"We're sunk!" Molly complained. "98.6? Who beats that?" The newest Hellcats were all a bit shaken by MemChrist's impressive score. The whole team stood off to the side, waiting for the time to go on. If the freshmen hadn't been nervous before, they certainly were now.
"Someone with a bad fever?" Ariana asked innocently.
"Not helping, Ariana," Emily grumbled.
"C'mon, girls, we can't get upset about this," Miranda said to her fellow newbies. "We still gotta go out there and do our best, right?"
"Oh, shut up Miranda," Emily said. "Just because you're sleeping with the team captain doesn't mean you're the new vice-captain or something like that."
"Is there such a thing as vice-captain?" Ariana asked.
"Whoa, that was a little harsh, don't you think, Emily?" Molly said, ignoring the other redhead.
"Hey, I call them like I see them," Emily said, looking right at Miranda. "You DID sleep with Alice last night, didn't you?"
"We do NOT have time for this," Miranda said. "Yes, I had sex with Alice last night and yes, I'd happily do so again. Is that a crime?"
"It is if you're trying to get special favors out of it," Emily said flatly.
"Well, I'm not," Miranda denied flatly. She was lying, of course. She hadn't slept with Alice to get ahead - she'd genuinely fallen in lust with the captain. But she was sure as hell going to use her new connection to the top Hellcat to GET ahead.
After all, her blackmail of using Alice's inability to get off with Lewis had kind of fallen through now that Alice and Lewis had broken up. No one would really care now. But Miranda wanted to be a flyer in the worst way and if having sex - really great sex - with Alice got her flying, who was Miranda to not go for it? After all, both she and Alice were enjoying the sex. There was nothing wrong at all here, as far as Miranda was concerned.
She just wouldn't tell the others about it. After all, she wanted to be friends with her teammates.
"Yeah, right," Emily snorted.
"Oh, both of you shut up," Molly said. "You're letting the Cyclones beat us and we haven't even gotten out on the mat yet!"
"They did that when they scored almost 99 points, Molly!" Emily said. "You can't honestly think we're going to beat that, do you?"
"We have to," Molly said. "Too many of us need the scholarships."
"I know! Why do you think I'm so upset?!" Emily snapped. "At least Miranda got laid last night."
"Weren't you JUST setting up a threesome with Tom and Katie?" Miranda exclaimed, flabbergasted.
"And you two are back to sex," Molly said, raising her hands in defeat.
"Well, it's better than going out there and falling flat on our faces," Emily said. "I mean, we've got how many newbies on this team? We can't possibly be as good as the team that could've won Nationals last year."
"Why not?" Ariana asked.
Emily blinked. "Because we're not!"
"Who says?" Ariana asked.
"Yeah, who says we aren't as good as last year's team?" Miranda said. "I've been a cheerleader for only a couple weeks now and here I am at a major competition. How is THAT not impressive?"
"So not only are you sleeping with the captain, you're also some cheerleading savant?" Emily muttered.
"No, she's right," Molly said. "Why can't we be as good as last year's team? Better, even?"
"Yeah, better!" Ariana added.
"We made one of the best cheerleading teams in the entire country and we're all just freshmen! That just doesn't happen!"
"They were desperate," Emily argued.
"No, we were outstanding!" Molly shot back. "And so's everyone else on the team! We're the Lancer Hellcats, for crying out loud! We're going to go out there and we're going to make sure every person in this crowd hears us roar!"
"Yeah!" Miranda said. "What is it Savannah's always saying?"
"Positive outcomes only?" Ariana offered.
"Yeah, well screw her sayings and screw her Sharpie," Miranda said, showing where Savannah had written, "SUCCEED" earlier. "We don't need them! Because we're going to go out there and we're going to blow MemChrist and every other team away!"
"YES!" Molly said, sticking her arm out into the center of the four girls. Immediately, Miranda grabbed it. "You two with us?" Molly asked.
"This is crazy," Emily said.
"I'm with you!" Ariana said, putting her hand over Miranda's.
"Don't leave us hanging, Emily," Molly said.
"You're all crazy," Emily insisted.
"Maybe you have to be to be a cheerleader," Ariana pointed out.
Emily did a double take, surprised to hear something so profound out of the bubbly little redhead. She wasn't the only one, as both Miranda and Molly were staring at her with surprise on their faces.
"C'mon, Emily - if Ariana can spout out wisdom like that, this HAS to be our day for miracles," Miranda said.
Emily sighed and put her hand over Ariana's. All four girls had the same message on their arms - "SUCCEED".
"Fine," she said. "I'm with you."
"Yaaayyy, I helped!" Ariana said.
"Hell yes, you did," Molly said. "C'mon girls, Hellcats on three?"
"On three," Emily said. "One... two... three!"
"HELLCATS!" the girls cried out, finally catching the attention of the rest of the team.
"Looks like someone's getting into the spirit," Frankie said.
"We were all rookies once," Lewis said.
Molly, Miranda, Emily and Ariana all shared a hug, then turned to face the mat, each steeling themselves for the competition to come.
Suddenly, Ariana spoke up.
"Did I leave my panties in the bathroom?"
"All right, girls and boys," Alice said, taking a deep breath. "We're up."
The rest of the team seemed to inhale all at once - so much so that Britney Allen thought she could actually feel the air shift around her. It was that one moment, that perfectly frozen moment before they were called to stage to go out and do what they did best. Britney had loved and hated that moment when she'd been a cheerleader and she felt no differently about it now that she was a coach. It was the last moment before things were decided and it was both over in a flash and stretched eternally.
A voice over the loudspeakers broke the moment.
"And now, put your hands together for last year's Qualifying team, the Lancer Hellcats!"
The crowd outside roared, almost as loudly as they had for the National Champion Cyclones moments before and the Hellcats surged forward, a wave of blue and gold and perkiness that washed out onto center stage. The Hellcats were cheering and whooping and clapping their hands and telling the crowd to make some noise, as if this was nothing more than another football game, but as soon as they were out there, in front of the crowd, they seemed to effortlessly hit their marks, forming up into an arrowhead formation and the entire auditorium went silent, another pregnant pause before the music started.
There was no real set rules upon the music cheer teams used for their routines, but of late most had been sticking to one song. Alice had spent half her summer looking for perfect songs for this routine and generally found them all to be inadequate. And so she'd gone back to the drawing board and essentially assembled a routine around four different songs, a hodgepodge of rap, rock, and pop, that was sure to get everyone's blood pumping.
So now, the Hellcats stood rock still, heads down, arms at their sides, waiting for the music to start so they could prove, once again, that they knew how to fly.
Right from Mr. 305, Dade County, to Mr. Worldwide, all around the world
Now we're international, so international, international, so international
As the first hard lyrics of "International Love" filled the arena, the Hellcats started to move, breaking into a quartet of smaller groups and swinging to the four cardinal points of the mat. As the groups hit their mark, the four fliers were lifted up. Marti, Savannah, Alice and Charlotte were soon held aloft by their bases, each girl ramrod straight.
You can't catch me, boy (can't catch me, boy)
I'm overseas and with a hundred G's per show
Don't test me, boy (don't test me, boy)
Cause I rap with the best for sure
305 till the death of me
Cremate my body and let the ocean have what's left of me
But for now, forget about that
Blow the whistle
Baby you're the referee
Each Hellcat flier moved into a scorpion lift, reaching back with one hand and catching their raised left foot, held up by their right feet, their balance and a lot of luck. As they hung up there, some of the girls still on the ground rolled out, spinning away before they started doing handsprings. Miranda and Ariana came in from the left, while Emily and Molly rolled in from the right. They met in the middle and Ariana and Molly ducked down low, letting Emily and Miranda leap over them before each pairing kept going to the roar of the crowd.
As the tumblers hit the opposite sides of their mats, the fliers extended their legs and arms before being tossed into the air, spinning around and falling into the waiting arms of their ground teams.
As she hit the floor, Charlotte felt a tingle up and down her spine because the first person in the crowd she made eye contact with was Deirdre. She shook it off quickly, though, when she saw Layne sitting next to her, rooting on her daughters just like she did when she and Savannah were at MemChrist.
The Hellcats returned to their original formation before they paired up and went face-to-face with one another. Keeping up with the music with each dance step, they started swinging right hooks, followed by lefts. Marti and Savannah smiled at each other as they continued throwing punches, fondly recalling Marti's improvisational skills from her first team practice. This was something the two of them vouched to Alice and Britney for and the captain and coach were all too happy to agree.
Marti, Savannah, Alice and Charlotte separated from the main group and split up into respective pairs. The two duos pulled in close, face-to-face, toe-to-toe, before the four cheerleaders arched into back flips, each group momentarily forming a human sized "m." Perfectly timed, as each duo had both hands and feet on the floor, Molly and Ariana flipped over them, somersaulting just ahead of the upward swinging legs of the other girls.
As the two redheads finished the move landing squarely on their feet, arms up in the air, the back-flipping fliers hit the ground as well. And suddenly, perfectly timed to all six girls standing up, the music suddenly changed. Pitbull's harsh lyrics were suddenly replaced by the flowing tones of Nicole Scherzinger's "Don't Hold Your Breath."
You can't touch me now
There's no feeling left
If you think I'm coming back
Don't hold your breath
What you did to me boy I can't forget
If you think I'm coming back
Don't hold your breath
Don't hold your breath
As the beats changed, the Hellcats reformed, the girls on the outside, the guys in the center. Swaying in time to the music, Alice slid back from the front row until the guys surrounded her. Turning to her left, Alice flipped over into a handstand right in front of Darwin, who lifted her up by her waist. Alice spread her legs into a V shape and Marti and Frankie stepped up on either side, each grabbing a leg to help hold her in place.
On the left side of the mat, Charlotte put one foot into a cradle Lewis and Tom were making. As the crowd roared, the two guys actually threw Charlotte up into the air. Staying ramrod straight, she flew up over and through Alice's spread legs before tucking into a quick somersault, laying herself out flat parallel to the ground just in time for Jason, Miranda and Emily to catch her.
As Charlotte flew through Alice's legs and landed safely in her teammates' arms, Britney shouted, "YES!" Her high school team did the same move and it earned them a spot in a Rihanna video, so she went into the well again and was pleasantly pleased to see it work to perfection again.
The team quickly changed formation with Lewis, Tom, Miranda and Ariana surrounded Marti, while Jason, Charlotte, Emily and Molly circled Savannah. The fliers gave their bases the cue and found themselves hoisted up, standing a good ten feet over the floor. With the two girls up in the air, the two men each put an arm down, keeping the fliers balanced on just one hand each.
Though Nicole was telling the crowd not to hold their breath, they did just that as Marti and Savannah each hoisted a leg behind their back and reached behind them to grab it, completing the challenging scorpion lift as Lewis and Jason maintained their balance.
The crowd stood up and cheered the stunt, with Dan and Travis yelling in approval while Layne called out, "That's my daughter!" Wanda shouted, "That was incredible!" Deirdre, mouth agape, had trouble forming the words she wanted to say before turning and asking, "Dan, did you know they could do that?" to which he answered, "I've seen them do it at practice, but right now, it looks 100 times better."
As the crowd continued to show its approval and the music began to change, Marti and Savannah put their leg down and took a slight leap backwards, landing butt-first into the safety of their waiting teammates' arms.
As the music switched over to Hot Chelle Rae's "Tonight, Tonight", the male Hellcats split apart, making way for Frankie to lead Ariana, Molly, Emily and Miranda to step forward in time with the music, tussling their hair playfully with both hands. As they hit the front of the mat, they spread out and started sashaying back. As they did so, Savannah, Alice, Marti and Charlotte slid forward between them, taking center stage.
Just don't stop let's keep the beat pumpin'
Keep the beat up, let's drop the beat down
It's my party dance if I want to
We can get crazy let it all out
The four Hellcats stopped towards the edge of the mat, took a 90-degree turn and bent over at the waist, shaking their booties as they did so, though in a far-more playful manner than the more sexual Mockingbirds had earlier. In perfect time with the music, the girls twirled about and marched back towards the middle of the mat, ending up facing the crowd again. At the same time, Miranda, Ariana, Emily and Molly sauntered forward, matching the other girls step-for-step, until the two lines intertwined.
With all eight girls in a line, the half who'd been front and center before dropped to their knees, before curling up into a turtle position. Then, each girl on the left side of the crouching Hellcat did a cartwheel over them, landing perfectly timed on the right side. A beat later, the crouching girls were up and the new tumblers were crouching down to let the fliers cartwheel over them in the opposite direction.
Just don't stop let's keep the beat pumpin'
Keep the beat up, let's drop the beat down
It's my party dance if I want to
We can get crazy let it all out
As the Cats hit the ground once more, all the girls separated, dancing about in a circle for a moment before forming up into four lines, with Savannah, Charlotte, Ariana and Emily in the front of each line, with Miranda, Alice, Marti and Molly taking up the spots directly behind them, the other Hellcats filling in until the entire team was lined up. Then, on cue, each Hellcat stepped out, the front girls to the left, the girls behind them to the right and each row alternating. As their feet hit the ground, they clapped once in time with the music, then stepped back, before switching to go in the opposite directions.
As they stepped back to the center again, each Hellcat brought their hands up over their head in the direction they were moving and extended their opposite knee, landing with their hands clasped atop their legs in a half-crouched position. They froze there for a moment before playfully bounced their butts out once, twice, three times before popping back up into a standing position.
It's you and me and we're runnin' this town
And it's me and you and we're shakin' the ground
And ain't nobody gonna tell us to go cause this is our show
The lines broke and the Hellcats paired up, crisscrossing the mat until they were spread out, seemingly at random. As they moved, the girls tussled their hair playfully, while the guys theatrically brushed off imaginary dust from their shoulders. After the Hellcats assumed their new positions, Alice and Darwin front and center, Marti and Savannah just behind them to the right, Miranda and Lewis to their left and the other pairs scattered about. For a moment, they stood still, before suddenly swaying towards each other until their hips touched, sending each Hellcat bouncing back away playfully. The girls on the right stumbled three steps each, turning away from their partners, who quickly came up behind them as the stumblers bent forward at the waist. As the pairs closed within two feet of each other, the girls who were bent over playfully shook their butts at their partner's crotches, much to the roaring approval of the men in the crowd.
While Savannah milked the applause for all it was worth dancing next to her best friend, Marti was feeling a little different. She hadn't missed a step, but she felt her nipples stiffen against her bra. It felt weird to her to have it happen in competition because it never had before - but then, Marti hadn't really known she was attracted to other girls' butts for most of their practices. But she just brushed it off a cool draft from the air conditioning and continued matching her teammates step-for-step.
Woah, come on, ohh, all you animals
Woah, let me hear you now, ohh
The Hellcats raised up their left arms and quickly brought them back down, now placing both hands on their hips. They then wiggled their hips as they silently counted out their moves, jutting their hips out one side at a time. Finally, they raised their right hands in the air and kicked up with their right legs, nailing a perfectly executed kick out.
Up in the stands, Deirdre looked around in amazement as half the crowd seemed to be up and dancing with the Cats, grooving along with the Blue and Gold as they spun about the mat below. Even Dan and Wanda were up and cheering, though Layne looked a little embarrassed to be seated near them. And this was just Qualifiers? It was mystifying that so many people got caught up in this. It was just a bunch of girls dancing.
Dancing in next-to-nothing, Deirdre had to admit. There was Savannah, shaking her ass towards the crowd. And there was Charlotte and her shapely legs, which Deirdre knew from first-hand experience, were as tasty as they looked. And of course there was Marti. Perfect, busty, leggy, sexy Marti.
As the Hellcats shook their asses at the crowd one more time before breaking into four groups, Deirdre realized there was something enjoyable here - the view was just gorgeous.
Tonight, tonight there's a party on the rooftop top of the world
Tonight, tonight and we're dancing on the edge of the Hollywood sign
I don't know if I'll make it but watch how good I'll fake it
It's all right, all right, tonight, tonight
It's all right, all right, tonight, tonight
Yeah it's all right, all right, tonight, tonight
Suddenly, the music changed again and almost like a record scratching, Hot Chelle Rae was replaced by the hard beats of DJ Khaled as the Hellcats scrambled to reform into four little groups. With Marti, Savannah, Alice and Charlotte out in front of the groups, the four fliers back flipped into the waiting arms of Lewis, Tom, Darwin and Jason respectively. As the crowd once again roared it's approval, the bases lifted the fliers up over their heads and each girl performed a perfect liberty stand.
All I do is win win win no matter what
Got money on mind I can never get enough
And every time I step up in the building
Everybody hands go up
And they stay there
As the chorus struck in, the bases threw the girls up once more, higher this time, letting each girl stretch out their legs wide and touch their toes at the apex of their leaps, before falling safely down into the waiting arms of their respective partners.
And they say yeah
And they stay there
Up down, up down
Cause all I do is win win win
And if you goin' in put your hands in the air
Mentally counting down the dwindling seconds left in the song, the bases hoisted up Marti, Charlotte and Alice over their shoulders, Marti and Alice up higher, while Charlotte in the center position was a good head-and-shoulders lower than the other two. As they did this, a couple of the veteran Hellcats went behind the three girls and their bases and clasped their hands together. In perfect time, Savannah stepped into the makeshift cradle and bent her knees. On cue, the Hellcats in back tossed Savannah over Charlotte, gliding between the higher Marti and Alice. As Charlotte tilted her head up, she saw her sister soar over her head as she executed a front flip. Stepping forward at the last second, Tom caught the former captain safely in his arms, her arms up in the air, the crowd erupting into a raucous applause as the song came to a close.
The public address speaker for FedExForum took a sip of water before turning on his microphone. He had just been handed his notes and briefly relished that he held the answer to the teams' fates in his hand before he started acting professional.
"We have the final score available," he spoke into his mic. Immediately, there was a buzz in the air as the audience murmured over who was going to win. The Hellcats, previously congregated at the Gatorade cooler to the left of the scorers' table, rushed back to the mat, waiting to hear the results of their performance and see what their fate was going to be.
Leading the Cyclones out to the floor from the tunnel, Nasty Kathy was shooting her rivals an icy cold death glare. Still, the Hellcats chose to ignore the Cyclones captain and focus on the announcement that was to come.
That didn't stop one Hellcat from letting her bubbly personality out.
"Come on, everybody, we killed it out there," Savannah said as she tried to lighten the mood. "Cheer up!"
"Savannah, now's not the time to be so perky," Alice reprimanded the former captain. "You know just as well as the rest of that our asses are on the line."
"I think I have to agree with Savannah here," Marti interjected. "I don't think any of the veterans have lost a step and the rookies put in a solid effort. I've never seen this team be as close to perfect as we were tonight."
"You guys saw MemChrist's score, though," Alice added. "We need a Sherpa to get that high."
"I'm not exactly sure what that is, but somebody on this team has to be one," Lewis joked. "Savannah and Marti are right, Alice, this has been the best the Hellcats have done in competition in years. And that includes last season. I think we have MemChrist's number."
"If you say so," Alice responded. "I don't want our season and this team to come to an end."
"Hey, guys," Charlotte said as she jogged in. "I feel so sorry for the freshman tumblers. They are so nervous about this. Do you know how hard it is to calm them down?"
"Easier than trying to relax our coach?" Marti guessed. She had glanced over moments before and was now pointing to her teammates that Britney as off to the side by herself. The young coach's hands were at her side, shaking like leaves. Everything about Britney was screaming anxiety.
"She looks like she's going to punch anybody who says a word to her," Lewis observed.
"Poor Britney," Marti said. "She looks so scared. Going from college cheerleader to college cheerleading coach in three months. How has she stayed so calm up 'til now?"
"Probably been listening to everything Savannah says about positive outcomes," Alice guessed.
"I'm right here, Alice," Savannah pointed out.
"Your point being?" Alice asked sarcastically.
"ALICE!" Marti and Charlotte scolded the captain.
"Come on, you two," Savannah responded. "I can relate to Alice. I know what's like to be captain of this squad. It can be tiring. You're on pins and needles all the time. I don't blame you for being the way you are, Alice."
"Thanks, Savannah, but I don't need any pity," Alice told the former captain. "Right now, I want to know if we have a future or not. Anything to lighten the mood."
"Okay," Lewis agreed before finding the perfect payback to shut her up. "So, how'd you get Miran..."
"Don't you utter another syllable!"
"May I have your attention please?" the announcer spoke up, now that the top five teams were assembled on the mat. "The final results are in."
Quickly, the Hellcats came together and held hands, frightened of the possibility of losing. Britney (whose heart was now beating against her chest like a baby alien) held on to Marti, who joined with Savannah, then Charlotte (who was applying extra pressure), Alice, Lewis, Jason, Tom, Darwin, Frankie, Ariana, Miranda, Emily and Molly. Several other Hellcats were lined up behind them.
"Moving on to Louisville, Ky., to compete at the Southeast Sectionals, your 2011-2012 West Tennessee Qualifier Champions..."
The Hellcats' gripped each other tighter, Charlotte almost breaking Savannah and Alice's hands, while Britney felt herself almost pass out.
"...with a score of 99.1, the Lancer University Hellcats!"
A series of jubilant yells filled the arena as the Hellcats cheered in victory. Marti and Savannah bounced up and down with elation in each other's arms, not wanting to let the moment end. Eventually, it had to and Savannah made her way to do the same thing with Charlotte. The Monroe sisters rocked back and forth as they celebrated, soaking up the moment. Savannah and Charlotte hadn't won a cheer competition together since they were at MemChrist together and they never thought this day would come. Charlotte released the hug and celebrated with Marti, who opened her arms to her best friend's sister.
Some of the guys and Frankie had were making the rounds by congratulating each other and stepping in front of the crowd to get them fired up. Others, like Emily, grabbed a hold of the first person she could find and didn't let go. In her case, that person was Molly. Emily had a stranglehold of the redhead and was jumping with Molly in her arms. Molly wasn't expecting the hug and took a few moments to get accustomed to it, but then she surprised Emily by joining her in the bouncing and crying tears of joy.
Ariana, on the other hand, had tackled Miranda to the floor with a flying bear hug, pinning her to the floor, repeatedly shouting, "Yay!" Unable to wiggle free, Miranda just happily embraced her roommate and shouted in joy. She didn't care about being on her back, only about that her team had just won and she was a step closer to a National Championship. While Miranda was content to let Ariana stay on top of her, the feeling was short-lived as Alice approached the pair. The captain tapped Ariana on the shoulder and the synthetic redhead got up, letting Alice have the time to congratulate her and telling her to celebrate with some of her other teammates. With Ariana out of the way, that left Alice face-to-face with Miranda.
"I wanted to say thanks for having my back last night," Alice began. "It means a lot that you were willing to stick your neck out for the benefit of me and the rest of the team."
"Well, I also liked what we did after we got the phone," Miranda smiled.
"So did I," Alice agreed. "But most importantly, you were terrific out there. You've shown so much potential, rookie and I can't wait to see you fly."
"Thank you!" Miranda exclaimed as she tightly embraced Alice. While she wasn't much of a hugger, Alice felt more than inclined to let Miranda know how thankful she was with a hug of her own. Still, she was surprised when Miranda whispered something in her ear that was far from a sweet nothing.
"Just remember, after this, I get to be a flyer."
Alice blinked, pulling back a bit as if she couldn't quite believe what Miranda had said, but Miranda was already moving on to jumping up and down with Molly and Emily, leaving the team captain alone, though not for long.
"Alice! Alice, come here!" Britney's voice carried over.
Thinking she knew what Britney was going to say, Alice started by saying, "Coach, look, about everything this week, I..."
"Relax, Alice," Britney assured her. "We're not going to discuss your leadership issues yet. I did, however, want to say you did a great job leading this team on the floor. I don't think any of my past teams could have done it better."
"I'm flattered?" Alice said, the words coming out of her mouth more as a question than a statement.
"Also, you were terrific holding this team together last night," Britney continued, choosing her words carefully so those who weren't involved in the phone scheme knew. "But for me personally, I wanted to say thank you for keeping me employed. I feel a lot better now that I don't have to file for unemployment benefits just yet."
"Umm, thanks, Coach," Alice said, finding herself uncharacteristically at a loss for words.
"Relax, go on and celebrate," Britney addressed her captain. "We can start worrying about Louisville tomorrow. Today, be with your teammates and have fun."
"I will," Alice said before she changed the tune of her voice to address her team. "Hellcats, get over here!"
Britney was going to stand where she was, but Alice turned back to her. "Coach, this is a little cheerleader-only thing. Can you do me a favor and quite down the crowd?"
"Umm, okay, sure," Britney agreed, rushing off to the front of the crowd.
Out of the corner of her eye, Alice caught the Cyclones walking off dejected. Only Nasty Kathy was showing any emotion and it was one of murderous rage. All Alice could bring herself to do was flash a victorious grin that said, "Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out." Seconds later, Alice was surrounded by her teammates.
"Alright, everybody, you were great out there today, but don't let this get to your head," Alice told her fellow Hellcats. "It's a long road to Nationals and we have a lot to improve on, but I couldn't be happier with how you performed out there. Those of you who stuck with us through the shitstorm from the summer..." Alice turned her focus to Marti, Savannah, Lewis, Frankie and Darwin, "...I couldn't have asked of more from you. And to everybody who joined us this year..." Alice shifted toward Charlotte, Miranda, Ariana, Molly, Emily, Jason and Tom, "...you've certainly earned your stripes. In fact, listen to what I say next, then yell it out when I tell you to."
The crowd was still buzzing, but Britney, unsure what the Hellcats were about to do, motioned for them to quiet down. The Lancer faithful did as they were instructed and the Hellcats then did what they always did in moments of celebration: Cheer.
"ONE, TWO, YOU KNOW WHERE WE'RE AT! COME ON, LET'S HEAR IT FOR THE..." the Hellcats yelled then loudly clapped twice before continuing, "...HELLCATS!"
The crowd went back to cheering while the celebrating Hellcats rushed into the stands to soak in the moment with their families. Savannah and Charlotte rushed over to Layne, who told her daughters how proud she was while Charlotte happily embraced John. After wrapping up talking to her mother, Savannah rushed over to Dan and leapt into his arms as they shared a celebratory kiss.
"Great work, 'Vanna," Dan said. "You, too, Char," he added.
"Thanks, Dan," the Monroe sisters said in unison.
"Well, that was most impressive, girls," Layne said. "You two were flawless."
"I don't know, I thought I was a half-second behind getting into that last pyramid," Savannah muttered.
"That's my girl, always focusing on the wrong stuff," Dan said. "C'mon, cheer up! You guys just won!"
"Is there really nothing more to these uniforms?" Layne asked, glancing at Charlotte's midriff.
"No Mom, there's nothing more," Charlotte said with a laugh.
"I think Charlotte looks great in Blue and Gold," Savannah said. "Don't you agree, mom?"
Layne seemed to hesitate. "Well, it's more colorful than that plain white MemChrist uses. Could do without the belly buttons, though."
"Oh, Mom," Charlotte said, giving Layne a squeeze.
"Baby, over here!" Wanda called out to Marti. The blonde law student saw her mom, her former client and her half-sister waiting for her. Without hesitation, Marti came over to them to bask in the moment.
"I'm so glad you got to see us out there, Mom. And thanks for not bringing in the vuvuzela," Marti smirked, letting Wanda know she was busted before going to Travis. "And did you enjoy your first real cheerleading competition, Travis?"
"Sure beat watching tattooed gangbangers playing basketball at the prison rec yard," Travis said with snark. "Congratulations, Marti."
"Thanks," Marti complimented and switched her focus to Deirdre. Feeling nothing short of gratitude, Marti embraced Deirdre tightly and whispered, "Thank you for everything, D. Thank you."
"You're welcome, Sis," Deirdre whispered with a hint of compassion.
When they broke away, Marti looked at Deirdre and then over to Savannah, who was still celebrating with Layne. She thought to herself how quickly things had changed over the last year. Marti never thought she'd be a cheerleader, but Savannah had changed all that. She also never believed she'd be sexually attracted to women, but then Deirdre flipped her life on its ear. Changing her focus from her best friend to her half-sister, Marti thought to herself, "What else can happen?"
"Everyone wear your uniforms!" Savannah had said, her voice giving off a level of bubbliness that was completely uncalled for at 6:30 a.m., even in the Hellcats showers.
"What for?" Frankie had retorted. "No game today and we just won Qualifiers yesterday."
"Team spirit, Frankie," Savannah had said. "We just won Qualifiers, which is better than our vaunted football team did all last season. We're going to show this school that at least one athletic program around here knows how to win."
"Did Alice sign off on this?" Frankie had asked.
"It was her idea," Savannah replied.
Somehow, Molly doubted that, but she'd worn her uniform anyway, even though she was going to one of her more important business classes. She felt a little foolish walking into Foreign Economics 103 dressed as a cheerleader, but it gained her a very sincere round of applause. Apparently, the rest of the Lancer campus did indeed know the Hellcats had won Qualifiers.
"Ah, we DO have an intrepid and daring Hellcat amongst our ranks," Prof. Hershlag had said upon seeing Molly. "Do sit down, Ms. Cratchit. I feel like we have a minor celebrity in class now."
"I'm just a cheerleader," Molly said, blushing.
"And a lovely one at that," Prof. Herhlag said. "Please pass my congratulations on your victory over the weekend to the rest of your team."
"Now, if we can all get down to business, last week, we were talking about the Euro and its affect on the collapsing economy in Greece. Who remembers where we left off?"
For the next hour-and-a-half, Molly paid attention as Prof. Natalie Hershlag waxed poetic about foreign economies, differences in currencies and the affect all of these had on the U.S. economy. Molly ate it up, entranced by both what she was learning and by her teacher. Prof. Hershlag was a fantastic teacher, having graduated from Harvard and gone on to get a masters degree in Foreign Economics. Instead of going into business, however, she had started teaching at various schools around the country, sharing her knowledge, usually to glowing reviews. The fact that she was teaching at Lancer this year was one of the reasons Molly had come to school in the first place.
Molly wanted to be in international business. She wanted to travel the world, see all sorts of amazing places and make a lot of money in the process. There was no one in the world that Molly felt she could learn more from that Natalie Hershlag.
As usual, the class ended far too soon for Molly. It really was all fascinating, how different nationalities traded with each other and how that affected their relations diplomatically, culturally and legally. Molly could've sat here for another whole period.
"So, hot stuff, you wanna grab a bite to eat at the cafeteria?"
Molly was still bent over, putting her books into her book bag when the decidedly male voice suddenly started speaking next to her. She glanced up, surprised that the mousey little Asian girl who'd been sitting next to her all semester had suddenly been replaced by a large, well-built guy that Molly had only ever seen dozing off in the back of the classroom.
"A-are you talking to me?" Molly asked.
"Who else, Red?" the guy said. "So, you up for a bite or what?"
"I'm sorry, I don't even know who you are-" Molly started to protest, but the guy cut her off.
"I'm Dale DuBois, I'm on the wrestling team."
"Good for you?" Molly said, not sure at all why this brute of a blonde guy was talking to her.
"Yeah, so I may not be a football player, but I can kick any of their asses."
Molly was completely lost. Why was this guy even talking to her?
"So, you wanna go get food or what?"
"Mr. DuBois," Prof. Heshlag said, suddenly appearing next to the two of them. "While I'm sure Ms. Cratchit enjoys eating, it seems she's more than a little immune to your dubious charms. Why don't you go look for some other girl to waste the time you should so desperately be studying for my class with?"
"Huh?" he said.
"Go away, Mr. DuBois. Your last two assignments are both late anyway - and we've only HAD two assignments in this class so far!"
"Sorry, Prof. Heshey," the thick-necked boy said, popping up and vacating the classroom faster than either Molly or the professor could correct him on his mistake with her name.
"More proof that not all athletic scholarships are awarded fairly," the professor said, shaking her head as the door closed behind DuBois. "I am sorry if you were actually interested in him-"
"Oh no!" Molly said. "He's entirely not my type."
"You prefer football players then?" the professor asked, with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes and a smirk on her face. "That's usually who most cheerleaders go for, classically."
"I'm not interested in football players, either," Molly said.
"How refreshing, though I suspected as much," Natalie said, smiling at Molly. "Your work in this class so far has been inspired. I know it's early, yet, but I believe you could very easily be quite the international businesswoman. It's really remarkable work for a freshman."
Molly felt like she was going to blush to death. "T-thank you, Prof. Hershlag."
"Oh, please, call me Natalie," the professor said. "I like to think if I can connect with a few students each semester, I can judge how much my teaching is actually wearing off on them."
"I find you fascinating," Molly said. "You're lectures, I mean. You seem so worldly, and it's just amazing how the strength of the yen affects the British pound and how short-trading cattle in India can cause job loss in Quebec and-"
"Yes, I know, Ms. Cratchit, I did just teach this lesson," Natalie said with a warm smile. "But I can tell you're excited about the subject."
"Yes, I am!" Molly said.
Natalie bit her lip for a moment, clearly considering something. "Tell me, Ms. Cratchit, how busy are you?"
"With classes and your cheerleading?"
"Well, it keeps me busy, but not busy enough to fall behind in my studies of your class, if that's what you're worried about."
"Not in the least - the two assignments you've handed in already prove that," the young professor said. Natalie considered for another moment before speaking again.
"I recently lost my TA for the semester - poor boy went and got his girlfriend knocked up and had to drop out and get a job. Normally, I'd approach an upperclassman for a replacement, but frankly, all the seniors in the Business track are small-minded idiots who can't see past the change to embezzle money first chance they get - half of them will end up in prison in the next 20 years, you mark my words."
"Uh, okay," Molly said. She didn't know any upperclassmen who were business majors yet.
"If you think you can find the time between your classes and the Hellcats, I'd like to offer you the position."
Molly's eyes went wide. "Are you serious?"
"Absolutely," Natalie said, turning around and walking back down towards her desk. Molly scrambled to pick up her stuff and follow her. This was an incredible opportunity! To be Natalie Hershlag's teacher's assistant would be a huge bonus on her resume, the sort of extra-curricular that employers actually took notice of. It would mark Molly as having at least one important contact in the world, even if it was just a former teacher. Natalie Hershlag wasn't a name employers ignored.
"Now, it'll be hard work and you're already a few weeks behind, but I can sweet-talk the Work Study office to give you a little stipend and I'll make sure you can still make Hellcats practices and events."
"Thank you, Prof. Hershlag!" Molly gushed. "The Hellcats are critical to my scholarship, but I promise you, I'll devote all my free time to helping you out!"
"Tut-tut, don't go neglecting your other classes on my account," Natalie scolded lightly. "Get me a copy of your schedule, including practices and we'll find when I can use you. Oh and yes, I will be asking you to get me coffee and fetch my dry cleaning, but I'll make sure I put you on some important work, too."
"I'll be happy just to get to listen to you lecture more," Molly said.
"You're too easy to please, Molly. Now, go on. I've got a meeting scheduled with the Vice-Dean and I've already got my coffee for that, so let's just say you start tomorrow."
"Thank you, thank you so much," Molly said, backing out of the room while feeling like she was floating. She'd been at Lancer only a few weeks and already she felt like she was making huge leaps towards her future.
And to think, moments ago, she'd been thrilled just to get compliments on her work from Prof. Hershlag. Now she was going to be Natalie's TA! That was so much better than a random compliment.
Freshmen at Lancer University didn't have to wait long before learning the school was very much a football school. The Lions had played one game so far this year, winning an impressive nail biter against UAB - someone had to tell Deirdre that stood for the University of Alabama-Birmingham and not some strange cult - and for the last week, it was the talk of campus.
Now everyone was talking about the Hellcats. And Deirdre couldn't get away from it.
Rapidly, she was finding out just how excited the university's competitive cheerleading team really was. Everyone was talking about it, or watching video clips on their phones, or even trying to do cartwheels in the quad. Apparently, a score over 99 was practically unheard of in formal competition and that made the Hellcat's score really something to talk about.
And if she wasn't running into people talking about the Hellcats, it seemed like Deirdre was actually running into Hellcats. She found Lewis and Dan talking together outside the library and congratulated them with high fives. Just after Astronomy, Deirdre had passed Frankie and Miranda helping Ariana put on her spankies in the bathroom - Ariana had apparently forgotten her panties back in Cheertown - and Deirdre had even crossed paths with Coach Allen as she raced across campus for some meeting.
At the school's bookstore, Deirdre bumped into Savannah and Charlotte. Literally. As in they all fell on the floor, reminiscent of Deirdre and Savannah's first meeting of the school year. After they picked themselves up, Deirdre made sure to congratulate the Monroes for the win. Savannah and Charlotte said it was thrilling for both of them, especially winning an important contest together when that scenario had seemed impossible a mere year ago. While Savannah talked, though, Deirdre saw concern in Charlotte's eyes. While she wasn't good at reading faces, she knew the younger Monroe sister was silently pleading, "Don't tell Savannah." As Savannah prattled on, oblivious to the worry on her sister's face, Deirdre nodded to Charlotte as if to say, "I won't." After exchanging some final pleasantries, Deirdre bid farewell to the sisters.
It was at the school cafeteria that Deirdre finally saw the one Hellcat she was looking for. Marti was just sitting down at a table, a law book open next to her as she studied while wolfing down today's "special," fish sticks.
"Hey, Sis - you busy?"
"No more than usual," Marti said, waving Deirdre into the seat across from her. "Just catching up on some Jurisprudence and whatnot."
"I wanted to congratulate you on the win yesterday," Deirdre said.
"You did that yesterday, D," Marti said, still looking over her book.
"Yeah, but it's all anyone else can talk about - and you must be proud, because you're still wearing your uniform."
"Savannah's idea, actually - thought it would built some team spirit in the new girls and Alice agreed - though I think that was just to keep Miranda in a skirt for another day," the older Perkins grumbled.
"Huh?" Deirdre said. She didn't know what Marti was referring to, but she couldn't complain about seeing ANY of the Hellcats in skirts.
"So, uh, do you guys get a trophy or something?"
"No, but we're cleared to go to Sectionals in a couple months, where we'll compete to try and go to Nationals."
"So all you won was the chance to perform again? Sounds tedious."
"You don't follow many sports, do you D?" Marti said with a twinkle in her eye.
"No, not really."
"Well, that's okay. We don't have to spend forever talking about it. What's new with you?"
"Not much," Deirdre said.
"Not much? That's it? C'mon, there must be SOMETHING going on. Any interesting classes? Or girls? You got any girls you're interested in?" Marti asked innocently.
"You mean besides you?" Deirdre said flatly.
Marti blanched, but refrained from getting upset. "Yes, besides me," she said quietly.
"Well, I was with one girl the other day in the showers," Deirdre said, thinking back to her session with Charlotte. "But I don't think it's going anywhere."
"That's... too bad?" Marti said, clearly not sure how to respond.
"Nah, it's okay. She's not the out and proud type, you know?"
"What about you? Any girls you're interested in?" Deirdre asked. Marti went white again and Deirdre suddenly realized her sister was hiding something. "There has been someone, hasn't there?"
"Shhh," Marti hushed, leaning in closer. "Yes, dammit, I was with another girl during Qualifiers. But don't spread it around, okay?"
"Who? Another Hellcat?"
"No!" Marti denied, a little TOO loudly, actually drawing some eyes from other tables. "No," she said far more quietly, "it was one of the Mockingbirds."
"That slutty team that was dry humping themselves in their performance?" Deirdre asked. She'd enjoyed that one more than she'd care to admit.
"Yes. Their captain."
"The hot black chick? Wow, Marti, you don't waste time, do you?"
"She came on to me," Marti said defensively. "You can't tell ANYONE, okay? Not one soul. Not Dan, not Wanda and especially not Savannah!"
"Sure, no one," Deirdre agreed, but she barely heard Marti. She suddenly had a problem of her own. In her mind, she could see Marti and the hot cheerleader having sex, licking each other's nipples, fingering each other's snatches and it was starting to have an effect. Deirdre's nipples were already hard enough to show through her t-shirt and her crotch was going warm.
"So, uh, what did she do to you?" Deirdre asked.
"Things," Marti said shyly.
"What kind of things," Deirdre asked, a little too forcefully. But Marti was clearly a little caught up in remembering the night, because she kept going.
"Well, she used my phone on me," Marti said. "I was getting a bunch of texts at the time and my phone was set on vibrate, so..."
"Oh, wow," Deirdre said, feeling the heat in her crotch turn into wetness as she imagined Marti spread naked on the bed, the hot WTSU cheerleader pressing the vibrating phone against her pussy. As the mental image took shape, Deirdre wasn't sure who she wanted to be more - the one getting vibrated on, or the one using the makeshift vibrator on Marti.
Marti was going on, lost now in memory and Deirdre felt her own hand slip below the table. She couldn't quite make out what Marti was saying any more - her own lusty needs were screaming at her. If only they weren't in public! Deirdre could jump Marti's bones and show her sexy half-sister that she could put that slutty cheerleader to shame! Deirdre didn't need a phone to give Marti a mind-blowing orgasm, but if Marti wanted to play with vibrators, Deirdre had one or two she could get a hold of quickly enough. Judging from the way Marti was looking about dreamily, Deirdre bet she could get the older Perkins to go along with it. And if Deirdre made Marti cum hard enough, maybe the cheerleader would give up on the no sex between half-sisters thing she had going.
"Marti, would you like to-"
"Shit, is that the time?" Marti cut her off, looking up at the clock. "I got 10 minutes to get across campus! Talk to you later, Sis." With that, the Hellcat was up, throwing her book into her bag as she ran for the door, leaving a frustrated and jealous Deirdre behind.
"Great work at Qualifiers, Coach Allen!"
"Thanks!" Britney Allen replied to the sharply dressed, handsome man waiting outside the Lancer Athletic Department. "I'm sorry, you are...?"
The man blinked at her, clearly surprised she didn't recognize him. "I'm Red Raymond."
"Red Raymond," Britney said. "I know that name from somewhere..."
"Coach Red Raymond," Red offered. "Head coach of Lancer Football?"
"Oh! OH! THAT Red Raymond!" Britney said, embarrassed.
"Yeah, you'll be seeing a lot of me at games soon," Red said.
"Well, that's good. I don't suppose you could point me towards Dean Laverne's office?"
"Laverne? Now what would you need to see him for?" Red said, smiling down at Britney. He just towered over her and oozed charm, but Brit didn't feel like he was hitting on her.
"Your guess is as good as mine - he asked that I stop by."
"Probably just wants to congratulate you on winning your first major competition right out of the gate," Red said. "But you'll have to wait, since I gotta see Laverne first."
"Uh, he asked for me," Britney said.
"He asked for me, too. And as the football coach, I kinda take precedence," Red said, knocking on the Dean's door.
"Enter," came the crisp reply. Red smiled one last time at Britney, then pushed the door open. "Oh, good, you're both here. Come in."
"Both of us?" Red asked, surprised.
"Yes, this concerns you both," the Dean said. "Please, have a seat," he added, motioning towards a pair of leather chairs across from his desk.
Dean Laverne was a small man, balding, though impeccably dressed. The office behind him was similarly attired, though incredibly generic. The pictures were simple landscapes, no family, nothing notable to signify the Dean's character what so ever. More to the point, there was nothing that said this man was completely in charge of Lancer Athletics in every shape and form - from football to cheerleading and everything in between.
"What's up, Dean?" Red said. Just from his tone, Britney got the distinct impression these two men did not get along.
"I'll tell you what's not up, Coach," Laverne said. "Profits. It seems Lancer Football isn't just running flat, proceeds wise, but we are actually making LESS money so far this season."
"We're all of a game in, Dean - and it was an away game at that!" Red pointed out.
"But season ticket sales are way down and the stadium is far from booked already," Laverne pointed out. "The Alumni Board is concerned."
"Did I mention we won that away game?" Red said. "What more do you want?"
"Me? I want nothing," the Dean said, smiling in that off-putting way that Britney was already rather sick of. The man increasingly reminded her of a used car salesman. "But the alumni are worried that Lancer Football has had a few too many black eyes lately. We need to clean it up and put our best foot forward."
"Again, we WON the only game we've played so far," Red reiterated.
"And if only that was all it took to make college football profitable," the Dean said with a rather condescending tone. "The alumni have decided we need an aggressive advertising and PR campaign. We need to remind the college football loving locals about all the good stuff Lancer Football does."
"Advertising? PR? Why do I get the feeling I'm not going to like this?" Red grumbled.
"We're still drawing up plans, but Lancer has hired Trachtenberg, Swift, Strahovski and Anderson - supposedly one of the best advertising firms around. They'll be sending a representative soon and they'll need your complete cooperation."
Red rolled his eyes. "Dean, we've just started the season! My boys need to practice and train and when they aren't on the field, they need to be studying - they aren't ALL going to the NFL, after all."
"Indeed - but their professors have been instructed to provide some leeway and you can consider this me telling you to do the same. So long as it doesn't get in the way of winning, the TSSA rep is to have your complete cooperation."
"So long as I decide what does and doesn't get in the way of winning," Red said, defiantly.
"Leeway, Coach," Laverne said. "Leeway is your new watchword." The smile on the Dean's face made it clear to Britney that he was enjoying having power over someone like Red Raymond.
"So, are the Hellcats going to have to be involved in this somehow?" Britney asked before Red could challenge the Dean's statement.
The Dean looked puzzled. "Not to my knowledge. You're just cheerleaders, after all."
"Then, if you'll excuse me Dean, why did you call me here?"
"Oh, yes," the Dean said and if anything, the grin on his face became even more wolfish. "I'm afraid TSSA isn't cheap and since football revenues are down, we're cutting funding for some other programs."
Britney gripped the arms of her chair. "No."
"I'm afraid the Hellcats traveling budget has been completely cut," Laverne said, an evil twinkle in his eye. "Aside from traveling to away games, Lancer can no longer transport the Hellcats away from campus."
"But we just won Qualifiers! We have Sectionals in a couple months and you said our entire program depends on winning! How can we win events we can't even get to?"
"That is a pickle, isn't it?" Laverne said, leaning back in his chair. "Perhaps you can have a bake sale." He paused for a moment. "Well, considering the price of gas these days, maybe two bake sales."
"That's low, Laverne," Red snarled.
"I told you to address me as Dean in official school functions, Coach," Laverne snapped. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a meeting with the university president. He's most interested in hearing what we're doing to improve Lancer Football."
With that, Dean Laverne got up, walked around his desk and actually whistled a happy little tune as he left two very upset coaches behind.