Web Original: you could make a life
you could make a life
is a Web Original Verse
written by imogenedisease
that's set in a "slightly askew and (even) gayer" version of the NHL and follows the careers and love lives of a variety of closeted and not-so-closeted hockey players.
Originally intended to be just a short story about an eager, hardworking Toronto-born teenager and a sarcastic, gifted Quebecois teenager becoming NHL players and lovers, that one little story has since then spawned a 11-chapter series, at least six spin-off
series focused on different character casts and plotlines that occasionally overlap with one another, and a Tumblr account
containing extensive character info and backstory not revealed in the main series.
The seven series in this verse so far, in roughly the order they were written in, are:
- you could make a life: Dan Riley and Marc Lapointe, two rookies on the same team, fall in love and experience the ups and downs that come with their evolving careers and unique status as the NHL's first outed gay couple together.
- in taking it apart: Mike Brouwer, the epitome of world-hating 35-year-old lonerness, is convinced that being in a relationship with an inexperienced 18-year-old Liam Fitzgerald can only end in disaster. Liam, the epitome of bull-headed optimism, begs to differ.
- we are the lucky ones: Julien Perreault, an aging retired player, hears about Dan and Marc's ouster and it causes him to reminisce about the man he loved and lost over twenty years ago to cowardice.
- throw up your fists, throw up your wits: Luke Morris keeps on falling in and out of a Destructive Romance with Nikita Sidorchuk, even as Nikita keeps on leaving him even more jaded and bitter than before.
- giving in to the influence: A drunken night between close friends Andy Bowman and Derek Carruthers causes a great deal of I Don't Want to Ruin Our Friendship and That Didn't Happen denials.
- no expectation of returns: When Gabe Markson's best friend Stephen Petersen suffers a Career-Ending Injury, he does his best to help Stephen pick up the pieces.
- between the teeth (in progress): David Chapman hates his rival Jake Lourdes for being better than him in every way. Then he winds up unexpectedly kissing Jake one day and things get complicated from there on.
This verse contains the following tropes:
- The Ace: Ulf Larsson (Swedish sex god who Dan initially hates on principle when he becomes Marc's BFF) and Jake Lourdes (universally beloved all-American talent who David initially hates for overshadowing him in the NHL).
- all lowercase letters: The story and chapter titles are all formatted like this.
- All There in the Manual: The author answers a lot of readers' questions about her universe on her Tumblr, especially ones about her characters' future lives, so you'll need to read through her Tumblr to learn about a plethora of interesting stuff like how Dan and Marc end up raising two children or how Gabe and Jake used to fool around together some time before their stories.
- Armoured Closet Gay: This trope doesn't come up as often as you might expect, as even the most macho and reluctantly gay characters prefer to simply keep quiet about it rather than go on homophobic tirades, but the ones who fit the "closet case aggressively pretending to be straight" character type the best are Alexei and Nikita who both cruelly dump their male partners and become married/engaged to women.
- Breather Episode: The author's notes for chapter 5 of Dan and Marc's story state that it was mainly written to serve as a light-hearted interlude between the drama of their coming out and the upcoming drama of the disintegration of their team.
- Canada, Eh?: Smashed into little pieces; the majority of characters may hail from Canada, but they're just as trash-talking and hard-hitting on the ice rink as the average athlete. Also completely inverted with David and Jake, who are hyped by the media as a sweet, gentlemanly Canadian player in a rivalry with a brash, rough-edged American player when their actual personalities are the almost exact opposite.
- Cannot Spit It Out: Mike would sooner get all his teeth pulled out than admit that he's in love with Liam. David also has a very, very hard time admitting that he actually wants a relationship with Jake.
- Career-Ending Injury: no expectation of returns is all about one. Mike also gets a concussion that permanently ends his career with the migraines it inflicts on him.
- Career Versus Man: Comes up in multiple stories. Interestingly, two of these stories have the main characters making (or at least trying to make) the choice for their partners instead of themselves because they believe that their more talented partners shouldn't have their careers be ruined/dragged down by their relationship. (And yes, their partners were majorly pissed off when they found out about said "choice" being made for them.)
- Cast Full of Gay
- Characterisation Marches On: Andy, the sweet Gentle Giant from Saskatchewan, was far closer to Derek in personality when he first appeared in Dan's storyline. He swears and makes sarcastic remarks without reservation, and at one point, Dan notes how he is acting "uncharacteristically shy".
- Chekhov's Gunman: Many characters initially appear as peripheral ones in other characters' series before they get a series of their own.
- The Comically Serious: David. When Jake laughs at his question of if he should call him "Jacob", he thinks to himself that he wasn't trying to be funny.
- Coming-Out Story: A big part of Dan and Marc's storyline. Julien also finds the courage to finally come out in his story after hearing about Dan and Marc's feat.
- Cultured Badass:
- Marc loves watching and reading "pretentious" French films and books. He's also one of the best hockey players Canada has ever seen.
- Mike is an enforcer, which means his role in a team is to bash, fight and physically intimidate the opposition. His hobbies include reading and beating everyone at Scrabble. David even states that he learnt not to judge people's intelligence by their playing style from having Mike as a teammate.
- Deadpan Snarker: Marc and Mike, although Mike's snarkiness is a lot more caustic than Marc's more light-hearted snarkiness.
- Did Not Get The Guy: Occurs in Julien and Luke's stories.
- Embarrassing First Name: Marc's actual first name is Pierre.
- Gay Panic: Averted for the most part with public opinion being generally supportive of Dan and Marc's relationship, but internalized homophobia does play an important role in Julien's story and many other main characters clearly prefer to remain in Secret Relationships than deal with the repercussions of coming out in public even if they're fairly comfortable with their sexuality in private.
- Interplay of Sex and Violence: Luke and Nikita's relationship (if it can be called that) involves getting into fistfights every time their teams play each other and then having angry sex after the game.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Mike is an ass, but he's an ass who genuinely cares for Liam and virtually all of his assholish behavior towards him is based on his sincere belief that Liam would be better off without him.
- Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Nikita is basically Mike sans the Hidden Heart of Gold and sincere love for his besotted partner.
- Just Friends: Andy and Derek try to be this after their night together. It doesn't stick, naturally. Gabe and Stephen also start out as this.
- Loners Are Freaks: Mike and David, who both have major issues with emotional intimacy. Marc is also viewed as weird by many people for his preference to watch the latest French art film over hanging out with the rest of the team, although he at least has Dan and Larsson who understand him better.
- Love Martyr: Luke to Nikita, although it's morphed over the years into something more akin to Hate-Love Martyr and he finally breaks out of it at the end.
- Liam may also be this, depending on your interpretation of his relationship with Mike; Word of God says that his friends definitely see him as this or at least wonder why on earth he chose to be with Mike.
- Jake, according to Word of God, has a bad habit of falling for people who end up breaking his heart.
- Manly Gay: Almost all of the main characters by default. Liam and David are the only partial exceptions, and even then they can hardly be called weaklings considering that they regularly fling themselves around hockey ice rinks for a living.
- Maybe Ever After: Mike and Liam's story ends on an ambiguous (but cautiously hopeful) note about the future of their relationship. Word of God says that they do more or less stay together for the rest of their lives, although they never marry and Mike never fully admits out loud that they're in a relationship for life.
- Misplaced Nationalism: Occurs In-Universe with Marc who, as a proud Francophone living in an extremely language-divided Canada, gets some "pretentious Frenchie" barbs aimed at him and even gets the blame automatically pinned on him by the Toronto media when his team begins doing badly under new management (never mind that he once won the Stanley Cup for them) and finds much warmer reception in Montreal.
- Neat Freak: The one habit of Marc that Dan likes the least? Leaving his towel on the floor.
- Not Staying for Breakfast: Andy does this to Derek, and Stephen to Gabe too.
- Oblivious to Love: Andy thinks that it was just the alcohol that caused Derek to have sex with him. Even after Derek gets visibly upset at seeing him try to hook up with other people.
- David has no feelings for Jake whatsoever. Really. And he honestly doesn't seem to realize just how smitten Jake is with him.
- One Degree of Separation: All the stories in the universe is loosely connected through this. For example, throw up your fists, throw out your wits is about Luke Morris, who is the older brother of Ben Morris, who is friends with Liam Fitzgerald of in taking it apart, who is in love with Mike Brouwer, who is the former teammate of David Chapman, narrator of between the teeth, who is dating Jake Lourdes, who is a good friend of Gabe Markson from no expectation of returns... Justified, since all the stories are set in the NHL and it's only natural that all the characters are friends with or know other players in the league.
- Opposites Attract: Mike/Liam and David/Jake have the same basic "jaded, emotionally closed-off loner meets relentlessly cheerful puppy-like lover" dynamic. Dan is also the amiable, mediocrely-talented-but-extremely-hardworking foil to Marc's snarky, talented-enough-that-he-doesn't-really-need-to-work-hard self.
- Parental Abandonment: A large part of Mike's closed-off personality comes from his father abandoning his family when Mike was twelve.
- Poor Communication Kills: Dan has the occasional problem with this (though Marc is mostly quick to set him straight), Mike has a highly regular problem with this, and most egregiously the entire plot of giving in to the influence would have been only two chapters long had Andy actually bothered to ask Derek how he felt or even stayed with him instead of running away from him at the first opportunity.
- Real Men Wear Pink: Mike, the gruff hockey player, is also an excellent cook.
- Revised Ending: The author originally planned to end Mike and Liam's story after eight chapters, but she eventually decided to write four more chapters to give them a more conclusive ending.
- Right Through the Wall: A Running Gag in you could make a life is Larsson being scarred for life by constantly overhearing Dan and Marc's dirty talking and sex sessions.
- Secret Relationship: Every main relationship in this universe is more or less this with the big exception of Dan and Marc's — and even then, Dan initially tries to keep it a secret until word eventually gets out.
- Single-Target Sexuality:
- Marc had exactly one unsatisfying sexual encounter before meeting Dan and he hasn't looked at anyone not named Dan Riley ever since; Dan even describes him at one point as "THE one guy kind of guy".
- Liam could also qualify as having this for Mike, as Word of God stated that he went through three relationships to try to prove that he was over Mike after their break-up and failed utterly.
- David cares about only two things in his life: hockey and Jake.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Each individual story falls on a different part of the idealism-cynicism spectrum: Dan and Andy's stories fall firmly on the idealistic side, Luke's on the cynical side, and the others generally maintain a balance between either a cynical narrator who thinks their relationship is doomed to fail and an idealistic partner who thinks the opposite or a grim subject matter and an Earn Your Happy Ending mentality.
- Super Couple: Dan and Marc, both in-universe where Sarah calls them "the Brangelina of hockey" and for the verse as a whole with their high-profile status as a happy gay couple in the NHL having visible ripple effects on many other characters' lives.
- They Do: Dan and Marc get together in the first chapter, stay together for the rest of the series, and even get Happily Married. Andy and Derek also have an unambiguous "getting their heads out of their asses and admitting their feelings to each other" conclusion to their story.
- True Love is Exceptional: Mike prefers to sleep with people who are as physically strong and built as him, which the waifish Liam is most definitely not. Mike's younger brother Tom is the same, settling down with a sweet, bubbly woman who's nothing like the women he has dated previously.
- Tsundere: David. Acts prickly towards Jake (tsuntsun), then responds to Jake asking him why he hates him so much by passionately kissing him (tsun-dere), and then blushes and becomes adorably shy when Jake makes it clear that he wants to spend time with him (deredere). Yep, we've got the whole tsundere package here.
- Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Luke was a lot more cheerful and idealistic as a teenager, before Nikita broke his heart.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: David's workaholic tendencies started when he was a kid, when he thought his absentee parents might pay attention to him if he was really good at hockey.
- Wham Episode: After writing an upbeat love story about an extremely stable couple and a somewhat gritter and more turbulent romance that nonetheless worked out for the most part with both parties, the next multichaptered story imogenedisease wrote featured an immensely dysfunctional and emotionally abusive relationship that was not played solely for hatesex kinks and ended with both characters breaking up for good. Many readers who had expected Luke and Nikita's relationship to somehow work out in the end like Marc and Dan's and Mike and Liam's had were thrown off-guard by this development and have since then learned to not take a happy ending for any couple in the verse for granted, to the point where more than one reader thought that David would end up heartlessly abusing Jake like Nikita did with Luke and the author had to clarify that David is much more Tsundere than Bastard Boyfriend.
- Where Everybody Knows Your Flame: Dan and Marc's team take them out to a gay bar once, where pink cocktails and glitter-faced twinks do exist but the decidedly not-gay Tremblay acts more Camp Gay than Dan and Marc combined who mainly just sit back and watch in amusement.
- Andy goes to one in an attempt to get over his unrequited (or so he thinks) crush on Derek. It doesn't work, in no small part because Derek decides to tag along.