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

Chapter 25: Overpowered [Slapshot!]

Chapter 25: Overpowered [Slapshot!]

“Here,” Jake said, wrapping a hand around Luke’s wrist, “let me give you a hand.”


“I’m fine,” Luke choked, “really, I’m fine, it’s okay, go home—”

Jake contemplated the card, then punched in the code. The door unlocked. Luke choked back a whimper. “Thanks,” he breathed, “thanks, that’s great, you can go home now—”

“Are you sure? You seem pretty unsteady—I wanna make sure you get home.”

“Just go home,” Luke begged, “please, Jake, just … just leave me alone, please—”

The alpha steered him inside. “Why?” he asked. His hand was on Luke’s back, rubbing up and down his spine, lingering at the base of his vertebrae. Luke’s breath caught in his throat.

This couldn’t be happening. Not again, not again, not again—

Into the elevator. Luke stared at the red numbers on the display, counting up and up and up.
The doors slid open.

Jake dragged him into the hall, then slammed him against the wall, kissing him furiously.

“Fuckin’ tease,” he snarled, even as Luke pushed back, trying to shove him off. “Think you can hide behind Danny, think you can just blow me off like that—”

“Stop—”

“Oh, you can blow me—get on your knees, bitch—”

Luke sank to his knees, wincing at the hand in his hair, twisting and yanking and pulling and—
He closed his eyes, then opened them and stared at the floor, hissing in pain as Jake held him down.

“Oh, see, you know you’ve been bad …”

“Don’t, please—”

He looked up at Jake, eyes wide, panicked. He shook his head; he didn’t care if Jake tore out his hair. He needed this to stop. “Jake, please, I don’t want—”

“Oh no? Then why were you leading me on, you whore? Looking at me with those big, blue eyes for the whole game—”

He pushed Luke down again, forced his head flush against him. Luke closed his eyes. “Please, I don’t wanna do this, I don’t want this, Jake, listen to me, believe me—”

“Don’t lie to me. You want it—you wanted Matt and Danny, you spread your legs for them. You’ll spread for anyone who’ll give you a good stretch, hmm?”

“Jake—”

“There’s lotsa talk about you, Macks, don’t you worry. Everyone knows—we all talk about it.”

Luke couldn’t breathe.

“I’ll give you what you want—just open wide for me, hm?”

Luke wanted to scream, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t gasp, he couldn’t scream, couldn’t even say “no.”

Jake grinned down at him, turned his head side to side. “Fuck, you’re gonna look so hot choking on my cock.”

Luke thought about running away when Jake released his death-grip on him, thought about making a break for it as the alpha slid out of his slacks. But where would he go? The elevator was too slow, and they were too far from the door—he wouldn’t get into the condo in time to lock Jake out.

His mind was moving a mile a minute, but his body was leaden.

The hand in his hair again, the tip of Jake’s cock against his lips. “C’mon, open that pretty mouth of yours.”

Luke pressed his lips tighter together, choked on a whimper.

Jake’s expression grew darker. “What?” he asked. “You can suck Danny off, but not me? You can put another omega’s dick in your mouth, swallow down his jizz? Really Macks?”

“I—”

He coughed and spluttered, but it was in now and he had no recourse, Jake shoving him down, down, down.

He clawed at the alpha’s thigh, but there was no relief.

Jake twisted his hair. “You crying, bitch?”

Luke smacked him, trying to rear back. He couldn’t breathe. He was gonna pass out.

“C’mon, you can do better than that.”

Jake rocked his hips, and Luke did pull back this time, coughing and spluttering, tears burning at his eyes as a fistful of his hair was torn out.

Jake shoved him back down. “Fucking suck,” he snarled, “suck it for all you’re worth, you—”

Luke bit him. Hard as he could, and Jake yowled, then slammed him into the wall. “You fucking cocksucking motherfucking whore—you wanna fucking play rough, you want something to cry about?!”

“Stop,” Luke sobbed, trying to scramble away, “god, please, just stop, Jake, I’m begging you, stop—”

His head cracked against the wall. “I’ll give you something to fucking cry about, you’ll be sorry—”

“Stop, please, please—”

He heaved a shuddering gasp, stared at the wall as Jake pinned him down, then smashed his head off the wall again. If he’d felt bad during the game, he felt a hundred thousand times worse now.

This was happening, and there was nothing he could do to stop it, not even as he wanted to. Jake nudged at his neck, teeth grazing over those scars and Luke sobbed freely, openly, because he couldn’t do this, not again, not again—

 

*
“Now,” Katya demanded, “you will tell me about Aleksandr Volkov.” She set the vodka bottle down with a thump.

Sy glanced about nervously, shifting around. “I really don’t think I should be drinking, not with my meds—”

“Now, Symon,” she snarled.

Sy sat up straighter. He took a breath, glanced down, then picked up the shot glass. “Fine,” he said, “bottoms’ up.”

They downed their shots, set the cups down with a clink. “What do you want to know?” Sy asked, leaning forward across the table. He couldn’t look her in the eye.

He watched, instead, as more vodka sloshed into his shot glass.

“Why does he look at you this way, why does he call you Syoma?”

Sy shook his head. “I dunno, Katya, that’s just the way it’s always been—”

“No,” she spat, “no, do not lie to me, Symon. Tell me the truth about this thing—this Aleksandr Volkov.”

Sy held his hands up, turned his palms to the sky. “I don’t know what to tell you. He’s been doing that forever, since we were juniors together—playing mind games, getting into my head—y’know.”

He glanced up, then curled his hand around the shot glass when he found Katya poised to take another drink. Her eyes were boring into his forehead, as though she could tunnel through and pick his brain.

“Symon,” she said sharply.

“What do you want me to say?”

He glanced around the bar, humming with the post-work crowd on a Friday night. They’d moved from the arena when the game had ended; they’d sat in the private box, and neither of them had said anything all game long. Sy had focused intently on the game, his fingers pressed to his mouth, following the play, watching his team lose on home ice.

It had been hard enough to watch that, never mind sitting there stewing about what Katya wanted to ask him, about what she thought she knew. About Aleks’s touch on him, his gaze, that breathy quality to his voice, as though they were intimate, as though they were lovers, mates—and Sy could do nothing but fall apart at his feet, even as Katya had stood there and stared at them.

The lights that lined the floor glowed dull blue, fading and then intensifying, chasing away the shadows of the deep red room. The place was crowded with Russians—beautiful women in dazzling designer dresses, short, balding men in suits that cost more than anything Sy had in his closet at home. Katya fit right in; Sy stuck out like a sore thumb, underdressed and limping around on crutches. They all knew him though; they weren’t looking at his cast.

They downed another shot. Sy leaned back against the plush bench, pushing the glass away from him, toward the bottle. If she wanted him to talk, she was going to have to get him good and lubed up.

She relented, pouring another shot without a word. He sucked it back, the vodka burning all the way down.

“I don’t know what you want to hear,” he said.

She pursed her lips, blinked at him a couple of times. “The truth,” she said at last, enunciating it, punctuating it with her breath.

He leaned back, drummed his fingers on the table. “I don’t know why you think I’m lying to you,” he said at last.

“Because you are,” she replied. “You are bad liar, Syoma.”

There was more sympathy in her voice now, less acid. He laughed, shook his head. “Yeah,” he murmured, “a lot of people tell me that.”

“It is true,” she said. “So now, tell me something that is true.”

He sighed heavily, scratched at his neck. “It’s … complicated,” he said.

“Mm.” Katya said. Her lips were pursed, her chin resting in her left hand. Her right was nervously drumming on the table, and she’d turned herself a bit sideways, as though she would bolt at any second. Her eyes kept darting toward the bar; she was trying to flag down the barkeep.

“It’s stupid, really,” Sy mumbled.

“What is stupid?”

“Aleks,” he said, snorting.

“This is something true.”

“Oh, good, I’m done then.”

“No,” she replied, taking the full bottle from the waiter as he swung by. “You have not told me the whole truth of this stupid Aleks thing.”

Sy sucked at his teeth, kicked his feet a little. “Okay,” he said, “can I tell you a secret then?”

“Of course!” she cried. “Syoma, you can tell me anything.”

He studied the tabletop. He’d heard that before. “Wellll,” he drawled, glancing to her again.
She drew a quick breath, then picked up the bottle, pouring more vodka into his empty glass.

He leaned in close. “I’m soul-bonded to Aleksandr Volkov.”

She went perfectly still.

Something cold and damp soaked through Sy’s shirt; he glanced down at the table, the rapidly spreading puddle of vodka. “Katya!” he snapped.

She stared at him, uncomprehending. Her eyes were wide and clear with shock, as though every other emotion, every thought had been blown away by the detonation of his words. Her mouth was open just a touch, her lips drawn down, so red, like she was bleeding.

He grabbed her wrist, twisted until the bottle was upright, until the vodka stopped flowing.
She blinked, then set the bottle down. She pulled her hands back, put them in her lap as she stared down at the tabletop. “I don’t—”

“You wanted the truth,” he said, throwing a napkin down over the mess on the table.

“Is this the truth?” she whispered, then pressed her hand to her lips, smearing lipstick across her fingertips. Her brows were tented with worry and hurt. Disbelief.

“Don’t worry,” he said, “Aleks doesn’t believe it either.”

She shook her head furiously. “Syoma,” she snapped, “this cannot be true. I told you—do not lie.”

“I’m not lying, Katya.”

She looked at him desperately, shook her head. “This is not true,” she said, her note plaintive. “Volkov is not bonded.”

“Oh,” Sy said, heaving a sigh, “he most definitely is. We’ve been bonded for a while—it happened at a juniors’ game. I was like twelve, he was fifteen.”

She closed her eyes slowly, but her mouth remained open. She shook her head, slowly at first, then furiously, her hair flying back and forth, lashing her in the face. “No,” she whispered, “no, no, no, Syoma, this is not true, this cannot be true—what you say is lies—”

“Katya, I’m sorry—”

She heaved a huge breath. Her eyes were blazing with righteous rage. “If this true,” she snarled, leaning forward across the table, “then he is more filthy than I thought. He is terrible, Symon—you must not be bonded to him.”

Sy started to laugh.

She grabbed his hand, squeezed. She ground her teeth, then huffed, “He has cheated on you, Syoma, if this is true—I knew he would not be faithful to me, he had other women—but he has cheated on you, this whole time—”

Her face fell and she released him. “I am other woman,” she murmured, pressing her hand to her mouth again.

His brow knitted. “What? Katya, you’re not making any sense—”

“I let him cheat on you,” she said. “When he was with me, Syoma, I am so sorry, I did not know this—”

Sy blinked. “What? You and Aleks … ?”

She stared down into her lap, her bottom lip trembling.

“Well, well. What do we find here?”

Katya pressed her lips together tightly. Sy pinched the bridge of his nose.

Aleks and Dima strolled up to the table, Aleks wearing a suit and a smirk a mile wide. Dima seemed less impressed, asking softly, “Sister, we join you?”

Katya lifted her head. “Of course,” she said, shifting over so that Dima could slide into the seat beside her.

Aleks asked no permissions, simply plonked down on the seat beside Sy. He frowned at the vodka all over the table, dripping onto the floor. “Syoma,” he said, “you have made a mess.”

Sy turned to glare at him. “Thanks,” he said flatly, “I’m aware.”

Dima quirked a brow. Katya glanced between the two of them, but said nothing.

Aleks smirked, then looked to the other two Russians. “So nice to see you again, Katyushka,” he said.

“Do not,” she snarled at him.

“Sister …” Dima sounded put upon as he gave Katya a look that spoke of suffering.

She glowered at him, daring him to go farther. Instead, he nodded once, then said, “Sanja says you want to talk with me.”

“Yes,” Katya hissed, “very much so. I have asked Syoma to speak sense to you.”

Dima rolled his eyes toward Sy. He looked pained, yet bored. “And what should we talk of?” he drawled.

“Why is Volkov here?” Katya thundered, slamming her hand down on the table. “He is no good, you know this, so why—”

“Katya …”

Dima’s eyes promised danger. “Do not bring you into this.”

“I am not!” she huffed. “He is bad, so why—”

Dima sighed heavily, licked his lips. He held Sy’s gaze. “Because,” he said, “you asked me to do this thing.”

Katya fell silent. Sy glanced between the three Russians, feeling increasingly lost as the silence dragged on. “What thing?” he asked at last.

Aleks chuckled. “Did you know?” he asked, sidling a little closer. “Mackinnon.”

“What about Macks?” Sy asked.

“He is omega,” Dima said.

Sy lifted a brow. “What? Really?”

Both Russian men nodded solemnly. Sy looked at Katya. She turned her head and refused eye contact.

He looked back at Dima and Aleks. “How do you guys know that?” he asked, feeling incredulous. Luke was an omega? He’d always said he was beta. And he didn’t really act much like an omega.

Not that Sy knew a lot of omegas, really. There weren’t a lot of them in the league; they tended to be cloistered and secretive.

Katya inhaled sharply. She still wouldn’t look at him. “He said this,” she said finally. “At a party. After a fight, he argues with an alpha that my friend Linnea knows.”

Sy frowned deeply. “Linnea? As in Linnea Lindgren, the model?”

Katya nodded, her brows lifting into her hairline. “I am model,” she said, “and I am friends with models.”

“Right,” Sy said. “But—you were at a party, with her, and Macks was there? What the hell was Macks doing at a party—”

“It was his house.”

Sy rubbed his temples. “Seriously?” he muttered. “I thought Macks was more responsible than that …”

“He did not throw it, the alpha did.”

Aleks considered Sy for a moment, then turned to Katya. “What is this alpha? Does she have a name?”

“He,” Katya corrected sharply, and Sy’s head jerked up. “And yes—”

“Green,” Sy spat, drawing both Dima and Aleks’s attention. “Mason Green. Mayday.”

“No,” Aleks said.

Sy nodded. “He’s dating Linnea.”

“Dating is not right word,” Katya said, a nasty smirk curling around her features. “Linnea uses him.”

Sy frowned. “So …”

She glanced sideways at Aleks, then said, “He is a dick. No good for Linnea. She doesn’t want him anyway.”

“Then—”

“She wants Macks,” Dima said.

“Oh,” Sy said, his eyes widening. “So, introduce her and see how it goes. Macks is single.”

Katya was shaking her head. Sy glanced at Aleks, then at Dima, nervous tension driving his smile again. “Uh, no? What no?”

“This … Macks,” Katya said, “he is not single, like you say.”

“Uh, pretty sure he is—”

Katya shook her head. “He is with this alpha,” she said.

“Shit, no,” Sy spat, “you have got to be fucking kidding me. Mayday and … ? Macks and … ? No. No.”

Katya folded her arms. “I say same thing about others,” she murmured.

Sy frowned at her when her gaze drifted to Aleks. “There’s no way Macks and Mayday are a … thing. Mason’s with Linnea, Macks is way single. Neither of them … they’re friends, but …”

He frowned deeply. “That would just be weird,” he muttered.

Katya shrugged. “Think what you want, Syoma.”

He glanced at all of them in turn. “All right,” he said, “I think that’s enough. I’ve … good joke. I’m going home now.”

Aleks slid out of the booth, grabbed Sy’s crutches for him. The brunet frowned at the older man, even as he took the implements from him. “Thanks,” he said slowly.

“I will come with,” he said.

Sy glanced at Katya. She seemed startled.

“To outside,” Aleks clarified, apparently picking up on that exchange. “I will get cab for him.”

“Good plan,” Dima said.

Aleks landed a hand on the small of Sy’s back, guiding him toward the door. Sy glowered at the floor as he stumped along. He couldn’t wait to get out of this goddamn cast.

“What did you tell her?” Aleks growled as soon as they were out of earshot.

“Huh?”

“What did you say, Syoma? She knows something.”

Sy shook his head. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I didn’t tell her anything.”

They stepped outside into the cool of the night, Aleks turning to face him as he held the door. “Syoma,” he said, “you are terrible liar.”

*
“Thanks for the ride home, Dan,” Ty said as he hopped out of the older player’s Lexus.

“No problem, kiddo,” Danny said. “You took a real good hit back in Boston, so probably best if you don’t drive, at least not ‘til you’re playing again. I’m just glad you’re doin’ okay.”

Ty nodded, then regretted it as the world spun a bit. He’d been at the game tonight, but he’d been watching from the box. He’d been released from the hospital and had managed to get back to DC, but he was still healing. He wasn’t going to be playing for a while yet.

He frowned, and Danny mirrored his expression. Neither of them wanted to say the C-word, but it was definitely lurking in their minds.

Ty paused, then said, “Did you think Macks looked off tonight?”

Danny scoffed. “Did he ever,” he muttered. He didn’t particularly want to think about Luke right then and there—he was still pretty pissed about the whole incident back in Boston. “Probably high as fuck—guy can’t stay clean to save his life.”

Ty stared at him. “Really?” he asked. “Macks has a drug problem?”

Danny lifted his brows. “Stick around this league and you’ll probably have one too,” he murmured.

He paused, frowning. He thought back to the locker room, Luke’s vapid expression. Everything was a blur of motion, commotion, people nattering away at each other, and he saw Dima giving Luke a funny look, and Jake clapping Luke on the back—Luke hunched over his knees, looking like he was gonna throw up; Jake asking if he needed a ride …

“Did Macks get a ride home with anyone?” he asked.

Ty thought for a moment, then shook his head. “Nah,” he said, “pretty sure he trained it.”

Danny almost sighed in relief. “Well, that’s good …”

He paused again. “Where did Jake go after?”

Ty pulled back a bit, surprised. “Wats? Um, pretty sure he trained too.”

Danny shook his head.

“What? He said he was gonna make sure Macks got home okay—”

Danny felt like laughing. “Get in the car,” he said.

“What, why—”

“I’ll explain on the way, kid—but some bad shit is about to go down.”

*
Sean dropped his car keys as the elevator doors slid open. Mason covered his mouth with his hand, then glared at the older alpha.

There was blood all over the carpet in the hallway, and the condo door was wide open.

Sean bit his lip, heaved a breath. Then he charged down the hall, Mason right behind him.

Sean grabbed the man standing in the hallway, wrestling him into a chokehold. The man kicked and flailed helplessly, tugging at Sean’s arms.

“You fucking sonuvabitch, I’ll rip off your balls and make you choke on them, you—”

“Sean!” Mason snapped. “Stop—you’re choking him anyway—you’re gonna kill him!”

Sean stared at the other alpha, then slowly released his grip. Mason sighed heavily. “You’re just gonna get us in more shit,” he muttered.

Danny was clutching his throat. “Jesus Christ,” he croaked, “what the hell—”

Sean grabbed him by the front of his shirt, wound up to deck him. “Shut the fuck up,” he spat, “where’s Luke?”

Mason grabbed Sean’s arm, drew it down and back. “Seriously,” he said, “Danny is not the problem.”

Danny was still clutching his throat, but he backed away from the two alphas. “Thanks,” he murmured, his voice still hoarse.

“Where’s Luke? What did you do with him?”

“Sean!” Mason spat. “Jeez, give the guy a chance.

Danny cleared his throat. “Luke’s in bed,” he said.

Sean gritted his teeth. Danny cringed. “Resting! Jeez, I didn’t do anything—I figured Jake followed him home, and Ty and I got over here as soon as we could—”

“Jake?” Mason glanced between the two of them. “What about Dima?”

Danny held his hands askance. “What about Dima?” he asked. “I have no idea where Dima went after the game—home, likely. Luke took the train, but Jake followed him. As soon as I knew that …”

He paused, exhaling. His shoulders sank. “I didn’t figure it out soon enough,” he mumbled.

Sean shoved him out of the way and dashed down the hall. Mason looked at Danny. The older man glanced up, then shook his head. “Sorry,” he said, “I was hoping we’d get here in time. Jake was gone by the time we got here, but—”

“How do you know it was Jake?”

Danny snorted. “Are you kidding me?” he asked. “Jake’s been after Luke for a coupla weeks now—started on him when he went into heat just before playoffs. Coach shuffled the rooms, and Jake slipped Luke something, and then …”

He bowed his head, shuffled his feet. “I … didn’t mean to, but I kind made Luke switch rooms with me, and he ended up with Jake, and …”

Mason felt sick. “Fuck,” he breathed. He stared at the wall. That meant …

He darted down the hall, whipped around the corner. He paused in the doorway to the bedroom.

“Tell me who did this! Who did this to you?!”

“Fuck off, go away! Leave me alone, Sean, I didn’t ask you to come here—”

“—I’ll kill him, I’ll make him wish he’d never been born, Luke, you just say the word—if it’s one of your teammates, I’ll make sure he never plays hockey again, I’ll—”

“Shut up!” Luke clapped his hands over his ears.

Sean grabbed him by the shoulders, shook him. “Who raped you?!”

Luke decked him. Hard. The older man released the omega, clutching at his bloody nose. Luke stared at him as he went down, gasping for air. “Nobody raped me,” he snarled, “I wasn’t—that didn’t happen. Who told you that’s what happened? Who—”

He glanced up, caught sight of Mason. His shoulders fell. “You,” he breathed.

Mason wanted to cringe. “Luke, I—”

Luke shook his head. His upper lip was curled in disgust. “I trusted you.”

Mason had nothing to say. He looked at the floor. He knew he’d said too much. He’d only been trying to help, he’d only wanted to keep Luke safe, but …

He’d fucked up.

“Lucas,” Sean said, his voice now muffled by the tissue he had clamped around his nose, “Mason told me because he didn’t want you to get hurt again.”

“Well, good fucking job!” Luke spat. “Why don’t you go tell the fucking cops too, I’m sure they’ll help!”

“I am going to tell the cops,” Sean said.

“No! Don’t you fucking dare—”

“I’ve already called them, paramedics and police are on their way, and—”

Luke was shaking his head, hyperventilating. “No,” he laughed, “no, you didn’t. You did not involve the goddamn police, you didn’t call an ambulance—”

There were sirens screaming somewhere down the road. Luke’s face fell. “I don’t need to go to the goddamn hospital! I’m fine, I’m fine—I’ll be fine—”

“Luke, you were raped, you need medical treatment—we can press charges, we can get this guy behind bars—”

“Fuck you!” Luke thundered. “Just fuck you, you don’t know anything about this! Just tell everyone, tell the whole fucking world—Luke Mackinnon just got raped! Sure, that’s exactly what I need—everyone judging the fuck out of me, slutty goddamn omega, keep your goddamn legs closed—”

“Luke—”

“Calm down,” Sean said, grabbing Luke by the wrist, and twisting until the omega stilled, his teeth gritted. “You’re going to the hospital. There’s blood all over the hall—you’re hurt. You’re bleeding.”

“I’m fine,” Luke ground out.

“—and they’ll be able to get DNA evidence, and the cops will take a statement, and we’ll press charges—”

“Against who?” Luke sneered. “Against me? You think they’re gonna believe me?”

“There’s evidence—”

“I showered,” Luke spat. “Like ten times. There’s nothing left—they won’t find anything, and even if they did, they’re just gonna ask me a bunch of questions, like why didn’t you say no, why didn’t you fight him? Why did you lead him on?”

They stared at each other for moment. Luke looked down at last. “I’ve been through this before,” he mumbled finally. “I’ll be lucky if I don’t get charged.”

The sirens were screaming right outside now; the lights were flickering and flashing through the room.

“You’re going to the hospital,” Sean said matter-of-factly. “I want them to check you over and stitch anything up.”

“I—”

A walkie-talkie, radio static from the hall. “Good evening sir, we had a call about domestic violence—”

Luke shook his head, closed his eyes. Sean nodded.

Mason looked away, clapped a hand over his mouth to keep himself from saying anything stupid. He wanted to say so many things, but he’d fuck up again, he knew.

Instead, he watched as Luke was inspected by the paramedics, then sedated when he kicked and bit at the EMS workers. The cops were interrogating Danny and Luke’s younger teammate, Tyler Beckham. The kid looked shell-shocked, and Mason ached for him. Poor kid.

“We’re pressing charges,” Sean said when the police had finally left, “and the jackass will be off the team tomorrow morning.”

Mason gave him a sorrowful look.

“And,” the older alpha said, glancing at him, “I’ll be staying with him.”

Mason bristled. “I don’t think that’s necessary.”

“I do,” Sean said. “I’d rather he move in with me, but that’s not really feasible right now. Someone needs to keep an eye on him—”

“I was doing just fine!” Mason spat. “I was the one who told you to look out for him, I was the one …”

He trailed off. “It’s up to Luke,” he said.

“No,” Sean said, “he doesn’t get a say in this. It’s clearly not safe for him to be on his own, so …”

Mason sighed heavily. In a lot of ways, this was his fault … all his fault. If he had just stayed home, if he had gotten back a little sooner, if he’d just kept his mouth shut …

If he’d thought about Jake and not Dima.

“I hate to interrupt,” Danny said, “but do either of you want a ride to the hospital?”

*
“Thanks,” Ty said listlessly, hopping out of the car in front of the station.

“Thanks,” Danny echoed, a tired half-smile lifting to his lips.

Ty tried to smile, nodded. “I’ll, uh, take the train the rest of the way.” He had no desire to go to the hospital, no desire to see his teammate there or …

He shut the door, gave them a little wave, then turned to the station.

He was exhausted, wrung. He wanted to collapse into his bed, but he wasn’t sure he’d be able to sleep now.

The train pulled into the station, just a few minutes after ten. He glanced at his phone, then boarded the train. He flopped into one of the seats, sighing as he settled back.

He saw blood when he closed his eyes. He felt so sick.

His phone buzzed again. He felt half sick as he pulled it out, glancing at the number.
‘hey u are in dc now u show me around?’

He frowned, then scrolled up in the conversation. Gabe.

His heart tripped a little faster. He started typing a response, then deleted it and put the phone away again. Maybe he could pretend he didn’t see it until the sun had risen, that he’d been asleep all night. His breath was coming short as he thought about replying. What if he wrote back, and then Gabe never said anything? What if he wrote back and then Gabe did write back? What if they met up for coffee? Would that be a date?

He didn’t know and it seemed terrifying. He looked out the window instead.

His phone buzzed again. Gabe again. ‘would be so fun :)’

Ty sighed and shoved the phone away again. He didn’t have the strength to deal with this tonight.


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