What went wrong? Ophelia wasn't the most observant person at her best, but even she could tell that after prom, the atmosphere during cheer practice changed dramatically. It could have been the stress of the upcoming competition, or it could have been a reluctance to get back to work after a fun dance and a weekend that got extended thanks to said dance. Still, neither of those possibilities explained Soleil's behavior. The girl who had been so stoked to go to a dance with Ophelia mere days ago was now distant, cold and silent towards her. Texts went ignored, pleas for an explanation were met with silence, or something said to another girl on the squad. During the end of the routine, when they were required to hold hands, her grip changed from holding on for dear life to a much more relaxed version, which lead to several instances of the two failing the finale and eating floor mat.
Everything finally came to a boiling point after one particularly disastrous attempt that ended in a bloody nose for Ophelia. The normally bubbly girl stomped into the locker room furiously. "Alright, what's the big idea?" She demanded, jabbing a finger in Soleil's face angrily.
Soleil narrowed her eyes. "What big idea?"
"Don't act like you didn't just drop me," Ophelia snapped. "What's wrong with you? It's like you just stopped caring about doing well!"
Soleil snorted before turning away. "Sorry, I can't take you seriously with a wad of toilet paper stuck up your nose."
With a huff, Ophelia turned away to continue changing, and the conversation was done there.
So what happened? What could have possibly gone wrong to make Soleil so angry with her? She didn't understand, and her father was just as in the dark as she was. However, she did think of a way her dad could make himself useful in solving this mystery. "Hey, maybe you could ask her dad for me? He should know something, at least."
Owain snapped his fingers excitedly. "Great idea, Ophelia! I'll text him right away!"
Unfortunately, this plan bore no fruit either. Inigo was completely clueless as to what could have gotten into Soleil, and he was starting to get worried, since he learned something was wrong through someone else entirely. His attempt at resolving the issue came in the form of his beginning-of-practice speech one day. "Alright everyone, the comp is just around the corner. In fact, this time a week from now, we will be done with the whole affair. Whether we'll be coming back with a trophy, with four giant stuffed animals, or both, is up to your performance next Friday afternoon. Before we start for today, I have three reminders. One, as always is that—"
He and the squad said, at the same time, "cheerleading is a sport," and he alone continued, "very good! Now, my second reminder will be just as familiar, so I won't waste too much time on it. As usual, remember to keep smiling. Now, this third and final reminder could prove vital to your performance. The key component to a routine going off without a hitch is trust. A cheer squad without complete trust is one that loses competitions, so if there's any bad blood between any two members, you have precisely one week to make up and put water under the bridge. Alright, now with all that said, it's time to start practice. Let's go!"
During the final part of Laslow's speech, Ophelia shot a pointed look at Soleil, who pretended not to notice. After practice that day, it was time to confront her one more time. This time, Ophelia did it in the midst of changing, thinking that maybe Soleil would listen to her if she wasn't wearing a shirt. "Alright Soleil," she started, a woman on a mission. "You heard what coach said. What's your problem with me and how can I fix it?"
Soleil shrugged. "I have no idea what you're talking about," she said coldly.
Ophelia pursed her lips and crossed her arms sternly. "You know damn well what I'm talking about, and whatever it is, we need to fix it right now. I'm not losing this comp because of some temper tantrum."
The corner of Soleil's mouth ticked down into a frown for a split-second, but she managed to control her expression when she turned to Ophelia to say, "nothing's wrong at all. Now, if you excuse me, I'm going home."
She tried to push past Ophelia, but didn't make it far before being stopped by a stern finger prodding her forehead. "You're not going anywhere until we talk this out," Ophelia insisted. "You're gonna lose this for all of us, so we need to fix your attitude right now."
Finally, the anger that had been building in Soleil burst out. "How about you work on your attitude," she snapped, hand moving up her head to her headband. "Come talk to me again when you're worried about Soleil and not the stupid competition, Ophelia Dusk." The last words were said with all the venom she could muster and punctuated by Sarah, the yellow headband she'd been given so long ago, hitting the ground at their feet.
A tense moment passed, and Ophelia's face fell as the anger subsided to be replaced by confusion. "...Soleil?"
"I'm going home."
After Soleil pushed past Ophelia and made haste out of the locker room, all the girls that were left struggled to make sense of this exchange. "What did you do?" Nina asked.
Ophelia swallowed hard, struggling to fight back tears. "I...I don't know." She picked up Sarah and sighed, noting the perfect condition it had been returned to her in. After storing it in her backpack, she put her shirt on and left, still half in her uniform. If it were any other day, the girls would have poked fun at her for leaving in that miniskirt, but the locker room remained as silent as a tomb.
The last weekend before the comp was supposed to be the final extra-curricular training session, but Ophelia couldn't bring herself to leave the house. What was the point if she was going to be going alone? She already had everything down as well as she was gonna get it alone, and nobody had the time to go to the gym with her, so she spent the time trying to relax at home. This was easier said than done, as the thought of Soleil persisted, and with it came the confusion as to what she could possibly be angry about.
The final week of practice brought a last-second change to the routine, but no improvements. However, Ophelia was hopeful that a conveniently scheduled pep rally on the day before would help things a little. After a simple routine, the crowd cheered as the cheer squad lined up to face them. The microphone was passed off to Laslow, who greeted the crowd with a smile and a wave. "Thank you for your warm smiles today, my friends. I'm very glad we could perform for you today, as tomorrow is a very special day for my cheer squad. Tomorrow, we have a very important cheer competition, and we're going in swinging. We hope your kind thoughts are with us as we venture to the Valla theme park to do our very best." He paused to allow for applause, and when the crowd calmed, he said, "and rest assured, we will do everything in our power to beat the Hoshido squad into the ground."
The gym erupted in applause, and the pep rally continued as the cheerleaders went back to the bleachers. Once it had wrapped up and the students were filing out of the gym, Laslow motioned for the squad to hang back. "Alright everyone," he said once the coast was clear. "I would be inclined to say that we're still practicing despite the pep rally letting you out of school early, but I honestly don't think there's anything left to cover through practice. I will see you all here bright and early tomorrow morning, and I'm going to hope any conflicts..." A pause to shoot a pointed look at Soleil and Ophelia before continuing, "will be resolved by then."
Everyone went their separate ways then, and the longest night of Ophelia's life loomed over her. She used every method she could think of to relax, but everything she came up with failed miserably. Surprisingly, this night was different from the same one the previous year in one very specific way. Instead of her thoughts constantly going back to the competition, she caught herself constantly thinking about Soleil. But why would she spend so much time worrying about the girl who yelled in her face and mistreated the headband she was so kindly given?
Then again, she did treat Sarah perfectly up until then...
Ophelia was starting to understand, but there was nothing she could do about it until the next day.
It was gonna be a long one.
The next morning, Owain opened Ophelia's door and turned her light on, being sure to make as much noise as possible while he did. "Alright, it's time! Are you ready to go?"
Ophelia blinked awake and looked at her dad, confused. "Uh, I will be...dad, you weren't this excited last year." She had the thought to look to her phone for the time, and gasped when it was about ten minutes later than she had wanted to wake up. "Oh no! I'm late!"
"No you're not," Owain assured her. "We're right on time!"
Owain smiled and held his hand up proudly. "I asked Inigo, and he said we can skip meeting up at the school while I'm driving you!"
Ophelia gasped, suddenly fully awake. "You're going with us?"
"I sure am!" Owain said with a proud nod. "I'm just as excited as you are! Now get dressed and let's go!"
Ophelia laughed and sat up in bed, rubbing at her eye. "Alright dad. Thanks for coming today."
The best part about riding to Valla with her dad was that she didn't have to suffer through the painfully awkward ride with Soleil and the rest of the squad. However, about half way to their destination, she started to miss Soleil.
What was wrong with her? There was a comp to win!
Finally, everyone arrived at the theme park and Owain pulled up next to the van that the school allowed Inigo to use for the day. Ophelia watched as the cheer squad poured out of the van and prepared to explore the park. Before she could get out herself, Owain put a hand on her shoulder. "Before you go, have this." He dug into his pocket and produced the necklace he had given her exactly a year ago. "I finally got around to getting a new chain for your grandmother's charm."
"Oh yay!" Ophelia happily bowed her head and allowed her father to drape it over her neck. "Thanks dad."
Owain smiled and ruffled Ophelia's hair, causing her to giggle. "Where would Ophelia Dusk be without her mother's power channeling charm?"
Ophelia thanked her dad and they got out to join the group waiting just outside. "Alright, ladies—and Percy," Laslow said, pocketing the van keys. "Go wild, and be sure to meet back here at one thirty sharp."
The squad nodded and dispersed. Ophelia found herself in the same group that she was in last year, which would have been good, except for the fact that Soleil was still not speaking to her. Nina, Sophie, and Percy did their best to dissolve the tension, but to no avail. "Hey, I have an idea," Percy said after a good amount of time spent walking silently through the park. "Let's play some of those games! Maybe I could win another dragon to go with Ace!"
Ophelia's spirits lifted and she nodded agreement. "I'd be okay with that."
Percy turned to find a game with a suitable dragon to win, and Ophelia looked to Soleil for her reaction. She raised her eyebrows when that reaction was an upturned nose and a turn to walk away. "Soleil?" She asked.
"What? Aren't you gonna watch Percy win you another animal?" Soleil snapped, not turning back.
Ophelia wore a look of confusion. "Uh, no? I wanted to say I noticed you're wearing your grandmother's headband." Soleil's hand shot up to the piece in question and traced one of the golden lines embroidered on it. "I wanted to say I'm glad you found it."
The hurt in Ophelia's voice caused Soleil to turn to face her once more, a bit sheepish. "I...I see. My dad kept it safe the whole time. It wasn't ever really lost."
"It looks just as nice on you now as it always has," Ophelia continued.
"Thanks," Soleil said flatly. "Now go spend time with Percy."
Frustrated with being civil when she was clearly not going to get the same courtesy in return, Ophelia stomped toward Soleil and grabbed her wrist. "I don't want to spend time with Percy, I want to spend time with you!"
"No you don't." Soleil said it like she had run out of breath, and before Ophelia could react, she wrenched her wrist from her grip and ran off, further into the park.
"Soleil!" Ophelia broke out into a run, using the flashes of pink hair in between the crowds to keep track of her friend. They weaved through crowds and past rides until Ophelia could barely see the sign for the park's exit looming in between a couple of other signs for rides. Finally, she managed to catch up, grabbing Soleil's wrist with a grip only an angry cheerleader could manage just as they were passing by a line of people waiting for something. Whatever it was wasn't important, because Ophelia could only focus on the tears in Soleil's eyes when she turned around and demanded to be let go. "No," she snapped. "I don't know what your problem with me is, but we're not moving from this spot until it's resolved, alright?"
Despite what she said, they shuffled forward out of habit when the line they happened to be in moved forward. Neither of them seemed to notice, as Soleil spoke unimpeded. "Why do you care what my problem with you is?" Before Ophelia could respond, she said, "oh wait, because of the stupid competition! You don't care about me or my feelings because of me, you only care because we might not win the comp if I'm mad at you."
"That's not true," Ophelia said indignantly. "Why would you think that?"
Suddenly, she realized exactly why Soleil thought that. Over the past few months, Ophelia had been so singularly focused on the comp that she didn't even pay attention to other things. Opportunities to hang out somewhere other than the gym, fun and non-cheerleading related conversations, even prom almost slipped past her completely because of the comp! As they absentmindedly moved forward in line once more, she looked to her feet, defeated. Soleil snatched her wrist back and crossed her arms. "You see it now, don't you?"
Ophelia sighed. "I do. I didn't realize..."
"I'm sure you didn't," Soleil said flatly.
"I guess I let Ophelia Dusk take over a little too much," Ophelia admitted.
Ophelia sighed, ashamed of herself. However, this was an opportunity to get back on course. "So is that why you're mad at me?"
Soleil shook her head. "Not the original reason, no, but it's part of it."
"Then what's wrong?" Ophelia clasped her hands together, pleading for an explanation.
Soleil shook her head as the girls moved forward again. "You really don't know? You thought you could just do something like that without me finding out?"
"Do what?" Ophelia asked. "What did I do?"
Soleil rolled her eyes. "Ugh, of course you 'don't know.' I'm not even convinced you're still thinking about my feelings or the comp, to be honest."
"Of course I care about your feelings," Ophelia insisted. "We just went over this." As they moved forward once more, something clicked in her mind. For whatever reason, a rush of emotions overcame her, and the world seemed to come into focus. Suddenly, everything over the past year or so made sense. The refusal to outright reject Soleil's advances, the lingering thoughts of her name or her face at inappropriate times, and now, the concern for her that weren't present a year ago. All these feelings were given a name when they passed a sign that had that name on it, so now Ophelia only had to covey that name to Soleil. "Look Soleil, I really do care about this...about you! And not just because of the competition. I want to know why you're mad at me because, well, I—"
"Let's keep the line movin'!" A voice suddenly calling to the girls startled them into stepping forward again and actually take note of where they were and what ride they had been waiting in line for without realizing it.
However, the name of the ride had already passed them by, so they couldn't figure that out until they were escorted to the seat and given the usual warning about keeping their hands and feet in the ride at all times. They looked around, noted the giant red hearts surrounding the ride, the boat they were sitting in, and the giant heart-shaped entrance they started drifting towards. Both girls blushed as the realization hit them. "Did we really accidentally get in line for the Tunnel of Love?" Soleil cried. "How stupidly cliché!"
However, the girl next to her, who was a sucker for storytelling clichés, saw this as a sign. No, a confirmation of the sign she had already received. Now was the time. As the ride got started and the romantic music got louder, the turned to Soleil and took her hands in hers. "Soleil! I really want to know what I did wrong! Tell me right now."
"Why do you care so much?" Soleil asked. "And is this really the right time?"
"This is the perfect time," Ophelia responded. One of her hands twitched our of nervous habit, but she continued regardless. "I miss you, Soleil."
A quick nod, and she continued, "I miss talking to you. I miss working out with you, I miss your smile, I miss the way you would hit on me, even when I was in a bad mood or not fully-dressed, I miss how you say my name, and I miss your laughter. I want it all back in my life. I want you back in my life."
Soleil's blush was not going away, and every word Ophelia spoke only ensured it stayed longer. "Wh-why?"
The sign for the ride they were riding had given Ophelia the answer to that question, so she said, without hesitation, "I love you, Soleil."
For a few seconds, the girls looked each other in the eyes, completely silent. The sounds of the ride felt like they were miles off, and all of existence for both girls boiled down to the one sitting next to them, looking them in the eye. When Soleil could find no trace of a lie in Ophelia's eyes, she stuttered out a reply. "B-but, what about Percy?"
"What about him?" Ophelia asked. "Soleil, I just confessed my love to you and you ask about Percy?"
"A-at prom," Soleil responded. "You kissed him."
Ophelia raised an eyebrow before remembering the incident of Pecy helping her to her feet. "Oh! Oh gods, that wasn't what that was at all! I stumbled and he helped me to my feet again. He just didn't realize we would be so close when I was standing straight again."
A feeling in Soleil's gut told her to run away and bury her face in a blanket for the rest of her life. "Oh...so you didn't kiss him?"
Ophelia shook her head confidently. "No lip contact was made, no sir."
"Wow, now I feel really stupid," Soleil admitted. "I thought you had gone and kissed someone else after taking me to prom, so my emotions kind of took over. ...And then I spent so long trying to hate you! Oh my gods, Ophelia, please forgive me!" She pulled Ophelia into a hug, which was returned without hesitation. As she sobbed on Ophelia's shoulder, she felt a hand pat her back soothingly.
Ophelia softly shushed her friend. "Hey, it's alright. I understand. And I forgive you."
Soleil sniffled. "Really?"
"Absolutely." As she said this, Ophelia moved her hand from patting Soleil's back to combing through her hair.
A calmed Soleil sighed happily. "What a relief. Thank you so much."
Ophelia responded with an apology of her own. "I'm sorry I got so obsessed with the comp. If I hadn't gotten so carried away, we could have resolved this so much sooner."
Soleil nodded, not wishing to separate from Ophelia ever. "It's alright. I remember how devastated you were that we lost last year."
Soleil could feel Ophelia's body shift as she chuckled in her arms. "Yeah, I wish I could forget how much I cried like a little baby."
"It's alright," Soleil assured her. "It meant I got to play with your hair and not get questioned for it."
Ophelia broke the hug (saddening both girls in the process) and looked to Soleil, astonished realization gracing her face. "That was you?"
Soleil nodded sheepishly. "Is that okay?"
"It's fine, I just can't believe you were wiling to do something so nice for me when we barely knew each other," Ophelia said. "That's really sweet of you."
Soleil gave Ophelia a warm smile. "I guess that goes to show just how long I've cared about you."
Ophelia tugged at her own hair softly. "Hah, you're gonna make me blush."
"But that's okay, right?" Soleil asked, playfully elbowing Ophelia's side. When she got a nod in response, she said, "why is that okay?"
"Oh, you know why," Ophelia told her.
"I do, but I like hearing you say it," Soleil countered.
Now Ophelia really was blushing, but she didn't fight it. "I love you, Soleil."
Finally, Soleil got to say the words she'd wished she could say for so long. "I love you too, Ophelia."
The girls shared a smile, and a scene from prom played out again. The girls felt like it was only fitting to repeat the part where they leaned in, eyes fluttering, and lips inching ever closer...
Finally, finally, their lips met in the couple's first real kiss. Soleil wrapped her arms around Ophelia, enjoying the heavenly feeling of Ophelia's lips on hers so much, she wished it would never end.
Ophelia, likewise, enjoyed the kiss much more than the surprise one she had gotten all those months ago, so it took until the light that was the end of the Tunnel of Love inching ever closer to them to finally pry the girls apart. The ride came to an end and once Ophelia and Soleil hopped off the boat, it was time to find their friends again. They found Nina, Sophie, and Percy finishing up at the parlor games, each one holding a huge stuffed animal in their arms. "I only won three this year," Percy reported. "And no dragons to be found."
"It's okay," Ophelia said. "I don't need one."
Nina nodded towards Soleil and Ophelia's interlocked arms. "So, did you two make up?"
"I sure hope so," Sophie said, shifting the giant stuffed dolphin in her arms.
"Yeah, it's all good," Soleil said. "We just needed to talk it out alone, is all."
The other girls (and Percy) gave Ophelia and Soleil a nod, and the group continued with their day.
Now that Ophelia had realized her long dormant feelings, and Soleil had gotten a huge misunderstanding cleared up, they didn't even care about the competition anymore, and the rest of the day was going to be perfect, regardless. This was the perfect ending to a decidedly less than perfect love story...
...Except there was still a competition (that they both cared very much about) to win! They did still care, but Ophelia was starting to think that maybe losing wouldn't be so terrible with Soleil at her side.
That is, she thought that until a dreadfully familiar head of red hair confronted her group with crossed arms, a smug expression, and the same posse of cheerleaders she had last year.
"Oh, hello Caledor," Soleil said with a dismissive handwave.
"Caeldori," the girl corrected. "Don't even pretend you forgot."
The tall blonde girl with a dark highlight bounced and threw a hand into the air. "Hey, they don't know all our names! We should introduce ourselves!"
"Not the time, Selkie," Caeldori growled. "Ignore her. I wanted to stop by and say good luck today. I know the delicate one could use the well wishes."
"Hey, I am not delicate!" Ophelia protested.
The fragment of Hoshido's squad burst into laughter as Ophelia's face heated up. "You keep telling yourself that, sweetheart," the orange-haired boy said.
Now it was Soleil's turn to get indignant. "Hey, the only one allowed to call her sweetheart is me. ...And that's if she's okay with it."
The boy shrugged, placing his arms on his hips. "Fine, whatever. I just call her that because I like sweets."
The green-haired girl behind him cut into the conversation with, "you don't need to explain yourself, Asugi. Besides, why would you be into her?"
"Thanks, cousin," Asugi said flatly.
"What's wrong with me?" Ophelia spat.
The girl with pink hair and stars in her eyes cleared her throat, and Ophelia's warning not to say anything was cut off when she dished out an impromptu haiku. "She's plain and from Nohr. Asugi's not into blondes. Tiny breasts to boot."
The Hoshido squad laughed again, and now all the Nohr girls (and Percy) were angry. "Hey, you're one to talk!" Soleil snapped.
"Bringing looks into this?" Percy said. "That sounds like what you do when you know you've lost."
"Oh please," Asugi scoffed. "We've gone how many years without losing to your school? This year won't be any different."
The annoying haiku girl spat another verse. "Losers always lose. The unavoidable truth. You'll cry yourselves home." Then, she barked a laugh and reached into her purse. "Oh! Damn, these are good. I need to write these down for later." She produced a notepad and a pencil and hastily started scribbling down her masterpieces.
"Be sure to write down the one about boobs twice," Caeldori said with a laugh. "That one was my favorite."
"Careful, Caeldori," Soleil said, crossing her arms. "Calling the kettle black, much? You're flat as hell, too!"
Caeldori's face flushed and she took a step forward menacingly, but before he could say or do anything, the girl with the poems burst out into laughter so uncontrollable, she accidentally snapped her pencil. "What's so funny, Mitama?" Caeldori demanded.
After collecting herself, Mitama said, "that was a perfect haiku."
"It was?" Soleil asked. Instead of waiting for an answer, she shook her head and placed her hands on her hips. "I mean, yeah! Of course it was."
"You're supposed to be on our side!" Caeldori snapped, Mitama now clutching her stomach in laughter.
"Careful," Asugi's apparent cousin said. "You're using the tone that makes your dad tell you that your mother is showing."
Caeldori stomped her foot, obviously flustered by the comparison being brought up. "Ugh, whatever. We're still winning today, and there's nothing you guys can do about it. Let's go, girls. And Asugi."
Soleil nodded. "So she can come up with good ideas. We should go too, girls. And Percy." With that, the pieces of the squads separated, both with renewed determination to win the comp.
Which, they realized with horror, was starting in a matter of minutes. After a frantic scramble to the front gates, the cheer squad prepared themselves for that fated competition. Owain was quick to find his daughter and give her all the well wishes he could muster. "So, what's your ultimate move name this year?"
Ophelia smiled and held a hand to her face dramatically. "It's better this year. My ultimate move this time around has been called Love's Explosive Extension!"
Owain laughed and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Short, simple, and not named after me. Very well done! You'll knock 'em dead, my sweet." After planting a kiss on her forehead, he gave Laslow a quick handshake and disappeared into the crowd. Laslow turned to the squad and clapped his hands together. "Alright everyone, let's take a moment to remember the first rule of cheerleading. Now remind me what that was again?"
If this were any other instance, Soleil would have teased him about feigning ignorance, but instead, she said, "cheerleading is a sport," along with all the other girls. In fact, she repeated it the loudest, which caused Ophelia to look at her with a smile. "Did I do good?" She whispered.
Ophelia nodded with a smile. "You've come a long way," she said proudly.
Laslow continued, not noticing the exchange. "Now, take a moment to remind me of the second rule. This one will be vital to winning today, so say it extra loud."
"Always remember to smile!" was the cheer squad's response.
Laslow smiled warmly and nodded. "Alright girls, and Percy, let's go out there and kick some tail."
After months and months of training, everyone knew the routines for the day by heart, and with the last week or so being more difficult due to strained relations, Soleil and Ophelia did much better now that they were on good terms, and it showed. For the first few rounds, the other schools in attendance got knocked out with ease, so, as usual, it came down to Hoshido and Nohr's squads duking it out for first place. Just before the final performance of the day, the girls could hear the loud, pop music playing as the Hoshido girls (and Asugi) put on their ultimate routine and Laslow addressed them one last time. "Okay, you remember the detail I changed, right?"
The girls this applied to nodded. "The longer approach, right?" Sophie said.
Laslow nodded quickly. "Right. That could do i—" Suddenly, the music for the Hoshido routine changed, and Laslow's eyes lit up. "You're kidding me," he mumbled.
"What happened?" Soleil asked, trying to listen to the music.
Laslow's face lifted as he said, "they reused music from another school's routine! That always gets points docked. Now, I'm not saying we should mess up, but we definitely have a little more leeway than we did up until, oh, five seconds ago." The girls nodded and heard the music die down, followed by uproarious applause (which made a select few feel nervous). They scrambled to get ready, and Laslow called, "remember the longer approach!"
During the frantic scramble to get ready, Ophelia found a very visibly nervous Soleil and put a hand on her shoulder to comfort her. "You okay?" She asked.
Soleil hesitantly nodded, which told conveyed everything pretty well. "I'm just nervous. That's a big crowd, and those were some loud applause."
"You can do this," Ophelia assured her. "And I'll be here with you." After planting a quick kiss on her lips, she scurried off to her starting position and was quickly replaced with Laslow.
"Da—er, coach," Soleil said quietly. "What if I'm not good enough?"
Laslow knelt down and put his hands on Soleil's shoulders. "Soleil, my sweet, I haven't been a very good coach for you, so right now, I'm your father."
"What do you mean?" Soleil asked.
Inigo shook his head. "I'm sorry I was so hard on you and your squad this year, but always know that I am here for you, and I am so proud of you."
"Thanks," Soleil said with a nod.
Inigo ran his hand over Soleil's headband and said, "and your grandmother's smiling down on you, and will continue to, no matter what happens here today."
Soleil nodded again. "Right. I love you, dad."
"Love you too, sweetie," Inigo said, kissing her forehead.
The transition from Inigo to coach Laslow was instant, as he pat her shoulder and said, "now knock 'em dead!" He scurried off the stage just in time for the Nohr squad's introduction to wrap up, leaving the stage perfect for the squad to run out and start their routine. Ophelia's eyes went immediately to her father, which made her feel more confident in her performance. Soleil, meanwhile, had spotted Owain, but was more curious about the blood-red head of hair sitting right next to him. The hair color looked familiar, and the woman's sour face looked like it had frozen that way long ago. The thought of Caeldori drove her to do her best, and with those two driving forces, the girls knocked their performance out of the park. All that was left to do was hope that the rest of the squad pulled off their parts correctly.
The routine was long, and pulling it off all without pause was something the squad had only done once or twice, so it ended up being more taxing than they thought it would be, but it was all worth it when the finale came upon them. The music swelled, Ophelia and Soleil both called the name of Love's Explosive Extension, the squad gathered in the middle, and lifted the two girls into the air. There, sharing the top of the small pyramid and holding hands tightly with fingers interlaced, they made their final pride call and stayed in place, smiling for the immense round of applause.
The girls met the ground again (with their feet and not their faces, thankfully), and now it was time to wait out the judging. Just like the previous year, the squads and their coaches shared the stage, looking out at the crowd as the judges made their final decision. The Hoshido coach with the messy green hair shook hands with Laslow and nodded at him civilly, and Ophelia caught herself wondering how two coaches of rival teams could possibly even look at each other at such a dramatic moment. Just as that thought left her mind, she herself looked to the Hoshido squad to see a smug looking Caeldori smiling at her condescendingly. If she weren't in front of a crowd that included her father, she would have flipped the girl off, but instead, she just turned back to face the crowd without changing her expression and waited for the judges to finally announce the winner.
Finally, in the midst of the palpable tension looming in the air, the trophy was given, for the first time in ten years, to the Nohrian cheer squad. The squad erupted into cheers and starting passing hugs around while Caeldori's face fell (as did the very similar one in the crowd). In the midst of the celebrations, Ophelia grabbed Soleil in a tight hug and kissed her cheek. It had been a long road for everyone, but there they stood, being the first cheer squad in many years to win Nohr the competition, and one could tell it had been a while just by watching the ecstatic fervor of the girls. And Percy.
The squad met up with Owain in the parking lot, and he lifted his daughter off the ground with a hug. "You did it!" He cheered.
"I know!" Ophelia giggled as her father spun her around, and when he set her down and kissed her forehead, she smiled at him warmly. "Thanks for believing in me."
At this, Soleil looked to her own father meaningfully, nodding that she shared that sentiment. In response, he ruffled her hair with a smile.
"I always knew you had it in you," Owain said. "No thanks are necessary...from you."
Laslow sighed, knowing what was coming. "Here we go..."
Owain smirked and held offered his hand to Laslow. "Congrats on the win, Coach Laslow." When Laslow took his hand, he pulled the coach close and said smugly, "and you're welcome for the idea of the longer approach."
Everyone shared a laugh; even coach Laslow, who couldn't help it when he saw his old friend's face. "Thanks, my friend."
"Speaking of which," Owain said, letting go of Laslow's hand. "While we were waiting for the comp to start, I found an old friend of ours."
"Oh yeah?" Laslow supplied.
Owain nodded. "Yep! Selena and I are on good terms now!"
Laslow tilted his head curiously. "Oh really? Did she explain why she drifted apart from us in the first place?"
Owain shrugged. "Yeah, but I didn't pay attention to that part. Something about the eternal rivalry between our two cities and the love of her life splitting her loyalty. I dunno. Point is, since the three of us hail from good ol' Ylisse, she's decided that she can take the time to get together with us again."
Laslow smiled and nodded. "Ah! Good to hear. I'll be looking forward to it."
"And the best part," Owain continued, "she has a daughter our girls' age! Once summer starts, what do you girls think of hanging out with our old friend Sev—Selena and her daughter... Cae... Cal... Caledor?"
Ophelia and Soleil looked to each other, recognizing that fragment of a name, and shared a laugh with Nina, Sophie, and Percy. "No thank you," Ophelia said. "Feel free to hang out with Selena though."
"Alright everyone," Laslow said. "It's about time to head home. Hop in the van!"
"Dad," Soleil said, raising her hand a bit. "May I ride back with Ophelia and her dad?"
Odin clapped his hands together and said, "I'm down for it if you are, Laslow."
Laslow smiled. "Sure thing. I'm glad to see you two getting along again."
"I am too," Ophelia agreed, looking to the girl she had spent the better part of the last year falling in love with. Quietly enough for only those two to hear, she said, "it's like my sun's shining a little brighter."
"Wait a minute!" Sophie called, snatching the trophy from the ground next to the van. She gingerly handed it to Ophelia like she was handing her a baby and said, "Ophelia needs to name the trophy first."
"Oh yeah, that is your thing," Nina said. After everyone on the squad chimed in, Ophelia smiled and examined the trophy from top to bottom. She looked to the little golden plate inscribed with the year, the school, and the coach's name.
With a mischievous grin, she looked to Laslow and said, "this trophy is hereby named Inigo Montoya."
Laslow slapped his forehead amongst the uncontrollable laughter coming from the squad. "Great name, Ophelia," he said quietly. "Now let's get in the van."
The extra space left by Soleil's absence meant there was room for the huge trophy to sit in the van, surrounded by the stuffed animals Percy won that day. Its final resting place, though, was the front and center of Nohr High School's trophy case, as a proud reminder that Cheerleading was, in fact, a sport.
After they graduated, Soleil and Ophelia would sometimes visit the school and (after saying hello to their favorite teachers) admire the trophy that their love helped win. As they held hands and admired the sheen and the plaque that proudly listed Inigo's pseudonym, they reminisced about that day, the year it followed, and all the cheer practices—good and bad—that lead to them falling hopelessly in love.
Soleil could hardly believe there ever was a day where she didn't believe in Cheerleading's legitimacy, while Ophelia could hardly remember a day without Soleil entering her mind. Oh, how the tables had turned.
This fic was a bunch of firsts for me. This was my first attempt at writing this ship, this extensive of a high school AU, and...pretty much all of these Fates characters, so I thank everyone who made it this far into this endeavor. If you liked it, thanks again! And feedback is always appreciated. If you didn't, well, congrats on getting this far at least.