Natasha was biting her lip, anxiety higher than she'd ever known was making her knees literally quake. It had taken every ounce of her strength to stay away from the game, partly because she'd loved her reintroduction to a sport that had intrigued her from the very first moment she'd watched it, but largely, and mainly, because of the giant man who'd asked her to come. He wanted her to be there, but he'd abandoned her too, it was ironic. And she couldn't succumb to his demands, not after that.
Instead, she was standing in the darkness of the car park, watching jubilant fans leave the arena slowly, chatting, celebrating presumably a win, whilst hiding in the shadows, and slowly building up the courage to either go inside, or find Bo's car and wait there. She still wasn't sure that he was going to speak to her again, after his abrupt emotional and physical departure the previous night, but a debrief with Steph over breakfast made her realise that she wanted to try. That was what this was. An attempt.
This was a chance to see him privately, to gauge his reaction to her, rather than wondering if he was being forced into being civil because they were in company, he wouldn't want to lose face in front of their mutual acquaintances inside the arena. A mature decision, yet hiding like this seemed almost childish in comparison.
Taking a deep breath, she walked across the rough gravel surface, to the row of almost identical cars, knowing which one was his instantly. Lowering her hips to the bonnet, she perched there...and waited.
"So you live locally?"
Bo glanced once again in the direction of the blonde who had somehow pinned him in the corner and was fluttering her eyelashes at him. She'd attempted to initiate conversation several times, and whilst Blake was stood with him, he'd been able to deflect that. But his captain had been pulled away for an interview, and that left him, seemingly stranded. This woman had introduced herself, but he had forgotten her name before she spoke it, and even if he could remember it, she was doing a great job of trying to deflect his attention onto her rather exposed cleavage.
But he wasn't interested. He was bored.
If the woman was actually, truly interested in him, then he'd be more understanding. But she wasn't. That much was obvious. When she thought he wasn't looking at her, her eyes were darting around the room for any other potential targets. Wealthier men, more successful or more prolific in life and fame. He was a means to an end. The current target. He'd been this before.
Because it was akin to when he met Daniele, back in Chicago. He just hadn't realised the similarities, the emptiness of it all until now. He had been at the top of the tree, famous, rich, successful, looking down at everyone, adored. Anything had been possible, nothing could go wrong, and he accepted that everyone wanted a piece of him. So conceited, so self centred. And now? Now he knew how it felt to be invisible, to lack value and he hated his past, the superficial nature of the life he'd revered. But at the time it had all felt so right.
Spotting Oscar across the room, he managed to excuse himself, the woman reluctantly letting him go with a scowl, and almost ran across the room to the safety of the other man.
"Holding!" Oscar held out a hand, shaking it firmly. "Sorry you were benched tonight, but have to say that bastard last night deserved a punch..." he leaned in close, "just don't tell Coop I said that." Turning half to his right, he offered, "have you met my wife, Lizzie?"
Bo smiled, "not formally. Pleased to meet you."
They shook hands as he stooped to kiss her cheek, then he grinned at the baby still in her arms, "and this is?"
Lizzie beamed up at him, "this is Seth."
"He who made the timely arrival on Ladies Night." Bo turned on the charm, beaming at her.
Oscar laughed, "the very same. Just like his Mum, always making an impression." He placed an arm around his wife's shoulders, "I wanted to catch up with you tomorrow, if I can, Bo. There's a new sports magazine that wants to run a feature. You are the ideal candidate." He added the last bit when he spotted Bo's eye roll. "After our breakfast meet? Wouldn't want Vaughn to take your place."
Bo whistled, "wow. Low blow!" Their rivalry was already legendary within the club.
Both men laughed, and Oscar shook his hand again, "tomorrow."
The thought of an interview, someone delving into his life scared him beyond belief, but he was here, he was a committed part of the team...and he had to be a full part of it, otherwise he had no chance of returning to the NHL. There was a mountain of medical advice to the contrary, but in his heart of heart, he still hoped that he could. It was still his goal.
Mentally agreeing to the interview, he took that opportunity to scoot outside, away from the army of people, who all wanted something from him. In to the dark night, the quiet night.
The small car park had been busy when he'd arrived. The team's good start to the season had seen the crowds increase dramatically. But forty minutes after the game ended, the cars were drifting off, people heading home to prepare for work the next day, happy with the result, able switching off until their next game five days later.
Tomorrow was a day off, a day to relax and possibly catch up with his first assignment from college, before the week's training schedule kicked in, heavily until their two match road trip, the following weekend, to London. It was never ending. Yet it wasn't enough, as he had no one to share his free time with, no interests, nothing and no one.
He could acknowledge that, in his current pitiful state, where everything was his own damned fault. Especially this, being alone. He'd not spoken to his family in weeks, avoided their calls, and then pushed the only other person bothered enough to speak to him away too.
Self imposed loneliness.
Seeing his car in the distance, that ridiculously tiny thing, didn't help, not one bit. And then his frustration turned to anger as he spotted someone sat on his car, who did that? It felt like a trespasser. Invading the little that he had left. His space. Just like that woman in the bar upstairs.
He opened his mouth to call out, but at that very second the dark head turned and he caught the side profile of the only person he truly wanted to see.
Bo broke into a run, scared she'd disappear before he got there, skidding to an awkward stop in front of her.
She was a sight for his very sore eyes, despite her own humoured eyes and the smirk on her lips.
"You in a rush, Holding?"
He loosened his tie, then ran a hand through his hair, "I couldn't risk you running away again."
That made her laugh, "one time I slipped home early, but you? You are the one who runs away whenever the going gets a little tough."
He hated that she was right, but he already had a history of abandoning her. When things got too close to the truth. "OK, I'll take that."
She nodded, biting her lip the only portrayal of her anxiety, "so you should."
"I looked for you, tonight. Was hoping you'd be there."
Natasha sighed, "I didn't think it was right. To come. After last night."
He ran his hand over his face again, "sorry, I was out of order. I'm not very good at dealing with my own self doubt, even you could see that."
"As I said last night, obviously lots is or has been going on. Avoiding doesn't help. You need to talk this shit through, I'm not saying with me, but someone. It's not good to be so angry. Not at yourself."
The darkness of the car park hid her eyes, but he could feel them on him as he dug into his pocket for his car keys.
Her voice was sad, he hated where she was making him go, the power she had over him, turning to her he stooped so he could meet her eyes, "you think you know me?"
She shook her head, "no. But I worry about you."
"Why are you even here?"
She bit her lip, hard. Not a gesture, but through worry, and he hated himself for a moment, all over again.
"I wasn't going to come and cheer you at the game, not after you stormed out. But I couldn't stay away. I needed to see how you are. For some reason, you being OK matters to me."
It was almost a prepared speech, an opening of a door for them both, as he stood there, watching her, even the dark not hiding the blush that swept across her cheeks. "You needed to?" He was incredulous.
Shrugging she dropped her chin, eyes peeping through her lashes at him, "maybe. You seemed upset."
"And you would make it better?" He pushed her, wanted to see what she said, what she did. He didn't know why, but he needed her reaction as much as she needed to see him, that was obvious.
And he got his answer, she snapped, "fuck off, Bo. Ungrateful fuck. I don't know why I fucking bothered!"
Natasha, eyes blazing stared at him for a moment, then she turned and stormed off, or rather tried to, but her heels and the loose surface, weren't a good combination with her anger.
Bo watched her for a brief second, his body responding to her fire more than favourably, "Natasha, stop."
Despite her quick walk away, he reached her in two strides, reaching for her arm, causing her to stop, "sorry. I was being a bastard."
Turning she squared up to him, "yes, you were. AGAIN, I have no obligation to you, I barely know you. It's my fault for being so fucking nice...just trying to help." Her anger turned to a mumble as she tried to process all that she was thinking.
Lifting his other hand, he placed one on each of her upper arms and tugged her a little closer, "I'm sorry. I was being a prick, it's something of a habit with me. I'm glad you're here. I spent all night looking for you. I was out of order last night. Come out for dinner...I know it's late, but I'm starving."
Her sad eyes finally met his, and he hated that he'd caused that, "I should go home."
He shook his head, "just an hour. There's a great little late night Mexican Burrito place, just near mine. One beer, one burrito. That's all I'm asking for."
Grimacing for a minute, she studied him, looking for a sign, he wasn't sure what, then she shrugged, "I've tried getting a cab home from here before, it's not the easiest."
Smiling, because he didn't deserve this fifth chance, he clicked the car doors open, "for once I'm grateful to the godawful cab firms in this city."
With a huff she climbed into the passenger seat, rolling her eyes angrily, but he wasn't getting a genuinely angry vibe, not really.
Natasha was silent as he negotiated the light Sunday evening traffic and the journey across town. She could say so much, but she wasn't sure she could trust herself to speak. There was so much going through her mind, so much she could say, so much she SHOULDN'T say. Silence was easier.
He stopped the car on a busy street across the city from where she lived. 'Tasty Taco' was illuminated across the street, a very casual looking restaurant.
When she rolled her eyes, unimpressed, he chuckled, "don't judge it til you've tried it, I'm from California, we LOVE Mexican...this place is great. Much better than it looks."
Turning to him, she raised an eyebrow, but there was no conviction in it, and he just grinned, "hope you like jalapeños."
Like that was a challenge, she loved chilli, the hotter the better. This was her idea of heaven, but if it was that good, then she was amazed that the place had popped up without her knowledge.
She'd obviously deliberated that point for too long, because suddenly he was at the car door, opening it, helping her reluctant body out.
As they stopped outside, she knew she loved the place instantly. It was a small step up from a fast food restaurant, order at the counter, but with a licence for beer, and a large seating area. Tables with bright plastic cloths. Walls adorned with pictures of Mexico and sombreros. Sauce bottles on the tables shaped like peppers.
"I like Mexican." She finally managed to speak as they got to the door, and he feigned being shot in the chest.
Rolling her eyes at his childish response, she opened the door and led him into the restaurant.