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1) Agent

There are some players an agent has to dig into, and some you never have to worry about. Simon Albright had always considered Derek Venturi to be the latter. Signed out of college, he’d gone straight to Winnipeg when a series of bad luck injuries decimated their forwards, and he’d thrived. Not one of the top six, but Venturi had made a name for himself- scrappy, tricky, and mouthy, he was a major asset to their power plays and especially their PK unit, what with his unnatural ability to draw penalties from anybody. Off ice, Venturi might have been cocky as shit, but he was just so damn likable, and he did plenty of charity work-- coaching the learn to play kids and visiting hospitals-- that he’d become a very popular member of the team.

Still, needs must, and over the summer Derek was traded to the Rangers. He’d taken it well, shrugging off the pain of being seen as expendable and focusing on the odds of increased ice time and the potential for a larger contract next year, plus a better nightlife. Because that’s who he was. Simon had never even considered digging more deeply into him, because Venturi was an open book. He played on the ice, then off the ice, and called his siblings somewhere in between, end of story.

Except apparently there was a hidden chapter somewhere. He and Derek had been at MSG, signing the contract and taking photos, when Venturi bolted out of his own press conference. Everyone was too stunned to move, but as Simon was both closest to the door and the only person in New York who knew him as more than his stats, there was an unspoken agreement as to who should go after him.

Simon had expected to find Derek having a panic attack. He’d never had one before, but the media onslaught of being a major trade to the Rangers was far more intimidating than when he’d been an emergency call-up who never got sent down. Maybe throwing up from food poisoning-- the kid had eaten three hot dogs 10 minutes before the conference started. 

What he didn’t expect to see was Venturi wrapped around a young brunette. Not sexually either, which would have been inappropriate but admittedly on-brand. No, there was Derek Venturi, playboy, holding a woman as she sobbed into his chest. Simon almost went over to interrupt, but decided against it for two reasons: A) there is a distraught woman, which is something he tries to avoid at all costs, and b) the whole scene looks so intimate that walking up to them feels the same as if he was interrupting them in bed. Instead, he’s stuck watching like a creep.

After a few minutes, though, she--whoever she is-- calms down. When she pulls back to wipe her eyes, Simon vaguely recognizes her, thinks she was standing in the back of the conference room. He has no idea how Venturi spotted her, let alone realized something was wrong. Derek is clearly charming her, tucking his finger under her chin and saying something to get a laugh out of her. He pulls her to her feet, and when he spots Simon, waves him over instead of being angry.

“--I mean it, there’s no problem.” Venturi is almost reassuring as he speaks to her. “Simon, you have the keys for my new place, right?”

Venturi holds his hand out and baffled, Simon just nods and hands the keys over. He gets more confused when Derek immediately hands them to this girl.

“Perfect. I already texted you the address, so you can let yourself in. Pick up takeout and I’ll call it even.”

The woman gives a watery laugh before taking the keys and tucking them into her bag. “Thanks so much. I just didn’t know who else to ask. And I think I’m starving.”

Venturi grins and wraps her into his side, heading back towards the conference. “Color me shocked. You always ate a ton after a freakout, Spacey. Luckily, I can help with that too.”

He waves at a passing ice girl and beckons her over. “I’m really sorry, I don’t know your name--”

“Brittini” the blond interrupts, looking at their odd trio in confusion.

“Brittini.” Derek copies with his most adorable grin, the one he usually saves for sick kids. “This is Casey. Can you show her to the players lounge and make sure she grabs some lunch? On me, both of you.” he adds.

“Of course. They have a great chicken club.” She offers to her new lunch friend. 

Derek’s brunette-- Casey, why does that sound familiar?-- takes the other woman's offered arm and gives Derek a small wave. Derek waves back, waiting until they’re almost out of earshot to call “Make sure to take a nap, so you’re rested enough to bail me out later!”

She yells back, a distinct “Der-EK!”, but Venturi just laughs and turns to Simon. “Seriously, though, you may need to bail me out later.”

Simon just internally shrugs and goes with it. “I’m assuming it had something to do with that?” He waves in the general direction Casey and Brittini had gone.

Derek scowls, looking angrier than Simon had ever seen him, on- or off-ice. “Casey’s bad taste in men strikes again. She came back from a national tour of A Chorus Line to find her boyfriend cheating on her, the other woman moved in, and all her stuff packed. She has other friends, but most of them are also dancers or actors, so no one has extra space.”

“While you have a three-bedroom loft.” Simon finishes. “You know, I cannot recommend you start off your time in New York getting in fistfights with strangers.”

If the looks could kill, the one Venturi shot at him would have struck him down, and he wasn’t even the person Derek was mad at. “He made Casey cry.”

With that, Derek plastered his smile back on, apologizing for the “personal emergency” that necessitated his rushed exit. Simon resigned himself to having a far more difficult time with Derek than he’d previously expected.

Pulling out his phone, he opened Derek’s file to make notes, when something caught his eye. Siblings: 5-- two full, one paternal half-sibling, two stepsisters .

He vaguely remembered Derek mentioning a stepsister in New York when told about the trade; seemed to think she was an entertainer of some sort. 10 seconds later, and there it was. Derek had standing tickets at will-call for any New York games for his stepsister Casey McDonald. Clearly, he just had a one hell of a big brother instinct.

Except that couldn’t be right. He’d seen Derek with his other sisters. When they got hurt, Derek was the one to preach living well and cutting other people out. Marti got dumped? She’s better off without him, let's have ice cream. Lizzie had a rough break-up? That girl was dead weight, trying to change Lizzie, let's have tequila. He didn’t look like a wolf who’s mate had been threatened and seek vengeance on their behalf. And then there was how Derek and Casey looked at each other, all gooey and tender. The only siblings who looked at each other like that are Targaryens.

No, she wasn’t his sister. Casey had to be an old girlfriend.

2) Teammate

Sam was having trouble believing that his life was real. That he was playing for the goddamn Rangers in the NHL. That two hours ago, he scored a point in his debut game. He hadn’t had to buy a drink all night, the rest of the players taking it in turns to treat him for his first goal. 

When he stood up to pee, Sam was a little confused at how the room seemed to stand up with him. He lurched sideways, toppling into Buchnevich and Venturi.

Venturi just chuckled when Sam stayed where he was, too fuzzy to work out standing. “I’ll take the kid home. Let him crash in my guest room.”

“See, this is why you’ll have an A before the seasons out,” calls out a distant voice. Palmieri, maybe? “You already babysit the rookies.”

Venturi laughed harder, shaking Sam and making him feel suddenly ill. “Oh, I’d just pour his ass into an Uber, but Case gets upset when I ‘abandon young children to alcohol poisoning’. He gets up to pay his tab, leaving Sam lying sideways.

“God, who’d have thought Venzi was completely whipped?” The disbelief floated down from above, like a judgmental choir of angels.

“Have you seen his girlfriend? I’d play babysitter to keep her happy, too.”

---

Sam woke up to a hurricane in his stomach and construction in his brain. Luckily, the latter went away after a good puke session. He stumbled out from the bathroom, knowing only that he wasn’t in his Ranger-booked hotel room, only to be stopped short by a breathtaking sight.

She was brunette, slim, and wearing only a sports bra and tiny shorts as she bent herself over sideways, leaning on the bar that was inexplicably freestanding in the middle of the living room, all while somehow holding her phone to her ear.

“Seriously, Mom, it’s going great. Just like good fences make great neighbors, two week roadies make fantastic roomies. Plus he cooks now.” She stopped and looked at Sam, one leg straight up in the air like a needle and her torso pressed to the other. “Kitchen’s to the right.”

Sam nodded mutely, going where she pointed with her foot, Jesus and stumbled into a breakfast nook; one place set with water and a glass of green goop, Derek Venturi frying eggs. He collapsed into a chair, drinking the water waiting for him in one go before staring at the chunky yet viscous liquid in the other glass.

He was jolted out of his reverie when Derek plopped a plate of eggs and sausage in front of him. “Grease, meat, and Casey’s hangover smoothie. All three should get you through morning skate.”

Sam took a tentative bite of the food, amazed that it did help the swirling in his stomach ease up. “Can’t I just call in dead?” he asked around a mouthful of ketchupy, salty egg goodness.

“Sorry, kid. This here is a valuable teachable moment. You'll either learn to play half-dead or never drink that much again.” Venturi smirked at him, before turning back to his own breakfast right as the woman-- presumably Casey or shit was weirder than he could handle right now-- came in, still on her phone.

“Is Derek around?” she seemingly repeated, glancing at Venturi and scrunching her nose at the fried eggs as Derek nods at her. “Yeah, he’s here.”

Venturi pulls another smoothie from the fridge, this one pink and smelling slightly of tropical fruit, trading it for the cell phone and heading back to the living room. He pops it on speaker and goes back to his frying pan. “Hey Dad, what’s up?”

As Sam braced himself for the green nightmare smoothie, he felt a chuck of his brain start to work properly. There’s no way in hell Casey was Derek’s girlfriend. They had the same parents, she was obviously his sister.

3) Opponents

There was something meditative about the penalty box, Adam mused. Of course, that was arguably the entire point of the penalty box, but no one ever used it for such purposes. Instead, he found his eye wandering back to the cute brunette he’d spotted earlier. He’d done his best, given her a little through-the-glass flirting, but she’d rolled her eyes and tugged at her Venturi jersey.

 It was only after the game started and Derek had checked him so hard he was impressed the boards didn’t have an imprint of his ass that he realized she wasn’t wearing a fan jersey, but an honest-to-god practice jersey. 

Glancing over, he saw The Brunette and D in the middle of a serious eye conversation, probably about the black eye was sporting, courtesy of a fight last period.

Adam leaned over towards the Rangers penalty box. “Hey, kid.”

The Ranger looked startled and nearly jumped out of his skin. Typical rookie nerves . “Who’s Venzi’s girl?”

The other guy looked confused, even more so when he saw where Adam was pointing. “That’s his sister. Casey.”

Adam snorted. “No, she’s not.”

“Yeah, she is. Trust me, I’m billeting with him.” The kid looks nervous but certain. It’s an odd combination, and Adam can’t help but feel a little bad for him.

“Look, D and I played against each other for years. I’ve met his sisters, and her? Not his sister.” At that, Adam took the ice, trying to do his part to erase the Rangers lead. 

When he ends up across the face-off dot from Derek, he can’t help himself. “Casey’s pretty cute. And she seems like a girl who likes winners.”

When he ends up on his ass, Venzi’s smug “Yeah. She does,” ringing in his ears, he can’t even be mad. He does feel a wash of pity for the kid, though. It can’t be easy, going through life that dumb, and it’s not like it’s his fault. Poor fucker probably also thinks Jon and Sansa are purely platonic

 

4) Fans

@birdflagerant

Holy shit! Venturi got his first hat trick! So proud to be a #Rangers fan!

 

@persuadeclear

And then he dedicated it to his girlfriend! So adorable!

 

@literallyreflective

Ladies, get you a man who gifts you a hatty.

 

@relationanimated

@persuadeclear Venzi has a girlfriend? I didn’t think he was dating anyone.

 

@persuadeclear

@relationanimated he hasn’t made a statement or anything, but she shows up a lot in the background of team pics and if you look at his and Sammy’s insta, there’s definitely a woman living there.

 

@relationanimated

@persuadeclear well that’s fucking adorable.

 

@legalexpose

Is she his girlfriend though? I thought she was his sister. See, she’s in that reunion pic from family day

 

@nonchalantagain

@legalexpose high school sweethearts?

 

@SamtheMan

I actually went to high school with Derek Venturi (check my main feed, I posted some throwback pics after the hat trick) and I can confidently say Casey is his stepsister, not his girlfriend.

 

@spotlessimpact

@SamtheMan I don’t doubt you knowing Venzi irl (your throwbacks are amazeballs and I love them) but stepsiblings doesn’t actually rule out girlfriend. Clueless, anyone?

 

@Dancersball

Why am I seeing Casey McDonald trending on twitter with some sportspuck dude?

 

@persuadeclear

@Dancersball wait, is she famous or something? Like, an influencer or whatever?

 

@Dancersball

@persuadeclear she’s in the current run of Legally Blonde: The Musical. Saw her debut as Vivian last week and she killed, am now obsessed. Who’s the sports guy?

 

@persuadeclear

@Dancersball Derek Venturi, he plays hockey for the Rangers. We're trying to figure out if she's his girlfriend or his sister.

 

@Dancersball

@persuadeclear This is a serious case of getting your chocolate in my peanut butter and the world feels all askew. In any event, it's definitely girlfriend. You don't bring a dozen red roses to your sisters broadway debut. 

 

@persuadeclear

@Dancersball clearly we have found the one thing capable of uniting musical theatre fans and sports fans: gossip. And yeah. Looking at those pics you posted, she's his girlfriend or they're Lannisters. No in-between.

 

@pumpkinqueen

IDK, the pics from their instas totally give off a roomie/platonic energy. Pretty sure she's his sister.

 

5)Family

The more Marti scrolled, the more she wanted to stop, yet found herself unable to do so. It was like a trainwreck rendered in social media.

"Nora, where's the vodka?" She threw her phone onto the couch and screamed after a particularly disturbing thread. "I need to disinfect my brain."

Her mom poked her head out from the kitchen, sighing at what she often called "Marti's dramatics". Marti felt that not repressing feelings was not inherently dramatic. Even when those feelings took the form of shaving her head out of solidarity with Britney Spears. 

Whatever, her hair grew back.

"Sweetie, it cannot be that bad." Nora sighed and picked up Marti's phone. "I'm sure that whatever boy that hurt Olivia Rodrigio is already regretting his options."

Marti glared and flopped into the couch. "One, Olivia is a goddess and men who can't handle her need to stop trying. Two, it's Smerek. I wanted to tweet something supportive about his hat trick and was super annoyed that all anyone on Rangers twitter was talking about was #SisOrGirlfriend and not Derek until I realized they were."

Nora paused, attempting to parse out her stepdaughters rambling, before coming to the only conclusion. "People on the internet are debating if Casey is Derek's sister or his girlfriend?"

Marti nodded. "Girlfriend is winning. And like, Sam and Emily and Ralph and pretty much everyone who went high school with them is pointing out how gross it is and now it's just a feed of Clueless, Cruel Intentions, Veronica Mars, The Royal Tenenbaums, Shadowhunters, Dexter, The Fosters, some disney show, there's a lot of not-technically incest in modern media."

"That is disturbing." Nora agreed. "Although I'm not totally shocked about people wondering about Derek and Casey. They've always had an odd relationship."

At that, Marti almost choked on her own spit. "Oh my god, are you serious? They're siblings!"

Nora reached out and stroked Marti's hair. "Technically yes, but Derek and Casey were practically adults when your father and I married. They could adopt you younger ones as siblings because you were all the same age or younger than their actual siblings. But with each other, they were peers. A bond formed, yes, but I'd have called it a roommate bond or a friendship before siblings, even in high school. They were just too old for that to take."

As Marti attempted to digest that her stepmom would apparently be a-ok with her big brother and biggest sister dating, Edwin came thundering down the stairs. "Marti! Lizzie! Nora! Dad! Have you all seen the internet?"

She hung her head back and glared. "You mean how the whole of online is debating whether our siblings are boning, yes. God, how did we get to a place in society where 'she's his sister' is not enough to stop the rumor mill?"

"Well, Casey's not really his sister, so--" he was cut off by a pillow to the face courtesy of Lizzie, who had apparently finished her silent mediations and moved into child's pose.

"You're a pig. Family comes in all forms, baby brother" She said primly. 

"And Derek's form does not involve Casey." He scoffed. "When any of us have a hard time, like, say, a break-up, Derek goes out for ice cream and booze and gives us a pep talk about how awesome we are and how much our ex sucks."

At the general nods and mumblings of agreement, he continued. "When Casey had a break-up, he went out and got an assault charge for beating the shit out of her ex and gave her a place to live, rent-free, in Manhattan and one of his practice jerseys, which he guards with his superstitious life."

Edwin took their silence as acceptance of his superiority. "Now, what I actually wanted to show everyone is that the streams have fully crossed between their fans. People are making memes about hockey with musical quotes and using NHL commentary on musicals and it's hilarious. Who wants to see Hamilton as reviewed by Don Cherry?"

After only a moment, the entire family huddled around Edwin's laptop.

 

And one time someone straight-up asked aka Reporter

Stacia Abrams fidgeted with nerves. She didn't belong here. She knew she didn't belong here. Everyone else knew it, too. She worked for an arts newsletter, yet here she was waiting to do press for the New York Rangers because the newest star scorer of puck touchdowns might have a pseudo-incestious relationship with his rising broadway star sister and she was the low man on the totem pole. 

One of the sports journalists leaned over and whispered in her ear. "If I explain the hockey to you, will you explain theatre to me when my boss sends me to cover his girl next week?"

"Oh, fuck yes." She breathes out, letting it get lost in the scrum. "What is a hattie and why are people more interested in that than the rumors that he's banging his sister?"

"Hat trick is three goals in a game, they're hard to get, especially if you play defense like Venzi." Her savior explains. "There's always rumors, but this is his first hat trick. Also, she's his sister. He just likes to yank people's chains."

"Mr. Venturi!" One man calls out. "What's your relationship with Casey McDonald?"

The young man smiled a bright, disaffecting grin. "Case is one of my favorite people in the world. Always has my back when I need it and lets me fall when I need that instead. Plus she's my lucky charm, so thank God she's currently on Broadway and not touring. Related note: go see Legally Blonde: The Musical. The current Vivian is particularly good."

"That's Casey." Stacia confirms for her new partner in despair.

"How would you characterize your relationship with her?" Another voice asked. 

He pauses, giving the air of thinking it over. "Complicated. Did you know she has a way, unique to her, of screaming my name in rage?"

"See, that sibling shit if I've ever heard it." Stacia hears in her ear, but she realizes this is a lost cause. Venturi knows how to play people and misdirect and if Stacia doesn't nip this in the bud now, she'll be spending six months stuck here, listening to debates about the offside pool or whatever. 

Someone has to bite the bullet and it may as well be me. She muses before raising her voice. "For fuck's sake, is she your sister or your girlfriend?"

The entire room came to utter silence at her outburst, before Derek started laughing. "Not gonna lie, Casey and I spent all last night laughing our asses off the whole internet playing 'Gay or European?' over our relationship. Funniest shit we've seen in months, especially because the answer is right there."

Stacia could feel her face melting in horror as she realized what he meant. "He's gay and European, so Casey is--"

"--my stepsister and my girlfriend, and neither is disgrace." Derek finished. "But we've enjoyed everyone becoming a complete closet case. Thank you all for coming and I hope you enjoy the game." He gave the devils horns as he turned and walked into his dressing room.

"Ladies and gentlemen, Derek Venturi." The coach mumbles. "Any more questions?"

It's quiet for a moment, until -- "Did anyone else have 'why not both' in the betting pool or have I just cleaned up big?"