Status: Hiatus--Last Update was 7.23.12 (Chapter Twenty-Two PREVIEW)

Love in Ice




"Damn it, Sam, this isn't a game. You know that, right?"

"Who cares if it's just practice, Lexa? They need to practice like it's a game."

"With you shouting the way you are, I'm not quite sure they'll even get in any practice."

Sam huffed in frustration before releasing her sigh of defeat. Though she would not admit it, she knew I was right. If she distracted the guys, they would not be able to get any better. After their win against the Canucks, they won a single game and lost two straight. They did need to step up their game a bit.

"It was great of them to let us come to practices at the UC. They're always closed here."

I nodded my head in agreement, adding, "It does help that we know the Blackhawks."

"Hey, you played hockey when you were younger, didn't you?"

"I still do from time to time. I love playing hockey."

"Do you, now? What position did you play?" These questions were not posed by Sam. She knew what position I favored and played most often. No, the interrogator here was Coach Joel Quenneville himself.

I started at the questions, surprised at how I failed to notice his approach. "Thanks for letting us come to their practice today. Well, I usually play goaltender."

He nodded his head, saying, "Not a problem. I'd like to see you on the ice. How about tomorrow's practice I have the guys come in a little later so I can test your skills?"

I honestly did not expect to be asked by their coach how well I played. Sure, I did pretty well against my friends and my former teammates, but how would I fare against NHL players?

Sam bragged, "I think Alex would love to! You wouldn't believe the saves she made! What was your save percentage again? I think--"

I whispered to her, cutting her off, "Don't continue your sentence for the life of you, Sam."

I laughed nervously, replying to Coach Quenneville, "Sure, I could come in tomorrow. It'll be fun!"

"Great! I'll tell the team now." With that, he skated off towards them, blowing the whistle around his neck. The players assembled in front of him, listening intently to their coach. I sighed in relief as Sam asked, "Why don't you want them knowing you were a goalie or your save percentage?"

"Think about it: If Huey and Nemo hear about how high that number really is, they may not play to their fullest potential and feel pressured."

"Lexa, they may just be determined to getting themselves to get better. Huey and Nemo would probably take in how you save and incorporate it with their save methods to improve!"

"They're already playing the most stressful position in hockey, more or less. I don't think they need any more. It'll be better if they find out on their own...."

Sam shrugged, not continuing to argue her side. The players skated off the ice, signaling the end of their practice. Sam and I walked out of the penalty box, heading to the hallway leading to their locker room. Standing in the empty hall, we waited patiently for the guys. I heard Sam giggle from my left.

"What's up?"

"The last time we were here, we waited to meet the guys. Now we're good friends with them. It's just funny how life can change so quickly in just a short time."

"Yeah, that's true," I said, laughing along with her. I easily remembered how great that day was, spending it with her and the team.

The guys started filing out after fifteen minutes. Benny soon walked out of the locker room, Sam staring at him. I elbowed her sharply, hissing, "Quit staring. You're stripping him with your eyes."

Sam hissed back, "I wish." I coughed to cover up the guffaw that threatened to escape. The grin surfaced no matter how much I wanted to supress it. "You are something else, Sammy, let me tell you."

"Not right now, you'd kill me if you were distracted from looking at Nemo. He's walking out, by the way."

My gaze flickered over to the locker room door where Nemo walked out, carrying his bag of equipment. I directed my attention back towards Sam, hoping she did not see me looking his way. Fortunately, Sam seemed clueless to my wavering attention. Sunglasses came in handy, I quietly noted, nudging the dark gray eye wear securely on the bridge of my nose.

"Hey Alex. Long time no see, Sam." The low voice of Tazer greeted, getting louder as he made his way towards us.

We turned to face the captain, echoing, "What's up Tazer?" Sam laughed along with me before saying, "Looks like he's thinking again, Alex."

I joked, a smirk on my face, "I'll get the umbrellas. This could get a bit stormy."

Tazer rolled his eyes at our antics, nonetheless replying, "Coach said our practice is an hour later. We might just have another person joining our practice, someone he feels could inspire us."

I shifted in place, slightly nervous as I remembered what I was doing tomorrow. Sure, I was ecstatic at the chance of practicing with the guys, but I couldn't help my apprehensiveness.

Sam mused, grinning knowingly at me, "Sounds interesting. It should be a good time for you guys."


I scratched my cheek, one of my many strange ticks when I fidgeted. My skates seemed slightly heavier on my feet than usual, so I shook out to relieve that figuratively added weight. A person skidded to a stop next to me, a hockey stick in their hand.

"Ready for me to test your skills, Alex?"

"Ready as I'll ever be, Coach," I told Quenneville, addressing him the same way his players did at his request. He chuckled, skating away to retrieve a puck. Setting it on the ice, he started back down the ice, heading straight to me.

Reflexes dominated at this point. He aimed and took a wrist shot, but I easily shifted to my right, blocking it. I flicked the puck back with the goalie stick, him halting it. Gaining speed, he tried to throw me off by faking the initial shot, then shooting at the five hole. I was too fast for him, dropping into a butterfly, but snaring it with my trapper.

Standing up, I threw the puck back on the ice. Coach tried a few more shots, still not successful at getting it past me. Players trickled in the arena, but I maintained my focus on making the saves. A few minutes later, every player sat on the bench, watching the two of us slapping the puck back and forth.

My focus slipped a bit when I looked at the guys sitting. Simply put, they were entranced. Coach noticed my redirected attention, aiming towards me once more. I hastily fell to the ice, propped on one knee. The puck flew through the air to my left. I was positioned on the right side of the goal.

Pushing myself off with the previously tucked-in leg, I succeeded in getting my trapper in front of the puck, capturing it mid-air. I stood up, skating towards Coach. The guys' stunned expressions clearly told me how they thought I had no chance at catching that shot.

Coach cleared his throat, gathering their attention. "You've just witnessed the first part of your practice. You will not only shoot on Huey and Nemo, but also on this goaltender. Stretch, then assemble at center ice. Huey, take the goal over to your right. Nemo, skate over to this goal where our friend here just guarded."

With a blow of his whistle, the guys executed his orders. I grabbed my water bottle and goalie stick, making my way over to the bench. Coach met me halfway, saying, "Rest for now. After the guys shoot on these two for a while, I'll send you in Huey's goal. You've got really good skills, and I think both of our goalies could learn a thing or two from you."

I nodded, blushing slightly at the compliment. "Thanks."

Like yesterday's practice, shooting followed their stretching. I mentally noted their behaviors; how the forwards and defensemen shot, how quickly they changed their style according to how the goaltenders caught on to their methods. Maybe it would help them play a little better if I made some suggestions.

Ten minutes later I was called back by Coach. I headed over to the goal Huey vacated, goalie stick in tow and water bottle clutched firmly. I noticed the guys form a half-circle around center ice, all facing me. Even Huey and Nemo stood along the boards.

While Coach told them their new task, I stretched out and prepared myself for the fury of shots I was about to face. Anticipation surged through my veins, allowing me to ignore the tension in my muscles. The guys turned, looking at me with determination on the faces. Whatever they were told got them pumped.

First to shoot at me was Kaner, a grin spread across his face. He thought he would get the puck to sneak past me. Chewing on his mouth-guard, he strode over to me, trying to throw me off my pace. I thoroughly shocked him when I stopped his slap-shot, abruptly standing from my crouching position and snatching the puck.

Amused, I dropped the puck and sent it in front of the next shooter, Tazer. He studied me carefully, attempting to place a name on my person. No one on the team had realized it was me, yet. I hadn't removed my goalie mask, so no one saw my face clearly. Soon, Tazer launched himself towards me, bounding my way with the puck.

I crouched lowly, noticing how he aimed high. I remembered how he liked to fake at the last second, sending the puck down low. I prepared myself, falling as he slapped it to my legs. It veered towards the left, and I kicked it away with my skate. Tazer shook his head in disbelief; he thought he had me fooled.

Practice continued this way for another ten minutes, the two goaltenders carefully analyzing me. I noticed how they occasionally talked, possibly discussing how they could improve. They even turned to a few of their teammates, telling them how to shoot. I concluded the goalies were planning against me, hinted by their hand motions.

Coach's whistle blew, stopping everyone in their tracks. I straightened myself up, turning around to get my water bottle. I squirted the cold liquid through the mask into my mouth, instantly refreshed. I had worked hard, letting a few pucks slip past me. I placed it back on top of the goal, making my way over to the guys at center ice.

"....With that, I think it's time to meet the goaltender you've been shooting on and studying. Would you do the honors," he directed the last part to me, getting a curt nod in response.

"You all may or may not know who I am. If you don't know, you surely will after I properly introduce myself. It was a pleasure working with you guys, let me say." I lifted up my goalie mask, hearing a few sharp gasps. A grin plastered on my face, I continued, "Miss me?"

"You're a goaltender?! I never even knew you played hockey," Kopy called out, mutters of agreement following.

"Well, that's the element of surprise for you."

"How come you never told us?" I blinked over to Marian, who threw this question to me.

"It was better for you to practice without knowing who I was. I'd rather have you give everything you've got instead of going easy on me."

"You're really good, Alley Cat! I'm surprised you weren't drafted in the NHL," Soapy's voice echoed. My face burned when the guys exchanged nods.

"What's your goals against average? How about your save percentage?"

"I'll let you guys find that out on your own. You've already had too many surprises for one day," I responded, giggling at the disappointed groans.

A little over an hour later, practice ended and the guys got off the ice, heading to the showers. Well, all but one person. He decided to speak a few minutes after taking off his bulky equipment.

"Not only do you know some Finnish, you love and play hockey," Nemo stated, a teasing tone making his accent more prominent.

Keeping my gaze on the goalie masks resting between us on the bench, I said, "Yeah, I've been playing hockey ever since I can remember. Ever since I watched my first game, I always wanted to play. My friends and I even have an ongoing joke about our," gesturing to both of us, "hockey position. It's also part of my pregame routine. Maybe I'll show you and the guys another time."

A laugh escaped his lips, making me look up at him. His gray eyes, now so because of the black jersey he wore, sparkled in a cheerful manner. I felt my heartbeat become irregular as a result of the combination, and I subtly steadied it. "I'd like to see that, if you don't mind. I'm not sure what it is, and yet I feel it's very funny."

"It is, trust me. Lightening the mood always helps us play better," I added, laughing along with Nemo. The sound of his laughter was contagious on its own, and his expression provided a certain genuine aspect, making it even more charming. 'Wait...Charming,' I asked myself, befuddled at the adjective that popped in my head.

"It'll be a while before you can take a shower. Without worrying, you know? I can keep you company, and we can just skate on the ice, if you want."

I sent him a grateful smile, getting a smile in return. "Sure, if it's not any trouble. I'd like that."

"It's no trouble, Alley Cat." Nemo playfully took a swipe at my shoulder, throwing me slightly off-balance while I removed my goalie pads. I gave him a fake appalled look, only to be answered by a rather adorable, innocent look. After I finally finished gathering my equipment into my bag, I followed the goalie.

He skated with the boards on his left, and I soon matched his smooth glides. "It's been a while since you guys last played a game here. First time since the fifteenth, I think. I was lucky to be able to hang out with you guys before you left for the last three games."

Nemo nodded, looking down to me. "Yeah, I thought we weren't coming back. I guess we found time, though."

"Do you know when you're going to play again?"

He hesitated, thinking. "The fifth of December, against the Penguins."

"You'll do great, I'm sure of it." I gave him a quick hug, since we were still moving on our skates.

"Kiitos. It means a lot."

We talked for another fifteen minutes before he left to see if I could head to the locker room. I took another lap around the rink before I heard strides approaching from behind me. They started off fast, but slowed down as the person got closer.

"We can go in there. It's clear."

At first, I followed him, but then skidded to a stop. A devious smirk instantly appeared on my face, a genius plan formed. I shot off towards him, shouting, "GET READY FOR ME, NEMO!"

Originally startled, it took him a moment to register what I was about to do. Carefully, I jumped onto his back, clinging to him softly, but securely. My arms wrapped around his shoulders like backpack straps, my legs bent at the knees behind me so I didn't hurt him with my skates.

We laughed simultaneously, filling the empty UC with our voices. I knew my heart miscounted how many times it was supposed to beat again; it raced too fast for me to count the beats individually. Nemo skated skillfully across the rink, even with me on his back.

"Best friends," I questioned in a whisper, messing with his hair. He didn't need to think about his response, volume matching my own whisper.

"Best friends, for sure."
♠ ♠ ♠
Chapter five, fresh off the press! I managed to get this update in, seeing as I have no school. I'll try typing up the next chapter tomorrow after school, and finishing it whenever possible. I'll let you guys guess who Soapy is....You might not know this because it's an original nickname of mine....

A million thanks to my twenty-eight readers and five subscribers! You guys rock! =D

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