|The Fears that Bind|
|"Hey," Peter spoke softly as he arrived behind the Pepsi Center where he knew he would find David. He was always there, seeking refuge from reporters in recent days.
"Hey," David responded, motioning for Peter to join him. He was sitting against the wall of the arena, his knees bent, feet flat on the ground in front of him.
Peter mimicked David's pose as he settled in for a seat against the wall. "What a game, huh?" Peter said, looking straight ahead at nothing in particular....just avoiding Aebi's gaze. He was sure Aebi didn't want to talk about it. At least, that's what he thought.
"Yeah," Aebi answered, surprising Peter. "Hell of a game, in a completely bad way, for both of us."
A pause stretched between the two netminders as Peter searched for something to say. What could he say that Aebi hadn't already heard tonight? 'It wasn't your fault?' Aebi had surely heard that, and never listened to it anyway. 'Just put it behind you and work harder next game?' No. Not dwelling on past goals was the cardinal rule of goaltending. Aebi didn't need to hear what he already knew.
As Peter hung his head and wrinkled his brow in thought, Aebi broke the silence. "Damn, Peter," he said, solemnly, "Why the fuck can't we stop a puck?"
Peter couldn't help but crack a small smile at Aebi's question. "Speak for yourself," he began, "At least I've been playing decently. I won Monday."
"Gee, thanks for making me feel better, Buddha!"
"I'm just saying! You haven't been up to par since Kolesnik showed up and you know it." Peter knew he was out of line, but he couldn't stop his tongue,,,,good thing Aebi was a calm guy.
"Yeah, well, he's gone now. Thank God," Aebi lifted his head to the stars at the end of the statement.
"Amen to that," Budaj responded, following Aebi's gaze.
Another pause. This time, it was Peter who spoke. "I know you've probably heard it eight dozen times tonight from eight dozen people, but it will get better, Aebi. I know it will."
Aebi's arms were loosely draped over his knees. Peter raised a hand and cautiously laid it over Aebi's forearm, expecting Aebi to casually get up and leave in response, as usual. Peter had tried to make advances like this before and it always ended the same. Aebi never said a word about any of it. He didn't act differently the next day and he never seemed upset about it, but he also never stuck around long after Peter tried to get closer to him.
This time was different, though. Aebi didn't brush off Peter's actions. In fact, quite the opposite transpired. "Things will get better for you, too, Buddha." Aebi slid his arm back so that his hand fell into Peter's and their fingers laced together. He turned his head against the wall to meet Peter's eyes, smiling. "I know they will. I promise."
Peter slid closer to Aebi and sighed as he laid his head on the older man's shoulder. He decided that the lack of height difference between the two of them was a good thing
They stayed still for a while, Aebi's cheek resting against the top of Peter's head. Aebi sighed as he thought to himself. He knew that even if nothing more happened tonight, already the dynamic of their friendship had changed because he held Peter's hand, and he was letting Peter rest, leaning (almost cuddling) against him.
Aebi knew exactly what had happened to lead the two of them to this moment. Peter was a rookie and eager to learn. The instant he arrived in Denver, he kind of latched on to Aebi and Aebi immediately accepted Peter's eagerness. It was sort of reminiscent of Phil Sauve in '03-'04. Aebi liked Phil; maybe he would like Peter, too.
Peter was different than Phil, though. Peter seemed much more willing to listen to Aebi. Phil was kind of brash and arrogant, especially for a backup. But Peter was quieter. He absorbed everything Aebi taught him like a sponge. That alone earned Peter respect in Aebi's book. Aebi liked Peter. He missed Phil, but as time wore on in the preseason, he became colser and closer to Peter, on and off the ice. They were best friends. They were closer than Phil and Aebi would've ever been.
Peter didn't really know many other people on the team because he spent a lot of time with Aebi, trying to learn the ropse. So when Peter asked Aebi if he would be his roommate on the road for the season, Aebi really wasn't surprised. He had already talked to Dan (his roommate in the previous season and this preseason) about it, and although Dan was initially scared to let two goalies room together, he thought it was great that Aebi was taking the rookie under his wing so well.
Peter was a great roommate....very respectful, quiet, and he enjoyed many of the same things Aebi did. They got along great....maybe too great.
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