Day 9

Title: Day 9
Author: tarotgal
Fandom: Hockey; original characters
Rating: R (mainly for swearing. See above re: hockey)
Pairing: male/male
Summary: Hockey players are creatures of habit.
Note: Part of the 12 Ficlets in 12 Days project 2011-2012. Requested by brigidmn.


Day 9

Hockey players are creatures of habit. As the number one center for the New Hampshire Eagles, Wilson Majors observed a strict pre-game routine and attributed his success on-ice to it. He got to the rink three and a half hours before a game, needing to be the first player in the locker room as well as the first man on the ice. Once in a while, when he was running a little late from combing gel through his spiky blond hair and picking out the right tie to wear with his game day suit, he would arrive to find a player waiting outside the facility, not wanting to go in before him.

The first thing Wilson did upon arrival was work on his stick. He always prepared exactly seven sticks the day of a game—seven to match the lucky number on his sweater—and he always taped them up using the same brand of tape. He’d made an equipment manager run to the store once two and a half hours before a game just to get the right kind.

After his sticks were prepared, Wilson laid out all of his gear and put it on, piece by piece, in the same exact order. He used to start with the bottom and work up, but after a nine game streak without a single assist to his name, he switched to top down and immediately scored a goal and two assists in that game. From then on, that was his new dressing order and he didn’t deviate once.

Rick had bought him an iPod a few years back, and he loaded it each week with a slightly new playlist of upbeat songs to psych him up and put him in the right mindset. The music focused him. There was a techno song he listened to that made him think about how he handled power plays. There was a heavy metal song that grounded him, making him think about the steady rhythm of blades and sticks and pucks sliding across the ice. And there was a classical song—a concerto on piano—that got on his nerves so much it drove him into a fury that pushed him to fight hard against the other team in the first half of the first.


Wilson looked around the locker room and spotted Mikey Madaba across from him, sitting on a bench next to a box of tissues. The man’s dark black hair hung down, hiding his eyes but not the paleness of his face or redness of his nose. Switching the volume on his iPod down to almost nothing, Wilson turned to his right winger. “D’you gotta do that right now? Can’t ya hold ‘em back? You’re breaking my concentration here, man.”

Mikey shrugged apologetically.

Wilson went back to his music, turning it up higher to—he hoped—drown out all sounds in the locker room. His ears could take it and his nerves would thank him for it when it came to game time. He tried to lose himself in the routine, putting on his equipment, transforming himself from a guy who played hockey to a professional hockey machine, living and breathing and dying for this game.

hahh-CHOO! Katchooo!

Wilson put his current song on pause. This was going to require an actual discussion. “Mikey, you caught that crud that’s been going around?”

Mikey nodded, open-mouthed, and ripped another tissue from the box, getting it to his face just in time. “hah-hah-haChoo!” He cleared his throat. “It was only a matter of time. This thing’s picking us off one by one.”

Wilson nodded and went back to his music and his pads, fitting them into place on his body.


The sneeze was so loud he could hear it over his music. It was interrupting his routine. He pulled on one of the cords and an earbud popped from his left ear. His music continued in his right. “Did you take something for it?”

“Hell yeah. Strongest non-drowsy medicine I could get my paws on. Lotta good it did me. The sneezing isn’t even the worst of it. Nose is still all runny and I can’t breathe for shit.”

Wilson tried to be sympathetic, but he could already sense his pre-game mojo slipping away. “But you’re still gonna play?”

A shrug. A sniffle. Mikey wiped at his nose with another tissue. “Ain’t got a choice. Team’s already down four guys. Not enough time to call up a replacement. Hah-Choo! K’Choo!” He slipped his hand into a glove and slammed it down on the tissue box, crunching it into a barely recognizable shape. “Whoever heard of a hockey player sitting on the bench with a tissue box in his lap?” His thick, gloved fingers grasped and pinched and finally extracted a tissue. He held it to his nose, under the clear eye guard, and gave a liquidy blow into it, like water gurgling through a small hose. “But I can’t go two minutes without blowing my nose. Most pathetic thing you’ve ever heard, right?”  

“You’re such a loser.” He smiled sympathetically.

ah-ahhhh… AH-hahh-Ktshooo! Sniff! I know.” He cleared his throat. “I’ve gotta talk to the coach.”

“Yeah, man.” There weren’t even enough players to have a fourth line, but if there had been, he would have been a prime candidate for it. As it was, he’d get reassigned to the third. And Wilson would get stuck with Abrams. Abrams was good, but he was a young hot shot who tried to shoot every time he had the puck. He ignored the coach, ignored the plays. He just stole the puck and went for it. Problem was, he was so damn good at it, the bastard made more than half the shots he took. The fans loved him for it. And the coach and GM didn’t give a shit in the end either; they’d known what they were getting with him. Wilson just wished he knew what he was getting. It was hard to do your job out there on the ice when one of your teammates was out there for himself being a glory hog. “You hang in there.”

“You too, buddy.” With that, Mikey pushed himself up from the bench and headed off into the depths to find the coach.

Wilson sighed and stuck his earbud back in. He sat for a minute, eyes closed, letting the chorus of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” wash over him, a song that his teammates probably would have ragged on him for having, but this was his iPod and not theirs. It was the last song he always listened to before hitting the ice and it never failed to get him in the right mindset.


Opening his eyes, he expected to see Mikey standing in front of him. Instead, it was Rick, rubbing a gloved finger under his nose and looking undeniably miserable. “Aw, fuck!” Wilson switched off his iPod, mid-song. He was breaking routine but it didn’t matter. With Rick under the weather, they didn’t have a hope of winning this game anyway.

Wilson got up and walked over. On the ice, he moved with fluidity and grace. On the floor, his wide blades were clunky and made him expend a lot of effort just to go a few steps. He came close to the man, though, not wanting his conversation with his captain to be overheard by everyone in the locker room. “What the fuck is this, Ricky?”

“What the hell does it look like? I caught a cold.”

“Simple as that?” Wilson demanded.

“Simple as that, yeah. No big deal.”

“Then why didn’t you tell me?”

The man hesitated before answering, “You’d already left for the rink.”

“Bullshit. It isn’t like you don’t know my cell phone number.” By heart.

“I didn’t want to distract you. I know how you get before a game. Wanted to make sure one of us was in the zone at least.”

“And you thought I wouldn’t have noticed eventually with you sitting on the bench hacking and wheezing and snorting and—”


“And doing that?” Wilson raised his hand, gesturing toward Rick’s face and his nose in particular.  He sighed as Rick went all sniffly, rubbing at his nose through his glove again. “Have you been to see the trainers yet?”

Rick nodded. “First thing I did when I got here. The decongestant they gave me isn’t doing shit.”

“What about James?”

“I had a word with the coach, too. I might not have told him exactly how bad I felt. So they’re letting me play like normal, until they have a reason not to.”

“Yeah, well, they don’t know you like I do.”

“That’s for damn sure.”

Wilson did a quick survey of the locker room. The other Eagles players were busy getting their gear together. No one else was paying any attention to them. So Wilson reached up and pulled Rick’s helmet off. He kissed the man’s forehead, like he did before every game for good luck. This time, though, he noticed how much warmer than usual that forehead was. If he had to bet, the trainers hadn’t tested Rick for fever and Rick hadn’t volunteered that information; most people didn’t come down with fevers when they had a head cold, but Rick wasn’t most people. “At least you’ll get to keep playing on my line,” Wilson told him. “I want to be able to keep an eye on you during the game and watch your back.”

“That’s what we’ve got Rex for.”

Wilson liked their enforcer all right. He could throw down better than most of the best tough guys on the other teams in their division and he was right there with a check any time Rick had the puck and needed a clear path across the line. But Wilson couldn’t help but feel protective right now. If he listened to his gut, he’d be taking Rick by the hand, leading him out of the arena, driving him home, and putting him straight to bed for the night. Wilson settled for another kiss and rubbing his hand over Rick’s close-shaven head. “Don’t you dare make me regret letting you play tonight.”

Letting me play tonight? Which one of us is the captain of this team? Oh, that’s right: me.” He coughed and rubbed at his nose. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go hack up a lung in the bathroom. I’ll see you out on the ice for the warm-up skate.”

Wilson stood there, eyes closed, hating his lack of options. You couldn’t forfeit games in the NHL because of illness. There was no point to calling Rick out on this in front of everyone. He was the captain, and a captain led by example. If the rest of the team saw he was sick and battling through to play with all his might, the other players would do the same. They were going to lose; that was pretty inevitable. But they weren’t going down as a bunch of pussies. Stick in hand, Wilson took the ice.


The car was relatively silent on the way home after the game. Rick sneezed and coughed and Wilson grunted in his pissed off version of ‘bless you.’ Every time Rick shivered, he reached over and turned the heat up just a bit. And every time he did that, Wilson unbuttoned a button or unzipped a zipper further. By the time they got back to the condo, Wilson was practically undressed and flushed in the face from warmth.

Wilson led the way in and shut the door behind. Rick, faced with the prospect of climbing the flight of stairs to the bedroom, collapsed face-first onto the couch. Wilson groaned. “Oh no, not there.”

“Yes here.” Rick sniffled and coughed and shivered violently, but didn’t have the energy to move and curl up. “I’ve got everything sniff I need here.” He lifted a hand and pointed vaguely in the direction of the kitchen. “Food. Drink.” Then he swung his arm around, still pointing. “Bathroom.”

“The bathroom’s in the other direction.”

Rick lifted his head and looked around the room, blinking. “Oh. Yeah.” He flopped back down and bent his arm, pointing in the opposite direction. “Bathroom.” He coughed. “Wil, why are you so… ahh… Ahhhh-HEXTChhhhhhhh!

Wilson slammed the tissue box down on the coffee table.

Rick lifted his head and took a Kleenex immediately. “Ahhh-K’Tchxxshhhh! Sniff! Are you in a bad mood because we lost the game?”

Wilson merely grunted.

“And that was a—what—surprise to you? How many of us were sick?”

Half. Half the team was sick. And not just the sort of sick where you downed an Aspirin and a cup of Nyquil and were good to go. But the kind of sick that had made one of their defensemen miss a line change because he was sneezing so much and the other team scored while they were shorthanded. The kind of sick that made their goalie cough and miss the biscuit as it sailed through the five hole. The kind of sick that made the team captain not only miss Wilson’s pass but actually pass out and take a header into the boards.

“You could have died.”

“Babe, it’s just a cold I’m just a little… a little… ahh… a little sneezy. Ah-HEXTShhhhh!” He snuffled into a Kleenex. “But you got me tissues. So I’ll live.”

Wilson slapped a cool compress on Rick’s forehead and threw a comforter over Rick’s back. “It’s not a little cold. You’ve got a fever of over a hundred, your throat’s inflamed, you’re so congested you have a headache, and…” He sank down onto the edge of the couch, perched on the bit of cushion Rick wasn’t lying on.


Wilson shook his head.

And Rick began to chuckle. “Oh, you just love being a drama queen, don’t you?” He reached up and pulled Wilson down, sideways. They rolled and turned, and finally Rick was spooning Wilson with the comforter over them both. It had taken days of shopping before they found a couch they could both fit on together; they’d gotten quite a few weird looks from shoppers and employees alike, but it had been worth it. “Look, babe, sometimes we lose because we play like shit. Sometimes we lose because we’re just not as good as the other guys. At least this time we had an actual reason for losing, a reason the coach won’t bust our asses over. Just give the guys a couple days to rest and get better. We’ll have the locker room fumigated again. This bug will pass. And we’ll be right back on track toward winning the division title.”

“And the cup.”

“And the cup, yeah.”

That went without saying, but it made Wilson feel better to say it. “In the meantime I’ve got your sniffly self to take care of.”

“But you’re always so good at it.” Rick nuzzled his face into the back of Wilson’s neck.

Wilson shivered; Rick was hot to the touch, but his nose was wet like a dog’s. “Shit! Ricky, cut that out!”

“Shut up, you love it.” Rick nuzzled more and kissed Wilson, just behind the ear. Then he ran his hand up and down Wilson’s arm and snaked it over and downward.

Wilson stiffened. “Wait, what are you doing?”

The whisper was hot and soft. “It’s called sex. You see, I put my c—”

“I know what sex is!”

“Excellent. That’ll make it much… much easier. Ahh-Hitkshhhh!” His hand unbuckled the belt, unzipped the zipper, and slid beneath the waistband of Wilson’s suit trousers.

“But you’re sick. You’re shivery and sneezy and…”

“And that should sniff, sniff keep me from carrying out our post-game routine?”

As Rick’s hand took hold of him, Wilson closed his eyes. His captain and lover was right. And there was nothing he could think of that would drown out a loss, an argument, and a bad mood as well as this could. This would be terrific and make it feel as if it were any other night. After all, hockey players are nothing if not creatures of habit.