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1.

When Jonny joins the Blackshocks, she's determined, mature, and completely unable to take care of herself in any area other than roller derby. Brenna figures this out the day she finds Jonny sitting outside their practice rink, staring at her phone. Their practice has been over for a while, and Brenna had stayed late because she'd needed to do some extra work on her turns.

"What are you still doing here?" she asks Jonny. "I thought you'd left an hour ago."

"Oh," Jonny says, startled. "Uh, apparently my landlord is actually a slumlord?"

Brenna stares. "What?"

"I got kicked out of my apartment because the building's being condemned, and my roommate doesn't want to find a new place because she's moving in with her boyfriend, and I have absolutely no idea what to do and one week to get all of my stuff out." Jonny holds out her phone and lets Brenna read the email from her leasing agency.

"Okay," Brenna says. "Lucky for you, my spare room is currently unoccupied, so if you want to crash with me a little while, you can."

"Really?" Jonny stands up. "Are you sure?"

"Yeah, of course," Brenna says. "My old roommate moved out a month ago and I haven't needed to get another one, but it wouldn't be bad to have a little help with the rent."

"God, thank you," Jonny says. "My roommate got us this place right after college last year, and I wasn't expecting to have to leave for a while."

Brenna nods firmly. "Then it's settled. You can move in whenever you want."

The true extent of Jonny's helplessness in non-sports-related fields becomes clear over the course of their first month as roommates. Jonny moves in with a bed, a dresser, and a bookshelf, and not much of anything else. She can't cook, she's a bit of a slob, and Brenna catches her bribing Pat to do her laundry more than once.

Brenna puts up with this for a little while - Jonny's had a rough month - but she eventually decides that enough is enough.

Jonny isn't enthusiastic about learning to deep clean the bathroom and make pasta, but Brenna insists, and Jonny slowly becomes competent in basic adult tasks. Brenna takes this as proof that she is going to make a kickass parent someday.

And that's the story of how Jonny Toews became Brenna's rookie.

 

2.

"Uh, do you have a minute to talk?" Jonny says one night, near the end of her first season with the Blackshocks. They're walking out to the parking lot after practice, and for once, Jonny isn't following Pat to whatever bar she's designated as their post-practice drinking spot.

Brenna can't get a read on Jonny's tone, but she's never going to turn Jonny away, no matter what her mood. "Yeah, sure," she replies. "What's up?"

Jonny grimaces. "Could we go home first?"

"Sure thing," Brenna says, and herds Jonny into her car.

It takes a while for Jonny to spill, but Brenna waits patiently through several rounds of Mario Kart.

"They want me to be the captain next year," Jonny says eventually. "It'll only be my second year on the team and – do you think Sharpy will be upset? She probably should be captain."

Brenna hides a grin. The entire team has understood that Jonny would eventually be their captain ever since she started with them. She's bossy and direct, and more importantly, she knows the game and she knows their team. She's incapable of not helping someone out if she sees a way they could improve, and she's already done more for team cohesiveness as a regular team member than some people would as captains. Brenna was sort of expecting it to take a little longer, but she also thinks that Jonny is ready.

"Sharpy doesn't have your gift for strategy," Brenna says. "And she'd be the first to admit that."

"Really?" Jonny asks. She looks so young. "I want to do it, I really do - but - "

"Yes," Brenna says, punching Jonny in the shoulder lightly. "You're going to be an amazing captain, rookie."

"You can't call me that anymore if I'm going to be your captain," Jonny says, her voice taking on more confidence.

Brenna laughs. "That's what you think, rookie."

 

3.

Brenna startles awake on the couch one night when her phone rings, having fallen asleep while watching America's Next Top Model on Netflix. She grabs her phone and answers without looking to see who's calling.

"'lo?" she says.

"Biscuit!" Pat yells. "Um, so, it's just that - "

"Did you call her?" Jonny's voice interrupts. "Fuck you, I told you not to call her!"

They're both slurring, clearly drunker than they normally would be on a Tuesday night. There are some unintelligible words, and the sound of Jonny trying to put Pat into a headlock. Brenna sighs. Jonny had moved out into her own place just a few months previous, and was in a phase of trying to prove to herself and everyone else that she didn't need help from anyone, and especially not Brenna.

"Pat? Are you still there?" she tries. "Look, just tell me where you are, okay?"

" - place with your hot bartender! Ow!" Pat manages to say into the phone, before Jonny wins the fight and ends the call. Brenna sighs, debates the merits of putting on a bra, and ends up only doing it because the bartender really is hot, and she's busty enough that no bra on her is obvious and not entirely flattering.

With a bra firmly in place, and wearing her best sweatpants, Brenna goes to retrieve her rookie, and the hellion her rookie has decided to make her best friend. When she gets to the bar, the hot bartender points her toward a corner, where Jonny is red-faced and listing to the side. Pat isn't much better, trying to hold Jonny up and finish a beer at the same time. They haven't killed each other, though. Brenna's taking that as a win.

"What'd you do this time, Peeks?" she asks as she sits down across from them.

Pat scowls. "It's not my fault, I swear," she says. She leans across the table and attempts to whisper. In reality, she's not much quieter than she was before. "T.J. problems."

Brenna shakes her head in amusement. Slightly annoyed amusement, but it's impossible to get truly mad at Pat most of the time. "Go flirt with my hot bartender for a few minutes," she tells Pat.

"But - " Pat protests, but Brenna puts on her serious face, and Pat climbs out of her chair after patting Jonny's shoulder and does as she's told.

"Well?" Brenna says. Jonny puts her face down on the table and groans.

"What was that?" Brenna teases. "I'm not fluent in grunting, Jonny. You need to use English."

"I dumped T.J. again," Jonny mumbles. "Maybe for good? I don't know."

Privately (very privately), Brenna thinks that this is probably for the best. Long-distance relationships are hard, and Jonny needs someone who's more supportive of her sport, not totally focused on his own. T.J. was Jonny's college boyfriend, and Brenna's pretty sure Jonny thinks that failing to make it work with him is a kind of losing. She keeps trying to fix it, but sometimes relationships run their course, and Brenna is old enough to know that's not a failure. That's just life.

"I’m sorry you're feeling shitty about it," Brenna says. "Want me to send Pat home and get you even more shit-faced?"

Jonny frowns, lifting her head up to glance at Pat, who is following instructions for once in her life and is flirting with Duncan-the-hot-bartender across the room.

"She can stay," Jonny says, and Brenna considers the look on her face carefully. Maybe Jonny is starting to get a clue about Pat. It's probably best not to push it, though, Brenna decides, and just agrees with Jonny's decision without comment.

Brenna goes to the bar and sends Pat back to their table with a tray of shots. Duncan raises his eyebrows at her when she orders another tray right away, but she just grins at him. "Boy trouble," she says, "and more vodka is definitely what we need."

"You don't look like you let boys give you trouble," Duncan says, and starts pouring more shots.

"I don't," Brenna says, winking, and enjoying the way Duncan tracks her mouth as she licks her lips. It's too bad she can't spend more time over here with him. "But I'm responsible for those two tonight."

"Got it," Duncan says. "I'll keep the alcohol coming."

"You're a star," Brenna says, and heads back to the table.

Later, when she's pouring two very drunk girls into the backseat of her car so they can go home and sleep it off, Brenna makes plans to nominate herself for sainthood. Next time, she's calling Sharpy and making her come help, too.

 

4.

"And then she called my brother a douchebag!" Jonny says. "David's a jock, yeah, but he's definitely not a fucking douchebag." Her hands are gripping the arms of her chair so tightly that Brenna's a bit afraid for the integrity of her thrift-store chair.

"Have you seen her sisters?" Jonny continues. "Pat is the restrained one of them, for god's sake!"

Brenna rubs soothingly at Jonny's back and hopes that Sharpy is having more luck with Pat than she's having with Jonny. Things have mostly been much better for the whole team since Pat and Jonny figured their shit out, but their occasional (non-roller derby) fights have the potential to mess them all up. Sharpy and Brenna are too responsible to leave the kids to stumble through these things without help. Too responsible for their own goods, Brenna often thinks.

"Do you know what her youngest sister asked me the first time I visited Pat's family with her after we got together?" Jonny asks.

Brenna shakes her head, but Jonny doesn't even notice, just keeps talking.

"She asked me how many orgasms I got Pat to the first time we had sex," Jonny says, slumping down onto her arms on the table. "Then she told Pat that I was a party pooper when I wouldn't answer. She did all of this, might I add, in front of their parents!"

"Jonny, maybe you should talk about this with – " Brenna begins, but Jonny interrupts before she can finish.

"And when I brought that up, she got mad and started yelling about how I'm not allowed to make fun of her sisters."

"Generally speaking, that's a good rule to follow with your significant other," Brenna says.

"But she started it!" Jonny says, then appears to actually hear herself, and flushes. "Uh, I mean – it's hard sometimes to know when she's joking and when she's really upset. And half the time I don't know if my instincts are right – like, what if I'm treating her like my friend when she wants me to be her girlfriend?"

"That's something you definitely need to talk to Pat about," Brenna says. "And you might want to think about the possibility of you wanting Pat to act like your girlfriend instead of your friend sometimes. Because I think that's really what's bothering you, here."

Jonny glowers at the table. "Maybe."

Before Brenna can say anything else, there's a loud knock on her door. Jonny's phone buzzes at the same time, and she looks up at Brenna after checking it.

"It's Pat at the door," she says. "Don't answer it?"

"Not a chance," Brenna says, standing up. "You're going to fix this right now."

Pat is red-eyed and quiet when Brenna opens her front door. Brenna fixes her with a slightly judgmental stare, because Jonny is still her first priority.

"Can I come in and apologize?" Pat asks. Her voice is hesitant, and it's so strange to hear coming out of her mouth that Brenna relents and squeezes Pat's shoulder.

"She loves you," Brenna tells Pat. "Come in and tell her that you love her, too, okay?"

A hint of a smile starts in the corners of Pat's mouth. "Yes, ma'am," she says, and heads inside.

Jonny's still sitting in Brenna's dining room, close-mouthed and tense. Brenna stands next to her and nods encouragingly at Pat.

"Sooooo," Pat says, halting in the doorway. "Sharpy says to say that I'm sorry?"

Jonny snorts, and Brenna starts edging toward the door.

"Are you actually sorry for anything?" Jonny asks. She's not looking at Pat, concentrating fully on the wall behind Pat's head instead.

Brenna watches while Pat twists her hands together. Brenna doesn't want to leave if this is going to turn into another blowout fight, but she's also reluctant to witness any more of Pat and Jonny's relationship than she has already, even if they are in her apartment. The kids deserve a little privacy. She inches further toward the hallway, ready to leave as soon as she thinks it's safe.

"I – I am," Pat says, so quietly that Brenna can barely hear her. "I'm sorry I took the joke too far."

Jonny finally looks up, and Brenna can see her anger visibly dissipating. "I'm sorry I overreacted," she says. "But I don't always know when you're being my girlfriend and when you're being my best friend, and – "

Pat kneels down in front of Jonny's chair. "I'm always your girlfriend," she says. "I'm just sometimes your girlfriend with poor impulse control and the sense of humor of a twelve-year-old boy."

Jonny laughs, pulling Pat up and onto her lap. "Yeah, that about covers it," she says, kissing Pat deeply, and Brenna takes that as her cue to leave.

"No sex in my dining room," she says, laughing internally at the surprised looks Pat and Jonny give her, like they'd forgotten she was even there. "I mean it."

Brenna heads to her bedroom and puts in earbuds. The chances of Pat and Jonny actually listening to her and going back to one of their own places before having make-up sex are practically nil. They'll just have to owe her.

 

5.

"Okay, here's everything you'll need," Pat says, handing Brenna an actual notebook. It's labeled with "Jonny's a fucking awful patient but I love her anyway" in thick black marker. Brenna starts to regret her offer to stay with Jonny while Pat's away at a nursing conference.

"I've got it on Jonny's laptop, too," Pat continues. "Just in case anything happens to the printed version."

Brenna raises an eyebrow. "I think we'll manage. You're only going to be gone for a weekend."

Pat sighs, and affects what she probably thinks is a mature expression. "Brenna, Brenna, Brenna. Have you ever been solely responsibly for Jonny's health and well-being while she's confined to bed rest with a broken leg?"

"I haven't," Brenna says. "But neither had you until two weeks ago, and I've been taking care of Jonny ever since I met her. Don't worry."

Pat chews on her lip and nods, but she looks nervous. Brenna puts down the notebook and tugs Pat into a hug. "Hey," she says. "I promise I'll take good care of her for you, Peekaboo."

Pat blinks away tears, and Brenna doesn't mention them.

"Okay," Pat says. "I guess I better get going."

Brenna escapes to the bathroom to call Duncan while Pat says her goodbyes to Jonny. She's already witnessed way more PDA from those two than she thinks is reasonable, and she's not counting on one measly broken leg to keep them PG.

"She has a notebook," she says when Duncan answers his phone. "It includes a list of approved TV shows and a feeding schedule. I wonder if she thinks Jonny is two years old."

"She is a nurse," Duncan says. "That sort of makes sense."

"In no world does this notebook make sense, trust me on this," Brenna says. "If I weren't such a good friend, I would steal it and bring it to practice next season so that Sharpy could torment them both about it."

"I would," Duncan says. "They deserve it for the time they had sex in the bar bathroom after closing and made me stay late to lock up after them."

"That's why I'm a better person than you," she says, and pictures the face she knows Duncan must be making right now. It's a good face.

"Yeah, you are," he says. "Do you want me to come over later?"

"If you want to," Brenna replies. "But we'll be okay."

Famous last words.

Less than two hours later, Brenna is in a standoff with Jonny over using crutches to hobble her way into the living room, instead of being wheeled there in the (admittedly ridiculously complicated) wheel chair Pat had commandeered from the hospital.

"Look, the notebook clearly says that you cannot put any pressure on your foot or leg until at least Tuesday," Brenna says. "Do you want me to start reading the list of possible complications that could result from early pressure? It starts with internal hemorrhaging and ends with a permanent ban on skating of any kind."

Jonny gets a stubborn look on her face, one Brenna is all too familiar with from years of practices and games with Jonny.

"She's overreacting," Jonny says. "She always assumes the worst because she's surrounded by sick and hurt people at work all the time. My doctor said I could probably start using crutches as early as tomorrow."

Brenna sighs, and flips to the back of the notebook. She finds the appropriate page and begins reading aloud.

"If Jonny continues to try and use crutches before Tuesday, she may insist that her doctor said it was okay. Her doctor's exact words were "You could try to walk on crutches as soon as two weeks after the surgery" - and now it switches to italics - "but it would most likely result in a setback of your recovery and could possibly necessitate additional bed rest at a later date." Then it says "Emphasis mine" with Pat's initials."

Jonny huffs, but doesn't say anything.

"Should I continue?" Brenna asks. "There's a bit about all the sex positions you might never be able to try again if your leg doesn't heal completely."

"Oh my god," Jonny says. "She actually put that in there? Fuck my life."

The doorbell rings, and Brenna heaves a sigh of relief. Now that Duncan is here, she can make Jonny submit to being lifted into her chair and taken to the living room, because if she doesn't, Brenna will just have Duncan sit on her. Carefully.

Later, when Jonny is in bed again and dosed up on painkillers to help her sleep, she tugs Brenna down to her level.

"Sorry I was a brat," she says earnestly, eyes wide and sincere.

"It's okay," Brenna says. She's still definitely going to remember this the next time Jonny complains about her in any way.

"Thank you for keeping me from never being able to have sex again," Jonny continues. "Or, you know, from dying or whatever."

"You are very high right now," Brenna says. "And instead of taking advantage of it by asking you embarrassing questions, I'm going to go have sex with my boyfriend in your spare room to pay you back for all the times you and Pat slipped away for a quickie in my bathroom during parties."

"Sounds good," Jonny says through a yawn. "'night, Biscuit."

Brenna smiles on her way out the door. "Goodnight, rookie."

 

+1.

At the start of the new season, Brenna sits in the back of the room with Sharpy as Jonny gives a welcoming speech to their new players. Pat's standing next to her, doing an admirable job of pretending to be an adult.

"They grow up so fast," Sharpy says, wiping away a fake tear.

Brenna snorts. "No thanks to you," she tells Sharpy, but she's joking, and Sharpy knows it.

"We can't all be as responsible as you," Sharpy says. "But good work keeping our captain from spontaneously combusting with leadership potential before she could do anything with it."

Brenna shoves Sharpy, and fights the urge to tear up a little. She finds Jonny at the end of practice, though, and gives her a hug.

"What was that for?" Jonny asks when Brenna pulls back.

"You did good in there," Brenna says.

Jonny smiles. "You mean I've come a long way from when I started?" she says.

Brenna hip checks her and starts walking to the parking lot. "I always knew you could do it, rookie."

 

[the end.]