Chapter 1: Looking for Secrets
Jack tipped over the bottle letting small white pills spill into his other hand. He dropped the bottle when his hand started to shake uncontrollably and he tossed the pills onto the bed. He had no idea what to do. His mind raced.
“Honey?” called a voice, it felt far away from him. “Jack?” came the voice again. Eric Bittle-Zimmerman stopped in the doorway to his daughter’s room to take in his husband. Jack wasn’t responding to him and that was unusual, but what caught Eric’s attention was Jack’s shaking hands. Quickly he moved over to him, sliding an arm around Jack’s waist, “What…” and then he saw the pills on the bright purple duvet their daughter had insisted upon buying for her room, “Jack?”
Eric’s tone, harder and firmer, shook Jack from his spiral, “They’re anti-depressants Bitty,” he whispered.
“Jack,” Bitty tried to get Jack to look at him but his husband was transfixed upon the pills. Leaving his husband for a moment Bitty reached around him to pick up the pill bottle and then went on to methodically redeposit the pills back into the container. Once that was done he tugged on Jack’s hands, which had thankfully stopped shaking, “Where did you find them?”
“Find what?” came a new voice, light and cheerful, “What’re you guys doing in here anyway? Please don’t tell me you’re hiding Christmas presents in here because you know I’ll accidentally find them.” Sophie Marie Bittle-Zimmerman chattered at her fathers as she walked into her room followed by her grandpapa who had insisted on carrying the one purchase she had made upstairs. Neither of them so much as moved though, so she stopped, taking in her papa’s stance, stiff and anxious and her dad whose face was pained. Bitty shifted, trying to pull a smile onto his face but one look at Bad Bob and his father-in-law knew something serious had happened. “What’s going on?” asked Sophie, “Dad?”
It wasn’t Bitty that responded though, it was Jack, “I don’t know, why don’t you tell us?” His voice was cold and hard, making Sophie take a step back at it.
“Jack…” interjected Bob but his son continued to speak as if he hadn’t heard his father.
Jack grabbed the bottle of pills from Bitty’s hand, paying his husband no mind and tossed them at his daughter, “What the hell is this?”
She caught them easily but as she held them her hands began to shake, “What’re you doing with these?” she asked, her voice quick and tense, “These are mine; you have no right…”
Jack cut her off with an uncharacteristically harsh laugh, “We have every right!” as his voice climbed Bitty intervened, “Jack! That’s enough. We’ll discuss this later.” But Jack wasn’t having any of it and he pulled away from Bitty to unconsciously crowd his daughter, “When the hell were you going to tell us!”
Sophie’s hands kept shaking as she faced down her father, “It’s my business until I decide otherwise,” she shot back, trying to keep her voice as level as possible but as Jack walked closer her back hit the wall. She shrank away from his approach and that was when Bob pulled Jack away, “Get out. Now,” Bob growled at his son. When Jack didn’t move immediately Bob physically pulled him out of the room.
Bitty approached his daughter slowly but she shrank away from him too. His heart twisted in his chest when he saw that, but before he could speak he heard Bob and Jack arguing in the hallway; their raised voices made Sophie flinch. “I’ll sort this out sweetheart,” Bitty whispered to her and slipped out of her room.
Sophie dug her nails into her palms, as she pressed her back against the wall, fighting to stay upright. Eventually she gave into the urge to become as small as possible and she slid down huddling against the wall, tossing the offending pill bottle off to the side. She slammed her eyes shut, trying in vain to believe that this was all a dream.
“Fee?” called a quiet voice. Sophie started, she had been so wrapped up inside her head that she hadn’t noticed that her dads and grandfather had evidently taken their conversation elsewhere, probably the library. The soft voice belonged to a tall figure standing just outside of her bedroom. She could tell even in her distress that Shitty Knight was working to be as non-threatening as possible; she wished she could smile or congratulate him. Sophie did neither although she had raised her head from her knees so she counted that as a win.
“Fee, I don’t want to pressure you but can I come in?” Shitty asked from the doorway, making an effort to stay clear of the threshold of her room so that she knew he would never force her to accept visitors if she did not want them.
Slowly, Sophie nodded and then, deciding that a verbal confirmation was due croaked out a, “Yes.”
Shitty walked towards her gingerly as if he was afraid of spooking her. Sophie hated it. “I’m not fragile you know!” she snapped, the second the words left her lips she regretted them though. Shitty did not deserve her anger. She hid her face again, this time out of shame for how she was acting, “I’m sorry,” she apologized, mumbling to her knees.
Shitty flopped down on the carpet in front of her, “You’re forgiven,” he spoke simply and sincerely, “After all, it sounds like you had a rough day.”
“Are they still fighting?” Sophie asked, avoiding Shitty’s question, “I handled it all wrong. I need to talk to them…” she trailed off as the thought of confronting her papa with that look in his eye that he had had earlier set her nerves off again.
“Hey,” Shitty said quietly, holding a palm out for her to take if she wanted, which she did, gratefully, “It’s not your fault.”
“I chose to keep a secret,” interjected Sophie, unable to keep herself quiet or stop her shaking hands.
“You were in the right Fee,” cooed Shitty, rubbing circles into her shaking hands, “It’ll be okay.”
“You weren’t here. You didn’t see him,” she all but whispered, if Shitty hadn’t been sitting as close as he was to her he never would have heard her. He chose to act as if he had not heard Sophie’s admission but privately he was thinking of ways to approach Jack about this because whatever had happened he never wanted to hear his goddaughter sound so alone and scared.
Shitty let himself into the front door, because well, he had a key and no one had answered his hip knock. The first thing he noticed was the noise level in the house. Sure, the Bittle-Zimmerman household usually had some sort of noise going on, generally it was one of Sophie or Bitty’s playlists accompanied by laughing and dancing, overall, joyous noise. That was not what he heard now.
He set his stuff down and made his way towards the rapid fire French he could hear on the second floor. As he rounded the top of the staircase he saw Bad Bob in a furious exchange with Jack – neither man acknowledged his existence. Bitty slipped out Sophie’s room in Shitty’s peripheral vision and his face when he made eye contact with Shitty was one of relief and frustration. “Could you talk to Sophie, please? Just keep her company while I get these two downstairs. There’s been an incident,” Bitty rushed his explanation and at Shitty’s nod, hugged the man briefly then rounded on the Zimmerman men. Although Bitty was small his voice was almost ferocious when he ordered both men to the library, while Jack tried to ignore him and continue his arguing with his father where he damn well pleased Bob, for the second time that day pulled his son somewhere else. Bitty followed them leaving Shitty on the upstairs landing.
Chapter 2: Fee, It's short for Sophie or Nifty
Shitty and Bad Bob make an appearance together. So do some OCs. The plot continues to unfold.
*Description of disassociation and certain reactions to mental illness to follow.
I do not own Check Please, Riverdale, or Star Wars.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Sophie’s phone lit up with an incoming text, her phone rang out with her Star Wars text tone, “These aren’t the drones you’re looking for,” in Obi-wan’s soothing voice sounded in the near silence of the room. The tone sounded again. And a third time. At the fourth chime, Sophie extricated herself from the floor and let go of Shitty’s hand. She walked over to her bag, which lay forgotten by the doorway along with the package her grandpapa had brought up with him. Sophie fished her phone out of her purse, the screen brightening with texts, and as she flipped through them Shitty saw a calm of sorts steal over her.
He watched her silently, not wanting to break the peace she had found, but his curiosity eventually got the better of him, “Your friends from school?” he asked. It was a well-known fact in the Bittle-Zimmerman household that Sophie would talk about her classes, her projects, and her essays to no end but her friends were kind of a mystery to her family. They knew about her roommate from freshman year, Cassandra, and some of her sorority sisters but she never gave away more than surface knowledge about her friends. Shitty put it down to Sophie attending Samwell and not wanting to become involved with maintaining the Bittle-Zimmerman legacy.
She didn’t skate for one, so that already set her apart. She also had her sights set on academia, not athletics.
Sophie shot him a soft smile, “Yeah, they wanted to see how break was going.”
“What’ll you tell them?”
She shrugged, “After today…I’m not sure. Maybe…” she trailed off looking thoughtful.
“Maybe what?” Shitty, pressed her gently.
“Cass invited me to come stay for a bit this break – I might take her up on the offer. Just until some of this,” she gestured casually toward the pill bottle, which Shitty hadn’t noticed until then, “clears up.”
Shitty’s gaze was transfixed on the bottle. His mind raced. Where Jack had panicked though, he stayed calm, at least outwardly. “Want to explain to me what actually went down? I didn’t really have time to get the full story,” his sentence was cut off by the front door slamming so hard that things in Sophie’s room rattled. The stillness of the house after that allowed for everyone else to hear the front door open and close again, although much softer this time.
“Dad went after him,” remarked Sophie conversationally. Her tone sounded off to Shitty, but for the time being he resolved to ignore it in favour of hearing her story.
“I came home with Grandpapa to find Dad and Papa in my room. They were holding this,” she crossed back to the bottle and tossed it over to Shitty who caught it. He flipped it over, noting that it was a common anti-depressant for moderate depression. He flipped it in his hands and tossed it back to Sophie. She slammed it down on her dresser, “I don’t know what he was looking for but… anyways then Papa changed,” she shivered, “He was cold and so Grandpapa took him outside. They argued. That’s about it.”
“You know for a writer your storytelling skills could really use some work,” came a new voice from the doorway where Bad Bob was lounging. He raised his eyebrows in query about being invited in and when Sophie nodded he walked in and gripped her in a tight bear hug. Even though she seemed unsure of what do with his affection he just hugged her tighter. When he let her go she sat on the bed, Shitty lead up against her dresser, and Bob sat next to her, “He had no right,” Bob winced at his phrasing as his words recalled the earlier confrontation, “He should never have said that to you that way,” he kept an arm around Sophie’s shoulders.
She shrugged him off, mumbling something about taking a shower before bed and slipped in her en-suite. Before she closed the door, she said, “You can stay if you want,” indicating a chair for Shitty. Then she closed the door and a playlist, decidedly less chipper than the one she had played that morning in the kitchen started up. “That song is downright depressing,” quipped Shitty as the strains of Teen Idle by Marina and the Diamonds made itself plain over the sound of the fan.
“So, what actually happened?” Shitty demanded from Bob. The older man shook his head, “I’ve never seen Jack act that way. He was cold. He laughed at her, told her he had every right to know about her mental health, and then he backed her into a corner. It was like he was someone else. He scared her.” Bob related the events in a tired, almost disbelieving voice.
“He’s scared,” remarked Shitty.
“Of course he’s scared, but that’s no reason to act that way!” exclaimed Bob.
“It happened. That’s what we have to deal with now,” replied Shitty, his voice tired, “I’m assuming he went to the rink?”
Bob nodded, “And Eric with him.”
“He’ll talk some sense into our boy, don’t worry Bob,” commented Shitty, in an effort to console not only Bob but himself, “It’ll be okay. She’ll be okay.” The ‘she has to be’ was implied between them.
Sophie almost couldn’t breathe. The water was scorching hot but she couldn’t feel it. The redness of her skin was the only indication that she should step out from the spray’s trajectory. She just stood there feeling her body be sanitized. She couldn’t hear her music. Everything was just there but it had no impact on her.
Logically, she knew that she was disassociating from her environment but the rest of her mind chose to focus on the fact that she could not focus. It was panicking and there was very little she could do about it. As if they were unconnected to her body her hands turned the her shower control to the right, dousing her with cold water that shook her out of her disassociation, but just marginally. She sighed, exited the shower and toweled herself dry. She craved her headphones and her room at university. It was comforting and she had a corner that fit her perfectly. Her housemates had made it into a nest of sorts for her after Gareth had discovered her in the midst of a depressive spiral. She was grateful that they were friends now. The ends of her lips quirked up in a slight smile at the thought of the day when she had first called him by his Haus nickname, Excalibur. He had been taken aback but that had represented a turning point for both of them.
Even before her ‘episode’ as she privately referred to it, things with Gary had been better. After their talk about his dad and why he had been so hostile to her managing the team when they clearly needed someone to do it their relationship had improved. In that moment she knew just who she needed to call, but as her finger hovered over the call button she remembered Shitty and her grandpapa outside in her room. Sophie bit her lip, if she asked them to leave they would be concerned. Instead she shot Gary a short text and got dressed.
Cassandra Saunders was blasting country music on high in her truck just because she knew it pissed off her father who was in the backseat. Normally, her brother, Gary would subtly indicate that she should tone down the aggravation but he’d finally stopped defending or placating their father. It didn’t hurt that Gary had been able to talk out his frustrations regarding their situations with her best friend, Sophie. Cass wondered idly how her friend’s vacation was going when the opening strains of the Riverdale cover of ‘Kids in America’ started up and she grinned as Gary struggled to pull his phone out of his coat pocket.
Cassie had preprogrammed Sophie’s number into Gary’s phone with that ringtone and she knew that he hadn’t changed it yet. She was so tempted to grill him about the content of the message but one look in the rear-view mirror reminded her why she couldn’t – their father wasn’t known as a shark in the journalism world for nothing. His track record proved he would sacrifice anyone and anything to get a juicy story (or even half of one).
Gary’s eyes lit up when he noticed that Sophie had indeed texted him but the content of the message made his forehead knit into a slight frown. “Everything okay champ?” asked Jeffrey Stone from the backseat. Gary twitched at the nickname, “Just one of the guys asking about a New Year’s Eve event. They’re fighting about what constitutes an event with one of their girlfriends.”
“Ah, young love,” waxed Stone while both of his children restrained themselves from rolling their eyes. At a red light Cass threw her brother a glance that plainly asked why they had to bring their father into their perfectly happy Christmas celebrations. Gary just looked away from her, curling around his phone to respond to Sophie.
What’s going on Phi?
Damn autocorrect! *Fee.
Are you okay?
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Chapter 3: One Helluva Day
Sophie texts a friend. Shitty, Bob, Jack, and Bitty all congregate in her room. Words are spoken. People leave. Like now. Sophie's more like Jack than she knows.
I do not own Check Please. Read it! It's swawesome!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
You’re debating on saying ‘Fine’ or ‘Kinda’ aren’t you?
Gary’s message flashed across her phone screen just as she finished braiding her hair. Sophie wanted to smile at how well he knew her. Then her gut clenched as she thought about all of the ways that being open with someone left her vulnerable, Thank you for reaching out to me, came through as she was debating about how to respond. She let out a breath at his response. This was Gary, she could trust Gary. She could trust Cass. She could trust the team.
It has been one helluva day. Talk later? I’ve got my grandpapa and my god-dad outside in my room.
Where are your dads?... Did something happen with them?
Your sense for disaster is uncanny, do you know that?
You sure that you don’t need us to swing by and pick you up? We could just ditch the poser in the backseat by the wayside. You’re more important.
Sophie smiled a real smile at that message – No. At least not today. We should talk it out. Good luck with your father. Give my love to Cass and Emily!... and you of course, didn’t mean to leave anyone from my favourite family out.
I’ll call you later. Seriously, the offer to pick you up stands regardless though Fee, stay safe. Our minds are meddlesome places.
Well, Gary was right about that, and Sophie knew he was more than familiar with how scary one’s own mind could be. Sophie glared at her reflection for a moment as she pictured the smug face of Jeffrey Stone. The damage he’d inflicted on her friends made him enemy number one in her mind – what he’d done to her dads was just additional pain for which he would eventually pay. She shook her head to clear it and breathed in deeply.
“You can do this,” she said to her reflection, “You CAN do this,” she repeated.
“She sounds like Jack when he used to have to psyche himself up for games,” commented Shitty quietly as Sophie spoke to herself in the bathroom. Bad Bob grunted in response. Shitty turned to him then, “You know Jack’s going to be beating himself up enough about this, and Bitty will take a few shots at him too before helping him home to lick his wounds. He won’t need you on his case too.”
Bob wouldn’t meet Shitty’s eyes, instead his gaze found a photo of Sophie and Jack at his last Stanley Cup victory game. He’d pulled her onto the ice even though she didn’t skate and swept her up in his arms. She’d eventually ended up on his back even though she wasn’t a little kid anymore and Jack had lifted the cup up catching her eyes. The smile she’d shot him could’ve brightened the world. Bob knew she was proud of her parents, but he blamed himself for not seeing how much pressure their success had placed upon her. They had always encouraged her even when they didn’t understand her interests completely but growing up in the spotlight was no easy feat for any kid. He’d let Jack live with his fears for so long as a child.
What he said to Shitty though made Jack, who’d returned with Bitty, pause at the door. Even though Bitty was raised as a Southern gentleman he was not above eavesdropping when the opportunity presented itself. “Looking back I wonder if I ignored the signs with him,” Bob spoke quietly, as if he only spoke to himself, “Maybe I wrote them off… But I’ll never forget that day that I found him. I thought he was dead Shitty.” Bob’s voice dropped, it sounded so lost and broken that the man seemed young again. Outside the door Jack bit his lip and curled in on himself, leaning his head against the wall. Bitty wrapped him in a hug, reminding him he was loved even when he made mistakes. Jack breathed out soundlessly, grateful for his husband’s ability to both push him to be better and to comfort him when he was feeling unmoored. He returned Bitty’s embrace as his father continued to speak. “I never want that to happen again.”
Sophie, who had also been listening through the door chose that moment to walk back out into her room to confront her grandpapa, “Who says it will?” she asked, her tone curious and light, an odd choice given the subject they were now discussing.
Bob swiveled from his seat so fast that in any other situation it would have been comical, but he said nothing, so Sophie continued, “Just because I have depression doesn’t mean I’m any different from who I was yesterday or the day before. I am not suddenly going to end up dead because my brain sometimes concocts stories about how everyone hates me or I am not worthy of other peoples’ attention.”
Shitty cut in, gently, so gently that Sophie hissed in frustration at him, “Fee, we don’t mean…”
“Yes, you do! You all do. You might not mean to but every time you look at that bottle you don’t see me, you see my papa and you repeat a bad time in his life over, and over, and over. You don’t think I knew what telling him about this would make him feel? You don’t think I wanted to spare us all that pain?” she cried, angry in spite of her desire to stay calm and talk things out.
That’s when Jack entered, Bitty at his side, her heroes, her knights in battered shining armour. “Way to be dramatic,” quipped Shitty in an attempt to quell the tension in the room to lackluster results.
“Out,” Jack ordered his best friend and his father; when they didn’t move Bitty echoed his demand with a firm, “Now.” Neither man moved. Shitty would not easily forget the fear in Sophie’s eyes when she talked about Jack confronting her nor would Bob so easily overlook the way his son had morphed before his eyes into a man he did not recognize. Before a war could break out between the two factions in her room though, Sophie made a decision of her own, “Please,” she said, looking first to her dad then to her godfather and her grandpapa, “please. Give us a minute.”
Bitty nodded, first going over to hug his daughter, who in contrast to earlier accepted his approach and hugged him tightly in return, “We’ll talk later,” he murmured in her ear. When they broke apart he fixed Shitty and Bob with a look, but both men ignored him in favour of looking to Sophie who gave them a look so similar to Bitty’s that Shitty wanted to laugh and cry about it. He nodded in acquiescence and got up to pass Jack, but instead of fixing his best friend with the cold shoulder he’d promised himself he’d use he gripped his hand tight. They clasped their fingers together and Jack could feel himself breathe a little easier.
Bob though, still hadn’t moved to join Bitty and Shitty on their way downstairs. “Papa,” started Jack, his voice unsure and saddened, but he was interrupted by Sophie, “Grandpapa you have three seconds before I call in reinforcements, Grandmama is only twenty minutes by car. Leave, now. Please.” Startled at his daughter’s protective nature, Jack could only stare as his father got up from the bed and walked towards the door, “Grandpapa, don’t,” intoned Sophie, her eyes were bright and fierce. Before he exited Bob turned around and engulfed Jack in a big hug that he was totally unprepared for, then he returned to the main floor of the house where Sophie could hear her dad rustling up a meal for their family.
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Chapter 4: Scoot over into my arms, I'll hold you tight
Jack apologizes. Sophie opens up. He's a good dad. She's a good daughter. They both feel a little broken.
Sophie always thought she liked silence, until she was surrounded by it, then she would remember how suffocating it felt. It had been a minute since her grandpapa had left the room and she hadn’t moved. She couldn’t bring herself to look at her papa; she just didn’t know where to start.
“Sophie?” Jack’s voice shattered the silence, implying warmth, love, and comfort. She let out a shuddering breath at his tone, “Do you want to sit down?” Sophie nodded, still unable to look right at him, afraid of what he might see in her eyes. Instead, she plopped down on the floor, the soft, green carpet comfortable even after years of wear. Jack settled on the ground too, meeting her on her terms and waited. When she still couldn’t bring herself to speak, now that she had no one to defend or stand against she didn’t know what to do.
“I remember when we bought this carpet,” her papa’s voice came again, slow and soothing, “You wanted green because it reminded you of the forest. You wanted a fairy-tale forest in your bedroom because you didn’t like the bugs in the real forest outside…” he trailed off, “You wanted this to be your safe place and I am so sorry I compromised that today.”
Sophie’s head jerked up at his words and their eyes, so similar in colour connected. She could see the pain and anguish he felt and he could see how much she’d been holding back from them. “Papa, it’s my…”
Jack scooted over to sit right in front of her, “This is not your fault. I know you feel responsible for a lot of things but today is not one of those things okay?” Sophie was struggling with believing him and he knew she wouldn’t immediately admit that she didn’t feel responsible for their conflict. “Baby steps, Fee, baby steps,” he said.
“What you said earlier, it’s true. I still sometimes see it. I relive it sometimes. But more often than that I will wake up and it’s me, it’s me finding you in my position,” Jack was determined to be honest with her no matter how difficult he found it to talk about his overdose. He took a deep breath to center himself and placed his hands flat on the floor to try and stop their shaking when Sophie slipped her right hand over his left one. She interlocked their fingers and he looked at her with a small smile, “I’m okay. You are too. It’s also okay to not be okay,” she nodded to show that she was in fact listening and he went on, “I panicked. I never wanted that to happen…”
“I know, Papa, I forgive you,” whispered Sophie.
Jack looked at his daughter with a mixture of wonder and love, “Thank you Fee.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you though,” she continued, her voice still low, and her eyes no longer meeting his. She pulled her hand back from his and tucked herself against the side of the bed, leaning back and propping her head on her knees, “I just didn’t know how.” She looked at Jack then, he saw her bite her lip and then her gaze skittered to the carpet by his right hand.
“It’s not exactly an easy conversation to have,” responded Jack, “How long have you known?”
This question gave her pause as she appeared to rack her brains, “I think it’s been happening since high school, maybe earlier but I didn’t think anything of it. I was working hard of course I was tired. Everything else, well, I just ignored it.”
“What is everything else?” Jack asked.
Sophie’s shoulders tensed but she still responded, “I would spend days feeling like I was floating, unfeeling. I just thought it was hormones or something. Something irrelevant. It eventually went away.”
“But it came back?” guessed Jack, keeping his voice soft and level.
She nodded, “I went to a psychologist in first year after a bad exam. I thought it was stress but she diagnosed me with moderate depression just before Easter vacation."
Jack opened his mouth to ask about the pills but Sophie beat him to it, “I’ve only been on the pills for three months; September was a bad month.”
“This has been going on for five years? Fee...” Jack didn’t know what to say, he reached out and then realized she might not be okay with a hug in her current state but before he could draw back she launched herself into his arms like she used to when she was younger. He tightened his arms around her and rocked her while she cried into his shirt.
Chapter 5: Legacy, legacy, I don't want to be a legacy
Just because there was one conversation everything doesn't magically get better. Sophie he loves her family, but she is scared of never escaping their shadows. Too many people refer to her as a (failed) legacy already.
I do not own Check Please or The West Wing (this includes the line of Sorkin I reference here). See if you can spot my 2 tributes to the best American political drama ever. *Also, the salt fact is from Wikipedia so I'm not sure if it's 100% legit.
Jack didn’t know how long they sat there together. Frankly, he didn’t care. All that mattered in the world was his daughter who was currently trusting him to see her at her most vulnerable. Eventually though he knew the moment would end and it did. Sophie sobs had petered out and he could feel some tension sneak back into her body as she came back to the present. When she pulled away he let her, but just barely. Sniffing she looked at him with gratitude in her eyes, “Thank you papa,” she spoke in a shaky voice but he could feel the sincerity.
“I will always be here for you, Fee - your dad too.”
“Smart people who love me have my back,” said Sophie, smiling as if she had made a reference to something that Jack didn’t understand, “I’ll explain it later,” she promised as she hauled herself to her feet. Jack rose alongside her and they walked onto the landing when Jack realized he should probably change his shirt. Not wanting Sophie to feel awkward about it he told her to head down while he checked on something. She nodded. As Jack slipped down the hall into his bedroom Sophie ducked back into her room to wash her face.
Once that was done she walked downstairs, hesitant to walk into the kitchen where she was sure at least Shitty would be watching her every move, but thankfully she could hear the voices of her grandmamma, Alicia, and her godmother, Lardo. “They’ll run interference if need be,” spoke a voice from behind her.
“I know they will,” she replied to her dad, who had emerged from their extra pantry with a container of salt, which made Sophie’s forehead scrunch up.
“Shitty knocked over the salt,” he answered her unasked question as they entered the kitchen together.
“You for someone who was coordinated enough to play hockey I don’t know how you do stuff like this,” commented Lardo, who was leaning against the kitchen cabinet near the entrance. As Sophie walked in she snagged an arm around her godchild’s waist and pulled her in for a hug before playfully shoving her toward her grandmama who greeted her with a forehead kiss. The two women started a conversation in simple Italian, a language Sophie had started to pick up at school via a mandatory language requirement for her program. Alicia had picked up bits and pieces of the language during the filming of a movie when she was younger.
Bob was sitting at the table, hands completely removed from the surface in an effort to avoid a chirping from Lardo if he happened to brush anything on it. Bitty replaced the absent salt with the one he’d grabbed from the pantry and Jack came in just as his husband started cutting up the chicken pot pie he’d had cooling on the counter.
“Do you even need salt with chicken pot pie?” he asked casually as Lardo hugged him from behind just as she’d done to Sophie.
“It’s part of the aesthetic Jack, get with it,” said Lardo, rolling her eyes at her friend as she finally released him from her hug of friendship.
“Well, excuse me for questioning the layout,” he replied, throwing Lardo a lopsided smile.
Sophie had already filled her plate with food and sat down next to the chair Alicia now occupied, “Did you know that salt is so important that the term salary is actually derived from the Latin word for salt. With your salary you could buy salt.”
Lardo rolled her eyes at her godchild, “Remind me again what you’re studying.”
Sophie smiled in response, “You know perfectly well what I’m studying Lardo,” her eyes sparkled playfully as the rest of the kitchen’s occupants also took their seats at the table. While they would eat in the dining at times the kitchen tended to be the main place where they consumed food. Sophie figured it was a comfort thing – in the Haus everyone ate everywhere but the best conversations and the best food could be found in the kitchen and consumed at the kitchen table. It didn’t hurt that Sophie herself had picked out their epic kitchen table when they’d redecorated a few years ago – its round shape allowed for big groups to gather around it with little issue.
“It’s liberal arts,” interjected Jack, “if anyone was still wondering,” as he took a seat next to his mother, with Bitty on his other side.
“Which means she studies everything from political science to English,” continued Bitty.
Both men caught Sophie’s small smile as and they leaned into each other just slightly, congratulating themselves on making their daughter smile. Shitty noticed it too as did Bob who begrudgingly admitted that he had raised his boy well. He was glad Sophie hadn’t let him leave her room without reminding Jack how much he loved him.
In an effort to do his part to alleviate some of the residual tension he felt Shitty launched into an overtop description of his latest courtroom crusade, which with comments from Lardo and occasionally, Jack saw them through dinner and through dessert. In fact, some of his antics were so hilarious that Alicia could barely keep her apple pie on her fork and Bob had to wipe at his eyes to clear his vision from tears of laughter. When they were finally finished with their meal Sophie rose, drawing everyone’s gaze inadvertently, but instead of leaving she merely began to clear the plates. Jack let out a silent breath, happy to see she wasn’t running away, but one look at Bitty and they decided to give her some space.
The rest of the table made their way to the den and Shitty excitedly challenged Bitty to a game of ping pong. Only Lardo stuck around, gathering up the forks and knives as Sophie started the water for the dishes to soak. She caught a few drops from the spray as Sophie carefully placed the dishes into the water and flinched, “It’s a touch hot isn’t it babe?” she commented, turning the hot water down a bit.
“Sorry,” Sophie apologized, quietly, her entire body seeming to get smaller as she twisted away from her godmom to pick up the rest of the dishes.
“Fee, it’s not a problem, just a safety precaution,” said Lardo who was watching the young woman carefully. She’d known something was up when she’d walked in with Alicia and Bob had taken his wife off to the side immediately without really greeting her. Shitty had taken her to the living room to give her the cliff notes on the day so far. Lardo cursed herself for not mentioning anything earlier about how tired and sad her goddaughter had seemed sometimes in the times when she thought no one was looking.
“They told you didn’t they?” said Spohie in response to Lardo’s comment, “It’s okay. You would have been told eventually anyway.”
“They just thought we should know what today was like for all of you,” explained Lardo.
Sophie nodded, running her hands under the hot water to watch her skin turn red, then suddenly she shut off the water. She turned to look at her godmom with an almost sheepish look on her face, “It has been a long day.”
“Just one of many I think, for you in particular.” Sophie nodded again but she seemed slightly more at ease.
“So, I’ll wash, you dry?” queried Lardo, tossing Sophie a dishcloth. They worked in silence for a short time but Lardo didn’t like this type of silence anymore than Sophie, “Your friend’s podcast sounds promising. I heard the first episode on my way up today.”
“Yeah, Cassie really has a way with tech and stuff like that.”
“Interesting that she chose to focus on hockey though, considering that she freely admits to knowing little about it.”
“It’s still a big topic of discussion on campus and she is in marketing so I suppose she saw an opportunity.”
“Well, I noticed that she isn’t the only one writing the script so maybe she’ll get some outside help.”
“Maybe,” replied Sophie in a non-committal tone.
“Nifty Walden is the writer’s name right now. Weird, but apparently it’s an homage to a Sorkin show from the late nineties and early two-thousands,” Lardo commented, still keeping her tone light. When Sophie didn’t respond to her subtly she stopped washing dishes to fix her goddaughter with a look that rivaled her dad’s, “What?” exclaimed Sophie, tensing her shoulders.
“Look, I don’t know if you worked on the script together or if she just spends an excessive amount of time with you but your personality is all over her scripted portion. So, how’s your podcast going?”
“I was only helping her shape everything into more accessible content…”
“So, Nifty Walden?”
“Is a creation of hers to probably give me some credit. My best friend might be a little too invested in making people feel important.”
“Why not go on air with her? You two would be a great pair.”
“I don’t need another thing in my life to link me to hockey Lardo!” hissed Sophie, suddenly extremely defensive, “I wrote the damn script to get Cassie off my back.” She threw her dishtowel onto the counter to twist her fingers through her hair, “It’s bad enough I chose to go to Samwell. I don’t just want to be a legacy.”
She grabbed her towel back to finish drying the dishes, not meeting Lardo’s eyes. Her godmother stood, just watching her for a moment before she resumed passing her dishes. The two of them worked in an uneasy silence until they were done. Sophie skirted the living room on her way out of the kitchen, avoiding the joviality and warmth it promised, but before she could escape upstairs Lardo caught her wrist, gently but firmly tugging her to a stop.
An apology was on the tip of Sophie’s tongue for the third or fourth time that day but Lardo beat her to it, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have pushed you. You should know though that none of us see you as anything but important, valued, and unique. You are your own legacy Fee.”
Sophie nodded sharply, wishing she could believe Lardo. Unfortunately, her mind was not about to let her believe in anything, especially not herself.
Chapter 6: Niffy and Stormy
Sophie takes off with a Storm.
The name Curtis Shaller comes from the Babysitters Clubs Books.
Sophie closed her door, overwhelmed by the day and its events. She already regretted snapping at Lardo but she was too drained to do anything about it at the moment. She flopped down on her bed, face first and searched blindly for her phone on her side table. Locating it she texted Gary that she’d call him tomorrow and went about setting her alarm for the next morning. As she flicked her alarm between 4:57 and 5:57, trying to decide whether she’d chance getting up and going for a run before her dads and their current guests got up a new text appeared on her screen. Then her phone rang.
“What do want Storm?” snapped Sophie, sleepiness getting the best of her. She rolled onto her back so that Curtis could actually hear her.
Curtis Shaller smiled as Sophie’s voice came through his Bluetooth system, “What’s up Nifty?”
“Not the time, Storm. You better be dying or something.” The immediate silence pricked at her and Sophie sat up, “You’re not are you?"
Curtis barked out a laugh, “Nope. Healthy as a horse Niff.”
“So, what’s up?”
“Well, here’s the thing I got a text from Excalibur today…” Sophie drowned out the rest of his sentence with a groan, “Storm, I’m fine okay. Whatever Gary told you…”
“You calling him a liar, Niff?”
Sophie stopped, huffing out a sigh, “No. Look it was a long day and I just want to go to sleep before I alienate and offend more people than I already have, okay?”
“I figured. I just wanted to let you know that I’m in town tomorrow and I’ll be picking you up for tea tomorrow morning so we can catch up.”
“Uh, no you won’t be taking me anywhere Storm.”
“Fine, you can meet me there. I’m flexible.”
“Storm, I…” Sophie put her head in her hands, stopping herself from agreeing. Little compared to catching up with the former Captain of the Samwell Men’s hockey team, “Fine. You pick me up at 5:00, I’ve got a little 24hr diner in mind, and you agree not to grill me in the car if I let you pick me up.”
“Also, wear a hat. I haven’t seen much paparazzi around yet but my grandparents and godparents are here so it’s worth the precaution.”
“Done. See you bright and early, Niffy.”
“See you Storm.”
Sophie flipped her alarm to ring at 4:57 and quickly prepared to go to sleep. Sleep did not come quickly though. By morning she’d knocked her pillows on the floor five times, and kicked her blankets off numerous times. At 3 a.m. she could no longer linger in bed and instead pulled out her laptop to work on some content for Cassie’s podcast, just in case she decided to take Lardo’s advice about the project.
At 4:30 a.m. she doused her hair underneath the sink, afraid of alerting the other occupants in the house to her movements if she turned on the shower. Tying her hair up in a messy bun Sophie pulled on black jeans and a long sleeve Samwell Men’s hockey shirt Gary had given her once when she was cold. “I should really give this back,” she mused but then moved on to the next thing she had to do, leave her parents a note. Sophie knew that even if yesterday hadn’t happened leaving without telling them anything would send them into a panic.
Quickly, she dashed off a note, Meeting a friend for an early morning tête-a-tête – will be back before 9:30 a.m. She hesitated then added, Love Sophie.
Satisfied she crept downstairs, relieved to see that nobody had started coffee or anything yet meaning that everyone else was still in bed. She placed the note on the fridge, front and center, and then retrieved her winter coat, boats, and hat from the closet. At 4:57 on the dot, just as she closed the front door behind her, her phone began to ring, but she quickly silenced the alarm. Storm’s blue truck pulled up at the end of her driveway within a minute and she rushed down to meet him.
Curtis Shaller let his truck run for a moment as he jumped down to intercept the hurricane of Sophie that hurtled towards him from up the driveway. Catching her in a big hug Curtis lifted her up in his arms, and then opened her door, depositing her onto the front seat with fanfare. She shut her door as he walked around to re-hoist himself into the driver’s seat, “Hey, darling. Where are we off to today?”
While Sophie gave him some directions neither of them noticed how the curtains in the hall at the top of the house twitched closed. Lardo turned from the window to see Jack and Shitty both standing in the hall, “Fee just drove off with some guy in a truck, any ideas on who he is?”
Chapter 7: Serious Conversations and Secrets Revealed
Stormy and Sophie chat. Sophie decides it's time to tell her family about what she's really doing at school and where she's really living. *Hint: It's not with her first year roommate and best friend, Cassie.
I do not own Check Please or American Authors.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The opening strains of Pride by American Authors sounded through the truck as Stormy followed the path Sophie had set out for them. He cranked the music up just a bit to forgo the temptation to ask her anything while they made their way to their destination. He kept his eyes firmly on the road ahead, with only the occasional mirror check until he stopped at a red light and he stole a glance at her. Sophie’s eyes were half-closed and she tossed a bit as he watched; her impromptu sleep was troubled. Upon their arrival at the dinner Stormy easily found parking given that the only other visitors of the establishment appeared to be truck drivers and taxi drivers.
He shook Sophie’s shoulder gently, knowing from previous experience that her reflexes could be painfully quick when she felt threatened. Her entire body seemed to tense for a moment as she woke up but the moment she cracked open her eyes she smiled at Storm, “You may now commence with the grilling,” she stated as she let out a yawn. Storm just kept himself from yawning in response, “Come on Niffy, I want us to grab something to eat before we start with the serious conversations.”
Sophie nodded and pushed open her door, feet hanging off over the snow for a moment before she launched herself onto the sidewalk where she surprisingly landed smoothly. Storm slow clapped her as she bowed before they ducked into the diner. Sophie snagged a menu from an empty table, shoved it into Storm’s chest, and dragged him through the early morning crowd nodding periodically at people she recognized. She aimed towards an empty booth at the back corner of the restaurant, with a view of the entire room, and just before they reached it a middle-aged man reached out to tug on her coat sleeve, “Sophie!”
She turned and her face turned ‘on’ as Storm liked to think of it. There was Sophie as he knew her, the Sophie that dealt with the press, the Sophie her family got, and the one only she really knew – but Storm identified this Sophie as more natural than the usual persona she presented the press.
“François!” she exclaimed, turning her body towards him, “How is Casey?”
“Visiting California with her mother – she might be going to school out there!”
“That’s amazing!” Sophie replied, her face morphing into one of sincere happiness.
The two of them chattered for a minute or two before Sophie excused them to continue their walk to their table, but before they left the man, François told her, “I don’t think she would have had the confidence to apply without your help; thank you.” Sophie just smiled.
Storm could tell she wasn’t entirely convinced of the truth in the sentiment but she would never refute someone else’s belief in her because she found it tiring to explain to them why she was just average. That was an argument Storm was particularly familiar with from over the past two and a half years.
They finally reached their booth and an woman named Mavis took Sophie’s order, and they made small talk while Storm quickly scanned the menu. “You’re not eating?” asked Storm once he’d sent away for a hot chocolate, potato pancakes, and bacon.
“If I don’t eat when I go home they’ll be concerned. Don’t worry, my London Fog guarantees that I get my calcium.”
“But aside from that you’re,” Storm gestured indiscernibly at Sophie.
She raised an eyebrow at him, “I’m what? Eating? Well, I haven’t wasted away – can’t you tell?”
Storm pursed his lips fixing her with a look, which cowed her a bit.
“I’m still having days where I eat my emotions if that’s what you’re asking but it’s getting better. My sorority sisters are great gym buddies. Living with the guys helps too. Stuff phases them differently.”
“Fair. Any progress takes time.”
“Thank you oh wise one.”
“So, what happened yesterday? You mentioned alienating and offending people – naturally, I’m intrigued.”
Sophie looked at him with a look that plainly asked him if they had to start there to which he replied, “Hey, I asked about food first.” She inclined her head in agreement as her tea and Storm’s hot chocolate arrived.
“Fair. I guess we were head into this territory anyways.”
“Naturally. When are our conversations ever light and playful?”
Sophie smirked at him and then launched into a description of the day before. Throughout it all Storm stayed quiet, munching away at his food when it arrived, but staying silent as Sophie laid out her life. When she’d reach the end of her tale Sophie flagged down Mavis to grab another tea and Storm was mostly finished with his food. He nudged a piece of bacon towards her with his fork before speaking. She grudgingly took it, eating it in small bites, and waited for Storm to help make things better like he always did.
“Well, secret keeping is your forte isn’t it Niffy?”
‘I deserve that.”
“Damn straight,” Storm slumped in the booth, looking at his friend with pained eyes. Sophie couldn’t look at him; she hated hurting the people around her, “It’s not just your fault though.” He knocked his foot against hers underneath the table, trying to bring her back to the moment. She shot him a weak smile. “Okay, so they know. What’re you planning to do?”
“I’m going to talk to them, probably individually, over the next few days. If I tell papa that he’ll enlist dad to help too.”
“That’s a good idea. Want to strategize?”
“When don’t I?”
Storm grinned, as he and Sophie buckled down to distill what she would tell members of her family about her mental health and how they could help her. After a good hour Sophie felt prepared to discuss her depression with everyone, even her grandpapa.
“Do they tell you in school how useful psychology will be for your friendships?”
Storm snorted at her, “Nope."
“Well, that’s one secret out in the open. Are you going to excavate any other skeletons or what?”
“I think it’s time to tell them about the Haus,” started Sophie.
“Thank the hockey gods!” interrupted Storm.
Shitty and Lardo entered the diner, the former looking around his surroundings with interest while the latter was still rubbing sleep from her eyes. They’d stayed up to talk with Jack after Sophie had left. Soon they’d been joined by Bitty who had woken up without Jack and missed his husband. Surprisingly, Shitty and Lardo were more vocal about what should be done to make Sophie more comfortable while Jack and Bitty were quiet, both lost in the land of unexpected parenting situations. At around 7 Jack had asked Shitty if he felt up to driving and when he’d agreed the former Falcs player had tossed a list to his best friend. The list detailed directions to a 24hr diner that stocked what Bitty referred to as the best coffee and tea in the Northern Hemisphere at least.
“They know us there but they know Sophie better; still they’ll send you on your way with a perfectly mixed carafe of London Fog, as well as that weird coffee blend dad likes, and that green frothy stuff you drink bruh,” commented Jack.
“Also, if she went anyway, that’s probably where she is,” added Bitty.
“True,” chimed back Jack.
“You two are partners in crime unlike any others,” observed Lardo.
“What can we say, we’re pretty great,” replied Bitty, tucking himself into Jack’s side as he pulled up his phone to check Twitter.
“I think mom and dad have dismissed up Lardo,” commented Shitty.
Jack rolled his eyes at his best friend then picked up a photography book Sophie had brought back from school.
“Thank the hockey gods!” The outburst wasn’t overly loud but it was exuberant and maybe that’s what caught Lardo’s attention. Her eyes flipped over to the corner to land on Sophie and the person who had picked her up that morning if the blue truck outside was anything to go on.
Sophie noticed her godparents just as they entered, before Storm’s outburst. “Of course, I’ll do it in my own way on my own time.” Storm nodded vigorously, “Actually, now might be a good time to start.” He scrunched his eyebrows up but followed as Sophie walked up to the counter, where Lardo and Shitty were about to pay for their purchases. Sophie slid her card over to Tanya who had taken the order, “I’ll cover those, as well as this one’s” she jerked her head at Storm, “breakfast in addition to my tab.”
“Niff,” Storm warned as he reached for his own wallet.
Tanya tapped the card, “Too late, Stormy,” Sophie cooed at her friend.
“You’re impossible. Do you know that?” he turned to face Shitty and Lardo, people he’d heard about but never met in person, “Do you know that about her too?”
Sophie watched the interaction with hidden trepidation, “Well, you miss all of the shots you don’t take,” she whispered under her breath.
“Good morning,” she remarked to Lardo and Shitty, “Fancy meeting you here.”
Any feedback is appreciated.
Chapter 8: After the Storm
Shitty and Lardo size Storm up. Shitty recognizes him. There's a kiss ;)
Storm’s eyes flicked between Sophie and her godparents, gauging their reaction and mentally preparing himself to step in if need be, but he shouldn’t have worried. Lardo’s mouth twitched, not a real smile, but something more thoughtful. “I don’t believe we’ve met?” she spoke to Storm, her eyes meeting his squarely, “But you look familiar.”
“Storm, also known in the real world as Curtis Shaller,” he replied, “I’ve heard a lot about you two from Fee.” He slung a protective arm over Sophie’s shoulders hugging her from the side, while trying and failing to keep a smile from his face. Sophie just rolled her eyes internally at Storm’s display of casual affection while Shitty’s eyes zeroed in on the way Fee looked comfortable with the young man he knew from somewhere.
“You played at Samwell!” It sounded like an accusation coming out of Shitty’s mouth, although whether that was his intention Lardo couldn’t tell but she concurred with his assessment.
“Yup,” replied Storm, popping the ‘p’ at the end of the word deliberately. He admired Sophie’s family, he really did but after the day she’d had before Storm wanted to make it very clear that Nifty had a place elsewhere if these people weren’t able to give her a safe space. Sophie, on the other hand, knew what Storm was doing. His hand tighten on her shoulder, pulling her slightly closer, but not uncomfortably so.
“Stormy,” muttered Sophie, and the man looked down at his friend to see appreciation and frustration in her eyes. She rolled her shoulder lightly and he obligingly took his arm away. “I’ll ride back with you two if you don’t mind?” Sophie asked Lardo, who nodded immediately, “That way you,” she punched Stormy’s shoulder affectionately, “can actually be on time to see everyone, eh?”
“Sure,” he replied as Lardo started walking out to the car, Shitty trailing behind with the purchases still sizing up Stormy – his face showing his obvious confusion about the whole situation. Storm opened the passenger door for Sophie who shook her head at him, her eyes laughing – covering up most of her nerves. As she sat he crouched down, uncaring of Lardo and Shitty who were organizing the tea and coffee in the backseat. He reached into his jacket for a small package, “Just in case everything goes well and I don’t see you till January,” he said, smiling at Sophie as he passed her the gift, “Merry Christmas Fee.” He kissed her on the forehead and then he was off to his own truck, waving to Lardo and nodding at Shitty before he drove off.
“He was scouted by the Penguins wasn’t he?” Lardo asked as she settled into the car, Shitty in the back to watch over their purchases.
“There was an injury,” replied Sophie, “He’s doing his PhD in Psychology now.”
Shitty, uncharacteristically silent in the back was boring holes into the back of Sophie’s head trying to understand exactly what was going on with his goddaughter. As if sensing his questioning gaze Fee looked up into the rear-view mirror and caught Shitty’s eyes, “What? I’m not allowed to have friends now?” She tried for simple sarcasm but it came out harsher than intended.
Shitty winced internally at her tone but he didn’t shy away from her question, “You’re really comfortable with him.” It was a statement, not a question. It made Sophie tense then relax, “Yeah, I am. He’s good people,” she twisted in her seat so that she could look at Lardo, who was thankfully stopped at a red light, and Shitty, “Look I promise, I’ll tell you what’s going on but I’d rather do it when we get back, okay?”
Lardo hummed her agreement, and without further ado turned on the radio to some obnoxious Christmas pop music. Shitty and Sophie locked eyes for a few moments longer then he nodded his assent. Seeing Sophie breathe a sigh of relief, Shitty’s brow furrowed, then smoothed again as he took to extolling on the virtues of Christmas music and how it should be played year-round. Sophie sunk into her seat letting the music and Shitty’s voice wash over her.
“It will be okay. It will. It WILL,” replayed over and over in her mind as her fingernails dug into her right hand, “It will. It has to be."
Chapter 9: Croissants and Conversations
Sophie pours coffee, tea, and spills a few of her long-kept secrets.
I don't own Check Please! Definitely check it out :D
As they pulled up the driveway Sophie took a few slow breaths, drawing up what her psychologist had taught her. The last thing she wanted was to have a panic attack, even though the logical part of her brain reminded her that the secret she was about to reveal was likely significant enough to push her into one if things didn’t exactly how she wanted them to. “And when has life ever worked out the way you wanted it to?” she thought as she pushed open the car door. Shitty was struggling with the back door, so she turned and took some of the tea and coffee from him and then proceeded up the front steps.
The foyer of the house was warm and the smell of croissants baking made Sophie hum happily – she was glad she hadn’t eaten with Storm. She would slay dragons to get at her dad’s baked goods, especially anything breakfast related. Jack hadn’t moved much since Shitty and Lardo had left, although he’d put down the photography book eventually and dozed off a bit. However, he was wide awake as the front door closed signalling the return of at least Shitty and Lardo.
“Need a hand Shits?” he called.
“We’re all good papa!” called back Sophie as she wove her way past the boots littering the entranceway and made her way to the kitchen. She delivered her hot and precious cargo to the kitchen where she started pouring everyone a mug full of their favourite morning pick me ups. Alicia passed Sophie mugs as Bitty placed a quick kiss on his daughter’s forehead as he grabbed a dishtowel. She smiled at them both, perhaps fleetingly but genuinely. Jack caught with Shitty and Lardo as they made their way to the kitchen and while Lardo patted Jack’s shoulder reassuringly Shitty’s forehead stay wrinkled as Jack shot him a look – silently asking about Sophie. Shitty patted his best friend’s shoulder and shook his head, “I’m just as confused as you, bruh.”
Jack entered the kitchen, watching his daughter pour out the Matcha tea latte and smiled. Sure, he was confused, but she looked happier and lighter. He could deal with confusion if that was the price. As Sophie passed Shitty his mug, Jack came over to hug her from the side, dropping a kiss on top of her head he whispered, “Thank you for leaving a note.” She blinked and nodded at him, leaning into his hug just briefly before Jack stepped away. Instead of sitting down at the table the house’s guests and occupants chose to lean up against cabinets and walls, casually chatting amongst themselves.
Lardo entered just after Jack and as she accepted her mug from Sophie passed over a package to the young woman, “Figured you didn’t mean to leave this with us. That guy seemed really invested in making sure you got it.” She smirked at her goddaughter who didn’t blush as per her expectations, “Well, maybe they aren’t involved ‘that way’ but they’re definitely close,” thought the artist as she sipped her coffee.
Sophie smiled, grin wider and less closed off than it had been a moment ago, “It’s nothing crazy – I’m assuming it’s the Wonder Woman Blu-ray.”
“But didn’t you buy that the moment it came out?” asked Bad Bob as he entered the kitchen seeking coffee. Sophie passed him a mug, which he gratefully accepted, but also he clearly wanted an answer to his question.
“Also, what guy?” broke in Bitty, clearly curious.
As his granddaughter poured herself some London Fog she turned over response options in her head, finally she settled on, “Well, what question do you want me to answer first?” At the conclusion of her question the oven beeped and Bitty made eye contact with Jack, who nodded, “Alright, living room – go.”
Sophie laughed at him but walked over to the living room, followed quickly by Alicia who hooked arms with her granddaughter and started asking her questions to which the young woman only smiled in response. Shitty and Bad Bob followed after the women, contentedly sipping their warm drinks, while Lardo hung back just a moment. Bitty narrowed his eyes at her, “What guy Lardo?”
Lardo shrugged, “I’m not really sure, but have either of you noticed she’s wearing a Samwell Men’s hockey shirt, and it’s definitely neither of yours.” With that she ducked out to the living room. Bitty’s mouth became a thin line, “She’s not dating a hockey player.”
“Bits? What?” replied Jack, very confused at the turn this conversation had taken.
“She is not dating. Period. Full stop. Especially not a hockey player at Samwell – they’re crazy!”
Jack let out a laugh at his husband’s antics, “Yeah, maybe that’s why they don’t take their croissants out of the oven once the timer’s beeped,” he replied. Bitty jumped and extracted his pastries, slightly flakier than usual but with little to no other harm. As he put them on a plate he continued ranting, “I mean it Jack – how will she know this person’s serious about her? This family is as close to hockey royalty as one can get. What if he’s using her? What if?"
Jack turned his husband around to face him, “Bits, sweetheart, we don’t even know what’s going on yet okay? Also, let’s give our daughter the benefit of the doubt, eh? She’s smart.”
Bitty let out a breath at his husband’s words, “Yeah, you’re right. But if…”
“If she dates anyone who uses her we’ll think of something,” promised Jack as he gently guided Bitty out the kitchen with the croissants on a plate.
In the living room they were all spread out and sat in their usual places, Sophie had claimed her favourite armchair that gave her a good view of the entire room and also allowed her to looked at everyone as attention turned to her once everyone had settled in with some food. “So, which…”
“Which guy?” interrupted Bitty, fixing his daughter with a look, while Jack huffed out a laugh.
“Lardo and Shitty met him, why don’t you ask them?” she replied.
“His name is Curtis Shaller, introduced himself as Storm,” filled in Lardo, happy to help and thoroughly entertained by Bitty’s facial expressions as well as Bad Bob’s – Jack was harder to read though.
“You called him Stormy,” added Shitty.
Sophie inclined her head, “That I did. We became friends at Samwell.”
“He played for the team,” Shitty stated; Sophie nodded.
“So, how does the movie fit into all of this?” asked Alicia before anyone else could speak.
“My roommates had a party at the end of this semester and some DVDs ended up being casualties of their antics – my Wonder Woman included – so Storm bought me this to make up for it,” responded Sophie.
“I thought Cassie was your only roommate?” remarked Jack.
Sophie went quiet for a moment. “I take it she isn’t,” said Jack. Taking her silence as agreement he continued, “You don’t live with her do you?”
“To be fair, you never actually asked where I was living – you just assumed it was with Cass,” replied Sophie as she fiddled with her mug.
“I still want to know about this Shaller kid. How did you meet if you don’t attend games?” interjected Lardo. A series of murmurs started up in the room as Sophie fixed Lardo with a really? look. “Oops. Sorry,” Lardo said, a pained look on her face as she realized she’d exposed her goddaughter.
Sophie waved away her apology. “Why don’t you attend games?” asked Bitty and Shitty at the same time to which Lardo lightly smacked Shitty on the head and Jack rolled his eyes at his husband.
“What?” exclaimed Bitty.
“The less of us that she’s seen emulating at Samwell the easier it is for her to exist,” replied Jack, meeting Sophie’s eyes before they dropped. Bitty’s mouth dropped into a frown.
“Although avoiding it’s not exactly going too well,” remarked Sophie, as she stared off into the fireplace. Looking back at her family, her face softened, “It’s not that I don’t respect what it gave you guys, it just seemed easier to differentiate myself from you and your legacies if I was never there,” she struggled to explain why the ice both called to her and repelled her. Bitty’s frown deepened internally but his eyes softened, “Sweetheart, we only ever want you to do what’s best for you. We’ll love you no matter what.”
Sophie whispered, “Thank you,” and the room fell silent for a long moment before Lardo cleared her throat and her goddaughter picked up the thread of her story, “Well, as I said – I’m actually really bad at avoiding anything hockey related and so after one of their bad games in my freshman year I hung back – waiting for the crowds to thin. I wanted to see if I could catch their manager – make some suggestions.” Sophie closed her eyes thinking back to that day. “Man, their manager Ash was a piece of work and they kind of sucked as a team in general. They didn’t work together. They didn’t play to their strengths. Watching them play was like watching vine fail videos on a loop.”
Storm leaned his head on his propped up hands, waiting for the inevitable backlash from Ash as usual. He didn’t have to wait long, “What the fuck Shaller?” and she was off and running.” Storm let Ash rant at him because yeah, they deserved the tirade to an extent but the way they’d been scheduled this season, the way she’d gone out of her way to isolate team members, and had generally been a cause of tension and not cohesion in the house had not gone unnoticed.
Sophie step backed when she heard Ash go off on the team captain, Curtis Shaller. Having had quite enough of that bullshit Sophie stalked over to the two of them and tapped the young manager on the shoulder. Ash had turned to give her a piece of her mind too when Sophie had taken down her hood and Ash had recognized her.
**End of flashback**
“Ash and I went out to Annie’s that night and we talked. It was too much, the team, her studying for med school, and everything else. She wanted out and knew that she wasn’t giving the team what they needed,” Sophie drew in a breath, “That was when she invited me out to the next practice.” She smiled and shook her head, “She groomed me and I was so blind to it. Over the next two months she’d slowly transitioned me into a place where I could step into her position and by the new year it was official..."
“You mean…” Lardo cut in, barely able to contain her glee, “That the line continues?”
“You realize that’s not how legacies work right, Lardo?” replied Sophie, with a laugh.
“It sure is now!” Lardo launched herself at her goddaughter and wrapped her in a hug. Then she started stroking her hair muttering what Sophie thought was, “My precious,” over and over.
“I’m pretty sure you don’t get to pick the hockey life, the hockey life picks you,” remarked Alicia, smiling at her granddaughter.
“Just to clarify,” started Bad Bob.
“She manages them!” exclaimed Lardo loudly, still cuddling her goddaughter who nodded at Lardo’s happy cry.
“Oh dear lord,” murmured Bitty. He’d been prepared to hear that she was dating a hockey player or something, but managing the team, that meant so much more craziness. “Living in the Haus alone…” his inner thoughts trailed off as he asked a question aloud, “You live in the Haus!” he proclaimed, making eye contact with his daughter who nodded once.
Chapter 10: Reactions
I'm working to get back into the groove of this story so this update is super short, sorry.
Here are the reactions to Sophie's announcement.
I don't own Check Please!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Sophie wasn’t entirely sure how she expected her family to react to the news that she was managing the Samwell Men’s Hockey team but she had never actually considered that she’d make them speechless. Or at least Shitty was speechless. Those moments were few and far between. They were so rare that she had documented them once for a linguistics class in high school because she enjoyed a well-thought out chirp just as much as the next hockey player.
The silence kind of unnerved her though. Lardo, who was still cuddled up with her goddaughter was the first one to speak, “And all this time you’ve been depriving us of stories?” She playfully punched Sophie in the shoulder, “You’ve got a lot to make up for babe, I don’t like to be deprived of the good gossip!”
Sophie giggled and nodded, knowing there would be no way she’d be able to get out of telling her family a bit more about her life than she had over the past few years. Every one else was still quiet so she decided to face things head on and looked straight at her dads, “So?”
Her dad came over to give her a hug, laughing and shaking his head, “Now that you admit to it, really, it makes so much sense.” Alicia and Bob added similar sounds of approval, while Shitty and Jack stayed quiet. But, Sophie wouldn’t let that stand. She needed to know what they thought so she stemmed the tide of questions that had started by raising her hands and fixed her papa and godfather with a questioning look.
“Is this what you want?” Surprisingly, Jack spoke first.
Sophie’s eyes met his and she nodded, “Yes, I totally didn’t at first but now, they’re like family.”
Jack smiled, “I’m so proud of you, Sophie.”
“Thank you for telling us,” Shitty piped in, “I’m still in shock I guess but thank you. It means a lot that you would tell us.”
Sophie breathed out a sigh of relief. It was okay. They knew now and they were okay with it. She was okay.
I swear I'm working up to full size updates!