there—but he can’t help thinking it’s risky. Safer not to go too often.

He has a few bad games a couple weeks later, though. He knows he could go over to Jonny’s and complain until Jonny gives him a be better speech and maybe lets Patrick slump against his side while they watch a dumb movie they’ve seen a dozen times before. But that’s not the best idea right now for reasons he’s still not thinking about, and anyway, he kind of wants to not have to lie to anyone for a while.

The girl at the door of the club lets him in right away this time. Inside, it looks just like it did before, and Patrick doesn’t think he’s expecting anything specific until he looks around and realizes that yeah, he was hoping Tammy and Lisa and Nick and Brian would be there again. They’re not, though. Of course they’re not.

But he feels shy about approaching another pack. He doesn’t know too much about wolf etiquette, has been avoiding wolves too much to be well-versed in it, but approaching a strange group feels pretty wrong, even if they’d probably be nice about it.

He goes to the bar again, nurses a beer and tries not to feel too jealous as more people trickle in in twos and threes, laughing and talking in low voices. He doesn’t need to hang out with anyone. He can just sit here, not worry about being different for a change. That’s enough for the night. It…would be nice to be sitting with someone, though.

He’s gotten through about half his beer when someone says, “I hear I have you to thank for this.”

Patrick turns to see Josh, the guy who gave him the card with the club’s address. He’s holding a beer and grinning.

“Yeah,” Patrick says, maybe a little too quickly. “Yeah, you’re welcome.”

“Pretty good season you guys are having,” Josh says, and Patrick can do this. He can talk hockey with another wolf in a bar without stumbling all over himself.

They talk for a while, and Patrick relaxes into it until it’s like any other conversation with a well-informed fan. Josh knows his stuff, even if his views on their powerplay are stupid. “It’s not about what Jonny is—” Patrick’s saying, when Josh looks behind him, swift and sure, like someone said his name.

It’s a woman—the beta Patrick could smell he was bonded to. Their bond is really obvious now in the way he reaches for her and she reaches back without hesitation, the little smiles they give each other, the way he sniffs her hair as she settles against him. “Oh, hey, this is Gemma,” Josh says. “Gemma, this is Patrick.”

Gemma holds out her hand, and Patrick shakes it, but he’s staring at her, because something’s off. It takes him a moment to put it together, and then he realizes—

“Are you not a wolf?” he asks, before he can think better of it, and then feels himself go bright red.

They both just laugh, though. “Yeah, I’m not,” she says. “Got in because of this one.” She cuffs Josh in the neck fondly.

“Is that—” he cuts himself off, can’t quite figure out what he wants to ask. His stomach is churning. “I mean. How did you guys—meet?”

Josh looks at him like maybe he can guess the way Patrick’s sweating. He can probably smell it, actually. “It’s…unusual,” he says, answering the first question that Patrick didn’t quite ask. “I won’t say Lisa’s family was thrilled when they found out. But it’s worked out for us.”

Patrick knows that there are lots of crossovers between wolf families and non-wolves, but it’s usually a few generations after any wolves have presented. Like with his mom’s family. They were all surprised when Patrick and Jackie presented after three generations of pure humans. He knows that it does happen, sometimes, humans and wolves getting together, but he’s also heard the slurs. Most wolves don’t want to bother putting up with that, especially for a partner who can’t bond with them in the wolf way.

But he can smell the bond between them. Gemma’s head is on Josh’s shoulder, and he’s turned in towards her, fingers stroking the back of her hand. “And—you guys are—”

He doesn’t expect his voice to come out as broken as it does. Gemma turns to rest her chin on Josh’s shoulder, gives him a quick nuzzle. “Full bond,” she says. “We weren’t sure it would take at first, because Josh had never met someone with a human bondmate, but it did.”

“I’ll say.” Josh nips hers nose, and she gets this look on her face that Patrick really, really envies.

Some of that must show on his face, because when she settles her head on his shoulder again, she gives him this sort of understanding glance. “Any reason you’re asking?”

“No,” Patrick says, because there isn’t, really. There isn’t anyone. “Just curious.”

***

Josh and Gemma know a lot of people at the club, and they introduce Patrick around. There are some formalities to it, but it’s pretty easy because he’s the omega and just has to stand and look a little bit meek and grateful when he meets the alphas. After that he can act however he wants, which is a good thing, because if he had to be meek all the time, he’d have way more problems with this wolf thing than just the secrecy.

It’s a good night. Patrick meets more people than he has in a long time, but they’re so welcoming that he feels like he knows them before the night is half over. Or maybe that’s just the influence of lots of beer and wolf snuggles. It’s just—it’s so good.

He’s still feeling great a day later, not even frustrated at not being able to wolf out this time. He’s thinking he might be able to go back to the club a little bit more often. He couldn’t actually join any of the packs, but he could maybe spend some more time with them.

“What are you grinning about?” Jonny asks, elbowing him in the ribs. They’re walking from one bar to another, trailing behind Duncs and Seabs.

“Dude, we just crushed the Canucks,” Patrick says. “Of fucking course I’m happy.”

Jonny grins back at him, because damn right, they just crushed the Canucks, and that’s when Patrick hears his name.

He snaps his head around. “Patrick! Hey, Patrick!” he hears, and he sees someone jogging across the street towards him.

For a second Patrick thinks he looks familiar but can’t place him. Then he catches his scent, and—it’s Dave. One of the guys from last night.

Patrick instantly goes rigid. Dave doesn’t seem to notice, just grins at him. “Hey, man, how’s it going?”

“Um,” Patrick says. It comes out sort of like a croak. He can’t come up with anything else, though, because Jonny and Duncs and Seabs are right there, and this guy knows Patrick is a wolf and none of Patrick’s body parts are working right now.

“Just caught the game,” Dave says. “Fucking awesome, dude.” He’s young, maybe still in college, Patrick doesn’t quite remember. “That last goal, right?”

He holds his fist up for a fistbump, and Patrick gets it together enough to say, “Yeah, man, thanks for watching.” Returning the fistbump is harder, but he does it, and thinks he maybe manages to look sort of normal.

His scent must be all off, though, because Dave falters. “Well, uh.” He glances at Jonny, then back at Patrick. “I’d better…go?”

“Yeah. Bye,” Patrick says, all forcedly cheery. He knows he should say something like “See you,” because Dave’s a good guy, but honestly, what was he thinking, coming up to Patrick in front of his teammates?

Dave walks away. Duncs and Seabs have doubled back to see what was taking them so long, and Patrick is carefully not looking at any of them.

“Dude,” Seabs says. “I think that guy was a wolf.”

Patrick’s head snaps up. Seabs is looking in the direction that Dave disappeared, frowning slightly.

“Ugh,” Duncs says, and now he’s got this disgusted look on his face. “People like that shouldn’t be allowed on the streets.”

Patrick sucks in a breath, hopes it isn’t too obvious. Seabs doesn’t look quite as disgusted as Duncs, but it’s not great. Patrick wants to see Jonny’s face, but he can’t, because Jonny’s stepped in front of him, as if to guard Patrick from attack. He can see the tension in the lines of Jonny’s neck and back.

“What, uh.” Patrick clears his throat and starts again. “What makes you think he’s a wolf?”

“Dunno.” Seabs shrugs. “I just get a feeling sometimes.”

“Probably a good thing,” Duncs says. “That way you can avoid them.”

Patrick lets out a strangled sound that is only in the loosest sense a laugh. It makes Jonny turn around, and Patrick catches a glimpse of his face: dark, glowery.

“You okay there, Kaner?” Seabs asks.

“You know, I think I’m gonna go home,” Patrick says. “I’m pretty beat.”

“I’ll go with you,” Jonny says, and Patrick should want to go alone, to have some time to process this news that his teammates view wolves exactly the way he expected them to, but it’s so easy to lean into Jonny’s side and be led away.

Jonny gets them a cab and walks Patrick to his door. He hesitates before he leaves, and Patrick tenses up right away.

“I just want to make sure you’re okay,” Jonny says. He’s looking at Patrick with that weird intensity he usually only gets about hockey stuff, and Patrick waits to see what’s coming next, but that seems to be it. He exhales a little.

“Yeah,” he says. “I’m okay.”

“Good,” Jonny says. He does the staring thing for another few moments before he finally leaves.

Patrick goes inside, finds the card from the club, and puts it down the garbage disposal.

Chapter Text

It’s not like Patrick doesn’t remember where the club is without the card. But there’s no way he’s going back. It still makes him run hot and cold to think about it.

The club changed him, he realizes as soon as he can think about it without that sick swoop of shame and horror. It made him think—that it was okay to be like this. That maybe people wouldn’t care if they found out. That he could indulge the wolf side of him, just a little bit, and relax his rules.

Not just by going to the club. By being himself around his teammates, cuddling with the Bowman kids, and—Jonny. Thinking about him makes the shame prick sharp and hot again. Everything about the way he’s been acting around Jonny this year falls under the category of not okay. Maybe nothing’s happened yet, but if he keeps on the way he’s been going, he’s going to let his guard down and let the wolf come out for real. And this time maybe he won’t get away with it.

It’s all right, though. Patrick still hasn’t done anything irreparable. He can dial it back.

He does, starting on their next road trip. He and Jonny haven’t hung out much over the past week since the thing with Dave on the street, but the difference hasn’t really been noticeable: they’re both busy, and they don’t always have a lot of time for movies and video games. They have three pretty tough games, win two of them, and then go on the road.

At first Patrick’s idea is to avoid Jonny entirely. But then he’s in the aisle of the plane, trying to figure out if he should go sit with Sharpy or Steeger, and Jonny says, “Hey, Patrick, over here.”

Patrick can’t very well say no to that. He slides into the window seat next to Jonny and tells himself that it will be all right as long as he doesn’t try to snuggle. His wolf has gotten confused about Jonny. He needs to make it clear that Jonny is not pack (and definitely not alpha, says a tiny voice in his mind that he isn’t letting get any louder), and that means no cuddling.

That lasts until Patrick falls asleep. He wakes up a couple of hours later to find that he’s leaning on Jonny’s shoulder. He’s covered in a blanket that definitely wasn’t there when he fell asleep, which means Jonny put it there, and that makes him go all warm and fuzzy before he remembers that he’s not supposed to be feeling like that and sits up really quickly.

Jonny looks over at him, startled, and Patrick realizes that that wasn’t exactly playing it cool. He tries to slow his breathing. “Thanks, man,” he says, pushing the blanket down into his lap so that at least he’s not snuggling under it.

“Any time,” Jonny says, and he’s looking a little weird, but it’s okay. Patrick will do better next time.

Next time comes when they’re in their hotel room the next night. Patrick has decided that the key here is to pull away without making it obvious, so when Jonny lies down on his bed and turns the TV on, instead of lying next to him and ending up in a cuddly heap by the end of the night, Patrick goes to his bag and grabs his swim trunks.

“Going to swim a few laps,” he says.

Jonny gives him a confused face. “Since when do you swim?”

“Hey, some of us are serious athletes, you know.”

“Oh, fuck you,” Jonny says. “I bet you’re just going to hang out in the hot tub.”

“That’ll be between me and the chlorine,” Patrick says, and then escapes the room before he can do anything stupid, like invite Jonny to join him. He’d probably just be all competitive about who can swim more laps, anyway, and Patrick gets enough of that on the ice.

It is pretty boring swimming by himself, though.

***

The avoidance plan works pretty well. Patrick sticks to his own bed on the road, and he avoids the wolf club when he’s at home. Overall, he’s doing awesome at this. He’s playing really well, and the team looks like they might get to the playoffs, and if he has to curl up into a ball sometimes when he’s in bed at night just so he feels less alone, so be it.

Jackie asks him about the club when he’s home for Christmas, and then a few times on the phone that winter, and he gives vague answers. Not enough to confirm that he stopped going, but he’s pretty sure she gets the idea anyway. At least she isn’t bugging him about dating anymore.

“Actually,” she says, when he points this out in February. They’re on Skype, so he can see the way her cheeks get a little pink. “I’m sort of seeing someone.”

“Seriously?” Patrick doesn’t know whether to be worried or glad about this, but—she looks so happy. “Not someone whose ass I’m going to have to kick, is it?”

“Definitely not,” she says, rolling her eyes. “It’s…remember the guy I told you about who was cool with me being a wolf? Cody?”

“Yeah, I—wait.” Patrick takes a moment to catch up with that. “Hold on. You’re dating a non-wolf?”

“Yeah.” She bites her lip, and he knows she’s waiting for him to be cool with this, but he’s having trouble keeping his heart rate down. “He’s—he’s really sweet, you should see him, he just—”

“Jackie.” He’s trying not to look too obviously freaked out over Skype, but he’s pretty sure he’s failing. “I don’t think this is a good idea.”

She gets a stricken look, and he immediately feels guilty. It’s not like he’s her alpha—he’s not even an alpha—but he’s her older brother, the only wolf who’s been consistently part of her life forever, and he knows what it will mean to her if he doesn’t approve. But— “It’s just really risky,” he says. “What if his family doesn’t approve? What if you guys try to bond and it doesn’t take?”

“Patrick. I’m fifteen. It’s not like I’m going to bond next week.”

“Yes, but—”

“He loves me,” she says, and oh, the look in her eyes. He doesn’t think he’s ever seen her look quite like this. It—he has to blink a few extra times.

He lets out a shuddering breath. “He treats you well?”

“He’s the best,” she says, her voice soft. “He even joins in, sometimes, when Emily and Dax and the other wolves are over and we’re having a sleepover. He says—he says he likes it, sleeping with us wolves.”

Patrick feels a sudden, sharp ache he was not expecting, just under his rib cage. “That’s great,” he says. “I’m so happy for you, Jacks.”

She beams at him through the Skype window, and he doesn’t even have to fake the smile he gives her back. He still has to fight the tears off a little, though.

It’s his baby sister, in love for the first time. That’s plenty reason to cry.

***

Things are fine until March. They’re playing pretty well, almost definitely in the playoffs by this point, even if Patrick’s not sure yet if this is their year to go all the way. It feels good, but they might not be consistent enough yet. He’s going to fight tooth and nail for it, though, and maybe that’s what’s been making him feel jittery: that urgency to prove himself, to prove the team, to get out and go for the thing they all want above all.

The jitteriness is particularly bad when they head out for one of their last road trips before the playoffs. It’s a short flight, so Patrick doesn’t have to worry about any ill-advised shoulder sleeping, but he’s going out of his skin trying to sit still. He feels a little too warm, so for a moment he wonders if he has a fever, but no, he has too much energy for that. It’s probably just excitement, impatience to get there and play. He settles for sitting next to Sharpy and annoying him until Sharpy shoves him away and tells him to pick on someone his own size—oh wait, there is no one your size on an NHL team, I forgot, Peeks.

Patrick sticks his tongue out and goes to bother Hossa. Jonny’s sitting alone a few rows back, and Patrick could go sit with him, but for some reason that seems dangerous right now. So he sticks with Hoss until they get off the plane.

They have a game that night, and Patrick lights it up. Well—he feels like he does, and he’s definitely skating with energy, but things aren’t all connecting the way he wants them to. He gets a goal, but then he misses a few easy passes, and once he almost goes over the boards too early and Sharpy has to stop him with a hand to his chest.

“Whoa. Easy, there, tiger,” Sharpy says. “What’s your rush?”

Sharpy’s hand against his chest feels weird, and Patrick jerks away from it. “I’m fine,” he says, but on his next shift he shoots a pass to Jonny that is definitely, without a doubt, way too hard for the distance between them. It hits Jonny in the leg and makes him stumble a little before he gets his feet under him and the puck on his stick.

Jonny’s all over him when they get off the ice. “What the fuck was that, Patrick?” he yells at him as soon as they’re on the bench. “You call that control?”

“Hey, I’ve gotten a goal and an assist tonight, fucker, what have you done?” Patrick yells back, which is unfair, because the assist was on Jonny’s goal, but the way Jonny’s yelling makes him feel like he’s losing it, like something is shaking loose within him. He doesn’t realize he’s physically flailing until Duncs catches his arm.

“Chill, Kaner, you’ve got this,” Duncs says, and on the other side, Seabs is taking Jonny’s arm and keeping him from giving him the beat-down Patrick is, quite frankly, demanding. He almost wishes Jonny would: just go to town on him, punch him square in the face so that he feels it through his whole body—

Duncs wrestles him down onto the bench, and by the time he’s sitting, Patrick can control himself. He shoves Duncs’ hands off him. Duncs gives him a wary look, but he goes.

They win the game, 4-3, and everyone’s raring to go out afterward. “Hell, yes,” Patrick says when someone asks him, because he’s still feeling all restless and jittery and wants to burn off the energy.

They go back to the hotel to change, though, and by the time Patrick gets to his and Jonny’s room, he’s feeling wiped. It’s like a switch has been flipped: all the excess energy he’s had all day has just drained out of him. He said he’d go out, and he should, but—his bed is right there. Jonny’s not back in the room yet. He could maybe lie down for a minute, just rest his eyes, and then get up and join the others.

He wakes up a couple of hours later, and he’s shaking.

Not shaking like it’s cold out—shaking violently. Like he’s only done before when he’s had a really bad flu and no amount of blankets would keep him warm. He feels cold like that a little now, deep down, but also hot and flushed in his face and hands, and he’s just shuddering, so much. He can’t seem to stop it. The muscles of his arms and legs are jerking, his stomach is nauseous with it, and his teeth are clacking together in his head.

Is this—is it maybe a seizure? Patrick isn’t sure, doesn’t know where his phone is to look it up. He tries to straighten up and get off the bed, but his arms and legs don’t really want to do what he wants them to, and the movement makes his head spin and his stomach roll. He collapses back down and pulls himself into as tight a ball as possible.

He doesn’t know how much time passes. He’s pretty sure seizures are supposed to end after a few minutes, but this just keeps going, never getting any less violent. It’s miserable, and painful, and he just wants it to end, but it never does. And he’s so cold, except the parts of him that are burning, and he just wants it to stop—

The room is dark, so it’s really noticeable when the door opens and shuts. He hears Jonny’s voice say, “Patrick?”

Jonny, he wants to say back, but his jaw is shaking too much for him to manage it. He makes a garbled noise and hears Jonny coming closer to the bed.

“Patrick, oh my God.” There’s a light on now, and Jonny’s voice is a lot closer. Patrick curls up tighter, wanting to get away from Jonny’s voice but also not wanting him to leave. He makes another broken sound.

“Patrick.” Jonny’s hand is on his sleeve, tugging his arm away from his face. “Patrick, I need you to talk to me. Are you okay? Did something happen?”

Patrick doesn’t want to open his eyes. The light just makes everything worse. But then Jonny’s hand comes to rest, just a light touch, on his forehead, and—and Patrick gasps. Because that touch runs through him like water, like heat, soothing the cold spots inside of him and cooling the flush on his face at the same time. He’s still shaking, but it’s better, just a little bit more bearable, and he wants—

“I think I should go call the trainers,” Jonny says, and starts to withdraw.

Patrick shoots his hand out and grabs Jonny’s wrist. His muscles are clumsy, his aim epically bad, but Jonny moves with it and lets him cling on. “No,” Patrick manages to say through chattering teeth. “No, just—stay, please.”

Jonny gives him a dubious look and for a moment Patrick is afraid. He tries to say something else, but it comes out more like a sob than anything else.

“Okay,” Jonny says. “Okay, sh, I’ll stay.”

Patrick relaxes with relief as much as he can when all his muscles are locked and jittering. Jonny stands up, gets farther away, and Patrick panics again—but Jonny’s just taking off his shoes. He takes off his jeans as well and goes to grab something off the other bed which turns out to be the duvet. He swings it over Patrick and climbs under himself, going to the far side of the bed to spoon up behind Patrick’s back.

The instant Jonny’s body presses up against his, Patrick feels his shaking lessen. It’s still violent, still painful, but less so. “I’m,” he says, and another sound that’s embarrassingly like a sob comes from his mouth. “Jonny—”

“Sh, sh.” Jonny tucks an arm around his waist, pulling Patrick tighter against him. “I’m here. You're good.”

Patrick lets out a breath that makes it feel as if his stomach and lungs are collapsing. The shaking’s still going down, the warmth of Jonny’s hand on his waist spreading through his chest.

“Did something happen?” Jonny asks softly.

Patrick manages to shake his head. He knows he should come up with some kind of answer, but he can’t think over the sensation of Jonny’s body against his. Jonny pushes his face forward, nose coming to rest on Patrick’s nape, and that little bit of skin on skin grounds him somewhere deep inside. It sends a shivery wave through his body that’s totally different from the shaking.

“It’s okay,” Jonny whispers. “You’re okay.” He moves his nose, just a little, against Patrick’s skin. “You can rest now.”

Patrick’s eyes droop closed, and he does.

Chapter Text

Patrick wakes up warm, comfortable, and extremely embarrassed.

Jonny’s still wrapped around him, legs entangled with Patrick’s and hand flat on Patrick’s stomach. Patrick’s first impulse is to pull away, but he can feel the way his body is still soaking this up. The touch.

He’s been so stupid. It’s one thing to keep his wolf nature on the DL, but it’s another to deny himself his basic needs. To be fair, he always thought touch deprivation sickness was just a story they told you to make you join a pack when you grew up, kind of like the one about how masturbation will make you blind (and he knows that one’s not true, after the past couple years of hardly ever picking up). But still, he’s an athlete. He should have been more in tune with his body than that.

Jonny moves a little behind him, and Patrick feels another wave of embarrassment. He should maybe move before Jonny wakes up properly, but it just feels so good.

Jonny’s hand tightens around his middle, so it’s too late for that anyway. “Hey,” he says in a sleep-roughened voice. “You okay?”

“Yeah.” Patrick wants to fall down a hole and die. And also never have to get off of this bed.

There’s a little bit of wordless snuffling behind him, because Jonny is totally a zombie in the morning. “That was pretty scary,” Jonny mumbles finally. “What was that?”

“Uh.” Patrick goes a little tense, would probably go tenser if Jonny weren’t so thoroughly wrapped around him. “I guess some kind of flu?”

Jonny yawns, rolls onto his back, and stretches. Patrick feels a little cold in the places Jonny was touching, but—stable. Not like he’s about to lose it again. “It was super weird,” Jonny says. “You should go see the trainers.”

Patrick rolls onto his back as well. They aren’t touching, but they’re close. His limbs still feel shaky, but just a weak kind of shaky, like maybe he just did a bag skate. “Yeah, I will.”

“Good.” Jonny yawns again. Patrick watches his mouth stretch open. “God, I could sleep for hours. Is it time to get up yet?”

It would be kind of nice if it weren’t. Maybe Jonny would let Patrick spoon up against him again. Patrick raises his head to look at the clock on the nightstand. “Oh. Yeah, it is.”

“Fuck.” But Jonny sits up right away, because he’s responsible like that. He prods at Patrick’s side. “Move your ass. I have to go shower.”

“Move your own ass. I’m comfy here.” If Jonny’s taking first shower, Patrick can sleep for another fifteen minutes. Maybe his muscles will start feeling less like Jell-O.

Jonny grimaces and moves to climb over Patrick, but he stops when he’s perched above him. One hand’s on either side of Patrick’s face, his lower body still on the far side of the bed. “You’re sure you’re okay, right?”

He’s looking down at Patrick with his patented Jonny glare. It doesn’t look to Patrick like anger—never has, even when they’ve been shouting at each other on the ice. It’s more about how seriously Jonny takes things, and right now Patrick’s the thing he’s taking seriously. It makes Patrick’s stomach twist in a not entirely unpleasant way. “I think so.”

Jonny looks at him for another few beats before he nods and rolls off. His legs brush against Patrick’s as he does, and Patrick feels the touch way more than he should. He lets his eyes close and pretends to go back to sleep, resolutely not thinking about how right it had felt to have Jonny over him like that.

***

After the touch starvation thing, it’s obviously time for Patrick to rethink his wolf avoidance plan.

He’s still not going to the club, because that shit isn’t safe. But he was stupid to deprive himself of touch. He needs to be stable if he wants to keep it a secret, and anyway, that could have been really dangerous. He doesn’t even want to think about what might have happened if Jonny hadn’t been there.

So he ups his team cuddliness a bit. He gives more bro hugs in the locker room, climbs on Hossa’s back when he’ll let him, lets Sharpy ruffle his hair. He goes back to curling up next to Jonny at bars and in hotel rooms.

Patrick’s a little awkward about that last one the first time it happens, since it’s been so long since they did it without Patrick being in the middle of a feverish shaking fit. But it turns out all he has to do is place a hesitant knee on the bed to get Jonny to make a huffing noise and pull him over to lie half across his chest. So that’s okay.

He also starts picking up, in part because Jackie asks him about his heats.

“I’m on suppressants; you know that,” he says when he’s finished spitting his soda all over the counter. Not a topic he expected to come up on a phone call with his little sister.

“Right,” she says, “it’s just that I was talking to Emily, and she said they don’t always work.”

“What do you mean?” he asks. “Like, not on some people?” That would suck major balls.

“No, like they work on pretty much everyone, just not all the time. Like, sometimes a heat can get through.”

Patrick freezes.

It lasts long enough that Jackie says, “Pat?”

“Yeah,” he says. Then he clears his throat. “Yeah, um, that’s really interesting.”

It’s not interesting. It’s horrifying. How did he not know about this? But it’s not like there are handbooks for wolves, and he wasn’t raised in a wolf-heavy family. And he hasn’t been hanging out with wolves much in adulthood.

“I just thought you should have the heads up,” Jackie says.

“Got it,” he says weakly.

The thing is, he had his first heat at fifteen, like most people. They don’t let you go on heat suppressants until after your first one—something about natural hormone cycles and wanting people to be prepared and shit like that, but all Patrick knows is that it sucked. It was basically the worst experience of his life, and he didn’t think he’d ever say that about something involving orgasms. It was just—the need was so crazy intense. If he could have satisfied it, that would have been great, but that wasn’t about to happen when he was fucking himself with a dildo. So instead it made him want to die. It was like the touch starvation sickness times a thousand.

Bad enough for that to happen when he was fifteen and at home with his family. If it were to happen when he was supposed to be playing a game, or, even worse, on the road—

It’s enough to get him in front of a computer that night, in a private browser window and frantically googling heat prevention in omegas. There’s a lot of contradictory crap about herbs and not-herbs and questionable (and expensive) heat prevention therapy and even some stuff about chanting on this one site that looks like it hasn’t been updated since 1995, but the thing that shows up pretty much everywhere, the thing that everyone seems to agree on, is that the best way to postpone heat is frequent sex.

That’s…not the greatest thing Patrick’s ever read. Because he hasn’t had frequent sex in…well, pretty much ever.

If what he’s reading is right, that has to change, unless he wants to find himself in the middle of Cincinnati or someplace, begging for a teammate to fuck him. Which is absolutely not going to happen. So he starts dragging himself out of the booth when they’re at bars and paying more attention on the dance floor to the girls who are maybe checking him out. Turns out there actually are some. He can’t always tell if it’s the famous athlete thing or not, but he doesn’t really care, because apparently he needs to start having a lot of sex.

It’s not that great, at first. It’s awkward and uncomfortable, actually, but Patrick knows that’s just because he’s not used to it, and it’ll get better.

It does get better—but it’s still not great.

After a while he realizes that’s sort of a good thing. He’s into the girls enough to get it up and get them off, but not enough that any of his weird wolf stuff shows up. It takes a lot for him to get slick, and he’s self-aware enough at this point to know that it’s not going to happen with a girl.

He’ll save that for when he’s alone in his room with his vibrating dildo and the thoughts he really shouldn’t be having.

***

One side benefit of the sex thing is that it gets him periodic touch independent of whatever’s going on with the team. That doesn’t mean he stops touching the team, though, because he’s playing it safe, and anyway, not all touch is created equal. Random girls are all well and good (well, sort of good), but they don’t give him that deep-down contentment that comes from team.

And the team is doing great. It’s early April, and they’re going to the playoffs. Patrick keeps waking up feeling like he’s swallowed an entire box of Pop Rocks, and this time he knows it’s not oncoming touch deprivation sickness. They’re going to be competing for the Stanley Cup. He’s never wanted anything more in his life.

Tonight the team is getting a little drunk, because they don’t have a game for a few days and they need to let off what steam they can before the first round starts. Patrick hasn’t picked up in a week or so, and he should probably get on that, but he’s enjoying hanging out at the table with the team. Picking up is hard work. There’s the chatting up, and the potential rejection, and the trying-to-be-smooth-but-always-in-reality-awkward dance of getting back to one of their places, and then having to make sure she has a good time. Right now he’d rather just drink his beer and laugh at Sharpy’s story and—

Jonny’s in trouble.

Patrick sits up straight and tightens his fingers on his beer. Jonny wandered off maybe fifteen minutes ago with a phone call he had to take. Patrick doesn’t even know where he is now. There’s absolutely no reason to believe he’s anything other than—

Jonny’s in trouble.

The feeling is stronger this time. The beer glass is sweating under his hand. There’s still no logical reason to think anything’s wrong, but Patrick’s starting to feel sick, tension headache building up at the base of his skull. The feeling is just so strong and—

Trouble trouble Jonny’s in trouble

Patrick stands up abruptly. Sharpy breaks off in his story and raises an eyebrow at him. Which, fair, because up until ten seconds ago, Patrick was laughing his ass off. But now there’s no laughter in him. All he can feel is that urgent pulsing of danger. “I, uh,” he says. “I’m gonna,” and he ignores the concerned look Sharpy is shooting him and heads for the door.

Just a minute ago he was thinking he didn’t know where Jonny was. That turns out to be a total lie, because as soon as he starts moving, he can feel exactly where Jonny is. He snakes his way through the crowd, sweat building on his forehead and the small of his back (trouble trouble), and opens the front door to find Jonny exactly where he knew he’d be: not twenty feet away, on the sidewalk next to the wall of the bar.

Not just standing there, though, and not alone. Jonny is canted slightly forward, tension in every line of his body, fists clenched in a way that would make Patrick think trouble even if his mind weren’t already screaming it at him. Across from him are two guys who are standing pretty much the same way. One of them says something Patrick can’t catch, and he sees Jonny’s face darken.

“Do you guys even know what the fuck you’re messing with here?” he hears Jonny say, and one of the guys laughs in a way that makes Patrick’s temper flare.

“What are you gonna do, sic the Blackhawks on us?” one guy says. “Gonna go get your boooys?”

Patrick walks up before Jonny can react to that, keeping his pace and his expression deliberately casual. It’s hard, since there’s a growing urge in his gut to introduce these guys’ faces to the brick wall. “Hey, Jonny,” he says, voice light, and Jonny swings around. “Can I steal you? Need you inside.”

“Here’s one of them now,” the other guy says, low, dangerous, and all of Patrick’s senses hone in on him. These guys certainly think they’re tough, but neither is a professional athlete: one big, built, but soft in the middle; the other one even shorter than Patrick, blond and tough with sharp edges. Patrick’s wolf feels the advantage.

“There a problem here?” Patrick asks, as if he can’t smell the testosterone already. It’s only the iron grip of his human side that’s keeping him from lining up next to Jonny and preparing for pack warfare.

“Not with us,” the taller guy says.

“It’s fine.” Jonny turns toward Patrick, rolling his eyes, and that’s when the tall guy decides to hit him from the back.

Patrick doesn’t even think.

He launches himself at the guy, slams into his waist before the guy’s fist can connect. The momentum takes them toward the brick wall of the bar, and Patrick does nothing to lessen the blow, lets the guy’s shoulder take the full force of the impact.

The guy isn’t used to taking hits, and he’s dazed for a moment. Patrick uses that moment to bring his fist back and drive it into the guy’s face. His head snaps back with a satisfying sound. Patrick wants to make it do that again, and he brings his fist back for another blow. But then there’s a grunting sound from behind him and he thinks, Jonny.

He drops the guy immediately—he sort of crumples—and whirls around. Jonny’s fighting the blond guy. Patrick would have said before that Jonny was hopeless in a fight, the last guy you want to see dropping his gloves against an opponent, but this is totally different. There’s something dark and fierce in Jonny’s face, and Patrick’s blood sings with it.

The blond guy gets in a blow to Jonny’s face and Jonny rolls with it, absorbing the blow and getting his own fist up. He gets the other guy in the shoulder, keeps following through, his other fist going to the guy’s head in a blow so pretty it’s almost poetry.

The guy drops.

Patrick makes a sound. He’s not sure what sound it is, but Jonny swings around, looks at him with eyes still dark from the fight. Stares at him as Patrick comes closer.

There’s not a lot of thought in Patrick’s head: just the intensity of Jonny’s gaze, pulling him in. He gets within six inches and drops to his knees, all the way down, legs folded beneath him. Slowly, very slowly, he tips his head back and shows Jonny his throat.

Their eyes lock that way: Patrick’s head craned way back, throat bared. Jonny eyes are on Patrick’s; they dart down to his throat once, twice, lock with his again. Patrick feels like he isn’t breathing. His lungs are full of Jonny-saturated air. Any moment now—

A door slams down the block. Jonny jumps a little, shakes his head. “Jesus Christ, Pat,” he says.

Patrick doesn’t know what he means, but Jonny’s hands are on him helping him up, so that’s all right. The gash on Jonny’s cheek smells like blood and like Jonny. Patrick needs to help him, clean the wound. He reaches out with two fingers to touch.

“What are you doing, Pat?” Jonny asks, voice low. He puts his hand on Patrick’s wrist, fingers gentle, just stopping him from touching his face. Patrick whines, because he has to clean the wound. That’s his job. Jonny was fighting, and it was good, and Patrick helped, and now Patrick just needs to see how bad the wound is, maybe lick it a few times. Then when he’s done Jonny can pick him up and shove him against the wall and—

Patrick gasps, stumbles back. “Oh, fuck,” he says. He’s—Patrick is wet. His entire body is charged. He was about to—

“Um,” Jonny says. Patrick doesn’t stick around to see if there’s a sentence following that; he is out of there, running down the block and not looking back.

Chapter Text

Patrick goes straight to his condo and slams the door behind him. He throws the deadbolt with shaking hands. Then it’s his bedroom door, then the bathroom door, and he sits down on the bathmat and pulls his knees to his chest and gets out his phone.

It doesn’t take much of a google search to find what he’s looking for. He pretty much knows what he’s going to find, anyway. Knowledge of the other person’s presence; fierce urge to protect; caretaking behavior; submission and sexual arousal following a display of dominance. There’s pretty much nothing it can be besides a bond.

He puts down his phone and lets his head fall to his knees. The arousal is gone now, his hole not feeling slick anymore, but there’s no mistaking what it was. He’s never gotten wet from something like that before. Usually it’s just when he’s teased himself open, gotten himself worked up with mental images of some random guy pounding into him, until he can slip in a dildo and press against his prostate and get himself off.

Just tilting his head back under Jonny’s gaze felt a thousand times better than that.

Patrick grits his teeth and picks up his phone again. That is not a helpful line of thinking. What he needs to do is figure out how to shut this down without Jonny figuring it out.

This search doesn’t go as well as the first one. It turns out that not a lot has been written about spontaneous wolf-human bonds, because they never happen. Wolves who want to bond with humans, like Josh with Gemma, have to do a lot of carefully regulated touching and, most importantly, have a lot of sex before anything can form, and it’s still usually slower than a wolf-wolf bond.

Patrick hasn’t had sex with Jonny. He would have noticed that.

He has to dig deep in the forums, squinting and turning his phone to read awkwardly formatted posts, before he finds a reference to anything that resembles his situation. It’s not a bond, though. The people on the forum call it a fixation: apparently sometimes a wolf gets stuck on something, sometimes a human, sometimes a place or even an animal (there’s one adorable example of a wolf and a cat that comes with photographs). It feels kind of like a bond from the wolf’s side of things, but—it’s not one. And it’s not requited.

Patrick lets out a slow breath. This is good news: it means that Jonny doesn’t know anything. He might have figured it out based on tonight’s events, but probably not. Humans tend to be pretty clueless about wolf behavior. Hell, it seems Patrick is pretty clueless about wolf behavior, since he didn’t know this fixation thing was even a possibility.

The posts don’t say what happens to the fixated wolves. The one with the cat seems to be okay, though she (the wolf) has to stay on heat suppression pills her whole life, because obviously the cat’s not putting out. There isn’t anything about any of the others. There’s mostly just a lot of speculation about where the fixations came from.

Patrick knows where his came from: his own stupid behavior. Letting Jonny touch him all the time, leaning into it. Curling up on his bed with him. Letting Jonny lead him through the touch deprivation sickness. Treating Jonny like pack. Like alpha.

The word conjures up an image of Jonny standing over him, looking down with dark eyes. Patrick never thought he’d like that: was always too mouthy to want to be told to shut up, and someone giving him orders just made him want to push harder in the other direction. He still wants to do that. But he also wants Jonny to look down at him on his knees. Maybe…maybe touch him there. Put a hand to Patrick’s hair, to his mouth, open up his pants and let Patrick suck his cock.

Patrick shifts on the bathmat, feels slick dribbling out of his hole, and curses. He’s not going to go jerk off over this. He’s not.

No. He’s going to get over this.

***

For the first time ever, Patrick has the thought that maybe it would be better if they weren’t in the playoffs.

He takes it back the very next moment, because hockey. Hockey’s the whole point. It’s the reason Patrick’s living like this, pretending not to be a wolf, not letting anyone see his true self. He wants to hold that Stanley Cup in his hands.

The playoffs are brutal, though. Patrick loves every minute he’s out on the ice, and he’s even into the parts where they’re waiting to go on or talking to the media after or watching game tape or practicing till they’re half dead. But it’s exhausting, and a significant part of the exhaustion, for Patrick, is that Jonny’s always there.

He’s there in the locker room, giving earnest speeches about being better that Patrick knows he means with every bone in his body. He’s next to him on the bench, bumping their shoulders together between shifts and critiquing Patrick’s play. He’s in their hotel room, doing stretches in his stupid fucking underwear while Patrick tries to figure out if he can sneak out of the room without Jonny noticing the way he’s gone hard and dripping in his sweats.

Jonny’s probably trying to kill him, because there’s no other reason for the muscles of his back to be so perfect.

Jonny tries to talk to him at their first practice after the fight. Patrick’s expecting it, and he’s ready to deal with it, theoretically, but the moment Jonny steps into the room Patrick’s stomach goes all fizzy and all he can think about is how good Jonny looks right now. He’s just wearing an old t-shirt, but it leaves the muscles of his arms exposed, and Patrick wants to lick them. Or maybe the curve of his throat where it meets his shoulder. Or maybe he wants to lie back and let Jonny lick him.

“So, uh,” Jonny says, sitting down next to Patrick on the bench. There are at least three inches between their knees, but oh God it’s only three inches. Patrick could cross that so easily. “That fight last night.”

He’s keeping his voice down, but Patrick still looks around the room to make sure no one’s listening. And then looks back at Jonny, because, wow, how did he spend two years in the locker room not looking at Jonny? “Yeah, that was weird, huh?” he tries.

Jonny does this little shrug thing that makes his shoulder muscles shift in an intensely familiar way, and, okay, maybe he has looked at him a little bit over the years. Or a lot. But it’s never made him feel all loose in his gut the way this is doing now. “I just wanted to say sorry,” Jonny says.

And—hold up. That’s— “What?”

Jonny looks embarrassed. Patrick’s confused but still has to swallow a mouthful of saliva at how red Jonny’s lips look when he parts them. “I just—I shouldn’t have been fighting. I don’t know how that even happened.”

And come to think of it, it was pretty weird. Patrick’s been too focused on his own weirdness to think about it before now. “Yeah, dude, what even happened?”

Jonny’s cheeks flush. Something lurches in the vicinity of Patrick’s stomach. “I don’t know,” Jonny says. “I said—and they—” He shoves angrily at his hair. “It doesn’t matter. It was just a thing.”

“Okay.” What if Patrick were to sit in Jonny’s lap for a minute? Would anyone really care? He could just maybe straddle him for a little bit—just long enough for his hands to grip Patrick’s waist and his thigh muscles to bunch under Patrick’s ass—

“So, yeah.” Jonny’s looking at him, because right, they’re having a conversation. About something other than how Patrick could feel him up in the locker room, surrounded by teammates. “Sorry for dragging you into that.”

God, his tongue. Patrick’s trying to pay attention, but he can see it when Jonny talks, pink and wet behind his teeth. “No problem,” Patrick says, and shifts on the bench because of the way he’s slicking up, just imagining places that tongue could go.

Jonny gets up. “Thanks, Pat,” he says, and his hand on Patrick’s shoulder feels like an electric shock. Patrick watches him go and has no idea what conversation they just had.

So, yeah, it’s pretty clear after that interaction that Patrick needs to avoid him.

Seeing as they’re heading into playoffs together, it’s not that easy: there’s only so much avoiding you can do in a crowded locker room or on the bench or, God, when you’re road roommates. But Patrick sits next to Sharpy on the plane and Bicks at breakfast and pretends not to notice the way Jonny’s mouth goes a little tight from across the room at how little they’re interacting.

Jonny’s probably wondering what happened to their bed cuddles. But Patrick doesn’t even know what he’d do in that situation right now. Probably start humping Jonny’s leg. After trying to make out with him.

Unfortunately, every time he goes out and tries to pick up someone else, his wolf really, really doesn’t like that idea, so he’s not getting any from anyone else, either.

It doesn’t matter. Patrick doesn’t need to have sex right now. He’s had a lot of it this spring, and right now, he just needs to get through the playoffs, go home, and use a combination of distance and his amazing willpower to get over this faux-bond fixation thing as soon as possible.

They go out in the third round. Patrick is crushed, but he’s never been so relieved to head home.

Chapter Text

Home is…weird, at first. His sisters are there, which is awesome, but Cody’s there, too. A lot.

He’s not a bad kid. At first Patrick glares at him menacingly, as befits his role as the older brother, but Cody keeps looking at Jackie with such a lovesick expression that Patrick can’t keep it going. He can’t hate someone who’s so obviously in love with his favorite sister.

But the flipside is that they act all loving and adorable around each other. And that makes Patrick ache.

He thinks at first that he can ignore it. It’s all part of his plan to be awesome and full of willpower and get right past this thing where sometimes he curls up into a ball on his bed and feels like he’s going to die without Jonny wrapped around him. Another important step in that plan is getting in lots of sister cuddles during the summer, so one afternoon he’s stretched out on the couch with Jackie when Cody comes over.

It’s not weird for him to join them. It’s actually pretty normal, because cuddling is about pack, not anything else. If Cody were a wolf, this is how Patrick would get to know him—this and maybe running with him, if Patrick were the kind of wolf who could wolf out and run. Cody’s human, but Jackie’s told Patrick how he likes to join in their loose wolf-pack sleepovers, so it’s natural that he should join them on the couch.

It’s kind of nice at first. Patrick likes cuddling. Cody snuggles into Jackie’s side and leans against Patrick’s legs, and the extra weight is good. Patrick watches the stupid reality show they’ve got on and enjoys it. Except—except Jackie smells really content. And that’s a good thing, except that it’s because Cody’s pressed into her side, kind of nuzzling her stomach.

Par for the course for wolf snuggling. A year ago, Patrick wouldn’t have thought twice about it. But a year ago he wasn’t nursing his own misguided fixation, and the sight of their happiness wouldn’t have made his throat close up.

But, whatever. He’s twenty years old, and he’s not going to be sidelined by a little bit of romantic envy. He buries himself a little deeper in the pile of bodies and focuses on the TV again.

It doesn’t go away, though. The little twisting in his gut—it’s not fading. It’s becoming worse, actually, as if something were cinching tight inside of him. He feels a little dizzy, like he can’t get enough air, and Jackie’s and Cody’s bodies feel too warm and too close.

Patrick grits his teeth and tries to ride it out: this is what he’s made for, for fuck’s sake, this kind of pack cuddling. This is good for him. But he’s starting to breathe too fast, and the thing cinched around his gut is getting tigher.

“I have to go,” he says, and pulls himself out from between a startled Jackie and Cody before fleeing the room.

Upstairs he shuts his door and lies down on his bed. He’s shaky: not the wracking shakes of the touch deprivation sickness, but like he’s taken a bad hit or has just gotten off an airplane where he got airsick. Something’s buzzing around his stomach and chest cavity. He doesn’t want to think about it; he doesn’t. He doesn’t want to want.

It’s another few hours before he feels up to going out and facing the world, drained and pale when he looks in the mirror. By that time, Cody’s gone home for dinner, and Patrick is so relieved. He’s quiet at dinner, but he plays Monopoly with his sisters after and by the time he goes to bed, he almost feels normal.

It keeps being a problem, though. It’s not like he can blame Jackie and Cody. They’re just being themselves, doing their thing. They’re not even being hugely PDA about it. But every time he sees them nuzzling or smiling at each other or even, God, just holding hands, it’s like he’s being checked into the boards.

Jackie calls him on it a couple of weeks later. They’re lying on her bed and reading The Hunger Games, sides pressed together. Patrick is wondering if he can get away with snuggling closer, or if it’ll make her notice how on edge he’s feeling these days, when she pulls away a little.

“Something’s weird with you,” she says.

Patrick twitches. Then tries to look like he didn’t just twitch. “What do you mean?”

She shakes her head. “I can’t quite tell. Just…your scent’s been off.”

Oh, crap, of course it would be. Patrick’s had so many things to worry about that he hasn’t even been thinking about that. “Really?” he tries.

That might have been the wrong thing to say. She narrows her eyes at him, suspicious now. “Seriously. What’s up with you?”

“I haven’t been sleeping well,” he says, and it’s not a lie. He’s been sleeping terribly. He keeps waking up and fucking reaching for someone. As if he’s ever not slept alone, except for that brief period when he was letting himself fall asleep on Jonny’s bed in hotel rooms.

“I thought you looked tired,” she says, and he’s relieved until she adds, “but that wouldn’t change your scent.”

The last, the fucking last thing he wants to do is tell her about the fixation thing. She’s the person he would tell if he told anyone, but he can’t even imagine saying it out loud. “Maybe it’s just because I haven’t wolfed out in so long.”

Jackie tips her head back against his shoulder. “I guess that could do it.”

Patrick lets his ribcage resettle and picks up his book again. He’s congratulating himself on a close escape when she says, “Heard from Jonny lately?”

His heart makes a leap like it wants to jump out of his chest. Patrick grits his teeth, because there’s no way she didn’t hear that. Wolf senses aren’t that much better than a human’s, but her head is right over his shoulder. “Why do you ask?” he says in a voice that’s only half-strangled.

“Just, you haven’t been mentioning him,” she says. “Not like last summer.”

Yeah, because last summer he wasn’t fucking going out of his skin, wanting Jonny around. “Um, yeah,” he says. “He’s been in touch.”

Jonny has been in touch. Patrick’s phone is full of unanswered texts from him. Patrick hasn’t responded, because that doesn’t fit with his whole get over Jonny as soon as possible so that life with the team isn’t a living hell plan, but he also can’t bring himself to delete them. He just…likes seeing them there, is all. Even the ones where Jonny’s angry and demanding that Patrick text him back. Those are the ones that make a small and neglected piece of him hum in contentment.

Yeah…he should probably delete them.

He doesn’t delete them, but he doesn’t respond, either, and by the middle of June they stop coming. It hurts, every time Patrick picks up his phone and sees that there’s still nothing from Jonny. But then, everything hurts these days.

***

Patrick’s goal is to have Jonny out of his system by the convention. He’s not sure how he’s supposed to measure his success, but by the way his chest still aches at least fifty percent of the day in the week before the convention, he thinks he’s probably failed.

Maybe if he could stop thinking about him. But it gets worse as the convention approaches, because Patrick’s going to see him, and it’s going to be awful but it’s also going to be great, and he can jump all over him and maybe let Jonny bite his neck and roll over and then Jonny will—

No. Patrick will do none of those things. If only he could get that message through to his wolf, and also to his dick.

He goes into the convention with a simplified goal: don’t let Jonny know what’s up. That’s a lower bar. He can do that.

It turns out to be not that fucking easy. Jonny already knows something is up by the way Patrick didn’t respond to his texts—and in retrospect, maybe that was stupid, since it didn’t make Patrick get over him and it also tipped Jonny off that something was wrong. He doesn’t greet Patrick in any of the normal ways when they first see each other at the convention. No smile, no bro-hug, not even a friendly glare. Patrick’s traitorous wolf-self turns toward Jonny as soon as he enters the hotel lobby, because he just doesn’t have that level of control over his body language, and when Jonny’s eyes skim over him and look pointedly away, it makes Patrick’s chest cave in on itself. He wants to curl up in a corner and mewl.

It’s not like he let down his alpha, he reminds himself. Jonny isn’t his alpha. He has no alpha. Jonny’s just…a guy laughing with Duncs and Seabs across the lobby. God. Patrick wants to bite that laugh right out of his mouth and he can’t.

Jonny ignores him all afternoon. Patrick knows where he is at every moment: the eerie tracking knowledge of the night of the bar fight seems to be back, and he can sense Jonny’s presence even when they’re halfway across a conference room from each other. It makes him keep laughing too forcibly and dropping small objects until Sharpy hits him on the arm and calls him a klutz.

Patrick’s sitting at his table before dinner when Jonny steals the chair next to him. Patrick realizes it’s going to happen a second before it does, and he breaks out in prickles all over, skin going hot.

“You didn’t answer any of my texts,” Jonny says, no preamble.

“I’ve, um.” Patrick’s never had this much trouble swallowing in his life. Jonny is so close to him. “With my family. Really busy.”

He’s dimly aware that that word order wasn’t quite right. Jonny doesn’t say anything, just stares at him. Patrick looks back and feels his throat go thick with wanting. What if he just leaned closer—

He clenches his hands around his silverware and looks down at his plate. They don’t even have food yet. “And I’ve been working out a lot,” he adds.

“I can tell,” Jonny says, and the sound of his voice makes Patrick’s dick twitch.

“And, um.” Has Jonny always smelled this good? “How about you? Your summer. I mean.”

“You’d already know, if you picked up your phone.” The words have a little bit of a growl. Patrick feels sweat prick the back of his neck, and oh, God.

“I have to…over there,” he says, jumping up and fleeing across the room. He can feel Jonny’s eyes on him the whole time, and it’s amazing that he only crashes into other people twice.

***

The whole team goes out that night. Patrick a hundred percent doesn’t want to, but it’s convention. It’s not like it’s a random game day. He has to go.

He compensates by having a few too many shots, and then Sharpy starts the game he calls “Pet the Kaner,” in which Patrick gets passed around for various teammates to snuggle. It’s ridiculous and insulting and Patrick loves it and needs it right now. It’s basically pack snuggles, and that’s almost enough to make him forget that Jonny isn’t at their table at the moment.

“Should’ve called it ‘Pet the Peekaboo,’” Seabs says, thoughtfully for a guy who’s at least five drinks in. “Alliteration.”

“It’s all about short and elegant.” Sharpy leers at Patrick, who’s splayed across Bicks’ lap while Hossa ruffles his hair. “Like little Peeks here.”

Patrick sticks out his tongue but lets Duncs pull him into his side. “He does make a pretty good teddy bear,” Duncs says.

Patrick is readying a really scathing retort for that when he feels Jonny approaching the table. Feels, like a wave of sparks coming through his warm-drunk haze. He snaps his head up, eager.

Jonny’s all glare-y and stormcloud-looking. Patrick tries to squirm out of Dunc’s hold so he can lay himself out for Jonny. This is different than pack: this is alpha, and mate, and Patrick is ready to feel Jonny’s hands on him. Jonny’s been staying away all day. How could he do that? Doesn’t he know Patrick needs him?

He’s here now, though, and he puts his hand around Patrick’s wrist. Patrick whines at how good it feels. So much better than anyone else’s touch. “Come on, Patrick, we’re gonna go dance,” he says in his Jonny-growl, and Patrick melts enough that Jonny has to yank him upward and pull him away from the table before Sharpy’s “Um, you don’t dance” has time to register.

Jonny’s hand is tight on Patrick’s wrist. Patrick likes how it hurts a little, likes how Jonny can pull him wherever he wants. He pulls back on it, just for the way it makes Jonny turn his head and give him the dagger eyes and then pull extra hard to get Patrick with him on the dance floor.

This is good. Jonny’s body is warm against him, lax in the way that means he’s been drinking. Patrick remembers it from the nights he would lean against Jonny’s chest in the booths of various bars. Only this time it’s on a dance floor, and Jonny’s hands are at his waist, guiding him in time with the music without taking his body away. Jonny’s face is close enough that Patrick can feel his breath on his forehead and smell the faint scent of Jonny that comes with it. His body is full up on it, his knees weak and his mouth filling with saliva.

“This is what you call dancing? Really, Pat?” Jonny says into his hair, and Patrick laughs, because he loves Jonny like this. Sniping, but still there, warm enough that Patrick knows he doesn’t mean it. Close enough that Patrick can snuggle in further. Firm enough against him that Patrick knows he’s his.

And…that stops him, for a second, even through his haze of alcohol and Jonny. Because Jonny hasn’t scented him yet. Why hasn’t he scented him, if Patrick’s his? What’s stopping him, when it’s so obvious from the way Patrick’s melting against his front that all he wants is for Jonny to—

Patrick stiffens and pulls away.

For a second Jonny fights it, hands clamping down on Patrick’s waist, but Patrick rips them away. “What the hell, man?” he says, pulse going fast with panic.

Jonny blinks at him. “What?”

“I don’t know where the hell you get off,” Patrick says, voice gone high and embarrassing but God, the way he was cozying up to Jonny…

“I was just—”

“You can leave me alone, is what you can do,” Patrick says, and he shoves his way off the dance floor.

He can’t go back to the rest of the team. They would probably try to touch him, and he can’t right now. He’s just barely holding it together enough to walk out of the restaurant. It’s a good thing there aren’t any wolves around, because he doesn’t even know what he’s giving off. Desperation, probably, and arousal, and fuck, the way Jonny’s hands had felt on his waist…

He ends up back in his chilly condo, where he can curl up on the sheets his cleaning service put on for him and hug his knees to his chest and try to make it through the wanting.

Chapter Text

The second half of the summer is rough. Patrick trains constantly and eats all the food he can get his hands on, but he isn’t sleeping much and isn’t gaining weight the way he should be. He feels like he’s pushing himself through each day with his teeth gritted, just trying to get to the end of things.

His mom picks up on it but blessedly doesn’t ask questions. She lets him curl up with her on the couch, though, and sometimes she’ll stroke his hair. It feels nice, even if it doesn’t make him stop feeling like he’s going a little crazy.

Jonny doesn’t text him anymore. He avoided Patrick like a bad hit the rest of the convention, and Patrick was grateful. Even if at the same time he wanted to fall to the floor in front of him and beg.

Patrick’s been home for a few weeks after the convention when he starts feeling hot all the time. It’s not even that hot outside—70s, mostly, maybe in the 80s, and he’s hardly ever anywhere without air conditioning. But for like two days straight he feels like he’s going to burn up.

It stops being a mystery when he wakes up on the third day, hard and wet and feeling like he’s going to bust out of his skin if he doesn’t touch someone right now.

He’s never been so glad to have his own house. He can’t even imagine what he sounds like as he fucks himself on his dildo. It’s not the same as touching a person, but he just needs to get off, and it feels so good having something in his hole. Not as good as if it were—

Jonny.

Patrick moans and shoves the dildo in harder. It’s not enough, not nearly enough. What he needs is Jonny touching him. Over him, the way he was when Patrick knelt at his feet outside the bar, or pressed against him, the way he was on the dance floor last month. In all ways, against every inch of Patrick’s body, Patrick needs him.

His cock in Patrick’s ass. Patrick comes a few times around the dildo, doesn’t feel any better. That’s something he thought would be really cool, back when he was a kid first learning about heats: multiple orgasms, almost no refractory period. But it hurts. His hole is sore around the dildo, but he can only fuck it in harder and try to find some relief.

Why isn’t Jonny here to help him with this? If it were Jonny, it would all feel so much better. Patrick needs him. Doesn’t Jonny know? Is Patrick not good enough, that Jonny doesn’t want to be here with him, doesn’t want to pound into him with his cock? Patrick sobs out a breath and comes again, body twisting on the sheets.

It goes on for hours. His mom calls him once, and Patrick finally has the presence of mind a half-hour later to send her a text that just says: Heat. She must remember enough from his first heat at fifteen that she doesn’t try calling again after that.

The phone rings again when Patrick’s sitting up on the dildo, trying to get it deeper inside of him and maybe get some fucking relief. He gropes for the phone and almost drops it when he sees. It’s Jonny.

For one wild moment Patrick wants to answer. If Jonny can’t be here, his voice on the phone would be the next best thing. Maybe he could talk Patrick through an orgasm, and then Patrick would be released from this horrible aching need. But he has just enough sanity left to throw the phone far enough across the room that he can’t reach it from the bed. He grits his teeth and shoves the dildo against his prostate.

It lasts two days. By the end of it Patrick is starving and sweaty and lying limp on dirty sheets. He feels only marginally less awful than he did when the need to come was screaming out of him.

He manages to drag himself into the shower, barely, but he can’t stand up when he gets there. He sits on the cold tile floor and scrubs two days’ worth of dried sweat and come off his skin. When he’s done, he gets up, throws his bedsheets in the trash, and falls onto the guest room bed and sleeps for sixteen hours.

If he ever goes through this again, it’ll be too soon.

***

All in all, the summer is awful. Patrick’s not looking forward to seeing Jonny again—but it’s not like being away from him has been any better, and at least Chicago has hockey. So overall he’s glad to go back.

He rethinks that as soon as he walks into the locker room for training camp and Jonny’s there. Instantly something within him feels better—the crawly, twitchy part of him that made him miserable for the second half of the summer. But that’s balanced out by the part of him that’s suddenly starving for Jonny to look at him.

Jonny doesn’t.

Fixation, Patrick reminds himself, and You brought this on yourself by acting like a freak, but none of it’s really helpful.

Jonny avoids him all morning but corners him when they have a break. “Look, I’m sorry,” he says, looking all constipated.

“Sorry?” Patrick repeats. He doesn’t remember anything Jonny has to be sorry about, but then, he’s sort of distracted by how close Jonny’s standing to him.

“For making it weird.” Jonny huffs, impatient.

Oh. The dancing. Yeah, Patrick can see how that could qualify as making things weird, if things hadn’t already been as weird as possible inside Patrick’s head.

“I shouldn’t have done it,” Jonny says, eyes sliding away. “Can—can we just go back to normal now?”

“Sure.” Patrick swallows down the urge to lick Jonny’s neck. “Of course.”

After that Jonny tries to sit next to him at things and keeps inviting him over for video games, and Patrick has to keep inching away and saying no. He knows that doesn’t count as going back to normal, and Jonny starts glaring furiously and then ignoring him again, but how else is Patrick supposed to cope?

Their first road trip is awful: Jonny in the bed a few feet away from his, and Patrick trembling from it, knowing that he’s in the wrong bed but also knowing that the other bed isn’t somewhere he can allow himself to be. Not when he feels like he has a hive of honeybees under his skin every time Jonny looks at him.

He starts going out with the other guys a lot more on the road. Not because he wants to, but because the alternative is being in a hotel room with Jonny, and nothing in him is up to that challenge. He tries to pick up a few times—he really doesn’t want a repeat of the summer’s heat experience—but when the girls put their hands on him it makes him shudder. No girl needs that inflicted on her, and Patrick doesn’t either. So he doesn’t get laid, and he doesn’t go back to his room until curfew, and he doesn’t sleep through the night because his stupid wolf wants Jonny’s skin against his too much to settle down.

At least they’re playing well. Patrick can tell Jonny’s happy about it, even if they’re not really talking to each other. Patrick still can’t help but watch him: angles his body automatically towards Jonny’s in every room, watches the way Jonny smiles at their teammates.

Seabs corners Jonny after a particularly good game, in which Jonny had two goals and an assist, and Patrick watches as Jonny tries to duck the compliment. He dips his head a little, flushes, presses his lips together in that bashful way that means he isn’t capable of hearing how good he is even when everyone and their little brother knows he’s one of the greatest hockey players of their generation. God, Patrick loves him so much.

Then he thinks, Oh, fuck.

***

So maybe it’s not just the wolf to blame. That’s not a great realization. Wolf-feelings are hard enough to deal with, are making it nearly impossible to get through the day already, and Patrick needs that to be all there is. But he keeps remembering a hundred little moments throughout the last two years when Jonny’s smiled at him or made some terrible joke or look smug or, dear God, even yelled about Patrick’s play, and they all make him go fuzzy inside in a way that he’s pretty sure isn’t the wolf.

So, that’s a thing.

It’s a thing that makes Patrick go even more panicked and awkward around Jonny than before. Which is terrible timing, because they leave for a road trip later that week. Jonny tries to sit next to him on their flight out, and Patrick ends up making up some nonsensical excuse about looking at game tape and then going to sit with Hossa. By the time they get to their hotel room, Patrick is still jumpy, and Jonny takes one look at him and huffs out that he’s going to the pool. Patrick doesn’t see him for the rest of the afternoon.

It pretty much goes on like that—Patrick twitching away every time Jonny approaches, and Jonny looking more and more glowery about it—until three days later. They’ve just won a game, and Patrick comes back to the room to find Jonny already there. “Oh, hey,” he says. “I was just gonna—”

“I know,” Jonny says, “just gonna go out,” and there’s enough of an edge to his words to make Patrick freeze by the door.

“Uh, yeah.” Patrick guesses he has been going out a lot lately, but it hasn’t been affecting his play, so Jonny shouldn’t really be judging him for it. “Look, we just won a game—”

“I know.” Jonny glares at him. “I was there, too, remember?”

“Well, obviously,” Patrick says.

“So maybe I should come out with you guys,” Jonny says.

His words are less a suggestion than a challenge: pushing, angry. “Um,” Patrick says. Jonny’s a lot closer than Patrick remembers him being when this conversation started. Patrick tries to push past, but Jonny grabs his arm and stops him.

“Look, Patrick, how many times do I have to—” Jonny cuts himself off. “I said I was sorry, okay?”

“Yeah. I know.” Patrick’s thick-tongued, because Jonny’s hand is still on his arm and it’s turning his insides to water.

“It’s not like I’m trying to—” Jonny grips down a little harder on Patrick’s arm, closes his eyes. Patrick notices for the first time how tired he looks. “I’m trying to be good,” he finishes, more quietly.

“You are good,” Patrick whispers, because Jonny is, so good. Good at hockey and good at Patrick and good at all the ways he squints and glares and pokes people and gets them to listen to his awkward, sincere speeches. Good at being Jonny.

Jonny makes a frustrated noise. “See, it’s stuff like that. I think I’m going to step away and then you just.” He leans in and touches his fingertips to Patrick’s cheek, thumb brushing under his eye.

Patrick lets his mouth drop open. His head tilts up, electricity running replacing the blood running through all the veins in his body. He makes a little noise.

“You,” Jonny huffs, breaks off, and he leans down and fits his mouth to Patrick’s.

Patrick opens his mouth and arches into it. Jonny’s got him pressed against the door, and his mouth is hot and demanding. Patrick lets his tongue in, lets Jonny tongue-fuck him and feels it down to his toes. He’s making little greedy noises, and Jonny growls into his mouth. Patrick gasps at the sound and shoves their hips together.

God. He’s dissolving. Can’t think at all. Jonny’s hands are on his back, exactly where they belong, except then one goes down to Patrick’s ass and starts kneading and that’s even better. Jonny sets his teeth against Patrick’s neck and Patrick keens and how does Jonny know to do that and how is it so perfect.

Patrick surges up into it, his cock pressed hard and hot against Jonny’s stomach as Jonny gets both hands under his ass and fucking holds him up. He runs his teeth up and down Patrick’s neck, tracing the arteries. Patrick gasps for breath and gets his hands in Jonny’s hair and holds him there, gets him to bite. Jonny’s hips jerk against his, and Patrick scrambles higher so that Jonny’s cock is a hard line under his ass.

“Fuck, Patrick,” Jonny says into his shoulder, breathless. Patrick jerks against him, ass rubbing along Jonny’s cock. His dick is leaking and his hole is clenching on nothing, and he needs Jonny inside of him like six months ago but now will do, now is great. Jonny shoves a hand down the back of his pants and gets his fingers into the cleft between his butt cheeks. Heading toward the slickness Patrick can feel dribbling out of his hole.

“No,” Patrick gasps out.

Jonny freezes at the word. Then he stumbles back, hair awry and lips kiss-bitten. Patrick falls back against the door, panting, his head spinning.

“Um,” Jonny says. “Do you not want…”

Want is throbbing through Patrick’s body, in every pulse point and in the weakness of his knees and the hunger in his gut. It’s in the tent his aching cock is making in the front of his dress pants. The gaping wetness of his hole.

“This can’t happen,” he says, and stumbles into the hall and closes the door behind him.

Chapter Text

Patrick wanders around the hotel for a few hours, trying to make himself unobtrusive, until it’s too late at night for him to be lurking in corners. Then he goes to Sharpy’s room.

Sharpy opens the door when Patrick knocks. From the way Sharpy’s eyes widen, he must look at little bit the way he feels.

“Can I stay here tonight?” Patrick asks, and it must be pretty bad, how he looks, because Sharpy doesn’t even ask questions as he lends Patrick a pair of sweats and lets him climb into bed with him, quiet so as not to wake Bicks.

He’s not the bed partner Patrick wants tonight, but it still feels better than being alone. Sharpy even strokes his hand through Patrick’s hair a few times before they fall asleep. Patrick turns his head so that Sharpy can’t see his face twist at that.

It’s too much to hope that Sharpy’s silence will last through the morning, though. Patrick wakes up early and sneaks out, grabs some clothes from his room when he knows Jonny will be in the shower, and goes down to breakfast, where Sharpy sits across from him a few minutes later.

“So,” Sharpy says. “Trouble in paradise?”

Patrick picks at his scrambled eggs. “I don’t know what you mean,” he says, with what he hopes is some amount of dignity. Considering he crept into someone else’s room at midnight last night, he probably doesn’t succeed.

“Peeks. Come on.” Sharpy gives him a knowing look. “We didn’t want to say anything before, but it’s obvious something is going on between you and Jonny.”

Patrick freezes a little. “We?” he asks.

“Me and Duncs and Seabs and some of the others.” Sharpy gives him a moment to respond, but Patrick is busy not swallowing his own tongue at how many people are noticing things about him, and Sharpy finally says, “Well?”

“Well what?”

Sharpy snorts. “Well, as in you’re obviously fighting, and it’s messing with everyone. What did he do, insult your sisters?” His eyes light up. “Did he hit on your sisters?”

Patrick’s shoulders drop a little in relief. So they don’t know anything. “No, don’t be a jackass. It’s just a thing.”

“Well, fix it,” Sharpy says.

“Yeah, okay,” Patrick says in a small voice.

Blessedly, that seems to be the end of the lecture, because Sharpy takes a big bite of eggs. He looks up after a moment, though, and says, “Was it Erica? I bet it was Erica.”

Patrick has to hit him with a piece of toast.

***

Patrick said he would fix it, and he would if he could. It was bad enough when he thought Jonny was something he couldn’t have. Now he knows he can have him, if he wants—at least for a night; he’s not sure if Jonny’s offering more—but he still can’t, because it would give away everything. And whatever Jonny (like the Blackhawks, like all of America) thinks he wants in Patrick, he’d change his mind pretty fast if he knew the whole truth.

But now Patrick knows how Jonny’s mouth tastes. He knows how Jonny’s teeth feel on his neck, what it’s like to arch back and let Jonny’s huge hands hold him in position and grind up against the smooth muscle of his stomach. It makes him so wet the next time he goes to jerk off that he shoves three fingers up his ass without prep and comes in about sixty seconds.

He tells Jackie the whole story—minus the dirty parts—on the phone a week later. He doesn’t mean to, but he’s going out of his mind, and it just comes out.

“A spontaneous bond?” she says. “But that doesn’t happen after first heat.”

“I know,” he says. He’s back in his apartment, and he hasn’t turned the heat on yet, so it’s freezing and he’s shivering on the couch. “It’s not a bond.”

“But you said—”

“I know.” Patrick lets himself fall back onto the cushions. “It’s a fixation. A one-sided bond.” He closes his eyes. “He’s…not a wolf, Jacks.”

An intake of breath on the other end of the line. Then, “Is it Jonny?”

Patrick huffs out a surprised breath that might almost be a laugh. “I don’t know when you guys got it in your heads that I’m obsessed with him,” he says, but there’s a little too much weight in his voice for her not to know the truth.

“Oh, Patty.” He can hear the sympathy in her voice and wishes she were there to curl around him. “Want me to come to Chicago?”

He laughs weakly. “Mom and Dad would love that.”

“They would, for you.”

He would love her to come out. But. “We have a road trip in a couple of days.” He’s not sure if how much he’s dreading it comes across in his tone, but he suspects it does.

“Pat.” It’s an exhale, a complete sentence, and he knows she wants to be there to comfort him in person as much as he wants her to be.

He scrunches his face up. “I’m okay.”

It’s a lie, and they both know it, but she lets it stand. They’re both silent for a while, breathing into the phone.

Then, “Have you told him?”

Patrick pops his eyes open. “What? No. Jackie.”

“Maybe you should.”

“Then he would know.” It’s getting harder to breathe. “About me.”

“Yeah, but it’s Jonny. It’s not like he’s going to tell the papers.”

Patrick sits up, draws his knees to his chest. Cold sweat is pricking his back despite the freezing temperature. “It’s not the papers I’m worried about,” he says, though that is part of it. “Just because Cody—”

“Jonny’s not the kind of asshole who would judge you for it,” she says. “You know that.”

And—yeah, Jonny’s not an asshole, but who wouldn’t judge him for it? “You have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Her voice goes cold a little. “You really think being a wolf is so bad you can’t let anyone know?”

“It’s not like that,” he says. “I just don’t want—“

“Okay,” she says. “Just remember. If you’re ashamed of it, you’re ashamed of me.”

His eyes widen. “What? Jacks—” he starts to say, but the connection goes dead.

He looks down at the phone in his hand. His stomach is churning, he still has no idea what to do about the Jonny thing, and the person he trusts most in the world just hung up on him.

***

He goes through the next few days in a bit of a daze. The only time he really pays attention off the ice is when Jonny’s in the room, and even then it’s a sick-making, empty kind of attention. Watching and wanting and knowing that he can’t have.

He’s with it enough to notice that Jonny seems to be in pretty bad shape himself. He looks a little haggard, like maybe he hasn’t been sleeping that well, either, and he’s short with everyone. He’s totally avoiding Patrick, which is—Patrick keeps reminding himself—a good thing. Just because Jonny looks away and turns his back on Patrick a lot doesn’t mean Patrick’s stomach should go plummeting into his skates. He is not Patrick’s alpha.

The day before they leave for Vancouver, he almost gives up and goes back to the wolf club. He’s knows it’s stupid, but nothing else is making him feel better at all, and if this helps even one tiny bit—

He doesn’t go. Instead he keeps going out with the team. It doesn’t really help; it’s just an alternative to sitting at home alone or, God forbid, in a hotel room with Jonny. And someone will usually let him lean on their shoulder at the bar. The team is used to it by now, and Patrick needs it more than ever. He feels shaky all the time, like he’s on the verge of touch deprivation sickness even though he knows he’s not.

He doesn’t even want to think about what would happen if that happened again. If Jonny were in the room, and he tried to help—well, Patrick remembers what it was like to have Jonny draped all over him like that, and he doesn’t think he could control what would follow.

So Patrick’s not really at his best when they play the Canucks. He’s clumsy and fumbling when they’re not on the ice, mostly because he can feel Jonny’s eyes not on him, and he has to constantly fight the urge to throw himself on the ground and beg for his attention. On the ice he’s okay, but the nights of bad sleep are telling on him a little. He has to work harder to get to his usual level of focus.

Maybe that’s why he doesn’t notice at first that Ryan Kesler is staring at him.

He does notice, finally, in the middle of the second period. They’re both on the bench, and Kesler’s eyes are fixed on him from across the ice. Patrick doesn’t know why, just makes a face at him and looks away. When he looks back, Kesler is still staring.

“Hey.” Sharpy elbows him. “What’s up with Kesler?”

“No idea,” Patrick says. Then he has to go over the boards, and Kesler does, too, so the staring stops for now.

Kesler dogs him on the ice, though, and Patrick does his best to evade him for a while. But for fuck’s sake, they’re trying to play a game of hockey here. “What the fuck is with you, dude?” he finally asks.

The moment the words leave his mouth, Patrick knows what’s with him. Because Kesler smells like a wolf.

Patrick feels like he’s been boarded. His blood runs hot, then cold, and it must all show on his face, because Kesler’s lip curls up.

“After the game,” Kesler says, before hip-checking Patrick and skating off.

It’s another few seconds before Patrick can move again.

The rest of their shift feels long. Patrick struggles to stay focused, to make up for his on-ice freak out. Jonny says something about it, though, of course. “What the fuck did he say to you?” he asks when their shift was over.

Patrick slumps on the bench. Hearing that tone of voice from Jonny hurts now in a way it didn’t before—just another part of the rejection that puts him on a knife edge of hurt all the time. “He didn’t do anything wrong. I was just surprised.”

Jonny gets his trademark murder eyes, and Patrick flinches, but they don’t stay on Patrick. Jonny turns and glares at Kesler, across the ice.

It makes Patrick’s breath catch. He wishes that were a real thing: that Jonny were his alpha and would go fight for him. That he would meet with Kesler after the game so Patrick didn’t have to.

Jonny’s not his alpha, though, and Kesler’s waiting when Patrick leaves the locker room.

Kesler’s scent is faint, like Patrick’s—he must not wolf out very much, either. But now that Patrick knows, he can’t help but smell it. It makes him feel weird, weirder than he did the times he met other wolves at the club. Kesler’s another NHL player who’s presumably hiding his identity as well. And—Kesler’s an unbonded alpha. That would have been enough to unsettle Patrick even before this mess with Jonny, but as it is, he feels unstable and threatened, like Kesler’s about to swoop in and steal him.

Kesler straightens up when Patrick approaches. “Equipment room,” he says, and takes off walking.

Patrick follows him into the bowels of the stadium, feeling edgy about it. Following Kesler feels too much like obedience. But he can’t really say anything.

Kesler goes through an unmarked door and hops up on a table. “Have a seat,” he says. “Or—sorry. If you want to.”

Patrick feels his mouth curving up a little in a pale imitation of a smile. So Kesler feels how weird the dynamic is, too.

He doesn’t really want to sit, and there aren’t any chairs, so he just hovers by the door.

“I don’t think any of us knew about you,” Kesler says, leaning back on the table and swinging his legs.

“Us?” Patrick asks.

Kesler nods. “Us. The NHL wolves.”

Patrick moves to lean against an equipment rack, stumbles, almost falls on his ass. “Excuse me?”

“Yeah, you know,” Kesler says, though Patrick obviously doesn’t. “There are like twelve of us.”

Patrick steadies himself on the rack and tries to take this in. “Seriously?”

Kesler stares at him. “Huh. You really didn’t know?”

“Nope,” Patrick says weakly.

“Guess that makes sense,” Kesler says. “We’ve all done what we can to de-scent ourselves.” He gives Patrick a critical eye. “Not like you, though. Your scent is seriously weak. You must not have wolfed out since juniors.”

“It’s…been a few years,” Patrick says. His brain is still stuck on: twelve wolves. In the NHL.

“Years, wow.” Kesler shakes his head. “I don’t know if I could do that.”

And yet, it wasn’t enough. Kesler smelled him anyway. Patrick feels himself sweating. “Are you going to tell anyone?”

“Sure, the other wolves,” Kesler says, all easy. “As soon as I get out of this room.”

Patrick’s breath catches, and he forces himself to chill. “And…if I don’t want you to?”

Kesler straightens up. “Then I don’t tell anyone.” He looks affronted. “Dude. I’m not going to out you against your will. That’s not what this is.”

“Oh.” Patrick breathes deep again.

“Jesus.” Kesler laughs a little, but not like it’s funny. “Did you think that was what this was?”

“What the fuck do I know?” Patrick says. “I didn’t even know there were other wolves in the NHL.”

“Fair point,” Kesler says. “Must have sucked, man.”

Patrick really, really doesn’t want to touch that one. “So, does anyone else know about you?”

“Kevin,” Kesler says, and Patrick assumes he means Bieksa. And—wow, he just said it like it wasn’t a big deal. “A few others. You?”

“No one.” Patrick shakes his head. “Oh. Well. Sam Gagner figured it out. And my family.”

“Well, duh.” Kesler sneers, which makes him look more like the Kesler Patrick’s used to from the ice. “Can’t believe you got through all these years without the rest of us finding out. The others will be pissed at themselves. I mean, if you want me to tell them.”

Patrick fingers a barbell on the rack next to him and thinks about it. Twelve people who could let his secret slip. Twelve people he might be able to nod to across the ice, share a moment of solidarity. He runs his finger over the cool metal. “I guess…yeah,” he says. “Go ahead and tell them.”

“Yeah? Awesome.” Kesler swings down from the table. “You want to go back?”

“Yes,” Patrick says, relieved, because he really does. He wants to get out of this room where the air is thick with alpha. Wants to go back to a world where no one knows what he is, and he doesn’t have to think about the decision he just made.

Kesler stops him at the door, though. It’s not a hand on his arm: just a gesture, because Kesler knows better than to touch. Patrick still flinches a little from the thought that he might.

“Hey,” Kesler says. “See to Toews, okay?”

Patrick tries not to startle at the name. “Jonny? What do you mean?”

Kesler’s eyes are dark, thoughtful. “I’m not sure,” he says, and Patrick gets the sense he’s not saying everything he could. “Could be nothing. Just—see to him.”

He leaves, and Patrick follows, at least ten times more disconcerted than he was before today’s game.

Chapter Text

Patrick mulls over what Kesler told him—all of it, but especially the part about Jonny, because the rest is still a little much for him to think about. A dozen NHL wolves who’ll be contacting him. He can’t even imagine.

Jonny, though. The idea that something’s going on with Jonny gets under Patrick’s skin and pricks at him. Jonny’s asleep by the time Patrick gets back to the room, after dinner with some of the boys, so Patrick can’t study him then. He watches him the next morning instead, when they’re at the airport. Keeps his eyes on him as Jonny goes down the row of chairs at the gate, picks one at the end of their group and a little bit apart.

It’s nothing new, Patrick’s eyes on Jonny. He’s been watching him for—well, he would say months, but really it’s been years. He’s been watching Jonny since before he knew there was a reason to watch. Since before he could admit that the reason existed.

He’s noticed that Jonny’s been off these past few weeks. Tired. But he hasn’t been looking for specific problems. Now he’s trying to see what Kesler might have seen when Jonny was on the ice.

Patrick’s not sure what Kesler saw. But he does see what he didn’t notice before: how Jonny’s holding himself apart from the other guys. Not even sitting with Seabs, his go-to teammate when Patrick’s not available. Angling himself a little bit away from the group.

It’s automatic for Patrick to see that through the lens of pack. The team is their pack, and Jonny’s trying to break away.

Panic flutters through him even as he tells himself he’s crazy. Jonny’s not going to leave the team just because he wants some personal space at the airport. But the instinctive wolf part of him sees his bondmate pulling away and makes his heart beat faster in fear.

Well. Kesler did say to see to him.

Patrick gives himself a minute to compose himself before he goes over. Jonny doesn’t need to see him freaked out. What Jonny probably needs, right now, is for Patrick to be his friend. And Patrick—Patrick can do that. He can put aside the other stuff long enough for that.

Jonny startles as Patrick slides into the seat next to him. Patrick registers the surprise and fear in that look even as he notes the darkness of his eyelashes against his lids, the lovely slope of his startled-wide eyes.

“I, uh,” Patrick says, and then stops, because he can smell him. He keeps thinking he’ll be prepared for that, and he never is. The Jonny-scent is rolling over him and waking all his nerve endings, all clean detergent and warm skin. He clenches his hands into fists.

“Yeah?” Jonny says, impatient. “What is it?”

It’s sharper than Jonny usually is, given that Patrick hasn’t interrupted him at anything and has only just sat down. It calls Patrick back to his goal. “I wanted to see how you were.”

He’s not expecting the way Jonny’s face goes hard and angry at that. “Yeah? What’s it to you?”

Patrick’s too shocked to answer him right away. Jonny’s face is closed off, his eyes sharp, and it makes Patrick want to nuzzle under his chin until Jonny goes pliant and nips him. But it’s not that kind of conversation. “I just thought maybe you looked a little off,” he manages.

Jonny snorts. “I’m fine. Being rejected by you isn’t that hard on a person, you know.”

“That’s not what I—” Patrick’s breathing harder, the hostility from Jonny buzzing around his chest cavity the way only signals from his alpha could do and making everything confused. “I. I just. Kesler said—”

That was the wrong thing to say. Patrick can tell from the way Jonny immediately zones in on it. “What did Kesler have to say about me?” he bites out.

“Nothing,” Patrick says. “Jeez. Look, I just thought maybe you seemed kind of down, or something, and—”

“How’s this for a plan, Kaner,” Jonny says, voice low and jaw twitching. “If I want your help, I’ll send you a message through fucking Kesler, okay?”

Then he’s off, storming out of his chair and away from the gate where their flight is leaving in twenty minutes.

Patrick gapes after him. That was not how he expected that to go.

***

By the time they get on the plane, Patrick’s angry. He doesn’t know what to do with the emotion, doesn’t know if it makes sense, but it’s so strong he’s almost shaking with it. He sits on his hands and grits his teeth and tries not to pay attention to Jonny’s presence six rows back.

It’s just—fuck him. Patrick was trying to be nice. Trying to be a friend, the way he has been for years, and if Jonny’s going to throw that back in his face, then what does Patrick need him for? Nothing, that’s what. Patrick’s not even going to think about him anymore.

He tells himself that for the entire two-hour flight.

When they land, there’s a crash behind him. He turns to see Jonny shove Seabs, anger ablaze on his face.

“Fucking hell, Seabs!” he shouts. “That could have fallen on my head! Watch what you’re goddamn doing!”

Seabs backs up, hands raised. “Sorry. Accident. Chill out, Captain Serious.”

Jonny turns his back on him and stomps up the aisle, angrier than Patrick’s ever seen him off the ice.

“Asshole,” Patrick says.

It’s half under his breath, but Jonny’s close enough that he catches it, which was maybe Patrick’s intent. Jonny stops stomping and turns and gives Patrick a glare of pure hate. Patrick juts his chin out, takes it, until Jonny turns away again.

He doesn’t need Jonny, anyway.

***

They win against the Avs, thanks in part to Patrick’s goal, and it’s awesome. Patrick doesn’t need to care that Jonny doesn’t look at him, or that when he does, it’s just a quick glare before he looks away again. He doesn’t need to do anything except raise his chin and play like a champion and not care.

He goes out with the guys again after. He doesn’t try to pick up, because baby steps, but he could. He thinks about it. Or, well, he thinks about thinking about it, which is just as good, and who needs Jonny’s monster thighs and softly parting lips when he could have so many people who are probably way hotter? Yeah.

They leave the bar way sooner than they usually do, before Patrick’s even really tipsy, because their flight that morning was early and everyone else wants to turn in. They don’t seem to think it’s a good idea to leave Patrick alone in the bar, for some reason. He might have protested, but Sharpy gets him by the back of the neck and nudges him along, and Patrick’s never been able to resist that.

He would be worried about going back to the hotel room while Jonny’s still awake, except for the part where he doesn’t care. Jonny’s probably asleep already anyway, because he’s a lamer like that. He’d have to be a lamer to not want to go out with Patrick and the guys, or to not look at Patrick in the locker room anymore. Patrick doesn’t need someone like that in his life anymore, and fuck any wolf instincts that tell him differently.

Patrick’s tempted to open the door really loudly, just to wake him up. He doesn’t, though. He opens the door at a normal volume and only trips a little, going inside.

Where Jonny’s stretched out across the bed, shaking.

Patrick stops, mouth dropping open. Jonny scrambles up right away, and his eyes dart around around the room, not meeting Patrick’s.

“Patrick. Didn’t expect you back this early.”

He’s obviously trying to look fine, but Patrick can see the way he’s still shaking, the way one hand is clenched around his other elbow in an attempt to be still. He looks like he’s one step away from falling over.

“Oh my God,” Patrick says. “What the fuck is this?”

“I’m just coming down with something,” Jonny says, through jaws that are clenched way too tight. “It’s not a big deal, okay?”

This isn’t coming down with something. Patrick knows coming down with something, and he knows this. “Has—has this been going on since the summer?”

Jonny’s eyes come up, lock onto his. It’s not quite an answer, but the dead-eyed angry look is enough of one.

Patrick has to steady himself on the TV stand. “But you’re not supposed to,” he says.

“What, passing judgment now?” Jonny says with a glare.

All these months of Jonny seeming more tired than usual. All these—every night. “Was it every night?”

Jonny lets his breath out in a huff that’s only slightly weakened by the way his body is still shaking. “What do you care, Patrick?”

Patrick gapes some more, can barely find words. Jonny’s body is twisting in on itself, like maybe he can hide that way. Wracked with shudders as bad as any Patrick’s ever had. “I’m just—I’m trying to—”

“I don’t need to stand here and listen to this.” Jonny drops his arms to his sides, still shaking, and strides toward the door. “I’m going out, okay? You can stay here and care in an empty room if that’s what you—”

“Stop,” Patrick says, and Jonny stops. Stops right away, like someone yanked him backward.

Patrick’s shaking a little now, but not from the same thing as Jonny: more from the flickering newness he can feel winding up from his gut, from the possibility that wasn’t there a few minute before. From the guilt and the anger he’s turning toward himself. “Me too, you idiot, okay? Me too.”

Jonny turns around, slowly, and looks at him. His face is still hard, uncomprehending. Patrick walks towards him with unsteady steps.

“Me too,” he whispers when he gets close enough to touch, and he raises a hand and touches it to Jonny’s face. His skin is amazingly soft.

Something in Jonny’s expression cracks open. He looks wary, a little afraid. Still ready for a challenge. “The—shaking? But—”

“Not the shaking.” Patrick takes his hand off Jonny’s face, puts it on Jonny’s chest, over his heart. Closes his eyes. “The…bond.”

There’s a pause in which they both breathe silently. Then he feels Jonny’s hand slide over his, soft, tentative. “I don’t understand.”

Patrick tips forward until his forehead comes to rest on Jonny’s shoulder. He can feel Jonny’s cheek, his neck, warm next to his temple. “I’m a wolf,” he whispers.

He can feel Jonny stiffen. But his hand doesn’t leave its place over Patrick’s. “What?”

“It was supposed to be a fixation,” Patrick says into the skin of Jonny’s shoulder. He feels like he’s walking a tightrope, way up high where he might be knocked down any moment. “Because you shouldn’t be able to bond like this, without trying. But.” He pulls back enough that he can see Jonny’s face, without putting much space between them.

Jonny doesn’t look like he’s about to storm out on him for being a wolf. His hand comes to grip the side of Patrick’s face, rough, claiming. Patrick notices that he’s stopped shaking. “Patrick. Are you saying…”

They’re only touching those two places: Jonny’s hand on his face, both their hands over Jonny’s heart. But everything in Patrick is coming awake from this. “I’m saying…I think we’re bonded.”

Jonny takes in a shuddering breath, tips his head forward. The nearness of him thrums through Patrick. “Oh God. I don’t even know what that means. But I’ve been trying so hard to…”

“Yeah.” Patrick leans in a half-inch, runs his nose along the underside of Jonny’s jawbone, right where Jonny smells amazing. Jonny gives a strangled gasp.

“I thought I was losing it.” Jonny leans into the touch. “Wanting you, all the time, not being able to stop. I thought I was going crazy.”

Patrick’s feels like he’s going crazy now, Jonny’s skin against his. He’s panting into Jonny’s neck. He wants his mouth on Jonny, but Jonny has to be the one to do that first. “Kiss me?” he says.

“Pat.” Jonny turns his head, presses his mouth to Patrick’s, and Patrick gives a little cry. Jonny’s mouth is hot and sweet and tastes perfect, like this is what it was made for. Like this is what Patrick was made for. Licking into Jonny.

Both of them are breathing harshly, Patrick’s body filling up with the taste of him. He can feel himself crumpling into Jonny, losing the ability to think as Jonny puts his hands on him, and that can’t happen yet. Can’t let his mind disappear yet. But maybe…it can happen just a little bit…

Jonny twists, getting more of Patrick flush against him. He licks a broad stripe up Patrick’s neck, and Patrick falls apart a little. It’s okay—he can fall apart, because Jonny’s holding him, Jonny’s got him now. But wait—there was a reason he needed to stop—

He pushes away, gets a little distance, and Jonny makes a startled cry. He looks shockingly desperate, way more than Patrick would have expected.

“Pat, no—” he says. “Please don’t, not again, don’t—”

He’s panicked in a way Patrick’s never seen him: barefaced terror and need. It doesn’t even look like Jonny. But Patrick remembers the way he pulled away the last few times he’s been this near Jonny, and he has a glimpse, all of a sudden, of what it did to him.

“No,” Patrick says, moving a little closer, “I’m sorry, it’s okay, I just—”

He reaches out for Jonny’s hands, and Jonny latches on, vice-like. He tries to get closer again, but Patrick keeps a couple of feet between them.

“There are just a couple of things you need to know,” Patrick says. “Before.”

Jonny’s breathing hard. He looks less panicked but a little bit ravaged. “What? Anything. Pat—”

“The bond,” Patrick says. “There’s no real way to know how it’ll go. It shouldn’t even exist yet, according to everything. And if we…now…it’s hard to say what’ll happen.”

“I don’t care.” Jonny’s somehow gotten closer, despite the hold Patrick has on his hands. It’s making it harder to think. “I don’t care. What else?”

Patrick takes a deep breath of Jonny-soaked air. “The wolf thing,” he says in a small voice.

It’s not really a question—there’s no way Jonny could know what he means to ask, just from that—but somehow he does. He gets even closer, eyes gone serious and intent. “Patrick. I told you I don’t care.”

“Yeah, but—”

“It’s you,” Jonny says, all the weight of his Captain Serious voice behind the words. He leans in, presses his nose to Patrick’s cheek. “You could be—a potted plant, or a tree, or a—a Canuck, for all I care, I’d still want to—”

He bites down on Patrick’s neck. Patrick makes a broken sound. Jonny moves his teeth lower, bites again, and Patrick lets himself sink into his space. Jonny pulls him in right away, hands on the arch of Patrick’s back. His teeth worry at the crook of Patrick’s shoulder, and Patrick pants and thrusts against Jonny’s body. Jonny’s hands move down and circle his ass cheeks.

“There are still some things,” Patrick gasps, “you’re going to find out—”

“Good,” Jonny says into his ear, all dark and low, and nips the lobe. “I want to know.”

Patrick whimpers and shoves his hands up Jonny’s shirt, because why is Jonny wearing so much clothing, anyway, when skin is so much better? His skin under the shirt is hot and smooth and Patrick wants to burrow into it and stay for always. “Please,” he says, and Jonny shudders and strips his shirt off over his head.

He gets Patrick’s off next, while Patrick is licking at the little brown bud of a nipple and feeling it move and come alive under his tongue. Then Jonny whips off Patrick’s belt and puts his hands down the back of his pants again, and Patrick stiffens in fear.

He keeps his mouth above Jonny’s nipple, but he can’t do anything to it because all his focus is on waiting for Jonny’s response. Jonny’s hand isn’t quite there yet, but it’s getting close. Any second now he’ll feel…

“Oh God,” Jonny says in a low voice. “Fuck, Patrick,” and plunges two fingers into sticky mess that is Patrick’s hole.

Patrick gives a cry and buries his face in Jonny’s neck. “Are you not…”

“Does it look like I’m freaking out?” Jonny asks, panting in his ear.

Patrick practically sobs as Jonny’s fingers fuck in and out of him. “Please, please, Jonny,” he says. “Please, I need…”

“Fuck yeah,” Jonny says. He takes his fingers out of Patrick’s hole, which is awful, but he strips Patrick’s pants off him and pulls off his own and gets Patrick down on the bed and starts making out with him. Patrick writhes underneath him, making a mess of the bedspread with the wetness leaking out of his hole.

“Yeah, Patrick,” Jonny says. “You’re so hot, do you know that? So good—such a good wolf—”

Patrick keens and arches up against him, and Jonny takes the hint and sticks the two fingers back into him.

“More, Jonny,” he says. “I can do—”

“Fuck, yeah, you can,” Jonny says, and switches to three, and then four. Patrick feels like his insides are melting in one glorious rush, all sparkling and glimmering and so good he can barely think straight. “Gonna fuck that hole so good.”

“Yeah, please, c’mon.” Patrick’s twitching and jerking and making these high little gasping sounds that would be embarrassing if this weren’t the most amazing thing that ever happened to him. If it weren’t Jonny kneeling over him and fucking him with his fingers. Jonny’s cock is hard and red and curved up towards his stomach and Patrick wants it inside of him now. “Jonny—”

“Got you.” Jonny’s laying kisses all over his chest, kisses then bites, hard and just on the edge of pain, where Patrick likes it. “Gonna give it to you, Patrick,” he says, and bites down on Patrick’s hipbone so hard his cock jerks and his hole clenches down on Jonny’s fingers and he’s making a lot of noise, now, but he really doesn’t care.

Jonny pulls Patrick’s knees up and gets closer, that hard cock near his grasping hole. “Do I need a condom?” he asks, voice wrecked. “I mean, I haven’t—I haven’t hooked up in months, Patrick, God, I just wanted—”

Patrick stiffens up a little. “You need one for me,” he says, and the embarrassment is enough to cut through even the arousal that’s making his chest heave. He doesn’t want to say it, but he has to, because Jonny needs to know this. “Because. Because I could get pregnant.”

His eyes are closed, so he can’t see Jonny’s reaction; he can only feel the stillness, hear the silence. Then Jonny’s lips are on his belly, a warm, wet kiss. “If you get any hotter, I’m not going to make it,” Jonny growls.

Patrick’s eyes pop open surprise. “Are you—”

“I’m going to put a baby in you someday,” Jonny says. And then, “I mean—if you want—” But Patrick’s already arching up, gasping for air, and it’s pretty clear that his body, anyway, wants it.

Jonny slides off the bed and scrambles in the nightstand. When he comes back, it’s with a condom packet, and if Patrick doesn’t get that dick inside him soon he’s going to die.

“Come on, Jonny, come on,” he says, and Jonny rolls the condom on and knee-walks towards him.

“Ready?” Jonny asks. Patrick’s shaking with how ready he is, and it’s all he can do to nod. Jonny bends Patrick’s legs back again, takes his dick in hand, and plunges in.

Patrick puts his head back and wails. Jonny’s taking up so much space within him and it’s exactly right. Patrick’s own dick is standing up above his stomach, untouched, and Patrick doesn’t even care when Jonny’s inside of him like that.

“Can I.” Jonny sounds broken. “Can I move?”

“God, yes,” Patrick says, and Jonny makes this little relieved sound and pulls out before punching back in. Patrick feels the thrust in every inch of his body, and he’s lit up with it. He rolls his hips, meets Jonny’s thrusts, gets his cock to hit against that spot that makes him whine and melt into the bed. Jonny’s cock is big and hard and he’s inside of him and over him and Patrick’s and he’s all Patrick can smell. All he can see. Patrick looks up and sees Jonny looking back at him, staring, all direct and intent.

“Mine,” Jonny says in a low voice.

“Yeah,” Patrick pants, “yeah, yours. Fill me up, Jonny, come on—” He clenches around Jonny’s dick, and Jonny gasps and speeds up.

“Patrick. Pat. I’m gonna—”

“Yeah,” Patrick says, a high noise that doesn’t even sound like him, and Jonny moans and shudders and swells even bigger and then he’s coming inside Patrick’s ass. And Patrick’s shooting, back bowing with the pressure of it, cock twitching untouched as all that pleasure rolls over him and makes his nerve endings go up in fireworks.

Jonny collapses on him, a warm heavy weight that settles over Patrick and makes him think, Yeah. This. You, before his brain shorts out and he can’t think anything at all.

Chapter Text

Patrick wakes up a little while later to find that they’ve shifted, so that now he’s tucked in against Jonny’s shoulder, Jonny’s dick no longer in his ass. He feels…amazing. He feels like he’s had twelve nights of sleep. He feels like he could get up and play an entire round of playoff games all by himself.

Jonny moves a little, brushes his lips against Patrick’s hair. “You’re mine now,” he mumbles, and Patrick has to laugh at his possessiveness even when half-asleep.

“Yeah,” he says, fond, happy. He’s happy. It feels unfamiliar.

“My wolf,” Jonny says, and Patrick stiffens as much as it’s possible to stiffen while still in Jonny’s arms.

He tries not to show it. But Jonny’s flush against him, and of course he notices. His arms tighten.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” he asks into Patrick’s hair.

Patrick just came his brains out and then passed out. He isn’t prepared for this question. “I, uh.” He tries for a chuckle. “I didn’t really tell anyone. For obvious reasons. You know?”

“No.” Jonny pulls back enough to look at Patrick. His eyes are dark. “I don’t know.”

Patrick huffs his annoyance. “Dude. Come on. You know no one would be okay with this.”

“Everyone would be okay with this.” Jonny lays his hands on Patrick’s back, flat and possessive. “You’re awesome.”

Patrick twists away from the touch a little, without leaving Jonny’s arms, so he doesn’t have to look at him while he says this. “Okay, let’s say none of this had ever happened. No,” he says, when Jonny starts to protest, “just, like, hypothetically. Let’s say you’d never met me. And you heard that someone on another team was like this. Was a wolf. Would you have been okay with it?”

Jonny’s pause is long enough to be incriminating. “Maybe not at first,” he finally says. “But if I got to know him—”

“Then let’s say the press found out,” Patrick says. “And the kids. All the kids who root for the Blackhawks, and their parents. They wouldn’t let me visit the children’s wards anymore. I wouldn’t be able to work with kids’ teams. Maybe not with any other teams. People would write about how I shouldn’t be allowed to play. Some of them might even have the power to make that happen.”

“They would be idiots,” Jonny says, his voice scratchy and low.

Patrick laughs a little, but it’s bitter. “Maybe so. But no one wants a wolf next to them on the bench.”

“I do.” Jonny meets his eyes again. “I don’t care. I said it and I meant it.” His fingers clench on Patrick’s back. “All I care about is that you’re Patrick.”

He lowers his face and starts nosing into Patrick’s neck. It’s not sexual, this time; it’s soothing—claiming—his teeth nipping down the tendons in tiny claiming bites and his neck rubbing against Patrick’s in a way that will get their scents on each other. Patrick feels warm down to his toes, and he leans his head back so that Jonny will lick all the way under his chin.

“I kept getting the urge to do all these things,” Jonny mumbles into his skin. “Licking you and biting you and—God, your neck, it’s been so distracting. I’ve wanted to do this for months.”

“It’s the wolf bond,” Patrick says. The touches might not be sexual, primarily, but they’re still getting Patrick revved up again. His dick is taking a little bit of interest. “You’re the alpha.”

Jonny’s face comes up into his view, close enough that Patrick almost can’t focus on him. “I don’t really know what that means.”

“It means—” Patrick feels Jonny shift over him, their dicks brushing against each other, and he can’t find all the words he needs for a full explanation. “Mostly it means you take care of me.”

Jonny’s lips quirk into a smile, and his eyes glow at him. “I can do that.”

***

After, when they’re bathing in sweat and come and still coming down from it, Patrick’s phone buzzes. He picks it up and gives a startled laugh. It’s from Sidney Crosby, and all it says is Welcome to the club.

***

 

Epilogue

 

Almost three years after Patrick first comes to Chicago, he gets the first thing he wanted: to skate around the rink to the deafening cheers of the crowd, arms raised and holding the Stanley Cup.

He didn't get the other thing he wanted, of course, but that’s sort of okay. Way better than okay, really. Having Jonny find out was better than Patrick ever dreamed. It’s been months now, and it’s still amazing, even if it’s been weird for both of them to adjust to Jonny feeling like he owns Patrick and trying to check anyone who comes near him on the ice. (And to adjust to Sidney Crosby being a wolf. Who knew?)

They’ve been good, though. They still fight, but Patrick doesn’t know who he would be without that, without Jonny to push back against and give as good as he gets. And then after they fight, he gets to lie down and bare his neck to him and until Jonny licks and bites and claims him all over, and then fucks into him, slow and sweet or fast and rough, and that’s way better than good. He brought Jonny home to Buffalo just after Christmas and lay in a pile with him and Jackie and Jess and Erica, and it felt like everything he ever wanted.

But Patrick still can’t wolf out. He can’t let himself smell like a wolf, or let the world know what he is. He thinks, though—he thinks maybe Sharpy, soon. Maybe a couple of the others, the ones he can trust. Maybe someday.

For now, it’s enough to lift the Cup, buoyed by the cheers of the fans, and slam into Jonny’s arms and hold tight, reveling in what he’s won with his pack.