Story:Fault in the Veil

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Fault in the Veil
Written by IllaRouge


"Who's the little basketball star? Who's Daddy's little princess? You are, my dear, you are."

Fabled Franz Volker, of the infamous Dawg Pack, a man who's ferociousness on the court mirror those of FBA legend, sat firmly propped up in his bed, a huge king-size, with his daughter nestled calmly in his lap. Elsa laughed at her father's strange voice, and she reached up to grip at his nose. He laughed deeply and bounced her lightly, before stopping from a light jab in his chest.

"Careful," called a far more feminine voice as Tanya entered the room. She wore a patterned lavender tank top to Franz's shirtless frame. "If the press catches wind that the dark and mysterious Franz Volker makes kissy faces at his daughter, they're going to have a field day."

"Do I have to worry about a snitch in our midst, Mrs. Volker?" He had the smirk that she loved.

"Depends, Mr. Volker?" She sauntered up to his bedside and kissed him on the forehead. "Do you plan on paying to keep me quiet? Those tabloids offer a pretty penny from a pretty face." She scooped up Elsa, whom was prone to latching onto either parent if they were willing to hold her. She made the same faces back to Tanya that Franz had been making to her.

"I'm sure they're chomping at the bit for more than a lame captain."

She kept Elsa at her hip and rested her hand on her free one. "Let me put Elsa down for a nap. Then we can talk, okay?"

"I'm not in the mood to talk."

"When has that ever stopped me, honey?"

That made him smile again. He pushed the black comforter off of him and swung his legs over the side. These rib injuries were murder; every movement one made reminded them how much one body part relies on the other. He padded to the bathroom, feeling more like an old man than a basketball player. He growled as his trunks fell a little too far, bending over not a fun prospect at the moment. He relieved himself and heard his wife coming back.

"You know, despite what the tattoo says, you're free to make your own choices."

Tanya didn't hate the idea of seeing her husband's rear exposed to show the "Property of Tanya Tanner" tattoo, but it was a good lead in to their conversation nonetheless.

"I'm aware," he said flatly.

She knelt down and helped him get the offending garment back up, kissing him on the back of the neck. "Come out to the living room. Let's chat." He returned the favor by staring at her jeans as she led them away. He'd given her plenty of eyefuls, as had she him, since spending some extra time at home. At the couch, she sat down and lifted her legs to get comfortable. Franz lowered himself cautiously. "Don't think I didn't catch you doing squats this morning."

"I've got to keep in shape."

"Two weeks isn't going to kill you, Franz." She snickered and kicked her feet up to rest on his lap. "Besides, Elsa and I have both enjoyed some extended interaction with you."

He huffed in agreement. "I suppose it has been nice."

"You're just lucky my next film is in pre-production. They won't need me for a few more months." He laid a hand on one of her feet and rubbed it lightly. "Have you thought about playing for another team?"

"Jesus, Tanya, this conversation again?"

"Yes, Franz, this conversation."

"Can't you just be happy that I'm messed up for two weeks so I can stay home?"

"That's not what this is about, and you know it." She retracted her feet and rested her arms on her knees. "You know I'm happy for what you do, and I don't hold anything against you being out, just like you've done for me, right? So let's not make this talk about that, because we both know it's not a problem."

Sighing, "Yeah, but I'd still rather not have this conversation, even if it's not about something that would be easier."

"Can you tell me why you're still in Tallahassee? Can I at least hear that?"

It took him a moment, only because he was still resistant to the talk itself. "Loyalty," he answered simply.

"I thought as much. Do you think that's enough?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, all of the elements are here for this team, right? You've got a coach that runs military drills on you, practically. You've got your matron coach back as an assistant, right? And even you..."

"Go ahead, say it. It doesn't bother me."

"Your father's out. And you even got some big names on the team."

"What's the point of this, again?"

"What is this team missing? Because I don't think I'm missing anything, and neither are you."

It was an infuriating question, but one that the Doberman took in stride. And it was worth asking. The chips seemed to fall into place for Tallahassee pre-season and at the opener. So where was their mojo? It frustrated him just as it frustrated the management, perhaps even more so. Hildegard dealt with the team in her own way, but ultimately, it was up to them to rake in the numbers, put up the shots, score in a manner befitting the trust bestowed upon them by the fans.

"Tanya, if I knew the answer to that, we wouldn't be the laughing stock of the tabloids you joked about selling out to earlier."

"I don't mean to suggest that you aren't giving it your all, but why haven't you thought about going to another team?"

"You think I haven't?" It surprised her to see him answer in such a way. "The thought crosses everyone's mind in this league. You see the proverbial ship jumpers and trade-happy rookies that are just trying to find their place. Some of them find success on new teams. Hell, you see it happen with teams themselves. Two whole teams changing cities like it will really matter in the long run." He glowered and looked at the floor. "And I think every captain asks themselves this question. What am I doing wrong? What could I be doing better? Is it my fault that the team isn't doing as well? But the one question, the one question that I don't find myself asking, could I do better elsewhere?"

She gave him a moment's pause. "I don't mean to simplify, but why not try a new team? When that one studio was selling me bit parts on screenplays I and they knew I could fill the lead role in, my agent suggested we put our chips somewhere else. It worked out in the end."

He nodded. "And I'm very proud of you for that. But this isn't a situation of underappreciated talent." He narrowed his eyes. "Some of it comes down to luck. Some teams are just a bit luckier than others. Look at Hawaii. They had a spectacular opening, but now their true colors are starting to show."

He thought to the training sessions the players were put through. Tallahassee earned the reputation for working harder than any other team. Their coach had loosened some of the restrictions after Tazel reemerged, but that merely meant a condensation of their regimens for the Demon Coach. She joined them on the court as much as she spent looking over the shoulder of the lead trainer. Franz and Vance had a great working relationship that extended off the court. They could read each other's movements like few others could, and they stood as leaders for the rest of the team.

"This is not how Tallahassee should be doing. And we should be winning." He balled up his fists and dug them into the couch. Tanya knew how much he placed upon himself when it came to the team. "Is it the staff? The trainers? The captains? The players? Who the hell is responsible for this?"

Tanya pushed herself to her feet and walked to the counter. She picked up a few magazines and held them up. "Well, Franz my dear, all of these well-minded, smart individuals, writers and analysts and former players alike, they all say something different about every team and player." She picked one in particular and started leafing through it dramatically. "If they missed an important shot at the end of the game, they must have family problems, or didn't focus enough in training, or they don't care about the team they're on, or they aren't being compensated enough, or too much, or they should probably take up hockey, or their mother didn't love them enough, or they went to church one time too many." She set the magazine back down. "The point is, everyone has a theory, everyone has evidence to back it up."

Franz looked up to his wife, in more ways than one. A woman of her species and stature didn't usually make it in Hollywood. When she spoke, he listened. But this one was harder to swallow.

"Do you know what it is you should do?" she asked.

He wanted to give up; he wanted to strive; he wanted to jump ship; he wanted to stick it out. Franz was not a conflicted individual, but these days he spent idle filled him with doubts. Injuries were a curious thing to him, suggested there could be more that he could do to better himself, which meant bettering the team, and at the same time, he knew there were cracks in the veneer. He had a healthy skepticism of success. He never chided himself or others for a lack of championships. Time and again, he saw championship and finalist teams reduced to shells by the next season, even if the Spectrums were breaking that mold this season. He refused to be complacent. If they won a championship, the next season would just mean even harder training.

"I'll do what I have to do." He looked her right in the eyes. "So will the other fourteen players. Coach Tetreault, Coach Tawner, they'll do what they have to do." It was a simple, vague answer, but it was what Franz needed to hear out of himself. "I take my time and rest here, then the moment I can, I'm back on the court and pushing harder, making myself stronger, and pushing everyone else to do the same." He rose from the couch, albeit slowly. "Tazel being back has changed things."

"Oh?"

He nodded. "We didn't deserve our bid at the finals two seasons ago."

"Franz--"

"No," he snapped, something he rarely did with Tanya, "we didn't. Teams get there by a fluke. We worked hard and deserve respect, but we're not a team that deserves a championship. Not then, not yet."

"It sounds like you're being defeatist."

His ears laid back, but his eyes relaxed and turned down as well. "Up to this point, I'd have been ready to blame Hildegard, either for our successes or our failures." He turned his eyes to the window, looking out on the cityscape. "With Tazel back, I thought it was instant success. I figured we couldn't lose. We have the yin and yang of a hard-ass foreigner and a motherly mainstay."

"But it didn't work the way you thought."

He closed his eyes. "It's proven to me that we need to be a unit, and that that isn't happening." His ears turned when they both heard Elsa turning in her sleep. "Tazel wants a family, and Hildegard wants a platoon. And neither of them are right." He sighed, but there was a slight upturn in the corner of his mouth. "We need a team, and I need to fix that."

Tanya rose and joined her husband. She put her hands on his hips, and it surprised him how large and comforting they could be. "Come on, babe, let's get you relaxed. I think we've had enough revelations for the day." She released him and started walking to the bedroom.

"I don't want to be in that bedroom for another day. I'll stay out here."

But then he looked at her, and there was that walk. That walk, slightly exaggerated without being visibly different, one that married her muscular frame with her feminine spirit. She looked over her shoulder.

"The Typhoons may not need a family right now, but my husband needs his wife."

Franz had the look of an excited puppy, though in his own reserved façade. His eyes couldn't fool her. He hadn't walked so fast in days.


Featured Characters

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