Title: New Ice
"And what does that mean? You don't think I can hack it up in the A?"
Xander replied defensively.
"That is NOT what I said. I have complete faith in you, and I know that the A is just the beginning of things to come. But I don't think you will be located in that town long enough to uproot."
"I can't do this without you, Jer."
"And you're not going to. It's only a two hour drive. I will be there as much as I possibly can. I just can't transfer departments until I KNOW it's the one."
Jeremy wrapped his arms around his lover, and held him tight, kissing him gently.
"You're gonna be great," Jeremy whispered.
"Didn't you promise me some sort of celebration, or something?" Xander asked with a smile.
Jeremy smiled, and pushed Xander down onto the bed. Jeremy reached for the light and turned it off.
"Xander, it's not like I can't bring you more stuff. You have your essentials, you’ll be fine!"
"But I feel like I’m forgetting something."
"I am ALWAYS right, you just never listen," Jeremy said with a wink.
"You are so full of it," Xander said, laughing.
Jeremy grabbed Xander, and gave him a firm, passionate kiss.
"Go on, that should hold you over until the weekend."
"Don't be. This IS your dream. Call me after practice. I don't have to go in until 4."
"I wish you could come up with me."
"Me too, but there wasn't time to switch shifts. I will be there this weekend. Now go!"
"I love you." Xander said, as he grabbed his last bag, a tear in his eye.
"Stop that! No tears," Jeremy replied, his eyes moist as well.
Xander smiled and went out the front door. This was the first time in their relationship that Jeremy and Xander had been separated, yet it was the one thing they had strived for.
Jeremy maintained composure as he watched Xander pull out of the driveway and down the street. Once his car was out of sight, the tears began to fall. He was already aching for Xander's phone call. It was gonna be some rough times, but they would survive, and make it work. Jeremy wiped away the tears, and decided to keep himself occupied. Since all the major housework was already done, he decided to clean out the cabinets and wait for the phone to ring.
It was after three, and still no word from Xander. Jeremy wanted to get into the shower before heading to the station, but knew the second he stepped in, the phone would ring. Apparently, the thought of doing that was enough, the phone finally rang.
"Hello?" Jeremy answered, barely allowing a second ring.
"Hey Jer, were you sitting on it?"
"As a matter of fact I was! So tell me everything X, how was practice?"
"It was incredible! These guys are unbelievable. I must admit I am totally intimidated by them. A couple of these guys tower over six five. But everyone seems nice though the practice was grueling. A lot tougher than anything in the EC."
"There are higher stakes up there, but I am sure you will make do. I’m glad the guys are nice."
"Yeah they are, in fact a couple of the forwards want to take me to dinner tonight."
"That’s nice. I assume you’re going?"
"Are you kidding? This one guy, Fitzimmons, he was up in the
"Well, he just warmed the bench for a game, but still."
"You will be ABOVE that some day. Just you wait. Now remember, if you go out tonight, watch the sugar and the alcohol."
"I know, I know."
"I know you know, I am just reminding you. Just because you are a couple of hours away, that doesn't mean I don't know what goes on." Jeremy replied.
"Yeah, I swear sometimes you have me bugged." Xander said with a chuckle.
Jeremy just replied with a laugh.
"Now don't forget, we have back to back home games Friday and Saturday. I am expected to see some ice time. You'll be here, right?"
"Love, you know there is nearly nothing that could keep me away!"
"I know!" Xander said looking at his watch. "You need to get ready for work."
"I do. I will call you tomorrow afternoon from the station, see how your night was. Don't party all night, or you won't make practice."
"I love you."
"I love you more. Be safe."
"You as well Xander."
"Bye." Xander said, making an audible kiss.
"Good bye." Jeremy returned the kiss, and hung up the phone.
Alexander practiced daily with the team, working hard and trying to learn what he could from the older guys. During practice he really didn't have a time to shine as it was mostly conditioning drills and shooting, but he worked hard, intent on proving himself. On Wednesday of that week, the coach started trying him out with different lines to see who he worked well with. It was decided by game day that he was going to be on the fourth line, with Bradley and Smith. He wasn't excited being on the fourth line, but figured as long as he wasn't riding the pine he could prove himself and quickly move up.
After the practices he mostly hung out at the team's hotel, reading or watching tv. He went with the guys whenever they invited him, but since most of them had been there all year, they had their own lives to lead. Whenever Xander could, he called home and talked to Jeremy.
Jeremy arrived at the hotel at two that afternoon. He checked in and headed to his room to drop off his bag and head down to Xander's room. He knocked without a response, turned and headed to the pool area. No sign of Xander there so he headed back to Xander's room. He pushed a note and his extra key card under the door and headed back to his own room for an afternoon nap. He'd gotten off shift late, having had a fire run when he was supposed to head home and wanted to try to get in a few minutes of rest before dinner and the game.
Xander was at a team meeting, getting last minute instructions for the day. Practice was early and light, with admonitions to stay away from the weight room in the afternoon and to be back at the arena two hours before game time. He nearly flew out of the room when the coach released them, heading straight for his room to await Jeremy's arrival. He nearly missed the note on the floor when he got back to his room, and was out the door in seconds flat when he read it. Inserting the key in the lock of Jeremy's room, he flung open the door and bounded over to the bed, sprawling full length and nearly bouncing Jeremy off the other side. Jeremy managed to wake as Xander was in mid bounce.
"Hey! Where you been?" Jeremy asked, half waking.
"Practice ran late. They are much more preachy up here."
"You should be used to preachy." Jeremy said with a chuckle.
"Oh you be quiet." Xander replied, climbing on top of Jeremy, tickling him feverishly.
"Hey! Stop!" Jeremy said, trying to unseat Xander but having little luck. Finally he got the upper hand and threw Xander sideways, kissing him. "Are you on the roster tonight?"
"Yes, fourth line though," Xander said with disappointment.
"That's GREAT!" Jeremy replied excitedly.
"It's not great, I should be the second line at least!"
"Sweetheart, this is your FIRST game in this league. The coach already has his team situated. You're going to have to work hard and you WILL be on the 2nd, or even 1st line quickly. It just won't happen overnight. You wouldn't want it handed on a platter to you, would you?"
"No, I guess not. Just hope I get enough ice time to show the coaches what I can do."
"You will, you'll see. Have you had lunch yet?"
"No. The team members that are here are eating in dining room."
"Want to go there?" Jeremy asked. "I can get --"
"NO. We'll go out somewhere else. The restaurant we went to on my first night, that was good. Let's go there."
"Alright. They will have your pasta or chicken?"
"Yes. That's why the guys like it." Xander said, standing up.
"Then let's go."
Jeremy and Xander left for the restaurant and were pleased to find the place uncrowded. They were quickly seated, and given a few minutes to peruse the menu as the waitress brought their respective drinks of milk and iced tea. Xander made a few suggestions, and they ordered immediately upon her return.
"So how has your week been?" Xander asked.
"It was alright. Not that I slept in our bed a lot, but I missed you there."
"I know what you mean. The hotel bed is cold and big. How was work?"
"Busy actually. A lot of minor calls."
"And not so minor," Xander said looking at Jeremy. "How come you didn't mention that apartment fire?"
"You heard about that?" Jeremy asked, surprised.
"Yeah it was on the news one of these past mornings."
"All the way up here?"
"Yeah, I guess this town had nothing going on," Xander said with a laugh.
"It was intense, but could have been much worse. I didn’t tell you, because I didn't want you to worry."
"I ALWAYS worry."
"I know you do. So everyone treating you good here?"
"Thank you." Jeremy replied with a laugh.
"Yeah, the guys all seem great. I do feel a bit out of sorts, these guys obviously have a camaraderie amongst themselves. But a few have tried to make me a part of that."
"Sounds like school."
"I guess it sort of is." Xander said with a chuckle.
"Well tonight you get to show them you can hold your own."
"I can't wait!"
The food arrived and both men dug in, the conversation slowing as they enjoyed their meal. When they finished, they decided to take a walk in the mall, enjoying their time together.
"This is kind of weird," Xander said.
"What is?" Jeremy replied, looking in one of the windows at a sweater.
"There.....no ones bothered me."
Jeremy turned to look at Xander. "What do you mean?"
"Here," Xander said, his arms taking in the mall. "I'd have been followed in our mall. Here....it's like....no one knows me."
"They don't...yet. You should enjoy this while you can, you know."
"I know. It's just...different."
"Come on. We should get you back to the hotel and get a nap in before you have to show up. What time do you need to be there?"
"Two hours before, so that makes it ."
"Then we don't have much time," Jeremy said, leading the way back to the car.
The two men made their way back to Jeremy's room.
"Did you want to nap here?" Jeremy asked, hoping Xander would say yes.
"Do you have to ask?"
"Just checking," Jeremy said, as he removed his shoes and shirt, and laid down on the bed.
Xander followed suit and removed his shirt and shoes as well. He climbed into bed, into Jeremy's arms. Jeremy wrapped them tightly around Xander, and held him. Soon they fell into a short, but deep sleep.
Jeremy was the first to wake up, Xander still in his arms. He laid very still, watching the young hockey pro sleep. He looked past Xander at the clock, and saw it read .
"Xander, time to get up," he said softly.
Xander's eyes popped open like an uncontrolled shade. He sat up quickly. "I'm not late, am I?!?"
Jeremy put a hand on his back and sat up as well. "No, sunshine, you're not, but I do think it's time to head to your room and make sure you have everything for tonight. And you need to tell me where I'm sitting."
"Oh, right! I have the tickets in my room. Are you going in what you have on?"
"Yes, as soon as I put the rest back on. Head on down, I'll be down there in a moment."
"Okay," Xander said as he headed out the door and down to the bank of elevators. Fifteen minutes later Jeremy joined him.
"Are you excited? You look excited. Definitely excited," Jeremy said as he closed the door to Xander's room, laughing.
"I AM! This is IT! The first game at the next level!" Xander fairly floated around the room, making sure he had his lucky socks and other items needed for the game.
Jeremy watched, a wonderfully happy feeling settling in his heart. He felt like the luckiest guy alive, watching the love of his life reach a new level in his dream of playing for some of the best teams in the National Hockey League.
Xander nearly ran out the door before being brought up short by Jeremy.
"Hey! You're not getting out of here yet. Sit down," he said, indicating the bed.
Xander quieted somewhat, wondering what Jeremy wanted from him. He sat down and looked up expectantly.
"First, I was threatened to within an inch of my life if I failed to give you this," Jeremy said, handing over a card in a bright envelope.
Xander looked at the flowing writing on the front and realized it was from his mother. He turned the card quickly over and tore it open, leaving the envelope on the bed and devouring the contents.
"What does she say?" Jeremy ventured when he'd finished.
"It's a congratulations card. She just said she was proud, and very sorry they couldn't be here. It's ok, I can probably get a game tape and send it to them."
"Yes," Jeremy said, sitting down next to Xander and holding his hands tightly. "It's not the same though, is it?"
"No," Xander said, looking down.
"It's going to be alright though. They'll see you soon enough, and God knows they know how well you play. Trust me, I'll be cheering enough for all of us."
Xander smiled, knowing that sometimes Jeremy got a little animated at the games.
Jeremy kissed Xander firmly on the lips. "And now....I have a little something for you too." He leaned back in order to pull the item from his pocket. "Hold out your hand."
Xander held it out, trying to watch both his hand and Jeremy's face. "What? What is it?"
Jeremy dropped a gold chain in his hand.
Xander picked it up gently, letting the gold pour though his fingers in a dazzling waterfall of brilliance. His hand stopped on the charm attached to it. A large, golden X lay nestled there. "It's beautiful," he said almost breathlessly.
"It stands for two things," Jeremy said as he picked it up and put it around his love's neck. "The X is of course, for the X-Man, the player you are, and will continually become as you get better and better. And you know the old saying, 'X marks the spot?'"
"The X, where it falls on your chest, marks the spot where I am at all times, whether I'm here physically or not. The road you are traveling will take us apart for small periods of time, and I just wanted you to know that I'm still with you always."
Xander's eyes were bright with emotion. He hugged Jeremy fiercely, trying to fight back the tears. "You're the best, you know that?"
Jeremy kissed his face. "I try. Now why don't you go out and show the world just WHO the X-Man is, what do you say?"
"Yes!" Xander jumped up, and found the ticket for Jeremy and they both headed down to the arena.
Jeremy quickly made his way to his seat. He didn't want to miss Xander taking to the ice for the first time, even if it was just for warm ups. Jeremy stared hard, barely able to breath, it seemed to be endless. And then the door to the ice swung open, and the team slowly entered the ice. He watched like a hawk, and at the back of the line Alexander finally took to the ice. Xander immediately oriented himself and found Jeremy. He touched his chest where his new chain fell, and held up a peace sign to his love. Jeremy wiped away a couple of tears. He was happy to see Xander make it. And even happier to be a part of the celebration.
He settled back, eyes practically glued to Alexander until warm-ups were over. He watched the shooting drills, the skating, then the defensive and offensive workouts. Near the end, he watched his favorite part, where everyone crowded the goalie and tried to put the puck in the net. Jeremy smiled as Xander tried to put it over the goalie's glove but missed, then watched as one of the forwards stuffed it past on the glove side. When Xander left the ice, Jeremy's attention went to the stands as he watched the fans slowly trickle in. Looked like it was going to be a large crowd.
Standing up, he wandered up to the counter and ordered himself a beer. He chatted easily with several of the fans in line, learning a bit about the current rivalry with this team. Seems the previous year that this particular team beat out the home team in the playoffs, ending their otherwise wonderful year. It was going to be a tough game.
Meanwhile, Xander sat on the bench in front of his temporary locker. He stared blankly at the floor between his feet. His heart was pounding.
"Don't worry kid they pass." Johanson said as he put a hand on Xander's shoulder.
Xander looked up with a weak smile. "Thanks."
"Looks like the wait is over," he replied upon receiving the signal to take to the ice.
Xander stood up on weak knees. What was the deal with these feelings? He hadn't been nervous about a game for years. He managed to maintain his balance with the help of his stick. He filed out the door, near the rear of the line. He slowly walked down the corridor, the voice of the announcer blaring over the PA system. The crowd was chanting, something that was still a blur. As Xander approached the entrance to the ice, he could hear the near capacity crowd. He finally took to the ice, looking up in awe as he skated around. He tried to spot Jeremy, but had become disoriented. He soon took his spot on the bench, standing with helmet off for the singing of the National Anthem.
He settled back down as the whistle blew, eyes on the game in front of him. He was too nervous to enjoy it fully, and ever expectant of hearing his line called. It was ten minutes into the game before he got out for the first time.
"Fourth line, next up!" the coach yelled, tapping the two guys right in front of him.
Xander stood up, eyes on the guy he was to replace, making sure that he was within the correct distance before jumping onto the ice. Xander was so excited that he didn't pay much attention to his feet when he kicked himself over the wall, and got them tangled up with another player's stick. He landed in a heap on the ice, quickly scrambling to his feet so as not to be behind the play. He couldn't hear the few laughs of the audience as that had blended into background noise. His entire focus was on the puck and where everyone else was on the ice. He was near the boards, stick on the ice and ready for a pass that was headed his way when he looked up just in time to see a freight train of a player a second before he felt himself leave the ice, the breath whooshing from his lungs as he was flattened against the boards and dropped in a pile on the ice. The player skated off, leaving Xander with the words "learn how to skate, rookie" ringing in his ears.
Jeremy stood up quickly when he saw the opponent lining up his boyfriend in his sights, and cringed when he connected with Xander. He didn't breathe again until Xander stood up and skated back to the bench as play continued on around him.
Xander took a seat on the bench and assured the trainer he was fine, just a little winded. A couple of the other guys reminded Xander to keep his head up at all times, particularly when the puck was going to be headed his way. Xander managed to nod and accept the advice from those who played at this level, but it still irked him some that he wasn't doing as well as he knew he could.
The period came to a close. Xander never got another chance on the ice during that period. The team filed into the locker room, and tended to their normal between period exercises. Some guys simply sat and breathed. Others got a quick massage or other medical treatment for problem areas. Some took off part of their gear to breath better. And others, more like Xander sat tight lipped, barely breathing, more less moving.
Back in the stands, Jeremy took a much need walk around the concourse. Hockey was nerve racking enough, but with Xander playing, it was a hundred times worse. He tried to block out the ignorant remarks from the people he passed by, but the occasional quip slid in.
"Where did they get that new guy from?"
"They should leave the kiddies in the sand box, and send up someone with hair on their balls."
Jeremy wanted desperately to respond to these comments, but he knew alcohol played a large part in the comments. He walked briskly around the arena and returned to his seat.
Xander skated directly to his spot on the bench when it was time to return to the ice. He was itching to get back out and show everyone what he was capable of. It was a long five minutes into the second period before the coach called his line again. This time he was more aware of his feet and made it over the boards without incident. He worked with the other winger, passing the puck back and forth up the ice. Xander could only watch as the defenseman knocked the guy to the ice and tried to make a lead pass to the center man streaking up the ice. Thankfully it was a little too far in front of him and the whistle blew for icing the puck. Unfortunately, that was the end of his shift.
At this point the score was tied 1-1 and the play pretty even. Without a couple goal lead, the main guys were getting the bulk of the playing time. Xander sat and fumed inwardly on the bench, knowing he could be out there and helping his team if they'd only give him a chance. By the end of the second period, he had been on ice for only a measly two minutes and forty seconds comprising four shifts.
After the second period break, Xander returned to the bench, certain he was going to show off his skills in the third, getting the go-ahead goal. When he was called on ice two minutes in, he flew over the boards and immediately checked a guy on ice. Xander left him scrambling to his feet, ripping the helmet the rest of the way off.
Xander did a touch pass to his teammate who one-timed it towards the net, the goaltender making a spectacular save and holding onto it, forcing the whistle. Xander nearly fell to the ice when someone ran into his back.
"X-man marks the spot on the ice. When you going back down?" the player taunted.
Xander flipped around quickly, getting into the opponent's face. His already short temper snapped. Without even batting an eye, he tossed his stick on the ice and flung off his gloves. He got a right hook in before the other player brought his hands up to fling off his gloves. The guy had barely tossed his gloves before Xander had punched him again. Instead of trying to fight back, he simply turtled on the ice, the linesman separated the players immediately and Xander was escorted to the penalty box. He accepted his stick and gloves from another player, then tossed them in frustration when the penalties were announced. He was given two for instigation, five for fighting and a ten minute misconduct. The guy he fought only got five for fighting. He watched as a teammate skated towards him to serve his two minute penalty.
"Sorry, man." Xander said when Bobby skated in and sat down.
"You need to pick your fights better."
"I know," Xander said, looking back to the ice. "I know."
Jeremy put his head in his hands. He didn't think he could watch the next two minutes.
Xander watched in trepidation as the opponents took the faceoff and skated down to set up shop in their offensive zone. Their four players set up in a square around the net and tried everything they could to bat the puck down the ice but couldn't quite get their stick on it. Thirty seconds into the penalty, they scored.
"We'll get them back," Bobby said as he exited the penalty box.
Xander felt horrible. He'd let his emotions get the better of him and took a bad penalty, and now his team was down a goal. The kind comment from Bobby did nothing to alleviate his guilt.
Jeremy watched from the stands, unable to do or say anything to help. He knew that Xander's poor decision had forced the team down 2-1. He watched as Xander thrashed his stick about.
"Cool it kiddo. You're gonna get ejected," Jeremy said to himself.
Xander got a warning from an official and settled down. He realized at least that if he got another penalty he'd be out of the game. The seventeen minutes he had to sit in the box were the longest of his playing career. When the whistle finally blew after his penalty expired, he skated across to the bench and took a seat. His team was down 3-2, and he didn't have a prayer of getting back on the ice at this stage.
At in the third period, the coach pulled the goalie in favor of a sixth attacker. Xander stood with the rest of the bench and tried to cheer his team to victory but they couldn't get the biscuit in the basket. The horn sounded and the game was over, losing 3-2.
The players filed into the locker room. The mood was somber. Xander was exceptionally sluggish. He knew his inability to keep his emotions in check cost them the game. He stared at his locker, lost in thought. The rest of the team had already begun to remove their gear and pads. Soon they were filing into the showers. Xander slowly began to undress as well. He listened as the guys began to talk over the showers.
"These damn rookies."
"Tell me about it."
"They come up here, and they have no clue what they are facing."
"They lack discipline. That guy was trying to get
Xander began to quiver. As he removed his t-shirt worn under the numerous pads, he looked down at Jeremy's gift, which hung from his neck. He looked down and shook his head, wondering how he could go from "X-man" to this. Lost in thought, he didn't hear footsteps behind him. He felt a hand on his shoulder, and jumped.
"Hey, sorry, didn't mean to sneak up on you." The team captain, Rob Kinney said.
"It's alright, I was just..."
"I know. Try not to let them get to you. We were all rookies at some point. You DO need to work on your self control. But that will come with time." Kinney said with a wink, and a gentle smack to Xander's short covered bottom.
Xander smiled sheepishly, and nodded in thanks. But it did no good for his morale. He was disappointed with himself. This so wasn't the big break he had hoped for. Xander finished disrobing, and hit the showers.
Meanwhile, Jeremy paced nervously outside the locker room doors. He knew Xander wouldn't be in the best moods, but was hoping he could console him to some degree.
The door flung open and Xander nearly ran right over Jeremy.
"Hey. Sor-" Jeremy started.
Xander kept walking. "Don't be sorry, it wasn't your fault, it was mine." He cut down a hallway to avoid any autograph seekers or more truthfully, the snide comments he felt he was owed.
Jeremy kept up with his lover, knowing the conversation he wanted to have with him should be kept more private. When they reached the private elevator upstairs to the hotel suites, Jeremy finally caught up with him. He put a hand on his shoulder.
"This was just one game -"
"It was THE game to show them what I could do and I spent it either on the bench or in the box!" Xander said angrily, punching the button again for the elevator.
"That isn't going to make the elevator come any quicker."
Xander just quivered, standing wasn't helping.
"I am gonna take the stairs."
"Up 14 flights?"
The elevator opened just then.
"Come on, saved you the time." Jeremy said politely.
Xander got on quietly, very much in the self loathing phase. He pushed the button for his floor as Jeremy pushed the button for his own.
"What are you doing?" Jeremy asked.
"Going to my room. I want to be alone."
"Xander, that is the last thing you need right now."
"That is what I WANT!"
"Alexander, I don't give a damn what you want, we are going with what you need. And you need to come up with me and talk."
He got ready to pull Xander back when the door opened onto his floor, but thankfully Xander stayed put, if breathing a little heavy. When they got to Jeremy's floor, he stormed off, down the hall, Jeremy walking a bit slower to his room.
He unlocked the door and stood back as Xander breezed past him, dropping his gear bag by the door before heading over and flopping onto the bed.
"Come on sweetheart, it's not the end of the world," Jeremy said as he shut the door behind him and headed towards the bed.
Xander turns his head and looks the other way. Jeremy sits down on the bed beside him, and rubs his back. Xander jerks himself forward and sits up.
"You don't get it do you?" Xander said harshly.
"I'm trying to help you."
"That's just it, I don't WANT your help!" Xander said as he stood to his feet and stared out the balcony window.
Jeremy was at a loss for words.
"This was my chance to show I belonged here. And what did I do? I ended up letting my emotions get the better of me, and it cost us the game."
"Xander you weren't the-"
Xander just held up his hand, almost begging for Jeremy's silence, as he continued to stare out the window.
"I thought I DID belong here. I thought I was ready for the next level of play. I soon found I am NOT ready for this. Do you know how CRUSHING that is? WHAT am I working for?"
Jeremy walked over to Xander, and put his hand on his back. Xander moved again, not wanting to be consoled. But Jeremy persisted, he turned Xander around, and held him in his arms. Xander finally broke down to tears.
Jeremy helped Xander over to the bed and sat down, pulling the younger man into his lap and continuing to soothe him. When the tears finally slowed and Jeremy thought he could be heard, he spoke.
"Your entire game wasn't what you planned, I know, but I still saw the flashes of brilliance that you're capable of."
"It doesn't matter what you see," Xander said quietly. "It only matters what the coach sees."
"I don't know hockey like the coach does, so I can bet you anything he saw more brilliance than I did. He also saw you make a bad choice, but that's something that happens when you learn."
"You're seeing this through tainted glass. The only lesson I am going to learn is that bad mistakes lead to being punished."
"That is a lesson I have been trying to instill in you since the beginning of our relationship."
Xander blushed profusely.
"Alexander there is NO shame in learning from your mistakes. You DID make some bad choices, and you will have to face up to that. But I am certain this will NOT end your career."
"I can't be that-"
"I AM THAT certain."
Xander breathed deeply, and laid silent in Jeremy's lap.
Why don't you head down to your room with your gear, and grab something to sleep in and come back. We'll snuggle up with a movie, hmmm?"
Xander got up quietly. "That might be nice," he said as he grabbed his bag and headed out the door.
Jeremy shook his head silently, hating to see Alexander that disappointed in himself. He knew this was a tiny blip in the career of a star, he just wished Xander would see that sooner, rather than much, much later. He got up and changed into his sleeping clothes, washing his face and brushing his teeth. Settling on the bed, he turned the tv on to see what movies were playing, still waiting for Xander to return.
Xander stepped off the elevator and headed towards his room. His feet were dragging, but not as much as they were before. He was mere paces from his room, when some called out.
Xander spun around to see two of his new teammates standing there.
"Hey Ruzinsky, Dawson." Xander replied quietly.
"About time you showed up, we have been circling for twenty minutes."
"You slunk off before we could catch you," Ruzinsky added.
"Catch me for what?" Xander asked.
"For your post game drink."
"Thanks for the offer, but-"
"It's tradition." Ruzinsky pressed. "It was your first game. D and I always insist on taking the newbie out."
"I'm really kind of wiped, besides I'm only-"
"Doesn't matter, and we are NOT taking 'no' for an answer."
"Come on, one drink in the lounge, it won't kill you." Ruzinsky added.
Every fiber in his body told him not to go, but Xander couldn't resist. Especially after his performance, he was certain no one would talk to him again.
"That a boy."
Ruzinsky wrapped his arm around Xander, and followed
The five minute drink turned into a twenty minute drink as Ruzinksy and Dawson kept up a train of conversation that Xander had trouble following. He was enjoying the camaraderie, but knew that Jeremy was waiting for him upstairs.
"Thanks a bunch, guys. I really appreciate the drink, but I need some sleep. I plan on doing much better tomorrow," Xander said, standing up and shaking hands with both men.
"You'll do fine. Just remember, there are guys paid to get under your skin. You have to try not to allow them to work like they did tonight,"
"I know. It won't happen again," Xander said firmly as he headed upstairs. He quickly grabbed his shorts he slept in and locked the door behind him, jogging down the hall and up the stairs to Jeremy's room. He took a moment to get his breath, then knocked gently on the door.
Jeremy stood up and went to open the door. "Where have you been? Did you have to run out and purchase shorts?" He shut the door behind Xander.
Xander was feeling defensive, and that comment did nothing for his temper, and his tongue was getting very loose thanks to the alcohol.
"No," he spat angrily. "Aren't I allowed to do ANYTHING without your direct supervision?"
"HEY, watch the mouth mister." Jeremy replied in a serious tone. "Now what took you so long?"
"What's with the third degree? I didn't know I was under lock and key!"
"You aren't under lock and key YET, but you are getting dangerously close."
"I ain't in the mood for this!" Xander said, as he turned and headed for the door.
"Alexander Hamilton, don't you even THINK of taking another step."
"You mean like this?"
Xander put out his right foot and started to step forward, then pulled it back. He continued this motion for a minute.
"Sit down on the bed,
"I tink someone's maAad." Xander said with a crooked smile.
Jeremy squinted his eyes, and checked out Xander from head to toe. Something clearly wasn't right. He waited for Xander to sit, which he eventually did do. Jeremy then stood in front of him and inhaled.
"Ah. So you came back to my room via the bar, is that it?" Jeremy asked with deadly precision.
"A couple of the guys take all the newbies out, they caught me as I went down, wouldn't take no for an answer and I went. That made me just a FEW minutes late," Xander said.
"How old are you?" Jeremy asked, eyes hard and locked on Xanders.
Alexander was starting to feel that this situation had slipped from stupid to quite dangerous. The look he was getting made his stomach twist and his heart beat faster. "You know! Why are you asking -"
"Twenty, but -"
"Twenty. TWENTY. WHAT is the legal drinking age?" Jeremy asked, still on top of Xander.
"I don't know. Eighteen?" Xander replied, hoping, wishing.
Jeremy cleared his throat and shot piercing looks thru Xander.
"We can do this the hard way or the easy way. WHAT is the legal drinking age?"
"Tw-twenty," Xander said as he began to stutter from sheer fear of the glare. "Twenty one, Sir."
"Does that make you of legal age to drink?"
Xander shook his age.
"Don't shake your head, I want a response."
"NO!" Xander snapped, before meekly adding, "sir."
"Jer I'm sorry, I-"
"Stand UP!" Jeremy said cutting Xander off.
Xander stood up as requested, and Jeremy took his spot on the bed.
"My hairbrush is on the sink in the bathroom, please go get it."
"No, please! I'm sorry!"
"Alexander, you have managed to create a LONG list in a VERY short time, do you really wish to add to it?"
"Do not make me have to get up for it," Jeremy replied in a quiet tone.
Xander kicked his feet back and forth, and finally managed to drag his feet into the bathroom.
"Pick up the pace please."
Xander did as instructed and returned to Jeremy, reluctantly handing him the large wooden brush. Jeremy accepted the brush and placed it on the bed next to him. He then took it upon himself to undo Xander's jean buttons.
"I'm not incompetent I ca-"
Jeremy cut him off with a deadly look while continuing to unfasten his jeans, before letting them fall to his ankles. He yanked down Xander's boxers as well.
"You can step out of those, and then tell me why I'm going to spank you."
Xander's face flushed. Jeremy knew Xander's body very intimately, as a lover should, but there was something shameful about being nude at moments like this. Xander stepped out of his pants and boxers, and stared at the floor.
"Because I had a drink and was underage."
"And?" Xander replied questioningly.
"Xander, I remember a discussion a few short weeks ago about your health. Drinking falls into the category as well, and you are fully aware of that," Jeremy replied patiently.
"Yes, sir," Xander replied even more quietly.
"And your behavior this evening is less than desirable. I understand what you were feeling regarding the game. But your behavior crossed a line."
Xander kept his eyes glued to the floor, anywhere to avoid direct eye contact with Jeremy.
"I didn't want to have to spank you in the middle of your AHL debut, but you've left me precious little choice. One of these days, I hope you find it wiser to listen to my voice, rather than my hand or hairbrush." With that said, Jeremy took Xander's arm and pulled him face down across his lap, settling him in and taking a firm hold around his middle.
Xander put his head on his arms across the bed, shame burning his throat. He was trying to fight back the tears that threatening when the first swat of the brush landed and the flames erupted immediately. He jumped forward, head snapping up as the second one landed, always forgetting exactly how hard Jeremy could spank. He chewed his lip, fighting the urge to bawl, ashamed that he was in this position, with team mates that had no clue three floors down.
Jeremy landed the brush a good dozen times before he sensed the attitude change of Xander and heard the first few tears boiling up. He continued snapping the brush down firmly, not allowing Xander to move an inch.
Alexander couldn't hold back the tears and gave into them, sobbing hard. He was ashamed of his position, but more importantly, what got him into this position. He apologized profusely a couple of times before his words became incoherent. He kicked a few times more before realizing that there were no new flames being ignited. He collapsed on the bed, letting the sobs and the pain wash over him.
Jeremy rubbed his back gently, letting the emotions flow willingly. They stayed in that position for over ten minutes. Once Xander's breathing had returned to normal, Jeremy helped him to his feet.
"Go get cleaned up and we'll see about that movie."
Xander sniffled, and walked slowly into the bathroom, his bare bottom glowing red and on display. Once the door was closed, Jeremy also stood up. He sighed heavily and turned down the bed. He walked over to the television and turned it on, grabbing the remote to check out the pay-per-view.
"Man, I do love hotel pay-per-view!" he said quietly as he saw that Spider-man was airing. He ordered the next showing, which was in a half-hour. Jeremy pulled off his shirt, folded it, and put it on the chair. He grabbed his hairbrush and put it on the nightstand, making sure the room was secure before he climbed into bed.
Alexander took his time in the bathroom. Brushing his teeth was always fun after a spanking as his spit was thick. Once he got that done, he washed his face in cool water, trying to lessen the puffy, red eyes. Nothing was going to help but time, so he gave up and headed back out into the room. He found his nightshirt and put that on, taking his shorts and dropping them by the bed, not wanting any material to rub his still flaming backside. He flopped down on the bed, curling up to Jeremy.
"I'm sorry," he said, burying his face against Jeremy's side.
"I know. It's alright, it's over now," Jeremy said, rubbing soothingly across his partner's wide shoulders. "Spider-man is coming on in about fifteen minutes."
Xander stayed close to Jeremy as they watched the movie. They both managed to stay awake, enjoying the quick pace of the movie, and the intriguing plot. As soon as the movie was over, Jeremy turned off the television. Xander wanted to complain, but he was tired.
"Do you have practice tomorrow?"
"No, not on game days. Another easy day," Xander said, sliding under the covers.
"Then I'll make sure we're up by nine at the latest to get a good breakfast in," Jeremy said as he stood up, walking to the bathroom. He quickly brushed his teeth and washed his face. He smiled to himself when he returned to the bed and Xander's soft snoring. Turning out the light, he slid down and was promptly asleep himself.
"Morning Sunshine," Jeremy said from the chair by the window when Xander started to stir.
"Mmmhhhhmmm," Xander mumbled as he stretched like a cat and cracked his eyes slowly open. "Raining?"
"No, just a few fluffy clouds across the sun," Jeremy said as he laid his book down.
"Sleep well?" Xander asked still groggy himself.
"No complaints. I had missed not being next to you."
Xander smiled and stretched. "Me too."
"Breakfast in or out?"
"I hear there is a little nook not too far from here that is NOT to be missed."
"Then I think someone needs to get up and shower."
"I guess that would be me." Xander slowly sat up and winced. He quickly stood up, and tried to examine his rear end. "Is it still red?"
Jeremy motioned for Xander to come over, which he did. Jeremy took a closer look, then used Xander's shirt to pull him in for a kiss.
"Good as new." Jeremy said giving Xander a gentle push to the bathroom.
"That's what you think," Xander groused as he pulled his shirt over his head and got into the shower. If his team mates ever had ANY idea of his relationship with Jeremy, he'd be dead meat. He quickly showered and got ready, feeling slightly more human after it.
Jeremy was waiting when he was finished. "Do we need to drive?"
"No, it's within walking distance," Xander said, putting on his tennis shoes.
"That should be good. I'll race you," Jeremy said, opening the door.
Xander followed Jeremy out to the elevator and down stairs. "It's three blocks west, and two north."
"Let's go," Jeremy said, jogging to the west with Xander hot on his heels. The foot traffic was light as it was the weekend and they made it to the door of the restaurant quickly, barely winded.
"That means you buy," Xander said as he preceded Jeremy into the front door.
"Oh, like you had intentions of paying anyway," Jeremy said with a chuckle.
"The world may never know," Xander quipped in reply.
After a wonderful breakfast, at a reasonable price, they exited the restaurant and returned to the room.
"You have to leave at about ?" Jeremy asked.
"Somewhere around there. They prefer if we get there early."
"We should consider checking out the town. You know I have to leave at about 2 tomorrow afternoon?"
"I wasn't able to get tomorrow night off as well. I told you that."
"I must have forgot," Xander said with a long face.
"I will be back up on Wednesday for the game."
"I have to survive tonight's game first!" Xander replied as his energy sank.
"Talking like that isn't going to help you any. You had an off night, everyone gets those on occasion. You don't need to condemn your career over it."
Xander shook his head, needing to change the subject. "They have a hockey museum here. Want to go check it out?"
"Really? How long have they had hockey here?"
"Something like 45 years or something."
"Wow! Do you know where it is?"
"No," Xander replied, laughing.
"Then we shall find out. Ready?"
Xander nodded and they left the hotel room.
Jeremy stopped at the front desk and asked the concierge for directions. Heading back to Xander who was checking out some of the brochures, he said, "It's just a few blocks. Let's walk it, shall we?"
"Sure," Xander said, perking up a little. He could never get enough time with Jeremy, especially when they were out walking in a new town.
They took their time and window shopped along the way, winding up at the museum an hour later. Jeremy followed Xander who eagerly went from exhibit to exhibit, gobbling up the information and spitting it back out in lightening speed to him. They were near the end of the exhibits, when they came across a list of the current inductees into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
"Look, Jari Kurri is finally getting the recognition he deserves," Xander said as he read through his stats. "He played with The Great One in the early 80's, when the Edmonton Oilers kept winning the cup. It was only in his second year that he hit the 100 point mark, lighting the lamp 45 times and assisting on 59 others. The very next season he scored over 50 goals. I WISH I could play with
Jeremy wrapped his arms around Xander, kissing his neck from behind. "Maybe you'll be the next Great One, and everyone will be wanting to play with you," Jeremy said sincerely.
Xander blushed before turning to face Jeremy, a wicked glint in his eyes. "You're the only one that I want to play with," he said in a sultry voice.
"If I didn't know better, I'd think I was just propositioned," Jeremy said, kissing Xander quickly before pulling him close and walking to the exit.
The two men found a table at a corner restaurant that overlooked the river and settled down for a light, late lunch. Xander had his usual chicken and pasta and Jeremy ordered a club sandwich and they ate in companionable silence as they watched the boats and barges navigate the river. All too soon it was time to head back to the hotel and get ready for the game.
"Are you going to come up to my room?" Jeremy asked.
"Nah, it's getting late, just enough time to get my gear together."
They reached the elevators, and boarded one, hoping it would be empty. Luck was on their side, and it was. They pushed the buttons for the appropriate floors, and embraced for a passionate kiss.
"I know you will find your rhythm tonight, and you will wow the crowd." Jeremy said, pulling his lips away long enough for encouragement.
"I am glad one of us is so confident."
"I wish we BOTH had that confidence!"
Jeremy leaned in for one more deep kiss as the elevator slowed.
"Have a great game my lovely. I will see you afterward."
Xander smiled and stepped off the elevator, heading for his room. Jeremy continued up to his room, and crashed on the bed for a few minutes rest.
Xander got changed and walked over to the arena, running into another teammate along the way. He went through his normal preparatory routine, the rest of the guys doing their own thing as well. Getting ready for practices and games differed greatly. During the practices, everyone was talking, goofing off and horsing around. On game days, everyone left everyone else alone to get ready in their own way. Some guys got mostly dressed and stretched out on the floor, seemingly asleep, but their minds hard at work on visualizing the game they wanted to have. Some refused to get dressed until fifteen minutes before they were to take the ice. Everyone had their idiosyncrasies, and they were left alone on game day, though could be teased on other days.
Jeremy got dressed and headed to the arena, arriving just in time to watch the two teams take the ice for warm-ups. It was the same team tonight, and Jeremy hoped that Xander would keep his cool with the opposing player, as he knew that player was going to be doing everything he could to get under Xander's skin again for whatever advantage he could get.
As soon as the last player left the ice, Jeremy rose to his feet. As he turned to exit the row, he was greeted by a couple of women.
"Hi I'm Melanie and this is Trish," the young woman replied enthusiastically, gesturing. "Aren't you Owen Reynold's brother?"
Jeremy smiled and thought for a moment why that name sounded familiar, then he realized it was one of the players.
"No, I am Xan- Alex Hamilton's...friend."
"Oh...the um..." Melanie replied snapping her fingers. "Rookie! Well if you are interested, the wives and other important player guests meet in the press box."
"Oh, thanks." Jeremy smiled.
The women smiled and exited the aisle.
"I knew that
Jeremy shook his head, and waited until the peroxide twins were out on the concourse. Once the coast was clear he made his way up. He stopped at the concession stand, got a beer and nachos and returned to his seat. As he sat down, the lights dimmed and the announcer came on the speakers. He introduced the starting line up as the players skated out one by one. Then as the lights slowly brightened the rest of the team filed out. Xander was near the back of the line, Jeremy smiled, trying to send telepathic good wishes to him.
Xander again found where Jeremy was sitting and touched his chest. The X seemed heavy tonight, and Xander was thankful for it. He skated a couple times around the ice, flexing his arms and legs as he went, not sure how long he was going to be sitting before being called to the ice. He was surprised that the coaches hadn't said anything directly to him, but also pleased that maybe he could get in a good game in under his belt.
The lights were still coming up as the anthem singer got into place on the carpet at the far end of the ice. Everyone stood and removed helmets and hats as the first bars of the song started to echo in the quiet arena.
Xander couldn't help but look around at the crowd. He knew there were about double the fans as there were in his home stadium, and he could tell from the volume of them as the anthem came to a close. The announcer's voice echoed loudly over the crowd, "LET'S
Xander paid close attention to the game. He saw a lot of things the normal fan doesn't know to look for. He paid attention to who shot the puck and from what angles they did best. He watched on every draw which side they hit it to, and who was there to receive. Before he knew it, his line was called out.
Xander skated down into their own end and received the puck from their center man, head up to avoid the check from Boucher, the opposing defenseman. Boucher saw he was going to miss and pulled up so as not to let Xander skate away from him. He tried to poke check, but Xander was anticipating that move and shot the puck back to the center man, who sent it forward to the right winger, who took it across the line. The opposing team closed down around their own goal with three men, leaving two out to harass the defenseman.
Skating in from the left wing, Xander passed through the goal mouth and nearly got flattened by an opposing player. He managed to keep his feet and skated back to his side. The other winger was cycling down on the right side with the center man taking the puck. Xander was able to get around his defenseman, received the puck and shot it at the net. The goalie snagged the shot and the referees blew the play dead. Skating back to the bench, Xander felt pretty good about his play and was pleased with the roar of the crowd.
"Good job," O'Neil said as Xander skated in the door and sat down as the first line went out for the next shift.
"Thanks," Xander said simply.
Play continued, and Xander paid close attention to all the left wingers, watching each of the defenseman play against them. He noticed that every time that Vasichek got the puck, that his defenseman, Sundin, pushed him hard to the outside. He debated for several minutes about saying something to Vasichek, but he didn't feel it was quite his place. Finally, he decided the guy could only act like he was an idiot and said something.
"Vasi, why don't you try pulling up right inside the zone instead of going straight down the glass. I'd bet you anything that Sundin will go straight into the wall and you can skate around him."
Vasichek nodded, taking a drink as he was winded from just playing. Three minutes later and he took the ice again. Jelnack got the puck and skated from behind the net, passing up the wall to Cole, who passed it cross-ice to Vasichek. Taking the puck, Vasichek realized that he wasn't getting anywhere doing things his own way, and instead tried stopping just as he passed the blue line. He watched only a moment as Sundin skated right past him, leaving the net open save for the goalie. Vasichek let loose with a strong shot that went just inside the right post, clanging loudly before hitting the back of the twine.
The crowd went wild and Xander jumped up with the rest of the team as the horn sounded and the music started. Vasichek made his way down the bench, knocking gloves with his teammates. As he approached Xander, he leaned in, and whispered.
"Thanks for the advice, quite the eye you have."
Then he skated off for the face off, leaving Xander with a gaping smile and a boost of self confidence. The period soon came to a close, and the players returned to the locker rooms. Jeremy took the opportunity to stretch and walk the concourse. He breathed a silent sigh of relief, pleased with Xander's play thus far.
As the horn sounded for the third and final period, Jeremy made his way back to his seat and Xander made his way to the bench. The third period started, with the one to nothing lead that Vasichek had scored.
The play got more intense as the teams both tried to put another score on the board. There were two fights within the first five minutes, providing the crowd with lots of entertainment. Jeremy and Alexander both wished that one of the guys in the box had been the provoker from the night before, but so far he remained fight free.
Xander's line got called and he flew over the boards as soon as Kinney came in. The opponent had flung the puck into the zone to make a line change, and Xander was the first one back to pick up the loose puck. He skated out from behind his own net, intent on passing the puck as that was the fastest way for it to travel up the ice. Instead, the defenseman matched up with him skated a little too hard and passed him up, leaving Xander open. He turned on his jets and flew up the ice at lightening speed, pulling the defender away from Isaacs to avoid a clean breakaway. Xander continued on, passing a no-look pass to Isaacs who was left undefended. Isaacs blasted a one-timer on net, the goalie having been waiting for Xander to come in on the right, was late in recovering and missed the puck.
The crowd went wild as the red light went on, signaling a goal, and Xander and the other three players converged on Isaacs, hugging him before they followed him over to the bench for the congratulatory glove hitting. Xander got to stay out for the next draw, but skated in fifteen seconds later as he lost his wind. He looked immediately up to where Jeremy was, though couldn't find him in the crowd. He smiled as he felt his chain shift and the cool X land in a different place on his chest.
His line was called a couple minutes later. Xander got on the ice and kept his eye on Allison, making sure that he stayed on his side of the ice. Allison had been bugging him several times, trying to get him to fight again, but Xander wasn't biting. He learned his lessons, no matter how hard they were.
One of his teammates shot the puck at the net and the goalie hung on. The faceoff was to the right of the goalie. Xander skated over and took his place, already down on the ice. He absorbed a hit from Allison when he took his place.
"Get sent back down yet, ROOKIE," Allison taunted.
Xander ignored the comment, shuffling his feet to get better position.
Allison moved in front of Xander, slashing his stick.
"Settle down you two. Keep it civil," The lineman warned.
Xander took a gamble. "Bring it on, butt wipe."
The puck dropped and Xander's stick was trapped by Allison, swinging him around.
"Want a piece of me? I'll show you what it's like to play in the big leagues," Allison said, dropping his stick.
"Go ahead, if you're big enough," Xander taunted, looking like he was going to drop his gloves.
That was all the provocation that Allison needed. He tossed his gloves to the ice and squared off to hit Xander.
Jeremy stood up at his seat, shaking his head, wondering what on earth Xander was thinking.
Xander waited and took a right hook gently to the chin, fell to the ice and turtled, just like Allison had. He ignored the rest of the filth that Allison sputtered at him as he was being helped to the penalty box by the referees.
"Yeah, suck THAT," Xander smirked as he skated back to the bench and seventeen minutes went up on the board for Allison, who immediately skated out and off the ice as his penalty minutes exceeded the amount left in the game.
"Good job," the captain said as they passed by on the ice.
The home team scored once more on the ensuing power play, and won the game 3-0 to the delight of the crowd.
After a round of congratulations on the ice, the players filed into the locker room. The atmosphere was a complete turnaround from the previous night. The players whooped it up, talking trash about the other team. And reliving key plays.
"Nice job Hamilton, that brick wall didn't see that coming. Good discipline!" Dawson said as he passed Alex, smacking him across his backside with the stick.
Alexander smiled, happy to hear good comments.
"It's nice to see that SOMEONE pays attention to the action as well." Vasichek started. "Someone was watching my back, helped me get us our edge."
Vasichek stripped off his jersey, and started to remove his pads. Alexander didn't know how to respond to the compliments. Just as he opened his mouth, his attention was diverted.
"Hamilton, a word please." The coach called, popping his head out from his office.
As Alexander made his way to the office, his new teammates turned away, certain of his fate. Alex walked slowly, his heart beating, hoping it wasn't the conversation he knew it would be.
Jeremy stood off to the rear of the press box, not having much in common with the people present. He spoke when spoken to, but he waited for Alex to join him. Soon the players began to file in. It seemed like the entire team had made an appearance and greeted their lovers and wives, but still no Alex. Just as Jeremy was ready to approach one of the players, Xander finally appeared. He walked over towards Jeremy slowly.
"Let's go," he said quietly.
"What? Why? What's wrong?" Jeremy asked concerned.
"I want to go."
Jeremy walked Xander further towards the back.
"We can't be rude. What's wrong?"
Xander's eyes met Jeremy's. Just as he was ready to add insult to injury, he felt a tap on the shoulder.
"Sorry, don't mean to interrupt." Kinney said politely.
"No interruption." Xander replied. "Rob, this is Jeremy. Jer this is-"
"Rob Kinney." Kinney finished, shaking Jeremy's hand.
"Ah the team captain. Nice work out there today."
"Thanks." Kinney said, before turning towards Xander. "I just wanted to catch you before you left. You showed incredible discipline out there tonight. As well as solid skills and abilities. I am sure being sent back after two games is a disappointment."
Jeremy's smile fell. They both knew this was only temporary, but they had hoped it would last longer than it had.
"But if you keep playing as you did tonight. You will be back. Soon." Kinney finished. He shook Xander's hand. "See you soon."
Xander smiled and nodded. And Kinney nodded towards Jeremy, before excusing himself.
"Sweetheart, I am sorry." Jeremy said.
"Can we go? Please?" Xander asked.
Jeremy nodded, and followed Xander out, as he waved goodbye to some of his teammates. They walked in silence out of the arena. As they got outside, Xander stopped and looked at the building.
"Xan, this isn't goodbye. Not as long as you sport that!" Jeremy said, as he pointed to the golden X.
Xander smiled, and whispered softly. "I know."
Xander laid his head on Jeremy's shoulder as they walked to the truck.
"Can we go home tonight?"
Jeremy nodded, as they started their journey home.