By: Tammy

Rating: PG-13. Sex, slashage, death.

Summary: Arkora. Petr pov. Petr visits an old friend.

AN: Inspired by some Starla ficcage, and Everwood ficcage.

When the taxi got stuck behind some traffic Petr told the man he’d walk from there. It was summer, and crowded in the beach-side town which attracted its fair share of visitors. Women in floppy hats pulled little boys along the sidewalks, and everyone seemingly moved at a faster tempo than Petr.

Languid, like melting ice cream, he slid his feet across the gray slabs of concrete. He watched the little girl in front of him with her red sucker and untied shoe laces. He inspected the signs in the windows of the stores, reading them, and stopping every now and then to read the fine print. A man in a red shirt, and a piece of gum on the ground in the shape of Lake Michigan, and a street sign with bold, calculated black lettering, a street vendor, and a bigger sign, and larger, and larger until he stood beneath it.

He wished he had a hat. Or a suitcase. At least a suitcase that he could carry in his hand. He closed his eyes and imagined a traveler, a drifter in a small town, and his mind conjured up the name Tom Hanks. He nodded; that seemed about right. Hadn’t Tom Hanks done a film like that once? Even if he hadn’t, he could still see it in his mind: Tom Hanks, and a hat, and a white linen suit. And, of course, a suit case and he imagined Tom walking in the middle of the road in a mostly empty, mostly quiet street.

He opened his eyes and turned right. He only had a wallet in his back pocket. It was heavy, and he could feel it pull on his pants.

The sun was bright, and the scenery slowly changed. He left downtown behind, and transitioned into a housing tract. For a while, in between, there had been a long stretch of sidewalk and he watched the sand and water, and listened to the shrieks of children running back and forth in their bathing suits, and the occasional tandem bicycle streaked by him. He thought about the beach, he thought about grandchildren and their sticky mouths, but mostly his thoughts returned him to before.

Before, when he was twenty-two and Jason was traded to the Devils. That seemed so long ago, now. It had been a tumultuous year, full of firsts. Though most came off the ice, and in the form of Jason Arnott. Petr hated him: he was tall, and stupid. Frat guy voice with frat boy antics, and he waltzed in a little too easy, with a little too much confidence, and offered to buy everyone a beer. He spent most of his time with the other Canadians, and the subset of Ontarians. He liked to be called “Jay,” but there was already a Jay in the locker room.

He lived with the captain, and Stevens dubbed him, "Jay" and everyone fell in line. The original Jay was reassigned "Dolfo" for a while, and that always made Petr think about Adolf Hitler. Jason changed the dynamics of the locker room, even though he shouldn't have considering he had only been in the league a few years, so there wasn't much to like about Jason Arnott.

When Jason kissed him, it surprised him.

He was a good kisser, and Petr added it onto the list: tall, Canadian, right-hand center, good kisser. What was next? Nobel prize winner? Strangely enough, as the year passed, Petr found more things to add to the list. He didn't really hate Jason by the end of the season. In fact, he mostly loved him.

He loved him for a long time, until loving him wasn’t an option anymore. Things changed, people changed, but really, Jason had just cheated on him. Petr had shrugged at the time, and tried to accept things that he couldn’t change and that he had no control over, but it still hurt and he still felt like he could have done something.

No, Petr thought, rubbing his elbow. That was a lie. Loving Jason was an option he hadn’t wanted anymore, but that didn’t mean he had just stopped. Overtly, perhaps, but he watched Jason date other people and he loved him. He watched Jason lace up his skates and he loved him. He helped him move, and he skated on a line with him, and he loved him. He and Jason and Patrik became close friends. They became one of the most dominant lines in the NHL. They won a cup together.

Petr didn’t wear his ring anymore. He hadn’t, often, outside of the house or special events, but now he hardly ever wore it. His fingers swelled up some mornings, making it difficult.

He shaded his eyes with his hand and stared across the street through the glare. Well, he had made it.

He stepped off the curb to cross the street and if this was a movie, Petr thought, then a car would barrel down the street and strike him dead. Or perhaps just cripple him, and he’d spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair somewhere in New York, too proud to ever return and show off his new wheels.

Nobody hit him, though, and he walked up the front steps and rang the door bell. It echoed throughout the house like it echoed in his brain. This was how Jason had said goodbye to him. They had been friends for so long, and Petr had loved him, but hours after the trade was announced Jason was at his front door, clinging to him.

“I don’t want to go to Dallas,” but it sounded like, “I don’t want to leave you.”

They didn’t have sex that night. Or maybe they did, and Petr just couldn’t remember. He remembered coffee and making out on the couch, but that was on two separate nights, and his memories were slipping into one another. They slid easily, like he and Jason had that night down the side of his wall before slumping against it. They held each other, or he held Jason, and Petr rubbed the back of his neck because he really couldn’t remember.

It didn’t matter though. At least not now.

It had when Jason announced his engagement. He wanted to remember everything in explicit detail, and he wanted Jason to remember too. He wanted to throw it all in his face. He wanted to hit Jason. He wanted Jason to call the wedding off.

Jason didn’t, because he loved Dina. That was hard to swallow, and it took Petr nearly a decade to accept. Ten years was a long time, and a lonely time and an angry time, and something that Petr wasn’t too proud of. He missed out on a lot, but in the end, when he forgave Jason and accepted Dina, Jason welcomed him back into his life with open arms.

Jason had two children by then, and Patrik had one. Petr had none, but he had the company of one new dog and a chinchilla.

It could have been awkward because he spent most of his time in Plzen, and the rest of the time in Wasaga with Jason and his family, and who exactly was he and why was he there? But it wasn’t. It was mostly comfortable, and Patrik told him to stop questioning everything. He said he always knew the two of them, Petr and Jason, would end up together in some form in the end.

He just knew, and he shrugged when Petr pestered him to explain. He just knew.

Petr recounted Patrik’s words to Jason later that night as they sat on Jason’s deck overlooking the beach.

“Well, Patrik’s crazy, you know?” he cracked through puffs of a cigar. “He’s from the Czech Republic.”

“I’m from the Czech Republic.”

“You’re more from the Republic part. He’s from the Czech part.”

“I don’t know whether to be insulted or not.”

“I think he’s right though.”

They let that hang in the air for a long time, watching it swirl and mix with the smoke from Jason’s cigar.

Then Dina called them inside for cards with the neighbors. Petr was horrible at anything that required gambling, but he always played. She made lemonade on hot nights--from a mix, but she put slices of lemons in the pitcher. She liked the way it tasted and she didn’t care if Jason complained that it wasn’t like his mother’s.

When she died, he was surprised by how much he cried. He cried more than he had at his own father’s funeral. For a long time, when he was young, it had always been Jason and Petr. But somehow, along the way, it had changed to include Dina and Jason. It stung. It was all kinds of wrong, because wasn’t it always supposed to be Dina and Jason? And now she was gone.

After the funeral everyone went back to Dina and Jason’s house. For cookies and lemonade or something. Maybe cake. Petr never made it, so he never really knew. Jason had pulled him aside and they drove along the coast until they reached a secluded spot. Jason fucked him in the backseat like they were teenagers, though their soft sagging skin said otherwise. He was silent when he came, and he played with Petr’s hair for a while before pulling up his pants and buckling his belt. He crawled into the front seat and watched the waves crash on to the beach. His fingers twitched, like he was a smoker craving a cigarette.

“She was old. It had to happen sooner or later.”

Petr cried for the both of them because he knew Jason wouldn’t let himself. Crying was a release. It was a relief, and Petr was glad he could even while he watched Jason struggle to restrain himself.

"Are you ready to go back?" he said after a long while. Jason nodded, but he didn't move his hands toward the ignition. "Do you want me to drive back?"

“Maybe, maybe I could drop you off in town,” Jason said, and his voice was hollow. “There’s a motel. I think the house is too crowded. With Teena and her husband, and her kids. And Lawrence and his wife. Uncle Roberts and Carl and Sue.” He rattled their names off as he drove, and when he reached the end, he looped through their names again, like a broken record.

Petr stayed in town for three days. Each night there would be a soft knock at his door. They’d sleep together, mostly in silence, with Jason’s arm curled around his body. They just slept, but on the fourth day while he was eating pancakes at Louise’s Teena sat down across from him. She ordered orange juice, but her eyes pleaded with him to leave. She was so much like her father.

He did, because she looked so much like her mother.

Patrik called him a few days later in Plzen. Jason had called him; he’d been upset, maybe crying. Petr was relieved.

Petr busied himself with the things he thought a man his age should do. He pictured his grandfather, and tried to emulate him. He mostly did the things his grandmother did; he liked her more. He spent his 72nd birthday yelling at the children who ran into his yard and stole the apples from his tree. He waved his cane at them until he felt ridiculous, and spent the rest of the afternoon laughing at himself.

The years passed with few phone calls from Wasaga. Sporadic in nature, but the phone calls didn’t seem that far apart. They were warm, and he filled the other days with walks, brunches at the ALCO, good books, and memories of Jason.

He broke a hip in August and that put him out of commission for a while. He felt foolish, and when he could walk again, like he used to, he bought a plane ticket. He chose summer because the cold made his bones ache. He chose summer because there were never any surprises over summer. The life of a hockey player had accustomed him to welcoming, or dreading surprises only between September and early June.

So here he was, on the familiar front steps of so many of his memories. The door opened, and Petr laughed when he saw Jason’s glasses.

Jason stared at him for a moment. “Hi,” he said, simply.

Petr swallowed. “The taxi took too long. Well, not really. But the ride was a bit bumpy. I think Main Street is covered with pot holes. You should talk to someone about that. So, anyway, I walked all this way. I’m not tired, but my legs kind of ache and--”

“Do you want to sit for a while?”

Jason closed the door behind him and shuffled towards the swing on the porch. They sat for a while watching the kids ride their bikes back and forth. A group of boys appeared, decked out in black roller blades and helmets. Two pushed nets, while the others wielded sticks.

Jason’s hand fell into his. “Think we could take them?”

Petr smiled. “Do you have an extra pair of roller blades?”