...who is like god?
Summary: Winter Olympics; Tellqvist and Renberg, and their relationship
Rating: it has bad words. we'll go with 'r'.
AN: Switches pov..Renberg, Tellqvist, Salo, Renberg, Tellqvist. From Cassidy's/SportSlash's Olympic challenge.
Disclaimer: All I know about these guys is that they play hockey--the rest is all fabrication. EOTA belongs to Greene. Cheese sandwhich belongs to "Love and Sex." Picasso belongs to himself.
"When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth." Billy, age 4
I like the way he says my name.
I like the way it rolls off his tongue. I like how when he says it, he's not just saying "Mikael," he's telling me how much he loves me. Yes, two syllables can exude far more emotions than a simple "I love you." Because in the end, "I love you" has about the same amount of meaning as "I cheese sandwich you." But "Mikael" is forever. It's who I am and who he is. Two souls that just so happened to stumble across each other at Toronto's training camp.
Who knew that we would fall in love? How did we even meet? I was supposed to be in Philly; his career was never supposed to survive that fractured skull. But somehow we did. Somehow we managed to survive a long distance relationship after he got sent back down to St. John's. Was it luck? Was it fate? Or was it something more?
I hope so.
I hope some kind of divine intervention occurred. He doesn't need that kind of reassurance. After all, he's only 21 years old. He still has plenty of time to learn. But I do. I need to know that we're meant for each other-that it's written in the stars, or that it's destiny, or something stupid like that. I need to know that we'll always be together.
I need to know he isn't going to leave me. That I'm not going to lose him. Because I, Mikael Renberg, cheese sandwich Mikael Tellqvist.
Did I mention how much I love it when he says my name? He calls my house up in Toronto, overjoyed with the news that we'd both be making the Olympic team. I smile and nod to myself, insert a few "mmm hmms" but all I can think is that we won't have two weeks alone together.
I'd never say no to the chance to represent my country, but at the same time…
I think it's the fact that this thought never occurred to Mikael that bothers me the most. He hadn't been planning our vacation-the fishing trips, the secluded restaurants-months in advance like me. I brush that thought off, like always, though. Mikael's younger-much more spontaneous. He's not a homebody like me.
"Mikael, are you listening to me?"
"Yeah, yeah," I reply. "Just thinking about Salt Lake."
"Yeah, so I think we have good chance. Perhaps we can be roommates? That would be good." I can tell by his stilted English that he just got off the phone from someone back home. Part of me knows it was probably just a friend, but-I shake my head. When did I become this jealous?
Maybe when he first said my name.
When the plane touches down in Salt Lake, the first person I see is Mikael. His face breaks out in a rakish grin and when he approaches, I'm not quite sure how to greet him. I know how I'd like to, but luckily I'm carrying my sticks.
We settle on the typical guy half-hug. I tousle his hair with my free hand while he whispers in Swedish. To anyone watching (not that they would, I'm no Mats Sundin) all they would see is a veteran teammate greeting a younger one. Not a May-December relationship.
I don't know what bothers me more. That I can't openly come out and display my affection or that Mikael gives me a funny look when I say, "I cheese sandwich you." I had explained it all a month ago, but he must have forgotten. He does that a lot. Not on purpose, mind you. He's just really focused on his performance. I suppose I am too. If he improves his play enough, well, he'd never replace Curtis, but he might earn a spot as the team's back up goalie.
"Mike, hello?" I like it better when he calls me Mikael. As usual, though, I've become lost in my own thoughts. A bad habit I picked up somewhere that usually leads to the end of most of my hetero relationships. Perhaps that's where I first picked it up; ignoring and not listening to my girlfriend because I was too busy checking out the guy sitting behind her.
Lately, however, I find myself thinking about Mikael more and more. Sometimes about our relationship and other times, insane thoughts about the first button on his shirt or the birthmark on his calf.
He's carrying my bag, its black strap across his shoulder, and is grinning like an idiot. "So that is great, right?"
Damn. This time I blame that suit he's wearing. "What?"
"I'm rooming with Tommy. This is great. Maybe he can teach me something new."
I furrow my eyebrows while we get into the car that will takes us to the hotel. "Wait, I thought we were rooming together."
"Yes, but now I have the chance to room with Tommy. It's a great opportunity, really, Mike."
I squeeze my hand into a fist and I can feel my nails making perfect white crescents in the pad of my hand. I didn't used to get this angry over little things like this before I met Mikael. I certainly wasn't the jealous boyfriend with any of my ex-girlfriends. "You know, you could have just picked up tips from him on the ice. I thought we were going to spend time together."
"We will, we will," he assures, oblivious to my frustrated anger.
"It won't be the same." I can feel myself on the verge of whining and I hate when I get like this. I lower my voice and in Swedish, "We won't have any privacy."
Taking my unclenched hand in his, he rubs his thumb over the back of it. "You worry too much, Mikael." His voice and caressing relaxes me and soon I feel like an idiot. Two weeks with Mikael is still two weeks with Mikael, no matter who we're rooming with. He smiles and looks out the window.
He continues to rub his thumb absentmindedly along the back of my hand and I remember why I didn't get jealous over the trivial things with my other girlfriends.
I care about Mikael.
Valentine's Day sucks. I hate chocolate and I'm not a fan of any holiday created by the Christian church to encourage sex but has been twisted over the years into some Hallmark holiday filled with cliché red roses and cards.
In my opinion, you should just stick with the sex. Forget the whole chocolate, rose business. What can I say? I'm a romantic.
Mikael and I decide a romantic dinner is in order. Chinese, pizza, chicken and pasta-it's not the food that matters, just the propinquity. You find yourself thinking things like that when you don't see your boyfriend enough.
Jorgen, my roommate, has left the room already. Either out to dinner with some of the team or out to find a late gift for his girlfriend. A knock at the door and a second later Mikael's standing in a doorframe in a deep burgundy shirt and slacks.
"Let me go get my wallet." Turning around to grab it off the dresser, I hear the door close and lock. His hand on my waist twists me around. "Ready to-"
His lips crush into mine and the force at which he moves forward causes my lower back to hit the dresser and our teeth to click. Mumbled apologies and remissions later his hands run through my hair while I untuck his shirt from his slacks. I back him into the bed where we fall, lips still locked. Running my hand up his shirt, I roam his chest and he breaks away, breathless.
"I'm not hungry, Mikael."
I smile at his comment and so does he.
Happy Valentine's Day to me.
I rub my lower back; a small thin line runs across it that is slowly forming into a bruise from hitting the dresser last night. Another bruise is forming on my arm, but that one is from today's game and not from Mikael so it doesn't have nearly as much sentimental value.
The game was incredible, us routing Canada five to two. Jovial pandemonium broke out after each Swedish goal and it was great to see all the Swedish fans in the crowd toting flags and chanting. It was even better to look on the bench and see Mikael's encouraging face.
After the game the team flooded the ice, leaving the bench to go congratulate Tommy. Mikael tapped heads with him and the two talked as we headed off the ice. I knew he was just congratulating him, but that doesn't stop my jealous mind from overreacting.
Sitting here now on the bench, changing into my suit, I can't help but notice the two of them joking and laughing.
So I rub my back trying to remind myself that there is a reason that there's a bruise there and that it was my name he cried out last night.
"When you're frightened by something, you try to control it." -Marcuculli
Picasso was frightened by women; he didn't understand them. Which in a way, I suppose, makes his womanizing disposition understandable. Not to mention the fact he grew up in Spain where he was brought up surrounded by "machismo." His dad wanted him to paint pigeons for Christ's sake.
But I'm off on a tangent again. Picasso hung out with whores, prostitutes, and had several girlfriends throughout his life. Well, if you could call them girlfriends. He stole one of his girlfriend's shoes one time because he didn't want her to leave his studio. Told her to dress in black so that the other men in France couldn't look at her, lust over her. Francesca thought he was insanely jealous, but stayed with him because she loved him. "He was so gentle when we were alone."
He ended up sleeping with her best friend.
I read The End of the Affair when I was in my late teens. A story of a love affair gone awry, perhaps due to fate, but in its opening chapter, Bendrix states that his story is not one of love, but of hate. He measured his love by his jealousy. I never really got him. He wasn't a complex character (or maybe he was and that's why I never understood him), but his naiveté towards relationships surprised me. How could jealousy have anything to do with love?
Turns out, I'm the naïve one. Or perhaps Mikael is.
He's controlling and jealous. He correlates jealousy with love, just like Bendrix. If he wasn't jealous all the time, I'm not so sure I'd be able to tell he cared. Sometimes that scares me. Because isn't he supposed to love me for me? Be attracted to me? Not by association and not because some other guy shows interest in me.
He's trying to control something that he doesn't understand; something that frightens him. He's afraid he's in love with me. He's afraid that I'm not in love with him. And it doesn't seem to matter what I say, how many kisses I give, he still doesn't believe me. At least not fully. He thinks I'm a naïve twenty-something year old who's going to dump him at the end of the month.
So he prepares himself for what he thinks is the inevitable. He ends up just making both of us miserable as he slowly destroys our relationship. Most relationships are based on trust. I trust him; he trusts in the fact that this relationship will end. Only he thinks I'm going to end it.
He doesn't know he will.
I thought the Canada game was amazing. I think I like this one more. Not just because we beat the Czech Republic, but because we got to meet the King and Queen of Sweden. How many regular Joes like me can say that?
The team's really upbeat; we play Germany next, and while they're a good defensive team, they're definitely a step lower. Hopefully we'll be able to get an easy win, go up 3-0 in our grouping, and have a great match up after the seeding.
I'm getting ahead of myself, though. I shouldn't be focusing on a game in a future, least of all hockey, especially while lying next to Mikael watching t.v. I should be relishing the few moments we have together. Perhaps, I'm partially to blame because I've been spending time with Tommy, but…
Tommy's a great guy, a great goaltender, but he's not my Mikael. I wish Mikael would remember that. And I like hanging out with Tommy and the rest of the guys on the team. I shouldn't have to feel guilty just because I'm not hanging out with Mikael all the time. It reminds me of summer camp when I was a kid. Three of my friends from school were there, but I've never had a problem striking up a conversation, so on the second day, I decided to eat lunch with some new guys.
I've never seen my friends look so betrayed. You'd have thought I'd run their dogs over with my bicycle, not told them I was eating lunch with some other kids. I was in third grade at the time. By the time I was twelve I had different friends, who didn't care who I ate lunch with. I'd outgrown them. Will I outgrow Mikael? Is he just a phase?
Is my homosexuality just a phase?
That's the sarcastic part of my brain kicking in. Because I know I love him; I know that this, he, isn't a phase.
He leans over and kisses me on the neck. My senses burn alive with that one touch. His hands sneak under my shirt and his lips are traveling up my neck when I open my mouth. And say something really stupid.
"Did you lock the door?"
Mikael pulls away angrily before stomping over to the door and locking the deadbolt. "Happy?"
Not really. He lies back down on the bed and picks up the remote. He's wearing an angry pout, which, as always, is extremely irresistible. I lean across, my forearm on the bed for support, and cup his face. He brushes my hand away, though, before I'm able to kiss him.
"Why'd you have to go and ruin the moment?"
"I didn't," I protest. "I just wanted to ensure that we'd finally have some privacy. Isn't that what you've wanted all week?" He and I both know I'm lying. We lock the doors so no one will find out about us-find out that we're dating, find out we're in love, but more importantly, find out that we're gay. And I know on some subconscious level that hurts him. He knows, I know, that anyone finding out about us would be a blow to both our careers. It still hurts though to know that we can only express how we truly feel behind closed doors. That we have to hide, that on any given day, I can't kiss him without worrying whether or not the door is locked.
I can see the hurt in his eyes and all I want to do is kiss him and try and make him forget how unfair it all really is. And make him remember why we do it and why we're still together. While I'm busy fantasizing feeling his scratchy, 5 o'clock shadow, cheek against my own, his mind appears to be elsewhere.
"Is that really why you asked?"
I cock my head to the side and smile. "Of course."
He scowls. "Are you sure it isn't because you're afraid Tommy might walk in?"
I roll my eyes. "Yeah, that's it. Because Tommy would walk into your room expecting to find me on your bed making out with you."
He scowls again. "You know what I meant."
"No, I don't. For some reason you think Tommy and I have got something going on. Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but we don't." Now he's got me scowling.
"That would explain why you're always drooling over him in the locker room."
I stand up and begin pulling on my jacket. I don't need this from him. I don't need another night of angry jealous rants. "Thanks so much, Mikael. Thanks so fucking much for trusting me." I pull on my shoes. "Nice to know four months down the line you have that much faith in me."
I'm unlocking the door when he places his hand over mind and turns me around. "I'm sorry." He kisses me and I'm lost in the feeling his mouth, his lips, his hand on the small of my back. It'd be so easy to stay, to allow myself to get lost in the feeling of him. To stay the night and wake up in his arms in the morning.
And then sneak out early in the morning or possibly get into another argument. Relationships are always complex. I know that. But Mikael's jealousy often makes ours more complex than necessary.
"You should be. If you want a fuck buddy, call your roommate. You want a boyfriend, call me. I'll be in my room." I know that was a bit unfair of me, but often, ultimatums are the only way to get through to him.
I step outside and he slams the door behind me.
When I return to my room, Tommy's already there. "Have a good dinner?" He nods while I take off my coat and lay it on my bed before falling face first onto it and groaning.
"Yeah," comes my muffled reply from the bedsheets.
"Trouble with Mikael?"
I turn my head to the side so I can answer. "How did you guess?" See, what Mikael doesn't know is that Tommy knows about the two of us. It wasn't anything that I had planned. Just an ecstatic comment blurted out in fervor when Tommy revealed his own less than heterosexual thoughts. It's amazing how you can be roommates with a guy for less than a week, but he knows more about you than your own parents do. Or just sad.
"Lucky, I suppose." He smiles. I smile. And then I wonder what it would be like to date Tommy Salo. Bad thoughts, of course, but that doesn't stop me from wondering what it'd be like to date a guy comfortable not only with his own sexuality, but one's whose self esteem doesn't need assurance every time I talk to another guy. Summer camp all over again.
I close my eyes. Why couldn't everything be as simple as it was the other night? Why couldn't every night be spent in Mikael's arms? No talking about the game, no talking about somebody finding out about us. Just lying there listening to him breathe. To be there, lying next to him, knowing I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him, and to know he didn't know it, breaks my heart. He deserves to know. He deserves to be able to hear me say I love him in public.
But so do I.
I can't remember the last time he told me he loves me. He must've mumbled "I cheese sandwich you" at least a dozen times in the last month. Whatever that means.
I open my eyes to see Tommy's comforting ones staring back at me. He's moved from his bed and he's squatting on the floor between the two beds so he's eye level with me. "Things'll work out between the two of you."
He shrugs his shoulders and kisses me on the cheek. The shrug isn't that encouraging, but the kiss is. Searing my cheek, I feel my breath quicken. It scares me. Everything I felt for Mikael seems to have flown out the window. His lips, his hands, his scent and smell are forgotten for the moment and all I can think is that this is right. I want this. I want to kiss Tommy.
So I do.
And immediately regret it. Things become more heated and suddenly he pulls away and goes back to his bed and there's this awful feeling in my stomach. My gut is wrenched into two and I want to cry. Because it wasn't awful, but I still love Mikael. It wasn't awful, and I wanted to kiss him again. It wasn't awful, but he didn't want to kiss me.
The phone rings and since Tommy makes no move to pick it up, I do.
"I'm sorry. I just...I get like that sometimes. My emotions get the better of me. I want a boyfriend. I want you. I love you."
I feel like crying. "I love you too." And I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, Mikael. I break down over the phone and I'm likely to break down even more if Mikael continues to sound so worried about me. He asks to come over so he can comfort me, but I tell him no. "I'm just going to go to bed," I tell him between sobs.
"Okay." His soothing voice sounds so comforting, so wonderful, and I can't imagine losing him just because of one stupid kiss. "You call later though, if you want. Or come over. I don't care if Jorgen sees us."
I don't think I'll ever stop crying. "I do." I can hear the puzzled pause on the other side, so I continue. "I love you too much to see you risk everything for me."
"I love you too much not to."
"I kissed Tommy." There's dead silence on the other side and I don't know whether he's about to punch the wall or rip the phone out of its jack. I look over and see that Tommy's gone. The light in the bathroom is on and I assume he left to give me privacy.
After what seems like an eternity, I finally hear Mikael's reaction. He's crying. I hold my breath, not knowing what to say. Why did I tell him? It was nothing-it was stupid and Tommy doesn't even like me. I was brash and...and I wasn't thinking and it was plain selfish to tell him. What good could come from me telling him? Nothing, that's what.
"I still love you," comes his shaky reply a beat later. "Goodnight, Mikael." I hear him hang up before I can reply. I'm half tempted to call him back, half tempted to run back to his room, but instead I hang up the phone as well.
The light in the bathroom flickers off and Tommy exits, handing me a roll of toilet paper. "There weren't any tissues."
Lying on the bed, in the semi-darkness lit only by the television, I stare at the roll. The unraveling to our relationship had begun and I could only hope--
"If you love him, then why did you kiss me?"
I was stupid? I wasn't thinking straight? You're cute? I wanted something simple? I wanted to see what life would be like without Mikael? I wanted to see if it was better? I wanted to make sure I wasn't missing out on anything? I used you? I wanted a boyfriend who wasn't jealous half the time?
It wasn't really a kiss because I don't love you?
I want to do it again?
"I'm sorry, I--"
He kisses me, interrupting me mid-sentence, but I don't care. Not that I was going to say anything intelligible anyway. The feel of his lips against mine, his rough hands on my face...
"I hope he's worth it," he whispers against my mouth. He walks over to his side of the room and slips into bed.
I want to kiss him again. Hell, I want to do more than kiss him. I want to run my hands over his chest, his arms, grind my hips into his... I want to be with him, I want--
I want a fuck buddy. I nearly laugh. Mikael was probably right. I probably was staring at him all week and drooling over him. Possibly longer considering how ecstatic I was when we became roommates. Tommy was hot. I thought Tommy was hot. I lusted over Tommy--wanted to fuck him, but I didn't love him. I barely knew him.
I don't want to wake up in his arms or listen to him complain about not getting enough ice time.
I don't love Tommy. I love Mikael. Something I thought I always knew, but was proven to me beyond a--
I cheated on Mikael for absolutely no good reason. (Is there ever a good reason?) I cheated on him because I felt like it and because I thought the guy was hot.
I was everything Mikael thought I would be, everything he'd fear I'd become. I was a naive twenty something year old. A stupid naive twenty something year old. What happens when you reach a crossroad in your life? On one side you can be in a relationship with possibly the love of your life (the other you can be the twenty-one year old single guy free to kiss whomever you choose). But how do you measure that love if this is the first real serious relationship you've ever been in? And what does it say about that love if you're ready to jump into bed with your roommate without any thought to the man you love?
Tough questions for any twenty-one year old.
I want to be nine again.
"Love means never having to say you're sorry." - 'Love Story'
Mikael shoves the food around on his plate disinterestedly as I watch on from my side of the restaurant. He's sitting next to Mikael Renberg, who's eating cereal and reading the newspaper. Every now and then Mikael will look up from his plate and over at him. He has a confused, pained expression plastered on his face. He's betrayed Rennie, and in a way, betrayed himself. And I suppose he's confused as to why Rennie is still speaking to him.
Rennie's always had a bit of a temper, and from my conversations with Mikael about him, he's definitely the jealous type. So it's no wonder he's perplexed; Rennie doesn't even seem angry.
Renberg looks up from his bowl and gives Mikael a small half-smile. He says something, and I know this is it: he's going to explode.
But he doesn't. Instead he pulls Mikael's plate towards himself. He ruffles Mikael's hair tenderly and hands him his plate of toast.
I don't know what to make of it. Has he really forgiven Mikael? Or had he been setting himself for such a fall that he was already prepared?
Or did he not care because he knew Mikael had chosen him and not me?
The Germany game runs along smoothly as according to plan, and we're up 3-0, securing ourselves a top seed, and a low-seed draw. After the game, when the locker room's almost cleared out and the interviews are over, I decide that this is the most opportune time to talk to Mikael.
The goalies were all put in the back of the room, together along the wall. "Good game, eh?" I say to break the ice.
"Yeah," he says after taking a furtive glance in Rennie's direction.
"Look, about last night-"
"Is now really the best time to talk about it?"
I shrug my shoulders. "Why not? No one else is around or paying attention."
He sighs. "I'm sorry about-"
"About what? That you cheated on your boyfriend or that you kissed me?"
He raises his eyebrow. "Aren't they the same thing?"
I shake my head. "Why did you kiss me?"
"I don't know."
"Why did you kiss me?" I persist.
"I don't know," he lets out, frustrated. "It just happened, okay. It's not that big of a deal," he emphasizes with his hands.
"Is that what Mikael said?"
He sighs again. "We haven't…I mean, I…he said he still loves me. Last night, on the phone. And," his voice hitches, "I, I can't lose him, Tommy."
I glance over his shoulder to see Rennie staring back at me. The pain is evident in his eyes, and for a moment it shocks me, and causes me to lose focus for a second. "Do you love him?"
"Does he love you?"
"Do you love him?"
"I thought I did. I think I do." He pauses. "People who love one another don't cheat on each other. They just don't. I just…why did I do it?" He sounds so defeated.
"You're twenty-one," I offer. "People make mistakes; this is only your first relationship. You're bound to screw up. I'm sure he understands that." I've struck a nerve, so I try to backtrack. "Everyone makes mistakes at some point in their life. It's only human. Mikael doesn't want a relationship with a perfect person. He wants a perfect connection with an imperfect person. He loves you."
He swallows. "I know that. I knew that. And I still kissed you. How do you forgive something like that?"
"When you love someone, it's easy."
"If he ever, I…I don't know if I could."
"You're not him. Besides, like you said, it's not that big of a deal."
"Then why do I still want to kiss you?"
His response shocks me, and I think my eyes widen. He stands up and, with his hands in his pant pockets, walks out of the locker room. I think I had Mikael pegged all wrong. He looks confused; Rennie looks defeated.
Because I'm an interfering bastard, I'm sitting across from Rennie in his room. I told Jorgen to split, which didn't take much effort since all the guys are out celebrating the day's win anyway. Now that I'm here, however, I've suddenly decided I don't want to be, so rather poorly, I try to start up a conversation about the Canadian team.
He doesn't respond, so I find myself staring at the floral pattern on the hotel comforter until he finally speaks up. "Why are you here, Tommy?"
"I-Mikael's a good kid, you know." He stares at me blankly, so I continue. "He's really, uh, upset about this whole situation. He's taking it pretty hard-"
"And what? You want me to lie to him and tell him it doesn't bother me that he kissed you?"
"I'm not stupid, Tommy. He's twenty-one and this is his first relationship. He thinks he's in love with me because I'm in love with him and after three months "I like you" sounds trite and insignificant when your boyfriend keeps spouting the l-word. I'm new, this is nothing he's ever tried before, and he likes it. He may have feelings for me, but…
"But, he's still twenty-one. He wants to explore other things, other people, other relationships… He's twenty-one and he shouldn't feel tied down. He should feel free to explore those feelings."
"Then why are you still with him?"
"I love him."
I roll my eyes. "So what? You're just hanging around until the day he decides he wants to go out with someone else?"
"I love him. I'm always going to be there for him. He hasn't even come out to his-"
"What if he chose you?"
"What?" I don't know if it was my interruption or the question that caught him off guard.
"What if he chose you? Decided he loves you. Maybe there isn't some other guy out there-maybe he isn't looking to explore. Maybe he didn't kiss me."
"I'm sorry, what? He didn't kiss you?"
I smile ambiguously. "You have yourself in this mindset-you've already lost him; you don't even trust him anymore. You've set yourself up for this great big fall, prepared yourself for it. What if it never happens? What if he's in love with you? What if he isn't the one that ends the relationship? What if it's you?"
He looks entirely confused and I bite back a grin. "But I love him. I wouldn't--"
"You did. You are. You're pushing him away. What are you more afraid of? That he isn't in love with you or that he is?"
"He didn't kiss you?" he asks quietly.
"Why are you so afraid to let him love you?"
I've done my part and I open the door to leave when he opens his mouth. "Because one day he won't."
Part of me wants to smack him. Really. He's so caught up in what-ifs that he can't see the end of his own nose. Big freaking deal, Mikael kissed me. He wanted to kiss me. Sometimes lust is just lust, and it's uncomplicated. Sometimes it's something more, but rarely ever. 'And maybe he already doesn't,' is what I want to blurt out.
But I'm a goalie, so I always have to wait as long as possible before making my move. So, before I do, the compassionate part of my head shows up.
And then it passes. "And maybe today's that day. And he did kiss me. He kissed me right after you two had another fight. He was upset and he wasn't thinking, and he kissed me. Now that you know, go ahead and feel sorry for yourself. Pat yourself on the back for knowing he was going to screw up and preparing yourself for it. Tell me, Mikael, did it hurt any less? Or did it hurt more because you spent four months instead of one day dwelling over something you couldn't control?
"He's spent the last four months apologizing and trying to make up for something he didn't even do. He shouldn't have to say he's sorry now."
"I'm not asking him to."
"Then what are you asking for?" a voice behind me says, startling me. I whip around to see Mikael in the hall. I wonder how long he'd been there.
Rennie's silent for a second. He, too, seems shocked to see Mikael. He stares at him for a moment before finally answering. "Forgiveness."
Mikael takes a step forward so he's actually in the room and I step around him, closing the door behind me as I leave.
"Jus, you didn't fall in love with him on the condition he'd love you back." Eric, When Words Fail to Come by Sasha Janre
Thank you, Tommy Salo.
Thank you for being irresistably hot. Thank you for the lust factor you provided to the Swedish hockey team.
Thank you for being such an asshole. Thanks for interfering in my life; my relationship.
Thanks for letting in that late Belarus goal. You know, the one from just outside the blue line? Yeah, I'm thinking you remember that one.
And no, I'm not being facetious.
Thank you, Tommy Salo.
Lying next to Mikael, I'm crying while he pets the back of my neck. Sometimes you just need a good cry-a release. It's been one hell of a week, all culminating into a conversation that's been brewing for a long time.
But that's not why I'm crying. We just lost to Belarus. I didn't think it was possible. After all, we're Sweden. We're three and o. Belarus is…they weren't even supposed to be here. They were tromped by all the other big name teams, 8-nothing, 6-nothing. This was supposed to be our gift, our reward, for playing so well-for going unbeaten. An easy win over a small team. But instead…
This wasn't supposed to happen. A break up with Mikael, I expected. A loss to Belarus-never.
Yet, here I am, in my room crying over a Belarus loss. And Mikael's right by my side, comforting me. Go figure.
The tears stop and so does the petting. I squeeze his hand and, reassuringly, he squeezes back. There are so many things he could say. "Well, you guys should have come out in the first with more fire," or "Maybe we shouldn't have taken them so lightly," or even, "It was just a fluke. Like that goal Tommy let in." He could go on about how great a tournament we played up until that point, about how a lot of countries didn't even make it that far, about how at least the women's team was still in it. He could sympathize, he could berate, he could yell, scream, whisper, smile, cry…any number of things.
But instead he remains quiet. And it's his silence that comforts me. His presence, the beating of his heart, and his even rhythmic breathing. I sigh and think about the night before.
How could I have been so stupid? So blind? So caught up in myself? Tommy opened my eyes.
"I enjoy this the most. Just lying here in silence."
I smile against the fabric of his shirt. "Me too. But you do realize you just broke the silence, don't you?" I glance up to see him grin.
"Yeah." We settle back into the silence and through the wall I can hear the muffled sounds of a television.
My thoughts return to our conversation.
"Then what are you asking for?"
Such a simple way to begin it. Tommy left to give us privacy. I remember Mikael sitting on the foot of the bed and glancing in the mirror. We both looked so broken, so lost, and I remember thinking that this isn't what being with someone is supposed to be about.
"I need you."
"I love you."
Hushed tones and words filled the room. I was so scared to let him see me like that-vulnerable and weak, naked almost. I wasn't the older, wiser guide leading the way. I was just as young as he, and utterly confused as to what was going to happen next. I always thought of myself as knowing more, understanding more, just because I had had so much more time to come to terms with who I was-what my sexuality was. I had gone out with other men before, had somewhat long term relationships with them.
But I had forgotten that what I had with Mikael was new. That like him, I had never experienced anything like this before. Somewhere along the line I had just lumped him into a category. "Well, if so-and-so was like this, so is Mikael, because I'm going out with him and he's gay, just like so-and-so." I just assumed he'd be like the others. I didn't count on falling in love with him, or he falling in love with me.
It had never happened before, to him or to me, and suddenly I was at a loss.
What was supposed to happen next?
So you assume the worst. You assume he's going to leave you. You assume he doesn't love you. And all of a sudden all these assumptions consume your life. And you forget to see past them; you forget he isn't some relationship you've been through before. You forget he's someone new, this relationship is new, and that you love him. All you see are the what-ifs or maybes, and then he kisses someone else four months down the line and you convince yourself that everything you ever thought about him and your relationship was true.
Even if it isn't.
And it finally takes some guy named Tommy Salo to convince you otherwise.
"I love you, Mikael."
"I love you, too." A pause. "I mean it. I'm not just trying to fill the silence. I don't love you just because you love me."
"And I didn't fall in love with you on the condition you'd love me back."
And that's when you have your big old revelation.
Mikael flips on the t.v. and winces as he sees they're showing the replay of the Belarus winning goal. He quickly flips it back off. I touch his wrist. "No, put it back on. The U.S. game is on next."
He raises his eyebrow at me, but obliges. A few minutes later, he's lost in the flurry of activity on the screen.
Staring at him, I wonder why it took me so long to realize that. I had told Tommy that I was always going to be there for Mikael. I loved him, so it was a "no matter what."
"Because one day he won't."
"And maybe today's that day."
Tommy was right. It didn't hurt any less. If anything more, knowing that I'd been so caught up in losing him tomorrow, that I couldn't enjoy what we had today.
So the two of us decided we weren't going to hold back anymore. No more walls, no more jealous rants…no more stupid defense mechanisms. We loved each other; we love each other. One day we won't, perhaps. But I'm not going to dwell on maybes and tomorrows.
And I owe my new outlook on life to Tommy Salo.
"I kissed Tommy."
"But I don't know why I did it."
A sigh. "For today."
"I don't care about tomorrow."
"Good save, good save," Mikael murmurs to himself. "Richter's a hell of a goalie."
"You are too," I reply.
He smiles. "Intermission's in five minutes. Want to go get some food?"
"You're kissing Tommy doesn't change anything for me, Mikael. I still love you."
"Why do you love me?"
"I don't know. I just do." A few tears slip from his eyes and he latches on to my waist, pulling my shirt, and myself, closer. He leans his head against my stomach.
"I don't know why I kissed Tommy." I smooth down his hair. "I don't know if I was angry with you or if…" I can feel it in the air-the end is almost palpable. "But I know I still love you."
"You think Germany will upset the United States?"
"I don't know, Mikael. Anything's possible." I sit up. "Let's go get that lunch."
"Two months later." Tammy, the one who wrote this.
"Good game, Mikael."
"Thanks, John." John throws a towel in my direction. Returning to St. John's after spending two weeks in Salt Lake, two weeks with Mikael, seemed almost surreal. A few of the guys joked about our loss, but most just nodded and sympathized. Some were still in awe that I had made it to the Olympics. I had gotten to hang out with the likes of Tommy Salo and Mats Sundin. To me, just a bunch of regular guys playing hockey, but to them, even at this level, still idols and heroes.
When I get home, the red light on my answering machine is flashing.
"Hey, Mike," a scratchy voice begins. "It's Tommy. We just got York, can you believe it? Give me a call when you get in."
"Guess there was a reason Carolina had three goalies, Mikael. Barrasso's now a Leaf. There goes any hope we'd be teammates. Hmm, maybe if I break his hand like Cujo?" Mikael's laughter fills the kitchen. "Anyway, give me a call if you're free on Thursday."
"End of messages," the robotic voice on the answering machine concludes.
I debate as to who to call first then finally settle on dialing my boyfriend's number. "Hey, have you been watching the trades? York to Edmonton and Barrasso to Toronto. Any other big name trades?"
"Lacroix picked up Kasper."
"Dude, how does he always manage to do it?"
Laughter floats through the receiver. "The man's a genius."
I snort. "One word: money. No skill involved. I don't think Blake left L.A. because the Avs' GM is a genius."
"Yeah, yeah. You want to go get some dinner? I got tonight off."
"Sure, pick me up in thirty. I've got to call Tommy Salo back."
"What?" I ask, perplexed.
"All that name dropping-hurt my foot."
I roll my eyes. "See you in thirty, Peter."
Mikael and I decided to head our separate ways a few weeks after returning from the Olympics. I loved him, and he loved me, but I suppose it always irked me about the whole Tommy Salo kiss. Why had I kissed him? Was it just lust or was there something more? I knew I wasn't in love with Tommy, but was that a subconscious signal telling me that I wanted out of my current relationship?
I still love Mikael and the same holds true for him. He was the first person that I ever fell in love with, but I don't think he'll be the last. And if he is, then I know somehow we'll find our way back to each other if it's truly meant to be.
Until then I'll keep looking.