Jo sleeps with Kaner for the second time when she’s twenty-one and gets drunk off her ass in a bar in Vancouver.
It’s not exactly her fault; they don’t have a game the next day and Sidney always seems to be surrounded by Russians who like to challenge people to drinking competitions. Seeing as Jo’s sticking pretty close to Sidney throughout the Olympics, it’s not too surprising that Ovechkin would manage to challenge her with a well-timed shot glass, and Jo knows it’s one of her defining character traits, the whole never stepping down from a challenge thing.
So—she knocks them back, and slams the wet glasses down on the table when she’s finished, raising her eyebrows at all the guys around the table. She’s no fucking lightweight, even if she’d rather have a beer in her hands than vodka or whiskey or whatever the hell they keep ordering.
Sidney, on the other hand, doesn’t rise to the challenge. Apparently her repeated exposure out in the East seems to have done wonders for her ‘give-a-fuck’ meter: she’s managed to stick to the one beer all night.
Jo’s only vaguely jealous of that when Patrick Kane comes up to their table, grinning from ear-to-ear and flushed red like he’s already had plenty, and says, “You fuckers are hogging all the good stuff over here!” before leaning over, sweaty and too hot, and stealing Jo’s shot right from her hand, and swallowing it back.
Jo kicks him in the shin – gently, or vaguely gently anyway; they’re playing in two days and she doesn’t want Canada’s victory tainted by something as dumb as Patrick Kane claiming injury. He just grins harder and sits down, shoving into the already impossibly crowded booth. Two more guys pull up chairs and start talking, and Jo’s stuck sitting between Kane and Sidney. It’s too hot and sweaty and in Kane’s case, weirdly sticky, for comfort.
“What the fuck, Kane?” she grumbles, and tries to shove him back for the sake of some elbow room.
“This whole tournament is about, like, international friendship and shit, Jo, share the wealth a little,” he says back, but he’s laughing.
His eyes are this ridiculously pretty blue, and his mouth is red, and Jo feels like she needs way more alcohol in her system if she wants to deal with it. His eyelashes are stupidly long too, she thinks, and looks away before she gets noticed staring at him like a creep.
It’s too easy to remember Worlds; they’d slept together, then, two days before the Canada vs. USA match, and it was – it was good. Beyond good, because it’d been both their first times, all fumbling fingers and complicated clothing removal attempts, and finally relaxing enough to laugh when neither of them could figure out how to get the fucking condom on.
She knows he’d carried traces of her on him for days, dark finger-shaped bruises on his hips where she’d been clutching him so hard, like a lifeline.
They’d barely even really known each other, unless you count the two weeks where they’d played in a tournament together when they were thirteen, and then she hadn’t seen him again for a year, when they went up against one another in the NHL for the first time; Kane playing right wing for Chicago’s second-line, and Jo centering for the Blues.
“Jo,” Sid yells, waving a hand in her face, and Jo jerks backward, right into Kane who grabs at her shoulder to catch her; keep her from shoving him right out of the booth.
“Jesus, what?” Jo says back, looking for the shot she’d been about to drink before Kane had had to walk in and sit down and be all – distracting.
“Going to set table on fire with power of glare,” Ovechkin says, raising the shot Jo thinks was rightfully hers. She reaches to snatch it, but he pulls back before she can reach it. “Not good. Too much vodka.”
“Here,” Kane says, voice light, and he’s handing her a shot, liquid jostling over the rim and splattering onto her jeans. She takes it and grins in thanks, and then watches as he needles at his bottom lip with his teeth. She looks back at Ovechkin and raises the shot, and makes a bad attempt at some Russian word they’d been trying to teach her all night before tipping her neck back, resting her head against Kane’s shoulder, and swallowing every last drop of whatever-the-fuck-that-was.
She doesn’t end up winning: who the fuck would; drinking with Russians is a thing that should never be attempted, but she does end up letting Kane drag her out on the less-than-inspired dance floor and sing horribly off-key in her ear while they both try to dance with some sort of dignity. At least, she does; Kane’s dancing like he has no dignity left and couldn’t care less about it. She likes how genuinely happy he is, easy and carefree and open in a way Jo’s never quite managed for herself, no matter how much beer she chugs in the attempt.
His shirt keeps riding up, showing off these little glimpses of the skin hidden underneath, and she wants to drag her mouth all over him. The vodka’s made her warm all over, and it’s easy to press in close to him, pushing her body against his and watch him trip over himself before he leans up to kiss her, sweaty and biting both where his teeth graze her bottom lip and where his fingers dig into her hair, pulling at her ponytail until her rubber band gets lost somewhere by their feet.
They haven’t slept together since they were dumb and eighteen and overseas for Worlds, but that was three, four years ago. Jo’s twenty-one now, legal to drink in St. Louis even, and she’s the responsible one – obviously, compared to Kane – and shouldn’t be making the decision to sleep with the enemy two days before they play for gold. Again.
But Kane’s pupils are blown wide, and his mouth is wet and his cheeks flushed, and Jo’s pretty sure she never had a chance in the face of that.
Two days later, Jo is swarmed up in an embrace of red and white and bright lights and ecstatic yelling and cheers and she gets a hug out of Sidney and a kiss from Staal and a bouquet of flowers that doesn’t hold a candle to the gold medal they hang around her neck. She talks to more microphones and cameras than she thinks she has since the draft three years ago; at least this time she refrains from cursing on live television.
She goes out with her family for dinner and gets interrupted approximately twenty times for autographs and can’t even get irritated because she won gold, and she’s still wearing the medal when she goes out with Sidney and the rest of the guys, ready to celebrate for real. She spares a second to text Kane in the taxi, because if nothing else, he played really well, the same old soft hands and quick feet and eyes that are half a second ahead of everyone else, and silver or gold, he should know that.
It isn’t until she gets back to St. Louis, exhausted and still so pumped from the Olympics and ready to help her team make a go at the playoffs that she sees three messages on her phone from Brisson, and feels something in her stomach twist. She goes to the kitchen and throws some chicken in the oven before she builds up the nerve to call him back.
And that’s when she finds out she’s been traded.
She’s been to Chicago before, of course; the Blues play against the Blackhawks often enough that she knows where she’s going on her first drive to the United Center as an actual Blackhawk, and not a member of a rival team. She gets waved in and told where to park her rented Mercedes, and then pointed in the direction of where she’s supposed to head with her gear bag swung over her shoulder.
She pushes through the heavy, metal door, and has to take a minute to remember that the UC is no different from Scottrade. The hall is long, but there are signs pointing her in the right direction, and she’s walking in through the recreation room as soon as she reaches the top of the stairs, making a few of the boys – new teammates, she thinks, shaking her head – look up at her.
Right; the Blackhawks don’t have any other female players.
“Joanna Toews,” comes a noise from behind her, and then she has an arm over her shoulders and Patrick Sharp is smiling in a way that kind of reminds her of that creepy bear T.J. is obsessed with texting her pictures of. He pronounced her name wrong too, but then he always has, on the ice or off it.
“Jesus,” she mutters, and then rears her elbow back to hit him in the gut, “get off me, Sharp.”
He lets out a noise like he’s been winded, but he’s so melodramatic about it that she’s sure he’s fine.
She says hi to more guys as she pushes her way through to the locker room; everyone’s in various levels of dress, but she’s used to it after a lifetime of playing on boys’ teams, and they’ll have to get used to her pretty quick. She didn’t bother with the crappy little changing stall they put up at Scottrade for her; she won’t bother with whatever they put together for her here either.
She stops when she walks in the locker room though, eyes caught on Kane as he’s leaning down to untie his shoes and kick them off, and then standing up to start tugging his dumb red, blue and white t-shirt off. He has a nasty bruise on his hip that’s peeking out of his jeans; it had been there when they’d slept together not half-a-week ago, and she remembers trailing her fingertips over it as he held his breath.
It’s darker now, bigger even, around the edges, maybe because she’d wrapped her thighs around his waist and hadn’t been gentle about it. He hadn’t seemed to mind at the time.
He looks up when Sharp and some other guys come tumbling into the room after her, making a bunch of noise. His face breaks out into a smile and he says, “Toews, check it out!” and jumps around his stuff to present the stall to his left, empty except for the nicely arranged practice gear and brand new sticker across the top that says, ‘TOEWS #19’.
Nineteen wasn’t her number with the Blues. She steps forward, swallowing and shaking her head, because fuck, fuck. She still can’t believe they fucking traded her.
“Looks great, Kane,” she says, after a minute. She drops her bag.
Sharp calls out, “Hey, cheer up. Chicago’s a lot nicer than St. Louis, Toews.”
It degenerates into something about Chicago’s hottest people – she thinks she’s vaguely heard something about that, maybe from an interview or something – but Kane is giving her a funny look before he finally says, “You can call me Kaner, you know that, right? Or hell, Patrick. Kane just sounds weird.”
She sits down in her stall and opens her bag, grabbing an empty water bottle off the top that she’d forgotten to throw away. She tosses it in Kane’s direction only to hear him yell, “Hey!” and get the bottle thrown back at her, where it bounces off her knee.
“Nice aim, Kaner,” she says, before standing up to strip off her sweats and sweater. She ignores the standard whistling and comments like, “Oh, shit, she’s changing in here—?” that come with her sports bra and thighs being in full view of twenty-something male athletes for the first time, and determinedly doesn’t look at Kaner.
There’s a fading hickey on her collarbone that he’d put there.
Let’s go, Blackhawks, she thinks, even managing to keep from grimacing, and pulls the vividly red practice jersey over her head.
Management calls her up after practice, nothing she wasn’t expecting. She ducks in and out of the little shower stall with a curtain they’d put up for her, ties her hair up so that it isn’t wet against her back, throws on her clothes and leaves her stuff in the locker room before heading up. She’s never been up in the offices in this particular arena before, and it takes her a minute to find the right place – and even then, it’s only because Kaner comes up the stairs behind her and grins, sticking out his thumb and motioning towards the door on her left.
She scowls, but only because she’s not in a great mood.
She doesn’t mind Chicago, exactly, but she’d been in St. Louis for almost three years and it sucks to have it shoved in her face that she’s not working for them. She wasn’t good enough, for management, for the team. And it’s ridiculous, she’d worked her ass off every day trying to get the Blues on top of the playoff race and it just – it just wasn’t happening. Maybe she could have – done something, worked a little harder in the crease or took a few more hits –
It just sucks, and she’s more than a little bitter about it.
Honestly, it just makes her all the more determined to be the best; she’ll make Chicago cry with fucking joy, and St. Louis can just go fuck themselves. By the end of season, they’re going to be regretting ever trading her, thinking she was the problem that needed fixing. She’ll show them how valuable a player she is, and she’ll do it in Chicago.
At least skating with the Chicago guys is simple enough. She’s played against them for years, and just came back from playing with a few of them on Team Canada in Vancouver, so it’s easy to slip back in with them. And then obviously there’s Kaner, and she’s begrudgingly had a thing for the way he handles the puck for – well, since the first time they ever played on the same ice at the same time.
If they hadn’t slept together and messed with their whole dynamic, she might even be happier about playing with him. But as it is, she’s finding it difficult to look at him without snapping, and it’s only when she’s on the ice and focused on the puck that looking at him doesn’t have her remembering the way his hands hovered over her skin, the way his thumbs dug into her hips when he finally lined himself up and pushed in, looking at her like –
She walks into the office with Stan and Blackhawks management team members she hasn’t memorized the names of yet already there. She goes to shut the door quietly behind her, except Kaner goes, “Ow, Jo!” and blocks it shutting with his foot before pushing through and bumping her shoulder.
She wants to ask why he’s there, but some moderate sense of professionalism stops her. She says, “Oh, sorry,” instead, and then turns to introduce herself – again – to the room. Kaner sits down behind her while they talk a few minutes about what they’re expecting on the ice from her, and telling her they liked what they saw during practice that day, and then they drop the bombshell.
“It’s just a few months until playoffs hit, Toews,” Stan says, and Jo nods, serious as she can be. She’d been doing everything she could on the ice to just give St. Louis a chance – she can work just as hard for Chicago, and they’re in a better starting place already. It almost feels like cheating; playing against the Hawks was always a challenge, and she can count how many times the Blues managed to come out on top on one hand, practically. It’s a little reinvigorating to suddenly be on their side.
Stan keeps going though: “We really want you to connect with the team, but we need you to do it quick,” and Jo’s almost halfway to scoffing – she can’t just force chemistry, and frankly, she’s never been that great at making friends. She has them, obviously, or her phone wouldn’t have twelve missed messages from T.J. on it already, but it just takes some time to get there.
She blinks her eyes rapidly, trying to – to reset the conversation, maybe, when she hears Stan say, “That’s why we’ve decided you should billet with one of your teammates for the last few months of the season. A hotel’s no good, and you’ll be on the first line with Kane the majority of the time – we liked what you two did in practice today. So you two figuring out how to work with one another is essential for the rest of our season. We want you to spend plenty of time with Sharp and Hossa as well; you’ll be on a line with them pretty often. But really, get to know the whole team. Work as hard as we’re used to seeing you work, and we think you’ll do great here, Toews. It’s a pleasure to have you with us.”
He stands up to shake her hand.
Jo stands up and shakes it, mindlessly.
She’s pretty sure she’s just been told, with no option to say no, that she’s going to be living with Patrick Kane.
With the teammate she’d slept with.
She looks at him on their way out, and he shrugs, but looks uneasy when he says, “I didn’t realize you were who – I thought they wanted me to give my spare room to a rookie or something. You know, pay my dues. But, uh, it should be cool, right? I have a sweet entertainment system.”
“Yeah,” she says after a minute, “awesome.”
Most of her stuff is still at her apartment in St. Louis. She’d hired a moving crew to pack it all up and bring it down to Chicago when she found a place, but now she’s not sure that’s going to work. She doesn’t want to overload Kaner’s house with her shit. Maybe she should get them to take it all to Winnipeg or something. Except that she wants her bed – it’s a California King and took ages to find, and the bed set she has for it is kind of like how she imagines sleeping on a cloud would feel.
The hotel bed she’s been on just doesn’t compare, and Kaner’s guest bed, from the looks of it, isn’t all that much better. For starters, it’s pink. She walks back out of the room, and finds him in the kitchen, messing with the oven, and she says as much. He looks back at her, just grins and says, “Yeah, Jacks decorated when she was going through a phase last year. You can buy new sheets or whatever; it’s your room now.”
“Huh? Oh, little sister. I have three.”
She knew that, she just didn’t know any of their names. That makes more sense than a random girlfriend decorating his guest bedroom pink at least. A knot in her chest eases and she throws herself back on his couch when she wanders back into the living room. Weirdly enough, it’s a lot like the one she had back in St. Louis. She closes her eyes and tries to relax and get used to the idea of living here. At least she’s used to it: she’s stayed in more hotels than she can count over the years, and lived with enough billet families that her hand cramps from the amount of generic Christmas cards she has to write each year.
She can never quite remember which family did what, or how old the kids are now.
The smell of chicken and lemon zest starts wafting in from the kitchen and her stomach growls, reminding her that her last meal was a hastily put-together plate at the rink, mostly fruit and some ham and cheese crackers. “Are you making green beans?” she calls out, just to give Kaner a hard time.
“I’m making you spinach!” he yells back, and while she’s pretty sure he’s lying his ass off, she gets up to go check anyway, because that shit’s not on. He knows she hates spinach; it’s the first thing she’d ever said to him, back when they were thirteen and playing in that short tournament for the Junior Flyers.
She’d wound up with a cup of spinach as her required vegetable serving after practice, but Kaner had agreed to trade his green beans for her spinach when she asked, easygoing about it. They ended up trading through the whole tournament, and she didn’t find out until six years later, when they were at some award ceremony and sitting at the same table, that Kaner hated spinach as much as she did.
It isn’t hard to decide that sleeping with Kaner (again) is never going to happen.
It’s one thing if it’s just something that happens at international tournaments every few years; they don’t have to see each other on a regular basis afterward. Admittedly, she probably shouldn’t have slept with him that second time – they’re both in the NHL, and she’d have had to play against him more than a few times even if she hadn’t been traded to his team. But it’s not like she’s the only one who’s done it, because she knows for a fact that Sidney slept with Ovechkin as a rookie.
Jo’s never been clear on the details, but knowing Sidney, there was probably a lot of insults involved.
The point is: Jo’s not alone in the bad decisions department.
But it’s a whole different situation now that they’re teammates.
If she’d wanted this kind of drama, she’d have gone ahead and dated T.J. back when they were playing for the Sioux. She doesn’t sleep with teammates, it’s like shitting where you eat. Unfortunately, the boat has kind of sailed.
She’s slept with Kaner, twice, and if they weren’t on the same team now, she’d probably be willing to do it again. It’s stupid that this is where she’s ended up. Not – Chicago, but the situation she’s landed herself in. The whole reason she’d slept with Kaner the first time was because there wouldn’t be any drama afterward.
It’s not like she had pre-planned it, but… there was just something about being in Sweden, playing hockey for Canada – it was like this constant thrumming underneath her skin, because there was nowhere she’d rather be, nothing she’d rather be doing. Everything was fucking perfect, the whole tournament.
Halfway through, some of the older guys hastily put together a party in their hotel room, one of those big ones with the connecting doors, so that’s it’s actually two rooms in one. She didn’t have a match the day after, and all of her teammates were there too. There was plenty of free booze getting passed around, but music just unobtrusive enough that none of their coaches had come storming in yet.
She bumped into Kane when she was a few beers in, easily recognizing him from back when they were kids, when he’d come out of nowhere and started collecting more points than her. He had the same ridiculous hair and stupidly bright blue eyes, and the same little smile when he said, “Hey, Jo.”
She’d wanted to touch his curls, and she caught herself staring at his jawline as he talked, a group of guys around him because he draws people in, all magnetic and shit, but it wasn’t until he started to laugh that she realized she wanted to kiss him.
And right then – right then, he was just this American wonder kid with a lot of speed and not much strength, but with these amazing fucking hands – and she never really thought about actual people, not like that, but she couldn’t help but wonder what his hands would feel like on her, touching her.
He glanced at her, smiling around his beer before half-laughing, half-asking, “What?”
“Nothing, I just –” she stopped. The crowd he’d been talking to had thinned out, distracted maybe, but he was still there, leaning against the wall and nursing the nearly-empty beer in his hand.
She couldn’t think of a reason not to, when she felt the way she did – all this want under her skin, pressing outward. “Can I kiss you?” she asked, and suddenly wanted more than anything for the answer to be yes.
He nearly dropped his beer, hands fumbling, but he looked back at her and said, “Yeah.” His voice was all soft, and his tongue darted out to lick at his bottom lip, like a nervous impulse he couldn’t help.
Her heart was doing fucking somersaults as she leaned in, and she could see him swallow, his throat moving, before she pressed her mouth up against his, closing her eyes to everything else in the room and just letting the way he felt against her take over. He didn’t hesitate in kissing her back, and she shivered when his hand came up to rest on her waist, gentle but hot through her t-shirt.
She pressed into him until their chests were flush, moving a hand up his back to help her hold on. His mouth was soft and wet and maybe tasted like beer, but that was okay because she was sure hers did too, and he was breathing hard against her skin when she pulled back, somehow almost forgetting that breathing is required for living.
“Maybe we should go somewhere else?” he asked, and the party around them came back into sharp focus, a loud fight having broken out in the corner.
He started for the other room, but she grabbed his hand and said, “I have a room. And no roommate.”
He’d looked at her for a long moment, and she’d gone tense before he finally nodded, slowly, and said, “Uh, yeah, okay,” so soft she almost couldn’t hear him.
But that was a yes, and he’d let her pull him out of the room.
It had been entirely free of drama, then and after, and even having a one-time repeat performance at the Olympics last week should have been fine. Or – will be fine. It’s a little awkward, sure, they weren’t expecting to be rooming together afterward, but it’s not like they’ll ever be having sex together again, and they can just forget that they ever did in the first place.
There are more important things to be thinking about anyway, like hockey. They have a game against St. Louis at the end of March, and she wants to win.
It’s easy to push onto the ice and fall in line with the Hawks. Somehow or another, she clicks with them, with Sharpy and Hossa. And the chemistry she has with Kaner… she stops, stock-still, the first time they score on Niemi at practice with a play they hadn't so much as thought about, much less actually talked about before getting on the ice. It’s hard to breathe, sometimes, when she thinks about how fucking good Kaner is, how better he makes her by association now that she’s on his team.
They work together, somehow, like they’ve been on the same line for years instead of days. Nine times out of ten she can toss the puck off and Kaner will be there to pick it up and tap it in. It seems like it’s too good to be true in practice, like a fluke, but they work just as well together during actual games, with their teammates filling what little gaps there are.
They take a loss from the Islanders in New York, Jo’s first game with the team, but they follow it up with two wins at home, first against Edmonton and the second against Vancouver, which they celebrate by dragging her out to a bar-slash-club that the team frequents enough to have their own room. She gets tipsy enough to watch sweat drip down the back of Kaner’s neck when he drops into a chair at the table, back from dancing, but not tipsy enough that she doesn’t take charge and drag him into a taxi when his cheeks flush red and he can’t stop laughing, curling in on himself and unable to walk in a straight line.
Steeger laughs at her and says, “You’ve got your work cut out for you with that one.”
She’s never doubted the press that says Kaner likes to party: she’s seen him, drinking and smiling and singing along to too-loud music before putting his hands on her waist and going back to her hotel room, bumping into shit and laughing until he gets his mouth on her skin.
But she’d never realized how exaggerated his press coverage really is. She should have, really: it’s not like that story about her parents raising her up as a boy is true, and she’s not a lesbian, no matter what the internet says. Kaner’s not the kind of guy to party so hard he’s in danger of passing out on the dance floor, covered in booze and high on who knows what.
He’s just – a really, really happy drunk, and takes it too far sometimes, easy and pliant and trusting the people he’s with to take care of him. They haven’t talked much, really, about his press – it’s never been any of her business, and people on the internet are fucking stupid, but – at least she’s got him now. He trusts her to take care of him, even though they don’t really know each other, not yet. But that isn’t surprising, she thinks, stomach twisting. As far as Jo can tell, dragging Kaner home and listening to him as he talks, drunk and pressing his face to her shoulder because he can’t quite keep himself upright, Kaner’s biggest problem is probably choosing to trust the wrong people.
By the time she unlocks the front door and dumps Kaner on his bed, he’s singing nonsense lyrics into her neck, warm and soft – she thinks it’s a Taylor Swift song, maybe, but she can’t tell. “It’s a love song, baaaby,” he sings, badly, and flops down on his bed, sending a couple pillows flying. He breaks off to take a drink out of the water bottle Jo throws at him. After a second, he looks up at her, smiles, and says, stretching out the words, “Hey, Jo, we beat the Canucks.”
She grins back at him and says, “Yeah.”
“You and me!” Kaner yells, and doesn’t let her leave, grabbing her wrist, until she says, “Yeah, yeah, you and me, we’ll fill up all those empty seats, eh?”
“Yeah,” Kaner sighs, and lets her pull away.
It’s the first time since she was traded that she feels – content, maybe, that she’s in Chicago now, that she’s a Blackhawk.
It makes it feel all the worse when, a week later, she overhears a conversation she definitely wasn’t meant to. She’s heading into the players’ lounge to steal some gatorade and get a few reps in, but stops dead just outside the doorway when she gets close enough to hear Keith say, “– but she’s a girl, man. Worst trade we’ve ever made. We lost fucking Skille because they wanted some eye candy on the bench.”
She twists her fingers into the towel hanging around her neck. Fuck, fuck, it shouldn’t even hurt, or surprise her, really. What team in the NHL isn’t going to have anybody get mad about having to play with a girl? There’s always going to be reservations about trades, period, and there’s a whole misogynistic, sexist sub-set of people out there who are still pissed as all hell that girls are allowed to play in the league, period.
It just, still somehow manages to catch her off guard when she gets it from people who should know better.
She breathes, closing her eyes for a second, getting ready to walk in there and give him a piece of her mind, when she hears Kaner speak up, loud and angry, “Shut the fuck up, come on. We weren’t getting anywhere the way we were lined up, and Toews is fucking good. If we make it to playoffs, she’s the difference. Think about it, she scores goals, man. Isn’t that all that matters?”
Jo’s heart thumps heavily in her chest, off beat enough that it hurts, feels like it’s in her throat.
“Kid’s got a good point,” Sharpy says, and Jo pulls back from the entrance, because his voice is too close for comfort and no matter what, she doesn’t want to get caught eavesdropping on them.
She hears Steeger or maybe Soupy say something from farther away, but she’s too far back to hear anymore, and she heads down the stairs to go back home. She spends a minute at the bottom of the stairs, pushing down the hot shame that some of her teammates don’t think she deserves to be here – and then thinks about Kaner, about the guys she’s starting to think of as guys who could be her friends, Sharpy and Steeger and Seabs, and thinks she’s fine, she’s – fine.
She can prove she’s the right girl for the job; it’s nothing she’s never had to do before.
She waits for Kaner in his hummer, texting him after ten minutes to say i’m stealing your car if you don’t hurry up, and they’re both mostly quiet on the way home. She’s still thinking about the fact that her new teammates – at least some of them – aren’t happy she’s there, and Kaner’s quiet in that easy, natural way he gets sometimes.
She goes to the bathroom when they get home, and when she comes back out, Kaner’s at the counter, sitting on one of the stools that are just tall enough that his feet don’t reach the ground. He’s staring down at three different take-out menus, and she points at the one for Chinese.
“Ordering in?” she asks, grabbing a piece of celery out of the fridge and taking a bite off the end. She makes a face and moves to pull the peanut butter down from the cupboard.
“Yeah, you want Chinese?” but he’s already ordering, and when she says, “Extra wantons, yo, Kaner,” snapping at him, he rolls his eyes at her but says, “Yeah, extra wantons if you can, thanks,” through the phone anyway.
Jo’s not feeling up for any of Kaner’s dumb movies or television shows, and neither of them are really wanting to bother with hooking up the PlayStation or Wii. They end up in the room down the hall where Kaner has a big air hockey table shoved up against the wall, battling it out until the food gets there.
The doorbell rings and Jo snaps the puck past Kaner’s fingers, throwing her fist in the air in victory. Kaner says, “Yeah, don’t get too cocky, we both know I taught you everything you know.”
She scoffs and says, “If I listened to you I would’ve lost – like you,” but follows him out to get the door and hand a tip to the delivery guy while Kaner starts pulling cartons out on the coffee table. Plates are overrated anyway.
She’s halfway through her chow mein when she looks up, and says, “So, uh, thanks for defending me earlier.”
Kaner looks at her quickly, dropping a piece of orange chicken. “You heard that?”
“Kind of hard not to,” she admits, and the shrugs. “I just have to prove I’m good enough to be here. I mean, I had to do it for the Blues, and at NDU, I just – forgot, I guess. It’s fine.”
Kaner frowns, but doesn’t say anything else, and they finish eating before he says, “Hey, uh, I’m gonna call my mom, but we should watch a movie or something.”
She still doesn’t really feel like it, but she doesn’t want to do anything else either, so she says, “Yeah, okay,” and keeps picking at her food. She watches him dial up his mom and smile when she answers, big dimples and shiny teeth. He spins on the stool, talking about some fair in Buffalo that he’d missed, maybe.
He didn’t put a horrifying amount of gel in his hair today; the curls are soft and loose around his face. She hears him say, “Yeah, kiss the girls for me,” after what feels like a minute, and looks back down at her fried rice and General Tso chicken quickly.
It’s gone cold.
Jo doesn’t always get in the corners or skate along the boards; she’s smaller than a lot of the guys she plays with, has less muscle and doesn’t weigh as much as she’d like to, and if she gets hit, she goes down pretty hard. She’s already had enough solid hits to know when to make a bid for the puck and when to let one of her teammates go for it instead, so she gets it when Kaner hangs back, she does, but she’s frustrated and angry enough to yell at him anyway.
He almost looks surprised when she starts in on him at practice, and just stands there for a minute, letting her yell at him, “Don’t be so fucking lazy, go after the puck!”
But he sputters back, dropping his stick to the ice, “Fuck you, I know how to play hockey and me getting taken out in the corners isn’t gonna do us any favors, Jo!”
“Neither is letting the other team get possession of the puck! Jesus, if you lose it, fine, but don’t just give it to them,” she screams, and he yells back, red-faced and angry, “Fuck you, you’re so fucking bossy, calm down. And I don’t give anyone the puck; who keeps missing Hossa’s passes? Oh, right, you.”
She fumes, her hands turning into fists. Sharpy grabs her shoulder, pulling her back, says, “Woah, calm down guys, it’s just morning practice.”
She turns, ripping away from him and pushing through the guys to get to the other side of the ice where pucks have been lined up for shooting practice. She puts her stick to the ice, takes a shot and misses – but then does it again and gets it in past Niemi’s right glove, in high. She doesn’t it again on the lower left side, and then gets blocked on her last shot, but she’s calmed down a little by the time Ladd comes up to take his shots.
It just drives her crazy, how good Kaner is, and good he could be, if he wanted to be. It’s not that he doesn’t work hard; she’s seen how hard he works, she knows – but he could do more. He’s so dependent on his teammates to find the puck and pass it to him, to put him in a position that he can score from.
It’s just… Kaner can score from anywhere, front-hand, back-hand, left, right, center – it doesn’t fucking matter, he’s always capable of getting the puck in the back of the net. He’s a goal scorer and a playmaker, every Chicago journalist’s wet dream, and that talent’s going to go straight to his head if he doesn’t honestly believe he could be doing so much more, be so much better than he already is.
The whole team is fucking stuck in this rut; so she’s bossy? Fucking good, they need a kick in the ass to wake them the fuck up. Their hang-up is that they're comfortable: comfortable with their lines, comfortable with their plays, comfortable with the way they play the game. It’s true that they have some crazy talent: they have Kaner, they have Sharpy, and Keith and Seabrook, with Niemi in goal, and Hossa’s probably the best trade they could have hoped for, but talent means nothing if that’s all they're depending on.
And it’s not, she knows it’s not: these guys want to be at the forefront of the conference, but there’s something missing, a spark to make them reach their limits and keep going anyway.
She’s stripping in the locker room when Sharpy sits down next to her, and for once sounds serious when he starts to talk to her. “For the record, you are bossy, but we kinda like it.” He stops, rubbing at his face: he has the beginnings of a beard on his chin. “It’s nice that you care so much. It’s – you’re making us pick up the pace, you know? We lost Skille, and they fired Savvy, and it’s just been kind of a tough year, I think. You’re good though, for the team. You belong here, Toews.”
He pronounces her name wrong, like always, but she nods, and feels relieved all over.
It doesn’t take long for Burish to ruin the moment by walking in and saying, “Holy shit, Toews! I thought you were about to pull out your pepper spray on this poor kid.” Jo makes a face. Pepper spray, really?
He’s jumping on Kaner’s back even while Kaner ducks and tries to escape.
“Nah,” Seabs says, still pulling off his skates, “she’d be more likely to use a taser. Longer lasting damage.”
Sharpy jumps up, yelling, “Wait!” He turns, eyes wide. “Toews! Taser! Oh, I’ve found the light.”
“You’re such an idiot,” Jo says, in pure disbelief.
“I like it,” Kaner says, shrugging and dropping down in his stall. Jo nods, after a second, and says, “I guess it’s better than Miss Serious,” thinking of her nickname back with the Blues.
Sharpy lights up again, and she drops her head in pained defeat.
She’s been thinking about her place on the team since yesterday, and how she wants her teammates to view her; overhearing Duncs questioning her right to be on the ice with them fucking hurt, but she has to bury it and fix that, fast. As much as she’d like to, it’s not something she can leave alone, and so when Duncs and Seabs get up to leave after getting dressed, she quickly shoves on her flip-flops and grabs her bag before chasing after them.
"Duncs!" she calls out, before he has a chance to make it all out the door. Seabs gives Duncs a look, but keeps walking, and Duncs slows to a stop, letting Jo catch up. She hikes her bag up over her shoulder, and starts nodding to herself once she stops, in front of him. Time to get this over with.
He looks at her, eyes raised, and says, "Yeah, what's up?"
"You don't have to like that I'm here," she says, after a minute, deciding to be blunt, “but I’m here, and I’m doing solid work, and as long as I’m on your team, you do have to respect me. You're a good defensive player, and I'm gonna respect you, so just – give me the same courtesy, yeah?”
He looks at her for a minute, and then nods, grimacing a little. "Uh, yeah. Yeah. It's good you're here, Toews."
She gives him another look, nods, and says, "Okay. Good. Have a nice night, Duncs.”
"Yeah," he says, and they walk out to the parking lot together. Before they split up, Duncs says, “Hey, uh, I was thinking about having most of the guys over next Monday. You feel up to it?”
She pauses, but says, “Yeah, sure.”
They split up when he heads left, and she goes right, toward where Kaner usually parks his god awful hummer. He’s waiting for her, listening to questionable music and trying to dance while sitting down with a steering wheel in front of him. She says, “Team bonding night at Duncs’ next Monday.”
“Yeah?” he asks, looking surprised.
She shrugs. “Yeah.”
“Okay,” Kaner says, turning on the car. “Cool.”
She has to make a choice.
On one hand, if she doesn’t do it, she’s almost certain to lose the game. Hossa’s cards are on the table, and he’s one good draw away from going out. She only needs one more card to get her phase – an eight or a six, and if she gets another fucking twelve she’s going to scream. There’s no guarantee she’ll get an eight or six (or a wild, if the card game Gods love her at all) even if she does use her skip on Hossa, but not using it takes away her last chance.
The problem is that it’s Hossa.
The whole game is terrible: there’s ten phases, and you have to pass each one to move forward; it took her three rounds to make the third phase, a set of three and a run of four – not as easy as she’d thought it’d be – and she’s on phase five now, a run of nine, which is the hardest fucking phase in the whole game.
You’re only allowed to have ten cards in your hand, and you need a run of nine! It’s impossible! Especially when people keep giving her fucking twelves.
“Come on, To-ez,” Sharpy calls out from the other end of the table, grinning and sticking a cracker in his mouth. She’d stuff it down his throat if he wasn’t so far away: the asshole got his phase down a minute ago. “Discard already.”
She grimaces, but drops her skip face-up on the discard pile and says, “Skip Hoss,” to a resounding, unanimous, “Oh!” from the rest of the guys around the table.
“Shit’s about to go down,” Burs says, covering his mouth like a tool, and Sharpy nods solemnly and says, “It was nice knowing you, Toews.”
“It’s Toews, now?” Jo grumbles. She’s looking at Hossa, who just shrugs his shoulders like he’s perfectly okay with getting skipped.
Shit, she is so screwed.
“You’re on Hoss’ shit list, you’re lucky you still have a name at all,” Sharpy says.
“It’s fine,” Hossa says, still calm. “I have my phase.”
Buff says, “Can we keep playing? Some of us still need a fuck ton of cards to get our phases,” and reaches forward to take a card off the top of the deck. Jo has warm feelings for Buff at the moment: he’s the only one other than herself at the table that doesn’t have a phase down on the table.
It doesn’t matter.
Fucking Soupy goes out before Jo even gets another chance to draw. “Are you fucking kidding me?” she yells, pissed, and Soupy laughs, raising his arms to block against the cards she throws at his face. “What the fuck, Campbell!”
She fucking hates this game.
“What kind of stupid game is this anyway? And it takes forever, Christ,” she fumes, sitting back down when Kaner, on the other side of the table, finishes shuffling and starts dealing out cards for the next round. She’s still on phase five – everybody else is on seven or eight, except Buff who’s on four, and Hossa, who’s on nine.
At least this misery will be over soon.
Unless she can figure out a way to just blow them out of the water. She grabs at her cards as Kaner deals them, angrily shuffling them into some sort of working order.
“I’m actually really happy you’re on our team now,” Seabs says, through a mouth of pizza, watching her carefully. “You’re kind of terrifying when you’re pissed.”
“Stop talking about me with your mouth full, fattie,” she says, pulling out another fucking twelve that Kaner just gave her, ready to burn the card if she can find a lighter somewhere in Duncs’ house.
She looks up after a second, and the guys are looking at her, obviously torn between disbelief and amusement, and she runs through what she just said. She rolls her eyes and says, “What? Come on, like you haven’t been called worse. Chew with your damn mouth shut. Are we going to play or what?”
Seabs coughs and says, “Wow,” under his breath, stretching the word, and Sharpy starts laughing over in his corner, followed by the rest of them.
“Holy shit,” Burish laughs, “the insults are coming. Don’t get on Jo’s bad side. She’ll call you four-eyes next.”
“Everybody got ten cards?” Kaner asks, dropping the deck back in the middle of the table. He’s grinning, but not outright laughing, at least. Jo still kind of wants to kick him under the table, but he’s too far away to reach without accidentally kicking someone else, and with her luck tonight, it’d be Hossa or Niemi and she’d be screwed worse than she already is.
On Hossa’s first turn, he lowers a skip to the discard pile and says, “Joanna, you knew this was coming.”
She drops her head to the table and breathes. It’s just a game, she thinks. Just a game. A stupid game, at that. A stupid, ridiculous game that she didn’t want to play in the first place: Seabs and Duncs massed together and forced her, along with everyone else. It was supposed to be a night of easy, good old team bonding – pizza and beer and a movie with too many explosions and not enough good acting.
Instead, she got Phase 10, the worst game ever invented.
Kaner had nudged her before Seabs settled in next to her to explain the rules, way too excited for his own good, and said, “It’s fun, I swear. You’ll like it.” She can’t even begin to explain how wrong he was.
“Jo, it’s your turn,” Bur says, grin coming through in his voice, and Jo flips him off before raising her head off the table. She goes to draw, before seeing the five that Seabs had just discarded. She grabs it, quickly looking back at her hand, and says, “Fucking finally!” slamming her phase, all fucking nine cards, on the table.
She throws an eight at Niemi, who needs it on his phase, and then discards her last card, going out. There’s a chorus of groans and everybody throws their cards on the table, but Jo is stretching her arms out, suddenly in a much better mood.
“Nice,” Kaner says, throwing in his cards, and Jo smiles extra big for him.
Hossa still ends up winning, but Jo manages to get to her eighth phase before he does, and that’s at least respectable. She’s still talking about it when she’s pulling on her jacket, following Kaner out of Duncs’ house and down to where he’d parked his hummer.
Kaner yells, “Yes, yes, you came back at the end, you’re Queen of the Cards, whatever, stop talking!” and laughs, grabbing his door handle and climbing in.
Jo jumps in the passenger side and says, “You’re just jealous, Kaner.”
“Oh, yeah, jealous of your mad phasing skills,” he says, snorting.
She punches him in the arm, making him squirm away from her, and she laughs, leaning back in her seat. It’s just – she had fun, even with that portion of the night when she was contemplating setting fire to all the twelves in the deck. It was fun, genuinely – the kind she hasn’t had since she was back in St. Louis, with T.J. and Jack and the rest of the guys.
She missed this kind of team bonding shit, and it’s just nice that she can have that here in Chicago, after all.
Jo wakes up to the twangy sound of country music in her ear: so I put my hands up, they’re playin my song, the butterflies fly away; I’m noddin my head like yeah, movin my hips like yeah.
Jo desperately reaches out to grab at the general area the noise is coming from, somewhere in all the blankets on her bed, because it’s too early for this. She grabs at her pillow and covers her head with it, trying to drown out the music, but it won’t stop, and it gets worse: got my hands up, they’re playin my song, and now I’m gonna be okay. Yeah, it’s a party in the USA! Yeah, it’s a party in the USA!
Jo’s going to murder someone in the USA.
She throws the blankets off and finally gets a hand on her phone just as it cuts itself off, and she sees the one missed call alert. Kaner changed her ringtone, then.
She forces herself out of bed and pulls on a pair of baggy sweats before she stomps out into the living room, looking to yell at him about it. She ends up finding him in the bathroom though; he’s on the floor, dressed in a holey pair of sweats and with bright, yellow gloves on. He’s scrubbing at the tub with a hard sponge, and there are at least three different cleaning products surrounding him.
He glances back at her and says, “Hey."
“Why are you scrubbing the tub?” she asks, finally, bypassing the ringtone issue entirely – she knows Kaner’s a bit of a neat freak, but this is actually taking it to an entirely new level.
He scrunches his nose up, glancing back at her, and says, “I haven’t in like a month? I’ve been kind of distracted, you know, with a new roommate and everything. It’s gross.”
She stares at him, and says, “You could hire someone to do it.”
He looks at her, and says, “If my condo is ever messy enough to require a cleaning service, I’m kicking you out.”
Jo’s pretty sure he means it. He’s such a freaking germaphobe. She can’t believe she didn’t know this about him before moving in with him; it seems like something people would make fun of him for constantly, but the worst she’s heard is some of the equipment guys mentioning how high-maintenance he can be.
Even so, pulling out Mr. Clean and the rubber gloves is probably a new level of insane, beyond getting pissed at her for leaving her socks on the floor or dishes on the coffee table. Then again, she’d actually tried doing dishes not that long ago, and he’d very calmly told her to never do it again.
Jo doesn’t get what the big deal is, dish washers were invented to wash dishes. But Kaner makes sure they’re all squeaky clean in the sink before he even loads them up.
She’ll throw empty water bottles at him if they’re in the same room, specifically because he always gets this dumb look on his face and says, “What the fuck, Toews?” or “I swear to God,” and jump up, throwing the bottles back at her until they end up with pillows and magazines thrown all over the place. It’s hilarious, especially when he goes and cleans all of that up too after he’s stewed around for ten minutes, pissed as all hell.
It’s pretty great, actually, even if she’s picking up after herself more than she ever has before in her life.
She crosses her arms, watching him scrub for a minute, before she says, “You changed my ringtone.”
He laughs, and then coughs because he’s breathing in all that cleaner, and sings, “It’s a party in the USA!”
She rolls her eyes and leaves to go look in the kitchen for something to eat. If he’s going to spend their day off cleaning, she can at least make them both breakfast.
Kaner gives her a weird look when she asks Hossa to stay behind after practice and work with her on her back checking a little, but Hossa shrugs and stops moving to skate off the ice. The Blackhawks have their first match against the Blues coming up in a week, and Jo wants to win it maybe more than any other game in their schedule. She’s been finding herself tapping her feet against the ground, wanting to get on the ice, to keep practicing.
She wants them to have the first taste of what she's going to be showing them for years: that trading her to anyone was stupid, but trading her to a division rival is going to go down in St. Louis sports history as the biggest mistake the franchise ever made.
The rookies stop putting the pucks away when Jo yells, “I’ll do it later, leave them!” and she ends up working with Hossa for another good twenty minutes before he leaves, and then she stays and does it some more for another twenty. Repetition is how you learn, she thinks. Muscle memory is what gets you the goal in the middle of a game when you don’t have time to think.
Sharpy sticks with her when she asks a couple days later, and Kaner sticks around too, the three of them practicing a couple plays and roping one of the rookies into playing goalie for the day. She works on her shooting and tries a deking move that Kaner demonstrates first, before landing hard on her ass and losing the puck to boot.
Sharpy just laughs at her and says, “That’s what you get, Tazer.”
“Yeah,” Kaner says, smug, “you got nothing on this.”
She throws a puck at him from where she’s still on her ass on the ice, and says, “Whatever, you can’t actually pull a move like that and score during a game.”
Well, he can, actually, but he doesn’t deserve the ego stroking.
They get into a good-natured argument about all of Kaner’s showy moves, before Sharpy finally shoves them and yells, “Children, separate corners, go! Pick up the pucks while you’re at it.” They end up getting in a contest to see who can pick up the most, the fastest, ironically, chirping each other from across the ice.
Even when they’re constantly arguing though, she can’t deny that they play good hockey together. She has so many good games and chances with Sharpy and Kaner both, already, and with Hoss and the rest of them too. She doesn’t know the exact stats, but she thinks her play has improved with them, and it’s showing on the scoreboard. They click, and it’s just – easy – sometimes, to get the puck in the back of the net when she has them on her line. It’s crazy, and people are starting to talking about Chicago like they’re not just going to make the playoffs, but that they could have a chance at winning the whole thing.
She grins when she wins by three pucks, and makes sure to brag all night.
They lose the game. She got an assist off Sharpy and Hossa both in the first period, but nobody could get the puck past Mason and into the back of the net after that. They lost two to four, and Jo sinks into her locker, covering her head, because shit. She was –
Maybe they were right to trade her, after all.
She doesn’t know how she makes it through the post-game interviews, but she must. There’s a text on her phone from T.J.: meet me in the back yo. They aren’t leaving tonight – their flight to Colorado is in the morning – so she ties her hair up and stuffs on her shoes, and doesn’t tell anyone where she’s going before she slips out the visitors’ locker room, once Coach is done grilling them on everything they did wrong out there, and it’s easy to find her way through Scottrade and get to the back parking lot.
T.J.’s waiting by his car, rubbing his hands together as the heat warms up the inside.
“Hey!” he yells, and jogs over to wrap his arms around her. “Come on,” he says instantly, “one loss isn’t going to kill you. Everybody but management knows trading you was a shit decision.”
She’s got the e-mails and texts and phone calls; knows that the guys were just as surprised and upset as she was to hear she was being traded, just like that. She isn’t sure if that helps or not though. She still feels – inadequate, like she wasn’t good enough, didn’t work hard enough.
“You get so fucking depressed after you lose a game,” T.J. whines, and pushes her to his car. “Get in, loser, we’re going shopping.”
“Shopping?” Jo asks, finally, pulling the car door shut after she climbs in.
“Well, drinking. You don’t recognize Mean Girls? What has Chicago done to you.”
She doesn’t know when T.J. gets her phone, or what she said to even make him think he should, but when the taxi drops them off and she’s walking into the lobby, T.J. holding her arm like he’s afraid she’ll fall over – she’s been that drunk precisely once in her entire life, and the internet will never let her forget it – Kaner is there, leaning against the front counter and tapping his foot against the ground.
He stops when he sees them, and Jo blinks at him, before he comes over and says, “Hey.”
“Hey,” she says, and she’s not that drunk, and Kaner has no room to talk at all, so she doesn’t know why he feels the need to talk over her head and tell T.J., “Thanks for texting me, man. I’ll get her to her room.”
T.J. gives a classic douche move salute, says, “No problem,” and “I’ll see you in a week, Jo.”
“I’m not that drunk,” Jo says, clearly, but as soon as the elevator doors shut on them and they start to move, she sighs and leans into him. His shirt is stupidly soft, and she’s ready to fall into her bed and sleep for twelve hours straight.
“I know,” Kaner says, and she can feel him shrug before blinking her eyes back open when the elevator comes to a jerky stop and opens for them. He walks her to her room and then comes in with her, watching her kick off her shoes.
She wants to take off her jeans and get into bed, but he’s standing there awkwardly, blocking the door to the bathroom, and she says, “What’s up?” instead. He clearly wants to talk about something, but she’s too tired to keep standing. She sits down on the edge of her bed.
He hesitates, and then says, “I’m, uh, sorry I couldn’t make anything happen out there. I wanted to apologize after the game, but you took off pretty quick.”
“I shouldn’t have,” she says, rubbing her face. “I just hate losing.”
Kaner lets out a surprised laugh, and says, “Yeah, trust me, I know.”
She grins and then they’re both laughing, and it hurts – both in that she’s laughing about losing, and that her sides are protesting desperately when she ends up falling backward, covering her face with an arm and still choking out laughter. It’s stupid, the shit you laugh about sometimes, and somehow she can’t stop until she feels Kaner’s weight on the bed next to her.
“You okay?” he asks from where he’s perched at the bottom corner, practically still standing up with only one knee resting on the mattress.
She reaches out to grab him and pull him down, and then manages to stop laughing, finally, taking deep breaths and rolling so that she can shove her face into his shoulder. She doesn’t feel like her body is so heavy anymore, feels light and easy and it just – it doesn’t really matter, because this wasn’t about her, it was about them.
It was about the Hawks, and losing one game to St. Louis isn’t going to stop them from pushing through to the playoffs, from playing like she knows they can.
“We’ll beat them next week,” Kaner says, quiet.
It’s the last game they’ll have against them all season. “Yeah,” she says, and closes her eyes, too tired to think about all the ways they could have beat them tonight, and how that won’t change in a week.
She wants –
She wants to kiss him.
She glances up at him, sitting at the kitchen counter, feet dangling off the stool. He’s talking to one of his sisters, smiling indulgently even through the phone, and Jo can’t take her eyes off of him.
His hair is messy and falling in his eyes, like he’s trying to grow it out, and she wants to run her hands through it and tug on every curl. His shirt isn’t so baggy that she can’t see how good of shape he’s in underneath; she’s seen him in the gym, covered in sweat and pushing himself hard to get ready for playoffs, muscles straining. She wants to push his shirt up and get her mouth on his abs, wants to bury her fingers in the skin at his hips hard enough to lose bruises that everyone in the locker room would be able to see, after.
She wants – God, she wants.
It’s not like her overwhelming attraction to Kaner is exactly new, but she thinks – she thinks, maybe, for the first time, that if she doesn’t touch him, she’ll lose something.
She hates losing.
He hangs up after he says, “Send me a picture – I’m not buying you anything until I make sure it passes judgment, you hear me? Okay, okay. Yeah, I love you too, Jess.”
He slides off the stool and stretches, yawning and dropping his phone on the counter.
Jo pushes herself up off the couch and walks over, heart beating crazy in her chest and registering the way he blinks and his eyes go wide right before she kisses him. His back hits the counter, and something falls to the floor. A phonebook, maybe.
He kisses her back, reaching up to grab her waist and press his fingers into her skin.
“You want –” he says, breaking off, but she makes a noise in the back of her throat, frustrated, and pushes back in in order to kiss him again. His mouth tastes like strawberries instead of cheap beer or rum, and his lips are soft and wet against hers.
She digs a hand into his hair, soft and a little wet from his shower, still, even though it’s been an hour at least since they got back from practice, and rocks her hips into his, making him groan in her mouth. He pulls back and says, “Fuck, just – bedroom, yeah?”
“Yeah,” she breathes. She almost trips on her own shoe halfway down the hall; it breaks the mood, a little, and they laugh before she hooks her fingers into her jeans and shoves them down, leaving them in a messy pile in the hallway on purpose – Kaner just swallows and runs his fingers over her bare hips, backing her up until she hits the wall and makes a picture frame shake.
She’s shaking too, with his fingers on her again, his fucking hands. He pushes her shirt up, and she lifts her arms so that they can pull it over her head and throw it somewhere behind them.
He says her name against her throat, kissing her and running a hand up her side, so soft it almost tickles. She wraps her arms around his torso, getting her fingers under the hem of his shirt and dragging it up until it’s his turn to raise his arms.
Somehow, they make it into his bedroom.
She pulls off her bra herself as she’s climbing onto his bed, sinking into the soft comforter, his bed all made up as if he hadn’t slept in it last night at all. She’s pretty sure her bed sheets are unravelling at the corners, and her comforter is mostly on the floor, and so she falls into his pillows, comfortable.
He stumbles, staring at her.
“I still can’t believe you make your bed every morning,” she says, running her hand over his comforter.
He snaps out of it and peels off his socks before climbing up next to her, boxers still on but not hiding the obvious bulge underneath them, already hard.
“I never would have guessed you were such a mess if I hadn’t seen your room at Worlds, so I guess we’re even,” he says, voice only shaking a little, and presses his mouth back against her throat, running his tongue over her pulse and sucking at the skin there for good measure. Her fingers twitch against the comforter, involuntary.
His hand is flat on her stomach, like he wants to feel how desperate she is for it, how her entire body is stuttering with every breath she takes, distressingly out of her control.
She moves so that she can lift her hips and push up against him. She needs – pressure, God, friction, anything to make that building heat in her belly flare up even more than it already is. She laughs under her breath when his hand hovers over her ribs, just on the side of ticklish, and then sucks in a breath when his dick presses up against her hip through his boxers.
She slides her hands down to his ass, catching at the elastic. She tucks her fingers in against the fabric and tugs them down his hips, arching up when he has to lift up and off of her in order to get the stupid things off. “Your turn,” he says, after, and tugs her panties down and off, throwing them in the same direction as his.
She squeezes her thighs shut for some relief, before pushing him over and climbing on top of him, settling her legs around his middle. “Shit,” he says, “Jo,” and his hips move under her. He has his hands on her legs, fingers pressing so tightly into her skin that it almost hurts.
She leans down to kiss his mouth hard while she uses her hips and pelvic muscles to rub her cunt against him, the head of his dick catching every few shifts, making them both groan in their throats. He moves one hand up to grasp at her waist, like he’s trying to help her move, but the other trails up her stomach, past her belly button and toward her breasts.
She bites back a curse when he squeezes his hand around her nipple, tracing the areola with his thumb. She can’t help her mouth dropping open in a silent pant, and her eyes falling closed. Fuck, fuck. She stutters to a stop, her thighs tense. He grins, this small tilt of his mouth, and she honestly doesn’t know why she likes him at all.
He pushes a hand between her thighs and slips his fingers in, and she realizes how absolutely wet she is, so turned on she’s a mess, and it’s easy for him to find her clit and press against it until she cries and digs her nails into his arm, grabbing it and pushing his hand so that he’ll fucking move his fingers faster, harder.
He pulls her down after she comes, turning them around so that he can be back on top. She’s too relaxed to fight him, and wouldn’t want to anyway; he kisses her mouth, her chin, her throat, down and down until he’s wrapping his mouth around her left breast, twisting the nipple of the right between his fingers at the same time, and she can’t keep her back from arching and her entire body from shuddering.
She loves it and she hates it; it feels like she’s on the edge, like one push and she’ll go tumbling over, and it’s both terrifying and exhilarating to give that sort of power to someone. Maybe that’s why it took her until she was thousands of miles from home and in college to have sex for the first time; maybe it’s why she’s only done it a few times since, too willing to settle for her fingers to bother with picking up a guy she couldn’t bring herself to trust enough to let go with like this, to make it worth it.
Kaner’s never been like, that, she thinks: he trusts anyone, too easy, and maybe – maybe that’s why she’s trusted him from the very beginning.
Embarrassingly, Kaner, at least for Jo, is proof of the statement that you never forget your first.
The problem is that her second and third and fourth didn’t even compare.
“Hey,” Kaner says, voice smooth and soft, and even just that makes the heavy heat in her belly swirl, “can I –”
“Condom,” she says, choking on the word, drawing her legs up and spreading them apart even as he scrambles for his bedside table, grabbing one. He slips it on, fumbling with it twice first, and she laughs, her breasts heaving with motion. Her thighs are trembling with the effort of staying up, even when Kaner touches one of her knees to push them apart even further.
He starts to push in, lining up and going so slow she could die; she has to bite her lip and throw her head back at how incredibly good it feels, fuck, fuck, fuck, and when he bottoms out, she eases out a breath, long and steady.
He pulls back a little and thrusts back in, hooking his hands around her waist to get a better grip, and she can’t keep it in when he does: “Fuck!” she cries out, and then, “If you don’t fucking move —” when Kaner halts, his mouth opening like he’s going to ask if she’s okay or something equally as stupid.
He curses under his breath, but shakily says, “God, you’re bossy,” and thrusts harder. She wants to hit him, or kiss him, but can’t, too busy reaching back to hold onto the headboard. Every time he pushes into the hilt, her entire body gets shoved back with the power of it, and she has to push back, thrust for thrust.
She clenches around him and rocks back for all she’s worth.
His hands reach down to press against the skin of her stomach and chest as his thrusts get more and more erratic. She bites her lip when his fingernail catches across her nipple, and he breathes, “Jo, Jesus.” He doesn’t last until she comes – he stutters to a stop and bends down, desperately crashing his mouth against hers, and she kisses him through it, wrapping her legs around him as much as she can.
She doesn’t wait for him to deal with the messy condom once he pulls out, just reaches down to press her fingers against her cunt, needing to come so badly she can’t stop her legs from tensing up and her ass from clenching. But then he’s back, pushing her hand away, and says, “You couldn’t wait five seconds? I’m on it, come on.”
“Get the fuck to it then,” she groans, and spreads her legs wide enough for him to maneuver his way in-between them. He doesn’t hesitate, and her entire body cants forward when he dips his head down to put his mouth on her.
When she finally comes, she has a hand on the back of Kaner’s head, her fingers buried in his curls, pushing his mouth hard against her cunt so that he doesn’t fucking think he’s allowed to stop. Her hips drop back down after, and she just tries to get her breath back. She’s sticky with sweat, and wet all along her thighs where Kaner is kissing her, easing his way up and off.
“You’re a mess,” she says, breathing hard.
He shrugs, and smiles a little, almost embarrassed, and says, “I, uh, like the way you taste.”
It sends another hot wave down her body, but she doesn’t want to do anything about it – doesn’t think she could even if she wanted to, completely exhausted and done in from the two orgasms she’s already had. But fuck, Kaner’s mouth was made for it, for eating her out like a fucking champion.
She flops her arm uselessly before he collapses down next to her, just as sweaty and tired as she is, and breathing just as hard, somehow. “We can do this,” she says, more to convince herself than him.
He says, “Yeah,” anyway, and she breathes.
She can sleep with Kaner, she can do that, and not make things weird with the team.
She’s not sure she has a choice.
Kaner likes to drive. She notices it pretty quick, because he’s always insisting they take the same car to the arena, and then always wants it to be his, so he always ends up driving. It isn’t that big of a deal: she’ll catch a few extra minutes of sleep, her head resting against the window, or catch up on the texts she inevitably ignores more often than she answers them.
T.J. in particular texts her a lot, shit like pedobear misses u!! and help, bergy won’t go hoooome, followed by a bunch of pictures of his dogs. She deletes most of them without second glances, but texts him back sometimes, usually to tell him to work on his backhand. She just gets frowning emoticons back.
At least it’s better than David, who straight up ignores her when she tries to text him advice about his play. She’s learned mostly to leave her little brother alone when it comes to his game unless he asks first, but usually won’t unless she’s home over the summer and they’re playing street hockey or something.
She’s messing with her phone in the car when it comes to a stop, and she looks up to find them parking in a big garage instead of the grocery store parking lot, like she was expecting. She raises her eyebrows and says, “Kaner, uh.”
“Yeah, we can do groceries later,” he says, turning off the car. “You’ve been living in Chicago for a month and haven’t seen the bean yet. That’s just depressing, man. Jacks accused me of mistreating you.”
She snorts: Kaner’s little sisters have opinions on everything, as far as she can tell.
“I don’t need to see the bean,” she says, rolling her eyes, but gets out of the car anyway, stretching her legs.
“Too bad, so sad. Come on, it’s a bit of a walk.”
They buy churros off a street vendor and Jo has to hold Kaner’s while he signs a little kid’s shirt, and then wipe the cinnamon off on her jeans in order to sign it too, right underneath Kaner’s scrawl. They only get asked a couple times: either people don’t care too much about hockey in Chicago, or they’re nice enough to leave her and Kaner alone – not that she really minds giving the occasional autograph, but it’s nice to be able to walk down the street without getting mobbed.
Twice, Kaner gets asked for autographs but they clearly have no idea who Jo even is: she doesn’t know whether to be amused or annoyed, but by the time they get to the bean in the middle of Millennium Park, she’s in a pretty good mood and doesn’t really care. There’s a group of Asian kids in school uniforms standing underneath it, taking a photo, but as soon as they’re done, Kaner pushes her forward and asks a random guy standing nearby if he’ll take a photo before jumping in with her, waving his arms out like a crazy person.
She goes with it, gesturing to the bean with a big smile on her face, and they laugh and thank the guy after, when he hands Kaner’s phone back.
She makes him send a copy to her mom, because she’s called a few times, worried about how Jo’s doing with the switch from St. Louis to Chicago. By the time she and Kaner duck into a store that seems to sell mostly candle wax, feathers, pretty rocks and plastic beads, her mom texts back, I’m glad you’re having fun, honey. :)
Jo looks at Kaner, where he’s holding a pair of feather earrings up to his ears and looking at himself in a mirror, and thinks, yeah, she is, isn’t she?
Hossa gets a goal off a play from Jo and Sharpy, and Fraser get goal one off of Seabs, both in the first period; Jo gets a short-handed one in the second, and Fraser gets another in the third, followed up by Kaner, snapping in a wrist shot off a pass from Burish. They win – Chicago beats St. Louis, five to two.
Jo can’t stop grinning, after.
The Blackhawks finish the regular season with a win against the Avalanche, Sharpy pulling out the game-winning goal, tapping it in through the crease. It’s the first time she’s ever been on the roster for a team that made the playoffs. She’s excited and she’s nervous as hell; her and the Hawks though, her and the boys – they’re going to win every goddamn game until they have a cup in their hands. She can feel it under her skin; the Blackhawks are headed somewhere amazing, and she's going to help them get there.
“So, what’s it like, playing in Chicago?”
Jo turns slightly, to see Kaner, but he’s looking at her, waiting for her to answer.
It figures that they make it to the playoffs and the first thing they get to do is sit down and listen to a bunch of reporters and journalists ask them questions when they could be on the ice or at the gym or in bed.
In bed, together. She feels another flash of irritation that she and Kaner got roped into doing this media set.
Why couldn’t they have Duncs and Sharpy do it? They’re the two guys bidding for the captain’s spot right now. Maybe, she thinks, she’ll take it right out from them, if neither one is going to stand the fuck up and take responsibility. She’s actually pretty sure Duncs hates the idea of being Captain, and frankly, she’s not sure he’s the right guy for the job anyway, but Patrick Sharp with any sort of authority is honestly horrifying to contemplate.
She smiles at the camera.
“It’s nice. It’s a good city. I always liked it when we played here, so it’s pretty, uh, pretty sweet to be playing for the city now, eh, Kaner?” she nudges him.
He shuffles his feet, looking up with a shrug and says, “Yeah, Chicago’s the best anyway. Sucks you were in St. Louis for so long, really.”
“So,” the reporter says, adjusting the microphone back to Jo, “Chicago would have been at the top of your list of teams you’d be willing to be traded to?”
“Of course.” It’s the only answer they want, and it’s even mostly true, now.
“What about you, Patrick?” the woman asks, turning. She has a terrible pink corduroy suit on that Jo keeps getting stuck looking at. “Happy to have an old rival on your team now?”
Kaner grins and says, “Yeah, she’s a good asset to have on the team, you know? Glad she’s on our side.”
“No complaints? You guys were rivals up until a little more than a month ago, even at the Olympics.”
“She’s bossy,” Kaner says, broken record that he is, and Jo doesn’t resist the urge to kick him this time, below where the cameras should be able to pick it up. He kicks back and adds, “And she’s a sore loser.”
“I am not! I just take competition seriously.”
“Yeah? Like the game we played last week with the guys?”
In hindsight, throwing all her cards at Soupy was maybe a little immature. She crosses her arms and says, “I like winning.”
“You two live together, right?” the reporter interjects. She’s smiling in a way that Jo finds mildly disconcerting.
Kaner answers with a plain, “Yep.”
“Any bad habits?”
Jo groans and shifts away as Kaner sits up straighter and says, “Yeah, she’s always throwing her crap around. Water bottles, everywhere. And I nearly broke my leg tripping over a shoe last week.”
“To be fair,” Jo jumps in, “I’d just taken my shoes off, and the water bottle thing is mostly because it annoys him. He’s a neat freak. Everything has to be just so or he gets cranky as hell.”
“Whatever,” he stresses, pointing at her. “You –”
“Back to hockey!” Jo says, planting her feet back on the ground with a thump. The reporter looks like she’s going to ask something else, so Jo keeps talking: “We’re adapting to each other’s playing styles, still,” she says, “but we’re gonna play our best and hopefully do good in the playoffs.”
Kaner is grinning in his chair, like he won. Jo bites her tongue.
“I can tell you and Patrick work well together, and get along. Do you two, uh, have a special relationship?” the reporter asks, eyebrows raised. She puts an emphasis on the word special, and Jo winces: she should have been expecting that.
“Yeah,” Kaner jumps in, “for sure. We’ve known each other for ages, and we sort of knew each other before the trade, so it’s easy to bring Jo in and make her part of the team.” He turns towards Jo and says, “What, like half the Hawks were on Team Canada anyway?”
She rolls her eyes, says, “Yeah, two is close to half, Kaner.” Then she straightens back up and says, “But yeah, I already knew Keith and Seabrook and a bunch of the guys through some other stuff. It’s been pretty easy to come in and play hockey with them.”
“Well, thanks for talking to me, guys.”
Jo shakes her hand and waits until they’re out in the hallway, headed down to the parking lot, to punch Kaner smack in the arm. She maybe doesn’t do it hard enough to leave a bruise – that’d just end up working against her, in the end, because he looks good when he’s all bruised up from a hockey game, hissing when she traces her hands along the mottled purple and yellow.
“You wanna go out for lunch?” he asks, rubbing his arm still, when they get into her silver Mercedes – his hummer was out of gas and she’d laughed and laughed when he’d tried to say, “I can still drive –”
“We could do that,” she says, buckling her seatbelt on and determinedly says, “or we could go home, and I could blow you.” It’s all she’s been thinking about since he’d been blearily walking around the kitchen that morning, half-naked and still fuzzy with sleep, and them without enough time for her to find out what his skin tasted like, damp from the shower. Stupid fucking interviews.
“Uh –” Kaner falters, before he swallows and, voice a little scratchy, “Yeah, uh. I’ll order pizza,” before pulling out his phone.
They win their third playoff series in four games. She’s happy and giddy and excited all at the same time – they won all four games against the Sharks, just like that, and if they can pull off four wins against Philadelphia…
They’re the Western Conference Champions.
They’re in the Stanley Cup final.
They could win the Stanley Cup.
She’s gross and sweaty halfway through the night after they hit the bar, with tequila on her shirt and soaking to her skin, and she kisses Sharpy when Bickell dares her to, even though Sharpy’s yelling, “Fiancé! I have a fiancé!” while laughing his ass off.
No matter how drunk she is, it still isn’t as bad as Kaner, who’s on the actual bar, giving a sermon, practically, only it’s about Chicago hockey and how it’s the best, didn’t you watch the game, it was all dekeing to the right, dekeing to the left, and slamming the puck into the net, fuck yeah, baby. He sort of shakes his hips when he says baby and Jo has to pull him down by his ankle.
He’s grinning when he jumps on the floor with her, and she leans in to call him a moron right in his ear. But she wraps an arm around his shoulders and pushes him back over to the table with all the guys where, hopefully, he can’t get into too much more trouble, at least for a little while.
Sharpy leans over once Kaner and Jo are settled back into the booth, and says, “Hey, Kaner, just your type,” while nodding at this pretty brunette a few feet away, hands in the air as she rocks her hips with some other girls.
Kaner looks over, but shrugs and says, “Eh, too much work, man.” Then he adds, nose scrunching up unattractively, “And I don’t have a ‘type’, what the hell?”
He glances at Jo and she shrugs, because she hasn’t been here long enough to know. She’s never actually met anyone Kaner’s hooked up with – if he does it, he doesn’t bring them back to the apartment where she can see. The idea that he’s been going out and hooking up makes her uneasy though, and she tries to press it back down where she won’t have to deal with it by reaching over and stealing somebody’s beer, swallowing it down.
“Yeah, you do,” Sharpy says, laughing.
“Fuck you, I don’t have a type,” Kaner complains, and then winces.
“Tall, leggy ones especially,” Sharpy adds, and then looks at Jo with a considering look that she doesn’t like.
She’s trying to figure out what to say to stem Sharpy when Burish gets back to the table and slides in next to him. “Come on, Kaner,” he says, “just admit you like brunettes.” He’s grinning. “There’s no shame in that, brunettes are universally good-looking.” He runs a hand through his hair, turning specifically so that everyone at the table can see him do it, and there’s a couple laughs from some of the guys who are listening in.
Jo makes a face, but Kaner’s grinning again and says, “Aw, man, but you’re way out of my league.”
“Guess you’ll have to settle for Jo,” Sharpy pipes up, raising his eyebrows, “if she’d have you.”
“Dick,” is all she can think of to say, fingers gripping the neck of her beer too tight. Kaner isn’t pressed up against her side, and she’s not sure when he pulled away, but she it feels cold all up where he used to be.
Steeger, one of the guys who’ve been listening in, leans over and says, “Jo’d never hook up with somebody as gross as Kaner, man. She has standards.”
“Fuck you!” Kaner yells, but he’s laughing, and Jo realizes, face flushing, that he’s not going to say anything about the fact that they have hooked up. More than once.
Kaner’s not going to brag, or drag her under the bus. He never has, not in the three years he’s been with these guys, and she wouldn’t even blame him if he had, it’s – they’re fucking hockey players, this is the kind of stuff you talk about in locker rooms.
But Kaner’s not – you wouldn’t think it, looking at him, but he’s a fucking gentleman in disguise. He’s polite and well-mannered, likes to drive and open doors and say thanks and please and excuse me everywhere he goes, and – he’s just – he’s nice, and he respects her.
She likes him.
Fuck, she doesn’t just like him, she’s in love with him.
She’s drunk and she’s in love with – with Kaner, fuck –
She looks up from the mouth of her beer to find that the conversation’s moved on to Steeger’s questionable conquests and Sharpy’s upcoming nuptials, and Kaner’s leaning back in the booth, singing along to the music in the bar, out of tune and possibly not even knowing the words.
He’s so drunk, probably five seconds away from getting up and trying to dance on the bar again. Maybe he’d try to drag Jo with him, and she might be just tipsy enough to let him.
She suddenly hates that her teammates think it’s a joke; her and Kaner, like it could never happen, would never happen.
“We hooked up,” she announces loudly enough that Sharpy, Burs and Steeger all stop talking mid-sentence and turn to look at her. Kaner coughs and falls forward, elbow slamming into the table.
“Ow, fuck,” he yells, wincing and rubbing at his elbows before turning to look at her.
“Uh,” Sharpy says, after a pause, “what? You hooked up with Kaner? Seriously?”
“You’re pulling our legs right, Jo?” Steeger demands, leaning forward. He looks at Kaner and says, “No fucking way did you tap that.”
Kaner is staring at her, mouth open in surprise, still. His lips look sticky with tequila, and she wants to lick them clean.
“You’re an asshole,” Jo says after swallowing, kicking Steeger under the table, and then adds, “I tapped that,” gesturing to Kaner. “Repeatedly.”
She thinks Steeger chokes, but whatever, he fucking deserves it.
Kaner’s mouth quirks, and then he’s laughing, “Holy fuck, why did you tell them that? They’re never gonna let it go. We’re doomed.”
Sharpy and Burish are already yelling at the rest of the team, so yeah, Jo knows. She just – she didn’t want Kaner to think she wanted to keep it a secret, like she was ashamed or that she wasn’t okay with –
Fuck, she’s drunk enough that she can get away with it, probably, and she wants him so badly right now that she can’t help it anyway. She pushes into Kaner’s space, sticky and hot and just as soft and comfortable as he always is. He lifts an arm to wrap around her shoulder, tugging her in tighter, and she tilts her face so that her lips brush against the skin of his neck. She can taste the sweat there, and feels his fingers press hard into her arm.
“Holy shit, get a room!” somebody yells – Jo thinks it was Seabs, maybe, or Ladd, but who cares, the idea’s a solid one, and she’s tugging Kaner out of the booth before he can protest. Not that he would – his eyes are wide and he’s glancing back at the team, but he’s pushing up and pressing a hand to her waist, more than willing to go with her wherever she wants.
If he’s so fucking up for it, why doesn’t he ever make the first move?
Suddenly pissed off, she pushes him and he falls a step back, snapping his eyes up at her like he’s startled, and then he frowns. She makes a frustrated noise, and asks, “Why am I always the one hitting on you? You don’t have to sleep with me, Jesus Christ. Go hit on the fucking – brunette chick, whatever.”
“Wow, she’s drunker than we thought,” she hears Sharpy say, and she flips him off.
“I’m not – of course I want to, what –” Kaner starts, and gets cut off by the obnoxious whistling from their teammates. Jo flushes red with embarrassment, but Kaner’s the one who turns and says, “Shut the fuck up, you guys suck!”
“Dude,” Sharpy says from the table, tilting his beer at her, “he’s had a crush on you since, like, you were rookies or something. Give the kid a break.”
“I have not,” Kaner denies, loudly, but gets drowned out by the surge in loud music and loud cheers around the bar as people start clapping and dancing to whatever stupid fucking song just got put on. Kaner’s face is almost as red as Jo thinks hers must be, and she shakes her head.
“Let’s just get out of here,” she yells, and grabs Kaner’s hand to lead him out of the bar, pushing through bodies without bothering to say anything, even while Kaner’s saying, “Sorry! Excuse us!” to everyone they pass.
There are cabs on the street already, and they could grab one, but Jo’s happy to just be out of the bar, breathing in fresh, cold air. It feels good against her skin, and she grabs her shirt, lifting it away from where it’s sticking to her. Kaner slips a hand against the bare skin of her belly, surprising her, and leans in to bite at her bottom lip, kissing her hard, right there on the sidewalk.
He tastes like tequila, and she pulls him in harder against her.
“I didn’t want to make it awkward,” Kaner says, after a minute when they pull apart, staring at each other’s faces. She can actually see his breath when he talks, and goosebumps are starting to show up on her arms.
“What?” she asks blankly, lost.
“Just – you live with me? Wouldn’t it be kind of, uh, sleazy?”
She relaxes her shoulders, and says, “No, you moron. We’re already sleeping together.” It’s kind of cute that that was his hang up though, and she’s so relieved it’s not that he doesn’t actually want her.
“Okay,” he says, nodding, and says, “then I really want to go home and eat you out right now, if you’re up for that?” He gives her a smile that says he already knows she’s definitely up for that, small and teasing. She pushes him towards a cab.
The Blackhawks win the Cup.
Kaner gets the goal in overtime against Philadelphia, and it’s more red than she’s ever seen in her life; a never-ending parade of alcohol and loud music and laughter and red everywhere, fans everywhere, like the entire city’s gone crazy.
They won the cup, the Stanley fucking Cup.
She can’t breathe when it happens.
When she and Kaner finally get home, they just collapse on his bed together, sweaty and covered in liquor and champagne and who knows what else. She wakes up with glitter in her hair and weird shit in weird places, and she kisses Kaner anyway, waking him up too, until he moans and says, “Hurts,” trying to hide under the blankets.
They’re both grinning over breakfast though, hangovers or not, and even though they could go out and celebrate some more, they don’t leave the house all day.
They don’t bother putting on real clothes, either.
Jo bumps her hip against the doorway of her room, silently trying to figure out what to pack with her to go home to Winnipeg for the summer, and what to leave for the moving trucks. She needs to actually put a down payment on a place too, and with the playoffs, she hasn’t even looked around. She sighs and lifts off the doorframe, padding into her room and grabbing at a pair of socks off the floor, throwing them in the hamper.
Kaner comes into her a room a few minutes later, just as she’s dumping some clothes into a dufflebag.
“Hey,” he says, and puts his hands on her hips, pressing his body flush against her back. He must be leaning up, because he’s got his chin on her shoulder, and she’s still taller than him. She shivers, a little, because he’s been doing that more this past week, touching her without asking first.
“What’s up?” she says.
“You’re packing already?”
“My flight back to Winnipeg’s in two days. I figured I should get ready while I have the chance.” Her last two days in Chicago are bound to be busy, considering.
Kaner hums, and slips a hand under her shirt, resting his fingers against her stomach.
“I’ll find a place before next season,” she says, slowly, staring at her bag. “Get all this stuff out of your apartment.”
“You could just stay,” Kaner says, after a minute.
She pulls back, twisting around. Kaner shifts, looking kind of uneasy. “If you want, I mean, this is – we could do this, next season too. It worked, didn’t it?”
Jo swallows. “By this, you mean being roommates, or sleeping together?”
He looks at her, frowning, and says, “Dating. I meant, dating.”
She nods, and then stares at his feet. He’s wearing stupid Blackhawks socks, fluffy and warm looking. She thinks his mom bought them for him for Christmas, but he wears them all the time. She’s pretty sure there’s a hole in one of the heels, even.
“Okay,” she says, “yeah, okay. I’ll stay. I mean, I’m going to Winnipeg, but I’ll come back.”
She looks up to see him biting his bottom lip, red like he’s been doing that for a while, like maybe he’s been nervous.
“I think I’ve got a better idea for what you can do with your mouth, Kaner.”
“Hey,” he says, pushing forward until her legs hit the bed and she sits back heavily, so that she has to look up at him, “you know, there’s this concept called a first name –”
“Why do I like you again?” she laughs, but her heart is beating faster when she says, “So you want me to call you Patrick, eh?”
“Eh,” Kaner says, grinning, putting a dumb accent on the word.
She never would have guessed this would be where she was, back in March; that she’d be in Chicago, with a team that she honestly loves playing with and a Stanley Cup under her belt, and Kaner – Kaner asking her to call him Patrick, because they’re dating.
She’s in love with the cute kid with the amazing hands who let her have his green beans in exchange for spinach, and he maybe even feels the same way.
She lets out a breath, and then can’t stop from smiling.
“Patrick, then,” she says, and he grins.