This was fun! Hooray!
It was Edward's hardest basketball game ever, and, in a way, it was also the most fun.
He had no idea what the crowd, or what the people watching the game at home on TV, were seeing, but he guessed it wasn’t anything like what was actually happening. They’d be stampeding or screaming or…calling their congressman, maybe? Did people still do that?
No time to think about that; he needed to concentrate. Lena matched him in speed, somehow, seemingly everywhere at once all the time. It took all of his hunting skill to keep up with her, shadowing her so that she couldn’t get near the basket or pass to her open teammates. By midway through the first half, he realized he was playing a game within a game. Cut off from his teammates, focused entirely on the Caster, he gave everything he had to make sure that her blatant cheating didn’t cause a blowout.
He was used to going up against other vampires and their weird powers, as well as the occasional werewolf, but he always had the benefit of his telepathy. Lena was blocking him somehow. Like Bella, she was inscrutable. Unlike Bella, she was clearly enjoying herself. She faked him out more times than he cared to admit, dribbled circles around him, stepped in just the right way so that he collided with her, causing him to both fall and foul. And colliding with her hurt. His skin was supposedly diamond hard, but smacking into Lena felt like being hit by a freight train.
And even when she wasn’t out-thinking him or out-playing him, she used her magic to frustrate him in other ways. There were ten Lenas on the court, each with their own ball. There was one Lena, but she had wings and did loop-de-loops in the air before perching deftly on the top of the backboard.
Even with all that, it was nice not to have to hold back, whether out of fairness or for the look of the thing. It was exhilarating, even to the point of what drunkenness must feel like, to throw off the mask and push himself to the limit. He leaped to the rafters, ran as fast as he could, sank a three-pointer from the opposite court.
It was also fun because it was a challenge, and a different sort of one than keeping his powers reigned in all the time. This must be what his other teammates felt like when they went up against a bigger and better team. This must be what the coach meant when he talked about how adversity made you stronger, because you had to reach inside yourself and find the will to continue onward.
He was playing the best basketball of his unnaturally long life, and even though Lena kept laughing at him and mocking him in her southern twang, Edward couldn’t help but smile a little.
A few minutes into the second half, he thought that he had the Caster girl figured out. He noticed the pattern to her movements, the tiny microseconds where her attention was divided between weaving spells and sinking shots, and he pressed the advantage.
He was feeling quite confident until it started torrentially down-pouring indoors. Edward took a header on the slick court, cracked his skull on the boards, and slid out-of-bounds, taking the ball with him.
There was a long, fuzzy moment of black spots and disorientation. He came around to see the assistant coach and the team physician kneeling beside him.
“What’s your name, son?” said the physician.
He blinked. “What?”
The assistant coach and the physician looked at one another. “I’m trying to assess you for brain injury. What’s your name?”
“Okay,” said the assistant coach, “take him out.”
“No, no, wait,” said Edward, hopping to his feet. “I’m Edward Cullen. I’m from Forks, WA. The president is…” not Woodrow Wilson…don’t say Woodrow Wilson, “that Donald Trump guy, but I kind of wish it was anyone else.”
While he talked, the physician stood, took Edward by the temples, and peered into his eyes.
“How do you feel, Cullen?”
Edward glanced back at the court. Lena quirked a grin at him and tossed him a wave. “Good, good. I’d like to get back out there, if that’s okay.”
“You’re sure?” said the assistant coach.
“Sure, I’m sure.”
“All right,” said the physician. “I’ll let you back in there, but the second. Cullen, look at me. The second you get dizzy or start to feel sick, call a timeout and get out of there, you got it?”
“Yeah,” he said. On the court, Lena was sticking her tongue out at him.
“Yeah. I get it.”
Zags lost 71-65, but what a game!
At least, that’s what Edward kept picking up from the minds around him. His fellow players were disappointed of course, but the game had been so close right until the end that, while everyone was down, no one felt like they had done a bad job at playing.
Amusingly, it wasn’t even Lena who beat them. Edward had gotten her locked down in a corner right at the end of the game, but that didn’t stop Justin Jackson from turning a three point lead into a five point lead with ten seconds to go. Only someone with superhuman strength and speed could make up the difference with so little time left on the clock, and, while Edward could have done it, he knew it would be wrong.
So the Zags lost 71-65. But what a game.
He commiserated with his teammates, assured the coaching staff and the physician that he was really all right, really, and hit the showers. Long, long after the crowds had left the arena, Edward shouldered his gear bag and headed back to where his teammates would be staying.
He bumped into Lena right outside the back door. She held out her hand.
“Good game, Eddy.”
He shook it. Her hand felt small and fragile in his, but he knew the girl behind the hand was anything but. “Don’t call me ‘Eddy,’” he said. “But, thanks. Good game to you, too.”
She released his hand and brushed a stray hair out of her face. “So, what are you doing right now?”
“Crashing, I guess.” He leaned in and said, in a lower voice, “or, pretending to.”
Lena laughed. “Well, listen, if you’re just going to lie in bed and pretend to be asleep anyway, do you want to come hang out? There’s this good coffee place down in…”
“I don’t drink…coffee,” he said, smiling despite himself.
“Right, no, I guess you wouldn’t. Well, we could just hang around. Talk, you know?” she moved in closer—uncomfortably close, now. Edward could smell the sweet aroma of her blood. “See what happens?”
He stepped back. “I appreciate it. I mean, I had fun, even though we lost, but…I just got out of this kind of messed up relationship and I…”
She laughed again. “I’m not talking about a relationship, Mr. Cullen. I’m talking about sex.”
“Yes!” she said. “You look so shocked. Jesus Christ, what are you, Mormon?”
“No, no,” Edward replied, holding up his hands as if to ward off her accusation. “Of course not. I just assumed that maybe you…I mean, you’re a literal magical girl…I figured you had a boyfriend.”
She shook her head. “Not in this continuity. Thanks, mom.”
“Oh. Well. Uh. Sorry.”
“It’s fine, it’s fine.” She took him lightly by the hand. “So. How about it? You share, I share, we see what happens?”
Edward looked up at the moon, breathed in, breathed out. He realized that, for the first time, he couldn’t quite remember what Bella looked like.
“Sure,” he said at last. “There’s just…this is embarrassing, but there’s just one more thing.”
“Well, I’m super strong and nigh invulnerable, and—”
Lena smirked again. “Floorboards in there tell a different story, buddy.”
“Ha ha. Shut up. Anyway, you’re a Caster, whatever that is, but you’re also just a human right? I’ve hurt way more people in my life than I’d care to admit. I don’t want to hurt you, too.”
“Oh, emo kid, you wish,” said Lena. “I’ve got plenty of ways to protect myself. Besides, you’re not the biggest badass out here right now, or have you forgotten already.”
Edward ran a hand through his hair. “I might have. Probably the brain damage.”
“Ha! Well, listen. I can’t kiss unprotected mortals without causing them to experience painful shocks and, if I ever have sex with one, I might just shoot so much electricity into them that I give them spontaneous heart failure.”
“You say that like you’re boasting,” said Edward.
“Maybe a little.” She looped her arm around his. “Come on, corpse boy. Let’s see if you can ride the lightning.”