Disclaimer: I do not own the Mighty Ducks.
AN: I know that I promised not to neglect this story but I went an entire month without writing anything new. I only updated stories that I had backlogged on my computer because I was going through a lot emotionally and I had some family issues. Now that that has all passed I'm able to update this story again.
After working eighteen hour days for two weeks Julie was craving normalcy. With less than a week before the ad campaign that she had been working was due to launch she felt like she was running around in circles most days. The kids were spending a lot more time with Adam and since his mom was getting worse he had hired a nanny to come in for a few hours a day so that he wouldn't have to take time off from work.
The kids had been home for less than an hour when the phone rang while Julie was in the shower. Nathan was down for his nap and Peyton was watching TV in Julie's room. Peyton came into the bathroom with the phone and yelled to be heard over the noise of the shower.
"Mom, telephone," she called.
"Who is it?" Julie questioned.
She could hear Peyton talking to the person as she turned off the shower. Peyton was holding out the phone when she opened the shower door.
"It's Dean," she answered.
Julie took the phone from her once she had wrapped a towel around her and stepped out of the shower.
"I would have told her that you could call me back if she had told me that you were in the shower," he said with a chuckle.
"It's fine. Whatcha need?"
"I was wondering if you had plans for tonight."
"Nope, me and the kids are gonna stay in. They've been at Adams during the week for the past three weeks so I'm spending time with them. Do you want to come over?"
"Sure. I haven't seen you in a while and I was wondering what you had been up to."
"I've been working myself into the ground. I've got a few more days before my new campaign launches."
"What is this one for?"
"Dasani has a new sparkling water that they've come out with."
"Have you tried it?"
"Yes, and I don't like them. I don't have to either. I just have to come up with a way for people to buy them."
"That should be your slogan," he said with a chortle.
"I'm not kidding, the stuff is nasty."
"I'll remember not to buy it when I see it in the store. Thanks for the heads up."
"Not a problem. Come over about five, okay? I'll make a pizza and rent some movies."
"That sounds good."
"I'll see you later."
"See you later."
Portman was just the person to take her mind off of everything. Even as a teenager he had a knack for getting her to unwind and getting inside her head that no one else could do except for Adam. She was thankful that he was willing to rebuild their friendship again. Even though she hadn't seen him in almost a month, she didn't let more than a few days go by without talking to him. He let her vent and gave her sound advice. It was like nothing had changed.
He turned in a full circle, taking in the now nearly empty room. The only things left in it were the desk, bed, dresser and nightstand that had been in the room when he had moved in. He had completely removed any trace of his ever living there. He was thankful that Guy had let him stay with him until he had gotten back on his feet but he knew that he couldn't stay there forever. It was time that he left and stopped depending on everyone else.
Turning in his resignation at school hadn't been easy. He was using what money he had to make the trip to New York and he would probably be crashing on Connie's couch until he could find a job and a place to live. He felt a twinge of panic as he carried the last box out to his car. The only person who knew that he was leaving was his mom. She had been apprehensive about his leaving but she understood why he needed to leave.
Other than his mom, there was nothing holding him back from leaving. He had purposely waited for the hockey season to be over so that they would have a chance to find someone before next season. The only hitch in his leaving was that he more than likely wouldn't be able to find a teaching job until the fall which meant that he would need to find a temporary job for the next six months.
He left a note for Guy on the kitchen table along with his keys for the house before walking out of the house for the last time. He didn't look in the rearview mirror as he pulled away from the house. It wouldn't do him any good and it wouldn't change things. After the year he'd had he needed a new start, he wasn't going to get that by staying in Minnesota.
Julie was drying Nathan after giving him a bath when Peyton let Portman in. Julie had spent an hour at the store because she couldn't remember what he liked on his pizza so she had bought a little bit of everything hoping that he didn't turn his nose up to it. She heard footsteps on the stairs while she tried to put a diaper on Nathan. He was being difficult, wiggling and scooting away from her screaming at the top of his lungs in protest. He quieted down when Portman came to stand behind her. His eyes lit up and he smiled a wide gummy smile. Julie sighed in victory when he settled down and let her finish getting him dressed.
"Of course he settles down when he sees you. He thinks you're the greatest thing second to his favorite ball," she said when Nathan reached out for him.
"I didn't see any pizza downstairs. It's so typical of a woman to promise food and then not come through," he teased.
"I'm letting you make your own," she stated.
"I've got to work for my dinner?" he asked with a quirked eyebrow.
"It's fun," she reasoned.
"Cooking is fun?"
"Making pizza is fun," she corrected him.
"I can take him off your hands."
She handed him over then he headed downstairs while she threw Nate's dirty clothes in the laundry basket and hung up his towel. She cleaned up the water that had sloshed out of the tub hearing laughter from downstairs. She smiled, glad that the kids had been so receptive of Portman.
Once she was downstairs she got everything ready to make dinner. She called Portman and Peyton into the kitchen once everything was laid out. Peyton climbed onto a stool and immediately started spreading sauce onto a ready-made pizza crust. Portman looked at everything lined up on the island in scrutiny.
"Are we really going to use all of this?"
"I couldn't remember what you liked on your pizza so I bought way too much."
"It's a good thing that I like everything except the kitchen sink and fish on my pizza," he answered before spooning a small amount of sauce onto a pizza.
They talked and laughed while the assembled their pizzas and once they were in the oven Portman helped Julie clean the kitchen. She made a salad while he sat at the island with a beer. Things were quiet and peaceful and Julie was content with the silence. Peyton went into the living room to watch TV while Nathan chewed on a teething cracker in his chair. Portman's phone rang and he looked at it quickly before answering it.
"What's up?" Fulton asked.
"Not much, just hanging out with Jules and the kids."
"So, Peyton and Nate are there."
"Yes," Portman said slowly.
"I figured she had invited you over to dinner so that she could charm the pants off of you."
"No way, it would be the other way around," he said with a laugh.
"You sound awfully sure of yourself for somebody who hasn't been out on a date in over a year."
"It can't be that hard, it's like riding a bike, right?"
"All joking aside, I'm glad that you're attempting to date again…Even if it is with one of our closest friends."
"I'm easing into it."
"Yeah right, I could tell that you had a thing for her the moment you met her," Fulton stated bluntly.
"I have a terrible poker face," Portman said with a sigh.
"Where's Jules now?"
"She's standing right in front of me."
"Who is that?" she asked, brushing garlic and basil infused butter onto a loaf of French bread.
Julie nodded before going back to what she was doing. Portman wrapped up the call then went to the refrigerator to grab another beer.
"What were the two of you talking about?"
"He was just busting my chops because I don't get out that much anymore," he said with a dismissive shrug.
"I guess we both needed a night of doing absolutely nothing."
"Thanks for inviting me over," he said giving her a lopsided grin.
"There is no one who I'd rather spend a lazy night with," she said with a smile of her own.
They had never had a problem being honest with each other. Fulton had always wondered why Portman had never made a move when they were younger. Portman could tell that Adam had his eyes on Julie from the first time he stood up to him for calling her Babe. Julie may have had no problems being frank with him, but Adam was the one that she'd had eyes for back then. Portman had bowed out gracefully, content to just be her friend.
No one had seen Adam's leaving coming, most of all Portman. What kind of person throws away the kind of life that Adam had? A beautiful wife and two amazing kids; that was enough make even the most cynical of men happy.
"Have you talked to Adam recently?"
"I talked to him when he dropped the kids off this morning."
"I meant really talked to him, without the kids around," Portman clarified.
"He came over a couple of weeks ago for dinner," she said looking down at her hands.
"And, what happened?"
"He's seeing a therapist, who has diagnosed him as being depressed and bipolar. His dad is bipolar, and Adam sees it as a huge blow to the stomach. He has spent his entire life trying not to be like his dad and now he can't run from it anymore," she said sadly.
"Is he on medication?"
"He is, he said that I didn't do anything to push him away, but I can't help thinking that I should have caught on to what was going on sooner," she said brushing her fingers over her eyes.
"Jules don't cry. This isn't a battle that you can help him fight; he hasn't to handle it on his own."
"There talking about letting him go at work because he's a liability. What if he forgets to take his medicine while he has the kids?" she asked, obviously scared.
"You can't worry about that. You're not his mother," Portman said with a shake of his head.
"That's just it; his mom wouldn't be able to remind him. She's in the early stages of Alzheimer's. He moved in with her so that he could take care of her, not the other way around."
"You need to talk to him, that's the only advice that I can give you," he said sympathetically.
"I know, thanks for listening," she said with a feeble smile.
"Anytime," he said patting her hand.
She took a deep breath to calm her nerves before putting the bread in the oven. It was good to talk about what was going on with Adam. She felt like she was struggling to keep her head above water most days. No one had warned her how hard being a single parent would be. Her family did what they could, but unlike Adam's parents they both worked and weren't able to get away. It wasn't easy to have her family in Maine and not be able to see them.
"What are you thinking about?"
"I miss my family, that's all," she said, her voice still weak.
"You have me, and the Ducks," he reminded her.
"I know, but it's not the same. Don't you miss your mom and sister?"
"All the time," he said with a nod.
She got the salad out of the refrigerator and brought it to the table before setting it. Nathan needed to be cleaned up and his diaper needed to be changed so she asked Portman to pull the pizzas and bread out when the timer went off before heading upstairs. Taking the baby upstairs would give her a few more minutes to collect herself. She didn't want to bring Portman down by talking about her problems. Granted, he had asked her about Adam, but she didn't have to tell him everything that she had told him, but it had felt so good to put a voice to the worries that kept her up at night.
Charlie pulled into the parking garage across from Connie's building at a little after seven. He had driven straight through the night knowing that early in the morning was the best time to catch her at home. He crossed the street and nodded at the doorman who tipped his hat with a smile when he let him in. The concierge tried to stop him as he passed the front desk.
"I'd like to surprise her," Charlie said over his shoulder as he waited for the elevator.
"Very well Mr. Conway," the concierge said with no emotion.
Charlie bounced on the balls of his feet nervously, waiting for the elevator. The doors opened a minute after he had pressed the button and luckily no one was waiting to get on with him. When the doors opened on Connie's floor there was a couple waiting to go down. Charlie nodded politely at them as he brushed past them. Sweat formed on his brow and upper lip as he walked towards Connie's door at the end of the hall.
He knocked on her door, bracing himself for the line of questioning that would happen once she opened the door.
"Who is it?" she asked through the door.
The locked clicked and the bolt was unlatched within seconds before she threw open the door. She took him in, her eyes wide with astonishment.
"Can I come in?" he asked, laughing lightly.
"Sorry," she said stepping back.
He had enough time to close the door before she threw her arms around his neck and buried his face in his neck.
"I missed you too," he said, patting her back.
"Why aren't you at school?" she asked, her voice mumbled by his shirt.
"You what?" she asked, pulling away to look him in the eye.
"I figured that the schools were just as nice here as they are in Minnesota," he said with a sheepish shrug.
"Are you serious?" she asked cautiously.
"I am dead serious."
"Oh my God," she said with a laugh before throwing herself at him once more.
He laughed before placing a kiss on her forehead. He had been worried that she wouldn't want him there. He should have known better than to think that she would be anything other than happy to see him.
"Would it be okay if I stay here until I can find a temporary job and have some money coming in so that I can find a place? I used all of my money to move here,"
"You don't need to worry about finding another place to stay. You don't know how many times I have come this close to asking you to come here," she said holding her fingers a centimeter apart.
"I would have dropped everything to be here."
"I know, but I would have felt guilty if you hadn't left on your own," she reasoned.
"What time to do you to be at the office?"
"Something told me to take the day off so I called less than twenty minutes ago to tell them that I wasn't coming in. I'm glad I listened," she said with a laugh.
"Me too," he said, laughing along with her.
He let her pull him to the bedroom and then push him onto the bed. He could worry about bringing his stuff in later. He didn't worry about someone stealing his things because they wouldn't go for much on the street. He was with Connie; that was all that mattered.
AN2: It took me five days to write this chapter because I've had some problems with my knee. I wasn't able to sit for longer than half an hour before it got uncomfortable. But I powered through and I got this done. I hope that all of you enjoyed it.