There's something about the woman on the flier that fascinates Bliss from first glance. Her fierceness, perhaps. There's a look in her eye that says she's good at what she's doing, and she knows it. And she's going to make sure everyone else knows it too. She's like some sort of goddess, like Bellona or Morrigan, and Bliss can't help wishing she was her.
When Bliss first sees Iron Maven in real actual life, she thinks what she's feeling low in her stomach is butterflies. And then Maven takes off, racing effortlessly around the track, and Bliss realises what she's feeling is lust. Lust, of course, she tells herself, as the rest of the team members speed around the track, pointed towards the sport itself. The thrill of freedom she can see on every woman's face, the bloodlust, the exhilaration. She's pretty sure the whole crowd is feeling the way she is, it has nothing to do with seeing the woman from the brochure in real life, watching her make her way through the teams, sometimes evasive, sometimes vicious, and always graceful. Maven is a violent sonnet on skates, an ode to something bloody and primal that's behind every perfectly lipsticked smile. That's a perfectly normal thing to think, right? Right.
Anyway, it doesn't end up mattering, because it's not the Holy Rollers who need new members, and it's not Smashley or Maggie who are sneering at her from the bench. And it's not Maven welcoming her into the league with a smile, with a friendly touch on the arm, and maybe Bliss has been thinking about this when she should have been sleeping, but that's nobody's business but hers.
At least, Bliss thinks later that night, safe in bed and adrenaline not quite worn off yet, Maven had noticed her. That's not what she was after, she wanted the freedom the sport represents, but. Still. She lies as still as she knows how, and tries not to remember the heat of the woman's body, so close to hers. Tries not to let her thoughts linger on the subtle curves of Maven's body, on the edge of her smirk, on the sound of her voice.
Part of her wants to be disappointed, because even though she skated well enough to get into the Hurl Scouts, she'd turned Maven into her own personal idol and imagined mentor, sometime between seeing that first flier and watching her skate like a furious goddess, all vengeance and fire, and now she was nothing but a woman. Bliss had watched her sweat. Watched her get hurt, and smirk, and get annoyed like a regular person.
A larger part of her would much rather have a woman in her mind than a goddess, however, and eventually her tired mind stops replaying that confrontation, each time in more vivid detail, and finally clicks to a stop on the thought that she's in. She made it. And now she's committed to it, she wants to do it, to play and skate and fight. She's just also perhaps a little terrified.
Between that and Maven, Bliss doesn't sleep at all that night.
There are other sleepless nights. Even after Bliss has stopped feeling like she's going to live up to the team name before every match, she still feels nervous. Pressured and unable to perform. It's stage fright, same as anything she's ever felt before getting up on a pageant stage for her mother, but that knowledge doesn't make it go away.
So she doesn't sleep before matches, that's fine. And if sometimes Maven is in the audience, or is backstage, and Bliss doesn't quite manage to get to sleep that night either, that's fine too. Because Bliss has Oliver now, and her lust is for him, and sometimes roller derby, which is fine because it's a sport and it's her ticket to freedom. Everything is just fine.
And then it stops being fine. Maven crosses that line between audience member and participator, comes to the locker room after a match, tossing out a few sharp barbs and then leaves without seeing if they catch. They do, of course. She knew they would.
There's something about that confident callousness that Bliss envies. She's always been that girl, the one who bites her tongue and steps back from situations, who isn't quite fast and hard enough for the comebacks that can really cut someone down to size. The best she can do is get very very angry, straight up lose her temper, but even so she's never got the right words to hurt. But Maven, she seems to know exactly what buttons to press.
So a few days later, when Corbi is sitting on the railing with her boyfriend, looking so smug and self-satisfied after her little lesbian barbie prank, and Bliss can feel that red fog of rage descend, some cold, hard part in the back of her mind says what would Maven do?
Maven would hip-check Corby and walk away while she's pouting and whining.
So that's what Bliss does.
And although it gets results, and she spends the next week laughing about it with Pash, Bliss can't help wondering if striving to be like Maven is really the thing she wants to do.
And then Maven tosses a french fry in her hair, and Bliss knows it doesn't matter if she wants to or not, because she's suddenly realised the truth about Maven's viciousness, that there's nothing cold or calculated about her. She doesn't know which buttons to push, she's just pushing enough of them that some of them have to be the right ones. Maven's the same as her, she's feeling that inarticulate rage as well, she's just learned to channel it.
So once again, Bliss asks herself what her one-time idol would do, and the answer is obvious.
The remains of the cream pie projectile cling to Maven's face, and Bliss can see the fury descend on her, and although she knows what's coming this time, it doesn't stop her from losing her shit. She launches herself at the woman, and the momentum is pretty much the only thing that knocks her down, because while they're both slender ladies, Maven has years of wiry muscle on her. Which, yes, Bliss sort of knew from the bruises on her hips and legs from derby, but as they wrestle, she realises she never quite realised just how strong the woman was.
As the food fight rages above them, they roll around on the floor, first one on top and the other pinned to the ground, and then, with some struggling and flailing, vice versa. Soon, however, Bliss wearies, and before she knows it Maven is flush against her, pressing her into the cold hard tile, and she has no strength left for wrestling.
"Give in?" asks Maven in her unfairly smoky drawl, and Bliss struggles futilely for a moment before stopping. Maven grins down at her, all teeth. She knows as well as Bliss does that the fight is as good as over.
But Bliss refuses to give in, not now, not like this. So she turns her head, just a little, and bites Maven hard on the shoulder.
Maven yowls, the light of triumph gone from her eyes, but there's something else there too, Bliss notices, as the fight resumes. Grudging respect, perhaps, for a stubborn opponent.
It's a feeling that Bliss can definitely empathise with. Her original awe of Maven has dimmed, certainly, but what's been left there in her heart after some severe tempering, is respect for a strong opponent, the kind she wants to slam into a wall and then
And then race past on the track? Yes, that's definitely what she wants to do. Beat her at derby.
She'd thought Maven felt the same way, but then it turns out she just doesn't want any competition. If Bliss is honest with herself, she's been dreaming about an rivalry with Maven, something epic, something for the books, and this. well, it hurts.
Bliss had been angry at everything and everyone since she left home, had been feeling like the whole stupid world was against her, but in her mind Maven and derby had been a constant. A rival and a sport that would always be there for her.
Apparently not. She doesn't bother hiding her tears as she leaves.
And then even Oliver isn't what she expected, and Bliss gives in. If she was wrong about Oliver, maybe...maybe she was wrong about other stuff, too. Maybe Maggie was right. Maybe her parents were right.
So she goes home, and everyone is perfectly willing to make up. Sometimes being wrong isn't so bad, Bliss guesses.
It turns out that wasn't all Bliss was wrong about. As she stands on the track, her team at her back, she feels pretty much invincible. Until Maven speaks up, anyway.
"I don't want to beat your ass at rumours, I want to beat your ass on the track, with my skates," Maven smirks at her, and Bliss has never wanted to punch someone as much as she wants to punch Maven right now.
But she's done acting like Maven. She doesn't have anything cruel to say, and she's not going to stoop to violence, not before this game. If Maven wants to go, oh, she'll go. She'll fucking go.
They stand together on the track, so close Bliss can hear Maven breathing, and feel the heat of her body. She feels tense, and a little nervous, and she can sense Maven feels the same. She glances over, and Maven looks back at her, a clear challenge on her face. Bliss grins, nervousness evaporating. She suddenly knows exactly how she wants to play this.
So she dashes off as soon as she can, and they race around the track, slipping past the crush of bodies, until it's just her and Maven and their skates. She skates close to Maven, close enough to touch, and hip checks her hard. Bliss can feel a grin spreading wide on her face as she hears Maven yelling, and she knows she's skating better than she ever has before.
Unfortunately, that doesn't mean they win.
But there's always next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, so Bliss doesn't care. All she cares about is that she can keep doing this. She loves the track, loves the fury and the fierceness and the speed, loves everything about this sport. And there's something she loves about having a rival like Maven, she's found. Maven pushes her to be better, sparks a red hot anger in her chest when she talks and skates, an anger that Bliss has finally learned to use as a weapon. And it doesn't hurt that
The next time they skate together, it's an exhibition match, not for points, but she and Maven still skate as hard as they did in the tournament, neither one willing to back down even a little, and after the match, Bliss is exhausted.
She leans against the locker that Maven pushed her, so long ago, and relishes the feeling of the cold metal on her flushed skin.
And then Maven walks in.
She's mean, as always, but Bliss refuses to rise to her bait. She's too tired for snark tonight. This just makes Maven mad, of course, so then her stupid word games give way to violence, and Maven grabs her shoulder and yanks her away from the locker. Bliss' tiredness slips away from her when Maven touches her, and she goes with the momentum, lets it make her stronger, and she rams into Maven, slamming her backwards into the lockers on the other side.
Bliss presses against her, and for a moment they're both still, Maven giving Bliss a hard, searching look. Bliss wants to punch her, wants to bite and scratch, but there's that old, familiar feeling inside her, hot and tight, and thanks to Oliver, she finally recognises it. If she's honest with herself, she always knew what it meant, but she's done hiding that part of herself. She's done pretending she doesn't want to be this close to Maven, and not just to fight her.
Maven smirks at her, and Bliss belatedly realises she's been staring at Maven's lips.
"See something you like?" Maven drawls at her. Bliss takes this as an invitation, and leans in.
Kissing Maven turns out to be pretty much the same as fighting her, which doesn't really surprise Bliss. Just as violent, and just as satisfying. Okay, maybe a little more satisfying.
Maven is all wiry muscles and long, lean limbs. She leaves bruises on Bliss on the track and off. She swears, and sweats, and is nothing like a goddess. Maven's a woman, a fierce and violent and angry woman, and Bliss has always thought goddesses were overrated.