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Of Poetry & Pom Poms

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Katelyn's heart skipped a beat the first time she saw him then it sunk in to her stomach as she realised who he was. If the banquet seating wasn't organised by Exy team then perhaps she could have spent a few more moments deluding herself as day dreamers so often did. The second the pair of blonde-haired boys walked in to the room, they had caught her attention. The twins seemed to be identical but there was something about one that seemed truly frightening to her. The other twin, however? He enchanted her.

Their eyes met for a second before suddenly he was sitting down with the foxes and she felt Jean's fingernails digging into her thigh in warning.  Katelyn knew he was only doing it to protect her - after all Ravens and Foxes weren't supposed to mic. Yet she couldn't help the slight wave of annoyance that washed over her at that. She didn't even remotely believe in love at first sight but seeing the blonde boy had certainly made her feel...something. "Keep away from Aaron and Andrew Minyard. For your own safety." Jean warned her. His voice was no more than a whisper, cautious of anyone overhearing his words.

When she had first been accepted in to Edgar Allen University, Katelyn had been ecstatic. Now, the establishment filled her with nothing but dread. Initially it had seemed just like any other prestigious college; somewhere she could get a degree before going on to have a successful career in medicine. Then Katelyn had made the mistake of joining the cheerleading squad. It had seemed like a fun extracurricular activity and just something she could put on a future CV. In hindsight, she should have noticed something was wrong from the start. For one, the cheerleading squad didn’t even have an official name - as if they were simply only there as a way of complementing the Ravens.Which, in all honesty, they were. Outside of Exy games, it was rare the Edgar Allen cheerleading squad were able to perform. Not even in official competitions! Even the Palmetto State Vixens competed professionally! That wasn’t to say the team weren’t still vicious in their training. They were pushed just as hard as the Exy team were. Everything about them had to be simply perfect.

Katelyn had thought about quitting numerous times - of course she had! - yet she couldn’t. It just wasn’t possible. Once you joined a sports team at Edgar Allen University, you didn’t leave. Not unless you were forced to. All Ravens were like caged birds stuck under the pretence of freedom. Katelyn was no different. At first, it had been grand. She had found herself thrown in to routines more complex than she could have possibly imagined. But that grandeur soon wore off. It soon became apparent that her teammates weren’t her friends. They weren’t even her allies. It was everyone for themselves. Other students seemed hesitant to approach her; viewing her with a sense of awe that just proved they had no idea what it was truly like. Then came the actual Exy team. There was something...off about them; something rotten. It was clear there was something more going on behind the scenes but she didn’t dare ask what. Katelyn just played the part of the oblivious cheerleader perfectly. If a Raven asked her to do something, she simply did it. She never asked why.

That was how Katelyn found herself acting as the ‘date’ for Jean Moreau at the Exy banquet. There was no real relationship there; everything about it was artificial.After all, the Ravens were forbidden from dating. Still, even they knew it was seen as embarrassing to turn up without a date. That was where the cheerleaders came in. They were co-ed and as such served as convenient dates. Katelyn was just thankful Jean had chosen her and not someone like Riko. Jean Moreau was known as being one of the kinder Ravens. She had gotten lucky. Yet even Katelyn knew this banquet would be tense.  It was the first without Kevin Day as a Raven. Instead, he was the assistant coach of the worst team in the league: the Palmetto State Foxes. He had left the Ravens after a ‘skiing accident’ and still no one seemed entirely sure how to feel about it.

The Foxes had become public enemy number one to the Ravens after that. Perhaps Jean was right to tell her to stay away from the Minyard twins - God knows what Riko would do if he saw her so much as glance at a Fox. But for once, Katelyn didn’t feel like listening. Looking back on it, she couldn’t quite remember where she’d found the pen or scrap of paper but she rapidly found herself scribbling down her number. Once the initial banquet had ended, Katelyn found herself wandering through the crowd of Exy players under the guise of ‘looking for her date’. In the process, she made sure to ‘accidentally’ bump in to the twin that had fascinated her before. “I’m so sorry” She slipped the piece of paper in to his hand before moving away. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see his amused smile as his twin glared daggers at her.

Katelyn didn’t dare check her phone until she was finally back in her dorm room at Edgar Allen University. It was the one place on the entire campus she felt truly safe. She had expected him to throw away her phone number. Yet, to her surprise,  she had one new text from an unknown number.

UNKNOWN: Quoth the Raven nevermore.

A small smile tugged at her lips as she typed out a response.

KATE: And here I was hoping for originality.

UNKNOWN: What else am I supposed to type when a mysterious and nameless girl offers me her number? All I know is I saw you on Moreau’s arm.

KATE: My name is Kate, dear Fox. Might I inquire as to which Minyard twin you are?

UNKNOWN: So you’ve heard of me? I’m flattered, pretty bird. I’m Aaron.

KATE: Only in warnings to stay away from you.

UNKNOWN: And are you one to listen to such warnings?

KATE: Rarely.

She didn’t dare actually save his number to her phone. Katelyn could only imagine the sort of reaction she would get if someone saw his name in her contacts. So she left Aaron’s number as ‘unknown’  and did her best to try and memorise it instead.Despite the dangers, there was something thrilling about messaging him. For the first time since she had started cheerleading, Katelyn felt happy. Not even Aaron’s overprotective twin could ruin her mood. She had had a multitude of texts from Andrew warning her to stay away from his brother. She had ignored each and every one.

Yet her happiness soon bled in to recklessness. It was inevitable, really. She wasn’t lucky enough to have things go well for this long. It was long since due to fall apart. In all honesty, she was to blame for getting caught. As much as she had wanted to deny it, Katelyn had found herself rapidly beginning to fall in love with Aaron Minyard. Yet they still both did their best to hide it. Aaron had long since explained the deal he had with his brother; neither of them were supposed to date until graduation. He had also warned her about what Andrew had done to Aaron’s high school girlfriends. But she was far enough away that he couldn’t hurt her, right? Though, it was still the main reason they had yet to go official.

Katelyn had managed to hide it for almost the entirety of the remaining school year. That was, of course, until she got too risky. The conversation was harmless but her location wasn’t. The cheerleading squad were waiting for the Ravens to finish up so they could use the pitch at Castle Evermore for practice. So she used the time for her favourite activity; texting Aaron.

KATE: And how is the world’s cutest Fox today?

UNKNOWN: I think you are the only person in the world who would call me cute, pretty bird.  But my day is much better now I have the chance to talk to you. 

KATE: You, Aaron Minyard, are far sweeter than you let on. Extremely handsome too.

UNKNOWN: Kate! Nicky’s trying to work out why I’m blushing! >:( Besides, you are by far the sweetest one in this relationship.

KATE: Whatever you say :) x

With that, she slipped her phone in to her bag before leaving it on the bleachers as practice started. In an extremely good mood, Katelyn found herself enjoying practice far more than usual. She swore nothing could get rid of the warm feeling she felt. That was until she looked over at the bleachers and felt her blood run cold. Riko Moriyama stood there staring down at a very familiar phone with a glittery orange case. Her phone. Fuck. That couldn’t be good. Full of nothing but dread, she slowly made her way over to the stands. It felt as if every pair of eyes in the stadium were on her. Finally standing in front of Riko, Katelyn felt like a prey trapped in front of a lethal predator.It took a few moments before she was able to speak up. “I...I think that’s my phone.” She struggled to keep the fear out of her voice.

Riko stared down at her with impassive eyes. “I think we need to talk.” Katelyn didn’t dare argue. Instead, she silently picked up her back and followed him as whispers broke out behind her. She doubted this could end well.

Riko headed towards the Exy locker room and she dutifully followed him. Neither said a word as they walked. Katelyn couldn’t help but note how the room was barren of anyone but them. There were a few more tense moments before Riko finally spoke up. “I heard the most interesting rumour about you.” He was still holding her phone. Its glittery orange case stood out clearly against the room’s dark colours. It had been a gift from Aaron. “Someone mentioned you had a particular...fascination with one of the Foxes.”

Katelyn tried not to panic.This had been what she feared most; getting caught. Of course people would gossip. How had she been so stupid as to think no one would so much as even question her relationship? “I-I don’t know what you mean.” The lie didn’t sound even remotely believable.

To say Riko looked unimpressed would be an understatement. The look on his face was ice cold. It was so bad that Katelyn found herself unable to meet his eyes. Instead, she focused on the ‘1’ tattooed on his face. It was a reminder that he was in control. He was Exy royalty and she was a nobody cheerleader. “We both know that’s a lie. It’s not even as if you tried to hide it.” He made a gesture to her phone case and she winced. It had been a present from Aaron. “So, are you going to tell me the truth?”

“It’s nothing serious. I just talk to Aaron Minyard sometimes.” Her voice was barely above a whisper. Katelyn felt positively mouse-like. “I-I didn’t think it would be that big of a de-”

She was cut off by Riko grabbing her face. “You’re right. You didn’t think.” He forced her to look him in the eyes. She felt as if she were trapped in the middle of a horror movie. “That’s your first mistake.” She was shaking like a leaf. “Perhaps I should give you incentive not to make another one.”

In all honesty, Katelyn couldn’t remember what had happened after that. She remembered Riko closing in and then...nothing. When she came to, she was lying sprawled on the locker room floor. Every inch of her being hurt. God knows what Riko had done to her but she could certainly feel it. Katelyn tried to sit up but a sharp jolt of pain kept her down. “I told you to stay away, non? I told you it wasn’t safe.” She managed to glance up as Jean approached her. She had no idea how long he had been there. His lips were drawn in to a thin line as he knelt down beside her. “Up.”

“...What?” Katelyn’s body protested completely whenever she tried to move.

Jean rolled his eyes. “Up.” He repeated as he moved to pull her to her feet with a gentleness she hadn’t quite been expecting. The way he moved suggested he’d done this before. Katelyn didn’t want to think about the actual number of people Riko had hurt or why; she didn’t want to think about how common it had to be for Jean to be able to respond so impassively. Jean didn’t complain as she rested a majority of her body weight against him, supporting her when she was unable to support herself. The two said nothing as they walked but words didn’t really seem necessary. Besides, what did they truly have to say?

Eventually, Katelyn realised he was leading her back to her dorm room. It wasn’t until the door was locked and he was helping her lay down that she spoke up. “Thank you.”

“Don’t.” He stated simply, gently inspecting her face for bruises she had yet to see. “I didn’t make you stop this madness sooner.” Disapproval flooded his voice at that. Not that Katelyn entirely blamed him. She probably deserved it. “Rest.” The Frenchman murmured. She didn’t argue and simply let herself drift off in to unconsciousness.

She wasn’t sure how long she had been unconscious for but Jean was still there when she woke up. Katelyn couldn’t help but notice the way the harsh aching had dulled slightly. “Your boyfriend’s more concerned than I expected.” He held up her phone which now had a heavily cracked screen; Riko had most likely tried to break it. “He sounds almost like his brother when he’s worried.” A small smile tugged at her lips. Aaron had been worried about her? Jean half-heartedly rolled his eyes at her smile. “...You’re lucky I know what I’m doing. Riko didn’t go too far this time.”

Katelyn didn’t like the sound of that. “...This time?

He waved her off. “You can’t stay here.” That threw her off. “It isn’t safe.

“I think that’s an understatement.” She pointed out quietly. “...And I don’t really have anywhere to go.”

He raised an eyebrow. “You’re dating a Fox, aren’t you?” Jean waited for her to nod. “Then go to Pameto State University. He’ll protect you.”

“But what if he doesn’t want me there?”

“Oh, he does. I asked him.”

She blinked. “What?”

“He wouldn’t stop fussing about you.” He shrugged. “And he wants you safe.”

Katelyn gave him an odd look. “...Why are you so eager to help me?”

Jean shrugged once more. “Too many people get hurt her. It gets tiring after a while. Just make sure to pack light.”

That was how Katelyn ended up on a flight to South Carolina. She didn’t even know who was paying for the flight. She just knew she was going to Aaron and that meant safety. Perhaps it was wishful thinking to think no one would care that she just up and left for PSU but it was she had to take it. It was the only hope she had.

The flight felt as if it had lasted an eternity. Searching for Aaron once she’d departed the plan felt even longer. Then there was suddenly a pair of arms wrapped tightly around her. Katelyn’s first instinct was to panic until she caught sight of blonde hair and realised who it was. Aaron. Aaron had his arms wrapped around her and she had never felt more safe in her entire life. “What have they done to you?” His voice was barely above a whisper but Katelyn hadn’t realised how much she had needed to hear it. Then she just broke down. Emotions she hadn’t even realised she had been suppressing came flooding forward as she clung to him as if her life depended on it. Aaron shushed her gently. “I’ll keep you safe.”

Somehow, Katelyn believed him. Maybe there was a chance she would be okay after all.