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Feb 2 2017, 08:39 AM
Melbourne: 01-23-2017 (post-Unearthed) [off camera]

The arena was almost empty, most of the ring crew and stagehands and technicians had already departed, most of them passing right by the tiny blonde without noticing her at all. Nessa Wall sat on the hood of Shawn Fox's car - nearly the last one in the garage now - with her feet on the bumper, hands clasped between her knees as though she was deep in prayer. At the scrape of shoes on the asphalt, she looked up, pushing her hair behind her ears as she hopped down, moving from the shadows to lean against the driver's' side door.

Shawn was jingling his keys in his right hand, the strap of his gym bag resting heavily on his shoulder. He wasn't much feeling the throb of the headache yet, just marginally aware of it, just as he was marginally aware of a figure near his car. Too small to be Stone, he didn't stop walking towards it.

"You were right," she said softly, knowing her voice would carry well enough in the silence and she tried not to flinch when Shawn froze in his tracks.

"You did not have your ass on my car." His voice came out low, tired from the exertions of the match and then the waiting in the trainers as he was hardly the only one that needed to be seen right away. As far as he knew, at least one person was rumored to have been sent on to clinic for an x-ray or two. "Nessa, what are you doing out here. Go home."

She closed her eyes for a split second, pulling in a deep breath. "You were right," she said it again, this time with a sigh to punctuate it. "I need to unburden myself and it's not some dingy confessional booth I need or a bunch of hail marys and a recitation of the Lord's prayer to cleanse my soul. I need to be honest. With you. With myself. So," she looked up at him, holding her ground even though she could feel the tension radiating from him. Great idea, waiting for him in a deserted parking lot. The plot of a thousand awful horror movies went pretty much like this. "Can we talk? For a few minutes?"

He sighed hard, an exhale of breath as he squared his shoulders. "I'm not your priest, Nessa. But you've got three minutes. Don't waste them." He slipped his hand in the pocket of his jacket, checked his phone a second and then looked at her. "Seriously. I'm tired, Nessa. Let's hear it."

"I asked Matt to hurt you and I honestly and genuinely wanted him to." She paused for a beat, licking her lips. "I figured I should tell you the truth. I'm glad he didn't. I'm glad you're standing here right now, looking… well…" she averted her eyes, sighing. "I wanted to be forthright. You deserve that."

For a second his eyes narrowed and the look he shot her was mildly incredulous, then he shook his head and his expression went blankish again. "I don't even know why I expected anything else, Nessa. Every time I think you've dropped all the baggage there's just one more carry-on with you. Like this. You were pissed off, because you fucked up and I didn't try and pat you on the head and tell you what you did was alright, when it wasn't. So what did you do? Ran to Matt. That's pretty telling, Nessa. As much as I hate the guy? I wish I could feel jealous about it, but that's not what this is at all. He's a tool." A hint of a smile for a second. "But he's also a tool and you need to stop and think a little harder Nessa. I don't expect you to get it, as smart as you are."

He looked at his watch. "You get an extra minute for that."

She blinked. "You keep trying to assign some meaning to my feelings, keep trying to say I'm angry I got caught being a selfish cunt… like I don't know that. You keep trying to act like you're the only one hurting here but you're the one still swinging the knife, Shawn. You're the one who keeps trying to cut me, hoping if I just bleed out, I'll go away and prove that you're right, that nobody's worth trusting. That's what it boils down to. I fell off the stupid goddamned pedestal you put me on - never should have done that, by the way - and you can't stand the thought that maybe I'm human. Maybe that means you have to be too, instead of being this know-it-all bag of smug dicks all the time." She shook her head, taking a step away from his car, keeping herself out of arm's reach. "I made a mistake. I admitted it. I even did it publicly so that you couldn't try to say I was avoiding it and all you keep going on about are consequences and how I'm mad about that. No." She shook her head again. "You know what I'm mad about? This," she gestured vaguely at him, "this right here. This is what makes me want to hurt you, Shawn. Just so we're crystal clear."

"Move, Nessa. Go on. I don't want the security cameras thinking I tried to back over you. Let me be crystal clear here, Nessa. I didn't ask you to do any of that. I didn't put you on a pedestal, no one deserves that. What I expected from you? It wasn't to never make a mistake, because yeah. Humans make them all the time. What I expected from you was not to do what you did. And yeah, I'm assigning some sort of feeling to it because you posture and yell and try and shift the blame on me, because it's easier for you if you look less culpable for being so selfish. But I never asked you to humble yourself in public, just like I didn't rake you over the fucking coals in public. What I wanted was a little common courtesy, Nessa. A little human decency towards someone you acted like you cared about." He kept out of her reach as he moved towards the car. "So there you go. You want to fix this? You want to fix yourself? Your first step is admitting the truth about all of it, to yourself. Don't make it some huge weird…" his turn to gesture, more towards the roof of the parking garage.

"Just don't. It's like trying to slap a bandaid over a machete cut that's gushing out with every pulse, Nessa. Sometimes? Time is the only thing. And you're out of it."

Nessa took another step back from the car, wanting to rewind the moment and just go home instead. "I came back." She said the words softly, shoulders slumping slightly as she looked down at the ground, "I thought that's what you wanted. Actions. Not a bunch of words and I…" she hesitated for a second and then said the words regardless. Might as well gut herself fully. "You don't love me anymore at all, do you?"

He opened the door to the backseat, slung his bag in and shut it with a thump before moving up to the driver's door, opening it and sliding behind the wheel. Before he shut the door, he gave her a look. "You know the real hell of it, Nessa? I thought I could actually love you. That you might be that one person that I could connect with, that wouldn't…" he gestured sharply. "So there you go." He shut the car door, turned on the engine, carefully backed out of the parking garage, and left.

She stood there for an eternity, watching the exit, trying to tell herself that she'd heard him wrong. Finally, she picked up her own bag from where it rested against the parking block, slinging it over her shoulder before following the same path Shawn's car had taken. She'd walked here almost twelve hours ago. Now it was time to go home, go to bed and put an end to one of the worst days yet.

Jan 22 2017, 10:32 AM
Melbourne: 01-22-2017 [off camera]

Three in the morning and she was sitting on the floor in the middle of the near-empty living room, staring at her reflection in the dark TV screen. From here, she couldn’t see the dark circles under her eyes or the rubbed raw, puffy eyelids that would likely take a ton of makeup to conceal. Maybe she could get away with blaming allergies. Maybe if they didn't look too hard before she hit the ring, she could take a blow to the face and pass it off. Even now her mind was racing, trying to find a way to spin doctor the pain.

Shawn had moved out almost as soon as she'd come back from Toronto. That magic fix she'd hoped to find by reappearing on the doorstep - surprise - had never come. He hadn't spoken to her since that Skype call, despite his promise to talk face-to-face.

Too little. Too late.

She knew. She knew exactly how badly she’d screwed up and the blind panic over him leaving had led to an embarrassing spiral of binge drinking, posting emo images she’d found on Pinterest and begging for a scrap of attention. Instead she’d been stonewalled with silence that did nothing but make her want to break the things he’d left intact.

The blender had been first.

She’d tried to make herself a margarita with red velvet cake ice cream. Not the best idea, definitely not the best taste and the morning after, she’d thrown the remains at the wall, glass pitcher and all.

She’d added fifty dollars to the bowl on the table for that one. His keys sat on top of the folded bills and she’d done everything she could to even touch those after finding them on the kitchen counter where the toaster used to be. He hadn’t said a word when he’d left - turnabout was fair play, after all. He’d slipped out when she’d finally given up on trying to get him to react. She’d crashed for a few hours, overcome by the jetlag her impulse flight had caused, only to wake up to the sound of silence.

There was another pile of money in the bowl now, thanks to the giant crack across the middle of the TV screen’s glass. She’d thrown that damned Jimmy Choo at it and as much as she wanted to destroy those shoes for what they represented now, she couldn’t. She knew how hard they must have been for him to find. She’d looked everywhere for months, desperately putting her name on every wait list. She hadn’t told him why she needed that particular pair of sparkly, golden shoes just like she hadn’t told him about the pale pink dress she still had packed away in her cedar chest.

Most people didn’t remember how she’d almost married Alex Houser. They cared more about how she’d rebounded to Matt Stone, not realising that she’d considered him her best friend even before that.

She watched the notifications parading across her screen, scrolling back to see all the replies Shawn had made to others, feeling that ache in her chest that made tears prickle.

The silence was deafening. With him there was always some small sound. Some movement. A soft chuckle. A huff of breath. Knuckles popping. Restless shifting. The absence of those little things left a void that threatened to suck her in and the desperation that came with her depression didn't just extend to posting idiocy on Twitter. She'd declared this open challenge on a whim, sure, but she'd been motivated by the need to prove she wasn’t broken. She was and in the back of her mind she hoped to hear Social Distortion over the speakers. She hoped he would come out and make her pay for hurting him in a way that was finite and absolute - one fell swoop so it could be over instead of this daily agony.

Tears filled her eyes as she sat there in the silence that she’d bought and paid for with her own stupidity. She just let them roll down her face, hugging a throw pillow to her chest, burying her face against it.

Imperfect. Impulsive. Foolish. Childish. Immature.

She could go on for hours, heaping on the abuse because when it boiled down to it, he was right. She’d walked away. The reasoning didn’t matter, nor did her attempts to explain even though she wished she could just find the perfect image to post, to take her licks in public so that he knew she was ready to humiliate herself.

Own your shit, Ness. You did this. You. Did. This. He’s not dropping everything and coming to find you. He’s not coming back in the middle of the night to sweep you off your feet, to laugh and say he was wrong - he’s sorry. He isn’t. He won’t be. It doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t happen like the movies. Westley isn’t real and you can’t just treat people like afterthoughts.

Shawn had posted again - an image. Maybe he’d replied to her little dig.


She clicked on Twitter and dragged her finger down the screen, seeing that little video of him shrugging. It could have been a reply to anything, but she still let the phone fall from her hand, closing her eyes against the stabbing pain that took her breath away. Reaching for her shoes, she slipped her feet into them. It was too early to head to the arena but she tweeted it anyhow, trying to keep the despair from leaking through too much. SNARKTASTIC was a thing of the past but she could still fall back into the familiar old bitchsauce role and pretend she didn’t have two failed tag teams to her name. Pretend she wasn’t the laughingstock of the roster. Maybe she’d get lucky and Matt’s team would silence her worst critic.


Now, she had to flip that switch. She had to fake the overconfident genius who lived and breathed wrestling when going out there tonight was the biggest risk she’d taken since coming to Australia. The unknown awaited and she couldn’t stomach the thought of losing. Winning this, proving she could still go it alone was all she had left.

She needed something, anything to grasp and she knew if she walked out that door now she’d probably end up wandering the streets until dawn. Even with the key she’d stolen from Cryptic’s office, she didn’t feel like explaining herself right now. Wait until someone else arrived to unlock the doors and then she’d find her way to the locker room and try to grab a few hours of sleep there. At least there would be lots of ambient noise. At least she could feign dedication had brought on the exhaustion. At least she could buy herself a few hours of peace before the rest of her world crumbled.

Jan 13 2017, 03:24 PM
Toronto: 12-20-2016 [off camera]

It was after midnight now, Toronto time and she was still sitting in front of the laptop, flinching any time a chime came from the speakers. Thirteen days. Almost two weeks and he hadn't called. He hadn't texted. He hadn't even sent her an impersonal email and she knew he'd read her blog because she'd checked the numbers religiously. Almost two weeks with nothing until she'd cracked and had to stoop to the daily Twitter attention whoring. When he'd replied, she'd actually been shocked. Now it had turned to dismay and the more minutes that ticked by, the more she knew she'd ruined everything. That Skype chime went off shortly after, and she'd notice it was set to audio only. There was a sound that might remind her of drumming fingers, a click of ice in a glass, likely, then Shawn's voice.

"So, let's hear it. You tell me why today was different from the rest that it needed a 'most of all' like this was the end of the Wizard of Oz."

Nessa froze, swallowing hard even as she tried to analyze every syllable. Robbed of being able to see him, to pick up any visual cues, she was essentially working blind - he knew he'd be putting her at a disadvantage. "You know what's funny? I've never actually seen that whole movie," she finally said, breaking the silence before it slipped from awkward into downright chilly. "And as for your question: I just woke up today and I couldn't stop thinking about you. I mean, I've been thinking about you for the past couple weeks and I'm not sure why today is special - it must be, after all, because here you are."

"It's a classic. You might want to hit that up before they take it off Hulu." Another pause with more sounds of clinking ice, if that's even what it was. "So how's home going for you then? Was it everything you wanted, Ness?"

"No." The single word came out small, her voice cracking and she was glad he hadn't opted for video because the tears were already filling her eyes. "I just needed to get away. I wasn't thinking, Shawn. I just wanted to put as much distance as I could between that place and…" she sighed. "You would have talked me out of it, I know. And I'd have listened so maybe you should just tell me what to do now… always. Like Matt said, running away is what I do best."

"Ness, if you're going to lie at me, I'm going to hang up now." His voice had gotten a cold, sharp edge to it. "You were thinking, you were thinking about what you had to do to run away from me, Ness. Period. So off you went, not a note, no word. I had to find out on fucking Twitter where you were at. You have no idea what you've even done, because while you were busy thinking about yourself and how Matt told you all about you? You didn't even push pause to consider how I might feel. That's an issue you're not going to get around, no matter how many tears you want to shed, real or crocodile. Life fucking sucks, Ness. It's not supposed to get made worse by the people you think you can trust. So you decide, right now if you're going to be honest with me, otherwise? Hang up and don't call me back."

She sat there in silence for a good ten seconds, trying to remember how to breathe, trying to remember all the reasons that leaving in the middle of the night had seemed like a good idea and none of them floated to the surface. "I…" she had to stop, had to press her hand over her mouth to hold in a sob and it was a good thing he couldn't see because she was shaking. "Shawn… I won't lie. Not… not to you."

"You'll pardon me if I'm not sold on that just yet. Or not, but come on. You made a choice, Ness. You made a bunch of seriously dumbass choices, and now you're stuck looking into the box and wondering how you got all this garbage, aren't you." There was a huff of breath, clearly audible. "For someone as smart as you are, seriously. Maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to get a neuro scan because goddamn, Ness. Since I'm demanding honesty out of you, let me give you a little in return. It's the least, and I mean the least I could do. Are you even remotely aware of what consequences even are? You got upset, and that's human, I'd be a fucking prick if I didn't think so. But it wasn't just the match, you had to have already been thinking of ducking out on me. Otherwise, why the hell was it just so easy for you to do it. Like reflex, right?"

"I didn't… I mean, I wasn't…" she was at a loss for words, shaking her head so hard back and forth that she started to get a headache. "I thought you'd come. I left breadcrumbs a-and I thought… I didn't know. Or I guess maybe I didn't want to see it because it all made perfect sense in my head at three in the morning and that discount coupon was there in my email and it just seemed like it was a sign. Like it was the perfect way to fix how I was feeling. I didn't want to hurt you. I thought you'd know - you know me, Shawn. You know things nobody knows."

"But apparently you don't know me at all, Ness. Breadcrumbs? What, you thought I'd come running after you like this was Hansel and Gretel or some bullshit fairy tale? Oh no this is rich, it never occurred to me until right now. How many fucking times did you do this to someone else, and just assume I'd do it? It's got to have worked at least once. But no, instead of just talking to me like I mattered to you at all in your little fix of your feel-bad, you went off and figured that you'd do it and ask forgiveness once it was too late to talk you out of it. So, try and step back Ness and look at what you did. Really, really look at what you did. Because what I see is someone that I bent over backwards to make happy tucking her tail and running out on me when maybe I needed her." His tone was even chillier than before, if that was possible and the sound through the phone was liquid, a definite pour of something and knowing him it was likely whiskey.

"I know what I did." She sniffled, chuckling bitterly at her own idiocy, "I didn't fix anything. I broke it worse and honestly… all I can tell you is how sorry I am when I know that's the absolute last thing you want to hear from me right now."

"Well. You finally told the truth. You're right, I don't want sorry, because it's meaningless and it always has been. No one that says sorry actually means they feel bad for what they did, Ness. They feel bad that they got caught, or they felt obligated. Just like a career criminal, he's sorry all right. You know the rest." There was a pause as he took a drink, and set his glass down with a thump she could clearly hear. "You seriously wanted me to tell you what to do? You're grown, Ness. You… how do you not get this." A hint of frustration crept into his voice. "You either know what's right or you don't. Any bad choice, any bad action you know goddamn well what you did was wrong, and you either do it anyway and feel it was worth the price or you do it and feel guilty. What you've got is a good case of the guilts and I don't want your guilt."

"Then what do you want?" She snapped the words before she could stop herself.

"For you to not have betrayed me, for one." More of that liquid sound. "You know what, Ness? We're done here. The next time you want to talk to me, it'll be face to face. Lose my number."

Before she could beg or plead or further humiliate herself, the Skype call ended, leaving her staring at the screen before she slowly reached out and closed the laptop's lid.

Melbourne: 01-11-2017 [off camera]

Staying true to his word on Twitter, Matt was sitting alone at the bar in a little place called Jankara. It wasn't the fanciest bar around, seating for thirty or so people, nothing but bar food served and less than fancy cocktails, but the one thing that set it apart from other place was the Karaoke aspect to it. Matt had always enjoyed Karaoke, whichever country he was in and Australia was no different. For once he wasn't wearing a shirt with his own face on it, settling for just a plain black Tee and black shorts, a splash of green on them for colour. He didn't want to stand out, wasn't even sure if he would participate in the singing himself. It's been a lousy day to further the lousy week he's been having, and right now, knocking back a beer is the best medicine for that, occasionally eating a cashew out of a nearby bowl. There was a couple up at the machine right now, doing their best to ruin the good name of Sonny and Cher.

"Is this a private pity party, or can anyone join in?" A familiar voice asked from behind him before a gentle hand rested on his shoulder.

Matt looked over, being eye to eye with his ex-girlfriend, Nessa Wall. "Oh please, pull up a chair, have a drink, it's all the rage these days. I'd offer you a peanut but knowing you, it'd make your face swell up." He forces a smile before ordering her something to proverbially wet her whistle.

Nessa slid onto the stool next to him, letting out a soft sigh. "He didn't tell me. I just wanted to make that clear, okay? I had no idea he was going to and half of me wonders if he just did it out of spite because he knows how much I hate her-" she looked up at the bartender, "better make it a double."

It didn't take Matt long to figure out what Nessa was alluding to. "I sort of figured that. Though a small part of me wondered if you were going to be the last member of their little team. I know it wouldn't make sense given your history with the illustrious captain, but the way my week is going, that would be the perfect cherry on top of the cake of crap."

"Never." She hissed that with so much vehemence that the bartender flinched while setting down her drink. "I'd rather gargle with broken glass and lemon juice than associate myself with that harpy - I mean any more than I already have by working for the same company." She reached for the glass, taking the skewered fruit out first and nibbling it off the little plastic sword. "I have no desire to get involved in this mess. I thought I made that clear to you backstage at Ruckus?"

He finished off his own drink, pointing at it so the bartender knew to bring him another. "Well yeah, though you also made it pretty clear that when asked to decide, you were backing the harpy's team rather than mine. I could act surprised at the decision, but who would I be fooling? Somehow there's a narrative going on online that she's the white knight and I'm the dastardly one living under the bridge. How that happened, I'm not sure, but it's not that flattering."

"Neither is having the man you're supposed to be with publicly saying he worships that nutbar in the bunny suit you have on your team… if we're airing grievances a few weeks late for Festivus, might as well get them all out, hm?" She glanced at him, trying to force that snarky smirk of hers.

He appreciated the reference, and had a sudden realization that no one on his team would have gotten that but him and that was just a little bit more depressing than he would have thought. "If that's the case, I've got a few. For starters, this week I'm teaming up with someone who's name isn't even grammatically correct!" He punctuated that thought with a nod to the bartender who brought him another drink.

"And I'm teaming with the green-haired rookie who lost a match to Kasey Summers in less than five minutes. It's… humiliating." Nessa lamented, taking a swallow of her drink, nodding contentedly at the taste. "It's almost degrading. At least you're facing an actual team with an actual tag wrestler on your side… not the random nobodies of the company. It's funny. I ran away because I felt useless - this isn't doing much to change that notion, you know?"

"On the plus side…" He started, not content to just let Nessa win this battle of one-downsmanship. "People know your name, I'm constantly referred to as the baby of Fred and Wilma. The ironic part in all of that is the one accusing me of such a title is almost a dead ringer for the kid, right down to the hairstyle and colour. I came here to showcase I can thrive in any environment, and right now the only thriving I feel I've accomplished is as a barfly."

"Which begs the question if you're vying to be Homer or Barney at this point." She quipped, polishing off the rest of her drink before pushing it towards the tender. "Another, please. Extra cherries?"

As she's ordering, Matt grabbed one of the cashews and tried to toss it in his mouth, missing wildly. "D'oh!" he proclaimed, though really just trying to get the woman to his left to smile.

"Too much hair," she replied, "and your singing voice is too good. I think you might actually be Barney." She did smile, fleetingly for a moment, "perhaps we can record something later in black and white and wow the world with how sad your life has become?"

"Well that would be something, but I think we all know some jerk with a wad of cash would throw some shit together and do their best to try and bury our little project before it took off. It's probably for the best though, as I'm not able to burp on command. Maybe I could just be one of those lesser known barflies, the ones that don't even get names in the script or credits. That would appease everyone, don't you think?"

"Probably," Nessa tilted her glass towards his, clinking the rims together, "I'll drink to that - to being a nobody."

"Cheers" he reciprocated, downing half his drink in one fell swoop. "So tell me." He started, looking over at her, pausing for a second almost to admire her. "What's brought you down here? Happy coincidence or is there still a tracking chip of yours somewhere on me?"

"You tweeted you were going to a bar, remember?" She turned her head, meeting his gaze levelly. "So I used my best guess to figure out which one might appeal to you. And here we are." She broke eye contact to glance at the karaoke stage, "going to sing?"

"Ha," he let out a chuckle, going back to staring at his drink. "Right now, the only thing I feel like singing is my swan song. Gotta admit, it's a tad touching that you were able to deduce where I would go based on such a vague clue. Though that still doesn't really answer as to why you came down here, not that I'm complaining mind you."

"I came to see you." Nessa's voice came out softer than usual, without that acidic edge it usually had where he was concerned.

"Oh," was a simple reply he gave her, thinking about all the reasons that she might want to see him. "Well had I known that, I might have done something with my hair." He followed up with, trying to add a bit of the charm he liked to think he was known for.

"This match…" Nessa closed her eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath, completely no-selling his attempt to be sauve, "it's going to be messy. No two ways about it. Someone is going to get hurt, I'm sure. And that's why I'm here."

He nodded his head along to what she's saying, starting to see where this was going, mentally smacking himself for not deducing this sooner. "Yeah, you're right, people are going to get hurt. There's a lot at stake, that's for sure. You just want to make sure that Shawn isn't one of the casualties, right?"

"Not quite, no." She paused, taking another leisurely sip of her second drink, "I want you to hurt him as much as you can. Don't hold back, Matthew."
Jan 1 2017, 05:04 PM
Toronto: 12-07-2016 [off camera]

In the blind panic that had followed Snarktastic's loss to State of Anarchy, Nessa had been focused on one thing: she needed to get the hell out of Australia. With the echoes of the crowd's ecstatic cheers still ringing in her ears, she'd logged into Expedia, cashing in the last of her frequent flyer miles for a last-minute flight. She hadn't even bothered to pack much beyond toiletries and the few pairs of shoes she knew she couldn't live without, tossing everything haphazardly into the smallest case of the matching luggage Shawn had bought her when they'd finally decided to move here together. Sixteen hours in the air had passed by in a blur. She’d slept through most of it, aided by sleeping pills that she was surprised still worked since she’d stopped taking them almost a year ago, and by the time the plane was touching down at Toronto’s Billy Bishop airport, she finally felt the anxiety creep back a notch.

Of course, she’d forgotten the charger for her phone and the damned thing wouldn’t turn back on. The Apple logo kept flashing and then it would go dark. Probably twenty-four hours had passed by the time she was inside a hotel room, wrapped in a plush robe and looking out at the view of the purple and red CN Tower standing tall over the city she used to call home. It seemed smaller. Maybe it was because of the buildings she didn’t remember being there before, more expensive condos scraping the sky, ruining the waterfront view.

The phone on the bed chirped, finally coming back to life thanks to a charger she’d had the hotel concierge find for her and then it was flashing and blinking and vibrating as all the notices came up. She ignored Twitter - she’d deal with that mess later. She had almost a dozen missed calls, all of them from Shawn and the sight of his name on the screen made her eyes fill with tears. A moment later they were rolling down her face and she was sitting on the floor, sobbing. Everything was ruined once again.

She remembered the day Matt Stone had come to get his things. She remembered the day she’d gone to San Diego and had collected her clothes and shoes from Matt Ford’s house - she remembered that stupid painting she’d had commissioned hanging there in the hall to mock her. She remembered the hollowness she’d felt, that desperation and that panic and then she was typing a message on the phone, not even caring about the time difference.

I’m so sorry for everything but I think it’s best if I just disappear for a little while. I’m sure Cryptic will still book you. Maybe he’ll give you the next shot now that my hands aren’t holding you back. I’m sorry I let you down. I’m sorry for everything. I’m not good enough to be your partner.

Before she could send something so outrageously stupid, she exited the messaging app. She didn’t need to lower herself any further and she knew with the influx of talent like Kelly Fury, her departure was certain to be overlooked. IYHWF would be better off without her. The tag division was thriving without their team and she knew without a shadow of a doubt that they wouldn’t miss her for a single moment.

If he wants you, he’ll come. He’ll call. He’ll give you a sign.

Melbourne: 12-26-2016 [off camera]

She'd been back in Melbourne for all of an hour and instead of going home, Nessa had opted to head to the most unlikely place: Matt Stone’s apartment. A few more hours wouldn't since the twice-delayed flight had caused her to miss Shawn’s match as well as Christmas. Sighing, she squared her shoulders and lifted her hand to knock on the door. It wasn’t five seconds before the door swung open and the owner of the apartment was standing before her, or rather, the tenant because that’s the proper word. Either way, it was Matt Stone greeting her with a rather confused look on his face. There were no visible decorations behind him, and absolutely no signs that there was any major holiday going on at all. In fact, unlike the traditional Canadian attire for this time of year, he was wearing a T-shirt and shorts. His own T-shirt, to be specific. “I thought I heard the whistling of a broom whizzing around.”

She rolled her eyes. “Hilarious, really. Can I come in?” Matt peered around from side to side around her, looking suspicious.

“That depends, am I going to get punched in the face again?”

“Matt, I swear I didn’t…” she shook her head, not wanting to get into that particular subject with him, “I think the odds of him punching me right now are slightly higher. So no. I just want to talk to you. That’s all.”

Matt backs up a step, offering her a way in. “He hits you? Say what you will about me, but I never did that.” He allows her to walk inside the apartment, closing the door behind her. “I hope this isn’t a common occurrence, I’d hate to find a reason to like this guy…” He offers an awkward laugh with that remark.

The fact that she didn’t take the bait and jump to Shawn’s defense was more telling than her silence and she stopped and turned around, folding her arms across her chest. “If you’re going to crack more jokes about me leaving, get them out of your system now.”

Matt scoffed at the request, shaking his head. “Now what would be the fun in that? They’re much better out of nowhere, which is fitting as that’s where you were the last show if I recall correctly.”

“You mean last night?” Nessa frowned, biting her lip. “I wanted to be here for that. The airlines conspired against me. If you mean the one before that, I was busy. Staring at the walls in a Toronto hotel room.”

That forced Matt to pause for a second, raising an eyebrow at her. “A Toronto hotel room? Don’t you live in Toronto? Did you lose your home along with the tag titles? Cause that would just be tragic Nessa.” Matt’s words may have been sympathetic, but his tone was quite the opposite.

“I rented out my place in Toronto. I have a tenant and I wasn’t about to drop in and ask to crash on the couch, even as pathetic as that would have been.” She shook her head, “I’m sick of all the backbiting, all the barbs flying around. If you hate me, that’s… well, expected. I know I’m a loser. I know I’m a coward and I don’t need you to rub that in or make jokes at my expense.”

“You know Nessa, one of the few joys in a breakup is the ability to spit venom at the one that scorned you, but if you’re just going to stand there and take it, I’m afraid that sucks the fun right out of it. If you didn’t come here to be insulted, I doubt you came here to stand by the door either, so might as well make yourself at home since I have a feeling I’m going to need a drink. Would you like one?” He offers, starting to make his way to the kitchen.

“Something strong,” she called after him, making her way over to his couch. She flopped down with a sigh, feeling the exhaustion of that super long flight creeping in the moment her butt made contact. “The thing is,” she kept talking, her voice raised slightly so he could still hear her, “I have no desire to actually fight with you, Matthew. I just wanted to focus on the tag team and…” she trailed off helplessly. Was there even still a tag team? Probably not.

He was fiddling in the kitchen, wondering why his ex-girlfriend was showing up at his place unannounced seemingly not acting like herself. Self-deprecating, undefensive of that Shawn fellow he loathed so much, did something happen between them? Was she pregnant, perhaps? Wait, is that why he was here? After some quick arithmetic, he figured out it had been way over a year since they were together, so that’s not what this was about, he deduced with a sigh of relief. Something to drink, right, he pulled a bottle of Sherry down from a shelf and poured two glasses, walking out to greet her. “No desire at all? That’s odd, now that I’m the number one contender, I would think everyone would want to try and fight me.” He replied handing her one of the glasses. Sherry was always one of her favourite drinks, as he recalled. In fact, she was the reason he had started drinking it in the first place, Nessa was responsible for introducing him to many of the finer things.

Relief was written all over her face as she took a sip of the sweet liquor. “You remembered. I'm almost touched.”

Matt took a seat down beside her, swirling his glass. “Almost touched? A few more glasses in you and we can make sure that’s rectified.” He chuckled at his own little joke, taking a sip of the Sherry. He was pretty sure she wasn’t here for that, either, but having a filter for his mind was never his forte.

She snorted rather indelicately, shaking her head. “You wish,” the snappy reply came out automatically but there wasn’t much heart to it. She took another drink and then turned toward him. “Listen, Matt. Between you and…” hesitating for a moment, she shook her head again, “I came dangerously close to just calling it quits and seeing you taking your cheap little shots was the last thing I wanted to deal with. Don’t expect me to reply to you on Twitter again. I’ve deleted it from my phone. I turned off notices, too. I’m done with all that garbage.”

“Well there goes half my fun on Twitter, too. You just won't be satisfied until you completely ruin my life, will you?” He's not being serious, but there's no point in telling Nessa that. “I don't know why you're so bothered by it, you've lost before and I hate to break it to you, you're going to lose again in the future. I remember how much losing the Pride title meant to you, but you recovered, remember? We went to the spa and by the end of it, you couldn't even spell Pride with how relaxed you were. Why is this different?”

“It’s not about the loss,” she averted her eyes, looking down as she swirled the contents of the glass. “I knew that was going to happen eventually. I’m just sick of being the butt of every joke. I came here to prove I didn’t need....” she stopped herself before she said you, but the meaning was clear enough. “Go on and tell me I’m wrong. I know how badly you want to gloat right now.”

“Oh Nessa…” Matt reached out and brushed her hair back, smiling sympathetically at her. He didn’t like seeing her like this unless he was the one causing it. “You know me so well, but right now I don’t feel like gloating. You’re one of the strongest women I know, your skin is thicker than wood in most cases, we just need to figure out what specifically has been bothering you lately. You’re in what I can only assume is a healthy relationship, you’ve been relatively successful here all on your own and, if you don’t mind me saying, you’re as stunning as ever. So what’s the issue?” He had picked up on her meaning, but wanted her to actually say it if he was going to acknowledge it.

Nessa sighed. “I haven’t had success on my own. I lost to Angelica and she’s never going to let me live that down. I’ll never get that back. You think I want to be another Annabel or Kelsey? Some pathetic little tag team wrestler and nothing else?” She frowned, “there aren’t any cameras here, Matthew. That’s not my goal. I wanted to use the team as a stepping stone. Not as my only damn accomplishment ever!”

Matt couldn’t help but smile at that, he knew she wasn’t just a tag team wrestler. “I can honestly say I have no idea who Annabel or Kelsey are, but you know you’re not just one of them. I have to admit though, if you were going to use something as a stepping stone, I’m a little hurt you didn’t pick me. Who better than...well I’m sure you get where I’m going with this. I’m sure it’s of little consolation, but I have a match with Angelica coming up and I’ll be sure to beat her for the two of us.” He paused, taking a sip of his beverage. “You’ve had plenty of accomplishments Nessa, not just the tag team...let’s not forget your prestigious reign in BWF.”

“Yeah, and my brush with the infamous ‘I love you’ stalker Danny Hall? I’d really rather not. I mean, sure, I’m grateful. I started 2016 with a title reign and I’m ending with... “ she shrugged. “Honestly, the only reason I came back wasn’t for the wrestling.”

“Well I can’t imagine what else would drag you back here to this hellhole. This country is nothing like Canada, it’s December and it’s hot outside! I have a box in my closet full of Matt Stone branded winter hats and I can’t sell them for another six months, what a horrible country!”

“Really?” She was about to snap at him for being so obtuse, switching tracks instead. “The infamous Matt Stone who can sell ice to Inuits can’t sell winter hats in the summer? Say it ain’t so!”

Matt laughed, shaking his head. “I suppose I could, but I don’t want there to be a gang of hoodlums walking around with my name on it. But that’s beside the point, why did you come back, then?”

“For something that’s probably a lost cause.” She didn’t bother to dance around the subject, her voice coming out softly. “Like usual, I did the absolute worst thing. I left.” When he still looked blank, she elaborated, “Shawn. I left him in the middle of the night. Without saying a word.”

“So, you finally left Derwood.” Matt replies with a smirk.

“Not like that, dumbass.” She downed the rest of the sherry, “I didn’t break up with him if that’s what you mean.”

“Oh…” He seemed to be depressed a bit by that news, but he recovered quickly. “So you just up and flew out of here for Christmas without him? I can see how that would be, how did you put it? The worst thing. Why did you do that?” Matt asked, trying to be helpful.

“I…” words failed her and now she was holding that glass so tight it was a wonder it didn’t break. Her nose twitched and she wondered if it was the tears prickling her eyes or something else. “I wasn’t. I didn’t. I just reacted and a part of me expected him to chase me. Like maybe if he did that was going to erase all the belitting and the hurt and the way I’ve started to feel about myself. It’s not these places, Matt. It’s not them. It’s me.”

Matt thought for a second, sensing how stressed out she was. Helen Keller could see it on her face, so of course he did. “You wanted him to chase after you? Didn’t you have similar desires when we broke up? Nessa, you can’t just expect people to know what you want if you don’t tell them. If you don’t talk to him at all, for that matter. For all you know, Shawn could have just assumed you two were done and moved on. Showing up on my doorstep of all people, well to anyone who may have seen you, that’s what it looks like to them, as well.”

She stared down at the empty glass for longer than she really should have, feeling tears welling in her eyes as she sniffled. “Just once it would be great to feel wanted… to know it without a shadow of a doubt but he…” she sniffed again, shaking her head.

“Oh Nessa, don’t cry…” He offered, reaching over and patting her shoulder. “I know that I was never the best at expressing those sorts of things, but you were always wanted to me. Here, I’ll get you another drink, you freshen yourself up a bit.” Matt offered, taking her empty glass after a moment of struggle with her death grip on the glass. He shuffled off to the kitchen again, taking one look back at her. “And I’m sure there are plenty of people that would want you.”

She buried her face in her hands and then leaned against the arm of the couch, taking a deep breath. Thanks to the tears in her eyes she failed to notice the cat hair on what was no doubt the cat’s favourite place to hang out. “That’s awfully nice of you to say given how much of a…” she faltered, feeling a familiar tickle in her sinuses accompanied by a twitch of her nose. Sitting up slightly, she rubbed her hand under her nose. “You know, I really should leave. Don’t worry about the drink, Matt.”

Matt poked his head out from the kitchen door. “Are you sure? So soon? I’m not convinced you should be alone right now, and truth be told, I don’t mind the company either.” The thought of Nessa wanting to suddenly rush out of here made him think of a few things, not that there was a chance of that, was there?

“No,” this time he saw her nose twitch, saw her eyes widen a little as she turned her head to look at him. “I really need to - HAAAACHOO!” She shot to her feet, eyes still streaming but it wasn’t really clear if it was tears or allergies at this point in time. “I really… something on your couch is making my face itch and my nose run and my medication is back at the hotel so…” she started to move towards the door.

“My couch?” He asked, raising a eyebrow as he shot a glance over there, wondering. “I don’t know what it could be, it’s just leather, unless…” Matt paused, his eyes widening a bit in a mix of surprise and horror.

“Unless..?” She turned back to stare at him, blinking away tears.

“Nessa…” He tried to speak calmly, though there was a catch in his voice. “How do you feel about…” before he could finish his sentence, his furry friend, Felony, leapt off the windowsill where it had been bathing in the sun and landed on Nessa’s shoulder. “...cats?” he finished the question a second too late.

She screamed. The cat’s claws dug in through her blouse. The shock turned to outrage as she shrieked again and the cat jumped down, disappearing from the room. “I’m allergic.” Her voice came out a little hoarse thanks to the cloud of cat fur drifting in her face and the yelling she’d just done. “To cats. Among other things.”

“Oh God, I’m so sorry, is there anything I can do?” He asked, coming out of the kitchen, making sure that Felony had left for good. He was used to seeing Nessa like this, she had made it a bit of a habit while they were together. “I might have some of your pills tucked away in my travel bag, I made it a rule to keep plenty of it while we were...well you know.”

“No, no,” she waved him off, trying to laugh even though it came out halfway to a sob. “I’ll be okay. I just need some air.” Her nose twitched again but she managed not to sneeze, “honestly, I would wear an allergy bracelet but it would probably sprain my wrist - don’t worry about it, Matt. I’m not your problem anymore.” Before he could protest, she was already halfway out the door. She was able to hear a half-hearted, “bye Nessa,” on her way out to freedom.

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