It started as toddlers covered in glitter, and became years of friendship… The story of Cody and Regen, and how the best things in life are worth waiting for.
Cody first met Regen when they were three and covered in glitter after a Christmas decoration project went disastrously wrong. After bonding over the taste of glue, and eating all the chocolate on the tree, the two became best friends. Living in a small Canadian town outside of Calgary, they grew up together, went to the same school, played on the Chipmunks peewee hockey team, and shared a passion for both the Calgary Cobras and chocolate. While Cody stayed at home, went to a local college, and became a teacher, Regen was on a very different path.
Regen and Cody. Their names had become inseparable over the years, just as they had. Through good times and bad, the two boys were thick as thieves and close as brothers. When the boys became men, life tried its best to pry them apart, sending Regen to LA to play professional hockey while Cody remained in Canada and pursued his dream of becoming a teacher. Even with thousands of miles between them, Regen and Cody remained best friends.
Cody is in love with his best friend, and Regen is in love with hockey, and it seems that it will take the magic of Christmas to bring the waiting to an end.
This story is in two parts, the first part is on RJ Scott’s website, the second part is on VL Locey’s website.
This is PART 2 – You can find part 1 of this story here.
The next morning I was lost in remembrance. I’d met Regen when I was three and my first impression of him that day was that he had a funny name, and that he liked the purple glitter as much as I did.
What I didn’t recall was whether our nursery schoolteacher suggested we compromise and share the shiny stuff, although I knew there was a lot of me throwing stuff and him throwing it back. I vividly recalled that when Mom had picked me up she’d decided we’d leave the car and walk home in the vain hope that some glitter magically slid off me. I hadn’t had as much of it on me as Regen had, but he’d cried because instead of his Calgary Cobra jersey being brown, it had been a combination of mauve, pink, silver, and blue. I couldn’t help it that I’d added extra blue to him because I’d hugged him when he’d cried.
I was a sensitive soul. Mom said so. She tells me all the time that I spent my entire childhood making peace, dispensing hugs, and generally being perfect.
That’s moms for you.
Still, I don’t know when we started our tradition of exchanging crappy gifts though, but one thing I do know is that I’d never been as nervous handing it over as now.
“Hey,” he said his hands forced into his pockets. He couldn’t quite meet my gaze, and I couldn’t quite look back at him either. One stupid freaking moment of leaning in and I’d ruined everything.
“Hey,” I said and smiled at him, because my world was right when Regen was in my space.
“We should talk—” he began.
“I have the gift—” I said at the same time. “I’ll go first,” I said so fast that his eyes widened. The last thing I wanted to do was talk about being inappropriate, or crossing boundaries, or me having to explain how I felt about him. Nope. Not happening. So, instead, I reached toward the desk and the box in which I’d put the gift I’d made, and held it out to him. Way to change the subject. He blinked at me, and abruptly it hit me, maybe he didn’t want to talk about an almost-kiss, but about the fact that he hadn’t made a gift for our crappy-gift exchange.
Of course he hasn’t you idiot, he’s an NHL player, not a kid.
He bit his lip and then, he sighed. “I couldn’t—”
“It’s okay,” I interrupted. “It’s a stupid thing, and we’re older now—”
“No, I made it, but the things wouldn’t stick,” he shrugged off a backpack and handed me a box, and we exchanged gifts awkwardly. I hated that it was awkward, because it shouldn’t have been. This was Regen, my best friend, my brother from another mother, the one I’d spent years spinning plans with. He sat next to me, and I elbowed him as he opened my gift, a garden rock stuck with the Calgary Condor logo, embellished with hand-cut paper stars and bits of leaf, all finished off with a gaudy yellow and brown ribbon.
“Wow,” he said.
“The kids helped me. In fact we all made pet rocks, and we put them in the garden shed ready for spring.”
“I love it,” he announced.
“You need to give it a name.”
“I’ll call it Marvin.” He sent me a familiar sideways smile, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes.
“My turn.” I slid my finger under the lid to lever it off, before lifting out the tackiest most perfect Christmas ornament in the history of ornaments. It was round with a hook, under a whole mess of dried paste and purple paint, along with so much glitter that I was covered in it just by opening the box. Left behind were loose bits of pasta that looked as if they should’ve been fixed to the ball, but hadn’t quite made it. “It’s brilliant,” I said, and snorted a laugh. “So glittery and perfect.” I held it up and it spun on the thread attached to the hook. “Do you remember the glitter when we were little?”
We talked about this every year, and I swear the story grew more exaggerated with each retelling. It was tradition to talk about our past, the stories so funny, the things we’d done, and said. Tradition is good.
“Cody, I wanted to talk to you about—”
In a passionate act of self-preservation, in which I did not want things to change, I refused to let him talk. “You were covered from head to toe in silver, and do you remember you cried and I hugged you?”
I was hyper-aware that I didn’t want to discuss last night. “And then Mom—”
“I wanted to get you a car!” he blurted, and it stopped me dead in my tracks.
He turned on the bed to face me, bending a knee under him, and gripping the decorated stone so hard his knuckles were white. “I could buy you a better car, not brand new, not a Porsche, not yet, but one day, I’ll get you a fast car like the ones we always talked about.” His voice cracked and he coughed to cover it.
“I don’t want a new car,” I reassured him, because I swear he was this close to losing his shit.
“You need one. You shouldn’t be driving around in that crappy car.”
That hurt, because the Toyota was our crappy car. Also, was he trying to start an argument here?
“I like our car, Regen, and just because you’re some hot-shot—”
“You can’t fix that piece of shit like I could. What if it breaks down in the middle of nowhere and you can’t get hold of anyone?”
“I have AAA,” I said, and then huffed a nervous laugh, “and you never know, they might send out someone cute.”
“Why aren’t you taking this seriously?” He stood in a flurry of motion, narrowly avoiding smacking me upside the head and then stormed out of my apartment.
What the hell just happened? It was as if he’d created a whole argument in his head, thought about it at length, and then thrown the conclusion at me without me even being part of it. After pulling on boots I ran after him, because no way in hell was I letting him walk out on a non-argument over fuck knows what.
Snow spun around me and for a second I couldn’t make out Regen or where he’d gone. Then when my gaze adjusted I spotted him, shoulders hunched, trudging in the opposite direction to his dad’s house. I jogged carefully to catch up with him, and yanked him to a stop. He was a big guy, taller than me, but I’d played hockey just as much as him, and I knew how to bring someone to a standstill by forcing my way in front of them.
“What the fuck, Re?” I snapped.
“Leave me alone,” he said, but there was no passion in the words, just a dead tone and again, he wouldn’t meet my gaze.
“Talk to me,” I said, and shook him a little, which appeared to help him focus on me. “Re, what’s wrong?”
“What’s the point?” he said, miserably.
“Of what? Come on, it’s freezing out here, talk to me.”
“I mean, what’s the point of being so far away, when you don’t even want what I can give you, if I even get to stay after my two years on a rookie contract.”
I blinked up at him, unraveling what he’d just thrown at me, but it didn’t make sense. Of course he’d get picked up by a team, if not LA then somewhere else, he was too good not to, but the rest of it. “Are you pissed off at me because I said I didn’t want a hypothetical car in some hypothetical future where, I dunno, hypothetical things might or might not happen.”
He shoved me then, and I stumbled back a little in the snow.
“Don’t fucking laugh at me!” he shouted, and then he reached for me, grabbed me, pulled me close, and kissed me.
It was one of the biggest problems I had on ice, according to my head coach. Obviously it was an issue off the ice as well. Cody’s lips were firm under mine, his eyes round as hubcaps. As soon as our mouths had met, I knew I’d committed a serious breach of conduct. One did not yell at one’s best friend and then kiss him for no reason.
I savored the feel of his lips on mine, flat and unyielding as they were, for a second or ten, and then I released him. He stared at me, way down deep into my soul as he did when I’d fucked up. Christ. I’d be benched for sure now. Maybe ejected from the friend game for life.
“I’m really sorry for that,” I mumbled, imagining a giant axe about to fall. “It’s totally out of bounds, and like horribly nonconsensual to just grab a dude and plant one on him. I know better, I do, it was just…your eyebrows were so soft.”
He blinked, long lashes fanning down then back up, stealing my breath. Then he wet his lips. Just a flick of pink tongue streaking out to coat those sweet lips I’d just kissed. Sweet, sweet lips…
Maybe some time in the minors will curb your impulsive behavior. That’s where you’re headed if you don’t return to training camp form, Reva.
There we stood, two grown men, outside, on the sidewalk, in the neighborhood we’d grown up in, staring at each other. The longer the moment dragged on the louder my coach’s voice grew inside my head.
“Let’s go to the lake,” Cody finally said, grabbing my wrist and jerking me nearly off my feet. Okay, so the teacher still had some strength in those arms and legs. Knowing I was in the wrong and shamed beyond arguing, I trudged along behind him like a naughty puppy. His fingers were tight on my wrist, the skin warm and prickly. We stalked along for four blocks until we hit the path that led through the Brinkleys’ back yard to Witherspoon Lake. I didn’t need his guidance. I could have made the trip with my eyes closed, the path forever burned into my memory. The Brinkleys had long ago stopped trying to stop kids from cutting across the corner of their property.
A calming sort of air moved over us as we pushed through a short copse of snow-laden pines and stood on the bank overlooking Witherspoon Lake. The azure water was frozen solid now. It was a small lake, as they go, just over nineteen thousand meters in circumference, she ran pretty deep in the middle. The surface was glass, etched and scratched from the hundred shinny games that had already taken place. Cody still held onto my wrist. I closed my eyes and breathed in home. And, as always, home smelled like Scotch pine, cold wind, and Cody’s spicy cologne.
“I’d really like it if you looked at me,” Cody said, his voice soft and calm. A jay called, its voice brash compared to that of my…yeah, my what exactly? Forcing my eyes open, I inhaled, and looked to the side. There he was, as ever, right next to me. His cheeks were pink from the cold. Those beautiful green eyes made the pines seem washed out. “Okay, so what the hell just happened? I need to know if that was some sort of angry kiss, or if it was just, shit, I don’t know what to be honest but I need to know something.”
“I like you,” I blurted out, wriggling my wrist free so that I could take his hand, maybe. When my fingers brushed his he didn’t hesitate to slip his palm over mine.
“Yeah, I kind of assumed that since you kissed me. Also, we’ve been friends since before you were potty trained.”
“Dude, why bring that up now?” So what? I’d taken a little longer than the other kids in the neighborhood to grasp the finer points of learning to use the toilet. I had that down pat.
“Because it always makes you bristle up.” He looked pretty laid-back now. My feet were growing cold. Sneakers weren’t made for walking through a foot of snow. “I need to know what kind of kiss that was. It felt…like more than angry. It felt like there was just more.”
“Yeah, I think there was more.” He sort of smiled and a dollop of worry melted away. The wind blew up the bank, picking up delicate little crystals that powdered Cody’s cheeks. I lifted my free hand to brush the flakes away. His eyes closed at the touch of my hand, his breathing growing skittish. “I’ve always loved you. Always. But I just…” I paused to try to catch my thoughts but they were flitting from one thing to another. “I just never knew I was feeling like that about you, but I think I am.”
His lashes lifted. I felt foolish and clumsy as I ran my thumb over his cheekbone. The new whiskers were scratchy and perfect. Cody was perfect and I wanted to kiss him again.
“How long have you felt like this? I thought you were happy wheeling chicks in LA?”
I nodded slowly, my hand sliding down his cheek until my fingers rested on his jaw, my thumb on his lower lip. He drew in a shaky breath. Something deep inside me opened up like a bloom under the April sun.
“I was, I thought, I mean it’s easy, the women are always there, but when I go to bed at night, its not chicks that I think of, it’s you. It’s always your face and your voice that I hear when I go to sleep.”
“God, Regen, I don’t even know what to say to all this.” He looked as if he was balanced on a high wire and was afraid of plummeting to his death. Didn’t he know that I’d catch him if he fell? “I’ve been waiting for a sign from you for years but you never acted like you wanted more from us than friendship and so I just kept quiet and kept waiting.”
My brain skidded to a full stop, ice spray to the face, total lockage of brakes. “I uhm…Cody I just…yeah, I feel like I need some concussion protocol right now. Ask me a question.”
A twist of a smile played on his lips. “What’s the name of the lake we’re standing beside?”
I cupped his cheek with one hand, squeezed his cold fingers with the other. “Witherspoon Lake, named after Festus Witherspoon, who, it’s been rumored, killed a grizzly bear with nothing but a wooden soup spoon and a lot of gumption.”
“Festus knew how to use a spoon,” he replied. It was the standard reply to that stupid old fable. I’d seen grizzlies. There was no way you killed one with a spoon. More than likely the grizzly used the spoon to eat old Festus’ innards.
“Ask me something else,” I said, leaning closer. Cody did the same. My heart sped up and I knew right then and there that this friendship was changing into something…more.
“How do you feel about long-distance relationships?”
I rubbed my thumb over his lower lip. “I think I’d like to see how I feel about one. Are there advantages to a long-distance relationship over a long-distance friendship?”
“Mm-hmm.” This time he stole the kiss. This one had more pepper to it. I overheated quickly even though it was cold enough to freeze a moose’s nut sac. His tongue slid over, then between my lips. The whole world turned upside down in that instant. I ran my fingers up under his toque, cradling his head, and returned the kiss with all the love I’d ever felt for him.
“Dark hair, brown eyes, sexy, don’t fuck this up.” I held the sign higher, this one a product of Mrs. Beesley’s class who were as excited as I was about Regen coming home. Okay, so they were interested in the fact that he was visiting the school to talk, and I was more interested in…
Well, after the last year, I was interested in all of him.
“Don’t fuck this up, no kissing him in public.”
I hadn’t seen him since his team had played in Calgary in late November, and that had been six long weeks ago. It turned out that being in a long-distance relationship was much the same as a long-distance friendship, only with added sexy times and a whole lot of talking about super-serious shit.
Plans for the future. About what happened if LA didn’t offer him a place after his rookie contract expired, and about the miracle that would be him being offered a contract to play in Calgary. There was also the whole buying a place in town, which was small, neat and all ours. We’d split the cost of it equally, and had a mortgage and everything, despite the fact that Regen had made it very clear he’d cover more of it. Of course, one blow job later and he would’ve agreed to anything I said, and money had quickly become a non-issue between us.
What we made was the perfect small place to call home.
I’d been woolgathering and hadn’t even realized that he was here, coming through the doors, and waving like an idiot. My heart nearly exploded with the amount of love I felt for the grinning idiot. He ducked under the barrier, swept me up in a hug, and I was so pleased that this year there’d been no delay and arrivals wasn’t as crowded as last. We didn’t kiss, not in front of everyone—he wasn’t out in public, well not officially anyway. The team knew, and to be honest I think most of the small town of Witherspoon Lake knew as well, but he’d been working up to making it official, and I was kind of cool with that. I’d played hockey, I knew what it was like when you went up against other teams who would take any crack and force you wide open.
“Oh my god, oh my god,” he said over and over, right next to my ear, and I clung to him like a limpet, and we were still hugging as we left the Air Canada terminal and made our way over to Bertha whom I’d parked miles from anyone in a dark corner.
I unlocked the car and pointed at the hood, “You need to…”
He didn’t have to be asked twice, and I popped the hood and he worked his magic and when I turned the key she purred as if she knew it was him.
“She’s not been doing well, then?” he asked as he climbed in and buckled up. I reached for him at the same time as he did me, and we kissed gently. We never went heavy and hard to start; that first kiss was a promise of more, but was filled with so much love that I wanted to kiss him forever.
“She’s okay, I just like to watch you with your ass in the air fixing her.” I winked at him and pulled out of the space, and he gave a fake sigh.
“Admit it, you just like my ass.”
He reached over and squeezed my knee, his hand moving only a little higher to rest on my thigh. As I drove, when I could, I covered his hand with mine, and even though Bertha’s heating was a little on the fucked side, I refused to put on gloves, and so did he. This was what we did, hold hands, and make those silent promises of love.
“How are the soccer moms?” he asked, as we passed a van, and I squeezed his fingers.
“How many proposals this semester?”
I gave him a sideways glance, catching his grin, and sending one of my own. “Only five.”
“Disappointing,” he murmured with fake sadness.
“To be honest, I think the way you kissed me at the summer fair was enough to have them all backing off.”
“Yeah, now I get my cheeks pinched, I’m told I’m cute, and they’ve all decided I need casseroles.” He laughed at that, and I poked him hard. “Don’t laugh, there’s three of them in the freezer that I’m making you finish.”
“As long as they’re not tuna…”
I signaled and then turned onto the drive of our bungalow, and turned off the engine. For a second we just looked at our home, festooned with lights and garlands and with snow piling up around the windows and on the tiny porch out front. It wasn’t the biggest place, it wasn’t the most expensive, but it was somewhere for Regen to come to and it was ours.
“I left half the tree for us to do together,” I explained.
He was only home for three full days, but luckily the first game back was in Vancouver, so he was flying straight there. Three days would be enough time to finish the tree, open gifts, and make love, then hold each other as we slept. It was amazing how many memories the two of us could make if we lived each second to the fullest.
He stopped when he got inside, and I nearly barreled into him, swerving at the last moment and tugging the door shut behind us.
“Move your ass,” I teased, but stopped when I saw his expression. He was frozen, staring at the tree, mesmerized by the lights or I don’t know what. “Regen?”
He blinked at me, as if he was seeing me for the first time. “This is right,” he murmured, “this is home.”
He sounded overwhelmed, as if it was all too much for him.
“Our home,” I reassured, wondering if maybe I should run through a concussion protocol.
“Not just the place,” he said, and went to a crouch next to his bag, rummaging inside and pulling out a gaudily wrapped gift. “It’s you.”
“It’s always been you, Cody, you’re my home.” He thrust the gift at me, and I took it but not before reaching for the one I’d made for him. He unwrapped his so fast it was a blur, but I wasn’t sure he really saw this year’s tacky gift, a cardboard tube with googly eyes too and a painted hockey shirt with his number. “I love it,” he said, but he was staring at me, and not the gift. He was so intense that I tried to lighten the tension.
I shook the gift, and grinned. “Is it a car?” I smirked, and he shook his head looking adorably nervous. “Oh, I get it. I’ll open this and something will jump out at me, asshole,” I said, and then carefully unwrapped the gift at arm’s length, narrowing my eyes and waiting for the explosion of glitter, or for some insect thing to jump out.
But there was nothing.
Just a simple leather box, small, a cube, and I closed my fist around it.
“Regen?” I said again, and he came closer, taking the box from me and crouched down, right in front of our half-finished tree.
“I have a statement, for the fans, to come out, to be honest about my relationship with you, if that’s okay and doesn’t mess with your position at the school.” He moved to one knee and balanced himself.
“Of course, I—”
“Cody. I’m going to tell them everything, how I fell in love with my best friend, and how we’re going to be together forever.”
I was stunned into silence then, because of course we’d talked about forever in the safe space of our little house, but this seemed like more. He’d gone really quiet, still down there, glancing up at me, and I dropped to a crouch in front of him.
“Regen, talk to me.”
Then he held out the box, only this time he’d opened the lid, and inside was the tackiest, most horrific neon-green ring, sparkling with tinsel and glitter.
“Marry me, Cody.” He took the ring out, and silver sparkles fell onto his hand and then mine as he slid the ring onto my finger. “You’re my home, and my heart.”
I cradled his face, a dust of silver falling onto his cheek, and then I kissed him gently. “You’re my home, my best friend. I love you.”
“So, it’s a yes? Are you saying you’ll marry me? Maybe in the summer, or next Christmas, right here in the tiniest yard in the whole of town?”
I nodded, and pressed my forehead against him.