Fan Fiction - Hanson, Krasobruslení - This Glassy Surface
Nothing has changed
Are we going in circles?
~Hanson: Christmas Time ~
New York City is beautiful at Christmas, Johnny notes once again as he stares at the lights flashing by behind the windows of the train. He wonders if this is a mistake, if he’s – once again – on the direct slope towards heartbreak.
There is a piece of folded paper in his pocket, the few words on it the reason for this trip to the city. He slips his hand in every now and then to feel the edges of the note, to tell himself over and over that the words have to mean something.
I’ve always wanted to skate at the Rockefeller Rink. Meet me on Sunday, 7pm? And under it, as if Taylor felt a jibe of insecurity as he wrote the words: Please. And even lower: I need to see you. I don’t want us to be over, with a scribbled out word just before us, crossed out multiple times to become unreadable. Johnny wonders what it read originally – this, perhaps? He also wonders what made Taylor change his mind.
The note arrived a few days prior in the mail, the old-fashioned way – Taylor could have called or left a voice-mail... Johnny can’t help but wonder why he chose to write instead. Maybe – that’s the version he likes to believe, anyway – these were the kind of words that need to be put down on paper, the kind that are a little hard to speak out loud.
Johnny wouldn’t admit it, but he has spent the weeks that have passed since he and Taylor parted waiting for him to appear at the rink, at his doorstep, anything. The rational part of him knows that it’s better to stay away from Taylor. And he has tried, which is why he didn’t attempt to call or contact him in any way.
Who is he to break into Taylor’s life, anyway? It became painfully obvious that he doesn’t belong into it when Taylor rushed off to his family that one morning. It hurt, filled his heart with ache that dragged him down until Johnny was afraid he wouldn’t be able to get up again.
But he has known that all along, hasn’t he? That’s what he’s been telling himself, that’s what has brought him back to his feet in the end. It didn’t come unexpected – he’s known perfectly well that Taylor has a family and that they will always come first. His rational part has known, at least.
It was the rational part that brought him through the Grand Prix Final, Johnny is aware of that. He feels proud thinking back to the event. Sure, he lacked spark, but he pulled through. It is a comfort to know that – unlike last season – he can now skate even with a heaviness in his heart. It makes him feel strong.
That is part of the reason why, after reading Taylor’s little letter a thousand times, he allowed himself to wallow in the romantic ideas in his head and why he, eventually, got on the train to the city.
It’s freezing when he climbs out of the cab at the Rockefeller Center, the snow falling in gentle fluffs. The wind that blows the snow into his face every so often makes his cheeks sting a little. Johnny’s thankful for the ultra-warm lining of his Bosco jacket; nothing like a Russian garment on a winter night.
He finds his way through the crowds and readies himself for the 20 minute wait he has ahead of him; he arrived earlier than expected. He pulls the fur-hood over his head – his ears are turning red with the cold, he can feel it. He doesn’t like having red ears, it looks silly.
The hand on his shoulder startles him and he whirls around, bewildered.
“It’s just me,” Taylor says and smiles. He’s wearing a black corduroy jacket that Johnny would probably hate on anyone else but that looks good on Taylor, accentuating the line of his shoulders.
“I wasn’t expecting anyone else,” Johnny shrugs and can’t help but return Taylor’s smile – it’s infectious. “I just didn’t think you’d be here early, too.”
It’s Taylor’s turn to shrug, but Johnny can see how red his nose is and he wonders how long Taylor’s been standing around here.
“I like your scarf,” Johnny points out and cautiously stops himself before he can reach out to touch the tassels of what seems to be red cashmere. “Taylor, I – “
“Let’s skate first, okay?” Taylor interrupts him and Johnny notices that his voice is coming out a little shaky. He wonders if Taylor is nervous – he doesn’t look it – or if it’s just the cold.
“Okay,” he agrees. There’s never anything wrong with skating first, Johnny assumes. Might as well postpone the awkward, uncomfortable stuff they’ll have to talk about, eventually. He’s actually quite looking forward to the skating – it’s been a while since he last skated just for fun, without a panel of judges, an audience or at least Galina and Viktor following his every move.
The rink is full, it always is during the public opening hours, but Johnny doesn’t even mind. They skate around in circles for a bit to warm up and so Taylor can get used to it.
“You’re good,” Johnny compliments when, after some five minutes and a few professional tips from him, Taylor manages a full lap without grabbing Johnny’s arm for support and, a moment later, even dares to turn and skate backward for a few yards.
“You’re funny,” Taylor laughs and, as if to fortify the statement, stumbles and falls down on his butt. “I used to rollerblade a lot when I was a kid,” he admits when Johnny helps him back to his feet. “This is harder, though,” he adds and dusts the snow off his jeans.
“I’ve never really rollerbladed. I mean, not since I got my first ice skates,” he says and turns to skate backward, so he can face Taylor as they move. “I sometimes think I was meant to do this, to skate,” he says and feels his cheeks color a little, because it’s not only a slightly conceited statement, it probably also must sound silly to someone who’s not in love with the ice like he is.
Taylor doesn’t seem to find it silly, though.
“I’m sure you were,” he replies without ridicule and lifts his eyes from his feet to look straight at Johnny. “You’re perfect on the ice,” he says and, reaching out, catches Johnny’s forearm to stop him from gliding further away. “And off,” he adds softly, quietly.
His lips curl into a small, private smile and he doesn’t quite dare to look Johnny in the eye as he says it, his eyes flickering to the ice, back up, then down again.
Johnny feels torn, helpless, because he knows – rationally – that the sensible thing to do right now would be to tell Taylor to stop, tell him that he shouldn’t, that he needs to stop playing with his emotions like this. At the same time, though, Taylor’s bashful words curl around his heart and make it ache with the sweetness, with longing and hope and all these things he should better forget.
“Thank you,” he mutters past the tightness in his throat. It’s not fair, he thinks as he watches Taylor’s face for a few moments, the Christmas lights reflected in the blue of his eyes and the snow-flakes in his hair. He wonders if whatever higher force responsible for the path of his love-life finds it funny to torture him.
Then Johnny notices that they stopped moving and are standing still on the ice, in people’s way. He hates the awkward, uncertain silence that will unavoidably follow now, because he knows – they both know, Johnny’s sure – that this cannot go on. They can’t stay on the verge like this forever. There are only two ways out of their situation; it’s either plunge or step back into safety. He suddenly feels foolish for thinking that tonight might be different or meaningful, and also for hoping, in the corner of his mind, that Taylor might be ready to take the leap with him. Now he forces himself to face the fact that there’s only one way for Taylor, the safe way.
The first notes of a familiar song flood the rink and he thinks back to the days when the lyrics didn’t have a meaning, when they were just a happy tune to sing along to. I don’t want a lot for Christmas, there is just one thing I need... I just want you for my own, more than you could ever know.
Johnny looks at Taylor once again, then closes his eyes for a moment as regret swells inside him. He pulls his arm out of Taylor’s grasp, spins away from him.
“Let me skate for you,” he says when he sees the surprise on Taylor’s face, attempts a smile, and strikes a pose in the middle of the ice.
He lets the soft, slow beginning trickle by, and starts moving the moment the song launches into its upbeat part. He has to dodge the other skaters at first, but, after a few opening steps and a cautious double toe in the corner or the rink, the people seem to willingly clear the way for him. He resists the temptation to close his eyes like he sometimes does when he’s improvising; the crowd may have parted, but it’s still far from private ice time.
The lights become a blur as moves across the ice, a turn here, an extension there. He lets the music pervade his senses, guide his every move, until there’s nothing but him and the ice, smooth and familiar.
He finishes with a spin, arms stretched out above him, head thrown back. It takes a while for the world to come back into focus once he stops. When it does, Johnny can see Taylor moving towards him, his face alight.
“That was fantastic,” Taylor says when he comes to a halt in front of Johnny, grabbing his shoulders for support. “Did you just come up with that?” he asks and waves around his arms a little to indicate the choreography.
“Yeah,” Johnny pants. The gulps of cold air make his lungs hurt a little. Or maybe it’s not just the air, he realizes, when he comes down from his skating high and remembers the situation they’re in.
“You’re amazing,” Taylor shakes his head, as if he found it hard to believe, clearly impressed. The way Taylor is looking at him – as if he was something precious, unique – is like a spark of warmth inside Johnny and he pushes the hopelessness aside for a moment.
“Thanks,” he says for the second time of the night, more than a little pleased by all the flattery. He smiles with a glance down at his gloved hands. It shouldn’t be so easy for Taylor to make him feel flustered like this, in the best possible way.
“I wish I could kiss you,” he hears Taylor whisper and snaps his head back up immediately to find Taylor’s eyes on him, all bright amongst the lavish Christmas decorations.
“We can’t,” he says with a light head-shake. It would be most unwise, especially now that he’s already drawn quite a bit of attention by his little performance.
“I know,” Taylor huffs in response and he sounds miffed about it, it seems. Then, out of the blue, he takes a step forward to envelop Johnny in a hug. He cradles his head against his chest, resting a warm hand on his nape. Johnny wonders when he’s taken off his gloves.
They stay like that for a moment, motionless, and Johnny relishes the closeness, despite everything – despite the wall that he knows is between them, despite the fact that people are probably staring.
“I love you.”
The words are quiet, so quiet, merely a breath into his hair, but Johnny hears them and they freeze him to the spot. They sound like something from some other planet, some alternate universe in which Taylor is allowed to say things like this and mean them.
He takes a breath and closes his eyes. He wants to indulge this... dream for just a little longer, because it’s too good to pass up immediately. His heart quickens its pace in his chest, he can hear it pound in his ears and almost feels dizzy for a moment.
Then he forces himself to come back down to Earth, back to the real world in which never is the key word.
“I – “ he begins, but the words won’t come out. “But – “ One more failed try.
Then Taylor’s leading him towards the boards and off the ice by the hand. Johnny barely has the time to grab his blade guards and put them on. They don’t walk far, just to the nearest of the Christmas trees surrounding the rink, so the branches shield them at least a little from curious eyes.
“I love you,” Taylor repeats when Johnny opens his mouth to speak, this time looking Johnny straight into the eye. “And I – “ he starts, then swallows nervously. “This is not easy to say,” he mutters under his breath, as if he was a bit angry with himself.
Then, after a deep breath:
“I’m going to leave Natalie.”
The first confession sounds surreal, somehow, but it fills Johnny with sweetness and warmth, even though he knows the feeling’s only momentary. The second one, however... The second one is like a cold shower, it catches him entirely unprepared and jerks him out of the naive, ignorant fantasy he’s been slipping into.
Do you want this? You’re destroying a family! The accusatory voice in his head sounds a little bit like Paris, a little bit like his mom. It makes Johnny feel sick.
“You can’t do that,” he blurts. “I don’t –“ want that, he’s about to say, but he stops, because he realizes that it would be hypocrisy. He’s wished so often in the past weeks to have Taylor for himself. Most of the time, he’s blocked away the uncomfortable thoughts that followed, because – deep inside – he has always assumed that it would never happen, anyway. But even now, when the uncomfortable circumstances hit him in the face, he can’t make himself say it, because it would be a lie. There is a selfish part of him that Johnny’s not particularly proud of that wants Taylor, screw the consequences. But, on the other hand...
Taylor seems to be prepared for this, because he lifts his hands up to stop Johnny, then rests them on his shoulders.
“No, please. Listen,” he says and gives Johnny a brief shake. “It’s not your fault. I’m not leaving her because of you – or – well,” Taylor stops abruptly, glances to the side.
“It’s been a long, gradual process, you know. I think it was inevitable,” he sighs. “Our marriage hasn’t been working. I wasn’t happy. It was... I love my children, Johnny,” he says and Johnny nods, because he knows that, it’s obvious from everything Taylor does.
“They make me happy, of course, but Natalie... It’s been exhausting these past several months. Years, actually. I’ve felt like I’m losing myself, it was sucking the energy – inspiration – out of me,” Taylor says and Johnny realizes that he can relate, perfectly. That’s how his relationship with Vitali had felt towards its end – wearisome, like a burden almost.
“And then I met you and... you fill me up. You could say that you... You just sped up the process a little. You made me see what I’ve been missing all those years. I was going to break it up with Nat, anyway, eventually.”
Johnny takes it in and it does make sense, it really does, but he still feels guilty. At the same time, though, he wants to believe Taylor. He wants to take his words and hamper the guilt with them, smother it like a flame with a blanket. Maybe, he muses, it’s finally time for him to be a little happy? Maybe it wouldn’t be so wrong to think of himself first now, not... somebody else.
“Are you... are you sure?” he finally asks, a tremble in his voice.
“Yeah,” Taylor nods vehemently and pulls Johnny closer to give him a steady gaze. “I want to be with you, for real,” he says, then adds a little hesitantly: “If you want me.”
That sentence nearly makes Johnny snort. What an absurd thing to say.
“Of course I want you,” he says and resists the urge to roll his eyes. He can feel the hope break free inside him and he finally lets it. It makes him feel delirious.
“But...” Taylor says and Johnny tenses, afraid of what might come next. “Well, I don’t want to spoil the holidays for them, you know?” Taylor says and looks at him a little helplessly, a few wrinkles on his forehead.
“Oh,” Johnny breathes. It’s nothing. He feels the smile creep up his face. “Okay,” he says and then lets it grow bigger, until he’s grinning wildly. “Okay,” he repeats and this time he really laughs, letting the worry and guilt and frustration of the previous few weeks out in that sound.
Taylor joins him for a while before kissing him, just a short, playful smack of mouth against mouth, because they’re still in public.
Johnny feels happy, so ridiculously happy and excited; it’s almost too good a feeling to be true.
* Galina (Zmievskaya) = Johnny’s coach. Viktor is Galina’s son-in-law, a former Olympic Champion and an ISU technical specialist who helps in Johnny’s coaching as well.
* Vitali = Vitali Danilchenko, Johnny’s ex-boyfriend. (In this story at least.)
* The song Johnny skates to is All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey.