Las Vegas was...different, Marc-Andre mused.
Pittsburgh had been home for so many years, it's magic like an old friend. The first few years had been a little rocky, of course, but once Sid and Geno came into the picture, well, everyone knew how it went from there. Their fans were dedicated and loved so fiercely, making the magic bright and golden like...well, like Sid's blood now, he supposed. That had been weird, the first time, but then, Sid was weird in general.
When he’d first arrived, there was no doubt Sid would make quite the monster. The Next One, many said. But from the start, Sid had known he didn't want to go down quite the same path, not if he could help it. He just wanted to play hockey with others who loved the game. He loved his team and his team loved him, the magic flowing easily. Even when they were traded or retired, it clung.
Marc had always thought the magic wanted to be used and shared. Just look at Edmonton. Clearly that wasn’t the way to go about things. In Pittsburgh it flowed and cradled them, not unlike the rivers in and around the city.
It was rather amusing when the rookies grew new teeth, lisping a little around fangs until they got used to them. He had his for over a decade now. The horns had come in after their first Cup.
Not bad at all, all things considered. Just monstrous enough to be notable, but still firmly grounded.
Las Vegas though. A brand new team, out in the desert of all places, in a city scraped out of the sand and rock and forced into life. It's magic fizzed and bubbled and whirled like the lights on the Strip, and just as bright and piercing. Sometimes it threatened to spill over...into what, he couldn’t tell, but it was new, and just wanted them to do well and have a good time, wasn’t that what Vegas was about?
Their fans loved them so much already. Oh, no doubt some were just following their favorite players, but magic was magic. He could never fault Matt, but it was so, so satisfying getting to really play .
Hockey and magic was in his blood almost as much as Sid’s, and the siren song of the ice resonated through him every time he stepped on the rink.
It had never pushed and pulled at him quite so strongly though, bubbling through his blood with every game with his new team. He'd felt a little like this near the start of the career, drafted first overall that year, the rush of power going from juniors into the NHL. Goalies never quite drew the same attention, especially on a team with the likes of Sid and Geno. It was odd to see his face staring out from the banners at the T-Mobile Arena, twenty feet tall.
He was changing after the season's first game, a win against Dallas, and a glint caught his eye.
He scratched at the scales peppered along his arms. Now that his pads were off, he realized how damn itchy he was. He scratched at the dry white skin, peeling off in patches like after a bad sunburn (and he was sensible enough to use sunscreen, thank you very much, he was well aware he’d moved to a desert). Gleaming golden scales shone underneath.
He made a thoughtful noise.
“Something wrong, Flower?” Marchessault asked.
“Eh, no, I don’t think so? It’s just, these are new,” he replied, waving his arm.
“Very shiny,” Tuch noted. “But we’re the Golden Knights, yeah? Very appropriate.” He grinned. His teeth already seemed a little pointier.
And then the concussion happened, and at the start of the season too! Ugh. Terrible. But he wouldn't miss the end of the season. For now, the headache was quite enough to deal with.
(He refused to think about playoffs. They were an expansion team, it was eminently unlikely. They’d do okay. They had some great players, and work up to it in the next few years).
He frowned at his reflection, and traced a finger along the ridges of horn by his temples. That was...they were definitely bigger. Before they’d only been a couple of inches long, lending him an impish look. Puckish, some would say.
Well damn, they'd have to refit his mask. Hmph.
He wasn't sure if the Vegas buffets were quite prepared for a pack of hungry professional hockey players, but he certainly planned on getting his money's worth. And it made for a nice bit of team bonding.
He'd just set down his third plate when Schmidty’s shiftiness caught his eye. He'd planned too many pranks not to be able to recognize the signs, really, who did they think they were fooling? Deryk could've set him straight, but then, what would be the fun in that? They'd all have to learn at some point.
He HAD left his plate of Thai food unguarded though, which was perhaps foolish, but every team knew better than to mess too much with their goalies.
Flower took a bite, noting who looked ready to snicker. He chewed cautiously, but couldn't pinpoint anything wrong, really. It was just as tasty as it smelled, maybe even better. He polished off the plate in no time.
"What?" he asked when he looked up, the other guys looking rather baffled.
"Well, out with it. If you were trying for a prank, well, I can't find it."
"So he put some of that extra hot sauce on your plate, but you didn't even twitch!"
"No, really? Tasted fine to me. Not really any more spicy than I expected." He coughed, some of the heat still tingling in his throat.
Then they all stared at the scorch mark on the tablecloth where the small but definitely very firey fireball Flower coughed up had landed. It was still smoking faintly.
"I...don't think it was that spicy."
"No...I think that's definitely all you."
Marc knew how lucky he was to have his family. Magic weighed heavily on those it chose. Sometimes, just now and then, he wondered why Vero was still with him. But then she and the girls smiled at him, and all was right with the world.
They were getting older, but then, they'd always know a father with fangs and horns. But with the appearance of the scales, it seemed best to check in and see how'd they take it.
<What's wrong, papa?> Estelle asked.
Vero began, <My darlings, you know how your papa plays hockey for his job, yes? How there's magic around them?>
The girls gave their parents a skeptical look, as if wondering why their parents were being silly. Of course Papa (and lots of their unofficial uncles) were magic.
Marc continued. <We're in a new city, I have a new team, and the magic around me is different now. I may start looking different too. Look.> He pulled up his sleeve to show off the gleaming scales.
That got their attention.
<Ah, so pretty!> They petted gently.
<Are you becoming a lizard?> asked Scarlett. <Chance is funny!>
Vero laughed at that. Marc felt chagrined at the comparison to the team’s mascot, but couldn't help laughing too.
<No, I don't think so,> he said.
<No way, too shiny!> Estelle petted at his hair, tugging at the horns that had grown with every passing week. <A dragon, I think!>
He laughed. <Well, you are certainly my princesses!> he said, holding them close.
As the horns arc past his ears and scales continue to creep over his skin, he can't help but get more touchy with everyone. The Knights don't really have a captain, just several As for now, why was this landing on him? He knew enough to try and spread it around, when the spark of magic became this side of too hot, before it started to burn and took him with it.
“Flower. Flower, what the fuck,” Nealer said, voice muffled from being smushed face-first into the ice by the aforementioned goalie sitting on his back. He wriggled unhappily.
“Don’t struggle, Nealsy, you’re just making it worse for yourself,” Bill ribbed as he skated by. “Be glad you didn’t get shoved into his net like I did. I think I had like thirty pounds of pucks on me before he let me out.”
His unhappy grunts quieted as Marc shoved some of the magic away, and onto Nealer. “Oh. Okay.”
Pleased, the goalie helped him up. “Feeling better?”
He took to tackling a couple of teammates at every practice, shoving at the sparks of power until they settled onto their new keeper. If someone got too close to the net though, he took them out at the ankles and shoved them in. He’d let them go if someone managed to score on him, or they started to complain about the pucks piling up on them. Most days they ran out of pucks first.
Before games, the team lined up, and Marc just...pushed at the magic, as he tapped everyone’s stick, spreading it along every member of his team as he took his place at the head of the line.
Goalies weren't supposed to deal with this shit.
He complained as much one day to Deryk, who just gave him a funny look.
"If anybody's the franchise face here, it's you. Did you somehow miss the giant banners of your face around the arena?"
"Not like they can really see it, with the mask! You’re the local one, and with an A!"
Engs snorted. "Pretty sure they saved the best for last in the expansion draft."
"Well, I suppose I can't argue with that, I am amazing."
Their games were going pretty damn well; the team was defying expectations left and right. Marc could feel he was playing some of the best hockey of his life. They were doing better than anyone could’ve imagined, and in their inaugural season, no less!
With each game won, practically with every save he made, he felt the magic dig in deeper. Being a goaltender made things a little easier - the post-game helmet taps were a perfect time to shake off extra power.
And then...the wings. That had been something. His whole back and shoulders had been tense for over a week, but not painful. Not really. Not like the headaches before the horns finished growing, going from discrete little points to terrifically obvious. They arced gently over his head, then curved up at the ends.
He was guarding the net during a practice, a good sized bunch of pucks already piled in the back of it. He landed half on his back making a save and a sharp jolt of pain shot from his shoulder right down his spine. He stood slowly, trying to regain his breath.
Goddamn fucking OW.
"You okay, Flower?" Bill asked.
"Landed wrong. Gonna check in with Caleb," he replied tightly, skating over to the trainer. The blinding sharp pain had faded, but it still ached terribly, leaving behind a squeezing pressure. It was quite unlike any injury he'd ever had. If this kept him out of games again , he'd be pissed. Especially as there was no good reason for his back to be messed up in the first place.
A loud snapping and ripping sound followed approximately a half-second after removing his upper pads. The ache abruptly disappeared, leaving him a little dizzy from the lack of pain.
"Well. Guess that explains why your back felt all messed up," the trainer noted after several long moments.
"Stand up, stretch your arms out."
So he did, and something moved behind him.
"What the fuck?" he swore, staring at the soft membranous wings arcing around him, long fingers of bone supporting the webbing.
“The scales. Horns. You’re a goddamn dragon .”
He got a call from Sid the next day.
“How are you? I heard you were day-to-day with an upper-body injury. And just when the team’s on a streak, too!”
“Um. I have new respect for you. Also Phil.”
“What? Why Phil?”
“I’ll have to call him after this, get some tips on dealing with wings.”
“Yeah, I was all set to start later this week, but I definitely need a few more practices to figure out how to really use them, readjust my balance and all that. And there’s the All-Star weekend coming up too, crisse .”
“It’s...it’s the magic, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah. Fuck, it’s just... so much , how do you…?”
“Same as you saw. Share it around so it doesn’t consume you from the inside out. If weird urges linger, give into it now and then, as long as it isn’t harmful.”
And he would know. Pens practices tended to have Sid making a certain amount of shots sliding along his belly or side. It was pretty cute, really, especially when he’d end up scooting into Marc’s net.
Marc thought of how he’d taken to tackling his teammates more often and then shoving them into his net. Of the piles of pucks he’d amass before giving any of them back. “Huh. I’ve already been doing that, just wanted to see if you had any secrets.”
“Ha, when could I ever keep anything from you?” Sid laughed. “All any of us can really do is take it as it comes and do the best we can.”
"What is this wings bullshit, I just want to keep the goal," Flower complained during practice. "No Cody, you may not go, you stay in the net until someone scores."
"Oh,” Eakin said defeatedly. “Then, I live here now.”
“We’ll rescue you!” Alex said bravely, with Shea nodding agreement.
Cody was skeptical, and...uh-oh, Flower was grinning.
They made a brave attempt, but ultimately Cody was stuck.
At least until Flower went for a wild poke check and knocked both of them over and sat on them triumphantly, wings spread.
The noise of the crowd was deafening. It was his first game after the wings manifested, and clearly some fans found it a surprise, though the team hadn't exactly kept it a secret. Kept some practices closed, though that was somewhat for vanity's sake; he'd fallen over more than he'd like to admit until he finally got the hang of the wings.
He skated over to the net and settled in, roughing up the ice. Oh alright, he could admit it, he showed off a bit too, flaring out his wings in front of the net. He smirked at the excited shrieks he could hear from the rink-side seats behind him. It was awfully dramatic, but where else could he show off? This was his domain and respect was his due.
He shook out his pads and stood, tucking his wings behind him. They were much tougher than he'd expected, standing up to pucks shot at speed, but it really stung. Not something he’d want to do very often. And it wasn't quite as much fun to just be a wall. It was more interesting to deflect in various directions, use them in unexpected ways.
Besides, when he flared his wings out during a rushing poke check? Made for some very satisfying reactions. Most just flinched and let the puck slip away, but the yelp from that one rookie had been absolutely delightful.
The All-Star Game was always an exercise in diplomacy. Get a bunch of monster hockey players together, things could get very tense. It wasn't too bad, mostly. Not every team had a majorly monstrous figurehead. But there were always a few teams where it could get volatile.
Case in point - McDavid was his captain for the Pacific division team, and he made Flower's brain itchy. It was irritating. The Oilers actual golden boy. It was stupid. Magic was really stupid sometimes. He'd accepted that he had a hoard, a whole hoard of Golden Knights, better than stupid McDavid any day. But. Shiny!
It's not like he had a compulsion to lie on a pile of treasure. Though when they went for group hugs it pleased him immensely if he could shove some of the guys over and climb on top on the pile.
Hanging around Nealer helped. Sid and Kris too. They'd promptly been tackled on the ice and cuddled aggressively. Sid looked way too pleased when his turn came.
They were changing back into regular clothes when he noticed Davo staring. He rustled his wings indignantly. Most of the others had already finished changing and left. The wings were pretty cool, but they did make clothes kinda challenging sometimes.
"You need something, captain?"
"How...how do you do it?" Connor whispered, voice perilously close to cracking. "You're...it's an expansion team, how are you winning so much?"
Marc just raised an eyebrow at him. "We have fun, mostly. And like you said, in Vegas, we're a team . Far be it for me to pretend to know what another franchise's management is like, but one star player can't win all the games. Edmonton has...history, of course. But at some point, you've got to make a stand and go your own way. New generations. New rules. Hockey is not a selfish game. Let it go, Connor. What could they do to you if you spread the magic around? Take it away? Trade you? Ha!”
“That’s it? You just share ?”
“That’s what Sid does. That’s what I do. Seems to be working for us so far.”
Connor snatched Marc's arm. He batted him away and grabbed back. “Might help to get some heat off of you, eh? Pure gold is really very soft, melts easily, you know," he said, tightening his grip briefly, feeling their respective magics buzz jarringly against each other. Nothing like the pleasant hum he got with his team.
He shook his hand free, looking curiously at the imprinted swirls of fingerprints he left behind. "Hmm, would you look at that!"
Connor was staring at them too, stunned silent. He rubbed at the marks, unable to smudge them away.
Marc gathered his things and left. If any bit of that got through to him, maybe McDavid wouldn’t burn out by age 25.
Gerard Gallant opened the door to his darkened office and startled at the flash of light reflecting off something gold. He squinted at a charcoal smear, which resolved into the shape of Fleury.
"Marc-Andre," he acknowledged cautiously.
Sharp white teeth flashed in the dimness.
"Good morning, coach. No need to turn on the light, I’ll be out of the way in a bit,” he replied. "Something kept bothering me the other day, and I finally figured out what it is. That trade. I didn't like it. It's over and done with now, can't do anything about that, but give me a heads up next time, eh?"
"....Okay,” he said dumbly, caught unaware by glowing amber eyes. “Uh, any other concerns?"
"No, that's all. Make sure you pass it on to the GM and everyone, yeah?" And with that, he swept out of the room, wings mantled around him like a cloak, trailing wisps of white smoke. “I’m sure they’re busy. So am I, got hockey to play with my team.” The last few words had a crackly undercurrent, felt more than heard, giving a sense of embers needing just a little more fuel to burst into flame.
"You weren't there. It was goddamn scary, I was trying not to bolt! He's very...defensive of them. If he's got a hoard, it's the team itself. And he didn't like a piece being given away without his knowledge."
“But he’s just…” the team owner sputtered.
Gerard cut him off. “He’s not just anything!” he said sharply. “We all saw very well how he went from about average monster-level, well average for the Penguins anyway, into a different kind of creature entirely. Just tell me before anything’s set in stone, and I’ll take five minutes to let him know. And maybe turn off the smoke alarm in my office.”
Horns? Fangs? Horns AND fangs? Nothing that unusual among the league, even in lower-ranked teams.
Wings? Okay, definitely getting more...unique there, but not unheard of. Call Phil Kessel any kind of cherub and he’d thwap you with his. They’re dense and strong and it would hurt .
But add in the golden scales, visible and shining softly in post-game interviews...Flower was definitely a dragon, and they had one distinctly terrifying goalie.
Though slightly less so when he showed up after a morning with his family, flowers twined around his horns.
It was rather intimidating, to be honest, to have the team assembled for the playoffs. Having all their eyes on you was...something. Maybe half had scales, mostly in gold, but others had patches of iridescent black or gleaming gunmetal gray. A few had grown small horns. But all of their eyes changed, at least a little, color shifting to something a little too intense to be all human. Blue became that much brighter, like the hottest part of a flame. Browns shifted into rust, garnet, and amber. And then there was Flower, of course, golden amber eyes sharp as his teeth.
They were riding high, on adrenaline, on joy, on the persistent flow of magic. It had calmed a little since the start of the year, settled down into its own swirls and eddies, but still somehow felt sparky and new. Perhaps like an underground river that had sprung an oasis around which life flourished.
The Knights had taken the castle, and they were here to stay. Might even bring a certain treasure to town too.
Art by the AMAZING and BRILLIANT omgpieplease !
Goddamn, you see that coming for you way outta his crease with a wild poke check, you'd scream at least a little bit.