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  • Writer's pictureBrigham Vaughn


Updated: Dec 20, 2023

White background with evergreen branches, and ornaments. Red text saying "celebrate Brigham Vaughn's 10 Year Publishing Anniversary with The 12 Days of Christmas. Day 6: Zane & Ryan - Snowball Fight

To celebrate my 10 year publishing anniversary I'll be posting one short story per day here on my blog from December 13-24th.

Every day will feature a different couple and the stories will vary in length. They'll range from sweet to a little bit spicy and hopefully will leave you with a smile on your face and a warm feeling of holiday cheer in your heart.

Thank you for ten wonderful years!




DAY: 6

CHARACTERS: Zane Murphy & Ryan Hartinger

PROMPTS: Snowball fight + "Please open the door before I freeze to death."

NOTES: Set the first Christmas after the end of Road Rules.


“Laaaaaaaaaast Christmas, I gave you my heart,” Ryan belted out.

Zane smiled at the road ahead. He could hardly say the five-and-a-half hour drive to Ryan’s parents’ house in Bedford, Indiana, was boring with Ryan determined to keep them both entertained.

At top volume.

It had been last Christmas when Zane—more or less—gave Ryan his heart.

Though, when he was feeling particularly honest and/or inebriated, he’d probably say that Ryan had always had his heart.

That feeling might have grown and changed over the years, but there was no one—save his own family—who Zane had loved longer or more fiercely.

Of course, the Wham! song had it all wrong since Ryan had certainly never given Zane’s heart away. And Zane knew he had no plans to do that. Ever.

It might have taken him longer than Ryan to accept his feelings and be ready to share them with the world, but that didn’t mean Zane loved Ryan any less.

Just … a little less loudly, sometimes.

Ryan wasn’t what anyone would call a particularly good singer, but he was enthusiastic and

Zane had resigned himself to a lifetime of being serenaded on road trips.

Zane smiled to himself. There were worse fates for a man to suffer.

He shifted in his seat, grip tightening on the wheel as pain shot through his left hip. Fuck, this was getting bad. They weren’t even midway through the season. That wasn’t a good sign.

“When was the last time you took your meds?” Ryan asked, turning down the music.

Because, of course, he’d noticed Zane’s wince. Zane was convinced there was nothing Ryan didn’t notice about him. He supposed that was to be expected since they’d been linemates and best friends for over a decade.

Zane glanced over, briefly taking his eyes off the road. “Before we left Evanston.”

Ryan gave a worried little cluck of his tongue, sounding remarkably like his mother. “Well, you’re overdue then. Where are they?”

“In my backpack.”

“I’ll get them.”

There was absolutely no point in arguing. Ryan would wrestle him to the ground and stuff the pills in Zane’s mouth if he thought that was what was best for him.

Zane hoped that would only take place when he wasn’t driving, but he wouldn’t bet on that either. Best to just go along with it.

After Ryan shook a couple of the extra strength, over-the-counter painkillers into his hand, Zane obediently opened his mouth.

Ryan slipped the pills in, then held the teal and black Otters water bottle up to Zane’s lips. He took a sip, grateful for the built-in straw so he didn’t have to take his hands off the wheel.

“Thanks,” he murmured when he was done. “We could have stopped at the next exit though.”

“I don’t mind.”

And that was at the heart of it all, wasn’t it?

As an ice hockey captain, Zane took care of his team, but Ryan had long ago decided that it was his job to take care of Zane.

“I appreciate it.”

Ryan reached out and squeezed his thigh. “You need a break from driving?”

“Nah, this seat really is more comfortable,” Zane assured him. There was a reason he was the one driving Ryan’s Jeep. They’d taken it because the roads were snowy and Zane hadn’t been sure his little Audi would make it through.

“Huh. I thought you were just being a control freak,” Ryan teased.

Zane grinned. “That too.”

“Tell me if I can do anything else,” Ryan offered, leaving his hand to rest comfortably on Zane’s thigh.

“I will,” Zane promised, reaching down to pat his hand then returning his grip on the wheel.

“But honestly, I just want to get to your parents’ house and stretch.”

This was the first Christmas they’d spent together as a couple and Zane was a little nervous about it. He had no idea why. He’d spent plenty of time with the Hartinger family in the past and they all got along great.

He’d been there when Ryan took the Cup to his hometown in late June, and he and Ryan had even stayed with them for a week later in the summer. But somehow the holidays felt significant.

Maybe because this was personal and had nothing to do with hockey.

Zane’s parents had flown from Ithaca, New York, to Indianapolis yesterday and driven the hour and a half south to Bedford. Maybe that was part of it too. It would be the first time their families had spent time together outside of hockey as well.

These were his future in-laws.

Not that Zane was planning to propose over Christmas and he didn’t think Ryan was either.

Who the hell had time to think about a wedding when there was a hockey season to get through?


By the time they pulled into the driveway of Ryan’s childhood home and parked, Zane seemed antsy. And Ryan was pretty sure the shifting and sighing Zane kept doing had nothing to do with his hip.

Yeah, despite the meds, he was definitely in pain.

But Ryan knew that the tapping of Zane’s fingers on the steering wheel wasn’t from physical discomfort. He did the same thing against the handle of his hockey stick before big games.

He must be nervous about spending Christmas with their families, but Ryan had no idea why.

He supposed there was only one way to find out though.

“You’re nervous,” Ryan murmured, catching Zane’s chin and turning his head to look him in the eye. “Why?”

“Yeah.” Zane sighed.  “It’s dumb, I know. I just want the next couple of days to go well.”

“My parents love you, Matt thinks you’re great, and Sam is convinced you hung the moon,” Ryan assured him. And Zane’s parents totally loved Ryan, so what was the problem?

“I know.”

Ryan’s older brother had been nothing but supportive of their relationship and their younger sibling—who was still in high school—had a big crush on Zane.

Zane claimed he didn’t see it, but he could be oblivious to this sort of thing.

“I promise it’ll be a great couple of days,” Ryan promised. He watched Zane’s expression soften and brushed their lips together in a brief kiss before reaching for the Jeep’s door handle.

They both got out, groaning loudly, but Zane stood in the driveway for a moment, stretching his cramped arms and stiff legs. 

Ryan narrowed his eyes at him. There had to be some way to get Zane to unwind. Blowjobs usually did the trick but there was no way he was dropping to his knees in the driveway right now.

His mother would kill him.

Zane probably would too. At least once he stopped feeling so relaxed.

So no blowies, sadly. Ryan would just have to come up with something else …

A moment later, he crept around the side of the Jeep, peering around it to get a better view of

Zane, as he packed snow into a ball. Zane had his arms stretched toward the sky, back arched, making a perfect target.

Ryan fired the snowball at Zane and it exploded in a shower of white, coating his chest and face.

Zane sputtered, wiping it from his face as he glared at Ryan.                  

“You!” Zane ducked down, grabbing blindly at the nearby snow, quickly packing it in his hands.

Cackling, Ryan darted behind the Jeep again, lunging to get some snow from the pile beside the driveway. He made a few snowballs, then peered around the vehicle.

Shit, where had Zane gone?

Ryan turned, knowing he only had seconds, when Zane jumped out behind him and he got a face full of snow.

“Auughh!” Ryan hollered, spitting snow. “Dirty play!”

Zane laughed. “Serves you right!”

Ryan wiped the snow from his eyes, blinking away the wetness from his lashes in time to see Zane dart around the corner of the Jeep.

“Coward!” Ryan shouted, grinning as he reached for the pre-made snowballs. He gathered them up in his arms and charged.

Clearly not expecting that, Zane yelled and took off, tearing through the snow-covered front yard.

Ryan rapid-fired snowballs at him. One of them exploding off Zane’s shoulder, another hitting his ass cheek, and the third getting him in the thigh.

Zane let out a yelp and crashed face-first into the snow.

“Shit! Are you okay!?” Ryan hollered, racing toward him, legs eating up the distance.

He dove into the snow next to Zane, who had rolled onto his back, staring at the sky.

“Hey, is your hip okay?” Ryan asked, cradling Zane’s face, his fingers cold as they pressed to Zane’s cheeks. “I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

A split second later, Zane brought his hand up, smothering Ryan’s face in snow. “Oh yeah,” Zane said breathlessly. “I’m fine.”

Ryan sputtered and wiped the snow away again. Damn it! He should have seen that coming. Asshole.

Grinning, Ryan leaned in, pressing his body to Zane’s. “You had me,” he said admiringly. “Dirty play all around but very well done.”

Zane grinned. “Thought you’d appreciate that.”

Ryan could feel the snow melting under him, his sweats growing damp under him. “Love you,” Ryan murmured, dipping his head.

“Love you too.” Zane lifted icy fingers to Ryan’s cheek. “We should probably get up though.”

“Yeah, this can’t feel too good on your hip,” Ryan admitted. Still, at least he’d accomplished what he’d hoped for. Zane wasn’t nervous about Christmas anymore.

“It’s fine. I mean, it’s basically like being in a cold tub, right?”

“Little bit more of a chance of frostbite, I think,” Ryan said drily. “And you were supposed to stop thinking about hockey for the next three days.”

Zane made a face. “When have I ever managed that?”

“I don’t know. But you can try.”

Zane needed a break. And yeah, there was a lot to worry about. Their on-ice post-game kiss during last season’s playoffs had put them in the spotlight, and they’d been slammed with interview and appearance requests ever since.

Ryan knew that Zane didn’t regret coming out.

He didn’t even regret that they’d become faces of a cause. But some days even Ryan had to admit it was a lot of pressure. And he damn well knew that Zane shouldered way more of it than he did.

They both just wanted to fucking play hockey and stop worrying about who was in a relationship with whom. But they had responsibilities to the team, and to themselves, and Ryan had promised himself that whatever Zane took on, he would carry too.

“Would you cut it out, Ryan?” His mom, Deanna, yelled from the front door. “Good lord. We didn’t raise you in a barn! You should have let your boyfriend get in the house before you started a snowball fight and tackled him to the ground!”

“I didn’t tackle him!” Ryan protested. He had started it though. He couldn’t argue that.

Zane buried his face against Ryan’s puffy winter coat for a second before he lifted his head and waved. “Hi, Mrs. Hartinger!”

“Hi, Zane! You’re welcome to come in whenever my son lets you up!” she called back. “And I’ve told you, it’s Deanna!”

“Thanks, Deanna!”

Zane’s face was a little red when Ryan finally rose to his feet and held out a hand to help him up, but whether that was from embarrassment, exertion, or cold, Ryan couldn’t really tell.

“We’re going to have the best Christmas!” Ryan said, pulling him close and kissing his cheek.

Zane chuckled, hugging him tight. “Yeah, we are.”


On the sidewalk, Zane stomped his feet off and brushed the snow from his damp clothes the best he could. As punishment, he’d made Ryan unload the car by himself.

“Sorry about that,” he said, grinning as Deanna held the door open for him.

She rolled her eyes. “Oh, you don’t need to apologize for my son. I feel like I should be apologizing to you for not raising him better.”

Her tone was filled with affection though and Zane knew she loved Ryan, even if he wasn’t entirely housebroken.

Then again, how many hockey players were?

“It’s okay,” Zane said with a smile as he worked off his snowy boots. “We love him anyway, right?”

Deanna laughed. “We do.”

Zane knew exactly why Ryan had pulled that stunt. He’d figured out Zane was stressed and he’d wanted him to unwind.

It had worked, too. Damn him for always knowing what was best.

Zane had just shrugged off his jacket when he heard his dad, Robert, say, “Hey, son.”

“Oh, hi!” Zane said happily, grinning at both of his parents. He’d been wondering where they were. “How was your flight?”

He hugged both of them and they all talked over one another until he heard a loud grunt behind him and muffled banging.

Deanna lunged for the front door handle and pulled it open to reveal a red-faced Ryan carrying an enormous stack of gifts, Zane’s suitcase dangling from one hand, and his backpack hanging off his shoulder.

“Help!” Ryan wheezed.

Zane grabbed for some presents that were trying to slide to the floor. “Well, if you didn’t try to bring everything at once you wouldn’t have this problem,” he teased.

Ryan shot him a look. “What was I supposed to do? You abandoned me!”

They squabbled playfully for a few minutes as Zane passed off the gifts to his dad to stick under the tree and retrieved his suitcase and backpack.

Ryan let out a groan. “Now to get my stuff.”

Zane chuckled as he shut the door behind Ryan, locking it just to be a little bit mean. Deanna saw it and chuckled.

“I’d say them acting like this is a new development,” Zane’s mom, Laura, said with a laugh.

“But they really have always been like this, haven’t they?”

“Seriously.” Deanna shook her head. “I am so glad they finally got it together.”

“Hey!” Zane protested, laughing too. “Just because we’re a little slow …”

They joked around for a few moments until they heard the rattle of the doorknob. "Please open the door before I freeze to death!” Ryan called out.

“You deserve this,” Zane called back, but he unlocked the door and let Ryan in.

There was another round of greetings as Ryan stripped off his outerwear and he hugged everyone, including Zane’s parents.

“Well, come on in!” Deanna urged the boys, leading them out of the foyer. “We were just talking about eating lunch soon. I’ve got soup simmering on the stove.”

“And I baked some bread,” Robert said.

Zane smiled. His dad had apparently made himself right at home at the Hartinger’s place.

“Where’s Dad, Matty, and Sam?” Ryan asked with a frown.

“Oh, they should be back shortly. Just picking up a few last-minute things at the store.”

“Perfect.” Ryan glanced down. “I need to change into dry clothes.”

“Me too,” Zane admitted.

“Go on up to Ryan’s room then,” Deanna said. “Come down whenever you’re ready. As soon as everyone’s here, we’ll have lunch.”

“Sounds great. Thanks,” Zane said.

They carried their belongings up to Ryan’s old bedroom and Ryan immediately began stripping off his wet sweatpants.

“Ugh, my jeans are soaked and I’m freezing now.” Zane made a face. “I’m going to have a quick shower if you don’t think anyone will mind.”

“Nah, should be fine. Want some company?” Ryan asked, waggling his eyebrows. He looked ridiculous standing there only in an Otters hoodie and candy cane-striped briefs.

Zane playfully shoved him away. “No!”

“Are you sure about that?” Ryan stepped closer, smirking at him.

Zane grinned back. “No.”

“Good.” Ryan smacked his ass. “Now get in the shower. Think we have time for at least a handie?”

“You’re not giving me a handie when our parents are downstairs!” Zane protested, although he let Ryan herd him into the bathroom.

It was a Jack-and-Jill setup and Ryan shot Zane an exasperated look as he locked the adjoining door that led to Sam’s bedroom. “Really? No sex the whole time we’re here?”

“It’s only like … two and a half days!”

“Way too long,” Ryan protested as he turned on the water to heat. “Besides, I have a gift for you we need to try out later.”

“Dude, did you buy me a dildo for Christmas again?” Zane whispered.

“I mean, it’s what made you fall in love with me last year.” Ryan stripped off his hoodie, dropping it to the floor.

“That’s not why I fell in love with you!” Zane protested, but he was laughing as he finished stripping. Once Ryan was naked, Zane pushed him into the shower.

“No?” Ryan wrapped his arms around Zane. “I’m pretty sure that was it.”

“It certainly made me open my eyes to new things,” Zane admitted, leaning in to kiss him. “But I’ve loved you for a lot longer than that.”

“You still want to try the new toy though, right?” Ryan asked eagerly.

Zane laughed against his mouth. “Yeah, I definitely do.”

“You’re going to love it. It’s Christmas themed this year,” Ryan said, grinning as he slicked his hair off his face.

Grinning back, Zane shook his head, knowing his gift was probably going to be both awful and hilarious. “Of course it is.” He couldn’t wait.

“Hey, I don’t have to open in front of our parents, right?” Zane asked, horrified by the idea.

“What? No!” Ryan protested. “It’s in my suitcase.”

“Just checking.”


Enjoyed the story? Please leave a comment and tell me what you think!

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Dec 18, 2023

I loved this! Thanks very much. It was fun to read.

Brigham Vaughn
Brigham Vaughn
Dec 20, 2023
Replying to

They are one of my most fun couples I think. So glad you enjoyed them!


Helen Smith
Helen Smith
Dec 18, 2023

This pair is a lot of fun! I look forward to reading Road Rules.

Brigham Vaughn
Brigham Vaughn
Dec 20, 2023
Replying to

They are so much fun! I hope you enjoy it!


Dec 18, 2023

I love Ryan and Zane. Can we see them again please? I think a stag do would be hillarious.....

Brigham Vaughn
Brigham Vaughn
Dec 20, 2023
Replying to

There might be some ideas in my head about that! ;)


Dec 18, 2023

I love them! 😍

Brigham Vaughn
Brigham Vaughn
Dec 20, 2023
Replying to

Aww thank you! Me too!


Dec 18, 2023

I absolutely LOVE Ryan and Zane! ❤️ I think I could read a story every day about them

Brigham Vaughn
Brigham Vaughn
Dec 20, 2023
Replying to

Honestly, some days I feel liek I could write a story every day about them. But then I'd never get anything else done!

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