"We can't make it four years in a row. Those boys in blue already have big enough heads."
"Fire and ice don't mix. We SUCK on skates, let alone playing an actual game."
"They aren't exactly professionals. Besides, its for charity."
"Damn you. You know I'm a sucker for a good cause."
"I know, that's why I played that angle," Andrew replied, laughing.
"When is it?"
"Two weeks from Friday. We're practicing Saturday and hopefully a couple nights during the week."
"I think within these two weeks we can achieve whole new levels of sucking."
"Speak for yourself."
"Unfortunately, I AM," Jeremy said, laughing.
"Leave it to yo--"
The siren echoed loudly through the entire house. Duty called, the discussion would have to be continued.
"Moralis, you and Stewart clear the building. One report of a possible child in the third floor apartment in the north corner. Smith, Williams, Stevens, you take the back hose, keep it low. Andrews, you check that group over their for smoke inhalation, get the story from them. Go, and be careful!" The captain went back to his vehicle and the radio, watching as his fire crew went to work.
Jeremy put on his oxygen mask and headed into the front door, running immediately up to the third floor north corner, Stewart hot on his heels. The acrid smoke hung thick and heavy in the common hallways of the building.
They made it to the northern most apartment and went inside.
"Anyone in here? Hello? I'm a fireman, come on out. Hello?" Jeremy walked through the quiet room, his breathing loud in his own ears.
"Jer! Over here!" Stewart yelled, heading into a bedroom.
Jeremy turned and followed his partner into the room. He found Stewart trying to calm a small boy of about ten. Jeremy took off his helmet. "Hi. I'm Jeremy. What's your name?"
"You've already met Andrew?"
"We need to get you outside. Your mom is out there worried about you."
Nathan nodded, trying to be brave.
"Stewart, you take him outside. I'm going up and work my way down, you do the same from the bottom up when you get him out. Channel four."
Stewart changed his radio to channel four, put his helmet back on and picked up Nathan, carrying him down the stairs.
Jeremy put his mask on as well, dashing upstairs and knocking loudly on each door, staying in radio contact with his captain to assure himself that there were no more reports of missing people. He made it to the second floor and worked his way around the hoses and other firemen, meeting up with Stewart at the end of that hall.
"We're clear Captain," Jeremy said.
"Backup the hose team," the Captain yelled into his radio.
"Good save for Stewart and Moralis, finding the young boy on the third floor," the Captain said in the bull session after returning to the firehouse.
"One apartment completely destroyed, water damage, but the building was saved and no casulties. Good job guys."
There were a few loud agreements to that, though most of the men were tired and grimy, ready for a shower.
The next morning, Jeremy sat at the table looking through the sports section of the paper. Andrew came down and had a seat next to him.
"I guess we should be glad that we play BEFORE these kids." Jeremy said pointing to the headline.
"Alexander Hamilton leads team to championship round." Andrew said reading. "So?"
"This kid is like 18, and they say he's going to be this generation's Gretzkey. They call him the X-man." Jeremy said putting the paper down. "So charity or not, we are going to be shown up by teenagers. LOCAL teenagers."
"I suggest you make it to practice then."
"As if that will do any good." Jeremy said with a chuckle.
"So I will see you there?"
"Absolutely!" Jeremy said as he started making breakfast for the house.He was surprised when the egg he was cracking exploded on the side of the pan. His mind had been on the piercing eyes of the hockey player known as the X-man.
"DAVIDSON! Pass to him, Moralis!" the coach said, skating backwards down the ice.
Jeremy brought his stick back and swung hard, the puck going behind Davidson as Jeremy landed on his backside. Once he quit spinning, Jeremy laid his head back on the ice and stared at the ceiling. Andrew skated over to him, spraying him with snow. Jeremy sat up, spitting.
"What did you do that for?" he asked as he brushed the snow off the side of his face.
"I never said I could skate!" Andrew said, laughing. "Didn't know I COULD stop."
"Where's a fire when you need one!" Jeremy groused as he clambered ungracefully to his feet.
"Come on Moralis, those boys in blue are NOT going to skunk us again!"
He woke up the following day with aches and pains in places he didn't know belonged to him, and decided to start his day off with a run to try to work out the kinks. The first mile hurt, but when he finished up on the third, he felt a little more human. He fixed himself a bowl of oatmeal and grabbed a banana, sitting down to read the morning paper. He flipped immediately to the sports sections to check the scores, an avid follower of hockey. The paper's top headline caught his eye.
"The X-Man Expected to Stay in Town!"
Jeremy went on to read the article, finding that the Buffalo Sabres organization had been in touch with Alexander and were planning on picking him in the first round of the draft. If things were to go as expected, Alexander was to join the roster of the local ECHL team, the junior affiliate that the Sabres were currently contracted with. He looked back over the stats and was surprised to see that Alexander had set several school records and had basically carried his high school team on his shoulders. His eyes strayed to the photo again, leaving him to wonder what color those eyes were.
"What am I thinking? This is a TEENAGER! Still in HIGH SCHOOL at that." Jeremy said to himself as he tossed the paper down.
Jeremy was currently unattached. At the age of 24, he was career driven. He may have been on the force for two years, but he was still considered a rookie by some standards. Trying to prove himself left little room for a love life. Jeremy finished his breakfast and headed for a hot shower.
"All set for the game tonight?" Andrew asked.
"You saw me out there yesterday, you tell me?"
"All set for getting your ass kicked tonight?" Andrew replied with a laugh.
"Thanks alot! You aren't incorrect, but you don't have to be so honest about it."
"Go home, take a hot shower, and a long nap. You will be, at the very least, limber and awake."
"And that is about it." Jeremy said as he looked at the clock. "And it is that time. See you tonight Andy."
Jeremy parked at the arena, grabbed his bag and headed into the locker room. He quickly got changed and joked with the guys as they got ready. Both firemen and policemen were sharing the same dressing room and ribbing each other unmercifully. When the arena manager told them it was time to head out, they did, wishing each other luck. Jeremy skated around, then stood patiently while the pregame ceremonies were held, along with the singing of the national anthem. Finally it was time to drop the puck.
Within five minutes, three goals had been scored, all by the men in blue. Jeremy was on ice for all three of them and as a result his plus/minus rating was sitting at -3. The period was only fifteen minutes long and there was only a ten minute break to resurface the ice. At the break, the police led four goals to two.
In the second period, Jeremy saw less play early on. What he was being saved for, was uncertain. But it gave him a chance to scope out the spectators. As he was ready to focus back on the game, he caught the eyes of three young males up in the stands. They weren't properly seated and pointed frequently. Jeremy could have sworn one had even pointed at him. Finally he was called upon to take to the ice again, not really a good thing, but better than sitting. Off the faceoff he was given a quick pass and took off up ice. Jeremy was part of one of the breakaways he loved to see so much. He skated fast towards the goal and pulled his stick back to blast a one-timer.
Unfortunately, Jeremy was not meant to be on ice. As he pulled his stick back, he lost his footing and fell hard to the ice. The goalie covered the slowly creeping puck and the ref blew the whistle. Jeremy laid on the ice, half stunned, totally embarassed. Andrew skated over to check on him.
"Hey, you okay?" Andrew asked, standing over him.
"Did anyone see that?" Jeremy asked with a grin.
"My guess would be, yes!"
"Damn! So much for my pro career."
Andrew helped Jeremy to his feet as the spectators gave half a hand for the effort.
Jeremy's fall was the least of the worries for the firemen. The game soon came to a disappointing end with a final score of 10 to 3. As the two teams lined up for a congratulatory handshake, Jeremy had some words of advice for his captain.
"The next rookie gets an interview on ice. If he can score a goal, he's hired."
"I'd settle for hiring him if he can shoot the puck without falling," the captain replied at Jeremy's expense.
Jeremy grabbed for his chest. "Oh that hurt, captain. That hurt bad."
"I don't even think a bullet proof vest would have saved you there," said one of the officers.
Everyone laughed, continued shaking hands, and exchanged words of encouragement. Finally they headed off ice to the locker room after thanking the crowd for attending. They only had a short time to clear out of the locker room before the high school team needed it.
The showers were quick, as was the dressing. Jeremy, however, was moving a bit slower as he was already feeling the results of his fall. He stayed in the shower a few extra minutes, hoping the hot water would work the kinks out. He had just finished tying his shoe when the first of the high school team were making their way in. He quickly grabbed his bag and headed out before getting in anyone's way. He made his way over to the group of firemen and sat down, before realizing he'd left his skates in the locker room. Waiting until he thought everyone would be on ice, he headed down to get his skates. He was just ducking around the corner when he almost ran into one of the players. "Sorry, excuse me."
"It's okay. Say, aren't you the guy with the botched breakaway?" the player asked.
"Yeah," Jeremy said with a lopsided grin, blushing slightly.
"It could have been worse. If you stick around, keep your eye on me and I will show you how it's done," the young player said with a wink, as he turned to head to the ice.
Jeremy started to speak, then read the name embroidered on the jersey, '
"Thanks, I think I will, X-man."
The young man stopped walking, as if he were frozen in time. He turned around and walked back to Jeremy.
"What did you just call me?" The young man asked.
"You are Alexander Hamilton, the X-man, are't you?" Jeremy replied as their eyes met. His toes curled as a shock ran through his body from the eye contact.
"I...wow...um...I am. It's just that no one outside of high school has called me that before," Alex replied, looking at Jeremy for the first time up close. Breathing all of a sudden seemed to get more difficult.
"What?" Alex replied, confused.
"Your eyes, they're blue. I was wondering what color....you know the paper just doesn't....it's black and white," Jeremy said, flushed and suddenly unable to talk coherently.
Alex blushed equally, but smiled from ear to ear.
"I didn't know someone would think about things like that. About me, I mean," Alex replied, stammering for a coherent response.
"I should...you nee-" Jeremy said, trying to ease the embarassment.
"You're staying for the game, right?" Alex asked, hoping for affirmation.
Jeremy could only nod stupidly.
"I will be looking for you," Alex replied as some of his teammates started to exit the locker room.
"Good luck out there, X-man."
"Thanks, Moralis," Alex replied as he turned to join his teammates.
"It's Jeremy," Jeremy added.
Alex turned and smiled, mouthing the word, 'later' to Jeremy.
Once Alex was out of sight, Jeremy collapsed against the wall. His heart was pounding and he was literally weak in the knees.
"Perhaps I was wrong, maybe fire and ice DO mix."