"A foolish fox is caught by one leg, but a wise one by all four." (old Serbian saying)
"Another one bites the dust, hey Mount Milan?" fellow Canadian and ex-Vancouverite Chuck Kobasew sat across from where Milan was stretching on the floor of the gym. His back was hurting, again but no surprise there. It never got better and it was only going to get worse. Just not yet. Not if he could help it.
"Dumb rook," Milan smiled to himself, flexing his big thick fingers. A couple of his knuckles were swollen and they'd probably hurt in the morning but he could ignore that. These little aches and pains were nothing after a win.
"You really sent him crying home to his momma huh?" The giant Russian defenseman that they all just called Chara lumbered over him, hardly having to take more than a normal stride to walk over him. Milan didn't so much as flinch. When you've known a guy a while, you know what he can do and what he can't do and there wasn't a hell of a lot the seven foot tall Russian couldn't do.
"Like I said, dumb rook," he grinned, going back to stretching his own long limbs out. At six four, they should have seemed long, but they didn't. They could have been longer, might have been longer, but that wasn't worth thinking about. They did the job okay. They'd taken care of business tonight, even if he had been dropped to the third line.
He'd been pretty pissed about it when Julien had dropped that particular bomb on him. He wasn't mad at PJ, who could be mad at PJ? With Bergie out, it was inevitable that the lines get switched up. It just seemed like first to third was a bit drastic. But then maybe it had helped him get back in touch with what he was best at; beating the living shit out of the opposition.
Grinning to himself, Milan struggled to his feet and strode past his team mates to the bikes. He could still feel the ice in his legs, which meant he'd wake up with spasms and cramps if he didn't work the lactic acid out of them. It helped him come off the ice too. Not that he had a wife and kids to go home to like some of the guys. He could go to the bar and have a couple of brewskies and talk about the fight, relive it, plan for the next one.
It was at times like these that he had thank God he was in Boston. These people worshipped tough guys like him. They wouldn't talk about why or what it was like to be dropped to the third line. All they cared about was that he was the leader in hits in the league right now and that he'd taught another rookie not to mess with him or his teammates. He might only be a sophomore himself, but he'd gone up against the best and won. All anyone had to do was go on youtube or to check his record.
Maybe that kid tonight thought he had to do it too. Milan chuckled to himself as he hopped on one of the stationary bikes and got his legs pumping. He could relate. He'd felt like he had to take on Jarkko Ruutu last season to make a name for himself. He couldn't claim to be the biggest and baddest until he'd taken on some of the best fighters in the league. He remembered that fight well and he expected that kid tonight would remember going up against Mount Lucic even if it was just because of the bruises he'd have later tonight. He'd given that kid a good shit kicking, but at least the kid had had the decency to take off his helmet. That was old school. He'd keep that in mind if they met up again.
They were meeting the Pens again in a couple days. After a spanking like this he expected they'd come back twice as hard but he could think about that later. Now he had at least two nights of punishing his body with alcohol before he had to think about facing that bunch of snot nosed kids. That might even give his bottom lip time to heal unless he met one of those girls at the bar and she bit it….
"Milan, there's someone I'd like you to meet with, in my office." Milan looked up from the thoughts swirling in his head to see the team's head physiotherapist standing in front of him with a clip board in his hand. Nodding, he slid off the bike, grabbed his water bottle and towel and followed the smaller man through the gym. Even if he was the toughest son of a bitch in the room, he was still a sophomore, and he wasn't in a position, like some of the veterans were, to tell any of the staff to come back later.
Maybe one day he mused, towelling off his wet hair as he followed the team trainer down the hall.
Adrijana gazed around the training room, just to give herself something to do more than having any interest in the combinations of rubs and ointments stacked on the shelves, ice packs and wraps all in their places. She thought about counting them, just to keep her mind occupied. It wasn't the general stink, the mixture of sweat and menthol that had her senses on high alert. It was the testosterone in the air. She couldn't blame the head trainer for wanting to put her in this little room, away from a couple dozen sweaty men under the age of forty, she just wished she wasn't so pissed off about it.
She should have been used to it by now. Even though there were probably more women than men in her chosen field, most of the women went to work with other female athletes or at schools, organizations that had a better track record of supporting female trainers. As far as Adrijana knew, there were not now, nor had there ever been a full time female trainer for a National Hockey League team.
Tossing her long dark hair over her shoulder and raking her fingers through it anxiously, she thought about the letter of acceptance in her bag. Of all the clubs in the NHL, she was still surprised that Boston had been the one to accept her onto their staff, albeit temporarily, to work on her thesis.
"Milan, this is Ms. Caric? Am I getting that right?" the team's physiotherapist was looking down at the notes he'd been given. She smiled. It wasn't often that her name was pronounced properly but considering who she'd come to see, Adri was willing to bet Milan had had to correct a few people on the proper pronunciation of his name, more than once. "She's doing her doctorate in Kinesiology, and the team has agreed to have her work with a few of the guys," he added with what sounded like only the whisper of a sigh behind it. As if he had any more right to be here than she had. Adrijana pushed herself off the wooden chair that must have been at least forty years old itself, definitely not ergonomic or cocksis friendly. She'd have to make a note on that for later she thought to herself as she held her hand out to the dark haired young man who stood dripping before her.
"A doctorate? So that has to make you like what...? Thirty?" he asked, wiping his forehead with the towel with one oversize meaty hand while reaching for hers' with the other. Adri's hand froze and she found herself staring at him in disbelief. Here she'd been looking forward to working with what she assumed would be a polite young man from her home town with what she had assumed would have been the same strict upbringing and he was being a jerk, right off the bat. "Oh shit...did I say that out loud? Sorry I was just...I was talking when I should have been thinking," he added, a hint of pink colouring his cheeks as they stood there, both with their hands still out towards one another, but neither closing the distance required to actually shake hands.
"Well that was unexpected," Adri turned to gather her clip board protectively to her chest, trying to shake off the mortification she was feeling. "No hard feelings," she added as she got her facial expression under control so she could turn back to him. It unfortunately wasn't unexpected. It was actually par for the course. Most guys she'd deal with felt the need to make some sort of sexual comment upon meeting her, some were just more obvious than others, and jocks were usually the most obvious. Despite the fact that he was being a jerk, she couldn't help but notice the way his t-shirt clung to his sweat soaked well formed body. The difference between was, she could keep her comments, and her eyes, to herself.
"No, you don't understand. I mean, guys are always saying what a MILF my mom is and it's like...who wants to hear that about your mom you know?" he continued, moving towards her like he wanted to hug her to make it better or something and all Adrijana could think was that she wanted out of this room and away from this boy with the verbal diarrhoea. She had hoped that hockey players would at least have half a brain more than the football players she'd been studying at the university, but she was beginning to wonder at her choice now as he stood awkwardly before her, his hands held out as if he were about to beg for something, or break into song, she wasn't sure which.
"I'll umm...try to keep that in mind?" she looked up at him hopefully, praying that he was done talking about her age and his mother in the same breath. She made a mental note to go home and eat an entire tub of Ben & Jerry's ice cream-with chocolate syrup. But that was for later. Right now she had to put on her big girl panties and deal with yet another jerk who felt the need to belittle her because she was 'gasp' a girl.
"I really am sorry. Let's start again, you can call me Looch," he grabbed her hand and nearly crushed it in his enthusiasm to prove what a great guy he was. Sighing, Adri withdrew her hand, giving it a little shake to see if any ones actually rattled loose. Big dumb puppy she thought to herself as she backed up until she felt the small of her back come in contact with the edge of a desk. Just in case he decided to shake sweat on her too.
"I'll try to remember that," she tried to smile, not encouragingly, just normally. The last thing she needed was for this or any of the other big goons out in the gym to get the wrong impression. She needed to get through the next month without any sexual innuendo of any kind. She had to prove that it could be done. Even if he did have really, really wide shoulders and dimples when he smiled.
"And you're Adrijana Caric, right? That sounds Serbian," he added, still unable to get his mouth under control. It wasn't strictly his fault Milan decided as he stood towering over her. He was fighting the urge to tell her she was pretty, it was hard enough to do that and think at the same time. Sure there was the occasional female reporter, but none of them came in the dressing room in knee high leather boots and jeans so tight that he didn't need to use his imagination to picture her naked and he hadn't even got to her chest yet, but to be fair, she was hiding what she could of that behind a clipboard.
"You got it in one," she smiled over her clip board at him but the smile didn't make it past her lips, which were full and covered in sticky looking gloss that looked like it might taste like candy or something. Milan caught himself thinking about licking it off and had to give himself a little shake, dropping his towel down to cover anything that might be showing through his under armour shorts. "Now, getting down to business," she slid up onto the counter and nodded towards the massage table in the middle of the room, "I wanted to talk to you about your back."
"Oh that," he sighed, glad to be face down on the table so that it didn't show that he was finding the way her full round breasts pressed against the soft fabric of her sweater appealing.
"I'm sure you've been asked a lot of questions about it over the years." Was it his imagination or was the tone of her voice actually softening as she walked over to stand near him? His eyes followed her as she put the clip board aside. "May I?" she asked, her hand hovering over the middle of his back. He yearned to tell her she could do just about anything she wanted to him but he kept his mouth shut, figuring it was safer to do that than have another embarrassing bought of tripping over his idiot tongue. He closed his eyes as she ran the palm of her hand lightly over the curve in his spine, the one that made him hunch over, just slightly; the one that left him about two inches shorter than he was meant to be.
Her hand didn't feel like a doctors'. She didn't press down, didn't poke or prod. She just ran her hand up and down it and then across his shoulders. He had to bite down on his bottom lip to stop from groaning out loud. It was bad enough that she didn't seem to care about the sweat or that she didn't squeal or pretend to be grossed out like most girls would, but with her this close he could smell her too. She smelled like cake. Like birthday cake and suddenly he was back to thinking about taking a bite out of her pale skin, lifting all that dark hair in his hands and sinking his teeth into the pale flesh of her neck.
Now he was really glad he was lying on his stomach.
"Isn't kyphosis supposed to be worsened by physical activity?" Milan knew she was asking the trainer and not him so he kept silent, glad that he wouldn't have to mumble his answer which might give away the fact that he was enjoying her ministrations just a little too much.
"He had a brace for a while, but he says it doesn't bother him," Scott, their physiotherapist and the only guy that Milan trusted to crack his back said jovially. So what if he told the staff a white lie once in a while Milan thought to himself. It really didn't hurt most of the time, and there wasn't much they could do for him if it did.
"He hasn't had the surgery?" she continued to talk about him like he wasn't there, which was beginning to get on his nerves but Milan was willing to let it go as long as she kept running her little hands over his shoulders.
"He's young, he's doing fine," Scott sounded sure of himself. Some nights Milan wasn't sure if ignoring the pain was the right thing to do but the doctors all seemed to think he was going to be fine, for a while anyway.
"So just physio?" she asked, her hands finally digging into his shoulders, her fingers working on the aching muscles and this time Milan couldn't keep the moan to himself.
"Watch it, you'll have him asleep in no time," the trainer warned with an amused grin. Adri pulled her hands off of the burly winger like she'd been burned. She was used to working on the muscles of tired athletes. She'd been doing it for the UBC football team long enough that it was second nature now to just roll up her sleeves and get to it.
It could have been worse, she chided herself. At least she'd asked permission. If she'd just started in it might look like she wanted to touch him and that was the last thing she wanted the twenty year old who was now looking up at her with a half a smile that said he was disappointed that she'd stopped.
"So no pain?" she asked, turning her back on him quickly as she headed for the sink, running her hands under the cold water and wishing she could get all of herself under the tap. She hated to admit it, but she liked the feel of his big muscles under her hands. Hockey players were built differently than football players. There was no softness around the edges or big doughy sections. The closest she could think of that she'd had to work on was a quarterback, or maybe a kicker, but even then they tended more to the sinewy side.
Milan was solid, like a rock and it was all Adrijana could do to dismiss the thoughts of all that…solid flesh pressed against hers'. Down girl. She could get her cougar's license some other time. She was here to work and more importantly, to finish her thesis. She didn't have time to chase horny young hockey players around.
"Nope," the big winger was sitting up on the bench when she turned around, grinning at her. No, tweak that, leering at her, like she was something to eat. "Not now," he added with a grin that had the opposite effect that it should have. She should have wanted to smack him. What she wanted to do was crawl onto that massage table and ride him like the sweaty young stallion he was.
"Well, all the same, I have a list of exercises we've been working on with a couple of football players," she dove into her files and pulled out the diagrams and forced her attention back to the task at hand and off the tree trunks that served him as legs. She couldn't remember ever seeing such thickly muscled thighs, not even on a running back. "We'll start in the morning," she added, wishing she wasn't looking forward to it quite so much and wondering if she had an ice cold setting on her shower in the hotel.
"New Year's day?" he laughed, a nice sound, a non threatening sound, a boyish sound. "I thought coach said we could have 'til noon." She knew the question was for the trainer, but he was watching her and Adri was beginning to feel like he could see the way she was looking at him and what was worse she thought he might actually be enjoying it.
"That's right," the trainer confirmed with a nod, "he did say noon but that doesn't mean you're supposed to get so hammered you can't work out Looch." Milan grinned and nodded his head, even though he was planning to get wrecked later on but they didn't need to know that. There was plenty that this body of his could put up with and getting wrecked off his ass and skating the next day wasn't a problem for him.
Maybe for some of the older guys, like Timmy maybe, or Ward. It must suck to be that old he thought with a grin as he slid off the table onto his feet. As for the rest of the guys, he was glad to be on a team of young guns. The team that parties together wins together, or so it seemed to be working out lately. They were on a streak and he was pretty sure other than being busted down to the third line for a while, as long as they kept winning, none of the coaching or training staff was going to say much if they came in a little worse for wear on New Years day.
Milan stretched his arms over his head and watched the little therapist's reaction. Her gaze followed his arms, held on his biceps before she began to turn pink and turn away. Ideas began to form in his head. Maybe there could be more to getting wrecked on New Years than drinking and sharing war stories with the boys at the bar.
"Some of us, well, a lot of us, okay most of us are going to this bar tonight for New Years, you should come," he said, putting on his most charming smile. The one that his mother told him made him look most handsome, like a good church boy. Not the one he usually used on girls wearing bearaphanalia at the bar. Not that smile.
This one was jumpy. Nervous. She would need some coaxing; not that he couldn't get her in the sack Milan thought to himself as she appeared to think it over, especially if Bergie and Kobie stayed away, girls were always following those two around. Of course he got his fair share of tail; but most girls seemed to go for the blue eyed boys first.
Swarthy. That's what one of the ice girls had called him the last time they'd all been out. She said he was swarthy. He'd looked it up on the computer when he got home. Most of what he found had to do with pirates, which was kind of cool. Mostly it had to do with his being darker than the other guys and he wasn't sure why, but it didn't go down well with the African American chicks or most of the white chicks either. He looked foreign and in the good 'ol U S of A, ever since 911, swarthy wasn't hot. With dark skin and a big nose, it usually took some convincing of your every day co-ed that he wasn't a terrorist.
Not that there aren't Serbs who are terrorists he thought to himself with a sigh, but there was just no need to complicate the situation. He was from Canada and that was foreign enough for most of the college crowd to accept. They liked his 'accent'.
But this Adrijana, she was more like the girls from home. In fact, as he waited for her to make up her mind, he started thinking about what Jovan and Nikola would think if he brought home a nice Serbian girl. His dad would love it, he knew that.
"I guess I don't really know anyone in town," she finally shrugged, eyeing him cautiously, like maybe she was afraid he'd bite. It wasn't something he was into, but if she liked that kind of thing....
"Good, I'm gonna catch a shower and then we're all gonna go," he grinned, pushing the door open and heading back into the gym.
"Wait. I should probably get the address from you. I need to go back to the hotel to change," she began and his eyes followed her gaze down to those painted on jeans and back up to that sweater that hugged her tits just right.
"Fuck no, it's just a bar, you'll look as good as any of the girls there." He did his best not to make it sound like he was really paying her a compliment. Treat 'em mean, keep him keen. That's what his older brother Jovan was always telling him. 'Your too fucking nice Milan' was what he was always telling him and the guys on the team seemed to agree, although most of them had the same disease he suffered from. Good Canadian Kidedness. Well maybe tonight that would get him laid he chuckled to himself as he yanked his t-shirt over his head and tossed it onto the bench as he headed into the shower.
That kid had some fucking nerve. Fucking professional athlete thinks he's god's fucking gift Adrijana fumed as she watched him walk away from her.
As good as any of the girls there? What in the fuck was that about?
Not that she'd gone out of her way to dress up for her first meeting with the trainers, which was all tonight was supposed to have been about. She was just supposed to be coming in to pick up her credentials. It was a stupid time to arrive, New Year's Eve. She knew that. No one had to tell her that but she didn't think that just because she'd worn jeans rather than freeze her fannie off that she looked 'just as good' as some girls.
Staring at his back she wanted to yell after him that she was willing to bet she looked better than any of those girls wearing nothing but his jersey, but she wasn't about to give him the satisfaction.
But she wasn't going like this. Not that she cared what he thought because she didn't. He was just some snot nosed kid that was making too much money for his own good. Still, she grinned to herself as she went over to one of his teammates to get the address and name of the bar, she was going to enjoy the look on his face later.
Not that she cared. She had a thesis to do but it was good to start out as she meant to go along and she wasn't about to just let some kid disrespect her that way. No way.