Mercury in Retrograde
Summary: A few years back Jason Arnott and Petr Sykora played for the NJ Devils. Imagine they were sorta together, and then Jason got this girl named Dina pregant. (Btw, Dina and Jason are now married and expecting their first child. This was written before I heard the lovely news). Petr pov.
AN: This is Joss' "Stumble and Fall" wherein a gay boy get a straight girl pregnant, and his sorta-gay-boyfriend (sorta-bf, not sorta gay) is kinda upset.
When he finally stopped to think about it, he decided that what hurt the most was that Jason didn’t even have the decency to tell him himself.
He thought that… well, he thought.
That was the thing. He thought. And any thinking was too much thinking, at least according to Jason. Jason had told him this much before.
But anyway, Petr thought way too much for his own good. He thought, and he dreamed, and he fantasized himself into a relationship that never really existed. Well, he thought it had. But now it was evident that that was all it was. Him thinking.
Jason had shushed him that first night; he’d covered his mouth with a slow kiss, and before he knew it, he was on his back and staring up at the ceiling, and screaming to God and Buddha and, really, anyone who would listen.
It was just sex, and Jason had lots of sex with lots of different people, but Petr thought that well, maybe something was different because Jason kept having sex with him, and sometimes it wasn’t just sex. Petr wasn’t stupid. He wasn’t confusing sex for love. Jason never made him any promises. They weren’t a married couple. Jason wasn’t his boyfriend.
But Petr thought…
There were those pregnant pauses, and sideways glances, and the nights when Jason spent the night and Petr woke up in his arms. It was the way he looked at him, and the way he spoke to him, and all the little things that Jason did for him that he didn’t do for anyone else. It was the way he looked out for him on the ice, and the way he made other guys in the locker room shut up if they were teasing Petr. It was the way that Patrik told him to be careful, but then smiled. It was all these little things that kept adding up, and Petr didn’t need Jason to say anything. He didn’t need Jason to tell him he was his boyfriend or that they were in a relationship.
Not that Jason would ever say those things. But Petr knew that he was right. He could feel it. In his stomach and in his teeth and in the very blood that kept coursing through his body.
But then, Petr didn’t really know. He just thought he knew.
And Petr didn’t know a lot of things. Like he didn’t know Motel wasn’t a real person when he first arrived in America. And he didn’t know stupid American traditions or why the houses all matched.
And he didn’t know who Dina was. Or that she was pregnant.
With Jason’s baby.
John had to lean over in the locker room and explain to him who the pretty blonde was. And why Jason had left with her.
“Lunch, I imagine. Best to stay amicable with the baby’s mother. That way they don’t turn around and stick you with a fat alimony check later on. Right?”
And Petr had to nod and pretend that he did know. Even though he didn’t. And he hated himself, and he hated Jason more for making him pretend. The bile rose in the back of his throat and he struggled to swallow it down, and he struggled to make it out of the locker room before anyone could see, could see him, or his tears, or that he had been the last to know.
But he wasn’t fast enough, and he saw them all exchange glances, passing the information along, and it spread faster than any brush fire. He stared at their charred remains, and their white eyes shone out against the black, blinding him and making his eyes water.
“Petr,” Patrik had started, eyes wide, and hand reaching out, but Petr had spun away from his touch, and half-walked, half-run out of the locker room and away from all their stares.
Petr tried not to allow himself too much time at home to think. Thinking, after all, had gotten him into this mess in the first place, and really, thinking wasn’t making anything better.
There was a bit of a problem though.
If he stayed at home he found himself staring at the walls and doing the one thing he didn’t want to do, but if he went to Patrik’s or John’s or any of the boys’ he got wide eyes, soft pats on the back, and they wanted him to talk.
Talking was quite possibly worse than thinking.
So he busied himself with menial tasks. He cleaned his apartment and he answered all his fan mail, and two days later his apartment was spotless and autographs were sent, and he found himself in aisle two of the supermarket staring at cleaning supplies and wondering whether Orange Clean worked better than 401, and whether the price difference made up for the fact that one worked on grease and the other one worked on grease and windows.
He figured he’d become a millionaire eventually, so he splurged and bought both. He tucked them neatly into the corner of his basket and headed towards the cash register. He cut across aisle four and stared at the frozen pizzas, barely visible from behind the frosted glass. He hadn’t met a frozen pizza he hadn’t tried, and he hadn’t found any that tasted good. He bought low fat ones, and ones on sale, and the expensive ones, and ones with the real taste of Italy, and in the end they all tasted the same, and he had to wonder why he kept buying them.
He resisted temptation though, and made it out of aisle four pizza-less. A small victory and he congratulated himself as he walked over to the check out. He reminded himself that he wasn’t going to buy any more tabloids, even though they did have good stories and if he pretended to read them he could avoid the Girl Scouts outside and wouldn’t be forced to buy ten boxes of thin mints that he’d never eat.
He repeated the mantra and checked his basket to make sure he had everything and when he looked up, his stomach dropped.
Because Jason was standing in line too.
Jason, and Jason’s oranges and Jason’s bread, and Jason’s stupid protein shake mix, and there he was--Jason in Jason’s shoes and Jason’s jacket and Jason’s pants, and Petr stood there, dazed and barely breathing, and watched as Jason grew a little smaller and a little bit farther away the longer he watched him.
His back hit something and then he became acutely aware that he’d actually been slowly backing up and down aisle six. He sighed, closing his eyes and resting his head on the shelves behind him. His eyes burned and his throat ached and he really didn’t think Orange Clean was going to cut it this time.
When he opened his eyes, of course, Jason was standing in front of him.
“H-hi, Jason.” He only stumbled once.
“Is something wrong?” He shook his head furiously. “What are you doing?”
“Buying stuff.” He reached behind his head and pulled something off the shelf.
“Diapers?” Jason asked, and Petr wanted to ask the same thing. Why diapers? Why did it have to be diapers? And Jason stared at him, and Petr stared at the little baby on the front of the package, with his cherub face and pink cheeks and ten fingers and ten toes, and oh God, this wasn’t just Jason sleeping with Dina, there was a baby.
He hadn’t really thought about that. He hadn’t really thought about anything. But now. He was thinking.
Babies were real, and they cried and they ate and they needed diapers. Jason wasn’t just a father to some imaginary, abstract concept. This baby was real. It wasn’t just a thing. It wasn’t just something that made Petr want to throw up and cry and hit things.
It was real. It was a she or a he, and Jason’s daughter or son, and Dina’s daughter or son, and worse, their daughter or son. Theirs. Theirs. They were a ‘they.’ They were intrinsically linked for the rest of their lives because of this thing, this baby, this very real live baby.
He and Jason had a cup.
A mug. Jason bought it on some fishing trip and left it at Petr’s apartment and it was Petr’s cup, because it was a gift, but Jason used it more than Petr did, so it was really Jason’s cup. It was their cup. Theirs. Petr waited two years for a fucking cup. A stupid ceramic cup with an ugly fish on the side that he never really liked and even thought about throwing away on more than one occasion. And he could. And he doubted Jason would even notice.
And he had waited two years for it.
He gathered from the bits and pieces of gossip he heard floating around the locker room that Jason had gone out for drinks with Dina once. Once. After a game. And it hadn’t even been planned. She was just some girl with a pretty face and Petr hadn’t felt like going out to a bar after the game even though he had scored the game winning goal. Because he wanted to go home and slide into bed and watch a movie with his maybe-boyfriend, and he had eaten popcorn and waited up all night for the phone call, or knock on the door, or familiar turn of a key in the lock that never came, and eventually he fell asleep. And Dina woke up pregnant.
Petr felt like puking.
“Yes. Diapers.” He wanted to sound angry and resolute, but he was afraid he just sounded tired.
Jason scrunched his eyebrows up and smiled slightly. Awkwardly. “Why?”
Because he took too long deciding between Orange Clean and 401, and those extra two minutes meant that he had to run into Jason in the checkout line. Because he could never find a good frozen pizza. Because he couldn’t say no to Girl Scouts or their cookies. Because, maybe, he’d been in love with Jason for two years. Because, maybe, that didn’t mean anything to Jason and he fucked some girl and he’s going out to lunches with her and he’s having a fucking baby and he never even told Petr.
The becauses, really, all ran together in the end and when Petr opened his mouth to reply nothing came out.
“Petr?” Petr closed his eyes. “Are you okay?”
Fuck him for sounding so concerned, Petr thought. Fuck him, and fuck his stupid baby. “No.”
He bought the diapers and the cleaning supplies and left Jason standing in aisle six looking lost.
It had been two weeks since Petr had left Jason standing in the grocery store. Three weeks since he’d learned the news about Dina.
If Jason had been his boyfriend, Petr imagined that he probably would have called. Called, asked why Petr wasn’t okay.
But Jason wasn’t his boyfriend. So he hadn’t. Called. Or asked. Not that Petr was surprised.
He hadn’t really talked to him during practice, either. Or stopped by the apartment for sex. Petr supposed that he wasn’t quite surprised by that either. Just hopeful.
He hated himself for his thoughts, sometimes.
Dina showed up after practice. Waltzed right into the locker room. As if she owned it. She announced to Jason (to the room) that she and Jason had an appointment for an ultrasound. She and Jason. Petr nearly choked. He tried staring at Jason, gauging his expression. He looked sheepishly embarrassed. By her antics? By the pregnancy? Or maybe he looked happy. Or upset. Or bland. Petr always had problems reading Jason. After all, he had thought that he and Jason were in a relationship. That Jason felt something for him.
So Petr stared at Dina instead; she was easier to read. She wore her thoughts, her emotions on her sleeve. She wore the capital ‘P’ imprinted on her stomach like a badge of honor. Petr stared at her, at her stomach, and pressed imaginary hands against it, wondering what it felt like.
“Get extra copies made and a video. It’s great to have for posterity,” Scott Stevens told her. Scott Stevens: hetero with a capital “H”, father to six hundred blue-eyed children. He learned more about his teammates from watching them interact with Dina than he ever did on any bonding trips or during the playoffs. Scott loved Dina; he would love her more if she and Jason were married. He loved what she represented and he loved that it meant Jason didn’t sleep with men and wasn’t the big “G” anymore.
Petr was pretty sure that Jason hadn’t stopped sleeping with men even though Jason didn’t sleep with him anymore. But he wasn’t about to tell his captain this.
John was indifferent towards the entire thing. Dina was pregnant. Dina was having a baby. There was hockey to be played. The end.
And Patrik hated Dina. Well, he hated Jason more.
“Because he’s an asshole,” Patrik had told him when Petr asked why. “I can’t believe what he did to you. And he didn’t even--”
“He didn’t do anything. I’m not the one who’s pregnant. He was never my boyfriend.” But Patrik waved his comments off with a flick of the wrist, and continued to rant.
“Yes, extra copies,” Patrik piped up. Petr cringed, knowing this could lead to no good. “We can tape them up around the locker room. I’ve always wanted to see a uterus.” He wanted to close his eyes to avoid the train wreck, but at the same time couldn’t avert his eyes. His heart broke a little bit when he saw the look on Jason’s face, and the hard set line of his jaw.
Jason was angry. Angry for Dina. “Shut the fuck up.” He pulled his coat on. “If you have something to say, say it to me.” And then he ushered Dina out of the locker room and to their appointment, but not before sending one more glare Patrik’s way for good measure. Dina clung to his arm and glowed.
Petr wasn’t quite sure if it was the pregnancy, but he remembered what it felt like when Jason used to stick up for him in the locker room, so he figured that maybe it was a combination of both.
It was pretty fucking hysterical when Jason showed up at his front door complaining about Patrik.
He pushed the door open and started taking off his coat and scarf, flinging small piles of snow all over the entryway. They were already melting into little puddles because of the heater. He didn’t bother taking off his shoes, and he threw his coat on the arm of the couch before sitting down.
“What the hell is Patrik’s problem?”
Petr didn’t bother saying anything. He just shut the door and then sat down on the coffee table across from Jason.
“Seriously, Petr. That guy has been giving me attitude for the last three weeks. Ever since…” He trailed off, and looked up from his gloves, and then maybe realized he wasn’t supposed to be here anymore. A flash of recognition or something, and Jason was so much harder to read now, and that was becoming a constant gut check for Petr.
Jason didn’t say anything for a while and then, “I got a girl pregnant back in Edmonton. Right before I was traded.”
But that was different, Petr thought. Because Jason left her in Edmonton. And that was before Petr. And he wasn’t going to ultrasounds or appointments and they weren’t a “they.” There was no “and” between their names, and his captain wasn’t giving her advice on doctors or baby cribs.
It was different. It wasn’t real. It wasn’t in his face. It was before Petr.
He wanted to say something facetious. Like, “Never heard of condoms?”
But that only made him think about all the condoms he and Jason had used, and imaginary maybe tears in the latex, and how he’d never really stopped to think about how many people Jason had sex with. He’d always been thinking about the wrong things.
He also wasn’t sure if he could hurt Jason the way Jason hurt him. Because sometimes it seemed like Jason didn’t really mean to. The constant sleeping around--Jason had always been upfront about that. Any silly notions in Petr’s head were just that. And if Jason forgot to call, well, Jason wasn’t his boyfriend so he shouldn’t have to let Petr know he was going to be late, or not coming. And Jason never was much for dates or holidays or celebrations, so if he forgot Petr’s birthday or spent New Years or Valentine’s Day fucking as many people as he could, that was just Jason. None of it was ever a direct attack on Petr; it was just Jason being Jason. So Jason never really meant to hurt him… it just happened. An accident.
And he wasn’t quite sure if he could bear to see Jason hurting. No matter how he felt, or if Patrik kept telling him that this was all Jason’s fault.
“Why are you telling me this?” he finally settled on. His voice very nearly cracked. He felt like he hadn’t used it in years.
Jason shifted on the couch. “Because.”
Petr wanted to laugh. He wanted to cry. Jason’s answer was, “because.” He wasn’t old enough to be a father. He was barely an adult. It was asinine and stupid, and avoiding the question, and so utterly Jason.
Go home, Jason, his mind urged. But another part of him wanted him to stay, wanted to hug him, because Jason was sitting on his couch, looking awkward, and he was practically swinging his feet and asking Petr if anybody had found his puppy.
That was… off. Jason staring at him, eyes wide, and looking responsible and knowing, as if this time he knew he’d done something wrong. Maybe he knew he messed up before, but he had never acknowledged it before, so this was different and strange and awkward. He looked sad. Like he needed a friend. Like he needed Petr.
And that was new.
He leaned forward and kissed Petr, slowly, softly, and touched his face with feather soft touches. Light and smooth and five tiny little fingers brushing Petr’s cheek, and he opened his eyes, and there he was--the ubiquitous baby with big brown Jason eyes. He gurgled and Petr pushed him, and Jason, away.
“What the fuck?”
“Don’t. Just don’t.” And he wasn’t angry, just shocked and stunned and feeling like he had a five pound weight in his stomach. Like he was the one floating in Dina’s stomach and surrounded by liquid that buffered him from everything, kept him from feeling anything.
No, he was cold. He could feel that. He stood up and walked over to the wall to crank up the heat.
“What the hell is this? I mean…” And it really was like he was in an embryo, outside the situation and watching Jason in a play. Performing. And he waited for him to stop talking so he could recite his lines, too. Only, Petr thought, that this wasn’t supposed to be his life. He’d stumbled into the wrong play.
He turned up the thermostat but he wasn’t getting any warmer.
“Jesus Christ,” Jason said. But maybe he was just mumbling to himself because Petr was still facing the wall, staring at the thermostat and wondering why he was still cold. “This is ridiculous and…” Petr heard the change, felt Jason shift his weight on the carpet. “Are you jealous or something? Is that what this is?”
Jealous or something. Jealous of Dina and her baby. Jealous of all the attention she was garnering. Jealous of the time Jason was spending with her. Jealous of the “we”s she could throw around so haphazardly. Jealous of how easily she’d entwined herself into Jason’s life and how easily and quickly he’d accepted her into it. How legitimate it all was. She just had to get pregnant and she was part of his life forever. Jealous of that luxury. That he’d never have.
Scott was happy. John didn’t care. Patrik was angry. And Petr…
Petr didn’t know. Didn’t know anymore. It wasn’t just jealousy. Or anger. Or shock. It was everything and nothing, and Petr was tired, and his head and thoughts were all muddled.
It just hurt.
And he wanted to go back to before.
When he turned around the awkward little boy was back, looking sheepish for opening his mouth. He was only there for a split second, but a split second too long for Petr’s taste, because it was something new, and new meant change, and Petr wanted things like they were before.
And it meant Jason had changed, but not for him.
Jason had left, but his presence still pervaded Petr’s apartment.
The carpet by the front door looked soggy and he had forgotten his scarf. It was wool and slightly damp, and musty smelling. Petr threaded it through his fingers and wondered if Jason didn’t notice it was missing whether he could keep it or not. Finders keepers, losers weepers.
Jason had to leave because his cell phone rang and Dina needed pickles. He said he was sorry, and even looked sorry to be leaving, though in retrospect Petr supposed that Jason had just put his foot in his mouth and should have been looking for a quick exit.
He was grateful for the quick exit though. Because Jason’s question had blindsided him. Much like the news of Dina’s pregnancy. He hadn’t expected it, and now, left in its wake, he wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. He had been going through the motions, and hadn’t really thought about it aside from the few moments when it’d been forced into his face.
He felt like a log making its way down a river, bumping and colliding into everything. He didn’t have control over where he went; he was just reacting, or not reacting and allowing other people’s actions to shape him and push him into another direction. Bam. Now he was going left. Crash. Now he was going right. Boom. Now Dina was pregnant. He didn’t have time to think anything through; he was constantly moving. He couldn’t process, couldn’t feel. He just went “boom”.
He imagined if Patrik was here, he’d be pissed as hell at Jason. Scott would be wondering why Jason had showed up, and John would be flipping channels on his television and complaining about the lack of Center Ice.
But that was them. He wished he was any one of them, and that things were simple. Wished that he was one of Pavlov’s dogs and that when someone flashed a card with Jason’s name on it, he punched something or cried. That he felt something as simple as anger or sadness. Anything other than this strange twist in his chest that he couldn’t quite explain.
He couldn’t be Patrik: he couldn’t make a clean break. He couldn’t get angry and fling calloused words, and cut himself off from Jason to spite him. Or to move on, as Patrik put it. And he didn’t think he could forgive Jason either. But things got confusing there, because he and Jason were never together, so what was there to forgive? And he couldn’t be John and just ignore it. Especially when it was in his face everyday.
When he got overly dramatic, sometimes, Petr thought about asking for a trade. By Christmas he could be in Florida, sipping on pina coladas and waving to senior citizens, or California, cruising the beaches. He never imagined himself in a place with snow. He liked placing himself in an area without snow plows, shovels, and scarves.
He wrapped Jason’s scarf around his neck. He was still cold.
A month passed and Petr the Log managed not to bump into too many more things.
Jason was in the trainer’s room when Dina walked in. The locker room was mostly empty so when she looked around for a familiar face and found none, she sat down by Petr. Her stomach was slightly rounder, but she was also wearing a thick sweater and coat so Petr couldn’t be certain she was bigger.
She was the Wicked Witch of the West, but she smiled at Petr like he was her best friend. “Hi.”
“Jason’s getting iced up. He’ll be out in fifteen.”
Even though he was already dressed, Petr couldn’t force his body to move. He kept staring at her stomach.
She noticed and closed her coat a bit, resting her arm on her stomach, as if shielding it from his view. He looked up, but she was still smiling, so he figured he hadn’t weirded her out too much.
She reached out and fingered the scarf around his neck. She cocked her head to the side. Like she recognized it or something. “Nice scarf.” It was Jason’s.
She was really close and Petr could smell her perfume, and this was more intimate a moment than Petr had ever wanted to share with her.
She grimaced slightly and pressed a hand to her stomach.
“Is the baby kicking?” Petr blurted out, and she smiled and shook her head.
“No. Grilled cheese and sour cream.”
It was an absurd conversation, but a moment later she was clutching her stomach and groaning, and then she was doubling over.
She’s having a miscarriage, Petr thought, and it was going to die and he was going to get his life back.
The pain stopped for a moment and her muscles relaxed while she sucked in air, practically hyperventilating. Her hair cascaded across her face, and when she turned to Petr and gripped his hand, pieces of it stuck to her wet cheeks. She was slightly flushed and she looked so scared, and Petr felt awful and sick to his stomach for his thoughts.
She doubled over again, turning her face away from him, but he could still see her eyes and he couldn’t get them out of his head even later when he was at the hospital.
He didn’t have any reason to be there; he wasn’t Dina’s friend. And he wasn’t Jason’s… well, anything. But he was there, sitting in the uncomfortable plastic chairs and staring at the blank white walls.
He spent more time thinking there than he had anywhere in the past two months. It was slow going deciphering how he felt, because it hurt and he feared the abyss that lay beyond it. That huge bit of emptiness where there was nothing but Petr, and he couldn’t hide or avoid anything, and maybe the hurt would never stop and it would go on forever. It overwhelmed him and he felt lost.
He hadn’t wanted to think along the lines of betrayal. Because that involved the idea of something to be betrayed. Something that no longer was, and Petr kept thinking that it was easier to pretend there was nothing than to think he’d lost something.
Sometime, during one of the Petr-White Wall-moments, Jason had sat down beside him.
“It was just cramping. Some spotting. She’s supposed to take it easy. But the doctor says she’s fine. Nothing to be worried about.”
Maybe it was a Jason-White Wall-moment too, because he was staring at the wall across from Petr, and not at Petr. He exhaled a shaky breath and ran a hand through his hair. His eyes were wild, red-rimmed maybe from a lack of sleep. He looked scared.
He was scared.
“I.. I.. I just don’t know, Petr,” he rambled. “I don’t think I can handle this. I don’t think I’m cut out for this. I mean, what kind of father would I be, anyway? And what if, what if something’s wrong with the baby? What if I did something or I screwed up and now something’s wrong and it’s my fault and oh my God, I can’t be a father. I’m not ready.”
He was staring at the wall, but then he turned and looked at Petr after he stopped talking. Petr sucked in a breath because Jason just looked so overwhelmed and lost, and his chest ached because he knew that feeling.
He reached over, threading his fingers through Jason’s hair. It’d been a month since they last kissed, last touched. It hadn’t felt like years or decades since they’d last touched--just a month. But Petr missed it. Missed him.
Jason grabbed his other hand. “Don’t leave.”
“Dina’s going to be fine. The doctor said so.”
“I know.” He shifted, leaning more against Petr. “Just don’t.”