Status: Hiatus--Last Update was 7.23.12 (Chapter Twenty-Two PREVIEW)

Love in Ice



Chicago at three in the morning was as quiet as Chicago could get. It was still a city, and city life still went on as usual. Cars tended to be less noisy, their drivers finding it too much work to be angry at something at the current time. It still had the occasional tire-screeching, but all in all, a cloud of drowsiness that loomed over the city at night leeched all the restless energy from the morning.

In a few hours, I would not be in Chicago. Instead, I would be with Sam and the guys in a city named Pittsburgh. I hid a yawn behind my free hand, a cup of coffee in the other. I wore a pair of jeans and a navy blue shirt, my white winter jacket waiting for me on the couch. If it weren't for the knocks resonating throughout my apartment, I would have dozed off.

I opened my apartment door, seeing a half-asleep Sam on the other side with her luggage. "Ready to go," she asked after a loud yawn. I nodded, replying, "I'll be right down. I have to get my coat on and drink the rest of my coffee."

"No wonder you're so awake." Another yawn followed the statement. Sam allowed herself in, sitting on the couch as I finished off my supply of energy. Not even a minute later did she fall asleep.

I sighed as I slipped on my winter coat, "Sam, get up. We need to leave."

My red-headed friend startled awake, standing unsteadily. I grabbed her arm, asking, "Are you sure you don't want a cup of coffee to go?"

Too tired to speak, she mumbled in the affirmative. I fixed her a cup of coffee, and soon we were out of my apartment. I had two bags; one containing my clothes and the other containing my goalie equipment. After much convincing on Coach Q's part on his acceptance, I finalized my decision to go under one condition. I had to help in some way.

Coach Q agreed, saying I would give the two goaltenders pointers at practice, though the Finn was scheduled to play in Pittsburgh. Even now in the dead of the morning, I felt excited to be going outside of Chicago to see a hockey game.

After Sam stopped by her apartment to grab her bags, we went outside and met with Ben. He greeted us, giving us a fist bump, "Hey Sam, Alex. Ready to head out to the great unknown?"

Sam retorted, instantly awake, "How is it the great unknown if we're going to Pittsburgh?"

"Oh, so they didn't tell you two. Well, that's good. That way when I kidnap you, you won't run away."

I snickered at the blonde man as Sam snipped out of her exhaustion, "I'm dying of laughter, Ben. Don't do this to me."

As I watched Sam climb into Ben's truck, I told him, amused, "Sorry about her attitude. It's too early in the morning for her to function properly."

He chuckled as I opened the door and got inside his truck. "It's perfectly fine, don't worry. I'm surprised you're awake."

"I just had coffee. That's the only reason why."

I closed the door as Benny got in the driver's seat. Within minutes we were heading to O'Hare Airport, where we would all meet. Sam took tiny sips of her coffee, making sure she had some to last the entire drive. Benny turned on the radio, so the music allowed us to keep awake.

As we parked in one of the many parking lots, I glanced at the clock in the truck. 3:37 AM. Benny lightly shook Sam, who resisted and fell back asleep. I chuckled before getting out of the truck, walking around to get the luggage.

I opened the trunk, placing the bags on the ground next to me. I took a step back and, though I wore weather-appropriate clothing, immediately numbed over in cold fear. I stepped in black ice, something notorious in Chicago.

I expected my back to make a rather harsh contact with the equally cold pavement, but I felt no pain. I opened my eyes, having flinched when my feet no longer stuck to the ground, to see a hand on my arm.

"Are you okay, Alley Cat?"

The accented voice re-stimulated all my numbed senses, the most heat accumulating in my arm. Hand gloved, the heat seeped through my winter jacket and singed my nerves. I was momentarily deafened, heart pounding in my ears.

Slightly unsteady, I gripped the arm he grasped to regain a sense of balance. Once I did so, I risked the ability to speak by looking at his face. His face relaxed, but his eyes flashed hints of worry.

I noticed then I still did not speak to him, cheeks blazing. "Thanks Nemo. Yeah, I'm okay."

"Let me help you over that ice. Hold on tight." The blue-eyed man picked me up in such a sudden movement I had no time to think. Instead, I wrapped an arm around his shoulders and gripped one of his arms. He easily lifted me and placed me on my feet on some ice-free pavement.

I smiled gratefully at him, and his eyes gleamed in the light of the parking lot. Benny and Sam walked around from the side of the car and walked over. They each took their bags and started walking to the gate, side by side in close proximity. I raised an eyebrow in question, and Nemo looked back and forth between the two and my face.

He chuckled and said, shaking his head playfully, "I don't know those two. Let's go before we're missed. Stay close though, wouldn't want you falling. You know, for someone who plays a sport on ice, you don't have too much skill with ice outside the rink."

I laughed with him, giving him a light shove. I grabbed my bags and walked to the entrance of the airport. Nemo walked on my right, carrying his own luggage. As we walked, I noticed how comfortable he felt talking to me, and the realization made my heart miscount a few beats.

Nemo questioned curiously, looking over to me, "Who are you going to sit with on the plane?"

I shrugged, replying, "I don't know. Sam's probably sitting with Benny. Oops, I mean Ben. I don't think you know the nicknames we use for you guys."

"I'll learn. It shouldn't be too hard." He gave a small laugh, still managing to make me smile. Our eyes met, and all of a sudden his became a little darker, hinting a more serious nature.

"You could sit with me, if you want, on the plane," he trailed off at the end of his sentence, his face also a shade deeper in color.

"I'd love to sit with you, Nemo. You're my best friend, remember," I mused, cheeks ablaze with my reply. His crooked smile threw off my racing heart and equally flustered thoughts. His shining blue eyes only magnified the intensity of the effect.

"Yeah, I-I know, I just t-thought I'd ask you," he stuttered, and I couldn't help but keep my eyes locked with his. Nemo stared back, and our faces flushed simultaneously. A flicker flashed across his eyes, but a moment later it disappeared.

Managing to find my breath, I tried my luck at speaking. "Let's get inside. We'll be warmer that way."

Nemo nodded in agreement, and once again we avoided an awkward situation. Soon we were sitting and waiting for other guys on the team to arrive with Benny and Sam. Nemo and I easily settled back into our playful best friend mode from a near-silent demeanor. Sam opted to sleep a little more, laying against Benny. I, however, was wide awake, as was Nemo; we continued to converse in hushed tones, snickering and chuckling softly.

The area around us soon filled itself with noise as more and more guys arrived. Not much time passed before we were all assembled in the airport. The clock above my head read 4:28 AM. Nemo followed my gaze to the clock and asked, smiling, "Tired?"

"Not really. Once I get up, I stay awake and I usually don't feel tired. Are you?"

He shook his head, saying, "I'm okay now. That sounds a lot like me."

"I can't say the same for some of the other guys, though. Some look asleep on their feet."

He chuckled and whispered, nodding his head to his left, "Bolly fits the description, don't you think?" I sneaked a glance at the mentioned player, quietly laughing when I saw him standing with his eyes closed and mouth open. Nemo tried to conceal his laughter, but only managed to keep it to low chuckles under his breath.

"Time to get on, everyone," Coach Q addressed to the half-awake group, who all started at his voice. It was still too early for some people to hear Coach Q at his loudest. I followed Seabs into the plane, Nemo walking close.

The plane looked comfortable with its normal dark blue seats. I smiled in excitement; I loved traveling. Not long after boarding the plane, the guys started placing their bags in the overhead compartments. As Nemo found a good section to sit, I attempted to sneak past him. I attempted to step past him, but the plan backfired, seeing as how he felt me sneak behind him.

Nemo, somehow anticipating my plan, wrapped an arm around my waist, preventing me from moving. The restraint made my cheeks burn, and I heard a stifled snort from someone in front of me. Sam, I realized mentally, though she still did not wake up entirely. I averted my gaze from Nemo's arm to Nemo's face. Color built up along the bridge of his nose, blush evident against his skin.

I felt befuddled to say the least. Why would he blush like that? Why did I?

I didn't find any answers, so I dismissed the questions from my mind. Nemo still had his arm around my waist, and he seemed to take notice the same moment I did. He released me from his hold, and as a subconscious reaction, my left hand shot out and grasped his right hand. Startled, I directed my gaze to Nemo, whose widened eyes met my own.

I lost all forming thoughts, and the only thing I could do was keep my gaze steady with his. His eyes took on a light gray appearance, matching his coat. No matter what color they turned, I realized with an odd pang of warmth originating from our joined hands, they were always alluring in their own way.

Nemo's searching eyes flickered away, and he, sitting himself down, gently tugged me into the seat on his immediate right. A silent moment slipped in between us, and I could barely collect enough air to breathe. Our eyes met once again, and I felt the corners of my lips tug upwards as I saw Nemo's contagious smile appear.

We were okay, I interpreted from his gesture, and I visibly relaxed. A low chuckle escaped his lips, and I laughed lightly along with him. Little time passed before we were laughing loudly, and others joined in on the laughter. They had no clue why we were laughing, and they were cursed with the nature of it.

Everyone soon reached the point where they still had fits of laughter, even as we departed the airport. Sharpy and Bur had decided to start recording the whole ordeal, claiming how it would be perfect for Blackhawks TV. We only settled down after the plane steadied itself in the air, flying smoothly.

Sam, even though she had joined in on the fun, fell back asleep, the coffee not aiding in her intentions to stay awake. A voice beckoned from behind me, and I turned myself around in my seat to see who called.

"Alley Cat, what exactly were we laughing about? You and Nemo started laughing, and that's when everyone laughed along." I looked from Byfuglien, the one who asked, to Steeger, whose curious face hinted at the fact that he wanted to know as well.

"Honestly Buff, I haven't the faintest idea. I'll let you know when I do, though." He shook his head, smirk on his face. Steeger snickered at my reply, looking away when I gave him a stern look.

"Got something to say, Steeger?"

"No, not really. I'll tell you when I think of something, though." We both laughed at the manner he jokingly mocked me, and I felt Nemo chuckle from my left.

"Oh wait, before you go back to getting friendly with Nemo," he paused, receiving an elbow from the woman next to him and a harsh stare from me, "I would like to introduce you to my girlfriend. Leslie, this is our friend Alexandra Lainasen. Alley Cat, this wonderful woman right here is my lovely Leslie Estellemond."

Leslie smiled warmly at me, and I returned the smile. She had shoulder-length, brown hair with blonde highlights. She shook the hand I held out, saying wholeheartedly with happy blue eyes, "It's really nice to meet you. I've heard many things about you, and I really looked forward to when we would meet."

"How much of that was good," I asked with a giggle.

"Everything was good, believe me. Steeger said he was shocked to see a girl play hockey. He also said you had a really great sense of humor, which I believe fully with the way everyone was in a laughing fit."

"Ahaha, thanks Leslie. I would introduce you to Sam, but she's unresponsive as of yet. Maybe once we get off the plane she'll be awake and out of her little sass mood she was in earlier."

Leslie nodded with a smile. "Sure, I'd love to meet Sam." She turned back to Steeger, who wrapped an arm around her shoulders and placed a kiss on her cheek. I sat back in my seat, letting my head rest against the back of the seat. I felt fingers entwine themselves with mine, and I looked over at Nemo, startled. I forgot our hands were still clasped together. He gave me a small, slightly tired smile and played with my fingers.

Heart leaping at his playful manner, I sent him a similar smile. I yawned unexpectedly, and Nemo asked, smirking, "Sleepy?"

I nodded in response, feeling another yawn creep in on me. He slipped his hand out of mine, in such a slow movement that I nearly thought was reluctant, and took out a pillow. He handed it to me, allowing me to place it in the space between our heads. I pulled out a blanket, draping it over my body.

"Get some sleep, Alley Cat," he whispered. I pulled up the blanket, silently telling him to do the same. He shook his head, and I told him, "You need your rest much more than I do, so I think you should."

He stubbornly continued to shake his head, and it took me a few minutes of an imploring expression to break his stubbornness. I moved my head over so he could lay his next to mine, pulling the blanket over both of us. He lifted the arm rest between our seats and sat with his side against mine.

I steadied my suddenly uneven breath, and muttered, "Good night, Antti. Hyvää yötä." Sure, it was nearly dawn, but I didn't particularly care in my drowsiness.

"Hyvää yötä, Alex," came the low, soothing reply. I fell asleep in no time, finding it easier to sleep with Nemo's comforting warmth.
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After a long few weeks, I have finally published the seventh chapter!

I am now up to 45 readers and 7 subscribers! Thank you all so much, I am so grateful!

Of course, now that I am in school, it will be increasingly harder to update this story. Please bear with me. :)