Story:Guy Talks and Girl Talks
Back to basics, with a story of an otter and a dog in Hawaii. After missing the playoffs, a risky move is attempted. What will happen next?. Scoonie Barrett, Sophie Occhilupo and baby WIP © qovapryi. Julian Cross-Kiraly and Saskia Rasmussen © harlow
Julian was so thankful he had Saskia in his life, especially at that given period of time.
The saluki was determined to make this season count, given the Kahuna management fulfilled his dream to let him continue in the team where everything started, and have his stay guaranteed to be a long one. He felt that he had it all: a starting position, a beautiful girlfriend, good paychecks and even some media exposure, clothing contracts were all over his personal style, and his media presence even let him have some wanting to see more of the saluki in American television shows and gigs. It was only natural Julian wanted to give out his all in the court, wanting to show the media and everyone else he was one of the best, up to the point he finally managed to feature in an All Star Week lineup, redeeming from his rookie appearance, and wanted to keep up. Unfortunately, life had other plans.
Saskia could tell you about the saluki’s sleepless nights and bouts of frustration following Hawaii’s elimination from the playoffs. As the time passed, his pity turned more in determination, knowing that this was only the first failure he suffered and how other teams and players have had it worse. And so he had an idea. It was going to be risky, it was going to likely cause tension, but he had to get it out of his system, and there was no turning back in his decision to help his team further. So that night, as they always did when they could, he invited his teammate, captain and best friend, Scoonie Barrett to his penthouse, as well as his girlfriend, who Saskia quickly made friends with and tried to do her best in helping her with the pregnancy experience she was going through.
“Are the guys coming up here tonight?” Saskia asked, opting to keep it casual, in a t-shirt and ripped jeans, a style and flair that displayed her personality well and that the French athlete could not get enough of.
“Mhm,” replied Julian, pulling up a pair of swim trunks and a colorful outfit given by his Rebel Circus sponsors. “I wanted it to be here since I’m sure they would like to meet up in another house, plus...”
“...the important thing you wanna talk about with him?”
“Um… yeah.” the saluki winced. “That and I think it’s easier for Soph’s privacy here. I mean, FMZ hasn’t figured out how to use drones to spy on a 40th or so floor, and this place has nothing to envy Scoonie’s...”
“And I mean if they ever do, the more excuse to go around naked, am I right?” she smiled, to Julian’s laughter. “You dummy...” he replied.
“So, news is out?” the afghan asked to her boyfriend.
“Not yet. Scoonie says that it’ll be out soon, but the lug’s keeping the date to himself, could be tomorrow, could be in a week, could be doing the press release right now...” Jay answered. “But we know he can’t hold it for much more, since to his accounts she’s started to show since a good while…with or without your sister’s tricks.”
Saskia chuckled. “I just want Soph to be able to head out and enjoy her life… as much as FMZ lets her from now on, we need to have our girl time, come on!”
“You’d be joking about FMZ, baby...” Julian sighed, knowing full well about the media tyrades being an athlete often thrown him in. “They will arrive soon, gonna leave you two to catch up and do as you want. We’ll join ya soon after for dinner.” A buzz in his phone confirmed the canine’s friends were on their way to the penthouse, the canine pair walking to the door to receive the mustelid couple. “Hey Scoonie,” the saluki called as he answered his phone, making sure the lutrine and his girlfriend were outside the building before giving them the indication they needed. “Gonna tell the doorkeeper to let you through as always,” he said, a short while passing before they managed to reach the last level up in the heights of the luxury complex.
“Hey there,” Scoonie answered, him and Sophie briefly greeting the canine couple as they stepped into the apartment. The lutrine had chosen an oversized black T-shirt with white tribal patterns printed on it, dark shorts and white sneakers (plus his usual jewelry) for the rendez-vous, while the weasel was making a good show of the navy blue, straight cut mini-dress Scoonie had gotten her to disguise her pregnant state - although now, well into her second trimester, that was nigh impossible.
“Hi there guys...” the afghan smiled, greeting the pair before motioning to the tall otter. “So… can I call you daddy now?” she winked and playfully gestured in a faux loving voice, her boyfriend rolling his eyes, but unable to suppress his laughter.
The otter smiled. “It’s not official yet, but everything seems to be going for the better,” he said, gently underlining the curve of Sophie’s belly with a rub of his webbed paw. “Once the news is out there we shall head back to the hospital for the glucose screening, but the doctors are positive there shouldn’t be any complications until the delivery.”
Julian greeted the weasel in his traditional two-kiss way. “If anything, I’m glad it’s going well for little...” he left his sentence hanging, as to expect his friends to cough out a name.
“Still discussing it,” Sophie interrupted the saluki, sensing what the Kahunas’ shooting guard was hinting at. “Which essentially means me giving the axe to the big lug’s worst ideas,” she added, playfully elbowing the otter in his ribs.
“Hey!” the otter jumped, mockingly irritated at his girlfriend’s remark. “We went over this...it needs to stand out and be memorable, ‘cause you better believe my son ain’t gonna blend among a crowd. I know there’s so many different paths he could take, but you better bet he gonna inherit at least some of my trademark Barrett badassery.”
“Jayjay, baby names don’t work that way...” Saskia talked over the saluki. “They’re gonna decide and be oh so happy while the delivery is going or when he is out, but right now, they will only bicker and fight. I know how it is...” she feigned a knowing expression.
“I don’t blame you, Soph,” the saluki pointed out, shooting daggers at his teammate while smirking at Saskia under his breath. “For someone who thought it was a legit idea to call his firstborn Scoonie Jr. …”
“I admitted you made a valid point months ago, how long do I have to endure this?” the lutrine asked.
“I guess until I forget…” Julian jested. “So, ready to head in?” Julian asked Scoonie before turning to the girls. “You guys have everything you might need and then some here. I doubt any privacy leaks are bound to happen at around a thousand feet from the ground. It’ll be a while, then we’ll figure out dinner together.”
The afghan looked at the saluki leaving, a playful expression in her face. “Oh no...” Saskia pulled on Julian’s tail. “Not without a proper goodbye...” she taunted.
The saluki grinned. “What do you mean?” he pretended to be ignorant, just before giving her a peck on his girlfriend’s lips. “What do you mean?” he kept smooching the afghan, until a quick lick at her cheek caused her to shriek in shock, laughing as she sent Julian away. “Out with you!” she laughed out loud. “Seeya, baby...”
The weasel couldn't help but smile at the display, watching the boys head out. “I swear, you two are the cutest couple I've seen. And considering Julian, that's… impressive.”
“What do you mean by considering Jayjay?” Saskia raised an eyebrow.
“I mean, look at him...he’s not exactly the kind of person you would consider cute. No offense to him, but…”
The afghan chuckled. “No worries, I know what you mean… I get that a lot...” she stressed, motioning the weasel to a seat, to ease any pain she could have. “But the context around Jay it’s… different. You want a drink?”
“Sure,” Sophie nodded as she took her seat on the plush sofa. “What have you got?”
“Water, tea, soda, every juice ever… And yeah, I know we can’t have our usual drinks, because reasons...”
“Iced tea will be fine,” the weasel conceded. Saskia fetched her a glass and some to herself, before joining her friend on the sofa.
“As I said, you think he isn’t cute? I mean, that’s cuz you haven’t seen him when he was a scrawny 18 year old ex-pat that barely knew English...” she giggled. “...Jay and I go quite far, well before his FBA fame...”
“I haven’t said he’s ugly,” the weasel scoffed. “I mean, to each their own...but the piercings, the split tongue and the other weird modding ain’t what I’d call cute at first glance.”
“Well, he makes it work… and ‘makes it work’, too...” the canine replied, cheekily.
“You’re always the same,” Sophie laughed, playfully elbowing her friend’s arm. “I wouldn’t put it past you to say the same about Scoonie... But I can’t say he doesn’t.”
“Yeah well… which girl doesn’t love the big, muscley, hunky type you got lucky with? But since Jay and I knew each other from before, I guess we go deeper. I liked him when he was pretty much alone and unknown, and that feeling did not change now, even despite… all of this,” she looked over at the apartment.
“That back? Did you friendzone him?” the weasel asked.
“Course not, we were actually literally just friends. I was taken for a lot of the time we knew each other, but he never really came on to me in that way… until recently”
“Was he that different back then? I mean I can see he’s been buffing up to a degree ever since I met him for the first time.”
“Basically, picture him without any mod, except for his small wrist tattoo, less defined and even more of an accent and European flair… like… ‘plucked out from Amélie’ flair”
“You find his accent sexy, do you?” Sophie smiled maliciously.
“Well don’t you? It’s the sexiest accent in the world!” Saskia laughed. “It can make anyone hotter instantly!”
The weasel shook her head. “I’m not that attracted to foreign accents, honestly,” she said. “And this is coming from someone who used to tour the world for a living.”
Saskia nodded, playing with her hair. “I guess... when you really know someone… it’s just natural. I feel Jay knows it too. You know? He could have had a girl right now, and there will always be this doubt of ‘is it cuz I’m famous?’. He knows I am not that kinda girl because I will always treat him like the first day we met...couple or not, he is still my best friend...” the afghan reminisced, taking sips of her drink.
“Same with me and Scoons… well, without the ‘non-famous knowledge’ factor” the weasel agreed. “I won’t deny falling head over heels for him the first time I met him on that flight. And I knew him from his profession, but didn’t expect this to get anything past a good time every now and then. For a guy who frequented more girls in his college years than most people do in their entire life, I’m beyond grateful he settled down for me between so many. That he chose me to be the mother of his first kid...this is something out of a soap opera, really. There are days I struggle to realize this is happening to me of all people....”
The otter reached the saluki on the building’s rooftop, where Jay had given orders to install the hot tub Scoonie had bought him as a housewarming gift.
“You wouldn’t believe how stupid cheap it was to buy the extra space here up top once they found out I owned the pent...” Julian beamed with happiness. “Just look at this view...”
The lutrine had to agree. “Kinda miss living downtown,” he said. “No traffic to fend off every morning, the team facilities at a stone’s throw and most of all, this amazing view. I still got the big pool, the gym and the outdoor court over you, though,” he jested.
“Yeah, but I can go to your place if I get the itch. Still got some tidying up to do, work in progress...” the canine looked at some dust on the floor. “But the most important thing…” he continued as he fiddled with some buttons from the big luxury item, the water in the tub starting to froth and foam as the jets sprang into action. “...it’s working up nicely!”
“Mind if I get changed here?” the otter asked, having already removed his Audemars Piquet cronograph and the heavy, gold-and-bone tailring adorning his rudder. Rummaging in a plastic bag, he brought out a yellow speedo and started twirling it around his fist.
“Eh, nothing I don’t watch or see you flaunt like about three to four times a week...” he taunted, “Although buying and wearing something that goes under your thighs every once in a while wouldn’t kill you...” he snarked, tying his long hair with a band he had on his wrist.
“Heh, I leave the lycra jammers for prolonged swim sessions,” the otter said casually, taking off his oversized shirt and gaudy shorts to remain in his trademark, Under Armour boxerjocks. “And I mean...for an European, wearing Speedos at the pool should be like the norm,” he said as he slid the garment down his ankles, shielding his modesty from his teammate before putting his skimpy swimwear on.
“What doesn’t say it is? If you only knew of my solo and not-solo times up here...” Jay winked. “Saint Tropez all over again...” the canine looked at the otter’s expression, making the math of his statement and the jacuzzi. “No worries, it gets flushed and cleaned often,” he scoffed.
“You dirty dog,” the lutrine grinned, sitting on the edge of the tub as he waited for the saluki to join him. “What you waiting then? You going commando under those slacks?” Without thinking twice, he lifted himself with a pull of his muscular arms over the rim and into the tub - completely submerging his body before coming out, sputtering a bit, shaking his damp headfur off his eyes as he sat on the underwater seat.
“Nah...” he said, as he joined suit with a splash, immediately surfacing up and shaking up, splattering water all around, including over his guest. “I come ready...”
“So…” the lutrine said contentedly, just his head poking out of the surface as he extended his long limbs under the water. “How did you see Soph? She’s looking good, right?”
“You were not lying when you said she still looked great...” the saluki smiled as he adjusted to seat in the big tub. “Circumstances aside, I bet she is happy to have you around in this situation, and I guess you as well? I mean… it is a big deal for both, ouais?”
“Course I do,” the otter said. “I won’t say I’m happy about missing the post-season, but it came as a blessing in disguise for us. So when the lil’ bugger comes to the world in September, I’ll still have about one month and a half to get primed for next season and at the same time spend some time with my son before we fall back into our usual routine.”
“Yeah… you got all that to catch up without the post, not everyone is lucky to come back to that…” the canine sighed. While he was happy for his friend, he was still feeling somewhat disappointed for his own sake, something he hoped to not show to his Kahuna friends. Shaking his head so to avoid dampening the mood. “Em… So… Have you had any actual baby experience?” Julian asked. “Mine is somewhat limited, but I guess anything works, eh?”
“Not anything more than tending to my nephews, I fear…” the otter shook his head, sending small drops of water flying all around. “It is gonna be a learning game to some degree, but we all gotta start somewhere, right?” he said. “Just hope it doesn't get too hard on Soph, given that she'll be tending to our pup most of the time.”
“I lived in the university dorms while Céline was a newborn, but I visited enough. It wasn't until she was around 2 and I moved in their home cuz I couldn't afford the dorms. So I “paid” aunt Nicki and uncle Jean with babysitting when needed. It was... annoying as fuck at first, but well… life gives you some twists alright…” the canine said, fetching a half-full bottle of wine, drinking straight from it, the otter looking at Julian funny.
“That's an eager pup,” Scoonie smiled. “Whatcha got there?”
“It's my home, and no one can judge me…” he laughed. “Just a French Pinot, 2007. Good enough to loosen up...” the saluki shook his head. “There's some assorted mini bottles on the side if you wanna grab one. Course I'm not a bad host...”
“That's more like it,” Scoonie nodded, hoisting himself over the tub’s deck to get himself one. “Us Americans prefer to drink beer in the tub, but I’ll take it…”
“Hey, it's good for your health, and better to avoid a ‘dad body’ eh?” Julian taunted his friend.
“Not for another fifteen years, I promise,” the otter scoffed. “If anything, I got both the looks and the daddy potential...I don't think the groupies will lay their eyes off me anytime soon, thank you very much,” he said in a mockingly offended tone, taking a healthy swig of his Pinot.
“Oh my, did Isis really got engaged?!” Sophie laughed.
“Trust me, I was in shock as well, but they are tying the knot over the summer, I’m flying up there, bridesmaid talking,”. Saskia looked over the notable baby bump her friend had. “You know… how are you handling it? Mood, cravings, the whole package?”
“Depends on the days. The nausea is mostly gone but I keep stressing over it, especially when I’m on my own,” Sophie admitted. “I must say I’m thankful Scoonie’s been around to help, not that I would have wanted Hawaii to miss out on the playoffs, but it certainly was a blessing in disguise for me.” She scooted closer to Saskia, as if to reveal a secret. “But really...when I felt him kicking for the first time, everything else went away, and they’re getting stronger as time goes by.”
Saskia couldn’t help but squeal. “Aww… I’m sure he’ll be cutest ever…” She smiled at her friend, touching her belly and trying to feel the baby’s presence. “Do you guys got any experience or relatives with little kids? I mean, I’m trying to not be over you telling you what you need to do all the time, but I know I got some tidbits from my sister about it...”
“Scoonie’s been around kids his entire life - he’s been an uncle since he was 11,” Sophie said. “To be honest though, you as well as me know he won’t be around much after the kid is born, so most of the work is gonna fall on me anyway.” She shook her head, seemingly worried with her own train of thoughts. “And I mean, I helped my mother a lot when she had Naz, but I was a kid back then. That’s not the same thing.”
“I guess it comes with the package, but I do think he is up for it. I mean, he is head over heels for you...”
“You say he is, but we weren’t planning on it. And I was the one who doubted the most, even after we got the news…” She audibly sighed, her head falling back against Saskia’s shoulder. “Plus you know...I know he’s tried his best to stay loyal to me during these days, but I worry he’ll grow tired of it as soon as I get too tired to… you know...do anything. Not that he’d run away from me because of that, but you know...an otter’s got his needs...”
“You make him sound like Isis...” she chuckled, trying to lighten the mood. “Well, from what Jay told me… it is a struggle for him, but he is nothing more than up for the task… And when a man is not about dealing with babies… you would know from day 1.”
“Yeah but how long will this last?” Sophie asked, not really expecting an answer from the canine. “Sometimes I ask myself whether I care more about his loyalty to me or just, you know...having him in my life. And that’s not a healthy way to live a relationship, especially considered I’ve chosen him to be the father of my son.”
Saskia sighed. “You remind me of myself on the day before I broke up with Matthias...”
“Huh? I’m not sure you told me about one Matthias before...I know about A-”
“We don’t speak of him, Soph… Anyhow, Matthias, my first boyfriend. Tall poodle guy, kind of bohemian, amazing face. When he went to college, it was like all of the sudden… He didn't care for me, aloof as all hell, I didn’t exist. And I was trying my best to keep him around because it would make me feel it could have worked… but then one day I realized it was him who didn't want to put work so… you know how that had to end…”
“You dumped him,” Sophie smiled bitterly.
“Exactly. Your fears are like if you feel Scoonie doesn't care for you. Which girl, please… you know it isn't true.”
“I mean...I know he got feelings for me that go past our physical attraction, but at the same time he can’t really let that side go...and I love him enough that I’d agree to almost anything if it meant he was happy, but at the same time the thought of us being an open couple worries me. Especially with a kid on the way.”
“I mean, guys love it when you are not a controlling bitch. For real, Isis would kill either of us if she found out we treated the guys like that, but one needs to have her say, you know? I was scared when I got together with Jay, because we already had this amazing friendship… and now we add a relationship, his first one to add.” the afghan continued, idly playing with her long hair, making a side braid. “I believe you'll make it work, and I have a feeling it'll be a closed one in a future.”
“I wish I was as confident as you, Sas,” the weasel sighed. “I don’t want to get to the point where he does it behind my back because he’s worried of dealing with me. And I gotta be responsible as much as him if we want to keep this thing going.”
“If he doesn't behave, you got some backup to tear him down...” she smiled jokingly. “ If anything, he isn't like Jay. Ugh, that dog frustrates me because look…” Saskia gestured, feigning his posture and voice “‘No, I am not good with pups. I don't like them’ he says that while he'll play with your cub, feed him, and tend to him, leaving the baby upset once he goes back home because he is a great puppysitter. But noooo, ‘he is terrible with kids’,” she rolled her eyes briefly, the weasel laughing.
“Scoonie told me he’s got a great relationship with his niece,” Sophie nodded.
“Oh, she is IN LOVE with him!” she exclaimed. “He's been a huge influence on her, and a big help in raising her since… well, you know…”
The weasel nodded again, not wanting to acknowledge what she knew Saskia was hinting at. “Scoonie is already in love with the idea of having a boy,” she added, trying to deflect the subject. “Maybe a little too much, I’d say…”
“I mean, boys wanna play with boys, and the girls wanna play with girls. Although I did tell him he would be an amazing daddy’s little girl kinda guy and boyfriends’ worst fucking nightmare...”
“Heh, but he’s big on this idea of extending his legacy through his own offspring. And he won’t tell you,” she added after a pause, “...but having a male as his first would probably be his biggest dream coming true. Guess that means I’d have to keep him in check more and more after ottsel #1 is around - him more than the pup,” she sighed.
“My sister tells me that all the plans will fall apart and you'll go from there once the kid is born. It's a whole new path you three will walk together. And as long as you got a good base, he will decide his path and be great at it...” she smiled.
“We can hope, Sas,” the weasel leaned in her friend’s embrace, closing her eyes as she fell back against the backrest. “You know… can you tell me more about how Jay was before?”
Saskia laughed. “Sit back and relax Soph, because this is going to be amusing...”
“Speaking of, with us pretty much settled for the off-season, how long before we get back in the gym?” he asked. “After us falling short this year, I’m gonna do anything to show the league and our fans I deserve my paycheck.”
Julian looked away, pretending it was at the view, but actually lost in his thoughts, his expression dour, the tattooed mustelid going about the future of the team and the next season. While it was a talk to be had and a reason for his friend to be there in the first place, there was something in Julian that said that he did not want to run that risk. But in the end it was already eating him up for several days. There was no option.
“We are playing really well, and connecting, but even in years as weird as this one, we still need to show we are on t-”
“I want co-captainship...”
Scoonie’s enthusiastic talk halted, sitting up straight, looking somewhat confused at the saluki. “What?” he asked, cocking his head as if he hadn't heard well.
Julian took a deep breath, his tone of voice still somewhat down and a demeanor that bordered on nostalgic. “I… want co-captainship. I want to help this team and go in deep with it. I feel this is the way I should go to fulfill this...”
The otter turned towards the saluki, his features turning from somewhat friendly and absent-minded to deadly focused in a split second. “Are you fucking serious?” he said, struggling to believe what his friend was hinting at.
Julian flinched at the otter’s tone, but gathered enough bravado to return a steely gaze. “Yes. And let me explain before you think anything I don’t mean to say...”
“Go on,” Scoonie demanded, his face an impenetrable mask.
“This year… it was supposed to be ours. I proven among many free agents in my year and out of everyone that this team could have offered, I gained a right to stay, to my fulfillment... Only this year apparently wasn’t enough for me according to many. I’ve yet to be something more than just a plan B or a sidekick to the eyes of the league, and with this failing, don’t doubt I am the first one that everyone will blame. Not you, not anyone else in the team, the free agent that they took a risk on and didn’t pay off as the fans wanted.” Julian pleaded, his tone of voice growing frustrated.
“So you’re basically buttering me up with this shit instead of saying out right I’m not up to the task?” the lutrine asked.
“What the- no! I didn’t say that!” Julian exclaimed.
“No you didn’t - that’s exactly what I said,” Scoonie retorted, still struggling to realize the power of the canine’s implications. “Just leave out the BS and give me one good reason for me to relinquish a chunk of the leadership and the position I worked so hard to get to.”
Julian huffed, still trying to wrap his head around how to say this without blowing the otter’s casket. “Look at analysts, look at reporters, look up pretty much everyone. You, Zack, Warren, Teo, Alfie… you all guys are set, you are set in stone as amazing. Me? Potential… I got potential...Three years, a starting lineup and more accolades on this team than any other rookie post-you and post-Alfie… potential...potentially...” the canine looked away, breathing loudly in frustration. “Tired of just being damn potential when I know and deserve to be more than that...”
“And your idea of building more accolades is to take me down in front of our fans,” the otter said. “The minute later after you become co-captain, both people and press will call me out as not being up to the task - and who could blame them? One season out there on my own and we end up missing post-season, to which I step back and basically say ‘I can’t do this on my own’. That is a death wish for me in the first place, and for the team right after that.”
“Who says I’m taking you down? If I wanted to take you down, I wou...I w-I would have blown against you to someone saying you were a crap captain or said passive aggressive shit on Twitter. Scoonie, I wouldn’t ask you this if I wasn’t sure of myself, and you know I am always real with you. I… am not forcing you to do this...” the saluki said.
“Damn you better don’t,” Scoonie retorted, not giving an inch.
The canine continued as if he wasn’t cut. “...But you know I stopped being potential a long time ago. I am up there with the best. And if I don’t do something, make a statement, they can easily decide...they can easily think I am the anchor of this team...And if that happens...” the saluki sighed, his tone somewhat more dour, shaking off what he wanted to say, but evident what he hinted.
“It’s out there on the court you gotta keep showing you’re more than potential,” the lutrine sighed.
“But until WHEN?” Julian asked. “When does that transform into what you got? When does me putting more three-pointers in this team two years in a row and getting more POTGs out of any 2014 rookie in that year translate… in what you guys got? When I will stop being ignored and finally get my star status in this league?! ...The one you always said I got...” he stressed, the quote managing to make a slight shift in Scoonie’s expression.
“After Gerry leaves, me and Alfie will be the last two original Kahunas still on the team,” the lutrine said. “I gave up everything I had and pushed myself to exhaustion more times than it’d be both sane and healthy to reach this status. You can’t just ask me to give up on both this and the image I’ve built through these four years just like that...”
“Scoonie… I know you worked for this. I know what it means...” Julian relaxed his voice, now more controlled and less emotional. The saluki extended his hands towards the otter. “...But there must be some part of you that thinks I am capable of this task… And some part of you that thinks that our dynamics combined would be absolutely unrivaled in years to come, if ever...”
“You...you just don’t get it…” the otter shook his head. “I know you mean well, but what everyone would see out there is me stepping down because I realized I wasn’t good enough to bear the mantle of captainship and the responsibility that comes with it.”
Julian looked away for a second. “Since when we gave a fuck about what was said about us...” he said, sardonically. “I… know it’s not an overnight deal. I know it might not be a deal at all… I…”
“Tell me one thing, dude,” Scoonie said, turning his shaggy head back to the saluki. “Has your request anything to do with my son?”
The saluki took a while to answer, his mouth opening a couple of times and shrugging, somewhat confirming what the mustelid asked. “I mean… it might also help you up… But, my own time is ticking to make something happen. And I know I could have stepped up on the games you were injured more than just playing a good game. Same as you and the guards here would have if I would have ever been out injured.”
“So you’re basically putting me out to retirement at fuckin’ twenty-five,” the otter said bitterly.
Julian groaned slightly. “Now you’re putting words on my muzzle… I never meant that!”
“You remember what I told you last winter? Fuck yes I’m becoming a father. But this doesn’t change who I am and what I can bring to the team, both in and out the court,” Scoonie went on. “I took a fuckin’ gamble on Hawaii, and you know there is no one on the team...not even Gerry...who pushed it that far in order to pursue our collective success.” Lifting himself up, he tapped his fist on the hibiscus tattooed on his chest, the design he’d gotten etched on his skin for life at the end of his rookie season to prove his loyalty to Hawaii and its fans.
“Scoonie!” the saluki said, louder than he wanted. “...I have never questioned anything you accomplished since day 1 I got in this team. I might not be an original Kahuna your way, but I am a pretty close case, 2014 and still going...” he panted. “...If anything… you got to admit I got the biggest balls in the team to go to you and ask this… You always said I have grown and that is a quality you were proud to see me develop...”
“And it apparently backfired on me,” the otter sighed designedly, letting himself slide down into the bubbling water.
“...This is not about you. You know how I feel about your skills and devotion, hell, you know how much you fucking inspired me and that is never gonna change… This is about me...Yes, it’s brash to ask, but you know we always keep it real between us. But… I want to prove to everyone that… WE can make some good shit, not just you dragging me along… as some social media comments let me know...”
“And is that worth having ME undergoing that in your place? That I’m at 25 yet ‘past my time’, ‘getting to focus on family and stuff’, ‘giving up his status of leader to Bengtzing, Turner, Toivonen and the all other hotshots’....” he sighed. “I can already hear them. Tell me it wouldn’t be the case.”
“...Am I a good player?” the saluki asked, somewhat missing the point of the otter’s worries in a purpose. “Am I… a bag to drag around for you?”
“If you think you still got anything to prove after this season, you’re fucking deluding yourself,” the otter said. “You had your best year following two great ones, got mentioned around by insiders as a Most Improved candidate...I mean, you don’t need half of a title that is worth about nothing but pride to tell the world you’re here to stay.”
“I… I guess I want what you guys have. I want to prove I am an All-Star, a favorite, set my mark in this place like many others did...” the saluki tried to gesticulate, his emotions getting in the way. “...you know… and now you probably think I’m an ego trip and a fucking half… way to go, eh?”
“It’s always the same show with you,” the otter said in a deadpan tone, throwing his head back towards the setting sun. “I’ve heard these words coming from you ever since the first day you set your paws in Honolulu. Why should I think making you co-captain would make it any different?”
“I feel like I am playing at a superstar and in the best conditions some can only dream. A great dynamic, a starting position, all the tools set in stone for me to stay. I got all I need and ever wanted… yet I sometimes feel everyone thinks of me as a second rate… I thought that...maybe this co-captainship move would finally open eyes and stop doubters swirling around like vultures at my non-trade clause, asking for it to be gone and ‘get out of Barrett’s way’...’” at this point Julian’s tone was completely despondent.
“You still haven’t answered my question, though,” Scoonie said. “Is it really worth that much to you? Having people possibly turning on me because some punk kid said you’re dragging us from behind a PC screen?”
“That could also be media, legitimate sources...” he added.
“Just answer that, Jay. Is it worth that much?”
Julian sighed. “...No… you don’t deserve that backlash…”
“Good...” the otter nodded. “Glad we’ve established that.”
A while of silence passed between the two, the frothing water being the only source of noise breaking through it. “My turn to ask something back...” the saluki said. The canine stretched his limbs on the warm water, looking at the now orange and violet tinted sky. “If there was no backlash, no criticism and no one telling you any of those things you said prior… what do you think of the idea of us two leading this team towards big things? Do you feel I have the potential and that we can cash in the court chemistry we got, the best out of all the league, to ace them all out?”
The otter sighed. “Jay, you know I’m an Alpha at heart...you’re talking about your ego, but I’m not naïve or catty enough to not being able to admit my own ego’s playing a huge part in this discussion…” he paused. “I’ve always believed the captainship role is mainly cosmetic. A true leader is gonna step forward to the task in a way that goes beyond a simple word…”
“You're kinda dancing around…” the saluki interrupted.
“Fine,” the otter sighed. “No, I don’t think it’s too bad of an idea, but listen up. On the court, you certainly own all of those traits I’d be looking for in a potential captain. Off the court, though...that’s where it falls apart. If you’re constantly doubting yourself in the first place, there is no way that’ll change once you’re thrust in that position, where you’ll be subject to scrutiny tenfold.”
“That's why I didn't say by myself...” Julian conceded. “I asked for an unit of us both, not me succeeding you. It’s not like a two manned team is an impossibility… And well… you wouldn't believe it, but all of this doubt has never had to do with my own skill. I am not delusional to think I'm a God, but I am not a pessimist enough to not see I'm rivaling with shooting guards many say are way up me… until I sink seven three-pointers on them and get a W...” he smiled.
The lutrine looked down, not willing to admit the saluki had a point, he did consider the canine the most personally significant teammate he has ever played with and the canine knew he felt that way. “I don’t want you to think I’m getting territorial over my status, but I still struggle to buy it…” he said. “I’ve not proven myself enough yet to feel confident enough to relinquish what I worked so hard to get, or at least a part of it.”
“We all did hard work, alright…” Julian sighed. He knew Scoonie well, and especially how proud and eager he was to stand his ground anywhere he could. “I knew you wouldn't gleam over the idea of me asking that. And I know it wouldn't have been a pact made in this jacuzzi, in your yellow speedos… But know that there shouldn't be any shame if you ever debate the idea. And well...now you know who feels up to the hypothetical task… and with the numbers he puts and will put, who deserves the hypothetical task…”
“I do,” the otter nodded, smiling a little under his whiskers. “And if me at the helm of this team will end up not working, I want to think my pride won't be standing in the way to think alternatives over.”
“I know you aren't dumb like that… you and I seen many cases of that for me to believe you're dumb like that… maybe dumb in another way, but not like that…” Jay smirked.
“Dumb enough to find myself with a son I didn't plan for, and one for which people are already thinking about putting me to rest,” he half-joked, leaning over and playfully elbowing the saluki’s ribs underwater.
“Please… if I wanted to take you out, I'd come to your house and… tattoo “I quit” over your forehead!” the saluki joked, much to the lutrine’s perturbation. “But in all, I'm proud to be here and I think you're a great cap… I guess this makes us Kahunas for life, eh?” he extended a hand, his arm flexed, a more informal, but strong salute.
“I am a Kahuna for life...figuratively and physically,” the otter pointed out, motioning again to his hibiscus tattoo. “You still got a long way to go before getting to that point…” he said, purposefully missing the point in order to get a bit of a comeback to the saluki’s earlier request. Julian looked away in a twinge of shame, his body language less decisive after hearing the mustelid’s tone, fearing the worst in his reply. Realizing his cynical undertone might have been lost on the saluki, Scoonie stood up and extended is paw as well, beckoning Julian to get closer. “...But I’ll take it. C’mere!” he said, making as if he was to hug him then toppling over him once he felt he had the canine in his powerful grapple.
Julian had just the time to close his mouth before the lutrine dunked him under the surface, easily overpowering the skinny canine thanks to the abruptness of his sudden attack. The two fought for a good while in and out of the water, Scoonie quickly getting the upper hand over the dog thanks to his outstanding muscle level and lung capacity, finally letting him go as he felt his teammate starting to struggle in his arms.
The saluki bolted from the surface, racing to get a grip on one of the corners of the jacuzzi, gasping for air and panting. “C'est quoi, ce bordel?!” he blurted out without thinking, still in the daze from being caught in that stunt the mustelid tried on him. Scoonie poked his head out of the water a second after, smiling sheepishly as he propelled himself back on the underwater seat - barely having broken a sweat. “You’re such an easy target,” he grinned.
Julian breathed heavily before returning his attention to the otter, shaking his head, coughing twice. “You’re gonna fucking kill me one of these days...you gonna kill the best three pointer of your team...Explain that to coach...” he replied, adjusting his swim trunks, almost lost in the tussle.
“Aww, don’t say that,” the otter laughed. “You just gotta work a little on your endurance. Although I doubt even my high school lutrine friends would prove much of a match,” he said in the cocky fashion Jay had become pretty familiar with.
The saluki changed his expression, giving his friend a side-eye. “You ain’t gonna get the title of big dumb lug out anytime soon if you continue like that...” he jested, pulling his body from the water, sitting on the edge of the jacuzzi. “You hungry yet? After attempted murder, you should be...”
“You did promise one hell of a dinner,” the otter said, matter-of-factly, hinting to their previous phone conversation as he got out of the tub. “Shall we get to it then?”
“The things I do to be a Kahuna for life...” Julian sighed. “Yeah, sure. Girls should be hungry too...”
“Told you Ohana market delivers…” The saluki gloated, getting the dishes out of the table. “Best mahi mahi in the state… and nothing survived…”
“Well you know me,” Scoonie laughed, licking his whiskers clean. “And Soph has to eat for two now...” The lutrine sent a loving glance to the weasel, who had just finished her portion of baked mahi mahi.
“It was truly amazing, Julian, thank you…” Sophie nodded, getting up from the chair. Just then, she flinched, looking down. “...I guess someone else agrees...” she looked to the otter, caressing her belly.
“He be gettin’ big and strong like his dad,” the proud father-to-be smiled.
“...Gonna walk them out, Sasky. Be right back…” he commented, the afghan hound saying her her goodbyes to the couple, as the saluki helped them with the way out on the lower floors, the otter helping his girlfriend into the car.
“Yeah?” the otter answered, picking up the plastic bag with his damp Speedos and towel inside.
“I guess a shout out for a good game in twitter once in a while would help for some spotlight sharing?” Julian awkwardly laughed. Shaking his head, he continued in a sincere tone, shrugging. “Thanks for the trust, dude…and… you know...”
“It’s all good, Jay. Really,” the lutrine cut him off, getting at the wheel of his Ford Explorer before the canine could say anything. He didn’t wait for Julian’s reply - the car rolled down the ramp as the saluki stood back, watching as he left and disappeared behind the garage corner.
“Deadly duo till the end. You'll all see...Julian Cross-Kiraly, starting shooting guard for the Hawaii Kahunas is here to stay, and here to rock this league up,” the saluki sighed, nodding for himself.