NFG Season One - Interstate 76

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Description: There are a number of great landmarks and stopping points along the way from Metro City to Beaver, Oklahoma: Columbus, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City. It's a good long drive with plenty of opportunities for Buck and Chevy to stretch their legs and enjoy a good, hearty meal. But before they can kick back and relax in the Midwest, they'll need to make their way through snowstorms, mountain passes, and... feelings?

Really, in the grand scheme of this road trip, they've only truly just set out, and yet Buck is already having a hard time settling in on a playlist. He has his phone plugged in to the radio that was taken from a far more recent model of vehicle than the truck actually is, so at least they're not stuck with just a tape or CD player. But he's scrolling through, muttering to himself as no music actually is comeing through the truck's speakers.

"Prolly a little early to hit you with the banjos." He says with a small grin that could mean he's joking, but if the music he played in his room during the NFG are any hint, he is not. He seems to finally settle in on some folk rock and sets his phone up on the mount before grabbing his drink.

"Thanks again for doin' this drive with me. It'd be boring as all get out having to do it myself. Always better with friends." He says, uncapping his drink to take a swig of the iced tea he got at the last gas up. The quick beat of drums and some nice twangy guitar riffs starting to fill up the cabin. "Figure we could make it out into Ohio easily enough before stoppin', unless you got somethin' you want to see on the way."

Snowflakes fly past as the two Team Thunder partners hurtle down the Pennsylvania freeway. While it is a mite cold out, the weather is cooperating for the most part; the roads are covered in a light slush, with most of the ice and snow shoveled off to either side. It's good practice for the North Carolinian who really -hasn't- had much experience driving through snowy conditions -- though, the steady flow of traffic does keep the redhead from glancing around the truck unnecessarily.

Chevelle smiles as she spares a quick glance to the phone on its mount, nodding cheerily. "Aww, heck, Buck, I'm good with darn near everythin'. I even got myself used to Babymetal after a few listens." She kids at Ichika's expense -- though it should surprise no one that the mix of heavy metal with J-Pop idol beats wouldn't be an instant win for all audiences.

"Besides, yeah -- I feel like we didn't get darn near enough time to chat with the way those finals were goin', whew."

The freckled farm girl smiles as she maneuvers past a slow driver in the left lane. She might not have been behind the wheel for long -- but she's got a pretty even-keeled temperament for someone mostly used to rural driving.

"And gosh, thanks for driving for as long as you did. I didn't expect to be passed out for so long. Hope I warn't snorin' too loud for you, haha..."

One of the reasons she'd been sleeping: she'd stayed up far too late putting together a mix of classic rock hits from the 70s and 80s from her collection. Which -- knowing about the numerous mountains the pair would be driving through -- meant a lot of spur-of-the-moment downloads to ensure uninterrupted music.

"Ohio sounds good, yeah! The, uh... mountains should be over by that point, yeah?"

Chevy grins, to nothing in particular. Driving a new vehicle is always an interesting challenge to her. And it seems she's really taking a liking to the truck, even if it's not a Chevrolet! ... Good luck getting her to admit that though.

At least it's not a Ford. Buck nods slowly as he takes another sip of his drink, watching the snow whip past out one of the windows. And even waving at one point when a kid in one of the nearby cars somehow recognizes the truck's passengers and begins waving excitedly. He doesn't distract Chevy to point it out though. "Yeah, mountains over and then the hundreds of miles of wheat and corn." He can't help but laugh a little at that description of the middle of the country.

"Nah, you were quiet as a mouse. Used to Bear being able to shake down the rafters with his snoring. Get him and pa nearby and it's like trying to sleep in a lumberyard full of chainsaws." He looks over to Chev, then quickly adds. "Don't worry, the guest room is on the other side of the house. And it's a big house." He spreads his hands wide as if demonstrating.

He reaches up and flicks the screen on his phone a few times, not changing the song, but instead checking the map. "Though I bet there's some nice scenic spots before we hit the flat fields to check out."

Miss Beaumont may not have turned aside, but she did offer a toothy smile and a lift of her fingers from the wheel in a half-wave. The sort of smile that shows: hey, I'd -love- to give a full-on wave, but I'd rather not cause a pile-up and shiver the rest of the day away waiting for tow trucks. Besides -- Buck's got it handled!

"Wheat and corn, it's all part of a daily balanced breakfast!" Commercials -- remember when those were a thing? It seems Chevy watched much more than her fair share of television, growing up...

"Oh, whew. I mean, I guess it couldn'ta been too bad, we made it out of New York in one piece." She does start to pale once Buck mentions his loud family members. There were ... -some- memories of her Paw being a loud snorer, which cause her brow to furrow a moment, but the memory is dismissed with the guest room amendment. "... Oh, well, you can see how -my- mind is working, haha." After a moment to negotiate the next lane change, she asks, "Oh... are big houses normal out where you're at? Oh, and yeah -- I was meanin' to ask, how many people you even -got- in that house, anyway?"

Chevy seems to relax a little bit, having gotten ahead of a good deal of the traffic. She glances over at the screen as Buck flips through the map. "... Huh... You keep up with racin', much, Buck? There's a race car museum in Indianapolis... and if you like older cars, there's a Packard museum out in Dayton, Ohio." She pauses for a moment, and adds: "I did a little bit of diggin' around last night, heh."

"Ain't gonna argue that." Buck replies as the American breakfast is laid out. Because, well, that was breakfast. Or at least part of it. "Speakin' of. Can't wait to get some home cookin' in me. It's been over a year now."

He rubs his neck before leaning back. "Depends. We've just had the farm so long and we tend to stick close to home, so we just kept addin' to the house over the years and, now it kinda sprawls."

Buck lets out a short bark of a laugh. "Tractor races." He says, making a long timed reference back to his first interview. "But I can appreciate a good ride." He says, reaching forward to pat the truck's dash. "This is your trip, too. So you wanna stop? We stop."

Chevy's eyes widen -- and for once, it's not because of some dumb driver on the road in front of her. "A whole year? Man. I cain't even imagine goin' without Momma's food for a whole year. ... Course, you did get that care package of brownies at least." She draws in her breath, a warm glow coming over her face with that particular memory. "Those sure didn't last long around us -- sorry 'bout that." Her eyes go glassy for a moment, as she uses the stripes on the highway as a slow rhythmic beat to help her think. "Well -- a stop on Cracker Barrel might be on the agenda if you're down for it. Probably the only way to get a good square meal till we get to wheat and corn country..." And... well, it'd be a pleasant change from the Metro City diet.

Chevy nods along slowly. There's a few thoughts she has about that -- but as that had led her into asking about racing, she nods cheerily.

Much like Buck, she seems to be pretty easygoing about stopping or not, just flashing a smile in return as she keeps her eyes on the road. "I did -not- see a tractor museum on our path, though I'll keep an eye out for it, heh... I guess we'll see how the weather is when we get up that way. If it's still a blizzard out we might just wanna keep drivin'..."

"Man, I cain't wait to see this place," comments Chevy on the idea of a big house. "Momma and I live in what they -call- a country farmhouse plan -- two stories, three bedrooms -- but gosh, it just feels tiny since I grown up. Ichika thought it was plenty big though..."

She grins, at the thought. "... She sure was in a hurry to get back, won't she? I cain't say I blame her... Djamila just..."

She lets out her breath in a long, bittersweet sigh. It's a good moment or so before she collects her thoughts enough to continue.

"Djamila and Junko -both-, right? I don't even know where to start... it's hard to believe we all started off where we did..."

"Yeah, remember, I came right from college into the NFG, I haven't been home since last winter break." Buck shakes his head. "Care packages are nice, but that's different." He waves off the apology. "I'm happy to share, you know that. Especially with friends. Shared food always tastes better."

There's a nodded agreement to Cracker Barrel. "Not to mention I love a place where you can have breakfast any time." He grins wide. "Feels like cheating in a good way." And Buck never doesn't have an appetite. He'd probably get kciked out of an All You Can Eat buffet.

"Eh, it's not like it's fancy or nothin'. Just as the family got bigger we added on. Gotta have a few spare rooms if we ever need to hire on farmhands. You know. Not all of it's in use right now, though I bet with Bear and Macy expectin' they're gonna take over another part of the house."

He scratches at his cheek as he thinks on that. "Yeah, probably. And I bet Boone intends to hang around too." He doesn't mention himself or his youngest brother.

His expression turns a little sad at the mention of Ichika heading off so quick. "Yeah, I don't know. I don't like the feeling of how things ended, not really." He raises a hand and presses it against the chest of his jacket, something crumpling slightly as he pushes, then drops his hand.

His expression turns completely sour at the mention of Junko. "I disliked her enough before the Christmas party." He mutters. And from Buck, dislike is an extremely powerful word, the man tries to get along with everyone afterall. To a fault.

It's true -- care packages just -aren't- the same. Home-cooked dinners are so much better -- and it's clear Chevy appreciates the difference when she gives a tight-lipped smile and nod in response.

The freckle-faced farm girl's eyes twinkle with mischievousness as she answers the addendum about shared food. "... Eh, I dunno about -always-... folks who double dip at the veggie tray always tweak me out."

And, of course, Cracker Barrel would become a point of agreement between the two. "I will -never- say no to French toast, I don't care where we go. Gimme -all- of it." She leans back in her seat, a warm smile on her face. "Poptarts are alright. But if I cain't have real home cookin', I think those biscuits will tide me over..." Chevy's stomach voices a complaint, though, and she reaches for a sip of iced tea. "Though maybe I oughta quit thinkin' about food."

Momentarily sated, Chevy bobs her head to the music, listening as Buck tells about his family. Her eyes light up as the baby is mentioned. "Oh wow, yeah? You happen to know when she's due? It's bound to be an excitin' time for y'all!"

As the topic drifts to the dramatic NFG finals, Chevy's smile finally seems to dim a few notches. "... Mm... Yeah. I... I know that, deep down, there's a scared little girl inside Junko just fightin' to get out. But I don't think we're the ones that can help her any more. It's all just gotten so catty-wumpus I cain't even make sense of it."

She blinks, wide-eyed, afterwards; still looking ahead to the snow-lined highway, but recollecting on something Buck mentioned.

"Wait, did Junko show up at the party? I... Went for a walk instead'a comin' straight back, an'..."

She presses her lips together, hazarding a brief glance to Buck before returning her attention to the road. "Uh-oh... What'd I miss?"

Buck snickers softly. "Pain perdue." Though in his accent it comes out more like 'Pan purrdoo'. "S'what they call French toast in France, I just think it sounds funny. I guess it'd be weird for the French to call it French toast. Then again, we call it American cheese don't we? Hmm..." He snickers again, looking at Chevy with his super big grin.

"Just a few months now. Gonna be uncle Buck, probably for the first time of many. I think Macy wants a big family." He shakes his head at that, looking a little bewildered.

He shrugs. "I dunno, gods and things, I mean my encounter went pretty well, doesn't mean it does for everyone, I guess." He chews on his lower lip before leaning forward to dig in the snack bag at his feet.

"I'm not even sure it /was/ Junko. But sh was goin' on and on about how she could squash everyone there with a flick of her wrist and just generally being a wet blanket. Most of us just ignored her."

He comes up with a bag of potato chips, popping them open and releasing a cloud of artifical bbq scent into the truck cab. "Chips?" He offers, before taking any himself.

"Pain perdu?" Chevy arches an eyebrow at that statement -- confused for a moment, until Buck clarifies, at which point she snickers. "Yeah, pretty much..."

She does give Buck a bit of time in order for Buck to sort out his feelings regarding Macy's desire for a big family. "... Hmm, y'all might need a lot more rooms if that comes to pass..." She flashes Buck a toothy grin. "I just got this image of a half-dozen kids hangin' on those antlers you had on at the party, swingin' back and forth. And you with this big ol' smile on your face..."

The thought of Junko arriving, and talking like... -That-, starts to sour her mood as well. "... Huh."

She actually remains quiet for a moment, pausing only to clear her throat -- and nod her affirmation to the offer of chips. "Yeah, thanks!"

She flicks the turn signal on, changing lanes to pass a slow-moving van. "I mean, it sounds like whatever was lurking inside kinda took over. If, like... " She shakes her head, dismissing her thought. "... Eh, I probably shouldn't worry too much, if she was all talk like that."

She crunches into a few chips. "... Yeah, I'm sorry to leave y'all like that. Went for a lil' walk to clear my head, lost track of time. I think that ale Hawksley slipped me might've been a bit much."

Buck winces and touches his brow at the thought of a bunch of kids hanging off his antlers. "You do know those are attached to my skull, right? Libel to break my neck lettin' a bunch of anklebiters swing from those." He only stops rubbing his forehead to help himself to some of the chips, leaning back in his seat and crunching away.

"Is that a Mad Gear bumper sticker?" He says apropo of nothing, squinting at one of the other cars through the snowfall. "Weird. Fans are weird." He says with another shake of his head. Something else he's getting used to.

"Don't worry about it, Chevs. Though you did miss a sip of some of the best whiskey I ever tasted in my life. Though if Hawksley's ale was too much of a kick in the pants, maybe it's better you did miss out."

He goes quiet, watching the passing traffic for a while. "Would you do it again?" He asks suddenly. "The NFG, I mean? Would you do it again or is once enough for you?"

"Look, if it happened for real I'd catch the lil' anklebiter," Chevy answers with an ear-to-ear grin. "You cain't tell me it wouldn't make for a fun Kodak moment though, be honest."

Chevy glances over at the suggestion of a bumper sticker -- and actually finds herself barking out a laugh of her own. "I mean, there's -worse- people to become fans of. Like those folks who tried to mess with our soup kitchen back in Sunshine, right? Mr Abigail's plenty nice, if a bit, y'know, -loud-, so..." She shrugs without commitment, offering a faint grin. "Or maybe I'm just tryin' to see the good in everyone, who knows?"

Chevy hums thoughtfully at the idea of Buck trying out the 'best' whiskey. "... Dang it. I woulda tried a sip or somethin', I s'pose, but... Yeah. Probably best not."

She smiles briefly -- if a bit distractedly. It's true -- if just a -little- bit of alcohol makes her loopy, maybe trying to keep pace with Hawksley is just not in the cards.

"... Hm?" she asks. "... Would I do it again? I mean, if I had my chance to live it over again, sure, I would -- though I'da done some things different."

She reaches over for another handful of chips, munching thoughtfully as the truck rolls down the highway. "... Or do you mean like a second season? 'Cause... I mean, if you're in it, count me in!"

Buck laughs. "He was the first sponsor I talked to afterall. I was a little bummed I didn't make enough of an impression to get snapped up, but I guess that all worked out in the end." He crunches through a few more potato chips.

"Well, just meet up with Hawksley sometime, he can get you some." He sounds qeirdly cryptic about it, but he's got his grin on so it must be nothing awful.

"Yeah, not a do over. I know that you'd not give up what we did. Well, at least I don't think you would, I wouldn't. Sure, few things I'd do another way, but I'm happy with how my journey went. I was never going to win it." He says evenly, not being down on himself, at least not in tone. He's just stating a fact.

"Yeah, like another season." He says with a nod. "Spend another year in all this craziness and weirdness."

"Aww..." consoles Chevy, nodding slowly. It's true that she -did- get selected by Team Frost, but she hadn't considered that other people might desire it too. Makes sense, though, with how Buck likes to work on cars and trucks like she does. "Team Frost ended up turnin' out okay, I guess -- but I'm definitely glad we ended up together." She flashes her teeth for a brief smile, relinquishing her right-hand grip on the steering wheel long enough to bump her elbow against Buck's.

She does seem a little... concerned by the way in which Buck mentions that Hawksley will just... have whiskey available. Arching an eyebrow, she hums out a rising tone. With a brief laugh, she ventures: "... What, did he score a distillery promotion deal too?"

She shakes her head, when the suggestion of potentially giving up the Team Thunder camaraderie comes around. No way would she give -that- up. "Pfft, you could've, I think!" Chevy, ever the optimist.

When the notion of one more season comes up, though, Chevy hums once again to herself -- a more somber tone, this time. "Hmm, lemme think a bit..."

She licks her lips for a moment, lost in thought. Thinking, as she hears the thrum of the highway beneath the truck's wheels.

She answers with a somber expression upon her face. "I mean, yeah. It's like I found my callin' in life, fightin'. Past few weeks I warn't thinkin' about nothin' else but just goin' home and workin' on my ride at Momma's place."

As she breathes in, her expression lights up. "But... once that's done, y'know, I'm gonna wanna scratch that itch again. See what I can -really- accomplish, y'know?"

She tosses a smirk in Buck's general direction.

"Besides, I owe Coco a proper butt-kickin'. An' Djamila too, for bein' such a smug little so-an-so." She laughs, lightening the mood a bit. "What about you? You gonna pick back up with college or somethin'?"

Buck stares into the bag of chips like it holds the answers to his questions, or else he's just skimming for a particularly tasty looking chip. He does pull one out and pop it in his mouth with a crunch though. "Well, I'm glad how things worked out in the end. Team wise I mean."

He looks askance at Chevy then shakes his head. "Better if he just shows you or you might not believe me. Or.. you know.. I was really drunk and made it up, but I don't think I did. Kongou was playing Santa and well.. things got magical."

Buck just shakes his head, looking over his shoulder to the backseat where he set his new hat, then back to the road. "I hear ya'. There's some people I never got a chance to fight proper. Djamila for one." He tries not to think back on his brawl with Coco, though even the slight thought of it makes him grimace.

Chevy smiles wistfully at the memories. "Yeah, I wouldn't trade what we had for anythin' else in the world." She snickers, as a thought occurs to her: "Even -with- that snake face o' yours."

Chevy seems a bit... surprised at Buck deflecting away from her joking interrogation though. It's... -not- a distillery, clearly, but... close? "I mean, I believe you! I..."

She laughs weakly at the suggestion that -magic- figured in. She may not have been party to that per se, but her toothy grin shows that she can appreciate what he means. "Buck, I didn't think it was possible for there to meet someone -bigger- than Mr Abigail. So seein' someone like that play-pretendin' to be Santa Claus kinda broke me enough as it was."

When she catches Buck looking backwards, she checks her rear view mirror and happens to catch sight of the hat at roughly the same time. "... Oh, huh." She pauses a moment, piecing the train of thought together. "Huh, was -that- where you got your new hat? I was fixin' to ask you 'bout that..."

Her smile fades slightly, at the thought of fighting everyone else in the league. She's not -sad- per se, but... it gets her thinking.

"Hmm. I didn't even get to -meet- Hated R or Laurel. In the Rumble, Nixie got eliminated before I could take a crack at 'er -- but I woulda liked a more proper fight with Genie." She laughs, mirthlessly, checking her side mirror before making another pass.

Chevy's thoughts drift as she remembers her time with the other fighters. And one Irishman in particular, who just -keeps- seeming to be on her mind.

"... Is there anyone in the N-F-G you, uh... wished you'd had a bit more time with?"

"I can't tell you how much I was dreading that team repick. And then they just snatch us all back up, which was kind of a surprise, really." Buck laughs as he rifles through the bag of chips with more crinkling of the packaging.

"Yeah, gift from Kongou's bag of tricks." He says regarding the hat, though he leaves it where it sits for now. Inside the truck is kinda indoors, and mama doesn't like hats indoors. It's a hard habit to break.

"Man, Genie hits like a truck. I can still feel it. Good dang thing I can breathe underwater, well, sometimes. We kept knocking eachother into the lake. Man that was a good fight."

Chevy's question seems to catch him off guard, and he frowns into the bag before looking up and over to Chevy. "I, uh.. You mean like...?" Then he shakes his head slowly and looks back to the road as he rolls up the top of the bag to return it to the road snack hoard. "No, not really. I don't think I struck it off with anyone like that.."

"I mean... Yeah." Chevy smiles briefly, but it fades. "I miss Tamaki. 'specially since she kinda went off her own way not long after Frost picked her up. I wonder how the heck she is these days..." On that cue, Chevy snakes a few more barbecue chips. Just enough to whet the palate until the eventual Cracker Barrel visit.

Her smile doesn't stay away for too long though; she's back to grinning as Buck talks about his hat. "That sounds like one crazy bag. Magic whiskey and magic hat. Did it come with a rabbit in it?" She grins, mindful to keep her eyes on the road all the same.

"Well, swimmin's good for you too, right? It's not so much of a downside for someone who can pop out fins whenever they need ta." Chevy laughs softly, nodding. "And yeah... Ichika warn't too fond of her hittin' power either, now. Between you an' her I didn't feel no qualms about sockin' her in the Rumble -- though, yeah, it did come across as a bit rude, I guess." She rubs the back of her head, grinning sheepishly. "I mean, she's just mindin' her own business, and here come me and Coco with death in our eyes, haha. Had to have come as a shock."

She draws in her breath slightly, at realizing that Buck seems to have been caught off-guard. "... Naw... I was just..."

Her lips press together, as she thinks a bit more mindfully about what she's about to say.

"Hey, uh... I didn't mean quite like that. I just meant like Genie and Tamaki..."

She spares a moment from watching the road to glance over at Buck. It... dawns on her that her words might have hit a little off their mark.

"... I can be a bit selfish without meanin' to, sometimes. Sorry."

She offers a hopeful smile... At a momentary loss for words.

"Nah, only rabbit in that hat was me." Buck says. "Well.. not really, but you know what I mean. Haven't tried rabbits, don't see the point." He rubs his chin as if thinking about it for a moment, then shakes his head. "No, still don't see a use."

"I never really talked with Tamaki, thean she was gone. Would have liked to spend some time with Hated, Braun too even if he wasn't on our team."

"Well, I'm not gonna judge on the rumble, considering it turned into me and Iris punching each other there in the end. Really wanted to punch Buford a few more times, but Ichika seemed to have it handled." The Canadian is the only one in the NFG that seems to get Buck worked up. Even Junko he basically just ignores, but Buford.. that makes him angry.

"Sorry. I just thought."

He sighs and leans back in the seat. "I guess I've just been thinking about it. At least those rumors about me and Coco died quick." He makes a very noticeable face in that.

"Dunno what he sees in her." He states, probably not needing to note who he is.

"They're good for plantin' Easter eggs an' helpin' you get rid of carrots." Chevy volunteers, sticking out the tip of her tongue. "And lookin' cute, I s'pose."

"Braun... Braun was alright! Hawksley seemed to approve of him too." She grins. "I am kinda glad that Blaze started to see a bit more activity in Metro, for his sake if no one else's..."

The Carolina girl seems to be a bit more mellow on her view of the Rumble. She's made peace with the idea of it having been a KO-or-be-KOed situation. "Oh, Buford. Man. Am I ever glad we didn't have to square off again. It took just about everythin' I had in me not to be just completely wicked to him." She lowers her voice a bit -- as if there might be some astronomically small chance that her unseemly thoughts might get broadcast on the next Tom and Lou show. "... The drime drippin' outta his spigot is just -unreal-..." She coughs lightly, clearing her throat and her palate afterwards. "... 'Scuse me for sayin' so..."

Chevy reaches over to bump Buck with her elbow. "Haha. Folks love to talk, don't they? But hey, who knows? She makes him happy somehow 'r another."

Chevy is somewhat glad she's got the driving to keep her focused at the moment. After a moment of thought, she coughs out a mirthless laugh.

"Hawksley and Coco have been livin' rent-free in my head all season. Coco, y'know, obviously." With a shrug of her shoulders, she admits, "Hawksley, well... Sure, I'm crushin'. But whatever I feel there... I don't know how to asplain it, it's like he's standin' in for my Paw. It's weird, and yet..."

Another resigned shrug. The smile has dipped to about ten watts or so from its previous high. Her freckled cheeks grow a bit more ruddy in color.

"But... I mean, enough about them, right? Penny for your thoughts? ... I ain't actually got a penny on me, but you know what I mean." She laughs again. "What's -Buck- been thinkin' about, hm?"

"He drank snake spit." Buck says after a long moment of silence. "You know. In the aftermath of the Rumble I never really processed that. You can find clips of it online, you know?" He's still staring straight ahead, looking slightly haunted now that the memory has entered his brain.

He's glad for another subject though and quickly diverts. "I think Coco thrives on living rent free in people's brains." He turns to regard Chevy, one brow lifting up. "Well, I mean, the NFG needed one of the guys to be a hearthrob, right? I mean, JD definitely suits but he doesn't talk much. Kenzo? I dunno, too stoic? Me.." He shakes his head and snorts a soft laugh. "I'm sure the producers spotlighted it too."

He stretches his arms in front of him as far as they can go, then folds his hands together behind his head to lean back.

"Waste of a penny, anyway."

He's quiet another few seconds then shrugs. "I'm just wondering how I can go back to normal. This is what I've wanted since I was a kid. How can I just go back to school like nothing happened? Sure, I promised Ma I'd finish school, but now.. All I want to do is get back in the ring now I've had the taste."

Chevy is, fortunately, a good enough driver that she only needs one hand on the wheel. Because as soon as she hears what Buck just said about swallowing snake spit, one of those precious hands clamps right over her mouth. Just thinking about that venom makes her queasy! "Rrrrngh..."

Shaking her head to clear her mind of -that- imagined fate, she struggles for words -- and eventually finds them. "... Are we s'posed to be making him -more- sympathetic or -less-? Haha..."

Sensing Buck's gaze upon her, Chevy glances sideways to meet him with a grin. "Oh, what, you're kidding right? That *Laurel* wanted way more than just a piece of you..." Eyes sliding back forward as she returns focus to the driving task, the freckled farmgirl can't help but keep a warm smile on her face. "From what Dev told me, the fans were writin' just as many stories 'bout you as they were for me. -Especially- about how you an' Iris were swingin' at each other at the end of the Rumble. Sarah and Genie were doin' some numbers too, after your fights with them..."

She doesn't elaborate on a few -other- pairings and matchups she'd heard about from her agent. There isn't enough brain bleach to go around, though...

"But... yeah. Ain't no shortage of heartthrobs. 'Specially for those times you were runnin' 'round without a shirt. I mean, your fight with Hawksley blew up for -lots- of reasons, but it was doin' numbers even before the finale. I mean, other folks can talk about bein' an animal in bed, but I doubt it's quite the same way you could be, right?" She winks at him -- but tactfully uses driving as an excuse to keep from teasing him -too- much further.

She shakes her head as Buck dismisses her offer to pay a whole shiny penny for his thoughts. How cruel! She isn't so broken up that she can't laugh about it though. "C'mon, Buck, I wouldn't ask if I didn't wanna know..."

It isn't long before she finds out. And... well. There's a topic of import waiting for her. "... Huh. And you liked college a whole lot, didn'tcha?" She couldn't really keep up with him and Ichika talking about existential quandaries and... whatever big-brain topics they were on about, but she could tell it meant a lot to him.

"I mean, yeah, I'd be in a bit of a pickle if I was... -into- stuff as much as you were. But like, do you -have- to jump right back into a full schedule? It ain't like grade school, you can just go in for halfsies or somethin, cain'tcha?"

"I guess you were too bust on the other side of the ring to notice." But even Buck looks a little queasy at the memory, queasy, but amused. "I'm no sure we could make him sympathetic, I'm not sure we could make him less either." He snorts softly.

"Wait.. really?" He looks over at Chevy again as she lists of the ladies of the NFG that at least she thinks have shown interest in him. Maybe Buck is just dense in that department. "Nah.. They barely paid any attention to me after our fights."

"Listen, the shirtless thing isn't for the fans, it's because I sometimes accidentally rip them when I do things. You don't know how many Team Thunder tees I went through last year. I think Lyraelle was going to skin me when I kept asking for more. Make a nice Buckskin rug."

"Okay, the Hawksley fight was intentional, but that was on a beach, it was different." He's actually turning an interesting shade of red, and not by any trick of his powers.

Oh thank god! A subject change. "I could. Do online or something. Those working adult degree programs, but, you know, I have friends and stuff back at school, not that I'm not a couple semesters behind now." He closes his eyes and just lets himself feel the truck on the road. "The one who paid for the Europe trip joked that I owed him some royalties."

Too busy to notice? ... Yeah. Just as she is in parties, Chevy wants to spend as much time as she can with everyone, and, well, she just gets burned out! "Haha, yeah..."

"Mm-mmm, folks can be a bit shy about admittin' their feelings... Especially if they think you're already taken."

Chevy sets her jaw, at that point, as she stares down the road, through the snow-laced winds of the blustery snowstorm. It wasn't that long ago that she'd been the one looking in -- holding her tongue, not wanting to intrude. Maybe if she'd spoken up sooner.

That moment is short-lived. The pace of conversation keeps things lively enough. "Oh, t-shirts are cheap compared to the value she got out of us. Dev told me about the nightmares workin' out a decent rev share with her team of rabid attack lawyers." She smiles faintly -- knowing that the rest of the Thundies managed to benefit from that expert negotiation in some measure.

But -- no. She's happy for the subject change too, lest her thoughts dwell on Hawksley -too- much. "... Well, drag -them- into the ring! It could be fun to meet 'em!" She laughs good-naturedly, knowing how silly it would be to drag her -own- friends into a spar. "I wouldn't worry about it too much for now, really. Once you get back, you know -- give it a honest try, yeah? And if your buddy asks for royalties we can check an' see if Princess Lightheart's got any t-shirts left over."

Chevy smiles faintly. "... I dunno, there's no way I'd choose online school over fightin'. But that might just be me -- I learn by doin'. And there ain't no replacement in my book for just gettin' my hands dirty. Fightin'..." She laughs. "I think you'll find room for it no matter what kinda life you end up leadin', tell ya the truth."

"I guess." Buck says softly, still staring out the front window at the snow and the traffic. "I still don't know if I hit it off with anyone. Not in that way anyway." He sounds as unsure as his words are, his lower lip shewed on for a moment in thought.

Resisting the urge to grab another snack just for something to do with his hands, he instead reaches for his phone to redirect the navigation to the closest Cracker Barrel.

"Speaking of, I need to get on the phone with my new agent." He wrinkles his nose at that. Up to that point he'd been using the in house NFG agents, but with the season over, he grabbed one of his own.

"My college friends? In the ring?" He bursts out laughing at that one. "Yeah, they wouldn't last a minute. Bravado can only get you so far." He says, placing the phone back on the mount to chirp its new set of directions.

"Not many in my family got to go to college, not until me and my brothers. So I guess my folks are pretty serious about us finishing. Not to mention, I liked it. The learnin'. I could pass on the paper writing, if you know what I mean..." He shakes his head and sighs. "I dunno. I guess I'm just having a.. well, it's not a midlife crisis. Maybe it's a beginning of adult life crisis."

He'd said, he still didn't know if he hit it off with anyone. The words float there like frost crystals in the empty space of the cabin as Chevy continues piloting the truck down the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The Carolina girl heard him fine. But the time it takes her to process that thought... well, it made for a few moments of silence in an otherwise steady pace of conversation.

It's still weighing on her mind as Buck fidgets with the phone, considering a second round of snacks and whatnot. It's still in her thoughts, as he talks about the new agent -- and in the background, as she responds. "Oh, yeah! It's... way better to get one of your own, I think -- someone who'll look after your own interests." She laughs faintly. "Not that Princess Lightheart warn't lookin' out for us, but... y'never know..."

She's still thinking about those words, as the phone is placed back into its cradle, the destination slightly altered, the direction to 'keep driving straight' still clear on the screen. "Well, yeah, you just gotta get enough friends stacked up so that they can last you like... five." She grins. "Seems reasonable, right?"

The smiles are still there. But she's... thinking, as she glances back over to Buck. Processing, still.

"... Yeah, I ain't much for writin' papers," Chevy is quick to admit. "Mom could tell college warn't high on my list o' priorities. ECU warn't exactly 'Ivey League,' and I warn't givin' two cents anywhere else. I made it through high school and she was proud of me for that, heh."

And of course. She's still thinking of that, as Buck lays out the 'crisis' bit. That phrase hangs in the air in much the same way. One, two... maybe five seconds or more.

"Now, Buck..." she starts, her voice croaking just a bit, in the same way it usually does when a blurted phrase seems to surprise herself.

"... I think you an' I hit it off alright, Buck. I mean, heck, we done a lot together. We got good chemistry as friends, I mean... yeah?"

Part of her wants to go on. And yet -- that croak had her second-guess herself. Reminded her that there's ... really not a rush for her to spill out half-formed thoughts without waiting for a response. There's plenty of stops left in this trip.

Maybe Buck can feel the tension. Even when he's not got his powers on display there's a certain instintual air to him now that comes out whether he likes it or not. And right now he's kind of looking like a puppy that knows it did something wrong but isn't exactly sure what that wrong was.

At least there's another source of conversation to distract him a little. "Well, not like I'm in an Ivy League either, even if we had the money I'm not sure I could of gotten in. Not unless they needed to increase their midwestern farm boy quota or somethin'." He adds with a small laugh.

Chevy's question gets him blinking though. "Of course we're friends." He says with a tone like 'Why are you even asking me that?' "Hell, Chevs, you're probably the best friend I got nowadays. And you're gonna have to do a lot to get rid of me at this point." He adds one of his biggest Buck smiles to those words. One almost has to wonder if he does something to make those smiles that big or that goofy.

"I love Hawks like one of my brothers, but he's kind of an idiot." He says, maybe not completely apropo of nothing.

"Remind me to pick up some of those old fashioned hard candies at Cracker Barrel. Ma loves those things." And from the sound of it, Buck is craving some as well.

"You warm enough?" He reaches forward to put his hand over one of the air vents, feeling the wind blowing through. "I don't mind bein' a little cold, but if you need to turn it up don't worry." He's gone into rambling mode. His attention seemingly on anything and everything but the conversation they were just having.

"Are there -quotas- for y'all?" asks the Carolina girl, completely without a clue. It's clear she didn't really put any thought into college at all.

Her slightly-off-kilter question does seem to have drawn a response though -- and it's one that has Chevy's cheeks turning red as she gives a nervous laugh. "I'm just sayin' -- you said you didn't hit it off with anyone, and here you are trustin' me with your truck keys." Snickering, she notices Buck's goofy smile, and adds with the hint of laughter: "Goober!"

Of course, with the mention of friends, talk inevitably turns back towards Hawksley. And while she was expecting -some- awkward comment about Mr. Moore to follow the 'but,' she wasn't expecting -that- word.

"Buck!" she chides -- though the exasperated smile she wears shows she -might- be guilty of having a similar thought at some point.

As usual, she finds it more comfortable to talk herself through her thoughts, aloud. "Sheesh. I mean, I know he ain't here to take offense, but..." Drawing in her breath for a moment, it looks like she's about to say something else, but then Buck mentions hard candies. And just before she can say anything about -that-, he starts doting on her like her mother.

Lost for words, she takes a light swat at Buck's hand. Her own hand -- freed from farm life for the past few months -- is smooth like polished alabaster, and nearly as cold to the touch.

"I'm fine if you are. Lil' cold never really bothered me, but if I get too warm I start gettin' drowsy."

She focuses on driving for a moment -- a faint, placid smile coming back to her features as she tries to untangle the threads of conversation that had gotten swept under the rug.

"... Maybe you're right though," she starts, tentatively. "About Hawksley, I mean."

Her gaze flits from one car to the next. Assessing the road conditions, the distance... the usual sorts of things that one does on 'autopilot.'

"He probably warn't even gonna tell Djamila he was datin' Coco, either."

Her smile brightens for a second or two, before fading.

"When I said hit it off I didn't mean as friends I meant.. you know.." Buck waves a hand in the air beside his head as if that will fill in the missing words. For a guy that seems to take almost everything in stride and rarely gets flustered the talk of crushes really does seem to put him off his footing.

"What? I tell my brothers when they're being idiots. And I said he's like a brother, and he's being an idiot." Buck's footing restored now that he's talking about someone else's emotions, he laughs. "I mean. I can see why guys like Coco, but she's so.." He falters, then makes a face, then continues. "She's so Coco." Really, it is the perfect descriptor. "Not that I dislike her, she's just, I dunno, she seems difficult." His country politeness is at war with his need to just gossip with his friend.

"Wait. I thought Djamila had her eyes on Kenzo? Or they seemed pretty close at the Christmas party." His grin turns into a bit of a frown. "Or was I reading that wrong? I ain't good with those sort of things sometimes."

As if no one has noticed.

Didn't mean... as friends?
Chevy nods, her breath frosting up in front of her face. She seems to get the meaning -- but cooking up her feelings in a way which won't be completely awkward when served will take a few more moments on the back burner.

"Ain't gonna get a fight from me there," she laughs. Apparently the rules against talking poorly about other people are suspended where -that- person is concerned. "I think he just needs things spelled out for him, is all."

She smiles hopefully. The hayseed has given the matter plenty of thought -- probably way more than she ought to have. But in light of the topic Buck's dancing around...

"Naw, you're... Doin' fine, Buck. This was the night before Coco got kidnapped." She laughs -- just long enough to break the tension.

She glances over to Buck for a moment, but mostly keeps her eyes forward on the snow-lined highway.

"When Coco got her dig in on my ribs, Hawksley drove me back to my apartment. ... And I told him then, that I'd had a crush on him." She laughs -- clearly at ease with the situation now that she's had several months of distance from it. "He said, he'd never really thought of me that way."

She lets the words hang in the chilled air for a few moments, punctuated only by the relays of the turn signal as she switches lanes.

"He warn't ever into me, Buck. But I just couldn't let it go, go on with my life."

She chuckles, maneuvering the truck through a small cloud of slower-moving vehicles.

"But, like... to your point?" She glances over, a slight ruddy hue rising to her cheeks. "I didn't mean as 'friends' either. But livin' under one roof, with rumors spillin' every which way..."

"I'm sorry, Chevs." Buck says honestly when she admits to her conversation with Hawksley. "That sucks." See and he was rooting for them, too. But he leans back in the seat and frowns at the car ceiling. "Well. Maybe they have something I just ain't seein'." And he leaves it at that.

Buck can't help but let out a small laugh. "Does everyone want to date Hawksley? Next you're gonna tell me Buford was singing outside his hotel window one night." A name picked at random to make the most ridiculous mental image. It seems to strike his fancy as he chuckles again.

And then he goes quiet, turning to look at Chevy as if letting her words process in his brain for a bit. There's a long pause and a think. Yes, he can be a little dense, but he's beginning to pick up what Chevy might be saying, or what he thinks she is.

"Rumors, huh?" He scratches at his jaw, thinking about that. "About us?"

He's quiet, but should Chevy look over she might notice he's turned a little pink.

"Well, um.." He nods slowly. "I'd like to give it a try, if I'm getting what you're saying." Yeah, he's not sure he's picking up his cues right, but he does finally manage to put his eyes back on Chevy, grinning a little.

A bittersweet smile flashes across her features. "It... it was a rough night, yeah. But it warn't ever gonna work." She laughs mirthlessly. "... Between the drinkin' and the brawlin', he reminds me more of my Paw than anythin'. Which is probably why I couldn't look away for so long."

She nearly snorts laughing with the thought of Buford serenading Hawksley -- grateful for the levity presented in that moment. "Pfahaha! He'd probably try an' turn it into another awful haiku, too!"

Sensing Buck's eyes on her, Chevy turns a hopeful blue-eyed gaze back in return. She's... had some time to think, along the drive -- and while she isn't saying everything she -could-, she's trying not to say -too- much. And trying not to -stare- too much either, as the driver.

She nods quietly as he takes the lead, smiling brightly.

"... Well. Yeah. There's rumors about every pair-up in the NFG, whether it's guy-girl, or guy-guy, or girl-girl." She snickers lightly. "And the pair-up names just get -goofy-, too."

She rocks her head to one side, reddish-brown tresses bobbing about in the process. "Mm... yeah, I think we're on the same page." She winks back, pressing her lips together -- her cheeks reddening, and her heart swelling.

"It's totally different, you an' me. I ain't ever felt... -nervous- around you. It just feels -right-, like we've known each other for years."

Her right hand reaches over, resting her palm just a bit past the halfway point between the two seats. Her hand is likely just as chilled as it was a few moments prior.

"I mean, you already know you can take me in a fight, if it comes down to it, " she offers with a broad smile.

Not long after Chevy says this, the GPS app provides a brief sound, signalling that the exit for Cracker Barrel is coming up shortly.

"An awful and terrible haiku. That smells like donuts." Buck adds, shaking his head. He's not normally the type to make fun of someone, anyone, but there's just something about Buford that makes even him want to take the occasional pot shot.

"Every pairing huh? So what would we be? Chuck?" He wrinkles his nose. "I went to school with a Chuck. Nice kid, 'bout as smart as a bag of rocks though. Think he's playing football now." Buck considers that for a moment, then shrugs.

Well, this trip home just got a lot more interesting. And certainly will make the time at the Finley farm a bit more lively if he knows his mother, but he decides not to worry Chevy about that for now, if they even want to say anything.

"Chevy Beaumont." He says, sounding suddenly formal as he turns to look at her. "Will you go to the New Years Eve dance and tractor race with me?" He grins his goody grin, and it's probably hard to tell if he's joking about there being a dance and tractor race or not. Even odds he's completely serious.

He doesn't wait for an answer, instead just sitting back in his chair, his hand making the other half of the trip to rest on Chevy's, and if anything, he seems to be on the warm side.

There's a definite easing in the atmosphere in the truck, Buck seeming to just unwind right back into his easy, happy-go-lucky self as if someone flipped a switch. But that's just how he is.

As the phone chimes, he grunts softly. "Perfect. Now I'm really craving some biscuits and gravy."

An awful and terrible haiku -- that phrase alone was enough to get Chevy snickering. But 'the smell of donuts' is the piece de resistance that launches the hayseed into a wheezing, laughing fit. If she weren't driving, she'd easily be doubling over from that one. "Haha, ohhhh no, that's... UGHHH, I'm actually -imagining- that now, and-- aaaauugh...!"

Granted -- most of that is just melodrama.

She's still showing residual signs of wheezing as the pair names are discussed. The suggestion of 'Chuck' gets head shaking vigorously side-to-side, as she blows a raspberry. "No, I do -not- want to encourage that one. Chuck's a good name for someone -else-," she affirms. "But, uh... 'Bevy' was the main one that stuck. Some folks tried to make 'Check' stick but." She makes the sound of a 'failure' bullhorn. "'Finmont' and 'Beauley' -kinda- work, but..." She draws air through bared teeth with the faintest hint of a snicker -- no, she does -not- appeared to be sold on those last few.

She... -had- been thinking of something else to say when Buck suddenly gets formal-ish and serious; it's enough to get her sitting up straight in her seat and clearing her throat.

Will she go to the dance and tractor race?
There is a brief snort.
It still sounds positive, all the same.

As does the Southern Belle tone she answers with.

"Why, Mistah Finley, it'd be my -honor- to accept."

Chevy says that -- even though she hasn't thought through the logistics of her initial plan of spending Christmas at home. But there's plenty of time to figure that out along the way. She's got other things on her mind now -- such as the warm, tingly sensation that ripples down her arm once Buck places his hand upon hers. The gesture also seems to have swept her breath away -- along with any desire she may have had to pollute the silence with words. It's all Chevy can do to focus on driving with a pleasantly giddy smile on her face. She'd been looking forward to the drive, of course -- but now, the days ahead just got that much brighter.

"Yeah, well..." agrees Chevy, as she steers the truck down the exit ramp. "You and me both."

Her thumb kneads against his hand, reassuringly. "And I cain't think of anyone else I'd rather set down an' enjoy them with."

Log created on 17:55:44 01/17/2024 by Chevy, and last modified on 16:24:18 02/03/2024.