3/11/08: *sweatdrop* Hmm... I'm not sure? Apparently the weekend of music and the warm weather creeping back around caused my creative well to burble. ^_^ This makes me very happy. I haven't burbled in months! *coughs* Anyway, for whatever the reason, the week's 15 minute ficlet word triggered my creative juices. This ficlet is a sequel to my Mighty Ducks fic "And the Fox Declared to the Hound". ^_^ I don't know yet if it's the whole thing or just a snippet of it... *shrugs* Right now, I'm so happy I wrote something that I don't even care.

Treeing the Prey
by Renee-chan

Have you ever been in the middle of one of those moments when a talking, laughing, good-natured crowd abruptly falls silent? There is an instant of looking around, trying to pinpoint what event, what action, what comment, may have prompted it. It’s often a group effort, sometimes successful, sometimes not. And usually, within a few seconds conversation resumes as though no interruption had occurred.

Sometimes it doesn’t.

Now imagine, if you will, being on the side of the moment when you realize that you’re the cause of the sudden thunderous silence. All eyes focus on you and you find yourself in the center of a four foot diameter clearing in the middle of the crowd with no easy escape in sight. It isn’t a fun place to be. Sometimes you can laugh it off, redirect the attention elsewhere…

Sometimes you can’t.

The really amazing thing is that I know it wasn’t anything I said or did at that moment that caused this awkward situation. It was one whispered comment and an enraged, “You saw him doing what with who?” from across the room that caused all of these eyes to land on me. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t as though I was trying to keep this a secret… I just didn’t want anyone else finding out.

Just when the silence started to get truly oppressive and I started to try to sink into the floor, the four foot bubble around me sprouted another occupant. A warm hand settled on the nape of my neck and squeezed lightly. I looked to the side to meet a reassuring pair of warm, hazel eyes and gave them a feeble grin. Their owner gave me a broader one in response before turning to face the source of the outraged shout. He lifted an eyebrow, “You expected him to pine after you forever, maybe?”

Connie pushed through the sea of people like a shark after a bucket of chu-- bad analogy. I shuddered. Dwayne was trailing behind her, looking more than a little confused. Averman brought up the rear with a look on his face that clearly said that he had not been expecting this reaction. His eyes were full of apology as they met mine. Poor Averman. He never seemed prepared to handle the messes that he invariably caused. Poor me… because now this one was my responsibility. Especially with Connie and Adam getting ready to square off like two dogs over a choice bone. That I wouldn’t have.

I stepped in between them before either of them could get going. Taking Connie’s left elbow in my right hand, I leaned over and whispered, “Please, Connie…”

Hurt brown eyes turned up to meet mine, then flickered away. With a barely perceptible nod, she turned on her heel and strode out of the locker room. We still had that much understanding between us, at least. Without even a glance at the rest of the Ducks, I followed her out.

I found her around the corner in the shade of an elm tree. She was leaning back against it with her arms wrapped around her stomach as though she was trying to hold herself together with them. When she saw me walk up she spat out two words, “Adam Banks?”

I rubbed one hand against my forehead before trying to answer. It might have been almost a year since we broke up, but that didn’t mean she was ready for me to move on. She’d showed me that in so many different ways this year… I’d just refused to pick up the hints. Partly it was anger-fueled – after all, she broke up with me. Part of it was ignorance. This thing I had with Adam was still so new, I’m afraid my attention for most things outside of it has been failing. Which explains how Averman caught us necking in the first place.

I moved myself to lean against the elm tree next to Connie and said quietly, “Does it really matter?”

She snorted, “It matters a great deal, Guy! He’s a boy! Why couldn’t you have picked Julie? I could handle that!”

Bitter laugh, “No you couldn’t, Connie. That would have made it worse and you know it.” Pause, “Besides, I don’t want Scooter after me, too.”

She sighed and hung her head, “So were you gay this whole time and just didn’t notice until we broke up?” Unspoken were the words, “What kind of idiot does that make me?”

I shook my head, “It’s more accurate to say that when you broke up with me it forced me to consider my options more carefully.” I turned to face her, “I loved you Connie. With everything I was, I loved you.” More quietly, I added, “To a large extent, I still do. But I can’t be your fall back guy. If you want to be with Dwayne, you know I wish you both happy. But you can’t have him and try to hold on to me, too. Not like you’ve been trying to.”

She clenched her fists and rounded on me, “I know that! It’s just…”

I smiled and brushed a hand against her cheek, “It’s hard to let go of ‘ConnieandGuy’, isn’t it?”

She gaped at me for a moment before an unwilling smile broke across her lips, “I guess we have been kind of stupid, haven’t we?”

“We were two peas in a pod for a very long time, Connie. We were a couple, we were best friends, we were teammates… at times we were almost like brother and sister. We’ve run the whole gamut. We were everything to each other for so long… it got unhealthy. It’s not a surprise that we slammed into a bad break up. No one should live like that, so completely co-dependant on another person.” I wrapped my arms lightly around her shoulders, “I wanted to be friends with you again… I just couldn’t be. You kept trying to fall back into the same codependency we’ve always had… and that’s not good for either of us. I didn’t know how to explain it.”

Connie’s smaller arms slowly crept around my waist as she tucked her head under my chin, “I wouldn’t have been able to hear it, either. I can be a little stubborn.” Snort on my part. She added, “OK, a lot stubborn.” She pulled back a little to look up at my face, “But… why Adam? Isn’t that… a little weird?”

I let out a huff of laughter, “Statistically? In this day and age? Not as much as you’d think. As for why…” I thought about it before trying to put it into words. It seemed a little strange, explaining this to Connie when I hadn’t spoken the words to Adam yet… but that almost seemed right, too, “He makes me smile, even when I don’t think I want to. He supports me without trying to turn me into a complete dependant. He lets me support him in return. He makes me feel like I’m capable of so many more things than I thought I was. We don’t always have to fill the silence with words. I don’t really know how to put it…”

The smile on her face turned tender, “In short… you love him.”

Answering smile, “I really think I do, Connie.”

She laughed, “What a pair we make, Guy…” She shook herself a little in my embrace, “OK, I understand. I’m sorry I dragged this out as long as I did. That’s more my fault than yours, I think.” The look she turned on me was almost shy, “Do you think we could try being friends again? At least a little?”

It wasn’t until that moment that I realized what a hole her absence had left in my heart. A tear slipped down my cheek, unbidden. Unable to answer in words, I crushed her to me and nodded vigorously. At least the slight wetness I felt on the side of my neck told me I wasn’t the only one so moved by our reunion.

Then the sudden “eh-hem”ing and round of throat clearing behind me let me know that we weren’t alone for our reunion at all. Hastily wiping our eyes we turned to meet the sea of faces we thought we’d left in the locker room. My heart skipped a beat as I smiled unsurely at Adam, “How… how long have you been standing there?”

Adam looked over at Fulton and Portman who each smiled a shit-eating grin. He turned back to me and coughed lightly, “Long enough to wonder if we should be selling tickets. This is probably the best drama I’ve seen in months.”

Damn my fair skin! I blush way too easily. I mumbled, “It isn’t what it looks like…?”

Portman’s grin got wider, “Now, where have I heard that before?”

Connie whispered, “Do I want to know?”

I groaned and buried my face in the hand not still wrapped around Connie, “No… you really don’t.”

Julie piped up, “Which actually means, ‘you really do’… but we won’t split hairs.”

Connie looked in surprise at the other female Duck, “You knew about this? And never told me?”

Now it was Julie’s turn to blush, “Well… what can I say? I’ve always been a bit of a fag hag at heart. And they’re just too cute for words!”

Connie’s gaze turned back to me as she commented dryly, “You have a fan club, Guy.”

I groaned again, this time burying my head in Connie’s shoulder – I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed the simple physical contact of our friendship, “Believe me, Connie… I know. I know. Just wait until you see her photo collection… it’s an eye opener.”

Connie’s eyes whipped back over to Julie, “You have pictures? Of them?” I couldn’t tell if the look on her face was pure shock, pure horror… or shock with a healthy helping of interested curiosity on the side. With a sinking feeling, I decided it was the latter. Who knew… Apparently Connie was a closet fag hag, too…

Another arm wrapped around my waist from the left and Adam whispered into my ear, “Or maybe it’s just because it’s you, dear…”

Connie’s snicker from off to my right had me gaping like a landed fish. I looked back and forth between the two leering faces of the only two romantic entanglements I’d ever had and realized… this hunt is over. The fox is officially caught. Unbelievably… the thought didn’t upset me as much as I thought it would. Instead, it felt like I’d finally, at long last, come home.

Questions, comments, oranges?

Julie: *snicker*

Guy: Please don't go there.

Adam: *contemplative* Why do I sense a potential threesome in the offing?

Connie: *interested look* Hmm... Tell me more...

Guy: Aaaaaaahh!!!!!!!!!!!!! *runs for the hills*

Julie: *patpats Adam and Connie* Oh, don't worry. He'll come round.

*shared evil grins*

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