Patrick wakes up and throws off the blankets covering him with a disgusted grunt. It’s ridiculously hot in his room, and he’s covered in sweat. He pulls at his t-shirt and grimaces when it sticks to skin, and he’s halfway to just pulling it off altogether when he pushes his way out of his bedroom, ready to go stab the heater until it dies. Except, if it was hot in his room, it’s even hotter in the living room, like summer somehow arrived overnight without telling a soul that it was even coming. Seriously—it’s March, too early for Chicago-style heat fronts.
The heater’s not even on, is the thing.
He opens the apartment door, poking his head out into the hallway to make sure it’s the entire building and not just his specific unit that’s decided to pretend it’s the Saharan Desert, and grins when he sees Tigre and Lupe hurrying into the elevator down the hall. Lupe’s sort of the building caretaker—she’s not really, but almost every unit has her hired, so she might as well be. Tigre’s her kid, a boy, maybe five or six? Patrick’s never asked, but he’s pretty friendly, and loves hockey, so whenever he manages to catch Patrick, they talk about the last Blackhawks game and Patrick always ends up promising to teach Tigre how to play, although he hasn’t owned up to that one yet.
Lupe’s English isn’t the greatest, but Patrick’s a hockey player—he knows when somebody’s roughly translatable ‘maybe later’ means ‘you’re not teaching him how to hit people for fun’. Lupe’s not as big a fan of hockey as her son is, unfortunately. She still brought him to a game once though, when Patrick got them tickets. That was pretty cool. It would’ve been cooler if they’d won, but he doesn’t think Tigre lasted the whole game anyway; Lupe said he fell asleep.
Tigre looks up at him from where he’s half-hidden by his mom’s cart of cleaning stuff, and then he’s jumping out of the elevator. His mom calls after him, something in Spanish but still sounding frazzled even to Patrick.
Everything happens pretty fast, after that. He doesn’t know if it’s a tragedy that Lupe didn’t chase after Tigre, or if it’s just blind luck that Tigre had run out of the elevator just then at all, but Tigre is just winding his arms around Patrick’s waist for a hug when the explosion knocks them off their feet.
His ears are ringing when he struggles up, and he’d been an idiot when he’d thought it was hot before, because the humidity is sweltering now. But the elevator is gone, and smoke is rising up everywhere, thick and black and bringing tears to his eyes. Tigre coughs where he’s sprawled on the ground, and Patrick can’t—
Because that didn’t just happen—it can’t have—but there’s flashes of fire coming up the elevator shaft, and when Patrick tries, heart fucking stampeding in his chest, for the stairs, the smoke is so thick he can’t see the bottom, but it’s even hotter, and he stumbles backward, grabbing Tigre’s hand as the kid starts to yell, “What’s going on!” and backpedals into his apartment, slamming the door shut.
The smoke pushes through the cracks in the door, and Tigre yells unhappily, pulling his hand back. “Kaner,” he says, because Patrick told him that’s what his teammates called him. He doesn’t sound like any of Patrick’s teammates though, or like the friendly kid that’s always playing in the hallways while he waits for his mom to get off work and take him home; no, he just sounds scared.
“It’s okay,” Patrick says, because it’s not, it’s not okay, it’s not fucking okay at all, but he thinks—he thinks Tigre’s mom just died, in that elevator, and if Tigre hadn’t ran out to say ‘hi’ because Patrick had opened his door right fucking then, Tigre would have been in that elevator with her, and Patrick has to—it has to be okay, he has to make this okay—
Patrick’s never spent too much time thinking about how fire works; how it travels or accelerates or grows. He remembers being eight or nine and climbing into the back of a fire truck when they brought it to his school though, remembers drop and roll, and to never open doors if you haven’t pressed the back of your hand to it first, if it isn’t cool on the other side, remembers something about the smoke being just as dangerous as the fire.
He looks at Tigre, and Tigre looks back at him with wide eyes, and Patrick thinks, almost hysterically, the building is on fire.
For one crazy minute Patrick thinks he has to find his phone—he has to grab his shoes, the pair Karl had given him last Christmas, with ‘PKane’ written in the soles, and he should grab his bag with all his gear, or the box stuffed into his closet with all the winning pucks he tries to steal after big games, if somebody else doesn’t manage it before him, and his cup-winning jersey, framed up in the living room.
But then he’s remembering those stupid essays they make you take on state tests when you’re in school, like, your house is on fire and you can only save three things, what are they, and all Patrick really wants to save is the kid staring up at him like Patrick’s supposed to know how to make all of this okay.
The smoke is pushing through and the air is muggy and hot. Patrick coughs, air choking in his lungs and ripping its way back out, making it hard to breathe. He bends down and grabs Tigre by the shoulders, and tries to be as serious as he can. “Tigre, you need to listen to me, okay?”
Tigre nods, but he’s looking at the door, like he wants to push through it and find his mom, but then he coughs, too, and Patrick says, “Bring your shirt up, over your nose, like this,” and demonstrates, pulling his own shirt up, tugging until it pulls against the back of his neck but hopefully blocks out breathing in all the smoke. Tigre does it too, nodding, his eyes watery but focusing on Patrick now instead of the door.
Patrick is desperately hoping somebody in a disgustingly yellow fire-retardant suit is going to kick his way through that door any minute. Objectively though, he knows that they’re on the eighth floor, that the fire is underneath them, and that the stairs aren’t an option anymore, if they ever were. They can’t wait and hope somebody figures out that they’re up here.
“Come on,” he says, and Tigre lets him hold his hand as they push through the hallway until they’re back into Patrick’s bedroom. He was hoping the air in here would be clearer, but either it’s not, or his eyes are watering too much to be able to tell. He doesn’t know where the fire is, except the elevator, doesn’t know if it’s reached his floor yet, if it’s going to start consuming his entire apartment, unforgiving and taking everything he owns.
He hesitates opening the window in his bedroom—something about oxygen being bad? but it’s not like they have a fucking choice and it’s called a fire escape for a reason, so he screws up his courage and unlatches the lock, shoving the window up. He wants to say it’s fresh air, but it isn’t. The window isn’t facing the street, more like the side-alley, but there are sirens ringing from ground-level, and when they look out they can see people anyway, streaming over the blocked-off street, cop cars parked everywhere, and another three fire-trucks with huge ladders on the ground.
He climbs out onto the metal staircase attached to the side of his building, and holds his arms out to help Tigre climb through after him. Smoke is pouring out of almost all of the windows, and visible fire is raging in what seems like at least half of them, threatening to blow out the glass and rain over the street in dangerous shards. It looks like some of them already have, even. The heat is pouring out too, not containing itself to the inside of the building. Patrick wants to get to the ground, wants to get far enough away that the heat and smoke will start to dissipate, and wants to get this kid in his arms into a paramedic’s vehicle instead.
He can hear his cellphone start ringing from somewhere on his bed through the window, and it’s the same ringtone as always, but even Taylor Swift’s voice sounds desperate. Patrick can’t go back in and get it, but the sight of fire coming out of his neighbor’s windows makes him pause, breathe deeply, and look down.
The fire escape is clear.
Patrick lets out a ridiculously relieved sigh, and starts climbing down carefully but as quickly as he can manage, holding on to Tigre’s hand tightly, like if he lets him go he’s going to lose him somehow. He isn’t wearing shoes, and the metal of the fire escape isn’t exactly made for comfort, but he barely notices. Tigre’s tennis shoes have a cartoon image of Ironman on them, and light up every time he steps down. He’s talked about them before—a birthday present from his mom, Patrick thinks.
They come to an abrupt halt maybe four stories down, after cautiously jumping around a window that’s stained black, like the edges of a candle holder if you tilt the flame too dramatically. Both their shirts get messy black, more than they already were just from the smoke swiveling around them. Tigre has a smudge on his cheek, and says, “It’s too hot,” when they have to press against the railing, so hot that it’d probably burn if they let it.
“Okay, wait, let’s try this.” Patrick goes through first, wincing, but his t-shirt blocks the heat, like an oven mitt, and he can reach over and hoist Tigre up and over the railing by lifting him under his armpits. The chaotic noises coming from below are getting even louder, it seems like, and he wonders how many people have noticed the professional hockey player climbing down a fire escape, barefoot and in messy sweats, covered in sweat and smoke and—he doesn’t even know what to call this, ash? He doesn’t really care.
“Shit,” he says, when he realizes the problem. Tigre pulls at his shirt, and then re-wraps his hand up in Patrick’s, like he knows that doesn’t mean anything good. There isn’t any fire directly underneath them, but there isn’t any more fire escape either, the last three floors worth crumbled into a metal mess on the ground.
“Kaner,” Tigre says, and Patrick looks at him, but he’s looking at the window into the bedroom of whoever this unit belonged to, and the fire that’s starting to lick its way into the room through the doorway.
“Shit,” he says again, only he barely breathes it this time. They can’t go back up, there’s nothing to go up to, and three stories is too far to jump, isn’t even close to something they could get away with. He starts to panic, looking around like crazy for something, fuck, anything to get them out of this—
About three feet away, there is. It’s another ladder, but unlike the fire escape, it’s just a ladder, built into the wall itself rather than just attached by bolts and screws with balconies under every window. He has no idea what it’s for, really, but it goes up the entire length of the building, all the way to the roof. If he remembers right, it stops about ten feet before they’d hit the ground, right over the big-ass dumpsters. He looks at Tigre, and thinks it’ll have to do.
“Okay, hey, Tigre,” Patrick says, leaning down again so that Tigre has to look right at him.
“Yeah?” he says, voice small. “What are we gonna’ do?”
Patrick wants to know why he isn’t crying or freaking out—he’s obviously scared, and he’s clinging to Patrick’s hand, staying right behind him, but he isn’t crying, or complaining, or, or anything Patrick thinks he’d be doing, if he was five and this was happening to him. But Tigre’s never been much of a complainer. Every time Patrick’s seen him, he’s calm and happy to sit and wait for his mom, coloring or playing with a ball in the hallway, excited to talk about hockey but not making a big deal if Patrick couldn’t sit and talk for very long.
He’s a good kid, Patrick thinks miserably. He looks back up at the building, his heart in his throat. Why the fuck is this happening? He wants to yell—wants to freak out, but he can’t. He can’t.
“You remember when I said you have to listen to me? And you said okay?” Tigre hadn’t, but he’d nodded, and Patrick can blur the line when he needs to. Tigre is visibly hesitating now, so Patrick plows on. “You need to listen to me now. Tigre, I need you to say you’ll do what I say.”
Finally, Tigre nods, and says, struggling between Spanish and English as he does, and quiet enough that Patrick almost can’t even hear him over the sound of the fire, and the sirens, “I—okay? Prometo. I promise.”
He wants to feel relief, but he doesn’t. It’s not that he doesn’t trust Tigre to listen, but—Patrick wasn’t made for this, for being in charge, taking on the responsibility of somebody else, let alone a kid. He was good with the rookies, sure, but all you had to do with them, really, was take them out drinking and tell them how to fix that turn-around they screwed up on during practice, and they’re putty in your hands. He can’t be Jonny here, can’t handle the responsibility if he fucks this up, and there’s so much he can fuck up, he feels like he’s already done it, getting them out here on this fucking broken fire escape, fire getting too close and smoke in their lungs, and a thirty foot drop underneath them.
He breathes, and tries not to let Tigre see how terrified he is, and wipes his hands on his sweats, nervous about how sweaty they are. “You need to hold on to me. I’m not going to hold you, because I have to climb down the ladder. You have to hold on to me. As tight as you can, and don’t let go. You can’t let go.”
Patrick picks Tigre up, lets him wrap his arms around Patrick’s neck, clinging to him. Patrick hefts him up, because Tigre needs to have a good grip. Patrick doesn’t trust Tigre to climb down that ladder by himself—even if it wasn’t scary enough, he’s five, or six, maybe, and if he slips—
Patrick flexes his fingers, and thinks it’s a good thing he goes to the gym four times a week, because Tigre doesn’t feel that heavy, and Patrick can climb a ladder, no big deal, except he’s not wearing shoes, and his hands are slippery with sweat and won’t get dry no matter how much he wipes them on his clothes. When he starts reaching over for the ladder, Tigre squeezes him so tight it actually hurts. He can feel Tigre’s heart beating rapidly, as fast as his own maybe, and wraps his hand around the bar of the ladder as tight as he can, using his forearm as much as he can.
He almost has to jump to get on the ladder altogether, and then winces when he stupidly realizes that the metal is hot, ridiculously hot under his hands and feet. He should have guessed that it would be, like the fire escape’s railings, but he hadn’t thought of it. But it’s not so hot that he can’t man up and grip the bars tight, and start climbing down.
He reminds Tigre every few steps, “Keep holding on,” and “Don’t let go, okay? Hold on,” and pushes Tigre against the ladder once, automatic and instinctive, fast and hard enough that Tigre might have a bruise from it, when Tigre starts to slip and lets out a startled cry halfway down the ladder.
“I’m sorry,” he says, grimacing, but Tigre is clinging on even tighter and pushing away from the ladder, too hot for him. That’s the point he realizes Tigre is crying—silent and holding his breath to keep from letting it out. He doesn’t know what to do, so he doesn’t do anything, and just focuses on getting down.
At some point, and Patrick obviously can’t say when, people notice him and Tigre climbing down the side of the building, and they get close enough to hear somebody, a cop, maybe, or a fireman, but Patrick isn’t turning to look, yelling at them to be careful, and that there’s only fifteen feet or so left before the end of the ladder.
The jump between the end of the ladder and the dumpster is about five feet, Patrick judges, and the guy that’s talking to him agrees, but Tigre says into his ear, “It looks too far down,” his voice wet and rough, and tugs on Patrick’s sleeve.
“I know, kid, but we really don’t have a choice. Keep holding on to me, alright?” He tries to sound reassuring, and mostly, he thinks he is—they’re fifteen feet up. Even if they fell, they’d probably be alright, more or less, and he’s never really wanted to go dumpster-diving before, but if it fucking works, it works.
Tigre nods and buries his face in Patrick’s shoulder, and Patrick swallows before squeezing his eyes shut and letting them drop. He tries to fall with his knees up and in, and with Tigre on top, and somehow, he manages it. He gets an elbow to the gut, and something hard digs into his back when they land with a big crash. Patrick can’t even spare a minute to think about how gross it smells; he’s grabbing at Tigre and saying, “Are you okay? Tigre!”
Tigre is shaking, and scrambling to wrap his arms around Patrick’s waist again, but he’s nodding his head violently and the choked up sobs finally come out, audible and loud. He lets Patrick pull him out of the big, green dumpster though, refusing to let go, and Patrick grimaces at the cop—it was a cop, all the firemen are tied up with the fire—and then wants to curse even louder when he sees at least four people with their cellphones up.
Tigre can’t seem to make his legs work, but he won’t let go of Patrick either, so Patrick pulls him up again, holding him tight and lets him cry into his shoulder.
“That was brave,” the cop says, and Patrick hears him, but mostly just lets him push him towards the paramedics at the front, far enough away from the building that they aren’t in danger of exploding windows or anything else. There are other people there, people he recognizes from running into in the hallways, or arguing with over parking spaces when the guys would come over and intrude on his neighbors spots, and some of them are fine, but most of them have blankets around their shoulders, and a few look worse for wear, covered in black smudges and the clinging humidity, just like him and Tigre.
One of them, at least, recognizes Tigre, and she gives Patrick a funny look, somewhere between devastated and relieved, and he’s not sure how those two emotions mix, exactly, but he doesn’t have time to try and figure it out, because a guy is pushing him down at the back of a truck, making him sit down so they can, whatever, check his pulse and give him an oxygen mask. Tigre refuses to take one though, and can’t keep the sobbing down, just shoves his face into Patrick’s neck instead.
Patrick responds by holding him even tighter. The paramedic says, “We really need to make sure he’s alright,” to Patrick, Patrick bounces his knee and says, “Hey, Tigre, come on. You remember all that smoke? And how I made you cover your nose with your shirt? They need to make sure we didn’t breathe too much of it in, or you’ll get sick.”
“Dijo—dijo que no—you said not to let you go,” Tigre mumbles out, desperate sounding with his choked crying, and not letting up an inch. Figures he finally starts freaking out when we’re out of the burning building, Patrick thinks, but his heart is still going a mile a minute and he still can’t—
He can’t blame Tigre for freaking out now, anyway.
“You don’t have to let me go,” Patrick amends, “just let them look at you.”
The paramedic manages, somehow, by squishing his hands between Tigre and Patrick’s chest, and then judges them both fine, if a bit bruised and battered, and makes them get off the truck to make room for an older woman who looks like she’s having a panic attack. Patrick doesn’t mind, and steps back, ignoring how heavy Tigre is starting to feel, instead making sure he’s covered up by the stupidly bright orange blanket they gave him.
It’s still chaotic on the ground, but there’s a barrier keeping people from getting too close to the building. From the front, it looks even worse. The whole lower left side of the building is black and burnt over, with fire raging heavily on the upper floors. The fire trucks have their ladders extended and hoses full of water are being used carefully.
Patrick thinks he’s about to fall to the curb of the sidewalk, when he hears his name being yelled, and barely manages to turn before Jonny is ripping his way through the crowd, and grabbing Patrick by the neck and pulling him into a huge hug, one of those all-encompassing ones that make Patrick feel like he’s sinking into Jonny’s chest. After a second though, Tigre squirms and lifts his face up, trying to crane his neck to see who Jonny is, since he’s sort of hugging Tigre too by default.
Patrick says, “Jonny, you’re squishing the kid,” and then laughs, exhausted, when Jonny lets go.
Patrick actually doesn’t know how long they sit there—not long enough to watch his apartment building burn down, but long enough that he feels like they did. Long enough that it feels like it should have, by now, just fallen into rubble and ash on the concrete.
Patrick gives his name to a cop soon enough, with his apartment number, and they clear him to leave, but then they try and get him to leave Tigre with child protective services or something. Tigre clings to him so tightly that Patrick flat-out refuses. That takes even longer.
He has to sign a bunch of paperwork—Jonny looking at it all for him, because Patrick would have just signed and been done with it—but it’s just temporary for the one night, and then they’re going to try and figure out what to do. He has to show up with Tigre at the social services facility tomorrow at like nine in the morning, earlier if a relative comes forward, and even through all of that, Patrick’s pretty sure the only reason they’re letting him take Tigre with him at all is because Jonny glares at them until they give in.
Or maybe it’s because there’s already three videos of him climbing down the side of a building making it sound like he’s some kind of heroic figure on YouTube, or just the fact that he’s a pretty popular hockey player in Chicago.
The worst is when they start to ask if Tigre’s parents are around, and Patrick has to sharply shake his head and be glad that Tigre’s given up listening in by that point, half-dozing in Patrick’s arms instead. At some point, Jonny called his parents, and the coach, who’ll let everyone else on the team know, since Patrick’s phone is probably microwave fodder by now, and told them that Patrick’s alive, even if his apartment isn’t.
He still has a vague hope for his hummer, but it’s very, very unlikely to have survived, seeing as the parking garage is the bottom floor of the building, and it doesn’t look to have made it out of this unscathed.
Jonny apologizes when they start walking because he didn’t drive, and so they have to go back to Jonny’s apartment on foot. It’s only like four blocks away though, and the streets are mostly overcrowded or blocked off, so a car wouldn’t have helped much. Tigre gets down to walk himself, still holding onto Patrick’s hand, which helps. His shoulders slump with how tired he is, and Patrick’s not sure if Tigre is still holding his hand because he doesn’t want to let go, or because Patrick doesn’t want to.
He ignores the soreness in his palms, but his feet are harder to ignore, because he isn’t wearing shoes and the ground is surprisingly cold, despite it being March in Chicago. Patrick doesn’t want to know how many people take pictures of him, Jonny and Tigre walking to Jonny’s apartment, looking like a sad, demoralized trio, but they get there, eventually, and Patrick walks straight into Jonny’s bedroom, collapsing on the bed, ignoring the television that’s still on a news channel, covering the fire at his complex.
Tigre climbs up with him, and asks, “Kaner? Are we staying here?”
Patrick lifts his head from where he’d smushed his face into Jonny’s pillow, and says, “Yeah, for now.”
Jonny has a guest bedroom they could stick Tigre in, but Patrick doesn’t even suggest it, knowing it won’t be taken well right now, and Tigre lays down after a minute, rubbing at his eyes. Patrick can’t begin to imagine how Tigre is dealing with any of this, and thinks maybe it hasn’t sunk in yet. He can’t bring himself to help it sink in though, and finds himself wishing that it wouldn’t.
Despite being exhausted, Patrick waits for Tigre to nod off for real this time before letting himself fall asleep, Tigre’s reassuring warmth right next to him. He wakes up a few hours later, and carefully climbs over Tigre, and sneaks out of the room, rubbing his face. He goes to the bathroom, and looks at himself in the mirror.
He looks pretty bad. His face is covered in a layer of dirt, and his shirt is even worse. He strips out of his clothes altogether and takes the opportunity to jump in the shower, but he makes it quick, just in case Tigre wakes up. Jonny is standing in the hall when he gets out, and silently hands over a shirt and pair of shorts.
Patrick gives him a small smile and pulls the clothes on, and then lets Jonny push him against the wall gently and tilt his head up, kissing him while he runs his hands up Patrick’s sides, like he’s checking over him for injury, even though he knows Patrick is fine. Patrick sighs into it, toes curling with how much he needed this, and didn’t even realize it.
Jonny breaks away from kissing him after a minute, just presses their foreheads together and breathes into Patrick’s space. “You okay?” Patrick asks, after a long minute of silence, not uncomfortable, but charged, like Jonny’s waiting for something.
“Sharpy called me,” he says, voice shaking, and Patrick’s throat catches, “said you weren’t answering your phone, and your apartment building was on the news.”
Patrick lets a slow breath out, but then grins, cheeky, and says, “Dumbass. You should’ve kissed me ages ago. You’re going for wrinkles, aren’t you?”
“Shut up,” Jonny grunts, and then leans down to kiss him again, slipping his hand up to rest against Patrick’s neck, big and warm, thumb rubbing against his jaw. They just stay there, kissing lazily, until Patrick winces when he leans up on his toes, trying to get a better reach, and his feet remind him that they’re not feeling so good.
He sits down on the couch while Jonny goes to dig out an ice pack, and Patrick groans loudly when he picks his foot up, and sees the beginning of at least two blisters. “No wonder my feet hurt,” he whines, and expects Jonny to call him a baby when he comes back in the room, but he doesn’t. He just hands over the ice packs, and after a minute, they adjust so that Patrick can lean back against Jonny’s chest, neither of them even bothering with the excuse of turning the television back on.
Jonny has a towel that he uses to hand-dry Patrick’s hair. It’s not normally something they do, but Patrick can’t protest, because he doesn’t want Jonny to push him away, and he thinks the wet hair might be a deal-breaker. That’s probably why Jonny’s doing it, too.
“I was worried,” Jonny says, surprising Patrick. He knows—Jonny as much as said so, earlier, but he didn’t think he’d admit it so bluntly, not really. “But you saved that kid.”
Patrick closes his eyes, twists his head around to push his cheek against Jonny’s collarbone, and he says, quietly, “I saw his mom die.”
Jonny stills, and he hadn’t been really moving before, so Patrick shakes his head, and struggles to remember what happened, just—just this morning? Jesus Christ. “She was in the elevator when it blew.” He shakes his head, and blinks quickly when his eyes start to water stupidly. “One minute it was there, and the next it wasn’t. Ten seconds, Jonny, if I’d gone out there ten seconds earlier—“ but then he stops, and says, quieter, “or ten seconds later, I guess.”
Lupe might not have been in the elevator, or Tigre might have stayed in it, a ten second difference in either direction. He wants to know how that happened, and how he’s supposed to deal with it.
Jonny can’t know exactly what he means, because he’s not explaining it very well, not really. He moves the towel though, pulling it away, and Patrick’s hair is still damp, but Jonny runs his fingers through it anyway.
“You’re being weirdly nice,” Patrick says after another minute of relaxing into it.
Jonny huffs, and says, “Don’t get used to it.”
Patrick playfully hits him, or sort of flaps his arm at him uselessly anyway, saying, “Trust me, I won’t.”
When Tigre wakes up, he runs out of Jonny’s bedroom frantically, and Patrick starts to lean forward, intending to get up and go over to him, except Tigre makes a beeline for Patrick, and practically flings himself onto the couch. Jonny makes a noise, probably because Tigre’s jump makes Patrick jump too, and his elbow hits Jonny in the stomach.
“Hey,” Patrick says, but Tigre just says, “You can’t go anywhere,” as he crowds in. “You can’t.”
Suddenly feeling guilty for leaving him in Jonny’s room in the first place, Patrick puts a hand on Tigre’s back and replies with a confirmation that he won’t. Jonny escapes eventually though, after Tigre slips back into sleep, and Patrick is somewhere between awake and dozing, even though Patrick protests and makes a grabbing motion with his hand.
“Unless you want to starve,” Jonny says, and Patrick’s stomach growls on queue, so he lets Jonny go order pizza through the phone. Jonny doesn’t own many kids movies, but they end up watching Mighty Ducks II when Tigre sort of wakes up, but isn’t willing to move.
He needs a bath, Patrick thinks, but they can do that after eating, and—
And he’s not sure how long they can go, before the your mom is dead conversation comes up, and Patrick doesn’t think he knows how to handle that. He doesn’t know how to handle any of this, really, and he’s the last person who should be in charge of a kid, ever, but he still hates the idea of just passing Tigre off to child services or whatever.
Jesus, how do people deal with situations like this?
Tigre barely eats, and doesn’t talk through the movie at all, and he’s still barely even acknowledged Jonny’s existence. He won’t let go of Patrick either, except when he gets up to go the bathroom, and he makes Patrick stand right outside the door. Patrick doesn’t mind, thinks he’d be an asshole beyond words if he did, but it makes him weirdly uncomfortable at the same time. Yeah, he bitched at the CPS lady until they let him take Tigre for the night, but that doesn’t mean he knows how to handle the responsibility of being in charge of a kid, let alone a kid dealing with the after-effects of... everything that happened this morning.
Patrick knows Lupe was a single mother, but he doesn’t know if Tigre’s dad is in Chicago or fucking Paris, and he doesn’t think she probably knew either. He doesn’t want to think about what’s going to happen tomorrow morning, when he finds out if they found him, or if Tigre’s long-lost aunt shows up or something. Mostly, he doesn’t know how to handle the fact that Tigre hasn’t asked yet, not about his mom, or any other relative.
He knows Patrick, yeah, they’ve sat around talking and Patrick’s promised to teach him to play hockey so many times he can’t count them all, and Patrick got him tickets to a game for his birthday a few months ago, but that’s not—there’s a big difference between all that, and actually being okay with Patrick being his, whatever, guardian.
If it was him, he’d’ve been crying for his dad, or grandma and grandpa, or hell, anyone, by now, throwing an absolute fit and making life a living hell until he got them. He was hoping it wouldn’t sink in, any of it, earlier, but now he’s worried about the fact that maybe it hasn’t, and it’s conflicting enough to make his head hurt. Jonny gives him a look over Tigre’s head, like he’s thinking the same thing, but Patrick doesn’t know what to do about it.
He’d be tempted to pass it off on Jonny if he thought Jonny’d do any better, or if Tigre seemed to like Jonny at all. Well, to be fair, he just doesn’t seem to notice Jonny exists at all. It wouldn’t be that big of a deal, Jonny kind of sucks at kids that don’t like him automatically because he’s a hockey player, except that Tigre is normally really friendly, easy to make friends with. He thinks everyone in his apartment complex is going to be devastated when they learn what happened; everybody loved Lupe, and especially Tigre.
The movie eventually ends, trailing off with the chorus of We Are the Champions, and Patrick sucks it up and sits up straighter, and pulls Tigre up with him. Tigre looks up at him, like he’s been expecting it. Patrick’s struck with the thought that this kid is so fucking smart. Are kids his age supposed to be this smart, or is Tigre just special, or maybe Patrick is just bias.
“Hey,” Patrick says, quietly, and Tigre’s eyes flicker over to where Jonny is sitting, but he doesn’t seem to mind that he’s there.
“Hi,” he says back, his voice a little rough.
“Your mom—“ only Patrick doesn’t know how to say it, and he chokes off.
Tigre says, “She’s not here.”
“No,” Patrick says, feeling like somebody’s hit him over the head with a sledgehammer, “she’s not.”
He looks up at Jonny desperately, and Jonny shrugs helplessly at him, looking from him to Tigre, and Patrick almost wants to laugh, just, at how obviously terrible they both are at this. It’s like the blind leading the blind.
“You remember earlier, when I made you promise to hold on to me? No matter what? You did really good.” It’s always smart to start a tough conversation with something good, right? That’s what Coach does; what Jonny does, too, if he hasn’t already reached the boiling over point.
Tigre nods, in response to the praise or just saying that yeah, he remembers. He’s looking at the floor. After a minute, while Patrick’s still struggling to think of something to say, Tigre speaks up, “I—I had to hold on, so that I wouldn’t fall. Right?”
“Yeah,” Patrick agrees.
“Mi mamá,” Tigre asks, slowly, “she—she fell?”
“Yeah,” Patrick says again, and pulls Tigre up to tuck him under his chin instead of wiping at his eyes. “Yeah.”
“Is she—is she gonna’ come back?”
“No,” Patrick says, defeated. Tigre holds onto him tighter, and Patrick can feel him trying not to cry, and when he gives in and starts sobbing again, little hitching cries in his throat that sound even louder because of the otherwise silent room. His face is a mess when he finally seems to run out of tears, and his hands are balled into fists when Patrick gets him up and into the bathroom for a bath.
Jonny doesn’t have any bath toys or anything, but he does have a bottle of bubble bath that Patrick doesn’t think he’s ever actually used, and he lets Tigre use an exorbitant amount of it, trying to cheer him up a little. It’s a lost cause maybe, considering, but he seems to like it anyway, and he gets all the traces of the fire off in the meantime.
Jonny throws Tigre’s clothes in the washing machine, but by the time Tigre gets out, they’re barely going in the dryer. Patrick hunts through all of Jonny’s drawers, but the smallest shirt he can find is still too big for Tigre. It’ll work for while they’re waiting for his clothes to get back out of the dryer anyway and maybe as a sleep shirt just for the night.
“Here you go, bud,” Jonny says, when he hands over the clothes a little while later, and Tigre takes them but doesn’t say anything to Jonny. They both let it go. Tigre’s been through enough for the day, manners aren’t that important. Tigre won’t let go of Patrick long enough to sleep on his own, so Patrick heads with him to the guest room, and he’s still tired enough that falling asleep doesn’t take any time at all.
Patrick wakes up unexpectedly, and it takes him a minute to realize that it’s because there’s a kid staring at him. He jumps, and then laughs when his heart is going a mile a minute, and he says, “Jesus, Tigre, you scared the shi—crap out of me.” He’s not good at controlling his language either, because he just doesn’t spend that much time around kids, and hockey players curse like it’s going out of style just on principle.
Tigre shrugs, and then mumbles something under his breath, and Patrick’s going to take it as an apology. A minute later though, Tigre says, “I’m hungry,” so maybe it wasn’t. They tag-team going to the bathroom, because Tigre still doesn’t like being more than an inch away from Patrick at all times, so waiting just outside the bathroom door—and talking, so Tigre can be sure he hasn’t gone anywhere—is a requirement, or something.
“Brush your teeth,” Patrick says, because he thinks it’s what his mom would say, and Jonny has a stash of extra toothbrushes hiding under his sink since their entire team likes to come over, get drunk, and crash in various weird places, but always wake up with the worst breath imaginable.
They go to the kitchen and find Jonny halfway done with breakfast, eggs and wheat toast, and Patrick grabs his plate and sits down, ready to devour the whole thing like a starving dude with a cracker. Jonny puts a plate down for Tigre too, and even has a jar of jelly out for him—which is nice for Tigre, seeing as Jonny won’t let Patrick have any, because jelly’s really not on the nutrition plan, only then Patrick narrows his eyes because why does Jonny even have any in the first place, the cheater.
Tigre hadn’t even put up a fight about brushing his teeth, so it’s a surprise when he pushes the plate away, and it falls to floor in a splatter of egg yolk and bread crumbs.
Jonny steps back, eyebrows up, and says, “Uh—“
“I don’t want eggs,” Tigre says, and his arms are crossed, and his voice angry, and it doesn’t look like he’s about to start crying or anything, but Patrick kind of gets the feeling that he is, so he doesn’t even know if he’s supposed to, what, yell? Get him something else?
“That was mean,” he says, finally, settling on it.
He doesn’t make Tigre pick it up, but gets up to do it himself, and Tigre gets down to help halfway through, like the guilt gets to him, maybe. He doesn’t apologize to Jonny though, and Patrick isn’t sure if making him is going to make things worse or not.
He gets Tigre to eat off his plate though, and Jonny makes Patrick more toast because he’s the best boyfriend you could ask for, really. Tigre makes a face at the milk, and says it tastes weird, and that’s probably because his mom must’ve bought a different kind, two percent, maybe, and Jonny buys the healthiest of everything that he can find, which takes some getting used to. Tigre drinks half a cup before insisting he can’t do it anymore, and then they get him dressed and Patrick burrows his way into Jonny’s closet, looking for something that’ll be fairly presentable, and actually fit.
He has a moment of despair when he wonders if any of his clothes made it out, and realizes that no, they probably didn’t, just like everything else in his apartment. He sits down on the edge of the bed, his hand to his forehead, and resists the urge to kick something, or go get drunk and forget all of this happened for a little while, but Tigre pulls his hand down after a minute, and Patrick remembers that he doesn’t have time to feel sorry for himself.
He needs to figure out what the insurance company is going to do about this, needs to find out about his car, about all his hockey gear, get, fuck, get new identification and debit cards, social security card, birth certificate—he thinks his mom has a copy of all the important stuff back in Buffalo, and he still needs to call her, and everybody else, probably, and he’ll need a new phone, and he doesn’t even want to think about the shit storm the media and Blackhawks PR are cooking up right now—and on top of all of that, he needs to take care of Tigre, and figure out what’s going to happen to him.
Jonny throws a button-up shirt at him, and a pair of jeans that are probably still too big, but don’t threaten to fall off or anything—so shopping in general, that’s a thing he’ll have to do too—and he thinks he’s lucky, really, that none of this hit him yesterday, because he had Jonny, and of course, Jonny’d take care of him.
He hadn’t even thought about it.
“My head hurts,” he complains, stealing a pair of Jonny’s shoes back in the living room. The shoes are too big, just like everything else, and Patrick thinks he looks more like a kid wearing his big brother’s hand-me-downs than a guy wearing his boyfriend’s clothes, unfortunately. He’s pretty sure it’s not a great look on him.
“Me too,” Tigre says, and then: “Where are we going?”
Jonny’s grabbing his keys off the counter, and Patrick says, “Social services. They want to make sure you’re okay.”
“I’m okay though,” Tigre protests, and it almost looks like he’s going to stomp his foot down and refuse to leave the apartment, and then there’s no almost about it—that’s exactly what he does. “No!” he yells, “I don’t wanna’ go! ¡No quiero ir!”
They debate about it, increasingly aggravated with every protest, until finally Patrick has to yell, “Well, I’m going, so if you don’t want to stay home by yourself, you have to come!”
Tigre is crying again, but they aren’t the horrifying choked sobs from yesterday, just—tears of anger and frustration, Patrick thinks, and Tigre still won’t let go of Patrick’s hand through the entire argument. Patrick feels terrible as soon as he yells, and then thinks helplessly that he was right, he’s horrible at this, he’s not good for a kid, except Tigre nods, finally, wiping at his tears angrily, and says, “Fine, but I still don’t wanna’ go,” and he’s still so upset that Patrick can barely even make the words out.
Jonny looks alarmed from where he’s standing behind Tigre, because Tigre had yelled at him too, at one point, when Jonny had tried to help by pointing out that they didn’t have a choice, they had to go. Patrick wonders if this ever-present feeling of exhaustion is ever going to disappear, and he’s grateful again when Jonny puts an arm around his shoulders while they walk down to the parking garage.
He sits in the backseat with Tigre and borrows Jonny’s phone to call his mom—she cries for the first five minutes, and he has to reassure her that he’s fine—and send a quick text to Sharpy, who’s threatening to come over if he doesn’t call him soon, along with the rest of the team. There’s supposed to be a practice today, but Q’s already said it’s alright to skip it—because Jonny really has taken care of everything—so long as he’s ready for the game tomorrow, and Patrick wishes that the game was tonight, because hockey...
Man, he just really wants to get on the ice.
He feels like everything would make more sense on the ice.
Sharpy’s sent him a link to like four different YouTube videos and articles on the internet, most of them talking about “PATRICK KANE, CHICAGO’S HERO,” or whatever, but one of them is a video of Jonny running over and hugging him, and apparently there’s speculation about their relationship going wild. Patrick doesn’t even know how react to that, so he ignores it.
Tigre doesn’t say no when they stop to get gas and Jonny comes back to the car with a small pack of gummi worms, handing them back to the kid. He tears into them and eats two at once, and Patrick grins and tells him to eat the heads first, because you have to savor the sugar or else it isn’t worth it.
The social services building is tall, square, and looks a bit like a prison mixed with an office building. The cubicles look like one push could send them all toppling over, like a game of dominoes. Tigre holds onto his hand so tight Patrick has to ask him to loosen his grip, and when they finally meet the woman in charge of Tigre’s case, she looks harried and tired herself, like she’s been awake all night. She introduces herself as Mrs. Fleischman, which Patrick blinks at and then can’t pronounce.
“Tigre Muñoz, right?” she asks, and seems friendly enough, looking down at Tigre.
Tigre nods, shortly, before she says, “Come with me, sweetie,” and tells Patrick to sit down and wait in the same breath. Tigre shrinks back and wraps his arms around Patrick’s waist, shoving his face into Patrick’s shirt, shaking his head fiercely, saying, “No!”
She stands back up, a frown on her face. Patrick shrugs and says, “Sorry,” but doesn’t really mean it. He doesn’t see why she’d need to take Tigre off on his own anyway.
“You took care of Tigre last night, right?” she asks as she takes him, Jonny and Tigre into an office with actual walls, instead of to a cubical. “And brought him out of the building, I believe?”
So either she’s read the paperwork or seen a YouTube video, Patrick thinks. “Yeah,” is what he answers with. “It just made sense to stay with him.”
She asks Tigre a few questions, once they coax him into actually looking at her again, and he shakes his head to most of them—if he knows anything about his dad, where he is, any aunts or uncles. He says he has a grandma, but she nods, like she already knew that.
Jonny asks, “She’s in Chicago?”
“Yes, but she’s in a nursing home, so she wouldn’t be able to keep him.” She looks back at Tigre and adds, “But we’ll make sure you get to visit her soon, how about that?”
Tigre looks at Patrick, and Patrick says, “Yeah, that sounds fun,” before Tigre nods, like he’d be okay with it. Patrick thinks he just didn’t want going to see his grandmother to also mean leaving Patrick, and his heart kind of wrenches at the idea anyway. It’s stupid—Tigre’s not his, or anything, and he’s only been his responsibility for a day, and he’s done kind of a terrible job with it already, but...
Mrs. Fleischman smiles, awkwardly, and then says, “Tigre, I know you don’t want to go very far away from Patrick, but do you think I could talk to him alone for just a few minutes? You can wait just outside in the hall.”
“His name is Kaner,” Tigre says, after a minute, and Patrick grins.
Jonny lets out a chuckle and says, “When did you start training him, Pat?”
“Years ago,” Patrick says, still grinning. “He’ll be the next draft pick for the Blackhawks, I’m telling you.”
Mrs. Fleischman shakes her head, and says, “Alright. So, Tigre? Maybe—Jonathan?—will stay with you, in the hall. Is that alright? I really need to talk to Kaner alone.”
Patrick says, “It’ll be boring anyway, and you can see me through the window.” He points, because there is a really big window in the office wall—it’s blocked off by a big set of blinds, but he jumps up and un-shutters them as he points it out. Tigre still hesitates.
“Do you have coloring books or anything?” Jonny asks her. Tigre perks up at just the mention of them, and that’s how they end up managing to get Tigre to sit on the bench outside the office, so he can color and have a clear line of sight to Patrick at the same time. Jonny goes out with him, but Tigre still doesn’t really pay attention to him.
“Alright,” she says, once the door is closed and Patrick’s turned back around to face her. “First: thank you. Situations like these are never easy; it’s good he could stay with somebody he knew, at least for a while. And I’ve seen the videos, you saved his life.”
Patrick fidgets in his chair, because for some reason, that makes him feel weird. He hasn’t really thought of it that way, although objectively he knows, that is sort of what he did? But it’s not like he chose to do it, he just... had to get out of the building. There was literally no other choice. He’s lucky he managed to save Tigre, instead of accidentally get him killed.
“Thanks,” he says, finally, but then realizes maybe he should’ve said you’re welcome? She doesn’t seem to care though, is already moving on with the conversation.
“We’re trying to find his father, but as far as I can tell, he’s in the wind. His mother—I’m assuming you know she didn’t make it out.”
It’s still hard to hear her say it, but he nods. “Yeah. God, yeah. We already talked about it.”
She almost seems surprised when he says that, and says, “You did? How did that go?”
Patrick shrugs, “Good. Or as good as it could’ve. He cried, a lot.”
She nods. “Well, thank you. It’ll be hard for him, but I have a foster family lined up, so we’ll—“
“What?” Patrick says, startled. He hadn’t really thought about it, but he’d assumed he was going to be taking care of Tigre for a while, at least. “I’ll keep him. I mean, until you can find family, or whatever.”
“That’s kind of you, Mr. Kane, but it doesn’t look like there’s any family to find. Lupe Muñoz was raising him quite on her own.”
“But that’s—no, I can’t leave him here,” Patrick argues. “I already promised him we’d go out for lunch after this. He can barely stand to not be holding my hand twenty-four-seven, how do you expect me to just leave him?”
“I understand where you’re coming from,” she says, looking a bit more serious for all the good she’s doing him, “but being a foster parent is a lot more responsibility than giving a kid a place to sleep for the night, and Tigre... Tigre is already showing signs of severe separation anxiety, he’s at high-risk of child depression, and frankly, Mr. Kane, you are not equipped to deal with that on any sort of permanent basis.”
Patrick feels like there’s a stone in his stomach, weighing him down. “That’s—that’s crazy. Are you telling me I’m not good enough to handle a kid? I think I’ve been doing pretty good so far.” He’s starting to get angry, actually, and defensive. He can’t—leaving Tigre like this, now, it’d be like a betrayal of his trust. That’s not what Tigre needs. It’s the opposite of what he needs.
“That’s not what I’m saying,” she says. “But Mr. Kane, you don’t have any experience taking care of children, and the sort of loss that Tigre is going through right now requires... attention. Your job won’t allow for that, being a professional hockey player. In any case, I can’t release him to you because you have no permanent residence at the moment.”
That’s—Jesus, she’s right, he doesn’t have an apartment anymore. He has a house, but that’s in Buffalo.
“We’ll stay in Jonny’s apartment,” Patrick says, swallowing, because he hasn’t asked, but he’s sure that Jonny will be okay with it. “Between the two of us, we can take care of Tigre better than some foster family that’s never met him. I knew his mom, and I know what he’s going through, and I know it’s gonna’ get worse, how the fuck could it not get worse? But I’ll stay with him, because taking him away right now, that’s the dumbest shit—“ Fuck, he shouldn’t be cursing if he’s trying to convince her he’s good for this kid.
But Mrs. Fleischman is looking at him now, like she’s actually considering it. “You and Mr. Toews—are you in a legally recognized partnership?”
“What?” Patrick blinks, surprised by the question, and the sudden change in topic. Actually, mostly by the question, because what?
“If you were, you’d have a much better chance of being able to keep Tigre permanently.”
“Are you—“ Patrick pauses, confused by the change of mood this lady is putting out, “—talking about adoption?”
“Aren’t you? You’re talking about getting this boy’s hopes up, that he’ll get to stay with you. What’s the difference though, in giving him up now, and giving him up in a couple of weeks? If that’s your plan, you might as well let me take him so that he can meet the foster family that’s going to have him for the next few months. They can handle the particular issues that Tigre is going to present better than... someone quite so temporary.”
Patrick vaguely recognizes that he just got metaphorically burned, because it’s harsh, the way she explains it, but it makes sense too. Is he going to keep Tigre around, just to upset him later on when he has to give him up? He wouldn’t be able to keep him, that’s— Patrick’s twenty-four, he can’t be a Dad. That’s crazy, and—and—he and Jonny aren’t married, they’re hockey players, that’s not even a possibility for them, it’s—
“Shit,” he says, and shrinks in the chair under the social worker’s gaze. He covers his face with a hand, trying to think, trying to figure this out, trying to—fuck!
“I don’t know,” he says, finally, a little crazed. How is he supposed to decide if he wants to be a dad like this? He needs time, and—he needs to make a list of pros and cons, and fuck, he needs to talk to Jonny, because it wouldn’t just be him, it’d be both of them, and Jesus, that’s... pretty much the worst proposal Patrick can think of.
Why’s he thinking of it at all, he can’t have a big, gay Canadian fucking wedding, the media would kill him and Jonny both, and the NHL would freak the fuck out, and he’s— Just this morning he was trying to figure out how to deal with a kid having a temper tantrum, he can’t be a Dad, he just can’t. He’s not ready for that, not even close.
But he can’t send Tigre away, it’d break him.
“Keep him for one more night,” she says, finally, breaking him out of his thoughts. “Think about it. Talk to Mr. Toews. See what you’re willing to do, and what you want to do. Think about what would be best for Tigre. Try to... wean him off of being quite so attached, if you can. Come back tomorrow, and we’ll either get Tigre to a more permanent family, or we’ll start looking into other avenues.”
“Yeah,” Patrick says, almost choking on his own tongue, and when he walks out of the office after signing some more paperwork, Tigre jumps up, crayons spilling to the floor, and hugs him again. Patrick bends down with his knees, hugging Tigre back tightly, curling a hand into his dark hair. Jonny gives him a look, and mouths, ‘You okay?’
Patrick doesn’t know if he should nod or shake his head, doesn’t know if he’s okay, really, because he thinks—he lost everything, yesterday, his entire apartment and everything he’d ever deemed important enough to keep, it’s gone, and today, he’s halfway to... having a kid.
That’s too much, and he stands up. Tigre lets go, but keeps a hand on Patrick’s shirt as he walks over and hugs Jonny too, drawing him in until Jonny hugs him back.
“Come on,” he says, finally, because it’s been hours since breakfast. “Let’s go eat something the nutritionists will yell at us for later.” He doesn’t think Tigre will have got that, and he knows Jonny did, but they both say, “Okay,” at the same time, and Patrick laughs so hard he almost cries.
They stop at McDonalds, and Patrick savors every bite of his deliciously terrible french fries, hot and salty, and ignores every face Jonny makes when he lifts one up, offering to share. Jonny’s only mad because he wants some too; he’s just too noble to give in to his body’s true needs. Tigre sits next to Patrick, but only eats half of his happy meal in-between longing looks at the play area, huge multi-colored tubes you climb through that Patrick has no hope of fitting in, and finally asks, “Can I—“
Patrick jumps on it, says, “Yeah, we’ll watch you from here. Leave your shoes.”
As soon as he’s out of hearing distance, Jonny says, “Thought he was going to break out the super glue here soon.”
Patrick hums, and then says, “The social worker called it separation anxiety.”
“You were in there for a while, looked pretty shook up when you came out. What’d she say?”
He’s planning on figuring it out himself, or maybe carefully laying it out for Jonny to look at, and convince him he’s crazy for considering it at all, but instead, what he says is, “We need to get married in order to keep him.”
Jonny’s quiet, staring at him, and then finally makes a face, like what the hell are you talking about, Patrick, but what he actually says is, “She—we need to what?”
Patrick groans and drops his head to the table so he can’t see Jonny’s face anymore. He groans again, for good measure, when Jonny kicks at him under the table and says, “Patrick, what the hell?”
“I know, I know,” he says, lifting his head up. Tigre is waving out from one of the tube-y windows, so Patrick waves back, and after a second, Jonny does too, before Tigre turns around and disappears back into the tube. Probably to find a slide. Patrick’s favorite part was always the slides. The biggest, tallest ones.
“It’s not like I actually think we should,” Patrick says, despairingly, “but what am I supposed to do? She wanted to take him away, right then. I’d already promised we’d come here, and he can barely stand to go five feet from me, I mean, fuck, Jonny, what am I supposed to do?”
“That’s not your responsibility. You can’t be his dad, it’s not your job, Patrick,” Jonny says. “You don’t—neither of us knows a thing about raising a kid.”
“I know,” Patrick says back, but he’s already picking up Tigre’s shoes, because Tigre is running back over already.
“Have fun?” Patrick asks when Tigre climbs back up next to him, grabbing at one of the chicken nuggets he hadn’t already eaten.
“Yeah,” Tigre says in-between bites, and then he swallows and adds, “I mean, yes.”
They stop by a department store and grab some clothes that’ll actually fit Patrick, and some for Tigre too, and Patrick buys another phone on the spot as well, even though Jonny says he’d probably find a better one at a store actually specializing in electronics, but whatever, an iPhone is an iPhone, right?
He lets Tigre play Zombies vs. Plants on the way back to the apartment, and complains loudly when he gradually realizes that Tigre is better at it than he is. “You’re, like, five,” Patrick says, annoyed.
Tigre gives him an unimpressed look and says, “I’m six.”
Patrick wants to say something about him being a tiny six-year-old, but realizes that maybe won’t go over well, and so he bites his tongue and says, “Still too young to beat me at video games. This is just wrong.”
“Everybody beats you at video games, Patrick,” Jonny says from where he’s driving, and Patrick yells loudly, but Jonny just laughs and Tigre goes back to being on level bazillion and two of the game already.
It gives Patrick an idea for once they’re at home and standing around like none of them really know what to do, and he pulls out Jonny’s PS3 and boots it up. Tigre says he’s never played NHL 10, which is a shame, really, so Patrick puts that one in first and hands over one of the controllers, and spends the next hour showing Tigre how to play.
He leaves Tigre to it, eventually, and sets his phone up with all his contacts—using Jonny’s phone to do it—before sending off a mass amount of texts to let everyone know it’s him, and that he has a new number. It’s probably smart to get a new number every once in a while anyway. Telemarketers are annoying as fuck.
“You need a nickname,” Patrick says after a while, when Jonny’s come in and settled up next to Patrick, watching them play. “A hockey nickname.” He says it because ‘Kaner’ on the screen just scored a goal, and mini-Tazer did, a little earlier, and Tigre hadn’t looked like he believed Patrick when he’d said, “Hey, that one’s Jonny!”
“A nickname?” Tigre asks, unsure.
“Yeah. I’m Kaner, Jonny’s known as ‘Tazer’. You could be... the Tiger!” Patrick says, and jumps forward with a fake growl, making Tigre yell and laugh and scoot backward on the couch to avoid Patrick’s hands. Patrick still catches him and tickles him for a minute, before letting go, instead sitting back and enjoying his handiwork as Tigre pants and puts his arms up, guarding against future surprise tickle attacks.
“Do you like tigers?” Patrick asks, just to be sure. Then he adds, “They’re Jonny’s favorite animal.”
Almost shy, Patrick thinks, Tigre’s eyes dart from Patrick to Jonny and back again, and says, “They are?”
“Yeah,” Jonny says, like he’s not sure if he’s actually been invited into the conversation or not. “I always wanted to be one, when I was little.”
“Why?” Tigre asks, and now he’s actually looking at Jonny, eyes wide.
“They’re fast,” Jonny says, like it’s obvious, “and they eat things.”
Patrick thinks all wild cats behave like that, but Tigre is grinning, and he says, “Yeah! Me too! Tigers are awesome!” and he doesn’t really want to interrupt Jonny and Tigre’s first bonding experience, so he casually hands over the controller to Jonny and lets them get back into playing the game. He’s relieved: he was starting to think Tigre’d never start to genuinely like Jonny.
Tigre begins nodding off after a while, and Patrick picks him up, carrying him to the guest bedroom where they’d slept the night before. “Hey,” he says quietly, as he deposits Tigre onto the bed, grabbing the blankets and holding them up so that Tigre can squirm into them comfortably. “Do you think you can sleep on your own tonight?”
It takes a minute, but Tigre nods, eventually. He doesn’t actually let go of Patrick’s sleeve though, so Patrick sits down on the edge of the bed and they talk quietly until Tigre falls asleep again. He pulls away and leaves the room, closing the door as silently as he can.
He and Jonny play another round before turning the PS3 off, and Patrick is cautiously messing with his icepacks when Jonny brings it up again. “He seems like he’s doing pretty good. He’ll be fine with a foster family. We have a game tomorrow, and the day after that. We can’t keep him.” Patrick had been trying not to think about it.
“I know, it’s just...” he trails off, not really knowing what he’s supposed to say.
“No, Patrick. He’s not a pet that you can leave at home and pay somebody to come over and feed him when we’re on away games. He’s a kid, he’d need you to be there every day.”
“Can we just, not talk about it, right now?” Patrick tries, a little desperate. He leans up and kisses Jonny instead, and Jonny allows him the distraction, kissing back. It’s sweet and simple and somehow doesn’t turn into anything else, even though they haven’t had sex in three days, and Patrick usually can’t last two without getting cranky. But he still feels exhausted, his blisters are mood-killers, and there’s a kid down the hall, so when they turn off the television and climb into Jonny’s bed, they just curl up and go to sleep, Jonny’s breath slowly evening out, the way it always does when he’s concentrating on getting his exact minutes of REM cycle rest.
It’s the good kind of familiar, and it lulls Patrick to sleep faster than he’d care to admit.
The clock in Jonny’s room blinks dull and green at him, 2:23 A.M. He wakes up with his heart beating fast, feeling hot even though the air conditioning is on, and it’s cool enough to shiver without blankets. Jonny is curled up behind him, a hand clasped comfortably against Patrick’s hip. Patrick huffs and turns, staring up at the ceiling.
He doesn’t know how long it is before Jonny’s door creaks open, and Tigre pads into the room, new pajama pants dragging across the carpet. His hand pushes at Patrick’s shoulder, to wake him, maybe, if Patrick wasn’t already awake. Tigre is hiccupping and sniffling hard, wiping at his nose with the back of his other hand, and with tear tracks down his cheeks. “Kaner, echo de menos mi mamá,” he mumbles, quietly.
“Come on,” Patrick says, voice surprisingly sleepy, and lifts up the blankets until Tigre climbs in, pressing close like Patrick can protect him from the bad dreams. “I fell,” Tigre whispers, and he’s shaking. “You said to hold on, but I—I didn’t, and I fell.”
“It was a nightmare,” Patrick says slowly, reminded of his own dream that he thinks might have been headed in that direction too. “It’s okay,” he adds a minute later, rubbing his hand against Tigre’s back until he calms down, until he starts breathing regularly enough that he must be falling back to sleep, and Patrick can follow suit, comforted by the warmth of Jonny behind his back, and Tigre safe in front of him.
The social worker didn’t give him a time for when he had to bring Tigre back around, so Patrick lets him sleep in, poking Jonny unceremoniously in the stomach to wake him up instead. They quietly juggle pillows and limbs and try to get out of the bed without alerting Tigre to what they’re doing. Jonny goes straight for the coffee pot, and once he has a cup, he looks at Patrick like he isn’t some kind of weird zombie without caffeine, and rudely says, “Your hair is a disaster.”
“And there goes the short period of my life where my boyfriend was actually nice to me,” Patrick sighs, already missing it, yet still grinning because for some weird reason, he likes it when Jonny is mean to him. It’s Jonny’s way of showing he cares. They had a whole week in Winnipeg last year where Jonny spent the whole time trying to figure out how to say I love you without actually saying any of the words. Patrick eventually ruined it for him by just clapping a hand over Jonny’s mouth and saying it himself. He’s actually pretty sure Jonny’s still holding a grudge over it, but whatever, Patrick wasn’t going to wait forever.
“I’m just telling the truth. It looks like you were in a tornado.”
“Yeah, yeah, drink your caffeine,” Patrick says, but then moves to box Jonny in, leaning up to kiss him, a mix of coffee and morning breath and absolutely, disgustingly perfect. Jonny kisses back for a minute, before finally screwing up his face and pulling back.
“God, it’s like your breath gets worse every day. Go brush your teeth.”
Patrick does, happily, and contemplates getting in the shower too, but mostly he wants to go back out to the kitchen and make out with Jonny before Tigre wakes up and they lose the opportunity. It feels like a power play, kind of. He says so when he walks back out and Jonny is scratching his stomach absentmindedly, his shirt riding up as he does it.
Jonny huffs and lets his shirt drop, but leans in to kiss Patrick again, biting gently at his bottom lip and tugging.
“Hey, so,” Jonny says, pulling back. Patrick whines and follows him, thinking that kissing is always a better alternative to talking—although he usually likes talking, and talks so much that Jonny kissing him is the only way to get him to shut up.
“What?” Patrick asks grumpily.
“Maybe we should get married.”
Patrick waits for the rest, but Jonny just keeps looking at him, face serious as ever, and Patrick’s pretty sure his eventual, “What?” is more a squeak than anything else.
Jonny nods, but lets go of him, and backs up. “I have a, uh,” and he makes a noise, like he’s not sure what he’s even saying, but he reaches out to the funky cookie jar his mom bought him like three years ago, when she’d insisted his kitchen needed a more homey touch. Patrick’s pretty sure Jonny’s never actually used it before in his life, so he’s really fucking confused when Jonny’s opening it, and reaching his hand in, and pulling out a little fucking black box. “I, uh,” Jonny keeps on, “have a ring.”
Patrick is stunned into silence, for—yeah, no, not for long at all, because instead he’s blurting out, “Oh my God. You have an engagement ring hidden in a cookie jar! What the hell?”
Except then Jonny almost looks shifty, and he’s fidgeting, and Patrick’s pretty sure he just realized why Jonny hid the fucking ring in the cookie jar, of all places, because he’s constantly complaining when Patrick comes over and opens all the cupboards, looking for his stash of non-nutritionist verified snacks, and Patrick yells, “You were wanting me to find it! Jonny!”
“What? You’re always going through my stuff, I figured you’d see it and just...” Jonny trails off, crossing his arms. He hasn’t even opened the box, but Patrick isn’t looking at it anyway, he’s looking at Jonny’s stupid face, trying to figure out when he missed the queue that they were going from ‘boyfriends’ to ‘husbands’ anytime soon, because what the hell. That—a proposal had not even been on Patrick’s fucking radar.
He feels like he needs to sit down. “Just what, rejoice and run out and say yes, let’s have a big fucking gay Canadian wedding?” He’s maybe freaking out a little, and he acknowledges that, but Jonny— “Oh my God, this was the worst proposal ever,” Patrick whines, mostly to himself, and finally sinks into a chair at the kitchen table.
Jonny has that little crease on his forehead that says he’s getting annoyed, and he says, kind of stern, “Look, are you going to marry me or not? I can put the ring back in the cookie jar.”
“Don’t put it back in the cookie jar!” Patrick yells, appalled. “Give me a minute here, Jesus. When were you gonna’ tell me about this?”
“When was—when you found it! How was I supposed to know you’re a dumbass who never looks for cookies and shit in the actual cookie jar,” Jonny yells.
Patrick throws his hands up and yells back, “You never have cookies! I don’t think you’ve used that since your mom bought it for you!”
“Yeah, well, the joke’s on you because I’ve been using it for the last fucking month,” Jonny says, seething.
Patrick wants to hit something. “You’ve had an engagement ring hiding in your kitchen for a month?”
“You know what? Fine, never mind,” and Jonny stubbornly drops the ring back in the jar, slamming the lid on top of it. Softer though, he says, “It’ll be there when you want it.”
“I want it!” Patrick yells, and he hadn’t actually realized that was true until he said it. “You just—this is totally—“ out of the blue, he wants to say, but it’s not really. They’ve been dating for years, they’ve gone home with each other and met the families and if they weren’t famous athletes, they probably would be married by now. But they are famous hockey players, they can’t get married. “How is this supposed to work? We can’t get married in secret, man.”
“Who said I want it to be a secret?” Jonny says, and if Patrick didn’t know him so well, maybe he wouldn’t be able to tell that Jonny actually sounds hurt, right then.
“Hey, no,” Patrick says, because no fucking way can Jonny act like that, “we agreed that we wouldn’t tell anyone. You said it was a good idea too, so you don’t get to fucking feel sorry about it.”
Jonny makes a noise in his throat, frustrated, and he says, “Yeah, in the beginning, maybe, but we—it’s not like we’re not in this for keeps, Patrick, we both know that. We can’t keep it secret forever, and I don’t fucking want to. I want people to know that you’re...” Jonny breathes out, like he’s giving up, “mine.”
Patrick pauses, his heart in his throat, and his stomach twisting up into knots. “Oh,” he says, swallowing. And then, “I—me too, I guess? I just... never thought about it. But I mean, yeah, Jonny, I wanna’ marry you.”
He’s almost surprised nothing explodes when he says it, because it feels life-changing somehow, even though it isn’t, not on its own. Jonny’s glaring at him though, somewhere between apprehensive and relieved, and maybe a little bit happy too, so Patrick pushes up out of the chair and says, “Fucking give me the ring already. I can’t believe you didn’t get down on one knee for this.”
Jonny is grinning, and digs his hand back into the cookie jar to pull the stupid box out, and—it’s just a fucking box, Jesus, but Patrick can’t stop staring at it, now, now that’s it’s his, now that he’s said he wants it. But then it’s not a box, it’s a ring, a silver band, kind of plain but thick and sized perfect to slip onto his finger, and it’s so fucking good that Patrick kind of wants to go wave it front of everyone he knows and say, “Ha!”
A little broken up, maybe, Patrick says, “Okay, now you kiss me,” and Jonny does.
The thing is, explaining to Tigre that he’s going to be staying with another family—a foster family, instead of with them, doesn’t go very well. Actually, that’s an understatement, a massive, massive understatement. Tigre yells, cries, yells more, but in Spanish, and then locks himself in Jonny’s room, and refuses to unlock the door and come out for about an hour.
Patrick yells at Jonny, too, because why does he even have a lock on his bedroom door? He’s the only one who lives in his apartment, it makes no sense. (And then Jonny yells back that Patrick can move in any time he wants, and God, that’s another argument altogether—except they’re engaged now, should he move in? Has he already moved in? He thinks he’s already moved in. Shit.)
The car trip is tense, Tigre refusing to look at either of them, and Patrick sits up front this time, because of the fierce glare Tigre shoots him when he tries to get in the back. Jonny looks at him uneasily, and the trip is silent, because Patrick shuts the radio off when everyone seems to be talking about the fire still, updates and questions and “What is Patrick Kane doing?”
The guilt gnaws at Patrick the entire way, progressively getting worse with every red light and stop sign along the way.
But he can’t just... keep Tigre, for so many reasons, all of them hashed out with Jonny.
Their job isn’t conducive to raising a kid, let alone a kid like Tigre, who can’t bear to be away from Patrick for very long at all, nor very far. His mom died two days ago—that’s—Patrick doesn’t know how to help him get through that. It’s too much, even if Tigre isn’t freaking out about it as much as he could be. (And that’s a-whole-nother argument, because is that healthy? Patrick doesn’t know.) He’s twenty-four, same as Jonny, and that’s just way too young to have a kid. Well, no, technically it’s not, but suddenly being in charge of a six-year-old? Doesn’t that require, like, maturity and experience and shit? What if they mess up? What if Patrick ruins this kid’s life?
He can’t have that on him.
He sinks lower into his seat, and very clearly thinks about how after all this is over, and after they’ve beat the Predators into the ice tonight, he’s going to get so shit-faced drunk, and he can’t do that if he has a kid, right? Like, there are boundaries and responsibilities and you can’t go get shit-faced at bars and end up in Deadspin when you’re supposed to be taking care of a kid.
Patrick doesn’t know who he’d be without his bi-weekly Deadspin appearances. He doesn’t think anyone would, and maybe that’s actually not a good thing, whether he has a kid or not, but he can’t—
He’s not good enough to raise a kid.
The only thing he’s ever really done right, is hockey. And Jonny, maybe, but considering how many times he did that wrong first, it might not be a good example. But that leaves him with... just hockey, and all that proves is that he knows how to wake up early and skate until his feet bleed, and his wrist actually fractures, because of how often he practices.
That’s not exactly role model material, is the thing.
So he knows what he’s doing, when they park and get out of the car, and walk into the social services building. He knows this is what’s best for Tigre, so that he has a family that can actually take care of him, help him the way he’s going to need help, be there, all the time, and not fuck it up just because... just because they can.
But Tigre, as angry as he was, doesn’t take three steps before he’s winding his hand into Patrick’s, clinging onto him so tightly that you’d think Patrick was taking him to an execution block. He looks—he looks terrified, worse than when they were climbing down a hot a ladder thirty feet in the air, down a burning building where his mom just died.
The same woman as last time is there again, and she looks up, and she smiles, and it looks wrong. Nobody should be smiling for this, he thinks, and looks at Jonny. Jonny isn’t smiling either, his face set.
“Hello, Tigre,” she says, looking at Tigre like he’s not hiding behind Patrick already.
“I don’t want to,” he says, pitched low.
“The Hernandez family is very nice, Tigre. They even have a daughter a little younger than you.”
“No,” he says again, and Patrick feels like he should say something—fuck, say anything, but his throat is caught. He looks at Jonny desperately. Jonny shakes his head.
“Tigre,” he says, finally, but doesn’t know to tell him, so he shuts his mouth.
“Why are you afraid, Tigre? I won’t bite, I promise.”
Maybe she thinks that’s supposed to make him less afraid, but it definitely doesn’t work. Tigre flinches and hides his face in Patrick’s jacket, a familiar reaction already, but he mumbles something none of them can hear. When they eventually get him to look up, what he says is, “Have to hang on to Kaner. I don’t—I don’t wanna’ fall.”
It hits Patrick like a two-by-four to the gut, and he sinks into one of those stupid plastic chairs they have pushed against the walls, designed to be uncomfortable as possible, and puts his face in his hands. He isn’t surprised when Tigre follows him up, or when Mrs. Fleischman confusedly says, “Fall?”
What is surprising—and he doesn’t know if he’s terrified or relieved—is when Jonny says, gruffly, “If—if adoption is the long-term goal, we can keep Tigre as a foster until all the details are settled, is that right?”
Patrick snaps his head up, eyes wide, mouth falling open. The social worker seems to be blinking her surprise out in quick succession, before she says, “I—yes, that’s... how it works. Are you sure? It’s not a decision to be made so lightly—“
“We’re sure,” Jonny says, stubborn as an ox.
Absently, Patrick thinks, Tigre still clutching his arm, that his mom probably won’t mind Patrick getting married in Winnipeg instead of Buffalo if she’s getting a grandchild out of it at the same time. But then he thinks, Tigre is afraid of falling, and alright, Patrick has no idea how to—he doesn’t know how to help Tigre with this, with any of it, but fuck if he’s going to just walk away and not even try.
Patrick’s mostly dazed for the next couple of hours, and Jonny ends up calling Q and Brisson about the... everything. Patrick does call Sharpy to ask if Abby’s coming to the game though, and if she wouldn’t mind keeping Tigre with her and Maddie, in the closest seats they can find to the ice, so that Tigre can wave through the glass and he and Jonny can keep an eye on him.
They’re pretty much expecting another tantrum about it, except Tigre is remarkably well-behaved, and after a little while, they realize it’s because Tigre’s just really excited that he gets to go attend another Blackhawks game, instead of being sent off like they’d told him this morning. In hindsight, Patrick thinks that makes sense. But then there’s about ten minutes when Tigre remembers his mom taking him to the last one he went to, and Patrick panics that this isn’t going to work after all, none of it, because if Tigre can’t go to games—except Tigre seems to shake it off when he meets Maddie.
“He’s a kid,” Jonny says, scratching at his nose when Patrick mentions how worried he is. “They’re resilient.”
Sharpy and Abby come over with Maddie, for introductions before the game. The first thing Sharpy does when he gets through the door is drop Maddie’s baby bag on the floor and drag Patrick into a tight hug, before Patrick even has a chance to give Maddie a kiss and hug. “Glad you’re okay, man,” Sharpy mutters, before letting him go, and Patrick nods, smiling.
Maddie almost immediately distracts Tigre from everything else, even Patrick, and after a while, Tigre agrees to stay with her and Abby for the half hour or so that he won’t be able to see Patrick or Jonny before the game, so long as she promises to buy him a jersey that says ‘KANE’ on the back to wear during the game.
It was Jonny’s idea actually, and Patrick beams at him as soon as he suggests it, and then resolves to blow him as soon as they have a minute to themselves again. Not that he wasn’t already planning to do that, but a little extra incentive can’t hurt.
With the kids distracted in the living room, Sharpy pulls him and Jonny into the kitchen to talk. “You freaked me out, Peeks,” he says. “Then you go and get all heroic. Have you seen any of the YouTube videos yet? You were in the newspaper too, I bet one of the guys’ll have a copy.”
“That’s a good point,” Jonny interrupts. “We haven’t really watched the news since yesterday.”
Patrick sighs heavy. “I don’t want to.”
“We could get Brisson to issue a statement about it?” but Jonny sounds as doubtful as Patrick feels.
“Uh, I think that’s already been done,” Sharpy says, slowly. “I mean, not about fostering the kid you saved, pretty sure nobody’s found that part out yet. But about the whole ‘our star player is a hometown hero’ thing? Yeah. They jumped on that like fucking sharks.”
“About that,” Patrick says, perking up, “it’s not so much fostering as adoption.” He figures ripping off the metaphorical band-aid is always the best approach when liquor’s not already available. “We’re getting married first though,” he adds.
It’s safe to say talking about the media is derailed for a little while.
It doesn’t work so well when they get to the arena though.
Abby takes Tigre and Maddie off to buy the promised jersey, Tigre holding Maddie’s hand like he’s taken it as his responsibility to make sure she doesn’t run off, and Abby sort of trailing behind them with an amused smile on her face. Patrick watches them go, and then attempts to stealthily get inside the arena without being seen by any reporters that’ve camped out, waiting for players to start showing up.
They’re seen about halfway in, and Patrick gets to answer a couple generic questions—“No injuries? How’s it feel to be a hero?”—before they can make the excuse of, “Sorry, game soon! We’ve gotta’ go!”
Q looks less than impressed when they run into the locker room, but he’s always unimpressed with Patrick, mostly. And Sharpy. He likes Jonny though, which nobody understands.
“A call would have been helpful,” he says, aimed at Patrick.
“I left my phone in the burning apartment building?” Patrick says, because it’s the best excuse he has, really, and way better than I kind of didn’t want to think about it, talk about it, deal with it at all, sorry. He’s hit again by how entirely unprepared for parenthood he is.
Jonny speaks up. “He needed the time to rest, get back on his feet. We were hoping to wait a few days before he has to really talk about it to the press. We’re just going to focus on the game tonight, coach.”
Patrick’d be annoyed about jumping in, except he’s too relieved when Q nods, like that was a good answer. “Good,” he says, so Patrick thinks yep. “Get on the ice, warm up.”
As soon as they’re done with Q, half the guys rush over and grab him into a ridiculously huge bear hug, Seabs being the instigator. “Did we score a goal?” Patrick yells from the middle where he’s being weighed down by five two-hundred pound guys, and then somebody messes his hair up and there’s laughing and asking him how it feels to be a hero, and griping about not calling immediately to say he was okay—everything he expected, mostly, and he grins and answers all of it much easier than he did with the reporters.
He doesn’t bring up Jonny and him, or Tigre, just yet. He figures that’s the kind of news you give after a game, or on a day off, not twenty minutes before the puck drops.
“I don’t need to get cleared or anything?” Patrick wonders idly a few minutes later, pulling on his shoulder pads. He’s not hurt—blisters don’t even count, this is hockey—but you’d think they’d be more concerned about it or something.
He assumes they’re waiting until after the game for the lectures he’ll be getting.
“Bowman got the paramedic’s evaluation pretty quick,” Jonny says nonchalantly. Patrick glares at him in response, for the first time wondering how much shit Jonny has been blocking for him the past couple days. It would have been easy for him too, since Patrick didn’t have his phone, and was trying to ignore everything that wasn’t in Jonny’s apartment already.
Still, that’s not Jonny’s job, and Patrick frowns down at his skates.
They’re playing the Preds, and get down to business pretty quick even when they skate out on the ice and the crowd is fucking wild, all red and black everywhere. It takes a minute for him to find Tigre in the audience, but he’s with the other families, close behind the bench, sitting next to Maddie. It looks like Abby gave into twin demands for cotton candy and nachos. Tigre jumps up and waves when he sees Patrick looking, and then turns around and gestures at the name on his jersey, and Patrick gives him a thumbs up. Maddie waves too and copies the gesture, and she’s wearing a ‘KANE’ jersey too. Abby has to hold her up so that he can actually see her, she’s still so short. Patrick points it out to Sharpy, who just laughs and waves back at his girls.
Patrick feels pretty good, even though he’s not starting tonight, and isn’t on the same line as Jonny. It’s a close game in the end, but they win when Shawsy makes the last goal in the second period, and the goalies block everything that comes at them until the clock runs out in third.
They usually take their time after the game, with reporters coming in to talk to them as soon as nobody’s in danger of having their junk on video camera. But tonight, Patrick has double the reason to get dressed fast: he doesn’t want to talk to reporters, since he doubts it’ll be about hockey, and he’s crazy worried about Tigre and wants to go grab him, even though he’d seemed to be pretty happy whenever Patrick checked on him during the game.
Jonny’s the captain, and so he doesn’t really have a choice; he has to stay behind and answer questions about the game, and field the ones about Patrick.
It’s not like he thinks he can avoid it forever, but Bowman’s probably already setting up some sort of press conference and Jonny’s been holding that off too, for Patrick’s sake. Actually, yeah, Patrick would put money on that bet. That sounds a lot more controlled than, say, wild reporters on the prowl in the locker room.
He doesn’t know if that sounds more like a cheesy porno or Discovery Channel, but Shawsy helps him sneak out before it’s an issue either way. Tigre is anxiously waiting with Abby in the parking area gated off for the players and staff—it’s not open to the public, basically, and he runs up when he sees Patrick heading towards him.
“You were awesome!” Tigre yells, and Patrick bends down to wrap him up in a hug.
“Did you have fun with Maddie?”
Maddie is asleep in her car seat already, it looks like, but Tigre says yes anyway, and then politely thanks Abby for letting him stay with her during the game. They wait around together for Sharpy and Jonny, and when they finally come out, it’s with the news that there is indeed a press conference scheduled for tomorrow morning, because the press is threatening to resort to stalking.
Patrick groans and gets in the car.
“Pat,” Jonny says, slowly, about halfway home, “what did you want to say about, uh, us? And Tigre. To the press, I mean. We should figure it out.”
Patrick’s eyes go wide, and he asks, strangled, “We’re doing that tomorrow?”
“No, Jesus,” Jonny says, alarmed, “I haven’t even called my parents.”
“Oh, good,” Patrick says, because he hasn’t either, and if his mom found out via the internet, she’d kill him. That probably means he should call her though, when they get back to the apartment.
They’re quiet again, even though Patrick realizes he didn’t really answer Jonny’s question. He thinks about it, not sure—it’s kind of a triple blow: gay, engaged, adopting a kid. Do they say it all at once? Will Bowman kill them in their sleep if they do? Obviously they have to warn the team and corporate and all the suits about it before they tell the press anything, but it’s not like they’ll be able to keep it quiet for long. Actually, he’s pretty sure half the internet already thinks something is going on, just judging by Sharpy and YouTube and the fans in the crowd tonight.
“Do you want to get married in a church?” Patrick asks, absently. “Or we could do, like, an outside thing. I always liked the idea of getting married outside. Winnipeg’ll be cold as hell though, huh?”
Jonny is giving him a weird look, keeping his eyes on the road mostly, but darting them towards Patrick every few moments. “Huh,” he says, finally, “you want—Winnipeg?”
Patrick rolls his eyes. “If you’d rather do it in Buffalo—“
“No, Winnipeg is good,” Jonny says, quickly. “We can have the ceremony wherever you want. We could rent out a garden or something.”
“Cool,” Patrick says, and then adds, “Hawaii for the honeymoon, right? We’re so fucking on a beach. I mean—“ He looks into the backseat quickly, but Tigre is folded against the door, drooling a bit and totally passed out.
“I don’t think we could get away with that in Hawaii,” Jonny says. “Beaches are crowded.”
“We’ll figure it out. I want sand in all the uncomfortable places. Don’t give me that look. Jonny—eyes on the road. Eyes on the road!”
Somehow, with no thanks to Jonny, they get home alive. Jonny is the one who ends up managing to carefully lift Tigre out of the backseat though, and he carries the kid all the way up and into the apartment, and the guest bedroom, without waking him up. Patrick is impressed enough that he forgets about the plan to call his mom, and instead shoves Jonny against the wall as soon as he drags him into his—their?—bedroom.
They’ve never had to actively try to be quiet before, not in Jonny’s apartment, or Patrick’s, and really, they didn’t even bother when they were roomies on the road, because all the guys knew about them, and it’s not like they were screamers, either of them. But Patrick is just... aware, now, of how they can’t be loud. Luckily though, the guest bedroom is way down at the other end of the hall, so it probably won’t be an issue.
And he’s overwhelmingly glad that Jonny has a lock on the door now.
Technically they’re both tired, just played a game and everything, but sex—sex has not been had in almost four days, and in Patrick’s estimate, that’s about four days too long. Besides, he’s so fucking turned on by Jonny’s everything; his stupidly strong arms and huge ass thighs, and that ridiculous way his eyes go all half-lidded when he’s aroused, and breathes with his mouth half open, like it takes too much work to keep it closed.
Patrick thinks he probably looks like just as much of a dork in the middle of a make out session, so he forgives Jonny for his face, really.
He bites at Jonny’s bottom lip, and pushes their groins together until Jonny pushes back, rocking against each other and the wall as they kiss hurriedly. Fuck, it feels good, warm and familiar and making his entire stomach do flips in anticipation for what’s coming next. Jonny’s hands are pressing into his waist, the curve above his hips, and that feels good too, but a different kind of good, the kind that makes his throat catch, makes him want to watch.
Jonny’s fingers are long, and his palms rough from years of hockey calluses, same as Patrick’s, but Patrick is pretty sure Jonny could make him come using nothing but his stupid fucking hands—no, actually, he’s positive, because Jonny already has, dozens of times, fingering him until Patrick’s bent over and shaking, unable to keep still from how much he wants it.
They fall onto the bed and Patrick laughs at the ‘oomph’, and the way Jonny is pushing hastily at the blankets to get them out of the way, and then sitting up on Patrick, unbuttoning his jeans as quickly as he can to just get rid of them, his shirt already long gone, dropped somewhere on the floor. Patrick leans up on his elbows and helps, tugging them off while he bites his lip, eyes straying to the bulge in Jonny’s boxer-briefs.
Jonny’s dick is actually pretty big, like, more so than Patrick’s by a good inch in length, and it’s wider too. He’d been kind of put out the first time they did this, because they totally hadn’t been able to fuck, and he’d been overly embarrassed by his own dick—which is perfectly average, thank you, he’s proud of the guy. But then he decided he was really fucking into it, and Jonny loves fingering him until he’s gasping and writhing on the sheets before finally pushing his cock into Patrick’s ass, and by that time, Patrick’s totally ready for it anyway.
It actually took a long while for Patrick to admit he wanted Jonny to fuck him without so much preparation first, that the burn, and the hurt—that that felt really good too, and when Jonny finally fucking did, Patrick came so hard it was like fireworks exploding behind his eyelids.
Jonny has to roll over to get the jeans off altogether, but when he moves back, his dick is even closer to Patrick’s face, and Patrick lets out a whine in his throat, and slaps at Jonny’s thighs until he gets a little higher, better positioned, and says, “You gonna’ blow me or what, Pat?”
“Dick,” Patrick says fondly, and tugs at Jonny’s hips to get him even closer, but still leans in and mouths at the bulge under the Hanes fabric. He feels the heat coming off of Jonny, the goosebumps on his skin. Jonny’s thighs are already trembling, and Patrick uses his hand to press up against his balls, squeezing just hard enough to make Jonny roll his hips, pushing his dick harder against Patrick’s mouth, and groan.
Patrick loves this, loves watching Jonny as he gets hard, just because of what Patrick is doing, but he’s impatient right now, his own dick straining against his jeans because he hasn’t taken them off yet. He tugs at the elastic of Jonny’s boxers and tugs them down until his cock springs out, swelling and bright red. Patrick swallows Jonny down, curling his tongue to push soft and wet underneath the head, making Jonny curse and grip Patrick’s shoulder for purchase as his hips jerk forward, forcing his dick a little deeper into Patrick’s mouth.
“Watch it,” Patrick says, pulling off for a second, and slides his lips against Jonny’s cock, licking slowly at the purpling vein, tracing it down until his nose bumps into Jonny’s stomach, and he runs his fingers through Jonny’s pelvic hair, dark and kind of scratchy. He grins when he looks up and sees Jonny staring down at him. Jonny brings his hand up to press a thumb against Patrick’s bottom lip, tugging at it gently.
He goes back down on Jonny, lips stretched wide to accommodate Jonny’s girth, the way he fills into Patrick’s mouth making it a necessity, not just an option. He sucks, the head of Jonny’s cock slipping into his mouth more, tighter, and Patrick has to press down hard on his own dick through his jeans from how turned on he is, just from sucking Jonny’s dick.
He’d be embarrassed maybe, but they’re way past that.
Jonny pulls out, and Patrick tries to follow his dick as it bobs through the air, but Jonny manhandles Patrick back onto the bed instead. His voice is rough when he says, “Take your clothes off already, fuck, Pat.”
Patrick doesn’t argue, and shimmies out of his jeans as fast as he can, Jonny pulling them off from around his ankles as he switches to pulling off his shirt. He’s put on a lot of muscle this year, a good ten pounds, and he’s proud of it as Jonny leans down to kiss against his jaw, and then slides lower, running his hands up Patrick’s chest like it’s the first time he’s been allowed to touch him in ages.
Jonny hovers on top of him, his bulk hot and heavy, and already a little sweaty from exertion. Their dicks slide slippery against one another, trapped between their stomachs, as Jonny leans up and kisses Patrick again, rough and insistent and just as impatient as Patrick feels. Jonny’s back is firm with the muscle he gets from working out every day, but moves underneath Patrick’s hands when he presses his fingernails into the skin; when he gasps into the kiss because of Jonny’s cock, pushing against his stomach, big and heavy.
Patrick wants Jonny to fuck him so badly he can feel it, his ass clenching as he thinks of it, but he already knows he’s too wired up, too turned on, to make it through the preparation he’d need, to relax enough for it to work. He wants to whine at the unfairness of it all, except then Jonny gets a hand around his dick, is jerking him off hard and fast, and Patrick’s pretty sure he’s going to leave marks in Jonny’s back from how hard he’s clutching him.
Stupid, fucking ridiculous noises are coming out of his throat, and he wants to get closer into Jonny even though Jonny’s already on top of him, all over him. “Oh my God,” he says, and Jonny covers his mouth again, because he has a kissing fetish or because Patrick’s maybe getting too loud, but he comes a minute later, keening up and into Jonny’s hand, his mouth.
“I hate you,” Patrick says, panting, and Jonny gives him this look, all heat and expectation, and Patrick pushes him over to climb on top of him.
“I won’t last long enough to fuck you, Patrick,” Jonny says, and he almost sounds kind of guilty, like Patrick didn’t just come all over his hand and collapse on the bed in a fit of uncooperative limbs.
“Shut up, my jaw hurts,” Patrick says, and bears down on him, Jonny’s dick slipping against his ass as he grinds into it. Jonny gets with the program and thrusts up, suddenly frantic and hard-pressed to get off. His dick rubs against Patrick’s ass, where his cheeks part, enough friction to make them both go a little hot and wild all over, even Patrick, even though he’s already come. He pushes back in time with Jonny until he grips Patrick by the wrists and tugs him down, against him, all while pushing up with his hips and straining as he comes, his entire body tense.
His cock is twitching wildly against Patrick’s ass, spurting come, and Jonny is holding his wrists, but he can’t stop Patrick from slowly grinding down, biting his lip and looking straight into Jonny’s eyes as does, watching him tip his head back and open his mouth wide in a silent cry of pleasure.
Patrick bends forward until his cheek is lying against Jonny’s chest, moving in tune with Jonny’s harsh breaths. “Half an hour, round two,” Patrick mutters, but they’re both too tired. Jonny flaps a hand at him, ending up just petting his hair like a weirdo. Patrick doesn’t really mind, but eventually they do have to get up and clean up, because Patrick’s come is all over their stomachs, and Jonny’s is... just everywhere, in general, helpfully smeared around by Patrick’s ass.
It’d be gross if it wasn’t sending heat through his belly already, he thinks.
“Bed, Patrick,” Jonny says, tugging him down after they’ve pulled on clothes to sleep in and cleaned everything up—well, after Patrick’s cleaned everything up, because Jonny is a disgusting mess of a human being who’d live in filth if he couldn’t pay a cleaning service to come by once a week. But after that, Patrick’s so tired he just falls into Jonny’s arms, and then he’s out.
When Patrick wakes up a few hours later, it's still late—or early—enough that it's dark and it takes a minute for his eyes to get used to it. Jonny's face is squished in against Patrick's shoulder, and every breath trailing over Patrick's skin is tickling him. He shivers even though it's almost too hot under the blankets, and kicks Jonny in the shin to get him to move; Jonny just rolls over, arm flopping out over the edge of the bed. He's still out for the count.
Patrick tugs his arm back and sits up, scratching at the damp spot on his shoulder idly as he yawns. He shoves the blankets down his waist eventually, climbing out of bed. The bedroom door is cracked open, just in case Tigre couldn't sleep. Patrick hadn't wanted to lock him out if he'd had a nightmare or something.
Somehow, pushing past the door, Patrick finds himself walking down the hallway cautiously to check on him, just in case. It's not like anything could have happened; he and Jonny would've heard, but Patrick feels paranoid anyway. He doesn't think regular, everyday parents can possibly feel like this all the time; worn and strung out, constantly worried about their kids. Something has to give, doesn't it?
Although if it this is how they feel all the fucking time, it'd make the whole teenage rebellion phase make a lot more sense. No wonder it'd taken months of begging and pleading for his parents to finally let him go to Detroit when he was fourteen.
He can't even let Tigre be for a couple hours without checking in on him.
The door to the guest bedroom squeaks as Patrick inches it open. The lights are still off, but Patrick's adjusted to the darkness well enough that it only takes him a second to spot that the bed is empty. Patrick panics for a second, forgets to be quiet and runs the last three steps into the room, and even though the bed is empty, he grabs the comforter and lifts it up anyway, looking as he says, "Tigre?" out loud.
He's just barely a second from freaking the fuck out, from turning on all the lights and yelling for Jonny and calling the goddamn police, when he hears the sniffling, and turns on his heel, fast enough that he almost falls over trying to catch his balance.
Tigre is a big lump on the carpet in the corner of the room, his arms curling around his pillow, hugging it to his chest with his knees drawn up against it.
Heart still thumping a mile a minute, Patrick walks over in just three steps and sinks to the floor, his back pressed to the wall. "Tigre, what are you doing? You scared the hell out of me," he says, asks, whatever, he's still kind of in panic mode. An adrenaline surge, he thinks belatedly, and then closes his eyes, shaking his head.
His shoulder bumps Tigre's.
"I wanna' go home," Tigre says, words muffled into his pillow as his little fists squeeze the fabric. "I miss my mom, and my books, and my crayons, and my school, and this is room isn't right, I want my room."
Oh, Patrick thinks, and then a little more desperately, I don't know how to handle this, and fuck, this is what the social services lady had been talking about, the kind of shit Patrick's not going to be able to help with, or do anything about. What's he supposed to say here? He feels awkward and too big and clumsy; wishes he could just suit Tigre up and push him out on the ice, expect that to make everything better.
It works on Jonny.
"I'm sorry," is what he goes with, finally, and it's not enough. Feeling like he's just tacking it on as an afterthought, he says, "We can go back to your house, later. We'll—we'll get your stuff, and we'll make this room better. I mean, Jonny's decorating sucks, right? You need to get some color in here, cover the walls and shit."
Tigre huffs and looks at him, and oh, right, no cursing. Patrick winces.
"Uh, pretend you didn't hear that," he tries, and Tigre says, "Uhuh," like he's planning to tell Jonny as soon as he wakes up. Fuck. Whatever, like it wasn't going to happen; kid just has to accept that he’s living with hockey players now, and hockey players curse. Patrick sighs. This whole thing is just so big, and he's so close to screwing it up.
"You know," he says, slowly, "we're taking you to see your grandma in the morning. That'll be good, right?"
A surefire way to cheer Patrick up is by promising him a visit to see his grandparents, so he figures it’s worth a shot.
Tigre nods into his pillow, and he says, "I miss Abuelita too."
On a roll, Patrick adds, "And we'll get you back into school, uh, eventually, so you can see your friends.” He's actually not sure how that works though. Does Tigre have to switch districts? Is there something special they have to do so that he doesn’t get accosted in the middle of recess by reporters or something? Because fuck if Patrick's letting that happen.
"I don't have any," Tigre says, after another long minute, almost too quietly for Patrick to hear.
"What?" Patrick asks, missing it.
"Friends," Tigre mumbles. "I don't—nobody ever—I don't have any. Except Mama, and she's—"
"You've got me," Patrick says, when Tigre breaks off, sniffling into his pillow again. "And Jonny likes you too. And hey, pretty sure Maddie'll hang whenever you want." Tigre and Maddie had hit it off, and sure, Maddie's like, two, but friends are friends and Patrick's not counting anybody out just because they haven't really mastered the art of talking/walking/potty training yet. Besides, Maddie's pretty much the coolest baby ever, and she only gets better with age.
"Will you teach me to skate?" Tigre asks, and looks up pointedly. His eyes are puffy looking, like he's been crying for a little while, and he wipes at his nose, all messy. Patrick just wants to hug him, but manages to resist, for the moment, because he thinks Tigre needs this little bit of independence.
As much time as Patrick had ever spent with Tigre before all this shit happened, he'd been an easy, quiet, independent kid, never following his mom around so much as just waiting for her to get done with work. Patrick had always thought he was a good kid, but maybe he was just used to being by himself a lot. Not that he isn't a good kid too, but God, Patrick just sort of wants to pull Tigre in and never let him go, Jesus Christ. This can't be healthy.
He needs to call his parents and apologize for so much shit.
"Yeah," he says, "do you want to come with me and Jonny on Saturday to early skate? You can watch us practice, and then we'll rope some of the guys into skating. Maybe we can bribe Sharpy into bringing Maddie, what do you think?"
"Yes,” Tigre says, and then, “Maddie's too small to skate," and Patrick laughs. He doesn't mention how Maddie's probably safer on her skates than Tigre will be come Saturday, but it'll be alright.
"We'll get you some gear before we go," Patrick says. "Skates and pads. You already have a jersey, right?" Tigre nods, and then points at where the jersey is hanging off the end of the bed. Abruptly, Tigre gets up and crawls back onto the bed, grabbing at the jersey as he does.
Patrick follows slowly, climbing to his feet.
"You're feeling better?" he asks, and then mentally curses, because he's an idiot.
Tigre doesn't scowl or start crying again though, and instead he just nods a little, clutching the jersey like it's proof that he's here, and that he's going to get to go ice skating, and that everything's going to keep going, even though... even though his mom isn't going to be here for it.
Patrick's never missed Lupe before, not really, but he wishes she was here right now; wishes he'd gotten to know her a little better. He's still not ready for any of this, but he has to figure out how to do it anyway.
Tigre curls up into a ball under his blanket, and watches Patrick pull the door almost to a close, before he says goodnight. Walking back to his and Jonny's room, and sneaking back in, trying not to wake Jonny up, Patrick thinks he's glad, at least, that Jonny wants to figure out how to do it with him. At least with Tigre, or maybe because it's Tigre... maybe they'll be able to do it, somehow.
Maybe this will work.
Tigre wakes up awfully early, but neither he nor Jonny even realize until they stumble out of the bedroom, Jonny’s alarm having gone off to remind them they have shit to do today. Tigre is sitting in the living room on the sofa, a half-eaten bowl of Jonny’s hidden (or not-so-hidden anymore) Lucky Charms in front of him, and the TV switched on to a cartoon. There are green people; that’s as far as Patrick really gets with it.
“How long’ve you been up, bud?” Patrick asks, suppressing a yawn while Jonny goes for the coffee like the zombie he is.
“I don’t know,” Tigre says, but his cereal looks soggy. Patrick’s about to go rummage for some himself, before Tigre says, “Um, Kaner?”
“Can we—I’m staying with you, right? For—for a while?” He sounds like he isn’t sure, and Patrick feels guilty all over again.
“Yeah, Tigre. You’re staying with us. Definitely. Or, I mean—as long as you want to. Do you want to?” because it’s just now occurring to Patrick that he hasn’t actually asked if Tigre wants to get adopted—and then, weirder, he wonders if Tigre even realizes him and Jonny aren’t just roommates. It isn’t like he’s going to try to get Tigre to call him ‘Dad’ or anything—God, Patrick doesn’t want him to. That’s a little more than Patrick’s ready for.
“Yeah!” Tigre says, affirmatively.
“We’ll visit your grandma in a little bit, okay?” Patrick says, and then calls out for Jonny to make him breakfast.
The plan is to drop Tigre off at the nursing home for a few hours while he and Jonny do the press release, and then have practice, and then they’ll pick him and his Grandmother both up afterward for the funeral. Jonny made the calls to make sure that was okay. Tigre’s grandmother doesn’t speak any English, but Jonny said she’d seemed pretty excited to see her grandson anyway.
They both felt a little guilty about that—they should have gone to see her immediately, instead of waiting three days.
Tigre says, “Okay,” at the same time as Jonny yells back, “Make it yourself, Kaner!”
Patrick groans and goes to the kitchen, leaving Tigre to his cartoons.
The nursing home is actually a fair distance away, and it takes a bit longer to get there than they’d planned for, so they’re hurrying by the time they do arrive. It’s a nice place though, big and roomy, with a garden on the outside that the residents actually work in, apparently. Well, Tigre explains it excitedly as they park, and then jumps out of the car and grabs Patrick’s wrist, dragging him towards the entrance doors. Jonny follows behind, amused, probably, but whatever, Patrick likes it when Tigre is happy about things. He’s a weirdly quiet kid, the few tantrums he’s had notwithstanding.
Tigre’s grandmother is old and covered in wrinkles, with long grey hair tied back in a braid, and she stays sitting down when they come into her room. She has the television on in the corner, kind of loud and in Spanish, but she turns it off as soon as Tigre is hugging her, talking quickly in Spanish, but softly enough that Patrick thinks he probably knows what they’re saying.
Her name is Maria, the nurse says, winking, but she starts telling the nurse off as soon as she hears her name, and Tigre has to grin and translate: “Her name is Abuelita, and if you call her Maria, she’ll send you to the corner.”
She’s a nice old woman though, and thanks them a couple of times, and even makes Patrick bend over until he’s close enough that she can kiss his cheek. Tigre scuffs his foot against the carpet but translates again, and says, “Um, she’s just saying thank you for taking care of me? She said—she said you’re good boys.” He makes a face, but so does Patrick, and then they laugh before promising Tigre that they’ll be back in a few hours.
Abuelita says, “Vamos a estar bien. Vaya!” and makes a waving motion with her hand, clearly kicking them out.
Tigre hugs Patrick goodbye, and Jonny gets a kiss on the cheek from Maria too. Patrick elbows him when they leave, grinning because Jonny is blushing pretty good. “Should I be worried?” he asks, still grinning.
“You’re such a pain,” Jonny sighs, and shoves him towards the exit.
The nursing staff promises not to let Tigre run off anywhere, says he’s stayed there quite a few times before when Lupe had had to work double-shifts, or overnight, so they’re used to it. A lot of the grandkids visit like this. They’re really nice. Patrick guesses they must be, for this kind of job.
Before they leave though, the secretary at the front desk asks them about the financials, and they realize Lupe was spending a lot of money on keeping Maria in the nursing home. “We’ll take care of it,” Patrick says, grave.
The woman relaxes and smiles, and then says, “Thank you.”
It just seems like a weird thing to be thanked for; it’s not charity, it’s—Maria is sort of related to them now, it’s—but Jonny puts an arm around his shoulders while they walk back to the car, and Patrick leans into him.
They maybe have to speed a little to get to the press conference on time, but they manage. The PR people fuss over Patrick, because let’s face it; none of Jonny’s suits were ever going to fit him. Instead, he’s wearing slacks and a nice shirt off the rack that they’d belatedly stopped over at Sears for before the game yesterday. Patrick lets one of the girls tug at his hair, almost long enough now that it’s starting to curl again.
Jonny’s kind of funny about Patrick’s hair—he seems to have more of a love/hate thing going on for it than Patrick does. Jonny doesn’t get it, because his hair just naturally looks good. At least nobody looks good with helmet hair, not even Jonny, and they all have to deal with that. Patrick gets his dues where he can.
He and Jonny’d talked a little in the car on the way over, hashing out some easy responses to the most likely questions. He’d done the same thing with PR just now, and they’d basically told him to smile and not to curse, like always. Patrick isn’t nervous, exactly, but he’s not comfortable either.
“Alright,” Mike says, because Q’s over talking to somebody else about what kind of questions the press is allowed to ask, and Mike was nice enough to volunteer to be here, “just play up the hero card, kid. It’ll be alright. They actually like you today.”
Patrick says, “Haha,” because yeah, he hasn’t had all that great experiences with press conferences in the past, and they all know it. That’s probably why he’s not comfortable, even though he should be by now.
Jonny touches his wrist lightly before he gets to head out with Q and some of the other staff from PR, and the camera flashes start going wild. Q says something, a pre-written sound bite to start it all off, about the Blackhawks being proud and thankful, blah blah blah. Patrick doesn’t know if he wants to preen or hide under the table as he listens, but mostly he feels weird and his stomach is all tied up in knots.
It starts out easy enough, or as easy as it was ever going to be. They ask about his health, if he needed a break from hockey—obviously not, they beat the Preds last night, so Patrick has to resist the urge to roll his eyes and just says, “Nah, I’m doing good.”
“What went through your mind when you realized the building was on fire?” someone asks.
“Uh, it was hard to believe, at first. But then I just figured it was time to get out of there, you know? Worry about everything else later, once we were on the ground floor.” He doesn’t really remember what he’d been thinking, beyond needing to get out, just... get out.
“So you were already with the boy you saved when the fire started?”
Patrick pauses, but shakes his head. “No, there was an explosion—I don’t really know what it was, but then it was just me and Tigre, and it’s like, in a situation like that, you don’t really think? You just do. So I grabbed the kid and went through the fire escape. It’s not like I decided I wanted to save anybody, it was just the only option.”
“But you are still in custody of him still today?” somebody else pipes up, a lady in a grey suit. “Or, technically, the paperwork is listed as Jonathan Toews being in custody of him.”
“Yeah, well, my apartment burnt down, and they don’t really give kids to people without addresses, so...” He gets a laugh, but Q sends him a look that says his sass is not appreciated. Patrick tries to smile politely. “Jonny’s a good guy, he’s letting us stay with him. I didn’t want to be stuck in a hotel, and Tigre wanted to stick with somebody he knew.” It’s actually weird that the reporters knew that they have Tigre though. Patrick wonders how they get their information, seriously. It can’t be legal to just hand that sort of stuff off to anybody who asks, right? Or have they just been obvious? It’s not like the photographers don’t know where Jonny lives.
“He was present right after the fire, wasn’t he?” somebody asks, still talking about Jonny. Patrick hesitates and looks over at some of the PR people, because isn’t this line of questioning what they were supposed to be getting the press to avoid? He has a sinking feeling about it.
“Uh,” Patrick says, but then he’s interrupted by someone else.
“There’s video of your reunion, leading to some speculation on your relationship with Mr. Toews. What can you say about that?”
Nothing. Nothing is what he can say about that, Patrick thinks frantically, his eyes wide. He glances back at Q again, wishing Jonny was out here on this stupid stage with him. He finally says, “That’s, uh—I think anybody would be happy to find out their teammate was okay? I mean, apparently it was on the news, and I wasn’t answering my phone, you know? I’d left it in the apartment.”
“So you’re saying that yours and Mr. Toews relationship is purely platonic?” another guy asks, voice eager, like he thinks Patrick is just going to stand up and announce the wedding date. They don’t even have a wedding date yet. He plays with the ring on his finger though, and then freezes, and hopes to God that nobody’s noticed it. He clenches his fist.
Somebody from PR speaks up this time, fucking finally, only he says, “We’re not here to discuss the nature of the relationships within the team.”
Patrick winces, because ‘no comment’ in this situation isn’t really going to work towards his favor in the long-run. Thanks, man! he wants to say, but doesn’t dare. He thinks Coach Q is probably glaring enough anyway. The audience of press sharks seem to realize what ‘no comment’ means anyway, and it’s a buzz of activity all the sudden, more flashes and questions.
The conference finally ends with a final question: “Do you know anything more about the ongoing investigation into the cause of the fire, having been there yourself? The assumption is faulty wiring?”
“No, I don’t know anything,” Patrick says, honest. He has no idea what caused it, or why his fucking fire alarms didn’t start going off ages before the heat woke him up. He hasn’t heard anything either.
If that’s really what happened, just some stupid fucking shoddy wiring—
The reporters look like they’re going to ask more, but PR stands up and declares that the end of it, thank God, and he can slip back behind the curtains and face plant into Jonny’s chest.
“Why,” he moans, stretching out the word.
“I think we should probably call our parents,” Jonny says, sounding just as pained.
Coach Q is chewing the guy from PR out, Patrick thinks, somewhere behind them, before someone else comes over and says, “Well, how do we want to handle this, guys?” She doesn’t even give them the courtesy of asking if they’re in a relationship or not. Not that it isn’t apparently obvious to anyone with access to YouTube. Patrick’ll have to look it up when they get home, after all, just to see what the big deal is. He’s pretty sure he’d remember if Jonny’d kissed him or groped him or something.
Jonny starts to speak, but Patrick just holds up his hand, the one with the ring on it, and says, “We might as well get this over with.”
Still, all of that was easy in comparison to what comes afterward.
Jonny dresses up; wears a black suit that Patrick thinks hasn’t been touched since playoffs last year. Patrick has to make do with the same makeshift outfit he’d worn during the press conference, and borrows a black jacket from Jonny that doesn’t exactly match but will work anyway. The suit they’d bought Tigre the day before doesn’t quite fit—it’s too long in the legs and ends up pooling at his ankles, trailing against the floor.
It’s the tie Tigre doesn’t like though, and he keeps pulling at it as they walk down the rocky, gravel pathway, gravestones to either side of them, decorating the field. Patrick doesn’t really have the heart to make him stop, and just ends up adjusting his too, with the hand that Tigre isn’t holding onto.
One of the nurses’ from Maria’s home is pushing her wheelchair just ahead of them, both her and Maria dressed in simple black dresses. When they stop, finally finding the area with some people standing around, Maria lifts a hand and gestures for Tigre to come hold her hand instead. Patrick doesn’t catch whatever she’s murmuring softly in Spanish about, but Tigre takes the flowers she’d had in her lap and looks around.
It’s not—there’s no coffin, or urn, or—there’s nothing to bury, is the thing, and so there’s just a stone pressed into the ground, with Lupe’s name engraved in it, and how long she’d lived written underneath. Jonny puts a hand on the back of Patrick’s neck, twisting his fingers into his hair. Tigre puts the flowers in the little black cup that’s obviously meant for them. They’re not the first flowers by far, but they still fit.
“Like that?” Tigre asks, looking back at Patrick, and he nods.
“Come here,” Patrick says, and Tigre comes to stand between him and his grandmother’s wheelchair so that the service can start. Tigre doesn’t—he doesn’t start crying until Maria does, but he doesn’t make any noise, just angrily wipes at his cheek and grips Patrick’s hand tight.
It’s short, as far as funerals go, and when Jonny and Patrick offer to take Maria out for dinner afterward, she shakes her head and says no. Tigre translates again, explains that she’s too tired. The nurse sighs and adds, “It’s been a long day. But if you could visit more often? That would—it would be nice for her.”
Tigre looks tired too, shoulders hunched and voice heavy, and he lets out a big sigh when they start back for the car, dragging his feet.
“You okay?” Patrick asks, keeping an eye on him. The cemetery they’re in has gates, luckily, because there are a few reporters Patrick can see from here, obviously realizing that Lupe’s funeral was today, and that Jonny and Patrick would be attending, since they have Tigre. The gates kept them out of the actual ceremony though, and Patrick’s hoping he can keep Tigre from realizing they’re there at all.
Tigre glances at him, but then nods, slowly, and says, “I guess. Are you?”
Patrick smiles softly and says, “Yeah, bud, I am if you are.”
Jonny stops, keys in hand, when they’re close to the car, and looks at them. He lets out a huff, maybe more annoyed than Patrick even is. “Hop up,” he says, opening the backseat for Tigre to climb up and into, blocking any camera’s view of Tigre by being a big, bulky hockey player. Patrick hits him in the arm and grins before getting into the car himself.
They’re all pretty tired, but Tigre manages to chatter the whole way home, about a random assortment of things: playing board games with his grandmother, or something about a television show he’d watched, and even once about school, and that makes Patrick remember that Tigre has to go back to school here soon.
Tigre goes back and forth between using English and Spanish, and even talks about his mom a little, saying that they didn’t get to visit his grandmother as often as they would have liked to, since Lupe had to work all the time. He doesn’t mention the funeral though, and Patrick’s not sure if Tigre understands it entirely, what it was for.
In the end, Jonny just starts cooking dinner when they get home, after they all change their clothes and dig out some paper for Tigre to draw on while they wait. He’s sitting at the kitchen table now, dressed in his pajamas and coloring a picture of what looks like a cow with red stripes. They need to buy him some crayons or something, Patrick thinks, because all they have now are pens and a few permanent markers, and one mechanical pencil that keeps breaking.
Patrick slips away to the living room, and calls his mom.
“Hey, mom,” Patrick says, slowly, when his mom is finally finished yelling about him taking long enough to call her. He protests that he’d called her that first day, but gives into the lecture that follows, especially when she brings up the three missed calls that he’d very pointedly been avoiding since then.
He says hi to his dad too, when she passes over the phone, and Jackie, although his other two sisters aren’t home yet. When she takes the phone back, she seems a bit calmer, and Patrick almost doesn’t want to ruin it with the news, but, well.
“How are you, sweetie?” she asks, and Patrick sinks into the couch and says, “Good,” with a sigh.
Before she can attack him, he says, “I am, really. Good, I mean. There’s—kind of big news, to tell you? You can’t get mad at me though, Jonny only asked yesterday.” Yesterday morning, but his mom doesn’t need to know that.
“What is it?” she says, cautiously.
“We’re getting married.” He sort of just blurts it out, and then smiles, relieved, when his mom demands the when did this happen, how did it happen, don’t leave out any details, Patrick Timothy Kane, when is the wedding, it’s in Winnipeg?
“Yeah, we haven’t really figured out any details yet,” Patrick says, weirdly settling into the conversation. “We talked to PR about it though, so it’ll be coming out soon, and I wanted you to know before that.”
“Good,” his mom says, in obvious approval. Patrick grins.
“Uh,” he says, a few minutes later, after he lets his mom talk about—what, color themes or something? He’ll just let her talk to Andree about it, probably. Jonny’s not any better with this stuff than he is. Or hell, they have enough money to just buy a wedding planner, so they could do that.
Patrick listens to her for another minute before he says, “Mom, hey, there’s, uh, more.”
“We—we’re adopting Tigre?” He doesn’t know why it comes out as a question. “We’re adopting him,” he says, firmer. “The kid, that I—we’re taking care of him, right now, but I mean, we started the paperwork, we’re adopting him. After we get married, so it’ll be a while, but we’re already—I mean.” He stops.
His mom is quiet for a long minute, before she responds, slowly and cautiously, “He doesn’t have any family he can go to?”
“No,” Patrick sighs, “no, it’s—Lupe was it. Me and Jonny talked about it though, Mom, we’re doing this.”
“Are you sure, Paddy? Taking care of a child isn’t easy, and with you both playing hockey—”
“Yeah, I know, I just... We couldn’t give him up. Shit, Mom, I have no idea what I’m doing half the time, but I want to try, you know? Tigre is such a good kid, you’ll love him, I promise.” Stupid, stupid, Patrick thinks, because he’s getting choked up, just trying to make him mom understand why him and Jonny are doing this. He knows it doesn’t make any sense, really, for them.
But his mom just says, “Oh, I know I will. I just never thought I’d be getting a grandchild this quickly. And stop cursing, Patrick. How old is Tigre anyway? What size does he wear? I’ll have to buy him something when we come down next—oh, when’s your next stretch of days off?”
It goes like that for a while, with Tigre eventually wandering out of the kitchen and coming to settle in on the couch next to Patrick instead. He seems tired, and doesn’t even turn on the television, just sort of angles his head onto the couch cushion and starts to drift off. “Do six-year-old’s normally take naps?” Patrick asks his mom a minute later, and she answers, “If you can bribe them.”
Jonny comes in the living room a little bit after that and says, “Dinner’s ready,” and so Patrick says goodbye to his mom and wakes Tigre up. Tigre isn’t entirely appreciative of the broccoli Jonny puts on his plate, but he eats enough of it that Patrick lets him get away with it anyway. He grabs the plates after they’re all done and puts them in the sink, starts doing the dishes.
Jonny comes back in the kitchen after following Tigre down the hall and says, sounding surprised, “Kid’s already asleep.”
Patrick laughs, and then says, “We tired him out. And hey, get over here and put the dishes in the dishwasher, you slob.”
Jonny makes a face, but does it anyway, and Patrick only flicks a little bit of water at him before they’re done, so really, he should be grateful.
Patrick mostly ignores Jonny when he climbs out of bed in the middle of the night, a quiet, “Be right back,” on his tongue when his movement jostles Patrick awake. Patrick’s used to midnight bathroom breaks; it comes with the territory of having a roommate for most of your life, so he just tugs the blankets up and smushes his face back into his pillow. Jonny’s usually a pretty deep sleeper though, and after a few minutes of his side of the bed getting colder, Patrick blearily sits up in the bed and squints his eyes at the bedroom door, where a small streak of light is flooding in from the hallway from the crack where Jonny’d left it open.
That’s not the bathroom, Patrick thinks, and yawns before climbing out of bed.
Jonny’s in the kitchen, sitting at the table and looking like he’s about to fall back to sleep right there. His hair’s a mess, Patrick thinks affectionately. But Tigre is sitting across from Jonny, holding onto a big glass of water and drinking out of it slowly.
“Gracias,” Tigre says, quietly, putting the glass down on the table.
Jonny answers, “De rien.”
“You mean de nada?” Tigre asks, scrunching his face up.
Jonny huffs out a laugh, and shakes his head. “No, ‘de rien’ is French. It means, uh, no problem. You’re welcome.”
“Oh,” Tigre says, and then nods. “De rien,” he repeats, his pronunciation better than Patrick’s ever managed. Jonny is smiling funny now, and Patrick sighs. Their kid is going to end up being trilingual, somehow. Patrick pauses, and then thinks our kid, and gets a weird set of butterflies in his stomach.
He shakes his head, and then walks into the kitchen with a smile, and runs his hand through Tigre’s hair. Tigre looks up, smiling sleepily. “Come on, bud,” Patrick says, “back to bed.”
“Okay,” Tigre says, jumping off the chair. But he looks to Jonny and asks, “How do you say goodnight?”
Jonny smiles again, and says, “Bonne nuit,” in that soft voice he has, when he speaks French.
Patrick really kind of loves him.
“Bonne nuit, Jonny,” Tigre says, carefully pronouncing the words, before he lets Patrick push him down the hall. Tigre climbs up into his bed, and Patrick pulls the blankets up to cover him. “Buenas noches,” Tigre mumbles, curling his arms around one of the pillows, eyes closed.
Patrick flicks off the light and says, “Goodnight.”
Jonny’s already back in bed by the time Patrick adds Tigre’s glass of water to the dishwasher and heads back to their bedroom. He climbs in next to him, and lets Jonny pull him in close and whisper in his ear, something sleepy and incomprehensible, possibly not English at all. Patrick swats at him half-heartedly, but just says, “Speak English, dumbass.”
Jonny mutters in French though, and Patrick huffs when he hears the words.
“Je t’aime to you too, now go to sleep,” Patrick says, exasperated.
Jonny rolls over him and kisses him instead, but, well, Patrick’s okay with that too.
Patrick leans in to kiss Jonny, tugging him down the couple of inches he needs. Jonny puts a hand on the back of his neck, kissing back sweetly even though it means the eggs are probably starting to burn behind him, and neither of them notices Maddie wobbling her way into the kitchen until Tigre follows her in and yells, “Ew, stop kissing!”
Patrick pulls back just enough to turn and give Tigre a look, raising his eyebrow.
Tigre is trying to cover Maddie’s eyes, even though she’s waving her arms wildly and yelling, “Stop! Let go!”
“Oh, it’s not that bad,” Patrick says, huffing and taking a whole step back. Jonny snorts and turns back to the eggs, and says just loud enough for Patrick to hear, “Dammit, Patrick,” as he visibly starts trying to save them.
Tigre is giving Patrick a look of utmost betrayal, so Patrick says, “Maddie, give Tigre a kiss!” and then laughs so hard he almost falls when Maddie turns around and smacks her lips to Tigre’s, already conveniently on the ground and at her height because he was trying to save her eyes or something. (Whatever, Sharpy’s her dad, it doesn’t get worse than that.)
Tigre yells and tries to wipe his mouth off with his t-shirt, before declaring that Patrick is being mean and taking Maddie’s hand, leading her back out of the kitchen to go play in the living room.
“Yeah, okay,” Patrick says, while Jonny yells, “Hey, you better go get ready! Practice is in an hour, Tigre!”
“I know!” Tigre yells back, and they hear the thump of him running down the hall to grab his hockey gear and dump it by the front door.
“And come eat breakfast!” Jonny yells again when he puts two plates down at the table, one for Tigre and the other for Maddie.
Tigre doesn’t come back in the kitchen right away, and instead they hear his voice, suspiciously asking, “Are you kissing?” from what sounds like just outside.
Patrick says loudly, “No, Tigre, it’s safe.” He’s half tempted to kiss Jonny again right before Tigre comes in, but it’d take the kids forever to eat breakfast, so he doesn’t give in. Oh well. There’s always time later. Jonny gives him a look like he knows what he’s thinking, but Patrick just grins and takes a big bite out of his toast. “Love you,” he says, muffled by the toast, and Jonny just shakes his head.
All in all, Patrick’s pretty proud of his family.