“Not a word.”
“I said no words, Cap.”
“You were thinking them.”
“I was not. I was considering thinking them, but then I decided I’d rather not die before we could possibly clinch the East and that’d ruin whatever fairy tale we’re running with here.”
Killian glanced over his shoulder, stuffing his gloves into the corner of his locker and there wasn’t really that much room in his locker. There wasn’t really much hockey equipment in his locker. There were, however, several photos and hand-drawn pictures and the most recent one was leaving a trail of sparkles across the entire locker room.
“Fairy tale,” Killian echoed. “Isn’t that a little sentimental for you, Scarlet?”
Will shrugged, stretching his legs out and propping his feet up on the lowest shelf. “Is it not? You take your option, your kids are painfully adorable and, suddenly, we’re rolling through some kind of postseason script that’ll probably inspire a movie at some point.”
“You’ve put a lot of thought into this.”
“I’ve put the appropriate amount of thought into this. And you better put up your sign or Pegs is going to be really disappointed.”
Killian hummed, far too aware of his five-year-old daughter’s decorating tendencies and the letters that he was, at least, ninety-eight percent positive Emma had sketched at some point the night before.
“She made one for Rook too,” Will continued, eyes darting towards Killian when he was forced to use stick tape to press the piece of paper into one of the few open corners of his locker. “It was the most goddamn adorable thing I’ve ever seen.”
“Wait backtrack a second, have you seen my kids before I have? Is that weird?”
“It’s definitely weird, but they like me more and Dr. J wanted to discuss strategy on the PK. He’s got a lot of thoughts about forechecking.”
Killian scoffed, something that felt like pride blooming in the center of his chest. “That’s because he’s frustrated we’re not scoring at least ten goals a game. How did you happen to see my kids before I saw my kids?”
“We just went over this, Cap. And because Gina told them they had, approximately, five minutes before Robin had to go on air and Pegs made him a good luck sign too. Although I think he got a different color scheme than we did. Something that was going to match his tie.”
“How could she possibly know what color tie he was going to wear?”
“Seriously you can’t figure out that string of communication on your own?” Will asked and Killian didn’t blink when he twisted, met with an expression somewhere between amused and all-knowing and they were probably going to get glitter on the ice.
“Ok, try and keep up,” Will grinned. “Ruby and Emma drew those letters last night at the restaurant, Rol helped outline them because, naturally they needed to be outlined, Matt thought everything should be blue, Pegs disagreed, Gina heard, promised to find out what color it should be and texted Emma when they got home. Locksley followed up with photo evidence so Pegs could make sure she picked the closest color while we were at morning skate and then went to the MSG studios when, as previously mentioned, Gina told them they could.”
“That wasn’t really that complicated,” Killian said and Will groaned, rolling his head when he made some sort of rude gesture that wasn’t quite as endearing as color coordinated artwork. “So they went across the street then?”
“I thought you just said it wasn’t complicated.”
“Don’t be an ass.”
Will chuckled, shaking his hand out of his glove and running it over his face, the smile there genuine, like everything was, well, sparkly. And color coordinated. With well-outlined block letters and personalized pre-game messages.
God, maybe they were some kind of fairy tale.
“Holy shit,” Killian gasped, jerking towards Will and earning a pair of incredibly well-rolled eyes for his outburst. “When?”
“You’re going to need to be more specific, Cap.”
“When did this happen?”
Will hummed in the back of his throat, squeezing one eye closed and his nails weren’t quite as perfectly colored as Killian’s, but there were still bits of blue and sparkles and they were going to inspire several different headlines if anyone saw. “Uhhhhh not last night, but the night before?”
“Why are you spending so much time with my kids?”
“We did this already,” Will chuckled, tugging his hand out of Killian’s grasp and shoving against his shoulder. “They like me better. And you were still here when I got uptown, probably doing something vaguely Captain-esque…”
“I was on that hockey show Locksley does post-game.”
“How many shows is Locksley on?”
Killian shrugged, but the answer might have actually been six and Regina had outdone herself in the last few seasons.
They were all going to be set for life – with bright blue, sparkly nails.
“I feel like I should be insulted that Locksley isn’t inviting me on his shows too,” Will continued, leaning over to lace up his skates. “Whatever. I’ll score a hatty, your kids will love me more and then Locksley will have to acknowledge me.”
“You realize how insane that sounds?”
“Oh, huh,” Killian blinked. “That was not the answer I thought I was going to get. I was sure there was going to be way more banter.”
Will flashed a grin, glancing around the locker room when it started to fill up – new kids and more veterans and far more laughter than there probably should have been, all things considered, but they could clinch the East that night and things were vaguely fairy tale and, over the last few years, the New York Rangers locker room had become some kind of never-ending parade of absolutely adorable.
“I’m here to keep you on your toes, Cap,” Will muttered, pushing off his bench and catching a close-to-flying Dylan Havfrue around the waist. “Control your limbs, little man.”
Dylan did not, in fact, control his limbs, laughter sounding impossibly loud even with the other footsteps approaching. Killian turned just in time for a flash of green eyes and dark hair and several incredibly potent limbs to fling themselves at him, arms wrapped tightly around his neck and a knee finding its way into his spleen.
He assumed it was his spleen.
He also assumed it was bruised.
“Daddy, daddy, daddy,” Peggy shouted and he could feel her smile when she buried her face into the crook of his neck. “Did you like your sign?”
Killian tried to keep the hair out of his mouth when he answered, but that was a lost cause and he was too busy catching Emma’s eye from the other side of the room. She bit her lip lightly, trying to stop herself from smiling too wide and that was kind of a lost cause too.
She had a walkie-talkie in her hand and she looked a little tired, but that was par for the playoff course and there were Rangerstown posters everywhere.
Killian was, at least, ninety-six percent positive she’d hung half of them herself.
She’d still been in Chase Square when he walked out of the MSG Network studio across the street two nights before – balanced precariously on a vaguely rickety ladder with both Merida and Ruby spotting her. And he wasn’t really sure what had happened, but it felt like something in his brain had short-circuited and he nearly got hit by four different cabs when he ran across 7th Avenue.
Ruby didn’t appreciate that.
But it hadn’t really mattered because he was him and Emma smiled as soon as she saw him, sitting on the top step of the ladder like that wasn’t even more precarious than standing on it.
They made out in the backseat of the cab uptown – after he’d helped her hang the signs.
“Cap,” Phillip muttered, kicking at his ankles when it became incredibly obvious Peggy did not appreciate being ignored. “What’s happening with your face?”
Killian blinked, trying to come up with an appropriate answer to that question, particularly when one of his kids was hanging off him and the other – decked in head to toe Rangers gear – was tucked under Phillip’s arm with an expectant look on his face that felt oddly familiar.
“He’s probably thinking about all the ladders he’s got to save people from,” she said.
“That was dangerous, Swan.”
“Ruby and Merida were there.”
“That does not make me feel much better,” Killian argued and Peggy moved again, a different knee finding its way into one of his kidneys. And several different ribs. He was going to be bruised before he even got on the ice.
It was worth it.
He might have been the most melodramatic part of the fairy tale. He hoped they didn’t put that in the inevitable film adaption.
“What exactly are we missing?” Phillip asked, directing Matt further into the locker room until they were both sitting on the same bench. And Phillip’s locker had a considerable amount of hand-drawn art on it as well.
“I had to hang signs before you guys could clinch and because you cold clinch and apparently the ladder was too rickety,” Emma explained.
“Had to or decided to?”
“That’s not the question you should be asking.”
Phillip chuckled, glancing meaningfully Will’s direction. He nodded seriously, lower lip jutted out and Killian felt the smile on his face when he noticed the slight flush on Emma’s cheek. “Yuh huh,” Phillip grinned. “So, like, on a scale of one to ten how much did Cap freak when he found out? Actually, you know what, you don’t have to answer that. I don’t want to embarrass Cap in front of your kids.”
“You are playing with fire, Rook,” Killian growled, the vaguely ancient nickname working its way into the threat.
Phillip’s smile widened. “So what you’re really saying is like...a fifteen?”
“You want to get the puck at all or no?”
“Please, you need me. And that other kid is nothing.”
“You’re only saying that because you’re pissed he’s breaking your record,” Ruby said, appearing out of seemingly nowhere with a clipboard in hand and a pen behind her ear. “And as a follow-up to that, where’s your kid, Rook?”
“Ok, I have not been a rookie in nearly a decade,” Phillip sighed. “We were literally just talking about a rookie. Go bother him, Lucas.”
Ruby narrowed her eyes and it looked like she grew several feet while she stared at Phillip, his lips pulled behind his teeth and Killian didn’t think he imagined the way his arm tightened around Matt. “You want to rephrase your official statement?” she asked. “Because that one was pretty shitty, honestly. Don’t let him touch the puck the entire first period, Cap.”
“See, that’s that what I’m saying,” Killian said. “But seriously, Phillip, where is your kid?”
“If I say I’m not entirely sure does that make me the world’s worst father? Because I’m like only seventy-six percent positive that they’re here.”
“They are,” Emma said. “Reese’s told me she saw Aurora with someone who she assumed was Aurora’s mom and dad and an incredibly adorable kid wearing your jersey heading up to the team suite when they got here.”
Phillip hummed, doing something that looked like an attempt at a wink. Ruby nearly cackled. “Oh thanks, Em,” he said. “That was definitely them. You can tell Mary Margaret her assumptions were correct.”
“Good news,” Ruby mumbled. “You know what happens sometimes when you assume."
Emma glared at her. “Don’t you have something better to do than make sweeping allusions to vaguely antiquated curses in front of kids?”
“They didn’t even notice,” Ruby reasoned. She pressed a kiss to the top of Matt’s hair, laughing loudly his grumbled c’mon Ru . “Don’t be like that mini-Jones. You get on TV when you were across the street?”
Matt shook his head, kicking his feet out and the banter was a strange pre-game routine they’d all fallen into. “No, there wasn’t enough time.”
“You want me to beat up Locksley for you?”
“Lucas,” Killian snapped, at the same time Emma yelled “Rubes” and Will was going to do permanent damage to his shoulders if he kept laughing while trying to make sure Dylan Havfrue didn’t end up on the floor in the middle of the New York Rangers locker room.
Merida shouted something on the walkie-talking again, something about fans and cheering and an appearance from Rangers legend Robin Locksley before puck drop.
“Oh God, did she honestly just call him a legend?” Will groaned. “Don’t let Gina hear that, she’s going to change his business cards if she knows that’s what we’re referring to him as.”
“Why are you all being so difficult about this?” Emma asked, eyes flashing towards Killian and it wasn’t easy to balance Peggy when he held his arm out towards her. She moved anyway, letting her head rest against the front of his pads.
“I’m not being difficult. I'm being...practical. It’s so much work to redo business cards. Isn’t that right, Lucas?”
“I was not in charge of my own business cards,” Ruby answered evenly. “I have several different assistants for that. Because I’m way more important than any of you.”
“And modest too,” Phillip muttered. Ruby glared again, but he was already holding up one hand and shaking his head. “Don’t do it again, Lucas. I’m going to score at least once and assist on someone else’s goal. Two points, at least, so I can impress my kid.”
“And his in-laws,” Emma added.
“That’s neither here nor there.”
“Right, right, of course. Totally not part of the plan.”
“Hey, Em,” Will cut in, wincing when Dylan inadvertently elbowed him in the ear. “How many shows is Locksley on? Cap didn’t know.”
Emma twisted, glancing up at him from underneath her eyelashes and, more than a decade later, that was just as distracting as ever, a few hours before puck drop. “You really don’t know?” she asked.
“It’s a lot, right?”
“Four?” Ruby asked, gaze flitting around the room and they really needed to get dressed soon. Killian assumed Ruby had something vaguely vice-presidential to do. He hoped Mr. and Mrs. Vankald got along with Phillip’s in-laws in the team suite.
“It’s got to be more than four,” Killian said. “Six. A round half dozen because Gina is crazy. Don’t repeat that,” he added, mostly into Peggy’s hair. “I don’t want to get yelled at later.”
Phillip shook his head. “No, no, it’s not six. That’s insane. Who’d have time for six shows?”
“Gina would make time.”
“I mean that’s a fair assumption,” Ruby grinned. “But, not to repeat myself, you know what happens when you assume, Cap.”
“Oh my God,” Emma groaned, fingers tapping absentmindedly on the back of Killian’s hand. “Count them. He does MSG-150, plus the post and pre-game stuff.”
“You can’t count post and pre as different shows. That’s all part of the game broadcast. And MSG-150 is just part of the intermission same thing.”
“Agreed,” Will said. “Anything game related only counts as one.”
“That’s just because you don’t want it to be a lot numbers,” Emma pointed out. “Sounds like you’re a little threatened.”
Will tilted his head, eyebrows pulled low and Killian didn’t have to see her to know Emma was smiling. And he nearly dropped Peggy when he moved, earning another bruise for his efforts, brushing his lips over the top of her head.
The entire locker room groaned – including that other, incredibly fast rookie and both of Killian's kids.
“Hey,” Killian said, eyeing Matt with something he hoped was vaguely fatherly and not how much he wanted to make out with Emma pre-game. He didn’t really care about the number of shows Robin was inexplicably on anymore. “None of that.”
Matt nodded, a twist to his lips and a flash in his eyes and he’d gotten very good at perfecting that very particular response.
“It’s three,” he said.
“Uncle Robin is on three shows. If you’re following Ru’s rules and saying that the game stuff only counts as one.”
“How do you know that?”
“I watch TV,” Matt shrugged. “He does the game stuff and The Hockey Show and Aunt Gina got him that fancy Locked In thing.”
“That fancy Locked In thing,” Phillip echoed, working another shrug out of Matt and Killian was fairly sure there were cameras working into the locker room too. Mulan was probably on some kind of pre-game, photo gallery quest.
“Gina talked to someone in production, got them to agree to use the name Locked In for the show that used to be the coach’s show,” Emma explained. “There was a lot of discussion, a lot of debate, Gina glared at people. The usual.”
Phillip nodded in understanding, but Killian mumbled don’t repeat that either in Peggy’s hair and Gina was going to murder all of them at the restaurant later that night.
Her nails were probably blue too.
“It’s only three shows,” Matt mumbled, like he’d won some kind of argument or settled some kind of debate and he probably practiced shrugging in the mirror as well.
And Killian didn’t know who laughed louder – Ruby or Phillip or even Emma, twisting into his side with both her arms wrapped around his middle.
It made his pads dig into his shoulders and the small of his back and he didn’t say anything, just hid his smile in the mixture of both Emma and Peggy’s hair.
“You’re definitely the smartest one, mini-Jones,” Ruby said, brushing far too long hair out of Matt’s eyes and tugging lightly on the front of his jersey. “Thanks for agreeing with me.”
Matt muttered something that sounded like yeah, sure , but the tips of his ears had gone red and he couldn’t seem to meet anyone’s gaze, avoiding Killian’s expectant stare and possibly proud smile and Phillip was still laughing.
“Man, it’s like looking in a mirror,” Will said, hitching Dylan further up his shoulders and Killian hoped Ariel wasn’t anywhere nearby. She would yell.
“You know that doesn’t make any sense at all, right?” Emma laughed. She pulled her head away from Killian, lips still curled into a smile and he tapped his thumb on the back of her wrist – just over her laces and her nails were a slightly different shade of blue than Killian’s or Will’s.
“I think you got a few more sparkles than I did, Swan,” Killian said, nodding towards her hand. “When did you have time for that?”
“We were all very well scheduled. She had a whole plan.”
Emma nodded, a camera shutter clicking a few feet away and if any of this ended up online Killian was going to break several sticks and a few whiteboards just to prove a point. “I expect a few more sparkles next time ok, little love?” he asked, somehow managing to get into Peggy’s gaze and she practically beamed in response.
“Only if you win,” Peggy said and it might have been ok if the internet got official documentation of that moment because it might have been the greatest moment and Killian was only slightly certain his heart hadn’t exploded out of his chest.
Will looked a little stunned, Ruby squeezing her eyes closed and she was absolutely on the verge of tears, but Emma’s walkie talkie made noise and they all jumped, Merida’s muttered voice sounding only vaguely stressed.
That was a step up from normal. Killian assumed it was because they’d hung the signs two nights before.
“Although,” Emma continued, brushing away Peggy’s hair from Killian’s face, “you are kind of right, Scarlet. It’s eerily similar to Killian.”
“It’s the eyebrow thing,” Phillip said. He rested his head on top of Matt’s shoulder, working a not-so-quiet groan out of the kid and Killian felt a surge of affection that might get him to score his own hat trick and maybe he should have challenged Will to some kind of pre-game bet.
Will chuckled and he couldn’t sit down with Dylan hanging off his shoulder, but he could, at least, lean back and Peggy made some kind of strangled sound when he nearly ripped one of her latest works of art.
“Uncle Will,” she shouted, directly into Killian’s ear and both he and Emma mumbled some kind of reprimand under their breath. It didn’t make a difference.
There was art to protect.
“Sorry, sorry, Pegs,” Will said quickly. “The art is totally fine. I promise, kid.”
She nodded enthusiastically, eyes wide and still just a bit cautious and Will grabbed more tape, some kind of precautionary measure against the creative inclinations of a five-year-old who had taken over an entire professional hockey team.
“Daddy,” she said, yanking on his pads and nearly strangling him in the process. “You never said.”
Killian blinked, trying to make sure his throat hadn’t collapsed in the last four seconds and Emma answered for him. “Said what, babe?”
“Oh, right, right, right. You know, we worked very hard on tracing those letters last night,” Emma said, glancing back at Killian and he was going to show up the rookie. He had his priorities straight. “And there was some debate about the color scheme.”
“Blue is generally a safe bet,” Killian muttered. He shifted Peggy to his other side, dimly aware of several assistant coaches shouting and a few more camera clicks and they needed to go play a hockey game. “And I love the sign, Peg. You did a fantastic job.”
She smiled at him, peppering the side of his face with kisses and Killian’s entire being felt like it was going to explode – several varieties of emotions and most of them were just synonyms of happiness.
“You and Uncle Will and Rook got different ones!”
Killian’s eyes flickered towards Emma – she shook her head in response, an unspoken she was determined that had basically become the subhead of Margaret Elsa Jones’ life at that point.
And no one was very good at saying no to her.
He assumed Peggy was the reason they’d been let on the set across the street before Robin was slated to do fan events and three shows in one.
“We’re totally going to win now, Pegs,” Phillip said.
Matt nearly screamed. “Don’t jinx it!”
“Oh my God, it is like a mini-Cap. It’s so weird. Listen, Matt, you’ve got to do me a favor and when you play, you can’t pick twenty too, ok? Pick another number.”
“Don’t pick Rook’s number, Dr. J,” Will mumbled, kicking lightly at Matt’s ankles and working a laugh out of him. “Plus seventy-six is way better. Looks good when you’re checking.”
“Oh my God, Scarlet,” Killian sighed.
“We going to bet on something or what, Cap?”
“What do you want to bet on?”
Will shrugged, tilting his head and keeping an arm around Dylan. “I feel like you should get to pick since you’re just going to lose, so…”
“Ok, that’s rude.”
“Well, Rook claimed he was going to get at least two points, so I expect three points from you, Cap. At least.”
“Three,” Killian repeated. “That’s it?”
Will gasped, nearly falling backwards off the bench when he tried to point and laugh at the same time and Killian probably would have made fun of that if he didn’t realize they were being filmed and he could hear Robin’s voice moving through the locker room.
“Awfully confident,” Emma muttered, lacing her fingers through Killian’s free hand.
Killian hummed, pressing another kiss to her hair, but Matt didn’t groan when he moved towards them. He slammed into Emma’s side, though, never quite as good on the ground as he was on ice and stopping was still a distinct work in progress.
“Three is easy,” Matt said. “Just get in front of the net, Dad.”
“Yeah, Cap,” Phillip nodded. “Just get in front of the net. We’ll do the rest. And I really want to make sure Scarlet loses.”
“Ok, that’s rude,” Will hissed.
Robin – and his video entourage – arrived in front of them before Killian could come up with some witty retort, pushing cameras into their faces and his tie was incredibly red.
“What the hell is this?” Killian asked, tugging on fabric and Robin couldn’t swat at his hands quickly enough. “A power tie? This is the wrong color entirely.”
“Get out of here, Cap. And stop swearing in front of your kids.”
“You just came at a totally inopportune time, Locksley. What are you doing here? Don’t you have a TV show to do?”
“What do you think I’m doing? This is pre-game stuff.”
“Part one of three,” Ruby muttered, waving a dismissive hand when Robin muttered what under his breath. “Don’t listen to them, Locksley. Scarlet, finish your terms.”
“Terms,” Robin shouted. “What the hell? Guys, it’s not cool if you leave me out of the bets.”
“Locksley you are a retired hockey player,” Killian pointed out. “A legend. If you will. And stop swearing in front of my kids.”
“Who said that? The legend thing, not swearing in front of your kids. Hey guys, long time no see. Peg, the guys at the station put your picture up on set.”
Peggy let out a noise between a scream and a gasp, trying to climb up and down Killian at the same time. “Really?”
“I wouldn’t lie to you, kid. You’ve got to make one for Rol though. He’s super jealous of your dad’s nails.”
“Can we get back to the point, please?” Will asked. “Pegs, you’ve done a great job with the art, they should let you redecorate the Garden and wherever Rol is--”
“--The national team training center, Scarlet, don’t act like you don’t know that.”
“Whatever, whatever. I want at least three points, Cap and if I don’t get three points, then I get to take the lead in post.”
“We do post in front of our lockers later,” Phillip muttered, but it didn’t make any difference and Ruby was already demanding to know what the hell that means .
Will widened his eyes in wait, pointing meaningfully towards both Peggy and Matt, like he was reminding Killian that his kids were standing there would make some kind of difference. As if he weren’t already far more competitive than a normal, healthy person should be.
“Yeah, that’s totally fair,” Killian said. “Game on or whatever.”
“Oh God, I can’t believe you just said that out loud. You get that on camera, Locksley? I want that documented for posterity so we can show it when they inevitably retire Cap’s number and the league wants hysterical videos during the inevitable ceremony.”
“You’ve put way too much thought into this,” Robin said. “Why are you thinking about Cap’s retirement ceremony? Mini-Jones is going to wear his number anyway. Obviously.”
“Obviously,” Emma repeated softly, just loud enough for Killian to hear it and maybe they could find a corner of the Garden they hadn’t made out in yet.
Matt’s ears were red. Again.
They were absolutely going to clinch the East.
Will nodded, tugging Dylan along with him when he took a step into Killian’s space and Robin directed the cameras towards them. “Game on,” he said.
Robin made Will repeat the whole thing on camera – something about good for the fans and the internet – but it gave Killian a chance to shift the weight of the five-year-old still clinging to his side and direct the eight-year-old with bright red ears towards the door of the locker room and Emma had turned her walkie-talkie off at some point.
And they were, really, overflowing with traditions now, but this one might have been Killian’s favorite and he was kind of a giant sap.
“Alright,” he said, not surprised when Peggy found a way to drape herself horizontally over his shoulders. “Scouting report.”
He saw Emma’s smile out of the corner of his eye, twisting the ring around her neck, and Killian couldn’t quite remember when it started exactly – probably somewhere around the time that Matt could open his eyes.
It was definitely before he could form cognizant sentences.
Emma claimed it was playing favorites again, something about how he’d gotten used to the sound of games before he was even born, and Killian probably wouldn’t have ever admitted how much that made his pulse pick up. She absolutely knew anyway.
And the websites backed her up.
It became a trend that first season after Matt was born – hours spent on the couch in their apartment and the couch in Emma’s office and it was some kind of mutual comfort thing, Matt resting on his chest with a team-provided tablet in his hand and film in the background, mumbling a steady stream of commentary and explanations into an infant’s ear.
They kept doing it with Peggy – partly because it really did seem to help both Jones kids sleep and partly because Matt resolutely refused to stop learning how hockey worked once he could form cognizant sentences – and there probably weren’t any two kids in the continental United States who knew more about the game than the Jones kids.
They watched film and dissected game play and gave Killian a scouting report before every game. It was tradition.
“The Devils block a ton of shots,” Matt started. “You won’t be able to do much from the point because they’re going to get into the lanes.”
Killian nodded. “You were pretty adamant about getting in front of the net.”
“And what? Score and beat Uncle Will in the bet.”
“You’ve made it sound awfully easy,” Killian said. “Their defense doesn’t give up many goals. It’s top in the Metro or something.”
“Yeah, but not on the PK. They’re garbage on the PK. Uncle Liam said a lot of stuff about them in Norwegian and...
“Hey,” Killian interrupted sharply and Matt’s eyes widened when he realized what he’d almost said. “Tell Uncle Liam to stop being such a bad influence.”
“He’s not wrong.”
“Yeah, I don’t care.”
Emma couldn’t quite mask her laugh, doing a pretty awful job of turning it into a sound that even resembled a cough. She tugged on the back of Peggy’s jersey, trying to pull her off Killian’s shoulders, but that was, apparently, a bigger challenge than getting into the zone against the Devils.
“Something to add, Swan?” Killian asked, ruffling Matt’s hair when he groaned as loudly as he possibly could.
She shook her head. “Absolutely nothing. Just, you know, that maybe you might have mumbled a few pointed words that weren’t in the English language during the last game against the Devils and now you’re--”
He didn’t let her finish, which really wasn’t the best plan when both of their kids were standing there and they were in the middle of the hallway, which more than a decade later was still some kind of trend, and Killian really did have to finish getting dressed. He didn’t really care. He was going to kiss his wife and he could feel her smile when his lips found hers, the hint of laughter lingering in the minimal amount of air between them when one of her fingers hooked around a clasp in his pads.
“You’re a menace,” Emma mumbled, resting her forehead on his.
“Nah, a distraction at best.”
“I have stuff to do.”
“I have a game to play.”
“Yours might be more important.”
“Equal footing, love,” Killian argued and it wasn’t much of an argument because it was a bunch of absurdly sentimental, fairy-tale type of truth.
Until Matt groaned again and someone called for Killian from the locker room and they really did have things to do. Emma kissed him again before she pulled away.
“Screen ‘em,” Peggy yelled, her own laughter nearly louder than her game-time suggestions when Killian tugged her down. Her words weren’t quite words when he flipped her over, Emma rolling her eyes and that was a bit of a tradition too. The light in the hallway seemed to reflect off the sparkles on his nails. “Daddy, daddy, you’ve got to screen ‘em and then you can score!”
“Like, at least, three goals,” Matt added, a smile on his face and belief in his words and Killian barely heard Ariel’s screech when she jogged down the hallway.
“Cap, what the hell? God, jeez, sorry Matt, sorry Pegs.’
“Relax, Red, we’re fine,” Killian promised. “And you might want to refocus your frustration for Scarlet because I’m pretty sure he’s bench-pressing your kid in there.”
“Are you kidding me?”
“Tattle tale,” Emma muttered, smile still on her face and ring still pinched between her fingers.
Killian made a dismissive noise, certain the smirk almost worked as soon as Emma tugged her lower lip in between her teeth. “Just reporting the facts, Swan.”
“God, you’re the most annoying hockey star in the history of the world,” Ariel mumbled. The words lost a bit of their edge when she started making faces at Peggy, though, slinging an arm around Matt. Her nails were painted too. “You going to score, Cap?”
“Ok, there’s no need to be quite so certain about it.”
“Confidence is key, Red. Stop trying to undermine my father-type lessons.”
“Jeez, laying it on almost too thick, don’t you think?”
“He’s a giant sap, that’s why,” Emma said, a quiet hum of agreement from Ariel. “I mean, don’t get me wrong it’s cute, but that’s totally what it is.”
Matt stuck his tongue out when he nearly growled in the middle of the hallway, Peggy far too busy giggling to be impressed by her parent’s continued and inevitable flirting in Madison Square Garden hallways.
Ariel rolled his eyes. “Nice nails, Cap.”
“It’s good luck,” he shrugged. “Are yours a different color?”
“Nah, they’re still blue, but we had to pool resources when Pegs decided she was going to take over the entire team, you know.”
“Ah, yeah, that makes total sense.”
“I think the person behind the counter at Duane Reade thought we were planning something almost nefarious, honestly. Gina and I had to buy, like, fifteen different shades of blue.”
Killian blinked, surprise settling over him and it probably shouldn’t have, particularly when Peggy smiled, twisting back onto her feet. There was hair in her face.
Fairy tale. Or whatever.
Someone called for him again and it probably wouldn’t have been a very good lesson to be late for his own game.
“C’mon guys,” Emma said, tugging Peggy back to her side. “We’ve got to get back upstairs before we make sure Uncle Robin does something vaguely legendary outside.”
He was expecting the kiss, knew it was coming and they’d already kind of made out several times already, but Killian was still kind of greedy and absurdly happy and everyone’s nails were bright blue.
“I love you,” he muttered and maybe Peggy learned how to giggle from Emma.
“I love you too. Score some goals, ok?”
By four goals, which wasn’t really all that surprising because Matt was right and the Devils PK was exceptionally shitty, and the new coach didn’t break nearly as many whiteboards as Arthur had, but that was neither here nor there because they’d won and Killian scored and assisted on Phillip’s second goal and they won.
He didn’t, however, win the bet.
He was only slightly frustrated by that.
And that was the biggest lie he’d told since he promised he was done after his second contract extension ended because he really, really hated losing and hated losing to Will even more, even when it was a stupid bet that didn’t really mean much of anything.
“It was a close call, Cap,” Will said, making sure to nod as sarcastically as he possibly could. Killian’s phone was already ringing a few inches above his head, no doubt some incredibly pointed opinions from Liam about those turnovers in the neutral zone and the way that one check looked.
He ignored his phone.
There were already cameras by the time he got to his locker, reporters and recorders and that one guy from Newsday who still used a pad of paper because he didn’t trust technology and Killian’s hair was still slightly damp from the shower.
And, honestly, he should have realized exactly what Will had been planning from the get-go, should have known that he’d probably teamed up with Robin as soon as Killian left the locker room, but he could feel his eyes widen as soon as he heard the voices and Peggy leapt into his lap before he’d taken a full breath.
“Hi,” she shouted, standing on his legs and tugging on the fabric on his shoulders, a precarious balancing act that was also a bit painful.
That one check had totally fucked up his right thigh.
“Hey, love,” Killian mumbled. “What are you doing here? I thought you were upstairs with Mom and M’s and Uncle David.”
“Mom had to work and Ru brought us down here because Uncle Will said we could be on TV!”
“What part of that was confusing, Cap?” Will called from the other side of the room. “I told you I was going to control post and this is how I wanted post to go.”
Matt was already talking – giving a detailed description of the Devil’s penalty kill and how important it was to wrap up the series with a strong showing like that and Killian was fairly sure he’d heard the phrase Cup run several times in quick succession.
“Hey,” Robin cut in, leaning around one of the cameras and tugging the microphone away from Matt. “No jinx.”
Matt didn’t look particularly impressed. “We’re totally going to win.”
“We’ve got to get you some more media training. You can’t say that kind of stuff on the post-game.”
“Ah, he’s got you there, Locksley,” Phillip laughed, his own kid in his arms and Dylan a few feet away and they were all going to end up on several different backpages for whatever stunt they were currently pulling.
It’d be some kind of incredibly heartwarming scene in the movie.
“Yeah, that’s probably true,” Robin admitted. “And this is, like, full circle or something from the first Cup run.”
“Can you say that, Locksley?” Killian asked. “Aren’t you supposed to be less biased now that you’re some fancy TV guy?”
“Ok, I am not a fancy TV guy. I am a normal TV guy.”
“Eh, how many shows do you currently have?”
Robin made a less-than-mature hand gesture behind his back, careful to avoid the cameras and the reporters and Killian had to push his face into his daughter’s hair to make sure his own laugh didn’t draw too much attention.
“Shut up, Cap,” Robin muttered and none of it was very professional, but none of them had ever been very professional and they all had painfully adorable kids who wanted to talk about hockey and scoring opportunities on the MSG post-game show.
“Eloquent. No wonder they put you on forty-seven TV shows.”
“You should have been able to get four points in a four-oh game.”
“You want me to get points on every goal we have?” Killian asked, flashing a grin at Peggy when she moved her hands to the front of his shirt.
“Eh, I’m just going off of previously emotional moments in the highlight reel of your career.”
“That didn’t sound all that sincere.”
“And that rhymed,” Will pointed out, shrugging when Killian narrowed his eyes. “Don’t do that, Cap. This is the easiest post I’ve ever done. Dr. J is some kind of hockey soothsayer because you and Emma are obsessed with this game and force-fed him those aforementioned highlight reels for the last eight years.”
“Trust me, no one force-fed anything.”
“That’s probably true, actually. Whatever. I hope this becomes a thing. What do you think, Locksley? Viewership through the roof?”
“Either that or some incredibly pointed columns in several different tabloids.”
Killian scoffed when he noticed the vaguely scandalized look on several different reporter’s faces and Peggy appeared to be answering a few questions of her own.
“What are you doing, little love?” he asked, but she didn’t hear him, or was, possibly, ignoring him, staring straight into the closest camera like she’d been waiting her whole life to stage a presser after the final game of the regular season.
“Good luck,” Peggy said and it clearly wasn’t the first time she’d said those two specific words.
A reporter smiled, Robin laughing under his breath, but several other reporters looked slightly frustrated and Ruby was going to have some kind of metaphorical field day writing that particular release.
“You have to argue against it, Cap?”
Killian arched an eyebrow, holding onto his kid a bit tighter out of instinct and the reporter widened his eyes when he didn’t answer immediately. “I have no idea what the hell you’re talking about,” he said, winking at Peggy when she twisted back against him.
“It’s a pretty good color for all of you,” the reporter continued. They were talking about the goddamn nail polish.
Of course they were.
“No, no argument,” Killian shook his head. Will made some kind of absurd noise at the word, but Killian didn’t look away from the throng of reporters around his locker and he was old enough that he didn’t quite care what they printed about him anymore.
And the nail polish had absolutely been good luck – even if he hadn’t won the bet.
“No?” That question came from a different reporter and Killian shook his head before the two letters were finished and Will was still making noise, Phillip shouting a slightly muffled argument when he was forced to play jungle gym for his kid.
Phillip definitely had blue nails too.
“How many times are we going to do this?” Killian asked. “Did you want the sparkles too, is that what the issue is?”
“That’s totally what it is,” Will agreed. “Hey, hey, Michael, if you ask Pegs, I bet she’ll do your nails before we start this Cup run.”
Peggy nodded enthusiastically and Killian wasn’t sure if his heart exploded or, simply, grew forty-six sizes, but it had been that kind of day and she was already talking about different shades of blue on one hand.
“We won,” she said said again. “Good luck and Daddy scored and Rook scored and now we’re going to win a Cup!”
“No jinx,” half the locker room yelled at the same time Matt shouted “I told you!”
Killian smiled when the reporters couldn't come up with another question, a flash of blonde hair leaning against the open doorway of the locker room with Ruby draped over her back.
“You can quote her on that if you want,” he said, eyes darting Emma’s direction. “And when you inevitably write your sidebar on all of this, make sure you point out how well done everyone’s nails are even after the game ended, ok? That’s a sign of a true professional.”
The headline wasn’t all that creative the next morning – Littlest Jones Guarantees Blueshirts Look Good Ahead of Cup Run – but it was almost complementary and it was difficult for Killian to be frustrated when he was too busy getting his nails redone before the start of the Cup Finals. They used extra sparkes for the first game at the Garden.
And, years later, with another Cup run ahead of them and a different Jones wearing the number twenty on center ice at the Garden, Peggy almost looked nervous, eyes ducked and voice quiet, when she asked Killian.
“For good luck?” she whispered
He felt the smile inch across his face, something sentimental and emotional and maybe the fairy tale hadn’t ever really ended – just moved to a different generation and he would have bet Will and Phillip and Robin that there was a hand drawn sign in Matt’s locker already.
“What’s the name of that color, little love?”
“Old habits,” Killian muttered and Peggy rolled her eyes, nearly jumping the few feet between them and swinging her legs over his. “C’mon, I bet it’s got a good name.”
“Front page worthy.”
“I wouldn’t joke about something as serious as no-jinx nail polish.”
Peggy hummed, smile tugging on her lips and her smile looked exactly like Emma’s. The eyebrow thing, however, was all him. “The glitter is called set in stone.”
“There’s glitter too?”
“There’s no point if there isn’t glitter.”
“Ah, of course,” Killian laughed, shifting so he didn’t end up with a foot in several different internal organs. “Alright, no time like the present, huh?”
Peggy rolled her eyes at the cliché, but that was another old habit and they were a team full of traditions and family and she muttered the scouting report under her breath while she worked, promising as long as MD doesn’t crash into the boards too often, it’ll be fine .
It was – good and great and goddamn historic and every single one of them had bright blue nails when the Rangers won another Stanley Cup.
As tradition dictated.