Just a warning on this chapter, there's some pretty strong and generally objectionable language and I wouldn't normally warn about something like that, but this is 'locker room talk' and I don't mean for it to be offensive, it's just boys being boys and is important to the story so here goes
"Bonjour ceci est bouilloire pot," I begin, glancing at the multi coloured cardigan that he seems to favor, despite the fact that it looks like something his mother would have forced him to wear in grade school and is definitely not something I'd be caught dead wearing.
"Je sais, mais…well, give me some points for at least going through with it," Max shrugs, his gaze suddenly taking on that far off quality as he stares into space with this goofy…well, goofier than usual grin on his face.
"And you're glad you did by the look of it," Gronk chuckles, snapping a soaking wet towel at Max's face, missing by a cunt hair. Max doesn't flinch. He never does. "So you got some of the old in out last night?"
"Must you be so crude Jordan?" I mutter, earning myself one of the tall blonde forward's patented sarcastic eye rolls.
"Must you be so gay?" Jordan snorts, and half the guys in the room laugh, like they always do. I don't rise to it. I never do anymore. I know they don't really mean it, and I know that it only gets worse, the longer my hair gets towards the end of the season. I don't care if they all think it's some kind of fashion statement, it's really more of a superstition thing, along with the beard, which itches like crazy. "So did you?" he asks, giving Max's foot a kick.
"Would I kiss and tell?" Max asks, with that `as if I'd tell you' look on his face which is beyond bullshit because he's usually the first one to blab.
"Which means no, loooser," TK laughs and then it starts, who got what and how many times. It's like this all the time. It reminds me a bit of high school that way.
"There's something about her. I can't put my finger on it," Max sighs and that makes me stop and look at him, really look at him, because Maxime Talbot is not the kind of guy that sighs over a girl.
"Well, une fille qui n'est pas le donner à la première date est une denrée rare et précieuse," I tell him which earns me another raised eyebrow and a shake of his head.
"Tabernak, sometimes you really are a fag," Max groans and finally gets up to his feet. "Maybe you should take her shopping for some like less skanky clothes," he continues, giving me a bright smile, like a light bulb has just gone on over his head. "You know, because you're a fag and they have all that Queer Eye style stuff," he adds, as if more explanation is required. Frankly I'm getting a little sick of the `jests', but I'm still not going to rise to it.
"À tout moment," I grin back at him, because not reacting is good but actually playing along really confuses him and that way I get to have my fun too.
"Are you two cock bandits planning a shopping trip?" Crosby smirks as he walks by and then laughs when I give him a dirty look. "Oh c'mon Tanger, you don't want to be the only single guy left on the team, do you?"
"Pourquoi pas? Then I'd get all the girls," I grin back at him.
"Girls? Tanger sucks cock, he doesn't like girls. Ain't that right Tanger?" Cookie laughs as he goes by, banging my shins with his stick.
I pull the pillow over my head and squeeze my eyes shut. Maybe if I just go back to sleep she'll go away.
Reaching for my one other pillow, I toss that on top too and curse quietly.
"Rebecca, get in here you stupid, fucking, whore!"
Oh no she didn't.
For a minute I just lie there, trying to pretend I can't hear her. Then I wonder if I run to the kitchen, grab a cleaver and kill her how much of a mess I'll have to clean up and if my sister has the right kinds of chemicals to do the job, but then I think that I'm too pretty and too straight to go to jail.
"What the fuck do you want?" I holler back, ripping the pillows off of my head, dropping them on the floor in disgust.
"I'm out of cigarettes!" she screams back and the tone of her voice is shrill enough that it makes me actually check my ears to see if they're bleeding. Mumbling something under my breath about her being a lazy, stupid cunt, I slide out of my bed and reach for my jeans on the floor and my phone falls out and sits there, blinking up at me.
Scooping it up off of the floor, I scroll through the usual text messages from my friends who abandoned me at the bar last night as they disappeared into the night with the usual drunk, slobbery idiots with their cheesy pick up lines, to find two messages from Max. The first is the usual and expected `had a good time, looking 4ward 2 c-ing u again', the second though is a little more unusual.
There's a picture of him, from the back, wearing only the water from the shower he is standing under, one hand on the tiled wall in front of him, fingers spread. The other hand can't be seen, which I suppose is the point, considering the message beneath which reads `Max missing you already, T'.
"Who the fuck is T?" I ask myself as I peer at the picture, which, although too small to see any kind of detail, still allows me to appreciate his very pale but highly muscular ass.
"You better run, tu petite morceau de merde," I call after TK who's bugging it for his car after I found the email that had resulted in the text message I'd just received from Becky; `I'm up 4 a little fun in the sun, looks like u need it'.
"I wish he moved that fast on the ice every night." I turn to find Crosby's crept up on me, wearing the same maniacal grin he's been wearing for a while now, like creating life has actually turned him into a super hero.
"Le pervers peu took a picture of me in the shower on my own phone," I explain, handing him my phone and listening to him giggle like a schoolgirl at my expense.
"At least he got your best side," Sid snorts as he hands my phone to Jordan who nearly chokes on his power bar as he howls with laughter.
"What are you so upset about anyway? It's not like we all know that you're counting the hours until you're getting this chick naked anyway," Jordan adds, like it's a foregone conclusion that the only thing I can't want is a sexual relationship. Not that I don't want to see her naked, and soon, but it's just not the only thing I want to do with her.
"I'm going to try not to," I admit, shrugging my shoulders and then rolling my eyes when they both stare at me, eyes wide and obviously disbelieving. "What? Do you really think I'm not capable of having a normal, adult relationship without having sex right away?"
"Yes," they both answer, immediately and without a moment's thought, in unison.
"Not to mention you're planning on leaving for Haiti soon," Tanger adds as he joins our little band of merry men. "After the wedding of course Cap," he adds with a grin.
"If she says yes," Sid sighs and we all laugh. The poor guy; Tabby's really made him work for it, but we all know they're happy as two bugs in a rug together, which is all I want.
"She will," Jordan says firmly, like maybe he's got inside information, and though we all assume that when he's with Trina there's probably not a lot of time for pillow talk, I guess there has to be some.
"Maybe she'll be my date to the wedding," I add, keeping things positive but when I look around me at my friends, they're all still staring back at me, unconvinced.
"Who are you and what you done with Max?" Jordy shakes his head and then, after firmly squeezing my shoulder he heads to his truck. I consider sticking my tongue out at him but decide that doesn't really go with the new me I'm striving for.
"So you're going to say no to me if I say let's go to DejaVu tonight?" Kris asks, scrutinizing my face, as if he too doesn't quite believe what he sees.
"Maybe Becky will want to go," I offer, snatching my phone from his hand. He rolls his eyes, shakes his head and makes a derisive noise deep in his throat before walking away from me. "What's with him?" I ask as I turn back to Sid who shrugs and grins at me.
"You sure you don't mind?" Max asks as he helps me off with my jacket before handing it to the coat check girl, along with his own. "It will just be a few of the guys, maybe a couple of the Steelers," he adds, but not like he's bragging, just like it's a matter of fact.
"I think I should be asking you that," I reply, waiting as he takes the ticket she gives him and I can't help but notice the way her fingers brush against his and her gaze lingers a little too long on his tattoo where it peeks out from beneath his sleeve.
"We don't have to stay if you don't want to," he adds, reaching for my hand and lacing his thick fingers into mine. "We can leave any time you want. All you have to do is say, d'accord?" I can't help but nod and smile in response to the earnest expression on his face. He's not just saying it, he actually means it and I can't even think of the last time any guy I'd dated made an offer with that much class behind it.
We fall into step behind a bouncer who dwarfs both of us and blocks out the lights as the sea of patrons parts for him in front of us as he leads us across the polished wood floors and up the stairs to the VIP section were a few guys have already made themselves comfortable and the champagne is already flowing. Max leads me over to one of the wrap around couches where a tall blonde is sitting with a leggy Asian on his lap who seems to be threatening him with a bottle of Patron.
"Becks, this is Jordan and his girlfriend Trina."
"Hey…less of the girlfriend," the woman cries, tipping the bottle into the tall blonde's mouth who gulps the golden liquid down like a baby calf, his long throat working rhythmically as he easily swallows half of the bottle. "I'm his dirty hot mistress and we both like it like that," she adds with a growl before nipping at Jordan's bottom lip while he gives her ass a smack that reverberates loudly in the room, making everyone turn and stare. Trina doesn't so much as wince.
"I'd say ignore them," Max leans in to whisper in my ear, "but he's one of my best friends and they're pretty much always like this. Je suis désolé."
"Why are you sorry?" I ask, letting go of his hand long enough to give his ass a firm squeeze. "Or are you just sorry you're missing out?"
"Don't get him started, he'll start sucking his thumb and asking you to change his diaper." I turn to look into the dark, dark brown eyes half hidden behind long, brown bangs that make him look like some kind of Prince out of a Disney movie.
"Hmmm…well…I do have the boots," I point out, glancing down at my black patent, knee high stiletto boots which could definitely be dominatrix gear.
"And if anyone's sucking anyone's thumb around here, it's me," Jordan growls, before grabbing Trina's hand and promptly sticking her thumb in his mouth and making loud, over exaggerated lip smacking noises.
"Okay, you're right, your friends are weird," I laugh, giving Max's ass a smack and realizing that not only is there no give to his ass but that my hand actually hurts.
"Do that to Sid and your hand won't hurt as much," the dark haired prince promises, but a quick look around tells me that the most famous of the Penguins is nowhere to be found.
"Do that to Sid and Tabby will rip your arm off and beat you to death with it," Trina warns me in a no nonsense voice that tells me that what she's saying is absolutely true.
"Do that to Sid and I might rip your arm off," Max says in an entirely different tone as he reaches for my hand and lifts it to his mouth, brushes his lips over my knuckles and looks up at me with his leaf, green eyes. "I don't really want you touching any other guys' derrieres."
"No?" I ask, feeling my cheeks grow warm as Max's gaze holds mine long enough to send a shiver straight down to the butterflies in my stomach and sets them fluttering.
"Je sais ce que tu entends," Dupes grumbles into his beer. "It's sickening."
"I've never seen him like this," I add, trying not to look at Max with that girl's tongue down his throat.
"That's bullshit," GoGo smirks, downing the remainder of his rum and coke. "I can't even count how many times I've seen him with his tongue down some girl's throat. It's like a regular thing."
"But he looks happy," I point out, "not just lecherous like he usually does."
"Does he? Or is he just drunk?" GoGo sighs, motioning for the waitress to bring us another round. "I think you're just jealous that your boyfriend is making out with someone other than you for a change," he adds, his face a barely contained mask of pure resentment. Dupers and I both look over at him and then at each other and I know we both are wondering whether to say it. Shrugging, I do.
"You're still pissed about Mel and Johnny," I tell him and for once he doesn't deny it. Instead he shrugs and glances over at the two pairs of lovers making out at the other end of the couch.
"Is it wrong to want someone in my life Tanger? I mean, is that so wrong?" GoGo asks and then we both sigh.
"Non," I mumble, turning my attention back to the bottom of my drink. "Je pense que nous devons tous quelqu'un, but then you had someone and you messed it up," I add, not being helpful.
"Thanks for reminding me," he grumbles, reaching for my drink but then his hand pauses in mid air and he makes a face. "Jeeezus Tanger, even your drink is gay."
"Merci," I snap, grabbing my martini and dragging myself to my feet. Right now, I neither want to watch Max making out with his new girlfriend nor do I want to hear Dupers and Goligoski make fun of my choice of beverages, which will naturally lead to making fun of my hair and then my clothes and then….
"Hey, mon ami, où allez-vous?" Max, his mouth smeared with bright red lipstick, grins up at me. "Get me another drink?"
"L'obtenir un pour vos soi," I snap, allowing myself one quick look at those fishnet stockings disappearing into those shiny black boots and shake my head. Why is it they all gravitate to Max?
"Ah c'mon mon ami, don't be such a spoil sport," Max calls after me. "You can see I'm busy here," he adds, grinding salt into the wound.
"Hey, what was that?" I ask, craning my neck to follow the vision of Prince Charming making a disgruntled exit stage right. "I thought these guys were your friends?"
"Teammates," Max corrects me, trying to turn my attention back to him by nipping at my earlobe, but I'm still staring at the denim clad back of the dark haired boy with the sweet smile and the deeply soulful eyes. "And now, ma douce, you are making me jealous." Considering that I can no longer find him in the crowd, I turn my attention back to the man on whose lap I am sitting and give him my best innocent bat of my fake eyelashes.
"I just wondered why he seems so pissed off at you." Searching his face, it seems clear that Max isn't entirely sure himself why his friend is in such a huff, but then he shrugs and goes to use his hands to talk and that leaves me slipping off of his lap and down onto the floor and unceremoniously onto my ass.
"Fuck! Je suis désolé!" Max is immediately onto his feet pulling me onto mine while I rub at the spot on my ass cheek that I'm sure will be black and blue in no time.
"You see what that fucking queen does? Throwing a pissy little tantrum and your girl ends up on her ass." I turn to see Jordan with his arm around the waist of his date, a huge livid hickey on his neck, looking happy and drunk all at the same time.
"Q…queen?" The word doesn't sound right on my tongue. Something in my head screams that it's unfair that someone that pretty should bat for the other side, but then again, the other part of my brain says `of course'.
"He just likes having me all to himself," Max explains going to brush at the back of my skirt with his hand but I bat his away and smooth the back of my skirt down myself while Trina gives me just the slightest shake of her head to say `you're good to go'. It's only then that what my date has just said sinks in and I turn to Max, tipping my head to one side as I stare at him, disbelief clouding my vision as I try in vain to look for anything about his masculine form, his stubble, his broad forehead and that Roman nose that looks like there's been more than a couple of attempts to beat it into the other side of his head, that would suggest in even the tiniest way that he could possibly be a double agent. "No, no, you don't understand," Max suddenly gets why I'm staring at him and a bark of laughter erupts all around me. "I'm not like that! Ne vous inquiétez pas de ton jolie petite tête à ce sujet," he insists, and though I'm not really sure what he's saying, I get the jist that it's meant as both a compliment and an assertion of innocence. "I'm as straight as they come, mon petit chou, believe me," he adds, giving me that same cocky grin that says he will happily and skillfully take care of any sexual cravings I might have at the drop of a hat. "We were just roommates and we hang a lot, both of us coming from Montréal," he explains with a shrug, as if there couldn't possibly be any other explanation for what has just happened.
"C'mon you guys. Don't go tagging Tanger with that shit," Trina begins and I turn and look up at her but Jordan is shaking his head, like whatever she's about to explain is verboten. "Well?" she tries again but the big man just shakes his blonde locks and she rolls her eyes and shrugs as if to say `I tried'.
"So he's really…," I pitch my voice low and glance around, realizing that even if he is out amongst his teammates that he probably isn't in general. "He's really gay?"
"Oh Kris is a total fag alright. He's got more fucking hair products in his bathroom than I've ever used in my entire fucking life." One of the other guys, the young one who looks a little like a monkey mated with a pig, chimes in as he arrives with a pitcher of beer in each hand. "Now who's going to help me drink these?"
The entire discussion forgotten in the light of the arrival of free cold beverages, Max and Jordan and the rest of their remaining teammates fall on the pitchers of beer like carrion birds on a corpse and leave me, standing at the rail, searching the crowd for their shy, beautiful teammate, feeling a little wistful and just a little bit proud of him at the same time.