Sidney laid in his bed, drifting somewhere between sleep and consciousness.
He wasn't happy to be out of playoffs, but playoffs were so rough that he was ecstatic to be in his own bed. The Penguins had spent most of their series against the Rangers in New York and hotel beds weren't enough to soothe the aches caused by playoff hockey, much less the aches he'd accumulated over the season. The opportunity to lay in his own bed, to rest his head on pillows that were just the right softness and wrap himself in the familiar comfort as he sunk into his mattress, was one he cherished.
He was shifting around, trying to convince his body to let him have just a few more minutes of sleep, when he heard the sound of small feet racing down the hallway. His face was buried in his pillows, but he could still hear the muffled cry of, "Daddy!"
Sidney loved her with all of his heart and soul, but he couldn't help the way he groaned into the pillow when he heard his door open.
"Daddy!" she shouted, bursting into the room. She pushed the door open so hard that it went slamming into the wall behind it.
"Stella," Sidney said, turning his head out of the pillows so he could look at his daughter. "You know better then to open a door like that."
His five year old stood in the doorway wearing a bright pink skirt covered in red, yellow, green, and white flowers. She had a black tank top on with it, the bottom tucked into the hem of her skirt. Stella's black hair was cut short, stopping just above her chin, but it curled and twisted in the same way Sidney's had a tendency to do when he didn't keep it short. Resting on top of her curls was a flowered headband the same shade of pink as the main body of her skirt. Whatever shoes she'd been wearing had been wearing had been kicked off, leaving her feet covered in a pair of white socks covered in birds.
The fact that she looked nice, rather than like she'd been dressed in the dark, was a clear sign that Sidney's mother had dressed her before she'd taken her to the park instead of Sidney.
"I'm sorry, daddy!" Stella said, though she didn't look apologetic at all. She scrambled across the room, struggling to climb up onto the bed with him.
Sidney sat up, reaching so he could set his hands on her waist and lift her up.
Settling her at his side, he pulled her down so she was lying next to him and let one of his arms rest over her.
It had been nice to have the morning to himself, his mother had taken Stella out to breakfast with her and Taylor then to the park so she could play for a while, but he would be lying if he said he wasn't happy to be spending sometime with his daughter.
She'd stayed with her nanny in Pittsburgh while he was in New York and even though he was used to leaving her during roadtrips, it never really got any easier.
"It's okay, little star," Sidney said. "But be careful next time, okay?"
"Okay daddy," Stella said. She tilted her head up so she was looking into his eyes, "Daddy, Tay-Tay said you're going to play in Worlds. Is she telling the truth?"
Sidney let out a small sigh. Using the hand he didn't have around her he brushed one of the curls that had fallen into her face away as he nodded, Sidney said, "Yeah, sweetheart. Daddy knows you were looking forward to spending time together, but it'll only be for a little while okay?"
"Daddy," Stella said, her voice filling with excitement rather than any of the sadness he'd been expecting, "the lady on the TV said Claude Giroux was playing in Worlds! Are you gonna play with him?"
Sidney was honestly surprised he hadn't seen that coming.
He didn't know how it had happened, but somehow his daughter had ended up as the Flyers number one fan.
Stella's nanny had taken her to a Pittsburgh vs Philadelphia game to watch Sidney play when she was three, the first in her memory, and it had pretty much been love at first sight. Sidney had hoped she'd grow out of it, that maybe she'd just been entranced by the bright orange, but as other interests left the Flyers stayed. She watched every one of their games on TV, begging both him and her nanny to let her stay up just a little later so she could watch another period, and she was always ready to argue with anyone who said the Penguins were better. She liked Sidney's team just fine, but she had made sure that all of her uncles knew that while her daddy topped her list of favorite hockey players the rest of them came after all of her favorite Flyers.
And somehow the person who came right after Sidney on her list, her very favorite Flyer and her very favorite hockey player outside of her father, was Claude Giroux. She'd heard an interview he'd done once, Sidney had turned the TV onto the NHL Network while he tried to get her to nap one day because as much as she liked hockey Sportscasters put her to sleep, where he'd mentioned grilled cheese and refused to eat anything else for days. Geno had made a comment around her about the gel in Claude's hair once and Sidney had to hide every bottle of hair gel in the house to keep Stella from caking her hair in it. When Sidney had finally relented and bought her a Giroux jersey to join the Penguins one in her closet, she'd worn it every moment of every day for weeks before the nanny managed to convince her she would ruin it that way.
"Daddy," Stella said, obviously unsatisfied with his lack of answer. "Are you?"
"Yeah," Sidney said with a small nod. "I'm going to be on the same team as him."
He wasn't even surprised when she shrieked, high pitched and filled with the excitement of the situation.