Chapter 15: Broken, Battered, Bruised [Slapshot!]

Chapter 15: Broken, Battered, Bruised [Slapshot!]


His head ached. His mouth was dry. Luke cringed, then slowly opened his eyes as pain revived him from the blissful grasp of unconsciousness. He pressed his tongue to the roof of his mouth, swallowing reflexively, letting lingering tastes and certain knowledge dissolve in the acid of his stomach.

He heaved a couple of times, then curled into the sheets more, clung to them, tried to tear them apart.

Jake was beside him, back to him, thank god. Luke wasn’t sure he could look at him. He was torn between throttling the asshole and retching all over the bed.

He stayed curled up in a miserable heap instead, wondering why him, of all people? He’d never wanted to be an omega, he’d never asked for anything like this. So why did he always get singled out? Why did he manage to attract the vultures, the black panthers that stalked him through the darkness of a starless night? First there had been Jack, and now Jake, and if he wanted to, he could likely count Mason and Sean both.

After all, they’d done their fair share of shady things, drugs and shit, hazy and half-assed consent.

Didn’t matter though, Luke knew. He was just a stupid omega. Where was his alpha? If he didn’t want to get hurt, he needed to shack up with someone and just stay home, where he belonged. Hidden away from the world for the rest of his life. That was what omegas deserved.

Jake snorted, then rolled over. Luke winced, pondered the other bed for a moment or two. It seemed so far away though. He stared at it longingly, his heart rate picking up when an arm wrapped around him.

“Hey,” Jake murmured into his ear, “you awake?”

Luke’s breath hitched and well, he was screwed. He opened his eyes. “Yeah.”

Jake’s fingers brushed across his lips. “Too bad,” he murmured, his breath washing over Luke’s nape. “You were pretty pliant last night, real nice.”

“’cause you fuckin’ doped me,” Luke ground out, his teeth grating against each other. He was pissed, he realized somewhat belatedly.

That was strange, he thought. He’d never really been angry about it before. Not with Sean, not with Mason.

And not even with Jack. With Jack, he’d just been scared. Terrified.

But he was angry now. He was livid with Jake, he was so pissed that his teammate—his own teammate—would do this to him. That he’d slip him something and take advantage of him, that he’d think he could, and that he would just because Luke was an omega.

He was mad at himself, for staying in that room, for trying to deny what Jake was doing. Defending him, defending the stupid little shit and—

He should have known better. God, how dumb was he? He’d been raped before, Jack had done pretty much this exact same thing to him, time and time again during first year, even before …

He threw off the covers and all but flung himself into the other bed. He couldn’t be near Jake any longer.

The blond alpha was staring at him, clearly confused. Luke couldn’t calm his breathing; he was choking even as he was inhaling, asphyxiating. “Get the fuck out,” he barked with what air he could spare. His voice was trembling, and he hated it, hated how weak he sounded, how weak he was.


“Get out!” he thundered, and that was better, anger crashing over him, rolling through his tone like the incoming tide. “I can’t fucking look at you, get the fuck out!”

Jake’s mouth was a small, round “o,” and Luke wanted to punch him. He balled his fists, bared his teeth.

“Okay,” Jake said, clearly shell-shocked. He rolled out of bed, tossed on a tee and a pair of jeans. “You need to calm your shit.”

“You need to get the fuck out of my space,” Luke snapped back. He dug his nails into his palms, barely holding himself in check.

Jake tugged on his shoes, then disappeared. The door slammed behind him.

The room was silent after that. Unbearably quiet. Still.

He was still angry. He was so beyond angry, he didn’t even know what to do, and he couldn’t do anything to calm himself in that silence, pressing down on him, reinforcing his inability to talk. He couldn’t say anything to anyone. There was no one to tell, no one who understood or could sympathize.

He was alone, and the world was silent, unresponsive. Outside, birds were singing in the early morning light. Traffic was starting to build on the roads as people began their commutes.

Not a soul gave a damn about what had happened in that room. Nobody would care even if he said anything. His voice would be lost in all that noise, drowned out, drowned out in hate and anger and indifference.
He sank down on the bed, drawing his knees to his chest, curling in on himself as the weight of the silence settled on his shoulders.

He’d tried talking. He’d told people—the doctors, the nurses, the police. And they had all just told him to shut up. To be thankful he wasn’t being charged. To be thankful he was even alive.

A knock at the door shattered the silence, sounded like a shot, and he jolted forward. He hesitated, then slid out of bed.

He grimaced as he pulled on his sweats, then headed for the door. He lingered again, then opened it a crack.

He met Danny’s brown eyes, full of concern. “Everything okay in here?” he asked. “I saw Jake in the hall—”

“You got the stuff?” Luke asked, glancing about furtively as he opened the door wider. The hall was empty.

“Huh? Oh. Yeah.” Danny frowned. “You need some?”

“I could,” Luke mused, rocking on the balls of his feet. It would sure dim the pain, he knew, the creeping ache descending his legs, crawling up his spine, radiating through his hips.

More than that, it would numb his mind, dull his thoughts. He wouldn’t be able to think about any of this in more than a vague and passing manner.

“Okay,” Danny said. He seemed breathless, like he wasn’t sure he should do it. He lingered a moment longer, then said, “Did … something happen?”

Luke considered telling the other omega. Seriously considered it for a moment. Danny was omega. Danny would understand.

Then he dismissed it. As if. Just because Danny was an omega didn’t mean he’d understand. Didn’t mean he wouldn’t blame Luke. Didn’t mean shit.

“No,” he lied, “nothing happened. Just … couldn’t sleep.”

Danny nodded slowly, considered him a moment longer. “I’ll be right back,” he said and then disappeared back down the hall.

Luke heaved a sigh and slumped against the doorjamb.


Mason flipped on the television, then tossed the remote somewhere behind the sofa. Nobody was really going to pay attention anyway.

It was only seven and the house was already full of people, mixing and mingling. Halpy was in the kitchen, apparently trying to make pizza or something, even though they’d just sent Dusty to get take out because there were more people than even Mason had anticipated.

Word apparently traveled fast around here.

Duncs was slinging drinks and Trev was probably way too tipsy for his own good and Cam was cutting lines on the coffee table and there were probably a dozen other people that Mason knew—Scottie Tucker of the Falcons, and Jordie Myers, and Gransky, and—

“Heyyyy, Griff!” Mason grinned as he made his way by the Rams winger, who lifted his drink in response.

An arm wrapped around his waist, and he was hauled into the bedroom. He grinned broadly at Linnea, who smirked back and lifted her brows. “So?” she asked, her eyes lighting up. “Is he here?”

“Who?” Mason asked, blinking slowly.

“Silly!” she admonished playfully, giving him a little push. “Lucas.”

“Huh? Oh. No. He’s in Pittsburgh right now.”

“Oh,” she said, disappointment scrawled across her expression.

“Don’t pout, baby,” Mason purred, “I can make it up to you, promise.”

“Hmmm.” She wouldn’t look at him.

“Just give me a chance, yeah?”

She sighed heavily. “I was so looking forward to this,” she said, sticking her bottom lip out even further.

Mason rolled his eyes. “Cheer up, buttercup. Let’s enjoy the party—the night’s young. Who knows what will happen?” He pressed his drink into her hand, encouraging her to sip on it. “I’ll get another,” he said with a wink.
She raised the glass to her lips, burying her smile in the wash of alcohol; she couldn’t hide the mischievous smile in her eyes when she met his gaze though.

He grinned right back, then waltzed into the kitchen. He slid onto one of the barstools beside Duncs. “Hit me up, bartender!”

“You don’t even tip,” Duncs huffed, but slid a shot down the bar. Mason tipped it back, letting it burn down his throat.

“Hey, I know what you get paid.”

“And you still get paid more than me.”

“He gets paid more than most of us.”

“Oy, Corbin, stuff it!”

“Who invited you anyway?”

“Tucker, this is your fault!”

Mason grabbed another drink, then slipped away again, this time into the living room. He caught a glimpse of the game on the screen, then headed out onto the balcony.

“Heeyyyy, Greenie.”

“Ugh, not you. Don’t call me that.”

“Why not?”

“’cause?” He hoisted himself up on the railing and glared at Cody Quinn, who just offered up the blunt he was smoking.
Mason took it from him without question. “Where’s Sangster?” he asked, glancing around. Quinn was almost never apart from Grant Sangster.

“Eh, he had to go home,” Cody replied, “something about his mum or sister or something? I dunno. He’s in Calgary, that’s all I got.”

“Sucks,” Mason said, exhaling smoke. He passed the blunt back to Cody.

“Hey man, what’s up?” The sliding door banged shut, and they both looked up at Rory Khaneman.

“Hey! Haven’t seen you in forever,” Mason drawled. Cody offered up the blunt to the new arrival.

“Pretty sweet party,” Khaner said, then glanced about. “But what the fuck are you in DC for?”

“I wondered that myself,” Cody said, leaning back against the railing. “And who’s place is this?”

“Linnea had a job here, so we grabbed this. Some guy’s AirBnB or something.”

They bought it, thank god. Mason passed on the joint when it came back to him, stepped back inside out of the cool evening air. He glanced at the sky—the moon rising high into the dark of the night—and then turned about.
He stared at the screen, watched Luke crumple up on the ice, hands over his head, trying to protect himself as one of the Rockets laid into him. Mason’s jaw dropped; he dropped his glass.

“Holy shit!” Dusty yelped, but Mason scarcely heard him. He didn’t register the ice-cold liquid seeping through his socks, staining the carpet. He just stared at the screen, horrified and mesmerized as Duchene—that was Dutchie, he could see now—hauled Luke up off the ice by the front of his sweater, winding up to deck him again. There was blood everywhere, all over his glove, his sweater, all over Luke’s face.

Mason felt sick, even as they were pulled apart, Rockets and Stars sweaters mingling, putting bodies between the fighters. “Jesus Christ,” Dusty huffed, and Mason started, looked down at him. “How high are you?”

Mason blinked at him a couple of times.

“What’s going on?” Cody and Khaner stepped in from outside.

“Mayday’s acting like he’s never seen a damn fight before,” Dusty complained.

“Jeeez,” Cody said, and Khaner whistled low. “What’d Mackinnon do to him?”

“Must’ve been something,” Khaner said, tipping back his drink.

They were silent as the replay moved through the fight, frame by painstaking frame. Mason’s throat constricted against rising bile. He forced himself to look away.
“I dunno,” Cody was saying, “doesn’t look like he did anything to warrant that—”

“Oh c’mon.” The sarcasm was dripping from Khaner’s voice. “It’s Mackinnon. You know he fuckin’ did something.”

“Still …”

Dusty looked up at Mason, frowned at him. “Jar? You all right?”

“Probably made a pass at him,” Khaner sneered.

“Ugh, I hate it when he does that. It’s so fuckin’ awkward—”

Mason straightened up, whirling about to glower at them. “Macks is hitting on you?” he snarled.

Even Dusty looked surprised.

“Well,” Cody huffed, “sure seems like it sometimes.”

“You know he’s gay, right?” Khaneman lifted a brow.

Mason stared at him blankly for a moment, then shook his head furiously. “No,” he said, “no, no no. Noooo.”

“Uh, yeah?” Khaneman’s eyes were wide.

Cody sniggered. “Don’t tell me he’s never hit on you, Mayday.”

Khaneman grinned broadly. “Ha! Mayday’s just jealous!”

Mason wondered if the idiot had any inkling of how right he was. Instead he just shook his head again and said, “No, believe me, Macks is not gay. If he was, I’d be the first person to know.”

Dusty raised a brow. Mason paused. “I said that wrong,” he said.

Dusty nodded, but it was too late now; Cody and Khaner were running with it. “You think he’s not just ‘cause he’s never hit on you?”

“What, you figure you’d be his first choice? We know you think you’re all that, Mayday, but seriously …”

“There are people who don’t want to bone you, okay?”

“Shhh, you’re hurting his fragile ego.”

“Will you two shut up,” Dusty snapped.

Mason pinched the bridge of his nose. “I just meant that, Luke’s my friend. We go way back. If he was … he would’ve told me.”

“Mm, maybe, maybe not,” Cody mused.

“I mean, what if he’s still in the closet?”

“Pretty sure he’s not,” Cody retorted. “I mean, have you seen the guy? Such a fag.”

“Hey,” Dusty snapped again.

“Oh, what, not like—”

“Totally like that,” Khaner said to Cody. “I mean. You’re talking about him being gay, then call him a fag. So.”

“Whatever,” Cody muttered, sipping his drink.

“Anyway,” Mason said imperiously, lifting his head, “even if Macks is gay, I seriously doubt he’d hit on either of you.”

“Oh, what do you know!”

“Jealouuuusssss,” Khaner hissed, then took another swig of his drink.

“Maybe you’re not his type, Mayday,” Cody cackled.

Mason quirked a brow. “And he’s into short and stocky?”

“Oy, fuck you, some people find me very attractive.”

“Who, the blind?”

“Shut up, Khaner!”

Mason glanced at the television again, grimacing as they showed the ice crew shoveling the pad, bits of blood coming up off the ice surface. He swallowed again.

Dusty clapped him on the shoulder. “Go get another drink,” he said sagely.

“Yeah,” Mason agreed easily and headed for the kitchen.

“What can I do ya for?” Duncs asked as he plonked down at the bar again.

“Something hard,” Mason said, earning snickers from around the room—including from the girl to his left, a brunette that he didn’t know. He wondered who invited her, who she belonged to. He glanced around, but didn’t see any likely candidates.

“Well, Mayday,” Duncs said, letting his voice drop a notch as he leaned over the counter, “I think I got something for ya.”

More laughter, and Duncs set a glass of whisky down in front of his teammate, grinning broadly. “Drink up! You look pretty rattled.”

“Hm,” Mason said, then tipped back the glass, intent on losing himself in it.

Watching Luke involved in that … mess—he couldn’t even call it a fight—was unsettling. He was torn between rage and guilt: he wanted to beat the shit out of Duchene, just whale on him like he’d been whaling on Luke. And then he felt guilty for not being there, for not being able to protect Luke. He felt like a loser, sitting there, so many miles away, drowning his sorrow in a glass.

And he didn’t even want to think about what Cody and Khaner had been saying, but the words had melded into his mind, playing on infinite loop. He didn’t think—it didn’t seem like Luke to just hit on whoever. And he didn’t think Luke was gay. Or at least, didn’t identify himself that way. Or if he did, he’d never mentioned it to Mason, and that seemed like a pretty large oversight to not mention to your fuckbuddy or … whatever they were to each other.

But then, maybe Luke had assumed he already knew? After all, they slept together.

Mason made no secret of the fact he was bi—he felt little reason to hide it. It wasn’t like his teammates and friends weren’t gonna find out anyway. And sure, yeah, he sometimes got fluffed off as just being a whore or a slut or even just curious about dudes, but no, he liked both. He found men and women both equally attractive. It was one of the reasons he was trying to get Luke into bed with Linnea—having both options available to him appealed to Mason more than most fantasies.

Luke, on the other hand, was pretty mum about the topic of his sexuality. To the best of his knowledge, Mason didn’t think that Luke had slept with a chick since high school, but Mason didn’t know if that made him … gay. Luke had never applied a label to himself, and Mason had been content to let that lie.

But the idea that Luke was gay and hitting on other people—teammates, rivals, friends—rankled him. He’d never known Luke to hit on anyone—not even him—which was part and parcel of Luke’s stringent avoidance of the topic. The idea of him making a pass at someone on the ice …

It was ridiculous, but Mason couldn’t shake the thought, morbid curiosity bubbling up inside him, what if, what if, what if—

He hated the idea. Not because it would put Luke in danger, not because it would mean Luke was gay, but because he wanted Luke to be his and his alone.

He drained his glass, letting the alcohol burn down his throat. “Hey barkeep, hit me up,” he said, sliding the glass down to Duncs.

“Jeez, should I just give you the bottle?”

Mason glanced at the girl to his left, who was looking at him now. “Hey!” he cried, his eyes lighting up. “You’re the girl from the plane!”

“You’re that asshole,” she said in her lilting Russian accent.

Linnea had stepped into the room just then, and she quirked a brow. “I see you know each other,” she said, glancing between them.

The brunette turned to her. “You are not dating this piece of trash,” she said.


“Ow, burn.” Halpy said, grinning.


“Oh, so that’s your name, is it? Katya.”

She turned back to him, her eyes raking up and down his form. He held out a hand. “Mine’s Mason, but you—”

“I do not care what your name is,” she sneered, “I will never say it.”

He grinned broadly, almost a snarl. He felt his eye twitch, his lip curling upward. Who did this bitch think she was? “Oh yeah?” he retorted. “Bet I could make you scream it later—”

“Huh!” She snorted, tossed her hair over her shoulder as she turned back to Linnea. “See? I tell you, he is trash. Dump him.”

“Who even invited you?”

“I did,” Linnea said, and he looked helplessly at her. He knew that, of course. He hadn’t needed the answer.

Katya rose from her stool, glided across the floor to Linnea. She hooked their arms together, leading the Swede back into the hall. “We need to talk,” she said, dragging the blonde away.

“So that went well,” Halpy said.

Mason set down his glass. “I’m callin’ it now, threesome later.”


“Good luck with that, bud.” Duncs seemed unimpressed as he wiped down a glass. Mason boggled at him. “What?”

“Are you seriously doing dishes right now.”

“Well, some fucker keeps using them all—”

“Clearly, you’re just not drinking enough, Duncs—”

Mason glanced past them, into the hall. The girls were right there; he could see Katya gesticulating wildly.

The front door squealed open, then banged shut. Something thudded in the hall. Katya and Linnea paused.

Linnea’s voice was breathy as she said, “Oh my—” and Mason twisted to see the clock and shit, shit, shit—

It felt like only moments ago, he’d been watching the game, but now he realized he must have caught recap. It was long after midnight and that was Luke walking back into his house to a party and—

He nearly toppled the barstool, skidding into the hall, trying to head Luke off. Duncs and Halpy called after him. Linnea gave him a startled look.

“You’re home!” he cried, his voice rising a notch on nervousness.

Luke’s eyes were wide—well, as wide as they could be, what with the swelling and the bruising and Mason grimaced at the sight of him. “What the shit is this,” the omega ground out.

“Uhhhh,” Mason said.

“Is that Mackinnon?” Cody peered around the corner, Khaner right beside him.

Luke didn’t look away from Mason. Mason shifted uncomfortably. He’d never seen Luke look at him like that.

“Shit, it is—”

“The fuck are you doing here, Macks?”

Luke whirled on them. “What am I doing here?” he snapped. “I fucking live here!”


“This is your place?”

“Mayday, what the fuck—”

“Oh my god,” Cam said, and Mason wondered where the hell he’d been all evening, why he had to pick the most inopportune moment to pop up. “Macks is Mayday’s DC booty call.”

“What!” Halpy cried. Scottie, standing in the doorway to the kitchen, choked on his drink.

Cody and Khaner stared at Luke for a minute, then dissolved into helpless laughter. “No, no!” Cody was crying. “It can’t be, that’s too much—”

“Oh my god, no wonder you were pissed we said he hits on us—”

Luke was looking more and more frazzled. “What? When have I ever hit on you assholes, I’d never—”

“—and that’s why he flew out here in such a rush!” Cam was explaining wildly to Griff, Scottie, and Corbin. “And why he got pissed when we stole his phone and—”

Luke caught sight of Linnea, and apparently that was the final straw in his night. “The fuck is she doing here?!” he roared, grabbing Mason by his collar, shaking him. “You said you wouldn’t sleep with anyone else—”

“I never said that!” Mason cried.

“Whoa,” Halpy said.

“This just took a really messed up turn,” Duncs mused.

“I told you! I told you!” Cam was crowing.

Luke froze, as though realizing what he’d done. He glanced about at the crowd, everyone staring at them. He released Mason, his grip going slack, and it was in that moment that Mason caught his scent.

He nearly puked.

“Like you have any right to go at me!” he snapped, slamming Luke back against the wall. “You whore, I can smell it on you! You spend one night, one night, in a different goddamn city, and you come back smelling like someone else’s bitch—”

Luke’s eyes were wide again, his pupils pulled into little slits; his jaw was set.

“And you come in here, get on my case about her—at least I’m not fucking everybody on my goddamn team, a new guy between my legs every goddamn night—”

“Mason,” Luke managed, his voice high and tight.

Mason snarled at him, held him there, his wrists pinned to the wall, and Luke just looked at him, helpless and terrified, and Mason couldn’t help it, he honestly couldn’t.
He shoved to the omega to his knees, forced his head down. “You cocksucking little bitch,” he growled.

“Mason, please—”

“Hey, Jarhead, buddy.” Halpy had his hand, dragged him away from Luke. “Calm down there—”

Mason whirled on him, still gnashing his teeth. He was ready to fight, and if Halpy wanted to stick his neck out then so be it.

Duncs laughed nervously. “Hey,” he said, “you’re acting like he’s your omega bitch, just calm down—”

“He is my omega bitch!” Mason snapped.


“Would you calm the fuck down, what are you even talking about—”

And Luke made this horrible, high-pitched sort of whining noise and everyone looked him, and Mason exhaled, anger draining down out his toes, because shit, hadn’t Luke taken enough of a beating tonight, been thrown down on the ice and pummeled, and here he was …

“Macks?” someone—maybe Scottie—asked.

Luke didn’t reply. His head was down; he was shaking, each breath wracking his whole frame and—

He was crying, Mason realized belatedly.

Sobbing, actually.

“Hey,” Scottie was saying, leaning down over the omega, “dude, are you okay?”

Luke got to his feet abruptly, shoving Scottie out of the way. “Don’t touch me!” he thundered, then broke for the bedroom, elbowing his way through the crowd. The door slammed shut, then locked.

They gaped for a moment, glancing around at each other.

“What the fuck,” Griff spat after a moment.

“I seriously feel like I just watched some domestic abuse go down—”

“Mayday, what the hell was that all about?”

“Is Macks an omega? Seriously?”

“And you two are fucking?”

Mason glanced about at his guests and grimaced. “All right,” he said, “you can all ask questions. But first. We are going to get seriously fucked up.”

And if he was lucky, none of them would remember a goddamn thing in the morning.


Matt was wide awake when the front door opened. He’d been staring at the ceiling for the last hour or so, probably, unable to think about anything more than the game and the outcome and what that meant for Danny. What it meant for him starting treatment.

Thinking about how he’d promised to call his parents, break the news to them, but he hadn’t yet. How Danny was going to be pissed at him for not following through.

With a sigh, he hauled himself out of bed and headed downstairs. He’d been running a low-grade fever all day, so he took the stairs slow, trying to ignore how dizzy he felt.

“Hey,” he said as he descended the last steps, made his way to foyer.

“Hey Matty,” the bearded omega said, dropping his gear. “Sorry. Did I wake you up?”

Matt shook his head. “No,” he admitted, “I’ve been up for a while. Can’t sleep.”

“That’s a new one,” Danny said, landing a quick kiss on his cheek. “What did you get up to today?”

“Not much,” Matt murmured, glancing down at the floor. “I watched a bit of the game.”

Danny paused.

“I know how it ended,” Matt said quickly.

He watched Danny relax visibly. “Yeah,” he said, “another hellish game.”

“But you guys held on,” Matt said.

“Barely,” the older man muttered darkly, closing up the closet. “They came so close to tying it so many times. I’m just glad it’s over.”

He ran a hand down his face. “But we gotta go back at them tomorrow night, Game 6. Jeez.”

Matt considered that for a moment, then said softly, “You wanna win it, don’t you? We’re ahead now, if we can pull out one more …”

Danny was silent for a long moment; all they could hear was the grandfather clock ticking away in the living room. “Yeah,” he said at last, “yeah. I wanna win it.”

His brows knitted together. “That’s … that’s not selfish, is it?”

Matt shook his head gently. “I’d wanna win too,” he said. “I want you to win.”

“Even if it means we have to travel, even if it means I can’t be here with you during treatment?”

Matt chewed at his lip. “That would be selfish,” he said after a moment of contemplation, “if I asked you to give this up for me.”

He closed his eyes. “I am selfish,” he said. “I really, really want you to be here, Dan. I’m …”

“I know,” Danny said. He put a hand on Matt’s shoulder. “I think you’re allowed to be selfish though, Matty.”

Matt gritted his teeth. “I don’t wanna be,” he huffed. “I really want you to go play and win, because … because.”

“I get it.”

Matt sighed heavily. “So. I’ll just get someone to help, someone else is available, I’m sure. Maybe I can ask Sy who’s taking him to appointments …”

“Have you talked to your parents yet?”

Matt grimaced. There it was, the million-dollar question. “No?”

“Matt …”

“I know, I know. I just …” He looked up at Danny guiltily. “Can you blame me?”

“They deserve to know,” was the stony reply.

Matt blew his breath out, ruffling his bangs. “You think I don’t know? I just … I don’t wanna hurt them, Dan. Like, this is serious. Scary shit. Can you imagine, hearing your kid …”

“They’ll be more hurt if you don’t tell them.”

Matt hunched his shoulders. He hated when Danny was right. Nonetheless, there was a part of him that wanted to keep it back, hide it away from those he loved and cared for. After all, the doctors said it was highly treatable, so maybe he could just undergo the treatment and he’d be fine and nobody would have to be the wiser, nobody would have to worry about him …

“You have to tell them,” Danny said sharply, as though he’d read Matt’s mind. Which he probably had. Matt hadn’t been guarding the bond very well, so no doubt that had slipped through.

“And don’t even think about holding back on me.”

Matt glowered at him. “Y’know, some days, I hate being bonded to you.”

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