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.