Mike made grilled cheese and tomato soup for lunch, like they were 10 years old. They sat next to each other at the island in the kitchen, legs touching under the counter. Andy insisted he cut the sandwiches diagonally because it made them taste better. He looked at her from the corner of his eye, pulling the crust off her bread. She was beautiful, wonderful and now she was his, really his. He felt like shouting.
“So, Crosby couldn’t seal the deal?”
Andy’s face went white as a sheet. “Actually it was me. Sidney was ready to go and I had a panic attack…”
“Ready to go?” Mike pushed back from the island a little, ready to do something, anything. “What does that mean? What did he do?”
“Nothing! No clothes came off or anything. But if I had been willing, we would have completed the business transaction.”
“You kissed him.”
“Yes, there was kissing.”
“Ew! Andy! Those giant lips? And he touched you. Whatever you were wearing, burn it and I’ll get you a new one. Crosby…,” he grumbled. “I called you at like 1 AM. Where were you?”
“After I bailed on the sleepover, we went to a club and met his friends.”
“Teammates. You went partying with the Penguins. We may have to break up already.”
Andy slapped a hand on the counter top. “Mike! Sidney was amazing. He could have pushed the subject and then I would have slept with him. He paid for it, right? Didn’t exactly get his money’s worth when I went cold turkey. If he’d been insistent, I would have had to do it. Then we’d really have a problem.”
“Yeah, I bet I would be too grossed out to touch you.”
“And I bet he’s incredible in bed,” Andy said, then ducked before Mike could grab her in a headlock. She ran around the island, Mike going the other way. Andy grabbed half of Mike’s sandwich as she passed and ate it, across the counter, faking left to right like she was going to bolt.
“You are disgusting. I’m going to kick his ass tomorrow.”
Andy got serious. “Mike. He doesn’t know it’s you. He knows there’s someone – he could tell by the way I was acting. And he knows it’s someone from your team. But you and me, we’re a secret until you tell everyone.”
“Or until Crosby tells them something.”
Andy finished the sandwich. “Well, yeah. Or I could call him now.”
Mike caught her around the left side and smothered her face with kisses. “I will tell the whole world… if you delete his number.”
They parked where instructed and Andy gave her name at will call. The attendant sent them to another door where another attendant checked her name and asked them to wait. A third person fetched them and wound down a series of hallways into the bowels of the Verizon Center to a brightly painted waiting room with couches. Food was laid out on the tables and TVs were on, like it was waiting for a party.
As Mike came in a minute later, his breath caught in his throat. Andy was wearing his number again. She’d even pulled her hair forward over her shoulders so GREEN was clearly visible. Her smile was wider, more real and her eyes lit up when she saw him.
She is mine, he thought. It had been in his head endlessly as they spent the entire day before moving Andy’s stuff into his condo. They hadn’t wasted a moment. They loaded the Escalade three times and cleared out almost all the stuff she’d need to take with her. Everything else would go to Goodwill the next day. She is mine and I am hers. The idea of it was concrete, but seeing her here, in the most public of places, with his friends and teammates a room away, made it real in a brand new way.
“Hey!” he managed to get out.
Woah, Andy thought as he hugged her in close. He wore black warm up pants and a long-sleeved gray Under Armor shirt that hugged his upper body like plastic wrap. His hair was undone, perfectly naturally messed up. She tried not to wonder what he was wearing under the pants. She failed.
“I missed you.” he kissed her quickly on the lips.
Jello! Andy had known this would happen – seeing him here, behind the scenes – this was Mike’s real life and Andy had to figure out where she would fit in. Vivian gave Mike a hug as well.
“Nice shirt,” he rolled the bottom hem of Andy's shirt in his fingers, near her stomach.
“This old thing?!” she laughed. “I’ve had it forever.”
Vivian busied herself fixing a snack so they could have a little pseudo-privacy. Mike only had a few minutes before he was due back in the locker room to get ready for the pre-game skate. He made sure he knew where they were sitting.
“Good luck,” Andy said quietly, their faces close.
“Feels that way,” he playfully hugged tighter around her waist. His lips were soft, his light kiss hopeful.
“Hey there!” a voice boomed from behind them. “What is going on in here?” They broke apart to find Brooks Laich smiling hugely, like he’d just caught two people making out. Which he had. He raised his eyebrows at Mike.
“Brooks, this is Andy. Andy, Brooks Laich,” he said. Mike’s arm was still around her, a little possessively but she liked it. It made her feel like something worthy of being shown off.
“Andy, it’s nice to meet you. I was looking for Mikey. If I’d realized he was kissing someone so beautiful, I never would have interrupted.” He introduced himself to Vivian then reminded Mike they were due in the room pretty much now.
“I’ve gotta go,” he pulled her back in as he heard Brooks leave. He was definitely on edge, but it felt good, like adrenaline in his veins, firing him up for the game. He was going to play hard: she’d be watching. “I can’t wait for you to meet everyone later. They’re going to be so jealous.”
“Good luck, Mike. And be nice to Sidney,” she whispered into his ear.
Mike hurried, hoping to catch Brooks in the hall. No luck, and Laich was nowhere to be seen in the locker room. He started suiting up.
“Who the fuck was that?” Brooks called loudly as he came through the door, carrying freshly-sharpened skates.
Half the heads in the room turned. “Who was who?” Eric Fehr asked.
“Greenie was making out with some hot piece in the wives’ room. Tall brunette in boots wearing a beat up #52 t-shirt that looked like she’d been sleeping in it since high school. Not bad, Mikey.” Brooks slapped Mike on the shoulder as he went to his stall. “You’ve been holding out on us!”
“She’s…” Mike started.
“She was here the other night right, standing by the glass? Did you pick up a puckbunny, Mikey?” Brooks kept going.
“What are you talking about?” Alex came into the room after a pre-game TV interview. He was looking at Mike like he already knew the answer.
“Mike’s got a girl here,” Eric teased.
“Her name is Andy and… she is my girlfriend. Sorry you haven’t met her before.”
A chorus of whistles, shouts and lewd comments rained down on his along with a few pieces of tossed equipment. Mike smiled – the guys would love her. Just not the way they might have before, he’d made sure of that. She was his, now. Thank God.
“Girlfriend? She was in the paper, picture with Crosby.” Overchkin said with a skeptical look on his face. “You only go out with her?” You mean she only goes out with me, Mike knew exactly what he was asking.
“Yeah. She’s just friends with him. And she’s moving in with me.”
Alex shrugged. There were a million beautiful girls in Overchkin’s orbit, and he’d only wanted Andy because Mike did. Because he could have her, because it was his choice. Alex needed to be in charge.
“Better play good, Mikey, sign big contract. Sid make a lot of money and girls are expensive,” Alex gave him a smart-assed, gap-toothed smile as he let it go.
“Fuck you, Ovi,” Mike said.
Andy’s cell phone buzzed as they were on their way to the seats.
Sidney: White knight reporting for duty.
Andy: All fixed. I owe you one.
Sidney: Come say hello.
She squeezed up to the glass near the bench, climbing over a few Penguins fans. The team took the ice in their white uniforms to a chorus of appreciation for the visiting team. Sidney was first out and Andy watched them loop around the ice at speed. Jordan saw her and nudged Max at the blue line. Max waved openly like a dork, making half the fans on her side of the ice squeal out loud. Sidney saw the commotion and found Andy’s face.
As the drill went on, Sidney’s place in the lineup brought him closer and closer. Finally he was right in front of her, smiling. She wanted to hug him for everything he’d done. He stepped over the curb and through the open door onto the bench. The entire crowd moved with him, following their hero toward the walkway to the locker room. At the edge of the glass, he looked up at her.
Beautiful. And she was, but in a way he hadn’t seen before. It could only mean one thing. She’s out of reach.
“Hey,” he said, aware that hundreds of people were watching.
“Hi. I’d say have a good game, but…”
Man, they are everywhere! she almost laughed. Couldn’t find one good guy before this, now they’re coming out of the woodwork. Sidney looked at her like he was trying to decide if she was really okay, or just covering.
“But you don’t want me making your boyfriend look bad.”
“I don’t know who you’re talking about,” she said primly, a tiny grin on her lips.
Sidney looked at her shirt slowly, then back to her face. He’d made her come to the railing so he could be sure to see the back as she went up the steps.
“Nice shirt,” he said. Her mouth fell open slightly as she realized what she’d done. Sidney made a teasing face and went back to the ice.
Andy laughed her way to the Capitals side of the rink. She stood a few rows off the glass watching them drill and stretch. Mike didn’t look for her, and she didn’t need him to. He’d be looking at her all the time now.
The whistle blew the play dead as Nuevirth absorbed a shot. Mike rounded behind the net, slowing as Crosby circled past. According to Andy, he didn’t know which of the Capitals she was seeing but it didn’t feel that way – Sidney had been glaring at him the first few shifts. The puck dropped, was taken out wide by the Pens and Crosby positioned his sizeable backside right in the goalie’s face. He chopped and angled, bordering on goaltender interference the way he kept backing into the crease. Neuvy slapped at Sid’s legs, Crosby just elbowed back in. Letang shot from the point, the puck rattled around and the net was knocked off. Shoving ensued, the teams coming together.
“Fuck off,” Mike growled, cross-checking the number on Sid’s back, pushing him away from the goal. All around them, players grappled with each other. Crosby got right in his face.
“Of course it’s you,” Sidney said with plenty of disgust, his meaning obvious.
Mike wanted to pick a fight. This guy had touched Andy, had kissed her. His Andy. He shouldered into Crosby, pressing him into the knot of players behind. “When you’re jerking off alone, remember she’s with me.” Someone closed in behind, pushing them together.
“Guess I should have fucked her then, shown her how much better it could be.”
Mike got a glove up, giving Sidney a rough face wash while the refs tried to separate the guys around them. “I will break your face, you piece of shit.”
Crosby roared right back. “No fucking way you’re good enough for her.”
Mike bit back the vitriol he wanted to unleash, resisted the urge to shove the end of his stick into that mouth that had been on Andy’s skin. “I will be,” he said.
“You’d better be, because she owes me one,” Sidney sneered.
Mike felt a hand pulling his shoulder, tugging him away from the fight. “I’ll remember that when we’re spending your money decorating our house.”
Andy waited in the stands until someone came for her and Vivian. She didn’t want to sit around with the wives and girlfriends before she’d even met anyone, before Mike had a chance to tell people about her. Whatever he would tell them. Finally a security guard led them down near the locker room, where Mike was waiting in the hall.
He was smiling sheepishly, hair styled and gelled like he was on his way to prom. Andy guessed he’d done some TV interviews. The Capitals had won a hard fought game, he had everything to be happy about, but that wasn’t it and she knew. I can’t blame the guy, she thought.
“I didn’t fight him,” Mike said, shoulders rolling up. Andy just rolled her eyes. “Ready?”
“Okay,” Andy said. She was nervous, very nervous and grateful when Mike wrapped her hand in his big one before he opened the locker room door. The media was gone and nearly everyone was showered and fully dressed. Brooks saw her first and came stomping over.
“Andy!” He gave her a big hug, like they’d been friends forever. She would never know if Mike had asked him to do that, because soon she was being introduced to a line of people.
“Good thing I already know all your names!” she laughed. Little Michael Nuevirth blushed when she congratulated him on scoring points for her fantasy team. The last person to come over was Alex. He was smirking like he knew their secret, but he seemed less predatory than before. His eyes never left her face.
“Andy, you make Mike a lucky guy,” he said. “Probably you can do better than him.”
Mike watched carefully, knowing Ovechkin would get his digs in before leaving them alone. Not too far, buddy, he was thinking.
“Nah, I think I did pretty well.” Andy squeezed Mike’s hand. Other women started trickling in, their men introducing Andy and Andy introducing Vivian. Someone called for drinks, someone else shouted a suggestion and everyone headed for the door.
Mike leaned into Andy’s side. “Take you out before I take you home?” he asked.
“This time, I’m taking you home,” she said.
EPILOGUE: THE WINTER CLASSIC
“Got enough layers on there?”
“Fuckyoumike!” Vivian yelled, voice muffled by her scarf. They were in the lobby of the hotel, team about to board the bus for the football stadium. It was about three degrees outside and Vivian was dressed for it.
Andy came up behind her, lifting her arms out to the side. “I can’t put my arms down!”
“Put your arms down when you get to school!” Mike said on cue, quoting A Christmas Story. Vivian tugged the wrap away from her face.
“How many black guys play in the NHL, Mike? Five? That’s because it’s freezing and we are not stupid. If I would die outside, then I don’t go outside. Basketball, now there is a civilized sport.”
Mike reached over and pulled the scarf back across her face. Her mitten-encased hands couldn’t grip to stop him so she trundled outside, sweating inside under her gear. Andy laughed.
“You on the other hand, look beautiful,” he said, wrapping her arms around her. She wore a red and white ski jacket he’d bought her for Christmas, a white hat with a Capitals logo and white gloves. “Like a Capitals cheerleader.” Andy jumped up and down, miming a cheer but really just rubbing herself against him scandalously.
“I love you,” he said. Like crazy. It had not even been two months, but their life together had fallen into place with only a few hiccups expected of a new couple. He had never thought that coming home to someone, whether at the end of a day or the end of a road trip, could feel so good. Every time he pulled up to the condo and saw the light on his heart did a little flip.
“I love you too,” Andy said. And I owe you, she still knew. Maybe she really owed it to luck, but she preferred to think that Mike had saved her before anything really bad could happen. She knew that she’d saved him too, at least a little, and that made her proud. Her new job as a consultant for a micro-lending finance company gave her just enough flexibility to pay down her loans and never miss a Capitals home game.
“Kick ass out there,” she whispered, lips grazing the soft skin just beneath his earlobe.
He looked at her from the corner of his eye. “Anyone’s ass in particular?” he smiled. Andy scowled and he crushed her into a hug, tipping her side to side while she shrieked for help.
All it took was one shift, the first shift on pristine ice unlike anything Mike had ever seen. They skated on a mirror, right through clouds of their own breath. Even beneath the hat inside his helmet, Mike’s ears pricked against the cold.
“How’s Andy?” Sidney asked, skating by.
“Completely in love with me,” Mike said honestly. Thank God.
“Should I beat you for a goal then? Remind her what she’s missing?”
Mike smiled at the difference he felt from the last time he and Sidney had this conversation. He’d been scared, angry and moving a hundred miles an hour toward he didn’t know what. Anything that hopefully involved Andy. Now they were solid, they were happy. He was happy because of her.
“Bring it on, Sid. The only thing Andy's missing right now is being warm in my bed.”
A/N: You guys are awesome! I had no idea there were so many other Mike Green fans. And thanks to those of you stuck it out even if you hate Mike - I hope you still enjoyed the story! Thanks for all your comments, they really make writing so much more fun. New story coming soon!