Luke was still flushed, his hair still wet from the post-game shower, when he breezed back into the condo, fresh off the Game 4 win. His euphoria was almost palpable as he flitted about, gathering up his things for the early morning flight back to Pittsburgh. The Stars had momentum with them now; the tide seemed to have turned as they won two in a row, while the Rockets had now dropped two in in a row. But tides turned easily in hockey, and they were heading back to the Rockets’ home ice.
Zuru has never been one for transformation arts. It is a talent unique to demons, and one that is especially favored by the Kitsune no Youkai. Zuru, however, is an oddity among his kind, for the simple reason that he has never been quite adept at using the transformation skills he inherited from his ancestors.
The ease with which he transitions from one form to another now is simply due to practice: He slides from his natural state to the state of red fox many times most days, and he practices blending in with other items in the forest on a regular basis.
They lost. Badly. Horribly. Penalty after penalty, shot after shot. The Rockets kept them fairly hemmed into their own zone; they scarcely played any time in the opposite end. Six-nothing wasn’t even a respectable effort. It was laughable. How had they made it to the playoffs again? What a joke, what a laugh. Luke could already see the headlines in tomorrow’s papers in DC, plastered across ESPN and the internet. He could almost taste the disappointment and bitterness of fans.
Tuesday morning dawned too early. Luke laid silently in bed for a few moments more, staring up at the ceiling. The bed beside him was empty, cold. He wondered why Mason was even up. It wasn’t like he had practice. Wasn’t like he had a game. Wasn’t like he had anywhere to go or anyone to see or an angry coach to face.
Luke pinched the bridge of his nose. He hadn’t even called in sick the last couple of days. He’d completely fallen off the radar. He knew he had a ton of messages about his absence—his phone hadn’t stopped flashing in about thirty-six hours. He had voicemail from the front office, from Q, from the GM, from just about everyone in the organization. He had texts from his teammates, some of them increasingly irate or concerned.