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"That’s weird," Sharpy says, deliberately bumping Jonny’s shoulder as he slides into the booth.

Jonny bumps him back. "What’s weird?"

"Our lil’ Peekaboo’s pretty out of it tonight, eh?" Sharpy motions with his glass, making the beer inside slosh dangerously. "Think that’s still her first drink she’s working on."

Jonny’s not gonna lie: his first thought is that Kaner not enjoying herself enough at the bar is not exactly a problem.

"Glad she’s taking it slow," he says accordingly. "I mean, it’s playoffs."

But when he looks down the table, Kaner is indeed hunched into herself a little, ignoring multiple surrounding conversations in favor of staring down at her phone, looking oddly sullen for tonight’s first star.

"Yeah, but nursing one beer all night? Peeksy? After that game?" Sharpy sounds doubtful. "I dunno, she just looks off, yeah?"

He’s got a point: by all rights, Kaner ought to be having her usual good time out tonight. Not only did they beat the Kings earlier this evening - a promising start to their Western Conference Final - but Kaner got the game-winner, short-handed no less.

Although (Jon reflects) she did have kind of a rough time of it as far as -

"Maybe she’s still pissed about Doughty," he offers.

"Did you see her during her celly, grabbing her crotch at him?" Sharpy laughs. "Lucky the ref didn’t catch that one."

"Man, he would not let up on her tonight," Jonny says, frowning. "Going after her the whole fucking time, and not just - y’know, not just hits, either."

As NHL players go - even as NHL girl players go - Kaner’s pretty tiny, but physically she can handle herself surprisingly well on-ice. She's expert at dodging and even better at staying on her feet - in fact, she's always giving Jonny shit for falling on his ass all the time - and he spends a decent chunk of his bench minutes avidly watching as she eels lightning-fast through tough guys who'd like to muscle her around, if only they could catch her.

These days nobody goes easy on the ladies anymore; that’s a good way to lose yourself a game. So on a semi-regular basis Kaner hits Jonny up to perform these private-ish practice drills that are literally just him trying to bodyslam her as hard as he can, over and over. Which are totally merited, totally useful - Jonny doesn't want to lose his star winger to some avoidable injury any more than Kaner herself does - but also test him much more sorely than most of his job duties.

Because sometimes (not often, she’s that fast) sometimes he does get in a good check, bearing her down to the ice with his full weight as she squirms and squawks at him to "get the fuck off me, you big lug, Jesus." And having her like that, red-cheeked and laughing underneath him - sexless as it is through thick layers of sweat-reeking pads, unromantic as it is in a work-related setting - still feels like the most awful mockery of Jonny’s darkest secret, which is that he’s been in quiet, hopeless, terrible love with Kaner since they were rookies: this stupid fierce silent wanting that he's never been able to shake and has never once verbalized to another human being.

Anyway. Unfortunately all the checking drills in the world can't address the deeper problem, which is -

"Talking shit, you mean?" Sharpy drains his beer, a disapproving look on his face. "Yeah, I noticed."

Jonny’s jaw twitches, an involuntary movement he registers as frustration. Of course he noticed too, both because it's his responsibility as captain and because he always notices Kaner. A couple times tonight, during stoppages of whatever type, he was nearby enough to see Doughty circle Kaner, see the set of her jaw and the sneer on his moving mouth, and know exactly what was going on. Aiming below the belt, so to speak.

"He’s a prick like that," Sharpy’s saying. "To the girls. Doesn’t think they belong on the ice."

Jonny gets it, he does - in these high-stakes games people will try anything for a competitive edge, up to and including the unsportsmanlike behavior nobody likes to acknowledge outright: everything from targeting opponents’ half-healed injuries to insulting their personal lives to flat-out officially-prohibited hate speech. And it’s only the first generation of women in the League, so yeah, the boundaries are still murky. But - call him old-fashioned, whatever - Jon still thinks that trying to rile up the girls with the kind of shit nobody’d say to a dude is a low, ugly strategy, a last resort for cowards who can’t outplay you and know it.

He won’t tolerate it on his own team, but he can’t throw down with everyone who does, and besides Kaner gets pissed if she thinks she’s being treated like some helpless little girl. When she’d glanced over at him tonight, the bright blue spark of her eyes through her visor said clear as day, back off, Captain.

"’S why I sent the d-men after him," Sharpy adds through a mouthful of porter.

Sharpy, unfairly enough, can get away with big-brothering Kaner - exhibit A being all those cutesy nicknames of hers for which he's responsible - and tonight he’d done it by proxy, setting Seabs and Duncs on Doughty’s ass when he’d finally had enough of the guy taunting Kaner. Unluckily that had resulted in Seabs drawing a penalty and the Kings equalizing on the ensuing powerplay, which made Kaner scream in Jonny’s face, also unfairly: he’d just been sitting on the bench the whole time!

"Dickhead better not try and keep that shit up all series," he says darkly, the or we'll murder him subtext evident in his tone. "- But hey. She still won it for us, didn’t she?"

"Like a clutch motherfucker," Sharpy agrees fondly, and clicks their glasses together in a toast to a woman they love in (Jon sincerely hopes) entirely different ways. "Now go wrangle her moody ass, Cap’n."

Jonny sighs, gets up, and takes advantage of a line change at the table - a few of the guys heading up to get more drinks while a few others return from same - to squeeze in by the still-silent Kaner. After so many years side-by-side he’s generally pretty attuned to her state of mind at any given time, and up close it’s even more obvious that Sharpy was right: Kaner’s withdrawn and distracted, unhappily sober.

She acknowledges his arrival with only the barest of nods instead of her usual tipsy, loudly pleased arm-flinging, and Jonny leans in to speak to her in a voice that would be normal street volume outside but is practically under his breath relative to the ambient noise level in here. "'Nother one?"

"Meh," Kaner says, glancing at her mostly-empty glass as Jonny indicates it, and that is uncharacteristic. Though he knows she’s been trying to tone it down with the drinking since last summer, that incident in Madison. Body weight and alcohol tolerance both way down after the run-up to playoffs, upset as hell over the Hawks’ first-round elimination, she’d been extensively documented on camera drunk as a skunk, yelling at cops and slobbering all over fratboys, getting kicked out of bars or dirty on the dancefloor with wet-t-shirted sorority girls, until even Jonny had to put his head in his hands over the fact that this is the person he’s in love with.

"You’re going easy on it tonight," he says, trying his best to sound jokingly approving rather than nosily accusatory. "Uh - something the matter?"

Kaner finally flicks her eyes up from her phone. She's wearing glitter around them. Either that or Jonny gets literal sparkles in his eyes when he looks at her these days.

"Nothing important," she says eventually, glaring down at the screen again. "Not hockey."

"There’s important stuff that’s not hockey," Jonny says for form’s sake, although they both know that that list is pretty damn short this deep into playoffs.

"No, ’s just - girl thing, it’s stupid." Kaner finishes her drink and slams the glass down crankily. "Some bullshit about my sister's wedding."

Jonny’s confused. "Didn't your sister just get married a year ago? Like, with the horrible dresses."

He remembers because Kaner had group-texted a few of them, right from the event, with kill me now :(( and an attached photo of herself as maid of honor, looking beyond uncomfortable in yards of ruffled plum-colored satin. Her hair was all teased out and she looked nothing like herself, aside from her disconsolate just-lost-a-game expression. Jonny had laughed his head off.

Kaner blows her straw wrapper at him. "That was Erica, keep up, Jesus. Jessica is getting married in like a month. And," she adds doomfully, "Jackie's got this serious-business boyfriend even though she's way young, so who knows."

At least she’s talking now. "And the problem is…?" Jon prompts.

At this juncture he's kind of expecting Kaner to start unloading her man troubles onto him. Granted, she’s usually much drunker when that happens, drunk enough to cry on Jonny’s shoulder as he pats awkwardly at her back and mutters supportive nothings about how someday she'll totally find somebody worth her time. By now he knows the whole litany: she can barely relax and enjoy a normal hookup anymore because so many guys only want to brag later that they nailed Patricia Kane, chick hockey prodigy; she can't date seriously either, because for eight months out of the year she’s either absent on the road or super busy at home, much of which time is spent in a semi-naked context with big muscular dudes who make a lot of money, and that tends to bring out ugly insecurities in her boyfriends.

The last one Jonny had to hear about apparently got pissy over Kaner’s partying and told her she wasn’t ‘wife material’, and only concern for his professional reputation kept Jonny from tracking the asshole down and decking him. He’s kind of glad she was too wasted to remember most of that night, because he’d maybe gotten a little over-vehement with his assurances that anyone would be lucky to marry her.

But Kaner's notably non-drunk tonight, and so she doesn’t start tearing up or spilling her guts or anything, just carries on scowling at her phone.

"So I'm in the wedding party, obviously," she tells him reluctantly, "and I’m supposed to bring a plus-one, but who the fuck would I take?" She makes a face that tells Jonny she’s still sore over the wife-material guy. "And everyone keeps giving me shit about it. My bitchiest aunt is the mistress of ceremonies or whatever it's called, and lookit this crap she just texted me," and she turns the screen to show him the message:

Hope to be dancing at YOUR wedding soon too Patty! ;-) Better watch out before ALL your lil sisters beat you to the altar!! PS Bringing a date to this one would be a GREAT start sweetie ;-D

Jonny winces. "Damn."

"Right?" Kaner explodes. "Like, fuck me for focusing on my career instead of getting hitched right outta high school, Jesus. I mean God forbid my first priority isn’t changing the name on the back of my jersey, huh?"

She’s not wearing said jersey out tonight, of course - just this mindblowing little halter top in Hawks red - but Jonny still glances involuntarily at the expanse between her shoulderblades where the KANE would sit, something flipping unpleasantly in the pit of his stomach to imagine anyone else's name on her like that.

Or, well, anyone’s except for -

"I mean, you wouldn't wanna change it anyway, right? Brand recognition," he says, and she nods in agreement, replies, "That’s what Brisson tells me."

He finally tears his eyes away from her bare shoulders, all the while trying extra super hard not to think about her in his jersey. He’s seen her wearing it for staged video footage, NHL 36 or something, and then again during the blur of post-Cup celebrations, crashing in their party suite in the wee hours of the morning. Kaner, too drunk to even shower without potentially slipping and splitting her skull open, would not stop bitching about the sticky discomfort of her champagne-soaked outfit - even though she’d been the one yelling for half the bar to drench her with it in the first place - until somebody got fed up and tossed her the nearest spare cleanish article of clothing, which happened to be a Toews hockey sweater.

Jonny'd been pretty smashed himself, but he still remembers vividly how she’d looked sprawling bare-legged across the couch, passed out belly-down with his name across her back.

Kaner’s looking back down at the phone, face shuttering, and she stabs a key with one chewed-looking fingernail until the message disappears.

"Bitch," she mutters again, mostly to herself. "And you know, I can’t even say anything back, ’cause, like. Family drama. Not worth it, not this close to the wedding."

Wow, this is actually really getting to her, Jonny realizes with some surprise. By this point in their lives Kaner has damn near perfected her ability to shrug off most of the shit that comes with being a girl - or maybe just a girl in the spotlight, Jonny can't tell: his sample size is too small, Kaner being the one woman he knows better than any other in the world (not excluding former girlfriends or even his own mother). But there’s still a few things she’s unapologetically soft about, and her family’s one of them - and between that and her recent boy problems, he can kind of see how this might be hitting her where it hurts.

He opens his mouth to say something generically comforting and then change the subject, but what comes out instead is: "I mean, if you really need to bring someone…"

And then he comes to his senses and snaps his mouth shut, but it's too late - Kaner is already looking at him, eyebrows raised.

"That an offer, Jonny?" she says, a little incredulous.

She has reason to be, of course. Ever since their rookie year, from the minute anyone started calling them Chicago’s dynamic duo, a yin-and-yang odd couple who played amazing hockey together - the bubbly blonde who was the talk of the draft (too little, too female, but so skilled!) and the serious dark-eyed guy who hadn’t even played his first NHL game before the captaincy whispers began - ever since, people have been implying shit about the two of them together. Reporters ask them nudge-nudge-wink-wink questions and write articles full of transparent innuendo about their special relationship and off-ice chemistry, and even the franchise’s front office is constantly dropping them unsubtle hints on ‘controlling their joint narrative’. In photoshoots they’re asked to pose like fucking engagement portraits, and teenage girls write love stories on the internet about them - or at least that's how Jon likes to euphemistically think of them, although a more accurate description might be straight-up pornography.

("This is not the kind of role model I wanted to be," he’d once lamented to Kaner, just after the pair of them had been asked to autograph a book-thick printout of someone's eye-searingly explicit fanfiction.

"Psh," said Kaner, who had skimmed through it, laughed uproariously, and then not only signed the damn thing but also bullied Jonny into doing the same. "Nothing for it, so you might as well feel flattered."

Jonny has enough trouble controlling this thing he has for Kaner without subjecting himself to X-rated epics about their imaginary sex life, thanks. "I just don’t get it," he said, bemused and doleful. "Do they wanna be you, or wanna bang me?"

"Hey, don’t flatter yourself too much, buddy," Kaner retorted. "Maybe they wanna bang me.")

The constant insinuations are so maddening that he almost prefers it when people are rude enough to ask outright. Jonny's standard canned press response is that he loves Kaner like a sister...which is perfectly true, if you’re talking like on Game of Thrones.

In his defense, originally he really had figured that knowing so much about this one girl - all the gross and awkward and tedious stuff that comes with growing up in such close proximity together - was sure to turn him off her for life. Instead it just drove home the lesson that girls were people too, which is probably a good thing to know, but also made everything that much more complicated insofar as it allowed his adolescent crush to progress to actual falling in love.

Anyway. All of which would be why Kaner's looking curiously at him now, like she expects Jonny's poker face to crack, for him to slug her in the arm and say, In your dreams, Kane.

But sometimes Jonny enjoys confounding her a little, so:

"Sure," he says instead, and makes himself shrug, like it's no big deal to him either way.

Kaner pockets her phone, squinting at him. "You're serious?"

He's too proud to backpedal, which amounts to the same thing. "If it'd shut that shit down for you," he says, gesturing to the phone in her pocket and by extension the text message on it, "why not, eh?"

Kaner still looks unsure. "Don’t get me wrong, it’d be a lot less boring with you along, but. There might's supposed to be one of those unplugged weddings, no cameraphones allowed, but I dunno how well they'll be able to enforce it, you know? Stuff'll probably still get out."

Again, she doesn't elaborate because she doesn't need to: they both know the rest already. The verbal reports that will no doubt pop up online afterward will be bad enough, but if even one thoughtless-or-malicious guest sneaks in a smartphone and gets a shot of him accompanying her, then half an hour later Deadspin will have some hackpiece up about how Kane and Toews have finally caved and admitted their true love and will now inevitably start popping out perfect hockey-royalty babies together. Jon can just see the WEDDING DATE headlines now, all the brand-new ammo they'd be giving to everyone who’s been wrong about them all along.

But on the other hand - that fucking text, ugh, and Kaner's face.

It’s not the girl thing or even the love thing, okay, it’s just part of being a good captain, how Jonny gets protective of his teammates (even - or especially - of Kaner, who’s so profoundly unappreciative of such gestures by her male colleagues). And hey, they're growing up, maybe it's time the two of them learned to rise above all that silly media crap. If it doesn't bother Kaner then Jonny’s not going to let it bother him either, god damn it, no matter how much it might feel like salt in the wound of his unfortunate fixation.

"Whatever," he tells her, shrugging again. "I don't care," and only then thinks to check: "As long as it's well clear of playoffs."

"My family's throwing it, of course it's clear of playoffs," Kaner scoffs. "Week and a half after Finals Game 7, if we make it that far."

"When we make it that far," Jonny corrects immediately, which makes Kaner smile and squeeze his shoulder.

"Right," she says. "Tell you what. If we do crash out early - I know, I know, but if we do - I don't wanna make you fly all the way back from Winterpeg to Buffalo weeks later. Not just to escort my ass around for less than a day, you know? But if we win it all, and so we're still both in Chicago through like, mid to late June…"

That makes sense, actually. For one thing, if they do end up winning a second Cup - well, at that point, fuck it: let people talk. Jonny wouldn’t give a shit about anyone's thoughts on his and Kaner's nonexistent romance while riding that high. It was like that the last time, when she'd happily poured beer into his mouth and made him spray champagne all over her tits and didn't give a shit who was taking pictures.

"Deal," he says, and they seal it with a fistbump, at which point Shawzy yells at them to quit making goo-goo eyes at each other and join in on a teamwide nice-Game-1! round of shots instead.


"No," Jonny groans at his buzzing phone, rolling over.

Every part of him hurts, because his body really can't handle the same amount of playoff hockey plus drinking plus dancing plus crowdsurfing that it could back in the day after Cup win number one.

(And holy shit, he gets to qualify it like that, now: Cup win number one.)

But hey, fuck it, because the pain only means that they did it AGAIN.

He opens his eyes a slit, just enough to ascertain that he's on the rec room couch at his buddy's apartment on the Near North Side, which would make sense, even if Jon doesn't precisely remember getting here.

Reluctantly he digs his phone out of yesterday's shorts, discarded in a crumple on the floor, and checks it with a grumble just to make sure nobody pulled a Cinco de Mayo in the midst of last night's imperfectly recalled celebrations. But it's just a pair of back-to-back texts from - speaking of, who else - Kaner.

Good, so they both survived the night. Last he'd seen of her, it was at least four in the morning and she was getting real friendly with a couple of Notre Dame lacrosse players; when Jonny lurched by, she'd thrown him a wink over their broad shoulders that might have meant As if, lax bros are pussies and I already have one of those, or conversely might have meant I'm gonna bang 'em both in the bar bathroom before tonight is up, and probably at the same time.

Jonny's tragic buried crush had kind of been rooting for the former, of course, but he was also way too shitfaced-happy about bringing Lord Stanley back to Chicago to mope about the one side of Kaner he doesn't get to have. So instead he'd given her a wobbly thumbs-up, like a good friend, and plunged into the packed dancefloor in hopes of finding somebody hot to make out with.

Which he had, thank you, and so what if she happened to be a natural blonde with bouncy curls and big blue eyes? Tons of girls look like that, tons of guys are into that, so fuck off. It was a good time, is the important part, and he didn't think any more inappropriate shit about his teammate that night.

oof, says Kaner's first message. cant rage like i used 2, fuck. It's so in sync with his own thoughts that Jonny smiles reflexively, even though just doing that makes his face twinge sorely, probably because he spent the last however-many hours grinning nonstop.

so we still on 4 next wk satrday? is the second one, sent right after.

Jonny looks blankly at it for a second, racking his sleepy, hungover brain. He's done this before (God what a crazy thought) and so he knows that a Cup win means a packed schedule for weeks, but he can't place it, whatever they're supposed to be doing two Saturdays from now.

He goes to text back a question, but before he can, a third message pops up.

got a dress fitting in like 2 hrs & jess says it cant be moved :/ shell be lucky if i dont puke on the fuckin thing

Ohh, right, the wedding. When he goes to type back his fingers don't hurt, for a change, but they are weirdly sticky - with what, he's probably better off not knowing.

Damn right we're on. Won the cup didn't we?

Kaner answers that entirely rhetorical question immediately.


Jonny has to smile again, facial muscle aches be damned.

Is my fave suit gonna be ok, he asks, or should I go full tux?

if i have to suffer so do u

Like being your arm candy all day won't be suffering enough.

im 2 drunksick 4 chirping :(

No surprise there; Jonny knows she went shot-for-shot last night with her rookies (she likes to make the new guys her protégés, and they always spend their first few months in infatuated awe of her, like some goddess of sexy hockey, before actually getting to know her enough to realize she’s totally ridiculous) and even the hardest-partying of females is bound to run into difficulties trying to keep up with big guys like that. As usual, Kaner makes her own problems, but Jonny’s still briefly struck with a futile urge to stroke her hair until her head stops hurting.

At least he has a few more hours ahead of him to rest and recuperate, because unlike some people, he planned out his heavy-drinking schedule ahead of time like an adult.

Send me details when you have em, he replies. Going back to sleep now, have fun @ your fitting!

fuck u, she responds instantly, and he can practically see her bleary glare to go with it.

Sucks to be you lol

i h8 u

Xoxo, Jonny sends just for maximal annoyance, before silencing his phone and rolling over again: he's got some sleep to catch up on if he wants to be back in shape to keep celebrating tonight.


"KANER," Jonny yells into her voicemail - pointlessly, since he knows for a fact that she never checks it. He leans his knuckles on the horn and with his other hand depresses the button to roll his window down, the better for her to hear him hollering. "HURRY YOUR BUTT UP, WE'RE GONNA BE LATE."

His flight yesterday was endlessly delayed and he got in at ass o'clock at night only to find that Kaner was still out with her sisters post-rehearsal-dinner, at which point Jonny threw his hands up and got a hotel room rather than crash at her Buffalo house like he'd planned on. Her ridiculous Hummer is back in Chicago and all the Kane family vehicles have been commandeered for wedding-related purposes, so he's picking her up in a rental. Basically it's all been a logistical hassle to a degree that Jonny rarely has to deal with in the context of the team, when professionals arrange all this shit for them, and that annoys him on principle.

He's still glaring at his phone when the passenger-side door of the car bangs open.

"Okay, geez, here." Jonny doesn't have to look up to recognize Kaner's breathless, barely-apologetic voice. "I had to finish painting my toenails, Jess woulda killed me if they didn't match the rest of the bridesmaids’."

"Yeah, well, we're already running like twenty minutes behind the time she said in that email you forwarded me," Jonny tells her crankily, already going for the gearshift before she’s even in the vehicle. "So your toenails better look fucking spectac-"

He takes his first proper glance at her, at curbside, and damn near stalls out the engine. All of Kaner looks fucking spectacular.

The last time they were together was for post-parade-day still-drunk-brunch along with half the team. Kaner’d been wearing sunglasses indoors to cover the previous night's makeup smeared all over her face and a tank top that might once have been opaque white but was now translucent beige on account of being totally sodden with beer, which made her stink so bad the brunch joint almost didn’t let her in, Cup winners or no Cup winners. The worst part, of course, was that even like that Jonny loved her more than anything.

That said -

Whichever sister’s getting married today (he’s still not great at keeping them straight, honestly) must have way better taste than the last one. She's got Kaner in this floaty little thing that clings softly to her body, draped layers of filmy translucent material in a pale blue that brings out her eyes. It's infinitely lovelier - not to mention classier - than anything Jonny’s ever seen her pick out for herself. By now he’s resigned to the look-at-me outfits she likes for nightlife, and her usual PR-approved gameday getup - sober dark skirt-suits, mostly - is respectable enough, if boring. But this...

"You laugh and I'll go stag after all, I swear to God," Kaner warns him as she climbs in, neatly navigating the running board in her sky-high heels, and a snatch of song flits absurdly through Jonny's head: well you must be a girl with shoes like that...

Kaner is consistently great at walking, or rather swaggering, in ridiculously tall stilettos - at least, when she's sober - and always swears it's a byproduct of knowing how to balance on skates. Jonny suspects she likes them in part because they boost her right up to his own height. He disapproves on principle, because you need healthy feet to play hockey and heels are awful for them; still, that's a little hard to remember when they're making her bare legs look this long.

"I’m not gonna laugh," he says, making himself look away. "What kind of date do you think I am, Jesus."

"The super convenient kind who's totally taking one for the team," Kaner says promptly, "which hey, thanks for that," and she leans over the divider to smack an obnoxious kiss onto Jonny's temple.

"Hi-ho silver!" she instructs, accompanied by some sort of dire cowgirl gesture towards the road.

"Being home's really bringing out the hick in you," Jonny observes, tuning out Kaner's incensed squawk as he redirects his attention to the GPS. Delaware Park, it says.

"So, wedding itself's an hour from now, in the rose garden," Kaner’s chattering happily. "Should take like another ninety minutes, tops, and then the reception in the casino, that'll go past midnight at least…"

Jonny only vaguely remembers any of this from the email, but to be fair, he's got a lot of dates and times swimming around in his head right now: he's been booked solid ever since the Cup, as expected, and his inbox is currently crammed with offers forwarded from his agent that if accepted would cover nearly the entire rest of his summer too. Some of those were joint deals that would also involve Kaner, and Jonny had meant to discuss some of them with her today, but now he kind of doesn't feeling like mixing business and pleasure. Kaner's clearly excited, it's a big day for her family, and the two of them spend practically all their time together talking hockey in some way, shape or form; they can take a break for a few hours.

"Ceremony's gonna be lame, obviously, but the rest should be a good time," Kaner's saying, sinking back into the upholstery. Even in heels and a skirt she's incapable of sitting like a lady, shoulders slumped down and legs splayed inelegantly wide, and Jonny really wishes he didn't find her dudebro posture kind of hot. "Lots of people our age there, and I paid for one hell of an open bar -"


Unlike Kaner and the rest of the wedding party, Jonny doesn't actually need to be present for any of the prep stuff, so he enjoys the picture-perfect weather ("only time you'll ever see that in Buffalo," says Kaner) by exploring the park a little on his own, checking out the golf course and whatnot.

The solo interlude is also a chance to get his stupidly dazzled self back under control. So she looks good, so what, lots of girls look good, it's still never worth it if it's gonna bring the drama. And the way he feels about Kaner risks more than just drama: it’s dangerous, has the very real potential to instantly and permanently ruin one of the best, most lasting things in Jonny's life. They've forgiven each other a ton of shit over the years, but Kaner does have some hard lines, and surely that would run right over all of them. Jon can't even imagine her reaction to finding out that her own captain doesn't just see her as one of the guys, the way she's fought so hard to be treated.

And besides, they've lived in each other's pockets for so long now - if it was going to happen at all, it would've already, back when they were still crazed with teenage hormones. Plenty of guys might’ve joined a team with Kaner at sweet seventeen and resolved to hit that immediately, or at least try; Jonny'd had other priorities, namely hockey and more hockey. Which happened to align pretty much perfectly with Kaner's own priorities, and so they’d bonded in a way that had nothing to do with sex.

She's just too damn many things to him: longtime coworker and shameful fantasy, close friend and unwitting beloved, keeper of more of Jonny's own personal history than he cares to think about. Most of all, she’s a safe place in this big strange pro sports world on which they've chosen to spend their youth and strength - amazing, yes, beyond their wildest dreams, but also volatile and perilous. Jonny can’t take many safe places for granted anymore - money and fame change everything, make it hard to trust - so he values those he does have, and Kaner more than most, with her unique understanding of everything he's going through.

And that’s why he can’t ever, will never, take the chance of fucking that up by making a move.

No calmer than before, he walks back to the rose garden just as a bunch of guests start pouring in. He promptly gets recognized and endures fifteen minutes of strangers coming up and congratulating him on the Cup, an occurrence which from one angle never gets old and from another angle got old about halfway through summer 2010...not that he'd ever verbalize such ingratitude to anyone (always excepting Kaner, who shoots him a sympathetic glance as she's dragged off for the processional). At least the no-cellphones policy means they can’t ask him for pictures.

The ceremony proper is the usual distantly cute spectacle these things always are when you aren't close to the participants. For Jon the high points are watching amusedly as Kaner tries to wrangle the enormous train of the bride's gown, then watching fondly as (predictably enough, despite her prior declarations re: the lameness of weddings) she cries until her mascara runs when the happy couple say their vows (it's pretty clear where she gets it from: the entire rest of her family does, too).

Afterwards he's hauled up by the official photographer for a lakeside picture or six with her - the dude keeps instructing him and Kaner to scootch in closer together, which is hardly a new experience for the two of them but is still always annoying - and then he has to stand awkwardly on the sidelines through endless shots of the wedding party, trying not to stare inappropriately as Kaner preens and poses with her pretty sisters in those fucking blue dresses, flashing her sunniest smile at the camera over and over. And when they finally start drifting towards the reception building, he gets buttonholed by a few mercifully hockey-clueless members of the extended Kane family who clearly just want to know whether Patricia's got a boyfriend and look nonplussed when Jonny instead introduces himself as her captain.

Inside the ritzily decked-out casino, he catches enough of the receiving line to grin at Kaner's half-pleased, half-uncomfortable expression every time someone tells her how beautiful she looks. Which happens a lot, so at least Jonny knows it's not just him.

"Jackie's got this ginormous flask," she hisses happily in his ear, once everyone's been announced with due fanfare and they're finally free to sit down at the head table. "I'ma bribe the caterer to spike the punchbowl, watch me."

Jonny figures at least she can’t possibly get tossed out of a wedding that she herself bankrolled, so he just flicks the back of her head and turns to chat with Jackie's boyfriend, a Sabres die-hard with lots of vehement opinions about what his team needs to do to make the playoffs next year.

"Maybe if you hadn’t stolen that one from us, Toews," he jokes ruefully, tipping his wineglass in the direction of Kaner (who does, in fact, appear to be heading back-of-house to bug the staff. For fuck’s sake.) "I know you got a good thing going up in Chi-town, but man, her hometown really coulda used the lovely lady."

Jackie huffs from beside him. "Quit checking out my sister."

"I would never," says the boyfriend immediately, giving Jonny a sidelong glance that he can’t quite interpret.


Kaner's punchbowl-spiking escapade is unsuccessful - if the boringly fruit-flavored ladleful Jonny gets is any indication - not to mention unnecessary, what with the aforementioned open bar and the zillion servers circulating with trays of champagne.

"But," she says when he calls her on it, "I did get the DJ to, uh, tweak the preset playlist for the after-dinner dancing."

"Well, yeah, of course he did," Jonny says, unimpressed. "You paid for all of this."

"No, I didn’t even have to pull that card!" Kaner tells him gleefully. "I don’t think he even knew who I was!"

Even after all these years of adulation, Jonny knows, some little part of her always seems pleasantly surprised when she manages to genuinely charm someone.

He glances over at the DJ in question, a skinny hipster in suspenders with two full sleeves of tattoos. He doesn't really look the type, but Jonny still says, more meanly than he’d really intended, "Don’t believe it, he’s probably one of those creepy dudes who beats off to your photoshoots."

Kaner just looks amused at that, which is fair: despite dozens of ludicrously lucrative offers running the gamut from nearly-art to nearly-porn, she’s done exactly zero sexed-up half-naked media things over the course of her career (which is actually several fewer than Jonny himself has). He can understand and respect her reasons for declining, although he does find it a little ironic in light of her real-life affinity for ratchet clubwear and casual sex with random bros.

He mostly doesn't even spare the emotional effort to be jealous of the people Kaner bangs, or might bang, anymore. He's not insane enough to think she somehow owes him celibacy because he's got this sad lingering boner for her that she doesn't even know about, and he figured out years ago that he'd have to get over himself or else lose his mind trying to work and live alongside this girl. And it’s not like he even minds, per se, that Kaner likes to get some whenever and wherever she can. It’s part of who she is, she’s a sexual person; Jon knows and (secretly, shamefully) loves that about her. He'd just sort of prefer if she was getting some with him.

Which is categorically not an option, he’s accepted that too. So he tries to keep a lid on it, usually. But she just looks so good tonight, who could resist her, and -

"Actually," Kaner's saying pointedly, "when I asked him to throw some Angel Haze on there, he goes ‘right on, my boyfriend loves her!’" She punctuates it with a smack upside Jonny’s head. "So."

Ah. That's who could resist her, apparently.

"But hey, by all means, don't let that stop you from going over there and handing out a beatdown -" She’s already cracking up just saying it. "Whaddaya think you've got on him, Tazer, maybe a hundred pounds?"

"Just saying," Jonny says, still a little snidely, "don't let me stand in your way tonight."

"Yo, even if he had been, fanboy dick got old a longass time ago," Kaner interrupts. She’s stopped laughing and now she actually looks a little offended, which is weird: Kaner’s generally pretty unflappable about sex stuff. "And anyway, what, you think I'd bring you here all date-style and then pick up somebody else? Jesus, Jonny."

Jonny's spared from answering when a rap track starts to pound heavily over the sound system, wiping the annoyance right off Kaner's face. It has to be her doing - Nicki Minaj and Eminem, Jonny recognizes it from one of her workout mixes - and she just about splits the sides of her dress laughing at the offended expressions on some of the older guests' faces once they get a load of the not-remotely-censored lyrics. The college kids, on the other hand, are already flooding onto the dancefloor.

"You’re a douche, so I’ma go bust a move with my sisters," Kaner informs him, but she already sounds more cheerful than pissy, undoubtedly at the prospect of making a fool of herself in public.

She kicks off her shoes, dumps them unceremoniously in Jonny’s lap, and off she goes. Sans high heels she's slightly less of a leggy bombshell than before, which would be a relief, except that means she's also back to being significantly shorter than Jonny and privately he finds that as adorable as ever, which is even worse.

Her exit actually suits him fine right now - it is not late enough and he has not drunk enough to dance to this shit, especially not with Kaner, whose moves are embarrassing enough even with the help of beer goggles. But he does covertly watch her awful off-beat ass-shaking for a few minutes anyway, not because white-girl booty-dancing does it for him but because she looks so fucking happy.

Happy Kaner is one of Jon’s favorite things on the planet, not least because it’s inextricably tied up with the feeling of winning. He sees it in miniature after every victory, in its full glory these two Cup summers - which, if he's honest, has to be on his top five list of things he's loved about their Cup wins in the first place.

He doesn’t get to see it that much anymore, the simple carefree joy she used to radiate, back when they were both so young and naive. Kaner is more guarded these days, has to be. Jonny gets that they’ll never be those fresh-faced kids again, and of course their achievements - their achievements together - have been worth every stress line their high-pressure careers have stamped into their features.

Still, not even the cringeworthy return of the Kaner Shuffle is enough to make him look away from the great big smile she's wearing.

He’s finally distracted by a random cousin of the groom who doesn’t recognize him ("Jessica’s family has money, I take it," she says at one point, "some famous athlete - brother?") but who is definitely hitting on him anyway. Mercifully he’s saved by the return of Jackie’s boyfriend, who’s brought some of his Sabres-fan bros over to meet the Jonathan Toews. They’re actually not bad company, especially with the aid of the open bar, and Jon’s maybe gotten a little toasty with them by the time Kaner comes back for him an hour later.

She too appears to have been partaking of the free champagne that’s flowing like water, or maybe whatever Jackie’s got in her flask: stumbling out of the crowd all giggles and damp flushed cheeks, still wiggling a little to whatever equally obnoxious song is playing now.

"Taaazer," she shouts over the beat; his douchiness has clearly been forgiven. "Come dance with me!" She’s aimed so enthusiastically in Jonny's direction that she all but crashes right into him, and his hands come up automatically to brace her.

"Easy there, Pat," says Jackie’s boyfriend.

Kaner smiles back at him and says, "Sad part is I’m not even falling-down drunk," and sure enough, she isn't slurring in the slightest. "Just klutzy. Pro athlete right here, boys." Then she dives in close to Jonny’s ear - the music really is loud - and repeats "Taaaaazer!" only marginally more quietly. "C'mon, dancing!"

"Hell no," Jonny says, leaning his weight back into the chair as Kaner grabs both his hands and tries to tug him up out of his seat, fails, and informs him exasperatedly that he’s a total soggy biscuit and she should’ve brought someone less funsucking.

Jonny sees his erstwhile drinking buddies exchange a few grinning glances, can tell that at least one of them is probably about to throw out a friendly offer to join her out there instead, and abruptly he caves and gets up. Kaner crows with victory as he shrugs off his tux jacket and leaves it over the back of his chair; then she yanks him right into the thick of the dancing.

The dancefloor has spread out to cover most of the reception hall, tables and chairs pushed back to make room, bass pounding and colored lights strobing across the moving masses. It looks like a lot of the older folks who weren't feeling Kaner's admittedly dubious taste in music have already carried their second helpings of wedding cake out to the twilit lakeside patio, or else taken their leave entirely. Which is probably for the best, because by now there's a fair amount of grinding going on.

At this point it is late enough and Jonny has drunk enough that in the flashing darkness, amidst the hot crush of bodies, he can let go a little. Nobody's ever going to accuse him of being a good dancer, but his body is strong, he's worked hard to make it that way and he's proud of it, and he likes to move it in almost any recreational fashion possible. Besides, next to Kaner’s ridiculous flailing, anyone would look decent by comparison.

"Was your sister pissed about the music?" he asks, or rather yells, and Kaner yells back, "No, no, she loved it, she laughed."

At first he’s paranoid, scanning the press of people for smuggled-in cellphones, bright little camera eyes poised to capture Kane and Toews looking like idiots and share it with the entire world. But nobody’s paying attention to them, just one more couple on the dancefloor; Jon can’t even spot any of the people who’d recognized him earlier, only strangers caught up in getting their freak on.

They spend enough of their lives under scrutiny that it's a relief, not feeling watched. Private functions tend to feel safer like that, family ones doubly so, but they can almost never let their guard down completely. Especially not Kaner. It's the girl thing, and it's fucking unfair and pisses Jonny off, but there it is. Somebody leaks one blurry shot taken in a bar (or, okay, a bunch of hi-res shots taken in broad daylight) of her having a little too much fun (or, okay, a lot too much fun) in her off time like a normal person, and boom, the internet explodes with yet another round of shit about what a trashy alkie party whore Pat Kane is, and how gender integration in pro sports is causing the downfall of society, and what could this mean for women in the NHL??

The last time she got it that bad, a couple years back when people were baying for a trade after the Cinco de Mayo thing, Jonny'd gotten so mad that he'd actually veered off his stock talking points for once and told a reporter that anyone who wanted to take #88 off his wing would have to go through him first. He's still getting chirped for that years later, but fuck it: there are way worse hills to die on.

She’s close up against his chest now - everyone’s pretty packed in - and he’s got a tricky job just trying not to touch her too much by accident. He’s seen her dancing with friends of both genders enough to know that she'd be just fine with deliberate contact, even, but it's not a good idea in terms of Jonny's own self-control.

He can see her face every time the light slices rainbows across them; her curls are falling out of their carefully gelled style to cluster round her cheeks, her neck, and one dress strap keeps trying to slip down her shoulder. Jonny’s fingers itch to push it back up for her.

Somebody bumps into him from behind - he hears a quick, breathless "oh sorry, dude!" - and again his instinctive response is to reach out and steady Kaner against him. But she just flashes a smile up at him and shimmies her hips under his palms, and he can't bring himself to take his hands away, after.


Jonny’d sort of blanked on the fact that Kaner, being responsible for the playlist, probably has a good idea of which track’s up next, but he’s reminded pretty fast when the intro starts up and she hollers happily into his ear: "Hey, it’s your song!"

"Oh no," Jonny says, as the first verse of 'Baby Got Back' comes on and cheers of nostalgia erupt all over the dancefloor.

"Oh yes," Kaner shouts back, grinning fit to burst, and what is Jonny supposed to do in the face of all that tipsy, wired excitement?

"I feel kinda set up," he accuses, and Kaner’s grin turns devilish.

"Cannot confirm or deny," she coos, and slaps his ass like Get moving.

The problem is, it's a song about booty, and of course fucking Kaner has to dance accordingly, which means a lot of twerking (badly) all over Jonny. And the problem with that is that her moves may suck but she still looks good and he's had a thing for her for ages, and even Jonny’s formidable willpower over his body is no match for such close, prolonged contact.

He and Kaner bro-touch a hell of a lot, always have - she leaps into his arms for cellies and huddles in close to him on the bench, nothing he wouldn't do with any other teammate. And very occasionally, upon request, he'll also sprawl an arm along the top of her seat when they're out somewhere they probably won't be recognized and she doesn't feel like being hit on that night (the kind of guy who tries to pick up the one girl in a group of hulking hockey players is, without fail, a special brand of asshole).

So Jonny's had years to get used to that much. He’s also had years of hearing Kaner bitch about dudes who misinterpret her friendly flirting, or dancing, or style of dress to mean that she's necessarily down to fuck, and as she dances on him now he’s trying really, really hard to keep that in mind.

It’s just that even wasted Kaner has never groped him quite this persistently, and he’s very aware that this time around she’s nowhere near wasted. She probably thinks it’s fucking funny, trying to get Jonny all worked up like this, making him press back into her hands despite himself, like an answer to a challenge. Leave it to Pat Kane, he thinks wildly, to invent the game of straight chicken.

Now the DJ's sliding them into yet another hip-hop beat, something slower, sexier, a driving electronic throb with dark synths and, over it, some low-voiced woman flowing hard about her lover. It's dangerous music to dance to, especially with the way Kaner’s been touching him - no matter how joking on her part, Jonny’s body doesn’t know any better. His hands are still on her hips, gripping tighter than when he’d begun. He should let go. He does not.

"You have no moves," Kaner says, "ze-ro," but she sounds oddly satisfied, and her palms come back up to curve up over his ass again, not the jokey squeezing from before but actually pulling him in to grind against her, directing the considerable power of his quads right into her body.

Jonny goes as lightheaded as if he'd just gulped down another couple flutes of bubbly.

He slides his hands up to her sides, which seems like it should be safer territory but isn't, because he’d forgotten that her dress doesn't really have much of a back to speak of. Instead his fingers hit bare skin and more bare skin, the sleek grooves along her ribs, and when he inevitably starts to harden against her hipbone, all he can think is that a) that probably means he loses at straight chicken and b) Kaner is gonna murder him. Or, worse, laugh at him.

It’s a natural reaction; he’s a twentysomething guy in peak physical condition and has the healthy libido to go with it. With this kind of stimulation, what else was gonna happen? Jon knows all of these things and he still kind of wants to die. He doesn't normally get off on being embarrassed - basically the opposite, actually - but right now the harder he grows, the more humiliatingly aware of it he is, and the more aware he is, the harder he grows, like some kind of awful Kaner-specific sexual shame spiral.

She’s rubbing herself all over him, there’s no way she could possibly not notice it. But instead of disgust or incredulity, jeering or homicide:

"There you go," Kaner breathes, nonsensically, and her fingertips flex and dig into his glutes, tugging him even closer.

All of Jonny's muscles were braced for her to shove him away, and when the expected push doesn't come, it nearly sends him tumbling to the ground in surprise. He can't understand why she isn't stopping him; he can't understand why he isn't stopping himself. Pseudo-date or no pseudo-date, special night or no special night, Cup summer or no Cup summer - intoxication or no intoxication - it's gonna be tough enough trying to come back from this one already.

But oh, fuck, it’s hot. In both senses, actually. The dancefloor is so crowded, too many bodies pressing in, and Jonny can feel sweat sliding down his throat, down in between the first couple buttons he's got undone as usual. Kaner sways in impossibly closer, cheek brushing along his neck, and next moment she's making an amused noise and swiping her fingers through the sweat there.

"Always with the top buttons," she says, and pops the next one down, just to annoy him.

"What," Jonny grunts out, distracted by her touch dipping down between his pecs. "If I do 'em up all the way, they’re too tight." It's not a lie; he'd felt a little breathless throughout the wedding ceremony, in a way only partly attributable to Kaner beaming and sobbing and looking beautiful the whole time, and afterwards he'd lost the bowtie as soon as possible.

"Aw, Taze, your epic traps too much for Chicago's finest menswear to handle?" She squeezes Jonny's neck, hand strong against the thick muscle, and something about her kidding him just like normal right through what they’re doing below the waist is - God. "Can't you afford custom-tailored collars or whatever?"

"Yeah but, you know, our weight’s constantly fluctuating and - they constrict, it's uncomfortable." (Also uncomfortable: the way his increasingly large package is stuffed into his dress slacks right now. Contrariwise, the way Kaner’s twisting one-eighty in his arms to grind back on it is proving entirely too comfortable.) "You can thank our job for that."

"Orrr you just wanna show off that chest of yours." She snorts, arching her shoulderblades right back into said chest. "Man, and you give me shit for my low-cut tops."

"That thing was slit down to your belly button," Jonny protests.

"Good thing I don't have any cleavage to speak of," Kaner says cheerfully. "You can thank our job for that, too."

Which, great, so of course now Jonny’s looking down over her shoulder with his eyes irresistibly drawn to her not-quite-nonexistent cleavage while also pushing this incredibly inappropriate boner into the tight little ass hockey’s given her (talk about things to thank their job for).

And the next song’s no better, sex-music-wise, the DJ segueing into it so smoothly that there isn’t any one moment when it’d make sense to quit dancing, break rhythm and disentangle themselves. So Jonny doesn’t. Kaner got this show on the road in the first place; she can be the one to blow the whistle on the end of it, too.

What Kaner does instead is tip her head back against his shoulder, exposing her throat like she wants it kissed, and Jonny bites his own lips near-bloody in the effort to restrain himself from doing exactly that. He hasn’t been this desperately aroused in public since his teens, and he knows it's gonna fucking hurt when he eventually has to go sit down and wait it out.

Or not. Because the following track is just the same, just as bad, and Kaner still doesn't pull away or say a word, only twists back again to face him. This - this is straight-up simulated sex, now, Jonny's cock pushing hard and obvious in between her thighs, like her skirt and his suit pants don't even matter.

Kaner presses right back into it on every beat. Her eyes are closed and her breathing has sped up markedly since the first dance, matching his own, and Jonny’s getting seriously worried about his ability to keep his dick under control. Like, not even about the stiffy anymore, that ship has sailed; now he's legit starting to worry about coming.

Partway through the next track he finally has to pull back before it actually happens.

"What?" Kaner pants against him. God, now her voice sounds like they've been fucking for real, breathy as it is when she gets back to the bench after skating the hell out of a hard shift. This is torture.

Jonny wills his own voice into steadiness, but it still comes out like his Cup rally speech, rough as gravel. "You keep rubbing up on me like that, and we're gonna have a problem here."

The flashing lights change pattern and give him a look at Kaner's face: slight flush along her cheekbones, wicked grin on her red mouth. "Three and a half songs and you're gonna go off in your pants?" she says, low. "Buddy, with that stamina, no wonder you're such a disaster in the club."

"Shut it, Kane." He crushes their hips back together and hears, sees, feels her sharp inhale at the heavy push of his hard-on between them. "In the club it's not with you. Okay?"

That evil grin of hers abruptly turns into a real one, one Jon recognizes: the little bashful-satisfied slice of smile she gets when she's being praised for her playing. "Yeah?"

"Yes," Jonny says exasperatedly, and wraps his hands around to get at her ass, palms molding along the shallow curve of it. The gauzy skirt of her dress is so damn thin and he doesn't think she's wearing much of anything beneath it. He’s lived around Kaner’s dirty laundry long enough to know her underwear preferences - thongs for going out and those boy-short things for daily life - and rubbing her ass like this while thinking about it all but bare under there, just that one flimsy layer between his grip and her hot skin, is making him dizzy.

Kaner cranes her neck up, whispers right in his ear, "You can," and Jonny groans, sound swallowed up into the music, cock jerking against her inner thigh as he wills himself not to lose it right. this. second just from a little bit of dirty dancing. Oh, God, what the fuck is happening.

"Easy, tiger," she adds, and there's the amusement he'd anticipated, but it hardly stings in the wake of her astonishing come-on. "Maybe not here though, I got family members all over the place -"

She has a point, he thinks blindly, hand going to the small of her back to guide her, not thinking anything beyond away, elsewhere, and then they're staggering off the dancefloor.

If Jon’s gonna chicken out he needs to do it now...but he doesn’t fucking want to. The thing is, he spends so damn much of his time controlling his physical desires for the sake of the game: what he eats, when he sleeps, how he works out. Who he fucks. He’s been tamping that shit down for so long now that it’s become automatic, a part of him, like he doesn’t even know what he’d want if it weren’t for hockey.

And now here he is with Kaner, who’s been tied up tight with both hockey and wanting for Jon’s entire adult life. Kaner, who’s made her own kinds of sacrifices for the game; nobody knows that better than Jonny does. Here they are with practically the whole fucking franchise resting on their shoulders, and improbably - impossibly - for this one night she not only wants him back but wants it bad enough that she too is prepared to jeopardize all of that, just to give in to the way their bodies are calling each other.

Nothing about the recklessness of it should be making Jonny hot, but it is. Wildly so.

On their way out of the building Kaner grabs two more champagne flutes off a passing tray, ignoring how Jonny rolls his eyes at her.

"How are you planning to touch my dick with both hands full?" he says, less to chirp her than to make absolutely sure that they're more or less on the same page in terms of what's about to go down here. He keeps his voice really quiet, though; there's still a few people milling around in the dewy grass by the lake.

"Well," Kaner says, grinning like she's about to destroy him and knows it, "I guess I could always just use my mouth," and when Jonny's jaw drops she just cackles and passes him one of the flutes.

"Or not!" she says, and pulls him out into the night, grass under their feet and stars over their heads.

The pulsing beat fades but doesn't mute out entirely - that DJ did come with one hell of a sound system - as they head towards the rose garden, floral scent heavy on the night air. Jonny follows her lead, trying to ignore the discomfort of walking with an erection while he watches her bare feet moving a few paces ahead of him, and he only realizes midway down the center aisle that they're treading the same path as the wedding procession did earlier. That hits a little too close to home.

"Are we supposed to be here?" he asks belatedly, looking up at the dim columns of the gazebo. All the wedding stuff has been taken down already, for a mercy: Jonny really doesn't want to - do whatever he and Kaner are about to do - under a giant TRUE LOVE banner. That'd hit way too close to home.

"It's fine," Kaner says with the careless handwave of someone who splashed out a lot of money on this thing and has a lot more where it came from. She tosses back her champagne in one go, an unladylike chug that morphs into a beautiful throat-flexing swallow that does jack shit to help Jonny not picture her sucking dick. Then she sets the glass down on the railing and turns to face him.

"We could keep dancing," she says huskily, "I liked that part," but when she moves against him it's not to the rhythm of the quiet hum of music still audible from the casino; it’s to the fast, unsteady beat of their heavy breathing.

Jonny sets down his untouched champagne. Cages her in against one of the thick stone pillars that support the pavilion roof, till her shoulderblades are rubbing right up against it. "And by dancing you mean dry humping?"

"Well, I was sorta hoping to get a little further than that," Kaner sasses back. "But I mean, if you're about to shoot after three whole songs -"

He kisses her mostly to shut her up.

Somehow the panicked moment just before their lips meet feels more surreal than even the thought of sex with her, because - it's Kaner. The two of them might have a long history of excitedly invading each other's personal space, but usually it’s with safe barriers in between: gloves, helmets, two-hundred-pound screaming teammates. Jonny may have clutched her tight in his arms during the happiest moments of his life, even dropped a sloppy mid-hug smooch onto her cheek in the locker room after she scored to win their first Cup - but in all their years of weird boundary pushing and drunken bad decision making, he has never once kissed her mouth.

He can't pretend he hasn't thought about it, though. Extensively. Kaner's mouth is objectively excellent, always has been - when they met at thirteen it was the first thing Jonny noticed about her that wasn’t directly related to hockey - so it’s no surprise that it feels even better. It's looked so red all night that he thought it must be lipstick, but the only thing he can taste is champagne, between her plush lips and along the velvety curve of her tongue.

He has to break away for a second to catch his breath, still in so close that he can almost feel her mouth move when she says, "Panting for it already? Sheesh, Toews, you really are on a hair trigger."

"I’m not panting." He kind of is. It's hard to tell whether Kaner’s actually a great kisser or is just working with such first-rate equipment that it's hard to go wrong.

That dress strap is sliding down her shoulder again, and Jonny reaches out to push it back up, like he’s wanted to do all night. But Kaner looks him right in the eyes, licks her just-kissed lips, and very deliberately shrugs that shoulder to make it fall back down, an unmistakable dare.

Jonny inhales and drags his other hand up along her other arm, to the other strap. For a minute he just plays with it, rubbing circles on her shoulder, rolling the delicate fabric between thumb and forefinger until Kaner squirms impatiently. Then he slips it down, too, till it's hanging off her upper arm.

His thumbs trace her collarbones, more prominent than usual so soon after the playoffs, when everybody’s at their annual skinniest after weeks of constant struggle to keep the pounds on. "Gotta put some muscle back on this summer," he notes idly, and then snaps back to the situation at hand when Kaner says in disbelief, "Evaluating my form when you could be getting laid? Seriously, Captain, turn it off for five seconds."

Jonny could blame the rush of heat to his groin on the getting-laid part, but he suspects it’s actually more about her using his title in this of all situations. That’s new - and embarrassing. "Could be worse," he says, dickish on purpose, "at least I’m not calling you a fatty."

"The ladies must love your sweet talk," Kaner mutters, but she’s still pushing up into his hands, so he’s not too wounded.

"Hey, you know how good you look," he says, leaning back in for a conciliatory kiss (even with his head bent Kaner still has to go up on tiptoe, and why is that so endearing?) "I mean, you gotta."

"I clean up okay," Kaner agrees, smiling against his mouth. "And, um. Ditto."

Even as she says it, she's going for the rest of his shirt buttons, quick fingers wrestling the front open enough to run her hands up over Jonny's pecs before giving them an obnoxiously tight double squeeze. "Second base," she breathes, and makes a little fistpump gesture that has Jonny snickering despite himself.

He doesn't lose the shirt entirely - they're too out in the open to actually shed articles of clothing - but Kaner peels it way back to his shoulders and then pauses to ogle his half-stripped upper body. It’s pathetic that that of all things makes Jonny's cheeks go hot. Just…Kaner's seen him shirtless a million times; he has no problem walking around locker rooms, hotel rooms, in nothing but his boxer-briefs. He wonders if she’s been looking the whole time or if it’s a context thing, if she compartmentalizes like he does. Like, when they’re in the room together he’s not trying to bore holes with his eyes through Kaner's custom Under Armour bra, because it's supposed to be a place for camaraderie and shit, and they're there to get a job done, and anyway he's too busy talking strategy (or trash) to her while they're padding up.

He goes in for another kiss (still fucking weird; still fucking good) and, after a minute, slides his hands down tentatively, till they're just brushing the sides of her breasts. Kaner makes a hopeful little noise when he touches her through the fabric - God, it's so thin he can feel her nipples stiffen up as he cups her, there's no way she's got a bra on - but then she starts giggling, until Jonny pulls back to stare at her in annoyance. "What?"

"Just - you're not gonna like this," Kaner says, still cracking up. The laughter's making her breasts, each barely a palmful, heave a little into Jonny's hands, which is...oh, man.

He has no idea what she could possibly be talking about - Kaner’s technically not allowed to shower with the guys but almost everything else is fair game, so Jonny’s seen her in enough states of semi-undress to feel pretty confident that he's going to like what she's got under there - until he tries to pull the top of the dress down and it...refuses to budge? He frowns and tries again, and again he's thwarted by some substance holding the fabric onto Kaner's body, pasted so firmly in place that he doesn't think he can shift it without risking it ripping.

He groans in surprised frustration.

"Told you," Kaner sing-songs. "Extra-strength boob tape, Tazer, it's a lifesaver. I mean the last thing I need are nip slips all over the internet -"

Jonny squeezes his eyes tight shut, hands flexing hard in the soft folds. "You're lucky I like your dress so much," he grits out, "’cause otherwise I’d be seriously considering tearing it off you," and it's more than a little gratifying to see the grin fall off her face and hear her suck in her breath.

"Okay, okay," she says, hands coming up to push his away and fumble at her own chest instead, "you're lucky I like you, this shit stings like a bitch coming off. Hang on -"

She's slipping deft fingertips under the edge, twisting and tugging, careful of the material, stoically unwincing as it detaches inch by inch. It's the polar opposite of a sexy striptease, every move as efficient and matter-of-fact as when she’s shedding her gear in the room or stripping bandages off some minor injury. Watching it makes Jonny's mouth go a little dry anyway.

It's such a fucking production that it's actually kind of making him long for Kaner's usual wardrobe, her cut-up t-shirts for working out and little crop tops for going out, all of it so easy to peel off, shove aside, get at her -

"Ugh," Kaner says as she finishes, making a face. Even through the dimness Jonny can see the pink marks the tape left on her fair skin, and he rubs a soothing thumb over them, trying not to advertise his impatience like some adolescent douchebag.

Kaner picks up on it anyway, of course, maybe because she actually did know him back when he was an adolescent douchebag. "Getting there," she tells him with a smirk, and rolls her shoulders again, like she's working out an ache.

The straps slip all the way down to her elbows, the rest of the bodice following until finally she’s bare to the waist, nothing but her thin gold chain left around her neck, and Jonny’s hands move like they’re magnetized to the only part of her that's remotely soft. When he touches her she sighs.

His cock gives another helpless jerk, and then he's pressing her back even harder into the pillar and raising her up, hands lifting under her ass till she's caught between his body and the stone, so he doesn't have to stretch his neck too far to mouth at the shallow swells of her breasts. Physically it's not difficult to keep her hiked up there; she’s lighter than usual right now and Jon’s upper body is strong, quads and hams even more so. But it's still a gamble: if Kaner wants to be set down she will let him know immediately, loudly, and rudely.

Instead she wraps her legs around his waist and breathes, "Get to it."

Back on the dancefloor Jonny’d been dying to put his mouth on Kaner's neck; now he does, and her head falls back with a gentle thud against the stone as he tongues her up, her hips rolling softly against him. His hands on her thighs, supporting her, are incidentally pushing her floaty skirt up almost to hip level, and his fingers ache to lift it further. Not yet, he keeps telling himself in brief flashes of rational thought: be a gentleman, she’s gonna need some warming up still -

Kaner tilts her throat into his soft licking kisses, and he can feel the speech-vibration hum when she says "hey, Tazer, hey."

"What?" Now that Jonny’s gotten over the initial strangeness of doing this with her, he kind of never wants to do anything else.

Kaner bites at his lower lip and, in a deliberate parody of his dancefloor warning, murmurs: "Get me much wetter and you might ruin this dress anyway."

Jonny swears colorfully and wrestles his other hand under the skirt to meet, yeah, nothing but the heat of naked skin.

"Oh, Jesus," he says, destroyed, "you are going commando."

Kaner grins.

Sadly he can't really see much, low light and the dress in the way, but when he gets deep in between her thighs he finds her wet enough to make the underlayer stick to her a little, God, she must've already been getting just as revved up as he was back on the dancefloor. He was wrong, she's not gonna need any more warming up at all, and the sudden jump in his mental self-talk from It's still just a handful of boob and a handful of pussy, calm down to Hope you're ready to stick your dick in Kaner right about NOW makes Jonny's insides jolt like a slam into the boards, breath knocked out of him.

Kaner’s going for his zipper, bringing her other hand up to her mouth; she laps sloppily at her palm a couple times, casually lewd, and then she's pushing right through the slit in his boxer briefs, spit slick, firm grip.

"Yeaaah, you're thirsty alright," she says, grinning again as she flexes those magic fingers against rock hardness, testing for give. There isn't any. "Man, I could smack pucks around with this thing."

"Please don't," Jonny manages, not quite hitting the dry tone he was aiming for seeing as he's too busy concentrating on not coming just from that first dirty drag of her hand.

Kaner lets go of his dick long enough to yank his trousers and underwear halfway down his thighs. Jonny hasn't done this in years, been too desperate and eager to find a private place or horizontal surface or even get all the way undressed. He's an adult now, he has a place of his own with a perfectly nice bed and a modicum of patience and self-control besides; he doesn't have to have illicit quickies up against public restroom stalls anymore.

But he and Kaner were teenagers together, and here she is, bringing him right back there again.

Her cunt is blood-warm against the head of his cock; he’s holding her at just the right angle, he’d only have to push forward to slide inside. Jonny goes hot all over - and then, suddenly, cold.

"Kaner," he says, hopefully less frantically than he feels. "Kaner, please tell me you have a condom."

What’s really unfair is he’s normally a total goddamn Boy Scout about these things, always carries one in his wallet, but just the other night Saad unexpectedly scored between one bar and the next and wasn’t prepared, like a goddamn amateur, so of course Jonny had to help out because he’s the best captain ever (or so he'd been informed by a grateful Saader) and since then he’s had kind of a lot on his plate, so he'd just forgotten to replace it right away, and -

Kaner indicates her empty hands, no purse or anything. "Where, up my ass?" (Nice to know she's her usual crass self even mid-hookup, Jonny thinks despairingly. Also, now he's thinking about doing her up the ass, great.) "Nope."

Jonny groans even louder than he did when he hit that tape shit, and he thunks his forehead against the pillar behind Kaner. "Motherfucker."

He doesn't know if - no: doesn't think that - he’s ever going to have this opportunity again, and the thought of coming so insanely close to fucking her and then not being able to makes him want to scream.

"Hey," Kaner says, and raps her knuckles against the side of his head. She looks unruffled and kind of amused - so, exactly the opposite of how Jonny feels. "Chill out, I got this." And then she's stroking him a couple more times, shifting her hips to test her balance where he still has her pinned against the pillar...and, oh, Jesus, curling her calves tighter around his back as she starts to guide him inside anyway.

"Kaner," he says again, pushing his palm against the unyielding surface behind her, trying to stop before he goes any deeper. It's the toughest thing he's had to do since - probably that awful Game 6 against the Stars this Cup run. "Are you -"

These types of conversations might be the least sexy part of adulthood he's had to deal with so far, but Jonny’s made sure to have them ever since that awful prank where Sharpy made him think he'd knocked up some chick he hooked up with, like, twice. He can't really envision Kaner - or at least the current, somewhat more mature, version of Kaner - taking any part of that risk just for the sake of feeling him a little bit closer; then again, she's also been drinking, and historically that hasn't always made her the most responsible person in any given room. And so much about this is totally fucked up in the first place that Jonny just can't - he has to make sure.

Kaner's still attempting to hitch him in closer with both hands, head tossed back like even this just-the-tip shit is really doing it for her, which is such an unexpectedly huge turn-on that Jonny has to lock his elbows to physically hold himself back from giving up and shoving the rest of the way in anyway.

"Jonathan," she mimics on a long inhale that's a hell of a lot sexier than the actual stuff they’re discussing. "You get the same STD panels as me, right?" And then, with a slight edge of menace, "I mean, you better, 'cause if that's one of the things they only make us girls do, then I'm suing the whole fucking League tomorrow."

"No, yeah, of course, but what about -"

"Dude, did you really think any team would be down with someone having a bad game because she's on the rag? These days there's pills for this shit." Now she's wriggling to try and sneak his cock deeper inside, what the fuck. Jonny's a famous athlete with an objectively hot body, he's pretty spoiled for choice, and he still doesn't think he's ever had a girl as desperate to get on his dick as Kaner is right now - and she's also a spoiled-for-choice famous athlete with a hot body. "Anyway, I don't think I even can anymore. Body fat’s too low or whatever, shuts all the plumbing right down."

Now Jon is vaguely remembering yet another night of drunken TMI: Kaner's incoherent but interesting explanation of elite-level training's effects on the female body. ("No shark week for me!" she’d finished cheerfully, at which point - if he recalls correctly - Shawsy made some tasteless comment about blood bouncing on ice, and it all devolved into a noogie war.)

Kaner's totally rolling her eyes at him, like she does sometimes with girl stuff she thinks he ought to know already, which in this particular case Jonny thinks is a bit much coming from someone who’d infamously rampaged through the Mifflin Street Block Party in a women's rugby t-shirt that said BLEED MORE THAN ONCE A MONTH across the back. Fucking Kaner. Of course she'd be making fun of the vagina-related knowledge of a dude who’s currently twenty percent of the way inside her vagina.

But whatever. The important part is - He slips fractionally deeper (twenty-five percent, he thinks crazily, thirty) and feels her quick intake of breath against his neck. "So that means..."

"That means you're good to go, Jonny," Kaner is whispering right into the shell of his ear, "so get that ass in gear and get in me -"

She knows good and damn well how bad he wants to do exactly that, Jon can hear it in the smug little drawl of her voice, and he moans in pure relief and slams one hundred percent home in one thrust, rasping out her name again. He hasn't fucked anyone bare in - probably a year or more, now - and the shock of sinking the rest of the way into her at once, combined with Kaner’s long hiss of pleasure through her teeth as he does it, throws him so close to the brink so fast that his only saving grace is imagining how much shit she'd give him for ejaculation that premature.

He forces himself to start slow, super slow, until the immediate threat has receded, and even then he still can't look down at her or he'll lose it for sure. Not at how she's slumped back against the column like she's on muscle relaxants, trusting him implicitly to carry her weight for as long as it takes - nor at her open, gasping mouth that he was watching crack gum and tell dumb-blonde jokes just this afternoon - definitely not at the shadowy place where he's driving right into her, oh, Jesus, how can it possibly be happening after so long? They've known each other forever, he's had it so bad for her all these years, and now - Jonny might be shoving her body back into the stone with each increasingly forceful push inside, but he kind of feels like he's the one getting drilled here instead, taken hard to the boards till he's dazed with it, over and over again.

He drags his thumb down over Kaner's navel piercing, traces it in a circle. For years Jonny's seen her slap a patch bandage over it before games and rip it off again after, just another step in the usual routine of gear-donning and stick-taping. Now he lingers there, watching the solid surface of her abs rise and fall with her sex-rushed breathing, until she starts hitching her hips upwards so insistently that he lets that thumb drift the last few inches down.

Kaner's ragged gasp when he hits her clit might answer the question before he asks it, but Jonny mutters it anyway: "Can you get there like this?"

He's been with women who couldn't, needed his mouth or fingers instead. Which is more than okay, obviously - a hot girl coming in front of you, because of you, is plenty all by itself - but in his secret heart of hearts Jonny still feels that there's nothing quite like a hot girl coming on your cock.

He's in luck there, because Kaner's nodding frantically in response, reaching down with her own hand to reposition his, a minute adjustment. To her satisfaction, apparently, because then she really gasps, and her fingers slip down yet further, to - shit, to feel where he's sliding in and out of her. She's looking down at that, too, not soulfully up into his eyes or anything, which is just fine with Jonny, because he has no idea what his face is doing right now but he's pretty sure it's embarrassing. Just - it's such a turn-on how she can’t seem to take her eyes off the place their bodies are connected. Theoretically, Jonny already knew how much Kaner likes sex, but it's one thing to be aware of that in the abstract and another entirely to see it like this.

Her soft clever fingertips are catching round the base of his dick on every stroke out, pulling slippery at him, just a little extra tease but it wrings a whimper from Jonny's throat nonetheless. His rhythm falters, grip relaxing just enough that Kaner's ass skids down the column a couple centimeters before he catches her. She just laughs breathlessly and hooks an elbow round his neck to hang on. "Yo, careful - ohhhh."

The angle's shifted and now Kaner's clenching hard around him, her hand coming back up to press flat and low against her own belly, face twisting and hips jerking faster. Jonny realizes that she's going to come just seconds before she does, and it's all he can do to stave off his own climax while simultaneously trying to keep nailing her right in that same spot.

He must do okay with it, though, because the soft stunned way she says his name just-post-orgasm is going to be spank bank material for the rest of Jonny's natural life.

Kaner's fingers curl around the slouched-down waistband of his trousers, lazy strokes over his bare flanks. Her body's all lax and welcoming against him, considerable muscles gone melty-soft from coming, and she's even wetter now, slicking up her thighs and his own where he's got her held up there with her skirt skewed six ways to Sunday. Jon curses and speeds up, hoping against hope that Kaner's down for being fucked right through getting hers, because the only way he's pulling out now is if she flat-out tells him to.

He slams in-in-in and hears her sighing, feels her caressing the curve of his ass with her - ankle? alright then - as she murmurs, "mm, yeah, go for it," oh thank God, and then: "what’s it like, how's it feel, talk to me."

As a rule Jonny doesn’t enjoy chatting during sex; he’s usually more focused on, well, doing. But this is Kaner, with whom he’s always discussing physical technique, exchanging criticism or praise, so - one second he’s feeling acutely aware of how well their bodies fit together, the perfect curve of his cock up inside her, and the next he hears himself telling her that.

Kaner laughs again, equally disparaging and delighted.

"Uh, don't you mean your big dick’s splitting me open," she croons, sweetly mocking, "don’t you mean it's way too huge for my tight little -"

"You watch too damn much porn, Kaner," Jonny groans.

But he's only a man, okay, and when it comes to even the most sarcastic of hints that he's working with decent-sized equipment, he's hardly immune, and especially not under the current circumstances. He kisses Kaner again, and the discovery that he can make her moan extravagantly just by sucking hard on the tip of her tongue pushes him that much closer to the edge. He wants to come inside her more than...well, the last thing he wanted anywhere near this much was the Cup. Their Cup, together - God, Jon thinks, it only took two of the damn things to win this chick over, and he has to bite back a hysterical snicker which he doesn't think Kaner would appreciate at the moment.

Instead he drives in deep, inhales her startled whine against his lips; he bets she can feel him swelling up inside her, almost there, and sure enough -

"Gonna give it up, babe?"

"Maybe," Jonny groans, too far gone to even try and deny it. "Fuck, can I, please -"

Kaner catches his hands and brings them up to her breasts in a crude but effective grope me gesture, lips opening onto breathy encouragement as he rolls her hard nipples between his fingertips. "Hell yeah," she says, "right in the back of the net, c’mon now," and she sounds so satisfied about it, so unbelievably any-old-gameday normal, Jonny can't even handle it. He'd like to hold out longer purely because he doesn't want to stop, but he's near the end of his rope, rhythm broken and gentleness gone.

Kaner ducks her head and brushes that lush mouth over his temple, curls tickling the sensitive skin of his earlobe. She licks at the five o'clock shadow along his jawline, flat of her tongue dragging raspy-wet over his stubble, and that is it.

Afterwards, Jonny spends a long motionless moment buried all the way down before he gathers himself together enough to draw back. He couldn't watch his cock go in in the first place, but he does watch it pull out, friction-red and slick from her body, already missing the heat inside. There's just enough light for him to catch a glimpse of his come leaking thick-hot out of her, and for a second some tiny repressed part of him feels the slightest bit disappointed that there isn't any danger of him knocking Kaner up here.

Then he realizes what he's thinking, and is immediately so horrified that he could almost bail on her right there, if he were that kind of person. But he was raised better than that, and he’s not gonna change now - not even in the face of his apparent subconscious desire for his friend-slash-secret-love to have his babies.

"You gonna send me back to my family like this?" Kaner says, looking down to where she's dripping, too. She's grinning as she says it, and even though her sly tone tells Jonny that she's just messing with him, he's historically been pretty powerless against her provocations, and also wants to make her feel good basically always, and also really wants back inside her, any way he can.

He releases the tight squeeze of his hip flexors and lets Kaner down, making sure she has her footing before he goes to his knees: palms on her inner thighs, rucking up her skirt - the soft swishy stuff of her dress tickles along his hairline - easing her legs apart again and licking between and up and in, until he's sucking his own come out of her and Kaner's legs are trembling, cunt tightening deliciously around his thrusting tongue, the mixed taste of her and himself sliding down his throat.

Above him she's making the same little happy hungry noises Jonny's heard out of her mouth a thousand times (sinking a hurting limb into an ice bath, tucking into a post-overtime-win celebratory meal, making out in the late-night VIP with that really cute stripper the guys bought her after a hat-trick last season) and they grow more and more eager until she's knitting one hand into his hair to pull him in harder against her, bucking into the filthy lap of his tongue. Her other hand drops to his throat, tracing his adam's apple as it moves, and the blood rushes hot into Jonny’s cheeks when he realizes that she's feeling him swallow.

"Shit, Jonny, look," Kaner says, voice gone choky again, fingertips digging in. "Look at me in you, you in me, oh -" and she's coming again, pushing herself into his open mouth till Jonny feels like he's drowning in the musky scent between her shivering thighs.

This one lasts considerably longer, and he's just thinking that he never wants it to end when, finally, it does.

Jonny wipes a hand over his mouth and lets the skirt fall back down, drops his forehead against her hip, panting almost as hard as she is. He barely has the presence of mind to get his pants back up in the interests of public decency, barely has the strength in his powerful legs to stand, and even then they both need a couple minutes for the comedown.

Kaner's face, when he draws level with it (well, sort of level - Kaner's official stats have her at 5'11", about average for a girl in the NHL, but Kaner's official stats also lie like a rug) is wearing the same expression that Jonny's seen on mornings (or afternoons) when Kaner's just waking up from getting blackout the night before. It means: oh fuck, did I screw up?

Normally, this is the point in a hookup at which Jon would start to politely extricate himself, maybe brushing one last perfunctory kiss over his partner's lips in the process. But he hasn't seen Kaner direct such an apprehensive look at him since…maybe five minutes into their reintroduction at prospect camp? Maybe not even then, hell - at that age she was the cockiest girl Jonny'd ever met, all mouthiness and front under those angel curls, and had the skills to back it up, too. Jonny hadn't even known that that was something he could fall for, right up until he had.

Anyway. Uncertainty doesn't suit her, is the point, and so instead of withdrawing Jonny cups her face in both hands and kisses her good and hard, long and deep, tangling with her amazing tongue and sucking her sweet bottom lip yet more swollen, as intense as if they hadn't already gotten to the main event. Kaner makes this little plaintive noise that just kills him, rising up on her tiptoes again to kiss back eagerly, and despite the impossibility of a second round so soon - for Jonny, anyway - they're getting pretty into it when suddenly they hear voices, tipsy laughter floating over the grass, still some distance away but getting closer.

Jonny freezes, and Kaner breaks away immediately, breathing "shit" and fumbling with her dress, tugging the straps back up, pressing down on the bodice to try and make that tape shit stick again. It only kind of works.

"Good thing it's dark out," she says, glancing ruefully down at her chest.

Jonny's private opinion is that the possibility of getting flashed at any moment makes the dress even better, but he keeps this thought to himself as he does his shirt back up, discovering in the process that Kaner, in her haste to get him semi-naked, apparently managed to pop one of the buttons right off.

"’m I good?" he checks with her, as he has a thousand times just before he has to be on camera, and she scans him, adjusts his collar.

"Liiittle bit of a hickey," she says guiltily. "'S covered now."

They're silent as they turn and head back towards the distant sounds of the casino. Jonny's not much for hand-holding normally but he kind of wishes he could reach out for Kaner's now. But he can't, there's people.

He nods politely as they draw near, and one of the guys pauses, face lighting up, and says, loud and jovial with free booze: "Hey, hey bro, congrats on the Cup!"

"Thanks." Jonny's had like twenty variations of this exchange tonight.

"Watched every game with my boys. Sick Final series, man, that Game 5 was a fucking heart attack." The guy's eyes flit over to Kaner; then he visibly double-takes. "Oh, shit. Kane?"

She lifts her chin. "The one and only."

"You, wow, you look real different out of your gear," the guy babbles, which makes the chick next to him - she looks to be his sister, exact same red hair and freckles - dig a hard elbow into his ribs. "Well, props to you too, dude. - uh, babe. - shit, uh, I mean -"

Jonny has to press his mouth shut on a grin.

"'Dude' is just fine," Kaner tells him, finally flashing that million-dollar smile, and the guy, still looking sort of bowled over, manages a confused wave when Jonny says "Have a good night" and the party moves on.

Somehow that breaks the thread of awkward tension between them, and it's surreal how mundane their walk back is, making idle conversation about the weirdest places they've been accosted by Cup-happy fans so far this summer.

Back inside the reception, Jonny promptly loses Kaner to her sisters again (even that makes him feel oddly guilty: you gonna send me back to my family like this?) He rescues his tux jacket and gets some water from the bar, taking a few minutes alone in the corner to try and process what the hell just happened.

He has no idea where they go from here. Does he just take her back to her house tonight like normal? Lucky he got that hotel room after all, because there's no way he can crash at hers, not now. What about next season, will it affect their dynamic? And how is Jonny supposed to survive getting something he’d wanted so badly, but only part of it and only once?

He's still quietly freaking out when Kaner finds him again twenty minutes later, carrying her high heels in one hand and dragging Jess by the other. She's yawning hugely.

"Too much champagne, Patty?" Jess is teasing her.

Kaner catches Jonny's eye. "Something like that," she answers, and he flushes helplessly, because years of overfamiliarity with Kaner’s habits have taught him that she always passes out right after sex. It's not the alcohol at all; it's that Jonny already fucked her halfway to sleep on her feet.

He says his best-wishes-and-goodnight to the bride - trying with all his might not to project just banged your sister! vibes - and Kaner gives her one last tight hug, complete with happy sniffles all round.

"Let's get out of here," she says, turning drowsy eyes to Jonny, "before I get cornered by any more distant relatives."

Jonny remembers - "Oh, hey, what happened with your, um, difficult aunt?"

"I think you met her for a hot second, actually, she was the one in the terrible orange thing?" Kaner yawns again as they head towards parking. "Yeah, so later on she grabs me - drunk as fuck, right - and tells me how glad she is that I finally let you out of the friend zone."


"Yeah." Kaner blinks heavily. "What's ironic is that that was - before." She doesn't have to specify before what. "Funny, right?"

"Hilarious," Jonny says, a little sourly, and ushers her into the car.

Kaner puts her seat back, her bare feet up on the dashboard, and stretches; her dress shifts in the process, barely clinging to her breasts when she settles, and Jonny almost backs up into an SUV because he's paying more attention to that situation than to his rearview mirror. Thankfully, Kaner's already got her eyes closed.

She turns her cheek into the upholstery, and is dozing before they even hit the main road.


In a marvel of shitty scheduling (granted, he hadn’t known it was shitty at the time), Jonny has to fly back to Chicago early the next morning for some charity thing at the children’s hospital. That’s one way to avoid a morning after, he supposes. By the time he’d gotten Kaner home last night, she’d been so deeply asleep that he could barely get her in the door, so it’s not like they could have talked about it then, even if he’d had the first idea what to say.

If it were a regular hookup, Jon would at least fire off some sort of text (I had a great time, meaning thanks for the pussy) within the following 24 hours. But because it’s Kaner, the first thing he ends up unthinkingly sending her is a series of worried messages about the salary cap - being part of a Cup-winning team boosts everybody’s value, and it’s looking like Bowman and company might have some trouble making the math work out this offseason.

Kaner replies in kind, free-agent number-crunching and trade rumors, and Jonny wonders if maybe they're gonna get away with never acknowledging it ever again. Which would be the easiest thing, for sure, in a let-off-the-hook type way, but also feels sort of shitty: like it might as well have been erased from history completely, like it didn't even happen at all.

The next time he sees her in person, a couple weeks later, it's just a brief hello in the lobby floor of the Chicago Hilton with half their teammates milling around, everyone slowly trickling in for the convention.

Jonny's a little sleep-deprived and Kaner's a little hungover, baseball cap pulled way down over greasy curls, so their thirty-second interchange is mostly mutual agreement that any discussion of their plans for tomorrow's panel together (mandatory every damn year, but especially after they've both had strong playoff runs in a Cup-winning season) can wait till after their respective naps.

Some terrifyingly professional PR lady in a black suit and headset herds a scowling Kaner away for a discussion of appropriate attire over the next three days (also mandatory ever since the tube-top debacle of ’10), and Jonny heads up to their rooms with a few of the other guys.

"Heard you squired Peekaboo to a family wedding," Sharpy ribs him in the elevator. He makes the word squired sound like an indecent act. "Real gallant of you, Toes."

Jonny frowns. "Did pictures leak online? Goddamnit."

He fucking knew that would happen. Though at least they can't be of - he definitely would've heard about it from everyone and their mom if it'd been anything really incriminating: say, him and Kaner in one of several compromising positions that Jonny recalls in crystal-clear detail from the dancefloor.

But Sharpy's shaking his head. "Nope, just on Peeksy's phone, she showed me. Not candids - like, posed."

"Oh, alright." Jonny relaxes. The official photographer, that's okay then. "She looked incredible, eh?"

Sharpy's eyeing him kind of oddly.

"What?" Jonny says, but then the elevator dings on their floor and he never does get to find out what.

Kaner's room is right across from his, which feels a tiny bit off. On the road during the season they invariably room right next to each other, generally with just an adjoining door between them. That wasn't exactly something they could specify in the CBA (the League has this whole division overseeing mixed-gender teams who are super touchy about sexual harassment, they'd have lost their shit) but fortunately they have an unofficial understanding with one of the logistics people in the Hawks' front office. Of course, that person definitely thinks they’re sleeping together…which might actually be easier to explain than the truth, or what was the truth prior to this summer: that they're just kind of weird and codependent about each other.

Jonny goes straight to bed, and the next thing he knows he's blinking awake a couple hours later, feeling way better, his phone reminding him about team dinner later this evening.

His throat is dry and he wants ice water, so he gets up and goes out for the ice, and on the way back sees that Kaner's door is open. Whenever they share an inside door that's the sign for I'm hanging out, come on in, so Jonny does, shutting it behind him automatically. Then he worries that that appears presumptuous, but going back and reopening it would be even more awkward, so.

"Hey." Kaner looks recently-woken too, lounging around in worn-out athletic shorts and a muscle shirt that says LESBRO across the front. She's only half unpacked, clothes spilling out of her open suitcase - the skintight jeans she always buys pre-ripped-up like a douchebag, a plaid shirt Jonny’s pretty sure she stole from him - and vibrator lying carelessly out on the nightstand.

(He wouldn't even recognize it as such if not for a memorable night three seasons ago, both of them good and buzzed in some hotel bar, when he and Kaner were talking about the first things they'd bought themselves after signing their five-year contracts back in '09, and one of Kaner's was, no joke, a thousand-dollar vibrator. Apparently it was worth the money, seeing as she loved the damn thing so much she brought it with her on roadtrips, so of course Jonny had to come up to her room to find out what the hell a $1000 sex toy even looked like - answer: very shiny - and then he'd really regretted the whole thing the next morning when it sank in that now he knew exactly how Kaner got off when she was all alone.

Kaner, for her part, had acted like there was nothing weird about it whatsoever.)

"Nice shirt," Jonny tells her sarcastically, flopping down on the sofa and grabbing for the remote until he finds an ESPN sister channel playing a golf tournament that he cares about enough to half-watch but doesn't care about enough to turn the sound up very far. "PR would hit the roof."

"Thanks!" Kaner says, grinning as she glances down at her chest. "I stole it off Segs in Biel."

"Oh, of course," Jonny says drily. Everyone knows that Tyla Seguin'll sleep with anything that stands still long enough, and she's hot too, killer body. As far as Jonny knows (and, God, now he knows from experience) Kaner is pretty much exclusively into dick when it comes to anything more involved than a bit of dancing and kissing; still, he wouldn't have been that surprised if she'd made an exception while they were slumber-partying it up over there during the lockout. "Seguin wishes you were -"

Kaner just laughs. "Naw, she just thought it was funny. You know, 'cause all us sports chicks are supposed to be dykes," which is probably her way of telling him that she didn't have sex with Segs after all.

She rolls onto her stomach, baring a strip of skin where hem and waistband don't quite meet, tramp stamp visible at the base of her spine. It's the four feathers from the Blackhawks logo; Kaner got it right after their first Cup, and Jonny had actually been instrumental in persuading her to a) wait till she was sober to actually have it done and b) not get the Indianhead as well. (Who wants to be staring at Tommy Hawk while they're plowing you doggy style? he'd said, pretty hammered himself to get that crude. Fucking creepy, and Kaner'd wrinkled her nose and conceded, ehh, point.)

The final tattoo actually came out pretty well, for what it is - nice color work and everything - and maybe it's because he had a say in its creation, something proprietary there, but every time Jonny takes a good look at it he's embarrassed afresh by how much he’d like to touch it. More than once he's jerked off imagining himself coming all over it.

"Like I said," he says, finally looking away from the curve of her lower back. "She wishes."

"We hung out the other month, in Dallas, after the Stars series," Kaner says, eyes on her phone. "It was a good time. Got a lot in common, you know, her and me."

"Mm." He does know: Segs has gotten even more shit for the party-girl bit than Kaner - not for no reason, granted, but still. Jonny presumes that’s one of the things the two of them bonded over in Switzerland.

"She's banging that captain of hers," Kaner says, casually like it's just another comment, still looking at her phone. "Whole team knows and everything." She pronounces it errrything.

Jonny blinks.

"Is that even allowed?" he says finally, only half joking.

Kaner looks up from the screen.

"You're one to talk," she says, not aggressive or anything, just matter-of-fact.

So they're not just gonna play this all repress-and-deny, then. Jonny's kinda relieved. He'd legit been a little worried that letting it lie between them might somehow fuck with their chemistry on camera tomorrow, make it weird enough that even the fans would notice.

Kaner's slanting an expectant glance at him, leaving him the opening to take if he wants it. Jonny spends half his life saying bland noncommittal things in public, part of the job, and one of his best refuges from that has always been honesty with Kaner in private. He’s not about to let that get screwed up if he can help it.

Accordingly, he opens his mouth and blurts out: "I feel kind of stupid about that."

Kaner's face creases in an expression that Jonny, for once, can't read. "You think what we did was stupid?"

"No," Jonny says, more vehemently than he means to. "I mean - sort of. But no."

"Gee, thanks, Jon," Kaner says drily. "That really clears things up."

Jonny pinches the bridge of his nose. "I feel stupid," he clarifies, "for proving everyone right about us."

Kaner scoffs. "That's it? Shit, if everyone already thinks we're doing it, then we might as well."

Jonny refuses to let her present-tense phrasing make him hope, though he’s less successful at controlling the way his dick twitches in his shorts at just the thought of a repeat go with her.

"It’s just. All the crap people talk about you and me and how this kind of thing was bound to happen once they started letting girls play - " He blows out a breath. Kaner raises her eyebrows, signalling go on. "Like they think guys and girls can't be friends for real. And it's such bullshit, 'cause we are, right? -"

"Right," Kaner puts in firmly.

"- and that’s important to me. First and foremost. How we go way back, and like, respecting you as a player and shit."

Kaner sits up, legs folding under herself, looking intently at Jonny and nodding a little: uh huh.

"But then, also -" He looks down at his hands. "I mean, I dunno about you, but from my end we definitely seemed, uh, compatible." And in case that wasn't clear enough, he adds, "Sexually."

Kaner cracks a smile at that. "Ten out of ten, would bang again."

Jonny refuses to let that phrasing make him hope, either.

"Me too." He sags back into the sofa a little. "And…I don't know what that means. For us."

For a minute there's just the serene murmur of golf commentary in the background. When Kaner finally speaks she sounds like she's choosing her words carefully, which doesn't happen very often and least of all with Jonny, so he takes notice. "There are friends who fuck."

Jonny gestures between them. "Obviously."

She snorts. "I mean, like, on the regular."

Jonny shuts his eyes, because in the short term the prospect of sleeping with Kaner again sounds so tempting, all by itself - but at heart he knows how unhappy that set-up would make him in the long run.

"I’m not really built like that," he says honestly, opening his eyes onto the TV screen so he doesn't have to make contact with hers. "For me, I would need - it needs to be like, uh. Friends who only fuck each other. On the regular."

"Kinda sounds like a girlfriend, Jonny," Kaner says softly. Her fingers keep fiddling with the drawstring of her shorts.

Jonny scrubs a hand over his face, feeling so tired again it's like he never napped at all. "That's right," he says. "Now would you just fucking shut me down on this already, so I can go ahead and start getting over you."

Kaner abruptly stands up, and for a long, hollow moment Jonny thinks she's about to bail entirely, on him and this conversation and the room and everything. He couldn't even really blame her, either. He can barely deal with any of it himself.

So he’s pretty taken aback when instead she walks deliberately over to the sofa where he's sitting.

"What if I don't wanna shut you down?" she says, and crawls in to straddle his lap.

Jonny's mind is a white blank of shock but his body knows what's up, hands rising automatically to grasp her hips. Under the slobby clothes she's midsummer ripped and tan like everyone else, and the flex of her stomach muscles at his touch draws an appreciative, approving noise from Jonny's throat before he can catch himself.

Kaner grins. Finally, and it's such a relief to see that Jonny all but melts into the sofa.

"There's just so many reasons we can't. Shouldn't," he says weakly, even as his fingertips dig into the threadbare waistband of her shorts. His mind is already whirling over every single one of them: bad enough if things somehow went sour - short of requesting a trade, it would be literally impossible for them to break up with any degree of closure - and almost worse if it did work, if they lasted. Could they keep it a secret forever? Could they even stand to? And their teammates, the franchise, the press and all the politics of it, the ongoing integration debates - what could this mean for women in the NHL, indeed.

"Fuck 'em," Kaner says cheerfully, leaning forward to give him an - eskimo kiss, fuck. Jonny can handle her brash-sexy act just fine, but Kaner being sweet might kill him. "Our contracts are fucking ironclad, that's the important part taken care of."

"It's gonna look - I'm gonna look sketchy as hell." He frowns. "Unprofessional."

Kaner's eyes soften; she knows better than anyone how seriously Jonny takes his reputation, off-ice as well as on. "Everyone talks about what a great captain you are," she says quietly. "I don't see that all just getting thrown out the window." This time she gets his lips too, just the lightest, quickest brush, and Jonny warms to the kiss and compliment both. "And, I mean…I know you're not used to getting shit on by the media, but I sure am. So don't worry on my account, eh?"

Jonny rubs his hands up over her back, cocks his head enough that on the next pass they can slip each other some tongue. "I just don't wanna be the reason you have to deal with more of it."

"Pff," Kaner says when she finally pulls away. "Far as I'm concerned, even some cheesyass narrative like, Of Course Kane Settled Down With Her Hockey Soulmate, would still make a nice change from, y'know. Kane The Drunk Slutty Trainwreck." Their faces are still so close that as she speaks her parted lips graze Jonny's own, and it's almost more intimate than actual kissing. "And hey, you know how people eat up a love story."

Jonny hadn't thought of it that way. Although now he’s imagining the inevitable clickbait articles about girl-gone-wild Kaner tamed by romance with her boy-next-door Captain or whatever, and getting annoyed all over again.

On the other hand...she just used the words love, and soulmates, and settling down.

"If that's gonna be a thing," he says slowly, "we might have to make up a different, uh. Getting-together scenario."

Kaner snickers, but she’s looking embarrassed for the first time today. "I wasn't planning on seducing you," she says, rubbing her nose sheepishly. "No, I swear. Just" - her hands flail a little - "you kept looking at me, all night long, and…"

Jonny smoothes his palms down her sides. "I hope you kept that dress."

"I thought maybe it was just, like, Cinderella syndrome," Kaner says, gesturing vaguely to her current dressed-down state. "A one-off."

"Nope." He strokes the small of her back, touching the skin in between shirt and shorts, where he knows the tattoo must be. "I mean, I’m hoping not," which is about as much info re: his forever crush as Jonny feels comfortable laying on her today.

Her eyes are all lit up, and looking back into them is like their whole shared history flashing before him, superimposed on the up-close reality of Kaner’s stupid face, shiny-unwashed and joy-beaming like it is in all of Jonny's best memories. The emotional overload is so enormous that it’s a relief when Kaner says, "So how much private time do you think we can fit in this weekend without anyone noticing?" and, without further ado, takes her top off.

"Not enough," Jonny says regretfully, tracing the edges of her sports bra with one light fingertip, a purposeful tease.

"Well, I’m at least gonna expect actual sexting for the rest of the summer," Kaner says. She’s biting her lip, and through the spandex he can see her nipples harden, untouched. "'Cause trying to get off to all that salary cap shit was just not that much fun."

Jonny’s surprised into a laugh. His eyes stray to the vibrator on the nightstand.

Kaner follows his sightline, and grins. "Hey, Tazer. Ever wanted to see a thousand-dollar vibrator in action?"

"Fuck yes," Jonny says fervently.

"That’s my boy," Kaner says, and leans back in.