Carter skated over to the bench and took his mask off. He ran a hand through his hair before he squirted some Gatorade onto his head. He hoped it would cool him down some. He was pleased when it seemed to work a little. He ran a hand through his hair again, shaking off the sweat when it came out. Carter sighed, knowing that the Gatorade wouldn’t help keep him cool for very long. All the lateral and chaotic movement in his crease would make his body temperature rise again in no time.
He was about to skate back to the crease when Patty tapped him on the shoulder. Carter went to ask what his centerman wanted but Patty beat him to the punch by pointing up towards the Jumbotron. Carter looked in that direction, his entire body heating up for an entirely different reason when he saw what was on the screen.
The ‘Kiss Cam’ frame was pictured and Carter and referee Kevin Hayes were the two people displayed inside of it. Carter hadn’t even realized that Kevin had been behind him. Slowly, Carter turned and saw Kevin standing a foot or two away. He had his hands in his pockets and his head was tucked into his chest. Carter skated over and tilted Kevin’s head up with his glove. Kevin swallowed audibly as he looked into Carter’s eyes.
“Stop me if you don’t want this, alright?” Carter said before he leaned forward and connected his lips with Kevin’s.
Carter felt Kevin hesitate. That made Carter consider pulling back. He was about to when Kevin took his hands and grabbed onto the back of Carter’s jersey, gripping on as if his life depended on it. Carter smirked into the kiss, ramping up the intensity.
They kissed like that, Kevin death-gripping Carter’s jersey and Carter devouring Kevin’s lips, until the other referee blew his whistle. When they pulled back from each other, Kevin looked amused with Carter. He didn't say anything as he skated to the faceoff circle to the left of Carter’s goal crease to get into position. Carter blinked in surprise before he made his way back to the crease to get ready himself.
After the puck was dropped, the play continued for a good five minutes before Mikko Koskinen made a miraculous save. Even though he wasn't supposed to, Carter tapped his stick on the ice to show Koskinen that he was impressed. Goalies supported goalies after all.
Another commercial break commenced shortly after that. Carter skated back to the Flyers bench to see if any of the coaching staff had anything to say to him. None of them had anything of real importance; that left Carter to talk to his teammates for a few moments before he had to return to the crease. He was chuckling along to something that Teeks said when Teeks pointed up to the Jumbotron.
Once again, Carter's image was plastered in the ‘Kiss Cam’ frame alongside Kevin. This time, however, it was Kevin that initiated the kiss. It lasted for a little longer than the other one had. When they pulled back, Carter wanted to trail his blocker along his lips; he refrained because the middle of Wells Fargo, during a game no less, wasn’t the place to do that.
Moose took his glove and jostled Carter’s mask. Carter stuck his tongue out at Moose, muttering something about 'what are the chances' before he skated back to his crease. All he could hear was the bench catcalling him. He shook his head, feeling his entire body burn red-hot, as he readied himself in the crease.
Carter made a save a few minutes later off a shot that whizzed in from Connor McDavid. Connor skated up to the crease and put his hand on Carter's shoulder.
"Why don't you get his number, Hartsy?" Connor chuckled.
As Connor skated back to the Oilers bench, Carter stood there and pondered that for a moment. He felt himself swallow thickly when he realized that he did, in fact, want Kevin's number. Kissing Kevin had been so amazing that Carter wanted to kiss him again and again and again for as long as Kevin would let him.
Lonnie Cameron shook his head as he retrieved the puck from Carter's glove.
"Ask him on a date instead." Lonnie chuckled. "He likes pasta a lot."
Lonnie patted Carter's glove and smiled before he skated over to the faceoff circle.
Carter shook his head to try to clear his thoughts; all he needed to focus on right now was playing--and winning--this game against the Oilers. He could figure everything with Kevin out after.
By the time intermission rolled around, Carter had mostly pushed the thoughts of the kisses out of his head. He still had a couple of lingering feelings about them, namely the fact that he swore he could still feel the taste of Kevin's lips against his. It wasn't helping him focus fully on the game as he walked down the tunnel towards the Flyers locker room.
Just as he was about to walk in, he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned around and saw Kevin standing there. Kevin was wringing his hands together and shifting from foot to foot. Carter looked back and forth down the hall a couple of times before he backed Kevin against the wall. Kevin made a surprised noise but smirked when Carter placed his glove and blocker on either side of his head.
"I knew I read you right," Kevin said before he leaned forward to capture Carter's lips in a kiss.
Kevin brought his hands up and gripped the front of Carter's jersey, pulling him in as close as he could manage. Carter grunted, stumbling a little. He felt Kevin smirk into the kiss as he brought his hands underneath Carter's jersey to run along his underarmour. Carter shivered, pulling back.
He rested his head against Kevin's shoulder, taking a deep breath. Kevin pat the Flyers crest on the jersey and sucked at the pulse point on Carter's neck. Carter groaned, intaking another deep breath. He stepped back after a moment to look at Kevin.
Kevin had a confident smile on his face as he reached into his pocket. He pulled out a piece of paper and a pen. Carter blinked, wondering why he would even be carrying those if he was a referee. Kevin waved a dismissive hand at the confused look on Carter's face. Carter rolled his eyes as he watched Kevin write down a phone number.
"Anytime you wanna go out on a date, you text me."
"Yeah… yeah. I can do that," Carter said as Kevin placed the paper in Carter's glove. "Thank you, Hayes."
Kevin leaned forward and kissed Carter's cheek. He patted Carter's chest before smiling.
"Call me Kevin," he said. "But only off the ice. I'm still Hayes or Hayesy on the ice."
Carter smiled and nodded. He placed a kiss on Kevin's cheek before he patted Kevin's chest with his blocker.
"I need to get back," Carter said, motioning his head toward the locker room door. "Thank you for this, Kevin. I appreciate it."
Kevin nodded before he walked away and turned the corner towards the officials' room. Carter took a moment to gather himself before he walked into the locker room.
When he sat down in his stall, his entire team started whistling and catcalling him. As soon as Carter took his mask off, Moose reached over from the stall next to him and ruffled his hair. His backup goalie also shoved him playfully a couple of times, patting Carter's back for good measure.
Carter felt a sense of serenity wash over him as he watched his teammates show their support for him. He didn't see an ounce of hatred from anyone in the room. They were all smiling and cheering for him; some even chanting his name.
His team meant more to him than they would ever know. And for that, he was grateful to have their love and support in return. The Philadelphia Flyers were his family. And Carter wouldn't have it any other way.