Fulton's POV:

He's just ahead of me now, I'm almost there...BAM. My puck now. Pass to Luis, he'll clear it fastest. Off he went, next moment he was at the other end of the rink. Adam's there. Passes to Adam, he weaves past the defense, around the net--CRACK. Hit from behind, his helmet connected with the glass and he fell. Next thing I knew Luis was helping him stand up, Orien was heading toward us, worry etched all over his face, Charlie was screaming at the ref to make a call, and I was skating as hard as I can toward #29. The Windsor fans are cheering and the Ducks fans are booing loudly, but it barely registers. This is like the fifth time this clown's made an illegal check on one of us, and the second period's not even over. He's going down.

As he's skating towards his team's bench, I come at him from behind and shove him in the back with my stick, then drop it and start to take off my gloves as he turns around. But before I can even take a shot, Luis zips in between us and I can feel Connie and Averman pulling me back.

"No, Fult, no," Luis says, pushing me backwards as I glare over my shoulder at #29, who is now grinning smugly. "They'll call you, you know they will. We can't take a penalty right now, man."

He was right, I knew he was right, but that didn't change how I felt. I wanted to hurt him. I let myself be escorted back to the bench, however, back to the rest of the Ducks and a very angry Orien.

"You'd better get ahold of yourself, Fulton. You've already had two penalties for fighting; I will not tolerate a third." I just stared at him, not saying anything. Finally he looked away and clapped his hands, "Alright Ducks, let's do this. We're still ahead, we just have to maintain. Conway, Germaine, Robertson, Wu, get out there. Portman, do your best to cover them but NO FIGHTING," --at this he glared at me-- "those goddamned refs are right in Windsor's pocket."

Portman and the others skated off, and I sat down on the bench, pulling off my helmet and gloves in disgust. Orien was right, the refs were in Windsor's pocket; they'd been missing calls against them all night, but not us. The Wildcats were trying to use muscle to hide a weak defensive line, and even though they were doing a pretty good job, so was Julie, and we lead 2-0. I'd snagged the one early on, but the first goal had been Banksie's. After that they had been riding his ass like you wouldn't believe. It was all Portman and I could do to keep them from killing him, and the effort was nearly killing us; I don't remember ever playing such against such a hard-hitting, dirty team. Portman and I were just two guys, the rest of the Ducks were pretty small, and Windsor had at least six enforcers. None of them were as big or strong as Portman, but they were more than willing to take cheap shots to make up for this. Orien had had to keep either me or Portman on the ice the entire time, and so we hadn't played together all game. I wouldn't have long to rest before going out there again, but that was fine with me; this game was fast getting personal, and I wanted to make sure I was there when the shit hit the fan.

Adam was beside me on the bench, looking decidedly the worse for wear thanks to Windsor's thugs; that last hit had been brutal, and it was my fault. I should have been watching him, not going after the puck. I felt so awful, I couldn't even look him in the eye as I muttered, "Banksie, I'm so sorry I left you alone like that. It won't happen again--"

He stared at me. "Are you kidding? You and Portman are the only reason we're not all in traction right now. You're doing awesome; I don't know how you're still even conscious right now after all those--"

Adam's voice cut off and he winced as Charlie went head over heels, landing on his back on the ice, courtesy of another nasty blow by the Wildcats. Portman, who had been practically skating on top of Kenny trying to keep him safe, charged the guy like an angry bull, sending him flying. The damage had been done, however, and Charlie skated feebly back to the bench, supported by Guy and Dwayne.

Orien called a time out to check on Charlie, and seeing that he was not permanently injured, started to call Averman to replace him, but I broke in, "Let me go, Coach. Portman and I can cream these guys together."

Orien looked at me as if he wanted to do just that, but shook his head. "I can't Fult. You two are pulling double duty as it is. If I let you two play together now, I'd have to send the rest out alone later on, and they'd get trampled."

"We're already getting trampled," Portman exclaimed. "At least together, Fult and I can do some damage, maybe give the others a chance to score, but we can't cover four guys by ourselves; nobody can."

Orien sighed. "I know, believe me, but we just don't have any other choice. Now shut up and get back out there."

By the middle of the third, things hadn't gotten any better; in fact, they'd gotten worse. The score was now 2-1, since a Wildcat had tripped Julie with his stick--no call of course--and another slipped the puck in while she was down. It had taken the entire line to hold Portman off the guys responsible for this, and a few more to keep me off the ice. The constant checking and increased playing time was finally starting to take its toll as well; I was getting pretty tired, and Portman looked no better. We wouldn't be able to hang on much longer at this rate.

I was on the ice now, along with Connie, Russ, Goldberg and Luis. Luis could outskate most of his attackers, and I figured Goldberg could pretty much take care of himself, so I focussed on keeping Russ and especially Connie out of danger. This involved checking anyone who came too close to them, getting in between them and the goons trying to kill them, and retaliating when one of the Wildcats managed to land a hit. Okay, that last one was pretty much just for my pleasure. My whole body was aching, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't halfway enjoying this, the pure physicality of the game; it was the first real challenge I'd had during a school match in ages.

Connie had the puck, and I saw a Windsor goon take after her. I slammed him into the boards as hard as I could. He went down like a sack of bricks, but before I could get out of the way, I was hit from behind by two Windsor players at the same time. My head was swimming, the light was fading in and out and I had to hold on tight to the boards to keep myself on my feet. Don't fall down, Fulton, don't you dare--WHOOP!

I turned around gingerly and groaned aloud at the sight before me. The Wildcats had taken full advantage of my temporarily incapacitated state to snowplow the rest of the team and squeeze a goal past Julie, tying up the game with less than five minutes left.

Orien blew his whistle and everybody got to their feet and skated slowly over to the bench.

"Everyone alright? Fulton, you okay? That was a brutal hit you took." We all nodded.

"Let me at them Coach! Give me one shot, just one, I swear--" Portman cried furiously, pounding his fist on the boards.

"Quiet! Alright Ducks, this is it. We only have a few minutes left to get that back. We need a goal."

"But Coach, they're taking us out as soon as we cross the blue line," Russ said.

"I know, so we need to keep them at bay long enough for someone to score."

My heart leapt as he spoke, and Portman and I looked at each other eagerly. "I know I shouldn't do this, I've been pushing you too far as it is, but I know you guys want to beat this team as badly as I do." Raucous cheers, especially from Portman and I, ensued. "So, Portman and Fulton, if you guys are up for it, I'm putting you in for the rest of the game. Let's wipe the ice with these punks."

I'd been waiting to hear those words all night. The pain in my body just faded away, as did the exhaustion, replaced with adrenaline and a renewed confidence. I looked at Portman, he looked at me, we grinned, threw on our helmets, vaulted over the boards, and did one of our famous chest butts.

We were joined on the ice by Adam, Kenny and Guy. When the Ducks fans saw Portman and I, they started cheering, and we took off, circling the rink with our sticks held high, pumping our arms in the air and screaming at the crowd as loud as we could. They responded admirably with cries of their own and cheers of "BASH! BASH! BASH!" My energy level was soaring; we could take on the world, Portman and I. Where would I be without him? He was so vital, and he always got us going when we were down. He loved to mug for the crowd, to get them cheering. He fed off their energy, and I in turn, fed off of his. We reached our bench and started pounding on the boards, trying to get the tired, battered Ducks going again. It worked.

"Come on Ducks, let's do this thing!" Portman bellowed.

"YEAH!" I screamed, and we slammed our heads together. The crowd was going wild, and now the Ducks were too.

"Come on Bashes, you can do it!" Charlie yelled, and for once Orien didn't try to put a stop to our "childish stunts" as he always called them.

As Windsor took to the ice, we were ready for them. They were gunning for us, but Portman and I were quicker. Again and again we slammed them until the ice was peppered with downed Wildcats. I could barely feel a thing; the Bash Brothers ruled the ice and we were riding high.

A Wildcat was going after Guy, but Portman and I got there first, checking him in perfect sync and sending him flying across the rink. I spotted #29 hook Kenny, and was off like a flash. I checked him into the boards with all my might, and then Portman followed suit. I could almost hear the sounds of bones breaking, and I grinned as he had to be helped off the ice by three teammates. Still, there were only two minutes left, and we still hadn't scored. Now that their biggest guys were down for the count, it was time to do something, fast. My fellow Bash Brother had obviously been thinking the same thing.

"Come on, Fult, let's clear the ice!"

Perfection. We took off together at high speed, heading for the Windsor goal with the others right behind us. As we crossed the rink, Portman and I downed all five of the Wildcats, leaping on the two biggest to keep them down, leaving the others on a three-man breakaway. Without a Wildcat in sight, they took the time to show off a little, Kenny spinning around as they passed back and forth in front of the net, before Adam ducked behind the crease and tucked the puck in past the bewildered goalie.

After that we went nuts, skating victory laps and hugging each other while Portman and I entertained the crowd, bellowing and slamming into each other with as much force as we could muster. One girl even threw her panties onto the ice with a cry of "Marry me, Portman!" I laughed and Portman blushed as he tucked the pink lacy undergarments away, later passing them to Luis and saying they were for him.

As we finally headed back to the locker room, Portman and I were still too revved up to stay still. Portman lifted Kenny up onto his shoulders and danced around while I tried to chest butt Banksie, only succeeding in knocking him to the ground just as Orien came in.

"Hey, Bashes, lay off our guys would ya, they gotta be fit to play next week!" He was smiling though as we all sat down and started to take off our gear. "Great game, Ducks! You really earned that win. You took some serious hits and some god-awful refereeing and turned it around, I'm really proud of you. Now go hit the showers. Oh, and I'd like to see the Bash Brothers in my office before you leave."

After we'd showered and dressed, Portman and I stood outside Orien's office for a moment before knocking. He'd never called us in before; if he wanted to yell at us he always did it in front of the team.

"Come in," he called. "Have a seat, boys," he gestured to a couple of high- backed chairs in front of his desk, and as I sat down I realized I'd never even been in his office before. I looked around, the place was so meticulously clean you could have eaten nachos off the floor. The walls were covered in hockey paraphenalia, including his old North Stars jersey, and his bookshelves were cluttered with trophies and true crime novels. His desk was empty, except for a couple of framed pictures that I assumed were photographs of his family.

"So what's up Coach?" Portman said. He was as baffled as I was about what we were doing here; the best I could figure was that he wanted to rag on us for going nuts on the ice like that, but it still didn't explain why we were here.

"Before I start, I just want to say that I didn't call you in here to yell at you." Portman and I exchanged glances as he continued, "I can tell that's what you're waiting for, and I consider it a failure on my part that that's all that you expect to hear from me. I know we've had our fair share of differences, and that Fulton never quite forgave me for saying the Ducks were dead last year."

"That's because you never apologized," I couldn't help saying.

At that, Orien looked at me closely, then smiled and said, "You're right. I'm sorry. And I just want you to know that I understand how you felt, why you left and why you came back. The Ducks mean more to you than anyone, I think, even Conway, and I hope that over time I can earn the regard you hold for Bombay and the rest of the team. During the game tonight, I realized that I've never told you two how much you bring to the team. You won the game for us tonight, but you show your stuff on a day-to-day basis as well. Portman, the energy and optimism you bring to the Ducks is invaluble, and while I may sometimes disapprove of your methods, you work the crowd like a pro and give the team confidence and vigor when they need it most. And Fulton, your loyalty and devotion to the Ducks is more than just admirable, it's unparalleled, something they know they can always depend on, on and off the ice. The two of you work together unlike anything I've ever seen before. It's really quite incredible, and while I was skeptical at first, I am now certain that you deserve all the praise and renown you get. So I just wanted to thank you guys for what you did out there tonight, and to let you know that it doesn't go unnoticed. Keep it up."

Portman and I walked back to our dorm in a kind of daze, Orien's words floating around in our heads like a mysterious thunderstorm in the middle of a late August heat wave.

***

"You know, Portman, the energy and optimism you bring to the Ducks is invaluble," I snickered as I lay on the couch in our presidential suite with my head in his lap.

"Shut up, man, at least I'm not loyal and devoted. I mean, what does he think you are, a fucking golden retriever? What did he mean by invaluble anyway, is that like worthless?"

"Nah, the opposite, like so precious you can't put a price on it."

"Oh," Portman said awkwardly, taking a deep hit and passing the joint to me.

We had retired to the attic soon after we'd left Orien's office; his speech had really weirded us out, plus we were so banged up we could barely move, and pot was a great painkiller.

"Damn, that was a heavy game."

"Tell me about it. I'm going to be so sore tomorrow I don't even want to think about it."

"Awww, does Poopsie have a boo-boo?" I cooed. "Want daddy to kiss it better?"

"In your dreams, faggot!" Portman laughed, putting me in a headlock. The next thing I knew we were wrestling on the ground, rolling around together like we've done ever since we first met.

But it was different now, it was better, because when we were done we didn't separate, we lay there on the floor together, gasping and laughing. Portman was playing with my hair while I lovingly fingered the smooth, hard muscles of his stomach.

"You know, Fult, my mom's right, you do have beautiful hair."

I punched him hard in the stomach, and the fight was on again. I was on Portman's back, holding him in a full nelson when Banks, Charlie and Julie walked in.

"There you are," Banks grinned. "Should have known we'd find you here."

"Man," Portman sighed. "I knew we never should have told them about this place."

"Yeah," I agreed. "They'll probably want to start using it for study groups or something."

Julie pretended not to hear us. "So this is what you guys do when you're alone," she laughed.

"Yup, that's our Bash Brothers for you," Charlie said affectionately. "Hey, what did Orien have to say?"

Portman and I struggled to our feet as I said, "Nothing really, he just wanted to tell us we played well."

"You played a hell of a lot better than that," Adam said. "You guys were awesome."

"Yeah, you take the term enforcer to new levels, which is why the Ducks want to take you two out for a celebratory burger and fries," Charlie grinned.

"Yeah, everybody's waiting you guys, come on!" Julie cried, and they all turned and started down the stairs.

Portman puffed out his chest and swaggered towards the door. "That's right, they all want a piece of Portman."

I jumped on his back and held on tight, knocking him against the wall. "Well, they'll just have to wait their turn, cause I have first dibs." I planted a kiss on his cheek and took off after the others, Portman right behind me.

Yup, I thought happily as I raced down the stairs. That's my boyfriend.