When Carson got invited to try out for the Flyers, the first thing he did was call his dad - and then Claude-Marie - to make sure they had nothing to do with it. And then he made the team and Claude-Marie was beaming like this was the proudest moment of her life. She had hugged him once the room had mostly cleared out and whispered how proud she was and that he should call his dad and have him meet them at the little bistro by Claude’s place.
And when Claude-Marie walked into the locker room on the first real day of camp, she was excited. And then she saw the way the rookies were looking at each other and groaned. Farabee looked like a fucking lovesick puppy over where he was talking to Morgan Frost, who was in the process of putting her hair in a braid. She would have to do something about that because she was not enduring another Patty-Teeks. It took three months for them to get their shit together and G did not have the patience to go through that again. She would give Joel the money to take Morgan out on a date if it meant she could avoid that song-and-dance.
But she would get back to that later. Right now she had to get ready for practice and smiled to herself just a little when Carson stuck to her side. Because he may be twenty now but he was still one of her ducklings - Coots’ name, she just never corrected him (it was better than Monsters, anyway).
“His backhand looks pretty good,” Sean came to a stop next to where Claude-Marie was watching the shoot-out drill.
“Thank you,” she grinned and he threw his head back and laughed, “May need to teach him how to hold his own in a fight eventually.”
“Want me to handle that one?” Sean raised an eyebrow, “Since you and Danny imparted all your other skills on him?”
And Claude threw her head back and laughed, “I think the OG Hartsy might want to do that honor.”
“Well, Carson will need to learn how to save your ass when your mouth gets you trouble and that WAS Hartsy’s specialty.”
She gasped and gave him a wide-eyed look as he laughed and skated away from her. She rolled her eyes and scoffed. He was SUCH a little brother sometimes. Worse than any of Danny’s boys. Danny’s boys were angels. Well, Cameron was an angel. Caelan and Carson…. Well, they were good boys and Claude-Marie was proud of her ducklings.
“Good job, kid,” she smiled softly at Carson as he skated passed her and he beamed in return.
Pre-season faded into the regular season and Beezy still hadn’t made his move with Frosty and Claude-Marie did not want that dragging on any further.
“I will Venmo you two hundred bucks and make you a reservation at the nicest restaurant in Philly if you go and ask Elsa out.” Claude muttered to Joel as they skated off the ice.
Joel gave her a wide-eyed look and Claude glared at him, “You are not that stupid.”
She didn’t give him a chance to respond before she left the ice and rolled her eyes as TK cackled - not that he had any room to talk. He had walked into a wall and then tripped face first into a trashcan Mean Girls style when he first saw Patty, then proceeded to flirt with and basically date Patty for three months before he pulled the trigger. And if they had acted like an old married couple before, it was nothing compared to how they acted after.
What she hadn’t been prepared for was walking back into the locker room to see Carter and Carson talking and Carson looking at Carter with bright eyes. And Claude-Marie knew that look. She had been there for all of Carson’s major crushes - and he did always have a thing for goalies. That was the look that always came before he started getting squirrely about his phone or who he had been hanging out with or why he spent two months worth of allowance on flowers.
And Claude looked up, asking the hockey gods why they did this to her. Because she could deal with Patty and TK being Patty and TK. She could deal with Beezy and Frosty if they actually got their shit together - she wasn’t kidding about the Venmo, she was sending it to him tonight as well as the reservation details. But this was Carson. This was the kid who soaked in everything she said. The kid who always wanted her advice. The kid who insisted they work his backhand until it was perfect. The kid who looked up to her more than he looked up to his own dad. The kid who would always be the proud owner of the title of Loudest Briere.
He was a Briere.
And she knew she and Danny had a weird relationship. She was a step-parent to the boys in every way but being married to their dad. She had been since the day she came into their lives. She stayed in that role even after she moved out of Danny’s and when Danny was in Montreal and then Denver. Danny never let her forget that she helped raise them.
Because she had. She had helped with drop-off and pick-up at school, at hockey practices. She helped to coach their teams. She helped Danny manage the chaos that was getting everyone out of the house on time. She made dinner when every needed a break from the five things Danny could make and helped with homework. Sylvie would even call her for extra help when she needed it. She was part of the family.
And Carson? Carson was hers, in a way. Caelan was definitely Danny’s, always closer to his dad than anyone. And Cameron was the definition of Mama's Boy. But Carson had latched onto her from the minute she walked in their door.
“You okay with that?” Sean mumbled as he sat down in his stall next to hers, nodding subtly at Carson and Carter.
“I don’t know yet,” Claude muttered, “He’s always been quick to crush on a goalie, you know that. I’ll get worried when he starts blowing his ELC on flowers.”
Sean huffed out a laugh in response.
“So, G,” Jake said loud enough that everyone looked over at them, “a little birdie told me -”
“You finish that sentence and I will kill the little birdie,” she narrowed her eyes at him.
“You wouldn’t do that to Simmer,” Jake grinned, “Now, when were you going to tell the rest of us that you’re engaged?”
And Claude caught the look of surprise - and hurt - on Carson’s face before she glared at Jake and growled, “Because Sid and I haven’t told anyone. The only person who knows is his mom and that’s only because he asked her for the ring. I didn’t even mean to tell Wayne.”
“How’d he do it?” TK asked, and Claude could practically see him mentally taking notes.
“I’m not doing this,” she shook her head and stood up to head to the showers, starting to prepare herself for the conversation that she would no doubt be having with Carson.
“If Patty asked, would you tell her?” Teeks yelled after her.
“I’m not doing that,” Patty muttered in response.
“Hey,” Claude was surprised, but relieved, to still see Carson there, “you’re still here.”
“You’re my ride home,” Carson replied, not meeting her eyes.
“I thought you would have asked Sean.”
“You taught me a long time ago to never get in the car with him.”
“He’s gotten a little better.”
Carson huffed out a laugh and made himself busy on her phone as she got dressed and ready to go.
He waited until they were in her car to ask his question.
“Is Crosby the reason you and my dad never got together?” Carson looked over at her and Claude turned the engine back off.
“Carson…” Claude closed her eyes and took a deep breath. That was not the question she had been expecting, “No, he’s not.”
“Then why didn’t you?”
“Your dad and I… we wouldn’t have worked as a couple. Not to mention the fact that I would have been put through the wringer - the rookie and the vet, it would have been fodder and it wouldn’t have painted your dad or myself in a good light and we didn’t want to put you boys through that.” She tucked the strand of hair that had fallen in her face behind her ear, “And… we wouldn’t have lasted, even if we made it through all that. I love your dad. He is one of my favorite people. But we know exactly how to hurt each other and we just… we wouldn’t have lasted. And the last thing we wanted was to put you boys through another divorce.”
“I guess… I just always thought that eventually you would move on from Crosby and my dad…..” Carson mumbled, “And that you and my dad would get together. So did Caelan and Cameron. Maybe not as much as I did, but still. We all thought that it was inevitable. After all, you’ve been a parent to us for almost half my life and…”
“Carson,” she placed a hand on his cheek, “you boys will always mean the world to me. No matter what.”
“Why didn’t you tell us?” Carson asked, gesturing to the ring she had put on once in the car.
“I was planning on telling the Briere men this weekend at dinner,” Claude replied, rolling her eyes.
“Guess you don’t want me to tell them, huh?”
Claude sighed and said, “ I… I don’t want them to react badly. I just… I’m happy with Sidney, happier than I ever thought I would be. And I love him. I love him a lot, Carson. But… I don’t want you and your brothers to -”
“We only want you to be happy, G,” Carson interrupted her, “and if Crosby makes you happy, then that’s good enough. That’s enough for us to get on board. I’ll give them a heads up, though. I just…. You and I have always been tight. You’ve always told me stuff before you told dad. I was the first one in my family to know that Crosby asked you out.”
“Well...your dad knows that there was definitely stuff going on before that first date.”
“Ew…” Carson’s face scrunched up in response and Claude laughed, starting the car again.
“Are we good?”
“We’re always good, G.”
When Claude arrived the next day, Joel was looking fidgety, Morgan was looking annoyed, and TK and Patty were looking way too amused.
She sighed and took a gulp of her coffee before saying, “Do I want to know?”
“Joel found my vibe this morning and he’s being weird,” Morgan glared at Joel.
Joel went bright red and Claude huffed out a laugh, “What do you expect, Beezy? She’s a young, single woman, living with her male teammate. Isn’t exactly the easiest to pick up when you can’t go back to either of yours.”
“She could go back to the guys’ place,” Joel muttered, not looking happy at those words.
“You never go to a stranger's place,” Nolan responded with an eye roll.
“Don’t you watch SVU?” Carter raised her eyebrow.
“Wait… G…. you lived with Dan -”
“Yes, Sean,” Claude rolled her eyes, “I had two. You can’t bring a guy home when you live with your male teammate and his three kids.”
“Ew,” Carson groaned.
“Please,” Claude rolled her eyes, “I was there for the Fall of Three Showers A Day.”
“G!” he whined, blushing darkly.
“It’s okay, kid,” Sean pat Carson’s head, “you’ll get used to it.”
“But...you have a boyfriend, G….” TK gave Patty a look like she might be cheating on him with her own vibrator.
“Yeah, and he lives five hours away,” Claude rolled her eyes, “Beezy, let Elsa take care of herself however she wants to. Travis, if you’re doing your job correctly, Nolan won’t need to use hers. And now I’m done talking about this.”
There was nothing like a game against the Penguins. And there was nothing like shutting down the Penguins in their own barn.
And it also meant a night spent at Sid’s - uninterrupted by Claude-Marie’s idiot children. And her winning meant Sid cheating on his diet plan just a little.
They were enjoying a quiet night, curled up together on Sid’s couch, sharing a pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream and watching Criminal Minds and Claude laughed when her phone went off and caused Sid to jump. He glared and grumbled in response and she kissed him as an apology for laughing at him as she reached for her phone.
“What happened to the no phone rule?” Sid raised an eyebrow.
“I just need to make sure that Coots didn’t let one of the kids die… or that he didn’t kill one of them. He had less patience for TK when Patty’s mad at him than anyone and Jake isn’t exactly a voice of reason.” Claude replied, opening her messages app.
“Why is she mad at Konecny?” Sid looked like he hated that he was curious.
“I don’t even know, but it involves Nico Hischer.” Claude opened the text from Sean and took a calming breath, “TK’s still alive but I don’t know how long Beezy will be.”
“Everyone apparently went out and some guy hit on Morgan. Joel apparently didn’t react well and Morgan left with the guy.”
Claude’s eyes narrowed at her phone as she fired off texts to Morgan, Joel, Nolan, and Sean and didn’t relax until she got the response from Morgan saying that she was taking the guy back to her room.
“Thankfully being pissed at Joel didn’t make her do something stupid,” Claude replied, turning her phone on silent and tossing it into the chair across the room.
She swung herself into Sid’s lap and kissed him, smiling into the kiss when he returned it - putting the mostly empty ice cream container on the end table and wrapping one arm around her waist while tangling his other hand in her hair.
They continued making out on the couch until she decided to bite his lip and grind down him, resulting in her gasping and wrapping her legs around his waist when he stood up and carried her toward the bed room, tossing her onto the bed with a growl of “minx”. She laughed and tugged her shirt off before pulling him down on top of her.
Sid dropped her off at the hotel an hour before Team Breakfast and they spent a good fifteen minutes saying goodbye in the car until Claude’s phone started going off like crazy.
“I’ll text you when I land,” she muttered, pulling him in for one more kiss before pulling herself out of the car.
When she got to her room, she immediately noticed the small gathering of teammates that seemed to be waiting for her and she sighed before saying, “I will see you in forty-five minutes at breakfast.”
That seemed to clear out Joel and TK, but Carter was still there and Claude took a deep breath and opened the door to her room, “You can tell me what you did while I get ready for the day and get packed.”
Carter silently followed her into the room and bit her lip.
“Well?” Claude prompted, starting her morning skincare routine.
“It’s not something I did….” Carter trailed off.
“You hooked up with a teammate,” Claude filled in the unsaid blank, “You were careful?
Carter nodded, “I’m on the pill, we used a condom.”
“Who was it? Haysey?”
Carter shook her head.
“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to,” Claude replied, “Just…. If things get weird or it starts to effect the team -”
“It was Carson,” Carter blurted out and Claude froze - washcloth halfway to her face.
And Claude took a steadying breath before continuing her routine.
“We went out to a bar and Coots was buying drinks for him and then he and I went back to the hotel. We were just going to watch tv but then we kissed and one thing led to another… Coots came by, like, right after we… said he was looking for Carson because you and Danny would kill him if he lost him on his first NHL roadie and he saw and put two and two together. Said he didn’t care what we did but that we should tell you. Because you didn’t deserve to find out from someone else. We….we may have been heavy flirting at the bar and I don’t really know who saw.”
Claude closed her eyes and took a couple deep breaths. Carson wasn’t a child anymore. And he definitely wasn’t a virgin - he had called her the day after he lost his virginity because he was freaking out and didn’t want to call his parents and Caelan definitely would not have been sympathetic in the way he needed. And Carson had always told Claude everything.
“I told him I would tell you,” Carter mumbled, “he looked like he was about to puke. He just nodded and went back to his room.”
“He probably called Caelan,” Claude replied automatically.
She finished her face regimen and then packed up what little she had unpacked in the short time she was in the room. And Carter stood in the room watching her, seemingly waiting for the other shoe to drop. Only once she was done packing up, did she speak again.
“Carson is a good kid. Well, I guess he’s more of a man now than a kid, but he’s a good one. And I have known him for a long time. I have seen him fall in and out of crushes. I watched him fall in love with his first girlfriend. And, unfortunately, I watched his heart get broken.” Claude turned and gave Carter her ‘I-Have-Something-To-Say-And-You’re-Going-To-Hear-It’ look that made even Jake and Sean freeze, “He likes you. And if last night was a fluke for you, you need to tell him now. I won’t allow him to be pulled around by his dick. If you need to take time to figure out how you feel about him, tell him that. If you feel nothing for him, tell him that. Obviously, if you like him back then go for it and consider this to be the shovel talk.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Carter replied, eyes on the ground.
“God, don’t call me that,” Claude huffed out a laugh, swinging her duffle onto her shoulder and grabbing her god-awful, gigantic purse that she couldn’t believe she owned and hated how practical it was for travel, “Go finish packing up. Breakfast is in fifteen minutes.”
“Are...are we good?” Carter asked, looking up her Captain.
“Yeah, we are,” Claude smiled softly, “thank you for telling me.”
Carter gave a wobbly smile and opened the door for Claude.
Claude set her duffle with the rest of the luggage and then threw the purse-bag into a chair in the back corner of the section that’s been sectioned off for the team before heading over to the buffet. She hummed to herself as she loaded her plate up, taking two biscuits, breaking them both in half, and scooping a nice sized helping of hashbrowns onto her plate and covering it all with sausage gravy. She grabbed a fruit cup, a yogurt, and utensils before heading back to her table.
“What?” she pretended she wasn’t whining when she saw Sean waiting for her.
“I got you a coffee,” Sean placed the larger of the cups in front of her seat.
“You can stay,” Claude replied, because she was gracious like that.
Sean chuckled and set his own cup back, leaving only to fill his own plate up.
“Hartsy talk to you?” Sean asked, apparently wanting to get the painful topic out of the way first.
“She did,” Claude nodded, “She said they were drunk but they were safe. I told her that she needed to figure out how she felt about Carson so that she wouldn’t be leading him on.”
Sean nodded, shoving eggs into his mouth and wrinkled her nose in disgust as some fell back out. Seriously, how was this man married with a baby on the way?
“How was your night?” Sean asked, cackling like he knew exactly what she was thinking. He probably did.
“It was good, nice,” Claude replied, “we got pizza, split a pint of ice cream, and watched Criminal Minds.”
“That all?” Sean wiggled his eyebrows.
“That’s all I’m telling you about,” Claude replied, taking a sip of her coffee and smiling softly. Sean was annoying at times but he knew how she liked her coffee.
Claude looked up and spotted Morgan by the entrance to the dining room, pulling her hook up down into a deep kiss right as Joel walked past and she felt a tiny bit of pity for the red head. But mostly made a note to talk to Morgan. Whatever Joel had said at the bar must have been bad for her to rub it in his face.
“Did you talk to Beezy last night?” she asked quietly, eyes tracking the rookie as he filled up his plate and tried not to look at Morgan.
“I told him it’s probably not a good idea to call the girl he likes a slut,” Sean responded.
Claude’s mouth dropped, “He didn’t.”
“He didn’t use the word, but it was heavily implied.”
Claude sighed and shook her head, “They’re already so much worse than Patty and TK.”
“At least they made up,” Sean gestured to where the couple was shoved into a booth, bickering like always, but Nolan’s eyes were shining in a way they wouldn’t be if she was still pissed at Travis.
“Thank God,” she laughed, there was honestly nothing more pathetic than Travis when Nolan was pissed at him.
Claude pretended she didn’t notice Morgan’s carefully arranged scarf or the way TK was definitely still paying penance for whatever comment he made by listening to Nolan’s choice of music without complaining. Or the way Carson hadn’t been able to look at her all morning without going completely red. Or the way Joel was sitting across the aisle and was looking at Morgan with the saddest look she had ever seen on the kid.
She stopped, looked up, and heaved a sigh before yanking Carson up and pushing him toward the back of the bus and pulling Joel out of his seat and pushing him into the now open spot next to Morgan - who gave both of them a wide-eyed look.
“Fix it,” she instructed, glaring at the two rookies before heading to the back of the bus and sliding into the spot next to Carson.
“Cars,” she muttered, “as long as you’re smart and careful you can do what you want. You’re an adult now.”
“You’re not -”
“Do I like it? No. But that’s because I look at you sometimes and that twelve year old begging me to help him with his backhand is looking at me,” Claude replied honestly - because she was always honest with him.
“She said she needs to figure out how she feels about me,” Carson mumbled.
“And you need to let her,” Claude replied, “Because if you were to enter into a relationship at two different points - with two different goals - there’s a chance it could implode and that wouldn’t be good for either of you.”
“But you and Cros -”
“I would not recommend starting a relationship the way me and Sid did. It…. we almost broke up way more than once...he almost broke me. We had to detoxify our relationship and that took a lot of time.”
“You...you never talk about that.”
“I didn’t tell a lot of people about that part. I think Danny was the only one who knew. It was… Sid and I don’t like thinking about it.”
“If you want -”
“Maybe when you’re older,” Claude grinned over at him, her eyes shining, and Carson laughed.
By the time they got to the airport, Carson was back to acting normal and Morgan didn’t look like she was a breath away from murdering Joel in his sleep so that was an improvement. Even if she took a seat next to Nolan on the plane - which resulted in Nolan giving Travis a very pointed look and Claude found herself smiling softly. Because TK really was probably the best option to help Joel in that moment - Lord only knew how many times he had stuck his own foot in his mouth.
The flight to Chicago wasn’t long and Claude was planning to take a nap. But then Carson asked if she wanted to play cards and she glared at Jake - who was doing a terrible job of pretending that he wasn’t using her inability to say no to anyone with the last name Briere to get her to join the game.
She got him back by winning his entire stash of Oreos and she was not planning on giving any back.
When they got to the hotel, she had barely started to unpack when there was a knock at her door.
“Why?” she asked her empty room.
It wasn’t like whoever needed her wasn’t going to see her in thirty minutes for Team Dinner.
When she opened the door, Morgan was waiting for her. With Nolan.
“I thought you and TK made up,” Claude directed at Nolan, waving them into the room.
“We did,” Nolan replied.
“So why are you here?”
“Okay, Morgan, talk.”
“When we were out last night, that guy I hooked up with… I wasn’t going to but then Joel… and I got angry. And, like, if he thinks I’m easy for it then why not prove him right, you know? But then I couldn’t even enjoy it because Joel’s words were just...in my head. And… He’s apologized and he said he didn’t mean it but he wouldn’t tell me WHY he said it in the first place. And it’s not like I don’t know that he said it because he was jealous. I know that’s why. But… if he likes me, which I know he does, why hasn’t he done anything?”
“Because he’s at that age were guys are their dumbest,” Claude replied. She sighed and sat on the edge of the bed, patting the spot next to her for Morgan to sit down, and continued when she did, “Joel is obviously sorry. He knows he messed up. Now you have to let him make it up to you.”
“Has anyone…. I mean -”
“Yeah,” Claude’s voice was soft, “Sid did. When we first started getting together…. We didn’t have a healthy relationship for the first couple years. It took him almost losing me for him to realize what he actually wanted from the relationship. We’re in a healthy place now and it took a lot of work to get there. But I know what you’re feeling. I know the motivation of ‘well, if that’s what he thinks, then what’s the harm in proving him right?’. But I was stupid about it. And I only stopped when I had a pregnancy scare and had no idea who that father was. Thankfully, I wasn’t but it took my world being rocked for me to realize that a stupid comment made by a pissed off stupid man could have derailed my career.”
“How did you fix it?”
“We were on the same team at Worlds. And MacKinnon stuck his block head into it. He made sure that we were always next to each other at meals, that we were always in each other’s eyeline. He locked us in a closet and told Sid to fix it.” Claude tucked her hair behind her ear, “We were in there for ten minutes before we actually talked. It was the first time I told him that I loved him and that was why his comments hurt so much. That when the guy you’re crazy about thinks that you’re trash then maybe you are and Sid still apologizes for making me feel that way. We started from a toxic place and it took a lot of time - and growing up, frankly - to get to a healthy place with each other. But once we got there, we were able to build what we have now.”
“I didn’t -”
“You and Joel need to talk. You need to really talk. You need to get on the same page. Because he’s at the point in his life where he’s going to be at his stupidest and - frankly - so are you.”
“Look, if you need advice on dating a teammate, I’m here,” Nolan broke into the conversation, “TK and I have had our bumps, he never shuts up and his foot has ended up in mouth many times. And sometimes we’ve both let negative emotions affect us and we’ve had to have those hard conversations.”
“It won’t always be easy and perfect,” Claude added, “but if Joel makes you happy, then go for it. But talk - really talk when things go sideways.”
Nolan nodded her head and Claude chuckled, “If Patty can talk about her feelings, I’m sure you can.”
Nolan huffed and rolled her eyes but smiled.
“Okay,” Morgan nodded, “I’ll talk to him tonight.”
“Good,” Claude ruffled her hair and said, “now get out of my room so I can change for dinner.”
By the next morning, it seemed like everything had been resolved.
Joel had strolled into breakfast and presented Morgan with a bouquet of flowers and she had blushed brightly but her smile shone brighter than Claude had ever seen it. And Joel went bright red when Morgan kissed his cheek.
Across the dining room, in the two person table in the far corner, Carter and Carson were eating and Carson had that doopey grin on his face while Carter had a small, fond smile tugging at her lips.
Claude looked away when TK came clattering into the room with Nolan following at a much more sedate pace and Claude shook her head fondly. Something would never change.
Her phone ringing pulled her out of her thoughts and she laughed softly to herself and answered Sid’s call, tuning out the chaos of her teammates as she made up her coffee and chatted with Sid about their nights. She deserved time off from thinking about her teammate's relationships.