Story:The Reunion - Part 2

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The Reunion
Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3



The Reunion - Part 2
Written by TriangleDelta

Catherine managed to keep her beak clamped shut until she got down to the women's locker room. She slammed the door shut behind her, almost hitting Elisa. The ocelot had been walking quickly to keep up with her all the way down to the locker rooms, but Catherine had all but ignored her. She was too consumed by her own rage, which she finally let out as the ocelot closed the door behind them.

"Fuck! Is he fucking stupid!?"

"You're just angry."

"No, I fucking destroyed the Howlers last time! How can he just ignore that and let… let bloody Dat start?"

"Well, I mean you haven't exactly been…"

Elisa trailed off, and Catherine rounded on her, raising an eyebrow. "What?"

The ocelot hesitated for a long moment, and Catherine kept glaring. At last, Elisa let out an exasperated growl, then crossed her arms. "Fine. You've been playing like shit lately."

"Well at least I can fucking run the length of the court without getting fucking winded like Dat! I'm the best point guard our team's got, and everybody knows it! We don't stand a chance without me."

"Well thanks for the vote of confidence."

Catherine's rage stumbled for a moment, though it didn't dissipate. She glanced over at Elisa. "What?"

"Look, I get that you're stressed out about Hiro, but you haven't exactly been playing great lately. Just let Dat take the lead on this one."

"This is different, though! I need to… I just need this!"

Elisa's expression changed from exasperation to something else. Catherine didn't like the hint of concern in that look. She kept her beak clamped shut and her eyes hard as Elisa spoke. "What's going on with you?"

"Nothing." Catherine had to hold back a flinch at how sharp her own voice had been. Elisa had noticed, too. The ocelot's eyebrow was rising slowly. Catherine kept speaking before Elisa could ask anything else. "I know I can beat the Howlers again. I'm just angry that Bud isn't giving me the chance."

Catherine could actually see the hesitation on Elisa's face before the ocelot spoke. Her voice was awkward and stilted. "Do you need to… talk or something? You just seem—"

"I didn't ask for your help, and I don't need it."

"I just don't get why you're suddenly acting like such an asshole!"

"I don't know, maybe you just wouldn't 'get' the possibility of being a starter."

It was Elisa's turn to blink. Catherine held her gaze, the palm cockatoo's eyes cool.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"I thought it was pretty clear. What are the odds of you ever starting, barring some freak accident taking out half the team?"

"Catherine—"

"No, like you said, you don't get it. Stop pretending to."

Elisa kept glaring at Catherine, and the palm cockatoo had to admit; she was intimidated. Elisa was an ocelot; a hunting cat. More than that, she was rough around the edges in a slightly dangerous way that Catherine was somewhat familiar with. She had the look of a fighter about her, and Catherine meant that literally.

At length, though, Elisa just shook her head. "Whatever. You want to be a miserable asshole, have fun with it."

The ocelot walked over to her locker. Catherine took that as a cue to head over to her own locker, and the two of them got changed in silence. Catherine heard Roxanne Proctor, the only other woman on the Howlers, come in, but neither she nor Elisa looked up to acknowledge her. The ocelot finished getting changed first and left, again not saying a word.

Catherine took her time. She was still feeling some of the aggression from her argument with Elisa, and the anger at Bud's announcement about Dat starting against the Howlers. More than that, though, she was distracted with other thoughts.

Her parents seemed to have finally taken the hint that she wasn't going to answer or respond to any of her calls. The slow decrease in calls had continued throughout November and early December. Catherine found herself keeping a mental count of them each week, keeping track of the decline. It was oddly fascinating.

That had been, at least, until a few nights earlier. She'd gotten home to her apartment after practice one evening to find a letter waiting for her. She'd had an uneasy feeling the moment she'd seen it. Very few people had her actual address. Admittedly, it wouldn't be difficult for somebody to find her address in Sturgis; the town itself wasn't large, and anybody that wanted to find any of the Bikers' addresses wouldn't have had much trouble. Still, she and the others had mostly managed to avoid people invading their privacy up until that point.

Her unease had changed to numb shock when she actually picked up the letter and found that it was from her parents. She had just stared at it for a long time, not sure how to react. The envelope bore her father's company's official letterhead, and she immediately recognized her father's neat handwriting.

She'd held onto the envelope for a long time, her fingers feeling the thickness. She could tell there were at least a few pages in there. It wouldn't have been difficult for her father, with all of his connections, to get her address. Still, it would have taken a bit of effort. And then actually writing and sending a letter…

Her hands had turned the envelope around before she knew what she was doing, and one of her thumbs had started tearing up the envelope's tab before she could stop herself. She had stopped, though. She'd forced herself to take a few breaths. Then she'd put it down on the counter.

She hadn't been able to bring herself to throw the thing away. It was waiting there on her counter, every night when she got home from practice or from a game. Every night it tempted her. To have a piece of her parents right there, that close. Something she could reach out and feel.

She resisted, though. She couldn't give in. She couldn't let herself waver. Not until he got himself some help. This hurt, yes. She kept forcing herself to remember the pain of having him not show up, time after time. That had always hurt more. She could take this.

Catherine gave her head a shake, making some of her crest feathers flutter with the motion. She had to stop thinking about that. She had to focus on what was here and now. Like Dat. Like a game against the Howlers in a few days.

She clenched her beak, and focused on her anger. Slowly, the cold, shuddery feeling in her guts whenever she thought of that letter fell away. It was replaced by the heat of her anger.

Catherine turned and stalked out of the locker room. As she made her way towards the court, her eyes narrowed, and her grey-dyed crest rose.

When she reached the court, there were still another ten or so minutes until their practice was to start. A few other players were already on the court. Ryan Malone was there, of course; the sharp, critical kangaroo was always the first one on the court. Elisa stood off to the side; she was speaking with Dylan Redfield. As Catherine stepped onto the court, Elisa and Dylan shot her a look. Catherine ignored them pointedly, and instead turned her focus on the only other player on the court: Dat Mongoste.

The mongoose was standing at the free throw line, practicing his shots. Catherine watched him sink a few buckets with almost perfect precision. Each time, he jogged over to retrieve his ball before returning to the line. Catherine's sharp eyes picked out the slight strain showing on his face sometimes. True, Dat's technique was flawless. After 19 years in the league, he'd had plenty of time to practice. Still, that many years of the life of a professional athlete were taking their toll on Dat.

Catherine kept her eyes narrowed as she walked over towards him. Dat didn't notice her until he was coming back from one of his free throws. As he saw her approaching, though, he stopped. She saw the grin forming across his muzzle, and had to consciously stop herself from glaring even harder.

"Miss DeMille." He dribbled the ball casually back and forth from hand to hand, eying her all the while. "Was there something you needed to talk about?"

"No, Dat. I was just wondering if you wanted to warm up a bit with me."

"What were you thinking?"

"Just a little one-on-one."

The mongoose's grin widened. "Sure, why not?"

Dat passed Catherine the ball, and the two of them squared off. Catherine kept herself low, her eyes locked on Dat as she dribbled the ball back and forth. She controlled her breathing, and watched every one of the mongoose's movements.

She moved forward, cutting to the side. Dat followed, and Catherine doubled back. She took a half step to get herself a bit clear of him, then rose to her toes and shot over Dat's shoulder.

Her shot was clean, and she managed her basket with ease. Catherine grinned, and shot Dat a smug look. The mongoose rolled his eyes, and went to recover the ball. The two of them squared off again, this time with Dat on the attack. Again, there were the long few breaths while they just waited and watched each other, Dat's hands dribbling the ball in a steady tattoo along the boards.

He cut right, and Catherine followed. He made to stop dead, but Catherine saw the small look of discomfort that crossed his face and the hint of a stagger. In the instant it took him to right himself, Catherine was back in front of him. He gave a small feint right, then tried to push forward against Catherine. The two players were almost the same size, though; after his initial advance, Catherine managed to hold her position, with him gaining almost no ground. He tried to slip by her once or twice more, but Catherine held him in place. At last, he just made a rush to the side, and Catherine paced him the entire way. He threw, and Catherine had no trouble obstructing the shot. It went wide of the basket.

Catherine shot Dat another smug grin, and went to grab the ball. When she turned to face him, though, the mongoose hadn't moved from his position. His arms were crossed over his chest, and he was glaring at her. There was a long, uncomfortable moment of silence as Catherine walked back over.

"What's wrong, Dat? Not feeling it today?"

Dat kept eying her. He was breathing heavily after the two exchanges, but other than that he was motionless. At long last, he opened his mouth. "No looking. How many of our teammates are watching us right now?"

Catherine blinked. "What?"

"Tell me how many of our teammates are watching us right now."

Catherine kept staring at him, entirely off-balance. She knew that Ryan, Dylan, and Elisa had been there when they'd started. "Five?" she guessed.

"Seven," Dat corrected.

"And?"

"And you're a point guard. Court awareness should be your first concern. For the past month you've been playing like you've got tunnel vision."

Catherine held her cool glare. Then, at length, she forced out a dismissive snort. "You're grasping at straws. You and I both know that you can't keep up with me anymore."

She saw the flicker of anger that crossed his face, and she took some satisfaction at having hit a nerve. His voice was a bit sharper when he responded. "If I can't keep up, why do you think I'm starting lately and you aren't?" Catherine opened her mouth to answer, but Dat cut her off. "Because you're greedy, you keep forgetting what your job is on this team, and you don't have the skill to back up your ego."

Catherine felt her crest rise to its full height, and she drew herself up to snap back at him. She was interrupted before she could speak, though.

"He's right." Catherine blinked, and glanced over. Dylan was standing on the sidelines, watching the two of them. Ryan stood beside him, a sour look on the kangaroo's face. A few of their other teammates were gathered around as well, but most of them were conspicuously paying no attention to the mongoose and the cockatoo. Dylan kept speaking. "You haven't been playing your position lately. We can't risk having you on our starting line."

"Bullshit." Catherine let her gaze wander from Ryan, to Dat, and over to Dylan. "I can beat Hiro. You all know I can beat him."

Dylan snorted. "Are you serious? He's got a foot on you. Besides, what about the other fourteen Howlers?" Dylan let that sentence hang in the air. Catherine wanted to punch the look off of his face, but she held her temper in check. "Bud talked to Ryan and I about it. This game isn't some feud between you and Matsuura. If you can't tell that, we don't want you starting. We all agreed on that."

Catherine's eyes flicked from Dylan over to Ryan. The kangaroo appeared content to let Dylan take the lead on this one, but his gaze was every bit as hard as the deer's; maybe even a bit colder.

Catherine took a few deep breaths to gather herself. All three of them were staring her down, and she could feel her crest starting to lower. She didn't like the feeling. She was trying to think of something to say, any kind of sharp rebuttal. She couldn't come up with one, though. They'd made up their minds. There was nothing she could do to change them at this point.

"Whatever," she finally said. "If you want to lose this game, then fine. Have fun proving your point."

The cockatoo turned and started walking towards the other end of the court. She wished she could just head back to the locker room and punch something, but there was still an entire practice to go. She wasn't looking forward to it.

As she walked, she found her thoughts wandering back to that letter, sitting on her counter at home. She let a frustrated snort. Alright. She was finally going to tear it up. That night.


The crowd was every bit as electric during the Bikers' second game against the Howlers that season. Catherine had intended to be cool and angry for the entire game, but the energy in the stadium quickly overcame her sour mood.

The two teams clashed just as hard as they had earlier that season. Catherine was afraid she was going to crack her beak from clenching it so hard during the first possession. Watching Hiro win that first tip-off and feeling the excitement explode through the stadium as the two teams met was torture. She wanted to be out there.

Catherine made the most of the time she spent out on the court. In all fairness, serving as the bench point guard behind Dat still allowed her a decent amount of playing time. Dat's age kept him from playing for particularly long periods of time. Still, Catherine found herself almost vibrating with nerves whenever she was on the bench.

Of course, being on the bench gave her a chance to properly watch Hiro play in person for the first time. It was… an experience. The shrike seemed to play mostly like any other above-average centre most of the time. He was fast, and good at positioning himself. Although he lacked the muscle of most other players of his height, he could hold his own. For all that, though, Catherine wasn't entirely sure what the big deal about him was.

That was, at least, until he first took off and used his one flap. It was during one of the Bikers' offensive plays. Cassidy Whitelatch, the Bikers' centre, had just caught a pass from Dat, and was throwing a jump shot. Between his positioning and his height, he should have had a perfect, easy shot. Instead, Hiro seemed to rise up out of nowhere. His arms swept down in a mighty flap, and the extra lift raised his chest well above the rest of the players on the court. He smacked the ball out of the way, and the Montana crowd exploded with applause. A large chunk of the audience even let out a sharp 'whoop' as one.

From that moment, Hiro didn't stop. He was on fire that night, his sudden bursts of elevation from his flaps letting him pull off plays that Catherine had never seen before. He managed seemingly impossible fadeaways, and on a few occasions he used the flaps to open up passing lanes above other players' heads. His momentum would abruptly die whenever he wound up toe-to-toe with any of the Bikers' larger players, but even then he could normally pull something or other off.

It seemed like that loud 'whoop' whenever Hiro pulled off a particularly impressive one flap manoeuvre was a bit of a Montana ritual. Time and time again, Catherine heard the audience whooping deafeningly, normally accompanied by a roar of applause.

Catherine was impressed, of course, but it did very little to improve her frustration. By the end of the game, whenever she was sitting on the bench she was glaring at the shrike, biting back curses. The Bikers were well behind for the entire game. Catherine could only shake her head in disgust when the final buzzer sounded. They'd lost. Of course they'd lost. She told herself that they would've been able to win if she'd started, but the lie sounded thin even in her own mind.

Waiting around for the announcement of the player of the game only put her in a worse mood. She knew it would be Hiro before they said it. Who else could it have been? Even if he hadn't played so well that night, they would've found a way to make it him so that she could feel even worse about the night.

Catherine got up off the bench and stalked back towards the locker rooms as soon she could. She didn't bother to look to her teammates. She was sure they all knew how she felt. She normally might have given Ryan, Dylan, and Dat a piece of her mind, but she was too tired and frustrated for it.

She sat down on the bench in the Howlers' stadium's women's locker room, and just fumed for a bit. She didn't look up when Elisa and Roxanne walked in. Catherine and Elisa had barely spoken since their argument the week before, and Catherine saw no reason to break that habit now. The palm cockatoo just sat on the bench, breathing heavily in and out. The frustration of the past weeks was boiling deep in her guts, and it wanted out. She wanted to hit something. She wanted to go to the training room at Sofawolf Stadium in Sturgis and go at a punching bag for a few hours. Until her arms were too tired to swing anymore. She couldn't, though; they were stuck in Montana, and they had a long bus trip back to South Dakota.

She wanted to be in control, just for a bit. She might not feel like she had any control over her own life at the moment, but that would be fine so long as she could feel like she had complete control over somebody or something else. She wanted to hurt something.

Catherine took a few more deep breaths, then stood up. She stalked over to the door and headed out. She had a vague idea of the layout of Treasure State Arena. She at least knew how to get to the home team's locker rooms. She walked along, not sparing a look at anybody she passed. Her mind was filled up with thoughts of Dat's smug looks, Dylan's judgement, that damned envelope that she still hadn't worked up the nerve to tear apart, and Hiro lifting high above the other players out on the court.

As such, she didn't notice the stadium attendant trying to get her attention until she was already in the hallway that led to the Howlers' locker rooms. It wasn't until the arctic fox waved a hand in front of her face that she came to a surprised stop. She glanced over at him.

"What?"

The fox was panting a bit from trying to keep up with her. She just stood there, glaring at him and waiting until he finally responded. "Sorry, Miss DeMille, but you have a visitor!"

Catherine blinked. "A visitor?"

"Yes! Your father's here to see you!"

It took Catherine a few seconds to process what the fox had just said. She kept staring at him, her beak hanging open a bit. At length, she cleared her throat and managed to sputter out, "Excuse me?"

"Your father." The excitement on the fox's face was faltering as he started to realize that Catherine wasn't pleased by the news. "He's here to see you?"

"Where is he?"

"He asked if he could get a quick tour of the stadium while he was waiting, so he should be walking around with one of the other, uh… Miss DeMille?"

Catherine wasn't looking at him anymore. Her eyes had gone out of focus as she thought. The only people that knew about Catherine and her parents' estrangement were a few of the security guards at Sofawolf Stadium in Sturgis and Charm City Center in Baltimore. She'd never thought to tell every single security detail at ever stadium that she didn't want to see her parents. They wouldn't have known any better… of course if the multi-millionaire parent of a player showed up, they would bend over backwards to accommodate him…

"Miss DeMille?"

Catherine gave her head a shake, and glared at the fox. "Can you get in contact with whoever's showing my father around?"

"Yes?"

"I'm going back to the locker room, I'm getting changed, and I'm leaving. I don't want to see my father during that time. Is that understood?"

"Well yes, but what should we tell him?"

"I don't care. Just make sure I don't see him."

"If you say so, Miss DeMille."

She nodded, keeping her coldest glare fixed on him. Catherine turned sharply, and started walking back the way she had come. She was almost to the end of the hallway when she saw a nervous-looking cat round the corner ahead of her, walking backwards and talking. Somehow, in that awful way of terrible moments, Catherine knew what was coming next. The cat kept backing up, speaking animatedly and nervously. He was followed around the corner by an enormous mountain of a palm cockatoo dressed in an immaculately tailored suit.

Catherine froze in position. The big cockatoo was still looking down at the cat, that practiced, welcoming smile on his face. The two of them were no more than five metres away from Catherine. She glanced around quickly, hoping for some sort of doorway she could dive into. No such dramatic exit offered itself to her, though, and so she took a very, very deep breath. Catherine narrowed her eyes, and straightened herself up to her full, impressive height. Her crest of feathers rose. She felt like she was going to throw up, like she was going to collapse. Nobody else had to know that, though.

Catherine's father and the cat finished coming around the corner, and the enormous palm cockatoo's eyes flicked up. They picked out Catherine immediately, and she saw them light up. A smile crossed his face. Catherine wanted to smile back. She didn't. She wouldn't let herself.

"Catherine!" Mr DeMille's booming voice echoed a bit in the corridor. He stepped by the surprised-looking cat, and crossed the rest of the distance to his daughter. "How wonderful to see you! You were magnificent on the court tonight!"

He moved to hug her, but Catherine took a careful step back. The smile on his face faltered, and Catherine saw the cat behind him blink in surprise. That was her father's way: he liked to pretend that everything was normal at all times, especially when things were falling apart. She wasn't going to let him play this situation, though. She kept her face straight, her eyes narrowed. "What are you doing here, dad?"

"I came to watch you play." The older cockatoo's voice slowly grew more confident and relaxed as he kept speaking. "That was what you wanted, wasn't it? I explained it in my letter."

"I didn't read it." She managed to keep her voice flat. His face flickered. She ignored it. "Dad, why are you here? Really?"

"I just wanted to see you." There was something in his voice that Catherine wasn't used to. A tremble. "Is that so much to ask?"

"Sir?" Both DeMilles were surprised when the arctic fox stepped forward. Catherine hadn't realized that the attendant was still there. The fox looked extremely nervous, but he straightened his back as he spoke. "I think it would be best for you to leave."

"I'm here to visit my daughter." Mr DeMille's voice took on a bit more of an edge as he glared at the fox. Catherine's father was used to getting his way.

"Miss DeMille doesn't want to see you, sir. You should go."

"Do you have any idea who I am?"

The fox opened his mouth to respond, but Catherine cut him off. "It's alright. I can handle this." The fox turned a bit to shoot her a look that was equal parts concerned and relieved. She ignored him and instead looked at her father. "He's right, though. I don't want to see you."

"This is ridiculous, Catherine. How long do you intend to keep this up?"

"That's up to you. You know how to end this." She couldn't say it aloud, of course. Not here, with people around and listening. She could tell from the look on his face that he knew exactly what she meant, though.

He stammered for words for a few moments, before spitting out, "Oh don't be dramatic. It was never a problem before."

"Yes it was!" She stopped and took a deep breath. She'd almost yelled that. "It was always a problem. I just never said anything."

"All you have to do is drop this, and things can go back to how they were!"

"I don't want things to go back to how they were! You need help, dad!"

There was a very long moment of silence as he glared at her. He'd never looked at her like that before. Never with that look of measured anger. It was the look, she realized, that he always wore after she'd seen him getting off of business calls or stepping out of meetings. It was only there for a moment, though. The next, he seemed to deflate. His voice was very quiet. "I miss you."

Catherine forced herself to take a long breath. It shuddered through her chest. She turned away from him, the opposite direction that she'd been heading, and started walking. "I can't do this right now."

"Catherine!"

She kept her head down, and walked. Out of the corner of her vision, she saw the arctic fox jog to catch up to her. He stepped out ahead of her, and started speaking. "Excuse me, out of the way…"

It wasn't until he spoke that Catherine realized that there were other people in the hallway, watching. She cast a quick look up, and her breath caught in her throat. It was mostly just stadium staff standing there, staring. There were a few Howlers standing outside of their locker room, though. And, of course, towering above the rest of them, was Hiro.

Catherine's pace halted for a breath as she saw him. Their eyes met, and she was suddenly very aware of how she looked. She was still wearing her sweat-streaked jersey, her feathers matted. The feathers that weren't tangled up from the game were puffed up from her confrontation with her father. Her crest was plastered back against her head; she didn't have the anger left to show it. She didn't want to know how her eyes looked.

The look lasted barely a second. It felt like an eternity to Catherine, though, finally confronting him, having him right in front of her. She could feel all the frustration of the past months, her aching stress, and the rising embarrassment and shame at having her argument with her father seen. She felt it all, and she wanted to let it out, wanted to just yell at him, make a complete ass of herself and blame every bad thing on him.

She glanced away just as quickly, and kept walking. As the arctic fox spoke, the stadium employees jumped back into motion, as though nothing had happened. Catherine walked by Hiro without a word. The arctic fox reached over and gently placed a hand on her elbow. She didn't pull away, and she let him lead her away. Behind her, she heard her father raising his voice again, but she pushed the sound away.

She followed the arctic fox wordlessly, taking a roundabout route through the hallways back to the visiting team's locker rooms. He didn't say a word the entire time, and she was grateful. He pushed the door to the locker room open for her, and she stepped in. He let the door close, and she was finally alone.

Catherine didn't move at first. Elisa and Roxanne had long since left, and so she was able to just stand there without any fear of anybody bothering her.

She didn't move for quite a while; she just stood and tried to steady her breathing. Everything that had happened was too much for her to process at the moment, and so she didn't bother with trying to. The silence in the locker room was soothing.

There was a sharp, electronic beep. Catherine looked up in surprise, and glanced in the direction of the sound. It was coming from her locker. It took her a second to realize it was her phone, beeping to let her know that she had an incoming call. She walked over slowly, exhausted. She fished the phone out of her locker, and glanced at the screen. She was surprised to see that it was Corey Allen calling. She didn't think he'd been one of the players that had seen her spat with her father.

She tapped the screen, and held the phone up to her ear. "Hello."

"Catherine?" Corey's voice was noticeably anxious through the slight buzz of the phone line. "Hey, I, uh… I heard about what happened."

"Isn't it great how quickly word travels?"

"Sorry. Um, I was just wondering, uh, are you alright? Do you need to talk or anything?"

She reached up to rub at her temple. "No, Corey. Thank you for calling."

"Wait!" Perhaps it was the urgency in his voice that made her hesitate. "Look, just… I don't know what's going on, but it sounds like you're, uh, being really brave and strong right now. I think what you're doing is what's best for your dad. If you ever need to talk or anything, you can call."

Catherine blinked in surprise. It wasn't like Corey to be so direct and forward. Not to mention… he hadn't been there. He might've heard from team staff or some of his teammates, but he was assuming a lot.

She shook her head. Too much to think about. "Alright. Thank you, Corey. I'm hanging up now."

Catherine did. She put away her phone, and sighed.

She was already showered and dressed when the door to the locker room opened. She glanced over her shoulder, and saw Elisa standing in the doorway.

The two of them stood in silence for a few seconds, not talking. It was Catherine that broke the silence.

"So I guess you heard about all that, too?"

"Yeah, I did." Elisa nodded. The two were quiet for a bit, just eying each other. Then, at length, Elisa let out an exasperated sigh. "Alright, here's the thing. You and your dad are having a… thing, I guess. I don't get it. I get that you're feeling like shit, though. So, if you need to talk to somebody, I can take you out of the women's locker room and to one of the guys, who might be able to do the whole 'talk through things' thing."

"No." Catherine snorted, though her voice was tired. "That is the last thing I need right now."

"Right." Elisa nodded again. "The other option: we sneak out of here and find a drink."

"God yes."

Elisa grinned. "Good. Shall we?"

"Yeah." Catherine grabbed up her bag. Before she headed over to Elisa, though, she hesitated. She cleared her throat, then said, "Hey, Elisa?"

"Yeah?"

"Sorry for being an ass."

"It's good."

Elisa held the door open for her, and Catherine slipped out. The palm cockatoo could feel her phone starting to vibrate in her pocket. She made a mental note to close off her social media for a while. She didn't want well-wishing. What she wanted was a drink, and to rip that letter to pieces when she got home.


Corey took the phone away from his ear and hung up. It took him two tries; his fingers were shaking from the combination of his normal post-game stress and the nerves about calling Catherine. He really needed to get back to his apartment. He didn't leave quite yet, though. The dog cast a look over at Hiro. He and the shrike were standing just outside of Treasure State Arena, both of them shivering in their jackets against the cold. Hiro's face looking surprisingly calm. Corey was one of the few that had heard the story before Hiro had asked the rest of the team to stop telling it: how after Catherine had left the hallway, and her father had gone to follow her, Hiro had been the one to step in front of him. He had spoken calmly and firmly with the palm cockatoo, keeping him distracted until security had shown up and escorted him away.

Corey gestured up at the shrike with his phone. "She sounded fine. Tired, but fine."

Hiro nodded. The big shrike's hands were shoved deep into his pockets, and his face was unreadable. "Thanks for doing that for me."

"No worries. You know I would've called her anyways."

"I know." Hiro's face finally creased a bit. He looked like his next words tasted particularly foul in his throat. "I needed to know she was alright, though."

Corey hesitated a moment, then asked, "Are you, uh, alright? You want to talk about it?"

"No." The shrike's voice wasn't harsh, but it certainly didn't leave room for debate. He sighed, and stretched. "I'm headed home. See you at practice tomorrow?"

"Yeah, sure thing."

The shrike walked away, probably heading towards his car. Corey watched him walking away, then shook his head. He wanted to know more. He really did. He needed to get home, though. The night's stress was already taking its toll on him, and he wanted to be somewhere private.

Featured Characters

Catherine DeMille
Hiroyuki Matsuura
Dylan Redfield
Elisa Lawless
Corey Allen
Dat Mongoste

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