I know it's literally been forever but I've finally started a new story and would love for you to check it out. It's called "Over" and you can find it here:
Thursday, March 15, 2012
I can't wait for the game tonight and I bet neither can you.
Scott Oake, long time rink side commentator for the CBC looks up from his notes at his entrance. Perhaps he heard his footsteps or felt the change in the mood of the room from expectant to charged at the young phenom’s appearance, but the veteran reporter meets his eyes, smiles warmly and extends his hand.
“Thanks for taking the time to do this Sid,” he says sincerely.
“No problem.” The right answer might have been that it was his pleasure but right now his nerves are literally tingling, like pop rocks mixed with Coke on your tongue. He settles into the vacant leather chair opposite the man with the thinning grey hair and the glasses. The room is overflowing with men in jeans and Mac jackets adjusting lights, cables, cameras and one woman who approaches him with a make-up bag.
He sits still while she drapes his shoulders and chest with paper towel before she begins to dab at his face with her cool, expert fingers, working quickly to cover the pimple on his chin and dust his face with powder. He’s been through this countless times. It doesn’t faze him, not even when she aims an eyeliner pencil towards him. He rolls his eyes skyward and takes a breath.
“Big day eh?” Scott says conversationally. Sid is careful not to nod, though it’s his first instinct.
“Yep,” he replies succinctly.
“Nervous?” The butterflies in his stomach answer by rising up and beating their wings.
“A little, yeah,” he smiles and blinks rapidly as she pulls back and surveys her work. Seeming satisfied she begins to pack up her bag. “Uh…what about my wife?” he asks quietly, his voice pitched low as if for her ears only but the entire room falls silent.
“She’s done an excellent job on her own but hair’s with her now,” the woman replies brightly, snapping her case shut and turning to go.
“Thanks,” he breathes and twists the still unfamiliar gold band on his finger.
“I still do that,” Scott says, mimicking his movements, twisting the thin band on his own long fingers. Sid gives him a grateful smile and tries to still his hands, pressing his palms down on his knees. “Are we ready?” Scott asks to no one in particular, looking around at the crew. A man with a headset and a clip board gives him a thumbs-up signal and Scott raises an eyebrow at Sid who nods, once. “Okay, so, how’s it feel to be back…again?”
“I’m excited, obviously,” he replies, feeling a grin tugging at the corners of his full mouth. “It’s good to back.”
“Was there ever a point in the last few months when you thought, this might be it, I might never play again?”
“No,” he replies immediately. “There were some setbacks that were…frustrating to say the least but no, I always knew this day would come.” The reporter raises a thoughtful finger towards his lips and sits further back in his chair. Sid recognizes the signal and feels those butterflies beating their wings harder. The easy questions are over.
“Have you made any changes in anticipation of your return? Any changes to your routine?” It’s a smoke signal, an opportunity to spill his guts without having to be prodded.
“I’ve had to,” he replies and right on cue there is a noise in the background. He looks up and sees her and feels a grin spread across his face. She is wearing a simple black fitted sheath dress, dark hose and sturdy, matronly heels. Her being deliberately unremarkable is a deliberate choice, but to him she looks like a supermodel with her hair falling softly down around her shoulders and her dark rimmed glasses highlighting her chocolate brown eyes. She smiles at him and then drops a kiss onto the top of their son’s head. Every pair of eyes in the room has swiveled towards her and as they all watch, she waits for his signal. “I’ve had some changes in my life that, fortunately, have made it easier for me not to focus so much on hockey.”
“Some pretty big changes,” Scott agrees with a smirk and a twinkle in his eye. Sid nods and pats the arm of the leather chair. Fern carefully winds her way between the light stands and the cameras, picking her way through and over the cables. He watches her the entire way. Their gazes locked, she hands him his son and then perches lightly on the arm of the chair..
“Hey buddy,” he coos, adjusting Simon’s weight in his arms. The bundle of blue cotton kicks and squirms and makes a happy sound. He tickles Simon’s plump little belly and is rewarded by a throaty giggle. Turning, he offers his lips to Fern and she presses a quick peck to his mouth.
“Sid, would you like to introduce everyone?” Scott prompts and Sid blinks at him, dragged back to reality from the warm cocoon of his family’s presence.
“This is my wife, Fern and our son…Simon.” He knows the camera will come in tight on the rosy cheeks of his son and tips his arm up to make it easier. Fern reaches across him to adjust the blanket. Her fingers linger on Simon’s chest and then retreat.
“So you did more than just off -ice training in your time away from the rink,” Scott smiles encouragingly at Sid.
“It was good to have a little time for my family,” he replies without going into detail which is exactly how he, his agent and the CBC had agreed to leave it. The details of his personal life were just that, personal and if they wanted to go into detail about the side trip to Vegas from California for a quickie wedding, they could, at a later date; just not today.
“I bet they’ve helped you to focus on your health and not dwell so much on a return date.”
“My focus has definitely shifted,” he agrees, looking down at the still tiny bundle in his arms. “This little guy has helped me to prioritize. I could maybe have gotten back on the ice sooner but I think having Si has helped me realize that my health has to be a priority, not only for myself but that I can’t give a hundred percent to my team unless I’m feeling a hundred percent.”
“But you are back on the ice today. Are you looking forward to it?”
“I am,” he replies without hesitation. “I love playing. I love this game and there’s absolutely nothing like getting out on the ice with your team in front of the fans. I’ve missed it. It will be great to get out there.” He feels her hand on his shoulder and glances up at her and smiles. She holds her hands out and he reluctantly gives up his son and slides him carefully into her arms. Simon goes without a sound and he watches them go, watches her wind her way through the cameras and crew with a heavy heart.
“Will you make any changes to your game this time?” Scott asks and Sid nods, returning his attention to the man across from him.
“I think I’ll be more reluctant to get involved in the after the whistle stuff. I think last time I wanted to prove to my team and to myself that I was back a hundred per cent. I think now I have a reason…two reasons to be more selfish and try and avoid getting injured again.”
“Are you worried about that? Will you worry about it on the ice?” He thinks about his answer for a long moment and then nods.
“I don’t want to, but I think I’d be lying if I said it won’t enter into my mind. I think I have to be smart out there and know where I am on the ice but at the same time, I think that the entire league is doing its best to try and avoid these kinds of injuries from occurring.” Scott sets his cards aside and Sid presses his hands flat on his thighs.
“Do you expect to get hit tonight?”
“I don’t expect not to get hit, let’s put it that way,” he grins and then laughs at the memory of meeting Rupper in the halls of MSG earlier in the day. All his old friend had said was ‘keep your head up kid’. Oh he was going to get hit alright.
“How about this then, you scored two goals and had two assists back in November in a game against the Islanders. Do you expect a similar game tonight?” Sid shrugs. He knew this question would come and he knows that those who have never been on the ice in front of thousands of fans don’t know what it’s like.
“That was a really emotional game for me and obviously I had fun out there that night but I don’t go into any game thinking that I’m going to have a big game. I mean, I hope so, obviously, but what you really think when you step on the ice is that you want to have a good game, you want to play well but you want everyone to play well. I guess that’s really what I’ll be hoping for tonight; that we do well as a team.” Scott smirks and Sid knows exactly what the veteran reporter is thinking; that he’s just given one of those answers he’s always accused of giving, the scripted politically correct answer. He can’t help that, even if it sounds that way, it also happens to be true.
“Does it matter to you what line Dan Bylsma puts you on tonight? If it’s Cookie and Kennedy or if it’s Malkin and Neal?” Sid shakes his head.
“I’m comfortable with whatever Coach asks me to do. I don’t think, right now, that I’ve earned the right to break up what’s been working with Gino and Nealer but I’m happy to work with anyone on this team. I think we’ve got a great depth of talent and everyone’s happy to work with everyone else.” Again Scott gives him that look that says he’d hoped for more but Sid presses his lips together. Like it or not, it’s the only answer he’ll give.
“Well good luck out there tonight. I know everyone’s happy to see you back.” Scott leans forward and offers his hand. Sid does the same.
“I’m happy to be back,” he replies and just like that it’s over. The lights go off and the cameras stop rolling and he feels like he can breathe for the first time today. Blowing out a long breath he gets to his feet.
“Are you happy with that?” Pat, his agent, steps from behind one of the cameras.
“I think so,” he replies quietly. “You?”
“I think you did well,” Pat replies and pats his shoulder. “I’ll see you after the game, okay?” Sid smiles at him and then holds his hand out to Scott Oake again.
“Thanks for agreeing to this,” he says sincerely.
“It was our pleasure,” Scott says and then he too is gone, leaving Sid standing in the middle of an empty set that the strangers around him have begun to dismantle. He looks at the empty chairs and then he looks up between the cameras and she is there, like a Baroque Madonna and Child. A slow smile spreads across his face and an answering smile spreads across her lips. She lifts Simon’s hand to make him wave and Sid grins and laughs.
“Coming?” she calls. He nods and shucks his sport jacket. Tossing it over his shoulder he weaves through the film crew until he is at her side where he bends to press a fatherly kiss on his son’s forehead and then leans in a captures his wife’s mouth with his own. “My mom said she’d have him while you go down for your afternoon nap,” she whispers her voice breathy against his cheek.
“Yeah?” he grins as she nods, her dark eyes sparkling. “Better get going then.” He reaches for her free hand and enfolds it in his own. One of the guys on the crew gives him a knowing wink as they head out of the meeting room of the hotel, heading towards the elevators. He smiles back at them wondering how he could have ever thought that the saucy minx wearing his ring would ever have been just a plain Jane.
Thursday, March 8, 2012
Saturday, March 3, 2012
You wouldn't believe my week even if I told you. Sorry for the wait.
He wakes to the sound of raised, angry voices and Fern’s face hovering above his. It takes a moment but eventually he can make out the livid, red welt on her cheek but there isn’t pain in her eyes. There is, however, concern and, worst of all, fear.
“I don’t like your father,” she whispers, an almost smile on her face as she strokes his cheek.
“Get in line,” he mutters, trying to sit up but the room begins to spin so he lies back down, back onto her lap, and closes his eyes. “What happened?” He remembers this feeling, or thinks that he does, though he doesn’t remember losing consciousness before and he knows he must have, if only because the last thing he remembers he was upright.
“Well, near as I can guess, you were doing an impression of a linebacker, or I think that’s what they’re called because honestly I don’t watch football,” she adds, the corner of her mouth twitching with amusement though her dark eyes haven’t lost an ounce of fear, especially when she glances up towards the doorway. “Oh good, they’re in the kitchen” she breathes, “with all the sharp knives.” He listens, closing his eyes and picking out the voices; his mother’s small worried voice, his father’s booming, angry voice and then another, softer, more reasonable one.
“Your parents…,” he hisses, trying again to get up, wincing as a sharp pain at the base of his skull makes him catch his breath. “Ow…my head.”
“Mmmm, thank your father for that,” she says as he feels her fingers gently probing the back of his skull. “Nothing broken, I think, but then I’m not an expert.” He drags in a sharp breath as he forces himself upright and closes his eyes tight against the spinning room.
“So what did I do, miss?” he asks, flinching as her probing fingers find a tender spot.
“Not so much miss as you were deflected when your father did a pretty boss move of directing you to the corner kind of like Flower does, blocker save,” she explains and he tries to smile, though even that hurts. “Guess he’s not that a bad goalie after all,” she adds and he laughs and then winces again.
“Are you okay?” he asks, reaching for her hand and pulling it against his chest.
“Oh I’ll live,” she sighs and he opens his eyes to study the welt on her cheek. His teeth grind together and he forces himself to his feet, ignoring the way the world seems to tilt beneath him and turns towards the kitchen.
“I’ll kill him,” he growls, stumbling only when she pulls back on the hand he is still holding.
“How about after the medics have a look at you,” she pleads softly, her eyes big when he turns to look at her. He shakes his head. Paramedics, ambulances….
“No, no you haven’t called them have you?” he hisses at her. She blinks, frowns and then tilts her head to the side like a bird.
“Of course I did. You were unconscious,” she says, looking at him as if he’s the one that’s done, said, something outrageous.
“They can’t come here baby,” he tells her, moving to hold her against him. “If they do then they’ll have to write a report and then they’ll have to arrest him and….”
“And? And I’ll tell you what, that brute spends the night in the drunk tank and learns that someone will stand up to him? First of all, hello, he hit me and secondly, what if I’d Simon had been in my arms when he hit me?” Sid opens his mouth to argue but a little voice in his head tells him to think about what she’s just said and his argument dies on the tip of his tongue. She is simply right and there is no argument. “And you will go to the hospital,” she adds when he his focus shifts back to the sharp pain in his neck.
“It’s just a bump,” he sighs, lifting her hand to press his lips on her knuckles.
“Just a bump maybe, but a bump on the back of your head and your head is important to me,” she whispers, lifting her other hand to thread through his hair, “not to mention to pretty much all of Canada and like ninety per cent of Pittsburgh and….”
“I did not push him that hard, he fell,” his father’s voice booms from the kitchen and Sid turns to watch his father emerge, red faced with the veins in his temple throbbing.
“Yes, because he’s so uncoordinated normally,” Fern sneers at his old man. He aims a grateful smile down at her and then faces his father.
“She’s called the cops, you know that right?” he asks quietly. His father stops and turns to stare, disbelief clear on his face. “I don’t care what you did or didn’t do to me,” he adds, his arm curled protectively around Fern’s shoulder but with his other hand he gently urges her to turn her cheek so the evidence of his father’s crime is staring him in the face. “But for this…for this I’m done with you, once and for all.” The whine of sirens breaks the silence of the small suburban cul-de-sac but a heavier silence fills the room around him as he stares his father down.
“Sidney,” his mother begins, that familiar plea in her voice that she has so often employed in her husband’s favor.
“No mom…no more. He’s gone too far. Time to get off the ride dad,” he says quietly and then turns a half smile towards her father. “Mr. Smith, if you can get the door for the police?”
“You don’t want to do this son,” Fern’s dad says as he steps between them, using a calm, reasonable voice and not the ‘father knows best’ tone his own patriarch would have.
“I actually do,” Sid replies, his unwavering gaze still focused on his father.
“You’ll have enough to deal with when news about our daughter and grandson get out,” Mr. Smith says, laying one hand gently but firmly on Sid’s shoulder and the other hand affectionately on his daughter’s cheek. “You don’t want to add a domestic disturbance call to the list for the internet gossips to chew on.” It is a reasonable argument but one look down at the still livid mark on Fern’s cheek and Sid shakes his head.
“No…he has to pay for this,” he says quietly, more to Fern than anyone else. Her dark eyes are turned up to his, her gaze calm, not, he thinks, anything like his.
“Please don’t Sid, please, for me.” It’s the first Taylor has spoken all night and his gaze automatically swivels to meet hers’. Her eyes are swollen and rivulets of tears run down her cheeks. His stomach knots. There is rarely anything he will not give his younger sibling. He knows that living in his shadow is almost unbearable for her, save that he provides for her in every way that he can and is always conscious of how little attention their father affords her. It is his Achilles. It is the guilt that gnaws at him now as she aims those big eyes of hers at him. And yet, when he looks back down at the mark on Fern’s face, his resolve begins to re-solidify.
“Then for Simon,” she says quietly, only to him. “Don’t let him read about this one day on the internet when he’s older.” His shoulders sag but he cannot refuse them both.
“Well no, not broken, but I think compromised in some manner. There is certainly something there but I do think that you should definitely get a second opinion. I’m not expert.”
Fern sits quietly on the edge of the chair and goes over the words the doctor has just said and then turns to Sid, who, while he sits further back in his chair, is blanched and white knuckling the arms of the seat. She reaches for one of those hands and while he does not withdraw it when she peels his fingers from the arm, his remains limp and boneless in hers’.
“You hear that? It could just be a flaw in the film,” she tells him though she doesn’t believe it herself.
“How long?” he asks, in a voice that sounds as if it’s coming forma smaller, younger version of himself.
“Healing process?” The doctor strokes his chin thoughtfully and then tips his glasses further down the bridge of his Roman nose. “Well if my diagnosis is correct and I’m far from convinced that it is, it could be some weeks before you are feeling better and as for playing…well, I think I would leave that up to your team physician to decide.”
As she watches Sid hangs his head and reaches back, his fingers feeling for a flaw that may, or may not be there, under his skin. She lays her hand over his.
“We’ll get a second opinion. It might be nothing,” she urges gently.
“My father did this to me,” he grumbles. Her fingers slip down to his cheek and he raises his gaze to meet hers’.
“It could just be a bruise. It doesn’t have to be anything worse than that to hurt,” she tells him, meaning it and putting all of her faith in her words so that he sees it in her eyes. He nods, though she can see clearly that her words have not done anything to take the edge from the fear that is in his eyes.
“I’m sure your team has access to more sophisticated equipment and experts in this field,” the doctor in bright white his lab coat and mint green scrubs says as if he would like to get his hands on such things as he gets to his feet and offers his hand. Sid takes it and shakes it, though she notices it is not the firm, business like handshake he would normally offer.
“Thanks for your time doc,” he says quietly and then, gingerly, gets to his feet before offering her a hand up, an offer she doesn’t take, turning instead to the stroller and busying herself with the blankets and bundle inside so that he doesn’t see her own fear. “I’m sorry,” he says, mostly under his breath.
“What have you got to be sorry for?” she asks, tucking the tiny blanket around the tiny form of their son, sleeping soundly on his back.
“He’s my father and he ruined his first Christmas,” Sidney sighs, reaching past her to brush his knuckles along Simon’s tiny cheek. Their son’s mouth opens and he yawns but his eyes never open but his fist goes into his mouth and he begins to suck.
“He won’t remember this. No one remembers their first Christmas,” she says as she straightens and aims the carriage toward the door but his hand closes around her upper arm and stops her from getting ahead of him.
“I’m sorry about our Christmas too.” She turns to him, her eyes glassy with unshed tears.
“Don’t be. This is…this is definitely the best Christmas I’ve had since I got a tricycle when I was four. I’m only sorry you’re hurt,” she adds, reaching up to cup his cheek in her hand. He leans into it and closes his eyes.
“You’re just saying that to keep the peace,” he mumbles. “You must be mad.”
“Why must I?” she asks, a teasing lilt to her voice.
“Because I’ll feel worse if you’re not,” he grumbles and then smile as she rolls her eyes.
“Oh well in that case, you’re a dick and you owe me a Christmas present,” she teases and gives his cheek a gentle smack.
“Oh fuck!” his eyes widen as he covers his mouth his hand.
“Let me guess,” she says as she rolls her eyes dramatically, “you completely forgot?”
“Kind of yeah,” he admits as she heaves a heavy sigh.
He had not been exactly truthful about forgetting her present but the moment he’d thought he’d have, with their families around them, presents and multi-coloured paper strewn across the floor had not happened. Not that she’s mentioned it. Her parents had greeted them with a scaled down dinner and not brought his family’s absence up even once and he is grateful not to have to go over it, pick at it like a turkey vulture on a corpse.
Once Simon is fed and in his cot and her parents have gone home and it is just the two of them sitting in the dark with only the lights on the tree illuminating the dark and Christmas carols playing softly in the background he slips a slim black velvet box onto her lap.
“What’s this?” she asks, her fingers brushing across the top of the box.
“Open it and find out,” he tells her with a grin, giving her a quick kiss on the cheek when she frowns.
“Well it can’t be a Christmas present because it’s not wrapped,” she replies with a smirk.
“There’s a ribbon,” he points out, reaching around to pull at one end of the gold ribbon tied around the middle of the box.
“Maybe it’s a good thing you were such a dick to me for so long, you’d already ruined my vision of you so stuff like this is not so disappointing,” she giggles, toying with the other end of the bow.
“Quit yer bitchin’ and open it,” he snorts as he wraps his arms around her middle and pulls her back against him. As he watches over her shoulder, she unties the ribbon and sets it carefully aside, as if she might use it again, and then, very slowly, she opens the box, just half an inch and peers inside before snapping it shut again. “What?” he asks.
“It’s really sparkly,” she replies in a tiny voice.
“How can you tell? You hardly opened it,” he asks, digging his fingers into her ribs and making her squirm.
“I can just tell,” she informs him and tries to lay the box aside as if it might burn her, our bite.
“Open it,” he growls playfully and digs his fingers into her ribs, making her squirm and wriggle against him.
“Fine, okay!” she huffs and reaches for the box again, opening it. gingerly lifting the necklace out and holding it up so that the ring on the end of the chain dangles in front of her eyes, catching the light from the Christmas tree, making the three stones in the simple antique gold band glimmer. “It’s beautiful,” she says breathlessly and without a hint of the disappointment he’d anticipated.
He reaches for the chain. She drops it carefully into his hand and he slides the ring from the simple chain leaving a simple gold locket behind. He slips the necklace around her neck and fastens it. While he’s fussing with the clasp he hears her say ‘oh’ almost entirely under her breath.
“When did you take this?” she asks. He doesn’t need to look to know that she has the locket open or what is inside.
“In the hospital, the night they took the breathing tubes out, when I could let myself believe he’d be okay,” Sid answers haltingly. “You can put a newer one in there if you want,” he adds, thinking how much stronger and pinker Simon looks now.
“No,” she says turning to dazzle him with her smile. “I love it even more now that you’ve said that.” He returns her smile while deftly, and without needing to look, slips the ring on her hand.
“I want you to consider this a place holder,” he tells her, guiding her hand up so that it catches the light and the three stones shine back at her; one sapphire, the topaz in the middle and the purple amethyst on the other side.
“A promise ring?” she asks, snuggling back into him while leaving her hand in his, held up in front of both of their eyes.
“Yeah I mean…I don’t think we’re ready for all that, y’know, other stuff but…we’re a family, right?” he asks, suddenly insecure, especially after their disaster of a day.
“Yeah,” she agrees, lacing her fingers in his and bringing his arm around her so she is cradled protectively against his bigger body. She falls silent for a moment and he itches to ask her what she’s thinking, worried that he’s either pushed it too far or, equally, not far enough. “How’d you know…my birthstone, how’d you find out?” she asks softly. He runs the pad of his thumb across it and smiles to himself.
“I asked your mom,” he admits and he almost hears her smiling in response.
“Your dad would’ve hated this,” she tells him suddenly and with an equally sudden grin he realizes that she is right, that it is perfect that his bear of a father is not here to witness this. He would, indeed have hated this. “He’ll get over it though,” she promises him and of that he is not at all certain.
“Maybe, maybe not, but my mom and Taylor will want to see Simon. Did you see the look on my mom’s face when you put him in her arms? I can hardly remember ever seeing her that happy,” he admits, his voice trailing away as he remembers the look of pride on both of his parent’s faces when he won the Cup. That might have been the last time.
“We’ll figure something out,” Fern tells him quietly, looking up at him and he believes the intensity in her eyes when she says it. This girl, this girl that he thought wasn’t much of anything that, as he looks at her now, he knows he is better for having her by his side and that now that she is there, he will always want her there.
“Yeah,” he agrees pressing his lips tenderly to her forehead. “It’ll all work out. It always does.”
I kind of think this might be the end, it feels like the end...
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
He is groggy when he rolls over to find her side of the bed empty and cold. Despite her having got up for each and every feeding throughout the night the interruption to his sleep cycle makes the bed feel too comfortable to leave. Years of training, of rolling out of bed for pre-dawn practices and the promise of a pre-dinner nap allows him to drag himself out of bed and across the carpet to the bathroom where he must lean heavily on the wall with one hand to drain his bladder.
His eyes are still half closed when he steps into the shower and turns his face up into the scalding hot water. He knows he cannot afford to be a step slow today. Preparing to face his father is not unlike preparing for a game against the Caps or the Flyers; it requires a different mindset, a wariness that goes beyond just being on his toes so it is essential that he wash away the cobwebs.
Pressing both palms flat against the tiled wall he lets the hot water run over his neck and down his back. He hasn’t thought about his symptoms in a while and sends out mental feelers for them now and finds none; just the sting of the hot water in the welts on his back. With a smile he reaches for the shampoo and pours a quarter sized dollop in his hand and begins to work it through his thick dark hair.
His smile grows as his thoughts turn to the events of the previous night. The memory of her body moving beneath his stirs his loins so he reaches down and curls his fingers around his dick and relives the moment of waking up in the middle of the night with her body curled into his, the sweet sigh escaping her lips as he helped himself to a handful of her heavy breast, as he took her, her body warm and relaxed in sleep.
There have been women, perhaps not as many as the notches in Gronk’s or Tanger’s bedposts, but enough for him to know that she is different. He hadn’t known how it would be, after a child, but he had not expected for her to fit him so perfectly, to make him lose sleep with the need to take her, again and again.
Not that she was exactly complaining. Every time she’d come back from checking on or feeding Simon, she’d fit her body close to his, drape her arm over his waist and he would wake, already ready and willing to roll her beneath him and bury himself inside of her, feast on her lips and get lost in her arms.
“I put him in this outfit Vero bought for him. It’s still kind of big but I couldn’t resist, he’s so cute in it and…oh!” Caught red handed he can do nothing bug stare as she stares at him with eyes wide with shock and he stares back, flames of mortification licking beneath his skin. “I’m sorry. I should’ve knocked,” she cries, turning away.
“No, fuck! You shouldn’t have to knock on a door in your own house, and besides, you would think I got enough last night,” he mutters, violently cranking off the water and pushing the glass door open to grab a towel from the warming rack.
“Well…yeah you would,” she agrees and he can hear the smile in her voice.
“I’m sorry,” he adds more quietly, lifting a lock of hair from her shoulder and pressing a kiss to the bare skin above the deep burgundy sweater she’s wearing.
“No I’m sorry,” she mumbles. “I mean, it’s a perfectly natural thing, I guess, even though, like you said, you’d think it would be worn out,” she adds, glancing back at him. He takes her lips as she offers them and looks down at the tiny bundle in her arms; Simon in a miniature snowman sleep-hugger.
“That’s fucking adorable,” he chuckles, reaching around to lay his hand against his son’s round cheek.
“Hey…you’re gonna have to stop swearing so much,” she hisses at him, “tiny ears.”
“Yeah, I guess,” he sighs before pressing another affectionate kiss to her cheek. “You look shattered. Let me get dressed and I’ll take a turn with him so you can put your head down for a bit.”
“I’m fine,” she argues, following him into the bedroom.
“I just woke up between rounds, you were the one up on your feet, singing and feeding him and all that jazz. The least I can fuck…the least I can do is carry him around for a couple hours,” he offers, dropping the towel on the end of the bed and reaching into his dresser drawer for a pair of white tube socks. He is pulling the second one on when he realizes that there is utter silence in the room and looks up to find her not just watching, but staring at him.
“Sorry,” she mumbles and turns away again, but not before he sees that her cheeks have turned bright crimson. “I just…it’s gonna take me some time to get used to seeing you…and not…y’know…wanting it.” With a wolfish grin he gets up and gives her ass a firm, open handed smack.
“If you didn’t have my son in your arms I’d have already had you on the bathroom counter,” he whispers hoarsely in her ear before reaching around her to drag his jeans from the back of a chair. She waits until he finishes pulling them up and buttoning them before she gingerly places their son in his arms.
“Your son huh?” she says quietly, one hand still resting on their baby’s stomach. “I’ll remind you of that at two in the morning.”
“I told you last night I’d go,” he reminds her, leaning to press a soft kiss to his son’s forehead.
“Yeah well, it’s still a novelty for me. I’ll let you know when that wares off,” she says and then makes a very unsuccessful attempt at stifling a yawn.
“See, you’re dead on your feet,” he tells her quietly. “I can do this. Go to sleep. I’ll get you up in plenty of time to get showered and changed before anyone gets here.” She looks at their son and then up at him and makes a tired, resigned face.
“There’s just so much to do,” she yawns again and because it only takes one arm to hold his son he uses his other hand to guide her towards their bed.
“That’s why your mom is bringing most of the food and my mom is bringing the desert and snacks or whatever, so all you’d have to do is look after this little guy and rest, which is what the doctor says you need to do. So get in that bed and sleep for a while.” Then he adds because he can see the doubt clear in her eyes, “I swear I can look after him. I’m his dad.” A slow, bemused smile spreads across her face as she goes up on tip toes to press a soft and, he tell himself, grateful, kiss to his lips.
“If he’s too much or he starts really crying…,” she begins but he silences her with his mouth pressed against hers’.
“Sleep,” he insists and waits for her to climb under the covers before he turns out the light and heads down the hallway. “Just you and me buddy,” he tells his son who looks back at him with wide, amber coloured eyes ringed in green. Balancing his burden carefully in the crook of his arm Sid heads down the stairs, taking them slowly and carefully, one stair at a time. “What should we do huh?” he asks aloud as he heads through the living room and into the kitchen. “Cereal or oatmeal?” With his free hand he opens the pantry door and reaches for the boxes on the top shelf. There is a box of All Bran and a box of Raisin Crisp but right next to them is a box of Cocoa Puffs and a box of Cupcake Pebbles that definitely are not his. “Fuck it. It’s Christmas right Si?” he grins and reaches for the box of Cocoa Puffs.
Keeping his son carefully balanced in the crook of his arm, he puts the box on the counter and gets a bowl down. He’s heading for the fridge and the milk when the sound of a car rolling up the drive makes him freeze. He curses again, this time under his breath as he glances at the car seat, still sitting on the kitchen table, before turning and heading back through the living room, across the landing and to the side door. Looking down at the tiny bundle in his arms he sighs.
“This is my fault Si,” he whispers and caresses the soft curls on the top of his son’s head apologetically before tugging open the door. His mother’s hand is half way to the door knob, shopping bags hanging from one arm and a brightly wrapped parcel under the other.
“Merry Christmas mom,” he says quietly and waits until her gaze slides slowly up from the door handle to his face and then, more quickly, back down to the little bundle in the crook of his arm.
“What…is…that?” It isn’t his mother’s voice, though the expression in her eyes reads the same.
She is running on no sleep, her nerves are frayed and she is quickly running out of patience as she watches Troy Crosby pace across the living room for what seems like the millionth time. Hers, however, are the only set of eyes on the big man with the bulging vein in his forehead. Every other pair of eyes is glued on the small, confetti like remains of the cheque she has just handed back to him.
“You’re making a huge fucking mistake,” Sidney’s father growls again like a bear who has just recently sat on a hive of yellow jackets.
“Yeah you’ve said that,” Sidney replies with a sigh, his head hung low but not in a way that suggests he is beaten, merely beaten down.
“Well you’re obviously not fucking listening,” Troy adds in a threatening tone, beads of sweat breaking out across his broad forehead, his eyes straining like they’re trying to break out of their sockets; a gruesome thought but one that makes it hard for Fern not to smile at him as he glares daggers at her. He is trying to intimidate her in the same way that it is clear his entire family is cowed by his aggression but she has found a new strength and it only takes a quick look down at the round, emerald rimmed eyes of her son and she is like a mother bear, unafraid and unyielding.
“I tried it your way dad and I almost missed out on seeing my son born. This,” Sid adds, reaching to cup his hand around Simon’s pudgy red cheek, “is non-fucking-negotiable.”
“Both of you…the cursing,” Trina, Sid’s mother, pleads with a longing glance towards her grandchild, who she has yet to approach though it is clear she wants to, very much.
“You,” Troy’s Bavarian sausage sized finger wavers in the air as he points at her, “were supposed to stay away from him.” She gently bounces Simon in her arms and smiles at the big man before replying.
“I did. Your son came after me,” she says calmly, matter-of-factly. Troy makes a face and a guttural sound of disgust before shaking his head.
“You’re lying,” he snarls, waving his meatloaf hand dismissively at her and then turning his back.
“Dad!” Sid snaps but Fern reaches over and gently presses him back down onto the couch.
“I can’t help that you think that,” she insists, very calmly and with the same amused smile on her face, “and we can certainly spend the day arguing it if that’s what you’d like to do but I think that even though you think you’re ruining my day all you’re really accomplishing is ruining the day for your wife and your daughter,” she adds softly but firmly. She feels Sid cover her hand with his own bigger, warm one and when she looks over all she sees in his gaze is appreciation and pride. She aims a bigger smile at Sid and then turns her attention back to his father.
“What are you, some kind of fucking witch? You’ve got him under some kind of spell?” Troy snaps at her, spittle flying. His wife cringes and his daughter tries even harder to dig herself into the corner of the couch.
“You know what? You can get the fuck out of my house,” Sid hisses at his father, like a cat getting ready to scratch. Predictably, Troy is unfazed.
“Well we’re doing the DNA test. I bet it’s not even his is it?” Troy smirks at her but Fern neither flinches nor looks away, both actions she knows he is hoping for.
“Actually it’s already been done.” As if she’s wrapped her hand around a lightening rod, the shock of the words and who they’ve come from have her rooted to the spot. Very slowly she turns and stares at Sid who, in turn, is staring at the equally shocked expression on his father’s face. “Well I knew you’d fucking insist even though I have no doubt he’s mine” Sid sighs and then turns apologetic eyes on her. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. They took swabs the first night he was off the respirator and I only got the results a couple days ago. In fact I haven’t even opened the envelope. I don’t need to. I know,” he adds gripping her hand tightly in his.
“You could have told me,” she whispers, feeling smaller and less certain of herself than she did a moment ago.
“I don’t even care. I trust you,” he says softly, lifting the back of her hand up to his lips and pressing an earnest kiss there. “I know he’s mine Fern, I know. I don’t need some piece of paper to tell me what I know,” he adds, pressing his other hand to the centre of his chest. She searches his solemn gaze for a long moment and then takes a deep breath.
His hands don’t tremble even slightly when he rips open the envelope, though he is careful not to rip the contents. He is cautious when he pulls out the single sheet of thick bond paper from the manila envelope. The certificate listed the testing facility, the two samples and then a bunch of numbers in a chart he didn’t really understand. The only thing that truly mattered on the entire sheet was the conclusion, which read:
The probability of Mr. Sidney Patrick Crosby being the biological father of Simon Marc Crosby is 99.9999%. Therefore it is practically proven that Mr. Sidney Patrick Crosby is the biological father of Simon Marc Crosby.
He hadn’t needed to see the proof himself. He has always been able to see it in Simon’s eyes and even before that, he’d felt it, like an invisible fishing line attaching him to the still tiny boy in his mother’s arms. Turning the piece of paper so the proof in black and white is facing his father, he presses the sheet of paper into the middle of Troy’s chest.
“I don’t want to hear another word, not a single fucking word about this, ever again,” he growls, making sure each of his digits presses hard and deep into the barrel of his father’s massive chest. It had been a strong chest that stopped pucks once. Now it was soft from lack of work, from living off his son. Sidney’s top lip curled up as he stared up into his father’s eyes. “Are we clear?”
“She’s not even supposed to be here,” his father smirks back, “don’t you have some sort of protection order against her?” Sid throws up his hands and begins to walk away but Troy is far from done with the argument. His son comes by his competitive streak naturally.
“Troy, honey, don’t you think we should let it drop?” his mother pleads quietly in her mousy voice. His father doesn’t spare her a look. His fierce, menacing grin is all for his son.
“I’ll get around to clearing all that up. I’ve been a little too busy with my family,” he replies as calmly as he is able, through clenched teeth. His hands are balled into fists at his side. He tells himself, over and over, that he will not raise a hand to his father, but that voice is getting quieter and quieter.
“Yes, I’ve noticed. I think everyone’s noticed. How do you think it will look when it gets out that you’re not suffering from post concussion syndrome but playing house instead of playing?” This is a dart whose sting he cannot avoid, mostly because the guilt has been eating at his conscience.
“I’ll play, right after the all star break,” he promises. His father scoffs, loudly.
“I sure as fuck wouldn’t want you on my team, mister deserter,” he says triumphantly. Sid feels himself shrink before the truth. He knows the guys have told him they support him but he’s heard the rumors, loud and clear.
“He is the Penguins,” Fern says suddenly, handing her son off to his mother who takes her grandson with a grin as wide as the ocean. “He’s the best fucking hockey player in the world and they will take him back with open arms,” she adds in a slow, menacing voice of her own that he remembers from outside of the diner. She reaches for his hand and he takes it, lacing her fingers in his own.
“He’s soft. You can’t be soft and be a pro,” his father rolls his eyes and aims a disappointed look at his son. “You can’t put family first if you want to be the best.”
“God knows you didn’t, right? Look where that big time sacrifice got you.” He cannot believe the words have come out of her sweet mouth and it’s because he’s staring at Fern that he doesn’t see his father raise his hand until the back of it leaves a huge, red welt across her pale, white cheek.