Chapter 17: Dirty Secrets [Slapshot!]
Danny leaned against the washroom door, grimacing. They’d only been home for maybe an hour and he needed to get ready for the game, but he hadn’t been able to get Matt to move from the bathroom floor for the better part of forty-five minutes. He winced again; Matt had to be dry-heaving by now—he’d thrown up probably two or three times before they’d even left the hospital.
He knocked on the door. “You okay, Matty?”
He was answered by a choked sob and more retching. Danny placed a hand on the door. “Why don’t we get you lying down? I’ll bring a bucket, I think you’ll be more comfortable in bed.”
He tried the handle, then rolled his eyes. Of course Matt had locked it. He sighed heavily, then fished out the key from the nightstand in the bedroom.
Matt was on his knees, hunched over the toilet. His breathing was ragged. Danny put a hand on his back. “C’mon,” he said, “I don’t think there’s anything left to bring up.”
“Feel so sick,” Matt murmured; his voice was absolutely destroyed, catching on the edges of his syllables.
“I know,” Danny said, looking about, “but I think you’ll feel better lying down.”
Matt heaved again. “I’ll bring a bucket,” Danny said, patting him between the shoulder blades.
He grabbed up the garbage pail, took out the bag, and moved it to the bedroom, settling it on Matt’s side of the bed, within easy access.
Matt hadn’t moved when he went back. His heart twisted a little; it hurt to see his alpha so sick, so weak. He grabbed his wrist, pulled him to his feet.
Matt wobbled a little, clearly unsteady on his feet. He was shaking like a leaf. “Are you cold?” Danny asked, and the alpha just nodded, a barely perceptible motion. He looked vaguely green after he did.
Danny patted him on the back. “Let’s get to bed,” he said.
Matt followed him wordlessly. Danny held his hand a little tighter, guided him to bed.
Matt crawled under the sheets, all but collapsed to the mattress, curling up tight, shaking and shivering. Danny dropped the covers over him, rubbed his back again.
“’m so cold,” Matt murmured. His teeth were chattering now.
Danny glanced to the phone. “Just snuggle up,” he told the alpha, “you’ll warm up in a minute.”
Matt didn’t answer him, just closed his eyes and kept shivering. Danny grimaced again. “I’m gonna make a phone call, okay?”
Matt didn’t respond. Danny pulled away slowly, grabbed his cellphone from the nightstand. He closed the door, his gaze lingering on Matt as he did so. He forced himself to turn away, then took the stairs two at a time, scrolling through his contacts and dialing.
He wasn’t sure whether to sigh in relief or choke up when he heard Mel’s voice crackle over the phone. “Hello?” she asked.
“Hey,” he said, “it’s—”
“Danny?” She sounded so confused.
“Yeah. Um, look. I have a game tonight, and Matt’s …”
He paused, searching for the right way to break the news. He wished Matt had made more of an effort to tell his family he was sick. It would have made this so much easier.
“What’s up with Matt?” she asked. “What did my dumb baby brother do now?”
Danny gritted his teeth. “I wish he’d told you,” he spat, “god, he leaves all the hard stuff to me.”
“He sure is dumb,” she said, but her voice was laced with caution, concern. Something was up, and she knew it.
“Look,” Danny said. He stared at the floor. “I dunno how to tell you this. I wish he’d told you. But, Mel … he’s. He’s really sick.”
“Yeah?” she asked.
“Yeah. He’s got leukemia.”
There was a loud thud, then static and scuffling, and then finally, Mel’s shell-shocked voice, echoing hollowly through the phone line. “What?”
Danny took a deep breath. “We found out a couple of weeks ago,” he explained. “He hadn’t been feeling well for a while, so he finally got tested, and the results came back, and …”
“Leukemia? Like, cancer.”
Danny shut his eyes. “Yeah,” he breathed.
“Fuck,” she spat.
“We caught it early,” he said, “I think. Early enough, at least. And they said the type he’s got—it’s pretty treatable.”
“So we started chemo today, and I just—I don’t wanna leave him by himself, he’s not doing so well.”
Silence from the other end. He rolled his gaze up to the ceiling, rocked back on his heels. “He’ll kill me if I tell your parents.”
“He hasn’t told Mom and Dad? Fuck, what an idiot.”
“I told him to. But he just … that’s not the point right now. I just. I need someone here for him, and I don’t know who else to call. I know he’ll be fine with you. Comfortable, he won’t be too mad either, he won’t be too embarrassed. I can’t think of anyone else, like … he’d be ashamed or upset if I call in one of our friends or one of my relatives, or—”
“What time is the game.”
“Eight, Eastern time.”
A huge, heavy sigh. “That’s tight,” she said.
“I know, I’m sorry, I would have called sooner, but we just got home from the hospital and I didn’t think he was gonna be this bad and—”
“It’s like a six-hour flight from here, Dan, I dunno if I can make it. And I’m three hours behind …”
“Just grab the next flight, I don’t care. Please. I’ll pay for it, whatever it costs—”
“I’ll head to the airport now. Shit, Danny, I wish you’d called sooner—I wish he’d said something.”
“It doesn’t matter now, I’ll get there. I’ll see you as soon as I can, I’ll update you.”
“Thank you, thank you—”
There was a pause; they lingered because they knew she had to go, but neither of them wanted to hang up.
“I’ll see you soon,” she reiterated, then cut the call. The dial tone resounded in his ear.
Slowly, he lowered his hand, dropped the phone to the floor. He raced back upstairs, then paused outside the bedroom door. He took a couple of deep breaths. Matt wasn’t well right now; he needed Danny to be calm and collected.
And Danny needed to be calm and collected. He needed to focus on the game tonight.
He swallowed, wondering if he could do it. Right now, the game seemed like a haze, something that was going to occur in another lifetime, not in a matter of hours.
He pushed the door open slowly, stepped into the room as quietly as he could.
Matt was buried under the covers, still shivering, his teeth still chattering. He’d been sick again; Danny grimaced.
He sat down on the edge of the bed, shook Matt by the shoulder. “Hey, babe …”
“I’m sorry,” Matt sobbed, “I didn’t mean to—”
What a stupid thing to be sorry about, Danny thought. “Of course you didn’t mean to,” he said, “up now. Let’s get these sheets changed. Are you still cold?”
“So cold,” the alpha whimpered, letting Danny drape the duvet over him as he stood back from the bed, pressing up against the wall in an effort to stay upright. His knees gave in; he slid down the wall to sit on the floor.
Danny stripped the bed, pitched the soiled sheets into the hamper. “I’ll get those in the wash,” he said, then stepped into the hall to grab linen from the closet. He made up the bed again as quick as he could, ushered Matt back down to the mattress as gently as he could. He dumped a couple of extra blankets on the alpha.
“I’ll be right back,” he whispered, leaning in and kissing Matt on the forehead. “You’ll be okay.”
Matt nodded, then wrapped the covers tighter around himself. Danny took the hamper down to the laundry. He could hardly breathe. This was worse, this was so much worse than he’d imagined. He’d thought that Matt had been sick before, that tired and lethargic, feverish Matt had been bad.
He’d had no idea. He stuffed the sheets in the wash, then headed back upstairs.
He crawled into bed with Matt, curling up with him. The alpha was freezing. He curled right in to Danny, sliding his hands under Danny’s shirt, seeking warmth. Danny tried not to gasp at how cold his hands were. He wrapped him up, squeezing him in tight.
“I’m sorry,” Matt murmured, “I know you have a game, I should have asked them to reschedule, I should have said no, the game, this is so distracting for you and not what you need right now and I’m—”
“Matt. Shut up. You needed to start treatment as soon as you could. That’s more important than some stupid game.”
“But it’s Game 6, you guys need the win,” Matt sniveled, “you need to go on, to win the Cup, the championship and—”
“Matt. Matty, listen to me. The championship means nothing to me without you. Okay?”
Matt opened his eyes, looked up at Danny. “It’s so important,” he said, as though he hadn’t heard Danny at all, and Danny tried to breathe around the shards of his shattered heart as they stuck between his ribs, stabbing him. He brushed Matt’s hair off his forehead.
“You just rest,” he said, “you need to sleep.”
“I’m sorry,” Matt wailed, “I’m sorry I’m distracting you, I wish I wasn’t sick, I wish—”
“Shh. We’re gonna make you better, Matty. That’s why we’re doing this. Don’t you worry about me, you focus on you.”
Matt buried his face against his chest; his shoulders kept catching on his sharp inhalations. “Feel sick,” he murmured finally, pushing away from Danny, rolling over to the side of the bed. He sat up, swung his legs over the edge of the bed.
Danny grabbed his arms, forced him back down. “No, you don’t need to get up. Right here—there’s a bucket right here.”
He guided the alpha over, closing his eyes as he listened to him dry heaving. He hoped Mel could get there soon. Even then, he knew it wouldn’t be soon enough.
“So,” Halpy drawled, glancing up, then looking back down at the swirling coffee in his cup. He dropped the spoon onto the saucer with a clatter.
Mason sighed, folded his arms and leaned back in his chair. He glanced around the almost deserted café, knowing that there was no real escape from his teammates now. He was boxed in on any side of the table, and there weren’t too many ears that were going to overhear them.
It was more a matter of when he was going to talk.
“You and Mackinnon, huh?” Halpy sipped on his coffee noisily.
Mason looked up at the ceiling.
“We knew you were friends,” Cam said, “but …”
“Is it really any of your business?” Mason snapped. “I’m an adult, I can make my own decisions. Who are you guys to run the Spanish Inquisition on me? Like none of you have had questionable hook-ups.”
“Is it a hook-up?” Trev asked sharply, and Mason almost winced.
“Please,” he huffed, rolling his eyes. “As if I’m capable of having a meaningful relationship.”
They said nothing, just sat there stone-faced. He smirked. “This is me we’re talking about,” he said, “y’know, Mayday the man-whore, the guy who hooks up with anything that walks, repository for all of the STDs in the world.”
Still no response. He shook his head a little. “You guys have never bothered asking me about any of my other hook-ups, you don’t grill me like this about Linnea or Taylor Perry or Katy Swift or …”
“He’s your best friend,” Halpy said.
Mason shrugged. “So? We’re screwing around, big deal.”
Dusty lifted a brow.
“Seriously. Guys. You’re making this a bigger deal than it is. Macks and I are friends, sure, and we’re also consenting adults who are perfectly capable of making choices about whether or not we want to sleep with each other.”
“So you have slept with him!” Cam spat.
Mason frowned. Shit. “I thought that was obvious,” he said, hoping to cover.
“There’s a pretty big difference between making out and sleeping together.” Trev sounded almost put out.
“Sure, okay, fine, but would we make out if we didn’t want to sleep together?”
Trev glared at him.
“I mean,” Mason said, “we were both pretty sober this morning, so it wasn’t like we were just high or whatever, or …”
Trev was looking more and more pissy with every word that came out of Mason’s mouth.
“Mayday,” Halpy said, “we just … y’know. We’ve never known you to sleep with anyone, on our team or another team. Like, we know you hook-up with people, there’s always a new model or singer or actor or whatever, but …”
“What’s wrong with it?” Mason asked.
Halpy sighed, and Dusty finally chipped in, saying,” Just seemed like it could cause a lot of trouble.”
Mason scoffed. “How? We play in two different conferences, on the entire opposite side of the continent. I see him, what, twice a season? And then maybe in the summertime, and maybe if we ever got to the Cup Final. But y’know, if it ever went south, if it ever got awkward, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal.”
He locked eyes with Trev. “Not like I gotta play with the guy night after night, practice with him day after day, travel around the US with him, maybe share a room. Y’know?”
Trev ducked his head. He was still pissed, but he knew that much was true. Mason rolled his shoulders again. “So I don’t see a problem. You guys are making it a problem, and that’s the fucking problem.”
He stood up, slamming his hands down on the table. “I think we’re done here. There’s no problem—what I do is my business.”
Halpy sighed heavily. “It just … we’re shocked, Mayday. Like you know, really, actually shocked.”
Mason shook his head. “Why? ‘cause I’m sleeping with a dude? ‘cause I’m bi, ‘cause I actually would fuck another hockey player, as if I wouldn’t or something? I don’t see how any of this is shocking.”
“Well,” Halpy said, glancing at the rest of them, “I guess we didn’t figure Macks swung that way.”
“We totally did,” Dusty said.
“If you didn’t, Halpy, you’re blind,” Cam said.
“I didn’t think that,” Trev muttered.
“Look, I’m not here to speculate on what Macks does in his spare time,” Mason said. “Yeah, we’ve slept together. We’re best friends. There is no issue with this, nothing further to discuss.”
They looked at each other. Then Dusty said, “All right, but if it’s such a non-problem, why did you try so hard to keep it quiet?”
Mason shrugged. “Why do you think you need to know? How do you even bring something like that up? ‘Hey guys, by the way, I’m fucking my best friend, cool with you?’”
He shook his head. “Ridiculous. I don’t need to tell you guys everything. And, y’know, you probably don’t want me to either, so maybe …”
“Fine,” Halpy said, “fine. We get it. We’ll butt out.”
“Thank you,” Mason said.
“But … Macks, eh?” Halpy lifted a brow. “That gets you going?”
Mason huffed, rolled his eyes. “Guys …”
“We’re just … really! Macks.”
Mason shook his head, sat back down. “You guys wouldn’t understand,” he murmured.
Well, Halpy might—he was alpha too, and his wife was an omega. If Mason had launched into a description about how Luke keened and mewled like a kitten, fell apart like putty in his hands, completely submitted to him, then yeah, Halpy would’ve got it.
Trev and Cam wouldn’t have understood, and Dusty might have. Dusty played his cards close; Mason hadn’t been able to determine his status.
The four of them shared a quick glance.
“Is Macks an omega?” Dusty asked, almost cautiously.
Mason nearly choked on his coffee. “What?” he scoffed. “Are you kidding me? What would give you that idea?”
“Oh,” Halpy drawled.
“Just a thought,” Cam murmured.
Mason shook his head. “You guys are being really invasive, y’know? Like, would you ask someone else these questions? Do you just walk up to people at parties?”
“Defensive,” Cam whistled.
“No, he’s right,” Halpy said. “You shouldn’t ask about that kind of stuff—and you should let the person disclose it themselves. Let’s see … wonder if Duncs got anything out of Macks?”
“Oh, you fucking pricks,” Mason spat, “you left Duncs there to interrogate Macks?”
Halpy just smirked.
Luke slammed the car door shut, rolling his eyes.
“But, like, okay, just answer this one question—”
“Why are you still here?” he snapped, turning to glare at Duncan. The redhead shook his hands furiously.
“I just need you to answer this one thing—”
“Everyone else has left, yet here you are.”
“No buts,” Luke huffed, opening up the driver’s side door. “Leave. Now. I’m not answering your stupid question—you know the answer already.”
Duncs grinned at him, shook his head. “I might know the answer,” he said, “but I don’t think it’s what you’ve been telling everyone all this time, Macks.”
Luke shook his head. “I have to go to practice,” he said, “think whatever you want.”
He slammed the door shut and started the vehicle. Duncs yelled at him, so he cranked the radio.
His phone buzzed. He wondered how the hell Duncs had managed to get his number. ‘but srsly r u omega?’
He set the phone to silent, pitched it across the vehicle. Mason’s teammates were such douchebags.
He’d spent all morning trying to convince everyone they’d been drunk, they’d been high—and when Mason had blown that, that he had been high at least. Maybe Mason had been perfectly sober, but Luke most definitely was not in his right mind. After all, he’d taken all those painkillers.
He didn’t know how much anyone had bought it. Linnea had seemed strangely excited. Katya hadn’t said much, had just frowned at him, contemplated him with this serious expression that either meant she was going to kill him or she didn’t like him.
He was pretty sure Craig hadn’t bought it—and it had been Craig who had started pressing about him being an omega, bringing up the final game of the season, and how Luke hadn’t smelled “right,” and Cody and Griff had not bought it, not at all.
Luke pinched the bridge of his nose. He had a headache just thinking about it.
Of course, he’d get abused again, drugged and assaulted—he shuddered at the word rape—and Mason would go off on him in front of a bunch of people, and of course Mason would get mad about it. Of course he’d have a break down.
That would be how the world would end. His career was probably over. He sighed heavily as he turned into the parking lot.
He glanced at Dima who fell in step with him. “So, you had party?” the Russian asked cautiously.
Luke paused. “How did you …”
“Katya,” the dark-haired man replied. “She said she was there.”
Luke let his head roll back. “Fuck,” he spat, then lifted his head and looked at Dima. “Katya’s your sister.”
Dima nodded. “She and Linnea come back home this morning, said they were at party at your house.”
Luke sighed heavily. “I didn’t have a party,” he explained. “My friend Mason—who is visiting—he threw a party.”
“Oh,” Dima said. He thought for a moment.
“What else did they say?” Luke asked.
Dima shook his head. “Nothing,” he said. “Nothing.”
They both stopped short, and Luke was pretty sure his stomach dropped right out of his body.
The alpha fell in line with them, slinging an arm around Luke’s shoulders. Dima frowned, but said nothing. Luke felt sick.
Why, Luke wondered, why did everything have to happen now? Why couldn’t things have just been quiet and he could have stayed home, gotten some sleep, not gone into heat, not had Mason show up and get into a fight with Flanny, and not throw a party and Luke could have not outed himself, and none of this would have ever, ever happened.
He closed his eyes. He shook Jake off him, then made a beeline for the locker room. The sooner he got in and out, the sooner he could leave, the sooner he could be away from Jake again.
He was shit through practice, and he knew it. All eyes were on him, everyone questioning, and everyone knew. They all knew, he knew they knew, what he was. Jake had told them, scent-marked him, or Dima had told them, Katya and Linnea had told him all about what they’d seen, what they’d heard last night. They all knew, everyone last one of them.
He wanted to melt into the ice, wanted to get slammed into the boards so hard he’d become one with them, disappear entirely.
Who else knew? If his whole team knew, who wouldn’t know? And then, his career was over, and Q was glowering at him, and he already knew—Luke was going to be fired, every time Q yelled at him, he expected to be told to get off the ice, his contract was cut, he was done, he’d never play in this league again—never play hockey again …
“You okay?” Ty asked, and Luke nearly jumped out of his skin.
“I’m not omega,” he snapped.
Ty blinked at him, clearly confused. Luke shook his head. “I mean—sorry. I’m fine.”
“Are you sure?” the rookie asked cautiously, leaning in a little.
“Yeah,” Luke replied, “fine. Absolutely great. Never better, in fact.”
Ty frowned a little, but said nothing more. He skated away.
Luke sighed heavily. It was going to be a long night.
Danny startled so hard he nearly tumbled out of bed when he heard the knock at the door. He caught himself and sat up, dragging a hand down his face.
Could Mel be in DC already?
Matt stirred, looked up at him. “I’ll get it,” the omega told him flatly, then swung himself out of bed. He glanced at the clock; he probably needed to get up anyway.
He padded downstairs and opened the door, his heart hammering in his chest.
He stared down into the deep brown eyes of Matt’s other sister, nineteen-year-old Moira. She frowned up at him, her expression dark and cloudy with anger. She looked like a feminine version of an angry Matt.
“Moira!” he said, grimacing. “What are you doing here?”
She elbowed by him. “Mel called me,” she huffed, dropping her bags on the floor. “She said Matt’s got cancer.”
Danny gritted his teeth. “Uh.”
She whirled on him. “Were either of you planning on telling me?! How about Mom and Dad? The rest of the family, Grandma and Grandpa might like to know—but no, you just call Mel.”
Danny bit his tongue. There was a reason he’d called Mel and not Moira, even though he knew Moira was going to school in Ontario and was technically closer to them than Mel.
She was only nineteen and bossy as fuck.
“I figured you had exams,” he said, knowing it sounded pretty lame.
“My brother is dying,” she retorted.
“He is not,” Danny spat. “He’s not dying—we started therapy this morning and it’s making him sick, but he’s not …”
He wilted as she just went on glowering at him. “Where is he?” she asked.
“Upstairs,” Danny offered, “in bed. Resting.”
That didn’t stop her. She charged up the stairs, yelling, “Matthew!”
Danny hated her. He took the stairs two at a time. “Moira—”
“Matt, why didn’t you call?! Why didn’t anyone say you were sick?!”
“Moira, what the fuck are you doing here?! Wha—who told you I was—”
Matt glared at Danny. “You,” he huffed.
“I called Mel,” he said, as though it were some kind of defense.
“And only Mel,” Moira snarled.
“Because I wanted someone here with you while I’m at the game tonight, and I figured Mel—”
“I’m closer,” Moira snapped, “and just as capable.”
“You two fight like cats and dogs,” Danny muttered.
“Danny, why did you tell them, I didn’t want them to know—”
“I told you,” Danny said, letting his gaze fall to the floor. “I wanted someone here to look after you tonight.”
“You could have told anybody else …”
Moira smacked Matt’s arm, earning a yelp. “You needed to tell us, we needed to know! Who can take care of you better, you dumbass?!”
“Hey!” Danny cried. “Don’t hit the patient, he bruises easy.”
Moira scoffed, then rolled up Matt’s sleeve. She grimaced at the sight of the bruises along his bicep, running in a long, lingering line down to his elbow.
Matt yanked his sleeve down. “I’m sick,” he said.
“Mel said you have cancer,” the younger sister said.
“I have leukemia,” Matt snarled.
“So, cancer,” Moira said.
Matt said nothing, just glared at her, then at Danny. “There was a reason,” he said slowly, “that I didn’t tell her.”
Danny sighed. He knew, and there was a reason he’d called Mel, not Moira. There was nothing he could do now though.
“I have to go,” he said slowly.
Matt just kept glaring.
“The game,” he said meekly, cowering beneath the alpha’s withering gaze.
“Go,” Moira said. “I can take it from here.”
Danny curled his lip. Could she? Could some snot-nosed nineteen-year-old really deal with her older brother, crippled by some stupid drugs flowing through his systems, drugs that might kill him but if he didn’t take them, he would die anyway?
Danny could scarcely handle it, but he turned away, shoving clothes into his duffle and heading into the hallway.
“Good luck,” Matt murmured, and he broke all over again, shattered into pieces as he stood in the doorway of the room. He never wanted to leave.
He forced himself downstairs, out the door, into the truck. He gritted his teeth, smashed his head against the dashboard. He didn’t know why Matt had to make everything so goddamn difficult.
Game 6 was an unmitigated disaster. Luke could readily admit that. Between defense breakdowns, poor goaltending, no offense, and a complete lack of special teams, they did fuck all on the ice. The Rockets dominated every play, broke up every would-be rush, stole every puck, forced a turn-over every time they tried to break out of their own zone. They played so much time in their own end, Luke wondered if the other end existed or if it had just been an elaborate myth.
Six shots on net was all they got through the first two periods. They doubled that in the third, based solely on the grace of two power-plays, which they didn’t score on. Two power-plays saw the Rockets score two goals.
Even the home crowd was booing them. Luke had rarely felt so demoralized.
He knew he wasn’t at his best, that was for damn sure. He was off the pace, over-skating the puck, then turning it over. He was offside more than once, created at least one icing. He didn’t open any scoring chances, except for the other team.
He was distracted, and he knew it. He needed to get his head in the game, but he couldn’t seem to pull himself down from his anxieties, from his high string, and neither could the others. They were all hopped up on something, whether it was the adrenaline of the situation or something else.
The Rockets won, easily. They outscored them, out-hit them, outpaced them on every measure. They deserved to win, that was for damn sure. Still, four-nothing was embarrassing. They had no excuse for it, especially not in front of the home crowd. They deserved every echoing boo.
The final buzzer sounded, and they knew that meant a grueling Game 7 in Pittsburgh. They skated off the ice without so much as a word to each other, dejected, heads low. It might as well have been their final game of the season. That was the energy in the room after, that was for sure.
Luke was probably the only one glad they were off to Steel City. He was nervous, sure, but he was also glad to be leaving Mason—and everyone else at the party—behind. He’d rather deal with every blow, every hit, even the humiliation of losing one-nothing in Game 7 to dealing with the fallout from Mason and his stupid party.
Even if it meant he might have to deal with Jake. He glanced at the alpha across the room, perturbed when the younger man winked at him. He turned to Danny, almost desperately. “Room with me?” he asked.
“Sure,” Danny said, and Luke noticed, for the first time, how pale and drawn he seemed. He wondered, briefly, what was going on.
“Plane’s at eight,” Q informed them. His tone was curt; he was pissed with them for dropping the game that badly. And, really, who could blame them? They were all pretty pissed. They hadn’t expected to drop that game. They could have closed, moved on to the second round, and they’d failed.
Failure was a feeling Luke knew all too intimately. For once, he wanted to come out winning.