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Being called up to the Flyers mid way through the season should be exciting. It should be a chance to prove himself and earn a permanent spot on the roster as the Flyers’ youngest starting goalie. But the season’s a mess, he’s fighting to even get a shot with the net for any number of games in a row. It’s not how he expected his NHL debut to go, so its understandable that his magic’s a little off.

Understandable, but not sustainable. If he wants to be seen and make a good impression with the Flyers, possibly earn a roster spot for next year with the way their goal tending has been going, then he needs to get it under control. No team keeps a goalie who can’t perform a single spell. It’s half of the point of the position.

He scrapes the win in his first game and sure, it takes a lot of the pressure off. At least that’s one record that’ll always remain a positive no matter how short his career ends up. But if he’s going to keep that momentum going then he needs to get his magic back under control.

Their goal tending coach has him running magic drills constantly, simple things that most kids with any useful magic ability learn at a young age to keep their magic practised and familiar. He stops tying his shoes by hand and pours the milk for his cereal by telekinesis. Eventually he can carry his coffee from the second furthest Dunkin’ from the rink and have it arrive without dropping in temperature because he warded it so firmly. That’s when he graduates to working his magic in practise again and gets the tap for their next away game.

Carter’s magic isn’t particularly nimble, or flashy. His old coach during high school referred to it as a brick wall of raw power that resists all attempts at finesse. It doesn’t normally bother him, but normally he doesn’t have any trouble warding the sides of his crease to reduce the shooting angle. Last practise his wards kept flickering in and out of existence and TK snuck one past him when he was trying to fix it.

“We’re just going to keep it classic, Carter,” Brain reassures him. “We’ll focus on warding near the crease for now and work our way up to counter spells. It’s just important to get you comfortable with wards right now.”

It sounds nice, but Carter can hear the underlying expectations. You don’t make it far in the NHL just warding. He’s going to have to do something impressive if he wants more than two games in a month and a half.

 

Their next away game is in Pittsburgh, so he needs to pull out all the stops and impress against their biggest rivalry. As he skates over to his crease to stretch before the puck drop Carter’s pretty sure he’s never been this nervous for a game before in his life. Even his debut worried him less.

He can’t get comfortable in his crease, he skates side to side constantly to keep himself focused on the play. If he takes a break for even a second the constant roar of the crowd breaks through his concentration and roots his feet to the spot. He can hear the bench screaming as Provy’s shot is deflected off the post and disappears round the boards.

The play is charging up towards Carter’s end, and he hasn’t even set up his first ward. He hurriedly throws one up in his favourite spot halfway between the crease and the right face off dot, wide enough to block a player from passing easily through. He’s so focused on achieving the recommended arc shape to guide a loose puck back towards centre ice that he doesn’t even notice the glamour until it’s almost too late.

Sidney Crosby is flying across the ice with a glamoured puck that Carter can barely see, camouflaged white against the ice. The glamour flickers each time the stick makes contact; ripples and resettles as the force redistributes the magic layer. He’s got no chance of stopping that puck once it’s released.

He’s not quick enough with wards to make another, but NHL rules state no magic can be applied to the puck directly. So that glamour has to be attached to Crosby’s stick or hovering above the puck. More likely suspended above the puck if the stick is interfering with the magic.

How is he supposed to dispell a glamour if he doesn’t know how it was placed in the first place? AHL magic wasn’t this complicated. Carter wishes desperately for the simple days of melting ice charms again. He doesn’t have time to think about it too much, so he panics a little.

Carter focuses quickly and throws a hand up to direct a wave of ice shavings like snow in front of Crosby. The falling shavings stress the glamour, and it fails only a few strides from being released. He can track it and the snow storm seems to have made Crosby falter at the last step. The shot gets off Crosby’s stick but a little slower than he expected to release it. It wobbles slightly in the air, but Carter manages to catch it against his chest and freeze the play.

The whistle blows and Crosby slides to a sharp stop close to the crease. He shakes his head a little at Carter as he passes the puck to the official, but he doesn’t contest it. Manipulating ice is par for the course in hockey.

In true Flyers fashion, they lose in overtime after dominating the first two periods. Carter’s not bothered about the overtime goal, some unexpected deflection off Provy’s shin sent the puck back towards the net after the Pens forward was knocked off course by Carter’s ward.

“Nice save in the first period Hartsy, how did you break that one?” Teeks calls over from his stall, the jersey already coming up over his head and being flung towards the bins in the centre of the room. “I thought for sure it was going in.”

“I just overwhelmed the glamour.” Teeks hums in approval, already moving on to discuss the turnover in the third. “I thought we couldn’t manipulate the puck.”

TK isn’t paying him any attention any more but it doesn’t stop him stewing on the glamoured puck. He’s definitely muttering to himself as he unlaces his pads, so it comes as a shock to him when Giroux drops a heavy hand onto his shoulder.

“Don’t worry about it, eh?” G gives him a weary grin. “Jarry’s got a lot of tricks like that, but you stopped it. Onto the next one.”

He rests his head back against the wooden back of his stall. Onto the next one. If he gets another one after this loss. He can’t let some flashy tricks knock him out of the running for a roster spot next year. Just because that asshole thinks he can get away with glamouring the air above the puck. It doesn’t matter because Carter knows about that trick now. He won’t be distracted again.

 

Weirdly, Owen is full of compliments at his next practise.

“I watched that stop a dozen times kid, I knew you’d manage fine once the nerves wore off.” Owen slaps his shoulder hard enough through the pads that Carter’s knocked off his skates a little. “That was one of the more impressive saves I’ve seen one of my goalies do in a while.”

“Thanks.” Carter shuffles his glove further down on his hand awkwardly with his blocker. “I got the ward sorted as well.”

“Yeah that really threw them off in the third, didn’t it? Shame about the overtime but it’s given me a lot of ideas about placement we can work on. I want to see how quickly we can get you throwing up wards.”

 

He can’t stop thinking about the glamour. Owen’s got him throwing up wards in five seconds, the fastest he’s ever managed for a fully stable one, but he can’t bring himself to feel pleased about it. How is a simple ward going to do anything if Jarry’s in the other net?

The sheer amount of tape he’s watching of Penguins games should probably tip this over into obsessiveness, but that doesn’t stop him from queuing up the iPad as he sits down to dinner. Claude was right, Jarry doesn’t ever do anything simple. He steals a shutout against the Capitals with what looks like an adhesive hex on the stick tape. None of the Capitals that cross the blue line can get the puck off their stick as they try to take a shot.

And Jarry doesn’t seem to bother with the classics like warding outside the crease or making the ice in his own end uneven and chippy. It’s like unless it can be shown on a highlights reel he won’t bother trying.

 

Carter spends a lot of time on the practise rink, frustrated with his own progress. Owen has him playing backup most of the time, but he’s hungry for more opportunities. His last game was a disappointment, he’s ready to prove his worth.

 

The Kings are playing a good game, but most of the third period so far has been down in their own zone rather than anywhere near Carter. His wards haven’t been bothered in a while and don’t need any maintenance, so he’s watching the next face off closely in case it turns his direction. He’s kind of bored to be honest. Probably not something to say in your rookie year during a tied game, but he’s quickly grown used to the intensity of NHL games.

There’s some scuffle over who is lining up to take the face off, the ref has given two false starts and sent the Kings player off for a replacement already. Carter’s already waning patience is drawing thin and his attention is caught by the opposing goalie. He’s focused intently on the face off, so he’s probably trying to influence the puck as it falls. Risky business because if the ref senses interference before the puck leaves his hand he can award a penalty shot. But on the flip side, it means the goalie is probably too intent on the face off to be paying attention to the ice in front of the crease.

Carter’s never tried to ward something that far away, but there’s nothing else to distract him at the moment. Why not risk it? Owen’s got him practising wards so much he could probably ward his childhood bedroom from Philly at this point.

It takes him a closer to thirty seconds and two attempts to set it up how he likes, but in the end he’s designed a long curve warding from just behind the Kings skater furthest from the linesman out towards the further goalpost. If the puck deflects in the right direction it should rattle right around the ward and sneak in through an easy empty goal based on the goalie’s position. Carter’s pretty pleased with himself for the idea, the ward doesn’t cross the crease at any stage and it's the biggest space he’s warded during an actual game. If his idea works he better make it onto a highlights reel of some kind.

The puck drops, and he was right. The goalie is interfering with the drops, likely has been all night. It’s one of the more subtle ways to influence a game but it’s definitely effective, because the puck flies straight down between the skates of the Kings centre where he deflects it back towards the player behind him.

Who immediately tries to force some movement towards centre ice and flings the puck recklessly over to his teammate next to Carter’s ward. The puck is going with some force towards the pair on the circle, Coots is still battling with his stick between the feet of the opposing player and it-

The puck slips through their battle and rockets round the curve of Carter’s ward in less time than it takes to blink. All of a sudden the whistle is blowing for a goal and they’re up 3-2 with six minutes left in the third. Carter leaps a little in the air as the horn sounds, punching up with his glove. It doesn’t matter that everyone seems too stunned to realise this is really his goal. That was some clever work, all done with wards. No glamours needed.

 

Carter’s still riding that high when the buzzer sounds for the end of the third period and the play never made it past centre ice. He’s grinning to himself in his stall as he thumps his head back and flushes with pride. The team are yelling about the goal in the third, his goal, and he’s getting all the more pleased with himself off their excitement.

Giroux takes one look at him and swears in delight. “That was you!”

The room fills with shouts as the team turn to see what their captain is shouting about. Carter nods shyly and accepts the sudden crushing hug G wraps around him. “How did you deflect the puck?!”

“I set up a ward when you were taking so long on the face off.” Carter grins down at his pads, unable to school his face into something cool and unfazed. He technically just scored a goal, even if they’ll never count it. His hands are still shaking with excitement.

“You’re a fuckin’ beauty, Hartsy.” TK points at him across the locker room. “You’re not buying a single drink tonight. Whatta rocket!”

 

He stops by his hotel room quickly before they head out to the bar to grab a fresh change of clothes and to attempt to tame his hair. If he was more organised he’d keep a second hairbrush in his gear bag, but the pit stop will hopefully give him enough time to stop grinning like an idiot. Owen wrapped him in the biggest bear hug, still sweaty from the game.

He’s feeling more than a little invincible when he gets to the lobby to meet for the Uber. No one else is down yet, so he goes to check his notifications and kill some time when-

tjarry5 wants to message you on instagram.

He almost doesn’t click on the notification. There’s no point letting that asshole ruin his night. But the desire to see what Jarry is saying about his game, his best game in the NHL so far, has him loading his dms faster than he can process the thought. It pops up with a new notification, tjarry5 has followed you! which he swipes away.

Nice goal tonight. Who knew wards could be that effective, I’ll need to keep that in mind in future.

What a fucking asshole. Who knew wards could be effective? Every goalie starting out in juniors! It’s one of the first uses of magic taught to any goalie. God, Carter could reach through the phone and strangle the smug look off Jarry’s face. His profile picture is obviously from the end of a game because his helmet’s pushed back off his face as he sprays water over himself. The photo has caught little droplets of water surrounding his hair as he shakes it out of his eyes. That asshole’s so full of himself, Carter can sense the superiority complex through the phone.

Well, Carter isn’t going to stoop as low as to copy Jarry’s style. He goes to close the app but in his frustration hearts the message instead. He locks his phone and presses the heel of his hand to his eyes. The urge to throw his phone as far across the lobby as he can manage simmers just below the surface of his control. He lets the frustration burn a little more intense and tries to focus it into a plan for their next game against the penguins. Maybe he can do something impressive in practise and get selected as starter for that game. Yeah, he’ll just have to wipe that smug smile off Jarry’s face in their next game. The anger gives way into determination, and the memory of his goal rushes over him again.

TK shouts across the lobby, “C’mon Harter Cart! Game winner shots!”

His warding is back at the point it had been before the draft, instinctual and automatic. He spends a chunk of their next practise selectively melting the ice beneath TK’s skates so he can’t bite down and push off. The ensuring Bambi style slide back to the bench has Coots almost in tears and gasping for breath.

“You’re having a bit more fun with it now,” Owen observes. His eyes don’t leave TK for a second as he collapses into the bench. “We should get you working on countering attacks with Moose later this week.”

“Mhmm,” Carter agrees absently. He’s mostly focused on pressing the bench door closed as TK tries to get back out on the ice. When he gives up and tries to swing himself over the boards he’s going to find another ward suspending him at board height over the ice. He can’t wait to hear TK’s squawk. “Do you know when my next start will be?”

“You didn’t hear it from me, but we’re thinking of giving you the two game roadie for Pens and Avs. We want to keep Moose fresh as we get closer to play-offs and there’s a back to back right after those games.”

Owen nudges Carter away towards the net. “For now we’ll work on your positioning. I think you’re leaving too much room when pressing in at the post for face offs.”

 

It turns out, it’s much harder to wipe the floor with Jarry when the Flyers are falling apart on the ice. It’s been almost half a period since they cracked the neutral zone and Carter’s barely had any time to reinforce his rapidly battered warding. If there’s another turnover before they’ve crossed the red line, he’s going to request a trade to a team that actually cares about defence.

He tries to generate a small gust of wind to push G ahead of the bodies in yellow, but it doesn’t get him much further ahead and leaves him stranded without anyone to pass to. At least they’re closer to the Penguins’s zone than his own this time, so he can try and boost the wards he set up at the start of the first period. They’re looking sore as hell and one has been completely split in two when Provy crashed through it earlier. He needs to try and work in something to let his guys pass through and keep out anyone else for his next attempt. Maybe a rule about the colours the player is wearing?

The wards back up, he flicks a look back up the ice. The puck is flying between his teammates as they hunt for a shooting lane. He needs to do something or risk them crashing back up the ice to his zone and undoing all his hard work with the wards.

There’s a flicker of disturbed light halfway between Giroux and the net. He’s just passed the puck instead of shooting, when he definitely had the best shot. When Coots snaps the puck straight back to him, he babies it between his skates rather than take the shot. Something is keeping him from shooting the lane, but based on the frustrated timbre in Coot’s voice no one else can see it. Carter definitely can’t see anything. Jarry must be working some spell.

If Carter focuses in on the space in front of Giroux he can see the shimmer in the air that indicates some magic is being worked. Jarry is sliding between his posts as the puck is passed round again, but every couple of seconds his head turns back to Giroux. He’s definitely trying to work some distraction in front of G.

Without knowing exactly what magic Jarry is working Carter can’t devise an exact counter spell, but maybe he can overwhelm the magic like he had the glamour. Something that won’t further block G’s vision like the snow shower. He summons a ball of light on the ice beneath the shimmer of magic, and begins to let the light rise and flicker through where he thinks the centre of the magic is. He keeps is low intensity to avoid blinding G and varies the angle the light shines at so the magic has to fight against the light at constantly changing angles.

Jarry’s distracted by a battle for the puck on the other side of the net, but he will notice the magic exhausting him soon. He needs to break the construct down quicker. Carter changes the colour of the light, stretching the shape so that it forms a circle glowing up from the ice. It stretches out at varying angles and colours like a disco ball to overwhelm the magic. He spins the circle faster, still trying to keep the intensity of the light low.

The air in the centre of the light shimmers and flickers out of existence for a long second. G seems to understand the magic is failing, and slams his stick on the ice demanding a pass. Carter spins his light faster again and the shimmer in the air explodes into nothing. The magic’s been depleted.

He extinguishes the light from the ice, praying G has time to fire the pass at the net before Jarry senses his magic is gone. The puck fires across the ice to G’s stick and he slaps it with all his strength towards the net, headed for the top corner with ease. It’d be a goal for the highlight reel in any other circumstance.

Jarry’s moving across the net before G’s even fully released the shot. His shoulder jumps up to close the gap between himself and the bar and he slams the shot away. The rebound bounces away towards the boards and the disappointed roar of the crowd surges all around them. Denied.

 

They lose by two goals and don’t manage to rack another point for the rest of the game. He can’t even feel proud of his magic this time round because in the end it was his shitty puck tracking that let the final goal slip past him. This is why he switched to goal as a kid, the idea of losing a game because of physical technique when his magic is going unused rankled him. He couldn’t bear going a full sixty minutes without using his magic to influence the game. It was too tempting to magically glue the puck to his stick as he attempted a wrap around. How do skaters manage to play without using their magic? He’ll never understand. Turns out, a high magic level pretty much guarantees you play goalie, especially when the nullifying bands the skaters wear make Carter feel seasick.

He’s one of the last to hit the showers tonight, so the locker room is mostly empty by the time he heads out towards the bus. He’s still fuming over that last goal when he almost trips over a pair of long legs stretched across the hall a few minutes down from the locker room. Jarry is leaning against the wall, leg almost reaching the centre of the hall and smiling across at Carter.

He grunts and steps around Jarry.

“You can throw your magic really far down the ice.” Jarry turns and falls into step with him as he walks. “If I want to do something past centre ice I need to anchor it when the subject’s close to me and let it travel. I haven’t seen many goalies throw their magic that down the rink.”

Carter doesn’t acknowledge he’s said anything. He can hear what Jarry means plain and simple. You can throw your magic as far down the ice as all that, but it's your technique in the physical game that lets you down. He heaves his duffle bag further up on his shoulder and tries to keep his cool.

“I heard your place in Canada’s not far from mine, we should get together in the off season. My family usually does a hog roast the first weekend I’m back. You should come for a week, and we can swap secrets.”

He sees red and clenches his fist around the duffle bag tighter than it needs. “Hopefully we’ll be in the playoffs that weekend,” he grits out with a tense jaw. “I’m not going to jinx the season and make plans this early.”

He strides off without a glance over at Jarry, who slows his pace at the entrance to the underground car park. “Yeah, if we make it to the playoffs we can plan it then. You’re right.”

Jarry drops a light slap on Carter’s shoulder and squeezes a little. “Good game. Looking forward to the next one.”

 

There’s a long glorious stretch of games right through February where they don’t go anywhere near the Penguins. Carter gets a back to back all to himself, wins them both, and eventually managed to get tapped for the default back up position. It's maybe not as glamorous as starting for the Penguins, but he likes watching Moose play. He’s got a steady deliberateness to his play style that doesn’t change no matter how dire the goal deficit gets.

Moose also doesn’t bother with more than one ward on his blocker side and instead focuses all his energy on boosting team moral and awareness of each other on the ice. Apparently his family has a long history of using magic in their therapy practise and his father runs some corporate retreat that uses magic in team building. It doesn’t make any sense to Carter, but Moose always smooths out the emotions of the team, and it leaves him feeling relaxed even on the bench.

He’s also got a knack for highlighting the puck as it flies across the ice that means they keep possession for most of the game, so it does work.

All this time on the ice has Carter exhausted when he makes it back to his apartment each night. He can’t stay awake through an entire film so he’s had to resort to scrolling through instagram while he waits for his dinner to heat in the oven. The Pens had a shut out the previous night against the Ducks and the official NHL account is posting countless clips of the bird on bird violence.

At his third straight shot of Jarry celebrating with his team he snaps and switches to twitter. It’s a little better. The leafs have had another multi-goal collapse, so that loud youtube guy is all over his feed yelling about it. As much as he hates doing post-game interviews, it has to beat watching someone yell until they’re blue in the face about your performance. Makes good entertainment for him though, so he saves the tweet to watch later.

He manages to forget hockey for a minute as he watches someone break down why someone in another one of those vampire shows chose the wrong twin. He hasn’t watched any of the shows and probably won’t ever, but he’s in total agreement with pens87 on the importance of biceps over jawline. He clicks on their profile to see if they’ve got any opinions about TV, that hopefully won’t get him chirped for being a teenage girl if the guys catch him watching, when he sees it.

It’s an oversaturated gif of the Duck’s bench on a line change. It almost looks perfectly normal except Getzlaf is climbing on and off the bench only meters apart from himself. There are two versions of the Captain on the ice at the same time.

He clicks the tweet and scrolls through the comments for an explanation. The Ducks got called for a too many men on the ice during a change in the second period, but the sixth man was the mysterious second Getzlaf. There’s a quote from Jarry’s post-game interview. “Yeah, I don’t know how that happens. I don’t think they’re allowed to have two captains at the same time.” It’s plastered over a video of Jarry’s interview as he smirks into the microphone.

Jarry duplicated a Ducks player to get a penalty. Holy shit.

He closes twitter and searches for the highlights video from that game. He needs to see the whole game play out. There it is in the second period, a bench penalty for too many men that doesn’t get questioned until it’s already being served. Someone high up in the Ducks organisation is going to be complaining about that one to the NHL. But the stop that really catches Carter’s eye is in the third, a face off in the Penguins zone where he catches a glimmer of a ward in the studio lights.

The ward curves between the crease and the skaters on the circle, curving away from the goal towards centre ice. Jarry’s stolen his trick and flipped it to funnel the puck up towards the Duck’s empty net. The puck rockets off Crosby’s stick back towards the ward, curving round and past the blue line before anyone can properly react. They must have practised this idea after Carter’s game. The Duck player gives chase, but Letang was prepared and takes off after the puck. He manages to shoot is square into the back of the net and Carter throws his phone away in disgust.

Jarry’s stole the move he chirped Carter for. This can’t stand.

He grabs the inevitable gif from the NHL twitter account, who definitely didn’t gif his original goal, and sends it through as a reply to Jarry’s instagram dm. Effective technique always wins over showing off, he writes. It’s not his best work but sue him, he’s tired. Let Jarry stew in the knowledge that he had to steal a ‘simple’ ward to win a game.

Jarry hearts the message a moment later. You gotta show me more of your secrets, I want another shut out.

He lets out a little scream of frustration, just a tiny one, and shoves his phone in his bedside table. When he gets his first NHL shut out he won’t need to steal another goalie’s tricks. He can do it without dirty tricks.

 

Giroux finds him on the stationary bike a few days later, cycling at a more half assed pace that he really should be letting himself get away with. G stops by the bike with a sly smile and waggles his phone at Carter. “Tanger just sent me a photo of Jarry, d’you want to see?” He doesn’t wait for an answer and thrusts the phone under Carter’s nose.

It’s Jarry, in a fairly dark room similar to the ones they use for video review. He’s got three screens in front of him playing Flyers tape, all three shots of Carter in net. He flushes and fumbles the phone back at Giroux. “He’s going to have to watch a lot of tape to catch up,” he declares, but the tips of his ears burn with embarrassment.

G’s laugh haunts him as he disappears out of the gym, phone to his ear and rapid French already rattling down the phone.

 

Carter is sitting in the players lounge, working his way through a disgusting green smoothie that the team nutritionist suggested he try. He’s not entirely sure that it wasn’t a prank TK set up in revenge for testing his spells on him during practise but Sarah’s too nice to question. He doesn’t want to risk making her feel bad. He has his phone open to his instagram dms, and he’s thinking about doing something stupid.

He flicks his wrist and flips the phone in the air, catching it smoothly with one hand. Maybe juggling would be something good to pick up in the off season. He’s heard it’s good to improve puck tracking. The phone lands and unlocks to his face recognition to display the instagram page again. Fuck it, he can’t tell Sarah he hates her smoothie but he can at least try and throw Jarry off his game.

we need to up the stakes for tonights game, he writes. Put some money on the table to make it dangerous.

Jarry types for a few seconds, but the bubble disappears. Eventually a single question mark comes through to prompt Carter to come up with the stakes for the bet. He can’t really put too much on it, he’s still in his first year in the NHL and doesn’t really have too much to spare. Maybe it should be about ego, maybe he could steal one of Jarry’s spells in return.

Loser tonight needs to buy dinner and explain a spell of the winners choosing. There, he can swallow his ire for a dinner if it means he gets something out of it. He waits for Jarry’s incredibly slow typing again and sends a thumbs up in response to his agreement. He needs to finish this smoothie and concentrate on the game ahead. This one counts like no other has before.

 

The crowd in the arena is louder than it has been all season. The Flyers are two wins away from clinching a playoff spot, the Penguins are currently second in the division and are guaranteed to be going to the post season this year. Even during their warm-ups the crowd is screaming themselves hoarse as he circles their half of the ice watching the sea of faces above him.

He pulls the helmet down over his face as they leave the tunnel and tries to block out the noise. He stretches one last final time as the skaters prepare themselves on the ice and hunches himself over for the puck drop. His wards spring up strong and healthy as soon as the game begins, and it’s good Owen has him working on them every practise because the play immediately breaks towards the Flyers end.

He manages to get a piece of the shot and deflects it high over the net, but it's not going to be that easy for long. Carter busies himself pouring some extra strength into his wards, but he notices that a Pittsburgh forward avoids the ward by mere inches the next time they try and enter the zone. In fact, most of the players seem to have picked up on his favourite ward locations because they’re barely getting touched in all of the first period.

It obviously calls for a shake up, so he waits until the next zone entry to mess with the ice between his two wards. He pulls out a trick he hasn’t used since Juniors and adds an adhesive layer of magic on the ice, primed and ready to grab that puck until he tells it to let go. He manages to stop the puck right as Malkin moves to control it, slipping it under his moving body and remaining stationary for Coots to scoop up and steal.

The crowd roars in approval as Coots charges through the neutral zone. Malkin’s barely even realised the puck is missing by the time Coots crosses the centre line ahead of two of the Penguins skaters. Carter thumps the ice with this stick and lets out a yell of excitement. The momentum is starting to shift in the Flyers’ direction.

They enter the third period up by one, in a tight game. The hasn’t been much time to reset between plays as the puck has been travelling up and down the ice all night. He is getting tired with how much he needs to renew his magic, but they’re almost finished. Five more minutes without letting in a goal, and they’ll be one win away from the playoffs in his first year.

A dumb penalty has TK in the box for two minutes, and a face off far too close to Carter’s net for his liking. TK really knows how to make things more difficult than they need to be. He leans down to against the post, rubbing his blocker against the smooth metal when a thought occurs to him. He can’t ward the net, but he can encourage the puck to avoid it. Like trying to force two magnets together that don’t want to be. He has to visualize the idea in his mind as he infuses the pole with magic because he’s never tried something like this before. There’s no textbook method to repel pucks.

G wins the face off and they take off towards centre ice, but another turnover soon has a Penguin flying down towards Carter at the side of the ice on a breakaway. There’s no one in reaching distance to stop the skater, so Carter slides out of his crease by a foot or two and tries to block the skater’s angles. He strikes out with his stick a second too late and the puck glides over his outstretched arm at the unprotected net. He’s given the game up, they’re going to overtime.

Only, the post rings in a deafening vibrato. The puck comes flying back out, full speed towards the boards and ricochets away from the net. Carter charges back to cover the net, but his defence are here to fling the puck up to the Penguin’s end.

They kill the last of TK’s penalty, and suddenly the final buzzer is sounding. They’ve won the game and got one step closer to the playoffs, and he’s got one game over on Jarry. The bubbly elation keeps him grinning wide the whole way through post game media, he even joins in when TK points his water bottle at him during the country sing along he usually pretends he doesn’t know all the words to.

He fires the address of the restaurant he chose in a message to Jarry, and has to make his excuses to avoid heading out drinking. Luckily he still can’t get served unless they go to a Flyers bar due to his baby face, and he’s just received the nod to start for tomorrow’s away game in Pittsburgh. TK deems that enough to let him off the hook tonight. He drives himself to the restaurant and lets the hostess seat him.

It’s a nice place, he feels a little underdressed in his plain game day suit. If he’d wanted to really impress Jarry he’d have asked G where he got his patterned three-piece. Probably best he asks Ryanne, apparently G’s really cleaned up since he got into a serious relationship. Apparently being in love means buying nicer suits to take your wife on expensive dinner dates.

He’s so distracted by that train of thought that he almost misses Jarry seating himself across the table. He forces himself to smile back at Jarry as he sits down. “Good game,” Jarry says across the table. “I can’t believe you pulled a sticky ice spell in an NHL game. Sid’s probably still ranting about it in the hotel.”

Carter fidgets uncomfortably with the soft corner of the menu page. He’s suddenly incredibly glad he didn’t choose a French restaurant because the idea of attempting to pronounce any level of French in front of Jarry makes him lose his appetite. Jarry’s still talking about the reaction to the sticky ice spell.

“Yeah, I thought Sid was going to turn purple after the game. He hates being outsmarted by magic so bad.”

Carter closes the menu with a firm snap, making Jarry jump a little. “I had to try something. Your skaters were avoiding my wards.”

“Oh yeah, why do you always put them in the exact same place? Even Tanger noticed. I watched a bunch of tape, and you haven’t changed that once all season. Even in your AHL games!” Jarry flashes a sharp grin. “You’ve got to try changing it up more. That sticky ice was a great move.”

He can feel a hot flush burning up through his cheeks and the tips of his ears. “It’s the way I was always taught to ward the circles, every coach always recommends that 2-5pm coverage angle. Don’t you get statistics like that?”

“I don’t really play that consistently so its not worth learning the textbook methods. I want to surprise myself on the ice each time. That way no one gets wise to my tricks.” Jarry gives Carter a thoughtful look over the menu. “Except you. You’re somehow predictable and surprising at the same time.”

 

Dinner is surprisingly nice for two rival goalies. Jarry doesn’t want to talk hockey after their starters come to the table and refuses any attempts for Carter to squeeze a secret out of him over food. “I’ve spent all day talking hockey, let’s talk about something else.”

He makes Carter snort wine across the table at his story of how his magic first manifested. “-and every kept screaming at me to put him down but I had no idea how to put him on the ground without dropping him. Shut up, I was six!” Jarry drops his head into his hands as Carter desperately tries to mop his wine up discretely. “No one tells you how to avoid levitating your baby brother and magical control classes don’t start for another couple of years normally. My dad had to hold a blanket under him while my mom called the fire department. They swung a ladder of the backyard and carried him down. I think it traumatized mom for a long time because she didn’t have another barbecue until I’d done a year of control classes.”

“I’ve been trying to learn guitar for the past couple years,” Carter says. “I like the idea of being good at something I don’t use magic for.”

Jarry nods in agreement. “It’s pretty weird coming home during the summer and barely using magic, I use it every day in Pittsburgh. I came to training camp last year completely rusty so I had to get exercises to practise every week. I just like spending time without it when I can.”

 

“Definitely change the colour of the gatorades at practise.” Jarry laughs. “Watching Malkin freak out because his red bottle tasted like blue was worth the waste in magic.”

 

Before he’s really noticed the time fly in, the waiter is less politely reminding them the cheque has been waiting on the table for ten minutes and the restaurant surrounding them is empty and dark. “Sorry, I talked all night. I didn’t even give you that trick you wanted.” Jarry says, sliding his card into the cheque.

“I can drive you back to your hotel and we can talk about it in the car.” Carter leads the way out the restaurant and towards his car. “I want to know what you were doing to mess with G last time.”

“Definitely, I owe you that spell.” Jarry guides him to the hotel parking and into the elevator. “You can’t keep working with only wards.” His hand slides down to the curve of Carter’s back, guiding him along the hall to Jarry’s hotel room. The timbre of his voice is low and soothing as he leads the way into the hotel room.

Carter’s hovering a little awkwardly in the entrance to the room, half thinking of the early flight to Pittsburgh in the morning. Jarry shrugs his suit jacket to the armchair and turns back to face Carter. He reaches out for Carter’s hand and takes it from his side when Carter doesn’t move to reach back. This, this is not how he thought sharing spells would go.

“I can transfer the spell idea, just let me show you.” Jarry drags him over to sit side by side on the bed and keeps a firm hold on Carter’s hand. His eyes flutter closed and suddenly Carter’s no longer in the hotel room. He’s on the ice, beside the net and watching G set himself up for a shooting lane to the net.

“I’m really good at manipulating light,” Jarry murmurs. “It’s my favourite style. I have a niece who makes me do shadow puppet shows every birthday so creating an image of Tanger was pretty easy. The difficult bit was making it so only Giroux could see it.”

Carter glides forward and examines the rippling image of Letang. It moves a little as if it’ll block off G’s passing lane when Carter’s counter-attack begins to break through the magic. “You can move it like a real person?”

“No, it’s mostly a memory of him that I’m replaying. It’s from a practise I think, I try and take a couple of memories like this every year so I can try something like this. It’s really hard to keep them fresh enough to use without being obviously a construct.”

The mind share finishes and Carter gets the intense sensation of being pulled back into his own body. He tries to avoid mind shares normally because the feeling of returning to yourself is really disorientating. “I can’t believe you can do all that while playing.” He’s a little bitter at the thought. If Jarry can do all that why does he need to steal Carter’s wards?

Jarry tugs Carter’s hand a little so he looks over. He’s met with a kiss, Jarry still holding him with one hand and the other hand comes up to cup his jaw. The kiss is firm and roots him to the spot on the bed, a building want coming with the press of Jarry’s lips against his. The kiss lets up and Jarry moves to sit back but Carter doesn’t waste any time. He follows the retreat of Jarry’s face and recaptures him in a kiss that’s a lot filthier than the last.

Jarry’s hands are loose now, pulling his shirt from where it was tucked into his dress pants and one warm hand sliding under his shirt. The sensitive skin at his side makes him twitch further into Jarry’s space and let out a little gasp. He wants to feel skin on skin urgently, like he’ll chicken out of this mess as soon as his brain catches up with his body.

Jarry guides him down onto the mattress, pressing himself over Carter and pinning him with his weight at the hips. His shirt gets unbuttoned and struggled out of between biting and kissing along Jarry’s long neck. He has to give up on his task when Jarry leans back and lifts off him so he focuses on escaping his own dress pants as quickly as he can without the awkward stop to undo his shoes properly. Jarry helps him slide out of his boxers, still half dressed himself, but there’s no chance to do anything about that before the first lick along his hardening dick.

His head drops back against the mattress as he chases the feeling of the tongue on the underside of his cock. He isn’t kept waiting for long as the head gets enveloped in a wet heat, the inquisitive swipe at the slit encouraging him to groan loudly.

“Fuck, Jarry,” his voice sounds wrecked already. One hand winds into the Jarry’s neat hair and flexes his hand. He wants more.

Jarry looks up for a second and pulls off. “You can call me Tristan when I’m blowing you.” He swallows Carter’s cock again, taking Carter deeper this time until his lips meet his fingers as they work Carter’s dick. The wet tightness combined with the quick strokes of Ja- Tristan’s hand work him over until he’s curled up from the mattress.

His hand flexes in Tristan’s hair and his pumps his hips shallowly into the heat of his mouth. Tristan pulls his head away from Carter’s hand as his fingers tighten and tug at his hair, but from the resulting moan it’s probably what Tristan wanted. He wraps his fingers through the hair more securely and uses it to direct Tristan’s movement on his dick.

Guiding Tristan’s head down in time with the upwards grind of his hips is probably what does him in, if not the twist of Tristan's hand. He’s so overwhelmed he doesn’t let go until he’s collapsed back onto the bed, a little shivery from the air conditioning. His dick is still softening against his stomach as Tristan kneels over him again, hand working himself furiously.

“Fuck, yes Carter.” Tristan’s eyes look bright as he takes in the wrecked mess of Carter. “I’ve wanted to do that for so long.” He punctuates that with a broken moan as he comes over Carter’s stomach.

 

Carter’s barely recovered when he catches sight of the clock on the beside table. He rolls up to his feet and through the half open bathroom door to grab a wash cloth. Jarry’s still on his back but he squints up at Carter with one eye as he redresses. It’s kind of arrogant the way he silently watches Carter dress for his walk of shame down to the car park.

As Carter’s hand reaches for the hotel room door he hears Jarry call after him. “Same bet for tomorrow’s game?”

He snorts, and bites out, “You’ll need to make an effort if you want to win this one.” Jarry’s laugh is cut off by the swing of the door shutting behind him. He needs to win the next game and wipe Jarry’s confident smile off his face.

 

Before their game in Pittsburgh, Jarry warms up next to the centre line. It completely throws Carter off his stride as he does a quick lap of their half of the rink but the greeting Jarry throws out nearly makes him stumble. He squeaks out something resembling a hello and has to skate away near his net before he does something worse, like ask Jarry how he’s doing. He throws himself into pre-game stretches like it’s his salvation and barely breaks concentration long enough to listen to TK chirping Malkin.

His hands are clammy in his gear and he feels like he’s forgotten how to skate. Fuck, how did last night get so far away from him? He had the upper hand! He won their game, he got the spell from Jarry and yet any time he looks in the other goalie’s direction he stumbles. On ice. How does one blowjob - admittedly one he’ll be replaying in his head for a while - knock him so far off his game? Is this how Jarry intimidates the competition?

The whole game is off on the wrong foot from the first whistle. He manages to throw up his wards in their usual locations with no problem, even adjusts the length of them so that they cover a greater angle of the circle, but they flicker and drop out of existence so frequently it’s like he didn’t even bother setting them up. He can’t even pretend to be focused on the action further up the ice because as soon as he looks away from the wards he looses them.

He has to abandon the wards after the first period, and doesn’t even bother setting them back up. Any spell that takes subconscious maintenance is past him at the moment. He decides to focus on countering Jarry’s spells and avoid casting anything too complicated of his own after his second attempt at sticky ice doesn’t dissolve when G picks up the puck and results in a turnover back into Pittsburgh possession.

It takes him more time than it should to notice the disorientation spell confusing the direction of play. Coots circles back into his own end twice without losing possession and its only Provy shouting at him that makes Carter realise something’s wrong. There’s a slight fog in centre ice gather around the shins of the players and it seems to be preventing any play getting into the Penguins end. The fog is dispelled with a gust of wind across the ice, but TK is carried with it behind the Penguins net before Carter can get it back under control.

They scramble to the third period somehow only down 2-1, but the mood in the locker room between periods is subdued. TK bumps him in the tunnel on the way out but even TK’s normally cheery attitude is gone. This is their opportunity to make it to the playoffs and they’re ruining it. He can’t be the reason they miss out on the playoffs.

He keeps his magic to himself in the third. Carter doesn’t bother with his wards and just keeps his mine purely on the physical game. He focuses his attention on the puck, tracking its movement and tries to avoid getting caught up in watching the action. It means he doesn’t see the play immediately before it, but he sees G throw a perfect pass right through traffic to the Flyer on the far side of the ice. The player turns on his heel and carries the puck unguarded into the neutral zone. His uniform flickers and changes from Flyers orange to Penguins yellow. Crosby has the puck and a head start.

G doesn’t even react and keeps skating down towards the Pittsburgh end while the rest of the play moves in Carter’s direction. It leaves Crosby half a stride ahead of the closest Flyer, and he’s got plenty of time to set the shot up how he wants. Carter doesn’t trust himself to throw up wards at the last second, so he zeroes in on the stick and tries to anticipate the play as it’s made.

He can’t. The puck fires between his legs and sets off the goal horn. 3-1. The overwhelming feeling of bitter anger fills his chest as he watches Crosby celebrate that goal like it was the first of the night. It takes everything he’s got to resist the urge to break his stick but there’s a sick feeling of relief when the coach pulls him with six minutes to go in the third.

It doesn’t make the empty netter any easier to watch from the bench.

 

If the locker room was subdued after the second period, it’s silent as they change after the third. Even TK is keeping to himself rather than try and pump anyone’s tires after that mess of a game. They’ve got another red eye flight in the morning to get back and prepare for their last chance at clinching their spot against the Canucks. All Carter wants to do it collapse into his bed and pretend he has never heard of hockey before he falls asleep.

He doesn’t even make it far out the locker room before a hand clasps on his arm.

He spins round to find himself face to face with Jarry, who releases his arm when he catches sight of Carter’s expression. The faltering step back he takes in response is a bit overkill for a guy willing to fuck someone to win a hockey game. Carter hisses through his teeth at Jarry. “What do you want?”

“Our dinner? The bet?” Jarry’s brow furrows a little. “Do you want to call it off?”

“I don’t want to go to dinner with the guy who just beat me, I thought that’d be obvious!” Carter can’t believe the cheek of this guy, trying to collect on a bet after that game. He’s overly conscious of the locker room behind him full of his team, all of whom don’t have any clue he’s even been talking to Jarry. His team who don’t know he’s effectively doubled the effects of this loss because he has to give up another of his spells. This whole thing was his idea, his arrogance. He wishes he’d let his grandad teach him teleportation so he could escape.

“Are you ok, you seem really upset?” Jarry catches Carter’s elbow lightly and tries to tug them closer. Carter freezes in place and refuses to move any closer so Jarry ends up stepping a little further into Carter’s space. “We don’t have to do the bet thing, I can cook you something at my place.”

That short circuits Carter’s brain for a moment. “Why would we still do dinner if there’s no bet?” He had been previously trying to keep his voice down to avoid his nosy teammates a few rooms down the hall, but the end of that sentence escapes in a pitch a few levels higher than he intended.

This time Jarry really does frown. “I figured after last night. You said you wanted to keep the bet going, I thought that mean you wanted more.”

“Of course I wanted to keep the bet going, I won the last one!” Carter has to take a deep breath to stop himself from yelling. Jarry frowns over at him, and Carter takes stock of their positions. Jarry has a hand resting lightly on his arm, a featherlight touch on his elbow. He’s holding car keys in the other hand - was he coming over to the Flyers locker room to offer Carter a lift to the restaurant?

Jarry’s smile slides off his face and he drops the touch on Carter’s elbow. “We can drop the bet. I’m sure you’ve got an early flight tomorrow.” He pulls all the way back and turns to take a half step down the hall.

Carter watches him go in disbelief. What the was that about?

“You not going out with Jarry?” G pops his head through the locker room door.

Carter whirls on the spot to look at his captain. “You knew about that?”

“Kid, I was the one who told him your favourite restaurants. I thought you’d be happier about it seeing the amount of tape you watch. I’ve seen you blush at his highlight reel.”

Oh, that makes a few more pieces fall into place. Jarry was nice at dinner because he wanted to be. Because he liked Carter. He’s torn between punching himself and screaming. Even G figured it out before him, which probably explains the French phone calls he keeps overhearing. God, does Letang know?

“But, he’s a Penguin?” The excuse sounds a little hollow even to himself considering how much delight G’s managed to wring out of this mess. “I thought we hated them.”

“On the ice, sure.” G shrugs. “If you want to take the rivalry to bed that’s your choice. I don’t want to hear about it.”

“Oh.” Carter’s maybe a bit of an idiot. Maybe a lot more than a bit if he thinks back over the season.

 

It’s about halfway down to the parking garage under the rink that Carter’s beginning to realise how stupid a plan this is. He has no idea what car Jarry drives, or if he’ll even still be in the garage. The panic makes him put on an extra surge of speed so he skids to a stop next to a neon car a little sweaty and completely sure his hair is a mess. It’s not how he normally does these things.

Jarry’s peering up at him from the far side of the car. He taps the window gently and leans in when it rolls down. He tries to smile widely at Jarry for a half second before he realises he’s supposed to be grovelling. Sue him, he’s just found out his rivalry was actually flirting. Jarry clears his throat and Carter becomes suddenly aware he’s just been staring, half leaning through the window.

“I thought you were trying to sabotage my game.” He starts and rushes to fill the silence as Jarry’s face contorts. “I didn’t realise that you weren’t until a minute ago, I was really focused on winning the bet. I thought you were trying to throw me off my game for tonight and when it worked I was so pissed.”

Jarry shoots him a glare. “You think I paid for dinner and blew you because I wanted you to lose a game?” He looks about half a second from rolling the car window back up and driving off. “Last night wasn’t about the game, I went on that date because I wanted to.”

Carter needs to take a minute to unpack that. How the hell did Jarry think that was a date? Was that a date? That was about the bet, and the bet was about proving he was the better goalie and getting justice for uncomplicated magic styles. There’s nothing romantic about dinner and a blowjob.

“What?” he croaks out. “That wasn’t, uh, that wasn’t a date.”

“Then explain kissing me back.” Jarry peers in at Carter past the hand covering his face. “And it’s Tristan, yeah?”

“I-” He can’t explain it. Because it definitely was him initiating the second kiss last night, and he didn’t pull away from anything that had happened afterwards. God, maybe that was a date. “What if it was a date?”

“Then I’m trying to go on another one.” Jarry hasn’t moved any closer, but his voice sounds amused. “I’ll even let you off the hook from teaching me a spell, I already know how to ward.”

“Fuck you,” but there’s no heat in his voice. He drops his hand from his face and looks hesitantly over at Tristan. “You’re the one who stole my spell.”

There’s a click as the car door unlocks and he pulls it open, flinging himself into the seat. Tristan’s about a half second from rolling his eyes, he looks so fond Carter wants to kiss the expression right off his face. He leans across the centre console and slides a hand around the back of Tristan’s neck.

“Uh, this is a date.” He has to force himself to make eye contact. He feels a little silly being nervous when he’s the one who was this late to the relationship. “I’d like this to be a date.”