Now and Then
Rating: R. There are no swear words, but I don't think this is quite PG.
Summary: Owen Nolan aka Sexy Bitch Captain gets pregnant. Shenanigans shenanigans ensue.
AN: Bernie is evil. But has good ideas. :)
PS: God gave me an extra few days/weeks in the month of January and Owen is missing a wife/child. Pay attn to the now and thens.
Owen is thinking that there’s something quite wrong with this picture.
He sits in the plastic chair, tapping his foot. The walls are white. Sterile, traditional, and there is comfort in that, but the three inch bullet proof glass in front of the receptionist’s desk is a bit unsettling.
He thinks about back alleys and knives, and trips down to Mexico, or was it South America? He decides that this is better, despite the crowd outside. He expected recognition, he expected derogatory slurs, he expected them to throw things at him, snake their hands around his arms and tear him apart? And pull him away? And tell him there was another way? And lead him away to his salvation?
But this is his salvation. He made his decision; he chose this.
The clock ticks behind him, and this is taking too long, taking too long, taking too long, why is it taking so long? He knew he left his apartment too early, but he couldn’t sit at home and wait and stare at the clock and stare at the wall and stare at the clock, so he came here.
He flips through a magazine. Glossy pictures with pretty women and cherubic babies. The receptionist speaks through a microphone, and it is reminiscent of Darth Vader, and there are fake sunflowers in a vase on the coffee table, and there is something terribly wrong with this picture.
Owen has never been more certain.
He stands up and he passes through the mechanized doorway after he is buzzed through, and he realizes it isn’t the magazines, or the way the people outside stared at him with sad eyes, or the glass, or the quiet waiting room, or anything that seems out of place or too extreme or too normal that make this so very wrong.
It’s the way he had left things the other night with Mikael. The way Mikael’s eyes had bored into his, haunting him even now. He keeps thinking Mikael should be here, Mikael should be here, Mikael should be here and it’s an endless loop of tape that he’s played in his mind for the last twelve and a half minutes.
He keeps thinking that if he turns around he’ll find Mikael standing there, ready to hold his hand, ready to support him, ready to take him home, ready to call him a fool.
He hesitates when he hears a noise behind him. The doctor gestures him forward, but he can’t force his limbs to move. He tells himself not to turn around, not to turn around, not to turn around…
He does anyway.
Owen knew something was up when Mikael left for Sweden without telling anyone. Quinn told reporters that the trip had been planned for months, but Quinn lied a lot. Owen knew this, and he knew Mikael, and he knew that he had just told Mikael a few days before that he was pregnant.
“Pregnant. With your baby.” He hadn’t meant to be so blunt; he had a speech prepared and everything. He imagined this was how the women in all those romance novels Diana read broke the news to the very-rich-business-man. “I’m pregnant. With your baby. Hold me.” And he imagined that the man did, and the two were married, and lived happily ever after. God, what stupid books.
Mikael, kind of, looked like he wanted to punch Owen. “That’s not funny.”
Owen started laughing despite himself, because for three weeks he had been alone in all this, alone with his hypochondriac imagination, and fighting off bouts of nausea, and been so exhausted, and then he got the craziest idea ever that his stupid insane brain wouldn’t let alone until he began making midnight runs to the store for pregnancy tests to acquiesce, and disprove, its paranoid ravings. Only his stupid insane brain hadn’t been wrong.
He pulled Mikael into the bathroom to throw the stupid plastic sticks in his face. “I’m not making any jokes.” Mikael opened his mouth-- “And I’m not crazy. Shut up. I’m not.”
Mikael sat, dumbfounded, on the toilet. He stared at the wall, his eyebrows moving every now and then in thought, and Owen waited for him to say something, but when he didn’t, he stomped out of the bathroom and into the living room to watch some hockey.
Mikael came out of the bathroom during the second intermission, and Owen glared at him. Glassy eyed, Mikael stared through him, beyond him, and quietly, “I’m thinking… I’m thinking I need to think about this some more.”
He left, and three days later he was on a plane to Sweden.
When he returned, he avoided Owen like the plague.
Owen had a few assumptions about what would happen after he told Mikael about the pregnancy, but they were pretty base conjectures, and he hadn’t really thought deeply, or rationally, after he had peed on seven sticks in one night. He hadn’t thought about their relationship, or how this would affect it, because he didn’t think there was much to affect. They were teammates, and friends, and cared for one another, but he didn’t love Mikael. He liked sleeping with Mikael. He was sure Mikael felt the same way, so there was never any worry about the dissolution of any relationship, or Mikael dumping him for a faster, newer, less pregnant model. But he assumed that Mikael would be, at least, around. If not as a boyfriend (though they never were) at least as a father. Because Mikael, above all else, was a father.
So he spit nails when he saw the article on Mikael and his daughter. He cornered Mikael and chucked the paper at him. “What the hell?”
There were no excuses, or false pretenses, or questions from Mikael. He knew why Owen had broached him. Some things hadn’t changed. He simply stood there, and in the end Owen couldn’t be mad, because it had been two weeks and he was desperate to know what Mikael had thought about. “Well,” he kicked Mikael’s shoe. “You think much in Sweden?”
Mikael nodded. “I think, Owen.” He took a deep breath. “That you’re mistaken.” Instinctively, Owen clutched a hand to his stomach. Mikael noticed, of course. “I’m not the father and you’re not, you’re not…” He swallowed. “You’re mistaken.”
Seemingly, it was Mikael in denial, or Mikael in Land of the Not Crazy, but there was something in his voice, his inflections, and Owen knew. He knew Mikael believed him; he knew Mikael believed he was pregnant. And he was lying straight to his face.
Instinctively, he pushed Mikael. Hard. “I’m not mistaken! You know I’m not making this up. You know I’m not crazy. I know I‘m not crazy.” He hadn’t been so sure before, but since then he’d had the little plastic sticks’ results confirmed by a doctor willing to send his blood out to be tested.
“Fine. You’re not crazy.”
“And?” He’d been waiting two weeks, and pulling information from Mikael was like pulling teeth. Though, he wasn’t sure what he wanted Mikael to say, or what he wanted to hear. Just… something. Anything.
“And, okay, you’re pregnant.”
It probably wasn’t what Owen had hoped for, but it was confirmation from something other than an inanimate object, and he could tell by the strained look on Mikael’s face that it wasn’t likely they’d talk much more that day. Owen, himself, didn’t know how he felt about the pregnancy. In a way, he’d been waiting for Mikael to return from Sweden and tell him how to feel. He articulated things so much better than Owen did, and fatherhood was a defining part of Mikael’s life, and Owen had hoped, just hoped, that Mikael would say the words that would make this all make sense, or at least soothe his brain or quell his stomach for a moment.
He nodded. “Listen, I was wondering if you--”
“You’re pregnant,” Mikael interrupted. Owen blinked, and nodded again. “No, you’re pregnant, Owen. You’re. You.”
He was hearing the words, but he couldn’t correlate them with Mikael. Mikael. Daughter-is-the-apple-of-his-eye-Mikael-Renberg. “No, but, like, you’re the father,” he said, rather lamely and slowly. He was a bit shocked by the whole conversation, and he couldn’t exactly wrap his brain around that sentence either. If Mikael was the father, did that make him the mother?
“No. You’re pregnant.”
Owen stared at Mikael, not really seeing him. “But… it’s our baby. We’re pregnant.” Owen wasn’t quite sure where this all was coming from, or why the words kept spilling out of his mouth, or if he even believed them, but some part of his brain did because his mouth kept saying them. Our. Baby.
Dear Lord, he was having a baby.
“No, we aren’t. There is no baby.”
“You just said I was pregnant!” His mind was grasping for anything, something to explain what was going on. Maybe the real Mikael had been abducted months ago, and he’d been sleeping with an alien, and that’s why he’d become pregnant and Mikael kept saying things that made no sense. “We’re having a baby. You’re going to be a father.”
“No.” Mikael gripped his shoulders, forcing Owen’s attention on his face. “I already am a father. Emmy is my daughter, Owen. Emmy. I don’t know what’s growing inside you, but it’s not a baby. It’s a thing. A freak.”
Owen liked to think he could tell the difference between a baby and an alien growing inside his own body. “It‘s not a thing. It‘s our baby.”
“Oh my god, he really is insane,” he heard Mikael mumble under his breath.
“I’m not insane!”
Mikael blinked, as if shocked Owen had heard him. “Just get rid of it, Owen.”
Get rid of it. It took him a moment, and then, “Mikael, it’s not a thing or a freak. It’s a baby. You don’t get rid of babies.”
“It is a thing. It is a freak. It’s not a baby, and even if it was, it’s not even that yet. It’s a fetus. You can have an abortion.”
Owen thought this was a really strange after school sci-fi special, and wondered why he’d been assigned the Catholic school girl part. He found himself mumbling things about being Catholic and murder. It was a script he‘d memorized since he was a child. “And now look who’s insane. Men don’t have abortions.”
“Men don’t get pregnant!” Mikael threw back.
Owen didn’t have anything to say to that. He didn’t know what to say. He had just been so certain… he had never imagined a confrontation like this. Nervously, he rubbed his stomach with a fist.
“Don’t do that. Stop it. Pregnant women do that,” Mikael snapped.
And Mikael would know. Stina had been pregnant. And he gushed about it for the nine months, and had been gushing about it ever since, and wasn’t Emmy the greatest, most wonderful daughter ever? Mikael had been so happy, right off the bat, and yet… what if their baby was a girl? Why was Mikael doing this?
Owen wanted to cry just thinking about it, and he was ever aware that the last fifteen minutes had emasculated him more than when he had first learned he was pregnant.
“But I’m pregnant,” he said.
“And I’m not.” Mikael pushed past him, leaving the room.
Dear Lord, he was having a baby.
He was having a baby. Alone.
Later, when he calmed down, Owen wondered if that conversation had actually happened. It was all so absurd. Mikael, father-of-the-year, shirking away from his parental responsibilities? Not wanting to be involved? But then, he supposed, that Mikael was right. This wasn’t normal; he was carrying a thing, a freak inside him. Despite his earlier protests, how could he actually be sure it was a baby? And even if it was, that didn’t really change things.
He’d observed enough women in his lifetime. There was something, just so very different about a woman when she was pregnant. She glowed, and she glowed with the knowledge and awareness of her femininity, and potential, and power, of being a woman.
But he wasn’t a woman. This was not normal.
This was wrong.
But was it?
He rubbed his eye. He didn’t know anymore. His brain hurt; he was tired of thinking. Yet, it was, seemingly, all he could do. He had eight more months left to think.
He’d made the quick leap from “I’m pregnant” to “I’m having a baby,” and he wondered if his mind had truly thought through the implications of that statement before he had said it. He was pregnant, but was he having a baby? Was he ready to change diapers and clothe and feed and nurture and raise and have a little person attached to him for the rest of his life? Baby meant a little boy or a little girl, and Mikael’s words echoed in the back of his head. He couldn’t…
The trade had stung. He hadn’t expected it, but he also hadn’t not expected it. In the end, though, he packed his bags and rode on a plane with Bryan. Thousands of miles above the ground, in between two cities, he was in limbo, and he’d never felt more alone in his life than when he’d been sitting in that pressurized cabin with Bryan on his one side and his suit on the other. Then he landed, and the door opened, and he was sucked into everything that is Toronto. He was surrounded by media, surrounded by fans, and he grumbled about it, but he was grateful for their company. They filled the empty spaces inside his head. He hated being alone.
He wasn’t sure if he could do this on his own. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to.
Mikael stopped by the apartment for his socks. Gray with a blue stripe and he had hundreds of them in drawers; Owen saw them.
So he hesitated opening the door, and now he hesitated to speak, not wanting to break the silence. Mikael sat across from him in the kitchen, socks lying on the table.
“I didn’t really come over for these.” Duh, Owen thought. “I wanted to…talk.” Owen stared at him, waiting, and Mikael cleared his throat. “I mean, explain that…what I said before didn’t come out right so I…came over here…to tell you.” He looked uncomfortable and Owen supposed he could help him out, but the night before he had a nightmare about baby carriages attacking him and eating him so he didn’t feel very obliged to make Mikael feel comfortable.
Mikael took a deep breath. “It’s just that… I mean, this isn’t natural and…” He stared at the cupboards behind Owen’s head. “And you can’t bring a child like that into this world. All the ridicule and heartache it would have to endure. All the hardships. It just isn’t right. Each child deserves a loving environment and this child will receive anything but that. Two daddies is hard enough, but the moment this child is born it will be looked on by the world as a…thing.”
He stopped and Owen sighed. There were parts that rang true, but, “Why are you here, Mikael?”
“I just told you.”
“No, you told me why I shouldn’t keep the baby.”
“No, that’s not what I meant. I well… I just feel like, for me,” Mikael emphasized, pointing to himself, “having the baby is the wrong decision. And I wanted you to know why so that you would know. Why.”
Then it clicked. “You don’t want to feel bad.”
Mikael’s eyes widened. “What?”
“You don’t want to feel bad. You don’t want to feel guilty for not being around.”
“I--no--I--” Mikael stumbled.
“Because if you tell me all this, if you give me all these valid reasons not to have the baby and I choose to anyway--if I choose wrongly--then this is my decision. Saint Mikael tried to warn me, but I didn’t listen, so he shouldn’t feel bad.”
“That’s not what I’m doing at all!”
They stared at each other for a while and then, “If Stina was pregnant would we even be having this conversation?”
Mikael sighed. “No.”
“So it’s because it’s me?” Mikael didn’t answer. Owen wanted to probe further--to ask if it was because it wasn’t natural, if Mikael just didn’t want him carrying his child, if Mikael didn’t think he’d make a very good father--but he knew Mikael wouldn’t answer.
“What if you were pregnant?” he asked instead.
Mikael refolded the socks and put them in his pocket. “I would go back to Sweden.” He stared at the table. “And Emmy would have a new brother or sister in the fall.” He ran his fingers along the edge, tracing its shape and refusing to look up.
“She still can.”
Mikael shook his head slowly, and then looked at Owen. He looked tired. He looked old. He looked defeated. “I’m sorry, but it’s just… different.” He stood up. “I should probably go.”
“Would you have… would you have told me you were pregnant before you left?”
Mikael bit his lip and then shook his head. He put his hand on the door knob and Owen opened his mouth, but Mikael cut him off. “I wouldn’t have told you. And the idea of having an abortion would never even have crossed your mind. I suppose that makes you a better person than me, huh?”
Owen swallowed and Mikael opened the door.
Eventually, “Just… different.”
Mikael pulled his coat tighter and left. He left looking unconvinced, but Owen supposed that there wasn’t much left he or Mikael could be very certain of.
Mikael slowly detached himself from Owen’s life.
It was different from before--before, when Mikael merely avoided him. It had been so obvious--the quick glances away, the sudden appointments with trainers and doctors, and being too busy to talk. He had been physically away, but always there--trying to avoid Owen, but strangely, still involved. As if because he was gone he needed to know more than ever what was going on in Owen’s life. Now it was as if Mikael was slowly disentangling himself because he was afraid his presence might hurt Owen. There wan an awareness. And this was softer, subtler, and Mikael was still there. He was gone, but physically still there. Owen had the feeling that if he needed something, Mikael would be there. But he’d have to ask. Mikael wouldn’t offer. And it was less about not wanting to be involved and more about not wanting to step over any imaginary line. Owen wasn’t quite sure when that line was drawn, but he kept thinking about that other night and the way Mikael looked before he left.
But then, Mikael knew Owen, and knew he’d never ask. Ask for help, ask for anything. So Owen had to wonder about any philanthropical efforts on Mikael’s part.
Owen kept hearing voices. “Think rational.” “Be strong.” “Don’t show any emotions.” “Be tough.” “Don’t ask for help.” It sounded like his father, it sounded like his coaches, and it sounded like himself.
Think rational. Be strong. Don’t be a woman.
He was having a baby, but he wasn’t a woman. He was a man. He knew this. He was a man who just so happened to also be pregnant. But there was something--creeping and scraping at the back of his head, something akin to fear, and there it was again, “Don’t be a woman.”
It was like, “Don’t be a fag,” only he never listened to that and did what he pleased, only this was stronger and deeper, and this wasn’t just his sexuality, this was who he was, right? Because he was a man, and that was everything.
There was something reminiscent almost of that last thought. He’d been called gay and that was supposed to be a breach to his manhood. But he’d found comfort in the fact that he was no different--that despite sleeping with other men he was still who he was--he was still Owen. So he rolled his eyes and muttered, “ignorant assholes,” and it was them being stupid, them being ignorant, them being them.
But this. Pregnancy and its intrinsic link to women. And it wasn’t just them questioning his manhood, it was himself as evidenced by the voice in the back of his head.
Calls of “fag” had been empowering because he knew better than them; he knew it didn’t change him; he knew he was still a man. So he could scoff and laugh and it didn’t affect him. But… he liked women enough, but it was just… he was a man. His mother had been strong, intelligent, and he was proud of her, and considered it a compliment to be compared to her. But… he was a man. He couldn’t be pregnant because he was a man; he wasn’t a woman.
But he was.
Owen stared at the bruises on his shoulder and remembered that he hadn’t always been so comfortable with being called fag. With having “gay” tossed around as an insult.
He kept quiet after one locker room incident and then had gone out, gooned it up in a game, gotten drunk afterwards, and taken two women home from some bar. He’d been trying to prove something. Prove he wasn’t gay, wasn’t a pansy, wasn’t a woman.
No one had noticed his antics besides the ref, and he realized he was trying to prove it as much to himself as to his teammates. Probably more.
He was at it again, only no one was calling him fag, and the only voice was coming from his head. He scored goals and finished his checks, and adrenaline and testosterone flowed through his body, and he felt like a man.
Supplements were flowing as well. Given to him by the doctor who had laughed when Owen started talking about estrogen. He had figured he’d have to start receiving shots of it or something because testosterone equals man, estrogen women, right? He’d been informed that wasn’t how pregnancy worked, and further, that both men and women had testosterone and estrogen.
He realized then that he knew nothing about pregnancy and nothing about having a baby and he was crying at night because he feared becoming a woman, and checking bodies during the day to prove how masculine he was, and he knew that if only Mikael had been pregnant everything would have been alright. Mikael would have gone to Sweden; Mikael would have known what to do.
Mikael would have been a better father.
Only Mikael wasn’t pregnant. Owen was. And Owen wasn’t ready, and Owen’s psyche couldn’t handle it, and Owen needed Mikael there, but he couldn’t ask because he kept hearing, “Suck it up. Be a man. Don’t be a woman.”
Owen wished that tomorrow he’d wake up and he wouldn’t be pregnant.
The next day he woke up and he was still pregnant and suddenly so was Wade’s wife. There was excitement and joy and jubilation, but all from Wade and his wife.
Owen felt dread and fear and he wondered what was wrong with him. He once heard about women who became depressed after giving birth. Women who hated their babies after they were placed in their arms. He wondered if those women knew beforehand if they’d hate their babies, motherhood. He wondered if they felt trepidation. He wondered if he’d end up one of those women.
Owen didn’t want to wonder anymore. His wonders were louder and louder and drowning out the voices of his past, of his childhood, of his religion.
He found himself walking the streets of Toronto, up and down the slickened, icy sidewalks that crunched in certain places under his feet. He stopped when a shadow fell over his body, and he glanced upwards. The soaring architecture blocked the sun, and dumbly, Owen sat on a bench next to a bus stop, awed by the cathedral.
The large mahogany doors opened and closed and he could hear the choir singing inside. The building seemed to be breathing--expelling breaths of musical notes that brushed his face. He sat, listening to familiar songs with new breaks and pauses, and even though it was seemingly spliced and ruined, it brought him comfort. It wasn’t the same; it was different, but good. He breathed the notes in and they settled in the bottom of his stomach. They filled him like soup, like comfort, like love.
The back of his coat was soaked through from the back of the bench. The icy water curled around his shoulder blades, and, involuntarily, he shivered. His feet were frozen, his hands were frozen, his back ached, and his head ached, and he kept thinking that if he could just cross the street, he could rest inside the warm cathedral. He could let the music run over him like hot water, and, God, he was craving a hot shower. He wanted to wash away his fears and begin anew, clean and innocent like a new born babe--
He sat for hours on that bench, watching people walk in and out of the doors with an ease he couldn’t muster. Everything was hard, hard and cold, and the bench cut into his back. The sun was gone, and the city lights were on, and the cathedral called out to him with its bells and songs of his childhood.
Memories flashed before him, like an old flip book, and there he was, standing and holding a bible at a pew. And there was his mom, singing along beside him. He stared at the words and she stared at the stained glass windows. Blue and green and red, and pictures of angels, and he thought she was singing to them; he didn’t know she had all the hymns memorized. And where was his father, where was his father, and there was Mikael, walking across the street.
He blinked and it was a faceless suit, and his coat was soaked through and covered with snow, and he stared up at the sky and watched as it let down a small flurry of snow. It was amazing, it was a miracle, and so very ordinary. He could still be moved by ordinary; he could still be moved by snow.
He hadn’t been to church in years. He was too busy, he couldn’t find a nice enough church, he didn’t see the point. He stood and listened to the words but they never meant anything. They were just words; they didn’t move him like they did when he was a child and he thought his mother was singing to the angels.
But he could still be moved by snow.
The flakes touched his cheeks, melting, and it was such a gentle touch, but it stung and burned. He was cold, surrounded by cold--an icy layer covered him. He knew somewhere deep inside him, his very center, he was still warm, but all he felt was cold, all he knew was cold, and he closed his eyes to the sky, faithless and unbelieving.
He sat for a while longer, and told himself not to pray anymore. Told himself not to pray that tomorrow he’d wake up and no longer be pregnant.
And then he walked home, thinking about tomorrow. Thinking about tomorrow and the day after that when they would play Buffalo and the day after that and the day after that, and mostly thinking about tomorrow.
He turns around and sees the door close behind him. There is no one standing behind him in the waiting room. A little something pops inside his chest.
He follows the doctor down the corridor. When he returns home, he sleeps. He sleeps alone in his big empty bed, and there is a sense that even if Mikael was lying next to him, that he would still be alone. He is alone, he is lost, and it is more than just the loss of what was growing inside him; there is something missing in his chest. That constant peace and assurance and undying love seems to have been misplaced, and he wonders if God hates him.
He sleeps and then he wakes up and skates in the morning. Though, that is debatable; he sleep skates, and sleep showers and sleep changes his clothes. Mikael sits in his locker, tying his shoes, and Owen can hear loop it, and the bunny goes around the tree and into her hole.
When the baby was born, Owen imagines Mikael would have come around. He imagines Mikael would have realized his mistake, fallen in love immediately. He imagines Mikael would have been ready to be a father. He imagines he would have been ready to be a father. He imagines he would have wanted the baby. But the point of yesterday was so that he would no longer imagine.
He goes home and sleeps.
Later, that night, during the game against Buffalo, he is hit up high with a stick. The pain is immediate, and he drops to the ice, clutching it. Not so much his eye, but the pain. He curls his fingers around it, because it is the first thing he feels since yesterday, and it is right and real and deserving, and a moment later he is led off the ice.
There are tests and scrambling, but then there is a reprieve, when he is left alone, sitting on a bench, and waiting. This is taking too long, this is taking too long, this is taking too long, his mind loops.
He can’t see out of his right eye.
An eye for an eye, and he wonders if he will be blind for the rest of his life, and if this is his punishment, his retribution, and then he thinks that’s pretty stupid. God isn’t that petty.
Because he can’t see, Mikael surprises him, sitting down beside him and squeezing his hand. He supposes he should give him a run down of how his eye is going to be fine, how the blindness is temporary and will go away when the blood drains. He supposes he should tell Mikael where he went the other day.
He wants to go home and sleep. He figures he half is, with one eye dark, and blind to the world.
“How are you?” Mikael finally says.
Owen doesn’t know anymore.