Fan Fiction - Hanson, Krasobruslení - This Glassy Surface



Your Illusion (10/11)
~by Estriel~


Protected by your safety nets
But you can’t put the heart of your fears at rest
...
I bring no consolation for you and your pain
No one else can change your fate
You’ll have to do it for yourself

~Hanson: Your Illusion~

~*~

Happiness is a fickle thing, Johnny has learned that a long time ago already. But somehow, it still always surprises him when it suddenly shatters like a fragile piece of glass just as he tries to reach out for it and claim it for himself.

He is not entirely happy after Taylor’s promise to leave his wife. Once the initial giddiness wears off, doubts begin to crawl in, poison for his mind. The situation is too messy and Johnny’s not selfish enough to be able to toss all the consequences over his shoulder and simply bask in the knowledge that, for once in his life, he’s getting exactly what he wants. But he is not selfless enough, either, and lets the voices in his head whisper justifications and explanations until the obstacles and dilemmas become all blurry and almost unimportant for at least a while.

Hadn’t Taylor said that he would have done this anyway, sooner or later, even if it hadn’t been for Johnny? Hadn’t he insisted that Johnny not dwell on it too much, because these were Taylor’s decisions and Taylor’s problems to deal with? Hadn’t he assured Johnny, over and over, that the children wouldn’t come to harm in any way, that he’d be there for them no matter what, that Johnny needn’t feel any qualms over this?

Yes, yes and yes, Johnny repeats to himself so long until he almost believes everything will work out. He allows himself to be happy, irresponsibly and irrationally so, and it feels brilliant and uplifting to shove the worries into a dark corner of his mind. It feels nice to soar, too nice to last. Johnny thinks that he should have known he’d sooner or later have to come down from his happy cloud and that the crash would hurt.

It happens unexpected, Sunday morning just before Christmas. He and Paris are having brunch at home this time, lazing around in their pyjamas close to noon, leafing through old magazines over their coffee. Paris is nipping at a fresh pastry from the bakery – it’s one of those strawberry-jam filled ones that just melt on your tongue when you bite in, and it makes Johnny envious; he’d switch his ultra low fat yogurt for one of those any time. He decides to ask his mom to buy some pastries for him for Christmas day, the only day on which he’s allowed to eat whatever he wants.

Paris pulls out another one of the stash of magazines they never managed to read properly and starts flipping through the pages. Paris loves gossip – Johnny doesn’t know what he’d do without the regular updates on the life of the rich and famous.

“My god, did Lindsay Lohan really wear that?” Paris exclaims and shows Johnny the offending picture in an old issue of People. “How did I miss that?” he shakes his head in disbelief.

“It is hideous,” Johnny nods. “What is it?”

Paris squints at the page. “Dior.”

Johnny chuckles. “Well, at least it’s not all black.”

Paris cracks up, picking up the jibe as expected, then wrinkles his forehead. “You’re mean,” he glowers at Johnny, but he looks comical rather than scandalized, which Johnny assumes was the expression he was going for.

“I am,” Johnny admits. “And yet you still love me,” he says and bats his eyelashes.

“Can’t help it,” Paris says with a dramatic sigh, then goes back to his magazine. Johnny sits back and waits for the next outburst – Paris is very predictable where celebrity gossip is concerned and once he reaches the fashion police section... Sure enough, Paris lets out a horrified gasp and his mouth drops open.

“Yes?” Johnny says expectantly.

Paris looks up at him and, a split second too late for it to be normal, pulls his face into a bored grimace. “Nothing,” he waves his hand dismissively.

Johnny glares at him.

“Oh, it’s just that outfit on Angelina, the one we already saw back then, but it’s so disgusting that it shocked me all over again,” Paris begins to babble, quickly flipping on through the magazine.

“Give here,” Johnny reaches for the magazine just as Paris is about to throw it back on the pile. There’s something highly suspicious about Paris’ reaction, even more so when he makes an attempt to snatch the magazine out of Johnny’s reach. “What the hell?” Johnny snaps and grabs the magazine.

“I think you shouldn’t look,” Paris warns quietly, his tone so serious it surprises Johnny. Did People ever write something about him? And if they did, how come nobody told him?

He impatiently opens the magazine and leafs through it, quickly scanning the pages – ah, there’s the Lohan page. Then, a few pages further, he finally sees it. It’s a two-page spread, displaying one big group shot, the Hanson family in all its glory. His eyes immediately find Taylor, then he lets his look shift to Taylor’s wife – all shiny dark hair and a perfect housewife smile plastered to her face. And his children, feather-haired and pink-cheeked, cuddled up with their parents like three baby-birds in their nest.

Then he just cannot look anymore.

“Johnny...”

He can feel Paris’ touch on his bicep, but he shakes it off, shakes his head. He swallows and forces the words past the coarseness in his throat: “Read it to me, please,” he requests, because his eyes can’t seem to focus on the small white text, and hands the magazine back to Paris.

Paris takes it from him, but rather than starting to read, he starts to speak: “I don’t know if that’s a good idea. Maybe we should just – ”

“Please,” Johnny sighs. “Just read.” It’s not like he didn’t know that Taylor has a family. He just has been trying his hardest not to think about them too much lately – he’s had more than enough issues of his own to ponder, enough questions to ask himself.

Paris’ hand never leaves his arm, but he begins to read: “Isaac & Nikki. He’s 26, she’s - “

“Not this one,” Johnny interrupts him mid-sentence. “The other – the one about him.”

Paris lets out a sigh, one that is probably supposed to make Johnny realize just how stupid Paris thinks this is. Johnny ignores it, staring into his unfinished yoghurt and idly stirring it with the teaspoon.

“Taylor and Natalie. He’s 24, she’s 23. Married for five years.” Paris reads the first few lines, then stops abruptly and lays the magazine down. “Johnny, this is silly. You don’t deserve this. I mean, we both know that getting involved with him was stupid, but it happened. You don’t need to torture yourself like this. In fact, he should be the one suffering from guilty conscience and not sleeping and – “

“He’s leaving her,” Johnny whispers into Paris’ rant and the quiet statement actually makes Paris shut up immediately.

“He’s – what?”

“He’s going to leave his wife,” he repeats. The words sound so much more final and menacing and scary when spoken out here, in the somber light of morning, with no Christmas lights or music and – most importantly – with no intoxicating smile or reassuring arms around him to keep his doubts at bay.

Johnny stands, picks up the magazine and his coffee, while Paris still stares at him speechlessly, and he slinks out of the kitchen and into his bedroom. He closes the door behind himself, careful not to slam it. He considers locking it, but decides against it; Paris won’t come after him. He’s made it clear enough that the discussion is over.

He sets his cup down on the bedside table, climbs onto bed and pulls one of the big fur pillows onto his thighs, giving it a few absentminded strokes. He sometimes wishes he could bring Vanya to live with him here in Lyndhurst, but the landlord doesn’t allow pets and Johnny would just neglect his poor puppy, what with the time he spends at the rink these days.

He spreads the magazine on top of the pillow and makes himself look at the photo once again, at the adorable kids that make him wonder if he’s ever going to have kids of his own and at all the smiles... Though Taylor isn’t really smiling, he notes, not the shiny, happy smile that makes Johnny’s knees feel as weak as if he’d just finished a kill-drill sequence.

He wonders if it’s simply the unfortunate shot that makes Taylor’s face look a bit tense and Natalie’s smile a bit forced, or if he could – should – search for deeper meanings and jump to conclusions. He thinks not.

But Taylor said he wasn’t happy, didn’t he? And that is where one of the questions that have been nagging at Johnny’s mind creeps in again. This time, face to face with the facts on the page before him, he can’t push it away like he usually does. Could he possibly make Taylor any happier? Could he do a better job than the mother of his children? Suddenly, when he forces himself to look at it rationally, he’s not so sure anymore.

For one, he’ll never be around. Not until after Vancouver, anyway. He’s at the peak of his career and only has that one shot at Olympic glory – he’s not going to give it up, not for anything or anyone. It may sound crazy or self-absorbed or surreal, but Johnny’s worked too hard and too long to just let his dream pass, or even let it be in danger. He learned that in order to achieve the results he wants, sacrifices need to be made – it makes him feel a little guilty, but he knows that if he had to choose between being with Taylor and being an Olympic champion... he’d choose the latter, even though it would break his heart.

Besides, Taylor has his own career to think of, it’s not like he’s going to sit around at home waiting for Johnny to come back from his competitions. They’d never have enough time together. And, thinking about it, Johnny’s not so sure if he could stomach another long-distance relationship.

He remembers how that had felt all too well – being halfway across the world and wondering when Vitali would snap, when he would just give in to the temptation and go sleep with someone else because they hadn’t seen each other for two months. And Taylor – Johnny winces when he thinks about that – Taylor has cheated on his wife. What would stop him from cheating on Johnny as well?

But he loves you, the ever-present inner romantic reminds him. Isn’t that what he’s been coveting almost as much as the Olympic gold – to love and be loved? Isn’t that worth the risk and struggle?

~*~


Johnny likes Christmas, mainly because he gets to laze around at home for a day or two and because between all the food and family, there’s usually no room left for worrying about the level of his spins or the entrances into his jumps. This year, however, he finds it impossible to keep his mind from wandering – not to skating, but to Taylor. It’s a comfort to know that he still has a few days left to ponder this in safety, that Taylor is not going to do anything during Christmas. On the other hand, though, a part of him wishes for it to be done, the decision to be made, quickly. He knows himself and knows that over-analyzing everything will eventually drive him crazy.

He says hello to his cousins and aunts and uncles as they fill into the house for the annual family gathering, smiling where smiles are due and pretending to be cheerful and carefree. One of his cousins got married this fall and he gets to meet his wife for the first time – she’s your typical sweetheart, a blonde with a 100-watt smile, and everybody loves her, of course.

Johnny can’t help but wonder what they would say if he brought Taylor along next Christmas. Oh, they’d act all friendly and accepting, of course, but he hasn’t forgotten all the disapproving talk that went on behind his back when he first started dabbling into figure skating. He remembers perfectly well how his broader family’s support only goes so far.

They know that he’s gay, of course. There’s no point in lying about that, especially since his branch of the family has been stamped as a pack of black sheep anyway, before he even had his first boyfriend. But even so, Johnny’s sure he’d get weird looks if he arrived at the family feast with a man by his side – not that he cares, he’s gotten his share of weird looks and is used to them by now. But Taylor might care, might feel uncomfortable and out of place and –

Suddenly, Johnny realizes another thing, so glaringly obvious that it’s quite astonishing he hasn’t thought about it before. While his family might be double-faced in their attitude towards his sexuality and lifestyle, they at least know. That is probably more than can be said about Taylor’s relatives.

Johnny feels a shudder run down his spine when he imagines what Taylor’s situation must be like... Married at age 18 because he got his girlfriend pregnant and because he felt like he had to do the right thing – Johnny’s gathered that Taylor’s family is rather religious. He doesn’t even want to think about their reaction once Taylor announces that he’s getting divorced now; even worse – getting divorced because he is in love with a man.

Johnny likes to consider himself a brave person, but right now, he doesn’t feel very brave – quite frankly, the idea of meeting Taylor’s parents, siblings and friends, people who’ve known him and his wife for years, makes him want to run. He has next to no experience with meeting families – he did meet Vitali’s mother, true, but was introduced as a friend rather than what he really was. He hated that, but agreed to the charade after Vitali’d spent hours explaining how the mindset of people in Eastern Europe is still very different and pleading for him to understand.

Besides, he realizes, he’d probably always remain the one who broke Taylor’s family in the eyes of those close to Taylor. It’s not a pleasant spot to be in, he imagines, and his stomach lurches at the prospect of being the despised villain. He’s had his share of being hated on after Torino and even though the circumstances are different, the eventual feeling is the same – and it’s not an experience he’d like to repeat. He’s not quite sure if he’s strong enough to shoulder the blame, if he’ll be able to stand up and be there for Taylor once he goes through with the divorce.

All the thoughts swirl through his brain and give him a headache; Johnny wonders what he’s done in his previous life to deserve this kind of punishment – a mind that never shuts up, full of questions and doubts and fears –
What are you doing? he suddenly stops when he realizes what he’s been doing and he mentally smacks himself. Didn’t he promise to himself, after the Olympics and the following disastrous season, that he’d never again let himself worry about what others might think of him, that he’d not listen to the thoughts that made him insecure and pushed him into a cage?

Johnny shakes his head. He set up those principles so he could be happy with his life again, so he could be free. Why should they only apply to skating when his relationship with Taylor is almost as important? Why should he let the opinions of somebody other than Taylor and himself influence him? It would be silly, he concludes and goes to help himself to some of the punch.

~*~


“So, will you tell me what it is that’s been bugging you?” his mom asks when he curls up with his head in her lap in the evening. He’s a big boy, sure, but sometimes it’s so nice to be your mama’s little baby again, especially if you live on your own and miss the affection that used to surround you on a daily basis. But when Patti poses that particular question, fingers combing through his hair, Johnny can’t help but be a little shocked for a second that she still knows him so well, that she can read him like an open book as if he still was he was fifteen and living at home.

He knows that she means well, of course; she’s the person he trusts most in the world for a reason. Which is why he decides not to tell her off immediately. “I’m not sure if I can,” he admits instead. “I mean, I know that I can tell you anything, but...”

Patti stays silent, waiting for him to say something more and, once again, Johnny is reminded of the fact that she knows him better than anybody else. She knows the methods that work with him, she knows how he ticks. If she pushed, she’d never get another word from him. This way, though, the temptation to share his burden with her grows irresistible.

“Have you ever wondered if you could have been happier in your life if you didn’t have me?” he asks, looking up into her face scattered with lines. He can already see her shake her head, so he clarifies: “You sacrificed so much of your life for me, don’t you think – “

“No,” she says firmly and pets his jaw with the back of her hand. “I wanted you to be happy.”

“But what about your happiness, mama? You worked so hard just so I could skate. You could have done things for yourself if you hadn’t worked three jobs and – “

“Johnny, you have always been my happiness, you and your brother.”

“But – “

“I’m not saying that it wasn’t hard, but I never regretted doing everything I could for you, even if it meant that I had to give up some other things that I might have liked,” she shakes her head the way she does when he’s being unreasonable. “What is this about, anyway?”

“Well... I have a friend...”

“A friend?” Patti lifts her eyebrows and Johnny sighs.

“Okay, okay. We’re kinda... more than friends,” he admits and watches Patti smile. He suspects that her smile won’t last long, though. “He’s not happy in his life. The way it is now.”

“And? How does that relate to –“ she begins to say and then her mouth drops open a little when she makes the connection. “Oh,” she says and purses her lips. “Does he have children?” she then asks and Johnny can tell that she doesn’t approve, of course she doesn’t – he knows himself that what he’s been doing is wrong.

“Yes. And they make him happy. The problem is... his wife doesn’t.”

He watches as Patti frowns further, the wrinkles on her forehead growing more pronounced. He wants to go on, overwhelmed by the urge to explain himself, to justify. There are so many words to say, so many reasons, but, in the end, he only names one:

“He loves me, mom.”

“More than his children?” The question catches him by surprise; he didn’t expect that.

“I...”

“If he’s like most normal parents, then I think he doesn’t,” Patti says and her words cut right through him cruelly, hurting his pride, they throb and sting and make him want to call Taylor so he can banish his doubts again. “A few years from now he might feel like you’re the reason why he harmed his children. And he’ll hate you for that.”

Johnny averts his eyes.

“I know you don’t want to hear that, honey,” Patti says and strokes his hair. “But that’s the way it is. You may have children yourself one day, and then you’ll understand better. Parents always think of their children first, before they think about themselves. He might not realize it at the moment – you can be very dazzling, you know,” she gives him a small sad smile, her fingertips caressing his cheek. “But he will in hindsight. And I don’t want you to get hurt.”

Johnny closes his eyes and wishes he could just block it all out, forget the fact that Patti is right, just like she always is. Does he really care if he gets hurt? He’d like to think that he doesn’t mind, that being with Taylor would be worth a bit – or a lot – of heartache. But deep inside, he knows that he wouldn’t be able to stand it, not this kind of heartache.

If Taylor chose not to see him anymore because it’s the right thing to do... that, he could live with. Taylor hating him, blaming him for making his children miserable, for making him unhappy... no. He realizes that he cares too much to let Taylor do this, get divorced while he’s probably a little smitten and not thinking clearly enough. As much as he wants Taylor, he doesn’t want to be the trigger, doesn’t want to be setting the direction for Taylor. Taylor’s got to figure his life out himself, without Johnny hovering by his side.

~*~


The end of holidays always feels a little like waking up – the pretty lights go out, the dream is over. Back to reality.

There’s a part of him that’s screaming in protest as he logs into his e-mail account to write the note, but he forces himself, wills his fingers to type the words that he couldn’t bring himself to say over the phone, let alone personally.

He wanted to write a real letter, old-fashioned and neat, to show that he cares. But, with an envelope ready in his hand, he realized that he doesn’t even know where in New York Taylor lives.

The message is short and clear; he doesn’t go into unnecessary detail. Hopefully, one day, Taylor will understand.

Goodbye, he writes at the end and signs his name. He types in Taylor’s e-mail address and hits send, then goes to his contact list and – trying hard not to blink because if he did, the tears would spill over – deletes all of Taylor’s data.

If only it was as easy in real life – just press delete and forget.

~fin~


Thanks Reet and Cel for beta-read.


Pozn. autorky:
* The article in People.

* In case you don't know what's funny about all-black Dior outfits... You really need to catch up on the figure skating. ;)

* Vanya is Johnny's chihuahua dog.

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