Pairing: Carey Price / Jaro Halak
Rating: PG-13 (or G, quite possibly)
Disclaimer: The boys aren't mine, the story is.
Summary: See what happens when the worst enemy for Jaro's mind in a game against the Blue Jackets is actually a Habs goalie
Warning: RPF... And never having been at an actual hockey game, I may have screwed up some intricacies on what happens when and in what manner. Sorry!
Notes: This is for northern_star who encouraged my... um... under-influence state when I felt like writing fic. Sadly the part that was actually written in said state found its way into the trash bin but the idea stayed, so here it is.
It was supposed to be a surprise. They hadn't seen each other since the last time Jaro came to Montreal at the end of August. Now it was November and neither of their schedules had allowed for even a short visit. Phone calls had been short and less frequent as each of the two goalies was busy. Jaro tried his best to get settled in a new city and a new team, not knowing places and people made him feel exhausted and provided an extra strain on the constant pressure of having to live up to the expectations people had in him. Carey was fighting with the antipathy raining down on him whenever things weren't going well for the Habs; it was his fault when they lost, yet somehow it was someone else's making when they won. The two hadn't talked about when to see each other again, carefully avoiding the possibility that it might not be before March when the Canadiens would play in St. Louis.
Carey didn't know what had possessed him when he found himself on a plane to Ohio, where the Blues would play against the Blue Jackets, on November 10. On some level he knew that it was too impulsive, borderline stupid, considering that the Habs would have a game the next day and that anything short of excellence in that game would be traced back to his little trip. However, all he could think of was that it was close enough for him to catch a flight to Boston the next day and that whatever hopping through time zones did to his body would be made up for by finally seeing, touching, feeling Jaro again.
Carey hadn't told him, afraid that as soon as the ever so reasonable Slovak presented all the arguments against him coming, he would cave in and they would go for yet another couple of… months, at best, before seeing each other again. And yes, a small part of the Habs goalie was afraid that Jaro might not be too fond of the idea for other, more personal reasons.
Arriving in Colombus only an hour before the game, Carey was overcome with an uneasy feeling. Checking with Oshie, who was supposed to be rooming with the Blues' no. 1 goalie, had seemed like a good idea at the time. But now that he was standing here in Jaro's room -- without his knowledge, obviously --, it seemed wrong and intrusive. However, he had made it this far, so chickening out was not a viable option. Knowing that the team would not come back to the hotel before the game, Carey quickly dropped off his backpack and made his way to the Nationwide Arena.
Finding his seat just a few minutes before the game started, he tried not to cause too much trouble. Jaro’s teammates knew about them but there was certainly no need for the media to get wind of what was going on between two of the best-known goalies of the NHL.
When the announcer read out the starting players, Carey couldn’t help but smile fondly at Jaro’s name and found himself crossing his fingers for tonight’s game. He was excited to hear the cheering of people around, glad that many Blues fans had taken it upon them to follow their team to another state.
The Blues were off to a good start. But right into the sixth minute things changed drastically when suddenly Jaro’s view was locked in the direction of where Carey was sitting. He hadn’t anticipated to be recognized in the audience. However instead of focusing on the puck, the Blues goaltender cocked his head and gave Carey a questioning look, realizing Voracek’s hit too late to react. After only six minutes, the Blue Jackets took the lead. Cursing himself for his lack of attention, Jaro couldn’t help but wonder what Carey was doing here. Here, of all places. Without telling him. Why….?
He knew that there was no point in thinking back and forth as to what this meant but the thoughts wouldn’t leave his mind and his eyes kept wandering back to the audience where the object of his musings was intently watching the game. First Boll took advantage of this lack of concentration, soon thereafter Nash lead the Blue Jackets to a 3:0 streak with which they went into the first intermission. Sitting on a bench in the dressing rooms with his head in his hands, Jaro cursed himself for being so distracted. Part of him wanted to call Carey to just bloody find out what was going on here. Inside him anxiety and a slight feeling of anger mixed with the adrenaline pumping through his body and left him utterly confused. He felt Payne’s eyes on him and knew that being spared from harsh critique was just a bliss of temporary mercy. He needed to pull himself together for the rest of the game.
Just a few hundred feet away, Carey had long sensed that his presence was more of a disturbance than encouragement. He badly wanted to stay but whatever it was that kept Jaro from performing the way he usually does, it seemed to have to do with him being here. Working his way through the strange arena, Carey was left wondering what to do now. He could go back to the hotel but judging from Jaro’s earlier reaction… yes, what? He didn’t know. Was the other goalie happy to see him? Upset? An uneasy shudder ran down his back at the thought of not exactly being welcome, something that hadn’t quite crossed his mind when he had heartily jumped on a plane. Inside him anxiety mixed with anger and he wished he could talk to Jaro. Breathing in the fresh November air with a sigh, Carey started wandering around, not wanting to go back to the hotel, unsure if he was even wanted there.
When Jaro stepped back on the ice, he vowed not to get distracted again by looking for the Habs goalie in the audience. A promise he kept for about 3 minutes when his fleeting glance was unable to detect Carey where he could have sworn he sat before. A second longer look proved him right, the club level seat was now empty. Where had he gone? And why had he left? Too late did Jaro notice that what had felt like 2 seconds of shifted attention had been enough for Voracek to attack again. Before he could even process what exactly had happened, the red light went on, the Blue Jackets led with a 4:0. And he knew that he was in big trouble. However, the dimensions only became clear to him when he realized that he was being pulled and that Conklin would play from now on. The rest of the game, Jaro sat on the bench with his thoughts far away, thankful that his teammates left him alone. He couldn’t believe how Carey and questions about his sudden and unannounced “visit” had kept him too distracted to concentrate on his job, his passion, the one thing he could in his sleep, so to speak. Why had this never been a problem before? They had played together so many times and never had the presence of one of them disturbed the other’s performance. Jaro felt he knew where the root of the problem was and what had been so different all these other seasons. Both had agreed that they would do their best to make it work. Yet what was he left to do when it obviously didn’t… ? Shaking his head, Jaro realized that he had done it again, getting lost in thoughts when he was supposed to be on the ice with his mind. He hoped that wherever Carey was he had phone with him and they could talk and put an end to this. Surely, he would agree that it wasn’t worth to pursue something they didn’t even know would amount in anything serious for the sake of both their careers. Satisfied that he had come to a conclusion and made a decision, Jaro sat straight up again and concentrated on the game in front of him, doing the best he could to ignore the little pain in his heart.
Obviously he wasn’t glad that they had lost by a landslide but Jaro would have lied if the result, 8:1, and thus the fact that Ty had performed rather sub-par as well, didn’t comfort him a little. However, this was obviously not something he would tell the reporters that were bothering him after the game. He was annoyed by the sheer stupidity of their questions, even more so today than on any other occasion. “What do you think is the reason for today’s loss?” Did they really think that this was a sensible, let alone sensitive thing to ask?
By the time Jaro was finished with the press, his teammates had left for the hotel. He was surprised that Oshie, whom he was going to room with tonight, hadn't waited but was almost relieved that he could walk to the hotel by himself.
Walking through the brisk night, Jaro kept replaying the last couple of months in his head. Yes, he had missed Carey. But what was the point of a relationship if you can't even find comfort in each other's arms on a night like tonight when everything sucked? It pained him to think that all the optimism both of them had in how things would be okay and how long-distance relationships can work if you want them to proved to be foolish love-sick ideas. Love? Yes, it seemed that that's what it was. Or had been, rather, Jaro corrected his own musings.
Well, it sure seemed that Carey had made up his mind. Showing up in a strange city without any warning couldn't mean too many good things, now, could it? The way things stood, there wasn't much Jaro could do. Besides pre-empting being on the receiving side, that is….
Knowing that if he got the chance to think twice, he would not go through with it, Jaro fumbled his cell phone out of his pocket and pressed the speed-dial button. Instead of a ring, however, he hard Carey's familiar voice and squeezed his eyes shut to fight the warm feeling building up in his stomach. Jaro checked the time and sighed… he might be on the airport already. "Listen… you know, I don't know when we get a chance to talk again. And I'm afraid I don't know if I'll be strong enough to make this call again, so… I can't do this anymore. I'm sorry."
He had expected to feel better after this call, relaxed and free, but all Jaro could sense now was tired emptiness inside him as he walked up the stairs to his room. It would get better, he told himself. It always did.
Having showered after the game and not wanting to disturb Oshie who seemed sound asleep, Jaro didn't bother much with changing but just slipped out of his shirt and pants. All he wanted was to forget about this night and that was not solely because of the lost game. A good night's sleep would hopefully help with that. He stopped midway on his course to the other bed. A glance on the sprawled figure lying on top of the sheets did not reveal Oshie's blond disheveled head but instead dark hair, along with a much taller torso. As Jaro's eyes traveled down the body, he noticed the navy-blue shirt. And then the white letters spelling his name and the yellow 41 underneath. Jaro tried to swallow the big lump that had formed in his throat. As he stepped closer, the body stirred and turned around.
Carey looked at him with tired eyes. "Hey."
"Um… hey." Jaro stared at him in shock.
"Sorry I fell asleep, I was trying to stay up until you came back."
Jaro crouched down next to the bed. "Uh… okay." he muttered, giving Carey a questioning look.
"Come here." Carey gave him a lopsided grin and moved to the side as if a single motion could answer all the questions whirling around in Jaro's head. "I know how to make you feel better."
And as Jaro lay down in the other man's arms and felt Carey's soft lips on his own, he knew that these were indeed all the answers he needed.
Between lazy kisses Jaro mumbled, "There's a missed call on your phone."
"Huh?" Carey clearly did not appreciate the sudden and seemingly very random interruption.
"A missed call.", Jaro repeated. "Just delete it."