Sequel: Stronger
Status: Finished.

Tongue Tied


For the first time since I had been diagnosed with a concussion- later classified as a severe concussion- I felt like I was on cloud nine.

As soon as I began to work with Caroline my headaches and fogginess had disappeared, and my overall “bad mood” that both my family had dully noted that and friends seemed to start to dissipate.

In a way, I felt like a hundred, thousand pound bricks had been lifted off my chest and I was finally able to start breathing normally again. Caroline had helped me in doing that. She had been patient, and kind; doing way more than what her job description had asked for.

After practice we would usually catch a bite to eat- at least for the first week or so; something as simple as eating dinner with another human being unlike being completely alone locked in my basement apartment or with the gang of rowdy Lemieux children made the entire world.

Sooner rather than later, however, she had invited me over to her apartment near downtown for dinner. With reckless abandon, I obliged, happy to get out of the house and eat out somewhere that wasn’t my teammates place and didn’t have a keg stand.

We hadn’t labeled our “relationship” just yet, though. Despite my many pleas and pardons of promising her nothing would happen if she broke “no fraternization clause” (something that was disregarded in true life, but was written in place to scare players and staff not to mess around) we weren’t what you would call “official.”

Things had gotten better, though, and I had even seen an improvement with the way Caroline acted for what seemed around everybody. She seemed happier and began to open up to me with a lot of things- especially when the alcohol started flowing.

All in all though everything felt so much better.

Secret relationship or not, I finally found somebody (or at least I believed I had) that treated me normal, understood the way my brain was wired with regards to sports, and had the same passion- albeit hers was just beginning to come back- as I did to something that we both put a large chunk of our lives into. She began to loosen up more and more as we got to know each other, and after what seemed like over a month of pulling teeth to figure it out I finally got the entire story—the one besides her husbands death and why she quit swimming.

That was the moment I began to understand why exactly Caroline was the way she was.

Tough, hard-nosed, and didn’t deal with anybody’s shit. She could be meaner than the devil, sweeter than sugar, or could switch it all up and act all prima donna bitch in less than five seconds. The mood swings, and tempermentalness hadn’t been because the fact she was a gigantic bitch, but because a serious chemical imbalance in her body that caused everything to be flip flopped: bipolar disorder. While medications- that she didn’t like to take because she felt as if she “was crazy”- helped with controlling most everything that had to do with the mania and depression, there was still a small part that always didn’t completely get fixed, and I know she tried more than hard to make sure it didn’t show.

I had fallen so crazily in love with her over a matter of weeks, and in all honesty, she didn’t know a thing about it. She was blind to everything, and even the glimpses that I know she did see; she tried to push them out. In my own opinion, having a dead husband didn’t help me out because I knew she was extremely guilty with trying to move on with her (love) life.

So when I had left my doctors appointment this morning with a clean bill of health and an all clear to begin gym workouts, Caroline was on my list for the first person to call. I was going to make this deal official. Or at least I hoped it would turn out that way.

Hi,” She breathed sleepily into the phone. I had learned that the weekends were her two days off during the week, and she spent as much of the day sleeping-in in order to catch up on sleep she missed during the week. We differed in that way, by the time noon rolled around; I had been up for almost six hours, had breakfast, went to my doctor’s appointment and was already ready to begin on the new venture of gym workouts. I grinned through the telephone before launching in full force into conversation.

“Guess what?” I asked, sounding more than an overly excited five year old on Christmas morning as opposed to the twenty-three year old man I actually was. If she hadn’t answered when she had, I probably would have just attacked with my fantastic news.


“I got cleared to workout in the gym this morning.” I announced excitedly, putting my car in reverse and pulling out of the UPMC parking lot. It wasn’t exactly a surprise, per se, finding out about the news since the past week had been more of a test to see if I was going to be able to handle it. Harder and more strenuous physical therapy session began to push me to my brink and when no negative side effects happened, I felt like I was going to bust a well from all the waterworks.

Ah! I’m so excited for you, Sid!” She clapped; sounding almost more excited than I was, if that was even possible. “It’ll only be a little bit more time before you hit the ice and kick some ass.” In my downtime since being taken out of the game, we had been watching some of the games together- even one at CONSOL that I managed to sneak her into without the media causing a total shit storm- and I was beginning to teach her all about how exactly the game worked. When she had told me she didn’t really much known more than a lick of hockey I was totally surprised; she had grown up next to Mario’s house, and for some reason I just assumed hockey was in her blood too. “Just remember though when you get back out there that you have to thank the little people, and have a set of tickets on the ice waiting for me.” That was a promise I fully intended to keep… and more, but for tonight I had something else in mind. Something slightly more romantic than seeing a bunch of smelly and toothless men slam each other into panes of glass for the sole purpose of shoving a little piece of plastic into a net with a wooden stick.

“I will, I will.” I reminded her for the hundredth time. “Hey, are you doing something tonight?” I knew with Caroline as much as I wanted to take things at a faster pace that I couldn’t, and explaining to her was probably going to be a process.

Nope. Do you want to come over for dinner?” I hesitated.

“No, not tonight. I have another idea.”


“How about we go out for dinner tonight? Just the two of us to celebrate?” I was possibly walking on eggshells.

I don’t think--” I cut her off. I knew what was coming.

“Fraternization clause doesn’t count anymore because you were officially kicked off my case as soon as I was cleared to one-up.” I knew I had bought my own clause into it. She huffed a long sigh, but I knew she didn’t actually mean it.

Fine,” she groaned with a muffle. I smirked, and tried to hold back a derpy laugh. I was almost there.

“Okay. Good. Be ready at six, I’ll be by to pick you up… Also, wear something warm. Jeans are preferable.” I grinned. This was going to be the best first date.

No, Sid, I’m going to wear something from Fredrick’s of Hollywood and parade my naked ass all over Carson Street.” For some reason, maybe it was the seriousness of her tone; I wouldn’t have doubted her doing that. But I had to remark a smart-ass quip too.

“Save that one for the second date, babe.” I mumbled as she retorted back something before we both hung up our phones.

Tonight was going to be the best first date ever.


Caroline had looked gorgeous from the moment she stepped into the car. Her short bed hair was wistfully curled and pinned back with a beret. She wore dark wash jeans and caramel colored boots that were paired with a red v-neck sweater. I on the other hand looked like a goddamn hot mess in jeans and a t-shirt sweating up a storm in the driver’s seat.

On the way to our surprise date, Caroline and I had made small conversation. Things about our days: she spent the entire day swimming, something she hadn’t done in a long time; and I, after getting home, called my family to tell them of my good news. Things that were going on in our lives: in April she was taking a week off to visit Florida and some of her sorority sisters that still lived in Gainesville (she was part of Kappa Phi Lambda) and was trying to figure out whether or not she should drive down to Central Florida or take a flight. I told her the second would be the better option, mainly because of safety. Driving eighteen hours by herself proved to be worrisome to me. I talked about workouts and how excited I was to start them Monday morning. She rolled her eyes with a little laugh, commenting about how I would be missing her workouts two days in. I had explained to her how hard we ran while working out, and in comparison it wasn’t anything like therapy.

We pulled into CONSOL and she turned to me with a confused expression on her face. “What are we doing here?” She asked as I put my car in park in the garage. Shrugging, I turned off the car and shut off the lights.

“I kind of have a surprise.” I grinned. Again she raised her eyebrows towards me, but I dismissed any questions by getting out of the car and shutting the door behind me. From outside her door, I stared at her until she started laughing.

“Aren’t you going to open the door for me?” She asked through the paned glass. Shaking my head, I opened the door for her.

“Wasn’t it you just two weeks ago, drunk out of your mind, that said about how you didn’t like men opening your doors because you thought it made you less equal to them?” She bit down on her lip and thought about the question posed to her.

“First of all, I don’t get drunk out of my mind. I keep it classy, only a little tipsy in my own home. Secondly, I meant it more as—like when a, oh, you know what I mean.” As much as I wanted to press on, and push her buttons—it was something that was almost endearing about her, when she got mad, I wanted to continue on our date.


We walked into CONSOL and bypassed all the media rooms, locker rooms, and bars as I grabbed onto her hand, and pulled her past all the glitz, glam, and poof of the place I called my second home. She ooh’d and ahh’d at the various pictures relating to hockey and bands that had happened since the opening in October, and stopped to grin at the picture of mine on the wall- along with the rest of the guys.

“Lookin’ good.” She remarked with a smirk as I rolled my eyes and continued our tour along the empty building. Pulling her into a completely dark room, I told her to cover her eyes (a decisive snort was let out since the room was already dark) but she followed my instructions. Carefully I found the clicker I had set on the boards before I left, and turned on the dimly, low lights that I- with the help of a couple of guys- had laced along the boards and ice panes. The entire room glowed with warmth and smelled faintly of cinnamon and vanilla- Caroline’s smells.

“Open your eyes now.” I instructed after everything was perfect. I had pulled her to the edge of the ice, just before you walked on, and there before everything we stood. Her mouth turned into a giant ‘O’ before she pulled her hands up to her mouth and began to sob softly. Thinking I had done something wrong, I quickly went to console her. She brushed me off, laughing between cries, and wrapped her arms around my neck in an embrace.

“This is so beautiful,” she finally said, composing herself. My cheeks tinged proud of my idea and good work. “How did you do this?” She asked.

“A couple guys helped me, but I kind of came up with the idea coming home this afternoon. I was going to take you skating after dinner, but I kind of plot twisted it… Do you like it?” She nodded, and reached up to peck me on the lips. God that felt nice.

“I love it, Sid. So much, in fact.” She still had tears in her eyes, which I took as being positive. “Are we having dinner on the ice?” she asked with skepticism. My face turned red again as she realized the set of chairs on the center ice circle. In the middle was a basket full of food. Nodding, I took her hand and guided her over to a set of chairs next to the boards that had a set of skates for each of us.

“You said you wanted to sit right on the ice, and I can’t exactly have you out there during a game… So I thought this was close enough.” As she sat down, I quickly laced up my skates, and then began on hers.

“Are those like Team USA blinged out skates your putting on my feet?” She asked as I unlaced them and hoped for the best on sizing. My face turned redder than a beat now as I was embarrassed for my purchase.

I nodded.

“They’re perfect. Oddly enough.” For reasons, this was enough for me.

“I have too much free time, too much money, and too much internet. I saw them online, and blinged them out for my favorite physical therapist.” She rolled her eyes as I tightened up the right foot, and then stood up. “All done.”

“I have a problem though…” My eyebrows rose, and she proceeded with said problem. “I can’t skate.” Not meaning to, I started laughing. For all intensive purposes she was being so serious, and honestly I thought it was going to be an actual issue. She didn’t appreciate it though.

“I’m sorry… really. That was mean. But that’s not that big of a deal. You’re kind of going to be skating with a legend.” I didn’t mean to come off as cocky as I had.

“It is though.” She was embarrassed. I knew the feeling because as being an athlete, you felt invincible to everything, and when something came your way that you didn’t know how to do, you felt like a failure. Swimming had been the same exact way for me.

“You’ll be fine. Just trust me, and hold my hand, and you’ll be fine.”

“You promise?” I nodded.

“I promise.”

And I fully intended to keep it.


Dinner had been romantic and skating afterwards had been the perfect end to a perfect evening. Keeping my promise, I didn’t let Caroline fall, and by the end of the evening she was even skating with limited assistance. As cheesy as it sounds, it was almost our own little magical winter wonderland in the middle of CONSOL Energy Center.

We ate cheese and bread and drank fine wine- not enough to inebriate us seeing I still had to drive home- and told each other stories of our childhoods. She would tell me a story about how one time she told her parents she was leaving her house at age seven, and walked over to the Lemieux’s. After spending the night with Nathalie and the kids, she returned the next morning to her parent’s house, not as upset about whatever it had been bugging her. I told her about the time I was at World Juniors in Finland, and Ryan Getzlaf and a couple of the other guys, older than me, had tapped me into a mattress in only my boxers and sent me to the lobby. Some poor and unsuspecting older woman helped me out of the trap, and I found out soon after the elevators closed and she went up to her floor, that I would need a key to get back up to my floor. So I was stuck, all night, downstairs in the lobby of the hotel because it was closed in nothing more than my boxers.

Stories began to warp together, and yawns escaped from both sides signaling we needed to head for the fort. After cleaning up our messes, we retreated back to my car and made our way towards Caroline’s apartment.

“I had a really good time tonight,” she spoke as we walked up the three flights of stairs to her apartment. Not trusting what creeps could have been lurking around the corner, I wanted to make sure that she got into her place safe and sound. “Thank you.” It was simple, and meant more than the world to me.

“You’re welcome. I had a ton of fun too.” I still hadn’t spoken to her about the whole “let’s make it official and go steady” deal that had been racking my brain all night, but I figured if I couldn’t find the moment, then I couldn’t find the moment. It was all in the essence. There was an awkward silence between us as we both stared at her door.

“Do you want to stay the night?” Her voice was low and steady, almost a hoarse whisper. I smiled as she pulled her keys from her purse and opened the red painted door.

“I would like that.” I mumbled quietly, pushing the door open behind her and kissing her lips.

For the first time in a long time I was beginning to feel just a little bit more normal, and I had Caroline Sutton to thank for that.
♠ ♠ ♠
So it's nearly 3AM, I apologize (it took me three times to be able to spell apologize) if the grammar and spelling is awful, or it doesn't make sense. But I like this chapter, and I hope y'all do too.

I love hearing all of your comments and what you think about this story. So thank you to everyone out there who comments!! :)

Also two A/Ns: I'm going to be out of town until Sunday night, so the earliest another update will be Monday night. And with regards to my Staal story I told you about a few chapters back, I'm currently working on it, but I do so much perfectionist work in the first chapter of stories that it's taking me a little bit more time to get out there. Don't worry, I'll let you know when it comes out though!