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Valentine's Damn

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Working around Aaron's schedule in the ER and Matt's exy schedule is absolute hell, especially during the first few months of the year. Trying to plan an actual date night for the two of them never goes well, but Aaron makes a valiant attempt anyway. He hasn't been able to spend nearly enough time with Matt lately, and he desperately wants just one night alone with him. He doesn't think that's too much to ask, really. Toward the end of January, he stares hard at the calendar and tries to work out the best time to plan it, and a part of him is a little bitter that they aren't able to just - go and do something on a whim like they used to.

He eliminates all weekends right off the bat. Matt is always away for games, so it wouldn't work. Aaron works late on Wednesdays and Thursdays, so those days are off the list, too. That leaves a Monday or Tuesday night, but even those are limited, as sometimes Matt doesn't get back home from Court games until Tuesdays, depending on how far away he is. Aaron grimaces a little when he realizes that Valentine’s Day falls on a Tuesday this year, and it's the only possible day they can plan for since Matt's court game the weekend before is at Evermore and not halfway across the world.

Matt will never let him live this down, he knows, but he shoots Matt a quick text anyway, asking him about dinner for that night. Matt's response is instant and overwhelmingly positive, and the next message is full of gentle teasing and heart emojis. Aaron groans and fights a smile. He loves his big moron, he does, but some of the things he says are...well. They're sweet, in a weird way.

“What's that look for?” Angie asks, stopping in the door to Aaron's office with her arms crossed over her chest and a smirk on her face. “Are you constipated or something?”

“It's Matt,” Aaron says with a shake of his head. “He's a moron.”

Angie laughs. “Sure, okay. What's he doing, sending those adorable texts that tells you he loves you again?”

“Something like that,” Aaron grumbles, and he's only a little bitter that Angie knows them so well. “I'm taking a half day on Valentine's day, by the way. I haven't had an actual date with my fucking husband in too fucking long.” Aaron takes a brief moment to be proud of himself for calling Matt his husband so easily. It's been a challenge for too long.

“Sure,” Angie says easily. “No problem. I hope you guys have a nice night. You deserve it. Might want to make reservations now, though, or you'll never get a table.”

“Good point,” Aaron mutters. “I fucking hate Valentine's Day.” He huffs a sigh as he opens up his laptop to start looking for a place to go.

“Why? What's wrong with it? And if you hate it so much, why are you choosing that day to go out?”

“That's the only day that works for both of us,” Aaron says with a shrug. Angie comes into his office and sits down in the chair across from him. “I've looked through the next two months, and that's literally the only day. Valentine's Day is a trashy holiday.” He looks down at the plain band on his left ring finger and can't quite suppress a small smile. “Matt proposed to me on Valentine's Day, though, so… It's not all bad.”

“That's adorable,” Angie says with a smirk. “How did he do it? I can't believe I haven't heard this story.”

Aaron sighs and flops back in his chair. “I'm pretty much against all major holidays. They sucked ass when I was growing up. Thanksgiving and Christmas are the worst. But then Sophie was born on Christmas day, and that sort of changed things. Matt made it his goal in life to make every holiday as great as he could to make up for all the shitty ones. He said he was trying to replace all my bad memories or some shit like that.”

“God, he's sweet, isn't he.” Angie smiles. “If you ever want to get rid of him, send him to me, okay?” She laughs when Aaron rolls his eyes.

“Trust me when I say you would give him back,” Aaron mutters. “He eats a shit ton, and he's always up at the literal ass crack of dawn. He's like a fucking puppy, always hyper and energetic and bouncing off the damn walls. I don't have one kid, I have two.”

Angie cackles at that. “Oh, quit your bitching. You know you wouldn't give him up.”

“No,” Aaron says softly. “I wouldn't.” He shakes his head. “Anyway. The February after Sophie was born, Matt left gifts around our apartment every single day of the month building up to Valentine's Day. We both had that day off by some miracle, so we just sat around playing Call of Duty or something. He didn't give me anything all day, so I was suspicious. Then I get up to throw away my take out and one of the boxes of chocolate he'd given me on a different day was sitting on the counter. I still have no idea how he got it there without me noticing. I opened it and there was the fucking ring. He'd cut some of the plastic out and put the ring box in there instead and wrote ‘marry me’ on the lid. It was the cheesiest shit.”

Angie bursts out laughing. “I'm not gonna lie, that is the cheesiest shit ever. You said yes, of course.” Aaron nods. “Well, shit, I don't blame you. Matt's damn sexy. All that working out, I guess. And he's sweet, too.”

“Stop hitting on my husband,” Aaron says flatly. “You don't even like sex, so what's the point?”

Angie shrugs. “I like to look, okay? And what, I can't have a relationship just because I'm asexual?”

“I never said that,” Aaron snaps. Angie waves his attitude away. He huffs.

“When was the last time you got laid, Minyard? Christ. Go burn off some steam.” Angie stands as if to leave.

Aaron won't let her have the last word, so he says, “This morning, actually, but quickies in the shower hardly count.” Angie makes a face at him, but it gets her to leave his office. He marks that as a point in his favor and turns his attention back to his computer so he can find somewhere nice for his and Matt's date.

He calls and makes a reservation at a steakhouse, considering the six other places he called were already booked for the entire night. His next call is to his new-ish sitter. Zara left them at the end of the summer so she could go teach in Denver. It was hard to let go of her, but Aaron was proud of her and happy for her. The new girl he hired, Simone, is just seventeen and still in high school, but she's been wonderful so far. She picks Sophie up from school when she gets out, and she takes Sophie to all her little leagues practices and helps her with her homework. So he calls her and sets up the plans for her to stay late that night. He's satisfied with their plans, and he really hopes the night goes perfect for them.

The night does not go perfect for them. Aaron knows by lunch that there is a major problem. He's called in for a surgery just when he’s planning to leave thanks to a massive pile-up on I-90. He curses his luck and shitty drivers and goes to change and scrub down. His first two are relatively minor procedures, things that take little time to handle, but his third is far more complicated. The fourth doesn’t make it, and Aaron is allowed to leave after that. Thankfully.

He texts Matt on his way out of the hospital, letting him know that he’s headed home. Matt texts him back and tells him to be safe, but that he’s waiting for him. Aaron usually takes I-90 to get home, but he avoids it and takes a different, if slightly longer, route. He’s pretty sure that I-90 is still one major traffic jam right now anyway.

Aaron makes it halfway home when he gets a phone call. “Mr. Minyard?”

It grates on him that she doesn’t call him “Doctor,” but he doesn’t mention it. “Yes?” he asks, confused as to why Sophie’s school is calling him. “Is something wrong with Sophie?”

“Well, no one ever came to pick her up today. We were wondering what happened.” The woman on the phone sounds just as confused as Aaron feels.

“Simone never showed?” Aaron asks. He grabs his phone and scrolls through his messages, even if he makes a point of not doing that while he’s driving. There are four messages from Simone. “Fuck. Uh, sorry.” He mentally berates himself for cursing, but there’s nothing for it. “I was caught in surgery all afternoon. I didn’t get any of Simone’s messages until just now. I’m on my way. I’m sorry about this.” He feels so shitty.

“I understand,” she says, though she sounds coldly distant when she says it. “Sophie will be in the front office waiting for you.” The woman hangs up the phone before Aaron can get a word in edgewise.

He mutters another curse and turns the car around, dialing Simone’s number as he does so. “Simone, what happened?” he asks as soon as he gets an answer.

“I’m so sorry!” Simone says, first thing. “I tried calling like a hundred times, but it just kept going to voicemail! I called the hospital and they said you were in surgery, but I couldn’t get ahold of Matt either. I fell during gym and broke my foot.” She says this last part a little sheepishly. “I’m fine, really, but…”

“Don’t say that,” Aaron sighs. “You aren’t fine, and you need rest. Don’t worry about tonight, okay? I’m on my way to pick Sophie up right now.”

“I’m so, so sorry,” Simone says again. “I still don’t know what happened.” She sniffs a little, and Aaron sighs.

“Stop apologizing, okay? Don’t worry about anything. Sophie can just come with us. It’s not a big deal. You worry about feeling better, all right?” Aaron puts up with Simone’s apologies for another minute before telling her that he’s hanging up and then doing it when she keeps trying to tell him she’s sorry. He pulls into the parking lot at Sophie’s school a couple of minutes after that and heads inside.

The receptionist at the desk looks up at him with narrowed eyes. “Dr. Minyard, right?” He nods. “Sophie just went with the school nurse to go get a drink. She’ll be right back. The principal is considering informing child services of this.”

Aaron snorts. “My sitter broke her foot today, all right? She couldn’t come get Sophie because she’s been in the hospital all afternoon. There was a pile-up on I-90, too, so I wouldn’t go that way if I were you. I just lost a patient in the OR, so I’m really not in the best of moods. If the principal wants to discuss this issue with me further, have her call me, but don’t sit there and make threats to me. I might be able to understand a reaction like that if Sophie had been left here before, but this was the first time, and I think we have a damn good explanation for that, don’t you?” The woman gives him a cold look, but she doesn’t say anything.

He presses on. His bad mood is partly to blame, but the other part is just having to deal with this woman. “Thought so. Oh, and the next time you want to call me? Keep in mind that my name has changed, would you? I know we updated everything with the school, so there should be no reason for you to get it wrong. It’s Doctor Minyard-Boyd. As in the Minyard-Boyd family that donated the money to fund the school’s new library. The next time you want to try to threaten someone, keep in mind the type of people who pay for their kids to go here, would you?”

She’s embarrassed and flushed by the time he finishes speaking, but Aaron is too pissed off to be kind to her right now. He turns and sees Sophie walking down the hall beside the school’s nurse. He smiles and waves at her, and she runs for him at full-force. He braces for the impact, and catches her in his arms as she tackles him in a hug.

“What happened to Simone?” Sophie asks, looking up at him. “She never came to get me.” Her lisp has improved dramatically over the last two years. Even though she’s missing a few teeth, she still has near-perfect enunciation.

“She broke her foot today at school,” Aaron explains. “I just found out. I’m sorry I was so late, princess. I was supposed to get off work early today, but that didn’t work out.”

“It’s okay,” Sophie says with a smile. “I hope Simone is okay. Can we go see her?”

“Sure,” Aaron says. “We’ll stop and get her a present, and you can tell her to get better really fast.” Sophie grins and giggles. “Ready to go?” Sophie nods, so Aaron holds out his hand for her. She latches on like he'll vanish if she doesn't hold as tight as she can manage, and Aaron leads the way out of the school to the car.

Sophie climbs into her booster seat in the backseat, and Aaron sets off for the florist a few blocks away from the hospital, since he's so close anyway. Sophie picks a lot of yellow tulips to give to Simone, along with balloons and a teddy bear. Aaron rolls his eyes at her, but he allows her the extravagance.

“You should pick something out for Matt for Valentine's Day,” Aaron tells her. Sophie takes off on another lap around the store and comes back with a second teddy bear and a potted orchid.

“These,” Sophie says decisively. “And chocolate, since he never gets to eat it.”

“Who's all this for, then?” one of the attendants asks, coming over to them and noticing the collection that Sophie had gathered about herself - minus the yellow tulips.

“This bear and these balloons are for Simone,” Sophie says, pointing them out. “And this bear and this flower are for Matt.”

“Is Matt your boyfriend?” the girl asks, dropping her voice to a conspiratorial whisper.

“No, he's my dad,” Sophie says, all very matter-of-fact. Aaron nearly chokes. “Can you make this pretty, please?” Sophie gives the girl both bears and the potted plant.

“Sure thing, kiddo,” the girl says with a bright smile. She glances at Aaron to make sure that's all right, but Aaron just nods and waves her away.

He crouches in front of Sophie and takes her hand in his. “Soph, you - you know you don't have to call us that, right?”

“I know,” Sophie says. “You told me before. But there's a new girl at school and she got adopted and she calls her new parents her mom and dad. Plus people ask about you and it's hard for them to understand sometimes. So I just tell them your my dads.” She gives him a little shrug.

“Okay,” Aaron says through a tight throat. “As long as you want to, that's fine. I just didn't want you to think you had to.”

“I know I don't have to,” Sophie says dramatically. She puts her hands on her hips. “I want to. We learned how people make babies in science, ya know. So I know you're my real dad.” Aaron suddenly can't breathe, can't feel his legs or the floor under his feet. “I know you tell people you aren't, but you are. And Matt's my other dad. I wanna call you that. If...if that's okay.” For a speech that was full of sass and attitude, she ends it on a much quieter note, one that's not nearly so confident.

“Of course it's okay,” Aaron says, even though he has to force the words out of a too-tight throat. He reaches out and holds Sophie's hand in his for a moment. “It's always been okay, Soph.”

She tugs her hand out of his, which nearly breaks his heart, but then she throws both arms around his neck in a stranglehold of a hug. Rather than let her go, Aaron pulls her close and stands with her. She wraps her legs around his waist and he settles her on his hip. He offers her a small smile, and she hides her face against his shoulder in response. Aaron rubs her back. She still has trouble expressing herself sometimes, and when her emotions get to be too much for her, she shuts down. But that's okay. He'll always be there to hold her up when she needs it.

Aaron heads to the counter and pays for everything Sophie picked out. He knows Matt already has her gift at the house, but he picks out a pretty purple carnation for her and tucks it behind her ear. The girl from earlier helps to carry everything out to the car, then Aaron is driving himself and Sophie back to the hospital so they can go visit Simone in her hospital room. She loves the gifts and gives Sophie a big hug as thanks.

Aaron doesn't let them stay for long. He gathers Sophie up and they head back down to the car. The drive home is a little longer than usual, but it's not bad. Sophie fiddles with the flower Aaron stuck in her hair. Aaron calls Matt, but he doesn't get an answer. When he and Sophie get home, he realizes that Matt isn't home yet. Practice must have run late for him, since usually he's home by around five, and it's closer to five thirty now.

Aaron gets Sophie inside and they leave Matt's presents at his spot at the kitchen table. Aaron sends Sophie upstairs to take a shower while he calls the restaurant and changes the reservation from two to three. He takes his own shower, but he just pulls on a pair of slacks and an undershirt for the time being. When he's dressed, he heads upstairs. Sophie has already picked one of her nicer dresses to wear, so Aaron has her sit so he can braid her long hair. Despite playing exy and how much of an inconvenience her hair can be, she doesn't want to cut it. Aaron isn't inclined to force her. He doesn't mind taking the time to braid it on the mornings she has practice. Compared to the braids he used to do when she first moved in with them, he's gotten a lot better at it.

Sophie takes Mel out for a walk around the neighborhood as soon as Aaron finishes with her hair. Aaron bought her a cell phone when the school year began, but she rarely uses it. She has it for emergencies only, since Simone is the one who takes her to her little leagues practices so often. She is a part of a special group chat with the original Foxes, though, and she likes to send pictures or make Simone take videos of her at practice. Their neighborhood is safe and gated, but Aaron makes her take the phone with her when she takes Mel on his walls without either him or Matt. She insists that she's seven now, so she's old enough to do it. Aaron doesn't want to smother her, so he allows it.

While Sophie is out, Aaron tries calling Matt again. Matt answers with a, “Shit, babe, I am so, so sorry. They held us all after practice to talk about PR shit and wouldn't let us leave. The owner of the team was there and everything. It was honestly a bit of a shitshow. But I'm on my way home! I just have to change when I get there.”

“It's fine,” Aaron says. “Simone broke her foot today at school, so Sophie is coming with us.”

“Oh shit. Is she doing okay? Did you go see her or anything? What about Sophie?”

“I got a call from the school to go pick her up,” Aaron says. “That new receptionist there tried to start some shit with me about no one being there to pick Soph up, but I put her in her place.”

“What did she say?” Matt asks hotly.

“Tried to threaten me with child services,” Aaron grunts. He wanders into the kitchen and grabs some of Sophie's juice and fixes himself a glass. “I told her that was the first time anything like that had happened and that our sitter broke her foot today and that she was in the hospital. I also told her that I had just gotten out of surgery because there was a pileup on I-90, and I lost a patient.”

“Fuck, babe, I'm so sorry,” Matt says softly.

“We’ll talk about it later,” Aaron mutters. “I also reminded her who paid for that fancy ass fucking library the school has now. So I doubt we’ll hear anything else out of her. If I do, I'll just take the time to have a chat with the principle. We pay entirely too much in tuition to get such shitty treatment.”

“Damn right,” Matt says. “I would say let me know when you wanna do that, and I'll join you, but…”

“I know,” Aaron says softly. “Don't worry about it. I can handle this.”

“What about Simone?” Matt asks.

“She was at gym and stepped in a hole or something. She said she doesn't even really know how it happened. One second she was fine, the next second she couldn't walk. They put a cast on her and all, so she'll be all right in a few weeks. Sophie insisted that we go get her some flowers, so we went to that florist near the hospital and got a bunch of shit for her. She liked it.”

“That was nice,” Matt says, and Aaron can hear the smile in his voice. “I have Sophie's stuff in the truck, by the way. You really think this was a good gift for her?”

Aaron chuckles. “Yeah, I do.” He looks at the time and sighs. “Hurry up, okay? We’ll have to leave like ten minutes after you get here to make our reservation.”

“I'm hurrying!” Matt says with a laugh. Aaron bids him goodbye and finishes his drink. Sophie comes back in just a couple minutes before Matt pulls in the driveway.

Matt comes barreling inside and scoops Sophie up in a warm hug. He kisses her cheek, then runs to the bedroom. Aaron follows him so he can grab a shirt. Matt's already stripped down to his underwear when Aaron opens the door.

“Sophie called you her dad today,” Aaron says.

Matt drops his pants and stares at Aaron with his mouth hanging open. Aaron picks them up and hands them to him. Matt moves automatically as he continues to get dressed. Aaron grabs the dark green button down Matt likes and shrugs into it.

“But - why?” Matt finally asks.

“We were at the florist and one of the girls there asked her who ‘Matt’ was. She said that was her dad. I told her she didn't have to call us that, but she told me she wanted to. She says it's easier for some of the other kids to understand, and that a new girl at her school was adopted and she calls her new parents mom and dad.” Aaron doesn't bother with a tie, but he does grab a blazer. He tosses that on the bed and steps into his shoes. “She also told me that she knows how babies are made ‘ya know,’ and that she knew I was her real dad even if I said I wasn't.”

“Fuck,” Matt says softly. “They teach kids that shit this early?”

Aaron shrugs. “Better than her not knowing,” he says. “I doubt it's anything detailed. Saves us the explanation.”

Matt grimaces. “True.” He stares at Aaron with a horrified expression. “Oh, Christ. You don't think she's going to start asking us about sex, do you? About - about us having sex?”

“Doubt it,” Aaron says. “Even if she does, I'll figure out a way to give her an edited version of the truth. She's seven, and she's fucking smart. I won't lie to her.”

“I'm not telling you to lie to her,” Matt says defensively. “Just, maybe, distract her or something. Don't answer at all. She's still just a baby!”

Aaron laughs and goes to Matt just as Matt pulls on his own button down shirt. He pulls Matt down for a kiss and smirks a little. “She's not a baby, Matt, and you gotta let that one go. Even if she's the smallest kid in her class, she's growing up quick.”

“Don't remind me,” Matt groans. Aaron buttons his shirt for him quickly, and Matt goes to the closet for his shoes. “I don't want her to grow up. Ever. Or...well, at least not yet. We've only had her a couple of years. Not that I wish anything had happened to Katelyn and Gregg sooner, but I kinda wish I'd had more time with her as a baby, ya know?”

“She gets that ‘ya know’ shit from you,” Aaron sighs. “I hope you realize that.” Matt just shrugs and grins. Aaron picks up his blazer and tugs it on. “I don't know what you want me to tell you, Matt. She's not going to get any younger, and it's not like we can go back in time. Besides, we're both busy as fuck anyway.”

“I won't be nearly as busy after the Olympics this summer,” Matt points out. “They're kicking me off the team. Only so many spots for players, and I'm one of the oldest. The new kid they want is damn good, too. Like. Like the backline version of Neil.” Aaron rolls his eyes. “I'm serious!”

“I know you are,” Aaron sighs, “which is the sad part.”

Matt grabs his own blazer as he heads out of the bedroom behind Aaron. “Why is that the sad part?”

“Because you act like Neil is the best thing since Betty White,” Aaron says as he rolls his eyes.

I'm g onna be the best thing since Betty White!” Sophie shouts, jumping up off the couch.

“Hell yes you are!” Matt cheers. Sophie laughs and runs over to him to grab his hand. She drags him over to the kitchen table to show him his little pile of gifts. Matt thanks her and picks her up to kiss her cheeks. Sophie laughs and hits his shoulder until he puts her down again.

“Can we go?” Aaron asks. “We're going to be late.”

“Don't be such a spoilsport, Dad,” Sophie says as she flips the end of her braid over her shoulder. She doesn't notice Aaron freezing solid at her calling him “dad,” but that's probably for the best. Matt squeezes Aaron's shoulder gently and gets him moving again.

They head to the truck, and Matt opens the back door for Sophie. When she sees the stuff beside her booster seat, she squeals loudly enough to make the dog across the street start barking. She climbs in the cab as fast as she can manage and grabs the brand new exy stick, holding it up to look at it. The stick itself is black, but down the handle, Minyard-Boyd is written in lime green letters. Her color preferences haven't changed much, though she likes lime green now instead of darker greens.

“I love it so much!” she shouts at the top of her lungs. She dives out of the truck straight into Matt's arms, squeezing her arms around his neck. “Thank you, Daddy! Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

Matt grins from ear to ear as he looks at Aaron and squeezes Sophie in return. “You're welcome princess. We got you a whole set of gear and a new bag, too. All your other stuff was getting a little small.”

Sophie pulls away and looks at Matt with an oddly serious expression on her face. “I wanna donate my old stuff. It's still good. It still works. And there are kids smaller than me that wanna play exy, right?”

“I'm sure there are,” Matt says. “That's a great idea. We’ll do some research and figure out the best place to take it, okay?”

“Okay,” she says. Then she grins and hugs him again. “Thank you so much!”

“I hate to spoil this,” Aaron says, “but we really do have to leave now.”

“Come on, Soph, get in your seat.” Matt puts her in her booster seat and closes the door for her. He looks at Aaron with a huge grin. “She called me Daddy! Did you hear that?”

Aaron just shakes his head. “Yeah, I heard. I was two feet away. Come on, you can gush in the truck.” Matt gives him a delighted laugh and opens Aaron's door for him. Aaron sits in the passenger's seat and watches Matt walk around the front of the truck.

The drive to the restaurant is full of Sophie’s chatter about what she learned in school that day and how her little leagues practices are going. She gets to see Matt about as often as Aaron does, so Aaron is suddenly very grateful that the three of them are going out together. As a family. He never thought he'd be so fucking sappy about shit like this, but here he is. He shakes his head at himself and asks Sophie a question about the solar system instead.

They don't have to wait for their table when they get to the restaurant. They get some odd looks for bringing Sophie with them, but Aaron ignores them. At least no one is trying to beg autographs off Matt. Yet. They settle in and get drinks and order an appetizer and Aaron helps Sophie decide on what she wants to eat before he picks what he wants for himself.

“I want to invite Aviance to a sleepover,” Sophie announces out of the blue. “She's really nice. She's my friend. She's the one I told you about earlier, the one who got adopted. We sit together at lunch. She's in a wheelchair though, so she can't go upstairs.”

“That's okay,” Matt says easily. “We can set you guys up in the den for the night. We need to talk to her parents first, though, and make sure they're okay with her coming over.”

“Okay,” Sophie says. “I'll ask her at school tomorrow if she wants to. She gets mad sometimes because she can't do stuff like normal kids, but I told her that stuff didn't matter.” She looks at Aaron. “I told her what you told me when I was little. We're just different, so we have to make the world work for us, since it isn't going to change.”

Aaron nods. “That's true.”

“She likes exy, too,” Sophie says. She picks apart a roll and nibbles one of the pieces. “She says she can't play because she's in a wheelchair. I told her that was a stupid reason. People in wheelchairs play other sports. Why not exy?”

“That's a very good point,” Matt says thoughtfully. “I wonder if there's a team around here somewhere…”

“There is,” Sophie says simply. “I googled it. They're the Tigers. They play at the rec center. I found some videos online and showed them to her.”

“Awesome,” Matt says with a grin. “Well, if Aviance can come stay the night with us, how about we see if we can go check out the team, huh? That would be pretty cool, right?”

Sophie sighs dramatically. “How many times do I have to tell you, Daddy? Everything to do with exy is cool. Everything.”

Matt laughs. “You are definitely my kid.” Sophie beams up at him with a brilliant smile. “That's the plan, then. Get her phone number, and we’ll call and set something up with her parents, okay?”

“Dad will have to do most of the work,” Sophie says, glancing at Aaron. “She can't go to the bathroom by herself. But I told her you were a doctor so you were used to that kind of stuff. I told her nothing grosses you out. Remember the time I got really sick and I threw up everywhere and Daddy couldn't help?” Sophie grins.

“Oh yeah,” Aaron says with a grimace. “You literally puked all over the bathroom. That was such a nice mess to clean up.”

“We're at the table, guys,” Matt whines. “Really?”

“Sorry,” Sophie says, not sorry at all. “Avi said her mom was a nurse. I don't know where she works, though.”

“Well, I'm sure we'll find out when we talk to her,” Aaron says.

Sophie frowns. “What's wrong with that man, Dad?”

Aaron turns his head to follow Sophie's line of sight. The man in question is an alarming shade of purple and grasping at his throat. The woman across from him is panicking quietly, trying to figure out what she should do. Aaron sighs a little as he stands and tosses his napkin on the table. He mentally curses how some people lack the simple ability to perform a Heimlich, but he doesn't think over it for long.

He stops beside the man. “You're choking. I can help, if you'll let me.” The man nods desperately and stands. Aaron is, as usual, shorter than he is, but it doesn't make a lot of difference. He wraps his arms around the man and makes a fist, then pushes in and up, forcing the man to cough up whatever is stuck in his throat. Aaron doesn't know where it fell so he can see what it was. He has the man sit back down and lean forward and take slow, deep breaths. The woman thanks him repeatedly, but Aaron hardly cares.

“Go, Dad!” Sophie cheers from their table, loud enough to carry. “You did it! You're awesome!”

Matt doesn't even try to get her to quiet down. Aaron had tried to keep things quiet so as not to make a scene, but Sophie is taking care of that for him. A couple of people even fucking clap as they realize what's happened. Aaron stomps over to his own table and sits down before anyone else can make a fuss about things.

“Soph,” Aaron hisses, “stop.”

“No way!” Sophie says, still too-loud. “You saved his life , Dad. That's way cool!” She grins fiercely, and Aaron doesn't have the heart to tell her to stop again.

“Just, just be a little quieter, okay?” Aaron mutters. “This isn't a place you can be loud. If you need to be loud, just tell me and we’ll go outside.”

“I can be quiet,” Sophie says, “I just don't want to. You were awesome. Everyone should know how awesome you are!”

He has to admit that having his seven-year-old daughter cheer him on for something so simple goes a long way toward making him feel better after today's mess. Still. “I appreciate that, Soph, more than I can explain, but this isn't the place for it, okay?”

“It is,” Sophie argues. “But fine.” She flops back in her chair with a dramatic sigh. “I'll be quiet. I'm gonna tell everyone at school, though.”

“Fine, fine,” Aaron mutters, defeated.

Thankfully, their food arrives shortly after that and Sophie gets distracted by her spaghetti. Aaron and Matt discuss the plans they're making for going to watch the Olympic Court games. Matt has insisted that Aaron and Sophie and Randy come to watch him play, so Aaron has already made sure he had the time off work. Sophie is excited by the idea of it, a little, but it isn't quite real to her yet. Aaron is a little worried for how she'll deal with everything, but he and Randy already have a plan for what to do if it gets overwhelming, so he's set.

Just as they're finishing up their dinner, the man Aaron helped earlier comes over to their table. Sophie waves at him and smiles. The man gives her a polite nod and a small smile in return, then he looks to Aaron.

“I wanted to thank you properly for assisting me,” he says. “My wife didn't know what to do, but you noticed and you came to my aid right away.”

“Sophie noticed, not me,” Aaron says, nodding to his daughter. She's still grinning.

“Thank you, young lady, for sending your father to my rescue.” He smiles a little for her once more, then looks to Aaron again. “I can never repay what you've done for me, but I hope you will at least forgive me for paying for you dinner tonight. I wanted to show my gratitude somehow, and it seemed fitting.”

“Thanks,” Aaron sighs, “though that really wasn't necessary. I'm a surgeon. A Heimlich was probably the least complicated thing I've done today.”

“All the more reason,” the man says with a wave of dismissal. “I only wish I could do more. Thank you.” He looks to Sophie again. “Both of you.” He smiles a little again and walks away.

“Well all right then,” Matt says with a small smirk. “Looks like you're the one getting all the attention tonight, Dr. Minyard.”

“Fuck you,” Aaron grumbles. Sophie giggles at that.