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"There's No Other"

inkspill
Title: There's No Other
Author: raspsun
Fandom/Pairing: NHL [Pittsburgh Penguins/Philadelphia Flyers] – Marc-André Fleury/Max Talbot
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: Don’t know, don’t own, don’t profit. This story is completely and utterly false, and in no way do I intend for anyone to think otherwise.
Summary: Flower demands an explanation for Max kissing him on the Kiss Cam.
Author’s Notes: In response to the Kiss Cam fic from the Sentence Meme (f-locked), which was totally angsty and unresolved, withcrayons told me, You should totally write a fix-it fic where they kiss for real and keep being codependently adorable and clingy at each other and live happily ever after. *nods*. So I was all, Okay. I will. And then I did. Angst and sap all in one fic. Spangst? So not my usual style, but I kind of like it. Title from The Crystals’ song "There's No Other (Like My Baby)." [WC: ~2,200]

**



In the locker room after the second period, Sidney approaches, and Flower tells him, very seriously, no trace of a smile, "I absolument do not want to talk about it," and Sidney squeezes his thigh comfortingly but doesn't ask questions. No one else does, either, and Flower loves this team, he loves them.

When the game ends (the Pens eked one out when Nealer scored with inside of five minutes left), Flower's thankful he didn't start; the media's crowded around Thiessen's stall. Most of them wouldn't ask him about what happened anyway, but Potash is always good for the off-the-cuff, non-game-related question, and Flower likes the guy but no. Just no. Avoiding the media might have involved hiding in a trainer's room but he had to do what he had to do.

"Listen up, everyone," Dan announces when the media's filed out. "We leave for the airport in 30. Be ready. If you miss the team flight, you're responsible for your own way back, and I don't have to see you tomorrow but your ass better be half an hour early to Tuesday's skate."

This is very much against protocol; Flower can literally count the number of times they've not been required to be on the team flight...usually it's around the holidays or right before the All-Star Break so that everyone can get a head-start on their personal plans. So this is very unusual. He's not going to argue, though, because there's no way in hell he's going to be on that flight.

He has somewhere else he wants to be. Somewhere else he needs to be.

**

Flower has Max's new address saved in his phone, and he rattles it off to the cab driver, who thankfully shows no sign of recognizing him. He doesn't live very far from the arena, a good thing because Flower's not tortured with his thoughts for too long.

Max is in a house on the outskirts of Philly, a little less flashy than his Pittsburgh place. It's nice; the neighborhood seems really different than the South Side.

Standing at the front door and gathering his courage, he realizes suddenly that he doesn't even know if Max is home. It's too early for dinner but that doesn't mean that Max didn't have postgame plans with some of his teammates. Or maybe they're still getting lectured for their lackluster offensive effort. The garage is closed, so he can't even tell if Max's car is here.

It doesn't matter. He's not leaving; if Max isn't here right now, Flower will wait. He'll sit on the front step and wait. What's a few more hours when he's been waiting, though not so literally, for Max for years?

He takes a deep breath and rings the bell.

He won't have to wait, it turns out. He hears Max's voice, "Just a minute," and Max's heavy footsteps coming to the door. Max still doesn't check to see who it is (Flower always lectured him about this back home... back in Pittsburgh), he just swings the door open, huge smile on his face for his visitor.

"Marc-André!" There is genuine surprise in Max's voice, and Flower's full name feels like a strange and awkward formality. He's still smiling, though, and Flower's encouraged. "What are you doing here?"

"I'm here to not run away from my problems."

The smile does falter now, but Max steps back, opens the door wider and lets Flower in his house.

He closes the door and says, still facing away, "I should have..." He turns to face Flower. "Come into the living room and we can talk."

Flower doesn't know which direction the living room is even in, and this makes him angry and a little sad. Max senses the confusion, of course he does, he's always been able to sense how Flower's feeling, and he says, "To your right. I'm sorry you haven't been here...do you want a...a tour or something?" His voice fades out toward the end of his question, like he knows it's a little ridiculous.

"No, Max, I don't want a tour of your house that you moved into in July, after you left."

Flower looks around. The living room is nice; Max has always had impeccable taste...in interior designers. This has outside influence written all over it, tasteful, muted colors, leather furniture, television hidden in an armoire. Flower sits on the loveseat, and Max hesitates before choosing the middle of the couch.

"Flower -- " Max says.

Flower cuts right to the point: "What the fuck was that today, Max?"

"I...thought it would be funny."

"No. No."

"Flower -- "

"I think it would be funny, maybe, if it were anyone but me. If you had actually kissed Hartnell -- " (Flower gives an involuntary shudder) " -- everyone laughs, and it is nothing, you know? But I was not laughing, Maxime. Because it was not nothing. Or, it shouldn't have been. And if it was to you -- "

"It wasn't," Max interrupts. "It wasn't nothing. It was just...an idea, it was a reaction, and I meant it when I said that if I were going to kiss anyone -- "

So the comment had been for him, not for the crowd...the crowd...the crowd that Max had kissed him in front of. Flower doesn't want to hear it. "To me, a kiss is not funny. Not a kiss from you. It is not a joke, it should mean something. And you took something that means something and made it a joke."

"Not a joke," Max says desperately. "Just...a funny way to do...what I...what I..." He scrubs a hand over his face, back through his hair. "It gave me...it gave me courage. It gave me something to hide behind, Flower. Do you know what I mean?"

"Why did you need to hide? Hide from who? From me? You never need to hide from me."

"Because after I left..."

After Max made the decision to leave, they'd barely talked. During previous off-seasons, not one day passed where Flower didn't hear from Max, where Flower didn't reach out to him. But last summer, weeks would go by with no contact, and Flower called but Max didn't answer, and all Flower would get were impersonal texts like i think i found a place and working out for first time in two weeks...why did i let my muscles atrophy?!! , little attempts at normalcy that would have been normal if they'd been interspersed with phone calls and emails and Skype conversations.

"And that's really why I'm here, Max. Not why did you kiss me on the Kiss Cam? Why did you leave?"

Max had left two days after Flower had asked him not to, after Flower had told him that there was nothing he wanted more than for Max to stay, that he couldn't imagine the Penguins without Max, that he couldn't imagine himself without Max, that Max was the most important person in his life, that he hoped he was the most important person in Max's. The only thing he hadn't said was "Please don't leave because I'm in love with you" and he spent those weeks without contact wishing that he had. Because he'd spilled his guts and all Max had said, voice choked up, was "Flower, I...there's a lot I have to think about" before he'd let himself out of Flower's house.

"Flower, I -- "

And it's like déjà vu, and Flower doesn't want Max to leave again, so he starts talking: "I thought we were...I thought, finally, finally, we were getting somewhere, you and I. After all...after all these years. Years I thought we'd been wasting. Years where I didn't even recognize what it was, what I felt for you; years where I thought I could make it work with someone else; years where we...where we should have been together but weren't;" his voice gets extraordinarily soft, "years that I thought wouldn't matter in another fifty because by then they'd be so far behind us, and we'd look at each other and we'd think about how lucky we were to have had so much time together." He sighs. "And you were...scared or stupid or both, and you left the city, you left the team, you left me. And I know the decision has business, too, a little bit, but you could have taken the Penguins' offer. It was out there on the table, and it wasn't terrible, Max, business-wise, and I also...I thought you might have had a reason to take the Penguins' offer."

Max is voice is choked up like it was last summer, during their last actual conversation. "I made it..." he coughs. "I kind of thought of it as...I made it my reason to leave."

"You...so you did leave because of me."

"No!"

"That's what it sounds like you're saying."

"No, Flower. I left. I left because of me. I left because of how much I wanted to stay because of you."

"That doesn't make any sense."

"No, listen. I. This is what I should have told you, this is what I should have said then, and I didn't...you were right. I was scared and stupid. I was scared of how much I wanted to stay because of you, and I was scared that you didn't want me to stay as much as I wanted to stay, and that made me stupid. That made me take the next offer that wasn't across the country or in the western conference. That made me come to Philly."

"And you told me none of this. You just left. I told you to stay -- I asked you to stay. I tried my best and you didn't even try at all. You didn't even try to explain what you were feeling. And how could you ever have thought I didn't want you to stay just as much as you apparently wanted to? I wanted it more, Maxime, I'm sure of it. I'd never wanted anything else more, and I thought I told you that, I thought I said enough."

"I couldn't believe it. That's always been my problem, Flower, thinking that I wasn't actually enough for you, that you would realize it, and that you wouldn't want to be the reason I stayed...maybe at first...but not forever."

Flower just stares at him. "Of course I wanted you to stay forever. I want you forever."

Max looks over to him. "Still?"

There’s a long pause, but Flower knows what he’s going to say. "Still."

"But...why?"

"Because...what I feel for you is forever. It's…it’s not something you get over."

Max stands, hesitates like he had when they first walked in the room and then comes to sit next to Flower.

"When I left," he says, "I couldn't even talk to you -- "

"I noticed."

Max presses on, almost urgently, "I didn't know what I could say. I was leaving and I was selfish and a coward and I thought the best thing to do would be...to just...be your friend again. I couldn't answer the phone, I didn't trust what I would say. So I just tried to...be dumb Max. Send you pointless texts, nothing too deep. I thought we could at least have that."

"I didn't want that....and I don't want it now. I just...God, Max, I'll say it again: I want you forever."

Max leans in closer, and Flower doesn't move away. "Okay, so. No cartoon heart, no doo-wop song, no stupid gimmick to hide behind...I'm going to kiss you now, okay?"

Flower's throat is thick with emotion, but he laughs a little. "Okay."

Max rests his hand against the side of Flower's neck, thumb against a pulse point. His other hand fists in the material of Flower's dress shirt, pulling it a little loose. He leans in, and Flower closes his eyes. Flower can feel Max breathing, one final moment of hesitation that stretches like taffy, and then Max's mouth touches his, and it's soft and warm and so good. It goes on much longer than their Kiss Cam moment, and Max's tongue pushes against his, and it's...actually perfect.

"Just so you know," Max says when he pulls back, "I want you forever, too."

And what else can Flower do but lean in and kiss him again, for another long, long moment.

"Being the reason you stayed would have been a lot of pressure," Flower says when they part. "But I would have been up to the challenge. I would have spent every day living up to the challenge. And it's too late for that, but you're stuck with me now. I'm staying tonight, and you're taking me to the airport tomorrow, and you are calling me every day. And you're going to learn the turnpike very well, eh?"

"I'll have to buy a hybrid."

Flower grins. God, he's missed Max so much.

"Just so you know," Flower says, "if you ever do actually kiss Hartnell, on the Kiss Cam for laughs or elsewhere, my lips will never touch yours again."

Max grins. "That is something you definitely don't need to worry about. I won't be kissing Hartnell. I won't be kissing anyone. This mouth is yours. This everything is yours."

Flower pulls him in again.

Everything's not fixed. Everything's not perfect.

But it's better.

And that's what Flower needed.

**

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
withcrayons
Apr. 10th, 2012 07:10 pm (UTC)
I am so glad you actually listened to me and obliged in my demanding tendencies and wrote this when I said "FIX IT PLEASE :( :( :("

because this is like. <3 perfection. <3
raspsun
Apr. 11th, 2012 03:20 am (UTC)
I was so ~inspired~! I remember just...sitting down and writing the whole thing at one time, in order. It was awesome. Thank you!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )