Dante loved media day. 
That was probably vain of him, but whatever. Dante refused to pretend he was anything other than his whole self. Sure, there was something ridiculous about standing around in gear and running shoes and making sexy faces at the camera, but Dante was a ridiculous guy. Making the camera crew laugh kept him entertained, and with any luck they’d respond by not using the ugliest shots on the team’s social media.
Admittedly, the makeup was not his favorite part.  He felt shellacked, which the techs had definitely done to his hair. But the point was to minimize the glare from the lights and not to make his brown skin look whiter, so Dante sucked it up and did his best Mexican-American version of Blue Steel until Tricia from PR threatened him with a water bottle.
“You love me!” he shouted over his shoulder as he jogged down the hall toward the locker room.
“You’re trying too hard!” she shouted back, but he could hear the laugh in her voice. 
Dante grinned. He could already see his face on the Jumbotron screen at Quebec City Amphitheatre, the stats beside his name ticking up with every point he scored.
Last year he’d taken a flukey hit to the head and only played a third of the season.  This year he needed to do better. A point per game sounded pretty good. A little lofty maybe, but shoot for the stars and all that.
All he had to do was convince his coach that the open slot on the first line belonged to him.
Good thing Dante thrived under pressure.
He chucked his gear in his stall and ducked into the showers to melt the crap from his face and hair. Then he dried off and slung the towel over his shoulder.  Time for phase one of his master plan—ingratiate himself with his teammates.
The locker room was a little over half full when he returned. Most guys were changing into street clothes, and a handful of prospects were talking in the corner, heads bent. Dante couldn’t make out the words, but their body language said I can’t believe we’re finally here. Adorable. And relatable.
Olie was smirking to himself as he checked over his goalie gear. The locker-room lights glinting off his shiny brown head gave him a kind of halo, but Dante wasn’t fooled. The gear-checking was part of his ritual, but the smirk wasn’t. Someone was getting pranked today. 
No Flash yet, but the captain always had extra media time. Gabe Martin, his right winger, was here, grimacing at his phone. As Dante watched, he silenced the thing and shoved it farther into the pile of stuff at the back of his stall. Dante knew that expression. That meant girl problems. 
And that gave Dante a perfect opening.
He chucked his towel in the laundry and clapped once. “Can I have your attention please!”  It wasn’t a question.
When the volume in the locker room dropped, he realized he was naked. Whoops. Oh well. “I know you jerks missed me over the summer.  Dinner and drinks at O’Ryan’s?”
The prospies whooped. Olie looked up from his gear, met Dante’s eyes, shook his head, and went back to it, so Dante assumed he was in as well.
Now for his real target. Dante grabbed his underwear from the stall next to Gabe’s and shimmied into them. Shit, his ass really had gotten huge. He might need to upgrade his boxers to accommodate. “You’re coming, right?”
Gabe came out to the bar after games some nights, but he was always the first to leave, just like he was always the first guy in the dressing room or on the ice for practice. He didn’t make small talk, which was annoying, because Dante was dying to pick his brain. Gabe could do things on the ice that made goalies cry for their mothers. 
Gabe blinked, almost like he was looking through Dante, then shook himself and met his eyes. “Sorry?”
Woof. Whatever was going on in his head, a night out with the boys would do him good. “To the pub? To drown your sorrows?” Dante suggested. “I saw you looking at your phone. I know that look, man. Forget about her and come have fun.” 
Finally realization dawned in ice-blue eyes. Gabe’s cheeks went slightly pink, which made him look every bit like his stupid media nickname—the Anglo Angel. The blond curls did kind of remind Dante of a fresco he’d seen once. “You’ve got me pegged, eh?”
Heh. Pegged. Dante clapped him on the shoulder and reached for his T-shirt. “Not yet,” he said cheerfully. “But I bet we can find you a girl who’s into that at O’Ryan’s.” 
 Just jumping right in here–this is the first scene we get in Dante’s POV. The first thing we learn about him is that he loves to be seen. He’s a show-off. He’s vain. But that’s just the surface level–he’s also got a sense of humor and he likes to put people in a good mood.
 So here we get a little deeper. Dante likes to be seen… but only for who he actually is. He hates pretending to be something he’s not, which becomes an issue with Gabe later.
 While Dante is determined to see himself as a “what you see is what you get” kind of guy, Tricia calls him out here for trying too hard, and she’s not wrong. Dante is desperate to be seen for who he is–a young, successful Latino hockey player. And he deserves that. But he’s so focused on it that he goes overboard sometimes and becomes a caricature of himself, instead of just himself. This is a realization he’ll come to later, after he realizes that with Gabe he doesn’t have to be the loudest possible version of himself to be seen and heard.
 Now we’re getting into what led Dante up to this point. We get a little more information later on, but for now it’s enough to know that he finally made the big show and then immediately got sidelined.
 One thing to know about Dante right from the get-go: shame and modesty are problems for other people. He is absolutely naked right now calling for everyone’s attention, and he gives 0 fucks.
 And here we have back-to-back instances of Dante almost getting things right. He notices Olie’s going to prank someone and doesn’t stop to consider that it’s him….
 …and here he assumes that Gabe’s got girl problems, which Gabe… does not. You’re so close, Dante!
 Bless him, that sums him up in one line, doesn’t it?
 One reason for Dante’s brash attitude: he makes sure people know who he is up front, so they aren’t surprised later. He is only interested in putting in the effort with people who actually like him because he’s been burned before. The extra-strength attitude helps weed out anyone who wouldn’t appreciate the regular-strength Dante.
 In this new version, Gabe’s a little older, so teenage Dante actually had one of his hockey posters. (Don’t tell Gabe, though; he’ll feel like an old man.) Now Dante gets to play with one of his idols. Just as important, he gets to ask Gabe for pointers and advice so Dante can play his best.
 “Pay attention to meeeeeeeee.” – Dante, probably.
But he’s also trying to be a good friend and teammate.
 …The man has priorities, okay?
Leave a Reply