A/N: Welcome back! Once again, this story is based upon the 7th game of the Stanley Cup Finals, played on June 12th, 2009. Dr. Cox and JD return to the scene of the crime to cheer on their team, the Detroit Red Wings, as they attempt to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Warnings: Also once again, much swearing leads to a higher than usual rating. I tend to channel Dr. Cox while watching hockey, so a lot of what he says actually came straight out of my mouth.
Thank yous/Confession: A huge hug to all who reviewed. I'm glad at least a few people enjoyed it! Bells of Tomorrow, your nerdy admission is also mine. I don't think there's anything to be ashamed of there! Dr. Cox is awesome, hockey is awesome. There ya go.
Disclaimer: I don't own Scrubs or the NHL, or any individual related to either.
My Cup Half Full
Five o'clock struck sweetly with the beginning of the last hockey game of the season as well as the start of happy hour. I had my feet up on the stool I was saving for Dr. Cox, and I was slowly drinking the sweetest, cheapest appletini I'd ever tasted. I knew that I was making two huge mistakes with that move, but I couldn't help it. You're supposed to drink delicious liqueurs that actually taste good before getting smashed, right? Plus, the bartender had just announced an extra buck off of mixed drinks for Red Wings fans, and I had remembered to wear the jersey that Dr. Cox had loaned to me a couple days previous. Anyways, I knew that whatever bad mood I might put him in now would be erased with alcohol and the hockey game. The cup was ours! And speaking of Dr. Cox…
"Helloooooo hockey fans," Dr. Cox announced by way of greeting as he stepped into the dim bar. Several patrons raised their drinks in response to him as he made his way over to me. I thought for sure I was going to get an earful, but he didn't even make eye contact. He simply strode up to the stool, shoved my feet off and sat, gesturing for a beer.
I rolled with it, feeling like I was getting away with murder. "Whassup, buddy? Ready to partaayyyy?" I sipped from my glass, pinky finger extended, and watched him out of the corner of my eye.
"Not gonna happen, Newbie. You're not gonna get a rise out of me tonight. I'm having big studly man-time with the T.V. here, and if you decide to man up and join us, by all means be my guest. But if you're aiming for that, well, I've got a few rules for ya there. Don't call me "buddy." No more appletinis. Put your pinky DOWN for the love of Yzerman. And do not, under any circumstance, ever ever ever ever ever wear another article of clothing that I loan you as a dress, complete with belt cinched around your tiny girl waist." He shot me a sidelong glance. "EVER."
I slouched and cast my gaze to the floor. "I can't believe Carla told you. Anyways, I was wearing it as pajamas. And I put a belt around myself when I got up to get a drink of water because huge and drafty. I was feeling all tingly in my—"
"BZZZZZZT!" buzzed Dr. Cox, directly in my ear. "MAN-time. I should've shown up after the first period was over again so you'd have had time to get liquored up. Somehow you're less idiotic that way." He finished up his first beer quickly and gestured to the television screen. The Penguins' goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury, was skating into view. "And as if I didn't have enough of a gangly, girly faced pansy jerkoff sitting next to me, there's one for me to watch flail about on the ice. Super." He gave me a sarcastic thumbs-up.
Sighing, I pushed the remains of my appletini away and beckoned for two beers from the bartender. I pounded the first one, took a deep breath, and drank about a third of the second one.
Dr. Cox nodded at me in satisfaction as the game began.
The first period was promising. I'd learned enough from the last game to be able to actually follow what was going on. The Red Wings (such a weird name for a sports team. I really had no clue how that came about. Just the wings of some animal, really? How about the Yellow Beaks or the Blue Chicken Feets?) were on the offensive, playing very aggressively. I found myself grinning every time they made a shot on Pansy Goalie Boy. They were making some nice hits too. One in particular sent the Penguin target spinning through the air before falling to the ice in a heap. My voice rose in my throat unbidden, and I gave a rather manly cheer as it happened.
"Really glad you could join us there, Newbie," Dr. Cox quipped. "I'm thinking about authoring a paper on hockey as testosterone replacement therapy. Interested in being the test subject?" He looked at me in all seriousness and offered the neck of his beer bottle in a toast.
I clinked my bottle against his quietly. "Now if you don't mind, Perry, I'm trying to watch the game."
So we settled in to watch the game, the beer and the shots by the Red Wings flowing. They killed a power play and had a nice scoring opportunity off a faceoff. It seemed like the pace of the game was very much in favor of our team (our team!). Things were going so well that I decided to risk drinking something… yucky.
We listened to the sportscasters droning on in the background as the bartender poured two glasses of scotch. I didn't care if it set me back, partially because I had built up a nice manly image over the course of the first period, and partially because I'd had three beers and was feeling quite tipsy already. I think it was expensive, because Dr. Cox practically had his eyeballs glued to me as I weighed the glass in my hand.
I finally turned to him. "Down the hatch!" I drained the whole thing in one go, scrunching up my face.
Dr. Cox nudged me. "Well?"
"It was…" I unscrunched my face and smacked my lips. "Warm. And now ALL of me is warm. Sooooo toasty!" I laughed.
Dr. Cox didn't laugh, but he didn't frown either. He just grunted and took a drink of his own scotch. "Don't know why I waste that stuff on you. You'll never appreciate it." Considering his drink for a moment, he glanced back at me. "You're right, though. Warm." He sniffed and looked up at the television expectantly. As though on cue, the commercial ended and the second period began.
The warmth ended soon enough. The Penguins made a long pass (too long, if you ask me) into the Red Wings' zone which ended up as a goal. Roars of "icing!" and "blind-ass refs!" rippled through the crowd at the bar, and although I wasn't quite sure about it, Dr. Cox agreed with the others. It seemed as though the cup was slipping away from us suddenly, and the mood at the bar changed from hopeful to desperate. In our desperation we cheered the potential game-ending injury of the Penguins' Crosby, and the moment I let the thankful noise loose I felt immediately guilty. Looking around the room I could see it in the faces of the other patrons as well. We needed a pick-me-up, badly.
I thought we might have a chance when the Penguins were slapped with a penalty, but alas. Somewhere along the line the Red Wings had lost their crisp organization and now seemed to be flailing. Two minutes ticked by and we were still down a goal. Another couple of minutes and we were down two.
Dr. Cox had gone silent. His face was blank. He had switched completely from beer to scotch, which I took as a Very Bad Sign. I felt tears stinging the backs of my eyes. This was supposed to be our night, our cup, our new friendship. Instead it was turning into just another night after work. I hated everything at that moment, and I lashed out.
"GOD!" I spat. "You suck, Osbad. Grow a couple inches, you jackass. And while you're at it, learn how to play too!" The crappy rant didn't help. I actually felt worse.
But I had at least gotten Dr. Cox to snap out of his silent stupor. "Now now, Newbie," he started. "You have to learn to tell the difference between a defense that's falling apart and a crappy goalie. It's the same as the difference between a hospital support staff that doesn't have it together – botching IV catheters, overdosing patients, forgetting to request lab results – and a truly incompetent doctor." I waited for the obvious rib hidden there, waited for him to remind me that yes, I WAS that incompetent doctor. But it never materialized. Huh.
I was considering that analogy as the second period came to a close, but Dr. Cox knocked it out of my head with a salute at the television. I glanced up and caught sight of Fleury, the enemy goaltender, just before the commercial break. Confused, I tilted my head at my hockey mentor.
He shrugged without meeting my gaze. "As much as I hate the Penguins with the red hot burning passion of a thousand suns, I can recognize talent when I see it. That kid's really pulling himself together, anchoring his team. I gotta hand it to him. He's come a long way."
An involuntary blush rose to my cheeks, though I'm not sure how much redder they could've gotten since I was already pretty inebriated. I wasn't really sure why I was blushing, but I felt like Dr. Cox had just handed me another analogy. I guess… I mean, he'd compared me to Fleury earlier in the evening, in a derogatory kind of way. And now he was praising him heavily. My mind swam. I turned to face Dr. Cox, but he steadfastly ignored me, focusing with all his power on the television. Swallowing hard, I summoned all my courage, reached slowly towards him…
…grabbed his glass of scotch, and downed it.
I could've sworn that I saw the corner of his mouth twitch. But he just raised his hand, signaling for refills.
The third period began and the atmosphere of the bar shifted. It felt more charged, more alive, as Penguins fans began to get more excited and Red Wings fans grew a little more frantic. The Penguins were playing some great defense, keeping the Red Wings from any realistic scoring chances. Even so, the Red Wings had the puck under their control the majority of the time. Dr. Cox seemed to think they were getting it together, but I wasn't convinced.
"Shee this?" I drawled, shakily holding up my empty scotch glass. I upended it and watched the very last drop fall onto the counter. "Thatsh my diminishing confidensh."
Dr. Cox frowned. "Hey now. That was about five bucks worth of scotch you just let go there. You'd better lick that glass clean from now on." Wow. Five bucks a drop?! Damned expensive scotch! "They'll come back any minute now. Wait for it."
The Red Wings were on the offense. Someone passed the puck out to the man at the point. The puck was gliding along the ice, ready to escape the zone and ruin the moment. Ericsson raised his stick and I was sure it was a lost cause. He wound up and made contact with the puck, sending it speeding toward the net. And it went in. I was stunned.
"I TOLD you!" came the triumphant rebuke. Dr. Cox whirled around to me, grinning.
If I wasn't stunned already enough, I was practically petrified when he raised his hand, offering a high-five. Dr. Cox actually inviting me to touch his hand with mine? He must be reeeeaaallllllly drunk, I thought. But then, I was probably even more so. So when I lifted my hand and went to high-five him, I misjudged not only the location of his hand but the velocity of mine, and I ended up slamming my hand down onto the counter and sending our empty scotch glasses tumbling across the floor. It hurt. A lot. But instead of crying wussily I laughed, and so did he.
Our cup was coming back to us. I could see it bobbing lazily in the distance, but the waves were gently pushing it our way. Little ice floes floated between it and us, manned by tuxedoed penguins with hockey stick paddles.
I snapped out of the daydream in time to see a shot by the Red Wings rocketing towards the net again. Time slowed to an agonizing pace. I heard my heartbeat in my ears. Handsily I flailed out and grabbed the sleeve of Dr. Cox's jersey. He reached out with his other hand and grasped my upper arm in a vice. We were up on our feet, and the whole crowd held their collective breaths.
The puck ricocheted off the crossbar and careened away from the goal.
I couldn't even begin to replicate the primal scream that poured forth from my mouth. The entire bar remained standing for the game's remainder, chanting for one team or another, hoping. The Wings took a time out. The puck flew out of play. Osgood was pulled and a sixth skater was put into play. The last minutes crept by impossibly slow.
The teams faced off with six seconds left. This was their last chance. I knew it could be done, I believed it in my heart. My palms were sweating like crazy. I realized that I was still clutching Dr. Cox's sleeve, and his hand was still wrapped around my arm. I was instantly sober, and closed my eyes for a moment, taking it all in. The sound of the crowd, Dr. Cox breathing raggedly, my heartbeat crashing in my ears. The smell of cigar smoke, mingled perfumes and colognes. The taste of scotch with the barest hint of beer and the very, very barest hint of apple. The feel of the buzzing in my chest, the rough texture of the hockey jersey, the warm, firm grip upon my bicep.
I opened my eyes.
The puck dropped, and in the six seconds they had left, the Wings took two lovely shots on goal. Unfortunately, Fleury made two beautiful saves.
It was over.
All of my senses dulled then. I don't know how long I stood there for, but it was long enough for most of the bar patrons to settle up and head out. The air cleared a bit, cooling from the constantly opening door. The stinging behind my eyes was back, accompanied by a lump in my throat. I looked down at Dr. Cox, who had apparently taken a seat again, and was contemplating the last of his scotch by swirling it around the bottom of the glass. He looked… odd. "Alright there, Newbie?" He asked, looking back up at the screen.
I didn't know if I was, so I didn't answer him right away. I continued to stare at the television, watching each individual Penguin player hoist the giant silver cup over his head, kissing it tenderly before handing it over to the next teammate. The lump in my throat swelled, and my eyes felt like they were on fire. I finally found my voice. "Aren't you upset?" I managed to squeak out. Super manly, I chastised myself.
"Of course I am," he snorted, following the trophy with his eyes as it made its way amongst the players. "But not too upset. My team lost, but they were beat by better. I can appreciate that, I can appreciate them. Hockey's not just a game. It's an art form." He considered his next words carefully. "It's beautiful."
I think he sighed then, softly. Such an un-Coxlike thing for him to do. I must've imagined it. Even so, it was the straw that broke the Newbie's back. A tear escaped, and I hoped to God that nobody saw it. I reached up to fake-scratch my cheek and wipe it away. I wanted to thank him for the scotch, the evening, teaching me about hockey, teaching me about medicine, teaching me about life. I held the words at bay, knowing it would ruin the moment.
Instead, I reached into my pocket, pulled out my wallet and laid some bills on the counter. Taking a deep breath, I made to pull the jersey over my head so I could return it to Dr. Cox.
He laid a hand on my shoulder before I could complete the motion. "Aww, hell, Newbie. Keep it. I've got about a dozen of them." After handing some very large bills to the barkeep, he stood to leave. On the way out, he called to me over his shoulder, "Make sure you get it dry cleaned, though. You're going to need it for next season."
A/N: Not quite the storybook ending I had hoped for, but I think it was nice and bittersweet. Stupid Penguins. Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed!