Story:Change-up

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Change-up
Written by IllaRouge & DJ Nightfire

Franz's house was certainly one to behold. Situated in one of the more upscale parts of town, it was clear that Tanya is the one that designed the impressive façade. With flowers and intricate fixtures adorning the outside, it was marked by sharp angles and straight lines, a soft off-white finish to the paint. It was befitting a house of one of the country's best-paid power couples.

Juniper pulled up in a compact eco-boost car as she was listening to one of the latest pop tunes on the way up. She seemed very excited that she was going to maybe meet the famous actress Tanya. Though it was strange that Franz would invite her to his home to discuss game strategies even though he could have done that at the meeting with the coach and team. But she didn’t seem to dwell on it that much as she turned off her car and made her way to the front door.

Franz heard a knock at the door and hobbled to answer it. Opening, he looked eye to eye at his teammate. "Ah, Juniper. You're on time." He's dressed down, in only a tank top and shorts, but he leaned heavily on a jet black cane. "Please, come in."

Juniper, dressed in a nice silk shirt and a skirt, nodded. "Why, thank you." She slowly made her way inside as she took a gander at the place. “Wow. I have to say, Mr. Volker, you got a nice house here."

He smirked as he moved to close the door. "It's all Tanya's work, I promise you." He stepped lightly past her and headed for the kitchen. "Can I get you anything to drink?"

Juniper smirked "Well if you are offering, Franz, I can sure go for a bit of the fancy wine." She laughed for a moment. "You know since this is all informal and all"

He grinned. "Raiding my stash already, are you?" He set his cane against a counter and used the surface to steady himself. He reached for their wine cabinet and popped it open. "Red or white?"

Juniper waved a paw. "Like you can't get more, and being a sweet girl, I prefer the white wine, thank you." She made her way over to the kitchen. "Now what you need to tell me in your home that you can't tell me in front of the team and coach hmm?"

He chuckled as he pulled out a bottle topped in gold foil. He pulled a wine corker out of a drawer and went to work on the bottle. He pointed to a glass cabinet with dishes in it. "Could you pull two Riesling glasses out of that cabinet?" By the time she returned with the glasses, he'd worked the cork out with a loud pop. "Well, I asked you here for two reasons. For one, we've never spoken yet outside of practice." He poured the wine and handed her a glass. "The second should be obvious: mobility issues."

She listened for a moment and then said in a joking tone, "Well darling, there is a reason we never spoken outside of practice. One, you are married, quite happily, I hear.” She took the glass from him when he finished pouring. “As for your second reason, you seem to be walking quite fine with that cane of yours." She set the glasses on the counter. "Now, you have me curious on what you need to tell me 'outside' of practice."

Franz chuckled. "I've managed to have many encounters with beautiful women, and never once have they needed to worry." He sipped at his glass. "I've tried to talk to all of my teammates outside of practice. It's different than at the stadium. Hildegard and Filippo aren't there to watch over what you say." He scooped the cane back up and moved slowly to the living room, taking a seat in one of the white couches. “It’s an odd habit of mine, but I’ve learned a lot about people this way.”

Juniper smirked as she picked up her glass and slowly followed after the hobbling Doberman. "So you wish to be blunt then? Alright then I will be as well." She found a seat on one of the comfy chairs taking another sip of her glass and set it down. "So what is on your mind Capitào?"

His glass was somewhat out of his reach, but that was his fault. He settled back into the cushions. "Oliver told me that Hildegard's starting you in the Biloxi game tomorrow."

She nods as she beams a bit. "Sim, it been a while since I been able to start. So it nice to take a starting role in this season...err, despite the circumstances involved of course."

He crossed his legs with a bit of effort and found himself able to relax. "Do you think you're ready to lead this team?"

She picked up her glass and took another sip. "I lead a team before, and I am sure your co-captain, Mr. Vance? Sim, I am sure he will have a lot to say on the matter on what I should and shouldn't be doing. Is that correct?”

Franz shrugged. "I can't say. He's got strong feelings on a lot of things." He looked up and locked eyes with her. "But the fact of the matter is, you're the leader for a little while."

Juniper paused for a moment, as she can feel his eyes on her as she set her glass down. "Eu acredito que você não confie em mim para levar o capitão." <"I believe you don't trust me to lead captain."> As there is a moment silence, she chuckled and then broke out to a full blown laugh. "Oh…oh this is great. Now I wonder are you more worried that the Dawg Pack is going to be weakened by you not being there?"

Franz seemed unmoved by her defensiveness. He actually managed to smile. "The Dawg Pack has been dead since Hildegard arrived. She even told us so." He leaned forward enough to grab his glass. "This isn't about some media stunt, kleine diva," letting some of his German heritage show through. "This is about you leading a team you've never led before."

She grinned. "Well worry not. I will make sure that I will lead to the best of my ability and keep your seat warm for you. But you and I lead differently. I hope you understand that."

Franz finished off his glass. "I wouldn't know. How do you lead?" he challenged. He kept more silent than he typically would in this situation; he wanted to see what sort of leader she could be, before she even stepped foot on that court.

She picked up her glass as she took a moment to look, then in a soft tone, "I am a lady of the dance." She looked up. "As such there are those lead the dance and those who follows one's lead. I was the one who follow and now I am leading the dance and with that I have rules I have to follow. I can't falter, I have to be precise and on point. You have to hit your mark and make the sure your partner hit theirs. You have to have the audience entranced by your actions and by doing so you can impress them."

Juniper smiled. "In other words, I am a playmaker, you are more forward with your actions. I like to set things up and then make sure the timing is precise."

Franz wished he was not so laid up in his present state. He did push himself up so that he was seated upright, his feet on the floor. "Tanya has taken me to a few dancing classes here and there, tells me that it will improve my playing." He folded his hands and looked out of the window overlooking the city. "And it is never just lead and follow. The best dancers in the world read each other. They're in each other's minds to the point where they're practically the same. The aggressive leader, the one who forces others to follow, that's not the kind of trust a team needs."

"Well aren't you a bright cookie...yes it is true that dancers need to read each other. That only works if both are willing to participate in the dance. Trust only comes from actions, and I believe that what it boil down to is it not? You lead the team, the team trust you. I am now in the spotlight, team barely knows me."

Franz smirked, finally getting to the matter he was worried about. "And how does that make you feel, to be in the spotlight and the team not having a good read on you?"

"A bit nervous, but doesn't change my plans." She finished her wine. "Like I said, I have lead a team before and I can do it again. Just going to take a bit of work"

Franz shook his head and stood up, groaning the whole way. "Why do you want to lead?"

Juniper stood and stretched. "Honestly, hun, I can lead and follow, is all about what beat is playing. As for why I am leading this team, coach felt my skills were necessary till your boo-boo get better. So I will lead, will the team agree? I am not sure I will do what I can though till you get back and if I stay in the starting lineup great, if not well I am keeping seats warm for players, right?"

Franz shook his head again. "You're looking at this all wrong." He sighed. He reached the window and pulled the sliding glass door to the side. He stood in the doorway and leaned against it. "The team is going to sense that mentality immediately." He looked over his shoulder at her. "No one on this team keeps the seat warm. You're there to work. You're there to help the team as best as you can." He turned more to face her. "If you think you're here as a warm body, you can go back to the D-league."

Franz had a fire in his eyes that Juniper recognized from when he played.

She nodded. "Yah? All right. If you are a team that truly believe that then I am golden. I was on the Spirits, and I was put into D-league anyways even after doing a good job. I can work and I can lead, it just a matter now if the team can keep up with the beat.”

As if ignoring his injury, he marched up until there was but an inch of space between them. "You. Keep up. With them," he growled. "You're talking like a rookie. You're going to be the starting Point Guard. The team looks to you for leadership. If you outpace them, they'll never catch up. If you fall behind, they'll be lost. You balance being a leader and a team member." It was clear that Franz was passionate about his position, about the team. Juniper was reminded that this was the only team Franz had played for. No matter what, he wanted the team to succeed, not himself.

She took a step back "And that the dog coming out, it what I expected." She took a moment as if she was thinking before she grabbed her glass and took it to the kitchen. "What the difference between a rookie and veteran Captain?" She turned back to look at him. "Or the better question would be what the difference between a player and a star athlete? How many fans talk about Neil, Phil, Springer, remember Hedvin? But you ask someone about the Typhoons? Who do they mention? 2K…your mouth speak one thing but you dance to a different tune."

She walked back up and pointed a finger in Volker’s face. "Don’t you talk to me about team play when we see the actions of what you do on the court. I will lead your team and I do it how a playmaker does it best. If you don’t' like my action then you better get off that cane and get back on that court"

He laughed. "You still think this is about me?!" He put his hand to his head. "I haven't asked even once that you hold my spot, or to make sure that we get wins so I have it easier. Nothing! I've asked you to lead the team!" He wanted to march up to her again, but his groin was in considerable pain from his previous stunt. "Is that what you're concerned about? Being a star? The top player, the player everyone talks about?!"

Franz leaned against the couch, but his whole body was visibly tense. "You want to know how to be a star? A star knows when to lead and when to follow; a star knows when listen and when to speak." He crossed his arms. "A star knows when to shine and when to let someone else do it."

He had heard of the wolf's ego, but this was starting to grate him. "How I act on the court? I get that ball where it needs to be. If I need to shoot, I shoot, but I have four other people on that court that are in a better position to shoot. I make sure they get that ball. What part of what I do on the court suggests that I don't know how to play with my team?"

Juniper folded her arms. "The part where you suggested that I can't. By the way, you asked if I was ready to lead. How was I going to lead. You never asked can you lead the team for me Juniper...not at all in this conversation." She shrugged. "I don’t' care about being a star, that time for me isn't there yet, but I care about being notice, ‘cause if you not then you are bench warmer or D-league. Think I am wrong? Adrian McCormick, Leo Seppala, Makena Seymour…and she has a ring! Look where she is now. So yeah, being noticed a big deal. I am sure you had to be to be drafted, to get where you are now, to be trusted enough to lead.”

Franz pushed himself up and took a long moment to walk up to her, this time far less threatening. He sighed, "Juniper, it took a long time for me to be trusted enough to lead. My own father didn't think I was ready that year, and you know what? He was right, to a degree. But I pushed, and I became someone worthy of recognition." His ears were laid down; clearly this was a sore subject for him. "I didn't ask you to lead for me, because I don't expect you to lead for me. I expect you to lead for the team, for all of the Typhoons." His eyes met hers. "You speak as though playing from the bench is something to be ashamed of, when there's nothing farther from the truth. If it were only about the starters, they would play the entire game." He chuckled, "Without an amazing bench, no starter would be a star. Maybe the public forgets that, but the important people, the players, they shouldn't ever forget that."

He walked to the sink and set his own glass down. “I wasn't a great leader to start, and even now, I have things I can learn. I became a good player because I knew when to listen. I became the player my father would have drafted." She smiled, another rarity for the stoic dog. "I have no doubt that you're going to be great starting for the Typhoons. I'd have told you immediately if I thought you lacked the skills."

Juniper took a long pause, and she sighed. "I see why your wife loves you. You know how to diffuse a tense situation." She tapped her foot. "Perhaps we came into the conversation all wrong. Look, I am happy to lead the team yes. Am I nervous the team won’t' accept my leadership? Hell yes I am, but I can't be you. I can only be me." She took a moment to reflect on all that was said. "Cap, I will take into consideration on all you said here, but to be blunt, since we have no coaches or no player to judge, the bench is young. Just like me they got growing up to do and I don't' think all of them have found their mark yet. Potential is there, but it nothing like 2010 team or the 2013 team.”

Franz uttered a guttural chuckle from deep in his throat. "I was here for both of those teams. No, this team is nothing like it was back then." He grinned wider, flashing those big Doberman canines. "It is better."

They shared a laugh together. "I'm not expecting you to be the PG I am. That would be like asking Hildegard to coach like Tazel. I think we both know that's impossible." She shrugged and looked off to the side. "And yet, the two somehow find a way to work together. I agree, the bench is a little green compared to some years, but there is so much potential here. Hell, Narkissa got a double-double and Player of the Game off of the bench, so that should tell you something."

She nodded. "It does, and I think with the right set up she can really dangerous on the court." She looked at the time. "But I think it getting late for me, and I think it be best to end this on a good note rather than dive deeper into what we expect from each other.”

"I suppose that's the best we can do." He had gotten what he needed out of the conversation. He hoped, though perhaps less amicably than she may have wanted, Juniper got a lesson out of the whole thing. "You'll do fine."

She chuckles "Of course I will. Thank you again for the pep talk." She nudged Volker. "Well then, I best be on my way."

Franz nodded, knowing they needed little other than that. It was a short conversation, but it was productive. He led her to the door and held it open. "Have a good day, Juniper."

Juniper smiled. "You too, Franz.”


Featured Characters

Juniper Hill Franz Volker The wikipage input value is empty (e.g. <code>SomeProperty::, [[]]</code>) and therefore it cannot be used as a name or as part of a query condition. The wikipage input value is empty (e.g. <code>SomeProperty::, [[]]</code>) and therefore it cannot be used as a name or as part of a query condition. The wikipage input value is empty (e.g. <code>SomeProperty::, [[]]</code>) and therefore it cannot be used as a name or as part of a query condition.


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