"Sidney, we need to talk," Miriya said walking into the locker room.
"Alright coach," he placed his helmet on the shelf. "What's up?"
"What was that out there?" She didn't give him time to answer. "That was awful. I know everyone has an off game, but that was horrible. I know that you're the greatest player in the NHL, I've been hearing that since you were drafted." She could tell by the look on his face that her words hurt him. "And I agree, you are the greatest player in the NHL, but that doesn't mean you won't get yelled at when you have a bad game. Now I know you're probably going to beat yourself up about this all night, so I'm done with you. Go home, take care of your kid and your wife, and show up ready to practice tomorrow. I know that when something is off about your game you work until you fix it. So the arena will be open and I'll be in my office if you want to come in early. I'm not only saying this as your coach but as your friend Sid. I love you and I'll see you in the morning."
"Okay coach, I'm sorry."
"Don't apologize, just fix it."
Miriya pulled into the driveway and found the house quiet. Scott was asleep and Jordan sat in bed with the TV on low watching movie. She tried to be careful as she went to her dresser to comfortable clothes, but when she stepped into the room he looked to her with a smile.
"Hey baby, you were so cute I didn't want to disturb you."
"It's okay, do you have to shower tonight?"
"Mhm," she said shedding her jacket, blouse, and dress pants. "Care to join me?"
"I would love to," he said getting out of bed. He placed his hands on her shoulders and gently pushed her into the bathroom. There the rest of the clothing was shed and they stepped into the shower where the warm water awaited them. "I've known you for eight years and am still incredibly turned on every time I see you."
"I'm glad," she said with a smile. "I want Scotty to have a little brother or sister."
"Me too," he pushed her against the black tile wall and had his way with her.
Once they had finished Miriya finished with her shower and the Staals went to the bedroom where they got a goodnight's sleep.
Morning came and at seven o'clock Miriya got out of bed, got Scott ready and went to the arena, arriving at seven forty-five. In her office she was working out last minute details for the road trip that would start later that night. She could hear pucks hitting the boards and looked at the clock in the corner of her computer screen, eight o'clock. Hitting send on the e-mail to Ray she got up from her desk and went to the end of the runway. There stood Sid taking shots off the end boards and trying to redirect them into the net. Miriya didn't say anything she just smiled and went back to her office to wait for practice.
"Kay boys, the Caps are next," she said as practice was drawing to a close. "We're leaving tonight, sorry Scuds, and have the day off tomorrow but we're going to have team bonding for some of the day, okay?" The team all agreed. "I'll see you you later tonight."
Everyone went home to pack and were at the airport for their flight to Washington. Upon arriving in D.C the team boarded the bus and went to their hotel, the Crystal City Marriott. In all of the hotels they had stayed at, this was the prettiest. The lobby had decorative plants, couches, a water feature, and a classy bar. "You guys remember my D.C. trip when I was in high school?"
"You mean the one time your parents actually let you go with them?" Max asked.
"Yeah, that one. Well this is the hotel that I sat down to wait for the bus and fell asleep." The guys laughed and soon everyone was checked in and given their room keys. Since it was only nine o'clock most of the guys dropped their stuff in their rooms and either stayed there or went to the bar. Miriya had convinced Michelle to watch Scott while she went to the bar with Jordan.
Feeling generous Miriya let the boys sleep in until ten, but made sure that everyone was ready and in the lobby by eleven. "Everyone has money, right?" Everyone answered at the same time and she assumed that they all had some money with them "Okay, we're going to go to the underground mall where you guys can get some lunch, but I want to get on the Metro around two and go to the World War II memorial and the Washington Monument. We're also going to Arlington." She stopped to think for a moment. "Actually, let's take the Metro to Arlington and then I'll have the bus pick us up and take us to the monuments." The team started to walk towards the mall. "Two o'clock boys, be at the Metro station!" Hoping that all of the guys heard her and she headed towards the mall hand in hand with Jordan.
Exploring some of the shops they found somewhere to get some lunch, some little South Western barbecue. Both Staals ordered ribs and while waiting for them to arrive they fed Scott some yummy baby food. After a delicious meal they looked through a few more stores on their way to the Metro station. Surprisingly the entire team was there by two o'clock. "Wow you boys do listen to me."
The next part they weren't so good at, loading money onto their Metro cards. Colby was one of those who needed help, but he certainly wasn't the only one. Finally everyone had their cards loaded and saw that the next train going to Arlington Cemetery would be arriving in three minutes. "Okay boys we're not all going to end up in the same car so when we get to Arlington please get off the train. I really don't want to lose any of you in downtown Washington." Everyone laughed and soon boarded the train.
Arriving at the cemetery Miriya's grip on Jordan's hand tightened. "Okay boys you all have to see the changing of the guard because it's really impressive. After that I'm going to see a grave, none of you have to come with me," she stopped herself from thinking of the first time she saw the grave when she was a junior in high school. "Kay boys, let's go."
Making their way through the cemetery they finally made it to the tomb of the unknown soldier. Filling onto the steps the boys stood silently and at attention throughout the impressive display of military skill. Once everyone was allowed to speak again the boys went to the side and talked about how amazing it had been. "Boys I'm going to see that grave now, you can meet me at the entrance if you want."
She started off towards the far end of the cemetery by herself, walking more slowly than she normally would. She didn't know the man personally but she knew his story and it affected her. Though it hurt her to think back to his death she felt it was necessary to visit his grave. The bouquet of roses in her hand kept her mind from those thoughts and eventually she came to where she needed to be. Section sixty stood in front of her and soon she found the right tombstone, kneeling down in front of it. Laying the roses down she placed her hand on the stone and began to pray. The last time she had been in this spot she had managed not to cry, this time she couldn't hold the tears back. A single tear fell to her cheek, but she didn't bother to wipe it away. The entire team had quietly come up to the section and looked on as she continued to cry. Colby who was holding Scott handed him to Kris and started towards her. He and Jordan knelt down on either side of their coach and put their arm around her.
"It was seven years ago that he got the medal of honor," she brought herself to say. "I was here and I still can't believe what he did." She choked back her tears to continue to speak. "He was nineteen and he gave up his life so that his friends could live. I always question whether I would do that same?"
"I know baby, it's okay. Come here." She stood and Jordan wrapped his arms tightly around her. Colby hugged her next and left a kiss on the top of her head. The rest of the team lined up to hug her and the last hug was from Brooks. He held her tightly against his body and whispered, "It's okay sweetheart, we're all here for you."
"I know, thank you." As Brooks let her go she wiped the tears from her eyes. "Thank you boys, you always know how to make me feel better. Get on the bus and let's go explore downtown."
Once everyone had loaded onto the bus Kris came and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Are you okay now babe?"
"Yeah, thanks. It was an emotional time and coming back was obviously hard. But I love that you guys care about me so much."
"Of course we care about you," Colby said.
"You're our best friend," Hallsy added.
"We've known you for years and love you," Scudsy added.
"And some of us are just in love with you," Jordan whispered before placing a kiss on her cheek.
The trip to the Mall was quick and when they arrived most of the boys stared at the beauty of the World War II Memorial. The large stone structure and fountain in the center held the teams attention for quite a while. After about half an hour they decided to cross the street to where the Washington Monument was and spent a good while there too. The team stayed together for dinner and returned to the hotel.
Miriya put Scott to bed and sat down in bed where she waited for Ovechkin's face on FSN causing her to quickly shut the TV off and wait in silence. Soon Jordan came out from the bathroom in a pair of black boxers and sat sown on the edge of the bed. "Hey I know how important today was for you."
"I'm glad you guys came with me," she kissed his cheek. "Thank you baby."
"You know all of us would do anything for you."
Game day dawned and the team want to the Verizon Center for a shortened morning skate. Dinner and pre-game naps took place as usual and soon it was time to be back at the arena for the battle against the Caps. Back in Pittsburgh those who were watching the game saw DJ Po. "The Penguins who are in Washington tonight had the real Washington experience yesterday thanks to Coach Staal." The video started and showed the team exploring the underground shops, arriving at Arlington, and also the World War II Memorial and Washington Monument. Thankfully they didn't show Miriya crying at the cemetery.
The game was won and was dominated by the Pens. They stayed in D.C one more night before heading to Dallas where they took on Stars. The Stars who had been at the top of the West all year fought hard and edged Miriya's team in a shoot-out. A former Penguin and former Star who had been in attendance came into the away locker room and tapped Miriya on the shoulder. Turning around she smiled widely when she saw who it was. "Syd!"
"Staalsy it's good to see you."
As if out of nowhere Michelle came running, "DARRYL!"
She ran into his out stretched arms and he pulled her into a hug. "Hey Chelle, how are you?"
"Great now that you're here."
The four younger guys looked on wondering who it was. "Darryl Sydor," Miriya said walking past them. "Played for the Pens til late oh eight when he was traded to the Stars for I think his third stint with them."
"Yes, it was my third stint," he said with a smile.
After speaking with Darryl for a while the team went to the bus and to the airport to return back to Pittsburgh.
January ended and February brought a huge blizzard. Practice had been scheduled for the morning of the fifth but Miriya quickly canceled when she looked out the kitchen window to see the lawn covered in a thick layer of snow and more steadily falling from the sky that could barely be seen.
When Jordan, Nik, and Scott had woken they ate breakfast and sat down as a family to watch a movie. Scott has just recently started 'walking' and didn't like to sit still for long. Jordan got up from the couch holding Scott's hands and he took a few steps before stumbling and sitting down on the floor with a giggle. "Ar-my," he said clearly.
Miriya and Nik looked from the TV to the eleven month old. "Did he just speak?"
"Army," he said again.
"My son's first word would be Colby's name," Miriya said with a laugh.