Part Twenty Seven
A/N So sorry at the delay, had a surprise trip over New Year. Hope all is good, and Happy New Year to you all. MZxxx
Chapter Twenty Six
"Nathan has been trying to catch up with you," his mother's gentle voice informed him along the phone line. Bo tried to stop himself hyperventilating. This had been a normal conversation, like all the others they'd had, few though they were. But as he heard her continue, he was struggling to hear over the pounding in his head, that bastard had the balls to try and walk back into his life. "He says you're not answering calls or emails...then I realised he didn't have your current phone number. He was trying your US cell, he had no idea that you were in England. Can you believe that?"
Oh yes, he could fucking believe that, because there was a very good reason for that.
"Anyway, your Pop was wanting to come visit, watch you play, will you send us your schedule and what weeks would be good for you?"
Nathan. He was still reeling over that blast from the past.
Then his parents? Visiting? See the shit hole his life had become. They'd invested everything in him and he'd become a failure. He couldn't let them see this. He wished he'd never gotten out of bed, wished he was still at Natasha's with her warm body wrapped around him and her soft breath on his neck. But no, he'd left the cocoon of her home to come to his apartment before the junior Hornet training day. He had wanted to gather kit and some pictures the club had given him to sign before getting to the rink, happy in the knowledge that he'd see Natasha there later.
Now, as he ended the call with his mother, he felt as though he'd fallen back into the pit of despair that had dogged him for most of the last two years.
He couldn't decipher which part was worse, them wanting to visit, or his mother mentioning Nathan's name. And his so called best friend had his number now, what would he do if the bastard called him? He'd ignore it, but could he do that forever? He wasn't sure. Anger and resentment roiled in his stomach like hot acid, and for a moment Bo thought he'd throw up.
But he didn't, bracing his arms on the kitchen counter he took enough deep breaths to regain the facade that he seemed to have lived behind for months and collected everything he needed, conveniently ignoring the little voice that tried to point out that he'd lived the last few months without the front, the anger or any other of the negative things that had plagued him.
The rink was full, fans had found about the session and had gathered in various points in the seats around the ice, talking, snapping pictures and laughing. The black mood still hung over Bo, and he had avoided everyone so far.
Now fully kitted in his training gear, he had to join his teammates on the ice. Blake was watching him as he emerged, he was trying to gesture something with his eyes, but Bo dropped his head and skated around the ice, past groups of kids and players working on drills. Porn and Nails were showing some kids how to slap-shot, and he knew he could join them without having to speak. So he skated up to them.
The kids were infectious with their enthusiasm and he almost got past the suffocating lump in his throat. Then he felt a puck hit him in the back of the thigh, hard. Spinning around he saw Vaughn laughing from across the ice and saw red.
He'd waited, patiently for the bastard to step out of line, and this was it, this was him finally putting his head above parapet, and Bo was there, with a shotgun lined up at his head. Without a thought, he started in his direction, ready to lay him out.
Luckily, Coop intercepted things, as always he sensed everything and literally skated into his path, meaning Bo didn't get chance to finally pummel the shit out of that man's head.
"Take a break." Coop pushed him towards the benches, when he resisted, he leaned in and hissed through clenched teeth, "this is a happy day, for the kids. You do something I regret, then you're benched...indefinitely. You hear that hothead?"
It took a moment, but Bo dropped his eyes from the laughing prick in the distance and met Coop's.
"Let me have him..."
Coop shook his head, forcing him as discreetly as he could towards the changing room, "I don't know what's going on with you, but you need to chill the fuck out. GO."
Bo sighed, a slight release of the tension, then moved to the exit, and the benches.
Natasha was sweating. They'd planned on maybe fifty relatives, parents etc. arriving. But a couple of hundred fans had turned up too, which meant that their cake and tea provision felt became an insurmountable task, like trying to feed the five thousand with a carrot cake and a full teapot. Freya and a couple of other women who worked in the club had frantically been trying to keep everyone refreshed, but it had been a manic hour or two.
"Take a break, Natasha." Freya called across to her. "Everyone is settled, but I think we'll have a rush in about half an hour when they break for mini games."
She gave Freya a wave, then headed out into the rink.
All across the ice, the kids looked up at the players, faces wide with awe and respect, it was a moving scene. She watched Coop as he waved his stick in front of several kids, pointing at the blade as he spoke. They were all hanging on his every word. She imagined he'd be good with kids even if he didn't have a brood of his own, he just had that patience and calmness about him.
Similar groups were cluttered at various points around the ice. The players all receiving the same adulation as the youngsters hung on their every word. Then there were the groups of fans in the bleacher like seats, taking pics, rushing to the edge of the rink when a player appeared at the one open section to take photos and sign autographs.
She could only imagine what that must feel like, to have people hang on your every word, to be so influential on so many people.
Suddenly her eyes had completed a loop of the rink and hadn't found Bo. Maybe he'd gone to get some equipment? Use the bathroom? There must be a reason...
Then she spotted him, sat on the home team bench, head in hands, almost, but not quite out of sight. A sense of foreboding engulfed her as she made her way along rows of seating in his direction, stopping a black away, watching him. Head still in hands, but his shoulders hunched, anger bouncing off him in waves, obvious even from her distance.
It took long moments before he sensed her, and glanced in her direction, but instead of the smile she anticipated from him, he scowled then rolled his eyes.. Then dropped his head in his hands once more.
With anyone else reacting to her like that, she'd have walked away, but there was some innate thing in her or maybe emitting from him, that made her wait, for a long moment, then move in his direction.
When she lowered herself beside him, she could hear him huff, as he shifted away from her slightly.
At any other time she'd have loved to be there, seeing the view from the bench, feeling like she was in the heart of the arena...but with an obviously upset Bo beside her, she couldn't enjoy any of it.
She threw a single word out there, hoping that he'd respond. But it was met with silence, for a long time.
"Look I'm thrown off the ice, you're better off going back to the kitchen."
She punched his arm indignant, but the padding of his kit defeated her arm, "Jesus, Holding. A couple of hour ago I was the greatest thing in your life...your words. Now you're shrugging me off?"
Natasha could see his jaw tense, he was angry, but he was digesting her words, and she could tell the moment when he relaxed a little. "Don't."
Her laugh was a hundred percent sarcastic, "don't what? I came to say hello, and as we've shared saliva and more the last few weeks...well, I thought I had a teeny bit of justification when it came to talking to the angry man that is Bo Holding."
After two deep breaths, he turned to her, "you cannot fix everything, Natasha. I said I just need some time."
Even though his anger was still palpable, bouncing off him in waves, she reached out and gripped his forearm, only to be frustrated by layers of pads, shirt and gloves. Groaning, she tugged up his shirtsleeve and thrust her fingers between his forearm guard and his gloves to his warm skin.
He snarled, almost comically, but didn't pull away.
"I have no idea why I haven't walked away, seems I have a thing for encouraging abuse."
That made him snap, spin on the seat to face her, "I have never laid a finger on you, Natasha."
"But you do keep blowing hot and cold, one minute you want me, the next you want me a million miles away. I'm getting dizzy with it all. I'm fed up."
"This is about me...not you. That's why I am trying to have some time alone, to clear my head."
"What happened?" She had no idea whey she still sat there, why she wasn't storming off to find someone who wanted to talk to her.
He ran his gloved hand through his hair, his helmet was beside him on the bench, "look, you know I hate some of my teammates, I had an issue...I'm sitting things out for a while."
She rolled her eyes, "you men and your egos, hey?"
He shrugged, "that man is a complete asshole."
Following his gaze she spotted a couple of players on their knees stretching with a group of kids. She didn't recognise them in their gear, but the one with his back to them had VAUGHN emblazoned across his back. Bobby Vaughn, Bo's nemesis.
"What did he do?"
He lashed out with his foot, kicking the reverse side of the boards, it was a long time before he answered. "No one single thing, just chip, chip, chip away at me. All the time."
Despite the way he kept physically brushing her away, she squeezed up beside him and laid a hand on his forearm, "you got over that, you're above him. You know that, Coop doesn't invite him around for dinner....he likes you, he sees a future in you."
That made him scoff, jump to his feet. Instead of following him, she sat back, watched him, almost expecting to see steam pour from his ears he was that angry.
"That's it? That's what I get?"
He turned and glared down at her, "You think that's all I deserve? To be a respected player in this bit-part player in a shitty league? I had it all." He ran a hand through his hair again, "I am not staying here, this isn't as good as it gets, this isn't enough."
That made her laugh, "really? Jesus. What is it with sports men and thinking that they are entitled to whatever they want?" She was talking about more than him, the only other sportsman she'd been close to had been exactly the same, selfish and uncaring – though the media described them as motivated and driven. But it was all bullshit. Especially when they treated others so badly for their own gains.
"Look around the room." She gestured to the ice, "kids, hanging on your every word, kids who want to be you, emulate you, who worship you." Then she pointed to the seats, "fans! Dozens who've turned up just to watch you train. Waited for hours for a chance to talk to you, grab an autograph, touch you..." that made her want to chuckle, but she didn't. She just absorbed his angry gaze, "and you want to use this team, bad mouth them, trash talk them?"
"I have lost everything!" He almost shouted, but managed to contain things before he gained the attention of the whole of the rink.
She shrugged, "I'm sorry you feel that way. But from where I am standing, after a bad injury you are having a second chance at things, You see this as a step down? Something below you?" he averted his eyes at those questions. And she added, "yet you are doing something that the three hundred people in this room would literally chop off an arm to do. Those kids? If they got to where you are standing today, playing for this team, getting paid to play hockey...then they would feel accomplished, successful, happy... You? You are a typical selfish athlete – always hankering after what you've lost, never appreciating what you have actually got!"
"Have you finished?"
Anger beat off him in waves, his face was flushed, eyes fiery. She was sure that his glare would cripple some people. But she wasn't giving into him.
Instead, Natasha shrugged, "just about. You can either live your life looking back at the past, or you live in the moment, enjoy your life."
"You know nothing."
She shrugged, "that maybe, but I know I am not putting up with this bullshit. Grow up."
With that she walked off.