“It’s about responsibility and maturity. Obviously lacking if you’d let yourself get knocked up.”
“Then I’m going to keep it. If I’m sacrificing my career either way at least I’m going to get something I want out of it.” Jo trembled, a hand on his stomach as he faced down the Bolts management. He couldn’t quite meet anyone’s eyes, fixing them instead on the Syracuse contract sitting before him. He couldn’t help but tremble, half out of rage and the other half despair. Everything he had wanted was vanishing right before his eyes because they refused to treat him as anything other than meat.
“We are so disappointed in you Jo. We expected better from you.” He recoiled from the ice in his manager’s voice before standing up and pushing his chair away.
“Well you’re not the only who came in here expecting better. Go ahead and put me on IR or whatever. I don’t care anymore. You’ll only be able to bullshit for so long before all this comes out anyway. And when that happens, you won’t be getting any help from me.”
“Jo what the fuck is going on? What the fuck are they talking about?” Nate sounded furious over the phone, and the part of Jo that isn’t just numbly resigned feels unexpectedly warm at his obvious outrage. “Breach of fucking contract due to medical nondisclosure?”
“So that’s how they’re deciding to handle it…” Jo couldn’t say he was surprised that they were trying to make him out to be the bad guy.
“Jo what is going on? What aren’t you telling me?”
“I’m pregnant. Management…well you can see how well they reacted…”
“But you’re not obligated to disclose your carrier status to the league! They can’t do that to you!”
“Don’t worry. I’m all lawyered up. I’m keeping it though. I get it if you don’t want to be a part of the kids life but—“
“Don’t even joke, Jo. That’s my bun in your oven. I’m not going to ditch you now. Besides, I love you. I can’t let you face all this alone. I could never live with myself if I abandoned you!” Jo sniffled, glad Nate was on the other end of a phone line so he wouldn’t see the tears.
“Everything’s gonna be just fine. I promise. You should come move up to Denver if you’re not going to have obligations to the Bolts, move in with me.”
“I mean it. I don’t want you to be dealing with all this alone.” Jo swallowed, looking around his sparse apartment. It really had never felt like home, despite everything. Nate’s offer was everything Jo had ever wanted, back when they could have entertained the thought that they wouldn’t be separated by the draft.
“You really don’t mind?”
“Wouldn’t have offered if I did.”
“Then I’ll see you soon.”
Denver is not Tampa Bay.
The moment he stepped outside his nose twitched. There was snow in the air, faint flurries that were just enough to make his skin tighten and breath fog. He shivered in his things sweatshirt. He would have to go shopping once he was settled. Nate was waiting impatiently by his car, face lighting up when he spots Jo and his single suitcase.
“I’m having movers deal with the rest of it,” Jo said when he noticed Nate odd look. “I just needed to get here and away from everything in Florida.” Nate folded him into a tender hug before tucking his suitcase into the back. He held open the door, grinning goofily.
“Well, you’re here now. I…well…let’s just say I’m really excited about this kid, so the house is a bit different than the last time you saw it.” Nate looked sheepish, and Jo couldn’t help a swell of fond exasperation.
“I’m not even 3 months pregnant. What have you done?”
There’s a car that isn’t Nate’s in the driveway when they arrived. Sitting on the porch in a parka, Jarome Iginla looked more like a next door neighbor than a professional hockey player. Greeting both of them with a smile, he grabbed Jo’s things despite his protest.
“Suddenly all the news out of Florida is making a lot more sense,” he said once they were inside. “Congratulations, by the way.” Nate went pale as Jo turned to him in confusion. Surely Nate would have asked before telling his teammates. Jo hadn’t even told his own family yet.
“You haven’t been very subtle, Nate,” Jarome said, eyes crinkled in unspoken laughter. “About the gay thing or about the new baby thing. You literally asked the whole team about their opinions on lavender as a gender neutral color. The nursery looks lovely, by the way.”
“I…I need to sit,” Jo said faintly, going pale.
After a glass of water, Jo was looking more himself, taking in the place he was now calling home while Nate chatted bashfully with his teammate. Iginla seemed nice enough, but he couldn’t help feeling a bit out of place. Nate was the only person he knew here in Denver and with more news and rumors spiraling up from Tampa he wasn’t sure what the rest of Nate’s team thought about him. The last thing he wanted was for Nate to suffer because he chose to stand by him. Jo would rather go back to Florida than let that happen.
“Whatever you’re worrying about, stop.” Nate tucked himself against Jo’s side, pulling him close. “The team is going to love you.”
“What…what if I never play again…?”
“Then you’ll be my kept man and teach our kids how to play the best hockey anyone has ever seen. After all, they are going to be the best of both of us.” Jo sniffled, burying his face in Nate’s shoulder. He was exhausted, and the only thing that had gotten him through the last week was Nate’s unwavering love and support.
“I love you and I love this baby. Whatever it takes, Jo. I’m there.”