dearlordwhat (dearlordwhat) wrote,
dearlordwhat
dearlordwhat

Waking the Living 1/2

Title: Waking the Living
Author: Prefers to remain anonymous at this time.
Rating: R
Pairing: Evan Lysacek/Johnny Weir
Summary Johnny got lost seven and a half years ago. Evan finds him. Written for this prompt on wintergameskink : http://wintergameskink.livejournal.com/1161.html?thread=1701001#t1701001. 14K words.
Warnings: RPS, Character Death, Angst, OCs
Disclaimer: I do not own anyone whose name you might recognize, and no harm is intended. All events herein are fictional, and no claim is made that they are otherwise. If you found this by googling yourself or anyone you know, turn back now.

Everyone agreed Johnny's conduct in the aftermath of the accident had been beyond reproach. One minute he'd been happy and laughing, perfectly at peace with life, and the next his world had come crashing down. Stephane had been giving him a lesson in driving on the 'wrong' side of the road, when a drunk came around the curve in their lane. The aftermath had been a fucking disaster of other people lashing out in their hurt at the lone survivor. The other driver's family had sued, claiming Johnny's unfamiliarity with Swiss driving laws had contributed to the crash, and Stephane's family had fought the will, which left most of everything to Johnny. All of this, plus Johnny was in a world of pain, suffering from a fractured back and hip that meant he would never set foot on the ice again.

Johnny had settled for far more than he should have (the amount he should have settled for, everyone agreed, was 'nothing, plus the cost of his lawyer') with the other driver's family, in order to have the matter finished, and had refused to fight Stephane's family. They could have everything, he said, except for a few things that had sentimental value to Johnny and no real value, either sentimental or material, to anyone else, and they'd accepted that. Then he'd stayed in New Jersey for over a year, enduring agonizing physical therapy and a revolving door of members of the skating community, afraid he might fly apart if they took their eyes off him.

Then, just when Johnny seemed to be coming around and thinking about life, about the future, talking to Galina about starting coaching a student or two, he bought a plane ticket to Russia, transferred all of his assets into his mother's name, and disappeared.

The general theory that emerged after a while, after the first general wave of freakout and about a year of no word, was that Johnny had killed himself. Gone somewhere he wouldn't be known, where his death wouldn't make headlines and he would be buried as a John Doe, or whatever they called the unknown dead in Russia or wherever Johnny had ended up. Evan had always disagreed. He'd lived half in Johnny's head since they were both teenagers, he knew how Johnny thought, and it wasn't that he believed Johnny wouldn't kill himself. He could see that. But if Johnny had been going to be with Stephane, Evan thought, he wouldn't have gone to Russia--he and Stephane as a unit had no special tie to Russia--and he would have taken something of Stephane. A photo, that ladybug charm. Something. But he hadn't. He'd taken a couple of changes of clothes and a toothbrush.

Johnny, Evan had always said, had meant to disappear, but wherever he was he was still alive.

Life went on. Without the personal battle with Johnny to make things interesting, with all the new skaters with their dazzling difficulty and their unpounded joints coming up to turn him into a has-been, Evan had retired. He married, finally accepted his sexuality, and divorced, somewhat less than amicably, but his ex-wife wasn't in skating, so it didn't matter that much. He did a bit of coaching--he had one really promising student, but he had become a realist and, upon learning her father was from Bosnia and she'd lived there until she was six, had recommended she look into skating for them rather than diving into the shark tank that was the USFSA--and started doing commentary for NBC, and sometimes--just sometimes--there would be something, a perfect spin or a gesture full of sass, and the comparison would be obvious, and the words would stick in his throat. Some of the skaters, coming up, they would talk about being inspired by Johnny Weir, and Evan just wanted to scream or cry sometimes.

Evgeni showed up on Evan's doorstep on the one-year anniversary of Johnny's disappearance, "I thought you might want to get drunk as much as I do," his only explanation for what he was even doing in America, and the two of them had been a weird sort of friends ever since. Evan visited him when he was in Russia; he visited Evan when he was in California.

Life went on.

Johnny had been gone seven years, three months, and sixteen days when Evgeni called Evan in the middle of the California night and said the three words Evan had never really thought he'd hear: "I found Johnny." And then he went on, something close to lost, "And I don't know what to do."

He'd caught one of his students watching pornography on his laptop, he explained, and the boy had committed one of the slip-ups of the young, hitting pause instead of xing out in his haste--just as the camera switched to one of the performers' face, at which point Evgeni forgot all intent giving the boy an 'I don't care what flavor of porn you watch, as long as you do it on your own time and not in public' lecture in favor of staring in shock, because seven years of God knew what couldn't turn Johnny Weir into someone the people he'd left behind wouldn't recognize.

Evan grasped the thesis statement here: "Johnny's alive."

"Yes. Da." Evgeni almost laughed. "Da, he's alive."

"Is he--I mean, is he okay, did you--" his throat closed up around the suggestion, but he had to ask: "Did you see?"

"He is too thin," Evgeni said. "And in pain, but used to hiding it." They were former figure skaters. They knew all about hiding pain.

"And making porn."

"In Russia. It was Russian porn."

"Do you--I can't believe I'm saying this--"

"I already e-mailed you the URL."

"Oh. Thank you. Can I--can I call you back?"

"Yes," Evgeni said, and then he muttered something in Russian Evan was pretty sure was a swear, and, "I have to go, I have another lesson."

"Right. I'll. Right." He hung up without any of the pleasantries, still stunned stupid, and drug himself out of bed to go watch Johnny fucking Weir in Russian porn.

***

Johnny looked bad. Not strung out or sick or anything, not horrible--Evgeni was right, he was too thin, but not horribly so, or he'd never get work, and Evan wanted to throw up just thinking that. Just. Bad. He was good at faking it, but, again: Evan had lived half in Johnny's head for the better part of a decade. Johnny could moan and writhe and smile for the camera all he wanted, but Evan was looking at his eyes, at the flicks of physical pain against a wall of emotional bleakness.

Even after six years plus of actually being friends with Evgeni Plushenko, Evan's Russian was pretty crap. He just didn’t have much facility with languages, he'd finally accepted. He could follow along when Zhenya got drunk enough to forget what language he was speaking, though, and he could, apparently, sort of follow along to Russian porn. Johnny, he thought, how did this happen?

He called Evgeni after, and left a message on his voicemail, telling him that he thought telling anyone would be premature, that maybe they should talk to Johnny first, because Evan knew Johnny, and if he wasn't ready to come back, forcing him to might shatter him, and suggesting maybe they should hire a private detective, now that they had a lead, and then he watched the film six more times before his alarm went off, just to see Johnny Weir, alive.

***

Sara was nothing like the kind of student Evan had ever thought he'd be able to handle, but they worked well together, somehow. She was a little bit of a bouncy cheerful lunatic, a little bit of a drama queen, and Evan loved that about her. She reminded him of Johnny, only more settled in her skin than Johnny had been at sixteen, because it was, as far as the mainstream was concerned, okay for girls to act like that; no one had ever given her grief. He had an early morning session with her, so she could get to school, and then he got another couple of hours with her in the afternoon.

On this particular morning, after little sleep and the revelations he'd received, Sara's bouncy cheer and dramatics were not really something Evan could take, but she'd come second at Junior Worlds last year and would be starting her first senior season in a few months; she deserved his best. She wasn't getting it, though, and the worst part was, she knew it. After a while she skated over to him and said, "Coach? Are you okay?"

"I'm sorry, Sara," he said. "I'm distracted. I got some news last night."

"Bad news?" she guessed.

"I don't know yet," he admitted.

She shifted on her skates and said, "Well...if there's anything I can do to help...?"

He shook himself a little and smiled at her. "No. Thank you, though. I'm focused now, and now you know that even coaches have bad days. So let's see that triple loop, call it three more times, and then we'll work on some spins." He thought about running through her footwork, but Sara's footwork was her best area: standout when it was good, showstopper when it was great, and it required all of his attention. Today, even forcing himself to focus, he could give her about two-thirds.

He told Sara to take the afternoon off, work on her homework or catch up on sleep or something, and went home, so tired he could barely think.

He screamed into his pillow for he didn't know how long at the unfairness of it all before he finally fell asleep.

***

The next time he was in Russia, it was for Sara's first international senior event: Cup of Russia. The week before Cup of Russia coincided with Sara's fall break, so they--Sara, Sara's father, Evan, and Mirai--went over early, ostensibly for Sara to acclimate, in reality for the touristing no one ever got the chance to do when they were in an exotic locale for a figure skating competition. Usually it was the hotel room and the rink, and little else. Mirai, who helped Evan coach to give herself something to do when she wasn't skating shows or working with her family, had been to Moscow she didn't know how many times, she'd said, and had never seen Red Square, so Evan had declared she'd have to come along this time.

Evgeni was too busy priming one of his boys to Defend The Fatherland's Honor or whatever, and Yana had work, so it fell to Evan with his pitiful Russian and his many night spent drunk on Evgeni's sofa to play Native Guide.

He was helping Sara bargain for a scarf when it happened. He glanced away for a moment and saw a brown-haired man, around average height, slim and lithe, walking with his head down and his hands shoved into the pockets of his coat, and something in him went, Huh. Evan wasn't usually one to check out guys on the street, especially guys who were clearly down on their luck, on the street in Russia, because even though this guy was exactly his type, that seemed like a pretty good way to wake up with all his money gone.

And then the guy glanced up, just for half a second, and Evan's heart skipped a couple of beats as the guy's eyes widened and he looked back down, trying to subtly cut through the crowd away from their table.

Even if Evan hadn't seen that video a few months ago, he would know those eyes in hell. "I gotta--don't wander off," he told Sara, and darted into the crowd. Johnny was moving fast, using his size to slip through, but Evan had his height on his side. "Johnny!" Evan called, and Johnny flinched and kept moving. Fuck. "Johnny, wait!"

But Johnny walked down into the subway. Evan followed, glancing at the signboard. Next train in four minutes. He could catch up to him on the platform.

"Johnny," he said as he grabbed his wrist, and Johnny whipped around. For a second, Evan expected the old Johnny Weir, all sound and fury, signifying everything, telling him to fuck back off out of his life. But Johnny looked--scared. "Johnny," he said again, and, "Oh, my God. Everyone thought you were dead."

And there it was, the old defiance, dredged up from somewhere. "Good," Johnny said, jerking his wrist out of Evan's hand. "Let them think that." His English was a little halting, Evan noticed, like he was having to think about it. He must not have spoken English with anyone in a long time. "What are you doing here?"

"Cup of Russia."

"Is next week." Evan wondered if he'd been planning to get out of the city, if he even lived in Moscow.

"We came early. Johnny--"

"Stop. Just--let it--I can't do this," Johnny said, and turned to go.

"I didn't," Evan blurted, and Johnny looked back at him, confused. "I never thought you were dead. Look, I swear I won't tell anyone if you don't want me to--"

"I don't."

Evan went on, "--but if you'd let me buy you a cup of coffee or something? Just. I've been worried sick about you for seven years, Johnny."

The corner of Johnny's mouth twisted. "Didn't know you cared, Lysacek," he said, and Evan didn't answer. Didn't know how. "All right. Fuck it," Johnny said, and headed for the exit, Evan hustling to keep up despite his longer legs. "One cup of coffee."

"All right," Evan said, knowing that was all he'd get. He pulled out his cell phone, saying, "I just have to text the person I was with, let them know to go back to the hotel." There, that was vague enough to not admit he'd left a sixteen-year-old alone in the middle of Moscow.

Johnny eyed him warily, but said, "All right."

***

This was an unprecedented disaster.

Johnny had picked up his pay after the shoot and decided to go shopping before going back to his apartment. He needed a new pair of jeans that hadn't been washed thin before the Russian winter really set in, and he had enough to pay for a new pair instead of secondhand, if they were on sale. Besides, he'd thought, better get his shopping in now, before next week, when he wouldn't be able to leave his apartment without hearing about figure skating, and therefore would not leave his apartment.

And who should he run into but Evan freaking Lysacek.

And now they were having coffee.

He had showered after the shoot, of course, taking advantage of their actual working hot water, but he couldn't shake the suspicion that he still smelled like sex. He was tired, and between the shoot and taking the stairs too fast into the Metro, his hip was killing him. Evan...Evan looked good. He'd put on a little weight, and it suited him, made him less gawky scarecrow-ish. He'd lost the spray tan, plus the shitty gel he used to use on his hair, and...he looked good. Healthy. Content.

If Johnny had ever thought about it, he'd have imagined this would make him want to punch Evan in the face, but instead he just pretty much wanted to crawl under a rock and die.

After a long, awkward silence, he finally took pity on himself and spoke, to stop Evan staring at him like he might disappear if he looked away. "You said you never believed I was dead."

"Yeah, I--yeah," Evan said.

"Why?"

"I know you. I knew you wouldn't go out like that. Are you--look, I'm not trying to be a dick, I just--are you okay?"

Johnny let people fuck him on film to make the rent on his shitty apartment. His hip and his back never really stopped hurting. The only man he'd ever loved was seven years dead, and there were nights he woke up, terrified he was forgetting his face, his voice, his hands. He ran halfway around the world to get away from pity, to forget, but he couldn't quite do either. He looked Evan in the eye and said, "I do all right." One thing he'd become was an excellent actor. "What, do you--do you coach now?"

Evan blinked, looking surprised for a second, then smoothed it over. "Yeah, I have a couple of students. I mean, I'm still young, most people are waiting to see me prove myself, you know. I just have the one elite. Sara Demeter?"

"I don't--"

"Right, of course, well, she skates for Bosnia. Her dad's from Bosnia, and the USFSA's, you know, a shark tank, so." He shrugged. "It was easier."

Plenty of skaters did that, Johnny thought. Frequently, if one was uglily honest, the ones who couldn't cut it in the deep and brutal US figure skating scene, the ones who'd find themselves ranked too low in the American standings to ever get an international assignment. But Evan hadn't said the US figure skating scene, he'd said the USFSA.

"What have you been up to?" Johnny asked, desperate to keep Evan from asking him the same question, even though, he knew, Evan had so much more right to ask. At the time, he hadn't been thinking about how everyone would freak when he disappeared, just that he couldn't take their pity any more, but after a little over a year it had occurred to him. "Besides. I mean."

"Oh, you know," Evan said. "Not much. Got married. Got divorced less than a year later. Not anyone you'd know," he added after a moment. He hesitated, then said, "You don't have to tell me anything if you don't want to."

"Good," Johnny said. It was funny; Evan's presence reminded him of how to be that bitch, of how to act harsh and crisp and like he had a right to think he was better than everyone else. "I don't."

Evan just nodded, and wrote down the name of his hotel and his cell number on a napkin. "I'll be here through the twenty-seventh," he said, and, "It was good to see you, Johnny."

Johnny didn't respond, but Evan didn't seem to expect him to. He just rose, threw his coffee cup away, and left.

***

Evan had told Johnny he wouldn't tell anyone, but he called Evgeni as he walked back to the hotel, told him everything in a rush, and, "So, you can, uh, cancel the PI, I guess."

"Bozhe moi," Evgeni said, and, "Has he been in Moscow this whole time?"

"No clue," Evan admitted. "He didn't want to talk and I figured if I tried to push it he'd bolt. I gave him my number, and. We'll see."

"You didn't tell him that we--"

"No," Evan said hastily. "No, God no. He'd have bolted faster than hell if I had. We can't tell anyone. Yet. I."

"No, of course not." Evgeni sighed, then swore. "How was he?"

"Tired. Hurting." Evan laughed. "Alive."

***

Johnny woke up the next morning in a world of pain. He cursed and grabbed for his phone, sending another spike of pain up his back. Fuck. What was the number? Right. "Fedor."

"Johnnik?"

He almost flinched at the old nickname, thinking of Galina, but that didn't matter now. "I am going to be a little late," he said, as calmly as he was able. "My hip is giving me trouble this morning."

Then he realized he'd made a critical error, because Fedor was one of those producers who liked to pretend he gave a fuck about his talent's welfare, and this was supposed to be a BDSM shoot. The BDSM market loved Johnny. He cried pretty, he'd been told once. But it was pretty much guaranteed to be, in some way, not easy on the joints. "Johnnik," Fedor said, "maybe you should stay home. We can get someone else in for the shoot."

"No, look, I--" he needed this money to make his rent. "I can make it, I'm just going to be a little late, okay?"

"No, Johnnik, stay home, yes? I have another shoot next month, we can use you then, when your hip is not so bad." And he hung up. Fuck. A shoot next month wouldn't do Johnny any good this month, when his landlord came knocking.

Well, at least Johnny hadn't bought those jeans yesterday.

He dragged himself out of bed, swearing, and into his tiny bathroom, where he stared at himself in the mirror and thanked God Evan hadn't seen him like this for a while before opening the medicine cabinet. Usually, he made do with way more Tylenol than he really should take, which still didn't kill the pain, rationing his expensive prescription painkillers, but today, fuck it, he didn't have anywhere to be and he could barely walk. He took two, and washed them down with a couple of shots worth of cheap vodka before falling back into bed.

He dreamed fractured, pain-filled dreams for a while, and then he dreamed he woke up, and Stephane was there, sitting on the edge of the bed, one hand gentle and warm over Johnny's bad hip. "Johnny," he said in a sad, sad voice. "What have you done to yourself?"

Johnny blinked up at him, hazy and drugged, and said, "You were dead."

"I am dead," Stephane agreed. "But you are not. You cannot live like this, Johnny. Not any more."

Johnny tried to say his name, and it stuck in his throat, like always. "Don’t go."

"I already have, and I never will," Stephane told him as he stood from the bed. Johnny reached for him and couldn't reach, like always. "Please, Johnny. You're not living. You have to live."

And then Johnny woke up, panting, crying, desperate to go back to that place where Stephane was with him.

Johnny had only actually tried to kill himself once, about three years ago. Most of a bottle of sleeping pills and half a bottle of vodka should have done it, too, but he'd been living in Volgograd then, and he'd had a roommate who'd come home early. He'd thought about it a lot, though, and more since then, because when he'd been dying, Stephane had been telling him not to, and while he hated to disappoint Stephane, he ached to hear his voice more. His suicide note was written and tucked into the top drawer of his dresser. It was simple and to the point, asking that his parents be notified of his death and giving the last address and phone number he had for them, and requesting that he be cremated and, if possible, his ashes spread over Stephane's grave.

He fumbled for his phone and the napkin next to it, and dialed. He didn't let himself think about what he was doing, because then the shame would bubble up. "Johnny?" Evan said when he answered the phone, breathless, like he'd had to dash for it.

"Evan," Johnny said.

"I didn't think you'd call--so soon," he added quickly. Johnny ignored it.

"Can you--could you just. Say his name for me?" Evan was silent. "I always--I choke on it."

"Stephane," he said, and Johnny mouthed it. "Stephane. His name was Stephane Lambiel, and you two loved each other so much it hurt to look at you sometimes." Johnny choked back a sob. "Johnny, are you okay?"

"No," he admitted. "I took two Vicodin and a double of vodka on an empty stomach, and my hip is still killing me, and I was supposed to work today and I can't, because my hip is killing me, and I don't see how I'm going to make rent and there's not any food in this shitty apartment, and now you know how fucking pathetic I am, and I miss him and I can't even say his fucking name."

"I can say it for you," Evan said. "As many times as you need me to."

"Why are you being so nice to me?"

"Because I never hated you," Evan said. "All that stupid media hype. I never hated you, Johnny, and even if I had, no one deserved that." Johnny didn't know what to say to that. "Let me help you. Can I help you? What can I do?"

"Nothing, Evan. You can't do anything."

"Bullshit. You said you haven't eaten? What do you want?"

"Did you miss the part where I can barely walk?"

"No, that's why I'm going to bring you food."

Johnny looked around his one-room Soviet-era apartment, the plastic walls with their peeling, once-white paint, and, "Oh, fuck no."

"Johnny. You need to eat. You just said there's no food at your place and you can't go out. So, I'm bringing you food. Stop bitching and accept sense."

"Don't you have a student to worry about?"

"She's having one of her days of being a trial sent to test me, and I've sent her away until the urge to kill fades. She's at some museum with her dad. Stop trying to distract me. I am Evan Lysacek; I have known all of your tricks since we were teenagers. Give me your address and tell me what you want."

***

The building and the apartment--if it could even be called that, it was one room, a bed and a table, a dresser and a chair, a tiny kitchenette and a bathroom Evan wouldn't be able to turn around in--were about what Evan had expected, honestly, and it hurt to see Johnny in the middle of it. The place was immaculately kept. Johnny, no matter how far he fell, wouldn't live somewhere dirty. But it was what it was.

Johnny had opened the door and stepped back, and he waited until Evan had unpacked the food to limp over and sit down. "I got pelmeni," Evan said, and Johnny sort of--froze, looking surprised. "Since you wouldn’t tell me what you wanted. Was that bad?"

"No, you just. Pronounced it right. I guess I wasn't expecting that."

"I speak some Russian now. Not a lot, but I can get by. How bad is your hip?"

Johnny shook his head. "I just overdid it yesterday." He gave Evan a rueful half-smile and said, "Probably shouldn't have run down those stairs." Evan opened his soda and waited. Sometimes with Johnny that worked, back in the day. Wait long enough and his mouth would override his brain. Finally, Johnny said, "Today really is a really bad day. Usually my back is more of a problem, but, I mean, it doesn't ever really stop hurting."

Evan nodded and said, as casually as he was able, "Is there anything they can do about that?"

"I don't know," he admitted. "Probably. But I don't have, you know, money, so when I go to the clinic they're not about to start running tests or anything."

"Johnny."

"I'm not going back, Evan."

"I didn't say anything."

"No, but you were going to. I'm not going back. There's nothing for me back there."

"There's your family."

Johnny flinched. Direct hit. "Yeah, and when I go back, then what? Then it goes from 'where is Johnny Weir?' to 'where was Johnny Weir?' and you know what? Eventually they're going to figure it out, and I'm not having my family dragged through that mud. Oh, that's right, I didn't tell you how I make my living, did I?" Johnny asked, sweet as poison, and Evan sighed and braced himself for the oncoming explosion before cutting over however Johnny was going to say it with,

"I already knew." The explosion--didn't come. Johnny sat back, wide-eyed, stunned. "Evgeni Plushenko stumbled across something a few months ago. He told me about it, because he knew I'd always thought you were out there somewhere, and--he didn't know what to do."

"And you didn't tell anybody?" Evan shrugged. "Why didn't you say something?"

"Not my place, and it didn't come up before, and," Evan shrugged again. "You do what you have to, I guess."

"So you get why I can't go back."

"No. It doesn't matter, Johnny. It doesn't. Maybe it comes out, maybe it doesn't, but the people who love you aren't going to care, they're just going to be glad that they've got you." Johnny was on the edge of terrified, lost, so Evan said, "Eat your dumplings before they get cold, okay?"

"It doesn't bother you?"

"Yeah, it bothers me. Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to get high and mighty on you, if you actually liked it and were making a decent living it would be one thing, but...you seem miserable, Johnny, and you're clearly not making enough money to take proper care of yourself. I hate seeing you like this. Stephane would have hated seeing you like this."

"Don't--"

"You know it's true. What, are you punishing yourself? It wasn't your fault."

"I know that," Johnny snapped.

Evan was ready, and countered, "Do you?"

Johnny was completely still for a moment, then inhaled shakily, fighting back tears. "No," he said after a moment. "I mean, logically, yeah, but. I just keep thinking, there had to be something I could have done, some way I could have--God."

"It's not on you, Johnny. It's not. It's on the motherfucker who decided to drive home after his liquid lunch."

Johnny picked up his fork, apparently just to have something to do with his hands. "We were so happy."

"I know. I remember."

"He'd decided he was going to move in with me in New York, you know, until I finished at FIT, and then we'd reevaluate, but we were sick of being apart, and, you know, we were both retired, or, well, he was retired and I was just holding off on making the announcement, so...but we were going to buy a place in Lausanne, for when we were in Switzerland." Evan blinked a couple of times. "It was his home, you know? That's what we were talking about, we were going to look at real estate listings when we got back to his place."

"I didn't know that."

"No one does. I never told anybody. His mom asked me, you know, what his last words were, and I told her I didn't remember. I told everyone I didn't remember, and, you know, I hit my head," and that was an understatement. Johnny had been in a coma for three days, "so, everybody believed me. I don't know why I did that. But, he wanted somewhere quiet. That was the last thing he ever said to me, 'I want it to be quiet. Peaceful.'" Johnny's eyes were welling up with tears. "And I said--I said, 'Well, then we're going to be fucked in New York,' and he laughed, and--" The dam broke. "I never saw it coming. I swear, Evan, I never saw it coming."

Evan reached across the table and grabbed one of his hands and held on tight, and let him cry.

After a few minutes, Johnny collected himself and said, "You know what I think about, sometimes, when I'm not thinking about how I can't afford to buy food and pay the heating bill next week, so I need to pick one, or about how I used to actually like sex, or about how I wish it had been me instead? I think about that. Our house in Lausanne. What it would've been like. It would've been peaceful, and had big windows, and his socks on the floor. He always left his fucking socks on the floor."

"You don't like sex?" Johnny stared at him in disbelief. "What? That's tragic." Johnny laughed, and Evan smiled.

"You did that on purpose."

"Sure. It's good to hear you laugh. But seriously. You don't like sex?"

"It's a job," he said with a shrug. "I just." He looked down at the fork. "Whatever, you know?"

Evan quirked up one side of his mouth and said, wryly, "Maybe you're having it wrong."

Johnny laughed again. "I'm having it with porn stars."

"Exactly. I mean, porn looks hot, right, but I've always thought a lot of it would not be fun, like, as actual sex you were having just for the hell of it. And even less fun when people are shoving cameras in your face." Evan tilted his head, thinking about it. "Unless that's like your kink."

Johnny snorted and stabbed a dumpling. "It's not."

"You need a new job."

"I have no marketable skills in fields where people wouldn't go, 'Bozhe moi, you're that figure skater who went crazy and disappeared.'"

"There's always retail."

"I actually worked retail for a while," Johnny said reflectively. "When I was in Kazan. I was really bad at it."

"Yeah, I guess you would be."

"Oh, no, it wasn't that," Johnny said. "That was the first year, I was pretty much. Dead inside. I mean, I did my job, I just. Yeah. I couldn't care enough to pretend I cared." He shifted, winced.

"Where do you keep your pills?"

"Medicine cabinet, in the bathroom, aspirin's on the second shelf."

"I thought you said you had Vicodin," Evan said as he got up and ducked into the bathroom. "You do have Vicodin."

"The Vicodin are for when I think I might die."

"Johnny," Evan said, but when he came out of the bathroom he was carrying the aspirin.

"Don't, Evan. You can't save everyone." Johnny looked him square in the eye and said, "Especially if they don't want to be saved."

"What, you want to do penance for the rest of your life? That doesn't even make sense. It wasn't your fault. Stephane wouldn't want you to do this to yourself."

"Don't tell me what--don't tell me what he'd want," Johnny growled.

"But you know I'm right."

"I can't go back."

"So go forward. Just stop…running away."

Johnny snorted and shook his head. "It's not that easy."

"Could be." Evan sat back down, leaned back in the chair, and pointed out, "Cup of Russia's next week."

Johnny stared at him for over a minute before saying, "You're crazy."

"Make you a deal. My kid medals, you come to the reception. You can do whatever you want from there. You can slip out the back and go back to making Russian porn. Or you can come back to America with us and stop punishing yourself. But you come to the reception."

"How good is your kid?"

"Wouldn't you like to know?"

"How good is your kid?" Johnny said again, and Evan realized he was actually considering it.

"She came second at Junior Worlds last year. She had a couple of problems in her long that I'm pretty sure we've addressed in the new program. She's good. I mean, her stamina for a senior long under pressure hasn't been tested yet, and I'm obviously biased, but I think she stands a shot at the podium."

Johnny scraped his thumbnail over the faded Formica of the tabletop and said, "Tell you what. She wins it, I'll think about it."

"Deal," Evan said, knowing it was the best he was going to get.

"What's she skating to?"

"Her short's to, uh, it's called 'Gypsy?' It's from Lord of the Dance, Riverdance, one of those."

Johnny blinked. "Okay, this may be completely random, but is she? Demeter's a Romany last name, I think?"

"Yeah. On her dad's side, anyway, the mom's not in the picture, so, I don't know. She likes statements like that; we're always fighting about just how many programs one can skate to Django Reinhardt music before people start wondering if anyone in her camp has access to other music." Johnny laughed, and Evan grinned at him. "Her long's Michael Jackson. Well. Michael Jackson covers. Instrumentals of Michael Jackson covers. It's like the third degree of separation or something. 'Billie Jean' and 'Beat It.' I cut a deal with her; I'm always cutting deals with her, if she could moonwalk on skates she could do it, and damned if she didn't figure it out. She has a glove and everything. And there's a hat. I mean, at the moment she's skating it with an imaginary hat, although we do have an actual hat, if we can figure out how to keep it on without actually supergluing it to her head."

"Vicious use of hatpins?"

"Yeah. She has short hair, though, so. It's been a problem, I mean, there are bits of her choreography that look weird with the imaginary hat."

Johnny laughed. "The hat will be implied?"

"Something like that." Eventually, Johnny finished eating, and Evan stood when he did. "Hey. Johnny?"

"Hm?"

Evan leaned over and kissed him, just for a moment, a gentle press of lips before he pulled away.

Johnny said only, "Aren't you straight?"

Evan laughed. "Why did you think I got divorced?" His phone started blaring the Chris Cornell cover of 'Billie Jean.' "Sara."

"I guessed."

"Either she's decided to behave or to find a new coach, but either way I have to go." Evan shrugged his coat on and turned to the door.

"Hey. Evan."

"Yeah?"

"Thanks."

"Any time."

***

Johnny woke up a few days later with a relatively working hip and a ringing phone. "Allo?"

"Johnnik," Fedor said, "How are you?"

"Better," he said warily.

"Good, listen, I had a call from Gregor, he is shooting today, a gang bang, and their bottom's fucked off somewhere. I thought, if you still need the work? The pay's the same as my job would have been."

"Gregor doesn't ever actually pay what he says he's going to, Fedor. That's probably why his bottom ditched."

Fedor laughed and said, "Yes, I know, this is true, but he'll pay you right this time. Everything is set up for today and you can't have a gang bang without someone to fuck. Easy money, just lay there and moan."

And be too sore to sit down by the end of the day, Johnny thought, but he was considering it. Then he thought of Stephane, the first time he'd let himself do that while considering a job in a long time. And then he thought of Evan. You seem miserable, Johnny. "Tell Gregor I'm sorry, but I can't make it. Maybe some other time," Johnny said, and Fedor made all the right noises about keeping an eye out before he hung up.

Johnny went for a walk.

***

Mirai answered the phone, laughing as she said, "Evan's phone, Evan's torturing a Gypsy child at the moment and can't answer."

Johnny felt frozen, pinned, for a moment, but then he recovered and said in Russian, "Could you please give him the phone?" and he heard her curse. He hadn't known Mirai knew how to curse.

"Evan, it's some Russian." He heard the low murmur of Evan's voice, and a yelp that had to be the student, and Mirai said, "I don't know, it's not Plushenko. Caller ID says Lebed-apostrophe? Is that a name? Here."

Lebed', Johnny knew, was an acceptable Romanization of the Russian for 'swan.'

"Hello?" Evan said.

"You're torturing a Gypsy child?"

"Hang on. Yeah, no, friend of Evgeni's. No, he understands English fine, he just doesn't speak it. Yeah." Then, to Johnny, he said, "Okay, if I drop the phone it's because we're trying to get this hat situation working. Pretend that makes sense."

"MOTHERFUCKER!" the student yelled, loud enough that Johnny flinched. "You stabbed me!"

"Good, the blood'll act as glue once it dries," Evan said, completely unfazed, and, "If you'd hold still, I wouldn't stab you." There were a few more rustling sounds, plus some cursing, and then, "Okay, shake your head around. Good. Now go do your program." There was a moment of silence, then, "Get your ass on the ice, Demeter." She said something Johnny couldn't make out, because she wasn't shouting any more, and Evan told her, "I'm not watching you for form, I'm watching for whether that hat stays on. Go skate."

After a moment, Johnny asked, "Did you actually stab her?"

"No clue, but no blood's trickling out from under the hat yet, so it's all good. What did you call about? Mirai's gone to the other side of the rink with the boombox, by the way."

"How did you wind up working with Mirai?"

"Same rink, same old coach, it just sort of fell together like that," Evan said, and Johnny could picture him shrugging. "Neither of us really coaches full-time, except I've got Sara. Hang on. Actually do your jumps! Jesus. You'd think she'd never heard of dress rehearsal. Why did you call?"

"Why did you kiss me?"

"I wanted to," Evan said, and Johnny closed his eyes at the simple honesty in it. "And you looked like you could do with being kissed. Was that okay?"

"Yeah," Johnny admitted. He closed his eyes before telling him, "I wouldn't mind if you did it again sometime."

"Well," Evan said, sounding surprised and pleased. "Okay, then."

"I'm--" Johnny hesitated, then tried again, picking at a stray string on his blanket as he did. "I'm always going to be in love with hi--with Stephane." It hurt to say, but this time he managed to get it out.

"I know. I wouldn't ever ask you not to be. I'm just asking you to stop punishing yourself for things that weren't your fault."

"Thank you," Johnny said.

"You're welcome?" Evan said in response, obviously a little confused.

Johnny hung up without saying goodbye, stood up from the bed, and went to sit at the table. He'd taken a book of matches from the drawer in the kitchenette earlier, and his suicide note from the dresser. Now, he lit a match, touched it to the corner of the note, and watched it burn until it singed his fingers.

Then, he smiled.

Continued here.
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