Alright, so I'm not sure how many people even read this story the first go 'round, but this is the new and improved version. Same boys, same story, just some slight changes in character and background. I was never completely satisfied with the one I had posted, so I went back in and did some serious editing. For anyone who did read the last one, you'll notice the changes and hopefully agree that it's an improvement. For anyone new to this story, I hope you like it!

As far as I'm concerned, comments make the world go round, especially if you've enjoyed it! I also appreciate any constructive criticism that anyone wants to offer- emphasis on the 'constructive' aspect.

Warnings: In case you weren't paying attention to the summary, this story has an established M/M relationship and I don't want to hear any whinging about it, please! If that's not your cup of tea, you're free to leave anytime. Aside from a couple of kisses and some cursing, nothing major to note. So…

With that out of the way: ENJOY (:


I hate breakaways.

Some keepers live for the thrill of facing down a striker one on one- the adrenaline rush, the challenge. You watch as the ball is lofted over the defense, landing neatly in front of that lone striker as he bears down on the goal. Heart pounding, adrenaline coursing through your veins, your body coils, watching his every move. Waiting for him to enter your domain, waiting for him to make a mistake. And there- your chance! He lets the ball get just outside his control. If everything goes as planned, you dive in, taking the ball right off his foot. Your team cheers, moving into position to resume play.

I'm not one of those keepers. Because of course, things don't always go as planned.

Which is why I'm currently being helped off the field by our trainer. Nothing too serious, but I don't much like being a replacement for the ball when the striker decides to shoot. After that kick to the stomach, saying I've had the breath knocked out of me doesn't quite cover it. But, hey, he didn't score, right? All in a day's work.

Try telling that to my boyfriend. As he storms around the perimeter of the field to our bench, Cale's distinctive voice can be heard alternately questioning the state of the referee's vision and threatening the life of the offending player. He approaches the bench where I'm sitting, still muttering various profanities under his breath. I'm bent double with my elbows on my knees, slowly recovering. My breathing is still ragged and shallow, but I lift my head to offer the most reassuring smile I can muster. Cale's hair is messy from his rush and his pale green eyes have taken on a slightly frantic edge. I see the emotions warring in his face, and know that my tentative smile isn't nearly enough. Anger and concern battle for dominance and he settles on anger as the less potentially embarrassing of the two. Cale might be openly gay, but he's still a guy.

"Bastards like that shouldn't even be allowed on the field…and you!" Shit. I know that tone of voice. The angry edge only just covers the tremble of worry. I'm guessing everything looked worse from the sidelines. Especially since it took me a moment to pull myself together and up off the ground. Apparently my teammates recognize the tone as well and move down the bench, wisely focusing on the game. Obviously I'll get no help from that quarter. Thanks, guys. "What the hell were you thinking? You know that guy doesn't care if he gets the ball or the player! Why would you go up against him like that?" Cale demands, looking slightly apoplectic.

"I didn't really have a choice," I reply hoarsely, leveling him one of my patented looks. I mean, honestly. I know Cale is concerned for me, but shit happens. I'm a goalkeeper; this is what I do. My job is to stop the other team from scoring, even if that means throwing myself in their way. Cale knows this. He played soccer for over ten years himself, until he got injured his senior year of high school.

He went down hard in a tackle and managed to tear his ACL in a big way. Usually, ACL tears are a fairly in-and-out surgery with a high rate of return to play, but Cale was one of the unlucky few with post-operative complications. The doctors opted for the tried and true patellar tendon graft for his reconstructed ACL, which initially worked out just fine. It was months into rehab before he discovered his replacement graft was prone to recurring tendonitis as his workouts became more vigorous. Since the tendonitis only occurred when Cale began to push himself harder, his doctor wasn't willing to risk any corrective surgery, citing the possibility of even more complications, and recommended that Cale simply cut back on the intensity of his exercise.

Usually it hardly bothers him at all, but he hasn't been able to play competitively since. He swims and jogs to keep himself in shape, and we still kick around some on the weekends, but more strenuous activity always triggers his tendonitis. It was pretty rough on him after he found out. Soccer was a huge part of his life and he couldn't stand that he was fully functional on a day to day basis but had to forfeit something so important. These days he's mostly content to watch from the sidelines and do a little coaching when he has the time. But, having had such a bad experience himself, he tends to get rather protective of me over even the most insignificant little injuries. Much like he is now.

Cale has the grace to look a bit chagrined at the rough edge of my voice and the implied 'dumbass' tacked onto the end of my statement. The anger fades from his face, to be replaced by obvious anxiety. Damn. It must've looked really bad. I manage a weak chuckle.

"You should see your face, man. Priceless," I say, attempting to lighten the mood. Apparently a failed attempt, if Cale's renewed scowl is any indication. "Look, I'm fine. I just took a boot to the gut. Nothing life threatening, just somewhat painful. Besides, you know from personal experience that I've got abs of steel," I say, dropping a wink and smiling broadly at his reaction. The faint blush across his cheeks is at odds with his baleful expression, and certainly isn't helping his Cale the Protector image. Poor boy. "No worries. So lose the misty-eyed look and chill. Sit down and watch the rest of the game." His glare loses some of its ferocity and he gives in when I pull him onto the bench next to me.

There's a little over five minutes left in the game. We're tied 2-2 and it's a really close match. The other team has had possession most of this half and they've been beating down my defense at every turn. That breakaway was dangerous. Shutting it down really kept us in the game and the fact that I got hurt only energized my team more. My roommate seems to be determined to personally humiliate the other team's entire defense. I feel myself tensing as Mason successively beats three defenders and charges the goal. The keeper comes out to meet him and I hold my breath as he goes down on the ball at Mason's feet. But right as he begins to dive, Mason strikes the ball and it passes just under the keeper's falling body. I don't even notice I've risen to my feet and started yelling until I begin to cough and Cale pulls me back onto the bench. As I recover my breath, I watch the team swarm around Mason as he performs his victory dance. Mason catches my eye and stops to bow dramatically in my direction. I fight off another coughing fit as laughter overtakes me. Cale tries to glare, but he can't stop smiling long enough to do it properly.

One minute, forty-three seconds left. Doesn't seem like much time, but I've seen teams come back and score in the last thirty seconds of a game. And our opponents definitely want it. I'm confident in my boys, but this is going to be a challenge. Immediately after the whistle, the other team launches an all out offensive. Our team compacts, everyone dropping to defend, but the other team is breaking through. I'm tense again, and I grab Cale's shoulder in apprehension. The same striker who kicked me beats the last defender and I watch anxiously as Jeremy sets himself for the shot. Low and far post, it's a damn good shot. But Jeremy reads it right and dives, intercepting the ball a couple yards from the goal line. Poor Cale is probably going to have bruises on his shoulder from my death grip. He gives me a pointed look, but I'm too wrapped up in the game to really care. Fifty-four seconds left. Jeremy slowly rises and saunters to the top of the penalty box, taking as much time as possible. He drop kicks the ball, easily clearing the half field line, where it is neatly brought down by our own striker. Forty-one seconds. Our team spreads out, passing the ball around, using every trick our coach ever taught us to run the clock out. Eighteen seconds. At this point, no one is really concerned with scoring again. We just have to keep possession of the ball so the other team doesn't get another chance at it. The boys are stringing together pass after pass, running our opponents in humiliating circles. It's at times like this when I remember why I love soccer so passionately- played well, it is an undeniably beautiful game.

The buzzer signals the end of the match and the entire team surges together as everyone on the bench rushes onto the field. I'm a half step behind, Cale beside me, not wanting to throw myself into the press of bodies just yet. Of course, who really cares what I want? My teammates close around me, and I'm subjected to quite a few friendly beatings until Cale threatens to eviscerate the next person to treat me so roughly. That gets a laugh from the boys, but does nothing to dissuade them. They all know Cale and his overprotective tendencies. He tries to glare menacingly, but quickly surrenders to the contagious euphoria of the team. Everyone's so excited, you'd think we had just won the championship game of some tournament, but it's just a regular season match. The team we just played, though, is one of our fiercest rivals, and this is the first time in over a decade that we've defeated them. We're understandably enthused.

Everyone finally breaks apart to do some cool down stretches and pack up. Cale moves across the field to pick up the messenger bag he left in the bleachers. I swear he carries that thing everywhere. Mason and I tease him about it whenever an opportunity arises, which is less often than we had first anticipated. Even though he carries it around like a girl with her purse, Cale's so metro that it doesn't seem feminine at all. But there's also the geek factor; he bought the bag to carry around all the books that he has with him even outside of school. Not just any books, though- physics books. The boy is a colossal physics dork, but you'd never guess it by looking at him. I think that's why he decided on a messenger bag instead of just a book bag; add to the metro appeal and no one will suspect that he's carrying around books about Faraday, Feynman, and Schrödinger.

I finish packing up and head off toward the locker room. Cale will wait for me outside the gym while I turn in my uniform and get a quick shower.

"Andy, wait up!" comes the call from behind me. I turn to watch as two of my teammates make their way towards me- Mason Westall, midfielder extraordinaire as well as my roommate and best friend since forever, and Jeremy Wolfe, freshman goalkeeper and newest addition to our group. Mason's golden eyes are still alight with excitement and his brown hair is dark with sweat and messy from the game. Jeremy is in much the same state, hazel eyes reflecting his boyish grin, though it's nothing unusual for his short blonde hair to look completely unkempt. I can't help but smile back, as they fairly bound towards me, acting more like excited puppies than the college students they are.

"Hey, man, I know we're hot, but I doubt Cale would approve," Jeremy snickers, pulling me from my observations. Apparently, I was watching them a bit too intently. He and Mason stop in front of me, posing ridiculously.

"Well, we have a 'look but don't touch' policy. I'm free to eye the goods so long as it goes no further," I say, leering at them suggestively and earning an amused chuckle. The team was surprisingly supportive when I came out at the beginning of last year and even more so when I started dating Cale. Supportive doesn't mean I avoid dealing with incessant teasing, but everyone's very good humored about it. They don't even falter when I pretend to make a pass at them anymore. It's nice to live in such a liberal community. I throw my arms around their shoulders. "He might make an exception for you two," I whisper conspiratorially.

They laugh and push me away as we continue to the locker room. Most of the team is already in there and various greetings are thrown our way as we enter. We respond in kind as we shuck our sweaty uniforms and head for the communal showers for a quick wash. There are only a few private stalls, but most of last season that's where I showered. Everyone was very open minded about my sexuality, but I could tell that showering with me was rather awkward for most of them, so I took myself out of the equation. After we all got better acquainted and they realized I wasn't going to jump them just because I'm gay, they relaxed around me and didn't object when I started using the communal showers again. The fact that Cale and I have been dating since last spring probably helped as well.

I wrap a towel around my waist after I shower and go to get dressed. I pause as I pass a mirror on my way out of the showers. I poke at my stomach, which is a bit red where I was kicked and looks as though will be bruising. It's kind of tender right now, but I'm sure I'll be feeling it more tomorrow morning. My gaze shifts to my face and I note that I need to get a haircut soon. I usually keep my blonde hair relatively short, but it's starting to get long enough that it gets in my way. Now, it hangs damply across my eyes. I've contemplated cutting it really short, but I think Cale would have a fit. He loves running his hands through my hair, especially when we're curled up watching a movie or reading. Cale keeps his longer than mine, in part because I'm rather fond of playing with it, but I'm convinced it's mostly to satisfy his vanity. And I will be the first to say the shaggy hair works for him. You wouldn't think him vain by the way he acts, modest and down to earth as he is, but the boy certainly spends more time worrying about his looks than I ever have. A source of endless amusement for me. I abruptly realize I've gotten distracted and blink bemusedly. Before my thoughts can wander farther, I rein them in and head off to get dressed.

When I finally emerge from the locker room, I find Cale leaning against the wall outside the gym. The sunlight is pouring through the trees and, sappy as it sounds, the way it highlights the coppery tones in his dark brown hair is beautiful. His green eyes fall on me as he hears my approach. A delighted smile spreads across his face and, after a furtive glance to ensure that we don't have an audience, he draws me in for a slow kiss. Chaste and sweet, I think he just wants reassurance that I'm really okay. As we break apart, he glances around once more and I can't help but smile at his caution. It's not that he's at all ashamed of showing affection, but the guys can be relentless in their teasing, and Cale doesn't have the same level of tolerance for it that I do.

"Nice to see you, too," I say, stealing one more quick kiss before everyone else joins us. He smiles happily, and grabs my hand as Mason and Jeremy approach with the rest of the guys. We've all made plans to celebrate our victory at the local pizza place. Cale shoots a pointed look in their direction, as if daring them to comment on our clasped hands, and begins to lead me away. I just smile at them and contentedly follow my boyfriend. The boys swap amused glances and fall in step as we head off to dinner.