Description: Brett hurts himself, and Natsu spikes a volleyball into the bleachers. And those are just the first two poses! Awkward moments abound as the two tall people converse some more.
It's well after the big snowstorm that hit Southtown, and with quite a bit of it melted away, the outside isn't quite so well suited for the burgeoning hockey athelete, if they wanted an experience outdoors.
But rather than take to the school's rink (considering how many spaces need to be shared as is), Brett Neuer decides some off-ice training is in order today. And while he's not exactly a basketball athlete, even he isn't a stranger to shuttles. And one can't live on skates forever, so instead, his shuttles are done in simple running shoes, the squeaking of the soles on the parquay as the American darts back and forth on the floor. He's not going to win any races, for sure, but considering his size, he still can move, and the longer the run, the more he can move.
Of course, with the laws of physics as they are, the more speed he has, the harder it is to stop. And one slip is all it takes as he tries to make a quick stop on a full court run and feels a foot slip. Eyes widen, and while he's able to avoid a complete spill, he still ends up planting his hand down hard enough to jam it. He recovers well enough to finish this set of shuttles, but a wince as he shakes out his hand tells it wasn't without issue. "Ngh....49..." he mutters, rubbing his wrist. If only he could've gotten the full 50 without incident...
For most of her first year at Gorin, Natsu has been making ample use of the Gorin athletic facilities. Naturally... she'd been a fixture for the volleyball team's practice, day in, day out, every day except for Wednesdays and Sundays with only a few exceptions. But the volleyball team couldn't meet Tuesday due to an... incident -- it was pretty hard to ignore the hazard tape wrapped around the storage lean-to attached to the north wall of the gymnasium building. And there -was- practice on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, but Ayuhara was conspicuously absent.
It's no secret why -- anyone with their finger on the pulse of the amateur fighting circuit knows of Natsu's fiery entry into the Neo League.
But today... today, she needs a rest. Something nice and low-impact. The side door from the ladies' locker room creaks open as Ayuhara walks out, having donned a simple t-shirt and shorts for her routine here.
She happens to catch sight of Brett as he's going through his shuttles. She pauses to watch for a few moments, considering what in the world she could possibly say. Part of her wants to talk with him, to clear her mind, to finally offload all this baggage she's been carrying around the past few days. But another part keeps telling herself... not now. Not ready yet. And it's not just Brett -- Natsu has barely even talked to even her closest friends, leaving only a simple text for Hinata and Sakura to let them know she'd be... out.
Natsu still doesn't think she's ready. She drags a bag full of volleyballs out to the center of the gymnasium floor. She spares a moment looking up at Brett... and just happens to catch him during the midst of his 49th attempt.
A half-smile creeps across her features for a moment... but it doesn't last long. She fetches a volleyball from the bag, and then with a light, casual toss, she hucks the ball into the air and spikes it into the bleachers.
The sound of slamming metal is pretty soothing to her right now.
As far into his training mindset as he is, Brett doesn't really hear the door to the locker room open, and with Natsu doing her best to not say anything, he doesn't have much reason to look up. It's one of the winger's best (and worst) traits: that focus. It allows him to give near 100% into what he's focused on, but at the same time, curses him with the kind of tunnel vision that kind of focus comes with.
It's a good thing that he doesn't go deaf during such, however. It'd be pretty amazing if he DIDN'T respond to the spike of a volleyball onto the metal bleachers.
"Gah!" Jumping up at the sound just before he was going to do his 50th shuttle run, the meek American looked around, looking frantic until he spots the familiar frame of the tall volleyballer. "A-Ayuhara. Wow. I....wow, is it volleyball practice time already?" he asks, confusedly, looking at his watch just to be sure he hasn't been at it longer than he thought.
Natsu had an odd idea to smack -all- the volleyballs in her bag into the bleachers, but from how loud that sound was... well, maybe that's not so hot an idea, she decides. Not to mention, if she spiked as hard as she wants to, she's likely to dent the bleachers all to heck and back.
And... Brett would likely still be trying to get her attention. It's not exactly that she doesn't want to talk -- if she didn't, she'd have found somewhere less open to practice. But words... eh.
"No... I am sorry, Neuer. I'll... try to find some less noisy way to practice..." Unlike her previous conversations, Natsu is... withdrawn. Aside from looking at him when he spoke, she's been avoiding eye contact -- and even now, is focused on pulling another volleyball out of the bag.
But even in her untalkative mood, she's not totally devoid of feeling. "... did you hurt your wrist? Do you need to put some ice on it?"
Idly shaking his jammed wrist out more, Brett looks on rather concerned. In the short time he's known Natsu, and the conversations they've had, he's not seen her quite so...distracted isn't the word. Evasive, perhaps. It's usually him being squirrelly as far as not maintaining eye contact, and that's just mostly due to his own personality. This felt...off.
"...Ayuhara, are you ok?" he asks, ignoring the question about his wrist for now. Even if it's slightly bothering him, it's not quite so important now. "You seem like you have something...er...on your mind?" he asks, grabbing his towel from atop his bag and wiping his head off for now, still looking on concernedly toward Natsu, then the dent in the bleacher she created.
Natsu looks up at Brett. Actually meets his eyes, as he asks the personal question. The one that, delivered at point-blank range, she cannot feasibly avoid.
Her gaze casts down to his mouth. His body language, then back up to his eyes. ... Which have steered over to the bleachers. Following suit, she looks at the bleachers... squints at them. Did she actually dent it? Or was it just her mind playing tricks on her, now that it's been called attention to?
Her lower lip trembles for a moment. She draws in a sharp intake of breath, steeling herself. Is it so hard to answer one question? Apparently.
"... I'm fine. I will be, anyway." Turning to face Brett more directly, and finally bringing her eyes up to him in earnest -- it might be a bit more obvious that she is... not hiding her feelings well.
She never has.
"Neuer. You... heard about what happened to Miyazawa, right?"
The concern on Brett's face is clear, something he does nothing to hide at this point. He knows something is bothering Natsu, but he knows he can't be so callous as to ask her so directly. Even if it might be best for the state of the gym facilities that he be direct.
"I heard she had to go to the hospital or something like that, but past that, I...don't think we were told anything else. Did something happen, Ayuhara?" he asks, brow furrowing as his gaze becomes a bit more intent. Something was DEFINITELy wrong, and he's not sure what.
Natsu's eyes are just about to flood over, but she manages to keep it together. Somehow. "She won't make it back in this season, Brett."
To someone who enters a private school for the express purpose of playing sports... this is pretty serious news. And Natsu seems to have been taking it pretty hard.
"The bone damage just won't heal in time. I've visited her every day, Brett. And..." She exhales a laugh, completely without mirth: "... and the team wants me to take over. I fail her once, and... they want to put me in her place. To fail her again."
The blood starts to drain from Bret's face, as Natsu breaks the news. Even if he didn't know Miyazawa, he knows how devestating it is to lose a player for an entire season. To think if the captain got lost completely....geez.
He opens his mouth to say something...before Natsu speaks again. He furrows his brow. His first instinct was to congratulate her, but seeing the way she responded, he knows it'd clearly only upset her more. Tightening his hand in his towel, he tries to find some way to measure his words before he responds.
"Ayuhara...if they're choosing you to take over in her place, that means they have faith in you. I'm sure Miyazawa would have faith in you too if that's the team's choice." He tries to force a smile as he looks up to her. "The only way you could fail her is if you either don't try or beat yourself up about it too much, right?" He looks hesitant, mostly because...well, socialization was never his strong point, but he tries to force aside his apprehension to confide with her as a fellow athlete, not as a...girl. That thought makes Brett mentally frown a bit, mostly for how bad it parses now that he thinks it through, but he brushes it aside for to dwell over later.
"I'm sure you're going to do great, Ayuhara."
Natsu's been dealing with this for the better part of a week. Crying... yeah. She's been down that road. Talking with her parents? Yeah. But she didn't want to show Brett those tears. Feeling the need to hide them just shows how stubborn Natsu can be at times -- never wanting to be a typical girl, always putting the athlete side of her first and foremost.
Maybe that's why Brett can even talk with her at all -- because he can understand -all- the things that bother her about this situation. Without Natsu having to explain.
"... Yeah." Brett may just be reiterating statements she's told herself over and over. But she's told -hundreds- of thoughts to herself over and over, and Brett has just reinforced a few of the better thoughts.
She forces a smile. It takes no small amount of effort, but... to not signal that she =did= appreciate his gesture of talking with her would be worse.
"I think she'll be okay, but. If... /When/ Gedo comes back, Neuer... this madness won't stop there. I.... I thought we could handle this ourselves, but... they had knives, Brett." Natsu still has a few of the light pink scratches across her arms, mementoes of Monday's fight. "I... I've been in a dark place, Neuer. I've been wanting to go to Gedo. Every single day."
Brett continues to force that smile, to reassure Natsu and to make sure that his encouragement remains seeded in her mind. However, when the word 'Gedo' comes up, his face falls, small fading and eyes unfocusing. "Wait...what...."
He tenses up a bit. He knows what happened to the school crest, mind, but past that, all he knows about the whole situation regarding Gedo came from Hinata, and in all honesty, he was quite distracted with other thoughts that come with been an awkawrd teenage boy. Knowing THAT school is involved, is sobering. "...knives? You mean Gedo was responsible for MIyazawa?" he asks. He clearly didn't get told that part of things. And then he sees the traces of scratches on Natsu's arm, scowling deeper and deeper.
"...why. Why would they do something like that?" he asks, voice a little lower suddenly. ANd if not for the towel tightened in his fist, his nails would be digging into this palm enough to draw blood.
So apparently Brett had -not- heard that aspect. Natsu nods her head slowly, meaningfully. "Practice on Monday. Miyazawa was getting putting up some uniforms while we were doing drills. ... Two from Gedo came along, and... well. I think they only wanted the uniforms. But... " Natsu draws in several slow, shallow breaths, selecting her words carefully. "Wrong place, wrong time," she decides upon.
Natsu reaches down, retrieves a volleyball. Maybe that will help her calm down, she wonders, rolling the ball from one hand to the next. Standard... practice drill. Just like Captain Miyazawa would have told her to do. Looking back up to Brett, she nods slowly. "And we've been short on uniforms all week. Not that any of us wanted to practice -anyway- after that."
Natsu looks down at the floor, considering slamming the volleyball into that. But... no. She contents herself with the resistance of air pressure within the volleyball. "I started up in Neo League. It.... it might take some time. But I'll be ready. Soon."
Scowling even more, Brett only realizes what's happening when he hears and feels the tearing in his hand. Pausing, he looks down, realizing he just put his index finger through, and was about to have the rest of his fingers tear through as well. Sighing, he calms down only enough to toss the towel into his other hand before looking back up to Natsu.
"I...I heard they were bad, but this. This?" he says, a shudder of anger crossing through his arm. It's rare he gets mad at anything happening to him, but others, others he considers close or even friends?" THAT'S when he gets angry. "That's just...I can't let that stand as it is." He calms down a little when Natsu brings up the 'Neo League', anger giving way to more confusion. "Neo League?"
"Fighting." She nods over to the bleacher. "I couldn't keep everything to myself. Couldn't keep ruining things that matter to me. Had to... get better. I always do better against a challenge." She laughs, looking down at her volleyball once more. "The Neo League is... made up of a bunch of fighters who just want to throw down sometimes. Chance at money or prizes is nice, but it's more... well, for me, it's somewhere I can have a fight with someone where I won't have to worry about either one of us going overboard."
Neo League also happened to be a convenient excuse for her to avoid working through these issues, but that's something else entirely.
Frowning, Brett nods, furrowing his brow. THe idea of the Neo League is....well, considering his own intentions on professional fighting, it seems like the exact kind of thing he should be interested in. "...how do you join?" he asks, curious about it now. Still, he finds himself a bit more worried about Natsu and her reasons than the League itself. As such, his eyes rarely leave her, looking for any strange shift in emotion or expression from the amazonian volleyballer.
Of course, earnest as he is, his own worries and concern with Gedo are naked on his face, eyes narrowed. He know they were tagging the school, but actually attacking students too....
The volleyball player finally seems to be lightening up, at any rate. Talking about the Neo League is a lot easier for the young woman than talking about... anything else that happened this week. "Oh, it's not so bad... you fill out some forms, sign a waiver with your parents..." Natsu glosses over this, but it was actually a fairly big argument with her parents. Among many. "... and whenever you're free to fight, you basically go on-call. They'll call you back when they have a match for you. All the transportation's covered." She rubs the nape of her neck, offering a mild chuckle: "I'm... still kind of sore from my fights, but at least they weren't, y'know... -real fights- or anything."
She tilts her head as she looks back at Brett: "It's... surprising, since... I'm actually starting to like fighting. Starting to get my head in the game."
Parents...that might be problematic considering they're halfway across the world at this point. But he supposes that they could always get faxed through the general store near home. But past that.... "...Transport's covered?" he asks, curious. Huh, that might actually be very....useful. At least he doesn't have to pay anything out of his scholarship or anything.
"That's...that sounds like a good idea at least. But...you're sure you're ok, right?" he asks concernedly. "...Ayuhara, please, promise me you won't go off on anyone by yourself. Besides...I feel like I should be helping if they try to do something to Gorin again."
"Completely covered," answers Natsu with a grin. "Got a free trip to the Middle East out of it. Even if I didn't win, it... it was nice being someplace warm." One would figure she'd like that, since she's named 'Summer'...
Natsu's brow furrows, at the notion that she might go into Gedo alone. "... No, I don't think I would. I'm madder than fire but I'm not suicidal. Those... creeps beat me up pretty bad, and their big boss didn't even lay a hand on me. I wouldn't stand a chance, alone." She shrugs faintly. "But if they're getting into fights with Taiyo, who knows, Hina-chan and Saku-chan might help. We'll have to see."
The tall volleyball player blinks, at that. "Oh! Speaking of Hina-chan, she said she bumped into you at the lake... good visit?" From the warm smile upon her face, it seems Natsu's mood has improved immeasurably, that much is certain.
The Neo League is clearly something he has to keep in mind...but with that subject shelved for parental reasons, he focuses more on the Gedo threat, and nods. "I...I want to help when you do that. I can't stand by and let things like that happen, especially to my friends," he insists, scowling more and more as he thinks about it. Graffiti is one thing, but upping to outright assault is...
And then all that anger quickly ends up fading into the ether like water vapor from a humidifier once Natsu brings up HInata. Sputtering out of his determined thoughts, the meek Minnesotan boy returns to usual as he looks up and stares at Natsu. "Sh-she told you about that?" he asks, stuttering a bit. "I...it was...nice. She's....nice...."
Natsu can't help much with parents. She's clashed with her parents enough to know which battles to pick, but also knows that not everyone has such a nice time of things. But when it comes to actually -planning battles-... well, that's different. "... Well, charging in there without a plan might not be the right way to go about things. Innocent people... /more/ innocent people could get hurt." She shakes her head slowly. "We'll have to think this through a bit more. Maybe we could talk to their principal." She pauses for a moment, rubbing at the nape of her neck. "He seems... like he could be reasoned with," she comments, having seen some of the Saturday Night Fight match on her plane trip.
And then... that look. Natsu's seen that look before. Now that her head's clear of all the weighty baggage, she can see Brett's shift in attitude for what it is.
The volleyball player gives Brett a light shove in the shoulder. "Hey, Earth to Neuer. One word of advice? You're gonna have to work double hard to keep up with Hina-chan, so listen to her when she talks. Pay attention, or she might just move along!"
And with that, Natsu takes another look at the volleyball on the floor. With casual grace, she chucks the volleyball in her hand at it. The volleyballs collide -- and the stationary one pops -upward-, bouncing obliquely off the top of the bleachers. The one she'd thrown bounces off the bottom bleacher.
And while they're in flight, Natsu raises the bag, holding the mouth of it open. The two volleyballs whoosh into the bag, one after the other.
Cinching the bag shut, Natsu continues: "And /relax/. Just be yourself!"
The shift in subject clearly is not in Brett's favor, and that's as obvious as if he were wearing a sign around his neck. The nudge on his shoulder brings Brett back into the world of the living, after his gaze drifted down and away from Natsu for a bit before he refocused. "Um...ah...yeah. I'm pretty good at listening. I can do that," he says, rubbing the back of his neck a bit, embarrassedly. His cheeks pinken a little, getting more and more embarrased as the conversation goes on.
As Natsu does her trick shot to retrieve the volleyballs she had been using, Brett uses the chance to grab his own bags, even if he doens't quite have anything fancy to do to fetch it. As he's stuffing his torn towel back into the duffel, he looks back toward Natsu at her addendum.
"Eh...y-yeah. I guess I'll try and keep that in mind," he says, rubbing the back of his neck again. "I'll try....and....thanks, Ayuhara."
Natsu grins as Brett responds. And... just as he thanks her, she thinks for a moment. Considers. And then pulls Brett into a hug.
"It's me who should be thanking you, Neuer," she states quietly -- no need to be loud, after all, so close to his ear. "For being a good friend. Thanks." She holds the hug for a good long moment, blinking away a couple tears that had just been hanging on the whole time.
And as quietly as she began, she withdraws. Hoisting the volleyball bag over one shoulder, she snaps a quick salute to Brett. "I'm going to give Hina-chan and Saku-chan a call... I'm ready now. So... have a good evening!"
The sudden hug takes Brett even more by surprise, and only serves to make his blush even more luminescent. Awkwardly, he considers whether or not he should return it before doing so, making sure not to be...encroaching in any way. After all, different customs and...other reasons. "Y-you're welcome, Ayuhara. I'm glad you consider me a friend and...definitely consider you one in return," he says, patting her back and hoping she can't quite see how embarrassed he is.
Once the hug is withdrawn, Brett quickly moves back to his bag, if only to hide his face. "Um...tell Hinata I said hi?" he adds on, considering he hasn't seen her since that time at the park. Of course, as he turns away, he finds himself with the urge to slap himself a bit to get his head back on track.
Log created on 16:37:36 11/29/2014 by Natsu, and last modified on 21:41:53 11/29/2014.