the team trauma

table of contents

FEB 28, 2003, 8:47 PM San Francisco, California

A goalie’s crease is not supposed to be painted red. It’s supposed to be blue, of course. The Blades goalie seems perplexed at the recent development.

“Fuck!” A voice shouts, panicked. A defenseman. Blueliners are always shouting so much. He throws off his gloves, presses his hands over the goalie’s, firm. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”

The Blades are wearing their alternate jerseys tonight. Black with red, reminiscent of the Golden Gate in the evening, the dark stains like clouds ripping the sky apart.

“Just—just hang on, okay? Skate with me. We need you off the ice.” He’s panicking, his hands covered in blood, voice hoarse from screaming for medics. “Stay with me. Hang on. Please.”

He leaves behind a long red cut in the ice as he skates towards the exit. Steel is unforgiving.

“Please don’t…” He begs, his hands shaking. Blood is still pouring through between his fingers.

“I’ll be okay.” The goalie reassures him quietly, before collapsing in his arms.

SEPT 14, 2017, 11:24 AM Montreal, Quebec

Angel stirs at the daylight finally hitting his face. He groans and turns over, stuffing his face into a pillow. He grunts, wiggling into a more comfortable resting position. It’s marginally better, now that the sun isn’t in his face.

His body feels oddly sore. It’s not the same kind of sore following a practice or a game, it’s more unpleasant, more pronounced. Like someone’s sticking their fingers between his ribs. Or down his throat.

“You awake, Ángel?” A familiar voice asks.

Angel snaps his head up, startled. Not many people bother to pronounce his name like that. Including himself. He blinks a few times before recognizing the person sitting next to him in bed.

“Zhenya?” He mumbles, staring at his teammate. “Did we fuck? Why are you in my bed?”

Well, she is pretty, even with her tired eyes, brown messy hair. Pretty, even in a plain white tank top and shorts, tight around her figure. Angel glances down at her cleavage. Zhenya gently smacks him with a pillow.

“Angie, I love you, but you know I’m a lesbian.” She says, exasperated but firm. “And you’re in my guest bed, idiot.”

“Right, sorry, sorry. Did you peg me?” Angel asks, pushing the pillow off his face. It would explain the aches in his lower body. He looks back up at her, grinning, but she doesn’t seem quite as amused.

Her brows are furrowed, her dark brown eyes upset. “Angie.”

“Sorry…” Angel mumbles. She would usually laugh at that.

“You really don’t remember anything?” She continues. “Jakey dropped you off here last night, because…”

Angel stares at her as she trails off. Zhenya avoids his eyes. She sniffles, wipes her face with the back of her hand.

“Are… are you crying?” Angel tries to sit up, to try and comfort her, but the soreness in his ribs flashes into a sharp and painful sensation. He hisses, then falls back into the mattress, squeezing his eyes shut.

“Shit, shit, are you okay? Don’t move too much.” Zhenya panicks, scrambling to get something off the nightstand. There’s a distinct rattle of pills in a bottle. “They prescribed you painkillers. I was supposed to give you one an hour ago, but you were still asleep…”

“It’s… it’s okay.” Angel manages to say through shallow breaths. He feels his eyes water from the strange, imploding pain in his chest. “I don’t need them.”

“Not the time to try and look strong.” Zhenya says, sniffling. “Take your fucking medicine.”


She hands him a single white pill and a straw-top water bottle. Angel takes it dutifully. His throat feels awful as the water goes down.

Zhenya takes the water bottle back, places it back on the nightstand. She sighs and touches his hand. “What do you remember from last night?”

“Nothing.” Angel says, softly. “I don’t know what happened.”

“You were at the optional practice yesterday morning.” She says. “We had lunch with Jakey, then he drove you back to your place.”

Angel vaguely remembers going to a morning skate. “Then?”

She looks down at his hand, poking it. Angel catches her palm. Zhenya sighs, laces her fingers between his. “You really don’t remember anything?”

He wants to sigh too, but knows it’ll hurt. Angel keeps his voice steady. “I really don’t remember anything.”

“Angie…” She murmurs. “Dylan hurt you.”

Angel’s frown deepens. “Dylan?”

Zhenya shifts, uncomfortable, staring back at Angel’s hand in hers. “Our teammate… your roommate. You’ve been living with him for the past year?”

He shakes his head.

“White guy? Shitty mullet?” She offers, like it would narrow it down. Half of the Eastern Conference could fit that description.

“Maybe it’ll come back to me.” Angel murmurs. “Still feeling off.”

“Right. You’re concussed.” Zhenya squeezes his hand before letting go. “You should rest a bit more. I’m gonna grab lunch for us.”

“Okay.” Angel says. “See you.”

“I’ll be back in about twenty.” She leaves the room, closes the door behind her quietly.

After a couple minutes of staring at the ceiling, Angel notices that his chest doesn’t ache as much as he breathes. That’s nice. He finally sighs, the pain reduced back into a small ache.

He knows it’s stupid, but he props himself up on his elbows, adjusts into a sitting position. His back is definitely complaining, but it’s bearable enough.

There’s a mirror in the corner of the room that he sees himself in. He understands why Zhenya was so… upset.

Angel looks awful.

There’s bruising on his face, his neck, his chest. The colors are sore, sickly browns and blues. He’s got a shiner on his left eye. Swollen and purple.

“Fucking hell,” Angel mutters, touching his face, observing himself in the mirror.

His jaw aches as he presses his fingers into his stubble. He considers getting out of bed to inspect himself closer, but a faint shock of pain in his ribs reminds him that he shouldn’t move much.

His phone rings, buzzing against the nightstand. He lets it ring for a couple seconds, still busy with staring at himself in the mirror, like a fucked-up Narcissus.

It stops ringing. Shortly after, there’s a chime. A text. Angel considers ignoring it as well, but he sees the contact name.

Call me back when ur awake

Guilt hits Angel immediately. He yanks his phone off the charging cable to call him back. “Jakey?”

“Hey, kid.” Jakey greets. His usually gruff voice sounds relieved. “I’m getting your things from your old place packed up. Did you leave anything in Dylan’s room?”

That name again. Angel briefly considers telling him that he has no idea who that is, but that would probably worry him.

“Nothing important, I’m sure,” he says instead.

“Right…” Jakey murmurs back, doubtful, but not pressing. He quickly moves on. “Well. That was all. I’ll drop by later with your stuff.”


“Of course. Get some rest.” He says. “See you in a bit.”

“Okay. Bye, love you.” Angel says, automatically. After a brief pause of realization, he groans and considers throwing his phone across the room.

Jakey just laughs. “Love you too, Angel.”

There’s a click when he hangs up. Angel’s chest hurts again.

SEPT 14, 2017, 10:44 AM San Francisco, California

The Blades’ general manager is in their office flipping through their pile of faxes when they spot something out of place. A trade contract. They’d apparently signed it and gotten it approved by both the Wanderers’ front office and the NHA’s lawyers.

They pick it up and inspect it, then slam it down on the desk in frustration. A first rounder for Sheppard? They never signed for him. They know they never even mentioned Sheppard when discussing a trade with the Wanderers. They only asked for…

There’s only two people in the world that are able to forge their signature, and their daughter definitely does not know how to send a fax.

It must have been him.

Furious, they punch his number into their shitty old flip-phone. They know the digits by heart—his area code is still local to the Bay, anyways—but it doesn’t make them any less mad. Typing it out is faster than finding him in their contacts list. It rings once before he answers.

“Hi, Hans.” He greets in a reserved tone, like he’s bracing himself. As he should.

“Cut the shit, Jakey. Why the fuck does this contract say Sheppard?“ Hans is nearly yelling at their phone, loud enough that their hearing aids squeal in protest.

“It’s an… emergency. Angel needs to get out of here.” He responds quietly. “Needs to.”

Hans’s expression softens for a moment, worried. They’re not sure if the crackle is in Jakey’s voice, or if it’s just because of the cross-continent distance.

Either way, it hurts.

“Please,” he adds after a moment. “Angel’s not safe here. Please take care of him.”

They wince at that, the severity finally registering.

There’s a long pause.

“…Okay.” Hans sighs. “You could’ve said something, I could’ve worked it out. It’s fine. Looks like it was already approved anyways.”


“And don’t call me that when I’m mad at you.” They hang up abrubtly, folding their phone with a clap and tossing it on the desk haphazardly.

Hans plants an elbow on their table, leans their face on their fist. They glance at photo frame, standing proudly near their pile of papers. It’s an old one, from 2002. Fifteen years ago.

They vaguely remember that it was an early season home game. Hans would always chat with Jakey during warmups. They’re laughing at something he said and he’s got that stupid smirk on his face, obviously pleased.

It’s strange, looking at a memory. The photo looks too saturated, too warm. The glow of the rink reflecting off of Hans’s skin, almost golden, spotlights shining through Jakey’s brown curls—it’s too much.

They were so fucking happy.

Hans pushes the picture away, their chest suddenly tight, their guts not sitting quite right inside them.

The lights flicker, a visual knock, and they look up at the doorway.

“Hey, coach! I was—uh…” The Blades captain drops her hand from the lightswitch, a slight frown at the corners of her mouth. “Is it a bad time?”

Hans notices that she’s changed the color of her braids to her usual in-season Blades maroon. She seems to have been upbeat until she saw them.

“It’s fine, Khai. Come sit.” Hans motions her into their office with a halfhearted wave. They fiddle with their hair, suddenly self-concious, tucking a half-gray strand behind their ear.

Khai steps into the room, sits in one of the chairs opposite to them, legs crossed. Her brows are scrunched, concerned. “Other managers being weirdos again?”

“Nothing like that.” Hans sighs. “A trade just… didn’t go my way.”

“Am I allowed to know?”

“A first round pick next year for Angel Sheppard.” Hans says, spinning a pen between their fingers. They try not to look back at the photo on their desk.

“Oh?” Khai tilts her head slightly, curious at how disappointed Hans sounded. “That seems like a deal. Sheppy’s had a good season. He’s in his prime.”

“Yeah.” Hans mumbles. They stare at the contract again. The forgery is awfully convincing, but there’s a slight leftwards lean of the letters. They purse their lips. It makes sense, Jakey’s left-handed.

“Any other team would love to have him, he just won a Cup.” Khai continues, her gaze steady on the coach. “This is a steal. We needed a d-man to fill the roster immediately, since Benny just retired.”

“Khai…” Hans wants to argue, but stops. The trade makes perfect sense on paper.

If anything, it makes more sense than what their inital proposal was. Sheppard would be a much better, long-term acquisition, only twenty-four years old, his contract still good for another four years.

They scratch at their neck. “Yeah, I know. I just—”

“Wanted a certain other Montreal Wanderer?” Khai finishes, leaning over and nodding pointedly towards the picture on their desk.

Hans shakes their head, grumbles something that sounds like “shut the hell up, Khai.”

“Hey, you two weren’t exactly secretive with it.” Khai says, shrugging. “Anyways. Just wanted to say hi.”

“Go lead dryland, would you? We have an afternoon skate.” Hans says, face flushing, trying to dismiss her before they can get any redder.

“Yes, coach.” Khai rolls her eyes as she gets up from the chair. She pokes at the framed photo on Hans’s desk, taking a peek. “…Didn’t he visit you this summer?”

“I’m supposed to be your general manager, Khai.” Hans points a pen towards her, voice creaking in desperation. “Don’t bring my love life into this. Be professional.”

“Come on, we played high school hockey together. We’re literally childhood friends.” She says, wagging a finger at them. “You know about my love life!”

“Your love life is your liney.” Hans huffs back at her. “And you signed your extensions as a couple.”

“And you wanted to trade for Jakey.” Khai says. “Which definitely feels a little bit more unprofessional than me being nosy.”

“He…” They’re fumbling for words. “He would’ve been a veteran presence for—”

“You don’t have to defend yourself, I know you just wanted your favorite man back home. Year-round and all.” Khai stretches out her words, her voice sing-song. She waves as she heads out of the office. “Anyways, see ya at pracky later!”

“Close the fucking door!” They bark out after her, but Khai doesn’t bother. Hans grumbles again, pissed that she’s not wrong at all.

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