Volume 2 of the Something in the Water series arrives Tuesday, January 30!

Chapter 16: Early Morning Confessional [Slapshot!]

Chapter 16: Early Morning Confessional [Slapshot!]

Dima frowned at his phone. Still no response from Katya. He’d been home for over an hour now, and there was still no sign of his sister. There was no note, nothing. She was just gone. He knew she could take care of herself, but still …

Sy hadn’t texted him back either. He hoped Katya wasn’t bothering him again. Sy had made it perfectly clear that if Katya bugged him, he was going to hold Dima responsible. Dima thought that was stupid, because he definitely wasn’t his sister’s keeper—she was an adult, with her own career and friends and decision-making skills—but Sy was kind of like that.

Dima also wanted to know where she was because he had a text from one Aleksandr Volkov, announcing that the Rockets had just landed in the District. He hoped against hope that he hadn’t bothered texting Katya too. That she was ignoring him. Or that, at the very least, she hadn’t gone out to meet him somewhere.

Because that would have been very, very stupid of her, and Dima didn’t feel like fighting with Sanja about his sister. Not when Sanja should have known to leave her alone.

There was definitely bad blood between the two of them. Both of them had been rather secretive about it, but Dima knew they’d dated for a bit—maybe a couple of months, maybe longer—a few summers back. Then things had turned nasty, and Dima was pissed, because Sanja broke Katya’s heart and he couldn’t stand for that. Nobody hurt his sister, not even Aleksandr fucking Volkov.

That had caused a lot of tension when they next met up on the ice, and then later when they were expected to play together for Russia. Even Fedya had remarked on it. Ultimately, they had both agreed to just let it go—bygones be bygones and all that—but every now and then, Sanja took it into his head to try and hit Katya up for a booty call.

Worse, Katya sometimes gave in.

Dima hated that he was caught between the two of them, hated that they were both so stupid. He didn’t understand either of them. If it hadn’t worked the first time, if they’d hurt each other so badly on that go around, why continue? Why try again? It was insane to think that they could do the exact same thing and get different results.

Dima had never claimed to understand relationships all that well; he mostly found other people annoying. They did stupid things—like breaking up and using each other for sex, then wondering why they hurt—and Dima could only roll his eyes so hard. Seriously, there was no logic sometimes.

His phone lit up.

Sanja. His frown deepened.

He considered the message for a moment, then stuffed his phone in his pocket. He grabbed his keys, a jacket from the closet—it was long after midnight and a chill had settled in the air.

He drove downtown; traffic was light at this hour and parking was easy to find. He met Sanja outside of the Telefira Center. The taller Russian just looked at him, a question in his crystalline eyes. Dima nodded, then gestured for him to follow.

He led him through the streets, to the Red Room—one of the few places that stayed open long into the night and one of several authentic Russian establishments. Dima was a regular, well-known to the owners and patrons.
The lavish hall was almost deserted at this hour, only a few diners remaining at their tables, mostly lonely elderly folks, still sipping vodka or tea. A lone waiter was serving them. From the back, they could hear the sounds of the kitchen staff cleaning up.

They slid into a booth, Sanja cracking his knuckles. “So,” he said.

“Katya is off-limits,” Dima said flatly.

Sanja rolled his eyes. “Dima, Dima,” he drawled, “you mistake me. Do you really think I am after your sister so much? We had our fun, but it is over now.”

Dima lifted an eyebrow. Sanja gestured a bit. “I wanted to ask you a few things. About your team.”

Dima’s other eyebrow sailed up into his hairline. “You have come to ask me if I will be a little spy, if I will give you all my team’s secrets so that you can win?”

Sanja shook his head furiously. “No,” he huffed, “that is … that would be unacceptable. No, Dima, I want to ask you how we make sure tonight does not happen again.”

“What, you mean Macks?” Dima inquired.

“Yes,” Sanja said. “I do not know what happened, exactly, but I know that Dutchie is suspended.”

“Yes,” Dima agreed easily. The ruling hadn’t come down yet, but there was no reason for a player to haul off on another like that. They both knew that Dutchie would be dragged before the disciplinary council and suspended. But since neither of them knew what had provoked such violence, they needed to have a plan in place in case it broke out again.

“Why me?” Dima asked. “Why not talk to Luke? Or …”

“Because,” Sanja replied abruptly. “We speak Russian. We can signal each other and no one will know—except maybe Fedya and Sergei. They will not know we are calling them out or suspicious.”

“Fair,” Dima mused. “But you didn’t call me out here to talk about this, now did you?”

Sanja hesitated a moment; even his breathing paused with him. “No,” he admitted, “you’re right.”

“So?”

“I want to talk about Syoma.”

Dima stared at him for a moment, his piercing gaze, that certain earnestness about his expression, the determination strung through every taut muscle as he leaned forward. He was dead serious.

Dima inhaled sharply, glancing about. He flagged the waiter. It was going to be a long night.

 

*

It was five am and the sun was rising and Linnea was kissing him gently, then more insistently, and Mason had no idea how they’d even got there, her on top of him on the sofa, and he was half-undressed and so was she, and everyone else was passed out—some in chairs in the kitchen, some on the floor, some in the spare bedroom. And Mason stared up at her, reached up and cupped her breasts, feeling the weight of them in his hands, and he met her gaze, tried to read her expression, but she was inscrutable.

“Can you get it up?” she asked, rocking her hips gently against him.

He shook his head. If he wasn’t hard with her all but writhing in his lap …

She sighed, so he leaned up and kissed her, almost regretfully. There was a reason he wasn’t getting stiff, and it had nothing to do with her, nothing to do with the drugs in his system, how intoxicated he was.
He pushed her up gently, rolling her off him. She slid back onto the sofa, landing softly, buttoning her shirt back up. “You’re worried,” she accused, leveling him with a look and damn, she probably knew him too well.
“Yeah,” he murmured, glancing toward the closed door of the master bedroom again.

She patted his arm. “Go to him,” she said.

He considered her for a moment—her lithe form, her tan skin, her long, blonde locks. He wanted her to come along. He released her hand reluctantly, sliding off the sofa. She offered him a soft smile as he went.
He tiptoed out of the room, down the hall, creeping around sleeping bodies, careful not to wake anyone. He paused at the door, one hand on the handle, the other pressed up against the cool wood. He listened for a moment, but heard nothing. He tried the handle. Luke hadn’t been up or out, or maybe he had and he’d just remembered to lock the door again.

Unhappily for Luke, Mason knew the key was in the bathroom drawer, so he went and fished it out of its hiding spot. He unlocked the door and stepped into the room, quiet as he could. He closed the door behind him with a soft click.

Luke was sprawled out across the bed, face planted in the pillows. Mason sidled a little closer to the bed, eyes pinned firmly on Luke’s form. The omega didn’t so much as twitch; he was dead to the world.

He didn’t move even as Mason eased himself onto the bed, the mattress dipping under his weight. He settled in on his side, propping himself up on his elbows, watching Luke.

The omega’s face was even worse for wear this morning; the swelling was more prominent, the bruising more livid, a violent violet that had spread across his face like a spider’s web.

Mason regarded him in silence, watched his chest rise and fall with a steady, sedated rhythm, listened to his breath softly passing his slightly parted (and swollen) lips. He reached out, but hesitated, pulling his fingers back against his palm, Luke’s final outburst ringing through his ears.

“Don’t touch me!”

He looked up, glimpsed the pill bottle on the nightstand. The lid was off, resting precariously on the edge of the nightstand, pills scattered all around it, suggesting a hurried dose. The bottle was half-empty; Mason had no way of knowing just how full it had been.

He looked back at Luke, then shook him gently. That sedated breathing pattern was worrisome now—there was a very discernible pause at the bottom of each exhalation. “Hey,” Mason murmured, shaking him a little harder, “Luke.”
No response. He raised his voice. “Luke. Hey. Can you hear me?”

He shook him harder, fighting down panic. Had Luke OD’d? Fuck, he hoped not, they were all way too high for that kind of shit—

“Luke!”

“Uh? Wha?” Luke opened his eyes just a sliver—all he could manage, really, Mason noted with a wince; his lids had puffed up even more than last night.

“Hey,” Mason said, and then Luke startled and shoved him right off the bed.

Mason stared up at the ceiling, trying to decide if he felt pain or not. He knew it should have hurt to hit the floor that hard, but he was still so high that it was scarcely a feeling, more of a dull memory, as though he’d once felt pain, long ago …

Luke peered over the edge of the bed. “Fuck, Mayday,” he breathed, “you scared me.”

Mason picked himself up off the floor, clambering back onto the bed. Luke backed away from the edge to make room. “And you scared me,” he admitted. “You were breathing funny.”

“I think my nose is broke,” Luke said.

Mason shook his head. “You kept stopping,” he said, glowering at Luke. “How many of those damn pills did you take?”

“Huh? Oh …”

The omega looked at the evidence, scattered all across the nightstand, the floor. “Uh. I don’t really know now …”

“You could’ve overdosed,” Mason said. “You locked yourself in here and took a bunch of pills. You could’ve died, Luke.”

“Can’t say that would be a bad thing,” the omega muttered.

Mason gritted his teeth when Luke shifted and Mason caught scent of him again. It was hard to stay calm when Luke smelled like another alpha, but he needed to be. He inhaled, then said, “What happened?”

“I got in a fight,” Luke replied, as though that were the most obvious thing in the world.

Mason frowned. “No,” he said slowly, “Luke … what happened?”

Luke’s eyes widened a little bit and Mason glimpsed fear in his irises before the omega winced. “Nothing,” he said flatly.

“I don’t believe that for a second.”

Luke offered nothing else, so Mason said, “You reek like another alpha. I thought you said you wanted a break until after playoffs.”

“It’s none of your business,” Luke retorted. “What I do is my choice.”

Mason resisted the urge to sneer, to snarl, to call him names. He couldn’t get mad. There was something else going on, and Luke was hiding from him. He considered for a moment, then said, “So. Was it good?”

Luke hesitated, then said, “I don’t know.”

Mason lifted a brow. “What do you mean, you don’t know? Were you drunk?”

“No.” It was a careful, drawn-out reply. They were treading dangerously now, skirting around something Luke didn’t want to talk about.

“So? Why don’t you know if it was good or not?”

He waited for what felt like an eternity, watching Luke wrestle with what to say next. The omega was distraught—that much was clear from the way he looked up at Mason, mouth open, ready to retort, then looked down again, some invisible voice telling him to tamp down on whatever it was he wanted to say.

Mason looked to the door, then back to Luke.

“I was high,” Luke said at last. He looked guilty, so goddamn guilty.

“Yeah?” Mason asked, struggling to stay nonchalant. Not angry. He couldn’t be angry, not when he was this close to getting a confession out of Luke. “You know, you could get banned for that, right? You’re still playing, what if they decide to drug test you—”

“It’s not like I took it on purpose,” Luke snapped, “it’s not like I wanted to take it.”

Mason furrowed his brow. “What are you saying?”

Luke looked pretty pathetic, his face all fucked up, bruised and swollen, and now his lips trembling. “What do you want me to say?” he asked at last, his voice low, sharp. “Do you really want me to say he drugged me, he slipped me some shit in my water, and then he fucked me while I was out of it? Is that what you want me to say? Do you want me to say I was raped? Is that what you want to hear?”

Mason stared at him, just stared—and he knew he was doing it too, but he couldn’t comprehend. Or maybe he just didn’t want to. Either way, he just gaped at the omega for an uncomfortably long time, until Luke finally looked away, murmuring, “Forget I said anything.”

Mason blinked a couple of times to kick-start his brain. “Are you serious right now?” he asked, his voice rising with incredulity.

“Just forget it.”

Mason shook his head. “No, no, no, Luke, you just told me you were—”

He paused, looking up at the dark-haired omega. “Raped,” he finished, and they both cringed at the harsh sound of those syllables.

“Forget it,” Luke huffed, but it was more like a plea, “it’s not like it matters anyway—”

Mason sat up abruptly. “It does so matter. Fuck, Luke—it—that’s …”

He could feel his lips pulling back into an incredulous smile, his head shaking slightly. “You’re serious?”

“You don’t even believe me,” Luke huffed. “Just drop it, forget I said anything—”

“You were raped,” Mason repeated softly, “he raped you.”

“Will you shut up?” Luke snapped. “I don’t wanna think about it, I don’t wanna remember—”

“You’re serious.” Mason felt like laughing, even though he knew that was the entirely wrong response. His shoulders jerked with the urge, his breath hitching. Slowly, slowly, he was starting to absorb the information.
Luke had been raped. The strange alpha who had rubbed his scent all over Luke had drugged the omega and fucked him while he was unconscious. He’d raped Luke.

Mason felt suddenly sick, the news kicking up a storm of nausea. “Fucking hell, Luke, why didn’t you say something?”

“When? In front of all those people? What, you want me to shout it from the rooftops?”

Mason shook his head. “No, like—go to the doctor, the hospital, get a swab—talk to the cops, press charges—”

Luke’s laughter was harsh, barking. “Yeah, right,” he spat. “Like I’d do that again. Why? So the doctors can sneer at me and the nurses can call me a slut and say I must have drugged myself, and the cops can tell me how gracious the alpha’s gonna be by not pressing charges against me?”

“Wha—”

“Been there, done that. It’s not like this is the first time.”

Mason felt his innards drop, dread dragging his insides down. “What?” he asked, his voice pinched. “It’s not the first time?”

Luke was silent, stony-faced.

Mason didn’t even have words—just an electric jolt, his nerve endings firing and misfiring into his synapses, telling him to react, react, react. “You’ve been raped before?”

Luke wouldn’t look at him.

“Fuck, Luke, when? How long ago, who did it? Who did this to you?”

Luke shook his head. “I don’t wanna talk about it.”

Mason stared at him, then snapped, “I wanna talk about it. Why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you say something to me, why now, Luke—”

Luke shrugged. “I told you. It’s not like it matters.”

“It matters!” Mason cried. “It matters a lot, Luke, I—”

“Why?” Luke asked waspishly. “Because I’m damaged goods? ‘cause you’ve been sleeping with some slutty bitch all this time, can’t even keep his damn legs closed? ‘cause you’ve been wasting your time with someone else’s cum-dumpster, because—”

Mason slapped him, then cringed.

Luke spat blood onto the sheets. “Ow,” he moaned, lifting a hand to his already ginger cheek.

“Sorry,” Mason said, “I’m sorry. Luke, I just—”

He stared at the blankets. “Why would you keep that to yourself? Why wouldn’t you tell me? I deserved to know—”

“What does it matter, it wouldn’t have changed anything—”

“All those times you froze up, every time you winced—Luke, I would’ve been gentler, I would have paid more attention—”

“I don’t wanna be treated like a fucking china doll, Mason. I don’t want you to be gentle with me just cause I got hurt, ‘cause I’m scared, ‘cause—”

“Fuck you,” Mason ground out, “just fuck you. Even—we’re friends, Luke, even then, you still should’ve told me, I would’ve fucked him up for you.”
He shook his head. “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me.”

Luke shrugged again. “I don’t make a habit of telling people,” he said.

Mason swallowed thickly. “When,” he asked. “When did it happen?”

“In Pittsburgh just the other night—”

“The first time.”

Luke winced. “A while ago,” he said. “When I was in university, when I was eighteen. First year. Just before Christmas.”

Mason looked to the sky. There were tears pricking at his eyes, and he didn’t know what to do. He was so angry—angry at Luke, angry at whoever had done this. He felt so, so sick. “That was eight goddamn years ago,” he spat. “You didn’t tell me for eight fucking years, Luke.”

“I didn’t see the point,” Luke muttered. “Nobody else gave a shit. Omegas don’t get raped, remember?”

Mason did start laughing. “You don’t actually believe that,” he chortled, unable to help himself. “You can’t actually believe that fucking bullshit lie, Lucas!”

Once again, Luke was silent.

Mason grabbed him by the collar of his shirt. “Who did it?” he asked, desperation bleeding through his tone. “Who hurt you, Luke, I swear to god, I’ll end him, I’ll fucking cut his dick off and make him choke on it—”

Luke pushed him away. “I want you to forget I ever said anything,” he said. “It’s better to just forget about it.”

Mason trembled with rage. “That’s stupid,” he spat. “You can’t just forget about it, you can’t run away from it—”

“It hurts, so I don’t wanna think about it!” Luke cried. “Why can’t you get that through your thick skull?!”

“Because you’re hurting anyway, and it makes me want to puke!” Mason boomed, shaking him again. “Ignoring it doesn’t make it hurt less, Luke, it hurts and I can’t stand it!”

He stared at the omega for a moment, wild-eyed, his teeth clenched tightly. Very slowly, he released his grip on Luke, released his jaw. “You fucking asshole,” he spat after a moment.

Luke pulled back.

“You never fucking fully severed the damn bond, did you?” Mason grinned incredulously. “You said you would, you agreed to it, and then you never actually did it, never followed through.”

Luke curled away from him.

Mason laughed. That explained a fucking lot, actually. They’d been tangentially bonded for eight years, because Luke was too much of a coward to fully sever his end of things.

Mason gritted his teeth. “You wanna be bonded to me so bad, Luke? I’ll bite you right here, right now—”

Luke scuttled away from him, nearly toppled backward off the bed. He shook his head furiously. “No, Mayday—I don’t wanna—”

“Then break the bond. Now. Right here, right now.”

Luke whimpered and gave him this pathetic look, and more nausea crashed over Mason—a vague evocation of what Luke was feeling. Luke was crumpling in on himself, crushed under the weight of the very idea. “I can’t,” he whined, “Mason, I can’t, not right now—it hurts so much and I already—”

Mason caught sight of the two silvery scars on Luke’s neck, reminders of broken bonds. One he’d left there himself, he knew. The other was deeper, longer—an indication of a more violent mating,

Mason’s stomach twisted. “You …”

Luke lowered his gaze.

Mason pressed his lips together. “You were bonded to your rapist,” he said.

Luke shut his eyes tight. His throat worked, but he made no sound.

Mason tried to comprehend how painful that would be. He’d suffered a bit when he broke the bond to Luke, but that had been long ago, and he scarcely remembered it now. He’d been the one to want to break the bond, the one to suggest it, so of course it hadn’t been nearly as bad for him as it had been for Luke.

Of course, Luke hadn’t broken their bond all the way—he’d been harboring some vestige of it since they were teenagers. It had probably been too painful for him.

Which meant he hadn’t wanted to break the bond in the first place. Which meant he still wanted to be mated to Mason.

Mason’s mouth went dry. His heart tripped a little faster.

“Not right now,” he said. “Later.”

Luke kept his eyes shut. “Okay,” he whimpered. “Okay.”

Mason heaved a huge sigh, letting his body relax. “Come here,” he whispered to Luke, his voice hoarse, cracking.

Luke was timid, tenuous; he came closer at last. Mason put his hands on his shoulders, held him steady for a long moment, eyes boring into his, reading him. “God,” he murmured, “Luke …”

Then he dipped his head, slanted his mouth over the omega’s, parting those swollen lips, letting his tongue delve deep. He dug his nails into Luke’s skin, felt him wince under the pressure—so fragile, so sore already—but Mason kept kissing him, mashing their mouths together until, finally, Luke responded in kind, kissed him back with all of the fervor, all of the desperation that was coursing through Mason’s veins, lifting his hands to Mason’s face, hesitant, so hesitant.

Mason kissed him harder, breaking it only to nip at his lips, both of them panting, and he pushed Luke down gently, straddling him, then dove back in, more intoxicated than he’d been even the night before and—
The door crashed open, Cam crying, “Hello, lovebirds!” and Mason jerked his head up and both of them froze, caught red-handed in the act.

Mason turned about as slow as he dared, met with the inquisitive gazes of all his teammates, the party-goers who’d managed to wake up from their drug-induced comas.

Well, shit.

*

Matt was tense and, well, Danny couldn’t blame him. He kept glancing over at the alpha, but Matt kept his gaze fixed straight ahead, a thousand-yard stare that Danny knew all too well.

It was defeat.

He’d seen plenty of guys wear that look on the ice—after losing in Game 7, after blowing a three-goal lead, taking a dumb penalty that let the opposition get the game-winner. But he’d never seen Matt wear it outside of the rink.

He hated it.

He parked the truck and hopped out, feeding spare change into the meter. They had no idea how long this was going to take. He walked around the truck, then opened up the passenger door. “C’mon,” he said to Matt.

“I don’t wanna,” Matt replied, then gritted his teeth.

Danny rolled his eyes. “Don’t start.”

“Fuck you,” Matt spat, turning to face him. “I’m fuckin’ scared, okay?”

“As you should be,” Danny replied evenly. “I’m scared too. But I’m more scared about what will happen if you don’t do this.”

Matt seemed to consider that for a moment, then took a deep breath. He swung himself out of the car, wrapping his jacket around himself tighter. Danny tried not to think about how frail he looked. He slammed the door instead.
“Let’s go,” he said, locking the doors with the fob.

He held the door for Matt, which earned him a glare from the alpha. He really wished Matt would just get over it. He was sick, and Danny was damned if he wasn’t going to take good care of his alpha.

Matt paused, glancing around. “Uhhh,” he said.

Danny sighed. “Did you read the directions on the info they sent you?”

Matt grimaced. Danny sighed again. “This way,” he said, leading Matt into the maze of corridors.

They headed up to the seventh floor, both of them silent, ignoring other passengers in the elevator.

Danny headed to the nurses’ station when they arrived on the floor. Matt lingered behind him, looking about. Danny wished he wouldn’t; he didn’t want to look at what was around them, and he was pretty sure Matt shouldn’t either.

“Hi,” he said to the nurse, an older woman with short, gray hair. She flicked her gaze up to him, then back down to the computer.

“Here for?” she asked, her Virginia drawl thick.

“Matthew Sweeney, referral from Dr. Van Heren, first dosage in therapy for APL.”

She looked up at him. “I see you read the paperwork we sent,” she said, tipping her head. Danny couldn’t tell if she was complimenting him or not.

“And you’re Matthew,” she said as she looked down again.

“No,” he said.

Now she really looked unimpressed, her brows lifting into her hairline. Danny looked over his shoulder. “Matt. Come here.”

“Huh? Oh. Yeah.”

The younger man sidled up to the counter, looking a little sheepish. The nurse glanced at Danny again. “And you are … ?”

“A friend,” Danny said flatly. “Matt’s family is in Canada.”

“Okay,” she said. She passed a clipboard over the counter. “We’ll need you to fill that out. I’ll let the attending nurse know you’re here.”

“Thanks,” Matt said, accepting the paperwork. He clutched at it, but made no move to sit down or start filling it out.

“There’s a chair,” Danny said.

“Oh. Right.” The alpha seated himself, crossed his left ankle over his right knee and balanced the clipboard there. He shook as he held the pen.

Danny leaned up against the wall next to him.

“Matthew?”

A short, portly nurse rounded the corner, glancing about. Danny pointed; Matt was still absorbed in the paperwork.

The nurse walked over, smiling broadly. “Good mornin,’ hun,” she said, “Janice told me you were here for a little fixin’ up.”

Matt glanced up. “Uh,” he said, “yeah. I guess?”

She clapped him on the shoulder. “Don’t you worry, honey, we’ll get you right as rain again.”

Matt shot Danny a worried glance—should she really be so encouraging? After all, it wasn’t like Matt just had a cold or something. He had cancer.

She took the clipboard from him, put it back on the counter. “Now, if ya’ll just follow me.”

They followed her around the corner, down a long, narrow hallway with flickering lights. Matt seemed to hunch over a bit, clearly nervous.

“Right this way,” the nurse said, turning to them, holding open the door.

Matt hesitated, looked at Danny, who nodded. Matt stepped over the threshold; Danny and the nurse followed a moment later. She closed the door behind them.

“Now,” she said, rifling through instruments laid out on a tray table, “you just make yourself comfy in that big ole’ chair there. Looks like Doc says he wants t’ go with an IV administration for you, just t’ see how you take the medication.”

Matt slumped down in the chair, watching her every move. His eyes were wide with fear.

She moved to his side, dragging the IV with her. “Now, sweetie, hold out your arm and make a fist for me.”

He obeyed, curling his hand into a fist, his muscles contracting. A couple of veins stood out prominently. “Hm, hmmm,” she hummed as she pressed around, apparently looking for a good spot.

“Just a little prick,” she said, and Matt gasped when she slipped the needle in.

She fussed with the machine. “Now,” she said, “we’re gonna let you drip for about an hour or so. You tell us if you start feeling anything, okay?”

“Okay,” Matt murmured.

She fixed him with a pointed look. “I’m serious. Even a headache or if you feel dizzy. Especially if you have trouble breathing or anything like that.”

“Okay,” Matt replied, nodding.

“Now, I gotta go, we have some other patients coming in today. I’ll be back, and one of the other nurses can help you if you need. You see that button there?”

Matt nodded. “That’s the call button. You buzz us.”

“Okay,” Matt murmured.

“Good. I’ll see you in a bit.”

She headed out of the room, leaving them alone. The IV dripped and buzzed.

Matt inhaled sharply. Danny cocked his head, trying to get a better look at him. “You okay?” he asked.

“Feel kinda sick,” Matt murmured. “Think it’s just nerves.”

“Probably,” Danny said, nodding.

“I’m really fuckin’ scared.”
“I know. But tell you what, after this we can go home and have a nap. Then I’ll make dinner before I leave for the game.”

Matt shut his eyes. “I wish you didn’t have to play tonight,” he murmured. “I don’t wanna be alone.”

“I know,” Danny replied softly. “I wish I didn’t have to go either. But … it’s just one little game, and I’ll be home soon enough. This is only one dose—I’m sure you’ll be just fine.”

“I hope so,” Matt mumbled, letting his head drop down. Danny wished he felt sincerer, wished his words didn’t feel so hollow.

But they were all he had.

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