The Night Before (Life Goes On)
The Night Before (Life Goes On)
He sees her shadow stretched out over the concert roof before he actually sees her figure, a shadowy thing on the rooftop. He climbs up the last three rungs of the rusty old ladder and smiles as he sees her leaning against the chimney. Her scarlet hair is blowing in the wind and teasing her face with small strands. The wind has always been wilder up here then down below, and that's why she loved it. Her bare shoulders are covered in goosebumps and her sleeveless shirt isn't doing anything to warm her up. She hasn't seen him yet so he walks up behind her and covers her eyes. "Who is it?" he asks in a high pitched female voice. She laughs and it sounds like bells.
"Um... is it Pepper?" she asks. He chuckles before telling her to guess again. "Tony?" He can feel her smile against the bottom of his hand and he knows she is just playing around with him. "Steve, I know it's you. You're the only one I know who sounds like that when they try to talk like a girl." Her laugh flows through his ears. "It's your generic girl voice," she says in a low voice, her generic boy voice. He laughs as he sits beside her. She looks up at him with her dark Hayden green eyes and she sighs as she leans her head on his shoulder.
"Isn't the moon pretty tonight?" she asks quietly. He nods and rests his chin on top of her head.
"Not as pretty as you, though," he whispers. She smiles against his neck. Her laugh rings through his ears and she snuggles closer to him.
"You're so cheesy," she nudges his shoulder. He kisses her neck and she trembles, but not from the cold. "But I love you anyway."
She shivers again and he feels the gooseflesh brush against his skin. "You cold, Nat?" he asks. She turns to look at him from the side. Her hair is blowing against his face, the vanilla and lilac making his senses tingle.
"Kinda," she shrugs. He scoots over to sit behind her. Steve slips off his authentic leather jacket and pulls her arms back so he can put it on her. She smiles at his warmth and the smell of automobile grease, sandalwood, and the iron tang of man sweat. He wraps his arms around her waist and she leans back against him, her hair continuing to whip in his face, making her scent surround him.
She pulls his flannel closer around her and her breath shudders as she inhaled. "I don't want this night to end. Why does it have to end?" She turns in his arms, her eyes shining with sadness.
(Flashforward: With Natasha)
She checks the rear-view mirror one last time to see his waving figure. Tears slip down her cheeks as she puts on the turn signal out of their small community. She looks behind and chokes back a sob when she realizes she can't see him anymore. She really hopes LSU (Louisiana State University) is worth the love she's leaving behind. Eighteen years in her rear-view, and most of them filled with the man she thought she would share the rest of her life with. She clicks on the turn signal again when she gets to I-10 Baton Rouge and wipes her eyes with her hand. Nothing will ever be the same.
(Flashforward: With Steve)
He sighs as he wipes his brow. Another week without her, another Friday paycheck. A smear of grease streaks his cheek and he really wishes she was there to laugh and wipe it off. He could've have gone to college with her, but he needs the money first. The car in front of him belongs to Tony, one of his best friends. Tony is always crashing his car into things: trees, fences. It had been a mailbox this time. But Steve can understand the reason; his girlfriend Pepper's always distracting him with her smart quips and witty comments. He's the same when Nat sang out loud in the car, her blood red hair flying behind her in the wind of the convertible. Sure, he misses her but he needs another paycheck. If they ever want to make it in the real world together, he will need to make good money. The pay isn't the best- he and his dad work together and even then they don't make the best money- but it's a job; it's his ticket out of town to see her.
"I'm sorry," she whispers as she pulls him closer. He presses a kiss to her forehead.
"Why're you sorry?" he asks. Why should she be sorry? His dark full hair brushes her cheek as the wind changes directions. Shifting, just like their lives.
"Because I'm leaving," she admits. "We may never meet again." He kisses her cheek again and she smiles sadly. "We've been dreading this moment all summer long. The-"
"- Night before life goes on," he finishes for her. She's been saying the line over and over, dreading the moment she would really have to leave him.
She sniffles and a tear rolls down her cheek. He feels the warmth as it lands on his arm. Steve looks up to her only to see salty sadness rolling down her high cheekbones, past the frown on her face, sliding down to her chin, and dropping onto the hollow of her neck. He clasps her hand in his and pulls her up. She looks at him with confusion written on her face, her lip between her teeth. "Steve?" he hears her whispered question.
He ignores her and pulls her to the edge of the ladder, where his car waits below. "Come on, baby, let's get outta here." She nods and he lowers himself over the edge. He waits with his arms open wide as she laughs and falls from the third rung from the bottom and into his arms.
They take one last drive around town. "Man, it already looks different," Natasha presses her face to the window of his car as they drive through the small single stoplight town. Steve slows down when they get to the edge of town and pulls over to the shoulder.
She looks over to him in confusion but he just slams a hand onto the wheel, his eyes flashing with pain and anger. "Life ain't fair." She bites her lip and rests her hand on his bicep. It's tense under her hand.
"Steve...?" she questions. He looks up at her and she's taken aback; there are tear tracks running down his cheeks. She smiles sadly and wipes them off with a feather light touch.
"Life ain't fair, I know," she whispered.
"This growin' up stuff, man I don't know," he turns to her and presses his hand against the one of hers on his cheek; "I just don't wanna let you go." There are tears sliding down both of their cheeks now and Natasha turns in the car and opens her own door. Dust rises up as the redhead jumps out of the car, her black leather boots creating little marks on the dustland of her home. Tears drip down her cheeks and stain the brown dirt dark. She feels a thumb wipe off her cheek with a soft touch. She looks up and then their tears are mixing as he presses his lips against her.
"I love you," he whispers as he backs her up to the bed of the truck. She pulls away as he lifts her up before hefting himself up as well. And then they are kissing again and their tears mix together as they fall into sadness and passion, twin flames intertwining.
(Flashforward: With Natasha)
"Hi, I'm Natasha Romanova, your roommate," the scarlet haired woman holds out her hand as she introduces herself to the brunette woman standing across from her. With hazel eyes and slightly darker skin than Natasha herself, the girl looks warm and kind. The fear of meeting someone new melts from the redhead in an instant as, instead of shaking the offered hand, Maria embraces the stunned woman.
"I'm Anna-Marie Hill," the other girl says, her voice smooth like a river. "But if you call me that I will have to kill you." But the laughter in her eyes has overridden the seriousness in her voice and both girls are laughing. Suddenly, before either of them can look up, a tall strawberry blond is embracing Natasha in a tight hug.
"Tasha!" the blond shouts. The redhead's smile is as wide as it could be. The brunette looks on in confusion. "I can't believe you didn't tell me you were gonna be here."
"Pepper, this is Maria," Natasha introduces the two girls. "Maria, this is Pepper, my best friend from home." The strawberry blond and redhead hug again before there's a knock on the door.
"Come in!" Maria shouts and a tan guy walks into the room. He has short spiky dirty blond hair and his smile is brilliant white. Maria walks up to him and pulls him into a hug, resting her head on his chest. "Clint, this is my roommate, Tasha." Natasha waves and shakes his hand with a smile on her face. "And this is Pepper, Tasha's best friend." Natasha smiles; Tasha is the name Pepper had given when they first met in kindergarten. Steve has been the only one to call her Nat, and he's the only one who is ever allowed to call her that.
"Nice to meet you both," his smile only makes Natasha's smile widen. He seems to have the same effect as Steve; when he smiles, you can't help but smile along. Pepper smiles before waving and saying she needs to set up her own room down the hall. Clint left the two girls alone with a kiss on Maria's cheek and a friendly hug to Natasha.
"Don't even think about stealing my boyfriend," Maria looks serious as she threatens Natasha with a glare. The redhead shakes her head and sits on the perfectly made bed across from the brunette.
"I wouldn't dream of splitting up such a cute couple," Natasha is teasing and serious at the same time. She takes out a picture frame from the suitcase she has yet to unpack. It is a picture of her and Steve with fireworks over their heads, faces glowing in the bursting colors.
"When was that?" Maria asks, coming over to sit beside the brunette. Natasha sighs and leans back so that her back is leaning against the headboard.
"4th of July last year," the redhead spoke. She smiles as she remembers how their small group of friends—she, Steve, Steve's friend Tony, and Pepper—had gone swimming under the glow of the fireworks while the moon was high in the sky. Pepper had taken the picture while Steve and Natasha had danced under the moonlight with only her iPod and his headphones, one in each ear. To someone looking at the picture, it might look like they are dancing to nothing because the headphones in their ears are on the other side of them, out of view of the camera.
"You guys look so happy," Maria whispers as she traces the small smile gracing Natasha's face above the glass. The scarlet haired woman whimpers and covers her face with her hands, small sobs escaping. "Tash, you okay?" Maria has already seemed to come up with her own nickname for the redhead, but staying away from the beginning of her name.
"I might never see him again," Natasha sobs. Maria sits her up and pulls the other woman into her arms. "We had to go our separate ways because of college."
"You'll see him again, Tasha," Maria soothes the girl. "I promise."
(Flashforward: With Steve)
Steve sighs for what seems to be the sixth or seventh time in the space of an hour. The raven haired man sitting in front of him rolls his eyes and prods his best friend with a plastic menu. "Dude, you need to get outta this funk," Tony tells him sternly. "I feel the same way with Pepper, but I've still got a life." Steve rolls his eyes and flicks one of the crayons left on the table by the previous customers at his sibling.
"Tony, you're going to MIT next year. Me," he sighs "I'm never gonna get outta this town." He put his head on his place mat and groaned.
"Dude, all you have to do is apply for a scholarship to LSU," Tony tells him. Steve looks up and shakes his head. "They'll let you in. It's a state school."
"I tried," Steve admits. "But they told me they couldn't accept me because I wouldn't be able to pay for tuition."
"Well, you could take a trip there," Tony suggests. Steve shrugs. "Man, we could totally take a weekend to go visit."
"Yeah, but at the end I'm still going to have to let her go," Steve admits.
She watches a star fall from the sky as she curls farther into her love's arms. She wants to pause time, she wants to lay in his arms forever. But, just as they have been dreading, summer is coming to an end and so is their time together. "I don't want to leave you," she whispers, her voice quiet in the summer air. He sighs and holds her tighter.
"I know," he caresses her face with his hand, feeling tears stream down her face. "But you're not leaving… not really." She shakes her, choking back a sob.
"I can't s-stop cry-ing," she sobs, burying her face in his bare chest. He leans down and kisses her forehead.
"Don't cry because you are leaving, smile because you were there," he tells her wisely, making her look up with a sad smile on her face.
"I love you so much," she whispers before he leans down to reacquaint her lips with his.
"Honey, it's going to happen someday. Just like it happened to me," her mother sighed as she looked down at her saddened daughter. The same red hair, the same heart shaped face, but she has her father's eyes and his smile.
"Mama, I'm not gonna end up like you!" she cried, tears streaming down her cheeks. She wrapped the blanket farther around herself. Her phone in hand, she was about to call her boyfriend and tell her to come pick her up when her mother stopped her.
"Babe, I know it's hard," her mother whispered. "But sometimes we have to let things go. If they come back, they belong to us. But if they don't, they never were." The teenager felt her mother pull her into a hug and cried harder. Her mother knew what she was going through, but she had gotten her man back in the end.
"It's not fair," the teen whimpered.
"I know it ain't, sweetie," she whispered into her daughter's scarlet hair. "But I know that you and Hayden are stronger than steel. You can get through anything. Just like I did before." The teen looked up, sad cerulean eyes making her mom's heart clench.
"But what if I'm not?" Scarlett asked. Her mother shook her head.
"I'm not what?" came another voice. Both women looked up to see the younger girl's dad standing with a young man at the front door. Annie ran out of her mom's arms and into the embrace of her boyfriend.
"Hayden!" she cried into the golden haired boy's arms, her steel blue eyes sparkling with tears. The confused boy looked to the redhead's mother, the woman he had considered his own family ever since he met them.
"Mrs. Rogers, can I-?" he started to say, but Natasha just waved them off. Hayden helped Annie walk to his truck, their daughter's sobs receding as the car roared to life.
"Oh, Steve," the woman sighed when she heard Hayden's car pulling out of the driveway. The man walked over and pulled her into his arms. "What are we going to do?"
"Nat," he said nothing but her name softly but firmly. "You've gotta let fate take her in its hands." Natasha smiled up at her husband, but tears rolled down her face all the same.
"There's nothing we can do, is there?" Natasha asked. "There's nothing we can say. Cause I know how it feels when love goes away."
He nodded. "I know you don't want her and Hayden to feel the hurt you and I did, but it happens. I know, in my heart, they'll find each other again."
(Flashforward: With Natasha)
She presses her face to the glass and sighs. She can hear Maria shuffling behind her, digging through her closet for something to wear to the club that she's dragging Natasha to.
"Maria, I'm not going," Natasha argues. Maria sighs and comes over to where her roommate sits with her face pressed to the window. Snowflakes are falling and small beads of melted white are running down the glass.
"Natasha, you need to get out of this room," Maria tries. When her friend shakes her head, the brunette groans. "You never do anything. You get up, go to classes, come back and do your homework. Then you just stare out the window until I have to make you go to sleep."
"I'm sorry!" Natasha shouts. "I'm sorry I'm such a mess. I'm sorry that I can't go on without him. But I haven't seen him since the summer." Maria nods in understanding and opens her arms for Natasha to crawl into.
"I know, sweetie," she soothes the crying redhead. "I know."
(Flashforward: With Steve)
"Dad, I'm going to college," he tells his dad that winter. Snow is covering the roads and there are drifts almost as tall as the boots Steve remembers her wearing the previous fall. "I need to be with her again." His dad looks up at him and, seeing the determination in his eyes, sighs and stands up. He walks over to the cabinet that Steve was always told he was never allowed to look through. The older dark haired man takes a key from around his neck and unlocks the wooden cabinet full with secrets. Steve watches with wide eyes as his father pulls out another box. This one requires the same key and the box opens.
"Your mom gave this to me," he tells his son. His wife had been dead for quite a few years, but she had been saving up since Steve was little. "She told me to give this to you when I thought it was the right time." Steve's eyes go wide. Inside the box is a large clump of dollar bills and coins. "It should be enough to get you an admission fee."
"Dad… I…" he has no idea what to say. "Thank you." He hugs his dad tightly, the box in his other hand.
"Steve, there's something else," he says and then pulls out something else. A silver ring, strung on a necklace, blinks in the dim light of the shop. "It was your mothers." Steve smiles as his dad gently places both ring and chain on his outstretched palm.
"Wow," he breathes as he examines the ring. Two hearts connected by a small segment of diamonds on a sliver band. "It's beautiful." His father nods.
"And now you go chase your dreams, kid," his father orders with a wide smile on his face. "Go get the girl of your dreams, and a good education!" With a laugh, Steve's father pushes him toward his red truck. "Take the money and go." Steve jumps into the car, the engine roaring to life at his touch, and drives off into the sunset for his love.
"Nat," Steve nudges her shoulder. The brunette moans and rolls over in her sleep. He chuckles and leans down to gently place his lips over hers, kissing her until he feels her kissing him back. "Morning," he whispers.
Natasha shoots up and looks over at the horizon, tears already in her eyes again. "No, no, it can't be morning yet," she complains in a chocked way. Steve wraps his arms around her and lays his head in the crook of her shoulder.