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I'll Still Meet You in the Middle of the Night

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I remember way back, late night, throwback / Sitting on the front lawn, talking / When I lost it, and oh, I lost it

They’re on the porch of his mom’s house when they make the decision. Warm, beginning-of-spring air floats around them. He wishes he could appreciate it, but he’s far too angry by the words coming out of his partner’s mouth.

“We can’t go back there.” He’s heard her say it half a dozen times in the past few months, but he still reels at the words.

“Tess-”

“No, Scott. I’m serious. I can’t do it.”

He knows she has a point, has seen how this season has torn her apart. He hasn’t been blind to the sharpness of Marina’s comments, the isolation they’ve been subjected to, the abandonment they’ve faced. But he just can’t bear the thought of giving up everything they’ve worked towards for almost two decades.

“I know, Tess. I know.” He concedes, the words tugging at the back of his throat. “But does it have to be the end?”

She doesn’t respond for a moment, and that tells him everything.

“Not – not the end, necessarily.” Her voice breaks and he knows there are tears gathering at the corners of her eyes but he keeps pushing.

“Necessarily? T, I don’t want to skate a couple shows per year. I’m not gonna just give up our career.” His words bite with the implication that she would give it all up if she could, and he knows it. But he’s too angry to consider her flinch in response. “Are you?”

“I’m not giving up our career, Scott.” The words come on a resigned exhale, and he knows she’s annoyed in addition to the hurt. “I just think we need to take some time. Explore new arenas-”

He lets out a dry laugh at the pun.

“Give our bodies and our minds a break.” She finishes, not acknowledging his scoff. “Can you seriously say you want to go back right now?”

He knows he should consider his next few words carefully.

“I don’t know, Tess. I just, I don’t want to miss out on something that could be really great.”

“We’ve already had something really great.” She rests a reassuring hand on his bicep and it’s the first contact they’ve had all night. He immediately finds it calming. “A gold and two silvers isn’t bad for two Olympic quads, you know.”

He can tell she’s trying to lighten the mood, but he’s not having it.

“That’s not…” He trails off before he lets himself admit what he’s really feeling. “Fuck, whatever. I don’t fucking care.”

“Scott,” her tone carries a warning. 

“We can retire. I don’t give a fuck.” He snaps, pulling away from her and moving to stand. “I need a beer.”

I remember you were saying you would come back, run back / Find me on the front porch like that / But you waited, so I got wasted

“Not the end, necessarily.”

The words haunt him in the next few months. Despite her reassurances that a comeback isn’t off the table, 2018 isn’t off the table, they aren’t off the table, he struggles to believe it.

Every time he sees her it gets harder and harder to believe. On ice she’s the same-old Tessa, focused and driven and committed. But off the ice, he barely recognizes her. He watches her pick up projects left and right, watches her embrace retired life, watches her thrive beyond their career. He can’t fathom she would ever give that up to come back to him.

And then the tour season ends, and he doesn’t see her for six weeks.

Six weeks of time spent with his new girlfriend, six weeks of not skating, six weeks of drinking himself into oblivion every other night.

At the end of the night, when the bar clears out and he’s left with his beer and his guilt, he’s convinced she’s never coming back.

And I’ve always said / I'd never let myself hold on this long

It feels like time to give it all up. His Olympic dreams, which have been achieved, as he is consistently reminded, his career, which was long and successful, his relationship with Tessa.

He’s drunk and alone in a bar, and he admits that he’s clung to her for far too long.

He’d been holding her back. She’ll never admit it, but he knows it’s true. She’s flourished since they retired, committed herself to her schooling and business endeavors and saying yes to every opportunity.

Every opportunity, that is, except Scott.

'Cause people change overnight / Things get strange, but I'm alright / I'm still here, and I'm still high

She shows up at his house one night. He’s half a bottle deep and her hair is different.

“Tessa!” He cries out upon seeing her. It’s slurred and sloppy and makes her raise a single eyebrow.

“Scott, are you…” She trails off and takes a step through the doorway, placing bracing hands on either side of his shoulders. He hadn’t realized he’d been swaying until she balanced him out with her touch.

“You look different. Pretty. Fuckin’ pretty. I’m drunk.” He barks out a laugh, even though he can’t remember if he’d said anything funny. Her eyes bore into him, wide and full of concern he would have recognized had he been sober.

Everything about her seems shiny and new, from the sleek haircut to the glasses he knows she’d designed. He’s looking at the girl he’s known for nearly twenty years and he can’t seem to recognize her.

He feels like the whole world has been tilted upside down, like he’s been thrown into an alternate universe, like a million years have passed.

She stands in front of him, worrying her lip between her teeth, brows knitted together in concern. He looks down at himself, wondering what she’s seeing.

A man, the same man she’d left nearly a year ago. He’s wearing sweats and a t-shirt with a ketchup stain on it. He’s clinging to a half-empty bottle of whiskey as if it were a lifeline.

She’s a new person, and he’s just the same old Scott.

And I'll still meet you in the middle of the night / But if you lie to me, lie to me, lie to me / I’m gone

“Missed you, Tess.” They’ve been sitting on his couch for twenty minutes or maybe a couple hours. She hasn’t said anything, just looked at him with that wide-eyed concern as he slowly returned to sobriety.

“I know, Scott.” Her voice is soft and reassuring and something about her response feels off but he’s still too drunk to analyze it.

There are tears in his eyes suddenly. He drops his head to his hand and heaves out a sob and she scoots a little closer on the couch and puts one of her hands over his where it’s clutching his knee.

“Fuck, Tess. Why’d you leave?” His voice breaks and the tears are coming down his face now. When he braves a glance in her direction her eyes are directed steadfastly at the worn out carpet. “I would have followed you anywhere, T.”

It’s barely a whisper, and even though they’re sitting so close together their thighs are pressed together now he wonders if she heard it.

“I had to, Scott.”

He shakes his head at that. “Bullshit.”

“Scott, please.” Her hand is on his face, a feather-light touch encouraging him to look at her. He leans into the touch, looking in the face he once knew as well as his own. “I didn’t want to. I swear. I just needed to… I needed to be me for a little while.”

He looks in her eyes and he knows she believes what she’s saying, but he doesn’t. He suddenly feels stone cold sober. 

“Lie to me all you want, T. But don’t lie to yourself.”

I still wonder if I called you, what would I do? / Leave a too-long voicemail that I hate and then erase it / Like I planned it

His phone lights up with a call, and he fails to resist the urge to check. It reads “Mom,” and he lets out a sigh and knocks back the last of his beer. He lets the call go to voicemail. Again.

He knows she’s worried about him, that she wants to tell him she loves him and beg him to come home. But she’s not the woman he’s dying to talk to and he’s not willing to be berated by anyone but Tessa. He lets the voicemails pile up.

When the call finally goes to voicemail, he has a sudden urge to pick up the phone and call Tessa. He feels every unspoken word he’s wanted to say to her build up in his throat. His fingers itch to dial that familiar number, hear the away message he knows so well, wait for the beep to end.

Before he can think about what he’s doing the number has been punched in, the phone is ringing, the tone signaling to begin recording a message playing out. He panics.

Despite the word vomit that had lived in the back of his throat mere seconds ago, he finds himself speechless. He stares at the screen of his phone, the seconds slowly increasing, before shaking his head and hanging up. He shoves his phone deep into his pocket and trudges towards bed.

This night needs to be over before he does something he’ll really regret.

And I wonder if I still lived in the city, would I see you at a party? / Take a big sip of my whiskey and then leave quickly / And pray you missed me

In an alternate universe, he’d accept the invitations to go out in London with his buddies. He’d get over his fear of seeing her, and let loose in the hometown that bTonygs to him, too. He imagines it, pictures the club with its signature cocktails and loud music and lively dance floor.

She would like the cocktail list. He knows she likes fruity alcohol.

He would order a whiskey. He’d hang around the bar, not daring to step foot near the crowd of dancing bodies. It would be okay, his friends aren’t big dancers anyway.

He thinks it would be fun, laughing over too-loud music and getting slowly buzzed. He would forget about skating and dancing and eyes that know him too well.

But then she’d show up.

And maybe he wouldn’t be sure at first, unable to confirm that the dark hair and creamy skin are actually her. But then she’d come up to the bar, order the cocktail he knew she’d like, and he’d recognize those piercing green eyes anywhere.

He’d swallow the last of his whiskey and get the hell out of there, praying she wouldn’t follow.

And though I still know exactly how this ends / I keep holding on

He reminds himself that it’s over, that she’s moved on to bigger and better things. Thinks its time he finally does too.

He tries to convince himself he’s moved on.

He hasn’t.

He still waits for her call.

'Cause people change overnight / Things get strange, but I'm alright / I'm still here, and I'm still high

The night he realizes he hasn’t stepped foot on the ice in nearly two weeks, he knows something needs to change. As much as Tessa had been unrecognizable that night she showed up on his doorstep, he no longer recognizes himself. So he grabs his skates, nicks the keys from his mom, and gets himself to the rink that was his second home as a child.

The moment he steps through the doors feels like stepping back into his body. He flicks on the too-bright lights and inhales the familiar scent of the ice.

He feels like a kid again, his skates barely laced before he’s flying over the ice, arms wide and eyes screwed shut.

It’s late, and the rink had been closed for hours. Scott soaks in the clean, crisp quiet, the hum of the lights and the stroke of his blades the only sound echoing around the open space.

He takes up the entire rink, cutting deep ridges into the ice, weaving through pattern dances and old warm up exercises. He lets his mind go blank, the motions so deeply engrained in his body he doesn’t need to think.

There, on the first ice he’d ever stepped foot on, the ice he’d held Tessa’s hand but never spoken on, the ice he’d fallen in love on, nothing has changed. He is still Scott.

But Tessa’s not there, because she is not still his Tessa.

He shakes the thought from his mind, pushing away from the boards where he’d paused. He returns to center ice, and begins running through their old programs.

It’s not the same without her, of course. His hand feels empty and cold, and after a few turns around the rink it all feels utterly pointless. How can he be Scott without her?

And I'll still meet you in the middle of the night / You know, I'll meet you in the middle of the night / But if you lie to me / I’m gone

He pulls off his skates, running through his post-ice routine carelessly. He slips into his tennis shoes and coat and reenters the night.

He gets in his car and autopilot takes him to her house. It’s late, or early depending on how you look at it. But there’s a light on in her front window.

He justifies the light with the knowledge that she’s a restless sleeper. She wakes up throughout the night, tossing and turning, getting up for a glass of water or a cup of tea.

It flickers through his mind briefly that she might have company.

He forces the thought out of his mind. He’s sober for the first time in weeks and he’s here and it may be creepy as fuck but he has to do this.

He steps out of his car, closing the door carefully. He quietly climbs her front walk, and finds himself standing outside her door for a moment.

He raises his hand, poised to knock. Takes a deep breath. Lets his knuckles fall against the wooden door.

I know it's still in me, please forgive me / Leave this memory, don't say you miss me

The door opens to reveal a cautious, if slightly perturbed, Tessa. He lets out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding.

Her dark hair is piled in a bun on the top of her head. She’s wearing pajamas and her glasses are slipping down her nose. He’s struck by how young she looks.

For the first time since the Olympics, she looks like the girl who’d been his childhood best friend.

“Can I come in?” He’s not sure how long they’d been standing there, her in the doorway and him on her porch, staring at each other and not saying a word. But he knows he’s not thrilled to be freezing his ass off, and if she won’t invite him in, he’s not above inviting himself.

“Oh, uh, sure.” She concedes easily, and he’s relieved to step across the threshold into the warm hallway. They stand there for a few more moments, before Tessa is startled back into action. “I was just making tea, would you like some?”

He nods gratefully and allows her to lead him into her rarely used kitchen. She sets the kettle to boil and indicates for him to sit at the table.

“Chamomile okay?” He hums his agreement, suddenly scared to speak and crack open the moment.

She finally sets two mugs before him and he takes a sip, wary not to burn himself.

“Why are you here, Scott?” She sounds desperate and sad, and it breaks his heart a little.

“I…” he trails off, realizing he’s not even sure why he’s here. “I don’t know. I was at the rink, and then I just needed to see you.”

“You were at the rink at–“ she glances at the clock above the oven. “2:30 in the morning?”

“Well, yeah.” He hadn’t realized how late it really was. “I just needed to see you, to ask you to forgive me.”

'Cause people change overnight / Things get strange, but I'm alright / I'm still here, and I must still be high

“To forgive you?” Scott nods earnestly. “But for what?”

“I don’t know. Just, for everything. For being a jackass. For being sloppy. For not being what you needed.”

“Scott, you don’t need to apologize for any of that.” She puts both of her hands over the one of his that’s fisted on top of her table. She strokes his fingers softly, and he feels the tension in them release.

“I do, though. And I’m so, so sorry for it all.” He looks deep into her eyes, willing her to understand the pain and regret he’s feeling. 

“No, Scott.” She shakes her head, suddenly intent on studying the grain of the table. “I’m the one who should be apologizing. I haven’t handled the past couple of years very well. I just felt like everything was changing and I didn’t know how to hold onto what we had. So I just… let go.”

But I'll still meet you in the middle of the night / Oh, if you meet me in the middle of the night

“Trust me, T, you’ve handled everything, our entire lives, so well.” Scott reassures her. She’s gripping both his hands now, and he hopes she’ll never let him go. “I’m the one who didn’t handle it well. With the drinking and the yelling and the instability. You deserved to let go. I was holding you back.”

“Holding me back?” There’s an edge to her voice suddenly. “Scott, you could never. I wouldn’t be where I am, hell, I wouldn’t be who I am today without you.”

The look in her eyes is so sincere, he couldn’t doubt her if he tried.

“So maybe we both fucked up. Neither of us dealt with this… break well.” He tries to ignore the something bubbling up in his stomach at the word break that feels suspiciously like hope. “But if I’ve learned anything in the past year, it’s that I don’t want to do anything if you’re not by my side.”

“Really?” He breathes out, not allowing himself to believe what he suspects she’s trying to say. 

“Really, Scott. I don’t want this anymore. I want to skate, I want to compete, I want…” She trails off, her voice barely a whisper, “I want you.”

She falls into his arms, and for the second time that night, he feels like he’s come home.