It's twelve minutes into the first half and the game is on hold while the refs discuss a penalty. Out of nowhere Tish shoulder checks Sarah up against the board. Sarah feels the hit reverberate all the way down to her thighs, which already feel bruised thanks to jackass number 47. She hates playing against New York; fuckers seem to think a game without tenderising their opponents like slabs of meat is a game wasted.
"You should've passed the fucking ball! I was free!" Tish yells over the crowd.
Tish might be all of five foot six but the sheer force of her personality and wild-eyed stare is enough to keep Sarah trapped against the board. Bitch is crazy and Sarah's not stupid. This doesn't stop Sarah from whacking her stick against Tish's leg or snarling, "Yeah, if you're blind! Or are we pretending those two backliners weren't there?"
Behind her, beyond the plexiglass, the audience is a sea of emerald and white booing at the penalty call. Sarah resists the urge to flip them off. At the bench Raf is taking money from Yoshi and Zach, her grin probably visible from outer space. Every game, they bet on how long it takes for Tish to lose her shit with Sarah. Fuck those assholes and Tish too for being so predictable. There hasn't been a game when she isn't on Sarah's case; why aren't you passing, why didn't you shoot, pick it the fuck up. Whatever. Tish can go screw herself.
"It's called a rebound. You might try pretending to be competent once in awhile," Tish snaps, all up in Sarah's grill. The only reason Sarah hasn't introduced her racquet to Tish's face is that they still need to clinch the division final and Tish is their best striker. Even if she is the angriest little ball of shit Sarah's ever been privileged to play with.
Sarah settles for a saccharine smile and says, "Eat me, princess."
The whistle blows and the refs make their way back to the court. Before she goes to take the penalty shot Tish gets in one last vicious glare and a hissed, "Stop playing like you're the only one on court, fuckface."
Fucking drama queen.
They win 5-0 and it's a struggle not to smirk at the New York Boomers during the handshake. Sarah saves it for the locker room and for Tish instead. Their stalls are next to each other so it's not like Tish can ignore Sarah when she says, "How's that for competent?"
"Passable," Tish drawls, running a towel over her head. She has the worst helmet-hair, dark strands slick with sweat and spiking up in every direction. If Sarah squints and tilts her head, Tish kind of looks like a pre-pubscent boy.
"Fuck that noise. I've scored a goal every game," Sarah reminds Tish. She throws her jersey into the pile in the middle of the room and starts unlacing her chest armour. Her fingers are uncooperative the first couple of tries and threaten to cramp up until she gives them a shake.
Tish pauses in taking off her shin pads to give Sarah an insultingly dispassionate once over. Sarah might be a piece of meat for all that Tish cares. "I'm standing by it," she says, and for such a deadpan voice it sure packs a lot of judgement.
"Well, I suppose you were passable too," Sarah mocks. "Only two goals for you tonight."
The muscles in Tish's jaw bunch up, furrows developing between her eyebrows, but instead of taking the bait Tish turns on her heel and heads for the showers. Sarah makes sure to laugh as loud and as obnoxious as she can. Louder still when Tish flips her off just before disappearing around the corner.
"Suicidal much?" Cam asks from across the room, slumped back in the stall wearing only her sports bra and shorts. There are ugly black and blue marks across Cam's stomach already and Sarah knows when she takes her own shirt off it's going to be the same story. Fucking Boomers, Sarah thinks for the thousandth time.
Sarah throws Cam a grin and says, "Danger is my middle name," then dodges the sock Yoshi lobs at her.
"Don't lie, Sarah Jane," Yoshi snorts.
"Urgh, fuck you," Sarah says, grimacing. "Like you have it any better Scarlet."
"Yeah but mine makes an awesome stripper name," Yoshi says with a grin. Sarah should've remembered; insulting Yoshi is like arguing with a well lubed slippery slide, nothing sticks. "Anyways, Danger Girl, oh backliner of my heart, coming out tonight?"
"Yeah no. Sorry. I'm gonna crash," Sarah says, shrugging as Cam and Yoshi boo at this.
It kind of sucks having to say no to Yoshi when she'd just handed them a shutout on a silver platter, but Sarah has plans with a capital 'P'. Those plans don't include hanging out in a bar watching everyone get drunk and hit on anything that moves. Those plans do, however, include a certain ragey asshole of a striker who is only now coming back out of the shower with much tamer hair. Sarah doesn't say anything to Tish, only quirks an eyebrow and gets a nod in return.
Forty minutes later Sarah has Tish pinned to the bed, bringing her off with three fingers buried deep. Tish's hand curls around Sarah's neck, nails digging in whenever Sarah does something right. "It's a shame you didn't get a hat trick," Sarah says casually, twisting her fingers and making Tish arch with a bitten off groan. "One more goal and I would've happily eaten you out. Gotta reward a good job, right?"
Tish glares up at her and says with lips bright red and holding the slightest indentation of teeth, "Shut up. Fuck, you're annoying."
"Make me," Sarah says, laughing. Tish snarls and drags her into a kiss that's more teeth than tongue, wet, filthy and mean, and as a reward Sarah moves her fingers faster.
This, whatever it is, started out the same way everything between them starts out. A competition. A fight.
Sarah had been so furious at losing to the Wolves in overtime after a complete shitshow of a game. She couldn't stop screaming at Tish because there was no reason for the loss and Tish had been passive-aggressive right back and all of the tension on the court spilled over into everything. Into the locker room, into the bus, into the dinner, all the way back to the hotel room. Their tempers were so riled up eventually Sarah had lashed out, her hand gripping Tish's short hair and before her brain caught up she was already kissing Tish. It was either that or murder her, honest to God. By the time Sarah realised what she was doing, Tish was totally on board with the program and...yeah, that was that. Sarah left bruises on Tish, navy blue and stark against the expanse of her pale skin, and for her trouble she had angry welts down her back that stung in the shower for a week after.
It shouldn't have happened again; there was nothing stupider than stress fucking someone you wanted to strangle most days. Except two weeks later, in another city, another hotel they were right back at it. Only better that time because it was post win, and they never looked back since.
They have their routine down pat by now. These days almost every game night ends the same way; Tish preceding Sarah into their shared room or Sarah's apartment, waiting for Sarah to lock the door before shoving her back, crowding her against the wall. Whether they win or lose, they have sex. Celebration, consolation, whatever.
Sarah's into it. Who doesn't enjoy sex on the fairly regular? Tish is gratifyingly as competitive and responsive in bed as she is on the court, so by virtue of Tish hating to lose at anything Sarah gets a lot of nice orgasms.
Like right now. After Sarah brings her off, Tish takes a nanosecond of a breather then shoves Sarah off, rearranging their limbs until Sarah's on her back, legs spread. Sarah just goes with it--not like she's not getting anything out of this. A laugh does escape her when Tish makes a face at the wet spot though, because as much as Tish tries to deny it she's the biggest priss on the team. Tish stops short at the sound, kneeling between Sarah's legs, and for a moment just looks. Weirdo.
"Hurry up. It's not gonna lick itself," Sarah says, grinning.
Tish mutters, "How are you so wrong," but she goes down on Sarah nonetheless. Sarah laughs and keeps laughing right up until Tish does that thing with her tongue and all she can do is moan.
They are very, very good at this by now and it doesn't take Tish all that long to have Sarah swearing at her for moving too fucking slow. Afterwards they decide who cleans up by poking each other in the arm until one of them moves. It's Tish this time and she makes sure to throw the wet cloth right at Sarah's face.
"Urgh," Sarah says when she sees the mess they've made of her bed. "Why can't we ever use yours?"
"Because I'm Alternate Captain," Tish says promptly. She's already got her boxers and shirt on, and she slips into bed without another look at Sarah. "Night."
What a jerk. Sarah grabs a hotel towel, throws it over the mess and puts on a pair of undies and a tee. She sets the alarm for six am because they have a mid-morning flight and Tish is a freak who likes running in the early morning.
So here's the thing, the Ohio Platypus are arguably the most controversial East Coast National Exy League team.
There are a number of reasons for this, starting with the fact they are one of the youngest NEL teams; the median player age is something like twenty-two, and their 'veteran' Toby is only twenty-seven. Then there's the fact their roster has only two men out of sixteen players. For all the exy is a co-ed sport the number of women in the NEL remains a small portion of the total and most of them play for the Platypus. There are plenty of people who will cite this as the reason they've never won the Moriyama Trophy, much less made it to the championship.
As far as Sarah's concerned, fuck them. This year's going to be different. This year they have a solid defense line, two healthy goalies, and they have Sarah and Tish.
The Platypus had drafted them the same year; Sarah from the NCAA pool and Tish from Canada's equivalent but while Sarah went to the affiliated minor league team, Tish hit the ground running.
Tish's debut game in Regal Stadium was marked by her taking on a guy twice her size in the first half and scoring the game winning goal in the second. To top that off she ended the season with the most rookie goals and the rest is pretty much history. Sarah's first game, on the other hand, was a little later in the season when she was called up to replace Zach, and her claim to fame was less about the scoring and more about the hard hits.
From the very beginning, despite playing different positions and different styles, Sarah and Tish rack up on-court time and points at a phenomenal rate. Sarah anchors the backline with her heavy-handed physical game and Tish is a speed demon who makes the opposing defence look like lumbering idiots. And they send beautiful, miraculous passes to each other to score beautiful, miraculous goals. At some point people take notice and begin writing articles about them. By now it's generally agreed that they're the new blood the Platypus need to make a play for the Moriyama Cup.
PR all but falls on that shit like lions on a wounded gazelle. They end up having to do a whole lot of interviews and publicity stuff together. And none of that would be so bad if they could stand to co-exist in the same general space without it turning into World War Three.
The truth is, they fight with each other almost as much as they do with the opposing team, and it's not just about exy. It's about Sarah's eating habits. It's about Tish's epic sulks when things don't go her way. About Sarah having too much fun and Tish being a major controlling ass who will not get off of Sarah's back about anything ever.
On Sarah's arrival in Columbus, one of Jamie's many advices for her had been, "Try not to take anything Tish says personally." At the time, young and eager to not fuck up, Sarah assumed she meant Tish's whole ice princess persona--to this day, trying to get Tish to smile is like pulling teeth. But no, Jamie meant Tish's tendency to yell herself hoarse at the whole team to stop sucking so much. Her linemates seemed to tolerate it good-naturedly and everyone else sort of just took it on board without much of a fight because she's usually right. Unfortunately, where Sarah comes from being yelled at meant you returned it at equal volume. So when Tish yells, Sarah yells back and that makes Tish yell even louder and it all goes downhill from there.
After their first game--which is where the infamous picture of them screaming in each other's faces comes from--Coach and the GM sat them both down for a firm talking to. It boils down to this: Sarah and Tish can be as angry and hateful as they want in private but keep it out of the public or Coach will straight up rip their heads off.
So they tone that shit down, they get better at reading each other on the court, and suddenly, the whole world thinks they're best buddies. Who, yes, still scream bloody abuse every time they're unfortunate enough to share the court or the bench but that barely merits a mention anymore.
All of that ends the minute they leave the stadium and it becomes a free for all of scathing comments and metaphorical gouging of flesh. They don't just know how to push each other's buttons, they install a few new ones. Thank God for the sex is all Sarah can say. Without that Sarah really would have axe-murdered Tish by now.
There have been actual moments now and then when Sarah finds the crazy funny. Usually when it's not aimed at her.
And Sarah's self-aware enough to know she's pretty high-maintenance too. She has boundary issues, she doesn't know how to say 'no', she doesn't believe in surrender. It's why she's leading the Eastern Division players in penalty minutes, and Coach and Jamie despair of her. Tish has never said, not even hinted, but there's absolutely no doubt she knows why Sarah's like this.
Ever since the call up, Sarah has never stopped feeling like she's playing on borrowed time, proving every night that she belongs in the pros. It doesn't matter how much of herself Sarah gives to the team when trade rumours stir every year they don't make it to the championship. This is her third season with the Platypus and she has no guarantee they'll keep her for another one. She might get sent back to the minor league, might be traded for a more well-rounded backliner, might be kicked to fourth line. Meanwhile, the national team is making noises about Tish, and the no-trade clause in her contract is set to take effect next year. So yeah, Sarah gets a little frustrated, a little anxious and a little too enthusiastic to prove her worth.
Tish sees it and will yell at Sarah until she stops being so scared and just plays the best exy she can. It's not friendship, nowhere close because there are still days they can't stand each other, but it works.
When Sarah climbs on the team bus the next morning Yoshi's the only one there.
"Hey," Sarah greets, claiming the seat in front of Yoshi, who opens her mouth then stops, a strange expression coming over her face. "What?" Sarah asks.
Yoshi starts chewing on her bottom lip but Sarah couldn't miss the smirk trying to break through if she tried. "Last night. Just gonna crash, eh?" Yoshi says. Sarah looks at her sharply, suspicious of that tone and that smugness.
"Um, Yeah?" Sarah says, tilting her chin up.
"Uh huh." And Yoshi reaches out and presses a finger to the angle of Sarah's jaw.
The dull ache that radiates from that point of contact tells Sarah everything she needs to know. Fucking Tish and her fucking oral fixation. "Whatever," Sarah mutters, jerking away from Yoshi's hand.
Yoshi continues like she hadn't heard. "Noticed Tish didn't come out to party with us either."
Goddamit. Sarah gives up the pretense and glares at Yoshi. "Fine. Yes, okay? Problem?"
"Dude, chillax. We figured it out ages ago," Yoshi says, leaning back in her seat and crossing her legs, which brings her fluoro pink boots into view.
"We?" Sarah repeats, trying not to stare at the pink monstrosities and failing. In what alternate universe was it acceptable to pair those things with a leopard print dress?
"Everyone, dude," Yoshi says, effectively capturing Sarah's attention again. She grins at whatever she sees on Sarah's face. "Everyone knows. It's cool though. None of our business."
Well, it's not like Sarah was thinking they'd be able to keep it under wraps forever. They aren't making that much of an effort and a year and a bit is long enough for people to catch on. "Whatever," Sarah says, sighing. "Don't tell Tish, okay? She'd freak out."
"My lips are sealed. Amigo to amigo. Want me to give you some tips?" Yoshi asks, her grin turning mischievous.
"Somehow, I think I'll be just fine," Sarah says dryly.
Yoshi shrugs. "C'mon, I think we can all agree I'm the expert here. I pick up way more than you."
"Having seen the quality of your bar fucks, I'll pass."
"Don't be jelly, babe. I'd pick you up if you asked nicely," Yoshi says, winking.
God, Sarah can't believe she willingly chose to be on the same team as this asshole.
"Sorry, my type's not shameless as fuck," Sarah says, smiling because she only half means it.
This just sends Yoshi off into a shitty white dude rap song about Sarah's booty and what she'd like to do to it. Horrifyingly, Sarah can only feel fond annoyance when she looks at Yoshi. Clearly Stockholm Syndrome in play here.
Their winning streak continues even if there were a few rocky games that went into overtime, and it all came down to luck and miraculous saves. The game against North Carolina isn't one of those. They scrape together a three goal lead in the first half and hang on to it by the skin of their teeth. For most of the second half, steady pressure from Sarah and Cam plus some mind-blowing defensive play from the strikers keep the Bulldogs out of the Platypus zone. It's the kind of game that takes everything out of you, leaving behind only bone-deep satisfaction and exhaustion.
In a fit of good will Coach unleashes Tish and Sarah onto the reporters. Or maybe it was truer to say reporters were unleashed on them. Sarah stews in her own sweat under the spotlight, giving out rote responses on automatic. Yeah, it was tough. Yeah, there're definitely things that need improving. No, she doesn't think anyone let the team down.
If Sarah ever finds out who had the bright idea to interview athletes immediately post game she's going to do something painful and permanent to their face.
The questions inevitably turn to Tish and Sarah tries to inject enthusiasm into her voice as she says, "Um, yeah, Tish was on fire tonight. She's just amazing to watch, y'know. Always working hard to make the plays happen, just like Jamie and the rest of the guys. And, hey, sometimes things end up working against you, can't help that. But mostly it's about making your own luck and Tish's been so consistent throughout the season."
One of them asks about how much they've influenced each other and Sarah grins, lopsided, as she answers, "I won't say it's always easy but we both want to be the best and we're willing to do whatever it takes to get there. Tish and I, we get each other, that's what makes it so fun for me. Yeah, I'd say she's made a big difference to how I play and I think she'd say the same right back."
When Tish hears about this--Sarah's not oblivious enough to think this won't end up all over social network sites--she'll probably think it's just Sarah playing it up but the hell of it is, Sarah's not lying. Take away everything about Tish that bugs the hell out of Sarah and this is what's left behind. Tish plays a mean game of exy, Sarah respects that.
Sarah can see Tish conducting her own interview across the locker room, probably not saying the same kind of thing. It's not like Sarah wants to put herself in Tish's crazy shoes to walk the crazy mile, but she's reasonably sure Tish thinks praising her teammates will somehow make them complacent and magically lose their skills. It sounds like something Tish would believe.
One of the lights swings down and Sarah gets an eyeful of retina-searing white that leaves behind sparks in her vision. As she's blinking them away, she catches Tish looking at her. Their eyes meet and hold in a brief moment of camaraderie as the reporters start up with another round of questions. They absolutely deserves drinks after this.
The reporters disperse a few minutes later to go interview Jamie and Toby, but Sarah waits until they've completely cleared out before approaching Tish.
Sarah is only a few feet away when Tish says, without looking up from buttoning her shirt, "The next words out of your mouth better have something to do with food."
Grumpy little shit. Sarah bites down on a grin and asks, "Gio's?"
It's a nearby restaurant they've been to before, tucked away between a barber shop and a chinese takeaway. Not the most prestigious of locations but Sarah has fond memories of a seafood lasagna that made her question the meaning of the word 'miraculous'. Say what you like about Raleigh, North Carolina--and they say a lot cos fuck the Bulldogs, seriously--it has some surprisingly good food stuff if you know where to look for it.
There's a sudden weight on Sarah's back and a rush of perfume that can only mean one person. "Oooh, Gio's. Fancy. Are we invited or is this date night for the oldies?" Yoshi coos in Sarah's ear.
"Winners are invited. Losers whose save percentage is only point nine two, are not," Sarah says, shoving Yoshi away from her.
"Fuck you," is Yoshi's ever cheerful reply, accompanied by a pat to Sarah's cheek. She scrambles away before Sarah can grab at her. "You know you love me. Love this booty."
Then, oh God, she smacks her own ass. The look in her eyes tells Sarah there's a fuck awful rap song in the near future unless she's stopped. "Yes, fine, you're invited," Sarah says before Yoshi can open her mouth.
Yoshi touches the tips of her fingers to her partly opened mouth, the perfect picture of surprise. She drops the act quickly enough, slouching back against the wall with her arms folded as a grin creeps over her face. "Aw thanks, dude. Good of you, but Pattycake's giving me the evil eye. I wouldn't want to be the third wheel," she says easily.
Seriously. Tish has a problem with Sarah's nickname for her? Pattycakes is a thousand times worse. Except, of course, Tish isn't glaring at Yoshi.
"What?" Sarah demands, turning on her.
Like Yoshi would've come along. Everyone knows Yoshi hasn't been back to Gio's since their last team dinner there. She refuses to tell anyone what happened but Sarah can take a good guess. Yoshi doesn't understand the meaning of the phrase, 'don't fuck where you eat'.
"Nothing," Tish says, her lips pursed. She hauls her bag onto her shoulder and quirks an eyebrow at Sarah. "We going? Or do you want to invite the Bulldogs too?"
"No, I wanna invite your mom," replies Sarah, ever mature.
Tish only rolls her eyes and pushes past.
"Be a bro, bring me back some of those little cakes," Yoshi begs like the shameless hussy she is. Sarah laughs right in her face as she follows Tish out.
Sarah tries her best to keep to the nutritional plan during the season, but Gio's is known for disgustingly greasy, delicious food and it would be a waste to go all the way out there without indulging. Tish can glare all she likes, Sarah has every intention of rewarding herself for a hard won game. After a long moment of Sarah ignoring her, Tish huffs and adds a dessert to her order, which is practically a white flag.
Both of them keep away from mentioning tonight's game over dinner because winning doesn't always guarantee satisfaction. Their usual fall back is their teammates, mocking each other's taste in tv shows and, tonight's topic, other sports. Tish is a true blue Canadian and follows curling while Sarah's more of a basketball girl. Last off-season they were unfortunate enough to be the only ones staying behind in Columbus and naturally spent most of it in each other's presence being pains in the asses. However, in between arguing over what seemed like everything, they managed to teach the other about their respective obsession and despite Sarah's protestations at the time, it wasn't the worst way to blow off time.
Over dessert, Tish says, "What're you doing after this season?"
Sarah pauses in stabbing her tiramisu to pieces. "Uh. Dunno. Yoshi invited me up to her cabin, so maybe that. Otherwise, stay in Columbus I guess." Essentially, the same damn thing she did every year. Sarah's still learning her way around Columbus and the less time spent with her family the better, so it works out well.
Tish shrugs, head bent over her creme brulee so Sarah can't see her face. "Nova Scotia's nice that time of year."
"Uh yeah, 'cept for how it's Nova Scotia," Sarah says, voice pitching high at the end. Tish has told Sarah enough about her home state to know it's the last place in the world Sarah wants to be, even without the added threat of spending all her time with Tish.
"What's wrong with it?" Tish demands to know, gripping her fork tight.
Oh shit. Danger, Will Robinson. "Nothing?" she tries.
Tish remains entirely unconvinced if her dead eyes anything to go by.
"You aren't allowed to maim me," Sarah says, just in case. "We're on a winning streak."
Tish makes a face that means Sarah was right on the money with that one. God, what was her damage?
"I'd kind of half promised Yoshi a cabin visit already, so maybe not," Sarah says, which is better than asking Tish if she's high. Sarah's not ever done the buddy fucking thing before, but she's almost sure that kind of relationship doesn't include visiting said buddy's home country.
A strange expression crosses Tish's face, too fast for Sarah to parse.
"Fine," Tish says, and goes back to mutilating her creme brulee.
Sarah continues, when it becomes apparent Tish is done. "Anyway, don't you normally prefer to stay here too?"
"I just thought it might be nice," Tish mutters, so low Sarah nearly misses it.
Sarah is a good teammate and doesn't mention how Tish is probably losing her mind if she, for one minute, thought that would be anything but pure carnage.
Sarah forgets Tish's weirdness by next week, her attention taken up by a string of home games because those ones are her favourite. To Sarah's surprise, it takes a little less than two years for Columbus to worm its way under her skin. Although Los Angeles is always going to be home, Columbus is where Sarah wants to be for the foreseeable future, playing her heart out. She's still in the process of settling into this city but she remembers her neighbours' names, has a favourite sports bar, and has developed a routine for game days. By routine she means going out for breakfast at this little cafe two blocks down from her place and ordering a mint, chocolate, double-shot almond milk coffee that tastes better than it sounds, plus whatever else she's in the mood for.
Tish likes staying in and eat boring healthy shit, but that morning Sarah all but kicks her out of bed and says, "Shower and breakfast. My treat."
With a grunt and a disgustingly fast recovery, Tish sits up and runs a hand through her hair. Because Sarah doesn't believe in denying yourself anything she reaches out and touches one of the bruises peppering Tish's hip. Not her handiwork, the mottled yellow and green speaking of days rather than hours, but Sarah likes the little shiver that wracks Tish's body when she presses down on it.
"Your treat?" Tish asks, grabbing Sarah's wrist. In return Sarah leans over and rests her chin on Tish's shoulder.
"Mmhm. Little Montreal," Sarah murmurs, going from pressure to scratching lightly. Tish makes a noise, but she curls in and tolerates Sarah's lazy, easy kiss that has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with the fact there was some stellar banging last night and later today they're gonna crush those West Virginia douchenozzles.
There's something to be said for having a fuck buddy stay over if this is what morning afters are like. This season's seen a couple of changes in their setup out of necessity and this is one Sarah can definitely get used to. That said, she's getting hungry. Her stomach rumbles as if in agreement and that decides it for Sarah.
Sarah shoves Tish away after one last kiss and says, "C'mon, I'm serious."
Tish sighs and, rolling her eyes, stretches. She arches her back then reaches forward to touch her fingers to her toes, a display of flexibility that makes Sarah wish for one brief moment that she didn't have such a goddamn craving for waffles.
"I hate you," Sarah says and rolls out of bed, taking the sheets with her.
There's no reply but Sarah knows Tish is smirking. Just for that, Sarah takes her time in the shower. Tish can take the guest bathroom with its crappy water pressure and scratchy towels. Her pettiness feels pointless when she comes out of the bedroom and Tish is digging through the fridge as sanguine as ever.
"Is that my shirt?" Sarah says, picking up her car keys out of the bowl.
Tish's head emerges from the fridge and she's frowning. "What?"
Sarah points. It's a black and blue Platypus tee-shirt they all own but it's a size too big for Tish.
"Oh. Yeah. I needed to wash my stuff. There wasn't anything else."
"Okay, too freaking bad," Sarah says, shutting the fridge door. Tish pulls her hand away just in time, snarling at Sarah under her breath. "That's just what you're going to have to wear to breakfast. Move your ass."
Sarah does a good job of pretending not to hear Tish and goes to grab her wallet. Tish whines the whole way there but on the scale of things Sarah's made Tish do against her will, this doesn't even rank in the top twenty.
"—It could give you cancer," Tish continues as they shove open the doors to the cafe.
"Blah, blah, blah," Sarah says, which only makes Tish scowl and rant more insistently.
Among the extensive list of everything in life that annoys Tish, Sarah's diet and her regular breaking thereof is right up there along with all the times Sarah doesn't get a turnover. Tish doesn't just bitch, she rants. It's all pretty fucking hilarious to be honest.
"Stop smiling, asshole," Tish orders, throwing herself into a seat by the window.
"Make me," Sarah returns.
The regular episode of the Tish and Sarah Morning Show is interrupted by the waiter coming over. Sarah waves away the menus and orders the usual for herself, then for Tish from memory of the last time they were here.
"Awesome," the waiter says, then adds, "Good luck today, guys."
Sarah keeps smiling because it's polite then turns back to see Tish glaring at her. How new and exciting. "Don't even front," Sarah says. "You like sunny side up for breakfast."
Tish grimaces because for some reason she likes to pretend her weird egg cravings are a secret. Sarah thinks it's a bizarre thing to be ashamed of but whatever flips Tish's skirts. "I could've wanted something different," Tish says, folding her arms.
Sarah doesn't even try, she starts laughing and laughing, clapping a hand over her mouth when it threatens to get too loud. All the while Tish's face gets saltier and saltier. It's a thing of beauty. "You? Break your routine?"
"I could!" Tish protests. "I'm here, aren't I?"
Sarah opens her mouth to remind Tish of the time she almost tackled Zach for eating her pre-game snack of coconut macaroons but they're interrupted again. "Scuse me," a slightly lispy voice says to Sarah's left.
They both look to the side and down and sees the most terrifying sight known to men; four children staring up wide eyed. Instinctively, Sarah hunches back into her seat and away from all that innocent awe. Tish, however, leans forward, a smile unlike anything Sarah has seen on her starting to bloom. Sarah wants to reach out and tell her not to feed the gremlins but even in her panicked state she recognises how that might be going overboard.
Sarah doesn't like kids. So what? It's not as big a deal as people make it out to be.
"Hey, you guys fans?" Tish says. Her smile becomes a wide grin when they nod. "Cool, got stuff for me to sign?"
When the kids are distracted by bringing out paper napkins and trading cards, Tish flicks a finger against Sarah's arm. The message is clear. Sarah digs deep into her large fount of courage and manages a weak smile for the kids. They sign everything the kids give them and more from other patrons who had obviously just been waiting for an opportunity. A few of them take photos but Sarah doesn't mind that. The Platypus' PR department should be paying them for the free publicity by now.
It's all a bit surreal because Columbus isn't an exy city. They prefer their football and hockey--on that note, if Sarah ever has to suffer through another OSU game, it'll be too soon. A year ago she would have found it bizarre to be recognised while shopping or whatever. That's more likely in North Carolina and West Virginia where exy's basically considered a religious experience. With the Platypus finally making a serious run for the Moriyama Trophy however, their fanbase is growing. It's at the point Sarah's started to carry around a sharpie everywhere just in case.
She scribbles her initials and jersey number on whatever's offered to her, surreptitiously wiggling her fingers when they start to cramp. Between signing a napkin and a Barbie doll, what the fuck, Sarah looks up to find Tish looking back. Tish is wearing an odd expression that Sarah's started to see more and more of late, almost always when she's looking at exy courts but there are times when Sarah catches that look directed at her. Sarah doesn't know what to do with it, doesn't really want to ask Tish either, only knows that it's something that makes her equal parts warm and uncomfortable. Usually, Sarah does her best to avoid acknowledging it but today, buoyed by the thought of this city and how stupidly in love with it she is, Sarah throws Tish a grin.
Slowly, Tish smiles back and the weird moment disappears. Congratulating herself on the small victory, Sarah goes back to trying to squeeze her signature onto Barbie's stomach.
"C'mon, you totally enjoyed that," Sarah says, long after the fan rush and after the breakfast.
"Nope," Tish says, though she doesn't scowl when Sarah laughs at her barefaced lie.
Because as much as Sarah adores Columbus, it's nothing compared to the wholehearted way Tish loves it, and how much it loves her back. Jamie's the captain, sure, but Tish is their golden girl, born and raised in one of the outer suburbs. Sarah might have googled Tish's name way back at the start, and in one of the post-draft interviews they asked her what she most looked forward to in Columbus. As inane as the question was, Tish lit up faster than a gasoline soaked mattress. For ten minutes straight she babbled on about how upset she had been to leave Columbus in sixth grade and although she loved Nova Scotia, how amazing it was to be back home.
It was almost embarrassing, really, watching Tish spill all those emotions in public. Columbus had returned the favour by fully embracing their prodigal daughter with every kind of fanfare. It's ridiculously charming but Sarah knows better than to say that to Tish.
Their winning streak ends, as all streaks do, and Jamie gives a good inspiring speech, as all captains do. It's full of intense positive encouragement, but Sarah can't stop going over every missed pass, every turnover she should've prevented, every striker that got the ball past her, every shot on goal that went wide. It's the worst game they've played since last season.
But there's no time to dwell on it, because the next day she's up bright and early to go on a local breakfast show. They broadcast it across multiple states, so it's a pretty big deal. Sarah's up before dawn and consumes what feels like her body weight in coffee before she drives over to the station. She's greeted with obscenely energetic people who make a mockery of her dour mood. They give her a set of clothes to wear, slather on make up, and do their best to make her hair behave. Copious hair products may have been involved.
The only good news is Tish suffering the same fate one seat over. Maybe worse. After a half hour of gel and sprays and conditioner they give up on doing much with Sarah's hair but they tease, pull and twist Tish's dark curls into a complicated braided crown that...actually kind of suits Tish.
Tish quirks an eyebrow when she catches Sarah looking at her.
"Oh, just thinking," Sarah says, reaching out to run her fingers along Tish's hair line, the stray strands prickly with product. "You don't look half bad," she adds with a grin.
It's hardly the most effusive of compliments but Tish blushes bright anyway. Sarah smirks and let's her hand trail over Tish's jaw and down her neck to where her collar bone dips. It's probably stupid doing this now when anyone could walk in but it's worth the reaction she gets; Tish tilts her head, offering more skin, more contact as her eyes go dark and Sarah wants to see how quickly she could lick away all of Tish's lipgloss. Sarah sways closer because what could one kiss hurt, only for Tish to clear her throat and step back. Sarah pouts, Tish rolls her eyes, but the tension is broken.
What a cockblock.
Sarah rolls her shoulders and checks her makeup in the mirror, giving herself a moment to shake it off. "C'mon, let's go rock their world."
"You sound like Yoshi," Tish says, still red when Sarah looks over.
"Exactly," Sarah says and taps her nose.
Despite all the media training, Sarah never quite knows how to act for the cameras but Tish is easily a thousand times worse. Together they used to be a public relation disaster, until Yoshi sat Sarah down and made her practice until she could give out perfect soundbites at the drop of a hat. Today, Sarah digs deep into her reservoir of perkiness to be so chirp-fucking-tastic she wants to puke. The only good part of this is Tish opening up enough to return one of Sarah sidelong smiles.
Considering the show's intended audience, it's no surprise the interview is all fluffy bullshit questions. The hosts, Henry Armstrong and Natasha Bendis ask about hobbies, who is the better roommate, best pranks and whatever. It's all so typical that Sarah gets lulled into a false sense of security. Total rookie mistake. As they approach the halfway mark, the topic starts to circle around last night's loss. At first, Sarah doesn't think anything of it; given everything it's to be expected. However, there's no way for Sarah to brace herself for the accompanying insinuations about her place on the roster next year.
This isn't an interview on SportsCenter for fuck's sake.
With a truly herculean effort, Sarah chokes back her instinctual response to Armstrong bringing up the fact her contract will be finished this year with no talk of another on the table at this point. And she doesn't snarl when Bendis alludes to her lacklustre stats last year. And she keeps smiling when they both talk around Sarah's value as a trading piece. They get less and less subtle as the interview continues and Sarah's fast running out of polite evasions, and patience, when Tish snaps.
"Next year is next year," she says, cutting into Armstrong's follow up question.
Armstrong looks at her with his mouth half open. He recovers fast and says, "Of course but--"
"All of our focus is on this season," Tish continues like Armstrong hadn't spoken. "We can't be wasting time worrying about the future when we're as close as we've ever been to the championship. That's what's important right now. Not pointless speculations." She spits out the last sentence, her lips thin and twisted.
Sarah's going to kill her, no lie. Holy hell, this is the opposite of media friendly, and the last thing the Platypus needs. Of all the goddamn time for Tish to ditch her hands-off approach to the press. Sarah doesn't care why or why now, she just needs Tish to back it the fuck up. Currently, Tish looks like she'd like to reach across the coffee table and strangle Armstrong with his own tie. Sarah lets her hand slip down between them, pressing the back of it against Tish's thigh. It's not quite the punch she wants to deliver but it'll have to do. Tish is a human shaped block of tension but at Sarah's touch she relaxes a fraction.
From the bottom of her rapidly depleting store of tolerance Sarah summons a smile that no doubt looks like a hellish grimace. "What Tish means is that we're just enjoying what we have right now, which is an incredible team made up of incredible players and we want to see where our skills and determination take us."
Bendis recovers before Armstrong does, smiling sweetly as she says, "Absolutely! Absolutely. And you guys were fabulous last night don't get me wrong. In case anyone in the audience missed it we have some clips."
They play a thirty second highlight reel during which everyone dials themselves back down. In Tish's case this means she grabs Sarah's wrist, nails biting in to the point of almost drawing blood. Sarah clenches her teeth and puts up with it because this is better than the alternative. She nudges Tish when the video draws to a close and there's absolutely no doubt that Tish is still pissed as all mighty but she lets go, folding her hands in her lap.
It appears Bendis and Armstrong learned their lesson; they steer clear of the topic of Sarah's contract and go back to more personal fluffy bullshit. They ask about possible romances because why the hell wouldn't they poke and prod at another one of Sarah's sore spots? At this point though Sarah's willing to take whatever she can get.
The interview ends with Armstrong saying, all snake oil salesman smile, "Now, this is a question that's I've been wanting to ask for a while. How did the name Tish come about? I think your teammates only ever refer to you as Pat, am I right?"
Sarah laughs and for the first time there's nothing artificial about it. "Not all of them. Yoshi um, Scarlet Yoshida, calls her Pattycakes, actually. Which I think is worse but Tish doesn't agree."
Beside her, Tish looks long suffering and that just makes Sarah laugh harder. Sarah nudges Tish in the side and turns her smile back to Henry. "The story's not very exciting, I'm afraid. As you might have realised, we didn't always uh, hit the right notes in the beginning."
"Well, yes," Armstrong says, and the screen behind them comes up with a photo of them early on; Tish pinning Sarah to the plexiglass as she yells. Sarah thinks it might've been something about giving up a goal.
"Exactly. So I would try to find ways to annoy her. I totally stumbled onto the nickname thing by accident," Sarah turns her body towards Tish. "I was joking with Yoshi and Raf, Rafaella, one of our team doctors. God, I don't even remember how I got there but it stuck."
"And what about now? You seem to be pretty okay with it," Henry asks Tish.
"I still hate it," Tish says bluntly. "But I suppose it doesn't bother me as much since I've had a couple of years to get used to it. A lot like Sarah herself, actually."
"If she ever does become immune," Sarah interjects, "I'm sure I can come up with something equally annoying."
Afterwards, when they've changed and washed off as much makeup as they could, Sarah gives Tish a ride back home. Despite the entire team's endeavour, Tish refuses to buy a car, favouring the public transport system instead. It's a pain in the ass but really Sarah should be used to that by now.
"So is it true?" Sarah asks, driving down High Street. She looks to the side just long enough to see Tish turning away from the window, her hair still in that crown of braid.
"The whole Tish thing? You really don't mind."
"You're a dick, I've acclimated myself to the fact." Sarah can almost hear the eyeroll.
"And you're a bitch, so I guess we're a matching pair," Sarah retorts, half-joking.
Tish doesn't say anything for so long Sarah thinks the conversation is over. Then, as Sarah turns into Tish's apartment complex, "I guess we are."
Sarah might be hearing things but Tish sounds pleased. Figures the one thing that would break Tish out of her funk would be the reminder of how ballin' they are on the court. Sarah grins at Tish, all of her lingering disappointments from last night disappearing. Whatever happens she and Tish would always play beautiful exy together and if she ever doubts her place on the court she only has to remember Tish chucking a shitfit on her behalf on national television.
To her surprise, Tish returns it with a smile, a surprisingly open expression that has Sarah experiencing that warm, uncomfortable feeling again. Between this and Tish jumping to her defence today and Nova fucking Scotia, Sarah's starting to think she's missing something here. Like a play that she can't quite figure out; strikers and dealer taking up positions that refuse to make sense until it's too late and the ball's in the goal. If Tish is all of those players then that would make Sarah the ball. Or maybe the goal. Sports metaphors are fucking stupid.
Good thing Sarah makes a point of not dwelling on things that confuse her this much.
Sarah pulls up outside of Tish's and waits for her to get out. They have afternoon practice, which leaves them with a few hours of free time that Tish will no doubt use wisely on serious alternate captain stuff.
"I'll pick you up later," she offers.
Tish takes her time getting her seatbelt off and it's only when she speaks that Sarah understands why. "Do you wanna come up?"
In the three years they've been hated teammates, reluctant roommates and now God knows what, Sarah can count on the one hand the number of times she's been invited up. Parties don't count because that's team bonding stuff.
"Only if you want," Tish adds, clearly having taken Sarah's shocked silence as rejection.
"I do," Sarah hurries to correct.
"You don't have to," Tish says at the same time with something like frustration, which is uncalled for because Sarah isn't the one pulling the hot and cold moves.
Sarah pulls up beside the gate and stomps on the brakes, feeling a kind of vicious satisfaction when that jerks Tish forward. "Oh my God, shut up. I want to. What's your code?"
Tish rolls her eyes but unsnaps her seatbelt to reach across and type it in, forcing Sarah to hold her breath or get a nose full of hair. Sarah has never met anyone who's that capable of passive-aggressive moves.
With that supremely awkward-angry invite, they've lost whatever easy camaraderie they've developed on the drive over. Riding the elevator up, Tish looks as if she's regretting it more and more as each second passes and Sarah's starting to freak out trying to guess what Tish wants with her. Tish unlocks and shoves open her apartment door in sharp, angry movements then barely waits for the door to close to say, "They're wrong."
"Uh. About?" Sarah says. Sometimes Tish forgets people can't read her mind.
Tish opens her mouth and stops, annoyance settling on her face. "Do you want something to drink?"
On second thought, maybe this isn't about Sarah. There's a good chance this is Tish having a breakdown in which case Sarah can't just leave her to go crazy on her own. "Sure," Sarah says slowly.
"Shut up," Tish snaps, presumably heading for the kitchen.
"I didn't say anything," Sarah says to her back.
As Sarah has no desire to be in a semi-enclosed space with Tish where there's easy access to sharp objects, she makes her way to what appears to the lounge room. The Spartans would have approved of Tish's idea of interior decoration; there's one big beige couch, a ridiculously big TV and a coffee table that came straight out of a seventies tv show. There's a racquet stand in the corner stacked with four exy sticks that Sarah's hand itch to touch. Sarah recognises a goalie and three striker racquets, all of them signed. Above that is a signed and framed National Court jersey. No carpets, no paintings, no photos, no artsy sculptures. It's the most depressing lounge room Sarah's been in.
At least the couch is soft and comfortable. "I'm getting you a plant," Sarah calls out.
Something hard whacks her right between her shoulder blades and falls to the couch. Gatorade, Sarah should've known. "I hate blue. And also, ow."
Tish huffs and jumps over the back of the couch, sliding down to sit beside Sarah. "It's all I have. You'll take it and like it."
Snarky banter Sarah can totally do, it's one of the foundations on which this relationship is built.
"Worst. Host. Ever," Sarah says, then drinks it anyway because it was hot under the spotlight. She waits for Tish to get halfway through her own bottle before bringing up whatever's bugging Tish. "So who's wrong?"
Tish slides down further in the couch, picking at the gatorade label with the saltiest expression ever. This is gonna be a good story, Sarah can tell.
"Doesn't it piss you off?" Tish practically explodes. At Sarah's noiseless, confused, 'what,' she sighs and expands. "What everyone's saying. About next year. About where you'll be."
"Sure," Sarah says, shrugging. She's not going to lie. It bothers her on every level that everyone's expecting her to wear a different jersey next year. Okay, maybe not everyone. Just most of the vocal exy fans.
"Sure," Tish echoes. "You don't look it."
"What do you want me to say? It sucks but if I let it get to me it might affect the team and like shit I'm doing that to everyone. It's not their problem."
"Of course it is," Tish snaps. "They're your friends."
Sarah takes another pull of gatorade before she speaks again, giving her time to think. "Oh, c'mon. People get traded away, traded around. How many exy players do you know have stayed with the team that drafted them?"
"So what?" Tish challenges.
All Sarah wants is an easy morning before practice. Instead she gets this. Fuck her life. "So we can't all be potential National Court recruits with a no-trade clause attached to our contract."
Tish flushes at that and Sarah rolls her eyes. "Chill. I'm not blaming you or whatever you think I'm doing. I'm just saying. It blows but it happens."
This is the most Sarah's ever talked about it and in a weird way, she's not surprised that it's with Tish. Yes, Sarah might resent the hell out of Tish at times but there's no one else she'd trust to understand how much it really, really sucks sweaty donkey balls. She loves Columbus. For giving her exy, for giving her this stupid fucking team, and she has no idea how to thank it except by bringing back the Moriyama Trophy and she can't do that if she's in New York or wherever and Tish gets that.
"They'd be stupid not to offer you a contract," Tish mutters.
Sarah slouches down to touch her shoulder to Tish's. "Yeah, well, it's not up to me or you."
Tish turns her head, glaring at Sarah. "You belong here."
Something about the way Tish says that, fierce but with an underlying layer of uncertainty, steals the breath from Sarah's throat and sits on her chest like a ton of bricks. When was the last time Sarah heard Tish sound so emotional? Sarah just stares at Tish, her mind cataloguing the furrows between Tish's eyebrows, the soft scattering of freckles, the parting of Tish's lips every time she takes a breath and everything about this moment is too much.
Sarah has no idea what's going on. Only that she thinks Tish doesn't just mean she belongs in Columbus or with the Platypus, but any more than that her brain refuses to deal with. Whatever subtext is in those three words is way too bizarre to contemplate.
It's easier to laugh and look away. "Preaching to the choir," Sarah says, her voice a little hoarse. "C'mon, let's not ruin the day. Wanna Halo?"
Tish is silent for so long Sarah starts to wonder if she should repeat the question. She can't bring herself to look to see what's wrong.
They play Halo, they have lunch, they nap and they leave for afternoon practice together. Not once do they speak about whatever the hell that was on the couch.
Somewhere in the middle of the season they get a few days off between a run of away and home games, which Sarah takes full advantage of by finally buying furniture for her apartment. When she first came to Columbus she didn't expect to stay long, so she said yes to the first place she saw and bought an entertainment set and a bed. Over the years she'd collected a respectable amount of linen and kitchen stuff, but the rest of the apartment remains sparsely decorated. Maybe she'll end up at the other end of the country but fuck it, she wants a proper fucking couch.
So that Saturday she goes shopping and is forced to drag Tish along for the ride. Originally, the plan had been to go alone, but then Tish started texting her with increasingly worrying capslocked messages about the Kentucky Oaks' defences and Sarah understands commitment but this was just sad. They weren't playing the Oaks for another five days so Tish needed to chill.
Tish predictably responded to that text by turning up at Sarah's apartment to bitch her out in person, which was how she found out about Sarah's plans and invited herself along. Fuck, who does that? According to Tish Sarah can't be trusted to pick out a couch on her own and really, fuck that noise. To think, Sarah was starting to hope maybe she and Tish were on the same page. Apparently though Sarah's incapable of saying no to Tish and that's how they end up shopping for furniture in some upscale department store Sarah never wants to step foot in again. Who knew there could be so many variations on the same goddamn theme?
"It's too soft," Tish says to Sarah's first choice. "You'll hurt your back and then you'll bitch about it."
"It's a couch, not a yoga mat," Sarah says, but moves on because that's a good point.
"Too hard," Tish says to the next one. "You won't be able to relax."
"What're you, Goldilocks?" Sarah snaps. She likes the colour of it.
"I'm looking out for your best interests," Tish says, surly to the bitter end.
The sales assistant thinks they're hilarious and even worse, keeps listening to Tish. Sarah gives up after her sixth choice is rejected by both Tish and the sales assistant. "Am I even relevant right now?" she asks the universe.
"No, so shut up and let the adults work," Tish answers immediately. There is absolutely nothing redeemable about Tish at all.
They finally decide on an L-shaped segmented leather couch that can be broken apart and rearrange in a million different ways. Sarah's hopeful for all of one second that the torture's over but no, she has to suffer through Tish and the assistant deciding on a colour as well.
"For fuck's sake," Sarah explodes when Tish asks for a third sample book. "Brown. I want brown."
"What kind of--" the assistant starts.
"Dark brown. The darkest," Sarah says firmly, glaring at Tish in case she gets any ideas.
The assistant--whose nametag reads 'Emile,' Sarah finally notes--looks between them and says to Sarah, "You've got a keeper here."
"Exactly, you should appreciate me more," Tish says.
"If we could not encourage her delusions that'd be great," Sarah says, elbowing Tish in the arm.
The shop apparently has a dark brown couch in the backroom, just the one for display, which means this was meant to be. Sarah arranges for it to be delivered and put together today because she has money so why the hell not. Two burly dudes in dark blue jumpsuits follow them home in a truck and before Sarah knows it, she has a brand spanking new couch.
Sara's just sitting down to enjoy a few hours of laziness and maybe curbstomping Tish on CoD when her phone goes off. It's Yoshi: party 2nite 2 brk ur co uch in.
how the hell, Sarah texts back because she just got the damn thing and only Tish knows she was shopping today.
im magic, is the reply. Followed up by, i bring booze u giv food?????
That's a fair trade; if there's one thing Yoshi has going for her, it's her taste in alcohol. When Sarah informs Tish about the plan, Tish makes noises about leaving but ha, no. If Sarah has to suffer her teammate's presence then Tish is coming along for the ride. Sarah sends Tish out with a list of food to buy and starts cleaning up her apartment. 'Party' in Yoshi's world could mean anything from a few people to the whole neighbourhood, so Sarah prepares appropriately by hiding the breakables and bringing the gaming systems to a place of honour in front of the tv.
The first to arrive is Yoshi, flanked by Jamie and Toby, which is new. Yoshi's usual bros are Zach, Cam and Gina. Maybe they accidentally arrived together, is Sarah's first thought, but no, apparently Yoshi and Toby were already at Jamie's place.
Yoshi just grins when Sarah gives her a questioning look. Okay. Whatever. Once Tish comes back, Yoshi takes over and starts bossing them around. One by one, people arrive, and there are no words for how grateful Sarah is that Yoshi restrained herself to teammates only.
Since Yoshi has appointed herself party hostess, Sarah appropriates a corner for herself and a bottle of wine, and goes to town. The couch becomes the center of the party, and everyone has a go at bouncing around on it for some reason. Sarah's theory is that athletes are douches with no respect for other people's property. In short, frat boys.
Sarah loses track of Tish, last sees her deep in conversation with Toby, gesticulating in sharp bursts. Vaguely, Sarah worries about the frustration writ large all over Tish, but the wine's working its magic on her and the impetus to go over trickles away. At some point in the night, most of Sarah's teammates come by to congratulate her on the couch, as if Yoshi hadn't been using it only as an excuse to party. Sarah toasts each and everyone with her wine bottle, which has gotten considerably lighter as the evening wears on.
Eventually, the party girl herself makes an appearance, falling down in a heap at Sarah's feet. Yoshi drags herself upright using Sarah's shins and knees, and folds her arms on Sarah's thighs. "Hi," she says, on the verge of slurring her words.
Sarah tips the wine bottle at Yoshi and throws the last inches back. She can feel Yoshi watching her, and maybe she makes it a bit of a show. Her vision is right on the edge of being too dizzying, and it's almost like there's a screen between her and the world. The best kind of tipsy. She works her lips and throat around the bottle, licks off the excess with a showy swipe of her tongue.
"Drinking or blowing the bottle?" Yoshi asks, laughter in her voice.
"Can't it be both?" Sarah asks, grinning.
Humming, Yoshi slides her thumb up and down the inside of Sarah's thigh, a steady pressure that makes Sarah opens up her legs a little wider. Because she's drunk, because it's just Yoshi, because it's a little hilarious. Because she doesn't need a reason. Yoshi's eyes flick up at that, meeting hers and holding, her thumb stopping just above the knee. Sarah tilts her head and whatever Yoshi sees in her face evokes a laugh. "Screw you, cocktease," Yoshi says, sticking her tongue out.
Sarah pretends to think. "Pretty sure that's only if I don't follow-through."
"Not suicidal, sweetheart," Yoshi returns, tucking her hand under her chin again. "Toby might murder me and I'm too gorgeous to die."
"Toby?" Sarah asks, managing to poke her curiosity to life. What does Toby have to do with anything?
"Yeah," Yoshi sighs, burying the lower half of her face into her arms. What Sarah can see of it now makes her think Yoshi's smiling though.
"I thought--Jamie?" Sarah says, squinting down at Yoshi, hoping that by bringing Yoshi into focus, it might translate into doing the same for this situation. Because for sure she'd thought Jamie and Toby were some kind of thing. Admittedly, no one's exactly sure what's going on there, but Jamie spends a lot of time at Toby's place, even in the off-season, and Toby's hellspawn kid treats her as some kind of mash up between babysitter and mother. Half the team thinks they're doing each other, the other half thinks it's all just really good friends bullshit. Sarah doesn't particularly care, except for now that Yoshi's in the picture somehow.
"Mmmhm," Yoshi says, and tilts her chin up, and oh, hey, she's definitely smiling. Then she wriggles her eyebrows.
Sarah's pretty sure she knows what Yoshi's trying to tell her but God, there just isn't enough brain bleach in the world. "I don't think I want to know," Sarah says, aiming for firm but the words come out disturbed instead.
Yoshi stifles a snicker, and pats Sarah's knee. "Awww, poor baby. Guess you'll just have to make do with Pat." She perks up, looking around. "Where is the girlfriend 'nyways. Thought we'd have to hang a sock on the door for you guys."
In retaliation for the 'g' word, Sarah jostles her leg. A low, growling noise escapes Yoshi and she thumps Sarah on the shin. "Just saying, God." Yoshi rolls her eyes, looking so much like Tish. "Hey, hey, when're you trading frat rings? The press'll want to know."
Frat rings? "What're you talking about, dumbass?" Sarah says, jerking her legs again.
"Urgh! Stoppit." Yoshi sits back, pouting. "No but like, you two've been dating for ever now."
Poor delusional idiot. Sarah tries to pat Yoshi's cheeks, except the alcohol messes with her muscle control and it ends up being slaps instead. Yoshi can just deal, she's a big tough goalie. Yoshi waves a hand through the air, smacking the tip of Sarah's hand as she retreats. They're such coordinated professional athletes.
"Dude, gimme something to work with here. Do you have any idea how much money I've put on you two?"
"Sorry to burst your bubble, weirdo," Sarah says, dryly. "Use the money to get some help for yourself and whichever idiots are involved."
Yoshi purses her lips, tilts her head, the very picture of confusion. "You mean, as in you guys aren't..." She makes a vague gesture that Sarah interprets as, doing the ever after shit.
"Nope," Sarah confirms. She starts looking around for another source of alcohol since the nice haziness is starting to dissipate. The clearer things get, the more she keeps thinking about the couch and Tish's insistence, about all those little things shouldn't be significant but are.
Sarah nods because she knows if she speaks now her mouth might be stupid enough to think spilling everything to Yoshi would be a good idea. Not, she reminds herself, that there's anything to spill. But if there were. If Sarah were a lot more drunk and a lot less self-aware.
If that was the case then Sarah might tell Yoshi about how the carefully negotiated demilitarised zone between Tish and her is changing into something she has no fucking idea. It's not that she objects to change, in theory, but when change means that Tish is pushing for a starring role in Sarah's life and she wants to let her have it, how the hell is Sarah meant to feel about that? The endgame feels so vague right now and Sarah works better with a goal in mind, but here, there's only Tish and her and some unidentified thing they're hurtling way too fast towards. It's the kind of stuff that could drive a girl to drink.
"You cockblocking assholes." Yoshi throws herself back, flopping down on the carpet. "So, what, you guys pulling a fuck buddies?"
Sarah shakes it off and shrugs, letting Yoshi interpret that however she wants. Behind her chair, she finds an unopened bottle of beer and cracks it open.
"Huh," Yoshi says, looking too thoughtful for such a simple answer.
Sarah drinks the beer in one go.
Sarah doesn't notice anything's wrong for a while; despite the most recent losses the Platypus pick it back up with another win against the Boomers. Yoshi's topping the division in goal saved percentages, while Tish is neck to neck with Mikkelson from the Illinois Reds for points, and Sarah's own stats are nothing but on the up.
With everything going so well, it's inevitable that something has to give.
To no one's surprise, Tish tends to gets super tense in the season, obsessive with the game in a way even Toby can't match. Impressive when you remember Toby was recruited from the Ravens, the craziest NCAA exy team on the goddamn planet. Tish watches tapes over and over, make notes on every single one, and all but nags Jamie and Toby into sitting down with her to go through them. There's a reason Tish has an A to her name; she lives and breathes this sport. Sarah's way of dealing with the stress is much healthier; she sticks to character assassination of whoever they're playing against. Only in the safety of their locker room of course; she's not stupid. Tish claims it's juvenile but Sarah catches her grinning occasionally so clearly not a deal breaker.
As they head closer to the end of the regular season though, Tish's focus takes on a sharper edge. She's not satisfied with anything they do, even when they're winning, and she's not subtle about it. Not that she ever was but it's even worse. The majority of her ire seems fixed on Sarah who can't get anything right it seems, which, again, is nothing new but this is more than Tish's usual frustration with Sarah's game. This is Tish who's truly unhappy, who has bags under her eyes and a dissatisfied tilt to her mouth all the time.
Sarah considers talking to Tish about it more than once but Tish had mastered the art of stony silences since long before they met. She's doing an incredible imitation of an exy playing robot, and faced with all that determination Sarah barely gets the first syllable out before it dies in her mouth. At least Tish's breakdown, or whatever, happens during a series of home game; means people can escape her bizarro behaviour and by 'people', Sarah means herself.
Sarah hides out in her apartment, a lot, and spends most of her time dreading the upcoming road games but as it turns out, the road games are awesome. Well, the game part of it anyway.
They start off with two regulation wins that feel pretty fucking amazing but they're not as balls to the wall slamming good as the one against Illinois. Jamie seems to be everywhere, hitting the ball at impossible angles to get it to Tish and Zach and the Reds barely get twenty shots on goal, all of them turned away by Yoshi. It's the kind of away game you can only dream of, so sue Sarah for expecting a little bit of fun when they go back to their room. Celebration sex is great, but celebration sex after grinding the Reds' noses into the ground is going to be astronomical.
Which is why when Tish twists away from Sarah, a smear on her cheek from where Sarah's lipstick smudges off, Sarah doesn't even know how to react.
Tish doesn't say anything, but she doesn't have to. Sarah kind of gets a clue when Tish pulls back the cover on her bed; they only ever fuck on Sarah's bed because Tish made a huge fuss about the mess the one time they had used hers.
"Night," Tish eventually says, when she's changed out of her clothes and under the covers.
Sarah, who hasn't moved from her spot in the doorway, can only stare, not sure what just happened.
"What the fuck?" Sarah says, because what else can she say?
Tish shuffles around the bed, only her head visible above her blanket. She ends up facing the door and when their eyes meet it's like she's looking straight though Sarah. Normally, Tish's personality fills up the whole room, making up for her stature, but tonight everything about her is small and tired. "It's been a long night. I just want to go to sleep," she says.
"Uh, you seemed fine at dinner," Sarah points out.
"Yeah, well, that was dinner," Tish mutters.
"Jesus, what's with you lately?" Sarah doesn't mean for that to come out, there're better places to have this conversation. Better places that aren't a cramped hotel room with just the two of them, no buffer but their own self-restraint. But it's out there now, so Sarah keeps going. "Every freaking practice with you is a nightmare. And even after winning all you can do is give a ten minute rant on all the things I did wrong? The rookies are terrified to look at you, man. Pro tip, alienating your team is highly unrecommended."
That gets a reaction; Tish sits up in bed, shoving the sheets down so hard Sarah's afraid for a second that she's torn them. "Oh fuck off. I want to get to the final for fucking once, big deal. At least I'm doing something to get us there."
"Like the rest of the team isn't?"
"The rest of the team isn't the problem!"
Sarah has to take a deep breath. This is the complete opposite of how she intended it to go. But as with all things Tish, all of Sarah's best laid plans get left by the kerbside. "And by that you mean, me. I'm the problem."
Compared to the stuff Tish says on court it's nothing, but off the court Tish will admit Sarah's improved. However grudging the praise comes out. Sarah knows she's one of the least skillful defencemen, her focus more on hitting than setting up plays, but after that first season with Tish she'd been working on bringing more finesse to her game. She's not going to wow the exy world, like, ever, but she's trying to become a more well-rounded player and thought she'd been doing pretty fucking well. So yeah, hearing Tish imply she's dragging the team down feels like a bad check against the board. The kind you know you'll wake up to tomorrow with ugly purple and yellow splotches all down your side.
Tish smiles, lips thin and sharp with derision. "You said it," she says sweetly.
There's a moment of awful silence that stretches and stretches, filling up with Tish's bitterness and Sarah's nauseating anger.
"I need to leave," and even as she says it, Sarah realises how desperate she is to do just that. She has to get out before the situation becomes unsalvageable and Tish sure as hell isn't going to be the one backing down.
"Good. Maybe you can find someone else to fuck you tonight," Tish snarls as Sarah turns away.
It takes all the control Sarah can muster not to say, "Fine, I will."
It takes Sarah a week or so and an Xbox binge to get over Tish's attitude. It's not the first time Tish has been a ginormous dick about things, so while it still stings when Sarah thinks back to it, it's getting less and less as the days go by. The one who seems to be stuck in place is Tish, whose mood keeps plummeting. The few times Sarah cajoles Tish into not being a fucking weirdo about it--and yeah, these days it's always Sarah making the move--it's so uncomfortable, Sarah almost contemplates giving up. But they were having fun before and she doesn't see why that has to change, regardless of Tish being a massive emo kid.
It's starting to wear on the team too, anyone can see that; the pressure of the season and Tish's mood proving to be too much. Luckily, they get a break from everything in the form of two days off for Christmas. Maybe getting Tish away from exy will do some wonder for her mood. Though if Sarah's being honest, she isn't holding out much hope.
Most of the team stick around in Columbus because two days just isn't enough time to fly home and spend any quality time with family. In what has become a tradition since Sarah left home to play for UCLA, her father calls her on Christmas Eve and they go through the routine song and dance of pretending to care about each other's lives. She gets all caught up on what her siblings, all six of them, are doing, and she returns with enough tidbits of her life to satisfy him. He doesn't ask her about exy, the Platypus or Columbus and she doesn't tell. Then, Sarah spends a couple of hours in the gym to work out her lingering resentment.
Christmas Day, Jamie hosts a team dinner at Toby's, the food all provided by a caterer because Jamie can't cook to save her life. They tried doing a secret santa last year and it ended with some people--namely Yoshi, Raf and Zach--trying to one up each other with technically illegal gifts. So this year, everyone has a stocking with their name on it pinned to the fireplace, which gets filled up over the evening with little presents from everyone else. Sarah's betting there'll be a lot of gift cards.
Zach and Raf bring their significant others but the majority of the Platypus are hopelessly single, which is for the best really. Yoshi goes around shoving reindeer antlers onto everyone's head and hanging up mistletoe everywhere. Sarah hears her order Tish to be happy or else and for once, Tish listens. She doesn't talk about exy and there might even be smiling. Of course, she's also not speaking to Sarah, so there's one downside to this whole thing.
Luckily, the rest of the world isn't treating Sarah like she's got leprosy. At the dinner table Sarah's put between Cam and Raf's date, Dave. He seems nice and he's obviously smart, and he's hot in a dorky librarian way, so Sarah has no idea what he's doing with Raf, Queen of the Bohemian.
When Sarah makes the mistake of mentioning this to Yoshi, she says, "Raf has magic fingers if you know what I mean."
Yeah, she walked right into that one.
At the official taking down of the stockings Sarah finds herself next to Jamie on the couch. "Hey," Jamie greets, touching Sarah's arm. Her eyes are glassy and her cheeks red, her other hand curled up around Toby's, playing with his fingers.
Sarah looks from the incriminating evidence of their not at all secret relationship up to Toby, who is wearing a smirk as he looks down at Jamie. No, a smile. A real smile, like this easy intimacy is all he needs to be happy. He notices her staring and raises an eyebrow. Sarah rolls her eyes. God, like she cares what her captain gets up to off the court.
"Hey," Jamie says again. "Merry Christmas."
Holding back a grin, because Jamie is an adorable drunk, Sarah echoes the sentiment, including Toby with a glance at him.
A second later, Jamie jerks upright. Her hair is a mess from where she's rested it on Toby's shoulder. "Oh! I have to tell Raf too."
Sarah and Toby watch her stumble off the couch and into the kitchen. "She's gonna regret this," Sarah says.
"Mmhm." God, he's still wearing that smile. Must be true love, or something. He loses it quickly enough when he turns to face Sarah. Without the smile to soften his face Toby resembles a serial killer.
Well, Christ, this is awkward. The amount of time Toby and she have ever interacted outside the context of game and practice can be summed up in two words: fuck all. This season they haven't even played the same shifts together.
Toby intimidates Sarah for a number of good reasons. One, Tish and Toby are best friends. They came up through the junior league together and up until college they've always played on the same team and on the same line. That right there should be more than enough to justify Sarah's wariness. Sane people are not best friends with Tish, the end. But when you tack on the fact Toby is an Edgar Allan alumni, it's a slam dunk. Everyone knows the Raven kids are as fucked up as they come.
"Enjoying yourself?" Toby says mildly.
Sarah doesn't trust his beady-eyed stare. "Sure, it's a party, what's not to enjoy?"
Toby relaxes back into the sofa, bringing his arm up to rest it along the back. He looks like he's sitting on a throne and not a crayon covered monstrosity. "Strange, normally you and Tish arrive together," he says apropos of nothing.
"No we don't," Sarah says automatically.
Holding up a hand,Toby starts to count down. "End of season ball. Charity events. Last year's NEL award ceremony."
"So what?" Sarah says, more aggressively than warranted, maybe.
Yoshi makes a sudden appearance over Toby's shoulder, talking rapidly. "Hey, losers. Warning. Don't drink Raf's special cocktail. Wow, is all I'm gonna say. What're we talking about?" She comes around to flop down between them, looking from one to the other.
Sarah has never been more grateful for Yoshi and her fuck awful timing. "Nothing," she says firmly.
She glares at Toby who smiles and says, "Last year's award ceremony."
Fine, so they were doing this then. "You mean the one we all went stag to?" Sarah says, pointedly.
At first Sarah thinks Yoshi is looking between the two of them but apparently she's shaking her head because she says, "Stag? What? We did?"
"You remember, Scarlet," Toby says. He's the only one who uses Yoshi's real name. "The one where Patricia was Sarah's date," he adds just as pointed as Sarah.
Yoshi perks up, weaving a little in place. "Oh yeah! Man, we all thought you were about to stab the dude who asked Pat to dance. Raf thought you'd use the steak knife. I thought you'd be original and use your trophy. It was adorable in a bloody kind of way, y'know."
Sarah is starting to get concerned by her teammate's propensity for betting on everything.
More importantly, Toby smirks and says, "Yes, adorable."
Sarah can actually hear the air quotes. She puts down her glass of wine because she's been known to crush glass when she gets to a particular level of pissed off and Toby is flirting with the edge of it. "Cut the bullshit. What's your point?" she demands, ignoring Yoshi's start at the abrupt change in tone.
If Sarah wants Toby's input on things she'd have asked for it, which she clearly hadn't. Screw being intimidated.
Toby shrugs, calm in the face of the anger Sarah knows must be written all over her face. "I'm only looking out for Patricia. She's been upset since we got back from Chicago."
Motherfucker. It's definitely not a coincidence he mentioned Chicago. Did Tish tell him? And what did she say? Because it sounds like Toby's blaming Sarah and fuck that noise, Sarah's not the one who blew up for no reason. Sarah takes a deep breath and says, "Great. Awesome of you, but she can look after herself. She's a big girl."
With that stunning repartee, Sarah picks up her wineglass and leaves.
Fuck, she doesn't know who she's more angry at. Herself or Toby or Tish. Toby has no goddamn right poking his nose into their business, but she could've handled that a lot better. As for Tish....well, being angry at Tish is almost second nature by now without the added incentive of Tish having told Toby everything.
Sarah rounds the corner and, oh, speak of the source of every crappiness in Sarah's life, there Tish is, sitting at the dining table talking to Toby's hellspawn aka Marian. They stop at Sarah's entrance and look up. Tish looks surprised but Marian glares at Sarah with dark eyes that remind Sarah of Toby. A lot of people are under the mistaken impression Marian is an example of angelic perfection but Sarah knows better.
It's pretty obvious Tish doesn't want to talk to Sarah but she says to Marian, "Hey, sweetie, go see if your dad wants me to bring out more punch."
Marian wrinkles her nose and slides off the chair with a loud sigh. She doesn't say anything--Sarah can't think of the last time Marian said anything in her presence--but makes her feelings clear on Sarah's presence by deliberately knocking her elbow into Sarah's knee as she walks past. Sarah scowls after her. What a little shit. No doubts whose kid she is.
Against all logic, the dining room feels smaller without Marian in it. Sarah wants to turn around and walk back out. She wants Tish to tell her what the hell is going on. Wants to be able to look at Tish without her hands clenching into fists. Sarah wants a lot of things, but most of all, she wants things to go back to normal.
The look in Tish's eyes tells her there's a big fat chance in hell of that.
Tish plays with the cup in her hand, concentrating on that rather than Sarah as she says, abruptly, "I saw you talking to Toby. What did he say?"
Trust Tish to go right for the bruise. Sarah leans against the doorway, shoving her hands into her jeans. They learned about open versus closed postures in media training and Sarah doesn't want Tish to think she's on the defensive.
"I don't know, depends on what you told him," Sarah says. They haven't had a proper talk about what the hell that was back in the hotel and this probably isn't the best time to start but Sarah finds herself adding, "He seems to think it's all to do with what happened in Chicago. What the hell? That wasn't even my fault."
Tish snorts. "Nothing's ever your fault. And I didn't tell him anything. He--" her lips thinned. "--He's good at guessing."
"Well, tell him to stop guessing. This is between us."
"Oh, okay. Does between us include Yoshi because I'm not the only one blabbing," Tish snarls, half-standing with her hands braced on the table.
...Fuck. No need to ask how she knows about that. Yoshi doesn't exactly have a reputation for tact.
"Okay," Sarah says, breathing in and out slowly. It's hard, pulling herself away from the righteous anger that felt perfect only moments before. She licks her lips. "Okay. You're right, that was...I shouldn't have done that."
Tish doesn't look happy about the admission but she sits back down, folding her arms. "Fine."
With that one word answer, she looks down at the table, conversation evidently over, but Sarah can't make herself leave. This is the best time to ask Tish what was bothering her, while Tish is somewhat mollified by Sarah's not-quite-apology. It's just, Sarah doesn't know how to phrase it. Or if she wants the answer at all. She can already tell there are layers and layers to this situation, to Tish's behaviour, and prying feels wrong. Tish obviously doesn't want to tell Sarah, and Sarah wonders what right she has to demand anything of Tish.
They don't even like each other most days, when you get right down to it.
Before she can decide, Marian barrels past with Toby's answer, clipping her leg. Sarah absolutely does not notice how relieved Tish looks at the interruption.
Whatever headway Sarah made at appeasing Tish disappears a week into the second half of the season. Tish is a downright terror that not even Toby can curtail. It's both an education and a nightmare to watch Tish blow up at her best friend. Even scarier, Toby looks as if he's having trouble holding onto his temper. The only reason no one interferes is because this has yet to affect their on-court performance. Though Coach looks like she's just about had enough of everything. It's jarring going from a fan-fucking-tastic game or practice to a locker room that holds about as much warmth as the wasteland of the Arctic.
But it can't last. Things come to a head the day Tish spends all of practice sniping at Gina, Yoshi's backup goalie. Toby's ignoring Tish and Sarah is using Yoshi as a buffer so Tish is reduced to expanding her circle of misery.
She couldn't have chosen a worse person to pick on. Gina hasn't been having a good season lately, stuck in a slump that refuses to budge no matter what she does. No one's upset at her for it for a couple of reasons. One, everyone has slumps and it'd be fucking hypocritical of anyone to bitch her out for it. Two, Gina's some kind of unofficial Platypus mascot. Along with that warning about Tish, Jamie had informed Sarah that making Gina cry would mean an entire practice session worth of suicide drills. Within the week, Sarah realised the whole goddamn team is that protective of her. She can sort of see why; Gina's fucking ridiculously naive about everything and just dumb enough to make it cute instead of annoying. Even Tish's impatience and yelling is markedly reduced when she's talking to Gina.
But that was Tish in an okay mood. Tish in whatever mood she's in right now is vicious and cruel. Gina doesn't cry, but fuck, she looks close. Yoshi puts a stop to the whole thing by grabbing Tish by her jersey collar and snapping at her to, "Back the fuck down. If you're not going to be helpful then get off the damn court."
Neither Coach nor Jamie say anything, which is as good as approval.
It feels like the whole stadium breaths a sigh of relief when Tish leaves, everyone suddenly relaxing like puppets with their strings cut. Coach calls it quits a couple of minutes later when it becomes obvious they aren't going to recover from this.
No one gives Sarah the dirty eye or anything in the locker room, but she can't help feeling like this is her fault somehow. For not bullying Tish out of her mood or whatever. And that just makes her think she should maybe check up on Tish, which is a thing friends do and while that definition of their relationship has become less and less accurate lately, Sarah feels obligated. Yoshi, who has the stall next to her, develops psychic powers and says, "Hey, you gonna go see Tish later?"
"Uh, I dunno."
Yoshi rolls her eyes. "It's pretty much you or me, and I'm just going to end up, like, punching her, so better if it's you, dude."
"What? Why is it us?"
With another roll of her eyes, Yoshi holds up her hand and counts down. "Jamie has to go to this piano recital thing Toby's kid's putting on. Toby's going to be there as well, of course, so he's out. On second thought, he'd be out anyway cos of the week of suckage. And Tish hates everyone else."
All valid points, which fails to make Sarah feel less annoyed by the assumption. Okay, yeah, not ten minutes before she was contemplating volunteering herself but it was the principle of the thing.
"Urgh," Sarah grunts. Yoshi correctly interprets that as reluctant assent.
Tish's place is twenty minutes drive away, which Sarah spends every second of dreading the upcoming conversation. This will very likely end with one of them dead. Sarah knows Tish.
Tish doesn't bother looking surprised when Sarah buzzes up, just sulky and almost hurt, and that doesn't even fucking make sense. This is off to a flying start already. In other related news, Sarah hates Yoshi.
Sarah follows Tish into the living room and stops right behind the couch, but Tish keeps walking, in the end leaving the whole length of the room between them. It's not quite the unspoken, "fuck off" Tish is fully capable of, but it makes the point. Sarah watches Tish watch her, noting the way Tish methodically works her jaw and knows this isn't a faceoff she can win.
Sarah still hasn't changed her mind, she doesn't want to know why Tish is acting like this. But if it's going to mess with the team, well, she doesn't have much of a choice. She thinks Tish would understand, once she got over this pissy mood. Exy first, everything else second.
"Yoshi wants me to be tactful," Sarah starts. "But that's not something we do. So if you could just tell me what the fuck's going on so I can fix it, that'd be great. And don't bother lying to me. Astronauts in outer space can tell something's got you pissed. I was going to let you sort it out on your own, but it's been a month and I'm done with all of this."
For some reason, Tish's response to that is to laugh, but it's not a happy sound by any stretch of the imagination and it doesn't reach her eyes at all. Tish folds her arms and leans against the sofa chair, meeting Sarah's eyes with an expression completely at odds with her behaviour at the stadium. Sarah is uncomfortably reminded of how much it resembles Tish's face just before she takes on four defenders for an overtime goal. It's equal parts determination and resignation; bracing herself for a world of hurt to get what she wants.
"You can't fix this," Tish says, words laced with scorn.
"You haven't exactly given me a chance," Sarah points out. She takes a step closer and watches Tish's shoulders tense up.
"Trust me," Tish says, her smile ugly and small. "Do everyone a favour and stick to your day job. Not that you've been any good at that lately. What the fuck was that Friday night?"
Sarah shoves aside her first reaction, taking deep even breaths, then her second as well. This is what Tish does to avoid arguments, refocusing everything on the game, and if Sarah plays into her hand they'll never get anything done. Fuck she knows how to push Sarah's buttons though. "I should be asking you, what the fuck was that today?" Sarah returns.
At least Tish looks ashamed, her eyes briefly sliding away to look over Sarah's shoulder. "I'll apologise to her," she says grudgingly.
"Great, but not an answer to my question," Sarah says. "What's crawled up your ass and died?"
"Please," Tish snorts. "Like you care."
Fuck, did Sarah really need to answer that? She spreads her hands, waving them at Tish, at herself, at her presence in the apartment when she could be at home watching television and not dealing with someone who has more issues than the Times magazine. "Fuck you," Sarah says.
The muscles in Tish's jaws bunch up, and all the way across the room Sarah can almost hear her teeth grinding. "I don't need your caring teammate bullshit, okay? If I wanted that, I'd go to one of the bleeding hearts. We're not--according to you this isn't what we do, so stop fucking pretending," Tish says, a tight strain to her voice towards the end.
According to her? Sarah doesn't even know what Tish means by that. But more importantly:
"I'm not pretending, asshole." One of the unfortunate side effects of fucking and hanging out with someone on the regular, someone you might consider a friend under other circumstances, is that you get invested in their emotional well being.
"Whatever," Tish says, like she's completely done with this conversation. Done with Sarah.
This feels exactly like it did at the Christmas party. Tish is shutting Sarah down with one word answers because...because what? Sarah's getting close to the answer? There's all this undercurrent Sarah's not reading properly, this great pink elephant that's just out of her reach, and Tish's face, so full of emotions, reveals nothing. No clue on how to proceed from here. Sarah takes a stab in the dark.
"Is this...is it something to do with us--our thing?" It's not how she wants to have their first ever conversation about the whole not-relationship relationship, but Tish is stonewalling her so fucking hard.
The moment the last syllable leaves her mouth, Sarah realises she's said the wrong thing. Tish goes blank, hands curling into tight fists on the sofa couch. Not like she's preparing for a fight, but like she's holding herself back.
"No," Tish says, in a voice that means the complete opposite. "But while we're on the topic, I don't want to keep--we should probably stop. It was a stupid idea in the first place, and--and it might mess with our game."
It hadn't messed with their game in the past two years, Sarah wants to point out, but Tish looks this close to tearing her hair out. Or maybe sitting down in the middle of the room and crying, and honestly, Sarah's so freaked out by the thought she can only say, "Okay, sure."
Tish releases a shaky sigh and nods just once. She stands up straighter, like a weight has been lifted off her shoulder. There's nothing remotely happy about the smile she gives Sarah but there's no anger either. Sarah's not sure what just happened, but it sure as hell doesn't feel like winning. It feels like the ball slipped right past her into home goal and she didn't even have a snowball's chance in hell of stopping it.
"I'll talk to Gina and apologise to everyone. It won't be a problem anymore. And..." Tish bites her lip, rushing through the next bit like it's something she's thought about forever but never had the courage to voice. "And I'll get over it, don't worry."
Worry? Get over what? What the hell is Tish talking about? But Tish looks more settled than she has in weeks and Sarah doesn't want to jinx it, so she pretends like she's on board with TIsh's plan and says, "Great. I'll let Coach know. Do you want to grab some lunch?"
It's automatic, they always get lunch after practice. The clusterfuck of this one session doesn't change anything.
Except Tish flinches as if the words are a physical blow.
"Or not," Sarah adds quickly. "Never mind. I'll see you later."
It's the fastest escape Sarah's ever made.
Everything changes. Or maybe, nothing changes and it's just the truth bubbling to the surface.
It's not like Sarah knows what the hell's happening. What she does know are the simple facts. Tish is back to being her usual freak of nature. They're no longer fucking. They're also no longer fighting, on or off the court, which has everyone giving them the squinty eyes. They're required to keep doing interviews together but Sarah's lucky if Tish will look at her once during the process. Tish is being so professional it almost hurts.
The last straw is after a game against the Queens and Sarah is full of enough adrenaline to think pulling Tish into a hug is a great idea. Only to have her assumptions corrected a second later when Tish goes stiff in her arms and makes a face that telegraphs her discomfort loud and clear. Sarah backpedals so fast she almost gets whiplash, but that only makes Tish's face fall and oh my fucking God is Sarah never going to get anything right?
Sarah throws in the towel at that point. She didn't think there could be anything worse than having Tish hate everything you are as a player but turns out being ignored cuts a thousand times deeper.
She was wrong before; this is what Stockholm Syndrome actually feels like.
In the locker room they get concerned looks from everyone else but no one's saying anything. Sarah gets the feeling there's been a unanimous decision to let them sort out their own shit, which is the complete opposite of helpful. Sarah could really do with a second opinion right about now. They might be able to piece everything together and tell Sarah the whole play.
The only bright point to it is that Tish is tearing it the fuck up, like she's over being psychotic and has moved onto new levels of badass. Defense barely graze her as she darts between them like they're wooden posts, and she keeps scoring ridiculously gorgeous goals. Sarah can get behind a good game no matter what else is happening, and watching Tish play is always going to be breathtaking.
It also doesn't hurt that Sarah's getting to channel all the angst and confusion into some pretty brutal forechecking that has the opposing offensive line hating her guts.
They get to the three-quarter point in the season and Sarah's hoping they can push through to the playoff without any huge drama. But hey, what is Sarah's life but a mockery; Jamie corners Sarah after their last regular season game against the Oaks and going by the expression on Jamie's face it's either a heart-to-heart or a captain-to-player talk. Sarah is ill-equipped to deal with either one, but there's no avoiding Jamie when she's so determined, and if not her it might be Toby. On the whole, Sarah would rather deal with Jamie. Of course, on the whole, the entire world would rather deal with Jamie.
Jamie is probably Sarah's favourite captain to play under, largely because she knows when to leave things alone. Which means that when she wants to talk to you in private it means something serious. Sarah's uncomfortably aware of that as Jamie pulls her aside into Coach's office.
"So," Jamie starts, sitting on one of the chairs close to the door and gesturing for Sarah to take the other.
Sarah stays standing. She also folds her arms; an instinctive gesture that emphasises her height and build. "So," Sarah repeats.
Jamie blinks, a deer-in-the-headlight expression coming over her. A stab of guilt makes Sarah unfold her arms, though she still doesn't sit down. Jamie shakes her head, then says, "Is there a problem between you and Pat that I need to know about?"
Technically, there isn't a problem between Tish and her, because apparently there isn't anything anymore. "No," Sarah says.
Jamie just keeps looking at her, all kind eyes and concerned frown. "Are you sure?"
Jesus. Sarah tries to infuse her voice with confidence and says, "Absolutely. Why? What'd she tell you?"
"Nothing at all," Jamie says, her voice a combination of warm and neutral. "She knows I'm not in the habit of prying. She did ask if she could swap roommates though."
And Sarah--Sarah isn't prepared for that to hit her so fucking hard. Practically a blow to the chest that has her swallowing hard to keep down the nausea. "Fine," she says, squeezing the word out just barely.
Jamie looks taken aback. What did she expect? For Sarah to put up a fight? "Fine?"
"Really?" Jamie didn't need to sound so sceptical.
Sarah just nods. It's fine. It's really, totally fine. It was getting awkward anyway, sharing a room with someone who couldn't look Sarah in the eyes without making the most awful, opaque expressions. If Tish--Pat, whatever--if she wants another roommate, Sarah's not gonna stop her. What the hell does it matter that they've shared a room on the road since forever, or that Sarah's gotten so used to Tish being in her space it's actually a little weird whenever they're back in Columbus and there's suddenly a whole apartment all for her.
"Okay," Jamie says, not at all convinced if her expression is anything to go by. "I'll see if Yoshi's happy to swap with Pat."
Which would put Tish with Toby, thus creating the most boring set of roommates in the history of roommates. Sarah hopes Tish is fucking happy.
If only that could be the end of it. But no, the world is far too invested in her shitstorm of a goddamn life. and the media jumps onto the roommate swap like sharks on a baby seal. It starts with a few sports blogs, but the internet being what it is, the whole thing takes on a life of its own soon enough. Yoshi, of course, keeps up with it all and she insists on reading reaction posts and tweets out loud to Sarah.
"Dude, you've like bummed out your whole fanbase with this," she says, showing Sarah a string of tweets with #platypiheartbreak. They're meant to be getting ready to go out for dinner but Yoshi does what she wants.
"Fanbase? The fuck?" because what else is there to say.
"Uh, yeah. You and Pattycakes, man. There are people who are really interested in your relationship." Yoshi squints at her phone screen. "To creepy, uncomfortable degrees sometimes."
Sarah could have gone her whole life without knowing that. "Stop reading that shit," she orders.
"I can't," Yoshi says easily, flopping onto her bed. "It's so tragic. So romantic. Etcetra. Etcetra. The break up of a beautiful partnership. I think you've made people cry."
Sarah snorts, jerking hard at her sneaker shoe strings until her palms start to protest.
"Awww, c'mon, it's kinda funny," Yoshi says, grinning. "The world thinks you two have some kind of epic bromance going on. When really, it's just you two hate-banging like rabbits."
Sarah grimaces. Everything about what Yoshi just said is upsetting and questionable in every kind of way. "Urgh, I know where you sleep."
"Screw you, you're boring. You and Pat deserve each other, you know that, right?" Yoshi says, "She was all stonefaced and shit when I asked her about it too. I don't know what your deal is, man."
"Oh my God. What is your obsession?" Sarah throws up her hands, so over this shit already. "Are you not getting laid enough that you've resorted to living vicariously through me? Because fuck you, no."
Yoshi bursts out laughing, like it's the best thing she's ever heard, even funnier than the time Gina's tongue got stuck on a popsicle. Sarah gives some serious thoughts to punching her in the head. Except then it might knock out what little common sense and sanity's left, and that's not buddies. So Sarah takes the higher road, glaring at Yoshi until she stops.
"C'mon, man. Chill." Yoshi says, coming over to sit down beside Sarah. Her shoulder bumps Sarah's companionably, Sarah pushing back because from Yoshi the invasion of space is so much a part of her personality there's no point in getting upset over it. In retrospect, maybe Sarah should blame Yoshi for this. If she hadn't broken Sarah and Tish of their habit of maintaining a three meter distance from anyone else in existence, they might never have gotten to the point of waging glorious war on each other's personal space.
"I am chill," Sarah says, as calmly as she can, which isn't much.
Yoshi grins. "Yeah, you sure look like it. You know I'm mostly fucking with you."
"Mostly," Sarah repeats, punching Yoshi's leg.
"Well, when you guys really get going, you tend to forget everyone else exists. Like, it's hilarious to watch, don't get me wrong, especially when you're both drunk. But for two people who're supposedly just hate-banging each other you guys sure got along well."
"If by that you mean we haven't killed each other already, then yeah, miraculous," Sarah snaps, wishing Yoshi would just shut up already. She doesn't need to hear how the entire goddamn team thought they were something they weren't.
"Whoa, can the attitude, princess." Yoshi holds up her hands, as if to ward Sarah off.
Sarah presses her lips tight and focuses on putting on her watch. Maybe if she doesn't respond Yoshi will drop this. She can hope. The silence stretches on and Sarah's just thinking it might be her lucky day when Yoshi says, "What're you lying to me about? And don't lie about that either because I know you."
When Sarah lifts her head, slow as molasses, Yoshi's eyes are narrowed, only to widen at whatever she sees on Sarah's face.
"I'm not--there was no lying. It's nothing," Sarah says quickly because she graduated from the school of deny, deny, deny until it goes away.
Yoshi nods like she's willing to entertain Sarah's obvious lie, then ruins it by saying, "See, you've been saying that for a while now and I totally believed you because I'm a good friend. But this, man, this moping you've been doing, not usually the way people react to a casual relationship ending. You're sad, dude. You are a sad sack of shit and the only person who looks worse than you right now is Pat."
"She looks fine to me," Sarah mutters.
Whatever Yoshi infers from those five words has her mouth dropping open. Sarah starts shuffling away but it's too late, Yoshi grabs her arm and says, "Holy crap, I was joking but I'm right? The roommate swapping really was you two breaking up."
"There was nothing to break up!"
"Okay, sure, but there are emotions on your face." Yoshi stabs Sarah's cheek with her finger. "Emotions about Pat."
Enough is enough and Yoshi needs to learn to butt the fuck out. Sarah snatches Yoshi's hand out of the air and slams it down on the bed between them. "I'm going to say this one last time. There is nothing. Abso-fucking-lutely nothing."
Sarah doesn't know what expression is on her face but it has Yoshi shrinking away. "Yeah, okay," she says, apologetic and quiet. "Sorry."
"Good." Sarah gives Yoshi's hand a warning squeeze and lets go. Yoshi says nothing as Sarah stands up and puts on a jacket, and Sarah doesn't wait for her to go down to the hotel dining room.
The Platypus secure a spot in the championship with one game left in the season but that means nothing when the last game is against the Wolves. The Wolves need a regulation win to clinch their own championship spot and the Platypus really want to crush their hopes and dreams. Their rivalry is relatively new, starting from when Zach's ankle got smashed by one of theirs, but it's a mean one. Last season they topped the NEL record for most penalties called in a game ever.
So it's going to be pretty fucking brutal, Sarah's expecting that.
What she's not expecting is for every single one of the Wolves to target Tish. The Wolves aren't playing defensively or offensively, they're just out to get Tish however they can. Tish hits the board four times in the first five minutes and each time she gets up a little slower.
The sixth time that happens, Sarah almost punches the backliner responsible for it. The only reason she avoids a yellow card is because Tish jerks her back by the neck of her jersey. "Just play the fucking game," Tish hisses.
Tish pulls again, choking Sarah off, and snarls, "I can take care of myself. Stick to your own mark. Do you fucking job, okay, and let me do mine."
It's the closest Tish has come to treating Sarah like normal, like before. Sarah shoves Tish away, careful to be gentler than usual cos duh. "Fine. Try not to get hit again, or I'm going to fucking crush him," she says and goes to take her spot for the penalty.
But of course Tish does get hit. Again. Sarah didn't actually witness it but she heard the crunch, loud even over the roar of the crowd. When she turns around and sees dickbag sixty-seven pinning Tish to the board, Sarah makes good on her promise. Fuck sticking to her mark, Yoshi doesn't need her help to stop the goal.
Sarah sprints across the court, crashing into sixty-seven just as he's letting Tish go. They fall to the ground, Sarah on top and it's the perfect position land a punch to dickbag's face. Only one though because Sarah's not so far gone with rage she doesn't remember Tish will straight up murder her if she gets a game suspension. Dickbag swings at her as she stands up but it barely glances off her shoulder and by then the refs are there.
In the end Sarah gets five minutes in the box and Tish gets taken off to get looked at by Raf. Tish comes back out a minute before Sarah's penalty finishes up and she makes a beeline straight for the box. Sarah watches her coming, feeling strangely disaffected by the way Tish is glaring.
Tish opens the door, sticks her head in and only says, "You're a fucking dumbass," before going back to the bench.
Whatever, like she regrets it. If it happened again Sarah would do the exact same thing, except next time she'd make sure to hit them harder. She'd make sure they think twice about messing with Tish. It's not the first time she's had that thought, or something similar, in regards to Tish, but today is the first time she knows why. Maybe it's because of what Yoshi said. Maybe Sarah's brain is sick of ignoring the obvious, but there it is. There's the furious, protective feeling curled up deep inside of her that drove her to knock dickweed down and make sure he stayed down.
Sarah's chest feels impossibly tight and she's probably making a face that's going to be posted all over the internet because of how ridiculous it is but none of that matters next to the fact that she's having an emotional epiphany, awakening, whatever. About Tish. In the middle of a freaking exy game.
Thankfully, Sarah has a lot of other things to distract her. Like the fact the Wolves are leading 2-0. It's easy to shove everything deep down when division rivalry is on the line and Sarah goes back out with only one thought on her mind.
Sarah's penalty and Tish's hit fires up the Platypus, or feels like it anyway. They dominate the rest of the first half and let in only one goal in the second while they score six on the Wolves; three of them by Tish. There are plenty of penalties and the highlight reel is going to be a parade of one barely legal hit after another.
She can't feel her legs or her arms, except for when she moves wrong and suddenly everything flares bright and painful. It's the best feeling because it's so much easier to sink into her head like this, when she's too tired to react to her thoughts. Taking advantage of this perfect moment Sarah sits down at her stall and closes her eyes.
So there are feelings. She has feelings, for Tish. Feelings that aren't as simple as annoyance and anger. These ones are complicated, fuzzy, electric, euphoric and heart-clenchingly nauseating. They make Sarah want to hide and not come out for a week, make her want to pretend she hadn't noticed them. Of course, she'd tried that already and look where that got her.
And then there's Nova Scotia, which Sarah is only starting to understand now. Tish invited her to Nova Scotia after their ninth game of the season. Almost three years ago, it was for the ninth game of that season that Sarah first played with the Platypus, or rather, played with Tish. Jesus fucking Christ, could Tish be more convoluted?
Sarah scrubs a hand over her face and seriously thinks about hitting her head against the nearest wall. Then she takes a deep breath and shoves it all away to be dealt with later. She needs to get dressed, get out of here, get to her hotel room and then she can freak out.
Man, she wishes someone had warned her how awful it is to fall in love.
She showers and changes clothes on auto pilot, pulls her hair up into a ponytail and is tugging on her socks when Tish stops in front of her stall. For, like, a second Sarah wants to ignore her until she goes away. Only a second though.
"Hey," Sarah says, looking somewhere beyond Tish's shoulder.
"Hey. Thanks for--" Tish waves a hand.
"Even though you fucking shouldn't have," Tish adds because she can't leave well enough alone.
Sarah shrugs, finally meeting Tish's gaze. "I wanted to." There's a question burning a hole through Sarah's throat, desperate to be asked except for how Sarah's not sure she wants the answer. Not when Tish is looking so composed and bland, like Sarah's a stranger on the streets.
Also, they're in the middle of a locker room filled with inquisitive teammates who are trying very hard to pretend they aren't listening.
Tish opens her mouth, visibly changes her mind, and says, "Right. Night."
The minute Tish leaves the change room, Sarah marches over to Yoshi and grimly says, "We're getting drunk tonight."
"I'll buy the tequila," Yoshi says immediately, proving that she's the best friend Sarah's ever going to have.
It takes Sara half the bottle to get up the courage to say, "You were right."
"Yeah? Bout what?" Yoshi says, curled up on the other end of Sarah's hotel bed. She has a beer in one hand and an empty shot glass in the other.
Sarah stretches out her legs to tuck her feet under Yoshi's leg, and runs her thumb over her mouth, tasting salt and lime. "She wanted me to come to Canada. Cos it was, like, our anniversary. Cept I didn't know it was our anniversary because she didn't tell me. Never fucking tells me the plays."
"Uh, who? Dude, make sense," Yoshi chides, grabbing Sarah's ankle and giving it a shake.
"Tish," Sarah says because that should be enough for Yoshi to understand her pain.
Yoshi blinks at her and drinks more beer. "Oooh, is she why we're drinking alone like losers instead of celebrating?"
"She's why everything sucks. Keep up, dude," Sarah snaps.
"Fuck you, I'd keep up if you talked normal. So what'd our favourite little ball of rage do?"
"She stealthed me with feelings," Sarah says, sliding down in the bed until she's staring up at the ceiling. It's a great ceiling. "She stealthed me with feelings and then didn't tell me so now I have all these feelings and it sucks because I don't want to be feeling her."
"Feeling doesn't even sound like a word anymore," Yoshi says.
"Shut up and help me," Sarah orders, kicking out. She hits Yoshi's butt, she thinks.
"Urgh." Yoshi drags herself up and flops over on Sarah's legs. "Fine. You were feeling her. Wait, like, badtouching or?"
"No! Like fee--emotions."
"Okay, so there are emotions. That you have...for Pat and don't want?"
"Yes!" Sarah says, gratified now that Yoshi was getting it. "And I think she, you know, me too because why else would there be Canada?"
Yoshi tilts her head. "Canada is bad?"
"Canada is..." Sarah thinks about it. "Canada could be good. But it's not there anymore. She took it away. She took everything off the table."
"Wait, wait. She--Pat. Pat wanted to take you to Canada. For your anniversary." Yoshi's face goes weird. "Anniversaries are for people who are more than buddy fucking. And you told me you weren't."
"Well it turns out we were," Sarah says, a little sulky. "Not, like, at the start. But later I think? Or Tish thought it was but didn't really clue me in. Urgh, she's the fucking worst."
Yoshi grabs Sarah's shirt in both hands and shakes. "Are you fuckin--so okay you guys were emoting at each other? How long?"
"A year?" Sarah guesses. "Or, more than that, maybe?"
"What is wrong with you?" Yoshi demands, her voice a few decibels higher than necessary. "I--you--seriously!"
"How was I supposed to know?" Sarah returns.
"I thought you were a functional human being!"
"So now what?"
"I don't know!" Sarah realises they're yelling at each for absolutely no reason, but in her defence, this is the only way she knows how to keep from having a full on panic attack. Yelling just seems like the safer option. She has no idea what Yoshi's excuse is.
Sarah slumps back, rolls over to look down at the carpet and repeats, "I don't know."
And she's not just talking about what to do next either. She has no idea what it means that Tish broke it off; whether it's Tish getting sick of Sarah's obliviousness or just Tish being Tish and loathing the idea of developing an emotional distance less than the one between the Earth and the Moon. Because, let's be real, the people Tish liked could be counted on the one hand, and Sarah always assumed she was grouped into the much larger pool of people Tish barely tolerated because they were useful. Now, that assumption was probably wrong and Sarah is at a loss as to what to do with that information.
"Oh, sweetie," Yoshi says, as quiet as Sarah has ever heard her. "You're fucking hopeless."
Yeah, fucking hopeless sounds about right, Sarah decides through the fuzz of alcohol.
It's not the first time Sarah's been broken up with. It is, however, the first time Sarah wants to fight the decision, wants to make someone believe they can do this, be together and be amazing. Because, y'know what, fuck Tish; how dare she end something before it even had a chance to properly begin. She never gave Sarah a chance, never laid out the play and let Sarah have a say.
They fight, they scream, they tear each other down, but they also make each other better. Sarah believes that the same way she believes the Platypus have a chance at the championship. She doesn't know how else to explain Tish magically appearing right where Sarah needs her; the points they rack up when they play the same shift; Sarah becoming the team's top scoring defence ever since Tish started correcting her everything. And yeah, maybe that makes it sound like their relationship was only ever perfect on court, but it's Tish, whose life is so intertwined with exy Sarah's not sure she knows how live without it.
If she were a lot drunker she'd call Tish right now and spill everything; like how angry she is at being left out of the loop and how much she misses what they used to be. She'd ask Tish what she needs to do to fix it. No, not just fix it, because now that Sarah knows, she can't stop thinking about a thousand different ways they could be better.
"I hate everything," Sarah says some time later, when the bottle of tequila is gone and they've finished the beer too.
"Yeah," Yoshi murmurs into Sarah's shoulder. "Can we hate things in our own beds though? We don't fit on one."
"Yeah," Sarah echoes.
Sarah helps Yoshi stand up and all but throws her into the other bed. She then collapses face first into her pillow and falls asleep hoping Yoshi's not choking on vomit.
Sarah wakes up to the sun stabbing her eyes and the smell of grease. There are also voices talking softly. One, Sarah immediately recognises as Yoshi's. The second one takes a bit longer because Sarah's not used to hearing it sound so lighthearted. What the fuck is Toby doing here?
For the moment though, Sarah shelves that thought and sits up slowly. Yoshi and Toby stop talking, and she can feel them staring at her. "Morning, sunshine," Yoshi says, being too fucking cheerful.
"Urgh," Sarah says and shuts herself in the bathroom. She ignores how her brain is basically trying to explode out of her skull at the slightest movement and takes a moment to regret everything. God. Somehow, she manages to wash the taste of death and mothballs out of her mouth without drowning. There's no way she's going to attempt a shower until she's had coffee.
Yoshi further proves to be the best thing that has ever happened to Sarah by having two coffees waiting for her. "Okay, I forgive you for him," Sarah tells her and points at Toby. "But what's he doing here?"
Sarah looks at Toby warily, remembering the last time they spoke. Toby's smile is smug, like he's remembering too. She belongs to a team of complete assholes.
"You're going to clean up, and then you're going to correct things," Toby says mildly, as if he's talking about the weather and not Sarah's clusterfuck of a love life. "Patricia should be back from her run in about half an hour and by then I will be busy having breakfast with Scarlet and Jamie. The room is yours."
Sarah blinks at this, then looks at Yoshi who looks way more awake than reasonable. "Look, I'm happy to keep being the supplier of alcohol," Yoshi says, sounding like an adult ant all. "But I'm not having this fuck with the championship, so square things away, okay? And if it goes south, there are plenty of bars I can take you to."
"Yeah, okay," Sarah says after a moment.
Because it's long past time to nut up. Because avoiding things is what got them into this in the first place. And this year or the next or ten years down the track, Sarah is always going to love the way Tish loves this game. Because even without exy to tie them together, she thinks she would still be head over heals for Tish and that's a big deal. Sarah's not going to do herself the disservice of running away from something like that.
It turns out to be easier said than done. First, Tish isn't even fucking there when Sarah turns up, so she ends up sitting down across the hall, knees drawn up to support her kindle. She's slowly making her way through Twilight--it's painful on every visceral level but Yoshi dared her--and she's reached the part with the werewolf dude and the punching when the elevator doors ding open and hey, there Tish is.
Sarah knows the exact moment Tish sees what's waiting; her eyes flick from side to side, clearly pondering how bad it would look if she went back down, before just as clearly deciding it would be going against her personal code of ethics or whatever.
Tish steps up to the door, looking past Sarah, and opens it without a word. Sarah follows her inside, heading automatically to the bed farthest from the door. As expected, it's the one holding Tish's bags. Sarah almost smiles. Until she remembers why she's here.
Tish closes the door and stops at the mouth of the short hallway where it opens out to the rest of the room. She throws her ipod onto the bed and leans back against the wall, arms folded. Sarah concedes to Tish's silent demand and hovers by the entrance as well. The hallway isn't made to accommodate two respectably sized athletes so it creates an intimacy that's almost too much; Sarah's knee bumping Tish's when she moves, her fingertips brushing over Tish's thighs when she brings her arms up to cross them as well. It's exactly like a thousand other hotel rooms they've shared, and Sarah wonders at the full circle they've come. From that first season, that first game against the Pittsburgh Queens and the silent hotel room after, lying on their own beds and going over the loss in the quiet of their own minds. To this, after the last game of the season, standing in the hallway of a strange hotel in a strange city.
And looking at Tish like this, Sarah knows this is where she belongs.
"I forgot to say this last night. Good game," Sarah offers.
There's a long pregnant silence that spawns more awkward silences but Sarah's not backing down anymore. They're doing this whether Tish wants to or not.
Her patience pays off and Tish replies, quietly, "Thanks. You too." The curtains are drawn shut, letting in only slivers of the morning sunlight, and cast shadows over Tish's mouth. All Sarah can see clearly are her eyes, which remain opaque despite Sarah's best attempts at reading them.
Well, niceties out of the way.
"Right, okay. I need to get this all out before I choke, so don't--don't be you."
Tish snorts, loud and rude, but remains otherwise silent which is all Sarah is asking for. She wishes she'd had a bit of dutch courage before confronting Tish. Too late now.
Sarah takes a deep breath and forges ahead. "Back then. When we broke up--don't even bother, Tish--that was definitely us breaking up. Anyway you said that it was a stupid idea. Well, I don't think it is. I think it's a great idea. We are a great idea."
"We are not anything, according to you," Tish says, her voice low and carefully modulated. God, what part of 'don't be you' didn't Tish understand. Up side, there are emotions in her eyes now. Down side, it's mostly anger and bitter, bitter hurt. "Or at least that's what you told Yoshi," she finishes.
Note to self, kill Yoshi later.
"Yeah, you mentioned that. Since this is hard enough already without me being on a completely different page to you; what did she say?" Sarah tucks her hands behind her back, clenching them into fists and settling in for the long haul.
Tish looks reluctant initially but then her mouth opens and the words burst out of her in a torrent, syllables shoved and pushed together until they're almost unintelligible. "She told me you think we're a--a convenient thing. That it's only sex and nothing else because there's nothing better. Fuck buddies, right? That's what you thought of us."
Really, really kill Yoshi dead, although in all likelihood Tish was probably only hearing what she wanted to hear.
"Okay, well, you know what?" Sarah says, pressing back into her hands. Whether to keep from touching Tish or smacking her, not even she knows. "That's what we were in the beginning. It's not--don't even pretend it was anything else, dude."
"I changed my mind."
"Obviously, but you couldn't have said anything?" Sarah should probably give a shit that they're fighting already, but this is how they've always worked out their problems. Why break tradition?
"Oh, right," Tish mutters, her voice hard. "And have you laugh at me? I invited you back home, fuckhead, could I be less subtle?"
Sarah rolls her eyes. "Have you met me? When's the last time I noticed anything that wasn't practically shoved in my face?"
Tish's lips go thin and she surges forward, conquering the short distance in a matter of nanoseconds. She slams a hand into the wall inches away from Sarah's head, her eyes lit up and her mouth parted into a snarl. "Fine, here it is: I think I'm in love with you but you're a dick who's just in it for the sex. There, how's that for shoving it into your face?"
Hearing Tish confirm every one of Sarah's suspicions should have been a shock but it only feels like the perfect pass, everything clicking into place in the best possible way. "Well," Sarah drawls, starting to grin. "You're wrong about a couple of things."
"Your face makes me want to punch you all the fucking time," Tish says, like this should be news or something.
"Ditto," Sarah says cheerfully. "But back to the part where you're wrong."
Tish's arm tenses and she makes as if to pull away, but Sarah grabs on to the hem of her shirt and reels her back in. Tish responds by pinching her waist but Sarah only pulls her closer until the distance between them is more metaphorical than physical. There's probably no one on earth as salty as Tish right now, but she's not making any solid effort to get away. "Go on then. How am I wrong?" Tish throws the words at her, like a challenge and an attack in the one.
Sarah only smiles at Tish, because even this--the belief Tish has in attack as the best defence--is something that has her exasperated and not in a bad way. "One, like the sex would be the only reason I'd stick around, dumbass."
"Dumbass?" Tish repeats.
"Yeah. You. Dumbass. You could've just said something like, 'hey, we're half-dating already, how'd you like to make this official?' I mean, c'mon."
Tish doesn't say anything, only gives Sarah her most unimpressed glare. Up close like this Sarah finds it intimidating for the first time in ages. "Point," Sarah admits, then hurries to add, "But it's different now. I'm...I've had time to think about it and I want to, okay?"
"You want to what?" Tish says slowly, her face doing its best to go blank but all those hours on the court together, reading precisely where the other is going to be, means she can't quite hide her trepidation from Sarah.
"I want it to be official. You. Me. For as long as the Platypus will have me. And beyond. Long distance is easier these days I hear."
"Fuck you, you're not going anywhere," Tish says right on the heel of Sarah's words.
Sarah rolls her eyes, her head shaking from side to side. "Dude, focus." The next part is harder to say, but while Tish might be doing her best impression of a robot, Sarah knows she needs to hear this. "What I'm saying is, even if I get shafted to, I dunno, San Francisco, I would still want to. I'll always want to. I'm pretty sure you and your stupid fucking face is it for me."
"You charmer. What if I don't want to?" Tish says, as cagey as a runt of the litter.
Grinning, because that's not a no, Sarah shrugs and says, "I was thinking I could flashmob you. How does Avril Lavigne sound? Or I could go with Justin Bieber? Someone Canadian, of course. I know, Celine Dion!"
This perfect maelstrom of horror and disgust blossoms over Tish's face and Sarah knows to expect retaliation, so she doesn't stop laughing with giddy delight as Tish shoves her. "You're such an asshole," Tish says, her eyes narrow but she can't front, Sarah sees the start of a smile there.
In the interest of becoming a good girlfriend Sarah tries her best to obey, but there's no way she can do it on her own so she uses a hand on Tish's neck to pull her in and press their lips together. It muffles the sound but doesn't put a stop to it completely and laughter keeps spilling out of her into Tish's mouth, until she feels Tish's lips curve upwards.
"What if I say please?" Sarah asks, pulling back just enough to make the words legible.
Not exactly the enthusiastic response Sarah is hoping for, but maybe what she needs to be doing is reading between the lines to how Tish pushes in, hip to hip, as her fingers slide through Sarah's and curl over the knuckles; to the kiss Tish presses against the angle of Sarah's jaw. It's not perfect, whatever that means, but it is them and that's all Sarah wants.
Thirteen minutes into the second half of the semi-finals, and play is paused while Sarah gets her jaw looked at. Racquets swinging at ninety miles per hours can do some damage when they meet soft, plushy flesh. The entire surface of her neck is coated in blood, and the taste of copper fills her mouth from where the blow knocked her teeth into tongue.
Raf is squinting at the cut that refuses to stop bleeding, making some uming and uhing noises that sound so reassuring. Not. There are times Sarah can't believe there's a university out there that released Raf into the world armed with a medical degree.
"Good news, you're still breathing," is Raf's eventual assessment. "But you are going to need stitches."
An angry noise, almost a growl, comes out of Tish's throat, and she glares across the court at the Reds' backliner sitting in the penalty box. Sarah almost feels sorry for the dude. When he comes out of there he's gonna have Tish gunning for him, and it's going to be beautiful.
"Sorry, sugah," Raf says, dipping deeper into her Georgian accent on the last word. "You can have her back when I'm done."
Sarah accepts the hand Tish extends and stands up, not stepping back when it puts them flush against each other. "Yeah, don't worry about it, sugah. I'll still be here to save your ass."
"Save my ass? Your passes are fucking sloppy and you need to learn to look," Tish retorts.
"Look where? One eighty behind me? You should know I'm not that flexible, fuckface," Sarah returns.
Despite everything, she's floating high on endorphins because as far as Sarah's concerned everything's golden; it's the division final, they're five points up, the Reds are about to find out why it's a bad idea to piss Tish off, and twenty-four hours ago she just signed a five-year contract with a no trade clause.
"If you're not back on court in ten, I'll drag you out here myself." Tish smacks Sarah's head and goes to take the penalty.
Sarah grins. Fucking drama queen.