It wasn't completely unheard of for a wolf-bonded human to play hockey. It was rare, though, and rarer still for a wolf-kin to go professional in a team sport -- the wolves didn't stay on the sidelines very well, either trying to join in the fun or not caring when the rules said knocking a player on his ass was okay. But from the time he could walk Patrick knew what he wanted to be, and bonding to a wolf at age fifteen hadn't changed his dreams any. His new wolf-sister and the rest of his family had encouraged him, and now when Patrick Kane scored a goal at home, the rafters rang with the echoes of wolf howls.
Every wolf-kin in the greater-Chicago area had become a hockey fan practically overnight when Patrick had been drafted by the Blackhawks. He loved it, loved the attention and loved the way his chest vibrated from the howling, making him feel like he was back at home, surrounded by the entire clan of extended families.
Since he'd left home to play hockey, his pack had been just him and Sashe. In the last couple of years, however, a few of his teammates had become something more than friend and slightly-less than pack, which took the edge off the feeling of being alone. It wasn't like he could ask them to draft him a packmate, since the only other wolf-kin to play hockey recently had retired four years before Patrick was born. But he was used to it, as he constantly reassured his mother and grandmother and sisters and half a dozen cousins who called regularly and asked if he wanted someone to move out to Illinois and keep him company.
He was used to the novelty of it all and he'd pretty much perfected his orientation speech to rookies, new staff, and journalists who acted like this was the first time anyone had ever met a human soul-bonded to a wolf. It was fun when one of the press was a wolf-kin as well, and he actually got intelligent questions about what it was like.
Despite everything, his mom always worried that he was feeling lonely -- his own fault for telling her back during rookie camp that he'd felt like a freak, surrounded by nothing but regular humans for the first time in his life. He was over that now, though, he'd made a place for himself and Sashe, and if she was his only packmate that was all right. Every home game gave him the chance to feel connected to a hundred others, even if only for a couple of hours, and he wouldn't change what he had for anything in the world. Life was perfect.
Mostly. At the moment Patrick was picking himself off the ice from where Pronger had shoved him against the boards, and he knew he was going to be feeling the bruises for days. He wanted to -- well, not shove Pronger back because he would lose very embarrassingly, but stand back and watch one of the other guys take Pronger to task. Only, it didn't seem like that was going to be an option, because the refs had already blown the whistle.
This is embarrassing, Sashe, he told her.
He glanced over at Pronger, who seemed torn between hiding behind the ref and laughing himself sick. Patrick scowled, because yeah, that one might have been a mostly clean hit, but the dozen others on he and his teammates certainly hadn't been, and Patrick felt every inch of the outrage that had brought Sashe over the wall and onto the ice. She was growling, baring her teeth and Patrick would have been really, really touched with her dedication to him except for the way she was running on slick hockey ice.
Slipping, rather. Her feet slid sideways before getting just enough traction to surge forward a couple of feet -- then her hind legs went completely out underneath her. She was still focused on Pronger, though, and Patrick let the waves of protect, fight, defend wash through him.
He sighed and skated over to her. She ignored him, still trying to run even as he bent down and scooped her up. She was really too big to carry, but there was no other way to get her off the ice. Awkwardly, and praying he didn't fall over backwards, Patrick carried her back to the bench and set her down. She growled at Pronger again, then finally shook herself and looked up at him, growl suddenly replaced by the sort of sheepish puppy-eyes Patrick could only hope to achieve someday.
Are you going to stay, now? Patrick thought, hand on his hips as he glared down at her. From the stands he could hear twitters of laughter interspersed with flashes of cameras going off, and the loud whuffs of sympathetic wolves throughout the arena. Sympathy for Sashe, he knew, despite the fact she knew perfectly well she'd broken the rules. But Patrick kept glaring down at her until she sighed and laid down behind the bench. Patrick looked up at Q, shrugged an apology, then skated back towards the penalty box. He barely heard the ref calling the minor for delay of game and gave Pronger a dirty look to let him know that he would have deserved it had Sashe got a hold of him.
Patrick sat on the bench and knew, no matter what else happened tonight, tomorrow's press would be all over the scene. Which meant, yet again, Sashe was going to have better press than him and she wasn't even the one playing.
He scowled across the ice at her.
notchew, safemouth she thought back at him, and Patrick felt himself blush, but resolutely kept chewing on his mouthguard.
You're not my mother, he thought back.
Mothersays, came the reply, prim and scolding like Sashe wasn't the one who'd talked him into his first beer at sixteen and had used her totally fake puppy-look to get herself out of trouble when they'd both been too drunk to get home. Patrick just ignored her and watched the game waiting impatiently until his penalty time was over.
When he got back on the ice he ignored Sashe, ignored Pronger as best as he could, and focused on trying to get the puck into the net. And if he accidentally sort of tripped Pronger once, then that was totally not his fault.