I started this a couple of months ago and finally finished it. I posted a Valentine's Day fic in February but this is technically my first Suite Life story. I hope you enjoy!
"Come back in ten years."
Zack had heard phrases like this from Maddie countless times, especially his first year living at the Tipton. Over time, his crush became a joke amongst themselves and the people who knew them. He, too, thought lightly of it now… but he wasn't sure he'd grown out of those feelings entirely.
There had been other girls since that first bought of young love. Some who might have erased Maddie's memory completely had they been given the chance. But so far, his thoughts always wandered back to Maddie.
They kept in touch since his graduation. Not lengthy or daily conversations, a simple text here and there and the odd phone call on a birthday or holiday. It was the same with everyone from his past in Boston. Cody was off at school, their mother touring the country when she didn't have gigs in the city. He'd been traveling himself. After seeing the world on the S.S. Tipton, he was glad to go beyond the port cities. Still, it felt good to come home once in a while.
Walking up to the Tipton, an odd sense of sentimentality came over him. He hadn't been here since the day he left for Seven Seas High. Funny how much could change in a decade. Not that he was unhappy with the way things worked out. He knew he was luckier than most, especially where he'd spent his early childhood living on the road and being shuffled between grandparents. He'd taken life as a hotel kid for granted, he knew, but he didn't regret any of the messes he and Cody made.
"Norman, my man!" he said upon recognizing the doorman.
Norman did a double-take, the greeting familiar but not recognizing who'd said it right away.
Several hellos went this way, all ending with hugs and comments like, "I remember when you were this tall," and, "Come to ride some luggage carts?"
Though he never would have guessed it a few years back, no one was more excited to see Zack than Mr. Moseby.
"Mr. Moseby!" he saluted, taking his arm down to hug him.
"What a nice surprise."
"Wow, those are four words I never thought I'd hear you say to me."
Mr. Moseby laughed. "Age has mellowed you and your brother… well, for the most part, I'll assume. Is Cody here?"
"Nah, he and Bailey are getting ready for a trip to Pompeii."
"So, are you looking for Maddie?"
Mr. Moseby gestured to the rose Zack had forgotten he was carrying.
"Oh, this? It's... for you."
Mr. Moseby held his hand up. "Maddie will appreciate it more."
"She still works here, then?" Zack said with excitement, clearing his throat when he heard himself.
"Yes, she does. She's working as a waitress now."
"Reservation for one please!"
Mr. Moseby caught his arms as Zack turn in the direction of the restaurant.
"Wait, wait, wait— her shift doesn't start until six."
"Where is she now? Is she still living at home?"
"Yes, but I believe she's in class right now."
Silently amused by Zack's eagerness even after all these years, Mr. Moseby suggested, "Why don't you come back around five-thirty? She usually gets here early."
"Better yet, I'll wait here."
Stepping away from the front desk, Zack leaped over the back of the couch and put his feet up.
Mr. Moseby shook his head, that old feeling of dread starting to return. "It's like you never left."