I'm going to post this story in three sections, or periods hehehe*
So, one period a day*
MANY THANKS to qfd for going over this with me!!
So, one period a day*
MANY THANKS to qfd for going over this with me!!
How did they talk me into this? I don't like people. I don't like being in the spotlight like that. Hell, I don't even like my teammates sometimes. Why did I agree to do this? Who thought it would be a good idea for me to be in one of these signing sessions? I guess I'll just grin and bear it. Oh who the fuck am I kidding? I don't grin, about anything. Not since…
Alex hung his head as he tried not to think of the one woman he'd thought had understood what it was like to be with a professional hockey player. The one woman that he'd thought understood him. Then, two months ago, he'd come home from those two away games, expecting to spend New Year's Eve with his girlfriend of two years, and instead he'd come home to an empty house.
She'd even taken the fucking refrigerator magnets! Who does that?!
And so, trying to focus on his game, Alex had become more and more like Sid; driven, focused, to the detriment of everyone and everything which was an attitude he used to find annoying but now it just worked. He didn't deal well with change, and he'd been blind-sided by the break-up.
The guys were worried for him, and they'd offered to help, but Alex felt like this was something that he had to go through on his own. The guys all meant well, and he appreciated it, but it was sort of hard to talk about, too personal and still a little raw.
He did take some of their advice. He went out. He partied with them after wins. He sulked with them after losses. But they all knew his heart wasn't really in it either way. He didn't really feel the highs and he was too numb to feel any lower, and besides, Alex wasn't even sure he even had a heart anymore.
That was why, as he sat in the back seat of Gronk's SUV, he was so lost in thought he hadn't realized they were at the mall. It wasn't until Kris had thrown a paper ball at his head that he'd even looked up. Seeing the looks of concern on those two faces… Alex vowed to make tonight a good experience. He could handle an hour of signing Pens paraphernalia, right?
"Are you sure you're up for this mon ami? We all know you're still trying to figure out what went wrong with… her…" Leave it to Kris to cut straight to the point. Alex felt his lips curl into a ghost of a smile.
"I'm surviving Tanger; I think I can handle this. Besides, it's just an hour, maybe an extra 30 minutes if there are a lot of people."
"Why don' you come out with us after? We'll have a few drinks, find some pretty ladies, take them home and rock their worlds. It will be great."
"Yeah," Jordan chimed in as the three started walking toward the door of the sporting goods store. "We always need another wingman! You haven't really enjoyed a night out with us in a while."
"You know I love hanging out with you all. I just… it's not my style. Even before the break-up. I like being able to keep to myself and just be a homebody. Watch a movie, relax, you know… be… mellow."
"Fuck that shit! What you need is some pussy dude!"
"It's only been like two months Jordan! It's not gonna fall off from lack of use!"
"Two months my ass. She may have bailed two months ago but you know it's been longer than that since you've got some. Don't even try to deny it. You've been acting like Sid `pre-Melany-era' for almost four months. So something wasn't working right in that relationship… aside from her mind."
"What `e is trying to say is that we would like for you to come out and actually enjoy hitting up a club instead of just going through the motions mon ami."
"I just… those girls don't interest me. They only know me because of my number. And they can't even pronounce my name right. Who wants to be with someone who constantly calls you Gogo because they can't say gall-i-gah-ski." Jordan stared at him. "Don't fucking look at me like that Staal."
"Make me a deal Goose."
"I know this is going to end badly for me."
"Shut the fuck up. Just listen. And agree before I ask this."
"Jesus… fine! What?"
"The next girl who calls you Goose, you ask her to dinner."
"Are you crazy?!"
"Too late, you've already agreed."
"Great, what if she scares bears out of the dump?"
"If that is the case Alex," Kris interrupted, "then we won't force you. But if she's even a little pretty, then you'll ask her out."
Alex stared at the two of them. They were completely serious, he could tell by the stubborn set of Jordan's jaw, and the cocked eyebrow that Kris had. There was no way he was getting out of this one.
"Fine. If she's attractive to all three of us, then I'll fucking ask her to dinner after the session. Happy, fuckers?"
Alex just shook his head as the three walked through the entrance of the store and headed for the manager who was there, waiting for them. And within ten minutes they were waiting for the first three to finish up all the signing before they became center stage. Grabbing his seat, Alex moved around a couple times, trying to get comfortable. If he couldn't do that now, this was going to be a very long hour.
Jordan leaned over and whispered in his ear. "It's been an hour, right?" Alex snickered.
"It's been ten minutes dude."
"Fuck my life. Any girls caught your eye yet?"
"There were a couple really good-looking ones, the ones first in line. But anymore of those fake giggles and I might have stabbed them in the eye with my Sharpie." He thought that Jordan was going to bust a gut trying to keep his laughter in check. For some reason, Gronk didn't want people to think he was outgoing, but Alex couldn't even remember a time when the giant wasn't smiling or laughing. He shook his head and went back to signing the puck in front of him. That was when he heard her voice.
Alex turned his head and caught a glimpse of the next person in line. The first thing he noticed was her rack. It couldn't be helped, those things were huge! She was wearing a fitted tee, some kind of Ed Hardy look, with a Penguins logo on it. She was short, hair stuffed into a messy bun, and oval glasses perched on her face. Not an utterly hot chick but she had an easy smile, and as she tried to tuck a few unruly strands of hair behind her ear, Alex watched those magnificent tits bounce up and down. It was hypnotizing. Then Jordan kicked him, bringing his focus going back to the task at hand.
He watched her say something to Tanger as she placed a photo in front of him. After getting it back, she placed a hat in front of Jordan, and then she was standing in front of him, a pennant in her hands. She handed it to him, and smiled down at him, the bright gaze making his stomach clench. Why does she look so familiar?
"Did you like your sign on Valentine's Day Goose?"
He shot his head up. No way! "Uh…what did it say?"
"It was neon pink. It talked about appreciating some lovin' on Valentine's Day, and your head was on top of a cartoon goose. And I kind of yelled at you when you were walking to your car after the game so you would look at it." She laughed nervously as she said the last part, and Alex had to bite his lip to keep from smiling. Jordan must've been listening in because he let out a bark of laughter which caused him and this mystery girl to blush. Looking up at her, Alex smiled and murmured a quiet `thanks'. She nodded and turned and walked away. When she paused, he held his breath, waiting for her to ask him something else. But it seemed like she was just waiting for the next person in line. Must've come together, he thought as he mulled over just why she seemed so damn familiar.
He'd seen the sign during warm-ups and he knew the face now. He'd seen her before. This was the sign girl. They had a running tally in the locker room of all the guys that she'd made signs for. Max thought he was the shit right now because she'd made him two signs, ones that had been just for him. But Jordan was under the impression that she was his fan, he had a personal sign, one about his line, and he was pretty sure she'd made one for a friend to hold too.
Alex watched as she and her friend got their wristbands cut off and they walked toward the front of the store. He chuckled as he watched her smack her palm to her forehead and shake her head. Her friend put an arm around her, both of them laughing.
"Dude, do you realize who that was??"
"Yes Jordan, I do."
"That was my sign girl!"
"I'm pretty sure she's the team's sign girl."
"What the fuck ever dude, don't be a hater because she loves me more."
"You're so full of shit Staal."
"So, did you get her number?"
"You already agreed to it. Where are you taking her?"
"We all have to agree on it, and Kris has no idea what's going on." That was when Kris gave his two cents.
"I've been listening. And I'm with Jordan. Either get her number or give her yours. At least get her name. That way we can tell the rest of the guys tomorrow that we finally know who our crazy fan is. And I mean crazy in a good way," he added with that smirk all the Francophone players could put on that was hella dirty but somehow didn't look like it when they did it as he held up his hands and waved them in the air in a very curvatious silhouette.
"Just how do you expect me to get her number geniuses? I can't just leave!"
Jordan nudged him with an elbow, saying, "I got this one buddy." He motioned for Katie from PensTV to come over. "Can you be your amazing self and go find a certain girl for Alex here, and give her a message?" Katie nodded and Alex grabbed his name plate, flipping it over and scribbling a quick note on the back before handing it to Katie with a description. Five minutes later Katie came back, a big smile on her face, and a napkin in her hand.
"I'm pretty sure she's in shock right now. But her friend assured me that they'd be waiting. And here's a little something extra." She handed him the `something extra' and Alex hurriedly signed the next few items before glancing down at the folded napkin by his markers. He unfolded it and saw a number, and a name, written in silver Sharpie and for the first time in a while, Alex smiled; a smile that reached all the way up to his eyes.
Forty minutes after he'd received her number, Alex finally sent Maggie a text. Maggie, it was the perfect name for her. They were on the final few people now, and they'd be able to leave the store. Someone had mentioned snow, again, and Alex groaned at the thought of having to clean his car off at Jordan's. Maybe he'd just crash there for the night. But first, first he planned on a short, private meet and greet.
With a final wave to the fans that were still waiting for the final session to start, he made his way with Jordan and Kris, stopping once to sign a little boy's t-shirt. If it was one thing he couldn't deny, it was a kid. They wove through the aisles with the security guard before reaching the doors and looking outside into what was almost a blizzard. Alex glanced at his phone when it vibrated.
Wished I could've sent you a text before. When it started snowing, we agreed to leave. Gotta drive an hour or so to get home. Really sorry!
"Might as well just drive home man. They left."
"Snow. They have over an hour's drive. And she didn't have my number until I'd just texted her."
"Well," Kris offered a bit of insight, "see if she can come to practice tomorrow."
Thinking that it was a great idea, he passed on the thought to her. As the three of them waited for a response, they piled back into Jordan's car.
He clicked Open Msg.
Would love to. Southpointe? What time?
Alex typed the info and sent it, smiling to himself again.
"Huh…will you look at Goose. You aren't just asking her out because we pushed you, are you?"
"I'm really not. I really wanna know if she comes up with all of those ideas!"
"Yeah, and I wanna know why I've never had a sign!" Alex and Jordan laughed at Kris as he pouted in the front seat.
They all agreed to stay at Jordan's because of the weather, so once they'd all filled their guts, and the rest of the guys were firmly ensconced in front of the TV, wii wands in hand, Alex slipped down the hall and dialed Maggie's number.
"Um…hi?" She sounded as cute as she'd looked, he thought as he leaned against the wall, watching the snow fall in big fat flakes from the dark sky.
"Hey, sorry about today. You guys got home okay though, right?" he asked and he could hear her literally taking a deep calming breath on the other end of the phone.
"Well we did a little skidding but no harm no foul I guess," she replied, and he could swear her could hear her grinning right through the phone.
"Do you think you'll be okay to come out tomorrow? I mean, I wouldn't want to have to get you pulled out of a ditch somewhere," he added, thinking he wouldn't really mind at all having to fish her out of the car if it meant putting his arms around her.
"I think I'll manage. I'm experienced." He heard her catch her breath and he was literally having to bite through the inside of his lip not to laugh himself. "At road trips…we take road trips a lot…damn…okay you have to stop making me blush," she muttered and Alex couldn't help but laugh.
"That's okay, you're even cuter when you do that," he added, stifling a yawn behind his hand. It wasn't her, it was probably the mindlessness of watching snow fall and standing in the dark, but she'd already picked up on it before he could assure her otherwise.
"I'm keeping you up, I'm sorry! Go to bed…. I'll, ummm… I'll see you in the morning?" she asked, breathlessly, like she was expecting him to take it back.
"Yeah, I mean, I'll be there, I hope you don't mind that it's just practice," he added, thinking it wasn't exactly the dinner that Gronk had made him promise and he was actually feeling pretty sorry about that right now.
"Oh I can't wait! I love going to open practices! You guys are so amusing to watch!" They talked a few more moments. Then, after hanging up, Alex fall asleep with a smile on his face.
He woke up to an elbow in his ribs.
"Wake up sunshine! It's time to greet the new day, and go to practice, and if that's morning wood man, take care of that shit before you come downstairs," Jordan shouted as he walked out of the door.
"Staalsy… one of these days… I'm going to kill you."
He wasn't. Well, not really, Alex shut his eyes as he laughed to himself. Not anymore anyway but he had been having a great dream about Maggie. Normally he wouldn't look forward to practice, but today…today he thought he might.
They all threw on a pair of jeans and a clean shirt before downing enough food for ten people and heading off to the rink in separate cars.
Practice was a lot of fun. With Geno and Gonch returning today, that still left three key players in Vancouver. So, even though they were having serious practices, there was an air of insanity surrounding them. They took turns playing goalie and it wasn't until it was his turn that Alex even glanced up in the stands to see if Maggie was there. She'd said she would be, but the weather hadn't been perfect this morning, so he wouldn't have blamed her if she didn't want to drive up. He tried to look at the crowd nonchalantly, taking quick peeks as he got ready for the first player. It was Staalsy, of course.
Jordan came at him hard, two dekes and then tried to flip a wrister which Alex miraculously kept out of the back of the net. The guys were hollering and he heard a "Great save Alex!" from his right. He looked up, his eyes scanning the twenty-thirty people. He still couldn't find her. Jordan twirled around him.
"Top corner dude, by the door."
Alex turned more, seeing her standing against the pillar. His heart skipped a beat and he laughed to himself.
Look at me, I'm kind of pathetic.
He didn't have time to dwell on just how mushy he felt though; Max was coming at him, that damn smirk on his face. Staying on his toes, Alex watched the puck and not Max, knowing the Frenchman would try just about anything to distract him. He heard the shot. He saw the puck. And he felt it hit off his blocker and clang off the glass behind him.
"You're lucky mon ami. Next time I won't be so nice," Max told him, a smiling as he skated back toward the guys. Then, he stopped and turned, looking up to where Maggie stood. Alex turned too, but she wasn't there anymore.
Where'd she run off too?
He was so caught up in his thoughts he didn't see or hear Cookey skating toward him. Alex fell backward, his breath gone, as the puck hit him square in the chest.
How the hell do Flower and Johnny do this every day?! Speak of the devil.
Johnny slowly skated over to him, coming to rest above his head.
"You okay? That looked a little painful."
"Tell me about it."
"Want some help up?"
"Yeah," Alex replied, lifting a hand out and letting the goalie help him up. "I guess I lost my focus for a moment."
"So it would seem. Women can be rather distracting like that."
Alex looked up and noticed Johnny's smile.
"Don't worry, she didn't leave. Max had Dana go grab her and bring her down. They're gonna close off the rest of practice, so she can come out on the ice with us."
"Seriously?! Coach is ok with that??"
"It was his idea. He's talked to her before too, ya know. I'm pretty sure we all have. Now we just all get to meet her at the same time."
They both turned when they heard a rather loud expletive, in a sultry feminine voice. Johnny chuckled as he started to skate away.
"Doesn't sound like she's too excited to see ya Goose. That, or she doesn't like the ice. Let's hope for you that it's the latter."
Alex just kept his eyes on the door to the training room. His shift as goalie was up, and he skated over toward the bench to grab a drink of water. He was squirting some on his face when the door burst open and then crashed against the wall. He jumped, along with everyone else, and then looked to see what all the commotion was. There, looking more frightened than a deer-in-the-headlights, stood Maggie. Alex watched as she searched the crowd of players until she spotted him. The fear disappeared and he watched her features tighten in anger.
"God dammit Goligoski!" she yelled from the opposite side of the glass. "If this was your idea, I'm going to slice your throat with my skate! And if it wasn't, I wanna know whose idea it was, cuz their throat's in danger!"
Max took the perfect opportunity to chime in as he skated over and opened the door for her to step on the ice.
"Actually mon chère, it was our coach's idea!"
"Damn… I can't kill him. I like the guy too much."
Alex watched her take a tentative step, then place the second foot onto the surface of the rink. Max held a hand out to her but she batted it away as she held tightly to the boards.
"You don' want some `elp getting over to Goose?"
"I'm probably going to fall. If I'm holding onto you, and I go down, you'll fall down. And that's your right arm… stupid move Talbot. We don't want you getting hurt anymore."
Damn, Alex thought, smart and cute and a smart ass too…one heck of a combination.
Max shrugged and skated away. Alex took this as a cue to go and offer his assistance. He glided over to her, coming to a stop in front of her, and offering his hand. She looked down at it, then up at his face.
"I'm going to make a fool of myself."
"I won't let you fall."
"Cross my heart."
"Ok," she answered. "How are we gonna do this?"
"Well, it's really quite simple. I'm going to move here," he stepped behind her. "And then I'm going to put my hands here," he placed his gloved hands on both of her hips. "And then we'll just glide over to the guys. Okay?"
"This is insane!"
"Me trying to even pretend that I'll be able to skate."
"It simple, I promise. Like riding a bike, you'll get the hang of it in no time."
They slowly made their way over to center ice where the guys were all standing around during the shootout drill. Alex introduced her to each of them, and they laughed as they all told her stories dealing with her signs. It was another hour before the players started heading toward the locker room. Alex and Maggie stayed on the ice a few more moments, just talking while Alex faced her. He began skating backwards and pulled her with him, both of them laughing as she attempted to skate while drinking from his Gatorade. Then Jordan yelled for him to get off the ice and Maggie jumped, lost her footing and plowed into him, sending them both crashing to the surface of the ice. Alex wrapped his arms around her to keep her from hitting the ice itself, and winced as his head hit off the ice.
Thank goodness I was still wearing my helmet.
"Oh gosh! Alex, are you okay?!"
Maggie looked so worried, her eyes searching his face for signs of pain. She was so adorable that he couldn't stop himself, and he ran a hand up, twisting it in her hair as he pulled her lips down to his.
She tastes like Gatorade.
Her hands fisted in his jersey and her tongue slid along his bottom lip.
"Yo ALEX! C'mon, it's time… for me to leave you alone…"
God dammit Jordan…
Maggie pulled away, her cheeks flushed. She slid off of him and tried to get to her feet. Alex was up and moving before she'd even made it to her knees. He held out a hand and pulled her up against him.
"I guess we should get going… would you like to… I don't know... hang out for a while or something?"
"Well, how could a girl refuse a proposal like that?"
After grabbing a quick shower and changing into street clothes, Alex and Maggie drove separately to Robinson. They decided on grabbing some food, hiding in a corner booth and talking about everything under the sun. He could tell she was anxious about something; she kept staring at her watch.
"Are you in a hurry?"
"Huh? Oh, no… why?"
"You keep checking your watch. Am I boring you?" Alex asked with a slight smile. He was pretty sure that wasn't it, but not sure enough to be cocky about it.
"Oh heavens no! It's just… I'm supposed to watch the Canada game tonight with a couple friends."
"Well, why don't you come watch it with us?"
"What?" Yeah, what??
"Ummm, you know, some of us are getting together to watch the game to see if it becomes USA vs. Canada for the gold… why don't you and your friends join us?"
"Really? You wouldn't mind a few interlopers?"
"I'm pretty sure we can fit a few more in," he assured her, half hoping she really wouldn't bring too many friends and half hoping she'd get bored by the game and suggest playing spin the bottle or truth or dare, something, anything to get back to kissing her.
"Well, let me give them a call and see what they think."
Alex watched her walk away, his mind racing way, way ahead of where they were. All of her curves were driving him insane. He wondered if she could read his lust on his face as Maggie came back, a smile on her face.
"Bad news, they can't make it up. Good news, they were more than willing to share me for the night, so I'm free to come join you, if you want!"