You may have a strong reaction to the beginning of this story but I beg you of gentle reader to have a little patience before you make any hasty decisions. People change, characters evolve and I hope that you will bear with both me and the characters in this story before you make up your mind about them. With that said, please read on.

This is for Shannon because she is as twisted as me, her dark twines with her light and she's alright with that.

Would you mind if I pretended we were somewhere else,
doing something we wanted to,
'Cause all this living makes me wanna do,
is die because I can't live with you,
and you don't even care.

Would you mind if I pretended I was someone else,
with courage in love and war.
I use to think that's what I was,
but now this lying hurts to much,
and I don't know what for.

I'm weak in the knees for you,
but I'll stand if you want me to.
My legs are strong and I'll move on,
but honey I'm weak, in the knees.

Would you mind if I walked over and I kissed your face,
in front of all your friends.
Would you mind if I got drunk and said,
I wanna take you home to bed,
Oh would you change your mind?

I'm weak in the knees for you,
but I'll stand if you want me to.
My legs are strong, and I'll move on,
but honey I'm weak, in the knees, for you

(lyrics from Weak in the Knees by Serena Ryder)

Chapter 1

"I declare a dog fight."

It's not something that the well raised kid from a small town on Canada's East coast would normally get involved in. This was something he normally would leave to his more outgoing teammates, guys who, if someone tweeted something nasty about them, would and more importantly could afford to laugh it off. Bad press isn't something that the crown prince of hockey can afford but tonight, just for tonight, he feels like throwing caution to the wind. He feels like being a bad boy, just this once. Maybe, no, he definitely is feeling sorry for himself. It has been months since he's been able to do the one thing that makes him feel confident and he has all this pent up energy that makes it feel like ants are crawling around under his skin.

"What are the stakes?" he asks, turning to survey the women in the club. This is a regular haunt and the all of the regulars are here. There are always hot women at this club, plenty of prime tail for the boys to pick from. However, cutting prime beef from the herd was not a winning move in a dog fight.

"Whoever sleeps with the ugliest chick gets immunity from being moustache boy until the All Star break." Gronk grins when he says it because he thinks he'll win and maybe because he can grow a mean beard but that upper lip of his just refuses to push out more than the barest hint of peach fuzz. Not that that he himself can do much better, so it's a good prize, a prize worth taking one for the team for.

He surveys the crowd again, this time ignoring the girls with asses that you could bounce a quarter off of and high, firm tits ripe for squeezing. He sips the whiskey from his glass and considers a group of girls dancing barefoot around their purses.

They're not exactly barking dogs, but they certainly aren't the kind of girls that , on a regular night, he'd even look twice at. Not that he has a preference for blondes over brunettes but what he has a penchant for is an athletic build. In fact, if he had to choose, he would pick college gymnasts every time. He likes them muscular, strong, but small. He's not the biggest guy on the team, or at least not the tallest and only Cookie shares his compact but powerful build.

"What do you think?" he asks his wiry friend, the quiet one who hasn't and won't throw his hat in the ring and not just because he has a girl waiting for him at home. Other guys do too. Flower just wouldn't take part in something like this, not ever.

"Gronk will sleep with anything as long as it's got tits," the voice at his other shoulder chimes in. "You'd have to pick something with one tooth and a wooden leg to win," the broody, long haired defenseman adds before turning back to the bar.

"You just won't lower your standards," he muses, giving his teammate an elbow in the ribs. Kris does not move, does not flinch. He downs his drink, wipes his mouth with the back of his hand and stares into his empty glass.

"If I'm going to fuck something, I want it to be nice to look at," he replies as he taps his glass on the bar, looking for a refill. It must be a French thing, he thinks, the amount of booze that Max and Kris and even Flower can put down and stay upright. For himself, he is onto his third and feeling it.

"But you'd be making her night. Hell, maybe even her year," he declares, like maybe he's still talking himself into it. His chest puffs up when he says it, like he really believes he's making an offering to charity.

"Don't," his quiet friend says beside him. "It's not nice." He smiles, because normally that would be his argument. Tonight he's choosing instead to go with a different philosophy, to do what Max is already doing over in one dark corner of the dance floor. Tonight he's going to pick the wallflower, the girl who would never think that in an entire month of Sundays he, Sidney Crosby, would ever even look at her twice and he's going to make her night by taking her home and making her dreams come true. It's better than making a hospital visit to hand out hockey cards to sick kids. Like Max always says, it's a fucking humanitarian donation to the female breed.

Pushing off from the bar he stalks towards the group of women, as unaware as innocent gazelles cropping at the high grass of the Serengeti. As he prowls around them, he imagines that he is the largest male lion with the darkest, fullest ruff. He is well muscled, lean and strong. He has the biggest teeth and the longest claws. He can have his pick of the lionesses but tonight he's going, not a gazelle he decides as he tracks their movements with his eyes. Maybe a baby hippo he thinks as he sizes up the decidedly full trunk of one of the dancers. Or maybe a giraffe, he muses as he looks at the tall, gawky and decidedly geeky one in the glasses.

No, maybe a gazelle after all, he decides as he studies the smallest of the bunch with her dark hair pulled back into a simple pony tail and a decided lack of any kind of paint or spackle other than shiny pink lip gloss that puts him in mind of cheap five cent bubble gum. Her breasts are neither too big nor too small, though he decides that it's hard to tell in the cheap black dress that covers too much and is maybe a little too big, as if she's recently lost weight or maybe it's a hand me down. Simple inexpensive silver hoops dangle from her ears, the only adornment she wears, unlike most of the women in the room with arms full of shiny baubles and gems glittering pointing the way down to their cleavage.

She can best be described as plain, Plain Jane, and she, he decides then and there, is his charity case for the night.

She harbors no delusions that she or any of her friends are the types of girls that they go home with but a girl can dream, can't she? She is far from the only woman in the bar with that particular dream tonight but she knows that she is less pretty than most of the other women with their plumage out, writhing in a hopeful mating dance. When she got dressed up after work and spent her last twenty bucks getting into the bar where she knows they come to play, unlike those other girls, she only came to watch and maybe let her imagination run a little wild.

She imagines him sending her a drink, one that she would raise as she smiles at him down the bar and he would detach himself from his teammates and ask her to dance. She can imagine him moving with her now, to the beat of Cash Cash's 'Sexin' ontheDanceFloor'. She can almost feel his hands on her hips, bringing her body back against his solid, muscular frame. She can almost hear him whispering the lyrics into her ear in a voice that even when she hears it on the radio makes her knees get weak.

A shudder runs through her entire body as she sees her best friend's eyes go wide and reads her lips forming the words 'ohmygod' as she realizes that there really is a pair of large male hands on her hips and that the neck she's just wound her arm around is thick and muscular and warm. She wants to look but she doesn't want it not to be true. She doesn't want her favourite fantasy to be smashed to pieces if it's just some guy, some random guy and not one of those gods of hockey and especially if it's not him.

The music changes, as if on cue, slowing down to a ballad by a woman with a hauntingly powerful voice. It's one she knows by heart. It's a heartbreaking song about wanting to be in love. She mouths the words to herself as he turns her to face him. 'I'veneverkissedasweetermouth.I'veneverbeensweptaway.It'swhatdreamsaremadeabout.' She finds herself staring at the mile wide expanse of a chest barely constrained by a light blue dress shirt with pearlescent buttons that catch the light of the cheesy disco ball spinning over their heads.

"Hi. My names's Sidney."

She wants to laugh except she's trembling so much and her mouth has gone so completely dry that she can't. As if there would ever be a time he would need to introduce himself or wear one of those 'my name is' stick on name tags. And not just in this city either. She knows that he can't walk down a street in Canada and not be the pride of the nation, the gold medal winning hero.

"I know," she manages to reply as she takes a peek up into the face she's seen a million and one times on TV and then zeroes in on the full, pink lips she's dreamt of kissing a million and two times. He smiles, that sort of all American boy smile that's all straight, or almost straight, white teeth and her knees start to give way. Using some kind of super power, or maybe just being very aware of his effect on women and anticipating that she will not be able to maintain her upright posture, he holds her up and that school girl laugh of his fills her ears.

The music speeds up, something with a bhangra beat and he pulls her into him and she finds herself astride his thick thigh and suddenly she has no doubts about why the commentators are always saying he has legs like a tree. Embarrassingly she lets out a squeak when she feels his hands on her ass and she can just make out his laugh above the heavy bass.

"This place is so loud." He practically has to yell into her ear. All she can do is nod. With his massive thigh pressed against her most sensitive parts it's beyond her abilities to actually form words. That would be asking too much and so would be disagreeing with anything he would say now. "Do you want to get out of here?" She blinks at him, knowing full well she looks like a lemur but she has to play each word over in her head to be sure that what he's just asked is what she thinks she's heard because of course it's a possibility that it's merely a figment of her imagination. After all, this has happened in a hundred dreams or more and there is still the distinct possibility she's dreaming now.

"Pinch me," she whispers because only that, only some short sharp pain is going to prove that he, the man of her dreams is really grinding up against her and really, truly asking her to go home with him.

"You like it rough eh?" he laughs and then gives her ass a firm swat that makes her yelp. She wants to tell him no, just because his hands are so big and, well, everything she can feel about him seems big and weapon like and she cries if she gets so much as a paper cut but the grin on his face makes it clear that he's only kidding. Blushing to the tips of her ears she tries to speak but her tongue twists and turns but she can't make a sound that actually sounds like a word. "C'mon," he whispers in her ear but he doesn't wait for her to actually acquiesce. He grabs her hand, giving her just enough time to grab her bag from the floor before he spins on his heel and tows her behind him like a boat on a trailer.

The seas part like he's Moses. One minute the dance floor is jammed with bodies and the next moment people are making way for him which seems apt as he is the second coming, in this city at least. As he drags her through the club, guys ogle him like he's some kind of red Italian sports car and women look at him like he's a decadent desert covered in hot fudge sauce. Alternatively, the men they pass don't even seem to register that she is there, which is something she is used to. But the open hostility and repugnance that the women's glares are filled with, the way that their nostrils flare and their lips turn up when they look at her has her shrinking and trying to hide behind the Grand Canyon like expanse of his back sort of like she'd done in high school when she'd hidden behind her locker door when those girls passed by.

She wants to say that she doesn't know why he's chosen her either, wants somehow to apologize for not having the cosmetically straightened, chemically whitened teeth that they gnash at her as she stumbles behind him. In fact, as he gives a thumbs up to two of his other teammates who are propping up the bar she's going over a thousand scenarios in her head not least of which is that he is, in fact, a serial killer and that his crimes are covered up by his teammates and the league and that she is about to become a statistic, a grainy picture on the back of a milk carton.

"Do you have a jacket?" he asks when they get to the coat check where he hands over a small ticket. She has to force herself to think about what she was wearing when she and her friends arrived at the club and then mutely nods. "Want mine?" he asks, draping it over her shoulders before she has the chance to reply.

She runs her fingers down the lapel of the brushed wool tailor made suit jacket as he hands over a ticket to the valet. The feel of the soft, smooth fabric under her fingertips and the weight of it across her shoulders is more evidence that she isn't dreaming, though she remains unconvinced. Even when the low slung, sleek dark car pulls up in front of them and he holds open the passenger door for her, she still believes that at any moment she will wake up to the sound of her alarm clock and the smell of dark coffee wafting from the kitchen.

"Where to?" he asks as he curls his large hands with their thick digits around the black leather wrapped steering wheel.

"To?" she blinks, like a lemur again and he aims that poster boy smile at her as if her reply amuses him.

"Your address, where am I going?" Taking one hand off of the steering wheel he hits a button and a screen rolls up, a map appearing on it that seems too bright in the darkness of his European sports car. "I'm not good at directions but the GPS will get us there," he adds and then tips his head and stares at her, waiting.

"Oh," she reaches for her purse and, with shaking hands, pulls her driver's license from her wallet to look at the address. Maybe it's the way his costly smelling cologne pervades the small space or the very nearness of him or maybe it's the disappointment in knowing that he won't be whisking her away to his palace in the clouds but it doesn't immediately spring to the tip of her tongue.

"Let me see?" he reaches to take the small card from her hand and even as she tries to snatch it back, his professionally honed reflexes are faster than the speed of thought and she can only wince as he holds it towards the illumination that the small screen provides. "Fern? Like Fern Gully?" He says it like he can't believe it, like it's funny, just like every single kid in high school did every time they had a sub and she bristles, just like she does every time someone says her name with that mocking tone.

"Like from Charlotte's Web, actually, but you've probably never read that," she corrects him, a spark, a glowing ember finally waking somewhere within her even as she wishes that the luxurious overstuffed leather seats of his car would somehow hide her from the scrutiny of his amaretto coloured gaze.

"You're probably right," he smiles as he enters her address into his GPS before handing her back her ID. "You look better without the glasses," he adds as he hands her back the small plastic card. She tries not to but the sound that escapes her lips reminds of the kind of squeak a dog's toy makes when squeezed. He looks over at her and laughs and then puts the car into gear and it lurches forward, pinning her to the seat.