A Slow, Continuous Burn

by Tammy
Summary: A kind of character piece on Todd Harvey. He's a punk, a little guy with a lot of attitude who plays as if he's bigger than he's actually is. Maybe he got hit so many times he's forgotten. Lira writes fantastic Harvey/Bradley and I imagine the trade yesteryear had to fuck Harvey up. Someone walks in on Preissing and Harvey after a game.
Pairing: Harvey/Preissing, Harvey/Bradley
AN: Ray/any trainer pov, really. Uh, Ruutu hit Preissing from behind in February. There was this article about it afterwards that described Todd sitting inside his locker after the game. I think it was written by the Chicago Sun. This is mostly dead, but could be resurrected at some point. More could be written, but I also think it's fine on it's own.

***

There is a quiet intensity about Todd, always, even when he isnít on the ice. Itís obvious there; he has no qualms about running through guys, and there is the constant glare and scowl--his poker face--as he stares down opponents.

Off ice, itís a little harder to see. He walks deliberately, with a focus and a purpose that he tries so hard to translate onto the ice. He moves with a certain amount of grace in the rink, as all hockey players do, but then there is the clunk and the stumbling, and the realization that he does not have the exact same finesse as his European peers. His moves are controlled as he navigates his way past fans, through the parking lot, at the grocery store. He is calm and ever aware of himself and others; he carries himself differently. Heís likely to snap and easily agitated on ice. Perhaps he is the same away from the rink--a haphazard sock here, an empty juice carton in the refrigerator, wet towels on the bathroom floor could set him off just as easily.

I donít really know, but that seems a little too loud and chaotic. A little too loose for his demeanor.

He listens to heavy metal, and screams obscenities at boys with the best of them, and throws his equipment at the wall when heís overly frustrated, so itís not as if heís a quiet, easy going guy. There is just a fierce stillness to him. Itís always there, but easy to miss with all his distractions. He is one of the few people Iíve met who has managed to not call attention to himself by making as much noise as possible. But when he stops, when no oneís looking, the stillness is there. The intensity is there. It bubbles to the surface of his skin, and then he twists and curls it into a knot, and it sits in his stomach for hours.

A hit forty seconds in, and I see it bubble. The guys are quick to stand up and scream from the bench, but mostly Todd sits and stares. He looks at the jumbotron, but heís not watching the replay. He glances at the time and the scoreboard, and he twists and curls any rage into a tight little bundle.

And he waits.

Half way through the game he fights, and gets thrown out for 17 minutes. He mostly sits inside his locker, focusing on his gloves. When I check on Tom, heís still sitting there, flicking his wrist and visualizing an imaginary play. I realize heís thinking about his missed chance in the first.

ďHowís the hand?Ē

ďGood,Ē he replies automatically. He sits quietly, and then a few minutes later the rest of the team bustles into the locker room. Heís lost in the shuffle, swallowed by his teammates. When they begin to leave, heís still sitting. Heís never the first person on the ice, and heís never the last. There is no inherent order to how the boys jump onto the ice. That is, until the playoffs. But that is all superstition, and the regular season is all comfort and respect: you let a veteran go in front of you, or behind you, or wherever he pleases. The first and last ones to hit the ice are generally the leaders, or the team clowns.

Todd isnít much of a leader in the locker room. He doesnít really have a presence, and keeps to himself. HeísÖ reserved. All methodical and calculated. But when he steps towards the line to leave the locker room, people move. Never enough for anyone to ever really notice, but Mark will stop a beat, or Scott will take an extra long stride to open just the right pocket. He never says anything; he commands it with his steps, unlike his teammates who squeeze in, or say something to the guy in front of them.

I used to think he was trying to prove something. The little guys always are. I thought he was a fake, all bravado, but the intensity is constant. The intensity is Todd.

He exits the penalty box, takes a few more shifts, and as the game ends, takes an elbow to the face. It never really fazes him; thereís never a cessation, or pause, and later when I catch him in the trainerís room with Tom, heís still burning, and pressing against him with an intensity that never seems to lull. Itís an exhausting way to live. Thereís a reason the playoffs only last so long, and by the end of it, everyone is drained. I think about, as he kisses Tom, the reasons for his focused movements, for his control as he weaves through the parking lot. He throws himself, sometimes with reckless abandon, into the corners of the rink; heís not afraid to get hurt.

He is just as passionate off ice, but he is a bit more careful. Now, afterwards, and I think about how Tom is twenty-five, but not from Ontario. I wonder if Todd is ever tired. I wonder for how much longer he can keep this up: this game he plays, where he never stops moving his feet, never stops moving his skates, never stops pressing and pushing and kissing. He has to get tired eventually, right? There has to be a point where he finally just pauses and catches his breath. Where he lets his guard down and just is. I wonder about that Todd.

I think about hormones and the sympathetic nervous system, and the simple things I learned my freshman year of college. It seems so long ago, now, because I canít imagine my life any other way than it is now, but the guys too often remind me of my fraternity brothers. Their pranks and their laughter, and Toddís laughter--itís just as controlled as he is. Intense, and maybe forced. Not always. Heís happy and grateful to be playing again after his stint in the minors. Heíd been sent down, because heíd lost his game. Lost his mind, really. It was a long summer, and a harsh ending to the season prior to it, and I canít help but think back to March and wonder if that had something to do with it.

Synapses, acetylcholine, and nonepinephrine. I make lists in my mind: groceries and drugs and hormones and cds Iíd like to buy. The many faces of Todd Harvey. The guy who jokes around during post game interviews, the player whoís all business once he hits the ice, the teammate who screams obscenities at the ref, and the quiet, softer Todd who signs autographs for the kids that hang around the rink after practices. Theyíre all different versions, but the intensity runs through them all, and I wonder why I ever questioned it.

If anything, I should have questioned this. Iím still standing in the doorway, watching them and making lists, and comparing Todds. Intensity and control, and itís not just his movements anymore--itís something more. Increases in blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate, and heís still kissing him, but itís not the same as before. Everythingís different from last season, and itís not just where we are in the standings. Itís the dynamic of the rooms, the style of play, and the faces. Theyíre younger, and not much older than I was when I studied the body and all itís intricacies.

I remember taking sports psychology because it was an easy A, and they should have taught you how to spot a playerís bullshit. It should have taught you the intricate footwork of deciding when a player was lying to you, and when he really was okay to go. Instead, I had to learn these things over the years on my own. Iím fairly good at spotting it, so maybe Iím a bit miffed that I didnít spot it earlier. Or maybe Iím wrong and itís not there. Perhaps itís all truth and love, right before my eyes. Or the very least, truth and lust.

But. I canít help thinking about my lists, and hereís a new one: Todd, Matt, Tom. And maybe IĎm just mistaken, and the wrong synapses are firing on accident, and thereís something more than fear motivating Todd. But. I canít help but think about flashcards and multiple choice tests and ďflight or fight,Ē and heís running scared, kissing scared, and heís thinking about everything he could lose and everything heís lost.

Or maybe Iím just projecting. It was sports psychology, not psychology, and Iím no psychoanalyst; I watch them skate and I patch their wounds. I only see half of their lives, and have to guess about the rest, filling in the blanks and connecting the dots with half stories and snippets of conversation.

Things are different, now, though. He was never wound quite this tightly, which is why I wonder when heís going to rest. When heís going to take a break from this fervent pace, where heís all movement and no thinking. Or rather, all controlled movement and controlled thinking.

He was intense before, but he always seemed refreshed. Something recharged him, and now heís clinging, desperate, to his routines and he keeps giving, keeps skating, and when is he finally going to crash?

ďHey.Ē

My hand is still on the doorknob. Still standing mutely in the doorframe, and I swallow.

ďThis isnít a God damn peep show. Close the fucking door.Ē

I do. I hear Tomís muffled laugh, and I have to imagine Toddís response.

end