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earthly chains

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Maybe it’s a little unfair. There are no rules concerning former angels on Earth, and there are, sure as anything, no rules concerning former angels in college hockey. Sometimes he uses certain abilities in certain situations, when he needs a little extra help. Eric doesn’t really know what he’s supposed to do, if there were rules he would follow them. He navigates according to his best guess. He weighs pros and cons, good and bad, on his internal scales of morality.

It’s just a little assistance when he needs it. In all honesty it’s hard for him to control. It’s tough adjusting to life on Earth. With humans. They’re really quite small, for lack of a better word, and… he understands them, but he doesn’t really get them all the time. He does his best. Oh, God knows he does his best.

So he blames tufts of feathers on pillows, even though he’s got one of those foam ones from Ikea. He laughs off the way he inexplicably enchants babies and toddlers, you know, because some people just have a way with kids. People wonder how he can be so nice all the time. Well, that’s just good manners. There’s nothing holy about that.

On the ice is where Eric feels so at home, where the air is colder and feels cleaner, where he imagines he’s flying. That feeling alone used to be it’s own motivation; when he was figure skating, at least. But in the heat of a hockey game, there’s more on the table. The pressure of teammates and their feelings; the feelings of those he’s grown to care about. The numbers start to mean something. He likes the hugs and smiles of goals, tries not to burn through his equipment onto teammates’ skin, but his face is glowing, burning red with joy. He feels everything so viscerally.

 

But when the burning moves from his gut to his chest, like he’ll burst, he doesn’t know what to do. He knows how to control himself - he tenses the muscles of his abdomen, clenches his fists and bites his lip. But when he’s trying to keep his ribcage from cracking open? When he’s trying to keep his heart from igniting and his back from breaking? He can’t simply grit his teeth when his blood is boiling.

 

“Bittle?”

Eric turns away from the kitchen counter with smoking fingertips, shaking them out like matches. He smiles, involuntarily like a sigh, “yes, Jack?”

“I, um. Are you coming to the bar with the team tonight?” Jack’s standing about a step past the threshold of the kitchen, hands in his pockets. He’s looking anywhere but Eric’s eyes.

“Of course, you know I wouldn’t miss it!”

Jack doesn’t reply, just stands there.

Eric fills the silence, “I’ll see you there, then.”

“Yeah.” Jack turns a sharp 180-degrees, never one to linger.

Eric can’t understand what he can do when Jack acts like this. He gets nicknames (signs of familiarity and affection), he’s getting better at facial expressions (there’s just so much variation), but Jack is like a brick wall to him. Stoic and not at all forgiving.

 

Eric goes to sleep that night, late, after an easy evening spent sitting on green sofas and cooling his spirit with ice-cube filled glasses. Dreaming is like shining a flashlight through the tissue of his hand, seeing bones and capillaries glow pink. Light fights to radiate from within but only succeeds translucently. When Eric dreams, the extremities of his body glow like that. He never remembers the dreams he has about his existence before; he’s too fragile now to process those visions.

However, he’s never managed to singe his sheets in sleep before. He wakes up at five in the morning, with sweat on his forehead and his duvet thrown to the floor. Everything sticks to him, hot. There’s one name lingering on his lips. He remembers this. He remembers black hair and icy blue eyes. He remembers being paralysed. He removes the sheets and swiftly pads with bare feet over wooden floorboards to the bathroom.

He sings in the shower usually, the water and the tiles allowing for just a little of his voice to ring free. It’s mostly glossolalia, when he needs to let out some tension. But when he chooses to properly sing it’s beautiful, flowing, it sounds like organs playing. It sounds like congregations, and harps. He chooses not to sing this morning, at five am, out of courtesy. He quietly bathes, recounts.

Eric opens the curtains as the stars are disappearing and the sun brings the dawn. Birds chirp and croon. He breathes in, breathes out, feels peace.

 

They lost in the playoffs, after Bitty got checked and got a concussion. Being cast into the air by the check, maybe he floated half a second too long. It’s not as if it helped dull the impact any, though. His human body can do many things, but he’s not even a fraction of what he was before. He felt weak in that moment. He felt like… a disappointment. But something changed then too. Something between him and Jack.

 

Jack is going to be captain again next year (of course). Eric can’t fully believe Jack's modesty, holds tight onto his own award to ground himself during Jack’s speech. He falls in love with him constantly, second after second, over and over again.

 

When he has an unexpected conversation with Jack while packing up at the Haus, Eric feels his collarbones snap and his lungs puncture. He’s happy and nervous and unprepared, but plays it cool and leans on walls, laughs. He’s burned through three more bed sheets since the first night after the bar. Recently, he’s been waking up feeling hotter every morning. He dreams every single night of broad shoulders and high cheekbones. And summer temperatures certainly aren’t helping.

Jack looks back at him, leaving with a quip and a smile, leaving Eric crossing his arms to keep his body together. He retorts smoothly, but when Jack is safely out of the way, he sees his palms and the veins on his wrists are gold, luminescent like embers. This summer will probably be a tough one.