Nothing Gets Through Ch. 03byPennLady©
"Oh, come on!" Dee said excitedly. "There was going to be a profile of Dom today, remember?"
"Right," said Lani. She sat up and started to think more clearly. Dom had been speaking to a reporter from the local paper for the last couple of weeks.
"Just a little profile," he'd told Lani. "Trying to build up some hype before the playoffs. They're going to hit just about all of us, I think."
"Come on over," said Dee. "I'll get a couple of copies."
"I'm afraid to leave my room," Lani said. "Cherie had mattresses set up in the living room last night, and I'm afraid to look."
"So close your eyes," said Dee. "Feel your way along the wall."
"Oh, God!" said Lani. "I will not! I'm afraid it wouldn't be the wall I'd feel."
"Just come over," said Dee, and hung up.
Lani dragged herself out of bed and took advantage of the empty bathroom. After getting dressed, she took a deep breath and headed to the front door. Mercifully, the only thing people were doing in the living room was sleeping. She snuck out without anyone waking.
Her mood improved as she walked along, so much so that she stopped and picked up some donuts and coffee to take to Dee's. She was curious to see Dom's profile. It had been fun to read the ones on Greg, Bobby, Karl, and a few of other guys. Dee was waiting and made appropriately appreciative noises over the food.
"Here," said Dee, handing Lani a newspaper. "I got an extra from Mrs. Crawford down the hall. She said nothing's worth reading except the crosswords, anyway."
"Thanks," said Lani. "Here's your coffee. No sugar."
"Wonderful," Dee said with a sigh, and curled up on the couch. Lani settled into the overstuffed chair she usually took and opened the paper.
Little profile? she scoffed mentally. I'd hate to see a big one. The article covered parts of two facing pages in the sports section. The writing itself might have covered three-quarters or more of a single-page, but there were plenty of pictures and the requisite advertisements. There was Dom during a game, covering a shot; talking with the coach at practice, his mask pushed up on his head; even a couple at a hospital, where the team had gone to visit the pediatric ward. Lani smiled at the pictures of the star-struck kids; she'd felt much the same when she'd discovered who "Dom from the coffee shop" really was.
The article started off innocuously enough, describing a typical day in a goalie's life, much of which Lani knew of from both Dom and her brother. There were comments from his coach, his teammates, even a few players from other teams who swore Dom was the toughest goalie they had to face. Then the writing went back and started to chronicle Dom's childhood and Lani felt something twist inside.
Here, in black and white, for anyone and everyone to see, was the story of Dominic Baddano from Edmonton. The story he hadn't told her. He'd never mentioned the erratic relationship between his parents, which resulted in a shaky marriage and even rockier divorce. After being a ping-pong ball during the proceedings, Dom had been sent to foster care for several years until his grandparents had managed to get him out. The article laid out his ascension through the junior, senior and minor hockey leagues, detailing fights, suspensions, two episodes of depression, and his success in dealing with all of it.
Somehow the author had contacted Dom's mother, whose disinterest came across loud and clear. His father had been more eager to talk, and discussed his desire -- no, need -- for an improved relationship with his son. She read with trembling hands:
Baddano, Sr., tried contacting his son just prior to this past Christmas. "I tried," he said, "but Dom, he's a hard one. Didn't want to talk. Can't blame him, I guess. I'll just have to keep trying."Where were you when your son was being tossed around like a potato? Lani wondered angrily, although her anger was in part directed towards Dom. How could he not tell her any of this, then sit with a stranger and tell them everything?
"Oh, my gosh," said Dee, shaking her head. "Wow. It's amazing he was able to get past all that, isn't it?"
"Yeah," Lani said tonelessly. She stared at the paper in her hands, dumbfounded.
"Lani, what's wrong?" Dee asked.
"He didn't tell me any of this," Lani said slowly. "I didn't know any of it, not at all." Dee stared, not exactly sure what to think or say. "How could he not tell me?" Lani said softly. Dee shrugged helplessly; she had no answer.
"Hey." Lani looked up from her laptop, blinking as her eyes adjusted from the LCD display to the real world. She focused on Dom standing in front of her.
"Hi." Her mouth felt dry.
"Mind if I sit?" Dom gestured at the empty chair. She shook her head. Dom sat and studied her. She was still beautiful, but she looked tired and a bit stressed. He didn't know why -- he hadn't been able to speak to her for about three days. Since the profile had come out. "You've been avoiding me," he said gently, making it almost a question.
"Yes," she said, finding her voice. She put her hands in her lap so he wouldn't see her fingers twisting together. "I'm sorry. It's not, ah, not very mature of me."
"Why?" he asked. His voice was still calm, but those gray eyes focused on her like lasers. She was silent, trying to figure out what to say. "Is it because of the profile?" he prompted. Part of him was already on the defensive, but he kept it at bay.
"Not because of it, exactly, but it has to do with it," she said, amazed she could keep her voice so even.
"Then what?" Dom asked, genuinely curious. He had missed Lani these last couple of days more than he had expected. He knew they hadn't been seeing each other all that long, but he'd come to be comfortable with talking to her and looked forward to being with her. When she'd suddenly stopped returning calls, he had been surprised.
First he'd assumed she was busy; then he got suspicious and called Dee. Dee wouldn't tell him exactly what was wrong, but had told him that it was likely -- not certain, but likely -- that Lani was back at the coffee shop. He'd immediately gone and the relief he'd felt when he finally saw her was almost scary.
"You didn't tell me," she said simply. He looked puzzled.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean you didn't tell me," she repeated, feeling her heart start to race. "You didn't tell me any of that." Tears of hurt gathered in her eyes and Dom sat back in his chair, utterly confused. "I tried not to pry," Lani continued, "I didn't want to be one of those pushy girlfriends who turns every date into a counseling session. I just wanted to know about you, that's all, whenever you wanted to tell me, or whatever you wanted to tell me."
"Lani, I don't understand," he said quietly, but anger and panic were dueling in his gut. He felt like he was in the limbo of watching a disputed goal during a playoff overtime. "We talk. I like to talk to you."
"You don't talk about you," she said, her voice slightly unsteady. "You don't let me in." Dom stiffened as her words echoed Vicky's. "I've let you through," she said, almost pleading now. She even gave a small laugh. "That night I met you, you found out I was scared of rats. You know how I get cared during thunderstorms. You know how much... how much what happened with my brother hurts me."
"Yes, I know," he said woodenly.
"But I don't know anything about you that isn't in the media guide," she said. A tear started to fall and she stabbed at it with her hand. "I don't think you've even told me your favorite color. But you sat down and told that reporter all of those things. I found out just like everyone else. Just like any other person who watches games and doesn't know you." She started moving mechanically, shutting her laptop and putting it in her bag.
"I told you I don't like to talk about my family," Dom said, defensiveness tingeing his voice. "You didn't seem to have a problem with it."
"I didn't, not really," she said, wiping at her eyes again. She snapped her carrying case closed. "I didn't until I read the profile. Somehow you could talk about all of that stuff with a stranger, and let strangers read all about it, but you couldn't, or wouldn't, tell me. Someone who cares about you. How could it be easier to let strangers know than to tell me?"
"If you have a problem with me talking to the press, you'd better get over it," he said. He knew that wasn't the point, but he was angry.
Now Lani did laugh. "Is that what you think?" she asked, standing up. Reflexively, Dom did too, although he didn't know what he planned to do next. "Is that what you do? Change the subject to divert someone when they get close to the truth? Close to you?" She shook her head. "I care about you, Dom. I really do. But I'm not... not a placeholder, not someone you can go to when it's convenient."
"I never said that!" he snapped. His gray eyes blazed with lightning.
"That's the problem!" she returned, now angry herself. "You never said anything!"
"Give my ticket to someone else," Lani said, not looking up from her computer. She held the piece of paper out to Dee, who pointedly crossed her arms over her chest and refused to take it.
"You still care," said Dee.
"So what?" said Lani. "I don't want to go." It will hurt too much, she thought but didn't say.
"Yes, you do," Dee countered. She had given Lani some time and accepted her excuses for the past two home games. However, it was about two weeks since Dom and Lani had had their fight, and Dee thought that was quite enough. "You spent good money on those tickets; you can't keep giving them away."
"They're mine," Lani grumbled. "I can do what I want with them." She felt every bit as petulant as she sounded.
"Have you given him a chance to apologize?" Dee asked.
"He hasn't tried," Lani said shortly.
"Maybe you need to go to him," Dee suggested tentatively.
"I didn't do anything wrong," Lani said.
"I know," said Dee, more softly now. "But maybe he needs to see you first. Karl says he misses you terribly. He says Dom is really irritable -- well, more than usual -- before games." She paused but Lani said nothing, just continued tapping her keyboard. "Karl thinks it may be messing up Dom's concentration. He's let in more goals than usual lately."
"That's not my fault." Lani went absolutely rigid and Dee realized what she had accidentally implied.
"I know, Lani, I know," she said quickly. "That's not what I meant. It's just that he thinks you were good for Dom; that the two of you were good for each other."
"I can't help it if he's in a slump," Lani said almost harshly. She knew, though. She'd been following the team and had seen the goals, tracked the goals against average. Dom was definitely slipping compared to earlier in the season. Even knowing it wasn't her fault -- that she couldn't stop the pucks getting through -- she felt guilty. Just like with Jason.
"I know," said Dee again. She perched on the edge of Lani's desk. "But you haven't been yourself, either," she pointed out gently. "You've been disorganized, and you never are. You even forgot your keys yesterday. You almost lost your purse." She put a hand on Lani's shoulder. Lani dropped her hands and sighed.
"It hurts, Dee," she admitted. "I feel stupid now. I should have talked to him. He looked completely blindsided when he found me that day and I told him."
"Then come to the game," Dee said. "We'll meet them afterwards. You can go somewhere quiet -- you can even come back to my place if you want -- and talk it out."
"Okay." Lani gave in. "I guess it can't get messed up more than it is."
The game had been close, but the team had lost. Lani followed Dee out the door and down to the corner. Before the blow up, they'd taken to meeting there. It got them away from the crowds and noise.
Lani was nervous. Funny, she thought, I wasn't this nervous the first time I met him after a game.
She turned and hugged herself against the cold night. It was the end of January, much too early for even a sniff of spring, but a person could hope. Futilely. She listened with half an ear as Dee analyzed the game and wondered idly if her friend would look for a second career as a sportscaster. Then she heard Dom's voice as he and Karl approached. She froze in place, unable to turn around.
"...blame Lani for it," she heard, the words drifting over the air. "It was just a lousy game."
"Lani!" Dee shouted as her friend ran down the street.
"That's the last one," Karl said decisively. "I am not going into the All-Star break on a losing streak. I'll score all the goals myself if I have to."
Dom nodded, not bothered by the game as much as he sometimes was. He knew he'd played well, it was just one of those frustrating games where nothing had gone their way. Greg had taken two undisciplined penalties, and Bobby had gotten a game misconduct, depriving them of their most effective penalty killer. Dom had been almost but not quite in the zone, and the shots that had gotten by had all been, as the commentators liked to say, "Goal scorers' goals."
More than that, he had decided he would find Lani and apologize. This had gone on long enough. Perhaps it was his fault, and even if it wasn't, he'd take the blame. Lani was right, he thought, that he should have told her at least before the profile came out. It had never occurred to him how she might feel to find out about him from such an impersonal source. Karl had just rolled his eyes when Dom had complained about their fight.
How would you feel, Karl had asked after smacking him on the back of the head, if you'd found out about Lani from an article like that? Dom had thought about it and realized he wouldn't care for that at all.
"You're right," Dom told Karl. "Whatever slump that I'm in -- we're in -- is done. We'll have a players' meeting before practice tomorrow and get everybody talking."
"Good idea," said Karl with a nod.
"I know some of the guys think I let things with Lani get to me," Dom said, suddenly serious. "But I won't blame Lani for it. It was just a lousy game," he told Karl as they approached Dee and Lani.
They both looked up, startled, when they heard Dee shout Lani's name. Dom's eyes darted around and saw a small green bundle hurtling down the street and knew it was Lani. Karl spotted her at the same time.
"What happened?" Dom demanded.
"I don't know," Dee began but Karl cut her off.
"Just go get her before she gets hit by a car or something!" he ordered. Dom took off at a sprint.
I will not cry, Lani told herself. I will not. She wiped at any tears that dared escape her eyes.
So Dom blamed her, just like Jason did. Well, she'd had it. Let them blame her. It wasn't her fault the defense had faltered tonight and allowed a season-high number of shots, any more than it was her fault that Jason had been hit with an errant stick during the scrum in his game. Next time, she told herself, she'd find a guy that had nothing to do with sports. Not even card games.
Dom caught up with Lani, although he was slightly winded when he did. She was shorter, but moved pretty quickly when she was upset.
"Lani, wait," he called. She jumped slightly but didn't turn around. She paused at the corner, debating whether to cross the street or just turn. In the time it took her to decide, Dom reached her and put a hand on his arm.
"Lani, please," he said. When she spun around his stomach twisted at the look of hurt on her face. He tried again. "Please, wait. I want to talk to you."
"It's not my fault," she said. He blinked.
"What isn't?" he asked.
"The game, the loss," she said, dark eyes blazing. "I heard you, and I'm sick of being blamed for things like that. First Jason, now you. I didn't have a damn thing to do with how many goals were scored or not."
"Of course you don't," Dom said as he realized she'd misunderstood his comment to Karl. "That's not what I said."
"I heard you," she repeated, but now she was uncertain. He gambled and stepped closer; she didn't move away.
"You didn't hear everything," he said, gambling again and taking her hand. "I was telling Karl that I know people think I'm upset because of how things have been between us. But I wouldn't blame you. We didn't play well, we were out of sync, but that's not your fault, not at all."
"Oh. Well. Good." Lani felt awkward. She wanted to be mad, but he'd pulled that out from under her.
"I'm sorry, Lani," he said, moving closer. She swallowed as she felt the warmth of his body next to hers. She'd missed it. "I should have told you. Come back with me, please, and I'll tell you anything you want to know."
"Why?" she asked. She wasn't even sure what she meant. Why now? Why didn't you tell me before? Why should I?
"I was trying to keep you out," said Dom. "I know that. I don't let many people through; you probably have an idea why." She nodded mutely. "But you," he said, running a hand along her cheek. "You got through. It scared me when I realized it. I can't keep you out."
Relief and happiness swamped through Lani's body. She wiped at her eyes and gave a small smile. "Well, I'm not a puck," she said.
"It's much easier to keep those out," he said. Then he pulled her to him. "I'm sorry, Lani, so sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you."
"I'm sorry, too," she said, burrowing into him. "I let myself get too worked up. I should have just talked to you, but I was just so... surprised. I didn't know what to think."
"Come on," he said, turning so they could walk back to Karl and Dee. "The others are waiting. Let's go say hi and then we'll go to my place, okay?"
"Okay," she said. Then, almost absently, she said, "I'm going to have to find another roommate. Cherie is leaving."
"Why?" he asked.
"I think she's joining some kind of nudist colony," Lani said. "Should save her a lot of time." Dom laughed.
Dom waited long enough to close and lock the door, and help Lani out of her coat before he swept her up into a kiss. She responded whole-heartedly, wrapping her arms around his shoulders and then her legs around his waist as he lifted her off the ground.
"I missed you," he said against her lips. He carried her back to the bedroom, anxious to rediscover the taste of her. He lay back on the bed, keeping her on top of him. "Karl tortured me by putting bags of coconut in the locker room. It drove me crazy." Lani giggled, then gasped as he nipped at her shoulder.
"I missed you, too," she said. She dragged her lips across his forehead and over his cheek. He made a small sound and flexed his hands on her hips. "I watched all the games, even though I didn't go to a couple. Dee pestered me to go tonight."
"I'm so glad she did," he said. He found her lips again, savored their softness for a moment then slid his tongue against hers, pleased when she shivered. "I know I said we could talk," he began.
"Later," Lani finished. "There are other ways of talking." To prove her point, she arched her body against his as her fingers moved to unbutton his shirt. Dom growled and rolled over so that she was underneath him, kissing her deeply and reaching down for the edge of her shirt. She laughed as he tickled her sides and at the sound, he felt a heaviness he hadn't known he was carrying suddenly dissipate.
He pulled back to look at her, tracing his finger over her face.
"What?" she asked, curious.
"Nothing," he said, lowering his lips to her again. "I just realized letting you in was a great idea."
A warm feeling spread through Lani as Dom pulled her sweater off and touched her bare skin. The urgency they'd felt just a moment ago had faded and they took their time with each other. Clothes came off and they explored each other with touches and kisses, but with very few words.