Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Anything mentioned in this fic is a work of the author’s imagination and is made for entertainment purposes. In saying that, some aspects of truth have been used as a basis for the fic.
Pairing: James Magnussen and Eamon Sullivan (Jamon)
Setting: After the final of the mens 100m freestyle relay, in which Australia came fourth and Australian media crucified James and his race.
Rating: Nothing naughty, but a bit of swearing on James’ part (naughty James) so idk.
Notes: I don’t know much/anything about the set up of the ‘locker rooms’ or dorms at the Olympics. Clearly anything I mention involving shower blocks or the Olympic village is just me herp derping and for the purpose of this fic. There’s not really much truth to this fic other than the fact that the race actually happened. Also, I haven’t proof read it, so bear with me.
There was a moment about halfway through that James thought Eamon had done enough. He thought that maybe he’d caught up some ground and given them enough speed that Cameron could finish the race on a high and possibly snap up third place for them. He was confident that the former world’s fastest man could bring their team back from the depths and earn them a bronze medal. It was achievable, sure. It’s not like he’d never pulled a miraculous swim before. But it didn’t happen, and James knew why. He was the reason why. He ran a hand through his damp hair, pushing it back and to the side. He knew his face would be all over the news back home, all their faces would be, that was just how Australian media worked. They pounced on you the second your guard was down and you looked like you were falling. He knew almost immediately after the race the way the interviews would go. He’d seen the same thing a few years earlier. Eamon was somewhat of a veteran – he’d dealt with this kind of thing many times before. He hadn’t earned and lost the ‘world’s fastest man’ title and learned nothing from the experience and neither had James.
He was aware of an interview after the race, but not of what was said. All James knew was the deepest pain and disappointment in himself that he’d ever experienced. He let down his nation, he let down his team, he let down himself, he let down… No. Better not to go there. He wanted to run away. He wanted to scream. He wanted to punch something hard and let the pain of something other than his disappointment overwhelm him. He wanted to wallow in self-pity. That’s what he wanted. He didn’t want to be stuck in interviews with reporters who were supposedly on his side and yet dissecting every aspect of the race and asking probing questions that just made everything hurt more. He almost didn’t stay for the interview after the race, but he knew it’d be better for him if he did. Better to look pissed on international television than to hide away from it.
James was finding it increasingly harder to maintain his cool, to the point where as soon as they were dismissed from the media stations, he hurried off. He didn’t want that many cameras and eyes on him. He just needed a moment. Weaving through the athletes and officials, James managed to get into the locker room just as the last few people were leaving. Thankfully it was empty, their race being the last of the day and all teams (aside from the winning three) had gone home already. He made a beeline for the showers, passing the lockers and the bags of the other teams. He thought he could hear Eamon calling out to him, but it didn’t register.
The pain was building; the frustration, the anger, the disappointment. James’ breathing was quickening as he rushed through the locker room, getting more and more desperate to reach the showers. His legs quaked as he broke out into a run, almost slipping along the way. James could see red. He wanted more pain. He relished the thought of slipping and cracking open his skull, breaking some bones. He broke through into the shower block, his blood pumping fast in his ears and his muscles feeling both weak and incredibly strong and all at once James spun on his heel and let out a loud, aggravated scream at himself as he slammed his right fist against the white tiles of the shower wall.
“Fuck!” He cried out in pain, clutching his hand instinctively. “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!” He called out again, his voice loud and rough as he slammed his fist against the wall again and again, with each repetition of the word. What started as a cry turned into a low, dark, rumbling growl that caused his muscles to tighten and his heart rate to sky rocket. He’d never felt so mad before, not about anything. He tried to calm himself but his breathing was ragged, his blood was pumping and his anger was off the charts. Nothing could calm him and he let out another aggravated scream as slammed his fist once more into the wall before falling forward, exhausted, against it. He was breathing rapidly but could feel no air getting to his lungs – he was barely breathing. He felt weak again as he turned, letting his back hit the cool tiles before sliding down into a sitting position on the shower floor. “Fuck,” he breathed, running his eyes over his right hand, looking red and sore with the promise of bruises later. “Fuck,” he repeated, quieter this time, and his voice cracked. James shook his head, trying to deny what was coming, but there was nothing he could do. He swallowed hard, squeezing his eyes shut as the first tears that had been threatening to fall ever since he left the pool made their journey down his face. He couldn’t fight it anymore. It hurt. It just hurt so badly.
James dropped his head into his hands, his fingers curling around his hair and pulling it roughly. He could feel his hands trembling as the tears fell and moans and groans he just couldn’t supress escaped no matter how hard he tried.
James froze. He hadn’t heard anyone else enter the room, but then again he hadn’t been paying much attention. And it’s not as though he’d quietly lost control. He kept his head in his hands but stopped sobbing immediately. There was no mistaking that voice or the tone that came with it. It was Eamon. And he’d seen or heard everything. There was nothing else to say.
Eamon had been walking with Matt and Cameron, trying to play it cool and joke about with the lads after the bad race, when he’d heard it. A noise that rose the hair on the back of his neck and sent a wave of worry through his body. Eamon started running instinctively, and the boys must have heard it too as they were only moments behind him as they sprinted toward the locker rooms. Eamon could hear the noises inside and swallowed roughly, spotting a worried glance between Matt and Cameron. “Keep everyone else out.” Eamon told Cameron, who nodded. There was no way they could let news of this get out. Eamon stepped inside the locker room, taken aback by how loud the cries of pain and anger were in the small, echoed room.
That was when the thumps started, causing Eamon to sprint again, taking the damp floors by some of the lockers with care as he made his way through the room without slipping. It’d taken him longer, sure, but it was safer that way. He managed to run through the room and arrive in the doorway of the shower block just in time to see his teammate crumble to a heap on the ground and bury his head in his hands and to hear his pain filled sobs break through.
Eamon stood in the doorway, completely shocked by the scene in front of him and utterly lost for any possible way to fix the situation. He could hear and see the pain in James, but had no idea what he could do.
“James.” He’d said finally and the sobs stopped almost immediately. So James hadn’t known he was there. If he had, would it have changed anything?
There was stunned silence as Eamon tried to think of something else to say, something to do, something to make this all better for James.
The two remained where they were, clearly trying to think of a game plan on how to deal with the situation. James sniffed, keeping his head in his hands.
“Mate, I-“ Eamon started and James huffed.
“Mags,” He started again and James pulled his head out of his hands, leaning back against the wall as he tried to get his breathing back to normal.
“I, uh,” Eamon stammered and James glanced up at him, their eyes meeting, and sending Eamon into silence again. James gave a slow, small nod before diverting his gaze elsewhere. He exhaled roughly before using the wall as support to get up.
Eamon’s eyes were trained on James as he struggled to get up and then cradled his right hand as he crossed to where Eamon stood.
“James,” Eamon said quietly and James gave him a small, fleeting smile before clapping him on the back gently with his left hand. Apparently, that’s all there was too it, as James staggered off toward the exit, toward Cameron and Matt. Eamon chanced a glance back at the wall that James had just abused, and sure enough there was a smatter of blood decorating the white tiles.
“Maggie.” Eamon called after him with slightly more desperation in his voice than necessary. James turned, somewhat stiffly, and looked at Eamon expectantly. “What?”
Eamon’s brow furrowed. “What?! Do I really need to say it?!”
James rolled his eyes. “I’m fine, Mad Dog. No worries.” He attempted to wave him off, but stupidly used his right hand, wincing at the pain.
“I’m fine, Eamon. Just leave it.” James said gruffly, shooting his teammate a somewhat dark glare before returning on his way outside, out to Cameron and Matt.
And then it was just Eamon, alone in the shower block, alone in the cubicle, alone in the knowledge of what had just happened. What had just happened? He frowned slightly, placing his hands on his hips, still clad in his swimming costume, as his brain worked in overdrive trying to make sense of everything.
“Sully, c’mon let’s go!”
It was Cameron.
“Yep, coming mate.” Eamon called back, following the voice out of the locker room.
“What happened in there – is Maggie alright?” He asked.
Eamon took a moment before shrugging lightly, “I don’t really know,” he said eventually.
Eamon kept an eye on James through the whole trip back to the village, but nothing happened. And by nothing, that meant that James was being his usual jokester self. There was no sign of the man Eamon had seen on the floor in the showers, no sign of weakness. Maybe it was all a façade just in case cameras were around.
He’d caught James’ eye a few times and tried to get some indication of how he was feeling, what he was doing, but got nothing. James didn’t want anything from him. But Eamon wasn’t sure he could let James get away that easy – not after what he’d seen.
James knew that Eamon was watching him, he couldn’t help it. Eamon was a naturally helpful guy. It wasn’t his fault that he’d walked in on James in a mess and it surely wasn’t Eamon’s problem to try and fix. Only, James knew that he’d try to. And he didn’t want him to. So he’d gritted his teeth and pretended as though his hand wasn’t broken or at least fractured, he’d laughed with the guys and he’d made jokes at his own expense. He’d done all the things he’d usually do and some more.
He was the same old James.
But he could feel Eamon watching him all the time and he knew that he wasn’t convinced.
Once they’d gotten back to the village, James was quick to abandon the rest of them. He needed ice on his hand and he really needed to sort himself out. He grabbed his bags from the cars and rushed off to his dorm in the village – thankful that he was one of the lucky ones who got to share with a track athlete, meaning they were out training at this time of night.
James was quick to get inside his dorm, the pain in his hand becoming harder and harder to hide as it throbbed. Luckily, Cam and Matt had been too busy enjoying James’ good mood to notice the bloody and bruised hand, but it definitely didn’t go unnoticed by Eamon.
Dumping his bags on the chair closest to the door, James swooped into the kitchenette and under the sink in search for the first aid kit. He hoped to God that there was some kind of pain killer in there otherwise he was screwed. He pulled the doors of the cupboard open and fished around in the dark until he felt the plastic box, grabbing it and yanking it out into the light so he could search it’s insides for a paracetamol. He shuffled through the box three times, each search more desperate than the last, before conceding that there was nothing there for him. Nothing.
It would have been the perfect moment to pull out a bottle of bourbon and drown his sorrows in something strong, but that wasn’t allowed in the village. Probably for the best, really.
James sighed, dumping the first aid implements in his hands in a pile beside the green first aid box and kicking it to the side. He didn’t really have a backup plan now that there wasn’t anything around to help soothe his pain. All he really wanted to do was sleep.
With another sigh, James kicked at his duffle bag, kicking it toward his room in the dorm. He was going to shower and then sleep and forget the whole day had happened.
His costume still clung to his body, keeping his skin moist from the race as he peeled the Australian tracksuit off followed by the wet swimming costume. It was a relief to feel his skin breathe again, free from the constraints of the fabric that was meant to tighten his muscles and help him win. And yet it was just as James had peeled the fabrics off and gotten completely naked that someone decided to knock on his door.
Two guesses who that is, James thought to himself as he grabbed one of the white village towels and wrapped it around his naked waist. He padded through the room, his mood only worsening with the headache that was coming with the pain in his hand going untreated. He pulled the front door open and sure enough, there stood Eamon.
“Expecting someone else, mate?” Eamon asked, distracted momentarily by the half-naked man in front of him. He could feel his lips curved into an amused smirk, but as his eyes met James’ again, his amusement disappeared. “Can I come in?”
James gripped his towel in his fist, tightening it around his waist. “What do you want?”
Eamon gave him a knowing look. “To talk.”
There was no point saying no – James knew how stubborn Eamon could be. He pushed the door open more, stepping out of the way so Eamon could enter.
Eamon heard the door fall shut behind him and made his way to the set of couches that were in the centre of the main dorm.
“How you going?” Eamon glanced over at James, who was still beside the front door.
“Good.” James replied, almost too quickly. He could feel his shoulders tense. “You?”
There was an awkward silence as Eamon tried to word his next question properly. James knew why he was here and knew what his mind was currently mulling over, but there was no way he was going to make this easier for him. He knew he was just trying to be a good friend, but James didn’t want it. He didn’t want anything.
“About the race-“
“You did good. Best time out there, Sully. You should be proud.” James interrupted, folding his arms across his chest.
Eamon gave a short, quiet laugh, nodding gently, “Thanks, but we’re not talking about me.”
James raised his eyebrows, pushing himself off the wall he was leaning against and crossing the room to sit in the couch opposite Eamon.
“Why not? You had the best time – it was the quickest you’ve swam in a long time. You’re looking in good form, why shouldn’t we be talking about you?” He asked defensively.
“Because I’m not the one who had a mental fucking breakdown at the pool!” Eamon surprised even himself with his brutality and he could see that it was the wrong move to make.
“Don’t.” He warned, his eyes boring into Eamon’s.
“What – we’re just going to pretend that none of it happened, that I didn’t see you crying on the floor of the showers?”
“That’s exactly what’s gonna happen. It’s none of your business, Eamon.”
“Are you kidding me? Of course it’s my business – I saw it!”
“So what, you’re just going to hold it over me now? Gonna rub it in my face how fucking pathetic I am?” James asked, feeling the emotions of earlier rising to the surface again.
“’Course not, mate,” Eamon said, but James continued on anyway.
“You’re gonna rub it in my face that you, injured, nothing Eamon Sullivan swam a faster 100m that I did? That I couldn’t even manage 50m without falling behind like some fucking amateur? That I singlehandedly lost that race for our team? You gonna rub that in my face, Eamon? You should! Because I fucking deserve it. I deserve everything.” James was angry, pissed off at himself for being so cruel to Eamon and being so weak as to say what he was really feeling. He tensed his jaw, rising from the couch he was occupying and heading toward his room without another word.
Eamon rose at the same time as James, following him into his room. “Why are you saying that?” he asked both hurt at what James had said and concerned at where it was going.
“Because it’s fucking true!” James spun on his heel to face Eamon, “I’d gloated for months, fucking months that I was going to be the fastest guy out there. We were a sure thing to win. We’d smashed the heats and the semis. Australia was convinced we’d win, I was convinced and then I fucking ruined our chances. I ruined everything. I deserve to feel as shitty as I do right now because I let everyone down.” James could feel his throat constricting with emotion again, but he fought through it. He needed to get this all out.
“You didn’t let me down,” Eamon said quietly, causing James to laugh bitterly.
“Don’t patronise me Eamon, of course I did! You thought we were gonna win just as much as I did and you know just as well as I do that if I hadn’t fucked up that first leg we would have won, or at least come silver. So don’t sit there and pretend like everything’s fucking fine because it’s not! I fucked that 100m and now I’m gonna-“
“You’ve just got to get yourself together for your other races, mate, everything else will work itself out.” Eamon placed a hand on James’ shoulder reassuringly.
“STOP!” James shouted, giving Eamon a rough push backwards. “Just fucking stop, Eamon! Don’t you see? There’s no going back from this! I’m James ‘The Missile’ Magnussen who can’t even swim fucking 50m! Do you really think I’m going to be able to just miraculously come back from this and swim my other races?” James shook his head violently, “No. No, I’m fucking done, man.”
James turned his back on Eamon again.
“So what, you’re just gonna quit?” Eamon asked, getting more and more pissed off as he had to listen to James’ self-loathing.
“I guess so.”
“Ah, right, big man James ‘The Missile’ Magnussen can’t even hack coming fourth in a relay. Has a breakdown. Quits swimming forever because he’s too proud to get back in the pool,” Eamon said sarcastically, not even bothering to hide how pissed off he was.
“Well at least I know when to quit.” James spat, turning back to glare at Eamon. “At least I’m not swimming around with the title ‘former world’s fastest man’ hanging over me. You know what being the former of something means? That you should have quit while you were still the.”
“Fuck you, James.”
“Well it’s true!”
“I’m done,” Eamon announced, turning to head back the way he came and to leave this whole mess behind him.
“What, can’t handle a bit of criticism Eamon?” James chased after him, “Don’t you know – this is the kind of shit people are saying about me right now!”
“Of course I know!” Eamon practically roared, spinning back to face him. “You don’t think I had to deal with this shit before? When I lost to Bernaud at Beijing? You don’t think the media crucified me at any given opportunity? Why do you think I kept my shoulder injuries out of the media, huh? You think I did it just for fun? No. It was to keep them off my back and keep them writing positive things about me so I didn’t have to deal with their doubts as well as my own. So you can sit here and fucking self-pity all you want James, but I know what you’re going through. I’ve been through it. It gets easier. You’ve just gotta get back in the pool.”
“What do you want from me, Eamon? Why the fuck did you come here? To lecture me?”
“I came here to help you.”
“Yeah, well I don’t want your fucking help. What help could I get from a washed up guy like you, anyway?”
It shocked Eamon almost as much as it seemed to shock James when Eamon swung his right fist into James’ jaw. Eamon wasn’t naturally a violent guy and yet something about the way James was talking to him was setting him off. James staggered back, falling against a wall for support and Eamon pounced on him – pinning him against the wall.
Their eyes stared into each other’s, hatred from both ends as Eamon’s body pressed against James’ half naked one, his right forearm pressed heavily across James’ chest.
“Get the fuck off me, Eamon!” James called, struggling under Eamon’s weight.
“Not until you let me help you!”
“What the fuck does it matter? I’m done! I am done. No one wants me now that I can’t even swim 100m.”
Eamon shook his head. “You’re wrong.”
“Fuck off,” James tried to push him off again, but he couldn’t.
“I’m serious.” Eamon said. James’ eyes met Eamon’s again. The hatred James had seen in those brown eyes earlier had all but diminished, replaced with sympathy and warmth.
It only took a second for that look to melt James’ anger away and another second after that for him to register Eamon’s lips on his own.
James’ muscles tensed against the kiss before relaxing into it and Eamon dropped his arm from James’ chest. Their soft and gentle kiss evolved to include tongues before melting away completely only moments later.
“I’m sorry.” James said quietly.
There was a moment of silence as the two men took in what had just happened before James spoke. “You should probably go.”
Eamon nodded slowly, “Yup.” He lifted his weight off James and left almost immediately.
James remained against the wall, his towel still around his waist and memories of the kiss still in his head.
Eamon fell back against James’ door once he was out in the hall.
What the hell just happened?
P.S. Sorry it’s long - I got carried away! Also, I left it hanging for the possibility of a sequel. Let me know what you think!!