Part One

It was nearly evening when Parker finally arrived on campus. She spent a further forty-five minutes looking for her dormitory, which happened to be a modern, if not slightly stylish, brick building clear across the field used for various sporting events. She stared up at it for a moment, wondering where her room, and, if trends continued, roommates were.

Well, it's not as if they're going anywhere quick, she reasoned, hoisting her duffel bag onto her shoulder again and wrenching the door to the Ashe Dormitory open. After tripping up two flights of stairs, and wandering past three co-ed corridors, Parker finally located her room on the third floor. Room three-oh-four. Spiffy. She knocked lightly before entering, drawing in and holding her breath.

She didn't know what she was expecting. Maybe a dark-looking drummer with a fauxhawk and an eyepatch? Maybe a serious, bespectacled girl in a button-up and pearls? What she saw, though, made her smile. Two girls, both clad in school-issue shorts and long-sleeve shirts, were lounging on beanbags in front of a small television on a wooden stand, watching the Disney Channel. A half-eaten bag of popcorn was next to them, along with several Nalgene bottles.

"Um, hi," Parker said awkwardly. She had opted to miss the orientation week at Moloney Academy for the Athletically Inclined for the chance to plan her older sister Randall's college graduation party, and therefore missed out on the important orientation type events, like meeting roommates.

"Hey," the girl closest to the television, a girl with long blonde hair tied in a thick braid, said. "You must be Parker."

"Yeah," Parker replied stupidly. The other girl, who had short brown hair tucked into a baseball cap that read 'Moloney Academy Track and Field' on it, looked up. "That's me."

"This is Cecelia Underwood," the blonde said, pointing to the girl on the floor. "I'm Julie."

"It's nice to meet you."

The girl called Cecelia snorted, and leapt up from her place in front of the television. She plucked the cap from her head and twirled it around her finger. "That's what you think," she said. "You should hear her snore at night. It's like the Discovery Channel gone bad."

Parker smiled weakly. The two were obviously close. Quickly changing the subject, she gestured towards the two vacant loft beds, each with a dresser and desk situated underneath. Two had been taken already, and the two left were on opposite sides. "Where d'you want me to go?"

Cecelia shrugged. "Wherever. Dominique should be here soon, so, take your pick." Taking the hint that it wouldn't be a matter of life and death, Parker quickly did an eeny-meeny-miny-moe in her head, and piled her things on the bed closest to the door. When Cecelia gave a shout, she nearly dropped her duffel on her shoes. "Good choice," she said, looking pleased. "I'm over there." Parker considered this, and jokingly started to move her things, which made Julie laugh and Cecelia pout. "Not funny, girly."

"Face it, Underwood," Julie said, tossing a kernel of popcorn up and catching it neatly in her mouth. "She obviously prefers me."

Cecelia narrowed her eyes, and when Julie threw another piece of popcorn up, caught it and crumbled it into her hair. "No way, Cat Lady!"

By then, Parker had made her bed, stowed the rest of her things underneath and slipped out of the room, clutching her student identification pass. She roamed the hallways of her building, and explored the laundry room, kitchen, and common areas. She nearly got run over by a crowd of incoming students looking to move into their rooms in the corridor near the common area, and decided it would be much safer upstairs.

After getting lost on the other side of the building, Parker found her room again. When she pushed open the door, she saw that the fourth girl had arrived, a tall black girl who wore her hair in a mass of tightly braided strands. She waved when Parker walked in, a gesture that caught the attention of Cecelia and Julie.

"Oh, good, you're back," Julie said, throwing the bag of popcorn in the trash. "This is Dominique. Dom, this is Parker."

"Hello," Dominique said, her voice a deep alto. "What sport do you play?"

"Hey!" Cecelia snapped her fingers in Julie's direction. "I knew we forgot to ask something!"

Julie rolled her eyes; Dominique laughed.

"Oh," Parker said, shifting uncomfortably, "I play softball." She looked around the room. "What about you guys?"

"Hockey," Julie replied promptly. "I'm a goalie."

"We have a hockey team?" Parker was confused; she'd scoured the Moloney Academy brochures after she had been accepted, trying to familiarize herself with the statistics of the many teams, and hadn't seen anything for hockey.

"We're new," Julie explained. "The Ducks went to Eden Hall together, and the trustees decided that we should apply to Moloney on the off chance that we all get in." She paused. "And we did. Kind of. The only one who didn't was Luis, but that's because he opted for culinary arts school instead. He said it meant more girls than a school like this." She shook her head with a grin. "Typical Luis."

Parker grinned. "Cecelia?"

"Track," Cecelia said, wrinkling her nose. "Out where it's warm. All I have to do is the mile relay, and then they're happy with me. By the way, it's Lee, preferably. What about you, Dom?"

Dominique twisted a thin braid in her long fingers. "I swim." She checked her watch. "Speaking of which, do any of you know when practices start?"

"Last I heard, we were supposed to move our crap in," –Julie gestured to the room and its various levels of disarray- "And we have a floor meeting at six, practices start tomorrow at nine and go from there, and then classes start the day after tomorrow."

"Sooooo…" Parker checked her own watch (silver, with Mickey Mouse hands and a black leather band), "We have roughly, what? Two and a half hours?" She looked around. "How about we put this room into some sort of order, and then after the floor meeting we can order pizza or something?"

In no time at all, the room had been rearranged and decorated, as dormitory rooms should very well be. Julie had pinned up the season schedule for the Maine Black Bears, her home hockey team, as well as a signed team photograph. The rest of the wall space was used for a bulletin board decorated with the University of Maine at Orono paraphernalia, a picture of her and her parents outside their farm with their dog, and a pennant from Orono. Her sheets were in the school colors, and on the quilt was a stuffed black bear wearing a jersey.

Dominique had opted for six black-and-white photos of waterfalls, which the other girls later found out she'd taken herself, hung on the wall with bright pink ribbon. She had also arranged similar photos of her parents and seven brothers and sisters on her dresser, which were also decorated with pink ribbon. Her quilt and sheets were black and white, almost Victorian in nature, topped with pink pillows.

Cecelia, or Lee, as she preferred, had a slight obsession with rubber ducks. Her area of the room was plastered with a poster of the plastic animals spilling out of a bathtub. Her bedspread was a cool blue, and she had a stuffed duck resting on the pillow. Lined up on both the bookcase and the dresser were several ducks, each one personalized and different. Parker's favourite was the ninja duck, which had a set of nunchuks and a face mask painted onto the plastic.

Parker's section of the room was slightly more muted, with a comforter in beige, green, and brown stripes. She had propped up beside a green reading pillow a ragged-looking brown bear, which was missing an eye, and a stuffed baseball bat. On her walls were two large posters of the Boston Red Sox from when they finally won the World Series, an advert for the movie 'Grease', and a map of the provinces of Ireland, which showed where the different family clans were from.

The center area included all the essentials- in between Parker and Lee's beds was the refrigerator and the microwave, and in front of Dominique and Julie's beds were the two beanbag chairs, and a larger beanbag couch. The television and the stand holding their combined DVDs, videos, and videogames (for Parker had brought with her an XBOX) were situated in front of the refrigerator.

After surveying their handiwork, Dominique suggested they go and find seats for the floor meeting. They navigated past the clusters of open doors and ducked a paper airplane contest, walking down a set of three stairs, which led to the floor common area. There were already many people waiting for the meeting to start, and the four girls hurried to claim the last available seats on an ugly plaid couch. Julie found someone she knew, and introduced her roommates to her teammate and friend, Connie Moreau.

"How do you guys like it so far?" whispered Connie. Her eyes, a dark brown, were alight. "I'm whispering because my roommates are close by… they're insane!"

Parker looked over Connie's shoulder, her eyes finally settling on a glaring, dark-haired girl with glasses who was dressed in all black. Sitting next to her was a stick-thin girl with a purple Mohawk, who was busy filing her fingernails. "Are those them?" she whispered back.

"If you're looking at two girls, one dark and one purple, then you'd be correct," Connie said quietly. "The Hulk is actually Georgiana, and she plays… get this… field hockey. Horrors. The other one's called Daniella, and she's a softball player. She also has one of those Minnie Mouse voices, so it's really hard to not laugh."

"Softball?" Parker repeated. "I play softball!"

"Good luck, then," Connie snorted.

"The exterior doesn't really match," Julie commented, having spotted them herself. "Where's the third one?"

"Not here yet," Connie said. "She's kind of odd, too, but she seems okay." She stopped talking, because two older girls had just entered, wearing identical red RESLIFE polo shirts. She guessed they were the first of the three resident assistants. Sure enough, seconds later, the third one appeared, also in a red shirt. She grinned around at the people seated in front of her.

They mumbled among themselves for a couple of seconds, and then the third girl started talking. "Hey everyone!" she said, clasping her hands together. "Welcome to Ashe Dormitory! Can anyone name the athlete the building's named for?"

"Arthur Ashe!" offered a couple of people.

"Great! Tennis player, if I remember correctly," she said with a smile. "I'm Isobel Jennings, and I play polo for Moloney. This is Andrea Chase-" she gestured to a shorter, stockier girl with brown hair and an easy smile "-and this is Lane Windsor-" this time to a girl with red hair and a pointed nose. "We're going to be your resident assistants this semester and hopefully next semester too!"

"In case you haven't noticed," Andrea added, stepping forward slightly, "The floors are not segregated by gender, so many of you will be living down the hall from members of the opposite sex. This is common here at Moloney. Anyway, there are six other RAs around the building. Three per floor. I have the connector wing, which is usually called the West Side, Lane has the South Side, and Isobel has the North Side. Below us are Jared, Neil, and Emily, and on the first floor are Brent, Daphne, and Josie."

"The common areas are located in two places on each floor for your convenience," Lane continued. "They separate the South and West Sides, and North and West Sides. They all have TVs and couches and stuff, and are for everyone to use if they want. The adjoining kitchens have stoves, full refrigerators, and microwaves."

"The next-" Isobel started, but was cut off by the arrival of a sheepish-looking girl with brown hair flecked by blue streaks. "Are you here for the meeting?"

"Yeah," the girl said, "Someone told me it was in the basement laundry room." On the far side of the room, a group of boys from the basketball team snickered. "Hey! Thanks, guys!" She waved, and then proceeded to stumble over people until she sat down directly next to Connie. "Howdy, roomie. What'd I miss?"

"Anyway," Isobel said again, shaking her head and glaring at the boys, "The next thing we have to do is designate bathrooms. In the past we have had single-sex and unisex bathrooms. It's up to you guys. There are two bathrooms on North Side, and two on South Side. Hate to break it to you, but either way you vote, they're community bathrooms."

In the end, they voted for all of the bathrooms to be unisex, so no one would have to go out of their way for the bathroom, and they were adjourned. The girl who had come in late walked back to the North Side with Julie, Parker, Connie, Dominique, and Lee. She introduced herself as Mara, a lacrosse player. It turned out that the room she and Connie shared with Georgiana and Daniella was four doors down from theirs, and it seemed that they would be visiting each other often.

The rest of the evening consisted of what Dominique had jokingly referred to as 'roomie bonding,' and then sleep. Before Parker nodded off, she thought, I think I'll like it here.

Practices for each and every athletic event that the Moloney Academy for the Athletically Inclined were held beginning at seven o'clock for the hockey team, and ending at nine o'clock, with the swim team. Before softball practice and after Julie's grueling hockey practice, Parker found herself sitting in the cafeteria (named for soccer star Mia Hamm) with her roommates. They were soon joined by Connie, who had not had enough energy to change out of the pajama pants and Moloney sweatshirt she'd worn down to the hockey rink that morning, and Mara, who was still in her lacrosse practice clothes.

"What's for eating?" Mara greeted the sleepy table. Dominique had her head resting in her hands across the table from Parker, a half-eaten bowl of oatmeal and some toast in front of her. Parker gestured to her plate.

"S'far as I'm concerned, the eggs and bacon weren't too awful. Dom burnt her toast, but that's her fault. Oh, and if the line's not too long, the egg guy will make you an omelet."

Mara grinned. "You know me so well." She took off down the small alleyway between tables, jokingly referred to by students as the catwalk, at a brisk jog. Sure enough, a few minutes later, she returned, holding a plate with a delicious-looking omelet on it, smothered in ketchup.

"That looks disgusting," Julie informed her, standing up and picking up a plate with a half-eaten stack of blueberry pancakes. "These pancakes look more appetizing, and they had cultured blueberries!"

"Uh, yeah," Mara said through a mouthful of omelet. "What's the issue there, again?"

"Hello," Julie said, swigging the last of her orange juice. "From Maine. We go out in the woods and pick our own damn blueberries."

"Gotcha." Mara shoveled in a few more bites. Her cheeks were bulging. "Tho, werfff a refffft ofa eem? We needddomeem. Yoothaw aoodem eeeoufffff."

"If that was supposed to translate to, 'So where's the rest of your team? We need to meet them. You talk about them enough,'" Julie said, horrified that the girl could actually make understandable sounds, "Then they're meeting us at lunch, because they still have unpacking to do."

"Serious?" Connie asked. "Betcha Banksie and Ken and Guy and Dwayne and Averman have already unpacked. It's the others who've been lazy."

"Probably," Julie agreed. She looked across the table at Parker. "Shouldn't you be gone?"

Parker stared at her. She finally snapped out of it, and checked her watch. "Oh, shit!" She grabbed her plate, and ran towards the dish window. "Thanks, Jules!" she called over her shoulder.

"All right, ladies!" A short woman with closely cropped red hair shouted, clapping her hands. "Hustle in, hustle in! It's time to work on your hitting!"

Parker wiped a sheet of sweat off her forehead, and pushed back her hair. She ran out of center field, and nearly bowled over the shortstop, a stocky girl named Suze. They gathered around the bench in the dugout, and reached for their water bottles. With a renewed sense of vigor, they formed a line in front of the coach. She motioned for the catcher to come forward, as well as the primary pitcher.

"When Cowell gets to the mound, she'll pitch you each three balls. I'll call out a direction, and I want to see if you can direct your hit in that direction. That way, we'll have a one-up on each and every pitch you come up against."

Parker looked skeptical. Behind her, Daniella, Connie's stick-thin roommate with purple hair, snorted. "Like direction can be taught, Coach," she muttered.

Parker shrugged, and slid her bat out of her equipment bag. Gripping the handle, it felt comfortable in her hands, like an old friend. She waited until the coach nodded at her, and stepped up to the plate. From the pitcher's mound Tammie smiled at her, a smile quickly returned; it took a simple gesture like that to make Parker think that the team had a chance of seriously bonding over the course of the off-and-on season.

Tammie wound up, and Parker gripped the bat, digging her cleats into the sand. Tammie let go of the ball, and the older woman shouted, "Left to center!" signaling that she wanted the ball to land somewhere in between left and center fields. Parker swung and missed, the ball's thump resounding off the bricks of the dugout. A couple of the girls snickered.

"Enough!" Coach Rothman snapped. Her eyes focused on Daniella, who was still laughing. "Meadows," she said slowly, raising a crimson eyebrow. "What is it that's so funny?"

Daniella glared at her.

"The fact that Harris missed the ball, perhaps? That's not funny. If she had missed the ball and it had hit you on the gob, that would have been funny." Rothman folded her arms across her chest, and marched over to where Daniella was standing. The violet-haired girl didn't quiver under the older woman's glare, but instead shifted from one foot to the other disinterestedly. Rothman smiled a little. "I think maybe a few laps around the track with the runners will do you some good. Twenty, and then back to the locker rooms. You and I need to have a chat." Daniella tore herself from the line and gathered her equipment, fuming silently as she exited the dugout area. "If that's everything, I think we can get back to batting," the coach said quietly, nodding to Parker.

Parker hit the next two balls, one of which was in the general area of the direction called, one of the few that made it, earning her a reprieve from laps at the end of practice.

Later in the locker room, over the deafening roar of fifteen or so teenage girls in the midst of changing up for weight training in the afternoon, Coach Rothman entered, holding a clipboard and a PA pager.

"Ladies!" she said, her voice amplifying so she could be heard over the chatter, "Weight training starts in an hour and a half! Meet back here ten minutes beforehand so we can walk over to the weight room together. If you're late, you'll do laps with the track team. Understood?"

The girls nodded.

Coach Rothman shut off the pager. "Have a good lunch."

A/N: Okay, guys, I know some of you are waiting for Jingle Belle, but I must say, I was super-inspired by Donuthole to make a Ducks fic work. I know it's a long shot, considering my abominable track record, but I'm going to try to keep both afloat, considering the realms are so different. Anyway, reviews and suggestions are always welcome, and thank you for putting up with my ridiculousness! Cheers! Flyinghawk