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our link to paradise

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Patrick’s walking home from work when he finds the dog. She’s just wandering down the grass verge, sniffing at the hedges and fenceposts, and occasionally pausing to look down the road. She whines when he gets close, and pushes up against the hand he holds out as he bends down, because he’s always been a sucker for a canine.

His mom constantly told him when he was a kid not to approach strange dogs, and he knows that pits get a bad rap, but she’s gorgeous and seems quite happy to let him pet her, tail thumping against the pavement. He checks the collar around her neck, but it’s twisted and broken, and the tag’s been torn off somewhere.

“Where you from, girl, huh?” He knows Wiggly Park is around here somewhere, and the dog looks good enough that he knows she’s well cared for. Someone is going to be missing her. He sighs, giving her head a rub, and slips his fingers into her collar. “Come on.”

He lives just around the corner, and thankfully the landlady loves him enough that when she sees him coming to the door with a dog, he gives her a smile and says, “I found her,” and she waves him in. The dog cocks her head at the stairs, whining and sitting back on her haunches. Patrick rolls his eyes. Of course the dog is a diva. He gets his arms around her and lifts her into his arms. He’s thankful he works in a gym, because she’s a heavy motherfucker. “Someone’s feeding you too much.”

The dog whuffs, and Patrick can well believe that somehow she’s judging him. If he ever meets her owner, he’s pretty sure they’re going to be as judgemental and high maintenance.

It’s hard to keep a hold of the dog and get his door open at the same time, even though he knocked and Shawzy is home, so he could totally answer the door, but he manages it. When he kicks it shut behind him, he lets the dog go. She immediately starts sniffing at the floor, searching every corner of the kitchen before disappearing into the main room of the apartment.

Patrick takes pleasure in the surprised yelp and Shawzy’s head peering around the doorway. “Did you know there’s a dog in here?”

Rolling his eyes, Patrick hangs up his jacket by the door, and kicks off his sneakers. “ A dog?! Where?!”

Shawzy scowls and rounds the corner, padding into the kitchen. He’s barefoot and shirtless, but at least he’s wearing boxers. “Where did she come from?”

Patrick shrugs. “Dunno, man. I found her on the way home.”

“What are we going to do with a dog?” Shawzy says, disgust in his voice, but it’s belied by the fact that he’s bending down as the dog comes into the room, tail wagging. She immediately licks Shawzy’s mouth, and Patrick wrinkles his nose.

“Dude, that’s so gross. Don’t let her lick your face.” He flicks on the coffee machine - he’s in desperate need, mostly because of Shawzy - and then leans against the counter. “We need to find out where she came from.”

“Wiggly Field, probably,” Shawzy says. He’s scratching under the dog's chin. She’s on her back, her eyes closed and back foot twitching slightly in pleasure. “Did you take her back there?”

Patrick glared at the back of Shawzy’s head. “No.”

Staring over his shoulder incredulously, Shawzy doesn’t let up his stroking of the dog’s chin. “Why not?”

Patrick doesn’t say anything, but busies himself with the coffee machine.

“You can’t steal a dog!” Shawzy says, so loud that the dog flips back over, tongue lolling out of her mouth and head switching between Shawzy and Patrick.

“I wasn’t going to steal her!” Patrick snaps back. “I just didn’t think of it. God, I’ll put up wanted posters or something. Her owner’s probably crying somewhere.”

“God, what if it’s a child.” Shawzy sounds horrified.

Patrick doesn’t want to be the reason some little kid is crying somewhere. “I’ll do it tonight, geez.”

---

Patrick’s laptop is pretty beat-up, but it still works well enough. He only has word 2007, but that just means he has the awesome clip art and word art.

“That looks so wrong,” Shawzy tells him. He’s stretched out on the couch, taking up the entire surface, which what the fuck, this is Patrick’s apartment. He’s got a shirt on this time, so Patrick is partially grateful.

“Whatever, it’s a masterpiece,” Patrick counters. He thinks it looks pretty baller - though he’s certainly not including a picture of the dog. He doesn’t want randos turning up on his doorstep because they like the look of her. She’s currently splayed across his legs, looking at his hotdog with barely contained want. She’s inching closer when he thinks he isn’t looking. “Sorry, girl, no can do.”

He pushes the plate onto the coffee table and the dog lets out a whine, dropping her had onto her front paws. Patrick feels a pang of apology, and then Shawzy’s saying, “Dude, don’t get too attached.”

“I’m not.” Patrick’s pretty sure he’s not lying. She’s a cool dog, though, and she even peed in Shawzy’s shoes when he was in the bathroom, so she’s pretty much Patrick’s favourite animal in the world. He’s just putting the finishing touches to the poster when his phone rings. It vibrates its way across the table, and he catches it before it drops to the floor.

“Hi mom,” he says, not even bothering to check the caller ID.

“Patrick.” His mom sounds put-out. “You don’t call your mother to let her know how you're getting on?”

“I was working,” Patrick says, pulling faces at the dog. She’s cocked her head again, almost like she’s trying to figure him out, but she barks happily anyway.

There’s a pause. “Is that a dog?”

Patrick sighs, dropping back against the front of the couch. “I found her. I’m just making a found poster now.”

“A shit one!” Shawzy calls unhelpfully from the couch.

“Yes, thank you, Andrew,” his mom says, even though she’s not on speaker. Patrick’s not going to be the go-between here, okay. “Patrick, what have I told you about taking in strays?”

“Shawzy’s not a stray, mom,” Patrick says, and expects the punch to his arm. “And the dog will be gone as soon as I find the owner.”

“And if you don’t?”

Patrick stares down at the dog, scratching the back of her head. He thinks he should come up with a makeshift name for her. Calling her “dog” probably isn’t good, and none of this would be happening if she hadn’t lost her tag. “Then I guess I’ve just acquired another lodger.”

His mom sighs but whatever, she can’t see the dog, so she doesn't even know.

---

Patrick wakes to the sounds of whining.

He groans, shoving the pillow over his face, but the whining doesn’t stop, so he tosses off his bed covers and peers over the side of the bed. He’s set up a makeshift dog bed, using blankets and cushions, but the dog’s not there. She’s hiding in the corner.

Patrick frowns. “What’s up, girl?”

The dog peers up at him, but she doesn’t move. Patrick can’t understand what’s wrong with her; there doesn’t seem to be anything - she’s already slept in the room for one night. It’s raining though, the patter of drops on the window oddly loud in the room, and he wonders if that’s the problem.

“Come here,” he says, holding out his hand, and the dog climbs to her feet. When he pats the blankets, she jumps up beside him and burrows against his side. “It’s okay.”

He smooths back the fur on her head, stroking her body and settling back into bed himself. He waits until she’s finally asleep, stomach rising in a steady rhythm, and legs twitching. He keeps stroking her, kind of hoping a little that nobody comes calling. He’s getting attached, and even though he knows what his mom and everyone else is going to say about that, he doesn’t care.

---

“Uh,” Shawzy says, staring at Patrick with wide eyes. “I think Jonathan Toews is on the phone.”

Patrick snatches the phone out of his hand, glaring. “Don’t be an idiot. Why would-”

“Hello?” A voice says, on the end of the phone. “Is that Patrick Kane?”

“It is,” Patrick says. “Can I help you?”

“My name’s Jonathan Toews. I think you have my dog.”

Patrick hangs up the phone.

---

“Why did you hang up the phone?” The Jonathan Toews imposter says. “It’s rude and you have my dog.”

“How do you know I have your dog?” Patrick says back. He’s not going to be suckered into whoever this is. “You don’t even know what she looks like!”

“You put up found posters all around Wiggly Field! And you put a picture of your face on them,” the guy says, like that’s the worst thing that could ever have happened. “She’s a pitbull. Brown. Her name’s Juliette.”

Patrick stares down at the dog. “Do you have an owner who claims he’s Jonathan Toews?”

The dog - Juliette? - cocks her head.

“I don’t claim to be Jonathan Toews!” the guy sounds frustrated, but whatever, Patrick’s not the imposter here. “I am Jonathan Toews.”

“Sure, buddy,” Patrick dismisses. “Anyway, I guess you’ve given a good description and it sure sounds like her.”

“I made wanted posters,” the guy says, faintly. “Can I have her back, please?”

Patrick sighs. It’s not that he expected to be able to keep her, except that he totally did. “Sure.” He gives the guy his address. “I’m in all day, so whenever you’re free. If she doesn’t recognise you, you can’t have her.”

There’s a long pause. “You’d dog nap her if she didn’t recognise me?”

“You don’t know she’s yours yet,” Patrick says shortly, and hangs up the phone.

“Dude,” Shawzy says, when the silence drags on for too long. He still looks a little pale. “You just hung up on Jonathan Toews!”

“It’s not Jonathan Toews,” Patrick yells, and slams his way into his bedroom.

---

Jonathan Toews is standing on patrick’s doorstep.

“Uh.” Patrick resists the urge to slam the door in his face. “So you are Jonathan Toews.”

Toews scowls. “I told you.”

There’s a scuffling behind him, and Patrick turns in time to see the dog scrambling across the floor, barking happily. When she reaches the door, she stretches onto her hind legs, placing her paws on Toews’ legs and barks again. Toews looks soft, bends down and immediately starts making a fuss of her.

“Hey baby,” he says. “I missed you.”

Patrick watches the display, aware of Shawzy standing behind his shoulder and god, he hopes Shawzy is wearing pants. “Sorry I didn’t believe you.”

Toews looks up, and he looks less angry than he was before. “Thanks for taking care of my dog.”

“It was nothing,” Patrick says. He shrugs, and tries not to look too disappointed.

“I mean it,” Toews says, stroking the back of Juliette’s head again. “I’m kind of ridiculously attached. She was a rescue.”

Patrick frowns. “Yeah, your teammate did that pits thing, right?”

“Right.” Toews looks surprised. “You know about that?”

“Dogs and hockey players, man,” Patrick says, before he can really stop himself.

Toews’ face does an interesting contortion, but then he’s faintly smiling. “Right, well. Thanks again. Can I give you -”

“Dude,” Patrick says.

“Don’t call me dude,” Toews says, though he looks a little apologetic afterwards. “I mean, sorry, I just - get that a lot and it’s annoying.”

“He does say it all the time,” Shawzy puts in unhelpfully. As if, Shawzy totally says it more than he does.

“Yeah well,” Patrick says, ignoring Shawzy completely. “Seriously. She’s been great. Although she does have a problem with rain.”

Toews nods. “She’s been like that since I got her. I think it’s trauma or something from before.”

Patrick makes a face. He doesn’t know why people have to be shitty to anyone, but Juliette is so great. He bends down, and Juliette immediately comes over, resting a paw on his arm and licking his chin. “See you later, girl.”

Toews is looking at him, but Patrick doesn’t care. He’s taken care of her, okay, he can be sad about this if he wants to be. He gives Juliette another head rub and then stands, shoving his hands in his pockets.

Everything feels awkward, and Toews seems to feel it too, because he coughs and then clips Juliette’s lead onto her collar. “So, thanks again.”

“It’s fine,” Patrick says, clipped, because he just wants Toews to leave now.

Nobody seems to know exactly what to do, so Patrick grabs hold of the door, hoping that he can usher Toews and Juliette out the door. Toews gets the message and turns on his heel, Juliette trotting along beside him. Patrick waits only until they reach the lift, and then he’s shutting the door.

Shawzy’s staring at him, but Patrick can’t deal with him right now, so he pushes past him and walks into his bedroom. Juliette’s cushions and blankets are in a pile in the corner, and Shawzy’s ruined trainer that she’s been chewing since she arrived is at the end of the bed.

God, he hopes he’s not going to have to get a dog or something. That’s the last time he takes in a stray.

---

Patrick stares down at the number on his phone. It’s not one he recognises, but they’re being pretty persistent. Shawzy’s been glaring at him for like three hours, so he picks it up. “Hello?”

“Uh,” the voice says, and Patrick’s pretty sure he recognises it, even if he doesn’t know why he’d be calling. “This is Patrick, right?”

“Yes,” Patrick says, staring at the TV screen. He’s halfway through a game of Mario Kart with Shawzy, even if Shawzy’s kicking his ass right now.

“It’s Toews. Jonny Toews.”

Patrick punches a couple of the buttons, and then curses, tossing the controller on the floor. “Can I help you?”

There’s silence, and then a huff. “There’s no need to be rude.”

“I’m not being rude,” Patrick protests. Shawzy looks up, frowning, but Patrick ignores him. “I was asking if I could help you.”

“Whatever, I was only calling to see if you could look after Juliette for me.”

Patrick frowns. What the fuck. “Uh, why?”

Jonny pauses. It might be a bit forward, but Patrick can totally call him ‘Jonny’ in his head. He saved the dude’s dog, anyway. “I’m going on a road trip, with uh, the Hawks, and usually I get a sitter, but Juliette doesn’t like them. She seemed to - well, she liked you, so would you, uh, I mean-”

“Dude, calm down, I was just messing.”

Jonny makes a noise that’s equal parts frustrated and angry, and Patrick snorts when he says, “I could have asked anyone else.”

“Yeah, but you asked me,” Patrick says, a little smugly. “When do you leave?”

“Uh, tomorrow?”

“Isn’t that leaving a little close?” Patrick isn’t really bothered, but there’s something about Jonny that makes him want to get on the guy’s case.

Jonny splutters. “I wasn’t sure if you’d say yes! And I can always call the sitter and -”

“It’s fine, seriously. Do you want to drop her off, or me to collect her or something?”

There’s a telling silence on the other end of the phone, and Patrick has to remember that this is Jonathan Toews and not just some random dude who wants him to dogsit. He probably doesn’t want Patrick turning up on his doorstep.

He’s a little surprised when Jonny says, “You can come get her? Do you have a car?”

“Yeah,” Patrick says. “Do you live far from Wiggly?”

Unlike most of Blackhawks fans, he hasn’t actually stalked Jonathan Toews and doesn’t know where the dude lives. Jonny reels of his address, and Patrick’s surprised, but it’s not that far.

“I can lend you her dog bed and some toys. And there’s food and-”

“Seriously,” Patrick laughs. “Tell me when I get there. I can – it'll be okay to come up, right?”

Jonny sounds amused when he says, “I’m not the only person that lives here, Patrick.”

“Yeah, but I bet you have security,” Patrick cuts in, and Jonny’s silence tells him that he’s right. “So do you want me to get her today?”

“Yeah,” Jonny says. “When do you want to come over?”

He’s making it sound like Patrick’s coming to hang with him, and that’s just too fucking weird. “I can come get her now if that’s okay. It’s only a ten minute drive.”

“I know,” Jonny says. “That’s fine.”

Patrick hangs up the phone after saying goodbye, and doesn’t think he can deal with Shawzy’s inevitable questions right now, so he pre-empts it. “I’m going out. I’ll be gone for about an hour, but I’ll tell you everything when I get home.”

Shawzy frowns at him, but he doesn’t stop him, so that’s okay.

Patrick hasn't ever actually spent much time on Jonny's side of the river, so when he actually gets to the apartment block, he raises his eyebrows appreciatively. He's often wondered what it would be like to have so much money that you could have an apartment like that – except he'd totally have one in Trump Tower, obviously – but whatever, he's here to get a dog, not cry over the choices in his life that he didn't make.

He pushes his way into the building and then hovers by the security desk. “Uh, I'm here to see Jonathan Toews?”

The security guards gives him the once over and then nods. “Patrick, right?”

Patrick nods. “Yeah.”

“You're the one that found his dog?”

Of course Jonathan Toews is the kind of guy who has a good relationship with his building's security. Patrick wants to roll his eyes, but he just nods instead, kind of wanting to go up and get her already. “Yeah. By Wiggly Field.”

“She's a beauty,” the security guard says. His nametag reads 'Kevin' and Patrick files that away in case he needs it. If Jonny can have a good relationship with his security, then so can Patrick, okay?

“Better looking than him, anyway,” Patrick says, smiling.

The security guard snorts, and then waves him up. “I take it you know which apartment is his?”

Patrick nods, and then makes his way across to the elevator. He feels awkward and out of place and jams his hands in his pockets just for something to do with them. It seems to take forever to get up to Jonny's apartment, and this all still a little surreal that Patrick is standing outside of Jonathan Toews' apartment and dogsitting his pitbull. “What the fuck am I doing,” he mutters, just as the door opens.

Jonny raises his eyebrows. “Talking to yourself?”

“No,” Patrick says. “Just wondering what I'm doing outside your apartment, you loser.” Almost immediately he catches sight of Juliette in Jonny’s' kitchen and bends down. “Then I remembered this beautiful girl.”

Juliette barks happily and then skids on the kitchen floor in her haste to get to him. She's all tongue and happiness and Patrick's still kinda sad that Jonny had claimed her back instead of letting him keep her.

As if reading his mind, Jonny scowls. “You're not going to dogknap her again, are you?”

“Shut up,” Patrick says, giving him an unimpressed look. “I didn't dogknap her the first time. I'll bring her back. I guess.”

The look on Jonny’s face is amazing, and Patrick's sad he doesn't have the chance to record it. It's equal parts scandalised and unsure. He settles on rolling his eyes and pushing open the door. “Come on. I've got her stuff together for you.”

Patrick whistles appreciatively at the inside of Jonny’s apartment. “Nice digs.”

“It's okay,” Jonny says. He looks embarrassed, though Patrick doesn't know why. If he had an apartment this nice, he would be screaming about it to everyone who would listen.

Walking through to the living room, Patrick can see a dogbed, toys and a bag full of what he assumes is food and other stuff sitting beside it. “Is this it?”

“Yeah,” Jonny says, seemingly grateful for something else to talk about. “There's a list in there, too, of what you should give her and when, and some numbers. There's Abby – Patrick Sharp's wife – who offered to help out if you need it.”

Patrick gives Jonny a look. “You're just giving her number to a complete stranger?”

Jonny looks equal parts stubborn and flushed. “She said it was okay, shut up. I can still get someone else to dogsit, you know.”

“Whatever,” Patrick says, dismissing him. “You know I'll love Juliette better than anyone else.”

Juliette seems to understand this, too, because she's still hanging around Patrick, tangling herself up in his legs and barking happily when he leans down to run his hand over her head.

“Fine,” Jonny says eventually. “Well, thanks for doing this, anyway.”

Patrick shrugs. “It's no problem. I promise we’ll even Skype you on the road.”

For half a second, Jonny looks like he might actually want that, and then he frowns. “I’m not that attached.”

It’s a complete lie, judging from the way it takes him fifteen minutes to say goodbye to Juliette when Patrick leaves.

--

“Dude!” Shawzy says, when Patrick comes through the door with Juliette and her luggage in tow. “Are we a boarding house now?”

Patrick ignores him, letting Juliette off the lead so that she can sniff the entire apartment. He drops her stuff on the couch and grabs the list out of the bag. Jonny wasn’t lying; there’s an entire list of numbers, including a vet, back-up vet, Abby Sharp - Patrick can’t believe he has Patrick Sharp’s home phone number - and Jonny’s mobile, Skype and his mother’s mobile. Jesus, this dude is serious about his dog. “He needs a life.”

“Are you talking about Jonathan Toews?” Shawzy asks, suspicious. “You do realise we are babysitting Jonathan Toews’ dog?”

“No,” Patrick says. “I am babysitting Jonathan toews’ dog. You just happen to live here.”

Shawzy clutches his chest in mock-horror. “That cuts deep, Kaner, real deep.”

Rolling his eyes, patrick pulls Juliette’s food out of the bag - a huge bag of premium dog food - and some of her toys. Shawzy immediately grabs one and Juliette is on him in seconds, growling and tail wagging a mile a minute. Shawzy’s face is so hilarious that Patrick snaps a picture and sends it to Jonny with a settling in quite well :D.

He forgets he’s sent it until that night, when he and Shawzy are watching late night television, Juliette stretched out on Patrick’s lap, and he gets a text back. Pleased she’s found a new toy.

Patrick laughs out loud. He thinks about texting Jonny again, but he’s pretty sure there’s a limit on how familiar you can be with a famous hockey player who’s only letting you babysit his dog because he feels sorry for you. Probably. He tosses his phone on the couch beside him and resumes scratching Juliette’s head.

His phone chimes again a half hour later. Shawzy’s asleep, snoring, and Juliette’s migrated to his back, stretched out on him and drooling on his neck. Jonny’s text him again, this time with a sad face attached. Juliette likes to watch me play. You better watch the game.

Patrick snorts. Is this just you trying to get me to watch the game?

There’s a long pause before Jonny replies. No. She really does like to watch me play.

Patrick doubts that, but whatever, he’d planned to watch the game anyway.

--

Juliette gets super excited when Patrick flips the game on the next night.

He’s pretty beat, sinking down into the couch and nursing a beer. Shawzy’s actually at work - a miracle! - and won’t be back for a while, and Patrick’s enjoying the silence. It’s the end of the second period, and the Blackhawks are winning, when Patrick’s phone starts to ring. It’s Erica, and he knows he better not put her off, so he answers.

“Hey.”

“Mom says you’re dogsitting for Jonathan Toews?”

Patrick sighs. “It’s not that big a deal.”

Erica’s tone begs to differ. “You didn’t think this was something that you should tell your favourite sister?”

“I did,” Patrick says, grinning. “I told Jackie last week.”

The noise Erica makes is scandalised. “I had to hear this from mom! Have you met him yet? What’s he like?”

Patrick scowls. “Why do you care? Since when have you been into hockey?”

“Since forever,” Erica informs him. “You’re such a dumbass sometimes.”

Patrick knows he better answer, or he’s never going to hear the end of it. “He’s just a dude with a dog. His apartment is better looking than he is.”

Erica snorts. “Liar. You totally think he’s hot.”

“I do not.” It’s not exactly true, because Patrick has eyes, and he’s always found hockey players ridiculously hot, but he’s babysitting the dude’s dog, and he’s not about to use her to get into said dude’s pants. When he tells Erica so, she outright laughs at him.

“As if.” She sounds sure of herself when she says, “I give it a month.”

“I hate you,” Patrick tells her, and then hangs up. The third period is starting and he wants to keep screaming at Jonny to score a fucking goal already.

--

Patrick’s waiting outside of Jonny’s apartment building when Jonny pulls up in a cab. He looks exhausted and is laden down with his luggage, but lights up when he sees Juliette waiting patiently beside Patrick.

“Hey,” Jonny says, and drops his bags on the floor. He coruches down, and Juliette reaches up, resting her paws on Jonny’s shoulder and licking his face. “How was she?”

Patrick shrugs. “I thought about running away with her to Buffalo.”

Jonny makes a face. “She’s way too good for New York.”

“Fuck you, “Patrick says cheerfully. “Better than Canada.”

Jonny looks like he has a few choice words to say about Patrick’s put-down of Canada, but doesn’t say any of them. “Uh, so thanks, for looking after her I mean.”

Patrick shrugs. “I told you it was no problem. You look beat, dude, you should go to bed.”

He gets a funny look in return, but Jonny’s picking up his bags and holding his hands out for the lead.

Patrick pauses. “I can help bring her up? I have her stuff in the car, and you already have that to carry.” He waves a hand at Jonny’s bags.

“Sure,” Jonny says, quickly.

It feels awkward and weird, even if Patrick doesn’t know why, but he grabs Juliette’s stuff anyway, managing to keep a hold of her as well. He follows Jonny into the building, and nods at Kevin on their way in. “Hey man.”

“You back again?” Kevin says, and Patrick isn’t sure if he’s addressing him or Jonny.

He answers anyway. “Someone has to help him manage his dog.”

Jonny looks amused by the answer, and even Kevin cracks a laugh. Patrick feels pretty proud of himself as they take the elevator up to Jonny’s floor. “Getting to know my building security, huh?”

“You gotta keep security sweet, man,” Patrick says. “I’d crack some joke here about breaking into your house, but I kinda like your dog too much to do that.”

Juliette whuffs happily, and even Jonny smirks. “Good thing I have her then, huh?”

Patrick grins. “I guess it is.”

He’s still smiling when Jonny pushes open the door to his apartment. Juliette dodges past them and into the living room. Patrick watches her go, waiting for Jonny to deposit his bags in his room, hovering awkwardly in the kitchen. He puts Juliette’s bag on the floor by the kitchen table, and waits for Jonny to get back.

“So,” Jonny says, when he comes back into the kitchen. He doesn’t say anything for a moment, and the awkwardness returns. Patrick’s not sure about the etiquette when you’ve looked after a dude’s dog when you don’t really know said dude and it’s all awkward and weird. “You want a drink?”

“Sure.”

Jonny grabs two beers from the fridge and then leads the way into the living room, where Juliette is lying half-in and half-out of her bed by the entertainment centre - which is, in fact, the sweetest set-up Patrick’s ever seen. “So. I’m guessing you’re from Buffalo and not Chicago?”

“Yeah,” Patrick says, taking one end of the couch. He’d seen it in Ikea and wanted it, but it was way too expensive and would have taken up two thirds of his apartment, let alone his living room. “Born and bred in New York.”

“I guess America isn’t too bad of a place to grow up.” Jonny smirks.

Patrick flips him off. “Screw you, man, America is baller.”

Jonny gives him a dubious look. “If you say so. Why’d you move to Chicago, anyway?”

“Job,” Patrick says. “I used to play hockey, but I my parents constantly had to drive me out of state, and it wasn’t fair on my sisters, so I stuck to college. Graduated, got a degree. There was a job opening here, and I was transferred.”

Jonny actually looks interested, which is more than what most people do. “Cool. You have sisters?”

Patrick narrows his eyes. “Yeah, why?”

Holding up his hands, Jonny shrugs. “Just asking. I have a brother, so it was just curiosity.”

“Good,” Patrick says. “I have three, and they’re all off limits to hockey players.”

“Okay?”

“I know what you guys are like when you get your claws in women,” Patrick tells him, unimpressed.

There’s a weird look on Jonny’s face, but he quickly recovers and says, “Hey, you used to be one of us guys, thank you, and i’m a perfect gentleman.”

Patrick looks doubtful, and takes a drink from his beer. “I believe you.”

“I am!” Jonny protests. “I would treat your sisters like they were princesses.”

“They would probably love that as well,” Patrick says, darkly. “But you’re not going to.”

Jonny doesn’t say anything to that, and Patrick’s not sure why the awkwardness in the room has just increased, but whatever, he can totally deal with this. He’s saved from actually having to say anything by Juliette finally deciding she’s had enough of napping, and coming over to nose at his knee. He puts his beer bottle on the side table, and leans down to hug her, scratching the back of her neck.

“So, uh,” Jonny says, sounding weird. “I have a long road trip coming up. I usually drop her off at a dog hotel, you know, but I was wondering if you’d - well, if-”

“I would love to, dude,” Patrick says, looking up and giving Jonny a blinding smile. “You know I only like you for your dog.”

Jonny’s expression is hard to read, but he’s smiling, so Patrick takes it as a good thing. “How will I get over that?”

Patrick grins. “I dunno, man, but you gotta try.”

“I’ll do my best,” Jonny says, dryly.

Patrick’s feeling pretty great about everything when he finally leaves that afternoon.

--

“Why are you smiling like that? You’re freaking me out.” Shawzy’s making dinner in the kitchen, Patrick supervising from the kitchen table, and he’s busy sending Jonny texts about Juliette.

“No reason,” Patrick says. Juliette had been asleep on the bed earlier, half hanging off, and Patrick couldn’t resist sending the picture to Jonny. Jonny’s on his pre-game nap, even though he’s not actually napping, and actually texting Patrick.

Shawzy looks equally unimpressed and sceptical. “Are you texting Toews again? This whole thing is disgusting.”

Patrick frowns. “I’m just dogsitting for the guy, not married to him.”

“Could have fooled me,” Shawzy mutters, but Patrick’s practised at ignoring him.

He sends another picture, this one of Juliette in Wiggly Field, tail wagging and playing with some of the other dogs, and Jonny sends back a text that’s mostly composed of exclamation marks.

Patrick gets a text later from an unknown number, who tells him that whatever you just sent has made Toe-ez grin like a loon. Who are you and why does he love you so much?

Patrick frowns. Who is this?

Patrick Sharp. Anything that makes the captain smile like that I have to know about.

What Patrick knows about Sharp could fill a piece of A4, but he’s also the Hawk that Patrick follows as much as he does Jonny, so it’s pretty fucking awesome to have him texting, even if its just about Jonny. I’m the dogsitter.

Patrick’s pretty sure he shouldn’t have done that when Jonny sends four consecutive texts telling him not to text Sharp, that if he tells Sharp anything he’ll kill him, not to forget that Juliette likes a walk before bed (as if Patrick would forget) and that Sharp is the worst person in the whole entire world. Patrick doesn’t believe him about any of it and keeps texting Patrick “Call me Sharpy” Sharp anyway.

“Are you friends with the entire team or something?” Shawzy asks, when he tells him about it.

Patrick really wants to say yes, but doesn’t. “Just most of them.”

Shawzy glares. “You babysit someone’s dog and suddenly you’re pally with the entire Blackhawks organisation.”

“Jealous, Shawzy?”

“Hardly.”

The fact that he walks out of the room is proof enough, and Patrick can’t stop grinning.

--

“So,” Jonny says, when he comes to pick Juliette up after the road trip. “How was she?”

Patrick shrugs, picking up the last of Juliette’s toys from the floor. She’s managed to scatter then around the entire apartment, and he’s sure he’s going to find one somewhere even after Jonny has gone. “She got me a date with the hot blonde from across the street.”

Jonny raises his eyebrows. “Really?”

There’s a catch in his tone, and it makes Patrick pause. “I was kidding, dude. Although she did stop and give me tips on how best to look after her.”

Jonny’s look turns to anger. “What? Does she think you can’t take care of my dog?!”

It’s the anger in his voice that makes Patrick want to laugh. “Dude, relax. She didn’t mean anything by it.”

“She better not have done,” Jonny mutters. Juliette is sitting by his legs, panting. She’s got her head cocked, looking at Patrick quizzically, and he makes a face at her.

Patrick doesn’t say anything, just throws the last of Juliette’s stuff into her bag and rests it against the couch. “You wanna stay for a drink at mine this time? I promise Shawzy isn’t here.”

“I don’t have anything against him,” Jonny says. He takes the beer Patrick offers him, and walks into the living room. “I wish he wore pants more often, but I like the guy.”

Patrick laughs. “I’m constantly telling him to put pants on, but the guy likes a breeze, I guess.”

Jonny looks pained. “I’m not against guy’s forgoing pants, but.”

“You’re not, huh?” Patrick says, raising an eyebrow. He doesn’t mean to draw attention to it, but a hockey dude not against guys without pants? That’s a pretty big thing.

Jonny doesn’t say anything, just grins around the mouth of his bottle. The fact that he isn’t ashamed of it is like plus five thousand, and Patrick grins.

“So when I can look after Juliette again, huh?” Patrick’s not above using his only means to hang out with Jonny to his advantage.

There’s a pause and then Jonny says, “Well I don’t have a road trip for a while, actually.”

The fact that he looks pretty sad about it makes Patrick smile internally. “Shame. I’ll just have to come around and visit her at yours then, won’t I?”

Jonny looks pleased, and then schools his face. “Maybe.”

Patrick grins, and holds out his hand. Juliette immediately comes over and pushes up against him, asking for pets and love. She doesn’t have to ask. Patrick kisses the top of her head. “I’m coming anyway.”

Jonny doesn’t look too upset when he says, “I guess.”

--

Patrick comes home from work and collapses face first onto his bed. It’s eerie; Shawzy’s not in the apartment, and there’s no Juliette barking and scuffling around his bedroom. He picks up his phone and texts Jonny. It’s too quiet :(

Jonny doesn’t reply and Patrick looks at the clock, scowling. He doesn’t remember if Jonny’s playing tonight or not, but it would make sense. Not that he expects Jonny to text him immediately or anything, but he totally does. He needs to make himself some food and definitely some coffee, so he leaves his phone in his bedroom and makes his way into the kitchen. He can admit to hiumself that sometime he gets lonely, and even though he constantly invites his family down, it still doesn’t really feel like home.

He throws on a terrible action movie and then grabs his phone, deciding to call Jackie and tell her to put on the same movie so that they can criticise it together. They do it sometimes, and she always manages to cheer him up when he’s had a terrible time at work. Usually. Today she seems intent on interjecting her commentary on the movie with questions about Jonny.

“What is this?” Patrick asks. “You’re supposed to be making me feel better, not dragging up the big problem in my life.”

“Shut up,” Jackie says. “You don’t think Jonny’s a big problem, you loser.”

Patrick makes a face, even though she can’t see him. “Is this a conspiracy? Did Erica tell you to grill me on Jonny?”

“Please.” Jackie dismisses him immediately. “Actually it was Jessica, and you know the three of us are better than you.”

Patrick can’t deny it, but that doesn’t mean he can’t vocalise his displeasure. “I hate you all. And I hate Jonny most of all.”

“Lies, lies and more lies.” Jackie pauses in her put-downs of him to make a snarky comment about the movie. “Anyway, when are you bringing him home to meet us all?”

Patrick almost spits out his mouthful of beer. “We’re not dating!”

He can almost picture the look of scepticism on Jackie’s face when she says, “Are you sure? Because it sure as hell seems like it from the amount of pictures you send of his dog.”

“Exactly,” patrick says. “Of his dog. I don’t send them of him.”

“If you read the commentary you send along with them,” Jackie tells him, “You would see it from my point of view.”

Patrick doesn’t know what to say to that, so he hangs up on her instead. His sisters are the worst and they have no idea what they’re talking about.

He gets the rest of the way through his movie before he looks at his phone again. Jackie’s sent him three texts messages ridiculing him, his hair, and his entire being, and then tells him to call her when he’s feeling less like a dick. Jonny’s also text him - this time a picture of Juliette, close-up face and her panting and almost-smiling. He’s sent another text, another picture of Juliette, except this time it’s mostly of Jonny as well. Juliette is asleep on his lap, and Jonny looks exhausted - he definitely played a game - but he’s half-smiling.

If Patrick makes it his screensaver nobody has to know.

--

The next time Patrick’s got Juliette, he puts her in a hawks jersey and sends the picture to Jonny. He makes sure that he’s in the picture too, because he needs Jonny to know that it was his awesome idea and not something Shawzy decided to do in the spur of the moment. His sisters have already told him she looks cute and fucking awesome (they are also less and less impressed with his denial about being in a relationship with Jonny, which what the fuck, Jonny is a hockey player and wouldn’t look twice at Patrick, even if he had breasts) and he’s pretty sure his mom made it her wallpaper, but whatever.

There’s a voicemail on Patrick’s phone that night when he crawls into bed, Juliette sprawled out on the other side of the bed. Shawzy’s still up, Patrick can hear the sounds of a video game in the living room, but he ignores it in favour of whatever Jonny has to say.

“Dude, I cannot believe you put her in a jersey! It’s not like I’m against dressing he rup or anything, I always put her in a ribbon at christmas and stuff, but you could have at least put her in my jersey. I#m going to have to bath her like three times to get Sharpy’s ridiculous whatever off of her, okay? don’t do that again. I’m so upset at you. Anyway, can you like, put the phone up against her ear or whatever? I wanna talk to her. Actually, don’t do that, that’s probably really fucking weird and Sharpy already thinks I’m one of those doting dads-to-a-dog and I don’t think I’m that. Am I that? Anyway. Yeah. So don’t dress her up in a jersey again unless it’s mine. Uh. Well. So. I guess I’ll be home in a few days? So you should be at my apartment when I get back for a drink. if you wanna. You don’t have to. Just if -” There’s a pause and Patrick can hear someone mumbling in the background, and then jonny’s back. “Anyway I have to go. But yeah, be there, okay? Later.”

Patrick doesn’t know if he’s amused, horrified, amazed, or a combination of all three. He plays the voicemail twice more and decides to save it, just so that he can mock Jonny with it later. It takes him a while to get to sleep after that, and rolls over, stroking Juliette and wondering if there’s something to what his sisters have been saying after all. It’s not like he’s in love with Jonny or anything, just that maybe he wants to get into his pants a little. Okay, maybe he likes Jonny, but he meant what he said before; there’s no way Jonny would look twice at him, okay.

--

Patrick desperately needs the loo, and quickly hands off Juliette’s lead to Jonny while he dashes into the bathroom. When he comes back, Jonny is looking down at his phone oddly, except that when Patrick looks at his closely, he realises that it’s his phone and not Jonny’s.

“Uh,” he says. “Did I get a message?”

“Yeah,” Jonny says, passing the phone over.

Patrick forgot that he’d changed his wallpaper over and refuses to be ashamed of it, even though he knows he’s flushing. “It’s uh, a good picture?”

Jonny searches his face, even though Patrick doesn’t really know what he’s looking for, but nods quickly. “I guess.”

It’s a message from Jackie. He doesn’t look at it, just shoves his phone back in his pocket. “Whatever, it’s Juliette. I don’t need your ugly face in the picture.”

“My face isn’t ugly,” Jonny says, scowling. “It’s a good face.”

“Eh,” Patrick shrugs. “If I was rating it, I’d give it a five.”

“Your sister begs to differ.”

Patrick immediately fishes his phone out of his pocket, checking Jackie’s text. It’s just another stupid message about his non-existent crush on Jonny and Patrick really wants to like, shout at her angrily or something right now. “She’s just kidding around. It’s nothing.”

He doesn’t know what the look on Jonny’s face means. “It doesn’t, huh?”

“No,” Patrick says, even though it doesn’t actually sounds that certain to himself.

Jonny closes the gap between them and it feels a little too much like he’s crowding Patrick up against the counter, but Patrick’s more than capable of standing up for himself. “You sure about that?”

Patrick tilts his chin a little, raising his eyebrows. “You got a problem if I did think your face was good looking?”

“Just my face?” This time it’s Jonny that sound sunsure, almost like he wants Patrick to say no, to say something different, and Patrick isn’t sure exactly what’s happening here.

“Uh, all of you, actually.” He shrugs, staring down at Juliette, who’s taken to staring at the two of them like they’re crazy. “It’s all your dog’s fault, man.”

Jonny snorts. “I don’t think I wanna blame her. Do you?”

They’re awfully close, and Patrick feels his chest thumping and he doesn’t know what he’s fucking doing here, but he shakes his head. “No. No I don’t.”

He’s not sure which of them moves first, but they’re kissing, Patrick’s hands fisted in Jonny’s shirt. The kiss turns sloppy and wet, a lot of tongue and teeth, but it feels absolutely fucking perfect and it’s weird as shit kissing Jonny, but Patrick kind of wants to do it again and again.

“Fuck,” he says, when they finally pull apart.

Jonny smirks. “Not after a first kiss. You gotta win me first.”

Patrick looks unimpressed. “I won your dog, man. That means more than winning you.”

“I’m hurt,” Jonny says, looking anything but. “You better kiss me again to make me feel better.”

It’s cheesy as fuck, but so totally Jonny that Patrick has to comply.

the end