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The thing is, Sidney has been able to see spirit animals for so long, that half the time, he doesn’t even register them anymore. He doesn’t quite remember seeing them before he was three, but he doesn’t remember a lot before he was three. One of the things he does remember, however, is the feeling of soft fur brushing up against his arms, warmth and comfort accompanying it.

He remembers stumbling around the house, a light brown doe following after him. Whenever he’d fall or hurt himself the doe would be right behind his mother, ready to comfort him until he stopped crying.

Whenever his father would encourage him, tell him how he was certain that Sidney was something special, a large bird would watch him with sharp eyes. Sidney eventually learned that that large bird that always followed his father around was a Ferruginous hawk. Sidney often found himself watching the animal warily, though it never once even seemed to think about hurting him. Sometimes it would watch him practice though, caw and scoff at his attempts, whether they were a success or a failure.

When Sidney is ten, he’s greeted by a screaming baby sister and the flutter of wings. The butterfly that orbits his sister is one of the more beautiful things that Sidney has ever seen and he marvels at the fact that this screaming little brat will one day become the embodiment of the peaceful insect.

Sidney doesn’t remember all the exotic animals he’s ever met. From gazelles to the extinct thylacine, a person could have any animal that had ever existed as a spirit animal. For his own sanity, Sidney ignored them, and eventually he didn’t feel stranger’s animals anymore. He wouldn’t feel the brief brush of a cat’s tail as his neighbor walked past, nor would he feel the wind move as the woman beside him crossed the street with the same excitement that the hummingbird next to her was exhibiting. He could still feel his mother’s doe and his father’s hawk, as well as Taylor’s butterfly’s ticklish feet, but otherwise he let himself be isolated with his own animal.

When he meets Jack, he adds another animal to the list that he touches. The colt is still young, all knobby knees and teasing whinnies. Jack is as handsome as his spirit animal and it always surprises Sidney how much the two are alike. His mother was as just as soft and caring as her doe, but she had the ability to be hard while her doe always seemed to be skittish in tough situations. His father’s hawk was just as scrutinizing towards Sidney’s play as his father, but Sidney always felt even more inadequate under the bird’s eyes then he ever had in front of his father. Taylor was still too young to completely match her animal, so Sidney didn’t have much to go on with her. Watching Jack bounce around with his colt right behind him was always a fascinating experience.

Sidney’s life goes on and then he’s drafted by the Penguins and meets Mario and his tabby cat. The cat is incredibly friendly, not once hissing at Sidney’s animal or anyone else for the matter. Mario is kind and accepting and it helps Sidney feel at home like never before. Nathalie is as just as kind and her frog is just as considerate. It let’s out the occasional croak as a greeting, but it never goes overboard and it gives Sidney his space until he feels ready to touch the amphibian. Sidney wonders at Nathalie’s spirit animal, honestly surprised not to see a more aesthetically pleasing animal, until he looks up the spiritual properties of animals and learns that frogs stand for fertility and ancient wisdom. He watches Nathalie with her kids, her frog with their animals (Lauren and Stephanie both have dogs, Lauren with a chocolate lab while Stephanie is followed around by a happy pug. Austin has the fluffiest rabbit Sidney has ever seen while Alexa has a cheetah cub that stumbles after her), and he realizes that no matter how much bigger or more aggressive the kids’ animals are, Nathalie’s frog always has them under enough control to keep both it and themselves from harm.

Sidney plays hockey, enjoys his time with his teammates, and learns never to trust Flower’s dingo. Sidney read that dingoes are supposed to be nervous around people, but they clearly had never met Flower’s spirit animal. Because Sidney has accepted its presence in his life, it can touch Sidney and, for some reason, Sidney’s things. Sidney learned fast that if he wanted his things to be there where he left them, it was best to have his own animal guard it.

Army is followed around by a panda and it’s a constant source of entertainment for Sidney. It’s constantly eating bamboo (where the panda gets it from, Sidney has no idea) and it loves to poke at the other animals in the room. It’s never malicious, a tease more than anything, but the other animals always get moody about it. Most swat at the bear, grumbling and hissing at the contact, all unsure if they could really get the panda to stop when it’s so much bigger than them. When it gets to be too much however, Geno’s kamchatka brown bear is always there to sit on it and get it to stop. The first time Sidney saw it happen, he accidentally blew Gatorade out of his nose.

He plays and he even wins a cup and everything is going surprisingly well. Trades happen and he says goodbye to Jordy and his red panda, as well as tearing up when Army leaves with his lumbering bear.

He meets Beau and his hedgehog and says goodbye to both Nealer and Pauly, their matching wolves looking solemn each time Sidney meets their eyes.

So Sidney is surrounded by spirit animals, happy to pet and pay attention to any who want it. His team is his family and he has no qualms paying attention to so many different kinds of animals, not when it’s his family.

Then Prague happens.

Sidney doesn’t pay attention to the animals when he’s playing. He has a job and as much as he cares about his spirit animal, he can’t let it distract him. He’s played with guys on Team Canada and honestly couldn’t describe their animal after whichever tournament is over.

Sidney goes to Prague with a sour feeling in his heart. He hates that they’ve made it only to not get there, not play like he knows they can. He goes to Prague, decides to play with Team Canada because at least that will mean he’s still out there on the ice, giving it his best.

He gets there and plays and, for the most part, ignores the animals around him. He doesn’t usually interact with animals not on his team and, frankly, he wasn’t in the mood even if he wanted to. He sees Ekblad’s panther roam around at night and does his best to ignore Eberle’s geoldi marmoset picking play fights with Hall’s pygmy marmoset. Eakin’s alligator let’s Spezza’s calico cat hitch rides every once and a while with Seguin’s black swan gracefully following after them. He watches sometimes, he can’t help it, but he doesn’t interact with them, doesn’t speak or coo at them, and it gets them to keep their distance.

Except for the wolf.

At least, Sidney thinks it’s a wolf. It’s sort of small, like a coyote, but it doesn’t quite fit the description. When he decides to look it up and realizes that it’s a hybrid, informally termed Coywolf, he admits his slight annoyance turned into intrigue. He’s seen plenty of animals, but it’s not often that he sees a hybrid animal. He thinks he might’ve seen a liger once, when he was in his teens, but it was during a hockey game and he couldn’t give it enough thought to really look.

The Coywolf is a constant companion to his own spirit animal and it always leads to Sidney finding them curled up together in a corner somewhere. Sidney would honestly be a little more freaked out if spirit animals had genders, scared he would turn the corner and find the two canines going at it, but he’s saved from that sight based on the fact that spirit animals just were.

While the coywolf follows Sidney’s animal around, he finds himself interacting with his team more than he thought he would. He’s all for team building, wants the team to have a strong connection and comradeship, but he’s never quite gotten this attached. Hell, Sidney even finds himself making nice with Giroux, or, Claude as the ginger insisted. Sidney would find himself sitting with a couple of the guys, including Claude and Nate, just relaxing whenever they had free time. Nate’s mouse is gray and small and likes to hide around Sidney. Well, it likes to hide around his animal, anyway. It would occasionally poke it's head out from its hiding place before it would dart away, hiding once again.

Sidney watches the coywolf groom his animal and absentmindedly swats away Claude’s attempt at getting his attention by messing up his hair. When Claude laughs mockingly at his efforts and continues on with his actions, Sidney looks at him closely and wonders because; because Sidney can’t find Claude’s animal. Even when they’re small Sidney sees them, always, and it’s disconcerting that Sidney can’t spot Claude’s.

“What’s got you all confused, Croz?” Claude asks, standing up to stretch out his legs.

“Nothing,” Sidney mutters, his eyes darting around to see if any animal appears, ignoring the nickname.

Claude raises an eyebrow, obviously skeptical of Sidney’s answer, but shrugs it off anyway. “I got a standing skype session with Danny, so I’m gonna head up. If you see Segs before he heads up, tell him that if he walks around the room naked one more time, I’m bruising his dick.”

Sidney can’t keep the snort from escaping and he watches Claude leave with a self satisfied smirk. To his complete shock, a golden blur shoots away from Sidney’s animal and quickly follows after the ginger man.

Sidney blinks after both the man and, apparently, his spirit animal. He turns down to see his arctic fox pouting, its ears going flat as it let out a sad huff.

Well, Sidney thinks, watching his animal wearily, not everyone is exactly like their spirit animal, right?