"Whatcha doin' there, cheerleader?" The word is not a compliment, nor even a simple descriptor – it drips with venom. Miranda sits up, her back ramrod straight against the wall behind her, and glowers at the new arrival through her tears. She doesn't even bother trying to dry her face – this is not someone whose opinion can affect her life, so there's no point. She does close her legs, though – the cheerleading uniform was not meant to be worn while squatting in hallways, and she doesn't want to give anyone a show.
"Oh, poor baby," mocks Jack, swaggering over and squatting down uncomfortably close. She looks like every 'Don't Join a Gang' PSA Miranda's ever seen, from her weird half-shaved hairstyle to her studded leather half-jacket, cut-up camo pants, and heavy black boots. The steadily-increasing number of tattoos just seals the deal. It's kind of hot actually, but the cheerleader would rather take a bullet than admit that out loud.
"Leave me alone," Miranda hisses, hands on her knees and eyes pointed straight at the opposite wall, even when the tattooed girl moves in between her and it. The whole school buzzes with speculation about this girl, with everything from 'murderer' to 'prostitute' bandied about the hallways and cafeteria. The former Miranda can believe much more quickly than the latter, although she tries not to wonder where exactly Jack gets the money for all that ink.
"Oh boo-hoo, little cheerleader's sad. What's the matter, precious, didn't make team captain?"
The blue-eyed girl's back straightens impossibly further as she draws herself up sharply. It's unexpectedly painful to hear from an outsider, even if she knows it's most likely a lucky guess. There's no way someone like Jack would even know when squad tryouts are, much less who got voted captain.
Jack snickers unpleasantly, rocking back on her heels and slapping one thigh. "Oh man, looks like I pissed off Little Miss Perfect. Look at me, I'm shaking in my boots! Go on, sit up straighter at me, let's see if I can take it without pissing myself!"
"Shut the fuck up!" Miranda hollers, then claps one hand over her mouth. She glances at Jack to gauge the punk's reaction – if she really is a murderer, this seems a likely time to reoffend.
Shockingly, she just laughs – a genuine, full-bodied laugh that sends the weirdest and most awkward butterflies ever through the cheerleader's stomach.
"Oh ouch, the princess has a mouth on her after all! Well, princess," she grins invitingly, "Why don't you tell ol' Jack all about it? Eh?"
There's dead silence for a moment, Miranda slowly lowering her hand from her mouth when it seems that murder isn't on the agenda this afternoon.
"I'm not going to tell you," she says finally, still not looking at her unexpected companion. "You're just going to mock me, and I'm not in the mood."
"Aww, c'mon, I'm not that bad." She is, of course, but she's apparently feeling playful at the moment. "I just figure it's gotta be something pretty heavy if Her Majesty Princess Lawson the First is crying in a hallway with the chick half the school thinks is a juvie killer." One inked hand nudges a uniformed shoulder – a little harder than strictly necessary, but with no real roughness. The cheerleader's breath hitches, and she wonders if it'd be okay to take that bullet now – because she feels quite close to admitting how attractive she finds the punk.
"It's Highness," she says instead. Her voice is tear-roughened but otherwise clear, just like the bloodshot blue eyes that finally wander over to Jack's face…Jack's completely befuddled face.
"For a princess, the title is Highness. Majesty is for queens. Or kings, I guess." Jack just gapes for a second before grinning and clapping the other girl on the shoulder like a comrade-in-arms or something. Miranda tells herself that the butterflies didn't just grow into bats, but self-deception is not her forte. A shame, because her life would be a lot easier if it were.
"Learn something new every day. Well, not really, I try to avoid learning shit, but whatever. Anyway, I'm still waiting to hear what's so wrong in the life of royalty…I hate to see a pretty girl cry."
That does it – she's obviously insane. A slightly hysterical laugh bubbles up from Miranda's chest, and she claps her hand back over her mouth to stifle it until she can get herself under control.
"That," she gasps out at last, "That's such a fucking line. Nobody really says that, do they?" Luckily, Jack doesn't look offended. She doesn't look amused either, but Miranda hopes there's no violence in her immediate future.
"Nah, probably not. It's a lie anyway," she adds with a sneer, "I love to see pretty girls cry. The prettier and more broken-hearted the better."
"That sounds like an opening to call me ugly," Miranda retorts, feeling as though she's getting the hang of this whole 'conversing with possible murderers' thing.
"That it was, sweet thing. That it was. Guess you're pretty clever after all…must be keeping the rest of your brain that fine ass of yours. Anyway," she nudges Miranda again, "Would you just fucking tell me what you were boo-hooing about already? I got places to be, shit to fuck up. You know, the usual."
"Oh." Miranda's face, reddening from the crude but effective compliment, falls as the tears well up again. "You were right," she mumbles. "I didn't make cheer squad captain."
Jack doesn't find that answer especially amusing, it would seem, because she stares blankly at her companion for several long seconds before erupting in anger.
"Are you fucking serious right now? That's why you're crying in a back hallway after school? Fuck, and I thought it'd be something interesting. Damn Daddy's money bitches and their stupid problems!" Jack sounds disgusted now, and for some reason that is abruptly not okay with Miranda. She reaches out to grab the cuff of one leather sleeve, halting the other girl's move away from her.
"It's that, but it's more than that. My dad…" she pauses, unsure of how to phrase it without making it sound like more than it is. It's not like he's abusive. He's never hit her, anyway. "My dad's going to be really upset," she finally finishes, lamely. "He's going to be…disappointed in me."
It sounds so much less ominous when it's not the man in question saying it.
At least Jack has settled down again, although she's not saying anything. Her expression is somewhere between curiosity and sympathy, and Miranda wonders suddenly what her home life is like. She's too afraid to ask, so she keeps talking instead, hoping to keep the other girl here for a little longer.
"He's…he's got high expectations for me, you know? I'm his legacy." That too sounds different from her own mouth, somehow weak and foolish. She repeats it, curious. "His legacy."
"Shit, and here I thought you were his daughter. Your old man is really that rough?" The tattooed girl sounds honestly sympathetic, and Miranda glances at her, startled. That's not something she ever expected to hear from the infamous Jack.
"I…I didn't think so, until just now. He…everything I do, everyone I know, every sport or musical instrument or language I learn, he decides all those things, and then he pushes me and pushes me and pushes me until I'm the best. And if I make a mistake, he…I mean, he doesn't hit me! He's just…disappointed. That's all. Disappointed." She shuts her mouth, cutting off the barely-coherent flow of words, and tips her head back against the wall, feeling defeated.
Jack's voice startles her out of her fugue a moment later, because it's low and hurting and genuine. She's shifted a little, squatting with her arms around her legs and her chin on her knees, eyes focused sightlessly on the floor. Miranda has never – probably nobody at the entire school has ever – seen the punk looking or sounding quite so much like an actual teenage girl, complete with feelings other than 'cocky' or 'angry'.
"Yeah," mumbles the brown-eyed girl, "I know 'disappointed'."
And God help her, but Miranda is more turned around – more turned on – by this girl's honest hurting than by any of the buff, kind, well-meaning boys she's dated and dumped on her father's command. She wants to wrap herself around that skinny body and just…she has no idea 'just' what, actually. It's moot point anyway, since she'd just impale herself on the tiny spikes that decorate the other girl's jacket, but there's got to be something.
"You're beautiful," she blurts out, unthinking. Jack freezes, and Miranda's thoughts flit right back to 'murder'. Then the half-shaved head lifts slowly and suspicious eyes find hers, holding and searching for a long, breathless moment.
"Whatever," the tattooed girl finally grumbles, getting to her feet and, somewhat belatedly, holding out a hand to the cheerleader. "C'mon. I'll walk you back."
Miranda guiltily allows her hand to linger in Jack's, loathe to pull away but afraid of overstaying her welcome. It comes as quite the surprise, then, when scab-knuckled fingers tighten around hers and stay that way all the way back to the girls' dorm.
"You," the tattooed girl hesitates, looking off to one side and shifting uneasily. "You're…not bad yourself." Her grip tightens in a brief squeeze, then there's a creak of leather and a thump of boots and she's gone.
Miranda clenches her fingers into a fist, fighting to keep the memory of that fleeting, weirdly innocent clasp of hands. It's gone almost as quickly as Jack, though, and she feels bereft, as if something precious has just slipped through her grasp.