A/N: Thanks for the feedback! I totally agree that Olivia is getting away with just about murder. But even with the most patient of people, who have their own agendas, that kind of behavior can only last so long.
[Indemnity - a promise by a third party to pay a debt owed, or repay a loss caused, by another party.]
Olivia boards the bus to Anaheim in a sleeveless top. What else could she do, it’s 75 degrees out. Her wrist, as promised, has angry, deep purple marks in the shape of my hand. I snap my head away, eyes burning. Seeing it is much worse than I imagined. She climbs over Geno, naturally using her left hand to balance along the top of the seat, and takes the window in front of me.
“What this?” Geno asks instantly, carefully taking her arm from her lap. His tone is so aggressive that everyone’s ears prick up.
Crosby stands and looks over. “Olivia, what the hell is that from?”
Even the people who’d been in the bar that night wouldn’t know. Just Kris and Jordan, and only Jordan has seen the bruise.
“Max kissed me,” she says evenly, quoting those Twilight books I know she loves. “And I broke my hand punching his face. Total misunderstanding.”
A hot, angry pulse flashes through every male body on the bus. Twenty-plus faces turn in my direction. None of them are smiling as Olivia tries to downplay the situation.
“Max did that?!” Billy G hisses. I sink down into my chair.
“It’s just a bruise. Max stopped me before I could punch him.”
“Max kiss you?” Geno doesn’t have to get up to look at me over the back of his seat.
“It’s okay, Geno. He apologized. Right Max?”
Geno does not look convinced. Neither do most of the other guys. She puts her other arm over the seat toward me. It’s my olive branch. I take her hand and squeeze it, deliriously grateful that she’s bailing me out of this. I don’t deserve it – the mark of my mistake is in plain sight. But she does it anyway.
“I’m still sorry,” I say loudly.
“I know,” she squeezes back and smiles thinly. Across the aisle, Jordan rolls his eyes and turns forward.
She wisely does not come into the locker room. It is the single most uncomfortable half hour of my life. At first, no one speaks to me. They all just stare. Marc looks devastated – more disappointed than angry. Kris raises his eyebrows at me like I’m just getting what I deserve. He’s right. Jordan’s pacing the cage while Sid chews the inside of his lip like he’s selecting just the right words to throw at me. Eventually he finds them, but instead of announcing to the room he leans right over my ear.
“Max, I know she’s jerking you around. But if you ever hurt her again, or lay a hand on any woman that I ever even hear about, it will be the last game you ever play for this team.”
He’s right too. Sidney has that power, could have me on the next flight to the Panthers or the Islanders if he felt strongly enough. It makes me nauseous to know that my very closest friends know I could do that to anyone, let alone Olivia.
Sidney’s not done. “She’s making a fool of you and you’re letting her do it. But don’t bring it in this locker room and don’t bring it on the ice.”
“I didn’t mean to do it. We were having an argument and…”
Jordan throws a towel into his stall. He can’t hear us but he knows exactly what’s going on as he heads for the door, like he cannot stand to be in my presence a moment longer.
“Liv,” Jordan calls, coming into the office behind her. She’s on the phone, but quickly disconnects and moves her bruised wrist behind her back. It’s not exactly private in the visiting team offices but Jordan really doesn’t care right now.
“I wish I hadn’t listened to you about wearing this,” she says. “I feel like everyone is staring at me.”
“Don’t be ashamed of what he did to you. That is his fault, Olivia, not yours. And people should know! He can’t just get away with hurting you.”
“You think I’m letting him get away with it.”
“You don’t seem very upset. So why don’t you tell me what’s really going on here. You’re acting like you did something to make him mad enough to hurt you. If you’ve got a guilty conscience, I think I have a right to know about it.” Jordan’s struggling to keep his voice down. He’s mad, and Olivia is not surprised.
“Jordan,” her voice thickens, tears are coming. “I wanted to hurt him too – I would have. Just because I can’t knock a guy out doesn’t mean that what I wanted to do was okay.”
“It’s different when he’s a man and you’re a woman. He has a responsibility. But I don’t think that’s everything.” He pulls her inside the nearest door and shuts it. Don’t be threatening, he reminds himself. His size makes that virtually impossible, so he backs away a few steps. “I know what you’re doing, Olivia. You’re falling in love with him. I may be young but I’m not stupid. That’s why you’re always trying to back away from me – it makes me sick. Are you thinking of him when we’re together? Is that what I’m about?”
Olivia’s head snaps up and she stares him right in the eye. There’s the fire he was talking about.
“Jordan, this was never supposed to happen!” She spins around but there’s nowhere to go. “I thought you and I could have some silly fun and it would also serve to make the other guys leave me alone. But you’re not so silly. You are surprising and mature and smart and fucking sexy as hell. You are a million things I never expected you to be.”
“Just like that kiss at the photo shoot wasn’t supposed to happen? And whatever made him so mad in Anaheim? Things keep happening to you, Liv,” he emphasizes his disbelief. “Maybe you should do something about them instead.”
She sits down on the desk. “I have feelings for Max. I always have since day one, that’s precisely why I did not get involved with him.”
“So you got involved with me instead because you have no feelings for me?”
“Jordan, I do…” she tries.
“Forgive me for pointing it out Olivia,” he hisses her name. “But I’ve bailed you out about a million times here. I thought we were both getting something out of this. And I’m pretty sure if you stopped stringing everybody along that you might figure out you like me. But you can’t stop looking over your shoulder long enough to even see me.”
Olivia’s head is bowed and Jordan speaks right down over her.
“I said I would protect you Olivia but I can’t protect you from yourself. Figure this out. Because I’m done being a fucking bookmark until you decide you’re all healed up enough to run off with someone else.”
The door swings shut behind him, sounding just shy of a slam.
Deep breath. Please be the right decision, Olivia thinks as she watches him go.
Follow me, Olivia, Jordan thinks. Chase me and I’ll let you take all that back. I’ll give you till I get this far. One, two…
She doesn’t follow. He isn’t surprised. Fucking Max.
Halfway through practice, during scrimmage, I let it happen. Jordan lines me up from a mile away and I don’t even bother stepping out of his way. He crushes me into the boards, knocking the wind out of me and toppling me to the ice. I stay down a moment to make sure everyone sees. Then someone skates over and offers me a hand.
“I bet Olivia hits harder than that,” Tanger says as he pulls me to my feet.
I stay out of everyone’s way, even at the game. We quietly win 2-1 and board the plane to San Jose. One more city, one more game. We’ll be home on the third day. Everyone’s still giving me the cold shoulder, which is just as well because I have nothing to say for myself. I head for the last row and take the window. Let them think I’m hiding. It’s a full house, so someone will have to ride next to me. I hope it’s not Jordan right up until the moment Tanger takes the seat.
Jordan gets on and walks back to where the only empty seats are the aisle next to Olivia and the window next to Rupp. He goes back to the front and sits next to Flower. I think: that’s weird.
When we land, Olivia and Jordan sit on opposite sides of the bus home and take separate elevators upstairs. I know, because I’m in hers. So is Crosby, like he’s not quite sure I’m allowed to be alone with her. As we separate down the hall he gives me the same look he used in the locker room: sort it out.
“Are you and Olivia gonna…” TK starts to ask.
“No,” Jordan says firmly, putting in the earphones connected to his laptop.
I feel caged. I’m angry at myself for what I did, but I’m also still angry at Olivia for everything that made me do it. She made up for some of it today by defending me, but that doesn’t change the circumstance. We are still right where we were before. I take myself on a walk through the hotel, down into the bar. I spot Crosby from the back, sitting at the edge of a lattice wall that divides the bar from the restaurant. I walk over, intending to apologize and explain myself. But he’s talking.
“… sure you’re okay?” he asks.
“Yes, I’m fine.” It’s Olivia’s voice, but I can’t see her.
“Good. But Liv, this is a problem. Nothing like this can ever happen again. If you’re involved with someone on this team, it needs to be open and easy. No more hiding, no more secrets and, honestly, no more dragging Max around like a wet blanket, okay? Either be with him or cut him loose because this is going bad really fast.”
Oh my God. I’m practically standing inside a fake potted palm, eavesdropping.
“If anyone else saw your wrist, Dan or Mario or anyone, if anyone knew why Jordan laid him out on the ice today… I think you’d find that rule of yours coming back into effect really quickly. And I don’t want that to happen, to them or to you.”
She says something that I can’t hear clearly.
“I don’t think that’s the answer. They still have to be together, even if you’re not around. So unless you’re going to Brazil, you’re going to have to man up and make a decision. Er, woman up. Whatever. It’s not just for you – I had to threaten to get Max traded to Edmonton or Columbus today. And I meant it, Liv.”
“Please, don’t do anything crazy,” she says, loudly enough that her voice carries to me.
Sidney shakes his head. “You’re the crazy. You do something.”
As he leaves the table, he passes within inches of where I’m tucked in amongst the plastic fronds. I climb out and turn the corner, but the table is empty.
Olivia skips practice and the next day. Jordan calls her twice – once on her cell and then once in her room to avoid the caller ID. She doesn’t pickup either call. He hits the bike after practice until Coach has to tell him to save it for the game. Back to the hotel, she’s nowhere to be found. He doesn’t know why he’s looking for her, because he has no idea what he’ll say. Are you taking it back? Asking for another chance? He’s not going to ask those things, even if he’s dying to. Jordan takes an extra long nap just for something to do.
Olivia goes to the arena early for some Reebok thing with Crosby. I don’t see her after warm-up skate, but she’s roped Duper into talking to ESPN. It’s a shame, because I wanted to tell her about this girl we saw from the ice. Total puckbunny hopeful and really, really working it hard. Olivia would have gotten a kick out of her.
“…she’s got on this tank top, like two sizes too small, and it’s fucking freezing out there,” TK is telling Flower, who didn’t see her from the net, “so her nipples are hard and, right Max? How big?”
“She had a huge rack, like a 42DD or something. So fake I’m surprised her nipples can still get hard. But they were so….”
For a split second I saw the look on Flower’s face change, then a blur passes the corner of my eye before Jordan’s right hand connects with my jaw and knocks me off my feet. I land between Kris’ skates. No one moves.
“If you ever…,” Jordan spits. A vein is pulsing in his forehead and he’s towering over my prone body with his skates on. He turns and storms away as much as he can all dressed for the game. I scramble to my feet as Coach swings through the door. He looks from one face to the next – everyone is staring.
“What’s going on?” he asks.
“Nothing,” Crosby says, like it’s final. And so it is.
My jaw is sore and Jordan doesn’t look at me once. He takes a stupid roughing penalty, like he’s ready to kill the next person who skates past no matter what jersey he’s wearing. At the first intermission, Olivia catches Kris in the hallway to talk to Comcast Sports Net. By the time I pass her she’s looking the other way. Luckily the room is busy with Coach setting some plays and adjusting the penalty kill. In the second period, I end up on the ice with Jordan when TK scores a goal. In the celebration huddle, Jordan moves right past me.
Olivia taps Sid and leads him out of the locker room. Before they get to the ESPN crew, Sidney stops and turns her into the wall. “Jordan punched Max after the warm up skate. I assume that’s to do with you?”
Olivia gasps and covers her mouth. “What?!”
“I told you to sort that shit out, Liv. Before anyone outside the players hears about it.” Sidney finishes with a stern glare, in full team captain mode.
I don’t know what happened. The only information I have is a swollen throb on the left side of my face. And so I’m not eager to have another confrontation with Jordan. I shower, change and hustle through the foggy night to get on the bus as quickly as could be considered normal. Let him cool off and let me find out what’s going on before he gets another shot at me. Jordan gets on the bus last. He’s stomping around so we all know he’s still upset. Good thing he’s sitting when Coach climbs on board. Olivia follows Dan, sits in the very front row and does not look at anyone. I guess she knows now.
Our plane takes off the minute we’re on. Red eye flights are usually the worst part of travel but at least it means I won’t have to talk to anyone. Crosby gives me a warning look just in case. Olivia sits in the front row next to Billy G, and pulls a sleep mask over her eyes. I wake up as we land in Pittsburgh. Olivia’s in her car before I’m off the plane, and she doesn’t pickup when I call.
“Jordan!” Olivia shouts as she gets out of her car. It is pouring rain and Jordan’s not even up his driveway yet. “Jordan!”
He’s so mad – mad at Olivia, Max and mad at himself. He totally overreacted in the locker room, but he’d been waiting for any excuse to get in Max’s face. Any outlet he could find for his anger and frustration. He hadn’t thought until later that punching him in front of everyone would probably be most damaging to Olivia. Crosby hasn’t even had a chance to tell him off yet. He wipes a handful of rain from his face.
Olivia marches right up like she’s going to punch him herself. “You’re mad at me. Not Max. Please don’t take this to the game.”
“We were together, Olivia,” he points from himself to her, as if she might be unsure. “Together. You don’t move in on someone else’s girl, even if she’s fucking begging you to do it! Max didn’t give a shit about me either. The only difference is he never tried to hide it.”
“Remember when you asked what I could have done to make someone mad enough to hurt me?”
The wind blows the rain sideways into her face. Jordan’s back is turned into the spray, shielding him. Mad enough to hurt you, he thinks. He wants to strangle her. He wants to run her over, push her into a ditch, let it fill with water. He wants to drag her into the house and erase the world around them.
“So who are you really mad at? Max or me?”
You. Mostly you. Jordan doesn’t say anything.
“Want to take a swing at me? Come on, have a go. God knows I deserve it.” Olivia holds her arms wide open. Her hair is plastered to her face, her coat soaked and sagging as the rain beats against her. Jordan doesn’t move.
“Remember that tomorrow,” she says as she puts her arms down. And he stands, battered by the storm, bathed in her headlights as she backs down the drive.
I wake to the sound of my doorbell ringing. My clock says 9:15 AM but it’s dark as night outside. I can hear the rain pounding off the windows and roof as the doorbell rings again. Without bothering to put a shirt or shoes on, I pad across the living room cursing the mailman or whoever it is. I can’t have been asleep more than an hour. I swing open the door, an expletive on my lips for whoever is waking me.
“Shit,” I’m already saying, but in surprise instead of anger. “Are you okay?”
Olivia is drenched, like she’s been swimming with her clothes on. Her ballet flats must be full of water, and the hem of her pants drags on the ground. She has her arms wrapped around her middle and she’s shaking, sky still dumping buckets onto her head. I pull her inside. She stands still as I peel off her pea coat and toss it over the back of a chair. She doesn’t say anything but her teeth chatter. With one hand, I lead her toward the bathroom.
My hands unbutton her cardigan and shuck it off – it’s soaked through. I look in her eyes for permission, but she’s looking away so I start to open her water-logged blouse. I slip it from her shoulders, her skin clammy and damp beneath my fingers. She’s trembling, mostly from the cold, as I unbutton and unzip her pants. Still no eye contact, so I drop them from her hips into a heap on the floor.
Forgive me. I’m getting hard as I slowly undress Olivia on the bathroom rug. She lets me, I think it’s why she came here, but she doesn’t react. She just shivers until she’s down to a dark gray bra with pinstripes and white lace trim and a matching thong. Her body is even more beautiful up close. Mine are the only eyes that take in the sight as I lean into the shower and turn on the hot water. I help Olivia step over the side of the tub, and she faces forward into the spray. I step out of my sweatpants and climb in right behind her.
As the steaming water courses over her from head to toe, I wrap my arms around Olivia from behind. She fits against me, like I knew she would. Her skin warms slowly, color coming back into her cheeks. With her face turned away from me I hold her, almost completely naked, as she cries it all out in my shower. When she’s finished, she leans her head forward to rinse her hair. I step out and secure a towel around myself, then hold one open for her. We’re still silent as I reach both the towel and myself around her. Olivia’s forehead rests in the crook of my neck, her face into my chest. A few deep breaths and I sense she’s ready to move so I lead her into my bedroom. I find the over-sized, super-soft robe in my closet and hold it open, blocking my face away. She strips off her underwear and settles into plush fabric. I lift the blankets for her, then climb in and take her in my arms again. Not a word before she falls asleep.
When I wake, it’s light out and she’s gone. I feel around the empty space then open my eyes to see her pillowcase hanging from the dresser. A dark pattern marks the wet spot where her hair had been.