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Literature / Heart In Hand

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Heart In Hand by salifiable is a novel-length Slash Fic about two Ice Hockey players in the National Hockey League. It was originally a Real-Person Fic about Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, but the author changed the names of characters and teams when she realized that it was garnering a Periphery Demographic of people outside fandom. For convenience's sake and to avoid confusion with actual players, we will be using the names provided in the newer version.

Darryl Colton is a star NHL player for the Pittsburgh Hawks with all the publicity it entails. He prefers to stay out of the limelight, but that becomes impossible when he finds himself starring in a reality TV series with his rival Aleksey Kuznetzov of the Washington Bears. Despite their team allegiances and their clashing personalities, friendship grows quickly between the two until it becomes something more.

The fic can be found here. If you have an Archive of Our Own account, you can also access the original version through the author's profile.

The examples below may contain spoilers. It is advised that you read the fic before proceeding.

Heart In Hand provides examples of:

  • Annoying Patient: Darryl becomes this when he comes down with the flu. His mom is relieved when Alex gets all of Darryl's teammates to visit his house to alleviate his boredom.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Although it's made clear that they do have a good relationship with each other, Darryl's sister Brynn embarrasses and teases him, often teaming up with his teammates or Alex.
  • Award Snub: An in-universe example in the climax, where the Hart trophy goes to Darryl, not Alex, presumably because Alex is bi.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: From the very beginning, Alex loves pushing his uptight rival Darryl's buttons by saying or doing something ridiculous and Darryl always hits back with some sarcastic insult despite knowing that rising to Alex's bait is exactly what the other man wants. Even after the sexual tension between them gets resolved in later chapters, their relationship still has this dynamic, albeit in a more affectionate form.
  • The Bet: Darryl's spur-of-the-moment bet that he will sleep with Alex if the latter scores a "Mexican hat trick" (six goals in one game) kickstarts their relationship. This plays with the standard Romantic Comedy plot of the hero approaching his love interest to fulfill a bet, only to find himself falling for her for real.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Happens between Darryl and Alex at the awards show.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Media speculation about the man Alex is caught kissing includes "is drugged, is underage, is a prostitute, is a drugged underage prostitute".
  • But Liquor Is Quicker: Darryl drinks vodka to work up the courage and lower his inhibitions before sleeping with Alex.
  • Career Versus Man: Darryl provides a Rare Male Example when the photograph of him kissing Alex is leaked, but he is not identified as the person pictured. He fears that his NHL career would be destroyed if he owns up to it, but if he stays silent, that means Alex will have to face all the media attention alone. He chooses his career, but later finds that the two aren't mutually exclusive.
  • Closet Key:
    • Alex, for Darryl. Although Darryl does not express attractions to other men even after meeting Alex, he identifies as gay by the end of the story.
    • Darryl for Alex is a downplayed example. Alex states that he has "fooled around" with male partners before, but it's implied that Darryl is the first time he had fallen in love with a guy, and that Alex did not consider himself bisexual before.
  • Clueless Chick-Magnet: Darryl. When an attractive woman at a nightclub mentions that she's cold, talks about "wanting something to warm me up" and spills a drink over her top, he reacts by giving his sweatshirt to her.
  • Cool Old Lady: Alex's mother, former Olympics gold medalist in basketball, beats current NHL players soundly at a game of backyard basketball. She is also fiercely supportive of Alex when the photograph of him kissing another man (Darryl) is leaked.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: When Alex comes out of the closet, Canadian and American reactions are mixed, but positive overall. The Ice Hockey Federation of Russia, on the other hand, threatens to ban him from ever playing in or for Russia. Darryl reflects on (and feels somewhat guilty about) how he would never have to face the same ordeal just because he is Canadian.
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: When Darryl mentions to his friend Ethan that he "isn't sure" about whether his first time sleeping with a girl (actually Alex) was consensual, Ethan immediately assumes that Darryl raped her, when in fact the consent was dubious on Darryl's part.
  • Dramatic Irony: When Alex tells Darryl that he'll find the perfect girl for him, Darryl — who has realized he's in love with Alex by this point — thinks to himself that the irony of this is sharp enough to cut him to ribbons.
  • First-Name Basis: After they've slept with each other for a while, Alex insists that Darryl start calling him "AJ" instead of Kuznetsov, and then just Alex after Darryl proves that he knows how to pronounce his full Russian name correctly. When Darryl points out that Alex has always called him by his first name, Alex says he did it to get a rise out of him and then when Darryl didn't respond to it, just kept calling him that.
  • Forced Out of the Closet: This happens to Alex when a photo is taken of him kissing Darryl when the latter comes to his hotel room. Darryl avoids being outed with him because his image was too unclear to identify and Alex refuses to name him, but feels guilty that Alex has to take on the burden of being the first out player in the NHL all by himself.
  • Gayngst: Played with. Darryl is more hung up on the fact that he's having sex with Aleksey Kuznetsov of all people than on Alex being another man and eventually decides that whatever is going on between them is going well enough that it's not worth getting too worked up about. It's only after Alex is outed that Darryl really starts angsting about his sexuality and how it might affect his career if found out.
  • Gretzky Has the Ball: Used in-universe to Bluff the Impostor. Talking to a girl at a bar, Darryl suspects she is lying about being a hockey fan, so he mentions "the tipoff after the second half" that "led to the fifth field goal". An ice hockey game starts with a faceoff, is divided into three periods and involves teams attempting to score goals.
  • I Have This Friend: Darryl uses a variant to talk about his relationship with Alex to his friend - he doesn't hide that it's his own problems, but he frames it as "girl trouble".
  • I Shall Taunt You: Alex constantly goads Darryl into taking bets or challenges with him, knowing that Darryl won't be able to resist taking him up on them.
  • Love Epiphany: Happens to both of the protagonists. Darryl has this realization when Alex visits his house while Darryl is recovering from a flu, and Alex about two months later, when Darryl kisses him after a visit to a school.
  • Noodle Incident: Darryl's teammate Janssen threatens to reveal "that thing with the thing that happened three years ago" if Darryl doesn't air the footage of himself running away from his fangirls.
  • Opposites Attract: Darryl is straight-laced, disciplined, and the golden boy of Canadian tennis; Alex is rambunctious, operates more on instinct than reason, and is constantly treated as a villain by the hockey press.
  • Pun-Based Title:
    • The title refers to the climax, where Darryl approaches Alex with the Hart trophy in hand. It represents his apology and his "heart" (or love) for him.
    • The Show Within a Show's title styles the two protagonists' names into gun models: "AK-47 [Aleksey Kuznetzov] & Colt 45 [Darryl Colton]".
  • Questionable Consent: The first time Darryl and Alex have sex, Darryl is intoxicated, and felt that he had the obligation to fulfill the "bet" even though he really didn't want to. It's addressed in-universe in that Alex feels guilty about it afterwards and Darryl himself still feels unsure about whether it was consensual, long after the deed is done.
  • Show Within a Show: The reality show following the lives of Darryl and Alex grows to be extremely popular. Later on, it changes its format to focus entirely on Alex and the aftermath of him coming out of the closet.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Darryl feels no romantic or sexual interest in anyone until he starts sleeping with Alex on a regular basis. He even confirms through an experiment that Alex is the one and only person who gets him aroused — thinking of a woman or any other man doesn't turn him on at all.
  • Stealth Insult: When Darryl's snide remarks about Pritchard's dirty play only cause him to get bad publicity and encourage other opponents to play dirty against him too, Alex advises him to say nice things about other players more often and phrase his insults about them in a similarly "nice" way that the media can't take offense with.
    Alex: So that part is honey on tongue, right? You say sweet things about other players, and everybody think you great guy, classy guy. And then when you gotta talk about dirty guys, you say stuff like, "Maybe Mack gonna be good player one day, but only if he learn to keep elbow down." Or for Pritchard, you say, "Well, he have so much potential to be decent defender, is very sad he feel like he have to play dirty to keep up with everybody else." See? That part is ice in heart, but it still sound sweet, so nobody gonna criticize you. You can just say is advice for them, and what they gonna say back, hm? Is still trash talk, just different kind.
  • That Came Out Wrong: Alex's lack of fluency in English causes this a couple of times:
    • Alex agrees to let the producers of his and Darryl's reality TV show pay for their plane trips to see each other, jokingly dubbing them "booty calls". When Darryl asks Alex if he feels guilty letting the TV network pay for what really are secret booty calls between them, Alex replies, "Why feel guilty? I mean, yes, is definitely going to be booty call, but they also gonna film us!" After a long pause, an abashed Alex adds that he "didn't mean it like that".
    • When Alex and Darryl play a basketball game of "Horse", they perform so poorly that they give up on the game three letters in but Alex still loudly celebrates getting the last ball in, shouting "I win at Ho-or!" Darryl has to hastily tell Alex that shouting that at an all-girls' elementary school isn't appropriate.
  • We Named the Monkey "Jack": Alex names a stray cat "Gary" after the unpopular NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, because he has "dark hair, a funny face, and a really really tiny..."
  • You Need to Get Laid: Alex and Darryl's teammates all believe that Darryl should get laid with a girl and expend a significant amount of time and effort in trying to make this happen, much to Darryl's irritation.