Disclaimer: I don't own Human Target and intend no copyright infringement.
A/N: Veniceit provided the brilliant name and the idea that there's something Chance can't do - check out her wonderful one-shot "ice meets metal"!
~ writing on the wall ~
The boy hit the ground hard and skidded across the ice like a turtle on its back.
"Nice hip check", Guerrero commented. "Elegant."
"Philippa said they used to spend the winters in rural Russia. Ash was out on the frozen lakes with the village youth every free minute. Looks like they taught him well." Joubert's eyes were positively gleaming as he watched Ash knock down yet another player with his shoulder.
"A bunch of kids going at each other with no one to enforce any rules, great learning experience, yeah", Chance grumbled. "Do you know he's carrying a scar from that time? A cut along his elbow."
"Once he's built up some bulk he'll make a good enforcer." Guerrero was watching Ash just as intensely as Joubert.
"Inbuilt need to protect his teammates, likes the adrenalin, yeah, that fits…", Winston agreed.
"He'll miss school days, being laid up after getting injured in this so-called sport. Nothing but an organized brawl."
Guerrero, Joubert and Winston exchanged amused glances, stifling the urge to chuckle at Chance's obvious displeasure.
"Dude's definitely gifted – fast, good hands, natural balance…"
"Amazing, considering his father can't skate a lick…" Joubert laughed out loud at an old memory, an incident during a job, almost twenty years ago. Guerrero knew what he was referring to and couldn't help but laugh, too. Winston had his own experiences with Chance's attempts at skating and had to pretend he was sneezing so it wasn't too obvious that he was enjoying himself either.
"That goddamn fishing hole appeared out of nowhere", Chance snarled at him nevertheless. "Nobody could have stopped in time, not even what's his name Wayne Radetzky or whatever…"
"Does Ash know you can't skate?", Winston asked, trying to put oil on troubled waters a little.
Joubert grinned. "I might have dropped a hint or two…."
If looks could kill, Chance's dark stare would have sent him straight to a one-on-one meeting with his maker.
"What? He's fourteen now, that's an age in which a young man tries to distinguish himself from his father. It's what you always wanted, isn't it?"
Chance fought the violent urge to wipe the smirk off the Old Man's face and was just on the verge of losing it when Winston put a calming hand on his shoulder. "It's the name, isn't it?", he asked softly.
"Why not Penguins? Snowmen? Or Huskies? It's not even ice-hockey related!", Chance exploded.
Winston patted his back sympathetically. Just then the shrill blow of a whistle signaled that tryout practice was over. All boys gathered around the coach.
Ash, however, didn't stay with the others for long. The coach said something to him, the boy raised his arms in jubilation and seconds later he came skating towards them, howling with triumph. "Dad, dad, I'm an Assassin now!"
Behind him, one of the co-trainers came up with an appreciative smile on his face. "Your signature on this declaration of consent and your son will be a proud member of the San Francisco Assassins." He handed Chance a clipboard and a pen. "Your boy's got a lot of potential. He's definitely got that killer instinct we're looking for."
Chance took a deep breath and rested his eyes on his son.
I'm an Assassin now, Dad.
Great. Just Great.
Ash was practically glowing with pride and obviously riding on an adrenalin high. Chance stifled a sigh. There was no way he could crash this moment.
"Congratulations. Very impressive." With a swift stroke he signed the declaration. Winston patted his back again.
"Have you seen me do that low hip check?" Totally excited, Ash skated closer to the board. "My cell is in the locker, can I have yours?", he asked his father.
"Philippa's number is on speed dial." Chance handed him his phone.
Ash hesitated. "Um… I wanted to call Cindy… I'm going to call mom right afterwards!"
"Cindy?" Chance frowned. "The redhead with the glasses?"
"No, that's Mandy. You haven't met Cindy yet." Ash took the phone and skated a bit away from them.
Frowning, but also unable to completely suppress the smile that was forcing its way onto his lips, he watched his son describe the tryouts in grand gestures to the yet unknown young lady. He had acquired quite a taste for them lately. Chance was starting to lose track.
Guerrero's cell phone signaled.
"Yeah, he's standing right next to me. Ash's got his phone."
Guerrero handed his cell to Chance. "Ilsa."
"Is there some kind of code regarding pizza that you haven't told me about?"
Chance froze. "Pizza?"
"Three calls came in through the office line in the past fifteen minutes. The first time somebody said he wanted two large, thin crust pepperoni pizzas, a large Chicago style pizza with mushrooms, olives and extra cheese and two diet cokes. I told him he had the wrong number. Five minutes later he called again, said he needed the express delivery. I pointed out again that in that case he needed to call a pizza parlor. Two minutes ago the third call came in. A different voice than before told me he was insisting on the order."
"Next time he calls, you tell him mushrooms aren't available, he can have bacon."
"Is there any point in me asking what all of this is about?", Ilsa sighed.
"There's trouble ahead." Chance gestured Ash to get on with his telephone call and change in the locker.
"Ah, that of course narrows it down." In the background Chance could hear the office phone ring again. Ilsa cut the connection.
"Let's go. We've got a pizza order", he told the others.