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

Chapter 28: The Feeling of Failure [Slapshot!]

Chapter 28: The Feeling of Failure [Slapshot!]

Mason woke up with the sun burning into his eyes; they’d left the curtains open last night. He winced, dragged an arm over his eyes. The sheets were soft, blindingly white in the sunshine, the small shadows cast in the valleys of their rumples not enough to dull the glare. Beside him, Linnea shifted, rolled over in her sleep.

He looked to her, her long, blonde locks scattered across the snow-white pillow of the hotel bed. The sheets had imprinted wrinkles on her skin. He studied her for a moment, then reached over, dragged his fingertips along her cheek, down across her parted lips.

Her eyelids twitched, and then, slowly rolled up, revealing her bright blue eyes, almost pupilless, boring into him with the same intensity as the sun.

“Hey,” he said softly, still tracing his fingers over her lips, her soft skin, lingering, then letting his hand fall away.

The skin around her eyes crinkled up, her gaze narrowing. She pressed her lips together, the hint of a smile pulling at them as she moaned, “Mmm, morning.”

She pushed up from the mattress and straddled him in one fluid motion. She ran her hands down his chest, quirking a brow as she smirked at him.

“Good morning,” he said, returning her grin as she rocked her hips. “Careful girl, you know that has some dangerous side effects.”

“Mmm,” she purred, leaning down, her nails digging into his shoulders, “you know I like to live dangerously.”

“Do you ever,” he gasped, rolling his hips up to meet her. He grabbed her by the shoulders and rolled them over, pinning her to the mattress. He pushed her legs up high, spread them open, and went down, burying his face between her thighs, nipping and sucking at her lips, rolling his tongue up that slit, pausing to ply his teeth to her clit, listening to her moan, feeling her shudder as she threaded her hands in his hair, tugging viciously. He flicked his tongue against her.

She tugged on his hair again, this time pulling him back; she pressed her palm flat against his forehead, holding him back. “On your back,” she demanded.

He shimmied back a bit, leaned back on his elbows, before dropping back entirely. “Like this?”
She crawled over him. “Hmm, yes.” Her hands all over him, rubbing, raising gooseflesh. He exhaled long and slow through his nose.

She leaned in close, whispered, “Are you hungry, boy?”

“Starving,” he replied, dragging her in for a kiss, hoping to go in deep, but she pulled back, shaking her head, that coy smirk still playing on her lips, in her eyes.

He landed his hands on her ass, holding her steady as she lowered herself over his face, tangling her hands in his hair again.

“Eat up,” she instructed, her voice falling low as she rocked her hips for emphasis.

He slid his tongue inside her, tasting all she had to offer. He let one of his hands work between her legs, pinching and flicking her clit. He let his fingers wander lower, sliding inside her, replacing his tongue as he licked his way up to her clit, then sucked.

“So good at this,” she murmured, “I think you eat more pussy than you say.”

He turned his head to the side, barely inhaling. “I’d eat you out every day,” he panted, then turned back, ready to dive in again.

She pulled away abruptly, leaving him panting on the mattress, watching her every move.
“On your stomach,” she hissed, sliding off the bed. She made her way to her overnight bag.

“Hmm?”

She glanced back up at him, tossing her hair over her shoulder, tucking some loose strands behind her ear. “You heard me. On your belly.”

He rolled onto his stomach, glancing over his shoulder at her. “Oh,” he said, eyes widening when she pulled the dildo out of the bag, waving it at him.

She crawled back onto the bed, dropping the toy beside him. “You wanna get fucked so bad, baby,” she purred, “I’ll fuck you up. Make you feel it for weeks.”

He tensed, squeezed his thighs together. She raked a hand through his tangled hair, pulling his bangs out of his eyes. “Filthy,” she spat, “how else do you get so good at this?”

He snorted, then ducked his head, trying to hide laughter. “You’re right,” he said at last, “I got a lot of practice, you’re not the only one I’ve been eating.”

“Then you’ll take this like a man,” she told him, guiding him into position.

“Well, I dunno about that—wouldn’t it be better if I took it like a chick?”

He glanced between his legs at her. “I mean, you’re probably better at that.”

She smacked his ass. “You think you’re so smart,” she said.

“Just sayin’ facts, ma’am.”

“Open wide, say ahh.”

“Can I say ow instead?” He winced as she pushed the toy into him. “Jeez, Linnea, I know you’ve got your own automatic lube supply, but I don’t and—ow.”

“I did not tell you to say ow,” she replied evenly.

He gritted his teeth, clutched at the sheets. “Well, that’s what I wanna say.”

“You might regret saying it,” she mused, jammed the toy the rest of the way into him.

“Ow,” he whimpered, bit at his lip. “Was I rough last night?”

“Very rough,” she purred, pulling back on the toy. “I have bruises, and people will ask.”

He exhaled sharply as she sank it back into him. “All right, ow, I got it. I’ll be nice.”

She pushed the toy in deeper. “If you want to be nice,” she snarled, “you’ll bring your omega, and I can play with him.”

“Ow-ow-ow, okay. Is that what this is about? You wanna peg my omega?”

“I thought I made that clear.”

“You’re making it really clear right now,” he panted, then closed his eyes, bit at his lip. He did not understand how Luke got off on this. Then again, he hoped he made it feel a little better, was a little nicer to him.

He pitched forward a bit. “I’ll bring him with next time,” he panted, “but, last night, some stuff went down, so I couldn’t—I just …”

“I want to play with him,” she whispered, “I want to play with him so bad, Mason, and you keep saying next time.”

He swallowed down a cry. “H-he’s pretty shy,” he lied, “it takes him some time to warm up to ideas like this, y’know—”

He gritted his teeth as she all but stabbed him with the toy. “You are his alpha,” she snarled, “so make him do it.”

“Okay,” he breathed, “okay. Yeah. Fine, I’ll—I’ll get him to do it.”

She withdrew the toy, pitched it aside. He collapsed to the mattress, exhaling in relief. He rolled onto his back.

“Do I get a reward for that?” he inquired. “I mean, I didn’t even cry.”

She patted his cheek playfully. “You get rewarded when you bring me the omega to play with.”

“Sure,” he breathed, “sure, anything you say.”

“Besides,” she said, smiling sweetly, “you played lots last night.”

She pitched a discarded condom at him, then waltzed away into the washroom. He picked the rubber off his person, pitched it aside again. He rolled onto his side, curled up.

He stretched out, then reached for his phone, which was charging on the docking station. He looked at the time, scrolled through his messages.

One from Luke, a ‘help me’ that made his heart pound. His mouth went dry, and he rolled out of bed, tugging his clothes on hastily. He glanced at the time again. Luke had sent that hours ago.
His stomach knotted. What had happened? Was he too late? Maybe Jake had come back, or maybe it was Dima this time, or—

He shoved his feet in his shoes, dove out the door, raking his hands through his hair, trying to comb the tangles out of it. He paused in front of a mirror in the hallway, scrubbed dried cum off his cheek.

He had another message, this one from Sean, just a little while later. ‘Get your stuff between 12 and 1.’

He stared at it, frowned. What the hell was going on? Was Luke kicking him out? Was Luke so hurt, so scared that he didn’t want anyone around, that he wanted them to go away?

He texted Luke first: ‘wut happened’

The elevator stopped at the first floor, and he stepped out into the foyer. He checked the room out on his card, then headed outside, flagging down a cab. He got a ride to the train station. He didn’t feel like having the taxi take him all the way to Luke’s.

He checked his phone when he was on the subway again, but there was no reply.

‘r u home’

He waited what felt like forever; thirty seconds ticked by and he messaged Sean, almost frantically. ‘what is going on’

The reply was almost instantaneous. ‘Are you coming to get your shit?’

‘yeah—where’s luke? Is he home’

‘None of your business’

He gritted his teeth. ‘it is my business is he @ the hospital still?’

‘just come get ur shit’

He waited a moment, then wrote, ‘he asked 4 help is he ok?’

No response. He gritted his teeth, pocketed the phone. He felt sick. He wrapped his arms around himself.

His phone buzzed. Sean again. ‘the crowne plaza, k street’

Mason closed his eyes, sighed heavily. He hopped off at the next station, turned himself around, and headed back downtown.

It was noon by the time he arrived at the hotel. He strolled into the lobby, smiling tightly at the concierge. He perched on one of the overstuffed sofas near the elevators and waited for Sean.
The older man made it downstairs a moment or two later. Mason looked up at him apathetically, lifting his brows as he said, “You moved my shit.”

“Yeah,” Sean said, “come upstairs, collect it.”

Mason shoved his phone into his pocket again, followed the older alpha into the car. They rode up to the eleventh floor in silence. Mason kept glancing at Sean, but he was stony-faced, silent.
He followed him down the hall, noting the carpet, the wallpaper as they made their way to Sean’s room. He unlocked the door, held it open as Mason stepped in.

Sure enough, Mason’s stuff was in a pile on the floor. It had been hastily packed, some of it thrown in bags that weren’t his; some of his sleeves were sticking out of the suitcase, caught in the zipper. He glowered at Sean. “The fuck, man?”

Sean nodded. The door closed behind him with a click. “You can take your shit and get the fuck out of DC. Go back to LA or wherever the fuck in Canada you actually live.”

Mason heaved a sigh. “Where’s Luke? Is he okay, is he at home, is he still at the hospital, or—”

“I told you, that’s none of your business.”

Mason bared his teeth. “It is my business, I’m his alpha—”

Sean shook his head. “Nope,” he said, “you’re not.”

The brunet sneered, snarled. “I am so—”

“Nope,” Sean repeated, “I signed the papers this morning. Legally, I’m his alpha for the next six months—and you’re not. What I say, goes.”

“What.”

“You heard me. I’ve got legal guardianship of our miscreant omega, gotta make sure he stays out of trouble. And that means he’s not fraternizing with you.”

Mason shook his head. “What? Sean, the fuck? What did Luke say about that?”

“Doesn’t matter,” Sean said, “his word has no legal weight. Mine does.”

Mason rubbed his temples. “You’re not making sense,” he tittered, his voice tight with tension. “You can’t just throw me out, cut off contact right now—Luke was just—you know what just happened, he needs me right now—”

“I disagree. What Luke needs is less of you in his life.”

Mason narrowed his gaze. “What are you saying?”

“We’ve got a lawsuit—a criminal court case—on our hands here, Mayday. We need you to go away. ‘cause if Luke’s caught with any alpha but me, that’s going to go right out the window—”

Mason didn’t know what to do, what to say. He wanted to deck Sean, break his nose. He wanted to put him in a headlock. He wanted to bash his stupid face off the wall.

But he also wanted to sink to his knees, curl up in a ball, cry helplessly.

Luke had just been raped, it was Mason’s fault, and now Sean was forcibly cutting Mason out of Luke’s life.

“We’re friends,” he managed, “can’t I at least see my friend?”

“Nope. No contact. Not a word—not a text, not a snap, nothing. Nothing for the next six months, Mason.”

“You have got to be fucking me,” Mason spat. “He’s my best friend, Sean, we grew up together—I mated him, he never broke it, we’re still fucking mated!”

Sean frowned. Mason leaned back against the wall, holding his head in his hands. “You can’t just—fuck you! We’re friends, if nothing else, I need to be there for him—right now, I can’t just …”

He lifted his head again, looked around, helplessly, lost. “I need a smoke,” he muttered. “Fuck.”

Sean considered him. He dug his papers out of his pocket, started rolling. “You mind?” he asked the older alpha as he fished for his lighter.

“No,” Sean said, “go ahead.”

Mason nodded, then hoisted himself onto the window sill. He pulled back the curtains, opened the window, and lit up. He dragged deep on the joint, then turned to glare at Sean.

“Why?” he snarled.

“Because of the suit. Nobody believes Luke—of course. They think he’s just a whore, an omega lying to try and get something out of an alpha, an omega who did something he regrets, who’s trying to extort the alpha. If he’s good for six months, if there’s only me …”

Mason flicked ash off the end of his joint. He curled his lip at Sean, daring the older man to say anything about it. He could foot the bill for the damages to the room; Mason didn’t care. “I’m his friend,” he reiterated, “I think you could make an exception for me.”

“I don’t think—”

“Dammit, Sean! I fucked up, I fucked up big time, I can’t just—disappear now! This is all my fuckin’ fault, if I’d realized about Jake, if I hadn’t bothered telling you, if I’d just been home, this wouldn’t have happened. And he’s pissed I told you, and he’s gonna be pissed I told you about the bond, and—”

“Mason—”

“If I leave now, if I just go away and don’t talk to him, and …”

He shook his head. “I can’t, Sean, I can’t. This is my fault, I gotta try to fix it somehow, I need to help, I—”

“You can help by fucking off.”

Mason stared at him.

“You’ve done enough,” the older alpha said, “trust me. You’re right—this is your fault.”

“Then let me try to make it right! You’re not the only one, you shouldn’t be the only one with him right now, please—”

He stubbed out the joint; it wasn’t helping. “I’m a shitty fucking alpha, I know, but—”

Sean was silent for a moment, then said, “You were doing what you could. You did what you thought was best.”

“I fucked up,” Mason croaked, barely choking back tears. Luke had been raped because of him. Because he’d been so worried about the wrong person, because he’d left, because he’d wasted his time trying to convince Sean to protect Luke from the wrong person …

He’d been able to ignore it last night when he’d had to focus on Luke, when Luke had been bleeding everywhere, but guilt subsumed him now, thick and black through his veins, shuddering through him, choking him. His throat closed; his lips trembled.

“You tried,” Sean offered, his voice falling to a hush.

“I couldn’t keep him safe,” Mason snarled, tears dropping onto his sleeve. “That’s my job, isn’t it?! That’s what I’m supposed to do! I’m his alpha, I’m supposed to keep him safe! And I couldn’t—I couldn’t keep him safe last time either, and—”

“Mason—”

Sean sat down beside him on the sill. Mason kicked at him, gritted his teeth, growled. “Don’t shut me out, Sean, don’t make me—”

“Mason, it’s for his own good—you can’t protect him from every fucking Jake Watson out there. You’re not gonna be there all the time, so …”

Mason’s breath hitched; he rubbed at his eyes. “I couldn’t …”

Sean landed a hand on his shoulder, then dragged him into a half-hearted embrace. He rested his head on Sean’s shoulder, clinging to whatever was still holding him together as he unraveled.

He’d fucked up, he’d gotten Luke raped, he’d betrayed his omega, screwed up his only duty, and now, Sean was trying to deny him the chance to make things as right as they could be, to be there for Luke—his omega, his friend—for the next six months, when Luke needed him most—

He exhaled, sobbed silently. He clutched at Sean, dropped his head, shaking everywhere, absolutely overcome.

Sean tugged him in closer, then slid two fingers underneath his chin, tilted his head up.

It was a long, slow kiss, almost entirely unexpected, but entirely natural. Sean tightened his grip on Mason, clutched at the younger alpha’s hand. Mason exhaled into the kiss, let Sean guide him back against the wall.

He was panting when they broke apart. Sean brushed his hair out of his eyes. “You’re fine,” he whispered, “you’re fine, you’re doing fine, we’ll get through this—”

Mason closed his eyes. He hadn’t felt this pathetic in a long time, but there was nothing he could do now—he was drowning in guilt, wave after wave of helplessness crashing over him, forcing him under. “Don’t make me go,” he begged, “Sean, please, I just—I need … I need to be with him, I need to make it right—”

“Shhh, Mason, there’s no making this right—”

He hiccupped. “Then less wrong,” he offered, his voice rising at the end. “Please, Sean, I—I have to do something, I can’t just leave him, I can’t, I can’t—”

“Shh, sh, Mason …”

Sean kissed him again, slowly, gently, and Mason closed his eyes, wondered if sleeping with the older alpha would make him relent. But he didn’t care; Sean was warm and real, strong while he was falling apart—something he could cling to, something he could hold onto as they kissed, over and over again, until Mason’s already dizzy head was spinning, even as they rocked against each other, seeking comfort, distraction, something—

Anything. Anything but that all-consuming guilt, the feeling of failure.

*

Danny pushed past the creaking door with trepidation, his footfalls echoing on the stone steps. He glanced about at the crowded pews, the light streaming through the stained glass windows, illuminating row after row of worshipers gathered on Sunday morning.

He took a seat in the back row, buttoning his jacket. He glanced about nervously; did he know anyone here? Had anyone seen him come in, did they recognize him?

Nobody seemed to pay any attention. He lowered his gaze, picked up the hymn book from the back pocket of the pew ahead of him. He’d really been hoping to hit confession earlier this week, but Easter was over and the confessional times had definitely dwindled.

He’d tried praying the last couple of nights, but he couldn’t do it, not on clear conscience. He hadn’t been to church, he hadn’t confessed, he hadn’t taken any of the sacraments in so long …

God didn’t want to talk to him, apparently. He’d broken with the church a while ago, pretty much when he’d found out he was omega. He’d railed at the idea—how could God make him an omega? How could God have decided that was what he was?

After all, God made each and every one of them, made them and set them on their paths. He knew everything that would happen to each of His creations, and He willed it to be so. God made them all exactly as they were supposed to be.

If He didn’t, then He was no God at all—what was a God that did not know all?

But Danny had been so betrayed the first time he’d gone into heat. After all, Church doctrine held that to be an omega was in and of itself sinful; omegas were weak-willed and more susceptible to temptations of the flesh, more easily given over to sin. Eve had been an omega, which was how the serpent had manipulated her in the Garden of Eden; she had brought such sin upon all mankind.

Heat was wanton, lustful, sinful. And only omegas went into heat, so omegas were inherently sinful. The Church taught that omegas needed help and guidance; that they should be brought to heel by their superiors; that an omega should be completely subservient to the alpha who owned them. And it was written there in the scripture that omegas were like beasts or chattel—to be owned by alphas and betas.

How could God have made him an omega? How could God have made him so sinful, knowing full well that he would live a life of shame and sin, that he would bring nothing but sorrow to the house of God? That he would be tempted at every turn by that proverbial serpent, that he would fall just like Eve before him?

It didn’t make sense. He was betrayed; how could God do that to him?

“God tests us,” the priest had said, “He only gives us the sorrows He knows we are capable of handling. God has judged you able to bear this heavy burden—bear your lot with grace and humility.”

Danny had resolved to do as the priest instructed—to bear his lot, to be graceful, to be humble, and to be a good Christian.

The fact he was gay broke him. The priest was wrong; God didn’t know what He was doing. There was something wrong; Danny couldn’t bear the lot he’d been given. How could he be a good Christian if he was tempted to be sinful at every turn?

He could have gone into the clergy, joined an order and become a monk or something, but he didn’t think that would stop it. He’d heard some awful things from his friends about the priests. He knew it wouldn’t fix him. It wouldn’t keep him from sin. The only thing that could keep him from sin was himself, and he was weak.

He’d stopped going to church. He’d stopped praying. He’d pretty much went into hiding; he didn’t celebrate anything with his family any more. It worried Mom, he knew, and it worried his grandmother more. But he couldn’t bring himself to go back. He was too angry, too raw.
How could God have made him into something He hated?

Matt wasn’t religious at all, so he didn’t care if Danny prayed or not. He didn’t care if Danny went to church or not. He still did Christmas and the like, but it was the glossy Americanized version of things—not the spiritual affair it had been when Danny was growing up.

Even if it was sinful, even if Danny was weak, even if he wasn’t a good Christian when he was with Matt—he felt like a good person. And he felt like himself. Matt gave him freedom to be what he was supposed to be. And if that was what God had created him as, then Matt gave him the space to give full expression to the Creator’s divine vision.

Danny hadn’t … hadn’t thought to thank God for sending Matt into his life. Even breaking with the Church, giving up prayer and worship and everything else had been part of the path Danny needed to walk—the path He had laid out for Danny. God had given him his lot and when he’d thought he couldn’t bear it, he’d struck out on his own. He’d never really thought that Matt’s arrival in his life was divine intervention, but it was clear to him now.

And now Matt was sick, so sick. And Danny felt helpless again, watching his mate lie there, shivering and sweating by turns, hallucinating and dreaming until it was all the same. And it was a very real possibility that he could die. Yes, the doctors were doing what they could. Yes, Matt was responding to treatment well. Yes, the variety of leukemia he had was supposedly very curable. But that didn’t mean he was safe, that he wasn’t going to die.

Danny felt their mortality very acutely every time he looked at Matt’s gaunt face, his fever-bright eyes.

And this was God’s doing too, another test of sorts. Danny had to turn away from God and the Church to find Matt, to learn how to be himself and give expression to the parts of his identity that the Church condemned. And now that he had solace in the fact he was a gay omega, he needed to return to the Christian part of his identity. He needed to consolidate who he was, to allow all the facets of his identity coalesce into one comprehensive entity known as Daniel O’Neill.

He could be omega, he could be gay, and he could still be a good Christian. He saw that now. He had strayed from the path, and now he needed to incorporate his faith into the new identity he’d forged for himself. That would mean coming back to church, confessing his sins, taking the sacraments. It would mean going home and participating in Mass on Christmas Eve, holding candles with his nieces and nephews. It would mean praying and saying grace before Christmas dinner, it would mean taking part in Lent and Easter.

But most of all, it would mean accepting all that God had given him. God had given him burdens, yes, but God had also given him Matt. He had burdens, yes, but he also had many gifts. And he’d been so busy being angry, lost, hurt, confused, that he hadn’t taken the time to be thankful for everything else God had given him.

Matt being sick was a painful reminder that he needed to recognize his gifts. That he needed to be thankful for everything God gave to him, for as God gave, so He taketh away.

He didn’t think Matt would really appreciate Danny on his knees at the side of the bed, praying to a God he didn’t believe in, but Danny was desperate. He was scared; Matt was so, so sick, and he didn’t seem to be getting better. And Danny remembered being a child, remembered praying and how soothed he was after, how comforted he was. After he prayed, he felt as though things would be all right. Even if there were still hardships ahead, prayer had power.
But he couldn’t pray. He had bowed his head and tried, tried so hard to talk to God, to thank Him, to worship Him. And to ask Him to look after Matt, to look to Matt’s soul—not because Matt was a good Christian, but because Danny beseeched Him to take pity on his mate.

There had been no comfort, and he’d been distracted, fidgety. His thoughts had been jumbled, and he felt more distressed, more perturbed. God had been silent, so silent.

God had never spoken to him before, but he’d felt His presence, certainly. It was the comfort he had after prayer—God had heard him and although He had not answered, He had sent a sign that He was there, that the prayer had been heard.

But there was nothing now. Perhaps God was angry at Danny, the way Danny had been angry at Him.

So there he was in the church, sitting in the back row, leafing through the hymn book. He’d try to sing and pray and take part in worship today for the first time in years. He’d confess as well, when he could. And he would take the sacraments when the time was right. He’d call his mother, ask her to forgive him all his transgressions, to pray for him and Matt too.

When it came time to pray, he fell on his knees, praying fervently alongside the other worshipers.

He lingered longer, sitting in the pew with his head bowed, listening to the priest speak in hushed tones with the other members of the flock. He leafed his way through the hymn book again, his eyes fogging up as he read over words and phrases that had long been familiar to him, melodies that he’d hummed as a child swirling through his hears, the faint strains of his mother playing the organ in the family room after Sunday dinner.

He closed his eyes, bowed his head, pinched the bridge of his nose.

He sat there for a moment longer, then rose to his feet and left the church. A quick glance over his shoulder told him the priest was still talking to others.

He headed outside into the bright, fresh day, the breeze blowing in from the ocean, the scent of salt with it. Fluffy white clouds scudded through the blue sky. He breathed deep, closed his eyes again, exhaled all of the negative feeling he was carrying with him.

But there was still no comfort. He pressed his lips together, jammed his hands in his pockets. He glanced up at the church, the sun hitting the façade, bathing it in light. He pondered it for a moment, then turned away, kicking at stones on the sidewalk, dragging his feet as he made the long trek home again.


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