The end. Again.
This is the third time she’s flipped through the folder. It gets more tiring with every time. Nothing is popping out at her. No magical words. No perfect sports scholarship jumping out at her, beckoning her to apply.
It’s getting depressing. Like, curl up on the couch with ice cream and sad movies depressing. She’s been there already.
Quinn groans as she gets to the end page again.
She really doesn’t want to be here. She’s not just talking about this worn out chair she’s sitting on or the office room she has to stay in to keep looking at the folder either. While a jittery woman behind a counter watches her with wide eyes. She’s also been holding onto a duster for about a half hour and Quinn is slightly scared that she’s going to be sprayed with some sort of disinfectant if she doesn’t leave within the next ten minutes.
Whatever. She showered this morning.
Not wanting to be here didn’t just refer to the physical but the psychological state she’s been in ever since she was abruptly jolted from her excitement of getting into UCLA. Which happened a few days after she’d read and revealed to everyone she was getting out of the crappy Ohio deathtrap to L.A of all places. It was everything she ever wanted to hear, pre-packaged with a resounding ‘YES’, stuck onto papers with a UCLA headline. And for a few days it was just a mess of smiles and proud family and friends telling her she’ll do something good with her life.
Then the fee letters came through and reality slapped her on the shoulder and told her to keep looking over it.
Quinn flips to the front of the folder again. Her parents got divorced. Simple as that. She’s one out of millions. Welcome to statistic town. She doesn’t really care much about him, her dad that is, as all respect she once had for her father was lost when his affair went public. But losing him also meant losing a second income. Which hadn’t been so inconvenient a year ago when all they had to do was cut back on some shopping to manage. But for college, Quinn misses her dad’s money.
Adding up all of the tuition and house fees sees everything is covered. As long as there’s no eating or anything involved in her first academic year, she’ll be set.
But she needs to eat.
“You’ll find something.” Her mom had taken the news better than she had. Still pinning Quinn’s acceptance letter to the fridge and suggesting things like part time jobs. “You always do.” The letter on the fridge mocked her.
She’s had jobs before. Small Saturday jobs in stores, babysitting her best friends siblings and volunteering at her church. But the idea of working at college, between all of the inevitable loads that will pile up with her degree (why she ever thought opting for English with Spanish linguistics minor is beyond her, she’s always been an overachiever), just doesn’t appeal to her now.
Hence the scholarship.
The first page is for the women’s softball.
Just no. Quinn turns the page. That’s too stereotypical. High school managed to get that through to her. Along with the various girls that stopped changing in front of her when she came out in junior year. McKinley High School sucked. Being gay in McKinley High school? Sucked even worse. There’s a pile of permanently stained white shirts somewhere in a landfill because of people throwing ice slushies at her to remind her that her school sucked. Or that they thought she sucked, which no she didn’t, because even after coming out she remained captain of her cheer squad and as default one of the most popular girls in school.
Hence UCLA. Back to the folder options.
Soccer. Golf. No. Cross-country?
She’s ready to give up when she can’t find even a cheerleading scholarship. Seriously? That would be perfect. Even if she had to lie through her teeth about her sexuality. Cheer is something she can do. Cheer is somewhat part of her natural being - thanks to her insane ex-high school cheer coach. Cheer would be-
“Hey Miss P, hows the boyfriend?” A voice purrs. “Or the husband, I lost track.”
Cheer is swiftly forgotten about in favour of focusing on the voice breaking the stifling silence in the office she’s in. The sight she’s met with makes her forget her troubles for a tad.
She must be only a little taller than herself but Quinn immediately notices the first girl’s legs. They’re long and only obscured from her view by shorts and bobby socks. Which is why she doesn’t get around to looking at the girl who actually spoke until after she tears herself away from that sight.
The two-shot appears, sliding pieces of paper across the table to the skittish woman that’s been eyeing Quinn since she arrived. A tall, ‘the leggy’, blonde and a shorter, darker and more dangerously seductive looking girl.
Quinn tears one of the pages of the scholarship book upon realizing that she is staring. The counter woman looks like she’s about to cry and for a second, because of the noise, the girl’s see her. It’s enough to make her flush when they do and avert her gaze back to the book. It’s not enough for her to stop eavesdropping.
“Coach sent us down, do you think you could maybe put these at the top of the pile?” The girl sweet talks.
“Santana you know I ca-”
“Please Miss P? You know Coach will ride our asses-” There’s a pause and Quinn looks up. It’s a trap because the shorter girl winks at her when she catches her listening in. Shit. “-if we don’t get the paperwork filled out.”
Subtly. Quinn needs a scholarship in subtly.
“I’ll see what I can do Santana.” There’s no doubt that their forms are going on the top of the pile with a tone like that which implies that ‘Santana’ has this woman wrapped around her fingers.
Then they’re gone. Well not entirely. The duo take a step back and watch Miss P pinch their forms between a finger and a thumb, reinforcing Quinn’s theory that she’s deathly afraid of germs or paper, to place inside a marked folder. Not before Quinn sees the word ‘scholarship’ attached to the top of it.
These girls look like cheerleaders. They have the body type. Not that she’s looking. Quinn is just perceptive and appreciative of people who look like they can run a fair amount of miles in the morning and perhaps land a back-flip.
From the way Santana smirks back at the counter lady before pushing her blond friend towards the exit, Quinn can see she has the attitude for it as well.
And that would have ended their interaction. With them walking out and Quinn never seeing them again, only to end up signing up for cross-country as a scholarship and hating it immensely.
But it doesn’t.
She’s carefully not watching them leave but trying to hide how she’s ripped the paper in the scholarship folder when it’s snatched out of her hands by the blonde. Quinn is vaguely reminded of kindergarten in how she feels the urge to take the folder right back. But she has manners now. And she’s taller.
It doesn’t leave her for long. Even though staring at the blonde’s smile and playful eyes seem to prolong the time the folder spends out of her hands.
“Pages got stuck together.” The blond offers with a head tilt. Quinn can only manage to not openly gape at this girl.
She must have good eyesight.
“Britt.” Santana appears from the doorway. She’s leaning against it to both address ‘Britt’ and to subtly assess Quinn sitting in the chair.
Quinn suddenly becomes all too aware of the fact she’s wearing the only pair of skinny jeans she owns, and they have a hole in the knee. And how she could really learn subtly off this girl.
Britt backs away and sing songs to Santana. “Just helping.”
There’s mumbling and then they’re gone for real this time. Leaving Quinn stunned in her seat with a dry throat.
The pages had been stuck together, however the girl managed to see that when Quinn hadn’t in her four turns escapes her, and she looks.
It’s not cheering but there is running involved.
“Excuse me?” Quinn stands and places the folder back where she found it. “Do you have application forms here?”
“Of course!” Miss Pillsbury, as her name tag says, exclaims like she’s offended Quinn would even imply she wouldn’t. Then again the woman is surrounded in pamphlets and note sheets that Quinn couldn’t previously see from her seat. “On request or you could see online...”
“On request.” Quinn states.
Miss Pillsbury nods. “What can I get for you?”
She takes a side look at the door before answering. “Um, lacrosse.”
The woman takes a seat and shuffles the mouse of her computer awake. The UCLA website is set as her homepage. “Friend of Santana? Or Brittany?”
The two. “No actually. First year.”
“Oh so you start in the fall?”
She’s here early, she knows it. She moves in next week after spending the first week of summer in Lima for the last time, she hopes. The plan was to get a job or the alternative a sport scholarship before the fall students started and took all of the openings.
As she said, over-acheiver.
Miss Pillsbury nods like she’s interested up until the point where she’s sliding Quinn her scholarship application form across the counter to her. “Do you need a pen?”
Quinn looks down. There’s a neat row of pens that look polished. Polished. And placed in equal distance from each other.
She opts to take one from her bag. “I’m good.”
Miss Pillsbury smiles. “Just let me know when you’re done and I’ll put it in with the rest.”
Quinn jots down her name. “When are try-outs?” Because this is all useless if she doesn’t actually make the team. And not making it is not an option. She is not joining golf.
Another piece of paper. This time a poster with a list of times and dates for various sports on campus. Lacrosse starts early. As in 3 weeks. “Is there anything else I can do while you’re here?”
Her pen is poised to press down the rest of her details and hopefully secure some financial security for the rest of her year.
Now all she has to do is learn how to actually play this sport.
She moves into her dorm room a week before Lacrosse try-outs. It’s a shared room obviously because she can’t afford a single. Everything is standard. If she walked into any of the other rooms on her corridor they’d all look the same. The same two single beds. Two pine desks. A single shared closet. Two black computer chairs and two desk lamps.
There’s no expense spare to change this, even if she wanted to. The only bonus at the moment is that her roommate isn’t due to move into the dorm until a few days before term starts. Not only will she be able to find her bearings in L.A. without someone judging her every move, she’ll be able to do whatever she wants to and in the room until that moving day.
The only downside being if she ends up rooming with a serial killer. Or someone into rap.
Quinn can’t really guess either of these attributes from the name on their room pledge. They both have to sign this slip of paper which says they’ll forfeit their deposit if the room is trashed at the end of the year. There’s no way that’s happening. She signs. She needs that money back thank-you.
It’s now pinned to their shared cork notice board while it awaits ‘Lauren Zises’ signature.
Her mom is long gone after helping her to move in. It had taken the better part of an afternoon to get all of her boxes to her room with only two sets of hands. Quinn had grimaced and gritted her teeth because the last place she wants to think about her dad is during heavy lifting. She didn’t want to accidentally break things.
It hadn’t been an emotional goodbye. Not because neither of them wanted it to be, but because she hadn’t been one of those kids who’d never spent time away from home for weeks. Summer camps build life experience for those moments.
She’d hugged her mom and said goodbye. That’s when her mom pulled out an envelope addressed to her.
“It’s not from me.” Judy Fabray smiled weakly, like she’s saying she wishes it was from her. “But your grandma didn’t want you thinking they didn’t care.”
It was her mom’s mom, not her dad’s, so Quinn wasn’t in doubt that they cared.
But the $100 in the envelope was an especially good way of showing that they did.
“Tell them thank you if you see them before I can call.” Quinn pushed the money back into the envelope and onto her desk.
It’s still there on her desk with a small note of ‘good luck!’ and ‘do us proud!’ and a suggestion that she go and buy some new clothes. Which she would if not distracted by the pressing situation of securing her college sports scholarship.
First stop: google.
It’s not like she’s never heard of lacrosse before. Mostly in passing and in books written by British authors. Usually the word gave her connotations of boarding schools. Now it just gives her the full body images of Santana and Brittany waiting at the counter. Surprisingly more enticing than boarding school.
The first thing that comes up is wikipedia. It’s a general lacrosse page which has a link to women’s lacrosse.
“Women's lacrosse, sometimes shortened to wlax or lax, is a sport played with twelve players on each team.” Quinn recites from the browser. “Seems simple enough.”
She is going in blind to this sport and for a second she doesn’t even know why. Then the connotation hits again. Damn her libido.
It’s a few minutes before she gets bored of the history lesson and manages to grasp the basic rules. Twelve players. Sixty minute games. Three attackers, five midfielders, three defenders and one goal-keeper. No moving if the referee blows their whistle. Something called cradling. No contact.
Quinn repeats that in her head after watching a few videos on youtube. “Okay, mostly no contact.”
Green card delays the game. Yellow card removes a player for three minutes. Red sends them off and bans them from the next game.
She jumps back to wikipedia to look at the long list of reasons she could be sent off for. Not limited to but including: blocking, charging, pushing, illegal contact, tripping, checking to the head...
“There’s more of a chance of this happening to me...than by me.” She murmurs.
The hundred dollars seems to get closer and closer to her the more she absorbs the information on the screen. At the same time it becomes clearer to her that she’s not going to be spending the money on food or clothes. Which would suck if she didn’t have such an awesome budget planned out already. She’s printed that spreadsheet out and stuck it to the cork board.
She’s got to do this. She has to get on that team to stay in school and make something of herself. And if in the process she completely exceeds her father’s expectations; expectations already half beaten by the fact she’s studying outside Ohio; or maybe manages to meet some friends, then she’s winning.
But first she needs to prepare.
She goes out and buys her own crosse. The guy in the store she bought it from rattled on and on that he doesn’t usually sell many of them before the start of term, but after that there’s a bit of an increase.
Mostly because they break a lot. Which doesn’t fit into the budget.
She forks over $40 dollars for it and resolves to buy her mouth guard and goggles from somewhere else cheaper. Her pocket gets lighter but the weight of the stick in her hands as she leaves the store is more satisfying than she expected it to be.
Sure she’s going to be probably the only eager little shit with her own stick but this will give her a chance to get used to it before turning up to the try-out.
The front of it, the head, is strung with white and black. How the hell she’s going to catch a ball in this she doesn’t know. The rest of the stick is black and gold. She can already tell this will change once her hands start to take abuse from it and she’s forced to give it some make-shift padding.
At the moment it’s just a stick. Something heavy and new and unblemished. And a little bit expensive.
Quinn places it on her bed gently when she gets back to her room. Zises got in touch with her over Facebook after Quinn friend-requested her. She’s moving in just before term, as predicted, and doesn’t look like a serial killer. She doesn’t look like she pets kittens though either.
So all she has now is time.
She pulls a heavy tube from the side of her bed and opens the top of it. Rolling a tennis ball onto her hand she looks at the crosse on her bed. “Let’s practice then.”
She decides to get up every morning at six to go for a run leading up to the trial. It’s not unusual for her. Maybe here, but the early risers of Lima, Ohio had been used to seeing her jogging past their houses as they stepped out to collect their mail or turn on their sprinklers in the morning. It’s familiar and a routine she wants to secure here. Even if her eventual roommate ends up thinking she’s obsessive.
Jogging in Ohio is different to L.A. For one Quinn didn’t come back from her run in Ohio red in the face and looking like she’s about to pass out. She splashes water over her face from the sink in her room. Running in L.A is different. It’s hotter and humid and there were a lot of other people running with her as well. In newer shoes, listening to music and tugging their dogs with them.
They’d distracted her. She’s not out of shape at all. It’s the climate and the other runners, distracting her. She can’t even listen to music while working out since reading that it makes her workout less effective than not listening to music. She can’t imagine even bringing a dog out on a run.
Her side of the room is unpacked and tidy save for her recently toed off sneakers and crosse stick. The run is the warm up.
Cooling her face off with more water finally gets her over the differences between running in two different places. She’s only just starting for the day. Fishing her crosse stick off the bed and grabbing her spare tennis balls she gets ready to head off again.
All part of the routine. All preparation. From getting used to wearing the goggles players are required to wear to tying a bandana around her forehead to keep her hair in it’s pony-tail.
The soccer field is empty. Technically it’s not university property, it’s actually owned by one of the local high schools, and it currently out of use. The grass is cut and it’s open enough for her to work with. Even with the sky being blue and tempting her into just sitting down with a book instead. She’s got a reading list to get through before the end of summer.
This is where the prep starts. Quinn takes her lacrosse stick out of her bag. It feels different in her hands now that she intends to use it than it did carrying it home from the store. Like it could slip from out of her fingers. She figures it’s just the nerves.
Lacrosse, she settles on, is about speed, agility and reflexes. About being able to outrun, out maneuver, and out catch the other team.
In theory it’s simple. Toss the ball, catch the ball, run with the ball in the basket and don’t drop it.
She places the tennis ball inside the head of the crosse and rolls it back and forth to get a feel for it. The movement isn’t enough for it to fall out.
Quinn figures this will turn out like a montage and she’ll pick it up as fast as Harry Potter managed to pick up quidditch.
However life isn’t dictated by theory. In reality Quinn tosses the ball upwards out of her crosse and isn’t able to catch it again. Always tossing it too far or too close. She misses eight out of ten tosses, and the two she manages to catch see her dropping the ball as she attempts to run with it.
Quinn groans and sinks to the ground with frustration. Harry Potter had Oliver Wood if she remembers the movie correctly. Quinn has an empty soccer field and palms that have been rubbed raw. It’s hard to ignore that she’s got to psych herself up to try again until it starts to work. Even more so since she plans on doing some conditioning work for her legs and arms later on.
And this is only day one.
Grunting Quinn grabs the nearest tennis ball and lobs it in the air. It soars high and across the field. She’s always been a good pitcher. She should have joined the damn softball team.
It’s hitting the grass at the bottom of the field when Quinn realizes she can’t afford to buy more tennis balls and that she has to get up to find it.
She just wants her damn movie montage.
It gets a little easier. Her body stops hating her for running so much and Quinn starts to beat out the L.A. runners on some of the popular tracks. She goes hiking in the hills to switch things up as well when she gets sick of doing crunches and squats.
The outdoors are good to her. They push her and the heat only spurs her on. Which is good since she can’t afford a gym membership. She couldn’t afford one in Ohio so there isn’t much change there.
A few people move into the corridor she’s on. They don’t say ‘hi’, not because they’re anti-social but because Quinn is hardly ever there to say ‘hi’ to. She leaves early in the morning for her runs. Only coming back midday to grab a short lunch from the kitchen, which she then eats in her room, before leaving again. Her future roommate is going to love her.
The soccer field is still her main stage. It’s where she comes with her crosse everyday to do what she did on the first day. Running, dodging, catching. It doesn’t get easier. The ball still flies too far for her to reach and it’s hard to get to grips with catching when she’s the one throwing the ball to herself.
She doesn’t know anyone already on the team who’d be willing to help her out apart from the two she’d checked out on application day. And they haven’t appeared on her radar.
It’s not like she hasn’t attracted attention from people. Thankfully not while she’s been flailing around with her stick but she’s seen a few high school aged boys to a double take when she’s been running in the mornings and there’s been a few times she’s shared the soccer field to mixed teams of teens wanting to goof off. Those are the times she’s become uncomfortably aware of how hard it is to do crunches with people watching her.
It’s too hot to do them with a shirt on okay?
The day of the try out gets closer and closer and she gets an email to confirm she’ll be going. It’s been sent to everyone, judging from the extensive mailing list, but Quinn can’t decipher how many of the girls will be trying out and who’s actually already on the team. It makes her nervous but confident at the same time.
She might not be the best one there but she’s sure as hell going to stand out. Being apart of a four time national champion cheer squad has drilled that into her.
Facebook confirms her attendance and as a result she’s suggested to make friends with several of the people also attached to the message. It’s a process she avoids. There’s no need for her to see who these girls are until game day, just in case it rattles her.
The other reason being because she might stumble across those girls from the office and completely embarrass herself on the internet somehow.
Avoiding friend-requests, therefore, is the way she goes.
The night before goes the same as the previous. She gets an early night but packs all of her working out clothes in her bag and leaves her crosse propped against her desk. She’s got blisters fading on her hands from the stick. Plasters are taped over her palms which she’ll replace in the morning before vowing to go out and buy some gloves, at least until her hands can get used to the sport.
The last thing Quinn looks at before she slips into sleep is the try-out poster she’s pinned to her cork notice board.
Quinn turns up at the university’s football field to meet up with her competition. She’s thankful for her shirt and shorts combination in the sunny weather. The try-outs are set for three days. One session on Monday, following on the next day and finishing the Wednesday.
“I expect you to turn up to them all if you want a shot of being on the team.” The coach bellows from the front of the field. She’s tall and broad and some of the girls next to her are shaking. Quinn has been desensitized to sports team intimidation from coaches at this point.
“Shannon Beiste. During practice and office hours that’s Coach Beiste to you.” Coach Beiste takes a clipboard off the girl standing by her side. “This is second year goal keeper Mercedes Jones. Mercedes is running today’s trial.”
Mercedes waves with a smile. The people around her relax like her expression is a hint that they’ll have it easy. If Quinn is reading the rigid way Mercedes stands next to Coach right then this is a false hint.
“Our second and third attackers will oversee tomorrow’s trial and I’ll be back on Wednesday to weed out the flowers in the dirt.” Coach swipes her pan quickly over the top of her clipboard. “Formalities aside first. When I call your name, I want you to get your equipment offa Mercedes and line up at the end of the field.”
Mercedes is the only member of the current lacrosse team present. And out of the sixteen girls there she’s the only one who knows she’ll be on the team at the end of the day.
“Fabray, Quinn!” Coach Beiste calls out. Her name is usually at the top of a lot of lists, alphabetical or not.
Quinn’s goggles hang around her neck and she’s carrying her crosse already. Some of the girls had snorted and snickered in her direction upon seeing it.
Mercedes grins and claps her hands together. “You look ready to go in my opinion.”
“I like to be prepared.” Quinn smiles. Internally smirking as the girls behind her start to cough and shuffle awkwardly.
Coach Beiste nods in approval. “It’s what we like to see Fabray.” She didn’t even glance back down at the clipboard to check if that was the right name.
She’s on track.
Mercedes watches her as she goes to the end of the field to line up. There’s no need for her to listen to the other girl’s get their name called. They won’t matter to her soon as bad as that sounds. Either she makes the team or she doesn’t. They never did specify how many places they had open after all. So that leaves Quinn to assume there isn’t a lot, at most two or three. The least? One.
And she has to be that one.
It’s a slow start as everyone else has to be handed their equipment before they can get going. Quinn fidgets with her crosse in her hands. She’d replaced the band-aids on her hands before coming. The blisters on her hands are healing but by the end of day three they’ll no doubt be back to their painful forms.
A few girls keep shooting her reproachful glares over already having her stick and gaining the attention of the Coach. Quinn glares back and wonders if any of these girls are actually trying out for the same reason she is. For the scholarship. She’s screwed if doesn’t get that or loses it to someone who doesn’t need it.
“Alright ladies.” Coach Beiste doesn’t use a megaphone. Her voice projects enough. “Everyone here listens to Mercedes or else you can high tail outta this field. She has the right to dismiss anyone not cooperating.”
Quinn grips her stick. Coach Beiste relinquishes her clipboard and heads back out of the field. Once her figure has disappeared behind the stands Mercedes turns back to them.
“Well I’ve already been introduced but I’m Mercedes. I play goal keeper for the first team.” There’s a twinge of pride in her voice as she says this. Quinn wonders if she ever sounded like that when running through the introductions for the Cheerios in high school, or if she just sounded bitchy.
“Hopefully most of you will have played before, but if not that’s okay. We’re looking for team players, people who can run and who show potential.” Mercedes smiles. “We’ll teach you the rest.”
This calms her. All of the pent up worry of being out skilled fades to the background. She just has to show potential.
“I wish I could say that I’ll be seeing all of you on the team this year but that’s not going to happen.” Her tone is harder now. The girls who’d mistaken Mercedes for being easy take a step back. “We only have one spot open on the first team, and three for the seconds team.”
Back in the applications office Quinn’s signature is on a scholarship form for lacrosse that confirms that she will receive the sports support if she places on the lacrosse team. On the first lacrosse team.
Mercedes snaps out of her seriousness. “But we’re gonna start out simply enough today.” She steps behind the spray painted sidelines on the field. “I hope you all brought your good sneakers, ‘cos we’re doing some runs.”
Running is something she can do.
Mercedes doesn’t give out tennis balls at first. She orders them to do some warm up laps of the field. Quinn has never been more grateful for being prepared to run in the L.A. heat now and for having a strict high school fitness routine. While she’s warming up a few of the other girls are getting red in the face. She hears someone whisper about how it wasn’t this hot ‘back home in Michigan’ and has to stop herself from laughing.
The laps go on until they’ve circled the football field twice. Mercedes takes them through stretches, citing loudly that “The last thing we need is for any of you girls to shoot yourself in the foot” by straining something. Quinn sits as close to Mercedes as she can while still being able to see. She doesn’t want to be distracted by the people around her while she touches her toes.
It’s a heavy fitness session. They move from stretches to more running. Half of the girls are sent to run up and down the crowd stands while the rest run suicides on the field. Mercedes explains, for those unaccustomed to the type of sprinting, that suicides involve running a ¼ of the field and back, then to the center and back, the ¾ mark and back before a final full field run.
Oh and did she forget to mention she was timing it too?
Luckily Quinn finds herself running suicides first. Her lungs almost cave in by the finishing sprint but swapping with the other group to jog the stands gives her a chance to catch her breath.
“Good warm up girls!”
Half of the girls are gripping their knees. Quinn is wobbling on her feet but she refuses to openly pant and show the effects the running has had. It’s all about the presentation.
They gather their crosse sticks and Mercedes finally brings out the balls. They’re red and heavier than tennis balls. Mercedes tosses one up and back into her hand. For a brief moment Quinn smiles thinking she’s found the Oliver Wood to her Harry Potter.
“I’m gonna need honesty here.” Mercedes warns. “Who hasn’t played before?”
She’s the first to admit it and Mercedes looks a little surprised. A few others tentatively raise their hands until there’s more people here that haven’t played than those who have. The odds fall back into her favour.
“Alright, that’s cool.” Mercedes nods to her and throws her one of the balls. She doesn’t extend her hand to catch it but moves her crosse.
It’s easier to snag the ball in the basket when someone else it pitching it to her.
There’s an approving smile replacing the surprise on Mercedes’ face. “I think you’ll be fine.” It’s directed to everyone but Quinn only hears it for her.
A passing drill. Paired up Quinn finds herself with one of the girls who hadn’t raised her hand when Mercedes had asked who’d played before. She mumbles her name to Quinn before looking down to the ground. It’s not like Quinn is trying to be competitive but until she’s told that she’s in her game face stays on.
Pepper, as she’d told Quinn, isn’t fantastic. The idea is they have to pass the ball to each other while moving. Despite not having a partner to practice with, and with being able to catch the toss from Mercedes, Quinn is confident. She doesn’t drop as many as Pepper and there’s an appreciative whistle when Quinn bags a particularly hard throw from Pepper.
The smudge of dirt she gets over her shin is worth seeing the end of Mercedes’ sneaky thumbs up.
A few drills follow the passing. Basic techniques and a few pointers about rules. Mercedes hints that tomorrow will be harder. “We’ve got our shooters coming in to put you through your paces.”
Michigan girl splutters behind her. “It gets worse?”
Thankfully Mercedes ignores her outburst. “They’ll start prepping you for the positions we have open on both teams and explain a bit more about the rules.”
Quinn winces as she rolls her stick in her hands. One of the band-aids is loose and her skin is reddening again.
“But this is it for today. Do me a favour and stretch out there’ll be no excuses for being sore tomorrow.” Mercedes pauses thoughtfully. “If anything they’ll make fun of you.”
That sounds promising.
Mercedes has to wait around to put the equipment away while everyone goes about their own cool-down. Quinn jogs slowly imagining the shower she’s going to have when she gets back and the bags of frozen veg she’s going to put on her knees for the majority of the night while she starts on her summer reading.
A few of the girls skip out early but Quinn stays up until Mercedes goes to leave. The girl waves in acknowledgement. “Don’t hurt yourself Fabray!”
“I’ll see you tomorrow?” Quinn asks. Mercedes shakes her head.
“Wednesday.” She confirms. “Our shooters like it being a closed practice. They think I’ll influence them or something.” She jokes.
“Or something.” Quinn grins.
She’s alone finally when she lets herself lay back on the cool grass. For a second tomorrow seems an age away.
Everything starts out perfectly. This is one thing Quinn has grown to know about her life. Well, for the most part.
She ruled her high school for her freshman and sophomore years, winning national cheer championships and dating. Dating boys. This was the route intended. The perfect start.
Her misstep came in junior year when two things happened. One: she dated her last boyfriend. And two: they were taught for the majority of the year by a loose lipped, laid back bombshell of a teacher who insisted they all call her by her first name.
Holly Holliday was Quinn’s history teacher and her first full blown infatuation.
The trend of perfect starts kept up during that year. She made cheer captain. She got good grades. She had a boyfriend.
She made a mistake.
The inklings of her father’s affair started to come to light. Her mother was drinking a little more then a little more. Quinn kissed her boyfriend in his bedroom one night and instead of enjoying it she opened her eyes and wished she was looking at a different face. A softer face. Longer hair and a lighter voice.
Her perfect start covered her for a few weeks until she sat through sex education with Miss Holliday, gathering courage while her classmates cracked up behind her, until the end of class.
“Quinn!” Holly always sat on her desk, never on her chair. Quinn could never stop staring at the hem of her skirt. “What’s up? Anything confuse you?”
She shook but nodded. “You only covered-” Her lips were dry and there was a hiccup in her throat just waiting to come out. “-um,”
Holly’s usual smile had dimmed and become serious. “Is there something you want me to go over with you?”
Yes. She had to take control of the situation though. “You only covered was sex is like for heterosexual-” Oh God she remembers shaking. There was no end to her question and Holly had found herself standing up to stop Quinn from falling down and sobbing.
The calm had eventually won over and Holly gave her a pass for her next class. There was no contact for a week but after her next lesson Holly asked her to stay behind. She’d been ready to stop and deny that anything had ever happened when Miss Holliday sat down at the desk with her and took out several booklets. The titles all related to sex and safe sex for the lgbtq community.
“I want to thank you for confiding in me about this.” Holly stated.
Quinn looked at her. Again to deny.
But it was deflected. “I know this isn’t you saying anything or confirming anything but what you’re doing, opening your mind about this-” Her hand was warm on Quinn’s shoulder. “You’re very brave Quinn.”
She felt brave. She felt safe listening to Holly go through the information with her and provide her with other resources. She felt brave walking out of that classroom with the pamphlets hidden in her bag.
Her bravery, along with the perfect start, ended when she opened her locker a few days later and a wave of magazines poured out. Cheerios, teens and passersby alike pointed and laughed as Quinn stared mortified at the pictures of naked women on the covers. Pages had been ripped out and stuck to the insides of her lockers.
Out of the corner of her eye Holly had appeared. Looking as devastated as Quinn felt.
She’d come out officially a few days later to her close friends and her boyfriend, who in turn, became her best friend.
But standing in a pile of pornographic magazines while the interior world of her classmates jeered at the inside joke was her unofficial coming out. She picked up every last magazine and pushed them back inside her locker, to the laughter and the cat calls of her so called peers.
It was only when she walked away, in the direction of the cheer squad she was still the captain of, did she start to feel brave again. The girls still cowered as she brushed past them. All wearing nervous smiles as she stopped and smirked.
Holly watched her subtly, as she warned the girls that she expected them all at practice or they’d find themselves off the team.
“Not that it matters.” Quinn pondered. “Because I’m sure Coach Sylvester will be very interested in what the recent receipts for the cheerios budget have to say.”
Those magazines, all thirty six of them, had been expensive. Three girls were kicked off that afternoon and each of them billed the full $215.00 that had been spent on stuffing Quinn’s locker full of Playboys. Quinn liked to think Sue had a soft spot when it came to her.
The perfect start had ended. Quinn didn’t expect college to turn out any differently.
Tuesday’s trial is hotter.
Quinn has been cursing the sudden summer heat since stepping out for her 6 am run. She’s already had to change into her thinnest shirt and leave her bandanna at home. Her badassness has dropped considerably.
And now they’re waiting around. The shooters Mercedes had promised are late, leaving the girls here to try out waiting and burning in the sun.
Pepper, first name Suzy, sees her impatience and offers to practice catching with her again. Quinn agrees if only to get away from Michgan and another girl complaining of the sun who she nicknames Dakota.
Everything is perfect. Her hands are healing well now that she’s used to handling her stick better. Less dropping the ball or the stick, and she’s getting better at passing as well. Pepper fires out some tips to her that she’s not to proud too take. She may just get this.
Her mind is focusing on the back and forth as well as the next step. Getting through these trials. Yesterday was easy. Fitness and basic techniques. The fitness she has down but the technique, not so much.
Pepper throws the ball higher. Quinn adapts.
She has to adapt faster, stronger and with more accuracy than her competition in order to get that one spot on the first team. Whatever position it may be.
“Holy shit, that’s them?” Dakota splutters. Quinn launches the ball back and twitches round. As a team they get the first glimpse of the lacrosse first team shooters.
Well, the team gets the first glimpse.
Quinn gets the slow motion, sun kissed, runway production version. Complete with soundtrack.
When she’d met them in Miss Pillsbury’s office they’d been dressed for colder weather. Jeans and jackets with zips. If she remembers right, Brittany had a tracker hat on.
The summer is in full swing and the difference shows. The grip on her crosse is looser as her eyes somehow try to take in the length of Brittany’s legs and the graceful way she moves. She’s smiling out at all of the girls, oblivious to the way everyone is taking them in right not.
Santana isn’t oblivious. Quinn knows that she sees the stares and flaunts. Dressed in a white shirt with ‘UCLA Bruins’ printed in black impact on her chest that Quinn has to blink to stop looking directly at. It’s tight fitting and she’s tied a knot at the bottom, letting everyone see a strip of her stomach. The shorts elicit the same reaction. They’re not denim but they hug at Santana’s hips like they are. Basically, she’s strutting like she’s hot shit. Which she is. Well, to Quinn.
“I heard she’s a bitch.” Michigan utters to those who can hear. “That she’s only on the team because threatened the coach.”
Dakota scoffs. “Think Regina George, minus the bus.”
“Are you serious?” Pepper fires back. “Do you even follow the high school leagues? They’ve been playing together since-”
Quinn is tuning them out. Santana drops a heavy bag onto the ground and murmurs something to Brittany. It’s a closely given whisper. Brittany links their arms for a second, giggling into Santana’s side, before moving away. Her mouth drops slightly at the blatant way Santana eyes Brittany’s retreating hips.
The sound of her staring manifests in the form of her mind channeling Justin Timberlake’s ‘Senorita’. The shooter trails her eyes over the wanna-be players and her hands coming to rest on her hips. She plucks the sunglasses she’s wearing, aviators, of her eyes and tucks them into the neck of her shirt. Quinn breathes. She is so fucked.
Even more so because Pepper chooses that moment of distraction to pass the ball back to her. She’s not ready, evidenced by the fact she’s still staring at the girl’s legs, and the ball hits the top of her knuckles. Bouncing off them, onto the stick, before Quinn panics into action. Sweeping the head of the crosse just in time to see the ball roll into the basket.
It doesn’t go unnoticed. “Smooth.”
Quinn chances looking up from under her fringe. It’s Brittany, she thinks, who smiles at her last minute save. “Thanks.” She whispers back.
Santana watches Brittany’s back, and as a result, Quinn. Watch isn’t the right word even. Santana lingers on her. From the top of her head, were her goggles rest, to the skin of her neck and down over her arms that hold her crosse. Her stomach, her clothes, the gaze that Quinn is giving back to her. She receives one of interest in return that Quinn only discovers later when she spots Santana looking through the names on Coach Beiste’s list and hovering her pen over Quinn’s last name.
“Girls.” If Santana’s body had been a distraction, Quinn thinks her voice could be even more of one. “Well done for making it to day two.”
She turns to actually take into account the girls around her. They’re two down. Meaning Mercedes actually cut people yesterday. Shit.
“Today is going to be a lot harder than yesterday was.” Santana continues. Somewhere in the background Brittany is setting up cones. “I hope you all remembered to stretch.”
She sports a wicked grin that has some of the girl’s muttering under their breath.
“Before we get to the warm up though we’ll run through some introductions-” Santana grabs the attendance sheet from inside her black sports bag. There’s several crosse stick heads inside, along with balls. “I’m Santana Lopez. I’m a shooter for the UCLA lacrosse firsts team.”
She delivers it. Quinn finds herself straighting her back.
“And she kicks ass.” A playful response follows Santana’s introduction. All eyes turn to the second shooter.
“I’m Brittany S. Pierce, I play shooter too.”
There’s no missing the quick look of affection that passes between the two teammates.
“Now I’m sure all of you thought yesterday was easy enough and that these trials wouldn’t be that hard...” Santana trails on.
“See? Total bi-” Michigan starts to mutter.
Santana snaps. “Sweetheart!” Michigan blushes a bright red at Santana mockingly calling her out with such a term of endearment. “You shut up, or ship out. Your choice.”
Michigan shuts up.
“You’ll be working through skills today. Brittany,” Santana gestures behind her. “Has set up some circuits for you to run.”
It’s a simple set up from what Quinn can see. Running and weaving in and out of cones like they were players before stopping in front of the lacrosse goal, that’s been set up especially today, to take a shot.
“Those who end up with Brittany will be running those attack drills for the first half. Those with me are going to run midfield drills.” Santana instructs. “Coach Beiste isn’t looking for defenders at this time.”
A hint. The first team is either short on a shooter or midfield player.
Brittany glides to Santana’s side and points to several girls in quick succession. Quinn finds herself chosen. “You guys are with me.”
Michigan and Pepper follow Quinn with Brittany to one half of the field. Sticks are passed around quickly and Quinn pulls her goggles over her eyes.
“This will be fun, just watch.” Brittany reassures. She motions for them to stand at the start of the cones. “I’m going to watch for now but as you guys get used to it I’ll step in as a goal keeper.”
Quinn listens as Brittany tells them how to run the drill. They’re running through the cones head on. Weaving between them until they reach the line of balls Brittany has placed on the grass. From there they have to scoop the ball up and shoot it into the goal.
“When I think you’ve got the hang of it I’ll join in.” Brittany claps excitedly. “Just do your best okay?”
There’s no use lying. She’s nervous. Running with the ball and catching it is one thing. Actually managing to shoot is another. Quinn stays silent and lines up behind most of the girls, determined to watch them first.
Pepper’s run helps. She’s not as fast as Quinn but she makes her way through the cones to the balls. Quinn focuses on how she’s able to pick the ball up with ease before lobbing the ball into the top of the net. She then runs to join Quinn at the back of the line.
“That was good.” Quinn offers, feeling a twinge of comradiere.
“I almost missed, her eyes are like a hawk.” Pepper says. Quinn darts a look to their watchful judge. The easy going expression is missing form her face as she scrutinizes the girl’s running through the drill.
It gets more nerve wracking when it’s her turn. Quinn forces herself to block out Brittany for as long as possible. Dodging through the cones faster than she thinks the others have to get to the end. Tipping the ball into her stick costs her a few seconds but then it’s over.
It’s already swishing into the goal.
“Alright, let’s run it again.” Brittany calls. “This time I want it faster, and you have to run to the halfway line after your shot.”
She fails to mention that this time she’ll be standing in the way of the goal. Out of the second run, Pepper gets the closest to scoring. Quinn’s shot almost hits Brittany’s shin but is deflected by her crosse. The girls are shaken by the blockade. The running between the shots isn’t helping either.
But soon they’ll be switching and the nag in the back of her mind at there being only one first team spot keeps her running faster to the halfway line. That spot will require her to shoot and to score, close range or not.
“Last run through!” Santana’s voice calls to Brittany. She’s got one last shot.
Michigan falls back from her turn panting and Quinn overtakes her. Brittany raises an eyebrow but settles to block her shot.
Her steps are solid and agile. Blades of grass are torn under her feet as she changes direction swiftly. Scooping the ball is easier the third time around and the seconds she fumbled on her last try are recovered to help her focus.
Brittany isn’t a goal keeper. She’s built to run and dodge and shoot. Not to block. She’s taller than Quinn and leaner. Her crosse moves back as Quinn notices the way Brittany is leaning further to her right, like she assumes that’s where she’ll aim. In fact that’s where she plans too, as Brittany gives away the change in her stance too soon.
Quinn lets the shot fly.
It hits the top right corner of the goal, flicking strands of Brittany’s gold hair as she scores.
There’s polite cheering from the rest of the group but it’s Brittany that lets out a loud whoop of surprise. “Fabray! That was awesome!”
That was a fluke, Quinn thinks. Any further right and the shot would have missed entirely. But the smile on Brittany’s face resigns her to accepting the goal.
“Switch over!” Brittany yells to the other side of the field. Quinn is momentarily distracted from turning to walk the other way when Brittany slings an arm around her shoulder. “San! We have a winner!”
Quinn finds herself stumbling to walk under Brittany’s arm as they make it to the center. A few of the girls on Santana’s side are looking at her in jealousy at Brittany’s favouritism. Quinn is just trying not to think too much about what Brittany’s close contact feels like.
Santana does that thing with her eyes being on Quinn’s body, taking note of the space between her and Brittany before looking pleased. “We’ll have to see if she keeps on winning.” It’s a quiet motion that only a few hear.
Brittany lets go of Quinn to call Santana’s group over to the other side, while the rest follow Santana’s back. Or rather they follow and Quinn keeps her eyes down.
“Right, set up is simple.” Santana splits them into two lines, set at 90 degrees from each other, and passes balls to one line. “Give and go drill.”
The goal is much further away than in Brittany’s drill.
Santana stands in the line that currently has the balls. “This is what you’re going to do.” Her voice booms. “This line with the ball gives off a nice, steady pass to the second line.”
She demonstrates quickly, passing the ball to the girl at the front of the second line, who luckily catches it in time. “You then run towards the goal,” She runs, stopping still at a longer distance from the goal than in the last drill. “Receive the pass back and shoot.”
The girl in the second line takes the prompt and passes the ball back. Quinn watches in awe as Santana makes an almost effortless catch before driving the ball into the back of the net.
“Any questions?” No one asks. “Before you start, I want mouth guards in. I will not be responsible for tooth loss.”
The team complies.
“Fabray-” Quinn jolts to attention. “Winners to the front of the line.” Santana smirks.
Quinn grimaces but her mouth guard stops her from responding. Her hands sweat as she makes it to the front of the line. Michigan is the start of the second line.
“When you’re ready...” Santana tells them boredly.
Quinn picks up the ball with her crosse. She fixes Michigan with a hard stare and hopes that this girl will actually give her a good throw back. Or a good enough one for Quinn to salvage.
All or nothing.
Quinn throws as steadily as possible. It soars across the field. She briefly sees Michigan reach out her crosse before she’s copying Santana’s demonstration and running down the field. She skids to a sure stop, ready to receive.
Michigan threw too soon.
Santana’s blasting criticism starts about the pass before the ball even hits Quinn in the chest. The force isn’t enough to knock her down but it’s close enough to her neck to have her spluttering and spitting out her mouth guard.
“Watch for her turn! Impaciente niña!” Santana shouts. “Fabray!”
Quinn coughs but raises her head.
No. She’s okay. Okay. Quinn pushes past the thudding ache and the predicted bruise that will be there tomorrow to signal she’s okay to play on.
“Fantastic.” Santana sounds bitter but it’s not directed at her. “Get back here, and run it again.”
Her mouth guard goes back in while Santana lords to the rest of them that she’ll show them how to pitch a proper pass. “You have to work together and be aware of when someone is ready to receive. Or we’ll have accidents.”
The tone of her voice suggests that she’s seen enough or caused these accidents before. “Fabray!”
It’s as much of a ‘go!’ as she’ll ever get. Her pass is stable again. Her run is weary but fast, getting her to the line in time to see start of Santana’s flying pass.
A perfect arch. Quinn sees it’s beginning and it’s end. Pushing her crosse out with a lax enough grip to stop the ball from bouncing out. It’s such a success that she forgets for a second to turn on her heel and shoot.
Like before it breezes into the back of the net.
She looks back at the group and Santana. It was a good shot, a good pass and Santana knows it. Which is why the curious look she’s wearing whilst looking in Quinn’s direction sends a chill in her chest. Pulsing in the area Michigan’s ball hit.
“Good.” Santana settles on. “Back of the line.”
No one else gets hit. The passes aren’t as practiced and Quinn stumbles receiving off the other girls compared to Santana’s sureness. It was easier when playing off someone who’s done this before.
It doesn’t escape her that Santana is keeping an eye on them all, darting to her more often than she’ll remember. Quinn inevitably uses this to push further. Using her stamina to out endure the others even if she’s not as accurate a shot.
Techniques can be learnt. Potential can’t.
Santana calls an end to the drill, gathering Brittany back and instructing them to all cool down on their own again. It’s nerve wracking to think that they’ll cut people like Mercedes did. Quinn turns away from them as they huddle together on the sidelines. She doesn’t want to be consumed with thoughts of whether she’ll be emailed not to come tomorrow or with the image of them standing in each other’s personal space.
Her chest hurts but she forces herself to the ground to cool down her legs. The other girls bar Pepper, she notes, stretch away from her.
She waits up until midnight for an email that never comes. The sigh of relief sends her sprawling into sleep.
“Mom I don’t really have time to talk-” Balancing the phone between her ear and her shoulder is going to end in disaster if she doesn’t get her crosse stick in it’s case. “-right now.”
“I don’t remember giving birth to you.” Comes a voice and Quinn groans. Her crosse slips easily into it’s bag. “Or being female.”
“You have the worst timing ever.”
She can hear Sam smiling over the other end of the phone. “That’s what she said.”
“Yes, I did. What’s up?” Quinn gets to the point. She grabs her keys and her bag and heads for the door, wincing slightly as she knocks her chest. As predicted the skin is bruised blue from the stray ball yesterday.
Sam balks. “I can’t call my best friend up on a whim now?” She raises an eyebrow that he must somehow hear because he’s laughing. “You’re mom had lunch with us yesterday, I think she misses you as much as I do.”
“I haven’t had much time to check in with her recently.” Quinn locks her dorm room door. “I’ve been busy.”
“I heard. And I also saw your mysterious tweet.” There’s tapping sounds in the background. Sam is probably sitting in front of his laptop now, checking her twitter account. “ -@QFabray: Never thinking about ‘being able to pull off shorts’ without getting that mental image again’.”
“I hate you.” Quinn quips. She’s jogging down the stairs as she does. She’s not going to be late to this final trial, she just wants to be early. This is the one Coach Beiste is turning up to after all.
“You love me.” Sam drawls. “So tell, who’s the hottie with the booty?”
Sam’s abrupt nature aside, Quinn had actually managed to push that to the back of her brain when she’d woken up this morning. Her concentration is going to be shot. “I really do not need to have this discussion with you right now.”
“Give me something Fabray. OSU is just like senior year repeated. I know everyone.” Sam complains.
Quinn scoffs however, interpreting his lament as a complaint that all of the girls who rejected him in high school and going to reject him again in college. “You want my advice? Join football again, talk loudly about your abs and never invite them back to your place.”
There was a moment in high school, shortly before her inevitable gay realization and after Sam’s transfer, when they’d flirted with dating each other. He was new, nice and all-american looking. Quinn was in denial.
She’s not saying Sam’s cardboard cut-out Avatar posters were what made her rethink heterosexuality (she’s not, it’s just hilarious to tease him about it), it’s just walking into his room for the first time had a part of her tapping her on the shoulder and saying ‘Is this really what you want?’.
It was actually a much longer process than that. Full of crying, counselling, coming out to her mother, her father, the divorce and the whole school becoming aware thanks to the magazine incident.
Sam didn’t fade to the background like the other boys she’d dated. Who wouldn’t admit it after she came out. He stuck around, supported her, told people who harassed her to back off and became something better than a boyfriend.
Her best friend.
“I took some of those posters down y’know.” Sam defends. “And you loved Avatar.”
Quinn relents. She slows her speed walk down to cross a road and sighs. “There’s a girl.”
“There’s always a girl.” Sam cheekily responds. “But do tell.”
“It’s early days right now. Like literally, yesterday was the second time we’ve met, the first in which we’ve made eye contact that didn’t end up with me embarrassing myself.”
“Sounds promising.” He says. “Okay, testing the waters. Got it. Just, y’know, guy has to have a mental picture.”
Quinn pauses and remembers. They’ve only met twice, and if she’s honest she was distracted both by Santana and by her friend Brittany, but something tells her Sam will never let her live it down if she mentions she has a crush on two obviously best friends.
“Latina. Short shorts. And she has these legs and arms and-”
Sam whines like a scolded puppy for a second. “So she pinging your gaydar?”
This is the question. “Undetermined but we’ll see.”
“Quinn.” Sam directs. “She plays lacrosse.”
“That actually means nothing.” Quinn points out. There’s only a few minutes left of her walk until she reaches the UCLA football field. Her conversation is ignored by the scattered students wandering round the place like they’re getting to grips with where everything is.
“Hey, at least if you get through these trials you’ll know she’ll be playing for your team.” Sam jokes.
“Such a dork.” But Quinn is grinning madly.
“Kick ass today, you can do this.” Sam encourages. “Just let me know if you need another pep talk.”
She walks through the doors and into the hallway leading to the field. It’s cool and her footsteps echo while her starts to finish her call to Sam.
“Thanks. I’ll talk to you soon.”
His mumbled goodbye leaves her feeling lighter and more confident walking out onto the field. She’s the fourth there, but the first of the freshers. Coach Beiste taps away at her clipboard with Mercedes, while listening to her second and third shooters. And speaking of the hottie’s with the bodies (damn Sam), Santana and Brittany, hovering by each other’s hips, don’t notice her - or pretend not to - until she’s placing her bag on the sidelines.
“Fabray.” Coach Beiste nods. “Good too see you made it.”
She remembered her name.
“You came yesterday?” Coach asks. Quinn doesn’t mean to interpret it the way she does. Santana is just wearing those shorts again and smirking, so naturally her brain jumps to less than clean conclusions.
“Yeah she did.” Santana offers. She doesn’t mention her progress but Quinn guesses Coach Beiste probably knows.
Coach Beiste misses the silent exchange. “Good. Hopefully Santana and Brittany didn’t scare you off too much.”
“Not at all.” Quinn forces herself to speak.
Brittany smiles happily and sits next to Coach while Santana takes a step forward. “You ice the bruise?”
Quinn can’t help it. She looks down at Santana’s chest before her own. “Oh, no I mean, I have some salve for it so I should be-” Santana looks pleased that Quinn is talking like a normal human being and not resorting to hand gestures and reddening in the face. It’s this realization that cuts Quinn short. “-good.”
“If it gets worse just tell Coach today, we’ve let her know what happened.” Santana nods. “But eh, try not to suck today. You were on a roll yesterday.”
She can’t tell if she’s just been insulted or complimented. “Sure.”
Coach Beiste runs the last trial.
A part of her knows that it’s tougher. It’s scheduled to be the longest of the trials after all and it’s some how even hotter than the day before. The competitive aspect has kicked in as well. Four girls are no where to be found, Dakota among them, and everyone is aware of the fact.
“Up and at ‘em ladies!” Coach Beiste booms from the sidelines. “The first one to puke is cut!”
They’re sprinting up the stands of the football field, like Mercedes had them doing on the first day, except this time everyone is carrying their crosses and balls. Several girls have already had to backtrack to fetch balls that have fallen out of the baskets.
Quinn refuses to let that happen to her. Her chest is numb but at least it’s not causing her pain for now so she powers on. Forcing herself up the stairs until she’s reaching the top. From there she has to run across a row to the next set of stairs and back down.
As she does she’s almost knocked over.
“Keep up Fabray!” Santana Lopez dodges past her, crosse pulled to her chest horizontally but still somehow holding onto the ball within it, to get ahead of her.
Quinn is so distracted that she stumbles over her feet. Her pause to look around doesn’t cost her more time but allows her to spot Brittany running behind some of the other girls as well.
Santana is halfway down the stairs. They’re challenging them. It’s a natural reaction. Quinn knows they’ve been put in to run with them because people work harder when they’re set against others. Racing, studying, working - same drill.
She rounds the steps at the top ready to run down when Santana flashes a knowing grin over her shoulder. The message is simple. Catch her.
Catching her becomes the metaphor. If she catches up to her she’ll win. If she catches up to her Coach Beiste will put her on the team. If she catches up to her she’ll get through her first year of college with financial security. If she-
Quinn is sprinting behind Santana. Matching her step for step just not at her side when Sam’s obnoxious voice blares out in her mind.
If Quinn catches up to her she won’t be able to look at Santana’s ass.
She drops the ball.
“Pass, turn, catch, pass, turn!” Coach Beiste is walking up the line. “This is the hamster drill! I want to see quick hands and eye contact!”
This is the first time she’s done this drill. In theory it’s simple. She stands in the center, between Pepper and another girl. They have a ball each, Quinn doesn’t. She has to turn, receive the ball from Pepper and pass it back and then quickly turn a full 180 to receive the next pass. Throw back, turn, repeat.
It’s a dizzying experience. One that requires her to focus harder with every turn. To keep a firm grip on her crosse in order to not drop the ball or miss the catch because she’s holding it in the wrong hand.
Every 3 minutes Coach calls out for them to switch positions. Quinn then takes turns feeding the balls into the center to Pepper and Girl number 2 before the next drill.
“Four corner shooting drill!” Coach announces. The few girls that have played before split almost instantly. Pepper pulls Quinn into a corner.
“Everyone gets 2 balls unless you’re in the middle!”
Brittany runs into the center of their half of the field. The rest of the team is split into four corners, two in line with the left side line, the others on the right.
“What you do is you feed the ball to Brittany, or whoever is in the middle, and she shoots.” Coach tells them. “There shouldn’t be any hesitation with these shots! You receive and you shoot, receive and shoot!”
Brittany points to the bottom left corner and the girl flings her ball to the center. There’s a well deserved gasp as Brittany extends her arm almost fully to catch the ball before gripping the end of her crosse in time to launch it into the back of the goal.
Jaws, as they do, drop.
Coach Beiste smiles. “Nicely done Brittany.”
There’s no smugness in the way Brittany beams and bows at the compliment.
No one manages to outshine the shot. The goal is open and unblocked but the girls on the corners seem to be out to make everyone look bad. Despite the fact that if they make the team they’ll be expected to run this drill a lot.
“Let her make eye contact with you!” Brittany calls out helpfully.
Quinn passes to Pepper, who motions for the ball, it hits it’s mark and then it’s in the back of the net.
Purposely sabotaging some one’s trial isn’t her style. That’s got to give her points. “Fabray! Center!”
Her turn isn’t a disaster. Nor does it shine in the way Brittany had with her one shot. Four years of being thrown in the air and twisting off pyramids has honed her ability to find the spots in the distance that stop her from falling. Quinn makes eye contact with each corner in turn. Gesturing for the ball, turning on her heel so much that the ground beneath her is indented by her weight, to finally shoot.
It’s not perfect. Her second shot falls short of the goal and one misses entirely. But ten out of twelve isn’t bad. The last being the most memorable as she’d ground her teeth into her mouth guard when Santana had been waiting in the last corner to feed her the ball.
She can’t help but feel that it’s easier to play off her, than it is with the other girls. It was a smooth sail into the goal and the seconds after her round is finished hit a nostalgic tone. The end reminds her of winning her last cheer competition, holding onto the over sized trophy only to stare into the distance wondering if it was what she’d really wanted.
There’s no trophy in her hands, only dirt covered knuckles, and she’s staring at Santana. But the question still remains. What does she really want?
Brittany encourages them all to run laps first to cool down. Quinn jogs lightly because her chest is actually hurting now. She’s lucky that everyone is so distracted by the huddled conversation Coach Beiste and Santana are having on the sideline that no one uses her weakness to their advantage.
There’s no one talking, mostly because no one has the heart to grumble while Brittany is with them, enthusiastically telling them the importance of cooling down.
Her voice becomes white noise as she slows them to a stop and gathers them together for static stretches. Arms, legs, neck, lunges and toe touches. The only buzz comes from Quinn wondering what’s being said about them. Whether they’re deciding now who’s made it or whether they’re comparing the trials and the people who’ve stood out.
Shit. Anxiety follows her train of thought. Making her repeat every stride, shot and sprint. Did she do enough? Work harder? Stand out?
Quinn only breaks out of her worries when her forehead gets close enough to touch her knee during their last stretch. It’s out of her hands now.
Santana leans back on the bleachers, casting a look out at the group.
She’s just unsure whether she wants the decision to end up in hers. It ends up plaguing her the entire rest of the day. From the small ‘We’ll be posting a list in the sports office tomorrow’ pep talk Beiste dismisses them with, to the ease in which Brittany takes Santana’s hand at the end of the session, right up until Quinn is sitting in her room on her bed.
Frozen bags of vegetables are balanced on her ankles. Dripping water onto her bedsheets. The sleepy haze she’s in is the only thing keeping her from obsessing over the end result.
“Whatever happens...” She murmurs to the small room, thankful that there’s no one there to call her out on talking to herself. “...”
She realizes she doesn’t have a response to the worst case scenario.
“I can’t look.” She’s actually close to just closing her eyes or squinting hard enough so that the list disappears into a blur.
“But you said you were looking at it.”
That was the plan. She’s there to look at the list and find out if she’s made the team. She didn’t just run the 2 miles to the sports office for ‘fun’. “I’m not. I’m standing in front of the board, I’m pretty sure people think I can’t read.”
“Just suck it up.”
“I can’t. What if I’m not on there.” Quinn mumbles. “I don’t have time now to look for a job.”
Sam sighs on the other end of the phone, like he has been doing at regular intervals. “You’ll sell your virginity on eBay-”
“Excuse me!” She bursts. It’s 7 am, there are two people sitting in the sports office as she declares, loudly; “I am not a virgin!”
One of the people in the office is Miss Pillsbury. She’s gone from mildly embarrassed to mortified.
“I will hack your facebook and post that as your status unless you actually look at this list.” Sam threatens. “It’s 7.05 Quinn. I haven’t even had breakfast yet.”
His whining voice is pathetic but serves to emphasize that what she’s doing now; blushing and trying to avoid the curious gazes of the only other people in the room, and not looking at the list - is as equally pathetic.
“You’re right. This is stupid.” Quinn tells him in a hushed voice. “I was a Cheerio for heaven’s sake. Girls got kicked off that squad faster than you apply chapstick.”
“You are totally- I hate you.”
Quinn takes a step forward. “Thanks Sam, go back to bed.”
The silence is her answer. Not just to the end of the phone call but as her reaction to the list. The suspense makes her notice the tiniest things. Like how the font used is arial and Coach Beiste uses bullet points instead of numbers to list the new members of the teams.
And how it takes her three times of passing over her own name before she sees that it’s printed under the ‘first team’ and not the ‘seconds’.
The noise she makes in joy erases most of the embarrassment of her previous outburst on the phone.
Holy sweet hell is the phrase most repeated as she runs back to her dorm while attempting to hold an incoherent conversation with her mother.
The list had knocked the wind out of her but turning up into her dorm to see a scribble of handwriting on the whiteboard stuck to her door makes her lose her breath all over again. One line is slightly smudged like a hand has rubbed over the words being written. The other is cursive and loopy.
It says “Congrats Quinn!” and “Welcome to the unholy trinity!”. A letter pokes out from under her door. She knows it’s from the team. Probably about her scholarship and training times and team names and more. But she’s grinning like a fool in the face of the first words ever written on her door.
That wasn’t written there when she’d left this morning to read the list. She must have passed them on the way to the sport center. Somehow missing them in her nervous flurry of limbs. Crap. What if she looked a mess?
In hindsight she should have been more worried that Santana and Brittany knew were she lived, but she’s too consumed with tired excitement to do anything more than fall into her room and back into bed.
Her pillow embraces her like an old friend that occasionally likes to snuggle with her, accepting her stupid smile at face value. She dreams of trophies and handwriting.
She’s on the team.
end of parts one/two