Summary: The Ducks wrap up their first school year at Eden Hall with the yearly marriage project. Seven of the players are more on the verge of divorce than others, though, when the whole project starts to get completely out of hand.
Dedication: I was going to say none, but I have to dedicate it to Kristine (nygoldfish54) and Sam (trulyforgotten9) as I wouldn't have become a better writer without their help.
Disclaimer: The Mighty Ducks belong to Disney. I own Fred, Kate and Daniel. Lex belongs to nygoldfish54. (Lex was originally not in this story, but Kristine suggested I'd use her, and I just couldn't pass that up...)
Chapter 2: Ain't That A Kick In The Head
Ms. Hudson unfolded the piece of paper that held their doom and destruction, calling out names right and left, sometimes met by disappointed groans, sometimes by relieved sighs. Charlie was almost certain he wouldn’t have much to be relieved about once this was over.
Kate McKinley was showing more interest in him than usual, rocking her chair back onto its hind legs so she could lean against his table, saying “Woe is you, Captain?” every time he sighed deeply. He wished she could mind her own business and leave him to sulk in peace.
Finally they all seemed to have gotten a partner, even Goldberg, who seemed at least a bit content at the prospect of being paired with Lila Summers, the prettiest girl on the cheerleading squad. Charlie felt a jolt of jealousy shooting through him, as he would’ve given anything for a minute alone with Lila, even if it resulted in the worst grade ever known.
Julie seemed to be on the edge of her seat now, as her name still hadn’t been called. Charlie was tempted to make a bet with Averman over when he supposed Julie would speak up and interrupt Ms. Hudson, but decided against it, as he didn’t have enough money to make such wagers.
Julie nearly fell off her chair when Ms. Hudson finally got to her. “Julie Gaffney and Fred Ahlgren,” she said, having some difficulty getting Fred’s last name out, as if she didn’t want to insult him by pronouncing it wrong. Julie didn’t seem too happy about this arrangement, but gathered her things and moved over to join Fred. “You’re couple number seven.”
Charlie quickly skimmed through the list of assignments on the paper he’d gotten. Julie and Fred were supposed to have two children and come from a working class background. Charlie wondered if Ms. Hudson had paired them together because she was aware that neither Fred nor Julie came from a working class family.
“Oh, bad luck for Ms. Gaffney,” he heard Averman whisper from the back. “Anyone wanna bet who’ll get paired with who?” Connie promptly shoved at him to get him to shut up. “Oh, like you wouldn’t be disappointed if you didn’t get paired with Guy? And dear Charlie here will be absolutely devastated if he doesn’t get to play house with Linda.”
Charlie tensed, mortified by being singled out like that. The breakup was bad enough as it was without Averman drawing attention to it. “Shut up,” Charlie hissed angrily, throwing a quick look in Linda’s direction. Linda was blushing furiously, looking outraged at Averman’s suggestion. Meeting her eyes, Charlie conveniently grew more interested in a spot on the windowsill.
Averman rolled his eyes. He wished those two could just cut the crap and get back together. They weren’t fooling anyone with their slightly deranged behavior.
“Connie Moreau and Daniel DeRienzo, you are couple number eight.”
Connie winced slightly, quietly whimpering under her breath as she grabbed her bag and got up from her seat. Guy snapped his head away from staring out the window, clearly deeply distressed by this arrangement, his eyes glaring daggers at Daniel. “Great, one of the jocks,” Daniel muttered to Fred, pointedly raising his eyebrows, completely disregarding that Julie was sitting two seats away. Charlie decided to himself that he would help Guy dismember Daniel if he did anything bad to Connie.
While Guy hated Daniel’s guts; Luis’ name was called, pairing him with Linda. Once again, Charlie felt that strange jolt of… something. “It’s not too bad, man,” Fulton said in an attempt to lighten Charlie’s mood. “They’re supposed to have marriage trouble or something.”
“Right,” Charlie shrugged, not really caring what Linda did – even if he was a bit curious if she was terribly disappointed in not being paired with him. There was nothing wrong with curiosity, Charlie convinced himself.
“Woe is you, Captain?” came the annoying voice from the edge of his table.
“Oh, please don’t let her be paired with me,” Charlie groaned miserably, trying to ignore the beaming redhead.
“Hey, I take offense to that!” Kate smiled, biting her lip and leaning forward even more. “Look, Captain, I heard about your breakup with Linda, and I just wanna say that-”
Charlie was about to strangle her when Fred turned to them. “Kate, I’m sure you’re the only one who cares,” he announced. “Leave Charlie alone before he sics his enforcers on you.”
Kate didn’t say anything for almost five seconds. Charlie barely had time to feel some gratitude towards Fred for getting her to shut up before she opened her mouth again, tilting her chair back as far as she could-
“Kate McKinley and Dean Portman, you’re couple number ten,” Ms. Hudson announced.
-and then just as fast, Kate’s chair tipped back too far, sending her and the chair to the floor with a loud crash. “What?” she shrieked from somewhere under the table. “I’m with that great big bumble-headed bamboo?! He doesn’t have any manners at all!” Fred and Daniel both grabbed her arms to haul her up to her feet.
“Me?! You’re the one acting like a five-year-old on a sugar high!” Portman objected loudly, slamming his book into the table to show just how much he disapproved of this choice of a partner for him.
“Me?!” Kate howled with a voice that was so high-pitched that most people in the room winced. Charlie figured only seventy-eight percent of her shriek was an act. Kate and Portman stared defiantly at each other – Portman towering over her, while Kate balanced on her tip-toes to make herself look taller.
“Please, both of you, sit down, or you will spend the rest of the afternoon serving detention for disturbing the class,” Ms. Hudson said tiredly, used to their dramatized reactions. Both Kate and Portman sat down, obviously not wanting to risk being stuck inside for the reminder of the day, even if it meant not being able to make a big scene.
“Could you possibly calm down a notch?” Daniel muttered to Kate, as she rubbed her elbow with her hand, obviously having gotten a bruise or two after the fall.
Charlie realized that his name hadn’t been called yet, and everyone else had been taken. Except…
“As we have an uneven number of males and females in the class one of you is forced to finish the project without a partner,” Ms. Hudson said. Charlie drew a breath of deep relief. He wouldn’t have to deal with anyone over the following two weeks. “Mr. Reed, you get to experience the ups and downs with being a newly divorced single father.”
“Oh, how old is your egg? Maybe we can set up a play date?” Kate said instantly. Fulton shrugged, smiling slightly. He didn’t seem to have too much against working on his own.
Adam’s hand shot into the air. “Ms. Hudson? Are you allowed to change partners?”
Ms. Hudson addressed them all when she replied. “Giving up on the project is not an option. That includes leaving your partner, changing partner with someone else – or leaving one person to do all the work. Believe me, I will know if this occurs.”
“Is it okay to cheat on one’s partner?” Portman asked. Kate swatted at him again. “What if I feel like abusing her a little?”
“Hey!” Kate objected.
“I’m just kidding!” Portman laughed, as he saw the disapproving look on Ms. Hudson’s face.
“I do hope for your own good that you are, Mr. Portman,” she said firmly.
“But cheating is all right, then?” he went on, grinning.
“Just shut up,” Julie said anxiously, obviously worried that Ms. Hudson might give them all detention if he didn’t stop.
“Why would you wanna trade partners?” Charlie snorted, wondering who could be so bad that Adam couldn’t deal with her.
“Has your name been called yet?” Adam asked bitterly, almost fuming with annoyance.
“What? No, but why…” Charlie muttered, then realizing what he was saying. “Oh. Oh no…” He quickly turned to face Ms. Hudson. “Please, Ms. Hudson, there must be someone else you can pair him with? I can do the assignment myself! Or, you can pair him with Fulton!”
Ms. Hudson sent him a cold stare. “Mr. Conway, Mr. Banks, you are couple number eleven. No forfeiting of any kind is allowed. You will all hand in your written assignments to me in exactly ten days from now. The phone numbers to where you will be doing your practical vocational training are included on the handouts. If there is any problem with your assignment, contact me – unless it concerns petty differences, as you are expected to solve those yourself.” She was specifically looking at Charlie and Adam when she said the last part.
As Adam made his way up to Ms. Hudson to collect their egg, Charlie moaned with despair and hit his head repeatedly against the table.
Averman was beside himself with excitement during dinner that evening, making wager after wager with people he barely knew on how long it would take a certain couple to give up, have a nervous breakdown, or – as Charlie thought was most likely in his and Adam’s case – kill each other in cold blood. “You would make an excellent divorce lawyer, man,” Russ said, shaking his head when Averman tried to talk him into betting $20 on Portman and Kate being the first couple to physically assault each other. “Thinkin’ it’s funny people’re breaking up and makin’ money off it at the same time. No, man, I don’t care what the odds are; I’m not making any more bets with you!”
Julie came hurrying up to their table, clutching her books against her chest, looking worried. “You guys, I invited Fred over to sit with us, so he and I can work on the project,” she announced with a hushed voice. “Could you please behave and not scare him off? I have to work with him for the next couple of weeks, you know, it would really help if we at least started off on the right foot.”
“Chill,” Portman muttered, taking a small sip directly out of his milk carton. This made Julie wrinkle her nose, but she didn’t comment on it. “Man, do you take this thing seriously!”
“It makes out 30% of our final grade,” Julie explained nervously, biting her lip as she often did when she was distressed. Charlie almost expected her to start skipping from one leg to another with impatience, but she didn’t. “Please, you guys?”
“I don’t see what the big deal is,” Guy shrugged. “It’s not like we don’t know him – are you expecting us to attack him and, like, peck him to death or something?”
“Yeah, the kid’s all right, let him come hang with us,” Portman said indifferently, taking another sip.
Julie seemed a bit uncertain before she replied. “Well… I kind of told him that he could invite his own friends over too, you know, Kate and Daniel, I mean.”
The milk splattered all over the table (mostly right at Dwayne, who stared unhappily at his now soaked sandwich) when Portman exclaimed chokingly, “Kate?! You don’t think I have enough of her during class? Now you’re dragging her over to eat at our table too?”
“Oh, man. He really is gonna peck her to death, ain’t he?” Russ said, observing Portman’s fit of insanity.
Julie seemed prepared to start yet another pointless fight with Portman over absolutely nothing – granted, that was what the two of them did best, after all – but they were luckily interrupted by Kate’s resounding giggle. “Hey there, Duckies,” she smiled, coming to a halt right next to Julie. She was carrying a tray filled with lasagna, two pieces of bread, a muffin and a slice of apple pie with custard. “How’s it going? Care if I join ya? Thought I’d never get out of that line; it’s hell trying to get yourself some food when they’re serving apple pie, ain’t it?”
Charlie realized after three minutes that he could completely filter out Kate’s voice if he wanted to, as she kept talking...and talking...and talking, like she was doing commercial for batteries. “So, anyway,” Guy said, turning his attention away from Kate’s yapping to the teammates on his side of the table. “I’ve asked around, and this Daniel guy seems nothing but trouble. I dunno, do you think I can convince Ms. Hudson to give Connie another partner? It doesn’t even have to be me. You know, it’s in her best interest and all.”
“Sure it is,” Russ said amusedly. “Don’t you think she can take care of herself?”
“Well, of course she can,” Guy replied, ignoring Russ’s initial sarcasm. “I’m just… he’s… he’s just so… slimy! And sly! And deceitful!”
“You do realize those are all pretty much the same thing, right?” Adam pointed out, poking at his pie with the fork.
“Look, all I’m saying is that… if he touches her even the slightest bit inappropriately…” Guy left the sentence unspoken, his face dark from the deepest loathing he could procure.
“Guys, we don’t even know these people too well,” Ken piped up, looking slightly alarmed. “For all we know, they might be decent people. Shouldn’t you save the accusations and plotting of deaths until they’ve proven this wrong?”
“Fred’s all right,” Guy said immediately. “It’s just that Daniel… Do you think he has connections with the mob?”
“Oh, get over yourself!” Russ exclaimed exasperatedly. “All he’s ever done that we know of is to be an obnoxious jerk to everyone he meets.”
“That’s plenty enough,” Charlie decided, remembering his great dislike of Daniel. “I’m with you, Guy. If he goes near her, we’ll kill him.”
Guy looked thrilled to have someone on his side and went on to finish his dinner instead of debating the subject further. “So, anyway,” he continued, his mouth full of salad, “I got paired with that girl who sang with that band at the Valentine’s Dance this year.”
“Which girl?” Adam asked with a slightly disinterested voice, just glad that the new topic didn’t involve killing people.
“Brown hair and brown eyes and stuff,” Guy said simply, shrugging.
“Oh, yes, that narrows it down,” Adam rolled his eyes. “Was she by any chance of a height too?”
“Sure,” Guy replied. “I dunno, she’s just that girl in our class.”
“Did you at least get her name?” Luis asked tiredly. “Maybe you should pay more attention to that project and less at who Connie’s paired with.”
“Eh, I’ll get on that,” Guy mumbled distractedly, obviously busy listening to Connie and Daniel’s conversation.
“Well, I gotta go get more of that pie,” Kate announced loudly, jumping up from her chair, interrupting all ongoing conversations with her abrupt shouting. Charlie noticed that she seemed to be on top of the world, while Portman seemed quite homicidal. Their marriage wasn’t going to last very long, so Averman’s odds for them couldn’t be too good. Charlie made a mental note about that, before biting into his sandwich.
Goldberg joined their table right after Kate disappeared, sitting down next to Adam. “So, how are my favorite newly weds today? Any arguments yet?” he asked with a laugh.
“Screw you,” Charlie muttered. “It’s bad enough I have to live with him. Now I have to adopt an egg with him, too.”
“Don’t influence the egg with your negative energy,” Adam told him, moving the little basket with their egg in it away from Charlie.
“I want a divorce,” Charlie growled, for the third time within an hour. “Who places an egg in a basket anyway? You perfectionist. You’re spoiling an egg!”
“At least I give a damn about my grade. You’d use the egg as a puck if you could,” Adam muttered without looking up from his plate. Charlie didn’t feel the need to object, since it was partly true.
Kate came bouncing back, stopping right behind Portman’s chair and clearing her throat loudly. He ignored her for the first ten fake coughs before he lost his patience. “What?!”
“I’m back. You have to pull out the chair for me. I’m your wife,” Kate explained with one hand on her hip while holding the plate with the other.
“Which is why I’m ignoring you,” Portman said conclusively.
Kate glared at him for a moment, before coughing slightly again. At first starting off with small, delicate coughs, they soon grew into noisy, distracting full out hacking, making it impossible for anyone to do anything but watch her and Portman.
Portman sat calmly on his chair, seemingly undisturbed by Kate’s annoying coughs, probably hoping she’d stop once her throat started to hurt. Kate, however, tried another approach when her hacking didn’t seem to get through, dropping the plate on the table and bringing both her hands to her throat, acting as if she was choking, plunging onto the table, still coughing and squirming wildly.
“For God’s sake!” Portman exclaimed, getting up from his chair, unable to continue eating like nothing was going on now when Kate was sprawled over the table.
“Just stop it, before one of the teachers checks up on us!” Charlie hissed, waving at Portman to do something about Kate’s spectacle.
Portman threw his hands into the air, lost at what to do. “You, get off the table! Are you mad?! Cut it out!”
Kate sat up, still coughing dramatically. “I’m choking and you won’t even show me the decency to bring me some water?” she howled moodily. “Show some manners, you goon!”
Portman gave up a loud, frustrated growl, shoving his chair into the table before quickly walking out of the dinner hall. Kate clapped her hands together, moving down on the floor again. “That was fun. Oh, no. I forgot the custard! I’ll be right back!”
Kate ran off towards the food line, leaving the entire table stunned by her behavior.
“Eh, right…” Luis finally mumbled, still staring at the spot on the table where Kate had twisted around in her fake choking attack. “I thought Linda and I were supposed to be the dysfunctional couple.”
Credits & References
+ Thanks again to Kristine for beta'ing. If reviews were money, my friend, if reviews were money...
+ Ain't That A Kick In The Head was originally sung by Dean Martin.