All her life, there’s only been four things that will get Lauren Zizes out of bed before 6 a.m.: family, TinaQuinnMercedesKurt, wrestling, and marching band.
Well, now there’s five, because instead of sleeping in until 6:25, which is the absolute latest she can sleep and still make it to the high school in time for game day practice, which is on the actual football field, she drags herself out of bed at 5:30, gets ready as fast as she can when she can’t manage to peel her eyes open until she’s been in the shower for ten minutes, and heads out the door by 5:50 with just enough time to grab breakfast first.
It’s not really on her way, but Pat’s has the best donuts in town. Probably the whole state. Breakfasts at Pat’s Donuts & Kreme have been a staple in her family since Pat’s opened back in 1983. First her parents went on dates and then her mom – and her dad when he was in town -- took her and her brother on Sunday mornings when they were kids and now she and her mom swing by on Saturdays during competition season before the buses leave.
It’s the first home football game of the year, and that means it’s time to celebrate. Tonight will be the party. This morning, it’s coffee and donuts and Puck.
“Good morning, sweetie.” The woman at the counter grins as Lauren walks in. “Go Titans! Can’t wait to see your show this year.” It’s still warm enough Lauren’s not wearing her letterman jacket, but the staff here knows her and knows what she does.
“It’s pretty good.” Lauren breathes in the scent of warm dough and cinnamon and sugar and coffee. Later, the place will smell like pizza, too, and that’s a mix that sounds really weird but actually isn’t too bad.
Luckily, she doesn’t have to make much more small talk. She gets four donuts – Puck loves bear claws, they both like jelly-filled so two of those, and Lauren’s favorite is chocolate iced crème filled – but the woman slips her a fifth, iced with red and white sprinkles, McKinley colors, with another grin.
“On the house,” she says. “You think this new coach can turn things around?”
Lauren shrugs. “She’s working the guys pretty hard. I hear she’s good. Guess we’ll see.”
“I hope she does.” A big sigh. “I love watching you guys march, but always losing gets old.”
“Oh, I know.” Lauren laughs, gets a cup carrier for the iced coffees, and takes everything out to the car.
Puck’s truck threw a belt after football practice last night, so she swings by his place next. He’s why she’s up so early, of course. She half expects him to still be asleep when she shows up at 6:30, but he’s sitting on the front steps, his long, lean legs stretched out before him, smoking.
He flicks away his cigarette and shoves himself to his feet as she pulls up front, then strolls to the car. Lauren puts the car in park and busies herself fixing her coffee so she doesn’t watch him walk, because that’s what he wants. Once he’s settled, she hands over his coffee and the bear claw.
“Want to eat here?” she asks.
He sets the coffee in one of the cup holders and the donut in its slick paper on the dash, then leans toward her.
“In a minute.” His grin is wicked, and it makes her toes curl. “I want some sweeter sugar first.”
Despite the way his voice makes her feel – it is low and warm and she feels like she’s been coated in something golden and pleasantly sticky, like honey without the clean-up after – she snorts. “That is one hell of a cheesy line, Puckerman.”
“Puckzilla makes the cheesiest lines smooth.”
“Oh, god, I can’t believe I let you kiss me with that mouth.” But she unbuckles her seatbelt and turns toward him. “You are ridiculous.”
Puck smiles slow and reaches for her, slipping his thumb across the corner of her mouth. “You like it,” he murmurs, voice low. Instead of replying, she leans in and kisses him, sliding her tongue along his lower lip. He tastes like mint toothpaste and menthol cloves, and he cups the back of her head as he deepens the kiss.
No matter how good it feels, Lauren keeps an eye on the time, and at 6:45 exactly, she pulls away from him and buckles her seatbelt. Her lips feel tender and when she catches her reflection in the rearview mirror, her eyes are wide and her mouth red.
“Fuck.” Puck slumps in his seat with a groan. “Wanna skip second period?”
“Doubtful.” She pulls away from the curb, eyes on the road, but one corner of her mouth turns up. “Maybe.” No way they’ll skip game day practice, even though Puck won’t be marching with them, none of the football guys will, but later, maybe. Energy’s buzzing inside her, and it’s not all sugar and caffeine. Mostly it’s Friday night football and first home game of the season, but quite a bit is Puck.
Quinn plans to sit with Wes and David during lunch, because, she explains, they have drum major affairs to discuss. Kurt can’t imagine they have that much left to do before the game. It is too late to change anything before they take the field.
He doesn’t question it, however, because he would love to eat alone with Blaine.
Then he remembers he can’t, because that will leave Mercedes on her own. Any other time, she would be fine with Tina and Lauren, but if he leaves her now, he will feel guilty. She is his best friend, and no matter how much he wants to be alone with Blaine, he won’t abandon her like that.
Besides. He and Blaine have a date tomorrow. A date. Kurt wants to dramatically clutch his hands together and press them to his chest, but he won’t, not here. Later, maybe. He has already planned the perfect outfit, and it hangs in his room, waiting for him to begin his preparations in the morning.
They will be alone for hours tomorrow, and Kurt cannot wait.
First, though, lunch, then a long afternoon with his idiot classmates, and finally their first halftime performance. He is looking forward to sharing that with Blaine. The field, the crowd, fresh air in their faces as they marched – it was all very different from the formal performances of a concert band. Not perfect, but one of his favorite things, shared with his favorite people.
And now it will be shared with Blaine.
He’s a little late to the cafeteria. Blaine and Mercedes are already there, sitting opposite but leaning toward each other. As he gets closer, he realizes they’re talking quietly and quickly, but when he stops at the table, Blaine cuts off and looks up at him with a smile.
“What’s going on?” Kurt asks, but he’s smiling too.
“Just asking for advice about tonight.” Blaine picks up an orange and sets about peeling it. “First performance and all. I’m a little nervous.”
Oh, that’s adorable, but Kurt won’t say that to him. Instead he sits down next to Blaine and pulls out his lunch, spinach salad with grilled chicken and baked sweet potato fries. “What sort of advice?” he asks when he’s sure he won’t laugh. It wouldn’t be a mean laugh, but he doesn’t want to take the chance of hurting Blaine.
“What’s the crowd like?” Blaine asks. “What if I trip? What if I forget the music?”
“Loud and they love us, but no matter how they are, keep your chin up and keep marching. Get up again, keep your chin up and keep marching. Pretend to play along, keep your chin up and keep marching.”
Blaine laughs and beams. “The takeaway is chin up and keep marching, am I right?”
“Such a subtle lesson, however did you learn it so quickly?” Kurt pats Blaine lightly on the arm, and though it doesn’t seem possible, Blaine’s smile gets even wider.
“Oh.” Mercedes says it so quietly it’s more a sigh than a word, but she sounds strange and Kurt looks up.
“What is it?”
She shrugs, and he narrows his eyes at her. Something is going on with her. Something more than game day nerves and the stress of Tina and Lauren acting like jerks. How has he not noticed?
“Hey, Blaine.” Kurt jerks away from staring at Mercedes when someone new interrupts them. He looks up to find Sam Evans standing at their table. His blond hair is obviously dyed, but oh, he’s pretty and hot. And gay, Kurt’s always thought, but Sam sure does date a lot of girls. Must be denial. “Hi, Kurt.” He’s smiling, but it gets just a little wider when he continues. “Hi Mercedes. How are you?” Sort of, he encompasses all of them with that, but not quite.
Mercedes looks down at her hands. “Fine.”
“Nervous about tonight? I always get a little shaky on game days.”
She looks up at him then and smiles a little. “Yeah, maybe. A bit.”
“You guys care if I join you?”
Mercedes nods before Kurt can say anything else, and Sam pulls out the chair next to her. They’re not sitting very close, but it is strange that he’s sitting with them at all. Kurt knows him through Finn, mostly. The football boys who also march tend to hang out whether they always get along or not. (Finn and Sam do not always get along. Too much competition between them for quarterback.)
“Do you think we’ll win tonight?” Mercedes asks. Sam starts talking about Coach Beiste with something a little like awe in his voice, and Blaine leans forward. Football talk. Boring.
But when Blaine takes his hand under the table, it’s worth it.
Seventh Period: Santana
Brittany spins and spins and spins down the hallway, her golden hair fanning out around her. Santana leans against the lockers and watches her. They’re alone in the hall. They both have study hall last period, and they’ve got passes to go to the gym to work on their routine for tonight.
Santana’s breath is tight in her throat as she watches Brittany move.
They’re not going to make it to the gym.
Brittany stops spinning when she reaches the locker room door. She turns back to Santana and crooks her finger, beckoning her closer. They’ll have a good twenty minutes alone, maybe more, and if they hurry, that’ll get them both off.
It’ll never be enough though. Santana’s not sure every minute of every day would be.
That’s part of what scares her so much.
“Santana.” Brittany beams, bright as the sun. “Come play.”
There’s no turning her down, not when she looks like that, happy and sexy and full of love.
After School: Tina
Mike climbs into the front seat, Brittany and Santana into the back. The trunk is full of rifles and sabers. The entire color guard is meeting at the Lima Bean to finish taping the equipment. The flags are done and waiting in the band room, but the rifles and sabers still need decoration. Tonight, it will be sparkly red tape and sparkly black tape. Once they hit competition season, that will change.
It’s warm enough that she rolls all the windows down and turns up the music. She’s been listening to various performances of their four songs all week, until her muscle and bone know the rhythms.
Santana rolls her eyes when the music kicks in and places her arms along the backseat, but Brittany grins and bounces. Tina drives too fast, Mike’s hand on her thigh, and the sun dazzles her as she drives west into it.
The guard is lingering in the parking lot when they arrive, waiting on their leaders. Tina still gets a little frisson of tension in the small of her back when she thinks about that. She didn’t expect to section leader until senior year, maybe not even then, but here she is, leading with Mike, and if the seniors care, they haven’t said anything about it.
Tina pulls into a parking spot, making sure the trunk is accessible. She pops it open, and the guard members grab their equipment and their rolls of tape and head inside. Coffee and sugary baked goods will be just the thing to make the taping party go faster.
Mike grabs her hand as they cross the parking lot. “You ready for tonight?” he asks. They won’t be dancing together, not when he’ll be in the middle of a football game, but he put together a modified version she can do on her own with the rest of the guard.
She swallows and shrugs. Part of her wants to say yes, even though it’s at least a bit of a lie. Part of her wants to sink back into the crowd and let someone else take her spot. Part of her wants to stand tall and proud and show them all what she can do.
“You’ll be great,” Mike murmurs and brushes a kiss across her cheek. Then he spins her out and back in, doing a quick step around her as they move, and her laughter bubbles up, making her feel as light as a balloon and sparkly as champagne.
She flings her arms around him and kisses him, right there in the middle of the parking lot.
Mercedes sits in the band room, in the corner the other trumpets have staked out. She’s halfway dressed, hat in the box under her seat, jacket draped over the back of her chair. Her phone is cupped between her hands, and one thumb traces the edge of it.
The text message has been ready for a good three minutes, but she’s not yet hit send. It’s nothing all that special, but it feels like one of the biggest, most important things she’s ever sent.
Good luck tonight.
Her phone vibrates in her hand. Mercedes quickly saves the text, glad to have a reprieve from this ridiculously difficult decision, and checks her messages.
Cheer for me 2nite? Need a boost, starting my 1st game as quarterback.
God, that Sam Evans keeps surprising her.
First time was at the end of band camp party. For all the fallout from it – what the hell was Lauren thinking? – most of Mercedes’ thoughts of it are good. Great, even. Because Lauren disappeared – she is not going to think about what was happening – and Tina and Mike were off together, and Quinn ended up talking to Wes and David, and Mercedes didn’t want to be a third wheel to Kurt and Blaine, so she ended up wandering around by herself. She talked to Rachel for awhile, but Rachel never stayed late, and traded barbs with Santana, and then she was on her own.
Not for long, because Sam dropped onto the couch next to her, blond hair flopping over his forehead. “Hey,” he said.
“Mercedes, right? You’re over at Kurt’s sometimes when we’re there for guy’s night.”
She nodded and looked down at her drink. It was still mostly full, because it’s no fun drinking by herself. It’s not a giant school, not like in Columbus or Dayton, and the marching band, though big, is pretty tight-knit. Still, she had never expected Sam Evans to know who she was. Golden boy saxophone player and sometimes quarterback – though, yeah, on a losing team – he was meant for the likes of Quinn or Brittany, flirty cheerleaders with perfect hair and perfect smiles and perfect bodies to match his own.
Not that she would let her surprise show. She looked up and arched her eyebrows. “Oh,” she said, voice cool. “You’re one of those boys.” But she smiled a little to take some of the sting from her words.
Sam just laughed. “What boys?” he asked and leaned toward her.
“Violent video gamers, all those machine guns and grenades and killing your friends.”
“Well, yeah. You got me there.” He ducked his head. His cheeks were flushed, but that might have been from the alcohol and how the room was getting with the windows closed against the storm that had blown up so suddenly. “I do play those with the guys. But I prefer things like Lego Star Wars and Super Mario Bros.”
“Yeah?” Mercedes shifted, turning toward him more. Video games aren’t her favorite things, but she grew up playing Mario and Donkey Kong and all the racing games with her brother, and she won’t lie, they were fun.
“Oh yeah. Violence, whatever, that’s fine, but I like a story with my games.”
And from that inauspicious start, they sat and talked for three hours straight. Sam refilled their drinks three times, Mercedes twice, and by the time Tina stumbled up, giggly and drunk, Mercedes was giddy from laughing at Sam’s impressions.
She went to take care of her girl, but not before he put his number in her phone and asked for hers in return. She gave it to him, too, without even a pause to wonder why he was paying so much attention to her. Mostly, she’s confident, but she knows how much high school dating can suck for a fat black girl, no matter how gorgeous and awesome she knows she is.
Ever since, they’ve been texting fairly regularly. Sometimes, it’s hard to decipher Sam’s texts – he’s embraced text speak and sometimes she can’t quite figure out what he means between that and some of the letters he flips – but every single time his name appears on her phone, she gets this ridiculous little thrill all the way to her toes.
So she’s got a bit of a crush on him. She’s not really sure what to do about it.
Mercedes realizes she’s staring down at her phone, big cheesy grin on her face. She pulls up the saved text and hits send.
It’s game night, and she’s gonna cheer on a cute boy, and at the party tonight, maybe she’ll talk to him some more. After his little stunt at lunch, it feels pretty likely.
Ten Minutes to Line Up: Blaine
Blaine is nervous. Sweaty palms, tight throat, can’t breathe, might pass out if he’s not careful, pretty sure he’s forgotten not only the music for tonight but everything he’s ever known nervous.
He has a lot to be nervous about.
His first pre-game. His first time playing in the stands. His first halftime show.
Then, the biggest of the big, his first date with Kurt tomorrow.
Blaine fidgets with his uniform, fixing the red jacket more squarely on his shoulders. It’s ugly and heavy and warm, but it settles over him with the weight of tradition, and he has missed that more than he will admit. It is a different tradition, and it is not his tradition, but maybe it can be soon.
He catches sight of himself in the big mirrors along one wall, where Wes, Quinn, and David stand in a row, making sure their movements are perfectly in synch as they direct. He looks ridiculous and out of place and like he’s playing dress up.
“Are you ready for this?” Kurt asks from behind him.
It’s unfair how good Kurt looks even in the ugly black pants. He’s not wearing his jacket yet, but it is perfectly folded over one arm. Even the band shirt looks good on him, heather gray t-shirt fit tight to his chest and arms, a small William McKinley Marching Titans 2010 on the left side in black. He knows the back has silhouettes of a tuba player, a trombone player, a bass drummer, and a color guard member with a flag beneath William McKinley Marching Titans in a perfect arch above it. Beneath it, their theme – Swing Town USA – and their four songs. It’s cheesy and silly and sort of he loves it, loves knowing that they are all the same even beneath their uniforms.
Kurt’s smiling at him, and Blaine is nervous, and that is why he does what he does next.
“I am,” he says and grins. “Even though I feel like I’m playing army.” A thought strikes him, and his smile widens. “Like a major-general, maybe.”
“A major-general?” Kurt laughs, but tilts his head to the side, watching Blaine intently.
That just encourages him.
“Oh, yes. The most modern of major-generals.”
“Wha—oh.” Kurt’s eyes widen. “Oh.”
But it’s too late, even if he planned to try to stop him. Blaine leaps up onto a chair, but that’s not quite high enough and he jumps again up onto two stacks of chairs pushed back against the wall. It’s precarious, but he has good balance, and he feels mighty and amazing with Kurt looking up at him.
He takes a deep, deep breath, because he’s done this before, though not quite like this, with people slowly turning to look at him. Apparently people don’t leap up onto stacks of chairs every day around here. For creative people, they are very earthbound.
Still. He will show them something now. Blaine beams down at Kurt and starts to sing. “I am the very model of a modern major-general. I’ve information vegetable, animal, and mineral. I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical, from Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical.” He has to stop then, his tongue so fast and his breath all rushing out.
Then Rachel Berry is grinning up at them, bouncing next to Kurt, grabbing his hand and dragging him up against her. Blaine appreciates a good audience and he winks; what he doesn’t expect is how she joins in for the next verse, spinning around to face the others, pulling Kurt with her.
“I’m very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical. I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical. About binomial theorem, I’m teeming with a lot o’ news, with many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse.”
Kurt is shaking his head and pulling his arm free of Rachel’s grip, but then he throws up one hand and he starts to sing, too. Their voices are amazing, strong and clear and full, and Blaine wonders what it would be like to sing in a choir with them. The lines are split pretty clearly at McKinley, band on one side, choir on the other, but maybe he can talk them into it next semester. The rest of the band is staring at them, mostly, some laughing, but others start to sing along too, and by the time they finish it and Blaine jumps down to give a great bow, there’s some cheering and clapping too.
“You are terrible,” Kurt says, leaning against him, but he’s breathless with laughter, and all of Blaine’s nerves float away.
The band lines up along the fence on one side of the field. Once the teams are done warming up, they will march in perfect rows and hit their spots. Quinn will stand in front of them and lead them, working in perfect harmony with Wes and David.
This time last year, she was a flutist and a cheerleader and pregnant.
She is none of those things now.
(She will be a flutist later, once marching season is over, but she is not looking forward to it. There must be another way.)
She lifts her chin. The wind touches her cheeks, ruffles the perfect plume on her shako – Quinn realizes that the fact she knows the actual name for it is a little strange, but she has always liked to know things, needed to know the details – and she stares straight ahead. The football teams are starting to leave the field. It is nearly their time.
Her stomach twists. Her chest is tight.
She is nervous, but there is no way she will let that show.
Wes stands ramrod straight next to her. He turns, a sharp about face, and faces the band. That is her cue. She and David make their way along the band; David stops at the halfway point, she goes toward the end. She watches David, who watches Wes. Wes starts to clap, setting the speed at which they will work; David matches it; Quinn matches it.
At David’s nod, Quinn counts four claps and then their voices ring out as one.
“Band, attention.” The band snaps to attention, instruments in place, chins up, shoulders back, heels and toes together. Now that they have been called to attention, they do not move, they do not flinch, they do not talk or turn, not even when cars drive by, honking at them. Not even when the opposing team runs past, eyeing them.
Through it all, the band stares straight ahead, and Quinn focuses on the band.
When the field is clear, Wes counts off the drumline; Anna Maria’s steady tapping on her snare sets the speed for the band. With Matt suited up for football, she’s the back-up section leader for drumline. At David’s nod, Quinn counts to four again, and the drum majors start the band marking time. She and David run down to join Wes again; as the junior drum major, Quinn spends a lot of her time running around the band, making sure everything is right.
Her body is her own again, strong and ready for the challenge.
She touches her stomach lightly, then drops her hands.
Quinn and David flank Wes, all their backs to the band. For a moment, she catches Wes watching her, but then he stares straight ahead. The tension is almost too much. It makes her chest ache, the back of her neck tight.
On Wes’s cue, they step off with their left feet and march forward, the band following four abreast in their wake. Onto the field, the drumline stuck to Anna Maria’s steady pulse; after pregame, they would play a cadence as the band left the field.
That was then, though. First, Quinn has to get through her first pregame at the front of the band. She, Wes, and David march forward, trusting the band members to hit their marks. Once they are at the sidelines, they split up, Wes to the high stand at the 50 yard line, Quinn and Wes to the three-step ladders at the 30 yard lines.
She turns her head sharply to the left, toward Wes, and tries to ignore the eyes of the crowd on her back. They aren’t staring at her because she’s the only pregnant sophomore, because she’s the good Christian girl gone wrong, because she’s been kicked out of her home, because she’s a mess. They aren’t.
Quinn sucks in air so fast she almost gags on it, and waits, frozen, for Wes to begin.
Third Quarter: Lauren
“God, that was incredible.” Tina pounds on Lauren’s shoulder as they get settled back in the stands after halftime. “We were so good.”
“You were amazing.” Lauren makes sure her quads are perfectly balanced on the row ahead of her – the drumline has to be ready to play at any moment – and leans into Tina. In a minute, Schue and some of the band boosters will start passing out cold bottles of water, the only thing they can eat or drink in uniform.
“It was fun.” Tina beams. “It will be more fun with Mike.”
“Competitions are coming,” Lauren promises. Tina rests her chin on Lauren’s shoulder. The guard sits behind the drumline, which works out nicely for them. Slightly less nice, at least at the moment, is the fact that the drumline sits right up front and so the drum majors stand before them. Quinn stands before them, except really she stands about as far away from them as she can get.
“Football boys are hot,” Tina murmurs. Lauren raises her eyebrows. Tina may be on her side, they may eat lunch with Puck and Mike fairly often, but it is rare for Tina to include Puck in a statement like that.
But it’s true, and this is Tina, so Lauren laughs and nods. “Oh yeah.” They’re on the field, warming up, and okay, there’s a lot of padding going on, but damn, those pants do nice things for Puck.
Shit. She’s not that kind of girlfriend, the kind that cheers in the stands for her precious football player. Lauren slips free of Tina and cracks her neck. Tina looks at her knowingly, and Lauren turns away, trying to cover it with a muttered, “Where’s our water?”
That’s a mistake, because she looks up and Quinn is watching them. For a moment, she can see is the sadness shadowing Quinn’s eyes, and all she wants to do is go beg for her forgiveness.
Quinn’s expression goes cold, lifted chin, narrowed eyes, and Lauren recognizes that look from all the times Quinn turned it on other people, freshmen cheerleaders and, last year, anyone who said a word about her pregnancy.
It’s never been aimed at Lauren before, and she’s surprised by how much it hurts.
Tina hands her a bottle of water -- finally -- and Lauren looks away.
It’s a tense game. They were down at the half, but slowly, painfully slowly, the team came back, pushing their way down the field. Whatever Coach Beiste said in the locker room at halftime lit a fire, because they’re worked up. They’re mad. Lauren can feel the anger, the hunger, coming off the field, coming from the crowd.
They’re twelve points down going into the fourth quarter. Late in the quarter, the formation shifts a little. Lauren knows her football. Even though Sam’s been throwing beautiful passes most of the game, there’s a good chance Sam will hand off to Puck. Despite herself, despite the way she’s tried to stay nonchalant throughout the game – she wants them to win, but she’s not screaming for her boyfriend, she’s not -- she leans forward, eyes on number 20.
Sure enough, Sam hands off to Puck, who takes off down the field. She’s not sure who makes that big block for him – it might be Mike, but she’s focused too hard on Puck to catch the number – but god, yes, Puck makes it almost to the end zone. He’s tackled about two yards away, and Lauren is on her feet cheering before she realizes it.
Luckily, she’s not the only one.
Unluckily, as she sits, she meets Quinn’s gaze again. Quinn’s expression is calm and empty, but Lauren would rather feel her anger than that blankness.
Beiste is screaming from the sidelines. Sam’s staring at her, nodding and nodding, almost like a bobblehead, but when he turns back, he’s all business. It’s fast after that, and suddenly they’ve scored. With the extra point, they’re only one touchdown away from a win.
All they have to do is keep the other side from scoring and get the ball back. This is unbelievable. They lost the first away game by two touchdowns, and now they're so damn close to a win.
Lauren clenches her hands into fists and leans forward again, staring at the field. Even watching that close, Lauren doesn’t see exactly what happens. All she knows it that there’s a shout, a pile of boys, and then Matt’s coming up with the football.
“Oh shit!” Tina beats on Lauren’s back. “Did you see that? Did you see that?”
“God, we might actually win this.” She hardly dares say it. “Coach Beiste is amazing.”
The cheerleaders start up a cheer. It’s not one they get to use often, but it’s simple enough. “M-O!” Clap. Clap. “V-E!” Clap. Clap. “Move! That! Ball!” When they start again, Tina leaps up, cheering with them and urging the other guard members on their feet too. “Come on! For Mike!”
Soon the entire band is on its feet. The energy is starting to feel like a marching band competition. The drumline beats their sticks together, making noise. The crowd roars louder. This is new.
This is awesome.
The clock is ticking down, ticking down, ticking down, but still the team pushes their way across the field. It’s a slow slog, but there’s still hope for a win.
Even Quinn is cheering, and smiling. Maybe there’s hope there too.
Sam sets up for a final big push. It looks like he’s handing off to Puck again, but then Mike breaks free of the pack. Puck tackles a big guy slamming toward Sam, and then the pass is in the air. It’s a beautiful, high spiral.
Mike spins around two players in a move that looks like a dance and then he’s in the end zone and that perfect pass is dropping into his hands. The ref’s arms come up and it’s a touchdown.
It’s a touchdown.
It’s a fucking win.
There’s a long moment where everyone is silent, frozen in their surprise. Then the cheerleaders start going wild, the crowd rumbles, and Schue steps forward to lead them in the fight song. They always play the fight song at the end of the game, but it’s never felt like this before.
It’s never been a hard fought win like this before.
As they’re hauling their stuff up to the equipment truck, so it will be delivered to the practice field Monday morning, Tina skips next to Lauren. “Tonight’s party is going to be epic.”
“Oh hell yeah.”
Tina glances sideways at her. “Mike offered to DD, but I think I’d rather he be able to celebrate. Do you want to drive or do you want me to?”
Lauren shrugs. “I’ll do it. You have fun with your boy.”
“What about your boy?”
“I thought you hated him.”
It’s Tina’s turn to shrug. “He’s not all bad, I guess.”
“Yeah, he’s sorta okay.”
Tina giggles. “Right. I’m sure you think he’s just okay.”
“Oh, hush.” But Lauren’s smiling too.
When the boys join them at Lauren’s car, Puck wraps his arms around Lauren. It’s dark and the parking lot has emptied fast, so she tucks her face against his neck. He smells good, shower gel and damp skin.
He’s shaking a little, he’s so worked up. She hooks her fingers in his belt loops and pulls back enough to grin at him. “You kicked ass!”
“Yeah we did.” He’s not even smirking, just a wide grin that looks real. “I think I deserve a kiss for that.”
Lauren rolls her eyes, but can’t stop smiling. “Okay. One kiss.” She leans closer. “Maybe two.”
It’s just a light kiss, for now, but she’s happy and he’s ecstatic and god, tonight is going to be fun.
Tina and Mike are really going at it up against the side of Lauren’s car. Lauren laughs and turns to give Puck one more kiss. She’s careful not to think about Quinn again, or how much she misses her, and Mercedes and Kurt too. She’ll figure that out later.
Right now, she wants to ride this win. It feels better than she ever thought it could. Winning in marching band feels good. Winning in wrestling feels even better. But both of those are things which involve her directly. Football isn’t like that, but god, the high from her team’s win is so, so good.
Puck holds her hand the whole way to the party. Tina and Mike cuddle in the backseat.
This isn’t at all how Lauren expected to spend the night after their first game, but she has to admit, it’s pretty damn great.