Hi everyone. Sorry about the couple weeks of delay. School's started and I underestimated how long it would take me to get this chapter done. But I finally did it and here it is for all of you to enjoy (or not, but I hope you do).

There's one chapter left after this one and I must say, seeing the end of this series right around the corner is pretty bittersweet for me. I started out on this site when I was 18 years old and barely knew a thing about what I was doing. I never expected myself to create a complete series with characters I've come to know.

But more than 2 years later and those stories are coming to an end. I just hope I've been able to help make someone's day with my stories, even for just a few minutes of escape from the real world. And I could not be happier with the world I've created.

Well, that's enough mopey stuff for now. I'll post the final chapter of 'Is It Possible...?' as soon as I finish it. Thank you all and I hope you enjoy Chapter 20.


Chapter 20

Standing in front of my mirror, I adjust my tie one more time just to be sure I look presentable. My hearing with the League is in an hour and I've never been more nervous about anything in my life. Based on that phone call a few days ago, they didn't sound very happy with how Tanner and I handled our coming out as a couple.

Needless to say, the picture Tanner took of us with the rest of the team behind us caused Twitter to crash. Four million retweets in less than a few hours. Every news channel picked up on it and it's all everyone has been talking about since. Even when I step out of one spotlight, I'm shoved into another one.

I step out of the bathroom before I can second-guess myself anymore and grab my phone and wallet. Locking my apartment, I ride down to the ground floor and step outside, where I find a car already waiting for me. Tanner has been called for the hearing, but he and I decided to go there separately. No need to piss off the League even more.

Climbing into the backseat, the driver pulls away from the curb without a word and we're off to the hearing. My leg bounces the whole ride there and I can already feel sweat rolling down my back. Rounding a corner on the street, I find a wall of people standing in front of the courthouse the League asked me to come to.

Already, I see dozens of rainbow and Kings flags in the crowd, and even a few custom rainbow-colored Kings flags. The car comes to a stop and I steel myself for what's about to come. I open the door and flashes of camera bulbs go off in front of my face. Thankfully, all of the reporters are waiting for commentary after the hearing, so I don't have to tell any of them to fuck off.

But the rest of the crowd does the exact opposite. "We love you, Coach Natick!"

"You'll be back behind the bench in no time!"

"We won't stand for the League kicking you out!"

Even if they don't stand for it, there's nothing they can do. Climbing up the steps, I'm thankful for a break from all the flashing lights. I step inside and am flanked by two security guards, who escort me through the building to the right courtroom. "Why weren't you out there to help me?" I ask them.

"You couldn't pay me enough to go into that crowd," one of them says. "I'd be eaten alive."

"It was felt that if you out there by yourself, people would be less inclined to get to you and you'd actually be safer."

"Sounds like a load of bull to me."

"Only partially..."

We walk down the hallway and up to two large wooden doors. The guards open the doors and I find the room already filled to the brim with people, many of them reporters, but a large number of the public as well and the team too. I can't seem to find Tanner in the crowd, but I'm sure he's around here somewhere.

A hush washes over the crowd as I'm walked down the aisle to the desk in front of the NHL board. Taking my seat, I feel every single eye in the room on me and I watch as Commissioner Gordon taps the microphone in front of him. "Coach Natick," he says in his usual stern tone. "I wish we could have seen each other on better circumstances."

"The feeling is mutual, sir," I say into my own microphone.

He gives me a small nod and addresses his colleagues for a moment before looking back at me. "Coach Gregory Natick. You are here today based on what has come to light with your conduct as a coach of an NHL team. You have been seen kissing the captain of your own team."

"Everyone has, Jonathon," Emmett Digger says. "It's my daughter's background on her laptop."

The courtroom gets a laugh out of that. "Regardless of Emmett's daughter's background choice, we unfortunately cannot let this matter go. While there is no written rule about the fraternizing of a coach and a player, the board and I have found there to be several faults with your actions, Coach Natick."

"I completely understand," I say. "I'll accept whatever punishment the League has to give me."

"Well, before we can do that, we need to get some facts on the matter. Coach Natick, we hope you'll answers any questions we may have in regard to your...relationship with Tanner White."

"Yes, sir."

"Okay then. Let's get started. The board calls Tanner White forward."

Great. I'm under a microscope with my boyfriend. Glancing behind me, I see Tanner stepping out of the crowd and taking a seat next to me. "Hi everyone," he carefully says. He gets nods from the board in return and leans over to me. "Tough crowd."


"Tanner," Commissioner Gordon says. "You've been in a relationship with Coach Natick for how long?"

"About eight months, sir."

"So since the beginning of the regular season?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, based on the Kings performance throughout the season, we can't say that this relationship has affected the team in any way."

"Well, sir?" I say. "Tanner and I only came out to the team just a few days ago."

The board exchanges a few glances. "Was anyone else aware of your relationship?" Shelly Dickerson asks.

"Just family and friends," Tanner says. "People we knew we could trust to keep our relationship a secret from everyone."

"I knew about it too!"

The courtroom fills with loud whispers at the new voice. "Who said that?" Commissioner Gordon calls out. Turning around, I find Ian standing up in his seat, holding his hand above his head. "Ian Crossrick, please step forward."

Ian walks to the front of the room and is handed a microphone by a technician. "Ian, you said you knew about the relationship between Tanner and Coach Natick?"

"I did, sir. I've known for a few months now."

"And what is your opinion on their relationship?"

Ian glances at us before looking back at the board. "Frankly, sir? Whatever goes on between them is none of my business. Yeah, it was a little strange to find out at first, but I was quick to get over it. Hell, I'm gay myself and...oops..."

The room erupts in people yelling and cameras going off again. Ian smacks his head with the microphone, grinning from ear to ear with embarrassment. That probably wasn't the best way he wanted to come out to the world. "Well, now that it's out there, yeah, I'm gay. I'm dating my boyfriend from back home, Vincent Connolly."

Commissioner Gordon claps his hands in front of his microphone in hopes of calming everyone down. He manages to do so after a few minutes. "Well, thank you for that, Ian," he says. "Any last words?"

"Coach Natick is an amazing coach and Tanner is an awesome player. They've made their relationship work even with the stress of being a coach and a professional hockey player. And even when they fight they don't let it interfere with their work. Don't punish two people for being in love."

My chest warms at the support from Ian and he pats my shoulder as he returns to his seat. "Thank you for that, Ian," Commissioner Gordon says. "We will take your testimony into consideration. Now to move on with our proceedings."

"If I may have a word before you continue, sir?" Tanner says.

"Yes, Tanner?"

Tanner slowly stands up and steps in front of the desk, facing the board. "I know what we did isn't what you would call 'ordinary.' Hell, I didn't even realize I was gay until I started dating Greg. But regardless of what you do with me, don't punish him. He's done more for the Kings than anyone ever has.

"He's the one that helped me to become much less violent on the ice and he's turned the Kings around. We wouldn't have come nearly as far as we have without his help. Regardless of his and my relationship, you can't deny he's one of the best coaches the League has ever seen.

"So please, all I ask is that you proceed fairly with this hearing. He has done nothing wrong throughout this whole season and just because he and I are dating, please don't do anything rash. Thank you."

After a few moments of silence, the room fills with a large amount of applause from behind us. I see the tips of Tanner's ears blushing as he returns to his seat. "Thank you, Tanner," Gordon says. "We appreciate your opinion. Now, to continue with this hearing..."


Many sweat-filled hours later, I'm alone in the front of the room again, waiting for the board to return from their deliberation. A minute later, the door to the back of the room opens and the board walks back in, cameras flashing from behind me. The board takes their seats once again.

Commissioner Gordon clears his throat and leans into his microphone. "After careful consideration, the board and I have reached a decision on how to proceed with this new information regarding the relationship of Tanner White and Coach Gregory Natick. Tanner, if you would come to the front of the room please."

Tanner rises from his seat and steps past the desk, standing in front of the board. "Tanner, you are a remarkable hockey player and an even better captain. The Kings need someone like you to continue leading them to victory. So the board and I have decided to not proceed with any action against you."

Cheers echo throughout the room. But despite the decision, Tanner hasn't relaxed even a bit. And that's because I know he's waiting for my verdict. "Please return to your seat," Gordon says.

Tanner turns and, instead of going back to his original seat, takes a seat right next to me at the desk. The board thinks nothing of it. "Coach Natick," Gordon continues. "Please rise."

I stand out of my seat and try to remain composed as I face the board. "Coach Natick, you've done some incredible things as coach of the Los Angeles Kings over the past season. You've transformed them into the team they are now and that is something worth commending you for.

"However, the board and I have decided that your actions with your relationship with your player, we cannot leave that alone."

I was expecting something along the lines of that. "I'll accept whatever punishment the board has," I say.

Gordon nods, but I see his lips have tightened into a line. "Coach Natick, due to your actions that are unbefitting of a coach of a professional NHL team, the board and I have decided...to have you removed as coach of the Los Angeles Kings effective immediately."

The courtroom erupts, people yelling and cameras wildly going off. But I don't hear even a word of it. Everything around me has gone completely silent. Glancing over, I find Tanner to be in a state of shock. But I came here ready for the worst of the worst. And there's no way the board will take back their decision.

I slowly rise from my seat and compose myself. In the chaos, the board has gone on the defensive, sinking into their seats to try and deflect whatever may be thrown their way. I nod once before turning and heading up the aisle to the door, Tanner not far behind me. Opening the doors, I make my way for the entrance of the courthouse.

Walking outside, I see it's even worse out here. The crowd that was out here earlier has grown even larger and it's nearly in full riot mode. Police are struggling to calm everyone down. Seeing me, reporters rush over to me and Tanner. "Gregory! How do you feel about the League's decision?"

"Tanner! What about you?"

"How will the Kings fare without their head coach for Game 6?"

"Will you two remain together?"

A car thankfully pulls up to the curb and I make my way for it, just focusing on it and not even giving the reporters the time of day. I climb into the car and Tanner climbs in with me. "Did Mark send you?" Tanner asks the driver, his voice strained.

"Yes, sir."

"My apartment, please."

The driver nods and we quickly drive away before anyone can do anything else. The ride is silent as we make our way for Tanner's apartment. Before I even know it, we pull up outside the complex and step out. We ride up to Tanner's floor and walk into his apartment. "Do you mind if I take a shower?" I ask.

"Yeah, sure..."

Heading off to the bathroom, I step inside and strip off my clothes. I'm thankful for the few moments of peace I have as the warm water glides over me. Taking more time than I probably should, I finally step out of the shower and dry myself off. I walk into the bedroom and find a set of clothes already sitting on the bed.

Slipping into the comfortable clothing, I walk back out into the living room and find Tanner getting off the phone. "I just ordered us some pizza. It should be here in a little while."

"Thanks. I haven't eaten all day. You have some of my insulin in your cupboard right?"

"Yeah, they're there."

I walk into the kitchen and grab one of my insulin pens and inject it into my arm. I wipe up the blood and take a seat next to Tanner on the couch. "Want to watch some Netflix?" he asks.

"Yeah. Something bloody and violent."

Turning on the TV, he opens Netflix and finds a horror movie called 'Splatterday.' Perfect for what I want right now. I scoot close to Tanner and rest my head on his shoulder as the movie starts. "Do you want to talk at all?" he asks me.

"Nah, right now I just want to spend some time with you and not need to think about anything else."

After a moment, Tanner leans over and kisses the top of my head. It's a small gesture, but it means a lot to me. The pizza arrives not long after the movie starts and we continue to sit in silence. Even though it seems a little depressing at the moment, it's actually all I really want. Some time alone with the man I love and not needing to worry about anything else.

Yeah, I'm extremely disappointed that all my hard work has gone to waste and I'm not going to be able to lead the Kings to a Stanley Cup victory. But knowing I'm the one that helped them to this point is enough for me. Okay, that's a complete lie and even I know it.

I don't think what happened with the League is fair in the least. That severe of a punishment for dating Tanner? It's a load of bullshit if you ask me. But unfortunately, there's nothing I can do about it. "Hey, Greg? The movie's over."

Getting everything back into focus, I see the credits rolling up the screen. "I must've zoned out."

"Are you sure you're okay?"

I stay silent for a moment before shaking my head. "Coaching is all I know how to do. Who would hire a coach that's been kicked out of the NHL? The best I would probably get is coaching pee wee hockey."

"Hey, come here." Tanner wraps an arm around me and pulls me close to him. "What happened wasn't right and everyone knows it. I don't know how the board came to that decision, but it'll be a cold day in Hell before I accept something like that."

"I appreciate it, Tanner, but I can't do anything now. Right now, all I really want is a little time to myself and some sleep. Is that okay?"

He plants a kiss on the side of my head. "Sure. Take all the time you need."

I nod my thanks and rise off the couch and head for Tanner's bedroom. I climb under the covers and rest my head on the pillow, staring up at the ceiling. It's not long before I find myself asleep.


The guys and I are back in Detroit for Game 6 and even before we left the mood had been somber. Needless to say, everyone has been really down since the hearing. We just aren't the same without Greg here. Getting to Joe Louis Arena, we enter the locker room and start changing into our uniforms.

No one has said so much as a word since we got here. Hell, even the plane ride back here was strained. As much as I want to get in the mindset for tonight, I cant' seem to get my head in the game. "Okay, I'll be the first to say it," Cameron says. "This is fucking bullshit."

The rest of the team hums in response. "Coach Natick did not deserve what he got," Jacques follows up.

"And it's not the same with him not here," Ken says. "He's always been the one to get us motivated before a match."

"But the fucking League had to go and fuck everything up," Bradley says. "And now all his hard work has gone down the drain without so much as a thank you. That right there is the epitome of 'fuck you.'"

"Well there isn't exactly anything we can do about it," Nolan points out. "Yeah, it sucks not having Coach Natick here, but what can we do?"

Nolan's right. The fight dies almost immediately and we return to changing into our uniforms. Once I'm done changing, I take a seat on the bench and pull out my phone.

'We all miss having you here...'

A reply comes a few moments later.

'I miss being there. But I'm just sitting in my apartment eating a snack waiting for the game to start.'

'It's not fair. You should be here with us rather than in your apartment. Have you seen the amount of hate the League has been getting for what they did?'

'No, I've been staying away from the Internet. Mostly because my face will be on every news site there is.'

Hell, he's barely left his apartment ever since the ruling. The second I get back to Los Angeles, I'm pulling him out of there whether or not he likes it.

'So many people have been calling out the League. And they're pissed about their decision. I didn't even see this much anger when Darrell got traded to the Rangers.'

'I appreciate how much the fans care, but they really should be supporting you and the rest of the guys. Not focusing on a former coach of the Kings.'

I just want to give him a hug to help him feel even a little bit better. "Tanner, we must get ready," Alex says.

Nodding, I look back to my phone.

'I need to go warm up.'

'Okay. Kick some ass tonight.'

Placing my phone back in my locker, I head out to the ice along with everyone else. We all go through the motions of our warm ups, but I can feel we're not into it as much as we should be. I know we're only a single game away from winning the Stanley Cup, but even if we do win tonight's game, it won't feel like it.

With our warm up finished, we all head back to the locker room until the game is about to start. I pull off my helmet and toss it aside and am met by a body standing in front of me. "How's life, Tanner?" Ian asks me.

"Being honest, it's pretty shitty at the moment."

He takes a seat next to me. "How's Gregory taking everything?"

My hand tightens into a fist involuntarily. "I hate what he's going through right now. What the League did isn't fair in the least and there shouldn't have been any punishment for him."

"I agree with you 100%. What happened isn't right and we all know it. But we haven't done anything to try and change their minds."

"We can't do anything to change their minds."

Ian looks straight at me. "Can't we? If we believe the League wasn't right in their decision about Gregory, we should stand by it and show them we don't agree with it."

"And how the hell are we supposed to do something like that? We could be next if we wanted to try anything."

Sometimes, Tanner, you need to take a risk for something you think is right. Just like Jefferson said 'In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.' Stand for what you believe in without fear of the consequences."

Hard to believe the guy is just 19. He gives me shoulder a pat before standing up and heading back to his locker. Outside the locker room, I hear the crowd getting more and more excited. Reaching inside of my jersey, I pull out my necklace and gaze at the two intertwined hands with a feeling of longing in my chest.

Standing for what I believe... My hand tightens around my necklace for a second before I tuck it back in my jersey. Standing up, I grab my stick and slam it against my locker behind me, making everyone in the locker room jump. "I know you all are going to be confused by this, but I'm going to need your help in following my lead."


I grab a bottle of water from my fridge and walk back into the living room, falling into my couch. "I hope you're all ready for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals!" Liam says from my television.

Yay... So fucking excited... What a load of bullshit. I should be there with the guys and I know it. The League knows it too. But for some fucking reason, the idea of me dating a player was too scary for them. There are players and coaches in every sport that are dating. Some of them gay too. What the hell difference does a coach dating a player make?

Yeah, I'm a little bitter at the moment. I have every reason to be. But I'm not the important one at the moment. What's important is that the guys play without any distractions so they can take home the Cup. "We're just about to get underway with tonight's game," Liam continues. "And I hope you all out there are just as excited as we are tonight."

"I know I am, Liam," Lauren says. "But I noticed that while the Kings were warming up that they don't seem as into it as they normally are."

"They must be feeling the effect of former coach Gregory Natick not being there," Liam follows up. "I know we all were very saddened to learn about the decision by the National Hockey League. But I just hope the Kings can put this all behind them and focus on a good game."

Goddamn it, this is just what I was afraid of. They should be focusing on themselves. Not me. I'd give them all a good kick in the ass if I could. "Alan, how does everything look from down on the ice?" Liam asks.

"I'm sorry to say, Liam, but I'm not really seeing too much down here. Even the Red Wings don't seem very into the match."

"Do you think there's a reason why, Alan?" Lauren asks.

"I tried asking Red Wings head coach Brody Mates for his opinion on tonight's match, but it seems like he's just as distracted at the Kings are and I feel that's having a negative effect on his players."

Brody too? For the love of God, people! Focus on the game! "Well, whatever the case may be, Alan, I hope we can have a good game tonight," Lauren says. "Both teams take to the ice as this game is about to get underway."

Jesus, finally. I watch as Tanner and the rest of the starters skate into their positions. The referee moves to the middle of the ice and glances at both teams and drops the puck. And as soon as the puck drops, so does Tanner's stick. And just as I'm sure a fight is about break out, the exact opposite happens.

The Red Wings take control of the puck and the rest of the Kings players on the ice drop their sticks as well. What the fuck are they doing?! They're just standing there not moving! The Red Wings take advantage of the opportunity and skate up the ice with the puck, but none of the Kings even make an effort to get in their way.

Five seconds into the first period, the Red Wings score. But rather than cheers, the stadium fills with boos and people yelling in anger and disappointment. "I...I'm at a complete loss for words, Liam," Lauren says. "Never have I seen something like that take place during a Stanley Cup Final, or a hockey match for that matter."

"I'm in just as much shock as you are, Lauren..."

No more than me! The camera snaps back to Tanner, who seems to have a look of defiance on his face. I watch as he skates over to the official's box and taps on the glass. A moment later, he sticks his head into the box and speaks to the officials. He pulls off his helmet and steps back onto the ice with what appears to be a microphone.

He gives it a tap and a low hum resonates through the stadium. "I'm going to say this only once," he says. "The Kings refuse to play until Gregory Natick is reinstated as head coach of the Los Angeles Kings."

My bottle of water slips from my hand and falls to the floor. The stadium explodes in uproar, but Tanner keeps going. "The Kings have come together for this decision and we've decided that we'd rather lose than win without the man who brought us here to this point. We couldn't play with a healthy conscience knowing that.

"We all feel what happened with our coach was completely unfair. He's done more for us, for the League, than any coach I've ever seen. But the thought of him dating a player was too much for the League to handle and they let him go as a result. Does that seem right to anyone? Because it sure as hell doesn't feel right to me.

"We're very sorry to everyone that spent their money for tonight's game and we will make sure everyone is compensated. The Kings forfeit Game 6."

Tanner hands the microphone back to the officials and heads back up the tunnel to the locker room, the rest of the Kings following behind him. The stadium fills with boos and people throwing things onto the ice and in the general direction of the Kings. "Please, everyone, just calm down."

Brody? The camera pans back to the officials box and I see Brody has taken Tanner's place. "I agree completely with what Tanner had to say." Excuse me? "Coming into this match, we fully expected something like this to happen. The Red Wings also don't support the League's decision about Coach Natick.

"You all have seen what Coach Natick has done for the Kings in a single season. The Kings have had their best season in history. So why did the League get rid of him? Because he is in a relationship with a player. But how has that relationship affected the Kings' performance? Easy: it hasn't.

"I've been married to my husband for well over a year now and the League hasn't a said a thing about it. So why does Gregory's relationship with Tanner matter any more than mine with my husband? It shouldn't and it doesn't. Gregory and Tanner have proven that a coach and a player can date one another in a professional setting without letting it get in the way of their work.

"Since their coming out together as a couple, dozens of other hockey players have come out as gay and bisexual as well. Have they been punished? No, and they shouldn't be. It doesn't make any sense for Gregory to be the only one. All I have to say on the matter is that the League shouldn't have been so quick and rash about their judgment.

"I want an awesome Game 7 that everyone, including myself and my team, can enjoy. And unless the League brings Gregory Natick back, this is going to be a very disappointing final for everyone."

Brody hands the microphone back to the officials and while I expect more booing, all I hear are loud cheers. "Um...w-we're going to go to commercial break," Liam says. "Please stay tuned..."

But I immediately shut off the TV and fall back into my couch. What the hell just happened? I'm too confused by everything to even comprehend the shit that just went down on my television. In a daze, I stand up, walk into my bedroom, crawl into bed, and fall asleep without even a second thought. I can deal with the bullshit that's going to come tomorrow.


After a surprisingly restful night's sleep, I'm showered and dressed to run a few errands I need to get done. After last night, a little normalcy would be great right now. As I'm about to step out of my apartment, my cell phone rings. Looking down at the screen, it's a number I don't recognize.

But I give the caller the benefit of the doubt. "Gregory Natick."

"Gregory! Thank God! I was hoping you'd pick up!"

"Commissioner Gordon? What's going on?"

"I need you to come to the Los Angeles office immediately!" What sounds like a loud crash enters the background. "If they break another window I'm going to wring someone's neck!"

Well, this can't be good. "Commissioner Gordon, A little information would..."

"NOW, GREGORY!! A car should be there to pick you up!"

The phone disconnects and I stare at it for a moment. Why do I feel like I'm about to walk into a lion's den? I get to the ground floor and find a car sitting outside. I climb in and the driver hurriedly heads over to the Los Angeles office of the NHL. And as we get closer to it, I can see why Commissioner Gordon sounded so flustered.

There must be hundreds of people lining the street, every single one of them screaming at the building and dozens of police officers attempting to hold them back. The car drives right past all of them and to the other side of the NHL office. I'm let out at the back entrance to the building and step inside.

Security finds me and they escort me through the building. I take notice of how many phones are ringing and the sheer number of people running around frantically. I'm led to an office and opening the door, I find Commissioner Gordon on the phone, looking disheveled and quite agitated.

His slams the phone down and runs his hands over his face before taking notice of me. "Please, sit..."

I take a seat across from him and the door is closed behind me. "Sir, what's going on?"

"It's been absolute hell here, Gregory. You have no idea how many phone calls we've had to deal with from angry fans."

"Sir, if this is about last night's game, the Kings take full responsibility for..."

"It's not that. The fans are angry about the decision the board and I made about your coaching position. We may have acted too quickly in our decision. And we definitely were too harsh in it."

"Sir, if this is because of the pressure from the fans, don't you think it makes the League appear weak?"

"It's not just the fans. Other professional sports leagues have been coming down on us as well for what we did. The MLB, the NFL, the NBA, all of them contacted us to show how they felt about how we handled a player coming out in such a public way. Hell, even our sponsors are threatening to pull out because of it!"

Is all of this because of what Tanner and the rest of the Kings did? "This kind of pressure has been going on the past few days, but what Tanner had to say was the straw that broke the camel's back," he continues. "We're talking millions of dollars in potential lost revenue, Gregory!"

What the hell am I supposed to say to something like that? "Um...I'm sorry to hear that, sir. But...where do I fall into that mix?"

He quickly stands up from his desk and rounds it to me. To my utter shock, he gets down onto his knees with his hands in front of him. "I am begging you. Please, for the love of everything that is good, accept your position back. I'm giving it back to you right at this very moment."

Holy. Shit. "I...I'll give you a pay raise! I'll add extra benefits! Hell, I'll give you a motherfucking car and a driver to get you around! Just PLEASE accept it!"

"Sir! Please just...calm down a second! And um...please stand up. It's really weird talking to you when you're on your knees."

He slowly stands up and is forced to take a seat on the edge of his desk. "Sir, I'd be more than happy to take my job back. All I would really like is a public apology on the behalf of the board." He looks like he's about to say something, but I'm quick to cut him off. "You and I both know the actions of the board were wrong, sir.

"So a public apology for how the board handled a situation they weren't prepared for would be more than enough for me. And I think a sincere apology would help to calm everyone that's currently up in arms."

A sudden crash from outside the office grabs my attention. "We got another broken window!" someone yells.

Commissioner Gordon lets out a sigh. "Deal. Anything to stop the madness..."

I extend my hand and he gives it a firm shake. "Send out a tweet," I say. "It'll be the fastest way to get the word out and much cheaper than getting a news crew."

I stand up from my seat and he walks around his desk to his laptop. I take the opportunity to slip out of the office. But rather than head back the way I came in, I decide the front door would be a lot more fun. Finding my way to the entrance in question, through the front door I see the crowd is still in a frenzy.

I walk out the door and put myself in view of the crowd. "Coach Natick!" someone yells.


The crowd immediately calms down and I bring them down to silence with an open hand. After a bit of a pause for dramatic effect (Hank will like this when it's inevitably on YouTube later today), I take in a deep breath. "I'M BACK, BITCHES!!"

The crowd erupts in a chorus of cheers of excitement and relief. People in the crowd manage to push past the police with phones ready. I motion to the police to let them know I'm good and welcome all of the Kings fans who want pictures. But when this is done, I'm back in coaching mode.

After at least an hour of taking pictures, the crowd manages to dissipate enough for me to flag down a taxi and escape. Pulling out my phone, I quickly start a mass email.

'If all of you aren't at the sports arena, dressed, and on the ice in the next forty five minutes, I'm going to rip off your ball sacs and feed them to you slowly.'

Hitting send with a satisfied smile, I lean back in my seat. "Toyota Sports Arena, please."

The taxi driver heads off. It's not long before we get to the sports arena. I pay the taxi fare and head inside. Traversing through the arena, I get down to the ice and walk to the middle of the rink, breathing in the chilled air. As I take in my familiar surroundings, I welcome the wonderful sound of people scrambling in the locker room.

Turning around, I find the team as a whole racing up the tunnel, some still trying to get the last of their equipment on. Once everyone is on the ice, I take out my phone and look at the time. "Forty-two minutes and thirty-six seconds," I tell them.

They all immediately relax but I put on my best coaching face and they all stiffen up. "Now I don't need to tell you what you did with Game 6 was stupid. You could have won last night, but you decided to throw it all away and force a Game 7.

"You're up against one of the toughest teams in the country at the moment. The Red Wings are unrelenting, they're strong, and they play hard. You could have taken them down with the skills you all have now. But rather than do that, you go into a giant spiel about the League.

"Do you realize how much hot water you could have landed the Kings in? Do you have anything to say for yourselves?"

Silence. Much of the team shifts uncomfortably and tries to look to one another for an answer. "We're not sorry for what we did." Tanner takes a step forward. "We came to that decision together and we're damn proud of it. We knew about the risks and we went along with it knowing what could happen. We don't regret a second of last night."

Tanner's words help to calm everyone down a bit and I gaze at the team. Conviction in all of their faces, determination in their eyes, fire in their stares. This is my team, the team I destroyed and then built from the ground up. And I couldn't be any more proud of each and every one of them.

I lose my composure and let a smile break through. "You guys are all fucking awesome..." They all immediately relax and break out in grins and a few cheers. I step closer to them. "I have never been prouder of a team I've coached. What you all did was the ballsiest thing I've ever seen.

"You all understood the consequences of what you were doing and you did it anyway without fear. You all stood up for something you believed in and now look at what you did: I'm back, and I'm not leaving anytime soon."

Not even caring who sees, I look straight at Tanner and give him a wink. A few guys let out some catcalls. Tanner suddenly stumbles forward and turns around to whoever pushed him. "Something to say, Tanner?" I ask, lifting an eyebrow.

"Other than the fact I'm going to kill whoever pushed me." He glances behind him and the rest of the team feign nonchalance. "We're glad to have you back, Coach Natick."

Smiling, I grab Tanner by the collar of his jersey and pull him to me, pressing those wonderful lips of his to mine. The guys let out a mixture of catcalls and groans, but I reach behind Tanner and give them all a choice finger. "You're all jealous I get this find ass of his," I call out, reaching behind Tanner and grabbing a cheek.

"Don't make me think of my captain taking it up the ass!" Bradley yells.

The rink fills with laughter and Tanner returns to his teammates. "We have a lot of shit to do, guys," I say. "Game 7 is in two days and after all that we've been through, we have to prove that we're the best in the League. Twenty laps around the rink. No lagging behind."

"Yes, Coach Natick!"

The guys all start their laps and I head to the bench. Watching them, I see the team I've helped to mold into championship worthy ones. It fills me with so much pride at seeing how they've grown. In all honesty, even if we don't win, I couldn't be any prouder of these guys.

They've all helped me as much as I've helped them. Hell, when I first got here, I was a son of a bitch, thinking my way was the only way that could lead these guys and not bothering to get to know any of them. But being around these guys helped me to lose my hardass attitude I came here with.

Don't get me wrong. If one of them deserves a kick in the ass, I'll be more than happy to give them one. But maybe I won't do it as hard as I usually would. And taking the risk and coming out to L.A. has probably been the best decision I could have ever made. I came here expecting a job. What I could have never imagined was the great Tanner White becoming my boyfriend.

He's made as many leaps and bounds as I have, if not more. And seeing the man he's become makes me so incredibly happy. I don't know how lucky I am to have found someone so wonderful, let alone my high school crush. But all I do know is that I'm never letting him go again.

I'm so lost in my thoughts that only ice spraying on me gets my attention. "We're waiting on you, Coach Natick," Tanner says with a mocking grin.

Smiling myself, I wipe the melted ice off my face. "Hey, guys!" I call out to everyone else. "Ask Tanner about the time is dad caught us together in the shower!" Tanner's face shifts to mortified in record time while I just smile innocently. "Better get back to it, Tanner."

"You're going to get it later..."

"Oh, I sure hope so."

He turns and skates back to everyone else, who start ribbing him about being caught having sex by his dad. "Passing drills!" I yell. "Start it up!"

They get into the swing of practice. For as hard as they've been working, I really hope we can pull this off.


"And welcome back, hockey fans, to our live coverage of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup. I hope you all are as excited as I am for tonight's game following the events of the last few days."

"I know I am, Liam. With the Kings forfeiting Game 6 with their stand against the NHL's decision about coach Gregory Natick, plus the League reinstating Natick the very next day, it's been a very intense week."

"You said it, Lauren. We still have a little bit of time left before the final match starts, so what're your projections, Lauren?"

"Liam, I honestly cannot say a thing about either team. Now that the Kings have their coach back, I can feel a brand new energy from each and every one of them. They all seem ready to come out fighting. But the Red Wings have been given a second chance at a victory and they look hungry for it."

"I'm with you there, Lauren. I have never seen a Game 7 where the two teams are so even quite like this. How's everything looking on the ice, Alan?"

"Liam, it is pure animosity down here. I'm afraid to even lean out of the box for a better look at either team. Both teams are angry, primed, and ready to go for Game 7."

"Sounds great, Alan. You're joining our live coverage of Game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals. We'll take a quick commercial break and be ready for the action on the ice."


Fucking nerves. They've been like this ever since I stepped on the bus. And now, I can't stop shaking. Glancing around the locker room, I see everyone else ready to get out there and win. But me? Jesus, I feel like a peewee hockey player instead of a pro.

But no matter what I do, I can't get myself to calm down. Standing up, I start to make my way toward the bathroom. "Where you headed, Tanner?" Gunnar asks as I pass him.

"I need some air..."

Keeping my gaze focused on the floor, I somehow manage to make it to the bathroom. I walk to a sink and let the water run for a few seconds before splashing some in my face. While the shock of the cold water is enough to settle my nerves for a few seconds, it definitely won't be enough for the game.

We have nearly ten months worth of training put into this day. What happens if it was all for nothing? What if I miss a shot or lose the puck? I can't let the guys down. They want this as much as I do. I won't even be able to look them in the eye if I cause us to lose tonight.

I splash another handful of water in my face and quietly breathe. "Scared?"

Looking over, I find Greg standing near the doorway with his necktie and jacket in hand. "Terrified," I admit.

He walks over and takes his place at the mirror next to mine. "Can you hold this for a sec?" he asks, holding his jacket out. I take the jacket and watch him as he ties his tie. "I'm scared too, Tanner. Can you see how much my hands are shaking?"

Glancing down at his hands, I see him struggling to tie the tie because he's shaking so much. "And it's the same with everyone out there in that locker room. They're all scared. Hell, they're on the verge of crapping themselves."

"They don't seem it."

"Trust me. I heard a few guys puking earlier from being so nervous." He finishes his tie and takes his jacket back from me. "It's perfectly okay to be scared, Tanner. But trying to hold the weight of this last game by yourself? That's stupid."

Buttoning the front of his jacket, he turns to face me. "You have twenty-two others guys with you that are ready to hold that weight with you. And I'll be right there to support each and every one of you."

Slowly, the butterflies in my gut start to ease at seeing Greg's reassuring face. Reaching forward, I cup his jaw and kiss his lips, taking pleasure in the feeling of those wonderfully soft lips. "I love you," I quietly say.

"Aw, aren't you two sweet together?"

Looking to the bathroom door, I find practically half the team peeking at us. "You know," I start. "If I didn't know any better, I would say you guys get off on seeing us two making out."

"I may like a nice dick every once in a while, but seeing my coach and captain trying to eat each other makes me wants to pour bleach in my eyes," Bradley says nonchalantly.

Every eye darts to our starting goalie in shock, who seems indifferent to the fact that he easily shut up a hockey team. "What? I'm pansexual. I like guys, girls, and any gender identity. Get over it."

Silence fills the room for a moment before everyone bursts into laughter, Bradley getting a lot of pats on the back in the fray. "Okay," Greg says. "Does anyone else have any secrets they want to tell the rest of us?"

"Straight as an arrow, coach," Gunnar says.

And save for Ian, Bradley, and myself, the rest of the team nods in agreement. "Okay, then let's all get out of the bathroom before someone comes in and starts to think otherwise," I joke.

Everyone laughs and we all return to the locker room. Immediately, I can feel the air in here is a lot lighter than a few minutes ago. "This is your last chance," Greg says.

Well so much for that. We all turn and watch him. "You're all going to go out there and play your damn hardest. If I so much as see even one of you slacking, there will be hell to pay, even if we do win. Other than that, there really isn't much more to say to all of you.

"You've become an incredible team. You support one another, help each other to become even greater than you already are. That's what I wanted to get out of coaching all of you: turning 23 individual people into a single unit. And do you see what's come out of it? Look where you all are right now.

"Out there, there are more than eighteen thousand people watching you guys play your hearts out. And there are millions more watching you guys in their living rooms. And do you know why they're watching? They're watching to see you guys win.

"The Red Wings have been on top for years. We're the underdog here. We scraped past every other team in the NHL to get to this point. And with every win, you gained even more fans. Do you see what you've done in a single season? I couldn't be more proud of you all."

A sense of pride fills my chest at the words. From above us, a low rumble fills the locker room from stomping feet and loud cheers. "You have a game to win," Greg says. "Just let me ask you guys one question: why are you on top?"

The response from all of us is immediate. "BECAUSE WE'RE THE KINGS!!"

Greg claps his hands together. "That's my fucking team! Get out there and dominate those Red Wing fuckers!"

We all grab our sticks and charge up the tunnel. "Please welcome! Your very own Los Angeles Kings!"

The roar of the crowd as we skate onto the ice gets my blood pumping even more. Seeing all these people here to watch us just makes the situation just that much more real for me. We all skate to the bench, where we find Greg missing. "And please welcome back to the ice, Coach Gregory Natick!"

Looking to the tunnel, I watch as Greg slowly walks into the light, where he's met by a tidal wave of cheers from the crowd. But while I expect him to step into the bench, he continues to walk onto the ice, finally coming to a stop in the middle of the rink.

He carefully gazes around the arena before stopping on the Red Wings bench. He picks up his hand and extends his thumb before he crosses his arm across him. Slowly and methodically, he traces his thumb across his neck, an evilly sinister smile pasted on his lips.

The crowd cheers at the gesture, but the team and I know how easy it is to be terrified of the man. He glides back to the bench and climbs in. "Everybody, please rise for the singing of our National Anthem."

We remove our helmets and gaze up at the American flag as it's lowered from the ceiling. "Singing our National Anthem tonight is Grammy Award winner, multi-platinum singer-songwriter, and lead singer of Our Name Is... please welcome Brian Mosley!"

The crowd roars as I see Brian step out of another tunnel and onto the ice, wearing an LA Kings jersey. I'll thank him later for the gesture. The lights dim and a spotlight hits Brian, who holds a microphone up to his face. And as soon as his voice fills the arena, I'm captivated by the sound.

It doesn't take long for him to reach the end of the Anthem, and the second he does the crowd erupts in cheers. It's not every day you get to hear Brian sing live. And it's an amazing sight to see and hear. While I expect him to be led back down the tunnel he came, Brian passes everyone around him and walks to the center of the ice.

The spotlight follows him as he walks. As he steps to the center of the ice, he raises the microphone. "I know you're all wondering why I'm not gone by now, but I feel that there isn't quite enough energy in this arena for tonight's match. I mean don't you want to see the Kings win?"

He's met by a giant cheer from the crowd. "That's pretty good! But I think you all can do a little better. Back when I was younger, I remember hearing this song that a lot of people didn't really like. It was made for the Kings, but it was scraped after a while. But whenever I listed to it before a Kings game, it got me really pumping.

"So if you all know the words, sing along! Here we go!"

The rest of the lights in the arena suddenly go off, leaving only Brian's spotlight. And a second later, a rousing drum beat sounds through the arena. It seems...kind of familiar. Why can't I put my finger on it? I look back at Brian as he starts to raise the mic to his face.

'We are united! We're undivided! We stand together never less!'

'In any weather, a Kings a King forever!'

'Together we are Los Angeles!'

Holy. Crap. This song... I remember hearing it back when I was a teenager! "We Are Los Angeles" by The Goon Squad. So many people hated this song so it never caught on, but I always liked it. The cavalry sounding horns and guitar join in.

'We are united! We're undivided! We stand together never less!'

'In any weather, a Kings a King forever!'

'Together we are Los Angeles!'

More voices suddenly join Brian. And from the tunnel, I see the rest of Our Name Is... walking out wearing LA Kings jerseys, some holding instruments, but all of them holding microphones.

'We are united! We're undivided! We stand together never less!'

'In any weather, a Kings a King forever!'

'Together we are Los Angeles!'

They all walk up to Brian and face the crowd, many of whom have joined in the battle cry.

'We are united! We're undivided! We stand together never less!'

'In any weather, a Kings a King forever!'

'Together we are Los Angeles!'

The group slowly starts to move away from each other and behind them, I see a large number of amplifiers and a drum set have been placed.

'Together we are Los Angeles!'

'Together we are Los Angeles!'

The music cuts out for a moment, giving everyone enough time to get in place before Brian raises his microphone again.

'One, two, one, two, three, four!'

An explosion of sound blasts out of all the amps as the lights in the arena snap back on.

'We're ready for battle, defending our crown!'

'For black and the silver we fight!'

"Fight! Fight! Fight!" the crowd yells.

'Majestic and strong! We'll never go down!'

'We'll die with our blood on the ice!'

My blood and adrenaline are pumping like crazy. I can't hold myself in anymore as I belt out the lyrics with them.

'We are united! We're undivided! We stand together never less!'

'In any weather, a Kings a King forever!'

'Together we are Los Angeles!'

I find the rest of the guys joining in with me.

'As brothers we reign! We live for the game!'

'in the the heart of our city, so true!'

"Kings rule!"

'This is our victory cry! Let it roar through the night!'

'With the soul of a King, you can't lose!'

The sound explodes out of the speakers and amps, matching the cheering in the crowd and my ears.

'We are united! We're undivided! We stand together never less!'

'In any weather, a Kings a King forever!'

'Together we are Los Angeles!'

'We are united! We're undivided! We stand together never less!'

'In any weather, a Kings a King forever!'

'Together we are Los Angeles!'

'Together we are Los Angeles!'

'Together we are Los Angeles!'

I grab my stick and secure my helmet. "Let's fucking win this shit!"

The rest of the team roars with me and the starters follow me out onto the ice. The ice is quickly cleared and the Red Wings take to the ice as well. With the crowd still screaming and cheering, I skate to the center of the ice, welcoming the feeling of blood pumping though my ears as I stare down my opponent.

The referee skates next to the both of us and gives us a glance before holding the puck over the ice. He lets it fall and as soon as it hits the ice, I burst out of the gates.


"Welcome back, hockey fans, to our live coverage of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. We're well into the third period and the score is tied at 1-1 with only a few minutes left in the period. I have to say, Lauren, this has been an amazing match."

"It sure has, Liam. Both teams are displaying such an amazing level of skill that it's so hard to try and tell who's going to win. We're just about to get back to the action. The Red Wings have possession of the puck and Grayson sends it back to Ross. Ross holds the puck and finds the open man in Rimini.

Rimini passes the puck to Hayworth, who travels up the ice with it. He skates around Abramov, and, oh! A nice dodge by Hayworth around Crossrick! Ellingson is right there to meet him. Hayworth sets up a shot! And a great deflection by Crompton! Kings take possession of the puck!"

"Liam, I'm sitting on the edge of my seat just watching this happen!"

"You said it, Lauren! Lindberg controls the puck and starts up the ice with it. He crosses it to Davis, who sends it right back. Gunnar passes it up the ice to an open White! White enters Red Wings territory and wow! Right around Kline! He passes the blue line! White has a chance!

"White raises his stick and...it's a fake! And White presses forward toward the goal! He jukes right and set up a shot! But no! Lewis checks White! The goal is dislodged from its holdings and the referee blows the whistle! No goal! My God, Lauren, that was intense!"

"Liam, it looks like White is pretty slow getting up."

"You're right, Lauren, but it looks like he's getting to his feet. So far everything...oh! White falls back to the ice clutching his leg! The medics are rushing onto the ice as we speak. We're going to take a quick commercial break while the goal is reset and for Tanner White to be checked out."


Shit! Shit! Shit! I follow the medics as they help Tanner back into the locker room. He's been cursing up a storm since the medics started carrying him. They set him down on a bench and one of them helps get Tanner's skate off. "It's fucking fine!" he yells. "Let me get back on the ice!"

"We need to check it," one of the medics says. "It's a rule."

Tanner manages to rein himself in, allowing the medics to remove his skate and pad. He rolls up Tanner's pant leg and I see the makings of a very nasty bruise on his shin. "How did this happen?" the medic asks.

"My leg hit the goal post when I got checked by Kline. It really feels fine..."

"What would your professional opinion say?" I ask the medic.

"That this needs an x-ray. The tibia or fibula could be bruised or even fractured."

"I'm not going to the hospital! I need to get back onto the ice!"

Tanner starts to stand up, but as soon as he puts weight on his leg, he yells out in pain and falls back onto the bench. "Tanner, you are not getting back on that ice," I say. "You can barely stand up, let alone skate."

He glances up at me and the face he makes at me makes my heart hurt. Desperation mixed with need. This moment means the world to him. And hearing that he can't go out there must be absolutely devastating. "This game is going into overtime!" the announcer calls out.

Fuck. I was hoping we could end this in regulation time. "I'd like a few minutes alone with my player if you wouldn't mind," I ask the medics.

The two head out and I'm left with Tanner in the locker room. I step in front of him and kneel by his leg, which is looking even more purple than it did a minute ago. "How much does it really hurt?" I carefully ask.

He glances at me and casts his eyes down at his lap. "A lot. I thought I felt a crack when I crashed into the goal."

I silently curse to myself. "Do you know how much you could potentially hurt yourself if I let you back on the ice? We're talking months of potential physical therapy if you hurt your leg even more!"

"It'll be fucking worth it if I can go out there and win this game with my teammates! We've worked so hard for this, and I'm not going to let some pain in my leg keep me from getting back out there!"

He hardens his eyes as he looks at me. But at the base of his eyes, I see a wetness I've never seen from him during a game. "Tanner..."

"This means so fucking much to me, Greg." His voice is filled with emotion. "Seeing all those fans out there, hoping we'll win tonight's game, watching Our Name Is... play that song just for us, knowing there are millions of other people out there watching us, I can't let them down. And I can't let you down either.

"You've given us so much since the beginning of the season. I can't let all of that effort go to waste. Just please give me a chance. I know I can do it."

The pleading look on is face screams a thousand words. I rise back to my feet and turn around, quickly walking to the medical station we have set up. I grab three frozen ice packs and a few gauze bandages and get back to Tanner. "Hold you your leg and bite your tongue. This is going to hurt for a bit."

He holds his leg out and I place the ice packs on his leg, hearing Tanner wince as I do so. I wrap the bandage around his leg, securing the ice packs in place as I tie a know at the end. "Two minutes," I say. "If you or someone else can't score in that amount of time, I'm getting you off the ice."

I carefully get his sock back on and tie his skate. "Stand up." He slowly rises off the bench. "How does it feel?"

"Still hurts like a bitch, but I'll be able to manage."

I give him a nod. "We have a game to win. Let's get back out there."


I follow Greg up the tunnel, being careful not to limp or show any pain. If I actually did break my leg, I'm going to be so pissed. We reach the bench and Greg and I step in. I take my seat and watch the action on the ice. We missed the first few minutes of overtime, but we're here now.

Alex and Ken hop over the wall and onto the ice. "You're going out there next," Greg says to me. "Remember. Two minutes."

I nod and watch the match, trying to find that single opportunity for me or someone else to score. Glancing over, I find Jacques skating toward the bench. Tightening my grip on my stick, as soon as he's at the bench, I vault over the wall and onto the ice. As soon as my skates hit the ice, a sharp pain goes up my leg.

Not now, you motherfucker! Biting through the pain, I skate out onto the ice. The Red Wings have the puck, and I'm going to do whatever it takes to stop them. Ross is heading up the ice with the puck with Vladimir right next to him. Ross passes the puck across the rink to Hayworth.

Hayworth had a chance earlier, but we're not going to give him another. I bolt over to meet him, but Alex beats me to the punch. With a hard check, he sends Hayworth flying and passes the puck to me with his skate. Glancing forward, I see Lewis coming after me, ready to finish what we started earlier.

But this time, I'm ready for him. Taking control of the puck, I press forward, waiting for just the right moment. As soon as he gets close to me, I quickly slide my stick under the puck and flick it up. The puck goes sailing right over Lewis' head and I take advantage of the distracted Lewis and skate around him.

The crowd roars and I take the puck once again. Looking to my left, I find Ian right there with me. Sending the puck to him, I charge forward as hard as I can, ignoring my leg's screaming protests. We skate into Red Wings territory and it's two on two. "Send it!" I yell.

Ian send the puck back to me and I take aim at the goal. Zone 3. Upper right hand corner. Everything moves in slow motion as the puck slides right in front of me and I take my shot. The puck flies toward the goal and I hope and pray that it goes in. But Grayson raises his stick at the very last moment.

The puck collides with the wood and falls back to the ice and Grayson begins to fall onto it. I'm not wasting this opportunity. Bursting forward, I extend my stick as far as I can and manage to grab the puck with my stick and send it out. "IAN SHOOT!!"

Ian rushes to meet the puck and Rimini is trying to beat him there. Grayson tries to dive for the puck again, but Ian is just too fast. He slaps the puck and I watch as the puck drives itself into the back of the net. And in the next moment, the arena explodes. I slide into the wall from my dive and as I try to get up, I'm pulled back to my feet.

Getting everything into focus, I'm met by the screaming and smiling face of Ian. "WE FUCKING WON!! WE FUCKING WON!!"

We...We really won. I'm given no time to think as the rest of our teammates slam into us. The crowd is screaming at the top of their lungs as silver and black streamers fall from the ceiling. It takes me a moment, but I rip off my helmet and gloves and join my teammates in our celebration.

I hug each and every teammate, who share the exact same excitement as me. "Ladies and gentlemen, your 2024 Stanley Cup champions, with the game winning goal from #16 Ian Crossrick, your Los Angeles Kings!"

The guys all surround Ian and left him off of the ice, holding him high above their heads. Ian could not be any happier at this moment. The kid is only 19 and he just won the Stanley Cup for his team. Glancing over, I look and find Greg shaking hands with a disappointed Brody. As I start to skate over to him, the pain I've been ignoring gets to me too much.

My leg gives out on me and I fall to my knees. But I need to get to Greg. But before I can begin my long crawl, a pair of hands dig into my sweaty hair and pull me into a hard kiss. Everything else fades around me at this very moment as I kiss the man I love after achieving one of the greatest accomplishments in my life.

Without breaking our kiss, he slowly helps me back to my feet. "That was amazing," he says.

"It was for me too."

"No, your play. Even with your leg you managed to pass to Ian at the very last moment. You helped us win tonight, Tanner."

Grinning, I pull Greg in for another kiss before I hold onto him for support as we shake the hands of the other team. "I guess the better team won tonight," Brody says as I shake his hand.

"It was a close one, but I have a feeling this isn't over yet."

"Oh the hell it isn't. We're going to meet you back here next year. Only next time, it'll be us with that Cup."

With another shake, I release Brody's hand and join the rest of the guys, who hand me a champions cap. I place it on my head and watch as Commissioner Gordon walks out onto the ice, along with the Conn Smythe Trophy. "Please direct your attention to the ice for the presentation of the Conn Smythe Trophy, to the 2024 Stanley Cup playoff's Most Valuable Player."

The crowd cheers. "Congratulations on another championship, Los Angeles!" Commissioner Gordon says. "It is with great pleasure that I present this trophy to the saving grace of the Los Angeles Kings, Ian Crossrick!"

Looking over at Ian, I find him completely speechless. With a playful shove from a few of us, he skates over to Commissioner Gordon and shakes his hand, accepting the trophy. And a few moments later, I watch as the Stanley Cup is carried onto the ice and placed on its table.

Commissioner Gordon steps next to the Cup. "This has been an incredible season! Watching all of the matches these players have gone through, having the undivided support of all the fans, and while there were a few interesting situations that happened along the way, I could not be happier with this outcome!

"And now, it is my great honor, to present this prestigious Cup to Tanner White!"

The crowd screams and yells as I carefully step away from Greg and skate over to Commissioner Gordon, where I take his hand in a firm grip. "Thank you, sir," I say.

"It's been a hell of a year, Tanner, but seeing you here with this Cup more than makes up for all my stress."

He and I pose for the camera for a few seconds and the realization finally hits me. I'm really going to hold the Stanley Cup. Commissioner Gordon hands me the Cup and I skate out onto the ice. With what strength I have left, I hoist the Cup high above my head, welcoming the sounds of the fans cheering.

I've been waiting all my life to get to this moment. And now that I'm finally here, it's even more amazing than I thought it would be. I press my lips to the cool metal and raise the Cup again. I make my way back to the guys, already knowing who will be the first guy I hand this to. And the guys already know it too.

I skate over to him, chuckling at the shocked look on his face. "You've earned this just as much as the rest of us," I say to Greg.

He's still for a moment before smiling and raising his arms to take the Cup from me, giving me a peck as he takes it and walks along the ice. He looks like the happiest man on the planet at this very moment. And knowing that man is mine and I'm his makes me just as happy as he is.

He walks back to us and hands the Cup over to Ian, who goes off to make his round with it. "So...now what?" I ask.

"Now, we're taking you to the hospital to get your leg checked out. And after that, I want to go home with you, get in bed with you, and have us fuck each other until neither of us can move. How does that sound to you?"

His voice goes straight to my crotch and I'm immediately thankful for hockey pants and how thick they are. "You could have said gone home together and that would have been more than enough for me. But now that you've got me thinking about you in bed with me, I fully intend to take you up on that."

Greg smiles and I lower myself to him, presses my lips to his as the crowd and the team cheer around us. "I love you," we say at the same time.

I take his hand and run my thumb over his bracelet's two holding hands. And I always will...



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