The Ugliness You See (to your left, the fallout)
by bantha fodder

He kisses her, and she kisses him back. "What are we doing?" Kate whispers.

"Winning a gold medal?" he asks, breathlessly.

She laughs, and they push into a display position.

As they sit and wait in the kiss and cry, Doug waves at the cameras whilst she stares intently at the score board. "We'd better," she starts, but does not finish, because the scores come back and even in her retirement he knows that where they finish is important to her.

They get the silver, and it hurts.

He's getting old, and it hurts even more when she looks across at him, and through her grin, through her genuine excitement, she says, "What a way to go, huh?" and looks like she might cry.


Kate bites her lip and smiles for the cameras, and when they announce the scores she holds him tight.

Closes her eyes, and remembers the smell of the ice.

She needs it to be the last time.


It's a silver, sure, but an Olympic medal is still an Olympic medal and they party on into the night. The hockey team's mostly new, but filled with enough familiar faces that Doug and Kate are not allowed to leave. Rick and Lorie get pulled along for the ride, and they collect people as they go, because an American Olympic medal is something for Americans to celebrate, regardless of the metal it's made from.

As they fall into a taxi to get back to the villa, Doug wonders aloud once again why they're not staying in the Olympic village.

"For my father," replies Kate. "For Anton."

These are excuses, and Doug bites his tongue.

She follows him back to his room. "What I don't like," she says, a belligerent, loud drunk, "is why we lost."

"We didn't lose," he replies. "We got an Olympic medal!" He slams his door, and hopes he didn't wake anyone.

"We came second!" she yells. "That's not good enough!"

"There's plenty of time!" he yells back. "And those boring old farts just didn't like the new move!"

"It was the kissing," she says, suddenly calm. "They didn't mind the move. It was the kissing they didn't like."

"Fuck that," he yells, and suddenly he doesn't care who he wakes. "And now you're retiring, so you'll never get to prove to yourself that you're more than whatever they think of you! Of us!"

She turns and reaches for the door. "I don't even know why I bother talking to you."

As her hand wraps around the door handle, his hand wraps around her wrist. "Kate," he says, and she spins around. He kisses her, one hand around her wrist and the other in her hair, and she pulls him closer. She tugs him towards his bed and for thirty seconds it's cloth rustling but then it's skin against skin and he groans into her mouth. "Kate," he says again, and he thinks maybe it's worship.

She screams as she orgasms, and it's not exactly a surprise.

After, he's fucking well still inside her and she's straddling his thighs, her skin shining with sweat, when she says, "I'm still retiring."

He keeps quiet. He knows how to pick his battles.


Kate rolls out of Doug's bed, the sunlight streaming through the curtains.

"I should see if they're still here," she says, and feels guilty for forgetting about her father, and about Anton.

Doug mumbles in his sleep, and pulls the doona higher.

As she turns for the door, she is momentarily blinded, and on the desk two silver medals wink at her.

She hates herself.


In the silence, Doug stirs. "Kate?" he says, and opens his eyes as the door slams open.

"That man!" she yells, and slams the door behind her. "He thinks I'm still fifteen. Thinks I'm his puppet!"

Doug pushes himself up on his elbows. "Kate," he says. "Calm down."

"Calm down?" She pulls her shirt off. "I knew you'd come to your senses, he said. There's going to be room in that case for a second medal, and I know it'll be the gold, he said. Don't throw it away for some hockey player!" At that last, Doug feels a little sick, to know what Jack thinks, but he holds his tongue and does not speak his mind.

"Kate," he says, and holds a hand out to her. " He's just being your dad. He just knows what you can achieve."

"I'll show you what I can achieve," she cries, and straddles him. She lowers her mouth to his and pushes against his body, and he wraps his arms around her.

He wishes he'd known this method of shutting her up years ago, but whatever.


A knock at her door, and Doug swings it open.

"I'm sure we've had this conversation before," she says, and when he smiles her heart breaks a little.

"Put your party clothes on," he says.

"I'm going back tonight."

"Just because you're done doesn't mean you can't party with the rest of us." She notices the way he avoids saying retiring, and knows she courts disaster by staying with him.

The air is cold, but they make angels in the snow anyway.


He keeps living in the guest house. Kate stays most nights, but he lives with Anton and skates in the rink, and acts like everything is fine.

He's leading by example, but he knows he's not fooling anyone.

She plays hockey with him, and he teaches her to lose gracefully. She sits him beside the ice, a blanket wrapped around both of them, and teaches him to read. She laughs as she does it, and when she smiles he pushes her to the floor, the blanket beneath them, and makes love to her then and there, so close to the ice he could touch it.

He loves her more than the ice, and he sniffs her, just to prove it.

That makes her laugh even more.


Hale calls. "I hear you're shacked up with that hockey player," he says, and the disdain in his voice is clear.

"I'm not," she says, and the shame of her denial burns.

Hale is silent for a moment. "I left some things at your house. Could you forward them to me?"

"Yes," she says, "of course," and thinks it funny that their relationship has been reduced to this, all awkward silences and knowing pauses.

"Congratulations on the medal," he says. "You and Doug deserve it. You worked hard for it."

She hears what he isn't saying, though, and knows their failure was her fault.

All of the failures.


His brother calls. "You fucker," Walter says. "When are you coming home?"

"I'm too good for you now," Doug replies. "I'm an Olympic medalist. I'm a national hero! If I come home, I expect a parade through the middle of town."

There's a pause. "Thing is," Walter says, and Doug can hear the embarrassment in his voice, "People have been calling. They've marked out the parade route and everything, and I told them I didn't think you'd be up for that, but they forced me to ask. They made me, Dougie!" Doug laughs down the phone, and after a mortified silence, Walter laughs with him.

"I'll come home," Doug agrees.

"Better make it soon," Walter says. "I don't want them to raid the bar and steal your shit, Dougie."


When Kate insists he start looking for a new partner, he kisses her hard and slides a hand under her shirt.

She knows what he's doing, but takes the comfort where she can.

She's not sure she's brave enough to be alone.


He lies there in the darkness, a hand cupping her breast, breathing in the scent of her neck. "You should go," she says, and he starts.

"This is my bed," he protests.

"I mean you should move on," she says. "I'm stagnant. I'm retired. You need to find a new partner. This year swapping thing is going to be really inconvenient for you, and you need to find a new one soon."

"I'm good here," he says.

"Don't waste your talent," she whispers to the ceiling.

"My talent can wait. I said I love you, Kate. I'm not going to change my mind just because you haven't changed yours."

"But there's not much time," she says.

"I'm good to stay," he says, and pulls her closer. "Now stop talking and scream."

She screams as she orgasms, and he's never going to get tired of that.


Doug finds a box of earplugs in the bathroom cabinet, and laughs so hard he starts hiccuping.


He fills the gaps in her life where the ice used to be. He takes her to the movies and out to restaurants, and instead of ballet he takes her swing dancing. They still jog every morning, and when she asks when he's going to start training again, she watches as he pretends he does not hear.

She starts reading the paper again. She reads from front to back, all the stupid news articles and the things she never knew.

"Why didn't I know this?" she asks, again and again. Doug just shrugs his shoulders and throws her the television remote.

She throws it back.

Nothing on there ever interests her.


Kate sits at the table and looks at colleges. "I don't know," she starts.

"You never thought about what you'd do after you stopped skating?"

"I never." She stops speaking, and turns away. She refuses to meet his eyes. "If you're not going to skate, I'm going to tell my father to stop wasting all that power going out to the rink. We don't need it."

He thinks about never stepping onto the ice with her again, and it hurts.

"Okay," he says, and knows it is time to start fighting his battles.


As the air begins to cool again, she instinctively listens for the hum of the rink.

The silence is deafening, and it hurts.

It's for the best.


He spins on the ice, faster and faster until he drops. He breathes in deeply, the icy air filling his lungs. He loves the ice.

The door slides open.

"Doug," she says, "It's late. I wondered where you were."

"Sorry," he says, and he's not. Holds his hand out towards her. "Come sit on the ice."

"It's too cold," she says.

"It's perfect," he disagrees, and she treads confidently onto the ice. He pulls her down beside him, and gently presses her head down. "Smell it," he says, and she does.

"I don't get the attraction."

He shakes his head. "You wouldn't."

"What does that mean?"

"You gave up, Kate. You loved the ice and you gave it up out of some stupid fucking sense of pride. You could never understand."

And just like that, she's storming off, and he's yelling at her, about quitting before the end and not taking a chance, but before he gets more than half a dozen words strung together she's back on the ice, and in her skates she's magnificent.

She skates beside him, and her hands are warm in his.


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