Practice Makes Perfect
C'est la Vie, it wasn't a philosophy that Reign embraced in her life, some how she just wasn't happy if she wasn't fighting something, even something little. However, it was one of her favorite places in her new home. It was a serious pool player's pool hall. Sure, you got hacks and the occasional punk kid but there were only one or two video games, and four dart boards to distract from the tables. The bar was well stocked but small, they only served the barest of finger foods, the jukebox had a limited selection and there were only a few TVs and no one ever seemed to know where the remotes were so you were stuck with what ever was on. Some days it was smoky, some days it wasn't it depended on who was there but the table were well maintained, the cues straight and re-tipped on a regular basis and people left you alone if that's what you wanted.
Hans had refused to come to her place insisting she needed to keep playing in public if she was going to keep her edge. She'd bitched at him about that saying she did play in public all the time but this was practice. The gnarled Dane had point blank refused to deal with her unless she came to the hall. After bitching at him, she'd finally relented and come down to the hall where she was a fixture. There were a few greetings of 'Hey Doc' and 'What's up Vicious', the regulars followed the circuit and knew who she was. Beyond that, they were now comfortable with her. Some where along the line she'd qualified as one of them.
It was a moderately crowded night and a little on the smoky side but that didn't bother her. What bothered her was Hans had deliberately picked a table she didn't like. Well if that's how he was going to be she'd give it right back, so she ordered a beer before stalking down to the table. That had, as she'd intended, given way to an argument but this time Reign won and the beer stayed although she barley touched it. It had served its purpose.
From there on it was strictly business Hans critique and Reign's curt responses. Some times people would watch, some times, they were left to their own devices but after several hours, Hans called it a night by picking up his own cue. By unspoken accord they lagged for the break, Hans won and from there it was familiar bickering harsh sounding criticisms, but it was more social than work and she was finally able to sip her beer, it was warm.
Suddenly it was as if the past ten years just vanished, and he was meeting her in the student union at school, ready to marvel at her ability to make mincemeat out of whoever challenged her to a game.
Moving out of the doorway, Bastian stood stock still, and just watched her for several seconds, trying to catch his breath. Not since he knew he had fallen in love with her, had he been so taken aback by the mere sight of her. Reign. There she was after all this time, and he had no idea what to do first.
He had played this scene out hundreds of times over the past ten years, what she would look like, how he would approach her, and what he would say. He wanted to feel her arms around him, and his around her...feel her lips, her soft hair...smell that scent she had that did things to him that no other scent ever had. But he didn't move an inch.
Chances were more than excellent she would crack her pool stick across his skull, without giving it a second thought. That was a scenario he had also played out, and seeing the fire in her eyes as she did so, made him smile. Yes, it would hurt like hell, and possibly even lead him to the hospital for stitches. He had seen her in action a time or two, and seen how she held her own with the best of them. She was not a woman to be taken lightly under any circumstance, but when angry...
When she walked around the table to get into position for a shot, Bastian moved towards the bar, but his eyes never left her for a second. He wasn't even sure he was blinking, so focused on her was he. Taking a stool, he sat down and ordered a beer. He also asked that one be sent to her table, with strict instructions not to divulge who it was from. Rather he asked that it just be sent by an 'admirer'. He took two good gulps of the amber liquid before he began sipping, willing his nerves to stop trying to jump from his skin. He decided he would watch her, have another beer or ten, and then walk over and say hello.
'Buona sera, amore della mia vita. Li ho mancati di più di comincerete mai ad immaginare.'
It could work.
More than likely, not.
She snipped at Hans, although she knew full well it from him. He hated it when she had anything but water while she was playing. Beyond that Reign had a strict no flirting while playing rule, so she nudged the drink to the back of the table an ignored it she wasn’t going to encourage whoever set it.
She did wonder who had sent it though, the regulars knew her well enough not to and most of the bar tenders knew she didn’t like to be bothered either, although this guy tonight was new. Reign shrugged, it didn’t matter. She went back to her game with the same determination.
“No way in hell you meant to do that and you know it.”
They played called pocked and while the shot Hans had just made was an excellent one it also didn’t fit his style so Reign wanted him to back down.
“Could give an old man to back down instead of calling him a cheat.”
“I never said you were a cheat, just an opportunist. You going to sit down or what?”
He growled at her with a barley suppressed smile. For all their bickering and disagreements Hans was quite fond of Reign and rather protective on top of that. He’d been pleased the drink hadn’t distracted her but was intent on looking out for her. She didn’t need to get hurt again, she was bitter enough as it was.
Letting his pupil take the table he settled down, she’d be there for a while maybe he could spot who sent the drink.
Reign had always been stubborn, and opinionated, and unafraid to stand up for whatever it was she believed in. Coupled with Bastian's own stubbornness, that had created quite a few conflicts; however, his smile widened when he recalled the makeups that followed any serious arguments. There had only been one or two issues that had taken them longer than a hour or two to iron out, at least to the point to agree to disagree. He had never compromised with another human being as much as he did for and with her. But it never seemed like he was giving in to anything he couldn't figure out a way to live with. He loved her more than his own life, and that was what finally drove him away from her.
His smile faded for a minute or two, when he again remembered sneaking away from school. Fleeing into the night, she no doubt thought him a coward...a cad...a bounder...a shit. But at least she was around to have those feelings. Bastian was still convinced that had he stayed in contact with her during those early, unpredictable days, the chances of him hurting her would have been nearly certain. And that kind of hurt might have prevented her from standing before him now.
No. He did what he had to, and now he had to convince her it was the right thing to do.
Again he asked the bartender to send her another beer. He asked that the last one be removed, and a cold one be put in its place, and asked that the bartender have a cold one delivered every fifteen minutes if she still refused to drink them. Tipping the bartender extremely well, he again reiterated that his identity be protected.
He moved to a barstool closer to the pool table as soon as it was freed up. He had a much better view now, and could even catch whiffs of her scent now and then as she moved around the table. While he had his best to come to terms with what he was, even he had to admit there were a couple perks that came with the change. His senses were heightened, if only some to a small degree. His sense of smell, and night vision had increased dramatically, and the problem he'd had most of his life with hearing from his left ear, had completely disappeared. His auditory sense was very good now. So while he enjoyed her scent, he tried not to let it distract him from what she might be saying, if anything, to her coach.
He was growing antsy, but had to make sure he waited until the right moment. Maybe when he had psyched himself into a zone that a sharp thwack to his head might not hurt quite so bad.
The barrel chested gray haired Hans had an authoritarian presence and he used it when he approached the bar tendered.
“You’re new but I’m guessing you know the arrangement. You’re going to want to tell this fella, who ever he is, to knock it off.”
The next step would be to leave and get Jane involved the next day and no one wanted that. Reign’s manager could be a real bitch and Hans had started liking this hall, it was a good atmosphere, so it would be a shame to ruin the relationship over this once incident.
“But you can give me two scotch and waters.”
The drinks were poured quick enough and he headed back to the table noting Reign’s self satisfied smile. That was undoubtedly because Hans had broken his own rule and was brining them something to drink.
“Come on girl race to seven. If you can’t beat me you’ll never be able to go back in the snake pit.”
“You’re on and you break.”
Reign shot back. Giving him the break she’d given him the advantage and was flaunting her confidence, the assurance that she’d win.
Hans was good, he didn’t have what it took to play professionally, something about the crowd had always been too much for him to handle. But a match like this was close there was a good deal of back and forth. However, when the smoke cleared though Reign won, seven games to five.
“Get out of here old man. It’s a long drive for you. I’ll kill an hour or so before I leave.”
Deciding the earlier trouble had passed Hans nodded confirmed their next practice session, gave her a few more things to work on and left as Reign bent back down over the table, looking perfectly at home.
Bastian continued watching in amused silence, and grew more anxious as well. It really was all he could do to just sit there, even when his feet started to move in her direction several times. It was a test of his patience, something Reign would probably marvel at, that he had been able to remain quiet for so long. Patience was a trait he'd fought long and hard to master, and up till now he thought he had.
Nursing his own beers, when he reached for his third he was relieved to see her coach depart. Now he might be able to do what he'd waited all these years for.
Setting his bottle down, after nearly emptying it in one long pull, Bastian did stand up, and slowly stroll towards where Reign still played. He took great pains to remain out of her view, and was lucky she concentrated so well. When he reached the spot he'd chosen, he casually leaned one shoulder back against the wall, and put his hands in his pockets. Short of grabbing her into his arms, he needed somewhere for his hands to be.
His eyes hotly tracked her every move, every shot, until she was again standing directly in front of him with her back presented.
His words weren't shouted, but spoken loudly enough to be heard over the juke box. Once said, he steeled himself against the wall.
"Ciao bello, il mio amore. Sono spiacente."
Forcing herself to remain somewhat calm Reign kept her back to him and walked back towards the wall and propped her cue up, leaving her hands free.
“Sebastian Leonardo Romallo. I thought you were dead.”
She drawled with little emotion. It was true she’d though he was dead, sometimes she’d hoped and other times she’d wished it but Reign had never suspected she’d see him again. Nor was she happy with his arrival.
With a stone cold poker face she turned and walked the few paces back to him. She really did try to consider her actions at this point, but several years of hurt and rage won out and Reign hit him. She wasn’t a slapping girl, this punch was a right cross that would have made George Foreman proud. The swing started in her legs and by the time her fist connected with his jaw every once of Reign’s strength and body weight was behind it.
Vince’s rings bit into her finger and she hoped they cut Bastian. She blamed him for her divorce, hell she blamed him for her marriage and he deserved to be hurt by it the same as she had been.
Taking a deep breath she took a step way from Bastian and held up her hands trying to wave off the bar tender and hoping to god he or one of the other patrons didn’t call the cops. Although being arrested would be a small price to pay for the satisfaction she got from that punch. With any luck she’d get another in.
“You fucking bastard. You can leave now. I’m done with you.”
((OOC… permission to deck Bas granted))
He wasn't completely correct.
The punch he saw coming, and might have blocked, but he owed her this release, no matter how painful it was to him. The fact that he'd been in pain for the past many years would make no difference to her, and he wasn't about to bring it up now either. Certainly she would care less about his pain. He had hurt her in a way a woman often didn't recover. If he hurt too she would probably be thrilled, in the long run, but now it was her pain that was important to deal with.
The rings she wore cut into his lip, and the impact of her knuckles against that same lip caused the inside of it to rip across his teeth. In a matter of seconds he had a good bit of blood oozing out the corner of his mouth. He tried to wipe away some of it on the back of his hand, but only managed to smear it around, making it look even worse than it really was.
"Reign, I'm not leaving yet. Hit me again if it will help." And just in case she decided to do just that, he turned his face so the undamaged side was now presented to her. He also hoped by giving her permission to hit him, she wouldn't. But knowing her, he expected she still had a lot more anger to let loose.
"Even if you are done with me, I have to explain, and there is an explanation. You probably won't feel it warrants what I put you through, and maybe it doesn't, but somehow I am going to tell you. If not now...later...but I will tell you why I left, and why I'm here now."
As well as he had been able to read her before, Bastian wasn't that confident now. He almost wished he had taken a little more time to study her, and see if there were any changes that he hadn't noticed at first...but he hadn't. His patience had, in effect, held out for ten years or so...he had to do this now.
No. No way he got to be calm and logical. This was not a friendly meeting, she didn’t want to see him not now, not ever. As much as she’d like to have hit him again between his offering and her not wanting to be arrested that took all the fun out of it. In stead she started to pack up to leave.
“I don’t care. You walked out on me. It doesn’t matter if you had a reason or think you did and I don’t want to hear it.”
She violently grabbed up her purse and cue case and headed for the bar with purposeful strides.
She had loved him, a great deal but that was over. He had thrown that away. He had no way to know how long she’d looked for him, what he’d put her through and what it was like to finally conclude you’d been abandon. Not just dumped, abandoned. Then there was Vince. She had screwed over her best friend in the world because of Bastian. Vince hated her, so did most of the guys, only one or two were still speaking to her, or would be if she would come out of hiding.
For god’s sake she’d walked out on her family and he was the root cause. Not that Bastian knew any of this, not that she was going to tell him, but it was all there.
“You can go now. I don’t want to see you again and if I do, I’m calling the cops.”
Or sicking Sirius on him whichever was easiest.
Reaching the bar she signaled for her tab only to find Hans had paid it. Good. Without a backwards glance Reign left, into the parking lot and too her car which was parked under a street light.
And she was still quicker than lightning, the way she moved to get away from him. That was something he had expected. If she couldn't beat him up, what else did she have to do but leave. And he followed behind her just as quickly, tossing a few more bills at the bartender for the disruption, after she had finished there. Almost on silent feet he shadowed her out of the bar and into the parking lot before grabbing both of her hands from behind, and stopping her from getting into her car.
Fortunate for Bastian, he had spent years planning this meeting, and had many of the scenes choreographed in his head. If he didn't have the exact moves or words down, he had enough to be able to anticipate what had happened so far. This was another reason he was able to remain as calm and focused as he was now.
"Cara, please stop. You hate me and wish me dead, I get that, and am not surprised. I've hated me and wished me dead many times also. But I AM going to talk to you.
Once I've given you the long over due reason for why I had no choice but to leave, if you still want nothing to do with me..."
He wouldn't finish that line, mainly because no matter what she did or said, short of killing him herself, he'd still try to get her back. But he hoped if he implied he'd get out of her life, she might let herself listen to him, if for no other reason than to accomplish that.
His hands were firm around her wrists, but not painfully so. But once he thought she had stopped running he let them go. Those hands itched to turn her and envelope her against him, but as he moved them upwards, just inches from the sides of her arms, he knew that wouldn't be. Instead he dropped his arms to his sides, and moved his hands back into his pockets.
Keeping alert to the sounds around them, Bastian wished they weren't in the middle of the cold, concrete setting.
Ideally he would have chosen a comfortable couch, a nice fire, and maybe a few glasses of wine. But he did grin to think how completely unlikely that would have been.
"Merde!" He hissed when the grin sent a shooting pain through his just injured mouth. It was an appropriate reminder that the cold, concrete parking lot was much more fitting at the moment. Second only to the fires of hell, if he could still anticipate the woman's thoughts at all.
"Please. It won't take long. It might not matter, even when I'm finished, but I can't go away until I've told you."
The once familiar endearment only served to further irritate Reign.
The gentle restraint also set of a series of slightly violent reactions, while he held her writs she attempted to sharply kick him in the shin. It wasn’t just Bastian and her animosity towards him but she had been attacked in a pool hall parking lot when she was younger and still harbored a fear of a reoccurrence. Even though she knew him and, despite being beyond furious with him, knew Bastian wouldn’t hurt her didn’t lessen the fear.
“You can talk all you want but I’m not going to listen. Deal with my agent like everyone else.”
Never one to be overly burdened with empathy she jammed the car keys into the door and attempted to squeeze in the door. The only thing Reign wanted was to be gone, not in this situation at all.
It didn’t matter what his reasons were, he’d had more than enough time to try and explain himself the statute of limitations on this relationship had expired. Reign didn’t want to attempt to explain what he’d done to her, he hadn’t cared then and she didn’t care now.
"Reign, you WILL hear me out. You know me better than to think I'm just going to go away peacefully. Call the cops, get a retraining order, do whatever it is you think you need, but it won't do you any good. In the long run you're just going to drag this out a lot longer. You haven't lost your stubbornness, but then neither have I, and what I have learned is how to be a lot more patient."
He let her get to her car, but held onto the door once she got inside. She could still start up and drive off, but there was no way he was letting go until he felt he had done everything he could for now. It was obvious by now though, that tonight wasn't going to be the night of revelations.
"I also know you better than to think there isn't a part of you, probably deeply hidden beneath all that deserved anger, that doesn't want some kind of closure on this."
Not that Bastian would accept closure at all, but he had to appear to want to give Reign something she might want.
"We can talk now, or we can talk later, but don't misunderstand my letting this go now, as giving in. We will talk."
Letting go of the car door, he stepped back.
"I never stopped loving you Reign, hollow, and unbelievable as I'm sure those words must sound to you. And before you refuse to acknowledge that sentiment one way or the other, stop and ask yourself...what do I have to gain by coming to you now, after all this time? My answer is because I do love you, I want to try and explain that I only did what I did, because of that love."
He stopped talking then. Unless she had changed inside more than the outside, he imagined her fury was shuttering her to anything he was saying. Once she had time to cool down, he hoped she might recall what he had said tonight, and reconsider letting him provide her with reasons.
Reign growled at Bastian.
With enough room she slid into the vehicle and slammed the door. He seemed to be letting her run and she was actually relieved. This was just surreal, she’d never anticipated another meeting between them.
“You can’t expect me to buy any of this. You walked out. That’s closure. I was dumped end of story I don’t need any thing else.”
Starting the car she threw it into reverse and started to pull out not caring that he was holding on to the door.
As she backed out something in his tone resonated with her, slightly, barley but enough that she paused. Hitting the breaks she fished a business card from the car’s ashtray and jab it at him. Like all her cards it had her name, the league logo and her manager’s number but none of her own contact information.
“If you mean it, any of it call.”
Of course, Reign would also be sending an e-mail to Jane to ensure she gave Bastian holy hell. She’d accept a meeting, after Jane gave him a run around. But it would also be in public and professional, no candlelight dinners. She wouldn’t be bought with cheap romance.
Berating herself for letting him get to her, even that little bit, she took off. It wasn’t running away. That was what Reign told herself she wasn’t afraid, she wasn’t hurt she was done being hurt she just wanted to be away, she needed time to organize her thoughts, even her feelings, she wanted to be home, safe and alone. See this was why she had a dog, he never upset her like this.
Wincing as the action of moving his mouth in the smile caused the tear in his lip to reopen, Bastian dropped the smile before she was able to see it. But as it turned out, she drove off so quickly he had nothing to fear.
The immediate reaction he had was to shift, and take off after her, but as soon as the thought came he dismissed it. He was fast on four legs, but he still didn't know the layout of Nachton very well, and was afraid he'd lose her if she got into traffic. Chasing after a car at breakneck speed was one thing, but stalking one through town wasn't the kind of thing that went unnoticed.
Besides that, time was what he needed to give her now. She knew he was here, he knew she was here. He had seen her, and saw that she was healthy, even if angry beyond rational thought. She might doubt his sincerity, and truly not care one way or the other why he was in Nachton. Now. But he vowed that wouldn't last. He had learn to come to terms with what he was, and how to live with demons she wouldn't begin to understand. Getting through to her was something he refused to consider any more difficult.
Once he looked at the business card, and saw it was just that...all business, he shook his head, but slipped the piece of paper into his pocket. That she had deigned to give him any evidence of interest was worth the bloody lip and knot on his shin, and the grinned crept back to his face as he hobbled slightly across the street to his Hummer. Once seated in the vehicle he rubbed his leg, and was a little glad he had the knot, and split lip. Both injuries were marks that he had indeed been with Reign again, and not so different from marks she had given him lo those many years ago. Their relationship had rarely been one without conflicts, even when they were making love.
Bastian looked forward to their next time in bed together with the same certainty he had taken with him into the pool hall tonight. Not only would Reign see him again, and listen to what he had to say...it wouldn't stop there.