This is a short chapter but believe me there is LOTS coming
“Happy Valentine’s day,” he whispers, the brush of his fingertips on the back of my neck sending a shiver down my spine. I look down at the circle of diamonds now nestled in my cleavage and then, with one hand clasping the too generous gift, I reach back to pull his lips down to the curve of my neck.
“Woohoo, two minutes and then you’re off to be the big hero,” I sigh, closing my eyes to savour the feeling of his lips on my skin.
“I wish you’d stop saying that,” he growls into my neck, sending another shudder down my spine before taking a step back and putting a more modest distance between us.
“Oh stop being so fucking humble. You’re going to do it,” I grin, reaching for him and sliding my arms around his waist, pulling his body against mine, finding that he’s both happy to see me and not as eager to leave as I might have thought. He stays there, in my arms, for another brief moment before giving me that look. The one that causes me to diffidently step back and allow him to appear separate and single, obeying the rules, even if it means he has to put his rain jacket in between us to hide exactly how he feels about my greeting.
“No pressure there Creature,” Jordan laughs, suddenly appearing behind Kennedy and pulling her up off her feet and somehow, even in the crowded hallway, he manages to swing her around before putting her back down on her feet and bringing his lips crashing down onto hers’. Just for a moment I feel a twinge of jealousy at their public demonstration of open sexuality but rein it in before I turn back to my own significant other.
“There’s no pressure from me. You’re amazing. I know you’ll do amazing, historic things,” I whisper and Sidney rewards me with a smile that only falters a little at the edges which means he’s really flipping out inside. Standing on my tiptoes so that my lips are right at his ear, I whisper a promise. “When you get back, I’ll wear your gold medal...and nothing else.” When I draw back enough to search his expression, the tips of his ears are bright pink and his hazel eyes are glazed over as if he’s seeing something far away. “God damn you Crosby if you’re only thinking about that fucking gold medal I’ll fucking....”
“I think you better run while you still can mon capitain,” Max laughs, slapping Sidney on his back as he joins our group in the hallway, looking more casual than Sidney, with his shirt askew and his tie slung over his arm.
“I wish you guys were coming with me,” Sid sighs and I glance at the wistful expressions on both men’s faces and it’s clear that they do too.
“Just remember, when you come back the conquering hero, I’ll have already had to listen to my fucking brother,” Jordan warns with a grimace that makes us all laugh.
“You guys, you’re acting like it’s a foregone conclusion,” Sid sighs, and we just all smile. All but one of us being Canadian, we know damn well there’s no other way for this to conclude but in the most fairytale sort of way or...well there can be no ‘or’. Not for team Canada and not for Sid. To live up to the hype, to earn his place in history, he has to do it. He has to win.
“In the meantime, I’ll be looking after your girl here,” Max grins, as if I’ve forgiven him for his interrogation in New York. He drapes his arm confidently over my shoulder as if he has no worry about having me throw it off. I narrow my eyes at him but he doesn’t so much as flinch and just keeps grinning like the joker he plays for the rest of the guys.
“Are you sure you want him to help you with your project for class?” Sidney asks, and I shrug and sigh.
“Well with you not around and with the second best looking guy on the team going with you,” I add as Flower joins our group and drapes his arm over Sid’s shoulder, “what choice does that leave me?”
“Second best looking guy? What’s that about? Fleur hasn’t even got any shapes!” Max exclaims, striking a muscle builder’s pose which serves to do nothing more than wrinkle his suit and end up with his tie on the floor.
“How can you leave me with him? Take me with you,” I beg, wrapping my arms around Sidney’s middle and huddling against him like a frightened child, but remaining careful not to get makeup or lipstick anywhere on his light grey suit, knowing full well he still has a barrage of reporters to make it through before he can even leave the building.
“I’m trusting you to look after her Max,” Sidney says over my head and I can hear the playful smile on his face as he wraps his arms more tightly around me. “And these pictures you’re taking,” he adds, reaching down to lift my chin up so that I have to look at him as he speaks, “I don’t want to see a bunch of naked pictures of Max on the internet no matter how much he tells you it’s art.” I make a face and he laughs, that easy, boyish sound that makes everyone around him laugh too.
“We’d better go mon ami. The plane won’t wait forever ça va?” Flower says quietly, nudging Sidney in the ribs and Sidney nods, his expression turning serious as he steers me away from the rest of the group to a quieter corner, behind a pile of steamer trunks waiting to be filled with Preds gear. It isn’t exactly private, but it’s as private as it’s going to get.
“I’m sorry about Valentine’s,” he begins and I shake my head and laugh.
“You just win that gold medal and we’ll forget all about the fact that you spent all of our first Valentine’s Day playing hockey and flying away to play hockey. As if I’m not used to it,” I add, quietly.
“Still,” he sighs, reaching between us to lift the diamond pendant in his hand.
“It will always be like this. I know that remember?” I admonish him, covering his hand with mine and looking up into those cafe au lait eyes of his. He searches my gaze for a long, silent moment, maybe waiting for me to break but I’m too well prepared for that.“Go. Go be the big hero,” I whisper, letting the pride I feel for him show in my eyes and that does bring the tears, though I blink hard, trying to keep them back.
“When I get back, if...if we do well...I’ll be done. I mean not done but....”
“But you’ll have ticked all the boxes, I know,” I smile at him and he nods, still deadly serious.
“He’ll have to let me live my life and then...then I can relax and be with you the way...the way we want to,” he adds, his voice breaking as he gathers me once more against his chest, crushing the air out of my lungs. “I’m lucky you understand. I’m starting to get that. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long....” I reach up and brush my fingertips along the sharp line of his jaw feeling my heart swell to see all that emotion in his eyes...for me.
“Yes, you fucking are,” I agree with a grin that helps to erase the darkness in his caramel coloured gaze and when he leans in to press his lips firmly against the bridge of my nose I close my eyes and reach for that spot, holding tight to the circle of diamonds that I hope means what I want it to mean, that we’ve made it full circle from friends to lovers.
He still isn’t there.
“I have to go,” he sighs, cupping my chin in his thick fingers and lifting my gaze to meet his. I smile and nod.
“Go be Canada’s hero. You’ve always been mine,” I remind him and that earns me a wistful smile before he drops his hand to cover mine, giving it a long, firm squeeze before he turns to join a now impatient Flower further down the corridor. I move back to join the group, my gaze fastened on his back as I watch them head down the hallway with the equipment manager close behind them, their gear in a shopping cart. I can’t help but think how incongruous that looks. “Young, good looking millionaires like that should have scantily clad servant girls to carry their luggage, dontcha think?” I ask, mostly to fill the silence that suddenly fills the dimly lit underground cement bunker we’re in.
“I don’t know what Sid would think but you could my servant girl any time,” Max laughs, wrapping his arm around my shoulders and even though he’s being the class clown rather than the thoughtful young man I know him to be, I forgive him this once, smile and lean in to him because he’s also being comforting, without having it be so obvious to the other guys of course.
“I don’t know if I can do this,” I whisper, mostly to myself and almost entirely under my breath but I know Max hears it when I feel his lips pressed to the top of my head.
“It’s two weeks,” he reminds me, obviously assuming I’m talking about the time and distance. If only it were that easy.
“I mean loving him...at all,” I admit, hugging my arms protectively around myself as he disappears from site without so much as turning to wave goodbye. Thankfully Max says nothing and then, one by one, we all go our separate ways, to reconvene in time for the prodigal son’s return.