Bobby could feel it in his bones. This year was going to be a good one for the lacrosse team. He didn’t know what McCall had gotten up to over the break, but he’d brought his A-game to the start of the school year. And it seemed he’d been motivating the rest of the team to do the same.
Bobby had never seen the boys so in sync before, even during simple practice exercises. It was like they were learning to read each other’s minds. And while not every member of the team was star player material, they were clearly learning how to play to their strengths and cover their weaknesses.
He felt what could only be described as a swell of pride. This year, when the season started properly?
Well, things were going to be different.
Stiles watched Coach Finstock leave and thought he saw a tear trekking down his face. Stiles rolled his eyes, but couldn’t deny the morbid curiosity about what inner monologue had gotten him to this point.
He was distracted from his musings when Scott moved to the middle of the changing room. The others throughout the room straightened up where they were standing near their lockers. Scott hadn’t been much of a public speaker before all that, but now it seemed to be another thing that came to him naturally.
“Guys, we did awesome out there today! I think we can all feel pretty good about the first interschool match coming up the weekend after next,” Scott began. He made sure to turn occasionally to address the guys who were standing behind him too.
Stiles noticed Jackson was leaning against the door of his locker, arms crossed and expression tense. There had been a time when Jackson had tried to stand alongside Scott during these little post practice speeches. But he didn’t bother anymore, even if he did still cling to the title of co-captain.
“We’ve got some insight into the line-up for this year, though Coach won’t announce it officially until closer to our first match.” That seemed to get everyone’s interest. It was already pretty obvious who the first line players were going to be, but knowing what position they’d likely be reserve for was of interest to everyone else.
Scott removed his glove and dug around in the pocket of his shorts. He’d always see everyone safely off before showering and getting changed himself. When Stiles had asked him why, he’d only shrugged and muttered something about being concerned about other players’ safety given the recent string of murders.
Stiles and Scott had always been close, but now more than ever he felt like Scott’s main confidant. Probably because he was the only one who insisted on staying back with him most nights. And was subsequently the one who got to hear most of his thoughts on the team.
“So, let’s get the obvious out the way. Danny is probably going to be our preferred goalie,” Scott said as he glanced in Danny’s direction. He nodded, seeming to have expected as much as well. “Jackson will remain in midfield. Since he’s the most experienced at them, and is the co-captain of the team, he’ll be responsible for most of the face-offs,” Scott continued.
Stiles wondered if sucking up to Jackson like that was really going to get them off on a good foot for the start of the season. Jackson looked surprised for a moment, before nodding and adopting a bored expression, as though he and Scott had already discussed all this beforehand.
“I’ll be joining him in midfield this year, and will take the responsibility for face-offs when needed. To be honest, I’m not sure who the third will be, or who the preferred subs will be. But I’m sure Finstock will enlighten us soon enough.”
A few of the guys glanced at each other, maybe hopeful they’d be the third mainstay. Scott turned his attention to Stiles next, and continued talking.
“Coach has been tracking our shooting accuracy over the past few training sessions. Based on what I saw of that last, I’d be surprised if Stiles isn’t at least a sub for the attack line.” Stiles bit his tongue. Sure, he might be a good shot when he got the ball, but it was getting the ball that was the problem for him. “Similarly, he’s been looking at height, movement, and skill with blocking and intercepting. I’m hoping you’ll get some good news about being on the defence line, Isaac.”
Isaac seemed to jump slightly at the mention of his name. He pressed himself into his locker door as everyone’s attention turned to him. Usually he flew under the radar, and being kind of twitchy wasn’t exactly unusual for him. Stiles guessed he could see how both of those things could be useful to a defender.
Scott smiled at him patiently and smoothly brought the room’s attention back to himself. “That’s probably all the speculation I’m relatively confident about. If anyone has any questions they’d like to ask, feel free to come on over.” Scott folded the piece of paper and shoved it back in his pocket. “More importantly, does everyone have safe way home tonight? Let me know if not, ok?”
Everyone muttered their agreement, seemingly all good for today. Scott turned to look at Stiles, but before he could even start moving his direction, he was accosted by Matt.
Stiles turned away to finish getting changed before making his way over to them. “Can I at least see my stats?” Stiles heard Matt ask.
“I don’t have the exact numbers on me,” Scott admitted. “If you talk to Finstock I’m sure he’ll give you more details. From what I remember you’re one of the more versatile players on the team. Honestly, you could end up anywhere, so Coach might reserve you as a sub for that reason.”
“What do you mean by versatile? That I’m only average at everything?” Matt demanded.
“The fact you’re average or slightly above average at everything is useful in itself. Your stamina is decent, so you could play midfield. You’re not a bad shot, so you could sub for the attack line. And even though you’re kind of short like me, you play a respectable defence. You aren’t terrible whenever it’s your turn in the goal during practice, either. Most people are restricted by only being decent at one thing, so I wouldn’t say being decent at everything is going to hold you back.”
Stiles raised a brow. Scott really was making an effort to be on everyone’s good side before the first match. But he pitied anyone who was foolish enough to think that meant Scott was a pushover or a people pleaser.
“Fine, I’ll chase Coach up about it,” Matt replied shortly. He glanced at Stiles as he turned and moved back over to his locker.
“God forbid he be the preferred sub,” Stiles muttered. “Speaking of which, are you sure about my goal scoring abilities? I don’t think I’ve ever gotten it past you.”
“No,” Scott replied quietly, “but you do get it past Danny an awful lot. His skill is more representative of a normal player in our league than mine.” Stiles raised his brows at the apparent bragging. “Oh come on, you know why that is. It’s hardly a fair match up with my new reflexes.”
Stiles gave a discontented hum of acknowledgement before continuing on to the shower block. Going by that logic, how was it at all fair that Scott was playing to begin with?
Scott stood by the door, watching everyone leave and making sure they did have a plan to get home safely. He found he was mentally checking people off the list in his head as they left. Their team had fifteen members including himself, and he couldn’t help but feel concerned for all of them.
Eventually only Scott, Stiles, Jackson and Isaac were left in the locker room. Stiles was doing something on his phone, clearly waiting for Scott to be done so they could carpool home. Isaac was standing near his locker and clutching his bag. He looked even more nervous than usual. Meanwhile, Jackson seemed to be trying to bore a hole into the side of Scott’s head with his eyes alone.
Scott sighed and turned to him first, thinking the problem would be quicker to solve than trying to get a full sentence out of Isaac.
“What’s up Jackson? You’re right to get home, aren’t you?”
“Yeah, of course. Are you?” he asked. “You haven’t even showered yet.”
“I know. I need to make sure everyone else is good first,” Scott tried to explain. He still didn’t fully understand it himself, but he had some sort of protective instinct for everyone in the lacrosse team now, even those he didn’t know so well. Yet.
Jackson looked like he wanted to say something about that, but managed to restrain himself. “Well, I’ve got stuff to do. I can’t stick around like this all the time,” he said as diplomatically as he could.
“That’s fine, I never said you had to,” Scott replied with a shrug.
“It’s not fine,” Jackson replied through gritted teeth. “We’re supposed to be co-captains. On equal footing. It doesn’t seem like that to others if you’re always taking the most responsibility.”
“All right, all right. I think I get where you’re coming from. We’ll figure out a time to talk about this privately later,” Scott replied.
Jackson nodded stiffly once, then walked over toward the changing room exit. Isaac suddenly stood straighter.
“Hey, J-Jackson,” he said, just loudly enough to be heard across the changing room. Jackson turned to look at him, one eyebrow raised. “My dad just said he won’t, I mean, he can’t pick me up. Can I maybe…?”
Jackson looked put upon, but Scott was kind of surprised when he agreed. “Yeah, yeah, let’s get going.”
“We can take you if it’s going to be trouble…” Scott began, but Jackson waved a hand at him.
“Isaac’s place is basically directly opposite mine. We’re definitely headed in the same direction.”
“Oh, ok then,” Scott replied. Something for him to remember next time Jackson was in a bad enough mood to say no, he supposed. “I’ll see you guys tomorrow then.”
Jackson turned away and left the changing rooms. Isaac waved a hand at him before closing the door behind them.
Feeling some sense of relief at last, Scott quickly got changed out of his gear and jumped in the shower.
“No wonder Isaac was looking nervous all afternoon. Imagine your best option for a ride looking that put out about driving his literal neighbour home,” Stiles called from where he was going through his locker.
Scott bit at his bottom lip. He was still new to his heightened senses, so he’d thought it was just a natural part of Isaac’s scent. But the guy never relaxed. “Isaac smells like fear all the time. I’m kind of worried about him,” Scott admitted.
“Of course you are,” Stiles muttered. “What you should really be worried about is wolfing out during the first official match of the season. Have you thought of any ideas for controlling your impulse?”
“Not really,” Scott admitted. “Other than try to remain chilled out despite the pressure to win being on us in full force.”
“We should really work on that,” Stiles said. “As well as figuring out what is killing all these people and how.”
“Yeah, and I’ll just maintain my straight A’s in any downtime we have,” Scott added sarcastically.
“Maybe we can get help from Derek with the first two so you can concentrate on that last one,” Stiles suggested.
Just the mention of Derek made Scott’s not so figurative hackles rise. He was other, and refused to be in their group. At least, that’s what his instincts were saying.
“You shouldn’t go near Derek. I still don’t think we can trust him,” Scott said as he exited the shower and started to dry off.
“Hey buddy, wasn’t planning on it,” Stiles replied. “Let’s get to the jeep before something or someone weird does find us,” he added.
Scott could definitely get behind that.