Claude starts to come to, and immediately is hit by a familiar scent. A scent that makes his Omega want to curl up and purr but Claude knows...he knows who that scent belongs to and he wants to know why he is in bed with that person. It’s the smell of someone Claude has despised since he came into the League, even more so when he was added to the Leadership corps, and skyrocketed when he became Captain.
He was in bed with fucking Sidney Crosby. Positive: He was dressed and had not been fucked the night before. Negative: He could feel Crosby in the back of his head which could only mean one thing - they had somehow bonded without the actual act.
Claude managed to get out of Crosby’s hold on him and immediately shut himself in the bathroom to try to remember what the fuck had happened. He vividly remembered winning Gold, he remembered Segs deciding that they needed to go out together - one last bonding moment before they went their separate ways and went back to hating each other (okay, that last comment was really just directed at him and Crosby). They had played fucking amazing hockey together through this tournament and it turns out that Crosby actually does have a smidgen of a personality - which was a geniune suprise from him.
But his Omega…. He had been trying to convince his Omega that they did not want Crosby - in any way - since the first time they faced each other. But, it appeared, that his Omega had decided to say “Fuck You” and had choosen Crosby for them. He glared at his reflection, feeling before hearing Crosby waking up and realizing that he wasn’t in his room.
It doesn’t take them long - hungover or not, combined brainpower was helpful - to figure out what happened. Apparently, Spontaneous bonds aren’t just a thing out of fairytales.
“So, what are we gonna do?” Sidney asked once they figured it out, trying to be practical when all Claude wanted to do was get back to Philly and have a melodramatic meltdown while Simmer and/or Danny stood by to make sure he didn’t go insane.
Claude opens his mouth to try to form a response when his phone starts buzzing with texts from Schenner and Coots and this is why he didn’t want the Baby Flyers rooming together.
And then there’s obnoxious banging on the door and Claude sighs because he knows it’s his “kids” and he doesn’t really want to answer it but he also knows that if he doesn’t, they won’t go away and then yelling will join the loud banging. So he stands up, opens the door, and just sighs when they both fall through.
“You smell different.” Schenner tells him, which, rude. He should know better. His best friend was the feisty Omega who played for St. Louis. The one the team always gave him shit for because it definitely seemed like he was on the edge of Bonding Schwartz but never pulling the trigger. His excuse was that it was complicated but Simmer just thought Schenner was a chicken.
“Can I help you?” Claude tried to use his Captain voice, but it never had the same effect out of the game.
“Breakfast.” they grinned in unison.
“Seriously, though, you smell different.”
“Hasn’t Schwartzy told you not to go around sniffing Omegas?”
“The only Omega I actively sniff is Jaden,” Brayden shrugged, “but you smell so different I didn’t have to purposefully sniff you to smell it.”
“What’s Crosby doing here?” Coots asked, finally seeing Sidney in the room.
“G!” Schenner’s eyes went wide as he put the pieces together, “Dude! What- ! Why don’t I see a mark?”
“Spontaneous bond.” Sid answered as Claude sat back down on the bed.
“That kind of shit only happens in fairytales.” Brayen responded, not looking convinced.
“Apparently not,” Claude glared at him, “since I can feel Sid in my fucking head.”
“Seriously?” Sean asked, “That doesn’t even happen with normal bonds. Not really.”
“A Spontaneous bond isn’t like normal bonds.” Crosby rolled his eyes, pulling his phone out to text Nate. He needed a non-Flyer, a sane person, because Claude definitely looked like he was struggling to not completely melt down.
“Yeah, because Spontaneous bonds aren’t supposed to be an actual thing!” Schenner replied, “Soul mates don’t exist.”
“What’s going on?” Nate asks as he enters the room, apparently the door didn’t shut all the way. Glancing at Claude his brow creases and he says, “Why do you smell different?”
“Why don’t Alphas keep their noses to themselves?” Claude fires back, storming into the bathroom to attempt to wash as much of Sid’s scent off of him as possible, even if it’s now permanently ingrained in his own.
He hears Sid explaining what they know, and Schenner’s interjections (and the guy has every right to be shocked because Spontaneous Bonds aren’t supposed to be an actual thing). Sean eventually lets himself into the bathroom and sits with his back against the door, just trying to be a calming presence for Claude. He was pretty much his little brother/kid in the weird family structure they had with Danny where Claude was somehow big brother and stepmom to Danny’s boys and Sean. That was something he was going to have to be able to find words to describe because Sid was going to need to meet Danny and the boys, and Claude’s family, and the rest of the Flyers and Claude was going to have to do the same with Sid’s family and team.
“Do you need me to call Wayne or Danny or can you contain your freakout until we get back to Philly?” Sean asked, when he’s decided that he’s let his Captain wallow long enough.
“I’m just going to have a mini one now, so he doesn’t get overwhelmed.” Claude responds, looking up and opening his mouth.
“Stop trying to drown yourself in the shower. Get out and get dressed. I want food.”
“I’m still your Captain. Don’t tell me what to do.”
“Danny said to not let you get melodramatic. Just following dad’s instructions.”
“Melodramatic is my middle name.”
“You’re not gonna get his smell off of you.”
“I know that.”
“Then why are you trying so hard?”
“Because this is not how I wanted to Bond. I don’t even know if I wanted to Bond while I was playing. And now… now Sidney fucking Crosby has the ability to control everything I do.”
“If you’re going to insist on a meltdown, can you at least come out of the shower?”
Claude grumbles but turns the water off, stepping out and putting on the robe Sean is already holding out for him.
“Talk to your little bro,” Sean instructs as he grabs a towel and starts drying Claude’s hair before letting the ginger head rest on his shoulder.
And apparently that’s all it takes for every single thought Claude’s had since waking up to come spilling out of his mouth. He manages to keep it somewhat together because Claude in full meltdown mode is something reserved for Simmer and Danny and Claude doesn’t want to deny them the pleasure.
“Okay,” Sean nods when Claude’s done talking, “when we get back to Philly, we’ll drop Schenner off and call Wayne. Once you’re past all of those feelings, we’ll call Danny and he’ll come up with a solid plan because he’s Danny.”
Claude just nods and lets himself be pulled up and out of the bathroom room and sees a room service cart.
“I ordered your favorites.” Brayden grins up at him, holding out the latte for Claude, who takes it and ruffles his hair.
Claude flicks his eyes to Sid, who’s sitting on the far bed with MacKinnon next to him. He blinks away when Coots nudges him with the Flyers hoodie and black sweats. He changes quickly, nuzzling Schenner affectionately when he’s handed a plate of waffles with peanut butter.
He digs into his waffles and ignores not just the feeling of Crosby watching him but the feeling of Crosby in his fucking head and how pleased his Omega is.
“I think you guys need to spend the off-season together.” Nate voices and Claude didn’t ask for his opinion.
“We can go to my place.” Crosby volunteers, “It’s remote. No distractions.”
“I have plans with Danny and his boys -”
“G,” Coots interrupted, “you might want to get this figured out and sorted before you see Danny. He’s gonna have a lot of questions and so are his boys. You were Mama Wolf in that house for a long time, you still are. You’re going to want to have answers to those questions and Danny’s gonna want to have words with Crosby. Especially since it’s not like this is a one night stand that you can just ignore. He’s going to be in your life - and in the boys’ lives by extension - forever.”
“You can’t ignore a Bond.” Schenner chimes in.
“You have no room to talk since you can’t seem to pull the fucking trigger with Schwartz.” Claude replies, pointing a finger at Brayden.
“That’s different and you know it! It’s complicated.” Schenner huffs, going back to his fruit bowl.
“And your Heat is probably gonna hit soon.” Sean added.
“No, my Heat isn’t due -”
“G, you’re freshly Bonded and your Omega is gonna want to lock it down.”
Claude would really like not to be talking about his Heat when said Alpha is in the room, and turning redder by the minute.
Claude steps out of the car as soon Crosby pulls into the driveway. He had been back in Philly long enough to have his breakdown with Wayne and then another one over the phone with Danny (because one breakdown wasn’t enough for him) and then he did laundry and packed to go with Sid to his place in Nova Scotia. He had tried to get away with telling his parents and sister about the Bond over text and now he was dodging phone calls left and right because they thought he apparently knew the answers to all their questions. Well, NEWSFLASH! He wished he had those answers because maybe then he could squash the panic that kept building in his chest.
Crosby gives him a guest room facing the lake, a door leading out to a balcony with a chair and end table. Claude drops his bag on the bed and looks around. It looks generic, like Crosby just bought a showroom set. He pushed down the panic long enough for him to get into the shower in the attached bathroom to wash the voyage off of him. Only when he turned the shower on and stepped under the spray did he let that feeling overtake him and he punched the wall and he let himself start crying again.
He was the only Omega in the League to wear the C and he had gotten it pretty early in his career. His team didn’t give a shit that he was an Omega, they respected the hell out of him - always had and always would. But the League cared. They spent their time comparing him to Crosby, he had lost count of how many “think pieces” he had read about how much better a player he would be if he wasn’t an Omega, about how maybe the Flyers were waiting until the right Alpha came along to give the C to - that Claude was just a place holder and would be relegated back to the A when that Alpha came along, about how Claude should be on Suppressants - which he was allergic to (some not as severely as others, but he had never found one that he didn’t have an allergic reaction to), about how the poor Alpha was ended up saddled with Claude was going to have their hands full bringing him to heel.
And now he was Bonded, without a say because his Omega took over, to the one Alpha in the League he never wanted - the one that would cause another litany of those pieces saying that it was time for Claude to step away from hockey, how Claude needed to be the proper Omega and retire so he could care for his Alpha, how pups with Crosby’s genes would no doubt be future NHLers, how there was no way Claude would be able to play against Crosby now. And Claude felt like his freedom had been stripped without him knowing it. Because Crosby now had the ability to control him.
Alphas using their Voice had never been an issue with him. It surprised him and the Alpha the first time he didn’t go down - the lack of Suppressants should have made him slide down immediately (hell, plenty of Omegas who were on Suppressants went down hard under the power of an Alpha’s Voice). Claude never did. But with the Bond, he knew it would affect him, compel him to obey. Crosby had never tried to use his Voice on Claude before (still hadn’t tried) but Claude had a feeling it would have affected him even before the Bond. Because Spontaneou Bonds meant that you were Bonded with the Alpha who was made for you and his Omega had always been eager to please Crosby.
His life as he knew it was over. He could never go back. And he could only pray that Crosby wasn’t an asshole. He knew that Crosby wouldn’t make him leave hockey (okay, he was, like 73% sure). But the fact that Crosby now had the power to control his career had fully set in and he could feel Crosby worrying about him just as much as he knew Crosby could feel his panic. He got out of the shower, dried his hair, and threw on a pair of black joggers with the Flyers’ logo on at the top by his left hip before crawling under the blankets and passing the fuck out. Sleep had been hard to come by in the last few days.
When Claude wakes up, he throws a t-shirt on and pads out of the room and down to the kitchen.
“Did you have a good nap?” Crosby asks, looking over at him from where he seems to be attempting to make grilled cheese.
“What are you doing?” Claude asked, looking at the pan like he was offended by it.
“I know it’s your favorite -”
“Move. I’ll make it.” Claude took the pan and dumped it out, starting to clean it, “All that was going to be was a greasy cheese sandwich.”
Crosby falls silent and just observes as Claude meticulously makes the sandwiches, with as much care and precision as he would use on putting together furniture or taping his sticks - like it’s something more important than a sandwich.
And when Crosby takes a bite, he’s expecting to have to pretend like it’s something special and is genuinely shocked by the fact that it is something special.
“Good?” Claude raises an eyebrow, cocky smirk in place. When Crosby nods he says, “I make the best grilled cheese. Danny’s boys don’t even order grilled cheese in restaurants, much less let anyone who’s not me make it for them. You should have seen the meltdown that happened with Sylvie’s boyfriend tried to make it for them.”
“You and Briere are still close?”
“Yeah. It’s a little complicated. I’m pretty much a cross between older brother and step-mom to his boys. It’s something we fell into when I lived with him and just never fell out of.”
“You never thought about Bonding with him?”
“It’s something we talked about. A lot. Especially when the boys formed their pup bonds with me. But I was so young when I lived with Danny. He helped me through heats when I needed him to, but that was as close to Bonding as we got.”
“I’ve never come close to Bonding an Omega.”
Sid doesn’t know why he responds with that. And Claude looks a little confused at the reply. He looks down as his plate as he said, “It never felt right.”
“I never wanted to Bond. Now really. Not while I was still playing.” Claude offers up, figuring they should get this part over with, “Bonding means giving an Alpha control over me and the only Alpha I would even think about giving that power to is Danny. He’s the only Alpha I know that wouldn’t try taking advantage of it just a little.”
“Do you...do you have romantic feelings for Briere?”
It was a valid question.
“Danny will always be one of the most important people in my life. It’s more important to me that he and the boys accept you than it is for my family to accept you. Danny is someone who was always meant to be in my life but he clearly wasn’t meant to be my Alpha because then we wouldn’t be having this conversation. He’s my platonic soulmate - my Dawson without all the drama. Always meant to be part of my life, but not meant to be my Pacey.”
“You’ve never seen Dawson’s Creek?”
“Okay, we are watching it. You are missing out on a piece of cultural history.”
Sid just laughed in response before saying, “So you’re not in love in love with him? Because Tanger said you were.”
“Once upon a time, I had a crush on him. And he helped me through Heats when they were really bad. But I never fell head over feet in love with him. And he wouldn’t have let me. The age difference would always be too much for him, make him feel too weird. And my Omega never really wanted Danny the way I wanted to want Danny.”
“Because your Omega wanted me.”
Sid doesn’t say it haughty, just states it as the fact that it is.
“Yeah,” Claude looks down at his place, not quite glaring at it but close.
“My Alpha never let me consider anyone but you.” Sid offers, “Not even during my Rut. I had been hoping to get the chance to convince you to let me Court you while we were in Prague but we were both preoccupied by hockey. I didn’t think we would Bond...not like we did.”
“Because Spontaneous Bonds aren’t supposed to exist outside of fairytales?”
“No,” Sid shook his head, “because I wanted you to want to Bond with me.”
And Claude didn’t know what to say to that. Because he had not been expecting that answer.
“You were just going to wait for me to want you?” were the words that Claude’s mouth settled on.
“I knew you were mine. From that first face-off. And I knew you needed time to get used to the idea.”
“I’m not a good Omega. I don’t respond normally. I can’t take Suppressants, I’ve never been able to. My Heat’s are irregular and unpredictable - it’s why Danny didn’t always help me with them. Sometimes I need an Alpha, other times I don’t want an Alpha to even look at me. I refuse to be referred to as your Omega - as Sidney Crosby’s Omega - like I’m not my own person with my own career. My life will not suddenly revolve around you. You will NEVER use your voice on me. The only reason I will ever be leaving the Flyers is they decide that they don’t want me anymore and if that ever happens I will be the one to decide where I go next. I’m not ending my career to start popping out your pups. When we have pups - if we have them - will be up to me since it’s my career it’ll effect.”
“I understand.” Sid nodded, knowing saying anything else would have Claude out of the room and behind his locked door.
Slowly, as the days progressed, they learned more about each other, spent more time together. Claude made Sid go on runs - actual long runs - with him. Sid made Claude join him for his workouts. Sid got them ice time at a local rink and they played one-on-one, raced, took practice shots, or just skated together. They talked about the season, about the interview they would probably have to do because there was no way this could be kept a secret. Sid wanted to get it out of the way during the beginning of the Summer but Claude insisted that if they wait, they could get it announced before they went to New York for the Media Weekend and do the interview then. Sid had to admit that he had a point, it would be easier than needed to carve out time in their limited time off to do it.
Sid did insist that they let their franchises know so the GMs and PR execs could get together to plan the roll out. And he subtly placed his hand over Claude’s during the call to the Flyers whenever he felt the Omega’s anxiety spike. Claude only told him afterward why he had wanted to put off telling the Flyers - fears of having the “C” taken from him, being deemed not strong enough to lead the team, being deemed weak for something out of his control, spilling all the pressure he felt (mostly self-inflected because Sid knew how much his teammates respected Claude) being the only Omega in the League to wear a letter.
Sid was surprisingly sweet, surprising Claude with small gestures - flowers one day, always having a hot cup of coffee waiting for him when he came downstairs (apparently he had been watching as Claude made his coffee the way he liked it when they were in Prague and their first morning at Sid’s because it was fixed perfectly). He was still putting in the effort to woo Claude, to Court him, even if he didn’t have to.
“I got you something.” Sid told him on the morning Claude was set to leave a couple weeks later, “I wanted to give it to you earlier, but it hadn’t arrived until this morning.”
“We’re already Bonded.” Claude replied, “You didn’t have to get me anything.”
“I wanted to.” Sid replied, “You don’t have my mark on you and I needed something to…”
Show you’re mine. Claude knew how that sentence ended and was thankful that Sid didn’t finish it.
“I may have gotten something for you, too…” Claude grumbled, going over to his duffle and pulling out a square box, “We don’t have a typical bond, but I wanted to still give you the typical acceptance gift. You open it first.”
Sid nodded, setting his own box down and opening the one Claude gave him, grinning at the ring inside - a simple gold band with a black Onxy stone embedded in the center of the band.
“I ordered it before I came here, figured it may take some time.” Claude shrugged like it didn’t mean something to Sid that he put the thought into this.
“I love it.” Sid assured him, holding the other box out to the Omega, he said, “Here’s yours.”
Claude opened the box and felt his draw drop as he ran his fingers across the ring. It was a thick silver band with diamonds embedded in it in a wave pattern. He pulled it out and the inside caught his eye. Engraved on the inside of the ring were his and Sid’s numbers and the logos of their teams. In the small space in between the date of the first time they faced each other.
“Ordered it while we were in Prague, while you were having a meltdown in the shower.” Sid told him, gently plucking the ring from the box and slipping it onto Claude’s finger.
“I wasn’t having a meltdown.” Claude replied with a faint blush, returning the favor and slipping his gift onto Sid’s finger.
“If this is gonna work you have to pretend to believe me when I lie to your face.”
Sid surprised by letting out a loud laugh at that and Claude couldn’t help the smile that spread across his face.
It’s a week before pre-season, and Claude is picking Sid up from the airport and driving them to Danny’s house. He had put this off long and Danny wasn’t letting him use anymore excuses - the most recent one was that they were going to be in New York for the bug Media Day interview and it’s subsequent immediate release and Claude needed to downward spiral before he left. Not that he didn’t actually need to downward spiral because he did. And Danny had sat patiently with him before he started trying to make Claude think rationally and then sending him outside to play street hockey with the boys and let them distract him.
“So what am I walking into here?” Sid asked as they neared Danny’s place.
“Well, the boys don’t like you.” Claude replied, “And probably never will. The most you can expect is for them to tolerate you.”
“Why don’t they like me?” Sid responded.
“I told you about my relationship with Danny. The bond that I have with them would make it hard for them to accept any Alpha that isn’t their father. And they’re ride or die Flyers fans, so…” Claude grinned over at Sid at the last part before sighing, “I tried, okay? And I will keep trying. But you’re going to have to prove yourself to them. To Danny. Because they’ll eventually follow his lead.”
Claude pulls into a driveway and turns the car off, leading Sid up to the house and doesn’t bother knocking. He’s immediately surrounded by three teenage boys, each trying to talk over each other and Sid is shocked to see Claude seemingly following along with each of them.
“G, please, dad’s trying to actually cook. You have to save us!” Carson starts tugging Claude toward the kitchen.
“Clo, please talk some sense into dad. I’m seventeen now. I’m practically an adult. Tell him I can handle going to one party.” Caelan mutters, obviously trying to keep his voice down - which tells Claude that this is an argument that has been going on for a week now, at least.
“Claude, I got my permit but neither mom or dad want to teach me after the nightmares that Caelan and Carson were and I don’t want to take Driver’s Ed because Timmy said that the teacher is really mean and Caelan hasn’t had his license long enough to teach me and Carson BARELY got his and -”
“I will talk to your dad about taking you driving but it shouldn’t be a problem.” Claude cut off Cameron purely to give the kid a chance to breathe, “Caelan, you’re not putting me in the middle of a fight with your dad. That’s never been cool and it still isn’t. I will, however, sit down with both of you so you can talk it out without yelling at each other. And Carson, I’m sure whatever your dad is making - HOLY SHIT, DANNY, WHAT DID YOU DO?!”
Claude cut off whatever he was going to be saying to look at the charred block of something in the glass pan.
“I tried making that lasagna recipe you like and it didn’t work.” Danny replied, glaring slightly at the probably ruined pan.
“Move out of the way, old man,” Claude responded affectionately, “Go chat with Sid. Caelan, you’re helping me remake dinner.”
“Why me?” the seventeen year old muttered even as he pulled out the extra ingredients Carson had convinced their dad to get in case the first attempt failed miserably.
“So you can tell me all the details about this party that I’m supposed to be gently easing your dad into entertaining the idea of letting you go to. And don’t lie to me, Caelan.”
And he just listens as Caelan starts talking about the party and his friends and how he misses out on so much because they spend so much of their summer in Canada and he doesn’t really have a lot of time before school and hockey starts to just hang out with his friends. About how Danny’s hang up is no adult will be present and Caelan’s unwillingness to tell him whether there will be drinking. And Claude knew it was more than just wanting to go to a party because he’s a teenage boy. As Caelan talks, Claude gently instructs him on what to do next in regards to the lasagne because he has been slowly and subtly, but surely, teaching the Briere boys to cook since he first moved in. He was very proud of their grilled cheese making abilities.
“He’s not getting anywhere with dad.” Cameron chirped as he walked into the kitchen with Carson, “Dad asked him to take a walk with him.”
Claude glanced up worryingly as he heard the door open and shut before looking at the boys, “Well, you guys and your dad are going to have to get used to him. He’s going to be part of your lives forever.”
“Bonds can be broken.” Caelan responded.
“Not Spontaneous Bonds.” Claude corrected gently as he put the pan in the oven, “A Spontaneous Bond only forms between two individuals who were meant for each other. They’re very real and much more powerful than other bonds. Sid and I are tied together so tightly that I can feel him in the back of my head no matter how far away we are from each other. A Spontaneou Bond is like rubber, you can bend it all you want but it won’t break.”
“So, you’re stuck with him.” Carson sighed.
“He’s not as bad as I thought he was,” Claude replied, starting the clean up process, “Cam, I believe Tuesdays are still your days to set the table?”
“How do you do that?” Cameron muttered as he ended to the cabinet to pull down the plates, referring to Claude’s ability to still remember the chore schedule.
“Your dad is a creature of habit, your chore schedule isn’t going to change.” Claude replied, wiping down the counter and considering starting to try to chip Danny’s attempt at dinner out of the pan.
He tossed the bagged salad at Carson and told him to pour it out into a bowl and put it on the table as Danny and Sid returned.
“How’d it go?” Claude asked, checking both of them over for any visible injuries.
“I think we made some progress.” Sid replied, getting a grunt in response from Danny.
“Clo,” Danny gave him a look, “can I talk to you?”
Claude nodded and gave the boys a look that clearly said “behave or else” and followed Danny upstairs.
“I’m happy to see him back in one piece.” Claude said as Danny shut the door to his room behind them.
“Yeah, well, killing him would hurt you, so…” Danny responded.
“I didn’t plan this, Danny,” Claude sunk down onto the bed, “If I had a choice…”
“I know,” Danny replied, sitting next to him, “I guess this explains why we never… even in the middle of your worst Heat, I couldn’t bite you.”
“Danny, you’ll always be important to me,” Claude responded earnestly, “Like, you’ll always be the favorite Alpha in my life.”
“I know.” Danny grinned in response, getting a laugh out of the younger man.
“So...how was your walk?”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“He really thinks highly of you. Thinks you’re something pretty special.”
“Yeah, he does. Has for a while. Probably would have attempted to make a move sooner if you weren’t so stubborn.”
Claude laughed at that, “Once I got past the whole...thing...my Omega was right, all these years. I could have felt this sense of calm a long time ago.”
“If you’re happy, me and the boys are happy.” Danny placed a hand on Claude’s shoulder, “Or at least we will pretend to be. Because you’re family and we love you.”
“I love you, guys, too, you know?” Claude replied, “It means a lot to me that you’re willing to try.”
“Well, if we don’t then you won’t come over and cook for us and then the boys would be stuck with the three dishes I know how to make.”
“And toast.” Claude grinned as Danny threw his head back and laughed.
“We’d better get back downstairs,” Danny suggested, “It’s a little early to leave him going solo with the boys for more than ten minutes.”
“Dinner should be done soon anyway.” Claude stood, “And after dinner, before dessert and while I send Sid out to get beat playing street hockey with Carson and Cameron, I’m sitting down with you and Caelan to talk about a certain party he wants to go to.”
“I can’t believe he’s dragging you into this.” Danny rolled his eyes but stood up as well and the two headed back downstairs.
Claude ruffled Cameron and Carson’s hair as he passed them on the way to the oven, grinning as they complained loudly.
Dinner was the chaotic affair that meals with the Brieres always were and Claude silently enjoyed how overwhelmed Sid looked while outwardly attempting to be supportive.
“Okay,” Claude grinned when everyone was done, “Carson, Cam, you guys take Sid outside and show him how street hockey is really played. Caelan, you’re helping me with dishes.”
Carson cheered at getting out of dish duty and then groaned when his dad told him he’d have an extra day tacked on next week to make up for not having to do the dishes that night.
“Caelan wants to go a party.” Cameron informed Sid as they got outside, “He and Dad have been fighting about it for a week. Claude’s trying to help them talk about it without yelling.”
“He do that a lot?” Sid asked, thankful one of the Briere kids was talking to him without prompting.
“Yeah.” Cameron nodded.
“You need to understand something, Crosby,” Carson spoke up, eyes narrowing, “Claude is important to us. He’s more than dad’s friend. He’s basically another parent, but cooler. And we don’t want to see him hurt.”
“I can’t promise I won’t hurt him, even mates fight, but I can promise to always make it up to him when I do hurt him.” Sid responded.
The teenagers narrowed their eyes at him before sharing a look and nodding.
“And you pups have to have names that start with C,” Cameron added on, “so everyone knows that they’re our family.”
Sid would have to talk to Claude about that one so he very carefully did not promise to do that. And then they beat him horribly at street hockey, he could feel the bruises forming already. Apparently, Claude hadn’t been joking about the boys playing dirty.
Everything must have been resolved inside because fifteen minutes later the other three joined them.
“We get Claude!” Carson demanded as soon as the ginger stepped outside.
Caelan squawked in offense and started arguing with Carson about how he or Cameron always got to have Claude on their team and how he always got stuck with Danny.
Danny let out a long suffering sigh and shared a look with Claude, who was grinning and his eyes were shining with his amusement.
“Come on,” Claude pulled Caelan over to his brothers, “kids verses the old guys.”
“We’re the same age,” Sid reminded his Omega, who just threw his head back and laughed.
“He always knows how to fix things before it becomes an issue.” Danny muttered, shaking his head, “Has from day one.”
An hour later, and after ice cream, Sid pulled himself into Claude’s car feeling exhausted.
“Have fun?” Claude asked with a huge grin.
“I think so.” Sid laughed, “I’ll be able to tell you for sure after I sleep for ten hours.”
Clause laughed brightly and pulled out the driveway. Keeping his eyes on the road and decidedly not on his Alpha, he said, “Thank you for doing this.”
“They mean a lot to you, Claude, of course I wanted to meet them.” Sid replied earnestly.
“It just...it means a lot to me.”
“They’re your family.”
“Yeah.” Claude was silent for a minute before saying, “Danny didn’t really clue me into what you two talked about.”
“You mean a lot to that family,” Sid told him, “Danny was just making sure I knew that.”
“You know...you’re not...awful.” Claude responded after a minute, “You’re not the worst Alpha. I could have done way worse.”
And Sid takes the compliment for what it is and huffs out a laugh.
Schenner the Younger hasn’t been in Saint Louis for a week before he calls Claude. Apparently he had almost accidentally bonded Schwartz and then they had a long sit down discussion about whether it was the right thing for them to do, to bond, before landing on it not being a good idea.
“Wow, barely been there a week and you finally got your shit figure out with Jaden.” Claude grinned, “Took you long enough.”
“I did tell you it was complicated.” Schenner scoffed, “But you guys didn’t listen.”
“He have other prospects? Better ones?”
“He has a fear of being controlled. He has stubborn that could put you to shame. He has an Omega he ignores and far too many Suppressants to be healthy, is what he has.” Brayden fired back, “But mostly… our Alpha and Omega aren’t compatible. We...we could love each other. We do love each other. For a long time, I compared every Omega I met to Jaden. But nothing could come of it if my Alpha wasn’t able to get along with his Omega. That’s all there is to it. And I sucks and I hate it… I hate not knowing if the Alpha he’s going to end up with is good enough for him.”
“Brayden,” Claude took a deep breath before pressing on, “Jaden loves you, which is why you two can’t Bond. Because your Alpha and Omega rejecting each other would tear you both apart. It would make you resent each other eventually.”
“I know that.” Brayden replied, “But that doesn’t make me hate it less. Doesn’t make the knowledge not hurt. We were each other's first in every way that mattered, you know?”
“And you’re still going to be important to him.” Claude assured Brayden, “In the same way that Danny will always be important to me.”
“Yeah, but you and Danny always had a messed up relationship…”
“Do you want my help?”
“Fine.” Brayden huffed, “How’s Sid?”
And Claude allowed the subject change as said Alpha joined him on the deck, responding by filling Brayden on the trip he had just returned from - Sid surprised him by taking him to France.
Claude knew it was going to be a problem when TK ran tripped over his own feet and then ran into a wall when he spotted Nolan Patrick for the first time. And he shared a long suffering look with Coots as Nolan smiled a little as Teeks stammered out an introduction.
“Is this going to be a problem?” Coots asked softly, watching as TK managed to regain some normalcy while talking to the young Omega.
“Maybe.” Claude replied, “I’ll keep an eye on it.”
“I know you will.” Coots grinned.
“Mama Bear.” Jake smirked teasingly, “Finally got a baby Omega to look after.”
“Shut up.” Claude groaned, ignoring Jake and Wayne’s laughter as he finished getting dressed and tried to figure out how to talk to TK before he made a move. Courtship was supposed to be a delicate process, not to be rushed into because you found the new Omega pretty.
When Nolan made the team, Claude insisted on taking him out for an official welcome lunch - Captain to Rookie, Omega to fellow Omega - to give him a heads-up on the difference in The Show compared to playing anywhere else. After all, it was only when an Omega makes the team does their dynamic really get talked about in relation to how they play and Nolan was going to get questions, was going to have to deal with sneering of Alphas on other teams, was going to have to be able to keep his temper in check (or try, Lord knows Claude failed that test over and over again).
But unlike when he came into the League, Nolan had someone to help him navigate.
And that’s how Nolan became his pup. TK was too much like Claude to be his - had been since he made the team the previous season and Claude probably would have ended up encouraging his bad habits more than deterring them.
And as the weeks went by, Claude watched - very carefully - as TK attempted to Court Nolan. Flowers. Lunch. Trinkets. A giant stuffed bear won at a carnival. And he was loath to admit that Travis seemed to be doing okay at it.
“G,” Travis tore into the video room and wobbled to a stop in front of where Claude was sitting with Simmer, “I need your help.”
“Did you accidentally send a dick pic to the wrong person?” Claude raised an unimpressed eyebrow, “Or did you actually send a dick pic to Nolan because I swear to God if you did that -”
“No dick pics were involved.” TK cut off his Captain and ignored Simmer as he snickered to himself, “I asked Patty to let me take him to dinner tonight. I’m making the official ask and I want it to be at a nice restaurant and -”
“You don’t know any nice restaurants?” Simmer finished, grinning widely.
“Fuck you, Simmer,” TK’s eyes narrowed, “I just don’t know the right one. Or what to wear.”
“Don’t wear that one weird shirt you have.” Claude replied, “You know the one. Weirder than the other shirts in your closet.”
“And don’t wear the tacky tie you always try to get away with wearing.” Simmer tagged on.
“There’s a new place, Sid took me there last time he was in town,” Claude pulled his phone out, sending the name and address to TK.
“It’s not French, is it?” Travis all but whined, “I like to actually know what I’m ordering.”
“It’s not French.” Claude rolled his eyes, “Now go sit down.”
Travis looked ready to ask probably a billion more questions and Claude was resigned to spending at least an hour on the phone helping TK get ready that night, but Nolan walked in and Travis made a beeline to him and settled in - already talking a mile a minute like he hadn’t just seen him.
He pretended to be surprised to see the wristband Patty proudly displayed the next day - not drawing obvious attention to the leather band with Sapphires embedded throughout the intricately braided dark material but not hiding it.
Skating over to Claude around the middle of practice, Nolan said, “You’re not disappointed, are you?”
“Never in you, kid,” Claude smiled softly, “just...try to make the Courtship last. With my bond… Sid and I missed the Courtship part. He’s tried making up for it, but it’s not the same. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade how our Bond happened for the world - if it didn’t happen the way it did, then who knows where we would be. But let the connection grow, flourish, before you accept.”
Nolan grinned at him and skated off.
“You’re not letting that pest Court Patrick,” Sid groaned as Claude relayed the events of the past few days, shaking his head at the grin on Claude’s face through the computer screen.
“They’re cute,” Claude replied.
“We’re going to be stuck with Konecny forever.” Sid closed his eyes in mock annoyance. Ever since Claude had basically adopted Nolan, Sid’s Alpha saw the younger Omega as their pup and it pleased Claude’s Omega emensely.
“I told him to not rush to accept,” Claude’s voice got soft, “to enjoy the Courtship.”
“Good advice.” Sid replied, “I wish I could have given you that.”
“I know you do,” Claude responded, matching Sid’s sad smile with a soft one of his own, “but we have something special, one of a kind, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”
“Yeah, really. I love you, Sid.”
“Love you, too, Clo.”
Claude’s face broke into a wide grin before he said, “So...about your upcoming Rut….?”
The night continued with talks of their plans, Sid reading out descriptions of potential places they could stay - hotel, Air B’n’Bs, etc - as Claude nodded along and offered his thoughts, getting distracted by tangents related to something Sid had read, dissecting the descriptions, light flirting, highly suggestive comments, getting Sid caught up on what the Briere boys had been up to, and promises to make up for the time spent apart.
Eventually they had to hang up, but their plan was firmly in place for Sid’s rut in a couple weeks and Claude made his appointment to get his birth control injection for the next day.
Claude stepped outside to answer his phone, regretting not grabbing his coat before leaving the bar.
“Schenner?” he asked, concerned. Schenner rarely called him anymore, stuck to texting since he got comfortable enough with Petro the previous season that if he needed a Captain he went to him. If needed his friend Claude, he just texted.
“Jaden’s being Courted.” Schenner said, definitely a little drunk, “He’s being Courted and he didn’t even tell Vova...he didn’t tell Steener...he didn’t tell me. Parry and Thommer somehow knew though.”
“He’s always been private.” Claude responded, “You’ve told me yourself. And he’s also always been the only Omega around so it makes sense that he would tell the other two on your team.”
“I know, but…” Schenner took a deep breath, “He and I used to tell each other everything. And this is a big fucking deal. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.”
Claude blinked a bit at that news before saying, “Well, there’s your answer on why he didn’t say anything. How’d you find out?”
“They showed up at the bar we were at and Vova and I had pissed him off before we left the hotel and then he was practically fucking them on the dancefloor. And then he left with them.”
“What did you do to piss him off?” Claude asked, already dreading the answer. Jaden gave Brayden a pretty long leach and it took a lot to get him angry at his old friend. And, as Brayden had said, Jaden never got pissed at Tarasenko.
“He’s close to his Heat,” Brayden mumbled, “and we tried to make him stay back at the hotel.”
“That’ll do it.” Claude rolled his eyes knowing the younger man couldn’t see him. Claude didn’t know Schwartzy that well - beyond how well all the Omegas in the League knew each other (they had a group chat started by Seguin) - but he did know that the easiest way to piss him off was to tell him what to do.
“Yeah…” Schenner sighed, “but he didn’t tell me.”
“I can imagine it would be heard for him.” Claude replied, “It would have been hard for me to tell you guys about Sid. If you and Coots hadn’t been there I probably would have put off telling the team as long as I could. Hell, I almost had a panic attack when I told Danny. And he’s being Courted by not just one, but two, Blackhawks. And not just any Blackhawks, the stars of the organization. Most of the Blues players have been playing with him since his rookie year, it was going to be even harder for him to tell them. He’s known you his almost his whole life, you two were in love - regardless of what your Alpha and Omega wanted, he probably didn’t know how to tell you.”
“If you need me, call anytime, okay?” Claude replied, “I’m not your Captain anymore, but I’m still your friend.”
“Anytime, Baby Schenner.”
Claude laughed as Schenner scoffed and hung up. Heading back inside, he tucked slid back into the booth next to Simmer and across from Coots and Jake and turned his gaze to where TK was trying to show off his Dart skills for Nolan. They were over a year into their Courtship and Claude was relieved they hadn’t bonded yet. Nolan was still so young.
And, yes, he obviously knew Robby Thomas, who was a year younger than Patty, was being Courted by the Tkachuk boys - the GC really meant that the Omegas in the League kept very few secrets from each other (Schwartzy’s Courtship was bound to make it into the GC now that the rest of his team knew) - but that had been three years in the making.
So he spent the rest of the season keeping half an eye on the Blues - just as impressed as everyone else when they managed to turn their season around - and on Brayden.
When they had a night off, he, Simmer, and Coots found the Blues game against Dallas and settled in and when Claude saw Robby go down he saw red. He winced at the hit Schwartz laid on the AHLer - who should have at least been benched for the rest of the game since the refs didn’t eject him, and Seguin had seemed to be arguing for that - who had dared use their Alpha Voice on one of Jaden’s pups.
Jaden Schwartz wasn’t big, he was pretty small actually, but he was definitely protective of his pups and after that hit, Claude noticed that the AHLer wasn’t hitting as hard as he had been, was having issues moving really moving his shoulder, and Claude smirked, “Way to go, kid.”
Simmer choked out a laugh in response and Claude ignored him in favor of checking his phone, responding to Sid’s message - apparently the incident had spread like wildfire, before texting Schenner to tell Jaden “good hit” for him.
Apparently there was something in the water in St. Louis because shortly after they won the Cup, two of the three Omegas were bonded and Colton was being Courted by their rookie goalie.
“I’m happy for him.” Schenner told Claude when the older man had called to check in on him.
“Yeah?” Claude asked cautiously, accepting the beer Sid handed him as he joined the Omega on the deck of what Claude had considered their Summer home for the past few years and closing his eyes as his Alpha lightly kissed his temple.
“Yeah,” Schenner responded and Claude could hear his smile, “He’s happy. They make him happier than I’ve seen him since Mandi… He’s happy.”
“Yeah.” Schenner nodded, “ I am.”
“Is that the Cup talking?” Claude laughed.
“No.” Schenner chuckled, “I, uh… I reconnected with Kelsey. We’ve been talking a lot lately.”
“Really?” Claude’s eyebrows shot up at the mention of the Beta Schenner had been off and on with his entire time in Philly, who happened to be from a couple town over from his hometown.
“Yeah,” Schenner replied, “She got a job in St. Louis, actually. After she finished her degree. Chiropractor.”
“I’m happy for you,” Claude responded earnestly.
“Thank you,” Schenner’s voice was soft before he cleared his throat and said, “What about your pup? He bond with Teeks yet?”
“They completed the bond a couple days ago.” Claude replied, “They’re going to be even more sickeningly cute and I can’t wait to fine the crap out of them.”
Brayden threw his head back and laughed brightly before asking, “And how’s your Alpha?”
Claude’s eyes softened as he glanced over at Sid, who was struggling to put together the new grill and was getting increasingly frustrated but refusing to let Claude help him. He had a sudden vision of the same frustrated look as the Alpha attempted to put together baby furniture, put together playsets and toys, and he knew he had an extremely sappy look and his face and was so happy that Brayden had not FaceTimed him. Voice soft and full of affection he said, “He’s pretty great.”
“Ugh! I hate when you’re voice does that thing.” Schenner scoffed, “Are you thinking about babies again? Because Coots said you had started thinking about it more.”
“I’m hanging up on you now.” Claude rolled his eyes affectionately and hung up.
Walking over to Sid, he slid a hand over his shoulder and down his back as he leaned down and kissed the Alpha, muttering against his lips, “Take a break.”
And Sid really wasn’t strong enough to deny him anything when he used that tone.
Later, as they both lay on their bed trying to catch their breaths, Claude said, “I was thinking… I’m going to probably have to get knee surgery next season...it’ll take me out for most if not all of the season.”
“Yeah?” Sid looked concerned. It was something they had already talked about. Claude was having it down in Pittsburgh so Sid could be there for him more than he could if he had the surgery down in Philly.
“Would you think I was insane if we tried for a baby?” Claude glanced at him, “While I’m working on rehabbing it?”
“I think we would have to talk to several doctors,” Sid replied, “but if they all think it would safe for you, then I wouldn’t be opposed to the idea.”
“Clo, I want a family with you. And I promised you that you would be the one to decide when we start that family.”
“We would have a lot to figure out if we did it.” Claude responded, “With the whole living in two cities for most of the year thing.”
“We have time to figure that out.” Sid replied.
“Or...in a couple years…” Claude bit his lip, “I’m getting older Sid and it wouldn’t be crazy or unheard of for a 36, 37 year old to retire...if you wanted to wait another four to five years.”
“Whatever you want to do, Claude, I will be behind you one hundred percent.”
“How did I get so lucky with you?” Claude looked at Sid in wonder.
“Just your Omega is smarter than you gave it credit for.”
Claude laughed with Sid before leaning down and kissing him sweetly.
Yeah, his Omega had know what it was doing picking Sidney fucking Crosby as his mate.