The Invincible M.A.E. (harleymae) wrote,
The Invincible M.A.E.
harleymae

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Love On Repeat

RATING: PG-13 for language
CAST: Jason Arnott/Petr Sykora
DISCLAIMER: It's all lies!
A/N: Jason is married to Dina, and they have a son, Chase. Patty is Patrik Elias. The title is a line from the song "In My Head" by Anna Nalick.


LOVE ON REPEAT


Petr soaked me. He did it by surprise, of course. That was always the way he got you. He'd stand there, smiling that smile that was too young for his age, moving awkwardly, the water gun strange as an alien artifact in his hands, then suddenly he'd aim it at you and he'd turn into psycho commando marksman and you'd find yourself wearing the entire contents of the water chamber.

Maybe you wouldn't, but I would. He always aimed at me. And he always made it up to me later, in private.

*****

He didn't like peanut butter and banana sandwiches. He thought it was a crazy combination, like ice cream on pizza, or cherries in mac and cheese. I loved them. I'd been eating them since I was a kid, open-faced, grilled until the bread was toasted just right and the bananas were coated with a sweet, shimmery glaze.

Petr hated peanut butter and banana sandwiches, but he always made them for me.

*****

We argued about something. I wouldn't back down; I couldn't back down. I'd never seen him so angry before. He shouted at me and I stood there like a brick wall. He screamed, and in those screams, he told me everything he wanted, and I wanted to give those things to him, but I couldn't; I didn't think I could. I whispered "I love you" and I saw something inside him break, something I wasn't sure that I would fix.

The something we argued about was Dina.

*****

He tried to teach me Czech. The first thing I wanted to learn was how to say his name. We sat there for fifteen minutes, me repeating after him. To my ears it sounded like I was parroting him and to him, it sounded like I was butchering his name. He went syllable by syllable, watching my lips, making me watch his, trying to make everything perfect. I finally got it right, and he made me repeat it five more times to be satisfied that I'd truly gotten it. I repeated it another ten times for fun, and also because it made him smile.

I can still say his name perfectly.

*****

I went to a Metallica concert with him because he told me that they were amazing live. We drank beers and he sang along badly with every song, the library of lyrics tucked away under his mop of dark hair. I pushed comfortably against him, camouflaged by the pressing crowd, squeezing his hand and rubbing my thumb over his palm. I could sense more than see him smiling in response in the dim light.

I stopped by the side of the road on the way home so that I could kiss him.

*****

I accused him of fucking around with Patty. The two of them had always been close but I didn't like how much contact there was between them. I didn't like the way Patty's hands lingered on Petr when they hugged, and I could see something very wrong in the tenderness of Patty's smile when he looked at Petr. He was outraged and he stormed out of the room. We didn't speak for a few days, and when we started talking again, it was about how crappy the traffic had been that morning getting to the rink.

He never denied it.

*****

He gave me a watch. I thought he was joking; the watch was much too small for me, it was battered and bruised and dirty and worst of all, it was broken. He quickly explained that it was a watch his father had given to him when he was six, on his first day at school. It had been new and clean and shiny then, and it had fit on a small wrist that wore it faithfully until no more holes could be punched to grow with its owner. It had been in his pocket the day he was drafted by the Devils. He said that it had been with him most of his life, so maybe it could tell me all the things I wanted to know about him that had happened before I'd met him.

Three moves, and millions of boxes later, and I still know exactly where it is.

*****

As I get older, I realize that my memory isn't what it used to be. Maybe it's because my present is filled with Chase; diapers and almost words; crying and burping and sleeping; loose clothes growing tight. The past gets squeezed and focused into a few snatches of memories, little bits that repeat in my mind, the things I can't forget.

The scenes that play in my head aren't necessarily the ones that are the most important, just ones that stayed with me because of the way I felt when they happened. Going to another team, moving to another city--all of that was supposed to help me forget about him. Out of sight, out of mind, is what they say, but that's not the way it happened. I guess you can't forget about love.

He wasn't there anymore and all I had were memories. The more I thought about him and the things we'd done together, the more polished my memories of him became, and now I feel like at this time of night, just before I go to sleep, I'm watching reruns of my life with him, and they're strangely funny and comforting and feel just right, just the way reruns should be.

Dina lies next to me and she's awake as well, but she's pretending to be asleep so we won't have to talk. I stroke her back with a hand that moves mechanically, and it feels like she's shaking slightly. She didn't get much sleep last night, getting up to check on Chase every time he started crying even though I kept offering to do it. She must be exhausted.

I loved them both. I didn't think it was possible to love two people at the same time until it happened to me. I didn't think there would be a happy ending, and I'd hoped that I was wrong about that too, that somehow I would have everything, and that we'd all end up happy together, but of course it didn't work out that way.

I had to choose; I had to choose between two people I loved. But I couldn't do it. It wasn't a reality show and I couldn't bear to choose a winner because it meant choosing a loser. So I didn't choose either of them, and instead I chose the future.

Petr wasn't surprised when I told him. He knew that I'd never seen a way that it could work out for the two of us. He looked at me with profound disappointment as I cupped his chin in my hand. He never really talked to me again after that. The only time we ever saw each other was when our teams played against each other, and he always looked away when our eyes met.

I feel myself finally drifting off to sleep and I try to think about the future, imagining what it will be like to put skates on Chase and let him feel what it's like to glide over ice. But I'm too tired, and I can't control my thoughts; they slide and branch and reach backward instead of forward.

*****

He lied about breaking the ugly lamp, blaming it on his chinchilla instead and sticking to his story even when I pointed out that the lamp was at least fifty times heavier than PJ. All he did was smile crookedly and...


THE END
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