Author name - Soy
Author e-mail - soywon
Disclaimer - All of the Ducks are owned by Disney. Most of the schools and players I use in this are real and are owned by themselves. Big shout out to Avon Old Farms for unknowingly lending me not only their name but also their captain, coach, and a few random others.
Feedback - Is very much appreciated!
A/N - I'm sorry this took so long. There won't be such long breaks between the rest of the chapters, I promise!
Chapter 11 - Charge
"Welcome to the Laernu Youth Hockey Tournament! Enjoy your time here and good luck to all of our wonderful teams!"
The P.A. system at the main stadium seems to be playing welcoming messages on repeat. I look around at my fellow Ducks, very few of them look their enjoying their time. In all honesty, I can understand that.
I guess Julie started the current division between team members, but I can't be outwardly angry at her because then Connie would be upset with me. Last night, after Portman freaked out, Connie locked herself in her room with Julie. Since then, Cat Lady's been speaking through Connie. I don't think this is so much Julie being afraid to talk to everyone as it Connie wanting to take control of the situation and protect her friend.
Connie's so caring.
And controlling, but oh well.
"Are you kids planning to just stand here all day?" Orion has this way of coming up behind a person all secretive-like. In this case, he snuck up on the team, and I notice we all look surprised to see him. I think he notices something's wrong. "Come on, we have to be at the tournament orientation in ten minutes, then we'll only have two hours before our first game. There's no time for dawdling today."
Dawdle dawdle. That's a strange word. I think Orion can sense that there's some strangeness between the players today. If not, then he certainly noticed the shards of broken glass in the living room carpet and must be wondering how they got there.
We start moving, all of us together, as if we are a team not torn apart.
I'm kind of confused as to why we are torn apart. It has something to do with Julie hanging around with the goalie of the AOF team. Charlie said she was telling him our plays. Connie told me that that's not true, and I've come to believe whatever Connie tells me.
As we walk through the doors that will lead us into the rink where the "opening ceremonies" are to be held, I notice that our "great divide" is physically beginning. Charlie, Portman, Fulton, Goldberg, Banks, and Luis walk through the door on the left. The rest of us go through the door on the right. When we take our seats at the top of the stacks of bleachers, we stay separated by rows.
I don't like where this is going.
All of the other teams from all of the other schools are here, and most of them look excited, and for a second I wonder why. Yeah, the tournament starts today. It's easy to forget things like that when one teammate becomes the Depressing Wonder and another turns suspected treasonist.
I remember when hockey was just about showing up and playing, back when your teammates were all on the same side.
Of course, that was before the Ducks skated in a real rink.
"Everyone," Mr. Martin, the clinic director, has made his way out onto the ice in front of us. He's wearing a suit. Every time I see him, he's wearing a suit. It looks kind of stupid. "Everyone, if I may have your attention please." The room becomes silent, the teams face forward. "I had a wonderful first week, and from what I've heard from the coaches, it sounds like all of you have enjoyed your time as well. I just hope that you all learned some valuable skills and, more importantly, made some lasting friendships." What does this have to do with the tournament starting today? "But now the fun part of the clinic is about to begin. This morning we will begin our tournament, and I cannot wait to see all the excitement. I wish you all the best of luck!" Double loss equals elimination, winner take all. Ducks do well in these kinds of tournament situations. Who needs luck?
Then again, usually when we're doing well, we're not in a big fight.
Did I just see Portman glaring at Julie?
I don't like where this is going.
Mr. Martin finishes up his talk. People clap. The Ducks don't, we're all too preoccupied. I think I saw Banks go to clap, but Charlie elbowed him in the side as if to remind him that we are all upset, and therefore cannot congratulate anyone on a speech well spoken.
A coach I don't know and don't care to know gets up and gives us all our "official charge". According to him, now we should all be energized and ready for battle.
I look at Connie who's sitting to my right and flash her a smile. She smiles nervously back at me.
It's gonna be okay. I'm sure of it.
"And Eden Hall's #21, Dean Portman, gets slammed by Westminster Academy's #34, George Heartland. Oh, that's gotta hurt."
The puck is way past me now, and the player who's got it is centering it. I'm trying not to skate too close to our goal, which may sound like a dumb strategy, but really it's all that's keeping me from going ballistic. Today I don't really like having 'protect Julie' as my soul job on the ice. So I've given up. Sorry Ducks if I'm letting you down, but I don't feel much like playing today.
We're nearing the end of the third period and we're down by one. Looking back, I probably could have stopped that one. Some punk had had the puck and had taken it right by me. I had seen Julie looking to me - or, alright, in my direction since it's kind of hard to tell where someone with one of those massive masks on is actually looking - for help, but I didn't stop the guy. I should have checked him. I should have, and I would have if it hadn't been for Julie looking at me.
Why was she with Warner?
Charlie's going around saying that he caught Julie giving out our plays, telling Warner our secrets, but I know Julie wouldn't do that. She just wouldn't because, well, she's Julie. She might have been practicing with him, might even have been dating him, but she would never do anything to hurt the Ducks. She told me she thinks of us as her family. She wouldn't hurt her family.
Now I get it.
I'm not mad at Julie, I'm jealous of Warner. I'm jealous because she wants to spend her time with him instead of with me. I'm a sap, a stupid sap.
I take off down the ice. I've got to stop 34 from scoring.
How could I have been so dumb? Where did I get off being that mad?
I'm close to 34 now, right on his tail, but before I can reach him he pushes the puck off to his teammate. Fulton is supposed to be marking that guy, but I charge after the puck anyway. I've got to keep them from scoring again.
Charlie always does this. He always thinks that someone's out to get him, and then really sticks with it. He can hold grudges like no other.
I slam the teammate, the puck slides across the ice. For a second it sits, unclaimed, in front of the goal. Fulton swoops by and collects it, takes it to the side, and passes it off to Guy, who passes it to Ken who gives it right back, completing a smooth give and go.
Why did Julie have to be Charlie's target this time? That doesn't seem fair. Just because Julie can trust people outside of the Ducks doesn't mean she should be picked on by the team. Okay, so her choice in confidant could have been better than that skeezy AOF 'Could I Be Any Faker?' goalie, but Julie doesn't deserve to be punished.
Guy and Banks, with Ken behind them, are making their way down the ice, though neither pays attention to the other. There are a couple of times where I think Guy wants to get rid of the puck, but Ken's blocked and Banks is the only open man. He doesn't pass it. I guess Connie told Guy to be mad at Banks.
After a minor check Guy skates on without the puck. That wasn't a drop pass, I can tell. It was unintentional, and now Banks is rushing to the puck. He picks it up, gloating as he goes, his chest all puffed up like the cake eater that he is. We could have lost the puck there, and he's showing off how much better he is than Guy! This doesn't make sense...
Fulton skates up beside me.
"What was that?" He's screaming over the crowd and the commentators, not looking at me as he skates.
"What?" I don't look at him.
"That was my man."
"I know, but I had to get him."
Fulton doesn't answer. Instead he skates to the other side of the rink.
I had to get that guy, I had to stop him from getting near Julie. I had to make up for all the crap I've been giving her.
This morning, when we were eating breakfast back at the condo, she asked me if I was alright. I hadn't heard her speak since last night, and I don't think any of the other Ducks, exception of Julie's new mouth Connie, have heard her since. She wanted to know if I was okay, because she was worried when I dropped that glass. I shrugged her off, bastard that I am. Why am I so annoying sometimes?
I told her to go away.
I skate back towards Julie. I can hear Orion yelling, asking me 'what the hell' I'm doing.
"Portman! Get down there, they need you!" I think she's looking me in the eyes. I can't tell. I'm still a good five feet away from the goal.
"I'm sorry for being such a jerk-"
"Now really isn't the time to be talk-"
"No, I have to say it. I'm sorry."
There's a pause. I want to say more, but I can't. I literally can't. The goal buzzer is going off and I can't speak over its sound.
Well, at least we're tied now.
I watch as Banks proudly returns to his starting position, all huffed up about his goal. I'm surprised when Guy doesn't congratulate him. Oh, that's right, their on opposite sides in this whole stupid fight.
Stupid Charlie. I'm going to have a talk with him after the game. I'm going to tell him how he needs to knock it off and just forgive Julie, even apologize to her, because she didn't do anything wrong.
Yeah, that's what I'm going to do.
"Portman!" Orion. Yelling. "Get off the ice! We're changing it up!"
I didn't take directions, now I'm being pulled from the game. Why does this happen so often?
I skate off the ice and watch as Goldberg takes my place. There's only a few minutes left. We have to score again.
Orion hits me upside the head. Not playfully.
"What were you doing out there? I said I'd give you a second chance-" after I blew the first by not stopping that goal "-if you promised to play hard!" I know he only put me back in because Goldberg was getting tired earlier. Those salads he's been eating haven't been fueling him right. "Now you're down on the opposite end of the ice making pleasant chitchat with our goalie?!" Well, I'm not actually doing that now. "Anything could have happened without you there to back up Banks and Germaine-" yeah, like the world could have imploded and it would have been all my fault "-you're just lucky that they scored! And what have I told you about luck? You can't rely on it!"
I don't remember him ever telling me that.
I'm really hoping Orion will go be the mosquito in someone else's ear now. I don't need a lecture. Yeah, I did something wrong. Wow.
I look down the bench to where Charlie is sitting. His eyes are focused on the ice, I know he's planning secret strategies in his head, I can tell by the way he isn't responding to anything around him. Not even to Averman, who, dressed in regular clothes, sits next to him making snarky comments I can hear from here, is able to distract our 'fearless captain'.
Banks scores again. Charlie looks relieved.
I'll show him to bad talk Julie.
Okay, now I get it. Conway: bad. Julie: good.
"We almost lost today! Where were your heads?" Coach Orion looks around at all of us, the Ducks, his eyes not focussing on anyone particular. We're sitting in the locker room, the game thankfully over. "I didn't see one of you - not one of you! - playing with the concentration needed to succeed!"
I don't know about everyone else, but I tried my hardest today. I can't help it that some people weren't focusing on the game.
What exactly was Portman up to out there?
"I can tell there's something tearing you kids apart and-"
"Coach," I begin. He holds up his hand to stop me.
"Not now Conway." He doesn't even look at me. "I don't care what the situation between you is. You're going to fix it, you're going to make amends, and you're all going to play your hardest, like a team, at tomorrow's game. No excuses." He stops, and turns in his place until he's been full circle. He stops, facing me. "I want you all to work out whatever is wrong, or I want you to pack up and go home, because a team that doesn't play together doesn't deserve to be here."
He finishes like that, too, not saying another word. Coach Orion exits the room, the sound of his shoes as they hit the floor echoing in my ears. I look across me, to where Portman sits. I'm pretty sure he's growling at me.
"Portman," I say. "Portman-"
"What?" Angry, scary tone.
"What's wrong?" I sound like I'm talking to a dangerous animal about to pounce me.
"What do you mean what's wrong?" He stands. He's angry. He's being sarcastic. "Everything's fine! Half the team's mad at Julie for something she didn't do-"
"Portman..." Not this again.
"No, really, I think that's just fine, Conway. Because out of everyone on the team, of course Julie, the most kind and honest person I know, would be sharing secrets with the other teams." Sarcasm, sarcasm, sarcasm.
"She was hanging around with the Avon Old Farms goalie," Adam stands. Banksie to my rescue. "I saw it myself."
"You don't even know what Avon Old Farms is!" Connie stands too. "You just got here yesterday!"
"I know that I saw Julie with a player from another team-"
"No, you know what Conway told you you know." Portman again. "Last night when the fight broke out, you didn't care either way! It's only after Conway told you what to think that you started being anti-Julie!"
"I did not tell Adam, or anyone else, what to think!" My turn to stand. Standing signifies that something dramatic is happening. "They heard the truth and decided for themselves!"
"And you did nothing to influence them?" Portman is a big guy. I never notice this when we're at peace, but as soon as we start arguing, it becomes really obvious just how big Portman is. And wait, wasn't he on my side of things this morning? I swear I heard him telling Julie to get lost.
All the Ducks are chiming in now with their opinions. The locker room is filled with noise, with the sound of us fighting. Portman seems to be outranking Connie as Julie's biggest advocate. He's literally throwing his weight around, pushing up his sleeves, showing off his muscles to everyone not on his side. If he wants to get violent...
Well that would bring this to a whole new level.
It was awkward playing today with people I knew I didn't want to be playing with. I didn't trust Julie in our goal, I didn't trust all of the plays that I've worked so hard to create. Today's game the entire team was, pardon the pun, skating on thin ice. I'm not surprised this fight broke out, I just don't know where it will end up.
Coach Orion told us to either make up or move out. I'm not sure which solution seems more plausible. What's the point of even playing in this tournament if our big competition already knows all of our main moves?
Who knows how much Julie's given away...
I look over at Julie. She's sitting. Sitting signifies that something dramatic is about to happen.
"What do you say to that, eh, Conway?" Portman grabs onto my collar and pulls me forward, forcefully. He is staring me in the face. I have no idea what the preface to his question was, though. I was, and still am, too busy looking at Julie to care. She looks like she's about to cry.
Portman seems to follow my gaze. He looks over at Julie. The sound of arguing kind of falls away. It might still be going on, but I honestly can't tell.
Julie stands and, with only me and Portman noticing, exits the locker room.
Portman lets go of me and follows after her.
I swallow and close my eyes and let myself fall back down onto the bench.