Hi everyone. It's been a little while since I posted personal message before any of my chapters, but I have some stuff I need to say. I need to get away from the site for a little while. My mental and physical health isn't at 100% at the moment and I need to make sure I'm doing okay. So I'm going to be gone for a while as I take care of that. Yes, I am scared about the possibilities of what could be going on, but I'm trying to push aside my worries so I can focus on getting some help and getting to the bottom of all this.
Also, my old email address has been hacked, so I created a new one for all emails you may want to send me. My new email address is [email protected] It's exactly as it's written down. I'd also like to give a shout out to fellow writer, Petey, who just wrote a story for me that I really enjoyed. Thank you there, Petey.
Also, Petey and I were talking a bit and were thinking about a collaboration together. But I'm wondering what you all think about this. Do you think a collaboration could be a good idea? Let me know in the comments below. I guess that's all I have to say for now. ope you all understand my reason for being gone for a little while. I don't know how long it will be, but it won't be forever. Thank you all again for your support. I hope you enjoy Chapter 14 of 'Is It Possible...?'
I want to punch a hole in a wall right now. This weekend was a fucking nightmare. The press would not leave me alone after that small press conference I gave about Tanner's condition. Not to mention our game against the Hurricanes (which we lost 2-0 by the way). Neither the team nor I were able to focus the entire match.
Tanner's injury hasn't changed. It hasn't gotten worse, but it hasn't gotten better either. And that's what's scaring everyone on the team and terrifying me. I managed to go to the hospital on yesterday to check up on him, along with everyone on the team. Despite all of them being testosterone-filled, burly men, every single one of them was worried beyond belief for their captain.
As much as I wanted to spend the entire day by Tanner's bedside, I had to leave with the rest of the team after a little while. It was so hard to leave him being when I should be there, but I managed to keep my cool and restrained myself. While I want to go back today, there's an important matter I need to take care of first.
Stephen Denier's hearing is this afternoon and it's been the main sports topic the whole weekend. Social media has been blowing up, telling the league to ban Denier for life for what he did, ordering them to throw him in jail, and many, many death threats to Denier. I can't say I feel sorry for Denier for getting all this hate, but I don't think anyone should have to put up with so much abuse.
I finish getting my suit ready and I head downstairs, where I find a car sitting outside waiting for me. I climb in the backseat and shut the door. "You've looked better," Brody says, looking at me from the driver's seat.
"Fuck off. I'm not in any mood for bullshit right now. I just want to get this hearing over with and get back to work."
Brody glances over at Clint, who's sitting in the passenger's seat. "Look, Gregory," Clint says. "I know you're upset and angry right now, but if you tell my man to fuck off one more time, you'll be asking Santa for your two front teeth next Christmas."
I glance at him for a second before looking down at my lap. "Sorry..."
"Don't worry about it," Brody says. "I know you're really upset right now, Gregory, and that you want to be with Tanner."
I nod, but don't look up at him. He puts the car into drive and we head off to the hearing. We pull up to the courthouse a while later, where dozens of reporters and cameramen are standing outside. Brody, Clint, and I all climb out of the car as a valet climbs in to park it.
As soon as we step out, camera flashes blind all of us. Reporters start screaming questions at us, trying to get a scoop that none of us have. We climb up the courthouse steps, the cameras continuing to flash before we manage to get inside, where security guards manage to block the door.
Finally safe from the press, I'm able to relax a bit. "Coach Natick."
Looking over, I feel myself stiffen at the man standing a few feet away from me. "Commissioner Gordon," I say, standing up straight.
Commissioner Jonathan Gordon, an unfortunate last name to the Batman fans out there, is the head of the NHL. He's a fairly intimidating man of 55 years with a head of grey hair, average frame, minimally wrinkled face, and very severe nose and eyebrows, hence his slightly scary appearance. "I wish we could have seen each other again on better circumstances," he says.
"You and me both, sir."
Commissioner Gordon and I exchange a handshake. He gives Brody and Clint one as well. "How's Tanner holding up?" he asks. "I saw your press conference on his condition but haven't heard anything since."
"Nothing has changed, sir. He's still unresponsive to the doctors and he's still unconscious. His brain is still stable and he can still breathe normally, but he just won't wake up."
Commissioner Gordon sighs and shakes his head. "It's terrible that this happened. What's worse is that an incredible player's life is hanging by a thread. The league and I will be sure to hear every piece of testimony and come up with a punishment suitable for the nature of Denier's offense."
While I personally want a harsh punishment for what Denier did to Tanner, my professional side wants a fair ruling. Commissioner Gordon heads off and I'm left with Brody and Clint. "I hope you know I have to testify on Stephen's behalf," Brody says.
"I do. You're his coach and it wouldn't be a fair hearing if the coach of the accused were to be against him."
"Which I am, but thanks for understanding." He glances down at his watch. "We should get to the hearing room. We're on in about twenty."
And about twenty minutes later, I'm sitting in the front row of the hearing room with Julian and Spencer. Brody and Clint are sitting in the next pew over. Vladimir, Gunnar, Alex, Ian, and a few more Kings players are sitting a few rows back, and the rest of the room is filled with a handful of Red Wings players, reporters, cameras, some of the general public, and lots of security guards.
At the front of the room, sitting at a long, wooden desk, are Commissioner Gordon and a few more heads of the NHL, microphones in front of all of them. My leg bounces impatiently as I wait for this thing to start. A door to the side of the room opens up and in walks Denier, who's followed by a few security guards.
My first instinct is to jump up and tackle the asshole to the floor and beat the living shit out of him. But Denier's face looks a little sunken in, like he hasn't eaten or slept in a while. He keeps his eyes on the floor as he walks to the table in the front of the room, sitting right in front of the NHL board.
Gordon taps his microphone a few times and the murmur that fills the room quiets. "Stephen Denier," he says. "You're here today because of your actions that took place last Friday. After the end of regulation time, the struck Tanner White, the captain of the L.A. Kings upside the head with the blade of your hockey stick.
"Tanner was defenseless at the time of the attack and had no time to react to the swing. You knocked him unconscious and Tanner is still in the hospital. We're here to listen to testimony from both your coach, Brody Mates, the L.A. Kings coach, Gregory Natick, players from both the Red Wings and the Kings, and others as well in order to come up with a punishment for you.
"We'll also be reviewing evidence from the attack that was recorded by several television cameras that were broadcasting that night. Before we begin, do you have anything to say for yourself?"
Denier keeps his eyes facing the desk he sits at. "There's nothing I can do or say that will change a thing," he quietly says. "What I did was wrong and I'll accept whatever punishment the league has for me..."
It actually sounds like there's regret in Denier's voice. "Very well," Gordon says. "If everyone will face the monitors, we'll review the video from the night when the attack occurred."
Two television monitors are wheeled to the front of the room. The techies with them press play on both screens and the live feed from Friday night plays. I watch with my hands pressed tightly together as Tanner is struck with Denier's hockey stick and falls to the ice. The video switches to another angle and Tanner is struck again.
Gordon nods to the techies, who switch off the monitors. "As we've just seen, Mr. Denier," he says, "it's very obvious that you attacked a defenseless player with your own stick. No matter how you put it, this was no accident."
Denier just nods and keeps facing the desk. "Coach Natick," Gordon says, looking toward me. "Would you please step forward?"
I slowly rise from my seat, swallowing the bile that's been building up in my throat. I walk to the front of the room and stop in front of the stand that's been set up. "Coach Natick," Gordon says. "If you would, please tell us of Tanner White's condition."
Fan-fucking-tastic. "Tanner is still in the hospital," I shakily say into the microphone. I take a second to calm myself down a bit. "As I said in my press conference, he had emergency brain surgery to repair a bleed that was caused by Mr. Denier's attack. As of right now, Tanner is still in a coma with no estimate on when he'll wake up. Or if he'll wake up at all."
"And in your opinion," Gordon says, "what do you think a suitable punishment would be for Mr. Denier's actions that landed your captain in the hospital?"
I glance over at Denier, who looks to be doing his best to not breakdown in the middle of the hearing. "Sir, as a professional coach, I would say a punishment that would fit Mr. Denier's actions would be one of a severe fine and time away from the ice."
"You don't think a lifetime ban from the National Hockey League would be best for Mr. Denier?"
I glance at Denier again and see him biting his lower lip, on the verge of a nervous breakdown. "Sir, I see what Mr. Denier did as a mistake that was caused by the heat of the moment. Stephen Denier is a good player and I don't think it would be fair to the Red Wings if they were to lose him for this single offense. I'm not saying let him off easy, but don't be too harsh."
Gordon exchanges a few looks with the rest of the heads. "Thank you, Coach Natick. I think that's all we'll need from you. But we may need your input again later."
I nod and walk back to my pew. From the corner of my eye, I see Denier watching me, a grateful look on his face. The rest of the hearing goes on slowly, hours and hours ticking by. Gordon and the heads of the NHL left the room about thirty minutes ago to decide on Denier's fate, leaving much of the room sweating.
The door in the back of the room opens up and Gordon and the heads walk back in. The room immediately quiets at they retake their seats. "We've come to a decision," Gordon says. "Mr. Denier, please rise."
Denier gets up out of his seat and stands facing the heads. "Mr. Denier, what you did to Tanner White was inexcusable, horrendous, and something that should never happen in a hockey rink. Do you understand this?"
"Yes, sir..." Denier feebly replies.
"However, the rest of the NHL board and I have seen your remorse for your actions. That and both Coach Natick and all of the L.A. Kings players here today have asked that the board and I give you a fair punishment. That being said, we have all agreed that a lifetime ban from the NHL board would not be a fair punishment."
Denier immediately relaxes a bit, but only just. "We have found a punishment suitable for the nature of your offense," Gordon continues. "Stephen Denier, you are suspended from the rest of the 2023-2024 NHL season, including the playoffs. You are not to appear at any Red Wings match for the remainder of the season.
"This is one of the longest suspensions in NHL history. Forty matches in total. You're also going to pay all of Tanner White's medical expenses as well as an additional $100,000 fine. Is that clear?"
"You're to pay the fine and the medical bills within the next thirty days. If you don't, we'll double the fine. This hearing is adjourned."
The heads and Denier stand up and cameras start going off. With nothing left for me to do, I stand up and start to head toward the exit. "Coach Natick!" a reporter says, thrusting a microphone in my face. "How do you feel about Denier's punishment?"
"Coach Natick! Do you think Tanner will recover from his injuries?" another reporter yells.
"If Tanner doesn't recover from his injuries, what's the future of the Kings?" a third reporter says.
A bit of pent up rage finally escapes my body. "For the last time, no comment! And whatever other questions any of you might have, I have nothing to comment on!"
I continue to storm out of the hearing room and finally make it out to the hallway. But I keep walking until I finally make it outside, where I manage to avoid the hecklers and other news teams. I send a quick text to Brody, telling him and Clint to meet me out by the car. I'm about to put my phone back in my pocket when it suddenly starts buzzing.
I look at the caller ID and inwardly groan at the name. My finger taps the screen before I know what I'm doing. "What?"
"Well, it's a good sign you picked up, Gregory," Scott says.
I haven't spoken to, or even seen, Scott since the concert. I guess I've been avoiding him unconsciously. I'm still nowhere ready to talk to him about things, so this probably won't go too well. "What do you want, Scott?" I mutter.
He lets out a sigh. "I uh...was watching the hearing on TV and just saw the verdict. I wanted to make sure you were okay..."
"Oh, so you want to make sure I'm okay after nearly thirty years of never asking me that?"
The other end of the line is silent for a minute. "Gregory...that doesn't seem very fair..."
I can't even stop myself anymore. "Fair? You want to tell me what's fair and what isn't? Growing up without a father who should have tried to look for me and my mother isn't fair!"
"Gregory, if you'd please just let me explain..."
"I don't want to fucking hear it, Scott! You should have fucking been there! But you were off doing God knows what while I had to deal with shit I shouldn't have had to deal with as a kid!"
There's a small sniff from Scott's end of the phone. "I...I really want to talk about this, Gregory. Could you please just give me that? It's all I ask..."
My phone suddenly beeps and I look down at it. The screen is black and I can't turn it back on. Just fucking great. My phone's dead. I angrily shove it back into my pocket and lean against the car. Brody and Clint appear after a few more minutes, both looking as tired as I feel.
I loosen my tie a bit and unbutton the top button on my shirt. "So what do you two want to do now?" I ask.
"After all that shit, I kind of just want to sit and do nothing," Brody says. "Clint and I are flying back to Detroit tomorrow. Don't you have practice today?"
"With the hearing, the team and I have a few extra days off. So I get to relax a bit now. You guys just want to head back to my apartment and unwind?"
"Sounds like a plan to me," Clint says. "I don't see how you two deal with all this shit all the time."
"It's a perk of the job," Brody says.
We all climb into the car and start to head back to my place. "By the way," I say from the backseat. "Do you think we can make a quick stop?"
"Sure," Brody says. "Where at?"
"The nearest liquor store. I need to get drunk tonight..."
Ugh. Why the hell does my head hurt? Feels like a rusty railroad spike is being driven into my temple. Did I have one too many at Get The Puck Out? No, I don't remember being there. The last thing I remember is...being on the ice. I was playing the Red Wings, yeah, that's it. I just scored the winning goal with Ian.
But...why am I in bed then? And why doesn't this feel like my bed? It feels a little bigger. My eyes slowly open and I immediately see that this isn't my bed. The sheets are a light grey instead of my somewhat white sheets in my apartment (they were white at one point, now they have a hint of tan to them...).
As I open my eyes more and more, I see that this isn't my apartment at all. It's a bedroom I don't recognize in the least. The walls in my room in my apartment are a light shade of blue. The walls here are a pure white. I only have a single dresser, nightstand, and my television. This room has two dressers, two nightstands, two closets, plus the television.
Why the hell do I have two of everything (save the television)? I slowly sit up in the bed and hear a faint sound coming from behind a closed door on the other side of the room. Running water? I push the covers off of me and rise out of the bed (thankfully I'm wearing underwear). My feet carry me to the door, the sound getting louder as I get closer.
My hand takes the door handle and I slowly turn it. The door opens and a puff of warm air hits my face. The sound turns out to be a running shower inside of a bathroom. I look past the door, finding a glass shower that's completely fogged up. What the hell is going on? Whose fucking room is this? And who's in that shower?
The water suddenly shuts off and a hand reaches out of the shower, grabbing a towel on a nearby rack before disappearing back in. The shower door opens fully and a man steps out, dripping wet. "Greg?" I think out loud.
Greg lurches back a bit, looking surprised. "Jesus, Tanner," he says, putting his hand to his chest. "You could at least knock before you come into our bathroom."
Our? Did he just say our? I blink a few times and see that it definitely is Greg. But at the same time, it isn't the Greg I know. He looks...older. Not by much, maybe a four or five years older than my Greg, but he looks a little different. His hair is a bit shorter, the Van Dyke is new (Johnny Depp-esque), he looks even bigger in his chest and arms, and there's small treasure trail underneath his belly button. Didn't he shave there before?
But one thing's for sure. He's just as sexy and handsome as before, if not sexier. "Tanner, you okay?" Greg asks me, walking over to me. "You don't look too good." He stops in front of me and holds a hand to my cheek. "That's weird. You feel a bit clammy. You coming down with something?"
Yeah, it's called I-don't-know-what-the-fuck-is-going-on-and-I-must-be-high-because-this-can't-be-real-itis. "Hmmm," he hums, moving to the right side of my face. "Must be allergies or something. The pollen count is supposed to be a little high today."
Greg moves past me into the bedroom, walking over to one of the dressers and opening a drawer. He pulls out a pair of underwear and loses the towel. I can't help but stare at his dick as he slips into the underwear (still hot). "Maybe you should take a shower," he suggests, looking back at me. "It might help clear your head a bit. I'll be in the kitchen when you're out."
He goes back to getting dressed while I close the bathroom door. Before I can ask myself anything else, I find myself staring into the bathroom mirror. I almost don't recognize myself. My crew cut is gone, replaced by longer hair that's in the perfect shape of bedhead. My body's changed in a way like Greg's has: bigger arms and chest, plus more definition in my stomach.
My hand runs through my hair and I feel a raised line along the right side of my head. What the hell? That was never there before. I pry my hair apart and find a thick scar, about six inches long, along the right side of my scalp. I don't remember ever having something like this. What the hell happened to me?
This is so fucking confusing that it isn't even funny. Dismissing the scar for a minute, I lose my underwear and step into the shower. With a head full of questions, I get through cleaning myself and walk back into the bedroom. Greg's not in the room, so I'm left by myself. I strip off the towel and walk to the dresser that Greg didn't open up.
Opening the first drawer I see, I find several pairs of underwear that...I don't remember ever buying. I usually stick to boxer briefs. The only underwear I see are those trunks that Greg showed me a while back. Still confused, I throw on some clothes in a daze and step outside the bedroom. And now...I'm lost.
My apartment is a single floor. Who put these stairs here? And I know I don't have a chandelier. Against my better judgment, I descend the stairs to the floor below. As I reach the bottom, a few noises from down the hall catch my attention. Walking down said hall, I step into a large, very nice-looking kitchen.
And standing in the middle of it with his back to me is Greg. The smell of freshly made coffee fills my nose and it makes me breathe in deeply. The sound of me inhaling causes Greg to turn around and face me. "Hey, fresh pot," he says. "I already poured you a cup of it."
He picks up the two cups that were in front of him and carries them over to me, handing one to me. "Uh...thanks..." I manage to say.
"Want to watch the news? It's our day off today."
"S-Sure. I'll uh...meet you there in a sec. Trying to wake up a bit more."
Greg nods and heads off to what I'm going to assume is the living room. As soon as he's out of sight, I set down my cup of coffee and press my hands against the edge of the counter, holding myself up. Have I gone fucking insane? This has to be a dream or something. Either that or a really awesome drug trip.
Pushing myself off the counter, I grab my coffee and head to where Greg walked off. Turning a corner, I find him sitting on a couch, facing a mounted flat screen with his cup of coffee in his hand. He notices me walk into the room and smiles at me. "Come grab a seat. I want to make sure you actually aren't sick."
Listening to what he says, I take a seat on the couch next to Greg and he touches my face again. "No, you don't feel warm. Do you feel okay?"
I clear my throat a bit. "Y-Yeah, I feel fine. I'm just...a little lost."
Greg raises an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"
I wet my lips a bit. "Um...what's the date?"
Greg glances down at the watch on his wrist. "The 23rd of March."
Last time I checked, it was late January. Where have the two months gone? "Oh, I think I wrote that note wrong then," Greg says. "I may have put 2028 instead of 2029." WHAT?!! Five fucking years?! Holy shit, I think I'm about to pass out. "Tanner? You don't look too good."
The cup of coffee in my hand starts shaking and Greg quickly takes it from me before I spill it and sets it down on the table in front of us. "Here," he says. "Lay your head on my lap."
He takes me by the shoulders and slowly lowers me until my head is lying down on his thighs. He stares down at me, brushing some hair off my forehead. "I'm kind of worried, Tanner. Maybe I should call Allie and have her make a house visit."
He continues to brush my head and I feel something...metal? I glance up and see a bright, gold ring on Greg's ring finger. My hand snaps up and grabs Greg's wrist and I stare at the ring. "What is this?" I ask, very nervous.
Greg stares down at me, eyebrows knit together. "Tanner, what are you talking about? This is the ring you put on my finger two years ago when we got married."
M-Married...? Did he just say married? "I'm surprised you're not wearing your ring right now," he continues. "You almost never forget to wear it."
I have a ring? I look at my hand and see a small portion of my ring finger that is a few shades lighter than the rest of my skin. There's definitely been a ring on here. But how could I not remember having it? "Oh, wait," Greg says, grabbing my attention. "I think something actually is wrong."
His hand touches the right side of my head very lightly. "Your scar is flaring up. Has it ever done something like this before?"
"N-Not that I can remember..."
"Well, it was a little swollen after you woke up from your coma, but it didn't look this tender."
Coma? Did he honestly just say coma? "Coma?" I ask.
Greg smiles at me, his amber eyes sparkling. "I guess it's still a little hazy for you. But I can understand that. Stephen Denier swung his stick at you about five years ago and it caused a bleed in your brain. The scar is from the surgery that was done to stop the bleed, and the coma you actually put yourself into."
"It was an unconscious reaction to the surgery and the injury. You were out for a few days and it really scared everyone. Especially me. I was afraid I would never be able to tell you I loved you."
My heart stops for several seconds. Greg...loves me? He actually loves me? I feel my mouth turn upward at hearing him say it. "I...I love you too, Greg..."
His white teeth flash and he bends down and gives me a kiss, those soft lips I'm so addicted to making my hair stand on end. He pulls away and rubs my head again, running his finger along my scar. "Maybe we should go to the doctor..."
"Uh...no, it's fine. It's probably nothing. But if it's still like this tomorrow, we'll go, okay?"
Greg smiles and kisses me again. "Okay. Is there anything I can get you though?"
I slowly takes his hand and pull it to my chest, holding it between my fingers. "Nothing at all. You're all I need right now, Greg."
He grins from ear to ear and settles back into the couch, his hand lying on my chest. "And there's no one else I'd rather be with than you, Tanner."
I smile and we kiss one more time before I lie back onto his lap, his fingers running through my hair, my hand holding his on my chest, and me feeling the happiest I've ever been with the man I love more than anything.
All of a sudden, everything snaps to black. What the...? Where'd Greg go? I don't feel his fingers or hand anymore. All I feel is a sharp ringing on my right temple and deep in my head. I start to open my eyes, just a bit, and I feel a blinding white light piercing them. They snap shut immediately, but I start to open them once again a second later.
The light is unbearable. I don't think I've ever stared at anything brighter. But I keep slowly opening my eyes, hoping they'll adjust to the brightness. It takes a second, but I start to see shapes forming and I get a better sense of where I am. I'm lying down on a...very uncomfortable bed, with a scratchy pillow underneath my head and neck.
My eyes open to halfway, and I think that's as far as I want to open them. The light is coming from a light that's hanging over my head. And do I hear...beeping? It's a constant beep and I feel it's matching my heart. Wait, is that a heart rate monitor? I slowly look over and see several machines next to wherever I'm lying.
I don't understand any of this crap, but why is it here? And why do I feel so weak? I try to swallow a bit, but as soon as I try, I feel myself about to choke. I manage to keep myself from gagging, but when I try to see why it is I can't swallow, I find the source: a tube that's taped to my mouth and is buried deep in my throat.
What the fuck? As much as I want to rip this thing out, my common sense tells me not to. Am I in a hospital? What the hell happened to...? Wait. The hockey match. I just scored the winning goal and then...nothing. So...was all that stuff with Greg, the house, the ring, everything, a dream? I feel really let down now that I see that it was.
Everything I saw was so...amazing. The house I was in, the way I looked, and, most importantly, the man that I feel so strongly about. That could be us. That could be a future I could have with Greg: a fantastic husband, a wonderful home, a great life. Now that I've seen it, there's nothing that I want more.
I turn my head to my left and find Mom and Dad sitting in two chair, asleep, along with Keith's jacket in a third seat and Allie's bag in a fourth. I see the light coming into the room is orange, so the sun must be setting. I take in a deep breath, wanting to get their attention, but Mom and Dad are out. As much as I don't want to, I try to swallow again, this time letting myself choke on the tube.
My coughing fit makes Mom and Dad snap awake. "Tanner!" Dad yells.
"Sweetie!" Mom follows up.
My coughing settles down and I find Dad rushing to the door and Mom standing over me. "You're okay..." she quietly says.
I try to smile at her, but the tube keeps me from doing so. Dad and a doctor wearing a lab coat rush into the room and the doctor jumps to my side. "Please be still so I can remove the tube," he tells me.
He removes the tape and slowly starts to remove the tube (which makes me feel like I'm puking, so that's fun...). He gets the tube out and I quickly swallow, no gagging this time. Relieved, I settle back into the bed I'm lying on. "How many fingers am I holding up?" the doctor asks.
"Can you move your fingers and toes?" I do both for him. "What year is it?"
I'm about to say 2029, but manage to correct myself. "2024."
"What's my name?"
"How should I know? I just met you."
The doctor takes a step back. "From what I can see, there doesn't appear to be any brain damage. He doesn't even sound like he's hurt. More like he just woke up from a dream."
The best goddamn dream of my life, thank you very much. "Tanner!"
I look to the door and find Keith and Allie running in. "Fucking God, baby bro," Keith says, moving to the bed and falling onto me in a hug. "I hate you so fucking much right now for scaring me that badly..."
Allie joins in. "I should smack you across the head, but I'm too happy right now to try anything like that."
The two let go and Allie runs to her bag, pulling out her phone and tapping the screen. "How're you feeling, sweetie?" Mom asks, her eyes wet.
"Like someone hit me across the head with a baseball bat and shoved a fist down my throat. But otherwise, not too bad."
"You're close on the baseball bat thing, buddy," Dad says, squeezing me shoulder in an affectionate manner. "Stephen Denier whacked you with his hockey stick after your Red Wings game. Knocked you out cold and..."
"Made my brain bleed and I was in a coma for a few days, right?"
Everyone stares blankly at me. "How did you know that?" the doctor asks me.
Shit. "Lucky guess? Psychic abilities that I just developed?"
"Well, either way, we're going to need to run a few more tests on you, just to see if you're okay. CT scans, a little blood work..."
"When can I leave?"
"It depends on what we find. I can't give you an estimate, but you seem to be fine, which surprises me. Normally someone that just woke up from a coma would feel very weak."
"Oh, I do, I just want to get out of here."
The doctor sighs. "I'm going to tell my colleagues about this. Plus the press is going to want to know you're awake. Do I have your permission to let them know?"
"If you want. Just let them know I'm awake. Don't tell them anything else. If I see a news report that says more than that, I'll sue this hospital out the ass."
The doctor cracks a smile. "No problem."
He leaves the room, leaving me and my family alone. "Ethan's on video chat," Allie says, walking back over to us.
She holds her phone in front of my face and I see Ethan on the screen. "What's up, rock man?" I ask.
His face immediately relaxes at seeing me. "Way to give a guy a fucking hernia, Tanner," he says. "I was two days away from flying back there with the break in the tour schedule coming."
"Where would you fly from?"
I roll my eyes. "Love you too, Ethan." Allie takes her phone back, but keeps the screen facing me. "Wait, where's Greg?"
Everyone's quiet for a moment. "He was at the hearing this afternoon," Dad says, "but we haven't been able to reach him."
"Stephen Denier's hearing in front of the NHL board," Keith says. "He was punished by the NHL for attacking you with his hockey stick. He won't set foot on the ice for the rest of the regular and playoff season, is paying your medical bills, and has another hundred grand to pay to the league."
Geez. Harsh much? "You haven't been able to get to Greg?" I ask.
"I think his phone is dead, sweetie," Mom says. "I tried calling at least a dozen times, wondering is he was okay after the hearing, but every call went straight to voicemail."
"And I texted him a few times," Allie says. "No answer. I can try again, though."
I shake my head. "No, he's probably exhausted after this hearing you're telling me about. I'd let him rest."
"But don't you want him to know that you're awake?" Ethan asks.
"I do, I really do, but at the same time, I want to make sure he's okay. Maybe you could text and call him, telling him to come to the hospital. When his phone comes back on, he'll see the messages."
"Okay, sweetie," Mom says.
Allie turns her phone to her and starts tapping the screen, sending a text to Greg. "Allie, you got a few bats in the cave," Ethan says.
Allie's hand presses to her face and she turns bright red. "Ethan, I'd kill you right now, but the best I can do is throw my phone, and there's no way I'm doing that."
Ethan snickers. As messages are sent, there's a good amount of noise coming from the hallway. There's a knock at the door a few seconds later and it opens. My eyebrows rise a bit when I see Stephen Denier walking into the room, a bouquet of flowers in his hand and an apologetic look on his face.
As soon as he walks in, I can feel the animosity permeating off my family. "You son of a bitch..." Dad growls, clenching his fists and baring his teeth.
Now Stephen's a big guy, maybe six foot two, two hundred thirty pounds. But compared to my six foot five, two hundred eighty pound, bodybuilder of a father, he looks like a child. Dad starts to stomp over to Stephen. "Dad, stop."
He immediately freezes and looks back at me. "You lay a hand on Stephen, I tell Mom about that thing I learned about a few months ago."
Dad's face goes slack and he gets a scared look as he glances over at Mom, who's staring him down with a fiery look (if you're all wondering what the thing is, it's an internet subscription to a porn website. I borrowed Dad's laptop one day and saw it in his history). "Could you all leave us alone for a second?" I ask.
"Yes, why don't we leave him alone for a bit, Hank?" Mom says. "And maybe you can tell me about this thing he mentioned..."
It's as if Dad's staring at the devil itself and he bolts for the door like the room is on fire. Mom's not far behind him, chasing after Dad with her hand clenched into a fist above her head. Keith and Allie leave too, but not without giving Stephen a hard look as they're walking out the door.
Keith closes the door behind him and only Stephen and I are still in the room. "What's up, Stephen?" I ask.
I can tell he's nervous and for a split second, I enjoy seeing him squirm a bit (hey, you would too if you were talking to the guy that put you into a coma). "Um...h-hey, Tanner..." he meekly replies.
He slowly walks up to the bed and stands at the foot. "What're you doing here?" I ask.
"I uh...came here to have your medical bills paid for. The league..."
"Oh yeah, my family just told me about that. Sorry you have to pay for my expenses."
He stares at me, looking surprised. "You're sorry? You're sorry that I have to pay for something I caused?"
I shrug. "Hey, I've been fined a few times before myself in the past, but nothing like what you got. A hundred grand seems like way too much."
"More like not enough in my opinion. I don't think I'll ever be able to live down almost ruining your career."
I sigh a bit and gesture Denier to the side of my bed. "Stephen, I'm fine. My head's fine, my brain is still relatively normal, so stop beating yourself up about this. Shit happens in a hockey rink. We get past it and show people our mistakes don't define who we are in the next game."
"Yeah, well I won't be able to show anyone that I'm more than that stupid hockey player that knocked someone into a coma until next season. I don't even know why I fucking did it. All I really remember is trying to stop you and Crossrick from scoring and then at least ten guys are holding me down on the ice."
"You lost yourself."
He nods. "It's happened to me before. I just get...so into a match that I only focus on taking the guy in front of me down as hard as I can. And sometimes I go way too far."
"Yeah, my head thinks so too..." He lets a small smile slip out. "Bet your girlfriend is going to give you some hell when you get back home because of all this shit that went down."
I see a small change in Stephen's demeanor. He looks more...reserved now. "Oh, I uh...I'm single. Live alone in a house in Grosse Pointe in Metro Detroit."
I stare at Stephen for a second and...I think I see something about him that reminds me of how I used to be. Losing myself on the ice in a way to...hide. "Have you ever thought about talking to someone about how you get on the ice?" I ask.
"Um...a few times before. But I never really worked on it."
"There's a friend of mine, great guy, really easy to talk to. He's not like a psychiatrist or anything like that, but he really understands how people tick. He helped me come to understand why I was so hotheaded a while ago and I really fixed it. Maybe he can help you...come to terms with some things."
"I-I don't know..."
"He doesn't charge anything and one meeting with him is all you really need. He's patient and understanding, doesn't judge, and works insanely fast. If I give him your address, will you at least give him a visit before you leave?"
Stephens looks at his feet for a minute. "You're sure this guy is good?"
"Probably the best."
"Then I'll take your word for it. Do you have an address or something I can use?"
I quickly give him the address and he puts it into his phone. "Be aware," I say. "Where he works doesn't really looks like a place where you'd go to for something like this. But when you walk in, just let someone know you're looking for Leo."
"You can call him that. You'll know him when you see him. He's the one that looks like a model."
Judging by the tone in Stephen's voice, it sounds like he's interested in getting to know Dr. Leo. "Yeah, attractive enough to be in every magazine and movie. His husband thinks so too."
And the hopefulness in his face deflates in record time, but he tries to hide it as best he can (it doesn't work at all). "Oh, got it. He's married..."
Yup, he's definitely like me. "So you got the address?" I ask.
"Good. Keep in touch, Stephen. Hope you come to some conclusions with Leo."
"Thanks, Tanner. And I'm sorry again."
"No worries, and thanks for the flowers."
He smiles and leaves the bouquet in a chair near the bed. He turns to leave and as he gets close to the door, I call out to him. "Hey, Stephen?"
"What's up?" he asks, looking back at me.
"Can you tell me where you got those flowers?"
"Yeah, a small shop on Santee Street. Why? You need to get flowers for someone?"
I feel myself smiling. "Yeah, I need to tell someone something important."
I toss back another shot of tequila and slam the shot glass on the coffee table. "Shit fuckin' burns..." I slur.
God, I haven't had this much alcohol in one sitting since college. It feels pretty damn good to get drunk again. "Gregory, maybe you should slow down a bit," Brody says, sipping his beer.
"Ah, I'm fine. I think I'm finally gettin' a good buzz goin'..."
I start to reach for the tequila bottle, when a hand grabs my wrist. "I think Brody's right, Gregory," Clint says, nursing his own beer. "Too much and you can really hurt yourself."
"I-It's cool, Clint. I took some insulin before we started, s-so I won't get the...bad shit..."
Be aware, voiceover me is much more sober than the body I'm in, so body me isn't going to make too much sense. Clint's worried I may drink too much and my body won't be able to process the alcohol. I ate beforehand to raise my glucose level and took some insulin, so I'd be able to accommodate the alcohol, but I think I've had a few too many.
Thankfully my body manages to listen to my friends and I reach for the bottle of water I have and take a few gulps of it. "My life's fucked up, isn't it?" I groggily say.
"What do you mean?" Brody asks, finishing his sixth beer.
He's got a good buzz going too, seeing as we've all only been drinking for a little over an hour now. "My life is so fucked up right now," I say. "I got a man who I've known and trusted my whole life who's apparently my dad, my boyfriend's in the hospital in a coma, and I don't even know if he loves me or not..."
Yay, mouth diarrhea. My least favorite part about me being drunk. "Gregory, your life isn't fucked up," Clint says, slinging his arm around my shoulder, the smell of alcohol strong on his breath. "There have just been a few setbacks..."
"Setbacks? You call all that shit setbacks?"
"You've been through so much worse than what you're going through now, Gregory," Brody says, moving a bit closer to me. "All that stuff with your mom growing up..."
"But none of that woulda happened had Scott fuckin' been there! He coulda saved me from havin' to deal with all of that! My mom might still be alive if he were there!"
And cue the tears (I learned back at school I was sometimes a crying drunk if I had too much on my mind). But Brody knows how to deal with me when I'm like this. He was the one that helped whenever I had too much to drink back in college. He would keep me in line, make sure I was okay, and calm me down.
He places his hand on my arm and gives it a light squeeze. "You may be right, Gregory. Maybe if Scott were there, he could have given you and your mom a better life. He might have been able to help her with her addictions. You could have had a dad. But he wasn't always gone, was he?
"You found Scott when you were in high school, when you were going through a really rough time. Your mom's addiction got worse and you started getting harassed by some of your classmates. And Scott came into your life. He saw that you needed someone to help you, and he willingly took on that role.
"He was there for you, and while it wasn't for all of your life, he was there. And he supported you, looked after you, made sure you were okay, and even loved you as if you were his own kid without either of you knowing it. He helped get you into college and got you to find your passion in life."
The tears don't stop no matter how hard I try. "And I'm sure Tanner loves you just as much as you love him, Gregory," he continues. "You have to remember that he just came to the realization of his sexuality not too long ago, so it's going to take some time for him to confess to you about something like this.
"But I have a feeling he'll want to tell you soon. But why don't you want to tell him you love him yourself if you're beating yourself up so much about it?"
I try to wipe my nose and eyes, but it doesn't work out too well. "I-I...I don't wanna scare him off..."
"Gregory, if you tell Tanner you love him, I guarantee you he'll tell you he loves you the very next second. You two belong together. Anybody that knows about you two can see that immediately. Give it a chance. Tanner will wake up soon and he'll be so happy to see you."
I sniff a bit and reach for the tequila bottle, not even bothering to pour it into a shot glass and just drinking straight from the bottle. Clint actually has to take the bottle from me to get me to stop drinking it, spilling some tequila on my shirt. "I think you've had enough, Gregory," he says, taking a swig from the bottle himself (hypocrite).
Relenting, I start to get up, only to struggle to get on two solid feet. "Gregory, what're you doing?" Brody asks.
"I'm goin' to bed. You two can stay up if you..."
My next words I can't even form. Maybe I did drink a little too much. I feel myself start to stumble, only to have two pairs of arms grab me. "Maybe we should make sure you get to bed alright," Clint says.
I only nod and they help me to my bedroom. "You holding up okay, Gregory?" Brody asks me.
"Yeah. Aren't you two drunk too?"
"Certified," Clint says. "And it's making my man look even sexier..."
Brody chuckles. "Beer goggles go both ways, baby."
"More like beer, tequila, and vodka goggles, darlin'."
We get to my bedroom and the two lie me down on the bed and I drunkenly start taking off my clothes. "Gregory, you're too drunk to even unbutton your shirt," Brody says. "Here, I got it..."
I lie back on the bed and let them help me undress. And that's the last thing I remember before I black out.
"Thank God I'm finally out of that lousy hospital gown," I say as I finish slipping on my jacket.
"I'm surprised they're letting you out less than a day after you woke up," Dad says, waiting for me by the door.
"Tests all came back normal and I feel good. I'm just happy I'm finally able to leave. Hospitals creep me out..."
"You and me both, buddy."
I finish getting on my jacket and take one last look in the mirror. My head is still wrapped in bandages and I saw the scar earlier. It looks exactly like the one in my dream: about six inches long, a half an inch wide, and it looks like a large C. Not the most attractive thing in the world, seeing as my hair where the scar is is shaved down to the scalp, but I'll live.
I grab the beanie Dad brought me and carefully slip it over my head, managing to hide the bandages. "How do I look?" I ask Dad.
"Like you really have to take a piss. You haven't stopped moving for the past five minutes, not that I can blame you. I'd be itching to get out of here too."
"Cool. And did you go to the shop I told you about?"
"Stopped by about thirty minutes ago and got a nice bouquet for you. And I also bought the most expensive bouquet they have in order to try and tide things over with your mother..."
Mom made Dad confess about his Internet porn subscription yesterday and he's been in the hot seat ever since. If there's one thing I know Mom's great at, it's making her family feel guilty. She's probably not even mad at Dad. She just likes to make him sweat sometimes. And another thing I know is that the two have...makeup sex afterword. Just the thought of it makes me shudder.
I smile innocently at Dad and walk over to him. "You ready to head out?" he asks.
"Yup. Just need to sign a few papers and we're gone."
And a few signatures later (both for medical papers and for a few fans), Dad and I make it outside. But as soon as we step out the doors, I find several news reporters and crews already waiting there for me. They all start screaming my name at once, flashing cameras and holding microphones in front of my face.
I didn't have a headache inside the hospital, but now I think I'm starting to get one. "Tanner!" a reporter yells. "How soon will you be back on the ice?"
"Tanner! Are you on the injury reserve list or are you returning to the active roster?"
"Tanner! Do you have any words for Stephen Denier and his punishment by the NHL?"
I sense them about to ask more questions, but a low growl to my left stops them. "In case you all haven't noticed," Dad says through clenched teeth, "my son was just released from a hospital and had major surgery a few days ago, along with having just woken up from a coma. So I suggest you let us be on our way, or you'll be dealing with broken cameras and snapped microphones."
The crowd immediately quiets in the presence of Dad. Man's a fucking beast and I love the shit out of him for it. We take a step forward and the crowd parts for us, no one willing to make a sound in the presence of Dad (hell, I'm trying to be as quiet as possible myself). We finally reach Dad's car and climb in.
As soon as the doors shut, Dad and I burst out laughing after holding it in for so long. "God, I think you made some of those cameramen shit themselves!" I say, still laughing.
We calm down after a minute and Dad turns on the car. "Oh, here you go." Dad reaches to the back seat and comes back with a bouquet of a dozen flowers, six pink lilies and six red roses. I'll have to go to this shop again in the future. I glance back and see the bouquet Dad bought for Mom.
Well, there's a large bouquet of at least thirty flowers, plus a box of chocolates and a small jewelry box from a store Mom really likes. "She really pissed at you this time?" I ask.
"No, but the more stuff I get for her in a situation like this, the more I get back in return." I wince at the mental image of my parents in bed together. Dad pulls out of the parking lot and we head out. "You try and call Gregory?"
"Yeah, when you went to the bathroom, but it went straight to voicemail. His phone still must be dead, and that scares me."
"What do you mean?"
"Greg's phone is always charged unless he's really busy. And he always plugs it in immediately after it dies so he doesn't miss any phone calls or messages."
"Do you think he's okay?"
"I don't know, but Brody and Clint are with him and if something happened to him, they'd come and tell me. But I hope he really is okay because I really want to talk to him."
I see Dad smirk in my peripheral. "And I think he'll want to talk to you too, buddy."
Hmmm. Dad knows something that I don't. But I won't dig any further. I need to steel myself for this.
My eyes slowly open, only for me to quickly close them. Who made the sun so bright? And...holy shit I feel horrible. What the hell...? Oh shit. Oh shit. My eyes snap open and I quickly jump from bed, only to find myself incredibly unsteady. I stumble across the room to the bathroom, barely managing to make it to the toilet before I start puking.
My gut heaves as I empty my stomach of everything that could possibly be in it. I haven't felt this terrible in my life. My hands can't stop shaking and I feel myself sweating buckets. My stomach finally settles a bit and I flush the toilet, but I don't get up off the floor. Why won't my body listen to me?
I fall back and sit against the wall, trying to get myself to both calm down and try and regain just a bit of control. What the fuck happened last night? Oh yeah. I drank enough for ten college co-eds. And I think I blacked out as I was going to bed. But after that, I have no fucking idea.
With what little control I have now, I slowly get up to my feet and walk to the sink to wash out my mouth. As soon as I look in the mirror, I want to puke again. I look like dog shit. Bags underneath my eyes, hair standing in every direction, even my skin looks gross. I'm so hungover that it isn't even funny.
I get my mouth washed out, only to find out I'm insanely thirsty. My throat feels like it's being rubbed with sandpaper and my tongue feels like I dipped it in hot sand and left it there for a few hours. I take a long drink from the spout, finding some relief in it but it doesn't take away the burn that lingers.
With my thirst momentarily gone and my hands washed, I slowly move from my bathroom, but stare at the floor as I walk because the sun is keeping me from looking up and around. I close the blinds and welcome the now lack of light before taking a seat on the edge of my bed. My glucose meter sits on my nightstand and I need to find out my glucose levels right now because of this hangover.
I prick my finger and wipe the drop of blood on the test strip and put it in the meter. A few seconds later, my blood sugar level comes up: 186. Fuck, that's way too high. I need to get this down. I quickly grab an insulin needle and inject myself with a dose. Good. That'll help for now and I'll check back again in a few hours.
I lie back on my bed and press my palms to my eyes. I can't get this thumping out of my head. Stupid fucking hangover. Stupid fucking me. I should have been more careful last night. I know alcohol can be dangerous for someone with diabetes, but I threw caution to the wind and said fuck it all.
All I could think about last night was getting drunk, hoping it would help me forget all the stress and worry that's been going through my head. God I wish Tanner were here. I want him here to hold me and hug me, whispering in my ear that everything will be okay. But he's a reason why I'm so worried.
It's not fair. Tanner's the best thing that's ever happened to me and he's in a coma in the hospital. I wonder if there are any new updates on him. I reach over to my nightstand to find my phone, but it's not there. Oh right. I never took it out of my pants yesterday. Thankfully, my pants are by the side of the bed, so I don't need to move to get it.
I reach down and fumble into the pocket, finding my phone and trying to turn it on. But the screen stays black. Fuck it's dead. I find my charging cable and plug my phone in and lie back as it starts to turn back on. My hand scratches my chest, only for me to wince as my hand nears my left nipple.
That's never happened before. I look down and see that both of my nipples are red and sore. The fuck? I start to sit up to get a better look, only to wince again. Only this time, the pain is coming from my ass. Dear God, if I sat on a beer bottle and broke it and a shard cut me, I'm going to murder someone.
But it's not like a sharp pain from getting stabbed or cut by something. It's more like a dull ache. And it's right around... What the? Do I have dry drool on my lip? Sure feels like it. My tongue licks across my upper lip, trying to get rid of the drool as much as I can. But...why does my drool taste too salty to be drool?
And where's my underwear? I always go to sleep with at least them on. I sit fully up and fumble under the covers for my underwear. But when I finally grab something and pull it back, I find it's not my cotton underwear. It's a condom, a used one. My heart starts racing at seeing it in my hand. What the fuck happened last night?
There's a rustling next to me in the bed and I dare myself to look over. What I see are Brody and Clint, spooning one another underneath my covers. And from what I see, they're as naked as I am. The dried 'drool', my aching ass, the condom, a naked Brody and Clint? I feel like I'm about to vomit again.
I shakily reach over and press my hand to Brody's shoulder, nudging him gently. He takes in a deep breath. "Baby, I have a headache," he mumbles. "Just ten more minutes. Please take your hand off my shoulder..."
Clint shifts a little. "How am I touching your shoulder, darlin'? My arms are around your waist."
Neither of them move for several seconds before both of them snap awake, seeing me sitting in the bed with them. "G-Gregory..." Brody barely says.
"What happened last night?" I manage to ask.
The two look at each other for a second. "I-I don't know," Clint says. "Last thing I remember was getting into bed with Brody and feeling his hands on my butt and another on my... Oh dear God..."
"Please tell me we didn't do it together..."
The air is quiet. The only thing I hear is my racing heart. But the pounding rhythm starts getting louder. And I'm not hearing it just inside my head anymore. I hear it echoing through my apartment. A stomp comes through the room and I turn my head toward the door. My blood turns to ice at seeing Tanner standing there.
H-How is he here? He's standing on two feet, looking as stable as ever. I can't move as I look at him and he looks at me. I can't even read his expression as he looks over at Brody and Clint before looking back at me. "Looks like I got these for no reason..."
I look at his hand as see he's holding a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Did he get those for me? My phone buzzes and I glance over at it, finding the screen with thirty-seven missed calls and forty-eight unread text messages on it. I look back at Tanner as he lets the bouquet fall from his hand and drops it to the floor.
My heart shatters as I see his face break before me. He turns and walks out of the bedroom and I jump out of bed, Brody and Clint doing the same. I grab the first pair of pants I see and throw them on before running after Tanner. The front door slams shut as I make it down the hallway.
I swing the door open and find Tanner about halfway to the elevator, his head hanging low. I sprint after him and throw my arms around his waist. "Please just let me explain!" I yell as I press my face into his back.
But Tanner doesn't say anything as he spins around and grabs me by the neck before slamming me into a wall. Once I regain my vision, I find two blazing green eyes boring into me. "You don't get to say a fucking word," he says in a scarily calm tone. "What I saw in that bedroom spoke enough for me."
His fingers press tighter around my neck. It's not enough to choke me, but it is enough to scare the shit out of me. "I woke up from my coma yesterday and left the hospital this morning," he continues. "This was the first place I came to. Not home, not my parents' place, here. Because I came here to tell you I loved you."
I stop struggling at the words. Tanner...loves me? "But not anymore," he says, draining all hope from me. "I walked into that apartment two minutes ago and saw how much I really meant to you: absolutely nothing. You call me your boyfriend, but you don't care enough about me to let yourself get fucked and used by your ex and his husband, you fucking whore.
"I saw the used condom on your leg and I know dry cum when I see it, and it's all over your face. That should be my cum, but it isn't. And that screams that you don't care that I was in a hospital yesterday and didn't know that I woke up after the dozens of times my family tried to get in contact with you. You don't care about my feelings for you. You don't care that I came here to tell you that I was in love with you. But now that's changed."
Tears spill from my eyes at Tanner's words. "Tanner, please just listen!" Brody says, running up to Tanner in my underwear.
But it doesn't help the situation at all. It only makes Tanner snap. With his free hand, Tanner punches Brody across the jaw, sending him to the floor. Clint jumps to Brody's attention, making sure he's alright. "And your ex is wearing your underwear," Tanner says, looking back at me, twice as furious as before. "Is that how you reel them in, you fucking slut? Give them a pair of your underwear to try on like you did me?"
Tanner pulls me off the wall for a split second and slams me back in, making my head bounce off it. "Well that shit isn't going to work with me anymore because whatever the fuck you and I were is over." No. Please no. "You can fuck with whoever you want, toy with their emotions all you please. But everything you and I did together, everything you and I found out about each other, everything involving you and me is a thing of the past."
My heart has never hurt this much in my life. "Tanner..." I choke out.
I see two fine lines of water falling from the corners of his eyes, but he's not allowing himself to show any emotion. He lets go of my neck and I slump to the floor, too weak to even try and get back up. He reaches into his pocket and drops something in front of me with a small clang.
I look down at whatever he dropped and see it's a key. "That's the spare key you gave me two weeks ago," he says, his voice shaking. "You can have it back because I'm not going to need it anymore..."
If there's a final blow, that's definitely it. Tanner glares at me for a second before turning and walking down the hall. He stops in front of the elevator before stepping in and I hear the doors close. The hallway is silent, deathly silent. Only my shaky breathing is what I hear.
My breathing is quickly replaced by sobbing. "I love you," I say to the air. "I love you so much. Please come back..."
But I know he won't come back. I fucked everything up, and it cost me the most important person in my life. And it's all my fault...