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

Not a Date (Unless You Call It One) [Submerged]

Not a Date (Unless You Call It One) [Submerged]

Swim practice is nothing of note. Brunch is relatively unremarkable. Mel razzes him a bit about maybe getting laid last night, but he shrugs off questions about it.

He didn’t, but it’s really none of their business. And he doesn’t want to tell them about Reese throwing up.

He glowers into his coffee and tries to forget the image again.

What is remarkable is the weird package stuffed in their mailbox today. It’s Saturday. They shouldn’t get any mail. Yet there it is. He frowns at it, then pulls it out slowly. He turns it over.
He doesn’t think anyone has a reason to be mad at him, to want to send him anthrax or a bomb or something, but …

One never knows.

He recognizes the address, though, so he takes it with him into the house. He doubts one of his sponsors is trying to kill him.

Like. Maybe? They might really want him off the payroll, but he can’t fathom why. Other than he’s costing them a lot of money with his winning ways. They’re probably regretting those bonus structures now.

He peels the end of the parcel open carefully, then pulls out the box. He contemplates it, before opening it too.

Inside, there’s a note and two slips of paper, along with a red, folded shirt. He unfolds the shirt first, frowns at it. Seems like a jersey of some kind. Washington Stars.

It’s not football or basketball. He turns it over, looks at the number and the name, then pitches it aside. He looks at the tickets.

Finally, he plucks up the note. “Hey Gabriel,” it says, “here’s an early birthday present for you, from one of our partners. We hope you enjoy it.”

He turns the letter over, finds more instructions on the back of it.

He drops the note, then pulls out his phone. He calls Mel. “Hey,” he says when she picks up.

“Dude,” she says, “you scared the shit out of me, Flossy. Who the fuck calls anymore? Can’t you text like a normal person?”

“Figured it was faster,” he replies, and he can almost hear her exasperated sigh. “Did you get a parcel from X-Gear?”

“What?” she asks. “No.”

“Huh,” he says. “They sent me a package.”

“Okay,” she says. “Did you get like … shoes or something?”

“No,” he says, turning the letter over again. “They sent me … I think they’re hockey tickets or something? There’s a jersey. They said it’s an early birthday present.”

“Seriously,” she spits. “They sent you a fucking birthday present?”

“Uh,” he says.

“Look at you, Mr. Golden Boy, America’s favorite fucking swimmer,” she sneers. “Mr. Olympic Medal, Mr. Fantastic—”

“Hey,” he says.

“They didn’t send me a birthday present,” she grumbles.

“It’s weird,” he tells her.

“Sure,” she says. “So weird. People sending you free stuff like tickets to … what did you say again?”

He glances at the tickets. “A hockey game. In DC.”

“Oh.” Pause. “That’s a shitty consolation prize.”

“I take it you don’t want to go,” he drawls.

“Who in their right mind wants to go hang out in an arena with ice, freezing, as a bunch of goons beat each other up?”

He sighs. “I dunno,” he mumbles, “I’ve got some friends who play.”

“Not my thing,” she says, “whatever floats your boat, though, Gabby.”

“Don’t call me that,” he spits.

“Why not? You let Pieces do it.”

He rolls his eyes. “Okay, don’t start—”

“Seriously, Gabriel, you have to address this.”

“What?!”

“The thing the two of you have going on. Reese is really distressed about it.”

Gabriel scoffs. “He is not.”

“Is so,” she says. “Look, I have chemistry with him this semester, he is really fucking distraught about the whole thing, you need to talk to him—”

“Says who?”

“He does!”

“Why doesn’t he talk to me?! Why’s he talking to you?”

“Because he doesn’t know what to do and you’re terrifying?”

“I am not—”

“You’re giving him mixed messages—”

“He’s the one waffling,” Gabriel snipes. “He’s the one coming onto me, then saying oh we can’t, I’m Catholic.”

That gives her pause. “What?” she asks. “What does that have to do with anything? He’s literally never mentioned that—”

“Yeah,” Gabriel says. “He told me he has some stupid vow or something.”

Mel is silent. Gabriel pitches the tickets down on the table, plops into one of the kitchen chairs. He runs his hand over his face. “So, like,” he says.

“That’s … he didn’t tell me that,” she says. “I … um.”

“It’s been his shtick forever now,” Gabriel grumbles. “Every time. First it was I have a boyfriend, then when that excuse evaporated, it was this …”

“Okay,” she says.

There’s another long pause, crackling over the line. He looks up at the ceiling. He frowns. There are water spots on it.

“But, Gabriel,” she says, “I think … I think he’s open to it. Like. Maybe he has this vow or whatever, but … And maybe you don’t need to just … hop in the sack.”

Gabriel frowns.

“But … like. Take him on a date?” Her voice is strained.

“Why?” he asks.

There’s a thump. “Gabriellllllll,” she groans. “Oh my God, how are you this dense?”

“I have literally never asked anyone out in my life, Melissa.”

“You’ve had girlfriends—”

“And they all asked me out, and dates are stupid and a waste of time.”

She inhales. “I understand why you’re single,” she mutters.

“Seriously. What’s the point? We hang out, we eat dinner, we play video games—we’re practically in a relationship, just without the sex part, so I guess it’s a bromance.”

“You could still go out sometimes,” she says. “I mean, really, Gabriel, you need to get out more anyway. And I doubt Reese wants to be a hermit, cooped up inside with you all the time.”

“He hates snow,” Gabriel says automatically, “and he has a broken collarbone, so he’s pretty good with it right now.”

She groans again. “You’re the worst,” she mutters. “Listen, just take him out. It doesn’t even need to be anything, just grab dinner out instead of getting take-out one time, or something.”

“Why,” Gabriel says again, “so I can lead him on? So we can act like we’re dating, and then he won’t put out?”

“You’re impossible,” she grunts. “No, idiot, go out because you like his company.”

“I don’t like his company,” Gabriel says firmly.

“Are you fucking me right now,” she spits.

“No,” he says.

“Don’t,” she fires back. “You hang out with him all the time.”

“That doesn’t mean I enjoy hanging out with Reese,” Gabriel says sharply, just as Reese slinks downstairs.

The redhead locks eyes with him. Gabriel freezes, recognizing hurt on the other swimmer’s face. But it’s gone just as quick, and Reese looks away, heads into the back room.

Shit. He heard that.

“So why the fuck do you hang out with him then?!” Mel barks.

Reese trots back upstairs, slams his bedroom door. Gabriel winces. “Uh,” he says, “I don’t know, Mel, I just …”

“Ugh,” she grouses, “fine. Just take him out sometime, totally platonic. Do your weird … bromance thing.”

He glances down at the package, its contents scattered across the table. “What about the hockey game?” he asks.

“What about the—rgggh! Gabriel, will you focus?! We’re talking about you and Reese and your utter inability to meaningfully relate to another human being, don’t change the subject to sports and—”

“I meant, should I invite him to the hockey game?” he grinds out, gripping his phone a little harder than he has to.

“Oh,” Mel says. “Uh. I guess you could? If you want.”

“Is that a good date?” he asks, plucking up the tickets again. “I don’t know; I don’t do these things.”

“It … might be,” she says. “If he likes hockey.”

Gabriel has no idea if Reese likes hockey or not. He has no idea if Reese likes sports other than swimming. If he watches golf or follows tennis or something.

He blinks a bit. He doesn’t know much about Reese, actually. They mostly just play video games in silence.

He glances toward the stairs.

“It’s close to Valentine’s Day,” he says.

“Oh my God,” Mel spits. “You enormous fucking sap. Yes—take him to DC. Wine and dine him, you idiot. You absolute moron.”

She hangs up on him. He pulls the phone away from his ear, glaring at the screen. He can’t tell if she was joking or not.

He glances toward the stairs again.

He waits until dinnertime to ask. Reese has made himself busy in the kitchen, cooking up some pasta. Gabriel hasn’t seen a single vegetable in the kitchen yet, but he supposes pasta is better than pizza at this point.

And it’s not like he doesn’t need the carbs.

He stands in the doorway of the kitchen like a creep, flipping through his junk mail nonchalantly. He saw it earlier, but hadn’t opened it. He didn’t give a shit about the free credit card or whatever they were trying to sell him now.

He has no idea if Reese is still mad at him or not. If he is, he’s not letting on.

“Uh,” he says finally, glancing up from the pile of white envelopes.

“’Sup?” Reese asks, slipping off his headphones. He drops the spoon on the spoon rest, turns down the burner. He looks at Gabriel.

Gabriel frowns. “Uh, so I did a photoshoot for one of my sponsors just after London, and, uh, they sent me a couple tickets to …”

He makes a face. “A hockey game?”

Reese blinks. “Hockey?” He looks like he’s thinking hard. “Is that the one with the brooms?”

“No,” Gabriel says slowly, “that’s curling.”

“Ohhh. Curling. Heh. It even has a stupid name.” Reese grins like an idiot.

Gabriel sighs. “Not the point.”

“Mm,” Reese says, plucks the tickets out of his hand. “Saturday? You gonna go?”

Gabriel turns a little pink. “It’s a sponsor,” he says, “they sort of expect it, I bet …”

“Mm,” Reese says. “Does Baltimore even have a hockey team?”

“Nah. It’s in DC.”

Reese plucks through the mail. “So, it’s like a night out? There’s dinner here too …”

“Dinner?”

“These look like tickets to some club or something.”

Gabriel groans. He hadn’t noticed that earlier; it was in the directions, in all likelihood. He’d only skimmed through the note while he was on the phone with Mel. “They really expect me there then.”

“Mm,” Reese says for seemingly the umpteenth time. The pounding bass of his music thumps through the silence. “Gonna take one of your sisters then?”

“Hell no,” Gabriel grumps.

“Your mom?”

Gabriel glares.

“Mel? Kit-Kat?”

Gabriel continues glaring. Reese stares at him for a moment.

The pot starts boiling over.

“Oh shit—”

Reese turns around, deals with the water sloshing over the pot. Gabriel watches him, then says cautiously, “I wondered if you wanted to go.”

“Nah,” Reese says. “Hockey? The fuck is that. Tell me when they send you tickets to a real sport, like baseball or something.”

Gabriel sighs.

Well, he tried.

Two days later, Reese steps into Gabriel’s room. He’s fresh out of the shower, clad only in a towel, dripping water everywhere as he opens the door, leans in, drawls, “Hey.”

Gabriel pauses, slips his headphones off, looks up from the screen.

He’s expecting a question about homework or something really dumb like if he’s seen the redhead’s lucky socks, but instead, Reese says, “So, uh, the other day. Were you … like, asking me out?”

Gabriel deadpans. “No,” he says, “why would I do that?”

Reese laughs. “Oh, okay, good, it’d be weird if you were asking me on, like, a date.”

An awkward silence settles over them.

“So you find someone else to go?”

“No,” Gabriel says.

They drive down to DC Saturday afternoon.

It only takes an hour, so they leave around four-thirty in the afternoon. The weather’s shit, of course: blowing snow, high winds, and the light fades before they reach the District. Reese bitches about the snow the entire way, keeps cranking the heat in the car.  Gabriel rolls his eyes. Floridians.

The storm’s predicted to get worse, so Gabriel checks them into the hotel the sponsor provided. There’s a complimentary meal voucher for breakfast laying on the coffee table in the suite.

He puts Reese in the jersey the sponsor sent, mostly because Reese keeps bitching that he’s cold. “Man,” the redhead says, plucking at the sweater, “I can’t wear this, the red’s all wrong for me, clashes with my skin.”

“Are you warm?” Gabriel asks, and Reese shakes his head. Gabriel rolls his eyes.

“What’s with this ‘C’?” the omega asks, plucking at the embroidered letter on his chest.

“No idea,” Gabriel replies, pitches his overnight bag into the bedroom.

Reese checks himself out in the mirror. “Any idea who this is?” he asks. He’s admiring the name emblazoned across his shoulders.

“Tremblay,” Gabriel murmurs.

“Dude, that’s not how you say it—s’not English—”

“I know, I took AP French, asshole.”

“Then don’t say it like that—”

“I think he’s some Canadian or something,” Gabriel says, pitches down into one of the chairs and whips out his phone. “Symon Tremblay. Captain of the Washington Stars …”

“Cool,” Reese enthuses.

Gabriel glances at the clock. “Are we gonna …”

“Do we get dinner first?” Reese asks, and Gabriel shakes his head.

“No, dinner’s after the game.”

“Ugh. I hate these fuckin’ function things, late dinners my ass.”

“There’s food at the game.”

“Why didn’t you say so?! I’m starved, let’s get down there.”

They walk through the blizzard to the Telefira Center. People keep hollering at Reese, who grins like a twit and gives them thumbs up. Gabriel ignores everyone and everything, soldiering on through the snow to reach the entrance.

They’re checked in by a security guard, who eyes them warily, then guides them through. They’re met by an usher, who leads them to the elevators, then takes them up to one of the boxes.

There’s no one else with them, which is weird. Normally, sponsors don’t send them to stuff like this unless they have a whole whack of people going. Gabriel was totally expecting to sit in the stands.

Reese perches on one of the leather chairs near the counter, looks out over the ice. “This is kinda cool,” he says, spinning around.

“Mm,” Gabriel agrees with a nod. He glances over one of the laminated menus.

The waitress serves them alcohol; Gabriel is turning twenty in about ten days, and Reese’s birthday isn’t until August (Gabriel thinks; he’s a little hazy on that), but she seems to gloss it over.

They also order an ungodly amount of food—nachos and popcorn and fries and milkshakes, mostly because Reese won’t shut up about how hungry he is, and Gabriel doesn’t think they should drink on an empty stomach. They drink five vodka-crans (Gabriel is so glad no one can see them) before the first … quarter? Half? He has no idea—is over.

They’re both nearly in the bag when the horn sounds, stopping play, and Reese says, “Dude, do you have any idea how hockey works?” and Gabriel says, “No,” so they order tequila shots, because that’s a logical course of action.

Reese decides they should play a drinking game. “Okay,” he says, “any time the ref blows the whistle, a sip. Any time they do that weird thing where they stand in the circle, facing each other and wait for the guy to drop that black thing—”

“The puck,” Gabriel slurs. He knows that much.

“Right, take a shot. A goal is your whole drink. A penalty is a shot.”

Gabriel doesn’t think this is going to help him understand hockey, but he’s okay with that. He’s not sure he wants to understand hockey.

Reese gets super excited when number 78 steps on the ice, pointing, yelling, “Oh, oh, there’s our guy,” and then he points to the back of his jersey, nearly spills his drink all over Gabriel.

“He was on the ice earlier,” Gabriel huffs.

“I didn’t see him,” Reese says.

A fight breaks out, and Reese is on his feet, screaming, “Oh my God, they’re allowed to punch each other?! Hockey is fucking awesome.”

Fights apparently call for downing their drinks in one go, and then they have to order more. “Dude, did we just score? Which team are we again?”

“We’re in red, Pieces—”

They score again and Reese does a little dance and Gabriel wonders if he should revise his stance on taking the other swimmer out in public. He’s such an embarrassment sometimes.

“Pizza?” Reese asks when the horn goes again. “Pizza.”

Gabriel wonders if they’re even going to make it to dinner.

Tremblay scores a third goal, and apparently that means something? Because the ice is suddenly full of hats, and Gabriel does not get hockey, not at all.

Reese makes him drink, so that’s all that really matters, and then the redhead’s in his lap, arms around his neck, chanting, “We scored, we scored,” and he tastes like pizza and alcohol, which is awful, but Gabriel makes out with him anyway, because it’s not every day Reese ends up in his lap, nipping at his bottom lip, trying to suck his tongue out of his mouth or something—

(Reese is very drunk, he notes absently.)

The buzzer sounds to end the game, and Reese looks into his eyes, says, “We won.”

Gabriel might be okay with skipping dinner, but only if he gets to eat something else instead.
He feeds Reese water and coffee for fifteen minutes, until he pukes, while they’re back at the hotel room. Dinner service is 10:30. They have an hour.

The cold air on the walk seems to sober Reese more than the coffee. They spend fifteen minutes walking around looking for the place before they finally get stopped by the bouncer, who checks Gabriel’s credentials and steers them in.

Gabriel looks around, eyes bouncing to and fro as he surveys the scene. It’s swanky, that’s for sure, but the low lights and the hostess’s attire says something more is going on here. She checks his ID, shows them to a private dining room near the back.

Gabriel really hates some of the decor, the neon signs adorning exposed brick walls announcing loudly and proudly that this is “where the whip comes down,” the home of “the pussy cat,” and various other vaguely sexual slogans.

He tries to ignore the signs near the elevators that inform him upstairs has the bedrooms, and downstairs are the “dungeons.”

Reese seems just as nervous, hisses to him, “What kind of place is this?”

And, oh yeah, he supposes Reese wouldn’t really have any experience with bars and clubs and sex dungeons, BDSM clubs—because Reese was a good little boy until two months ago, when Gabriel deflowered him in a hotel room in Istanbul.

Reese is kind of dumb sometimes, but he squints and says, “Dude, did your sponsor send us to a fucking sex club?”

“I’ll have to talk to Mary about it,” Gabriel sighs. Sometimes, the sponsors get deals on things, and they don’t really check stuff out, just send out coupons and vouchers and stuff. Mary probably has no idea; she’s likely never been here. The name isn’t all that off-putting either; it’s not like the place is named like a bad Bond villain or something, just “La Gran Creameria,” which is totally double entendre, but it could be like … an ice cream shop or something just as easily.

They open the door and step into the room. Gabriel stops dead, stares at Mary, who smiles sweetly.

“Hi Gabriel,” she says.

“Uh, hi,” he says, and it’s on the tip of his tongue to tell her off about this place, but …

The way she’s dressed gives her away. She totally knew what she was signing him up for.

Her eyes light on Reese. “How was the game?” she asks, tipping her head to the side. “Come on in, shut the door. Dinner will be up soon—this a friend of yours?”

He glances at Reese. “Uh. Teammate.”

“Oh, very nice,” she says, shakes Reese’s hand. Reese lets the door fall shut, glances nervously at Gabriel.

Mary’s oblivious. “Dinner’ll be along in a bit. How was the game?”

“It was … good,” Gabriel says, glancing at Reese again. He doesn’t remember much, other than the redhead effectually giving him a drunken lap dance.

“We won,” Reese says brightly, and Mary laughs, her lips peeling back from her teeth. It’s fake. Forced. Gabriel’s heart trips a little faster.

“You’re a fan, then?” she asks, sidling around the table. She’s pouring wine into glasses.

“Nah,” Reese says breezily, “gimme baseball any day. I’m from Florida, we don’t understand ice.”

Mary laughs again, hands one of the wine glasses to Reese, then the other to Gabriel. She picks up her own; she’s already been drinking out of it, judging by the lipstick smudge around the rim. “But it was fun?” she asks, and she seems genuine now.

“Yeah,” Reese agrees.

“Very good,” she says, sips more wine.

“So, uh, what’s with the restaurant choice?” Reese asks, and fuck, he’s so guileless. “Some of the decorations out there, man … weird.”

Her eyebrows lift. “You think it’s weird?” she asks.

“Little,” Reese replies.

She shrugs. “The food’s good,” she says. “A friend recommended it to me, and I got those tickets from the Stars organization. Something about cross-promotion—we make a lot of the hockey gear too, I think a couple of their guys are Olympic medalists too.”

She eyes Gabriel again. Reese’s brow is knitted in thought, and Gabriel is slowly unwinding why the sponsor sent him, why Mary is here.

He’s pretty sure none of the Olympic medalists on the Stars (there’s a couple—he’s always interested in who’s a member of the Gold Medal Club) have contract deals with X-Gear. If they did, Mary would know. So, she’s either trying to get him to woo someone, or …

He watches her as she leans back against the table, her arms behind her, her chest popped up.
She called him out here for her own reasons, a distinct possibility that becomes more plausible with every passing second.

He meets her hazel gaze. Her dark curls tumble down to her shoulders, shimmering in the low light. The body-hugging dress is likely a size too small, judging from the way it practically cuts into her, her curves ill-contained by it.

He’s known Mary for a while now; X-Gear is one of his oldest sponsors. She was just starting out when he signed on; she was fresh out of school. She’s probably about ten years older than him. She’s a plump, pleasant girl, bright eyes and pretty lips. Her best feature is likely her butt; her hips flare out way wide, and she’s pear-shaped. Lots of cushion, Gabriel thinks, then glances at Reese, tries not to be obvious about leering at the redhead’s ass—he’s definitely way more masculine, and much firmer, more toned than Mary—but he’s still got this amazing tush, and if Gabriel’s honest with himself, he’s kind of disappointed that he’s only just realizing he’s into booty.

Like, duh?

He wonders if she’s disappointed he brought Reese, or glad—he wonders if she thinks she can get him away from his friend, maybe ditch Reese. He wonders what she would’ve done if he showed up with one of the girls or a girlfriend or even one of his sisters. He wonders if she was banking on him showing up alone.

He wonders how long she’s been planning this, how many of the athletes she’s gone after. He’s not vain enough to think he’s an isolated incident.

“So,” Reese drawls, “what’s for dinner? We’re starved.”

Gabriel catches his eye. It’s subtle—so subtle, so unlike Reese—but not I or me, or Gabriel and I—we.

We as in us together, we as in a couple.

Mary ignores it. “Didn’t you eat at the game?” she asks, smiling. “I’m not sure what’s on the menu tonight—it is their Valentine’s Day special menu.”

Reese blinks. “Aw, man, and I totally forgot to get you anything, Gabby,” he says, grinning ear to ear. Gabriel almost wants to punch him.

Mary is still flip, smiles. “Epic bromance?” she asks.

“Mm,” Reese says, leans over toward Gabriel. “Maybe if you’re good, you’ll get a treat later …”

Okay, now Gabriel does want to punch him. He groans instead, tries to make it seem like he’s in pain. “Oh my God, Pieces …”

Reese cackles like he’s made a good joke (he sounds like his mother when he does it, and Gabriel wonders if it’s a genetic defect). Mary looks a little confused now; there’s a flicker of worry in her eyes. Dinner arrives though, so the subject gets dropped as they turn their attention to food.

The food is fantastic, so at least Mary was right about that. Gabriel’s sorry the portions are so small. Reese is more vocal about it, grousing, “Gabby, you’re taking me to McDick’s after, right?”

Gabriel catches his look—Reese sometimes thinks he’s clever, coy—and he decides to play along. “Well,” he says, “we could go somewhere. Might involve dicks—”

Reese snorts, nearly spits wine all over the table. He chokes a bit, waves his good hand at Gabriel, and Mary looks really worried, really confused now. Reese leans forward, smirking, murmurs, “Sounds like you wanna take me for a ride.”

“You can ride something all right.”

Mary’s face is a twisted mask of both disgust and confusion. “The fuck,” she spits, “are you two playing?”

“Oh, Gabby can play with me any time,” Reese says, bats his eyelashes in Gabriel’s direction. He leers.

“That’s sick,” Mary snaps, “that’s disgusting—”

“Get bent,” Reese retorts.

There’s two options. One is to call it off, tell Mary it’s just a joke. The other is to threaten her, tell her to keep her mouth shut.

“We don’t support faggots,” she snarls at Gabriel, and he knows immediately what route he has to go. “You’re gonna be dropped so fast, your head is gonna spin, you—”

“And who’s gonna tell them, huh?” Gabriel snipes back. “It’s none of your goddamn business—and if X-Gear finds out, I’m gonna know who blabbed. What are you gonna tell ’em? That you found out I’m gay, when you invited me out to DC on X-Gear’s dime, lied to me, telling me it was a sponsorship thing, when it’s really just you hoping to get in my pants? That’ll go over well—and if you decide to leave out those details, I sure as fuck can fill ’em in.”

Mary snarls at him.

“You breathe one word,” he continues, rising from his seat, “one word, and I’ll know who did it. I’ll have you fired so fast, your head’ll spin.”

He shoves Reese out the door ahead of him, slams it behind him. He marches the redhead out of the building, back into the snowy street. “C’mon,” he huffs, “we’ll go get our shit, check out of the hotel—”

“Check out?” Reese echoes, stumbling through the slippery snow. The idiot only has sneakers on.

“We’ll get home tonight, I’ll—”

Reese slides to a stop in front of him, hand on his shoulder. “Whoa, how are we getting home?”

“I’ll drive—”

“Dude, no. We’re both plastered. No driving.”

“It’s not that far.”

“It’s too far, I don’t even know how many drinks we had, we’re both drunk, and it’s a fucking blizzard out here. Do you wanna die?”

Gabriel says nothing, watches Reese for a moment. The redhead shakes his head slowly. “I don’t wanna die,” he says.

They stand there in the swirling snow. Gabriel seethes; he wants to get home and write a very angry email to X-Gear, tell them to fire the shit out of that homophobic bitch—

Reese has his hand. “Dude,” he says, “let’s go somewhere else. We can go, dance, drink, something. Then stumble back to the hotel and nurse our hangovers in the morning. Okay?”

Slowly, Gabriel relinquishes his keys. Reese pockets them. “Okay,” Gabriel sighs, then lets the omega drag him across the street.

They make their way back downtown and find a club. It’s almost one, but they get in, no problem.

They’re just getting their drinks when someone yells at them.

It takes him a minute—he’s drunk and it’s dark—but then he recognizes Brooks, who waves cheerfully at him from across the bar. He’s with a group of guys, and Gabriel makes his way across the room, Reese following him carefully.

A couple of girls make eyes at them, and Gabriel almost instantly regrets joining Brooks, because there are a lot of women at the table, crowded around the guys he’s with. Brooks punches him in the arm. “Gabriel fuckin’ Foss,” he says, grinning broadly, “how the fuck are you, man?”

Gabriel tries not to wince. “Brooksie,” he says, shakes the other man’s hand, “long time, no see.”

Brooks draws him into an embrace, smacks him on the back. “Saw you on TV in the summer,” he says as he pulls back. “You did America proud in London.”

“Mm,” Gabriel says, glances at the other guys.

Brooks seems to remember about them. “Oh,” he says, “my teammates. Fuckin’ awesome game tonight, eh guys?”

A roar of agreement. Brooks grins at him. “So we’re out celebrating a bit,” he says, “all us losers who ain’t got chicks t’ go home to.”

“Speak for yourself,” someone else says.

“That’s why we’re at the bar, Brooksie, gonna pick up—”

“Wheelin’—”

“What game?” Gabriel asks, and Brooks laughs.

“Oh man, I forgot, you’re a football nut. You don’t give two shits about hockey.”

Gabriel blinks. He glances at some of the other guys around Brooks. “Wait,” he says, frowning. “Teammates?”

“Yeah—my buddies, we fuckin’ trounced the Colts.”

He claps a hand over a green-eyed brunet’s head, tousles his hair. “Sy here got a natural hattie—”

Gabriel points.

“No fuckin’ way.” Reese has been silent up until now, but he grabs the green-eyed guy’s hand. “You’re Symon Tremblay! That’s so cool, I was wearing your jersey earlier, when we were at the game, Gabby’s sponsor sent it to him, an’, I was like, cold and shit, so—”

“Pieces,” Gabriel manages in an exasperated tone.

“Eh heh.” Reese drops the guy’s hand.

“Who’s your buddy?” Brooks asks, offering his hand for Reese to shake.

“Reese Lockwood,” Reese replies.

“We swim together at Hopkins,” Gabriel says.

“Awesome,” Brooks says. “You grow up in Maryland?”

“Fuck that,” Reese spits, “I’m from Florida. Miami, bitches.”

“How the fuck did you end up in Baltimore then?” Brooks sounds confused.

Gabriel nudges Reese. “I went to school with Brooks,” he says. “He lived down the street.”

“Yup,” Brooks says, puffing up his chest. “Grades five to eight.”

“I haven’t seen you since high school,” Gabby says, which, in reality, isn’t that long ago.

“’cause you’re a loser who doesn’t watch hockey,” Brooks says, then takes another swig of his drink.

“Like you pay attention to swimming outside of the Olympics,” Gabriel retorts.

“But man—four medals, that’s pretty fucking good.”

Gabriel leans in, sets his drink on the table. They used to be … well, he won’t say best friends, but they were pretty close. Brooks’s mom babysat. They took swimming and skating lessons together. (Gabriel is crap at skating, and Brooks is crap at swimming, for the record.)

He honestly had no idea Brooks had gone pro, or that he was playing in DC.

Reese is busy chatting up some of the girls, making lewd jokes with the guys. He fits right in, which is kind of terrifying.

Symon Tremblay keeps giving Gabriel a weird look, like maybe he wants to talk to him or something, but he just keeps sipping his drink.

Last call comes and goes; he exchanges numbers with Brooks, promises to keep in touch (even though he probably won’t). The lights come on, and Reese abandons the girl he’s been flirting with, sidles up close to Gabriel, whispers, “Let’s get out of here, su casa es mi casa, buenas noches—”

He wonders …

He slides a hand down low, lets it rest on Reese’s ass. The redhead doesn’t object; instead, he pulls himself a little closer, nuzzles at Gabriel’s neck, whispering, “Oh yes, you can take me home—”

He glances up; Symon Tremblay is still giving him a weird look. He shrugs though, looks away. He downs the last of his drink and walks off.

Fucking weirdo, Gabriel thinks, and that’s coming out of him.

“Let’s get you home,” he says to Reese, helps him stumble outside into the cold. They flag down a cab.

He loads Reese into the back; the older man all but collapses into the backseat, nearly lays himself out flat. He grabs Gabriel’s jacket, drags him along, and he’s halfway into the cab, between Reese’s parted knees, lips locked with the redhead, because both of them are way too drunk for this.

“Ahem,” the cabbie says when they make out a moment too long. Gabriel glances up, shoves Reese the rest of the way into the car.

“Sorry. He’s really drunk.”

The cabbie nods, says nothing more. He charges them triple when they get back to the hotel, and Reese stands in the cold while Gabriel argues with him. The driver finally wins and speeds off, and Gabriel thinks this is the shittiest night out he’s had in a while.

He makes out with Reese in the elevator, and he’s beginning to be unsure about the whole thing, but it’s hard to think when Reese slants his mouth over his, nips at his bottom lip, then breaks away, panting desire into his ear. He runs his hands down the omega’s sides, feels him shiver.

They make out more sordidly when they’re back in the room, shedding coats and hats and mitts, peeling off sweaters and shirts, and Gabriel bites and licks at Reese’s neck, kisses him hard enough to bruise. Reese kisses back just as hungrily, their tongues tangling, and Reese moans into it.

They end up on the bed, Gabriel pinning Reese down, pulling his jeans off, Reese groping him. They bite and lick and kiss at each other, and Gabriel grinds down against Reese.

He’s mortified that he can’t get it up. He grinds for what feels like forever, but he remains embarrassingly soft. Reese laughs at him, too long and loud, and then mumbles something about whiskey dick, and how it’s okay, probably.

Reese is hard, which strikes Gabriel as unfair, but Reese is the one with the stupid thing against sex, and Gabriel feels a little sick when he thinks about alternate arrangements.

So he pulls Reese to the edge of the bed, spreads his legs wide as he kneels in front of the redhead, watches precum pearl out of him as he watches Gabriel with big eyes. “S’not sex,” Gabriel slurs, “so it’s okay, it’s okay—”

Reese looks like he might want to argue, but Gabriel gives him an experimental lick, and he changes his mind right quick. He nods frantically.

Gabriel leans in and licks him again, slow, steady strokes over his quivering hole—fuck, Reese wants it, wants it bad. The thought only makes Gabriel want to do it more, so he swirls his tongue around Reese’s center, listens to him groan. His head hits the mattress with a thump.
Gabriel licks him again, slowly, purposefully. Reese tightens. “Yeah,” he groans, “Gabby, just like that.”

He nips at the sensitive flesh, pleased when the omega bucks up against him, panting. His good hand is twisted in the sheets. “Please,” he breathes.

Gabriel likes to think he’s an attentive alpha, so he slides his tongue into Reese, deep as he can, curls the tip, listens to Reese moaning his name. The redhead bucks up a couple more times, and Gabriel braces his hands on the mattress. Reese’s hand tangles in his hair a moment later, tugging viciously, and he stills, holds his tongue as steady as he can, just speared into the omega as the redhead rocks himself to distraction.

Reese is a chatty fuck, something Gabriel didn’t ever think he would appreciate, but he’s finally starting to get hard listening to Reese talk dirty, panting and moaning as he fucks himself on Gabriel’s tongue. “Yes,” he moans, “yes, Gabby, please, lick my hole, tongue-fuck me until I gush, I—”

Gabriel swallows reflexively, drags his tongue along Reese’s passage, tastes him. He wonders if Reese has figured out his suppressants yet; he’s definitely wet and getting wetter, and Gabriel’s not sure omegas on suppressants are supposed to produce any lubricant—after all, the point of suppressants is to normalize their bodies, and most males don’t get slick.

Reese is very, very slick, and Gabriel doesn’t really mind; it helps distract him from the fact of where he currently has his tongue shoved. But Reese makes it so goddamn hot, the way he loses control, and he tastes maybe a bit like honey, not at all what Gabriel expects, but a pleasant surprise.

“Oh, fuck, please,” Reese groans, his thrusting becoming more pointed. He tugs harder on Gabriel’s hair. “Yeah, please—fuck, Gabby, so good—‘m gonna, all over your face—”

Gabriel reaches up and wraps a hand around Reese’s cock, squeezing and then jacks him hard and frantic. “Yeah,” the redhead pants, “yeah, yeah—”

His voice is tight; he lifts his hips higher with each thrust, and then he comes in a beautiful, breathless arc, striping his stomach. Fluid floods Gabriel’s mouth, and he pulls his tongue back, closes his lips over Reese’s hole and swallows.

“Fuuuuuck,” Reese groans into the mattress, and Gabriel pulls back, wipes his mouth. Reese has half-twisted away, pressed his face into the blankets. He’s an absolute wreck, flushed and panting and covered in his own jizz, and Gabriel thinks he likes Reese best just like this. No one else has seen him this way. No one else will see him this way. It’s all for Gabriel’s eyes only, and that makes him a little harder still.

(He still can’t get it up, so he has to settle for satisfying Reese.)


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