He saw patchy beard shove Shane. Riley also saw a few rogue Cutthroat fans in green hoodies bang on the Plexiglas and hold up their phones—their eyes were on Shane. In seconds Shane had patchy beard by the jersey, and Riley forgot about Sidiak, and the game, and the team, and the puck. The puck was gone. Riley had no fucking idea where the puck was. And he didn’t care. More Brampton players were getting involved. He could hear Peeler screaming something at Shane; Sidiak was still struggling against the guy who’d punched him. The referee was descending slowly, in calculated arcs, unsure of which fight to break up first. A Brampton player tried to shove him back, but Riley skated towards Shane.

“Kublewitcz!” Riley yelled, and tried to break through the clusterfuck of gray and green. Shane tore off patchy beard’s helmet and pulled his jersey over his head. Shane’s own mask had slipped and made his face white and eyeless as he slammed his fist against the center’s face. The crowd cheered him on.

The referee finally intervened and tried to pull Shane’s arms behind his back. It took two more Brampton players to get him away from their center.

“I will fucking kill you,” Shane hissed as the ref shoved him away from the net, towards the center of the rink. The Denver fans were ballistic, still beating on the glass for Shane—but his eyes were narrowed on patchy beard slumped against his teammates. The Cutthroat crowd screamed louder for Shane as he spit his mouth-guard onto the ice. Riley was surprised to see so much blood. The ice around it looked painfully white.

Sidiak slapped Shane on the back. “You’re a fucking animal, Kublewitcz!” he yelled, as the others Cutthroat players circled him.

Shane didn’t respond to their praise. His eyes followed the Brampton players as they helped their center back to the bench. After a few seconds, Shane turned to Riley and smiled through the blood in his mouth.

“Fucking look at this, Williams,” he said, spitting more red onto the blue line under their skates. “I bit the fuck out of my tongue.”

···

They were going to the Three Lions. Shane and Riley. To drink, and watch a fight. Shane had decided this shortly after the referees, and the coaches, and the owner, had finished screaming at him. By the time he made this announcement, the rest of the team had slammed their lockers and left.

“We should’ve gone out last night,” Shane said.

Riley was sitting on a bench and knotting the laces on his shoes and trying not to lose it. Shane was standing over him, talking a lot, talking fast. Shane stared at the lockers while he talked.

“Shane, maybe tonight isn’t—”

“Hurry up. Let’s go,” Shane said. He pushed the door open, too hard, and made the aluminum bang against concrete.

Gracie was in the hallway. She made eye contact with Riley for a second, but Shane almost walked past her. She reached for him.

“What happened?”

“Probation.” Shane slowed long enough to grab her hand.

“How long—”

“Nine weeks. I don’t want to talk about it,” Shane said.

Riley stayed a few steps behind them. He thought about saying he had a migraine, which was almost true, but then Shane turned and waved for Riley to speed up.

“You are so fucking slow tonight, Williams,” Shane said.

What the fuck is your hurry? Riley wanted to yell.

“Are you okay?” Gracie asked Shane. They were almost to the exit.

“I’m fine. Asshole shoves me, and I get probation. I don’t want to talk about it—we’re just going out,” Shane said. He tried to pull her closer, but she slowed down.

“Is Riley coming?” she asked. She sounded concerned. For him? Or for Shane?

Riley didn’t know. “Maybe I should just head back to the apartment. I could catch you later—”

“No, you’re coming. He’s coming. We’re all going out,” Shane said. He shoved the door open and held it open for the two of them.

They stepped out into the cold, and tiny silver flakes fell from the black sky onto their shoulders as they walked. Gracie didn’t say anything, and Shane talked about everything except the game. Riley checked his phone for a response from Mylo or Peeler, but then Shane started pointing out the streetlights.

“What’s the difference between these and the normal ones?” he asked Riley. They were the shorter kind with orange bulbs. “Why are these so ugly?”

Riley looked up; the lights made everything look dull and foggy and orange, but he hadn’t noticed until Shane said something.

“Those are more energy efficient,” Riley said. “They’re ugly, but they’ll last longer,”

Shane lit another cigarette. “I guess the orange isn’t that bad.”

They were almost to the bar, and there still was nothing from Riley’s teammates. His ex-teammates? Tonight might’ve been his last hockey game. It might be his last a lot of things, Riley realized as he followed Shane into the bar. The Three Lions was Shane’s favorite bar because they had amateur boxing matches in the basement. Riley didn’t like it because it was small, and crowded, and they played different music from all four corners of the room. A few people yelled at Shane as he and Riley moved towards the bar.

“Kublewitcz!”

“That motherfucker deserved it. Trying to start something—”

“You should’ve killed him!”

A few others cheered. Shane smiled and ignored them. He turned to Riley.

“What do you want to drink?” he asked.

“It’s fine, I can—”

“Just let me get it. Go get seats,” Shane said. He waved down the bartender.

“Are you fucking serious?” Riley asked. He felt light-headed. “You have to get the drinks tonight? Why the fuck—”

“Go. Get seats near the front,” Shane said, turning his attention to a television behind the bar. A fucking soccer game. Shane hated soccer almost as much as
Riley—that, and playing hockey, were the only two things they had in common.

Riley shook his head and pushed his way to the stairs; he just wanted to be away from noise and people for a few minutes—just five minutes of quiet and loneliness. He saw Gracie; she was halfway down the stairs. She hadn’t said a word for the last twenty minutes.

It was darker downstairs. There were fewer people, and the only sound was gloved fist against muscle. It was already the third round, and one of the fighters, the one with a huge pink scar across his chest, was rhythmically beating his gloves against his thin opponent. It looked like it’d be over soon. Gracie found seats in an almost empty row.

“Want to sit a little closer to the ring?” Riley asked.

“Not really,” she said. Her eyes were on the skinny fighter. His ribcage jutted painfully against his skin.

Riley felt a hard tap on the side of his arm. A man with shiny eyes leaned towards him. “Can you sit the fuck down?” His breath smelled like something clear and sour.

Fucking macho-honky testosterone-junkie dick measuring—what the fuck was everyone’s problem tonight? Riley almost flipped him off. Instead he just sat down. He left a cracked leather seat between him and Gracie. He hadn’t felt this in a long time—a tiredness with an actual ache that pulsed in the inner corners of his eyes. He tried to watch the fight for a few minutes until he couldn’t anymore. He leaned towards Gracie.

“Are you going to tell him? After this terrible fucking night?” he asked.

Gracie’s head didn’t move at all; her mouth just turned into that perfectly straight line. “Selfish,” was all she said, and she said the word so quietly it was almost a whisper.

Riley stared at the side of her beautiful face. He almost hated her. Selfish? Who the fuck was the most selfish out of—Shane was walking toward them with the drinks. He handed them their beers and surveyed their row. “What the fuck?” he said. “We should move up.”

“I don’t want to,” Gracie said, taking a sip.

“Why not?”

“It really doesn’t matter, does it? It’s almost over. The skinny one is barely standing.”

Riley heard the drunk man shifting behind them. Fuck. Riley reached for Shane’s arm. “Dude, sit down—”

“Jesus, can you please sit the fuck down?” the drunk man said to Shane. “You and your friend stand up in the middle of a fight—”

Shane looked surprised. He leaned towards the man. “Who the fuck are you? I’ll stand up if I fucking—”

Riley interjected, “Shane, let it go. Just sit down and watch—”

“Shane Michael Kublewitcz, if you don’t sit down right now, I promise you, I will get up and walk out of this bar,” Gracie hissed. Her nails were pressing into the side of Shane’s wrist, making little dents against the skin. “Why the hell would you want to fight any more tonight?”

Riley saw the tiny indentation deepen against the side of Shane’s jaw as cheers echoed against the basement wall. The scarred fighter had knocked his opponent to the floor.

“We could move,” Riley said, standing up. “Or we could just go. This fight is a joke.” The thin one was barely able to pull himself back up.

“No. He can fucking move,” Shane said.

Gracie gripped Shane’s wrist. “Shane, don’t. Let’s move.”

Shane shook his head. “Why would we move?”

Her voice turned shrill. “What the fuck? You wanted to move ten seconds ago.”

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