Mini-Interlude 10 – Mateo

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The following is a commissioned mini-interlude focusing on Mateo and Roxa interacting with the pack shortly after he introduced her to them. 

The rhythmic, somehow soothing sound of a basketball bouncing against pavement mixed with the shuffling of sneakers in a sort of orchestra of sounds that also included the occasional grunt, bang of the ball against a backboard or rim, and swish of the net.

And if those sounds were the music of the song, the trash talk was its lyrics.

“C’mon, you ain’t got nothing. Nothing. I’m gonna take the ball, toss it, and then put you through the net, midget.” The words came from an enormous Samoan man who appeared to be patient zero for the stereotype about his people being large. His face was fresh and smooth, his head entirely hairless. His shirtless torso rippled with muscles.

The other figure playing defense alongside the giant was a young black woman with short hair that had been dyed purple to match the color of the lenses in the sunglasses that she wore. She wore an Indiana Pacers jersey and running shorts. “Man, you better put it up!” she taunted their opponent while working for an opening. “Put up the rock! He gonna take it from ya! Strip it from ya like a hooker in a convent!”

The one with the ball wasn’t quite a ‘midget’ as the Samoan teased, though anyone seemed to be next to that giant. He was slightly under average height at five foot six, with red hair and a pale complexion that made him stand out whenever he went out in the South American city of Bogotá where they made their home.

He also gave as good as he got, firing back at the two defenders, “Maybe we could go up to that convent y’all keep talking about and get a couple of those nuns to play some decent D for you.”

The man-mountain took a step forward at that, moving to grab the ball from the small red-headed guy. Before his arm could come down, however, another figure blocked his way. Her dusky skin and long, luxurious dark hair currently tied into a ponytail betrayed her Hispanic heritage. She was, in fact, the only member of their group beyond the leader who had actually been born in Colombia.

“Just cuz they call you a mountain,” she informed the giant of a man after putting herself between him and her teammate with the ball, “doesn’t mean you always gotta move that slow.”

As the game continued that way, the two figures who stood at the edge of the court continued to watch. The male of the pair was clearly older, a thin and unassuming-looking Hispanic man who appeared to be in his early thirties and who would look perfectly at home sitting behind an accountant’s desk. His companion, meanwhile, was a teenage girl with blonde hair and a swimmer’s build.

“Can I ask you… I mean is it rude to ask—I mean is there a good way to…” the little blonde girl trailed off then, biting her lip indecisively as she struggled to find the right way to phrase her question.

Mateo Dias just smiled faintly, thinking back to the time that all her questions had been on the tip of his tongue. The awkwardness, confusion, even the fear. He remembered it all as if it had been yesterday.

Mierda, he still couldn’t believe it had been as long as it had. The memories and scars (even if they were emotional rather than physical ones) were still fresh enough to sting if he paid attention to them, like a physical burn that he couldn’t help but touch just to see if it was still painful.

“How did I get this way?” he offered easily while his eyes followed the path of the ball as it arced up to bounce off the backboard before dropping into the net. The score prompted groans and cheers from each pair of teammates. “How’d I become a wolf-man?”

The girl—Roxa, he reminded himself, flushed a little bit. “I mean, you don’t have to talk about it right now,” she quickly responded. “If it’s… just… rude or whatever.”

Mateo shook his head. “For some it is. Me—well, it was a long time ago. Back when it was a lot harder to find a date if you were…” He paused, glancing sidelong to the girl. “If you were gay,” he finished. “I was a teenager, just a dumb kid who thought I found the right guy to experiment with these new feelings I had. Turned out to be a bad choice. He was part of a super-religious pack of wolves who thought it was their calling to turn kids like me into soldiers for the faith. They called it education. It was torture and reconditioning. They tried to strip away the bits they didn’t like. Made boot camp look like paradise. It wasn’t a school, it was a torture camp.

“People thought they had a good success rate. Turns out, shock a kid’s genitals enough times when you ask him if he’s attracted to the picture of the naked guy you put up on the wall, and it doesn’t take long for him to figure out which answer you wanna hear.”

Roxa was staring at him in horror, her mouth open. “Oh my god. I—I didn’t—I’m sorry, I–”

“Like I said, it was a long time ago.” Mateo put a hand on her shoulder. “After a few weeks of games like that, they thought they had me broken. Say what they wanna hear, convince them you’re serious and you get fed. Even get a blanket to sleep with. Say anything wrong, let them think you’re still a nasty little sinner, and you get electro-therapy, poison food so you throw everything up until it feels like your stomach’s turning inside out, and… shit I’m not gonna tell you about. Point is, I played good little soldier for them, said what they wanted to hear. So they turned me, made me one of their wolf-troops. But as soon as I had a chance, I tore my recruiter’s throat out and took off.”

He gestured behind them at the tiny, unused church building where his pack had made their home. “Maybe that’s why I set up shop in this place. Felt like just another way of giving them the middle finger.” The thought made him smirk to himself before he nodded to the court. “I know you just made introductions yesterday, but you remember everyone?”

“Oh,” Roxa straightened with a nod. “Yeah, I think so. The um, the big guy’s Rangi, but he prefers Fezzik because he loves that one movie–”

The Princess Bride,” Mateo confirmed. “And yeah, might as well stick with Fezzik because he barely responds to the other one. Oh, and don’t even think about getting between him and the TV when Star Trek’s on. He may look like he eats linebackers from the American football teams, but he’s really a giant nerd.

Clearly snickering in spite of herself, Roxa continued. “His partner with the purple hair, she’s ummm…. ummm… Lesedi, right? From South Africa.”

“Right, those two are Fezzik and Lesedi. They usually work together whenever we have to go out in pairs. And the other two?”

“The red-head’s from Texas,” Roxa recited, thinking about it for a second. “His name’s… Corson? Franklin Corson, but it’s mostly just Corson.”

Nodding once again in confirmation, Mateo was about to say something else when the last member of their pack, the Colombian girl, called out to them while holding the ball under one arm. “Yeah, and I’m Hasty. Now you gonna hurry up and get in on this game or what?”

“You see why we call her that,” Mateo muttered an aside toward Roxa even as his own amusement made a smile pull at his lips. Her name wasn’t actually Hasty, of course. But it fit the girl more than her given name of Nicole did. She tended to act without thinking, rushing into things in ways that often got her in trouble. But she was loyal, and fierce.

Fezzik, Lesedi, Corson, and Hasty. Along with Mateo, they had been a pack for the past several years. There had been others, more before them, but between the Heretics, rival packs, and the actual Nocen (otherwise known as Alters who had gone completely dark and evil) that roamed the streets of Bogotá, they lost members more than he liked to think about.

And now they had Roxa. It was going to take the former-Crossroads student time to settle into the situation, he knew. Just like it was going to take the rest of the pack time to get used to sensing a Heretic whenever they saw her. But at least they were trying, on both sides. Which was good, because if this worked out, the girl would be an incredible asset to the pack. Especially considering the fact that she retained her Heretic-abilities.

“What do you think?” Mateo asked her with a little nudge. “Should we show these losers how to play some real BloodBall?”

“BloodBall?” Roxa echoed with a slight frown. “What’s that?”

Hasty smirked from the court. “What’s BloodBall? You know how they say, ‘no blood, no foul’? We take it a step further than that. No foul, period. If you’re not making the other team bleed, you’re not playing hard enough.”

Mateo clarified. “Since we heal everything anyway, we play hard and we hit hard. Full contact. You okay with that?”

For a second, Roxa seemed to be considering it. She shifted her weight a little, biting her lip before giving a short nod. “Okay. Sure. Might as well give it a shot.”

“Cool! Three-on-three!” Corson grinned, his pale face flushed from their work-out so far. “We’ll take the new girl. Shorty and the purple people-eater can take Mateo, since y’all need the help.”

“Shorty?” Fezzik demanded, obviously trying hard not to laugh. “Right, just because I can fold you into–”

That was as far as the big guy got before Hasty threw the ball to literally bounce it off his forehead. As Fezzik reeled from the blow, Corson lunged to catch the ball and did a quick alley-oop behind his back. As the ball neared the backboard, Hasty leapt, her enhanced werewolf strength carrying her high enough to catch the ball. By that point, Lesedi was already jumping to intervene. But Hasty put a foot against the other girl’s chest, kicking her down while tipping the ball through the hoop.

“BloodBall,” Mateo repeated for Roxa. “If it goes too far, hold a fist up. Means you need a second to heal or something’s wrong. Got it?” When the blonde nodded, he gave her a little push. “Great. See? Since you’re here, I actually get to play. You’re making good things happen already.”

His trio took the ball out then, tossing it in before working their way down the court. Mateo kept an eye on their newest recruit, but Roxa seemed to be doing just fine. Especially considering where she’d been. Every once in awhile, he caught either her or one of the pack staring at each other. Obviously, it was going to take some time for them to get used to the Heretic thing. But he trusted his pack. He had to. They weren’t just a family. They were both family and warriors. They depended on each other to survive. Which meant they had to trust every member to have each other’s back no matter what happened.

Thankfully, his pack had spent enough time around Sebastian that sensing Heretics wasn’t completely foreign to them. That helped enormously. He was pretty sure that if they hadn’t had that much familiarity at least, it would have taken much longer to get them to accept Roxa’s recruitment.

Shaking the thought out of his mind, Mateo gave the ball a hard pass straight through Corson’s outstretched arms and into Lesedi’s hands.

Catching the ball, the girl pivoted around on one foot while her other one lashed out to nail the incoming Hasty (who was living up to her name) in the side of the leg. The blow made her stumble with a wolf-like yip, and Lesedi took advantage to rush toward the net.

Roxa was the only one still in her way, and Lesedi smiled at the blonde. “Think I’m gonna take it easy on you just because you’re the rookie, Pup?”

Continuing to back up, giving ground as the black girl came closer, Roxa shook her head. “Nah, if you did, this’d just seem unfair.” As she finished speaking, the blonde girl gave a feint lunge forward before spinning around. She dropped to one knee, her other leg lashing out to sweep Lesedi’s out from under her. As the other girl hit the ground, Roxa caught the ball.

Then she was gone. Wolves were fast runners, even in their human form. But they were still bound by human speeds that way. Roxa, on the other hand, must have hit sixty miles per hour before she even reached the other side of the court. She tossed the ball up and through the hoop while everyone else was still realizing that she’d stolen the ball.

As the ball dropped to the ground, the girl caught it and turned to find the rest of the pack all staring at her. Her mouth opened and then she hesitated, looking unsure of herself. “Err, you did say full contact and power, right? That means… wait, did I… I mean… was that… shit, sorry I–”

Lesedi laughed, doing a quick kip-up to put herself back on her feet. “Good trick, Cub. But it ain’t gonna work again. We’re onto you now.”

Smirking a little, Mateo walked that way, holding his hand out for the ball. “No need to apologize. Like we said. Full power. Full strength. No fouls. You give as good as you get, you’ll fit in here just fine.”

Something damp was in Roxa’s eyes before she blinked it away and cleared her throat. She rolled the basketball over in her hands, then threw it to him. “Okay,” she said simply, though that one single word, ‘okay’ betrayed more emotion than he’d heard in some entire speeches.

Taking the ball out once more, Mateo watched the others. His pack. His people. Roxa would be one of them. He knew that just by looking at her. She belonged here. Belonged with them.

And he was going to make sure she knew that.

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20 comments

  1. See? I told you guys the new mini-interlude would come out soon! Hope you guys enjoyed seeing Roxa interact with her new pack, and we’ll definitely be seeing more of them as time goes on. After all, Flick is gonna need her allies outside of the school…

    Anyway, today’s tags are: Corson, Fezzik, Hasty, I Really Fucking Wish That Electrocuting Genitals To ‘Cure’ Gayness Was Something I Made Up., If You Think That’s Violent – Wait Until You See Their Version Of Golf., Lesedi, Mateo, Roxa Pittman

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    1. This is probably going to sound really bad and insensitive, but when I read the tags I thought that the golf one was in relation to the previous. Which made me even less into the idea of conversion therapy than I already was.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I Really Fucking Wish That Electrocuting Genitals To ‘Cure’ Gayness Was Something I Made Up

    …Damn I’d kind of been thinking it was. Or at least that it was just a story/myth. Now I’m not enjoying this chapter nearly as much.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is quite literally difficult to exaggerate the shit that goes down in conversion therapy. I know of one camp which would insert red-hot nails under their victims’ fingernails. When conversion therapy is referred to as ‘torture’, that’s a very literal term. I would not be anywhere near surprised to learn that some conversion therapy programs lifted their methods directly from Spanish Inquisition playbooks.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And what’s equally fucked up about that is not only is that shit legal in most states, but it’s also legal for parents to forcibly send their children to such places if they’re so inclined.

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      2. Nah. They do things the Inquistion would get audited by a centralised body to prevent. I’m being serious: the Inquisition had rules with personal and proffesional consequences for overstepping them both within the organisation and without. They still did tremendously horrible things, mind you — but, a lot of their atrocities are greatly distorted and exaggerated. If you were a heretic, a suspected false convert or a political activist with a personal grudge against specific Church personages, your day was guaranteed to be a bad one, if a by-the-book one. Not so much the case if you were bonkers, ignorant, mentally challenged or a witch (aka “bonkers”), though. Once that was determined, you basically got a cup of tea and a biscuit while your community got a slap on the wrist for being idiots. 😛

        Those running conversion therapy camps? Not so much. They don’t go in for limits. -_-

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice that Roxa seems to be integrating into her new pack, even if her background & abilities as a (former) Crossroads Heretic have some potential for awkwardness. Though good for Mateo that he’s going to do whatever he can to make her feel welcome there.

    Wonder whether Roxa’ll end up wanting to go back to Crossroads if/when Flick & the rest manage to take that necklace from Pace, or if she’d rather stay with the pack after having been with them for a time?

    Though it does sound like it can be a risky existence for the werewolves.

    And damn, does Mateo have one fucked up backstory, being turned into a werewolf after getting preyed upon by some sort of weird cult that wanted werewolf crusaders, and subjected him to ‘conversion therapy.’ At least he made the guy responsible pay for what he did, though I’m guessing that cult is still in business.

    I Really Fucking Wish That Electrocuting Genitals To ‘Cure’ Gayness Was Something I Made Up.

    Yeah, if only that shit, whether done for that particular reason, or for any other was something done by evil bad guys in fiction….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, that was a nice and relaxing minilude. I’m excited to see more of these guys. Also, naming the huge Samoan guy after an Andre the Giant character has made me think of him as a bigger, jolly version of Samoa Joe.

    I’m also a bit worried, because between Mateo’s backstory including trusting the wrong person and Deveron’s explanation of the rebellion beginning in earnest when he and Joselyn trusted the wrong person seem like pretty clear indications that Flick is going to end up making the same mistake. Or that she has already.

    On a lighter note than that, I have a few questions. Where’s Gidget? I’m guessing she’s with Sebastian, but I wanted to be clear. Generally speaking, how old are the packmates other than Roxa? Do they all know Spanish and will Roxa start trying to learn it? Pretty sure the answer to that one is yes. Then again, she lived around L.A., right? Am I remembering that one right? I’d half expect someone who grew up in that situation in that area to already know some Spanish.

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    1. Also, naming the huge Samoan guy after an Andre the Giant character has made me think of him as a bigger, jolly version of Samoa Joe.

      *googles* Yeah, think of him as sort of Samoa Joe’s face on Dalip Singh’s body.

      Where’s Gidget? I’m guessing she’s with Sebastian, but I wanted to be clear.

      Yes. I meant to work in a reference to that, but it got lost in the shuffle of explaining who everyone else was.

      Generally speaking, how old are the packmates other than Roxa?

      Mateo looks like he’s in his early thirties, but he’s actually about twice that. Rangi/Fezzik is in his early forties. Hasty is in her late twenties. Corson and Lesedi are early twenties. Regeneration slows the aging process, of course.

      Do they all know Spanish

      Yes.

      and will Roxa start trying to learn it? Pretty sure the answer to that one is yes. Then again, she lived around L.A., right? Am I remembering that one right? I’d half expect someone who grew up in that situation in that area to already know some Spanish.

      Correct, she did live in California. And she knows some Spanish, though not enough for a conversation.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. *googles* Yeah, think of him as sort of Samoa Joe’s face on Dalip Singh’s body.

        Who? *google* Oh, that guy. Got it.

        Mateo looks like he’s in his early thirties, but he’s actually about twice that. Rangi/Fezzik is in his early forties. Hasty is in her late twenties. Corson and Lesedi are early twenties. Regeneration slows the aging process, of course.

        Yeah, I remember you telling us that awhile ago. Honestly, I’m surprised some of the other packmates aren’t older. I was expecting more of them to have cleared the fifty year mark.

        I was also expecting Roxa to be the youngest, and am happy to see that I was right about that. I really like the “Pup” nickname.

        Like

      2. Also, I’ve added Fezzik to my headcanon of pro-wrestling fans. Right there with Twister. And Herbie, can’t forget him. He’s just so flattered that The Rock was inspired by him.

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    2. Gidget probably has better things to do than play dunk with a bunch of wolfpeople. Like find a nice sunbeam to recharge in way up on a ledge… while keeping half an eye on things.

      Roxa’s got this, no need to tag team. 🙂

      Like

  5. “But as soon as I had a chance, I tore my recruiter’s throat out and took off.””
    Me: Honestly, I can’t blame him for that course of action. What was described happening to him is well beyond the pale.

    “you just made introductions yesterday, but you remember everyone?”

    “Oh,” Roxa straightened with a nod. “Yeah, I think so. The um, the big guy’s Rangi, but he prefers Fezzik because he loves that one movie–”

    “The Princess Bride,” Mateo confirmed. “And yeah, might as well stick with Fezzik because he barely responds to the other one. ”
    Me: I wonder, does he like to refer to the pack as the Brute Squad?

    “Taking the ball out once more, Mateo watched the others. His pack. His people. Roxa would be one of them. He knew that just by looking at her. She belonged here. Belonged with them.

    And he was going to make sure she knew that.”
    Me: I am pleased that Roxa seems to be acclimating well to the pack, and them to her.

    >I’m also a bit worried, because between Mateo’s backstory including trusting the wrong person and Deveron’s explanation of the rebellion beginning in earnest when he and Joselyn trusted the wrong person seem like pretty clear indications that Flick is going to end up making the same mistake. Or that she has already.
    Me: Well, many of the people Flick associates with atm seem on the level at least, but yeah that is a valid worry.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Roxa could so much be their daughter. Heretic, outcast, strong social instinct (if Gidget doesn’t show an underlying wish for connection, I’m a cabbage), clever, werewolf… She’s got traits of both of them. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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