LENGTH: 13,125 words
This story is included in the anthology, Playing the Field Volume 1
Christian “Magic” Magdziuk is a minor league hockey player with dreams of heading to the NHL someday, and he’ll do whatever it takes to make that dream come true. So he only plays with the Richmond Rebels for one short season before he asks to be traded to the Bedford Blizzard, a farm team for the American Hockey League where he might get a little more notice from scouts.
His attitude on the ice left him few friends among the Rebels … that is, until teammate Ronnie took a liking to him. One thing led to another and the two men became lovers during the time Christian played with the team. But when he transferred to the Blizzard, he left the Rebels — and Ronnie — behind.
Now it’s the first game of a new season, and he’s facing off against his former teammates in the season opener. But does something still smolder between Christian and Ronnie after all this time?
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The first day of practice, he arrived at the Richmond Coliseum with his ego inflated from try-outs. Once on the ice, however, he wised up quick -- the Rebels were a cohesive team who played together like a fine-tuned machine, many parts working toward one common goal.
Christian could only hope to integrate himself into their camaraderie. He started out as he had at practice, fast and furious, taking no prisoners in his fight to attain the goal. It was his puck, his game. He would show them just who they were playing with now. He'd show them he was the best.
Afterwards, in the locker room, Christian stood by himself as he undressed. His jersey, his pads, his helmet and gloves, each was tossed unceremoniously into his locker. He'd heard the muttering from his teammates as they skated off the ice; he knew he wasn't welcome among them. The others hadn't hung around the lockers after practice but rather ignored him and left quickly. There wasn't even a word of encouragement to him. He'd played good out there, damn good, and not one of them bothered to mention it. So fuck them. Fuck them all.
Behind him came the sound of a sneaker scraping over the concrete floor. Christian didn't bother to turn around. A man cleared his throat, and Christian ignored him.
"So," came the soft Southern drawl, "you're the one they call Magic out on the ice."
Christian felt his cheeks heat up. "It's mad-jook. You're pronouncing it wrong."
The man behind him snickered. "You looked like Magic to me."
Now Christian turned and saw Ronnie, one of the Rebel's best players, leaning against the lockers with his arms crossed in front of his chest. His dark hair was a disheveled mess, as if he hadn't bothered to brush it after climbing out of bed that morning. A faint shadow clung to his chin and jaw, making his lips look impossibly pink. His eyes were the clear blue of a summer sky -- Christian thought if he stared into them for too long, he'd see through to the other side.
With a grunt, he turned back to his locker. "What's it to you, anyway?"
Ronnie closed the distance between them to lean against the locker next to Christian's. "Oh, I'm sorry," he said, sounding anything but. "For a minute there, I thought we were on the same team."
Christian glanced at him, confused. "We are --"
"Then fucking act like it."
Ronnie's voice was that same slow drawl, but now it held a sharpness that made Christian bristle. They stared like wild alley cats, each assessing the fight in the other, each gauging the other's weakness and strength. Christian felt as if he were being pulled into that crystal gaze -- he was in danger of toppling over into it, drowning in that frozen stare, and never resurfacing. He tried to look away and couldn't, but he didn't know if it were because Ronnie held him prisoner, or if he himself didn't want to be set free.
After a long, breathless moment, Ronnie smiled. His grin warmed his eyes, and Christian relaxed. Strong fingers touched his wrist, surprising him, and he had to look down to assure himself it was Ronnie's hand on his.
"Magic," Ronnie murmured. Christian didn't bother correcting him. "I'm wondering if you have any of those fast, slick moves off the ice, too."
Christian grinned. Maybe Ronnie had meant something entirely different when he said they played on the same team.