I took my love, I took it down
Climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
'Til the landslide brought me down
Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Well, I've been afraid of changing
'Cause I've built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I'm gettin older, too
Ah, take my love, take it down
Oh, climb a mountain and turn around
And if you see my reflection in the snow covered hills
Well, the landslide will bring it down
“Look, all I’m saying is that leaving Pasta in charge of all the rookies at an Irish bar in Southie is not a good idea Bradley.”
“Oh come on Bergy, everyone's gotta experience their first arrest some time.”
“ No, they absolutely do not you cretin.”
Brad honest to god giggles at the annoyed tone in his boyfriends voice. “They never even experienced juvy Patrice!! They’re pretty sheltered.”
“ Marchy- ”
“Listen, this way they’ll learn how to fight! It’s perfect! A win-win!”
“ You think having to explain to Coach and the PR team why there’s footage of Pasta getting forcibly thrown through a glass window is fun?!”
He pauses for a second, because, alright fair. Maybe telling Pasta about a bar that doesn’t give a damn about age or fighting or rules in general and has a lot of good alcohol and whose patrons have a preference for hockey - specifically bruins hockey - might not have been the best idea.
“Okay but I didn’t tell him to bring all of the rookies.”
“I’d say technically they’re not rookies anymore-”
“-except we’re too old, so they’re always going to be our rookies.”
Bergy sighs over the phone, but it’s fond. He smiles and signals to briefly get on the highway.
“Really we’ve got to give it to Cheeks, I didn’t think he’d have it in him to text one of us.”
“It wasn’t Charlie, it was Jake. He took Macs phone.”
“Is it bad I feel like a proud parent? Like all those times we told them to call us if they needed help and now I’m driving on 91 at one in the morning to go get my drunk cherubs.”
“ Oh my god Marchy.”
“No wait hold on I need to practice my ‘I’m not mad I’m just disappointed’ face.”
“Are you almost there?” Patrice ignores his last comment. Brad can hear his nervous tapping through the phone. “ He’s not texting me back.”
“He’s probably blackout drunk Bergy.” Using one hand he signals into right lane to get off. There’s few other cars on the road due to the hour, but it’s still Boston, and it’s still a Friday. There’s a truck in front of him who's driver keeps tapping their brakes randomly. “And relax, they won’t actually be arrested.”
There’s a distinct silence on the other end of the line.
“Okay they probably won’t get arrested.”
The guy in front of him slows dramatically then speeds up, which means they’re lost or they’re drunk, so Brad automatically starts to give himself a bit more space between them.
“ How are you even going to get them all into your car? I should’ve come with you, brought a second car-”
“And then everyone would have seen the two of us dragging our drunk hockey kids into two cars, because I can show up and be relatively unnoticed, but if you show up it’s going to be all over deadspin.”
“ That doesn’t make any sense. ”
“The Great Saint, the wonderful, the grand, the all-powerful Patrice Bergeron heroically saving his group of rookies? I’d watch that shit at all hours of the day. Just Brad Marchand dragging his dumbass linemate and other assorted young hockey players out of a bar? That’s boring. Come one Bergy it’s all about the clicks. You’re famous.”
“ I hate you. ”
Marchy barks out a laugh, and checks his mirrors. The phone is still sandwiched to his ear but he recognizes the exit, so he should be close. He’s not really that worried about the boys because he knows Pasta can take care of them, despite what everyone else may think. He’s gonna laugh about this for the next twenty years though, because Debrusk really took Mac’s phone to text their ‘dads’ for a ride. It’s fucking comical. Teen dramas could be made about th-
The car in front of his swerves suddenly, and Brad has enough time to inhale sharply in fear before everything goes black.
When he comes back, it’s really, really bright.
He blinks, and the light doesn’t fade at all, everything around him white and shining. It’s painful to keep his eyes open. No matter how many times he blinks his pupils don’t seem to be able to contract enough.
He can feel nothing. There’s no pain. Nothing touching him. He can’t even really feel his body, if it wasn’t so painful to see, he wouldn’t know if his eyes were open or shut.
He doesn’t know what keeps him there. It’s easier to let his eyes close, but then something seems to force them open again. When they’re closed, he’s vaguely aware of a slight tightness in his chest, but it’s far, far away, and it fades so fast once his eyes are open.
At some point, the light fades a little. There’s grey blobs that sort themselves out, appearing in shapeless form and fading back into the white. They don’t bother him, but sometimes they come close before disappearing with a blink.
If he could feel terrified, he’s sure he would, but nothing seems to bother him at all, even the horrible lack of sensory input.
Brad thinks he might be missing something here. Or- someone.
Is he still alive? He doesn’t- he can’t feel anything, he doesn’t know if that- is this what it’s like to be dead?
He doesn’t know how long he’s there, staring into the bright white, but just as suddenly as he’s appeared there, he’s suddenly somewhere else.
He closes his eyes, and when he opens them he’s no longer in the white place.
He’s in the woods.
It’s certainly jarring, to go from nothing and nowhere to standing, snow beneath his boots, cold air in his lungs, and tall, skyscraping trees all around him.
He stumbles back, momentarily over run by the large amount of sensory input after so little, and trips, landing on his rear. Cold sears the inside of his wrists and something tangles in the fingers of his right hand.
He looks, and notices first his boots. His boots that are up in the cabin in the woods in Canada. His hunting boots.
In his right hand is his bow, already loaded but not drawn, the arrow now lying ascue from his tumble. The woods are quiet, but not silent.
He knows this place. Just as he knows the weight in his hand is his, and the gear he’s wearing is his, he knows the woods he stands in, are his. These are the ones he’s hunted in since he was a child.
Marchy stands up, heart calming it’s pounding. He’s comfortable here, with the snow and the woods. He knows nothing will hurt him.
The bow is back in his hand. The sky is clouded but not so much that he can’t see. He picks up the arrow, sets it in its place, and starts to walk.
It could be forever, it could be no time at all, but he walks the trails he knows by heart, again and again. It’s...peaceful. He has no urgency, no worry, nothing. It’s just calm.
Everything that changes is sudden. He goes from walking, no game to follow, just being and then he’s no longer on his trail. The woods are still his, but the area is not. He looks down, and there’s tracks that were not there before. When he looks behind him, the same tracks are in line with his.
When he bends down to examine them, he can instantly tell the animal is huge. The gait, the size of the prints...he can picture it in his mind, clear as day. It is not his job to hunt it, maybe, but he has his bow, and he has tracks, so he may as well follow them.
He hunts, until it’s dark, but he can still see by the pale light of a full moon.
There is no dramatic clearing, no confrontation, no big show. He scans the woods, turns around and there it is. The white stag is huge and glowing, and Brad remembers.
“Am I dead?” He asks it.
The creature only blinks at him.
He blinks back, and he’s not in the forest anymore.
He’s in Paris.
Talk about a change in scenery.
He manages to stumble to a bench and has to sit for a few minutes just to get his breath back, because for the second time the rapid change in sensory input has him reeling.
It’s warm here. The trees are short and sparse, the pathways paved or laid with brick. There is no moon, instead a blue sky and a few clouds and a grand, wide open sky. The only reason he knows he’s in Paris is because of the massive landmark that stands in front of him. He’s always wanted to see the real Eiffel Tower.
There’s people, lots and lots of tourists and couples on their honeymoon and a few natives who are going about their business ignoring them all. He would walk around, except he doesn’t know anything about Paris, and he doesn’t want to get lost.
Besides, it’s the Eiffel Tower. He’s had a fascination with the thing since he was a kid (or maybe more of a fascination of what Paris represented - the city of love bit and all that).
(He’s just always loved the idea that he could bring a boy there one day. Someone who loved him for who he was, not who he had to be for hockey.)
The sun is his only reference to time passing, and even then he doesn’t really register it. He walks around the square, sits on a different bench for a while, gets as close to the monument as he can and stares up in awe. He’s heard that people can pay to go up in it, but he’s satisfied staying on the ground.
It gorgeous. It’s peaceful, like the forest, but louder. Everything is simple here, even if it’s still busy. Everyone has a purpose. He gets to watch, without being watched. No one can see him, something he knows without being told.
He remembers the woods, remembers the cool air and the way everything had been sharp and crisp and definite. Here, everything is warm, details a little hazy. Everyone is moving, talking, laughing and...living.
A short little wuffle has him looking down to his left. There’s a dog without a leash or collar staring up at him. It’s sitting and wagging it’s tail and looking very happy with itself.
Brad laughs and crouches down to pet it. He can’t tell if it’s a boy or a girl, but it’s a puppy still. All floppy ears and large eyes and happiness, the small creature has paws to big for its body and all the love in the world for Brad. If he had to guess, he’d say it was a golden retriever mixed with something else. It’s got a bit of a limp and one eye is clouded, but it clearly likes Brad, and Brad loves it back.
He sits on the grass for while, just playing with the small pup in the grass while people bustle around him, and one of the world's greatest monuments towers behind him. The dogs energy remind him strangely of Pasta. It makes him smile as the soft haired ball of fluff bumbles around him, falling over itself in its haste to chase after a dragonfly.
Marchy likes it here. It is different then the woods he hunts, but time passes just the same, forever and nothing happening at the same time.
He thinks, at one point, that he’s missing something. Something happened to him. Or- something is .
He wishes Bergy was here. This would be the perfect day, them together in the city of love. Maybe he could get a dog too.
Maybe while he’s dreaming, the team is there too- they can talk about that night-
The dog barks at him and Brad stares at it.
“Am I dead?” He mumbles. The puppy just licks his face in response, clearly not caring. He sighs, closing his eyes.
When he opens them, he’s no longer in France.
He’s in a church. And that’s never really a good sign.
It’s not like he’s never been in a church. He went as kid, too annoyed at having to sit still and be quiet to pay attention. He’s not afraid of them like he’s seen some people be. It’s just the last few times he’s been in a church it’s been for funerals, so one could imagine why doesn’t associate them with happy feelings.
Ironically, the last few weddings he’s been to have all be outside, done by a priest maybe, but not in a church. But he’s standing there now, waiting at the altar, and when he looks down he’s wearing a really, really nice suit that he’s never seen before.
This place too, is not one he’s seen before, and it’s probably not one he could see himself picking. The more he gets to look at it though, the more he finds that he likes the feel of it. It’s not shiny or grand, nothing is especially beautiful to his eyes, but it’s...certain. It’s not flashy, but it’s not plain, either. The feel of the place…it’s real . Homey and familiar, not cold and foreign like he feels in other churches.
Dark wood beams curve and crisscross the ceiling, arches meeting at the middle where there’s a large skylight. The same shade of dark, reddish stain covers the pews, and the rest of the carved woodwork that climbs around him. There’s a choir in the second floor balconies, and flowers - Jesus Christ could they have enough flowers.
He hopes no one is especially allergic, because they’re everywhere, and normally Brad would hate that, because his allergies in the spring and fall dictate that he has a particular distaste to the amount of pollen in the air, but these are...well they’re a lot. There’s a lot of them, there’s a lot of different kinds, there’s a lot of different colors, yet they all seem perfect. They brighten the room, bring it to life almost.
Without thinking about it, he can imagine the white, purple, and pink chinese asters that adorn the tables at the reception, and the blue, red, and pink hyacinths and delphiniums sat in decorative pots for the walk outside. Both of which he thinks clashes horrendously with the colors actually in the church and wedding, but again he thinks about that and already knows there was an argument of which he lost horribly.
These colors are just as pleasing as the ones in the reception anyway.
Orange lilies twined with white calla’s. Tight bouquets of orange, white, and lavender roses decorate the ends of the pews and are held in the hands of the women who stand on either side of the altar. The men are wearing orange boutonnieres, the women in lavender dresses, and he can’t see them, he can’t see them but he knows they’re the collective wedding party.
He can’t turn around, but he knows things, like how proud Pasta is for getting to be his best man and how he’s said at least twenty times he’s never getting rid of the suit he’s wearing or how Zee is standing on the other side but it was a whole weird talk about why he’s standing on the other side instead on Marchy’s side, and the rest of the team is sort of scattered around them.
And there’s people. Like- other people. He knows there's people, but he never looks at them, never gets to see them. He just knows the church is full, and it's full of people he knows, people he cares about.
The team, past and present (he’s got a nagging voice in the back of his head asking why he thought inviting Segs was going to be a good idea), his close family and his extended, his friends...his everyone. All here to watch the wedding.
Oh this is his wedding. This is his wedding.
Shit, fuck, who is he even getting married to-
‘Alright that’s a dumb question. ’ He scolds himself as music starts playing, maybe a little atypical, something different than when a bride walks down but still fitting for a wedding.
There’s only one person who’s ever made him consider getting married.
He hears the grand doors open, and everyone stands up, and his hands are shaking, he’s shaking , but he can’t turn around, not yet, they rehearsed this, him and Bergy, he doesn’t get to turn around yet.
Brad closes his eyes, trying to breath through the adrenaline. He’s never been so excited, so nervous, not during the Stanley Cup finals, not when he held the cup, not when he first got together with Patrice. He thought this day would never happen. In fact he’s so unsure of it he wants to ask someone, “ Is this a dream? Did I die? Am I dead? ”
There’s footsteps close enough now, and he knows Bergy’s mom has gone to sit down, and this is when he gets to see him, gets to turn around and see his husband to be, holy shit-
When he opens his eyes, he’s no longer in the church.
He’s in his grandmother's kitchen.
The breath leaves his chest in a whoosh, and he sits heavily in one the old wooden chairs around the table. Something is bubbling in a pot on the stove, mixing with some gorgeous smell from the oven to create something signature and distinctly of home.
“I told you one of these days that you were going to get lost in that head of yours.” Brad jolts, twisting around his chair as his Gran walks in the kitchen. He opens his mouth, closes it, and opens it again, but before he can say anything there’s a sharp pain on the back of his hand.
“Ow!” He looks at his Gran incredulously. “Hey!”
Brad gets a look in return that’s congruent to when he was a kid and tried to get away with saying something smart.
“You weren’t listening to me again.”
“I wasn’t- what?” He rubs at his hand. There’s actually a red mark from where the wooden spoon hit his skin.
“I told you.” She snaps at him, and he feels his ears heat. He remembers he used to give his mom all sorts of shit, but never could try anything with his Gran. “When you went to play hockey with those big men, you were supposed to be careful. You always dreamed to much. They would take advantage of you Brad, get you lost.”
“That- that didn’t happen.” He argues. “They wouldn’t- they didn’t do that. That’s not what happened.”
“Oh? So where are you now then?”
“Well I’m pretty sure I’m in your kitchen- ow! Stop it Gran! ” He rubs at the back of his head now, and his Gran makes her way around the table, grabbing things from cabinets.
“Don’t get smart with me young man!”
Alright, alright he smiles at that. He doesn’t think it’ll ever get old, being home like this.
He’s missed it.
“I asked you where you were. I am in my kitchen, but you are not Bradley Kevin. If you don’t know where you are, then you are lost.” She turns to glare at him. Brad shrinks. “Which, as I believe I had previously scolded you for, was what I told you would happen if you weren’t careful.”
“I was careful Gran.” He lets his eyes wander around the kitchen. It’s been so long since he’s been to this house. The weird old wallpaper is even still the same, the only thing he can notice having changed is the addition of a microwave and a brand new fridge sits where the dirty old white one used to sputter and cough. “I don’t know where- I mean it looks like your kitchen at least.”
She hums doubtfully, like he’s being an idiot. “Well, how did you get here?”
Brad doesn’t have to think as hard as he did the first time, and it all comes back in sharp flashes - metal screeching as it twists and bends, bright lights, someone crying - it’s violent and painful and scary, because he doesn’t know what it means, not really, but he has an idea.
A shiver rocks his frame, shaking lose a tear that runs down his cheek. “Am I dead?” He whispers.
His Gran smiles, but it’s a sad sort of thing. She walks over and sets a plate in front of him, landing a kiss on his cheek.
It’s sweet and it’s nice, but it’s not an answer.
Brad closes his eyes, and when he opens them, he’s on the ice.
There’s skates beneath his feet and a stick in hand, and he’s in the middle of the Bruins practice rink.
There’s no one else, just him on the ice in his gear. No one else, until suddenly there is. He doesn’t have to look, but there’s someone. A whistles blows, and there’s a puck near his feet.
He runs through drills, practicing everything, every skill and every movement and every play. muscles burning but in a satisfying way. Everything he does works perfectly, every movement planned, natural, and fluid. Sometimes a grey nameless player will show up for drills requiring a partner. He knows that they’re there, because when he passes the puck it comes back to his tape, but he can never see them, never identify them.
Once, he looks back behind him, and sees that his skates haven’t been leaving grooves in the ice.
Once, he tries to remember how he got here.
Once, he thinks he hears Patrice.
When he’s done, he doesn’t get told, he just skates over to the bench. Bruce is there, and Brad knows it was him blowing the whistle to get the drills going.
He drinks some water, but he can’t feel the cool liquid go down his throat (and isn’t that an unnerving sensation). Brad puts the water bottle back in it’s spot and looks at the untouched ice.
“Am I dead?”
There’s a small pause, before Cassidy responds, as casual as one would discuss the weather.
Brad feels a chill slip down his spine. It’s the first time someone’s actually answered that question.
His coach nods. “I think maybe you should have been – in any other universe you might be – but something decided that you hadn’t finished here yet. So here you are.”
“Where am I?”
Bruce gives him a small smile.
“You telling me you don’t recognize the practice arena? Come on Marchy.”
Brad frowns. “This isn’t real.”
Bruce honest to god laughs . “Oh it’s real alright. You’re in Boston, Marchand. You are, technically, standing in the Warrior Ice Arena.”
“ Technically .” Coach repeats it like an echo, but he’s not laughing anymore. “Here, but not here. Seeing, but not being seen. Traveling without a guide, or an anchor.”
“Coach.” He shifts his weight, and he can feel this, feel his clothes and his skates and the sweat in his gloves and the dry, cool air being blaster from the duct system. This is real. It makes sense, now that Cassidy is telling him, that maybe this isn’t all a dream, maybe this isn’t just his brains last moments, hallucinating to make death seem less scary.
Has he really been to all those places? Was he really there, all this time?
Bruce must see how it all hits him. “Existing in a space that isn’t your body is pretty disconcerting, eh?” He murmurs, a wry smile, but a concerned expression. “You should come back soon March. The team isn’t doing that good without you.”
“Can I see them?”
Coach answers with a nod towards the locker room. He pictures the locker room in his mind, just a flash of memory, and suddenly he’s standing right there in the doorway.
To say they’re subdued, is to say that losing the Stanley Cup kind of hurts. It is technically true, but it doesn’t accurately describe what’s in front of him.
There’s no music. No laughter. No stupid jokes, no face washes in response. No fighting over random shit, nothing being thrown, no ones even smiling . There’s still a low murmuring, several conversations being held as guys sluggishly get dressed.
Footsteps are nearly silent behind him. A body slips past him, entering the locker room, and several follow it. He watches the locker room tense for a second, eyes tracking the new arrivals, but they relax when the new faces are just the rookies. Brad doesn’t understand it.
He watches Charlie and Jake shuffle straight towards their stalls, which are now next to each other, for some reason. Pasta doesn’t say a word to anyone, just goes and plops down next to Tuukka, who is just as silent. They don’t acknowledge each other, but the tension in the locker room isn’t from them. It isn’t from anybody, really, it just seeps into everything and makes the air thick and heavy.
His eyes search, automatically scanning for the comforting shape of his best friend. When he doesn’t find it, he looks again. And again. And again. By the fifth round, and there’s still no sign of him, Brad finally acknowledges Coach.
“Where is he?”
Cassidy looks at him incredulously. “Did you really expect him to be here ?”
“This is his team.”
“And you’re the love of his life .”
Brad shakes his head. “Hockey is the love of his life. He has an A, for crying out loud. He should be here.”
There’s no response, and he turns around to stare. Bruce has a confused look on his face, but it clears into one of dawning realization.
“Huh.” It’s a thoughtful statement, and Marchy suddenly feels like he’s out of the loop again.
“Do you really believe that?”
He gestures wildly at the locker room. “What’s there not to believe? They need him-”
“And he needs you , Marchand.” Bruce steps forward, more into the view of the other players. “But if you don’t believe that, then it sort of makes sense that you’re here, now doesn’t it.”
Brad opens his mouth to respond, but before he can say something someone calls to coach. It’s Pasta, but everyone's eyes are on Cassidy.
“Have you heard anything from Bergy? Did he say how he was doing?” Pasta’s tone is hopeful, eager even, despite his defeated posture. It’s easy, how those words captures everyone's attention, because it seems to be all anyone's thinking about.
Brad isn’t going to lie and say that doesn’t make him lose his breath, because god , this team really cares about him don’t they?
Coach takes a deep breath and shakes his head.
“Not good.” He murmurs, looking at Brad with a quick flick of his eyes. “Not good. But he hasn’t gotten worse, either.”
Pasta deflates, his expression crumbling. The small building blocks of hope fall with him, and the atmosphere seems to somehow become even more somber.
He wants out. He wants- he doesn’t want to see this anymore. He doesn’t want to look at Debrusk’s devastated face or McAvoy’s shaking hands or Pasta’s guilty eyes.
Brad squeezes his eyes shut, and thinks as hard as he can about one person.
When he opens his eyes, he’s in a hospital room.
Mass General Hospital is the fourth best hospital in the United States.
It’s number one in Massachusetts, fourth nationally for children specialties, and ninth nationally for adult procedures.
It still can’t fix him.
Bergy talk a lot, while he’s there. He tells Brad - or he tells Brad’s body , he still can’t get over that - that the doctors are doing everything they can, but it only helps so much. He tells Marchy, he begs him to stay. To come back. To wake up. He promises everything, promises things he can’t hope to give. He pledges to give anything, anything if Brad comes back.
Brad sits across from Patrice and sobs.
He sobs these deep, painful things, because he’s scared, he’s so scared . He doesn’t know what’s happening to him, he doesn’t know where he is, he doesn’t know if this is some- some weird after life thing he gets before he goes. He’s never thought about what happens after someone stops living.
He just knows he doesn’t want to die.
He doesn’t want to die. He doesn’t want to leave Bergy. There’s so much more he wants to do, so much he wants to see - he doesn't want to see Paris by himself, he wants Patrice by his side. He wants to show him how to hunt, and he wants to have him meet his family, and he wants to take stupid selfies with him and win another cup and he wants to get married.
He wants all of it, everything he’s seen, everything he’s ever dreamed or desired, and he wants it with Patrice.
But he doesn’t know how to get back. He’s literally staring at himself , and he can’t- he doesn’t know what’s going on anymore.
Eventually, (again, again he doesn’t know how much time passes, can’t feel it like he should) Patrice falls asleep, head pillowed on Brads arm. His actual arm, the arm belonging to his body that’s lying unconscious and bruised and small looking on a hospital bed. He doesn’t look good, that much is obvious, but when he looks at himself for longer than a few moments his vision sort of greys out and he gets a bad headache.
He doesn’t want to see himself anyway. Right now the only thing keeping him sane is being to finally look at Patrice.
All the places he’s been, this is the first he’s been able to see him.
Whatever time has passed since the accident, it has not been good to him. He’s pale, worryingly so, dark circles standing out like bruises under his eyes. He looks exhausted and shaky, and Brad wants someone to be here, to make him eat something, to take him home and make him sleep. He wants to be here, for real. He wants to tell Bergy he’s okay, go home, go play hockey and be happy.
“I want to wake up.” He whispers, staring red-eyed and fragile at Bergy’s sleeping face. “I want to wake up, I want to wake up.”
His breath hitches as he reaches out. Patrice feels warm and solid under his hand, and he shifts with the touch, relaxing just a little bit more.
“I don’t want to die.” Brad tells him. “I don’t want to die, I want-” A though hits him, and he stands, pulling his hand from Bergy’s arm. His boyfriend frowns in his sleep but doesn’t wake.
“I’m going to fix this.” He promises, wiping at his eyes. “I’m going to fix this.”
He pictures who he wants to see, and when he blinks, he’s no longer in a hospital room.
He’s in downtown Boston.
The fun kind, not the ones from Anaheim.
Also, Bruce is feeding them. Which certainly isn’t the weirdest thing he’s ever seen his coach do, but- still.
“You aren’t supposed to do that you know.” Brad points out. He read somewhere that it’s bad for them.
“It’s peaceful.” Cassidy smirks ruefully. “And it’s Boston. Everyone feeds them.”
He goes to sit down on the bench next to Coach. “Exactly, they’re fat enough already.”
Bruce tosses the last few crumbs to the ground where a bunch of pigeons the size of Brads face descend in a manic frenzy.
“Am I dead?”
“I told you already-”
“ Bruce .” He snaps. “Am I dead ?”
“I told you .” His coach lobs the words back at him with the same sort of frustration. “Not yet.”
“Not yet. So no, the answer is no.”
“The answer is not yet.”
“That’s not different.”
“Oh it absolutely is.” Cassidy sighs. The sun is setting, setting the ocean on fire with it’s brilliant colors. “‘ No’ stops there. It’s no , you aren’t dead, like that’s all there is to it. ‘ Not yet’ means that you aren’t at the moment, but you are very, very close, and if you don’t do something to change it you are going to be.”
Brad opens his mouth to argue, then shuts it. “Point.” He concedes, albeit rather grudgingly.
“You didn’t stay very long at the hospital.”
“I want to know how to get back.” Brad isn’t in the mood to gossip about his love life. He just want to stop walking around like a ghost.
Bruce rolls his eyes. “Hence my point about the hospital. Bergy was still there right?”
“Did you talk to him?” Cassidy sounds like he’s talking to a small child. Brad sort of feels like one.
“You’re the only one who I’ve been able to talk to.”
“Well I know that’s not true.” Bruce snorts, taking a sip from his coffee cup. “You forget I’ve met your family. Oh, they’re on their way, in case you were wondering. It actually hasn’t been that long since the accident. You’re doing better than I thought.”
“Coach-” He starts, but Bruce cuts him off, obviously not finished with his thoughts.
“I was worried, you know? I knew what ran through your blood, so when I got the call about the accident I figured this might happen, but I didn’t know how - or when - you might find your way back here.”
“But I’m not,” He points out, consciously choosing to ignore the first part of that. “I’m not back. Not really. You know about this shit, right, so-” Brad waves his hand around in a failed sort of frustrated gesture. “Help me out here.”
Bruce sits back and looks out at the water. They’re pretty close to Quincy Market if he knows anything about this city, and it’s relatively quiet. There’s a light breeze coming off the water, and it’s warm enough to not need a jacket.
He doesn’t understand how he can be here, and feel all of this like it’s real, but then have it...not be.
“What are you so afraid of?” The older man asks, apropos to nothing.
“I mean what happens if you come back? What is it that’s keeping you here like this?”
“I don’t know .”
Cassidy just gives him a look. “You do know. There’s something that you’d have to face if you come back, and you don’t want to. So you’re here.”
“But I don’t want to be here.” Brad points out. Bruce just shrugs and finishes his coffee.
“It doesn’t matter. You don’t want to be where you are right now, but you don’t want to be here more. Figure out what waking up would mean. That’s how you’re going to find your way back.”
He’s never been to this part of Boston.
Actually he’s pretty sure it’s not Boston anymore. Technically (because apparently wandering around outside your body gives you internal GPS) it’s Dorchester. South of Boston, but not Southie. Near the polish triangle. Which is apparently a thing.
He didn’t blink himself over to this part of the city. He walked. Stood right up from the bench and wandered his way through the streets until the buildings were no taller than three stories and theres street parking and corner shops instead of huge garages and major chain stores. It felt like the sun set fast, but now that he thinks about it, it was more like way too slowly.
Brad’s just- he’s needed time to think.
He didn’t choose this. That at least, it pretty obvious. His thoughts wound in circles until he finally accepted that it doesn’t matter that he didn’t want to go through this, and it doesn’t matter that he doesn’t want Patrice to go through this. It just matters that he’s here. So he’s got to deal with this, if not for himself, then for Patrice, because he’s thought about what happens if he dies and it’s not pretty.
It’s nothing close to pretty. If he was poetic he might call it a beautiful tragedy, but Brads a pretty simple guy who nearly flunked out of english.
He doesn’t know if this is one of those things he knows because he knows or because he’s got a good imagination but- he’s thought about it.
It would...crack things. It wouldn’t shatter them, no, Boston is too strong for that. Eventually the wound would heal and leave a large scar, visible and obvious to all but only painful still to those who lived through it. The team that exists in this moment would eventually leave, whether through retirement or trade, and soon there wouldn’t be anyone who remembers him beyond the number hanging in the ceiling.
But it would hurt them. It would.
He thought that was what he was struggling with. The idea that the team doesn’t value Brad the way Brad values them has plagued him for a long time, a constant ‘ they don’t need me ’ that he struggled under for years. He knows that’s not it, because it’s not true.
He’s seen it - seen the black roses, the stained hardwood covered in flowers, the tears in the eyes of men who were his brothers and the hundreds of thousands who came out to Boston to mourn with them. Players from around the league filling up the same church he should’ve been married in. It’s like a picture in his mind, how much they would mourn.
The rookies (the not rookies, his rookies, the ones he went to help because he does actually fucking care about them) are so guilty it nearly destroys them. Charlie looks perpetually numb, and requests a trade after three months. He leaves behind Jake, a heartbroken and spiraling Jake who struggles to function until a bad hit during a Habs game leaves him with concussion symptoms he can’t shake no matter how long he waits. Pasta watches the team raise his banner then retires , and never touches another hockey stick or drop of alcohol for the rest of his life.
Zee finishes his contract and he leaves too, Backes going with him. Some others stay longer, growing older before being traded through normal hockey processes or retiring themselves.
It’s nothing though, compared to Patrice.
Bergy looks so perfect wearing the C. The flash image Brad has of him standing on the ice, the letter new and freshly sewn on his jersey shows him everything. There’s weariness in his eyes, but his shoulders are strong enough to carry the weight of it. It makes Marchy want to cry, because he’s so proud . And Bergy, well...he owns it.
Everyone expects Patrice to break, to leave like the others, to disappear in his grief and never come back. Instead, he does the opposite. He steps up, he plays like the god he is, he captains a new team and brings the cup back to Boston. He does what no one expects him to do, and he does it so well people call him a fraud. They say he didn’t grieve right, they say that he never really cared about Brad, they say he didn’t do enough to remember his liney.
When he hears this, without fail Bergy responds with “ it’s what he would’ve wanted me to do.”
Brad’s instant, visceral reaction to that is ‘ no it isn’t. ’
And there it is.
Brad is not afraid of what the team will do without him. He doesn’t like the idea of it, sure. Fuck, he hates what he sees when he thinks about it, he hates how they fall apart. He hates that he can’t help them stay together. He hates that he’s the reason they lose themselves.
But he’s not afraid of it. It’s a strange feeling, to know the hell that people he cares about will go through, but not be afraid for them. He’s sad and he’s angry that they’d have to deal with it, but he isn’t afraid. In some horrible, convoluted way, it’s because their grief is proof that they aren’t better off without him.
What he’s really truly afraid of, is that Bergy is .
It’s disgustingly selfish if he thinks about it like that. The idea that he’s okay with his team fracturing because that means they don’t do better without him seems pretty shitty. But it makes sense.
Holding him here, in this in between place, is the fear that Patrice would be better without him. And if that’s true, then he shouldn’t really go back, should he?
It’s why he isn’t sure about what he knows (the images he has in his head are clear, and with them the certainty as if it were happening in front of him) or if it’s what he’s imagining. If it’s the latter, then it’s his fear manifesting itself. If it’s the former then...he’s got a choice to make.
Go back knowing that the one thing he’s always feared is true. Live knowing that the person he loves would be better without him around.
Or don’t . Don’t and figure out how to go the other way, sacrificing the happiness of his teammates so Patrice can be the best he can be.
He doesn’t know what to do with that. So he walks.
The amount of foot traffic is due to the time of day, and with the setting of the sun there was a surge followed by a steady decrease. Most people looked right through him. Every once in a while, he’ll notice someone idly flick their eyes over his body, probably not even realizing that he isn’t supposed to be there. A tired looking student swerves in her path to avoid him, head buried in her phone and headphones in. A young boy smiles at him while his dad hold his hand to cross the street. Dogs bark when he walks by, but their owners hush them. “There’s nothing there,” they tell the fury creatures, sometimes fond and sometimes annoyed.
The words make his chest ache and his fingers feel cold.
‘I’m here ’. Brad wants to scream. ‘ I’m here, I’m here, I’m right here. ’
He doesn’t. No one would hear him. No one who matters, anyway.
At one point he stops. Right in the middle of a road, although technically he’s in a crosswalk on the double yellow lines, and he just as he knows that people can’t see him, he knows the few cars passing by can’t hurt him.
The street is a fake flat, sloping downwards a little before rising in an incline. Trees are planted in small squares of dirt in the sidewalk. It’s all small buildings here, triple deckers and shops and a few small restaurants, but as he looks down the barren street the city glitters against the black night, skyscrapers with their lights clear and white.
It’s something picturesque. Metaphorical even. The thing he wants so far away, yet so easily in reach.
Not for the first time, he wonders what Patrice would do, if he was where Marchy is.
And the thing is - he doesn’t know. He’d like to be certain, because then he could try and base what he does off of what he knows Bergy would do, but he doesn’t. Would Patrice come back, knowingly hinder Brad for the rest of his life, but save the team from the pile of jagged edges that they would become? Or does he leave, and see Brad become the best version of himself?
He doesn’t know. He just knows that he’s not as strong at Bergy is. He never has been. But he knows what it’s like to lie through pain, and to do it day in and day out.
What's a life worth of misery on his part, if everyone else is happy?
Brad takes a deep breath, and starts walking again.
“God I miss you.” He murmurs, watching Bergy’s chest rise and fall in slow, even breaths. It’s late, so late it might be early, yet Patrice is still here, still in the same clothes he wore when Brad last saw him. The nurses must really like him. Or they feel bad for him. Or they were bribed. Whatever, pick an option. He’s still here.
Brad is too. He thinks he might’ve had an option to leave earlier, while he was walking back through the city. Time was doing that bendy thing it’s been doing since he’s been in the inbetween place so it’s probably not that late. Visiting hours are definitely over.
He was walking back to MGH, sort of following the redline, when everything started tilting wildly. In the streets it was mostly dark, save the signs and street lamps, so when a white started to creep on the edges of his vision, he certainly understood what it might mean.
Brad fought it. When he blinked his eyes open, he on the sidewalk outside the hospital, a few miles away from where he’d been walking. There was a nurse who saw him on his way up to his room, and he almost asked her, “ Am I dead? ”, just to make sure he hadn’t blown it.
(He could’ve gone. He could’ve.)
Patrice shifts, a small aborted movement probably meant to fix the discomfort of his muscles. He mumble something, squeezing Brads hand in his own.
Marchy isn’t crying anymore.
“I really, really hope this is the right thing to do.” He says, staring at Bergy’s face. He feels like he needs to memorize every detail. It’s not like he knows what he’s doing here, he could try and go one way only to end up going the other.
This could be the last time.
He figures he needs to be okay with it though. He needs to be okay with whichever direction this goes, because he won’t have a choice.
Maybe he’s too selfish to do this. Maybe he can’t convince whatever is keeping him stuck here, and it reads that he doesn’t want to go back.
That would be wrong though. He does want to go back. Even if it’s going to tear his heart out knowing what he’s doing to Patrice, he still wants to go back. He can’t sacrifice the team just for Patrice. He can’t .
He doesn’t know what the future holds if he comes back. He supposes that’s fair. It’s probably enough that he got to see what might happen if he doesn’t. A leap of faith thing, as it were.
With shaky, trembling hands, Brad reaches out and covers the one Bergy has wrapped around his own. This time he’s sitting next to him, not letting his own hospital bed separate them.
He takes a deep breath. “I’m ready now.” Brad murmurs, and kisses him. “I love you.”
The lights of the hospital seems to get really bright, and the last thing he sees before having to shut his eyes against the brightness is Patrice blinking awake.
When he opens his eyes, he’s still in the hospital.
There’s a flurry of activity going on above him, and his head hurts so bad. There’s other things that hurt, or will hurt, he’s sure of that much. There’s just- it’s sort of weird. He’s definitely still got a body, he’s sure, he just...can’t feel it.
Yeah. That makes sense.
There’s people. They’re doing things, and he might be inclined to find out what if he wasn’t slowly realizing that there’s a fucking tube down his throat . He wants that to be gone. The people around him seem so busy, but if one of them could just help him out with this one thing, he’d really, really appreciate it.
Or maybe they do. He doesn’t really get to stick around long enough to find out, because there’s a huge wave of sleepiness that over takes him and quiets his head.
He goes away for a bit.
He comes back without a lot of pain. He thinks that might be wrong. Should he be in pain? He was in pain right? Maybe he is and he just can’t feel it.
That doesn’t make sense.
Time has passed since he was last here. There’s something in the back of his mind, telling him he’s been here longer than he thinks. Does he think that? When was he thinking that. What is he thinking?
What the fuck is going on.
Something shifts to his left, and he startles as he realizes he’s not floating around in nothing like he had assumed. He is in a place (the hospital), lying down (in a bed), and he’s not alone (there’s a person).
Everything is really jumbled up in his head, so the person has to say his name a few times before he manages to distinguish that they are in fact speaking , and are even speaking to him .
He has...eyes. In his head. Why can’t he see anything?
“Look at me Marchy come on.” Rough skin brushes over his knuckles. His fingers twitch and the person chuckles. It sounds painfully gentle when they speak. “I know you can hear me, now open your eyes for me baby.”
Oh. Right. Right, yeah he can do this. He can totally...he’s never had to think about opening his eyes before.
Christ, he’s fucking scrambled.
His brain finds the control manual somewhere, and he finds himself blinking up at a white panel ceiling. It’s way to bright. There’s a small brown stain on the corner of one of the squares.
“Am I dead?” He warbles, voice doing funny things as his brain tries to remember the correct way to speak. That’s never happened before. His tongue is weird.
The light shifts, something blocking it. The person laughs, but it sounds wrong.
“No, mon ange , you aren’t.” The person sighs. “You certainly tried hard to be, but you aren’t.”
His head is starting to hurt and he’s really tired. There’s things he should be asking. People he should be asking about. Right? There was...something happened.
“Charlie.” His mouth forms the name without his brain actually commanding it to. “Jake-”
The voice hushes him with reassuring words. “They’re fine, they’re all fine okay? Zee made sure of it. Everyone’s fine except you.”
His eyes start to slide close but he jolts, snapping them open again and gripping the hand in his. There was someone else-
“Bergy?” He frowns. God he’s slurring something awful.
The hand squeezes back. “I’m right here Marchy, I’m right here.”
He makes a choked noise, suddenly overwhelmed. A tear slides down his cheek, ice cold on hot skin.
“Hey, hey it's alright Brad, it’s alright, just tell me what’s wrong. Are you in pain, are you-”
“I didn’t think I’d see you again.” The words don’t even make sense to him, so it’s not a wonder why Patrice’s face screws up in confusion.
But then Patrice is crying , so maybe it isn’t confusion.
He makes a wordless noise of worry as Bergy drops his head to rest on Brads shoulder. He wishes he was more awake. He wants to hold Patrice, comfort him, do something other than lay there and try to keep his eyes open.
He does manage to move his hand enough to pat Bergy’s arm a few times. Points for him. He’s a great boyfriend.
Brad figures he’s about to fall asleep again, considering how everything is starting to slip around him, his thoughts turning hazy to the point of near complete incoherence. Patrice must realize this because he picks up his head and scoops up Brads hand before shifting onto the bed to be able to tuck his face in Marchys neck. He’s still crying, whole body trembling against Brads, but at least he seems calmer.
Or maybe Brad is just really high. And half asleep. He’s not really tracking right at the moment.
“Patrice.” He mumbles. The other man squeezes his hand even though the word doesn’t really sound anything like it should. “Love you.”
He doesn’t know why it’s important that he say it, but it felt like he needed too. He wants to hear it back, he thinks, before he falls asleep again.
It’s been so long .
“ Je sais, mon ange,” The words seem to soak into his skin. They feel like they’re being printed there where Patrice says them against his neck. “I love you too.”