Chapter 74: It's Always About Bran

I inhale sharply, waking up to sudden pain in my stomach. I smile and my hand finds my large stomach, this had been happening a lot in the past few days. It had only started recently, but it seemed that once it started it didn’t want to settle down. Up at all hours of the night, practicing those hockey skills so that he or she could be just like his or her dad.

I chuckle to myself and look over to my left at his sleeping form. He looked so peaceful, his right arm pillowed his head and his left hand was out in front of him. He couldn’t fit his arm around my waist anymore. I didn’t want to disturb him, but he had been gone for the past few days on a 5 day road trip and had yet to feel it.

“Sidney… Sidney, wake up,” I say gently shaking his shoulder.

“Five more minutes,” he mumbles snuggling deeper into the covers. God how could he do that it’s stifling in this room.

“Sidney wake up,” I whisper.

“What, what is it? Is it time?” he says suddenly shooting up in bed.

“No, hun calm down. Just lay back down, everything is fine,” I say biting back a laugh.

“Hmm… then what is it?” he asks quietly lying back down.

“Here,” I say taking his hand and placing it on my stomach where I felt the last jab.

He holds his breath, knowing what I mean now and waiting. A few minutes pass and nothing.

“Babe, I don’t…” he starts.

Then I feel it, right where his hand is, a sharp jab. He suddenly quiets that crooked grin slowly appearing on his face.

“Apparently he or she wants to be just like dad. I swear, practicing those hockey skills 24/7,” I smile.

“Hey in there,” he says softly, his mouth coming closer to my stomach, “There is plenty of time to practice after you come out. You’re keeping your mom up.”

“Ruff, Ruff…”

I open my eyes to see Flash next to my face, smiling his Border Collie smile, his ears perking up, and his tail wagging.

I look over my shoulder to the right side of the bed. Empty. It was just a dream. I sigh, and my hands rubbing my stomach. It had been 3 months since I left and I was 4 months pregnant. I wasn’t blatantly pregnant, but I was sporting a slight baby bump. It was finally beginning to feel real. I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I was in denial or anything. But other that the occasional morning sickness and cravings and all that junk, it just seem like I was sick not pregnant. But with my abdomen slightly swollen, it was real. There was something, or someone, growing inside me. And it was getting harder to face the fact that I was at this alone. It was scary as hell being pregnant, not knowing what to really expect an not having him there.


“Alright Flash,” I sigh.

I stretch a bit getting rid of the tightness in my back and legs. I shiver at the coldness. I pull the covers back and let my feet land on the furry carpet on the floor. Standing up I stretch yet again and tug my tank top down over the bump in my abdomen. I sigh as I look to the old oak wardrobe that held some of my clothes. Although I didn’t have a lot of clothes, I also didn’t have a closet in my room to put clothes in. I take a deep breath and run across the freezing hard wood floor and over to the wardrobe and chest of drawers, grabbing a sweatshirt and a pair of socks.

It was a week before Christmas and I was planning on going home to spend the holiday like usual. My family knew I was pregnant, they weren’t exactly happy about it because Sidney didn’t know. But I didn’t tell them why I left either. I hadn’t told anyone. And I hadn’t really talked to anyone since I left. I sigh, sitting up straight on the bed after putting my socks on. I look over to the doorframe where Bran is waiting for me.

“Hey Bud,” I smile going over to scratch behind his ears. He wags his tails as I approach getting up from his sitting position.

I bite my lip as my hand passes over his body. He was literally a bag of bones. You could feel almost every bone in his body, from his shoulder blades to the dips in his pelvic bone. His breathing was raspy and his breath was rancid, in his throat I could feel the tumors getting large. I knew that he didn’t have much longer.

“Come on Bran, let’s go downstairs,” I sigh.

I get to the bottom of the steps of my small cabin and open the door for the dogs to shoot out. I wait and watch as Bran slowly makes his way down the steps and out the door, following the pack, instead of leading them like he once did. He was walking very stiffly and slowly today, and I bite my lip as tears come to my eyes knowingly. I had less time with him than I thought, it was almost time to say goodbye.

I walk over to the phone and dial the number for work.

“Hello you have reached DogTown, this is Sylvia how may I help you?” a perky voice asks.

“Hey Sylvia it’s Caitlin. Is Mike in?” I say trying to sound cheery.

“Oh no, is it Bran?” she asks with a gasp.

“Yeah, I just have to double check something with Mike,” I say biting my lip.

Sylvia was one of the receptionists at DogTown. Maggs liked to keep her company some afternoons, so Sylvia knew most of the happenings in my life. She was one of the people I knew that I could open up to and she would give me motherly advice. She was also the only one who knew who the baby’s father was. Now that I was slightly showing and didn’t have the flat stomach, everyone knew I was pregnant, they just didn’t know who the Dad was.

“Alright, I’ll transfer you over,” she says softly.

“Umm. Syl?”

“Yeah, hun?”

“Do you think that I could maybe drop all the dogs but Bran off there for a day or two?” I ask quietly, trying to force the lump in my throat to go down.

“Of course,” she says sweetly, knowing exactly my intentions.

I wait a few seconds before I hear the receiver click and a male voice.


“Hey Mike it’s Caitlin, are you busy?”

“Nope just finished up with a Daisy the pitbull, what can I do for you?”

“Mike, it’s Bran. He… he isn’t moving very well this morning, he’s very stiff. I know with Annie it was one of the signs that well… that he ….” I say finding it hard to finish.

I hear him sigh deeply on the other side and he didn’t have to speak I knew I was right.

“Yeah. Well it could be just that the cold is getting to his joints, but being that it’s been almost four months since the diagnosis…. Caitlin he doesn’t have much time, maybe a few days maybe a few hours.” He says sadly.

“Yeah, I thought so. Thanks Mike,” I sigh.

“I’m sorry Caitlin, do you want me to tell come pick up the other dogs?” he asks.

Everyone there knew that Bran was sick. Although Bran didn’t help me as much at work as he did when I was running my own business he came with me to work everyday, he and the two pups that is. Everyone knew his time was running out, they had seen how the cancer was progressing, and they knew that his last days here would be just me and him.

“Actually that would be really helpful, thanks Mike,” I sigh rubbing my eyes.

“Ok, I have one more appointment and then I’ll be over to get them,” he says before hanging up.

I sigh and brush away tears as I put the phone down and watch Bran hobble up the cedar stairs of the porch.

Sid’s POV

I pump my legs harder, pushing myself to the next line in the ice. Then skating back to the last line, causing frost to fly as I suddenly change directions skating to the next furthest line. Suicides.

“Sid! Why are you here?” I hear a voice shout.

I stop for the first time since I got on the ice and look over to find the source of the voice. Kris Letang stood looking out onto the ice from the locker room entrance.

“I’m skating,” I snap back. I see him come out on to the ice. Damn he had his skates on.

“Sid, why are you here?” he asks again as he gets closer.

“I told you I’m skating, working on my turns,” I grumble trying to skate away from him.

“It’s our day off!” he says shaking his head.

It was our day off, the first day we had off in awhile. We had just come home late last night after a 3 game road trip.

“And your turns are just about perfect, Sid,” he says following me around.

“Well they could be better, “ I grind out, “And what are you doing here?! I thought today was our day off!”

“I left my phone in my equipment bag last night after the game, I had to come and get it.”

“Oh,” I grunt back in acknowledgment.

“Sid you’re pushing yourself too hard, just go home and rest, “ he pleads.

All the guys had been getting on my case lately, telling me I was working too hard. Complaining how I was no fun anymore, I never went out with them anymore, never went to the team bonding poker games. But I couldn’t. If I relaxed I would start thinking about her again.

In the days after she left it became too painful to look at that house across from mine, waiting for her to come running out the door, all the dogs behind her. I had been staying over at Mario’s again, just like I had before I moved. I still owned the house, but when someone else moved in next door, I couldn’t take living there anymore.

“I’m fine,” I grumble, boy was that a lie.

“Look, Sid. I know Caitlin hurt you when she left, but grow the hell up man. This isn’t like it was 4 years ago. Go to Utah and bring her back,” his voice rising.

“Leave me the hell alone Letang!” I shout back.

“You screwed up man. And although you’ve been working your ass off, your game fucking sucks. All you do is mope around and grump and we’re all sick of it! Grow some balls and go get her!” he shouts back.

“Go to hell!” I shout over my shoulder. Suddenly I feel him throw his body into me and it sends me crashing into the borders in shock. I sit up on the ice looking up at him, I had never seen him so serious, his dark eyes blazing.

“Listen to me Crosby. Some of us would kill for what you had with Caitlin, you're not the only one that cares about her. We all love Caitlin, Sid, but we can’t fix this. You know I always looked up to you, you had it all but you never took any of it for granted. But then the best thing to ever happen to you comes along and you somehow lose it. And you don’t even have the guts to fight for it,” he says in a growl, “Love’s not suppose to be easy.”

“She doesn’t want me back Kris. She has her dogs and the job of her dreams, what more does she need,” I sigh looking at my gloves.

“You Sid. She needs you,” he says sternly.

Caitlin’s POV

There was an air in the room. It was thick and uncomfortable, sticking in your lungs, making it hard to breath. It was suffocating, almost like humidity, you want to get away from it because you know you will feel better, but you can’t escape it.

I sat on the red Oriental rug, leaning against the couch, watching my pack in their various spots. Like always, Maggie and Hawkeye both rested on the plush overstuffed couch with Flash on the back above them. Ty occupied the space on the love seat with Finn next to him. At almost 9 months old, the love seat was rapidly shrinking around their big wolf like bodies. But there was one thing wrong with this picture, besides me being on the floor and not the couch. The old, overstuffed lazy boy was vacant. Bran could no longer make his way onto the chair; instead he lay on the floor beside me as my one hand absent mindedly stroked his fur. My computer teetered on my stomach and rested against my knees as I emailed Beth an update on Bran, also telling her not to call for a while that I’d call when I was ready.

Sadness. Depression. Helplessness. Fear. That’s what was in the air. Granted the later two were from me not the others, but they knew.

It has always amazed me, how animals know. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that dogs pick up on emotions. But they knew other things too. Everyone has heard some story or seen it in the news, animals predicting earthquakes, floods, birth, and … death. My dogs were no different. They knew Bran’s time had come.

I bite my lip suppressing even more tears, putting the computer on the coffee table after pushing send. Bran slowly lifts his head and stared at the door before stiffly getting up and letting out a warning bark. The other dogs immediately perk up, running to the door.

I get up and see a red land rover parking in the driveway. A lean man with brown hair and an ever-permanent soft smile played on his face. He was sporting a grey fleece jacket with a puffy down vest. I smile weakly as I open the door of my cabin to greet him.

“Stay,” I command the dogs before going out to greet him.

“Hey, Mike,” I say putting on a smile.

“Hey, how’s he doing?” he asks worriedly.

“He…well he’s still hanging on,” I sigh, “Anyway, I really appreciate you taking the dogs over for me.”

“It’s no problem. And I was actually gonna just take them to my place. I mean they are your dogs and Liza and the kids wouldn’t mind,” he says referring to his wife and 3 kids at home with a smile.

“Mike, you don’t have to do that,” I say, beginning to refuse him.

“Caitlin it’s no problem. Besides, Autumn and Arrow need some dog time,” he smiles; now speaking of his two golden retrievers.

“If you’re sure…”

“I’m positive. After all they’re your dogs. They’ll be no trouble at all.”

I nod with a sigh and Mike takes me into a warm, much needed hug.

“Thanks Mike,” I sniff before pulling away.

“No problem,” he says with a sympathetic smile.

I open the door and whistle for the dogs. The pack quickly comes to greet Mike with Bran watching from the door. He laughs and says hello to all before walking over to Bran.

Bran wags his tail weakly as Mike passes a hand over his skull with a sigh. He gives him one last gentle pat on the head before walking away.

“Alright guys go with Mike. In the car,” I say pointing to the car.

I see a look of hesitation cross each face before they obediently follow Mike. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Bran slowly getting up. I look over to see Finn next to him, licking Bran’s face as Bran tries to follow my command. I bite my ip and swallow the lump in my throat.

“Bran, stay with me. Finn, go with Mike,” I say pointing to the car.

Finn hesitates looking between me and the car. I sigh and kneel down, Finn coming over to me.

“I’ll be ok Finn. I’ll see you soon, but… just please Finn,” I say choking up as my hands tread through his thick white fur. His blue eyes watching me much like Bran. He watches me for a second longer before turning to Bran and then turning to hop in Mike’s truck.

“Caitlin. If Bran needs anything, if you need anything, just call me. And call me when you want the dogs to come back,” he says before getting in.

I nod my head and listen to the purr of the engine as it starts up. I watch with my arms folded over my chest as the land rover drives off. I turn around to see Bran still in the door way… waiting.

Sid’s POV

I let the hot water of the shower run over my skin, washing away the sweat and frustration. After being in there for almost half and hour, I change into a simple jeans and fleece pull over. I walk out to the car sighing as I put my hand on the key to start the engine. But out of the corner of my eye I see a woman walking over to the car, her red hair blowing in the cold December wind.

I quickly get out of the car and walk over to greet her. She had fresh tears in her eyes that she wasn’t allowing to fall, and it scared the hell out of me. What if something had happened to her? What if a session went horribly wrong? Or a car crash in the snow?

“Beth what is it? Is she ok?” I ask running over to her.

“She’s… It’s not her Sid,” Beth said her voice wavering.

“Then what is it?” I ask, feeling a little calmer.

“It’s Bran. She just sent me an email, she’s not sure if he’ll make it through the night,” she chokes out.

I sigh, as my shoulders slump. It was always about Bran, after all he was her partner.

“Beth…” I begin shaking my head.

“No Sid listen. This is going to shake her to the core, she needs you there. She needs you to pick up the pieces. Not me. Not another dog. You,” her voice rising with every word, “ She has been miserable without you but the girl is too damn stubborn to admit it.”

“But I can’t…”

“Please Sid, she won’t listen to me. She won’t take my calls, she says she wants to be left alone, but once Bran is gone… she needs someone there with her.”

I sigh looking up at her, her green eyes pleading me.

“Please Sid.”

December 28, 2009 at Monday, December 28, 2009 , 9 Comments

Chapter 73: She's Gone

Sid’s POV

It had been 4 days since I last saw her, that was enough time for her to think right? For those past four days I did nothing but the essentials, play hockey, eat, and sleep; although I had no appetite and I couldn’t sleep well, not with out her in my arms. We had had 2 days off after that game, but I came to practice anyway, on the ice I could clear my head. Any free time I had was spent in the athletic room, exercising as much as I could. I need to talk to her, I need to make this right. I couldn’t just let her go, and I needed to talk to her today, we were leaving for Boston tomorrow.

I sigh and slip on my fleece jacket ready to go outside, avoiding any interaction with my teammates who just silently watch as I walk by. I knew that they knew something was up, but no one had asked me yet.

I avoid the autographs for the 2nd time in the past few days, I felt guilty about not signing autographs but I just couldn’t put on a smile for the fans. I decide to pull into her driveway, of the house we share. I had been staying at my house for the past few days, wanting to give her her space.

Her jeep wasn’t here again. I hadn’t seen it in awhile; she must be doing crazy hours at work. I shuffle up the porch steps and unlock the door. I would wait for her until she got back. I push the door open, walking in to a horrific sight. My jaw drops open as I look around the barren room. The couches and paintings were gone, all that was left was the TV we brought from my place. As I ventured around the house I found that everything was gone, all but the stuff that was mine. She was gone and I had no idea where she was.

I quickly run out of the house and back into my car, peeling out of the driveway. She had to still be around, she had her business, her friends, everything she had was in Pittsburgh.

I pull out my cell phone dialing her number, but it goes straight to voicemail.

“Where the hell are you? I get home and everything’s gone?! Caitlin we need to talk, you can’t just pack up and leave! You never even let me explain myself! Call me back,” I say into the phone my voice rising with every word.

I had to find her, and I knew of only one person that would know where she was. I pull into a much different driveway, panicked as to where she is. I get out of the car and see a white dog barking at me through the window of a small brick house. I ring the doorbell and watch as a woman with red hair comes to the door holding a baby. A look of sadness on her face as she opens the door and lets me in. Koda comes over to me wagging his tail, begging me to pet him. I give him a slight pat on the head and look at Beth, who is looking at me with not only sadness but a look of confusion.

“Where is she, Beth?” I ask quickly, “I gave her time to think and now… Where is she?”

“She’s gone Sid,” was her simple reply.

“What do you mean she’s gone? I went in the house today and everything is gone,” I say panicked.

“She took the job in Utah, she left two days ago,” Beth says quietly.

I inhale quickly my eyes going wide. She’s gone? It feels like someone had punched me in the stomach and a wave of nausea hits me.

“But… but how could she just leave…. Everything is in Pittsburgh, her jobs, her friends….Everything,” I say desperate to find answers.

“Not everything, Sid, the dogs are with her. That’s all she thinks she needs,” Beth sighs, “She sold the business, referenced the clients to another trainer. She said if you stopped by to tell Kris he could leave Sam here when you guys have away games. I’m sorry Sid, that’s all she told me.”

I sigh, collapsing on the couch. She was gone. What was I going to do? I had no idea where to find her in Utah, and from the sounds of it neither did Beth.

“Sid…” she says quietly as if contemplating if she should ask, “… what happened?”

I inhale sharply, “It’s my fault.”

“Sid it can’t be just your fault.”

“I slept with Victoria,” I say in an almost inaudible whisper.

I hear her gasp before she says, “Oh Sidney, why?”

“I don’t know, Beth,” I sigh shaking my head, “It was my birthday and I hadn’t seen Caitlin in over a month, I was drunk. It just happened. I’d give anything to take it back.”

“Sid…I…”Beth begins but stops when she knows there is nothing more to say.

We sit there in silence for a moment before I know I have to get out of there.

“I need to go Beth. Thank you,” I say quietly.

She nods and I see tears in her eyes. I knew she was always a cheerleader for Caitlin and I. I stop to pat Koda on the head before I leave. He was one of the only pieces of her that was left behind.

I had lost her again, perhaps for the last time.

I get back in the car and rest my head on the steering wheel, trying to put everything together. She’s gone. She left. She didn’t even give me a chance to explain. How did I fuck up so badly?! How could I have slept with another woman, let alone thought of sleeping with another woman?! I pull out my phone and call her again, the call going straight to voice mail telling me she had her phone turned off.

“Caitlin, I went to see Beth. She told me you left… Just please come back. I wasn’t thinking at all that night. I was really drunk and really missing you, and I know that’s not an excuse. And I don’t know how I could have ever slept with her, I honestly don’t remember much of that night. It won’t ever happen again, and I know that you don’t trust me anymore… but I need you. I love you so much it hurts, and finding out that you left … I feel like I’m missing a part of myself. I need you back,” I say clearing my voice, trying to keep it from cracking.

I sigh and close my phone, mustering enough strength to drive home.

I return home to see cars parked all around the driveway and most of the guys waiting on the porch.

“Hey Siddy Poo, ya looked down so we thought we’d come cheer you up! Where’s Caitlin?” Colby asks.

“She’s gone,” I say quietly.

“What do you mean she’s gone?” Kris asks sternly, his brow furrowing together.

“She found out about my Birthday night and she left. She took some job in Utah,” I say feeling like I’m on the verge of tears. I had never cried over a girl, but now I felt like half of me was gone and I may never get it back.

Caitlin’s POV

I sigh, letting my bag drop from my shoulders and hit the ground with a solid thud by the door. I had worked a 10-hour shift at work, and I loved every minute of it. I finally got to be out there training the dogs that needed help the most. The more trained they were, the better chance they had at getting a home. I loved making a difference for these dogs. I loved not being buried in paper work and bills, and all the other stuff that came with running your own business. Sure I missed the freedom of picking my own work hours, but I felt now I was making a huge difference. And I was working away from the city, I hadn’t realized how much I missed being away from the woods. After all, I was just a country girl at heart, born and raised in the boonies. I could look up and see thousands of stars, something I couldn’t see near the city. I could go hiking in the woods just outside my house and could see the wildlife that the suburbs couldn’t offer. I had never been happier working, yet… I wasn’t completely happy. I missed Beth, and the team, I missed whipping their asses at poker. I missed them always being there for me and I felt bad for just leaving without even saying good bye, but I had too. And as much as I hated to admit it, I missed ‘him’ too.

I feed the dogs and sigh as I lean against the counter of my small cabin. I look to my left to see my phone by the toaster. I had left Pittsburgh 6 days ago and I hadn’t turned it on since. I should probably turn it on; just to make sure Beth was ok. I push the power button and it is almost immediately flooded with text messages, missed calls, and voice mails. I got texts from the whole team, and I bite my lip holding back tears as I skim them. All of them telling me to come home. I listen to a few voice mails. Jordan telling me I have to come back because the baby will be born soon, as he says it I smile my hands coming to my own stomach. There was one from Kris begging me to come back and telling me Sam is doing fine, knowing that is what I needed to hear. Finally I decide to listen to the two from Sid.

“Where the hell are you? I get home and everything’s gone?! Caitlin we need to talk, you can’t just pack up and leave! You never even let me explain myself! Call me back,” he said in a harsh tone that made me grimace; yet at the same time it made my heart jump just hearing his voice.

I push the button for the last voicemail.

“Caitlin, I went to see Beth. She told me you left… Just please come back. I wasn’t thinking at all that night. I was really drunk and really missing you, and I know that’s not an excuse. And I don’t know how I could have ever slept with her, I honestly don’t remember much of that night. It won’t ever happen again, and I know that you don’t trust me anymore… but I need you. I love you so much it hurts, and finding out that you left … I feel like I’m missing a part of myself. I need you back, please stop running away,” his voice says, cracking toward the end.

I feel the tears pushing against my eyes wanting to get out, knowing that I needed him just as much and knowing that I was running away, but I couldn’t stay. I couldn’t keep giving my heart to him. Before I can stop it a sob tears free and I slide to the floor, my knees coming to my chest, the tears falling freely and rapidly.

“Why did he do this to me?” I sob, “I gave him my heart again, giving him another chance and he leaves it broken again, just when it was beginning to all come back together.”

I feel coarse fur against my side and immediately lean into it. Bran was always my rock, but him being there to comfort me made it worse in some respects. It was a reminder that he wouldn’t be here much longer. I sob harder, feeling as though my world is crumbling, because it is.

December 20, 2009 at Sunday, December 20, 2009 , 7 Comments

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Discovering...Love? by AS is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.