Characters: Martin Havlat, Marian Hossa, Marcel Hossa
Dedication: joolzie, who complained that I've made her think more about Crosby than she ever thought she would.
Disclaimer: It's all lies!
Author's Notes: This is set at the start of free agency in 2009.. Marty had wanted to re-sign with the Blackhawks, but they signed Marian for 37420703 years instead. Marcel is Marian's younger brother who plays in the KHL. :P The title is from an episode of Fringe, and not some kind of pun on Marian. :)
Marty isn't surprised that he won't be back in Chicago. Disappointed and angry, maybe, but not surprised. The surprise comes later when he finds out who has signed with the Blackhawks.
He knows it's good for Chicago, and he knows it's good for Marian, and he knows on some level why Marian never told him anything; why he lied silently every time he slipped between the sheets with him; why he was lukewarm to all of Marty's suggestions for vacation spots.
He thinks about Marian's decision not to talk to him, and he comes to his own decision: he won't talk to Marian for the rest of the summer.
Marty has seen the way Marcel would watch them when they were together. He's noticed the way Marcel's gaze would linger before forcing himself to look elsewhere, his face betraying the jealousy and lust and guilt that his actions never showed. He's watched the way Marcel would look down at his hands, running his fingers over his other palm, hoping that the motion would distract him from what he truly wished to look at, but it never quite worked.
And even when playing idly with Marian's hair, or kissing Marian on the lips, Marty has always glanced briefly at Marcel and made eye contact, as if to force Marcel to imagine himself in Marian's place; to plant voices in his head that would whisper this could be you.
It's not that Marty has ever entertained the thought of being with Marcel, but he has always been excited about finding new toys; he has always enjoyed the challenge of figuring out how things work, even if he has to break them apart to look at their insides.
He will put together his mental blueprint of what each lever and button and dial will do, and then he will begin to play.
Marcel can barely believe that this is happening to him. He thinks that maybe it's a fever dream, but he doesn't feel ill; next he considers the idea that he's drunk, but his mind is too clear and too aware of every soft and sharp sensation for him to be anything but stone-sober.
The smell of Marty's hair is real, and the moans in his ear get louder as he increases his pace. There's a wild thought in his mind that this is what it must feel like to be Marian, the golden boy who is always first and shines and wins everything that Marcel can't have, and he practically shivers with the sensation that this is what it's like to have everything.
Marty touches Marcel's cheeks lightly with both hands, trying to get a fix on the distinct person that Marcel is, but there is too much in his face to remind him of Marian. His skin and his eyes and the stubborn tilt of his head--even the way he breathes suggests Marian, but proves to be nothing but a cruel illusion. The ache inside him grows worse as he longs for the true version of the man whose body presses against him, but he's not yet ready to put his toy away.
It has been thirty-five days since Marty has talked to Marian. The flood of emails and text messages and voicemails has slowed to a trickle, but it hasn't stopped entirely. Marian still tries to apologize and explain and Marty listens and reads impassively, knowing that nothing will sway him.
Marcel begs silently for Marty to respond to Marian, but his own biting guilt prevents him from forming words. He knows how anguished his brother is, the frustration ringing in his voice when they speak to each other on the phone. Marian asks him if he will speak to Marty on his behalf, but he declines, lying bitterly that he does not want to be between them.
The summer stretches on, and they develop some semblance of a routine. Quirks and desires and flaws are assimilated into the fabric of their relationship, and the growing predictability of their pattern makes the days pass by more quickly. The summer threatens to disappear into an unwinding of clockwork.
Marty replays at least one of the voicemails every day, but he won't accept any of Marian's apologies; he knows that Marian hasn't done anything wrong.
They are eating gelato at a small cafe in Brno, taking their time and watching the world go by. There is a smoothness to their interactions, and they work together like a well-oiled machine; hands reaching for each other on invisible cues; letting laughter fall into silence in easy agreement. Marty no longer sees the ghost of Marian slipping in and out of Marcel's form; he is now his own construct, running at his own rhythm and playing by his own rules.
Marty knows that time is running out because fall is starting to permeate the air. He has thought about a million different ways he would like to use his toy. He can make it do practically anything he wants, choose its words and actions--all he has to do is wind it up and let it go. He knows that he has only one shot, so he must be sure to direct it so that it will have the biggest impact.
Marcel swaps their cups of gelato without asking, knowing that Marty won't object. He has a smile that compels Marty to demand the source of its amusement, despite his reluctance to give in. Marcel is not a morning person, and every day he traps Marty with a hand on his wrist, a languid stretch and a hint of a smile. Marty forsakes his coffee and morning news, and he comes to the disturbing realization that maybe he has his own strings to pull and his own key to be wound up.
Summer ends, training camp begins and Marty has left Marcel in Europe, a toy gathering dust on a shelf, pristine and unused. There is no long goodbye or any expectations of a future together; Marcel understands that a summer together cannot sustain a year of being a continent apart. He has already attained more than he could ever have imagined--for once he is the clear winner, and he will keep this victory forever, even if it remains in the privacy of his heart.
Marian calls yet again and is surprised when Marty finally answers; he is even more surprised that Marty just wants to see him in person and doesn't want to talk about the summer or Chicago or anything at all. They choose to meet on neutral ground in Ottawa, where it all began.
The sight of Marian makes Marty's insides twist; now he sees an echo of Marcel in the tilt of Marian's chin and the toss of his hair. Faced with the prospect of starting the fall the way he started the summer - only in reverse - he takes a breath and shakes his head. It is not supposed to be like this, he thinks, and all of his bitterness and rage crumble to meaningless dust.
Marian apologizes, but it is Marty who needs to be forgiven; the truth catches in his throat and he swallows it down, brushing Marian's words away with a kiss. Marty has never really stopped loving him, even when he was consumed with his toy, and Marian's touch only confirms this with bitter emphasis.
They meet when they can throughout the season - Chicago is not too far away from the Twin Cities after all - and they have a wonderful time when they are together, but the shadow of Marty's betrayal is always there in the periphery, underlying every kiss and touch. Marian never notices that Marty is jittery, looking over his shoulder for his mistake to catch up with him.
The past has a hold of Marty, his strings firmly in its hands; he has made and manipulated toys his whole life, and now he has become one himself. He dangles and pretends that he is free, knowing that he will never get loose.