Serious (as a Concussion)
No Broken Heart
His head hurts. It's throbbing from the back of his head all the way to the front like there is a buzzing noise that just keeps going in circles. When he opens his eyes, everything is a little blurry. Everything is a little white and blinding. At the same time, the quiet beeping of the machine next to him feels like a drum pounding against his ears.
He closes his eyes. No use to keep them open if they can't focus on anything. The smell of the anesthetic - shit. Scott knows where he is. He kind of wants to curl over and cry, but his limbs feel like lead. What makes it worse is the stabbing pain that registers once his traitorous brain gets wind that it's morning. Or maybe night. It is still too bright even beneath his eyelids. Scott doesn't have an idea.
The last thing he remembers was driving down the long road at night. It was after a game, a short drive, nothing too out of the ordinary. He doesn't remember seeing any other cars on the road. His head was pounding, everything was a little blurry - but he was fine. Nothing was wrong, nothing was out of ordinary then. He wasn't drunk. Drinking with the headache pounding in the base of his skull that has been there for the past month hadn't been on his list of things he wanted to do.
Oh god, this can't be good. Scott groans. If he has gotten another concussion, then there is going to be hell to pay. He promised. No more concussions, no more playing stupid and ducking his head when there is someone coming at him with a shoulder. But he has been playing clean, no cheap shots.
The blurriness though. It's been there for the last month with the headache. His schedule has been brutal - one game after another. There is no way headaches are not going to happen. Its just stress. That's what has been screwing with is sleeping schedule. He passed the concussion test the team doctors gave him on the collision last month. Everything was fine. But -
Thinking makes everything worse. At least everything is quiet. Maybe this is just a dream he is imagining after a big, hard loss. Hopefully it's just that.
The next time he wakes, nothing is better. If anything, it is worse. Someone has turned the lights down – common sense people. But his mother is beside him. Scott doesn't have to open his eyes a second time to know she is crying. He can hear her quiet sniffles, and that's not what he wants to hear. Wrapping his hand around her frail one, Scott squeezes. He can't say that everything is going to be okay, but this is the most he can offer right now. If mom is here, then are his sisters coming down as well? His heart sinks. This wasn't supposed to happen.
"How bad is it," Scott croaks. God, his head is swimming again. His mouth feels like he has been stuffing cotton balls into it for the past day and a half. At least he doesn't want to throw up just yet, unlike last time. Maybe this time it isn't as bad.
His mother just heaves another sniffle and Scott's heart sinks. Never mind, he doesn't want to hear it. If they say that it is going to put his game in jeopardy, then it's over.
"You should probably drink something," a new voice softly breaks into Scott's slowly trudging mind.
It takes him a while, but he knows that voice. It is one that he hadn't thought he would hear again, especially after he made it into the professional league. Trying to remember who it belongs to makes him want to throw up a little, so he gags. Thankfully nothing comes up.
The rattle of ice chips pounds against his ears. Regardless, Scott opens his mouth up dutifully when his mother presses it against his lips. The startling coldness of the ice against his tongue makes everything a little sharper, but he doesn't dare open his eyes. No need to look when he knows it is only going to cause him more pain right?
There is some shuffling and some beeping beside him. The girl – is she a nurse now? – is probably checking his vitals. The experience from three previous concussions is enough for him to recognize the noise.
"Kels?" Scott manages around the ice chip. The word tastes fuzzy in his mouth.
"Scott," his mother whispers brokenly. "Scott."
Maybe he is imagining all of this. That would be nice. Squeezing his eyes shut, Scott tries to concentrate on the melting ice on his mouth. It doesn't make the cobwebs go away. It doesn't make the thought of Kelsey, his childhood neighbor, go away either. He has always wondered what happened to her after college.
"We'll be in to check on him again later," the nurse murmurs from somewhere beside him. "Just ring for us if you need anything."
He knows that voice, for sure. Just because his head is full of what feels like rocks pressing down doesn't mean he can't tell who it is. Scott's hand twitches and his mother squeezes his hand tighter. He wants, oh god, he wants to tell her it's okay, he's fine. But he also doesn't want to lie to her.
"Mom," Scott manages out. "Was that Kels?"
"Oh honey." His mother brushes the hair off of his forehead. Her touch is feather light despite the tight grip she has on his hand.
Scott squeezes back. He opens his eyes, squinting against the lights. His mother is tearful, her eyes are pink and blurry. That's not something he wants to see, especially when he knows he is the one making her worried.
"That was Kels, wasn't it," Scott mumbles.
"Just sleep honey," his mother pleads. "I'll tell you in the morning."
It isn't any reassurance, but it's enough to placate him for now. Scott isn't absolutely sure that it's Kelsey, but he has got a pretty damn good guess. She didn't tell him she was back in Pittsburgh though. The last time he has seen her was back in Boston College right after he got drafted.
Who knew she'd be back in Pittsburgh? Scott wishes she had told him. He closes his eyes and lets his mother soothe him back to sleep.
They had met while Scott was kicking the soccer ball around the street with a few friends. Well, if he wants to be accurate, they had met because he launched the ball over their goal and into her driveway.
"You go get it, you kicked it over there," Dan tells him.
"You're the goalie, it's your job," Scott protests. He doesn't want to go over there; that's his new neighbor's yard. They might think that he is a brat. Otherwise, if they have a boy his age, they might not let him play with them. That would suck because they need another guy to even out the team.
Surprisingly, the ball is kicked back to them.
"Oh. Thank you!" Scott looks over with a grin. It falters when he catches sight of a scrawny girl dressed in boy shorts and a t-shirt too big for her.
"Can I play with you?" The girl walks over, her hands by her side.
Scott exchanges looks with his friends. The girl is tiny and thin. There is no way she can play with them. She might be like his sisters, all whiny when they lose. Or worse, they will have to watch her wherever she is to make sure they don't run over her. But his mom also says he should be nice and share. If he doesn't let her play, would that be not sharing?
"I can keep up with you guys, I'm not that slow," the girl says. She picks up the ball laying by their feet. "I can play too."
The boys exchange another glance. None of them want to make the decision. Scott shrugs. If she gets hurt, then he can just tell mom that she asked for it.
"We're not going to go easy on you," he warns. Just in case she decides to go tattle like his baby sisters.
"You can't go easy, that's not fair," the girl says. "I'm Kelsey."
She proceeds to drop the ball and keep it away from them, so Scott thinks it is okay. This Kelsey girl definitely knows how to play, and that is that.
Their parents call them inseparable. Scott can see it. They play soccer together, they have been since she moved here six years ago. Kelsey is his neighbor - she is annoying, but anything is better than staying at home playing house with his three sisters. Plus, she will still practice with him when the guys want to go home and play video games. Scott doesn't get it. How can you put video games in front of sports?
"I think I'm going to go play hockey," Scott says one night.
They are hiding up in her tree while their families mill below around the pool. Their parents are talking about stuff that neither of them understand. Kelsey said they should climb her tree so they don't have to listen. It is a good idea, especially since his sisters won't want to follow. They are all being prissy about getting their feet dirty and muddy.
He has been thinking about this for a while. Soccer is fun, but he can't get anywhere with soccer. Not in the United States anyways. He will have to move to Europe or something. And he doesn't want to be that far away from his family. Or Kelsey, since she is his friend.
Kelsey looks up then, all wide eyes as she sits beside him on the tree branch. "I thought you said you wanted to do soccer."
"But you have the NHL here," Scott explains patiently. Kelsey will understand. She always does. "Soccer's fun, but it's not hockey."
"Whatever." Kelsey shrugs. "You're still going to play this fall right? For school?"
Scott bumps his shoulder with hers. "Why wouldn't I?"
"I don't know. You got it into your head that you wanted to play hockey."
"What's wrong with hockey?"
Kelsey shrugs again, her ponytail leaving a wet trail down the back of her white t-shirt. Her swimsuit is doing pretty much the same thing. It kind of defeats the purpose of wearing a shirt over it, but okay. "There's nothing wrong with hockey. I just wanted to know if you were going to play soccer with me this year."
"What? Did you think I was just going to stop?" Scott asks. He will still play, he just won't be spending that much time on it.
"Maybe." Kelsey swings her legs. "Do you want to go kick around?"
"You should help me train," Scott suggests, nudging her a little harder. The entire branch shakes, but Kelsey doesn't move.
"Only if you help me get onto the guys soccer team when we get to high school."
Scott rolls his eyes and begins to climb down from the tree. "You're insane."
"It was an honest question!" Kelsey jumps down after him.
"You're going to break your ankles," Scott warns.
"No I'm not."
"Why wouldn't they let you play on the guys team?"
"I'm a girl."
They are close enough to the pool that Scott doesn't think. He just shoves her into the pool. Kelsey can take it. Of course, he doesn't think of Kelsey catching his arm and tugging him down with her.
When they come up spluttering, Scott sends her a wave of chlorinated water that leaves her coughing. "Don't be stupid. You're too good for them not to let you get on the team."
The thing is, Kelsey is that good. She can keep up with the guys and blow some of the them out of the water. Some of the guys are stupid and say she can't compete, but Scott knows better. Her footwork is nearly as good as his, but that is not to say she is far behind him. He just can't let her get in front of him or else she will never shut up.
"You're a jerk," Kelsey says. She dives under the water and drags him down with her.
It doesn't matter because Scott knows he is right. Kelsey is just being stupid.
A/N: This is going to be a non-linear narrative when Scott addresses the past. Each chapter or "recollection" can be read as a stand alone.
Title was taken from Sarah Bareilles' Uncharted.