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"Oh man, we are going to lose so bad," Mike said, grinning like the prospect didn't alarm him one little bit.

"We might not?" Cassadee said, settling her pads a bit more evenly. They were a little bit too big, still; they'd been stuck with all the left-over crappy equipment in the gym, and until Jersey had gone poking around his uncle's basement, Elliot had been stuck with two left gloves, which was obviously not going to work all that well.

"We're the plucky underdogs," Alex argued, looking tiny in his goalie's padding. Cassadee kind of wanted to pinch his cheeks. Probably he'd be able to stop a puck this week. If it, say, was headed straight for his glove and he didn't lose his balance again. Alex wasn't the best skater. Which was why he'd gotten stuck in goal.

"We're actually going to die," Cassadee said again. They probably were. "Remind me why we're doing this again?"

"Because working as a team is good for us and keeps us out of trouble?" Alex suggested. "Or that's what they keep telling us, anyway."

"We weren't even in trouble," Elliot said, a trifle defensively.

"No, we only got caught smoking behind the stage in the auditorium with Mike talking about his dick," Cassadee pointed out, in the pursuit of fairness.

"Mike is always talking about his dick," Alex said, long-suffering.

"You would too if you had my dick," Mike said, leering cheerfully. Cassadee didn't even blink at this kind of thing any more, she was too used to them. They'd been friends for a couple years now, and they'd never actually been in trouble before, but the school had been really... unreasonable. About the whole smoking thing. They hadn't even been smoking weed! But then it was parent-teacher conferences and disapproving glares and demands that they Engage In School Spirit Activities, and Cassadee was going to have to punch herself in the face before she joined the cheerleading squad, and they probably wouldn't have had Mike or Alex or Elliot anyway, so hockey with her friends it was. At least Cassadee could skate.

"It's gonna be awesome," Mike said, relacing his skates. "I am going to go out there and, like, slam their forward into the boards."

"Mike, this is high school D grade," Jersey pointed out, looking somewhere between worried and a bit endeared. "You're not allowed to check people. Also, have you seen their forwards? I think you'd bounce right off anyway."

Cassadee frowned. "I don't think that's a very coach-like comment, Jersey."

"You guys don't listen when I try to coach you anyway," he said, sitting back on the bench and fiddling with their water bottles. They were all labelled, because Cassadee refused point blank to get mono in her compulsorary sporting activitiy. "I figured I'd settle for just keeping you all alive and unsuspended."

"Your confidence is stunning," Elliot said, looking out onto the ice, and then over to the opposing team again.

"Hey, girls think bruises are hot," Mike said, completely unflattened.

"I think that's girls think scars are hot," Alex corrected.

Cassadee decided not to weigh in - they'd just keep bickering if no one interrupted them, and that was probably all for the best, for the sake of their nerves and everyone else's. Also, she wasn't really sure bruises or scars were hot, mostly they sounded painful.

A buzzer sounded, and the ref and linesmen skated out, gesturing for them to get on the ice.

"Okay," Jersey said, "skate clean, look out for each other, have fun?"

"You're the best, coach," Cassadee said, and gave him a bright smile as she hoisted herself over the boards and onto the ice.

"Let's rough it up!" Mike crowed, and skated after her.

"Oh god oh god, we're all going to die," Alex said, and Elliot punched him in the shoulder pad and said, "stop quoting movies and skate, dude."

"On it!" he said, and skated forward about three feet before falling flat on his face as his feet scooted out from under him.

Cassadee turned back and helped haul him up. "Just think," she said. "There's only ten weeks left in the season. We can totally survive this."

"Hey Cass," Mike said, just before the faceoff to start the game. "You should totally use the time while I am skating circles around these other guys to start writing our victory song."

"Uh-huh," Cassadee said sceptically. "Maybe when you find us a bass player, yeah?" They had actually been meant to be having band practice in the auditorium that time. Probably fewer smoke breaks for Mike and Elliot would have been a good idea.

"Pay attention, guys!" Jersey hollered, and Cassadee ducked her chin and told herself to focus. This was totally going to be fun.

Eventually.