Cory couldn't stop pacing the room. He felt that if he stopped moving, even for one second, every turbulent emotion he had would come crashing down on him, and he'd become nothing more than a sobbing mess, curled up on the ugly brown hotel carpet. He had been looking for his own place to live since the second he knew he'd be staying in Tampa, with no such luck, and he'd never wanted his own place more than he did at that moment. Because then, everything would be his. His end table to throw at the wall and destroy, his lamp to shatter into a million pieces, and his sheets to rip off the bed. But nothing in the lonely hotel room was his, except his clothes and a few personal belongings. So, all Cory could do was pace the room, his anger growing with each second the clock ticked off and the same words repeating in his mind.
Why today? Why this day? Why at all?
As if being alone on Valentine's Day wasn't bad enough already, and now this. Sure, making the Lightning roster out of training camp had already forced Cory to adjust to life without Dustin by his side, but there was always the small hope of Dustin being called up, or--and Cory felt bad for even thinking this--him being sent back down. There was always that shimmer of hope...until suddenly there wasn't.
He continued to feverishly pace, hands waving wildly in the air as he walked parallel to the side of the bed, towards the bathroom door, and back again. Every second that slipped by, every footstep he would take over the soft carpet, did nothing to bring him any closer to accepting what was happening. He almost thought that if he refused to accept it, or acknowledge it, then maybe it wouldn't be true.
Cory knew he should be exhausted, given the utter amount of energy he had spent nearly wearing a path in the carpet, and he probably would have been, if he didn't have so much livid energy coursing through his veins. He felt wired, and seemingly jumping out of his own skin. The desperate need to do something, despite knowing that there wasn't a damn thing he could do, pulled at him like the tides.
He kept going over the whole thing in his mind; the casual call from Connolly, the way he had tried to keep his voice nonchalant as he told Brett "really, that's just too bad."
Mostly though, Cory just kept asking himself why. Why was Dustin dispensable? Yzerman had said the organization 'wasn't comfortable with their options' in regards to a third goalie, but come on. Have they not even seen Dustin play? And no, Cory wasn't even the slightest bit biased, just for the record.
He felt like collapsing, yet running the streets in a furious rage. He was drained yet charged, beaten but relentless. Cory's nervous movements had started suddenly, sparked by the fire of the news, and just as suddenly, they had stopped. He wasn't even sure what compelled him to still his body as well as his mind, but he found himself standing in front of the hotel room's sole window, staring out as his mind went everywhere and nowhere. The curtains were drawn back, revealing the picturesque Downtown Tampa skyline to Cory's intense blue eyes. He fixated on the rain as it slid down the window, drops racing down the pane of glass, crossing, trickling into oblivion.
It had been raining all day, but not the usual Florida storms with gusting winds, thunderous claps of noise, and high voltage lightning. It was a silent rain, the kind you barely heard, but felt in your bones. Cory thought about how it was a perfect testament as to how this day wasn't anything like the rest. His eyes took in the surreal picture painted before him; the sharp, jagged edges of the highrise buildings cutting shapes into the blurred, muted sky, and the soft grey tones being cast over the world by sheets of rain. He tried to focus his eyes, not on the looming skyline, but just past it, his vision blurring with tears.
There was a light, rhythmic thud on the door, pulling him from his thoughts, and Cory briefly wondered if maybe he should just ignore it. The noise sounded weak, and hesitant, as if someone wasn't entirely sure they were in the right place. He then remembered Marty mentioning something about the guys heading to Bern's Steakhouse for an early dinner before the game, so he supposed it could've been him. The invitation, and the whole morning, really, seemed like ages ago. At the time, Cory couldn't think of many things he'd rather do than be surrounded by his new friends, but now...he just wanted to stay in the hotel room that had been his makeshift home, staring out the window at the city below until the afternoon's truths had ceased to be.
Still, he knew that action would do no good, and it probably wouldn't be a good idea to brush off his Alternate Captain. Cory shuffled towards the hotel room door, mentally preparing himself to face not only someone he looked up to, but also someone who couldn't possibly understand what he was going through. Cory twisted the door knob with a shaking hand, and swiped at his eyes with the back of his free hand. He slowly crept the door open, and didn't even look to meet his visitor's eyes before he felt wet hands on either side of his face, and soft lips pressed to his. Cory's heart was pounding in his ears and shock coursed through his system as he stood in the doorway, not really knowing what to do, but not wanting to stop, either. Surely this couldn't be happening, could it? Cory was utterly sure he was imagining things, but God, it was probably one of the best things he had ever imagined.
After what seemed like forever, yet not long enough, Dustin finally pulled away, leaving Cory speechless and gasping for air. No matter how many times Cory shut his eyes hard and let them fly back open, Dustin was still there, staring into his eyes with a sly smile making its way onto his full lips. He couldn't tear his gaze from Dustin, and he couldn't ignore the look that was hiding beneath the surface of his rich brown depths. Dustin's eyes were a deep pool of sorrow and hurt, one that he could easily fall into if he wasn't careful. Cory could feel his lips slowly move, but every word he had died on his tongue. Even as Dustin spoke, breaking the silence, Cory still couldn't believe that he was really there, really right in front of him.
"I decided to stop by on the way to Hamilton."
Cory let out a nervous laugh, he couldn't help it. "You fail at geography."
Dustin snaked his arms around Cory's waist, pulling him closer, and planting a small kiss on Cory's forehead. "But you love me."
Cory burrowed his face into Dustin's chest, not even caring that his shirt was soaked from the rain. Cory didn't think he'd ever care about anything again, really, so long as he could stay like this, wrapped in Dustin's arms, even if just for a moment. Cory's voice was muffled as he wriggled himself tighter into Dustin's embrace, and spoke with his lips against Dustin's chest.
"I do. So much."