Chapter 1: Welcome to Korea
Jack stepped off the plane bright eyed and bushy tailed, he was so excited to be returning to S. Korea and this time to fight for the honor of his country. He, along side of four other athletes, were competing in the Winter Olympics under the Irish flag. Even though there are always so few athletes to come out of Ireland for the snow drenched events, those few were loud and proud. After a lengthy 15 hour flight from Dublin, Jack was more than ready to be at his final destination in PeongChang to start preperations.
Once they landed in Seoul, the athletes were quickly ushered into a private bus to wait on others with the same final destination. Honestly, Jack only knew one of the other Irish competitors, ironically, also named Jack. The two met on the ice in Dublin and became fast friends and although they were competing in different sports, they had quite a bit in common.
Jack Walsh is a speed skater whos come close to breaking the world record in the qualifications. This caught the attention and respect of the other Jack immediately.
"Hey Walsh, over here!" Jack waved at the other Jack, who he called Walsh to keep things straight, from his seat on the bus.
"That airport was crazy, I can't believe I lost you at the baggage claim. Honestly I was getting nervous they had lost my luggage, lucky me it was one of the last bags out" Walsh plopped down in the seat next to Jack as he let out a loud sigh, happy to be this far without any incidents. "So, who else are we waiting on?" He eyed the bus seeing at least three different countries represented there.
Jack sat back in his seat with a little roll of his eyes, "The driver said that we were waiting on a couple of Americans who stopped off for coffee, the nerve of them holding us all up. They could at least bring me some. Now I just have to sit here and stew in the delicious smell of their coffee for the next hour." He finished with a little pout on his face which made Walsh crack up.
"Ha ha ha... oh god, you should see your face right now. It's like someone tripped you up during one of those twirly moves you do." Walsh wiped a tear from his eye as his attention was directed to the front of the bus, "Speaking of the devil..."
A group of American athletes entered the bus, loudly chatting and laughing away. They made their way to the back of the bus, coffee in hand, and landed a few seats behind the two Irish men.
"Bastards with their amazing smelling bean water." Jack mumbled under his breath. Then his eyes met with one of them before the other quickly turned away.
"What was that about?" Noticing the look exchanged between the two, Walsh caught onto some tension between Jack and one of the smaller American athletes.
Jack nodded towards the other man who was seated by a window, "That's Ethan Nestor, he's an ice skater like me. Matter of fact, last year he competed against me and had a suspiciously similar program to mine. I just don't trust the guy."
Two more Americans made their way down the isle of the bus to meet with their team mates, "Mark, Tyler we're back here." Ethan waved at the two men carrying coffee and pastries with them.
The taller of the two got a huge smile on his face, leading them to the seats directly behind Jack and Walsh. As the two got settled, Mark stood to take off his jacket and get more comfortable. Unfortunately, he wasn't the most graceful when it came to balancing his coffee and lost his grip on the hot beverage. The cup, seemingly in slow motion, tumbled forward and directly on Jack's shoulder, soaking his coat.
"Damnit, holy fuck that's hot! What the hell man?" Jack quickly shed his 'Team Ireland' green and orange jacket as the steaming liquid started seeping into the fabric. "Ow, Ow, Ow..." He turned around in a huff to give the American a piece of his mind but once he saw the horrified look on the man's face he paused.
Mark studdered for a second, breathless as he realized what had just happened, "Oh, oh god, holy shit I'm so sorry man. I didn't mean to... I mean, oh no... here, let me help." He reached over and started patting Jack's sleve with a few napkins, effectively doing nothing to dry the garment.
Shaking his head and pushing Mark's hand away, "No, no just... you've done enough. I'm fine."
Staring at the wet sleve of the Irishman in front of him, Mark felt immense guilt building in his gut. "Here, you can wear my jacket if you want. The bus is cold and I already have a sweater and you can just give it back to me when we get there." He shoved his coat at Jack and quickly sat down and buried his head in his hands.
Jack threw his head back and groaned in frustration, giving up, he wrapped the fluffy white 'Team America' jacket around his shoulders and sat back down. He wanted nothing more than to be at the Olympic park at this point so he can settle into their rooms and relax a bit before dinner.
The ride was suprisingly quick, mostly because once he settled into the warmth of Mark's coat he fell sound asleep. Jack was shaken awake by Walsh's hand on his shoulder, "Jack, buddy, we're here!" By time Jack was awake, most of the bus was empty, including the rowdy Americans.
Shrugging off the fact that he still was donning a Team America jacket, he zipped it up and grabbed his bags knowing he'd probably run into the group again. Stepping off the bus, Jack was hit with such an energetic buzz coming from the park around him. A light frosty breeze carried sparce snowflakes around in a snowglobe effect. They were greeted by a petite Korean woman who was to be their guide to show them around the area.
"Hello and welcome my name is Soo-Jin and I will be your guide today. So you don't have to carry your bags around, we will stop off at your housing first and then I will show you some of the other facilities we have to offer." She finished with a slight bow and smile.
"That sounds amazing, if you could just show us the room and where to get dinner that should be fine, we can explore on our own later." Walsh rubbed his hands together before grabbing his bag.
"You are both Irish, yes?" Soo-Jin looked back at them in curiosity as she led the way across the freshly salted sidewalks.
"Huh?" Jack was confused until he remembered the flag currently on his chest. "Oh yeah, just a little incident on the bus."
Walsh, Jack and the rest of the Irish team filed along in awe of their surrounds, everything was so festive and diverse. There were people everywhere with bright smiles as they hugged and took pictures with each other. The buildings, although mostly temporary, were large and impressive with lights and flags strung between them. Jack thought to himself how beautiful it will be all lit up at night.
"Thank goodness we have a lower floor, these windows are huge" Walsh spread open the heavy red curtains covering the nearly wall sized windows looking over the main area of the Olympic park from three floors up.
"Yeah, any higher and those curtains would remain closed" Jack shouted from his room as he flopped his suitcase on the bed to unpack. Luckily, since the Irish team was so small, they were able to each get a private room in their assigned loft.
Walsh stood in his doorway leaning against the frame as Jack turned around, startled by his presence, "So, whatcha going to do about getting that lad back his jacket? Plus... where's yours? You know we're supposed to wear them in the opening ceremonies."
Jack's eyes widened as he mentally slapped himself, "Shit, I have no fuckin clue where mine is. I don't remember seeing it on the bus." He wondered briefly if the American had it.
"I don't know man, but I do know that I'm starving. Come on, let's see about getting some dinner before we roam around." Walsh pushed himself from the door frame and grabbed the keys to their loft.
The pair passed a few other doors before coming to an elevator, as they drew closer they heard an obnoxious beat coming from the floor above them. "Give you one guess who that is" Walsh smirked as the doors to the elevator opened.
To their surprise they laid eyes on a familiar face who looked like a deer in headlights. Jack diverted his eyes to the ground and stepped in silently not really wanting a confirtation at the moment.
"H-Hey, it's really good to see you again. I'm a really big fan." A timid voice squeaked out from the small man as he held out his hand for Jack to shake.
Being the nice guy he is, Jack shook the hand offered and nodded to him. He knew exactly who this boy was, Ethan, the American that was accused of copying his own routine. This rumor was no secret among the skating community, he was even under review for the incident at some point. "I just wanted to clear the air between us." Ethan continued as the elevator hit the bottom floor.
He continued to walk beside Jack and talk, "I-it isn't true ya know. I never copied your routine like everyone said, I promise. It's just... I'm a really big fan of yours and I love your style so I watch a lot of videos of yours and it seems to influence me when I skate and I...." Ethan was quickly rambling at this point as he quickly tried to follow the other two men.
Jack came to a quick stop, turning to Ethan. "Look, there's no hard feelings. Let's just focus on what's ahead and forget the rest. Now if you'll excuse us, we're going to head over and find some dinner. Nice to see you again."
Ethan's face fell, he didn't know if it was from relief or frustration. He was expecting a bigger todo from Jack but it didn't seem to phase him at all. "Oh, ok then. See you at practice tomorrow." He turned back to the buildings that held their lofts, shoved his hands in his pockets and headed back with Jack's words ringing in his head.
Chapter 2: That Jacket
Ethan and Tyler talk and Mark delivers a gift
"Hey, Where have you been?" Tyler sat forward from his place on the couch as Ethan walked through the door of the American's flat.
With a hefty sigh, Ethan plopped down on the couch, arms crossed and a sour look on his face. "Nowhere"
"Eth, I know better than that now spill it." Tyler scooched a bit closer to Ethan as he flipped off the TV that was playing in the background.
Groaning out of frustration, Ethan continued, "It's so stupid but do you remember the Irish guy that Mark threw his coffee on?" Tyler nodded, encouraging him to continue. "Well, he's the skater that I watch all the time, the one that I got accused of ripping off his program."
"Oh, so did you run into him again or something?"
"Yeah, more like I rode the elevator waiting on him. I just needed to try to talk to him and clear some stuff up ya know?"
Tyler sat silent for a moment trying to choose his next words carefully, "Didn't you literally show your trainer his videos and tell him the exact move sets you wanted to use from that. I mean, that is pretty much..."
"Don't you dare finish that sentence... sure that wasn't my proudest moment but I didn't copy everything. Anyway, he said there was no bad blood between us but for some reason I don't believe him. I just... I don't know what I was expecting." Ethan leaned against Tyler as the larger man wrapped an arm around his shoulders."
"Don't worry too much about it babe, you're incredibly talented and deserve to be here. I know you're going to be amazing and I'll make sure one person won't get you down. Now lets grab Mark and head to dinner."
The three made the quick trek to the dinning hall, grabbed some food and settled in. The large cafeteria type area was lined with groupings of tables and chairs, mostly occupied to the brim with athletes, trainers and coaches chattering away and filling the space with numerous languages and laughter. With the tall curved ceiling lined with heaters and bright florescent lights, the space felt alive and bustling at all hours of the night and day.
"Hey, isn't that your little friend over there?" Tyler nodded towards a table about twenty feet away holding a few Irish and Swedish athletes that were just finishing up their meals.
Both Mark and Ethan quickly turned to see Jack sitting forward in his chair sipping on hot tea with a huge smile on his face. He undeniably was enjoying the moment, company and atmosphere surrounding him.
"Oh yeah, that reminds me of something I need to take care of." Mark quickly finished and headed out without another word to the other two Americans.
"What was that all about?" Ethan asked.
"No clue" Tyler shrugged.
Mark raced over to the building adjacent to the dinning hall which housed several different amenities including a workout area, spa, recreation room and laundry facility. He walked up the counter to be greeted promptly by a volunteer, "Welcome back Mr. Fischbach, I have that item we promised all ready and packed up for you."
"Thanks so much, I really appreciate how quickly you were able to take care of this for me." The American grabbed the moderately sized white box and headed back over to the housing building.
Mark tapped his foot as he rode the elevator to the third floor, gripping the box in his hands. He wasn't so sure if he wanted to run into a certain Irishman or not, he made his way to the door of team Ireland and paused. Before knocking, Mark decided to just leave the package at the door and quickly retreat but unfortunate for him that plan didn't pan out.
"Can I help you with something?"
Quickly turning to meet the curious eyes of an Irishman standing behind him in the hall, Mark froze for a second before speaking, "O-oh, I didn't expect you... I mean, I just wanted to leave this for you." He made a quick scan of the man before him, noting that the Irishman was donning a familiar American jacket, leaving a smirk on his face.
Jack noticed the look and rolled his eyes, ignoring the light dusting of red on his own cheeks. "What, I needed a coat since you destroyed mine."
"Well, that's why I'm here. I kinda need the jacket for the opening ceremonies tomorrow so I wanted to trade you for this." He offered the white box to Jack, who took it with a questioning look.
"Oh, ummm... why don't you come in for a second." Jack balanced the box on his hip and unlocked the door, leading the American in. He tore into the box which held a small doll of the white tiger Olympic mascot along with his Team Ireland jacket, freshly cleaned. With a small smile on his face Jack pulled out the jacket, "So that's where it went."
Mark shifted from foot to foot, a bit uncomfortable in the Irish space, "Yeah, I figured it was the least I could do."
"Well, thanks for returning it and for the little buddy here." He held up the stuffed tiger.
"N-no problem, I should get going since my team mates are waiting on me to check out the recreation area."
"That's where I'm headed too, I'll walk with you over there. Oh, by the way, my name is Jack. Nice to officially meet you." He extended his hand.
"Mark" He took the Irishman's hand in his noticing how incredibly soft it was. "Shall we?" Mark held out his elbow for Jack to take.
"We shall." Jack interlocked his arm with the Americans with a giggle.
Chapter 3: Practice
Jack hits the ice for practice
The next morning came way too early for Jack since he had to be on the ice for practice at six AM. He was used to early mornings but not quite this early. Although he did manage to stay in bed as long as possible before heading over to scarf down a quick breakfast.
Last night had been fun getting to know some of the others but that wasn't his main focus there, it was winning for his country. Images of last night did flash through his mind as he was gliding across the ice warming up before his run through, playing ping pong, video games, sitting around the fire while sipping hot chocolate... yeah, it was definitely a good time. Luckily he had over two weeks ahead of him to spend like this.
"HEY, Earth to Jack.... where is your head right now?" His coach yelled at him from the side of the rink. "Now, let's start your program from the top." Shaking his fluffy head and bringing out the camera, Danny was ready to record and take notes.
The music started up momentarily after Jack took his starting pose, he pushed off with his right foot and started his graceful twists and turns around the surface. At the surge of the orchestration Jack made his first jump, a triple double and landed it flawlessly. He hummed along to the Game of Thrones music as it echoed overhead, counting the beats to his next jump.
He was suddenly thrown off a bit by a few others entering the area and making their way to the seats. Familiar white jackets of the Americans piled in to watch for a bit before Ethan could take the ice for his practice. A small smirk came stretched across Jack's face when he spotted the group he had spent the evening with, including Mark who waved.
Jack wanted to wave back but he was thrown back into reality at the swell in the music preparing him for his hardest jump of the program, a triple axel triple toe. Mark was watching from one side of the rink as Danny was recording from the other, first jump landed perfectly but the second, not so much.
The Irishman came crashing down to the ground into what looked like a painful pile. Danny cut off the music and scooted across the ice to Jack who was still sitting on the ground staring at the ice.
"Jack, man are you ok? That was quite a fall." Danny carefully stooped down and placed his hand on Jack's shoulder.
"Yeah, yeah I'm fine just knocked the wind out of me a bit."
Helping him up, Danny practically carried the Irishman off the ice. "You're done for right now, I don't need you hurting yourself before the actual competition. Let's go watch the footage and see where the jump went wrong then you can take an ice bath."
As the two exited the ice Mark ran up to check on Jack, "Hey man, you good? That looked rough."
"Heh, you don't watch ice skaters practice much do you? That was nothing." Jack was amused by the concern on Mark's face, he's taken quite a beating many times so this fall was just a drop in the bucket in comparison.
Regardless, Mark wrapped his arm around Jack's shoulder to help him walk back to the seats. "I just wanted to make sure before I headed off to practice myself, you really looked great out there."
"Thanks, it was ok. Outside of the last jump combo, I feel pretty confident." Both Danny and Mark were ushering Jack to the locker rooms as Ethan took the ice for his practice. Just as the door was shutting behind them, Jack noticed something oddly familiar. The music started up, a different arrangement of the same Game of Thrones music he had just skated to. "What the hell?"
Before the Americans made their way over to the skating arena for Ethan's practice, Tyler decided to have a little side chat with Mark.
"I need a favor from you." Tyler leaned in with a hushed voice.
"I'm scared to ask but what's up?"
"You know how Ethan's all up in arms about that Irish guy we hung out with last night. Well, he's seems to like you quite a bit. I mean, you two laughed and joked all evening."
Mark looked puzzled, "Yeah, so? What does he have to do with anything?"
"Do you think you can distract him a bit, ya know maybe throw him off his game? Winning here would mean the world to Ethan and he can't seem to get his head in the game as long as Jack is a threat to him."
Pausing his walking and staring at the ground, Mark shook his head, "I... no, I'm not going to jeopardize his chances here just so your boyfriend can win. That's not right."
"I'm not asking you to cheat or anything, just like make friends with him, swoon him or something. Ya know, just flash that winning grin every once in a while and see if he takes the bait." Tyler pulled Mark along so they weren't late.
"Come on, you know the Olympic village is just a big playground for the athletes to get to 'know' each other, just get to know Jack"
Mark huffed throwing his hands up, "I'm not making you any promises and I'm not going to cheat but tell Ethan I'll try to spend some time with Jack if that'll make him happy."
"It absolutely will."
Chapter 4: The Blue Boy
Background on Ethan with a bit of Tyler
Growing up, Ethan never really had an ideal childhood. Starting at the age of 7 he started his journey of being in and out of foster homes, some good and some not so good. He lived his life being told he was too small, too skinny, too loud and just plain not good enough. Finally at the age of eleven, he found himself in a loving home with the best foster parents he could wish for.
His family uprooted him from Maine and made the trek all the way to California for his mom's new job. In Maine, Ethan was used to playing outside in the cold and snow. Most of his previous foster families simply forced him outside during the day so the snowy tundra quickly became his place of solace and peace.
Now, living in LA, Ethan was sorely missing the weather that came with living in the North East so his foster family surprised him in two ways. They formally filed for adoption and bought him ice skating lessons. Little did they know the little wild child would turn his life in a whole new direction at that point.
Going from being a thirteen year old trouble maker to dedicated skater within a matter of months was something to take note of. He really took off once he discovered a twenty year old international skater by the name of Jack McLoughlin. Ethan was enamored with the grace and athleticism of Jack along with his small build and loud nature. Finally, Ethan found someone he could relate and look up to. For the next few years he studied every routine and memorized them to a tee, including his award winning performance at the World Skating Championships.
After years of busting his ass and not getting noticed, Ethan finally got an invitation to compete in the US figure skating Championships. The then nineteen year old skater was quick to show some of his favorite moves from Jack's previous performances to his coach asking to put together a performance honoring his inspiration and favorite skater.
Ethan did amazing in his performance and even came in sixth in his first big competition but then the shit storm started. All kinds of videos were showing up on YouTube with side by side comparisons of Ethan's and Jack's routines. The amount of Ethan's performance that exactly coordinated with Jack's championship performance were too numerous for the skating community to ignore. He was put under a warning and an investigation was started.
The whole incident became a blur to Ethan and he quickly slipped into depression, contemplating suicide and fell off the skating circuit for several months following. It wasn't until Tyler reached out to him that he returned to the ice. The two trained at the same facility and were relatively close throughout their time there but once Tyler started to pull Ethan out of his dark time their relationship started to bloom.
Tyler spent the next few years encouraging Ethan and doing his best to protect him from negative press and critics. Once they both found out they qualified for the US Olympic team they both felt on top of the world but this was short lived. The critics started coming out of the woodwork, bringing up Ethan's past discretion. There was little Tyler could do to shelter Ethan but he made a promise that he would do anything in his power to keep Ethan happy and far away from the depressed state he once was in.
After a run through of his Olympic routine, Ethan quickly skated over to the wall and stormed off the ice. "Did you know about this?"
Kathryn backed up shaking her head, "No no I had no idea he was skating to that music, please don't be mad."
"You're my coach, you should know these things... Especially with him!" Ethan was now pacing back and forth in front of Kathryn. "You know what they're all going to say"
"Eth, don't. You didn't know Jack was skating to almost the exact same song."
"Yeah, well who's going to believe me... no one. I'm just going to be known as a copycat yet again." He started unlacing his skates and pulling them off.
Kathryn sat down next to him trying to remain calm for Ethan's sake, "There's nothing we can do now so let's just roll with it and we will fight the critics as they come."
Chapter 5: practice and a deal
Tyler makes a little bet with Mark
Jack was pissed, he was seeing red once he heard the song that Ethan was skating to start to play. Yet, he waited until Mark left for practice to say anything, "What the hell is this kid thinking? Now he's copying my music? Danny, have you seen his routine yet or do I need to guess how many of my moves are involved."
"Dude, breath. None of the competitors have any prior knowledge of each other's routines. I... I don't know if he knew or if it was just a freak coincidence. Regardless, there's nothing we can do about him now, we'll leave that up to the fans to rake him over the coals if he did something wrong." Danny was doing his best to clam Jack who was visibly turning red in the face.
Jack was now skate free and half out of his practice clothes, pacing with his hands on his hips. "You're right but fuck, what are the chances it was an coincidence? He's pulled this shit before."
"Remember your own words dude, positive mental attitude. Don't let this get to you, just worry about out skating him."
Mark had made it to practice with Tyler, both sitting in the middle of the large oval track lacing up their skates. As Tyler was stretching his arms to adjust into the tight uniform, he glanced over to Mark, "So how's it going with the Irishman?"
Rolling his eyes and making some final adjustments, Mark huffed out, "It's only been just over a day, what do you expect. Plus, I'm not hanging around him because you want me to, we happen to have a lot in common. He's a cool guy unlike you lame asses."
Tyler chuckled, "Fine, how about this. If you beat me this first lap then I'll leave you alone, if not then you have to ask him out on a date. Deal?"
"Fine, but you know I can out skate you in a heartbeat." Mark stood and wiped his hands across his thighs to warm them up.
The two readied at the start line and waited only momentarily until the tone sounded, Mark took off with gusto as his strong legs and smaller frame carried him out in front of Tyler. He knew he had this in the bag so he let off the speed a bit not wanting to wear down before actual practice, little did he know Tyler was going at it with his all following closely behind. Yeah, Mark didn't want to ask Jack out on an official date but he did seem to want to spend most all of his time around the Irishman. They rounded the third turn and Mark quickly realized that Tyler was starting to pass him on the inside, it was already too late to match the taller man's speed. His long powerful legs were carrying him quickly to the finish, much to Mark's surprise.
Even leaning into the finish, Tyler overtook Mark, "Hell yeah!" Tyler pumped his fists in the air as he glided to a stop, "In your face!"
"Shit... a bet is a bet but I'm doing it on my own terms."
"Yeah, yeah, just as long as you do it tonight." Tyler clapped Mark on the shoulder and grinned down at him. "Now, let's get to practice. Our first match is coming soon."
Everyone was finished up with their practices for the day and gathered in the cafeteria for dinner, Tyler quickly tracking down Jack and Walsh to eat with them. "There you are Jack, you guys come and sit with us" knowing that he needed to get Mark and Jack together he cleared a place right next to Mark for the Irishman to sit.
Walsh sat at the end of the table and Jack went to sit next to him but was quickly snatched up and led to the newly cleared seat. "Why don't you sit here Jack, Mark was telling me how much you two have in common. You must have a ton to talk about. Right Mark?"
Mark glared at Tyler, knowing exactly what his friend was up to, "Gee, thanks Tyler."
Jack nervously laughed and looked down at his lap, "Uh, hi everyone." Ethan sat right across from him not knowing how to act.
Finally Ethan quickly stood, looking like a deer in headlights. "Sorry, I just remembered I, um, I left the shower running. I gotta go." He practically knocked his tray off the table as he fled.
Mark looked around then to Tyler puzzled, "What was that all about?" Tyler simply shrugged, not knowing the level of tension between the two skaters.
"Maybe he just didn't feel good and didn't want to say anything. I'll check on him after dinner." Tyler blew off his boyfriends sudden disappearance.
"Maybe he's faking it for attention." Jack mumbled more to himself under his breath.
"Did you say something?" Mark turned his attention to Jack.
"No, no... so how did your practice go today?"
"Seemed like he had a good one, him and Tyler there were goofing off on the ice the whole time." Walsh chimed in from the end of the table.
"What's that supposed to mean?" The comment caught Tyler's attention.
"Nothing, I was just waiting on my time slot and overheard you guys causing a ruckus just laughing and carrying on."
"It's not like we ran over time or anything"
"Tyler, I really didn't mean anything about it. It's just everyone is taking their practices so seriously then you two were out there goofing off." said Walsh
"Don't worry about us, you'll see how ready we are when we meet on the ice tomorrow night." Tyler had an air of smug confidence to his tone.
"Alright man, didn't mean to make things uncomfortable" Walsh decided to quickly dig into dinner and get out of there before Tyler came after him, the guy had at about a foot on him.
Jack chose to jump in and lighten the conversation, "Hey, anyone going over to watch the hockey game tonight? I think it's Sweden and Canada."
Most of the athletes shook it off, choosing to relax for the evening, except one. "I was thinking about it, you want to go together?" Mark asked.
Jack smiled before shoving another bite of his dinner in his mouth, "Sounds great, we need to get going soon then."
Chapter 6: Is it a Date?
Jack and Mark hang out
As the two athletes walked to the arena where the hockey match was being held, Mark had the heavy weight of Tyler's 'request' hanging over his head. He decided to push it to the back of his mind, he wanted to get to know Jack more regardless of a silly bet.
"So, Mr. Irishman, where are you from?" Mark asked as they walked shoulder to shoulder.
Jack looked over to Mark with a questioning look on his face then flashed an adorable smirk, "Ireland, duh."
Mark rolled his eyes and bumped shoulders with Jack being rewarded with a light giggle, "You know what I mean."
"Althone, literally grew up in a little cabin in the woods but now I live in Brighton in the UK. How about you?"
"Well, I grew up in Ohio but moved out to LA when I was young for training. I even went to college out there so I didn't have to leave m-my trainer." Mark stuttered a bit when he felt his fingers brush against Jack's cold ones. Too bad the moment was only fleeting and didn't seem to effect Jack the way it did him.
After chatting for a few moments about their homes, Mark continued to question Jack. He was intrigued and just wanted to know everything about the man, "Outside of skating, what do you do for a living?"
Jack chuckled a bit, "It's hard to believe this isn't what all these athletes do for a living, ya know, that they have a real life outside of the sport. I do sound design for a couple local theaters, it's flexible enough for me to still give skating lessons on the side."
"That sounds amazing, is that what you went to school for then?" Mark left his hand dangling by his side instead of in his pocket hoping for Jack's hand to brush his again.
"Yeah, so what does the great Mark Fischbach do with his time away from racing?"
Mark laughed before glancing up to see the arena come into view, "Well, actually I'm a veterinarian."
The two got distracted as they got in line to enter the arena, there weren't many people attending since it was an early round but it was enough for a little confusion. Jack looked down and grabbed Mark's hand pulling him to one of the shorter lines, he didn't want to get separated in the mini chaos. He relished in the warmth of Mark's hand since his fingers were freezing. Mark relished in the softness of Jack's hand.
Sadly, as quick as he grabbed Mark's hand, he released it. They made their way into the ice rink and took their seats about halfway up, Jack stripped off his Jacket before sitting and pressing his shoulder into Mark's. The American looked over, noting the loose sweater and bare collar bone of his companion and cleared his throat.
"I'm going to grab us some popcorn and drinks, do you want anything else?" He quickly stood trying to get the thoughts flying through his mind to calm down.
"No, that sounds great, thanks" Jack couldn't help but blush as Mark scooted his way in front of him giving the Irishman a perfect view of his ass.
Now, something they haven't talked about was their sexual preferences, Jack knew it would come up eventually since they kept catching glances at eachother. Honestly, he didn't really have a preference he just liked who he liked and even though it usually winds up being women, men weren't out of the question. He didn't know if he'd let himself get that far with someone he'd probably never see again but then again, stranger things have happened.
Mark got back a few minutes later, plopping down in his seat and handing over a bottle of sprite and a large bucket of popcorn. "Miss me?"
"Yeah, gotta work on my aim."
The hockey game went on, a few goals were scored, couple punches were thrown but the two were oblivious. They sat eating out of the dwindling popcorn bucket, occasionally overlapping handfuls. Once when Jack went to grab another hand full, Mark had his hand deep in the bucket. Jack smirked and slapped Mark's hand to get him to move, snatched a couple of kernels and flung them in Mark's direction. Thus started the popcorn fight.
Mark had decided he had enough of hockey to last him awhile so the two decided to leave, as they walked down the sidewalk Jack let out a visible shiver. "You ok there?"
Jack shoved his hands in his pockets and shrugged, "Yeah, just didn't think it'd be this cold out."
Letting out a little huff of breath and watching it dissipate into the air Mark chimed in, "I've got an idea that'll warm you up."
Jack stopped in his tracks with a puzzled look, "What kind of boy do you think I am?"
Mark let out a loud laugh and pulled Jack by the arm, "Nothing like that, just trust me on this."
He led the Irishman to the building that held the workout center, nestled in the back was the pool area. They walked into the enclosed area, steps echoing from the emptiness and made their way to the far end of the pool. Jack glanced around, the lights were out leaving a soft glow from the lights underneath the water making the setting rather relaxing but intimate.
He wrung his hands in front of him, shuffling from foot to foot nervously, "If you're wanting to swim then I'd have to go get my trunks. Forgot to wear them under my jeans tonight."
Mark smirked at him and took a step closer, with a deep voice that balanced on a whisper he said, "Who said anything about swimming or trunks, where's your sense of adventure?" He grabbed his shirt and lifted it over his head and in no time Mark was down to his purple boxer briefs and sliding into the hot tub. "Are you just going to stand there or are you going to warm up?"
Jack stood in shock with his mouth agape, there was so much happening for him to take in. Not only was Mark there with him in the dark intimate space but he was only in his underwear waiting for him in a hot tub. Now if memory serves him right, he could have sworn he's seen a porn start out like this before.
Welp, no time like the present to throw caution into the wind and take some chances, Jack unzipped his jeans, took a deep breath and proceeded to strip down to his light blue briefs. He thought to himself, 'Here goes notihing'
Chapter 7: Hot tub time
Mark and Jack really get to know eachother
Jack awkardly slid into the warm bubbly water across from Mark and stared at the steam rising, he wasn't sure if he was comfortable with a practical stranger. I mean, they were both in their underwear silently in near darkness.
Mark decided he wanted to try to break the tension so he sang out, "Two bros chillin in a hot tub, five feet apart because they're not gay."
Chuckling a bit, Jack looked down and figeted with his fingers again, "Man, I miss Vine. They had the funniest shit on there."
Tonight had been filled with laughter that came so easily between the two, Mark started to think he had made a mistake bringing Jack here. He just looked uncomfortable but then he spoke up, "Ok, twenty questions."
"Ok, shoot." Mark perked up thinking that this could get interesting.
"What's your favorite color?"
Staring at Jack for a second, Mark couldn't help but feel bad at how he adverted his eyes after the question, "So out of everything out there you want my favorite color? Ok, then it's green. How about yours."
Mark had only known Jack a short time but he knew he was anything but a man of few words. "Wait, did that count as a question?" Jack simply shook his head. "Let me think... What's your favorite video game?"
That seemed to perk the Irishman up, he talked about Shadow of the Colossas like it was the greatest thing since sliced break. He went as far as humming some of the music as he gushed about the recent re-release with the subtle changes to the characters. "Sorry, I'm rambling. Do you rent or own?"
"I own a beautiful house just outside of LA, and stay with my two best friends Tyler and Eth..an." Mark bit his lip knowing that was a sore spot, hopefully Jack would just skim over it. "How about you, same question."
"Actually I just recently bought a house when I moved to the UK, my friend Marzia is helping me decorate it right now. Moving from Ireland was a hard choice but it seemed every time I was in any kind of competition that drew attention to me I'd have fans showing up at my door." Jack sunk down in the warm water even more letting his legs stretch out but pulled back a bit when his foot brushed up the side of Mark's leg.
That stupid adorable smirk played on Mark's lips as he saw a bit of blush rise on Jack's cheeks, "Your turn"
Laying his head back against the edge of the wall of the hot tub, Jack thought for a moment about how much he wanted to know about Mark and how much he wanted Mark to know about him. "Ok, since you made the joke earlier, do you have a significant other."
Mark sat forward, eyes sparkling as he spoke, "Yeah actually, she's beautiful. Long blond hair, big brown eyes..."
Jack didn't really know why this disappointed him so much, he was actually very attracted to Mark so hearing about his girlfriend sent a pang to his stomach.
"Her name is Chica, my two year old golden retriever. She means the world to me."
Jack let out a laugh that echoed through the large empty room, the sound was almost heaven to Mark. "Same question again, do you have someone special at home?"
"Nah, my girlfriend and I broke things off when I moved. Nothing bad, we still talk on occasion. Guess that makes it my turn again, If you could only have one meal the rest of your life, what would it be?"
Mark was quick to answer this one without a doubt in his mind, "Chicken and dumplings, I make a killer version of it that my mom taught me but you can't ignore the glory that is Cracker Barrel."
"That sounds good but I've never been" Jack was starting to relax and open up more.
"Well, after all this mess maybe you should come and visit LA and I'll treat you to both versions." Both men locked eyes with glowing smiles on their faces. Mark cleared his throat, "So if you were forced to sleep with one or the other, would you choose the Men's curling team or women's hockey team?"
Jack rolled his eyes playfully, "What kind of question is that Mark, I guess if I had to choose I'd go with the hockey team. There's plenty of me to go around... but why not both?"
Mark's brows raised almost to his hairline, "Oh so that's how it is then?"
Laughing, Jack splashed water towards Mark, "What do you mean by that, there's nothing wrong with enjoying the best of both worlds."
"Oh, I totally agree with you there. So bi then?" He splashed back.
Thinking for a moment, Jack sat back in his place again, "Actually, I don't really have a preference. I just like who I like, it's more based off personality as opposed to what they're packin."
Mark felt his stomach tighten a bit, "Are you attracted to me?"
Jack went silent at the question for a moment as he fidgeted with his fingers again, he still wasn't sure he wanted to open this can of worms. Sure, he was very attracted to Mark, you'd have to be dead not to but with the very limited time they had together and no promise of seeing eachother after this he didn't know how far to go without getting hurt. "I think it's my turn to ask the question"
Mark gestured for him to go ahead, "Pineapple on pizza or being wrong about life?"
"Oh no, you're one of them... ABORT MISSION!" Mark stood like he was getting out of the hot tub but slowly sank back down once he noticed Jack staring. His wet garment left very little to the imagination. Jack traced his eyes upwards along his torso and chest, landing on his eyes.
Sliding over to Jack's side, Mark chose his next question carefully before whispering it out, "Jack?" bright blue eyes reflected the water so beautifully as they met his, "Can I kiss you?"
Licking his lips, the moment was almost spell binding, he slightly shook his head. "yeah"
Mark took Jack's chin between his fingers just staring at him for a moment, searching for any hesitation. He slowly leaned forward gently pressing his lips against Jack's. The kiss was soft and sweet, not too forward. They pulled apart a bit just enjoying the closeness before Mark spoke again, "We should head back."
The two men were nearly silent as they grabbed the towels from the rack against the wall to dry off and then get dressed. They made quick work of walking back to the housing area, Mark only spoke once they were in the elevator. "I had a really good time tonight, we should do this again."
Jack shook his head with a little smile, "How about tomorrow night?"
"I have the first round of qualifications then, you should come and cheer me on."
Both men got off on the third floor, Mark walked Jack to his door, "Sounds good, I'll be there... well, good night then."
They stood close, Mark placed his hand on Jack's hip pulling him a little closer. Just as Jack started to close his eyes bracing for another kiss, the door swung open.
"Jack where have you been, you know you have an early practice...oh" Walsh's eyes widened when he saw the display outside the door, "Fischbach...." he said with a monotone voice. Walsh was not a big fan.
"Oh hey, it's my Irish competitor to save the day." Mark chuckled then turned back to Jack, "I'll see you tomorrow and Walsh, I'll see you on the ice." With that he headed back to the elevator.
Jack turned to Walsh seemingly a bit upset, "What the hell?"
"Seriously Jack, of all the people here you had to choose Fischbach?"
Heading inside and shedding his coat, Jack looked unamused, "I don't think it's really your concern, besides we just hung out for a bit. There's no harm in that."
"The guy is just cocky, I don't like or trust him one bit." Walsh followed Jack to his room.
Pausing in the doorway, Jack turned to face his friend, "Listen, just because you two don't like eachother on the ice doesn't mean you can't get along outside of it. He's a good guy if you just give him a chance."
"I don't want to see you get hurt Jack, just remember why you're here ok."
"I know, I haven't lost sight of that but if you'll excuse me I have to get some sleep, night Walsh."
Chapter 8: Cheering Section
It's been a year since an update? My how time flies.
Jack sat on the edge of his bed as he wiggled his toes trying to wake them up. After a quick glance outside he sighed at the darkness, being up before the sun was for the birds. Desperately wanting to hit snooze a few more times, he hoisted himself out of bed to hit the shower. Jack knew that if he was late to practice this morning, he would have a rather angry coach at his door and additional laps to look forward to. Discipline is key here.
After a quick cold shower to wake him up, Jack decided to head out for breakfast. He needed the energy yet something light on his stomach- perhaps just some fruit and toast or an egg white omelet... He was shaken out of his thoughts as there was a light knock on the door. Thankful for the quietness as to not wake the others, he opened the door.
“Greetings, I have a delivery for Mr. Mcloughlin” a small Korean man with a huge grin and just as huge covered platter in his hand was standing at the door. Jack was confused but let the man in anyway, he motioned for him the set the items on the counter. “I also have this, have a good day sir” a white envelope was thrust into Jack’s hand as the small man promptly left.
In confusion, Jack lifted the dome of the platter so see an assortment of breakfast foods from the cafeteria. Well, at least he didn’t have to make that trip this early in the morning. He sat down to have a couple of bites before the opened the envelope.
“Jack, hope I wasn’t too early on this! Just wanted to give you a pleasant wake up call and remind you of my qualifications today, I really hope to see you there since you seem to be my lucky clover. Good morning by the way –Mark.”
Jack smiled and blushed a bit, “Damn it Mark”, he wasn’t quite used to this kind of attention but if it meant a warm early breakfast then he was all for it!
Mark skated around the ice, warming up. He pulled his arm across his chest, then the other, making sure to stretch out. As he glided around, he eyed the crowd forming in the stands. This was just first round qualifications in speed skating so the crowd was rather light but there was no doubt folks sectioned by country. He wondered if he would spot Jack with the Irish crowd or with the American one to root him on.
He noticed a familiar face lacing up his skates in the center on one of the benches so he made his way over, nothing like a little friendly banter, right?
“Hey Walsh, looks like your cheering section is looking a bit light there.” Mark gestured over to four unfamiliar figures sitting in the crowd donning shirts decked out with clovers and Irish flags.
“It’s not the size that counts, right. You of all people should know that Fishbach” Walsh smirked at him.
They were both distracted by a few louder people that shuffled in, laughing and carrying on. “Hah, did you see that guys uniform, that is such an unfortunate placement for their team flag-right on his ass.” Tyler entered with his arm resting lightly on Ethan’s shoulders as Ethan giggled in return. They both turned a waved at Mark, followed by a handful of other American athletes to fill their section.
Walsh noticed Mark scanning the crowd and decided to question him, “Looking for someone in particular?” He said knowingly and much to his distaste.
“Not really, just getting a feel for the crowd” Then he noticed a familiar jacket walking across the front isle. Just as Mark was about to skate off to greet Jack, Walsh took off in front of him stopping him in his tracks.
“Hey Jack, you made it! Glad to see you came to support your fellow Irishman” Walsh said with a grin.
“Yeah, wouldn’t miss it.” Jack tried to focus on his friend but seemed distracted trying to catch a glance at Mark who had resumed his warmups.
“So, looks like our folks are over there on turn three if you wanted to join the cheering section.” Gesturing over to the corner towards the small Irish section. He also noted Jack’s eyeline towards Mark, “Jack... Jack, did you hear me or are you distracted by the American again.” He snapped his fingers in front of Jacks face, who was not blushing.
“Oh, no I heard you man, I’ll be there cheering for you loud and clear” Jack said with a smile on his face as he turned to head to the bleachers.
Really, Jack didn’t want to sit in any section, he just wanted to cheer on his own, especially since he wanted to root on Mark. That would just look odd from his section though, plus he didn’t want to root against Walsh... why not both. He really didn't understand the rift between Walsh and Mark.
""You look way too deep in thought" Danny, his coach, said as he plopped down next to Jack.
"I thought you'd be over in with the Americans today" Jack said with a small smile, secretly thankful for the company.
"You looked lonely so I thought you could use a friend. Why so deep in thought man, I didn't think you even really liked this sport?"
Jack stared down at this fumbling fingers for a moment, "Can I ask you a question?"
"You've been through this a few times, the Olympics i mean, did you ever find yourself... shit, how do I put this... Did you ever want to just...." Jack shook his head, not knowing how to put into words what he was thinking.
Danny quickly caught on, "Ohhh, I think I get it. Getting distracted by some eye candy." he grinned knowingly.
Jack buried his face in his hands, groaning.
"Who is it then... wait, let me guess." Danny tapped his chin with his finger as he glanced across the ice. "I'm assuming it's a guy right" Jack simply nodded as Danny continued, "and he's probably out there today", once again a simple nod. Then Danny spotted it, Mark was practically breaking his neck watching the two chatting. "ok, I get it. He's pretty hot."
"Wait, what?" Jack's head shot up in confusion, wondering how Danny could have guessed already. He glanced over to the starting line as Mark gave a small smile and wink towards him just before taking his starting position..... the tone sounded and the skaters were off. Jack couldn't help it, he ignored Walsh slightly trailing Mark and stood to cheer as they went past. Mark was currently in the lead of the pack.
Chapter 9: What is it with him
Jack and Walsh chat about his distaste for Mark.
Jack hung around for a bit after the end of the race waiting for Mark to notice him, ever since their shared kiss in the hot tub he couldn't get the American off his mind. As Mark skated over, Danny chimed in, "Well, I'll leave you to it. Just remember about tonight.
Replying absentmindedly, "Yeah, Yeah, I know." Jack had a huge grin on his face as Danny left.
"So, what ya think. I looked pretty good out there, right?" Mark said as he swiped his slightly sweaty hair from his face.
"I'd say so, you were amazing Mark"
The American leaned against the wall and confidently pointed to his cheek which was happily greeted with a friendly peck from Jack. "Wanna hang out for a bit after I get cleaned up?"
Jack felt the butterflies start to go crazy in his stomach at the thought, "Sure, coach gave me the rest of the afternoon off. That is until my preliminaries tonight."
"Well, you can hang out at my place until I shower or I can meet you somewhere in about a half hour." The two decided to meet in the recreation building next to the housing area, Jack didn't really want to bump into someone he didn't really want to talk to at the moment since there was still such a bad taste in his mouth from Ethan's little music selection.
Jack headed to his apartment area to grab his phone charger before heading out, he was greeted by a door slamming as Walsh walked in, dropped his bag and grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge. His brow furrowed as he glanced over to Jack, "What the hell was that about?" Walsh asked in distaste.
"What do you mean, w-what... did I do something wrong" Jack paused before he walked out the door.
"I thought you were on my side, ya know, wanted to see your fellow countryman win and not some American douche bag."
Jack huffed as he closed the door and stepped back into the apartment, realizing exactly what Walsh was talking about. "Listen, you did great. Second isn't all that bad, you should be proud."
"Against anyone else I would be but Mark... He's a different story. You were cheering for HIM, of all people. That guy has been out to get me ever since we first met, I don't know what it is with Fischbach but he has always been an ass to me and I don't understand what you see in him." Walsh plopped down on a stool at the counter hoping Jack would do the same.
"Ok, I'm listening so tell me what's so bad about him. What is it with you two?" Jack sat next to him at the counter.
Leaning back a bit and playing with the now empty water bottle, Walsh thought about how to explain, "Fischbach is one of those guys that no matter how hard you try, he always has some smart ass comment to say. It goes beyond competitve nature with him, he tries to get in your head and doubt yourself. Ever since I beat him and almost got the world record in that American event last year, he's just progressivly gotten more aggressive with me. It's been pretty light nature since we've gotten here but believe me, it's the calm before the storm."
Jack sat in silence for a moment, "I just don't see it, I mean we hung out for a bit and I don't get that vibe from him."
"Oh don't worry, you will. When you least expect it he will worm his way into your head, especially yours... since he's such good friends with that Ethan guy." Walsh stood and placed his hand on Jack's shoulder. "I just don't want to see you hurt and as your friend I would suggest you take Mark with a grain of salt. I'm going to shower so I'll see you tonight, yeah?"
"Yeah, see you tonight man." With that Jack headed out with his mind heavy.
Mark was true to his word because within a half hour he was walking into the recreation area. The sound of air hockey, table tennis and laughter filled the air. He scanned the area and noticed Jack was no where to be seen so he made his way over to the gaming consoles to snag an area for them. Within a few minutes, a warm body plopped down on the leather couch next to him.
"Hey, whatcha playin?" Jack greeted him with a smile and a bowl of pretzels.
"Just some Mario Kart, they don't have the biggest selection but you can't go wrong with the classics." He leaned into his steering as he rounded a corner ultimately veering off the edge.
Jack chuckled watching him, "Man, you really suck at this."
"It's rainbow road, what do you expect! Don't kink shame me!" He paused the game and turned his attention to Jack. "So, prelims tonight. You nervous at all?"
"Nah, at this point I could do this blindfolded. It's when it gets down to the finals the nerves start to kick in a bit." He popped a pretzel in his mouth and grabbed the other remote as he kicked off his shoes to get comfortable. "Now, are you ready for that ass whoopin?"
"Anytime sweetheart" Mark laughed as Jack brought up his legs to settle into the couch. Mark was quick to catch his legs and bring them across his lap. He just wanted any kind of physical contact with the Irishman and this felt cozy, almost like they were at home together. Mark could almost imagine his dog Chica resting at his other side and decided he really liked this domestic feeling.
Chapter 10: Round one... Fight
First round of the competition
"What am I going to do about this?" Ethan sat frustrated with his head in his hands.
"Nothing, you go out there and you ignore all the negativity and you skate your heart out like you came here to do." Rubbing his back, Tyler sat next to him trying to calm his nerves.
"But you heard it, we practically have the same damn music for our programs. Plus, tonight is televised for the whole world to see so when this gets out I will be raked over the coals again." He was so frustrated at this point that there were tears forming in his eyes. Ethan sat back as Tyler wrapped his arm around his shoulders then kissed him on top of his head.
"Just know that no matter what anyone says I'm still so proud of you. You had no idea this was going to happen so try not to stress.
"Yeah, that's easy for you to say."
That evening there was a nervous tension in the air as the skaters took to the ice to do warmups. It was only about a half hour before the start of the event and the crowd were all taking their seats. Mark and Tyler sat rink side to cheer on Ethan... and well, Jack too. It wasn't too far into the program when Jack took the ice first, smiling and waiving at the crowd as he took his starting stance. The music started slow and methodical, he gracefully glided around the rink building up for his first jump. A rather simple double toe to reflect the simplicity of the music but as the music swelled, his routine became more complex. He executed almost perfectly only loosing his footing only once. Mark beamed with excitement and pride watching his new found 'friend' close the routine with a series of complicated spins and a large smile. The crowd erupted with approval as the judges assessed the routine and entered in their scores.
Tyler bumped Mark with his elbow and a disapproving look, "Don't get too excited, Ethan is coming out soon. Remember who's important to support here."
Jack sat on the bench with Danny as the scores rolled in, several high nines and some eights which they were quite happy with.
"Way to go man, you looked almost flawless out there. You will definitely be the one to beat." Danny beamed as the standings showed Jack was in first place.
"Thanks, it's still early in the game but it felt good!"
Three routines later was Ethan's time to shine, he took to the ice and eyed the crowd giving a small smile to Tyler. He took his ready stance and the music started, once he heard the tune come over the speaker he was lost in the routine and didn't notice the looks and murmurs from the spectators, but Tyler and Mark did.
"All he can do at this point is out skate Jack, he certainly is not gaining any popularity points with this crowd." Tyler gestured around.
"Just have faith, he'll do just fine" Mark sat forward watching Ethan intently. He was rooting for Jack, yes, but he also wanted to see his friend do good and certainly didn't like where the reactions were going.
As Ethan rounded a corner to turn back and ready for a jump, his skate hit the ice by the wall and he came tumbling down. He quickly brushed it off but it definitely showed in his routine that he was thrown off his game. Outside of the fall and a couple missteps, the routine was all in all good and the scores showed. He and Katherine sat on the bench waiting the scores but what he did not hear was the American announcers critiquing his suspiciously similar music choice.
"You have to wonder after a history like Ethan and Jack have if it is just a coincidence or if there are ill intentions behind the music selection of these two. The question is, who had it first?" The announcer Bob looked over to his cohost Mandy as they mulled over the past of the two skaters.
The scores came in and Ethan was pleasantly surprised with his moderately high marks, it was at least enough to get him comfortably past the first round. When all was said and done the night didn't go too bad, that was until dinner.
Jack was by himself grabbing something light for dinner and sitting in a quiet corner, he liked the time to himself to reflect on the evenings routine and what he could do to improve. He certainly didn't expect to have company sit with him.
Sliding the tray on the small table, Ethan sat across from Jack refraining from eye contact but making his presence know as he cleared his throat. Jack took out his earbuds and stared at the younger skater infront of him.
"Uhh, hi there?" Jack said in question as to what Ethan could want.
"S-sorry if I'm bothering you, I can sit somewhere else but I just wanted to say you looked great out there today." Ethan stuttered out, only glancing up only once.
Jack could sense his discomfort but water under the bridge, there was nothing he could do but hold onto his anger. Even at that, it wouldn't change the fact that he thought Ethan was still trying to steal his content.
He sighed, paused his music and sat back in his seat. "It's no problem and thanks, sucks about your fall today. Glad you could brush it off and keep going though."
Ethan looked up at his and smiled, "Thanks, I really appreciate that. Listen, about the music..."
"Just... please don't. I want to enjoy dinner and not hash over what may or may not be." Jack interrupted him not wanting do get into it right now. "Let's just get past this and let the competition play out, it's not all about the music it's how we skate that their judging.
"I didn't do it on purpose, I need you to believe me... I had no idea." Ethan was persistent and couldn't let it rest until he got his point across. "I'm sorry this happened but if I would have known.."
"Ethan, I said let it be. There's no need to keep going over this plus, after our past, I'm not sure what to believe from you." Jack started to get agitated.
"What do you think I'm happy to ride on your coat tails my whole career, whether you believe me or not I did nothing wrong here but you still have a chip on your shoulder about it." Ethan couldn't believe the words that were flowing out of his mouth at the moment. He came to bury that hatchet.. not bury it in Jack's back.
Jack stood slamming his hands on the table, much to the attention of the other surrounding athletes. "I didn't ask for you to steal my shit, be yourself for once in your fucking life and let go of trying to be me. Trust me, you'll become a better skater if you do." With that he walked off leaving Ethan and his unfinished dinner behind.
Chapter 11: Workout time
Mark and Jack go to workout
Walsh opened their door with a sigh, "What do you want?"
"Is Jack here?" Mark answered to the rather rude greeting.
"Yeah, he's just finishing up in the shower" Walking away but leaving the door open, Walsh left to resume what he was doing on his laptop and Mark took that as an invitation to enter- regardless of how cold it felt.
"Listen man, I know we have kind of a shaky past but you did really good in the qualifications the other day" Mark extended his hand, "No hard feelings?"
Walsh eyed him up and down before accepting the handshake, "Yeah, sure. No hard feelings." he was reluctant to accept Mark's good will towards him but did so anyway. "JACK! YOU HAVE A VISITOR" He shouted towards the other room. Then gestured for Mark towards Jack's room.
The American made his way towards the closed door and knocked softly, after a moment the door cracked open and Jack poked his head out, "Oh!, hey, come in."
Mark entered, looking around at the rather spacious room noticing clothes thrown about and Jack still with a towel wrapped around his waist and wet hair dripping on his shoulders. He couldn't help but trace his eyes along the drops running down his shoulders to his bare chest. He heard Jack quietly laugh at his expression.
"What, it's nothing you haven't seen before" Jack said with a smirk on his lips as he turned his back to fish some briefs out of the drawer.
"What... oh, no sorry. I-I'm just in awe of the sight... this room is much bigger than mine, plus I have to share it."
"I really don't think you were looking at the size of my room but ok" Jack turned his back and slipped on his under garment beneath his towel before letting the wet cloth drop to the floor.
Mark still stood quietly watching the other man as he rustled through more drawers to fetch clothes. He slowly walked up behind Jack and ran his hand down his bare back to which Jack quickly stood back up straight and turned around in a bit of shock.
"S-sorry, was that too much?" Mark retreated his hand and proceeded to take a step back.
"You could at least buy me dinner first" The Irishman said with a wink and a smile, "It's fine, you just kind of startled me is all." He took a step forward and rested his hands on Mark's shoulders, putting the other man at ease. "I kinda liked it though. Did you want something or just came to gawk at me?"
Mark was rather lost for words at the moment, all he wanted was to kiss Jack and maybe lay him across the bed and... Mark was shaken from his thoughts as the Irishman leaned in and placed a light kiss to his lips.
"I, uh actually wanted to see if you'd to do something. I heard they had a movie theater here, thought it might be cool to check out" he slowly snaked his arms around Jack's waist, "Or maybe we could just stay here"
"Slow your roll there tiger, a movie would be great but I really have to hit the gym for a bit. Maybe we could go together if you're up for it."
"Oh, I'm up alright... but yeah, the gym sounds great. Didn't you just take a shower though, why go and get all sweaty now."
Jack simply shook his head and retreated to get his clothes on, "that was more of just running hot water to relax my muscles, my legs tend to tighten up and it seems to help"
He and Mark agreed to meet at the gym since Jack needed to pack a bag and Mark needed to change into something more workout friendly. Once the American arrived he spotted Jack on the floor stretching his legs out and decided this would be a nice time to help, especially if it meant more touching would be involved. He knelt down on the floor placing his hands on Jack's leg and pushed it up towards his chest to increase the stretch then proceeded to do the same with the other leg. The moment felt rather intimate, especially since Jack's eyes never strayed away from him. The two chose to lift weights, spotting each other in the process and although there wasn't much chatter between them, they never passed up an opportunity to touch. It started with Mark laying down on the bench to bench press and show off his arms, Jack rather enjoyed the view as he stood at his head ready to assist with the heavy weights if needed and then went from there.
Their workout was interrupted as Mark was met by a familiar face, "Hey Tyler, fancy meeting you here" the two stepped away as Jack went to get a drink.
"Yeah, thought I'd work on the gun show since I had a free moment. How's things going with our little Irishman, make any moves yet" Tyler said as he nudged him with his elbow.
"Tyler, can we just forget about all of that. I don't want to hang out with Jack because you want me to be a 'distraction'. I actually really like him and I don't want to screw this up because of some stupid thing you have with your boyfriend."
Rolling is eyes and shaking his head, "You and i both know this is just a temporary thing, what are you going to do become pin pals or something. No, after this he goes back home to where ever he lives now and you go back to LA. Just do me this favor and don't you go loosing your head." Tyler seemed to hit a sour spot with Mark with that. It was something that was definitely in the back of his mind that they were only there for a couple of weeks before real life resumed and he returned to being a veterinarian and not an Olympian and Jack wouldn't be there anymore.
"You're probably right but still, I don't want to hurt him." Mark glanced over to see jack chatting with one of the female athletes as they sipped on their water.
"All I ask is that you try, alright? I'm going to leave you to it and finish up myself." Tyler started to walk away before turning back, "Did you happen to bring your key, I forgot mine"
"Yeah man, locker 133, it's in my bag. Just make sure to be there to open the door for me later." With that, Tyler hit the locker room leaving Mark with a heavy mind.
After their workout, Mark and Jack grabbed their gym bags and headed back to Jack's apartment. Honestly they were rather relieved when they arrived to an empty apartment.
"So, Just let me freshen up a bit and we can go out. You can just leave your bag in my room for now." Jack headed to the bathroom.
Mark tossed his bag on the floor and plopped down on the bed, his eyes were rather heavy and a bit irritated from his contacts. By the time Jack finished up, Mark was half asleep on the bed.
"Come on, get up sleepyhead" Jack sat on the side of the bed and started bouncing Mark around to wake him up.
Letting out a groan, Mark sat up. "Alright, alright, just let me take out my contact and change into my glasses. These damn things are giving me a headache."
Grabbing his bag and unzipping it, Mark dumped the contents onto Jack's bed to search for his glasses and contact container. Much to his surprise and a bit of horror, he did not expect to find what he did. Out of his bag came tumbling about thirty or so condoms and packets of lube that were stuffed in there as a joke by Tyler. They were there to take in the locker room, better to be safe than sorry so Tyler slid a few of the reminders in Mark's bag as he took the key out.
"H-holy shit Mark, what were you planning on doing to me?" Jack said as he stifled a giggle, Mark's face had never been so red in his life. He would be sure to give Tyler a piece of his mind later but for now how would he dig himself out of this hole.
Chapter 12: Now Playing At the Movies
After a little incident, Mark and Jack go to the movies where Jack meets a fan.
"N-No Jack, you got it all wrong. These aren't for you... I-I have this friend that... shit." Mark stuttered through what to say to dig him out of this hole.
Jack's cheeks flushed in embarrassment as he thought back to all their interactions, was he really seeing someone else here. Why was he so 'well equipt' and why did he carry all of that protection in his bag with him. Mark noticed him dazing out as he just stared down at the treasure trove of prophylactics splayed across his bed. Finally Jack managed to mumble out, "oh... ok, I thought you were maybe just a little forward but if I'm stepping on someone else's toes or got this whole thing wrong then I-I'm sorry."
Mark's eyes widened with the realization of Jack's train of thought, "I mean, I... that's not where I was headed with this. It's my friend Tyler, not that I want to use these with him... with you would be great, I-I mean if you wanna... you know." Sometimes Mark wasn't the best with getting words out when he was flustered.
"I don't really think I do know Mark, to be honest I'm a bit confused now." Jack headed to his door feeling not only embarrassed but a bit pissed as well. As soon as his hand hit the door handle Mark rested his hand on his shoulder.
"Sorry, let me explain. It was meant as a joke from Tyler since he knew we were hanging out. He is kinda pushing for us to 'hang out more' I guess you could say." Mark said with a breathy but nervous laugh, relieved when he felt the tension in Jack's shoulders drop.
Jack turned to eye Mark, still a bit skeptical but so far the man's given him no reason not to trust him. "What's Tyler's interest in this" he gestured between the two of them.
Remembering the conversation him and Tyler had just a short bit ago, Mark's pulse quickened as he bit his lip. Should he come clean with his friend's request to become a distraction to Jack or keep that dirty secret buried? "None really, he just likes to tease me" he ended with a nervous laugh.
Somehow Jack noticed his change in behavior, the slight sweating, nervous biting of his lip, not making eye contact... he wasn't really buying into it 100%. Regardless, he pasted on a smile and decided just to watch Mark a little closer before really falling for him. "How about that movie you talked about earlier?"
Mark noted to give Tyler a nice friendly beat down later and agreed to a movie with Jack. It was just a short walk over to the theater but he noticed a few things along the way, like how Jack seemed to walk a bit farther away and tucked his hands into his pockets instead of letting them brush against his own. The conversation seemed to go a bit stale between them as well, it didn't seem like Jack didn't want to hang out with him all together but the little incident seemed to surface some insecurities in the Irishman.
"Doesn't seem to be much playing right now, we could catch the end of Finding Nemo. That's always a classic" Mark said with a smile knowing it could help bring out that childish charm he adored in Jack.
"Yeah, sure! I'm always up for some good old Disney movies!" With a light tone in his voice and a cheezy grin, Jack led the way into the theater and picked a few seats towards the back. The two sat side by side reciting random lines from the film and laughing back and forth, the bonding was good to loosen the mood and feel a bit carefree again. Not to mention the darkness of the theater, plus there was almost no one else there so they pretty much had the run of the place.
Just as Mark was about to try the old yawn, stretch and sneak an arm around his companion, Jack sat forward, "I'm gonna go find some snacks, what's a movie without candy anyways." He grinned at Mark and stood to make his way to the lobby. As he was waiting at the counter for his sweets, Jack felt a tap on his shoulder.
"Hey, Danny said I may find you out and about."
Jack looked at the man with a puzzled expression but shook the extended hand regardless. The man's eyes sparkled and his smile was blinding, not to mention the adorable demples or the 'bad boy' vibes he was getting off him.
"So sorry, I'm Nate by the way... really big fan."
"H-hi, good to meet you" Jack choked out, god he felt stupidly wordless in front of this guy.
Nate's grin grew larger, if that was at all possible. "I'm friends with Danny, we tend to karaoke together during the off season. I seem to miss you when I'm in town but Danny always has great things to say about you. He never really mentioned that you are so much more adorable in person though."
Currently Jack was partially aware of the stupid grin on his face but he couldn't seem to wipe it off, "So, where abouts are you from then and what brings you all the way here?"
"Virginia is where I call home but I stay between there and LA. I'm here just like the rest of them, ready to kick some ass." He said with a wink. "My competition is really tight this time around, I'm a downhill skier."
The two were interrupted when Jack received his M&M's, peanut for him and plain for Mark, then it hit him.... Mark.... damnit how did he forget that quick. "I'm sorry but I have to get back, it was really lovely to meet you Nate. Maybe we'll meet again soon yeah?"
Nate looked a slight bit disappointed but kept his smile regardless, "I would love that, I'll keep my eyes out for a cute little Irishman running around then."
Jack let out an almost obnoxious giggle that made him turn bright red, "See ya around" and with that he turned to go back to the theater and Mark who was eagerly awaiting his return.
In the dark Mark couldn't see how flustered Jack was when he returned but something felt off, almost a bit distant. The American tried his chances again and successfully wrapped an arm around Jack's shoulder and was please with the results when Jack seemed to relax in.
"Thanks for getting these, was the line long? You missed some of the best lines."
Looking down at his bag of candy, Jack simply sighed, "No, just ran into someone out there and we sort of struck up a conversation... no biggie." Or was it, Jack felt to conflicted right now. He just needed time to think.
Looking over every so often, Mark noticed that Jack's attention wasn't on the movie but elsewhere in sort of a daydream. What could Jack be so concentrated on, little did he know that Mark's presence had quite a bit to do with his state. The Irishman started down a train of thought he really didn't want to go down so he decided that maybe he should take a step back on all this socializing before he truly got distracted on the real reason he was here. The thing is, did he really want to do that. Mark was so warm and genuine and just overall fun to be around but then there was Nate.... Jack could definitely see himself exploring that option. He glanced over to Mark when he heard him chuckle at the kids movie playing and then he just couldn't help himself, he placed his hand on the side of Mark's face, turning it and crashing their lips together in a heated and sloppy kiss. Jack needed some physical affection... or to get this out of his system and clear his head.
Chapter 13: in a fit of passion?
Well, that happened. Sorry it's short but I have a lot going on.
Mark didn't quite know how to react to Jack's sudden boldness as he felt the Irishman run his hands through his hair and continue kissing him with a sudden amount of lust he hadn't felt from him yet. As he continued to ravish Mark right there in the theater, Jack started to climb into his lap and that's when Mark decided he needed to intervene.
"Whoah there, hang on a second. This isn't really the place for...." Jack rather forcefully cut him off again with a kiss, swallowing his words. Placing his hands on Jack's face and stopping him Mark whispered out, "Shouldn't we maybe slow this down and talk about it."
"Good idea" Jack said rather breathlessly as he stood and grabbed Mark's hand to usher him out of the theater. The two walked in silence, rather swiftly back to the housing building and making their way to Jack's room.
Lucky for them, being the middle of the day the place was rather empty so their brisk journey went unnoticed. Once back inside the confines of Jacks' room, Mark was once again attacked by Jack's actions as he was practically slammed against the closed door.
The man was speechless, he had a rather beautiful Irishman attacking his neck with more tongue and teeth than anything else. At least Mark can use his mouth now, even if words were becoming increasingly hard to come by.
"Jack... h-hang on... uggggh." His words faulted as Jack's hands ran their way up his abdomen under his shirt. Fingertips now testing the waters and tracing around his now peart nipples.
"Stop... j-just stop a second" He grabbed the Irishman's wrists, pulling him slightly back to look him in the eyes.
Jack simply shook his head and smirked, immediately falling to his knees and fumbling with Mark's button. God, Mark did not want to stop him. He was already half hard just from the few minutes they've been back in the confines of this room but he knew he needed to. Mark's mind was blank as he felt his zipper being pulled down and strong fingers grip around his waist. Jack dug his short nails in and ran them down his hips, lowering the garment mid-thigh. He started mouthing at Mark's clothed cock through his boxer briefs, pulling the American closer to his eager mouth by the backs of his thighs.
His breath was so warm and inviting as his saliva started to soak through Mark's underwear suddenly making Mark's hips buck forward. In a slight moment of clarity, Mark gripped Jack's hair hard and pulled his head back to look at him. Blue eyes were blown wide as Jack heaved heavy breaths with his tongue lulled out like he was desperate for Mark's cock down his throat.
"I have no idea how I'm finding the restraint to stop this right now but slow down a second because I don't want something to happen and then you regret it later." Mark kept a firm grip on Jack's hair, restraining his actions.
Jack's shoulders fell slightly as his eyes diverted, "I just... I just need this right now ok?"
Mark cocked his head to the side slightly, looking down at the desperate man on his knees, "From me?" He loosened his grip and ran his hand gently through Jack's hair and around to cup his chin and regain eye contact.
Whipping his head away and swiftly standing, Jack turned his back to Mark and started pacing the room, "We're both consenting adults here, what's the damn problem all the sudden?" he threw his hands up in frustration.
Mark's eyes narrowed in confusion but he refused to take a step towards Jack. "What has gotten into you?"
"Isn't that all this is leading to? We work out some pent up energy, frustration, whatever by fucking around for a few weeks and then just go home to our own damn country like none of this ever happened?" Jack crossed his arms infront of himself now feeling insecure with his actions. "It's not like this is magically going to turn into something more than fuck buddies while we're here."
"I'm going, you need to get your shit together." Mark pulled back up his pants and opened the door, looking over his shoulder. "I don't know who you think I am but you obviously have it all wrong and now that I know who you are, I'm not sure I want to stick around for more. If I wanted a fuck buddy for the time being I wouldn't have picked someone as high maintenance as you. Plus, do you really think I've been wanting to hang out and go places with you just for this- get over yourself." He slammed the door behind him with heavy regret weighing on his shoulders.
Jack just let his head drop as he gave back fighting back the tears. After Mark stormed out he made his way back up to his own flat and pushed past Tyler to go to his own room. Yeah, he didn't mean the things he said to Jack about him being high maintenance but honestly he was pissed that he let himself fall for the Irishman just to be used for 'stress relief'.
Mark's door swung open as Tyler stood in the doorway, "what the hell was that all about?"
Huffing out, Mark turned to him with anger in his eyes, "You want the fucking Irishman distracted? Done. Now leave me alone"
Chapter 14: Rough Practice
Jack is having some issues at practice.
"You're late" Danny stood at the edge of the ice as Jack practically came bursting through the door.
"I know, I know...sorry. I just didn't sleep well and then my alarm didn't go off and I just..." Jack knew the real reason for his tardiness. He just wasn't emotionally invested in it today, with everything that happened yesterday with Mark, he couldn't even begin to focus. He was just too upset.
Danny sighed and threw his hands up in frustration. "All I'm hearing right now is excuses, get your shit together and then ten laps. You need to use the rest of your practice time wisely since tonight is the last round before the big show." It's been a long time since Jack was actually late to a practice, usually he was always bright eyed and early everytime. Danny figured something was up so he pulled out his phone to bring in some extra support.
Jack saw Danny texting away in frustration as he laced up his skates but decided not to question it. He was already in too much hot water with his coach. He entered the ice and relished in the familiar, comforting sound of the blades slicing the ice as he started his laps around the rink.
"Speed it up McLoughlin, we don't have all day to run this routine." Even though Danny was confident in Jack's skills, something seemed off. Usually his eyes were sharp, posture relaxed but today Jack seemed to have a far away look in his eyes. "That's enough for now, let's get this show on the road."
Taking his ready position, Danny signaled for the music to start and Jack took off to start his run through. He didn't notice exactly when the dark haired man slipped through the doors to join Danny but he sure noticed when he rounded for one of his jumps. Nate stood watching the Irishman intensely, studying his every move. Danny had called in his fellow American athlete to help give last minute pointers.
After Jack whizzed by them, he turned back to face them while on one foot readying for a triple axle. Nate caught his eye and smiled at the Irishman, Jack failed the jump miserably collapsing to the floor. Danny could see it was a pretty painful fall, he was going to have to ice Jack's thigh after this but the Irishman bounced back up after pounding the ice in frustration.
Deciding not to stop the routine and let him keep going, Danny called out, "Where's your head Jack?"
The entire practice went on like this, at the end, instead of striking his ending pose Jack screamed out in frustration and skated to Danny and Nate at the side wall.
"What the fuck was that all about? I haven't seen you do that bad since the junior competitions."
"I don't know, everything just feels wrong." Jack leaned against the wall willing his mind to go blank, sadly it wasn't working.
"Here, turn around" Nate placed his hand on Jack's shoulder to turn his back towards him. He started to massage his shoulders and upper back. "You're carrying so much stress right now, after this you need to go relax before competition tonight and just not let anything get to you." He continued with his rubdown as the next party entered the rink for practice. They were a bit early so Jack just shook off Nate's hands reluctantly to run a few of the harder jumps before his time ended.
Most of the jumps this time were much better, at least he stayed on his feet this time. That was until he spotted another familiar face standing, watching him with two coffees in hand. That's when he landed really hard on his tailbone, Jack just layed sprawled out across the ice, not moving.
He was fine, really, just a bit of pain but mostly frustration coursing through his veins. Mark started running to the entrance of the ice to see if Jack was ok but he was beat to the punch by Nate. The black haired man was at Jack's side in an instant, helping him up and keeping his arm around Jack's shoulder until he was ushered off.
Mark dropped the two cups in his hands as he watched the two head back to the locker room followed by Danny. He didn't exactly know who this guy was but he sure didn't like how handsy he was being with Jack.
So much ran through Mark's mind at the moment, was this a friend, another trainer, something more? Mark realized how little he actually knew about Jack outside of what little he's learned while here but he also realized that he wanted to know so much more about him. He had it bad for the Irishman, whether they had a fight or not, he still had feelings brewing in his chest that were now flaring with anger and jealousy. As much as he wanted to go back to the locker area, he didn't. Mark simply turned and left as Ethan took the ice for his practice session.
Chapter 15: Lunch time
Mark tries to hash things out but shies away after someone else shows up.
Sitting at his table alone, Jack sat with his earbuds in picking at his food. Not that he exactly wanted to be alone at that moment but he was reflecting on his practice that morning and trying to figure out what went wrong. Nate was kind enough to work out a bad kink in his knee and lower back from all the falls today. It was nice getting to know the guy, not only was he easy on the eyes but he's a physical therapist when he's not on the slopes.
Jack's attention was drawn away from his thoughts when he felt a presence at his shoulder, he plucked out his earbuds but was rather surprised by the man hesitantly standing at his side.
"Hi" was all Mark said while mumbling under his breath.
Rather confused, Jack sat in a bit of silence for a moment before responding back, "Hi". It felt awkward for some reason, probably since they haven't really spoken since Jack basically attacked him in his room, begging to suck his dick in a fit of mindless passion.
"I umm, I saw part of your practice today. You ok?" Mark shifted from foot to foot with his hands tucked in his pockets and bag slung over his shoulder. He was there for lunch but he was also hanging around for a bit wanting to actually sit and talk to Jack about the awkwardness between them. He really wanted to clear the air and start over without any tension or 'requests from friends' hanging over his head.
Looking down and fumbling with the cord to his headphones as a slight distraction, Jack seemed hesitant to make any eye contact, "Y-yeah, I'll be fine. Nothing major anyway. How have you been?".
""Fine I guess, do you mind if I...."
They were abruptly interrupted, "Hey, I got that ibuprofen for you... oh, hi there. Name's Nate." Nate stuck out his hand towards Mark.
Mark took his hand after furrowing his brow, recognizing this guy as the same one from the rink this morning's practice. "Mark"
Nate took a seat across from Jack and handed him the bag which also contained a chocolate bar. "Figured I sneak you a treat, just don't let Danny see it" he said with a wink.
Mark couldn't help but notice the undeniable blush that crossed Jack's cheeks as he let out a little giggle. The nerve of this guy....
"I promise I won't rat you out, thanks Nate." This was uncomfortable.
Standing and watching the interaction between the two, Mark felt like a total third wheel. Maybe Jack was just leading him on all along, he seems rather comfortable with this Nate guy so he was probably more than just another trainer or something.
Nate reached across the table to brush his fingers along Jack's, "You need to eat something to keep your strength up for tonight, what can I get you."
"Ummm, I just..." Jack's eyes darted from the soft touch to Mark briefly before reverting his eyes back down. "Just surprise me I guess."
A smile came across Nate's face, "Will do, be back in a jiff." he said as he excused himself from the two.
Mark bit at his bottom lip, his brow furrowed and he let out an almost silent breath through his nose. He didn't know why all of the sudden Jack was so distant but maybe he was starting to understand why, at least that what his mind was conjuring up.
"I'm just gonna go, see you around Jack and enjoy your lunch date" He grasped the strap to his bag and turned to walk away. All the while his mind on the present he had for Jack tucked in his bag. Feeling bad about the tension between them, Mark had gone to the shops and found a leather strap bracelet with a charm of the Olympic mascot on it, he knew he wanted to slip it around Jack's wrist but that picture in his head has now dissipated. Plus when he said 'date' Jack did nothing to correct him- guess trying to make things right is just too late.
Jack sat at the table alone for a few minutes just mulling over what had happened, the look Mark gave him was almost heartbreaking. He's not sure why he reacts to the man the way he does, probably because he could truly see a future with him. Deep down Jack knew the distance would kill any form of relationship they would have. He wasn't the best at keeping up with long distance friendships much less a relationship. His stomach churned, he didn't want to let Mark walk away, honestly he wanted to jump up and wrap his arms around him. Jack was broken out of his thought process when Nate placed a plate and a bottle of water in front of him and sat back down with his own plate.
"Eat up, you need the energy if you're gonna crush it tonight.... What's wrong?" Nate noticed a look of worry and indifference on Jack's face when he sat down.
"It's nothing I can't handle, thanks for getting me lunch. This looks delicious" Jack picked up his fork and started pushing around the rice on his plate, trying to play off his sour mood. Nate was a great guy, fun to be around and actually seemed to really like him but there was one thing keeping Jack from pursuing him.... Mark.
"Oh no, you're not getting away with that. Something is bothering you and you really need to get it off your chest. Trust me, it'll help clear your head and focus on tonight. So spill it."
"Where do you live? Like, I know you told me mostly LA but..."
"I travel alot, with my job I go to where I'm needed but it seems like I've been in Europe the majority of my time this past year... why?" Nate, being a physical therapist that focuses on athletes had had his hands full with numerous soccer players in Europe lately and has even contemplated opening up an office there. Still, why was that important to Jack.
"I really.. Nate, I ... never mind, I don't really feel much like talking about it." Meanwhile, Jack glanced around to see where Mark might have gone to, Maybe they really did need to sit down and hash things out. Then again, maybe it should wait until after the competition. Nate was great company... he just wasn't Mark.
Chapter 16: The Fight
Mark comes clean and outs Tyler
Mark didn't linger in the cafeteria to see any more than he already did, no, he dejectedly made his way back to the housing area without lunch. Entering, he grabbed a protein bar and plopped down on the couch. Ethan came out to see who was there and sat next to Mark, "What's up, you look like someone just pissed in your Wheaties."
Side glancing for a moment, Mark just returned to eating without a word. Ethan scooted a bit closer, "Seriously friend, talk."
"I think I'm just ready to get back to normality, this whole Olympic thing should be fun but it's not at this point. I miss Chica, home, being by myself..." Mark laid his head back on the couch and closed his eyes willing himself not to get too emotional.
"Yeah, this whole thing has been pretty stressful but we're almost in the home stretch. My practice went pretty well today, you should have stuck around and watched."
"Sorry about that, I just had somewhere to be"
Ethan knew that wasn't true, he saw how Mark reacted to Jack's fall at the end. "You sure you just weren't upset about..."
Mark stood, crumpling the wrapper in his hand, "Don't. I know what you're going to say, just don't bring him up right now."
Grabbing the remote Ethan flipped on the TV to watch some live updates, "Your call, Tyler said that you guys were getting along well so I don't see the problem all of the sudden."
"What did I say again?" Tyler interjected as he walked out of the bathroom, drying his hair with a towel.
Turning with a bright smile, Ethan chimed in, "Oh, Mark seems upset so I was asking him about Jack."
"Ohhhh, how's the loverboy doing anyway. You get laid yet... like my surprise?"
Mark glared at Tyler, taking a few steps forward, "Not funny man, you need to lay off. I'm done with this whole thing, he's seemed to move on to someone else anyway.
Tyler cocked his head in confusion, "What do you mean move on, I thought you two... ya know" he made hand gestures insuating sexual activity which prompted Mark to take another step closer.
"I said lay off Tyler, it's not like that." Mark grumbled in a deep voice.
"Then what happened to..." Tyler glanced over to Ethan who was listening intently, "The thing you were supposed to do."
Ethan immediately sensed the tension rising and paced back and forth, "What am I missing?"
Mark raised his voice but his eyes never left Tyler, "Fine, you wanna know what you're missing?"
Tyler narrowed his eyes, "Mark..."
"Your boyfriend here is severely lacking confidence in you."
Stepping forward, Tyler landed almost chest to chest with Mark, "Shut the fuck up Mark, I'm warning you."
Ethan stood, "What do you mean?" his voice shaky, wringing his hands together.
"Tyler decided it would be in your favor if I served as a distraction to Jack to help throw him off his game. Seems your man didn't think you could do it all on your own. He's been pestering me to get him in bed ever since we got here." Still remaining nose to nose with Tyler, Mark was pissed and he wasn't backing down. He'd had enough at this point, once he go to know Jack and realized how much he had actually taken a liking to the Irishman he had requested that all bets were off and them hanging out together had nothing to do with it.
Tears formed in Ethan's eyes with the realization that his own boyfriend didn't even believe in him enough, "Tyler, is this true?"
Taking a moment to glance at Ethan, Tyler's heart broke and his rage flared, "Well fuckboy here agreed to it so he's as much in this as I am"
Mark grit his teeth, he knew he was going to regret what was about to happen, "Fuck you." He stormed towards the door and swung it open just to feel a hand on his shoulder swiftly turning him around as a solid punch landed on his jaw just below his cheekbone.
"No, fuck you Mark. We had a deal, I thought I could trust you." Tyler screamed in the hall as he charged Mark again. The look Ethan gave him was enough to know that things were falling apart because of Mark spilling his secret.
"YOUR DEAL WAS TO TRY TO CHEAT YOUR BOYFRIEND TO THE TOP, HOW THE HELL WOULD I BE OK WITH THAT? I TOLD YOU TO LET IT GO AND YOU JUST COULDN'T." Mark pushed Tyler back against the outside wall of their flat which prompted Tyler to lunge forward again, tackling mark to the ground.
Hearing the commotion from downstairs, Walsh bolted out of his flat, taking two stairs at a time to see what was going on. He was shocked to see the two Americans wrestling on the ground, fighting for dominance.
Mark growled out, "I FUCKING REALLY STARTED TO CARE FOR HIM BUT BECAUSE OF YOU YOUR STUPID REQUEST I'VE LOST HIM." He landed a punch to Tyler's nose, making the man retreat as they both stood back to their feet.
"WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE!" Walsh yelled out, shocking the two as they turned their heads to the newcomer. He looked back and forth between the two then over to Ethan who was hiding in the doorway with tears streaming down his red face.
"This is all my fault." Ethan said in a whisper, "I never should have come here in the first place, I knew I wasn't good enough" He looked over to Tyler, "Not even to you." He took off running down the steps and out of the housing unit.
Tyler started to go after him before Walsh stepped forward putting his hand on the American's chest. "Let him go for now, he needs some space. Now, you two... inside, we're talking this out."
Mark huffed and shoulder checked Tyler as he walked by.
"I could report you two to the Olympic committee and have you both sent home but I won't do that.... yet. Who wants to start." Walsh was stern in his threat so the two knew the seriousness of their actions.
"Shit." Mark mumbled out before explaining the situation to Walsh. He went on about Tyler's request, the bet, him loosing the race to Tyler, his intentions with Jack, then developing feelings for the Irishman and trying to call the whole thing off... everything that led to the fight in the hall.
"I'm disappointed in the two of you, Tyler I have to say that you are a shit boyfriend and you don't deserve Ethan. Now go find him and make it right. Mark, I told you before and I'll tell you again. Stay the hell away from Jack, I'm not going to flood his brain with this before the match tonight but after you'd better bet that he will hear about everything. Don't you dare show your face tonight and upset him." Walsh turned and headed for the door.
"Don't worry, i don't think he'd notice either way" Mark mumbled out as the door slammed.
Chapter 17: Skate your heart out
Ethan lets off some steam and draws attention.
Ethan found himself slowing to a mindless walk after sprinting from the stressful situation at the flat. He didn't know where his feet would take him but he would soon find out. Standing in front of his locker at the practice facility, the skater decided it was best to blow off steam on the ice. Competition was in a few hours and he needed to get his head on straight so he pulled out his bag and slipped on his skates. It didn't matter much to him that he didn't have the proper attire on since this was just him here... no one else to judge him.
He glided onto the ice, savoring the near silence of all the empty seats and dim lighting, closed his eyes and let in a cold refreshing breath blowing all of his pent up stress out with it. Ethan started gliding in slow fluid motions to the music in his head, he knew he had no one to impress with this, no competitions, routines, nothing but pouring his heart and soul into his movements.
"So, this Mark fellow. Friend of yours?" Nate and Jack were finishing up their meal when the American was brought up into the topic.
Jack mulled over his answer, not quite knowing what Mark was to him, "He's more of... I guess someone I just met here and was hanging around with. Why, do you know him?"
Nate shook his head, "Can't say that I do, he just seemed to really change your whole aura when he was around."
"What do you mean"
Leaning forward, pushing their now empty plates out of the way, Nate rested his hand on Jack's. "You seemed tense but really eager to want to talk to him. I couldn't pinpoint it but I brought him up now because I think I may get it. Now, stop me if I'm way off but are you guys sort of a thing?"
Jack's face turned bright red as he pulled his hand away, resting it in his lap, "I guess you could have said that but right now, I'm not so sure."
Biting at his lip and tapping his fingers on the table, Nate mulled over where he wanted to go with this conversation. Yeah, he was very interested in Jack but the whole time Jack's seemed hesitant to really open up to him and now he thinks he knows exactly why. "What happened, if you don't mind me asking."
Blue eyes shooting up to meet Nate's own brown ones, Jack was really embarrassed to answer bluntly about the situation. "Let's just say things started to move too quickly so we kinda just stopped talking."
"So slow it back down and take the time to get to know the guy, he seemed crushed when he was here and I only have to assume it's because he misses you."
"I miss him too... No offense to you Nate, you are a wonderful person and have been nothing but a sweetheart to me but Mark..."
"He's stolen your heart before I even had a chance huh?" Nate smirked, showing Jack there were no hard feelings.
Jack simply nodded his head, "I'm sorry"
"Don't be, if he makes you happy then damn it, go get your happiness."
Both men stood, and embraced each other before Nate spoke again, "Friends?"
Jack smiled at him before letting go, "Of course."
The Irishman had no idea where to find Mark at this point of the day but he felt a strong need to talk to him now. He checked the workout room, the recreation area, laundry facility and before heading to the housing area he decided to check the practice rink.
Not knowing what he'd be walking into, Jack opened the doors quietly in case someone was in there practicing. To his surprise there was someone on the ice.
Jack watched the figure in the hoodie and sweats skate to no music, no lighting nothing. His eyes were glued to the man on the ice, watching his graceful footwork, simple yet elegant spins and he was rather mesmerized. Where has this guy been during the competition because this was not a routine or style he had seen from anyone here. As he stepped closer to the side of the rink to get a better look, the skater let out an almost frustrated growl as he picked up speed across the ice. Jack could feel the power coming from this guy from where he stood but he was not expecting what happened next.
Ethan was in tears, just letting all of his frustrations, doubts and negativity out as he skated the way he wanted to all along. Not following a routine but following what his heart told him to do. He was not searching for approval at this point, he was just letting his body take over. That's when he skated as hard and fast as he could, turned his back, lifted his foot in front of him and flawlessly landed a single footed back flip. He skidded to a halt, breathing heavy and then was scared shitless.
"WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?" Jack yelled, he had never seen this done in person and honestly only a few skaters had successfully pulled it off as smoothly as this skater did.
Ethan turned, ripping his hoodie off his head, eyes bulging out like he was in trouble. "I.. I'm sorry, I didn't know anyone was watching." He quickly tried to skate off but Jack had jumped the wall and ran as fast as he could in tennis shoes on ice, easily catching up with the skater.
"E-Ethan? I didn't know... where did all that come from?" Jack grabbed Ethan by the shoulders practically shaking him when he realized who he had been watching this whole time. This is nothing like the boy's normal style, no, this was competition for him.
The American couldn't help but tear up again, his emotions were all over the place and now he felt like Jack, of all people, was yelling at him. "Jack, I just... I, don't be mad at me please."
Loosening his grip, but still excited none the less, Jack kept his hands on Ethan's shoulders, "Why would I be mad at you, that was fucking incredible! I've just never seen you skate like that, it's like you were finally you."
That's when the waterworks started, Ethan practically wailed out as he was pulled into a warm hug. Jack pet the back of the younger boy's hair trying to calm him. "What happened?"
"I just feel like I have no business being here, I'm not good enough to even be on the ice with someone like you... much less trying to represent my country. Eveyone knows that, even my boyfriend."
Jack placed his arm around Ethan to lead him off the ice, the two sat at the side of the rink to chat. "You wouldn't be here if you didn't deserve it. I admit I had my doubts about you but watching you just now, I'm speechless. You were absolutely stunning, I couldn't look away. Why the hell are you doing the routine you're doing and holding out so much potential?"
"I-I don't know. I was just told what I needed to do, what to skate to, what to wear and went with it. I trust my coach, she said she consulted some of the best out there to come up with this routine for me."
Jack looked at Ethan for a moment, studying his features. The boy was being honest with him, "Who exactly did your coach consult?"
Ethan shrugged, "Honestly I don't know, she just said she had sources that were helping."
"We need to figure this out because I have a feeling they are intentionally holding you back, I mean, if you can skate like you just did in competition then you would give everyone out there a run for their money. Including me."
Sitting up straighter and feeling a slight more confident, Ethan smiled, "You really think so."
Jack smiled back, "I know so"
Chapter 18: Semi Finals
The night of the competition came quicker than Jack would have cared for but he felt prepared... for the most part. He had searched for Mark to talk some things out between them but to no avail, he finally gave in and decided to catch him at the competition tonight. Surely he'd be there, if not for Jack then at least for Ethan.
"Alright, remember what we talked about. Slow down on your corners going into the jumps a bit because you were looking a bit wobbly and for goodness sakes keep your head in the competition and out of the clouds." Danny placed his hands on either side of Jack's face to look him in the eyes, "Focus has been your enemy since we've gotten here, don't let it get the best of you."
"I got it, don't worry Danny. There's just one thing I need to do before the start of the competition, I'll be back in a jiff." With that, Jack made sure his laces were tight, blade guards were in place and made his way over to the area where Ethan was doing some last minute stretches.
"Hey Ethan, you got a second?" Jack waved the younger over to him to chat privately before the event. Ethan shook off Katherine's strange look and met up with Jack.
Jack placed a friendly hand on Ethan's shoulder and gave him a small but confident smile, "Just think about what I told you in practice today, you're here for you and no one else. Go knock em dead and I'll see you after competition to figure out what we're going to do to your routine for the next round. There's some work to be done but I have a few ideas after what you showed me earlier that, if you can pull them off, will almost guarantee you the attention you deserve."
Ethan wrapped his arms around Jack's neck and mumbled into his shoulder, "Thanks for finally believing in me. I actually feel like I can do this."
Pulling away slightly, Jack reassured him, "Get through this then we'll show them the Real Ethan Nestor."
"What the hell was all that about? Aren't you two enemies, I mean he practically stole your routine and music and now you're hugging it out like long lost bros? What gives?" Danny stood infront of Jack confused as to the nature of the two's interaction.
Jack simply shook it off, "Let's just say that we've come to an understanding. I just wanted to wish him luck tonight." Neither Jack or Ethan wanted to discuss their plans to change Ethan's routine since they really didn't know who to trust. The suspicion still hung heavy in their minds that someone was purposely taming Ethan's routines and making them too similar to Jack's for a reason.
All that aside, the competition was starting. Skaters were taking their designated places behind the scenes to wait their turn on the ice. The crowd was lively tonight, being the semi finals everyone knew this was going to be broadcast and widely viewed around the world.
"Welcome to this evenings event, the Men's single skate semi finals." Bob announced to the eager crowd, "tonight, all eyes will be on Jack McLoughlin, the skater from Ireland that has been the favorite throughout this competition."
"Not to mention drawing attention from the press with his rival against the American skater Ethan Nestor who, despite his seemly shady past, has had a decent run this time around." Mandy, the co host added in. "Luckily we won't have to wait long to see his performance, finishing lower in the remaining field Ethan will be skating as one of the first up."
After two programs, Ethan was up. As he entered the rink he eyed the crowd, only seeing a few familiar faces that included Tyler holding a large bundle of roses, seemingly as an apology for earlier in the day. One noticeable face missing was Mark but he brushed his friend and roommate missing to focus in on the start of the program. Taking his starting pose, Ethan took in a deep breath and waited for the music to start. His routine was rather simple with only one of the more complex jumps- Katherine advised him, as his coach, to play it safe and be happy with an average finish to get the experience under his belt. Now that he's talked to Jack though, Ethan has other plans in mind, all he had to do was to get through tonight.
Coming to his closing spin combination, Ethan felt confident that he had made it through with only a few minor bumps in the road. Comfortable enough to make it through to the next round.
Jack came up later in the competition for his program, the more he looked around, the more nervous he got for some strange reason. Something felt off. He glanced over the crowd noting Nate and Danny giving a quick thumbs up from the sidelines, Walsh and a few other Irish athletes, but no Mark still. Jack took his stance and pushed off with his right skate to start the routine. The further he got the more his confidence boosted, he raised his leg into a one foot glide feeling the music swell. Then, after a bit of footwork he picked up speed for his triple axle, landing it flawlessly. At this point he knew the scores would reflect well on his performance. After this, three days until that gold medal... it was right in his grasp.
Landing his finishing pose perfectly with a large grin on his face, Jack skated around the ice waving to the crowd as they cheered him on. Some adoring fans threw stuffed animals, some threw flowers. Jack felt on top of his game, what he didn't notice was a small bouquet that slid in front of his skates right before he made it to the exit. They tangled in his skate and caused Jack to twist awkwardly, trying to catch himself. Unfortunately, he didn't.
Chapter 19: Tragedy Struck
The Aftermath of Jack's fall
All Jack could see was bright flashing lights in his eyes, then ringing in his ears. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion, sounds muffled, vision blurry and as Jack tried to focus in on his own body he felt people surrounding him, trying to ask questions that he couldn't quite hear. Somewhat blacking out in between, he felt himself being lifted and laid out onto a...bed? Voices, movement...blackness again.
Finally waking with a bit more clarity, Jack started to recognize voices and surroundings. Seeing the stark whiteness of the room, he knew he was now in a hospital bed but couldn't feel the lower half of his body, all he could feel was the pounding in his head.
"So, he'll be in this thing for a couple days until the surgery?" Jack recognized this voice as Danny, but the other was unfamiliar.
"That's right, we set the bones as well as we could until the orthopedic doctor can schedule him in for surgery." The emergency room doctor explained. Jack lied still in the bed just listening to the conversation.
Danny sighed in a bit of relief that it would only take a few days until the surgery until the doctor chimed back in, "That's not the only thing, we checked before and after setting the bones to learn that some of the fragments damaged the popliteal artery and we are having a hard time finding a pulse in Mr.McLoughlin's lower right leg."
"W-wait, if there's no pulse..."
The doctor shook his head, "There was quite a bit of damage to the main artery as well as the nerves in the surrounding area. Now, we are going to keep a close eye on it for changes but if the pulse doesn't return..."
Danny shook his head, "I get it, let's just hope for the best. Do you think he'll wake up soon, I mean, I know he's concussed but it's been a bit and he's still out."
Patting Danny's back, the doctor grabbed his clipboard. "There's just no telling really, could be anytime." and with that Danny was left alone at Jack's bedside, elbows resting on his knees and head in his hands.
The stark silence was interrupted by a raspy voice, "Usually you're telling me to shut up and skate..."
"Shit, Jack... good to see you awake. How are you feeling?"
Jack lifted his head to see his leg in a splint, raised in a sling and let his head flop back down with a groan, "Like absolute death warmed over. What happened?"
"You don't remember? Ok, well your program went really well but as you were coming off the ice, you got twisted up in something on the ice and took a pretty nasty fall. You landed on your leg and then smacked your head on the ground... hence the headache." Danny spoke barely over a whisper, not wanting to break all the bad news. He cleared his throat and continued.
"You have a compound fracture near the knee that they splinted for now but will need surgery soon. My suggestion is to get back home before that happens so you can rest at home or..."
Jack had a confused look on his face, his eyes met Danny's to see how grim they looked. He knew there were parts his coach was leaving out intentionally, "Dan, no bullshit. Just tell me..."
"They may have to amputate at the knee if they can't repair the damage."
Shock washed across Jack's face as reality set in, not only was his career going to be over but he may actually loose his leg. Tears formed in his eyes as he sat, staring blankly at the wall deep in thought.
Danny placed his hand on Jack's, "I thought that maybe you could come and stay with me through this, I'm sure that no matter what happens you could use a friend or two around. Nate and I live a stones throw away and can help you through whatever comes next."
Not uttering a word, Jack just slowly shook his head in agreement. He was still struggling to register all of this and the implications it holds. All he knew is that he had a long road ahead of him that didn't involve skating any longer.
Something Jack didn't know was that there was someone outside his door, frantically pacing, debating on going inside.