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Stay, Stay, Stay.

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I had long given up worrying about other people's opinions the day I walked into my new job. So much of my life had already been wasted trying to please everyone. While my vow to live for myself was still new, it seemed to be working out in my favour. I'd quit my job working for a private fitness centre after one too many ignorant comments from my boss and that same day applied for one of the most coveted jobs in the city, a spot on the medical team for the Pittsburgh Penguins. I did't think I had any chance of getting it, I was only a few years removed from school, had no experience in hockey and was female. But apparently I was wrong. The man in charge of hiring me told me the club was looking for a female who could hold own in a group of loud hockey players. Having grown up with three older brothers I was definitely comfortable around groups of young men.

My first day as a member of the Penguins Hockey Club I woke up before my alarm, anxious for what the day would bring. Part of me was expecting to arrive only to find it was all a hoax. I tried to stay in the shower longer than usual in hopes of calming myself down, but I was too worried about what I would wear to enjoy the hot water on my skin. I got out of the shower and continued my morning routine, I wrapped my hair in a towel, dried my body off with another one and began moisturizing my heavily inked skin. I’d gotten my first tattoo the day I turned eighteen and since then had developed quite a collection of colourful and unique pieces that covered both of my arms, part of my chest and shoulders and were creeping down to my thighs. They were the main reason I didn’t work in a hospital or community care facility, the public seemed to have some strange idea that my tattoos affected my ability to treat and care for them. When I’d made sure every part of my body was slathered in vanilla scented lotion I made my way to my closet. The head of the medical team had told me to wear whatever I was comfortable in on days when we didn’t have a game. I sifted through my collection of cotton day dresses and decided I didn’t want to look like I was trying to hard, instead I opted for high waisted black skinny jeans, a red and white stripped t-shirt and a black cardigan, I wanted to have something to cover my arms so I could slowly ease the people around me into my tattoos, history had suggested that people tended to be more accepting if they didn’t see all of them right away. It wasn’t that I cared what they thought, but I did care about my job. My long black hair pulled into a high ponytail, my bangs laying straight across my forehead and my make up carefully applied I was ready to go. The nerves had yet to subside and I reckoned that they wouldn’t any time in the near future.

When I arrived at the rink I was immediately introduced to Coach Dan Blysma. He seemed like a kind man and offered to give me a tour of the facility. He took me through the offices pointing out the important ones I’d need to remember and introduced me to a number of trainers and business people involved with the organization. When we got to the main gym area it was empty, Dan explained that there was mandatory skate that afternoon, so most of the boys wouldn’t be in until that afternoon. The gym was beautiful, it had an assortment of different equipment that looked brand new, along with televisions mounted on almost ever wall and mirrors from floor to ceiling. Through the gym we made our way to the dressing room. It looked like most of the arena dressing rooms i’d been in, with stalls and benches along the walls and team colours everywhere. As Dan was telling me a little bit more about the team a tall man with dark hair walked in dressed in gym clothes. I instantly knew who he was, but didn’t let on that I was slightly starstruck.

“Perfect timing.” Dan exclaimed, motioning for the man to join us. “Beatrice, I’d like to you meet our captain Sidney Crosby. Sid, this is Beatrice Keller, she’s joining the medical team.”
“It’s nice to meet you.” The man held out his hand. “Welcome to the team.”

Chapter Text

My first meeting with the Pens captain left me a bit weak in the knees. I’d never been one to get excited over people who were in the spotlight, or so called celebrities, but I’d never shaken hands with one of modern hockey’s most legendary players until that day. Our conversation was brief and afterwards Dan was summoned to meet with the general manager. I made my way back to the medic offices, searching for a bathroom on my way. I got lost twice and ended up back in the dressing room. I couldn’t cross my legs any tighter and snuck into one of the stalls. In typical twenty-first century fashion I pulled out my phone while my bladder did its thing. I had to tell someone about my encounter with Sidney Crosby.

Bea
You’ll never guess who I just met

I sent the message to my three older brothers.

John
Who?

Simon
The Queen?

Andrew
Why are you texting me before noon? I thought we talked about this.

Bea
Simon, where would I possibly meet the Queen in Pennsylvania? Andy, it’s 11:30am, close enough.

John
Would you please tell us who you met, B?

Andrew
Noon means noon guys. But tell me anyway, I don’t like waiting.

Bea
SC 87

Simon
Is that some new text lingo? I can’t keep up with you kids.

Andrew
Isn’t that Crosby’s brand name?

Bea
10 points to Andrew. Simon you’re an idiot.

John
Shit! How did you meet him? Did you tell him we’re all Flyers fans?

Bea
Why would I tell him I’m a Philly fan? And I didn’t want to tell you guys until everything was settled but I quit the gym and got a new job working for a hockey team.

Andrew
Quit? Why?

Simon
What kind of hockey team?

Bea
Because I was sick of the bullshit. A well known hockey team. Their logo is some penguin

John
You’re working for the enemy?

Andrew
Holy shit kid! Congratulations!

Simon
Are you kidding right now?

I heard someone come into the locker room.

Bea
Not kidding, not the enemy, it’s a good job. Which I should go do instead of texting you losers. xo

Simon
Give ‘em hell kid!

Andrew
Bring one home for Thanksgiving will ya. Well done Trix!

John
Pictures ASAP. Lol. xo

I locked my phone, pulled up my pants and flushed the toilet. I made sure my zipper was zipped and took a deep breath. I washed my hands and double checked my appearance in the mirror, making sure there was no red lipstick on my teeth and my sleeves were pulled down. When I left the bathroom and turned the corner I came face to face with three men, all in various states of undress.
“Oh shit!” I cried covering my eyes with my hand. “I am so sorry. I couldn’t find another bathroom and I didn’t think anyone would be here until later.” I sputtered, trying to heading towards the door.
“Don’t worry about it.” One of the men said in an amused tone, he had a thick accent that I recognized to be from Quebec. “You must be Beatrice?” He asked walking towards me. I kept my left hand covering my eyes and put out my right to shake his.
“I am.” I replied smiling, still not looking at him. He shook my hand gently and I could hear the other men laughing.
“Marc-Andre” he said. “You can uncover your eyes Beatrice, Beau put his pants on.”
I lowered my hand from my eyes and smiled at the men in front of me. I was educated enough in the world of professional hockey to know who they all were. Rookie Beau Bennett, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, and Russian forward Evgeni Malkin. I felt my cheeks getting hot and was about to formally introduce myself when the door flung open.
“Beatrice.” Dan said walking towards me. “There you are. I thought you might have gotten lost.” He smiled placing a firm hand on my shoulder. I smiled at him and watched more of the team, along with trainers and the other medics come into the room. I’d already met the other medics, four older men who had been polite, but didn’t seem eager to talk to me during our first encounter.

Once the team, both players and staff, had arrived, Dan introduced me and suggested I say a few words.
“I’m Beatrice Keller.” I began. “But please feel comfortable calling me Bea. I was born and raised in Prince Edward Island, Canada, I graduated two years ago from Penn State with my masters in Sports Medicine and I look forward to working with all of you, but hopefully not too often.” I tried to remain calm and composed. I was generally okay talking to large groups but I was acutely aware that I was the only female in the room, and while I’d prepared myself for that reality it was going to take some getting used to.

We left Dan and the team to get ready for their practice and sat in the medical offices. The head doctor, Larry, was for more welcoming than the rest of the medical team and went over everything I’d need to know. He assured me that I’d get the hang of it quickly and in no time it would all become second nature. I would be training under him and a senior medic behind the bench. The teams version of first response. We spent the rest of the day going over procedures and protocols while the team practiced and by the time I got home my mind was full of information and my eyes were heavy with exhaustion. But, I couldn’t sleep, I was too excited about what was to come.

Chapter Text

Two days after my first encounter with the team I’d be stitching and bandaging for what I hoped would be many seasons, I experienced my first game day. I’d gotten to know everyone better and the other medics were coming around. I’d met nearly all the men individually and was well on my way to feeling comfortable.

I arrived at the rink several hours before puck drop dressed in khaki pants and official Penguins apparel which consisted of a black short sleeve golf shirt that fit quite nicely and a black team jacket that I carried over my arm. My hair was pulled into a bun on the top of my head and the make-up under the thick black frames of my glasses was simple, exchanging red lipstick for milk and honey Chapstick. I made my way to the medical room smiling at players as I passed. Inside the room Pascal Dupuis and Sid sat on exam tables talking candidly about their days.
“Hey Beatrice,” Pascal called as I walked in, his accent, like Marc-Andre’s was distinctly French. “Are you excited for your first game?” He asked as I set my coat and purse down on one of the desks and made my way towards them.
“I am.” I smiled, rubbing sanitizing lotion onto my hands. “And I told you guys to call me Bea. Beatrice is my grandmother.”
“Of course,” he laughed.
“Are you waiting for someone or is there something I can help you with?” I asked, scanning the room for my coworkers.
“Dave went to get more tape, but Sid just got here.” Pascal replied, referring to one of the other medics. “I didn’t realize you have so many tattoos.” He looked at my bare arms curiously. It was the first time I didn’t have my arms covered.
“Oh, yeah.” I smiled. “I have more.” I pulled up one of my sleeves revealing a giant sunflower.
“Beautiful,” Pascal remarked looking closely.
“Anyway, where does it hurt?” I let the short sleeve fall and turned to Sidney.
“My right shoulder is stiff, I think I did something in practice earlier.” He replied pulling off his shirt, revealing his solid, sculpted upper body. I told myself to be calm, that this was my job and his body was just like any other body I’d worked on, the only difference was his helped him make millions of dollars and was jacked.
“Do you mind?” I asked, motioning towards his shoulder.
“Not at all,” he sat up straighter.
I ran my hand over his smooth and strong shoulder, again trying to calm my mind and body from their excitement. I ran my hand along its curve, from his neck down, and then from the front to the back. It felt tender, but nothing to be alarmed over.
“I think you’ve just tweaked your trapezius, which is far more painful than it is serious. I did the same thing a few months ago and...” I trailed off realizing that I was rambling.
“I kind of figured.” He smiled at me for the first time that day. Little lines forming next to his eyes.
“I can probably massage some of the stiffness out, other than that we’ll put some deep heat on it and hope it works itself out.” I suggested, my hand shaking slightly.
“It’s worth a try.” Sidney smiled again and went to go lay on his back.
“Actually, it’s probably better if I kneel behind you,” I spat out nervously, remembering a specific technique I’d learned in a massage therapy class.
“Sure.” Sidney sat back up. “Is that a... sexy zombie?” He asked, grabbing my left arm as I was about to move behind him.
“Yeah, a pin-up.” I laughed nervously, looking at my forearm in his hand, the green coloured zombie on a a purple background, posed like a classic pinup staring back at us.
“That’s really cool,” he ran his fingers over the image. “The detail is so precise.”
“I should hope so,” I laughed. “It took about eight hours.” I didn’t mention the price, it was easily one of my most expensive pieces, but also my favourite.
“You said you had other ones?” He asked looking back at my face. “Where are they?”
My arm was still in his hands, he’d turned it over and was looking at the other tattoos that had all blended into a sleeve. “My shoulders, hips and onto my thighs.” I hadn’t notice Pascal leave, Sidney and I were alone in the room.
“That’s really cool,” he let go of my arm and I walked behind him, climbing onto the table and positioning myself behind his shoulder. He was taller and much bigger than I was, which made it harder to fit my hands around his whole shoulder. I had grown used to working on people bigger than me at my previous job, but Sidney was much bigger than the wealthy members of the gym I’d worked on. I straightened my back trying to gain height so I could put more of my weight into massaging the muscle. I used the heel of my hand to loosen the tissue and avoid hitting the problem area directly. Usually there was one area that was knotted, and the rest of the muscle became tense as a result. I couldn’t imagine how silly I must have looked, kneeling behind a man so much bigger than me, trying to push my weight into his shoulder. When I felt the muscle start to relax and started massaging in circular motions with the tips of my fingers looking for particularly tight areas.
“How did you hurt your shoulder?” He asked breaking the silence in the room. My fingers slipped and he flinched, I’d found my tight spot.
“Sorry,” I softened my touch. “I got checked in derby and landed weird.”
“Derby?” He asked leaning his head to the left so I could get a better angle.
“Roller derby,” I clarified, I’d forgotten that not everyone was familiar with my beloved sport.
“Wow,” he replied. “I’ve never actually seen roller derby played.”
“You should come check it out sometime,” I finished up massaging his shoulder and moved it gently to see if his range of motion was any better. “How does that feel?”
“Much better,” he moved his shoulder and arm in circular motions. I got off of the table, and headed towards the cabinet where I hoped to find a tube of deep heat. As I searched through the cupboards Evgeni Malkin and James Neal walked in. I thanked God that they hadn’t come in earlier to witness me on the table behind Sidney.
“What’s up, guys?” I asked casually, walking the tube I’d found in a drawer over to Sid.
“You look good in Penguin shirt.” Malkin winked at me, his broken English endearing. “I come for icepack for knee and you for heart.” He sat on the table where Pascal had been.
“Icepack I can do.” I laughed and went towards to refrigerator freezer on the other side of the room. Sidney sat, still shirtless, rubbing the lotion onto his shoulder.
“Make that two,” Neal called, sitting on another table. I took two ice packs from the freezer and looked for towels, finding them in a basket next the fridge.
“You have boyfriend?” Malkin asked when I handed him the cold pack wrapped in a team towel.
“Nope,” I replied amused, giving Neal the other pack.
“Why not? You have girlfriend?” Maklin winked, laughing at himself.
“Not anymore,” I smiled, looking at three men for a reaction. Malkin grinned, while the other two didn’t react.
“You like girls?” He asked, his eyes full of excitement.
“I like people.” I responded, again searching Sid’s face for a reaction.
“So hot,” Malkin stared at me. “You have lots of girlfriends?”
“Give her a break, Geno,” Sid responded before I could answer. I smiled at him.
“Why? Just questions,” Malkin shrugged his shoulders. “I want to know strange, pretty girl. Go eat sandwich Sid!” He laughed referring to what I would later learn is one of Sidney’s many pre-game rituals.

My game behind the bench went much better than I had anticipated. There were no injuries that required a stretcher and the fights were kept to a minimum. My only real work was stitching up a laceration above Deryk Engelland’s right eyebrow during the intermission. It was a result of the only fight the entire game, which made my job much easier. My view from the bench was like nothing I’d ever experienced. I could hear, see and smell the game on a whole new level. For some reason the other medics weren’t as partial to the ice level action, Larry suggested I get comfortable with the position because out of everyone I took up the least amount of room, which was apparently a good thing.
The Penguins won 3-1 against the Phoenix Coyotes and the dressing room with abuzz with energy post-game. Even though it was a pre-season game, the boys seemed elated to have another win under their belts. From the medical room I could hear the celebration music and the loud conversations. My first game done and I knew I had the best job in the city.

Chapter Text

The next two home games followed a similar fashion to the first. Injuries were minimal, nothing more than a few cuts and bruises, and the Penguins on their way to being the team to beat that season. I was getting more comfortable with my new surroundings each day, the team continued to welcome me and I was beginning to understand their peculiar dynamics and camaraderie.

The night before my first road trip I sat in my apartment trying to figure out what to pack. My best friend and roommate Serena lay on my bedroom floor while Luna, our black, high energy, cat chewed on the ends of her long blonde hair.
“How long are you gone for?” Serena asked as I riffled through my closet.
“A week or so” I replied, jumping to reach a sweater that was on the top shelf. “We’re flying into Philly tomorrow then from there we go to New York to play the Rangers and the Islanders then we fly to Buffalo.”
“Wow,” She sat up, shaking Luna from off of her hair. “That sounds intense. Are you excited?
“Yeah, I guess,” I put the sweater I was reaching for in my suitcase. “I’m kind of nervous to be honest”
“Why?” Luna meowed and climbed onto Serena’s lap.
“No idea,” I moved over to my dresser and looked through my pants. “I’m just not sure what to expect, and I’m going to be spending a week with a bunch of guys I hardly know.” I pulled out two pairs of jeans and threw them on top of the sweater. I had spent some time thinking about what I would pack and decided to play it cool, opting for jeans and sweaters over my usual dresses and high waisted skirts. Not only would it be easier to pack but I didn’t want to come across as high maintenance, although I suspected the people around me had better things to worry about than what their medic girl was wearing.
“Are you going to call Millie?” Millie was part of my not so distant past. We’d dated on and off for four years while in university. We met at a party when I first moved to Philadelphia, I was twenty and had just finished my first degree in New Brunswick. I walked into the party with a guy who was good friends with my brother Andrew, who was also living in Philadelphia, and within ten minutes Millie and I were deep in conversation. Her big blue eyes and curly red hair caught my eye immediately, I was soon captivated by her energy and the curve of her hips, her breasts and the dimples that appeared when she smiled. Making her smile became my main goal that night. The reward for my hard work was her phone number and one life altering kiss, the kind that makes everything around you stop and the only thing that matters is the lips of the person you’re lucky enough to be touching. After that night started dating, making it official after only a month of knowing each other. Everything about her intrigued me, from her political views to the way she bit her lip when she was trying to concentrate. Six months after making it official I got accepted to Penn State and Millie moved to University Park with me. It was the first time I’d lived with someone I was dating, and at first it was wonderful. I went to classes and she got a job a law firm. We’d come home, eat dinner, smoke weed, make love, and do it all again the next day. I can’t pin point a single event that marked our demise as a couple, but we slowly started drifting away, I’d skip dinner to study at the library, leaving her home alone. Soon she’d stop coming home after work and crawl into bed after I was long asleep. We broke up before Christmas of my first year and got back together in April. Following the same cycle as before we broke up again in January of my second year, together again in August. Each time we broke up she’d sleep at a different friends’ house and I’d wonder if it was worth all the hassle. Months later amnesia would hit and we’d wonder why we ever broke up, vowing to be better this time. The finale to our relationship saga came a month before I graduated from Penn State. Things had been rocky for a while and we amicably decided to part ways and call it quits. Shortly after I moved to Pittsburgh and the last I’d heard she moved back to Philadelphia.
“That’s probably not a good idea,” I replied.
“Right,” Serena laughed. “You’d probably end up bringing her home with you.”
“Probably,” I smiled trying to imagine Geno’s reaction to Millie and I. “I think I’ll stick with seeing my brother if I have time.”
“Feel free to bring him home with you,” Serena winked and stood up, pushing Luna off of her lap and earning an angry meow. Serena had a long running crush on the youngest of my older brothers that had never exactly gone anywhere, much to her dismay.
“I’ll work on that.” I opened my underwear drawer. “Doesn’t he have a girlfriend?” If anyone knew the status of any of my brothers’ relationships it was Serena, her Facebook stalking was worth of the NYPD.
“They broke up, which makes this a prime opportunity for me to mend his broken heart with a long, exhausting night of sweaty...”
“Enough!” I interrupted her, covering my ears with my hands.
“Oh come on, you’re telling me that if Andy wasn’t your brother you wouldn’t get up in that?” Her experience as an only child made it hard for her to imagine how disturbing that question was.
“Please stop talking,” I stared at her in disbelief.
“Fine,” she sighed. “Don’t forget to pack something a little sexier, I mean you’re about to go away for a week with a bunch of hot men, including one of the country’s most eligible bachelors.” She went into my closet and pulled out a tight fitting black dress with a square, low cut neck and a hemline that feel a few inches above my knee. It wasn’t something I wore often, but it was easily the sexist thing in my closet.
“I’m not packing that.” I rolled my eyes at her, “besides, when would I wear it anyway?”
“You think they don’t go out after the games?” She laughed, taking the dress off of the hanger and folding it.
“So what if they do? I’m not going to be invited.” I took the folded dress from her.
“Of course you will! You’re the only woman going with them,” She took the dress back from my hands. “Besides, it sounds like the like you.” She placed the dress in my suitcase and went to my underwear drawer.
“I said they were nice, not that they wanted to get under my dress.” I cried.
“Bea, every guy wants to get under your dress, in fact so do most girls.” She pulled out a pair of black lace boy shorts and a matching bra that I saved for special occasions.
“While you’re doing wonders for my ego, I’d appreciate if you stopped putting the most uncomfortable but sexiest of my underwear in suitcase. The suitcase I am taking on a work trip.” I watched her drop in a few pairs of silk underwear and a pushup bra.
“You’ll thank me.” She winked and went over to my night stand, opening the top drawer and pulling out a handful of condoms from the jar I kept just in case. I shook my head and continued gathering clothes I would actually wear as she slipped the condoms down the side of my suitcase.

We boarded the plane at 10am the next morning. Most of the players were dressed in business wear carrying smaller suitcases. I silently praised myself for wearing my normal game wear instead of the tempting yoga pants I had considered. My suitcase on the other hand was far bigger than the rest, it was also the only pink one boarded on the plane.
“You pack for monthlong adventure?” Evgeni teased when I arrived at our private terminal
“It takes a lot of work to look this good,” I laughed.
“You pack dancing shoes? We show you the best clubs in all cities.” He leaned against the wall next to me.
“You’re going to go to a night club in Philly?” I asked raising one eyebrow. As a Flyers fan I was well aware of the rivalry between the two teams. Although the city wasn’t as dangerous as its reputation would lead one to believe.
“I show you night of your life,” he winked. Before I could respond Sidney joined us, he was wearing a light blue dress shirt and dark grey slacks, his hair was in its usual tousled state, but he looked more attractive than ever.
“Sid!” Geno greeted him. “I tell Bea all about plan to show her town.” He explained.
“Oh yeah?” Sid chuckled. “How does Beatrice feel about that?” He turned to me smiling, my stomach fluttered.
“I was just about to tell Geno that I could probably show him a thing or two about Philly.” I replied, smirking. “I lived there for awhile, my brother is still there actually.”
“Oh no!” Geno gasped. “You not Flyers fan?” He glared at me, eyes narrowing. I kept my mouth shut and smiled at both of them.
“That’s unfortunate,” Sid laughed. “But I guess we’ll just have to show you who is the better team tonight.”
“So not sexy,” Geno scolded me.
I smiled and took in the two large men standing infront of me. It was going to be an interesting week.

Chapter Text

When I got on the plane I felt like youtube sensation and all around mindfuck Rebecca Black. Which seat should I take? Was I supposed to stay away from the team? Or would it be rude to sit at the back of the plane? Luckily, Larry was already seated and waiting for me to join him. I settled into the aisle seat and put my carryon bag at my feet.
“What do we usually do on flights?” I asked Larry, carefully keeping my voice at an audible whisper.
“The coaches go over game strategy. some players read, some play video games, I usually fall asleep but sometimes will join the livelier conversations,” he whispered back. “You can do what ever you usually do on flights.”
I pulled out my iPod and oversized headphones from my carryon, thankful that I could spend the flight relaxing. I slipped the headphones on, half expecting an air hostess to come by and tell me to put it away. Scrolling through the song list for a few seconds I tapped to play Dave Grohl’s acoustic version of Walk. I closed my eyes and felt the plane’s rumbling engine as we took off. After a few minutes in the air, Larry climbed over me to join the coaches. I figured I might as well make myself comfortable and pushed the armrest between the two seats up, after undoing my seatbelt I slid over to the seat Larry had been in and with my back resting against the wall I spread my legs out across my own seat. I closed my eyes again and listened to the new song playing through my headphones. Less than five minutes after I’d moved I felt someone touch my leg. I pulled off my head phones and opened my eyes startled. Sid stood in front of me waiting for my response to a question I hadn’t heard.

“I’m sorry, what did you say?” I asked looking up at him.
“I asked what you were listening to,” he smiled warmly.
“Oh,” I smiled and looked at my iPod to check, I hadn’t exactly been paying attention to the music. “Mac Miller,” I replied.
“You listen to rap?” He looked surprised.
“I listen to a lot of things,” I smirked, trying to look slightly seductive.
“Can I sit?” He motioned to the seat under my feet. I moved my feet, and sat cross-legged facing him still, he sat down, shifting his body towards me.
“You don’t want to sit with your friends?” I wrapped the cord of my headphones around my iPod and put them both in the pocket of the seat in front of mine.
“You looked lonely over here,” He shrugged, smiling again and making my stomach flutter. “So how long did you live in Philly for?”
“A little less than a year, but I’ve spent a lot of time there,”
“Right, you said your brother lives there. How did you end up in Pittsburgh?”
“After I graduated I didn’t want to move back to Philly.” I took a deep breath “messy break up,” I smiled, trying to keep our conversation light. I had no idea why I said that, and hoped he wouldn’t ask questions.
“Well I’m glad you chose Pittsburgh,” he placed his hand on my leg, “It’s nice to have a female on the team.” His touch was electric and thousands of goosebumps erupted all over my body.
“Me too,” my voice shook slightly, I had’t been so attracted to someone since Millie. I’d been with people since, but no one who made me feel like this, like my senses were on overdrive.
“You’re coming out after the game, right?” His hand stayed on my leg, my cheeks were getting warmer and warmer.
“I might,” I tried to remain cool. “I was hoping to see my brother.”
“Bring him,” he smiled again. “Actually, if he wants we can leave comp tickets for him at the door.”
“Even if he’s a Flyers fan?” I joked.
“We can fix that,” He chuckled.
“Good luck,” I laughed, he moved his hand from my leg and ran it through his hair. I felt a loss at the absence of his touch.
“Did you say you were from PEI?” He asked, changing the subject.
“You ask a lot of questions, Crosby.” I tried to cock one of my eyebrows up but failed miserably. I noticed him blushing slightly, which in turn made me blush again. “I did say that, yeah,” my voice softened looking at his reddened face.
“That’s really cool,” he turned his body to face me even more, his left knee resting on my seat. “I’m from Scotia.”
“I know,” I looked at him amused. “I like Maritime boys,” I winked,

An hour until puck drop, we’d already checked into our hotels and were in the visitors locker room of the Wells Fargo Center. It was all a bit surreal and I tried not to think of it as a Flyers game. It was just a game like any other. I was part of the Penguins staff and therefore had no interest in any other team. Easier said than done. I sat in the dressing room while the guys got ready to take the ice. They walked around in various states of undress, all strong, well built and full of enthusiasm. For the most part I was able to ignore their seminudity, focus on their faces when they talked to me.
“You better cheer for pens!” Geno called from across the room. I glared at him, I didn’t need the whole team knowing I was a Flyers fan.
“Ugh, Bea, gross,” Marc-Andre shook his head in my direction. “I thought you were better than that.”
“If you guys kick some ass we won’t have any problems,” I smirked.
“Don’t worry guys,” Sid walked over to me, we was wearing tight spandex Under Armor that clung to his muscles, I shivered involuntarily. He sat down and put his arm around my shoulder. My body was electric again, his heavy arm pulled me closer to him, he smelt faintly of sweat and cologne. “Bea’s a smart girl, she knows who the better team is.”

The game was lively and passionate. Two of NHL’s biggest rivals were head to head less than 5 feet in front of me. It was no surprise when Scott Hartnell and Deryk Engelland squared off at centre ice. Punches were thrown while the crowd went wild and the players beat their sticks against the boards. Five for fighting a piece and the scoreboard said 2-1 Flyers. Andrew’s seat was right behind our bench, every so often I’d look back at him and smile, clad in his Winter Classic Giroux jersey he was having the time of his life. Crosby’s goal tied the game and we went into the third on even ground. More than a few fights, but no serious injuries, it was anyone’s game. Malkin’s goal and the Penguins were in the lead with 5 left in the game. The seconds ticked by, interrupted by commercial breaks and icing class, I watched anxiously. I wanted them to win, I wanted to spend the night celebrating, I was imagining the celebration when time ran out and the buzzer sounded. Pittsburgh won 3-2 and the boys cheered, hugging each other and making their way off the ice.

Andrew met us in the corral after everyone had changed. The corral was where the visiting team boarded the bus and occasionally met with fans. I breathed I sigh of relief when Andrew walked in carrying his jersey instead of wearing it. He made his way over to me and pulled me into a tight hug.
“That was one hell of a game!” He said into my hair, still hugging me.
“I’m glad you could come,” I smiled letting go of him.
“I can’t believe you’re working for an NHL team,” he looked me up and down smirking. “I always knew you’d make it in the big leagues somehow.” He threw his arm around my shoulder effortlessly, standing half a foot taller than me he seemed to tower over me.
The boys came out of the dressing room to greet the small crowd that had formed. Andrew and I were discussing his band’s new album when Sidney walked up to us.
“You must be Andrew,” he held out his hand, my brother took it in his and smiled. “I’m Sidney,” he said as if his name wasn’t known in every hockey loving house hold around the world.
“Nice me too you man, thanks for the ticket,” Andrew said as they let go of each other’s hands.
“No problem, glad you could make it,” Sid looked like something out of GQ magazine, he stood next to me in a perfectly tailored grey suit with a purple dress shirt and black tie. His pants were tight around his legs and bum. I tried not to stare as I looked him up and down.
“We have to get on the bus,” Sid put his hand on my shoulder. “But it was great meeting you,” he smiled at Andrew and walked towards the bus.
I hugged my brother again and told him to text me if he could come out with us. He said he had some work to do but I hoped he’d change his mind. He kissed the top of my head and told me how proud he was, I let go and got on the bus with the rest of the team.

As the only female member of the team I got my own hotel room. I’d expected that I’d be sharing with Larry but Dan told me it was only right that I get my own space. When I walked in the room I kicked off my shoes and pulled off my shirt as soon as the door closed. I had half an hour to get ready to go out and no time to waste. I slipped out of my pants and zipped open my suitcase, searching for the perfect outfit. I considered jeans but remembered Serena’s addition to my packing list and pulled out the black dress. There was no way I would ever admit it to her, but at that moment was thankful she’d slipped it in. I grabbed the underwear she’d thrown in and went to the bathroom to get ready. In record time I’d gotten dressed, pulled my hair down from it’s bun to find it in soft presentable curls, and applied just enough makeup. I was grabbing my purse and slipping on my shoes when Geno and Marc-Andre banged on my door.
“Shit!” Geno hissed when I opened the door and stood in front of him wearing the tight black dress, red heels and matching lipstick.
“Damn girl!” Marc laughed. I spun around showing them my outfit and laughed at their shocked reactions.

The club was loud and fill of energy when we walked in. Bass thumping and crowds of people packed onto the dance floor. Sid and Marc went to find a table while the rest of us headed up to the bar. I ordered a Jack and Coke and headed to the table. Geno and Beau Bennett had found a group of girl and were practicing their off ice moves. I slid into the booth next to Sid and took a sip of my drink. He stretched his arm out on the back of my seat and smiled at me.
“You look beautiful,” He leaned down and whispered in my hear, his breath hot against the side of my face. I started blushing again.
“Thank you,” I smiled up at him and moved closer to his body. Across from us Marc was texting someone and smiling.
“Max is coming,” he grinned at Sid and me. I looked at Sid confused.
“Talbot,” he clarified. I nodded in approval and finished my drink. I was enjoying sitting in such close proximity to Sidney and looking forward to meeting one of my favourite Flyers when I saw her from the corner of my eye.
She was wearing tight jeans that hung low on her hips and a black shirt that showed her curves perfectly. Her curly red hair was swept off her face with clips and her eyes were lined with black makeup. My heart sped up and my stomach flip flopped when I saw her. I silently prayed that she wouldn’t notice me. I knew I was out of luck when she turned and headed towards us. My body tensed up and I sat up straighter.
“Trix!” She cried, sliding into the booth next to me. Marc and Sid looked at me confused.
“Millie,” I smiled. “How are you?”
“I’m great,” she leaned in and hugged me politely. “I thought you moved to Pittsburgh,” she looked at me confused, obviously not recognizing either of the men I was sitting with.
“I did,” I responded, smiling. “I’m just visiting.” I purposely left out the part about working for one of the biggest NHL franchises.
“It’s great to see you, I’ve missed you,” she placed her hand on my leg. My body tensed up more.
“Yeah,” I managed to say nervously.
“Can I buy you a drink?” She looked at me suggestively. I held my breath trying to think of an excuse. I couldn’t go down that road again.
“Actually Bea, our cab is here,” Sid interrupted. “We should get going.”
Millie looked at me disappointed and slipped out of the booth. “Another time,” she smiled at us and walked away.

Outside, Sidney and I made our way back to the hotel. It was only a few blocks from the club and the crisp air felt good against my skin.
“Thank you,” I grinned at him.
“No problem, you looked like you needed an out.”
“I’m sorry you had to leave,” I said, we were a few feet from the front doors.
“It’s fine, I’m really not into the club scene.” He opened the door and held it, letting me go in ahead of him. The elevator was waiting for us and we made idle chit chat on the way up, not exactly saying anything, but filling the awkward silence that hung in the air. When we reached the 15th floor I considered inviting him back to my room, but before I could say anything he turned in the opposite direction of my suite and said goodnight.

In my hotel room I pulled off my dress, kicked off my shoes and slumped onto the bed. I wasn’t in the mood to be alone. I’d been looking forward to a night out, but I knew it was safer that I not be around Millie, especially not when I was drinking. We’d been broken up for a long time, and logically I knew that was best, but in times of loneliness I still yearned for her, craved the affection and human connection. I crawled under the covers of my bed and reached for the remote. I flicked the on the TV and clicked through the channels, stopping on ESPN where the highlights of that night’s Pens/Flyers game were playing. I watching Sid’s face on the screen as he celebrated his goal and skated back to the bench. I could see myself in the corner of the screen, a strange sensation washed over me. I was part of a new world, something I’d only ever dreamed of. I felt my throat tighten for no particular reason. I felt alone in my empty room. So used to having Serena and Luna around I’d forgotten what it was like to be completely alone in a room. Maybe it was the letdown of the club or my confusing feeling for Sidney but I couldn’t stop the tears from dripping down my face. I wondered if I should have gone with Millie, just to have one night of connection with someone else. I reached for my phone, half tempted to call Millie and tell her where my hotel was. Instead I tapped the first name under favorites.
“Bea?” Serena answered. “What’s up? I thought you were out with the guys.”
“I was,” I choked out, still crying.
“Woah, what happened?” She asked, her voice thick with worry.
“I saw her,” I sniffled. “And Sid walked me back but we went to our separate rooms, and I’ve had a few drinks, and I’m lonely.” I’d only had one drink, but I wasn’t much of a drinker.
“I’m glad you called me instead of going home with her,” Serena added her voice optimistic.
“I am too.” I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand. “Sometimes I really miss her, and I think I like him. But I look at the girls that they talk to, and I’m just not like them.” I looked down and my colourful arms and my gapless thighs.
“I know you like him, and those other girls...” she stopped. “Those other girls are nothing compared to you. You’re right, you’re not like them, you’re smart and you’re your own person. Most of those girls are just in it to say they’ve been with a pro athlete.”
“I don’t care that he’s a hockey player,” I sobbed. “He’s so kind and beautiful and I have no idea why I’m crying right now.” I laughed, my ability to laugh and cry at the same time causing Serena to laugh.
“I know. But you have whole season ahead of you where you can get to know each other better. This is just the beginning. And I can’t predict anything but neither can you. You don’t know what he’s thinking. Maybe he’s having this same conversation with one of the guys.” My best friend’s words were comforting and pulled me back to reality.
“I love you.” I mumbled, wrapping myself tighter in the blankets.
“I love you too, Bea. Now, go wash your face, get a glass of water and get some sleep, this will all feel better in the morning. Call me when you get to New York.”

We said our goodbyes and I dutifully went to the bathroom to take my smudged makeup off. I was filling the glass next the sink when I heard a knock on the door. I was standing in my black lace push-up bra and matching underwear, my hair a mess, left over make up still around my eyes. I grabbed the robe from the hook on the wall behind me and went to the door. I wasn’t expecting anyone, but I assumed that a drunk Geno was on the other side, wondering why I’d left so early. I unlocked the security chain and opened the door to find Sidney standing in front of me. Tall, broad, wearing the same dark jeans he’d been wearing at the club and a white t-shirt. I looked up at him, his hair ruffled, smiling, wrinkles next to his eyes. I shivered for the hundredth time that night and felt a corse of electricity run through my body.

Chapter Text

“Hi,” he looked down at me smiling, his tall body leaning against the doorframe. “I wanted to see if you were alright.”
“Thank you,”I pulled my robe tighter around me and opened the door wider to let him in.
“You don’t have to tell me, but I’ll listen if you want to.” He slipped off his shoes and moved past me, sitting on the edge of my unmade bed. I closed the door and turned off the bathroom light.
“I don’t really know what to say,” I admitted, sitting down next to him, resting my back against the wall.
“That’s okay,” he smiled reassuringly and placed his hand on my leg. “I just didn’t want you to be alone.”
“That’s really sweet,” I placed my hand on top of his. “I really appreciate it.”
“Truthfully, I didn’t really want to be alone either,” he admitted, looking down at his feet. “I like the company of other people,” he looked back up at me, his big brown eyes and full lips bewitching me.
“I do too,” I said quietly, I couldn’t coax any sort of intelligent response out of my mouth, I was too captivated by his presence in front of me, sitting on my bed.
“So I take it that was an ex?” He asked, I moved my hand from his to pull the top of my robe tighter, it had fallen open, revealing the tops of my breasts and a hint of black lace.
“We were together for four years,” I responded. He had moved his hand from my leg and was holding his hands in his lap. “We don’t really talk anymore.” I was still fixated on his lips, unsure of what to say. I didn’t want to get into it, I didn’t want to rehash my past to someone I wanted so desperately to be in my future.
“That’s rough,” he was looking directly at me, as the words tumbled quietly from his mouth.
“I’m okay with it,” I didn’t take my eyes of him, I couldn’t risk losing his gaze. “We have different lives now.”
“Do you like your new life with the team?” He asked, our eyes were locked.
“I do,” my heart was beating faster than it had in a long time. My stomach was trembling and I could feel the heat between my legs. I moved towards him slightly.
“Good,” his voice was low and breathy. He moved towards me, his hands on the bed in front of me.
“Yeah,” my voice was just as quiet, my body too preoccupied with the intense attraction to worry about producing full sounds. He moved closer towards me and I inched nearer to him.
“We want you to feel welcome,” He was still staring at me, I remained fixated on him, we were still about a foot away from each other. I bit my lip, tempting him to come closer, to make the move we both wanted. My hands were shaky and I couldn’t fully catch my breath.
I was about to respond when he closed the gap between us and put his right hand on my cheek, guiding my face towards him. His lips pressed against mine, I placed my shaking hands on his chest and leaned in closer to him. His lips moved slowly, taking my bottom lip between his as he wrapped his arms around me, resting his hands on my lower back.
Before I can fully grasp what is happening, he’s pulled me onto his lap, my robe slipping off of my shoulder while my arms wrap themselves around his neck. He’s kissing me harder now, his tongue running along my bottom lip. I open my mouth slightly, pulling us deeper into each other, our tongues gently brushing against one another His hand moves from my back under the fabric of my robe and delicately grazes my side. I shiver under his touch, skin on skin contact intoxicating my senses. He moves his hand up my side and cups my breast, I moan softly and pull myself even closer to him. The fingers of his right hand massage my lace covered breast as his left hand makes its way to the belt of my robe. I snake my hands up into his hair, he pulls one end of the belt, undoing the bow I had haphazardly tied when he knocked on the door. The robe slips further down my shoulders and I move my hands from his hair just long enough for it fall off of my body completely. He pulls his lips from mine to look at my body, barely clothed and begging for his attention. He grins and me, his eyes shining with anticipation and runs his hands along my abdomen.
“Fuck,” he whispers before I capture his lips with mine. His hands slip under my bra, completely engulfing my breasts. His fingers find my nipples and his lips move from mine to my neck. I moan breathlessly as he nips the sensitive skin on the side of my neck. I grind my pelvis into his, feeling the affects of his arousal under his jeans. I push my hands under his shirt, feeling his tight core muscles under my fingers. I move my hands up, motioning for him to take his shirt off. He breaks our contact for only a second while I pull it over his head, and quickly returns his attention to my lips. My hands on his chest I push him gently, suggesting we lay down. He takes my hint and falls back onto the soft bed, taking me with him. His firm hands move to my back and his fingers trying to unhook my bra. I move my hips, grinding against his prominent erection. He groans approvingly, his deep voice vibrating in his throat. The friction driving us both wild. I reach behind him to unclasp my bra, letting it fall down my arms and throwing to the side. His lips make their way back down my neck and to my now exposed breasts, devouring them with a sense of urgency. His thumbs and fingers lightly tweaking my already hardened nipples, while his lips kiss and nip at my pale exposed skin.
Our breathing is heavy as he pulls his lips from my breasts and flips me onto my back, his hands now bracing his body weight above me. He stares down at me, his eye clouded with lust. I reach down to the button of his jeans as he moves his lips back to their rightful position on mine. In and easy motion and undo the button and pull down the zipper, wrapping my legs around his hips and pushing the heavy fabric down with my feet. He lowered himself closer to me, his stiff erection pressing against my wet core, his boxer briefs and my lace underwear the only things separating us. I whimper as he pushes harder against me, the friction against my clit sending waves of pleasure through me. I dig my nails into his back lightly, drawing his lips closer to mine. I don’t know how much more I can handle, my body is aching for him, my centre throbbing and begging for his touch. He rolls to his side, taking me with him, our lips never separating from each other. He runs his hand down my stomach and stops above my hips, softly tracing the tips of his fingers along the edge of my underwear. I want him desperately, I want him completely. My skin is flushed and on fire under his touch, he pushes his hand under the fabric of my underwear and creeps down closer and closer to my pulsating clit. My body cries waiting for his touch but my mind starts spinning. I wonder how many girls he has done this with, and how this will effect my job. I want to be with him, I want his hands all over me. My mind races back to my conversation with Serena. I don’t want to be one of those girls who takes the opportunity just to say she’s slept with a hockey player. I had no problem with women who had one night stands, but that wasn’t me. I needed more from him. I broke our kiss and pushed him away. He looked and me hurt, pulling his hand out from between my legs.
“Is something wrong?” He asked, his voice husky and low.
“I’m sorry,” I get up, leaving him half naked on the bed and hastily make my way to the bathroom. Humiliation floods over me. When he kissed me I was so overwhelmed by desire I didn’t think about our real lives. Our jobs, my emotional state. I slid against the back of the door to the floor. I sat with my head in my hands, my bare skin goose-bumped from the cold air.
“Beatrice?” He knocked softly on the door. I groaned, too embarrassed to face him. “Can you open the door?” I didn’t move. “I’m sorry if I pushed you too far,” he pleaded with me, his voice was thick with worry and guilt. “Can we talk about it? I really don’t want to leave you here.”
I sighed and got up from the floor. I was going to have to face him eventually and the longer I sat on the floor the worse it was going to be. I covered my exposed breasts with one arm and unlocked the door, quickly folding my other arm over them too before he opened the door. “Okay,” I called to him softly.
He opened the door and stood in front of me still in his boxer briefs. His hair was rumpled from my hands and his face was flushed. I’d seen him shirtless more than once, but still couldn’t get over his bare chest as he stood in front of me. “I’m sorry,” he looked at me with sad eyes.
“You didn’t do anything,” I shook my head embarrassed. “This is my problem.” His erection was fading, but still prominent under the tight fabric of his underwear. His face was still concerned, I could tell he didn’t believe me. “I promise,” I reassured him.
Sidney opened his broad arms, ushering me towards him. I pressed my body against his, my bare chest against his, our arms around each other. My head fit under his chin as he held me close to him, his strong body holding me together. I sighed, letting myself relax and take in the feeling of our skin on skin contact. His groin against my stomach I could feel his erection returning to its former state. I laughed and looked up at him.
“Really?” I giggled.
He looked at me amused. “You’re not wearing a shirt,” he smirked.

We made our way back to the bed and crawled under the covers. I’d put on a shirt, but was more than pleased when he opted to stay in his boxers. He could tell I didn’t want to be alone and flicked on the TV while we lay in bed. I’d made it clear that I didn’t want to talk about it and I snuggled against him, his arms wrapped around me, cradling me from behind. The steady rhythm of his breathing lulling me into a comfortable dreamworld, I drifted off to sleep as EPSN played the highlights from the game earlier that night for the third time.

Chapter Text

I woke up the next morning with Sidney’s arm draped over my shoulder. Panic washed over me at the sight of his bare upper body. While I didn’t regret the more intimate moments of our night together, I did’t know how I’d face him after I’d locked myself in the bathroom the minute his fingers slid south of my bellybutton. The clock beside me read 7:05am, we weren’t excepted on the bus until 9:00am and he’d mentioned as we were falling asleep that he didn’t plan to wakeup until 8:00am and the earliest. With only fifty-five minutes to make a clean escape I crept out of bed, careful not to wake him and headed for the shower. It took 15 minutes for me to shower and chastise myself for my actions the night before and 5 minutes to get dressed. I didn’t bother drying my hair, fearing that the noise from the blowdryer would wake him up, and my makeup was kept to the bare minimum. I tiptoed around the room packing my belongings in my pink suitcase and thanking a higher power that I hadn’t bothered to unpack anything. With twenty minutes to spare I slipped out of my quiet hotel room, leaving Sid fast asleep in my bed.

I made my way down to the hotel restaurant and found a table off to the side of the room. Not even five minutes after I’d ordered a pot of tea and pulled out my well worn copy of Nabokov’s Lolita, Pascal and Dan walked into the half empty room. Noticing me, they made their way over to my table for four and sat down across from me. We made small talk as we ate our breakfast and by the time I was finished most of the patrons in the restaurant were Penguins.
Determined to avoid Sidney, I made an excuse about needing to find a drugstore and left my suitcase to be loaded onto the bus. I found a store less than a block away and figured I would hide out until the very last minute, or at least until most of the team had boarded and I’d be forced to sit with the coaches. Wandering the aisles of the conveniently placed drug store I tried to find something I could buy to make my emergency trip look legitimate. After leafing through the latest edition of Cosmopolitan and scoffing at the ridiculousness of the articles inside I settled on a pack of gum, some Jolly Ranchers and a small box to tampons. I didn’t expect that anyone would question my trip, but I figured buying something so inherently feminine would prevent any questions.

My plan worked and in no time we were on the plane headed for New York. I’d managed to avoid Sid rather successfully by busying myself with a string of nonsensical questions for Larry. I claimed I wanted to make sure I was doing everything correctly, when in reality I wanted to avoid a conversation with Sid that may lead to the whole team knowing I was nearly doing him last night. My luck dissipated as I ran out of questions and was forced to sit alone while Larry joined the coaches in what seemed to be a lively conversation about the mechanical function of go carts. I plugged into my iPod in hopes I could soothe my confused soul with Lucy Schwartz’s melancholy lyrics, and the written words of Vladimir Nabokov. While I tried to preoccupy myself with the disturbing tale of Humbert Humbert and his attraction to young Delores Haze, I found myself reading the same line repeatedly as my mind drifted off to memories of the night before. I had all but given up on reading when Sidney slid casually into the seat beside me. I calmly took off my headphones and put my book away.
“I don’t know how you feel about last night. Probably because you left me in a hotel room this morning. But I want you to know that I don’t regret any of it.” He said looking me dead in the eyes. “This doesn’t have to mean anything if you don’t want it to. And if you don’t want to talk about it ever again I will respect that.” He continued before I could say anything. “Just don’t avoid me.” His eyes were wide and reminding me exactly why I had kissed him the night before.
“I don’t regret it,” I responded calmly. The statement mostly true, I didn’t regret being with him, I regretted pushing him away and locking myself in a room.
“Then enlighten me, Bea,” his tone was slightly pleading. “I don’t understand you, I want to, but every time I think I have a handle on who you are, you surprise me.”
I smiled to myself, he wasn’t the first person to suggest I was hard to read. All my life I’d been told my complexities and shifting moods were what pushed people away. A string of failed relationships and forgotten friends in my past, I was well aware that I wasn’t the easiest of people to understand.
“Kaleidoscope,” I murmured quietly to myself. My first boyfriend had coined the comparison of my shifting moods and interests to the colourful toy. I preferred to think of it as fluidity. I wasn’t confined to one set of socially accepted behaviors and reactions. In a world of such diversity I couldn’t comprehend restricting myself in anyway.
“What?” Sidney asked, placing his hand gently on my knee.
“Nothing,” I smiled, enjoying the warmth of his touch.
“Last night, you promised I hadn’t done anything to upset you...” he shifted closer to me, keeping his voice low and the conversation ours.
“You didn’t,” my eye were still locked on his, trapped in his gaze. I placed my hand gingerly on his and turned my gaze downward. “I’m not okay with being an impulse decision,” I stated, slightly taken aback by my own straightforwardness. “I’m over being someone’s good time girl and I didn’t want to go too far only to be disappointed.” There was something in his presence that surrounded me with comfort and the confidence to speak honestly. I had never been someone who avoided the truth, but I was very careful about how and when I revealed parts of myself to those around me.
He looked at me confused, his brow knit tightly in a frown. “You, Beatrice Keller,” He took my hand in his and moved to meet my eye level, “could never be a good time girl.”

Chapter Text

We arrived in New York City a little before noon and after checking into our Midtown Manhattan hotel were given the rest of the day to do with as we pleased. I changed out of my traveling clothes and into something more casual. I opted for a pair of well worn black skinny jeans, a loose but flattering t-shirt with a picture of a kitten reading a book on it, and a light blue denim button up shirt. I left my hair in its ponytail and my glasses on but switched my conservative shoes for canvas sneakers and made my way down to the lobby. I thought I’d made record time changing, but when I turned the corner Sid was already leaning against the wall waiting for me. He’d managed to change out of his suit and into the same pair of well fitting dark jeans as last night and a blue golf shirt and beat me to the lobby.
“You beat me!” I laughed walking towards him.
“That’s alright,” he smiled. “It takes time to look that good, right?”
I blushed and looked down at my feet. I didn’t look terrible, but I was far from the caliber of women we’d see walking down fifth avenue.
“I like your shirt,” he fingered the material lightly, my stomach fluttered from the proximity of his hand to my stomach.
“Thanks,” I smiled at him, still blushing slightly. “Do you have any pets?” probably the lamest thing someone could ask a professional athlete who travelled most of the year. I mentally slapped myself for being so simple minded.
“No, unfortunately pets don’t really like being left alone for days at a time,” he winked, as if he knew that I regretted the question the second it left my lips.
“Right,” I laughed nervously and turned to walk out of the hotel.
“How about you?” He walked with me, our hands only inches apart.
“My roommate and I have a cat,” I replied.
“Cats are cool, what’s its name?” Was he really asking me about my pet cat? Out of all the things we could be talking about we were talking about my cat.
“Luna,” I paused hesitantly, wondering if I should tell him the whole story. He smiled down at me, as if to tell me to continue. “She’s black. Actually, we named her Luna because my roommate, who is also my best friend, is Serena and I don’t know if you watch a lot of children’s television but...”
“Sailor Moon?” he asked before I could finish. I could tell he was amused.
“Exactly,” I laughing, impressed by his knowledge of 90s mainstream anime. “We’re both partial to the charming ways of the soldiers of the solar system and when we saw an ad for tiny black kitten, it was really too good to pass up.”
“Cute,” he smirked, his hand brushed mine gently. “Anything you wanted to do today?” We were headed towards Rockefeller Center to get lunch, but other than that we had yet to plan our day. I was ready for some sort of adventure nonetheless.
“I wouldn’t mind going to the MoMA, but I’m not going to drag you to a museum,” I caught his middle finger with mine and let our hands swing together casually.
“We can do that if you want,” he laced the rest of his fingers between mine, his strong hand cradled mine.
“That’s very sweet of you,” I smiled up at him. I imagined he had very little interest in modern art and taking him to such a vast gallery might not be the most pleasurable way to spend our day off. “Let’s see where we end up after lunch.”
He squeezed my hand lightly and continued walking down the busy sidewalk.
We decided against a sit down meal and instead went to my favourite local pizza place. I’d discovered it my first time in the city and had yet to taste anything that even compared. Two Boots Pizza (some locations included a video store) featured New Orleans inspired Italian dishes, but more importantly their pizzas each had witty names such as ‘Mr.Pink’ and ‘Cleopatra Jones.’ The kind of thing that really matters when you’re chowing down. Like a wealthy gentleman, Sidney paid and brought our meals to the table I’d chosen in the corner of the restaurant. I tried to protest when he insisted he’d pay the $20, determined to establish myself as a strong and financially independent woman, but my efforts were futile when he beat me to the cash register. I remarked that he had an unfair advantage, what with being a professional athlete and all and he told me to stop complaining. I wasn’t one to piss off the man carrying my food so I found our table and sent Serena a quick text.
Bea:
All well on the Sidney front. So, so, soooooo well.
Serena:
What?! You can’t just send me a message like that without details.
Bea:
I’ll tell you later.
Serena:
G’damnit Beatrice! You always do that. This better be good.
I smirked and put my phone in my pocket as Sid placed my pizza in front of me
“Are you ready for this?” I asked, mopping some of the grease off of the top with a napkin.
“Very,” he picked up the slice and studied it. “This better be as good as you claim.”
“It is,” I promised him and took a bite out of the glorious cheese covered delicacy I held in my hands.
We made small talk between bites, but were both more focused on our food than the conversation. When he’d taken his last bite I looked at him expectantly.
“You were right,” he wiped the grease off of his fingers and took a drink.
“I usually am,” I laughed and finished my meal.
“What now?” he asked, gathering our garbage onto his tray.
I shrugged and finished off my bottle of water. “I’m not going to make you go to the art gallery.”
“Are you sure? I really don’t mind,” he seemed genuine, but I wasn’t going to subject him to an afternoon of me running around excitedly and writing ideas in my journal wildly. At least not on our first day together.
“I’m sure. Besides, we probably won’t have enough time.” We got up and put our trash in the bin then left the restaurant.
“Enough time? We’re not meeting the guys until six, that’s like three hours,” he looked at his watch confirming that it was 1:20pm, we’d need time to get there and back and ready for the team dinner.
“Trust me, three hours is so not enough for me.” I patted his arm affectionately. I had a habit of getting mentally lost in art galleries and usually needed at least a day to be fully satisfied.
We wondered around Rockefeller Center and eventually decided on an adventure in Chelsea. Known for its cultural diversity and thriving LGBTQ community I’d been there once or twice before, but was more than happy to return to the historically significant neighborhood. We hailed a cab in favour of walking the two miles and got out in front of the Barney’s warehouse. Although Barney’s was a popular department store both in and out of New York, I’d never set foot in one. I couldn’t justify buying designer clothes. But in the spirit of adventure, we went in.
I couldn’t help but be nervous surrounded by the beautiful designer products. While I was usually quite comfortable with my body, I was far from a size 2. I knew very well that high end fashion catered to smaller sizes and even after years of shopping for myself, I still got discouraged when clothes didn’t fit. I didn’t need Sidney witnessing any fashion melt downs.
“Are you sure you want to be in here?” I asked, looking for an excuse to leave the overwhelming sale emporium.
“Believe it or not, I actually don’t mind shopping,” he replied as we approached a section of beautiful dresses.
“Strange,” I laughed and leafed through the high end dresses on a rack in front of me. I pulled out a soft jersey wrap dress with a geometric floral print and a v-back. The tag said C&T which I recognized from fashion magazines but knew nothing about.
“You should try it on,” Sid urged, watching me examine the dry-clean only fabric. Normally I would have put it back on the rack without further question but it was marked down from $298 to $69, not to mention it was in my size. I took it as an omen from the fashion gods and headed for the fitting room.
Sidney waited outside while I shed my street clothes and slipped the dress over my head. I prepared myself for a catastrophe, it would be too short, or too tight, or I’d look like someone’s crazy grandmother in such a vibrant print. Anything to prevent disappointment. To my surprise it fit in all the places I expect it wouldn’t. The fabric lay gracefully over my hips and fell just above my knee. The chest was not too loose and the fabric belt accentuated my figure. I opened the door to my stall and peaked out, looking for Sidney. He stood a few feet away looking as gorgeous as ever.
“Do you want to see?” I whispered nervously.
“Absolutely,” he grinned and I walked out of the room into his view. I stood in front of him and the mirrors and studied my reflection, still surprised that it fit so well.
“Do you like it?” I asked hesitantly, pulling myself from my reflection and searching his face for clues. He grinned and walked towards me.
He stood a few inches away from me, I could hardly stop myself from leaning in and touching my lips to his. “Beautiful,” he smiled and tucked a piece of loose hair behind my ear. Hair that had somehow fallen from my ponytail to create a perfect movie moment. I blushed and he kissed my cheek gently. Not one for fairytale moments I stepped away from him and went to put my regular clothes back on. My face still hot from his kiss as I tied my shoes.
In the spirit of fairness we made our way over to the men’s department. After browsing through a selection of designer dress shirts, Sid announced they he had more than enough clothes and we headed for the check out. Unfortunately for my bank account, as we passed the shoe department I came face to face with a pair of beige Christian Louboutin peep toe platform pumps and after trying them on (they fit perfectly) and noticing that they were marked down from $845 to a still shocking $250 I added them to my bill. I justified that they were real Italian leather at a price I would never again find and in a classic style that I had been admiring for years. Sid laughed at my explanation and commented that he liked the red sole. The signature red sole that I’d been dreaming about all my life. I was in no way one to care a lot about brands, but owning a pair of Louboutin heels was one of my life goals. After wincing at the $350 bill I suggested we make a speedy exit before I spent my entire life savings on clothes I would rarely have an opportunity to wear.
We decided to walk back to the hotel, giving us an opportunity to see more of the city. The two miles went by effortlessly, we didn’t bother going into any other shops, but admired the window displays and architecture. Our conversation flowed naturally as we strolled down the street, our hands brushing against each other occasionally. I wanted him to reach for me, to take my hand in his and announce to everyone around us that there was something there. But it wasn’t until we were approached by a group of girls that I realized why we were no longer linked. We were walking down fifth avenue, chatting candidly about growing up on the East Coast when they spotted Sid. Three girls who looked to be about sixteen all carrying camera phones and giggling. My instant reaction was that they were tourists looking for directions, I was preparing to tell them we weren’t locals when Sid greeted them warmly.
“Hi,” they giggled in unison, looking up at Sidney adoringly.
“How are you, ladies?” he asked casually.
“Good,” the replied, still giggling.
“Can we get a picture?” the blonde one in the centre of the pack asked.
“Is this your girlfriend?” her friend chimed in.
“Sure, we can take a picture,” Sidney replied, ignoring the second question. The girls handed me their camera phones and snuggled against him, each one beaming, looking as ecstatic as I felt when he looked at me. I took the pictures and Sid signed their notebooks, careful to spell their names correctly. They thanked him, still giggling and blushing then ran off.
“Oh my god, I can’t believe how much hotter he is in person!” I overheard one girl say to the others as we parted ways.
“Wow,” I smiled at him. “You sure made their years!” I nudged him playfully.
“It’s the least I can do,” his cheeks and ears were growing red.
“Well, they seemed to be very grateful,” I grinned at him, charmed by his tenderness towards his fans. “Does that happen a lot?” Until then I hadn’t thought of him as someone in the spotlight. Not since meeting him at least. I was aware that he was a household name of course, but that Sidney seemed so distant from the man who sat outside my bathroom door the night before. Sure, they were both wonderful people, but my Sid was more, he was real.

Chapter Text

With our first road trip behind us, I felt closer with the team than I’d ever imagined. Each day I fell harder and harder for #87 and by the time our plane landed in Pittsburgh again I was beyond smitten. Since our first night in Philadelphia we’d kept our physical contact to a grade school level and the anticipation of more was slowly driving me insane.
When I arrived home from the airport, Serena and Luna sat on the couch waiting for me.
“What are you doing?” I asked, wheeling my suitcase through the door. “It’s 3am, you didn’t have to wait up for me.”
“I know,” she got up to greet me, disturbing Luna from her slumber. “I just couldn’t wait to see you.” She wrapped her arms around me, pulling me into a tight hug. “This place was so boring without you.”
“It was only a week,” I laughed hugging her back.
“Okay, tell me everything!” she let go of me and walked over to the fridge, pulling out two bottles of cider. “You don’t work tomorrow right?” she asked, taking the caps off of both bottles.
“No, don’t you?” I took one of the glass bottles from her and sat down on the couch, inviting Luna to join me. She jumped up on my lap, purring and brushing her whiskers against my arm.
“Nope,” she flopped down next to me. “They’re doing some special on Nirvana where they play old interviews all day. I don’t think it’s going to go over well but I’m glad to have the day off.” Serena was a primetime DJ for one of the edgier, but still popular radio stations in the city.
“Interesting,” I crinkled my brow and took a drink of the cider.
“Anyway, tell me everything. Your cryptic text messages were more annoying than informative.” I’d sent her a brief message after the Islanders game telling her that Sid was a gem and had nice hands. Purposely intending to annoy her.
“Wellll...” I led her along.
“For crying out loud! Would you just tell me if you got it in or not?!” she cried, startling poor Luna who had fallen back asleep.
“Okay, okay!” I laughed. “There was no genital action, but we did some serious tongue exercises and he met Andrew.”
“Oooh,” She grinned. “Feel free to continue.”
I told her about the night in Philadelphia after we’d hung up. I told her about his lips and his hands, the look in his eyes and the how gracefully he reacted to my rejection. Serena sat silently as I filled her in on all the details of our time together. When I was done trying to explain the feeling I got in my stomach when he touched me she smiled and pulled me close to her.
“Invite him over,” she said hugging me. “I need to meet this wonder boy.”
I woke up the next morning to a text message from Sid. In reality what I considered morning was nearly noon, but after the late night Serena and I had I felt entitled to the extra sleep. I unlocked my phone and read the carefully typed message.
Sidney:
Hey, a few of us are getting together at my place tonight, a sort of end of the pre-season celebration. BBQ and drinks.
I checked my schedule and noting that there was no game tomorrow I giddly replied.
Bea:
Sounds great, what time?
Sidney:
Around 7:00pm.
He added his address at the bottom of the message.
Bea:
I’ll be there. Mind if I bring someone?
When he hadn’t replied after a few minutes I tossed my phone next to me and rolled out of bed. I’d have been more than happy to stay in bed all day, but having been away for nearly a week I’d missed two roller derby practices and just as many work outs. I pulled off the old t-shirt I’d fallen asleep in and grabbed a pair of spandex shorts and an oversized sweatshirt. Grabbing my phone, a pair of knee high socks and a hair elastic I went into the kitchen/living room to find Serena sitting on the couch with her computer on her lap.
“We’re going to Sid’s tonight, yeah?” I asked her and grabbed a bottle of water out of the fridge.
“Sure,” her eyes stayed plastered on the computer screen.
“I’m going to skate, do you want to come?” I put a piece of bread in the toaster and grabbed an apple from the bowl on the counter.
“No, I want to finish this chapter,” she scowled, squinting at the open document.
“New book?” My toast popped and I applied a generous amount of peanut butter to the bread before taking it and sitting on the chair to Serena’s right.
“No,” she sighed and closed her computer. “It’s the same one, I just can’t figure out how to make it work.” Serena had taken to writing romance novels in hopes of getting a contract with Harlequin. When she approached me with the idea I nearly peed myself laughing. Neither of us were overly romantic, but after she told me the potential earnings I supported her whole heartedly. She was a talented writer and would have no trouble getting recognized, if she could manage to reach 25,000 words without getting frustrated.
“It’ll come,” I reassured her. “Are you sure you don’t want to skate it out?”
“No, I’ll bake a cake or something for tonight.” She smiled and got up from the couch. “Thanks though.” She went into her room and closed the door. I knew she wanted to be alone and after finishing my toast I grabbed my skate bag and headed to the rink.
The roller rink was only a few miles from our apartment and was basically just a warehouse with smooth concrete floors and a few benches. Our track was painted on the floor as opposed to the banked tracks that were tilted and surrounded by bars. Not nearly as popular (or safe) as the flat track. There were only a few other skaters, all girls who I knew well. I put on my gear (Knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards, helmet and mouth guard) and skates and joined them on the track.
“Hey!” Ruby Doom called as I made my way towards her. “How was your trip? We missed you!” she pulled me into a half hug and I popped my mouth guard out.
“Good,” I stuck it in one of the holes on the top of my helmet. “Glad to be home though.”
“I bet you have some wild stories,” Sugar Shock laughed, joining our conversation. “I still can’t believe you work with such beautiful men,” she fanned herself with her hand dramatically.
“Trust me, I know,” I laughed.
“Feel free to bring them to the next bout,” Sugar winked and Ruby nodded excitedly.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” I started skating around the track leisurely to warm up. The girls skated beside me, continuing to ask questions about the guys and our trip, I tried to answer them without saying too much. I had been warned by the P.R team that anything we said could get to the media, and while I trusted the girls I wasn’t willing to risk it.
We skated for a few hours, practicing jumps and racing each other around rink. By the time we’d decided we had enough I was dripping with sweat and had added a few new bruises to my collection. We said our goodbyes and I headed back to the apartment.
I opened the apartment door to find Serena dressed in an apron and dancing around the kitchen wildly. The aroma of baked goods filled my nostrils and I was reminded why I’d decided to live with my best friend.
“I take it you didn’t finish the chapter,” I laughed, grabbing a chocolate chip cookie off of the cooling rack.
“Shit!” she squealed, dropping the empty pan she was holding. “I didn’t hear you come in,” she hollered over the music, then picked up the pan and turned the music down to a more reasonable level.
“Looks like you were busy,” I tossed by bag in the closet and pulled my sweaty shirt over my head. The cool air felt good against my sticky skin.
“I have writers block,” she scowled and turned the oven off, admiring her works that consisted of two cakes, brownies and couple dozen cookies.
“I like writers block, writers block is good to me,” I laughed and took another cookie.
After taking a much needed shower I set out to find something to wear. After trying on half of my closet I settled on high waisted denim shorts that featured two rows of navy style buttons, a loose white t-shirt and a mustard yellow cardigan. I pulled my hair up unto a high pony tail and did my make up as I usually would. By the time I felt ready to go, and had spent a fair amount of time dancing alone in my room, Serena was impatient to leave. She’d wrapped up one of the cakes and half of the cookies and was wearing a pink dress that made her look even better than she usually did.
“I’m a little nervous,” Serena giggled as we drove towards the address Sidney had given me.
“I am too,” I smiled at her.
“This will be fun though,” She patted my knee. Her gesture was comforting and grounding. All too often I allowed myself to get wrapped up in my own thoughts and worries. I’d spent more of my life thinking about things than actually experiencing them.
“It will be,” I took a deep breath and squeezed her hand. My best friend knew exactly how I felt, but more importantly she knew exactly what I needed to hear. “Who knows, maybe you’ll find some inspiration for your book,” I winked teasingly. She scoffed at the idea and rolled her eyes.
“This is about you, Bea. I’m just going to assess him,” she looked at me with mock sternness in her voice, but shortly after the last word fell from her lips, they curved upwards and she grinned.
Sidney greeted us at the door to his beautiful home with open arms and a warm smile. After we’d exchanged greetings with the players and the few wives and girlfriends, Serena and I sat on Sid’s over stuffed leather couch. Sandwiched between Geno and Serena I watched Sidney as he spoke candidly with Marc Andre. His hands moving as he spoke and his voice deep and all consuming.
“Beatrice?” I felt Geno’s hand on my shoulder. He looked at me as if he’d said my name more than once.
“Sorry?” I replied, pulling myself out of the trance I’d fall into at the hands of Sidney.
“He asked what you did today,” Serena looked at me suspiciously.
“Oh,” I blushed, embarrassed to be caught. “Just went to catch up on some skating.”
“Skate?” Geno cocked his head to the side.
“Rollerskating,” I clarified, forgetting that to most people skating involved ice.
“Beatrice didn’t tell you?” I heard Sidney’s booming voice say my name. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. Less than twenty-four hours away from him and I could hardly handle my desire to touch him, the desire that increased with every minute.
“Bea, you keep secrets?” Geno looked at me shocked.
“She’s kind of a big deal in the Roller Derby world,” Sidney continued, winking at me.
“Roller Derby?” Marc Andrea joined the conversation, drawing even more attention to me. I squirmed and blushed, knowing the focus in the room had shifted on to me.
“It’s a sport,” I replied shaking my head at Sidney, my lips tight and my jaw clenched.
“I looked it up on YouTube. It’s pretty intense. Girls on roller skates going in a circle ramming into each other,” He had obviously not gotten the telepathic death threats I was sending him. “They all have names too.”
“Names?” Geno looked even more confused.
“Yeah, like badass nicknames. Bloody Holly, Babe Ruthless, Smashley Simpson...”
“Did you watch Whip It?” I cried amused.
“Maybe,” Sid looked at me bashfully. Like he’d been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
“What’s your name, Bea?” Marc Andre asked, he seemed to be genuinely interested in the game his captain had described.
“Beatrix Plotter,” Sidney replied before I could open my mouth. I stared at him astonished. I had no recollection of discussing my roller derby career with him other than the fact that I played.
“Did you google me, Crosby?” I asked in disbelief, trying to hold back laughter.
His face reddened and he looked down at his lap. “Maybe,” he replied, still not meeting my eyes. No longer able to contain my amusement I roared with laughter, and was soon joined by the rest of the room. Sidney, still blushing, smiled at me, as if he was relieved to see that I wasn’t put off by his actions. As someone who had googled a person or two in her time I could hardly judge him.
After a hearty meal and spirited conversation, the guests began to trickle out and soon only Serena, Geno, Beau and I were left. Serena and Geno, having each had their fair share of liquor were engaged in an intimate conversation on the couch, while Beau dozed in and out of consciousness on the chair across the room from them. Being the only ones of sober mind, Sidney and I were left to clean up the leftover cups and plates. But I far from minded, doing anything with him was more of a pleasure than I could have ever imagined. We stood alone in the kitchen after wiping off the counters and putting the rest of the food away, I looked up at Sid and smiled coyly.
“Sorry about earlier,” he bit his lip nervously. A habit that when done by him was enough to drive me wild.
“Don’t worry about it,” I brushed his arm gently with the tips of my fingers. “I’m flattered really.”
“Good,” he chucked and wrapped his arms around my waist, pulling my body against his. His hands moved down my back and slipped under the hem of my shirt, resting on the small of my back. Even with the fabric of my shorts between the skin of my back and his hand I could feel the heat rising in my body. “So Serena seems nice...” he said, awkwardly trying to fill the silence in the room. Not in the mood to discuss anything, especially not my best friend, who was wrapped around his teammate, I wrapped my arms around his neck and pushed my body tighter against his. Standing on the tips of my toes my lips made contact with his. Contact they’d been craving for so long. He groaned lightly as I slipped my tongue into his mouth and tangled my hands in his hair. His lips moved against mine with a sense of urgency, my skin erupted in the all too familiar goose bumps the came with the contact of our skin.
He pulled away, forcing me to open my eyes and drift back to reality. His wide brown eyes studied my face and his lips curved upwards before making their way back to mine. Their rightful place nestled between mine. His hands moved around to my stomach and his fingers sneaking under the band of my shorts. His rough skin against mine, trying to push the now suffocating fabric out of the way. Without interrupting the activities of our mouths I moved his hands to my side where the zipper of my shorts was hidden.
“Thank you,” he mumbled into my mouth, taking my bottom lip between his teeth gently. He pushed his hand down the front of my shorts and stopped before reaching the top of my underwear. Untangling my fingers from the curls of his hair I slid my hands down his chest and under the hem of his shirt. The smooth skin of his abdomen was warm under my hands. Without warning his hands moved to my ass and picked me up effortlessly. Startled I pulled apart from him as he set me on the counter. Before returning to my lips he pulled his shirt over my head and discarded it on the floor beside him. I didn’t have time to speak before his face was back at mine, his lips enthusiastically devouring mine then making their way down my neck. His hands pushed under my shirt once again, this time pulling it over my head, the thin white cotton meeting the same fate as his. With my shirt gone his hands went directly to my breasts. With my legs around his waist I could feel the fabric of his pants pulling with his ever growing erection. Unable to hold off any longer my fingers undid the buckle of his belt and the button of his jeans. I wanted them gone, I wanted my own shorts gone. With no regard for our location or the other people in the house I pushed them to the floor and made his black boxer briefs my next focus. With the pinch of his fingers he undid my bra and moved it out of his way, granting his mouth access to my now hardened nipples. Nipples that very soon were engulfed in the warmth of his mouth. He tried to pull off my shorts but I stopped him.
“What? What did I do?” he looked up at me scared, anticipating a repeat of our last time together.
“Nothing,” I stroked his soft hair. “I just don’t think you want my bare ass on your kitchen counter.” I teased him and kissed his forehead.
Without responding he flipped me over his broad shoulder and tapped my ass lightly. I kicked my legs in protest, but after realizing the perfect view below me I took the time to appreciate his well toned, round bum. The kitchen moved further and further away from me and we silently crept past Geno and Serena who still sat in the living room, wrapped up in each other. Somehow, Sidney ran up the stairs with me over his shoulder and threw me onto a soft bed at the centre of the dark room that I assumed to be his. My pants had slipped off somewhere in our journey and we were both left in our underwear.
“Better?” he asked, hovering over me.
“Much,” I winked and pulled him closer to me, his lips returning to mine. He kissed me eagerly and slid his hand down my stomach and under the cotton fabric of my underwear. I moaned as his index finger stroked me teasingly. The slight pressure from his finger near my clit was enough to show me how desperately I wanted more. My teeth nipped at his lip lightly and I dug my nails into his back. This small gesture seemed to serve as the encouragement he needed. He plunged his fingers inside me and gently grazed my clit with the pad of his thumb. I gasped as I adjusted to the girth of his fingers, I hadn’t gone farther than heavy petting in longer than I was willing to admit. His lips wandered from mine, down my neck, over my stomach and made their way to my dripping core. Between his tongue and fingers I was in a state of ecstasy I could have never imagined. As he sucked on my clit I could feel myself getting closer and closer to the edge. My fingers pulled on his curls encouragingly as he lapped up the moisture that spilled out of me. I wanted more of him, I wanted all of him, I wanted more than the inevitable orgasm. I pulled his hair a little harder and gently guided his face back to mine.
“Take off your boxers,” I whispered breathlessly and watched as his eyes widened with excitement.
“You’re sure?” he asked, moving a stray piece of hair from my face.
“Take them off,” I kissed him slowly, and moved my hand down to feel, for the first time the part of him that’s I’d been trying to imagine since our night together in Philadelphia. He slipped off his boxers, giving me a free range of motion as I ran my hand up and down over his shaft, gently swiping the bead of pre-cum from the tip with my thumb. The reality of his cock had far surpassed my imagination in both length and width. After a few more pumps with my hand he rolled over and grabbed a condom from his night stand. One of the many things I hadn’t had to worry about in my last relationship. After carefully placing it on he rolled back onto me and stared at me as he lined himself up with me and slid the tip of his now throbbing length inside me. I gasped and bit my lip, which he leaned down to kiss and pushed in further, slowing and then all at once. I’d been with men since Millie, but no one as loving or as big as the man who hovered above me, kissing me gently as he thrust in and out.
It didn’t take long before I returned to the edge of ecstasy. The walls of my abdomen were getting tighter and tighter, the butterflies in my stomach had evolved into full on fireworks and as he stroked his hand down my stomach the volcano of euphoria erupted within me, sending my body into a long wave of spasms and tingles. With my insides tightening, he followed suit and let out a guttural moan that may have been the sexiest sound to ever reach my ears.
We lay in a mess of sheets and each other, our breathing slowly returning to normal, but my heart still pounding at an increased speed. My head on his chest and his arm tightly around me, I could hear his rapid heartbeat and feel the warmth of his damp, flushed skin against mine. He stroked my side with his fingers and kissed my forehead.
“Perfect,” he whispered, his lips still against my head.
I sighed and closed my eyes, listening to the rhythm of his breathing underneath me.

Chapter Text

As much as I wanted to, I knew better than to fall asleep in Sidney’s warm embrace. Neither of us were ready to define our relationship, and spending the night together while Serena, Evgeni and Beau sat in the living room below us would be asking for speculation.

At the rink the next day, we both tried to keep things casual and professional. With the home opener that Saturday, the team had an important practice Friday afternoon and while most of the players were on the ice, I was in the trainers room experimenting with kenisio tape on Ben Lovejoy’s torn quad muscle. I wasn’t sure if I believed in the magic of the overpriced tape like many athletes did, but I was willing to give it a try if it had the chance of helping him recover from a fluke injury. After sending Ben off to the physical therapist I took a few minutes to tidy up the cupboard where the tape and wraps were kept. It wasn’t overly messy but I needed something to do. Standing on the tips of my toes I started moving the plastic wrapped packages into groups according to their use and fabric I had just piled the non-adhesive wrist and ankle wraps on the left side of the cupboard when I felt someone behind me, a hand tenderly brush the exposed skin on my back between my pants and shirt.

“Did I do that?” Sidney whispered in my ear, his hand still on my back.
“Do what?” I replied, turning to him slightly but trying to keep a professional distance.
“The bruise,” he looked at me concerned.
“The one on my hip?” I tried not to laugh at the serious look on his face.
“Yeah, it’s like black,” his voice was still low.
“Unfortunately you can’t take credit for that,” I pulled down my shirt and smiled at him. “That’s from falling at practice yesterday.”
“Oh good,” he let out a sigh of relief. “I was worried for a second.”
I turned to face him completely, my back now against the counter. “I’m okay with bruises,”I whispered in his ear seductively. “I can handle it,” making sure no one was around, I kissed him softly on his unsuspecting lips. Before he had time to react I pulled away and snuck out of the room, leaving him alone and visibly aroused.

After the first few games of the regular season, the team was off to a good start, having won 5 out of the 6 games. Following a 4-2 win over New Jersey the boys were in high spirits and I was proud to be a part of it all. Injuries were still at a minimum and my job in the trainer’s room was post game was quite dull.
“You coming out tonight?” Beau asked, walking past me in nothing but a towel.
“Probably not,” I replied, trying to remind myself that he was significantly younger than me and his stellar physique didn’t change that fact.
“You should,” he sat on the table in front of me, “bring your friend, the hot blonde one.” He smiled at me somewhat innocently.
I laughed and rolled my eyes at him, thankful to see the other medic was free and could look after the nearly naked teenager in front of me. As I was about to reply I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket.

Sidney:
I want you, all tattooed, I want you bad.
Come over?

His text was straightforward and quoted The Offspring, I had to respect that. I smiled absentmindedly, a habitual reaction to seeing his name pop up on my phone, and looked up to see him dressed and leaning against the door.

Bea:
Complicated, X-rated?
Nice use of early 2000s punk lyrics.
Serena’s at her parents’ for the weekend, come to mine.

After reading the message he smirked and motioned for me to meet him in the parking lot. I quickly gathered my things, double checked that I was done for the night and raced out to the parking lot where he stood next to my car.

He followed me back to the apartment and I led him up to my humble home. It was strange coming home to silence, and I was glad to having him with me, for company among other things. I opened the front door, which Serena and I had painted purple on a whim one weekend and flicked on the lights. Our apartment was nothing special. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen and a living room, as well as a tiny balcony that overlooked the city. Our walls were white but colourful paintings hung everywhere. The living room had a comfortable black couch and a reclining chair, as well as an average sized TV the was mostly used to play Xbox, and three giant bookshelves.
“I like it,” Sid looked around at the surprisingly clean apartment. I silently thanked Serena for cleaning before she left that afternoon. “It smells good, like girls live here.”
“Thank you?” I looked at him confused, he wasn’t wrong, it did smell good, but I’d hoped that most people’s homes smelt good. I slipped off my shoes and coat and tossed my purse on the counter. “Do you want a drink?” I asked, grabbing a bottle of water out of the fridge. He nodded and I tossed it too him, taking another one out for myself. We sat on the couch side by side, I looked around for Luna but she wasn’t in her usual sleeping places.
“Is that an Xbox I see, Miss Keller?” Sidney looked at my quizzically, a smile creeping onto his lips.
“I believe it is, Mr.Crosby, and I reckon if you look closely you’ll notice an admirable collection of games.” I replied, glancing at him sideways.
“You’re just full of surprises, aren’t you?” he rested his hand on my thigh.
“Surprises?” I asked confused.
“I don’t know many girls who voluntarily play Xbox.”
“We all have our own interests,” I replied, not wanting to relate my interest in video games to my gender. “If you take off that tie I can show you how it’s done,” I winked, stroking his competitive side.
“You think you can beat me?” He laughed, loosening his tie.
“You have no idea,” I got up from the couch and grabbed two controllers, choosing my favourite pink one for myself and giving him the generic black.
“Pink?” He looked at me amused.
“It sparkles too,” I held it up to the light. “But more importantly it helps me kick your ass.”
“Cute,” He nudged me affectionately.
“Not cute,” I glared at him. “Serious and wonderful.”
“Just as long as it isn’t Hello Kitty,” he laughed.
“And if it was?” I placed the controller on the coffee table and got up to change out of my work clothes. I walked into my room and left the door open. I pulled my shirt over my head and tossed it in the laundry basket.
“Well?” I asked, poking my head out the door.
“Hello Kitty is just a little...lame,” he replied hesitantly.
I grabbed a white tank top with the logo from my derby team out of the drawer and pulled it over my black bra.
“No,” I began, pulling my khaki pants down over my hips, knowing he couldn’t see all of me. “What’s lame is disregarding something as ‘lame’ because it’s not mainstream,” I pulled on a pair of black shorts and went back out to the living room.
“I guess,” he looked at me embarrassed.
I put my iPod on the dock and pressed play, adjusting the volume so we could still talk. I stood behind the couch and slid my hands over his shoulders and down his chest. “It’s not Hello Kitty,” I whispered, sure to keep my tone light and amused, and kissed his neck. He moaned as my fingers undid the buttons of his shirt, my chilly fingers brushing against his warm skin. “But even if it was,” my breath was hot against his ear. “You’d still find me incredibly sexy right now.” I nipped at his ear lope playfully and walked towards the TV, once again leaving him aroused and glaring at me.
“You’re right,” he said, his voice was tight raw.
“Good,” I smiled and popped Left for Dead in the Xbox. I sat down next to him, pulling my legs under me and starting the game.
Sidney pulled his tie over his head and tossed it on the floor beside him, preparing himself for the zombie killing ahead. Green Day played in the background as the campaign started and the groans of the undead came through the speakers of the TV. Our fingers hitting the buttons furiously, we dominated the enemy, our only conversation relating to the game as we sat side by side but barely touching. After making it onto the rescue helicopter the credits rolled and showed that I had the most kills and head shots of anyone. Seeing this I grinned and nudged him with my shoulder.
“Okay, I’m impressed,” he laughed and put his controller on the coffee table. I shut off the Xbox and leaned against him.
“I told you,” I rest my head on his shoulder and took his hand in mine.
“How did you even get that good?” he asked.
“I’ve had a lot of time on my hands,” I sighed and snuggled closer to him. “When Millie and I would break up, I’d go days without sleeping and playing video games was a good distraction.”
“Oh?” he turned his head towards me slightly. “You never did tell me about her,” he was treading carefully. I know he wanted to know about my past, I wasn’t sure how much he wanted to know though. I wasn’t sure how serious I should get or how serious we were.
“What do you want to know?” I sat up a little straighter and pulled away from him.
“Anything you want to tell me,” his eyes were kind and his smile was warm, in that moment I felt like I could open up my mind and let him inside, show him everything and still be safe. I was walking the thin line between complete confidence in him and pure resistance. While I wasn’t one who would be considered guarded or haunted by the past, a voice inside my head reminded me not to say too much. It had been ingrained in me my whole life that over sharing was a definite way to scare someone off. As I grew older I slowly realized that this patriarchal concept was just a ploy to convince women to say less. But sitting with my hand between his, our bodies touching, the contact sending waves of shivers throughout my body, I realized that I was farther in than I had previously thought. What I had hoped would be a fun and simple relationship was turning into so much more.
“I’ve only ever been in love once,” I began, my eyes focused on his hands and the curve of his fingernails, rather than his face. “That was with Millie. When I met her it was like nothing I’d ever experienced. I’d always known that I was attracted to girls, but I didn’t think I could ever fall so hard for one.” I looked up to see him staring back at me attentively. “At first everything fell together perfectly, so much so that I was waiting for it all to go wrong. I’d never been so attached to someone before and I could so vividly imagine myself doing something to ruin it all. Before Millie my only relationship was in high school. A guy named Jack who tried to convince me not to go to university. After that I dated a bit but nothing serious, and I was okay with that. I was scared of serious after Jack.” My throat felt tight at the realization that I had said so much already. I often forgot that those around me were not privy to the memories and thoughts that swam around my tireless mind.
“Where did it go wrong?” He asked with genuine concern in his voice.
“I don’t think I can pin point a single time, because for so long we were on and off. We’d break up and get back together. I’d hate her more than I thought possible, but the second she left I felt like I was dying, like I couldn’t breath without her.”
He nodded and squeezed my hand. “I can’t say I’ve ever felt that, but I can imagine it. Then again I can’t say for certain I’ve ever really been in love either.” His statement shocked me. I had assumed that he’d had a string of beautiful girlfriends in his life.
“I dated a girl in high school,” he continued. “But with being all over for hockey it was too hard. She was great, but I don’t think I can say I was in love with her.”
“Do you ever wonder what your life would be life if you hadn’t left Nova Scotia?” I asked, studying his face.
“I do,” he smiling, crinkling his eyes. “I have a lot of friends who still live there, and sometimes I can’t help but envy how simple their lives are and how close they are to their families. I would like to be closer to my family, or have one of my own. But I know I’m lucky to be where I am today, and I’m happy here. Not a lot of people get to be here.”
“You’ve sacrificed a lot haven’t you?” I rested my head against his shoulder.
“In some ways I guess you could say I have. I haven’t had the most active of personal lives because so much of my time has been dedicated to hockey, but it’s more than worth it.” He wrapped his arm around me, pulling me close enough that my head was on his chest. “I get paid stupid amounts of money to play a game that I’ve loved my whole life. How cool is that? How many people can say they get paid this much to play?” he chucked.
“But you wish you had a family?” I asked, purposely focusing the conversation on him.
“I’ve always wanted kids, and if I wasn’t playing in the NHL I’d probably have a few by now, but I’ve got plenty of time.” His optimism was refreshing. “What about you?” He turned the conversation back on me. “Do you want kids?”
Loaded question. Sure I wanted kids, I loved the idea of raising a little colony of mini Beas and dressing them in baby converse and little band T-shirts. I just didn’t like the idea of being stuck in one place or one relationship.
“Someday,” I replied smiling. “When the time is right.”
“Yeah, I get that.” He brushed my hair back gently with his free hand. I looked up at his big brown eyes and his tempting lips. The sincerity his voice and his trust worthy demeanor were enough to suck me in completely. In a few short months he’d gone from being a sort of celebrity who made me nervous in his presence, to a man who had me so completely and deeply interested in everything he was. I reminded myself not to become to invested. Although he said I was more to him than just a good time, I couldn’t allow myself to be hurt again, after everything with Millie, I couldn’t be certain that I would bounce back from another heartbreak.

Chapter Text

I woke up to an empty bed and a sinking feeling in my stomach. I was used to sleeping alone, but after our night of video games and heartfelt conversation, Sidney and I had fallen into my bed. For the second time in only months, I slept peacefully beside him. The warmth of his body protecting me from my own insecurities. But when I sat up in the unmade bed, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes I feared that he had been the one to leave early this time. Reluctantly, I slid out of bed and reached for my glasses, resigning myself to the idea that I was alone, that somehow I had scared him off. I’d fallen asleep in the tank top and underwear I’d been wearing the night before, my bra and pants tossed on the floor next to the bed. Suspecting I was alone in the apartment I saw no reason to put them back on. Pulling my hair into a pony tail I opened the door to the living room to find it empty.
“Stupid, stupid girl!” I hissed to myself out loud and flopped down onto the couch. “You should have fucking known,” I sighed and scooped up Luna who was sleeping on the back of the couch, she struggled, but eventually snuggled into my lap. I tried to remember what we’d been talking about before I fell asleep.

After we’d talked about kids and our past relationships, we decided to go to bed. I watched as he took off his shirt and pants, leaving me a perfect view of his bum, covered in the tight fabric of his black boxer briefs. I undid my bra and pulled it from under my top as he watched curiously, and pushed my pants off. He crawled under the covers and I put a mix C.D in the stereo.
“You’re so hot,” he growled, reaching for me. I laughed as he pulled me onto his lap.
“I’m not doing anything,” I cocked my eyebrow and looked at him, trying not to smile. My lips were dangerously close to his and I could feel myself getting turned on.
“You don’t need to do anything,” with his hands on either side of my face, he guided my lips to his. Electricity ran through me as he kissed me gently. His lush lips against mine, his tongue running along my bottom lip then slipping into my mouth. His hands moved under my shirt, making their way to my breasts. I kissed him harder, my teeth grazing his bottom lip, my pelvis pushing into his growing erection.
“Bea?” he pulled his mouth away from mine.
“Hmm?” I responded, my body still pressed against his.
“Are we...uh... listening to One Direction?” he tried to maintain composure, but lost it when I looked at him embarrassed.
“So what if we are?” I blushed, a grin plastered on his face.
“I’m just surprised,” he moved his hands down to my lower back and kissed me cheek. “I didn’t peg you as the type to like boy bands.”
I scowled at him and rested my head on his shoulder.
“Don’t peg me as any type,” I said into his neck, feeling embarrassed and awkward, exhaustion finally hitting me.
“You don’t have to be ashamed,” he laughed, rubbing my back. “You have every right to listen to shitty pop music when you feel like it.”
“I know that,” I wrapped my arms around his torso, hugging him closer to me. “Besides, you’re the grown man who could identify them. It wasn’t even a popular song.” I laughed, pressing my lips against his neck. He groaned and flipped us over in one quick motion so my back was against the mattress and he hovered over me.
“Sure,” he smirked and kissed me again, nudging my legs apart and leaning into me. I felt his hard-on against my sensitive core, the fabric of our underwear keeping us apart. He kissed his way to my neck, sucking lightly on the thin skin and his hand gently stroked the surface of my stomach. I let out a soft moan as he nipped at my collarbones, a moan that was unfortunately followed by a yawn. I wanted desperately to be with him, but my eyelids were heavy and I could feel myself getting closer and closer to sleep.
“I’m sorry,” I smiled apologetically when he looked up at me amused.
“It’s been a long day, hasn’t it?” He kissed my cheek and moved so he was laying beside me.
“I didn’t even play. I have no idea how you have so much energy.” I rest my head against his chest and took his hand in mine.
“I don’t think it’s energy,” he yawned. “Just excitement from being with you all night.”
I couldn’t help but smile knowing I had that effect on him. We fell asleep wrapped up in each other and talking about the schedule for the rest of the month. I slept well, comforted by the knowledge that he was near.

“It must have been the Millie stuff, I’m such a dummy.” I said to Luna, stroking between her ears. She purred and her whiskers twitched.
“Who are you talking to?” A deep voice behind me startled me, disturbing Luna from her slumber. I turned around to find Sid behind me, his hair wet and a towel slung low around his hips. I grinned at him and leaned over the back of the couch, wrapping my arms around him. He smelt fresh and clean, vaguely like the vanilla body wash I used, but still like him.
“Good morning,” I kissed him lightly, trying to hide my joy. I had never been so happy to be wrong in my life.
“Good morning to you,” he put his hands on my lower back and pulled me against him. “You thought I’d left didn’t you?” He looked down at me seriously.
“Maybe a little,” I bit my lip, still smiling.
“I just didn’t want to wake you, you looked to sweet,” he ran his hand over the top of my hair, smoothing it affectionately. “You’re the one who leaves in the morning without telling anyone,” He kissed my nose and grinned.
I scowled at him and swatted his shoulder playfully.

We went back to my room to get dressed. I skipped showering knowing it would take too long for my hair to dry. I was rummaging through my closet when he dropped his towel. Finding the dress I’d been looking for, I pulled it from the hanger and turned around to find myself face to face with his naked body. I’d seen him naked before, but not in the daylight, not with beads of water dripping down his chest.
“Oh boy,” I whispered to myself, my eyes wandering down to his waist. I dropped the dress and climbed across the bed to where he was.
“What are you doing today?” he asked, oblivious to the desire in my eyes.
I ignored his question and pulled his face to mine, kissing him with the same intensity as the night before. Without wasting any time my hand slid down to his already semi erect member. He kissed me back feverishly, his hands beelining for my breasts. I kissed my way down his neck and chest, listening to his breathing get heavier the closer I got to his cock. I kissed a trail from his bellybutton and ran my hand up and down him, earning a moan. I looked up at him seductively, his eyelids were heavy and a grin was plastered to his face. I grabbed his hand and pulled him down to the bed, then got on my knees in front of him. He looked at me slightly shocked.
I bit my lip and looked up at him, pumping his member a few times with my hand and watching his reaction. When I leaned down and took his tip in my mouth he moaned and grabbed the sheets underneath him. Slowly, I took more of him in my mouth and swirled my tongue over the top and round the head. Bobbing my head taking him in and out of my mouth, moving one hand up and down while the other cupped his balls gently, I focused all my attention on making him feel as good as possible. I felt his muscles tighten and a growl escaped from his throat.
“Fuck,” he hissed. I sped up, running my tongue along the sides of his shaft. I squeezed his balls gently and tightened my mouth around him. He threw his head back and I felt him twitch in my mouth, his whole body tightening. His eyes were closed and his teeth on his lips, his fingers digging into the bed under him. He groaned again and I felt him release. I instinctively swallowed and kept going until I was sure he was done.
“What was that for?” his voice cracked, and he looked down at me relaxed.
“No reason,” I crawled on the bed beside him and lay my head on his shoulder. “I just wanted to.” I ran my hand across his chest.
“Is it your turn?” he cocked his eyebrow and kissed me. I swung my leg over his lap and straddled him.
“I like that,” I said between kisses.
He pulled me closer to him and kissed me harder. His hand slipped under the fabric of my underwear, but before he could touch me we were interrupted by my growling stomach.
“I never say no to that. But do you think we could go get breakfast first?” I smiled, sitting back on his thighs.
“That’s a good idea,” he grabbed my bum with both hands and kissed me again, before standing up and letting me slide to the floor. He tapped my bum gently as I walked back towards the closet.
I watched him get dressed while I decided what to wear. The dress I’d originally picked out didn’t give me much protection against the crisp autumn air. As cute as it was I wasn’t in the mood to shiver my way down the streets of Pittsburgh. Hanging it back in the closet I settled on black jeans and an oversized sweater from the men’s department of Macy’s. Paired with my red knitted hat and black lace-up boots I looked sufficiently badass. Sidney sat on the bed waiting for me. At some point before I’d woken up he’d gotten a change of clothes which I assumed were from his car. He wore a pair of faded jeans and a black t-shirt with a zip up hoodie over top. Comfortable and casual. I sat down at my mirror to go through the daily ritual I had dubbed ‘putting my face on’, when I felt his hand on my shoulder.
“Why do you do that?” he asked, looking at my reflection in the mirror.
“Do what?” I continued lining my eyes with black eyeliner.
“Wear all that gunk,” he motioned to the bottles and pots spread in front of me.
“Because I like it,” I put the eyeliner down and reached for mascara.
“But you’re pretty without it,” he continued.
“It’s not about that,” I said between swipes of the black volumizing brush. “I know I look find without it. If I didn’t think I was okay bare faced I would have left it on all night so you wouldn’t see me without it.”
He nodded understanding. “I still don’t get it,” he shook his head perplexed.
“You don’t need to get it,” I finished with a swipe of chapstick and turned to face him. “I don’t do it because I think I’m supposed to. I don’t do it because I think I’m ugly without it. I don’t do it to attract male attention. I do it because I enjoy it and because I like the way I feel with it.” I smiled and stood up to kissed his cheek.
“I’m glad you do thinks for yourself,” he pulled me closer to him and buried his face in my neck. “It’s sexy as hell.”

We spent the day walking amoungst the crisp leaves and fresh air, fortunate to avoid any fans. I was still getting used to the idea that the man who lay beside me at night was the object of so much affection. He had a whole city devoted and in awe of him, I couldn’t image the pressure and frankly tried to avoid the thought all together. I desperately wanted to take his hand in mine as we walked. My desire to place some sort of claim on him was both alarming and surprising. I’d never before felt the urge to showcase my relationship with someone or make it known to those around me that we were a pair. In fact, prior to Sidney I found the idea quite bizarre. Then again, my relationships prior to Sid had been well defined and secure. Something about it all felt unstable. I wasn’t one who dealt well with not knowing where I stood. I told myself I was fine with the idea that we were just friends, but not knowing if we were approaching on monogamy was driving me insane. Fortunately I was able to push my questioning thoughts from my mind and enjoy our day together.

Chapter Text

With the regular season underway, Sid and I fell into a quiet and comfortable routine. Quiet because neither of us were ready to out ourselves to the team or the public, and comfortable because each day I found new reasons to fall for him. On game days Sidney had his own routine and superstitions, and I did my best to stay out of his way. After games we’d occasionally go out to celebrate with the team, but usually opted to stay in and watch movies. The less attention the better.
After a 2-1 win over Dallas, the team was ready to let off some steam. I sat in the corner of the dressing room while Sid showered. The official reason for my being there was to check for any post-game injuries, but I not so secretly enjoyed watching Sidney pull off his gear after an intense game. Even if the smell in the room was less than pleasant.
“You coming to party?” Geno asked, a towel slung low on his hips and beads of water dripping from his hair.
“I’m not sure,” I replied. The last thing I wanted to do was squeeze myself into a cocktail dress and socialize. He sat down next to me and threw his heavy, damp arm over my shoulders.
“You should! I show you good time!” He wiggled closer to me.
I laughed and shoved him playfully.
“Oh yeah?” I flirted innocently. “You think you can handle me?” Geno and I had a casual rapport that I often worried made Sidney uncomfortable. We all knew he had nothing to worry about and the flirting was in good humour, but Sid still seemed uneasy when he saw his bestfriend’s suggestive glances.
“Oh,” Geno pulled me closer to him. “I can handle you! I’ve had crazier.” He obnoxiously kissed my cheek and laughed.
I dramatically wiped my face with the back of my hand. “Disgusting,” I scoffed, rolling my eyes. Pascal and Marc-Andre laughed and my mock discomfort and shook their heads as Geno got up and let his towel fall to the floor. I quickly averted my eyes to avoid seeing anything that would make looking him in the eyes even harder.
“Poor Bea,” Pascal shook his head as he headed to the bathroom, still chuckling.
“Who is abusing you now?” Sid asked, coming out of the shower. Like Geno he had a towel wrapped around his hips. His wet hair was pushed back and out of his face. Beads of moisture trickled down his abdomen and I had to stop myself from getting too excited.
“You coming out Sid?” Geno called to him before I could answer. Sidney looked at me subtly and I shook my head just enough for him to notice.
“Nah, I think we... I think I’m gonna pass tonight.” He replied walking to his stall. “I gotta get some sleep.” He dropped his towel and reached for the clothes in front of him. I tried to tear my eyes from his the rippling muscles of his naked back. Getting caught staring at him was the last thing we needed. Blushing, I excused myself and went to my desk. I knew in due time I’d see him like that again.

I crawled into Sidney’s bed like I’d done so many times before. I’d stolen one of his gym shirts and hung my clothes over the back of the chair in the corner of the room. I snuggled into the warm blankets and propped my pillows against the headboard. My body ached with relief, I’d been looking forward to bed since I’d gotten up that morning. As I was flipping through the channels on the flatscreen T.V that hung on the wall at the foot of the bed, Sid came out of the bathroom wearing only his boxers. I should have been used to seeing him in various states of undress, and for the most part I could keep my cool, but something about the tight black fabric clinging to his muscular thighs took my mind to places I could never repeat.
“Nice bum,” I catcalled as he flicked the overhead light off and crawled into bed with me.
“Your admiration for my giant ass, while slightly concerning, is very hot,” he growled, and leaned over to kiss me. His lips soft against mine. He rested his hand on my leg and I could tell he was getting a little more into it than I’d anticipated. As his hand moved under my shirt I could feel his erection pressing against me.
“Sid...” I whispered between kisses.
He groaned in response and pushed his hand up further.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally open to everything, but I should probably warn you that I’m riding the crimson wave and that might not be so sexy.” I continued, his mouth still hovering over mine.
“What?” he looked at me confused and slightly alarmed and moved in to continue kissing me.
“Y’know? Communist invasion in my pants, the painters are in, shark week?” I interrupted.
“Oooh.” he nodded slowly and rolled so he was beside me. “We could if you want to,” he cocked his head to the side and looked at me slightly nervously.
I shook my head and kissed him lightly. “Another time?” I squeezed his hand.
“Fine by me. You look really hot right now and everything, but I’m not sure I have the energy to play Moses.” He laughed and pulled me against his chest.
“I can’t believe you just said that,” my voice was muffled against his chest, I could feel the vibrations from his quiet laughter.
“I’m hilarious, get used to it.” He kissed the top of my head and we snuggled in together.
After watching Sports Centre for a solid twenty minutes and the last half of a T.V showing of Forrest Gump, we turned off the lights and settled in to fall asleep. I lay in the darkness of the room and tried to drift off. I’d been so tired but no matter what I did I couldn’t fall asleep. My mind started racing and every worry and insecurity I’d had in the last few months appeared from the dark crevices of my subconscious. I lay in bed, wide awake as images of Sidney leaving and my job being taken away from me flashed through my mind. Things couldn’t stay this good forever. I wasn’t used to feeling this secure with my life.

“Bea?” Sidney whispered, placing his hand on my shoulder. “Are you still awake?”
“Yeah,” I whispered back, and rolled over to face him.
“I thought so, what’s wrong?” he draped his arm over my side and I shifted towards him.
“Nothing,” I lied. “I’m just thinking about the next few weeks.”
“They’re not too bad,” he brushed his fingers through my hair. “We’re home this week.”
“Then we have the 4 day road trip,” I sighed. I did like the road trips, but the more I worried about our relationship the more they stressed me out. Surrounded by the team for so much of our days, Sid and I were forced to spend road trips hiding from each other. More often then not, we’d go to clubs and I’d be forced to watch groups of beautiful women with tight bodies and shiny hair fawn over him. I was relatively comfortable with myself, until I started to compare myself to what felt like the rest of the female population. I was used to feeling different, but this was more than being an outsider.
“But when we get home it will be Thanksgiving.” I could see him smiling, even in the dark. “And we get to spend our first holiday together.” The excitement in his words put me at ease. I was comforted by his assumption that we’d spend the holiday together.
“You’re right,” I kissed him lightly and he pulled me closer to his body.
“I know it’s overwhelming at first, but you’ll get used to it,” I snuggled into his chest, my head tucked under his chin.
“Do you want to go out on a real date sometime?” I asked without thinking. It had dawned on me a few days ago that I’d never actually been on a date with Sidney. While I wasn’t much of a traditionalist, I liked the idea of doing something formal, just the two of us.
“Aren’t I supposed to ask you that?” he pulled away so he could face me.
“I guess if you want to limit yourself to socialized gender roles.” I shrugged. “I’m not good at waiting, Crosby. I want to go out with you and I don’t see any use in keeping it a secret.”
“Okay,” he chuckled. “But you asked me out, so you get to make the plans.”
I snuggled back against him and kissed his neck gently. “That’s fine by me.”

I slept for maybe an hour before waking up again. I’d rolled onto my side of the bed, and Sidney was fast asleep in the middle, his arm draped over me and his head half on my pillow. I smiled at the peaceful look on his face and slipped out from under his arm. After creeping out of the bedroom I made my way down to the kitchen in search of water and possibly ibuprofen. I didn’t bother turning on the lights and instead left the refrigerator door open while I reached for a glass. Filling the glass with water from the filtered jug in the fridge I thought about what my life had become. I’d gone from working a job I hated and mourning a relationship that had made me miserable, to waking up in Sidney’s arms and working for people who seemed to care.

“I knew it!” I heard a voice being me cry. Startled I shrieked and spun around to find myself face to face with Beau. He stood in his boxers smirking.
“What the hell are you doing here?” I hissed, my heart still pounding from shock.
“I live here,” he laughed and took the water jug from my hand. “What are you doing here?”
I looked at him confused while he poured his own glass. I’d assumed that Sidney lived alone and he hadn’t told me otherwise.
“Nice panties,” Beau grinned and gestured towards my bare legs. Blushing, I grabbed the hand towel off of the stove and held it in front of me. It didn’t cover much but it was better than standing in my underwear with the rookie checking me out.
“Y’know, I’ve known for weeks, but I’m glad to have proof now.” He continued, leaning against the counter.
“Knew what?” I replied nervously.
“That you can the big captain were making monkey.” He took a sip of his water and eye’d me up and down.
“Did you just say making monkey?” I spit back at him. “Are you twelve?”
His smile faded and I could see he was blushing slightly.
“Look,” I finished my water and placed the glass in the sink. “Just please do us a favour and keep it to yourself for a while.” I looked at him pleadingly.
He smiled and nodded, motioning that his lips were locked.
“Thanks,” I patted his shoulder affectionately and headed towards the stairs. Feeling his eyes watching me, I dropped the towel that I’d been covering myself with and gave him something to look at.

Chapter Text

I watched the seconds countdown on the scoreboard. 5 minutes 33...32...31..30. The third period had felt like an eternity. My job was usually not one that had me wishing time moved faster, but with the score 1-1 and my head spinning I found myself wishing someone would score, anyone, just so I could get away from the screaming fans and florescent lights. My face felt hot and I couldn’t shake the anxious feeling that welled inside me. I couldn’t tell if I was incredibly hungry or extremely nauseous. I took a sip of water, trying to ground myself.
I am in the Consol Energy Center.
We are playing St.Louis.
Sidney has an assist.
It’s November.
I rattled of facts in my mind trying to distract myself from the growing discomfort that was taking over my body.
My favourite colour is purple.
My favourite movie is The Exorcist.
4 minutes 2 seconds, 1 second. 4 minutes. 3:59...3:58. We were getting closer to the end and it was getting harder to distract myself.
I was born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
My father is a doctor.
My mother is a writer.
I have 34 tattoos. No, 33. No, 34.
It was at that point that everything started to go out of focus. I don’t remember the time passing, but I remember walking to the locker room with the team before we went into overtime. I remember Dan asking if I was okay. I remember Sidney’s face. But I don’t remember falling.
I woke up to the squealing sirens of the ambulance and the figures of two men beside me. Even with the bright light, it felt like I couldn’t see anything. My eyelids were heavy and my thoughts were fuzzy. I decided to close my eyes again.
The second time I woke up I wasn’t moving anymore. It was relatively quiet except for the hum of the lights and the soft beeping of machines. I opened my eyes to stare up at a tiled ceiling with blinding lights. Confused and groggy I looked around to see a closed curtain surrounding me and Serena asleep in a chair at my side. It didn’t take long for me to realize I wasn’t at the rink anymore.
“Oh good!” I cheery nurse peeked through the curtains. “You’re awake.” She came in and checked the IV that I hadn’t noticed I was attached to. “How are you feeling?” She asked writing something on the chart next to my bed.
“I’m not sure,” I replied. My voice horse. “Why am I here?” at this point Serena started to wake up.
“You took a little snooze while standing up,” the nurse chuckled. “But I’ll send the doctor in to see you right away.”
I looked over at Serena who was rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. Fear came crashing over me as the realization that I was in a hospital room with no memory of the event that sent me there.
“Serena?” I whispered, my vocal cords tight as I tried to fight back tears. “What’s going on?”
Without saying anything she kicked off her shoes and crawled onto my bed. While she held my weak body against her, she tried to explain what she knew.
She’d been in bed when the phone rang. She’d ignored it the first few times, but the persistent ringing pulled her from the comfort of her blankets. It was Sidney on the other end of the line. She told me his voice was panicked and he was hard to understand. He’d found my phone in my purse and didn’t know who to call. After I’d passed out, Larry rode with me to the hospital. Sid had to go back on the ice for overtime, but the second St.Louis scored and ended the game, he was pulling off his gear and heading to the hospital. Frantically, Serena agreed to meet him at the hospital. The doctor couldn’t tell her exactly what had happened because of confidentiality laws, but he assured her that I was fine and gave me a sedative so I could get some rest. Apparently I’d woken up in a panic shortly after Serena and Sidney had arrived.
Although she hadn’t given me any answers, I was comforted by my best friend’s voice, by her arms supporting me. We lay together for almost an hour before Sidney came in. His hair was a mess, his suit was wrinkled and he looked exhausted. When he saw that I was awake, he dropped the bag he’d been carrying and ran towards me, scooping me up in his arms and kissing the side of my head repeatedly. I’d never bring it up, but for a moment I swore he was crying. When he finally let go, he looked at me with such relief you’d think I’d nearly died. He didn’t say anything, just kissed my forehead and held my hand between his. I was about to open my mouth when the doctor came in. He was an older man, with dark hair that was graying at the temples.
“Beatrice Keller,” he greeted me, referring to his clipboard. “I’m Dr. Aplin.” He held out his hand and I shook it, forcing Sid to let go of me. “Do you mind if we chat in here? Or would you be more comfortable in my office?”
“Here is fine,” I smiled, I couldn’t imagine he’d say anything that I didn’t want Sidney to hear, much less Serena.
“Okay,” he flipped through the pages of my chart and frowned. “Beatrice, we have your medical files here and what concerns me is the inpatient care you received in Philadelphia and the circumstances.” I felt my face getting hot. I looked at Sid who stared back at me confused. Immediately I knew what was wrong. I knew what I’d done, and I wanted desperately to keep it from Sidney. But it was too late, the doctor kept talking.
“We did some blood work while you were asleep and the labs have shown a few things. First, is a drastically low sugar level which alone explains your lightheadedness. Now according to your chart you’ve been on a medicated called quetiapine for some time now.”
I nodded, confirming his statement. I refused to look at Sidney, who stood silently beside me.
“One of the side effects of quetiapine is increased sugar levels. The other things the labs showed was that there are no traces of quetiapine in your system. Do you know what happens when you stop taking things cold turkey?” His voice was kind, but I felt like I was being chastised.
I nodded again, unable to speak. Tears filling my eyes.
“Is there a reason you stopped taking it?” he asked.
“I...” my voice wavered, “I forgot.” It was a terrible excuse, but partially true. With Sidney around, I didn’t feel like I needed it anymore. I felt healthy, I felt normal. More than that, I didn’t want him to know I was on anything.
“I’m almost certain that the reason you fainted is a side effect of withdrawal. While the drug isn’t addictive, your body does come to rely on it in some ways.” I stared down at my hands as he spoke, avoiding the eyes of everyone in the room.
“But she’s going to be okay?” Sidney spoke, his voice, like mine, was unsteady.
“Provided she isn’t falling into old habits, and continues to take the medication prescribed to her, Beatrice should be perfectly fine.” Dr.Aplin replied smiling.
He told me he’d be back in a few hours and left us alone in the room. Humiliated, I closed my eyes and tried to choke back the tears that threatened to escape my squeezed eyelids. Serena said something about getting coffee, and soon it was only Sidney and I. Being my best friend, Serena knew about my past and my present. Nothing the doctor had said could come as a shock to her. But in a few minutes, Sidney had learned more about me than I’d ever wanted to tell him.
I felt my bed shift. My eyes were still closed but I knew he’d climbed up next to me. He wrapped his arm around my shoulder and pulled me into his chest. Every touch made it harder and harder to fight the tears. His clean scent, the security of his embrace and the steady rhythm of his heartbeat under my head, all made it next to impossible to keep myself together.
“Can you explain this to me?” Sidney broke the silence in the room.
“I’m not crazy,” I replied, finally looking at him. “I know that’s what you’re probably thinking.” I wiped my damp eyes with the back of my hand. He looked down at me with such gentleness. A look I’d never seen in my life.
“Nope,” he brushed my hair back from my face. “You can tell me anything.’
I took a deep breath and tried to remember when it started. “My whole life I’ve struggled with things. We didn’t really realize it until I was in high school. For most of my life before that I thought it was normal to feel the way I did. Racing thoughts, nervous habits, and sadness. Anyway, I started on anti-depressants during my first degree. I’m not ashamed, but it’s the last thing I want to tell people.” I paused, waiting for a reply, but his eyes told me to keep going. “They helped so much, for the first time in my life I felt like I could handle things. I slept at night, I could focus in classes. It wasn’t until I started taking them that I really realized how much of my time I spent hiding from the world. I’ve never been officially diagnosed with anything, but the word bipolar has come up a few times.”
“That’s scary stuff,” he murmured, still holding me tightly.
“I know it is. And that’s why I don’t tell people. I don’t want you to think that I’m some kind of weak or broken person.”
“I wouldn’t think that,” he replied. “So if the pills were so helpful, why did you stop taking them?”
“It started because I’d forget to bring them with me. I’d always go home in the morning so I was able to take the other ones, but I just kept forgetting to take the night ones with me. I felt okay without them. I felt like with you I could handle anything. I didn’t want to have to explain what I was taking before we fell asleep every night.” I knew I was rambling, but he listened patiently.
“I understand why you’d think all those things,” he said, after taking a few seconds to process what I’d said. “But taking medication isn’t going to scare me off. If I was going to run I would have done it when you locked me out of the bathroom our first night together.”
I laughed remembering that night. It felt so long ago.
“So is this why you were in the hospital in Philadelphia?” He asked.
I sighed and tried to find the best way to tell him there was more to the situation. “Kind of,” I began. “After Millie and I broke up for good I was kind of a mess. I spent the first few weeks hiding in my apartment playing video games, but eventually something clicked and I decided I needed to do everything I could to better myself. I was so overwhelmed by everything in my life, school, Millie being gone, the idea of graduating. The only thing I thought I could control was food.” I didn’t want to continue. I didn’t want to tell him my biggest weakness. I didn’t want to risk what we had.
“And?” He gently urged me to continue.
“And I made some really stupid decisions. The summer after I graduated it got worse. I was living with my brother and I guess I took it too far because I collapsed one day in the middle of a room full of people. I spent the rest of the summer in treatment. For the most part I’m fine. I thought was over it, but with the changes in my life I started to feel overwhelmed. It sounds so stupid but things were too good. I got scared I needed something I could control.” I held my breath while I waited for his reply. I silently prepared myself for goodbye. No one wanted to have to deal with this kind of drama. His silence terrified me and the tears returned to my eyes. I wasn’t ready to let go of him.
“I’m sorry,” he finally spoke. He wiped the tears off of my cheeks with the pads of his thumbs. “I’m sorry you’ve gone through all this. I know change is hard, I wish you could have told me this sooner.” He still had that look of compassion and love that gave me goosebumps.
“I understand if you want to end this,” I said softly, giving him an out.
He stared at me bewildered. “Do you want to end this?” he asked hesitantly.
I shook my head furiously and wiped the tears off of my cheeks.
“Good,” he smiled. “Because I’m not very good with change, and I’ve gotten used to your hair in my face while I sleep and your terrible music in my C.D player.”
I cried harder knowing that he wanted me around. Tears of relief and exhaustion slipping down my face.
I was released later that day after assuring the doctor that I’d take better care of myself. Sidney and I drove in silence to my apartment, somehow he seemed to know that I didn’t want to talk about it. I just wanted to move on, forget about the humiliating experience. He sat on the couch with Serena while I showered. Relieved to get the smell of hospital out of my hair and the residue from the IV tape off of my hands, I stayed under the hot stream twice as long as I usually would. I tried to stop them, but as the got water beat down against my back memories flooded my mind. Memories of Millie, and my time after her, the hospital, the move to Pittsburgh. Things I hadn’t thought about in years. Fear was the main reason for my initial fall into disordered eating, and again it was fear that had led to my literal and figurative collapse. Fear of the unknown, fear of losing control, but most of all fear of failing. As I sat in the bathtub, under the spray of the shower, I promised myself that I wasn’t going to let fear control me anymore, it wasn’t going to ruin my job, my relationship with Sidney, or my life.

Chapter Text

After I got out of the shower that day, Sidney came to me with a proposal. He wanted me to stay with him until Christmas, which was only a few weeks away. Immediately I declined, informing him that I didn’t need a babysitter. He explained that that wasn’t what he was suggesting at all, rather he wanted to spend more time with me, and he hoped that being closer to the rink would relieve some of my stress. After giving it some thought, I reminded myself that fear wasn’t going to control me anymore and agreed.
It didn’t take much to persuade Beau to keep my new living arrangements quiet. I told him I’d occasionally bake things and I wouldn’t start decorating the place with pink throw cushions. I couldn’t guarantee I’d do much in the kitchen, but the promise to keep the decor as is was no problem. I didn’t plan on staying long enough to make any changes.
The first few days of our cohabitation went smoothly. Sid had cleared space in his closet for me and the house was easily big enough for the three of us. Our peaceful existence didn’t last long. I was standing behind the bench when it happened. We were behind by two against Los Angeles and the tension was rising. I didn’t see it happen because I was looking up at the scoreboard, I heard the reaction of the crowd before I saw the outcome. The fans cried in outrage and I looked across the ice to see Sidney facedown on the ice and not getting up. Panicked I pushed open the bench door and started to run across the ice, supply bag in hand. Geno met me half way and held my hand for balance as I rushed to my obviously hurt boyfriend. Boyfriend I thought as I looked at him. I’d never used that word to describe him. He was just Sidney, my Sid. I knelt down on the ice next to him, lowering my face to his so I could see him. His nose was bleeding and he held his head in his hands. My heart raced seeing the pained look on his face.
“Honey?” I whispered, terrified. Unprofessional and I knew it, but I wanted him to know it was me.
“Fuck,” he groaned. It was a groan very different from the ones I usually heard coming from him.
“What happened?” I asked, reaching in my bag for a towel to soak up the blood from his nose.
“My head,” he mumbled.
“Can you stand up?” I pushed the towel towards him. By this time Larry and one of the other medics had made their way to us.
“Where’s the injury?” Larry asked.
I pointed to Sidney’s head, unable to form words. I already knew what this meant. “Is he responsive?”
“Yeah,” I managed to answer. As if on cue, Sidney moaned and tried to roll over. His face, as well as the ice was covered in blood, but that wasn’t going to be our main concern.
Slowly, we helped him to his feet. He smiled weakly at me and I winked, reassuring him that he was going to be fine. While the two men escorted him off the ice, I followed him, once again clinging to Geno for balance. As we approached the bench I squeezed Geno’s wrist nervously.
“It’ll be okay,” he whispered in my ear, leaning down to make up for the height difference. “Sid is strong.” He smiled and helped me off of the ice, his words echoing in my mind. Sidney was strong, and I had to be too. Although it was becoming clear that our relationship wasn’t as concealed as we had thought.
I raced down the hallway and into the dressing room. My mind a mess with anxiety. I was trying not to cry, I couldn’t have the other medics seeing me this upset. I found Sidney in an exam room with Larry. His nose had stopped bleeding and he lay on the exam table with half of his gear on the floor beside him. He smiled when he saw me standing in the door.
“I’m okay,” he reassured me unconvincingly. I choked back tears and tried to smile back at him. “Baby, it’s fine.” He reached from my hand and squeezed it. I didn’t look at Larry, I was too focused on Sidney to worry about the reaction of my boss.
“We’re going to do a concussion test and send him in for an MRI,” Larry informed me in a professional tone. “If you could tell Dan and meet us after that would be appreciated.”
I nodded and wiped my eyes for what felt like the hundredth time that week. As I went to leave the room Sidney held onto my hand and pulled me back. I looked at him confused and he motioned for me to come closer. I leaned closer to him, my hips pressing against his side.
“I love you,” he whispered and kissed me gently.
I kissed him back, now unable to control my emotions. “I love you too,” I said, my lips still brushing against his and my eyes watering. It took everything I had in me to leave that room. He squeezed my hand before I let ago, as if to tell me that everything was going to be alright. But I knew no one could be sure. This wasn’t the first hit to the head he’d taken in his career and as both a hockey fan and someone in the medical field I knew the impact it could have on his life.
I bit the inside of my cheek as I walked back to the bench, focusing on my teeth digging into the flesh kept me from breaking down. There was still five minutes left in the second period, I didn’t know how they could still be play, I could hardly keep myself upright. At the final door before going into the rink, I took a deep breath. I needed to be optimistic. I needed to be the strong one, for Sidney and for myself. I didn’t care about keeping our relationship a secret anymore, or being professional. I cared about him and doing everything I could to help him recover, no matter the outcome.
I walked onto the bench, trying to radiate a sense of calm and collected confidence. Inside I was shaking, but I kept it hidden behind a relaxed face. Dan noticed me right away and after whispering something to the assistant coach made a beeline for me.
“What’s the word?” he asked, I could tell he was anxious.
“Larry’s doing a concussion test and an MRI. He’s responsive but a little groggy.” I relayed the information I’d been given, trying to keep my emotions out of it.
“Shit,” Dan cursed under his breath. No coach wanted to hear that their star player may have a concussion. “Thanks for letting me know,” he looked at me compassionately. “Go be with him. He’ll want you there,” he smiled knowingly.
I tried to play it off like I didn’t know what he was talking about. He smiled and placed his hand on my shoulder, “It’s okay,” he said tenderly.
I smiled back at him relieved. I was crazy to think that Sidney and I could keep our relationship a secret from everyone. While we tried our hardest to treat each other with only professional curtesy at work, it was hard to hide the sideways glances and lingering touches.
I stood outside the MRI room waiting for some news, any news. Pacing back and forth while nervously wringing my hands I tried to imagine the possible outcomes. On one hand, he could be perfectly fine and just a little shocked, on the other hand his time on the ice could be over. I shook my head, trying to forget the worst case scenario. I was considering knocking on the heavy black door when my phone started to vibrate from my pocket. I fished it out of my khaki pants to see Serena’s name illuminated on the screen.
“Bea!” she cried when I answered. “What’s going on? Is he okay?”
My throat started to tighten again in response to my best friend’s worried voice.
“I don’t know,” I replied fighting the tears.
“But you were there, I saw you on the ice.” she continued.
“I didn’t see it happen,” My eyes were watering again. “All I can tell you is the he’s conscious.” It really was all I could tell her. The need for confidentiality kept me from telling her how scared I was, and how bad it could be.
“Okay,” she sighed. “Tell me when you know something? I’ll keep my phone next to my bed.” Her support and compassion made it even harder to keep myself together. “I love you,” she said before hanging up.

I slumped against the wall and slid to the floor, dropping my phone next to me. The feeling of helplessness was overwhelming. Cradling my head in my hands I tried to breath and stop the tears from flowing. I again reminded myself that I didn’t have time to fall apart, I needed to be the stable one, just in case. I was calming myself down when the heavy black door opened. Larry came out followed by another medic pushing Sidney in a wheelchair. His gear had been taken off and he was left in his tight fitting UnderArmor.
“What do we know?” I asked jumping up. “Are you okay?” I rested my hand gently on his shoulder.
“We won’t know anything conclusive for a while, but we’re going to head to the hospital just to be on the safe side.” Larry replied.
“I’m going to be fine,” Sid smiled weekly and placed his hand over mine.
We headed for the corral where an ambulance was waiting. I had to work to keep up with the two men and Sidney.
“I’m coming to the hospital,” I said, trying to sound assertive.
“That’s fine,” Larry glanced over at me. There was no use hiding out relationship anymore.
“Can you get my stuff and meet me there with my truck?” Sidney asked, his voice was rough and low.
“Where are your keys?” I replied as we approached the back of the ambulance.
“In my jacket pocket, my clothes are in my stall too, and my phone.” They lifted him into the ambulance.
“Okay,” I smiled. “I’ll see you there.” He reached down for my hand.
“Thank you,” he squeezed it gently. “I love you.”
For the second time that night, he’d said the words I’d been afraid to think. Words that felt too true to say aloud.
As I headed for the locker room Larry called after me. “Don’t talk to anyone,” he warned. “We’ll release a statement later, but for now you have no comment.” I nodded and kept walking without looking back.

Chapter Text

For the second time in mere weeks, Sidney and I sat in a hospital room waiting. Although this time he was in the immodest gown and unlike the first visit we were in a private room as opposed to a curtained area. Nevertheless, we sat waiting for answers. My stomach turned anxiously and my hands felt heavy and unsteady.
“This is why you should go to med school,” Sid groaned from the bed annoyed.
“What?” I hit send on the text I’d written to Serena.
“If you were a full fledged doctor you could just clear me and we could go home to bed.” I looked over at me from the bed. We’d been watching a movie on the small TV screen in the corner, my job was to keep an eye on him and wake him up every so often, which wasn’t hard because he hadn’t stopped complaining since he’d woken up an hour earlier.
“You want me to get my M.D so you don’t have to wait in hospitals?” I cocked my eyebrow and looked at him unamused.
“Yes,” he looked at me with wide eyes. “You can’t tell me you wouldn’t rather be at home right now.”
I sighed and tossed my phone in my bag. “You do get going into a deep sleep is exactly what you can’t do right now, right?”
“I didn’t say anything about sleeping,” he grinned at me.
“How is your head?” I got up to check his pupils, ignoring his suggestive comment. His eyes looked normal, if not a little more spacey than usual. Luckily he seemed to only have a Grade I concussion. But any concussion was bad news when it came to his career. The thing about head injuries, is that after a person has had one or two, they just get worse. If Sidney was aware of this fact he sure wasn’t acting concerned.
“My head is fine, you should really both calm down,” he reached for me.
I glared at him, not seeing the humour in his joke, a side effect of head injuries was prolonged double vision and it was something I was supposed to be looking out for. He roared with laughter.
“Would you relax?” he pulled me closer to him. “I’m fine, I’m going to continue to be fine and you worrying is doing nothing but making both our lives harder.”
“How are you so calm?” I looked down at him and squeezed his hand.
“Because you worry enough for both of us. I also know that worrying isn’t going to do anything but give me a worse headache.”
“You should try to rest,” I pushed his hair back and looked down at his tired face.
“I’m not tired,” he mumbled. I knew he was lying but didn’t bother calling him out. “Tell me something.”
“What do you want to know?” I asked, letting go of him and pulling the chair closer to his bed.
“Anything,” he took my hand back in his. “Have you decided what we’re doing on our date?”
In the midst of all the chaos of our lives I’d forgotten the date I’d asked him on. I shook my head and moved forward to the edge of my seat so I was closer to him. “We can worry about that later.”
“That’s probably a good idea,” he chuckled. “Besides, Christmas is soon and that’s always a crazy time.”
“A wonderful time,” I grinned. The idea of being with him for my favourite holiday brightened my otherwise dark mood.
“I know we promised Beau you wouldn’t make the place over, but I give you free reign to go wild with Christmas decorations.” I could tell his attention had now turned to cheering me up. “As soon as I’m cleared to leave we can go shopping.”
“Thank you,” I leaned over and kissed his forehead. I wasn’t thanking him for the decorations or for the holiday spirit, but rather for trying, and for paying attention.
“I think you’re depth perception is worse than mine,” he teased. “My lips are down here.”
I scoffed and moved my mouth down to his, kissing him softly. He had another idea and wrapped his arm around my back, pulling me deeper into him. His teeth grazed my bottom lip and his tongue slipped into my mouth. I swallowed a moan as his hand moved under my shirt and rested against the flesh of my lower back. I pulled away before I could get too into it.
“Stop it!” I scolded him. “Your blood flow needs to stay in your brain and getting all excited is not going to help anyone.” I gestured to his already swelling groin. “Think about sailboats or puppies or something.”
“Sailboats and puppies.” he repeated and smiled at me. “I’ll give that a try.”
I rolled my eyes and sat back down, making sure I was out of reach from his grabby hands.
Sidney was in the middle of listing all the reasons why he was perfectly fine, when the doctor came in to tell him he could go home.
“Usually we’d want to keep him for the whole night, knowing his history, but I think he should be alright if you stay with him for a few days, Miss Keller.” The balding doctor explained. “Are you or one of your colleagues able to spend the night with him?” he questioned, looking at us, he was obviously unsure of our relationship.
“It’s fine,” I smiled politely, not revealing too much.
“Great, you’re going to want to continue waking him up every few hours and ensuring that he is responsive- ask him questions, make sure he’s drinking fluids when he wakes up. The headache might take a while to go away so keep an ice pack handy and use ibuprofen if it gets unbearable. We’re going to want to keep him off of his feet and away from any overstimulation for the next couple days. No driving, no training, no computer games or anything that takes a lot of brain focus. I also recommend you you avoid any... intimate relations, Mr. Crosby.” He looked over at Sid awkwardly and then turned back to me.
“You know all this, but basically if he gets any worse or there is a change in things, including his attitude, come straight to the hospital. I’ll give you my pager number just in case, but I think he should be alright.” He handed me his card and the discharge form to drop off at the front desk.
We didn’t bother wasting any time at the hospital, and within an hour we were laying in bed with the lights low and the curtains drawn.
“Do you need anything?” I whispered, resting my hand on his chest.
“No,” he grumbled, an icepack melting on his forehead. His adrenaline was fading and I could tell the pain was getting to him.
“Okay, I’m going to let you sleep for a few hours, but I’ll stay close by. If you need anything let me know.” I kissed his temple and got out of the bed.
“Thanks, babe,” he mumbled smiling as I crept out of the room. I left the door ajar and made my way down to the kitchen.
I entered the kitchen to find Beau sitting at the island with his head in his hands.
“You okay?” I asked, opening the fridge and grabbing a bottle of water.
“Yeah,” he looked up at me. His face was tired and I wondered why he wasn’t in bed. “Just a bit freaked out I guess.”
“I know the feeling,” I rested against the counter across from him. “But, he’s going to be fine in a few days. He got pretty lucky as far as concussions are concerned.”
“Yeah,” he smiled slightly. “You’re right.”
“First for everything,” I laughed. The truth was that I was still anxious. The thought of Sidney in pain and not being able to play made me feel ill. So quickly he’d gone from the one taking care of me, to the one in need. There was no question that I was going to do everything I could for him, but I had to keep my own health in mind. I was no use to either of us if I was falling apart.
“I think I’m going to get some sleep,” Beau got up from his seat and walked towards me. “You should think about doing the same,” he leaned in an hugged me awkwardly, as if he wanted to make me feel better, but didn’t know how.
“Thanks,” I smiled weakly, “sleep well.”
He headed down the hall towards his room and I decided it was better if I hung out in a room on the same floor as Sidney. I took my water bottle and ascended the wide stairs leading to the second floor. I couldn’t say how many rooms were in the house, but the top floor alone had three rooms in addition to the master bedroom I slept in with Sid. Turning in the opposite direction of our room, I made my way down the hallway to my favourite of the extra spaces. At the end of the hall sat a yellow room with big windows and plush off-white carpet. It had an overstuffed white armchair in the corner diagonal from the door and white bookshelves lined the walls. It was empty compared to the rest of the house, with the exception of a few books I’d put on the shelves and an assortment of candles I’d bought and left on the desk. I’d discovered it shortly after moving in and quickly claimed it as a space of my own. He’d bought the furniture with the intention of turning it into a second home office, but had done little but assemble the pieces.
I closed the door gently and turned on a lamp that was on the desk. The soft light made the room seem warm and safe. I lit two of the vanilla scented candles and sat in the middle of the floor. The time on my phone read 1:34am and I had one new text message from Simon Keller. All it said was:
Call if you need us.
As simple as that. He didn’t ask for details, or an insider scoop, he just reminded me that he was there. My whole family was. I took a deep breath and tried to let go of the tension inside of me that came as a result of hours of anxiety. As strong as I wanted to be, I did need them, because even if I couldn’t talk about that night, I needed to talk about something, anything to distract me.

“Hey,” My brother answered after three rings. “I thought you might call some time tonight,” he chuckled.
“Did I wake you?” It was an hour later on the Island.
“Nahh,” he replied casually. “I don’t get much sleep anyway these days. Helen gets up every hour and wakes me up in the process.” He referred to his heavily pregnant wife. My poor sister-in-law not only married my goofball brother, but became known as Helen Keller. Legally she’d kept her maiden name and was Helen Gallant-Keller, but only the government called her that.
“When is she due again?” I picked at a piece of lint in the carpet.
“At some point towards the end of December. You know how Dad is, he doesn’t believe in due dates.” My father, the family physician, didn’t believe in a lot of the modern ideas in medicine. He supported natural healing and had attended a number of home births, mostly friends and family. I smiled remembering my dad calmly reading the newspaper while my cousin, Leena laboured with her second baby.
“You guys must be so excited,” I felt a sense of loneliness as I imagined my parents preparing for their second grandchild, the first being our eldest brother John’s three year old daughter.
“Excited, terrified, overwhelmed, yup that pretty much covers it,” he replied lightheartedly.
“God I miss you guys,” I sighed and fell back, the carpet catching my tired body.
“We miss you too. How is the job working out? I know you probably can’t talk about the game tonight so I’m not going to ask.”
“Thank you,” I was relieved to know that he understood the stipulations that came with my position. “The job is amazing. Everyone is really great. There’s so much more to the game than I knew.”
“It sounds like an awesome gig. Andy was saying you’re well acquainted with the Scotia wonder boy.” His statement was more like a question, subtly prying for details.
After our interaction at the rink in front of the rest of the medical team there was no use keeping it a secret any more. Especially not from my family. I couldn’t think of anything I’d kept from them so long.
“Yeah,” I said quietly. “You could say we know each other.”
“Is he with you?” I could hear the amusement in his voice.
“He’s in bed,” I smiled, imagining the look on my brother’s face. “We’re experimenting with co-habitation.”
“Well, look at you! Taking sleeping with the enemy to a whole new level.” I heard Helen in the background asking him who he was talking to.
“You know what they say, go big or go home,” I chuckled.
“I’m really trying to ignore the double meaning in that,” his said in mock disgust. “Hey, Helen wants to know if you’re going to make it home for Christmas.”
“I doubt it,” I sighed, I’d been trying to avoid that thought. I was about to explain our upcoming schedule when I heard Sidney calling from down the hallway. Our conversation cut short, I thanked Simon for taking my call so late, and promised to call later in the week.
“What’s wrong?” I asked softly, slipping into the bedroom where Sidney lay with his eyes closed.
“Nothing’s wrong,” he smiled and opened his eyes enough to see me. “What were you doing?” he sat up slowly and patted the bed beside him.
“Talking to Simon,” I crawled onto the white comforter and leaned my back against the headboard. “He wanted to make sure we were okay.”
“Did you tell him I’ll be back on the ice tomorrow?” Sid smiled and wrapped his arm around my shoulders.
“Yup, and that we’d be home for Christmas. I hope you don’t mind, I also let it slip about that unicorn we bought,” I giggled and rested my head against him.
“I guess that secret is out,” he squeezed me lightheartedly.
“He said the baby is expected soon,” I laced my fingers between those on his freehand.
“That’s exciting,” he sighed comfortably. “Babies are always a good time. Can’t go wrong with tiny humans.”
“Tiny anything is a good time,” I laughed. “Well maybe not anything.” We were both delirious from exhaustion, neither of us making sense.
“You don’t have to worry about tiny things anymore,” he nudged me cheekily.
I scowled at him and rolled my eyes. Eyes that I could hardly keep open. After yawning for the hundredth time that night, I slid out of my pants and crawled under the covers with him. We snuggled closely and I set the timer on my phone for three hour intervals so I could check on him. It didn’t take long before I started to drift off, my breathing becoming shallow and even.
“Beatrice?” Sidney whispered, his hand in mine.
I mumbled in response and snuggled closer to him.
“I’d have tiny humans with you,” he said softly, his voice trailing off.
I squeezed his hand gently and let myself fall asleep, hoping that his confession was just a result of exhaustion and not something he was taking seriously.

Chapter Text

The only way to describe my relationship with Sidney was hard and fast. Both words that terrified me. My plan to take things slowly was thrown out the window the day he brought me home from the hospital and even further obliterated when it was assumed that I’d be the one looking after his recovery. The series of MRIs done after the hit had shown a lasting, but manageable concussion and in the spirit of caution, Sidney wouldn’t be doing anything physical until after the holidays. The only time I’d ever seen him angry off of the ice was the day Larry delivered the news.
“For fuck sakes!” he cried, slamming his fists on the desk. “As if I don’t have enough people doubting me, now we have to tell the media I’m on IR again!?”
My hand resting on his thigh, I rubbed my thumb in circular motions against the skin showing as his shorts rode up, trying to provide some kind of soothing support.
Larry went on to tell him that it was imperative that he take a few weeks to relax and we would revisit the issue after Christmas. Dan added that his health was more important than impressing the critics and I reminded him that Christmas was only two weeks away.
“Look on the bright side, Sid. How many players can say their team medic is also their close friend? We’re basically giving you time off to spend alone with an attractive female.” Larry laughed, managing to earn a slight smile from the otherwise sour Sidney.
“About that,” Sid looked at Dan, who was laughing along with Larry. “We want to make sure that our relationship isn’t going to be a problem for the team.” I dug my fingers into his thigh nervously. We’d talked about making sure it wasn’t a problem, but hadn’t expected him to bring it up so soon. I held by breath waiting for an answer. I instantly decided that if Dan should say no, I would quit and go back to working at the community club. A thought that was against everything I believed in. Quitting my dream job for a guy was a ridiculous idea, but I was dead serious.
“It shouldn’t be a problem,” Dan replied after a slight pause. “I trust that you two are adults and can handle yourselves in such a manner.” In a professional way he was saying don’t have sex between periods.
Before we could leave, Sidney had to speak to the press, an activity that left him jittery and anxious. I stood off to the side as he answered their questions.
When will you be back? - We can only estimate some time after the holidays.
How are you feeling?- I’m doing okay, but we want to stay on the safe side.
Have you watched the replays? Do you know what happened?- I try not to watch those until I’m closer to returning. From what I can tell it was just a wrong place wrong time kind of thing. Obviously there was no malicious intent I just had my head down for longer than I should have.
Are you planning on travelling with the team on this next road trip?- We haven’t decided yet.
Any comments on Shanahan handing out a three game suspension on the hit?- Nope.
Their questions were as expected, and we were all relieved when Sidney wrapped everything up by thanking them for coming. We’d all seen press conferences get ugly and no one wanted to deal with obnoxious reporters, least of all Sidney who was visibly tired.
“That went well,” I squeezed his hand as we walked out to the parking lot. “The press I mean, not the whole IR part.” I laughed nervously as we approached the truck.
“Yeah, it could have been worse. The press and the MRI.” He fished in his pocket for the keys to his truck.
I stood next to him and held my hand out palm up, waiting for him to hand them over.
“I’m fine to drive,” he whined, holding them in front of me.
“I wasn’t aware you had a masters in sports medicine,” I put my hand on my hip and looked at him annoyed.
“I wasn’t aware...” he paused, trying to think of something sarcastic to say. Coming up with nothing he shook his head and dropped the keys in my open hand.
“Thank you,” I kissed his cheek and unlocked the doors.
He grumbled and walked around to the passenger side.
I pulled out of the parking lot and headed towards my apartment. I was running low on clothes and with a few days off I was going to want some of my things. While I refused to technically move in to the oversized house with him, I hadn’t slept in my own bed in weeks. We hadn’t discussed the idea of anything permanent and I was more than happy to hold on to some shred of independence when it seemed like everything else in our lives was becoming increasingly intertwined. After everything I’d gone through with Millie, I had to continuously remind myself that this was different. They were different people in so many ways. I was a different person in so many ways. Serena once used the word guarded when describing me. Of course I was unable to recognize that in myself, to me it seemed like everyone knew too much about me. It was as if people could see my crazy no matter how hard I tried to hide it, but in reality those were just insecurities I was projecting onto the world.

We unlocked the heavy purple door expecting to find the apartment empty. Instead, we found the TV on and a pair of men’s dress shoes in front of the door. I couldn’t imagine Serena would have any non-platonic company over during the day, and assumed it was one of her coworkers.
“S?” I called, noting that the kitchen and living room were empty. No sooner had a called for her, did the bathroom door swing open releasing clouds of steam into the hallway.
“You’re officially not allowed to wear a shirt anymore,” Serena giggled to the mystery man as she stepped out of the bathroom.
“We’re just grabbing some stuff,” I said a little louder and headed towards her.
“Holy shit!” She screamed, startled by my presence. “I didn’t know you were here.” She was wrapped in a towel and her wet hair was slicked back.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you,” I laughed and tried to get a look at who was in the bathroom.
“Bea?” I heard a deep voice coming from the bathroom. Before I could reply, Geno stepped out of the fog and stood behind Serena, a towel wrapped around his waist and water dripping from his body.
I stared at my best friend confused, my mouth hanging open.
“Babe, I’m going to make a sandwich or something, do you want anything?” Sidney called from the kitchen, obviously unaware that his teammate was standing half naked in the hallway.
I continued to stare at them, not quite able to form words.
Serena looked at me blushing, her teeth digging into her bottom lip.
“Babe?” Sid said again, his voice coming closer as he came up behind me. “Oh,” he stopped, seeing Evgeni and Serena. “What’s up guys?” He laughed and placed his hand on my hip.
“How’s head, Sid?” Geno asked casually while Serena and I stared at each other.
“It’s been better,” he replied casually.
“How long have you two been...?” I finally asked my best friend who stood nervously hugging the towel around her.
“A few weeks?” She looked back at Geno for support. “We’re not like together together,” she clarified.
“That’s cool,” I replied, taking in the situation and realizing that there was no reason for me to be upset or concerned. They were adults, just like Sidney and I
“Wait,” Geno cried looking Sidney and I up and down. “You two?” he questioned us, grinning.
Sid smiled and nodded at him.
“Way to go Captain!” Geno laughed and they highfived. “I knew it from the start!”
“Weirdos,” I looked at the two men while they patted each other on the backs.

Serena and I left the two hockey players in the living room and retreated to her bedroom so I could get the details. I lay on her bed with Luna purring softly beside me while Serena got dressed.
“How is it?” I asked, scratching the cat behind her ears.
“He’s pretty awesome,” she replied, doing up the zipper of her jeans. “I don’t think it’s going to be serious anytime soon.”
“Nothing wrong with that,” I chuckled, remember a time when I didn’t want anything serious with Sidney.
“Yeah, I don’t plan on getting a job with the team and moving in with him,” she laughed, putting deodorant on and adjusting her bra.
“You don’t plan that kind of thing. First you get the job, then you get the guy, then you both end up in the hospital and things escalate.” I grinned at her. “Besides, I didn’t say I was moving in with Sidney.”
“Might as well,” she pulled her sweater on.
“That’s a one way ticket to long term.”
“Not ready to return to your rightful place as Mayor of Monogamy?” She asked, standing in front of the mirror.
“Monogamy is fine, I just don’t want get to be the Senator of Serious.”
“I think you’re already pretty serious,” she looked back at me with slight concern. “Yeah, I guess.” I got off of the bed and started straightening out the sheets and blankets.
“He told you he loved you, didn’t he?” She was my best friend for a reason.
“And that he wanted to have tiny humans.” I kept myself busy with making the bed.
“What’s wrong with that?”
“Nothing, on the surface.” I took a breath, I’d been trying to forget about the mess of emotions inside of me.
“I get it,” she went to the other side of the bed and helped me pull the comforter straight. “I remember how hard it was for you when you moved here.”
“What if I fuck it up somehow?” I fluffed the pillows and placed them at the head of the bed. “What if he fucks it up?”
“Then we get drunk, eat some ice cream, and you’ll eventually get over it.” She said frankly. “If that’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. It doesn’t matter who you’re dating, there are going to be struggles. What matters is how you let them defeat you. Would you rather walk around scared and wonder about everything, or just say fuck it and jump in, knowing that if something happens I’ll be there to help you pick up the pieces. Don’t let what happened in the past with Millie ruin your future with Sidney.”
I left with a sense of comfort and security. I could always trust Serena to ease my troubled mind. She was right, as usual, things were going to happen in their own way.
“We should go get a tree and stuff,” Sidney suggested as we pulled away from the apartment. I’d packed a bag full of clothes and things I was going to want, including extra bottles of my favourite bubble bath and shampoo. “Maybe some decorations.”
We’d only talked about decorating a few days ago, but it was nice to now that he hadn’t forgotten his promise. He suggested Macy’s and I agreed enthusiastically, pulling onto the busy road heading downtown. As the traffic flowed through the snowy streets, I looked over at him sitting beside me. His hair peeked out under the edge of his black Penguins hat and the colour had returned to his face. He looked more alert than he had in the last few days. I admired his shoulders, they filled out his black peacoat perfectly. I was often surprised that a small town boy could dress so well. He wore well fitting jeans, that I had recently learned were custom tailored to accommodate his abnormal bum to leg ratio, and leather shoes that weren’t quite dress wear but were far nicer than sneakers. I smiled to myself, knowing that I had a hot boyfriend. Sidney reached across the centre console and squeezed my leg affectionately. I’d changed out of my regular work clothes at the apartment in favour of heavy burgundy knit tights and a a short black dress with buttons up the front. My green felt jacket flared out at the waist and had shiny black buttons. Paired with brown lace up boots and a gray scarf I felt good, not to mention warm.
We drove along hand in hand and chatted candidly about the Christmas decor of our homes growing up. I told him about my mother’s train set and model village and he brought up fresh wreaths and garland. He told me since moving into his own house a few years prior, he hadn’t bothered to do much decorating, turns out he wasn’t the most gifted of tree trimmers. By the time we pulled into a park space at Macy’s, I had an idea of what I wanted. Lights, garland and of course, mistletoe.
I had assumed that because we’d told the team about our relationship, we were free to be together in public. He had another idea. When I reached for his hand while we walked through the isles, he casually reached for something at the same moment, any time I tried to stand close to him, he’d shift his weight away from me. I tried not to be hurt by his unaffectionate distance, but I had hoped we’d spend the day romantically picking out things to enjoy together. He pushed the cart while I loaded it with fake garlands and boxes upon boxes of lights. We briefly considered buying an artificial tree, but decided there was no reason not to go for the full experience and buy the biggest real tree we could find. I picked out different coloured balls, sparkling snowflake ornaments, and some candy canes for an additional touch. By that point our cart was spilling over and Sidney had already been approached twice. Once by a young woman with a tiny baby strapped to her chest, who exclaimed excitedly how happy her husband was going to be as Sid signed a scrap of paper and I took a picture of them, and another time by an older woman and her grandson who nervously told Sidney about his own hockey career. Both times Sidney greeted the fans with a big smile and thanked them for their support. When the young boy asked my name Sid smiled and told him I worked for the team and was helping out with the decorating. As they walked off, I glared at Sid and decided I’d had enough shopping for one day.

The drive back to his house was quiet, I didn’t want to say anything for fear of losing my composure. We both had enough stress and I didn’t need to bring up how hurt I was by his comments, not yet at least. I turned on the radio and we sat listening to a public broadcast on consumerism and age demographics. He could tell I was angry, but in the interest of peace, didn’t bring it up. I was thankful for that, I just needed a few hours to myself and I’d forget about the whole thing.
We brought the bags into the house and left them unpacked in the living room. Beau sniffed around them eagerly, but I told him we’d decorate later. There were only two things I needed and neither of them involved being around other people. After trying to hug me and being greeted by an ice glare, Sidney left me to do my own thing. After grabbing a muffin from the pantry and a bottle of Irish Creme from the liquor cabinet I ran up the stairs and into the yellow room that was without a doubt my room in the house. I threw my bag of clothes down and pulled out the bubble bath. Normally I would have used Sidney’s bathroom with the jacuzzi tub and adjustable lighting, but I wanted to be undisturbed, so I made myself at home in the guest bath next door to the yellow room. Three vanilla candles lit, lights off, and a steaming claw foot tub filled with Noble Isle willow song bubble bath that I had to order from the UK, I’d created my own little heaven amongst the chaos of our lives. I peeled off my dress and tights and took two plush towels from the shelf and placed them on the toilet seat. I stood in front of the mirror in my bra and underwear and studied my reflection. It seemed to be a very stereotypically female thing to do, but in some way it helped me feel grounded. I ran my hands over the curves of my hips and the soft skin of my stomach. There was nothing stereotypical about my body, it was bigger than some bodies and smaller than others, stronger than most but weaker than many. My skin was pale than the majority and had patches of bright colours and images that represented who I was and who I’d become. I pinched my padded stomach and wondered if I shouldn’t work harder to lose weight. Maybe if I resembled the elite celebrities I’d seen Sidney photographed with he wouldn’t be so hesitant to tell people who I was. I shook my head and tried to erase the cruel and self loathing thought from my already over filled mind. I turned away from the mirror, took a bite of the muffin and took off the rest of my clothes. With the bottle of Irish creme on a table next to the bathtub, I placed the rest of the muffin beside it and slipped into the warmth comfort of the steamy water. The soothing aroma of the bubble bath surrounded me, helping me to drift off to a cedar and rose scented dreamland.
I thought about everything that had happened in the last 48 hours. I’d gone from being Sidney’s secret girlfriend to someone he wanted to have children with, back to being a secret. I reached for the bottle beside me and took a swig of the room temperature cream. It was sweet and burnt a little going down but was exactly what I wanted. I thought about Serena and Evgeni. It didn’t surprise me that they got along so well, Serena could make friends with anyone, but I was surprised that she hadn’t told me sooner. I took another drink and followed it with a piece of muffin. I would have assumed that as my roommate and best friend she would let me in on these kinds of things.I mean, I’d told her about Sidney right away. There was no use being too hurt over it, but I was slightly annoyed. More than anything, I didn’t want to see her get hurt. It seemed that I didn’t want anyone to get hurt, I’d been juggling trying to protect everyone around me, including myself.
“Fuck it,” I said to myself and took a huge gulp from the bottle, leaving it at less than the halfway point, in my defense it was already open when I grabbed it. I put the bottle back on the table and sunk deeper into the tub. Without a clock in the room I had no idea how long I’d been in there, but my fingers were starting to wrinkle and the water was getting cold. I considered adding more hot water but decided I might as well fix things with Sidney before it got too late. I let the bathtub drain and wrapped myself in the towels, one around my body and the other perched on my head to dry my hair. I blew out the candles and took the bottle with me to the bedroom. Unfortunately my yellow room didn’t have a bed or dresser so all my clothes were in Sidney’s room. I shuffled down the hallway, listening for any signs of movement from the living room. Silence. I slammed the bedroom door behind me and let my towel fall to the floor. Returning the bottle to its rightful place at my lips, I made my way to the stereo and plugged in my iPod. Turning the volume up to 21 I pressed play on Sara Bareilles and let myself go.
Halfway through the first song the towel came off of my head as I danced around the room frantically, using the bottle as my microphone and my muse. I liked the first song, so I hit reply, then as it came to an end hit replay again. I must have hit replay 10 times before I finished the bottle and collapsed in a heap on the unmade bed.
I woke up with a blanket covering my naked body and the bottle no where to be found. It was completely dark outside and the clock next to the bed read 9:35pm. I’d had no intention of sleeping, or drinking so much. I sat up slowly, my head still spinning and got up from the bed. I stumbled to the closet and grabbed the first thing I could find, a long sleeve penguins shirt that looked much better on Sidney than it did on me. It hung loose at my chest but clung to my hips, too big and too small the way that men’s shirts often were. I pulled on a pair of sweatpants and found my glasses on the bathroom counter. I looked rough but I had no interest in doing anything about it.

“Bea?” Sid called as I tiptoed down the stairs.
“Yes?” I replied calmly, I didn’t want him to realize I was still a bit tipsy.
When I entered the living room Sidney and Beau sat on the couch, behind them the biggest tree I’d ever seen in a house. They grinned up at me, the decorations strewn all over the room but not at all organized.
“How ya feelin’?” Beau laughed, taking in my haggard appearance.
“That’s a big ass tree,” I croaked, marveling at the plush branches.
“We called some people,” Beau replied, obviously pleased with himself.
“Apparently we know tree people,” Sidney added.
“Good people to know,” I smirked at them and threw myself onto Sid’s lap, regretting it when I realized how dizzy I still was. He wrapped his arms around my and kissed my forehead. I wanted to leave all my anger in the past and relish in the affection of the beautiful man who had somehow had a giant Christmas tree set up in our living room in less than four hours.
In true holiday spirit, we sang along to carols and spent the rest of the night decorating the main floor of the house. Every railing was wrapped in garland and every doorway garnished with mistletoe. Lights illuminated the giant tree and were pinned around the room. Shiny bulbs, sparkling ornaments and candy canes looked at home on its thick branches. By midnight we’d created our own winter wonderland. Martha Stewart might have had some criticism, but I was impressed with our efforts. Impressed enough to forget the pain I’d felt shopping earlier that day. There were more important things to worry about.

Chapter Text

Eight days until Christmas and I was losing my mind. Never having been the best at human interaction, the live-in experiment with Sidney was pushing me over the edge. Between convincing him that working out was a really bad idea and the insane lack of chocolate in the house I was ready to lock him in the basement. I probably would have if I knew he wouldn’t find a way to get a work out in.

Even though Sidney was prohibited from strenuous activity, we still found ourselves at the rink everyday. As captain, his presence was important for the team and he took his job as an on and off ice mentor seriously. Determined to stay in the game, he sat on the bench watching practices and underwent regular testing to make sure his concussion was improving and there were no complications. The team had been relaxed with my schedule, knowing that I was working all hours to help Sidney but I still did my best to be there as much as I could. With the team preparing for a pre-christmas road trip, I found myself wishing we were going with them just for a change of pace. Larry decided it was better if Sid and I stayed behind and focused on his recovery.
“Have you eaten?” Sid asked as he walked into the kitchen. I sat at the counter browsing through the local paper.
“No,” I said, not taking my eyes off of the page in front of me
“Is there a reason?” He stood across from me with his hands on the counter.
“What do you mean?” I eyed him confused.
“I know you’re stressed out, but I want you to make sure you’re taking care of yourself as much as you’re taking care of me.” He looked at me sweetly.
“You don’t need to worry about me,” I laughed. “I haven’t eaten because there’s nothing in this house,” I looked up at him trying to keep a straight face.
“What do you mean?” He looked confused.
“I mean there is more to life than protein powder and produce.”
“You’d be amazed at what I can do with powder and produce,” he winked and turned to the fridge.
“I take it you’re about to prove it to me?” I walked behind him and wrapped my arms around his back, resting my head between his shoulders.
He nodded and continued to gather ingredients. I let go of him and sat on the counter behind him. I watched him make his way around the kitchen, chopping fruit and putting different things into the blender.
“Is that kale?” I asked, noticing a leafy vegetable in his hand.
“Yeah, it’s great for you,” he replied ripping it into smaller pieces.
“Please don’t,” I shook my head, disgusted.
“You’re not going to taste it,” he chuckled and threw it in the blender anyway.
“So gross,” I gagging exaggeratedly as he turned to look at me.
“Trust me?” he gave me that look, the one that made me melt, the one that made me forget the world and want to jump on top of him in the middle of the kitchen. That one look had so much power.
I smiled and bit the inside of my lip, reminding myself that he couldn’t engage in any high energy activities. My thoughts were interrupted by the vibrations of my phone. My brother John’s name appeared on the screen with one new message.
John
Andy is coming home for Christmas. Can I convince you to do the same? Mum would really like it.
I sighed and locked my phone, placing it on the counter next to me. There wasn’t anything I could say to him. I needed to stay with Sidney and was expected to be behind the bench the day after Christmas. Sidney blended his concoction and I tried to think of a way I could go home for a few days, but the truth was that I couldn’t afford to hop on a plane at this late of notice. He poured the green gunk into a glass and held it out for me. I looked at him suspiciously.
“Just try it,” he urged me.
I rolled my eyes and brought the glass to my lips. Taking a small slip I was surprised, but still not impressed.
“It tastes like leaves... and banana,” I frowned.
“It’s great,” he took a swig from his glass and I placed mine next to me.
“Is it really that bad?” he looked at me concerned. I hadn’t realized that my face had fallen.
“Oh,” I looked up from my hands, “It’s not that.” I picked up my phone and reread the message. “My family really want me to go home for Christmas.”
“Ah,” he smiled sympathetically and placed his hand on my knee, facing me. “I get that. How long has it been since you’ve been home?”
“Almost two years,” I blushed, embarrassed to admit I’d gone so long without even considering a trip back to the Island.
“Really?” he looked surprised, but not judgmental. “Why so long?”
“I don’t have the money,” I blushed even deeper, knowing I was touching on an issue he didn’t experience.
“Right,” he finished off the green gunk and put the glass in the dish washer. I took another tentative sip and tried to pretend I was enjoying it.
“How about you?” I took a break from the drink and set it beside me.
“I was home in August. I like to spend as much of the off season as I can back in Canada.” He placed his hands on either side of me, his face only a few inches away from mine.
“That’s good,” I smoothed his hair back from his forehead. “How’s your head?” I traced my thumb over his temple.
“It’s okay,” he closed his eyes and leaned closer to me.
“I’m not asking as your girlfriend. How is your head, Sidney?” I dropped my hand look directly in his now open eyes.
He sighed and moved one of his hands to my thigh. “My eyes are straining when I try to focus, there is some tension pain but it’s nothing too unbearable.”
“Your pupils are still okay,” I studied his face. “The only thing that will help is keeping your eyes closed for a bit.” I squeezed the hand that had warmed a spot on my leg. “How about you go lay down and I’ll come up in a minute?”
He kissed me lightly, making my stomach flutter and the hair on my arms stand on end. It had been so long I could hardly keep myself together. I watched him walk towards the stairs, my eyes focusing on his bum and legs. I tried to keep my mind from wandering but all I could think about was his body on top of me. I shook the thought from my head and slipped off of the counter. I filled the kettle with fresh water and set it to boil on the stove. The only thing I’d contributed to the kitchen was a collection of fancy teas that had become a staple in my diet. I filled two teabags with an herbal blend that was meant to soothe and relax. I walked the two steaming cups carefully up the stairs and I pushed open the bedroom door, expecting to find Sidney already in bed. Instead, he’d taken his shirt off and was cleaning the room we shared.
“Crosby!” I cried from the door. Startled, he made a noise that can’t be described as anything but a squawk. “What the hell?” I stared at him, standing shirtless with a pile of dirty clothes in his arms.
“I was going to lay down, but I can’t relax with so much mess.” He tossed the clothes in the hamper and went on to hang up a number of dresses I had draped over the chair.
“Would you leave it?” I walked into the room and placed the steaming mugs on the night table.
“You’re like a hurricane, everywhere you go you leave a mess,” he said lightheartedly.
I glared at him and snatched the dresses from his hands. “You are so anal.” I continued where he left off hanging them in the closet.
“Anal, eh?” he cocked his eyebrow. “I’d be game for that,” he laughed and started to make the bed.
“Would you just lay down?” I said, ready to throw one of the coat hanger at his head.
He unbuttoned his jeans and let them fall to the floor, wiggling his eyebrows at me. I averted my eyes -I didn’t need any more temptation- and hung up the last dress. He lay on the bed wearing only his tight, black boxer briefs. I groaned and pulled off my pants before crawling in bed beside him. I hated wearing pants, and wearing them in the comfort of bed seemed sacrilegious.
We lay together in the dark room, my head resting on his chest. The silence in the room was easy and relaxed, the only noise coming from our steady breathing. I was relieved to know he’d fallen asleep, giving himself a much needed break.
Six days until Christmas, I woke up to an empty space in the bed beside me. I’d been trying to match Sidney’s early mornings but would never be a morning person. After taking a few minutes to wake up I headed down stairs to find him, not bothering to get dressed, wearing only a sports bra and underwear. I found him sitting at the counter eating breakfast and drinking another blended concoction. He looked up as I walked in the room and I noticed his eyes get visibly wider.
“Good morning, Miss Keller!” he grinned as I walked towards him.
“Good morning yourself,” I cooed in his ear, standing behind him and wrapping my arms around his chest and shoulders.
“You’re making this whole inactive thing really hard on me,” he laughed and took a drink of his blended gunk.
“Oh I know how you feel,” I slipped my hand under the collar of his shirt and down his chest. He moaned and tilted his head back. I kissed his neck softly, making my way to his jaw. Eagerly, he spin around on the chair so he was facing me and pulled me on to his lap.
“You’re killing me,” he kissed me roughly, his hands firmly grasping my hips.
“I’m going crazy,” I groaned, resting my head on his shoulder after our lips had parted.
“Soon,” he ran his hand along my side, tickling me. “You have your passport here, right?” he asked, his voice soft against my ear.
“Of course,” I replied, nuzzling closer to him.
“Good, our flight to Halifax leaves at 3pm,” I could hear the smile in his voice. “We’ll spend a few days in Scotia and fly into Charlottetown Christmas Eve. I talked to the team and we don’t have to come back until New Years day.”
I stared at him in disbelief, my mouth hanging open. It took a few minutes for what he said to sink in. “Are...you serious?” I stammered. “Are you kidding right now?” I started to tear up.
He shook his head and grinned widely. I jumped from his lap and kissed him excitedly. “I love you so much,” I whispered, our noses still touching.
“I love you too,” he chuckled and kissed me again.

I spent the better part of the morning packing, having borrowed the biggest suitcase I could find from Sidney’s collection. I loaded the bag with jeans and heavy sweaters, as well as dresses and tights, knowing that I was going to be meeting his family. After filling it with as much as I could I got in the shower and prepared myself for the trip ahead. Sidney, having already packed and showered sat on the bed with his laptop, arranging for someone to pick us up from the airport when we got there.
I’d gotten out of the shower and was using the toilet when the bathroom door opened.
“Hey!” I cried. “I’m in here.”
“And?” he laughed and went to the sink to brush his teeth.
“And I’m doing stuff.” I whined. “Get out.”
“I’m fully aware that you pee,” he rolled his eyes, the toothbrush hanging out of his mouth.
“So, I don’t need you witnessing it.” I squeezed my legs together.
“You know I’ve seen you naked before,” he spit in the sink.
“This is so different,” I threw my hands up annoyed.
“Not really,” he shook his head.
“Yes really! Now would you give me a little peace over here?”
He laughed and finished brushing his teeth while I sat there awkwardly, trying to cover myself with the towel I was wearing. Even living with Millie I’d never let her in the bathroom with me. Serena sure, but never someone I was dating. It was too personal. Then again, we were getting closer that I’d ever imagined I’d be with anyone.
Our plane landed in Halifax at 6:30pm. It was a small plane with just the two of us on board. I was surprised when we’d arrived at the Pittsburgh airport to find a private plane waiting for us. Sidney didn’t often throw money around, but this was one instance when I was more than okay with him taking advantage of his name and his funds. As we walked through the tunnel connecting the doors of the plane to the arrival gate nerves began to form in the pit of my stomach. I squeezed his hand mercilessly and smiled up at him, my body feeling light and shaky.
“Are your parents picking us up?” I asked, my voice as unbalanced as my body.
“One of my friends, I figured you’d want to get settled in before meeting my family.” I’d never been so relieved in my life.
“Thank you,” I wrapped my arm around his waist and hugged his side.
We made our way through customs quickly and painlessly. Noticing the name on Sid’s passport, the border guard grinned and welcomed us home without any further questions. Our baggage was brought to us and I was becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of being with the Sidney Crosby. I kept my distance as a few excited groups of people came up to get autographs and pictures, not wanting to be put in another situation where he had to explain who I was. As usual, Sid was gracious and warm to his fans, and somehow managed to avoid drawing a bigger crowd.
After the last picture was taken, we stood off to the side with a clear view of the exit door. We were preparing ourselves for the cold Canadian winter when the automatic doors opened and a man with two small children came in from the cold.
“Sid!” a voice cried, I turned to find a young boy wearing an oversized winter jacket and a Penguins toque running towards us.
“Hey buddy,” Sid leaned down to catch the little body being flung towards him. The boy laughed and hugged him as his father came closer. He was holding a baby in a puffy white snowsuit and grinning. Sid stood up to greet him, holding out his hand, his smile was wider than I’d seen in a long time.
“Crosby,” the man laughed and pulled him into a half hug, careful not to squish the baby. “How was the flight?”
“Good, good. Hey, I have someone for you to meet,” he reached for my hand. “This is the Beatrice I was telling you about,” he squeezed my hand. “Beatrice this is David, we grew up together.”
David shook my hand and told me how great it was to finally meet me. I thought about the word ‘finally’ and felt a warmth spreading through me at the notion that Sidney had been telling him about me. I felt a tug on my coat and looked down to see big blue eyes under a mess of blonde hair looking up at me.
“Are you Sid’s wife?” he asked looking at us. I bit my lip trying not to laugh and looked to Sidney.
“Not yet,” Sid smiled at him. “Liam, this is Bea, she’s really special and if you ask nicely she’ll show you her arms,” winked at me.
Liam stared up at me with awe and confusion. “Your arms?” he questioned.
“I made the mistake of saying I was meeting you in the presence of little ears,” David laughed and motioned to Liam who was still eyeing me. “I figured I might as well bring the whole gang and give the wife a few hours.” He held up the puffy snowsuit that somewhere contained a smiling baby.
Sidney reached for her, grinning and holding her above his head. My heart melted watching him interact with giggling baby. “You’re so big!” he laughed holding her against his chest.
“Six months last week,” David remarked.
“Rosie,” Sidney said in a serious tone, “I’d like you to meet Beatrice. The other woman in my life.” He tilted her towards me and I smiled, taking her mittened hand in mine.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Rosie.” I played along. She giggled and drooled, flapping her arms up and down.
“How about you hold her and we’ll take the suitcases,” Sidney suggested, glancing at David who was trying to collect Liam, who had lost interest in the mystery of my arms and was running around us in circles.
Sidney convinced Liam it was imperative that he help him roll out his suitcase and David led the way, pulling my much bigger suitcase behind him. I snuggled Rosie against me and inhaled her intoxicating baby scent. I hadn’t been around a baby in longer than I could remember, with the exception of Skype calls from my niece.
“Looks good,” Sid remarked, winking. I rolled my eyes and followed the group out into the cold winter weather.
The drive to Sid’s house was shorter than I’d expected. I sat in the front seat next to David, while Sidney sat in the back of the SUV answering Liam’s never ending questions. We made small talk, and I was relieved that to know that Sid wasn’t keeping me a secret from his friends. “They keep to themselves,” he’d said as we got in the car. “Nothing we say or do will get back to the media.” I wondered if he was hiding me for a reason or if keeping a low personal profile really made his life that much easier.
We pulled into the driveway of a snow covered house that was introduced to me as ‘home.’ It was next to a frozen lake and was away from the rest of the town. I stared at it, enchanted by the sparkling of the show and the smoke coming from the chimney. Behind the heavy wooden door were hardwood floors and a wood burning fireplace. It radiated warmth and had obviously been set up in anticipation of our arrival. Heavy couches were draped with wool blankets and pictures of smiling faces were hung on the walls. I savored the scent of burning wood and warm air and felt the tension begin to leave my body along with the stresses of our lives in Pittsburgh. A few feet from the front door sat a small, but homey kitchen with light wooden cabinets and new looking appliances. There were no walls separating the kitchen, living room, and dining area. I kicked off my shoes as the boys dropped the suitcases off in a room down the hall. I circled around the kitchen with Rosie in my arms, both of us admiring the plate of cookies that sat on the island in the middle.
Sid,
Call us when you get in, dinner is in the fridge for you to heat up.
xo Mom
I smiled at the hand written message and tried to picture what it would be like to meet his family. I shivered nervously. Grabbing a cookie, I wandered down the hallway, stopping to admire the pictures on the walls, various snap shots of family. At the end of the hallway stood the master bedroom. It had high ceilings and adjustable lighting with a huge bed in the centre of the room. It looked a lot like our room in the states, but with a patchwork quilt on the bed and a fire place in the corner. There was an en suit bathroom and a huge closet, the two requirements for any luxury room. Rosie and I bopped around the room, admiring the Jacuzzi tub in the bathroom and the plush carpet in the bedroom. David offered to take her from me but I held her close and told him not to worry. I loved the feeling of her little body in my arms. I’d taken her snowsuit off and she was dressed in white footie pajamas with pink polka-dots. She hadn’t stopped smiling since we’d arrived and Liam sat on the floor playing with an action figure while the two men chatted candidly. I was reminded of the night Sidney told me he couldn’t help but be jealous of his friend’s who had families. I could get used to the idea of having our own family, it couldn’t be that hard. I’d hardly had time to daydream when that thought was stricken from my mind by the pungent odor that seemed to be coming from the sweet little girl I held in my arms. She started to cry and I had not problem handing her back to David as the smell made me gag. Sidney laughed at my wrinkled nose and furrowed brow.
After promising Liam we’d see him soon, we flopped onto the couch in front of the crackling fire, alone in the house for the first time. I snuggled into him, our arms wrapped around each other and my head on his shoulder. A calmness washed over me and I felt more at ease than I had in weeks. His fingers stroked my side, finding their way under my shirt. I could have fallen asleep in the comfort of his arms, I could have stayed there forever and spend my life wanting for nothing.
“Let’s stay in tonight,” he whispered softly, his breath tickling my neck, “just us.”
“That sounds nice,” I mumbled, not ready to move from him.
“If you want we could fill up the tub,” he kissed the top of my head.There was a lot we couldn’t do, Sidney couldn’t watch television, he couldn’t read, or do anything that required his eyes to focus for too long. Anything that could cause too much pressure on his brain was out of the question, but the one thing we could do, was be together, and with the fire burning and the snow falling outside the window I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather be doing.

Chapter Text

I stood in front of the bathroom mirror scrutinizing my appearance, in the bedroom discarded clothes covered the bed and floor. I’d tried on at least ten outfits and nothing felt right. In less than an hour I’d be meeting Sidney’s family and I wanted nothing more than to make a good impression. I’d started with a black swing dress with white polkadots but decided it showed too much skin and moved on to black high-waisted pants and a grey sweater with black bumblebees, it wasn’t me. I struggled between wanting to look acceptable and still look like me. My final attempt was a dark grey jersey cotton skirt and a mustard yellow sweater, paired with black tights. It would have to work, I had run out of options. I pulled my hair into a high pony tail and kept my makeup simple. Taking one last look in the mirror I nodded in approval and went to meet Sidney in the living room.
“You look great,” he smiled, getting up from the couch where he’d been waiting for me.
“Yeah?” I looked down and smoothed my hands over my skirt.
“Definitely,” he came towards me and kissed my forehead reassuringly. “You don’t need to be nervous,” he laughed and squeezed my hand.
“I can’t help it,” I looked up at him and scowled. “They’re you’re parents, they’re going to...”
“Love you,” he interrupted me, “they’re going to love you.”
“What if they don’t?” I put my palm on his chest. “What if they think I’m a total freakshow?”
He took a moment to study my anxious face, trying not to laugh. “If at any point they indicate you are a freakshow we will leave.”
“We will?” I couldn’t tell if he was being serious.
“Yup,” he rubbed my back affectionately. “And I can say that because I know that’s not going to happen.”
“How have they reacted to other girls you’ve brought home?”
He looked down at his socked feet then met my eyes. “I haven’t taken a girl home to meet them since high school,” he admitted. “But I’ll make you a deal, if they don’t like you we’ll fly to the Island tonight and I’ll owe you something sparkly.”
While I didn’t approve of his bribing me I was impressed with his certainty.
“But if I’m right, and they love you, you have to stop being so hard on yourself and admit that I am healthy enough to get all up in you.” His hands moved from my back to my bum and he pulled me closer.
“Get all up in me?” I laughed, wrapping my arms around his waist.
“You know what I mean,” he smiled and squeezed my bum suggestively.
“Fine,” I sighed. “We have a deal.”
I parked the truck in front of the snow covered house that Sidney had indicated as his parents’. We sat in silence for a few seconds while I tried to calm myself, taking deep breaths and reminding myself of our deal.
“You okay?” he reached across the center console and rubbed my thigh.
“Yeah,” I whispered, my stomach in knots.
I decided I might as well get it over with, and we got out of the truck. Hand in hand we walked up the shoveled path and towards the front door. Lights were hung on the eves of the house and a wreath decorated the wood door, even the welcome mat was holiday themed. He squeezed my hand before turning the knob and ushering me in to a part of him I had yet to see.
“Sidney?” a voice called from another room. We stood in the foyer taking off our snowy boots and damp coats.
“Hey Mom,” he replied loud enough for her to hear. No sooner had the words left his mouth than a woman appeared in front of us. She had short blonde hair and was grinning from ear to ear.
“Hi honey,” she hugged him tightly, her head coming just below the spot mine reached on his chest. “It’s so good to see you,” squeezed his arm. I held my breath and waited for her notice me.
“You must be Beatrice,” she let go of Sid and turned to me, resting her hand on my arm. “It’s so nice to finally meet you!” There was that word again, finally, it reminded me that he talked about me, a thought that made me feel giddy. I smiled back at her, clasping my hands in front of me to keep them from shaking.
Sidney guided me into the living room and we sat side by side on the soft leather couch. His mom disappeared into the kitchen and I heard her call for the rest of the family. I clenched my hands together in my lap, my palms were sweaty and I couldn’t seem to get comfortable.
“You’re wonderful,” he leaned into me and whispered. “and super hot.” I rolled my eyes, but felt my cheeks getting warmer. “I like you a lot,” he continued. I knew he was trying to calm me down and distract me, it wasn’t quite working but I appreciated the effort. In his final attempt he cradled my reddened face in his hand and kissed me softly. I melted into his kiss and reminded myself that we were in public. I wanted to crawl onto his lap and wrap myself in his affection, I can’t guarantee I wouldn’t have if we hadn’t been interrupted.
“Hey there,” his father cleared his voice. We pulled away from each other to find his brother and sister standing a few feet away from us.
“Hey,” Sid leapt up from the couch to greet them. His father pulled him into a warm hug and slapped him on the back.
“Beatrice, right?” a female version of Sidney approached me. I’d seen pictures of her, but I was surprised at the uncanny resemblance between brother and sister.
“You can call me Bea,” I smiled politely as I stood up to greet her.
“Cool,” she sat down where Sid had been and I joined her. “How was the trip up?” she asked casually.
“It was good,” I answered. “I’ll never complain about a private plane.” I tried to relax.
“No kidding,” she laughed. “I love when he gets those.”
“This is Beatrice,” I heard Sidney say to his father. I smiled at Taylor and went to meet the final member of his immediate family. He shook my hand and told me to call him by his first name.
“So how’s the head?” Taylor asked after we’d all sat down. I was squeezed between the two Crosby children on the couch while his parents sat in chairs across the room.
“It’s pretty good,” Sidney replied, he subtly snaked his fingers between mine and squeezed my hand.
“Have you gotten back on the ice at all?” his mother asked.
“No,” his face fell slightly. “I’m not even allowed to drive right now,” he looked at me, half smiling.
“Tough when you’re dating the medic, eh?” his father laughed.
“She keeps me from getting into trouble,” he remarked.
“That must be a job,” Taylor snorted beside me. “What do you do? Lock him in the basement?”
“I considered it,” I laughed. “But he’d find a way to work out the second I turned my back.” My comment earned laughter from the room and I felt some of my tension melt away.
We joked a bit more about Sidney’s stubborn ways and intense work ethic before the conversation took a turn I’d been dreading.
“So, Sid says you’re from PEI,” his mother began. “How did you end up in Pittsburgh?”
The topic of my past and my life was not one I was good at. “My brother lives in Philadelphia so after finishing my first degree I moved in with him and decided to get my second degree at Penn. I figured I’d seen Philadelphia and Pittsburgh was the next closest city.” I’d tried to be casual and informative but worried I ended up sounding flakey.
“Well it’s a great city,” she remarked, smiling at me reassuringly. I nodded, agreeing, and waited for the next question to come at me.
“How’d you score such a great job?” This one came from Taylor, who was watching her brother’s hand resting on my leg. “I didn’t know they hired girls.”
I laughed at her last comment, it was exactly what I’d been worried about when I applied all those months ago. “I have no idea,” I admitted. “I’m sure the degrees helped, when I applied it was more just to see if I could get an interview than anything. Is it a cop out if I say I got lucky?”
“In more ways than one,” Sidney whispered in my ear. I squeezed his hand as tight as I could, now was not the time to be getting me all riled up.

The conversation flowed and I told them about my family and listened eagerly to stories about Sidney as a little kid. He later told me that I was quite impressive and charming, and he was proud that I hadn’t once let a curse word slip out. After we ate lunch I was helping clear the table when I heard the words ‘pond’ and ‘challenge’ come from Sidney’s mouth. I placed the plates on the counter and walked back to the living room where Taylor and Sidney were sitting.
He looked at me like he’d been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. I studied his guilty face and waited for him to start explaining.
“I’ll be fine to skate for a few minutes,” he began. “I can’t come all this way and not play with my poor little sister.” He looked at me with a goofy grin on his face. I didn’t say anything, instead waited for him to continue, amused by his explanation. “I’ve been fine all day, hardly any head pain at all. We won’t skate too hard, very little blood will rush to my head.” He reached out and took my hand in his as if pleading with me. Taylor sat across from us smiling, obviously enjoying the image of her brother begging.
“I didn’t say anything,” I smiled coyly.
“You had that look.”
“It’s your head, bud.” I said, a slightly cold edge to my voice. While I was worried, I wasn’t used to the overprotective act.
“If you really think it’s that dangerous,” he began, hesitating.
“Just be wise,” I squeezed his hand.
He continued to explain himself as we drove back to his house, his sister and parents were meeting us there a little later. I smiled listening to his logic and didn’t bother to argue. He knew his body and wasn’t stupid enough to put it in jeopardy, I had to recognize that I was more uptight with him than I would have been with any other player.
“I’m excited to see you skate,” he said as we walked to the bedroom to change.
“Skate?” I questioned, pulling my sweater over my head.
“Yes, Beatrice, skate. You know, with blades, on ice, moving. Skate.” He laughed. “You can skate, right?”
I rolled my eyes and tossed my skirt aside, now standing in front of him in tights and a bra. “Of course I can skate.”
“On ice?” he clarified. I was slightly offended, what did he think I did with my childhood?
“On ice, on wheels, on boards.” I smiled and peeled my tights off. “But I don’t have skates of any variety here.”
He opened the closet and rustled around, tossing out track pants and hoodies behind him then reemerging with a box in his hands. “It’s a damn good thing your boyfriend thinks of these things,” he handed me the box, grinning like a small child. Inside was a pair of white skates in my size.
We bundled up in preparation for the cold. I pulled a pair of his pants on over my leggings, they were a little tight at the hips, but surprisingly fit quite comfortably otherwise. After deciding my fancy winter coat wouldn’t do much, I layered two of his long sleeved shirts under an old Penguins hoodie. Before we left the house, skates slung over our shoulders, Sid wrapped a scarf around my neck and pulled a toque over my head. I looked ridiculous, but I would avoid frostbite, which was a bit more important.
A large section of the lake had been cleared of snow and nets were set up at either end of the makeshift rink. I sat on one of the benches that lined the side closest to the house and although I was perfectly capable of tying my own skates, Sidney knelt down to do it for me, kissing me softly after tying the last bow.
“Take it easy,” I reminded him before he stood up. He smiled and rolled his eyes. I watched as he glided across the patch of ice, his body relaxing and getting into the familiar rhythm. I was content to just watch him, embarrassed to admit I hadn’t been on ice skates in years. Contrary to belief, roller skating wasn’t the same, similar, but not at all the same.
“Well come on then,” he called to me. “Show me what you’ve got.” He gently stroked my competitive side.
I stood up on my shaky legs and took a second to get used to the sensation. Soon enough it all came back to me and I slowly moved towards him. “So if I’m doing this, does it mean you’ll lace up some quad skates and try your hand on the derby track?”
“That could be arranged,” he took my hands in his and started skating backwards like a patient coach with a nervous toddler. “But, I believe you owe me something else.”
“I do?”
“Well, my family seems to like you,” we spun around is a slow circle. “Not that there’s anyway the could not,” he kissed my nose and stared down at me adoringly.
The rest of the afternoon and the ones following were spent on the pond. Sometimes we’d skate hand in hand, and others I’d sit at watch Sidney take shots on Taylor while their father coached her. It didn’t take long for me to feel comfortable around them. I could see parts of Sidney in both of his parents. They were both so kind and welcoming like their son. I was relieved to be accepted into their family so easily. Not once was the word ‘freakshow’ uttered and the only comments regarding my ink covered skin were positive, complimenting the colour or asking the meaning. I was preparing myself to admit that he was right, it would take some time, but I’d hold up my end of the bargain.
Our last night in the slightly bigger than cozy get away, we sat in front of the crackling fire wrapped in each other. We’d spent the day exploring the town and making some appearances. Taking pictures and staying out of the way was becoming second nature to me, and I was refusing to let it bother me. We’d had his parents over for dinner, a dinner that I had very successfully ordered and a table that I had set with paper towel napkins folded into little hats. Sidney decided that I at least had to get points for my effort. I was just impressed that I’d remembered to put out plates. It was bitter sweet to be leaving. I was eager to see my own family, but I’d enjoyed getting to know his. I felt closer to him than I ever had, it reassured me that our relationship was far more secure than any I’d been in before. I couldn’t remember the last time we had sex, and while I wanted it, I didn’t need it to feel close to him, which was both terrifying and comforting.
“You’ve definitely won my parent’s approval,” he broke our sleepy silence.
I snuggled closer to him and let my hand fall on the inside of his leg. “I’m glad,” I mumbled into his chest.
“They were surprised I was bringing someone home,” he stroked my hair.
“You’ve really never done that?” I looked up at him.
“Nope, I’ve never felt like anything was going to last long enough.”
“And It’s different with me?”
“I think so,” he said hesitantly. “What about you?”
“I’ve never brought anyone home either, but they met Millie a few times. They didn’t like her.”
“Should I be worried?” he laughed nervously.
“Nah, I’m pretty sure they already like you.” It was strange to think that my family already knew Sidney, even though they’d never met him. They knew what he did for a living, they knew how he got there, they knew about his family and parts of his personality. A few months earlier I was the same. I could list off facts about him and scoring statistics, but the person I knew of then wasn’t even half of the person who had his arm wrapped around me, the owner of the heartbeat that echoed through my head. He was so much more than I could describe to anyone, more than I could fully comprehend. The man who watched as I danced around the house in my underwear, who sat quietly while I cried, and who had resigned himself to putting my clothes in the hamper for me, he was the one I was in love with, not the guy in the commercials or the one on the posters. The more human he became the deeper I feel, knowing the answers to questions that would never appear in interviews, and seeing him at his worst.
“Would they still like me if they knew what I was about to do their baby?” his voice was deep and raw, his hot breath on my neck. I sat up straight and looked at him warily. “I swear to you, I am okay,” he traced his finger along my jaw. “It’s been long enough,” he kissed me softly.
I moaned in approval and ran my tongue along his bottom lip. His hand slipped under my shirt and up my back and I climbed onto his lap.
“You better not be lying to me,” my voice was breathy. “I don’t think I can go any longer without you getting all up in me.”
“I know,” he kissed my forehead. “I can hear you in the shower.”
My face got hot and I couldn’t meet his eyes. I had tried so hard to be quiet, without sex I had been left to my own devices.
“You have no idea how hot it is,” his lips returned to mine. “Or how many times I wanted to join you.” He pulled my shirt off and tossed it across the room.
“Next time, please do.” I giggled and tangled my hands in his hair. His lips on mine, his hands wandering my body, I couldn’t get enough of him. My mouth moved to his neck and he groaned. The moisture between my legs was increasing with his every touch, I rocked my hips back and forth against the evident bulge in his jeans seeking some relief. His shirt didn’t stand a chance and I discarded it on the floor, running my hands down his sculpted chest. I marveled at how attracted I was to him. The energy rushing through my was like nothing I’d ever known. My eyes met his and I could feel myself sinking further into him. His kind brown eyes, clouded with lust and sparkling with honesty. Fear snuck up inside me. I was so far gone, there was no way I would get out of it in one piece. I bit my lip and studied the face I’d already memorized, the straight edge of his nose, defined cheek bones, thick lashes surrounding his eyes and of course his lips. Lips he bit when he was thinking, lips he coated in my chapstick when it was too cold outside, lips that when used properly gave me more pleasure than I’d ever known. I shivered at the thought that they could be used on anyone but me. I recalled the day I sat on the floor of the shower after coming home from the hospital. The day I made the decision to live my life, it had been so easy to say I wouldn’t be afraid anymore. I straddled his lap and tried not to get lost in his eyes, terrified to recognize the intensity of my attachment. He rubbed his hands up and down my back, waiting for me to do something, anything, touch him, kiss him, fall completely and entirely in love with him. Concluding that I’d already done the latter I leaned down and kissed him, forcing all my hesitation and apprehension into it, as he pulled me closer and kissed me deeper I watched it float away, relieved to know that his feelings matched mine.
Making up for lost time, he pushed me onto the couch and hovered over me, his hand moving down my pants and coming into contact with the dampness of the situation.
“Did I do this?” he smiled smugly.
“You had a part in it,” I kissed him lightly. “But really I’m thinking about Geno in my head.” I bit down on my lip trying not to laugh at my own cruel joke.
“You’re horrible,” he laughed and captured my lips in his. My pants slid off and my bra met the floor, his fingers teased me over the fabric of my underwear. I wanted to scream for him to do something, but instead I dug my teeth gently into his bottom lip and pressed myself into his hand. Finally, his fingers moved under the wet cotton and directly to my clit. I gasped, finally getting closer to what I wanted. He moaned in response which only turned me on more. I moved my hands from his back to the button of his pants, I needed them off, in the same heap as mine. My fingers fumbled around until finally they came undone and was able to push my hands inside. His solid erection pushed against the fabric of his tight boxers and ran my hand gently along the outline. He let out a raspy groan and moved his hips towards my hand. Teasingly I stroked him without making skin on skin contact. I felt his fingers plunge inside me and tightened my grip. My stomach erupted in butterflies and I knew I couldn’t last much longer. As if he could read my mind, he pulled his hands away and slipped out of his pants and boxers. Finally, I could feel his skin against mine, getting us closer to the part I’d been fantasizing about for what felt like months. I wrapped my hand around him and pumped it up and down a few times before he stopped me.
“We’re never waiting this long again,” he growled, lining himself up with me. I kissed him eagerly and lost myself in him as he pushed into me. My hands and electronic aids were nothing compared to him. Our time apart made the reality of him feel even bigger. It wasn’t long before our breathing was heavier and I was having trouble keep quiet. My body was electric and the familiar feeling of reaching the peak returned to my stomach. My hips moving with his and my hands tangled in his hair I couldn’t pull my eyes off of him, beads of sweat forming on his brow, his cheeks flushed and eyes staring back at me. For the first time in my life I didn’t want anything, more content that I knew possible I kissed him, breathing in the smell of sex and men’s body wash.
“Let go,” he whispered, voice strained, lips touching mine. His encouragement made it impossible to hold off and every muscle in my body tightened as I dove off of the edge into my own abyss. An eruption of warmth and tingles washed over me. He followed shortly, groaning and falling into me with a sigh. His head resting on my shoulder, I brushed my hand through his hair. The weight of his body on mine was comforting, keeping me safe from the world around us.
“Well, it’s good to know I haven’t lost my touch,” he said after catching his breath. He kissed me gently and sat up, inviting me to snuggle against him. We spent the rest of the night wrapped in a blanket with no limitations to our affection.

Chapter Text

The plane touched down in Charlottetown shortly after noon. I had decided not to tell my parents and instead surprise them. Simon greeted us at the arrival gate, holding the hand of a very pregnant Helen.
“Welcome home, little sister.” He said, hugging me tightly.
“Thanks for picking us up,” I let go of him and turned to Helen. Her hair was pulled off of her face and despite her exhaustion she looked radiant. “So now that I’m here you have permission to go into labour,” I laughed, giving her an awkward side hug, trying not to squish her stomach.
“This baby better have only been waiting for Auntie Bea and not for the new year,” she ran her hands over her protruding stomach which was covered by her heavy winter jacket. Beside me Sidney stood nervously. He’d confessed on the plane that he was anxious about meeting my family. I laughed and told him I knew the feeling.
“This is Sid,” I introduced him casually, turning my face up towards him. “He’s kind of a big deal.”
“You play badminton for some big team right?” Simon teased, shaking Sidney’s hand.
“We came in second in the city,” he played along.
Helen stared at the two men in awe. She blushed as Sid took her hand in his, shaking it gently. “I’m sorry,” she stammered. “It’s just that you are so much better looking in person.” Sidney laughed politely and Simon shook his head in disbelief.
“First time meeting the guy and that’s what you introduce yourself with?” he patted her shoulder affectionately. “Are we going to blame that on baby brain?”
“No,” Helen scoffed at my idiot brother. “I’m just being honest.”
I told Helen I agreed with her and we headed out to the car, leaving the guys to get our luggage.
“I want to hear everything,” she grasped my arm excitedly as we left the building.
Simon and Sidney met us at the car shortly after I’d finished filling Helen in on the last few months. She was asking me the dirty details of our sex life when the doors opened and the guys climbed in, letting the cold air in with them. Simon, John, and our parents all lived within a kilometer or two of each other about twenty minutes out of the city. Cherry Valley wasn’t a town so much as an area. A collection of fields and old houses with one church and two cemeteries. Morbidly that was one of my favourite things about the Island, you were never far from a cemetery, somedays if left like their were more graves cemeteries than there were people. I peered through the foggy window as the familiar sights from my childhood surrounded us. Schools I’d gone to, parks I’d played in, and the boardwalk where I’d spent the summers of my teen years serving lobster to loud tourists. I knew every backroad, every sidewalk, and most of the coastline, but it felt like a lifetime since I’d stared off into the ocean hoping there was more to my life than farms and fisheries.
Sid squeezed my hand as the scenery quickly changed from buildings and ocean, to fields and ocean. I was anxious about introducing to him to my family. I had no doubt that they would love him, but having never taken a significant other home I didn’t know what to expect. I could only guarantee two things, the first, that there would be a lot of family come Christmas day, the second that most of them would be drinking. I shuddered to think what would happen tomorrow, I’d have to politely tell all my relatives to keep their mouths’ shut and not leak any pictures to the press. Again, things that Millie and I had never worried about.
We turned onto the dirt road that lead to my childhood home. Instead of red dirt, it was covered with a thick layer of tightly packed snow. The white farmhouse came closer and squeezed Sidney’s hand tighter, smiling at him giddily. It looked the same as it always had, a veranda on the front with two chairs and a small iron table- the chairs had been stripped of their cushions-, a cluster of trees to the right making a small orchard, and the mailbox a few feet from the front path with KELLER printed in thick black letters. Ironically the mailbox was supposed to distinguish our mail from the others in the area, but the two closest houses also had KELLER on their mailboxes. In their youth, my brothers would reconfigure the ‘E’ to look like an ‘I’ and for brief periods we were the KILLER family.
Hand in hand Sidney and I approached the house, leaving our bags in the car to be worried about later. Helen and Simon would enter first, acting as they usually would and we would follow in the same manner. Sid leaned down to me and kissed me quickly before the door opened, winking and smiling as we walked into the house. It smelled like my childhood. Musk from the age, smoke from the fireplace and vanilla from my mothers candles. I inhaled deeply, feeling a warmth spread over me and stripped off my jacket and boots.
“What are you two doing here?” I heard my mother ask, her voice coming from the kitchen. “I thought you weren’t coming until supper.”
“What? We can’t come early? You want us to leave?” Simon called back teasing her.
“Oh hush. Come in here and tell me if you think this is enough wine for tomorrow.” I giggled at her nonchalance. She had no idea we were there.
We made our way down the hall to the kitchen where my mother was busying herself with pie crust. It was tradition that everyone come over after mass for apple pie and drinks. Bottles of wine and hard liquor covered half of the counter, enough to last the average family a year, but our family the next three days.
“I don’t think you have enough white,” I said sarcastically, eyeing the eight bottles.
It took her a second to realize the voice didn’t belong to Helen and when my mother turned from the counter to face me she screamed and dropped the rolling pin. It landed on the floor with a thud and she ran towards me, her eyes filling with tears. Her arms wrapped tightly around me the only thing she could say was “what.” I laughed, hugging her back, waiting for her to calm down before I bothered to explain. But instead of asking for an explanation she looked me dead in the eye and said “Well it’s a damn good thing I forgot to send half of your presents because I reckon the first box is already in Pittsburgh.”
“Oh good,” I mocked relief, “I was really worried I wouldn’t have anything to open.” She swatted me with her dishtowel and mumbled something about being a smart ass before turning to my brother.
“How could you keep this from me?” she swatted him too, this time with her hand. “You think I wouldn’t want to know that your sister was coming home?”
“I swear I didn’t know until two days ago,” Simon held up his hand and backed away from her.
“It’s true, I didn’t even know until a few days ago.” I added.
“I thought you had to work...” she looked at me confused, trying to understand the situation.
“I do,” I smiled. “I kind of brought work with me.” I motioned to Sidney, who before that she’d managed to ignore completely.
“Oh my...” she gasped. “Oh my word. Beatrice Keller! What is going on?” She looked from me to Sid then back to me.
“Well you’re always telling me to bring the people I’m dating home to visit,” I grinned.
“Is she serious right now?” She turned to Helen and Simon who nodded. “Do you kids tell me anything?” she shook her head.
“Mum, this is Sidney,” I introduced them.
“It’s so nice to meet you,” Sid held out his hand to her. My mother took his hand in hers and pulled him into a hug.
“John!” she hollered to my father after telling Sidney how happy she was to meet him. “I think you should come down here.” She continued to gush over Sid and apologize for not seeing him when we walked in.
“Bumble!” my father called to me as he came into the room. I ran to him and flung myself into his arms. “When did you get here?” he asked, pulling my against him.
“Just now,” I smiled up at him. “Almost gave mum a stroke,” I laughed.
“You should probably not scare your mother like that,” he rubbed my back. “Hey Bumb, why is Sidney Crosby in our kitchen?” he asked. My father had called me Bumble for as long as I could remember. Sometimes it was Bumble Bea, but usually the Bea was dropped.
“Because I’m dating him,” I replied, my face still mushed against his chest.
“Really?” He moved to look at my face.
I grinned and nodded.
“Well right on,” he kissed my forehead and let go of me to greet Sidney.
Sidney meeting my father wasn’t the most memorable of moments, but it is one I would never forget. They shook hands, greeting each other in a respectful but casual manner and quickly began a conversation about things other than Sidney’s career and hockey. I was so relieved to watch them sitting in the living room, smiling and chatting while I helped my mother make the bed in my childhood room. I wasn’t surprised that they got along so well, it’s often said that women are attracted to men who have similar qualities as their father. Until that night I hadn’t realized the shared traits, both patient and level headed, headstrong and driven. But more importantly they were both supportive and made me feel safer than I thought possible. After the last pillow had been fluffed mum went back downstairs, leaving me alone in a room that could hardly contain all the memories. For the most part I’d taken down the posters and nicknacks from my teenage years, the exception was a huge map of the world that hung next to my bed. It was framed with postcards from places from places I’d longed to be and was faded from the sun that shawn through window on the nicest of afternoons. I was fourteen and couldn’t wait to leave when I saw the map in the corner of an office supply store. Without a second thought I spent the last of my saved allowance on glossy, weighted poster and spent the next four years gazing at it longingly. I smiled to myself lay back on the bed, looking at it from the same angle I had so long ago. I rolled over to face the wall and noticed something wedged between the yellow wall and my bed. The moment I pulled it to me I knew what it was. The cover was thick and black, with my name written carefully in silver pen across the front, a stretched out elastic was fastened to the edges of the back cover to keep the pages inside secure. The pages that contained every thought, secret, and emotion from my adolescence. Somehow my journal had stayed on the Island while I went off seeking adventure. I carefully opened the book and ran my fingers over the soft pages, feeling the imprints made by my pen. The first entry expressed my glee, I’d wanted this ‘adult’, ‘fancy’ journal for so long and that day my grandmother had presented to me. I vowed to right every day and keep track of every book I read. The following two pages were filled with daily adventures and the recognition that writing everyday was not at all easy. I smiled at the words written by my younger self.
Curiously, I sat flipping carefully through then pages, reading parts of various entries and remembering the events mentioned. Mostly I wrote about the mellow drama of high school and hating everything, the further into the book, the more serious the entries. On July 3rd 2005 I wrote that I desperately wanted to break up with my long term boyfriend, Jack. I’d slept with him for the first time only two months earlier and I felt sick about it. Not so much the sex, but his insistence that it meant we were supposed to be together forever. I wrote about how nice he was when I told him I might like girls, but that nice wasn’t enough. On July 10th, 2005 I wrote three words I ENDED IT! my relief made obvious by the exclamation mark. I flipped a few more pages and landed on July 30th, 2005. The date had never been one that stuck out in my mind the way important milestones or birthdays do. It was just another day.
July 30th, 2005
It’s less than a month before I turn 18 and I’m laying on the living room floor of the only house I’ve ever lived in. Serena says we’re going to get tattoos that day. She’s going to wait for me. That must be how I know we’ll be best friends for life. I hope I don’t end up like my brothers. John is getting married this summer, Simon is probably going to be single his whole life and Andy, well I guess there’s still hope for him. Anyway they’re all significantly too old to be sitting in our living room on a Saturday night. It’s kind of sad really. But at least they can drink. I asked Dad if I could have a drink and he went on a speech about my kidneys. Doctor Dad takes the fun out of everything.
The brothers are going on about how this is a huge day in hockey history. I don’t really see why. It’s just more young guys being welcomed into a patriarchal system that turns them into demi-gods and further reinforces the idea that athletic prowess trumps all. But I have to admit I do like the game, even if it is really cliche and male dominated. Everyone says they already know who the first pick is, but all I can think is how funny it would be if someone else got chosen instead. When I mentioned this to John he scoffed and told me that’s ridiculous. It’s like he still thinks I’m a child. If only he knew that I’m not even a virgin anymore. I saw Jack at the grocery store yesterday. He didn’t even look at me. I’d call him a sore loser but I guess I did make him cry.
Oh boy, they’re about to announce the first pick. As if the papers haven’t been saying for weeks that it’s 99% likely that the kid with the hair will go to Pittsburgh. Sucks for us Flyers fans, apparently he’s kind of a big deal. I mean I’ve seen him play, but if I’m being honest I don’t pay much attention.
Well would you look at that, “The Pittsburgh Penguins are proud to select, from some weird place, the kid with the teeth, Sidney Crosby” The crowd goes wild.
He’s going to get so much tail tonight. I probably would. I mean if he washed some of that hair gel out he might be kind of hot.
-B
“Where do you want the bags?” Sidney asked, startling me.
“Just put them over there,” I pointed to the closet. I scanned the page again, amused.
“What are you smiling about?” He dropped that bags and sat beside me, his weight causing the bed to shift.
“Just reading some old stuff,” I closed the book quickly and lay in on my lap.
“What kind of stuff?” He wrapped his arm around my waist and pulled me closer to him, kissing the side of my head.
“It’s my silly old diary,” I replied.
“Oh? Anything steamy in there?” he reached for the book. I pulled it away from him, holding it on the other side of me. “C’mon,” he growled in my ear playfully. “I promise I won’t laugh.”
I smirked at him with raised eyebrows and returned the book to my lap, opening it to the entry I’d just read. I figured there was no harm in showing him the more mild of the entries, the ones that didn’t mention feeling hopeless or hating the world.
“Hey, that’s the day I got drafted,” he remarked, pointing to the date written carefully in the corner.
“Oh, I’m aware,” I bit my lip and moved the book towards him. I watched his reaction as he read down the page.
“Ouch,” he whispered reading over the part about demi-gods and patriarchy. I sat silently, biting my lip.
“The kid with the hair?” he looked at me with a crinkled brow and a slight smile on his lips.
“Sorry,” I murmured. He continued reading and didn’t lift his eyes from the page until he’d finished, then waited a few seconds before opening his mouth.
“Did you by chance wear a lot of black as a teenager?” he finally asked.
“Probably more than most,” I blushed. “I was a little angsty.”
“No kidding?” he laughed.
“In my defense it’s not like I knew you...”
“And I did use a lot of hair gel,” he added.
“You grew into your teeth,” I winked and rested my hand on his thigh.
He placed the book on the bed behind him and pushed my back, my head landing on the pillow. He hovered above me, eyes locked on mine. I slipped my hands up his back under his shirt and gently pressed my nails into him. His lips were inches away from mine and I could feel myself heating up.
“I didn’t get that much tail,” he whispered. “Not as much as I do now.”
“Yeah, because you washed out the gel,” I giggled.
He crushed his lips against mine and moved his hand to my chest. I had to stop myself from laughing as we kissed on my bed, bodies tangled together. I could feel him growing against my leg and he tried to move his hand under my shirt when we were interrupted by my mother’s voice calling for us to come downstairs. Sidney pulled away from me and frowned.
“Sorry babe,” I laughed and kissed his forehead before rolling off of the bed.
He groaned and stood behind me at the full length mirror while I tried to fix my hair. His groin pressed against my back I considered reaching back and making his life even harder but decided against it. We made ourselves presentable and headed back downstairs.
“Beeeeeeee,” I heard my name in a high pitched squeal and saw my niece running towards me.
“Lyla!” I gasped dramatically. “You’re so big, you look like a real person!” I picked her up and swung her around. I hadn’t seen the little girl in years, but Skyped with her regularly. She giggled and hugged me tightly while we danced around the room.
Sidney followed me into the kitchen where we found my family gathered. My three brothers, most of my cousins, some of my aunts and uncles, my grandmother, and my parents sat crowded at the table.
“Does this belong to someone?” I joked, holding Lyla high in the air.
“I’ll take her if no one else will,” John got up to greet me. He pulled me into a tight hug, Lyla squished between us.
“Don’t hog her!” Behind him my grandmother stood waiting impatiently. She looked smaller than I remembered, but smelt the same when she wrapped her arms around me. “I’ve missed my little Bea.”
“I’ve missed my big Bea,” I replied, resting my head on her shoulder. I’d spent much of my life following my grandmother. She was the original Beatrice Keller and I’d wanted to be just like her. She was tough and soft all at once and knew exactly what she wanted and how to get it. She was fiercely independent and taught me everything I needed to know about taking care of myself.
When I let go of her I saw that Sidney had already introduced himself to the rest of family and seemed to be doing well. We sat at the two free chairs next to John and prepared ourselves to be bombarded by questions. They made press conferences look like a cake walk. I laced my fingers between his and squeezed his hand. Maybe eight bottles of wine wasn’t going to be enough.

Chapter Text

I was already six drinks in by the time we headed to church. I’d never been good at holding my liquor and that night was no exception. After loudly explaining how very important it was that my family keep my relationship a secret, I crawled up the stairs to get dressed, giggling the whole time. Sidney followed behind like a skilled child minder chasing a wobbly toddler.
“I’m going to nap,” I proclaimed upon reaching the top of the stairs, then lay flat on the wood floor on my stomach.
“Nope, you’re going to get dressed,” he stood above me and hooked his arms under mine, hoisting me to a standing position.
“But I’d rather nap,” I whined and flopped back into him.
“You can nap in church,” he whispered in my ear and kissed my cheek.
When we finally got to my room I promptly pulled my sweater over my head and tried to seductively slide out of my pants, the attempt resulted in me tripping and falling onto the bed in a very ungraceful manner.
“Let’s focus more on getting dressed and less on giving me a show, okay?” Sid chuckled and unzipped my suitcase. “What do you want?” he motioned to my neatly folded clothes
“You,” I laughed and rolled over on the bed.
“To wear, Beatrice, I meant what do you want to wear,” he rolled his eyes and shook his head, still smiling.
It took some help from Sid, but eventually I was dressed in a black dress with green tights. I pulled my hair into a ponytail and tried to pretend I was sober. I figured no one could scold me too badly for showing up to church tipsy, I mean they served wine in the middle of the service anyway, I just had a head start on everyone. It took everything I had to keep it together while the priest told the story of the first Christmas. Not because it was particularly amusing, I’d heard it a few time before, but because everything was spinning and in my mind, mass had become a simulation video game. I held on to Sidney’s hand tightly and allowed my mind to drift off. I thought about how nice it was to be around my family, how much I wanted cake, and how lucky I was to have not puked on myself yet. It felt like forever, but finally we were sent off into the night to spread the word. We’d rather successfully avoided drawing attention to ourselves and snuck out the backdoor before anyone could approach Sidney for an autograph and question why he wasn’t with his own family.

When we arrived back at the house I made a beeline for the untouched snow on the frown lawn. My mother called after me confused but I ignored her and instead fell backwards into the fresh, crisp snow, fanning my arms and legs out attempting to create the perfect snow angel. I closed my eyes feeling the cool surface beneath, snowflakes fluttered from the black sky and landed softly on me. It all felt too perfect. I opened my eyes to find Sidney standing above me, his lips curved in a smirk. Without saying anything I reached up to him, he bent down and took my mittened hands in his, he assumed he was helping me up, instead I pulled him down into the snow with me. He cried out, more with laughter than anger and rolled closer to me. We lay silently watching the snow fall, feeling the frosty wind on our exposed cheeks. There was a comfort in our silence that I had never experienced, a certain stillness that communicated for us and wrapped us in its warmth. When I looked over at him, he was already facing me, his cheeks rosy and the tip of his nose red from the cold. Snowflakes had landed on his eyelashes and even though my legs were wet and cold I’d have been happy to spend the rest of my life laying in the snow next to him.
Christmas went by in a blur as it usually does. A whirlwind of family, food, and conversation. Because of our rushed departure I’d completely forgotten to pack the gift I’d been hiding in my closet for a month. When I realized that night that I’d forgotten it I nearly cried. Sidney, of course, was perfectly understanding and I made him promise not to give me my gift until we got home. He reluctantly agreed and we crawled into bed, having spent our first, of what would be many Christmases together.
I had yet to tell Sidney, but I one tradition each time I returned to the Island. When we woke up two days after Christmas I decided it was the perfect day to revisit old memories and after making a few calls I told Sidney to be ready to leave in half an hour and left out the details. I didn’t bother getting dressed up, this kind of event wasn’t one that required makeup. Instead I pulled on a pair of yoga pants and a sweater and laced up my winter boots. I borrowed my mum’s car and we set off into the city.
“So you’re not going to tell me anything?” he asked, turning down the radio which I had blasting.
“Nope, I sure am not,” I smirked and kept my eyes on the road.
“Not even a clue?” he persisted.
“We’re almost there, you’ll find out soon enough.” I reached across, squeezing his hand. I knew perfectly well that Sidney didn’t like being kept in the dark. His controlling tendencies were as prevalent off of the ice as they were on. He liked to be the one with the plan in his mind. A natural born leader.
He sighed and shook his head.

I parked behind what looked like a normal house and cut the engine. I’d purposely avoiding passing the front where Sidney was sure to notice the sign that specified what kind of business was run inside. We entered the shop through the back door, I’d been there a time or two and the owner had agreed to open just to see me. The familiar scent of disinfectant filled my nostrils. The heavenly mixture of Bactine, green soap, plastic packaging, and cleaning supplies made me grin. Sid eyed me suspiciously and I took his hand in mine, leading him into the main room. The floor was black and white checkered and the walls were painted red. Sketches and sample pieces hung everywhere.
“Travis?” I called from the edge of the room.
A tall man with his hair in a pony tail appeared in the doorway of one of the adjacent rooms. He smiled at me held his arms open “Beast! How’s it going?”
“Good!” I smiled back at him, giving him a quick hug. “Just home for Christmas.”
“Right, you were saying. This must be your top secret?” He motioned to Sid who stood awkwardly behind me. He’d been glaring at me seconds before Travis had appeared.
“This is Sidney” I introduced them. “I guess you can see why I didn’t want anyone else around,” I blushed. I’d known Travis for most of my life and quickly learned he was someone who could be trusted.
“Don’t worry about it Beast. It’s good to meet you Sidney, Travis.” The two men shook hands. Sidney still giving me weird looks. “So what do you have in mind?” Travis motioned for us to join him in the room. It was equipped with an adjustable exam table, sink, and of course a tattoo machine.
“Nothing fancy,” I pulled a sketch out of my bag and handed to him.
He looked at it for a few seconds then asked where I wanted it. I pointed to a spot on my side what had yet to be filled. “Five minutes,” he said and got up leaving us in the room. I could tell he was already in creative mode and had gone to draw the piece for me.
“What the hell are we doing here?” Sidney hissed from his spot near the door.
“I figured you wouldn’t come if I told you what my plan was,” I smiled and placed my hand on his chest.
“You’re not expecting me to...” he stopped and glanced at the machine in the middle of the room.
“Not if you don’t want to,” I reassured him.
“I don’t.” He said all too quickly. “How do you still have room?” He pointed to my side.
“It’s not that big. Besides this side is pretty clear, it’s the other one that has the bigger piece.” I pulled up by shirt to show him.
“Isn’t that kind of close to your... er...chest,” he sputtered, face getting red.
“I guess,” I hadn’t really thought about it.
“And this guy is going to be touching you? You’re okay with that?”
“Y’know that piece on my hip that goes from my pelvis to my bum?” I pointed to the side I was referring to.
He nodded, having spent many hours looking at my unclothed flesh.
“Travis did that one. He’s pretty used to touching people in awkward places.” I tried to sound comforting.
“I guess if it doesn’t bother you I can’t really say anything about it.”
I groaned and leaned up so my face was closer to his. “I love it when you talk like that. All aware that I’m the owner of my own body.” I kissed him, running my tongue along his bottle lip. He placed his hands on my lower back and I leaned my body against his.
He pulled away before things could get too heated. Although making it in a tattoo shop had always been on my to-do list, history had shown that it would take more than three minutes. I pouted and returned to my seat on the table.
Sid sat patiently watching as Travis inked the new image into my side. It was mildly uncomfortable but I’d endured worse. I couldn’t do much talking and had given Sid my phone as some form of entertainment while I closed my eyes. He’d spent a few minutes playing with it but quickly got frustrated with the touch screen, a feature his archaic cellphone lacked, and placed it on the table beside him.
“Does it hurt?” he asked studying the rapidly moving needle plunging into my skin.
“Mmhm,” I replied, eyes still closed.
“Worse than the others?” he stroked the side of my face with one of his fingers.
“No,” I said softly.
“I’m almost done,” Travis added. I felt some relief as he squired Bactine onto my open skin. The numbing agent helping to ease some of the burning.
“You’re phone keeps buzzing,” Sid pointed out.
“Just leave it, I’ll worry about it later.”

After the final colour had been added, Travis directed me to the full length mirror to inspect his handwork. It was perfect. Much nicer than the sketch I had given him to work with.
“Does it mean something?” Sid asked, standing behind me.
“Of course!” I looked at him in the mirror. I explained that the compass represented navigating my way through life and it was pointed north to represent Canada and always moving forward.
“I like that,” he smiled.
Travis covered the new ink with a bandage and I paid after catching up for a few minutes. I found it interesting to hear about the lives of people I’d gone to high school with. It had been less than a decade since graduation but already we were on different paths. I silently thanked a high power that I’d gotten out when I did as Travis told me about the latest scandal involving the girl who was crowned prom queen and her husband being convicted of fraud. I was so far removed from everyone and I would have had it any other way.
I said goodbye, promising Travis a place to stay if he ever went stateside and left.The cold winter air stung my cheeks as I ran across the parking and dove into the unlocked vehicle, only to find it was just as cold inside. I groaned and turned the ignition on, cranking the heat as high as it would go.
“It’s colder here, isn’t it?” I looked at Sidney who had his arms crossed around him, shivering.
“Easily by fifteen degrees, I can’t remember ever being this cold in Pittsburgh.” He leaned across the gearshift and wrapped his arms around my shoulders trying to warm me up.
“As much as I miss living here, I don’t miss this, I swear I’m frozen right down to my bones.” I complained, nuzzling my face into his neck.
“It’s that wet cold. Blame the ocean,” he laughed.
The car started to reach a more reasonable temperature and it felt safe to rely on my own body heat. I pulled out of the parking lot and suggested we grab dinner at a diner in the next town. The heat on high, the music at a singable level, we set off to explore the Island and get some much needed alone time. Between my parents and extended family we hadn’t had any uninterrupted time together. Not that time alone in my parents’ house would fit the bill anyway, when I’d tried to start something after everyone had gone to sleep Sidney shied away. At first I’d been deeply offended until he explained that it felt very wrong to have sex when my parents were across the hall. I had to respect his opinion, even if I thought it was ridiculous and left me with an itch I couldn’t scratch.
“Your phone is still vibrating,” he said as we headed out of town.
“It’s a good thing you grabbed off of the table because I didn’t even realize it wasn’t in my purse.” I laughed shaking my head.
He tilted his hips up and dug the phone out of his pocket, the floral case looking a bit odd in his big hands. “You have 5 unread messages,” he informed me, typing in my passcode to read them. “2 from Simon, 1 from Serena, 1 from your mum, and 1 from Helen.”
“What do they say?” I glanced over, confused that I’d managed to get 5 messages in less than an hour.
“Helen’s says: Rumbling in my abdominal area, please being your journey to witness my dilation process. Simon’s says: B-day! Get here STAT. The second says: This is kind of a BIG- in capital letters- deal. Your mum’s says: Don’t know if anyone has told you but Helen is in labour.” He looked up at me smiling. “Oh, and Serena says: Hey KittenTits, Luna and I miss you, hope you’re getting the D.”
“Holy shit!” I stared at him wide eyed, gripping the steering wheel.
“Does Serena know that I’m a forward?” he laughed, resting his hand on my leg. “Better yet, can I call you KittenTits? I like that...”
“Oh my god!” I took a deep breath trying to process everything. “Wait... what?” I looked over at him, his comments sinking in. “No, no one is allowed to call me that. And D means...” I realized I was wasting time when I should already be at Helen’s side. “Oh fuck, what if we miss it? What if I miss the whole thing?” I pressed my foot down a little harder on the gas.
“I’m no expert but I think these things take a few hours,” Sidney rubbed his thumb in circles on my thigh, but offered little comfort. “Besides, they’re not even at the hospital.”
The drive felt like it took forever even though I was 20km over the speed limit the whole time. Sidney tried to talk to me but I couldn’t form proper sentences. Despite my extensive training in emergency situations I was a bit of a spaz when it came to my own life. Someone cracks their head open on the ice? No problem let me get my suture kit. My sister-in-law is in labour? Well it’s a damn miracle I can even drive straight. I pulled into Simon and Helen’s driveway and raced into the house, neglecting to turn the car off. Also forgetting that I had a new, very tender tattoo on my side.
“Did I miss it?” I shrieked, running through the front door and into the living room.
“We haven’t even gotten into the water yet,” Helen looked up at me from her position lying on the floor.
“You said STAT,” I whined at Simon. I bent down to unlace my boots.
“Well I don’t know how long these things take,” he replied in defense.
Sidney came in behind me, holding the keys in his hand. “I told you there was no reason to speed. You’re a terrifying driver.”
I glared at him and rolled my eyes. I was about to argue that I’d been the one driving us around for the past few weeks and we’d survived just fine, but decided against it.
“Is there anything I can do?” I gently lowered myself to the floor next to Helen, who still looked radiant and put together.
“I think I’m good right now. The contractions are about seven minutes apart, I’m only four or so centimeters dilated.” She grinned, now on her knees, rocking back and forth.
I looked at her anxiously, floored by her calm demeanor. “Are you sure?” I clutched her hand.
“How about you make something for dinner?” My mother suggested, coming behind me and resting her hand on my shoulder. “I brought some sandwich stuff, and frozen soup you can defrost.”
I nodded eagerly and leapt to my feet. Sidney followed me to the kitchen and pulled me into a tight hug.
“I can’t tell if you’re terrified right now or just really excited?” he whispered into my hair.
“I can’t either,” I replied, pulling him tighter against me. We stayed like that for a few minutes, allowing my heart rate to return to a reasonable rhythm. His body against mine was a calming force I’d never had. I wondered briefly how one person could cause the most intense butterflies and moments later make me feel relaxed and rational. I chalked it up to magic and set off preparing the sandwiches.

“So, uhm,” Sid began, looking at the solid form of soup melting in the pot in front of him. “Is there a reason there is an inflatable swimming pool in the living room?” he asked awkwardly.
“She’s having a water birth,” I said, not recognizing anything abnormal about that statement.
“A what?” he crinkled his brow and looked at me perplexed.
“A water birth. Y’know, when the baby is born in a pool of water?”
“I didn’t know people did that,” I admitted. “Is that safe?”
“Safer than most drugged up hospital births,” I scoffed, putting a second piece of bread on the sandwich I’d be crafting.
“Wait, so she’s not going to the hospital? She’s having the baby in the living room?” He looked even more bewildered.
“Yes, Sidney.” I laughed. “She’s having a home birth, there aren’t any midwives on the island so technically my father is supervising the birth, but he doesn’t really do anything, he’s just around incase there is an emergency. It’s a bureaucratic myth that women need drugs and hospitals to give birth. The body knows what it’s doing.” I could feel myself getting a bit preachy. “Sorry, I just feel really strongly about women having options.”
“Don’t worry, I’m used to your feminist fueled speeches,” he teased. “It’s kind of hot.”
“I don’t know whether to be flattered or not,”
“Be flattered?” he shrugged, stabbing at the soup brick with a wooden spoon. “Wait, so does this mean you plan to have our children in the living room?” concern creeping across his face.
“I haven’t really been planning our children,” I lied. I’d thought about it more than once. How they’d have his smile and my eyes, his work ethic and my creativity. But I wasn’t willing to admit that.
“Oh me neither,” he looked down at his hands, awkwardly avoiding my gaze.
“I’m more focused on practicing,” I moved closer to him, sneaking one of my arms around his waist.
“Practicing?” he asked, eyebrow raised.
“Yeah, practicing without the procreation,” I winked and slid my hand down to his bum.
“I think I’m okay with that,” he smirked and kissed me lightly. “I think we should schedule some practice time as soon as we get back to the states,” his face inches away from mine. I would have been happy to practice right there on the kitchen floor but Simon interrupted our moment, looking for food. I reminded myself that I’d gone longer and went back to my sandwiches.

It felt like forever by the time Helen reached ten centimeters. After we’d all eaten and spent a few hours reminiscing I felt my eyelids getting heavier and my spot on the couch becoming increasingly comfortable. With Sid’s arm around me I wanted nothing more than to fall asleep with my head on his chest, but I was too anxious to keep my eyes closed for long, worried I would miss the birth.
At 11:20pm Helen started to push. Sidney, John, and Andy politely excused themselves and went down to the basement, far away from the noise and bodily fluids. While I was eager to witness everything, I couldn’t blame them for wanting to stay out of the way. I watched Helen move around the warm pool of water, her bikini top tight against her heaving chest. I was enchanted by her instinctive movements, her hips rocking and her breathing deep. Simon sat beside me, stunned and nervous while my father read the paper across the room. Helen had stated early on that she didn’t want any help unless it was life or death and we respectfully stood by, praying it wouldn’t come to that. 12:53am on December 28th I watched Simon reach into the water and catch my first nephew. His wrinkly little body pressed against Helen’s chest, my brother climbed into the water with them, despite still wearing his clothes. It was around that time that I started crying. I continued to weep as they cut the umbilical cord, delivered the placenta, and wrapped Felix Gideone Keller in a warmed blanket.
When everything was cleaned up, Sid and my brothers joined us.
“We won tonight,” Sid whispered, sitting beside me on the couch.
“That’s awesome,” I smiled, wiping my eyes with my sleeve.
“I thought it was exciting, but not enough to cry over,” he pulled me into him laughing softly.
“I can’t stop,” I sobbed into his chest, wrapping my arms around his neck. “I haven’t been able to hold him yet because I can’t stop shaking.” I was half laughing as I continued to whimper.
Sidney didn’t say anything, instead he just held me against him as I let the flood of emotions wash over me. I was still sniffling as Simon placed the bundled baby in my arms. His tiny face scrunched and red, he opened his inky blue eyes and looked up at me. I choked back more tears and ran my finger across his cheek, his skin was smooth with tiny hairs. I held him against me until my mother suggested we give Helen some privacy. I reluctantly returned Felix to Simon and after congratulating the new parents Sidney and I headed out into the cold night.
We drove home in silence, I couldn’t form words or think about anything but the tiny baby I’d just welcomed into my life. My heart ached at the thought of leaving him and my family, and I marveled at the reality that one little person had caused such a flood of emotion. I’d once regarded myself as a relatively levelheaded person who saved tears for the most tragic of events, but more and more I could see Sidney was breaking down the walls I had carefully crafted to protect myself. For the first time, I was okay with that.

Chapter Text

Stay, Stay, Stay

Chapter Twenty-One
Saying goodbye to my family left me broken hearted and lost. After Felix’s birth I spent as much time as I could with him nestled in my arms. Helen seemed glad to have the extra hands and Sid sat patiently beside me while I stared at Felix’s tiny fingers and delicate toes. I was enamored with the new man in my life. My phone stocked with pictures and my suitcase full of exclusive east cost and Canadian treats - roast chicken flavoured chips, raspberry cordial, Kraft Dinner, and Kinder Surprise eggs - I said a tear-filled farewell to my family, my home, and boarded the plane to Pittsburgh.

It was New Year's Eve and Sidney and I had been invited to a number of parties. Our plan was to arrive in Pittsburgh by 5pm and ring in the New Year at a team party hosted by the coach and his wife, by the time we went through customs, I knew being surrounded by people was the last thing I wanted to do.
“We should head over around eight,” Sid said as he pulled out of the airport parking lot.
“I’d really rather not,” I responded flatly. I’d been considerably quiet for the duration of our flight and still found myself avoiding conversation. I could tell by his subtle glances as I sat with my head against the window of the plane that he was worried. Likely convinced that he’d done something to upset me. Perhaps it was cruel, but I didn’t tell him otherwise. Wrapped in the tight embrace of my own emotions I disregarded everything and everyone around me.
“What do you mean?” He glanced at me, still keeping one eye on the road in front of him.
“Can you just take me home?” I ignored his question.
“I wasn’t planning on stopping anywhere,” his voice was stiff, reflecting my own inhospitable tones.
“No, I mean my home.” The words came out louder than I had intended them to.
“Hey,” he softened, placing his free hand on my thigh. “What’s wrong?”
I shook my head, not responding, and leaned against the cold window.
“I know you’re tired but we’ll have time to take a nap and still make it to the party. Who knows, maybe being around everyone will brighten your spirits.” He was still on the road towards his house.
“Sidney please just take me to the apartment. I don’t want to be around everyone, I just want to go home,” I forced the words out of my tight throat and squeezed my eyes shut, willing myself not to cry.
Without a word, he changed lanes and took the first turn in the direction of my apartment. We drove the few miles in silence, neither one of us daring to speak. The second the vehicle stopped in front of my building I got out, not waiting for him to turn the engine off. I ran inside and up the stairs to my purple door, desperate for privacy. Inside I found everything still and Luna asleep on the back of the couch. There were a few dishes in the sink, but otherwise my home was as I’d left it weeks ago. I scooped Luna up and headed to my room, closing the door behind me. My bed was still made, but the room looked bare, I’d gradually moved most of my clothing and makeup to Sidney’s. I curled up on top of the covers and pulled the extra quilt over me. Luna settled in beside me and quickly fell back asleep. I couldn’t pin point exactly what I was feeling, but I wanted to be alone. All that time surrounded by people had drained me and my heart ached thinking about the distance between Pittsburgh and P.E.I. There was no guaranteeing I would be home again soon, and while I had kept it from Sidney, that was part of the reason I hadn’t returned in so long. As illogical as it seemed the longer I was away the easier it became to be apart from everyone, and returning only made the separation harder.
I could feel my throat tightening with emotion and my vision becoming blurry. I hoped Sidney would forget about me and go to the party, but I couldn’t be sure. I didn’t need him hearing me cry again. I reached for the remote to my stereo and turned it on then pressed play on my phone. Leonard Cohen’s deep voice came through the wireless speakers and I let myself fall apart as the words of “Chelsea Hotel” echoed through my room. Luna remained purring beside me while I gasped and sobbed, struggling to find the source of my misery. My reaction was too extreme to be merely a result of saying goodbye, something I had done many times before. Unlike my tears the night Felix was born, there was no joy driving this emotional outburst. I cried for the family I was so far from, for the little boy who was so pure and unaffected by the world and heartache, but most of all I cried for myself. With every passing day I saw my spirit drifting away, I felt incredibly lost and immensely afraid of who I was becoming. I’d grown accustom to who I was alone, comfortable with the idea that I didn’t need anyone in my life romantically, but with Sidney gallantly swooping in and trying so desperately to make everything okay I found myself lost. I felt ungrateful admitting my hidden reservations to myself, but I knew it wasn’t him. He wasn’t doing anything wrong, I was. I’d been so adamant that our relationship be open and honest, but neglected to discuss any of my unease about our roles in each other’s lives.
I didn’t need a saviour, because heaven forbid he should leave me I’d be left more broken than alone. His presence as my protector was a bandaid solution for my own issues. Issues I’d long lived with, but learned to hide exceptionally well. My self-doubt and insecurity had remained hidden from the man I claimed to love. I thought that his love for me was enough to excuse the absence of my love for myself, but it didn’t. Instead it made me wonder why he was with me, if he was hiding me, and where our relationship could possibly go. I’d seen the wives of the men he worked with, their beauty left me itchy and clawing at my own unsatisfactory body, my nonconforming ideas, and alternative style choices. There was a part of me that would give everything to be like them, dressed in designer fashions with perfectly manicured nails and flawless skin. Maybe if I looked the part I’d feel like I was worthy of the position. I was all too aware of the thousands of women who would gladly take my spot in Sidney’s life. Thousands of women who would do anything for him without question. I saw their lingering eyes when he walked by, imagining he was theirs. I wondered if I shouldn’t let him go. Try to free him of whatever delusional idea kept him by my side. The idea of my life without him left me feeling cold, my sobbing louder and my breath just out of reach. My energy depleted I lay there, chest still heaving and stereo still playing. Leonard Cohen had been replaced by One Direction and I tried to laugh at the contrast, but couldn’t find the energy to smile. I closed my eyes and let my body sink into the bed beneath me, my muscles useless and limbs weak. I knew I could find comfort in sleep.

When I woke up the room was dark and the stereo was turned off. Luna remained beside me but my glasses had moved from the bed to the night stand. The door was open slightly and a sliver of light shone into the still room. My face felt stiff and I was reasonably disoriented. Careful not to disturb Luna I crept out of bed and turned on the lamp beside me. The light stung as my eyes adjusted. When I regained my vision I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. My face was blotchy and stained and my hair was all over the place. In the midst of my breakdown I’d ditched my pants and my t-shirt was wrinkled and streaked with the black eye makeup that had stained my face. I pulled off my shirt and let it fall to the floor, reaching for a sweatshirt Sidney had left in my room weeks ago. I tried to wipe some of the makeup off with a tissue but it only make my skin look raw and irritated. Giving up, I left my room hoping to find Serena and some form of chocolate. Instead, I opened the door to find Sidney laying on the couch, a book covering his face and a blanket draped over his legs. I felt sick knowing he’d been there the whole time. My suitcase sat outside my door, and the dishes that had once been in the sink were now drying on the rack. Sensing my presence, he lowered the book and saw me standing in the doorway, my appearance less than desirable and my body only half covered by the sweatshirt.
“Hey,” he said casually, placing the book on the table. Normally I’d have lectured him about reading when he was supposed to keep his eyes relaxed, but I could hardly speak.
I smiled sheepishly and tugged at the hem of the sweatshirt.
“Come sit,” he moved his legs and patted the couch beside him.
I looked at him and the spot and then back at him. I was waiting for something, for him to be angry, or to tell me how irrational I was. But instead he just smiled and waited for me.
I shuffled over and sat at the opposite end of the couch from him, pulling the blanket over my bare legs.
“Do you want anything? Tea maybe?” he stood up and walked towards the kitchen before I could reply.
“Okay,” my voice cracked, my throat felt rough and tender. I listened as he filled the kettle and set it on the stove, anticipating his return.
He sat back down on the couch while we waited for the water to boil. “You don’t need to sit so far away,” he said quietly.
I looked up at him hesitantly. I wanted to press my body against him, mould myself into the curve of his side and stay forever in the protective embrace of his arms, but I feared I’d find myself in a mess of tears again. The kettle whistled and he returned to the kitchen, coming back a few moments later with a steaming mug. One sugar, lots of milk, tea bag still in, he knew. He placed the mug on the coffee table in front of me and sat down.
“I’m sorry,” I croaked, keeping my eyes on the mug. “I don’t know how to explain myself but it was incredibly selfish of me to treat you like that.” I focused on keeping my words clear and my head level.
“You don’t need to explain anything,” he said softly. “Look, I can’t promise I’m going to ever understand you or how your mind works, because we are incredibly different people, but I can promise that I will listen and do my best.” He reached out to me, leaning across the space between us, his hand peacefully beside me.
“You shouldn’t have to do that.” I finally looked him in the eyes. “It’s not fair to you...”
“What isn’t fair is that you feel that way,” he said before I could continue.
I cringed at his words. I hated pity, so many people had remarked that it was unjust that I had been burdened with unregulated emotions. I was fully aware that well adjusted people didn’t do what I did.
“Did I do something?” He asked moving closer to me.
“No. Believe me when I say it’s not you.”
“Then what?”
I didn’t know where to start or how to explain without sounding ridiculous. I’d have been happy to forget the whole thing had ever happened. I was humiliated to know he’d sat outside my door while I fell apart.
“I know it’s hard to say goodbye,” he wrapped his arm around my shoulder and pulled me against him. I didn’t resist him and let my body fall against his.
“It is,” I murmured. “I don’t know when I’ll see them again.”
“We can go back after playoffs.” He kissed the top of my head.
“We?” I pulled away and faced him. “I don’t need you to pay my way.” I shook my head frustrated. “I don’t want you to make these plans for me.” I said calmly.
“I didn’t mean...”
“No,” I interrupted. “I know that’s not what you meant, but it feels like everything has been on your terms.” My voice was slightly louder than necessary.
“My terms?” he frowned at me. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“Do you not see it? You have the final say in everything. It was your decision to tell the team, it has been your decision to keep me from everyone else. You decided I should move in with you and you decided we were going home for Christmas.” I could feel myself getting frustrated and reached for the mug hoping the tea would calm me down.
He stared at me stunned for a few seconds before responding. “I did all of those things for you,” his voice was calm. “I’ve been putting off going public because it’s not fair to you. I knew what I was getting into when I signed my first contract, but you have no idea what it’s like. There is so much out there that I do not want you to see, there is so much hate waiting for us on the other side.” He shook his head and pinched the bridge of his nose, looking down at his lap. “Beatrice, I just want to make you happy. You said you were homesick and I took the opportunity that presented itself. You were stressed so I gave the chance to be around someone who loves you.”
“Serena loves me,” I shot back.
“That’s not what I meant. I meant someone who was willing to be there for you to help you get over the rough patch.”
“My whole life feels like a rough patch, Sidney!” I cried. “It never gets easier. I’m never going to be someone who is always happy and easy to get along with.”
“I know!” for the first time in our relationship his voice was louder than mine. “Shit Bea, I know that! Do you think I’m an idiot? I watch you. I’ve seen how you react to things. I can’t read your mind but my god your face says a lot. You think if I didn’t want to be here I would? You think I’d have stuck around after you collapsed in my locker room if I wasn’t completely in love with you? How can you not see that I am doing everything I can to make you happy and I will continue to do so?” His face was tense and his fists tight. I glanced down at his white knuckles trying to form a response.
“I don’t need you to fix my problems,” I finally said.
“What if I want to?” he shot back.
“Stop with the heroic bullshit. You don’t want to. You want someone who will make your life easier. Someone who will look good on your arm and love you unconditionally. I can’t be that person. I can’t even love myself unconditionally.” I was becoming frantic, my voice high pitched and tight, tight like my chest, my stomach, and my heart.
“Don’t fucking tell me what I want,” he hissed. His teeth were clenched and I saw something in his eyes that’d I’d never seen before. “If I wanted that I’d have it. We all know there are plenty of girls who could fill that job. You go on about being in control of your own life and knowing what you want but you don’t take a second to think that I know what I want.” Anger. I’d seen him angry on the ice, or in the locker room after a bad game, but I’d never seen him angry at me. “Do you think I’m making all that hallmark shit up? That I was lying when I said I’d never taken anyone home to meet my parents? Jesus, how can you be so smart and so thick all at once.” He slammed his fist into the couch beside me.
Rarely in my life did I find myself speechless, but that moment I sat with my head in my hands and nothing to say. A tense silence settled between us.
“Look,” I couldn’t stand it any longer. “When I let you into my room that night I knew what I was getting into. I knew who you were and what your job entailed. I get that the publicity can be a challenge but I can’t continue to feel like you’re ashamed of me.”
“Don’t you think I want to tell everyone?” he reached for my hand. “I want nothing more than to shout it from rooftops. I’m the far from ashamed of you. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Everyday I wonder how I managed to get your attention. With all due respect to the women who can be classified as ‘arm candy,’ you are so much more than that.” He took a deep breath. “I’m not know for my intelligence, but you, you’re literally a Master. Sometimes when I listen to you talk I can’t believe someone with your brain would want to be around hockey players all day. You’ve never once shown interest in my money, and you are the best sex I have ever had. So ashamed, no. I will never be ashamed of you.”
“Then why can’t we just get it over with? Go public and see what happens?” I tried not to whine but I felt a sense of urgency building inside me.
“I don’t want to do that to you. If you think you’re insecure now, wait until the magazines get ahold of you. Wait until the internet is riddled with hate for you. Hate because that’s what people do. It has nothing to do with you. It’s them. I don’t want them to ruin you.” He was looking at me with wide eyes.
“You are not allowed to protect me anymore,” I squeezed his hand firmly and locked eyes with him. “It’s not your job to keep me safe.”
“Then think of it as for me, because I can’t handle the attention right now. We’ll make a deal. If you are still eager to go public when the off season rolls around we can look into. But right now, for me, please leave things as they are,” he pleaded with me.
I took a few seconds to consider the offer he’d presented. I couldn’t deny the validity to his point. It made perfect sense. I feared my persistence would lead to a power struggle rather than a true desire to be in the public eye.
“Fine,” I sighed. “But I need you to stop trying to fix me. I appreciate the effort but I feel like I’m losing myself and I can’t explain why, but I know I need to be able to take care of myself.” I moved closer to him, my body feeling cold without his near.
“Okay,” he smiled. “But for the record, I know you can take care of yourself, and I don’t want you to change.” He pulled me into him and I let my head fall on his chest. The tension that had been building inside me had lessened substantially and the hazy cloud had begun to lift from above me.
“What time is it?” I asked.
He pulled his phone out of his pocket “11:49pm.”
“Wanna end the year off right?” I cocked my eyebrow and kissed his neck softly.
“Our first makeup sex?” He moved his hands to my bare thighs ands traced his fingers up and down.
“I’ve been looking forward to this.” I straddled him and pressed my lips firmly against his, wasting no time.
His hands quickly found my bum and he dug his fingers gently into my flesh. Our lips still pressed together, tongues touching, he stood up. I moaned, all the more turned on by his ability to pick me up. Holding me tight against him, my legs wrapped around his waist he walked to my room and kicked the door closed behind him. I expected him to drop me on the bed but instead he pressed my back against the wall and balancing me between the hard structural surface and the hard surface of his body, he moved his hands under the sweater. Our lips parted just long enough to pull the sweater over my head before his made their way to my neck. I bit down on my lip, groaning as I felt the bulge in his jeans growing against my damp core. Tightening my legs around his waist I grind my hips against him as his hands cupped my breasts and his lips and teeth nipped at my neck and collarbones. My bra strap slipped down my shoulder and I knew it wouldn’t stay on much longer. Neither would his shirt as I tugged it up, trying to pull it off of him without losing our balance. He moved from my neck and with one hand tugged the shirt over his head, tossing it aside. If I wasn’t already turned on, that would have done it. His bare stomach pressed against mine and I couldn’t help but trail one hand down the flat tight surface of his chest and abdomen. I stopped at the waist of his jeans and watched his reaction. His eyes were clouded with lust and his lips red from the friction of mine. I could feel the heat rising in both of us and there was no use prolonging the inevitable.
“Put your hand here,” I whispered in his ear, taking his hand in mine and moving it to my sopping wet underwear. He moaned and kissed me roughly, his fingers dancing up and down the wet fabric. I rocked my hips back and forth against his hand anticipating the skin on skin contact. My lips on his neck, teeth grazing the delicate skin near his clavicle as he slipped his fingers under the fabric. He’d barley had a chance to touch me before I was tugging at his jeans, my emotions having turned form anger and hopelessness lust and longing.
“You really want me to take my pants off don’t you?” he smiled slyly. His eyes locked on mine, he pushed two fingers inside me at an agonizingly slow speed.
“That would be nice,” I groaned, squeezing my eyes shut.
His breath was hot against my ear, sending shivers down my back. His fingers working their way in and out slowly. Without warning he pulled his hand away from me. I tried to protest but his lips were already on mine. He gently lowered me to a standing position, but kept me pressed against the wall. No longer having to hold on to him, my hands were free to tackle the buttons of his pants. Our lips feverishly moving against each other I found it hard to focus on the task at hand. Just as he effortlessly unhooked my white bra I undid the button, freeing him from the denim cage. Eagerly, I pushed his pants and boxers down in one motion, his length bursting from the fabric and touching my stomach.
“Happy?” he asked, his voice amused. I let my hand wander down his chest and took him in my hand, moving at the same painfully slow pace. He bit his lip and looked down at me patiently. Unable to hide my smirk I pressed my lips against his neck, slowly accelerating.
I’d only just begun to pick up speed when he held my hand with his, stopping me from moving. I shot him a confused look and tried to move my hand again.
“If you keep doing that I’m going to lose it,” he whispered, a hint of embarrassment in his words.
I grinned and wrapped my arms around his neck, his hands move back to my bum and stripped off the fabric that was keeping us apart. Quickly I’m back in his arms, my legs wrapped around his waist, the most sensitive parts of our bodies cementers apart.
“I’ve never done this,” I admitted, referring to our position.
“I’ll try not to drop you,” he smirked.
The first few minutes had us both fumbling around to find our balance, but quickly the awkwardness faded and I was engulfed in his affection, deep kisses paired with urgent thrusts, our bodies pressed together. My head buried in his neck I inhaled his comforting scent, clean like the soap he used and slightly musky from the perspiration that formed along his brow. The smell reminded me of all the times we’d been together. My face pressed against his chest, his neck, his back as we fell asleep. With his every movement the energy inside me increased, the pressure in my abdomen reaching dangerously close to the threshold. I tried to hold on, prolong the experience. All it took was one strategic thrust to send me over the edge. A moaning, twitching mess in his arms. His face was pure joy watching me react to the work of his carefully crafted body. Every inch of my body tingled, oversensitive to his touch. I watched him shift from joy to ecstasy, his brow tightening and his eyes rolling back. He pushed me harder against the wall, leaning against me and moaning heavily. Part of me was waiting for him to forget and drop me, but somehow he managed to keep me firm in his arms. Riding out the final waves, he pressed his lips against mine gently.
“Yup, hands down you’re the best I’ve had,” he said with a smile.
I opened my mouth to say something but was interrupted by the door opening beside us, just missing us by an inch and knocking into my wall. Startled, Sid moved his hands causing me to slip down to the floor, luckily landing on my feet.
“I’ll be right back,” I heard Serena say. She flicked on the light, blinding Sidney and I. Finally noticing us standing naked in front she let out a shriek. “Oh my god, I’m so sorry, I didn’t know you were home!” She covered her eyes dramatically.
“Happy New Year!” I laughed. Covering my breasts with my arm. Serena, obviously drunk ran over to hug me. I wrapped my free arm around her and watched Sidney stare at us in horror. The hug gave him enough time to wrap the blanket from my bed around his exposed body.
“I’m really glad you’re having sex again,” she giggled, trying to whisper but failing miserably. “I came in here to get something.” She let go of me and stumbled over to my dresser, pulling out a handful of condoms from the bowl on top of it. “Better a thief than pregnant,” she roared with laughter and left us awkwardly standing in the bright light of my bedroom.
“We should argue more often,” I winked and pushed him backwards onto my bed, already eager for round two.

Chapter Text

We spent New Years Day unpacking from the trip home and getting ready to go back to work. I was putting in my second load of laundry and wondering how I got stuck with the job of washing our clothes when Sidney came up behind me, covering my eyes.
“What are you doing? I can’t see?” I cried, confused.
“You can’t see with my hands over your eyes? No kidding!” He giggled and lead me out of the laundry room, steering me down the hallway.
“Seriously, what are you doing?” I put my hands out in front of me incase his steering was as bad as his sense of direction.
“Just trust me will you,” he replied patiently.
We walked a few more steps into what I sensed was the kitchen and he moved his hands. On the table in front of me were three boxes, each a different size, each with a bow on top.
“I don’t exactly know how to wrap presents, so I figured boxes would work,” he gestured to the brown cardboard.
I turned to look at him, waiting for an explanation.
“Your Christmas gifts,” he stated. Admittedly I’d completely forgotten our agreement to exchange gifts when we got home.
“I have yours hidden,” I smiled, moving to retrieve them.
“Get them after,” he reached for my arm, “open these first.” He smiled excitedly.
Anxiously I picked up the biggest of the boxes and carefully removed the red bow. I could feel his eyes watching me as I opened the flaps of the box and reached inside, pulling out a Penguins jersey.
“Honey, isn’t this a bit narcissistic?” I laughed, holding the oversized Crosby jersey up to my body.
“Probably, but I’m sick of looking at the Giroux and Talbot ones in your closet.” He laughed. “And you look incredibly hot in these colours,” he kissed my forehead and let his hand slide to my bum.
“Thank you,” I folded the jersey and placed it on the table, noticing there was more in the box. Reaching in again I pulled out a pink tissue paper wrapped bundle. Inside, a soft black babydoll nightgown with lace detail.
“So admittedly that box is more for me,” he blushed.
“I love it,” I squeezed his hand affectionately.
“Open the small,” he urged, still grinning.
I pulled off the second bow and opened the folded box tops, almost choking when I saw what was inside. I looked at him, the blood draining from my face.
“I promise it isn’t a ring,” he assured me as I took the signature blue box in my hands. The words TIFFANY & CO were printed on the top and I felt my stomach tingle with excitement. I wasn’t one for jewelry, but like most females I knew, there was a special place in my heart for Tiffany. Inside the signature box was another box, it was long and skinny in the same colour. I watched his face as I opened the hinged lid. He bit his lip nervously, watching my intently. Inside, lay I shining gold necklace, a delicate chain with a gold pendant in the shape of a bumble bee.
“This is beautiful,” I gasped, shocked that I was holding Tiffany jewelry in my hands. My gift for him suddenly felt so silly and inadequate.
“I’m glad you like,” his hand resting on the small of my back. “Open the last one.” Enchanted by the shining gold I’d forgotten there was another box, the middle one.
“This is too much,” I shook my head amazed, placing the necklace and its box on top of the jersey. I could feel the energy radiating off of him, he clasped his hands together in front of him and shifted his weight back and forth between his feet. I held my breath and opened the box to reveal a hundreds of Styrofoam balls. I looked back at Sidney who was grinning from ear to ear and he motioned for me to continue. The staticky balls tickled my arms as I reached into the abyss and pulled out a book. Wrapped in thick protective plastic I held in my trembling hands a first edition of Beatrix Potter’s “The Tale of Two Bad Mice.” Unable to speak, I stared at him aghast.
“I can’t believe you...” I finally choked out, my eyes damp with tears. “How did you?”
“I noticed it was the only Beatrix Potter book on your shelf so I figured it was your favourite,” he shrugged casually.
“Thank you, I don’t know what to say. This is incredible.” I wrapped my arms around his waist and buried my head in his chest, still misty eyed and trembling.
“I’m really glad you like them,” he squeezed me tighter.
“They’re amazing, you’re amazing.” I looked up at him, taking in his smiling face, the wrinkles around his eyes, the subtle dimples in his cheeks.
“You should try that jersey on,” he winked.
I bit my lip and peeled off my shirt, revealing my black push up bra and replaced it with the over sized jersey. I laughed and posed for him, my hand on my hip and my lips pushed out. His eyes lit up and I walked around him, as if I was on a catwalk.
“Very hot,” he grabbed my hand mid-strut and pulled me into him. He kissed my cheek and down my neck, tickling my sides and leaving me giggling and squirming to get away.
“I’m going to pee myself!” I screeched, trying to fight him off.
“You two are so weird,” we both looked up to find Beau standing in the hallway watching us. It was obvious that he’d just woken up by his bare chest and loose fitting boxers. He shook his head and walked to the refrigerator.
“At least we’re wearing pants,” I tossed a dishtowel at him, remembering the night he caught me in the kitchen.
“Pants and...” he reached for the arm of my jersey to read the number, “Your boyfriend’s jersey. Isn’t that a little narcissistic, Crosby?” a grin sweeping across his face.
“Don’t be jealous,” Sid interjected. “I’m sure the lovely girl in your room would put on your jersey if you asked nicely,” He patted Beau on the back.
“I’d ask her if I could remember her name.”
“Well done,” Sidney put his hand up and the two men celebrated Beau’s promiscuity.
“You two are disgusting,” I rolled my eyes and shook my head. “You realize she’s a person, right? Not a conquest.”
“I know she’s a person, Bea. She’s a very very attractive person,” Beau winked at me, purposely trying to infuriate me.
“Would you just be nice please?” I shook my finger at him, resembling my mother far more than I ever wanted to.
“And don’t get anyone pregnant,” Sid added with a goofy grin on his face.
I scowled at him.
“What? I’m on your side!” he called after me as I headed for the stairs.
My Christmas gifts for Sidney were nothing compared to what he’d just given me and I watched nervously as he unwrapped the first of two boxes. We sat on the bed, having left Beau and his houseguest to get better acquainted.
“Don’t look so nervous,” Sid chuckled, pulling back the wrapping slowly. I bit my lip and watched his face intently. With the red wrapping paper at his feet, he sat with the heavy blue box on his lap, looking at me for clues.
“Can you please open it and stop taunting me?” I whined. He was well aware that I was nervous.
A cheeky grin plastered to his face he slowly opened the box, to reveal two brand new black skate boots and eight wheels.
“I’m pretty sure I broke a few rules to get those,” I admitted. “I may have bribed the equipment guy to get your exact feet measurements.”
“These are awesome!” He leaned over and kissed my lips softly. Turning back to the box he took the skates out and immediately tried them on. I breathed a sigh of relief as his foot slid into them perfectly.
“I’ll teach you how to lace them after you’ve skated in them. Trust me when I say it’s nothing like lacing up a hockey skate.”
“I can’t wait,” he lips returned to mine, all the thanks I need.
“Open the other one,” I pushed him gently away, breaking our kiss. It had taken me weeks to decide on the perfect gifts for him. I wanted something person, that he wouldn’t think to buy himself. While he wasn’t much of a shopper, I knew he could afford to buy anything he wanted which made him nearly impossible to shop for.
He opened the second, much larger box and pulled out its contents one by one. Three board games, a bottle of Jack Daniels, and a DVD entitled ‘Pulp Friction XXX.’ He looked at me sideways, waiting for an explanation, his eye brows tight, trying to put the pieces together.
“Do you remember that night a few months ago when we stayed up playing Xbox?” I asked
“Yes, you thought I left you the next morning,” he eyed me suspiciously.
“Well, that night you mentioned that you didn’t have a typical adolescence. That you spent your youth focusing on hockey. And while that has obviously worked out very well for you, I think everyone should get to experience the life of a teenage boy.”
“Okay?” he was starting to understand, but still looked confused.
“Having never been a teenage boy I had to guess, but I figured porn, booze, and boardgames would give us an idea of normal teenage life.” I leaned towards him, trying to gauge a reaction. He continued to look at me puzzled.
“You are something else Beatrice Keller,” he finally said.
I started to worry, trying to remember if I’d kept the receipts.
“And I love it,” he finished. “I never thought I’d say I look forward to being a teenage boy with you.” He laughed and pulled me into his lap, kissing me like he had downstairs.
Finally the day we had both been waiting for arrived, on January 3rd Sidney was cleared to get back on the ice. Neither of us said it but we were both relieved to have space from each other and go back to our regular routine. His goal was to be back in the line up for the January 12th game against Edmonton. It was a realistic goal, but I had a feeling he’d try to make his debut earlier.
He’d been back on the ice for a few days when I caught my first glimpse of a Pens practice. I’d emerged from my office and piles of paperwork to double check something with Dan and was directed to the bench where he stood watching the team go over plays. I stood beside him as the guys practiced against Marc-Andre. I was impressed with how quickly Sidney had gotten his stride back, it was like nothing happened.
“I swear to god I’m going to take this thing off,” Sid said loudly, adjusting his groin. “Can I just take it off and everyone promise not to fire at my schlong?” He had no idea I was watching. “No, I don’t trust you goons. You’re all worried I’ll breed and pass on these magic hands.”
Pascal snickered, having waved at me a few minutes prior. “Who would breed with you?” He egged him on.
“You’re one to talk old man!” Sid bit back, a smile on his face the whole time. “Don’t act like you don’t know I’ve got everyone’s favourite medic girl in my bed every night.” He chortled loudly.
“For someone who is supposed to have an unbeatable view of the ice you sure are oblivious.” Paul Martin spoke up, shaking his head and laughing.
“What?” Sid looked around him, still not seeing me.
“Beatrice has been standing there for half of the practice,” James Neal finally clued him in.
“Oh shit,” he muttered, turning around and tripping over his feet, landing flat on his ass.
“Hi honey,” I said obnoxiously, waving excitedly.
The team erupted in laughter and Sid blushed, skating back to his lineup. He waved at me subtly but refused to make eye contact. I went back to my office, having distracted him enough for one practice. Time passed slowly as I leafed through files of things I’d missed while in Canada. It was important that I be up to date on all of the injuries that plagued the team. I was reading about a torn groin muscle when I heard my name called from the locker room down the hall.
“Can you bring some icepacks and a tensor bandage?” Dan asked, his voice loud of enough for me to hear over the music in the locker room.
I closed the file and left it on top of the others. As one of two medics at the practice I was relieved to have something to do other than read files. Grabbing a first aid kit and some icepacks from the freezer I rushed down the hallway, hoping I wasn’t about to treat a serious injury.
“I think I pulled something in my wrist,” Beau looked up at me from his seat on the bench, pouting.
“Let me see,” I knelt down in front of him and took his wrist in my hands, gently checking for any damage. “Can you tell me if this hurts?” I moved his wrist up and down slowly.
“Yes,” he hissed. “It hurts up my arms.”
“I think you sprained it. It doesn’t seem like anything major but we’ll get Larry to look at it when he comes in. Ice it in ten minute intervals for the next half hour or so and then I’ll wrap it.” I smiled, handing him an icepack and a towel.
“Can you look at shoulder?” Geno asked, wincing as he pulled his jersey off. “Is tight.”
“Go shower first and then meet me in the room and I’ll take a look.” I tried not to breath through my nose as they stripped off their sweaty gear. I turned leave and hopefully find fresh air but collided with Sidney, my face directly in his jersey, he towered over me with his skates on.
“Am I invisible to you today?” I laughed, placing my hand on his chest.
“I must not recognize you with all your clothes on,” he whispered smugly. “Hey, do you have a bandaid?” He asked a little louder.
“You can’t fix your ego with a bandaid, dear.” I teased him
“It’s for my hand,” he laughed taking the bandaid from me. “You can fix my ego tonight.” He was chewing on his mouthguard, still sweating from the practice. He wrapped his arm around my shoulders and pulled me in, kissing the side of my head. The public display of affection came as a shock, prior to our trip our relationship had been kept a secret and I was going to have to adjust to our new openness with the team.
“I love you, but please stop sweating on me,” I pushed him away. “You smell like a dead gopher.”
“I thought sweat was supposed to be an aphrodisiac,” he wiped his forehead with his bare hand.
“Maybe for wild animals and puck bunnies,” I gagged.
“Well you’re kind of a wild animal,” he whispered, distracting me as his sweat covered hand brushed down my cheek.
“Sidney,” I screamed, pushing him off of me. “You’re going to make me upchuck on my last clean shirt!” Around us, the boys were oblivious to our interaction. “You’re such a jerk,” I smiled and kissed his lips lightly before pushing him towards the showers.
With Sidney back on the ice we both returned to a variation of our usual routine. A weight had been lifted off of us when he was cleared for contact, we were in the clear and he was going to fine. I was relieved to see his attention focus back to his mistress, hockey. It gave me a chance to get a much needed break from the intensity of our relationship.
“You’re going to hurt so bad tomorrow!” Serena called, skating circles around me on the derby track. I cringed, knowing she was right. I hadn’t been to practice in over a month and could feel my body aching after only the warm up.
“Just remind me how worth it this is?” I huffed behind her.
“Of course it’s worth it Bea-tard! This is what you love, remember?” she came to a stop, letting me catch up before skating again.
“Right,” I pushed to keep up with her adjusted speed.
“You forgot what it was like to love something other than him, didn’t you?” she linked her sweaty arm with mine, pulling me forward.
“No!” I cried defensively. The truth in her words stung.
“It’s okay,” she said quietly. “It happens, just don’t forget who you are. We’re always going to be here when you come to your senses.”
I smiled, my mouthguard slipping over my lips, drool dribbling down my chin. “So, how’s your thing going?” I took the mouthguard out and stuck it in the hole in the top of my helmet.
“Thing?” she cocked her head to the side. “You mean my risqué relationship with the Russian? Because it’s not so much a thing as it is a dream.”
“A dream? Are you too discussing the merits of going public?”
“Oh hell no, we’re just sleeping together. I don’t think I have the patience to be serious with one of them. No offense Bea, but they’re a lot to handle sometimes.”
“No kidding,” I sighed. “If I could take the Sidney without the Crosby I think I would” I laughed.
“The man without the legend?” she teased.
“Maybe more like the man without the franchise?” my legs were burning and I tried to push, images of Sidney’s training routine popping into my mind. I’d never be that intense, but if I could just borrow some of his drive I’d be back in no time. I came to a slow stop, bending over to catch my breath.
“Well is it worth it?” Serena was stopped in front of me, balancing on her toe-stops like an over protected ballerina.
“What do you mean?” I took a swig from a random water bottle closest to me.
“Is all the stress and bullshit worth it? Is he worth putting up with it?”
I sat down on the floor, stretching my legs out in front of me. “Of course he’s worth it.”
“Then don’t worry about it. See I already know that being with Geno isn’t worth it. He’s great, but I don’t want to put up with the traveling and the bullshit. I wish I did, but I’m happy with the sex. If you already know that Sid makes up for all of it, don’t worry about it.” She sat in front of me, unlacing her skates.
“So much wisdom Impale’her Moon,” I shook my head and smiled.
“It’s my job, Beatrix Plotter. Someone has to keep you in check.” She pulled off her sweaty helmet. “ Besides, I know you’re happy with him. I saw you,” she winked. “Quite the show.”

I slept at my own place that night. Not because I was questioning my relationship, or because anyone was upset, but because Sidney had imposed a new no-contact rule for game days. He told me we could be together until 11:59pm the day before a game and until the final whistle it was best we stayed away from each other. At first I was shocked and offended, hurt that he considered me a distraction. But using his own twisted logic he explained that he’d already made this rule with his family and we needed to try it. I gave him four games. If after four games he didn’t have record breaking performances he could take his superstition and shove it. I knew he’d eventually see how complicated he was making things, but I was willing to let him learn that for himself.
As I predicted Sid was cleared to play before his deadline. I woke up in my own bed on January 9th, confused by the empty spot beside me, until I remembered our agreement. With only an hour before I was expected at the rink for morning practice I swung my legs out of bed, my muscles pulled and burned reminding me I’d overdone it on the track. While in the shower I noted three developing bruises and a number of tweaked muscles. I popped two ibuprofen with my breakfast and made good time getting ready. My hair dried and falling in waves down my back and my makeup done I wore a pair of tight dark wash jeans and a white v-neck t-shirt. My plan was for him to see me before I put my uniform on for the game. As petty as it was, I wanted him to regret his no-contact rule.
I sauntered into the rink, an extra layer of mascara on my eyelashes and my lips painted red. I knew he was already there and it was just a matter of time before we ran into each other. I dropped my bag in my office and headed to the main exam room. Geno lay on the table with his hands under his head, dressed in his tight Under Armor. One of the trainers stood over him, massaging his calf muscle.
“Hello hot stuff,” Geno grinned at me, winking. “Looks much better than khaki,” he pointed to my jeans.
“Thank you,” I laughed. “Did you hurt yourself?”
“Oh I didn’t hurt me,” he looked at me suggestively. “You ask Serena...”
“No, that’s okay!” I cut him off. “I shouldn’t have asked.”
He roared with laughter. “Where’s Sid?”
“I have no idea,” I shook my head and walked to the sink to fill up my water bottle.
“You live together, yeah?” he sat up, leaning on his elbows.
“Not technically,” I clarified. “I still have my own apartment but we spend time together, yes.”
“But not today?” he looked confused.
“Nope, he has established a no game day contact rule.” I smirked, knowing I shouldn’t bring our personal lives into the rink.
“Weird,” Geno shook his head and scoffed.
“I’m essentially a game day widow,” I laughed and walked back towards the door.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be your game day boyfriend,” he caught my hand as I walked by and smiled.
“Sounds good,” I grinned and went back to my office.
I spent most of the day in my office with the door open and music playing. I was looking at studies done on the impact of water training in the healing process that Larry had left on my desk. With Bach drifting out of the speakers and I tried to focus on the research in front of me. Instead I found myself checking the door every few minutes to see who was walking by, hoping it was Sidney. He knew better. If he purposely mapped the rink so he wouldn’t pass the visiting locker room, surely he had a way to avoid my office. I groaned and closed the door, eliminating the temptation and sitting back down to focus on my task. Chewing on the back of my pen I scanned the documents for key words like benefit or success, I’d found a few leads when my phone vibrated on the desk in front of me. Dropping the pen I reached for it, hoping it was a message from Sidney. Instead it was a number that didn’t have a contact. I unlocked my phone and tried to figure out who would be trying to get ahold of me.
Unknown number:
Trix, I’m in the Burgh for a few days. Really want to see you. Call me when you’re free. XX Mills.
I tossed the phone in the bag at my feet and sighed. Suddenly Sidney’s ridiculous rule was the least of my worries.

Chapter Text

“What did she want exactly?” Sid asked as we pulled out of the rink parking lot. They’d lost 4-2 to Carolina and he was finally permitted to talk to me.
“I told you, I haven’t text her back,” I sighed and let my head fall back.
“Well are you going to?” he glanced over at me before changing lanes.
“I don’t know,” I whined. “Do you think I should?” I looked at him with wide eyes
“You don’t like it when I tell you what to do,” he reminded me and rest his hand on my leg.
“I’m making an exception.”
He’d managed to avoid me all morning. I sat pouting in Larry’s office, looking over more paperwork when he returned to the rink from his afternoon nap.He poked his head into the office unsuspectingly and let out a muffled grunt when he found me perched on the edge of the desk with a file in my hands, my legs hanging over the edge and the tan Louboutins we’d bought in New York hanging off of my feet. He was dressed in a grey suit with a white shirt, the top two buttons left open revealing his Adam's apple and soft neck. I wanted to jump into his arms and latch my mouth onto the spot below his ear. I looked up at him over the edge of my glasses, hair falling over my shoulder and framing my face. Our eyes locked and I knew he was resisting the temptation that bubbled inside of him. He shifted his weight and adjusted his pants in a way that would be inconspicuous to anyone but me. I watched his eyes flicker, taking in my silhouette in front of him. We both wanted to talk to each other. I could tell by the blush rising on his cheeks that he wanted to pull me close to him as badly as I wanted to wrap my arms around his waist. A good luck wish on the tip of my tongue and my lips quivering at the sight of his, we both abstained. I motioned to the left, wordlessly telling him where he’d find Larry. The side of his mouth moved slightly, a subtle smile, and he left in the direction I’d sent him. I had to admit, his self control was admirable and his determination arousing.
I saw him again on the bench, after changing out of my seductress costume and into the regulated khaki pants and polo shirt, my hair pulled into a bun and my Louboutins replaced with black Clark’s with added arch support and cushy insoles. I stood as far away from him on the bench as I could and watched his movements with my fingers interlocked and my teeth digging into my bottom lip. He looked at me four times, each time briefly, with that flicker of affection in his eyes. If he was trying to frustrate both of us he was doing a remarkable job.
“What’s the worst that can happen?” He squeezed my leg reassuringly. “I mean, it’d just be a dinner right?”
“Sometimes I wish you were the jealous type,” I grumbled.
“No you don’t. It would drive you insane.”
“You’re probably right.”
“What if you made it a group thing? Invite Serena and Geno over, make dinner, something casual,” He suggested.
“Then it would be on our territory,” a smile crept on my face. There was no way she’d cause any trouble with people around.
“Would it weird you out if I said I kind of want to meet her?” He glanced at me, blushing slightly.
“Well no...” I studied his face, “Not weirded out, provided it’s for research purposes and not to fulfill some lesbian fetish you haven’t told me about.”
“Since when is liking lesbians a fetish? I thought everyone liked a good lesbian visual.”
“Whatever, all I’m saying is don’t expect anything from her.” I scoffed.
“I might not be the jealous type but I can’t say I’d be cool with you and your ex-girlfriend eating anything but dinner together. If you catch what I’m throwing.” He smirked, pulling into the driveway.
“You’re some lucky I like you, Captain SassyPants,” I groaned, getting out of the truck.
“Captain SassyPants?” He called giggling, coming behind me as I walked to the front door. “Wouldn’t you rather I be Captain NoPants?” He wrapped his arms around my waist and lifted me from the ground, kissing my neck obnoxiously.
“You’ll be Captain CouchPants if you don’t put me down,” I screeched, kicking my legs wildly.
“CouchPants? That doesn’t even make sense, gosh Beatrice!” He opened the front door, holding me with a single arm. His physical strength was constantly impressing me.
“Put me down or I’ll spend the rest of the week baking things too calorie rich for you to eat,” I threatened.
He stopped a few feet shy of the kitchen and gently placed me back on my feet. “Wow, you get mean when you’re not in control,” he frowned, looking like a little boy who’d been refused a cookie.
“It’s for your best interest,” I rest my head against his chest. “I didn’t want you to hurt yourself carrying around so much weight,” I laughed, self-deprecating humour being some of my favourite.
“Hey,” he hooked his finger under my chin and lifted it so our eyes me. “Don’t say that shit,” he kissed me softly. “I know you’re kidding, but we both know I bench 250, give me a little credit, Keller.”
“You’re not bench pressing me,” I mumbled, seeing his eyes flicker and the predictable gears in his mind turns.
“No, of course not,” he blushed, kissing me again to distract me from his ridiculous idea. “Oh, and for the record, I know what you were trying to do with the shoes and the hair.”
“What shoes and hair?”
“Today, with the hair all over the place and the boobs to your chin and the legs. Not nice!” He scowled at me, his lower lip jutting out.
“You said I couldn’t talk to you, not that I had to wear a paper bag,” I rolled my eyes and shoved his playfully.
“Yeah well, you try putting equipment on with a half-chub because your girlfriend is obviously trying to seduce you.”
“Try having your boyfriend telling you not to talk to him for a day and then showing up in that suit with that ass and that smirk,” I shot back and him, a seductive grin forming on my still red lips.
“I know, it’s not the most conventional of practices but it’s just an experiment,” he pulled me closer to him.
“It’s superstition. The same reason you tie your right skate before your left. You’re a freak, I accept it.” My head back on his chest I nuzzle under his chin.
“Says the girl who won’t touch her own bruises and made me massage a hematoma for ten minutes in the corner of her office.” He rolled his eyes and laughed.
“It makes perfect sense!” I cried stepping back. “I told you, I can’t heal other people and myself, that just doesn’t make sense. It’s asking too much from the forces that be.”
“I wasn’t complaining,” his arms were still around my waist, keeping me close. “I got to touch your ass.”
“You can touch it again if you want,” I purred, moving my arms around his neck and pressing our bodies together.
Needless to say we were both relieved to be sleeping in the same bed again.

I sent the text the next morning, with the next four days off before a week long road trip I had no excuse not to see her. I kept the messages simple and we quickly decided on meeting the next day at 7pm. After a call to Serena, where I begged her to be there, I grabbed my computer and made my way to the yellow room. It was already 11am and Sidney had left to work out. I sat at the desk typing questions into google, ten tabs of possible recipes open and not a clue how to make any of them. Cooking was Serena’s thing, not mine. I was lucky if I could make a grilled cheese sandwich without burning it. I had recipes from every corner of the world; every skill level and every aisle of the grocery store was represented on my browser. The more I thought about it the more I wanted everything to be perfect. So perfect that I planned to break my promise to Beau. The house needed a few touches, table clothes, candles, throw pillows, little things. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to do these things to spite Millie. I couldn’t want to see the look on her face when she walked into our beautiful home to find everything perfect. Our home. I’d never thought of it as that. The house was in Sidney’s name and it always would be. My house was the apartment. But Millie didn’t need to know that. All she needed to know was that I was doing exponentially better without her in my life. With that in mind I closed half of the tabs. Who was I kidding? There was no way I could learn to cook five-star dishes in one day. I was trying to decide between some chicken thing with lemons, and a pasta dish with white sauce when I felt two hands on my shoulders.
“Jeezus!” I screeched started, and spun around ready to attack whoever was behind me.
“Sorry,” Sid laughed, holding his hands up to protect himself. “I thought you heard me come up.”
“Obviously not,” I grumbled and turned back to the computer. I glanced at the time in the top right hand corner. 4:23pm, I’d been there for over four hours.
“I invited Marc and his wife to come to dinner tomorrow,” he mentioned casually, massaging my shoulders.
“What? Why?” I turned around again, brushing his hands off of me.
“I thought it might be nice if you met some of the other WAGs,” he shrugged.
“What the fuck is a WAG?” I glared at him, already irritated.
“Wives and girlfriends,” he eyed me, as if I should know the meaning of the ridiculous acronym.
“And why did you think tomorrow would be a good night for that?” I whined, dropping my head in my hands.
“I don’t know, I thought it might take your mind off of her being there,” he tried to touch my shoulder but I shrugged him off again.
“Are you that dense?” I moaned. “I guess it’s a good thing I haven’t gone to the store yet.” I sounded more like a housewife than I wanted to.
“If it’s that big of a deal I can call and cancel, tell Marc-Andre my girlfriend is being a bitch,” he spat back at me.
I stared up at him, shocked and hurt. Sidney wasn’t one to throw around words when he was angry.
“Okay, that was uncalled for,” he knelt down in front of me, taking my hands in his. “I’m sorry. I had a shitty workout, but I shouldn’t take it out on you.”
“No kidding,” I growled, trying to pull my hands away.
“Wanna tell me why you’re so pissy? Should I be getting Mitrol or whatever it’s called?” He squeezed my hands and smiled nervously.
I scowled at him, my eyebrows knit tightly together. “It’s Midol, and no. Contrary to popular belief I’m allowed to have emotions without them being a result of hormonal shifts.” I pulled my hands away from his and returned my attention to the recipes.
“Right,” he said softly and stood up. “You might want to keep in mind that I’m not the enemy and I just want to help you,” he said a little louder, turning my chair so I was facing him again.
“Can you just leave me alone so I can figure this out?” I said impatiently.
“What is your problem?” he bellowed, exasperated and reaching out to touch me.
“My problem is you hovering over my shoulder,” I hissed and tried to turn the chair back to the desk. He stopped it and wheeled me closer to him.
“Have you eaten today?” He asked, his voice calm and rational compared to mine.
“Just go away,” I pushed him. Without standing up my hands only reached his stomach and instead of moving him I ended up moving myself. Cursing the wheels on the chair I shuffled back to my spot, refusing to look him in the eye.
“I’ll take that as a no.” He shook his head and muttered something to himself before leaving me alone in the yellow room.
“Pain in the ass,” I grumbled to myself and emailed the recipes to my phone so I could buy the correct ingredients.
I pulled on a pair of yoga pants and his grey Penguins hoodie and headed out to the second last place I wanted to be. The first was with Sidney, the second, the grocery store.
“I’m taking your truck,” I called plucking his keys off of the counter.
“Do you want company?” he replied, all too enthusiastically.
“No,” I grabbed my purse and slammed the door behind me. The chilly winter air nipped at my exposed cheeks and blew through the cotton of the sweater. I was relieved to find an extra jacket on the passengers seat when I climbed into the truck, thinking wasn’t my strong suit when I was already worked up. I pulled out of the driveway and flicked on the stereo, it was set to a sports station and I shook my head, wondering why he tortured himself listening to that shit. Instead of finding a better station I hit play on the c.d player and hoped for something decent. The little screen told me Hunter Hayes would be the first to play and I smiled to myself. Country music was one of my guilty pleasures. There was nothing wrong with country per-say, but it wasn’t my usual style. I skipped to track 14 and cranked the volume.
“But I don’t want good and I don’t want good enough, I want can’t sleep can’t breathe without your love.” I sang at the top of my lungs, drumming the beat on the steering wheel. I didn’t care how I looked to the drivers around me, or how loud the music was, all I cared about was making as much noise as I could and letting everything fade away. When the song ended I hit rewind and continued my driver’s seat performance until I pulled into the parking lot. By then my voice was hoarse and my face was flushed, but at least I was calmer. Anyone with ‘food issues’ will tell you that grocery stores are daunting. A variety of contrasting emotions, exciting, overwhelming, painful, and confusing to name a few. For the most part I was usually okay, but on the brink of relapse I felt myself getting anxious as I wandered the bright aisles.
I spent as little time as I could in the oversized food emporium. Gathering only the things I needed for the dinner I still managed to spend over $200 and leave with five bags. I placed them on the floor the backseat and headed to the next place on my list. While Pier1 Imports wasn’t nearly as dreadful as the grocery store, it still wasn’t a place I’d chose to spend my recreational time. I walked in with the intention of buying a few pillows and some placemats and left with an area rug, four pillows, new curtains, two table cloths, a set of 10 placemats, and all new dishes. I also splurged on a Papasan chair I’d had my eye on for years as well as a few homey trinkets. My stomach churned as the cashier rang my huge load through. $2,394.23 later I cursed Sidney for convincing me to invite Millie over and directed the two teenage boys who were carrying my things to the truck.
“Nice rig,” one of the lanky boys remarked.
“Isn’t it?” I smiled politely and unlocked the drivers door. “It’s Sidney Crosby’s,” I added, feeling reckless. The boys stared at me slack jawed and I drove off.
I had intended to head straight home, it was already 6:34pm and I still hadn’t bothered to eat. I wasn’t too worried, I’d gone longer, but my stomach was starting to protest. I tapped it lightly with my fist and tried to silence the grumbling. I figured another few minutes wouldn’t kill me and I pulled into the parking lot of my favourite clothing store in the city. A smaller boutique that carried a variety of styles and never disappointed.
“Hello,” an older woman greeted me when I entered. I caught a glimpse of my ragged reflection in the window and tried to fix my hair. “Is there anything I can help you with?” she asked, walking towards me.
I opened myself to say no, that I was just browsing, but changed my mind. “Yes,” I smiled broadly. “My ex-girlfriend is coming into town and I want a dress that shows her I’m better without her and that she missed out.” I watched the woman’s face, hoping for a positive reaction. Not everyone was comfortable when I mention my history of homosexual relationships.
“You came to the right place dear, we specialize in screw you outfits,” she laughed and motioned for me to follow her. We walked through the racks to a section of dresses at the back of the store. Every colour, cut, and shape represented on the long wall. “Do you have a price point?” she asked, already looking through the wares.
I hesitated, but answered with a firm no. I’d already spent three-grand, another hundred wasn’t going to kill me.
“Perfect,” she smiled excitedly and started handing me dresses. I had five in my hand when she directed me to the fitting room. “So do you know where you’re meeting her?”
“Yes,” I replied, pulling the first dress over my head, a strapless pink number with a slit up the back and a black belt. “Unfortunately she’s coming over,” I opened the door to get help with the zipper.
“Oh dear,” she looked at me concerned, zipping up the dress.
“We won’t be alone, my boyfriend and some of his coworkers will be there. I guess it’s my first dinner party.” I rolled my eyes and turned to look at my reflection.
“The pink looks good against your skin,” she remarked.
I turned to the side and studied my profile in the mirror. It was good, but not good enough. I went back in and put the dress back on the hanger, it was a maybe. The next four dresses were just as underwhelming and I was starting to get frustrated when she knocked on the door and handed me two more.
“We’ll find the perfect one,” she squeezed my arm affectionately and took the ‘no’ pile out of the dressing room.
The first of the two dresses was grey with intricate silver beading on the bodice and thin straps. The skirt was light and gauzy coming just above my knee. The straps crossed in the back and there was a window between the skirt and the bodice that revealed a patch of my pale skin. It was like nothing I owned and nothing I’d have picked on my own. Dresses with open backs made my nervous, worried the creases in my flesh would show. This one however fit perfectly. I stepped out of the tight dressing room and waited for her opinion.
“Well hot damn!” the woman grinned at my appearance. “Now there is a dress that says I’ve moved on!” She led me to the 360 degree mirror and pointed out how perfectly it fit. “If you can spend the money, this dress if for you.”
I smiled at my reflection. There was no doubt that it would blow Millie away. “How much is it?” I held my breath, hoping for something reasonable.
“$250, and if you’re willing I have the perfect shoes to go with it.”
I could do $250, I told myself and nodded excitedly. The woman disappeared from behind me and returned with three shoe boxes.
“I didn’t know your size so I grabbed a few,” she chucked and pulled out a pair of shiny sliver heels with a delicate T-strap. The heel was just high enough without being dangerous and they reminded me of dance shoes. I grinned and told her my shoes size.
“Well I hope your boyfriend’s coworkers aren’t fuddyduddies,” she remarked as we took in my reflection, shoes and all.
“No, they’re pretty liberal,” I laughed. “I work with them too.”
“Oh?” she reached for a necklace on the stand beside her. “Where do you work?”
“I work for the Penguins,” I answered as she placed a simple chain with a cameo pendant on it around my neck. “I’m a team medic,” I added.
“Ooh, hockey players,” she winked and fastened the necklace. “They’re a hoot, my son played hockey when he was a kid and gosh, team parties were something else.”
“Try living with two,” I laughed.

I got back into my street clothes while she wrapped up my purchases. I was giddy knowing I’d found something so beautiful that fit so well. $400 later I left with two bags and a sense of accomplishment. There was no way Millie wouldn’t be shocked when she saw me. I headed home with Hunter Hayes singing the soundtrack to my journey.
I hopped out of the truck and took my dress and shoes with me and walked up to the house. Inside, James Neal and Beau were playing video games on the big screen in the living room.
“Oh good,” I said over the sound of the game, pulling my shoes off in the entryway. “You guys can help Sid with the stuff in the truck.” I pulled the hoodie over my head and tossed in on the couch, leaving me in just a tank top.
“What did you buy?” Beau asked, pausing the game.
“Stuff for tomorrow,” I set my bags on the counter in the kitchen, along with Sidney’s keys.
“What’s tomorrow?” James asked, both boys walking into the kitchen.
“Her girlfriend’s coming over,” Beau teased, sniffing around the bags I’d taken in.
“What?” Neal looked confused.
“Ex-girlfriend,” I corrected him. “And it’s not that big a deal, I just wanted to spruce up the place anyway.”
“Beatrice!” Beau cried out. “You promised!”
“Can you just bring it in before my groceries freeze?” I looked at him, exhausted.
Beau grabbed the keys and headed for the door in a huff. I stood in the kitchen staring at the refrigerator, wondering if I should bother opening it.
“I know you’re hungry,” Sid wrapped his arms around me from behind.
“Please don’t start,” I sighed, ready to pull away from him.
“I’m not,” he promised. “But if this lasts more than a few days I will start and I won’t stop until you get help.” He pulled me close against him and kissed the top of my head.
“I’m fine,” I let my head fall back onto his chest.
“Baby, you’re not fine,” he sighed. “If you were fine you wouldn’t be doing this. Why do you do it?”
He’d asked me the hardest question of all. It was a question I’d been asking myself for years. The reasons varied. It had started because I wanted to lose weight, but quickly it became so much more. “I don’t know,” I whispered.
“Is it because you think you’re unattractive? Because I can assure you that isn’t true at all.”
“Not entirely,” I admitted. Part of it had always been my own insecurity with my body, but the older I got, the less that became the issue.
“Then what is it?” he pleaded.
“I can’t explain it,” I said softly. “Partly because I don’t really understand it myself, but it’s just this nagging feeling inside me that I can’t shake. It’s this anxiety and overwhelming need to control something, to be strong. There’s no way you could understand.” I admitted, tears slipping from my eyes unexpectedly.
“You’re right, I don’t understand.”
“Uhm Bea...” I looked over to find Beau standing in the doorway awkwardly. “Where do you want this stuff?”
“Oh sorry,” I moved away from Sidney and wiped my eyes with the back of my hand. “Groceries in the kitchen and the rest in the living room, except for the boxes, those are dishes put them on the table and do not break anything.” I directed them.
“What did you buy?” Sid looked at me bewildered.
“Just some stuff for tomorrow,” I bit my lip and smiled.

Chapter Text

“Are you sure you don’t want me to pay you back for all that stuff?” Sidney asked from inside the walk in closet. I was in the bathroom curling my hair trying to convince myself everything would work out fine. “If you had have told me you were getting all that I would have I would have given you my card.” He appeared in the doorway, tucking his black golf shirt into his dress pants.
“It’s fine.” I released my curl from the grips of the hot iron and watched it bounce into position. “It was my decision to get everything,” I winced as my finger brushed against the scalding metal. “Shit,” I hissed, popping the burning finger into my mouth. It certainly wasn’t the first burn I’d acquired that day. I started cooking at 10am, determined to make the perfect pie for desert. My intention was to make the pie, set up the house, and start cooking by 4 or 5pm. When Sidney and Beau came home from an optional skate at 1pm they found me in the kitchen, covered in flour and verging on homicidal.

“Stupid fucking pie crust won’t stay together this time!” I screamed to no one in particular.
“What’s that smell?” Beau asked, opening the fridge and knocking me with the heavy door.
“That’s burnt pie crust and for the love of the lord if this crust doesn’t start being crust we’re going to order pizza and eat pudding for dinner,” I threw the ball of dough in my hand on the counter and crossed my arms, sulking. Beau looked at me bewildered and slowly backed out of the kitchen.
“Sidney?” I cried out, tears of frustration tripping down my cheeks. He came in from the living room with his phone pressed against his ear. “Fix it,” I whined, stomping my foot.
“Here,” he held the phone out to me. “My mom wants to talk to you.”
I shook my head violently and motioned for him to get the phone away.
“Hold on, mom,” he said after taking the phone back, then covering the receiver with his hand. “She’s going to help with your pie thing,” he held the phone out to me. “I’m fixing it,” he smirked.
I took the phone from him and tried to steady my breathing,
“Hi Beatrice!” her voice sang from the other end of the line. “How are you doing?”
“I’ve been better,” I admitted, defeated and frustrated. “My pie crust isn’t being pie crust.”
“Well what’s it being then?” she giggled.
“I’m not really sure,” I picked up the dry, crumbly ball. “It has the weight of a hockey puck and the consistency of sand.”
“Oh dear, that doesn’t sound very pie crust like. But I think we can fix it,” she said hopefully.
We stayed on the phone until I had salvaged the crust and baked it to the perfect golden colour. While the pie was in the oven she talked me through the rest of the meal and put my mind at ease.
“If it doesn’t work out, just order in and put it on your fancy plates, no one will know,” she comforted me, both of us giggling. That was exactly what I’d done when we were in Nova Scotia.
“It smells like you fixed it,” Sid wrapped his arms around my waist after I hung up the phone.
“For now, but we have to wait and see if anyone gets food poisoning.” I smiled at him and lay my head on his chest, the night hadn’t even begun and I was already coming into problems.
“Here,” Sid took my finger out of my mouth and held it under the running tap.
“You can’t wear that,” I looked him up and down. Sure, he looked good, but I’d seen him look better and I needed him to look his best.
“What’s wrong-” he began, but stopped when he saw me looking at him exhausted. “Okay, go pick something better then,” he surrendered. I finished curling my hair and went to find a new outfit, secretly hoping the closet would lead me to Narnia, anywhere but about to see Millie.
“Okay, you cannot make what you make and own jeans that look like this,” I held up a pair of faded, ill fitting pants. “Until you have enough children to warrant giving up on life, mom jeans are a no.”
He laughed and rolled his eyes, patiently putting up with my criticism and neurotic searching. I finally found the jeans I’d been thinking of. The same dark wash, custom tailored ones he’d worn our first night in Philadelphia. I grabbed a white dress shirt and tossed them on the bed beside him. I stood in my push-up bra and underwear waiting for him to get dressed.
“Tuck in the shirt, put on a black belt, undo the first few buttons, and roll up the sleeves.” I instructed, then moved back to the bathroom to perfect my make up.
“Do you want to do my hair and make up too? Maybe check to see if I’m wearing the right gaunch?’ He called sarcastically, sliding the belt into its proper loops.
“You’re not punk rock enough for guy-liner,” I smirked.
With Sidney looking irresistible, it was my turn to get dress. I slipped into the dress and he dutifully took care of the zipper for me. With my shoes on and necklace fastened around my neck I took one last look in the mirror and smiled.
“I look forward to taking that dress off,” Sid whispered, standing behind me with his big hands on my shoulders.
“If we survive tonight you can do whatever you want, where ever you want,” I smiled at our reflection. We looked good, and we looked good together.
With two squirts of perfume in the right places I headed downstairs. I found James and Beau in their usual spots in front of the XBox. Apparently James had been added to the guest list, I thanked God that I’d bought a set of 12 dishes and that Sid’s table was big enough for everyone. Everything was as it should have been. The table was set, the food was cooking, and the bar was stocked. I poured a glass of white wine and set to cutting up vegetables to make some form of salad. If this was what being a housewife was about, I was glad I had two degrees and a boyfriend with low expectations. My wine glass was half empty and I was chopping carrots when the doorbell rang. I jumped, nearly slicing my finger.
“Bea-nie Baby!” Serena called from the front door. My body relaxed hearing her voice. I wasn’t ready to face Millie without her by my side.
“Come help me chop shit,” I called back to her. Sid got up from his spot at the counter to greet them.
“You’re nervous,” Serena pointed out the second she saw me.
“Really?” I replied sarcastically.
“Don’t be,” she took another knife out of the drawer and started chopping cucumber. “This place looks amazing, you look fucking spectacular and it’s Millie, not Kate Middleton.” She bumped my hip affectionately and reached for my wine glass, taking a sip.
Moments later the doorbell rang again. I turned to Serena, wide eyed and anxious, she dropped her knife and took my hands in hers.
“Babe,” Sid called from the front door and I let go of Serena, heading to meet my fate.
“Bea!” Marc-Andrea grinned at me, pulling me into a warm hug. “This is my wife Veronique,” he motioned to the beautiful woman standing beside him.
“It’s nice to meet you,” I smiled, taking her outstretched hand in mine.
“It smells wonderful,” she grinned.
We sat down in the living room, the boys battling against each other on the XBox while Vero, Serena, and I made small talk. I sipped my wine anxiously, waiting for the doorbell to ring and the madness to begin. Beside me Vero and Serena laughed, already getting along comfortably.
“How do you like working with the team?” Vero asked, pulling my attention back to the present.
“Oh, it’s great,” I smiled. “They’re a great group of guys.”
We discussed my job a little more before I turned the focus to Serena. She was telling us about the exciting world of radio when it happened. The bell chimed throughout the house and I felt my mouth get try. Sid excused himself from the game and we walked the few steps to the door hand in hand.
“Everything will be fine,” he pulled me close to him and kissed the side of my head before opening the door.
She stood on our door step in a black peacoat, her red curls sprinkled with snow and her cheeks rosy.
“Trix,” She smiled and stepped into the house. “How are you?” She wrapped her cold body around me tightly, I let go of Sidney’s hand and returned the hug. She smelt the same as she always had, sweet, like sugar and honeysuckle.
“This is Sidney,” I immediately reached for his hand, pulling out of the hug. “My boyfriend.” She looked at me surprised and shook his free hand.
“It’s really nice to meet you,” Sid said politely.
Under her peacoat she was wearing a long sleeve black dress that clung to her slender body and fell halfway down her thigh. The back was low and showed of her creamy skin and toned muscles. I could never understand how she was in such good shape when she spent most of her time doing nothing.
As if the universe was looking out for me, the timer on the rice cooker went off before we had to begin what I could only imagine would be a painful conversation. We sat down at the perfectly set down table, two couples, one ‘thing’, Beau, James, and Mille; not exactly the guest list I’d envisioned. With Sid on my right and Millie on my left I looked across at Serena and gave her a tight lipped smile. She smirked and cocked her eyebrow up.
“Eat up,” Sid grinned at everyone and took a bite of the chicken on his plate.
“So Millie,” Beau began, three beers in and feeling confident. “How do you like Pittsburgh?”
“It’s not bad,” she sipped her drink and eyed him.
“You like hockey?” Geno asked innocently.
“As much as I like all the other patriarchal institutions that grossly overpay men,” she snickered.
I looked at her with my teeth clenched and shook my head slightly.
“Patriarchal?” Beau asked confused.
“Don’t worry about it,” Sid shook his head, saving his teammate from a world of explanation.
“I work for a hockey team now, Millie.” I said stiffly.
“Wow, dream come true for you. You always did have a soft spot for sweaty, uneducated men,” she smiled sweetly.
“Lucky for me,” Sid squeezed my leg under the table.
“I knew I recognized you!” She said loudly, blushing. I found it hard to believe that she didn’t realize who Sidney was or what the boys did for a living until that moment.
“We’re all Penguins actually,” James added. “Maybe I can change your mind about the game.” He winked and gave her a lob sided grin.
“Maybe you can change my opinion about men,” she bit her lip and bat her eyelashes. I groaned and rolled my eyes in Serena’s direction. Millie had always claimed to be strictly into females and while we were together took every opportunity to tell me how disgusting it was that I didn’t stay on her side of the fence. Or, as she put it, that I couldn’t make up my mind. She claimed to be repulsed by the Y chromosome but took a sadistic pleasure in stringing naive males along, luring them into her web and leaving them disappointed and in some cases emotionally damaged.
“Y’know Trix, I’m surprised you ended up with this one,” she pointed to Sidney, “I thought you liked the other guy, the big oaf with the under bite,” She smirked. I couldn’t decide if she was being particularly malicious or if I had just never noticed her poor social skills. I pretended to have no idea who she was talking about, when in reality we all knew. “Oh c’mon, the Russian. You had his picture on your computer. Ugly motherfucker but you suspected he was really good in bed,” She continued, oblivious to the awkward tension in the room.
“Yes Millie, Beatrice had a thing for Ovechkin, we get it,” Serena chimed in, relieving some of the tension. “Everyone goes through a Russian phase,” she glanced at Geno and winked.
“Bea liked Ovie?” Beau looked at with disgust.
“In my defense I didn’t know you,” I whispered to Sid who squeezed my leg, as if to tell me he understood.
“So,” Vero took a stab at the conversation. “How do you two know each other?” she smiled at me warmly.
“We’re old friends,” I replied, taking a long sip of my wine.
“A little more than friends I’d say,” Millie looked at me offended. “Or is Crosby over there just your friend too?”
“So you dated?” Vero looked confused.
I nodded and smiled tightly. It seemed the less I said the better.
“This is really good, babe,” Sid said, swallowing a bite of chicken. “I thought you said you couldn’t cook.”
“I didn’t know I could,” I laughed nervously.
“It’s great,” Marc confirmed with a mouth full of rice.
I picked at the food on my plate nervously. I had no appetite but I had to at least make it look like I was eating. I took a few bites of broccoli and a nibble of chicken to keep up appearances, but my stomach tightened and my throat felt dry.
“Old habits die hard?” Millie whispered in my ear and slid her hand onto my bare thigh. On my right, Sid’s warm and strong hand rested casually on my knee and on my left, Millie’s soft and delicate fingers moved under the hem of my dress. Neither had any idea what the other was doing. I shot her a dirty look and tried to push her hand off of me but she was persistent.
“How are you liking motherhood?” I asked Vero in an effort to shift the conversation in a more appropriate direction.
“It’s wonderful!” she beamed. “You’ll have to come meet her sometime, she started crawling a few weeks ago, so much energy I can’t keep her still.”
After that the tension eased and the conversation flowed naturally. Marc and Vero told stories of their adventures as new parents and I tried to ignore Millie’s still present hand. I felt her fingers brush against my lace underwear and jumped out of my seat to get away from them.
“Who wants pie?” I smiled gracefully, playing the perfect hostess.
We decided to take our pie in the living room and I told everyone to go ahead and sit down while I got it ready. Truthfully I just wanted a minute to myself. With the pie heating up in the oven I leaned over the sink and tried to calm myself down. I couldn’t explain what I was feeling, a sort of stressed out, uncomfortable combination that was laced with erotic tension and complete confusion.
“Everything is fine,” I whispered to myself and ran my hands under cold water.
“Talking to yourself?” she purred in my ear. One of her hands moved my hair to reveal my neck while the other slipped back up my dress.
“Please stop,” I tried to keep my voice calm and steady. The last thing I needed was to cause a scene.
“Don’t act like you’re not enjoying the attention,” her lips brushed against my bare shoulder. “I know you too well.”
“No,” I croaked. “You don’t know me anymore.”
“Of course I do, Trixie. This isn’t you. You’re not the perfect housewife you’ve made him think you are.”
I turned to face her, hoping she’d back away, instead her hand stayed under my dress while the other rested on my waist. “He doesn’t think that,” I shook my head.
“Then why on earth does he keep you around? I’ve always known you were a puck bunny but I didn’t think you’d lure one in for the long run,” she stroked her hand up and down the inside of my thigh. I was trapped between her and the counter.
“You don’t know me anymore. This is my life, I like this life.”
“So if I told you I’m not wearing any panties and suggested we go smoke a bowl and get reacquainted, you wouldn’t be tempted at all?” Her lips were only inches away from mine.
My cheeks were getting warmer and a shiver ran up my spine. Memories of our nights together flashed through my mind and the hair on my arms stood on end. I wanted so desperately to ignore her suggestive comments but couldn’t deny their effect on me.
“You want to,” she whispered, our faces now centimeters apart. I could feel her hot breath against my lips and I pushed away the temptation that grew inside me. “I know you Trix. I know you better than some meathead ever could.” Her fingers were now tracing the damp spot that had developed on the delicate fabric between my legs. I couldn’t tell if this was considered cheating but I didn’t know how to stop. My logical mind told me to push her away and run, but my lonely, nostalgic heart was being pulled into her, manipulated by her spell.
“Babe?” I heard Sidney call just as her lips brushed against mine. My heart swelled with affection for him and I pushed her off of me.
“I’ll be right there,” I replied cheerfully. With Millie out of my way, now leaning against the counter, I turned to the oven and took the warm pie out. “You’re right,” I turned to her. “You do know me better than some meathead ever could. But if you haven’t noticed, not one of those guys is even close to being a meathead.” I spat at her. “And no, I don’t want to smoke a bowl and fuck around because I spent years of my life doing that. The whole time searching for something I didn’t think I would ever find.” I shook my head in frustration and began slicing the pie into generous pieces. “Well guess what? I found it. I found exactly what you never gave me. Respect, sincerity, fuck I’ve found myself.” I glanced back at her. Taken aback, she stood with her arms crossed tightly in front of her.
“He’ll never make you happy,” she hissed.
“Then what do you call this?” I grinned at her. “This is happy, Millie. Content is happy, satisfaction is happiness.” I looked into her sad vacant eyes and remembered the fragile girl I’d fallen in love with.
“I can give you more,” she shook her copper curls in frustration.
“You can’t,” I took a step towards her and placed my hand gently on her shoulder. “You’ve tried and you can’t, and it’s okay.”
She looked at me with teary eyes, her smirk gone and her confidence faded. “Why did you have to give up on us?” She cried softly.
“Because you can only try to resuscitate something for some long before you have to call time of death,” I wrapped my arms around her shaking body and held her head against my chest as she sobbed.
“I’ll never find another you,” she sniffled.
“I sure as hell hope not,” I chucked, rubbing her back. “Wouldn’t you rather find someone new? Someone better for you than me?”
“No,” she cried harder. “I want us back.”
I looked to find Sidney standing in the doorway, concern covering his face. I shook my head and without saying a word told him it was all right. We were both going to be okay.
“Don’t you ever miss us?” she pleaded, looking straight into my eyes.
“Sometimes,” I admitted. “When I fall into the toilet at night because he’s left the seat up, or when I have to explain characteristically female things to him. Those times when I realize I’m dating a man I miss how much easier it was.”
“It can be that easy again.”
“No, it can’t. Besides, we don’t want to be in a relationship of connivence. Sure, sharing tampons is great, and we had an unbeatable combined shoe collection, but I love him Mills.”
“You loved me once,” she whimpered.
“I did. And it took a longtime to get over that. There will always be a place for you in my heart, but he’s the one I want to be with.” I let go of her to get a kleenex for her running nose.
“There’s nothing I can say to convince you?” She blew her nose and dabbed the tears from her eyes.
“No, and I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t try.”
“You want to know the worst part about this?” she smiled slightly. “I lost you to a guy.”
We both giggled and I helped her fix her smudged eye make up. “They’re not as bad as you’d think,” I joked. “You’d be surprised, sometimes it’s almost like they’re human or something.”
“Yeah, right,” She scoffed and we carried the plates loaded with pie and whipped cream into the living room, returning to the party. I snuggled next to Sid on the couch and felt the tension and confusion drift away, with his arm wrapped around me I took a sizable bite of the warm apple pie.

Chapter Text

I woke up in a big empty bed, the stiff sheets scratching against my naked back and the Philadelphia sun shining through the cracks in the drapes. It scared me how much I truly hated waking up alone. I glanced at the clock radio on the night table. 8:24am. It was the third day of a four game road trip, after losing to the Capitals two nights prior, our game against the Flyers wasn’t until 7:30pm. I had the day to myself and didn’t expect Sid would be interested in joining me. I groaned and dragged my still tired body out of bed, noticing a note next to the clock.
11:59pm
Babe,
You fell asleep watching the movie. You’re kinda cute when you sleep. I’ll talk to you after the game tonight. Say ‘hi‘ to your brother for me.
xx
S.C
I smiled at his sloppy hand writing and the detailed time stamp. Our third game under his no contact rule and I couldn’t wait for him to realize how ridiculous it was. I dreaded the upcoming days alone in unfamiliar cities, but Philadelphia wasn’t one of them I pulled on my favourite brown cords and a grey university sweatshirt and made myself presentable. Bundled in my red peacoat and black scarf I locked up my room and headed off. Committing a serious offense of distracted walking I was texting Andy as I strolled through the big hotel lobby when I walked directly into a solid body.
“I am so sorry!” I said before I’d even seen the person.
“Are you sending the captain dirty text messages?” I looked up to find James grinning at me.
“Yeah, right,” I snorted and slipped my phone into my pocket.
“No pre-game nookie?” he teased.
“Nah. If we did that I’d have to do it at the same time before every game,” I joked.
“You’d be his new pre-game sandwich,” he winked. “Where are you headed off to?” James had been out of the line up for two weeks with an upper body injury and it didn’t look him he’d be playing any time soon.
“Just to see my brother, you?”
“I’m not exactly sure,” he crinkled his brow. “I don’t really know what to do around here.”
“Come with me?” I suggested, smiling at the lost look on his face.
“Are you sure? That wouldn’t be weird?”
“I can’t see why,” I took a few steps towards the front door and he followed.
“Thanks,” he smiled, matching my speed.

We sat in the back of the cab, snow falling lightly against the windshield. Familiar sites passed by and I felt a tug of nostalgia. I had fun living with my brother in this big new city. It was a good time, an exciting time.
“So,” James watched me as I peered through the foggy window. “I have to ask...” I glanced at him, encouraging him to continue.
“How exactly did you end up with Sid? Wow, that didn’t come out right.” He rubbed his forehead with his thumb and index finger. “What I meant was, you guys are really different.” He blushed, tripping over his words.
“It’s okay,” I smiled. “I know what you mean.” I patted his leg affectionately. “ We are very different, that’s for sure. But I don’t really know how it happened. I actually happened quite fast,” I admitted.
He watched me eagerly listening to my words.
“One day we were co-workers and the next day we were practically living together and I was completely enthralled with him. I think Sidney and me being so different is why it works. Then again, you’d be surprised how much we have in common.” No one had ever asked that question and I was caught off guard by how easily I spoke about him.
“How so?”
I paused, trying to decide how serious I wanted to make the conversation. “I guess we’re both really passionate people. He doesn’t do things with half a heart and neither do I. We’re also both very particular, but at the same time he’s the logical to my irrational.” I laughed, remembering all the times Sid had stepped in to talk me out of an emotional mess.
“That makes sense,” James sighed and let his head fall back against the seat.
“What about you?” I tried to change the subject. “Are you seeing anyone? Or do you make a habit of hitting on lesbians like Millie?”
“I didn’t realize she was gay,” he chuckled. “I figured she was like you.”
I noticed he was avoiding my first question and decided not to push, for his sake and mine. I didn’t have the energy to get into a deep conversation.
“Where exactly are we?” James asked as we pulled up outside an unmarked brick building.
“Haven’t you ever been to a recording studio?” I laughed and payed the faire. We ran through the snow and into the quiet building. We tried to brush as much snow of of ourselves before venturing into the main area.
“Why are we at a recording studio?” He whispered in response to the silence around us as we made out way to my brother’s office.
“Who doesn’t want to spend their free time time here?” I teased.
“You brought me more hockey players?” Andy laughed and got up from his desk to greet us.
“Only a Penguin,” I hugged him tightly.
“Of all the teams for my little sister to work for,” he rolled his eyes dramatically.
James stood a few feet away watching us confused. “James,” I motioned for him to come closer. “This is my brother Andy, don’t take it personally, he’s just an idiot Flyers fan.” I smiled. “Andy, this is James Neal. Please be nice, I’ve had to take care of enough injuries lately.”
“Hey now,” Andy protested. “I’m not that bad! I can promise you I have never engaged in a ‘Crosby Sucks’ chant.” He held his right hand up in a boy scout salute.
“That’s probably a good thing,” James laughed, warming up to the situation.
“I should hope not!” I looked at him slightly outraged. “Somehow he likes you.”
“She’s so easy to rile up,” Andy said over my head, patting me patronizingly.
We spent part of the day learning the art of music production, Andy letting us sit in on a session with a local band. After an hour of listening to them play the same thing over and over I got bored and started fiddling with my cellphone. I wanted to text Sidney but I’d promised not to and didn’t feel like listening to him complain should I jinx something. I briefly wondered what it would be like to have a normal boyfriend but shook that thought from my mind. I’d never liked normal so it was only fitting. Five moves into my second Tetris game my phone vibrated.
Millie:
Are you in town?

I rolled my eyes and tossed my phone on the couch across the room. We hadn't ended our last visit on a sour note, but it wasn’t the most comfortable of dinners. On one hand I understood her breakdown and I told her we could be friends, but on the other it felt like too much work. I heard my phone vibrate on the couch and couldn’t fight the curiosity. I grabbed it and flopped down on the leather.
Serena:
Are you with Geno?
Bea:
No, why?
Serena:
I need to talk to you.
Bea:
Are you okay? Why aren’t you at work?
Serena:
I’m calling.
I snuck out of the sound booth and went back into Andy’s office, closing the door behind me. A few seconds later my phone rang.
“Bea?” Serena said on the other end of the line.
“What’s wrong?” Her voice was shaky and I knew I was about to hear bad news.
“I need to tell you something but you can’t tell anyone.” It sounded like she’d been crying.
“Yes, just tell me,” I said worried. Anxiety building inside me.
“I just got a positive,” she’d started crying again and was hardly making sense.
“A positive what? Rating?” I tried to coax the answer out of her.
“Preg….nant.” She sobbed.
I nearly dropped the phone and felt a lump form in my throat.
“Are you sure?” I said calmly. One of us had to be rational.
“Five tests sure,” she sniffled.
“That’s like $50!” I cried.
“$75,” she corrected.
“Wait, so you don’t want Geno to know?” I couldn’t decide if it made sense or not to keep him out of the loop.
“Not now, not until things calm down for him.” She was talking like a true girlfriend, putting his career first. I scoffed until I realized I was doing the same. “Look, I just needed to tell someone. Please keep it quiet.”
I promised her my silence and told her I loved her before we hung up. I sat at my brother’s desk with my head in my hands. My heart ached for my confused and terrified best friend. I wanted to get on the first flight home and be with her. Sit on the couch eating comfort food and serial watching old seasons of Scrubs. It had only been a few weeks since our trip to Canada but I already felt like I needed a holiday. Everything was piling up and I tried desperately not to suffocate under the pressure of it all.
“Bea?” I heard a soft voice call my name from the other side of the wooden door. I rubbed my eyes and got up to let whoever it was in. “What are you doing?” I opened the door to find James leaning against the door frame nervously.
“Sorry, I just had to take a call,” I forced a smile and swallowed the secret that perched on the tip of my tongue, like a bird desperate to soar out of me.
“Oh, that’s cool. Your brother just suggested we go grab some lunch.” His phone vibrated as he finished the last word. A smile spread across his face as he read the text message.
“You got a crush there Nealer?” I teased, walking past him.
“No!” He blushed, his cheeks bright red and followed me back to the sound booth.
We got back in lunch just in time for the typical pre-game nap. I was just about to indulge myself, already tucked under the covers, when my phone vibrated on the nightstand next to me. I tried to ignore it but it buzzed again.
Geno:
Sid said 2 tell u there is ticket for brother at door with pass.
Geno:
Also u have 2 bring after game clothes :)))))
Y U 2 no talk?
I groaned and replied to Sidney’s new Russian secretary. If Sid had plans of going to a club he could count on going stag. I tossed a pair of jeans and a low cut top in my bag just in case then crawled into bed only to be disturbed by my phone again. A logical person would have turned it off, but I was worried about Serena.
John:
Any chance you can get us tickets for the Habs game? Your three favourite big brothers want to see you.
I chucked and told him I’d see what I could do. There was no way I was going to pass up on the chance to watch my brothers squirm while meeting their rival team.
I shouldn’t have been surprised when Sidney avoided eye contact with me in the dressing room. In a way I wasn’t, but I was still hurt. I tried to tell myself that it the embargo would soon be lifted, but that didn’t help my need to talk to him. Perhaps not talk so much as be near him. I didn’t trust myself not to spill the news of Serena’s utero bean. I shuttered to think how I would react if I were in her shoes. There’s no guarantee I wouldn’t go completely insane. Not to say I didn’t love the idea of someday raising adorable spawn with Sidney, but that was different. Serena was virtually alone, my fun loving best friend had spent her life trying to avoid commitment. The girl who panicked when signing a two-year lease because she felt trapped. While I assumed I would have Sidney’s support should I find myself in a similar situation, I couldn’t rely on my own assumptions, especially not on game day.

They lost 3-2 to the Flyers. The whole time I stood behind the bench wondering if this hiccup was about to become a slump. Selfishly, I didn’t know if I could handle a losing streak on top of everything, better yet I didn’t know if I could handle Sidney in the midst of a losing streak. After Dan’s post game talk I snuck into the locker room to get my jeans.
“Hey babe,” Sid wrapped his arms around me from behind, still wearing half of his gear and reeking of sweat.
“Don’t,” I grumped and shrugged him off of me. He was obviously looking for comfort but I was too sour to be the one to give him that. He hadn’t been there when I needed him earlier and the petulant voice inside me told me to dish it back to him.
“Hey,” he grabbed my arm gently as I turned to walk away. “What’s wrong? I’m supposed to be the one who’s upset here.”
“You’re such an idiot,” I shook my head in disbelief.
He stared at me wide eyed and confused. I pulled him into a corner of the dressing room so we wouldn’t disrupt the guys around us.
“You’re stupid no contact things is doing shit all,” I hissed. “It hasn’t helped your game. In fact all it’s done is make me resent the hell out of you.”
“What? I didn’t think…” he stammered.
“No Sid, you didn’t think.” I clenched my fists and tried to take a deep breath. “Look, I get it. Believe me I do. You’re not the only neurotic one in this relationship, but that’s just it. You’re not the only one in this relationship. Sidney I needed you today, but I was too worried I’d throw you off to call you. You got Geno to text me? Do you know how embarrassing it is to know that my own boyfriend won’t text me? Now I know not to take it personally. I know it’s just you being you, but it’s damn near impossible not to be hurt. I know hockey is always going to be the most important thing in your life, and I would never ever give you an ultimatum because part of what attracts me to you is your passion. But honey I need to know you love me half as much as you love the game.” I bit down on my lip, trying to keep myself from breaking down.
He didn’t say anything. Just stared at me with those big brown eyes, slack jawed and stupefied by my confession. I waited for him to respond, laugh, cry, just say something.
“Shit…” he finally said, rubbing his forehead with his hand. “I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay,” I mumbled, moving closer to him in spite of his smell.
“No Beatrice, it’s not okay. I’m so used to hockey being my whole life that I neglected you. That’s so not okay.” He looked heartbroken, I wondered if he was going to cry, but thought it doubtful considering our location.
“I’m not mad,” I wrapped my hand around his bicep. “But I needed to tell you because I’m not okay with living like this. We’re not going to become those people who co-exist and are afraid of conflict. I spent years in that kind of relationship and I’m far too partial to you to let anything get in the way of us.” I slid my hands around his waist and pressed my body against his, knowing that I was going to change clothes anyway.
“Thank you,” he whispered into my hair, kissing the top of my head softly. “Thank you for not being afraid to call me on my shit.”
“Someone has to do it,” I looked up at him and smiled. “You’re not some hockey god to me Mr.Crosby. You’re my g’damn boyfriend and don’t forget it!” I leaned up and kissed him gently at first, his hands slipping down to my bum and pulling me tighter against him, and his tongue sneaking between my teeth. I tried to stifle the moan that threatened to escape and felt my body reacting to his touch.
He must have noticed my struggled because he quickly let go and smiled at my, a cheeky grin giving me butterflies all over. “Go get dressed and meet Andy, I have a surprise for you.” He squeezed my hand and headed back in the direction of his stall to disrobe of his gear.
“You’re not going to pass out are you?” Andy teased as we sat in the back of the cab. My body squeezed between Andy and Sidney.
“No!’ I blushed and punched him lightly.
“You’re totally going to pass out! There is an eighteen year old inside of you totally peeing her pants right now,” he continued, howling with laughter.
“Would you shut up!” I screamed. Sidney sat beside me grinning, obviously trying to be supportive and not laugh.
“It’s okay if you’re excited, Bea.” Sid squeezed my hand. “I mean this is Max Talbot, he’s like a celebrity,” he giggled, obviously defecting to my brother’s side.
I glared at both of them and tried to stay angry. Truthfully it was damn near impossible. Contrary to his media statement, Sidney didn’t hate all of the Flyers and we were headed to Max Talbot’s house for post-game drinks. I was surprisingly nervous and tried to remind myself that hockey players were people too.
We pulled up outside the house, Marc, Geno, and James pulling up in the cab behind us. “Now, if you feel light headed just let us know,” Andy squeezed my arm pseudo-affectionately
I glared at him and got out of the cab following Sid. We stood on the front stoop and waited for someone to open the door, Sid’s fingers intertwined with mine. I was glad I’d taken the time to brush my hair before we left the rink.
“Well if it isn’t the enemy!” The door swung open and Scott Hartnell stood in front of us grinning, his wild red curls pulled back.
“I wasn’t aware you were allowed out of the penalty box ever,” Sid joked and they shook hands. We shuffled into the entryway, the guys greeting each other warmly.
“Anyone going to introduce me to this lovely lady or do I have to do all the work?” Scott smiled at me and I felt myself blush.
“Right,” Sid chuckled. “This is Beatrice, she’s on our medic team.”
I rolled my eyes at his vague introduction. “I’m his girlfriend,” I corrected, shaking Scott’s hand. “This is my brother Andy.” I pointed to the tall man hiding behind me. He smiled nervously and waved pathetically.
“Maxime, viens ici!” Sidney called into the house, his french accent leaving something to be desired. I slipped off my shoes and followed him and the rest of the group into the living room.
“Sid!” Max grinned, coming into the room with beers in his hand. He placed the beer on the table and pulled Sid into him, the two men patting each other on the back. I tried to take calming breaths as Max moved to the rest of the guys, but my heart was pounding and I was feeling faint.
“You have fan!” Geno slapped him on the back and pointed to me. I squeezed Sid’s hand tightly causing him to flinch.
“I have a fan?” Max laughed and I felt my face get hot as his eyes shifted to me.
“This is Beatrice,” Sid introduced me.
I reached out to shake Max’s hand but avoided any eye contact.
“La petite amie de Sid,” Marc added filling in where Sidney left off.
“Oh?” Max looked at me wide eyed and mischievous. “You finally found someone to love you and your huge ass, eh buddy?” He clapped Sid on the back and they laughed.
“That’s Andy, Beatrice’s brother. Nice but dumb Flyers fan,” James joked. Andy laughed and shook hands with Max, who was still focused on me.
“Does she talk?” he finally asked.
“Usually she doesn’t stop,” Sid looked at me amused.
“I think she’s a little overwhelmed,” Andy added, wrapping his arm around my shoulder protectively.
“I’m standing right here,” I finally said, scowling at them.
We sat in the living room drinking and chatting. I’d opened up a little more, but was still nervous to be in the presence of my two favourite Flyers. Once again in the middle seat, Sid sat to my right and Max to my left.
“So you’re dating The Kid?” Max leaned into me so I could hear him over the lively conversation.
“I am,” I smiled politely. Inside I was chastising myself for not being more myself.
“How long have you been together?”
“Four months?” I was never quite sure when exactly we started dating. It was all kind of a blur.
“That’s great,” he smiled.
I took a long drink of my beer and rest my hand on Sid’s thigh. They were talking about hockey and I couldn’t be bothered to join the conversation. Instead I sat there smiling, feeling the energy radiate off of Max. It made me anxious and uneasy. Nothing he was doing so much as my own school girl crush. Unable to stand it anymore I excused myself to find the bathroom and snuck down the nearest hallway. I managed to avoid the embarrassment of opening random doors and found the bathroom easily. I loved the door behind me and sat down on the toilet seat. I did the only thing I could think to do.
Bea:
You’ll never guess where Andy and I are right now!!

I text my brothers. They didn’t reply and I realized that they’re probably asleep.

Bea:
I’ll just tell you. We’re in Talbot’s house! His house!! I love my job.

I washed my hands out of habit and checked my face in the mirror. Fortunately my make-up had stayed in the right place and I didn’t look too bad for having just gotten off work. I checked my phone one last time- still no reply- and unlocked the door, flicking the light off. I hoped to sneak back into the living room unnoticed but I without taking a full step I collided into Max.
“I’m sorry!” I blushed, still avoiding his eyes.
“It’s a small hallway,” he smiled, his hand on my waist from having caught me.
“Yeah,” I mumbled turning to get away.
“Hey, Beatrice,” he stopped me before I could get even a few steps away. “Do I make you nervous?” He smirked. Had he been any other guy I would have rolled my eyes and fired back some biting insult. But Max had me pegged already.
I smiled and nodded slightly. Biting on my lip embarrassed.
“Seriously?” he laughed. “You’re dating Sidney Crosby and I make you nervous?”
“Don’t let it get to your head,” I smiled, finding my voice. “You were the only Penguin I could stand for years.” I admitted, shamelessly flirting.
“Well isn’t it a shame Crosby beat me to you,” he winked and went into the bathroom, leaving me with butterflies.
We couldn’t get the door to my room open fast enough. I slipped the card in and out trying to unlock it, Sid’s lips on the back of my neck and his hands dangerously close to the button on my jeans.
“If that thing doesn’t open in five seconds I’m finding a storage closet,” he growled in my ear, nipping playfully at my shoulder. The light finally flashed green, as if it had heard his threat. We burst through the door, slamming it behind us.
He’d barely had a chance to get his shoes off before I pushed him onto the bed, climbing on top of him and straddling his waist. I pull my hair out of the ponytail and let it hang over my face as I kiss him feverishly. His hands slips under my shirt and up my back, wasting no time before unhooking my bra and pulling my shirt over my head. His hands move to my breasts and I moan approvingly, feeling his pants get tighter underneath me. Between our honest conversation and my flirtatious interaction with Max I was wild with desire. After stripping him of his shirt I quickly focused my efforts on his pants. His belt buckle and button cooperating I had him at my disposal in no time.
“Eager much?” he chuckled as I pulled my own pants and underwear off then returning to my stop on top of him.
“It feels like it’s been a really long time,” I moan. His hand found its place between my legs and his cock twitched underneath me.
“Jeezzus, I haven’t even done anything and you’re soaking,” he laughed and kissed me harder. His fingers danced teasingly over my clit and whined impatiently. Obviously realizing I wasn’t in the mood to be teased he pushed two fingers inside me and I swore I was going to come right then and there. His thumb on my clit and two fingers at the perfect angle inside, I felt the sensation build up inside me. I was so close when he pulled his fingers out and placed them against my lips and slipping them inside my mouth. He groaned as my tongue swirled around them, sucking then clean.
“Do you have a condom?” I whispered, more than ready to have him inside me.
“What?” his voice was husky and making it hard to resist him. I would have relied on the pill alone if memories of my conversation with Serena hadn’t popped in my head. It wasn’t enough to stop me, just scare me. “My wallet,” he groaned when I got up to get it.
“I’ll explain later,” I said rolling it onto him then lining his solid cock up with me. I slowly lowered myself on top of him and he groaned loudly, his hands moving to my hips. He let them rest there, not doing anything to move me and I moved in my own rhythm. Selfishly I moved with only my own enjoyment in mind, one hand on his chest and the other on my clit. I pushed down taking him all in then continued the rhythm of up and down, rotating my hips and hitting the perfect spot. He bucked eagerly and I dug my nails into his flushed skin. This wasn’t going to be a fuck known for its longevity but I was more than okay with that. He dug the pads of his fingers into my hips and I picked up speed, my leg muscles burning and my stomach twitching.
“Oh fuck!” I hissed, my muscles reaching their peak and an eruption of tingles swimming through my body. I kept moving until I couldn’t anymore, just long enough to feel him twitch inside me and convulse underneath me.
I lay on top of him too exhausted to move, completely content with our position and my much needed release.
“Remind me to introduce you to more of my ex-teamates,” Sid whispered in my ear amused and kissed my cheek.

Chapter Text

“Are you going to tell me what’s wrong?” Sid whispered, leaning his head against mine. We’d purposely sat at the back of the plane so we could make up for our day of silence. Ten minutes into our flight headed to Montreal and I hadn’t said anything.
“Nothing’s wrong,” I shrugged, never a talented liar.
“I’m not dragging it out of you,” he rubbed his hand up my thigh.
“Fine,” I groaned, annoyed by how easily I’d given in. “But I can’t tell you here.” I looked around and despite the rows of empty seats it didn’t feel private enough.
“There’s no where else,” he cocked his eyebrow. “Unless you want to hide in the bathroom,” he snickered.
“Yes,” I unbuckled my seatbelt and crawled over his lap. “Meet me in a few minutes.”
“Beatrice!” he hissed after me but I kept walking, desperate to talk to him and ignoring the connotation. I squeezed into the tiny bathroom stall and sat on the sink, making sure there was room for him to open the door. Less than a minute later the door opened and he slipped inside, locking it behind him. Sidney stood between my legs and rested his hands on my hips.
“Are we really in the bathroom of a plane together and not taking our clothes off?” he smirked and kissed me lightly.
“Who said we weren’t?” I winked and shuffled closer to him so the faucet wasn’t digging into my back.
“I don’t really know how we’d manage that,” he looked around at the tiny closet of a room. “Anyway,” he shook the thought from his head. “What’s up?”
I wanted to be level headed and graceful about the conversation but of course when I looked up at his warm eyes it all came flying out of my mouth.
“Serena’s pregnant and I’m not allowed to tell anyone but it’s driving me insane and that’s why I made you wear a condom last night because I swear to god if you get me pregnant and leave me I will have you decapitated and display your head on my wall.” I spit out at him.
He stared at me, alarmed and likely unsure how to respond. “Can you say that slower?” he finally replied.
“Your teammate got my best friend knocked up and she’s freaking out, and I’m freaking out and I cannot keep secrets to save my life and you should know this already.” I groaned and lay my head against his chest.
“Shit,” he sighed and ran his hand through my hair. “When did she tell you this?”
“Yesterday, that’s why I wanted to talk to you. Even though I’m not supposed to tell you. Oh god I shouldn’t have told you, Serena’s going to kill me.”
“Just relax,” he rubbed circles on my back. “You’re allowed to tell me secrets, I’m an exception to the secret rule,” he sounded far too amused for the topic.
I glanced up and him and rolled my eyes before returning my head back to his chest.
“So does Geno know?”
“No, I told you, no one knows. Except for me… and now you.”
“I gotta be honest, Bea. I’m not comfortable getting involved in this.” His maturity was showing and I couldn’t decide if I was annoyed or turned on.
“And I am? I just told you I can’t keep secrets.” I wrapped my arms around his back, inhaling the smell of his soap and laundry detergent.
“Then don’t get involved?” he rested his chin on my head.
“I can’t not be involved. She’s my best friend. Her uterus is my uterus… okay not exactly because that would mean I’ve having a mini Malkin… and I’m not…”
“Shhhhh,” he brushed my hair back soothingly. “Stop thinking so much. You’re going to hurt yourself.”
“You’re an ass,” I tried not to smile.
“I’m serious, there’s nothing you can do about it so there’s no use worrying about it. Oh and I’m not going to get you pregnant or leave you, partially because I don’t doubt your decapitation abilities and because I kind of like you and stuff.” He hooked his finger under my chin and tilted my head so I was looking at him.
“I don’t like seeing her this upset.”
“And I don’t like seeing you upset,” he kissed me with more passion than before.
“Stop trying to distract me,” I pulled away from him and couldn’t help but smile.
“I’m not,” his hand moved back to my thigh, this time slowly moving between my legs.
“I’m not having sex with you in bathroom, bro.” I clamped my legs shut, his hand still between them.
“Did you just call me bro?” His forehead was crinkled and his lips curved on one side. He moved his other hand to the button on my pants and started to fiddle with it, teasingly. I couldn’t believe he was getting me hot and bothered on an airplane.
“Ugh, now I want to,” I groaned. “But I just said I’m all freaked out about Serena and I don’t want you getting me preg…” He interrupted me with his lips on mine, his hand pushing my legs open then undoing my pants.
“I didn’t say anything about sex,” he growled, his breathing heavier than usual. “I’m going to make you come with my hands and only my hands.”
I stared at him wide eyed and taken aback. He’d never been so domineering or blunt. It was incredibly hot. “Good luck,” I whispered before pressing my lips to his and lifting my hips so he could slip my pants lower. He slid his hand down the front of my black cotton underwear, his tongue moving against mine. I groaned as the callused skin of his fingertips made contact with me. His touch was all consuming, his free hand moving to my chest as he bit down gently on my lip. My body was heating up, his fingers finding a rhythm against me, two inside with the pad of his thumb against my clit. It wasn’t so much then sensation of the direct pressure on the bundle of nerves, or the feeling of his fingers slipping in and out easily- slightly curved in search of the perfect spot- that had me melting against him. I’d done this to myself countless times- perhaps not at the same glorious angle, but a version of it. It was the feeling of his lips against mine, the urgency and determination in his movements, his one track mind now focused entirely on me. I’d captivated him in a way I’d only seen his job do. It was knowing that all he wanted was to feel me come undone on him that made my muscles tense and my head tilt back. Knowing he didn’t expect anything in return because his only goal was to be there for me. I felt the explosion of affection and release, my head pressed against his shoulder, biting down on the fabric of his shirt, soft skin underneath. A flood of zen-like calm and accomplishment washing over both of us.
“Well done,” I mumbled sleepily, my face buried in his neck. “You sure know how to distract me.”
“It’s one of my finer talents,” he kissed the side of my head and sighed.
“When you’re in the Hockey Hall of Fame they’re going to have a plaque next to your gear that says ‘amazeballs with his hands in more ways than recorded.’ I swear.” I giggled and smiled up at him.
“You’re going to make sure of it eh?” he stroked his finger down my cheek.
“Absolutely.”
“That’ll be some interesting press conference,” he chuckled and I winked. “I guess we should get back, it won’t be much longer until we land.” He took a step back, giving me enough space to get off of the sink.
I returned my pants to their place on my hips and straightened my shirt, turning with my back pressed against him to check my reflection in the mirror. I pulled my hair out of the messy ponytail and ran my hands through it before putting it back up. He slipped his hands in my front pockets as I wiped away a smudge of mascara. I could feel the bulge in his pants.
“I love you,” he murmured, kissing my neck.
We landed in Montreal and were given the day to do with as we pleased. Days off on road trips proved to be challenging for our sub rosa relationship. In Pittsburgh we knew where we could go to avoid the media, we had the house and our daily routines, but away it was nearly impossible to maintain our clandestine activities. I lay on the bed in my underwear flipping through a local magazine, we’d taken the opportunity to finish what was started on the plane in the comfort of my hotel room. For reasons unbeknown to me we were still booked separate rooms even though we both ended up in my suite.
“We could just stay in here and make out all day,” I suggested, scanning the page in front of me, Sid’s long body stretched out beside me.
“So tempting,” he traced his finger along the curve of my hip. “But socially isolating.”
“Well you suggest something then,” I rolled my eyes playfully. “Preferably cheap or free.”
“We could go to the art gallery, you like that stuff,” he pressed his lips against my shoulder.
“Don’t be a martyr,” I laughed and lay my head on my folded arms. “I like you too much to subject you to the Beatrice Keller method of maximum gallery experience.”
“Oh?” he wrapped his arm around my waist, nestling his hand under my stomach.
“Mille has ditched me in galleries because I take so long, and she loves art.”
“I appreciate the warning,” he chuckled.
We lay on the bed flipping through channels and trying to find something to do, the sun began to set and we still hadn’t decided. By default my suggestion had won and I was enjoying the heat from his body against mine, perfectly content to spend the rest of the night snuggled in bed. His hands roamed my body casually and I rolled so we were facing each other, one of his legs nudged between mine. I couldn’t help but run my hands down the solid surface of his chest, his eyelids fluttered and he smiled, breathing softly. He wasn’t asleep but he looked angelic, a kind of peaceful I hadn’t seen before. I’d learned early on that it was rare to find him relaxed during a road trip. He was his most comfortable at home, away from the press and attention, and the constant flurry of activity the came with away games made him tense. I’d tried many times to imagine the pressure he felt, the pressure from the media, the league, but most of all the pressure he put on himself.
“What are you doing?” he opened one of his eyes and looked at me suspiciously.
“Nothing,” I snuggled closer. “Just looking at you.”
“How is that working for you?” he laughed softly, pulling me tight against him.
“I’m not complaining,” I smiled and kissed the spot below his ear, earning a moan. I continued, sucking lightly and nipping at the soft skin. I felt his erection swell against me.
“If you keep that up we’ll never leave this room,” he whispered, his husky voice in my ear, breath hot on my neck.
“If that’s supposed to be a threat it’s not a good one,” I giggled and sucked a little harder on his neck, knowing damn well I shouldn’t be.
“Good point,” he slipped his hands down my underwear and cupped my bum in his big palms. “Are you marking me or something?” he squeezed affectionately.
“That wasn’t my intention, but I guess it’s better than peeing on you.” I moved so I could see his face again.
“I’m glad you agree,” he smirked. “I’m a pretty open guy but that’s not my style.”
My fingers crawled down his chest and stomach, making him shiver as I grazed the fabric of his boxer briefs. “What is your style, Mr. Crosby?” I asked, putting on my best interview voice.
“Well Ms. Keller,” he began, playing along. “I like to think I play a game of skill and physicality. It’s really about team work though. I’ve got a great partner and that helps a lot. I really like to try and get it into the zone as much as possible.”
I grinned and tightened my hold on his bulge slightly. “So humble,” I brushed my lips against his. “Do you ever find all the attention getting to your… head?” I slowly slipped his boxers down, feeling him spring up against my hand. I brushed my thumb over the tip, feeling a bead of moisture on the pad of my finger. He groaned and kissed me gently.
“Beatrice!” There was a loud knock on the door and a distinct voice calling me. I glanced back at the clock and remembered the team dinner we had both planned to attend.
“For fuck sakes,” Sid growled and rolled onto his back, pulling his boxers back on. I sighed and climbed off of the bed, grabbing a robe on my way to the door.
“Bea!” Geno grinned when I opened it. “You just wake up?”
“Something like that,” I muttered. Through no fault of his, Geno was the last person I wanted to see.
“I called, no answer.” he looked at me concerned. “Sid same.”
“Sorry about that,” I heard Sidney’s voice behind me and felt his hand on my shoulder. “We dozed off. Tell the guys we’ll be there in five minutes.”
Geno smiled and winked, then turning back down the hallway.
“We could have skipped it,” I whined, turning around to find Sid already dressed.
“We could have,” he smiled and went into the bathroom to fix his hair.
“We could have skipped it and spent all night in bed,” I pouted, pulling a black full skirted dress over my head.
“I’m fresh out of condoms, and I wouldn’t want you to have to rely on only one form of 95% effective birth control,” he teased.
“You suck,” I came up behind him in the mirror, fixing my hair and clearing the smudged makeup from around my eyes.
“No dear,” he moved me in front of him and put both hands on my shoulders. “That’s your job.”
Most of the restaurants chosen for team dinners were expensive steak houses with dim lighting and extensive wine lists, this was no exception. I sat between Sidney and James, as per usual the only female at the table. James seemed preoccupied, occasionally glancing at his cell phone and looking up disappointed.
“Are you okay?” I whispered causally, taking a sip of my wine.
“Yeah,” he smiled weakly. “I was just expecting a text.”
“A watched cellphone never vibrates,” I winked.
Sid’s hand slipped under my dress and up my thigh, stopping a few inches above my knee. He squeezed affectionately and I leaned closer to him, the warmth of his body providing little comfort to my chilly bare arms. The waitress came to take our orders and I felt little desire to eat, especially not in front of a group of men. I ordered a salad and cursed myself for becoming ‘that’ girl.
“You can have some of mine,” Sid whispered to me, after ordering steak.
“I’m fine,” I smiled, resting my hand on top of his.
He rolled his eyes and shook his head before returning to his conversation with Marc.
“You alright?” James whispered, leaning into me.
“Yeah,” I smiled weakly. “I’m just not feeling well.”
“Drink more wine, that usually does the trick,” he laughed and checked his phone again.
I saw awkwardly, waiting for the food to come. Normally I’d have joined the conversation effortlessly, but I couldn’t find the energy. I hadn’t been lying when I’d said I wanted to skip it. I loved the team, and the guys were great, but I didn’t want to be around people, the only person I wanted near me was Sidney. My mind felt so bogged down with worry and confusion that I found it hard to concentrate, let alone carry on a conversation. Despite things going smoothly in most areas of my life, I still felt anxious.
I picked at the salad in front of me, my mind drifting off to Serena. I could feel Sid’s eyes on me but I tried to ignore him. I knew what he was thinking and I didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t expect him to understand, but I expected him to respect my decisions as an adult. He’d eaten half of his steak and the waitress was bringing the second round of drinks when he dropped his knife and fork.
“Would you please eat something?” he growled, louder than he'd intended to.
“Excuse me?” I looked up at him shocked to hear his voice so clearly.
“You’re driving me insane with the lettuce picking,” he said a little softer. “Just eat some of my steak.”
“I’m fine, Sidney,” I said coldly and shifted away from him. My face was red knowing the rest of the table likely heard him. I resented him for drawing attention to us.
“Yeah,” he scoffed. “You’ll be really fine when you pass out again. Are you going to try and do it in every locker room of the NHL?” he said cruelly.
“We can talk about this later,” I folded my hands in my lap and hoped no one had heard his outburst.
“Eat.” he dropped a piece of steak on top of my picked over salad. His domineering act did nothing but make me angry. But instead of lashing out I just laughed, playing it off as a joke.
“Wow Sid,” Marc Andre chucked, “how very Christian Grey of you. Demanding people eat.”
“What did you just say?” Pascal Dupuis called from across the table.
“Y’know, Christian Grey, from the Fifty Shades books,” Marc tried to explain.
“Yeah I heard that part,” Pascal smirked. “But the real question is why have you read those books?”
The table erupted with laughter and Marc blushed, shaking his head. “They’re not that bad,” he tried to reason, but instead dug himself into a deeper hole.
“Y’know, I’ve never even read those,” I sipped my wine and smiled, adding fuel to the fire that drew the attention away from Sidney and me.
“Vero had them, I wanted to see what the fuss was about!” he replied, flustered.
“Serena read them,” Geno added, smirking.
“And how is that working out for you big guy?” Beau clapped him on the back.
Geno remained quiet and grinned.
For once I was relieved by the short attention span of everyone around us.

“I’m sorry,” Sid looked at me with pleading eyes, the second the door closed behind us.
“Are you really?” I scoffed, slipping my shoes off and putting them in the closet.
“Of course I am. I wouldn’t apologize if I wasn’t,” he tried to wrap his arms around me from behind but I shook him off.
“Whatever,” I walked into the small bathroom and unzipped my dress.
“I’m serious,” he slouched against the doorframe, I could feel his eyes on me.
“I know you are.” I let my dress fall to the floor. “I don’t want to have this conversation right now,” I sighed, shaking my head and picking the dress up off of the floor.
“When else are we going to have it?” he reached out to take my hand but instead let his arm fall back to his side.
“Does it really matter? It’s always the same, I get angry, you apologize, I forgive you, it happens again. So what difference does it make? I can tell you until I’m blue in the face how much your controlling bullshit bothers me but that doesn’t seem to make a difference.” I couldn’t look at him. Instead I focused on brushing my hair, my eyes on my reflection in the mirror.
He didn’t say anything, instead just stared at me with a despondent look on his face. I didn’t want to feel bad for him. I wanted to be angrier than I really was, furious at him for embarrassing me and being so damn controlling. But I wasn’t I was hurt and exhausted, but not angry. It would have been easier to throw things and scream, hate him and leave, slamming the door behind me. The idea of leaving made me cringe, my skin crawling and a panic building inside of me. Scarier than my attachment to him was that in some twisted way I understood his behaviour, I didn’t condone it, but I could see the origin of his false logic. There was a part of me, a stifled part, that said the same things he had. A pleading corner of my mind that begged me to eat. Unfortunately the demons dwelling in my psyche were far stronger, far more controlling than he ever could be.
The silence was impossible, I could feel the tension between us and anxiety building within me. “Look,” I finally turned to him. “I get it. It’s annoying and uncomfortable. It’s a problem that you want to fix. Everyone wants to fix it, myself included, but there’s no easy solution. You behaving like that just makes it worse. No matter what your intentions were, treating me the way you did is not okay.”
“How am I supposed to treat you?” he ran his hand through his hair, frustrated. “Am I supposed to just watch quietly while you head down a path of destruction? I can’t do that. You’re right, I do want to fix the problem, I always want to fix the problem. Think of it this way, what would you have done if refused treatment after the concussion? If I had told the doctors I was fine and got back on the ice, then drove home and spent the night reading or going into a deep sleep. You would have gone fucking crazy. You’d have called me an idiot and told me I was risking everything. That’s how I feel when I watch you do this shit.”
I crinkled my brow, not knowing how to respond. There was nothing I could say. What he said made sense, it made too much sense for my liking. “I think I want to sleep alone tonight,” I mumbled, my eyes dropping to the floor.
“Don’t do that,” he placed his hand gently on my arm. “Don’t push me away. It’s not fair.”
“I’ll talk to you in the morning,” I pushed past him and hurried to the bed, crawling under the covers and pulling them tightly around me. The room was dark, only a glow coming from the bathroom light around the corner.
“I love you,” he said softly, flicking off the light and leaving the room, the loud click of the heavy door echoing inside me.
Tears pricked my eyes and I tried to will them away, telling myself this was the right thing to do. It was only one night, one night for me to clear my mind and be alone. I’d spent plenty of nights alone and had lived to tell it. Yet that thought did little to comfort me and quickly salty tears dripped down my face. With the knowledge that everything feels worse at night, I let myself cry, hoping to fall asleep sooner rather than later. I’d see him in the morning. Everything would be better in the morning.

Chapter Text

I sat with my feet dangling in the warm water of the hotel swimming pool, cursing myself for forgiving him so easily. All it took was one night alone and the feeling of his lips against my neck the next morning for me to give in and forget all the hurt. But the trouble was I couldn’t forget. I told him I was over it, and in some ways I was, I didn’t want to fight with him, yet the hurt still dwelled inside me. The look on his face as he spat cruel words in my direction while we sat surrounded by friends. I’d spent the night brokenhearted and questioning our relationship. When the idea of not being with him became too much to bear I tried to find the words that would explain what I needed from him. Finding the words was one thing, but figuring out what I wanted to say was a whole other challenge. In the end it came down to one thing; I needed to know he was on my side. I needed him to have my back while I battled against myself.
“We can’t keep doing this,” he sighed into my hair, our arms wrapped around each other. He’d woken me up before my alarm could, eager to sort things out. I’d rolled out of bed and into his arms, eye make up smudged all over my cheeks and still in last night’s push up bra that I’d somehow slept in.
“No, we can’t,” I replied. My head was nestled in the crook of his neck, I tried to stop myself from choking up again, wondering how I could possibly still have tears after last night
“I don’t know what to do,” he admitted, opening the flood gates to my eyes. I buried my head against him, my body shaking with every sob. My salty tears stained his soft black t-shirt and he pulled me tighter.
“I’m willing to do anything you ask me to,” his voice was soft, almost pleading. I couldn’t help but cry harder, gasping for air and convulsing. He rubbed small circles in the middle of my back, desperate to provide some comfort.
“Thank you,” I croaked, the only thing I could think to say. We both knew what we needed from the other, but instead of saying it we lay back on the unmade bed and held our bodies as close together as we could, an unspoken promise to sort things out.
I’d been with Sidney long enough that I wasn’t offended when he let go of me and crawled out of bed, it was game day and he had a routine to begin. One that would hopefully lead to a win that night. After showering, hoping to cleanse myself of the night before, I got dressed and headed down to breakfast. Determined to try harder, I sat down at a corner table with two pieces of toast, an apple, and tea. An hour later I had eaten everything in front of me and tried to push away the anxious feeling of failure that threatened to ruin my effort. The voice of the demonic bitch who had infected my life echoed through my head. I needed a distraction and like an unsaid prayer I found him in the elevator.
“How’s it going?” James smiled as I stepped inside the mirrored walls.
“I’m alright,” I replied brightly, hoping to mask my true emotions. “You?”
“I’m alright, just meeting the boys at the pool,” he held up the swim shorts bunched in his hand.
“Sounds like fun,” I reached passed him to press the button for floor 22.
“You should come down,” he suggested, tilting his head to the side.
“I didn’t pack my bathing suit,” I chuckled.
“Come anyway,” his smile was so warm and inviting. He reminded me Simon in a way I couldn’t pinpoint. “We both know Sid’s probably already in the zone,” his laugh filled the small space.
I couldn’t help but smile at how well we all knew Sidney. His reputation as predictable had been rightfully earned. “Okay,” I finally answered. “But if you splash me there will be hell to pay.”
The water moving calmly over my feet reminded me of home. I tried to imagine the smell of chlorine was salty air and the laughing swimmers seagulls. Even if it was just a swimming pool, there was still serenity in the ebb and flow of the liquid.
“Bea,” Geno swam towards me, I noticed the absence of his usual lopsided grin, the sparkle in his eyes clouded by emotion. “Have you…” he paused and looked down at the water, taking a breath. “Have you talk to Serena?”
I froze, unsure how to answer. I cursed my best friend for putting me in the middle of her mess, but quickly forgave her, a twinge in my heart as an image of her alone at home flashed through my mind. I looked at his sad eyes and shook my head, trying to be casual.
“She text me last night,” I added quickly, hoping to comfort him. Ease his mind in anyway I could.
“She say anything about me?” He crinkled his brow confused.
“Just that I should wish you all a good game,” I lied, biting my lip to refrain from losing it.
“Oh,” he looked disappointed, I wanted to dive into the pool and hug him. “She not answer my calls,” he shook his head and tried to force a smile. “I try again later.” I watched him swim off and noted that we’d be home in three days, three days and I could help her figure this all out.
I had just finished lightly taping Beau’s healing wrist and was sitting causally with James, waiting for someone to need me, when my phone began vibrating frantically in my pocket.
“Penguins’ locker room, medical professional and best sister ever, Beatrice speaking, how may I help you?” I answered, knowing my brother was on the other end of the line.
“Hey sassy pants,” John laughed in response. “Are you here?”
“I just said I’m in the locker room,” I scoffed dramatically. “You never listen.” James looked at me confused, giving me the same look Simon gave me when we were kids. I smiled and mouthed the word ‘brothers’ to him. He nodded, understanding the banter.
“Old habit,” he chuckled.
We arranged to meet at a door leading to a back stairwell so I could sneak them into the locker room. “Job perks” I laughed as the ooh’d and awe’d over the privilege of entering the authorized personnel only section of the rink. I warned them that they might not get to talk to anyone due to pre-game rituals and they rolled their eyes, breaking out in a tag team lecture about how everything I knew about hockey I owed to them.
“You guys want to continue stroking your own egos? Or do you want to follow the person who works for the NHL into the locker room?” I stood with my hand on my hip outside the door to the visitors section.
“We should probably follow her,” Simon looked to the other two, smirking.
“That sounds like a decent idea,” Andy replied.
“You’re always full of good ideas, Simon,” John laughed. All of them noticing the irritated look on my face.
“Idiots,” I groaned and pushed through the door, leading them down the long concrete hallway. I could already hear the music from the locker room and the hollering of players warming up. They trailed a few steps behind me talking amongst themselves. I didn’t have the energy to keep up with their conversation, whatever it was about.
We stood outside the dressing room, I’d silenced my brothers and was trying to make eye contact with Sidney from my spot at the door. I didn’t want to distract him if he was in the zone. I finally caught his eyes and he grinned at me, the wrinkles forming around his eyes and his lips spreading to show his straight white teeth. I smiled back at him and cocked my head to the side. Immediately he knew what I was asking and motioned for us to come in.
“Hey,” he greeted us, taking a moment to kiss my cheek before shaking hands with my giddy brothers. “Glad you could make it.”
“Thanks for the tickets,” John beamed, the most rational of the three. Andy and Simon stood wide eyed and in awe, like children entering Disneyland for the first time. If they were amazed now, I couldn’t wait for them to visit us in Pittsburgh.
“Big Brother!” Geno called to Andy from his seat on the dressing room bench. “You come long way.”
John and Simon stared at Andy, slack jawed and obviously jealous of the second member of our family to be on a first name basis with Evgeni Malkin. I glanced at Sid who was trying not to laugh at the dumbfounded expressions on their faces.
“Please tell me I didn’t look that silly the first time I met everyone,” I whispered to him, having to stand on the tips of my toes to reach his ear.
“Nah, you’re way sexier,” he winked and pulled my body against his.

After the past few games of isolation, it was a relief to finally stand behind the bench knowing Sidney wasn’t ignoring me. Even more comforting were the occasional glances and subtle smiles we exchanged throughout the three periods. I hadn’t forgotten how difficult things between us had been, but the satisfaction of watching him, and the freedom to kiss him in the hallway before he went on the ice overwhelmed any animosity that lived within me. We won 3-2. It wasn’t a landslide, or an amazing performance, but it snapped what was threatening to become a significant losing streak.
Outside the locker room I hovered over Geno, he lay on his back, blood pouring from his eyebrow, tears slipping from his eyes.
“What exactly did you do?” I asked, carefully injecting a numbing agent to take the edge off.
“Not paying attention. High stick to face,” he gritted his teeth.
“How do you not pay attention during a hockey game?” I teased, wiping the blood away for the third time.
“I think about Serena, she not call back.” His eyes were squeezed shut and his fists clenched, I slipped the needle into the undamaged area around the wound and began to meticulously stitch the gash. While the players may have claimed they didn’t care about scars, I knew better than to rush and leave them with lifelong marks.
“I’m sure she’s just busy with work and derby,” I assured him, finishing the last stitch and cleaning the area again.
“You right,” he smiled weakly, slowly sitting up.
“You’re good as new,” I pulled off the blood stained gloves and clapped him on the back. He laughed and traced his fingers over the stitches.
I made my way back to the locker room, exhausted and hoping to find the team ready to go. Instead I walked into a full blown dance party. Bass heavy pop music thumping through the speakers and men in various states of undress dancing around in joy. I stood at the door taking it all in. Sweaty bodies everywhere and each face wearing the same relaxed grin.
“There’s my girl,” Sid laughed, wearing only his bottom layer of spandex. He danced towards me and pulled me into the centre of the room with him.
“I can’t dance,” I giggled, pushing his sweaty body away from me. He persisted, holding my arms hostage and moving me around with him. “Apparently you can’t either.”
The song came to an end and he kept his hands around my wrists, kissing me all too passionately for where we were. He’d very quickly abandoned our idea of a professional relationship.
“Go pick a song, Bea,” Marc Andrea called from his stall across the room.
“You don’t want to let her do that,” Beau warned. “I’ve heard what she listens to,” he taunted.
“Yeah I have to agree,” Sid piped up, cupping my face in his hands. “Such a nice face, such questionable taste.”
“Fuck you,” I laughed, pulling away from him and walking to the iPod.
“Do we want to take bets? I’m saying either One Direction or something inaudible like Sex Pistols,” Sidney continued and I shot him an annoyed look.
“Or Hunter Hayes!” Beau added. “Do you remember the day he listened to that C.D on repeat for three hours?”
“Would you two shut up?” I hollered before Sidney could reply. “You wouldn’t want me telling the team about your Mean Girls movie date would you?” Beau flushed crimson and Sid glared at me with wide eyes.
“Beatrice, don’t tell them my secrets!” he hissed, trying to hold back the smile that crept across his face.
I hit play on the iPod and walked back to him, patting his cheek patronizingly before taking a seat by the coach’s board.
“I knew it,” Sid laughed as the music began. “Not Sex Pistols but close.”
“Fricken Green Day,” Beau groaned. “I’ve heard this album fifty times since you moved in.”
“It’s a good album,” I cried. “They’re magnificent!”
“As long as it’s not One Direction or Miley Cyrus, I’m not complaining,” Dupuis added in support.
“We heard Green Day and figured you must be around,” Simon said, I looked up to find my brothers standing at the door,
“Flash backs to high school,” Andy rolled his eyes. “Some things never change.”
“My little punk rock girlfriend,” Sidney whispered in my ear after everyone had returned to their business of getting dressed. He had a towel around his hips, heading towards the shower. “Do you want to go light something on fire and stud our own leather jackets tonight?” he nipped at my ear lobe playfully. Despite his sassy comment I desperately wanted to join him in the shower.
“You smell,” I rolled my eyes and pushed him towards the shower, winking as he turned away from me.
Coming home after even a few nights away, felt like entering the most luxurious of spas. Returning to my apartment instead of going straight to Sidney’s house was like walking into a palace. The smell of warm vanilla candles and the inviting decor gave me shivers. It didn’t have the same amenities as Sid’s McMansion, but it was my home. We left our bags in the car, he’d wanted to go home first but I demanded we see Serena immediately. As per usual the place was in perfect order, which should have surprised me, but did nevertheless. I had expected walk in to a disaster zone, instead there were cookies on the counter. Had I not heard faint the music and muffled sobs coming from her room, I would have thought the place was empty.
“Feel free to turn on the TV,” I told Sid before venturing down the hall towards the noise.
He smiled sadly and wished me luck. Completely unprepared for what I was about to find, I needed all the luck I could get. I expected Serena to be upset, but I could never accurately assume to what extent she would be. I’d seen her bawl over Scrubs and hardly flinch and funerals. Unpredictability seemed to be a common trait in our shared household. I knocked softly on the door, hardly waiting for a reply before opening it. I slipped inside, closing it firmly behind me and looked up to find her. Spread out on the floor staring up at the ceiling, tissues littered around her and the colour drained from her face. For a brief moment I worried she was unconscious, nearly ready to yell for Sidney when she turned her head towards me.
“I am so fucked,” she said dryly.

Chapter Text

“I think fucked might be a little extreme,” I tried to break the ice.
“I’m carrying the cellular composition of my DNA and that of a Russian hockey player, I think fucked is the perfect word,” she growled.
I couldn’t pretend I knew how she was feeling. I’d had exactly one pregnancy scare in my life and it only lasted two days, ending in the joyous appearance of long expected blood. I’d had no time to seriously consider the repercussions, let alone sit and plan my future. Serena on the other hand had spent that last five days doing exactly that; analyzing. While my heart ached for her, I knew it was nothing compared to the pain she felt. The gnawing uncertainty that had likely settled in the pit of her stomach, the anxiety that flowed through her veins. I lay on the floor beside her, moving the tissues away and taking her hand in mine.
“What can I do?” I asked and squeezed her hand.
“Find me a time machine so I can go back and fix this?” she sighed.
“Wouldn’t that be nice,” I chucked, recalling all the things I’d like to go back and change. “Have you gone to a doctor?”
“I have an appointment tomorrow,” she nestled her head against my shoulder. “Will you come with me?”
“Of course,” I brushed the hair out of her face and made a note to cancel my plans with Sidney. We lay there silently for a few minutes, both of us trying to find some kind of peace.
“Y’know,” she finally spoke. “I thought if I ever got pregnant I’d be excited, no matter what the situation was. When I was a teenager I used to wonder what it would be like. Sometimes I even hoped it would happen, but here I am in my twenties and I have never been more scared of anything in my life. There’s nothing wonderful or magical about this, and I’m not just talking about the physical discomfort. I feel like everything is spinning out of control and all I can do is stand here and watch it happen.”
I pulled her closer to me and wrapped my arms tightly around her tired body. I knew exactly how she felt, the only difference being I had more control in my life than she did in hers.
“Would I be a horrible person if I didn’t keep it?” she whispered, barely audible and voice shaking.
“Not at all,” I replied softly.
We lay together on the floor for some time. Augustana drifted from the stereo speakers, filling the space left empty by our silence. I tried to comprehend the severity of the situation. That at that very moment I was holding both my best friend and what potentially be her child. I couldn’t warp my head around the idea of Serena as a mother, let alone Serena and Evgeni as co-parents. Selfishly, I was relieved it wasn’t me, it was no secret that Serena was the stronger of the two of us. Her logic and never failing support had saved me time and time again. It was agonizing to see my usually put together best friend fall apart in my arms. I watched her drift off to sleep, the tension leaving her stiff body and her eyelids fluttering slightly. I wondered the last time she’d had a decent sleep and decided not to wake her, instead I held her tighter wanting nothing more than to protect her from her own life. I suddenly knew how she felt all those days I couldn’t pull myself from the cold relentless hands of heartache. The days I lived in a cloud of depression and self loathing, using my be as the only weapon to fight off the fatal abuse. I’d long lost count of the times she’d crawled in bed with me and held me in the very same way, whispering every comforting thought she could. She’d tell me it would pass and until it did she was there to help carry the load, remind me how strong I was, retell the stories from our youth. I was strong because of her. Without Serena I’d have fallen apart years ago. She was the only person who’d stayed with me not matter what.
Serena and I met in the sixth grade, she was the beautiful, radiant girl who loved everyone and I was the nervous, awkward one with thick glasses, and uncontrollable hair. The first time she spoke to me I was so honoured to have the attention of one of the popular girls that I nearly tripped on my own feet. A few weeks later she was still interested in me, while the rest of my peers quickly wrote me off as ‘uncool’, Serena was unaffected by their opinions. We slowly spent more and more time together and she told me she liked the unpopular music always coming from my C.D player, my collection of gel pens, and was unfazed by the giant Foo Fighters poster hung above my bed. She’d joke that every preppy girl needed an alternative sidekick and while I didn’t understand either of those labels, I was honoured to be considered her sidekick. Years later when I came to realize something was different, when I began my descent into darkness and so many of my friends backed away Serena stayed by my side. “If I didn’t want to be here, I would have left a long time ago,” she’d remind me when I worried I was a burden. “I’m in it for the long run.” Almost fourteen years later, she was still beside me.
“Bea?” Sid knocked softly on the door.
“Come in,” I called back, quietly so as not to wake her.
“Is everything alright?” he asked slipping into the room and closing the door behind him, just as I had. “Oh, she’s asleep. I guess that’s probably a good thing.”
“Yeah,” I smiled down at her peaceful face. “I think it’s been a while.”
“I bet,” he took a few steps towards me and then crouched down beside us. “So Geno is in the living room. I take it she still hasn’t told him?”
“She’s pretty torn up,” I noticed a hint of judgement in his voice and shot him an unimpressed look.
“She still needs to tell him,” he shook his head.
“And she will. I thought you didn’t want to get involved in this?”
“I don’t,” he stood up, shoving his hands in his pockets. “But my friend is out there confused as hell.”
“And my best friend is in here falling apart,” I sighed. His limited understanding of her situation was frustrating. There was no way he could possibly comprehend the range of emotions she was feeling, the decision she was being forced to make.
Her eyelids fluttered then opened, brown eyes alert and staring up at us. “I’m sorry,” she mumbled then sat up, rubbing her face.
“Don’t worry about it,” I smiled and stretched my tingling arm. I sat up beside her and ran my hands through my hair.
“How was your trip, Sidney?” she tried to deflect the attention to him.
“It was good,” he smiled politely. I held my breath, hoping he wouldn’t say anything that would give away how much he knew. “I just came in here to let you guys know that Geno is in the living room,” he was nonchalant, playing it cool.
“Oh shit!” She buried her head in her hands and let out a frustrated groan.
“Tell him we’ll be out in a few minutes,” I looked up at his concerned face and softened. He was in uncharted territory and I couldn’t blame him for being harsh.
He left us alone and I stood up, stretching my stiff limbs. Serena remained hunched over on the floor, cradling her head and shaking.
“You’ll feel better when you get it over with,” I crouched down the way Sidney had and rubbed her back in circles.
“I know,” she wiped her red eyes with her sleeve and looked up at me. “It just makes it so real, y’know?”
She finally stood up and pulled her dishevelled sweater off, searching for something clean. She found a Penguins shirt I’d bought her and pulled it on, turning to the mirror the sighed and reached for the brush. When her hair was pulled into a ponytail and her face was clean of tears she turned to me and smiled.
“Now or never,” she headed for the door, pulling her shoulders back.
With the intention of giving them privacy, Sidney and I lay on my bed with the door closed. It didn’t make much difference though, we could hear the entire conversation through the walls. At first I tried not to listen, I wanted to respect their discussion, but it was impossible.
“I’m so sorry,” she cried.
“You don’t have to be sorry,” he said softly. I hoped he was touching her, comforting her in some way.
“I don’t know what to do, this is so fucked up,” her voice was hoarse and forced.
“We have baby,” he replied confused. “Not so bad.”
I heard her crying even harder and had to stop myself from running out to her.
“I don't want to!” she said between sobs. “I’m not ready for this.”
“But I be here, with you.” He wasn’t understanding and I imagined she was getting frustrated.
“I can’t keep it,” she said dully.
“What does she mean she can’t keep it?” Sid turned to face me.
“What do you think she means?” I cocked my eyebrow and reached for him, running my hand down his chest.
“Adoption?” he looked at me so naively and I wanted to smile but I couldn’t. There was nothing pleasant about our conversation.
“No,” I shook my head slowly and kissed him. His lips moved with mine, his hands slipping under the back of my shirt. I wanted to feel him close to me and touching was the easiest way I knew how. I felt his hands move around and cup my breasts, pushing my bra out of the way. I groaned shifting closer to him.
“How could she do that?” he stopped abruptly, pulling away from me and leaving me cold where his body had been.
“What?” I scowled at him, unamused.
“I know it’s a big decision or whatever, but how could she think about doing something like that? Killing it.” He sat up on the edge of the bed and stared off into space.
“It’s her decision,” I flopped back onto my pillow, trying to avoid a debate.
“Is it though? How can you say it so simply?” he turned to me confused.
“Say what? That she has the right to decide what does or doesn’t happen to her body?” I said harshly.
“Yeah, but what about the baby?” his voice was tense and rising.
“We are not arguing about this,” I sat up, annoyed that he would even start this. “First of all, you don’t get to have an opinion on this, and second it’s no where near a ‘baby’ yet.”
“I don’t get an opinion?”
“No, you don’t! You will never, ever understand the situation she or thousands of other women are in, it will never affect you the way it affects them, therefore you have no right to comment on it.” I felt my blood boiling and my voice reaching an unnatural pitch.
“Don’t give me that shit!” he growled. “Don’t act like I’m some idiot.”
“You’re the one acting like an idiot,” I rolled my eyes and lay back down. “I told you I don’t want to talk about this. It’s not something you need to worry about so leave it alone.”
“I just don’t understand how you can be so heartless,” he shook his head in disgust. “There are so many things wrong with abortion and I thought you’d be able to see that, the girl who cried for days after her nephew was born”
“I’m not heartless, I’m sick of seeing women forced to do things they don’t want to. I’m sick of seeing people like you value a potential life over one that is already living.”
“People like me? You mean people who value life?” he spat at me.
“Y’know what?” I snapped back up and stared at him. “If you’re going to be such a narrow minded prick, you can leave!”
“There you go, looking for another fight,” he slammed his hand down on the bed beside me. “I try to express an opinion and you shut me down like a g’damn child.”
“I’m looking for a fight?” I screamed. “You started this! I told you I don’t want to talk about it because I don’t want to argue with you about something you don’t understand.”
“Whatever,” he stood up and grabbed his jacket from the end of the bed. “Sometimes it’s like I don’t even know you?”
I watched him leave, slamming the door behind him, and willed myself not to fall apart. How quickly we’d found ourselves in the middle of another argument. I would never waiver on my beliefs and was hurt to see him so adamantly disagree with me. Could we do anything without fighting? I crawled under the covers and tried not to think the worst. But the thought crept into my mind anyway, that nagging feeling, two little words, one life changing decision. We couldn’t live like this anymore.
Serena and Geno spent the rest of the day together, locked in her room while I tried to forget what had just happened. After a restless night of sleep I woke up the next morning with the same anxious feeling. I skipped breakfast and considered heading to the derby track to skate out my aggression until I remembered that my car was still parked in Sidney’s garage and my skates were still in his closet. My computer was on his desk, my toothbrush by his sink, and my work uniform packed in the suitcase I’d left in his car. I was left with whatever I could find in my nearly empty room and the hope that I could get it all back.
I lay on the couch reading a novel Serena had left on the coffee table when she came out dressed in yoga pants and an oversized sweater. Her hair was pulled out of her face and her eyes were still puffy.
“Ready to go?” she asked slipping her shoes on.
I sat up from the couch and glanced down at my outfit, I’d managed to find an old pair of leggings and a hoodie. The world wasn't a fashion show and it would have to do. I grabbed my purse from the counter and followed her out the door.

“You seem to be about eight weeks along,” the doctor told us after removing the internal ultrasound and taking off his gloves. “I’m going to suggest you start taking a prenatal vitamin and come back to see me in about a month,” he reached for his prescription pad.
“What can you tell me about my options?” Serena spoke nervously, her hands clasped in her lap.
“Options?” he replied, narrowing his eyes.
“I don’t want to continue the pregnancy,” she glanced and me for support and I took her hand.
“I would advise against that,” the doctor shook his head and stood up from his seat, reaching for a pamphlet.
“It’s a good thing she’s not asking your advise then,” I glared at him, enraged. “She’s asking for information not opinion.”
He muttered something under his breath and handed her a pamphlet before leaving us alone in the room.
“Fucking asshole,” Serena hissed, putting her clothes back on.
She made an appointment with Planned Parenthood that day to discuss the procedure and dropped me off at home before going. Noticing my foul mood she assured me she would be perfectly fine to go on her own and we’d have dinner when she got home. I felt horrible to leave her side but was relieved to have time alone in the apartment. I knew what I needed to do and it would be easier to do it without an audience.
“Beatrice?” his voice came through the phone and I tired not to melt. The way he said my name gave me shivers.
“Hi,” I said softly, searching for the words to say.
“How are you?” he seemed genuinely concerned and I had to remind myself of all the reasons I was doing this.
“I think we should break up,” my voice trembled. I’d said the words we’d both been thinking for days.
“What?” he cried.
“This isn’t working for either of us and it’s not fair,” I explained.
“I know,” he said quietly, backing down easier than I thought he would. “I’m sorry.”
“I am too, but we have to be realistic,” tears dripped down my face and I tried to hide the pain in my voice.
“I’m not ready to let you go,” he admitted. I didn’t want to hear his sadness, I wanted to forget that he was just as much in love with me as I was him.
“You have to,” I sighed, trying to relieve the pressure in my chest. “We’re not good for each other and it has become incredibly clear over the past few weeks.”
“I’m willing to work on it,” he offered.
“I’m not,” I took a jagged breath and said goodbye.
I'd felt my heart break into a million pieces, the good I had found in my life came crashing down and I was left alone in my apartment. I wanted to call him back and beg his forgiveness. I wanted to tell him I'd made a horrible mistake and I would stop being so hard to get along with. Instead I pulled a blanket over me and turned on Netflix. Dozing in and out of consciousness with the phone cradled in my lap and Skins playing on the television screen, I tried to forget my life. But every time I slipped into the warm embrace of sleep I saw him, his hurt eyes and comforting face, his body begging to hold me close and his lips with apologies written all over them. I had become the antagonist in my own life’s story. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t accept that he had done anything wrong, in my mind our demise was entirely my fault and there was no way I could possibly fix it. Instead I would be forced to spend the rest of my days regretting all the mistakes I’d made that led me to that moment alone on the couch with tear stained eyes.
When Serena woke me up a few hours later the light had left the sky and for a split second I’d forgotten who I was. There was a momentary relief until I saw her face, tired and anxious looking at me with an air of confusion.
“I have an appointment for next week,” she told me, sitting down at my feet and putting them on her lap.
“That’s good,” I turned off the television and tossed my inactive phone onto the coffee table.
“Yeah, I guess,” she sighed and let her head fall back. “I guess it’s better than not having an appointment.”
“It’ll be over soon,” I gave her a weak smile and tried to fight back the emotion that boiled inside me.
“Thank god. Geno isn’t very happy about it but I think he understands.” A smile crept across her lips and she shook her head. “He said he wants to be with me,” she laughed. “How fucked up is that?”
“He really cares about you.”
“Yeah, well,” she rolled her eyes and sighed. “So what happened with Sid last night?”
I cringed and turned my face away from her. For the hundredth time in two days the tears tickled my eyes and dripped down my face. If I said it out loud it would become too real, just like Serena said the night before.

Chapter Text

Day five without him. Each hour lagged on longer than the last, the days felt like months and I tried to rationalize that it would get easier. Day one without him the team had the day off. Day two: I called in sick. I couldn't stand the idea of watching them practice, the thought of being in the same building as him made me nauseous. Day three followed the same pattern as day two. Day four was an optional skate so Serena and I spent the day on the couch binge watching Grey's Anatomy with a carton of ice cream and two spoons. It was typical, but effective. Day five I had no excuse, I couldn't stay away forever. Serena drove me to the rink two hours before puck drop, I still hadn't picked up my car. My hair was pulled into a tight bun and my face bare, I couldn't be bothered to try, I had no one to impress and no reason to care.
Avoiding everyone, I snuck into my office and shut the door, leaving it open slightly. I didn't want to be disturbed but I tried not to appear completely self isolating. Music playing softly in the background I sat at my desk reading over paperwork and trying to keep myself distracted. On a normal day the work would be somewhat interesting, but on day five I found myself reading the same line over and over.
"Bea?" Geno peeked in through the crack in the door and knocked softly
"Come in," I forced a smile and closed the folder. He took a few steps inside the room and closed the door the rest of the way. "What's up?"
"Getting ready for game," he shrugged. "How are you? I talk to Serena."
"I'm alright," I didn't know what he was referring to. "What did she say?" I asked carefully.
"You and Sid," his face fell and he looked at me with those sad eyes like a basset hound. "I'm sorry."
"It's fine," I shrugged him off, knowing that if I said anymore I would fall apart.
He must have picked up on my hesitation because he didn't try to push the conversation. "Serena okay?" he changed the subject back to a common ground.
"She's doing alright, better than you'd think."
"She act strong, but I never know," he smiled slightly and stared down at his hands.
"I know what you mean. But I think she's doing the best she can. How are you doing?" I realized that no one had bothered to wonder how he was doing with the life changing news he'd just received. His involvement was different than Serena's, but he was still a part of it all.
"Been better," he said quietly. "But is for best. Sena need to do what best for her," he blushed.
"Sena?" I looked at him confused.
"Serena," he corrected himself. "I call Sena when we talk," he smiled, face now flushed and beaming. "I go get dressed," he turned to leave. "Talk after if you want," he smiled and I watched him walk away.

My time hiding away came to an end and I was forced to interact with everyone around me. I sat in the trainers' room waiting for the rush of players coming in for a pre-game rubdown.The aching emptiness in the pit of my stomach shook me from the inside out and I swallowed back the anger and hurt that rose up my throat, unwelcome emotions triggered by the memories held within the four walls of the room. Our first real conversation, secretive kisses exchanged when no one could see, everyday moments that I already longed for. I'd yet to see Sidney and hoped to keep it that way, visiting the room wasn't part of his regular pre-game ritual and I couldn't see why he would make any exceptions on day five of all days. I couldn't imagine he'd want to see me anymore than I'd want to see him, I was the girl who'd dumped him. The scared, immature girl who had made his life hell then dumped him. Over the past five days Serena had made it her mission to remind me that Sidney had also played a part in the demise of our relationship, I refused to acknowledge any truth there may have been in her words. Instead, I held myself responsible and found a masochistic pleasure in reminding myself that.
"Hey, you feeling better?" James asked, taking a seat on one of the padded exam tables.
"Huh?" I looked over at him.
"You took two days off sick... are you feeling any better?" he eyed me suspiciously, swinging his legs onto the table.
"Right," I walked towards him. "Totally fine, just girl stuff," I said casually, immediately regretting my fabricated excuse. I couldn't have said twenty-four hour bug? Headache? Anything but that!
"Oh," he blushed. "That... uh.. sucks."
"Yeah..."I said awkwardly, standing near his feet. We both looked at each other without saying anything, marinating in the uncomfortable tension. "So what can I do for you?" I finally broke the silence.
"Coach just wants to triple check that I'm good to go tonight," he smiled.
"Right," I nodded. "Big game tonight." I walked to the counter to grab a flashlight, stethoscope and blood pressure cuff.
"I guess?" he looked perplexed. "I mean we're playing Colorado. I guess every game is a big game."
"Yeah," I strapped the cuff around his arm. "I was more referring to your first game back." I laughed stiffly.
"Oh, yeah, I'm looking forward to getting back out there." He looked past me while I pumped air into the cuff. It tightened around his arm and he stiffened.
"Try to relax," I pressed the stethoscope to his chest.
"I hate these things," he groaned softly. It reached full capacity then started to deflate, giving me a reading.
"Well you're blood pressure is good," I took the flashlight and held it up to his eyes, watching each pupil dilate individually. "Follow my finger," I held up my index finger and watched his eyes move.
"Hey, can I ask you weird question?" he asked without taking his eyes off my moving finger.
"Sure," I kept mine focused on his movement.
"Is something going on with Sid? He's been weird lately. I'd ask him myself but he's hardly ever around."
Of course there was something going on with Sid. How could I expect him to go back to normal after I'd ended our relationship? I immediately felt guilty knowing that my actions could be affecting his game. At this point in the season they needed all the wins they could get.
"No idea," I lied, again. Talking about the break up with Geno was one thing, but if Sidney hadn't told the team I wasn't going to. "Probably just focused on the rest of the season."
"Yeah," he smiled. "Probably."
"So I think you're cleared to play. But I'm just going to grab Larry for a second check." I returned the tools to the counter and left the room, popping my head into Larry's office on the way to mine.
I was supposed to be in the room until the warm up, but I needed a few minutes to myself. I'd rather be scolded for not being around than breakdown in front of my colleagues. My head down and mind focused on composure I rounded the corner and felt my body collide with something solid. Two big hands grabbed my shoulders as I was falling backwards.
"Woah there, girlie!" A deep accented voice cried, stabling me.
"I'm so sorry," I blushed, looking up to see Max Talbot grinning, his hands still holding me. I wasn't in the habit of associating Max with Colorado yet. As a Flyers fan I was heartbroken to see him go, even if Steve Downie belonged in Philly.
"Where you off to in such hurry, Mrs. Crosby?" he laugh, slowly dropping his hands.
I tried to keep my face neutral but I could feel it falling. "My office," I mumbled and tried to move past him. Normally I'd have been delighted to see him, but between my already brewing anxiety and his reference to Sidney, I wanted to get away.
"Hey," he said softly, putting his arm out to stop me. "What's wrong? Still hurt about my trade?" he teased. Sidney must have told him.
"I'm fine," I forced a smile, my jaw and teeth clenched. My throat was once again doing that spazzy tightening thing, the precursor to tears. "How are you liking Colorado?"
"It's really nice. Are you sure you're alright?" He returned his hand to my shoulder, this time more comforting than stabilizing. He was dressed in an Avalanche t-shirt and gym shorts. I could see his muscles move under the fabric.
"Just having a weird day," I shrugged.
"Those suck," he smiled apologetically. "Have you seen Sid? I came down here to see him but he's not where I thought he'd be."
I groaned and shook my head. The mention of him again made my chest tighten even more. I didn't want Max to see me break down either and I knew I had to get out of there quickly.
"Coming for post game drinks?" he cocked his head to the side and grinned.
"Maybe," I swallowed hard and tried to put on my best face.
"You should, I'll buy you the cure for a weird day: shots."
"I'll see," I forced a chuckle and pushed past him, quickly finding refuge in my quiet office.

The tension on the bench was more than I could stand. We were down 4-2 and Sidney was doing his damnedest to ignore me. Again, I couldn't blame him, but I still wanted to grab his shoulders, shake him furiously and scream 'You may hate me now but trust me you'll thank me!!' Fortunately for my reputation I kept my hands to myself and the startling words hidden away inside me. At the end of the second intermission he brushed against me. The touch of his gear against my clothed body sent shivers down my spine.
"Sorry," he mumbled, finally breaking the five days of silence. I quietly rejoiced, his single word had to be a step towards civility. That or the instant reaction of a born and raised Canadian. He walked to the other side of the bench before I could reply.
Colorado won 5-3, the locker room was quiet with the exception of sticks being thrown in anger. I waited in the trainers' room fortunate to avoid the dreary atmosphere. I would never get used to the sad faces of the players after a loss. My maternal instincts gave me the strange desire to hug them all and feed them soup.
"Hey," Beau said, standing awkwardly in front of me.
"Hi," I smiled up at him. "What's going on? Is your hand bothering you?"
"No," he shook his head and looked at his healed hand. "It's great actually."
"Good," I stood up to face him properly.
"Look, this is like really weird and stuff but I brought your car. I figured you'd need it and Crosby is being kind of a tool. I, uhm, grabbed your computer too, I hope that's okay." He held up my familiar laptop bag.
"Oh Beau!" I pulled him into a tight hug and felt my same tightening in my sinuses. "I really appreciate it, buddy," I laughed, trying to remain casual.
"Don't worry about it," he grinned. "I really miss having you around the house," I noticed a blush rise in his cheeks. "Whatever happens with you guys I want you to know you're a huge beauty." I squeezed him again, then wiped away the liquid that tried to slip out of my eyes.
"How is he?" I asked hesitantly. Was it selfish of me to care after I'd caused so much chaos in his life?
"You know Sid, he doesn't talk about it. He's focused on the game now. But I know he's not happy."
"Right," I murmured. At least he had hockey to distract himself.
When all the check ups were done and the paper work was filed I was finally free to go back to my cave of sorrow, my perfect spot on the couch with my equally distraught best friend. Pleased to have my car back, I cranked the key in the ignition and saw a full tank of gas. I made a note to steal one of Serena's baked creations of Beau as a thank you. Stopped at a red light a few blocks from the rink I felt my phone vibrate in my jacket pocket. I ignored it, the light changing and continued on my way home. It vibrated again, then once more. Worried it might be important, I finally checked at the next red light.
Unknown Number:
Its Max I stole ur #
Unknown Number:
I hd 2 wrestle Geno 4 it.
Unknown Number:
Im stayin @ the Hilton and expect u here in n hour.

I groaned at his butchered text speak, but was glad he hadn't included any lingo that the hockey players seemed to regard as real words. The light changed and I tossed the phone on the passenger seat. I spent the rest of the ride home debating whether or not I should go. It was a ridiculous idea, going out to party with the team who'd just beat mine. There was also a chance that Sidney would be there and I didn't want to intrude. I climbed the stairs to the apartment, having decided not to go, it wouldn't be right. When I opened the purple door I noticed a large pair of men's dress shoes against the wall.
"Go get dressed," Serena said, popping her head out of the bathroom then disappeared.
"For what?" I peeled off my jacked it tossed it on the couch.
"We're going out, I'm sick of sitting around," she reappeared with a toothbrush in her mouth.
"I'd rather not," I called to her, heading for the kitchen.
"It wasn't a question. Geno is waiting in my room so hurry up." She said over the running water. I rolled my eyes and let the fridge door slam closed.
I had nothing to wear. I'd spent the last few days in sweatpants and leggings, neither things I could wear to... wherever we were going. All my nice clothes were held hostage in Sidney's closet, provided he hadn't burnt them. I tore apart my drawers finding a clean pair of lacy underwear I never wore because they gave me the worst wedgie, but nothing else useful. I ripped through my closet, almost ready to tell Serena there was no way I was going anywhere when I found the same pair of high waisted black skinny jeans that I'd worn my first day to work. I was sure I'd left them with the rest of my clothes, but by an act of fate, they were there, neatly folded and waiting to be worn. If I could find a top it would be a sign that I should go. Nothing. Just a few t-shirt and worn out hoodies, none of which I could wear outside of the house.
"I meant to give this back to you," Serena pushed open the door and tossed something onto my bed. "Hurry up!" she added before closing the door.
I had no recollection of her borrowing my sleeveless black and white gingham blouse, which meant I hadn't actually leant it to her, she'd just taken it. We didn't often share clothes because Serena was a good five sizes smaller than me, but she must have found some way to wear the oversized shirt. I pulled off my work clothes and sat in front of the mirror. There wasn't enough time to do anything extravagant. I lined my eyes in black and layered my eyelashes with mascara, a red lip stain and some concealer would have to do. I brushed my hair and pulled it into a loose ponytail then put on my miracle outfit. Nothing would ever look good enough on me, but it wasn't bad. The pants hugged my hips and the shirt hung casually. Again, I had no one to impress, if I had the confidence I could have worn a paper bag and no one would have noticed.
"Are you happy?" I walked out of my room and into the living room where Serena and Geno sat waiting.
"Yes, you look good," she smiled and got up, Geno following her.
"Pretty," he patted my shoulder.
I laced up my black boots and pulled a leather jacket over the top. The outfit was a strange homage to my teenage fashion self. All I needed was the lip piercings and bad attitude.
"Where are we going?" I asked from the backseat. Serena was driving and Geno sat beside her in the passenger seat.
"Hilton," she turned to face me slightly.
"Sid not there," Geno assured me. I suspected Max had something to do with our impromptu outing.
Unknown Number:
R U coming??

Bea:
On my way now. Not that I had a choice.

Max:
I hve no idea wat ur tlking bout.
Max greeted us in the luxuriously decorated hotel lobby. He was a bundle of energy, grinning when he saw us. Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene and a few other players I didn't recognize stood beside him talking amongst themselves.
"Geno," Landeskog smiled, clapping Evgeni on the back. "Good game buddy."
"I let you win this time, next time not so nice," he laughed.
"You keep telling yourself that," Duchene added with a chuckle.
"This Serena," Geno reached for Serena's hand and grinned. "Serena, this hockey players."
"I thought they were accountants," I muttered to no one.
"That was my back up plan," Max said so only I could hear. "Guys, this is Bea, don't even think about it because she's shacked up with Crosby." He placed his hand on my shoulder protectively like he had earlier.
"Where is the superstar?" Landeskog asked after shaking my hand.
"Probably studying game tape," I joked. "He's not much of a partier." It wasn't completely untrue, rather a lie of omission. In fact everything I'd said that day seemed to be lying by omission. It just made things easier.
We walked a few blocks to a busy nightclub with a line outside the door. It took one look at Geno and Max for the bouncer to escort us in, bypassing the cold Pittsburgh patrons. We were given a reserved table in the back and free bottle service. Just typical perks of being around recognizable athletes. We squeezed into the booth, Serena to my left and Max to my right. The tall waitress with waist length brown hair took our order. Without hesitation I ordered a Strongbow and two Jagerbombs. If I was going to get through the night in one piece I was going to need to drink. Serena ordered a whiskey and a glass of water. Geno and I both glared at her.
"Since when do I drink whiskey?" she whispered to me. "It's for you, I just didn't want to seem suspicious."
"Right," I eyed her as she told Geno what I assumed was the same thing,

The music was loud and the lights almost nonexistent, typical for any nightclub. I sat quietly while everyone around me chatted excitedly, laughing and hollering at each other. Even Serena got involved in the action. But I didn't know what to say. Anything I'd say would inevitably lead to questions about Sidney and I didn't want to have to lie anymore. In fact, I couldn't trust myself to lie. Two Jagerbombs, two shots of tequila, a Strongbow, and Serena's cover up whiskey, needless to say I was feeling a bit light headed. A few of the guys went off in search of late night companionship and Serena dragged Geno onto the dance floor. I watched them sway to the bass heavy music, her arms around his neck and his her hips. I envied her ability to not only dance sober, but find some joy when things seemed otherwise bleak and depressing. I realized that I'd never danced with Sidney, it was probably safer that way, he wasn't exactly light on his feet, but I still ached to feel his body pressed against mine. I reminded myself again for the thousandth time that this was my own doing and I would have to live with the consequences. Geno leaned down to kiss Serena and I decided I needed another drink. Excusing myself from the conversation I was hardly a part of, I climbed over Gabriel and headed to the bar.
I ordered two shots then promptly drank them before paying the bartender. It was much quicker than waiting for our waitress who was being chatted up by one of the Avalanche players. The bass from the music, flashing lights, and wall to wall bodies had me overwhelmed and nauseous. I hadn't noticed from the table how busy it was. I needed to get away, not leave but find a safe space. I searched around the room for any indication of a bathroom. All I could see was people, dancing, talking, drinking, people everywhere. My heart started pounding and I could feel it in my ears. I felt a hand grab mine and pull me out of the crowd without saying anything. He led me down a dark hallway and into a stairwell.
"You okay?" Max asked, letting go of my hand and leaning against the wall. "You looked a little lost."
"I'm fine," I slurred and leaned against the wall beside him.
"Do you want me to call Sidney to come and get you?" He stood in front of me, his eyes fixed on my face.
"I said I'm fine," tears slipped down my face.
"What's going on?" he whispered. My back was against the wall and his hands were pressed flat above me, his body hovering over me. I was taken aback by his interest in my well being. He didn't know me from Adam. We'd met once and to him I was just a fan girl who happened to be dating his friend.
"I know we don't know each other well, but you're Sid's girl so by association I care," he smiled.
"I'm not Sid's girl," I choked back a sob.
"What do you mean?" his eye brows knitted together.
"I'm not Sidney's girl anymore. We broke up." My voice cracked on the final word and I gave into the tears.
"I'm so sorry," his arms fell by his sides and his face dropped. "I had no idea... I didn't mean..." he stammered.
"No, it's okay. No one really knows yet." I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand. In just one day four people had inquired about Sidney, separating our lives was going to be a bigger adjustment than I'd anticipated. Max wrapped his big arms around me and pulled me close to him.
"Do you want me to take you home?" he asked without letting go.
"No," I shook my head. "Just take me someplace quiet."
Without a word we gathered our coats from the table and left the bar heading in the direction of the Hilton.

Chapter Text

"Do you want to talk about it?" Max asked softly. I sat on the edge of his bed while he was perched on the desk chair. It was the first thing he'd said since arriving in his shared hotel room.
"I don't know," I looked down at my hands, one hand pulling at the fingers of the other. "I don't really know what to say," my head rose slowly, almost involuntarily, and my eyes locked with his. "It just seemed like the best thing for him."
"And for you?" he inquired, getting up from his chair and settling on the bed beside me.
"I'll get over it," I tried to smile. "I just need to forget it ever happened."
"I guess that's one way to do it," he teased and wrapped his arm around my shoulders. Under any other circumstances I'd feel unsettled and awkward resting my head against his chest and inhaling the musky scent of his cologne, perhaps it was a mixture of alcohol and desperation, but I felt an overwhelming sense of comfort with my body against his. A comfort and safety I hadn't felt in nearly a week.
"Do you want to order room service or something?" he asked, squeezing my shoulder. It was a platonic action of affection more than anything, but his hands on me made my stomach flutter and a warmth spread throughout my body.
"No," I looked up at him. I had run out of tears, my emotions dried up, and mind exhausted of thought. I needed to feel something other than hurt. Could I feel anything but loneliness and despair? Was I capable of it?
"We could get a movie," he suggested, oblivious to the thoughts that ran through my mind.
"No," I whispered and shifted so I was facing him, my hands on his thighs and my face inches from his. "No movies," I crept closer to him, seconds passed like hours until my lips were finally pressed against his. His arms cradled my body against his and for a moment I was able to let go of the anxiety that had made a home within me. Kissing Max was different, not better or worse, just different. His lips were softer, but their movement rough and eager. His tongue against mine was stronger, dominating but comforting. My palms flat on his chest I pushed him back, still straddling his lap. I reached back and pulled the elastic out of my hair, it cascaded over us, creating a curtain around or never separating faces.
"Are you sure you want to be doing this?" he asked, breathy and excited.
"Absolutely," I moaned rocking back and forth against the bulge in his jeans.
"Good," he flipped our bodies so I was underneath his daunting frame. one of his hands slipped under my shirt and towards my right breast. One of his legs positioned between mine while his lips attacked my neck. The heat rose inside me and I could feel the wanting override the perpetual sadness. My hands on his back, under the soft fabric of his shirt I relished the feeling of his flushed skin, the muscles underneath flexing as he moved against me. One by one his fingers undid the buttons of my top until it fell open and I slipped my arms out of it. Not wasting any time he pulled his shirt from behind over his head and threw it off the bed. I admired his toned, solid chest and abdomen, resting my hands on his hips just above the elastic band of his boxers that peaked from under his jeans.
"Je te désire," he whispered, letting his lips brush against mine
"Alors, prends-moi," I bit my lip and looked up at him with wide eyes, my chest was heaving in anticipation. He grinned wildly and set to work unbuttoning the five buttons the stood between him and my black lace underwear, the pair I'd been dying to take off all night. I tipped my head back and let myself get lost in his touch, amazed that I had just told Max Talbot to 'take me'. Take me, as if I was in any mental state to be offering myself up. I felt his fingers dance over the damp black lace and my breath hitched. He pulled my jeans over my hips and down my legs until they were off and crumpled in a pile on the floor, my uncomfortable underwear with them. His head below my waist, fingers teasing me, tracing the excited entrance. I let out a quiet moan of frustration and quickly felt his mouth pressed against me, warm, moving, humming against the sensitive skin. Neither of us spoke, his attention seemed focused on the folds and nerve endings in front of him. There was no doubt in my mind he'd done this before, skilled, calloused fingers pushed gently inside me and just the right angle, twisting and flexing to find the perfect spot. The spot that would help me forget. It didn't take long, he knew what he was looking for, knew exactly what to do when he got there. A bent finger, come hither motion took me one stop closer. Mouth and fingers working seamlessly forcing my muscles to tighten, a building pressure in stomach, head, every part of me on edge. And then it happened, the flooding, buzzing, muscular spasm, welcome relief of both physical and emotional tension. It was nothing I hadn't experienced before, a biological reaction to stimulation, something I'd done to myself a number of times, but it was different.
His head reappeared from the darkness of between my thighs, a subtle, self-congratulatory smirk on his wet lips, and crawled up my body, pressing them against mine. I kept my eyes tightly shut, in part because the world around me was spinning, but mostly so I didn't have to see who was on top of me. Because as attracted as I was to Max, I didn't want to lock eyes with him and know he wasn't....
"Très belle," he whispered, voice was husky and his breath hot on my neck as he kissed his way down to my collarbones.
"Take off your pants," I interrupted his journey to my breasts. I didn't need the sensual caresses or strategically placed kisses. I needed the weight of his body on top of me, forcing the hurt out of me. He did as I asked and I felt the bed shift, heard the clinking of his belt hitting the floor, and felt him return to me.
"Are you on something?" he asked cautiously.
My eyes fluttered open and I nodded before wrapping my arms around his neck and pulling him down to me. Our lips pressed tenderly together as he positioned himself against me.
"Good?" he asked, nuzzling his face against my neck. I bit back a giggle. Did he think I was a virgin? That I'd never done this before? Or was I too jaded to see that he was doing all he could to make me comfortable with him and my decision?
"Yeah," I choked out, my heart still pounding in my throat from his accomplished display of dexterity a few minutes prior.
Lips back on mine with his hands on either side of my body propping himself up, he moved slowly and deliberately into me. The act itself was typical, the same movement with the same intent as those who came before him, but the sensation was different. Physically it felt good, the pressure of him on me, against me, inside me. It gave me something new to focus on; counting his thrusts instead of counting the hours since I'd made the call. I kept my hands on his back and my mind focused on the feeling because unlike the last person I'd been naked underneath, I had no idea what Max likes. Of course I knew the typical moves, average things, but I didn't know him. I didn't know the map of his body, the story behind every scar, I didn't know if he liked when a girl whispered in his ear the whole time or dug her nails into his back. In terms of normal, everyday sex, I could almost predict how Sidney would react to me at any time. But Max was a new mystery, one I wasn't sure I wanted to discover in the same way.
I could feel his thrusts getting frantic and sloppy, whether I knew him well or not, I knew this was a sign he was close. Not wanting him to reach the finish line without me, I slipped my hand down between our bodies and set to work helping myself catch up. My drunken fingers were uncoordinated and awkward, but managed to achieve my goal and minutes later we lay side by side on the bed breathing heavily and smiling.
"That," Max panted, pulling my body against him. "Was incredible. He buried his face in my hair and sighed. I stared awkwardly at the wall across from me and tried to enjoy the feeling still reverberating inside of me while he spooned my body from behind.
"Do you want to stay the night? I think we'll have the room to ourselves," he kissed my neck lightly.
"No," I pulled away from him gently and sat on the edge of the bed. "I should probably get home." I scanned the room for my clothes and spotted my underwear under the desk.
"Are you sure?" he cooed and propped himself up on his elbows, watching me get dressed.
"Yeah, I have to be at the rink in the morning," I buttoned the last button on my shirt and looked around for my jacket.
Max stood up and slipped his boxers back on before coming up behind me and pressing his body against mine again. "I had a really great time," he whispered in my ear.
"I did too," I turned around and put a few inches of space between us.
"If you ever need anything... like just to talk even, you have my number," he smiled at me, kind eyed and hopeful.
"Thank you," I kissed him gently then left the room, jacket in hand.
I stumbled into the apartment less than an hour later and stripped off my jacket and jeans immediately. I wasn't quite yet sober and although I didn't want to spend the night with Max, I couldn't bear the idea of being alone. The apartment was still, only the light above the stove illuminating the shadowy room. I tiptoed down the hallway and pushed open Serena's door. After too many drinks and a strange one night stand I wanted nothing more than to curl up with my best friend. I pulled off my shirt and without looking dove onto the bed, right onto the solid mass of Geno's body.
"What?" he groaned sleepily.
"Holy shit," I screamed, startled by his presence. I'd expected her to be alone.
"What's going on?" Serena mumbled, flicking on the lamp beside her and rubbling her eyes.
I lay between them, wearing only my bra and itchy lace underwear, face burning with humiliation while Geno roared with laughter.
"I'm sorry," I cried, covering my face. "I didn't know he was in here. I wanted to see you." My words were a bit slurred but still coherent.
"Where the hell did you run off to?" Serena asked, now awake and sitting with her back against the headboard.
"I had sex with Talbo..." I peeked through my hands to see her reaction. I expected disgust, outrage, instead I got a smile.
"I go sleep on couch," Geno declared loudly, slipping out of the bed and pulling his pants on before leaving us alone in the room.
"I'm sorry," I said again, crawling in bed beside her. "I didn't mean to kick your bed buddy out."
"It's fine," she sighed and turned the light off. "So start from the beginning. How did you end up naked with Max Talbot?" she snuggled against me.
"I have no idea."
We woke up to the smell of food cooking and coffee brewing. A rather uncommon thing in our casual household. It was ten in the morning on day six, one more day until the week mark. I rolled over in bed and groaned, wanting nothing to do with the day or the headache gnawing away at me.
"Either I'm having a seizure or someone is making food in our kitchen," Serena said into her pillow.
"I didn't know you could make anything but cookies and cakes in our kitchen," I smiled at her.
"Me neither, whoever it is must be pretty skilled," she chucked and slowly sat up. Her face was slightly puffy, but otherwise she looked radiant. I on the other hand had mascara down my cheeks and a collection of zits forming from a night spent sleeping in makeup. My hair was knotted and pilled on my head with an elastic band and I slipped on one of Serena's hoodies before speeding down the hallway sans pants, through the kitchen, where Geno stood at the counter shirtless, and into my room.
After wiping the day old makeup off of my face and running a comb through my hair, I emerged from my room wearing my old sweatpants with Serena's hoodie and joined the two in our small kitchen.
"If he cooks, I think we should keep him," I joked to Serena, who was only wearing his shirt from the night before.
"Not cook well," he laughed and poured the fresh coffee into Serena's favorite mug. "Is decaf," he handed it to her and kissed the side of her head.
"Thanks," she murmured and rubbed his bareback with her small hand.
"I lived with a guy who uses his blender more than his oven, I'm sure it will be awesome," I laughed, feeling a pang in my heart from my own mention of Sidney.
We sat around the tiny round kitchen table, plates loaded with toast and eggs, and glasses filled with coffee for Serena and water for me. I shoveled eggs into my mouth, I hadn't realized how hungry I was.
"Did you sleep well?" I asked Geno, smirking as I took a drink of water.
"Oh yeah, couch great," he rolled his eyes sarcastically.
"You could have stayed," I shrugged.
"Threesome with drunk and pregnant, sure," he laughed.
"We've fit three people in that bed before," Serena added mindlessly. "Four even." Geno's eyes lit up and he stared at us slack jawed and intrigued. "What?" she looked at him confused. "Oh! Gross! No, not like that," it dawned on her and she swatted at him playfully.
"Well I appreciate you giving up your spot," I smiled at them. I tried not to be jealous of their camaraderie and affection.
"Bette couch than hear Talbo story," he faked a grimace.
"About that," I looked down at my plate and pushed the eggs around awkwardly. "I'd rather no one else hear about that.
"Secret with me," Geno smiled and took a bite of his toast.
We finished the meal making small talk and joking about the night before, it was causal and effortless, the three of us fitting well together. While Geno insisted on cleaning, Serena and I sat at the table enjoying the sight of a half naked hockey player doing dishes.
"So I wanted to talk to you," she said, pulling her eyes away from his muscular back. I noticed him glance back at her and smile.
"I hate when you start a conversation like that. It makes me think I'm in trouble," I scowled at her.
"Don't be a doofus," she laughed. "It's nothing like that, it's just," she took a deep breath and looked back at Geno. "I've decided not to get the abortion." Her face lit up and she smiled like I'd never seen her smile before.
"Really?" my voice cracked. I was shocked, taken aback. After everything she'd gone through I didn't expect she'd change her mind.
"Yeah. I know it's kind of a 180 from where I was last week, but we've been talking about it and the more I think about it the more it doesn't seem so horrible. I mean as far as breeding partners I could do worse," she cocked her head towards Geno and laughed.
"She love me," Geno teased from his spot at the sink.
"No, I like your genetic makeup and what you can contribute to our spawn," she rolled her eyes dramatically.
"She love my money?"
"I love your ass," she giggled and got up from the table to help him.
Watching the two expectant parents made my heart ache. Any forgetting I'd been able to do with Max had been undone and the heaviness returned to every part of me. Days passed and neither of us made any attempts to contact the other. I'd sat with my phone in my hands night after night willing myself to hit call. But I couldn't. Something stopped me from being one to reach out. I kept reminding myself I'd broken up with him for a reason, for his benefit and every I felt temptation creep up I scrolled a little further down in my contacts and found the strength I needed in Talbot, Max.

Chapter Text

Day fourteen came and went like any other day. I spent it laying around the house with Serena reading about her kumquat sized fetus and painting my toenails. It was another optional skate day and I'd chosen the not get dressed option. While things were settling into a sort of routine at the rink, I was trying to make my self scarce in anyway I could, if Larry or any of my co-workers had noticed they hadn't said anything. I knew I was eventually going to need to return to my previous level of involvement, but at two weeks post breakup I wasn't ready to pretend everything was fine. As Max continued to remind me in our regular text messages, things would feel normal again, eventually. In the week following our coital adventure, I'd come to rely on Max's cheerful and encouraging daily messages like a former addict relies on methadone. I needed his guiding words and relentless compassion to keep me going. We quickly established that there was nothing romantic between us. Our hotel romp had been just that, a romp. A lively, playful one night stand that would be remembered with affection and never repeated. I didn't regret it and refused to let myself feel guilty about it all, in fact the more time that passed without word from Sidney, the better I felt about it.

"Would you be hurt if he slept with another girl right now?" Serena asked doing a second coat of red on her big toe.
"Maybe a little," I admitted, dipping my brush back in the bottle of purple. "But I don't think I have the right to be upset, I broke up with him. Why, is there something Geno isn't telling me?" I looked at her with raised eyebrows, holding my breath.
"No," she laughed and I let the air slowly seep out of my mouth. "We'd tell you if anything like that happened."
"I don't really want to think about him with anyone else, mostly because I'm selfish. I mean I don't want him to be miserable or unhappy, quite the opposite, but I want his body for myself," I carefully covered my naked toenail in purple pigment.
"I get that, it is a nice body," she winked.
"Ugh, I know," I groaned. "I can't even ignore it because he walks around the rink shirtless. I swear he's purposely trying to punish me."
"What an ass, taking his shirt off in a changing room, how dare he." Serena teased, finishing with the nail polish and tossing the bottle into the container beside her.
"It makes it hard to concentrate, okay?" I glared at her.
"Do you think you'll get back together?" she flipped through the pages of a Fit Pregnancy magazine.
"Doubtful. I told you, I broke up with him because he needs someone better in his life, I can't be that person for him. Getting back together would defeat the purpose."
"Would you shut up with that self loathing bullshit? There is no one better for him Bea. We both know he's not innocent in this, don't be a martyr. You broke up with him because he's kind of a dick and you deserve someone who is going to be there for you when you need him, not create stupid restrictions and fight over petty things." She rolled her eyes and threw the magazine at me. "And don't think I'm taking your side alone here. You turn everything into a test, you've been doing it as long as I've known you. Shit, you still do it to me. You test to see how much we actually care and if we're going to run. You can't stand rejection so you reject everyone first, you beat them to the punch so you can keep yourself safe. You're both terrified little children, he's afraid of losing control and you're afraid of everything else. You know I don't usually like the people you date, but despite his asshole tendencies, I think if you and Sidney could grow up and stop the power struggle you would make each other pretty damn happy."
I stared at her in disbelief. Serena was known for her honesty, but this was a step above telling me that dress did indeed make me look fat. I was so wrapped up in my own world with Sidney I had forgotten that other people could see our relationship in an entirely different light.
"Do you really think he's kind of a dick?" I finally asked, still shocked.
"Yes, and I think you're a big stubborn baby. Stop expecting fireworks and perfection, relationships fucking suck sometimes and you either have to deal with it or give up and get over it." She stood up and walked towards the kitchen. "I'm sorry to be so harsh, it's just that I hate seeing you so upset and I haven't taken a dump in three days. Both are giving me horrible cramps."

I lay in bed on night fourteen, Luna snuggled beside me and a nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach. Serena's words echoed through my mind. Either deal with it or get over it. While I thought I'd been doing a good job of getting over it, it seemed I wasn't quite committed to the dissolution of our commitment. That was made obvious by my still empty closet and the fact that I was rewashing my three pairs of underwear in the sink regularly. If I was really going to get over it all I had to move on. Flicking on the lamp beside me I sat up in bed and grabbed my notebook from the floor beside me. I had to make a list. A list of things to do to get my life back.
1) Get my stuff back
2) Tell the team we've broken up even if S.C isn't ready to
3) Exchange pleasantries with S.C in the hallways without feeling like crying
4) Go back to derby
5) Get a tattoo to commemorate it all
I read over the list a few times then smiled to myself. It all looked so easy and reasonable. Five simple steps to returning to my former glory. I was going to be Beatrice Keller: independent woman again, no matter what it took. Serena was right. I didn't need to be with someone who drove me slightly crazy and was a bigger control freak than I was. I deserved someone supportive and sweet, someone who didn't keep me a secret. Someone like Max, but not Max, just someone like Max. I turned out the light and fell asleep dreaming of my new and improved life.
Day sixteen and I still hadn't said a single word to Sidney. I stood in the locker room before their matchup against San Jose taking candidly with James. He'd been back on the ice for a few games and was feeling good but had a tight muscle in his shoulder he couldn't get out. Instead of taking him to the trainers room I sat on the bench beside him digging my fingers into tense area.
"Here?" I asked, digging my thumb in deeper.
"Yeah," he yelped.
"Sorry," I chuckled and continued to work the area. Across the room I noticed Sidney watching us while he taped his sticks.
"What, you can't make it to the trainers' room, Lazy?" Pascal teased as he got into his gear.
"I'm just so important I get room service," James grinned.
I rolled my eyes at the interaction but said nothing, focusing on the arm in my hands instead. A few stalls over Geno sat on his phone, texting and smiling.
"Would you put that thing away?" Sidney finally spoke, his harsh words directed to his teammate. "If you payed half as much attention to the game as you did your stupid phone we might have won the last game," he grumbled. They were on what could be called a losing streak.
Geno rolled his eyes and reached above his head to the shelf where he'd shoved his jacket, as he pulled down the black sport coat a pink rectangular box fell onto the floor in front of him. Tossing the phone aside, he lunged for the box but Beau got there first and snatched it up.
"Mat-er-na," he read out loud, snickering. "Prenatal-Postpartum vitamins," he turned to Geno for an explanation, both amused and confused.
"Shut up," Geno groaned and reached for the box.
"Prenatal vitamins?" Marc-Andre spoke up. "Those are really good for your hair."
The room collectively stared at him bemused, James swallowing a laugh and Sidney groaning.
"Nails too," I added. "It's the folic acid or something." They turned to me without saying anything. "What?" I cried. "It's normal that I know these things!"
"You worried about your hair big guy?" James asked Geno who was blushing a new shade of red.
"No," he said quickly. "Not for me! For Serena!"
"Serena's worried about her hair?" James asked, puzzled.
"No, Lazy. Serena pregnant," Geno chuckled nervously.
"Congratulations!" Pascal stood up and hugged him joyously.
"Way to go, buddy," Beau smiled and tossed the box back on the bench.
The team cheered and congratulated him while I sat by smiling. My heart warmed at the excited reactions of the people who would hopefully watch my niece or nephew grow up. I was glad to see that Serena would have such a supportive family around her. Someone asked when she was due and Geno shrugged, either not understanding the question or not knowing the answer.
"Early September," I told them. "She's around ten weeks." Finished with James I got up and left them to get ready for the game. It was a relief to be away from Sidney's watchful eyes. I hated the way he looked at me, the harshness to his face and the anger in his eyes. It would have been easier if he just stood up and screamed at me in the middle of the room. With his feet planted on the Penguin emblem, telling me I'd ruined his life and deserved to die alone. Anything but the cold stares and silent tension.
On day eighteen I said hello. I saw him after a game day skate and I said 'hey'. I'd been planning to do it all day, my palms were sticky with anticipation and I went over it in my head again and again, planning every detail of our second interaction post break up. When it happened I was in the trainers room putting away clean towels, literally looking for things to occupy my time with until he got off the ice. I was standing on my tiptoes, putting the towels on the top shelf when he poked his head into the room, it was obvious he was looking for anyone but me. His eyes widened when he saw me looking at him and I took a quick breath.
"Hey," I said, careful not to sound too excited or friendly.
He didn't reply, just smiled politely and walked away, leaving me with a pile of clean towels to mop up my shame.
When I text Max later that night and told him of the awkward interaction he reminded me that Sidney took longer than the average person to get over things, then sent me a picture of a cat in a sweater-vest. I was momentarily cheered, but quickly returned to my former state of misery and crawled into bed with my new boyfriend, Netflix. One episode of Private Practice turned into three and for those short hours I was granted a Sidney free mind.
It was stereotypical; to wake up on day twenty-one and feel the overwhelming desire to change something. I paced my room, trying to think of a way to satisfy the urge without getting into hard drugs or a pyramid scheme. I still hadn't come up with a plan when I grabbed my car keys and let the apartment door slam behind me. There was no way I could get a tattoo on such short notice, well not one I'd want on my skin forever, and I'd already tried the one night stand rout. I drove around semi-aimlessly, Bruce Springsteen blasting through the crappy speakers. I needed to find a mall or a giant bookstore, some capitalist establishment that would take my money and give me a sense of accomplishment in exchange. Restless, I parked on a road lined with boutique shops and set out to find my answer.
After browsing through a few cliche stores with knickknacks and overpriced costume jewelry I found myself in the chair of an empty salon.
"So how long has it been black?" my stylist, who introduced herself as Lexi, asked while brushing the knots out of my long hair.
"Since an act of rebellion in high school," I admitted.
"And you want me to do what with it?" she glanced at my reflection in the mirror.
"Change it," I smirked.
"So what was his name?" Lexi asked, slathering the creamy chemicals on my head.
"Sidney," I sighed. "How did you know?"
"You're not the first person to come in here and ask for a change. Nine times out of ten it has something to do with a breakup," she laughed. "Was it messy? I find the bigger the change the messier the situation."
I smiled and shook my head slightly. "It wasn't the cleanest. Still isn't, we work together."
"That sucks," she pulled a shower cap over my head. "At least he'll see your new look."
I left three hours later with an itchy scalp and half of my hair, Lexi had cut off four inches and I lost the rest to chemicals. In order to achieve my desired colour, we had to bleach my hair twice, something that Lexi didn't personally recommend but was willing to do in the name of moving on. The sore scalp and thinned hair were well worth it because for the first time in my life, I was blonde. Marilyn Monroe, Dolly Parton, Bridgette Bardot blonde. The kind of blonde that was dangerously close to being white, but still held on to some tone and colour. I felt powerful, sexy, fresh. I felt like getting over him.

Serena screamed when she saw me walk through the door, then told me it was an impulse buy like no other, but it didn't look bad. I took that as a compliment and sent a picture to Max who pretended not to notice a difference.
“Is this some kind of midlife crisis?” Serena asked, flopping on the couch beside me with a muffin in her hand.
“Only if you expect me to die at fifty,” I scowled at her.
“You know what I mean,” she took a bite of the muffin.
“I just wanted a change, “ I shrugged.
“Did this change help you get over a certain well known person?”
“Maybe,” I lied to both of us.
“C’mon, Bea,” she gave me a knowing look. “We both know this isn’t how you get over things.”
“Maybe not,” I stood up. “But it’s a fucking great distraction.” I left her alone on the couch and slammed my bedroom door. I didn’t need the inquisition, I just needed to forget him.

Chapter Text

“Boys like him are a dime a dozen,” I’d repeated my new mantra over and over while driving to the rink. Sitting alone in my office I reminded myself again. “Despite his fantastic body and celebrity status, he’s just a guy. A stupid boy who I can easily replace,” I said over the music playing on my computer. “You’re a bad bitch who can handle this.”
However pathetic my attempts to calm myself down before leaving my office were, they seemed to work. I headed down the hallway to the locker room with a false sense of confidence.
“Are you new here?” James asked when I sat down beside him.
“New enough,” I winked.
“I like the hair,” he pointed to my head. “It’s really hot.”
“Thanks,” I scanned the room for Sidney but couldn’t find him.
“Why the sudden change?” he eyed me.
“Just wanted a fresh look,” I avoided his gaze.
“It isn’t my business but, are either of you going to admit you broke up?” James finally said after a prolonged pause. There was a sincerity in his blue eyes, his pale face concerned and honest.
I stood up and headed for the door. I wasn’t angry, I just didn’t want to have that conversation, not with James, not with anyone. I stopped a few feet shy of the hallway and turned to him. He was sitting there, watching me walk away. “I will when he will,” I said flatly and left the room.
As I turned the corner towards the trainers room I collided with him. There was no reason for me to be continuously walking into people, the hallways were plenty wide but I was oblivious, too busy replaying the interaction with James over and over in my mind.
“I’m sorry,” Sidney said, grazing my shoulder with his hand. It was obvious he didn’t recognize me. I lifted my head slowly and watched his expression change from friendly to hostile. The animosity clear in his eyes. “What the fuck?’” he mumbled under his breath, studying the pile of blonde curls on my head.
“I changed my hair, “ I said flatly, looking past him.
“Yeah, I can see that,” he spat back. “Is this some big life change?” he scoffed.
“I need my stuff back,” I purposely ignored his snarky question. The opportune timing was too good to miss, I was wearing the same uncomfortable pair of underwear and hadn’t had my good makeup in weeks. I was tired of making do, I wanted my life back and I wanted it that very instant.
“Did you lose your house key?” he rolled his eyes. “Maybe you’ll find them with your heart.”
“Fuck you, I’ll talk to your roommate. You just carryon being an immature prick,” I pushed past him. I could feel the anger boiling in the pit of my stomach. I was seething.
“Walk away, Beatrice. It’s what you do best,” he called after me. I tried to think of something horrible and biting to say back, but my mind was blank. I couldn’t tell if I was hurt that he could be so cold or furious that he felt the need to be such an ass at our place of employment. We’d promised we would keep our relationship out of the rink, not let anything affect our jobs. But there we were, letting it ruin everything.
I made my way to my office and slammed the door behind me. Slamming doors was the next best thing to slamming him against a wall. I needed to get back on the track, I needed to skate on eight wheels and throw my weight around, let my aggression free. But I couldn’t. I didn’t have time to take care of myself. Because my world still revolved around Sidney and the team and we had another road trip coming up.
I sat at my desk, slamming drawers and throwing pens across the room. I needed a distraction, someone else to be mad at for a change. Someone who wasn’t Sidney or myself. After a quick google search I picked up the landline and punched in the numbers. It rang twice.
“Bayer and Kelp Law offices, how may I direct your call,” a female voice sang through the line.
“Camilla Morris, please.” I was holding my breath and clenching my fists.
“Please hold.”
Calling Millie was an act of desperation. Calling Millie at work was a sign of insanity. I had her mobile number but for some reason I wanted to go through the hoops to get to her. I wanted to say her full name and feel the reliability of the landline, the anticipation of being on hold. When she answered, Millie had no idea I was the one waiting for her. It was evident in her shocked voice.
“This is Camilla,” she sounded so professional.
“Mills?” I said softly, already wondering what I was doing.
“Trix?” There it was; the shock, the confusion, maybe a hint of hurt.
I apologized for calling her at work, then after she cleared my conscience, I told her everything. I told her about the good, how supportive he could be and how much I loved the feeling of his body against mine. I told her how our lives had so quickly blended together, everything intertwined and how much that terrified me. I told her how crazy he made me. How he could be so cold and so mean, I even told her how I could be so cold and so mean. When I was finished, neither of us spoke. There was a silence on both sides of the line that made me queazy and I started to regret calling.
“Wow,” all she said was wow. The bile was rising in my esophagus and I considered hanging up. I couldn’t make myself drop the receiver though. I held on. “You’re not mean,” she finally said. “You can be cold, but you’re not mean. I know this about you. Stubborn and complicated, but never mean.”
“But…” I croaked.
“No, Tix, you’re not mean. Trust me. I’m the last person who is going to lie to you. I have nothing to lose here.” She took a deep breath. “I Watched him.”
“What do you mean?” I imagined her peeping through his window and tried not to smile.
“The night we had dinner, I watched him. The way he looked at you, the way he touched you. It killed me, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. I went over that night determined to get you back, and we both know I tend to get what I want,” she chuckled. “But he looked at you in a way that even I never had. A way that I don’t know I ever could. And that look, that look of respect and affection, it made it easier for me to leave without you. It kept me from calling day and night. I don’t know Sidney, but I know that look. I’ve seen that look. It was the way you looked at me.”
I had no words, I wanted her to tell me more, to give me every little detail. I had no idea what look she was referring to and worried she had confused his usual face for something meaningful.
“I have no doubt that he’s an asshole, because guys usually are. You have to admit, you kind of like assholes. It’s your thing, it’s why we were together for so long,” I could hear her smile. “And I’ll be the first to say that you deserve awesome. That’s why I sabotaged our relationship. I left you for the same reason that you left Sidney. Fear. Fear and the absurd idea that I would never be good enough for you, because I thought you loved me more than I could loved you.” We’d never spoken so honestly. I’d never heard Millie’s side of our breakup, or her feelings about things. I’d never listened.
“Why didn’t you tell me this?” I didn’t know if I should be sad or relieved. I couldn’t limit how I felt to one emotion.
“Why haven’t you told Sidney?”
She had a point. A valid point that pushed me deeper into the unidentified emotions. I wanted to laugh, and cry, I wanted to jump up and down screaming and hit him and kiss him and hide from him all at the same time.
“I have to get back to work, but I need you to know that your relationship with Sidney isn’t the same as our relationship. It may seem similar but you’re different people. Don’t let our past ruin your future.” I liked hearing her voice. I didn’t want her to leave me, I wanted us to stay in this circle of honesty forever.
“Thank you,” I tried to steady my shaky voice.
“I’m glad you called, Trix. I’m always here.” Comforting words and then the click of the phone. I stayed on the dead line for a few seconds before placing the phone back on the cradle.
That night they lost in overtime and dropped another spot in the standings. I felt bad for them, but not bad enough to stay around. I left as soon as I could and returned to my sanctuary. Serena had Geno, and I had my bed. I could get used to it, I’d have to get used to it.
We’d been apart for almost a month when I finally found the nerve to get my things. I sent Sidney a courtesy text, telling him I planned to go over after the skate, if he wanted to be there that was his decision. I didn’t see him at the rink that morning and I hoped that meant I wasn’t going to see him at his house, if he had any sense left he’d stay away. I left after most of the players, giving him a chance to avoid me. I wanted to make it as easy as I could for him, although the idea of storming in showing him exactly how I felt was appealing.
I didn’t see his truck when I pulled up to the house, but with a three car garage that didn’t mean anything. I shut off the engine and took a deep breath, there was no turning back. I hurried to the front door and found it unlocked, my breath hitched and I prayed it meant that Beau was home. Inside, the house was exactly how I’d left it, right down to my shoes in the entryway and my scarf on the railing. My throw pillows were still on the couch and the book I was reading was still face down on the coffee table. I slipped off my shoes and headed up the stairs, hoping my clothes would still be there. They were, in fact half of them were still on the floor where I’d left them, right down to the bra that hung on the side of the full length mirror. I pulled my suitcase out of the closet and set to work packing as much as I could into it. I was trying to roll a sweater small enough for it to fit down the side when Sidney walked in.
“What are you doing?” he glared at me, gym bag slung over his shoulder.
“I told you I was coming,” I didn’t bother looking at him.
He dropped the bag behind the door and left, muttering something under his breath. I continued to push as much as I could into the suitcase and when it had reached the very maximum I pulled the zipper as close to closed as I could and went downstairs to find a garbage bag. Sid was in the kitchen blending something when I pushed past him to grab a bag from under the sink. I noticed the dishes I’d bought for the dinner party still displayed on the counter.
“Where’s the box?” I asked flatly.
“What box?” he stopped the blender.
“The box for my dishes.”
“You’re taking the dishes?” he looked surprised.
“They’re my dishes,” I rolled my eyes.
“Where the hell are you going to put them?” he scoffed.
“They’re my dishes,” I repeated, looking for newspaper to wrap them in. I found the Local section on top of the recycling, it was a glorified gossip section, the page six of Pittsburgh. I wrapped the first bowl, aware of his eyes on me, and set it on the other side of the counter. I reached for the next page when something caught my eyes. In small bold print was the headline “Captain Crosby Warms Up With Mystery Girl.” It stung, but I reminded myself he was allowed to move on. I was about to crumple it up when I saw a small colour photograph under it. The picture was of Sidney with his arm around a tall blonde girl wearing a dark coat and a yellow scarf. I squinted to see it better and noticed the scarf had small black images on it; bees. It was just like the scarf that hung on the railing in the entry way, my scarf.
“What the fuck?” I held the picture in front of his face.
“We broke up,” he replied emotionless.
“I know that shit for brains, I’m talking about the scarf, why is she wearing my scarf?” I pushed the picture closer to him.
“How do you know it’s your scarf?” he spat back defensively.
“Because I’m not an idiot,” I almost screamed at him. “It’s the same fucking scarf that I left right there,” I cried.
“She was cold,” he said pathetically.
“So you’re just giving my stuff away to every pretty girl you get with?”
“You’re overreacting, it’s not that big a deal,” he spoke as if I was completely irrational.
I glared at him, jaw clenched and mind racing. I wanted to hit him. It was one thing to be an insensitive prick, but it was another to try and blame it on me, to act as if I was the problem. Without thinking I reached behind me and grabbed the first thing I felt, one of my plates. Before I could fully grasp what I was doing, the plate was flying towards his head at full speed. He ducked just in time and it fell to the ground with a loud crash, tiny pieces of porcelain shattering everywhere.
“Are you out of your mind?” he screamed, a noticeable vein bulging in his neck. I’d never seen him this angry, not after the worst game of the season.
“I told you I was coming,” I was yelling so loudly it hurt my throat. “I made it clear that I just wanted to get my stuff and leave. But you just had to be there. You couldn’t give me a break.” I was dangerously close to stomping my foot.
“It’s my house.”
“Yeah, it is. It is your house, so why is my stuff still everywhere? You didn’t think that maybe it would be smart to pack some of it away so you didn’t have to look at it?” My voice was strained from screaming but it didn’t make me stop. “You hate me so much you couldn’t just throw it in bags to make this easier? You think I want to be here, doing this?”
His face fell and I could see the muscles in his jaw and neck flexing. “You think this is easy on me?” he hissed. “You think I want to make your life miserable? Are you that selfish?” he slammed his fist against the counter. “I didn’t move your shit because I didn’t want you to leave. I didn’t want to admit you weren’t coming home.” His voice was tight and I could see the tears forming in his eyes. He let out a struggled breath and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand.
“Well I am leaving,” I said, softer than before. “I’m leaving because that’s what is best.”
“Best for who?” he choked out. He wasn’t trying to fight it anymore and tears dripped down his face. The sight of him so hurt made me sick to watch.
“Best for both of us,” I took a step towards him. “We can’t live like this.”
“It’s not always like this and you know it. You just run away when it gets tough.” His muscles were clenched and I wanted to reach out to him. Before that moment I didn't know it was possible to love someone so much and hate them at the same time. With every harsh breath he took I felt my anger dissipate. I wanted to go on hating him, it was so much easier to write him off as an asshole than it was to love him, to put up with his idiosyncrasies and inconsistencies. He dropped his head in his hands and turned to walk away, to leave me with the literal and metaphoric mess I'd made. Without thinking I did the one thing I'd wanted to do for the last month, I reached for him. I wrapped my hand around his thick forearm and tugged him towards me. My arms found their way around his daunting body and we stood holding tightly to one another. Saying his arms felt like home would be an underestimation, a cliche. They felt liked I'd never left, like my body had been sculpted for the sole purpose of resting against his. Our problems weren’t fixed by the warmth of our chests together, and his tears were not an elixir that would erase the past, but in his kitchen with bits of broken plate surrounding us, I knew there was no way I could let go.

Chapter Text

We sat side by side on the couch, my barely used throw pillows smushed behind us. We hadn’t said anything, not a single word. After a few minutes of standing pressed against each other Sidney led me to the couch and there we sat. There was a tension in the air and I assumed he was just as hesitant to speak as I was. Would opening our mouths and starting a conversation ruin the temporary connection we’d rekindled? Would it send everything crashing down? Would it end like our last real conversation? I drew in a deep breath as the questions rolled around my mind. He shifted towards me slightly and looked down at his hands. He was going to say something, I could feel the apprehension coming from him.
“Did you,” he began, voice hoarse and tight. “Did we break up because of my comments about Serena?” his eyes slowly met mine and held my gaze.
I took a few seconds to process what he was asking, then a few more to keep myself from laughing at his short memory. “No,” I shook my head slowly. “Not that alone.”
“Okay,” he nodded like a child in school who was beginning to understand the lesson being taught. “Then why exactly?” he bit his lip and stared past me.
I crinkled my brow and tried to find the proper arrangement of words that would explain it to him. I was surprised he didn’t already know, I’d thought I’d explained it to him. I tried to recall our phone conversation but all I could remember was the sadness in his voice and the lump in my throat. “There were a lot of things,” I shrugged. “A lot of little but important things.”
“Like?” he urged, reaching slowly for my hand then pulling away at the last minute.
“Like, we’re different people,” I sighed. “We’re monumentally different.”
“Why do you think that’s such a horrible thing?” a small smile was threatening to creep across his lips.
“Because we spend most of our time disagreeing with each other, I mean that last night at the apartment is just an example of how differently we see the world. How can we have a relationship if we live in obviously different worlds?” I could hear the frantic edge in my voice but I couldn’t tame it, I was past being calm.
He didn’t say anything at first, instead just smiled and shook his head, I swore I heard him laugh. “I don’t know how you can say that.”
“What do you mean you don’t know how I can say that? Were you not in the same relationship I was?” I squeaked.
“I’m starting to wonder that myself,” his eyebrows were knitted together but he was still smirking. “There’s no doubt we’re different— which I think is a good thing for the record— but we don’t live in different worlds at all. We have a lot more in common than you’re willing to recognize.”
“Like what? And don’t say hockey because you’d have that in common with any girl you met.”
He snickered and shook his head again. “Bea, next to me you are the most control hungry and stubborn person I have ever met.”
“I am not!” I cried. “I’m not nearly as bad as you are!”
“Good god, you have an app on your phone that tells you when to change the bed sheets, you get nauseous when you’re not given a minute by minute itinerary and don’t think I haven’t seen you refold my clothes.” He reached for my hand again, this time taking it in his.
“Those aren’t control things,” I said quietly and looked down at our hands. “I just like things being done a certain way.”
“Your way.”
“Is that so wrong?”
“Sometimes,” he squeezed my hand gently.
“Well you try to fix everything,” I looked back up at him. “You’ve been trying to fix me since we met.”
“I have not,” he groaned.
“Yeah have so! You swooped in to pick up the pieces after you found out about my stuff with food and depression. You begged me to move in so it would be on your terms and you made it your mission to heal me. And the more you push and make it your problem the more I want to push back.” I was getting anxious and panicky, this was going to end in a fight and I didn’t want to be here for that. I didn’t want to fight with him anymore.
“I didn’t mean to,” his jaw was clenched and I couldn’t tell if he was angry or upset.
“I should go,” I tried to stand up and pull my hand out of his. My breathing was getting faster and I was significantly overwhelmed.
“Please don’t,” he pulled me back down, holding on a little tighter. “Please stay and talk about this.” His voice wasn’t sad or pleading, it was solid and determined.
My heart was beating faster than it had in the kitchen and my thoughts were racing. All it would take was one misunderstood statement for the whole conversation to fall apart. “No, I really need to leave.” I pulled away again.
“You’re panicking,” he said flatly, loosening his grip on my hand. “You’re getting overwhelmed and your first instinct is to run. You can run if you want to, I can’t stop you. But if you stay we can talk about this. I’m still not ready to give up on us.”
I paced around the room in front of him. My breathing was still shallow and laboured and I couldn’t shake the anxiety that was taking over my senses. It was like I had no control over my own body and I was forced to stand by and watch because I wasn’t really there. My heart was racing and I couldn’t tell if I was going to run away or fall on the floor in a fit of tears.
“Why does this scare you?” he stood in front of me, body open to me and face relaxed. It was as if I was harbouring all the hurt and fear for the both of us.
“It doesn’t,” I lied and counted my seventh lap around the small space.
“It scares me too,” he said calmly. “You scare me.”
I stopped pacing for a second and stared at him, studying his expressionless face. I shook my head then returned to my patterned walking. “I’m not scared,” I muttered, my second lie in a single minute
“I don’t like the idea that I might care about you more than anything else. I’m not used living for someone else, I’ve spent my whole life in my own zone, working towards the same goal. Do you know how easily you could convince me to give it all up for you?” He opened himself up in a way I hadn’t seen before, but I was so in my own head I didn’t see his vulnerability.
“You think I would ask you to give it up?” I spat at him, hurt that he would even think that. I hadn’t stopped moving, still walking back and forth and counting.
“That’s not what I’m saying,” he shook his head and pinched the bridge of his nose with the same hand that had held mine. “I’m saying,” he took a deep breath and moved closer to me. “I’m trying to make you see that you aren’t the only one who is intimidated by all this.”
“I should leave,” I said again, this time eyeing the doorway. I could make a break for it. I could take the easy way and run from the house, get in my car and drive away. I could find a new job, never watch hockey again and forget that he existed. I could leave, I could be happy. I could be happy somewhere else.
“Stop looking at the damn door,” he grabbed my wrist and pulled me against him. It wasn’t a domineering or harsh reach. His heavy hand around my somewhat smaller wrist didn’t hurt or trap me, it just held me. Loose enough that I could run, but tight enough that I wanted to stay. He held me tight against his chest, like I had held him in the kitchen. We stood without speaking and I could slowly feel my heart even out and my breathing became natural. He didn’t move until I looked up at him, even then he wouldn’t let go.
“I’m afraid of this,” I finally said just loud enough that he could hear.
“Of what?” he mumbled into my hair.
“Of relying on you.”
He laughed and I felt his head shake against mine. “You don’t rely on anyone, Bea.”
“But I do,” I whined. “I’m doing it right now.”
“Accepting my support isn’t relying on me,” he brushed the hair out of my face.
“I don’t want you to have to support me. You have so much going on in your life you shouldn’t have to worry about me.” I turned my head away from him. I didn’t want him to see how frustrated I was, how close the tears were.
“I don’t have to worry about you though. I mean I do worry about you, but I don’t have to. I don’t think you’re some fragile creature who can’t take care of herself.”
“Then why do you push so much?” my voice cracked and I could feel anger returning. I didn’t want to cry, I didn’t want to feel anything.
He loosened his hold on me and I felt him sigh. “Because I don’t like that I can’t control things for you.”
I stared up at him alarmed. The confession of his desire to control me made my stomach twitch.
“That came out wrong,” he blushed and looked at the ceiling. “To be clear I have no interest in controlling you or your life. I just want to make things easy for you.”
“Even though you know it’s not as easy as you think it is?” I pushed away from him, the moment was over and I wanted to sit and process things without his arms influencing me.
“I know,” he slumped down beside me and rest his head in his hands.
“Here’s the thing,” I curled my feet underneath me. “I’m sick of talking about my shit. There will be days when I want to talk about it, but for the most part I don’t want to. It already monopolizes my mind and I don’t need it taking over our conversations. It’s not as if I don’t recognize I have issues, so if I’m not eating at a team dinner I don’t need you getting pissy, I don’t need you pointing it out. Because not only does that make me resent you, but it makes me even less inclined to eat. So if we’re going to try this again you can’t let that become your problem.”
He looked up from his hands and stared at me before sitting up straighter. “What do you mean ‘try this again’?” He looked bewildered.
“Well, I mean… if you want to.” I bit down on my lip nervously and felt my face heating up. If he didn’t want to get back together I’d just wasted my time.
“Just to clarify you mean getting back together, right?” he eyed me.
“Yes,” I smiled and shook my head. “Did you really think I didn’t still love you?”
“Kind of,” he shrugged and smiled back at me.
“But one more thing, if you’re going to be there for me sometimes you have to be there for me all of the time. None of this no talking on game days. And you have to tell me how you’re feeling because I can’t be walking around worrying about you all the time. And if you ever call me heartless again I’ll show you exactly what cold looks like. Oh, and I slept with Max and I can’t exactly take that back.” I watched him nervously. His face shifted as he processed everything I said.
“You slept with Max?” he cocked his eyebrow and looked slightly horrified. “Like Talbo, Max?”
“Yes, I slept with Max Talbot,” my face was on fire and my stomach tight with nerves. Could my one night romp be a deal breaker? Would he take it as a personal attack or see it for what it was?
He looked at me with tight lips and unreadable eyes. I was sure he was going to reject me, call me a harlot and send me packing from his life. His expression loosened until there was a small smirk on his face and a familiar sparkle in his eyes. “That is disgusting,” he choked back laughter. “You slept with Mad Max?” he repeated, this time letting with laughter out and shaking from amusement. “Why would you do that? Have you gotten tested?”
“Why are you laughing?” I cried defensively. Did he not believe me? Did he not think I was capable of getting someone else?
“I’m not angry,” he took my hand back in his. “I’m laughing because it’s so unexpected. I would have thought James, maybe even one of the girls on the media team, but Max…” he snickered. “Max is like a dream come true for you.”
“Kind of,” a smile creeped across my face. “How are you not angry?”
“Because we weren’t together,” he was still laughing, his eyes squinted and his straight, white teeth showing. “And to be honest I’m kind of impressed.”
“Impressed?” I rolled my eyes at him. He really did’t think I could get someone else.
“With Max,” he clarified and I instantly felt relieved. “That he could get you.”
“You managed,” I smirked and moved closer to him.
“Twice,” he leaned forward and kissed me softly. I’d missed his lips more than I had recognized. The feeling of them on mine, the warmth of him in general. “Does this mean you’re going to unpack?” he lazily wrapped his arm around my shoulders and guided my body against his. I rest my head on his shoulder and snuggled against him.
“Is it okay if I don’t?” I laced my fingers between his and squeezed our hands together. “If we’re going to do this I want a fresh start, go slow.”
“But I like waking up beside you,” he said somewhat pathetically.
“It’s not like that will never happen,” I teased and nudged him with my elbow.
He sighed and buried his head in my hair. “Fine.”
His lips started at the top of my head and made their way down my neck. He sucked lightly on my collarbone as he pulled me onto his lap. I moved voluntarily, twisting my fingers in his hair as his nipped at my clavicle and his hands moved up my back, under my shirt. I felt comfortable in his lap, we were equals in his lap, facing each other and both in control. I guided his lips back to mind and let myself get lost in their varying pressure and movement. There was no start and stop between us, we moved together, connected by our mouths and mutual admiration. I could taste his relief and feel his excitement, both literally and figuratively.
“I really like your hair,” his lips moved away just slightly and I could see his eyes taking in my hardly made up face.
“I really like you,” I grinned, fully aware of my own cliche cheesiness.
“I really like you too,” he kissed me again then pushed our bodies so we toppled over, laying on the couch. I made sure we stayed on our sides, still facing each other, no one on top, still equal. His hand moved to the front of my shirt and he cupped my breasts hungrily. I wanted him to, I wanted him to touch every single part of me. But I wanted to go slow. A fresh start meant starting at the beginning. He tried to move his hand under the waistband of my pants and I pulled apart from him. He groaned and looked at me needfully.
“Not yet,” I whispered and nestled my head in the crook of his neck. “I want to go slow.”
“Slow is hard,” he whined. “I’m hard.”
“I think you’ll survive,” I giggled and wrapped my arms around his torso. I think we both knew that I needed to have control for just a little while. Eventually I’d let up but for the first few weeks I needed to call the shots, or at least think I was.
He hugged me close to him and sighed, pushing himself against me. He was trying to guilt trip me with his body language and instead of feeling back I laughed at his desperation. He didn’t push it further and we lay together until our breathing became sync and I couldn’t force my eyes open anymore.

Sidney was right, it was nice waking up next to each other. When I opened my eyes the sun had begun to set and I noticed him watching me. “Sorry,” I mumbled, wiping the sleep from my eyes.
“Discussion makes you tired,” he laughed and tucked my hair behind my ears.
“Do you think this can work?” I asked sleepily. “Do you think we can work?”
“Of course I do,” I felt his hands move down my back and rest above my bum.
“But I hardly know you,” I shook my head and moved to sit up. The questions may have seemed sudden to him, but were completely rational in my mind which was still thick with sleep and recalling the dream I’d had as I lay against him. In the dream we were away someplace, not for hockey but some other country. Somehow he’d gotten missing and I was running through this unknown place searching for him. When I went to the authorities they kept asking me things I couldn’t answer, his favourite band, his political views, his blood type. Before I woke up they were telling me if I didn’t know these things we’d never find him.
“What do you mean?” He sat up beside me and rubbed his hand along my back. I looked back at him and ran my hand through my hair.
“There’s so much I don’t know about you,” I felt my voice crack. I was becoming surprisingly emotional, left over dream emotions I reminded myself and took a breath.
“What do you want to know?” he smiled. “You know me better than anyone else.”
“There are so many things, Sid. Like, What are you political views? Do you believe in God? Economically are you more of a capitalist or a socialist? What did you think of Catcher in the Rye? Better yet, did you read it?” The questions came flying out of my mouth and an unnatural speed, there were so many of them and I was starting to panic, worrying I’d never know the answers.
“Bea, why are these so urgent?” He chuckled and put his arm around me again.
“Because they are,” I sighed. “Because these things make up who a person is.”
“But they don’t,” he shook his head and I leaned against his chest.
“They’re important though,” I pleaded. “To me.”
“Okay,” he took a deep breath. “I don’t know where I stand politically. I guess I’m liberal but I know I’m not as liberal as some,” he squeezed my arm teasingly. “I do believe in God. I like believing in something, it makes everything seem more manageable. I don’t really have a set opinion about organized religion and all of that but I consider myself Catholic, even if I’m not the most by the book believer.”
“Okay,” I said softly.
“What do you mean economically?”
“Like capitalism or socialism. The individual vs. the greater good. Independent wealth vs. equality.” I looked up at him waiting for his answer. It was a surprisingly important question. If he confused socialism for communism it might be a sign that I’d made a mistake.
“I’d like to think the greater good,” he smiled at me. “But I’d be a hypocrite to say I don’t like some aspects of Capitalism. I like my freedom to earn and do what I want with my money, but at the same time I want everyone to have a chance at life.
“How very Canadian,” I rolled my eyes and smiled to myself.
“What do you mean?”
“It’s a Canadian thing to say. You’re sitting on the fence post trying not to offend anyone.”
“Is that a bad thing?” I could tell he was confused, worried he’d said the wrong thing.
“No, it’s just a thing.”
“Good,” he relaxed.
“You haven’t answered the most important question,” I let my hand rest on his thigh, my palm spread out over it.
“Right, the book?”
“The book.”
“I liked the book.” He laughed and kissed my temple. I knew I hadn’t made a mistake.

Chapter Text

“Your child is roughly the size of a non-genetically modified lime,” Serena called to someone, I assumed Geno, as I opened the front door.
“From a kumquat to a lime, that sucker is going up in the weight classes,” I teased her, kicking off my shoes and hanging up my jacket.
“Well look who finally came home,” she popped her head over the back of the couch and smirked at me. “Get any?”
I rolled my eyes and grabbed a bottle of water out of the fridge before sitting down beside her. “You’re so crass.”
“That's rich coming from you,” she snorted and tossed the book she was reading on the coffee table in front of her.
“You’re home,” Geno said as he walked into the living room. “You see Sid?” He flopped on the couch between us and wrapped his arm around Serena. I’d moved my stuff back into the apartment a few days ago, Sidney reluctantly helping me carry garbage bags up the stairs. As far as everyone knew, Sidney and I were still broken up. Everyone with the exception of Serena and Geno. There was no reason for keeping our reunion under wraps, I wasn’t hiding him or questioning my decision, I just wanted to savour it. Keep the goodness and happiness between us for as long as I could. A small part of me hoped that hiding things would keep the inevitable problems away. I knew they were coming, I had prepared myself for challenges, but I needed the good to last long enough that I would have the energy to fight the bad, because at that point, day three of our reconciliation. I didn’t have a whole lot in me.
“You haven’t told anyone have you?” I eyed Geno sternly.
“No, I never tell,” he acted offended.
“Have you told Max yet?” Serena snuggled her head onto Geno’s chest and he rest his hand on her barely there stomach bump.
“No,” I avoided her gaze. “I’ll tell him when I tell everyone else.”
“You don’t think he deserves to know?” she gave me her signature judgmental glare. “I know you say you’re just friends but I don’t know many friends who would text me the way he texts you.”
“Stop with your conspiracy theories,” I rolled my eyes. “After our little tryst we decided it was best we just be friends. People can be friends!”
“Friends don’t sent friends flowers and chocolates,” she pointed to the counter where the bouquet of wildflowers Max had sent the week before were in a vase. The chocolate had long since been ingested.
“He was trying to cheer me up.”
“I really hope you’re right,” she shook her head and pulled a blanket over them.

 

I was restocking my First-Aid kit and making sure I had enough towels in my bag when I heard someone come in the room behind me. It could have been anyone, from a player to another trainer, but I could tell it was Sidney without looking.
“Hey babe,” I greeted him, zipping up the bag then turning to see him.
“You didn’t even turn around, how did you know it was me? Or do you greet everyone like that?” he looked at me confused. He was wearing his spandex base layer and looking energized. I had to sternly remind myself not to run my hand down the flat plane of his abdomen.
“I could sense your tentativeness,” I smiled. “And you’re the only one who stands there without saying anything right away.” I walked towards him and pecked his lips gently, careful not to touch him for fear that I might not be able to stop touching him if I did. “So what are you going to ask me?” I smirked. He gave me a startled look, alarmed that I seemed to know exactly what he was thinking. “I’m not reading your mind,” I teased.
“Stop doing that!” he cried. “You’re freaking me out!”
“I’m sorry,” I chuckled. “You’re just really obvious.”
“Apparently,” he rolled his eyes and leaned against the table beside him. “It has come to my attention that we missed Valentine’s Day,” he sounded concerned and slightly remorseful
“Oh no!” I feigned distress. “However will we continue our relationship without a designated capitalist fuelled hallmark holiday to tell us when to appreciate and love each other?”
Sidney stared at me, unsure of himself and clearly bewildered. “You’re not…?” he finally spoke
“Upset that we happened to be broken up on the day Penicillin was discovered? Kind of, I really do like celebrating days of life changing medical advancement, but I’m not at all bothered that we didn’t get to exchange crappy greeting cards and sit in a busy restaurant to prove to each other that we’re in love.” I shrugged and hopped onto the table beside him.
“I can’t tell if you are really jaded or the girl of my dreams,” he shook his head and grinned.
“A bit of both I reckon,” I kissed his cheek playfully.
“So you didn’t do anything that day?” he took my hand in his and studied my chipped nail polish.
“I did lots that day,” I scooted closer to him. “It was day twenty-one. On day twenty-one I got my weave did, it was a day of change. I also ate an entire Tobelerone in one sitting and watched ‘Mystery, Alaska’ twice.”
“Your weave?” he looked confused, perhaps afraid.
“My hair…” I replied with enough attitude to suffocate him.
“Oh, right,” he nodded pretending he had the slightest idea what I was talking about. “So I shouldn’t be planning a make up dinner and buying all the roses in Pittsburgh?”
“Well you can if you want to, but I’d much sooner sunflowers and spending the day together.” There was a warmth of affection that spread over me when I looked at him. In a way it was a sense of relief, I was no longer watching him from afar and trying to resist my own thoughts. He grinned and wrapped his arms around me, pulling me awkwardly onto his lap.
“I like spending the day together, I would spend every single day with you,” he kissed my temple and squeezed me tighter to him.
“That’s a lot of days,” I smirked and turned to face him. I ran my hand gently down his cheek, his eyelids fluttered and he groaned quietly.
“Come over tonight,” he whispered and brushed his lips against mine.

I stood behind him on the bench that night and watched the team end their losing streak. After he’d racked up a goal and two assists I couldn’t decline his invitation, even if I was hesitant. I wanted to be with Sidney so badly that it clouded my mind whenever he was near me and I worried that passion would send us full speed ahead into our previous relationship. The idea of a fresh start and taking things slow was more important to me than I could properly explain to him. So it wasn’t that I didn’t want to spend the night with my body bare against his, rather I was afraid of doing it so soon.
“I missed you so much,” Sid mumbled into my hair. He held me close with my head against his chest while we sat trying to watch a movie. It was something about World War II but I couldn’t force myself to pay attention to the digital explosions, not with his hand on my thigh and the beat of his heart underneath me. I was more overwhelmed by his contact that I was by the action on the screen. I briefly considered tearing off his clothes and doing the one thing I'd been thinking about for weeks, but reminding myself this was what was best I resisted and wiggled out from underneath his heavy hands.
"What are you doing?" He pouted as I stood up.
"It's getting late, I should go." I brushed my hands through my hair and pulled it back into a ponytail using the elastic on my wrist. I'd taken it down for his sake.
"Stay," he grasped my hand and tugged me towards him.
"We talked about this," I warned. 
 "We don't have to do anything, I just want to be with you. Besides it's snowing I don't want you driving in the snow" his whining was making it harder than I could handle.
"Please don't," I pleaded with him, slipping my hand out of his. "I promise you that it won't be like this forever. Just don't make this harder than it already is."
"This isn't the only thing that's hard," he huffed and flopped back out the couch.
"Stop pouting," I giggled. I couldn't take a grown man complaining about his penis seriously. Not when his pouting face was so adorable.
"Fine," he sighed and stood up. His arms snaked around my waist and he pulled me against him, as if he was trying to prove how badly he wanted me. "Call me when you get home?" he brushed my bangs out of my face.
"I will," I kissed him softly. "You'll have just enough time to take a cold shower," I winked and patted the bulge in his jeans lightly. He groaned in response and shook his head.
"You're lucky you're worth the wait," he growled and nipped at my shoulder playfully.
"No honey, you're lucky I'm worth the wait," I kissed his cheek and strutted out the door.

With every block I drove towards the apartment I regretted leaving him. In part because of the aching in my lower abdomen -the familiar craving- but mostly because of the driving conditions. I couldn't see two feet in front of me and the roads were slick to the point where I couldn't go over 20km/h. As I drifted into the shoulder of the road for the second time I worried that would be the last conversation I'd ever have with Sidney. It would be so easy for a big truck to speed by and send me rolling into the ditch. Accidents happened all the time. I pulled into an empty parking lot and considered calling him to come get me. His truck was twice the size of my car and was far less affected by the weather, but the idea of him going out in this made my stomach turn anxiously. I was about five kilometres from his house and not even near the city, at least thirty from my own, realistically I could make it home if I was cautious, but something about that made me cringe. I was sick of living cautious, constantly anxious with stress a more permanent fixture in my life than happiness. My windshield wipers swished back and forth rapidly trying to clear the icy glass. Their job wasn't easy, with the snow coming down fast my life was depending on a few strips of plastic and rubber. White knuckled and squinting I slowly pulled out of the parking lot and back onto the road. Visibility was getting worse with every passing minute, I'd turned off the radio and focused my attention completely on the road but I couldn't shake the feeling that something was going to happen. Inch by inch I battled the conditions until I saw the lights at the end of the driveway, my suburban lighthouse.

I sprinted from my car into the house and slammed the door behind me just as a gust of wind threatened to blow snow inside the warm haven. I stripped off my covered coat and shook out my hair, my shoes were drenched and my glasses fogging from the temperature change. I took them off and placed them on the hall table, scanning the main floor for Sidney. The television had been turned off and the lights were out. Still chilled from my less than toasty drive I kicked off my shoes and darted up the stairs with the vision of crawling into bed and stealing all the body heat I could from Sidney. Some nights I hated how warm he was, heating up the entire bed and making it impossible to sleep, but as the snow melted down my back this wouldn't be one of those nights. I pushed open his door and expected to find him in bed, the light was on but he wasn't there. I pulled my damp sweater over my head when I heard the water running from the bathroom and unbuttoned my jeans as I walked towards the door. I was naked by the time I found him, one hand pressed against the glass with the other moving back and forth at his waist. It was blurred by the frosted glass and trickling water drops but I knew what he was doing. I watched for a second, my head cocked to the side and a smile forming on my lips. A voyeuristic feeling of pleasure washing over me as I heard him groan and move faster. Breaking my own rules I slowly opened the glass door beside his hand and tiptoed into the shower. The steam enveloped my chilled body and his eyes stayed glued shut.
"Would you like help?" I whispered seductively and ran my hand down his back.
"Holy shit!" He jumped back and landed against the tile wall, startled and panting. "How long have you been standing there?" He looked down blushing as if he'd just been caught jerking off in the shower...which he certainly had.
"Long enough to be jealous of your hand," I shrugged and grinned at him.
"Is that right?" he cocked his eyebrow and stood up straighter. "You like watching me?"
"On the ice and in the shower," I winked and took a step towards his wet and glistening body. Not everyone looked good wet, but Sidney did, beads of water dancing down his toned chest. "So do you want my help or should I just watch?" I teased my hand along his hipbone and bit my lip.
"Help is nice," his voice cracked and for some reason I was even more turned on.
"Teamwork, right?" I looked up from under my mascara heavy eyelashes and took him gently in my hand. Eagerly his lips found mine and he pulled me against his body kissing my hungrily and cupping my bum in his big hands. I felt him against my stomach and kissed back even harder which made him moan and push my body against the tiled wall where he had been leaning. Moving from my lips to my jaw then neck, he turned me so I was facing the wall and spread my arms beside my head, his fingers between mine.
"Oh so you want my five hole?" I turned back to him and teased. I grin spread across his red swollen lips and he shook his head.
"I can't believe you just said that," he chuckled and kissed my shoulder, biting down gently.
"You like it," I pushed my bum against his groin. He didn't reply, instead took his hands from on top of mine and grasped my hips, slowly pushing himself into me. A month without him was too long and in some ways it felt like our first time again, the same desperation and size that my body wasn't accustom to. He moved slowly, sucking on my shoulder and purring in my ear. The feeling of his body pressed against mine sent pangs of excitement through me and I moaned in response to his movement. It was exactly the sensation I’d been missing, the knowledge of how badly he wanted me mixed with my own desire. To have him back at that very moment eased my anxious mind and I was too wrapped up in the motions of our bodies and the faint grunting coming from him to chastise myself for giving in. With his hand between my legs and his lips on my neck I knew there was nothing that could hurt me. Sex wasn’t the enemy, fear was. The same fear of inadequacy that destroyed our relationship the first time around was once again threatening to pull us apart.
Without warning Sidney spun me around so I was facing him, my back pressed against the cool tiles. “I want to look at you when you come,” he cooed against my lips and pushed back into me. With one of my legs in his large hand and bent against his hip he returned to an impatient rhythm. His free hand brushed my wet hair back then slid down my back pulling me closer to him. His words like his touch sent shivers down my spine and stroked the fire was already raging inside of me.
“I’m so close,” I mumbled into his shoulder and pressed my top teeth against his soft, wet skin.
As his pace quickened my senses heightened and tingling began in my stomach. It was subtle at first and grew stronger with ever brush of his finger against me and thrust of himself into me. No one in my life had ever made me feel so, not Millie, or Max, or any of others who’d come before them. In a way it was as if Sidney held the sole existing key to me and the rest had just been breaking in. I fell apart in his arms, his lips agains mine as my muscles spasmed and it became impossible for me to hold my own body weight. He followed suit and it was no surprise when we ended up laying on the tiled shower floor with the now cool water beating down against us, both with sleepy smiles and flushed skin.

“I knew I made you wet but I didn’t think I had that affect on you,” Sid teased and tossed me a t-shirt from his closet. I was wrapped in one towel and drying my hair with another.
“You’re sooo funny,” I rolled my eyes and pulled the t-shirt over my towel clad head carefully.
“You’ll get used to it,” he chuckled and crawled into bed, patting the spot beside him, my spot.

Chapter Text

I watched it happen. A freak accident they called it. We’d been back together for nearly a month, but I remained adamant that we keep the status of our relationship quiet. I liked having him to myself, everything being between the two of us. I could sense he was anxious to return to our former glory, the domestic bliss and regular sex. He made it obvious with his pouting lips and sad face when I left his house or kicked him out of my bed. His sudden interest in my apartment made for amusing conversation around the breakfast table, the four of us crowded together like an unconventional albeit loving family.

I looked up just in time. Standing behind the bench with towels slung over my shoulders, talking candidly with one of the assistant coaches, I was finally adjusting to the cool rink air and getting comfortable. I listened to the boys chatter excitedly as the seconds of the first minute ticked by. They were in the offensive zone, surrounding the Islanders’ net hoping to open the scoring early on. They passed the puck between them until Oprik found an opening. He wound up for the shot, Islanders coming at him trying to steal it away. I felt time slow down, like a cliche movie scene I watched him pull the trigger and send the puck flying through the air like a bullet in an action film. I held my breath while I watched the collision. Sidney’s soft skin and the frozen rubber puck smashing together and collapsing on the ice. I was on the ice before he could try to get up. Sliding with every step, running as fast as I could on the slick surface clutching the first aid kit in my blue gloved hands. I heard his groans and skidded to a halt beside him, dropping onto the blood covered ice.
“Where are you bleeding form?” I asked, my voice far calmer than I’d expected. It sounded foreign to my frantic mind.
He moved onto his knees and spit a mouthful of blood out in front of him. I noticed bits of white tooth with the blood and saliva.
“Can you get up, babe?” I whispered, my lips almost touching his ear. I reached for his hand, unaware of the bulky bodies surrounding us until Pascal leaned down us.
“We’re going to get you off ice bud,” he said softly to Sidney who was alert and clutching the white towel I’d given him against his face. The fabric quickly turned red, the bright blood soaking in.
On the other side of Sidney stood Brooks with his shoulders stooped apologizing as profusely as Sidney was bleeding. “I can’t believe that happened, I’m so sorry,” he shook his head. He seemed more distressed than Sid was and held tightly to the stick that had gone flying from Sidney’s hands.
The crowed erupted in cheer as we made our way to the exit, my arm around his waist while Pascal supported most of his weight and Brooks followed behind. Once we were out of the public eye, in the safety of the tunnel, Dupuis returned to the bench and we were greeted by Larry and two other trainers. A team of emergency response doctors waited for us in the first exam room, and my stomach sank as we walked to the room and I noticed the swelling already settling into the side of his face.
“Direct hit to the face with a puck, at least three broken teeth along the bottom. He’s been responsive the entire time and I don’t think he lost consciousness, but there has been a lot of blood,” I reported to the room and held up the first blood soaked towel I’d had to switch out in the hallway. Sid lay back on the elevated table, still clutching his face and groaning to himself. While Larry asked him basic yes or no questions about his pain level, I began to untie his skates. Although it seemed only right that he be as comfortable as possible, it was an action driven by maternal instinct and affection. I watched him spit out more pieces of tooth as I carefully slipped the skates off of his feet, Larry meanwhile calling for various bags of ice and a Merperidine injection. Tears had formed in my eyes and I hastily wiped at them with my sleeve, refusing to be the emotional standby and risk my professionalism. He winced as the dentist and doctor poked around his mouth and I noticed the same tears dripping his hazel eyes, but for very different reasons. I didn’t think before moving from his feet to his side and taking his shaking hand in mine.
“Everything will be better when the demorol kicks in,” I whispered into his ear playfully and squeezed his hand. He winked lazily, the only response he could give me with a mouth full of gauze.

After an X-ray confirming a fracture in his jaw, but a test showing no signs of concussion, we took the bad news with the good and I loaded a groggy Sidney into his truck and tossed Beau my own car keys. He’d waited after the game, anticipating we’d end up at the hospital and I’d need someone with me. Fortunately the doctors had come to Sid and he was scheduled for surgery the next day. More perks that came with the NHL contract. I drove cautiously through the sloughy streets, watching him from the corder of my eye. His face was swollen and his forehead glistening with perspiration that couldn’t be quelled by the cold window he’d pressed his temple against. He mumbled something that sounded like an apology and dropped his heavy hand on my knee.
“You have nothing to be sorry for,” I stopped at a red light and turned to look in his pained eyes. The narcotics had long since kicked in and his eyes were glossy and distant. I squeezed his clammy hand and the light turned green. He couldn’t reply. I knew the mix of swelling and pain killers would make for an interesting few days. Four of his bottom front teeth were completely gone and another cracked in half, in addition four of his top teeth were dipped and there were two fractures in his jaw. The oral surgeon was confident he could repair the damage but that did little to ease my anxiety. While Sidney recovered, I’d be returning to my position as his personal nurse. I’d never considered a career in home care but there was no way I’d leave him in the hands of someone else. 
 “I know you wanted me to move in again, but you didn’t have to go and break your face. We could have discussed it,” I teased, hoping to lighten the mood. He tried to laugh, but instead ended up groaning in pain and clutching my hand desperately. I submitted to the silence, better to keep my mouth shut than cause him more discomfort.
Beau beat us home and sat on the front steps waiting. He smiled and jogged towards us as I climbed out of the driver’s seat. With Sidney still flying high from the shot he was off balance to say the least. He wasn’t so much bigger than me that I couldn’t have handled guiding him to the house, but in the interest of preventing further injuries I accepted Beau’s offer. We hobbled up the stairs towards the bedroom, Sid’s depth perception leaving something to be desired and his heavy limbs crashing around. Slow being our operative word we carefully ascended the stairs and stumbled into the bedroom.
“You got this?” Beau asked awkwardly, standing at the foot of the bed. He motioned to Sidney’s clothed body and blushed slightly.
“Yeah, I think I’ll manage” I laughed and sent him on his way.
I began to gently peel the layers off of him, starting with the socks that came up to his knees. We hadn’t bothered to dress him at the rink after taking off his gear so I was faced with the challenging task of removing his skin tight spandex base layer. Once the two pairs of socks were gone I gently shimmied his pants down over his hips and thighs. I felt him brush his fingers ungainly over my face. He tried to say something but I shook my head to stop him. Whatever it was, it wasn’t worth the pain. I tossed the pants aside and lay beside him, rubbing his chest gingerly.
“I know,” I smiled weakly. I didn’t know exactly, but I had some vague idea of what it could have been. Again, nothing important enough to risk the pain of talking. I carefully removed his shirt, conscious of his battered face. I wanted to kiss it better, but nothing I could do would take away the pain he was feeling, and would feel in the weeks to come. Not physically or emotionally. I could only sit beside him and pray to the God that he so confidently trusted it. Pray that everything would be okay, that he would okay. I didn’t care if he ever stepped foot on the ice again, so long as he was healthy and happy. But I knew damn well he wouldn’t be happy if this ended his career. So I prayed that he’d make the recovery everyone had on their minds, one in time for playoffs.

“You want company?” Serena asked when I picked up my buzzing phone. I was sitting in the private waiting room of the hospital, for the third of an undeclared number of hours. The doctors had assured me they’d call when he was out, but it didn’t feel right leaving him there. “Better yet, you want lunch?” she added lightheartedly.
“I wouldn’t mind a bottle of J.D while your at it,” I joked squeezing the bridge of my nose between my thumb and forefinger. I’d had a stress headache all day that just wouldn’t quit.
“How do you think that would look? The pregnant lady in the liquor store,” she laughed. “We’ll compromise and I’ll bring chocolate.”
“Thanks,” I replied quietly, depleted of energy.

She arrived half an hour later with four chocolate bars and enough Subway to keep me happy for a week. I’d always joked that her knowledge of my favourite sub toppings was a sign of our undying friendship.
“I figured you wouldn’t have time to shop after this so there is a case of Ensure in the trunk of my car too,” she smiled and plopped down beside me. “Wouldn’t want boyfriend going hungry.” At seventeen weeks Serena had finally popped, her stomach convex and stretching the fabric of her white tank top. Her hips were already giving her yoga pants a run for their money and I could already anticipate the fashion meltdown that was going to come as she grew.
“You’re my hero,” I took an unladylike bite of my sandwich and licked mayo out of the corners of my mouth.
“I try,” she shrugged and unwrapped her sub. “Did they tell you how long it would take?”
“No,” I sighed. “I didn’t think it would take too long, but obviously I’m not an oral surgeon.”
She snickered and looked at me with her lips in a tight smirk. I rolled my eyes and fought back my own laughter. Normally we could handle words like ‘oral’ but the tension was making me batty and the hormones had Serena reverting back to grade school.
“I’m an expert not a surgeon, there’s a difference,” I finally said and burst into tearful hysterics. It didn’t take long before she joined me, her belly shaking with every laboured gasp for air.
“How long before he’s back to normal?” She’d finally caught her breath and we’d regained composure.
“We’re hoping for playoffs but I have no idea,” I took another bite.
“So that’s not just the press statement?”
“Nope,” I said between bites.
“Shit, I’m sorry,” she shook her head and stared at the sandwich in her lap. “I can’t image how this is for you,” when she looked up I noticed tears in her eyes, a very uncharacteristic reaction from my usually jovial best friend.
“Are you crying?” I looked at her confused.
“No!” she balked and wiped at her eyes. “It’s just that, I don’t know what I’d do if Geno got hurt. And you’re so freaking strong. I don’t understand how you're not losing it right now.”
“I haven’t really had time to lose it,” I admitted. “But I probably will. There’s nothing easy about watching them in pain but it’s part of their job and mine.”
“Well, when you want to lose it I’ll be here to ensure Sidney drinks his Ensure and supply you with kleenex and Toblerone,” she wrapped her arm around my shoulders and lay her head against my shoulder.
“Are you planning on practicing your mothering skills on my invalid boyfriend?” I giggled and let my head rest on top of hers.
“Yes… so long as I don’t have to change his diapers.”
“Praise Jesus it’s just his jaw and not his legs.”
“And Buddha too,” she added playfully.

The surgeon came out on hour six to tell me it had been a success. They’d removed the left over bits of the four destroyed teeth and planned to do surgical replacements once everything had healed. Sidney would have two permanent titanium plates in his jaw that would allow the area to be stabilized and heal quickly.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the saying about things being as pleasant as a root canal, but Sidney has just had four and a number of screws placed into his bone so we’re going to keep him here for the night and maybe tomorrow night.” The surgeon smiled comfortingly. “We just want to make sure he gets the best possible start to recovery. He won’t be awake for a few more hours, but I have a feeling you don’t plan on leaving so I’ll send a nurse out to take you to his suite.” And there it was, more Crosby perks in the form of private rooms and the privilege to stay in them with him. No one had told me I’d be allowed to stay with him, I’d been prepping myself for a lonely night and driving back and forth but was pleasantly surprised.
I thanked Serena for her company and sent her home to Geno with the promise of calling if I heard anything. The nurse came soon after, smiling warmly and leading me down the silent hallway to what looked like a luxury hotel room.
“Your bed has been set up in the corner and I’ll give you this pass so you can get in and out of the area,” she handed me a keycard with VISITOR printed on the front. “If you need anything feel free to ring one of us. He should be in soon but in the meantime help yourself to the television and I can give you directions to the cafeteria and shopping area if you like.”
I scanned the room around me and noticed a flat screen TV against the wall with a DVD player below it. The pale blue walls were nothing like I’d seen during our other hospital stays and I noted the already arranged flowers on every surface. They’d even laid out a pair of hospital pyjamas on my perfectly made bed. I half expected to see a mint on my pillow but was hardly surprised when I found tiny wrapped soaps and little bottles of shampoo in the bathroom. I was wrapped in the high-end results of capitalism and my only complaint was that we weren’t staying longer.

Chapter Text

“Toy story or Roman Holiday?” I stood next to the DVD player holding up the cases for Sidney to see. Asking him what movie he wanted to watch was more of a courtesy than anything because I knew he wouldn’t stay awake long enough to watch either film.
He groaned and shook his head enough for me to see his protest. Only a day after the surgery he wasn’t quite healed enough to try talking and we had at least one more night in the 5 start hospital room.
“What about Jaws? Or maybe The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw? Costal mayhem or wild west?” I teased “I hear The Exorcist is on the list for most jaw dropping films.” I would never admit it to him, but I was bored out of my mind sitting in the room watching him sleep, or talking without a reply. I couldn’t concentrate enough to read or do anything but watch him. When I tried to distract myself I ended up anxiously watching his blood pressure monitor every few minutes instead.
“Mmmmggghhh..” he groaned and rolled his eyes, raising his arms slightly as if to ask the heavens what he’d done to deserve such torture, the torture being my banter rather than the fractured jaw.
“Okay, no movies. But we’re not putting TSN on,” we’d already had that debate twice. Both times I lectured while he tried to hide the remote from me. I knew they were showing his accident every five minutes and I didn’t want him thinking about anything other than resting for the time being. He might not have been willing to accept it, but I knew watching the replays would cause him to analyze every second of the event. He’d spend the next few weeks mulling it over in his head, slowly driving himself insane.
“Mmmmere,” he mumbled and patted the bed beside him, ushering me to his side. I set the DVDs down and walked towards the surprisingly plush hospital bed. I leaned over his blanket covered body and brushed my hand lightly over his damp forehead.
“How’s the pain?” I traced my finger lightly down his temple and under his eye, careful not to go near the swelling. He gave me a lazy thumbs up and patted the bed again, shifting to make room for me. Still dressed in my hospital pyjamas, I crawled onto the bed beside him, wary that any sudden movements might trigger a burst of pain in his exhausted and battered body. Discontent with the physical distance between us he wrapped his arm around me and pulled my body against his. My head found its spot on his chest and I lay my arm over his stomach, holding him tightly. He shifted so his hand rest against my side and slipped it under the cotton fabric of my shapeless shirt. His skin was warm against mine and he rubbed little circles onto my waist with his thumb. It was as if he was trying to soothe me. I’d been deliberate in my words and actions since his injury, careful to remain calm and supportive at all times, despite the fragility that ached inside me and the breakdown the threatened to erupt when he wasn’t near. A few minutes later I noticed his breathing level out and his thumb stop moving. I usually found myself frustrated when he fell asleep touching me but his quiet snores were a comforting sound. Between the antibiotics and IV painkillers it was amazing he was as coherent as he’d been.
He’d been in and out of slumber since waking up from surgery the night before. I spent most of the night watching him, worried that something might happen if I feel asleep, despite the constant string of nurses coming in and out of the room to check on him. I was sure they weren’t all assigned to his case, but I couldn’t blame them for wanting to catch a glimpse of Sidney. I was slowly getting accustom to the female attention surrounding him, and in many ways I couldn’t blame them. In fact I sympathized with them because they would never know him beyond the media image and fabricated exterior. An exterior that I was learning did not even begin to cover who he really was. Having all signed non-disclosure forms the staff were relatively harmless and always polite. A few had even stopped to keep me company and I’d nearly blown my cover more than once. The story was that I was here on behalf of the team, but the surgeon and most of the nurses on his case knew I was more than a Penguins’ representative. Considering I was listed as his emergency contact and hadn't left the hospital in two days they’d have to be naive to believe the story. Nevertheless it was easier to play along. I’d made it obvious to the team that we were back together, my reaction to his injuries not being the most platonic. Initially I’d chastised myself for breaking yet another one of my rules, but I’d quickly realized that was the least of my worries. There was no use caring what anyone thought about our occasionally rocky relationship. Because just like the first day I met him in the Penguin’s locker room, I still didn’t pay any mind to the inconsequential opinions of those around me.

Armed with aftercare instructions, suitable antibiotics, narcotics, and another case of meal replacements, Sidney was finally released the next morning. Still in a drugged up stupor he pressed his body against mine as we made our way to the front door. I supported his weight the best I could shuffling our bodies together until the door opened and Geno came out to help, his large frame much better suited for the job.
“I didn’t expect anyone to be here,” I admitted and adjusted the heavy duffle bag that was slung over my shoulder.
“Sena want to make house ready for you,” Geno explained, using his nickname for her.
We walked inside to find the place significantly cleaner that I’d left it. The floors had been mopped, the piles of mail cleared, and an inciting aroma wafted from the kitchen. She’d even set up the living room to accommodate Sidney’s frequent napping, the couch made into a bed and a small fold out table beside it with a box of kleenex and all the remotes. There were candles burning and the shades drawn to cover the huge bay window, I swore I could hear calming music in the background if I listened closely.
“You didn’t have to do this,” I hugged her tightly. The kitchen counters were covered with muffins and cookies for the chewing-abled people in the house, and purred fruit and pudding for Sidney.
“I didn’t want you to have to worry,” she gave me a final squeeze then let go. “Although I have to admit it gave me a good excuse to learn how to use a food processor. I mean that isn’t far from baby food,” she giggled and motioned to the bowl of mushed apple guts. 
 “I knew you’d find a way to hone your maternal instincts,” I teased and grabbed a still warm muffin from the cooling tray.
“I do what I can,” Serna smiled and undid her apron. “Do you want us to leave?”
“No,” I replied all to quickly. “I mean, if you have things to do that’s fine, but I wouldn’t mind the company.”

“Do you want to go upstairs or stay down here?” I asked Sid, who was splayed out on the couch staring at the ceiling. He looked at me with vacant eyes and I pushed his hair back from his forehead. “Upstairs?” I asked again.
He nodded weakly and tried to smile. We stumbled up the stairs and into the bedroom, just as we had so many times before, but this time, as I helped him out of his clothes there was nothing sexual about my hands on his flushed skin. I knew it would be a while before we were physical again and I was strangely undisturbed by that. It seemed that for the first time in any of my relationships, sex wasn’t a necessary form of communication. More accurately I didn’t need it to remind myself why I was with him. The realization of my own contentment was both comforting and alarming. Could I get used to being happy? Or if not happy, something like it? I tucked him under the covers and by the time I kissed his forehead he was already asleep, muffled snores coming from his gauze filled mouth.
I returned to the living room to find Serena sitting on the couch without Geno snuggled beside her. It was surprisingly rare to see one without the other outside of the rink.
“I sent him home,” she answered the question before I could ask. “It’s easier to talk about him when he’s not around, his English is getting too good,” she grinned and chuckled to herself.
“I take it things are good?” I flopped down beside her and rest my feet on the coffee table. It was as if we were back in our apartment, except for the high end decor and the higher ceilings.
“It’s scary,” she admitted. “I had no intention of falling in love with anything more than his body, let alone having his baby and considering some kind of future with him.”
“Future?” I eyed her excitedly.
“Maybe,” she shrugged. “He’ll be in my life forever now and I wouldn’t mind if he was more than the father of my genius baby.” This was Serena’s way of admitting she was in love. I’d seen her this way with one other person, a boy she met in high school, but even that whirlwind teenage love didn’t compare to the look of bliss that had settled onto her face.
“Have you told him this?”
“Kind of,” she blushed. “Not outright but I think he knows.”
“Tell him,” I rest my heavy head on her shoulder, hardly able to keep my eyes open.
“I will, eventually.” I felt her brush my hair from my face and I felt more comfortable than I had in our penthouse hospital suite. “How are you doing?”
“I’m good,” I sighed. “Sidney’s going to be okay and so am I.” I didn’t bother to elaborate. Partially because I didn’t want to talk about it anymore, but mostly because Serena knew that within my simple words was the truth; I was terrified and exhausted but acting as such would help no one. “Have you picked out any names?” I changed the subject casually.
“A few. Geno has a list, which is adorable, but I keep having to remind him that I have to be able to pronounce our child’s name. I have no problem with it being Russian I just need to be able to say it,” she laughed and smoothed her hands over her stomach. “I was going to wait to ask you, but if it’s a girl can we use ‘Beatrice’ as her middle name?”
My eyes sprung open and looked at her curiously, wondering if she was joking. “Really?” I finally croaked, feeling more emotional than I’d ever expected to be.
Her eyes sparkled and lips spread in a grin, showing her straight white teeth. “Of course. Besides, if we pick something too complicated she’ll need a strong fall back name for when she hates us.”
“I can’t imagine she’ll ever hate you, but if she does I’ll be there to remind her to use her head.” I let my eyes close again, still smiling and fighting back tears. “Tell me some of the names?”
“I have them all here,” she pulled out her phone and laughed. “Do you know how many apps they have for naming babies? It’s an entire subcategory of applications.”
“That doesn’t surprise me, pregnancy is an industry.”
“Is it ever, speaking of which we need to go clothes shopping, my pants are not going to last much longer.”
“I was waiting for that,” I laughed. “Tell me the names.”
“Okay, keep in mind we’re using a hyphenated last name, probably Malkin-Eriksson. Anyway, under the female parts we have: Briony, Vera, Anya, Theodosia, Katya, and Petra. I really like Briony but he says it sounds like a cut of meat.” she laughed and I tried to imagine them sitting together compiling this list, saying each name out loud and analyzing the other’s pronunciation. “He really likes Katya. I think I’d be okay with that.”
“I like those, I can imagine you calling all of them in your impatient voice,” I nudged her affectionately and told her to carry on.
“Boys names are giving me a run for my money. The middle name will probably be a patronymic, so Evegenevich. He was talking about Vladimir but was your friend that immediately makes me think of Lolita and I refuse to name my child after the author of literary kiddy porn, not to mention the president of that country. I like Alden, but we also have Dominic, Magnus, Nikolai, and Mischa. I keep having to remind him that this child is going to grow up in North America.”
“If all else fails just name it Hans or Lars,” I snorted.
“That’s not a horrible idea,” she replied and I could feel her shake her head.

After choking down an Ensure shake and some apple sauce, Sidney was lucid and awake for about two hours before I saw his eye get distant and tired. He’d tried talking but it would be a few days before he begin to form words properly. It surprised me how much I already missed his silly comments and comforting words. Even more, I missed kissing him, and the freedom to do so as I pleased.
“Serena and I were talking about baby names,” I told him. His head was resting on my chest and I spoke softly, careful to take shallow breaths. It was only eight o’clock but we were already in bed, it wasn’t likely that I’d get much sleep but after two night away it felt good to be back in our bed. “I still can’t believe she’s procreating before I am. Not that I’m in a hurry, I just didn’t expect it.” I babbled on, filling the silence in the air with my vacant thoughts. “If it’s a girl she wants to name her after me, I think Beatice is a solid middle name. Apparently if it’s a boy his middle name will be a variation of Evgeni. I hope you know if we ever have kids I’m not naming any of them Sidneyvovich.” I chuckled at my own joke sleepily and twirled the ends of his hair with my fingers.
He let out a muffled laugh that turned into a groan, as if he’d forgotten that he’d just had jaw surgery. I felt his hand fumble at my hip and finally find its way under my shirt, resting comfortably against my stomach. His need for skin on skin contact was nothing new, my hips and back were his go-to resting place when he was overtired, overwhelmed, or just down right grumpy. The feeling of his callused hands against my bare skin still sent tingles through my body, little pangs of excitement from his touch. A warmth of affection spread through me each time, the knowledge that the simplest of gestures could help him in anyway reminded me how blended our lives were. And for the first time, nothing about that scared me.

Chapter Text

“Baaaeeeee-by,” Sidney whined from his spot on the couch. He couldn’t form words properly but he’d found a way to get his point across and the damage to his jaw had done nothing to impair his vocal cords.
“What?” I called back from the laundry room, shoving my second load into the dryer.
“C’shere, pleashhee?” the air whistled through the newly vacant space where his bottom teeth had once been.
I turned on the dryer and shuffled to the living room, taking a basket of clean laundry with me. Until his injury I’d never been good about doing laundry, but with an overflow from the weeks before and too much time on my hands it had become my favourite hobby.
“What’s up?” I dropped the basket on the floor and plopped down on the couch, moving his feet onto my lap. I knew what was up, the same thing that had been up for the past week, he was bored. He’d had no concussion symptoms but the doctors wanted to wait for his jaw to settle before letting him back on the ice. If I had it my way he’d sit out the rest of the season, but I wouldn’t dare admit that to any Pittsburgh sports fans, lest they revolt against me and I was burnt at the stake in some sort of human sacrifice ritual.
“Letsh do shomshing,” he looked up at me with pleading eyes. There was a discarded book resting face down on his stomach and his PSP on the coffee table.
“You can help me fold your damn clothes,” I suggested with a playful smirk. Even if I tried I couldn’t resent doing his laundry. I’d never imagined liking someone enough to take on household duties, but with Sidney I didn’t think twice about handling his smelly socks and sweaty post-practice underwear.
“Noo,” he sighed. “Letsh go shomwhere,” he pushed the book onto the floor and propped himself up on his elbows, straining his neck to see me.
“You’re going to hurt yourself,” I patted his leg and motioned for him to lay back down. He rolled his eyes and let himself fall back onto the pillow. We both knew I worried too much. Part of it was not fully understanding the healing process of his injury and the other was my duty as his live-in candy striper girlfriend. I looked at him laying there, his hair ruffled and his puffy lower lip, he looked like a little boy who’d been kept inside on a sunny day. Rubbing his legs I waited for him to suggest something.
“I’m sherioush,” he finally said. I tried not to laugh at how ridiculous he sounded and instead bit the inside of my cheek. “Letsh go to a movie or shopping. I’m show bored!”
“Obviously, if you’re willing to battle the crowds and inevitable paparazzi,” I chuckled and continued to rub the soft hair on his bare legs. “I don’t think leaving the house is a good idea. I haven’t even showered.” I motioned to my oversized hoodie and sweatpants. I’d hardly worn anything else since coming home from the hospital. There was no use dressing up when we didn’t go anywhere. He’d been eager to watch practices and games but I knew watching any hockey would only frustrate him, so I’d been put in charge of his entertainment. Watching movies, reading, and playing cards had become our main activities. We’d watched two seasons of Republic of Doyle and gone through more episodes of Friends than I could handle. I couldn’t blame him for being restless.

“I have to show you something,” I ran into the living and skidded to a halt. Sidney was exactly where I’d left him after convincing him we couldn’t go anywhere, laying on the couch gazing lazily at the television.
“Whaa?” he looked back at me confused.
“Just come here,” I shook my head and walked back to the kitchen where my laptop sat open on the island counter. I’d been sitting there for over an hour scrolling through pages and pages of writing.
“Whatsh going on?” he stumbled in and ran his hands through his messy hair.
“Come sit,” I patted the bar stool beside me and grinned. He obediently sat down without further question and waited for me to explain.
“Sidney was frustrated,” I began reading from the computer screen. “Nothing had been going right and even though they’d won the game he couldn’t shake the feeling he’d had for days. Ever since he saw Geno kissing the girl at the bar. His hands hand been under her dress and his lips all over hers. The memory made Sid shudder and anger boil inside him. This only made him angrier, he wasn’t supposed to care who Geno kissed. Sid lay on the bed in his empty hotel room and closed his eyes, trying to fall asleep. Instead the image came back into his mind, only this time it wasn’t a strange girl at the bar kissing Geno, it was him. He felt his shorts grow tighter and tried to shake the image, but it persisted. He was imagining Geno’s lips on his neck when there was a knock on the door. He sat up and tried to adjust his shorts to hide the erection, then went to the door. As if an act of fate he opened the door to find Geno on the other side waiting for him, his hands in his pockets and his tall frame slouched.
“Sid,” he said when the door opened.
“What are you doing here?” Sidney asked the tall Russian cautiously.
“You left bar, and I was worried. You didn’t say goodbye,” Geno looked down at his feet then back up at Sidney who stood with his arms folded in front of him.
“Sorry,” Sid mumbled and opened the door wider. “Come in,” he invited him in.
“You okay?” Geno sat on the edge of the bed.
“Fine,” Sid said dryly. “You just looked like you had your hands full.
“The girl?” Geno looked at him with sad eyes. “She just girl.”
“It’s fine,” Sidney sat beside him. “Just didn’t want to get into the way.”
“You? Never in the way,” Geno chuckled and nudged his teammate playfully.
“Is that so?” Sid pushed him back harder than expected. Geno fell onto the bed laughing and pulled Sidney down with him. Sid’s heart sped up as he felt his body against the Russian’s. He’d thought about touching him more than he wanted to admit.
“You always have place,” Geno pulled Sidney on top of him. “Place right here,” he patted his chest.
Before Sidney could reply his lips were pressed against his teammates. His erection grew and he couldn’t believe it was actually happening. Geno kissed him back eagerly and shoved his hands down his gym shorts grabbing his cock…”
“You can shtop…” Sid interrupted me, putting his hand on my leg.
“You don’t want to hear the part about teaching Sidney how to ride bareback?” I teased.
“No,” he blushed and shook his head. “I’ve purposhhhly avoided shis stuff."
“You knew it existed?” I was shocked. I'd been so excited to find the scandalous tales of Sidney’s exploits.
“Of courshe,” he smiled slightly. “Moshht of ushh do. We jushht don’t read them.”
“Does it bother you?” I took his hand in mine and shifted closer to him.
“Not at all! It’sh none of my bish-nish.” He squeezed my hand and tried to kiss my cheek but instead just knocked his nose against my cheek.
“I think it’s kind of cool to be honest, that people take the time to write about you. Although I’m not sure I want to imagine you and Geno together.” I rest my head on his shoulder again and watched his face. His big brown eyes and soft skin were tempting me, I wanted to kiss him and press myself against him, not unlike the scene I’d just read.
“I like dat people are doing shings shey enjoy,” he moved his hand to the inside of my thigh
“Yeah, things they enjoy…” my voice trailed off and I drew circles in the fabric of his shorts with the tip of my index finger. I was entering dangerous territory, getting too close to something I did enjoy greatly, a something that was out of the question.
“We don’t hash to waitsh,” he nuzzled his face into my knotted hair. His hand was making its way up to the main place I wanted it, wanted him.
“We do,” I sighed, trying not to whine but failing. “We can’t even kiss properly. I’m not risking it.”
“Did I shay anyshing about me?” he pressed his lips carefully against my neck. He didn’t move them, but I could feel their familiar warmth.
“Sidney,” I whined. His hand moved to the waistband of my pants and tugged on it suggestively. “We can’t risk it.”
“We’re not rishking anyshing,” he groaned in my ear making it even harder to push him away. Like in the story I’d just read his shorts were getting tighter and I could feel him press against my hand.
“You have a lot of faith in us,” my voice shook as his hand slipped into my pants and toyed with the elastic of my underwear. “I don’t think…” my breath hitched when I felt his fingers on my sensitive skin. “It’s not fair…” I tried again, but he was too damn distracting. The sensation of his fingers moving teasingly and his breath warm against my ear.
“Shtop shthinking,” he ran his tongue delicately over the skin behind my ear. His thumb brushed eagerly against my clit and I swallowed hard, not wanting to encourage him with my reaction. “I know you’re going cray-shee. Trying to reshisht. I can shee it on your fashe.” I bit my lip and let his words sink in. He was right I was going crazy not being able to touch him, but not crazy enough to risk getting ahead of ourselves. I knew him well enough to know that one thing would lead to another and his reaction to stimulation was always to clench his teeth. Whether I was being too cautious or not the idea of him hurting himself more because I couldn’t control myself made me nauseous.
“Babe,” I sighed, trying to let him down gently. His thumb continued to swirl in lazy circles around my clit making it even harder to think.
“Jusht let me,” he whined and nuzzled his nose into me, pressing his middle finger into me. I bit down on my lip eagerly and couldn’t hide the moan that slipped out of my mouth. I could sense him smiling and without taking his hand away he pulled me onto his lap, my legs startling his and my lips instantly attaching themselves to his neck. I moved with his rhythmic motions and tried to push the anxious feelings away.
“I swear to god if you hurt yourself…” I tried to threaten him but he moved his ring finger to join the middle one and I was too distracted by feeling of him to finish. It briefly occurred to me that this couldn’t be comfortable for him and his hand had to be cramped, but if he wasn’t complaining I wasn’t going to bring it up. I was captivated by him, my senses buzzing with excitement and my body uncontrollably pressing against his. My nails running gently along his clothed chest, sloppily grasping at the fabric when hit just the right spot. It hadn’t taken him long to find the perfect combination of movements, that ‘don’t stop, right there’ pattern that would have me laying weakly on top of him in no time. We were getting there, my muscles reacting and my hips pressing down, we were making progress, I was getting into it. I didn’t take the time to care that I was leaving marks on the smooth skin of his thick neck, teeth marks in the pale complexion that would give away our interaction instantly.
“I misshed you,” he whispered without missing a beat. I was so wrapped up in his touch and words, the feeling of his heartbeat under my hand that I didn’t notice the world around us. Neither of us heard the front door open, the sound of footsteps or even the greeting that came before Beau entered the kitchen.
“Oops,” was all I heard and all it took to pull me out of my trance. I pulled away from Sidney who was frantically pulling his hand out of my pants and trying to rectify the situation.
“I am so sorry,” I blushed hotter than I’d ever imagined possible and hopped off of the chair, pulling my shirt down self consciously. Sidney shoved his hand in his pocket and smiled awkwardly. “I didn’t know you’d be home so early,” I tried to reason.
“It’s almost seven,” Beau motioned towards the clock on the stove and I could see his cheeks were nearly as red as I imagined my own. “I brought dinner,” he held up two paper bags and avoided eye contact with both of us.
“Thanksh,” Sidney finally spoke up. If I thought I was mortified I couldn’t imagine how he was feeling. His hand still buried in his pocket and his face angled down towards the counter top, the tops of his ears crimson in colour.

I asked Sid to get more paper towel from the garage, giving him an excuse to gather himself while Beau and I set the table. There were three rolls under the sink but no one needed to know that.
“I really am sorry,” I cleared a stack of mail and three melted ice packs from the dinner table. We hadn’t eaten at the table in weeks and it had become a sturdy dumping ground more than anything.
“Don’t worry about it,” Beau shook his head and took three plates out of the high cupboard. “I mean it was bound to happen eventually,” he smiled sheepishly and set the plates out before returning for cutlery.
“I guess, but I hoped one of us would be drunk and it wouldn’t be in the kitchen.” I was doing my best to make light of the situation when all I wanted to do was crawl under the table and sob from embarrassment. I couldn’t imagine how weird it must have looked, our fumbling and my chaotic movements against him. “I promise I will disinfect the entire area tonight,” I offered.
“Don’t worry about it,” he laughed and started handing me the contents of the first bag. “I’m kind of impressed that you two were able to… figure it out… considering,” he raised his eyebrows and smirked.
“Yeah, well in the face of adversity,” I rolled my eyes and set the containers of soup and mashed potatoes on the table in a line. It seemed that in an act of solidarity Beau had bought only Sidney safe foods. “Just do me a favour and don’t bring it up to him, I’m sure he feels horrible.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Beau winked and grabbed his seat at the table while we waited for Sidney to return with the paper towel and his composure.

As selfish as it may have been, the stress of Sidney’s injury was doing me in as much as it was him. After our awkward mishap with Beau in the kitchen we’d avoided all sexual contact and I’d returned to role as blender master and his personal round the clock caretaker. I’d become so good at making blended concoctions that I was considering trying for my red seal in smoothies and I knew when it was time to give him meds before the timer told me to. Our freezer was full of cold compresses and I’d donated all of my heating packs— that were usually reserved for cramps and cold nights— to the cause. While the sweet hand written notes he left for me and the mumbled ‘thank yous’ made it worth it, I was more than relieved when Mario offered to take him to yet another post-op checkup. I didn’t know Mario or his family well, having come into Sidney’s life after he moved out of their pool house, but I knew his support was invaluable to Sid.
They would only be gone a few hours, but I cherished the idea of an empty house and pushed them out the door enthusiastically, hardly stopping to accept Sidney’s hug and awkward pat on the bum, a gesture that had to replace kissing goodbye. After the door closed behind them I stood in the foyer for a few minutes unsure of what exactly I should do with my new freedom. Of course there were more than enough menial chores to keep my occupied, but it seemed like a waste of the large, empty house. I headed up the stairs with the intention of maybe taking a bath or calling my family when I noticed my lonely wheelie suitcase in the corner of the bedroom. It wasn’t my usual travelling suitcase, this bag was decorated with various buttons and glitter glue. It housed my custom made roller skates, beautifully painted helmet and other well worn but recently neglected gear. Overwhelmed by work and Sidney’s recovery I hadn’t had a chance to skate in ages, let alone notice the potential skate space that was right under my nose. The gears in my mind working quickly, I peeled off my sweatpants and baggy t-shirt and pulled on a pair of tight spandex booty shorts that I hadn’t worn in month. In all honesty I was surprised they still fit, having been sure I’d gained a tragic amount of weight since getting back together with Sidney. I traded my floral cotton bra for a hard working hot pink sports bra and grabbed a pair of knee high socks before heading back downstairs, pulling my bag behind me. I sat on the couch with my skates in my lap, putting on the softest, cleanest wheels I had in my collection, a pair of thick white indoor beauties that couldn’t possibly damage the hardwood floors if I tried. I tightened the nuts on each wheel and set them aside while I moved the living room furniture and all of the rugs on the main floor into a corner. How had I not heard the bewitching calls of Sidney’s smooth and enticing floors before?
I left most of my gear in the bag, with the exception of my mouth guard and laced up my skates. With Sidney’s concussion still a vivid memory I couldn’t risk leaving my mouth unprotected, even if it did make me gag and tasted like morning breath. In just my bra and shorts I slowly started to move around the room, quickly getting a feel for the familiar movements. My knees bent and my weight distributed evenly it didn’t take long before I was back to my old comfort level, speeding up and lapping around the main floor of the empty house, weaving and bobbing to avoid walls and decor. I was on my third lap, my adrenaline starting to kick in when I flicked on my ipod and turned the music on to blast through the wireless speakers that were dotted throughout the living room and kitchen. I sang along with Rob Thomas circa his Matchbox Twenty days and did a few more laps until I decided I needed to make things a little more interesting. It was impossible to get any real speed in the house, it was big but not unreasonably so. However I could get just enough speed to clear a few inches and set to work gathering piles of books and setting them up throughout my makeshift course. The heavy books made the perfect obstacles and I easily landed eight of the ten jumps on the first round. Falling didn’t phase me and I quickly returned to my derby girl mentality hoping the falls would leave interesting and impressive bruises. After a few rounds I stopped to get a drink but couldn’t resist the perfectly arranged obstacle course and quickly resumed my skating. Sweat beaded down my scantily clad body as I skated to Kreayshawn, pretending I could rap and ignoring how ridiculous I probably looked. I’d lost track of time and my jumps when Divinyls came on and my derby practice evolved into my own version of interpretative wheel dancing complete with off key singing to “I Touch Myself.” My attention completely focused on my performance I didn’t notice my audience until the song had ended.
“Hi Beatrice,” Mario smiled as I starred at him in horror. Sidney was bent over beside him howling with laughter, tears dripping down his face.
“Hello,” I replied trying to act as if nothing had happened. “How was the appointment?” I hadn’t occurred to me that I was standing half naked in front of the owner of the team that provided my pay cheque until Sidney gathered himself and tossed me the jacket he’d been wearing.
“Itsh too bad we don’t have cheerleadersh,” he teased as I pulled the jacket around me, humiliated and sweaty from the activities. Mario glanced at him warningly before I could and Sidney’s smirk faded into a more respectful smile.
“The doctors said it appears to be healing well, they want to get him back on the ice soon.” Sidney grinned as Mario relayed the good news.
“That’s awesome,” I laughed excitedly and moved to hug Sid. In the excitement off it all I’d forgotten I was still strapped to eight wheels and instead of skating over towards him gracefully I tried to take a step and lost my balance falling forward in the most ungraceful fashion and landing at his feet with a thud.
“She’sh falling for me,” Sid snorted before bending down to help me up. I avoided Mario’s gaze and vowed to avoid him for as long as I could after that.

Chapter Text

I sat on the bench and watched the last few minutes of Sidney’s second skate post puck-jaw collision. Practice ended a few hours earlier and most of the players had left to begin their pre-game rituals. Still not cleared to play, Sidney would watch the game from the box while I resumed my position behind the bench. I was beyond relieved to see our lives return to some degree of functionally normal. I was still queen of the blender, but the ice packs became fewer and the narcotics were a rarity. I’d never seen someone heal so quickly and I wondered if he was as pain free as he’d lead me to believe. It was in my nature to worry and Sidney was giving me plenty of material.
“Mario wantsh ush to have drinksh after the game,” Sidney slid to a stop, snowing me in the process.
“Shut up,” I groaned, brushing ice out of my hair.
“I’m sherioush. He wantsh to get to know you,” he leaned over the boards and ruffled my hair with his gloved hand. “More than he already doesh.” I was ready to leap over the boards and tackle him onto the ice by the time he winked and poked my nose with his cold leather padded finger.
“Well please send my regards and tell him I need a few months to find my dignity before I face him again,” I stood up and brushed the bits of snow from my lap. “You better not have told anyone,” I warned him then left the cold ice, heading towards my office.
“I love youuuu,” he called after me. I was glad to see him in better spirits, but with his lifted mood came his new favourite hobby, tormenting me. I was stuck in a constant limbo of wanting to jump his bones and smack him. I waved my hand behind me acknowledging his gesture but refusing to comment.

“Why did you come back?” Sidney asked, clutching my body against his. We lay in bed after a 3-1 loss against New Jersey. There were only two games left in the regular season and the weeks since his accident had flown by. The doctors were confident that he’d return to his position at centre ice by the first game of playoffs but I tried to remind him to be realistic and not to push it too much. Telling Sidney not to push it was like telling a cat to fetch, there was a chance he understood what I was saying but there was no way it was happening.
“Because,” I shrugged and snuggled my head under his chin.
“Becaushe way?” His hands were on my bare skin, one arm cradling me against him with the other arm reaching across us to hold me tighter.
“Because,” I inhaled sleepily and propped myself up on my elbows so I could see the shadows of his face. “Without you I’m just floating. Without you I have nothing to keep me here. I could drift away to Constantinople. I could float away and I wouldn’t even realize it until I tried to plug in my hair straightener or find a Tim Horton’s.”
“Conshtantinople doeshn’t exihst anymore, babe…” he crinkled his brow and eyed me confused.
“Exactly. Without you I’m like Constantinople or Yugoslavia, I’m still here but I don’t actually exist.” I unlocked my elbows and returned to my comfortable position pressed against him.
“That ish the mosht romantic hishtorically bay-shed analogy I have ever heard.” He said after a few seconds of silence. “I’m glad you’re it Pittshburgh and not Ishtanbul.”
“Me too,” I sighed and nuzzled my head into the warm spot between his head and shoulder. No place in the world could be better than laying in bed with him. 



I sat on the couch in the apartment staring off into the distance, my eyes locked on a spot on the wall without actually seeing anything and my mind going in circles without thinking anything. The regular season had come to a close and after a three day break we were up against the Flyers in the first round of the playoffs the next day. Normally I’d be ecstatic to start playoffs, especially against a team I’d grown up loving. But this game meant two things, the first that there would be more than one physical play and I’d be busy all night stitching on the bench and mopping up blood, and the second that Sidney would be back on the ice. He wasn’t able to eat solid food but somehow the doctors decided he was healed enough to play. Initially I’d kept my mouth shut, not wanting to bother him with my anxious thoughts, but it wasn’t long before he realized how torn I was. We’d spend hours discussing the matter, me begging him to reconsider and Sid trying to convince me everything would be okay. I knew I was overreacting, playing the role as worried girlfriend, but that did little to settle my nerves.
“How are you doing?” Serena startled me out of my daze. She stood behind the couch and began gently rubbing my stiff shoulders.
“Shouldn’t I be asking you that?” I tilted my head back to see her.
“What do I have to worry about?” she laughed and massaged a little harder. The feeling of her small hands squeezing my tight muscles felt wonderfully comforting. “I’m just growing a human, you’re the one who has to stand behind the bench and watch her boyfriend get back in the game.”
“I know I should be reasonable, I mean if the doctors are okay with him being back then I should be too, but I just can’t shake the feeling that something is going to happen.” I sighed and let my head rest on the back of the couch.
“It’s okay for you to feel what you feel, Bea. You’re allowed to be nervous. You’ve spent the last six or so weeks watching him recover after watching him take a puck to the face, that’s a pretty intense and scary thing to see. It’s no wonder you’re shaken.” She assured me. As per usual her words were exactly what I needed to hear. I’d been refusing to acknowledge how watching him in pain had affected me for fear that it would seem narcissistic.
“I just wish I could bubble wrap him and keep him safe a little longer,” I groaned.
“I know,” Serena smoothed my hair back from my face. “But look on the bright side, if anything does happen you’ll be the first one by his side. I mean if anything happened to Geno, I’d have to sit by and wait until someone called me.”
“If anything ever happened to him I’d call you the second I got off the ice and you know that,” I reached up and squeezed her arm.
“Thanks,” she smiled. “But no one’s gettin’ hurt! Don’t you be thinking about it either, you’ll be drivin’ yourself off the fuckin’ deep end, Princess.” She laughed, intentionally using a thick east coast accent that we’d both tried so hard to drop when we moved to Pittsburgh. For the most part we’d been able to adjust our speaking habits when talking to other people and assimilate to normal language. But it was a joke between us when things felt too tense. It was impossible to keep a straight face while she prattled on like that.
“Eh well I tells ya right-fuckin’-now if he goes out and gets his head knocked open I’ll have a right fuckin’ fit,” I played along, unable to keep a straight face.
“Thems is fightin’ words. Yous some serious.” She giggled and sat down beside me.
“You feel that baby yet?” I asked, changing the subject before I started to get homesick.
“I think so, I felt some fluttering the other day but that might just be gas” she pressed her hand down gently on her stomach. “It’s supposedly the size of an onion but I think it’s more like a squash because I feel huge.” She pushed her gut out exaggeratedly.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if little Lars Evgenovich Katya turned out to be huge, I mean it is part Geno,” I nudged her playfully.
“Oh god no! What if it doesn’t fit? What if it gets stuck and they have to break my pelvis?” She looked at me in horror.
“Uhm, they don’t really go around breaking pelvises that often. But if they do, think about all the kick ass pain killers you’ll get!” I tried to comfort her.
“But if they break my pelvis who will raise the baby?” her eyes were wide and I could see the gears in her head shifting.
“No one is breaking your pelvis! But if anything should happen then I’ll ditch Sidney and move in with Geno and wallpaper the nursery with your face until you get better.” I hugged her and didn’t bother hiding my amusement
“Promise you’ll use one of the good pictures of me. No profile pictures or anything, maybe the one from Simon’s wedding?” She said against my chest.
“Duhh,” I snorted and we both erupted in a fit of giggles.

There were four fights that first game against Philadelphia. A knocked out tooth, some split knuckles and a dozen or so stitches, but other than that everyone survived. The Flyers won 4-3 in overtime and I realized I would never get used to cheering for both teams. Habit told me to be excited for the Flyers, but my heart was heavy for Sidney and the team.
The second home game was a little less composed. I wasn’t at all surprised by the animosity on the ice, between the historic rivalry of the two teams and the screaming match between the benches a few weeks prior, I’d anticipated it would be a nightmare. I didn’t however anticipate Sidney and Claude Giroux going head to head with their fists. I’d already stitched up two guys and handed out a number of ice packs when it happened. I’d been talking with to James about his busted lip when Pascal nudged me, drawing my attention to the corner of the ice. I watched in horror as Sid and Giroux pushed each other then started slapping at each other with their gloved paws. I had to hand it to Giroux though, he wasn’t taking any shots to Sidney’s face, most of the fight consisted of the two men holding each other’s jerseys before falling to the ice to a soundtrack of ecstatic fans. When Sidney returned to the bench after serving his penalty he knew I wasn’t impressed. Not quite furious but angry enough that when he turned around to say something to me I shook my head stopped him. He needed to have his head in the game and I wasn’t about to give it to him on the bench.

“If you’re trying to give me a heart attack it’s working,” I said as we walked to the dressing room after and 8-5 loss.
“Shorry,” he shrugged and gave me a forced smile
“Yeah, me too.” I tossed him a playful hip check that surprisingly pushed him off balance a little. “You played well, babe.”
“Not well enough,” he grumbled and shot me a sad look.
“You’ve got five games to make up for it,” I tried to comfort him. We stopped outside the locker room and let the rest of the guys go by. “Hey,” I looked at him seductively when I noticed no one was around. “Meet me in my office after you’ve showered,” I coo’d in his ear and pressed my hand against his chest. I had to stand on the tips of my toes to reach his ear.
He looked at me confused when I returned to my usual height then nodded before joining the rest of the team in the room. The last thing I wanted was to be a fly on the wall for that team discussion. The atmosphere in the rink was bleak and I could hear cursing and smashing as I walked away. It was hard to watch them lose and harder to see them so upset.
Making sure the trainer’s room was covered, I told my coworkers I would be in my office updating the medical files and scurried off down the hall. My office left a lot to be desire, a small room with white plastered brick walls and no natural light. The only windows were beside a heavy door and covered with dusty off white blinds. It had a bookshelf, a desk with a computer, and a few chairs. I’d added my own touches to try and liven it up, which consisted of a lamp, the most resilient cactus I had ever encountered, and a picture of Sidney and me that he took while we skated on the lake in Nova Scotia—a very rare Crosby selfie. It wasn’t the nicest of places, but I found a certain comfort in knowing I had my own space at the rink. Opting for the lamp instead of the bright florescent lights and closing the blinds, I began to set a certain mood. Music playing loud enough to cover any noises that might leak out of the cracks in the door, my boring work shoes kicked off and shoved under the desk, and my regulation jacket hung on the back of the door. I propped myself on the edge of the desk wearing just a tank top and my khaki pants and adjusted my boobs while I waited for him. I’d just pulled my hand out of my shirt when the door opened slowly and Sidney poked his head in and looked around.
“Hey,” he said suspiciously, entering then closing the door tightly behind him.
“Hey,” I hopped off of the desk and took a few steps towards him.
He cocked his eyebrow and watched me, opening his mouth to speak. Before he could make a sound I pressed my lips against his and pushed him against the wall. Caught off guard, it didn’t take much to move him and he stumbled back eagerly clutching my body against his. My teeth nipped at his bottom lip and he dug his fingers into the fleshy part of my hips. I ran my hand slowly down the surface of his chest and stomach teasingly before letting it stop at his belt buckle. He let out a muffled groan as I toyed with the buckle which only reassured me that I was doing the right thing. Dropping to my knees, I undid his belt and pants and looked up at him for approval.
“What…” he stammered, blushing and shocked. I smiled up at him and winked. “You don’t have to,” his voice cracked, the ‘you’ coming out at an unnaturally high pitch.
“I want to,” I bit my lip and waited. He nodded eagerly, giving me the go ahead and I set to work. His reaction time was impeccable and it didn’t take long before he was ready. “Promise you’ll tell me if you start to clench your jaw?” I asked at the last minute.
He gave me a hurried nod and I slowly took him in my mouth, feeling slightly devious an praying no one walked in.

“I shtill can’t believe you did that,” Sidney laughed and shook his head. I’d pulled it off successfully and we’d left the rink with no one the wiser. It was nearly two in the morning and we sat in the living room packing for the two-day trip to Philadelphia.
“I can’t either,” I giggled. Sitting on the floor with the smaller of my two pink suitcases in front of me I watched him meticulously study his ties, trying to decide which ones to pack. I on the other hand had literally taken a handful of underwear from my drawer and shoved it in one of the pockets.
“Are you going to fold those?” He asked, noticing the crumpled fabric.
“Probably not,” I shrugged. “It’s underwear.”
“How can you not fold them?” He looked shocked, as if he’d never seen my lazy packing technique.
“I don’t know,” I threw my arms in the air dramatically. “I have to be calm about somethings! I’m Obsessive Compulsive about everything else, there has to be something.”
“Sho the crazy doesn’t apply to your underwear?” he clarified.
“Only in the drawer,” I grinned.
“I don’t undershtand,” he shook his head again and selected three of his favourite ties.
“You don’t need to. I guarantee, the way I pack my underwear will never affect you.” I got to my feet and pulled a dress from its hanger in the closet and began folding it carefully.
“Wait, sho you fold your dreshses?” He looked at me bemused. “But not your underwear.”
“Sidney, no one folds their underwear. That is something that only you and other stupidly rich $50 boxer-brief wearing weirdos do.” I exclaimed, trying to silence him.
He paused, taking a minute to think about what I’d said. “How do you know how much my underwear coshts?” he finally spoke, turning his head to the side and watching me closely.
I didn’t have an answer for him. Truthfully I didn’t know how much they cost, I’d just guessed. Avoiding the question, I reached for his hand and pulled him down onto the bed with me. Giggling, I crawled on top of him and peppered his face with playful kisses.
“Stop with the questions,” I growled comically and stared down at his wide smile, the dimples that formed in his cheeks, and the creases around his eyes. It amazed me that I could be so completely in love with a single person, so enamoured by everything about him. I didn’t know it was possible to be so comforted and so aroused by the same face.
“Oh, I meant to tell you,” he rest his hands on my back so I was laying flat against him. “I put your brother and a plush one on the lisht for both gamesh.”
“Gosh you’re really making up for being the enemy,” I teased, and kissed him gently. “Thank you.”

After falling 8-4 in Philadelphia I was at a loss. We went home for the two day break between games but the playful, excitable Sidney I was enjoying had evolved into the focused, frustrated, and irritable man I knew he could be. I did my best to stay out of his way. If he wanted me around he’d have to ask, I’d learned my lesson after falling victim to his short temper more than once after that loss. He apologized immediately after, and while his cold distance and sharp words stung at the time, I understood the pressure he was under and was determined not to take it personally. They returned to win 10-3 and all was right in the world again. My first playoff season as both a member of the team and a ‘WAG’—as he referred to me — was proving to be more of a roller coaster than I’d anticipated. And then it happened. If I'd thought Sidney’s jaw injury was life altering, this was something else.
We were getting ready for the fifth game of the series and the third at home, I was stretching Marc Andre’s tweaked quad muscle and listening to stories about parenthood when my phone began to vibrate. I ignored it at first, but it persisted for nearly five minutes before I picked up to find Serena on the other end. She and Geno had gone for her 20 week scan, the scan they hoped would tell them the sex of the baby after a failed attempt a few weeks prior.
“So am I going to be an aunt or an uncle?” I finally answered, giggling.
“Bea…” her voice was forced and shaking. An uneasy wave of anxiety washed over me. Were these happy tears?
“I’m here,” I assured her, practicing the calm voice I’d used with Sidney.
“It’s…” she took a struggled breath. “It’s over.”
My mind immediately turned to her relationship with Geno. Things had been so good, and I couldn’t imagine he’d cause an upset like this during playoffs.
“What happened?” I snuck into a supply closet, not wanting to disturb the people around me.
“I don’t know,” she sobbed. “No one knows.”
“When did it happen?” I asked gently.
“They think within the last few days,” she was struggling, her voice all over the place I could almost hear her body shaking. “They just… couldn’t find it. The heartbeat.” She clarified, and I knew instantly she wasn't talking about her relationship with Evgeni.

Chapter Text

Sidney found me on the floor of the supply closet with my arms around my legs and my head in my knees. Serena’s sobbing had gotten louder after explaining that she was going to be induced in two days if her body didn’t expel the fetus itself. The word expel made me cringe and after that her words were no longer understandable. Geno took the phone from her after a minute and promised me they’d call later. I sat in the silence of the dark closet surrounded by bandages and medical supplies, my throat was tight and my chest heavy. My first instinct was to scream. Punch the walls, throw things, I was irrational with anger. Furious with the universe for allowing something like this to happen. After all that heartache, all the confusion she went through after finding out, there was nothing fair about it. Instead, I crumbled to the floor in a fit of angry, gut wrenched tears. Banging my fists against the shelf behind me, a few boxes of adhesive bandages tumbled to the floor beside me.
“Fucking wrong,” I screamed at no one and hugged my knees against my chest. Rocking back and forth, I let the flood of tears drip down my face and let out frustrated sob after sob. I wasn’t crying for myself or how sad I was that I would never get to give my niece or nephew the tiny Sex Pistols onesie I’d bought a few weeks ago, that I would never get to see Serena holding the baby like I’d been trying to imagine. No, I was screaming for the pain I knew she felt. Because unlike the day I found her laying on her bedroom floor with tearstained cheeks, I couldn’t offer any comfort this time. I could do nothing to fix this for her, worse, I couldn’t even begin to imagine the hurt she was feeling.
“Bea?” Sidney opened the closet door a crack, letting in the bright light from the trainers’ room. I looked up hesitantly, pushing my hair out of my face and squinting at the light. “What’s wrong?” his face fell and he dropped to his knees, letting the door open completely.
“I’m sorry,” I took a jagged breath. The room had cleared out and scolded myself for causing such a scene.
“It’s okay,” he pulled me into his arms and smoothed my hair.
“I didn’t mean to interrupt your work out,” the tears were slowing down but my voice was still shaking.
“Shhh, don’t be silly,” his voice was low and soothing. We sat on the floor of the closet with my body cradled in his arms. He rocked gently and waited for me to explain. I couldn’t help but cringe, knowing that someone had gone to get him, that someone had heard me and by now most of the team likely knew that I was crying in a supply closet.
“It’s not fair,” I sobbed, a new wave of anger coming. “It’s not right,” I beat my balled up fists against his chest and buried my face in the soft fabric of his pens t-shirt.
“What’s not fair?” he coaxed, rubbing my back in tight circles.
“She lost the baby,” I finally sighed. Saying the words made it worse. Acknowledging it was true enough to tell people made me sick. I clutched the fabric of his shirt in my hands and pulled myself closer to him. His shirt was already damp but he pulled me tighter and continued his rocking motion. I waited for him to speak, but it didn’t happen. Instead he kissed the top of my head and let me cry. Somehow he knew that I didn’t want to talk, I didn’t want to do anything. My throat was too constricted to form words and my limbs felt heavy, my mind racing in a whirlpool of angry thoughts. A throbbing ache had developed inside me and I couldn’t catch my breath.
Time ticked by and the room remained empty, his shirt stayed in my fists and my tense body in his embrace. I couldn’t find the motivation to move even after the crying tapered off and my breathing evened out. I don’t know how long it took for my words to return, but by the time I spoke my eyes had dried and my face was stiff from salty tears.
“I don’t know what to do,” I whispered without moving.
“There’s nothing you can do,” he spoke with his face in my hair.
“It’s just so unfair. She was halfway there and now… after everything.”
“I know,” he sighed. “Did she say what happened?” he asked hesitantly.
“Just that they couldn’t find a heartbeat. She has to wait until she goes into labour now.” I started to feel my voice wavering again but fought the tears.
“Shit,” he whispered and hugged me tighter. “How’s Geno?”
“I don’t know. I only talked to him for a second, he said he’d call later.” I released his shirt from my grip and wrapped my arms around his torso.
“He’ll probably miss the game,” he sighed and shook his head. “God that’s horrible. The baby I mean, not missing the game.”
“I know,” I moved slowly to look at him. I saw the sadness in his eyes and had to turn away, for fear that I would lose it again.
“Let's go home,” He tucked a piece of loose hair behind my hear and ran the pad of his thumb along my cheek.
I nodded and took a deep breath before climbing off of him and getting to my feet. He held my hand tightly as we left the rink in silence, leaving our coats behind and feeling the warm spring air on our exposed skin. I couldn’t believe that such a beautiful day would forever mark such a tragic moment. Neither of us said anything on the drive home, I followed him up to the bedroom after kicking my shoes off in the foyer and we crawled into bed. It was an hour earlier than he usual took his game day nap but we didn’t bring it up, instead we lay in each other’s arms and drift easily into a dreamless sleep.

I stood behind the bench with a heavy heart and clouded mind. As Sidney had predicted, Geno wasn't in the game. Neither he nor Serena had called me back and I was sick with worry. Sidney tried to provide some comfort, assuring me that everything would be alright and that they were just taking some time, but it did little to settle my anxious stomach. I watched joylessly as the Penguins beat the Flyers 3-2. I wanted to be excited for the team but I couldn't find the energy in me to have any emotions other than the bleak feeling of despair. Without the knowledge that she was okay I couldn't allow my mind to think about anything else. I was fixated on the issue, stuck in a mental limbo that I wanted desperately to escape. My actions felt robotic, doling out icepacks and stretching tender muscles, filling out paperwork and making a list of what we needed to take to Philadelphia for the next game When Sidney and I finally left the rink it was close to midnight and I'd lost all concept of time.

"I love you," he whispered and kissed the side of my face before heading up to bed. I couldn't think about sleeping and instead sat on the couch in the darkness of the living room. A gentle spring rain tapped against the ground outside the huge windows and reflection of the streetlights against the slick streets made me homesick of the rainy island I'd grown up on. Homesick for the security of my youth, our youth, the one Serena and I had shared. Memories of late nights spent wide awake reading Cosmopolitan in secret and our disastrous attempts at baking came back to me.

"I have a silly question," Serena warned. We were twelve and laying on her bed surrounded by magazines with silly quizzes and notebooks with our lists of crushes.
"Okay!" I grinned, loving her silly questions, loving that I had someone to spend my Saturday nights with.
"Do you..." she paused and blushed. "Do you know what IT looks like?" We'd been leafing through a book her mother had given her about 'growing up'.
"Like a boy's...y'know?" I clarified and tried not to giggle.
"Mmhmm," she bit her lip and grinned.
"I don't know..." I tried to recall the images I'd seen on the slow dial-up internet. "I think so, but I'm not really sure."
It didn't take long before we were hunched over a piece of paper trying to draw our own incarnations of the male reproductive organs, complete with eyes and terrifying smiles.
"That one just looks like a worm," she giggled and nudged me.
I stuck out my tongue and proceeded to draw grass and flowers around it.
"Wait," she looked up at me with a hint of fear. "What if my mom finds these?"
"She won't," I assured her. "Besides, if she does, she can't be mad at us for drawing..." I adjusted a few lines on one of her profile images that included a very large and round set of testes. "Cars," I looked up at her and grinned, having turned the awkward penis sketch into an even more awkward race car. "She'll never know!" We both burst into a fit of giggles and fell back onto the bed, clutching the paper between us. We didn't know it then, but in a few short years we would both be well acquainted with the truth about male anatomy.

I lay back on the couch and let my eyes close, I wasn't ready for sleep but I hoped it would come anyway. I knew Sidney wanted me in bed beside him, but it didn't seem fair that I keep him awake with my tossing and turning when he needed all the sleep he could get. We were heading to Philadelphia the next afternoon for a game that could end the series. Should the Flyers win we'd be knocked out of the playoffs and I knew the idea made Sidney furious. I pulled the knitted afghan from the back of the couch and draped it over me. I was on my side facing away from the window hoping to fall asleep when I heard a light knock on the door. I groaned and cursed Beau for forgetting his keys again and stood up, taking the blanket with me. It dragged behind me, draped over my shoulders like a cape as I made my way to the front door, carefully avoiding the shoes that littered the entry way.
"Y'know, I really should just let you sleep on the lawn," I whispered loud enough for him to hear and unlocked the door. But it wasn't Beau standing in the rain, it was Serena.
"What are you doing here?" I pulled her inside and wrapped the afghan around her wet shoulders. She was wearing a large t-shirt that likely belonged to Geno and a pair of gym shorts.
"I...I.. didn't know where to go," she stammered, shivering and pulling the blanket tightly around her.
"Where's your car?" I closed the door and guided her towards the kitchen.
"I was at his house, I walked," she avoided my eyes and sat lifelessly at the table.
"That's like two kilometres," I stared at her in disbelief.
"I needed to leave," her voice was low and weak.
I didn't say anything, instead filled the kettle with water and placed it on the stove to boil.
"I couldn't stand him looking at me anymore," she continued. "He keeps asking if I'm okay and I don't know what to say. I'm not okay, but I can't tell him that because it just makes him upset. I...." she looked down at the table in front of her and took a shaky breath. "I've never seen someone cry the way he did."
I left my position beside the stove and sat down beside her, reaching out and taking her cold hand in mine. I didn't know what to say, I couldn't find any words that would help.
"He's just so heartbroken and I don't know what to do because it doesn't seem real to me. I keep telling myself it is but everything feels surreal. I swore I felt her move tonight and I convinced myself the doctors were wrong, but I know they aren't. I know it's over but she's still here. She's still inside of me." She pushed off the blanket and pressed her hands against her still pregnant stomach, showing me. "How can she still be here but already be gone? What did I do? I felt her! I felt her all week Bea! I know I'm not crazy, why do I feel crazy?" Her voice was panicky and louder with every statement. "Why can't I fix this?" she broke down. Tears spilled from her eyes and heavy sobs shook her body. Serena rest her forehead against the table and pounded her white knuckled fists against the hard surface.
"I know," I tried to soothe her but felt utterly useless. "It's not fair." I wanted to pull her into my arms and hold her the way Sidney had held me, but I knew she didn't want to be touched. In the cold embrace of anguish she wanted to move freely, she always did. The kettle whistled but I didn't move, the high pitch squealing matching her earth shattering sobs.
"It's a girl," she finally looked up at me croaked. Tears slipped down her face as she tried to catch her breath. "We called her Sara Beatrice."
I felt my own eyes tickle with the threat of tears and my chest grow tighter but I willed myself not to lose control. It was her turn to fall apart. She moved towards me and rest her head wearily on my shoulder. We sat in silence as the minutes ticked by. At some point Sidney came down and turned off the kettle, pouring what was left of the water into our prepared tea mugs and placing them beside us, then returning to the bedroom. We didn't speak because there was nothing to say. She didn't need to hear the empty promise that everything would be okay, I didn't need to tell her I'd be beside her when she needed me. We both just knew.

They lost the game in Philadelphia 5-1 and the season ended. It was premature for some, but to me it felt like it had taken forever. Geno stayed in Pittsburgh with Serena and kept me updated on her condition. There were no signs of labour and she wasn't talking. I sat on the floor of the visitors locker room and packed the unused medical supplies in my bag, the atmosphere around me was bleak and the air heavy with disappointment. I listened to the players say their final words, how they were proud to have made it this far, how there as always next year. Sidney addressed the team and talked about the battle they'd lost and the promise that tomorrow held. With Serena's permission he told them why they were missing their star forward and watched the pain stricken faces of the fathers in the room. Pascal mumbled something in French then blessed himself while Marc- Andre shook his head in disbelief. Like Serena, I still couldn't believe it was true. Surreal was the only word that fit.

After a red-eye flight home and a few hours of restless sleep I held her hand while she lay in the hospital bed, stone faced and waiting for the Pitocin to kick in. She refused the epidural and the nurses told her how strong she was, but I knew it wasn't about strength. She needed to feel the full affects of the contractions to know it was real. I sat on her right, with Geno to her left, keeping an eye on the Cardiotocograph. The CTG machine measured uterine activity. The baseline fetal heart rate was flat but we watched the contractions begin slowly, every ten to fifteen minutes I'd see her body tense and feel her squeeze my hand making only a faint whimpering noise. 

The light streaming through the windows of the private room faded from morning to evening. Sidney offered to bring dinner but Geno and I both declined. We had no appetite and it seemed wrong to eat while Serena was fasting. Sid text me every few hours, checking in and sending his love to Serena, but he knew I didn't feel like talking. Better yet, I had nothing to say.

"Do you remember our first concert together?" I wiped her forehead with a cool cloth and tried to distract her from the pain.
"The Jay-Z one," she said between clenched teeth.
"Yeah," I forced a smile. We'd just moved to Pittsburgh and the station had given her comp tickets.
"We were the lamest people in the crowd," she laughed. "You wore a dress and we almost got trampled in the mosh pit."
"We mastered the fist pump at the end of that," I added. "And the guy behind us had his hands in your back pockets but I swore he was gay."
"That's right," she laughed but it quickly turned to a moan as another contraction picked up.
"Do your remember the day we brought Luna home?" I continued, giving her something to focus on other than the pain.
"She slept in the pocket of my sweater," she replied as the pain lessened and the contraction ended.
"And kept us up all night."
"And clawed at your leather boots."
"Do you remember when we slept in my parents' backyard and were convinced we'd be attacked by a bear?" I asked, smiling.
"Yes," she giggled. "Your dad spent an hour explaining that we didn't have a lot of bears on the Island because they can't afford the ferry ticket."

We spent the next three hours talking back and forth about our adventures together. Geno listened intently, smiling and asking the occasional question. After fourteen hours the doctor declared she was fully dilated and was ready to push. A group of solemn nurses stood by as she clenched her jaw and pushed with everything she had left in her. We held her legs and wiped her forehead, fed her ice chips and gave whatever encouragement we could think of. I watched the tears form in Geno's eyes as a tiny head came out after half an hour of pushing. I couldn't hold back my own pained whimpers as the rest of Sara's tiny body came into the world without her. The doctors cut the umbilical cord and turned to take the tiny bundle away but were met by Serena's screams. She wailed for them to bring her back and demanded to hold the fragile body of the daughter she was supposed to have. After the placenta was delivered they left us alone with the bundle that Serena held tightly against her.
Sara fit in the palm of Geno's hand and weighted under a pound. Her skin was translucent and features undeveloped. I ran my finger gently along her forehead and with tears reappearing told her I loved her before leaving Serena and Geno to say goodbye. In the bright lights of the sterile hallway I took a cleansing breath and decided I was out of tears. I took even steps and walked calmly to the waiting room, thinking about how badly I wanted to be home with Sidney. I entered the room digging through my purse to find my phone to call a cab, having forgotten that I'd driven with Serena that morning. Through the windows I could see the darkness of the sky and the reflection of the street lamps in the rain, the automatic doors opened and I could smell the clean wet air. And then I saw him, sitting in the corner with his hands shoved in the pocket of his hoodie and his legs stretched out in front of him. The brim of his hat was pulled down over his eyes but I knew right away it was him. Sidney had come for me.
"Let's go home," I said placing my hand on his knee and waking him up.

Chapter Text

The days following Sara’s delivery went by in a blur. My time was split between end of season physicals and paperwork with the team, and trying to be of some comfort to Serena. Needless to say one of those jobs was coming easier than the other. She spent two nights after the labour in the hospital, hooked up to a steady stream of IV fluids and almost constantly sedated. Geno sat at her bedside and watched her drift in and out of consciousness, hardly able to open her eyes. His devotion wasn’t surprising, but we all worried for him. His sad eyes and exhausted body stayed slumped in the hard arm chair for hours on end, only moving when completely necessary, only eating when reminded. He spoke softly to her, mumbling an incomprehensible string of Russian while she slept, and repeating the same comforting phrases when she’d awake for the brief and fleeting minutes before remembering and falling back into despair. He told her “is safe”, repeating the words like a prayer, a promise between them. I wondered if he was telling Serena she was safe, a reaction to the fear the clouded her eyes, or if he was reassuring both of them that Sara was safe, wherever she happened to be.
Serena didn’t go home with Geno after being discharged. Much to Sidney’s superstitious dismay Luna had been staying with us— sleeping directly on his pillow— allowing Serena to spend as much time as she needed with Geno. But she wanted to be home. He offered to stay at the apartment with her, he offered to do anything she wanted, he’d give her the world on a silver platter, desperate to provide some relief. Every offer was met with refusal, she wanted to be alone. We all knew that nothing was going to ease her heavy heart, but Serena was the only one willing to admit it out loud.

After a day spent torturing players with extensive athletic and medical testing, I sent Sidney home alone and set off on my third attempt of the say to communicate with Serena. Armed with bags of take away I trudged up the stairs to our purple door and pushed it open. Our home was a disaster zone. Unlike before, Serena hadn’t channeled her anxiety into productive tidying, instead her fits of rage sent objects flying around the room. Couch cushions out of place, piles of dishes on the counter, I hardly recognized the usually neat surroundings. Setting the food on the table, I tried to make the space livable. But my efforts did little to change the environment. I could clean every dish in the house and wash the floors on my hand and knees and it wouldn’t change anything. I did what I could with the living room and wiped down the sticky kitchen counters. Admitting defeat I opened the fridge hoping to find a bottle of wine, instead I was met by an image stuck to the white door. And image I hadn’t seen before. The black and white ultrasound, Sara’s last picture.
I sat with her that night, but we didn’t speak. We ate in silence, sat in silence and I left in silence. I was tired in a way I couldn’t explain. A way that words would never be able to fully capture. My eyes refused to stay open, but my body wouldn’t sleep. I tried time and time again to find some stillness in my mind, but the racing thoughts kept my body alert and on edge. I watched myself standing on the edge of life, dipping my toes into the realm of insanity. The temptation of darkness threatened to pull me into its suffocating embrace. It told me it could take away the mountainous main, overwhelm the heartache in a wash of somber grey. We’d done this dance before, the dodge and weave of battling foes, struggling for power and dominance. I watched Serena dive head first into the pool of despair and bob with the waves of treacherous agony. I was given the option of bleakness, she wasn’t so fortunate. There was no one who could jump in and save her. All Geno could do was sit by and watch helplessly as the once mother of his child lost herself. His eyes so clouded with confusion couldn’t differentiate between the waving arms of invitation and the flailing limbs of lunacy. And so again and again I watched her push him away, breaking his heart bit by bit until the damage would resemble a fraction what had been done to hers.
There was a wedge between Sidney and I that I couldn’t find a way around. It was an uneasy tension that left me with a sense of empty isolation. Our conversations felt forced, as if he never knew what to say to the shell of who I used to be that sat beside him. My body was the same, but inside I felt like a different person had taken over. My day to day functions were robotic, running on safe mode in hopes of avoiding a total melt down. Everything had shifted, my diet returned to a controlled 1,200 calorie intake—just enough to keep me functional— I traded my usual witty banter for silence, and my enthusiasm for a monotone acceptance. The darkness hadn’t come completely, but the shadow of desolation had washed me away.

“Where are you?” Sidney asked, walking towards me and brushing my hair out of my face with his wide palm.
“I’m here,” I mumbled and tried to break away from him. I wasn’t ready to be having this conversation, let alone in the kitchen while Beau and James played video games down the hall.
“You’re not,” he shook his head and took a shaky breath. I cringed and the sight of him, eyes wide and ready to spill tears, forehead wrinkled with concern. “Where are you, Beatrice?” He asked again and took my hand in his.
“It’s just my period…” I tried to scare him away but unlike most men I knew, mentioning my uterine activity didn’t phase him. Instead he held my hand tighter and locked his eyes on mine.
“Please talk to me,” he pleaded, his voice still low enough that only I could hear him.
It was getting harder to breathe, it felt like I hadn’t taken a real breath in weeks, the kind that fills your lungs with air and makes the world seem all the more manageable. Instead I’d been existing on shallow puffs of oxygen that only lasted a few seconds, much like my days I was taking things a few seconds at a time.
“I don’t… have words,” I pulled my eyes away from him, unable to handle the desperation on his face any longer. To my own surprise I felt my body falling towards his, my arms wrap around his torso and my head pressed against his chest. Before I could run away from him I was grasping for him, holding onto him like a life raft in the hurricane waves of my own mind. I wanted him to keep me grounded and save my from myself, hold onto me with everything he had and refuse to let go. He did just that. Without a word he pulled so close to him that even the most threatening of demons couldn’t tear us apart. His tight embrace pushed the anxiety out of reach and I could finally breathe. Tears of relief slipped down my face and my silent cries were cleansing the tense energy around us. It swirled and nipped at my heals but the force of his affection obliterated the dark entities that tried to pull me away from him.
We stood in the kitchen until time and reality didn’t matter anymore. Our bodies rocking together and my tears rinsing away our pent up anger and easing the burden I held inside me. We held onto each other long after James left and Beau went to bed, neither of us spoke or tried to break away. Our breathing became timed in unison and I couldn’t tell where he ended and I began.
The house was dark with the exception of the light over the stove, when I led him upstairs. My fingers tightly laced between his, afraid to let go as we walked slowly to the bedroom. He closed the door gently behind him and we only broke apart to undress. My long sleeve shirt and jeans fell to the floor quietly with my bra and underwear, his gym shorts and shirt in a separate pile, garnished with his boxers on top. He stood in front of me, bare and raw with the light from the window illuminating his light skin and defined body. There was an innocence about us, both gazing lustfully at the other. I didn’t feel exposed under his enchanted stare. We didn’t speak as he took the steps towards me and pressed his lips hungrily against mine, burying his hands in my hair. I pressed against him and let my mouth submit to his, my arms circling his waist so our hips touched. His hands slipped from the tangles of my hair to my bum and my arms moved around his neck. There was a silent communication between us, and I knew to lift my weight at the right moment allowing him to hold me effortlessly in his arms, my legs wrapped around his waist. His lips didn’t leave mine, his tongue as a part of me as my own. We held on tightly to one another before he took the few steps to the bed and laid me down with the utmost care. His lips left me and I let out a light whimper before feeling his eyes study my partially illuminated form. He smiled so sweetly before kissing his way down my neck and burying his face in my swollen breasts. His hand held mine while the other stroked gently along my hip bone. His teeth grazed my nipped and fingers danced down towards my wanting core. Every nerve in my body felt at attention and I didn’t want to stop him. To break away from the trance we were in felt like betrayal, but I had to. As his fingers grazed my clit delicately I let out a stifled moan.
“I’m…” I began, but my lips were met with his softly.
“I don’t care,” he shook his head and moved off of me to allow me to do what I needed to.
I got off the bed and hurried into the bathroom, closing the door and removing the menstrual cup, then after making sure everything was in order I returned to him and impermeable trance that had taken over our room. Lost in reverie together he kissed me the same comfort and want as before. A raw tenderness that dissolved any negative thoughts that remained. The racing in my mind slowed to a stop and for those moments nothing else exists. His hands gripped my hips and he held me against him as we rolled to the middle of the bed, ending with me on top and my legs on either side of him. I wanted to tell him how much I loved him, how nothing had ever mattered so much in the history of the world as he did to me, but I didn’t need to. My hands on his chest and my lips lightly pressed against his said more than words ever could. Hands still firmly on my hips he moved suggestively and I hovered over him. I felt his excited hardness lined up against me and I moved down slowly, breaking the walls that had been built between us in our months of abstinence. The barriers shattered with every rhythmic movement. There was nothing rushed about him as his hands explored the curves of my body, holding and squeezing parts with a groan when I moved in the right way. Desperate to feel more of him I leaned down and pressed my nose against his, brushing our lips together and tangling my fingers in his short wavy hair.
His forearm was pressed against my back, holding me against him when he moved to a sitting position. So lost in the heat of his body I paid no mind him reposition us, my legs over his and his hands on my back. We moved together, fading into each other. He rocked into me and kissed me with an increased hunger. I moved my tongue along the empty space where his teeth had been then rest my forehead against his, taking a minute to lock my eyes on his. His lips curved in a lazy smile and hands moved to guide my hips against him. We swayed together under the influence of desperation and moving with fervor and an intensity like never before. He knew where to touch, where to focus his attention, how to get me where I wanted to be, and with his precise movements I felt my vision going fuzzy and my body tensing. His soft groans and my own noises making it harder to hold on to reality. Stretching upwards in ecstasy I felt his lips on my neck and fell over the edge. Except this time I wasn’t on the edge of life, dipping my toes into the insanity. I was plunging head first into a sea of irrevocable affection. Rushes of electricity coursing through me still as he followed me into the depths, holding us tightly together.
He’d taken away my tension without a single word. We lay in silence, a tangle of limbs and lust. Neither of us dared to move as our heart rates returned to normal and the world became focused again. It didn’t matter than we were damp with sweat and the sheets were stained beneath us, I didn’t matter that we hadn’t set the house alarm or brushed our teeth. Nothing mattered when I he had his skin against mine and his face in my hair. Nothing mattered because the bleakness was fading and contentment overwhelmed the despair, because I was feeling something again.

With the season and end of season exams done for us, Sidney and I were both free to do as we pleased. Or at least that was the illusion we were under for a few hours until his agent called to discuss the off season schedule. My dreams of lazy beach days and family barbecues were dashed when he sat down across from me with a calendar and a marker.
“If we fly out this weekend we can have a few weeks before I have to go to training,” he explained while I picked at my breakfast. “I have the Olympic camp the end of August, and and appointment to get my teeth fixed in Halifax in June.” I wasn’t sure if he was talking to me or to himself as he filled out the dates in the lighthouse calendar my mother had bought us. “I usually train in Toronto, but I can go in July and the beginning of August and fly back to the house for the weekends. I also have promotional stuff to shoot in L.A in September, so we’ll get to go there…”
“Sidney,” I interrupted him, calmly placing my fork on the table.
“Yeah?” he looked at me, but was completely distracted by the schedule in front of him.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” My first off-season as someone in the life of an NHL player left me with a million questions. I knew we were going to Nova Scotia but what was I supposed to do while he was training? Was he expected to be available for the media the whole time?
“The off-season schedule, we have to plan to fit everything in.” He returned to the calendar, referencing his phone every few seconds.
“Sidney,” I interrupted again.
“Yeah?” he didn’t look up this time. Too focused on the task.
“Do I get any say in this?” I pushed my plate away and waited.
He looked up at me tentatively, not sure how to respond. “I guess,” he finally said.
“Just checking,” I shrugged and gave him a half smile before returning to my food. I didn’t particularly want a say, largely because I had no idea how it all worked, but I needed the reassurance that I was included in the process and had some control, however small it may be.
In the end it was decided that we would leave for Nova Scotia in three days, spend the remainder of May enjoying the house, in June he’d begin getting the dental implants and training, July would be training, and August more training with a dash of media and Olympic camp. He promised it wasn’t as hectic as it sounded but I told him I’d believe it when I saw it.

I nervously waited with the phone pressed against my ear for Serena to answer. With only three days left in Pittsburgh I needed to make sure she would be okay and that Luna could go home.
“Hi,” she answered with a little more energy than I’d seen recently. “What’s up?”
Startled by her chirpy tone I checked to make sure I’d called the right person. “Serena?” I asked carefully. The voice sounded right but the attitude didn’t.
“Bea?” she replied questioningly.
“Are you okay?” I asked hesitantly.
“I’m a bit better than I was,” she said with a sigh of relief. I felt a weight lifted off of my shoulders and I couldn’t keep the smile from creeping across my lips.
“I’m so glad!” I said with a relaxed sigh.
“Yeah,” she paused. “I uh, went to talk to someone. It’s helping.”
I knew there was no instant or easy fix, but any improvement in her mood was cause for excitement. The more determined she was to fight the darkness the more successful she would be. “I’m really happy for you,” I smiled. We hadn’t had a real conversation in weeks, only meaningless text messages and me checking into the apartment every so often.
“You know how it is, good days and bad days. This is an okay day,” she explained.
“So about days,” I steered the conversation. “Sid and I leave in three days.”
“And Geno and I leave next week,” she knew what I was getting at.
“You’re going to Russia?” I asked surprised. I wouldn’t have expected her to be willing to travel when things were still so unstable.
“I decided I didn’t want to be alone,” she remarked. “I knew you’d be gone and I’m on a leave from the station. I might as well.”
“So we have a problem,” I laughed nervously.
“A black fluffy problem.”
“I guess if I have to I can take her with me, but crossing the border with animals is a pain, and I don’t know if I’ll be staying in one place the whole time,” I thought out loud.
“Does anyone owe us any favours?” she chuckled.
“We could bribe Andy? Send her on the bus and pay him in hockey tickets?”
“Or we could put her in one of those fancy hotels where we can watch her on the internet,” Serena’s suggestion was more amusing that realistic.
Luna circled around my legs and meowed impatiently, rubbing her whiskers against my leg. She couldn’t go a day without affection let alone three and a half months. Serena and I decided to split off and search for a solution. We’d touch base the next day with possibilities and figure it out. In the end, Luna was going to have someplace to stay, or Sidney would be spending his summer alone.

“Sid,” I whined as I made my way down the stairs into the kitchen where he was drinking a post work out smoothie.
“Bea,” he whined back at me and offered me a drink of the concoction. I wrinkled my nose and pushed it back at him.
“I have a problem,” I pouted, allowing my inner six year old to take over.
“What’s wrong?” he flicked my pushed out lower lip with his thumb and smiled.
“Serena’s going to Russia, and we’re going to Canada, and Luna has no place to go,” I pushed myself onto the counter and sighed. “I’m trying not to panic, but It’s not working,” I returned to a more mature state and rubbed my forehead anxiously.
“Don’t get stressed out,” he came over to me and placed his hands on my knees. “What are your ideas so far?” He was so calm and rational and I instantly felt at ease.
“We can take her with us, send her to Philadelphia, or put her up in a five star cat resort.”
“Okay,” he nodded. “Taking her with us is an option, but it might be hard. I wouldn’t wish Philly on anyone though,” he grinned. “And I’m not sure cat resorts exist in Pittsburgh.” One by one he shot down my ideas and I felt the anxiety return.
“Well I can’t just leave her in the apartment with some food at water for three months! Maybe I should just stay here,” I cried in frustration.
“Or,” he squeezed my leg to pull my attention back to him. “You could ask one of the many people on the team who have families and spend the off season here…” he suggested.
“I could do that?” I looked at him with my head cocked to the side.
“What do you think I do with the house?” he chuckled and rubbed my knee. “I’m pretty sure we can find someone who has a daughter who will be more than excited to look after your freaky Sailor Moon cat. When in doubt and Duper or Mario.” He kissed my nose playfully and pulled me against him, his arms wrapped around me.
“Thank you,” I hugged him. My blood pressure returning to a healthy level and my mind relaxing.
“Don't let the little things pull you back into the darkness,” he warned and kissed my cheek. “It’s better in the light, with me.”

Chapter Text

“Sidney,” I called from the yellow room where I sat reading through the local gossip columns online. A hobby I’d picked up out of boredom.
“Yeah?” he replied, his voice was muffled and seemed to be coming from our bedroom.
“Have you been fucking Taylor Swift without me?” I hollered back. It had become common for me to share the funny media stories with him, he didn’t pay much attention to gossip but we both got a kick out of it
“What did you say?” he said from the door, coming to stand behind me.
“Well it says here that you and Ms. Swift have been spotted together. I just wanted to make sure you’re not the reason for the tear drops on her guitar.” I leaned back and looked up at him. His face was confused, but slightly amused.
“I don’t recall meeting or mating with her,” he crinkled his brow.
“Good, because if you’re going to cheat on me with someone like her, at least have the decency to invite me to join,” I laughed as I watched his face change from confused to aroused then back to confused.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” he kissed my forehead and placed his hand on my shoulder.
“Y’know, if we just went public these stories wouldn’t appear so often,” I suggested, knowing I was brining up a touchy subject.
“Right,” he snorted, dropping his hand from my shoulder. “So we can deal with you being hounded instead. No thanks, I’ll take my pretend life with Taylor Swift and every other pop star over that.”
“Fine,” I groaned and pulled his hand into mine. “Just tell me I’m prettier than your pretend girlfriend and I’ll leave it alone for a few weeks.” I smirked, batting my eyelashes at him.
“You’re prettier than Taylor Swift, sweetie,” he said dutifully. “Shouldn’t you be packing? We have to leave in two hours.” He tugged on my hand and pulled me to my feet, kissing me lightly then sending me in the direction of our bedroom with a pat on the bum.

“Bea, we’re going to miss the flight!” Sidney called up the stairs impatiently.
“You can’t miss a chartered flight,” I hollered back, rushing to shove my computer in my carryon.
“I’m not in the mood to test that theory so get a move on,” he replied with a huff.
I’d started packing the day before, but even after a year of travelling I hadn’t learned to avoid the last minute rush of throwing things into the suitcase. Knowing my tendency to leave things to the last minute, Sid had not so subtly suggested that I have my bags waiting at the door four hours ago. After dropping Luna off at the very lively Dupuis house, Sidney came home and had his bags ready forty-five minutes later, I on the other hand decided to check my email, and the gossip columns, and spend some time in Pinterest. It was becoming abundantly clear that he was more disciplined than I was, although I suspected we already knew that based on his six back abs and my slightly convex belly.
“I swear to god Bea,” he said a little louder as I moseyed to the stairs.
“Would you relax?” I pulled two suitcases behind me and had my backpack on. “Can you get my last bag?” the two suitcases bumped down the stairs behind me loudly and he stared at me in horror.
“Three bags?” he sputtered. “What in the hell do you think we’re doing there?” he pushed past me, shaking his head in disbelief.
“Love you,” I called up to him giggling.

We arrived just in time... for the flight crew to compliment Sidney on how early we were and show us to the lounge.
"If we have to wait, I'm going to drink," I scowled at him and flagged down the bartender, ordering a Malibu and coke.
"You go right ahead, honey, but I'm not cleaning up your puke or explaining to my parents why you can't stand up on your own." He pat my leg patronizingly and ordered himself a beer. Sidney wasn't exactly a big drinker but when he did it was never enough to lose control.

"Y'know what I like about you?" I giggled, three drinks in and already hanging off of him.
“My body?” he suggested with a smirk and wrapped his arm around my shoulder to keep me from losing my balance. He took a sip from his beer, the same one he’d ordered half an hour earlier.
“Oh hell yes,” I groaned and let my head fall against his shoulder. “But I was goooing to say that you were born near where I was born so we can go home together.”
“I knew you only liked me for my province,” he laughed and gave me a squeeze.
“And your body,” I added, finishing off my third drink and ordering another one.
“What about my NHL contract?”
“Meh,” I shrugged. “It’s just a signing bonus that comes with your body.”

Sidney dozed in and out of sleep with his head rest against the wall of the plane while I flipped through a tattoo magazine I’d bought at the airport. As much as I tried I couldn’t focus on the images in front of me. My mind still under the influence of Malibu was racing in circles. Giving up on the magazine, I set it on the table in front of me and closed my eyes, but my mind kept racing and I couldn’t shake the feeling of guilt that began to settle in. My thoughts kept drifting back to Pittsburgh, back to Serena, back to the ache. There as something so horribly unfair about my moments of drunken glee, how could I possibly deserve to be excited and in love when she was forced to rebuild her life. The memory of her unwashed hair and the purple circles under her eyes as she sat in the chaos of out apartment without moving, refused to leave me. I wondered what she was thinking, while I sat on a plane headed home, my blood mixed with the false relief of alcohol, was she having a good day? Or did it feel like the sky was falling again? I’d spoken to her briefly that morning but not long enough to know if she was faking it, she’d sounded okay but that didn’t tell me anything. I wanted her to be okay more than I’d wanted anything in my life. But I had no control over that, no one did, and the truth of that was more painful than anything else. Taking a long drink of water I reminded myself to call her when we landed. I couldn’t fix anything, but I had to tell her I wasn’t going anywhere.
“I’m going left, take the guy to the corner then find me. If I can’t find a clear shot I’ll drive it to the net or Kuni can take it around,” Sidney mumbled, his head still leaning against the window and his eyes closed. I’d heard him talk in his sleep before, usually asleep myself I’d kick him until it stopped.
“Then what?” I asked, curious to see if he could hear me.
“Then we score goals and win cups and I go to Tiffany’s,” he replied clearly and repositioned his head in the headrest.
“What’s at Tiffany’s Sidney?” I tried to stifle my giggle.
“Lamps for Beatrice. I’m gonna light the lamp then buy the lamps.” He twitched and rubbed his face with the back of his hand, still asleep.
I left him to sleep in peace, deciding not to fixate on his desire for couture light fixtures. His mention of Tiffany’s sent my mind down a road I’d been trying to avoid. A very official road littered with caution signs and no exits. I’d long since given up fighting my feelings for him, and I no longer hesitated to tell him that I was undoubtably and immutably in love with him. If it didn’t make him so uncomfortable I would gladly and freely tell every single person I encountered that I, Beatrice Keller, was happy to spend every single moment of my life with Sidney Crosby. That I was one-hundred percent enamoured with him and it would take an apocalypse to change that. Nothing in my life could compare to the way I felt around him and nothing had prepared me for how hard I had fallen in such a short time. I watched him sleep, so peaceful and unbothered by the world, but couldn’t stand being so far away from him. Those few feet separating us felt torturous and I slipped out of my seat, quietly tip toeing across the plane and curling up in the vacant space beside him. My head gently resting against his shoulder and my hand over his, I knew I didn’t need Tiffany’s lamps or Stanley cups, I didn’t need chartered flights or financial security, I just needed him. And should those things become unattainable, I’d be perfectly happy to sit in nothingness beside him, just as long as I had him.

We landed in Halifax around dinner time, and after a breezy conversation with customs, a couple of pictures of Sidney with local fans, and a few more autographs, we gathered out luggage and met his very excited parents at the front doors.
“Beatrice!” his mother wrapped her arms around me before even acknowledging his presence. “How are you? It’s so good to see you again,” she squeezed me tightly, the way that only mothers do.
“I’m good,” I hugged her back, the initial awkwardness fading into a sort of comfort. “Glad to be home,” I let my arms fall to my sides and she let go. I was relieved to have sobered shortly before we landed.
“Welcome home,” his father hugged me briefly while his mother switched her attention to him and we swapped parents.
“Thank you,” I smiled, still nervous and unsure how to behave. I had an unquenchable thirst to please his parents, to prove that I was good enough to be with their son. I was sure they’d heard all about the the break up and I needed them to know how much different it felt this time. Not being with him for those weeks was hard enough, I knew more definitely now that there was no way I could survive it again.

“Are you guys hungry?” His mother asked from the front seat of the car as we drove away from the airport and towards our summer together.
“Do I ever say no to that?” Sid laughed and reached for my hand.
“Good point,” his father smiled from his position behind the wheel. “So the question is where do you want me to stop. We could grab some steaks, or stop at a restaurant, your call really.”
“Sidney,” I motioned for him to lean towards me. “If you can convince them to stop at Greco I promise I will make it worth your while,” I whispered in his ear playfully.
“Did you just offer sex for donairs and pizza?” he said quietly, a goofy grin spreading across his face.
“Maybe,” I bit my lip and shrugged.
“Greco,” he exclaimed loudly to his parents. “I really want Greco.”

“I forgot what it feels like to be this full,” Sidney groaned and flopped onto the couch. After eating with us at lake house, Sid’s parents headed home, giving us the privacy I’d never get enough of.
“I’m pretty sure if you popped me I’d explode grease and happiness right now,” I sat beside him and let my head fall back.
“I have a feeling we’re not going to get that unpacking done tonight,” he turned his head to the side and faced me, our noses just inches away from each other.
“Mmm, I’m trying to be bothered by that, but it’s just not happening,” I grinned and moved closer to him.
“Good,” he pressed his lips against mine gently. “Because of all the things on my to do list tonight, it’s not very high.”
“To do list?” I giggled. Of course he had a to do list on his vacation. “Where do I rank on this list?”
“See that’s the thing,” he reached over and pulled me closer to him, so I was nearly in his lap. “You are the to do list. After you I just didn’t bother with anything else,” he nuzzled his face into my neck and I felt myself blush. His corny, goofy, romantic comments still got to me, I suspected they always would.
“I think I like this list,” I beamed and snuggled closer to him. “But I wasn’t kidding about the grease thing, we might want to wait a few hours because I cannot be responsible for my body right now.”
“Good point,” he chuckled and hugged me gently.

“For fuck sakes!” I screamed from the bedroom. After concluding that it was best we postponed our naked frolicking, we sat pressed against each other and watched a TV airing of The Notebook, which only made me want him more.
“What’s wrong?” Sidney ran into the room with the plastic pitcher of milk still in his hand, “are you okay?”
“I’m pretty sure I left my make up bag on the counter in the bathroom… in Pittsburgh,” I sulked and looked at the three open suitcases around me.
“And this is a big deal?” Sid clarified, setting the milk pitcher—complete with fresh bag of 2%— on the dresser.
“Yes,” I groaned. “I had everything in there. Make up, hair stuff, tooth brush, all the important things.”
“All things you can buy in Halifax,” he knelt down in front of my and took my hands in his. “Don’t let this become something to worry about, okay? We can go in the morning and replace everything and tonight you can use my toothbrush.”
“Does Halifax have a Sephora?” I asked after taking a few seconds to breath with him.
“Where do you think we are? Charlottetown? Of course there’s a Sephora!” he teased. “Gosh Bea, we’re like civilized ‘round these parts.”
“Hey!” I cried, pretending to be offended. “We have traffic lights in Ch’town now! We’re getting there.”
“Baby steps,” he laughed and kissed my nose. “Besides, as long as you remembered to pack your swimsuit you don’t need anything else.”
“Swimsuit?” I looked up at him with a raised eyebrow.
“Mhm, the minute it gets warm enough I plan on establishing a minimal clothing rule,” he winked and kissed me again, this time on the lips with a little more excitement.
“About that,” I broke the kiss, blushing. “I don’t…”
“What?” he looked alarmed.
“Yeah, I just don’t really have one,” I shrugged.
“But… you come from an island,” he stammered. “You can’t come from an island and not own proper swimwear! Wait, you can swim right?”
“Of course I can swim!” I rolled my eyes at him, slightly offended.
“Oh good,” he dramatically sighed in relief. “You had me worried there. I guess we have tomorrow planned for us,” his eyes lit up as I imagined he was envisioning me modelling skimpy bathing suits. I didn’t look forward to telling him there wasn’t enough money in the world to get me to wear a string bikini or anything like it.

“Oh shit,” I groaned, laying naked beside a half asleep Sidney. He lay on his stomach, his arm draped over my chest.
“I know,” he chuckled sleepily. “I just keep getting better at this.”
“No,” I sat up panicking, throwing his arm off me.
“What?” he sat up slowly as I jumped out of bed and riffled through my purse.
“Shit, shit, shit, shit, fuck, shit.” I dumped the contents of my purse and carryon bed onto the floor. My pill bottles rattled and the change that had fallen out of my wallet jingled.
“What’s wrong?” Sid crawled out of bed and sat on the floor beside me.
“One, two, three, four, five,” I counted the pill bottles in front of my and groaned.
“You have enough for the summer, we triple checked” he rubbed my back trying to calm me down.
“I only have two kinds of pills here,” I looked at him with fear in my eyes and my chest tightening.
“Right,” he nodded. “The quetiapine and the citalopram.”
“Sidney I take three pills!” I cried, dropping my head into my hands and groaning loudly.
“Oh shit,” he dropped his hand from my shoulder.
“I put the boxes in my makeup case…” I sobbed, tears pouring from my tired eyes.
“It’s okay,” he pulled me against his bare chest. “You took it last night so we’re fine for tonight. Do you need to take it? Can’t we just use something else?”
“I have to take it,” I cried harder. Anxiety and panic taking over my mind. I couldn’t think about anything other than how irresponsible I’d been. It wasn’t not having the birth control that worried me, he was right, we could use something else. It was knowing that without it I’d have no control over my periods and my skin would likely return to a state of chaos.
“It’s okay,” he smoothed my hair and held me tighter. “You know how we have Sephora in Halifax?” he said calmly.
“Yeah,” I squeaked, my face still in his neck.
“Well, we also have doctors. Better than that we have healthcare,” he chuckled and rocked us slowly.
“We can do that?” I asked, my tears slowing to a halt and the anxiety slowly easing.
“Baby, I’m Sid the Kid, we can do anything,” he roared with laughter and fell back, taking me with him.
“You’re going to use your name to get me a prescription?” I sniffled. My body was pressed against his, his arms holding me there. I could see the amusement in his eyes, his warmth and logic once again talking me off of a ledge.
“If I have to, but you can probably just give them yours and make an appointment,” he kissed my cheek and his laugh shook my body.

Sid took our hour long visit to Sephora like a champ. I steered him in the direction of the male fragrances and left him to smell the hundreds of different colognes, and had a good half an hour before he emerged with a handful of samples to find me. I filled my basket with the basics: BB cream, moisturized, face wash, toner, makeup remover, mascara, liquid eyeliner, and a pallet with eyeshadow and blush. As I looked through the shampoo I wondered if it wouldn’t have been easier to get someone to send me the bag, but with Serena headed to Russia I didn’t feel comfortable asking anyone else. I was ashamed of my large collection of cosmetics and birth control, but buying new things just seemed easier than explaining my forgetfulness. Sid found me in hair care debating hair straighteners.
“Wow,” he looked down at the basket in my hand. “I didn't realize there was so much.”
“This isn’t even the half of it,” I laughed and tried to mentally calculate the total. I had at least $300 in the basket alone. “If I get the straightener and shampoo it’ll be almost a full paycheque.”
“Insane,” he shook his head in horror.
“It makes me happy,” I shrugged and dropped the cheaper of the two straighteners in my basket.
I cringed when the cashier read off the total as nearly $600. I’d hoped to be spending my money on something a little less vain. Sid chuckled at my pain stricken face and took the debit card out of my hand, replacing it with his barely used gold credit card. When I tried to hand it back to him he shook his head and nudged me towards the counter. I felt weird taking his money for something so unnecessary, but he assured me it was fine and he had more than enough to share. I thanked him repeatedly and kissed him gently.

After a quick trip to the drug store where we stocked up on condoms and everything else I’d left in Pittsburgh, Sidney pulled me into the direction of a fancy swimwear boutique. Resistance was futile as he pushed me through the open doors and guided me into the depths of bathing suit hell.
“I still can’t believe you don’t have a swimsuit,” he shook his head and browsed through the rack of spandex attire in front of him.
“I also don’t own an electric chair, in fact I kind of make it a rule not to own torture devices,” I groaned, looking for a black one piece in my size just to appease him. I dreaded the idea of pulling the clingy fabric over my usually covered body.
“Oh honey, you can take more than one,” the sales lady caught me as I tried to sneak into the dressing room with the single one piece and the last shred of my dignity. “In fact, let me just bring you a few while you try that one,” she added, leaving before I could argue.

“I still don’t see why this is such a big deal,” I wiggled the bathing suit over my hips and tried to stuff the rest of my body into it like a sausage into its plastic casing.
“Because you’re from an island…” Sid said from outside the curtained dressing room
“So?” I struggled with the shiny fabric. “I also can’t fish, are you going to take me to lobster catching classes?”
“Do you want to take lobster catching classes?” he asked excitedly.
“Those don’t actually exist,” I rolled my eyes and opened the curtain to show him the embarrassment I was experiencing, my body awkwardly covered in stretchy black fabric, every lump and bump visible. “Just like I wish this thing didn’t exist,” I pointed to the monstrosity that flattened my boobs and accentuated my stomach.
“It’s not horrible,” Sid shrugged, trying to hide the look of horror on his face. “It’s just… a lot of fabric.”
“A lot?” I looked at him alarmed. “I was thinking I’d like twice this!” My pale thighs looked exposed and out of place and I had the urge to wrap myself in the curtain that hang beside me.
Before he could reply the sales assistant came back with her arms full of different coloured pieces. She took one look at me and shook her head. “No no honey!” she pushed me back into the room where she’d hung up the other choices. The hooks were covered in various tops and bottoms. Bikinis I’d never in my life consider squeezing into.
The first three were so horrific I refused to show Sidney, in the interest of our sex life I tossed them in the no pile along with every other skimpy stringy thing she’d brought me. If I had more ass than it had fabric there was no way I was wearing it. After eliminating the more revealing options I was left with three options; one a pink and white polkadot tankini with halter straps and a modest cut, the second a blue dress-like one piece that made me look like I was thirty pounds heavier, and the third a pair of high waisted, ruched black bottoms and a navy and pink floral top that had just enough cover and lift to make my less than perfect breasts worth looking at.
“Can I see?” Sid asked patiently, after I’d stood in the dressing room looking at my reflection and trying to decide exactly how I felt about it.
“I don’t know,” I opened the curtain hesitantly to show him. “I can’t decide if it’s bad news bears or the least horrible of them all. I have a lot of ass and…”
“You’re adorable,” he interrupted my self deprecating rant, getting up from his seat to get a better look at me.
“Adorable? Like a kitten or a baby?” I looked at him confused.
“Adorable like you should throw away all your clothes and just wear that for the rest of your life,” he kissed the tip of my nose.
“I have a feeling the NHL wouldn’t like that very much,” I smirked and slipped my arms around his waist.

Chapter Text

Knowing that I’d have to wait weeks before starting a new pack of birth control, I didn’t rush to make a doctors appointment. I had a sneaking suspicion that despite already being on the pill, the new doctor would force me to endure a physical and that was hardly something I looked forward to, As May became closer to June, Sidney and I fell into a comfortable routine. He’d wake up at an hour far too early for holiday, get some kind of work out in, and return home to find me dragging my tired self out of bed. Some mornings I’d call Serena, who in Magnitogorsk, Russia was nine hours ahead of me, and start my day while she ended hers. We’d found a balance in our conversations, I did my best not to worry and pity her, and she promised to tell me if she needed me.
“Yesterday,” she sighed and I saw her pull the blanket tighter around her shoulders, “yesterday was bad.”
“Oh?” I moved around the kitchen making lunch, the afternoon sun streaming through the window, but stopped when I heard her words. We hadn’t been able to Skype in a few days and I’d been trying not to worry about her.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” Serena’s voice was quiet and fragile. “I don’t know how to talk about it because it comes and goes, the feeling I mean. Three days ago I felt perfectly normal. We went walking through town and Geno was teaching me words in Russian, and it felt like everything would be okay. But the I woke up the next day and I couldn’t breathe properly. Because I’m not really sure how to breathe properly when I’m only breathing for me and I can’t figure out why this happened. He keeps telling me we’ll be okay and that we’ll get through it together, but that’s all he says. He’s the only other person who can possibly understand and I can’t talk to him about any of this. His family and friends here know, but no one talks about it, no one really talks to me.”
“Have you told him this?” I sat at the counter, leaving the sandwiches I was making for later.
“No,” she shook her head and closed her eyes. “I don’t want to bring him down. He seems okay, better than me at least. I want him to be okay and continue to get better, I don’t want to jeopardize him getting over it. I know that sounds masochistic but sometimes it feels like if I ignore it all, I can pretend it never happened.”
I took a second to digest what she was saying, choosing my words carefully. “I don’t think he’s as okay as he seems.” I finally said, holding my breath as I waited for her response.
“I think about what she’d have been like, in maybe six years time. I imagine her being fun like him, and creative like me. I imagine her with braids and Penguins gear skating for the first time. I think about what kind of parents we’d have been. He doesn’t know, but I took the blanket from the hospital with me.” I could hear her voice getting tighter. “I just don’t want to let go of the dreams yet. I don’t want to forget about her yet.”
“I know,” I said at a loss for words. I wanted to reach into the computer, all the way to Russia and comfort her in any way I could. Pour her drinks and feed her ice cream until even the tiniest part of her felt better. I knew I had not right to save her, I didn’t have the power to fix anything.
“What if she was the only thing keeping us together? I was unsure about my feelings for so long and now the idea of losing him makes me sick. What if this is what breaks us up? What if after all this, she was the only reason he was still around?” She let her head fall back against the wall and groaned. I wondered if she was going to cry, if she had cried at all since the night they said goodbye.
“I think you should talk to him,” I finally said when I was sure she’d finished talking. “I think he needs to know how you feel. If he doesn’t know then how can he help you? S, you said it yourself, he’s the only one who can understand. I can be here, and listen and remind over and over that you’re going to get through this, but he’s the only one who can really help you. And if you tell him and it doesn’t go the way you want it to, I will get you on the soonest flight to Halifax and we will spend the entire summer at the beach or on the Island eating COWS ice cream and your grandmother’s pie crust.”
 “Promise?” she gave me a weak smile and sighed.
“Absolutely!” I laughed. “We don’t joke about pie crust in this family.”

We said our goodbyes and promised to talk in the coming days. My heart was heavy for her and Geno, but I wasn’t lying when I told her I knew she’d make it through. Serena was the strongest person I’d ever met. The most rational and supportive woman I’d had the privilege to know. 
 I finished assembling our sandwiches and found Sidney in the sunroom with his face in a book. The warm yellow light washed the room and surrounded me like a blanket. I set the sandwiches on the coffee table and sat on the couch beside him, my legs tucked under me.
“How’s Serena?” he asked, placing the book face down on his lap and wrapping his arm around me.
“The same,” I snuggled into him, not caring to elaborate. “What are you doing today?”
“I don’t have any plans,” he grabbed half of his sandwich off of the plate and took a bite. “Do you have anything in mind?”
“Not really,” I shrugged.
“But you’re bored,” he smirked finishing the half of sandwich in his hand.
“Well… no,” I began.
He pulled me tighter and kissed the top of my head playfully. “I’m not at all surprised by this,” he laughed. “You are incapable of relaxing.”
“I am not!” I cried, mildly offended. “But you’re one to talk! We’re on holiday and you’re spending half the day at the gym.”
“I didn’t say I was good at it either,” he laughed louder. “I’m just better at amusing myself.”
“Easy to do in your own house,” I rolled my eyes and jabbed him lightly in the side.
“Hey,” he looked at me with hurt in his eyes. “Don’t say that, it’s your house too.”
“Not really,” I shook my head. “And that’s okay. I just meant that it’s different.” I tried to smooth things over, regretting my thoughtless comment.
“Then let’s make it yours,” he handed my half of my sandwich and motioned for me to eat.
“It’s fine,” I took a bite of the sandwich. Having grown used to his overbearing concern for my diet I gave up resisting and ate to appease him. “I really didn’t mean it like that.”
“I’m serious, do you want to gut the whole thing and redo it together? Because I’m willing to do that if it’ll make you feel at home.”
“That’s a little extreme,” I laughed, almost dropping the sandwich. “I like it the way it is anyway.”
“Then pick a room,” he sat up excited. “There are like 10 empty rooms, pick one and we can do whatever you want with it. We can put carpet on the walls, or wallpaper it with naked pictures, or make it a giant aquarium. Anything you want.” He grinned, the wheels in his mind already turning.
“Why would we want a room wallpapered with naked pictures?” I eyed him, trying not to laugh.
“Why wouldn’t we?” he shrugged and we both toppled over in a fit of tearful laughter. There was something so heartwarming and endearing about his desire to make me happy. The lengths he would go to please me meant more than the action itself.

“I cannot believe you left the house looking like that,” Sidney pointed to my faded shirt and denim shorts, taking his eyes off of the road just long enough to shoot me a look of disgust.
“What?” I was shocked by his outward criticism. When I’d looked in the mirror before leaving I’d thought I looked alright. “Is there a dress code at your local hardware store,” I spat back at him.
“Well, no,” he smirked. “But I don’t think people are going to get why you’re hanging off my arm while wearing a Talbot shirtsey.”
“Oh shit,” I looked down at my bright orange Flyers shirt in horror. With our season over it was so easy to forget the politics of hockey. Hidden away in the oasis of the lake house Sidney was just my boyfriend, not a public figure and what I wore didn’t reflect him at all. “Sorry,” I blushed. “I wasn’t thinking.”
“Thinking is hard for you lately,” he teased and reached into the back seat then dropped a black Penguins hoodie in my lap.
“The things I do for your reputation,” I shook my head and smiled. Its was the simple moments like this that reminded me how hard it was to be him. Little tiny things that could impact his career negatively. He had no choice but to be on guard all of the time.
“The tough life of a WAG,” he chuckled and squeezed my leg affectionately. “You and Vero should write a book about it.”
“Because the fans really need to know how weird you two are?” I pulled the t-shirt over my head and tossed it on the seat behind me.
“Are you taking your shirt off to distract me or?” He eyed my chest and bit his lip suggestively.
“If we got pulled over would you get a ticket for distracted driving?” I thought out loud, sitting shirtless in the front seat of his truck. “But no, that wasn’t my intention. I don’t like having my Flyers and Pens gear touching. It seems wrong. Like bringing a voodoo doll to church.”
“And you just called me weird,” he rolled his eyes and I pulled the sweater over my head, just as we hit the town limits.

 

“You’re sure you’re okay with having a pink room in your house?” I clarified for the third time. The day after our adventure to the hardware store we stood in the middle of one of the empty rooms, armed with rollers, drop cloths, and two cans of pale pink paint.
“Yup,” Sidney grinned. “If we have left overs we can even paint the kitchen if you want.” He kissed my cheek playfully and tapped my bum with his clean roller.
“I think we’ll stick for one room if that’s alright with you,” I bent down and pried the lid off of the first can and poured it into the tray. “This is your last chance,” I rolled the white brush in the pigment and held it to the wall.
“Wait,” he held my wrist, stopping me just as I was about to press the paint to the wall. He dropped my wrist and picked up the can of paint. Dipping his finger in the pink liquid. He brought it to the wall and started to smear the colour on with an unclear but specific intention. After every shape he’d gather more paint on his finger and keep going. By the sixth shape I realized he was writing letters, words. And when he finished he took a step back on the shapes on the wall read: Property of Beatrice Elizabeth Keller- this room and my heart.

We lay in the middle of the freshly painted room, both speckled with pink and covered in a layer of sweat. The sun was setting and I could see the orange streaked sky through the large window, the fading light casting shadows in the room. There was a section of wall we hadn’t painted yet. a rectangle of white and pink that I could bear to cover. A few feet tall and few more long, the pink letters on white wall serving as Sidney’s official declaration. It would have to stay.
“We make a good team,” I rolled onto my side and rest my head on his chest.
“Mmm,” he smiled and ran his paint crusted fingers through my dirty hair. “I’ll take you on my line any day.” 
 I didn’t say anything, instead I moved up his body and pressed my lips gently against his, kissing him slowly at first but building the pressure as my hands slipped under his stained t-shirt. There was something so undeniably tempting about him laying underneath me, his heart beating in my ear; something so irresistible about having his lips against mine. As if the day spent dabbling in home decoration was prolonged foreplay, we fell into each other surrounded by dirty rollers and empty paint cans. With his fingers laced between mine it didn’t matter who owned what, or where we were. The only thing that matter was us. Us as a pair, two people with a common bond, us.

The pink room became my oasis, my perfect space in a world I was still learning to navigate. We’d bought a chair and a lamp, a desk and a few decorative bits to liven it up, in less than two days the empty room had been transformed into mine and I started to feel at peace again. I loved being away with him, in fact it was clearer than ever that I loved being within one hundred feet of him, I loved knowing him and seeing him, watching him do the simplest of things. I loved the way he held books right in front of his face and stared at them with complete concentration, how he flipped through the pages eagerly devouring every word written, his arm around me whenever possible as I did the same. I loved the change in his voice when he spoke to his family, how he grew softer, not unlike he did with me. I loved listening to him explain things, giving directions, sharing ideas, teaching me about anything and everything. I loved the look of complete contentment that fell across his face in the late afternoon sun, as if he had everything he could need and all was right in the world, because despite my concern for Serena and my own left over heartache, there was very little wrong with our days, and less that I would change.

After putting my doctors appointment off for nearly a month, I finally drove myself into Halifax while Sidney stayed at the house, enjoying the beginnings of summer weather. It was easier for him to stay in our secluded paradise lest he be spotted and hounded by fans, or worse we be spotted together. I was still trying to accept his desire for secrecy but I understood it. Our interactions in public had to be kept to a minimum, any touching done as clandestinely is possible. When asked, I was a team representative here to help with his summer schedule, his personal assistant with benefits they would never imagine.
The doctor—a warm, older man who smelled like peppermints and had a poster of the beach taped to the ceiling above the examination table— insisted we do a complete physical. While I suspected he would, I still groaned when he handed me the plastic sample cup and directed me to the washroom. Legally, he couldn’t prescribe anything until he knew I was in healthy working condition, something I knew very will but had hoped he’d forget. This was the clearest example of the country’s medical care I had ever seen, a full physical just in case, and no bill to pay after.
“Are you sexually active?” he asked while washing his hands. I lay on the examination table in a cotton gown and a paper blanket draped over my legs.
“Yes,” I replied, smiling to myself. We had been “active” every day for the past two weeks, usually two or three times daily.
A slightly painful pap test, a few vials of blood taken and I was sent on my way, told the office would call to set up a follow up. I left the city with the windows down and the radio playing loudly. The summer air filled the truck with the sweet smell of grass and rebirth. I smiled at the warmth of the sun hitting the side of my face and sang along to the upbeat pop song that came through the speakers. I had to remind myself where I was and who I was, otherwise I could have sworn it was a dream. Everything felt cleaner and warmer here, everything seemed easier.
“Dis?” I called when I walked in the front door, tossing my purse on the couch and kicking my sandals off.
“How was it?” he called from the sun room. I followed his voice and found him in his usual spot with a book in his lap.
“I much prefer your hands on my lady bits, but it wasn’t too traumatic,” I flopped down beside him, taking a drink from his water bottle then placing it back on the coffee table.
“I’m glad I’m not the jealous type,” he laughed and nudged me playfully.
“Me too,” I smiled and nudged him back. “Hey, what are we doing this weekend?”
“Whatever you’re about to suggest,” he answered with a wink.
“Perfect,” I stood excitedly. “Go pack, we’re going to the island.” I bent down and kissed his cheek before scurrying to the bedroom.

Sidney was hardly one for spontaneity, so when he loaded out bags into the truck and headed north, I was giddy with excitement. It was a four hour drive we’d both done hundreds of times, but never together. Together we’d stuck to flying, always in a hurry, always planning our time carefully. With June only a day away we had the time we’d always craved, or at least a fraction of it. The first part of his dental surgery wasn’t until the fifteenth and that gave us more time than we could have dreamed of during the season. Work outs could be done anywhere and things didn’t start to speed up until July. I knew without me he’d have already been knee deep in off season duties, but I refused to feel guilty for that.
“Do you need the GPS?” I asked, reaching for his phone.
“Seriously?” he looked at me amused. “Would you need the GPS?”
“Probably not,” I shrugged, smirking and unlocking his phone. “But I haven’t had any recent head injuries,” I winked.
“Are you sure?” he chuckled. “Because that would be a good excuse for asking such a ludicrous question.”
“You’re probably right, I should have gotten the doctor to take a look. I mean why else would I still be with you?” I shot back, both of us grinning.
“Because you like my body.”

We stopped in Truro a little over an hour later for a late lunch. He suggested we go to a restaurant or at least a Subway, but I was adamant that the only thing that would make this day perfect, would be witnessing him eating the product of his biggest olympic sponsor.
“I’ve eaten McDonalds before,” he eyed me as we pulled back onto the highway.
“I’ve never seen it. I’ve only seen you eating things that make me look horribly unhealthy. I also want to prove that olympians eat it themselves,” I pulled out a double cheeseburger and unwrapped it for him.
“I eat junk food all the time,” he cried. “We ate Greco donairs our first night here.”
“It’s not the same,” I smiled and handed it to him. “Eat your sponsor.”
“Ugh,” he groaned and held it to his lips. “I’m going to enjoy this way too much.”
“That’s why we have three more,” I readied my phone, there was no way I wasn’t capturing the moment. “Ice cream and fries too.”
“You’re running with me tomorrow,” he threatened and took a bite. I snapped half a dozen pictures then put the phone down, satisfied.
“Not a chance,” I took my own burger out and unwrapped it. “I have a nephew to snuggle tomorrow.”
“Don’t hate me, but I got Lyla and Felix both jerseys, signed them too.” He took another bite and watched me closely.
“Seriously?” I stopped eating and stared at him.
“Yeah, I know you’re all Flyers fans, but I figured no kid should have to grow up with that kind of torture,” he laughed nervously.
“That….” I stooped and shook my head, a tidal wave of emotion coming at me. “That is…” I sniffled, fighting back tears, “the sweetest thing I have ever heard.” The dam broke and I fell into sobs, a half eaten McDouble in my hand.
“You’re not upset?” He asked, panic and fear in his voice.
“No,” I laughed through the tears. 
 “Then why…” he rest his hand on my leg. “Why are you crying?”
Laughing again just made me cry harder, big gulping happy sobs that shook my shoulders. “Because I’m so happy,” I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand. “I’m just so happy, and you keep making it better.”

Chapter Text

Like any good daughter, I completely forgot to inform my mother of our impromptu voyage across the Confederation Bridge. Unlike our first visit at Christmas, I had no intention of surprising her this time. I can’t say exactly what I was thinking when I ran in the front door and kicked my shoes off, Sid following behind with our bags. The house was unusually quiet and I was alarmed to find both the living room and kitchen empty. I motioned for Sid to take our bags up to my old bedroom and called out for someone. When I was met with no response I started to panic: it wasn’t uncommon for the front door to be unlocked, but with both cars in the driveway and the lights on in the house there was no way they’d gone out. My father’s study and the laundry room were also vacant and I felt my mind going down the chaotic path of worry. Had they been murdered? Kidnapped? Had they run away? Logic told me I was being ridiculous but my overactive imagination had far more influence. Frantically, I hurried to the only other place in the house they could be.
“Mum!” I cried when I saw her sitting at the desk in her office with her back to the door. I rushed over and wrapped my arms around her shoulders.
“Jezus christ!” She screamed, jumping a solid foot in the air and pulling the earbuds out of her ears. Startled by her reaction, I let go with a shriek. “Beatrice Keller what are you doing?” She said breathlessly, her hand on her chest.
“The house was quiet, I thought maybe someone you’d died or something,” I shrugged, perfectly aware of how insane I sounded.
“Well you damn near killed me there!” she shook her head annoyed, then stood up to greet me. “Have you never heard of calling?” she pulled me tight against her.
“I promise I didn’t plan it this time,” I laughed with my head against her shoulder. "What did you do to your hair?" She took a loose chunk of my bleach blonde hair between her finger and looked at me in horror.
"It's a long story," I shrugged, slightly embarrassed. "Spur of the moment decision really."
"An interesting choice," she wrinkled her nose. "I do wish you'd leave your hair alone though, do you even remember your natural colour?" she brushed her fingers through my loose curls.
"It's just hair," I rolled my eyes. "I'll probably change it again before the end of the summer anyway."
"You have such beautiful hair, stop trying to murder it," she pat my cheek affectionately and tucked the hair behind my ear.
"Where's Daddy?" I changed the subject to avoid anymore comments about my appearance.
“He’s babysitting Lyla while JJ and Mindy have dinner,” she replied, referring to my eldest brother and his wife. “ I was supposed to go but I’m almost done this chapter and I couldn’t risk losing my motivation,” she pointed to the computer where a document was open. On the outside my mother appeared to be just like any other woman in her late fifties. Her red hair, now streaked with grey, fell past her shoulders and curled softly. She wore her usual flowing tunic and leggings with gold hoop earrings and no makeup. But despite her average, slightly bohemian appearance, my mother was like no one I had ever met; because while she was just ‘mum’ to me, to the rest of Canada she was Shirley K. Keller: award winning novelist. She’d written seven books, hundreds of short stories, been interviewed by the CBC more times than I could remember, and received the acclaimed Giller Prize. But like Sidney was just my boyfriend, Shirley Keller was just my mother.
“What are you working on?” I perched myself on the edge of her desk like I’d done countless times in the days of my youth.
“A new piece. So far it’s about a woman in 1963 who kills her family and gets away with it,” she sat back down on the puffy office chair and put her bright red reading glasses on.
“What about the one with the siamese twins?” I glanced at the screen and tried to read few lines before she closed the document and shot me a look of warning. She hated people reading her work in progress.
“It’s still going, but I want to get this one out first,” she shut the lid of her laptop and leaned back in the chair, resting her hands on her lap. “So did you come alone?” she searched my face for answers.
“Right!’ I jumped up from the desk and ran out the door and turned the corner to find Sidney standing there patiently. “I promise I didn’t forget you,” I laughed.
“You’d forget your name if it wasn’t sewn into the back of your underwear,” he teased pat me on the head. “I’m not offended.”
“Hello Sir!” I heard my mother beam from behind me. She nudged me out of the way to get to Sid and gave him an awkward hug. I could have sworn she was blushing. “It’s nice to see you again,” she pat him on the arm affectionately.
“You too Mrs. Keller,” Sid smiled politely. “I’m sorry we didn’t call.”
“Oh, it’s no trouble,” my mother waved him off with a smiled. “And please call me Shirley.”
I shot Sidney a look of amusement as my mother fawned over him. I guess I couldn't be surprised if she liked him more than she liked me. In fact it was probably a good thing, much better than the years I spent listening to her express her polite distaste for Millie.
"I hope you don't mind I put our bags in Bea's old room," Sid reached for my hand like it was a life raft. My mother was hardly scary, and her obvious approval gave him little reason to uncomfortable. But just as I wanted to impress his parents, I imagined he felt the same about mine.
"No, no, that's prefect," she grinned. "Are you hungry? Can I get you a drink? That must have been an awfully long drive," she took his arm and lead him towards the kitchen. I didn't follow and he was forced to let go of me, shooting a confused look at me before moving down the hall.

I only felt slightly guilty when I left Sidney in the kitchen with my mother and headed up to my bedroom. I hadn't lived at home for years, but that room still felt like mine. When John moved out, his room became a library, when Simon left home his turned into a gym, Andy's became a generic guest room, but mine. Mine stayed the same. My brother's teased that it was because everyone suspected I'd move back home and spend my thirties living with my parents again, but I think my mother knew how important the four walls were to me. So much had happened on that very bed that I sat on, so many nights spent staring at the ceiling and studying the map on the wall. I had the only room on the top floor with a window you could safely climb out of-- something I knew first hand--and the only door that didn't actually lock properly.

From my spot on the bed I reached for the hiding place between the bed frame and the wall, pulling out the black journal that had been there for most of its life. When we left at Christmas I'd considered bringing it to Pittsburgh with me, but something told me it needed to stay where it had always been.
"You're horrible," Sid glared at me dramatically when he walked in the door.
"She's not that bad," I laughed. "She really likes you."
"The whole time we were talking I kept worrying I'd say something completely inappropriate and ruin everything," he sighed and sat down beside me.
"You talk to important people all the time," I eyed him.
"Yeah, but reporters and the media are way less intimidating than your parents," he shook his head.
"Whatever you say," I smiled and flipped through the journal in my hands, stopping on a day written in purple gel pen.

April 1st 2005
This is not a joke. This is not a drill. This is real life.
Tonight Serena and I drove to Montague to her cousin Misty's house. Misty is like 24 and has a kid with this guy from the QMJL but no one knows who he is. Anyway we went there because she invited us to this party she was having. We were both stoked because it meant we'd be able to pick up weed from the guy who lives in the basement of the house. Super creepy guy, but nice enough. Anyway, we walked in ready to maybe have a few drinks or something, but instead of bottles and like music and smoke, the usual stuff at parties, the place was full of women and there was a table of like... stuff. Like adult stuff. Like dirty adult stuff. It was insane. We basically sat there the whole time trying not to giggle as Misty's friend like demonstrated how all these electronic things worked and passed them around for us to see. God there is some weird shit in the world. I tried to play it off super cool like I was uninterested because I couldn't tell how S felt. After the demonstrations we went to visit the basement guy and got what we came for, when we were heading back to the party Serena told me she wanted to buy something! Like something like that! I told her thank god because I did too. We both dropped like $40 and left right away, not bothering to stop and smoke before going home.
Well let me just say, that was $40 well spent! I didn't think I could ever in my life ever feel like that! Holy shit! I thought Jack was like okay at whatever he did with his hands and stuff, but this is something else. Jack will never live up to this. Is this what happiness feels like? Because I don't think it gets any better. Last week I asked Jack if he wanted to do it, like all the way and he said eventually then changed the subject. Sometimes I wonder why I'm with him. He's such a prep. Travis says he's probably gay anyway. I don't think so though because when I told him I sometimes think about girls he told me that was a sin. I told him so was abortion but that didn't stop his sister. We didn't talk for a few days after that. Whatever, if Jack won't sleep with me maybe Travis will. Ugh, that would be so good! He's so hot! Like when we kissed last summer after drinking a two-six of whiskey I thought I was going to melt. I'll never be hardcore enough for him, the last girl he dated plays in a band, I don't even play guitar for my friends let alone on stage. Whatever. I'm moving in a few months anyway.
I'm not going to university a virgin though. I swear to god.
-B

"Wait, were you talking about that guy who did the tattoos on you?" Sid asked, having read the entry over my shoulder.
"Yup," I kept my eyes on the page, nervous to face him.
"Oh," he sounded disappointed. " I didn't know you were into guys like that."
"Guys like what?" I slowly turned my head towards him.
"I don't know, he's just one of those cool guys. With the tattoos and the studded jackets and stuff." He was blushing, for the first time in our relationship I noted a hint of jealousy in his tone.
"I've liked lots of different people, Sweetie," I leaned into him, taking his hand in mine.
"Did you sleep with him?" he asked quietly. For once I couldn't read his expression and it was driving me insane. I could usually predict his reaction to something, or at least have an idea of what he was feeling.
"Yes," I said honestly without hesitation. I had nothing to be ashamed of. "More than once," I offered.
"Okay," he nodded calmly. He wasn't upset, I knew that much. And realistically he had no reason to be jealous, I was with him.
"Should we be talking about numbers?" I asked gently, trying to gauge his emotions.
"That might be a good idea," he shift so we were facing each other, still holding onto my hand.
"Okay," I looked down at my lap, regretting the suggestion. I hadn't expected him to say yes. I couldn't help but worry he'd judge me by the end of the conversation. "You go first."
"Right," he nodded, blushing to the tips of his ears. "Uhm...you're uh... you're number seventeen." I could hear the uneasiness in his voice, neither of us attempted to make eye contact. The idea of Sidney sleeping with anyone else make me anxious, not because I was jealous or worried i'd lose him, it just make me queazy. Those were my hands, my lips, my arms, my back, my legs, he was mine and I didn't want to imagine anyone else enjoying him the way I did.
"Seventeen," I repeated, letting the number sink it. It wasn't a shocking amount. I'd heard of players with far more notches in their bed posts. "Do I know any of them?" I asked before I could help myself.
"I don't think so," he shook his head. "Do you want me to tell you if you do?" He asked the loaded question. If he didn't tell me I'd go crazy every time we bumped into a girl he knew, but if he did tell me I'd spend hours imagining it.
"I think so," I bit my lip nervously. It was better to know, easier to get over the idea if I knew for sure. "Do you want to know?"
"Yeah," he didn't hesitate. "Full disclosure."
"We'll you've already met three excluding yourself," I smiled, trying to break the tension.
"Out of how many?" I could see he was holding his breath.
"Uhm.. fourteen," I mumbled. I wasn't so much ashamed of my past as I was feeling awkward about telling Sidney. "Three women..."
"Fourteen," he said slowly, letting it mull over. "Will you tell me about them?" His question caught me off guard and I stared at him in shock.
"I guess," I shrugged, trying to play it cool and moved to lay on the bed.
"Maybe just some of them," Sid joined me and lay with his head on my chest like a little boy about to hear a bed time story.
"Well, you already know about Jack right?" I ran my fingers through his hair and began.
"Mhm," his eyes were closed and his hands folded on his stomach.
"After I broke up with Jack and decided relationships were horrible I went a little wild before leaving for school. That's where Travis comes in, and his friends Teigh and Mitch. I hung around them in high school. Then there were a few people in New Brunswick, a girl name Kiera, and a guy named Tom who I dated for a while but it wasn't anything serious." I twirled a piece of his hair around my finger and tried to ignore who weird the whole conversation was. "Oh and then things got really scandalous and I slept with a girl I met at a party who ended up being my T.A a few weeks later and I had no idea until she walked into the class. That was exciting, but it didn't stop us from fooling around for a few months."
"Did you get an A in the course at least?" Sid laughed, looking up at me under his thick eyelashes.
"B+ I think. I can't complain," I smiled down at him. "When I came home the summer before my last year Travis and I were together for a few months. But I promise when it ended that August it ended for good and you have nothing to worry about," I said clearly to reenforce how true it was. Travis would forever be my friend, nothing more and the idea of Sidney worrying about that made my skin crawl.
"I get it," he smiled and reached up to squeeze my hand. "Keep going."
"That year was pretty boring, I think I slept with Teigh when I came home for Christmas but other than that I was so focused on school I didn't have time to date. There were two guys in Philadelphia before I met Millie, but after I met Millie it was all her. I know she had other people during our breaks but I only wanted her. When that was over and Serena and I moved to Pittsburgh there was one guy but it was only once, I was still a bit of a mess from Millie. And then I met you and lived happily ever after," I grinned.
"And then you slept with Max," he added with a smirk.
"Which you said you were okay with," I reminded him.
"I am," he assured me. "I just think it's weird. I mean thinking about you being with him, being with anyone else really.” He looked up at me with his strong trusting eyes and smiled. Neither of us was looking for a fight and knowing that made it easy to disclose everything. In a way, having told him made it all seem irrelevant, like I was a completely different person.
“You should probably not think about it too hard,” I laughed and smoothed his hair away from his forehead. “For both our sakes.”

Insisting my mother finish her chapter, we left her in the big quiet house and walked down the dusty red road to surprise my father. Hoping he’d have a better reaction, I knocked once on the front door before pushing it open and letting myself in. The clock on the foyer wall read 8:00pm and I hoped Lyla was staying up past her bedtime.
“Dad?” I called out, into yet another seemingly empty house.
“Bathroom,” I heard him call back, likely not knowing who he was responding too. 
 I headed up the stairs with Sidney in tow and could hear the splashing and giggles of bath time as we approached the door. It was open and I could see my dad sitting on edge of the tub while Lyla played with an assortment of plastic toys, babbling on the whole time.
“Heyyyyy Lyla,” I sang, standing in the doorway.
“BEA!” She screeched, dropping the Barbie in her hand and clamouring to get out of the bathtub.
“Lyla!” I cried back, bending down to catch her wet little body as she propelled herself towards me. “A stars about to fall, so what d’you say Lyla?” I sang with her as we danced around the bathroom. It was no secret she’d been named after the Oasis song and I took every opportunity I could to make sure she knew it. It was my duty as her aunt to expose her to goof music and I took the job very seriously.
“Heyyy Lala,” she giggled, the water from her skin and hair soaking through my shirt.
“Hi Daddy,” I turned, still rocking her.
“Hey Bumble, when did you get here?” He smiled and stood up, giving me a one armed hug and kissing the side of my head.
“A few hours ago,” I shrugged.
“Is your mother in one piece this time?” he laughed and handed me a towel.
“She’ll be alright,” I laughed and wrapped the pink towel around Lyla. “You remember Sidney?” I looked back to see Sid standing in the doorway smiling.
“Oh I think so,” my father chuckled and held his hand out to Sid. “How are you doing, big guy?” he asked, pulling him into a hug.
“Pretty good, Sir,” Sid smiled, revealing the chunk of missing teeth.
“Makes you look tougher,” my dad clapped him on the back and grinned.
“Do you remember Sid?” I asked Lyla, who blushed and buried her head into my neck. It was comforting to know that he had that affect on women of all ages. Sid smiled at her warmly and I felt my stomach flutter.
“Why don’t you read Miss. Lyla a story while I have a chat with Sidney?” My dad suggested, and I turned to Sid who nodded in approval. If he felt comfortable enough to have one on one conversations with both of my parents in one night I wasn’t going to stand in his way.

After drying both of us off and braiding Lyla’s wet hair into french pigtails, she picked out her favourite pyjamas and crawled into bed. Her pink bedding was a contrast to the bright orange Flyers pyjamas she’d chosen, she was truly a Keller child and her choice made me swell with pride. Together we read two Beatrix Potter stories from the complete tales collection I bought when she was born.
“Say ‘night to Grandpa,” she declared after finishing The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and climbing out of bed.
“Well I suppose we can make that happen,” I smiled and she held up her arms to me.
We tiptoed down the stairs, Lyla with her head resting on my shoulder and me hoping to hear some of the conversation between Sidney and my father. They were in the living room sitting casually and laughing. I felt a welcome sense of relief when I heard Sidney’s genuine chuckle, there was no way he’d be chuckling if my father was threatening his life, although I couldn't actually see my father threatening anyone.
“We just wanted to say goodnight,” I said loudly as we entered the room so they wouldn’t know I’d been trying to listen.
“Goodnight sweetheart,” my father stood up and kissed Lyla on the forehead, hugging us both before I turned to leave. Sidney smiled and waved, obviously hesitant to scare her. But before we could leave the room, Lyla wiggled around to face Sidney and held her arms out to him. It was a simple gesture that proved her feelings towards him, I had the Lyla seal of approval, and I really couldn’t ask for more. Sid grinned and took her in his arms, her cozy Flyers jammies making him grimace then laugh. With her thumb in her mouth, Lyla rest her head against his shoulder and sighed, just as comfortable in his embrace as she was in mine. I watched him holding her against his chest, his hand protectively on her back, and couldn’t hold back the rolling thunder of emotion that came over me. My eyes prickled with tears and it felt like I’d never seen anything so perfect in my life. No sunset, no ocean view, no rose garden had ever been as beautiful as the image of him holding her sleepy little body and grinning.

Chapter Text

“You think you can just crawl into my bed with pants on and I’m going to be okay with it?” I hissed as Sidney slipped under the covers beside me. We’d spent the day— our first full day on the Island— with my family. I’d spent most of my time admiring Felix and watching Sidney entertain Lyla, never had a grown man look so sexy at a tea party.
“Excuse me?” he looked bewildered, his face illuminated by the glow of the moon through my window.
“You can’t just spend the whole day looking like you do and then hop into bed expecting a cozy night’s rest,” I growled in his ear and placed my hand on the centre of his chest, pressing myself against his side.
“Is that a fact?” he smirked, not making a move.
“Truest words to ever leave my lips,” I nipped at his earlobe and let my hand drift down his stomach.
“And your parents being across the hall doesn’t bother you at all?” his resistance was impressive, never before had I seen him hold off my advances so well.
“Wouldn’t be the first time,” I let my hands move even further, lightly brushing my fingers over the slight bulge in his pants.
“Are you looking for more notches in this specific bedpost?” he took my hand in his and glanced at me seductively.
“Absolutely,” I groaned. Before I could continue his body was on top of me and his lips feverishly pressed against mine.
“I should have known you weren’t wearing anything under here,” he moaned, cupping one of my breasts in his big hand. My body was abuzz with excitement and I pawed desperately the fabric of his clothes.
“I told you pants weren’t welcome in this bed,” my words were breathy as he kissed down my neck to my collar bones, sucking lightly on the thin skin. His hand moved from my hyper sensitive nipples to the heat and pooling dampness between my legs.
“Well you certainly are happy to see me,” he looked up at me and grinned, shuffling his body down and taking the same nipple between his teeth as his fingers dipped into the sea of excitement.
“You have no idea,” I arched my back in reaction to his touch. His thumb brushed over the bundle of nerves that stood to attention, craving any kind of affection he was willing to give it, and I had to stifle a moan. He didn’t waste any time after hearing my excitement and his lips left my breasts in favour of the welcoming warmth under the covers and between my knees. His hand reached up and took mine as his tongue traced the organic lines of my flesh and lapped up my joy. Two fingers dipping in and out of me while the vibrations of his humming mouth sucked on my wanting clit. My breathing was shallow, frantic as the muscles in my sides and stomach began to tighten and twitch. I could feel it happen, sense the impending wave inside me was about to crash. One careful movement of his tongue sent me into a convulsing state of euphoria, my free hand clapped over my mouth to muffle the cries of release. Never before had I so quickly tumbled into orgasmic territory.
“Good lord,” his head popped out from under the blankets and stared at me wide eyed. “I had no intention of doing that so quickly,” he chuckled.
“So good,” I sighed and pulled him up to me. I was far from satisfied, hardly close to being done with him. The energy that rattled inside of me couldn’t be quelled by one slip into the pool of euphoria. I could taste myself on his lips and it was no surprise that that simple detail made me all the more desperate for him. It was suddenly all the more important that his clothing be far away from my skin. All it took was a tug at the hem of his shirt for Sidney to get the message and send it flying across the room. My hand slipped down the waist of his pants and they quickly followed suit. Finally I had the skin on skin contact I needed and my mind was foggy with desire and lust. Having him pressed against me was a feeling I didn’t dare articulate, a sense of contentment that I knew words could never do justice.
“Fuck I love you,” he groaned, looking directly at me. The intensity in his eyes made my skin flush and insides flip-flop. The reminder that he shared my feelings intensified all the emotions than ran through my heated body. The reassurance obliterated any hesitation I may have felt about anything in our lives.
I touched him with the utmost of care. Carefully moving my hand up and down his engorged erection, savouring the sensation of having him in my hand. His eyes clamped shut, he kissed me with a moan and pushed his hips into me. I let go, knowing he was as eager as I was and kissed him slowly, waiting to feel the fullness of our bodies connecting. He pressed into my more than ready wetness and I let out a staggered breath of pleasure. His movement was slow and gentle until I felt my nails digging into his back and heard myself moan “faster.” There was a sense of disassociation, I was there, but I had no control over my words, all my attention was focused on the feeling of him. He sped up in response but I wanted more. I motioned for him to stop and rolled onto my stomach, propped up on my hands and knees he had the range of movement to pick up the pace and he did exactly that. Feverishly pushing himself into me, his hands firmly on my hips and my face buried in the pillow to muffle the moans I couldn’t control. I felt his hand come down on the heated flesh of my backside and groaned loudly in approval. The smack of his hand against my skin took our actions from affectionate and deliberate to raw and animalistic. Something I hadn’t known I wanted until it happened. His hand came down again and I felt my body twitch with glee. Somehow he knew exactly what I wanted. After a third strike he kissed the tender area I expected would be red the next day, then returned to the rapid pumping rhythm his hips had gotten into. My body was electric with every move he made, teetering on the edge of fireworks.
When I felt his hand glide across my reddened skin I was already wondering how much longer I could last, but as his thumb pressed on a part of my body he’d yet to explore I knew the answer. I was a goner. The sensation of his thumb threatening to invade uncharted territory, combined with the familiarly of him inside me and his skin against mine sent me once again leaping into the waters of orgasm, bobbing in a sea of unmatched delight. An internal explosion of muscle spasms and breathtaking satisfaction turned me to putty underneath him. My tremors of joy gripped him and I heard him groan with his mouth pressed into my back, diving into his own earth altering state of pleasure.
We fell together in a pile of sweaty limbs and content smiles, both breathing heavy and glowing with satisfaction.
“That thing,” I panted, the blankets kicked to the end of the bed and my body laying bare beside his. “With your thumb, put that on the repeat list.”

I woke up with the blankets twisted around my still naked body, and an empty space in the bed beside me. The pink alarm clock on the bedside table read 10:36am and I was pleasantly surprised that Sidney had let me sleep so late. I pulled on the pyjamas I’d left folded in my suitcase and headed downstairs. My bare feet padded along the cold hardwood floor making the same sound they’d made when I was sixteen. I found Sidney sitting across from my parents at the kitchen table, a glass of green liquid in front of him. I smiled at them sleepily and made a beeline for the tea cupboard. I pulled out a box of orange pekoe and plopped a bag in the biggest mug I could find. The kettle was still warm on the stove and the water steamed perfectly as I poured it over the bag. I dropped in a sugar cube and turned to get the milk out of the fridge when I noticed the bulky stainless steel blender on the counter. It looked out of place surrounded by decorative vases and teacups.
“Did you seriously bring your blender?” I called to Sidney, unsure whether I was amazed or disgusted. I emerged with my tea and glared at him.
“I wasn’t sure…” he shrugged and took a mouthful of the green concoction. He was wearing a a black Pens hoodie and gym shorts, by the look of his flushed face and sweaty hair he’d just gotten back from some form of morning workout.
“We might not have Sephora around here, but we have blenders,” I rolled my eyes and sat down beside him, trying to fight the smile that threatened my lips.
“Traffic lights too,” he laughed and kissed my cheek. I glanced across the table to find my parents watching us, matching smiles on their faces and their fingers intertwined with one another.
“How did you sleep dear?” my mother asked with a knowing smile while my father avoided my gaze.
“Great,” I said holding the mug to my mouth and taking a long drink. She winked and I felt my face heating to the average temperature of hell. Sid glanced at me in horror, his own cheeks a bright crimson and his jaw clenched.
“That’s good,” she nodded casually. “Do you two have any plans today?” I couldn’t decide which was more awkward, knowing that my mother had heard us, or how casual she was about the whole thing.
“I told Travis I’d stop by this afternoon,” I looked hesitantly at Sid. I’d forgotten to mention these plans to him and considering everything I’d told him about Travis, I expected some hesitation. Instead he just smiled, still avoiding eye contact with anyone and took another drink.
“You’re going to run out of room, Kid,” my dad smiled over his coffee.
“That’s the plan,” I grinned. 

 I stood in front of the mirror and glared at my reflection. Dressed in the same high waisted shorts I’d been wearing the first time Sid and I slept together and a tank top, something didn’t look right.
“Do I look okay?” I asked Sidney as he walked in drying his hair with a towel, another hung low on his hips.
“I guess,” he shrugged and rubbed the towel against his head.
“What do you mean you guess?” I turned to the side and slouched.
“Honestly?” he dropped the towels and pulled on a pair of boxer briefs.
“Yes,” I turned to face him, admiring the view of his still damp chest.
“Your shorts are too tight, the zipper is working really hard. You’re going to be uncomfortable.” He did up his own pants and smiled at me. “But you look hot, I remember those shorts. I remember taking them off you too,” he wrapped his arms around me and kissed the top of my head before moving to get a shirt. 
 I wasn’t mad at him for pointing out the problem in my outfit, his honesty was comforting. But I was upset that my months of careless eating had rendered my favourite shorts unwearable. I pulled them off in a hurry and groaned. I wanted to wear sweatpants for the rest of my days, but I knew Sidney wouldn’t appreciate Travis working on my leg while I sat on a table in my underwear. 
 “Do I look bigger?” I asked, reaching for a dress then turning back to my reflection in the mirror.
“No,” he laughed and stood behind me, running his hands up my sides. “You look rested, and glowy."
"Glowy?" I smirked. "Do you mean sweaty? Should I be taking a shower?"
"Nah," he buried his nose in my hair and inhaled. "You smell fine." 
 “Well I guess that’s all that matters then,” I rolled my eyes and pulled the yellow jersey cotton dress over my head. My hair was pulled into a lazy ponytail and I had no intention of putting on make up, there was no reason for me to dress up to see Travis and I wanted to make that very clear to Sidney. Despite his nonchalant reaction I worried he was the slightest bit jealous of my past. 

 Sid waited patiently while Travis inked the new piece into a space above my left knee. It fit perfectly in the dip before my knee cap but was far from comfortable. I winced and reached for Sidney’s hand as the needles grated against my bone leaving the shadows and lines that made up a moon and stars against the backdrop of a purple night sky. It was a sort of homage to Serena and Sara, a reminder of the light they both brought the world. The symbolism was corny, I knew that, but it felt right. Serena was my guiding light through all the darkness, my sailor moon.
“You coming to the show tonight?” Travis asked, trying to distract me as he shaded in the details of the glowing moon.
“Show?” I winced as he got closer to my knee cap. I’d had worse places tattooed, ribs, feet, places that they warn you about, but as he wiped away the access ink and kept going I wondered if I could make it through.
“Yeah, a couple bands are playing The Duke. Buddy’s new band Crashing Canine is there. Bunch of the guys will be there, you should come.” Buddy was a longtime nickname for Mitch, Travis’ best friend and one of the notches on my figurative bedpost. They were part of a select group of people I could actually stand in high school, a crew of easy going individuals who kept me sane for the years I lived at home. 
 “That sounds awesome,” I squeezed Sidney’s hand and looked at him for approval. He glanced up from my phone and smiled weakly, likely reading my twitter feed. He claimed to hate social media and avoid it on principle, but in reality he didn’t need it because he used mine instead.
“Smack might be there too,” Travis winked, referring to Teigh, the third member of their group who I’d slept with.
“Do you think it’ll be a chill place?” I asked, nodding towards Sidney whose attention returned to my phone.
“Throw a hoodie on him and he’ll blend in,” he chuckled. “I’ll put you guys on the guest list at the band door, you can hide out in the back if you want.”
It was a relief to know that Travis understood the complications that came with secretly dating a local celebrity. I personally didn’t think it would be tragic if the story of our involvement was leaked, but I had to respect Sidney’s anxiety about the attention. In the end, it affected him more than it did me.

Two hours later Travis covered the finished piece in absorbent pads and taped them to my knee. The beautiful moon fit perfectly in the crook near the outside and looked like it belonged on me. I promised to text Travis when we got to the bar, and hobbled to the truck, tossing Sid the keys on the way.

“You’re sure I’m going to blend in?” Sidney asked, holding an old Misfits zip up in front of him. As per my request, my mother had saved all of the clothes I left behind after high school and I’d found a garbage bag of band t-shirts and sweaters in the attic.
“I think so,” I shimmied a pair of fishnet tights over my hips. “Are you sure you won’t try the eyeliner? I think it would be fun.”
“No make-up,” he warned and pulled the sweater over his shoulders. I stood in my bra and fishnets and studied his appearance. The hoodie matched with his jeans seemed to fit the part, but something was missing. He looked to perfect, too put together, too recognizable. I closed the space between us and ruffled his hair with both hands, hoping it would help. 
 “Something’s missing,” I frowned.
“Yeah, a mohawk and fifty tattoos,” he replied sarcastically. “That was a joke, don’t get any ideas,” he smirked before I could reply. 
 “What about a nose ring?” I teased, leaving his hair to finish my own outfit- an old denim shirt, a white tank top, and my favourite leather jacket from high school. I pulled my hair into a high ponytail and tied my trusty red bandana around my head, my eye makeup was dark and my lips bright red. For the first time in a long time, I looked like myself. Or rather, I looked like the Beatrice Keller than Travis knew. I slipped on a pair of worn Doc Martens that hadn’t made the move with me, and tossed Sidney a pair of black and white Converse.
“These aren’t going to fit,” he shook his head and stared at the dusty shoes.
“They’re a size eight men’s, I think you’ll manage,” I replied, waiting for him.
“Are these yours?” he stuffed his foot in and bent down to tie the laces.
“Yes,” I stood impatiently jiggling the car keys and checking my pockets for everything I needed.
“Your feet are huge,” he looked up and grinned at me.
“Not really,” I felt myself blushing. The size of my feet had always been a sore point, as a teenager I’d longed to be a size six or seven women’s but they just kept growing.
He let out a chuckle and got to his feet. “I love you and your huge feet,” he kissed my forehead and hugged me with one arm.
“Oh good,” I said sarcastically. “I was worried you were going to dump me because of my shoe size.” I kissed him gently, leaving a light smudge of red on his lips and headed out the door.

“Beast!” I heard someone call as we walked through the backdoor of the pub. The back hallway was cluttered with equipment and instruments and I could hear the music from the stage muffled but loud. “Beast Killer, I can’t believe it!” Teigh ran towards me, leaving his guitar behind. He pulled me in his arms and twirled us around, I shrieked as I felt my feet leave the floor. This was the same way he’d greeted me last time I’d seen him, and the time before that, and every day of our high school careers. Despite everything, somethings didn’t change.
“How are you?” I giggled when he’d returned me to my own feet. He stood in front of us, a few inches taller than Sidney, wearing black and white raglan sleeve shirt and tight black jeans. His sandy blonde hair fell in the same shaggy mop it always had and the only difference I could see was the tattoo on his neck.
“Great,” he grinned. “How are you? God you look good,” he gestured to me and winked.
“Thank you,” I beamed and felt Sidney take my hand in his protectively. “Smack this is my boyfriend,” I began to introduce them but stopped, unsure whether to tell him Sidney’s real name or keep him a secret.
“Sid,” he held out his hand and smiled.
“Teigh,” Smack shook it enthusiastically. “Shit Beast, why didn’t you tell me you were dating a celebrity?” he teased.
“Shh,” I laughed at his excitement. “We’re trying to blend in!”
“Right,” he nodded. “Nice to meet you average dude.”

I spent the night surrounded by people I’d known a lifetime ago. In reality it had only been a few years, but my life seemed unrecognizable. It didn’t take long before the girl I’d been came back and I found comfort in the blasting music and pushing crowds. Teigh and I danced wildly while Mitch and Crashing Canines played a five song set. Sidney had assured me he was fine to stand off to the side, that I should have fun, but I couldn't help glancing back at him every so often and feeling overwhelmed by guilt. During the last song of the Crashing Canines’ set, Teigh motioned to the crowed then to me, I nodded and quickly he and the guy beside us lifted me over their shoulders and hoisted me into the crowd. I felt the waves of the people beneath me, their hands cradling me like the ocean cradles our island. Hands firmly on my back, legs, bum, hands keeping me off the ground, passing me through the crowd towards the stage. I’d done it more times than I could recall, surfed along the hands of my peers. It had seemed so terrifying the first time, but now I felt a surge of adrenaline coursing through my carefree body. I got to the edge of the stage and felt them push me to my feet and hold on until I’d regained my balance. I stood beside Mitch watching the dancing crowd and waiting for him to notice me. Time moved differently in the brick walls of The Duke, reality seemed a world away, and social norms were thrown away. I scanned the room trying to find Sidney but was blinded by the stage lights. Finally Mitch saw me and wrapped his tattooed arm around my waist, pulling me closer.
“Beatrice Keller,” he said into the mic as the band continued to play. “The girl who got away!” he grinned and kissed my cheek. The sweat from his hair and body mixed with my own and I could feel the energy radiating from him. The crowed roared and my only reaction was to laugh and dive back into their arms, back into the chaos. 

 I found Sidney backstage with Travis, leaning against the wall and nursing a bottle of beer. His disguise seemed to work, and I couldn’t help but feel myself heating up at the sight of him.
“Looks like someone was earning her nickname,” Travis teased as I approached them, wiping the sweat off of my forehead.
“I’ve never been able to resist a good mosh pit,” I smirked and snaked my way under Sid’s free arm. 
 “Always the wild one,” he chuckled and took a swig of his own beer.
“You should show me more of this wild side,” Sidney whispered in my ear when Travis turned to greet Mitch who was coming towards us. His hand slipped from my shoulder down to my lower back. My stomach fluttered and I had to force myself not to jump him.
“Well look at you!” Mitch held his arms open for me and I moved away from Sidney, hugging him despite his shirt being drenched with sweat.
“Amazing set,” I grinned, returning to Sid’s side.
“Thank you, we’re heading out on tour next week actually,” Mitch shrugged casually and took a beer being offered to him.
“Look at you, Mr. Big Shot!” I teased. “Fancy pants.”
“Yeah, I’m looking forward to it,” he gave me a coy smile and I was reminded of our first night together. His boyish looks and shaking hands when I started taking my clothes off. Unlike Teigh, Mitch was quiet. His energy intense and strategically placed. He did everything with a purpose and his whole heart. He’d been the one I’d sought out after one too many bong hits when things started to feel too serious and my thoughts couldn’t be contained. 
 We stood in the hallway, talking as if no time had passed. Sidney’s hand resting under my skirt while the three boys drilled us with questions about our surreal life in Pittsburgh. My mind was whirling with old memories and new emotions. The temptation of Sidney’s hand distracting me from the conversation. After twenty minutes I couldn’t stand it anymore. Pretending to be suddenly exhausted I said goodbye to the guys and pulled Sidney towards the door, promising to call sooner rather than later.

“Do you want me to drive?” Sid asked as we approached the truck. He’d had maybe one beer.
“No,” I bit my lip deviously. “Get in the passenger’s side.” 
 I kicked off my boots before climbing into the truck and pulling my tights off frantically and tossing them, along with my sweater, into the back seat.
“What are you doing?” he looked at me alarmed, buckling his seatbelt.
“Shh,” I dove across the centre console and onto his lap, my lips attacking his and my body aching for him. The closer I got, the more I wanted him.
“Really?” he pulled way for a brief second. “In the car?”
I moaned and pawed at him desperately, my hands going straight to the button of his jeans and popping them open. He kissed me back in approval and moved his hands under my skirt, teasing me through the fabric of my already damp underwear. I was abuzz with adrenaline and lust, my head in a cloud of excitement. It happened quickly, his pants pulled down and my underwear ripped and discarded in the backseat. A frantic dance of overwhelming desire and want, we rocked together, bodies tightly intertwined and lips eagerly mashed against each other. Time and space didn’t seem to exist, it was just us. The surroundings faded away, the front seat of the car could have been a bed, or a boat, we could have been in a snow storm and I wouldn’t have noticed, my focus was 100% on him. I didn’t flinch as my head smacked against the ceiling and my foot fell asleep, wedged between his body and the door. It didn’t matter if we could be caught at any moment, but likely wouldn’t be, it only mattered that he was inside me and I was close, I was on the edge, I was there. Transported to a state of euphoria as my body twitched and convulsed on top of him. My heart pounding my my ears and my temperature spiking. In his arms, parked on a quiet Charlottetown street, I was more alive than I’d ever been. 

 Say goodbye to my family was far easier than it had been at Christmas. We’d only had three days together but with only a couple hours between Halifax and Cherry Valley, it wouldn’t be long before I was back. Lyla cried when Sidney handed her back to JJ and my mother made sure we had the lunch she’d packed us. We drove down the red dirt road, the house shrinking the the rear view mirror and I couldn’t help the grin that spread across my lips. Everything felt perfect. Everything felt manageable.

We were an few hours from Halifax when my phone rang, startling me out of a nap. I answered, groggy and covering my eyes with my arm to block out the bright sunlight. I managed to navigate my way through a conversation with the receptionist at the doctor’s office and arrange an appointment for the next day before falling back asleep. When I woke up I was on the bed, still dressed in my driving clothes, with Sidney beside me reading. Exhausted from the trip I slipped out of my pants, took my pills and snuggled beside him, quickly returning to the dreamland I’d been in. 

 “Miss. Keller? Did you hear me?” I sat across from the doctor staring at the wall behind him. His degrees were displayed in gold frames and a window looked out on the yard behind the facility. There was no way I’d heard him.
“Say it again,” I turned my attention to him, forcing myself to listen. I’d come in under the impression that he’d write me a prescription and send me on my way, home to Sidney. 
 “Beatrice, your test results came back positive. You’re pregnant.” He said the words so clearly but I struggled to understand him. A slight smile appeared on his dry lips, the rest of his face looked uneasy. 
 “One more time?” I took a deep breath and felt the world spinning around me. “Just say it one more time,” my voice shook and I dug my nails into my thighs. Maybe this time he would make sense.
“Beatrice, you’re pregnant.” This time I heard him, this time I understood it. But it still didn’t make sense.

Chapter Text

“For fuck sakes!” I groaned, the words coming out of my mouth before I could stop them. My eyes were having trouble focusing and I could hear the blood pumping through my body. The body that I was apparently sharing with an unannounced embryonic guest. The thought of it made my heart rate excel and mouth go dry. I struggled to get air into my lungs, my chest tight and breathing laboured, the room around me was hazy, surreal.


 “Fuck,” I wheezed, bending over as far as I could and putting my head between my knees. I couldn’t tell if I was going to puke or pass out. Cry or throw something. 


“Beatrice?” I heard the doctor’s voice but he sounded a world away. It was as if my named had travelled through water before it met my ears. “Miss. Keller, can I get you something?” he sounded so unreasonably calm and collected. 


“Bourbon,” I croaked, lifting my head slightly then letting it fall back between my knees. I heard him speaking into the phone in hushed tones then hang up quickly. Certain he’d just called social services I I tried to regain my composure, pulling my body up and trying to breathe. My attempts were useless and I felt the tears begin to brew, my throat tightening, my head swimming with anxiety. By the time the nurse placed a glass of water in front of me I was sobbing. I continued to wail as I took shaky sips from the glass, nearly dropping it twice. There were too many thoughts racing around my tired mind; memories of Serena and Sara, images of Sidney leaving, I was in no way mature enough for this. I pitied the embryo that aspired to become my fetus, of all the people in the world it was stuck inside me. Not a nice woman with a husband who whittled and wrote her poetry, who had been trying for years to make a baby. No, this zygote had begun its evolution in the uterus of someone with no husband, with a boyfriend who was never home, someone who felt like a child most of time and couldn’t be responsible enough to use a condom. I thought back to all the plants and fish who had fallen victim to my carelessness. Fish I’d overfed and plants I’d forgotten to water, how could I be sure I wouldn’t do the same to the tiny human who planned to join life?


 My Life. I felt my body shaking all over. Nothing in my life would ever be the same. Nothing about the future from that moment forward would even resemble the life I’d made for myself. I wanted to go back ten minutes and cherish my false sense of security, so blissfully unaware, I’d been thinking about the bottle of wine in my fridge as I drove to the appointment.


 “Beatrice, would you like to talk about your options?” he asked cautiously, obviously unsure of my religious and moral beliefs. 
 Options I told myself, I had options! For the briefest of moments I believed it. For a split second I thought maybe I didn’t need to change my life. Maybe I could pretend this had never happened, keep it from Sidney and go on with our lives. Sidney. His face appeared in my mind, burned into my memory, memorized by my heart. Maybe he’d be furious, maybe he’d leave, but our combined genetic material and nested inside my unfit uterus and there was no way I could just erase that.

“No,” I squeaked, trying to find my voice. I reached for a tissue and loudly blew my nose, deciding I was done crying whether my body agreed or not. “No,” I repeated. “I’m going to follow this through.”
Of all the commitments I had run from in the past twenty-some years, this was the biggest I’d ever faced. This wasn’t a six month lease agreement or an invite in December to be a the plus one for a wedding in June. No, this was was permanent, bigger than any relationship or contract, this was motherhood.


 I sat across from my doctor for nearly an hour before he felt comfortable releasing me into the world. I promised to book an appointment in the coming weeks, and left with a handful of pamphlets. I’d managed to convince him I wasn’t a threat to myself or future spawn and that my reaction was largely hormonal and mellow dramatic rather than a warning sign- basically that I wasn’t going to end up on the six o’clock news. I drove through Halifax in a state of shock, the bright afternoon sunlight was blocked out by my dark sunglasses and even if I knew the city well, I still wouldn’t have had any idea where to go. After texting Sidney to tell him I’d be late, I drove around aimlessly for fifty minutes before pulling into a park near the coast. Leaving the pamphlets in the truck I walked through the grassy field, ignoring the families on picnic blankets and the children at the park. I passed the smiling faces with a sense of urgency, venturing deeper into the park and farther away from reality. When their laughter had faded into the noise of cars on the highway, and my only view was the expansive ocean, I stopped. I stood watching the waves the way I used to watch daytime television- completely captivated for no reason.

Standing a few yards from the tide I tried to let my mind wander away, hoping to find some relief from my anxiety. Instead it stuck on a line I’d read years ago: “Dearest, I feel certain that I am going mad again.” The first line in the last note Virginia Woolf wrote her husband. One of the last things she wrote before filling her pockets with stones and drowning herself in a river. I was stuck on those words, frantically trying to remember the next line, when I was pulled out of my own thoughts by the obnoxious buzzing of my cellphone.

I answered without looking, desperate to find some distraction. A telemarketer’s call would be better than standing near the ocean trying to remember a suicide note.

“Salut, Beatrice,” Max’s happy-go-lucky voice sang through the phone and into my heart.

“Bonjour,” I replied, searching for the energy to display my enthusiasm “Ça va?”


 “Pas mal, et toi?” he asked, triggering a rush of emotions inside me. They weren’t romantic or sentimental, just raw and unorganized. My chest was tight again and I had to fight to get the words out of my mouth.

“I’m alright,” I prayed I sounded convincing. Just held together enough that he wouldn’t pry.


 “You sound different,” he replied and I wanted to give in to the tears that were starting to sting my eyes. I wanted to tell him everything, to find safety in him just as I had months ago.


 “Just tired,” I lied, resisting the temptation and wiping the potential tears away with the back of my free hand. “What’s up?” I needed to distract him before he noticed how shaky my words were, how unsure I was of every syllable I spoke.

“I just called Sid, I’m in Canada and was hoping to visit. He said to talk to you,” he chuckled and I could hear him scratching at his beard.

“Right on,” my voice cracked and I tried to cover it with a fake cough.
“I was thinking next week,” it sounded like a question more than anything. I tried to envision a weeks time, would my life be any different? Would I have everything figured out by then? Would I still be with Sidney?”

“Next week is good,” I told both of us, trying to convince myself more than anything.


 “Awesome.”

I stared out at the water again, Max still on the line, trying to push Virginia Woolf out of my mind. I knew I’d never fill my pockets, but the ideation was soothing. It was all so melancholy, to drown in the roaring waters. Terrifying, but haunting.

“Bea?” his voice pulled me further away from my own paralyzing thoughts. “Are you sure you’re okay?” I should have known I wasn’t convincing. Lying to anyone was hard for me, lying to Max was almost impossible.


 “Yeah,” I tried to sound happier, more alive. “But I’ve got to run, so call me when you’ve got everything sorted out?”

“Oui, bien,” he replied. “I’ll talk to you soon. And text me if you need anything, okay?” I felt guilty for not telling him, even worse for alerting his suspicion.

“Thanks,” I let the fake tones fade from my voice and hung up. 


Shoving the phone back in my pocket, I kept walking along the coast. The afternoon sun had started to set and I felt my text message alert go off twice as I shuffled through the grass. I considered checking them, but couldn’t trust myself not to tell the next person I spoke to. I was desperate to share the burden I had manifested, but knew the second I told anyone it became real. I headed back to the truck in a sort of limbo, my life had changed forever, but no one else’s had. I was holding the information that was about to knock Sidney’s world off its usual rotation. I had the power to decide when he found out, if he found out, how he found out.


 The sky was dark by the time I climbed into the driver’s seat and rest my head against the steering wheel. I was ping ponging between excitement and fear, I was telling myself to be excited, that logically this was a good thing. I was an adult, Sidney was an adult, we were in a committed relationship, we could handle a baby. But my irrational fear and insecurities told me otherwise, they battled against all logic and destroyed any positive thoughts I tried to create. The tears returning, spilling down my face while I tried desperately to breathe through it all. I needed to tell someone, to hear that I’d survive this. I just couldn’t tell Sidney, not yet, not like this. I scrolled through my contacts searching for an answer, I found it under K.



 “Little Bea?” she answered, my grandmother’s voice sounding the same as it always had.

“Big Bea,” I croaked, tears still coming.

“What is it?” she asked simply, without unnecessary pleasantries or hesitation.

“I’m having a baby,” I said for the first time. It was mixed with joy and shame, so much uncertainty that I needed her to help me sort through. 


“You are? Then why are you crying? I thought you were going to tell me something happened to Luna,” she laughed the way I wanted to, carefree giggles that she wasn’t trying to hold back.

“Because I have no idea what I’m going to do,” the tears hadn’t let up and I was choking to breathe again.

“What do you mean you have no idea what you’re going to do?” she sounded shocked. “You’re going to have a baby. You’re going to have a beautiful baby with your fancy boyfriend. That sounds like a pretty good plan to me.”

“But I’m so scared. I had no intention of getting pregnant, not for years. Not after what happened to Serena,” I let my head fall back against the seat and closed my eyes.

“You should be scared,” she said with a chuckle. “Anyone who says having babies is easy is lying to themselves and everyone else. Between you and me I didn’t plan on getting pregnant ever. I was going to be a nurse, or fly airplanes. But then I met your grandfather and had your uncles and forgot all about airplanes by the time your daddy was born. Things work out the way they’re going to work out. For some people that’s travelling the world, for others that’s staying on the same island their whole lives. Now I don’t think what happened to Serena was some cruel act of fate, I think it was just sad, but I don't think you should let that keep you from doing things.” 


“You wanted to fly airplanes?” I said after a pause.

“You bet, Little Bear. I wanted to to fly fighter jets.”


“Wow,” the tears had slowed down and I was starting to feel in control again.

“Now, I don’t care if you get married or run off with that baby and join a circus. But you need to tell the young man who helped you with this, then you need to stop crying and get excited, because you’re giving my a grand-baby hat trick.”


 There was no use trying to fight the laughter that came with my grandmother’s strange use of hockey terms. “A grand- baby hat trick,” I smiled.


 “Good girl, now go kiss your man, because crying about a baby when you’re a well off adult is just plain silly. I love you, Beatrice.” 
 I heard the phone click and sat in the silence of the dark truck letting her words sink in. I was going to stop crying and get excited. I was going to kiss my man. But first I was going to drive home to him while listening to every sad Sarah McLachlan song on my ipod and singing as loud as I could.



 I walked in the door with a scratchy throat and a sense of clarity. The cold wind from the Atlantic had set in and the fireplace was already crackling.

“Aeb?” Sidney called from the sunroom, our backwards names had become a regular greeting. 


“Hi,” I called back to him as cheerily as I could, stuffing the pamphlets in my purse before stashing it in my pink room. I was going to tell him, but I wanted it to be the right time. I found him in on the couch in his usual position with a book in his lap. 


“You're home late,” he grinned and stood up to greet me. “Everything alright?” 


“Yup,” I nodded and slipped my arms around his torso, hugging him tightly and letting my head rest against his chest. “I just needed a day to explore.” 


“Did you eat?” he rubbed his palm in small circles on my lower back and nuzzled his face into my hair. 
 I shook my head and inhaled deeply, the smell of his soap and laundry filling me with a warmth. I shuddered to think that my news might push him away, that I could lose my sense of security, that I could lose him. The panic started to rise in me and I had to let go before I let myself get overwhelmed.


 “I think I’m going to take a bath, can we eat after?” I asked casually, dropping my arms and heading to the door.


 “No problem,” he said as I left him standing in the room alone.



 I might have forgotten my makeup and birth control, but I hadn’t forgotten to bring my stupidly expensive bubble bath. At least I had my priorities straight. I turned the hot water on high and added a quarter of the bottle to the two person bathtub in the master bathroom. Quickly, the decadent smell of rose petals and lily of the valley filled the room and I stripped my clothes off, leaving them in a pile by the door. With the lights dimmed and a candle lit, I slipped into the steaming water and hoped to escape myself- just for a moment or two, just until I could feel normal again. The bubbles covered my naked body and I let my hands rest against my stomach. Despite the debacle with my shorts a few days prior, it didn’t look different, I didn’t feel different. Not pregnant different at least, maybe a little rounder, but definitely not what I expected five, maybe six weeks pregnant to look and feel like.

When I’d thought about pregnancy in the past, I’d always imagined I’d know right away. Like some magical maternal instinct would kick in and I’d suddenly be overwhelmed with warm feelings of affection. Everything would fall into place and I’d know exactly what to do. I thought I’d be the glowing woman with long hair and hemp dresses, growing organic food and talking about the gift of pregnancy. But so far I wasn’t off to a good start, I’d sworn, asked my doctor for hard liquor, recalled a famous suicide note, and cried multiple times. As it stood, I was not mummy material. I sank deeper into the tub and my thoughts, making mental to do lists and silently chastising myself for still being so immature. Immature enough that I was slightly bitter that the bottle of wine in my fridge would be consumed by someone else, that my bath was not complimented by irish creme, and I would not be permitted to ride any roller coasters. Despite the fact that I didn’t actually like roller coasters, it was these thoughts that filled the space between the titles of books I told myself I’d need to read and the habits I hoped to form. I let myself slip under the surface of the water and decided in certainty that drowning would suck. Bubbles of air rose to the surface from my mouth and nose while I stayed in the warm womb-like water, my eyes squeezed shut and the sound of my own heartbeat in my ears. It was a nice existence, until I ran out of air in my lungs. However useless I thought I might be as a mother, if my womb was anything like the bathtub, I was jealous of my barely formed future baby. For the next nine or so months it got to develop in there while I tried to figure everything out. When I realized that being jealous of a fetus was right up there with being annoyed about the future roller coasters I’d be missing I shook the thoughts from my mind and tried to focus on important things. Things like how I’d tell Sidney, where I’d buy maternity clothes, and what circus I’d join if he rejected us both. I was considering a future as a Cirque de Soleil clown when he peaked his head in the door.

“Can I come in?” he smiled innocently.

I nodded and sat up straighter with my back resting against the edge of the tub. I’d have to put my planning session on hold, there were more important things to worry about. His smile broadened to a grin and he closed the door behind him before pulling off his shirt and shuffling out of his shorts and boxers. I looked up at him alarmed, I hadn’t excepted him coming in to mean literally coming in the water with me. Seeing him standing there completely unclothed, I couldn’t object and moved forward, giving him space to get in behind me. The water sloshed and rose as he slipped in and positioned me between his legs, pulling my back against his abdomen.

“I missed you today,” he said in hushed tones, tucking a piece of wet hair behind my ear as I lay with my head on his shoulder.

“What did you do?” I asked, intertwining my fingers with his under the water and resting our hands on my thighs. I wasn’t ready to have him touch my stomach, not until he knew.

“Just read, went to see my parents for a bit. Taylor comes home in a few weeks,” he replied. His body cradled mine under the bubbly water and the same feeling of safety and affection welled inside me.
“That’s exciting,” I closed my eyes and tried to enjoy the moments we had.

“Yeah, it’ll be nice to see her again. My mom wanted me to tell you that she can come stay with us after the first part of the dental work if you want some company. I told her how bored you were last time, I thought maybe you two could get to know each other better.” Keeping our fingers intertwined, he moved our arms up and wrapped them around me, holding me closer to him and kissing my temple.

“That might be nice,” I murmured, aware of the chance that I might not be around after his surgery, depending on his reaction.

“I like that you two get along,” he chuckled and squeezed a little tighter.

“I like her, I like your whole family actually.”

“They like you too, a lot.” His words brought a great deal of comfort to me. If his family liked me, the chances of us staying together might be better, maybe. “I like you too actually,” he added lightheartedly.

“Gee, thanks,” I laughed and snuggled my head in closer to him. It was always nice to hear that the naked man in your bathtub actually liked you.

“No problem,” he laughed and I felt the vibrations against my back.

“But in all seriousness, I love you, and I hope you know that.”

“I love you too,” I sighed. Would he love me that much when he found out? Or would he realize he loved the idea of me more than he loved me?

“Good,” he paused and I felt him take a deep breath and shift his position slightly. “Because…uh…” he took another breath and squeezed me tighter again. He was nervous, I could feel his anxious energy which made me anxious. Convinced he was about to tell me he knew about the pregnancy and that he was leaving me I squeezed my eyes shut as tightly as I could and tried to count to one-hundred to will away the tears.

“I was wondering… if you wanted to marry me?” the words left his mouth in a fast jumble, his voice cracking at marry.

For second time that day I was speechless. My mind unable to process the words my ears had heard, I turned to face him. He stared back at me with a nervous smirk and flushed cheeks, beads of sweat forming along hairline. 


“What?” I finally croaked, my throat tight and mind completely still.

“I was going to do the whole one knee thing with a huge crowd and huge ring, I was going to wait until my sister got home and make it a big family thing but I’ve been waiting to ask you for months and I can’t wait anymore.” He was talking faster than I’d ever heard him speak before, his hand gripping mine tightly and eyes shifting back and forth trying to read my blank expression. “I can still do that if you want, but I figured this might be better. I know you’re not really into cliche romantic things and I like that about you. I like a lot of things about you. Like your face, and the way your hair smells, and your frankly disturbing sense of humour. I even kind of like your creepy ass cat.”

I wanted to say yes, I wanted to scream it so loud the neighbour heard, but my mouth would form words and I couldn’t make real sounds. So I stared at him, wide eyed and amazed, heart bursting with love until I realized my news might change it. Could he take back a proposal? Were you allowed to do that? 


“Jezus Christ, Beatrice! Will you say something please?” his hands were shaking against mine and the tips of his ears had gone red.

“Do you…” my voice got stuck in my throat and I took a deep breath and cleared it. “Do you mean married married? Like publicly? In a church?” It was the only thing I could think to say. My mind was telling me to say yes, but I was hesitant, nervous he’d take it back right away.

“Or city hall, or someone’s living room. But married married. Real life, legal contracts, public handholding- married.” He gave me a hopeful smile and I didn’t know if I was going to cry or laugh. Married married. Real life, happily ever after, married.

“I need to tell you something,” I finally said after a long pause. I couldn’t look him in the eye. I didn’t want to see the look on his face if this upset him, instead I looked down at the dissipating bubbles. It dawned on me briefly that I could say yes and tell him in a few months, after we’d gotten so far into engagement that he couldn’t back out. But I couldn’t do that to him, I couldn’t trick him into loving me. I took a shaky breath, the room around me so still that I could hear the tiny bubbles popping and the candles flickering.

“I’m pregnant,” I let the words out like champaign in a shaken bottle, exploding all over our world and covering us in tangy sweetness. “I’m pregnant with a baby…” I added for clarification. “Your baby.”

When I finally looked up he was watching me, his skin pale and his eyes wider than ever before.

“Well I’m glad we’re pregnant with a baby and not a puppy or a turtle,” I watched the smile break across his face and his eyes crinkle until they were almost gone. My heart was pounding in my chest and I couldn’t feel my finger tips or my teeth. There was a swirling sensation inside me, a tornado of emotions, relief and disbelief, excitement and confusion, all spinning inside my stomach.

“You’re not angry?” I asked hesitantly, studying the lines around his eyes and the whites of his remaining teeth. “You’re not leaving me?”

“Leaving you?” he scoffed in outrage. “You thought I'd leave you?” beneath the smile I could see the hurt in his eyes. His eyebrows scrunched and the wrinkles on his forehead told me he wasn’t about to take his proposal back.

“I thought a lot of things today,” I shrugged, feeling the blush rise in my cheeks. In retrospect it was a little irrational, he deserved more credit.

“So just to clarify, you’re pregnant with a human child, my human child, and you will marry me?” he asked clearly, looking directly at me with a smile still plastered on his face.

“Oh right,” I sat up straighter and felt the weight lifted off of my chest, the overwhelming sense of relief relaxing all of my clenched muscles. “Yes,” I giggled. “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!” I was grinning wider than I thought possible. “Yes I’ll marry you, yes I’m pregnant, yes I’m glad you didn’t did do anything flashy, yes I love you and your family and your face and the fact that you like my cat!” I prattled on and pushed myself into his arms, squeezing him tightly and kissing my way from his jaw to his lips. “Yes,” I added once more before losing myself in him, our bodies damp with soapy water and my fingers tangled in his hair. He held me so tightly I thought we might stay that way forever, his lips on mine were all the confirmation I’d needed, we didn’t need to hear our options, there was only one path I wanted to take with him.

“Wait, he pulled away slightly and I opened my eyes to look into his.

“We’re having a baby?” he looked briefly panicked then the smile returned. “We’re actually having a baby? We made it and it’s in you and it’s coming and we’re going to be parents to it and it’s going to exist?”

I nodded excitedly and couldn’t contain my smile. His reaction was better than I could have dreamed, he wasn’t going anywhere and neither was I.

“I’m going to be someone’s father? This is insane!” he laughed, an over the top roar that shook his chest and made his eyes tear up.

“I know!” I broke out into my own set of giggles. “I’m going to be someone’s mother,” the words set us both off. Tears streaming down our faces as bodies jiggled against each other, a chorus of delighted hysterics filling the bathroom. We sat in the tub, now just lukewarm and cloudy, in a state of astonishment and delirium, we’d just made two of the most important decisions of our lives… in a bathtub.

Chapter Text

The days following our engagement were spent in a state of bliss. With a week before Max arrived, and in no hurry to reveal our new relationship status, we spent the days home alone doing as little as possible.

After a late afternoon nap I woke up to a dark sky with one thing on my mind: Sidney. We’d been engaged for three days and he had completely captivated all of my thoughts. We’d become that inseparable couple I’d always made fun of. I could hardly stand being in a different room from him. I could hardly think about anything other than him. Eager for my lips to be reunited with his, I climbed out of bed and pulled on a t-shirt that had been discarded on the floor. The hard wood floors were cold against my bare feet as I crept down the hallway. I found him in the kitchen, standing over the sink with his back to me, broad shoulders covered in a white t-shirt and the fabric of his Lululemon pants stretched tightly across his bum and thighs. His focus was on the sink, head down and hands working carefully. I studied him for a few seconds before closing the gap between us and slipping my arms around his waist, resting my chin on the space between his shoulder blades.

“Hey,” he greeted me and turned to wrap his arm around my shoulders. I let go and snuggled into his side, my arm around his waist and my head resting against him. “Sleep well?” he kissed the top of my head and dropped the potato he’d been peeling back in the sink, then washed the residue off of his hands.

“I did,” I smiled up at him and reached up so my lips could meet his. I’d always enjoyed kissing him, his lips in general were kind of incredible, I’d asked more than one cosmetics seller to find me a shade of lipstick that matched the pink of his lips after a game, we’d yet to find the perfect match. But there was something about kissing him with the knowledge that he’d hopefully be the last man to touch me, that drove me wild. The thought of his name next to mine on Christmas cards made me giddy, I got hot thinking about co-signing documents together and putting him as my emergency contact. I knew the day he said the big ‘w’ word I was going to lose my cool. The second ‘wife’ slipped from those tantalizing lips we were going to end up in a heap on the floor and I wasn’t going to be able to stop myself.

“Are you hungry?” he broke the kiss and gave me a lopsided smile. I couldn’t help the whine that came from me when I realized his tongue wasn’t near mine anymore.

“Yes,” I bit my lip. “But I can wait, to eat at least,” I pulled him closer to me, now making myself fit in the space between his body and the counter. I kissed him with a little more enthusiasm, my hands slipping down to his bum.

“Is this a pregnant thing or?” he asked, no quite separating us.

“I think it’s just a you thing,” I giggled and squeezed a little tighter.

“Yeah it is,” he grinned and pulled me up into his arms before flicking the stove off and carrying me to the couch.

“One of these days you’re going to hurt yourself doing that,” I scolded him as we fell onto the couch, all hands and touching bodies.

“I think I can handle you and our peppercorn sized child,” he laughed and pulled my shirt over my head, leaving me in just a pair of pink underwear.

“You know the size of it?” I stopped him, looking at him while a new wave of emotions came over me.

“Of course I do,” he grinned, his eyes becoming two lines surrounded by wrinkles. “I got the app baby, I know all about this baby growing business!” he nodded, obviously proud of himself and rubbed his hands up and down my sides.

“Oh boy,” I groaned, feeling the affection rise to a whole new level. If I wasn’t already craving him, the mention of a free application did me in. It was a simple gesture that showed me he was into this, he was right there beside me. I hadn’t doubted his loyalty to me, not once after leaving that bathtub did I think he was going to change his mind, but I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to the pregnancy. I’d been preparing myself to deal with his hesitation and confusion, I’d figured that if I was nervous surely he was terrified.

“Yeah you like that,” he teased, tickling my sides. “It’s got a tail, and little webbed arms,” he continued, laughing at my excitement.

“You’re so sexy when you care,” I giggled and pressed my lips firmly against his, wrapping my legs around his hips and pulling him on top of me. Maybe it was the increased blood volume that made me want him, or maybe it was the overwhelming sense of delight that came with our new relationship status, either way his pants landed across the room and for the tenth time since our engagement we fell into each other like nothing else mattered.

It had come up a few times, whether or not we should tell our parents the news right away. It felt wrong keeping it from them, but we both know the big reveal would result in a flurry of emotions and a shit storm of pressure. There were going to be questions we couldn’t yet answer and the threat of media involvement. While I trusted our parents not to tell TMZ anything, it didn’t seem fair to force them into silence when we didn’t have any plans made.

“How long do you think your grandmother can keep the baby a secret?” Sidney asked as we lay in bed after a heated make out session. We’d shamelessly spent the days acting like horny teenagers on spring break, a phase I was perfectly content reenacting.

“The rest of her life if we wanted her to,” I rolled over and pressed my half naked body against his side. “Beatrice Keller the first does not tell secrets.” It was the whole truth, the things I had told my grandmother that had never been repeated would make any parent cringe.
“We probably shouldn’t make her keep it a secret for that long. I think your mum might be a little concerned if you just showed up with a baby one day,” he chuckled and brushed the hair out of my face.

“Yeah, maybe not a good idea, that seems kind of mean,” I wrinkled my nose and smiled.

“Any ideas how you want to tell them? I’m open to anything other than a sky writer,” he linked his fingers between mine and rest our hands on my stomach.

“Party pooper,” I nudged. “I was thinking one thousand white doves and a skywriter proclaiming ‘Knocked up and engaged: The Beatrice Keller Story’ and maybe some fireworks.”

“You can’t have a skywriter and fireworks, it doesn’t work that way, one is night the other is day, literally,” he chuckled and pressed his nose into my hair.

“Stop with the logic,” I groaned. “You're ruining my fantasy!”

“If we were normal people I’d suggest a flash mob, but TSN would be all over that.”

“Yeah nothing public. It doesn’t seem fair to the fan girls of the world. I mean you’re going to break their hearts but at least be private about it,” I teased. “But in seriousness, I just want it to be very clear to everyone that you proposed before you knew I was carrying your spawn. It just seems a little coercive otherwise, like you’re marrying me so I’m not shamed by the community and forced to move into a birth house and live in secret.”

“Yes, because that’s exactly what would happen. I forgot we were living in the Victorian era,” he rolled his eyes dramatically and squeezed my hand.

“I’m serious, Sidney!” I smacked him playfully. “I want to avoid looking like a gold digger as much as I can.”

“You whine when I pay for anything, how could you possibly be a gold digger?” he scoffed, shaking his head.

“The people don’t know that, they just know that you’re fancier than I am,” I cried impatiently. The talk of telling everyone was starting to make me anxious. Despite its inevitability, I wanted to avoid being the centre of attention as much as possible. Sidney was used to cameras and media questions, and while they made him uncomfortable, he knew how to deal with it. I didn’t. All I knew was that I hated having my picture taken and when asked a serious question was likely to give a stupid answer.

“Hey,” he propped himself up on his elbow and looked at me calmly. “It’s okay,” he smiled softly as if he could hear every thought in my mind, every worry and every anxiety inducing idea. “We can wait as long as you want. We can elope tomorrow if it will make things easier for you.”

“No,” I replied after a slight pause. It was hard not to get lost in him, the softened look on his face caused a feeling of warmth and serenity to spread throughout me. “I want a wedding,” I closed my eyes. “Just not a big one, and I don’t want to be huge, and I don’t want a camera crew.”

“Okay,” he chuckled softly. “So does that mean you want to tell them soon?”

“Yes,” I opened my eyes and smiled at him. “I’ll see if I can convince them to come over here this weekend. Which means you need to make sure your parents are around, and we need to make up all the extra guest rooms,” I started my mental to do list. “And we have to go around the house and find all the underwear I’ve lost,” I smirked recalling all the times I’d seen him pull them off of me and send them flying across the room. It was starting to become a problem, not because I was worried someone would find them, but I was starting to run out of wearable underwear.

It took nearly an hour, but I convinced my mother that it was imperative she and my father drive over and meet Sidney’s family that weekend. I’d started off asking if they’d come visit because I missed them, but that was met with a sigh and a reminder that I’d just been home. Her reluctance made me panic and I made up a story about Sidney’s parents leaving for a big holiday soon and that we were worried the summer would pass without everyone getting to meet and wouldn’t that be a shame. She finally agreed with the condition that I didn’t try to cook anything while they were there. My poor mother had fallen victim to my culinary skills more than once in her life and was still traumatized by the time I added soya sauce to the spaghetti, I was nineteen. Letting her take over the kitchen seemed more like a perk than a compromise, I had yet to experience any true morning sickness, but the idea of working in the kitchen was hardly appetizing. 

 The day before my parents were expected, Sidney woke me up much earlier than he usually did. I’d been dreaming about the first round of playoffs when I felt his lips against my cheeks peppering my face with light kisses. His hands squeezed my hips gently and I was pulled from the imagined situation of me playing in goal for the Flyers, to the reality of his body hovering over mine.

“Good morning,” he grinned down at me, kissing my nose softly.

“Hi,” I croaked, rubbing my eyes and groaning. “What time is it?” I turned to read the clock, squinting but still not seeing the numbers.

 “8:19,” he bit his lip hesitantly, anticipating my reaction.

“That is ridiculous, what are you trying to do to me?” I whined, throwing my arm over my face.

“I know,” he chuckled sympathetically and brushed his fingers through my hair. “But I couldn’t wait any longer,” he pulled my tired body into his arms and I lay with my head on his chest, my arm still blocking the light from my eyes. 

 “This better be good,” I mumbled, moving my arm just enough so I could see him out of one eye. “I’m talking new puppy good.”

“Better than a puppy. We’re not getting a puppy by the way, your cat is enough,” he replied with slight eye roll. “My mom called this morning and Taylor’s flying into Halifax at one.”

“I thought she wasn’t due home for a few weeks,” I moved my arm completely and eyed him confused.

“That was the plan, but she broke her wrist so they sent her home.” He was excited, almost giddy, talking about his sister’s return. He saw her about as often as I saw my oldest brothers so I could understand his enthusiasm.

“Ouch,” I winced at the image of a broken wrist. “Did it happen in a game?” 

 “Nope, story is she fell down the stairs,” he tried to not laugh but I could see the amusement across his face. It didn’t matter how much you loved someone, it was kind of funny to envision them toppling down the stairs. “Anyway, I told mom we’d pick her up.” He nudged me and I sat up a reluctantly. 

 “For her, I’ll get up at this ridiculous hour,” I groaned and forced myself out of bed and stumbling to the bathroom. 

 We didn’t leave the house until quarter past ten which apparently interfered with Sidney’s plans of spending morning looking at the shops of downtown. I’d tried to be reasonably quick, but with showering, drying my hair, and finding something to wear, I couldn’t help but take well over an hour.

“I think I’m done being blonde,” I declared as we pulled into a vacant parking spot.

“Okay?” Sid looked at me side eyed. My declaration seemed random, but I’d been thinking about it for weeks. “You don’t mean today, do you?” he shut off the ignition and pulled off his seatbelt.

“Of course not,” I rolled my eyes dramatically. “I was just warning you.” 

 “Well, thanks,” he gave me a half smile and shrugged.

We walked side by side down the quiet streets of Halifax. We were used to avoiding physical contact in public but I was comforted by the reminder that soon we wouldn’t be a secret. It was already a miracle that we hadn’t been figured out by the media. I’d briefly considered that maybe everyone knew, but the just didn’t care. For the few seconds that I believed that theory I was pleased, but quickly realized how unlikely it was that Sidney would ever be ignored by the media. We browsed around a few boutique stores, and by browse I mean I bought four delicious smelling three wick candles, some fancy soap for the guest rooms, a throw pillow with a cat that looked like Luna on it, and a lava lamp that I insisted would improve the feng shui of my office. This of course was completely fabricated, I knew nothing about feng shui, but I couldn’t resist the pink and white throwback accessory. We spent a few minutes in a second hand bookstore where Sidney stocked up on non-fiction and I made a stealthily and separate purchase containing Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and a book about DIY wedding crafts. The cashier smiled at me knowingly as she rang up the purchases and I hurried out the door after Sidney.

We were heading back to the truck when we passed a window with the word ANTIQUE printed on it. It caught Sidney’s attention and he backtracked, dragging me into the dark shop behind him. The small room was filled wall to wall, trinkets, books, furniture from different eras piled together and displayed casually. We started at the back, admiring a set of chairs that looked like they belonged in an episode of Downton Abbey. Sidney ran his hand over the polished wood arm then moved on to the next piece. I watched him admiring the craftsmanship of a coffee table and smiled to myself. I liked how excited he got about little thing like antique furniture and used books. Knowing that he could have anything he wanted brand new and customized but was more interested in artifacts from the past and pages read by others reminded me why I spent every second of my days looking forward to being his wife.

I left Sidney studying a bookshelf and wandered to a glass counter in the centre of the store. Under the clean glass lay an assortment of different gems and jewels, earrings, necklaces, rings, cufflinks. All arranged on their own pillows or in little boxes. I was admiring a string of pearls when It caught my eye. In the back corner of the display case, on a velvet, navy blue pillow lay a ring. I leaned into the glass, getting as close to it as I could and watched the light dance off the centre set diamond. From what I could see the gold band was engraved with intricate swirls and designs. I didn’t have to hold it to know I’d found the ring I hadn’t been looking for.

“Is there something you’d like to see?” an older lady with a cardigan draped over her shoulders and glasses perched on her nose asked. She stood behind the counter with a set of keys in her hand.

“This one please,” I pointed to my ring and started to feel myself getting giddy. She unlocked the sliding door and carefully lifted the pillow out of the display, placing it on the glass in front of me. It was even more enchanting up close. The diamond was elevated from the rest of the ring and cradled by a sea of swirly prongs. It wasn’t huge, maybe a carat, and I could see from the off white colour that it was far older than I was. I gently lifted it from the cushion and held it up in front of me, sparkles of light reflected off the tiny diamonds on either side of the bigger one and I could see the intricate swirls etched in the band. 

 “It’s from the early twentieth century,” she told me, smiling slightly. “Very art nouveau so I’m guessing between 1900-1930.”

“It’s beautiful,” I managed to squeak, all my attention focused on the ring in my hands. “Do you know anymore about it?” I couldn’t force myself to look at her, instead my eyes stayed transfixed on the polished metal and worn stone.

“Well it’s platinum,” she began. “Undoubtably hand carved. The off coloured stone is what indicates its age, diamonds weren’t the most common in that era and the soft cut is very european. If you take a look in side I think there is an inscription.” she motioned to the ring then knelt down out of my vision, coming back up a few seconds later with a binder in her hands. Sure enough when I looked inside I could see the faded inscription.

“What does it say?” I squinted, trying to make out the letters.

She flipped a few pages in the binder and smiled when she found the page with several images of my ring and an explanation. I held the ring in the palm of my hand and finally taking my eyes off of it scanned the room for Sidney. He was holding a set of book ends and smiled when our eyes met. I moved my head slightly, motioning for him to join me then turned back to the shopkeeper.

“According to the file it says ‘Semper amemus’ which is Latin for let us love always,” she pointed to the page to show me the explanation. “The centre diamond is a little under a carat and the sides are around 1/14th each.”

“What did you find?” Sidney asked, coming up beside me and resting his hand on the small of my back. It was the first time he’d touched me in hours and I felt my skin flush and a warm shiver spread throughout me. He moved his hand from me and looked at the shopkeeper who smiled reassuringly, quickly I felt his hand return and his body relax. He once told me he’d learned early on how to tell who he could trust. He had a sort of sixth sense that told him within seconds how he ought to behave. The reality that he had to spend his days cautiously trying to read everyone around us made my heartache. I longed for the secrecy to end and our relationship to become commonplace.

“I found it,” I held out my hand for him to see the delicate ring that I hoped I’d wear for the rest of our lives.

“It’s pretty,” he smiled hesitantly. “But don’t you want something bigger? I was kind of thinking we could go down to New York for a weekend and visit Tiffany’s.” While the idea of my engagement ring in a little blue box was exciting, I knew nothing there could ever compare to the handcrafted details and perfectly worn diamond of the ring I held in my palm. While Tiffany had The Legacy setting, this ring had a legacy of its own.

“Thank you,” I leaned into him. “I appreciate your willingness to go so far, but this is my ring.

“Okay,” his smile widened and the wrinkles around his eyes returned. “Try it on then,” he squeezed my hip gently.

I looked down at the ring, then back at Sidney. Without saying anything I held out my palm to him and placed my left hand on the glass in front of me. He didn’t speak, just knowingly took the ring from me and lifted my hand in his. Grinning, he slipped it over my pink fingernail and down my knuckles. I was surprised to watch it slide on my chubby finger so effortlessly and fit snugly at the base.

“Perfect,” he whispered, pulling me close to him and kissing me softly. His lips pressed against mine with full dedication and no regard for the possibility of an audience. This was his version of reckless and it was all I could ask for.

“Semper amemus,” I said softly when our lips separated. “Let us love always.”

 

We paid the comparatively small price and left hand in hand with the ring still on my finger and the packet of information that had been in the binder. Smiles remained plastered to our faces as we drove to the airport, windows down and fingers intertwined. Neither one of us spoke until we pulled into the parking lot.

“I don’t want to take it off,” I felt my smile fade away and I looked down at the sparkling diamond that looked at home between the knuckles of my left ring finger.

“Then don’t,” Sidney shrugged and undid his seatbelt. “Just keep your hand in your pocket. We’ll tell Taylor when we get in the car and ask her to keep it to herself until tomorrow.” I looked down at my dress and silently thanked the person who started the trend of putting pockets in dresses.

“So that’s why you always have your hands jammed in your tiny pockets,” I teased. “Trying to hid engagement rings from the fans.”

“That’s exactly it,” Sidney chuckled and leaned across the centre console, kissing me quickly then squeezing my leg with his solid hand.

When Taylor saw us standing off to the side of the designated greeting area a grin broke onto her face. I was once again startled by how closely she resembled her brother. I too looked like my brothers, especially Simon, but not the way Taylor looked like Sidney.

“Hey!” she called to us, pulling an oversized suitcase behind her, the injured arm already cast and hanging by her side.

“Hey,” Sidney called back, grinning and walking towards her. They met halfway and he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her into a tight hug and laughing. “How was the trip?” he asked letting go.

“Bea!” She ignored his question and turned to me. “I’m so happy to see you!” She threw her arms around me and gave me an equally as enthusiastic hug.

“How are you?” I asked when we’d separated. I returned to Sidney’s side and slipped my left hand back in my pocket.

“I’m good, glad to be home,” she brushed a loose piece of hair out of her face with her cast had. “Little sooner than I expected,” she chuckled.

“How’s the wrist?” Sid pulled the carryon kitbag off of her shoulder and reached for the suitcase.

“Broken,” Taylor shrugged, blushing. “But we should be good to go in September.”

“What exactly did you do?” I asked the question I knew Sidney was thinking.

“It’s a Distal Radius Fractures,” she replied still blushing. “Colles fracture, the broken end of the radius was upwards.”

“I’m pretty sure Bea knows the medical lingo for a broken wrist,” Sidney teased as we left the building and headed across the parking lot to the truck.

“Right,” Taylor laughed and shook her head. “I uh… fell down the stairs, at a party. Tripped over my own feet.”

“How drunk were you?” I asked knowingly nudging her arm. I’d done it myself a few times, overestimated my coordination after one too many drinks and taken a spill.

“Three drinks?” she avoided Sidney’s disapproving glare. “In my defence I was wearing heels.”

“I understand,” I smiled sympathetically. “It happens to the best of us.”

After loading Taylor’s bags into the trunk and paying the parking attendant, we headed home. She sat in the back seat telling us about her shortened season in net and her generally exciting life as a teenage girl. The radio played quietly in the background and my hand had been reunited with Sidney’s on the centre console.

“So, can you keep a secret?” I asked looking over my shoulder. She’d finished telling us about her last game and there had been a brief silence.

“I think so?” She looked confused, her gaze shifting from me to Sidney then back to me.

I took a deep breath and casually pulled my hand out of Sidney’s grasp. She would forever be the first person we told about our engagement. Sid turned to me, keeping one eye on the road and smiled. Without making any big movements, I leisurely held my left hand out to her and watched her face as the gears of her mind started working.

“Holy crap!” she gasped. “When did this happen?”

“Couple days ago,” Sid replied.

“In a bathtub,” I added with a grin.

“Congratulations!” she cried, undoing her seatbelt and throwing herself forward, wrapping her arms around me tightly. “I’ve always wanted a sister.”

Chapter Text

I should have known that inviting my parents over for the weekend actually meant I was inviting the whole family. I woke up at nine in the morning on the day of their expected arrival with a text message from John expressing how excited he was to see us.

“What the hell are you talking about?” I cried into the phone when he picked up, I was still groggy from sleep.

“Mum said we were all invited to meet the Crosby clan,” John answered confused.

“Who does 'we' include?” I held my breath in anticipation. My mind had already started racing, trying to figure out how many people we could host.

“They’re bringing Grandma and I have Mindy and Lyla all ready to go. Simon has to work. What is your problem?” I could hear him banging around in the background, likely packing the car.

“Nothing,” I tried to play it off casually. “I just couldn’t remember what weekend I said. But it’s all good. No worries. When are you heading over?” I was lying between my teeth and hoping he wouldn’t catch on.

“In a few minutes, I’m just waiting on Mindy,” he’d bought it and I could hear the trunk slamming on the other end of the line.

“Kay, well call me when you get into the province,” I flopped back onto the bed and hung up. I had only a few hours to prepare two extra rooms. It dawned on me that I was lucky we had the two extra rooms, but I quickly ignored that logic to focus on how stressed out I was about to be. My to-do list had doubled and despite having just woke up, I was ready for a nap.

True to her word, Taylor had kept our news a secret and by the time she answered my frantic S.O.S call, Sidney was just coming home from his morning work out.

“Oh praise be!” I cried as they both walked in at the same time, Sidney dripping with sweat and Taylor holding a box full of bedding her mother had graciously sent over. I wouldn’t have time to buy any and Sidney was sorely lacking on the home wares front.

“What’s wrong?” Sid’s face grew worried and he ran over to me tossing his wallet and phone on the kitchen counter and grabbing my hand.

“Apparently I invited my whole family to stay the weekend and I just found out this morning,” I sputtered, burying my face in his sweaty shoulder.

“Oh,” he dropped my hand and shook his head. “I thought it was something serious.” He headed to the fridge and started pulling out the greenery needed to make his concoction, leaving me standing with my head slumped over.

“This is serious!” I glared at him unamused. Couldn’t he see the work that needed to be done? Sure it was only my family, but this was a night we were all going to remember and I needed it to be perfect.

“Where do you want these?” Taylor said, still standing in the foyer. I directed her to drop them in the first guest room and grabbed a bottle of water before meeting her there, determined to get everything done in time to sleep.

I pulled a freshly laundered sheet out of the box and tossed one end to Taylor, each of us laying our side over the mattress and carefully tucking the corners in. It didn’t take long but by the time we’d tossed the last throw pillow on the last bed I could feel the muscles in my back begging for me to sprawl out of the fluffy comforter in front of me. They were calling my name, inviting me to roll around in their soft embrace, to bury my nose in the clean fabric. Desperate not to make anymore work for myself I tried to stretch, then shuffled down the hall to our room, stopping in the kitchen to grab my purse.

“Your first official duty as my sister and bridesmaid,” I dug through the brown leather bag and pulled out my wallet. “Is to pretend to be me.” I slipped my Visa out of the card sleeve and handed it to her.

“Pretend to be you?” she looked at me sideways, her eyebrow cocked in the same way Sidney’s did when I said something questionable.

“Well kind of,” I reached for a notebook I’d left on the counter and ripped out a page, the recently updated list of things I was supposed to buy. “I need a few more things before they get here. If you could pick them up I’d really appreciate it.” I folded the page and held it out to her, smiling hopefully.

“Alright,” she chuckled and pocketed my card and the list, then headed for the door. “Wait,” she stopped and turned back to me. “Did you say bridesmaid?”

“Yup,” I gave her a cheesy grin. “I have no idea what’s happening, but if you want to wear some kind of dress and hang out with me that’d be awesome.”

She paused for a second before letting a smile creep across her face. “Sweet!” she laughed lightheartedly. “I’ll be there.”

“Good,” I gave her a thumbs up and put my wallet back in my purse as she slipped on her shoes. “Oh, and my PIN is 1987,” I added just before she opened the door.

“Seriously?” she looked at me amused, then rolled her eyes and headed out the door as I shrugged.

I heard Taylor’s car pull out of the driveway as I collapsed onto my unmade bed. I was shuffling out of my shorts, ready to take a much needed nap, when Sidney came out of the bathroom with a towel around his waist.

“I thought you had a bunch of stuff to do,” he walked over to the closet and pulled out a pair of jeans and a t-shirt.

“I do,” I whined, laying pathetically on the bed with my shorts hanging off of my leg and my body at an awkward angle. “But I’m tired.” While I hadn’t had any serious morning sickness yet, keeping my eyes open was becoming a chore. I figured it must be how bears feel while in hibernation.

“Have you eaten? Do you want me to make you some protein?” he walked towards me wearing only his tight boxers and sat down beside my spread out body.

“Later,” I rolled towards him and repositioned myself so my head was in his lap. I could smell his body wash and I snuggled in closer to him. “I want to relax before your sister gets back.” I wrapped my left arm around his lower back and held him tightly.

“Did she ditch you?” he asked amused and I felt his hand brush through my hair.

“No,” I shook my head and let my eyes close. “I sent her out with a list. She’s well on her way to being my favourite person.” I let out a long and sleepy breath.

“Very resourceful,” he chuckled, still running his fingers through my hair. “And trusting. I hope you don’t make a habit of giving teenage girls shopping lists and charge cards.”

“Just Taylor,” I mumbled, feeling myself straddling the line between awake and sleep. “She’s got good genes.”

For the second time that day, I woke up to the sound of my phone obnoxiously buzzing on the bedside table. I’d hardly stirred when Sidney rolled me off of his lap and onto the bed, then snuck out of the room. I was having a dream that involved Dave Grohl presiding over our wedding and James Neal doing an interpretive dance throughout the entire ceremony. Dave was just about to pronounce Sidney and I man and wife, and James was completing a series of high kicks when the phone’s vibrations pulled me back into the real world. 

 “Hi Sweetie,” my mother’s voice sang through the line when I finally answered, just beating my voice mail. “We’ve just hit Truro.”

“Great,” I croaked, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes and kicking the sheets off of my sweaty body.

“Did I wake you up?” She sounded amused and I could hear my dad and Big Bea chattering in the background.

“Nope,” I lied. “Just getting the place ready for you.” I stood up and pulled my shorts back on, heading quickly towards the door and checking the time on the alarm clock. It was almost noon and the sun was streaming in between the cracks in the curtains.

“Oh good, we’ll see you in about an hour then.” We said our goodbyes and by the time I hung up I was already walking into the kitchen, my shorts snug around my hips and my t-shirt wrinkled and damp from sweat.

I was startled to find Sidney and Taylor standing side by side at the counter, laughing and mixing ingredients. The table and island counter were both covered in bags of groceries and I could smell the heat from the boiling pots of water. The kitchen was chaotic, but in a sort of controlled way that I would expect from Sidney. 



“You’re up!” Sid grinned at me and dropped the carrot he’d been peeling then walked towards me, pulling me into a tight hug and kissing me gently.

“I am,” I chuckled. “What are you doing?” He kept his hands on my hips and my arms stayed around his neck. I studied his face and felt a smile creep across mine. Just looking at him caused a sensation of fluttering inside me, an excitement the no word in the english language could to justice. 



“Just thought we’d get started on lunch, I got a text from J.J saying they were an hour away.” He kissed me again and then let go, heading back to the counter.

“I know, my mum just called.” I looked at him confused then down at my phone, sure enough there were three missed calls from my oldest brother and two text messages. “Since when do you and John text?” 



“Every so often,” Sidney shrugged and picked up another carrot.

“Weird,” I rolled my eyes at him and started sorting through the bags on the table. Taylor had outdone herself, she’d found everything I’d asked for including two dozen peonies and a few packages of fancy printed napkins. 

 “They okay?” she asked, looking at me eagerly.



 “Perfect,” I smiled excitedly. “You’re my new favourite Crosby, hands down!”

“I should hope so, because while I was vacuuming I found at least a dozen pairs of underwear hidden around,” she laughed, her amusement filling the room and her eyes disappearing into her cheeks, just like her brother’s did.

“Oops,” I blushed and made a quick exit to the bedroom.


 The flowers were arranged, the potato salad was cooling in the fridge, and I was showered and dressed when my parents and brother pulled into the driveway. Lyla made a beeline for Sidney and giggled as he twirled her around while I introduced Taylor to everyone and pointed them in the direction of their rooms. Not a minute after the suitcases hit the floor, Sidney’s parents arrived carrying the deserts I’d forgotten to make.

“It’s so nice to meet you!” his mother gushed to mine, the two women hugging excitedly. “I love your books, Beatrice didn’t tell me her mother was Shirley K. Keller.” 



Greetings and introductions were exchanged and I let out a sigh of relief knowing the first part of our day had gone over well. We sat in the living room and I let our parents socialize while Sidney and J.J headed outside to the barbecue. Watching them talk excitedly, I could help but smile like an idiot. Perched on the edge of the couch, I noticed how easily they all interacted, one big conversation, all bubbly without the hesitation I’d expected.

“You look good,” Big Bea sat beside me and smiled. “I told you it would all go well.” She took my hands in hers. “This is a good thing.” Like countless times before, my grandmother was right, this was good. But there was something about the positivity in the air that made me anxious. I knew that good didn’t last forever, and no matter how hard I tried to push the uneasiness out of my mind, it crept back in, reminding me that this happiness was fleeting.

 

We sat at the table, plates piled high with steak and all the dishes Taylor and Sidney had made while I slept. The conversation had continued and I sat beside Sidney clutching his hand tightly in mine as we all talked about summer plans. My hair was pulled out of my face and I was wearing a loose fitting dress, but the most important part of my outfit was tucked carefully in my pocket and wouldn’t be revealed until after lunch. I could hardly speak, the news balancing on the tip of my tongue, threatening to slip out at any moment. I bit my lip and and squeezed his hand tighter, giving him a subtle smile. He slipped his thumb between out joined hands and traced it along the lines in my palm. There was no reason at all for me to be so anxious, but that didn't stop my left leg from jiggling rapidly under the table.

"So how about a tour?" Sid proposed after the last piece of salad had been eaten and the leftovers were waiting to be packed into the fridge. He leaned against the counter and grinned, a smile that seemed unsuspicious to everyone but me. I knew the plan, and my hands shook as I started to watch it all unfold.

“That sounds great!” my mother smiled excitedly, I was surprised she’d held off this long before snooping around.

“Why don’t you show them sweetie and I’ll pack this stuff up,” Sidney said softly then kissed the side of my head tenderly, squeezing my hand reassuringly. “I’ll meet you in there,” he whispered so only I could hear. 



I led my family and his down the hallway where the guest rooms were, showing off my pink room, and Sidney’s office. His family had of course seen the house hundreds of times, but took the opportunity to continue the lively conversation everyone had been having at the table. After J.J and my dad had admired a collection of framed pictures that hung on the walls of Sidney’s office— each featuring Sid and another public figure— we headed in the direction of the master bedroom. For the first time since we’d moved in for the summer, the room was immaculate. Our dirty clothes were hidden behind the closet door, and the bed was freshly made. I’d gone so far as to put a a few of my two dozen flowers on the night table. It felt strange to have so many people in such a private space. I tried not to think about the things we’d done on the very bed where my father and his were, taking a break while our mothers chattered about the natural lighting.

“This is pretty fancy,” Dad smiled, bouncing a little and smoothing his hands over the bed spread.

“Isn’t it?” I laughed, hoping to let out some of my energy. I noticed Sid join us, making his way to my side and slipping his fingers through mine. He pressed his solid hand against my clammy palm and I tried to absorb some of his calm energy, but instead found myself envious of his easy going grin and sweat free hands.

“But if you want to see fancy I have to show you the bathroom,” I said casually. We were on the home stretch, so close to the big reveal. Sidney held my hand tightly and lifted it to his lips, kissing it gently as we made our way across the room to the oversized master bath.

Like the rest of the house, the bathroom was freshly cleaned and sparkling. I had to admit I was impressed by my own efforts. What I lacked in culinary skills I made up for in my ability to compulsively clean.

“So this in the bathtub where Sidney proposed,” I spit out as soon as everyone was within earshot. Sidney grinned and steadied my shaking hands.

“Proposed what?” My father asked naively. I noticed our mothers and Mindy all looking at each other excitedly.


“Proposed we enter in a legal contract of love,” I said, feigning nonchalance, while inside my heart was pounding and my temperature was rising. I slipped my left hand in my pocket and slipped the ring on the designated finger.

“Are you serious?” My mum looked at us both, her voice two octaves higher than usual and her face breaking into a wide grin. She was holding my fathers hands tightly and I wondered if she was going to cry.

“Yeah! That was right before I told him I’m pregnant with his surprise child! Key word before. He wanted me before he knew about the baby! Isn’t that great!?” I chuckled and felt myself start to relax as I watched their faces light up.


 “Baby?” Our mothers said in unison. My mother’s eyes were starting to glisten with tears.


 “Like human baby?” J.J teased and Mindy smacked his arm rolling her eyes.


 “Like grand baby?” my mother was full on crying now, tears slipping down her cheeks.


 “We’ve come to the conclusion this it is not a turtle or a puppy, it is in fact human! Yay us!” I threw my arms in the air in exaggerated excitement, my hand still linked with Sidney’s.

“Despite the tail it currently has,” Sid added, placing his freehand on my stomach and laughing.

There was a series of shrieks and frantic hugs, congratulations and tears. It came as no surprise to anyone that shortly after my mother started crying, I began. Happy tears flooding my eyes and pouring out of me while I hugged her tightly. Big Bea stood to the side watching it all and smiling. She didn’t seem shocked by the announcement of our engagement and somehow I think she knew about it before even I did.

The relief that filled me as we all crowded in the living room felt euphoric. I sat on the couch, snuggled comfortable against Sidney’s side with my head against his shoulder while we answered questions and talked about our lack of plans. The news of both our engagement and offspring had been received better than I could have imagined. I’ll never know what I expected to go wrong, but as someone who lived in a perpetual state of anxiety I would never let myself think about the possibility of success. I could only hope that telling Serena would go half as well. My stomach churned at the thought of my best friend, who across the world was dealing with her own life. I pressed myself closer to Sid and sighed, my mind no longer focused on the excitement of our families.

The sun had set and I could feel my body preparing for bed when Sidney’s family decided to head home. We walked them to the door to say goodbye and I was startled when his father pulled me into a warm hug, an action that wasn’t part of our usual interactions.

“Congratulations Bea,” he said in my ear. “Welcome to the family.”

Chapter Text

There was just enough time between my family leaving and Max arriving for me to change the bedsheets and get a good night's sleep. After the big announcement we spent the rest of their visit in the back yard or by the lake enjoy the summer sun. My mother tried to help me sort out wedding ideas while Sidney spend countless hours trying to teach Lyla how to use a tiny hockey stick he'd found at the hardware store. Watching his animated expressions as Lyla whacked at a plastic whiffle ball reminded me how lucky I was to have him. While I didn't want to give too much credit for for doing the 'right' thing, I knew I was fortunate to have someone like him in my life, someone who cared as much as he did.

When Max arrived I was laying in the sunroom with my head in Sidney's lap, reading the Ina May Gaskin book I'd bought, aloud. Sid was trying to listen, but I could sense his attention was wandering off every few minutes. He jumped up excitedly when we heard the long awaited knock on the door, causing my head to slum hard onto the couch.

"Sorry," he turned back to see that I was okay, then sped off in the direction of the front door like school boy greeting his highly anticipated play date. As per usual, I was nervous. The same twisting anxiousness I usually got when waiting, only this time it was five times stronger. I wasn't so much nervous to see Max, as I was to see him with Sidney. I hadn't seen them together since before the night I tried to bury my heartbreak in the warmth of his heavy body.

I pulled myself off of the couch, once again ready for a nap, and slowly made my way to join them. I took my time, giving them a minute alone, and carefully hid my ring at the bottom of the fruit bowl. It didn't seem right to tell Max everything before I'd told Serena. I made a promise to myself that I’d talk to her as soon as possible then made my appearance in the foyer.

“Beatrice!” Max grinned when he saw me, turning from Sidney and walking to me with his arms open. He pulled me into his embrace and held me tightly for a few seconds. I could smell his cologne and feel his whiskers scratch against my cheek. Memories of our intimate encounter flooded back to me and felt my face heating up. I pushed him away gently and laughed, I couldn’t handle his touch anymore.

“How was your flight?” I asked and moved closer to Sidney who slipped his hand around my waist.

“Good,” he smiled and I moved to show him his room. “The place looks great.” Max said as he dropped his bag on the floor the guest room and remerged into the living room where Sidney and I were already on the couch.

We sat together in the living room and talked for a few minutes, mostly discussing the playoffs and plans for the off season. When Max began talking about a girl he’d met in Quebec I took it as my cue to give them some time alone. I wasn’t jealous per say, but the idea of Max with another woman make my skin crawl. I knew that I had never loved Max, and we wouldn’t have ever been more than friends with benefits, but that didn’t stop me from feeling a pang of hurt when he described her as the most wonderful woman he’d ever met. Sure I was happy with Sidney, but in a strange and selfish way I was hoping Max would have pined for me just a little. My own ego had wanted him to like me, more than I’d liked him. I left the room with the excuse that I had to call Andy and returned to my spot in the sunroom. My computer lay on the coffee table in front of me and I knew what I needed to do. 

 I settled comfortably with the computer on my lap and logged into Skype. It was nearly midnight in Magnitogorsk and I half hoped that Serena would already be asleep. I’d been avoiding her since I’d found out about the pregnancy and the reality that I could tell her within minutes had me terrified. I wanted to run to Sidney, have him find the words for me, or find another reason for me to avoid her. But I knew that there was nothing Sidney could do to help me through this. This was my news to share with my best friend.

Within seconds of logging in she’d messaged me, sending me a video chat invite which I accepted after taking a few deep breaths.

“Hi,” she smiled weakly when the call was completed. She was sitting at a table, the lighting was too dark for me to see her surroundings, but I could see the shadows cast on from the angles of her thin face and the circles under her eyes.

“How are you?” I asked. Unlike most conversations I had with people, I actually wanted to know how she was doing. Perhaps I was looking for an excuse not to tell her, It wouldn’t be fair of me to share my news if she was having a bad day.

“I’m okay,” she lied. I could tell by the way her eyes moved from the screen to her keyboard and her shoulders hunched forward. But for some reason I didn’t call her out on it.

“How’s Geno?” I asked instead. I wasn’t going to pry and find a reason not to tell her. I wasn’t going to let myself avoid her for another week.

“He’s alright,” she sounded exasperated, like Geno was the last thing she wanted to talk about. “How’s Canada?”

“It’s good, warm now. We’ve spent some time at the lake and in the backyard. Went to the island for a weekend. Saw the boys. Max is here now,” I prattled on, wasting time while I found the right moment.

“Max is at your house, with Sid, and you?” she looked at me surprised, her forehead wrinkled.

“Yeah, we’ll see how that goes,” I chuckled.

“I’m sure it will be fine, you guys are pretty well adjusted,” she tried to smile again but it looked like it was taking more energy than she had and the corners of her mouth drooped back to her resting face.

“Yeah,” I nodded. “Are you sure you’re okay?” I figured I wasn’t prying so much as assuring her that I was there to listen if she needed me to, and if she talked about her state of mind it might improve her mood and make the news easier on her, I was just making things up to comfort myself.

“No,” she shook her head slowly and I could sense her throat was tightening. “I don’t think I’m okay. I don’t think I’ll ever be okay. It doesn’t feel real anymore. I mean nothing feels real, but this feels forced. This thing with Geno. It’s like we’re trying to prove something to everyone Like hey, we know a lot of people break up after shitty experiences but we’re stronger than that. But here’s the thing Bean, I don’t think we are. I don’t think we’re any better than those people because at least those people were honest with each other. We’re just playing this fucking game. I mean I’ve never loved anyone like I love him, but it’s not enough to make me want to stay. This is going to make me sound like a horrible person, but the idea of spending every day with him makes me want to rip my hair out. It’s little things, it’s the expectation that I should love him, because he’s so fucking amazing. He could be a garbage man and he’d still be a fucking superstar.”

I watched her on my screen, I was completely speechless and frozen in time. I’d been expecting her to tell me she was still heartbroken and lost, that she didn’t understand Russia and maybe that things were still tense with Geno. But I’d never expected that. I could feel the raw emotions in her words and as the tears dripped down her gaunt cheeks my own eyes started to involuntarily water. I tried to swallow my sobs but seeing her on the other side of the world, wrapped in an old sweater with the light completely extinguished from her eyes. She was a shell of my person and there was nothing I could do. The feeling of helplessness rushed to me once again and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t fight the tears that soaked my face.

“I’m sorry,” she croaked. “I just want to call you some day and tell you I’m okay. Why can’t I just pretend it never happened? I’m still waiting to wake up and feel alive again but every fucking day it gets foggier. He deserves so much better than what I’m giving him but I can’t fix it.”

I tried to find words but I couldn’t. I didn’t know the right thing to say and all I could think about was how selfish I was for being okay. I watched her wipe her eyes on her long sleeve and I struggled to catch my breath.

“Everyone says it gets better with time, but it’s not. And I can’t tell him any of this because he’s just trying to keep everyone happy. His family calls me грустная девушка, which I think means sad girl. They’ve stopped trying to talk to me, and I don’t blame them. I know that as miserable as he’s making me, I’m making him just as unhappy.” Her tears had slowed down and she was staring off into space.

“So come home then,” I wiped at my eyes and reached for a kleenex. “Spend the summer with me eating ice cream and pie.”

“I can’t,” she shook her head and sniffled. “I have to try for just a little longer. I can’t leave him yet. Because if it’s worse without him I don’t know what I’ll do.”

“Whatever you decide to do, I’ll be here.” I blew my nose into the kleenex and smiled at her. It was a sad but hopeful smile, the kind that tells the other person you’re as lost as they are but you’d be alright being lost together.

“Thanks,” she gave me the same smile and ran her hands through her hair. We sat without saying anything for a few moments before she tried to smile again and sighed. “I know you have something you want to tell me.”

“What?” I croaked. This wasn’t the right time, I wasn’t ready, she wasn’t ready. “What makes you say that?”

“I know you,” she let out a weak chuckle. “You have that edge of your seat, anxious look on your face.”

“It’s fine,” I tried to wave her off.

“Tell me Bea, please. Anything to take my mind off of Geno,” she rest her head in her hands, cupping her chin and waiting for me to reply.

“No, really. We can talk about it later,” I shook my head, panicking. “Have you learned anymore Russian?”

“Bea,” she stared into the camera. “Stop trying to change the subject and talk to me.”

There was really no use trying to avoid it any longer. Serena was relentless. I couldn’t get away with anything when it came to her and I knew it. “Please don’t be angry,” I began.

“I won’t, I promise,” she held up her pinky to me.

“Okay, well,” I took a deep breath. “Last week Sidney and I were taking a bath…”

“Is this going to be erotic?” she interrupted, and for a split second I could see my best friend again.

“Mildly,” I gave her a sly smile and continued. “We were in the bathtub, and he… he asked me to marry him,” I bit my lip waiting for her reaction before I went on.

“Oh Bea,” she smiled again, this time effortlessly. “That’s incredibly.” I noticed her eyes welling again but I could tell that these weren’t painful tears.

“Yeah,” I nodded, trying to psych myself up for the next part. “It is pretty amazing. But the funny thing about it, is that a few hours before that I got some interesting news. I went to get my birth control fixed and, well they uh…” I stopped. I needed to take a second before it all came flying out of my mouth. Serena’s eyes were fixed on me, her eyebrows crinkled together with worry. “They told me I’m pregnant.” I finally let the words spill from my hesitant tongue and I closed my eyes. I couldn’t look at her as the new sunk in. There was a long pause before either of us spoke.

“Wow,” she finally said quietly. “Really?”

“Yeah,” I let my teeth dig into my bottom lip to keep myself stabilized. “We didn’t plan this, and I wanted to tell you sooner, but I just couldn’t stand the idea that it might make things worse. I’m so sorry…”

“Bea, stop,” she interrupted me again. “Don’t apologize for living your life,” she pulled her hands through her hair again and closed her eyes. “Don’t you dare apologize for being happy.”

“It’s just the timing,” I began.

“I know,” she nodded slowly and let out a struggled sigh. “But I’m so happy for you.” The tears were back and dripping down her face. This time I couldn’t tell if they were good tears or not.

“I’m not far along, but I want you to be as involved as you want to be. No pressure.”

“Okay,” she said, covering part of her face with her sleeve covered hand. “I want to be there, I’m so happy for you, I just need time.” Her words were choked and laced with sorrow.

“I get it,” I replied softly. “Tell me when.”

“I’m going to go, but I’ll talk to you in a few days,” she assured me and as quickly as she’d come onto my screen, she was gone.

I sat on the couch for a few minutes before closing my computer and walking back into the main part of the house. I was still struggling to keep my composure and all I wanted to do was press myself against Sidney’s body and let go. I found them where I’d left them in the living room and immediately squeezed between them on the couch. Despite my chair still being empty, I wanted to feel their warmth.

“Woah baby,” Sidney laughed when I sunk into the space and fell against him.

“What’s this all about?” Max teased, giving me a suggestive look.

“I told her,” I said, breaking the dam I’d been trying to hold back and opening the floodgates. Heavy sobs left my body and I could hardly recognize the sounds I was making.

“Told who what?” Sidney wrapped his arms around me and pulled me tightly against him.

“I… told… Serena,” I managed to say between gasps and sobs.

“Bea, what’s going on?” Max asked confused taking my hand in his. I adjusted myself in Sidney’s arms so I could see him.

“We’re getting married,” I tried to smile. “We’re getting married and I’m pregnant. My best friend just lost her baby and is losing her boyfriend and I have all of this while she’s alone in Russia.” I was laughing and crying all at once. Laughing because I couldn’t believe how ridiculous it sounded, and crying because the pain I felt seeing her was so overwhelming I couldn’t think straight.

“Congratulations!” Max grinned and squeezed my hand. “I am so happy for you, mon chou.” He leaned forward and kissed my cheek gently. “And you,” he looked at Sid. “Way to go buddy! You hit the jackpot here, and we won’t let you forget it.”

I spent most of the evening nestled between them. To an outside it would have looked five different kinds of weird, but for me, I was surrounded by the warmth of two people I’d come to rely on. After a week of emotions and anxiety, I finally felt a sense of ease in the arms of my fiancé, and one night stand turned confidant.

Chapter Text

Before I met Sidney I had this magical idea that he, being a wealthy and incredibly busy man, had an army of staff to do all of life’s tedious tasks for him. I’d naively assumed that things like grocery shopping, laundry, and changing the sheets were automatically taken care of. It wasn’t soon into our relationship that I realized how horribly wrong I’d been. Yes, Sid had a lady come in weekly to clean the house and a lawn service to take care of landscaping in the sunnier months, but other than that, we were on our own.

The day before Max left, he and Sid sat in the living room day drinking and talking nonsense, while I stood in the laundry room folding a load of whites, because even the future wife of an NHL star has to wash her underwear. They were both nearing drunk and I’d escaped down the hall before my envy turned into bitterness, it wasn’t that I was some kind of lush who couldn’t stand the idea of not drinking, I just liked having the option to be some kind of lush who couldn’t stand the idea of not drinking. Despite being halfway across the house, I could hear their loud voices and jumbled words clearly. I was folding one of Sid’s t-shirts when I noticed the conversation begin to shift from light hearted to somewhat emotional.

“You’re fuckin’ awesome, you know that?” Max slurred and I imagined them sitting with their arms around each other in the opening credits of a summer bromance comedy.

“Nah, man, you’re awesome,” Sid giggled.

“I’m serious,” Max said sternly. “I mean I fucked your wife and we’re sitting here like this.”

“She wasn’t my wife,” Sid said quickly. “We weren’t together.”

“Still.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“I’m sorry about that, I really am,” Max said and despite having finished with the folding, I decided to stay out of sight. “I mean I’m not sorry because she’s amazing, but I’m sorry because that was low, even for me.”

“Hey man, I told you, it’s okay. I try not to think about it. I chalk it up to another one of her regrettable ideas. Like the time she tried to melt soap in a microwave so she could mould it into little shapes,” Sid chuckled. I rolled my eyes remembering the burns on my finger tips. Someone on the internet had done it quite successfully!

“Maybe I shouldn’t tell you this, but I could have loved her. Man, I could have fallen for her, and I was jealous as hell when she told me you were back together. Anyone else and I might have fought a little harder for her.” I suddenly felt like I was intruding on a very personal and private conversation, my face dropped and I tried to turn my attention to emptying the lint screen. I had no right to hear why Max was saying and frankly I didn’t want to know.

“Yeah,” Sid said a little quieter. “She’s a good girl.”

I carefully picked pieces of lint off of the edge of the dryer screen and willed myself to forget what I’d heard. I didn’t want to start thinking about a life I could have had with Max. Not when Sidney was so sweetly sitting in the living room listening to it all. I knew the truth was that I didn’t want to be with anyone but Sidney, and I’d known that from the start, but that didn’t stop my mind from drifting of curiously.

Pulling myself out of my mind I slammed the screen back into the dryer and balanced the basket on my hip. By the time I got to the living room the energy had shifted back to jovial and as if nothing had happened they were laughing again about something I’d missed.
“So who’s hungry?” I asked with an over exaggerated grin and dropped the basked on the floor. If they could forget the conversation then so could I.

 

“Dis? Sweetie, can I get you anything?” I asked my groggy fiancé as he lay in bed with one arm draped over his eyes and his mouth slightly swollen and numb.

“You,” he growled quietly, beckoning to me with his free arm. I crawled onto the bed beside him, careful not to move it too much. He opened one eye to see where I was, then motioned for me to come closer. Hesitantly I shuffled so I was on my side facing him, close enough that he could wrap his arm around me. I felt his hand move under my shirt and rest against the bare skin of my already rounding stomach. He let out a light sigh and moved his thumb over my skin in figure-eights.

“Y’know, I’d kind of gotten used to you without teeth,” I teased, laying my head on his virtually smooth chest and letting my hand rest above the band of his boxers.

He scowled at me, moving his arm for only a second then letting it fall back on his forehead. The new, and unexpected, family member I was growing had put a wrench in our tightly planned schedule and as June came to a close Sidney had only just finished the first part of his dental implants the day before, but was still a little numb. According to him he’d postponed the appointment because he was worried about me, but I knew he was just nervous about the surgery itself.

After our short visit with Max, I realized how quickly the summer was already going by, and panicked, I’d made Sidney sit dow with me and explain his schedule in detail for me. He’d wiped his time in Toronto off of the table and already started training in town. I had to appreciate how willingly he’d agreed to change everything just to make my life easier. In red he’d marked off the week he was in Alberta for the olympic camp and in blue was the weekend he had to shoot the new Reebok campaign in New York, both with a “B?” written in the corner by him and a “maybe” written beside it by me. The schedule was immaculate, colour coded and neatly filled in with details and notes, but it missed one thing. On three dates Sid had drawn little bells with question marks beside them- August 10th, August 17th, and August 31st. They were the three days we were discussing for the wedding. We were both fine with any day, but finding someone with a legal privilege to preside over the wedding was another story. Our parents had all hoped we’d go the traditional rout and do a full Catholic mass, but I wasn’t about to explain to a priest why I couldn’t be drinking any communion wine.

“How’s that residual Novocain?” I asked stroking my fingers gently up and down his stomach and around his belly button.

“Mmmmm,” he groaned and gave me a thumbs up. Something about him laying in just his boxers with a helpless look on his face made me want him more than I should.

“Any pain at all?” I moved my hand a little lower, flicking the elastic band that stood between me and what I’d become to consider the promise land.

“Just my head,” he replied without moving his arm and I flicked the band again.

“So you have a headache? And I should keep my hands to myself?” I whispered with my breath hot against his ear.

“I didn’t say that,” he smirked and moved to look at me with one eye. One big brown eye inviting and tempting me all at once.

“Oh good,” I kissed his neck and let my hand dip under the elastic band and fabric of his boxers.

 

We lay in a pile of twisted sheets and limbs, a cross breeze coming from the window and tickling over my bare, flushed skin. The sun was setting and Sidney’s head lay on my chest while his hands moved lazily over my stomach. It was blissful, laying skin to skin with him, the warm air coming from the window, and the smell of fresh grass and sun filling the room.

“It’s pretty amazing,” he murmured and looked up at me.

“That you can get me off three times? I agree,” I smirked.

“No,” he chuckled and shook his head, “Although that’s pretty impressive. I meant it’s pretty amazing that you’ve got a little person in there. Just hanging out, growing, stealing your food, just a little cluster of us.”

“A little cluster of us,” I smiled and traced his hair line lightly with the tip of my index finger.

“When do we get to see it?” his eyes were closed and I admired the length of his lashes and the even tan that had spread across his nose and cheeks.

“I’m not sure,” I sighed. I’d been thinking about that a lot lately. I’d always planned on having the most natural pregnancy possible. I’d read more than enough articles claiming ultrasounds changed cell formations, I firmly believed in the less is more way of life. But after being beside Serena through the complications of her pregnancy, I was terrified. I’d estimated I was a little over two months in and was already waking up in the dead of night in a panicked sweat, willing the creature inside me to make some kind of movement, just something to tell me he or she was still alive.

“Hey,” he looked up at me, propping himself up on his elbow. “What’s wrong?” his brow was crinkled and concerned and I couldn’t believe how in tune he was to my energy.

“Nothing,” I smiled and shook my head, pushing his hair back from his forehead. “We’ve just got a lot going on.” I wasn’t ready to tell him how anxious I was because despite his calm exterior I knew it would just make him worry as much as I was.

“We can do it,” he snuggled his head back into my chest. “We can start right now. Tell me what you want, like colours or whatever.”

“Colours?” I chuckled. “I have no idea. I haven’t thought of thematic colours.”

“No colour schemes? Maybe a theme? Like Hawaiian luau or old Hollywood glamour.”

“No! Please, no!” I giggled. “We’re getting married, not competing on a TLC show.”

“So no pig roast?” he moved his hand over my stomach.

“Let’s save that for the first anniversary.”

“Deal,” he smiled up at me. “But seriously, what do you want? A big hall? Outdoor? The wedding world is kind of your oyster right now.”

“No big halls,” I replied instantly. “No big crowds of people to gawk at us. No media, no business people, no one we wouldn’t invite to dinner. And no cliche things like seating charts or fake flowers. I don’t do fake flowers.” Apparently I had more an opinion on it than I knew.

“Okay,” he chuckled and kissed my chest. “Nothing over the top, I know. I do want to get married in Canada though.”

“Of course,” I agreed.

“And, I’ve been meaning to ask, I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but are you inviting Millie?” he looked a me hesitantly.

“I wasn’t planning on it,” I shook my head. “I would like to invite Travis and the guys though, if you don’t mind.”

“That’s totally fine,” he smiled. “I like them, I just know that Millie upset you last time…” he began.

“No, I totally understand. We’ll sit down and make a guest list later.” I assured him. “We still need to find a place for it though, most places need to be rented a year in advanced don’t they?”

“Probably,” he shrugged. “We could hire someone to figure it out if you want.”

“But then it becomes a thing,” I sighed.

“A thing?” he questioned.

“Yeah, a thing. Like as soon as we start hiring people to do things it becomes a big event. And when it becomes a big event we have to worry about media and people and all sorts of things that are way too complicated to make it enjoyable. I don’t know about you but I’d rather be partying than dealing with wedding crashers and keeping the peace.” I said with a slight smile.

“Unless we get Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn crashing, I have to agree with you there. Which rules out any hotel or big hall or really any place with people around at all.” He sat up beside me with his back against the headboard and laced his fingers between mine.

“Right,” I nodded. “So that leaves some abandoned building, here, the middle of the ocean, or my parents’ house.”

“Deep sea nuptials? I thought you said we weren’t doing the whole TLC extravagant rout?” he cocked his head to the side and smirked at me.

“Yeah, the middle of the ocean might be too tempting for me to accidentally push you overboard and take all your money,” I winked and bumped my shoulder into his.

“That and you would probably puke all over your pretty dress as soon as we hit a wave,” he bumped me back.

“If we do it here the whole town will find out,” I continued, ignoring his jab at my motion sickness.

“I’m fine with doing it over on Keller Lane,” he said excitedly and wrapped his arm around my shoulders.

“And we wouldn’t have to decorate because the ocean is across from the orchard and you really can’t compete with the ocean.” I pointed out, making a mental note to call my mother and inform her I’d be using her house for a weekend, I’d make sure she was compensated with love.

“Easiest wedding ever. Now we just need to find someone with the power to actually marry us,” he was grinning excitedly like he’d just finished the world’s hardest jigsaw puzzle and was about to show his work off.

“We’ll figure it out,” I rest my head on his shoulder and let my eyes close.

 

I sat across from my mother and Helen at the kitchen table with a stack of wedding magazines and my laptop open to an internet full of inspiration. Upon hearing that I planned to get married in her backyard Shirley Keller put her foot down and demanded I come home for more than a weekend. With Sidney almost fully recovered I had no reason to say no and crossed the Confederation Bridge with a suitcase and butterflies in my stomach. Sidney and I hadn’t spent a night apart in months and I wasn’t looking forward to the separation.

“What about roses?” My mother asked flipping through a magazine and twisting the end of her ponytail.

“This is a wedding, not a prom,” I remarked and scrolled through a stranger’s dream wedding board on Pinterest. “Something a little less… strategic, y’know?”

“Sunflowers?” Helen asked, Felix asleep in the sling wrapped around her.

“Yeah, maybe some wild things too,” I kept scrolling.

“So basically just whatever we have growing around us?” My mother looked up from her magazine and pushed her reading glasses up the bridge of her nose.

“Pretty much,” I shrugged.

“That’s easy,” she laughed winked at me.

“Oooh, look at this!” Helen held up her magazine for us to see. “You can get your faces on M&Ms!”

“That might just be the one thing Sidney hasn’t had his face on,” I snorted and shook my head.

“That really takes eating each other to a whole new level,” my mother added with a completely straight face and returned to her own magazine. I shot Helen a look of sheer disgust and decided to start googling people who could preform the ceremony.

“Do you have to be protestant to be married by a Minister?” I asked scrolling through the names of hundreds of religious figures on the Island.

“Yes dear,” Mum said flatly.

I sighed and closed the computer lid, leaning back in my chair and closing my eyes. “Hey, Simon,” I called into the living room. Seconds later my brother appeared looking bored.

“Need my opinion on centre pieces?” He asked excitedly.

“No, but do you feel like getting one of those online marriage officiant licence things?” I looked up at him hopefully.

“Why me?” he stared back at me in horror.

“Because you look the most… priestly?” I was hardly convincing. I didn’t even believe myself so it was more than a surprise when he nodded and grabbed the computer from me to look up the process.

“Holy shit,” Simon squinted at the screen and looked at me alarmed. “This thing costs $500!”

“Seriously?” I grabbed the computer from him and read over the requirements. Sure enough you had to pay $500 and be over 18. The application was lengthy and I was expecting to find a print your own lab test sheet so the applicant could provide a urine, blood, and bone marrow sample.

“Well it makes sense, I mean you wouldn’t want to give just anyone that power,” Helen chuckled, rocking Felix gently as he stirred.

“What do they think is going to happen? Someone’s going to go on a random marrying spree?” Simon cocked his eyebrow and shook his head.

“Realistic threat,” I shrugged and passed the computer back to him. “If you’re willing to do the work don’t worry about the money,” I told him and made a mental note to inform Sidney of my plan.

 

The more I tried to plan everything as quickly and efficiently as possible, the more I realized how much I had to do. After spending the day with my mum and Helen trying to make sense of everything and discussing options of potluck versus catering and if a sound system is need, I lay on my bed reading and trying to forget about the day.

“Bumble?” I heard my father say as he knocked on the door lightly. “Can I come in?”
“Yeah,” I called to him and pulled the covers over my bare legs.

“Hey sweetie,” he appeared in the doorway and made his way to my bed, sitting at my feet. “How’s the planning going?”

“Good,” I smiled weakly and set my book on the night table. “Overwhelming,” I admitted.

“I can imagine,” he gave me a warm smile and squeezed my ankle affectionately. “But it’ll be worth it.”

“I know,” I sighed. “I am excited, just tired.”

“I know Bumb,” he paused and looked down at the floor. “So,” he hesitated. “I wanted to ask, are you still taking the same medication?” he looked at me intently.

“A variation,” I nodded. “Why?”

“I thought so,” he smiled. “I’m glad. But now with the baby coming I think it’s important that you get in touch with your doctor. There’s a lot we don’t know about anti-psychotics and pregnancy yet.”

I looked at him confused, trying to process what he was saying. Since starting the medication in my teen years I’d tried to go off of it once or twice, both had ended horribly and the idea of trying it again made my heart pump anxiously and the bile rise in my throat. There was already too much change for me to handle, I could feel myself starting to panic with every passing day and my saving grace was the drugs keeping my mind level. I thought about Sidney and how he’d never seen me unmedicated, how he’d never seen the dead look in my eyes and never been there for the days and days I’d sleep away. He’d been so incredibly supportive of everything in my life, but everyone had a breaking point. I squeezed my eyes shut and clenched my fists tightly as the anxiety began to wash over me. It wasn’t my fathers soft spoken words that sent me into a panic, it was the image in my mind of Sidney seeing me like that. Like the person nature had unfortunately created me to be. The shaking, morbidly depressed shadow of who I was supposed to be. What scared me the most though wasn’t the threat of returning to that state of surreal despair, rather the knowledge that in the early weeks of baby Keller-Crosby’s life I could have exposed him or her to something that would ruin them too. Since finding out I was pregnant I’d cut out caffeine from my diet and made a conscious effort to eat as naturally as possible, all the while swallowing back tiny pills that could be causing more damage than caffeine could even dream of.

I let out a struggled sigh as my father reached for my hands and held them tightly between his. I opened my eyes and watched him intently as he clearly outlined a plan, repeating the names of people we could call in town and the alternative measures we could take. But his words didn’t give me the comfort I needed, instead all I could think about was how selfish and clueless I’d been.

Chapter Text

Five; the number of times Sidney found me hiding in my pink room crying over wedding plans, the number of times he asked me if I wanted to elope.

Four; the number of times I said no. The fifth time he asked I couldn’t help but give it some consideration, but before I could answer I was stuck by another wave of nausea and bolted to the bathroom that I had come to think of as a second home of sorts. I was too busy expelling the contents of my stomach to reply, and he was too preoccupied trying to gather all of my loose hair in his hands and out of my face.

They said the new onset of morning sickness could be a result of a number of things, the first was that no pregnancy is textbook and just because I’d gotten past the first two months easily, didn’t mean I was safe. But the second was more likely, in the interest of giving baby Keller-Crosby the best start to life I’d decided to go off of all medication… cold turkey. After years of taking a medication cocktail to keep me going, my body had gotten comfortably used to the pharmaceutical chemicals and was not pleased to be going without them. It wasn’t an addiction, addiction is defined by the need to increase dosages regularly to achieve the same effects, but it felt like I imagined addiction withdrawal would. My father wasn’t happy about my decision to cut everything out, he worried it would lead to a psychotic break. While Sidney had promised to do everything he could to keep me healthy, Dad wasn’t convinced. But with the approval of my doctor in Pittsburgh and a psychiatrist I’d seen when I lived on the Island, there was nothing he could do to stop me.

When I was a kid and tried to imagine planning my wedding, I’d never imagined it would be as stressful as it was. The combination of unmedicated emotions, pregnancy hormones, and a short timeframe had me squeezed in a way Sidney had never seen before. He was scared and I knew it. I could tell by the way he fed me Ensure shakes every three hours like a newborn, handing me the can with a pink straw coming out of it and sitting beside me until I’d finished it. I couldn’t blame my restricted diet on my physical ailments alone, faced with uncertainty I was returning to my old habits. Guilt washed over me every I heard the can open and remembered that my future husband was taking care of me in a way no one should have to. Worse was seeing the irony in my actions, I’d given up the drugs that helped me function to give the baby a better start, but I couldn't force myself to eat like I was expected to. The thought of that alone was enough to send me head first to the toilet.

*****
I stood in my parents’ kitchen anxiously watching the clock on the stove. It was 10:34am and I’d already been up for over three hours. Sidney was at the gym with JJ, my dad was at work, my mother was meeting with her agent, and I was standing in the kitchen obsessing over the clock.

In five days, seven hours, and twenty-six minutes it would be our wedding day. Finally a summer of frantic planning and unexpected events would have some closure. But that wasn’t what had me in a staring contest with the clock. No that was because in a little under two hours Serena was going to arrive. I’d only spoken to her a handful of times since the night I told her about the baby. Each conversation felt burdened and awkward, both of us dancing around the subject and trying to find the rhythm of our relationship again. There was a certain emptiness I felt every time she logged off, like for the first time since grade school I was alone in the world. Only I wasn’t alone, I had Sidney and my family and baby K-C, but it wasn’t the same. All of the wonderful people in my life couldn’t fill the void left with Serena just out of reach.

Forfeiting my riveting competition with the clock, I took what remained of my mug of tea and made my way to my room, trying to take the stairs two at a time but giving up after the second set. Pushing the clothes off of my bed I flopped onto the soft surface and let out a frustrated groan. Despite my best efforts to control it, my mind was racing around in frantic circles. Since giving up the medication my mind had become a war zone. At any given moment I had at least a dozen thoughts crashing against each other, bouncing off the walls of my head like hyped up Jack Russell Terriers, all while trying to navigate through the hazy fog that came with pregnancy and withdrawal. I was in a perpetual state of exhaustion and even thinking about the jam packed days that lay ahead of me was enough to make my stomach churn and my head throb.

Rolling onto my side I looked at the shoe boxes piled on top of each other in my closet. In one was a pair of never worn baby blue Converse that had been tucked away for the wedding day, but the rest were full of pictures I’d collected over the weeks prior. Four boxes full of pictures of Sidney and I, some I’d borrowed from his parents, some I’d gotten from the frames around his house, and- although I hated to admit it- some found on the internet. I’d never get used to Googling my husband and millions of results, but at least I’d never run out of pictures of him. I’d decided early on that I wanted to keep the decorations minimal, just flowers and things I’d found at antique stores and Big Bea’s house, and of course pictures. I’d carefully slipped them into plastic covers and bought heavy duty fishing line that I’d string through the plastic and have them hanging on the branches of the trees, hanging low like a back drop to our wedding. While my mother and Helen and graciously taken on every other aspect of the wedding, the pictures were my pet project and I was unusually confident that they were the finishing touch on our perfectly planned day.

I rolled onto my back and ran my hand along the curve of my now obvious belly. Coming on fourteen weeks I was no longer able to conceal my rounded abdomen under baggy shirts. Standing up, I pulled my shirt off and looked at myself in the mirror. I was definitely bigger than I’d imagined I’d be at fourteen weeks. At this milestone, Serena had barely started to show, and there I stood with the beginnings of a basketball protruding from my torso. I’d already had to put my tighter dresses and jeans away and was dangerously close to need a whole new wardrobe, once again I longed to be a size six. It wasn’t that I wasn’t excited to look pregnant, it was just a little startling and definitely surreal. A shiver of anxiety ran down my back as I remembered my wedding dress, I hadn’t tried it on since the fitting two weeks ago. The fear that it would already be too tight sped through me and I ran out my bedroom door and into the library where my mother had safely hung it, away from Sidney.

After immediately unzipping the white garment bag, I dropped my shorts and pulled the flowing white dress off of the hanger. Holding my breath, I stepped into the chiffon and lace gown and pulled it over my hips. The soft fabric draped effortlessly over my body and the lace details hugged my chest, the elegant lace straps held everything in place and the lower back allowed me to show off my multi-coloured skin art. I smiled at my reflection in the gold framed mirror that hang on the wall between two book shelves. I felt like some kind of etherial rock star and could help but sway my hips to a soundtrack playing in my mind. It wasn’t long before I was dancing around the room excitedly, paying no mind to how ridiculous I’d have looked to anyone who walked in, what with my beautiful wedding dress, hot pink bra, and messy ponytail. It felt good to move in my own space, the emptiness of the house was freeing and for the first time in a long time my mind wasn't completely consumed by worry.

Still wearing the dress, I returned to my room and reached down the side of my bed, pulling out the journal I still hadn't bothered to find a new home for. Careful not to wrinkle the fabric too much, I lay back on my bed and opened to a random page.

September 19th, 2004

I've been thinking a lot about the end of things lately. Maybe it's because summer just ended, or maybe it's because this is my last year of high school. Either way the end is scary. I used to think I wanted to leave the Island and move to a big city like Toronto or Vancouver, but now I don't know. Everything is so safe and warm here. I mean sure, there was a murder in Cardigan last month, but that was over stolen lobster traps, nothing serious. It's just so predictable here. I like that. I've never told anyone, but I'm scared to leave because of Big Bea, what if something happens to her? I don't think I could live without her. At the same time, I'm just as afraid to not leave as I am to leave. I'm scared I'll be 30 and hating my life, working a stupid job and weighing twice what I do now (which is already too much) What if I marry Jack and hate him because I never got to see the world? Better yet, what if no one will have me and Serena goes off and marries a movie star and I'm stuck here, the same old Beatrice Keller as I was last year and the year before. Am I even lovable?

I smiled to myself, reading the terrified words of my youth and flipped to the next page. Before I could read past the date I heard the door open and slammed the book shut, pushing it down the side of my bed and jumping up to close the door.

"Bean!?" I heard her holler before the door closed. "You home?"

"In my room," I called back, my stomach twitching anxiously and my palms starting to sweat. I caught a glimpse of my ridiculous looking reflection in the mirror and rolled my eyes at my panic stricken face. At least my logical mind knew how idiotic it was to be this nervous to see my best friend. This was Serena, not the Queen.

"Bean?" She pushed the door open and peaked inside. I didn't wait for her to register what I was doing before propelling my body towards hers and pulling her tightly into my arms. It felt like going home after a particularly long trip away. She felt like the piece I'd been missing.

"I'm so happy you came," I sobbed, tears trickling down my face and onto her shoulder. I'd tried to stop them but I failed miserably as my breath hitched.

"I missed you so much," Serena said, wiping the tears from my face, despite her own dripping eyes.

We stayed like that until Geno came up to find us, our bodies pressed against each other while we sobbed together, hardly speaking. There wasn't anything we could say that the other didn't already know. When we finally broke apart I finally saw the changes in her. She was smaller, fragile and pale with dark circles under her eyes that weren't just from the long trip back to North America. She'd cut her long blonde hair into a shaggy bob that she'd pinned out of her face, and the dark makeup she'd been wearing was smudged around her eyes. But underneath it all, underneath all the grief and heartache, I could still find my best friend.

"It's so beautiful," she grinned, admiring the dress I'd forgotten I was even wearing.

"I know," I laughed and wiped my eyes with the back of my hand. "I wanted to make sure it still fit." I looked down at my stomach and avoided her eyes. We'd hardly mentioned the baby and I didn't want to make it harder for her than it needed to be.

"You're so round," she looked down with me and ran her hand along the bump of my stomach. I didn't dare look at her and held my breath while I waited for her reaction. "I'm so excited for us," she finally spoke, catching my eyes and giving me a reassuring smile. "The baby is the size of a lemon."

With Serena back I felt more prepared for everything, like somehow, her presence guaranteed that nothing could go wrong. For the first time in my life everything was complete. Never before had I had my family, my best friend, and my future husband under the same roof. In theory I should have felt at ease, safe, and relaxed, but despite the comfort there was still a string of anxiety tightly thread from the tips of my toes to the top of my head. It made my stomach tighten and the appetite I’d been trying to get back flee. It seemed as if one wrong move and it would snap, sending me toppling to the ground like a broken marionette, shattered beyond repair. I had to do everything I could to ensure that didn’t happen, not now, not when things were so close to being good.

The bridesmaids’ dresses hung with mine in the library, Sidney’s room was ready at Simon and Helen’s, and Big Bea had a speech prepared that she promised would be perfect. All I had to do was wait. Wait for time to pass, for the tables to be set up, the food to be delivered, the sound system to be assembled, my hair and makeup to be done, and to hear my queue to walk down the aisle.

With less than twenty-four hours before the biggest show of our lives, Sidney and I sat on the porch of my parents’ house feeling the ocean wind against our skin and listening to the rustling of the trees. There was a storm coming and any minute it would break. Thunder rolled in the distance and a flash of lightening lit up blackest sky I’d ever seen. Storms had never scared me, in fact, there was something exhilarating about the clapping of thunder and sound of the wind whistling through our old farm house. A storm felt much safer than any sunny day ever had, there were no expectations with storms, no one commented on the beautiful day you were supposed to be having, and it felt like anything was possible.

Sidney slipped his fingers between mine and squeezed my hand gently. In a matter of hours we’d go our separate ways to spend our last night alone. Not literally of course, I’d realized early in the pregnancy that I wouldn’t be able to take a baby on the road with us, which meant as long as Sidney was producing goals and doing what he loved, I’d be spending plenty of nights sleeping alone. I thought back to our break up, and the nights I spent cocooned in the blankets of my bed holding back tears and praying I’d forget about him, I thought about our fights, his schedule, and the road ahead of us. Was this what he wanted? To by tied down by a wife and baby in the prime of his career. Could we handle the pressure or would the official commitment ruin what we’d worked so hard to keep alive. A shiver went down my spine and I broke the silence that had enchanted us.

“You can still back out,” I said, looking up at the sky.

“What?” I could feel his eyes on me, but couldn’t look at him.

“I won’t be angry.” I closed my eyes and focused on the wind howling around us.

“Beatrice,” he pulled on my arm to get my attention. I slowly turned my face from the sky and opened my eyes to find him watching me, hurt written all over his face. “I love you, and I’m not going anywhere. I don’t care how horrible you think you are, you’re not. Not even close. If this is some kind of self deprecating thing, cut it out, but if you’re really having cold feet, I need you to tell me.”

I was surprised to find the tears not prickling my eyes, instead I felt numb. It was as if I’d finally run out of emotions. “I’m just scared,” I finally said.

“No shit,” he laughed and wrapped his heavy arm around my shoulders, pulling me into his chest. “I’d be worried if you weren’t.”

“What if we can’t do it?” I mumbled into his chest.

“What if we can? What if it’s even more than we dreamed of? You can be afraid of standing in front of everyone tomorrow, and of dealing with the things that will come with being my wife. But don’t be afraid of us not making it. I don’t know how to show you how I feel about you, but I plan on spending the rest of my life figuring out a way. By the time we’re old and feeble you’re going to see how fucking wonderful you are, and that is a promise.” He held me so tightly against him that I couldn’t imagine how anything in our life could possibly go wrong. I wanted to tell him he didn’t need to do that, that it was my job to fix myself, but I didn’t. Instead I pressed my lips against his neck gently and snuggled closer to him, spending out last few minutes together in the warmth of his arms while the uncertainty of the future started to fade away.

****

I stood at the window watching as Sidney, his best man David, and groomsmen Max, Geno, and Beau walked down the lane from Simon and Mindy’s house where’d they gotten dressed. Their tailored grey suits looked crisp and with their hair carefully combed and tousled I couldn’t help but smile. I couldn’t hear what they were saying to Sidney, but I saw him grinning and nodding then looking up to the window and winking at me.

Serena stood behind me doing up the clasp to my necklace while Taylor, Helen, and Mindy stood by in their pastel coloured dresses, waiting for our cue. It happened so quickly, the time lapse from waking up that morning, to hearing my father call up the stairs for me felt like a matter of seconds. In the blink of an eye I’d gone from being so scared I’d actually locked myself half naked in a hotel bathroom, to standing at the top of the stairs I’d run up and down my whole life, wearing a wedding dress and taking one more deep breath.

I’d anticipated more anxiety walking across the freshly manicured lawn towards him, but instead of nerves or hesitation I had to stop myself from running towards him. My father held my hand tightly in his and whispered for me to slow down, we were in no hurry. The sun was about to set, just as I’d hope it would and everything looked perfect. The pictures hung from tree branches and sunflowers decorated our makeshift alter where Sidney stood waiting for me under the lattice arch, surrounded by trees. He grinned at me, wider than I’d ever seen and I swore I saw him starting to tear up. White chairs with mismatched cushions were lined in rows on either side of the candle lined aisle, and filled with fifty of our closest family and friends. I wanted to laugh with every step I took, break out into hysterics only because I knew I shouldn’t. It was beyond what I could have ever imagined and I had to remind myself it was all real. I was doing well, keeping a simple smile, walking at a normal pace, until Serena grinned at me with her nose wrinkled and her eyebrows arched, pulling the most ridiculous faced I’d ever seen and flashing me a thumbs up. At that point I couldn’t hold it anymore, laughter erupted from me like water boiling over a hot sauce pan and I had to pick up the pace. Taking the last few steps in double time I hugged my father, who had made it very clear to me that morning that he was in no way ‘giving me away’ rather just walking with me for the sake of walking with me.

Sidney took my hands in his and squeezed so tightly I could feel the excitement coming through his palms. He was smiling so hard I could barely see his eyes and everything about him was glowing.

“Mawwiage. Mawwiage is what bwings us togethew today. Mawwiage, that bwessed awwangement, that dweam within a dweam. And wove, twue wove, wiww fowwow you fowevah and evah… So tweasuwe youw wove” Simon began after Sidney and I had had a moment to check each other out. We both stared at him trying to keep it together.
“Dearly Beloved, we are gathered together tonight to watch my baby sister fulfil my lifelong dream of acquiring permanent NHL season tickets, and to watch Sidney forever have in house medical care. When we found out these two crazy cats were hanging out, my brother John and I had two things to say about it, the first: Did he not realize we are die hard Flyers fans? and the second: Hot damn Beatrice Keller. Needless to say Bumble Bea we are so incredibly happy for both of you.” I should have known Simon wasn’t going to take the traditional rout when standing in front of a crowd of people.

“As you may not know, I’m not a priest,” he continued. “This is made particularly evident by the ring bearer who appears to have my stunning good looks, and because of this, Beatrice and Sidney have decided to opt out of the traditional religious readings and instead have given me some alternatives.” Simon cleared his throat and began reading.

“I've tried playing it cool
But when I'm looking at you
I can’t ever be brave
'Cause you make my heart race

Shot me out of the sky
You're my kryptonite
You keep making me weak
Yeah, frozen and can't breathe….” He recited dramatically and by the second line everyone was in a fit of giggles, including Sidney and I who were both bent over howling. There was something so perfect about the casualness of Simon’s officiating, it occurred to me later that other brides might have been furious to have the attention taken away from them, but for me it was a blessing.

“I’m sorry,” he flipped over the paper in his hand and shook his head, “That was Sidney’s choice, we weren’t supposed to actually read that one. In typical Beatrice Keller fashion we have an excerpt from Anne’s House of Dreams by Lucy Maud Montgomery:

“It was a happy and beautiful bride who came down the old, homespun-carpeted stairs that September noon - the first bride of Green Gables, slender and shining-eyed, in the mist of her maiden veil, with her arms full of roses. Gilbert, waiting for her in the hall below, looked up at her with adoring eyes. She was his at last, this evasive, long-sought Anne, won after years of patient waiting. It was to him she was coming in the sweet surrender of the bride. Was he worthy of her? Could he make her as happy as he hoped? If he failed her - if he could not measure up to her standard of manhood - then, as she held out her hand, their eyes met and all doubt was swept away in a glad certainty. They belonged to each other; and, no matter what life might hold for them, it could never alter that. Their happiness was in each other’s keeping and both were unafraid.”

Sidney and I smiled at each other while Simon read the words I’d almost memorized, my mouth moved along with his and in some way it felt as if I’d written them myself. It wasn’t just the words of the passage that I loved, how simple and relatable it was, but the meaning it held, the significance of the first wedding scene I’d ever really read being recited at my own. As Simon said the last words I knew it was my turn to speak. He gave me the best encouraging brother smile as he placed the mic in my shaking hands.

“Sidney,” I smiled, suddenly aware of my own voice. “The first conversation we had was about your tweaked trapezius. Never in my life have I been more thankful for a finicky shoulder muscle. This time just a year ago, if someone had have told me I would soon be marrying and growing our tiny human I would have asked them what drugs they were on and if they were willing to share, because that would just seem too good to be true. In this last year we’ve travelled over 37,000 miles, had four hospital visits, decorated a ten foot tall Christmas tree, got engaged in a bathtub, and fallen consummately in love.

I promise to continue loving you until we return to star dust and haunt the ocean side, and even then I don’t think I could stop. I promise to stand beside you through the good games and the bad, the lost teeth and long road trips. I promise to tell you how I feel instead of throwing socks at your head and breaking things. I promise to always consider you opinions and points of view, even if they are as ridiculous as naming the baby Lord Stanley.

For the first time in my life, I feel like I’ve finally got it all right. I choose you, Sidney Patrick Crosby. And if I have to recite this to you for everyday of our lives together, I will, because this is a beautiful start to our lifelong love letter.”

He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and took a deep breath, still smiling and took the mic from me. Before Sidney began, Serena handed me a handkerchief she’d had around her bouquet and held it tightly in my hands. I had a feeling she knew what was coming.

“I knew I shouldn’t have let you go first,” Sid chuckled, still gathering his composure.

“Beatrice Elizabeth Keller, you appeared in my life when I had absolutely no intention of falling in love. You skipped in with your colourful skin and radiant personality and I knew the second you started massaging my trapezius that I was done for. I have spent so much of my life focused on my career, but when I met you, my focus easily shifted. I am so incredibly lucky to have found such an amazing, strong, and lively woman to share this life with.

Bea, last night I told you I would spend my life doing everything I could to make sure you saw the incredible person you are, I promised you I’d spend everyday making sure you know how much I love you and I have no problem standing in front of everyone making that promise again. I’m going to be there when things get hard, I’m going to be there when you need someone to take care of you, or someone to watch horrible Lifetime movies with. I’m going to be there when it feels like nothing is working, and when you’re on top of the world. I promise to actually listen when you talk, and never blame hormones for any mood you may or may not be in. I promise to be honest with you instead of protecting my masculinity. I promise to let you roller skate in the house as much as you want, and not complain too much when you make me listen to the same album over and over again, even if it’s the most horrible boyband I’ve ever heard in my life. I promise not to hold the fact that you are a Flyers fan against you, even though I think it’s weird, and I promise to love your pain in the ass cat as if she were a dog.

Honey, I cannot wait to spend the rest of my days with you and baby Keller-Crosby. You’re sweeter than peanut butter and jam sandwiches, you’re more exciting than Olympic gold, and you’re better than anything I could have ever dreamed in my mind. I’ve never been more committed to anything than I am to you, and I will be until the end of the earth.”

Serena had been right to hand my the handkerchief because by the time he’d gotten to the part about my colourful skin the tears were pouring out of my eyes. By the end I was a sniffling mess, clutching his hand in mine and trying not to ruin my make up completely. We stood there, both of us wiping away tears and grinning at each other.

“And now, ladies and gentlemen, the moment you’ve been waiting for,” Simon took the mic back and continued on before we completely broke down. “Do you, Beatrice Elizabeth Keller, take Sidney to be your husband and partner?” he asked me. I looked between Sidney and Simon, then to the smiling faces of the groomsmen and back to Sidney. I’d worried I would have some hesitation, that saying the words would be harder than I could anticipate, but I was wrong.

“Absolutely, I do!” I said, and it was the easiest thing I had ever done in my life.

“And do you Sidney Patrick Crosby take Beatrice, to be your wife and partner?” Simon asked and Sidney squeezed my hand.

“I do, yes!” he said without hesitation.

“Oh good!” Simon laughed. “Then by the power granted to me by the Government of Prince Edward Island, I now pronounce you husband and wife, partners in the eyes of the law.”

We didn’t wait for Simon to tell us to kiss, the second he said we were married Sidney’s lips met mine and for the first time that day, the first time as a married couple he kissed me with the same tenderness he had the very first time. His arms around my waist and our bodies pressed together, I didn’t want to let go. When we fin

Chapter Text

“Holy shit, you’re married!” Travis exclaimed and threw is arms around me.

“Holy shit, I’m married!” I laughed and hugged him back. I’d been married for nearly an hour and the words still tingled my ears and made my stomach twitch with excitement.

“Mother fucking legally wed,” Teigh added joining our hug.

Our disney inspired bonding moment was cut short by the sound of Simon on the mic welcoming everyone to ‘pop a squat’ at a picnic table of their choice and get ready ‘for chow time.’ Sidney took my hand and made our way to a collection of tables at what would be considered the front of the room that had been reserved for the wedding party, and although I couldn’t quite get used to it, we were definitely the wedding party.

I sat between Serena and Sidney nibbling at a plate of home cooked food my mother had brought me from the buffet style set up and taking in my surroundings. Serena squeezed my knee and smiled, looking more like herself than she had in months. Everything about the event was peaceful, we’d opted to have a no cellphone rule and all the guests had complied, dropping their phones in a wicker basket on the front porch, music played softly in the background and lively conversations surrounded us. Sidney’s hand rest solidly on my leg and I marvelled at how wonderful it felt to have him touch me with so many people around. Like for the first time we were finally a real public couple, only we weren’t. Coming out to the media and the rest of the world would happen when we got home, but for now the little over fifty people who watched us were enough to make it feel like the world knew.

We sat snuggled together while my family and his made their hilarious and sometimes downright embarrassing speeches. Serena preformed an eloquent and well crafted rap for us, Taylor told us about all the times she wished she had a sister, my brothers provided Sidney and our friends with a detailed list of -almost- all of the stupid things I had done in my life, including when I was fifteen and tried to give myself a tattoo in the bathtub. But it was Big Bea’s speech that called the tears to return to my eyes.

“Little Bea, I knew from the moment I saw you enter this world that you were special. You’ve been destined for great things since John and Shirley found out you were coming. I used to say it was because of your name, that something extraordinary came with being a Beatrice Keller, but now I know you’re more than just our name. I have no doubt in my mind that you and this handsome man are going to have an amazing life together, and that grand baby of mine is just as extraordinary as the both of you are.” She went on to remind is that marriage isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth it. She told us about my grandfather who died just after I was born and how how he used to bring her sea glass he found while fishing, how she kept the sea glass all these years and it meant more than any jewels he could have bought. I wouldn’t have been able to hold back the tears if I tried and by the end of her speech I was wiping away the last of my eye makeup.

Hearing the words from our families left me feeling warm and fuzzy inside and even Serena couldn’t pull me away from Sidney’s arms as we rocked back and forth on the dance floor. The orchard was lit up with twinkling fairy lights and candles, the wooden floor put down in the middle of the grassy lawn as a dance floor was busy with people taking a break from the board games we’d scattered around the tables. It was casual, calm but exciting, it was the epitome of being home and I couldn’t have asked for more.

“So what’s this I hear about a new roommate?” I heard Beau’s voice behind me and let go of Sidney to face him. He looked at us uneasily and tried to smile.

“Not until the New Year,” I assured him.

“It’s just a small one, don’t worry Bud, you don’t have to share your room,” Sid teased and clapped him on the shoulder.

“So you’re not kicking me out?” Beau looked at us hopefully, the corner of his mouth twitching into a smile.

“Not if you’re okay with the baby potentially ruining your ability to take home bar friends,” I said.

“I don’t think a baby will negatively impact my game at all, in fact, consider me your built in babysitter,” he smirked and walked away.

The party was wrapping up when Taylor found us sitting on the hammock and watching the sky. We’d had a chance to talk to almost everyone at the wedding except her.

“So,” she plopped down beside him and rest her head on her brother’s shoulder. “How does it feel?”

“Pretty great,” Sid smiled at both of us and pulled me a little tighter against him.

“Good,” she smiled. I could sense she had a reason for joining us but I was too comfortable to ask.

“How’s the wrist feeling?” Sidney focused the attention back to her.

“Pretty good,” she held up her now cast-free arm and wiggled her fingers. “Still a bit of rehab, but I should be good for the season.”

“Good,” he nodded, careful not to disturb either of us. “So?”

“What?” Taylor looked at us both suspiciously and I gave her an encouraging smile. “Okay fine,” she sighed. “I met someone.”

“Really?” I sat up, leaning across Sidney to hug her.

“What?” Sid said at the same time, frowning at my enthusiasm. “Who? Do I know him?”

“Yes,” She nodded tentatively and looked across the dance floor where a group of hockey players were laughing and drinking. “It’s Nathan.”

“McKinnon?” I grinned. “Good choice!”

“I know right?” She chuckled and gave me a high five while Sidney sat between us, stunned.

 

In the end Sidney finally admitted that he was happy for Taylor, worried, but happy. He’d spent years telling her not to date hockey players, but when it came down to it, she was her own person and had a good judge of character. The week before we returned back to our lives in Pittsburgh we spent as much time as we could surrounded by family, including Taylor and Nathan, whose charmingly awkward presence reminded me of Sidney. It was bittersweet leaving our cozy lake house near the ocean and returning to the hectic buzz of the city. It was good to be home, to get back to a routine, but what made it particularly bitter was Sidney leaving less than twenty-four after we landed to attend the Olympic camp in Alberta. He’d invited me to join him, but I didn’t want to be in the way, he hadn’t had a chance to spend much time with his friends and he deserved a break. But it meant that for the first time since the wedding, hell the first time in months I was all alone. Worse, it meant he’d miss my first appointment with the midwife, and the opportunity to hear the baby’s heartbeat, an occasion I’d be anxiously awaiting since the sleepless nights began at the beginning of the pregnancy.

Shortly after watching him drive away I sat on the living room floor of the big quiet house, staring out the window at the empty street. It was eerie, the stillness of everything. I tried to think of something I could do to keep my mind off of the emptiness around me, but with Serena and Geno in Florida as a last ditch effort to save their relationship, I couldn’t think of anyone else to call. I considered calling one of my old derby friends, but the idea of hearing them talk about the sport that used to be my life was mildly depressing. I hadn’t played in months, and I wouldn’t be back on wheels anytime soon. I lay back on the hardwood floor and turned my attention to the high ceilings, staring at them with no real purpose. I must have let myself get lost in my self-pitying thoughts because I didn’t hear the front door open.

“What are we looking at?” Beau asked, joining me on the floor.

“Absolutely nothing,” I sighed.

“Sounds good.”

We lay there for well over ten minutes, neither of us saying anything, the sun streaming through the window and casting beams over our bodies. I felt myself drifting in and out of sleep under the warmth of the light, but was too hungry to commit to a nap.

“Do you mind if Nealer and I stay in tonight? He’s not heading to Alberta until tomorrow,” Beau broke the silence.

“Not at all, but don’t stay in on my account,” I said.

“No, it’s okay. I’m sure it’s pretty shitty to be alone when most people would still be on their honeymoon.”

“It’s not the greatest,” I nodded. “But Sidney and I are definitely not most people, so it comes with the territory.”

“I guess,” he sat up and spread his legs out in front of him, using his arms to keep him up.

“I think what bothers me the most is how much it bothers me, y’know? It’s like I’ve become some sad, dependant, little person who can’t get through a day without him. I’m not that person!” I covered my eyes with my arm, suddenly aware of how much I’d just said to Beau of all people. It wasn’t at all fair for me to do this to him. “Sorry,” I shook my head and sighed.

“No, it’s fine. I get it. I don’t think you’re like, sad or whatever to want to be around your husband. I mean you’ve been married like two weeks. No one wants to be away from their person so soon. And you’ve got the whole baby thing going on so there’s that. Basically I’m impressed that you even got dressed this morning. You totally could have spent all week in bed.” He smirked.

I was surprised by his maturity and how comforting he was. I’d always known there was more to the shaggy haired boy they called Sunshine, but I had sorely underestimated his compassion.

“Thanks,” I gave him a weak smile and slowly moved into a sitting position. “I guess it’s just a lot of change in a short period.”

“It is,” he nodded and placed his hand on my shoulder affectionately. “But you can do it. You’re like the most responsible and adult person I’ve ever met. You got this. And if you need anything, you know where I live.”

I looked at him with my eyebrow cocked, concerned. If I was the most adult person he’d ever met there was a serious problem with his judgement. I considered correcting him, but instead just laughed. I’d take it as a complement.

 

I stood in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant, when James arrived. Being the most responsible of the three of us, I’d volunteered to make dinner and as I watched the rice boil over for the second time I was seriously regretting my offer. Despite the chicken being perfectly sautéed and the vegetables being cooked without losing their crispness, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out Minute Rice.

“Mrs. Crosby!” James called as I was dumping out the rice to try again.

“She’s not here,” I replied.

“Yeah I don’t know who you’re talking about, Bud,” Beau added, stealing one of the carrots out of the pan.

“What?” James looked at us bewildered and opened his mouth like a goldfish, then closing it without saying anything more.

“What is right, why are you looking for Sid’s mom? That’s just weird man.” Beau teased.

“I was talking about…” James pointed to me confused.

“Oh, you mean Mrs. Keller-Crosby, yeah that’s her,” Beau nudged him.

“Jesus, you’re taking this hyphen thing really seriously aren’t you?”

“Meh,” I pulled the rice off the stove and left it to simmer. “If I don’t take it seriously now it won’t be acknowledged. And for the record, other than the hockey stuff Sidney’s taking it seriously too, just ask to see his new licence.”

“You’ve got him whipped good, don’t you Mrs. Keller-Crosby?” James joked and I didn’t have the energy to play along. There were days I could find the humour in their sexist comments, but this wasn’t one of them.

“No, we are two grown adults who make mutually beneficial decisions and this was one of them. If he hadn’t agreed with it we would have found another option. Now shut the fuck up and come eat,” I wasn’t as angry as I sounded, and both boys knew it, but as I got further along in the pregnancy I noticed my tolerance and patience levels dwindling.

“Yes mother,” James murmured and sheepishly filled his plate, stopping to give me an awkward side hug before taking a seat. I rolled my eyes as they both sat there giggling.

We sat around the table like a happy family, eating and catching up on one another’s summer activities. Beau had spent most of the off season in California and James had gone home to Ontario, neither of them had any riveting or scandalous stories to tell me and I was admittedly disappointed. They were clearing the dishes and horsing around as I sat at the counter texting Sidney, hoping to catch him alone, when the doorbell rang. I wasn’t expecting anyone, so when I opened the door to find Pascal and his oldest daughter on the other side I was pleasantly surprised.

“We thought someone might want to come home to her mama,” Pascal grinned and came in carrying Luna’s pink kennel.

“Thank you,” I beamed and took the crate from him, immediately taking my scared black cat out and holding her tightly against me. “I’ve missed you kitty cat,” I purred, scratching the soft spot behind her ear. The house suddenly felt a little less lonely knowing I’d have her to sleep with me tonight.

“Sid thought you might want her back sooner rather than later.”

“I was going to call you tomorrow morning, today has been kind of crazy,” I admitted, still holding Luna tight in my arms and inviting them into the living room.

“I’ll bet,” he chuckled. “What a schmuck, leaving you to settle in all on your own.”

“Right?” I laughed, shaking my head. Schmuck was mild compared to what I’d wanted to call him the day he reminded me he was leaving as soon as we got home.

“Duper!” the boys cheered as they entered the room, still pushing each other into the walls.

“Young Miss Duper!” Beau added, addressing the blushing nine year old.

“Hi Beau,” she giggled, clinging to her dad’s side. I couldn’t blame her for the blush on her cheeks as he smiled at her. I can’t say I wouldn’t have had the same reaction if I was ten years younger and single. Despite Beau having taken on a role as ‘practice son’ there was no denying he was a looker.

“You two fruitcakes tormenting this poor woman?” Pascal joked.

“Nah, she made dinner so we’ll give her a break for a few minutes,” James shrugged and flopped down on the couch beside me. The force of his weight caused the couch to shift and he threw his arm lazily over the back of it and behind me.

“Gee, thanks,” I nudged him playfully, still holding Luna close to me.

“Bea can take it,” Beau patted me on the head like a dog, “She’s not THAT pregnant.”

“I heard about that!” Duper smiled. “Congratulations, you guys must be thrilled.”

“We are,” Beau answered for me, jumping over the back of the couch and sitting on the other side of me, leaving me sandwiched between two obnoxious man children.

“Absolutely delighted,” James added.

“Couldn’t be happier,” Beau said.

“It’s a true blessing.”

“God’s miracle.”

“Precious gift.”

I sat there watching them go back and forth, trying to hide my smirk. They were obviously making up for their good behaviour at the wedding and the months of peace I’d had.

“Pretty much,” I shrugged when they’d run our of stereotypical phrases to recite.

“It’s going to be a girl,” James declared. “No doubt about it, the universe is not so unbalanced that Crosby would have a boy.”

“Bullshit,” Beau rolled his eyes. “Definitely a boy, no doubt about it, the stars are aligned, the next Sid is among us.”

“$100 bucks!” James cried, startling Luna out of my arms and sending her running into the kitchen to hide. I had half a mind to join her, but I knew they’d find me.

“You’re on,” Beau reached across me and they shook on it.

“You both need to calm down, maybe it’s a girl who is the next Sid, or maybe it’s a boy who will be a really awesome jazz dancer. Or maybe it won’t decide to identify as either. Maybe I’ll have a totally bitchin’ androgynous gender fluid child who will kick both of your asses and hate hockey.” They both stopped and looked at me in horror, as if they had never heard something so ludicrous in their lives. I was ready to give them a lesson on the gender spectrum when Beau shook his head mournfully.

“How could you say that about your own child?” He took my hand in his. “Not liking hockey? God Bea, that’s just unnatural.”

“Might not want to let Sid hear you say that,” Duper chuckled.

 

Pascal and his daughter didn't stay much longer, after witnessing the Neal and Bennett comedy hour they headed home with the excuse that bedtime was drawing near. But not before Duper gave Beau and James serious instructions to clean out the litter box and not let me anywhere near it. I watched in amusement as they both wrinkled their noses and reluctantly agreed. I made a mental note to learn how to bake and bring the Dupuis family an extra thank you treat just for that little lecture.

The three of us sat in the living room, Beau and James battling each other on the Xbox while I scrolled through the mommy blogs I swore I’d never read. Before getting pregnant I’d figured mommy blogs were just slightly narcissistic women showing each other up online, but now sixteen weeks along I realized they were more like the WebMD of pregnancy. I read in horror the account of one woman who’d thought she was having twins but later found one had eaten the other and she was left with one healthy alpha baby and a horrible mental image of uterine Hunger Games. But the pregnancy stories had nothing on the accounts of toddlers with poop in their hair and babies peeing in the mouth of the person changing them. I shuttered and closed the screen, scarred by the stories I’d read. Surely my little crotch creature would come out refined and well mannered. It had to, there was no way I could handle explosive diapers and projectile vomiting, and I was a medical professional. If I couldn’t deal with the potentially disgusting bodily functions of this tiny human, Sidney would be screwed.

 

Meeting the midwife alone bothered me more than I thought it would. We sat in the kitchen drinking tea and discussing the formalities of being under her care, and I couldn’t help but be embarrassed that Sidney wasn’t with me. Her name was Clementine and she’d delivered nearly 100 babies in her career, she wore loose fitting tunics and reminded me of my mother.

“So you have no problem signing a confidentiality agreement?” I asked her for the third time, sitting anxiously at the table.

“Not at all, confidentiality is an important part of all pregnancies and births, but if you’d like me to sign something because of your situation I’m more than happy to. Part of my job is to make sure you’re comfortable, Bea,” she smiled kindly and signed the form Sidney’s lawyers had prepared the same day we’d gone to talk to them about prenuptial agreements.

“I’m an asshole if I ask you to sign one and a fool if I don’t.” Sidney had told me while we waited in Nova Scotia for his Pittsburgh based lawyers to call. “I think I’d rather be a fool than an asshole, because if I don’t have you it doesn’t really matter how much money is in my bank account.” The sincerity in his words had left me tearing up and clinging to him, and echoed in my mind still.

“I really appreciate it,” I took the forums from Clem and put them in an envelope for safe keeping, Sidney could deal with the legal stuff later. “I’m really sorry Sidney isn’t here, I know he really wanted to meet you.”

“I understand,” she rest her hand on top of my comfortingly. “These things happen, especially in his line of work. How are you doing though, with him being away?”

I looked at her and tried to find the right words. Despite having only just met her, I trusted Clementine. There was a warmth in her matter of fact way of explaining everything that made me feel safe. She was older, but I felt her youthful energy.

“I’m…” I began, but found myself lost. “I’m angry,” I finally said, admitting my true feelings for the first time. “I’m angry that I’m so upset, and I’m angry that his job takes precedence over everything, and I guess I’m angry that I thought it would be any other way. I should just be happy that he’s got an amazing job and that I have him.” I shook my head and rest my forehead in my palm.

And then she said the one thing I needed to hear, “Your emotions are valid. Everything you’re feeling is okay and you have every right to feel the way you do.”

I heard the heartbeat for the first time that day. All the anger and hurt melted away when the whooshing sound with the rapid beats came through the speakers of Clem’s doppler machine. The overwhelming realization that there was more to my life than me hit me like a ton of bricks and I lay on the couch with tears pouring down my cheeks and Clem by my side holding the transducer against my stomach. She followed the heartbeat for nearly half an hour, allowing me to take a sound clip to send Sidney, before I let her move on with the examination. We didn’t do an ultrasound or any of the amniocentesis tests that a doctor might have offered, but I knew the minute I heard that heartbeat that Beau was right, it was a boy and I didn’t need high grade medical equipment to tell me that, I had my first dose of mother’s intuition and there was no way I could be wrong.

Chapter Text

The minute Sidney walked through our front door I was on him like white on rice. I didn’t care that his agent and the Penguins’ publicist had followed him into the house, or that I usually wasn’t the overly affectionate clingy type. All I could think about was overwhelming sense of relief that came when his face appeared in the door way. Having him home gave me a calm I’d been desperately craving, like I could finally breathe after holding my breath for so long. I held onto him as if my life depended on it, as if somehow having his arms around me was my only hope of finding true repose.

“I missed you too,” he chucked in reaction to my body colliding with his and my arms snaking around his waist.

“Missed is an understatement,” I said with my face pressed into his neck. “I’m locking you in the basement for the next month if you try to leave me again. 18th century France style with a pole and a short chain.”

“That’s so romantic,” he kissed my cheek and guided me backwards into the kitchen, shuffling with our arms still wrapped around each other. “I’d like nothing more than to stay like this for the rest of the day, Sweetie, but we have to talk to these guys about some important stuff. They hijacked me as soon as I landed.” He held my face between his big hands, squishing my cheeks as he kissed me.

I glared at him for a minute, annoyed that he couldn’t have at least given us a day alone before bringing people over to talk shop. But it was impossible to stay angry with him after spending so many nights apart yearning for his presence. Leaving my left arm around his waist I turned to our guests and channeled my inner happy wife.

“How are y’all doing?” I grinned at them, laying it on thick as if I was Pittsburgh’s answer to Tami Taylor. “Can I get you anything?”

“Do you have any sparkling?” Dominic, the team’s publicist who I’d met only a few times before, asked before taking a seat at the dining room table.

“Still water for me, Beatrice,” Pat, Sid’s agent, replied taking another chair at the table .
“I’m good, babe,” Sid followed suit and I was left without his touch, expected to bring the drinks. Despite my offering I was taken aback by their expectation that I would cater to them. An experienced wife of a high profile athlete might not have given the role a second thought, but being only a few weeks into the job I was not impressed with their requests.

I opened the fridge, searching for a bottle of mineral water I thought I’d seen hidden at the back, muttering to myself about the ridiculousness of requesting sparkling water at someone’s house. Was I the only person in the world who thought carbonated water was disgusting? I found it tucked between a bottle of wine I wouldn’t be able to drink and a jar of maraschino cherries I couldn’t wait to pound back, and begrudgingly filled a glass for Dom, then joined them at the table with both still and sparkling water in tow.

They’d already started without me, so I sat quietly with my arm wrapped around Sidney’s. I hadn’t previously disliked Dom or Pat, but the longer I sat while they ignored me in my own home, the more I could feel the anger rising in me. They talked back and forth, deciding things that would directly impact my life, without giving me so much as a look. Sid occasionally squeezed my thigh, as if trying to assure me that he knew I was here, but it did little to comfort me. Pat and Dom were discussing Sidney’s sponsorship deals for the upcoming season when I felt my patience run out.

“Do I need to be here?” I interrupted them loudly slapping my hand against the table. “Because if I don’t need to be involved in this I’m not sure why you all had to meet today, in my house, when I haven’t seen my husband in a week.” I could feel the heat rising in my cheeks as suddenly all eyes were on me. It was Sidney’s gaze though that worried me the most. I refused to look him in the eyes, but I could he him staring at me slack jawed and alarmed. No one said anything, the three men just sat there, watching me as if I’d broken some kind of unspoken rule. A rule stating that I should be seen and not heard.

“I’m sorry, I’m just… tired and…” I stammered, trying to backtrack and fix what I might have done.

“No, don’t be sorry,” Sidney slipped his fingers between mine. “She’s right guys. I’m not exactly sure why we need to do this at my kitchen table before I’ve even unpacked. I was under the impression we were here to talk about a media statement. But if somehow I’m mistaken, we need to reschedule, perhaps to a time when my wife and I have had a chance to discuss the coming season in private.” He spoke with such certainty and dominance that a part of me swelled with pride. I’d never seen him address anyone so strongly. It was evident to all of us that Sidney was on my side and the empowering feeling that came with that made it hard not to grin.

“Right then,” Pat shuffled the papers in front of him and shot Sidney a look. It occurred to me that he probably thought I was some kind of controlling bitch. A gold digger who had coerced him into not signing a prenup and gotten pregnant on purpose. But I was surprisingly unfazed by that possibility. I usually hated the idea of someone thinking ill of me, perhaps it was my growing frustration as a result of pregnancy hormones, or knowing that Sidney would defend me, but I couldn’t make myself care about Pat or Dom.

“So Sidney has informed us that you two got married,” Dominic began. He spoke with little emotion in his voice, as if my slight outburst had sucked all the energy out of him.

“That’s correct,” I matched his tone and met his eyes with an icy stare. I could play his game just as well as he thought he could.

“And you’re pregnant,” Pat added, avoiding my eyes.

“Yes,” I turned my attention to him, the same monotone coldness to my words.

“Our concern with this of course is how it will be received by the media. We’d like to release a statement sooner rather than later about this development in Sidney’s life. Given that in their eyes he’s continued to be a bachelor this past year, you’ll have to understand how this might not be received too kindly by the public,” Dom enlightened me. As if I didn’t already know.

“I don’t see why we can’t just hold a press conference, answer the questions they have, and leave it at that.” Sidney shook his head in frustration and and ran his free hand through his wavy hair.

“Are you willing to sit there for three hours and answer everything?” Dom turned to Sidney. “Better yet, are you okay if there is fallout? Releasing all the information at once might be too much. You’ll be hounded.”

“You’re saying this as if he isn’t already followed by the media,” I rolled my eyes. We’d spent the duration of our relationship hiding from the public, avoiding public displays of affection, telling anyone who asked I was a team representative sent to help him. I was tired of hiding and more than willing to answer questions if it meant living an honest life.

“It will be worse,” Pat warned. “This is a lot to put on people at once.”

“I think you’re underestimating fans.” Sid closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “But that aside, I think I can speak for Beatrice too when I saw I’m sick of hiding from people. I want to ensure our safety of course, and that this works out positively for the team, but I’m not willing to sacrifice my personal life any longer.” I was falling in love with him all over again, watching him speak with such finality, his jaw set and his hair pushed back.

“Fine,” Dom sighed. “If you want to do a press conference I’ll arrange it for this week. We’ll need you both present and I need a day before to have a P.R team brief you on everything.”

“Great,” he finally smiled and I watched the tension start to fade from Sidney’s face. “But we’re covering everything within reason. No secrets, no stories,” He looked from Dom to Pat then back to Dom and they both nodded in agreement.

“I’ll call you with the details,” Dom gathered his papers and stood from the table, we all joined him and the men shook hands, our guests barely acknowledging me before letting themselves out.

We stood in silence for a few moments before I turned to Sidney with a rush of emotion coursing through my veins.
“What the fuck was that?” I cried, pushing back the tears that threatened to spill out of my eyes.

“I’m not entirely sure,” he chuckled and pulled me into his chest. “I’ve never seen anyone stand up to them like that.”

“Sorry about that,” I looked up at him, my chin leaning against his chest and my hands holding tightly to the fabric of the back of his shirt. “I need to work on keeping my mouth shut.”

“No way,” he scoffed, a sly smile appearing on his lips. “It was kind of hot.”

“Was it now?” I looked at him seductively and let my hands slowly move to his front then down to his belt. I fiddled with the metal buckle at looked up at him with a lazy smirk.

“Absolutely,” he pressed his lips roughly against mine and gently pushed my back and onto the table, his hand moving to cradle my head. I briefly considered that our concentrated weight on the middled of the dining room table might break it, but my focus quickly shifted to the feeling of his hands slipping up my shirt. After a long, lonely week apart, I was more that thrilled to be laying under him in the middle of the dining room.

 

“Sidneeyy,” I whined from the bathroom, where I sat on the edge of the tub with my head in my hand.

“What’s wrong,” he ran in, shirt half buttoned and pants still open. His hair was still wet and shaggy, the ends starting to curl around his neck and face.

“I don’t know what to wear,” I looked up at him pathetically. This was a serious situation, now well into the second trimester of pregnancy the struggle to find clothes that were comfortable and appropriate was real. Sidney had told me on more than one occasion to take the credit card and ‘for the love of god go buy what ever you need to be happy,’ and while I appreciated the gesture, the thought of trying to find clothes to accommodate my now even larger body made me squirm with anxiety. So instead of venture out to the mall or a big box maternity store, I lived in oversize t-shirts and leggings, and complained about it regularly. Given that we hadn’t gone anywhere more exciting than the rink or the grocery store since he got home, it didn’t seem like that big a deal.

“I told you this was going to be a problem,” he shook his head and continued buttoning his shirt. It was true, he’d suggested days ago that I buy something to wear for the press conference.

“Well it’s too late now,” tears of frustration form in my eyes and I tried to wipe them away with the back of my hand, which caused my eye make up to smear and the tears to come even faster. “We have to be at the rink in an hour, and I’m an idiot.”

“You’re not an idiot,” Sidney shoved his shirt into his pants then did up the button. He was wearing the white dress shirt and dark grey pants combo I’d laid out for him the night before. He looked like he belonged in a magazine spread.

“I am,” I sobbed. “My shoes don’t even fit properly anymore,” I motioned to a pair of red heels that lay discarded next to the toilet.

“Are you sure nothing in your closet fits you? Not even one of poofy dresses?”

I shook my head and cried even harder. It wasn’t that I hadn’t thought about this day and what I’d wear. I’d thought about it everyday for the past week. I’d just spent so much time focusing on the briefing notes Dominic had given us than I’d neglected to actually check my closet. My original plan had been to wear a black A-line dress with my favourite yellow cardigan. But instead of being the perfect outfit I had in mind, the dress had refused fit my stomach and suffocated my chest causing it to spill out over the top. The black dress I’d once regarded as a staple in my wardrobe met the same fate as the shoes and was crumpled on the floor.

“Okay,” he let out a sigh and pushed his hand through his hair. “Fix your makeup and I guess we’ll stop along the way, if you’re quick I think we’ll have enough time.”

“Really?” I sniffled and wiped at my cheeks with both hands.

“Well it’s not like you can meet the press in a hoodie,” he finally cracked a smile, then turned back to the bedroom.

I quickly brushed my teeth and wiped the smudged black marks from under my eyes and down my cheeks. My hair, no longer bleach blonde but rather an auburn brown, was curled and sprayed firmly into place. I zipped one of his hoodies over my hips and chest, then raced down the stairs to meet him at the front door, checking the time along the way. We had forty-five minutes to find me an outfit and make it to the rink in time.

“Why are you wearing those?” Sid pointed to a pair of his black converse that I was shoving my feet into. He’d worn them maybe four times but they’d come in handy with my feet too swollen and big to fit into my own collection of shoes.

“Because I can’t wear flip flops?” I shrugged and knelt down to tie the laces.

“And my shoes aren’t too big?” he cocked an eyebrow and I could feel him watching me fiddle with the white laces.

“They’re prefect actually,” I pulled the bow of the last shoe tightly and stood up slowly. “Your feet are like a size bigger than mine, we’ve gone over this.”

He didn’t say anything, instead just shook his head and opened the front door, ushering me out before him.

 

It took twenty minutes of Sidney pointing out different dresses in the store for me to find something I deemed acceptable. I settled on a stretchy black v-neck dress that came just below my knees and didn’t make me feel like a sack of potatoes, and a green cardigan. I figured it was about as NHL WAG as I was going to get in such a short timeframe, and with my white and grey striped scarf looped around my neck, it didn’t look half bad with the converse.

I’d been waiting for the nerves to set in all morning, but it wasn’t until we pulled into the parking lot of CONSOL that I started feeling light headed and uneasy. I knew that on the other side of the big metal door a large group of reporters and media personnel had gathered to hear what Sidney had to say, completely unaware of the news he was about to drop. It wasn’t abnormal for the Penguins to call a press conference, especially not this close to the season starting, but this wasn’t like the normal media statements. Sidney wasn’t there to talk about his health or the games he planned to win, he was there to divulge the status of our previously clandestine relationship. They’d all warned me- the PR staff, Sidney, and Pat- that after today my life wasn’t going to be the same. And while I claimed to understand the gravity of that, there was no way I could have. Although I’d seen what Sidney went through on a daily basis, trying to dodge the attention, I’d never been the recipient of the attention and it was that focus that terrified me the most. But I reasoned that a little media scrutiny was far better than living life in hiding.

“Ready?” he squeezed my hand as we stood at the door to the rink, flashing me a wide smile as if to tell me it was going to be okay.

“Yeah,” I let out the deep breath I’d been holding and dropped his hand.

We walked down the hallway like strangers, not touching, not interacting, just two people headed to the same room. It was an act that had become second nature to me. I watched him walking casually a few feet ahead of me, his grey suit jacket moving with every wide stride he took. His outfit was perfectly tailored, his hair was neat and pushed out of his face, I felt awkward and underdressed in comparison. My body felt like it belonged to someone else and although I liked my new dress and sweater, I felt like an impostor, some raggedy girl off the street who was just pretending to be the wife of a public figure.

Pat greeted us outside the door of the press room, still cold and uncomfortable around me. After exchanging a few words with Sid motioned for us to follow him, and before I could prepare myself we were face to face with at least thirty people who were all waiting to hear from him. I tripped on my own feet and stumbled through the door, holding onto the frame to steady myself, then leaning on the wall between Dan and Mario who were in a group of team executives. I was given the option to sit with Sidney on stage, but in that moment I couldn’t find the courage to walk under the bright lights.

“Thank you all for coming,” Sidney began. He spoke so calmly and stood in front of the cameras and curious eyes as if it was completely natural. “With the season only a few weeks away, I thought it was important I personally call a press gathering to discuss a few things.” He glanced at me so subtly only I would notice and I saw the corner of his mouth twitch.

“As I’m sure you’re all aware, I very rarely discuss my personal life. I am of the firm belief that what I do on-ice is far more important than what I do off of it, but today I make an exception. This past August I gathered with friends and family and in a small ceremony married my girlfriend, Beatrice Keller.” Sidney paused as the rest of the room came to life. Quickly, the reporters began firing questions at him as he stood at the podium grinning, eyes focused on me.

“I promise I’ll answer any questions you might have in just a few minutes,” he continued, speaking over the crowd and suddenly seeming more relaxed. “First of all, I can’t believe I can finally say that out loud,” he chuckled. “Beatrice and I met in October of last year when she joined out medical team. You might recognize her as the woman behind the bench at many of our games. Our relationship quickly evolved into that of a romantic nature and I am confident in saying the past year has been the best of my life. We chose to keep our relationship out of the public for many reasons, but both feel it is important that our marriage not be a secret. I’m actually kind of amazed no one caught onto it.” Everyone laughed and waited for him to continue, like dogs waiting to be fed.

“While the new of my recent marriage may come as a shock to you, I promise I have more. Shortly after our engagement, Beatrice and I found out we’re expecting a new member of the family in the new year.” Once again the room was full of chattering voices and Sidney watched with the same smile plastered to his face. “With that said, I’m not open to taking any questions you may have.” He’d barely finished speaking when hands shot up in the air. I held my breath and hoped their questions were what we’d rehearsed.

“Congratulations,” a balding reporter began. “Really exciting news. Just wanted to check in and see how you’re recovering from jaw surgery.”

“Fully healed,” Sid answered. “Everything went well and I’m more than ready to get back to the game.’

“Just to clarify, Sid,” another spoke up. “By new member of the family you mean your new wife is pregnant, right?”

“Yes, with a baby, a human baby.” He glanced at me again and I had to fight back the giggles at hearing out private joke out loud.

“How is Beatrice doing? Do you know what you’re having?”

“I’m not a pregnancy expert but I’m told that everything is going smoothly and we can expect the baby will be here before the Olympic break. I’m also told we won’t know what we’re having until he or she is born.”

“Can we meet the new Mrs. Crosby?”

“I was waiting for this one,” Sid laughed. “I would advise not calling her Mrs. Crosby, we have both chosen to hyphenate our last names to Keller-Crosby. I’m not sure how she’s feeling right now, but I’ll let you guys know.” Everyone began looking around the room, searching for the mysterious wife of Sidney Keller-Crosby. I wanted to fade away, sink into the wall and become invisible. Without a word, Dan shifted so he was half in front of me, and taking the coach’s silent cue, Mario did the same. I stood in the safety behind them, able to catch my breath and evaluate the situation.

“Does that mean you’ll be changing the name on your jersey?” the questions began again.

“Not at all. My name change is purely a personal legal choice and will not effect my career at all.”

I went over the pros and cons in my head, joining him on stage seemed daunting, but not joining him meant putting off the inevitable. We both knew that the more open we were the better the interactions with the press would be. It was like ripping off a bandaid, it needed to be done quickly and that moment was as good as any. I gave myself a second, then tapped Mario on the shoulder.

“I want to go up,” I whispered to him, my voice shaking and palms sweating.

“That’s a good choice,” he smiled and moved to my side, placing his hand on my shoulder and giving me a reassuring squeeze. “Don’t worry, you’ve got this,” he said before dropping his hand and nudging me forward.

I slowly made my way to the front of the room, trying to ignore the people around me and focusing instead on Sidney, who continued to answer questions. My hands were shaking and the edges of my vision felt blurry, but kept moving, one foot in front of the other, my heart beating so strongly I could feel it in my jaw. There was a fluttering in my stomach and my knees felt knobby, but I didn’t turn back. I’d reached the edge of the stage before Sidney stopped talking.

“It looks like we have an answer to your earlier question,” he stopped in the middle of telling them about how excited he was about the players acquired in the off season. I felt the attention shift to me, I couldn’t meet the eyes of the crowd watching me and instead watched as Sidney walked towards me, grinning. He took my hand in his and helped me up the stairs, then together, in public for the first time, we walked hand in hand to the podium.

Chapter Text

It was a full moon that night. Hours after the last picture was taken and I’d answered the last question for the fourth time, I stood on the back deck staring up at the sky. My hands shoved into the pockets of the hoodie I’d taken from Sidney’s side of the closet and my head tiled back I tried to think of all the times I’d seen the moon so swollen and bright. The number was give or take 319. Three- hundred and nineteen times before, the moon had sat in the sky fully illuminated and glowing above me. But I couldn’t have noticed it more than a dozen times, I hadn’t spent hours of my life staring at the dark vast sky thinking about the world. I’d been more occupied with keeping my head above water and living. So much of my life had been spent just trying to survive. At least half of it had been dedicated to fighting the battles that raged inside my head, my own mental civil war dividing and conquering all other aspects of my life. The night air was crisp and heavy with the hopeful promise of autumn. I’d always favoured the dull smell of decaying leaves and the slowly declining temperatures to the obnoxious heat and sun that came with summer. Fall came so unpretentiously, so matter of factly, it was a gentle transition for most places into the frigid temperatures of winter. It was the warm cradle of darkness that came before rock bottom. It was home.

I stood with the night air filling my lungs and the silence of the neighbourhood taunting my ears, I knew at that very moment hundreds of journalists sat at their desks trying to craft the perfect article detailing my debut as Sidney’s wife. They poured over their keyboards, typing and deleting adjectives that might accurate describe me to those who weren’t in that room. To these people I was the newest development in the ongoing story of Sidney Crosby, lucky if I got a chapter in his biography. To them everything about me came secondary to being Sidney’s wife. My career was a fun fact, my preferences obsolete, I existed as a part of Sidney, the mother of his child and nothing more. It was nearly impossible for me to accept that notion without feeling the flames of anger growing inside of me, licking my stomach with their fiery tentacles. I wanted to be more, then again, I always wanted more.

 

After the camera crews had packed up and the journalists had wished us well, Sidney and I sat on an overstuffed, black couch in Mario’s office listening to the grains of wisdom he generously offered us.

“It wasn’t like this when I started out,” he told us. “We didn’t have the internet, I was a hockey player, not a celebrity.”

“It’s not that bad,” Sidney shook his head and casually rest his arm over the back of the couch.

“That’s because you don’t do anything,” I teased. “If you were at all engaged in social media you’d see how bad it is.”

“Or if he went out at all,” Mario added and I nodded in agreement, exchanging a smile with the man I’d previously gone out of my way to avoid, after the skating in my underwear incident.

“I guess,” he shrugged and wrapped one of my curls around his finger, fiddling with the end of it.

“Anyway, I don’t envy either of you.” Mario sat in in plush chair across from us, holding a bottle of water in his lap. “When you wake up tomorrow your lives are going to be splashed across newspapers, your names will be all over the internet and I have no doubt that the next few weeks will be a little crazy.”

I looked at both men, concerned and on the verge of being overwhelmed by the thoughts starting to race through my mind. I’d spent so long trying to prepare myself for the inevitable insanity, it wasn’t as if I’d just learned of Sidney’s status in the world of professional sports. I’d known from the moment I started kissing him on the kitchen counter that he came with his own baggage of sorts. Still, hearing it straight from Mario, who I’d come to know as quite a calm person, made me squirm with anxiety.

“It’ll be fine,” Sid spoke firmly. It didn’t matter how much or how little I tried to hide my emotions anymore, in the end Sidney was going to pick up it. “I think we need to give fans more credit, but just stay off the internet and it’ll be fine.”

 

I woke up the morning after the reveal to my phone vibrating angrily on the table beside me and a dozen unread text messages waiting. I’d gained over a thousand new twitter followers, and suddenly people I hadn’t heard from in years were incredibly eager to get a hold of me.

“Hello?” I groaned into the phone, rolling onto my back and wiping sleep out of my eyes.

“Trix!” Her voice rang out like a bell in the night. Her distinct, high pitched tone and the way she elongated the ends of words gave away her identity almost immediately.

“Camilla Morris,” I sat up slowly rubbed my face with my free palm. “Do you have any idea what time it is?”

“It is 8:49am in Philadelphia, so I guess it’s about 8:49am in Pittsburgh.”

“Smart ass,” I grumbled, now fully awake.

“So, you’re married?” I could almost see her tipping back in her chair, twirling one of her coppery curls around her fingers and smirking.

“I think that’s what the legal documents said.” Although Millie and I had reconciled after her interesting behaviour at our dinner party months earlier, I wasn’t exactly in the mood to talk to her, especially not first thing in the morning.

“Well, congratulations, I guess,” the enthusiasm has slipped from her voice and immediately felt bad for not being just a little nicer.

“Thank you,” I tried to brighten up. “We’re…”

“Why didn’t you tell me you went back to him?” she interrupted me before I could give her the standard ‘we’re so happy.’

“I’m…”

“Do you know how strange it is to wake up and see your ex-girlfriend has married a celebrity? Better yet to learn about it from the fucking newspaper?” her tone was just as angry as the words she spat at me. I sat in bed, stunned and speechless.

“No actually, I don’t know how strange it is because you haven’t married a celebrity as far as our newspapers have reported,” I tried to lighten the mood.

“I can’t believe you Beatrice!” she was steps away from screaming. “I spoke to you a month ago, for two hours! The only thing you told me was that you were home and that you were considering opening an amusement park for cats. And when I text you a few weeks before that you told me Serena was in Russia and your mother was writing another book. And before that we talked about how sad it was that Amanda Bynes was losing her marbles. Not once did you tell me you were back with Mr. Superstar, or that you were getting married, or they you were pregnant!”

Everything she said was true. We’d texted and Skyped throughout the summer. Our relationship was nothing more than platonic, nothing I wouldn’t show Sidney if he’d asked- but he hadn’t asked, and knowing his feelings about Millie I didn’t offer up the information. It wasn’t technically lying, and it definitely wasn’t cheating, but keeping my contact with her a secret wasn’t the best decision I’d ever made. My intentions were good, I wanted to keep our lives as drama free as possible, but my execution sucked. I realized then that I was stupid to think my relationship past or present with Millie could cause a rift between Sidney and I, he was above that.

“In my defence I didn’t know I was pregnant until June,” I tried pathetically to reason with her.

“You fucking dope we’ve spoken twice since then! And that’s not including the random text messages!”

“Look, it’s not the easiest thing to tell someone, okay?” I said.

“C’mon, it takes two seconds to text me saying ‘getting hitched, knocked up, lol.’ Or maybe even send an invitation to the wedding?” This was hardly the first time Mille had been angry with me, in fact her emotionally charged words brought back memories of our entire relationship, but this was the first time I felt like I was completely in the wrong.

“I didn’t want to hurt you,” I finally admitted.

“So instead you let me think that maybe if I gave you enough space we could be together again? That you had some interest in me. Because why else, after everything we’ve been through, would you text me?” she was crying and if she didn’t stop I would be too.

“I didn’t…” I stammered.

“Let me guess, you didn’t think?” she sniffled. “Honey that’s not new at all, you never think.”

“I’m sorry,” my voice shook. “I’m so sorry.”

“How can I be so in love with someone I hate so much?” she sobbed through the phone. “Do you get some kind of sick pleasure out of hurting me? Because if you do just tell me. Because then it’ll be okay because you’ll be happy. But other than that I don’t understand why you keep doing this?”

“Doing what?” I cried, kicking off the covers and sitting on the edge of the bed.

“Making me feel like I matter, then reminding me I’m scum.” She took a jagged breath and I clung to the sheets beneath me, gripping them so tightly my knuckles throbbed. “I knew I loved you within days of meeting you, but still you made it seem like I had to jump through hoops to be with you, and when I finally got you, you decided to move. No one asked me if I wanted to move, you just decided it. I had to choose between my life and you. I fucking chose you Beatrice! I quit my job, left my home, and followed you to a strange town in a shitty apartment. But I loved you, so I tried to make it work. I tried to emulate the perfect partner, but that’s hard to do when your girlfriend is never home. Still, I tried because I loved you. I left when you told me to because I loved you and I came back when you begged because it hurt to exist without you. And years later it still hurts to exist without you even though you do nothing but hurt me. When I ended it once and for all I did it because I was so scared you would that I couldn’t think straight. I didn’t want to lose you so I pushed you away.

But you know what makes this all worse? I was doing so well until you called me this spring crying about your boyfriend,I had a met someone new, but the second I heard you broke up with him all I could think about was how much I missed you. I told you everything you needed to hear that day, but when I got home it hurt to exist again and within a week I was single and waiting for you, again.”

“Millie,” my voice was tight and my mind scrambled trying to process everything she’d just told me. I’d never heard her side of our relationship, I’d never bothered to consider things from her perspective. In my eyes she was the bitch who pushed me away and acted like everything I did was wrong. I’d always seen myself as the victim in our wayward love story.

“No, don’t say anything. Don’t apologize. Just tell me you don’t still think of me when you’re alone. When he’s left you for the game and there’s no one to press your feet against. Tell me you’ve never once missed me.”

I couldn’t reply, because she was right. In fits of anger when Sidney was too busy to see me, or when his job had to come first, I missed her. I missed her gentleness, the grace in her movements, and I missed the effortless communication that came with being of the same gender identity. The unsaid words that filled our conversations and the comfort that comes with being with someone for as long as I was with her. But I loved Sidney. I loved him with a kind of fury and thundering passion that radiated my nerves and turned me into the person I’d only dreamed of being. I loved him for who he was, the kindhearted man who gave 110% with everything he did, the goofy boy who took care of me when I needed him and was slowly learning to let me do the same. I loved Sidney the person, I loved Millie the idea, I missed the idea of her and the good memories I’d saved. And although I felt a pang of nostalgia for her when I woke up in the middle of the night to an empty house, or when things didn’t feel like they were going right, I didn’t miss her. Not who she actually was.

“Look,” I began, but stopped when I heard the bedroom door open and saw Sidney walking in, still dressed in his gym shorts and damp t-shirt. “I have to go.”

“Don’t you dare hang up on me,” I heard her cry as I pulled the phone from my ear and pressed the end button.

Hanging up wasn’t the nicest or most mature thing I could have done, but I didn’t want to finish our conversation with Sidney in the room. It seemed wrong to start our morning on such a negative note. So I avoided it. I tossed my phone on the bed and when he asked who I was talking to I smiled and told him no one. I followed him into the shower and did everything I could to push Millie’s words out of my mind. I hid my guilt behind frantic kisses, and masked my shame with eager touching. It was so easy to avoid my emotions this way. Because I wasn’t ashamed of hiding my conversations from Sidney, or guilty that I’d had them. Of course I regretted not being honest with him, but my intense emotions came from knowing just how much I had hurt Millie. I wave of nostalgia washed over me again as he kissed his way down my neck, only it wasn’t for Millie, I was nostalgic for my life just moments ago, when I had no idea what I had done to her.

 

I should have known that waking up that way was an omen of the day to come. After our longer than expected shower, we had less than a half an hour to get ready and get to the rink for practice. I hurriedly pulled on a pair of too big maternity pants and a sweater, and tossed a dress in my bag for the dinner plans we had with the team and their wives that evening. I barely had time to brush my hair and tripped over my own feet while running down the stairs to meet Sidney. 

“For the love of god, Beatrice, be careful,” he lunged to catch me as I grabbed the railing.

“I’m okay,” I brushed him off and ran out the door with his shoes-that I’d claimed as my own- in my hand. “We’re late!” I called to him as I climbed into his truck.

“You say this like it’s my fault,” he got into his seat and leisurely started the engine. “Besides, aren’t you used to it by now? You’re late for everything.”

“Shut up,” I smacked him lightly. “I’m only late when you distract me.”

“Okaayyy,” he chuckled. “I just hope our daughter inherits my sense of time and direction.”

“We’re not having a daughter,” I rolled my eyes. I’d told him several times that I knew in my gut it was a boy, but he didn’t believe me. “At least not this time, this baby, the one in here has a penis, I can feel it, inside of me.”

“Sweetie,” he gave me a shocked look. “Think about what you just said!”

“You know what I mean,” I scowled.

“Yes, but in the future you might want to think about your words a little more. And besides that, unless you’ve had a secret scan behind my back we both know that your guess is as good as mine.”

“HE is inside ME! I win this debate and I always will, so go away.” I nudged him again then reached to turn on the radio.

“Again, word choice,” he smirked and pulled my hand into his lap.

We caught the tail end of a commercial for a car dealership and I waited for the music to start, hoping something irritatingly poppy would play just to annoying Sidney. Instead a man’s voice came on welcoming us back to 1250 sports radio. I instinctively turned it up and settled in to hear the latest trade rumours and hypothesis.

“So you think the Paajarvi-Perron trade was a good move for the Blues?” one of the men spoke.

“I think it was a better move for the Oilers, but Paajarvi has a lot of potential, fast skater, hard worker. I think it will benefit everyone in the end,” the other man stated. I had to agree with him, Paajarvi was an undervalued player who could do a lot for any team if given the opportunity.

“Fair enough,” the first one replied. “So let’s talk about this Crosby thing. If you ask me it’s all really weird. I mean one day he’s Pittsburgh’s most eligible bachelor and the next he’s saying he’s married with a kid on the way? Something about that is fishy. And no one knows anything about this chick. Sounds like a gold…” Sid smacked his hand against the volume before I could here what more this stranger on the radio had to say about me.

“Good thing no one asked his opinion,” Sidney grumbled and picked my hand up again, squeezing it.

“I’m fine,” I assured him. I wasn’t lying really, on a fundamental level I didn’t care what two middle aged men on the radio had to say about me, but on a surface level it bothered me just as much as it would bother anyone to hear that kind of thing being said about them in a public space.

“Do me a favour, please leave your phone in your office today,” he looked at me seriously after we’d parked outside the players’ entrance to the rink. “I know you think you can handle the criticism that might come, but you shouldn’t have to try. It’s not worth it. Just leave your phone in your office, or in my locker and don’t tempt yourself.” He was almost pleading with me, his eyes wide and brow wrinkled.

“Take it,” I said quietly and pulled my phone out of my purse. Sidney took it from me, pink sparkly case and all and kissed me lightly.

“Thank you,” he squeezed my hand again. “I’ll put it with mine in my bag.”

A few lonely reporters and fans were waiting for us outside the doors and Sid of course stopped to take pictures with anyone who asked. I tried to stay out of the way, acutely aware of the lenses focusing on me. I left before he was finished, rushing to the safety of the trainers room, away from prying eyes and curious cameras. After tossing my bag in my office I set to work organizing the stock in the bandage cupboards. It wasn’t the most important thing I could be doing, but the simple, solitary activity of placing the neatly packaged products in their designated spot was calming. Cathartic compared to the energy I’d just encountered outside.

I wasn’t alone for long, before I’d emptied the first box the room was bustling with players looking for heat, ice, and various other remedies. The preseason had only just begun but already we were getting into a nice routine. I was getting to know the new team members and already the replacement covering my maternity leave had been hired- a woman just a few years older than me named Haley. It was nice to have another female in the locker room and her experience in the AHL made her easy to train and comfortable around the guys. I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy though as I watched her effortlessly fit into the job; It had taken me so long to find my footing around everyone and in just a few months I’d be leaving. The thought of leaving the excitement of the team made my chest tighten and my emotions heat up. No matter how excited I was for the baby and our future, I wasn’t ready to give up my career. I hadn’t told Sidney yet, but I planned on finding a way to continue working by the next season.

“So what’s it like?” Haley asked as we sat alone in the trainers’ room after the players had left to start practice.

“What’s what like?” I looked up from the paperwork I was trying to fill out. I’d had to redo it once already and was reasonably agitated.

“Y’know… like being a celebrity and everything,”

“I’m not a celebrity,” I scoffed.

“Ohmygod you so are,” she cried over-enthusiastically. I wasn’t even close to being in the mood for her eager questions and excited tone. “Your face is on the front page of the paper!”

“Well that’s cool I suppose,” I replied drearily. I didn’t like the idea of being in the paper at all, but I wasn’t about to explain to her why.

“I didn't even know you two were together until I woke up and saw that. How did you keep it a secret for so long? What’s it like being married to someone so big?”

I had to chuckle at her last question, the double entendre could lead us into a very intimate conversation very quickly.

“We just did,” I tried to brush her off without being rude. “It’s what was best at the time.”

“And now you’re having a baby and married and the whole country knows about it, god you’re not going to be able to do anything without being on the news,” she beamed as if her reminder that I was suddenly in a semi-spotlight was some kind of compliment. The more I heard about it from different people, the more uncomfortable I became, my flight instincts kicked in and I wanted to be home again. close to the ocean and away from the attention. The notion that I might already be regretting my decision to go public with Sidney broke my heart. There wasn’t a fibre of my being that questioned my affection for him, every part of me was constantly abuzz with admiration and tenderness towards him. Yet I couldn’t help wishing he was wasn't his name. As selfish as it seemed I didn’t want to share him with anyone. I wanted him to be my Sidney and not number 87. But that wasn’t a new feeling, nothing about my irritation towards his status was new, it was just exaggerated by the free flowing emotions I was experiencing and the hormones that came with pregnancy.

“I’m going to go check the locker room stock,” I told Haley, ignoring her last comment completely and grabbing a notepad. It didn’t matter that I’d check the first aid cabinet a few days prior, I needed an excuse to get away from her questions and nattering.

I took my time in the locker room, carefully checking every shelf and box, ensuring everything they might need was neatly displayed and accessible. Without my phone I had no concept of how much time had passed and I was tempted to look for it in the perfect organization of Sidney’s stall. Reminding myself of his worried eyes and pleading earlier that day I pushed the idea from my mind and closed the cabinet. I needed to trust that he knew way he was talking about. In the interest of avoiding Haley, I went into the bathroom in the locker room, just as I had my first day. The differences between that moment and the year before were so abundant I could hardly believe I was the same person.

I sat with my maternity pants around my ankles, thinking of all of the things I’d endured in just 12 months, all of the happiness I’d experienced, all of the sadness I’d battled. When I sat in that same stall with my high waisted jeans and bright red lipstick, I’d simply hoped that I would be good at my job. I’d wanted my life to improve, my spirits to lift, I wanted to feel like I belonged somewhere. It was impossible not to believe in something as I evaluated everything I had been given. I’d found that improvement, that sense of belonging. I’d found someone to help me lift my spirits or at least survive when they were down. And as I smiled to myself, allowing the anxiety and frustration from the morning to drift away, I found one more thing; blood. I found blood. I found where there shouldn’t be blood at this point in the pregnancy. In less than a millisecond that anxiety and emotion I'd released into the world came slamming back to me, pummelling me in the chest and ripping the air from my lungs. Blood, fresh, red, and the last thing I wanted to see.

Chapter Text

Panic took over every part of me and I sat in horror, the red stained toilet paper still in my hand. My black underwear, too dark to show anything, had given me no warning of what I was about to encounter. The world around me spun and I lost all ability to comprehend where I was. Memories of baby Sara came flying back to me, Serena’s broke heart, her inability to fully recover. I heard a noise that I couldn’t recognize as my own and my only thought was how horribly I’d jinxed my life. I was naive to believe things could improve so substantially in such a short time frame.

I wanted to move, to clean myself up and go on with my day, maybe even forget what I assumed was happening. But instead I sat paralyzed, my head fuzzy despite the racing thoughts streaming through it in high definition clarity. Serena’s face, Sara’s body, the anguish, it all appeared as if being projected on the walls of my mind. Split second clips mixed in with terrorized thoughts of what could be happening to me.

And then it clicked. Something inside of me broke and I started moving faster than I thought possible. I discarded the toilet paper, pulled up my pants and frantically made my way to Sidney’s stall. I searched through his pockets, cursing myself for relinquishing my phone. I was rooting through his bag when I heard a voice behind me.

“Haley said you’d be in here..” Beau spoke casually. I spun around to face him, a pair of Sid’s boxers in my hand and what I imagine was a crazed look in my eyes. “Are you okay?” he took a few steps towards me, carefully, as if he was approaching a wild animal.

“No,” I heard my voice but didn’t recall speaking. “Go get Sidney, tell him it’s an emergency. Tell him I need him. Just get him.” I sounded surprisingly calm given my increased heart rate and shaking hands.

Beau turned, leaving me alone again. I stood dazed for a second, everything feeling surreal, then let my body crumble onto the floor. The funny thing was, I didn’t cry. I cried over commercials, I cried when I got a hole in my sock, I cried when there was no orange juice left, but sitting on the locker room floor after finding myself bleeding I was eerily emotionless. There was a little voice inside me screaming and sobbing, pushing for me to do the same, but the rest of my emotions were still under the haze of paralysis. Once again I had no idea how slowly or quickly time was passing. It felt like hours before Sidney came running into the room, but on the same hand it seemed as if I blinked and opened my eyes to find him with me.

“What’s wrong?” he threw his gloves off, and knelt in front of me, still dressed for practice. The strap of his helmet was undone and he pushed it off leaving it to fall onto the ground beside us with a crash.

“I need you to call Clementine. I can’t find my phone and I need Clem,” I replied. My appearance was so much calmer than I felt.

“What’s going on?” He reached behind me and grabbed his bag, quickly pulling my phone out of a zippered pocket inside. “Did you really interrupt the entire practice to get your phone?” he gave me a side-eyed glance then unlocked my phone.

“I’m sorry,” I let out a struggled breath. I don’t know why I didn’t tell him immediately what was happening. The logical thing to do would be to inform him of potential danger his child was facing. But instead I let him believe I’d disturbed practice for my own selfish reasons.

“Just tell me what’s going on,” he looked tired, frustrated, with his hair wet and pushed back and padded body towering over me.

“I need you to call Clem,” I said again. There was a battle raging on between my logical, functioning mind and the fear that had taken over every part of me.

“I know, I need to call Clem, but you need to tell me why,” He softened and took my shaking hand in his. Under normal circumstances I’d have pushed him away, not willing to touch his sweaty, freshly ungloved hands until he’d washed them. Gloves were by far one of the worst smelling pieces of hockey equipment in my experience.

I’d been around equipment my whole life and none of it was pleasant, but there was something potent about gloves. Hands themselves were strange. They served so many purposes, did so many things. When your hands are sticky you feel sticky all over, when they’re cold everything is cold, when they’re dirty nothing feels clean. Sidney had the steadiest hands I’d ever seen. While mine liked to fidget and play with things, his could stay completely still. I was his exception though. He liked to touch me, he liked to play with my hair and fingers. His usually still and calm hands were drawn to me and he was the first to admit it. But I liked it. I liked the feeling of his calloused fingers against my skin, or the warmth of his palm pressed against mine.

“Beatrice!” he shook my shoulders with enough vigour to pull my attention back to him. His hands felt heavy on me.

“I’m bleeding,” I finally told him, winning the fight against emotion. I felt cold inside. Almost as if I was feeling nothing at all.

 

Time suddenly sped up and before I could fully process everything Larry was calling the hospital, Sidney was dressed and I sat stunned in the front seat of his truck. Clem was meeting us at the hospital, Larry was calling to make sure we didn’t have to wait in the lobby and risk media attention, and I was supposed to be breathing. As ridiculous as it sounds, I wasn’t sure if I was feeling any physical pain, they tell you to breathe when you’re in pain, but I wasn’t sure what I was feeling. I wasn’t sure of anything. I knew that the lights were too bright, the sky was too white, and my face felt heavy. He drove with his steady hands, taking side streets to avoid traffic and shifting his focus between me and the road. But I did nothing, I just sat. I’d let the memories flood through my mind already and now every horrific thought seemed less threatening. I’d relinquished myself to the fact that I had failed and refused to allow myself to well up any false hope that may make it harder in the end.

We were taken to a private room immediately and my maternity pants were swapped for a hospital gown. Clem arrived soon after and was followed by a nurse and a sonographer pushing an ultrasound machine. She ignored the pleasantries and came directly to my side.

“We’re going to take care of you,” she told me. “We’re going to do an ultrasound, and you’re going to be okay, Beatrice.” Clem gave my shoulder a comforting squeeze and motioned for the sonographer to come closer with the ultrasound machine. It was all a blur. I’m sure they were introduced to me, but I couldn’t pick their faces out of a line up if I had to. I remember Sidney’s face, stone cold and terrified, with a fake smile plastered to his lips as he tried to keep my calm. But I was calm, I was eerily unresponsive to the emotions that were demanding to be felt.

“I’ve never had an ultrasound,” I said without thinking. “This is the first time we’ll see it, maybe.” The off the cuff remark seemed innocent, but as I watched Sidney shift uncomfortably and let out a subtle sigh I realized how selfish it was. I had had nearly an hour to go through the emotions and force myself into a state of numbness,
I was experiencing the terror first hand, but for Sidney this was fresh. He was forced to stand by and watch it all, no doubt thinking he needed to be strong for me.

“Is this your husband?” Clem asked me, knowing the answer to the question but very obviously trying to distract me as the ultrasound jelly was smoothed over my stomach by the high-frequency wand.

“Sid, this is Clementine” I looked up at him and took a deep breath. I didn’t listen to their introductions, instead I stared at the tiles of the ceiling and willed myself to feel something. The only emotion I could identify inside of myself was the frustration of not being able to feel anything. I heard their voices but didn’t join the tense and forced conversation. For the millionth time that day time seemed to be moving irregularly. Had I been there for hours? Days?

I didn’t try to fight the thoughts passing through my mind like cars on a freeway, fast and fleeting. I wasn’t going to be a mother. I’d finally understand Serena. I might lose Sidney. I might lose myself. Thoughts that would usually send me into a frantic tantrum came and went without evoking any response. It was as if they were facts that I had long ago come to terms with. I wondered if I hadn’t been waiting since the beginning of this to happen anyway, if it wasn’t just a self fulfilling prophecy.

“Oh thank god,” I heard Sidney say with a kind of joy that seemed misplaced. I turned my gaze to his his usually controlled face ruddy and wet with tears. “Did you hear them, sweetie?” he knelt down so his face was closer to mine. “The baby is okay. Everything is going to be okay.”

It took a moment to sink in, I repeated it in my mind again and again until I caught the full meaning of his words. He was okay. Our child was okay. Finally I felt something, relief. The same relief that was stolen from me the moment I saw blood, flowed back into me and I could feel myself beginning to defrost and his forehead pressed against mine and our tears landed together on the pillow. A surge of energy ran between us and it felt as if so suddenly I’d been brought back to life, shocked right in the chest and revitalized completely after being gone for so long.

 

After an uncomfortably invasive examination by a doctor, nurse, and Clementine I was diagnosed with a very unhappy cervix. Medically speaking I had a cervical polyp, a not uncommon condition that involves a benign growth on the inner cervix. Clem explained that with an increase in hormones and sped up metabolism, cervical polyps occasionally develop and are relatively harmless.

“I find the bleeding often happens after intercourse,” she looked at us with a knowing smile and I had to laugh as a blush crept from Sidney’s cheeks to his hairline.

“Please don’t say what I think you’re going to say,” I groaned.

“I’m not going to say stop, but I am going to say be careful,” she gave us both an apologetic smile. Sidney sat beside me, unable to make eye contact with anyone in the room.

“So basically we should go through the back door? Expand our sexual horizons? Go to fifth base?” I asked completely serious.

“Beatrice!” Sidney cried, his voice so high it was almost a shriek.

“What?” I turned to him. “It’s not like you weren’t thinking the exact same thing!”

“Actually, I wasn’t,” he shot me a comically concerned look.

“Liar,” I rolled my eyes and we turned back to Clem who was visibly trying not to laugh. The relief of finding out the baby was okay had left me slightly punch drunk.

“Just listen to your body. You know what is best for you, but you have to listen to yourself. I don’t want to remove it because anything remotely invasive so close to the uterus comes with risks I’m not eager to take. Make sure you keep an eye out for any bleeding and if it gets to be too heavy call me right away.” With Clem’s reassuring advice we left the hospital feeling lighter and calmer than when we arrived.

 

We drove home hand in hand, cancelling our dinner plans and opting instead to spend the night together on the couch. I was glad when he told me he’d rather stay home, because despite my improved mood I still wasn’t feeling 100%. And truthfully, after seeing his emotional reaction to everything that had just happened I wanted to stay as close to him as I physically could. The thought of sitting at dinner surrounded by people did not sit well with me, better yet, the thought of wearing real clothes and being in public didn’t sit well with me.

“Your phone has been vibrating non-stop for hours,” Sidney said as we changed in preparation for our exciting night in.

“Well can I have it?” I stood in front of him in just my underwear, no longer self-conscious of my protruding stomach and added weight. My heavy thighs and padded hips were nothing new, and while I found them unattractive, Sidney had made it very clear that he didn’t share my opinion.

“Do you want me to check it first?” he held the pink sparkly phone in his hand and shook off his pants. I had to remind myself of Clem’s warning and avert my eyes from his solid legs.

“Yeah,” I walked into the closet, heading directly for his side where I was more likely to find something comfortable.

“You have 400 notifications from Twitter, 32 emails, 47 text messages, 6 missed calls from Serena, 3 missed calls from Geno, so you actually have 9 missed calls from Serena, a call from your mum, and 2 missed calls from… Millie,” he appeared behind me in the closet. His tone shifted as he read off Millie’s name and I knew he was going to be eager for answers.

“I should call S back,” I reached to take my phone from him but he moved away. He wasn’t going to let me avoid the conversation.

“So you were talking to Millie this morning?” he pushed his hand through his hair.

“I was going to tell you tonight, when I wasn’t angry,” I leaned against the shelves and looked at the floor. “It wasn’t a pleasant conversation.”

“Is anything pleasant with her?” he said gruffly

“Well… yes… but I’m not going talk about that right now,” I teased.

“Why did she call?” he ignored my comment which felt a little insulting.

“She saw us in the paper. She was pissed I didn’t tell her.” I shrugged, hoping he’d drop it.

“Why? It’s not like you talk to her?” I could tell he was hesitant to ask, but that didn’t stop him from expecting I provide a thorough explanation.

“We talked a bit this summer. I called her when we were… not together.” I tried to remain confident, but I worried he would take it more seriously than it was. I couldn’t read the blank look on his face. “Without Serena I was… lost. I needed to talk to someone who wasn’t in our lives and she was there.” I admitted reluctantly.

We stood in silence for longer than I was comfortable with, then he finally rubbed his face with his free hand and sighed.

“I’m not going to say I’m not a little bothered, because you know how I feel about her. And I’m trying not to feel threatened. I trust you, I really do, but it bothers me that you didn’t just tell me.”

“I didn’t keep it from you like a secret, I just didn’t mention it because things were already hectic enough. It didn’t seem important.” I looked up at him, completely unsure where the conversation was going. I suspected that most husbands would not let it go easily, but I hoped that given our day Sidney wouldn’t insist on discussing the matter, because really, there wasn’t much to talk about.

“Alright,” he handed me the phone and pressed his hand against my stomach. “There are more important things in the world than who you do or don’t talk to. But for the future, you can tell me anything. Even if it’s about your ex-girlfriend.”

“I love you,” I kissed him chastely, still trying to avoid the temptation that came with him standing half naked in front of me.

“Oh good,” he chuckled. “I was worried we were just doing this for the media coverage.”

“And the sex,” I added.

“We’re not even going to talk about,” he grumbled. “Go call Serena before one of yous has a heart attack from going so long without contact or she ends up on our front stoop.”

“Oh baby, I love it when you talk Maritimer to me,” I pat his face with my hand and winked.

“What did I say?” he called after me confused, as I left the closet with a sweater draped over my arm.

“You said ‘yous’ and I love it,” I called back, dialling Serena’s number and going into the bathroom.

 

“Hi!” she answered after the first ring. “How are you? What happened? Are you alright? Geno said you went to the hospital, that Sid left in the middle of practice? But he didn’t know anything, I swear his english has gotten worse since we went to Russia.” she rambled on frantically.

“Everything is perfectly fine,” I said with a relaxed sigh and pushed myself onto the counter, sitting with my legs dangling over the edge. “The baby is completely fine. I had some bleeding but it’s nothing to worry about.”

“Bleeding?” she cried panicking, no doubt thinking the same thing I had just a few hours earlier. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I mean I have a polyp on my cervix, and after a heated conversation with Millie, the shower sex made it very unhappy.” I chuckled, trying to inject some cheerfulness into what was becoming a very serious conversation.

“Wait, hold on, Millie?” she ignored the medical mumbo jumbo and clung to the mention of my ex-girlfriend.

“Yeah, don’t ask. She saw the news in the paper and was pretty upset. I might have called her a few times this summer.”

“Pretty reasonable, I mean sparking up a friendship with your ex-girlfriend right before you get married.” The old Serena returned and our banter was off to a running start.

“I thought so. I mean who better to spice up any situation. Anyway, we’re going to see how it goes, but the midwife doesn’t want to remove the growth before the baby unless she absolutely has to. Heath risks and all.” I rest my head back against the mirror and wiggled into a comfortable position.

“Wait, so he literally fucked you until you bled? Was it like losing your virginity all over again?" she snorted. Her jovial tone and casual comments reminded me of our youth, laying on my bed with legs propped up against the wall, trying to speak in hushed tones to avoid drawing the attention of anyone who might happen to be outside of my door. I'd stay like that for hours, both of us giggling into the phone, discussing what at that moment always seemed like the most important thing in the world. Our analytical critique of the latest pop song like a closed door conversation between the president and Prime Minister, the gossip we shared as potent as a secret nuclear weapons.

 “No, because Sid didn’t cry afterwards," I giggled, cupping my mouth against the receiver.

“Did you happen to call Jack while you were there too?” Her words might have seemed critical to a third party, her gentle mocking might have resembled judgement but that was how we spoke. I knew she meant everything in the most lighthearted way possible.

“Nah, he’s got like 4 kids now." I spoke of my first serious boyfriend. "He married a mainland girl I think." I spat out the word mainland like it was poison that threatened my tongue.

"Dude, you married a mainlander too," she reminded me and I wrinkled my nose, making a retching sound. Of course there was nothing actually wrong with people from the mainland, but it was an ongoing joke between us that despite our burning desire to leave in our youth the Island was a breeding ground for good people and we would always be superior because we had grown up there. The truth was that anyone who left Atlantic Canada would inevitably spend their lives trying to make enough money to go back, to go home.

We continued our banter until I heard the TV on the other side of the door turn on and was pulled back to my reality. I wasn't fifteen anymore and trying to hide my newly matured words from my unsuspecting parents. I marveled for a brief moment at how quickly time had passed, my adult life had come and I was living something I'd never thought to dream up. Serena and I left each other with the memories still hanging in the universe between us, an invisible line keeping us firmly linked together for the rest of time. 

 I crawled onto my side of the bed and sat flush against Sidney, snuggly my head onto his shoulder and letting out a breath that felt heavy with the hectic energy of the day. On the television the heavily made up news reporters went over the weather and financial reports. I waited for the topic to shift to Sidney and the press conference, it felt inevitable, but still we sat with our eyes focused on the screen, not saying anything. When it finally came, after consumer complaints and a health expose, he calmly reached for the remote. I didn't think about what I was doing when I placed my hand over his, stopping him has his finger creeped towards the off button. He gave me a questioning glance, as if asking me if I knew what I was doing, but I didn't change my mind. Instead I smiled and turned my attention back to the TV where a clip of Sidney's hand reaching for mine at the edge of the stage was being shown. It felt strange to see us on the two dimensional screen. It didn't feel like us, I didn't look the person I thought I was. Instead of the strange, excitable person I knew I was, I saw a scared girl with a rounding midsection reaching for the outstretched hand of a well put together man who, despite his good looks and tailored suit, seemed just an nervous. It was a different look of fear in his eyes, almost hidden from the throngs of people who'd come to see him, but still evident to those who took the time to see him as a human. Beyond his heroic image, Sidney was just like me.

We didn't say anything even after the news anchors had commented on the announcement and wished us well. It wasn't a tense or intentional silent, neither of us was ignoring the other, we just didn't need to speak. After a day of noise and emotions it was nice to be alone without the pressure of being anything other than ourselves in our purest form. Sidney flipped through the channels and stopped on the opening credits of When Harry Met Sally, glancing at the smile on my face he placed the remote on the side table and pulled me closer to him. Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal were discussing the complexities of male-female relationships when I felt a new movement in my stomach. A stronger fluttering than the one I'd become used to. It tickled my insides and pressed lightly against my hand. A warm rush of joy spread through me and I took Sidney's hand and placed it where mine hand been, watching his face for a reaction. A few seconds later a grin spread across his lips and his eyes got lost in the crinkles from his cheeks.

"There you are, kiddo," he said softly. "We were worried about you."

Chapter Text

It took a little over two weeks for me to begin to acclimatize myself to being publicly recognized as Sidney’s wife. I knew that I would never be completely comfortable with it, but I was on my way to getting the hang of avoiding attention, it was a gentle dodge and weave that on somedays felt more like an art form than a lifestyle. My twitter had irrupted with followers and it was a daily challenge to avoid the notifications and potential criticism that I wasn’t ready to face. I tried to tell myself that I could handle anything, but despite the mantra I repeated to myself in the mirror every morning, I wasn’t so sure I was the calm, collected, strong, and in control person I claimed to be. By the time the regular season started Sidney and I had fallen into a routine that felt as natural as being. Since the scare and finding the polyp we’d began spending as much time as we possibly could together. It wasn’t an intentional decision by either of us, it just felt right. When he was beside me I felt as close to normal as I’d ever been, and in the wake of the media storm we’d been facing I needed that normalcy in a sort of desperate way I could quite express. We woke up together, bodies tangled in sheets, his hands on my bare skin, my cheek pressed against his shoulder or chest. We woke up moments apart from each other, crawling out of the safety of our bed and facing the day together as a united front. My routine had changed and for once I was completely unbothered by it. So desperate to be in the same room as him I’d taken to walking on the treadmill while he went through his morning warm up. After we emerged, sweat glistening on our faces I made the toast while he blended a concoction I’d learned to stomach. We ate breakfast together, sometimes discussing the plans for the day, but sometimes in silence, flipping through sections of the news paper or watching the sun shine through the trees in our backyard. I slept beside him for game day naps, both of our bodies already knowing when it was time to sleep and drifting off effortlessly next to each other, taking a much needed break from the day. Sleep was a resource I required in high quantities and his body supporting mine had become as necessary as the pillow under my head. We did everything we could together, still living on the high that came with out public declaration we found ourselves arm in arm, hands linked together whenever we were in reach and when we weren’t alone, when we were pulled from the warm haze of our world together, we had silent conversations. Discussing everything around us with a series of glances and touches.

The moments Sidney I were apart—mostly at the rink when our jobs were forced to become the main focus— I could be usually be found wrestling open a package of whatever food product I could get my hands on. It was the opposite of my usual reaction to change, but with Clem’s warning ringing through Sidney’s mind, sex had joined eating sushi and cleaning the litter box on a long list of things I was advised not to do, and as a a result I had turned to food to fill the void. It wasn’t technically binge eating, because much like my former sex drive, my appetite was insatiable. My purse had become a travelling pantry and the chefs in the team kitchen no longer asked if I wanted extras. I was dangerously close to becoming a pregnancy stereotype and I was surprisingly unbothered by that. I wasn’t bothered by most things to be fair, I was at peace with our existence, the ebb and flow of our perfectly routined lives together.

 

“For fuck sakes!” Sid roared as the Canadiens celebrated their now three goal lead in the third period. It was the fifth game of the season and we’d already lost two. I could feel his tense energy and I didn’t think before reaching out to place my hand on his shoulder. It seemed like such a simple, mindless action but just a few weeks prior I would have been doing everything in my power to resist touching him in such a public setting. He reached back and cove