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Sick Lullabies

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“She is so lucky they don't fill those dumpsters. Otherwise she would smell worse than she does after smoking, and she would probably be caught way more often.”

Nicole chuckled as they watched Wynonna run excitedly away with Doc.

“So what have you seen so far?” Waverly asked, turning fully to Nicole.

When Nicole went to answer, she momentarily fumbled for words. Waverly’s eyes were shining with excitement, and Nicole couldn't help but smile at her before catching herself.

Wynonna already told you she has a boyfriend. Don't do this.

“Uh—mostly just the upstairs hallway and the gym. I don't have a schedule, but even if I did, I wouldn't know where to go.”

Waverly jumped up giddily and clasped her hands together with a grin.

“Great! I can give you the full tour!”

Nicole smiled at the girl’s delightful enthusiasm. She was thankful that she was regarding Nicole with interest rather than dismissing her as a naive weirdo.

Just as Waverly was turning to start the tour, Nicole called her back with a question.

“So is this the basketball team?”

Waverly whipped back around and peered into the still open doorway, leaning her hip on the frame.

“Yup! The proud Purgatory Saints! Cute aren't they?”

“Uhhhhhhhhh.”

Waverly didn't seem to notice the redhead’s gay panic. Instead, she turned to her with a cheery expression, reading the situation entirely wrong.

“You thinking about trying out for the cheer squad? I'm head cheerleader, and I think you’ve got a good chance,” Waverly said, taking in the tall redhead’s athletic form. She could tell the girl kept well in shape. Nicole was wearing a deep cut muscle shirt that showed off her toned arms and slender torso.

Nicole finally stopped scrambling for an appropriate answer to the previous question to laugh at the new one. The thought of herself in a booty skirt and crop top, prancing around with pom-poms made her feel utterly ridiculous.

“Not exactly.”

Waverly let it go at that and just shrugged her shoulders; she didn't want to push the girl into anything. She let her eyes wander into the gym once more before turning over her shoulder and throwing another friendly grin to Nicole, who was still watching as well.

“Well, let’s get started then, shall we?”

~

The fairly basic school tour concluded at the entrance to their first period class. Waverly had been accommodating enough to retrieve Nicole’s itinerary, and she was delighted to find out that she had quite a few classes with the youngest Earp. The two shared most of their schedules together, both being in the same English, Biology, Chemistry, and Precalculus classes. They only differed where Waverly was taking AP History and Band when Nicole was taking regular History and Gym.

“And this is the English room,” Waverly concluded with a wide grin. They had gotten through the tour in a short amount of time, yet Waverly had been very thorough, and Nicole felt fairly confident that she could now make her way around with little help.

There was still a good few minutes before class was supposed to start, but the English room was full of unfamiliar faces that looked judgingly at the just as unfamiliar redhead. Waverly noticed the look of uncertainty on Nicole’s face before taking her hand gently.

“Come sit with me,” she said with a warm smile.

As the shorter girl pulled her confidently into the room, Nicole couldn't help but feel incredibly lucky. Here was this genuine, not to mention beautiful, girl taking her under her wing and helping her through what was obviously a tough time and scary experience; it wasn't like it was Waverly’s obligation, and Nicole was entirely grateful for the fact that the girl seemed to be wholehearted in her kindness towards her.

Waverly led her near the back of the room, holding loosely to Nicole’s fingers the entire time. The redhead couldn't help the blush that flared up to her cheeks as a result. Waverly’s fingers felt so tender tangled up in her own, and she felt herself not wanting to pull away.

When they reached a pair of empty desks, one in front of the other, Waverly let her hand fall away from Nicole’s, and Nicole immediately felt the loss, wanting to reach back out and feel the comfort of the other girl’s hand in hers again. The shorter girl took the seat in front, so Nicole settled in the back.

The teacher at the front of the classroom looked ready to start. He was a tall, copper-haired man who wore thick glasses and looked to be in his late thirties. As he cleared his throat, Waverly quickly turned back to Nicole.

“If you start to feel lost, just tap my shoulder; I'll help you out,” she flashed another smile as Nicole nodded at her. The teacher at the front of the room finally began his lesson, bringing out a copy of Macbeth and reading through the first few scenes. Nicole did her best to follow along in the copy that was on her desk when she arrived, but she more than once caught herself staring affectionately at Waverly, bent over her desk and diligently copying notes. She could smell coconut faintly drifting from the girl in pleasant ripples, and Nicole wanted nothing more than to reach out and bury her face into it.

The piercing sound of the school bell cut off Nicole’s thoughts, and she instantly felt the guilt of them. It wasn't that Nicole wasn't comfortable with her sexuality, but she knew that she was a bit hopeless when it came to concealing and containing her feelings. Waverly had a boyfriend. Even if she did have any interest in girls, the cheerleader was unavailable. Nicole couldn't have her. Not that it was wrong to want someone she couldn't have, but Nicole had screwed things up with other girls before. Once the concept of something more than friendship was on the table, the friendship had always ended in one way or another. Nicole didn't want to lose Waverly to her stupid feelings. She couldn't afford to. She liked the small brunette, and if she lost her, she would most likely lose her kinship with Wynonna, too. Seeing the way the older brunette had reacted to Champ had given Nicole the presumption that the girl was very protective of her younger sister, and she had a feeling that Wynonna would not be happy if she tried anything with Waverly.

The rest of the morning went by without much incident. During lunch Waverly had gone to sit with the cheerleading squad and some of the basketball team at a particularly large table at the insistence of a whiny Champ. Waverly had looked apologetically at Nicole, who nodded her understanding, as the boy-man dragged her away. Thankfully, Nicole caught up with Wynonna and Doc again not long after. They both smelled like pot and couldn't stop giggling at every little thing, but Nicole enjoyed their company at the otherwise small, vacant table she sat at.

Still, Nicole couldn't help but glance over at Waverly every so often. She wished she was sitting with her, but it was obvious that she was a very popular girl.

Nicole mentally facepalmed.

Duh. Of course she's popular. She's the head cheerleader for Christ’s sake!

Wynonna, despite her high, noticed that the redhead in front of her seemed to be preoccupied with what was deemed the popular table. She chanced a glance over as well, and saw both Bobo and another blonde cheerleader look over her way. Not being one to back down or be intimidated by a little eye contact, Wynonna stood her ground, raising her dark brow in challenge. The contemptuous looking pair sneered before turning back to their conversation, ignoring the less popular Earp. Turning back to Nicole, she found the redhead with her head down, staring into her food tray with a blank expression on her face.

Wynonna found it almost impossible to read her but figured she should say something anyways.

“Y’know they’re nothing to be intimidated by,” she said quietly to Nicole, trying not to seem pitying or condescending.

The redhead looked up, locking her deep brown eyes with the Earp’s own before breaking away again.

“I'm not intimidated…” Nicole insisted, trailing off.

I'm jealous.

She winced at the inadvertent thought.

Wynonna huffed. She threw another toxic stare towards the table in question.

“They're just a bunch of pretentious dicks. Think they’re hot shit and all.”

Nicole looked over to Waverly again. She couldn't help it.

“Not all of them,” she said, her eyes not leaving the small Earp.

Wynonna was taken aback for a slight moment before following the redhead’s gaze. She felt a little dumb for not realizing that Nicole was referring to her own sister.

Doy, Wynonna. Of course she meant Waverly. God, I'm stoned.

The eldest Earp smirked despite herself.

“Oh well not Waverly, of course,” Wynonna reiterated, “but take that blonde bitch, Stephanie, for example. Never spoken to her in my life, and the chick has the balls to tell me to get a butt-lift!”

Nicole snapped back to Wynonna upon hearing that.

“What? No way! That's so rude. Your ass is totally fine! It's great, actually!”

“I know right?” Wynonna agreed, exasperated. “I think she’s just jealous. She wishes she could have my ass.”

Nicole laughed loudly at that.

I wish I could have your ass,” she said, half jokingly.

Wynonna smirked that suggestive smirk of hers, and Nicole grinned, knowing she just set herself up for a trap.

“All you have to do is ask, Haught stuff,” Wynonna purred with a sly wink. Nicole rolled her eyes playfully, swatting at Wynonna’s hand as she cackled wickedly; she should've seen that one coming.

“Hey now,” said Doc, turning away from his munchies, “that belongs to me.”

He grinned affectionately as Wynonna leaned into him, resting her head near his shoulder.

“Only on weekdays,” she said facetiously, pecking him softly on the mouth despite the fact that he was still eating microwave Kraft Dinner.

The two shared a loving glance for a moment after before Wynonna decided to steal a bite of Doc’s KD, causing the boy to feign shock at the betrayal. Anyone else might’ve felt like a third-wheel around the two, but Nicole found them to be immensely entertaining and downright adorable.

“How did you two end up together?”

It came out before she could stop herself, and Nicole fought down a blush of embarrassment. The couple were unfazed, however, and Doc let out a hearty chuckle while Wynonna grinned.

“That's a good fucking question,” Wynonna barked out along with a laugh. “It kinda just happened.” She shrugged, turning to look into Doc’s clear blue eyes. “We were friends before, smoke buddies and all, but we had a tendency to get a little out of hand.” A roguish grin appeared on the brazen brunette’s face. “Last year around this time we had a late night sesh, and the next thing I knew, I was waking up in ol’ John Henry’s bed and there was a middle finger spray-painted on the side of the school. Epic first date.”

The story left a giant smile on Nicole’s face. Of course they ended up together doing something illegal; it was very them in her opinion. She was glad she asked.

~

By the time last period rolled around, Nicole was antsy to be done with class. She intended to go down to the gym and search for the school’s basketball coach. Once the final bell had rang, Nicole was out of her desk faster than anyone else despite the fact that she had been sitting in the back. However, by the time she got down to the gym, the school was practically deserted.

The redhead cautiously pushed open the double doors at the gym’s entrance, silently cringing when the hinges creaked and echoed in the empty room.

“Hello?” Nicole chanced calling out to someone who might be hiding out in the locker rooms. There was no answer, but a door to what looked to be a small office on the other side of the gym was ajar. Figuring it wouldn't be left open unless someone was using it, Nicole made her way across the wood floor to the office and knocked lightly before peeking inside.

There was a middle-aged man sitting at a cramped wooden desk in the small space. Nicole recognized him as the teacher who had greeted her at the top of the stairs and assigned her locker number that morning. His eyebrows were furrowed in intense concentration, but it was obvious the man was tired from the day’s work; he still hadn't noticed Nicole’s presence.

The tall redhead made note of the nameplate on his desk—Mr. Frank Elliott—before clearing her throat and speaking out loud.

“Um, excuse me?”

Mr. Elliott didn't look up. He merely grunted his acknowledgment. The action nearly annoyed Nicole; this was the second time today the man had practically ignored her. She tried again.

“Do you know where I can find the basketball coach? I was hoping to ask about tryouts.”

The balding man looked up upon hearing that unexpected sentence come out of the new girl’s mouth. He raised his bushy grey eyebrows in disbelief at her.

“And why would a lady like you want to know something like that?” he grumbled out in a deep voice. The way he said it made Nicole hesitate for a second.

“I-I was hoping to get on the team.”

That made the man frown. He turned his gaze back down to his paper as he spoke his next words dismissively.

“No can do, sweetheart. Ain't no girls on the Purgatory basketball team, and ain't no city kid gon’ change that.”

Okay, now that pissed her off.

Fierce brown eyes narrowed in fury, and the energy that suddenly radiated off the girl made it seem as if she were on fire.

“First off, never call me sweetheart,” she snapped, fully aware that she was about to cause a lot of trouble for herself with what she now knew was the basketball coach, but she was too miffed to care. The sudden, harsh change of tone made the previously insolent man snap his attention back to the girl, now fully enhanced in what she had to say and obviously already upset. That didn't stop Nicole.

“Have a little human decency,” she growled again before continuing. “I was a star player on the team at my old school. You can even call if you want, but I demand the right to be treated equally! Let me try out for the team, and I'll show you how good I am!”

By the time she finished, Nicole was seething. Her teeth were clenched and her jaw was set, making her appear hard and emotionless despite the boiling rage underneath. Determination was radiating off her like a nuclear power plant, and all that was left to do was stare the old man down. He had long risen from his seat and was scrutinizing her with a deep set frown. He pulled his hand down his face and sighed heavily, weighing his options before looking back up at her.

“No.”

“I'll go to the principal, then,” came the immediate response. She had only met the woman once that morning and had no idea how she would side in this situation, but it was the only threat Nicole could come up with on the spot. Luckily it seemed to do the trick.

For a big and burly man, he seemed to pale in concern at that particular notion, and Nicole internally celebrated. She had just won.

Coach Elliott cleared his throat in an attempt to hide his show of weakness, but it was obvious the girl had got him.

“Uh—ahem—no need for that. I’ll, uh, I’ll sleep on it. Come see me again tomorrow during last period. Tryouts start then; we’ll talk. Three o’clock sharp.”

Still positively grated, but satisfied with the answer, Nicole nodded her red mane firmly, her mouth in a tight line as she tried to refrain from saying anything else provoking. She was still staring hard at the coach, and he was making an effort to stare back.

“See you tomorrow then,” Nicole finished with a sense of finality. She turned to go, but looked back over her shoulder at the last second.

“And…thanks.”

It was sincere. Once she was out of the room, coach Elliott slumped back down in his desk and put his head in his hands, wondering what the fuck he was gonna do with this girl.

~

Nicole was thankful for the calming effect her longboard ride home provided. It was a twenty minute walk, but the time was nearly cut in half if she put some effort into her riding. Focusing on the road in front of her and the weightless, gliding feeling of the board beneath her feet let all of her worries about basketball be whisked away with the wind in her hair.

Nicole took her snapback off and shook her red waves free, running a hand through her locks to cool off a little. She was glad she decided to cut it short before moving. It was starting to feel like it weighed her down, especially in the summer heat, and it helped her cope. The whole thing was a reminder that things were changing. She was doing her best to embrace that.

The rest of the day was a typical after school routine. Walk in. Greet the parents.

“How was school?”

“School was fine.”

“Learn anything?”

“Nope.”

End of conversation. Mostly. There were also a few make any new friends and one stay out of trouble, kiddo, but other than that, Nicole’s parents knew not to press. They understood how hard it was on her to suddenly move away like that, and her father, especially, could tell that too much talking could just lead to accusations and problems. He was very intuitive like that; it was one of the reasons he made such a good cop.

The rest of the evening was quiet until after dinner when Nicole decided she should probably practice some before tryouts tomorrow, not that she would actually need much. The redhead spent the remaining daylight setting up her metal-chain basketball hoop over the tall garage door in the driveway. It took longer than it probably should have since the girl had refused help from her concerned dad when he saw her struggling up a wobbly ladder through the living room window. Still, she insisted on doing it herself, and though she dropped a couple of screws more than once, she got it up and tightly secured.

It was already quite dark by the time Nicole got her ball out from the garage. She also opted to throw on one of her black zip-up hoodies and a pair of sweats to combat the crisp September breeze. The streetlamps had already come on and were lining the streets with a dull yellow glow, giving the otherwise silent neighbourhood an eerie and ethereal feel.

Nicole flipped on the light installed in the driveway so she could see her makeshift court, but before she began to dribble the ball, she made one last check on the net, leaping high and grabbing the rim. The strong metal supported all her weight, and the redhead grinned with pride at her successful installment. Pulling her hood up, she picked up the ball with a spring in her step and began to shoot hoops.

Nicole was definitely getting into it. The sound of the firm rubber ball hitting the chain net satisfied her to no end. She began to ham up her practice a little, dribbling between her legs and trying out some fancy footwork even though there was no one to fake out. It was fun for her, and Nicole smiled widely as she went in for a dunk, holding the rim for a glorious moment before retrieving the ball from where it had rolled onto the grass.

As she lazily leaned down to handle the ball again, Nicole's ears perked, finally hearing the sounds of the night now that she had a break from her engaging practice. Someone had been jogging up on the other side of the street but had come to a halt just when Nicole looked up to see who might be out running at this hour.

Her breath caught in her throat, and she damn near dropped the ball again.

Waverly Earp was standing on the sidewalk across the street from her, hair up, Fitbit fastened to her upper arm, earbuds dangling from her panting form, sweaty and glistening in just a sports bra and short shorts.

Nicole straightened up immediately, unsure of what to do, but knowing that just standing there staring wasn't going to do anything either. So she held up a shy hand and waved, hoping like all hell that that’d be the end of the interaction between them.

Unfortunately, Waverly, being the friendly person she is, crossed the street to meet the waiting redhead who was trying hard to keep her eyes from trailing down the smaller girl’s gleaming body.

Shit.

Nicole couldn't resist the urge to look down despite her efforts and both immediately regretted it and wanted to look again.

God, those abs…

“Nicole?”

Brown eyes flicked back to the face that was now in front of her, desperately trying to keep her voice steady as she spoke.

“H-Hey, Waves.”

Fucking moron.

Nicole cleared her throat harshly, annoyed at herself for being so goddamn gay at the worst possible time.

“Uh, what’s up,” she tried again, “going for a late-night run?”

Waverly grinned at the obviously flustered girl; if she was being honest, she found it quite endearing.

“Yup! I like to jog a few nights a week to keep my stamina up for cheering. I run by here all the time.”

The shorter girl paused to look at the house in front of her. “Is this your house?”

Nicole turned back, looking towards the front door as she nodded. “Mhmm,” she hummed in agreeance.

“It's nice,” Waverly said more to the house than the girl beside her, as if complimenting it personally. She looked back to Nicole’s face, curiosity colouring her face.

“So what’re you doing out here so late?”

Foregoing an actual answer, the redhead just held up the ball, showing it to Waverly who reached out and took it.

“You play basketball?”

Nicole nodded again. “Yup. Played on the school team back in Peace River. I'm practicing for tryouts tomorrow.”

“Are you any good?”

“You tell me.”

A challenge had settled in Nicole’s eyes, and she took the ball from Waverly’s fingers with a smirk, making a perfect jump shot from where she was standing on the sidewalk with Waverly, a good twenty feet away from the basket.

The cheerleader let out a disbelieving laugh at the impressive play, and Nicole turned to find a positively beaming Waverly looking at her like a goddamn hero. She couldn't help a dimpled smile from breaking out on her face as well.

“You're amazing, Nicole.”

A deep blush rose up to Nicole’s cheeks at the sound of pure awe lacing Waverly’s soft voice. Unable to take the admirable gaze without feeling a flutter in her chest, Nicole broke eye contact and muttered a bashful, “Thanks, Wave,” as she tried not to think of the brunette girl’s shining green eyes.

Waverly smiled, her eyes going soft as she touched Nicole’s arm. “The entire basketball team’s gonna be thanking you when they see what you can do. I’d wish you luck for tomorrow, but I'm sure you don't need it.” Another grin overtook Waverly’s face as she joked, and Nicole laughed along with her, finally turning back to look at her face again. Waverly was relieved.

“But just in case, good luck tomorrow,” the shorter girl finished. Nicole smiled again, her dimples popping out, making Waverly feel her heart beat faster in her chest.

“Thanks again, Waves.”

Nicole didn't let herself break eye-contact this time. There was something about the way that Waverly was looking at her that made it feel like a mutual connection, like she didn't need to look away.

When Waverly realized that neither of them had said anything for a good minute, she flushed in embarrassment, knowing full well that she had just been undeniably gazing into the taller girl’s big brown eyes.

What the hell was that all about?

The cheerleader looked away and cleared her throat, trying to dispense the awkward silence she had just created as she flicked her eyes back again quickly to read Nicole’s expression, hoping she hadn't weirded the girl out so soon after just meeting her. Instead of the disgust she expected to find, Waverly was surprised to see that Nicole looked slightly concerned at her sudden discomfort.

Despite the fresh bout of worry bubbling up in her chest, Nicole spoke up cautiously.

“Are you alright, Waves?”

Upon hearing that, Waverly panicked a little, thinking she must be making quite a spectacle of herself. She could feel her face flushing even harder, but forced up a high laugh as she tried again to mask her embarrassment.

“Ye-Yeah! I'm fine. Uh. Just peachy! Just remembered that I…left the clothes in the dryer! And I have to...go,” she frowned at her own lame excuse, not wanting to go just yet, but it was already said. She sighed and reached up to rub at the back of her neck, suddenly very confused about her own emotions.

Raising her head to look at the redhead again, Waverly suddenly felt awful to see the concern still prevalent in Nicole’s eyes. She sighed again, taking her hand away from her neck to reach down and squeeze Nicole’s hand briefly.

“I'm sorry. I really am fine, just tired I think.” The two locked eyes again, and Waverly could see a pout in Nicole’s lips, still obviously not satisfied with her answer.

Wait. Why are you looking at her lips?

Waverly ignored the thought as she licked her own and looked back up again, focusing her eyes on the crease in the taller girl’s brow. She dismissed the idea of smoothing it out with her thumb and instead offered a shy smile.

“Really, Nicole, don't worry about me. Just worry about your tryout tomorrow! You’re gonna do great, and they’d be fools not to take you.”

It wasn't exactly the answer she wanted, but it was enough. Nicole nodded, ultimately deciding not to press the girl and risk making her any more uncomfortable than she possibly already was. She smiled down at Waverly and saw the tension melt away from her face, returning to the ray of sunshine she was before.

“See you around, Waves,” Nicole said softly, grinning once more before turning back to the driveway and going to fetch her ball again. The small cheerleader watched her go for a moment, staring after her in wonderment before tearing her eyes away and down to the sidewalk.

“Yeah,” she whispered to herself. She smiled subconsciously to herself before glancing once more in Nicole’s direction and then taking off into the night.

~

At exactly three o’clock the next day, Nicole excused herself from her Chemistry class early to make her way down to the gym. There had been a spring in her step all day from the impending excitement of playing again. Even Wynonna had noticed. During lunch, Doc had knocked over his blue slurpee in his hazy state, soaking both Nicole’s lunch and her English notes. She didn't even bat an eye as he scrambled to save her work and handed her the rest of his food as an apology. In fact, she wasn't at all fazed, and offered to help clean up. But Doc, being the gentleman he was, absolutely refused any assistance as he went to find some paper towels.

“You sure are chipper today. What’s up? Somebody get all up on that Haught body of yours already?”

Wynonna smirked devilishly as the redhead flushed nearly as vibrant as her hair, seeming to come back to her regular self and suddenly aware that her work was ruined.

She groaned for more reasons than one.

“Geez Earp, do you ever take a day off?”

Wynonna sucked some pudding off a plastic spoon before answering.

“What can I say? I’m married to the job, baby,” she quipped, playing along. “Besides, it's only Tuesday.”

Nicole nodded, recovering somewhat. “Right.”

When she didn't elaborate any further though, Wynonna pushed just a little more.

“For real though, Nicole, I didn't mean to put a damper on your mood. You just seem a lot happier to be here than yesterday, and I can’t think of a damn thing in the world that would make me happier to come to this shit show in the morning.”

There wasn't an outright question being asked, but Nicole knew the unruly brunette was looking for an answer. She figured it wouldn't hurt to tell her.

“I'm just excited for basketball tryouts today.”

Wynonna’s eyebrows shot up into her hairline in shock and excitement at the prospect of what Nicole was telling her.

“You’re going out for the team? No shit?”

The exhilaration in Wynonna’s voice made Nicole beam as she nodded in confirmation.

“That’s awesome, Nicole! Fuck, I wanna come watch. I bet you kick serious ass. What time does it start?”

“That’d be great, but it starts at three. You’ll be in class,” Nicole said, a bit disappointed.

“Fuck class, I'm coming! I'll even drag Doc along; we’ll heckle all the other dickheads who try to get in your way.”

The fierce loyalty that Wynonna was showing Nicole made her heart soar. She had no idea how this had happened or what she had done to deserve it, but the fact that Wynonna already seemed like a genuine and committed friend really made Nicole’s day go from ‘great’ to ‘fucking amazing’.

“That's sounds really nice, Wy.”

“Anytime, Haught shot.”

Once she had grabbed her gym bag from her locker, Nicole made her way down to the gym and opened the doors to find a group of boys already changed and doing runs. Confused, Nicole spotted Coach Elliot scribbling notes into a clipboard on the bleachers and headed over, a grimace on her her face.

“Started already?” Nicole asked as she neared closer, walking up to the balding man. He was wearing a pair of old gym shorts that showed off more leg than anyone would’ve liked to see, and he had tube socks pulled up to his calves. The whole Gym Teacher Look was brought together by the fact that Coach Elliott had thick, curly leg hair. Nicole was infinitely repulsed and thanked God that she liked girls.

Coach Elliott didn't look up as he spoke.

So we’re doing this shit again.

“Yup. Made up my mind last night, er—what was your name again?”

Annoyed, Nicole rolled her eyes. “Nicole Haught.”

“Er, right. You’re not trying out, Haught.”

It was as if a flame had sparked inside Nicole, and in a split second, she felt anger boiling up inside her again, and she swore she could feel steam pouring out her ears.

“What the hell?” she screeched. “Yesterday you said—”

“I said we’d talk. I never said you could try out.”

“Are you kidding me? This is bullshit! Why the hell would you even bring me down here if you weren’t gonna give me a chance either way?”

The gym teacher grumbled to himself. He wanted to scold the girl for her excessive swearing—-and to a teacher, no less—but he wasn't exactly about to act like a model employee either, so he let it slide. Tit for tat.

He stood from his seat then, motioning to a few of the boys on the court, and a group of about six walked over. Nicole recognized two of them as the boys who were fighting during a game yesterday: Bobo and Champ. The two shared a villainous look and smirked malevolently when they spotted her, but Nicole turned away and retrained her eyes on the coach. She didn't notice Wynonna and Doc walking through the gym doors.

“I had a talk with my boys today,” Coach Elliott started.

And?” Nicole snapped, her eyes sharp.

Frank paused a moment, but ignored her, keeping his voice even. “You’re on the team, Haught.”

Nicole’s eyebrows shot up and her eyes widened in shock. Nothing was making sense, and she was confused as all hell.

“What?”

Champ and Bobo, along with the rest of the boys Coach Elliott had motioned for all stepped up behind him. They were watching and waiting for something, but not saying anything. The lot of them looked highly amused, but one dark-skinned boy looked more irritated at whatever was going on than anything else.

Coach Elliott continued on now that he had backup. “You’re not going to the principal. Like I said you’re on the team, Haught. But you’re not trying out. And because you’re not trying out, you’re not gonna play. You’ll be the emergency sub, but since we’ve never actually used an emergency sub, a more appropriate title for you would be “bench boy,” ‘cept you’re a girl...”

The world seemed to stop for a moment as Nicole processed what was being said. She held her breath and kept her gaze even, but she couldn't believe her own ears. Was she seriously being played by a high school gym teacher right now?

Nicole scanned the group of boys she assumed were her new teammates. They all wore a smug look on their face, especially that Champ Hardy, and Nicole felt her heart start to break. This was real. She was being given an ultimatum. Join the team and sit on her ass without complaint, or refuse the offer and still be unable to complain because she was offered a spot to begin with. It was a lose-lose situation. It made Nicole want to scream at Frank’s stupid bearded face and ask what the hell she had or hadn't done to deserve this, but that would only serve to make matters worse. The only thing she could do was grin and bear it, try to make the best of an absolutely shitty situation, and hope that if she worked hard enough, Coach Elliott would see that she was good enough to play.

She brought her attention down and fiddled with her hands for a moment, holding back a wave of frustrated emotions and tears. When she looked back up, her eyes were glassed over, yet indisputably hard.

Frank spoke first.

“Welcome to the team, Haught.”

And with that, he turned his back and walked away, heading towards his office. One of the boys tossed a jersey at her head, but Nicole caught it before it could drop to the ground. As she opened up the shirt to look at the logo, she frowned. The team had started to walk away as well, and the gym was clearing out. Tryouts were finished, and everyone was going to change. Nicole called out a frustrated, last ditch attempt at changing their minds.

“Y’know, real saints wouldn't do this!”

But it fell on deaf ears, and Nicole was ignored again. She tried once more, yelling as they disappeared into the locker room.

“AND IF YOU WERE SAINTS YOU WOULDN’T BE IN PURGATORY, YOU'D BE IN HEAVEN, SO THE NAME IS NONSENSICAL, AND you’re all just so fucking stupid,” she trailed off in a whisper, knowing that her words truly meant nothing to them. Finally feeling her anger morph into devastation, Nicole’s grip on the jersey tightened, and her tears began to fall, spattering on the gym floor one by one.