Chapter 1: NurseyDex
Growing up, Nursey had always assumed he’d be excited when he finally had his Gooseday.
Young Nursey had, of course, failed to take into account how God damn massive, not to mention murderous, fucking geese are.
When Nursey finally wakes up one morning to find his goose standing beside his bed, Nursey actually feels something more akin to panic than excitement.
Nursey’s goose squawks and goes straight for his face.
It takes Nursey nearly half an hour to fend off his goose long enough to get dressed, at which point his goose squawks again, and starts ramming itself against his door.
Nursey figures he’s probably meant to open the door, to allow his goose to lead him to his soulmate, but honestly, he’s not sold on letting this vicious monster loose on campus.
Nursey’s goose puts a six-inch gash into his door (goodbye security deposit), and Nursey gives in.
His goose takes off at a quick waddle, and Nursey, having no other reasonable course of action at this point, follows after.
Their walk across campus is a gauntlet of knowing looks from other students, and savage goose-on-goose violence whenever their path crosses that of another student experiencing their Gooseday. Nursey has to physically restrain his goose at one point when it looks like it might actually kill a goose belonging to a terrified-looking young woman with bleeding scratches all down one side of her face.
By the time the goose gets to the steps of the Haus, Nursey feels, and probably looks, like he’s gone ten rounds with a mother grizzly bear after drop kicking its cub.
The goose gives a repeat performance of its destruction of Nursey’s dorm room door until Nursey lets it into the Haus, at which point it makes a beeline to the biohazard couch and hops up onto it to settle comfortably next to Dex, who’s sitting on the couch, casual as you please, and somehow not getting mauled by a goose.
“Nursey,” Dex says, nodding in greeting, “This your goose?”
Nursey gives himself a quick once-over; there’s a hole in his shirt, with a sluggishly bleeding scratch underneath, grass stains on both of his knees and his ass, feathers in his hair, and a rapidly developing black eye. It’s obviously his fucking goose.
“Yes,” Nursey says, instead of any of that. Because the implications of his goose just sitting on the goddamn couch are hitting him now.
“Huh,” Dex says, reaching out to absently scratch at the goose’s head.
The goose squawks gently and presses its head into Dex’s hand, like some sort of fucked up cat, “Happy Gooseday?”
Nursey gapes at Dex for almost a full minute before finally thinking ‘fuck it’, and flopping down on the couch beside Dex (carefully on the opposite side from his fucking goose).
“Yeah,” Nursey says, leaning his head onto Dex’s shoulder and sighing when Dex kind of shrugs and lifts an arm to wrap around him, as though this is normal, “Happy Fucking Gooseday.”
Chapter 2: Patater
Kent is fairly young to be having his Gooseday. Not the youngest he’s ever heard of, but certainly the youngest one he knows.
He wakes up to it in his bedroom and, really, he doesn’t stand a chance.
It’s nearly the same size he is, and it attacks viciously and continuously until his screams bring his billet mom racing into his room.
“Oh good Lord,” she says, grabbing the goose around the chest and pulling it away from Kent, “I thought with the younger boys this wouldn’t be a problem.”
She’s talking to herself, probably, but Kent still quietly apologizes for the inconvenience, through what seems to be a newly missing tooth and what definitely is a bloodied lip.
“Oh, no Sugar,” she says, grunting halfway through as the goose struggles against her hold, “You don’t get much say in this. Happy Gooseday, anyway.”
Kent suddenly finds the oft-spoken phrase to be highly ironic.
“Should we, uh,” he starts, “Like… Follow it?”
“That’s what it’ll want,” his billet mom says, “I’ll hold it off while you shower and change, dear.”
By the time Kent is ready, his billet mom is looking a little worse for wear, but she gives him a solid smile while releasing his goose, anyway, and gamely follows after it by his side.
They end up at the airport, and Kent can see the crestfallen look on his billet mom’s face as the goose makes its way straight through to Gate 15, where flight 209 will shortly be leaving for Moscow.
“I’m sorry, sweetie,” she says, frowning down at Kent, “I don’t think your mom would like it very much if we took an impromptu trip to Russia…”
“Yeah,” Kent agrees, because she’s certainly not wrong, “So… what do we do with the goose?”
It turns out that if you can’t follow your goose to your soulmate immediately, your goose sticks around.
By the time Kent is drafted to the NHL (after the Q and after Jack and after- well…), he’s had an angry, violent pet goose for nearly a decade.
He’s sort of gotten used to it over the years, and while he won’t be sorry to wake up without any new scratches or bruises, it’s safe to say that he’ll miss his goose when it’s finally gone.
For the most part, his goose just kind of hangs out with him. Occasionally it’ll drag him to the airport again, but it’s never been a great time to fly to Russia on a whim, and for the most part, Kent just chills with his damn goose and watches Netflix and tries not to get bitten in the face.
The day he’s due to fly out to Vegas to meet with his new team, his goose seems more excited than usual. When the get to the airport, his goose immediately takes off, Kent presumes to whichever flight is leaving for Russia today, but when he gets to the gate for his scheduled flight, his goose seems to be relatively relaxed about the choice. Not trying to drag him to another gate and just settling in beside him on one of the uncomfortable airport chairs.
He gets a few curious looks, but it’s not like he's the first person to travel with a goose by his side, and the flight attendants are more than willing to help both Kent and his goose settle. Kent figures that his goose will try to drag him to a flight leaving for Russia once they land in Vegas, figures his goose sees this flight as some sort of unnecessary connector, but his goose seeks out the man sent to pick Kent up from the airport instead, and hops into the backseat of the man’s SUV when the door is opened for it.
It’s unnerving to have his goose behaving so well, honestly, and Kent is starting to get worried.
He’s already googled the lifespan of a goose (apparently up to 24 years, so that’s probably not it), and common goose diseases, but none of them would explain sudden good behaviour (and anyway, soulmate geese are probably not the same as regular geese… Right?)
His goose takes off even faster than usual once they reach the rink, tripping over its webbed feet in its haste to get inside, and Kent starts to think that maybe, just maybe, his goose is finally, actually leading him to his soulmate.
Kent’s stomach, already twisting with nerves about meeting his new team, gives an even more dramatic swoop as he follows his goose down the empty hallway towards the locker room.
His goose naturally precedes him inside and he can hear a catcall or two before he rounds the corner to find his goose settling itself in front of a giant, dark-haired man, and smugly preening its feathers as it waits for the fallout.
“Uh,” Kent says.
“Goose is belong to you?” the giant asks, cocking his head to the side.
“Yeah, that’s- uh…” Kent says, “He’s mine.”
“And he is come see me?” the giant continues.
“I mean… I think so?” Kent says, frowning now because actually there are a lot of guys in this room, and the goose might actually be aiming for the one in the snapback, or the redhead on the giant’s other side.
The giant returns his frown briefly, before he stands and walks out of the room.
Kent thinks maybe he’s pissed; some people are still weird about samesex soulmates, but the guy pops his head back into the locker room after ensuring that the goose follows him out, and he’s grinning now.
In fact, the guy looks fucking thrilled.
“He is come see me!” the guy yells, coming all the way back into the room and scooping Kent into a bone-crushing hug.
“I am Alexei!” he says, when he’s finally put Kent back on his feet.
“Uh, Kent,” Kent says, cautiously straightening out his t-shirt.
Their new captain interrupts them at this point, getting their meet-and-greet slash orientation back on track, but something inside Kent has already settled. His goose is calm, he’s found his soulmate, and maybe, just maybe, he’s finally home.
Chapter 3: Holsom
“Is that here for me, or for you?”
Ransom startles awake to Holster’s sleepy voice from the bunk below him.
It takes him a moment to register Holster's words, but when he finally figures them out, he cautiously peeks over the edge of his bed and finds that yes, Holster is talking about a goose.
The goose squawks at him, or maybe at Holster, then settles itself calmly onto the floor.
“Uh…” Ransom says, peering further over the edge of his bed to catch Holster’s eye.
“They usually attack whoever they belong to, right?” Holster asks, “What’s it doing?”
“Maybe it’s mine and it can’t reach?” Ransom suggests.
“Ooh, that could be it,” Holster says, “Come down here so we can find out.”
“...I don’t want to,” Ransom says.
“You don’t want to find your soulmate?” Holster asks.
“It’s more the vicious goose bites I’m trying to avoid,” Ransom says, “Did you see Johnson’s girlfriend last year? She almost died.”
“She didn’t almost die,” Holster says.
“She was in the hospital for three days,” Ransom shoots back.
“Okay,” Holster says after a moment, “Okay, what if I grab it while you climb down, and then we see if it fights me.”
“You’d fight my goose for me, Bro?” Ransom says, leaning all the way over the side of his bed now, his entire upper body hanging into Holster’s space.
“‘Course, Bro,” Holster says with a shrug.
“Bro...,” Ransom says, reverently.
Holster grins at him, and untangles his unreasonably large body from his bed sheets, dropping cautiously onto the floor and gently grabbing the goose around its middle.
The goose squawks but otherwise remains calm.
Ransom waits a beat, just to make sure the goose isn’t lurung him into a false sense of security, before he climbs down from the top bunk and joins Holster on the floor.
The goose squawks again, but makes no move to fight its way out of Holster’s arms.
Ransom and Holster stare at each other for a moment.
“I think your goose is defective, Bro,” Holster finally says, letting go of the goose and watching as it smooths down the feathers he’d crumpled.
“It could still be your goose,” Ransom points out, defensively.
“Shit,” Holster says, “How do we figure it out?”
“What if,” Ransom says, wracking his brain for a new plan, “One of us leaves, and we see if the goose goes with him?”
“Ooh, okay, good plan,” Holster says. “So, I’ll go downstairs, and you wait here?” Ransom says.
Holster nods, and Ransom makes his way down the stairs. He turns at the bottom and finds that the goose is standing at the top of the stairs, looking at him with it’s creepy, beady eyes.
It squawks, and hops from one foot to the other impatiently.
On a hunch, Ransom walks down the hall, out of the goose’s sight.
Half a second later, the goose appears at the bottom of the stairs, screams at him (what the fuck), and darts forward, biting and scratching at whatever part of Ransom is can reach.
Ransom screams back, and books it back up the stairs as quickly as he can.
When he reaches the top, panting and wide-eyed, his goose settles back onto the floor next to Holster as though nothing at all had happened.
“So it’s definitely my goose,” Ransom says once he’s caught his breath.
“But it wants you to stay up here?” Holster asks, brow furrowed in confusion.
“Looks that way,” Ransom says.
“So it is defective,” Holster says.
“Looks that way,” Ransom repeats, joining Holster where he’s sitting on the floor with his back against the side of their bed.
“Maybe it’s agoraphobic,” Holster says, “Maybe we just need to start bringing chicks up here for it to see.”
“Unless,” Ransom says, taking in how he’s unconsciously pressed up against Holster from shoulder to ankle, remembering how Holster was willing to fight his soulmate goose for him, considering how seamlessly they fit together, on and off the ice.
“Bro,” Holster says slowly, seemingly catching on to Ransom’s train of thought.
“Bro,” Ransom replies, turning slightly to face Holster, lifting a hand to run his fingers gently against the stubble on Holster’s jaw.
“S’wawesome,” Holster says.
Their matching grins mean their first kiss is nothing to write home about but, fuck it, they’re soulmates. They’ll have so many more chances to get it right.
Chapter 4: Zimbits
The morning that Jack wakes up with a goose in his room, he starts his day with a panic attack.
He registers the goose without incident, and even fends off the first few bites, but then he starts thinking, and, honestly, he knows who his soulmate is. He knows.
He’s only felt this strongly about one other person, and Kenny’s goose hadn’t been for him.
And now he’s got his own goose, and there’s no way it’ll be leading him to anyone but Bittle.
And that’s the point where the desire to curl up into the tiniest ball possible becomes overwhelming to the point where he can’t do anything else, and his breathing is coming about six times faster than it should be and he can’t. Fuck he can’t!
He’s not sure how much time passes before he registers the quiet cooing noise, and the warm, soft shape pressed up against his side.
For one wild moment, Jack is sure it’s Bittle, but then he registers the feathers and realizes that his goose is trying to help him calm down.
It’s just bizarre enough to work, pulling him out of his head long enough to start on a plan of action.
He definitely can’t let Bittle know what’s happening. At least not until he knows if this is something Bittle wants. The consent issues inherent in the Gooseday ritual have been relayed to him too many times for him to take this lightly.
The problem, of course, is what he’s supposed to do with his goose in the meantime.
His goose, apparently sensing that he’s calming down by this point, starts to pull away and looks to be considering whether or not it can resume attacking Jack.
Jack immediately stands in the hopes that this will make him more difficult to reach.
The goose slams its beak into his kneecap, probably just to prove it can.
Jack somehow manages to shower and dress without losing too badly to his goose, but eventually he’s going to have to leave his room.
In the hopes of extending his safety for a bit longer, Jack pops through the bathroom into Shitty’s room to see if he can sweet talk Shitty into getting him breakfast.
When Shitty is done laughing at Jack, who’s struggling to hold his goose in his arms as he asks, Shitty just calls him a beautiful motherfucker, and tells him to bite the damn bullet and go downstairs his own damn self.
And, okay, he would eventually need to do this anyway, and his therapist always stresses that avoiding something only makes it harder to do later, so fuck it.
He tightens his grip on his goose and heads downstairs to the kitchen.
Where Bittle is, of course, dancing around listening to some popstar or other and making what looks like pancakes.
Jack attempts to stuff the goose behind his back.
It is not effective.
“Oh my goodness, Jack!” Bittle says, turning at Jack’s goose’s indignant squawk, “Is that your goose?”
“Uh…,” Jack says, because he had anticipated more time to come up with something appropriate, but Bittle is smiling at him and there are dimples involved and there’s a goose struggling determinedly against his back and his mind has gone completely blank.
“Well put ‘im down!” Bittle says, “Don’t you want to see who your soulmate is?”
Jack is still working on a response that isn’t another ‘uh’, when the goose finally breaks free from his, admittedly tenuous hold.
It immediately bustles straight across the kitchen towards Bittle, and Jack starts talking before he even realizes.
“I’m so sorry, Bittle,” he says frantically, watching in horror as the goose butts its head gently against Bittle’s leg and coos, “I didn’t want to spring this on you. I was going to work up to it for a week or two, give you time to adjust…”
Jack trails off.
Bittle is looking at him like he’s crazy.
“Jack Laurent Zimmermann,” Bittle says, “Are you trying to tell me that you were going to fight your goose for a week or two just to make sure I was comfortable with this?”
“Uh…,” Jack says, “Yes?”
“This boy,” Bittle mutters.
And then he’s across the kitchen and right in front of Jack and up on his toes with a hand on Jack’s jaw and the other in Jack’s hair.
“Okay?” Bittle asks, his breath ghosting against Jack’s lips.
Jack’s brain is still stuck on a repeat of ‘uh…’, but luckily his body is a bit more with the program, and instead of responding, he just closes the gap between them.
Bittle sighs into the kiss, and Jack’s goose squawks then falls silent and by the time Jack and Bittle break apart, the goose is gone.
“Happy Gooseday, Jack,” Bittle says, dropping back down onto his heels and smiling up at Jack.
“Happy Gooseday,” Jack says.
Chapter 5: Shitty/Lardo
The woman in front of Shitty looks borderline terrified.
Shitty isn’t sure if it’s because of him, or because of the four-foot tall murder bird beside him.
He figures it’s probably a combination of both.
Shitty takes a step back and slouches down as inconspicuously as he can in an effort to make himself look less intimidating.
There’s not much he can do about the goose.
“Hey,” he says, keeping his voice soft and friendly, “So… I’m Shitty. And, uh, this is my goose.”
The woman snorts softly at his name but otherwise says nothing.
Shitty is suddenly very glad that Jack made him throw on a hoodie and a pair of sweatpants before he left the Haus to follow his goose.
“Pretty sure it’s brought me to you,” Shitty continues after a moment where the woman just looks at him silently, “But, like, no pressure or anything. We could just, like, ignore it. Or chill platonically. Or whatever.”
“Larissa,” the woman finally says, uncrossing her arms briefly to hold out a hand for him to shake.
“Nice to meet you, Larissa,” Shitty says, twenty years of etiquette training kicking in without conscious thought.
“You’re really okay to ignore the implications of being soulmates?” Larissa asks.
“Yeah, of course,” Shitty says, against the tide in his chest that’s trying to overwhelm him with this is right, and she’s gorgeous, and I want to be with you until we die. His inner monologue is an asshole.
“Chill,” Larissa says.
She pops up onto her toes, grabs Shitty by the shoulders to drag him down another couple of inches, and plants a dry but solid kiss on his lips.
Shitty’s goose squawks and vanishes.
“So I’ll see you around,” Larissa says, dropping back to the floor and shooting off a sloppy salute before hurrying off down the sidewalk.
What just happened? Shitty’s inner monologue asks.
“No idea, bro,” Shitty answers.
For the next few months, Shitty and Larissa exchange pleasantries when they run into each other in line at Annie’s or at Haus parties or on their way to class.
Usually nothing more intense than “hey, how’s it going, oh good, well see you around” but it’s something, and it’s what Larissa is comfortable with and so Shitty is happy to accept that. Especially since she had the foresight to not leave him with the world’s most aggressive wingman (haha).
And then Larissa becomes their new team manager, becomes Lardo, becomes Shitty’s best friend (maybe except for Jack… But also maybe not?), and she seems like maybe she’s feeling the same thing.
But he’d promised not to push, and he’s honestly happy.
If she wants something more, she can let him know if, and when, she’s comfortable.
It doesn’t happen until after he graduates.
He’s back in the Haus for the first post-win Kegster of the season, trying to drink enough that he stops feeling guilty about the readings he should be doing, and Lardo is stuck to his side like she can’t make herself be anywhere else.
They dominate at beer pong, Lardo dominates at flip cup, and they end up making out lazily on Lardo’s bed at three in the morning.
“Wait,” Shitty’s drunk ass says, because he is all about looking gift horses in the mouth, apparently, “So, are we doing this? Like… Really doing it? I’m fine either way, I just want to know-”
Lardo cuts him off with another slow kiss.
“Yeah,” she says when she pulls back, giving Shitty a small smile and half-shrugging against the bed, “Might as well, right? Gotta respect the goose.”
“We don’t,” Shitty says, because hell, he’s spent three and a half years making sure that Lardo is 100% clear that she doesn’t actually have to respect the goose, “But I can’t say I’d be upset if we did.”
Lardo smiles again, and leans in to resume kissing him, as though it's suddenly that easy.
And really, it kind of is.
Chapter 6: Charmer
Caitlyn can admit that, growing up, she had engaged fully in the Gooseday excitement most people get wrapped up in.
She remembers learning everything she could about the scientific basis for it (as near as science has been able to determine), and about how Goosedays can play out, and she remembers feeling absolutely gutted to learn that some people never even get a goose.
With the optimism afforded her by being eleven at the time, Caitlyn had never even considered that she might be one of those people.
By the time she graduates from high school, she’s almost sure she is one of those people.
Which, okay, is probably a little bit melodramatic; she’s not the only person she knows who hasn’t had their Gooseday yet, but she’s never even had a crush, and if that doesn't scream forever alone, Caitlyn doesn’t know what does.
But it’s fine. She’s on her way to university (in New England) on a volleyball scholarship, and she’ll probably be way too busy to focus on romance anyway.
And for the first few months, she totally is. College is a steep learning curve, and Volleyball takes up every waking moment that school doesn’t, and she knows that her roommate (Jennifer? Jessica? Something with a J), probably wouldn’t be able to pick her out of a lineup, despite having shared a room with her for three months already.
And then she’s bowled over by two gigantic hockey boys on Lake Quad and suddenly making time for romance seems much more important.
Samwell, Massachusetts is great, really, but Chris Chow is the flash of bright, California sunshine that Caitlyn has been trying to pretend she doesn’t miss.
Their relationship moves fast, but Caitlyn would describe it as anything but a whirlwind; more like finding your other half and not needing to wait because everything is just already comfortable.
Caitlyn is pretty sure that this is that soulmate thing that everyone is always talking about, and if she never gets her goose (or Chris never gets his; at this point she’s not picky), then maybe that’s fine.
Their goose, and neither one of them knows which of them it belongs to, shows up one morning, cuddled between them in their bed.
“Are you serious, dude?” Caitlyn asks, rolling her eyes and flopping onto her back, “We’ve only been married for four years.”