Fan Fiction - Krasobruslení - Povídky
“What are you watching?” Tanith bounces down next to him and peeks onto the screen of his laptop.
“Cheburashka,” Johnny replies, turns to her with a smile, and plucks the headphones out of his ears, wrapping the white cord around his index finger.
“What’s that?” she inquires.
“Some Russian nonsense, by the sound of it,” comes a sneering voice from behind them and Johnny looks up to see Evan smirking at him, his elbows rested on the back of Tanith’s seat. “Seriously, Johnny, isn’t your obsession with Russia is a little childish? Time to grow up,” he lifts one eyebrow, and drops one hand to stroke Tanith’s hair absentmindedly. Tanith whips around to flash him a look, then turns back to Johnny, apologetically, an awkward expression on her face. It can’t be easy for her, Johnny imagines, to be constantly reminded of the fact that her once-best-friend and her recent boyfriend can’t stand one another anymore, but Johnny’s not going to be nice to Evan if Evan insists on being an ass, not even for Tanith’s sake.
“Oh shut up,” he grumbles, annoyed. “I’m not the one playing Wii every night.”
There’s an amused laugh behind them.
Evgeni is standing in the aisle, his eyes darting between the figurines on the screen and Johnny, shining with delight.
“I like that. It was my favorite,” he announces. “Can I see with you?”
“Watch,” Johnny corrects automatically. “And yes, of course.” He doesn’t mind company, as long as it’s people he gets along with – and Evgeni definitely qualifies, being Russian atop of being nice.
He glances at Tanith, unsure what to do – asking her to leave would be rude; she is, after all, his friend. Tanith seems to sense his discomfort, though, because she stands up.
“Sit here,” she indicates to the now empty seat, waving her hands at Evgeni. “We were going to play poker with Ben and Gwendal in the front, anyway.” She grabs Evan’s sleeve and gives him a tug, pulling him along through the aisle. “If you want, come join us once you’re done with... whatever this is,” she adds over her shoulder, smiling some more, as if to make up for Evan’s obnoxiousness.
“Privet,” Evgeni greets. He settles down beside Johnny and stretches out his legs as far he can in the limited space of the bus.
“Hi,” Johnny replies and turns his laptop on his thighs a little, so both he and Evgeni get a decent view of the screen, then offers one ear-piece.
“Thank you,” Evgeni takes it, the tips of his fingers brushing against Johnny’s in the process. He then scoots a little closer to Johnny – the cord is not quite long enough – and fits the earbud into the hollow of his ear.
“I liked Cheburashka when I was little,” Evgeni says, his voice tinged with the same sweet nostalgia Johnny sometimes feels when he randomly catches Full House reruns while flipping through the channels.
“I didn’t see it for a long time.” With that, Evgeni leans back comfortably and slides a little lower in his seat.
They fall silent, except for the occasional quiet huff of laughter at particularly cute scenes. Halfway through the cartoon, and not even halfway to the next stop of the tour, Johnny catches himself watching Evgeni’s profile rather than Cheburashka. Evgeni’s smiling to himself, attention undivided as he focuses on the monitor, his face illuminated by bluish computer light. Johnny has never thought of Evgeni as young, because he’s been there ever since Johnny can remember, always a presence at skating events, a living legend almost. But in this moment, his features softened by childhood memories, an unconscious smile on his face, Johnny realizes that a piece of the Olympic champion is still a little boy.
Towards the end of the cartoon, Evgeni’s eyelids grow heavy and, after a series of wide-mouthed yawns he doesn’t even bother to hide, he eventually falls into a slumber, the headphone slipping out of his ear. After a few moments, he shifts in his seat to settle into a more comfortable position. He drops his head onto Johnny’s shoulder and lets out a content sigh. Within minutes, sleep takes over him completely, his breath evening out and his limbs going slack. Johnny stares at the tickle of blond hair on his neck in quiet astonishment. He then carefully closes his laptop and slides it into the pocket of the seat in front of him, all with as little stir as possible.
The bus speeds through the darkness, humming monotonously, and almost everyone is asleep now – everyone but Johnny, who sits upright and still, a little puzzled and uncomfortable, but with a curious, warm bubble growing in his belly.
“He does not like you, does he?” Evgeni says a while after Johnny joins him, sitting beside him on the edge of the sidewalk. They’re in the middle of nowhere, the bus parked at a rest area on the I-5, still a tad too far from the next venue for Johnny’s liking.
“No, he doesn’t,” Johnny replies, fumbling for a pack of cigarettes in his handbag. “The feeling’s mutual,” he adds, pulls out one cig, then offers the pack to the Russian.
Evgeni shakes his head.
“You should not smoke,” he says, but it’s not a reprimand, merely a statement, uttered with a shrug, and Johnny knows that Evgeni is right. He really shouldn’t, it’s bad for his lungs as well as his skin. He doesn’t do it often, only when his nerves are so strained he thinks he might just explode if he doesn’t do something to relieve the tension.
“I know,” he says and takes a long drag, then exhales slowly, letting the flow of breath soothe him.
“He makes you upset,” Evgeni states.
Johnny opens his mouth to protest, to deny it, but Evgeni beats him to it.
“Don’t let him do that. He is jealous, that is all,” he says.
“Jealous?” Johnny almost laughs. “Jealous of what? What do I have that he doesn’t?” he asks, then adds, “Well, there are some things, I suppose – like artistry –“ he smirks a little at that, “- but I don’t see why he would be jealous. I mean, he got the title he wanted, he beat me.”
“This is not about skating,” Evgeni replies, his eyes trained at something Johnny can’t see. “He is jealous because you are brave enough to be who you want – and he isn’t.”
“What makes you think that?” Johnny quirks an eyebrow.
“I know the feeling,” Evgeni says, pronouncing the word like filling, but Johnny is too intrigued to correct his bad English. Before he can ask him to elaborate, Evgeni gets up, glances at Johnny with a lopsided smile, and walks back to the bus, leaving Johnny sitting alone in the blazing California sun.
“You’re not who you want to be?” Johnny asks Evgeni without forewarning, simply slipping back into the conversation of the previous afternoon as if the time between didn’t pass. They are at an ice arena in Anaheim, waiting for the dancers and pairs to finish practicing, so they can go on ice.
Evgeni looks at him, studying him for a few moments.
“No,” he replies. “But I work on it,” he adds and his eyes briefly flicker to where he used to wear his wedding ring. Johnny can’t help but wonder how many of the rumors about Evgeni’s soon-to-be ex-wife are true.
“Who do you want to be, then?” he probes quietly.
“I want to be free,” Evgeni laughs. He winks, but Johnny suspects that he’s only half-joking. “Maybe…” He continues, more seriously, and Johnny can see him thinking hard, searching for ways to express what he wants to say in a language he’s not really proficient at. “Maybe it is not who I want to be, but what I want to do. I have never done, because I was afraid, but now I try to not be afraid.”
Then Evgeni’s gaze drops a little, leaving Johnny’s eyes for a split second, and darts to what Johnny thinks might – just might – be his mouth. But in the next instant, Evgeni is looking into his eyes once again, giving him an enigmatic smile.
“What – “ Johnny starts to ask, his curiosity piqued, but before he can finish his question, the ice dancers and pair skaters are filling out of the rink past them and Evgeni is on his feet and off on the ice.
Johnny mutters a quiet damn under his breath, cursing the timing, and gets up from the bench they’d been sitting on, his mind wandering far from the practice he should be focusing on now.
By the time the day’s show is over, Johnny is persuaded that he must have been imagining things earlier, because Evgeni acts friendly – but nothing more – for the remainder of the day, effectively squishing all of Johnny’s attempts to pick up the conversation where it left off.
It makes Johnny feel tremendously stupid and he wonders if maybe Evan was right, if he really has some growing up to catch up on. Maybe, when it comes to people and relationships, he really is way too naïve for his own good and far too willing to get swept away by romantic fantasies based on nothing but wishful thinking. This is not how responsible adults handle situations, is it?
He’s in the middle of his ponderings, smoking outside the restaurant he’d been dragged to for dinner by Marina, Melissa and Denis, when he senses somebody else’s presence beside him. He glances sideways to find Evgeni standing there, hands in the pockets of his jeans, the warm Californian breeze making the strands of his fringe fly a little.
“Can I have one?” he asks, nodding at Johnny’s cigarette.
“I thought you didn’t smoke,” Johnny remarks, but fishes the pack of Camel No. 9s out of his back pocket and hands it to Evgeni.
“Usually I don’t,” says Evgeni and takes one cigarette, placing it between his lips. He lets Johnny light it, studying his face as he does. Johnny wonders about the reason that makes this an unusual occasion for Evgeni. He also almost laughs at the irony of this, that the reason that made him feel the need to poison himself a little again is now standing right beside him – it obviously really is impossible to escape or forget your worries, they’ll always find their way back to you. With that realization, Johnny tosses his unfinished smoke onto the pavement, extinguishing the burning tip with the sole of his shoe. He’s about to turn and go back inside when Evgeni suddenly speaks up, a little hesitance in his heavily accented voice.
“You are attracted to men, are you not?”
The sheer bluntness of the question freezes Johnny to the spot. He blinks several times, staring at Evgeni, who is not quite meeting his gaze, his eyes once again fixed on something indefinite.
“How do you- why would you-“ Johnny starts, his voice catching in his throat. It’s pathetic. I’m pathetic, he realizes and remembers that he wanted to try to be an adult. “Oh, never mind,” he shrugs. “Yes, I am.”
I don’t see how that is any of your business, he’s about to add, but Evgeni turns to him then, his eyes a little troubled, but determined all the same.
“And to me?” he asks.
“To me, are you attracted to m-“ Evgeni begins to explain, thinking that he didn’t express himself clearly enough.
“I know what you mean,” Johnny snaps, irritated for no reason. “But… What kind of question is that?” He laughs out in disbelief, shaking his head. What was Evgeni trying to do? Was he mocking him?
“I understand. You’re not.”
Johnny looks up, taking in the scene in front of him in all its absurdness – Evgeni is looking off into the distance once again, the determination gone from his eyes, his face expressionless, guarded. His mouth is drawn into a tight line; he dropped his cigarette, its glow is now dying on the ground beside his feet. It doesn’t seem like he was making fun of Johnny, in fact, he looks almost crestfallen at Johnny’s reaction, and Johnny feels something soften inside him, the feeling of excitement he tried to silence springing to life once again, bubbling up before he can control it.
“Oh for chrisssake,” he mumbles and steps in front of Evgeni. He seizes his chin with one of his hands and leans in, closer, until their lips meet. It is a tentative touch, and Johnny doesn’t mean for it to become a real kiss. Just an explanation, a means to soften the blow of rejection – for he has to reject, there is no point in postponing it and fooling himself. But then Evgeni’s mouth opens under his – in surprise or invitation, Johnny doesn’t know – and he can’t resist but sneak in his tongue, tasting what could be if things were different. Evgeni jumps a little at that and it gives Johnny an imaginary smack over the head, a ‘what do you think you’re doing, Weir?!’ He lets go of Evgeni’s chin and steps back.
They stare at one another for a moment, before Johnny shakes his head, saying:
“I shouldn’t have...” He shouldn’t have given in to the impulse, he should have thought before acting on it. Evgeni is straight, after all, Johnny reminds himself. “Excuse me,” he whispers and turns to hurry back inside the restaurant.
“You know, Johnny,” Evan starts and Johnny looks up from where he’s unlacing his skates, waiting, mentally bracing himself for another word-sparring match. The practice has left him angry enough and he doubts conversing with Evan Lysacek will help lift his spirits. “If you plan on skating like this during the season,” Evan continues, the taunt in his voice unmistakable, “defending my national title is not going to be any fun.” Evan meets his eyes, then tilts his head to one side, as if contemplating Johnny. “I mean, there being no real competition…”
Johnny feels the anger build up inside him, a selection of venomous retorts ready on his tongue, but a distinctive cough interrupts him. They both turn their heads to find Evgeni standing at the door of the locker room.
“Oh, Evgeni,” Evan lifts an eyebrow, then looks back at Johnny with a smirk. “I am done, anyway, so I’ll leave you here to discuss… erm... your shared love for Russia.” He shoulders his duffel bag and gets up, brushing past Evgeni with a last mocking glance back at Johnny.
Evgeni moves forward, clearly intent to sit down next to Johnny, but Johnny’s fuming, tugging at the laces of his skates violently.
“Johnny...” Evgeni says hesitantly, reaches out for Johnny’s shoulder.
“The fuck did you do that for?!” Johnny lashes out angrily. He pulls off the boots and stuffs them into his bag without bothering to wipe the residue of melted ice off the leather and steel. He stands up hastily, bringing himself level with Evgeni’s face.
“I’m perfectly capable of dealing with Evan. I don’t need you to step in. I never asked for it,” he says, struggling to keep his voice down. Not caring whether Evgeni even understood what he’s said, he flits past him and darts out of the room, angry, humiliated and a little guilty at the same time. Deep inside he knows Evgeni only means well.
“I’m sorry,” says Evgeni as soon as he sits down next to Johnny on the bus the following night. “I didn’t want make you angry.”
Johnny sighs. He feels defenseless in the face of Evgeni’s sincere remorse. He spent the afternoon mulling it over and has to admit that he completely overreacted. Evgeni was just trying to help, just trying to be a friend. And they are friends, Johnny assures himself, despite the kiss that shouldn’t have happened and despite the fact that lines seem to get a bit blurry for Johnny lately, making him consider options that should never have crossed his mind. Evgeni’s recent behavior has done nothing to help Johnny escape the confusion, the temptation. Johnny briefly wonders if that’s what he meant by saying that he’s trying to be who he wants to be and do what he wants to do, but dismisses the possibility, because Evgeni has never seemed even remotely… gay. It’s just a phase, Johnny is sure, an act of defiance fueled by the bitterness the split from his wife must have left him with.
“I know,” he says. “And I’m sorry, too. I had no right to act like I did.” He chances a feeble smile, finding that Evgeni is looking at him calmly. “But I meant what I said about dealing with Evan. I’m almost used to it now. I won’t let him get to me anymore.”
He waits for some reaction and receives it in the form of a quiet, understanding nod. With an apologetic shrug, he adds:
“I’m sorry about the kiss, too.”
Evgeni’s eyes sharpen at that; he’s looking at Johnny, hard and determined. “I’m not.”
“What? Zhenya, look…” He takes a deep breath, wondering how to put this. He’s acting on reason now, listening to what he knows in his brain is best. He ignores the part of him that is very keen on plunging headfirst into this, not worrying about the how or why or what next. He knows what it would lead to if he allowed himself to get carried away even a little bit, and he can’t need any of it. He likes Evgeni enough as it is, letting himself like him more would be masochism, for he can imagine how things would go if he fell in love – it would be great in the beginning, of course, but, inevitably, in the end he’d be left crying over his broken heart once again. Johnny knows that neither his heart nor his skating could take another blow like that.
“I know that you had a rough time with the divorce and I can imagine that you’re out for a bit of an adventure, a distraction…” He runs his hand through his hair nervously. “But I can’t be your bi-curious experiment.”
When Evgeni opens his mouth to argue, Johnny lifts his hands up. “It’s not because I don’t like you, because I do. And it’s very flattering that you’d… want me. But… I think you’re not really thinking clearly right now and one of us has to. I had a bad break-up last year and I-“
“You’re not ready,” Evgeni supplies, but Johnny shakes his head.
“No, I mean… Yes. No. I don’t know. I could… we could have fun together, you know,” he says, smiling a bitter smile, scanning Evgeni’s form, then meeting his eyes once again. There’s nothing but confusion in them and Johnny realizes that the man doesn’t get what he’s trying to say. He sighs. “We could have sex,” he says and watches Evgeni’s jaw drop a little, his eyes widen. “We could and I… I’m sure it would be, uh, nice. And I am certainly ready for that,” he says and laughs a little, thinking of the amount of wanking he’s been engaging in lately. “Sleeping with someone is not the problem. The problem is… I can’t trust myself with you. I like you. And if I started sleeping with you, it would make me… Emotions would get involved and then you’d come to senses and leave and I’d be…”
He doesn’t finish, too embarrassed, and bows his head, not looking at Evgeni. “I’m just not ready to get emotionally involved, especially not with someone who’s having a phase,” he finally whispers. He can feel Evgeni looking at him, blue eyes fixed on the back of his neck, and he wishes he’d leave, leave him alone. But Evgeni doesn’t. Instead, a hand comes to rest on Johnny’s nape, soothing.
“I like you, Johnny.” It is a simple sentence and Johnny believes Evgeni might even mean it, but he doesn’t believe it will still apply a fortnight, a month, three months from now.
“You do now, but, Zhenya, it will not last. I can’t take that chance.” He shakes off Evgeni’s hand, missing its warmth as soon as it leaves his skin.
“No. Please. Just leave.” Johnny forces the words out, because the part of himself he’s been ignoring is becoming more insistent with every second he spends in Evgeni’s presence. It would be pleasant, it would be a thrill, it would be wonderful to have arms to curl up in at night and someone to call after competitions, someone who’d understand both ecstatic victory and the sour taste of losing. But he resists the temptation. For his own sake, and for Evgeni’s.
He’s both relieved and a little disappointed when Evgeni finally stands up. He expects him to leave, to go find another seat for himself in the quietly moving bus, but Evgeni lingers on for another moment, so long until Johnny looks at him once again.
“What can I do?” he asks in Russian.
Nothing is the correct answer, Johnny knows. Mature, responsible, best for all parties involved. Better prevent heartache before it happens and ruins yet another season.
But he doesn’t say that, allowing himself one last moment of indulgence in this naïve, romantic world he’s lived in for as long as he can remember.
“I don’t know,” he sighs. “Try to figure out what you want – if you want any of this at all. I mean... For real.” He pauses and looks up into Evgeni’s serious face. “Then come back when you know for sure. If you still want to come back, that is.”
“Seriously, Johnny, Love is War?”
They’re walking towards the elevator. The shuttle bus has just brought them back from their first practice session in Beijing. Johnny wonders what cosmic force is responsible for this, for letting him cross paths with Evan, without the presence of Tanith (who’s practicing), or Frank (who wandered off to the bar for a drink), or Galina (who stayed back at the rink to chat to some of the other Russian coaches, old friends of hers). He hasn’t seen the man since the mandatory federation boot camp and hasn’t missed his presence one bit.
“Who do you think you are – Scarlett?” Evan laughs, but Johnny takes the jibe calmly. Practice makes perfect, after all, and with Evan making fun of him all throughout the COI tour, he’s become almost immune by now. Galina has had an impact, too, trying to steel his nerves for anything and everything that might happen in competition.
“My music is beautiful. And unique. And it’s certainly not presented in a way that would make people think of those who used it before me,” he shrugs, deliberately aiming where he knows it will hurt. He didn’t watch Skate America, but Melissa did. Apparently, the Plushenko and Kwan comparisons the commentators came up with after seeing his interpretation of Tosca weren’t in Evan’s favor.
His smile, as he watches Evan pale, is vicious. Evan regains his composure quickly enough, though. “At least my skating is not queer,” he says maliciously as they step into the elevator.
Johnny nearly laughs. He presses the button with a nine on it.
“At least I’m not afraid to be who I am,” he shoots back with only a short glance at Evan, then looks back at the elevator doors sliding shut. Some would warn him that being in an elevator with your rival and making him mad is not a good idea, but Johnny sees no reason to worry. They’re far from being Tonya and Nancy, he’s not afraid of Evan, especially not with Evan acting like a complete brat.
“What are you talking about, Weir?” Evan replies, but his laugh sounds a little staged.
Johnny feels the recklessness coil inside him and decides to act upon it, because being mature all the time wears him out.
“This,” he says and, with one swift movement, he’s on his toes, pressing Evan against the wall, his lips on his.
He feels Evan tense and wonders if he was wrong after all, but the moment he slides his hand to the front of Evan’s pants and squeezes, Evan’s eyes fall shut and he opens his mouth pliantly. He’s waiting for more, and one of his arms sneaks around Johnny’s waist to bring them closer together.
Johnny laughs into Evan’s mouth and pushes hard at his chest, watching the lust drain from Evan’s face to be replaced by utter horror and embarrassment. They stare at one another for several moments, then there’s the clink announcing they’ve reached the ninth floor. The doors slide open and Johnny steps out of the elevator, backwards, grinning at Evan who’s still standing with his back pressed against the wall, petrified.
“Fucking hypocrite,” Johnny can’t help but say. He shakes his head and starts walking down the hall to his room. He laughs out loud once inside, letting himself fall on the bed, spread-eagled. It seems that, despite the title and the great expectations, the federation’s poster boy doesn’t lead the perfect happy life he’s been showing the world.
He is jealous because you are brave enough to be who you want – and he isn’t.
He suddenly remembers what Evgeni told him, back then at tour, and marvels at how Evgeni was able to see right through Evan.
Takes one to know one, Johnny finds himself thinking. Like countless times before, he wonders what meeting Evgeni at Cup of Russia will be like and if – and that sets off a small, anxious quiver inside his chest – he’ll still want those things he seemed to want in the summer.
Johnny isn’t sure whether to thank Evgeni or curse him for not approaching him in any way until after the competition. He’s been tingly and nervous all week, but he suspects that – had Evgeni chosen to come talk to him before the skating was done – it might have affected his performance. Whether positively or negatively, Johnny doesn’t know, but hopes he’ll find out in the next moments.
He is anxious, yes, but a lot more at peace than when Evgeni came on to him back on tour. To know where he stands, emotionally, is like a well of calmness inside him. He knows he’s stronger now, better prepared, he knows he’s ready. Even for rejection.
All the calmness and stability he’s feeling doesn’t prevent him from jumping up a little at the knock on the door, announcing the visit Evgeni promised him earlier that night. He takes a deep breath and walks over to the door, cracking a smile as soon as he opens it.
Evgeni steps inside and Johnny closes the door behind him quietly, expectations swirling wildly inside his mind.
“You said come back when I know what I want,” Evgeni says and turns to face Johnny who’s still lingering by the door, waiting.
“Yes,” Johnny nods, his voice a notch higher than usual.
“I know now,” Evgeni says, almost amused. “I did know when I sat with you to see Cheburashka, I did know a long time before. But I was afraid a long time.”
“So you… You still think you like me?” Johnny asks, taking a curious, furtive glance towards the realm of could-be. He hasn’t really dared to imagine – all these months between COI and now – what it might be like if Evgeni decided that he still wants to get involved with him in one way or another. Now he allows himself a little peek, a little optimism, and he likes the images unfurling in his mind.
“No. I know that I like you,” Evgeni says, taking a step towards Johnny, but stopping halfway. “Do you know what you want?” he asks, hesitating.
“Not exactly, not in detail,” Johnny admits, then adds quickly, “but I have a good idea of where to start.”
He moves, brings his arms up and around Evgeni’s neck, his fingers finding his skull under the mop of sand-colored hair. He kisses him and it feels good, it feels promising, and Johnny decides to let himself fall into this, whatever it might turn out to be. It’s a little like taking off for a quad when you’re not totally sure you can land it, when there’s still a very real chance of your behind turning into the zamboni – there is the same tinge of nervousness, a worried thought in the back of his mind.
Then Johnny remembers that Evgeni Plushenko has the world’s steadiest quad, certainly better than his own. So maybe he’ll be a little better at this, too, than Johnny’s been so far. Maybe they can become good at it together.
Thanks, Reet and Cel, for beta-reading./Děkuji Reet a Cel za beta-read.