Devil's Advocate

By: Tammy

Disclaimer: Bought them. On sale. K-Mart Blue light special.

Summary: Paul POV; post signing with the Avs. Frala's birthday ficcage. Not as Seriya-ey as originally intended.

Rating: G

AN: In case you were unaware of this, there once was a man named Wayne Gretzky who played hockey. He was rather good.

"Play well, make peace, don't be rude, never fight." - Paul Kariya

You never suspect the quiet ones.

I was once touted as the next Gretzky. He was quiet. Small too, and so unlike the brutish thugs so quickly equated to hockey, with their hockey sticks forgotten on the bench, and their knuckles dragging along the ice.

He slid along the ice, gliding effortlessly, and at a seemingly slower pace. He moved like he walked--with ball bearings in his shoes, flowing across the concrete. He didnít have to be quick though; he saw the ice, he saw the plays, minutes before they happened. Watching, always watching, and planning his next move. He would have made a phenomenal chess player, taking the king in exactly eight moves.

But I am not the next Wayne Gretzky.

I do not want to be either, as I lay here staring at the sky. I am in my backyard, the plastic lawn chair sinking into my skin. I can feel my weight pressing against the plastic lines--their stripes leaving their mark on my skin. The stars here look the same as they do in Finland, and theyíll look the same in Colorado. I want to be moved by them, I want to find some greater meaning in them, I want to wish upon them, but most of all I want them to be different. But they are the same, if slightly southward, slightly farther away, slightly less bright. They are the same no matter where I go. It is not a comforting constant, for they are just stars.

I watched them as a child, and I watch them as an adult, and I have never found them the least bit fascinating. They are only white dots upon a black canvas, and sometimes they move, and sometimes people tell me they see shapes. The Big Dipper, a big bear, a little bear, but they are just dots, and imaginings, and fancies of children.

And Teemu. He looks up at the sky and sees the Big Dipper and can point to the North Star, and he whispers things in my ear. He was a teacher once, and he never stopped teaching, and he whispers kindergarten astronomy lessons in my ear.

But not tonight. Tonight I am alone in my backyard, and he is in Finland. He is thousands of miles away, but we are both staring up at the same stars. And it does not matter, and it does not bring us closer to be staring up at the same enormous sky, but I am bored, and slightly drunk, and I have nothing better to do than stare up at the sky in my backyard and imagine I see Aquarius and Cassiopeia.

They stare down at me, studying me. Perhaps they are intrigued by me, or perhaps they wonder if I am real. Perhaps they only see me as a muddled shape, a few shoddy lines that create quite the imperfect being lying on more lines. Lawn chair on grass--lines on lines, and perhaps they are bored too.

Do stars have plans as well? Or do they move at their own accord? Or are they simply moving father and farther away, taking a step back? I do not know if I would call it expanding; Teemu would. I think I would call it retreating. Perhaps even running away. Retreating sounds far too planned, far too calculated--a military venture, when really, this is pure emotion--pure cowardice, pure love, right?

Do large balls of gas have feelings? They twinkle and they wink, and maybe they have a sense of humor like Teemu. Maybe the sky is more than just a black canvas with white dots; maybe there is more up there besides planets and stars and satellites. Perhaps I underestimated them, and perhaps they underestimated me. I imagine the feeling goes both ways, and maybe they are shocked to learn what I have done, what we have done. Perhaps they have watched over me all this time. They have seen me golf and awkwardly dance and score twenty goals and fall in love. They have seen it all, but they have never seen me play chess.

Only Wayne Gretzky played chess on ice, and I am no Wayne Gretzky, and there is only one Wayne Gretzky.

Nevertheless, here I am: the kid that couldnít work up the nerve to ask to go to the washroom has been playing a game of chess, and waiting and waiting. Clearly, I am no Wayne Gretzky, and it has taken me twenty three moves, and two years, but I have reached what always seemed to be that elusive point--check mate.

Three hundred or so miles isnít so far away on a map, but the distance isnít measured in miles, and clumsy words from friends and teammates do not make up for the extra quiet moments on the road, and in the locker room, and on the ice.

That is a large misconception about Teemu, I think. He is quiet, and focused, and laughs softly, but he is also loud. He stomps up stairs, slams doors, breaks dishes, and bumps into furniture. He wears loud clothes, and turns the volume up on his television and stereo. He is the loudest person I have ever met, and also the most humble.

My father taught me humility. He taught me to respect others and not to talk of myself. He taught me to walk softly.

He was born in a camp that we never really spoke of; he was born into his prison, but I signed for mine. At twenty-eight, though, I am free and seemingly in control of my own destiny. My back pocket is lighter, and my heart is lighter, and I do not miss the extra eight-point-eight. It was not always a prison, though, but although Anaheim is closer to the stars than San Jose, Colorado is even closer. It is close enough to make you gasp for breath and faint from dizzy spells. Teemu will enjoy the proximity, I think.

He gazes at the sky adoringly; he loves the stars. But I find myself gazing at him, more than the sky. Instead of searching the sky, I search his face. I do not know what I am looking for anymore. I am somewhat lost, and I do not know the sky well enough to find the North Star, and find my way back home. I wonder sometimes if this game was about the king at all. Perhaps it was about the pawn. The small, willing piece who allows himself to be manipulated and moved, and often times sacrificed. Is he saving the king, the queen, or is he merely setting up the next move?

I am no Wayne Gretzky. I cannot always see the ice clearly, or figure out how to slay the king in eight moves.

But often, I wonder if he ever regretted going to Los Angeles.