Danny wakes up to a phone that won't stop vibrating. It's 6:00 in the morning, and his alarm is set for 7:00, so he knows instantly that something is happening. Whether it's something good or bad, he isn't quite sure, but given the hour, he's more inclined to think it's something bad.
It is, of course.
BREAKING: Flyers Captain Claude Giroux Seen Kissing a Man At Montreal Bar
Hextall: We need to talk.
Holmgren: Call me asap
BREAKING: Philadelphia Flyers' Claude Giroux Outed as First Gay NHL Player
Hakstol: Call me.
BREAKING: NHL Player Spotted Kissing Man; Outed
Maman: Is it true??
BREAKING: Claude Giroux Gay?
Judy PR: We're already working on a plan, call when you get a chance
BREAKING: PHI's Giroux Outed as Gay
The texts and notifications of articles varying in accuracy keep coming. It's not just bad; it's very bad. Claude probably isn't even awake yet, and the thought of him waking up to see this has Danny wishing more than anything that he could wake up from this nightmare. Only it's not a nightmare, it's real, and he's going to have to do what he can to help Claude. The team is important, and he'll do what he needs to for them, but Claude is what matters the most. Management and PR can handle the story they're getting out to the media. Danny can handle Claude - he always has, after all.
He calls Hextall first, and it only takes one ring for him to answer.
"Does he know yet?"
Hextall sighs. "No, but Marcus got the key and is on the way to his room now. He's going to turn off his phone before waking him."
"Good," Danny says. If he's gotten this many texts, he doesn’t even want to imagine what Claude's phone looks like.
"We need you to come to the hotel."
"To talk to him?" Danny asks.
"No, well - not yet. We just think you should be involved in the discussions," Hextall says.
Danny nods, even though no one can see him. "I'm on my way."
He gets the feeling that it's going to be a long, long day.
There are about twenty people in the conference room when he arrives, and if the situation weren't so grave, it might be comical. A man is caught kissing another man, and a council meets to decide his fate. It's almost barbaric, yet it's for the best.
Maybe Danny should've had more coffee before he came, but he hadn't exactly had the time.
No one greets him as he walks in, everyone too busy talking and arguing, so he slides into a seat between Judy and Marcus from PR. Marcus nods in greeting, and Danny takes that as an opening.
"Yes," Marcus confirms. "He was still sleeping, so he hasn't seen anything. We didn't take his phone, but he's under strict orders not to turn it on."
"Does he have anything else to do? What is he - just sitting in his hotel room?"
"He has magazines," Marcus says. It's a weak consolation, and Danny knows Claude's just going to be bored out of his mind. "Sorry."
"It's fine," Danny sighs, even though it's really, really not. The whole situation is fucked up. "Does he really have to be alone, though?"
Marcus shrugs. "Hextall thought it would be good for him. Let him think for a while."
"For the record, I don't think it's a good idea," Judy cuts in from Danny's other side.
"We're a bit divided," Marcus adds.
"I assume you all know where I stand on this issue," Danny says sharply. He really doesn't like the idea of Claude being confined to a hotel room, likely for several hours, while his fate is decided for him. He gets that keeping him in the hotel room is for the best, but why should he be alone? Danny can't even imagine what it would be like to wake up and find that your whole world has come crashing down, and that's exactly what happened to Claude. He'd gone to bed just another NHL player - notable, yes, but not truly famous. Now his name is on every major news site in North America and beyond, he's at risk of being ostracized from the community he's built his life around, and he's stuck alone in a hotel room with only his thoughts to accompany him. It's a dark feeling, Danny is sure.
"This is more difficult for him than any of us, and I hope none of you forget that," he continues. "He could use someone to talk to."
Marcus shrugs. "I mean, it's Hextall you have to convince."
Danny forces a smile. "Right," he says. "Of course."
"We've moved on from that issue," Rebecca, another member of the PR team, says with a tight smile.
With that, Marcus turns away from him, and Danny gets the feeling that he's supposed to be paying attention to the larger group discussion now. He still doesn't think it's right to leave Claude alone, but he doesn't even know which room he's in, so it's not as if there's anything he can really do about it. He'll just have to do what he can to get him out as soon as possible, and if that means leaving him alone and paying attention to the group, then so be it.
When they finally start to reach a consensus, Danny volunteers to be the one to visit Claude. No one protests; he supposes it would make sense to expect that of him.
He gets to the door and finds that he has no idea what to do. He could knock, sure. It just doesn't feel like enough, not in the midst of such a terrible experience. Something more calming would be best, he thinks. Maybe there's a better method than just singing Frère Jacques, but that's what he settles for anyway.
The door swings open, and for the first time in too long - not that it's really been long - he's face to face with Claude.
"Giroux's Pleasure Palace," he says. "How can I be of service?" It's not funny, really, and Danny's sure he's more shaken up than he acts, but - he seems okay. He seems okay, all things considered, and that's all Danny can really ask for.
He doesn't have to go far to get Claude's emergency poutine supply, but unfortunately he has to go back to the PR meeting first. They're still working on the statement Claude will have to give. Marcus informs him that another argument had broken out over whether Claude should say that he's bi or just lie and say he's gay. Personally, Danny thinks the whole thing is ridiculous; he's going to face discrimination no matter what he says, and there's no point in lying.
It seems like another hour before they've finalized the statement. It's nothing unusual, just about what Danny would expect from the situation. He's instructed to give it to Claude, and he intends to do so directly after getting the poutine.
His mind, however, is still on the list he'd given to Claude, and the top item - Be careful not to spend too much time around Daniel Briere in public - sticks out like a goalie wearing the wrong color pads. It's wrong, he thinks, to limit the time they spend together, but he can't protest too much because maybe it's a little necessary. He knows Claude's had a crush on him before - maybe even still does - and if it had been obvious to Danny, it probably was to everyone else too. Especially now that the general public knows Claude isn't straight - really, Danny can't even be too personally offended, because any interaction with a single man can easily be taken the wrong way, especially when they've joked about being in a relationship before. He knows the PR team just wants to protect him.
At least it's just in public. Danny can survive waiting alone for Claude's poutine every day if he has to, and Claude has always loved to spend time with the boys anyway. It'll all work out.
They eat the poutine, and talk about stories from their childhood, the Flyers' season so far, the latest movies they've seen, and everything in between. It's nice and easy, and not at all what Danny had been expecting when he'd woken up this morning, but he'll take it. He'd take it a thousand times over. It's rare to get so much time to spend alone with Claude, and sure, he's technically working, but it doesn't feel like it. He doesn't even mind that they aren't doing anything more, as much as he would like to be.
After Claude comes out, things almost go back to normal. Hockey keeps going; Danny keeps working and traveling; Claude gets injured, but he comes back. They don't see much of each other, but it's not really any different than it was before.
(Traveling, or whatever they're calling it - that doesn't count. Not as long as Claude doesn't know about it. Danny isn't even sure he can know about it, isn't sure if it's just a secret that's his to keep for the universe. Isn't sure if he'll ever find out.)
Danny wishes it were different, but he's been wishing that as long as he's known Claude, just about. It's not anything new. Besides, it's probably for the best if they don't start figuring out their relationship while the public eye is still very much centered on Claude. He's still in the league, he's still captain, and the Flyers have no intention of trading him, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a lot left to lose. Danny's retired; it wouldn't be as big of a deal for him, so he has to put Claude first. It comes naturally, though. It always has.
They're on a Skype call when Danny finds himself in Claude's hotel bed, the other end of the call vacated with only an empty bed to show for itself. Claude doesn't seem as surprised as Danny had thought he would - Danny, meanwhile, is freaking out a little.
Somehow, it's not as weird as it should be. They've been closer than anyone since they first met, Claude has always been gone for Danny, Danny knows he could never love anyone as much as he loves Claude, and they've been teleporting to each other for decades. That's just how they are, he supposes. And they've been through a lot already - the trade, retirement, Claude being outed, just to name a few things. This isn't even something to "get through", not really; it's merely a realization of what's been there all along.
Kissing Claude feels much the same way, actually. It feels like what he should've been doing all along - not just tonight, but in his life. Nothing matters more in that moment, and it's hard to imagine that anything could ever matter more than simply being with Claude. It's exhilarating and calming all at the same time, and Danny knows he can't stay much longer, but that won't stop him from trying. He stays in bed with Claude as long as he can, and they don't do anything else, but they don’t need to.
They don't even need to talk, really - not yet. Talking is good, and healthy, and Danny will gladly initiate a conversation some other time when they're in a more stable state of being. For now, he's content to just lie on the bed staring at his empty bedroom with Claude in his arms. It's all that he's ever wanted, and all that he will want, and here, he is happy.