As team manager, Lardo is used to looking out for certain signals from her boys.
Shitty swears the most when he’s happiest, but if he says “damn” more than “fuck” then his family probably called, and he needs to come “help her work” (also known as, “watch her work while holding her paints and unironically listening to Black Parade”).
Jack muttering in French isn’t a problem, unless he’s staring into space at the same time. Then it’s time to get Shitty and make a run to the library for a WWII documentary.
Ransom and Holster have been tending to each other’s needs from the moment they met, so it’s just a matter of listening to what they say the other needs.
Bitty’s moods are as transparent as his crush on Jack, so it’s just knowing when to turn the oven off or when to ask him what’s up.
She and Dex have an open-door policy: any time he needs to vent or get angry or just talk without fear of judgment, consequences, or well-meaning advice, he comes to her, and she takes care of him however he asks her to, no questions asked.
She reads Nursey’s poetry on a daily basis. For all his “chill” exterior, his poetry shows a range of passion and emotion that is almost too intense, even for her. She’s still experimenting with reactions - autumnal themes sometimes mean he wants to spend more time with Dex, but sometimes it means he just wants to get away from everything for a while. She’s planning on taking a poetry class next semester as an elective to try to get a better understanding of the boy.
Chowder, though. Chowder is a mystery. When she first met him, she started to treat him like Bitty, expecting his emotions to be just as close to the surface and obvious to understand, but it took her one week of practice to change her mind. The boy had anger, the deep, quiet kind that was all the more deadly for its stillness. On the ice, his eyes were colder than the surface he skated on, and she reconsidered.
She’s not ashamed to say that she stalked him on Facebook (especially compared to the amount of research she did for Jack, and is doing for Nursey). She dug up everything she could find on him, and still came up empty, so she returned to basics. She did what every art major does best; she watched.
She watched how his babbling was broken up by bursts of silence, his enthusiasm by periods of narrow-eyed concentration, his joyful exuberance by naps on the couch. Most of all, she watched him on the ice, how that seemed to be the only place he let the cold take over, the force and ferocity with which he repelled the pucks shot his way. She watched, waiting for the moment she understood what was happening inside his head, until the moment she realized she never would.
“Where are we going?” Chowder asked as they left the Haus, toward the end of the semester.
“The counseling center,” she replied, “but only if you want to.” She swallowed when the boy - the man, she corrected herself, spotting the ice and weariness that did not exist in children’s eyes - pull up short.
“Why?” One word, not particularly angry, but not particularly forgiving, either. Lardo drew herself up.
“Chowder, it’s my job to look after my boys,” she started. “I make sure everyone is okay, and everyone has what they need to get through the season. Maybe this is hubris, but I kinda think I’m good at it.”
“You are,” Chowder interrupted, and Lardo smiled at him.
“Maybe, but even I have my limits. You’re hurting, Chris, in ways I don’t have words for, in places I don’t know how to get to. You don’t have to go into it, but am I wrong?” Silence greeted her, and she watched Chowder’s shoulders slump. “I may not be able to help you, but at least let me get you to someone who can.” After a long moment, Chowder nodded, and they took off again.
“I thought I was hiding it,” he murmured after a minute, and Lardo looked up at him.
“You were, quite well, actually,” she replied. “I never would have seen if I hadn’t been looking. But that’s the point; you didn’t need to. You never need to. Everybody needs somebody sometimes. That’s what I’m here for.”
“Because it’s your job.”
“Yes,” she agreed. “But also because I’m your friend.” They had reached the front of the counseling center. She looked back up at him. “You want me to wait for you?”
“No,” he replied, his eyes already far away, on ice. They cleared for just long enough for him to look down at her. “But can you get Bitty to make me a blueberry pie, for when I get back? I think I’m going to need one.”
“Yeah, course.” She watched as he walked away, before putting in the order with Bitty and sidestepping his concern via text. He didn’t thank her, they never do, but she didn’t need it anyway.
As team manager, Lardo is used to looking after her boys. And in the case of her Californian goalie, that means a weekly walk to counseling and a pie order for afterwards.
God, she loves her job.