Not the Only One

DISCLAIMER:  Yada yada yada.  This story is pure fiction, all names and characters are made up and any similarity to real persons is not only a coincidence, it's damn eerie!  Of course, I make no claims about the sexuality or opinions of the real athletes who are mentioned in this story.  You'd have to ask them yourself.

In my continuing quest to push the creative edge (or maybe just because I'm lazy), I enlisted the help of a very talented fellow nifty writer just for this chapter.  He agreed to guest write a very steamy sex scene that I hope you will find interesting.  Jackmeoffalot can also be found in the college section, writing a tale called a Rose on My Pillow.  So enjoy, and thanks Jack!

Part Thirteen
Raleigh, North Carolina, the next morning

I was sitting back down on the couch by now, rubbing my eyes, trying to piece together what the fuck had happened last night.
Shane, sensing my confusion, put an arm around my shoulder.  "You really blacked out last night, huh?"

"The last thing I remember is downing glass after glass of," I paused, glancing at the empty Soco bottle on the table, "that poison."

Shane laughed.  He got up, itching his throat.  "You want some water?"  I nodded my swollen head.  It felt like some leech had sucked every drop of moisture out of my body.  Shane returned with two tall glasses of Carolina tap water.  I downed mine in one gulp, which unfortunately reminded me of pounding all that SoCo from last night.

I bolted to the bathroom where I made a deposit of whatever was in my stomach from the other night.  Feeling refreshed, if you could call it that, I washed my face and hands and then brushed my teeth.  Shane was flipping through a magazine when I went back into the living room.  I refilled my glass and this time proceeded to drink it slowly.

I sat back down next to Shane.  He put his hand on my leg.  "You all right partner?"

I nodded.  "Feeling a little better."  We sat in silence for a moment.  It still felt weird having Shane showing me any kind of affection.  I took his hand in mine, shyly, and caressed it for a minute or two.  After a while a turned to him, "You want to fill me in on what happened last night?"

Shane looked over at me, smiling and chuckling.  "You really have no idea, do you?"  I shook my head.  "Well unfortunately, there's not much to tell.  Or maybe that's fortunately," he said giving me a wink.  "After several shots I could tell you were getting pretty tipsy.  Since you were significantly drunk I figured, what the hell, I might as well be honest.  By that point, if I was wrong about you, I was confident I could handle your drunken ass if you got out of control, or at least I could bolt out of here."

I shook my head.  "I didn't obviously get out of control?"

"Nope, you were pretty receptive."

"But..." I stammered, "What exactly did you do?"

"I leaned in and planted one right on your kisser.  That's all."

"And then did we... you know."  I rolled my eyes.

Shane laughed.  "I tried to fool around with you, but you passed out on me," he said matter-of-factly.  "And you started snoring.  Loudly, I might add."

I giggled.  "How loud?"

"Loud enough to kill the mood.  Plus you were passed out on me.  I wasn't about to pull the old frat guy get you passed out and then fool around thing."

I laughed louder this time.  "So I fell asleep on you?"

"Like a baby," he said nodding.  "You were in the bag by then."

"Hey you were half drunk by the time we left the game!"

"Yeah, but I was hamming it up a bit too.  And I can handle my SoCo like no one else."

I nodded and raised an eyebrow.  "I can second that.  But I personally hold this hangover on your head."

Shane laughed.  "Its a small price to pay.  My friends and I had our suspicions about you."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," I explained.  "This has to stay quiet.  This could kill me.  It could kill my career if it got out."

Shane nodded quickly.  "I know.  But Keith and Kate..."

"Are NOT to know!" I finished for him.  Shane glanced around nervously.  "What?" I asked, fearing his answer.

"Well I kind of told Kate already," he said.

"How?  When?"

"I called her last night."  I leaned down and put my head in my hands.  "Hey I'm sorry.  I was just so excited.  I needed to tell someone."  He paused, and then added.  "Nick, she won't tell anyone.  I guarantee you."

"Just make sure she doesn't," I finally said.  "And don't tell Keith."  Shane smiled nervously.  "You told him too?" I asked.

"No, but he'll be interested to know what happens.  It was his idea to get you drunk."

"Shane, I got a reputation to uphold.  If this got out..." I paused, pondering the unthinkable.  "It would kill me man.  I'd be laughed out of the league.  And I'm not being melodramatic."

Shane reached over and grabbed both of my hands with his.  "Nick, I know, I know.  You can trust me.  I won't tell anyone.  Kate and Keith won't tell anyone.  We'll all be sworn to secrecy."

I got up.  "Well, I hope so.  I feel like I need a few more hours of shut-eye."

"OK, I've got to get home and get ready for class," he said, getting up as well.

"Really?  You can't stay a little longer?" I asked, putting my arms around him.

"I'm sorry, I can't.  I've got a lecture at 8am.  Required attendance."  He kissed me softly on the lips.  It felt like a good first kiss, although I guess it wasn't really our first.  I wish I could have remembered the original.

"Are you free tonight?" he asked.

"I think so.  Call me after class?"


"I'll drive you home," I said fumbling in my pockets for my keys.

"It's all right, I'll grab a cab," he returned.

"No its not a problem.  I want to."

"I'm not sure I want you driving me home in your, uh, present state."

I laughed.  "That may be true.  But at least let me pay for it."

"I've got money," he argued.  I slipped a $20 bill in his pocket.  "I said I've got money," he complained.

"Yeah well, you have no choice.  Now go," I said, patting him on the ass playfully.

"OK, but a cab doesn't cost $20."

"Then buy me a new bottle of SoCo with the change."

Shane laughed.  "You think you can handle more of it?"

I grimaced.  "You, know maybe a bottle of Pepsi might be a little better after all."

"I'll get you something nice," he said smiling.  We kissed again and then he hurried out the door to hail a cab.  I closed and locked the door.  Things had certainly taken a turn for the better, if not the surreal.  I stumbled into my bedroom and dropped my trousers, peeling off my shirt as well.  I also shimmied out of my boxers and climbed into my warm bed naked.  I laid my head on the pillow and started to think about Shane.  Within, minutes I was fast asleep.

MCI Center, Washington, DC - February 10th, 2001

Tonight was to be my first game back since my concussion and it was against none other than the same team I had last played against, the Washington Capitals.  The crowd was already pumped up by the time we took to the ice for the pre-game skate.  I had practiced with the team the morning before, but this would be my real first time back on the ice.  I would probably be a little out of shape and out of sync, but after the 1st period I was confident I would feel better.

I took several long strides and let my momentum carry me around the ice.  I bent down, then straightened up, then bent down again stretching out my back and getting used to the feel of the pads again.  Hockey equipment is by no means as heavy as football gear, but it can still throw you off a bit, particularly when you haven't worn it for a while.

As I was cruising around the red line,  I looked up and was met by the leering face of Brendon Witt.  He must have been staring me down the whole time.  Wonderful I thought as I headed back towards our zone.  First game back and already he was probably planning to send me right back to the hospital.

I skated a little slower around the zone this time, hoping to outpace him.  My next time around he was skating just as slowly, waiting for me to come back around.  Well, I wasn't going to let this goon get the upper hand.  "Bring it on, Witt," I said, in the toughest voice I could muster.  The next time around he was actually stopped at the red line, waiting for me.

"How's the head?" he asked as I skated by.

"Fuck off," I said.  He skated stride for stride with me all the way to the boards, yapping the whole time.  I know he was just trying to intimidate me and get me off my game, and well, he was doing a really good job of it.  "Like I said, bring it on," I retorted, stopping by the boards, daring him to do something.

He got right in my face and continued to taunt me.

"I hear you didn't wake up for 3 hours you little pussy.  How'd that feel.  You want me to bring more of it on?"

"I'm not scared of you," I said flatly.  By now, Witt was just inches from my face and our confrontation was starting to attract some attention.  Fans sitting in the front row by the red line had a bird's eye view of the whole thing and were starting to bang on the boards, probably calling for my head.  The referees had spotted the altercation and now raced over to where we were.  They arrived at the same time as our teammates, who were ready to stick up for the guy in the same sweater.

The refs got in between us as Witt continued to spout off every insult and threat he could muster.  I just nodded my head to his every word.  Let him do all the talking in front of the refs.  Then they'd throw his ass in the sin bin.  I let myself be pushed away from the scrum by one of the refs.  As he pushed me  back me gave me the standard warnings about playing a fair game, every infraction would be penalized.

O'Neill came up and took me over to the side.  "You let us handle Witt," he said to me putting his arm around my shoulder.  "You worry about putting the puck in the net, we'll worry about putting Witt on his ass."  I nodded my agreement.  The crowd was really fired up right now after our altercation.  If anything, I had played right into his game and brought the home crowd to a crescendo.

We needed this win.  The season was just about over and we were fighting for a playoff spot.  The Caps jumped out to a quick start and netted 2 goals within the first five minutes of the game.  After that, things calmed down and with six minutes left in the first, Ron Francis scored on a power play to bring us back within one.  I had played sparingly as the head coach, Paul Maurice, wanted me to get my rhythm back.  And much to Witt's dismay, Paul had managed to keep me off the ice when he was on it.

We took a 2-1 deficit into the first intermission.  I had only gotten 5 or 6 good, full shifts.  Nonetheless, I was still exhausted.  The second period started much as the first had ended.  Neither team had a decided advantage.  By my second shift into the period, I had regained my stride and hand-eye coordination.  I was feeling pretty good.  It was also the same shift Witt got to come out on the ice at the same time.

We were caught down in our zone, unable to clear the puck.  The Caps got a late change and two fresh defensemen, Witt and Cote.  Of course I didn't notice this until we were finally able to break out.  Malik go the puck to Westlund who got it out of the zone before a back checking Cap forward gave him trouble.  He dished the puck off to me.  I was skating hard up the ice and knew Witt was waiting for me at the blue line.  I heard the coach call for a change as I flew by our bench.  I figured what the hell and continued to skate with the puck.  I probably could have made a nifty move and went around him.  But I elected to try and go right through him.

Witt was surprised at my bold move but, still threw a shoulder into me and jarring my teeth.  His stick also came up and whacked me in the forehead.  It hardly hurt at all and was unintentional, but I immediately fell to the ice and covered my face with my hands, hamming it up as much as I could.  The ref raised his hand and when the Caps touched the puck, a delayed penalty was called.  Witt would sit for 2 minutes for high sticking.  I felt pretty good as I skated over to our bench and my teammates slapped me on the back for drawing a penalty.

After only 30 seconds, O'Neill tied the game at 2 with a re-direction goal.  As Witt strode out of the penalty box I caught him looking my way. I nodded and smiled wide trying to tick him off even more.  He just stared me down coldly.  The game remained tied going into the third with no further altercations between Witt and I.  I had almost forgotten the whole feud until late in the third, when there was a scramble in front of our net.

Irbe was trying to cover the puck as the Caps players swarmed around all over him.  Kristich took a swipe at Irbe with his stick.  I drove Kristich away from the net and into the boards in retaliation.  Some guy grabbed me from behind.  We had a gang of players scrapping as the whistle blew and the refs skated over to break up the melee.

Witt was the guy behind me rubbing my face with his glove, trying to piss me off.  I pushed him off calling him a  few choice words.  He got right in my face.  The refs grabbed both of our arms so that we couldn't drop our gloves and square off.  I was relieved.  Hey, I can take care of myself, but I sure as hell wasn't in the mood to go toe to toe against Witt.

As the refs held us back we exchanged some more pleasantries.  I suddenly wished O'Neill were on the ice.  Witt was pleading with the refs to let us square off.  "Just let me go one round with him, you won't hear another peep out of me for the rest of the game."

"You're real close to heading the box fella, calm yourself down or I'll sit you down," the ref countered.

"Let me go just one round," Witt pleaded.

"I ain't telling you again, simmer down now or you can cool your heels for two minutes."

"You be glad the refs are fighting your battles for you you sissy."  I just kept staring him down, trying not to show any emotion.  "I'll hit you so hard next time, send you back to Cincinnati.  You miss that place, huh?  You miss going to those queer bars you fucking fag?  You wanna go back there fairy?"

Now me may have just been trying to under my skin, but he was hitting a little too close to home.  I tried not to show any emotion, but I'm sure my color drained from my face.  Glen Wesley, an alternate captain, had been with the scrum the whole time.  "Hey ref, enough of this BS.  Take him off."

"If I take him off I'm taking one of yours as well," the ref replied.

"He's clearly instigating.  Brewer hasn't said a word."

"Maybe so, but if I take one of theirs off, I'm taking one of yours too."  Eventually the refs just made us return to the bench and no penalties were called but I was shaken up pretty hard.  How the hell had Witt known to say that?  And right after that Wesley had been so quick to shut him up.  I barely noticed when we scored on a 2 on 1 the next shift to take the lead in the final minutes.  When the horn blew we won 3-2 and I immediately headed for the lockerroom.

Later that night, on the plane

Most of the players had fallen asleep as our charter jet made its way north to Montreal.  We had finally taken off after midnight, and no one wasted any time in in trying to get some shut-eye.  I lay awake, playing over the exchange between Witt and I through my head over and over again like a broken record player.  I looked behind me to see if I could spot Glen.  I know I had seen him slip in somewhere behind me on the plane.  I finally spotted him, four rows behind me, with an empty seat besides him.

"Excuse me.  Sorry pal," I whispered as I shuffled past Battaglia, who briefly stirred as I disturbed his slumber.  I quietly made my way back to Wesley and slipped in beside our veteran defensemen.  His eyes fluttered open and recognized me.

"Hey kid, big win tonight, huh?" he said extending a hand.  I slapped him five.  "What's on your mind?" he asked yawning.

"Why would Witt go off on me like that?" I asked.  "I mean, its a little extreme even for him."

"Come on, nothings too extreme for him.  He's just trying raz you."

"Yeah, and you shut him up pretty quickly," I countered.  Glenn closed his eyes and rubbed them wearily with his fist.  Then he stared at his watch.

"You know we'll be landing in soon.  And then they'll herd us into a hotel room.  You might want to get some shut-eye."

"I know, I know.  I just was wondering why you tried to shut him up so quick, you know?"

"Try and get some sleep, little buddy."  I could tell I wasn't going to get anything out of Wesley, and that worried me even more.  Was something going around about me?  I grudgingly made my way back to my seat and waited for the sleep that never came.

Raleigh, North Carolina - February 25th, 2001

We had just returned from a grueling five game roadtrip.  I closed my apartment door behind me and locked it.  I dropped my bag on the floor and immediately reached for the phone.

"Hello?" Shane answered the phone.

"Wanna come over?" I asked.

"Hello to you too," he said.  "You just get in?"


"You aw'right?" he asked.

"I've been better," I admitted.

"Oh, you poor thing.  And you want me to come over and make it all better?"

"Mmm hmm."

"Okay, I'm walking out the door now," Shane said.

20 minutes later, Shane walked in the door and was ambushed by a waiting me.  "God damned, you're frisky tonight?" he said, trying, but not hard, to fend off my attacks and kisses.

I pretty much carried and dragged him into my bedroom and tossed him onto my bed.  I straddled him and stared into his eyes.  Shane just as intently looked back at me, with a slight smile on his lips.

"Well, Nick.  Why do I think you're gonna remember a bit more about this night than you did from the last time?"

Before Shane could say anything else, I leaned over and kissed him.  All of our previous kisses had been almost chaste compared to this one.  His mouth opened to mine, and our tongues danced.  I think Shane sensed my need as well, for he responded to me at once, practically melting into my mouth and body.  As our kiss became more hot, more passionate, my hands began to roam Shane's taut body.  I lifted his back from the bed and practically ripped his shirt off, followed shortly by his underlying t-shirt.  While we continued to kiss, my hands began stroking his chest and stomach.

Normally, I'm all for situations that are romantic, and for taking my time.  This, however, wasn't the night for that.  This was a time for...well, for release, and a quick one at that.

I broke the kiss, and with a quick swipe of my lips upon Shane's upturned nose, I leaned down to his now-bare nipples.  Taking the right one into my mouth, I gently sucked on it, causing Shane to breath in sharply.  Suddenly, I bit down on the nipple, and then began sucking on it once again, lathing it in my spit.  This caused him to moan, and his back to arch.  While I was beginning to attend to his other nipple, my hands wandered down to his crotch.  With little pressure at first, I started to rub against his khaki-covered cock.  As I continued to suck on first one nipple, and then moving back to the other, I increased the pressure of my hand upon his hardening cock, making him squirm and moan louder and louder.  I looked up Shane's face, and it was flushed.  He was staring at me, and his eyes were almost watering with desire.  It was kinda funny, but we weren't really talking all that much while this was going on.  I guess words were just unnecessary.

In one quick movement I shrugged off my sweater, and threw it aside.  I heard Shane's shoes hit the floor, so I knew he had kicked them off.  Reaching for his khakis, I unbuckled his belt, unhooked the button and ripped down the zipper, seemingly all in one solid motion.  Moving back to his lips with my mouth, I restarted the dancing of our tongues.  My hand found its way to Shane's tummy, where I followed his happy trail to sites yet unseen.  Plunging my hand downward, I felt along his torso to the top of his boxers.  Suddenly, I thrust my hand inside, and felt for his now steel-hard cock.  Shane was leaking pretty profusely, so I knew he was as turned on as I was.  I used his precum to lube his entire shaft, stroking it from top to bottom, rubbing harder and harder with each pass of my hand.  As I slid my hand up and down his shaft, I worked over the head of his glans with my thumb, stroking it and spreading his juices.  Shane had worked his hands down the back of my pants and boxers, and was gripping both of my ass cheeks with his hands.  With each stroke of his cock, I felt him squeeze my butt with even more strength and ardor.  His breath was almost coming with gasps, and I knew he was as horny and ready as I was.

I leaned back, and stood up by the side of the bed.  Leaning over, I pulled on Shane's pants, and took them all the way off of his body.  Throwing them to the side, I then quickly kicked off my shoes, and pushed my pants and boxers off in one movement.  Shane's gaze drifted down to my rock hard cock.  He smiled as he watched my throbbing dick, then looked back into my eyes from his prone position on the bed, letting me know he was ready and willing.

I knelt on the bed.  As I'd said, each and every time I'd hooked up with someone in the past, things had been slow and loving.  However, this just seemed like the night for speed, for release.  I'd always wanted to rip someone's underwear off... It always seemed like such a sexy thing to see and do in my fantasies.  So, with that in mind, I reached for the waistband of Shane's boxers, and ripped those suckers right off.  They shredded into several pieces.  The look on Shane's face was just priceless.  Not only was he, too, turned on, but he was also a tad bit startled.  Maybe even scared a little?  Before he had a chance to respond, however, I had leaned down and engulfed his stiff penis all the way to the root.  His 6 inches were embedded in my throat, pulsing harder and harder with each passing second.

Shane's hands grasped at the bed sheets, balling them up in his grip.  His hands clenched the linen almost in unison with the throbbing of his cock, and his moans matched the actions taking place below.  As I sucked him, one hand continued to move up and down his shaft, while the other reached around to his ass.  Circling his rosebud, my big finger slipped inside, probing his warm and moist insides.  As I finger-fucked him, Shane's moans grew louder and louder.  I could tell it wouldn't be long before he came.

With a loud "Aaaargh!!", Shane erupted in my mouth.  Spurt after spurt filled my gullet.  All the while, I continued to finger his ass.  I sucked him dry, and then put my forehead down on his stomach to catch my breath...but just for a second.

I raised up, and reached over Shane into my nightstand drawer, pulling out a condom and lube.  I noticed that his eyes were once again beginning to focus, so I asked him, "OK?"

He smiled and nodded.  I quickly spread the lube on my finger, and reentered him, working it around.  Shane grunted his approval with each movement of my finger.  I slowly added a second finger, and eventually a third.  By the time I had worked all 3 fingers in him he was moaning quite loudly, and was obviously getting very turned on.  I lubed up my cock, rolled down the rubber, and lubed the condom in nearly record speed, then placed my cock at his opening.  Shane lifted his legs, and placed them over my shoulders.  As I moved forward to enter him, I leaned down and bit down hard on his nipple, causing him to growl and groan.  Bit by bit, his anus swallowed my cock, and it didn't take long until I was all the way in.

"Bang me, Nick!!"  Shane sputtered.  "Fuck me....HARD... hockey player!"

Who was I to disappoint?  We kissed as I worked up a steady rhythm, his pelvis thrusting upwards to match me stroke for stroke.  The urgency of our coupling wasn't lost on my cloudy brain, and I knew this wasn't going to be a long fuck, just a nice, quick, satisfying one.

Before long, I felt rather than saw that his cock had once again grown rock hard.  He was stroking himself in rhythm with each of our thrusts.  As we continued to kiss and fuck, I reached my hand down to take over his stroking.

"Harder, damn it!  I want to feel your balls bang against my ass!", Shane demanded.  So, I really started plowing into him.  Each thrust seemed more frenzied than the last.

I knew that my orgasm was soon approaching, and I figured that he wouldn't be too far behind given the way he was gasping and moaning.

"Oh....God....Shane!"  I stuttered.  "I'm.....CUMMING"

His speech was just as short and staccatoed.  "!"

I quickly pulled out of him, ripping off the condom as I leaned forward towards Shane's chest.  We both began to cum at the same instant.  We matched one another moan for moan as our fluids erupted onto Shane's torso, literally coating him with our juice.  In fact, my pent-up liquid really flew on one or two of my shots, reaching up to his cheeks and trickling down his face.  As we started to refocus and catch our breath, Shane made me laugh by reaching out to his cheek and licking off my cum trails, then smacking his lips.  Since I had no more juices to feed him, I laid down upon him, and kissed him tenderly, enjoying the release we had shared.

We lay there for a time, with my head on his chest, both of us trying to catch our breath.  I closed my eyes and listened contently to the sounds of Shane as he inhaled and exhaled, raising my head gently with each breath.  The stress and pressures of the weeks before started to fall away and I was in a quiet bliss.

"Damn," Shane finally said.  "What got into you?"

"I had a long trip."

"I guess you did.  Did something happen?"

"Remember Witt?"

"That goon that gave you a concussion?  Sure, did something else happen?"

"Yeah, we definitely mixed things up again."

"So that's it?  That's what's bothering you?" he asked, a little confused.

"I think I've been outed," I said flatly.

"What?!" he said, pulling my head up to look me in the eyes to see if I was telling the truth.

"Yeah, I think I'm in trouble."

"What happened?" Shane asked.

I sighed, thinking of where to begin.  "Well, when I was in Cincinnati, I got caught in a gay bar by a sports writer.  He threatened to out me if I didn't pay him money."

"He blackmailed you?"

"Yeah, I didn't think he'd do anything, so... I just kind of forgot about it.  I hadn't thought about it until now, and..." I sighed heavily.  "Witt was talking shit the other night and made a reference to it."

"Oh my god.  This is bad, right?"

"Well, nothing's been said about it publicly, so maybe Witt is more classy than I thought.  But I think the guys on my team are wondering about me too."  I then explained my conversation with Wesley.

"You know, I saw a special on gay athletes on ESPN about a year ago," Shane said.  "No one in a professional team sport is out of the closet."

"Yup.  I saw that too.  It was pretty good."

"So you think the press doesn't know yet?"

"I hope so," I said.  "That's not something they'd keep to themselves like a player would.  And if it got out...  Christ I'd probably be shipped back to Cincinnati in 2 seconds flat."

"You know," Shane said, taking my head in his hands softly and stoking my chin, "You're not the only one.  There are other gay athletes."

I nodded.  "I know, but that doesn't matter much.  I'd be finished."

"Yeah, well, they just don't have the courage to come out.  You could change all that."

I shook my head.  "I'm not one to rock the boat.  Let some other poor schmuck break the ice."

Shane continued.  "10 years ago, it was considered career suicide to be an openly gay politician.  20 years ago, the same was true for the entertainment industry.  Time's are changing, the sports world is ripe for something like this to happen."

"And I want to see it just as much as you do," I said.  "But I'm not going to be the guinea pig and that's final.  I may not be the only one, but I'm still all alone if I come out.  I'm sure of that."

Raleigh, North Carolina - March 2nd, 2001

"Skate, skate, skate, skate!!" Maurice yelled at us as we flew by him.  It was the end of practice, and after a dismal home game last night, which we lost, Paul was working our asses off.  Finally the whistle blew after we passed the blue line signaling the end of the practice and our ice sprints.  We gathered at center ice for a quick pep talk and then were released to go to the showers.
I took a nice long shower and when I finally stepped out, most of the guys had already left.  By the time I got dressed, I noticed the only guy left in the lockerroom was our captain, Ron Francis.  He was taping up his stick quietly in the corner.  I made my way over to him and took a seat next to him.  He glanced up and noticed me, but then returned his concentration to the stick.  "Mr. Brewer.  How are things?"

"Things are fine, Ron."  I debated whether or not I really wanted to bring this up with him.  Ever since the Witt incident, I had noticed that guys on the team indeed acted a little strange around me.  I guess I hadn't noticed it before.  "Well," I started stalling, "what do you think will happen when Sami comes back from his injury next week?  Will they ship me back to Cincinnati?"

Ron shook his head.  "I doubt that.  Not the way you're playing.  You may just see some play off action if we don't slip at all."  He looked up at me and smiled.  "Pretty exciting stuff, eh?"

"Eh," I said imitating his Canadian accent.  Ron laughed.  "Are there rumors about me going around?" I asked.  I just sort of blurted it out quickly, not really stopping to think.

He looked back up at me.  "Rumors?" he asked, stalling for time.  I nodded.  "What sort of rumors are you worried about, Nick?"

"I don't know.  Just, stuff.  Things that might be said, you know."

Ron started to tape up his stick again, shaking his head.  "You shouldn't worry if you don't have anything to hide."

"True."  Ron continued working on his stick.  I sat there in silence.  I was getting uncomfortable.  I didn't want this hanging over me any more.  "You know, I tried to have this conversation with Glenn.  He didn't want to talk about it either."  Ron continued working, not pausing to say anything.  "I just don't want things going behind my back, things that aren't true."

Ron sighed and put down his stick.  He stared down at the floor for a minute and then looked me right in the eye.  "Now you'd never lie to your captain, would you?"

"No," I stammered.

"Nick, are you homosexual?"  My mouth dropped open and I kind of just stared into space.  I was flabbergasted.  I shook my head, not knowing what to say.  My mouth was dry, my heart was pounding, and for the first time in my young life, the very first time, I was scared shitless.  The cat was out of the bag.

My eyes started to well up with tears.  "Maybe I better not answer that," I finally croaked out.  We sat in silence for a long time.  Finally Ron spoke up.

"When I was playing in Pittsburgh there was... a guy on our team.  We all wondered about him.  And a lot of stuff was said, even around the league, too.  The press never got wind of it and because of that, it wasn't ever really a problem.  The guy kept a low profile off the ice and he was lucky he did.  I think you should just follow that lead."

I nodded, tears were streaming down my face now.  "Anyway," Ron continued.  "As far as I know, the press doesn't know about you, either.  But its certainly being whispered around the league.  So if I were you, I'd keep a very low profile off the ice.  And maybe, get a trophy girlfriend."  Ron paused, and then added as an afterthought, "And it can't hurt for you to actually start banging some girls when we're out.  Sitting in a corner not talking to any of them sort of sets off some bells, if you know what I mean."

I didn't really hear anything he was saying.  My brief career was flashing before my eyes.  Ron put his hand on my shoulder.  "Listen, I'm not trying to upset you, I'm just giving it to you straight.  I don't like to dance around shit.  The most important thing, Nick," Ron paused for effect, "is the team.  You gotta put the team ahead of everything.  And the team doesn't need any distractions making a late playoff run.  You understand what I'm saying?" he asked.  I nodded.  "Good, because right now, we don't have a problem.  No one on the team has a problem yet.  Because its quiet.  And that's what counts."  Ron got up and closed his locker.  He grabbed his coat.  "Will you be all right?" he asked.

"Yeah, this all just a little overwhelming."

"Yeah, well, life's a bitch.  And then we die." Ron said patting me on the back.  "I'll see you tomorrow."  He closed the door behind me and left me alone to ponder all of this.

Well thanks again to Jackmeoffalot for his contribution.  What a name.  I wonder if that's his birth name or a pseudonym.  I'll bet you its his birth name.  Comments are always ignored, errr, I mean welcomed at  Ah, seriously, I love hearing from you guys and gals.  It seems the more I write about the Canes', the more they win in real life.  So I plan to write as much as I possibly can.  Unless some Maple Leaf fans want to pay me off?  Let the bidding start...  GO Whalers... I mean Canes!!