Author's Note- Hi all, hope anyone celebrating is enjoying the holiday weekend! Have a new update and a follow up to it nearly drafted. Thanks for reading if you are! More to come soon.
Worn out from crying and worn out in general, Stephanie and Steve sat side by side, slumped back against the couch cushions, each nursing a beer that Joey had taken out for them before going to the back to see Kayla.
"I haven't thought about that day in years," Stephanie sighed, "And now it's all flooding back like it happened last Tuesday or something."
"If it makes you feel better, it came flooding back to me and your mama, too," Steve admitted. "Leave it to her, though," he lightly laughed as Stephanie frowned.
"What did Mom do?"
"Reminded me how despite everything that went on in that aquarium, how sick she was, how I was still living in limbo land, somehow we pulled through. We pulled off a miracle."
"I remember," Stephanie sniffled. "It felt like some crazy fairy tale. Uncle Bo running in with the serum in the nick of time. You and Mom reenacting the last scene of Snow White."
"Snow White?" Steve questioned as Stephanie looked at him, appalled.
"Snow White, Papa. The classic Disney movie with-"
"Stephanie," Steve cut in. "Your papa's brain may have gone through a few wash cycles, but I promise you, I'm not that far gone yet."
"But you just asked me-"
"No, I know all about Snow White and her handsome prince and the seven dwarf dudes."
"And that you kissed Mom back to life, which is the last scene of-"
"Sleeping Beauty, Little Sweetness," Steve mimicked. "The classic Disney movie with-"
"Papa," Stephanie glared as he grinned.
"I'm just saying, Sleeping Beauty had a rose. Your mama's blonde hair. And according to her, I'm that Prince Phillip dude with a patch."
"Oh, my God."
"Ask her yourself. Guess he's got my good looks; he's into sword fighting. He knows how to dance."
"I cannot believe we're having this conversation," Stephanie laughed as Steve softly smiled, grateful he could distract her, even for a few minutes.
"You know, though, I'm not a big fan of all these live-action Disney remakes. Really wish that you and Mom d… didn't-"
When her voice broke, Steve set his beer on the coffee table and turned towards her.
"Baby girl, we don't know what's gonna-"
"I'm pretty sure we do, Papa," Stephanie interrupted. "Mom's gonna get a hell of a lot worse before she has a shot at getting better. And it's not like John and Marlena can run to Canada this time and track down a cure. Not if Orpheus has anything to say about-"
"Hey," Steve cut in. "We're through talking about that filthy pig in this house," he said, his voice a low growl.
"Stephanie. I don't want you or anyone giving that bastard more credit than he's already tried to take. You understand?" he asked as Stephanie bit her lip but nodded.
"Yeah, I understand."
"He's not God, Little Sweetness. Much as he wishes, little Milo Harp's got no way of knowing how this is all gonna shake out. So we're not gonna along with his crap or put what he's spewing ahead of everything you and I know, right here," Steve said, patting his heart for emphasis.
"We're not all-knowing either, last I checked," Stephanie reminded.
"We aren't, but we know your mom. And if anyone can beat this maniac at his own game…."
"I know she's gonna try, Papa. I know that she's trying. But she's not invincible, and neither are we. She's sick. And I'm scared. Same as her and Tripp and Joey and you."
"I know, baby girl," Steve sighed. "If it helps, though, talking with you right now, it's helping out with that fear."
"'Cause right now, I'm talking with the reason your mama got through some of the toughest times of her life," he admitted, his eye welling up as he did so.
"I know I've had a few chances over the years to play hero and be her Prince Patch. But two of the strongest women I've ever known are in this house right now, and that's 'cause the two of you made each other that way."
Shaking her head, teary-eyed again now, too, Stephanie took a small sip of beer before she set the bottle on the coffee table, letting out a slow breath.
"You know, you can take a little credit, too," she said sincerely. "The only reason Mom let me get away with having a bit of an attitude or with half the stuff I pulled as a kid, was I reminded her too much of you for her to really get mad at me."
"Is that true?" Steve asked, amused.
"More than once, I got her calling me Stephanie Earl. What do you think?"
Grinning when Steve laughed out loud, Stephanie turned to face him on the couch.
"You know that storage bin that you and Joey were wrestling over? One of the folders in it got me thinking of this one night decades ago. I actually got Mom to let me pull an all-nighter with her after convincing her-"
"To do your take on the Pepsi challenge?" he asked as she nodded.
"She told me all about it the other night."
"Did she tell you that she fell asleep in the plate of mac and cheese I made for her?"
"She said she almost conked out," Steve recalled with a smirk. "But you're telling me she actually-"
"Orange cheese sauce highlights," Stephanie laughed, running her hand over her hair as Steve cracked up.
"I wish you'd gotten a Polaroid, Little Sweetness," he grinned before reaching for his phone off the coffee table. "Here. Check this out."
Showing her the whipped cream selfie still acting as his lock screen, Stephanie laughed out loud before her smile went softer, sadder. Realizing she'd gone quiet, Steve looked on with concern.
"You two couldn't have taken that more than a couple of days ago. And now, she's just-"
"Now she's got you and Joe here to insist on this being our Christmas card. You think that's not gonna get her Irish up?"
"Papa, I'm serious."
"So am I, Little Sweetness. We know your mama's a fighter. So what we're gonna do is make sure she keeps fighting til we track down a serum to do the heavy lifting. You understand?" Steve asked as Stephanie wiped at her eyes, then got to her feet.
"Steven and Stephanie Earl reporting for duty?" she asked as Steve managed a smile and got to his feet as well, then cut over to the fridge.
"Just returning the favor for the little dude," Steve said, grabbing a beer for Joe along with a canister of whipped cream.
"Wait," Stephanie said, seeing the latter. "What are you doing with-"
"Just thinking your mama may ask for a retake on that Christmas card."
"Papa..." she warned as Steve grinned, ducking down the hallway.
"Grab some prop mugs out of the cupboard, will you, baby girl?" he asked playfully, earning an eye roll as Stephanie made her way to the cupboard, then took her phone out of her pocket.
Getting his voicemail, she rolled her eyes less playfully, leaning back against the kitchen counter as she rubbed the bridge of her nose with her free hand.
"Tripp, I...Dad told us. So did Mom and that maniac's goddamn tape. I know you said you'd be back here later. Just know I'm really holding you to that now, so call or text me when you're on your way, alright? Thanks."
Swallowing hard, set to reply with a text but realizing his hand and thumb by extension were shaking, Tripp shoved his phone in his pocket. Trying to tamp down his frustration and the nervous knot in his stomach that still managed to form each time he'd be outside this apartment in need of anything.
Steeling himself, he went to knock right as the door swung open, startling him.
"Jesus, how'd you-"
"Security camera, sweetheart. One of those Ring things? Can't be too careful," Ava said before her smile faded at the look on Tripp's face. Quickly putting an arm around him, she led him inside.
"I wouldn't have asked you to meet here if it wasn't safe, though, alright? I promise you have nothing to worry about."
"Wouldn't be so sure about that," Tripp murmured. When his phone buzzed, notifying him again about Stephanie's missed call, the lump in his stomach gave way to a lump in the back of his throat as tears sprang to his eyes.
Pulling Tripp into a tight hug, Ava rubbed at his back, her eyes icing over when she heard her son sniffle.
"You can be sure, Tripp. Alright? There's no need to worry. It's just like I promised you," she assured, pulling back enough to look him in the eye.
"I'm right here to help. And let me tell you, I've got a plan."
Post by wildheartashley on Jun 4, 2023 6:36:38 GMT -5
Love how supportive Steve and Stephanie are of each other. Loved the Disney movie banter. Getting Ava in the mix probably won’t end well, or at least cause more conflict for all involved. Can’t wait to see what happens next.