Summary: Jack is coming to the end of his career and Daniel is on the verge of an epiphany
Lori O'Neill rolled across the mattress towards the warm body of her husband Jack, and raked her expensively manicured fingernails up the inside of his thigh. His hand gently took her wrist and picked up her hand, brought it to his lips, kissed it softly and let it go
"Not tonight, baby. I got a big game tomorrow," he whispered
"That seems to be your usual excuse these days, Jack," Lori pouted. "How come you never make love to me anymore?"
Jack threw his arm behind his head and sighed, "Aw, for cryin' out loud. I do make love to you. Just not every night."
She nuzzled into him further and purred, "You used to."
Jack stiffened, a wave of anger flooding through him and threw the comforter off. He sat up in bed and swung his legs over the side, facing the wall as he spoke. "Lori, I have a tough job. We're playing game 5 in the fucking Stanley Cup series tomorrow. We're 2 all with the North Stars - not so's you'd know - and I have enough on my mind without worrying about whether or not you're satisfied...which you never are."
"And whose fault is that?" she snapped.
Jack stood and turned around, a cold fire burning in his eyes. "I give you everything you ask for - and that's plenty - you spend money like it's water and you never say 'thank you', you never ask me how I'm doing." He threw up his hands in exasperation. "You never talk to me, dammit! All you seem to want is my dick or my wallet! I'm telling you that tonight...just for tonight; you can't have my dick, that's all. Jesus Lori, I'm a Pro hockey player - which I'm fully aware is the only reason why you married me, by the way - and I have probably the biggest game of my career in..." he looked at the bedside clock, which glowed 1:30am, " ...fifteen and a half hours. I need to relax and I need some sleep and I'd really appreciate some support, but seeing as I'm not gonna get any of those things up here, I'm going down to the basement with the dog!"
"You do that, Jack O'Neill!" Lori fumed. "One of these days I'm going to ban you from this bed altogether! Then you'll have to sleep with the fucking dog every night!"
Jack pulled on his robe and put on his slippers, "That's just fine by me!" he yelled, then stormed out of the bedroom muttering, "He'd probably be a better lay than you anyhow. At least he hasn't been fucked by half the NHL."
"I heard that, you bastard!" Lori screeched after him
"Yeah, fuck you," he mumbled, padding down the stairs
Jack sighed heavily and went into the kitchen to get a bottle of water from the refrigerator. He heard soft footsteps coming up from the basement and came out of the kitchen to be met by a pair of huge, limpid brown eyes gazing up at him
"Hey Oz," Jack said softly, ruffling the shaggy head of his large, German Shepherd, Oscar. The dog shook Jack's hand off, and then licked it affectionately. Jack sat down at the top of the basement steps and Oscar rubbed his head against Jack's, licking his ear and making Jack smile
"You and me, boy. Just you and me." Jack told him and cuddled up against Oscar's thick, warm coat
The following morning Jack was up early, as usual. He threw on some sweatpants and a hooded sweatshirt then tried to find his running shoes. Oscar leapt around the basement, barking excitedly as Jack put them on.
"Calm down, buddy. You'll wake 'Her Highness'. C'mon, let's get outa here," he smiled, as the dog bounded up the stairs to the ground floor
There was a distinct chill in the air as Jack opened the front door, and he shivered slightly as he took his first breath in. Oscar sat obediently at his side, his voluminous tongue already hanging out of his mouth in anticipation of their morning run
Jack jogged down the steps and along the driveway, which eventually led to the security gates and out onto the street. It only took a minute for Jack to settle into his rhythm, the pounding of his feet on the sidewalk creating a comforting drumbeat as Oscar ran beside him. Jack's morning run was the favourite part of his day. Most of the people in the neighbourhood knew him, and knew him well enough to leave him alone. This was his time. The only time, day or night, when he was completely alone with his thoughts and no one demanding anything of him; just Jack, his dog and the open road
This morning was a little different, however. Although the streets were still quiet, occasionally a car would go by and beep its horn, the driver giving him an encouraging wave, or shouting sentiments of good luck for the upcoming game. It seemed like the entire city was behind them. People waved at him from the other side of the street, smiling as he and Oscar passed. For once, Jack didn't mind the interruption. He felt fantastic. He was at the top of his game and although he knew that nothing is ever certain in hockey, Jack was convinced they could win the next two matches against Minnesota for the honour of winning the Stanley Cup, the supreme trophy in the National Hockey League. It would be the pinnacle of a long, solid career in the game. Jack O'Neill, #38 would have a Stanley Cup medal, he would have made it, at last. Maybe it would even make him good enough for his wife
Jack's team, the Pittsburgh Penguins were currently 2 - all with the first NHL team Jack had ever played for - a million years ago, it seemed - the Minnesota North Stars. After their couple of losses in this 'best of seven' series, Jack felt that the 'Pens' were getting into their stride at last. Their defence (of which Jack was an important part) was tight, their forwards were moving the puck well and clicking into a rhythm, and Mario Lemieux, their star player, was finding the net with monotonous regularity. The only possible spanner in their well-oiled machine was a long-standing feud between Jack and one of the North Stars' wingers, Stan Pankowski.
Neither of them could remember how it had started, but Jack O'Neill and Stan Pankowski had always disliked each other. In Jack's opinion, Pankowski was an animal and way too keen on using his stick illegally. He had caused injuries to various players on all of the teams Jack had played for during his career, even back into junior hockey: including himself. His left eyebrow still bore the scar of a particularly vicious high stick way back when Jack had been in his second year with the North Stars and Pankowski had been a Boston Bruin
Jack had spent more than enough time over the years in the 'sin-bin' as a result of knocking Pankowski on his ass. The guy had a glass jaw, and sometimes it was just too easy. No matter how many fights they had, the good feeling it gave Jack to see Stan drop to his knees like a sack of potatoes never got old It was always worth the two or five minutes he spent out of the game, even though he usually got his ass kicked by the Coach in the interval between periods
The Penguins' Head Coach, Scotty Bowman, had warned Jack to keep his temper in check when they'd found out the Penguins would be playing the North Stars in the final. Scotty was justifiably concerned that Jack could pick up careless penalties as a result of losing his rag and force Pittsburgh to be short-handed. This was especially worrying when Minnesota's power play was among the best in the league. The Coach knew the score though; he'd played against Pankowski too, and hated the guy as much as anyone else.
Jack had already picked up two five-minute penalties for fighting in the four games they had played so far, and both times he'd been pitched against the big Polish-American player. Jack vowed to himself and the Coach that this time, he wouldn't allow 'Stan the Man' to push him over the edge. Too much was at stake. Two more wins would do it. Two more wins and Jack would be the proud owner of a Stanley Cup medal. He turned the corner back onto his street and sprinted all the way back up to the house with a broad grin on his face and an exhausted Oscar panting at his heel
* At the Marriott Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh, Daniel Jackson towelled off his hair and looked out of the window across the street at the Mellon Arena, where later he would be watching the fifth game in this year's Stanley Cup series. A goofy grin spread over his face as it finally sank in that in a few hours time, he'd be over there watching his hero, Jack O'Neill, play again. His boyfriend Brad, who was still peacefully sleeping, had managed to get tickets as a Christmas present for him, before they'd even known who would be playing. Brad knew Daniel well enough to realise that it wouldn't matter; his lover just worshipped the game, but Daniel could remember how especially excited he'd been when Pittsburgh reached the final.
Pressure of work meant that they had unfortunately missed the first four games and they were both extremely grateful that the series hadn't been won by a landslide, but here they both were for game five, possibly the most crucial game in the series. Whoever won today would be only one game away from winning the Cup
It had been many years since Daniel had seen Jack play in New York, while O'Neill had been playing for the Rangers. He'd had Jack's poster on his bedroom ceiling and it had fuelled many a hot, sticky fantasy on lonely nights during the time he was discovering his sexuality. When he'd first laid eyes on the tall, lean defenseman, with his deep, brown eyes, a shiver had gone through him of a kind he'd never felt before. In the days when all his friends were finding girlfriends, dating, making out and discussing which base they'd got to, all Danny could think about was having Jack's strong arms around him, holding him and making love to him and touching Jack's hard, muscular body
To begin with, no one at school had taken much notice that Danny didn't seem interested in girls. He had been a well-built teenager: not bad looking, very bright, but bookish and a little shy. Even though he was a hockey player - and a good one at that, few of the girls had seemed interested in him, either. He'd dated a couple of the 'puck bunnies' who had made it their mission to screw their way through the whole school team, but when they hadn't achieved their goal, they'd dropped him like a hot stone. They had put the word around the school that Danny Jackson was a faggot and if he was honest, it hadn't been a major news flash either to the rest of the school or to him. The boys had accepted the girls' assessment without question, on the grounds that any guy of that age who would refuse full sex when it was offered to him on a plate would have to be gay. However, to the team's credit, it hadn't affected their attitude towards him. He was still Danny Jackson, defence, #19 and one of the hardest checkers the team had ever seen
His foster family had been mostly accepting of it, while being a little sad and disappointed, particularly his father. Ted Jarvis had great difficulty dealing with the fact that although his foster son was a hockey player and built like a barn door, he wanted to have sex with men. In his mind, the two things just didn't go together. Fags were dancers, figure skaters, or actors: prissy, weak, flouncy types, not big, powerful hockey jocks. His brother, C.C. had been surprisingly supportive, always backing him up when the gay-bashers decided it was Daniel's turn for a beating. Many times they had walked home, arms around each other's shoulders, wiping off the blood from each other's faces. His father had been immensely proud when Daniel had decided to try his luck as a professional hockey player. Daniel had thought that perhaps in the back of his father's mind was the idea that he'd be able to shake off this 'phase' he was going through, find a nice girl and settle down. Much as he'd wanted to please his father, by the time he left New York for British Columbia, Daniel had known his place in life. He was a homosexual and there was no point in trying to change that, even if he'd wanted to
Daniel had been picked to play for Kelowna Rockets in the Canadian West Coast League and had acquitted himself well. He'd always known he wasn't good enough for the NHL but as long as he could play -and better yet be paid for it, Daniel was happy. He'd stayed with the Rockets for four seasons, until intellectual restlessness had made him re-evaluate
He'd still loved the game, but he'd felt his mind was beginning to atrophy. He needed to exercise his intellect as much as his body and he'd felt a sense that something other than a partner had been missing in his life. Eventually, the pull of the books and the need to back into a world where he could meet other men like him began to overtake his desire to play professional hockey and he'd decided to go back to school
A conversation with his brother while C.C. had been in British Columbia for a visit, helped Daniel to consolidate his decision to quit the game and hit the books again. They had discussed Daniel's options several times, and between them had tried to make the choice of which course would be the best for him to take. During one of these conversations, C.C. had told Daniel that he'd always been a 'people watcher', so why didn't he try anthropology?
Daniel had considered his brother's advice for the rest of the season, and had spent some time checking out the various colleges offering anthropology at degree level and above. He had finally settled on the University of California in Berkeley on the grounds that not only did they have an excellent Anthropology Department, their hockey team wasn't half bad either
During his studies, Daniel had discovered a joy in anthropology that he hadn't imagined could be there. C.C. had been right, he'd been an anthropologist all along and never realised it. It was also at college where Daniel finally lost his virginity. He had been a freshman; Mike McCoy had been in the third year of an English degree.
To this day, Daniel had continued to be grateful to Mike. The older man had wooed him gently, had taken his time and never forced their relationship any further or faster than Daniel had been comfortable with. In fact, on a couple of occasions it had been Mike slowing him down. As a result, Daniel's first real adult relationship held nothing but good memories. Mike had taught him a great deal about loving and being loved and although theirs had been a relatively short relationship, Daniel still had feelings for him years after Mike had left Berkeley. He'd stayed pretty much alone since then...until Brad
Brad Nelson was as persistent as he was cute and had gradually worn down Daniel's reticence until the older man had agreed to a date. Eight months later they were still together
Brad sneaked up behind him and put his arms around Daniel's waist
"Hey, sugar. Gettin' all excited about the game?" he asked, his slight Georgia drawl still evident even after all his time of living in California
Daniel smiled enigmatically, "Oh yeah."
"Excited about seeing your teenage jerk-off fantasy play again, I'll bet," Brad grinned, kissing his neck. "Got a little competition, do I?"
Daniel turned in his embrace and kissed him softly, pushing him back towards the bed. "After last night? Are you nuts?" he laughed
Brad returned his kiss, deepening it and slipping his tongue inside the other man's mouth, walking backwards and pulling Daniel with him, until he could feel the back of his knees touch the bed
"Mmmm, I'd say he's got a fight on his hands, baby," Brad murmured, smiling
Daniel grinned. "They don't call him 'Fighting Irish' for nothing y'know," he teased
"I say 'come on'. If there's gonna be a fuckin' contest, I'll take him. No problem. You are mine, Danny Jackson."
Daniel chuckled and pushed his lover down so that he was sitting on the edge of the bed, " Baby, have you any idea how many potential double entendres were in that sentence?"
Brad's eyes widened as he gazed up at him, trying desperately to avoid looking at his lover's erection. "Really? How many?" he asked, as innocently as he could fake it
"Well," Daniel began, " there was 'come', and 'fucking', and 'take him'"
Daniel punctuated his words with kisses, working his way down from Brad's neck, then to his hairy chest. After the last word, Daniel knelt, opened the young man's robe and took his thickening cock into his mouth, sucking it hard as he looked up into Brad's eyes, wickedly
"Hooooly Toledo, Danny. You should come with a health warning," he gasped and flopped back onto the mattress
Jack walked into the locker room in silence, acknowledging no one, as was his tradition. None of the other players took offence at his apparent ignorance, they knew this was the way Jack always prepared himself for a game and they respected it; besides, they all had their own little idiosyncratic ways of psyching themselves up. They respected Jack as the elder statesman of the team and knew that no matter what; Jack O'Neill would get the job done out there, where it counted.
Sportsmen tend to be a superstitious breed and O'Neill was certainly no exception. He put his bag down on the bench in front of his locker and scratched his play-off beard. Some of the other guys on the team seemed to have trouble even growing designer stubble, but after not shaving since Pittsburgh reached the play-offs, Jack was by now doing a passable imitation of Grizzly Adams. He walked into the bathroom and looked at his face in the mirror while he took a leak, inwardly grimacing at the copious amount of grey in his beard His face was still handsome, he supposed, not too many wrinkles anyway, and his almost shoulder length hair was still light brown; no grey there and no chemical assistance to keep it that way either, but the beard showed the passage of time and Jack sighed, knowing that he was looking at the twilight of his professional career
He was determined to go out with a bang, not a whimper. He wouldn't be one of those ex-NHL players who were so desperate to keep playing, they joined teams in leagues further and further down the hierarchy as the seasons passed, only finally hanging up their skates when injury forced them into it. Jack's back was beginning to give him more trouble than he would admit to the team physiotherapist as it was, and Jack figured he only had at most a couple more useful seasons with the Pens, then it would be time to bow out gracefully Maybe this year would be it. With a Stanley Cup winner's medal in his trophy case, he could retire at the top and no one would ever need to know that he was past it. There would be nothing more soul destroying for him than being traded to another team because he couldn't cut it out there any more
After that, who knew? There were plenty of openings in coaching for ex-NHL players, although the lucrative endorsements that the stars of the game were offered were never going to come Jack's way. O'Neill had been a journeyman player his entire career. No matter what team he'd played for, Jack had always been a hard worker, but he'd never quite pulled in the stats to be in the spotlight. The truth was though, that Jack was happy to not be a star. Since he was naturally a little shy, the public part of being a successful hockey player made him slightly uncomfortable. Being asked for his autograph still surprised and unnerved him, and he was grateful in a way, that he'd never become a Brett Hull or a Wayne Gretzky. He'd spent his adult life being paid to do something he loved and regularly thanked his lucky stars that he hadn't been forced into a plumbing apprenticeship like his father and two brothers.
He smiled as he watched one of the equipment guys walk past him with a Styrofoam cup in his hand from Tim Horton's. If worst came to worst, he could always buy a coffee franchise. He chuckled quietly to himself at the thought and began to unpack his gear
* Daniel toyed with his Caesar salad, the excitement building up inside him killing off any hunger pangs. He looked at his watch for the fourth time in ten minutes, making Brad laugh out loud
"Jesus, Danny. Calm down."
Daniel grinned, embarrassed. "Sorry. Can't help it. I've never been to a Stanley Cup game before and it's been so long since..."
"Wow, you really are stuck on this guy aren't you?"
Daniel's face reddened. "You have to understand, I spent my entire teenage years with Jack O'Neill on my ceiling. I even took the poster with me when I left for Kelowna. You have no idea how I wove my fantasy life around him."
"Bordering on too much information there, Dannyboy," Brad grinned
"I used to watch him play at the Gardens," Daniel continued, wistfully "Sometimes my High School team got a little ice time there before the Rangers training sessions and once I'd gotten changed, I'd go back out and sit in the stands, just watching him. Memorising the drills. Checking out his technique."
"And his ass," Brad interrupted
"Yeah, that too," Daniel admitted
"Did you ever meet him?"
"A couple of times. He seemed really shy and sweet, nothing like the animal he is out on the ice. He autographed one of his sticks for me once," Daniel smiled. "I spent hours just touching that stick; running my fingers over his signature. God, I was a hopeless case!"
Daniel took a sip of his iced water. "Now? Now I'm a grown up...and the prospect of seeing him again has got my stomach doing back flips. I feel like I've dropped about fifteen years off my age! It's like I'm that besotted kid again, waiting impatiently for him to skate out onto the ice, watching his every move, even looking at him sitting on the bench between shifts. He had the most incredible eyes, y'know? Deep brown, really deep, like bitter chocolate I'd never seen eyes that dark before. It was like...when he was angry, when you just knew he was going to hammer some guy into the floor, they seemed to shine kind of golden, as if there was fire in there or something. I used to get the biggest boner when he was fighting. There was such a passion in him that...Christ. Would you listen to me?" he laughed
A veil came over Brad's eyes as he listened to Daniel talking. It wasn't so much what Daniel was saying, or even the way he was saying it, it was the look in his eyes as his memory took him back to those days. If he hadn't known better, Brad would have thought that Daniel was actually in love with this guy. A shiver of jealousy ran through him. He may have had Daniel's body - for the moment - but his heart obviously still belonged to #38. No one can compete with a fantasy and it was a battle Brad knew he had no hope of winning
"We'd better make a move, babe," Brad suddenly announced, jolting Daniel out of his reminiscences
As they entered the main part of the arena, Daniel's breath caught. The atmosphere was electric, the crowd murmuring as they all took their seats in anticipation of the game to come and loud rock music playing over the sound system. A huge grin spread over Daniel's face as the smell of the ice hit his nostrils, eliciting a thousand memories of games watched and games played. Brad glanced sideways at Daniel and he was suddenly gripped by a feeling of sadness. He was desperately in love with Daniel and although he knew that the older man didn't feel quite the same way about him, it hadn't struck him this hard before. Standing on the steps looking at his lover, Brad had the feeling that it probably wouldn't have mattered whether he was there or not
They weaved their way between hockey fans dressed in black and gold for Pittsburgh and green for Minnesota, down to their seats, which were behind and slightly to the side of the Pittsburgh bench. Brad had deliberately tried to get seats near to the front, but hadn't known that the Penguins' bench would be so close. Brad smiled at the irony of it, realising that once Daniel saw O'Neill again, his presence would be completely superfluous
Daniel sat down and pulled his gold and black scarf tightly around him, shivering more from excitement than cold. His stomach was churning and he could feel his heart thumping in his chest. He mentally berated himself for allowing his adolescent crush on an untouchable - and almost certainly straight - hockey player to affect him so much at his age, but couldn't seem to help himself. He was going to be seeing Jack O'Neill again. The man who had made Daniel realise he was gay by doing nothing at all but being
From the time he'd begun to have sexual feelings, he'd seemed to be more attracted to men than women, but it was seeing Jack for the first time and falling so hard for him, which had confirmed what he'd suspected all along. So many nights he'd fallen asleep after masturbating to orgasm, while gazing at O'Neill's poster and imagining what it would be like to have Jack inside him; feeling Jack's hairy, sweaty chest across his back as Jack fucked him hard, hearing Jack's low voice growling out his name as he came. Even now, the fantasy of seducing O'Neill in the showers after a game was guaranteed to get him off in no time. Sometimes, to his shame, he even used it when he was sleeping with Brad. He shivered again and tried to think of something other than Jack O'Neill naked, as his cock began to betray him
"You okay, Danny?" Brad asked, a little concerned.
Daniel smiled, "I'm fine. Just got a chill, that's all."
The crowd suddenly roared and Daniel's stomach clenched as the Pittsburgh Penguins began to skate onto the ice one by one, introduced by the announcer
Jack stood in line in the tunnel, leaning on his stick and shifting from one skate to the other as he tried to control his breathing and his rapid heart beat. He remembered what the coach had said to him in the locker room before they lined up
"Just do your job, Jack. Forget Pankowski and don't let him needle you. I can't afford to have my best D in the box for half the game. You got that?"
He'd nodded in agreement. They had to win this one and Jack wasn't going to jeopardise that by allowing his temper to overtake his control. Every time he saw 'Stan the Man', Jack wanted to punch his lights out and Stan loved goading him into doing it. Pankowski knew as well as anyone how weak Pittsburgh could be when they were short-handed, and without Jack they were that much weaker
"Just do your job."
Jack shuffled towards the front of the line and heard his name over the speakers. He skated out to join the rest of his teammates and raised his hand to the crowd as he circled the icepad. Daniel was standing up, clapping like a maniac and cheering loudly. As Jack skated past Daniel's seat, he turned and for a split second Daniel was convinced their eyes met
Daniel remained standing, dumbstruck, as Jack skated to the end of the line
Finally, he found his voice again. "Jesus H. Christ, would you look at him?" he muttered in awe, half to himself
"He's lookin' fine, Danny. I can see what you saw in him," Brad conceded
"He's...he's...fuck. I gotta sit down." Daniel flustered and sat heavily down in his seat as the Minnesota North Stars took to the ice. When Stan Pankowski skated past their section, Daniel rose and yelled after him
"Pankowski! You sorry sonovabitch! Irish is gonna kick your ass!"
Pankowski raised a gloved hand in his direction, flipping Daniel the bird, he was sure, even though he couldn't see it. Brad grabbed his sleeve and dragged him back down to his seat
"Jesus! Are you always like this? Siddown, you're embarrassing me!" Brad complained
As it turned out, Daniel didn't have to sit down. As the American national anthem began to play, he remained standing, removed his Pens cap and placed it across his heart. He'd never been what one would call patriotic, but he always sang the 'Star Spangled Banner' when it was played at a hockey game. He had always sung 'Oh Canada' too, in the days when he'd been playing for Kelowna. It was just something you did, part of the experience. The cheer went up around the crowd almost before the last words of the anthem had been sung and the atmosphere was palpable as everyone sat down to wait for the teams to take up their positions and the first puck to be dropped
Next: The Puck Stops Here 2