Author's Notes: This has been floating around in my head ever since I re-watched the movie (which I love), and finally was given form when I read the wonderful 'Five Ways' by Ellym. Rating is for some language and one or two brief sexual references.
Summary: An alternate look at how Duke might have found out about Viola/Sebastian, and thus how the rest of the movie might have gone based on that.
STMSTMSTMSTMSTM (since the stupid line thingy isn't working)
Dude Looks Like a Lady
The morning of the carnival, Duke woke up to the alarm blaring. Scrubbing a hand over his face, he shut the alarm clock off and gathered his toiletries, fully prepared to face the hordes of teenage boys that would be wanting showers (even at 9 a.m. on a Saturday). An automatic glance at the other bed revealed that his roommate was completely sacked out. Duke ignored the bolt of awareness that shot through him every time he was near the other boy, and walked out the door, shaking his head with amusement as he'd spotted a string of drool dangling from Sebastian's mouth.
45 minutes later, Duke, freshly showered and shaved, stalked back in the door and dressed, noting that Sebastian was still asleep, a decidedly odd occurrence. He'd woken up briefly when the other boy crept out to shower at an ungodly hour, and stirred again at Sebastian's re-entrance. Usually, Sebastian dressed and grabbed a soccer ball for some early morning practice, but he'd apparently simply re-donned his pajamas and dropped back into bed.
Not that Duke could blame him. Coach Dinklage had had them practicing late even by his standards and the entire team had been completely worn out. Duke leaned over his roommate and shook the other boy's shoulder gently but insistently. "Hey, Sebastian. Time to get up, dude."
Sebastian gave a decidedly feminine groan of protest and rolled from his stomach onto his back. "Five more minutes, Mom." The hem of the pajama top got caught under his hip and strained the neckline down until it got caught under his breast and cupped it, forcing the flesh (wrapping and all) back upwards.
"Holy shit!" Duke cried, leaping backwards. He tripped over his bed and tumbled over the other side.
'Sebastian' came to consciousness at his shout. "Huh – wha?" 'he' mumbled, jerking upright. The top stretched and strained even more, showing Duke the definite outline of another breast under wraps.
"Who the hell are you?" Duke demanded, moving back around his bed to confront the imposter.
"V – Sebastian," he/she stammered after a beat. "You okay, Duke?"
"Oh, yeah, I'm just fine, considering I just discovered my roommate is a girl!"
She followed his gaze down to her front and gasped, blushing bright red. She quickly fixed her top and crossed her arms, flashing him a sheepish look. "I can explain!"
"Oh, I can't wait to hear this," Duke groaned, flopping back on his bed.
"My name is Viola, Sebastian's my brother. I used to play soccer at Cornwall, but they cut the team because not enough girls signed up. The coach and the boys' team laughed us off the field when we wanted to try out for their team. When Sebastian took off to London for the two weeks, he asked me to cover for him with the school, though I don't think he meant quite like this.
"The plan was for me to make the team here and play against Cornwall, thus proving that girls really are good enough for their team. I never counted on meeting you guys, I swear. I wanted to tell you all, but I was afraid that you'd have the same attitude as the guys at Cornwall. I'm sorry I lied to you."
Duke, in the meantime, had shot upright at her confession and seemed to be fighting between righteous indignation and disgust. His angry muttering was unintelligible but Viola assumed it was aimed at her.
"I, uh, suppose I'll withdraw from the team. I know you're probably really angry, but please don't say anything about me impersonating Sebastian. He's supposed to get home right after the game. Until then I'll stay out of your way, and then you never have to see me again. I'm sorry, Duke."
Viola stood with every intention of leaving but Duke's next words brought her up short. "Wait. I, uh, I want to help."
"Excuse me?" She faced him directly and looked into his eyes, looking for the sincerity she'd seen when he told her that he could make her good enough for first-string by the Cornwall game.
His lips twitched and he rose, too. "I want to help you with this."
Her expression went from curious to speculating. "Why?"
Duke flashed a smile as he replied, "Anything to screw Cornwall over, right?"
There was a beat, and then Viola burst out laughing.
A few hours later, Duke and Viola, with Andrew and Toby in tow, sauntered through the carnival entrance. Duke, being closest to her, heard Viola's suppressed whimper of dread and had to stifle the urge to wrap an arm around her, or something equally stupid.
"Hey!" Olivia called. "I'm working the Kissing Booth," she announced with a long look at Viola. "Come by and see me." Her gaze flickered to Duke for an instant before she spun and walked away. Having been so wrapped up in plotting with Viola, Duke hadn't thought about Olivia all morning; that distance allowed him to accurately pinpoint who her invitation was aimed at.
It wasn't him.
Duke doubled over as he tried to contain the hysterical laughter threatening to escape. Any other time he might have been dismayed (having been seriously crushing on her since he'd been a gangly and awkward freshman), but the thought that she had the hots for… Oh, it was too much.
"Duke? You okay, dude?" Viola asked.
Duke snorted and his shoulders heaved. "She-she… you-she…" he stuttered and finally convulsed. Falling back on his rear end paused his hysteria for only a second.
He sensed more than heard or saw Toby and Andrew's dismissal as they walked away from their obviously crazy friend. Duke looked up and his gaze clashed with Viola's as she turned a curious look on him. "Are you going to live long enough to explain what that was all about?"
"Olivia…" he wheezed through gasps of laughter.
"What about Olivia?"
"She-she doesn't like me."
"And this is funny, why?"
"Because she-she she likes you!" Duke broke down again as she paled and her face took on a look of horrified understanding.
"You gotta be kidding me." Viola's knees gave out and she plopped down into the grass beside him. Her flat, utterly dismayed tone sent Duke into fresh paroxysms. "I can't deal with this!" she whined.
Gasping for breath, Duke laid a gentle hand on her knee. "It'll be okay. I don't know how you're going to discourage her, but…" Duke broke off as the fresh mental images set his shoulders heaving with quickly stifled howls of laughter.
"Okay, I'm going to get changed and check in with my mom, and I suggest you find yours, and then I suppose I'll find you…" Her voice trailed off as she recognized a taunting voice coming from somewhere behind her. She and Duke twisted around to look and exchanged gleefully evil smiles. "But first, I think a detour by the Dunk Tank is in order."
"I quite agree." Rising, Duke relieved her of the bag containing her change of clothes and fished out her Union Jack ball cap (he found it flattened under the soccer ball they'd also brought, hoping for a pick-up game later), placing it low over his eyes. Viola shoved to the front of the line with a quick "Excuse me" and snatched the balls from the carnie as Duke handed him some cash, "As many as it takes."
Justin instantly recognized his ex-girlfriend's 'twin brother' and began taunting him as she chucked ball after ball at the target. "You throw like a girl, Sebastian." He vaguely recognized Sebastian's companion but paid him no mind until he held a soccer ball in front of the increasingly frustrated twin. "What are you doing?" Justin demanded, alarmed despite himself as Sebastian placed the ball on the ground in front of her and backed away at an angle. "Sebastian?" Justin didn't trust the smiles on their faces and soon found out he had reason to as Sebastian nailed the ball and it hit the target dead-on.
Sebastian and his friend cheered and high-fived each other. Sebastian collected the ball and they turned away; Justin surfaced just in time to hear Sebastian comment smugly, "See, that's the thing: I kick like a boy."
Viola took her bag back after Duke stuffed her hat inside. "That felt good," she confided with a smile.
"That looked damn good, too," Duke responded, clapping her shoulder once. "You the man."
Viola shoved him away with a chuckle. "Why, yes, I am." She checked her watch and swore under her breath. "Gotta run, I'll see you later."
After dashing into a Porta-Potty to change (not to mention confusing the people she'd butted in front of beyond all measure), Viola found her mother very quickly. "Hi, Mom!" she greeted cheerily.
And barely refrained from rolling her eyes when Daphne exclaimed over the fact that Viola was wearing a dress and asked if she was getting excited for the Debutante Ball. "Thuper duper ex-thited," Viola lisped with an innocent smile. "Have a good carnival!"
"Oh-ho, my little petunia, where do you think you're going? You have the next shift at the Kissing Booth, and where's your brother; he's late for the Cotton Candy bar."
"I'm gonna go look for him," Viola offered after a pause. "Okay, bye!" She waved at her mother and then dashed out of the tent as fast as her legs would carry her. Viola kept glancing back at the tent, shuddering every few steps, as she contemplated the hideous dresses Daphne had bought for her. So absorbed was she that she ran into an innocent bystander, ricocheted off her, and slammed right into Duke. "Sorry," Viola called back.
Duke blinked as a whirlwind in red crashed into his side. Even if he hadn't recognized the shape of her face instantly, his body reacted without a doubt. "Viola?" he double-checked.
The corner of his lips tilted up as he spun her slowly in a circle. "Wow, Hastings, you clean up pretty nice," he teased.
"What do you mean, 'pretty nice', you jock?" Duke laughed and took the knapsack from her, slinging it over one shoulder. "Where have you been volunteered?" she asked, keeping apace with him.
"Cotton Candy. You?"
Viola made a face of disgust. "Kissing Booth." She smiled when he absent-mindedly entwined their hands, drawing her close. "I have to say, I'm impressed, Duke. You've spent most of the morning with me, a girl, and you haven't stuttered once."
He halted abruptly, struck dumb. "I have, haven't I? Maybe you've cured me."
"You should be so lucky," she retorted, punching his shoulder with her free hand. "So, you're not going to try to kiss Olivia today?"
"Nah, she's just a girl. A hot girl, but a girl nonetheless. This," he continued, moving their joined hands to indicate the two of them, "is about soccer, and friendship. Nothing trumps that."
"Aw, Duke," she cooed teasingly. "I'm so flattered."
"You should be. I don't pass up a chance to kiss the hottest girl in school for just anybody, you know." He grunted when her elbow lodged itself in his side.
Her pretty features screwed up with revulsion as she took in the long line-up in front of the Kissing Booth. "Oh, no."
Duke dropped a container of breath mints into her palm. With a teasing smile, he offered, "If you're real nice, I might just stick around to help you get the taste out of your mouth at the end."
"And how do you propose to do that?" Her lips quirked, her pupils suddenly dilated, and her hazel eyes lit with interest.
"Don't I get a down payment first?"
How could he resist such an invitation? He knew he should feel odd at the very least for kissing the girl who had been his male roommate until that morning, but there was only anticipation tightening his nerves. Duke leaned down as she stretched up, only to have her disappear into thin air as a jealous ex-boyfriend jerked her away. "What the hell is this?" Justin demanded. "What do you think you're doing, kissing my girlfriend?"
"You mean your EX-girlfriend," Viola corrected indignantly.
However, locked in their staring contest, the males didn't listen. Angry, testosterone-laden words were exchanged and before Viola knew it, Justin had punched Duke. Duke, of course, couldn't let that go, and shoved her aside while he tackled her foolish ex. They rolled and staggered around as Viola tried to talk some sense into them.
At one point she jumped on Justin's back, but wound up on the ground beneath him, wind knocked out of her, when he lost his balance and fell back. Undeterred, Viola attempted to get in between them. A big mistake, as it turned out, because Justin thrust his elbow back in preparation to punch Duke and caught Viola right on the cheekbone. She fell back, more surprised than anything, but it hurt like hell. Duke instantly ducked under Justin's arm and out of his grasp and rushed to check on her.
"Viola! You okay?" he asked, gently cupping her jaw in his palms and tilting her face up to the sunlight.
She flashed him a reassuring smile, though her eyes were dark with pain, and clasped his hands in hers. "I'm fine, I promise."
Justin loomed up behind Duke and yanked him backwards by the back of his jacket. Surprise caused Duke's and Viola's hands to tighten and she got dragged with them back into and over the popcorn cart.
Viola popped up and crawled over to check on Duke. And if her fist and/or knee just happened to lodge into Justin's ribcage as she crawled over him, well that was his own fault. "Duke!"
He made a noise of protest but rolled over willingly enough. His nose had been bloodied and it appeared that he was going to sport a few bruises elsewhere, but otherwise he was more worried about Viola's cheek. They stood together and took a moment to brush gentle fingers over the red and swollen areas of each other's faces, but a commotion at the edge of the crowd jerked them out of it. "Time to go!" Viola announced as she spied her mother and Cheryl trying to shove through the onlookers.
Viola found a quiet spot to change as Duke stood guard. "I think I've had enough carnival fun for today, how about you?" she asked.
"More than enough," Duke agreed. "Lunch?"
At Cesario's, Duke had the waitress bring them an ice pack for Viola's cheek and he had to restrain the urge to hold it for her. Odd. He remembered seeing Olivia stuck kissing some geek right before he'd leaned in to kiss Viola and waited for the surge of jealousy that he always felt when thinking about Olivia with some other guy.
It never came. For the very first time, concern and some sympathy had been the only emotions that coursed through him when he'd looked at her since first laying eyes on her. Duke started as small fingers grasped his nose, and followed the arm with his eyes to find the owner looking at him expectantly. "You all right?"
Duke shook off his momentary brood and grasped her hand in his. "Fine. How's your cheek?"
She lifted the ice pack away and Duke winced at the purple bruise that darkened her cheek and eye. Justin had really nailed her. "Hurts. How's your nose?"
"Twinges a bit," he admitted. It hurt like hell, but he wasn't about to let her know that.
"Quite a pair, aren't we? All bruised and aching from a children's carnival." She snorted at the irony.
"That's one word for it."
Their extra-large pizza arrived soon, as did Andrew and Toby who instantly gobbled up half of it. "Woah, dude, what the hell happened to you?" Andrew demanded when he got a good look at her face.
"I, uh, got into it with my sister's ex. He was being an ass."
"Why didn't you wait for us? We would have happily helped!"
Viola laughed. "I'm sure you would. At least Duke was there and got a few good hits in. You guys can help next time, 'kay?"
"Deal." She knocked fists with Andrew and Toby and sat back with a little smile on her face as they turned their combined wit on Duke.
The next afternoon Duke spotted her while she bench-pressed the bar of weights in the work-out gym. He'd found some dummy weights to put on it so it looked like she was lifting more than she was. It was still heavier than she was used to and he knew her arms were burning, but he'd insisted on one more set. Her cheek had finally turned a whole rainbow of colors overnight and it was a vivid reminder of what testosterone poisoning could do to innocent bystanders.
He'd scrounged up a tub of bruise cream and pumped her full of ibuprofen every few hours, but she still winced every time she talked or smiled. Not even a liberal coating of make-up could fully hide the bruise but it didn't look as bad any more.
Duke snickered as he remembered how Olivia had flipped when she spotted Viola that morning. It had taken his roommate a full ten minutes to fight her off and sneak away. Not that he'd been any help: he'd been laughing too hard to do anything.
"What are you laughing at?" Viola demanded now with no little irritation.
"Olivia," he replied with a chuckle.
Her eyes widened and her arms wavered for a second. It was enough of a falter that the weight plummeted down towards her chest with her arms as unwilling accessories. He grabbed it the instant after it knocked the wind out of her and replaced it on the stand. She sat up with a humph and a glower, and rubbed her chest where it had impacted. "Gonna live?" he checked, watching carefully to make sure that she wasn't having any difficulty breathing. He didn't think it had hit her that hard, but one couldn't be too sure.
"No thanks to you." Her outraged mutter set him off again and Duke staggered around the weights to sit next to her, shoulders heaving.
"Hastings!" The bellow caught them off guard and Viola shot to her feet.
Dinklage held up a jersey with her name printed across the back. "You're first string for the Cornwall game."
Viola's jaw dropped as she forgot how to speak for a second. "Thank you, Coach!"
He dropped the jersey into her waiting hands and favored her with a rare smile. "You earned it, Hastings. See you at practice."
As soon as he was gone, Viola turned back to face Duke, who had stood up behind her. "Oh my God!" She flung her arms around him for a brief moment before remembering herself.
"You did it." Duke looked like a proud parent and she basked in his warm regard.
"No, we did it. Thanks so much for all your help, Duke."
Andrew ambushed her from behind. "Way to go, Sebastian!"
"This calls for a party!" Toby added, high-fiving her.
"Spread the news to the team: Cesario's, 8 o'clock, my treat," Duke instructed. Toby and Andrew cheered and dashed off, leaving Viola alone with the man she was falling in love with.
"You don't have to," she protested quietly.
"I want to. Like Coach said, you earned it." Duke laid back on the bench he'd claimed and hefted his set of weights: a whopping 225 pounds. Without a word, Viola moved around to stand by his head. She knew she wouldn't be much good if he dropped them, but it was a very convenient excuse to stare at his muscles.
Olivia sauntered up a few minutes later and completely ignored Viola for the first time in over a week, choosing instead to flirt shamelessly with Duke. Viola treasured the consternated expression on the other girl's face when Duke failed to rise to the bait. Instead of stumbling over his own tongue, like he usually did when faced with a member of the female gender, Duke quietly rebuffed her advances, patiently explaining that he'd made plans for that evening but she was more than welcome to join them if she wished.
Viola wished she was close enough to pinch him for that, even more so when he flashed her a highly amused look. Now that they knew who Olivia was after, it was easy enough to see that Olivia was trying to make 'Sebastian' jealous by flirting with somebody who, until the day before, would have tripped all over himself to go out with her. Olivia clearly wasn't sure if she liked the sudden change.
Olivia, looking remarkably put out, wandered away after assuring them that she would think about joining them later. The moment she was out of earshot, Duke collapsed on the weight bench, laughing. Viola punched his shoulder as she sat beside him. "Jerk," she accused without any real heat.
"But… but she…" he stammered. "She is so into you it's almost frightening."
"And you're a whole lot of help."
"But she's hitting on a girl! Man, this is better than Shakespeare."
"Nice to know I'm such a good source of entertainment for you ," she retorted, walking towards the treadmills.
"Aw, c'mon V-… Sebastian, I didn't mean it like that," he protested, trailing her. She made a show of ignoring him and started the treadmill up.
Duke had to chuckle at her antics and hopped onto the machine next to hers. Very quickly they settled into a comfortable silence, broken only by the thump-thump sounds their feet made.
Their celebratory dinner that evening was a loud, rowdy, rambunctious affair, where Viola was congratulated by the team and fully initiated into their ranks. She took their teasing with good humor and a dry wit, slowly allowing more of her real personality to shine through the façade of the "huge geek/loser/deviant", as she'd self-deprecatingly put it.
As much as Duke had grown to like and been amused by 'Sebastian', he had to admit that he liked Viola far better. She'd forgiven him for his comments in the gym only after completely whipping his butt at 'FIFA World Cup' later that afternoon.
Around 10, Olivia wandered in with her friend, Maria, and Eunice in tow. Duke found himself so amused by Eunice's flirting with Viola that he managed to almost completely ignore Olivia's machinations. Viola stalked away after hissing angrily at Eunice about her "hands!" and quickly joined a small group of team members on the opposite side of the restaurant. Duke knew he was spot-on about where Olivia's affections lay when she rushed after Viola.
Viola's opinion on the matter was made very clear when she excused herself from the group she'd joined and rushed into the men's room, the one place Olivia couldn't follow her. Duke followed a few minutes later and locked the door; he discovered Viola sitting on the toilet seat lid in one of the stalls with her head in her hands.
"Come on, Vi, having a pretty girl stalk you can't be that bad."
The glare she shot him from between her fingers could have melted steel. "It is when you're a very straight girl!"
"Ready to go?" he offered.
"Absolutely." They'd ridden over on his motorcycle, so there was no way Olivia could try to share a cab with them, thank God. After giving Viola a few minutes to compose herself and fix her appearance, Duke went to the bar and ordered another round of soda for the team, paid for their night out, and then joined Viola at the door. She had an expression on her face that he clearly identified as deer-in-headlights as she kept a wary eye on Olivia at all times, and she looked ready to bolt.
It might have been pathetic if it wasn't so funny.
"Sure you don't want to hang out with Olivia a little bit longer?" he queried jokingly as they walked to his motorcycle – which she had teasingly referred to as a "Crotch Rocket". He knew she loved it anyway.
"Bite your tongue," she sourly snapped back.
When they got back to the dorm room, Viola discovered a message from her mother on her cell phone to remind her about the Debuatante Luncheon coming up that Friday. She flopped back on her bed with a groan and resisted the urge to chuck the phone at the wall.
"What's up?" Duke asked with no little concern.
"Junior League is having a luncheon thing on Friday for all the new debutantes. That means at least two hours of boring small talk and not being able to eat much. Kill me, please," she begged.
"Sorry, Vi, looks like you're gonna have to fly solo on this one." The look he gave her was sympathetic, though, which she took comfort in. "You have another dress, right?"
She rolled her eyes. "Unfortunately."
"Come on; I'll let you beat me at 'FIFA World Cup' again."
"Oh, 'let me beat you', huh?" Tossing him an indignant glare, she quickly settled beside him and grabbed the other controller. "Bring it on, Jock Boy."
The week passed in a blur of homework and training, as Duke and the coach drilled them mercilessly. Every moment that she wasn't on the field, Viola tried to avoid Olivia, something that unfortunately wasn't possible in Science class. Things that Viola hadn't seen as significant before the carnival now seemed like a flashing neon sign, and it was all she could do to not cut and run.
On the upside, Viola and Duke started a new tradition between themselves. Duke would get up with her and they'd go for a long early-morning run around campus that culminated in a race back to the bathrooms and showers. Whoever lost would have to go back to their room and collect towels, toiletry kits, and bathrobes for both. Unfortunately for Viola, Duke's unfair advantage of longer legs meant she lost more often than not.
Very late Friday morning, Viola made her grand entrance into the Stratford Junior League's luncheon. She was unavoidably, but fashionably, late after spending most of the past two hours with Kia, Yvonne, and Paul trying to hide the slowly fading, but still dark, bruise.
The stretchy material of the white dress hugged her "almost total lack of curves" (as Monique had cattily declared), but Viola treasured the highly interested look on Duke's face when she'd stuffed the dress into her knapsack.
Viola had instantly spotted both Monique and Olivia and kept a very close eye on both as she skirted past them.
"Now, who's ready to come out?" Cheryl chirped from behind Viola.
Who gave a desperate little laugh and rolled her eyes. "Kill me."
While trying to be mindful of the etiquette for meals, Viola soon realized she'd been spending far too much time with the boys during meals when she caught herself wolfing down a chicken drumstick without pausing to really chew it. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted Olivia daintily nibbling on a cracker, and then looked down to find she had a drumstick in one hand and her soup spoon in the other as she filled her cheeks up like a chipmunk.
She dropped both as if they had suddenly turned red hot and quickly dabbed at her mouth and fingers with her napkin. "Excuse me." Viola stalked into the bathroom and braced her hands on the sink while staring at her reflection in the mirror. "Okay, I can do this. I've been fooling everyone else for over a week now; it's just a few more days," she told her reflection. Viola splashed some cold water on her face, dabbed it dry whilst thanking God for inventing sweat- and water-proof make-up, and took several deep breaths.
"You can do this." With that, she spun on her heel and headed back for the door.
Where she almost bashed into Monique. "Watch where you're going, why don't you?" the other girl snapped.
"Sorry, Monique, my bad," Viola called after her. "Too bad I didn't trip her," she added under her breath.
The rest of the luncheon passed quietly for Viola, as she tried not to fall asleep during Cheryl's deadly dull lecture on how to enter the ballroom when introduced. When finally set free, Viola tried not to make her exit too hasty but figured her warp speed getaway might have been a little obvious.
Later that afternoon, as Viola walked from her last class of the day to the soccer field for practice, she got waylaid by a call from her mother who wanted to know how the luncheon had gone and who also wanted to meet up with Viola that weekend because she'd found several more "wonderful" dresses. Read: Hideous Beyond Belief.
The moment Daphne mentioned the dresses, Viola instantly changed directions to a more circuitous and thus less-traveled path. "Mom, I will pick out my own dress!" she insisted for the third time. "And no, I will not wear heels!"
Viola stopped by a gardener's cart as her dear, beloved, completely and totally annoying mother demanded to know why.
"Because," she retorted slowly, "heels are a male invention designed to make a woman's butt look smaller." There was a pause as something else occurred to her. "And to make it harder for them to run away." Viola continued walking, hoping the energy expended would help her resist the urge to reach through the phone lines to shake some sense into the crazy woman she had to call her mother.
She came alongside Duke and quickly ended the call. Feeling a bit dramatic and needing to shed some frustration, Viola violently shook the cellular phone in both hands and growled incoherently under her breath. "Your mom?" he hazarded with a tiny smile. He knew very well that her mother was the only person who could elicit this much aggravation from his usually even-tempered roommate.
"How'd you guess?" she replied sarcastically. Almost instantly, her expression filled with remorse, "I'm sorry, I don't mean to snap at you."
"Don't worry about it. What are friends for, right?"
"I wish I knew what I did to deserve you," Viola remarked thoughtfully.
Duke laughed and hooked his arm around her neck. "Come on. Dinklage'll kill us if we're late."
Practice was grueling, even by Dinklage's standards. Granted, seeing as the Cornwall game was supposed to be the next day, Viola could understand why he was pushing them even if she couldn't appreciate the results at the moment. Trying not to lean on Duke too much, Viola staggered back to their room and collapsed on the bed with a theatric groan as she swore she wasn't going to move until the morning.
Since he hadn't had to stress out over a debutante luncheon, Duke had a little energy left over after dinner and invited Viola for a ride on his motorcycle. He chuckled when she merely gave him an agonized moan and pulled her pillow over her head. "I'm just gonna die here, if it's all the same to you."
"Fine, your loss."
Duke returned at a little after 10 and parked his bike. He happened to see a very familiar person get out of a cab and his eyes widened when he realized the person had a lot of luggage and a guitar case with him. His gaze panned up in time to see Olivia rush to the top of the staircase. She hesitated for a second and then ran down the steps, grabbed the other guy's shoulder to spin him, and then proceeded to kiss the living daylights out of him. Duke laughed his ass off.
"Holy crap!" Duke raced back to his dorm and almost sighed with relief when he spotted Viola, still borderline comatose, on her bed. "Vi, I think I just saw your brother."
"What! But he's not supposed to come back until the day after tomorrow!" Viola cried, jerking the pillow down.
"Looks like he decided to come back early."
"Oh, I am so dead," Viola moaned, covering her face with her pillow once more.
"Hey, it'll be okay. We'll just explain everything to him when he gets up here. Chill out." Duke sat beside her on the bed and lifted up the pillow enough to see her face.
"How do you do that?" she asked with no little admiration, putting the pillow aside and sitting up. Her new position put her face within inches of his.
"Do what?" Duke repeated, trying not to stare at her lips. He was beginning to forget how to put complete sentences together with her so close.
"Stay so calm in the face of certain doom," Viola explained, leaning in a bit closer.
A slightly sardonic smile twisted his lips. "Practice. I am team captain, remember?"
"Right. Captain, of course."
There was an uncomfortable pause before Duke leapt up and grabbed the video game controllers after shrugging out of his favorite Ducati jacket.
"By the way, I almost forgot: when I saw Sebastian, Olivia ran right up to him and tried to stick her tongue down his throat." That startled a laugh out of her even as she caught the controller he tossed at her.
Pretty soon they were laughing and shouting, teasingly trying to sabotage the other person's game without compromising their own (thus is the beauty of 'Mario Kart'); it was this scene that the real Sebastian blundered in on later. "Um, hi," he said, gazing curiously at his doppelganger.
Viola hit pause and leapt off her chair. "Sebastian!" she cried, wrapping her arms around him.
"Vi?" he asked incredulously, returning her hug.
She smiled sheepishly and quickly introduced Duke. "Boy, do I have some explaining to do." Gradually, the whole sordid tale came out, with pauses for either Duke or Sebastian to burst out laughing. Viola looked like she was seriously considering thumping them both by the time she was done.
"Wow, Vi, you did all this to play soccer? I'm impressed."
"It's important to me," she replied, throwing his own oft-repeated words back at him. "Can you just lay low or something until after the game tomorrow?"
Before he could answer, there was a loud banging on their door. "Sebastian!" Monique screeched. "Sebastian, open up! You have got a lot of explaining to do, followed by a very long night of groveling."
Viola exchanged wide-eyed looks with the males. Duke had her lay down on the floor behind his bed while Sebastian answered the door with the most innocent expression he could muster. "Hello, Monique. What are you doing here?"
Her expression was one of fury and it was aimed right at him. "I got your message," she gritted out. "I know where you've been, and it hasn't been here, which means that a certain sister of yours is going to be in a lot of trouble when I tell the principal."
"I have no idea what you're talking about. Message, what message?" he continued, attempting to brazen it out. "Oh, that message; the London one. Well, why didn't you say so? No, I've been here the last two weeks. That message was a result of a lot of alcohol and not enough sleep. Sorry you got all wound up for nothing." Sebastian didn't look or sound the least bit sorry, even as she turned on the waterworks.
Duke decided (at Viola's insistence) that it was high time to help and came up behind his slowly smiling new roommate. "Uh, dude, in case you forgot, curfew is at 11 on weekends, and it's almost 11:30. Wrap it up, huh?"
Sebastian grinned widely at the blonde. "Sorry, Monique, but rules are rules. Sorry you came all the way out here for nothing. 'Night." And with that, he shut the door in her face. From behind the door, all three occupants of the dorm room could hear her screech of frustration before she stalked down the hallway muttering under her breath.
Viola, Duke, and Sebastian waited until a count of ten before cracking up. Eventually, they sobered and Duke brought up something that had been bothering him. "Vi, we're going to have to tell Coach and the team what's going on, now that Sebastian's back."
She heaved a resigned sigh and agreed. "Sure, right after the morning run."
The trio turned in after a quick argument as to who was sleeping where, but Sebastian eventually got his way: Viola and Duke took the beds since they had to be in top shape in the morning, and Sebastian camped out on the floor. The boys vacated long enough for Viola to change, and then she snuck out to the bathroom when they returned. They settled down with a round of "good nights" and soon lost the battle with sleep.
The morning of the rivalry game with Cornwall dawned bright and clear. The lightening sky found Duke and Viola finishing up a five mile run with a race to the bathroom. Like normal, Duke's longer stride easily outstripped Viola's and he gleefully slammed the door in her face with a triumphant laugh. She returned five minutes later with his towel, toiletry kit, and bathrobe, and placed them on the counter before hiding in one of the stalls, one hand over her eyes the entire time.
As usual, he chuckled at her antics and she threatened to toss his towel into the still-running shower with him. When he finished his morning toilette Duke shrugged into his robe and left to dress, though he waited to hear the bathroom door lock behind him. He knew that by the time Viola emerged, he would be dressed and still have had time to run down to the cafeteria for breakfast. As had become habit, she would exit the bathroom to find him with a bottle of orange juice and a bagel in hand for her whilst he nonchalantly stood guard. They grabbed everything they were going to need for the day when they dropped her shower gear back off in the room and then exited the dormitory completely into the warm summer sunshine.
On their way down to Dinklage's office, Viola detoured into the locker room to retrieve her jersey. As a symbol of everything she had worked for, it was pretty effective and she mourned its loss.
"Ready?" Duke asked, hand poised to knock on the office door.
"As ready as I'm going to get. Do it," Viola replied with another deep breath to rally her courage.
"Enter!" the familiar voice bellowed.
"Good morning, Coach," Viola greeted, shuffling in just ahead of Duke.
"Hastings, Orsino. To what do I owe the pleasure?" Dinklage sat in the Seat of Power behind a large, obviously custom-made desk, and laced his fingers across his stomach as he raised a curious eyebrow at them.
"Coach, I have something to confess," Viola blurted.
The expression on Dinklage's face went from merely curious to dangerous and Viola had to squash the urge to flinch back. "What?"
"My name isn't Sebastian, sir. I'm Sebastian's sister, Viola."
That was obviously a surprise to the coach because both eyebrows flew into his hairline. "I think you'd better sit down and explain the whole story, Hastings."
With Duke providing silent support, and input when he felt it necessary, Viola spilled the whole story for the second time in 12 hours. How Coach Pistonek and the Cornwall boys had flat out refused to all her to try out when the girls' team got cut. How she'd come up with the plan to infiltrate the Illyria team while impersonating her brother to prove to the bigoted, chauvinistic males at Cornwall that girls really could play soccer as well as boys. How she really hadn't meant to use him or the team, but only wanted to prove her point.
"I'm sorry, Coach. Here's my jersey," Viola finished, holding it out.
"What are you talking about?" The coach's voice was as close to a bellow as he could manage without it actually being one.
"Don't you want me to quit, Coach?" Viola ventured, exchanging a hopeful glance with Duke.
"It seems to me that after all the time and effort you've put into this scheme of yours, not to mention all the work you did to impress me over the last two weeks, that you deserve to play. I don't make it a habit of discriminating based on gender, and I'm not about to start now. Like I told you, Hastings, you've earned this. Go show those narrow-minded arses at Cornwall how girls play football." Dinklage winked at them as Viola jumped to her feet with a shout of joy.
"Really? Oh, my God, Duke, I'm playing! You're not going to regret this, Coach, I swear it!"
The coach smiled enigmatically at her elation. "I know I won't. Now, get out of here, the both of you; we've got a game to get ready for."
Duke paused long enough to offer a "thanks, Coach," before he was dragged out of the room by one hundred pounds of ecstatic teenage girl. As soon as they were back in the locker room, Viola launched herself into his arms and Duke was more than happy to spin her around. "He's right, you know. You earned it."
"None of this would have happened without you. I can't thank you enough, Duke," she muttered, arms wrapped tightly around his neck.
"Don't mention it; it was entirely my pleasure." Duke finally gave into the urge that had gripped him since the first moment he'd seen her in that scarlet dress. He leaned in and proceeded to kiss her until they were both breathless.
By the time they separated, her pupils were dilated and the evidence of his physical state lay against her belly. "Is that a cell phone in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me," she teased.
He growled low in his throat, a sound that set her nether parts to tingling, and kissed her again.
They were so wrapped up in each other that they didn't hear their friends until Andrew, with his usual lack of tact, asked, "Uh, Duke, why are you kissing Sebastian?"
Viola jerked away from Duke and nearly fell on her butt. Only his quick reflexes saved her from having to nurse another bruise and she turned to face the firing squad. "This isn't exactly how I wanted you guys to find out," she started sheepishly while she pulled her wig off. "Long story short, I'm Sebastian's sister who impersonated him to get revenge on the Cornwall boys' team for not letting the girls' team try out when it was cut."
That set off a round of angry muttering; a surprising amount was aimed at the Cornwall team for being so prejudiced. Toby stepped forward with his hand outstretched, "Well…"
"Viola," she supplied.
"Viola," he acknowledged with a tiny grin, "it's their loss and our gain. We'd be proud to have you play with us."
An elated grin broke across her face as the rest of the team cheered and slapped her back and shoulders. "I won't let you guys down."
This time it was Andrew who took the lead. "And we won't let you down; we're all in this together. Let's kick some Cornwall ass!"
After ushering Viola into the shower area to change into her tracksuit, the team headed out on the field to warm up. She was fully wrapped, padded, and bewigged again but more than one of the guys found themselves wondering how they'd ever been fooled.
The game went beautifully. To call it a massacre might be exaggerating, but with a final score of 5-1 for Illyria (with Viola directly scoring or assisting with four of them) nobody had any doubts that Cornwall had been outplayed and outclassed by the Black-and-Red. As Coach Pistonek and the team sulked off the field, Viola, with the entire Illyria team at her back, called them back around.
"Oh Coach," Viola beckoned. Unhappily, he turned around and stalked back towards her with Justin and the rest of his team close on his heels. "You remember two weeks ago, when you said that girls weren't strong enough, or fast enough, or athletic enough to play with the boys?" A smug smile crossed her lips as she glanced around her to where Duke and Coach Dinklage flanked her on the right, Andrew and Toby on the left. All stood with their arms crossed so as to look as intimidating as possible.
Pistonek instantly looked very wary. "So what if I did? It's a scientific fact," he repeated.
Viola sighed dramatically. "Well, I'd say that you need to recheck your facts, because you just got beat by girl." She pulled off the fake sideburns and eyebrows as Duke reached over and pulled the wig off, allowing her own hair to flow down over her shoulders. "Surprise."
She gleefully noted that Justin looked ready to faint. "Viola?" he squeaked.
"See you around, boys." She spun on her heel and stalked back across the field to the celebrations taking place, the Illyria team matching her step for step.
"Hastings," Dinklage said, calling her back. "I'll have a word with the headmaster about getting you transferred here. I'll also talk to him about getting a girls' side started up, but I can't promise anything for this year. In the meantime, I'll try out any of your friends that are interested."
"Thanks, Coach. If I wasn't so sure you'd kick me off the team, I'd hug you."
"Get on with you. You're late for a party." Dinklage allowed himself a rare smile as she rushed to join her friends. If anything, the coming year was going to be very interesting. "Ah, Headmaster, can I have word?"
"What can I do for you, Coach Dinklage?" Gold asked with a cheery smile.
"Well, it concerns Hastings…"
Partway across the field they ran across Olivia, who was staring at Viola with a mixture of fascination and horror. "Oh, my God."
"Olivia, wait," Viola beseeched. "You didn't kiss me last night. You kissed my brother, the real Sebastian. Speaking of…" she grinned as he drew abreast of them, "Sebastian Hastings, Olivia Lennox."
Olivia started to look a little better as she shook Sebastian's hand. "Oh, by the way, about the whole…"
"Flirting thing? Don't worry, it's completely forgotten," Viola completed reassuringly. The pair smiled at her and wandered off together.
Viola shrieked as she was ambushed from behind and lifted up. "Andrew!" she admonished without having to look. Familiar shouting drew her attention back towards the stands and she slapped at Andrew's head and hands to get him to put her down. The moment he complied, she was off and running towards her three best friends. Their excitement was contagious and Viola found herself jumping up and down while shouting her head off.
Paul aimed his video camera directly in her face and asked, "You've just won the big game against Cornwall! What do you have to say?"
Viola's attention was caught by something going on behind him and her head cocked to one side as she contemplated it. Totally ignoring Paul's question, Viola brushed by him with a "Duke?" as she quickly walked over to the team captain.
"Armadillos!" he called, quickly gaining their attention. Duke held up the ball in his hands. "The Game Ball! I believe this belongs to you," he said directly to Viola as he handed it to her while their audience cheered.
Viola smiled and squeezed it for a moment as she considered her next move. Decision made, she dropped it over her shoulder and wrapped her arms around his neck. His own wound about her torso an instant later and he held her tightly. "Coach says he's going to talk to the headmaster about me transferring here," she murmured in his ear.
Duke's head reared back and she saw his smile right before he kissed her. Not that she was complaining, mind. Viola eagerly returned kiss for kiss, and then was content to just hold him.
The victory party was slow to move back to the dorms and it was amazing that their room was empty when Duke and Viola returned after showering and changing. Sebastian was nowhere to be found, but Viola had a sneaky suspicion that he was off with Olivia somewhere, possibly at Cesario's.
Duke closed and locked the door against intruders and he and Viola settled on his bed on their sides, facing each other. "So, I understand you have some kind of fancy party coming up," Duke started.
Viola groaned and flopped over on her back. Unfortunately for her, an agreement was an agreement and she couldn't break it. "The Debutante Ball. My mother's been shopping for a dress for me for weeks."
Duke leaned over her and laced their fingers together. "Do you have an escort, by chance?"
"Are you offering?"
"I think I could be convinced." He grunted a laugh when she punched him with her free hand. He caught the offending fist and gently kissed her knuckles. "It would be my honor to escort you to the ball, Miss Hastings." Viola stretched up as he leaned down and their lips met softly once, twice, three times, before settling firmly.
Viola moved into Eunice's room the next Monday. She, however, rarely spent any time there, preferring to hang out and study with the team and Sebastian. Luckily, Duke and Sebastian seemed to come to a silent agreement of sorts regarding each other's girlfriend.
That Saturday night, Cheryl read off her cue cards as she introduced the newest batch of debutantes alphabetically by their first names. "Monique Valentine, escorted by Justin Drayton." True to form, Justin swaggered on stage, lapping up all the attention that was supposed to be on her. She barely refrained from committing violence upon his person when he ignored her outstretched hand for the second time, and resolved to pretend he didn't exist for the rest of the night. Maybe Viola had been on to something when she dumped him.
"Olivia Lennox, escorted by Sebastian Hastings." Olivia, radiant in her white gown, met Sebastian, who looked a little uncomfortable in his ill-fitting shirt and jacket, at the stage and smiled when he instantly held out his arm for her to loops hers through. Giddy on love ("and too much caffeine," as Duke teasingly claimed to Viola backstage), they sailed down the catwalk, waving at friends and family.
Finally, they were at the end of the line. Cheryl looked and sounded a little nervous when she read her last index card, but she forged on just the same. "Viola Hastings, escorted by Duke Orsino." Viola, unconventional to the last, emerged in a simple sea-green silk dress with her hair tumbling down her back – as opposed to traditional white and an up-do – and met her devastatingly attractive date in the middle of the stage with an ardent kiss (which Cheryl tried to ignore). They cheerfully pointed out and waved at their friends. As they paused at the top of the stairs, Viola raised her left arm and let out a victory cheer (or maybe it was a battle cry; Cheryl was never sure with that girl).
The final pair descended and joined their peers, and Cheryl marveled for a moment at the lovely sight they all made. Then it was time for the lights to go down and the music to start and each of the young couples took immediate advantage. No waltzing or fox-trots for them, a fact they were very pleased with.
Viola was only a little surprised when Duke voiced something that had been on his mind since he'd found out her masquerade, "So, did you spy on me while I was changing?"
She flashed a naughty smile at him. "Oh, definitely. One night, I even lifted up your covers while you were sleeping…"
Duke tried to hide his amusement behind joking outrage. "That makes me feel so… used," he griped, sliding his arms around her.
Viola gave a burst of laughter as she danced against him. "You should."
"So, how does it feel to be a Debutante?" he asked a little later as he gently pulled her to the edge of the dance floor.
Viola wound her arms around his neck and brushed a butterfly kiss across his mouth. "Better than I thought it would."
"Yeah." They traded happy smiles even as he lowered his lips to hers.
Until they heard Justin's voice coming from behind them. "Viola!"
"Excuse me," Viola said to Duke, smiling apologetically as she slipped out of his arms. "For the last time, Justin: get lost." She drew back her arm and slapped him as hard she could.
Duke wrapped his arms around her waist from behind. "That's my girl."
Viola spun, completely ignoring Justin's groans of so-called pain, and grinned up at him. "I thought I was the man?"
"That, too." Impatient as ever, Viola wrapped Duke's tie around her hand and jerked him down for a kiss. "But at least you're mine, no matter what gender you're playing at."
"You know, a girl could easily fall in love with you."
"Why?" she demanded, eyeing him suspiciously.
"Because I've already fallen." The smile that appeared on his face was one she'd never seen before; its warmth took her breath away. A matching smile slowly emerged on her mouth even as she stretched up.
Neither knew nor cared who initiated the next kiss but they did make sure it lasted a good long while.
Until her mother and Cheryl caught sight of them. "Viola Hastings!"
"And that would be our cue to leave," Viola announced, grabbing his hand.
Duke laughed and allowed himself to be towed along in her wake. Life around her would never be dull.
His mother's voice rose above the cacophony: "Duke Orsino!" Duke's stride lengthened to outpace Viola and she quickly found herself being dragged behind him. "Time to go!"
Please review; flames will be used to help my frozen Canadian butt stay warm this winter.