So…I discovered this evening (the 14th) that I have written 25K on this useless piece that I just titled “I Hate You Rachel Ried for Making Me Want to Play in Your Sandbox”. There you go. I admitted it.
Is this fan fiction?
Absolutely fucking not.
Because I refuse to call myself a fan.
Is it still stupid?
Of course it is.
But here’s the first chapter anyway. I highly encourage you to go check out Rachel’s books. (You can currently pick up a trilogy box set for only $3.49!!! If you’re in WI, I can tell you that the whole series is also available in OverDrive from the WPLC catalog, if you have a library card.)I have some issues with them, but…those guys have been living rent free in my head for WEEKS now. This was inevitable, really. And honestly: I’d appreciate some more diverse character pairings. I don’t know enough about hockey to take this entirely into my own hands…hence, the sandbox borrowing.
I’m sorry Rachel.
Please don’t sue me or anything. (I have nothing.) And I know I didn’t get Scott and Kip right, at all. It’s been awhile since I read that first book now…and this is just for fun, right?
Day 13: Pietr Ivanov Learns What Non-Binary Means
Pietr Ivanov couldn’t believe he was sitting in the Kingfisher. An openly gay bar, owned by his teammate, Scott Hunter, and his best friend (and former teammate) Eric Bennett. He had been traded to the New York Admirals and moved to the city two weeks before. This was the first time he was going out to get to know his new teammates.
To be fair, he did kind of know them. He’d played against them when he’d been with Minnesota. He really only knew rumors about their personalities though. It was very different being up close and personal with them.
“Sorry,” Scott was saying, “you probably would have preferred a place with a higher chance of picking someone up, huh?” He laughed light into his beer.
“Is fine.” Pietr shrugged. “I…” he wasn’t sure how to phrase it. “I’m not one for casual hook-up.”
“That’s good. Sensible, really.”
“But so boring. You’re very good looking.” Kip, Scott’s husband, frowned at him. “The Kingfisher may be a gay bar, but doesn’t mean it’s only gay men.” His eyes skimmed the bar. “Well, okay, today it looks like a lot of men.”
“Don’t play matchmaker,” Scott begged. “Let the guy adjust to the city, huh?”
“Is fine,” Pietr repeated. He took a sip of the just okay vodka that Kip had brought him. Stereotypically Russian, he knew, but he did like his vodka. “Is, eh, trait of new married couples? You want everyone to be as miserable –sorry, as happy as you are. Delightfully paired away.” The corners of his lips turned to cue them into the teasing he was trying.
“Sounds about right,” Kip agreed.
Pietr let his eyes drift around the bar. It was a comfortable place. Not too camp. That was a word he’d thought he knew the word of, then discovered it had other meanings. He liked to be open-minded. Learning. Trying to understand the world that was different from him. And also, maybe about the world he possibly fit into? He still wasn’t sure.
He liked women. He knew that. He liked pretty faces framed by long hair. Breasts were wonderful; whether they were large and soft or small and firm didn’t matter. He preferred a bigger gal with meat he could grab onto. A comfortable weight that he could pull against himself or settle on top of him. He definitely liked it on top of him…
But then, there were men. Men who were hard and firm. Easy to understand. Men were usually very okay with not speaking and just getting to the heart of the matter. Or, at least, the few men he’d ever been with.
He hadn’t been with many men or women. He could count his total partners on one hand and still have a finger left over. Sometimes, he wondered if what he told himself his preferences were, were actually just unfilled desires he hadn’t properly explored yet.
His eyes landed on a table on the opposite side of the bar. It was a group of friends. He could tell this because of the way they were relaxed and not necessarily touching each other. One of group was…perfect. Except, he couldn’t tell what exactly what it was about them that was so interesting.
“Hey,” he tapped Kip in the ankle. “The table over there. Do you know them?”
Kip turned. “Ah. Harper and Company.”
“Harper and company,” he repeated.
“Harper is a writer. The group is celebrating their most recent publication.”
“Harper is name of group? Like, community pen name?”
“No,” Kip chuckled. “They’re non-binary. Harper, the person, is the one in the glasses and the colorful button up.”
“I…” Pietr furrowed his brow. “Harper is pretty girl with the blue hair, da?”
Kip shook his head. “Harper isn’t a girl.”
“Harper is boy then?”
“No,” Kip shifted uncomfortably, looking to Scott for help. “Harper is non-binary. They don’t identify as male or female. They aren’t anything.”
Pietr took another drink of his vodka. He contemplated the condundrum that had been offered to him before he finally, carefully asked. “They don’t have anything in the downstairs?”
Kip’s face flushed red. “Pietr, you can’t…you shouldn’t ask that.”
“How do you know what to do if you don’t know what someone has for equipment?” Pietr asked. “What if you get really worked up thinking you’re going to do one thing and then find out that, oh no! Equipment don’t line up that way!”
“Scott…” Kip groaned, covering his face, “can you…please?”
“Hey, it’s a super valid question in my opinion,” Scott shrugged. “I like men. I’d be very confused if I was attracted to someone like Harper.”
“Look,” Kip cleared his throat, “someone’s genitalia isn’t your business until you’ve mutually agreed that you’re going to get naked together, okay?”
“Ah. I see,” Pietr hummed. “Would they tell me, or do I have to wait until we are naked? You know, for planning purposes, I like a heads up.”
“I feel like that is too much information,” Scott laughed into his beer bottle. He leaned over Kip, looking openly at the table. “Harper turns your motor, huh?”
“They,” he tried the new pronoun, “are very interesting. It might be the glasses.”
“They are cute,” Kip acknowledged. He took a drink of his own beer. “They’re single.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because after their friends congratulate them on the book, they’ll start in on them about still being single and spending too much time in their head, fantasizing about…” Kip stopped. “Well. Maybe it’s better if I just show you.” He pulled out his phone and brought up an Amazon page. He turned his phone toward Pietr. “That’s their last book.”
“They are hockey fan?” Pietr raised an eyebrow at the shirtless cover model. The man held a hocky stick over his shoulders and was staring fiercely off the cover. “Is very pretty for hockey player.”
“They appreciate it,” Kip shrugged, “but, uh, read the synopsis.”
Pietr’s eyes skimmed the screen. They widened slightly. “Oh. Is like…Scott Hunter fictional biography.”
“It is not!” Scott scoffed.
“Pretty boy hockey player dates boy he meets in coffeeshop. They hit it off and, I assume, happily ever after?” Pietr raised an eyebrow. “Swap coffeeshop for shake shop and sounds very familiar.”
“Fuck.” Scott sighed into his beer. “Should I sue?”
“Don’t,” Kip bumped him. “Aside from that, it’s really not at all like our actual relationship.”
Kip laughed, pressing a kiss to his cheek. Then he took the phone back from Pietr. “So, yeah. That’s Harper in a nutshell.”
“They like men, yes?”
“I think so.”
“I can maybe work with this.” Pietr threw back the last of the vodka. “First though, restroom.”
“Over there,” Kip waved over his shoulder. “Oh, fair warning: they’re unisex.”
“Anyone can use either of them.”
“Ah. I see. Does one have urinal or both single stall?”
“Left,” Scott told him.
“Spasibo.” Pietr hoisted himself up from the table. He took the route that would take him past the Harper and Company table. He caught just a snatch of conversation as he passed.
“You know, it’s probably dangerous for you to hang out here when it’s owned by actual hockey players, Harp. What if they found out and got all offended?”
Pietr considered that a moment later as he stood at the urinal in the Left bathroom. Was he offended by Harper writing about fictional gay hockey players? No. Not really. Hockey was, slowly, becoming more open-minded. There were still plenty of assholes both on the ice and in the fan base, but…most teams had at least one gay player –whether they knew it or not. And Romance books were just a fun way for a person to live vicariously. Not everyone would be lucky enough to meet a sexy rich hockey player and fall in love.
The door swung open just as Pietr zipped himself back up. He turned, bumping right into his new object of desire.
“Oh,” he heard their voice clearly for the first time. “Sorry about that.” They slid to the right just as Pietr also did. Then they both shuffled awkwardly to the left.
“My bad,” Pietr announced, putting his hands firmly on their shoulders. He held them in place as he stepped to the right, toward the sinks. “There we go. Eh, sorry to lay hands on you.”
“T-that’s okay,” they stammered then cleared their throat. He watched a red blush creep up their neck and they darted quickly into one of the two stalls. He went for the sink, washing his hands a little more meticulously than he might normally. He was still drying his hands when Harper stepped back out of the stall.
“You are a writer, da?” Pietr asked. “That is what Kip said. You have a new book?”
“Um, yes,” they nodded. They rinsed their hands off, definitely not washing them for the full thirty seconds recommended by the CDC. They grabbed three pieces of paper towel and dried their hands just as quickly.
“Your name is Harper, but that is not what you write under.”
“No,” they shook her head. “Uh, my pen name is N. B. Wyatt.”
“Where does that come from?”
“Wyatt is my last name,” they said, “and N-B is an abbreviation of non-binary. It’s kind of my way of showing my identity. Not that it’s not in my author bio too.”
“I see. Non-binary. This is new term to me. Explain it?” He asked.
“It just means that I don’t identify as male or female,” they explained. “Gender is a bullshit cultural construct.” Their eyes widened. “Not that anyone who identifies as a man or a woman isn’t just as valid. I just…never have.”
“I see,” he nodded. “I’m not sure I understand completely, but I will try.” He tossed the paper towel he was still holding into the trash. “And Kip called you they.”
“I use They/Them pronouns, but,” they shrugged, “I don’t mind being called she or him or any of the others.”
“There are more?” His eyes widened.
“Sure. Ze-Zir, Em-Es, fae-faer. There are tons of neopronouns.”
“Oh. …English is already very hard.”
They laughed. A tinkle fluttered over his chest. It was a gorgeous sound. Not too loud, but unrestrained.
“If it helps, you can refer to me as she.” Their smile made him want to smile too. “I don’t mind. It’s more like, being considered a woman has always felt like a lie.”
“Then I will not call you that,” he decided. “No one deserves to live lie.”
“That’s very progressive of you.”
“I am progressive guy,” he shrugged. He suddenly realized he had spent far too long in the bathroom. “I should get back to my friends.”
“Yeah. Mine are probably wondering where the hell I am too.”
“Ah, perhaps we could talk more about, eh, pronouns sometime?”
They nodded. “I’d like that. Um,” they reached into their back pocket, pulling out a phone. “Can I get your number?”
“Da,” he nodded, taking the phone.
“And maybe your name?” They pressed.
“I thought you would know my name. Being big hockey fan.” He looked up at her as he finished typing his number and sending himself a kissy face emoji.
The red flush reached their cheeks. “Oh my god. Kip showed you my book.”
“Is okay. Hockey can be very, eh…” he had to think hard for the word, “homoerotic?”
They laughed again.
“The new book,” he handed the phone back, “is also about hockey player?”
“Y-yes,” they admitted. “It’s a series. I swear it is not in any way inspired by any of the Admirals or any of the other players that have ever hung out here. I swear.”
“Ah, so other book was Scott Hunter fictional biography.”
“No! I mean, inspired by maybe. I just…it got into my head and,” they shrugged. “What was a person to do with the nagging story that unfolded?”
“I understand this nagging feeling,” he admitted. He took a step closer to them. “Like, this voice in my head that keeps telling me to kiss you.”
Their eyes widened slightly. “What? Why?”
“Why?” He was surprised. “Why not? You are sexiest person in this bar. You stood out to me right away.” Now that he was closer to them, he could see he was right. They weren’t conventionally beautiful by any means, which just made him more interested. Their hair was long on top but had a shaved undercut. Their glasses had a subtle rainbow motif. The button-up shirt they wore was open over a flat chest covered by a thick black tank. They had on denim capris and canvas sneakers even though it was barely fifty degrees outside. The first really cool evening of Fall.
“Hardly,” they breathed.
Pietr had no decision to make. He couldn’t let this beautiful creature believe anything other than that they were amazing. He hooked a finger under their chin, tilting it up to press his lips to theirs.
“Text me when you’re ready to leave. I will be ready to leave too.” He offered. He felt hazy arousal spread across his body. “No pressure. We can get coffee. Or a private drink somewhere with better vodka.”
They swallowed. “Yeah. Okay.”
“I will be seeing you later then.”
They nodded and he stepped away again. The bathroom door swung closed behind him and he saw Kip and Scott across the room, kissing in the booth. Maybe he’d left them for too long.