Actions

Work Header

Lights Down Low

Chapter Text

January 2020

 

“How does it feel being at your first NHL game and in your hometown?” The interviewer asked with the microphone perched in front of Matthew to capture his response. 

“I’m so excited,” Matthew said, “It’s a great honor to be here and to be invited and it’s even better that Brady and I are here together as well, I couldn’t be more excited.”

“We all know that your brother is also here with you this weekend, but what some people might not know is that one of your old college teammates is here as well, Leon Draisaitl,” the interviewer continued, “I know you played together at Notre Dame and we’ve seen you as rivals playing for your respective teams, but what is it going to be like reunited playing for the Pacific Division?”

“It’ll be good to play with him again,” Matthew said. 

“We have a clip to play for you from your time at Notre Dame, let’s take a look,” the interviewer said and Matthew tried to maintain his poker face as he looked down at the monitor and saw an old video clip from one of their NCAA games. He was on a line with Leon centering him and watched as the puck was fed from Leon to his own stick. It was one of many similar memories as he sank the puck in the back of the net. He watched as Leon collided with him, pressing him against the boards and burrowing his face into Matthew’s neck in celebration. Matthew grimaced at the video and all the painful memories that were attached to it and felt relief wash over him when the clip ended.

“It’s quite a departure from what we’ve seen of you two during the Battle of Alberta,” the interviewer pressed on and all Matthew wanted was to get back to the topic of Brady or the All-Star weekend or even Keith Tkachuk’s glory days with the St. Louis Blues instead of Leon. 

“I think we all get caught up in the rivalry during the season, but for this weekend we all just want to play some good hockey and have a fun time,” Matthew said concilitorily. 

“Well that was certainly good hockey and the clip is promising about what we can expect out of the Pacific Division in the All-Stars Game this weekend, but we all want to know what your experience was like at Notre Dame? Were you two good friends?” 

“Well, he’s two years older than me and I was only at Notre Dame a year,” Matthew said, “So we didn’t really know each other that well.” The lie felt acrid on his tongue, but he didn’t want people digging into their extracurriculars at Notre Dame, besides he and Leon hadn’t been friends for a while and they certainly hadn’t been more than friends for just as long. 

“Hopefully, you both will be put on a line together and we can see that on-ice magic again,” the interviewer said. 

“Maybe,” Matthew said noncommittally.

“Thanks for your time, Matthew, and good luck tomorrow,” the interviewer concluded and Matthew thanked him for his time and left the set, unclipping the microphone and reconvening with his family in a break between media sessions.

“How did it go?” his father asked.

Matthew shrugged, “Okay, they brought up Notre Dame.”

“Okay,” his father said, “You knew this was bound to come up.”

“Yeah, I just didn’t want all of the memories to come back either,” Matthew said.

“Have you seen him?” his father asked.

Matthew shook his head, “Not personally.”

“Well maybe you should talk to him this weekend,” his father said.

“I don’t think there’s much to say,” Matthew said and picked at a stain on the sleeve of his shirt, “Not anymore.” There was a finality in his voice that closed the door on the conversation. His father looked like he wanted to say something more and press the issue, but he just raised his eyebrows and shrugged in the way that Matthew had seen and grown to hate over the years. It was the look that his father always had on his face when he thought Matthew was making a terrible mistake but that he wouldn’t spend more energy trying to talk him out of it. 

“Fine, that’s your choice to make,” his father said and shrugged, “NBCSN wants to do an interview with all of us later today.”

“Any idea about what they are going to ask?” Matthew asked hoping that he wouldn’t have to keep remembering his time at university almost four years ago.

“The usual,” his father said, “Probably asking about family rivalries and what it’s like to have several generations in the NHL.”

For as much as his father and mother purported that the All-Stars game was his and Brady’s weekend, it was just as much about sharing the spotlight with his father. Keith Tkachuk had been certain to put his stamp on the St. Louis Blues and it was an easy spin on the weekend. Three members of the same family all closely connected to St. Louis and the hockey scene.

“Okay,” Matthew said. 

He headed to grab some food and refreshments from the table they had set up for the players to snack on in between interviews and media. The least painful of all the media that he’d done so far was for the NHLPA which had just been a series of rapid fire questions about his favorite cheat meal, least favorite music, what his goal song would be, easy things like that. They were hardly groundbreaking journalistic questions, but they also steered clear of anything deep and personal so Matthew was grateful for. 

Matthew was preoccupied with slicing a piece of brie from the charcuterie board when he noticed someone approach him. He glanced up and was anticipating greeting whoever had stopped by and maybe introduce himself if they hadn’t spoken before, but he wasn’t expecting to see Leon there.

“Hey,” Matthew said. He looked Leon up and down. It had been awhile since he’d seen him and even longer since he’d seen him out of hockey gear, but Leon was still as attractive as Matthew had remembered him. He’d grown into his body a little more than in college, packed on more muscle, and gotten better style, but he was still the same guy from Notre Dame. 

“Hi,” Leon rolled his eyes and frowned, he picked up a plate and started grabbing some fruit and a few pieces of bread. 

“Congratulations on making the All-Stars game,” Matthew said.

“Are you really doing this?” Leon snapped, not even bothering to look at Matthew, “That’s a lot of effort for someone you didn’t really know,” Leon mimicked, throwing Matthew’s words back at his face and causing him to flinch.

“You know what I meant by that,” Matthew said, “I-”

“I know exactly what you meant by that,” Leon said, “Enjoy the weekend and stay away from me.”

And fuck, Matthew wasn’t sure how he’d imagined that conversation would go, but it wasn’t like that. He’d watched as Leon walked away from him, without sparing him a second thought or a glance and that hurt. It hurt more than Matthew would like to admit, but he wasn’t surprised. Instead, he grabbed a small bundle of grapes and added it to his heaping plate, even though his appetite had vanished. 

He found Brady, “I guess we have an interview with Dad later.”

“Yeah, he told me,” Brady said and grabbed a piece of cheese off of Matthew’s plate, “Saw you and Draisaitl talking.” It was clearly an opening to the conversation that Matthew didn’t want to have. 

“We just ran into each other,” Matthew said.

“How’d it go?” Brady asked. 

“Fine,” Matthew said in between bites of a baguette.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Brady asked.

“Nope,” Matthew replied. 

Their father found them shortly thereafter and all three of them were ushered over to the NBCSN booth where they were posed around a table with the interviewer.

It started off as expected asking about what it was like to share the weekend with his brother, if they knew what events they were going to do during the actual weekend, if there were any favorite St. Louis places that they would try and visit during their weekend, and it was all fun and safe and predictable until the conversation pivoted. 

“What do you think about rising star, Leon Draisaitl?” And there it was yet another question that would segway into talking about his former teammate-turned-rival that Matthew was dreading.

“Leon’s had a phenomenal year,” Brady interceded, “he’s the type of guy that everyone wants on their team and who you don’t want to see standing across from you on a faceoff. 

“He was asked earlier about playing on a line with you, Matthew, and he said he’d probably get off the ice,” the interviewer said. 

Matthew froze. He felt the intense scrutiny of the camera on him, waiting to capture his reaction, but he couldn’t think. He knew that he’d hurt Leon, and he knew that over time that hurt had turned into anger and resentment, but he didn’t think that Leon had hated him. 

“Well, you know how Matthew can get under opponents skin,” his father said and for once Matthew was grateful to be sharing the interview space with his father. It was easy to brush off the rivalry as an extension of the Battle of Alberta instead of exposing the personal conflict that had been gnawing away at them for the past four years. Matthew blanked out of the rest of the interview, letting Brady and his father take the reins and only really talking when a question was directly posed to him. He was grateful to not be doing this alone, and felt Brady’s reassuring nudge as his leg brushed up against his own, grounding him along the way.

“That was really shitty what the interviewer did; it was probably a misquote anyways,” Brady said after they had thanked the interviewer and walked off the set. 

But Matthew knew it wasn’t or at least not to the extent that Brady was pretending it to be. 

“He really hates me, doesn’t he?” Matthew asked and Brady didn’t have a response so he just pulled his brother into a hug. 

“Come on, we’re meeting mom and Taryn for dinner and then we have that party tonight,” Brady reminded him, taking his mind off of Leon if only for a moment. 

Chapter Text

“Are you okay?” Matthew’s mother asked midway through dinner at a fancy steakhouse that his father had reserved weeks in advance. 

“Yeah,” Matthew swallowed.

“He ran into Leon,” Brady said and that gave all the context to his mother and Taryn that they needed.

“I told him he should talk to Leon,” his father said exasperatedly.

“He doesn’t want to,” Matthew said, “didn’t you hear what he said? I’m not going to just drag him into a conversation in case it might make me feel better.”

“What did he say?” Taryn asked. 

Matthew chewed at his lip and he noticed the look that crossed between Brady and his father challenging the other to repeat what Leon said. 

“He said that if they tried to put them together on the ice, Leon would try and get off of it,” his father repeated, “I don’t believe it, you know how they all say stuff.” Matthew tuned out his father’s soliloquy about not taking things too personally and that players nowadays counted on rivals to watch their interviews to get in their heads and maybe that was true for people like Doughty or Kassian whose gripes about Matthew were relegated to the ice. Leon didn’t know if Matthew would watch, after the way Matthew had left things, he’d probably rested on the belief that Matthew wouldn’t watch. He’d said in in the heat of the moment when he knew the cameras were on him 

Matthew felt Taryn’s sharp stare at him across the table and knew that she’d have something to say afterwards. They filled everyone in on the finalized details for the Skills competition and Brady even threw in some friendly trash talking to lighten the mood. Matthew flashed him a faint smile and promised to not stay out too late at the party that night. 

As they walked back to the hotel the rest of his family was staying at, Taryn dragged Matthew to the back of the pack and wrapped her hands around Matthew’s arm, pulling him close. Matthew already knew what this was going to be about. 

“Don’t,” Matthew warned. 

“That was a shitty thing for him to say,” Taryn said.

“Yeah,” Matthew said, “But he meant it.”

“Leon wears his heart on his sleeve just like you do,” Taryn said, “And whether you want to admit it to yourself you really hurt him.”

Matthew chewed on his lip, “Aren’t you supposed to be on my side?”

“You know I am, I always am, but I know that this was one of your biggest mistakes,” Taryn continued.

“So how am I supposed to fix it?” Matthew asked, “If it’s such a mistake, how do I fix it?”

Taryn just looked at him sadly, “I don’t know if you do, maybe you just decide to do things differently in the future.”

“I can’t do that, Taryn,” Matthew said.

“I don’t mean that ,” Taryn said, “I just mean that you owe yourself more than you’ve been giving yourself. At least try and be more honest in the future.”

“I don’t know what that means,” Matthew replied.

“You do,” Taryn said, “and Mom and Dad do as well and I know you’ll get there, I just hope it’s sooner rather than later.”

“I’ve got to go get ready,” Matthew said, ready to leave the conversation as it was. Taryn was wiser than her age, knowing what needed to be said and gently pushing him in a way that neither of his parents had mastered. Whereas his father was callous in his advice, his mother coddled him too much at times and somehow, Taryn had managed to walk the fine line between sage, painful advice and wrapped it in love. 

 

Matthew got ready, taking extra care in his appearance as he grabbed the black button down that he had worn a few times when he was still at Notre Dame and a pair of dark washed jeans.

There was a knock on his door and he opened it to see Brady on the other side. His brother’s hair was slicked back and he was clearly more prepared than Matthew.

Brady scrutinized him and shook his head. 

“What?” Matthew asked. 

“Nothing,” Brady replied, “You ready to head out?”

“Yeah,” Matthew said as he fidgeted with his cuff and grabbed his coat. They walked to the party, just a few blocks away so that the drunk NHL players wouldn’t have to struggle too hard to get back to the hotel.

“That outfit is from Notre Dame,” Brady commented.

“It’s a good outfit,” Matthew said.

“I know it is, you look great,” Brady replied.

“Okay, so why are we having this conversation,” Matthew said.

“Because I think you specifically chose it because of the memories attached to it from Notre Dame.”

“I got enough of this from Taryn earlier,” Matthew said.

“Okay,” Brady said and offered his hands up in mock surrender.

Thankfully, they arrived at the club so Matthew didn’t have to answer to his siblings anymore before they reconvened with their teammates. The club was one that Matthew was vaguely familiar with, one that prided itself with privacy for celebrities. He wondered how much someone was paying them to rent out a great deal of the space for all of the hockey players, their partners and have an open bar as well. He navigated his way to the VIP section that had been roped off for them and found Mark and David in a booth towards the back, away from all the younger, single players who were trying to hook up. 

They had a bottle of whiskey in front of them and they were in the middle of conversing about the Skills competition the next day when Matthew sided up next to them. He surveyed the VIP section, identifying most people easily and unknowingly searching for Leon amongst them. It was still instinctive, just like all those times that he found himself at frat parties at Notre Dame and would be looking for Leon amongst the inebriated frat boys and girls trying to impress them. Even after all these years, it was almost routine for him.

David handed Matthew the partially empty bottle of whiskey and encouraged him to start drinking. It seemed they were already a few drinks in, having been absolved from the obligatory family dinner that Matthew had been sequestered into.

“Did Brady come?” Mark asked.

“Yeah, but I lost him somewhere in the crowd on the way over here,” Matthew said as he poured himself a shot. He eventually saw Connor chatting away with Mitch and Freddie, but Leon wasn’t near him. Brady’s head bobbed among the dance crowd and Matthew almost laughed at the awkward way that Brady was dancing, not nearly drunk enough to be considered decent. 

Matthew made his way around the other hockey players, catching up with Mitch since they hadn’t seen each other in a while and talking to some of the other Pacific Division players in the absence of competition and even though he found himself searching to be sucked into Leon’s gravity, he found himself enjoying the time. 

After a few more drinks, Matthew headed to the bathroom, the effects of the alcohol starting to kick in. The pounding music of the club throbbed even in the bathroom, the bass sent vibrations through the walls. There was a noise coming from the handicap stall and he didn’t think much of it until he heard two voices and a small laugh and Matthew realized what he’d walked into. That alone would have been bad enough except he heard the unmistakable sound of German murmurs coming from there.

They were the same words that he’d learned through the rudimentary German lessons that Leon had given him back in college, most of which he’d learned the meaning of through trial and error and a few that he’d had to use Google Translate for. 

“Bitte.”

Matthew heard the soft voice plead and he knew that he should get out of there before they finished and he was caught, but soon after, he heard the stall door open and some guy he didn’t recognize headed out, clearly pleased with himself. 

And then, because Matthew had a habit of self-sabotaging and a long list of things that Taryn could use to throw back in his face of questionable life choices, he stayed. It was only a few minutes later that Leon exited the stall, fiddling with his zipper and heading to the sinks before he looked up to see Matthew there.

“Seriously?” Leon asked exasperatedly.

“I had to piss,” Matthew said.

“Okay,” Leon said.

“You should be glad it was me who walked in and not someone else,” Matthew said.

“I’m fucking thrilled,” Leon said, reaching around Matthew for a paper towel and trying to get out, “Besides, you were always the one who was so preoccupied about nobody knowing, not me."

“I know you’re a rookie-”

“Don't go there. That has nothing to do with it,” Leon said, “I just am not going to live my life in fear of other people's thoughts and reactions to deny myself happiness.”

“And hooking up with some random guy in the bathroom of a St. Louis club makes you happy?” Matthew asked.

“Fuck, it’s a stupid hookup, and maybe it’s dumb, but at least I’m not so far in the closet that I pretend not to know someone to avoid any scrutiny,” Leon said. 

Matthew sucked in a breath. It would have been less painful if Leon had just sucker punched him then and there, but he knew that Leon was right. He knew if he let more people know him it left him exposed, and maybe if things were different, if he’d made different choices, 

“Next time the cameras are on you, can you try and be a little more careful about what you say,” Matthew said.

“What? Did I hurt your feelings or something?” Leon sneered.

“Yeah,” Matthew shrugged.

“Oh,” Leon stepped back as if the realization that he still affected Matthew just dawned on him, “well, sorry then.”

Matthew nodded and Leon went to walk past him, but he reached out to stop him.

“Is there something else?” Leon asked.

Matthew recalled his conversation with Taryn. She wanted him to be more honest and being more honest with himself and his teammates wasn’t a possibility, but he did know that he owed it to Leon to at least be marginally honest with him. “I wanted to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry about Notre Dame and I’m sorry about what I said earlier.”

Leon didn’t accept his apology or say anything after that, but Matthew had said the words aloud and meant them and that had to count for something.

Chapter Text

October 2016

 

Matthew found himself in the basement of some upperclassmen’s off-campus apartment having been invited by a few of his teammates from the team. He usually didn’t mind these sorts of things, if there was one thing that the USNDTP had taught him it was how to make friends easily. There were too many new people and new situations for him not to be able to make friends on whatever road trip they were on. But here it was different because back when he was traveling with the USNDTP they all had hockey in common and it was easy to talk to someone when you had the same passion, but here it was different. It was even more uncomfortable with the way that people had segmented off, based on pre-existing cliques that Matthew felt he couldn’t just walk up to and join. It was kind of sad, him just standing there, with a cup of jungle juice whose alcohol content he could only imagine as he watched people move around the room easily. 

He saw Leon arrive, probably more along the lines of what was considered fashionably late. He didn’t really know him, but he recognized him which was already more than he could say for most of the people there. 

“Hey,” Matthew said. 

Leon nodded at him and sniffed at the cup he was holding, “Be careful with that stuff, you’ll be wasted in no time, and don’t get caught.”

“Is this you telling me not to drink?” Matthew asked.

“No, it’s me telling you not to get caught, besides, it’d be legal in Germany anyways,” Leon huffed. 

“That’s where you’re from?” Matthew asked.

“Yeah,” Leon replied, “I’m from Cologne, but I moved to Canada years ago.”

“I’ve been to Germany once,” Matthew said.

“Yeah?” Leon asked. Matthew could hear his feigned interest and cringed at the way he sounded like all of his annoying classmates who started conversations with a reference to some trip as if they were suddenly the expert about it. 

“My parents took me back when my dad was playing international hockey,” Matthew explained. 

“That’s right, you’re Keith Tkachuk’s kid,” Leon said. There was gravity behind the words that made Matthew uncertain. He felt the urge to defend his father’s legacy while distancing himself from it. 

Matthew shrugged, “Yeah, it’s pretty common knowledge.”

“Your last name is pretty unique,” Leon shrugged.

“That too,” Matthew said. 

“You know there were bets placed after you committed,” Leon said. 

“About?”

“About if you’d actually play with us or not,” Leon said. 

“What did you bet?” Matthew asked.

“I said you would,” Leon said, “I won $100 off of that.”

“You should buy me dinner then,” Matthew said, causing Leon to almost choke on his drink.

“What?”

“It’s only fair if you won money off of me, you should buy me dinner or breakfast,” Matthew said, “And besides that’d be more interesting than being here.” The party was less of a party but more of a gathering of people standing around with drinkings and trying to shout over the music that was playing 

“That’s probably true,” Leon said with a small laugh. 

“All I’m saying is that if I helped you win a bet, you should split the earnings with me,” Matthew said. 

“Do you get credit if you didn’t even know about it?” Leon asked. 

“That’s even more reason,” Matthew said.

“Grab your stuff,” Leon said and tipped back the rest of his beer. 

“What?” Matthew asked.

“Did you come here with anyone?” Leon asked. 

“Luke invited me,” Matthew said.

“Luke’s a horrible person to go to a party with,” Leon said, “He always bails midway to hook up or hang out with friends instead.”

“So I shouldn’t be worried about leaving early?” Matthew asked.

“I’d be more worried if you stayed here much longer,” Leon said.

“Okay, what did you have in mind?” Matthew asked, throwing his cup and the remnants of the jungle juice in the trash bag. He found his coat amongst the pile on the arm of the couch and followed Leon.

“I’m paying up,” Leon said.

Matthew grinned, “Okay.”

There was a small diner on the edge of campus that was opened 24/7. It had been a landmark on the campus tour, promising hangover food at all hours of the day which hadn’t been a selling point on the tour, but it had still stuck out as a landmark on the tour.

Leon held the door open for him as they headed into the diner. There were a few college kids already in there, but overall it was pretty empty.

“What’s good here?” Matthew asked.

“Their home fries are pretty good,” Leon said as he looked at the menu. 

Matthew ordered an omelette and Leon had picked a breakfast platter even though it was 11:30 at night. 

The food was shitty but that was the point. It wasn’t meant to be gourmet, it was a little campus diner that had a mostly collegiate staff and served breakfast all day long. Matthew started eating, 

“Bet you don’t have this in Germany,” Matthew said.

“Shitty, greasy diner food like this?” Leon asked, “I haven’t had too much of it, 

“Why are you here?” Matthew asked.

“At Notre Dame?” Leon asked, “Or in the US?” 

“Both, I guess?” Matthew said.

“There were more opportunities for hockey in North America, Germany’s more of a football country, and I knew I couldn’t be the type of player that I wanted to be if I stayed in Germany.

“And as for the other question, I wasn’t good enough to go pro,” Leon said, “I was good, but not good enough to enter the draft so I thought I might as well get a college education out of it.”

“It was important to my mom that I go to college,” Matthew said, “Since hockey doesn’t last forever and I guess she thought I would take it harder than my brother when hockey’s over and she didn’t want me not to have a plan B.”

“Is that what you want?” Leon asked.

Matthew shrugged, “I want to play in the NHL, I want to continue to play hockey, but I think that college provides more freedom than in the NHL and certainly the USNDTP.” He weighed his words carefully, wanting to be truthful but not give too much away.

“Yeah,” Leon said, “it’s different, being away from your family, playing college hockey, but I get it, I was playing in the CHL and it’s hockey all the time there.”

They continued to talk about hockey, college, and what the season had in store for them in an easy way that had become foreign since Matthew since he’d started at Notre Dame. Their paths were strikingly similar, having played competitively for years and having had parents play at a high level as well. 

“Alright, I paid off your share of the bet,” Leon said as he handed over the money to pay the bill.

“Yes you did. Besides, that was so much better than some shitty party,” Matthew said.

“Yeah, it was,” Leon said. They walked back to the dorms, bracing themselves against the chilly wind that was already harsh for October. 

“Are you heading back to the party?” Matthew asked.

“Nah, it’s already late and we have practice tomorrow so I think I’m going to call it a night,” Leon said. 

“Me too, but I’ll probably watch some TV beforehand,” Matthew said. 

“Anything good?” Leon asked.

“Probably Brooklyn 99,” Matthew said. 

“Never seen it,” Leon shrugged.

“Come on, it’s so funny,” Matthew said, “Okay, we’re watching an episode.”

“I really should go,” Leon said.

“It’s twenty minutes,” Matthew said, “I promise you’ll enjoy it. I mean, if you really don’t want to I won’t force you, but…”

“Okay, one episode,” Leon said and followed Matthew up to his dorm room. They crammed onto his bunk bed, placing the laptop conveniently between both of their laps as they played an episode from season 3. 

Matthew was gleefully satisfied when Leon started to laugh at the show, glad that his recommendation had paid off. 

One episode became three and it was only when Matthew’s roommate returned that Leon glanced at his phone and decided that he did need to go back. 

“See you tomorrow,” Leon said.

“Bye,” Matthew said and after Leon left faced the scrutinizing glance of his roommate, Eric.

“Text me if you need me to stay away for a while,” he said.

Matthew protested, trying to explain that they were teammates and that nothing was going on.

“I don’t care, I just don’t want to see anything,” his roommate said, and when Matthew settled in to bed, he realized that he’d inadvertently come out to Eric, or at least hadn’t corrected his assumptions, and it had gone well. It had gone really well.

Chapter Text

November 2016

 

 Matthew tilted the camera over towards Leon. “Say hi to Brady,” Matthew said. Leon leaned into the frame and waved, “Hey Brady, how are you?”

“Good,” Brady said, “I see you’re still hanging out with my brother for some reason.”

“He’s still following me around,” Leon said.

Matthew turned the camera back around to continue FaceTiming his brother, “Okay, okay, enough ganging up on me. I should have never let you two talk,” he continued to talk to Brady, asking about how the USNDTP was going, catching up about Taryn and his parents and about their mutual friends in the AHL who had been drafted.

Matthew was laying on Leon’s couch in his off-campus apartment, one of the perks that Matthew had to look forward to when he was a junior. He didn’t dare ask where Leon had gotten the couch from, but the apartment was sparsely decorated with mostly hand-me-downs from graduating seniors that had wanted to leave some of their furniture behind.

Leon was prepping a modest lunch for them, well-within the guidelines of their meal plan and Matthew had taken the time to FaceTime Brady. He’d introduced Leon to Brady via FaceTime when Brady had called after a rough game and they were continuing their Brooklyn 99 marathon, just a season behind and now it wasn’t uncommon for Leon to say a brief hello since they always seemed to be together outside of their classes. 

 

“You like him, don’t you?” Brady asked when he called when Matthew was in his own dorm room and Leon was still in class.

Matthew shrugged. His brother knew him too well for him to protest and it hadn’t escaped him that since that night at the party, he had drifted into Leon’s gravity. It wasn’t that he didn’t like his other teammates or didn’t hang out with them, or his roommate Eric, he just liked Leon more. 

“Does he know you’re an option?” Brady asked. 

Matthew rolled his eyes, “I haven’t, like, told him.”

“You should,” Brady said. 

“And say what? Oh by the way, I know we’ve been hanging out almost every day for the past month and cuddling together and I’m gay.”

“You cuddle on the bed?” Brady asked, a wide smile stretching across his face.

“We watch TV on my bed and it’s small,” Matthew said. 

“Well, has Leon said anything?” Brady asked.

“He’s a junior, why would he even be interested in me?” Matthew asked.

“Well, he’s spent almost every day with you, so that shows that you’ve tricked him for this long,” Brady said. 

Matthew just glared at him. 

“Have you seen the way he looks at you?” Brady asked, “Because I’ve never even met the guy in person and I’ve just seen the way he looks at you 

“How does he look at me?” Matthew asked.

“Like he wants to rip your shirt off and then hold your hand,” Brady said. 

Matthew laughed, “I’m pretty sure that Leon would have said something by now if that was the case, he’s not one to hold back.”

“Neither are you, but you haven’t said anything either,” Brady said, “Just think about it, okay?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Matthew said and rolled his eyes. But after they had hung up, Brady had planted the seed in Matthew’s mind. Maybe his growing feelings towards Leon weren’t unrequited and maybe, despite all the concerns he had about their friendship and coming out to Leon, it might be worth the risk. 

 

Matthew had stopped at the Starbucks on campus on the way and had picked up a latte for himself and grabbed just a plain coffee with cream for Leon.

“Were we meeting up?” Leon asked as he opened the door just in his boxers, looking a little frazzled like he’d just woken up. Matthew’s eyes trailed up his body, looking at him for the first time outside of the confines of the locker room where wandering eyes weren’t encouraged. 

“I just figured I’d stop by and we could hang out,” Matthew said, feeling like for the first time since he’d befriended Leon, his presence was unwanted.

“Uh, it’s a little bit of a bad time,” Leon said as he glanced back into his apartment. 

“Should I go?” a foreign male voice asked. It wasn’t Leon’s roommate, Danny, either, and as Matthew looked at Leon’s ruffled hair and unclothed state and realized what he’d walked in on.

“You don’t have to,” Leon said, but Matthew could already hear the gathering of things from inside. 

“I’ll go,” a guy pushed past Leon and spared Matthew a glance before leaning down and kissing Leon quickly, “Text me later.”

“Um, okay,” Leon said as he looked over at Matthew trying to gauge his reaction.

“I really should go,” Matthew said as he shoved the cup of coffee into Leon’s hand and then walked away.

“Seriously?” Leon called after him, and Matthew could hear the righteous indignation in his voice, but he didn’t know how to process what he’d just seen or what to do about it.

 

To: Brady

He’s gay .

 

From: Brady

WHAT???

 

To: Brady

Or at least not straight. I interrupted his hookup .

 

The phone started to ring and Brady’s number flashed across the screen.

“How the fuck did you think this was acceptable to tell me by text?” Brady asked.

“I didn’t want to wake you up,” Matthew said. 

“Please, this is the most interesting thing to happen to you in awhile, so I want to hear everything,” Brady said. 

“I was going over to give him coffee and hang out and some guy was there and he’d clearly stayed over and they’d hooked up and I just like walked in and saw this guy kiss him and leave.”

“You’re so whipped,” Brady laughed, “and that’s the most you thing to ever happen. So then what happened afterwards?”

“I ran away,” Matthew said.

“What?” Brady asked incredulously.

“I didn’t know what to do so I left.”

“That was the time that you could have told him you were into guys,” Brady said, “Even I know that.”

“Well, I didn’t,” Matthew said, “Besides, I’m not getting between a couple.”

“It doesn’t sound like they were exactly a couple, and I’m pretty sure that you would have even noticed by now if Leon was in a relationship.”

“Fuck,” Matthew swore.

“Well, you know he’s into guys, now, so that’s a plus,” Brady said, “Now you just have to find out if he’s interested in you.”

“And he looked so good,” Matthew lamented. 

“Talk to him,” Brady said, “please, for my sake.”

 

And Matthew planned to, he really did, except when he came time for practice and he caught Leon glancing over at him as they got ready for practice. 

Matthew hurriedly showered and changed, not giving Leon any opportunity to pull him aside and want to talk about what Matthew had interrupted. 

“Do we need to talk about this?” Leon asked.

“I think it’s cool, that you’re dating a guy,” Matthew said, wanting to make sure that he wasn’t being weird because he didn’t like Leon being with guys, well, he didn’t but it was just mostly guys who weren’t himself.

“I’m not really dating him, but that’s whatever. How long are you going to be weird about this?” Leon asked.

Matthew was going to protest, but Leon silenced him with a glare. 

“Do you like me?” Matthew asked.

Leon snorted, “Really? I don’t want to fuck every guy that I come across.” He sounded disappointed and Matthew was doing this all wrong.

“I know, but like do you like me, though? Because I kind of like you,” Matthew said, and Leon’s eyes widened as they entered an entirely different conversation, one that Leon had been ill-prepared for. “Um, I’m gay,” Matthew said, “and I should have told you earlier, but I didn’t, so I think that might change the conversation.”

“Okay,” Leon said. 

“And like, I’m actually into you, not just hooking up with you, but like everything else, too, even though I want to you know hook up with you,” Matthew babbled and the more he talked, the more he could see Leon’s eyebrows raise in amusement. 

“I’ve never seen you this nervous,” Leon said.

“This makes me nervous, you make me nervous, and I’ve never really done this before, with anyone,” Matthew said, “and I just want to be sure you understand me.”

“You could have told me earlier,” Leon said.

“So could you,” Matthew replied. 

“Okay, I’m bi and I kind of like you too,” Leon said.

“Okay,” Matthew grinned, “what about that guy?”

“It’s not really a thing,” Leon said, “he just was convenient and available, but I’ll tell him it won’t happen again.”

Matthew smirked and Leon reached out to hold his hand intertwining their fingers as they headed back to Leon’s apartment. Leon gently knocked their heads together in a comfortable way and for the time, it just felt so easy. Most of all, everything had been fine, in fact, it had been better than fine.  

Chapter Text

January 2017

 

Whoever said mixing business with pleasure had never met Matthew and Leon or at least hadn’t seen them together because if they had, they’d know that they would have surely reconsidered their stance. The relationship between the two of them bled out onto the ice, pulling Matthew up from a reliable third liner to the first line with Leon. 

They spent more time in the gym together, pushing each other further, ignoring the ache in their limbs as they strove to run a little further, do one more pull up, and to best the other. It was all done playfully, but Leon quickly learned that Matthew had internalized his father’s mantra of “compete and be a good teammate”. 

Leon had curled up against Matthew on the bus ride to Ohio for their game against Miami University. Matthew had looked at him questionably when he leaned up against him and pulled out a hefty packet and started reading it. 

“What?” Leon asked.

“I just, I didn’t know we were doing this,” Matthew said. 

“What?” Leon asked, “Do you not want to?” He asked and straightened up. Matthew immediately missed the weight against him as Leon turned to look at him. Matthew glanced around and noticed that their teammates were preoccupied with other things, had earbuds in their ears or had already fallen asleep in preparation for the game later that day. 

“I don’t know,” Matthew said. 

“Ok,” Leon said measuredly, “Almost everyone knows about me.”

“Yeah?”

“And they were all really supportive,” Leon said, “If that’s what you’re worried about.”

“I’m not the type of guy to make a big announcement,” Matthew said.

“Okay, so don’t,” Leon said, “It’s whatever you’re comfortable with. I mean it, Matthew, I’d never ask or expect you to do something that you aren’t comfortable with or ready to do.”

“Thanks,” Matthew said. 

Leon went back to reading his article and Matthew glanced around the bus one more time. He knew that the closer they got to Miami, the more people would wake up and be boisterous, but for now it was quiet. So he reached over and grabbed one of Leon’s hands in his, and spent time on Instagram, scrolling through his feed. He felt a gentle squeeze from Leon in affirmation and they just sat like that for a while. 

 

They settled in the locker room, getting ready for the game, the ease with which the bus ride had gone subsided. 

“Are you and Leon, like, a thing?” Drew, their linemate and captain asked, as he pulled Matthew aside.

It was a question that was bound to happen, but nevertheless took Matthew off guard. He hadn’t expected it so soon and certainly not as early as it had happened. But they were hockey players and they were college students as well and they were nosy as fuck; Drew was no exception. His hackles were raised and Drew put his hands up in surrender.

“Just wondering,” Drew said, “I saw you two on the bus.”

“Is there a problem?” Matthew asked and stood up. A few of their teammates glanced their way in anticipation of a brewing fight, but Drew quickly waved their concerns off. 

“Fuck no,” Drew said, “and if anyone gives you any problems send them my way.”

“Oh,” Matthew blinked and settled down, able to breathe for the first time since Drew came over to talk.  

“Is this where you give me the shovel talk?” Matthew asked.

“Nah, if anyone’s going to break someone’s heart it’s Leon,” Drew said with a smile. And Matthew was sure that years of having been teammates and friends pre-dating Matthew’s arrival, there were stories that supported that. Maybe Leon had been a heartbreaker prior to meeting Matthew, but Matthew didn’t think that Leon would break his heart. 

Their chemistry on the ice during the game was palpable, Miami wasn’t a team to scoff at, but by the end of the second period, they were already up 3-1. 

Drew had already scored, and Leon had two assists, but 

“Showing off for your boyfriend,” Drew said with a smile and Matthew grinned. Leon rushed into him, pressing him against the glass as the rest of their teammates joined them. 

“That was a beautiful fucking goal,” Leon said into Matthew’s neck, and Matthew felt a swell of pride that was unmatched. He appreciated the head taps and fist bumps, but they all seemed inconsequential compared to the way that Leon smiled at him. 

The game wrapped up 5-2 and they walked off the ice on a high. 

“I can’t wait to celebrate that goal later,” Leon whispered lowly as they stripped out of their gear. 

“And your three point game,” Matthew replied. 

“I have some ideas on how we can celebrate,” Leon said with a wink and Matthew could only imagine what Leon had in store. 

 

Matthew had gotten a text from his father on the bus ride over to the hotel. There were a few notes about his game which were unsurprising, a comment about how good Leon was (which Matthew already knew) and one additional thing. There had been NHL scouts at the game. Matthew wasn’t exactly sure who had told his father that, but he knew after years in the NHL he had connections around the league.

Matthew sighed and pocketed the phone away. He knew that when he returned to Notre Dame, he would have a phone call about the game analyzing the play-by-play, but for now as they headed back to their hotel room. 

 They celebrated with the team. A few of the rookies were elated by the win, loudly screaming down the hotel hallway in celebration. Matthew and Leon had been rooming together and headed back to their room. 

As soon as the door shut behind them, Leon pressed him against the wall and kissed him. “That was so hot,” Leon said. 

“I couldn’t have done it without you,” Matthew said, he fiddled with Leon’s suit, stripping him out of the jacket and fumbling blindly with the buttons. 

Leon removed Matthew’s clothes, dropping them on the floor and went down on Matthew causing him to moan.  

“Shhh,” Leon said, knowing that their teammates were just a room away. 

Matthew clamped down on his hand, trying to stifle his moans as Leon took him apart. He watched as Leon glanced up at him from his knees watching him fall apart, and Matthew was pretty sure he was smirking. 

“Fuck,” Matthew said quietly as Leon pulled off of him and grinned. 

“I told you we were celebrating,” Leon said. He double locked the door behind them and headed to bed. They ignored the other bed and settled into bed together, Leon wrapped an arm around Matthew’s waist. It was easy like this, Matthew thought as he curled into Leon’s body, almost like a first love with no concerns in the world, and Matthew just hoped it would always stay like this.

Chapter Text

The more Matthew played alongside Drew and Leon the more he found the back of the net. He found himself knowing magnetically where the puck was going to be and Leon knew his gravity on the ice. By January, there were already whispers of Matthew’s name in contention for the Hobey Baker which his father had pounced upon. It was hard for Matthew to ignore the rumors even though he knew of players across the NCAA that were making cases for themselves, but his father had heard rumors that Matthew had been noticed and he’d started to encourage Matthew’s own campaign. 

The Hobey Baker was nice. It would be nice to win, but it was a way to get to the NHL. Matthew knew that above all else, those who made the short list would get attention from professional leagues. He saw how Jimmy Vesey had become a prime target for NHL teams and even though Matthew didn’t really care about the award, he did care about making it in the NHL.

So his father had come up with a strategy and Matthew took it. He spent extra time in the gym working out, leaving Leon alone in his apartment in the early hours of the day to squeeze in a workout before class.

Leon would often protest, rolling over and pulling Matthew closer. “Stay, we have practice later,” Leon said sleepily.

“I have to work out,” Matthew said. 

“No, you don’t,” Leon whined, “Besides I can think of other ways we can work out.”

“Later,” Matthew said as he grabbed some gym clothes that he kept in Leon’s apartment and headed out the door, “I promise, I’ll see you later.”

Matthew knew that Leon didn’t understand it. Even though they’d both had fathers who played professional hockey it was different. It wasn’t that Matthew thought his father was better, but he’d reached the NHL and he’d wanted Matthew and Brady to reach the NHL. Matthew wasn’t even sure anymore if it had been his idea originally or his father’s, but somehow it had become his dream, too.

 

“You know you might even be able to be signed to an ELC next year,” his father said on a phone call after one of his games, “I’ve heard Calgary and Edmonton are interested in you.”

And that took Matthew off guard because even though he had heard that scouts were in the stands watching him play and taking interest in him, it had still seemed like an abstraction. For the first time in his life, leaving the comfort of college hockey seemed daunting. He was surrounded by people who were supportive of him, who knew about him and Leon and didn’t care, and Leon was here too. 

“I might want to wait,” Matthew said. 

“What?” his father asked. 

“I think I can develop here some more,” Matthew said, “and then go after I graduate.”

“Are you kidding me? After everything we’ve worked for you’re no longer interested,” 

“I am, it’s just complicated,” Matthew said.

“Well then uncomplicate it for me,” his father demanded. If he was here in person, Matthew was certain that his father would be turning bright red.

“There’s more to life than hockey,” Matthew said, repeating what Leon had told him time and time again. 

“Yeah, when you’re thirty, what else do you have besides hockey now?” his father asked. 

“I’m dating someone,” Matthew said. 

“A guy?” his father asked.

“Yeah, one of my teammates,” Matthew said. 

“Fuck, it’s that Draisaitl kid, isn’t it?” His father asked. Matthew winced. 

“Yeah, I’m dating Leon,” Matthew said. 

“That’s really dumb. Does your team know?” his father asked.

“Yeah, and they are all really supportive,” Matthew said.

“Fuck, between you and your brother, you guys never do anything easy,” his father said, “You would honestly give up hockey for some guy you’ve been dating for two months?” 

“I wouldn’t give it up, I mean we haven’t really talked about it,” Matthew said, “But I really like him.” He almost slipped up and said that he loved Leon, that he knew that would lead to a completely different lecture from his father, and it didn’t seem fair that he would tell his father he was in love with Leon before he told Leon.

“I’m happy that you have a team that is supportive, I really am, but it’s different in the NHL,” his father said, “Do you think that teams are going to sign a gay player? That they’ll invite him to team events and include him in things? And what about the distance? You’re nineteen are you planning on traveling to Indiana every weekend to visit him?”

“I don’t know, but we don’t even know if there is going to be a contract you just I’ll deal with it later,” Matthew said. 

“I just don’t want you to lose opportunities and give up your dreams because of a guy who won’t be around too long, I’ve seen college romances, they never last long. Hell, your mom had plenty of stories about that.”

“Alright- thanks Dad, I have to go,” Matthew said and ended the conversation. His father had gotten under his skin and even though he wanted to protest and tell his father that he was the exception, that he and Leon were the exception he knew that his father was at least partially correct.

A few moments later though, his phone vibrated with a text from his father. I support you and I love you, even though I disagree with you . And Matthew took it as a win, even though he knew this wouldn’t be the end of their conversations about Leon and their relationship. 

 

Matthew was on a high after a three point night at home, sandwiched between teammates at a restaurant and with Leon’s arm wrapped around his waist. He caught Leon staring at him occasionally and after they finished up their food and Leon paid for both of them

“Want to get out of here?” Matthew asked. 

“Sure,” Leon said, “Are we heading home or …?”

“There’s a coffee shop still open,” Matthew said and they headed to one of the few late night coffee shops near campus. It was almost empty, but it reminded him of their first date at the diner, and they ordered their drinks before they picked a table in the back of the coffee shop. It was one of the places that Matthew went to before class sometimes, trying to get a caffeine rush to compensate for the early morning wake ups. 

“This feels kind of ominous,” Leon said as he wrapped his hands around his americano to warm up.

“It’s not, I promise, or at least I don’t think it is,” Matthew said. 

“But you wanted to talk?” Leon asked. 

“I told my dad I was dating you,” Matthew said.

“How did that go?” Leon asked.

“Could have been better, could have been worse,” Matthew shrugged, “he said I was dumb for dating a teammate, but that he supported me and loved me.” Matthew omitted the part where his father had told him that dating a man could interfere with his chance to make it in the NHL because despite all of the efforts of the You Can Play initiative and even though it had nearly been ten years since his father played in the NHL, Matthew knew that hockey wasn’t as progressive at it could be, as it should be. And that was a perspective that Leon didn’t have. He knew that Leon had had a positive experience coming out to his family and with the team, but the NHL was different. 

“I’m sorry,” Leon said. 

Matthew shrugged, “Believe me, my dad has come a long way, but that’s not why I wanted to talk.”

Matthew inhaled loudly and wrapped his hands around the cup. Leon could tell that he was nervous and apprehensive so he reached out and 

“I love you,” Matthew said, “and I don’t expect you to say it back, but I wanted you to know that it’s serious for me. I’m really serious about you.”

Leon’s lips stretched into a grin and Matthew’s worries were immediately assuaged. He leaned across the table and gently kissed Matthew, “I’m really serious about you, too.” 

“Good,” Matthew said. He felt a burden lifted off of his chest as they segued into lighter topics, Leon all the while holding his hand.

“You were really nervous to tell me that, weren’t you?” Leon said as he walked back to Leon’s apartment.

“Yeah, I wasn’t sure how you felt,” Matthew said, “But I wanted you to know that I love you.” He was able to say it with more confidence this time.

“I know,” Leon said as he squeezed Matthew’s hand in reassurance.

Chapter Text

February-March 2017

“I don’t want to go to practice,” Leon said as he rolled over and rested his head on Matthew’s chest. 

“I know,” Matthew said, he gently stroked Leon’s hair, “Hey, can I ask you something?”

Leon propped himself up on his arm and turned towards Matthew, “That sounds serious.”

“It’s not, I promise,” Matthew laughed, “Do you ever think about the future?”

“Like after college? Or more down the line?” Leon asked.

“Either? Both?” Matthew asked.

“Not really,” Leon said, honestly. “I guess at first I was just concerned with getting into college and playing hockey, and now I’m just concerned about graduating. Afterwards, I guess it’s all up in the air?” 

“So are you thinking about moving back to Germany?” Matthew asked.

Leon shrugged, “I don’t know. I’d like to stick around here for a while maybe join a beer league or something, but I mean my family is still in Germany and if I got a great job offer I’d probably head back.”

Matthew wasn’t exactly sure what he had hoped or expected Leon to say. He wasn’t sure if he wanted Leon’s idea of the future to include himself or a more concrete version of what Leon wanted. Maybe it was how certain Matthew was about what he wanted in life. That he wanted to go pro and win the Stanley Cup and then retire and maybe then he could have a family and quietly come one. 

“Have you thought about it?” Leon asked, bringing him back to the present.

“Yeah,” Matthew said, “I want to go pro, and then maybe after a while after I retire, settle down and have a family.”

“You wouldn’t come out during your career?” Leon asked.

Matthew just shook his head, “Nah. I’d want to be known as a good player, not as a player who is good for being gay.”

“And you couldn’t be known as both?” Leon asked.

“Not in the NHL,” Matthew said sadly, “Fuck, this got depressing.”

Leon gently stroked his side and kissed him, “I know that no matter what happens you’ll be happy.”

“I hope so,” Matthew said and dragged Leon’s body on top of his. Leon ground his body against Matthew’s and traded kisses that made Matthew groan.

“I really wish we didn’t have practice later,” Matthew echoed Leon’s earlier sentiments and Leon just grinned. 

“See, one of these days I’m going to get you on my side,” Leon said, but he pulled away and grabbed his clothes off of the floor. 

Matthew joined him in getting dressed, “Hockey first, fun later.”

 

On the team, they became more comfortable showing affection as the season progressed. They’d sit next to each other during video review and Leon’s arm would find his way around Matthew’s shoulders. At first Matthew challenged the curious looks with his death glare, but they were just curious glances, and after their relationship became public knowledge on the team, it was just an accepted fact. Matthew was pretty sure that even by February, the coaches knew that they were dating. But they were also producing and so any complaints about bringing their personal lives onto the ice were easily quelled. 

Matthew’s stats skyrocketed and he and Leon were making up a significant amount of their points on the team. Conversations shifted to the Frozen Four and winning an NCAA championship and Matthew knew that articles were naming them the “Dynamic Duo”. Any sort of personal accolades paled in comparison to the excitement that Matthew got about seeing Leon’s accomplishments praised alongside his own.

And by early February they seemed like a surefire guarantee for the Frozen Four, but a horrific game against Ohio State knocked them out of the playoffs and they were sent back to Notre Dame to lick their wounds. They were silent in the locker room

“I should have been better,” Matthew said in Leon’s arms as he tried to blink back tears.

“We all should have been,” Leon said, but Matthew could hear his own disappointment and heartbreak in his voice. 

Matthew saw his father had already called him, but it was too painful to even think about reviewing the game. All he wanted was to be with Leon. Leon held him on the silent bus ride back and Matthew lay his head on Leon’s shoulder, wondering what he could have done differently and how he could have changed the course of the game. They arrived back on campus in the early hours of the morning and headed straight for Leon’s apartment. 

“I’m really proud of you,” Leon said, “And what we did this year.”

“Thanks, I love you,” Matthew said and even though they were drowning in their disappointment, somehow they didn’t feel as alone. 

 

Matthew was heading back to classes on Monday, having ignored all of the messages from friends and family over the weekend. He knew though, it was only a matter of time before he’d have to pick up, so while he was back at his place between classes he picked up on one his father’s calls. 

“I’m not really in the mood to go over the game,” Matthew said, having missed the first four already. 

“The Flames want to sign you,” his father said and suddenly the hypothetical that his father had floated out months ago was a reality. Matthew’s mouth dried up and his heart fluttered and the thought of how close his dream was to becoming a reality. 

“What?” Matthew asked.

“They want to sign you to an ELC,” his father said.

“Wow,” Matthew said.

“You’re going to sign, right? You can’t possibly still be thinking about giving it up for that Draisaitl kid.”

“No, no,” Matthew said, “I can’t believe it. Do mom and Brady know?” 

“Your mother is so happy and excited for you, but I figured you could tell Brady yourself,” his father said.

“Yeah,” Matthew said.

“The GM is probably going to call you later today and ask for your answer, so don’t ignore his calls like you’ve ignored mine,” his father said and Matthew just rolled his eyes.

 “Thanks, Dad,” Matthew said, and he knew he was going to sign with the Flames when he got that call, but he also knew what he had to do. And somehow, reaching the NHL didn’t feel as good as he thought it would. 

 

“Fuck me,” Matthew said as he pushed his way into Leon’s apartment the moment he opened the door and headed straight for Leon’s bedroom.

“What?” Leon asked.

“Fuck me, please,” Matthew begged.

“Are you sure?” Leon asked, because they’d messed around before but there were only so many things that they could do during the hockey season.

“Yes, please,” Matthew said and Leon looked uncertain, but Matthew knew that if he asked again, Matthew would probably fall apart.  

And Leon was so gentle and thoughtful with him and Matthew clung to him, kissing him slowly and softly and trying to make this the best sex that they’d ever had. 

“I love you,” Leon kept telling him, and Matthew felt tears burn his eyes as Leon kept telling him that because he knew it would probably be the last time. 

 

“I have to go,” Matthew said, shortly after they finished. He started to get dressed and he knew that this was it. In a few hours, the Flames GM was going to call him and he’d start to pack his things. 

“What?” Leon asked. 

“I’m signing with the Calgary Flames,” Matthew said.

“That’s great! I’m so proud of you, babe,” Leon said, and Matthew knew he didn’t get it, because they had spoken in hypotheticals before, but now it was happening and Matthew had told Leon he would never come out if he was in the NHL and he was going to be in the NHL. 

“I think we need to end things,” Matthew said, not daring to look at Leon.

“What?” Leon asked, and he sounded like Matthew had punched him.

“It’s not going to work out,” Matthew said.

“People do long distance all the time,” Leon said but one look at Matthew’s face must have said everything, “But it’s not about that, is it?”

“I can’t be the first gay player in the NHL,” Matthew said.

“I mean we don’t have to go public,” Leon said.

“I can’t be looking over my shoulder all the time, scouring Instagram, hunting down Twitter rumors from people who saw us together. I can’t ask you to go back in the closet, that’s not fair to you, so I think it’s best if this ends here,” Matthew said.

“So you came here to have sex with me and then break up with me?” Leon spat. He gathered the sheets around himself as if they provided protection.

“I love you,” Matthew said.

“Stop fucking saying that,” Leon said. 

“It probably wouldn’t have lasted beyond college either,” Matthew said, “realistically.”

“Get out,” Leon screamed and Matthew flinched, “Fuck you and get out.”

“Leon-”

“Get the fuck out,” Leon yelled and tears were streaming down his face and Matthew’s heart sank knowing that he was the one who caused all of that.

“I really did love you,” Matthew said as he left the apartment, with tears streaming down his own face. 

And when the GM called later that day, Matthew almost felt sick accepting the offer.