Story:The Things We Cannot Say
The Things We Cannot Say
Written by Rourkie and TriangleDelta
"So uh, where are all the prostitutes?"
"Gaa--Holy shit!" Lance jumped. The rabbit looked away from his view of the bay and the ocean, and toward the shore just down from him. Desdemona was pulling herself up out of the ocean water, panting and shaking herself off. The rabbit blinked.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Lance stared at Desi for a moment, then suddenly hugged her.
The perch laughed, a bit surprised by the sudden hug. She gave him a gentle pat on his back, trying not to touch him too much. "Hey, you're gonna get your fur all wet! And I'm a fish, I belong out here. Why are you here?"
"I come here when I don't wanna be found by anyone I know," Lance chuckled. "And I don't mind getting wet. I was actually about to go for a swim, but this is better. Want to come inside?"
Desdemona nodded, and grabbed the towel that Lance had set aside for his swim. She started wiping her scales off as they headed into the cabin.
"When you 'don't want to be found,' huh? Guess I wrecked that." She took a seat at the small table, and glanced awkwardly around the small cottage and cleared her throat. "So, uh, what's going on?
"Tour first. This is the kitchen, living room, dining room." He gestured to the same small room they were in each time, with a smirk. "Back there is the guest room and the main bedroom," he explained, pointing to two doors in the back, woefully close to one another. "You want a drink?" Lance grabbed himself a water from the fridge, surprising the perch slightly.
"Yeah, uh, I've been climbing all morning, and a drink would be great. Is this, uh... is this a dry retreat type of deal, or do you have some beer stashed away?"
"Nah, I've got beer, wine, cider."
The perch sat while the rabbit fetched their drinks, and cast her gaze around the place. It looked comfortable. Secluded. Hell, she never would have found the place if she hadn't gone climbing along a stretch of river that led out into the small inlet.
"It's not a detox, but I generally give myself a break on junk food and too much alcohol. It helps with the off-season, instead of just jumping right in to overloading on snacks, you know?"
Lance swapped the water out for two beers, opened them with a churchkey, and handed one to Desdemona.
"And, it's okay," he continued, "I was thinking about coming back this weekend anyway. I just needed some space. It gets to be a lot. You know, all of it. People expected us to go far. We got knocked out in the first round. It's embarrassing."
"I guess I kinda get that," she nodded. "Like, I don't even care as much, but hearing people repeat it all of the time gets old. Sometimes I want a bit of a break. Y'know, remind myself that it isn't my whole life, right?" After a moment's hesitation, the perch asked, "Last year doesn't make it better?"
The rabbit sighed.
"Honestly? Last year made it worse. I feel like I'm losing my fight. What else do I have left to strive for? It's not fair to everyone else if I'm losing my edge... Especially when people expect me to be the sharpest crayon in the box, so to speak."
Desi noded, and sipped at her beer. She didn't say anything for a little while, just looked at the rabbit instead. At length, she shrugged, and muttered, "I think you might be jumping the gun a bit on 'losing your edge.' People are still terrified to go toe to toe with you. But uh..."
She hesitated again, and held back for a long moment before saying, "I kinda do miss seeing you actually angry."
He stopped himself, and started again.
"That's just it. I have pretty much everything I ever wanted. And it sucks." He sighed. "I don't have anything left to work for. What can I? I worked my butt off to be MVP, and people still thought I didn't deserve it, and it won't happen again.
"The best I can hope for is Defensive Player of the year, but like, I don't care. I have a ring, I never played in the rookie challenge but I'm an All-Star now, I vindicated my second-place dunk competition. Everyone is either afraid of me or wants to beat me. I am so glad to have a ring but now there's like, nothing left to achieve in the FBA. Nothing left to work towards."
The word was hesitant, and she looked unsure as she said it.
"So... what all does that mean? Like, dude, I'm not going to argue with you. You've clearly had some fuckin', uh..." she gestured around at the cabin, "...thinking to do. And like, if I'm honest? It was kinda nice learning to waltz with you this year, because when you got angry, you actually got angry, and when you were satisfied, you were actually satisfied. I guess I just miss seeing that on the court so much."
She took another long swig, and then went on.
"So okay. The FBA doesn't have anything for you anymore. No higher ledge to reach. What now, man?"
"Yeah. I miss that feeling too. Which is why this is probably going to be my last year in the FBA, but it's gonna be my best year yet. I'm gonna go out with a fucking bang. And then? Who knows.
"I need a new fucking dream to chase. Fatherhood, maybe? Or maybe space? That sounds good. I'm about as qualified for space as I was to go for the draft outside of high school. Heh, same for being a dad, to be honest. Something to work for."
He took a long draught of his beer.
"I wanna help the team. I'm gonna stay on as a trainer, if Wes will let me, but I have more fun pushing other people to do better than I do myself."
Desdemona gave a small nod.
"Well I wouldn't worry about Wes having you on. Pretty sure he'd be happy to have you."
She paused, thinking, and then gave a small snort of derision. "So... you're saying that when you leave the FBA, you're literally going to aim for the stars?"
Lance chuckled. "How else am I gonna make history? I'm actually already the youngest guy to ever fly on a rocket. I feel like I should put some effort in after the fact to earn that title."
He sighed again, but it was wistful, not dejected.
"Being up there was something else. Probably kinda like when you're swimming, it's a whole different world."
The fish raised her bottle in a joking toast to that honour, then lowered the bottle to clink against the table.
"Yeah, well. It's still taking a lot of work to make the water feel good. Easy, sure. Good's another thing. I get what you mean, though."
In the silence that followed, she muttered, "You know, I still don't know what I'm doing next season? Like, what you're saying's going to affect things, but I have no idea how."
"I get that. And that's cool. A lot of folks are gonna be upset when I announce my retirement. But I'd rather go out on top than play until I'm too old or too fat to keep up." He smirked.
"Aw heck no, you go out the way you want to. Believe me, I'm never going to fault or resent you for that. I'm sure a few folks'll give you a hard time, but..." She shrugged. "Fuck 'em."
He grinned back.
"We're still gonna be friends no matter what, and by the time you're ready to retire, I'm gonna wanna be in a band or some other stupid thing that keeps me from fading into obscurity after I go back up there. We can do that for a decade while I figure out what's left after that."
Desdemona considered the rabbit's words carefully.
"Your friendship means a lot to me, Lance."
"It means a lot to me too." He paused, thinking of which words to use. "I didn't know what I was getting into when I came to Bangor, but you're definitely one of the best things that's happened because of it, totally unexpected."
He let the silence linger a little longer before continuing.
"I can't tell you to stay in Bangor, but I'd love it if you stuck around for at least another year. Hell, I hated the idea of leaving Albany, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me."
He caught her eyes with his own, suddenly intense.
"I don't think you're gonna find what you're looking for in Bangor, though. If you wanna work for it, pitch yourself to Texas or, hell, even Arizona. Because I don't think you'll be satisfied unless you help a team get to the top. I think you definitely helped us these last two years, but you're hungry. Use it to your advantage."
Desdemona met his gaze; her own expression was oddly neutral for the usually expressive fish. She let her fingers drum along the side of the bottle a few times as she considered her answer. When she finally did speak, she chose her words carefully. "You know, I talked to Wes last year about how miserable I was on this team."
She paused again, considering. Then she inclined her head.
"I liked everybody. I did. But like... everybody was so good. I remember I had a game where, like, I was on fucking fire. Best I'd ever played in the league. And when I looked at things later, the stats and the footage and everything..." She shrugged. "I could've stood still for the whole game, and we still would've won. It didn't matter. It wasn't hard. Which isn't to take away from what we did and what we accomplished as a team. And those last few playoff series last year made me feel fucking alive like I haven't in a while. But for the whole regular season, it was just..." She trailed off.
"'Easy?'" he finished for her. "Going through the motions because it was automatic. Right? That's how I feel now. Except I don't wanna start fresh on another team. And I don't want it to be 'Lance and the Rockettes' or whatever the fuck. I can't do that, be that. So, yeah, I get it."
He finished his beer, and contemplated the bottle.
"But, at the same time? If you do stay? This team is gonna need a new leader after I'm gone. Probably someone better at leading than I am." He laughed. It wasn't bitter, but it was almost regretful. "Sure, I can convince people to go along with a plan, but it's only reactionary. I can run a mean go-cart derby, but only after spirits are down.
"But you, you're like 'fuck it, let's go,' and everyone is like 'fuck yeah, let's go!' Bangor needs someone like that now. Hell, I'd ask Wes to make you co-captain to pass on the torch, but I get the feeling you'd rather ask him yourself, if that interests you.
"So yeah, you'll hafta wait one more year, but I betcha it'll be a hell of a year."
He tossed his empty beer bottle into the recycling bin. An easy shot.
"My plan for the off-season? Somehow start my last season with abs for the first time in my entire life. It's gonna be topsy-turvy from here on out, fucking metal all the way. And if we win or if we lose, we'll know we didn't half-ass it."
The fish was a bit caught off guard by all that. As she thought his words over, though, she let her face crack a grin again. "So who's going to give the pitch to make somebody that doesn't care about winning a co-captain?"
She took a moment to finish her own beer, and then she stood up and stretched. "Alright. I should get back before the people in my group start worrying that the walker fish forgot how to use her gills and drowned. I'm, uh..."
She hesitated again.
"I'm not promising anything, Lance. Ultimately, I need to make sure that I stay happy and don't fuck up what's good in my life anymore. I'll think about it, though. And I'll try not to think too hard about you with abs."
As she made to leave, she paused by the door and glanced back. "You alright with me telling people you're not, like, dead, or off on a bender in Mexico and getting mixed up with a cartel, or...?"
"Yeah, that's fine. I should probably get back in the next few days anyway. I don't have my phone turned on, but I bet April is pitching a fit about me being dead in a ditch somewhere."
He grinned and walked her to the door.
"And, uh... thanks for stopping by, letting me get some stuff off my chest. As for you... I'll back you 100%, whatever your decision is. Pave your own path, all that bullshit.
"I'm just saying, both paths look pretty good, but you should do what you want, not what people expect of you."
"I appreciate that. And yeah, I think I needed to get some of that out there, too." She motioned once more to leave, but hesitated. She turned back, and gave the rabbit a quick, firm hug.
Without another word, she turned once again and ran for the water. She leapt in, and disappeared under the surface, flowing away back out the inlet, the way she came.
Lance watched until he could no longer see her form in the water. He sighed one last time.