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Head in the Game

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It wouldn’t be considered an exaggeration to say that Pyrrha Nikos was going to go somewhere in the Softball world. Colleges had been scouting her since she was a freshman at East Mistral High School. The move to Beacon Valley High School, even in the middle of her senior year, had been a stroke of luck for her shot at the pros. With three of the top seeded teams in all of College Softball were located just an hour outside of Vale. On top of being the star athlete on a very good team back in Mistral, Pyrrha would consistently rank amongst the top students in her class and was known as a pillar in the community for her volunteer work at the the local food bank and animal shelter. With all these activities and the constant praise from those around her, one would expect Pyrrha to have more friends than she knew what to do with; you’d be wrong. It was lonely at the top. Rumors were a lifelong constant for her and that only got worse when she entered high school. No matter how hard she tried to get in front of them, she was never fast enough.

 

“Anyone could be that good if they got as much playing time as she did. Must be nice to have the coach be your mom.”

 

“I heard that the reason her grades are so high is cuz she’s sleeping with the principal.”

 

“She’s so desperate for attention, that’s why she does all that volunteer work. Pyrrha Nikos, the girl who needs the spotlight on her at all times. At least she’s moving now.”

 

A social outcast at home in Mistral, Vale was supposed to be a fresh start. So why wasn’t it? The same rumors and lies had begun spreading upon her arrival, tainting the student body’s opinion of her before she got a chance to make a first impression. Word travelled very quickly in high school. With the slander going around, her first practice with the team hadn’t exactly gone as planned. Coach Watts wanted to see her swing the bat around, get a feel for where she’d be in the lineup. He had made a point of saying that her spot wouldn’t be handed to her here, she’d have to work for it like everyone else on the team.

 

That was fine with Pyrrha, she might be able to dispel some of the negative spotlight as well. They had matched her against the top pitcher on the team: Cinder Fall. Cinder had quite a reputation for bringing people down a peg or three. That had been her intended goal, it was obvious to Pyrrha from the first pitch. It was high and inside, used in a normal game to back the batter off the plate a bit and make them think twice about getting too close. Not a big deal, a little attempt to assert dominance, it either works or it doesn’t and everyone goes about their business. It wasn’t something you did against your teammates during practice.



Pyrrha may not have handled it all that well though. In most cases, the batter backs off the lets the pitcher have the plate. That extra inch didn’t usually matter in the long run and for someone trying to build a good reputation in a new school, she should have just let it go. Giving in would go a long way to being accepted and she might end up making a friend or two. Not the right kind, but anything would be an improvement over her last school.

 

But that inch mattered to Pyrrha so she took it and held onto it, protecting it like a mother bear guards its cubs. Instead of stepping back, she stepped in and up in the batter’s box, essentially standing on home plate. Her gaze hardened and her grip tightened. Pyrrha watched as Cinder spun the ball in her fingers. Coach Watts did little to alleviate the growing rift between the two, instead offering to remain silent, his arms crossed as he leaned against the dugout wall. Cinder shared a look with the tall mustached man who simply nodded. Another inside fastball, right on the hands, Pyrrha knew it was coming. She twisted her foot, cleat digging deeper into the soft dirt. She would not be intimidated.

 

Cinder stepped back. Close enough that the redhead could’ve sworn she felt the stitching of the ball graze her knuckles. Still, Pyrrha dug in and waited for her shot. She’d get something to swing at, she had to. Cinder still had to maintain appearances for those not privy to the mental war that was taking place. The ashen haired girl shifted into her stance and fired. This was slower than the others. Her curveball… She sat back on the pitch, waiting for the ball to break downwards. As soon as it did, Pyrrha stepped forward channeling every ounce of power she could muster from her hips and legs into the swing.

 

The noise from the hit wasn’t super impressive, a simple, albeit a very loud, ding. The sound wasn’t the important thing though, what was important was the subtext surrounding the hit. That simple act of defiance changed everything. With the swing of aluminum, Pyrrha Nikos declared to everyone on the field that day that she would not be a victim. She’d stand tall and not let those around her control her life! She’d wrap her hands around her destiny and forge it into whatever she wanted. Not what her mother wanted, her coachs, her teammates, only what she wanted.

 

There’s a funny thing that happens with destiny though. Sometimes, plain and simple, shit happens.

 

That’ll be a nice new scuff mark on Milo. She followed the neon green missile through the bright April sky. Pyrrha didn’t just make contact, no, there was a good chance that she did actual damage to the ball. Further and further it travelled into deep center field, crossing the mesh fence, and continuing on its course. The redhead smirked and began to prepare herself for the next pitch that would come. Pyrrha knew full well that she would pay for that. Be it laps from Coach Watts or more ostracism from her teammates. Still, given the opportunity, she’d do the exact same thing. A flash of yellow beyond the fence crossed her vision and her stomach fell into the dirt under her feet. No no no no no … Someone was out there. They were making their way across the field, no doubt taking a shortcut off of school property.

 

“HEADS UP!” Someone shouted it as loud as they could. It took a second for Pyrrha’s mind to process that it was her own voice calling out. The blond mop in the distance had heard her and turned in her direction but kept walking. The collision course was guaranteed at this point and the thump of ball meeting skull could be heard from home plate. She felt herself cringe at the noise. No no no… this is NOT happening. Pyrrha threw off her helmet, tossed Milo to the side, making a mental note to apologize to her beloved bat later, and sprinted towards her victim. She was acutely aware that she was the only person moving towards them. Didn’t they know how dangerous this could be? He could be dead! The baseball team barely got away with using metal bats thanks to their propensity for line drives to hurt, and in one such case in Vacuo, kill players. Softball only got away with it thanks to the ball being a bit easier to see thanks to its size and color as well as the fact that it was significantly softer than a baseball. It was by no means a ‘soft’ ball but it had more give than its smaller counterpart.

 

The figure lay prone on the ground, the faint rising of their chest told her they weren’t dead, which was a good thing. With her running start, she cleared the fence like an olympic hurdler before executing a perfect baseball slide down next to her victim. She peered down, a mask of concern upon her face. It was a boy. He wore a simple hoodie and jeans despite the warm April weather. How was he not sweating to death in that? She shook her head. Not the time for that Pyrrha, focus. He was breathing, that was good.

 

“Are you OK?” A groan of pain escaped his lips and he opened his eyes. In the sun they sparkled like sapphires. Wow… Stop thinking like that. You’re the reason he’s on the ground!

 

“Mom? Is that you?” Pyrrha suppressed a laugh and shook her head.

 

“No, I’m sorry. My name’s Pyrrha and I’m the reason you got hurt.” He placed a hand to his head and groaned again.

 

“What did you do? Hit me with a baseball bat?” She let out a nervous chuckle.

“Not exactly… I hit a home run and it hit you in the head.” The boy pushed himself into a sitting position, still holding his head. At the very least, there was going to leave a nasty bump at the point of impact.

 

“Nice hit then.” She laughed and felt bad about it immediately. His eyes opened fully and he looked up at her, whatever he was going to say died on his lips and what came out was. “Wow.” Blush creeped up her cheeks. She pushed a strand of hair behind her ear before asking.

 

“Are you OK? Do you remember your name?” His eyes widened.

 

“Jaune! Jaune, my name is Jaune Arc. Nice to meet you.” He held out a hand which Pyrrha shook with a small smile.

 

“Well Jaune Arc, we should get you to the nurse and make sure you don’t have a concussion.” He dismissed her worry with a wave of his hand and attempted to stand.

 

“I’m fine.” He reached his feet and smiled. “See? Right as rain.” That was proven untrue with his first step, which sent him hurtling towards the ground. Pyrrha caught him by his arm and kept him from having another meeting with the grass. “Maybe I should go to the nurse…” Pyrrha nodded.

 

“I think that’s for the best. I’ll accompany you, wouldn’t want you falling and hurting yourself more trying to get there.” She turned to see Coach Watts sauntering his way towards the pair with Cinder in tow. How nice of you both to join us… “Coach Watts, I’m going to take Jaune here to the nurse’s office and make sure he’s alright. I’ll be back by the end of practice, I promise.” He shook his head.

 

“Don’t bother Nikos, we’re calling it there before you concuss anyone else. Meet back here tomorrow after classes let out.” He turned and walked away before she could reply. Pyrrha took notice of the smirk on Cinder’s face before she turned and followed after the coach. With a dejected sigh, she kept a hand close by as he tried to balance himself.

 

“Let’s get you out of here.” He nodded slowly, still holding his head. The walk was thankfully short as the nurse’s office was just outside the gymnasium. “I’m sorry I hit you Jaune. I should’ve been more careful.” He shook his head, an action that he immediately regretted. The redhead gently took his arm to steady him and they stopped in the hall for a moment to collect themselves.

 

“It’s not your fault… Well, I guess technically it is. But it was an accident right?” Pyrrha nodded emphatically. “Then it’s no big deal. I probably shouldn’t have been cutting across the area while you guys were practicing.” She shook her head.

“Normally you would’ve been safe. You were a good distance away from the field but I must have hit it cleanly.” She let out another sigh and looked the boy over. “Aren’t you warm in that?” A sad laugh escaped his lips.

 

“A little, I guess. I… uh, lost my clothes and these are the backups I keep on me.” Pyrrha raised and eyebrow.  

 

“How do you ‘lose’ clothes at school? Also would you bring a spare pair of clothes in the first place?” He pulled his arm away from her, shaking his head.

 

“Look, I don’t want to talk about it. Can we please just get to the nurse’s office?” The redhead nodded slowly as their pace quickened towards the Nurse’s office. Pyrrha rapped her knuckles on the door and opened it after hearing an aggressive grunt from the other side. A woman sat behind a desk, shuffling papers. She was rail thin with stringy orange hair with crow’s feet that marred her dark blue eyes. She looked up and sighed upon seeing her visitors.

 

“Again Jaune? This is the third time this week and it’s only tuesday! What happened this time?” Again? Why is he at the nurse so often? Before Jaune could reply, Pyrrha stepped up.

 

“This time it’s my fault Ms….?” The woman stood, nearly seeing eyes to eye with the red head. She’s tall for a woman.  Long, veiny fingers brought glasses to her face.

 

“I’m Miss Saffron and I’m the nurse here at Beacon Valley. Scraped knees and belly aches are my specialty.” Pyrrha inclined her head as Ms. Saffron opened the cooler behind her desk to get some ice. “What happened?” The redhead began to fiddle with her fingers. How do you explain that you nearly decapitated someone with a softball?

 

“It was my fault Ms. Saffron, I was crossing the softball field trying to get home and Pyrrha’s home run hit me in the head.” The older woman’s eyes narrowed at the boy.

 

“Why were you crossing the field during practice hours? You weren’t running from a ‘certain someone’ were you?” Who would he be running from? Jaune paled as beads of sweat formed on his forehead. A small miracle it took this long in his current outfit.

 

“I’m dealing with him Ms. Saffron, I promise.” She didn’t seem convinced but handed him an ice pack wrapped in a paper towel, which he placed on his head. She motioned for him to sit down in a chair across from her and took out a flashlight, shining it into his right eye. She gave a quiet ‘hmm’ to herself before checking the left.

“Are you feeling nauseous at all?” He shook his head. “Is your vision blurry?” Another shake. She turned to Pyrrha. “Was he slurring his words or anything like that?” The younger girl shook her head. Ms. Saffron sighed and slid the flashlight into her desk. “Doesn’t sound like you have a concussion. Your pupils aren’t dilated, your vision is fine, you’re not nauseous, and you aren’t throwing up everywhere. Go home, tell your mother, and get some rest.” The boy nodded and used the desk to push himself to his feet. The nurse turned to Pyrrha. “Can you please make sure he gets home? It’s just around the corner from the school, not far from the softball field.” Pyrrha nodded.

 

“It’s the least I could do. Just let me collect my things and we’ll go, is that OK Jaune?” He nodded and turned back to Ms. Saffron.

 

“Thank you. I’ll bring the ice pack back tomorrow.” The older woman shook her head and placed a hand on his shoulder.

 

“Throw it away when you’re done and get some rest. Nurse’s orders.” She gave a small smile that he returned. “Alright, both of you scram. He needs rest” she poked a finger at his chest. “And I’ve got other things to do than sit here and listen to him moan like some kind of leper.” She gave his shoulder a light squeeze before moving back to her chair. The two nodded and began to make their way back to the softball diamond, thankfully without more incident. Upon reaching the field, the two of them found that Pyrrha’s things were already put away in her bag. Suspicion clouded her mind and she opened her pack, checking to make sure her glove and bat were undamaged, as well as inside. Milo’s here, Akouo as well… Who would’ve put my things away? She pulled out her helmet and inspected it for any cracks or damage, only to find nothing. Deciding that it could’ve been someone trying to be nice, she scooped up her gear and slung the back over her shoulder. As the strap slipped into the familiar groove on her arm, she felt the weight shift and everything fall to the ground. The end of Milo that stuck out of the top slamming into the back of her head. The off balance weight, coupled with her bat hitting her, caused her to fall to the ground and Jaune cried out.

 

“Pyrrha!” He made his way to her side. “Are you alright? What happened?” She winced and rubbed the afflicted spot on the back of her skull.

 

“I’m fine, thank you though.” He offered a hand in helping her up, which she took. He’s got very soft hands. The blond pulled her to her feet and she sighed. He offered his ice pack, which she declined. “You need it more than me Jaune, thank you though.” She turned back to her bag. It was brand new, having gotten it just before coming to Vale, so there was absolutely no way this was the result of wear and tear like her last one. Cinder. It had to be her, or it was someone she had gotten to do it. Seemed Pyrrha’s little display of defiance was already coming back to bite her.

 

“Maybe it’s been bad from the assembly line and finally gave out?” Pyrrha shrugged and collected the bag, holding it by the secondary straps like the world’s largest, most awkward purse.

“I suppose that is a possibility… It’s not important right now though, we need to get you home so you can rest.” He nodded, leading the way towards his house. After several minutes of awkward silence, Pyrrha spoke. “What’s your family like? Do you have any brothers or sisters?” Jaune gave a small bark of a laugh and nodded.

 

“Seven sisters actually.” Pyrrha slowed her pace, taken aback. As the shock wore off, it was replaced by a much different emotion, one she wasn’t used to feeling; envy.

 

“Oh my, that certainly sounds… chaotic” He shrugged.

 

“It’s fun most of the time at least. What about you?” She shook her head with a small sigh.

 

“Unfortunately no, it’s just me and my mother.” All alone… He nodded, turning to her.

 

“Must be nice to have all that privacy.” Pyrrha shrugged. It’s too quiet.

“There are times when it’s nice but I do wish I had at least one sibling.” Jaune let out a small laugh that he attempted to cover with his hand.

 

“You’re more than welcome to take one of mine.” A small smile found her lips and she nudged his shoulder gently.

 

“You don’t mean that.” He sighed but nodded, traces of a small grin on his face..

 

“You’re right. I don’t think I’d trade my family for anything.” Must be nice… His face faltered, now replaced with a frown.

 

“I should’ve called one of them to come get me or something. You shouldn’t have to escort me home like a little kid.” She shook her head

 

“You didn’t force me into anything Jaune. Nurse Saffron asked me to and I was going to suggest it anyway. It’s the least I can do since it’s my fault you got hurt in the first place.” I should do something more… just walking him home doesn’t feel right. “Please, let me treat you to lunch sometime” He sputtered out a reply.

 

“Pyrrha no, that’s too much. Walking me home is more than enough.” She shook her head vehemently.

“Jaune, you could have been seriously hurt or even killed because of what I did. I insist on it.” She hoped her tone and sincerity would be enough to get him to stop fighting her on it. He sighed and seemed to deliberate on the decision like she’d just asked him for a kidney.

 

“Alright, fine. It’s a date then.” After a second, blush exploded across his cheeks, contrasting nicely with his eyes. “That came out wrong! I meant like ‘it’s a date’ like I’ll go get lunch with you! Definitely not an official date thing. I’m so sorry.” He took a breath before continuing. “Can you just forget I said that?” A large grin found her lips and she began to laugh.

 

“I know what you meant Jaune, it’s fine.” His cheeks returned to their normal color and he took a long look at her damaged bag.

 

“You have to let my sister take a look at that, she might be able to fix it.” She started to protest but he held up a hand. “Hear me out. She’s an amazing seamstress and she owes me a favor.” Pyrrha crossed her arms over her chest.

 

“Why would you use a favor from you family on a stranger who almost killed you?” He smiled and she felt her knees nearly give out on her. He’s adorable when he smiles… “Mom always said ‘strangers are just friends who haven’t met yet.’ Plus I don’t think I’ll ever get around to using it on myself anyway. I sew my own stuff when I need to and she’s not around the house enough to get her to do any of my chores.” Pyrrha thought for a second. I guess it wouldn’t hurt for her to take a look at it. It would be nice to save the money…

 

“Are you sure?” He nodded.

 

“Pyrrha please. I insist.” The redhead sighed.

 

“Alright, thank you Jaune. That’s very kind of you. His cheeks darkened again and he ran a hand through his unruly blond locks.

 

“Well, uh yeah. I guess so.” The duo’s pace slowed to a crawl as they came upon a large house with a veritable lot’s worth of cars in front of the house and in the driveway. As they reached the property, the front door was thrown open, slamming into the side house with a thud. A blonde haired little girl in a bright blue dress coated in pink polka dots ran out.

 

“Big Brother!” She leapt up into Jaune’s arms who, despite holding the ice pack to his head and being a bit dazed, still caught her and brought her up for a sloppy kiss on the cheek. His smile grew exponentially upon holding her. Pyrrha felt her heart pound against her chest.

 

“Mare-bear!” He squeezed her tightly, swinging her back and forth in his embrace. She giggled and attempted to flee, eventually escaping and standing in front of the two of them.

 

“What took you so long? You nearly missed play time!” He shook his head, patting her on the head.

 

“You know I’d never miss something so important!” He leaned forward, pointing to a spot on his head. “I got hurt today and had to go to the nurse but I’m here now!” The little girl balled her hands into tiny fists, stomping her foot.

 

“Who hurt you!? Was it Cardin again?” There’s that name again. Just who is this ‘Cardin?’  His cheeks reddened and he dropped to one knee in front of the little girl.

 

“No it wasn’t Cardin. And stop talking to Aurelia about me when I’m not around, it’s rude.” He sighed and shifted his hair around so the bump was more visible. “I got hit with a softball and had to go make sure I didn’t have any brain damage.” Pyrrha’s eyes immediately found her hands, trying to avoid looking at her victim. I never even thought about that…

 

“You already have brain damage big brother! That’s why you’re in the dumb people classes.” He frowned and pinched her hand, earning a small squeal from her.

 

“I am most certainly not. I’m in normal classes and you know it Marron.” She giggled. “If you keep being mean to me, I won’t play with you.” Pyrrha’s eyes shifted back up to see the little girl start her apology, complete with folded hands and puppy dog eyes.

 

“I’m really sorry big brother! I won’t ever say anything mean to you again ever! I promise! An Arc always keeps their promises!” She sniffled as Jaune enveloped her in a tight hug. “Can we still play later?” He smiled again causing his eyes to sparkle in the afternoon sunlight.. Why do his eyes do that? How does that even happen? She may not know the cause but the effect it had on her was very obvious if the swarm of butterflies in her stomach were any indication.  

 

“Of course, but first I’ve gotta talk to Aurelia and Mommy, are they home?” The little girl nodded and ran inside. He pushed himself to his feet and turned back to the redhead.

 

“Soooooo… That was my sister Marron... “ At that, Pyrrha burst out laughing for a full minute while his cheeks turned a deeper red than her hair. Wiping the tears from her eye she finally smiled back.

 

“I can see you two are very close with one another.” He nodded, scratching his cheek and making a point to look at some nearby trees.

 

“I guess you could say that. I’m really the only one who still plays with her. Everyone else is working, not home, or just doesn’t want to. I feel bad for her, so we play whenever I can.” Pyrrha nodded, placing a hand on his shoulder.

 

“I think that’s very sweet of you Jaune.” Before he could reply, Marron sprinted back out with two women that could’ve passed for identical twins were it not for the vast height difference. The larger of the two was quite tall and willowy, surpassing Pyrrha’s own height. Still, she didn’t move like a newborn giraffe like you’d expect, she moved more like a blonde flamingo. She was very pretty though, high cheekbones and a pointed chin. She had the same shade of blonde hair as Jaune, as well as sharing the same sapphire eyes.

 

The other woman coming out was much shorter, barely cracking five feet tall by Pyrrha’s estimate and a good bit curvier. Prominent laugh lines sat upon her face as well as the same cheekbones as the taller of the pair. Again, a cascade of blonde hair complimented by sapphire eyes. Are they clones of one another? The shorter woman quickly walked to Jaune, pulling him into a tight hug.

 

“Welcome home baby.” He wrapped his arms around her.

 

“Hey mom.” She pulled back and cupped his cheek, dragging him down to her eye level and flashing a look at the redhead.

 

“I got a call from the nurse today…” Pyrrha paled at that. Oh no. Jaune immediately began sputtering out a reply but he might has well have been speaking another language. She held a finger to his lips, silencing him. “Are you OK?” He nodded and she stared for several seconds, examining him. The taller blonde woman was standing off to the side, hands on her hips and trying to vaporize Pyrrha with her mind it would seem. A smile found the elder Arc’s mouth and she patted his cheek. “Good, I still want you staying home for the rest of the day to make sure you’re alright though, understand?” He nodded, visibly relaxing.

 

The short woman’s attention was firmly on Pyrrha now. “From what Ms. Saffron told me, you’re to blame for this.” The redhead managed to pale even more, eyes studying the cracks in the sidewalk. She nodded. Jaune opened his mouth to speak but a raised hand from his mother stopped him in his tracks. “Did you do it on purpose?” Pyrrha turned her gaze up towards the woman, shaking her head profusely.

 

“No, I promise! I would never intentionally hurt someone like that, I swear!” She began to wring her hands again. “I hit a homerun in practice and it went further than I thought it would, I didn’t mean to hurt him.” She hoped the sincerity was getting through to the woman. If the look on the taller blonde girl’s face to be believed, it wasn’t. The elder Arc stared at her for what could’ve been eternity, Pyrrha wasn’t sure at this point. Time had all but stopped.

 

“Would you like to come inside?” The redhead seemed to short circuit. Wait, what? After doing a mental reboot, she raised an eyebrow

 

“Excuse me?” The woman gave a small smile, repeating her question slower.

 

“Would. You. Like. To. Come. Inside.” Wait… what? She shook herself out of the confusion.

 

“I think it’s best if I just go home. Jaune needs to get some rest and I don’t think my presence would help that. Thank you though.” The older woman nodded.

 

“Alright, do you have a ride home?” Pyrrha shook her head.

 

“I’ll call my mother, she was going to pick me up from practice anyway.” A hand was placed on Pyrrha’s shoulder.

 

“Please, wait inside. I insist.” After a second of deliberation, Pyrrha nodded.

 

“Thank you Mrs. Arc.” She waved a hand.

 

“Please, call me Stella.” Pyrrha gave another nod and followed the woman inside. She drew her phone from her back pocket and sent a quick text to her mother. This isn’t exactly how I thought I’d make my first friend but I suppose this way is as good as any other.

 

 

If you liked this, hit that Kudos button and tell me all about it in a comment. If you were apathetic, tell me that too. If you hated it and think I need to be stopped this instant, well tell me in a comment. As always, may Fortune favor you all