**Today, in honor of my sister’s birthday, a special fic just for her. Happy Birthday Sis! May it be filled with awesome!**
I was running so unbelievably late. Anxiety was making my motions clumsy, but I still rushed. I should have been at the rink ten minutes ago, but if I was very lucky, and the traffic gods were with me, I’d still make it before the puck dropped.
Cellphone in my pocket, keys in my hand, I rushed toward the door, and only remembered at the last minute to grab the green and white jersey hanging by the door. I was still tugging it over my head as I ran to the car.
I made it to the rink with only seconds to spare and I was never happier that I was such a fixture around the place that the security guards knew me. John caught my attention as I waited in line, and he waved me through, letting me go through the wheelchair access gate. I ignored the disgruntled shout from the few people still waiting to get through the gate and to their seats.
“Thanks, man,” I said fervently as I sidled by him.
“Anytime, Greg. You know that.” John gave a tip of his imaginary hat and I waved my thanks.
The Waitford Terrapins were a semi-professional hockey team, but they had a loyal fan base. Most of the seats were filled. I ran. I had a permanent place right behind the team bench, and I’m sure Declan was already pissed that he hadn’t seen me there when the team had come out of the locker room. Fortunately, I was welcomed on the “wives bench” even though Declan and I weren’t married and I was definitely not a woman. Declan was the captain and the star and he didn’t take shit from anyone. When he came out, he didn’t get much backlash. It might have been different if he were playing in the pros, but here, it was something he could weather.
My ass hit the seat about three seconds before the puck dropped.
Declan was on fire today. Not a single puck got by him, and by the end of the second period, the Terrapins had scored four times. The opposing team’s coach was pissed. My attention was drawn to his screaming even though I couldn’t make out the words. Our boys had this in the bag if Declan kept up this frantic pace. He was an outstanding goalie to begin with, but the Knights were the Terrapins biggest rivals and the competition between them was usually closer. I couldn’t remember the last time this had happened.
“Your boy is in a mood today,” a soft voice murmured directly into my ear. I turned to Alli with a grin. Her husband was the center, and one of the team’s top scorers. Three of those goals had been Brian’s.
“So is yours.”
She laughed, a deep rich sound, and shook her head. “Not the same thing at all. Brian’s mood is good. What did you do to Declan? Or not do, I should ask.” The last was said with a suggestive eyebrow waggle. I rolled my eyes but I couldn’t help the grin.
“I don’t know what’s up his ass,” I admitted. “But whatever it is, it’s making him mad enough to take it out on the puck. Or at least make him hyper vigilant.”
Alli gave me a speculative glare, but then just shook her head. “Maybe you should do it more often then.”
I threw up my hands. “You know what? It could have absolutely nothing to do with me.”
Her snort was very unladylike. “Not likely. Declan only gets this riled up over you.”
I didn’t bother responding because she was absolutely right.
I was leaning against the concrete wall across from the locker room and watching it empty of every player except for my boyfriend. Strictly speaking, I wasn’t allowed back here, but everyone always turned a blind eye. I considered myself lucky, and took advantage of that every chance I got. I loved seeing Declan right after a game, fresh from the shower and lugging his hockey bag. Besides, with the way the Terrapins had shut out the Knights—the other team hadn’t managed a single goal—Declan was sure to be in a fantastic mood.
When he finally emerged and I took one look at his face, I knew I was wrong.
“What’s the matter?” I asked cautiously, pushing off the wall.
His scowl deepened. “Really?”
I frowned at his sarcastic tone. That really wasn’t like him. “What the hell, Dec?”
He shook his head and pushed past me. I scrambled to catch up, grabbing onto the strap of his bag and giving it a tug so he would stop. His thunderous expression was enough to give me pause, though I knew he would never hurt me.
“Where the fuck were you?” he hissed.
I blinked. “When? What?”
“I looked for you. I always look for you. And you weren’t there.”
“I was there! Right where I always am.” I shook my head. “I was late, yes. But I was there.” I knew he had seen me, because I sat right behind the glass, and there was no way he could miss me. Besides, I had waved to him and gotten the head tip in response.
“Yeah, but—” he cut himself off, blew out a breath, and hung his head. “Fuck. I’m sorry. It’s just…” He took a second to gather his thoughts, and then looked up at me. “Pregame rituals, you know? That moment before I step onto the ice and we lock eyes. I need that.”
I knew he was superstitious. A lot of players were. Declan was worse than most. He only washed his socks on Tuesday, always put his pads on in the same order, banged his stick against the goal post three times before the start of every period, and never put his helmet on until the last possible second. But I honestly had no idea that our little moment was a part of that.
I reached up and took his face in my hands. “So you were angry at me?”
“I was worried,” he admitted, a little sheepishly. “You’re never not there. I was worried something happened to you. And then I saw you and I got pissed I didn’t get my moment.”
I nodded because what else could I do? “I’m sorry I worried you. But it was just one of those days. I couldn’t get myself together.” I let my grin turn cheeky. “Besides, you played like a maniac today. Maybe me being late is good for your game?”
“I’d rather play like shit and know you were safe,” he said fervently. He closed his eyes for a second and swallowed hard. “I love you.”
I grinned at him, then stood up on tiptoe. “I love you too. Let’s go home.”
He let me take his bag, and then looped his arm around my shoulders. I knew I was forgiven for being late, and that was all that mattered. Tomorrow was soon enough to point out that me being late had secured the Terrapins a place in the semi-finals.