Hi everyone. I just want to say thank you to all of you. For the past week, my inbox has been filled with emails from many of you, not one of them filled with hate. It's showed me that a lot of you really care about my stories, more than I ever thought there were. Seeing that makes me incredibly happy, so thank you all again for your wonderful support.
But as for my decision regarding my future on this site, I'm not quite sure anymore. But I'm still thinking this through and I probably won't come to a final decision for a while. And I'm going to need time with this decision. So I'm going on a very long break to think this through and to focus on my schoolwork. As I've mentioned in the past, my schoolwork comes before anything else. Right now, I have a lot of it on my plate, and that needs to be my main focus right now.
I don't know how long this break will be, but be sure to check out the site every Monday until I return. On a lighter note, I'm now 19. And yet...I feel no different. Oh well. Thank you all again. I'll see you all again in a few weeks. I hope you like Chapter 8 of Is It Possible...?
The next day is a pretty huge blur for me. Ever since Greg kissed me, I've been walking through a haze of confusion. I don't even remember getting out of bed and going through my daily business. But...I'm kind of glad I don't remember it because there's only one thing on my mind that I remember right now: how it felt to kiss Greg.
There was such a heat to it that I don't think I'll ever forget it. I've kissed a few girls in the past, and I thought they were okay, but I always felt like something was missing from them. But that kiss with Greg...it felt like nothing I had ever felt before. But...why do I want more of it? Why do I want Greg to kiss me again? And why do I want to kiss him back?
I don't have time to think about this. Right now, I need to focus on getting ready for the first game of the season this Friday. But...how will I ever focus on that when the guy that kissed me is telling me what I need to do on the ice? I'll just have to wait and see what happens when I pick up Greg for the gym, which is the last thing I'm looking forward to.
Monday morning and I rise out of my bed at the sound of the alarm. I quickly gather my stuff I need for today and hop in the shower. Once I'm clean and dressed, I hear my phone vibrate on my nightstand and read over the text.
'I'm taking the bus to the gym today and I'll do the same to and from practice.'
The text makes my spirits fall even further than they already have. Greg's avoiding me, and for obvious reason. Hell, I'd do the same if our roles were switched. Sighing to myself, I grab my bag and other things and head to the gym. The car ride over there is in complete silence and I don't even hear my own breath.
Pulling into Rock's parking lot, I park the car and head inside. I can't find Rock anywhere, so I assume he's in his office. The whole gym is empty, which is both good and bad for me. Good because I won't have to deal with anyone else, but bad because Greg isn't here. I head into the locker room and stuff my bag into a locker.
Once I have my phone on my arm, I head out and ease into my workout routine, starting with the free weights. As I start to get comfortable with my reps, I hear the sound of someone running near me. Glancing over, I see the only other person in the gym: Greg. He's in his usual routine of a hard run without a shirt on.
I feel my crotch twitch at the sight of him, his sculpted muscles gleaming with a light layer of sweat. How the hell did he get on that treadmill without me noticing him? I was sure the gym was empty when I walked in. Maybe he was on the second floor and he came down when I was in the locker room.
God, I can feel my face turning red as I watch him run. It's a good thing he's so focused and has his ear buds in otherwise he would have noticed me already. I manage to pull myself away from looking at him and take a seat on a weight bench with my back to him, forcing myself not to look back.
I resume my arm curls with music blaring in my ears, resisting the urge to look back at the man I haven't stopped thinking about for a while now. Even with the music possibly destroying my eardrums, it's better not to hear anything else right now. But this pounding in my chest is as loud as any sound I've heard.
There's a part of me that wants Greg so bad that I can't stand it. But why is it I want him? I've never wanted anyone this badly in all my life. I haven't even wanted a girl this much. Wait...did I ever want a girl? I think back over my life and try to remember when it is I wanted a girl as much as I want Greg at this very moment.
Oh fuck, I can't remember when I ever did! The only time I ever got with a girl was when I got really drunk at a college party one time (don't worry. She and I cleared it all up the next morning and there was a used condom in the bed). But other than that one time, I had never been with a girl and I never felt the urge to.
Does that mean I'm...? No! No, I can't be! I-It just means I haven't found the right girl yet! Yeah, that's it! Fucking Christ, this is killing me! I frustratingly finish my arm workout and return the free weights before moving off to the bench press and putting on a decent amount of weight on the bar.
The next forty-five minutes is spent with me running around the gym like a guy on crack. By the time I'm finished, I'm dripping in sweat and am physically exhausted. I take my bottle of water and chug the contents until the last drop. Finally looking around the gym for the first time since I got here, I see Greg's gone.
Feeling both a bit of a relief and a hint of sadness, I make my way to the locker room. But as I walk in, I hear the spray of a shower running. Great. I get to see Greg in all his muscled glory wet and covered in suds. Once again, I feel heat radiating around my dick. Willing myself to calm down, I strip down and throw my clothes into my locker and grab a towel.
I start to head toward the showers and turn a corner, only to walk into something firm, warm, and wet. Thanks to the wet floor, I lose my footing and fall forward, taking whatever I ran into with me and landing with a solid thud. It takes me a second to get my vision back (and I think my tooth fell out for a second), but I freeze when I see what I've landed on: Greg.
Greg slowly opens his eyes and meets mine. They immediately go wide when he sees that I'm lying on top of him. Neither of us move for several seconds as I feel both of our heartbeats racing. Greg's face sits merely a few inches away from mine and my nose fills with the smell of soap in his hair and mint on his breath.
I can feel the hairs on my chest sticking to Greg's soaked body and it forces a hot breath onto Greg's face. But he doesn't bat an eye. He just keep staring up at me and returns a hot breath of his own. His amber eyes keep me in a trance that I don't want to get out of. But my brain overpowers my emotions.
My hands plant on the sides of Greg's head and I push myself upward. "S-Sorry. I...I didn't see you."
Greg just nods a bit and I slide off of him and get to my feet. Before I can help him up, he gets up on his own. "I'll...I'll s-see you at practice..." he quietly says.
Greg quickly moves past me and back into the locker room, out of my sight. God, the guy looked absolutely terrified. I sigh to myself and continue to the shower, stepping into a stall and letting the warm water run over me. As I wash my hair, the last minute and a half flashes through my mind.
The feeling of Greg's bare chest on mine made my hear beat faster than I ever felt before. His breath mixing with mine was a smell that sent adrenaline through my body better than any hockey match ever had. My body is still tingling from having Greg touch me, and I'm definitely feeling it down below.
My dick is standing out in front of me, demanding attention that I don't have time to give it. So I just continue through my shower and patiently wait for my member to soften. Thankfully, a sudden blast of cold water does the trick and I step out of my stall and back into the locker room.
Changing into some sweats, I grab all my stuff and start to head out. "Tanner, hold up a minute."
I find Rock standing behind the front desk. "What's up?" I ask.
"Okay, what the hell is going on between you and Gregory? I kept an eye on the two of you this morning and you guys didn't look at each other once. Did something happen between the two of you?"
I rest my elbows on the desk and set my head down. "Yeah, something did happen..." I quietly say.
"Aw, Tanner. Did you say something stupid and insult Gregory? I swear to God..."
"I didn't say anything insulting at all. Greg he...he kissed me."
I hear Rock take in a sharp breath. "Gregory...kissed you?"
I look up at Rock's shocked face and force my next words out. "And I...I liked it..."
Rock stares at me in silence for a minute before regaining his composure. "Wow, Tanner. I never expected a reaction like that from a guy kissing you."
"Me neither, Rock."
"But I'm guessing you don't want to believe that you liked your kiss with Gregory, right?"
"You just hit the nail on the head. I don't want to find out if I'm gay, Rock. Could you imagine the backlash I would get because of it? There isn't a single openly gay hockey player in all of the NHL and I'm afraid of what my teammates would think."
"So...do you think you are gay?"
"I really don't know, Rock. All I do know is that I liked my kiss with Greg. Everything else I'm completely lost on. Do you have any ideas?"
Rock simply shakes his head. "Sorry, Tanner. I know for a fact that I like women, so you're really asking the wrong guy. But if I were in your shoes, I would think about it a bit more. You never know. It might be a phase, you may be bi, or you may even be gay. But you have to know that this country is changing for the better.
"There are dozens of openly gay professional athletes in the United States right now, even if there aren't any open ones in the NHL. Even if, and I do mean if, you find out your really are gay, just know that there will be people supporting you. And I'll be one of them."
A sudden burst of relief washes over me and I feel all the angst and anxiety I've been feeling for a while now ease off me. Is this what it feels like to be accepted? "Um...thanks, Rock. I need to get going. I'll see you tomorrow."
I turn and start to head toward the door. "Hey, Tanner?" I look back and see Rock grinning at me. "For what it's worth, you and Gregory would make a nice couple."
The statement embarrasses the hell out of me and I feel my face immediately redden, causing Rock to laugh to himself. Continuing outside, I reach my car and head over to the sports center, not looking forward to today's practice.
Walking into the sports center, I head toward the locker room and find a few of my teammates already here. After a few hellos, I get to my locker and set my bag down on the bench in front of me. "Everyone on the ice in ten minutes!" Assistant Coach Warren says as he walks into the locker room.
"Coach Warren, where's Coach Natick?" Bobby asks.
"He's running late because of a bus breakdown. He said for you all to work on your drills until he gets here, which he said could take a while. But if he's not here within thirty minutes, divide yourselves into teams and work on power plays, both offense and defense. Ten minutes!"
I feel a small lump fill my throat at hearing Greg's late because of me. I should've gone and picked him up this morning no matter what the text he sent said. Had I done that, he'd be here right now. I finish getting my practice uniform on and grab my stick and head for the ice, welcoming the blast of cold air that hits me.
My skates find the ice and I start a few warm up laps. Nothing hard. Just a distraction from everything around me. It works for a little while and it's nothing but me and the ice with my stick lazily following behind me. As my teammates start to file out onto the ice, I ease out of my skating and join them.
Seeing as there's still no sign of Greg, we all work on a few passing and shooting drills. I team up with Gunnar and we pass to one another as we skate up the rink. A few passes in and we've gotten into a rhythm. We're about halfway down the rink when Gunnar sends me a hard pass. I meet it with the head of my stick, but the puck simply bounces off my stick and slides toward my skate.
Not anticipating the sudden change of course, the puck slips behind me and comes to a stop. Did I really just do that? I slide to a sudden stop and look at the puck like it's some foreign object. "Tanner? You okay?"
Gunnar's skated over to me and is looking at me with a lost face. "What do you mean?"
"Tanner, for as long as you and I have been on the same team, I've never seen you lose a passed puck when there was no one defending you. What's going on?"
I glance back at the puck and let my head fall. "I guess I'm a little off my game today."
"You're probably nervous for Friday's match. Hell, I am too. But we both just need to relax a bit and practice. We won't get any better if we just stand here looking at a frozen piece of rubber."
I nod a bit. "You're right, Gunnar. Let's get back to it."
Gunnar takes the puck and we return to the other end of the ice. The team continues their passing and shooting drills while Chad and Bradley work in goal. But as we continue, I keep making stupid mistakes. I miss a few more passes, I whiff the puck more times than I'd like, and I even slip and fall on my ass at one point.
A little over half an hour later, and there's still no sign of Greg. "Where is Coach Natick?" Alex asks.
"Maybe the bus breakdown was worse than we thought," says Vladimir.
"C'mon, boys!" Coach Jacobs calls out. "Just because Coach Natick isn't here doesn't mean you get to work a bit less! Split into teams and work on power plays! We're looking for both the offense to get a goal and the defense to stop the offense!"
I take a seat on the bench and watch as some of the team steps out onto the ice. As the team works on the power play, I hear stomps come from the tunnel. Looking over, I see Greg walking out onto the ice looking incredibly irritated. I see his usual practice sweatshirt and jeans look disheveled and out of order and I even see a few bits of dirt on his face.
God, he looks awful. "Did the drills just start?" Greg asks no one specifically.
"No, Coach Natick," Vladimir responds. "We have been practicing drills for about forty minutes."
Greg sighs to himself. "Good to know. When they're done with their drill, the next group of players take their places. Keep this going until I get back. I'll be in my office for a little while."
Greg runs his hand through his hair and returns to the tunnel. I'm suddenly sick to my stomach. Even though he looked fine at the gym, he looked a lot worse for ware a few seconds ago. He looks like he hasn't slept in a few days too. Feeling a need to help him, I rise off the bench. "Where are you going, Tanner?" Jacques asks me.
"I need to go talk to Coach Natick for a bit. Someone else take my place."
I step out of the bench and head up the tunnel and back into the locker room. Once I get my gloves and helmet off, I place them and my stick on the bench and walk toward Greg's office. I get to the wooden door of his office and give the door a few knocks. "Coach Natick? I'm coming in."
My hand takes the handle and slowly opens the door. The office seems to be in much the same order as I was in here last, but there's one thing that isn't right: Greg's not at his desk, but is lying flat on the couch that sits against the wall with his arm draped over his eyes. Is he...actually sleeping right now?
Taking the door in my hand, I push it back and hear it slam shut. Greg shoots up off the couch and looks around frantically before seeing me. "Christ, you scared the shit out of me."
"We need to talk."
Greg sits up and rubs his hands over his eyes. "Do we really need to?"
"Yes. We need to talk about what happened on Saturday night and a few other things. And I don't want to wait for it to happen."
I walk over to the couch and look down at Greg. "What's there to talk about, Tanner? What happened on Saturday was a complete mistake and it shouldn't have happened. I kissed you and I crossed a line that should never have been crossed. And I'm sorry it happened."
"We're at practice right now, Tanner. It's Coach Natick."
Christ, is he being serious right now? "Coach Natick, if we could just talk about..."
"There's nothing to talk about, Tanner. I know you're straight and I shouldn't have a crush on you. You're my player and I'm your coach. I should have known from when I first started with the Kings that I never could have been with you, no matter how hard I hoped I could."
I fall onto the couch and look directly at Greg. "If you would just let me say..."
"Please, Tanner. I don't want to talk about this right now. Right now, I just want a cup of coffee and want to get back to coaching you guys. I'm sorry..."
Greg quickly gets up off the couch and heads for the door. "Greg, please wait."
He takes the door handle and opens the door before looking back at me. His face looks to be in total despair. "I'm sorry, Tanner. If there's a way we could ever be friends again, I'd really appreciate that second chance. Get back to the ice and work on drills until I get back."
I watch as Greg disappears from my sight and the door quietly closes. My head falls into my hands and I grit my teeth together in anger and sadness. "I don't want to be friends with you anymore," I quietly whisper to myself. "I want...so much more than that..."
The next few days go by and the Kings and I continue to work for opening game day. With just a few more drills, we cement our new level of skill and are just about ready for our first game of the season. But there's no shortage of nerves. We're all incredibly on edge for our game against the Sharks, and for good reason.
Last season, the Sharks were ranked 2nd in the Pacific Division while the Kings were ranked 4th. In the three games we played against them, we only beat them once and that was in a shootout. The pressure is on for us to beat them and start our season off on a high. And Jesus are we feeling the pressure.
The energy outside the Staples Center is electric, with thousands of Kings fans dressed in black, white, and aluminum. Thankfully, none of the fans notice as the team is led into the center. Thanks God for team busses, despite it being a home game. We drive into the underground parking lot and feel the bus come to a stop.
We all grab our stuff and step off the bus, all of us wearing standard pregame suits and we make our way to the locker room. Walking in, I breathe in the fresh, clean air of the unused Kings locker room. The vacuumed carpet floor, the waxed wooden lockers, the freshly polished benches, it makes for a nice headache from the chemical fumes.
I walk up to a locker and look up at the small, metal engraved plaque above it. 'White' sits above the locker and I feel myself smiling at engraving. The team starts to change into our uniforms and equipment, the room eerily quiet. I can understand why no one's really in the talking mood. This will be the first game with our new training. There's the threat that everything's we've learned over the past two months will fall out of our heads.
Slipping my jersey over my shoulder pads, I take a seat on my bench and let my head fall between my knees. "Nervous, Tanner?"
I glance up and see Vladimir standing over me, fully dressed in his uniform with the small assistant captain 'A' on his shoulder. "Definitely," I say.
"We all are. Do not let the nerves get to you. We are a new team and we will destroy the Sharks. Are you ready to warm up?"
My head just nods a bit and I finish getting on my skates and grab my helmet and stick. Vladimir, some of the team, and I head out to the ice to warm up before the game. "Have any of you seen Coach Natick?" I hear Bobby ask.
"I haven't," Gunnar says. "Maybe he's getting ready in his office."
God this is getting unbearable. Greg and I haven't spoken to one another in days and it's been killing me. It looks like it's also affecting Greg. He seems a lot less motivated at practice and has been leaving practice up to Coaches Warren and Jacobs and the trainers. I've wanted to talk to him, but I couldn't will myself to do it because of what happened on Monday.
The team and I step out onto the ice and we see a lot of the seats are already filled with fans, many of which cheer when we skate onto the ice. Already on the other side of the rink are some Sharks players, who are already taking shots on goal. Even from a distance, I can see they've improved a bit from last season, which only helps to make me more nervous.
I decide to warm up a bit by taking a few half laps around the rink while everyone else works on passing. As I get to the middle of the rink on one of my laps, a Sharks player approaches me. "Have a good break, Tanner?"
Coming to a stop, I see the player is Jonas Cipra, captain of the Sharks. "Hey, Jonas. It was pretty good. How's the baby?"
What a lot of people don't know is that while it's nothing but blood on the ice, players are pretty respectful off the ice and before games, save for a few assholes. Thankfully, Jonas isn't one of them. "She is doing wonderful," Jonas says. "She is always smiling and it makes my day whenever I see her."
"That's good to hear."
"So how is your new coach? No matter how hard we have tried, we could not get any information on him."
My stomach drops a bit when I think about Greg, but I manage to not let it show. "He's a fantastic coach and has helped us improve a lot since the last season. Your Sharks better watch you, or we'll fuck you over twice as much as we did your mothers."
Jonas' face evilly grins at the challenge. "We shall see about that, Tanner. You better watch out when we shove our blades up your royal asses."
Oh, he's really bringing the heat this time. I hold my gloved fist out for him. "Challenge accepted."
Jonas smacks my fist away and grins one more time before returning to his team and I do the same. "What did Jonas want?" Alex asks me.
"Oh, he was just asking me how hard I wanted to fuck him up the ass when the game starts."
Alex laughs and pats my shoulder and we get to practicing. Nothing more than passing, shooting on Chad and Bradley, and skating while controlling the puck. I've really missed this feeling, the feeling of thousands of eyes on you while trying to skate over frozen water while maneuvering a piece of hard rubber.
About twenty minutes later, we finish our warm up and skate back to the locker room, where Coaches Warren and Jacobs are in their suits and a few trainers are in their uniforms. But there's still one missing person: Greg. "Still no Coach Natick?" asks Felix Andrasko, a defenseman.
"We haven't seen him since we got here," Coach Jacobs says. "He might be in the office or even in the bathroom."
"But we're taking the ice in a little," Ben Gaffing, a winger, says. "He's going to need to show up soon. The fans are waiting and we need to play."
"Plus Mr. Presley is formally introducing him as our new head coach," says Ken. "We can't play without him."
Another couple of minutes pass and there's still no sign of Greg and everybody's getting incredibly anxious. We only have a few minutes before we need to get out to the ice. It's getting so bad that I actually need to take off my helmet and gloves for a bit so my head and hands can breathe. "Tanner, do you know what's going on?" Chad asks me.
"What do you mean?"
"I think he means with Coach Natick," Bradley says. "Why he isn't here."
I sigh to myself and rise off the bench I'm sitting on. "I don't know why he isn't here, but I'm sure as hell am going to get him out here."
Turning away from the goalies, I make my way for the office that sits close to the locker room. Walking up to it, I rap my knuckle against the door. "Coach Natick? We need to take the ice soon."
There's no response on the other side of the door, which worries me. I start to reach for the handle when I stop myself. What if Greg doesn't want to see me? Maybe I'm the reason why he's been so distant lately. I mean I didn't say anything when he kissed me last week. Maybe it crushed him as a result.
My hand falls to my side and I start to turn back toward the locker room. Suddenly, pure instinct takes over me and I snap back to the door. No. This isn't the time for feeling guilty. We have a hockey game to win and we need Greg to get out there and win this game with us, whether he likes it or not.
I grab the handle and walk inside the office. Immediately, I see Greg sitting at the desk hunched over with his head in his hands and looking down at the desk. "Coach Natick?" I ask.
Greg slowly looks up and sees me before his face gets a bit paler. "Tanner..."
I close the door behind me and walk over to the desk and stand on the other side of Greg. "We need you right now, Coach Natick. Our game is starting soon."
Greg looks up at me for a minute before looking back down at his desk. "I...I can't..."
My alarm bells start going off. "What do you mean you can't?"
Greg scoots back in his chair and stands up before turning his back to me, which makes my chest hurt. "I can't go out there and have thousands of people depending on me to have you guys win. I just can't..."
I see Greg's shoulders start to quiver and I take a step closer to him. "Greg, please. We need you out there. I...I need you out there."
"I shouldn't have taken this job. It's too much pressure and there's no way I can do this. I've only been coaching for a few years now. There's no way I can lead a professional hockey team. When I was given the offer to become the new head coach, I already know you were on the team, Tanner. I should have immediately said no, but I didn't."
He's second guessing himself so much that it hurts to hear him ramble on. I walk until I'm standing right behind him and look down at my trembling coach. "Greg..."
"I kissed you, Tanner. I fucking kissed you when I knew you were straight and only saw me as your coach and maybe as your friend. I can't go out there and watch the guy I'll never get play his heart out while I'm not fully committed. Knowing the captain of the Kings hates me...I can't do it..."
Finally reaching a breaking point, I grab Greg and spin him around to me. My hands grab Greg's head and I plunge into the greatest kiss of my life. Greg stiffens against me and I feel his hands fumble for purchase somewhere, and they quickly reach around my neck. It takes a few seconds, but Greg finally starts to relax and eases into me.
God, this is what I've been wanting for weeks now. And now that I'm finally getting it is so wonderful that I can't even describe it. All the denial, all the confusion, all the hate toward myself melts away against Greg's lips. This is the one I want to be with. My philosophy can go fuck itself. Because right now, Greg is the only thing that's on my mind.
I pull Greg's hard body against mine and deepen the kiss, my heart racing faster and faster with every passing second. This is the most amazing feeling I've ever experienced and I only wish it could go on forever. But the lack of breath forces me to pull my lips apart from Greg's and hot breaths search for air.
My face feels like it's on fire and my lungs gasp for breath. Looking down at Greg, I see his forehead is covered in sweat, his face is flushed, and his eyes are wide with shock and the amber irises of his eyes are filled with lust. "I...I could never hate you..." I quietly say.
"I've been wanting to do that again since last week. God, you have no idea how much I've wanted you, Greg. I've never wanted someone this badly..."
"I doubt I am after how much I loved that kiss. I'd be getting more right now, but we have a game to win." I release Greg's face and feel him fall back to his heels. "And we need you with us, Greg. You've helped us more than anyone ever has, helped me more than anyone ever could. I want to talk to you a bit more about all this. But only after we win. I'll see you in the locker room."
I bend down and give Greg a light kiss, which is just enough to last me through the game before walking to the door. I step out of the office and head back to the locker room. "Where's Coach?" asks Nolan.
"He'll be here in a minute," I say, slipping my gloves and helmet back on.
The locker room stays completely quiet, the low rumble of the crowd outside echoing off the walls. All of a sudden, a piercing shout jolt us all. "WHERE THE HELL IS MY TEAM?!!"
We all look and see Greg walking into the locker room, dressed in an all black suit with a white shirt underneath and an aluminum tie around his neck. God he looks good and he looks so much better than when I first walked into that office. We all stay in silence as we stare at Greg. "I'm going to ask again," he says. "Where the hell is the team that's going to kick some Sharks ass?"
There's the Coach Natick and know. The team and I snap to attention and we all stand in front of Greg like soldiers ready for war. "That's better. Now I know you're all nervous for this game. Hell, I'm ten times as nervous as all of you. But doesn't that make playing in the game so much more satisfying and thrilling?
"A few minutes ago, I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown because I was scared shitless from the thought of my first game as an NHL coach ending badly. But after I talked with Tanner, I started to get this fire in the pit of my stomach that I always craved while I was still the coach of the Providence Bruins.
"I still have that feeling right now and I don't want it to go away until we show the Sharks that we're not the same team we were last season. Do you all have that same feeling right now?"
Taking a second of silence, I start to feel this really hot sensation in my gut that's getting hotter as the seconds go by. "Judging by your faces, I can tell all of you have it," Greg says. "That's the feeling of not wanting to lose to anyone else. You all know you've gotten so much stronger since last season. And tonight you're going to prove it to the fans, to the Sharks, and most importantly, to yourselves.
"I want you all to go out there and show every fucking face in the arena that the Kings are the best fucking team in the NHL! I want you to come out swinging with everything you've got from the very start and to keep that energy going until the final buzzer! Show them why you're the best! Show them why you deserve the name Kings!"
The locker room erupts in yells and screams of adrenaline and primal rush. "That's what to want to hear from my team!" Greg shouts over the noise.
As we all scream at the top of our lungs, a low hum fills the locker room. "Ladies and gentlemen..." says the voice of the announcer.
"That's your cue," Greg says. "Get out there and raise some hell!"
With a few more yells, we all charge down the tunnel as the announcer continues. "Please give a warm home team welcome to the L.A. Kings!"
We burst out onto the ice as the roar of the crowd fills our ears. Looking up at the crowd, I see a sea of black, white, and aluminum. Oh yeah. I've really missed this feeling. The team and I circle the rink a few times and Coaches Warren and Jacobs and the trainers fill our bench. Once we get the crowd good and ready, we form a line at the center of the ice. The lights in the arena suddenly dim and three spotlights focus on the exit of the tunnel we just exited.
The crowd quiets to almost complete silence. "And now," says the announcer, "the moment you've all been waiting for: the reveal of the new head coach of the L.A. Kings. He's been coaching professionally for six years now and has two years of coaching the Providence Bruins under his belt.
"In those two years, he turned a last place team into the best team in the AHL. And now, he's come to our home. Everyone, please give a warm L.A. Kings welcome to the new leader of the Kings: Gregory Natick!"
The crowd cheers and a few seconds later, an intimidating man takes a slow walk up the tunnel and into the spotlights. I look up and see Greg's gorgeous face on the hanging scoreboard for the world to see. He continues to walk out onto the ice and up to his team. Even though he's several inches shorter than all of us thanks to our skates, his face and the air around him makes him seem ten feet tall.
Greg looks up at us before a small smirk appears on his face. "Put on a hell of a show for every single fan here."
"YES, COACH NATICK!!"
Greg turns toward the Sharks bench, where the team, Head Coach Andrew Baber, the assistant coaches and trainers are all watching him. He takes his thumb and slowly traces it over his throat, an evil look on his face before heading to the bench. The Sharks suddenly look a shade lighter than they did a few seconds ago.
We follow Greg back to the bench and crowd around him as he stands in his place. "Okay, guys. You've been training for this day for months now. I know you're all ready to win. You know the weaknesses of the Sharks, your offense is unstoppable, and your defense is unbeatable. Go out there and start the season on a high note. Tanner, Vladimir, Gunnar, Alex, Jacques, and Bradley. You're all starting. Ready?"
"YES, COACH NATICK!!"
"Take them down."
The starting players and I take to the ice as the starting Sharks players skate out as well. I take my place in the center of the rink while Jonas stops just in front of me. "Ready to lose, Tanner?" he asks me
"The Kings will swallow the blades of our skates before we lose, Jonas. Get ready to get a taste of the new us."
The referee skates up to us with a puck in his hand. I glance around at my teammates, who look ready to kill, and match their faces. Time starts to slow down and the noise starts to disappear as the referee holds the puck over the faceoff circle. His fingers release the puck and I watch as it falls to the ice. The second it touches the ice, we go off like a gun.
"And welcome back, hockey fans, to the opening game of the L.A. Kings. I'm your main correspondent, Liam Keeling, and joining me tonight is the lovely Lauren Becker. Good to have you here, Lauren."
"Good to be here, Liam."
"We're just about to get underway with the first period. What are your projections for tonight's game, Lauren?"
"Well, Liam, the Kings were middle of the pack last season, just skating along with your average number of wins and losses. Nothing too special. But with Gregory Natick as their new coach, we might be seeing a new team."
"From what I've heard, while Coach Natick might be a fairly new face to the hockey world, he's done some pretty amazing things."
"That's right, Liam. Coach Natick is the former head coach of the Providence Bruins and he turned the team into champions two season in a row, the only two season he was with the team. The results speak for themselves: Coach Natick is the real deal."
"But this is his first time coaching an NHL team. We aren't sure how he'll handle the pressure."
"Well, Liam, judging by how he looks right now, I'm not seeing any bit of pressure on the new coach. We're going to switch over to our floor correspondent, Alan Mitchell, for a closer look at the action. How's it look down there, Alan?"
"Lauren, I can feel the determination coming off of the Kings right now. They look like animals ready to go in for the kill. This is a different team from the one last season. As for Coach Natick, he looks more like a general than a coach. I'm actually feeling a little bit intimidated standing so close to him. I'd say the Kings have a great new leader."
"Thanks, Alan. But the Kings have a tough game ahead of them. What do you think about the Sharks, Liam?"
"Well, Lauren, the Sharks are a tough team to beat. They made it to the semifinals last Stanley Cup playoff before falling to the Minnesota Wild. They seem just as strong this season as they did last season."
"The Kings are matched up against a predominantly defensive team that has a quick, powerful offense. The Kings themselves are a mainly offensive team with a lacking defense. They better have fixed that defense over the offseason if they want to have any hope of winning."
"It looks it's time to start the game. The starting faceoff is between the captains of both the Sharks and Kings: Jonas Cipra and Tanner White. Now who do you think has a better chance of winning the faceoff, Liam?"
"If I had to put money on it, I would say Cipra has a better chance. He's two inches taller than and fifteen pounds heavier than White and his reflexes are sharp."
"I think you're wrong, Liam. I think Tanner would be the one to take it. Cipra is 34 years old as opposed to White's 28 years. Tanner has also won more faceoffs than Jonas."
"Well it looks like we'll have to see. Head referee Simpers is approaching the faceoff circle. This game's about to get underway. You ready down there, Alan?"
"Ready and waiting."
"What about you, Lauren?"
"Simpers has the puck in his hand and this game in under...oh! Did you see that?!"
"I sure did, Liam. White's ready to start this game fighting. That was one hard check to Cipra and Cipra must be feeling that right now."
"That was enough to knock Cipra to the ice! Kings have possession of the puck and White's win at the faceoff has sent the puck back to Yezhov. Yezhov passes to Laurent, who passes back to Yezhov. Yezhov gives a sharp pass to Lindberg, oh! Nice dodge right there, by Lindberg, getting past Phillips!
"Lindberg passes the Sharks blue line and White and Abramov are trying to break away from their defenders. Lindberg passes to Abramov, who passes to the open White. Kinder and Cipra are quickly descending on White, who passes back to Lindberg. Lindberg skates around the goal, Phillips following behind him.
"Kinder has broken away from White and is now on the hunt for Lindberg. Lindberg passes the puck up the boards and oh, a good check on Lindberg by Kinder. Yezhov has the puck, passes to Laurent, who passes back to Abramov. Abramov looks for the open man and...he has White! White is out in the open!
"Abramov passes to White, who spins around to the net, winds up, takes the shot, scores! A goal from White with an assist by Abramov! Not even two minutes into the first period!"
"I say, Liam, this really is a new Kings we're looking at!"
"You said it, Lauren! That looked like the Kings had been rehearsing that play for years now! There wasn't a single player out of place! How'd it look from down there, Alan?"
"Liam, that was incredible! There wasn't a single thing wrong with that play! From the passing, to the skating, the strength and agility, it was perfection!"
"But now there's one question left: how will the Kings fare against the Sharks' unrelenting offense?"
"You have to wonder, Liam. The Kings have some very good defensive players, but they don't always seem 100% when it comes down to times they really need."
"We're just going to have to wait and see what happens. The Kings have a new lineup on the ice of Bobby Garrison, Henry Thompson, Alexei Yeltsin, Ken Belfour, and Bruce Jamison while Crompton is staying in goal. Let's see how the Kings' new defense works against the Sharks."
"Jamison is facing off against Cipra, who looks to want a bit of payback for losing the first faceoff. Simpers drops the puck, and the Sharks take possession. The puck slides back to Kinder, who passes it to Fundi, who sends it up the ice to Cipra. Cipra is on the attack with Aisha and Elson, but the Kings look ready for them.
"Cipra passes to Phillips, who's facing pressure from Thompson. Phillips skates along the boards, trying to get to the edge of the rink. Belfour skates around the net to block Phillips, who doubles back and...oh! A hard check from Thompson to Phillips! The fans must've loved that! No penalties on the check and the Kings have possession of the puck.
"Kinder is giving Thompson and Belfour pressure as the Kings make a line change. Abramov's back out on the ice with Roy Friskin and Jonathan Downy. Thompson sends the puck up the ice to the open Friskin on the center line. Friskin skates further up the ice, and is met by Blackly, who tries to chip the puck away from Friskin.
"Oh! But Friskin sudden changes direction and sends the pass to Abramov. Downy stalls in front of the net and looks to Abramov. Abramov takes his stick and...flicks the puck across the ice to Downy! Sharks descend on the flying puck and Abramov moves to the middle of the attacking zone.
"Downy's against three Sharks players. This doesn't look good for him. The puck lands and...it's mad chaos in front of the net! No one can seem to get a piece of the puck! The Kings approach the net, hoping to help Downy...but he doesn't need help! He has the puck in his possession and...sends it back to Abramov.
"Wait! The Kings were waiting for this! Abramov has his stick ready and Downy moves out of the front of the net. Abramov shoots! Deflection! Score! Another goal from the Kings within the first five minutes of the first period, this one by deflection off a Shark from Abramov's shot! This is incredible, Lauren!"
"I couldn't have said it better myself, Liam! From the rock solid defense to the powerful offense, we're looking at an all new Kings right now! How does it look down there, Alan?"
"Lauren, I only wish you and Liam could be down here too! This is hockey like I've never seen it before! There isn't just strength and speed here! It's all strategy! The Kings are playing the Sharks like a fiddle!"
"The fans are going crazy right now! The energy in the arena is ten times what I saw last season! What in the world do you think caused such a change in the Kings, Lauren?"
"Liam, that would be Gregory Natick! I'm just getting word that during his time in the AHL, his Providence Bruins only allowed seven points in two seasons! It wasn't because of fantastic goalies alone, the defense was just too good!"
"The Kings seem to have been given a blessing from this new coach. I'm dying to see how the rest of this game goes!"
My legs are burning from the exertion and my lungs fill with the cold air of the rink. This is my home, my domain, my kingdom. The seconds tick off in my head and I casually pass the puck to Gunnar as the crowd counts down. Five, four, three, two, one, game over. Final score: Kings 4, Sharks 0.
I raise my arms in triumph and crowd with the rest of my teammates on the ice. The cheers of the crowd pulse through my body and I pull away from my grinning teammates. I skate over to the Sharks bench and see Jonas hunched against it. "Good game, Jonas," I say.
He looks up at me, his face coated in sweat and his body heaving with deep breaths. "It was, Tanner. Your Kings...have gotten much better..."
"I guess we have."
"What the hell made you all improve so much?"
I look over at my bench and see Greg, standing in all his glory with the team, a small smile on his face. "He helped us," I say, not looking back at Jonas. "We're lucky to have him as our coach."
Yeah, we're lucky. Really damn lucky. "We better work harder if we want to beat you next time," Jonas says.
"We'll look forward to beating you guys again."
Jonas glares at me for a second before smiling and heading to the Sharks locker room. I turn on my skates and slide over to the tunnel and head into the locker room. When I get there, I find the team in various states of high. From some of the guys undressing with smiles on their faces, to others high-fiving and hugging, to Gunnar doing some kind of weird dance in the corner (I've seen it a few times, and it's been permanently burned into my brain).
But there's only one person I'm really focused on right now, and he's standing to the side of the locker room with his arms crossed over his suited chest: Greg. He's watching over everyone with the same stoic expression he wore during the game. He suddenly uncrosses his arms and claps his hands twice.
The noise in the room suddenly quiets and everyone looks over at our coach. "This is only the first game," Greg says. "We still have another eighty-one games this season, another eighty-one battles we need to fight. The Sharks are only a few of those battles. There are still thirty more teams out there.
"You all played well tonight, and the end result shows how hard you all have worked. We're flying to Vancouver tomorrow to play the Canucks on Sunday. Go home tonight, pack your bags, and be ready. We're meeting at the airport tomorrow afternoon. I'll send out an email to each of you with all of your itinerary.
"Good job tonight. All of you. You played like your lives depended on it, just like you should every game. Hit the showers. I'll see you all tomorrow!"
"Thank you, Coach Natick!"
I start to take off my uniform when I feel a body come up next to me. "Come by the office after you're showered and changed," Greg whispers to me.
Feeling my heart beat in my throat, I nod a bit and watch as Greg disappears from sight. I strip off my uniform and head to the showers with the rest of the team. Tonight was a good night. I scored two goals, got an assist, and only served two minutes in the box for an accidental high sticking.
But there's one thing that's the cherry on top: that kiss with Greg. The texture of Greg's skin, the pressure I felt on both my mouth and in my chest, the warmth I felt all over my body, it was like nothing I had felt before. Oops. Better not think about this here. Nothing's more awkward than sprouting wood in the team showers.
I finish washing up and head back to the locker room, where I quickly change into my suit. Once I get my shoes tied, I grab my bag and walk to the office. Giving the door a few knocks, I turn the handle and step in. Inside, I find Greg sitting at the desk with a phone to his ear, a small smile on his face.
I close the door behind me and set my bag down. "Sorry for not telling you, Brody," Greg says into the phone. "Mark made me swear not to tell a lot of people, much less the coach of a rival team."
Brody? As in Greg's ex boyfriend? The burning sensation in my throat returns, which I've come to recognize as jealousy. "I'll be watching the Red Wings' opening game tomorrow night. And you know I'll be watching you and your team. I need to go. I'll text you later. Tell Clint I said hi."
Greg hangs up the phone and sets it down on the desk before turning to me. "Sorry, had to take that."
"Um...was that the Brody from college?"
Greg smiles softly. "Yeah, that was him. He called to talk about how I was the new head coach of the Kings and to congratulate me and to talk for a bit. And...speaking of talking, you wanted to talk a bit more?"
I look down at the floor. "Uh...yeah."
"Come and take a seat."
I walk over to the couch in the room and Greg takes a seat next to me. The two of us sit in silence for several moments. "You did a good job tonight, Tanner," Greg says.
"Um...thanks. You looked...pretty damn good standing in the bench and leading the team." Greg just nods a bit and we go back to silence. "Look, should we just cut to the chase here?"
"Probably. Do you want to start? Or should I?"
"I'll go." I take a second to gather my breath. "Greg, I don't know when or how it even started, maybe back when we met again back in August, or even after that, but I know I've liked you for a while now. I've been too stubborn to realize it, or I was in denial, but now I know that I honestly have feelings for you."
Greg nods and continues to stare at the carpet. "So...what do you want to do about those feelings?" he asks me.
I reach forward and lightly place my hand on top of Greg's. "I...want those feelings to be with you. I want to be with you. I want you, Greg."
Greg keeps looking at the carpet as the sides of his face turn a light shade of red. After a second, he takes his other hand and lightly places it on mine. "Tanner, if we do give this a try, how will we do this? A coach in a relationship with a player is something that has never happened in NHL history. Ever.
"We don't know what'll happen if this ever were to get out. I could lose my job, you could lose your job, the name of the Kings could be ruined."
I take my last hand and place it over Greg's second hand. "That's a risk I'm willing to take. I know the guys on the team are accepting and I'm pretty sure a lot of them guess you're gay."
"What about you?"
My throat closes for a moment. "I...I don't know if I'm gay or not. But I know I like you, Greg. But know that I will be the best boyfriend that I can ever be to you if we give this a try."
"But...what about your philosophy?"
"Fuck my philosophy. I threw it out the window when I realized how much I wanted to be with you, Greg. I like seeing you workout that great body of yours. I like seeing you smile when you're serving the homeless breakfast. I like hearing you laugh when you're happy and I like seeing you being serious when we're at practice. I like every thing about you..."
Greg looks over at me for the first time and I see water at the bases of his eyes. "You...really want to be with me that badly?"
I give Greg's hands a light squeeze. "Greg, I've never wanted to be with anyone this badly."
Greg continues to stare at me before I see a small tear slide out of the corner of his eye. "This isn't some kind of sick dream, is it? This isn't you trying to pull me over, right?"
My hands pull away from Greg's and I lightly cup his face and lean in. That wonderful feeling from before the game returns as I kiss Greg for a few seconds before pulling away. "Would I do that for a second time if I were pulling a joke on you?"
Greg doesn't say anything as his mouth turned to a emotional frown and more tears slide out of his eyes. "My God, this is really happening..." he quietly sobs.
"So is that a yes?"
"Yes. God, yes..."
I smile and pull Greg into another kiss, feeling him return it. This is what I've wanted, and it feels like Greg has wanted it too. "How long have you...?" I start to ask.
"Wanted to be with you?" I nod. "All through high school, some of college, and the last six years. I thought of you every day, how you were, what you were doing, just...you."
My lips turn upward against Greg's. "So how are we going to make this work? You and me?"
"I think we'll just have to be careful. The NHL doesn't have any rules about relationships on the team, mostly because there haven't been any public cases about it. So we need to set a few ground rules."
"I agree. Um...no showing affection at practice."
"Right. We act just like we do at practice: coach and player. What else? Uh...keeping kisses in my office to a minimum..."
My face starts to turn red. "Um...what about...you know...?"
"Tanner, we can worry about that at another time. I can tell you're not ready for that step yet, and it will take you a while. If we're going to give this a try, we're going to have to take it slow. Are you okay with that?"
I nod. "Yeah. Yeah, that sounds really good."
"Good." Greg stands up off the couch. "We need to get back to the bus. Can't be left behind. C'mon, Tanner."
I stand up as well and follow Greg to the door. Boyfriend. I really like the sound of that.
About thirty minutes later, the bus pulls into the sports center and we all pile out, feeling incredibly exhausted. "Okay, everyone!" Greg calls out. "Remember! Meet up here tomorrow afternoon! If any of you are even a minute late, we leave without you!"
"Yes, Coach Natick!"
The team starts to disperse and I walk up to Greg. "Need a ride back to your apartment?"
"That would be great. Knowing that people know about me now, I probably can't take the bus anymore."
"Well, my car's passenger's seat always has your name on it."
Greg smiles and we head over to my car and pile in before heading over to his apartment. The car is completely silent the whole ride to Greg's apartment complex. I pull up and choose to park my car in a parking spot this time around. "I'll walk you up," I say, unbuckling my seatbelt.
We step out of the car and grab our stuff and walk into the building before riding up to the sixth floor. We approach Greg's apartment and stop outside while Greg unlocks the door and turns back to me. "Well...goodnight, Tanner," he says.
"Yeah. Night." Well, this isn't awkward. Greg takes a step back into his apartment and starts to close the door. "Um..." Greg stops closing the door and stares at me. "Um...w-would you mind if...if I...I don't know..."
I can't seem to form any coherent words. "Tanner," Greg says. "Do you...want to come in for a little while?" Feeling my face start to blush, I nod. Greg turns his body and gestures me into his apartment. I step in and he closes the door behind me. "Um...you can just put your bag anywhere."
I nod again and set my bag down next to Greg's couch. "Do you...want something to drink?"
"Do you have any beer?"
"Does Budweiser work for you?"
"Yeah, that works."
Greg heads into the kitchen while I take a seat on the couch. After a few moments, Greg places two beers on the coffee table. He grabs one of the bottles and places the top against the coffee table. He slams his palm down on the bottle and the cap comes right off. "Nice trick," I say.
"Thanks. Eric taught me that back at Stanford." I do the same with my bottle and Greg and I both take a deep gulp of our beers. "So...is there anything you want to talk about?"
"I...I really don't know. All I know is that I wanted to come in here. A lot."
Greg nods. "I think we're going to need a bit more beer."
"I couldn't agree more."
So about forty minutes and four beers for me later, I fall back into the couch. Sometime during my drinking, I tossed my suit jacket and tie aside and un-tucked my shirt. Greg did the same, but kept his shirt in and he's only had three beers. I finish my latest beer and set it down on the table with my other empty bottles. "I don't think I should drive home tonight," I say.
"Good idea. I'll grab you a blanket and you can spend the night on my couch."
Greg rises from the couch and disappears down the hall for a minute before returning with a large blanket. "I think I'm going to turn in for the night. If you need anything, the bathroom's the second door on the left down the hall. I'm in the first door. Goodnight, Tanner."
Greg turns and heads down the hall again and I hear a door close. I stand up off the couch, a little unsteady, and strip off my clothes before I'm finally down to my underwear. I fold my clothes to the best of my ability (I'm a bit buzzed. Shut up) and turn off the light before falling into the couch.
My hands fumble with the blanket and I manage to get it unfolded and lay it over my body before I lie back on the couch. My eyes start to feel heavy and I quickly fall into a light sleep. But no sooner had I fallen asleep, I'm sitting up on the couch. I look over at the clock and see it's about 1:00 in the morning, so I've only been asleep for about an hour.
As much as I want to fall back asleep, I feel something holding me back. It's not that the couch isn't comfortable (it's actually a little more comfortable than the one in my apartment). It feels...lonely somehow. This feeling hasn't happened to me before with my own bed. So I wonder why I'm feeling it now.
I throw the blanket off my body and stand up off the couch. My feet carry me down the hall and I stop in front of the first door. I slowly take the handle of the door and step into the room. It's completely dark in here and I can only make out the shape of the bed. But after a few seconds of adjusting to the light, I finally make out the shapes of the room.
And there's one thing I'm looking at right now: Greg asleep in his bed. I step over to the side of the bed and stand over Greg in silence. But Greg seems to take notice of my presence and slowly falls out of his sleep. His eyes slowly open and he props himself up on one arm, rubbing his eye. "Tanner? What's up?"
"I can't fall back asleep and I'm not sure why."
Greg sits up a bit more and looks up at me. I see he's wearing the same outfit I am: nothing but underwear. "Um...do you...want to sleep in my bed? It'll be a bit tight, though."
My heart starts to beat a bit harder in my chest. "Could I?"
Greg nods and moves over a bit. I take a corner of the covers and slide onto the soft mattress before pulling the covers over me. Once I slide into the bed, I feel that it's a bit tighter than I thought it would be. Greg's pressed right up against my arm and side. "Sorry about this," I quietly say.
"Don't worry about it. Just try to get a bit of sleep, Tanner." Greg pulls the covers up a bit more and falls onto his pillow and I do the same. But after a few seconds, I don't feel any closer to sleep than I did before. "You can't fall asleep can you?"
Greg turns over and looks at me. "Want to try something? It sometimes helps me get to sleep if there's someone else in my bed."
"Turn on your right side." I listen to Greg and flip onto my side while Greg does the same on his left side. "Now...scoot closer to me..."
Feeling my heart race, I move to the middle of the bed and feel my legs starting to intertwine with Greg's. With a bit more distance, my chest and stomach touch Greg's and our faces are just a few inches apart. I feel Greg wrap his arms around my chest and a warm sensation starts to fill my body.
Taking a lead from Greg, I do the same with my arms and wrap them around him and press my fingers into the warm skin of his back. "Um...does that feel better?" Greg asks me.
"Y-Yeah. A lot, actually. Thanks."
"You're welcome. Now, let's both try to get some sleep. We have a plane to catch tomorrow."
"Yeah. Goodnight, Gregory."
After a few seconds of silence, I hear a single word escape Greg's mouth. "Greg..."
I look down at Greg in confusion for a few seconds. "Huh?"
Greg looks up and meets my gaze, his face blushing a bit. "Greg. I...I kept it a secret for a long time, but...I like it whenever you call me Greg and not Gregory. I always have. It made me feel...like you saw me in a different light from everyone else. And I liked the feeling it gave me..."
Greg and I stare at one another for a few seconds of silence before I feel myself smile a bit. "I'm glad to know."
I see Greg smile as well and he presses a bit more against me. "And Tanner?"
"Could you give me something really quick?"
"What is it?"
"A goodnight kiss..."
Smiling, I lower my head and lightly press my lips to Greg's feeling him push back against me. We kiss for several seconds before we pull apart and exchange a smile. Greg lowers his head into the pillow and closes his eyes. "Goodnight, Tanner."
I rest my head on my pillow and I feel Greg's warm breath mix with mine as his hands rests against my side and chest, warm heat coming from both of them. "Goodnight...Greg..."