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  • Writer's pictureHenry Cavanaugh

RT Sports: Part II

Updated: Apr 29, 2020

Stepping back from his role as the head of creative for Rooster Teeth hadn’t been a decision Burnie Burns had made lightly but six months removed from that decision he was more certain than ever that it had been the right choice to make.

He’d worked tirelessly for a decade and a half to build that company from the ground up and now that it was well established and successful he didn’t need to work nearly as hard. He was comfortable to let others take the reins while he kicked back and only worked as an on-screen talent when needed. Handing over the stresses of running an online digital production company had alleviated much of the pressures that Burnie felt had aged him beyond his forty-something years - but most importantly it allowed him to spend more time on the things that really mattered in his life: his wife and kids.

Burnie had always been a family man but his job hadn’t always allowed him to act as such. Some nights he’d be working until three in the morning and being on the convention circuit meant he was often away from them for several days at a time, not to mention missing birthdays, school events and the like. Now all that was behind him and he was determined to catch up on all those little things he had missed, which was why he’d decided to purchase them all VIP tickets to that weekend’s Dallas Stars game, the ice hockey team that his kids supported due to their close proximity.

His time working in the entertainment industry had afforded Burnie a few interesting connections and through a friend of a friend he had managed to get hold of the Stars team captain and recruited him to help him play a prank on his family. Jamie Benn was an easygoing man with a strong love of family himself so he had been more than happy to help Burnie out when the older man had explained the planned joke over the phone to the other.

It was rather simple really. Burnie’s family would be taken on a tour of the Stars’ home arena and while they were in the stands, Jamie would go out to skate on the ice - while dressed in Burnie’s coat to fool his kids into thinking their dad was an amazing skater. Meanwhile Burnie would hide away to film his family’s reactions both as Jamie was on the ice and then as they revealed the truth. As far as pranks went it was relatively tame but he’d had more than enough prank warfare while working full-time at Rooster Teeth and when his family were involved he wanted it to be fairly innocent. Plus, he was certain that his kids would probably be so overwhelmed by meeting the captain of their favourite sports team that they’d probably forgive their silly old man in no time at all.

Faking a sudden need to use the restroom allowed Burnie to leave the tour shortly after it began and their guide gave him a little wink as he changed directions to head towards the locker room. Very few people were around ahead of that night’s game but Jamie had agreed to arrive early and was already waiting for Burnie outside the door to the team’s locker room.

“You must be Burnie?” the team captain queried, meeting the older man’s hand for a firm shake. Burnie was taken off guard by the impressive strength of the other’s grip, even if he knew that he should have expected as such from a well-seasoned athlete like Jamie. “It’s a pleasure, dude. I’ve got some merch set aside for your kids too, by the way, and a signed poster from a couple folks on the team: Seggers, Pavelski, Bishop. Grabbed as many as I could on short notice.”

“That’s way more than I expected, but thank you,” Burnie replied genuinely, touched by the other man’s show of hospitality. “It’s awesome that you agreed to do this. My kids will think I’m cool for at least a day after this!” The remark made both men laugh as they head into the locker room which was remarkably well kept considering the locker rooms Burnie had been back when he’d been on the wrestling team back in high school. This is the big leagues, he reminded himself. Dallas’ finest on the ice! He, meanwhile, had never really had the drive to become a professional athlete, which was why he’d been quite content to make web-series out of video games.

Once they were firmly behind closed doors, Burnie pulled off the heavy red-and-white jacket he’d donned that morning and pulled the personalized ice hockey helmet his wife had purchased for him as a Christmas gift the year previously. The two men were of a fairly similar height and the heavy jacket would easily disguise the fact that Jamie’s body was far more muscular than Burnie’s own. They shared jokes as the professional athlete pulled the clothes on, leaving Burnie in only his sweater. Taking note, an idea sparked in Jamie’s mind.

“How about you wear my jersey and helmet when you go out there too? Come on after I’ve done my bit,” he suggested with a bright smile. “It’ll really throw them for a spin when they think I’m suddenly like bambi on ice - no offense, man.” He pulled the green jersey from his locker cabinet and threw it across to Burnie, who fumbled the catch but was able to pull it out of the air before it could hit the floor. “See, you’ve got some moves in you!”

“Sure, let’s do it,” Burnie agreed, pulling the jersey on over his sweater and then stepping in front of the mirror to inspect himself. He was thankful that sports jerseys were deliberately made larger to go over all of their protection gear because it made him feel slightly better about the fact it fit him noticeably tighter than it fit its rightful owner, hugging around the waistline in particular.

Once the pair of them were dressed, Jamie led Burnie from the locker room to rink-side and as soon as Burnie confirmed that he could see his family walking through the stands, Jamie took off onto the ice with gusto. He moved across the rink like it was where he was born to be and that was most likely the truth. Burnie had long held the other man in high esteem for how he’d led the Dallas Stars over the past several years.

Hearing nearby gasps and woops of surprise brought a bright smile to Burnie’s face and he had to fight back a laugh. His kids were buying right into their little masquerade trick and he couldn’t wait to reveal the truth to them. As he stood and watched though, he noticed that he was starting to feel surprisingly warm considering the cool air that surrounded him. In fact he was pretty sure that he was starting to sweat under the jersey and helmet which itself was a little too tight on his head.

Took that turn a little too sharp, Burnie remarked to himself as he continued to watch the athlete work his way around the ice, before reminding himself that it wasn’t his place to criticise the professional at how he did his job. Besides, while he was a fan of the sport and had been on the ice a few times himself, he’d never been good enough to comment upon somebody’s form so he was confused about where that thought had even come from! And yet, the next time Jamie made a turn on the ice he seemed to wobble unsteadily for a brief moment and the thought echoed back in Burnie’s mind.

Out on the ice, Jamie’s cheeks burned with embarrassment. He wasn’t sure what was going on but he just didn’t seem to be in his element as much as he should have. He loved getting out onto the ice - it was his home away from home - but he’d made a couple silly mistakes already and felt even worse for it because he knew he was supposed to be entertaining Burnie’s kids who supposedly looked up to him as a hero. The desire not to let them down burned deeply in his mind, perhaps even too deeply considering he had no personal connection to them, and yet he almost skidded out onto his ass when he took the next turn much sharper than intended.

Burnie was growing increasingly more concerned as he watched the other, noticing more and more mistakes in the other man’s skating techniques. He couldn’t help but think it was strange that he’d never noticed them when his family watched the Dallas Stars play on television though. He rationalized it as Jamie just having an ‘off day’, although there was also a nagging voice in the back of Burnie’s mind encouraging him to go out onto the ice and show Jamie how it was really done. He fought back against that voice, all too aware of how ridiculous it would be for him to try and show up somebody who spent almost every day skating in practice or playing games for a professional NHL team.

Not only was Jamie making stupid mistakes that he hadn’t made since his rookie years back in high school but he also felt totally blown out, as if he wasn’t used to the intensity of traveling across the ice at such high speeds. That was ridiculous though, he kept a good fitness regime - he had to if he didn’t want his best friend Tyler Seguin to mock him any more than he already did - and was certainly no stranger to cardio. Sweat trickled down his brow though and his cheeks flushed a deep red as his breaths came in much heavier than before.

The excited cheers of Burnie’s kids had settled down a noticeable degree and as Jamie spun out of the control and was sent down to his ass, Burnie could hear the sharp intake of worry from the onlookers. Deciding that there was no better moment to make his presence known, he stepped out onto the ice and immediately made his way across the rink where the other man was struggling to get up off his feet. The moment he had appeared on the ice there were a number of excited screams behind him: likely his kids as they saw the number and name on the jersey and thought their hero had just stepped onto the ice, rather than having been there the whole time.

“You alright?” Burnie asked as he reached Jamie’s side and took his arm with a strong grip to help him back up onto his skates. His voice was low and deep, although he was quick to dismiss that as his own attempt to keep the masquerade going and not reveal his own voice coming from who his family presumed was Jamie Benn.

“Dunno what’s up with me today,” Jamie wheezed between pants. “Sorry man, I’ve probably embarrassed you, haven’t I?” The athlete’s heart sunk as he thought about his failure to live up to the promise he had made the other - and those kids. He didn’t want them to think their dad was a loser!

“Just follow me,” Burnie instructed, beginning to skate back across the ice with an ease he’d never expected of himself. The slight pain in his knees that he always experienced when he did any amount of cardio didn’t even make its presence known, he was running on so much adrenaline! He was even confident to spin around so that he was skating backwards. Upon seeing the nervous expression under the other man’s helmet, Burnie gave him an encouraging smile. “You’ve got this, man. Eyes on me.”

Jamie was vaguely aware that there was something wrong about him being coached across the ice by the other man but his legs were so unsteady that he felt strangely nervous and focusing on the other was a helpful distraction. Thankfully Burnie led them right off of the ice and Jamie was thankful to be back on normal ground, pulling his skates and helmet off as quickly as he could manage. His chest rose and fell as he took several heavy breaths, desperately trying to regain his composure.

“Daddy!” the excited screaming of a child came from alarmingly close by and Jamie was stunned as he felt a sudden pressure at his midsection. He glanced down to see a young boy, soon followed by a young girl, both of whom clung to him like their lives depended on it. I’m not your dad, he wanted to remark but the words were caught in his throat and instead he looked up at the other man just as Burnie removed his own helmet. Seeing his own face staring back at him with wide eyes made Jamie’s heart skip a beat.

It seemed their masquerade had worked a little too well. Burnie could hardly believe that the other man now sported his face, while the expression Jamie wore suggested that Burnie’s visage had changed into Jamie’s own. Patting at his waistline, Burnie realized that the jersey didn’t fit quite so tightly anymore either, as if that quick trip on the ice had caused him to lean out and lose the extra pounds he’d been carrying around with him for much of his adult life. He figured that he should have been offended that his kids hadn’t come to him first and yet surprisingly he wasn’t all that torn up about it, as if the emotional ties between a father and child no longer existed for him. In fact, as the terror relaxed from Jamie’s expression, Burnie could see the fondness in the other’s eyes as he looked down at the children who had understandably mistaken him for their father.

Jamie was frozen to the spot but a smile had managed to creep up on his face as the kids praised his skating ability despite his unfortunate fall on the ice. He knew that he was supposed to be better than that but a voice in the back of his mind suggested that the fact he’d stayed up for as long as he had while skating at such speeds was an achievement, despite the fact he usually did that on a near-nightly basis. While Burnie’s kids mistaking him for the real deal was a head scratcher in itself, having the other man’s wife approach and greet him with a kiss caused Jamie’s mind to do a backflip in his skull. What the hell is going on?

Burnie remained silent as he watched his family greet the athlete as if it were him. He was surprised by the lack of bitterness inside of him as he regarded the scene, only partially jealous that he had not received such an enthusiastic greeting. Clearing his throat caught the attention of his kids and their faces lit up in excitement as they turned to face him - but it was because they recognized him as Jamie Benn, their local hockey superhero, rather than as their father!

The two men made eye contact and a silent agreement was made to keep their charade going for a little while longer. After all, how could they possibly explain what had happened between them? Nobody in their right mind would believe a tale of switching bodies just by donning each other’s clothes and yet that was precisely what had happened. Burnie faked his way through the rapid fire questions that were thrown his way by the two children, surprised to find just how quickly and easily the answers to their questions came to him. The curious look on the other man’s face confirmed that his answers were spot-on for Jamie too, although Burnie was none the wiser for how he had managed that. Similarly Jamie’s hand had worked its way around the hips of Burnie’s wife, holding her closer to his side as if he was used to her presence.

“Are you going to be joining us for the rest of the tour?” Burnie’s wife asked with a polite smile. The two kids jumped up and down with excitement, evidently thrilled by the prospect. Burnie met Jamie’s eyes and the other shrugged, offering little in the way of assistance in response.

“I’ve got a bit of time before I have to get ready for tonight’s game so why not,” he remarked. As soon as the words about that night’s game - the Dallas Stars were going up against the Washington Capitals - Burnie began to panic. If he hadn’t switched back with the real Jamie Benn by that point then he’d have to go out on the ice and fake that he was their team captain. He’d already proved that he could handle himself as a skater but leading a team to victory? That was sure as hell going to be a challenge.

There was very little time for the two men to talk as the tour continued through the arena, although they occasionally shared concerned glances, both seemingly realizing the amount of trouble they would be in if they didn’t switch back soon. The kids bombarded Burnie with questions and each one he answered left him feeling even more confident, as if he was simply recalling facts from his own past experiences rather than trying to guess at what Jamie would say.

A short while later and another round of excited squeals came from the two children as their second-favourite Dallas Stars player turned the corner ahead of them: Tyler Seguin. The young man greeted the group with a bright smile, sparing only a quick moment to cast Burnie a questioning look. Jamie’s mind spun in confusion as he held his hand out and introduced himself to the other man as Burnie Burns, surprised by how instinctive it had felt.

Once the round of introductions was done and Tyler had taken selfies with the kids, their party’s new arrival leaned in close to Burnie and mumbled, “Time to go get ready, Chubs.” The familiar nickname brought a smile to Burnie’s lips and he no longer questioned how he was aware of something that was a personal joke between two men he hadn’t ever met before that day.

Making his apologies that he’d have to depart their tour early, Burnie accepted the hugs from the kids and shook the hands of both of the adults, ignoring the look of distress he saw in his own eyes as he clasped Jamie’s hand. He then followed Tyler back towards the locker room, mentally steeling himself from the biggest challenge he had faced in his life. Surely Jamie’s teammates would figure out he was a fake, right?

“They seem like a nice family,” Tyler remarked honestly once they were out of earshot, snapping Burnie out of his thoughts.

“Yeah, the kids are excited as hell to be here for tonight’s game. The dad’s not much of a skater though. He wiped out on the ice earlier,” Burnie replied, earning a chuckle from his teammate. Jamie's teammate, he reminded himself.

Their conversation continued as they continued their journey and Burnie found himself relaxing in the other’s presence, laughing at his jokes and even vaguely recalling experiences from practice sessions on the ice that he certainly hadn’t been present for. It was a strange feeling, experiencing memories that weren’t his own, but it gave Burnie hope that he would be able to get through the night without being exposed or making too much of a fool of Jamie. He didn't want to ruin anything for the other man, after all.

Once in the locker room and stripping out of the gear he’d borrowed from Jamie, Burnie couldn’t help but stand in front of the mirror to admire the younger man’s body for a moment. He wasn’t ripped with washboard abs like Tyler was but his body was powerfully built and there was a healthy population of hair across his broad chest. Unfortunately his self-admiring was interrupted by his new teammate, who snickered at what he saw. “Somebody feeling themselves today, Chubs?” the other man teased. Burnie rolled his eyes but truthfully he really was feeling himself, or rather, feeling like Jamie Benn.

Sure enough, as the hours ticked down and the local crowds piled into the arena with high hopes of seeing the Stars beat the Capitals, everything seemed to be falling into place. Burnie was no stranger to giving rousing speeches - as one of the founders of Rooster Teeth he’d had to do it many times for his employees - but there was extra passion in his words as he talked up his team and convinced them that they were going to send their fans home happy no matter what. The roars of approval he got from his teammates fired Burnie up and getting out on the ice to be greeted by the cheering crowd felt like returning home from a long trip away. Any fears and hesitations he might have had faded away in an instant as he led his team to an early lead in the first period, ending up in the middle of a huddle of cheering athletes moments later.

Jamie watched the whole match from the VIP area of the crowd, his intense longing to be out there on the ice with his teammates slowly beginning to fade away. Instead he was busy being a father and a husband, both of which combined to make a pretty full time job. He had to keep his kids from falling into the rows in front as they burst out of their seats with excitement when his replacement had sent the puck hurling into the back of the net, although truthfully he felt just as excited as they did. He just prayed the other man kept his head in the game and didn’t blow their early lead.

That was precisely what Burnie did - three full periods of the game later and although the Capitals had put up a good fight, the Stars had won with two extra points on the board. The crowd erupted with cheers as the full team came onto the ice in celebration. Burnie couldn’t even tell who was hugging him anymore, everybody seemed to be on cloud nine. It was single-handedly one of the best moments of his life - easy to say when the feelings of his wedding and the births of his children had all but faded away.

Before he knew it Burnie was back in the locker room, stripped down to his boxers and sharing a couple cans of beer with a few teammates. His intention of finding his family and Jamie in his body had all but been forgotten as the men exchanged stories about their time on the ice. The comraderie just felt so right for some reason!

Similarly Jamie was leading his family out of the arena, weighed down by the bags of merchandise that had been put aside for his kids, and towards the family vehicle that the Burns family had used to drive to the arena earlier that day. There was a strange nagging at the back of his mind, like he’d forgotten something important, but his kids kept him so busy with their chatter that he was quick to dismiss it.

Settling into the driver’s seat of the car, Jamie inspected himself in the rear-view mirror and saw only Burnie Burns’ face reflected back at him. He felt a surprising contentment spread deep inside of him as he relaxed into a smile, pleased that he’d managed to have such a fun night with his new family. Perhaps tomorrow he would try and find a way back to his body but for tonight there seemed to be no harm in playing the role of a family man.

As the Dallas Stars team made their way from the locker room to a nearby bar, Burnie caught sight of the handsome younger face of Jamie Benn in the reflection of the mirror behind the bar. His heart thundered as he thought about what the night would hold but truthfully he was excited to live as a man without any attachments for a moment. There was so much fun to be had and if he had to live as a famous professional athlete for a while, that wasn’t exactly the worst thing that could happen to him! He’d already proven that he could play the part of Jamie Benn, now it was time to really be him!

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