Under New Management
Word Count: 2,162
Pairing: I'm actually going to call this gen. At least... I tried to make it that way.
Spoilers: up to 1x11.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything. I just break things.
Summary: Everything changes when the Hawks get a new owner.
Author's Note: I am still doing my processing of the latest episode, and this is probably my last fic for that. It's different from my usual, shorter scenes and faster pace, but this is the way it needed to be told and the way I needed to write it.
"Listen up," Nico began, walking into the front of the noisy room. The players—even TK, who was horsing around with Shane Givens—stopped and the room fell into a tense silence. Dani wasn't sure what she was doing here, but something big was up, and they all knew it. Nico looked around the room slowly. "In a few hours, all of the paperwork will have been processed, and it will become official. The Hawks will no longer be owned by Marshall Pittman."
Dani frowned. She supposed this happened a lot, selling teams. They were just another business to rich people like Pittman. These weren't men with lives, with families; they were moneymakers. Pawns in the big man's game. She shouldn't be surprised, but she was angry. She wasn't the only one. The whole room was starting to talk again, low grumblings from everyone.
"Furthermore, when the transfer of power is complete, my association with this team is finished," Nico went on, and Dani stared at him in disbelief. What? This job is Nico's life. "Unfortunately, it will not be possible for me to continue in the role that I have been. My associate, Xeno, will be taking over, and from now on, you may call upon him."
Nico turned and walked to the back of the room, heading for the doors. The players had been murmuring among themselves, but TK was the first to react. "What the hell, Nico? They can't fire you. Don't they know who you are? You're the man behind the man."
Nico shook his head. "I wasn't fired, Terrence. I simply choose not to be a part of the new regime."
"New Regina? What are you talking about, Nico? You don't have a life outside the Hawks."
"Then perhaps it is time I found one," Nico said, walking out the door. Dani watched him leave, still frowning. TK started to pace, shouting insults at Nico's back.
Matt touched her shoulder. "Hey, it's going to be okay. Ownership of teams changes a lot. We might have a bit of a rough transition, but it'll work out."
Matt shrugged. "He made his choice."
Yeah, Dani agreed, but why?
He heard Gabriella's voice behind him and turned around reluctantly. He'd hoped to make his exit as quiet as possible. It was only right to let the team know of the change—not just in ownership but in the head of their security—but he had not wanted to do so for exactly this reason. He did not want to see her.
"What the hell was that? You can't just leave."
"Actually, I can. I have no contract with the Hawks or any other part of Pittman Industries. I am not even officially the head of security, not on paper. I have nothing legally binding me to this position, nor am I truly required to give you two weeks notice."
She reached out to touch him, but he moved out of her reach. "I did this for us. Can't you imagine how good this will be, the two of us, here, together?"
"No. Because I'm done. I told you that before you went after the team. Congratulations. You won. You got what you wanted."
She frowned. He thought perhaps she should have been an actress. She had a particular talent for it. She'd fooled him for far too long. "Not if you leave."
"I drew a line in the sand. You didn't care who you crossed or how many bodies fell as you went after what you really wanted. The Hawks have always been special to Marshall. You didn't just do this for the money, though I'm sure that figure makes your cold heart dance with delight every time you see it. No, you did it to hurt him, and perhaps he even deserved it. But I told you where I stood, and you crossed the line anyway."
He shook his head again. "Save it. We're done. We were done twenty years ago. It just took me this long to realize it."
He walked away for good then, trying not to think about what he was going to do after he left those doors for the last time.
"I swear, Doctor D, I cannot work for that bitch one more minute," TK said angrily, pacing around Dani's office. She was used to this rant, and not just from TK. The whole team was having a hard time adjusting to the change in owners, and no one seemed to care for the former Mrs. Pittman much. No one even called her by name. It was just "that bitch."
Dani had had plenty of run-ins with the woman herself, and she knew that her own job was on the chopping block. Even if their strained interactions weren't enough to know that the new owner didn't think much of her job and didn't like another woman around the team—or around one trainer, in particular—"that bitch" had also told Dani that her services would probably not be required for much longer.
"I understand this is difficult—"
"Man, I wish I was like Nico. I wish I'd known what he knew and got my ass transferred out of here before she took over. She is killing me. Killing the whole damn team," TK muttered, sitting down on the couch with a moan. He covered his face. "There's got to be rules or something against what she's doing."
Dani sighed. "According to Coach Parnell and Matt, there isn't."
"What about you, Doctor D? Why aren't you stepping up, huh?" TK asked, and she started to explain, but TK didn't let her finish. "Come on, even if you don't think what she's doing to us is crap, you gotta know she's trying to move in on your man."
"TK, she already fired me. There's nothing I can do besides be here for you and the team to talk to as long as you need me."
TK cursed loudly. "That's it. I'm calling my agent. I want a trade. I'm not putting up with this bullshit anymore."
Well, Dani thought unhappily, that made six. And that was just from today.
"Damn it," Matt yelled, shoving a bunch of papers off his desk and throwing the Hawks bobble head from his desk at the wall. Dani stopped, lowering her hand from the door. No point in knocking now.
He looked over at her guiltily. "Sorry. Rough day. Rough week."
"More like rough month. For everyone," she said, walking around the mess on his floor to take the nearest seat. "Today's total is six."
"Players who've told me they want a trade."
Matt winced. "Damn it. This is getting out of hand. At the rate we're going, we won't have a player left to start next fall. Hell, I can't even set up a practice with this. Can't you talk to one of them, see if they'll... persuade the others to stay?"
Dani almost laughed, except it wasn't funny. "I was here to ask you that. Besides, I don't know who to ask. TK was one of the last holdouts, and he wants out now."
Matt sat down and reached into the bottom drawer of his desk, taking out a bottle and two glasses. She winced. That bottle had been full before the Hawks changed owners, but now it had been replaced at least twice. "Doesn't she have any idea what's she's doing to this team? We won the playoffs last season, and she's screwing that winning team over."
"I tried to ask her what she was hoping to achieve, and I was told that she'd start by getting rid of nosy little therapists who belonged in the cheerleader uniform if they were going to whore themselves out."
Matt choked on the drink he was taking. "What?"
"I gather she thinks very little of my profession and even less of me," Dani answered. She shrugged. "I don't care what she thinks of me, but I won't be in a position to help anyone soon."
Matt finished the shot and poured another, shaking his head. "You know, I never realized just how much Nico did around here. You can bet that if he'd stuck around, we wouldn't be in this mess. He'd have found a way to keep Coach Parnell, he'd talk or intimidate the players into staying, and none of us would have known he did a damn thing because I swear, nothing gets done around here without him. The assistant coaches are too busy fighting over Parnell's spot to pay attention to the every day details like laundry and equipment—hell, they don't even know how to schedule or order that stuff. Apparently Nico did that, too. I've had complaints about things going missing from the lockers, and three fights broke out, plus you know what happened at the club last week. Xeno is in over his head."
"I know. I talked to him. He's quitting."
Matt groaned. "How the hell did this fall apart so fast?"
"TK's theory is that Nico knew exactly what would happen and that's why he left."
"You don't agree?"
Dani took a deep breath. "I find it hard to believe that a man who did so much for the Hawks would just walk away when things were tough. There's got to be some reason why he was unwilling to work for her."
"Which just means that unless we get rid of her, we're all screwed."
"You are not an easy man to find."
Nico stopped, looking behind him at the unexpected voice. The statement was true—she never should have been able to find him. He took in the fatigue, the way every part of her seemed to drag and the bags under her eyes and shook his head. "If I was, I wouldn't be me, Dr. Santino."
She smiled slightly at that. "Yeah, that's true."
"Since I can guess that this is not a social call, I will spare you the trouble of asking. I'm not coming back. Nor will I assist with anything to do with the New York Hawks. I was clear on that."
"Would you at least hear me out first?" Santino asked, her eyes pleading with him. He did not want to disappoint her, but he knew that he could not realistically give her what she wanted. He could not be involved in anything that Gabriella was a part of. That was all too clear to him. "I can't believe that you would just walk away. You have to know what's happening to the team."
She laughed bitterly. "Exactly. You do know, don't you?"
"No matter what knowledge I may or may not have, I cannot help you."
"Why not, Nico? You told TK it was your choice to leave. You weren't lying, were you? If it was your choice, then why can't you come back?"
Nico put his hands in his pockets. "When you draw a line in the sand, you have to keep to it or it was never worth drawing in the first place."
Santino took a deep breath. "What exactly happened between you and Mrs. Pittman?"
"I have no reason to discuss that with you."
"If you want me to leave you alone, then I think you'd better tell me," Santino began. He just looked at her, and she winced as comprehension dawned on her. "Nico—"
"You have your answer. You can go," he told her. When she didn't move, he shook his head. "You cannot change my mind about this. It's not just a matter of principle, though I would hardly think you'd want me to compromise this one after doing so with so many others. The plain truth of it is that I cannot trust myself around her. I'm weak to her. I want to believe her. So you see, I cannot help you. Or the team."
Santino sighed. "You spent a very long time making yourself invaluable to the team. No one knows what to do without you."
"If the team falls apart, then... she doesn't win. And I can't let her win. If I go back, then she gets to think that what she did was nothing," Nico began. He saw the look on Santino's face and sighed. "Don't look at me like that. It's not like I want the team or anyone else to be collateral damage. She chose that, not me. I made it very clear where I stood. Do not ask me to go back on that... because I'm afraid that I will."