Author's note: Thanks for the follows and faves, guys! I hope you continue to enjoy the story. I think it'll be a fun ride... feel free to PM me or leave reviews if you have comments/questions/etc!
Three months earlier...
Matthew sighed, burrowing further into his squashy armchair. He dragged a hand through his hair and brought the phone back up to his ear. "Arthur. Arthur. Are you done yet?"
The tinny voice of his cousin echoed through the phone indignantly. "What do you mean, am I done? I'm trying to tell you what that French git did today and you're asking if I'm done?"
Matthew sighed again. "Sorry. It's just that... well... you've complained about him every day since he joined your department. It's getting a little... repetitive?"
"Hmph. Repetitive? You're one to talk. What have you done since retiring? The same thing every day - a jog around the neighborhood, a stop at the coffee shop, and then the telly and video games all day long."
"That's not fair," Matthew mumbled. "I also see Ivan sometimes. And I cook! I've almost perfected my sweet potato pancake recipe."
"Repetitive," Arthur mocked. "Do you know that in the past six months, you haven't sounded enthusiastic about anything except those sweet potato pancakes?"
"Okay, okay. So maybe there hasn't been much going on. But did you ever think that maybe I like it that way? It's been nice to just have time to... relax. Now that I'm not on the road constantly. I never had time for things like video games and cooking before." Matthew shifted in his chair and eyed the TV remote. Was it time for the documentary yet?
Arthur's voice softened. "I know, Matt. Despite the... unfavorable circumstances... of your retirement, you do seem more relaxed. But I'm just afraid that you're getting... complacent. You need something to do with your time, besides leveling up and waiting for Ivan to call."
Matthew rolled his eyes, before remembering that Arthur wouldn't be able to see his expression. "I don't just sit around waiting for him to call. He's a busy man, and I'm fine with it. Besides, what do you suggest I do with my time? I don't want to get a new job, since I don't need the money. And I already tried volunteering, remember? It failed miserably when that dog bit me."
"Screw the dog, and screw his crabby old owner. I still think you should have sued," Arthur laughed. "Anyway, what about writing? Didn't you always say you wanted to write a novel about our granddad's experiences in the War?"
"Well, yes, but that was in high school. I haven't written anything since college."
"So what? Look, hear me out. I'm owed a sabbatical from work. The department head is strongly suggesting I take some time off to write and publish papers. And god knows I could use a break from the bloody undergrads, right? My friend told me about this fantastic old house out in the countryside that's up for let. It's some old estate that was a hospital back during the War, etc. Why don't you come over here and we could rent it together? You could write, and I could work on research."
Matthew stared at his blank living room wall, pondering Arthur's words. Writing...? He honestly hadn't thought about it since graduating from college and being drafted by the Maple Leafs. He had been an English major, but his brutal hockey training and game schedule quickly took up all his time and energy, leaving little time for creative pursuits. But now that his career was over, his days stretched out in front of him... long and empty. But wasn't going to England a crazy idea?
"Matt... still there? Come on, think about it. It'd be a change of scenery, which you desperately need. And it'd be fun! At night we can get blitzed and bitch about our crazy relatives."
Matthew jolted out of his thoughts. "I don't know, Art. It does sounds like fun, but I don't think I want to go so far away for so long. I'd like to see where this thing with Ivan goes."
Arthur scoffed. "I thought you and Ivan were just friends with benefits? Fuckbuddies, as Alfred would put it?"
"No! I mean... we never officially talked about it. We were always too busy playing to talk about it. But since I retired, he's been really attentive."
"Matt... you've seen him 3 times in 6 months. I wouldn't call that attentive."
"He's been busy, OK? He's had a really intensive schedule, especially since the Leafs are so close to the playoffs. So I'm sorry, but the answer is no, I can't jaunt off to England for months right now. I just want some stability."
"Fine. But I think you're making a mistake. Just sitting around your house with nothing to do isn't going to make you happy, so I hope Ivan will at least make you happy. I need to get going - I'll give you a ring in a couple of days, yeah?"
"...Arthur. Come on, don't be like that," Matthew said softly. But it was too late - Arthur had ended the call. Matthew sighed heavily. His cousin could be overbearing, but he had good intentions. But was it so bad to put his hopes into this relationship working out? Ivan was everything Matthew wanted... strong, handsome, with a wry sense of humor and a passion for hockey that matched Matthew's own. They had clicked immediately when Ivan joined the team as a promising rookie from Russia, and things had quickly turned physical. They had been an electric team, both on and off the ice. But then Matthew was injured... and now he was sitting at home in Toronto while Ivan continued to play. But just because they were no longer together on a daily basis didn't anything had to change... right?
Matthew tossed his phone aside and checked his watch. It was almost time for his show to start, but he was filled with a sudden desire to see his lover. Ivan was actually in town for once, and there wasn't a game tonight. They hadn't planned on getting together until the following day, but Matthew decided to be spontaneous and surprise Ivan. I'll prove Arthur wrong... I don't just sit around waiting for Ivan to get in touch with me. He nodded firmly to himself and headed to go shower.
An hour later, Matthew strode into Ivan's apartment building, nodding to the doorman. "Good evening, John!"
An odd expression crossed John's face so quickly, Matthew thought he had imagined it. "Ahh, good evening, Mr. Williams. What brings you here tonight?"
Matthew laughed. "What else? I'm here to see Ivan. He doesn't have a game tonight, so I was hoping he'd let me bring dinner to him." He held up the bag of pirogies from the local deli -it was a favorite of both of theirs. "I know he's in - his car is impossible to miss in the lot."
"Yes, well, very good, sir. Why don't you just take a seat and I'll dial up to let Mr. Braginsky know...?"
"No need, John. I'll just let myself in!" Matthew edged past the doorman and headed to the stairs. Strange, John isn't usually so tentative, he thought, but shrugged it off as he took the stairs two at a time. In no time at all, Matthew was standing in front of Ivan's door. He shouldered the bag of pirogies and opened the door. Normally, he would never just let himself in without knocking or calling first, but he was feeling especially eager to surprise Ivan. He had spent some very special time in the shower thinking about the last time they had been together, and the feeling of Ivan's powerful thighs and nicely rounded ass...
"OH MY GOD." Matthew's fantasies of Ivan's ass were interrupted by his view of the real thing, as Ivan lay nude and entwined with another man on the living room couch. "...Ivan?"
Ivan sat up abruptly, lips swollen and face flushed. "Matt? What are you doing here?"
"I... I came to see you. I brought you dinner," Matthew replied automatically. His mind was completely blanked out and his body felt numb. The bag of pirogies slowly slipped to the floor.
Ivan smiled broadly. "How nice of you! But I did not expect you until tomorrow. Look, Toris, he brought pirogies!"
The man underneath Ivan struggled out of his embrace and sat up as well. Matthew's jaw dropped as he recognized Toris, the Maple Leafs' publicist, and - he had thought - a good friend. Toris refused to meet Matthew's gaze, looking shamefaced.
"Ivan... what's going on? Why are you... with Toris? I thought... I thought we were seeing each other." Matthew stammered out.
The smile dropped from Ivan's face. "Mattvey, I do not understand what the problem is. We have been seeing each other, yes, but we never agreed to be exclusive. There is no reason we cannot have fun with others, especially since you are no longer with the team." A happy note returned to his voice. "But now that you are here, why don't you join us?"
Matthew couldn't take it anymore. The pity in Toris' eyes, the realization that Ivan had never taken this seriously, the severance of his last link with his old life, and the smell of the pirogies... it all made him sick. "No. I can't do this. Just... have fun, and I hope you enjoy the pirogies. Goodbye, Ivan." He spun on his heel and walked out of the apartment, gently closing the door behind him.
A thousand irrelevant thoughts whirled through Matthew's head as the numbness started to wear off. He set his face in a grim line as he rode the elevator back down and walked right past the worried-looking doorman. Have fun? Enjoy the pirogies? THAT'S all I could say?! Get a grip, Matt. As soon as he was outside in the cool air, he took a deep, gasping breathand pulled out his phone. Dialing an overseas number, he waited for voicemail to kick in. "Arthur? It's Matt. Book the house, I'm coming to England. Fuck the pirogies."