It had been a rough night. You didn’t want to talk about it.
Thankfully, Elias was doing pretty well as a distractor. You laughed hard, bending in half in your seat. Elias kept his eyes on the road. The cameras on the dash were catching everything you said to each other, but you’d forgotten about Ride Along fifty miles ago.
“There is no way that is a real story,” you said, breathing through the good pain in your stomach.
He smiled, his eyes crinkling at the sides. “Yes, it is. ‘Bout made Aiden fall off the ring post.”
You shook your head, then started bobbing it as your playlist shifted over to your Shinedown collection. A small smile twitched at the corner of Elias’s mouth. You were really into it, eventually singing at the top of your lungs, but surprisingly on key. What could you say? You’d been singing along with the band for years.
“Hey,” Elias rolled back his shoulders. “Your voice is… kinda good.”
“Would… would you ever consider singing with me?” His Adam’s apple bobbed in his throat. “We’d made a good team tonight, I think. Wouldn’t have to do something next week or anything, bit soon for that all things considered, but I’d like to at least sing with you. If you’d like.”
“As lovely as that would probably be,” you cringed, “can’t.” Your mind rushed to find another reason besides the one you meant. It was too soon after… after earlier tonight.
He maneuvered the car around a slow driver. “Why not?”
A reason came to mind at the last second. “I have asthma, so my lungs don’t have the oomph they need for something like that. It’s barely enough for wrestling. I mean, it’s well controlled, but if I sing too hard, then forget to breathe in the ring- If you see my eyes glaze over and start to fall, please catch me.”
“I promise. Even if it means I have to bulldoze past Braun Strowman.” He smiled as you laughed again.
The next song started to play, and you hummed along. “If we do ever break up, this is the song I’m going to sing.” You jumped back in with the music. “Sometimes goodbye is a second chance.”
“We’d have to team-up in the first place. But you seem pretty intent on that never happening.”
“Exactly.” The conversation moved on. Elias sang a little, running a few tunes and lines past you. Still, in the back of your mind, you were running through the events that got you here. Here, in the car with Elias instead of with your tag partner. Your former tag partner. Elias started to ask questions, forcing you to pay attention.
“But I keep thinking about my next step. I’ve got ideas, and I’m half a step away from running them by Triple H or Vince. But what happens if they don’t let me take it forward? I don’t want to get stuck where I am.”
You leaned your seat back. Your vertebrae’s aches were intensifying. “You can’t think like that. You’ve got so much talent. If Trips or Vince can’t see how much you can grow, then they are going to miss out on one hell of a chance.”
There was a moment where neither of you said anything. Elias tried to make light of it. “Now imagine if you talked to me like this all the time.” He glanced over at you when all you did was exhale deeply. “You’re wearing the mask again. How do you slip into it so easily?”
“Because I am a very good actress.” When did your seat get so unpleasant? You squirmed, trying to get comfortable. “It slipped away in a… distracted moment. A mistake that won’t happen again.”
“Why? Why do you close yourself off?”
“You know why. Closing myself off keeps me safe.”
“I don’t think it will. You need to tell talk to someone.”
“If you don’t, you are going to break under the strain. Doesn’t have to be tonight or this month, or to me at all, but-”
“Elias,” you said more softly. It carried further, making him pause. “Please. Let’s move on.”
When you got to the hotel, you grabbed your stuff and had a single room before Elias could park the car. No need to hear ‘are you going to be okay’ for the thousandth time.
You weren’t a team, by any standards. But you did help each other out. He helped you wrap up what made your world explode. You helped him get several matches over Baron Corbin. But things still felt off between you. There were arguments backstage. Him trying to convince you that you could work together to achieve a goal. That he wasn’t going to turn on you. And you trying to convince him there were a dozen better options for that plan than you. Occasionally the ends of them would be caught on camera. Each of your opponents moving towards the Raw Women’s Champion used what you said against you. Even Ember Moon, when usually she was your wing woman. Nobody held back.
Except Alexa Bliss. She kept her distance, surprisingly. But then, she’d already gotten what she wanted. You were already broken.
Finally, you’d had enough. Even with Elias’s uplifting words backstage, your failure at WrestleMania answered your biggest question. You needed to get away. Anywhere. When the call came, you said yes.
“I was thinking,” Elias said, strumming next to you in the ring, “our next step could be going for the tag titles. I know AOP is big but-“
“I’m not staying on Raw.”
He froze. The last chord he played died in the air. Flustering, he watched as you walked to the ropes. “No,” he choked. “Y/N?”
He rushed to follow you through the ropes, but you held up your hands to stop him. He pleaded with you beyond the range of the mic. Asking if he’d done something wrong. Wondering if you had another goal. You did. But you couldn’t find the voice to say that. There was only one way to tell him, and it was going to hurt like hell.
You took a deep breath and lifted the mic to your lips. Elias was already shaking his head, begging you not to sing the words. Your voice cracked towards the end. “Sometimes goodbye is a second chance.”
“Wait, Y/N. Please. Don’t… don’t go.” He practically tumbled through the ropes. You recoiled from his hand landing on your shoulder like he’d burned you.
Retreating up the ramp, you swallowed the lump in your throat. “You’ve broken down so many of my walls, Elias. Stop. Please. Before you break the rest of me.”
“Ahem. Running away from the guitar player to pick a fight with a master vocalist?” Aiden smiled sticky sweet at you from the other side of the Smackdown ring.
Your heart skipped a beat, but you pushed it aside with squaring your shoulders. “You can see it like that. I was thinking more along the lines of looking for new opponents. I’ve beat up most of the Raw roster. Been beat up by the rest. Now I’m going to use what I’ve learned and compare it to the blue brand. I’ll see them again this year at Survivor Series, or next year at the Rumble. No rush.”
“Either way you interrupted me. Elias obviously didn’t have the ability to teach you the proper etiquette. Now if you’ll excuse me…” Aiden cleared his throat and began again, but this time he was interrupted by the music of Jeff Hardy.
“I’m sorry to interrupt you, Aiden, but Y/N caught my eye backstage askin’ Shane for a match for her first show with us. An’ I think someone in this arena will fit the bill. It’s just a matter of… you or me.”
You grinned brightly. Mischievously. Like you hadn’t in a long time. “Actually, I’m in such a good mood, why not both? I’ve irritated Aiden enough, so there’s one. Unless Rusev wants to fill in for him? Oh, wait…” You turned to face him, faking a flinch. “Too soon? Come on Aiden what do you have to lose? I bet between us, we can convince him to put that United State Championship on the line.”
Hardy’s voice was between a chuckle and a growl. “Don’t press your luck.”
“Yes, sir.” You held your hands up in resignation. “Come on. Triple threat… just for the fun of it. No title on the line this time. Please?” Jeff shook his head. On a whim, you pointed at Aiden and began to make the “delete” movement, though keeping it close to your shoulders. The fans took up the call and began chanting. “Oh, that’s cool. I’m definitely keeping that in mind for later. What do you say, Hardy?”
He shook his head with a smile. “Let’s get a ref out here.”
You were able to pin Jeff, and it was the start of new things on the blue brand. He was still wary of you (to be fair, you were wary of him) but also impressed. Winning the match earned you a title chance at your first Smackdown pay-per-view. The night of, you found yourself missing Elias’s playing. It always calmed your nerves. You heard him from around a corner. And turned to walk the other way. You lost the match but won Jeff’s respect. When the Mixed Match Challenge rolled around, you said yes to his offer of teaming together. The winning team got to pass some money to a charity, and the teammates won a delayed entry at the next rumble. But first, you’d have to win at Survivor Series.
And guess who was your opposing team?
Elias and Sasha Banks.
Jeff turned away from them to fiddle with the zipper on his shirt. “You gonna be okay?”
“Yeah.” Elias caught your eye from across the ring. He knew you weren’t.
Before the bell, there was a skirmish. Sasha attacked you during the stare-down. Jeff and Elias stepped away, frantically calling for the bell. But neither of you were on your feet. And Sasha wouldn’t let you up. The guys had to pull you apart, they themselves dodging flying elbows and fists. The stand-off started again. It was quick, but she’d winded you. Jeff was holding you back, Elias doing to same with her. With a start, you realized you’d locked your knees.
Your jaw went slack. Elias tossed Sasha back as you could feel your face drain of blood. He pushed Jeff aside and caught you before you hit the canvas. It took a moment for you to breath back into full control.
“You caught me.”
“Of course. I promised.”
For a split second, being in his arms felt right.
You could barely stand, but still, Alexa was doing her best to bury you into the canvas. She jumped off the top turnbuckle just as you turned, kicking you in the face. It was a glancing blow. Through your blurring vision, you were able to catch her and pin her. The ref raised your hand in the air. You could barely hear the cheers. The strain on your lungs was becoming too much.
The ring shifted.
Strong arms caught you around your waist, easing you down the rest of the way. Looking up, you saw Mojo Rawley’s smiling face.
“You caught me.”
“Of course.” He helped you to your feet. “I am your teammate after all.”
Newly steady on your feet, you bopped his nose. “More than that.” Alexa’s demanding cough stole your attention away from him. “What, need more of an ass-kicking, Alexa?”
She sneered at you. “No. So, you pinned me. So, what? I am still better than you. Always two steps ahead. Thinking with my head instead of my heart.”
You tilted your head. “My heart? What does my heart have to do with anything? It didn’t keep me from beating you over and over and over again.”
“Perhaps.” She stepped back and looked over your shoulder. “And perhaps it kept you from seeing the big picture.”
The kendo stick connected with your spine before you could turn around. Rolling onto your back, your scream caught in your throat. When had the hate in Mojo’s eyes got there? It was so bright, and dark at the same time. Why was he doing this? You screamed out, asking him. Pleading with him to stop. He ignored you. You still couldn’t move. Even when Elias slid into the ring and beat Mojo back, breaking his beautiful guitar. He caught you when you stumbled through the ropes.
“You caught me.”
“Of course. I promised.”
With a jolt, you snapped back to yourself. “You should have let me fall.” You scrambled to your feet. The referee asked if you could continue. He had your answer before he’d finished asking. He called for the bell, and you stepped out of the ring.
Elias was distracted. He’d corner Jeff so Sasha could beat up on him, then rush to talk to you.
“We need to talk, Y/N. Really. We can still fix this. I’ve got a plan, it’ll shock everyone and get us both that rumble opportunity.”
He was asking you to betray Jeff. To work with him again. You lost your cool and hopped through the ropes. “Quit trying to fix something that is beyond repair!” He stumbled back, tripping over Jeff, who scrambled to get between you. “Or worse… something that was never there, to begin with.”
Sasha tagged in. You pinned her after a few more tag shifts. Elias never had the upper hand for the rest of the match. Why did he care so much? His heart was getting in the way of him seeing the big picture.
That thought froze in your chest.
Jeff was raising your hand in victory. He tried to get you to celebrate. But he was unsuccessful. And you left the ring alone.
The garage was a few feet away when Sasha stepped into view. You sidestepped her and kept walking.
“You know he was trying to wait for you. He didn’t want the prizes for the challenge. Elias just wanted you.”
Clenching your fists at your side, you turned. “I made it perfectly clear that I wanted nothing to do with him when I left Raw. His actions after that are none of my business. And none of my fault.”
She scoffed. “You just left though. Didn’t give him time to talk you out of it.”
“Why would I do that? Did you not hear what I just said? I never wanted Elias. We were nothing. I never wanted his help. Never wanted his sympathy or his pity matches. None of it.”
“So, what?” Sasha stepped in your face. “You led him along, used him to build you up, then split to Smackdown for better title prospects. And look where that led you. Still behind everyone. You still haven’t won anything. You’re still nothing. Alone.”
You pushed her back. “I hope you know, not only am I flourishing, but I am also very happy with myself.” With a smug grin, you added, “or did you miss the end of that match when I pinned you? I’m not out of prospects. I just earned a late rumble entry. That’s not nothing. I was never nothing. I am Y/N. And if you’re not careful, Sasha Banks, I will leave you in the dust every time we meet again. You better hope they are few and far between.”
Finished, you turned and immediately bumped into Elias’s chest. He stepped back out of your bubble. “I… I didn’t mean to overhear. But did you mean it? What you said about us being nothing?”
He nodded. “Okay. That’s what I needed to hear.”
Though you’d never admit it, there was a twinge of pain in your chest when he walked away.