Rating: R, for language
Characters: Petr Sykora, Andy McDonald, Jason Arnott
Dedication: almightychrissy, frala, lastcatastrophe, joolzie, and of course, tamiflu. :)
Disclaimer: It's all lies!
Author's Notes: This is set just before Petr got traded from the Ducks to the Rangers and is written from Petr's POV.
Mac was sitting near me in the locker room, both of us removing our gear after practice. It had been a good practice; me, Teemu and Mac were developing some good chemistry, and I already knew where Teemu liked to lurk so I could make quick backhand passes to him from behind the net, but Mac was picking up on my tendencies too. I think even Carlyle was happy with the way things went.
As I started to remove my shoulder pads, I noticed that Mac was watching me with a little smile on his face. I raised an eyebrow at him questioningly, and he said, "You're smiling again."
I was a little startled, not because I wasn't aware that I was smiling, but because it sounded like a strange thing to say. Why would he say something like that? Why would he notice something like that?
"You haven't been smiling all that much, not compared to before the lockout." He shrugged a little awkwardly, looking away. "It's nice to see again, that's all."
Of course at this point, I'd stopped smiling because I was feeling self-conscious that he'd been watching me. I forced a chuckle and said, "It was a good practice."
"Yeah, it was," he said, as he took his shirt off. "Maybe this is it, maybe it'll keep going good for the rest of the season."
I looked at him sharply, trying to figure out what he meant by that. It was no secret that Burke was trying to trade me; he'd even held me out of a game against Buffalo, but nothing had come of that. It didn't take a genius to figure out why I was being shopped around--I had only five goals and we were over two months into the season at that point. Was Mac trying to pretend he didn't know or expect it in an attempt to make me feel better or something?
The thing is, part of me wasn't sure that staying there was what I wanted. I was reluctant to go somewhere else; being traded meant that I'd failed there and I was too stubborn and proud to accept that without a fight. But another part of me believed that Anaheim wasn't where I should be anymore. It wasn't the same team from three years before, when we'd quietly gone all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Mac had finished undressing and was making his way to the shower. I'd always felt bad that he hadn't been a part of that run because of his concussion. He'd never even made it to the playoffs before. It felt fucking horrible when we lost - I can't even begin to describe how bad - but at we'd made it there, and it was amazing. He hadn't shared that experience with us, and he deserved to.
Jason didn't try to see me again after I'd left him standing at the end of my driveway, and the phone calls from him stopped, too, so I thought that was it; it was really the end. I felt relieved, free, almost, but I also felt like I'd lost something that I'd never be able to get back. It's not that I thought I'd never be able to fall in love with anyone else, but it wouldn't be like being in love with him. I'd never have the things that made us us again, for the rest of my life, and that really hurt.
And I missed the fucker. Missed his stupid voice, and the way he didn't seem to hear half of what I said on the phone, and repeat back what he'd thought I'd said - something completely nonsensical, like "there's Dutch chandeliers on the lawn" - sounding as if he thought I was insane.
Maybe that was his strategy, to leave me alone so I'd miss him. Maybe he figured that if I missed him enough, I'd answer the phone when he called the next week, and I did, because I was an idiot.
"Hi, Petr," he said quietly.
I sighed. "What do you want?"
"I want to see you." His voice was rough, tired, and his speech was slightly slurred, like he'd been drinking.
"I don't want to see you," I said, trying to keep my tone neutral. I tried to ignore the part of me that was trying to come up with a real answer, because it didn't matter; it shouldn't have mattered.
"I left her. I told her I was leaving her, and I packed a bag and I left." He was dead serious; I could tell that he'd really done it, but at the same time I couldn't believe it. That wasn't what happened. Jason went on "hunting trips" or "fishing trips" or "scuba diving trips" to get away from her for a couple of days. Jason never did things like tell his wife that he was in love with another man, that he was leaving her for him.
But that was what he was telling me he'd done. The words came over the phone one by one as I sat there quietly, picturing him standing on a street somewhere with his bag on his shoulder, looking miserable, and I could see that clearly, but I couldn't picture him saying those things to her. Not the Jason I knew.
"So let me in," he ended, and I thought that was a weird thing to say. Let him in? Let him into my heart? That wasn't the kind of thing he'd say. What then?
"Let you in? What do you mean?" I asked, confused.
"I mean let me in," he said, breathing heavily into the phone. "Open your gate."
I sprang to my feet, went over to the window, and looked out onto the street, and there he was, dimly lit by the streetlamp, standing in that same spot where I'd watched him from my rearview mirror, as if he'd never left.
And I think that maybe if he hadn't been standing right there, I wouldn't have given him another chance. I would have told him that it was too late, and that I couldn't be with someone who made me sad almost as much as he made me happy.
But he was standing right there, and I let him in.