Basketball Blues

August 12, 2016:

Rachel and Nate meet for some friendly basketball. By the way, Nate has never played.

Xavier's School

It is a basketball court

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Ravager

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

The sun is high in the cloudless blue sky over the Xavier Institute. The weather is hot, with a slight breeze to keep the temperature from being oppressive. And Rachel Summers is in danger.

In danger of getting sunburnt, at least.

The time and dimensionally displaced redhead has actually emerged from the X-Men's underground complex today, willing to put Arsenal's assertion that the US Government /doesn't actually care about her/ to the test. Unfortunately, spending much of the year living underground like some kind of fugitive mole has given her precious little time to soak up any sunlight, so she's even paler than she would be naturally. And pale redheads tend to burn easily at the best of times, even when they're wearing more than shorts and a tee shirt.

Sunburn, however, is definitely on the list of things that Rachel is NOT worrying about right now. Along with black helicopters appearing over the mansion, even though that's what she was half-expecting as soon as she showed her face above ground. No, all Rachel's worried about is making her next shot, but the basketball drops neatly through the hoop without even touching the sides. With a triumphant grin, Rachel jogs over to the ball and scoops it up, pushing her short hair out of her face as she turns to face the only other occupant of the X-Men's outdoor basketball court. Tucking the ball under one arm, she asks her sort-of brother, "Are you really just going to stand there? This isn't the Danger Room, you don't HAVE to watch me if you don't want to." Rachel would much prefer Nate to join in, but she hasn't had much success so far.


Nate just got there! Not that he can sneak on Rachel since she is a telepath, and telepaths can see him coming miles away. “I am just shocked to see you outside,” points out the young man. “About time,” he is not wearing his jacket in consideration to the August sun, and that it is unlikely to get shoot and stabbed in the middle of Xavier’s grounds.

Nate himself has been scarce at the school. Or anywhere. Because quitting the painkiller drugs has made the last few weeks pretty unpleasant for him. Today he is relatively fine, but mostly due to not using his powers in the last couple days. “So, where should I stand, anyway?”


Rachel winces and gets a defensive look on her face, but before she can come up with an explanation that isn't entirely humiliating Nate says something that distracts her completely. "Really?" She asks, her voice a bit higher than usual, perhaps a bit of a sparkle in her eyes, before she reins herself in and raises a sceptical eyebrow. "Really?" She says again, in her normal tone. "You're not going to complain that I'm wasting your time and that I should be doing something more constructive with mine?" She's mostly teasing, but there's a faintly aggrieved note in her tone all the same, at least until another thought hits her. "Wait, you've never played basketball?" Rachel purses her lips in thought, then shrugs. "OK." She throws the ball to him. "All you have to do is get that ball." She points. "Through that basket." She points again. Then she smirks. "Without using your powers." She gets out of the way, giving him a clear shot just this once.


Nate hrms, and then smirks. “I saw basketball on TV a couple times,” he admits. But noooo, in the Age of Apocalypse they didn’t play basketball much. Not most sports. Except running. But it is not a sport if they are shooting at you, right?

Now, ball and basket. Seems simple. Except when Rachel says ‘no powers’ which is a bit of a disappointment. “Seems simple, anyway.” So he tosses the ball, and of course it hits the backboard and bounces away barely touching the edges of the basket.


Rachel doesn't try to look into Nate's mind for the answer to her question. If she had, right now she'd be thinking that maybe if she'd been better at running then she could have escaped everything that happened to her in the world she came from. Which she couldn't, because a building was demolished on top of her when she was about fourteen. So she doesn't look. Today is about enjoying being outside in this moment, and she's going to hold on to it for as long as she can.

Rachel watches with an expression of polite interest as Nate lines up his shot, even nods in easy agreement when he suggests that it's simple. She only grins when he misses the target. "You'd think so." She says, jogging after the ball and retrieving it. "So let's make it more interesting. All you have to do is get that ball." She points again. "Into that basket." And again with the pointing. "Past me." And she jerks a thumb at herself. She's smiling. She's actually enjoying herself.


“Uh huh,” there must be a trick involved here, Rachel is smiling too much. It is not natural! “Let me find out about the rules of basketball… not that I don’t trust you,” but Nate prefers not to mind-like with her right now, giving the state of his telepathy. So one minute of mind-snooping around and he gets it.

“I… see, and it looks simple enough,” he decides. Wait, how many steps he can take without dribbling? Maybe not so simple. Maybe they are not going to pay much attention to the rules, though. “Give me the ball, lets try this.”


"Nate… it's only a bit of fun." Rachel says, then frowns. Not at Nate, at the course of her own thoughts. It feels odd to even talk about something being fun. That and Nate's telepathic snooping reminds her that she's probably a bit fuzzier on the rules of basketball than she'd like. Outside the Danger Room she hasn't played since she was a kid, after all. She decides not to care. Or at least try not to. She's been second-guessing every thought she has and every decision she makes for far too long. "You could have looked in here, too." Rachel tells him, tapping the side of her head. She looks slightly concerned… but then, she's never really spoken to Nate while she's been in this frame of mind.

Mercifully, Nate asks for the ball before Rachel can start over-thinking this particular endeavour as well. "Great!" She tells him, with apparently genuine enthusiasm, the slightly distant frown clearing from her face as soon as she speaks, and the ball is duly thrown to him. She backs off a bit, keeping her eyes on him, her body dropping into a stance where she can react quickly. Still smiling.


“Er… my teep has not been good the last month,” admits Nate, catching the ball. “And it is always tough to contact with the family without mind-merging for me.” He fumbles with the ball a little, has to chase after it, then returns. He is bad!

No judgment about her taking a break. Nate assumes Rachel spends a crazy amount of time training and doing X-Men work because she us preparing for the End of the World. He used to do the same the first months after he got out of his world. It took him a while to learn to relax and not live like a survivor.


Rachel's eyes narrow when Nate mentions having trouble with his telepathy, and some of the relaxed ease goes out of her body. It's almost like she's hard-wired for bad news. At least it keeps her from laughing when Nate fails to catch the ball. Instead she's watching the way he moves, looking for physical injuries she might have missed. "I'd say something about excuses to make me go easy on you…" She says, trying to keep a teasing tone in her voice and failing. She gives up and shakes her head. "Are you OK? I mean really OK?"

Rachel herself is in decent physical condition. Decent food, regular training - even in the basement complex - and occasionally being chased by a homicidal, clawed team-mate have done a lot to replace malnourished skinniness with muscle. She's just not done very much with that fitness, so far.


Nate is in top physical shape, he works out quite a bit (when he is not too injured) and it shows. His problem? He has never held a ball in his hands. “Mostly OK,” he admits. “Just trying to go on without painkillers. Because, well, it has to do with Rose,” he half-explains. Rachel might have noticed he took pills fairly often.

He bounces the ball on the court tentatively, and then he takes a few steps forward, trying to avoid Rachel, which is on the way. “So, it has been a pretty bad month for my headaches,” he adds, “but it is getting better.”


Rachel's not stupid… wait. She ran away from the mansion almost as soon as she got here, and after Scott dragged her back she's been lurking underground like some kind of troll, sure the world's out to get her for the actions of another 'her', while everyone around her has tried to acclimatise her to her new world. Maybe she is stupid, but she's not BLIND. "You need painkillers, which you're not taking, and Rose is involved. What part of that is mostly OK?" Rachel asks, putting one hand on her hip. She's frowning, looking at Nate but not really watching him, and as a result when he does move she's caught off guard, scrambling to intercept him and keep between him and the basket, a hand darting out to try to slap the ball away from him, mid-bounce.


Nate curses as he loses the ball. “Wait, you are allowed to do that?” He checks. She is. Okay, chasing after. “It is complicated,” he explains. Or rather, he doesn’t. Pause. “Alright. Hmm… she was abusing drugs to deal with issues. Opiates to mute her emotions, then amphetamines to enhance her precog. Alcohol and… with her enhanced metabolism I am not sure if they can really hurt her or not. But I think they did, she was getting hurt very often, ignoring injuries, taking suicidal risks,” he sighs.

He is failing to take the ball, because, really, no idea what he is doing.

“I told her, and she pointed out I was taking painkillers for my headaches constantly,” and they were not regular painkillers. What he was taking would seriously injure a normal human. “Instead of only when I have a technovirus crisis, which was the original idea. So she quit, and so did I. But I guess it caused some withdrawal stuff, because my telepathics have been crap ever since.”


"Yep." Rachel tells him, not quite as brightly as she might otherwise. He's giving her a lot to think about, not much of it pleasant. She bounces the ball as she tries to prevent him from taking it away from her, backing away a bit here, spinning around to cover it with her back there. Bounce, bounce. She's not making any real attempt to get into position for a shot, she's not even really putting a lot of thought into it. She knows she should stop. Pick up the ball. Call a halt to the game and concentrate completely on what Nate's telling her.

And when the list reaches 'suicidal risks', that's what she does. She feels a bit guilty for not having stopped before, and slightly annoyed that she's stopping now, which makes her immediately feel worse for being selfish. Forget the sunshine and the feeling of being outside, this matters.

Tucking the ball under her arm again, Rachel's expression becomes more sober, and her eyes darken. "Nate… Look, you know I can barely look after myself on a good day, I'm not going to try to give you advice. But promise me you're going to take it easy while you straighten all this out?"


“Eh, you are coping okay all things considered,” protests Nate, with a smirk. “It took me a while to adapt myself to the… hmm, peace. And crowds. And regular meals. Okay, not so much the last thing.” Regular meals are not so regular even now, but at least he is not hungry.

“As for taking it easy,” he hrms. “You know. I don’t think we should talk about this right now. Basketball first and then we can take it easy around lunch.” He steals the ball taking advantage Rachel has stopped. “I am feeling well today, anyway,” he jumps and tosses the ball and… misses, by several feet. “Despite appearances,” he remarks glumly, running after the ball.


Rachel snorts, loudly. "No I'm not. Someone put me in a room with someone who works for the Government and I nearly bolted. Then the guy told me that they DON'T CARE about me, or at least… they aren't going to do anything to me, because of what the OTHER me did, as long as I behave. So I've been hiding in the basement and making everyone's life awkward for no reason. No reason at all." She shakes her head. "Except that I still can't trust a single decision that I make." She winces. This isn't about her. Why did she make it about her. "But the food's great. That much I'm sure about." A smile, or at least a twisting of her lips to imitate one.

Rachel barely reacts when the ball is stolen, and makes no attempt to get it back. She watches Nate miss, but this time there's no grin, and when he collects the ball and turns to her again, she hasn't moved. "We've played enough, Nate. Thanks for joining in. It was nice, to play again, with someone, but it's not important." Her expression's more like it usually is, and the carefree look is gone from her eyes. She shivers a bit, and rubs her arms, even though the day's still hot. "I don't have time for it. I'm not letting something happen because I wouldn't /listen/." She jerks her head toward the house, sharply. "Come on, lets go inside." She tries a last smile, and gives up on the attempt, turning to walk back towards the old house, keeping her steps slow to let Nate catch up.


“Sure it is important,” points out Nate. “Even if I suck at this,” bounce-bounce-grab. He used telekinesis, though. “It is important for you to feel good, because you are recovering and you need to get better to be useful.” He catches up with the redhead and reaches with an arm around her shoulders, pulling her close. “I am glad the government does not care, they had no fucking business ‘caring’ anyway. But they are usually nosy and stupid. And… hmm, I also suck at being reassuring, right? But I really think things are going to get better for you. They did for me,” mostly, sometimes. But he stumbled forward and he is still alive. “Food now? What is in the cafeteria today?”

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