Summary: Kara Thrace is a hellion on the high school pyramid team
Characters: Coach (OC), Kara Thrace
Warnings: Alludes to child abuse
Title, Author and URL of original story: A Touch of Grace by shah_of_blah
Coach considered himself to be an excellent judge of character. He’d been a high school pyramid coach for fifteen years and had been a physical education teacher for longer than that. He’d seen more students walk into his gymnasium than he could count, and had seen every personality one could possibly imagine. That’s why, when Kara Thrace transferred into his school during her junior year, he knew exactly what kind of person she was.
Her first day, he had to blow his whistle on her fifteen minutes before the end of gym class, but it might as well have been a dog whistle for all she paid attention. She was too focused on Tommy Meers who was obviously angry about her hip-checking him as she stole the ball, and he started in on her for the foul.
“What’s the big deal?” she snapped. “If you don’t wanna play, get off the frakking court!”
“Thrace!” Coach’s voice boomed. “I don’t know how things were done at your old school, but we don’t tolerate that kind of language.”
She barely cast Coach a glance. “Yeah, well at my old school, we played pyramid. I don’t know what the hell this guy thinks he’s doing.”
In the crush of students that gathered around the two juniors, he couldn’t see who swung the first blow, but soon enough Kara and Tommy were on the ground in a tangle of flying limbs. Coach shoved his way through the crowd, and pulled Thrace off of Meers by the back of her shirt. She kept on swinging and swearing until he dropped her a good five feet away.
Meers was a mess—black eye, bloody nose, screaming at the top of his lungs. “What the hell is your problem, bitch!?”
Thrace was gathering herself up for another lunge, but Coach stepped between her. “That is enough!” he shouted. Scanning the students, he singled out Jason to help Tommy limp his way to the nurse and sent Thrace to the principal’s office. She shrugged like she’d heard it a million times and left the gym without another word.
That girl was in for it if she was starting this kind of trouble on day one. It wasn’t until he was walking to the parking lot after practice, and saw her standing in the middle of the pyramid court shooting hoops, that he decided what he wanted to do with her.
+ + +
“You want me to what?” Kara stared at him, incredulous, from the seat on the other side of his desk.
“Join the school Pyramid team,” Coach said, sitting back to watch her face. The expression morphed from disbelief, to a sort of glower, and finally settling on bewilderment. “Think of it as a fitting punishment for dislocating the shoulder of the school’s star player.”
The shiner on her left cheek glistened as Kara tossed her head in indignation, folding bruised arms across her chest. Across one forearm she had four long parallel scratches. Coach briefly wondered just how long Meers’s nails were, before Kara started speaking again. “You sound like you’re the one who got knocked a couple too many times in the head.”
Coach remembered the way she took the court by storm yesterday. For every point anyone on either team scored, Kara’d scored one of her own. She was fast and strong, but she didn’t seem to care one way or the other about whether the person was her opponent or not. “You were aware that Tommy Meers was on your team, right?”
The teenager shifted uncomfortably in her seat, her eyes darting away before locking onto his again. “So?”
“So, would you rather spend your afternoons this spring on the court or in detention?”
Kara was silent for a long moment as she stared at the scratches on her arms. . “What time does practice get out?”
Coach cocked an eyebrow. Not the question that was normally asked. “Around 6, we start at 3:00 on the dot.”
She nodded sharply. “I’ll be there.”
+ + +
Thrace played out the rest of the season on the team and even showed up for the end-of-the-year party. But afterwards, she simply vanished into the summer months without one word of goodbye, like all the others.
When the school year started back up in September, she was the first one on the court for the next round of Pyramid tryouts.
“Didn’t expect to see you here,” Coach said, hauling a cooler of water onto the bleachers.
Kara’s spine stiffened at the words, shoulders squaring. “Didn’t think I was good enough to make the team without assaulting my way onto it?”
“Didn’t think you were much for the team. That’s all.” He tossed her a pyramid ball from his bag. “Here, go warm up.” The leather of the ball gave a solid smack as it hit her hands. She turned it over a few times before looking up, oddly enough, with a smile.
At the end of the week, Thrace had a team jersey all her own. She deserved it.
+ + +
Kara was running a towel through her hair as she strolled out of the locker room, her cheeks still bright red from taking the court by storm. She was the last one out, Coach noted, as he strolled up to her.
“Hell of a game out there, today, Thrace. You did good.”
“Thanks, Coach.” Though she seemed to smile more this year, the look of gratitude she flashed him was a rare one.
He only hoped she’d be grateful enough to listen to what he had to tell her. “Do you have a minute?”
She shrugged a shoulder, pulling her damp hair back into a ponytail. “I’m not in a rush.”
Once in his office, she dropped her backpack in a corner and plopped herself into a seat. Despite the fact that it was a school night, she looked like she had all the time in the worlds. She turned to Coach with a questioning look. “Yeah?”
He slid into his own seat rummaging through his desk. He pulled out the object of his search and placed it face down in front of him before looking at Kara. “I received an interesting call today. Seems you’re becoming the talk of the varsity sports world. People are saying you’re the reason we’re a shoe-in for the championships.” Kara cocked an eyebrow at him. “There’s a coach coming to the championship game, Thrace. And she’s coming to see you.”
Kara stared at him in stunned silence. A mix of emotions washed over her face from shock to joy and back again. “A ticket out of this shithole?” she asked, when the ability to form words finally came back to her. “Count me in.”
Coach looked down at the brochure for the ballet studio and hoped to all the Lords of Kobol that she wouldn’t rip it in two the second he handed it to her. She had good raw skill. But she needed the flexibility and the grace—the things that turned any great player into an amazing one.
Turned out that Kara held the brochure for exactly five seconds—he counted—before tearing it down the middle. “Frak that.”
+ + +
“Dead,” she hissed. “Deader than dead. So frakking dead that—”
“Can we just skip the threats and cursing portion of the night, Thrace?”
Kara probably hadn’t been expecting him to show up to her dance recital, but the idea of it was too much to pass up. One the one hand, there was the fact that Kara had gone through with the classes. Frustrated as she was by the concept, she had made her plan and seen it through to the end. He couldn’t have been more proud of her.
On the other hand, there was Kara Thrace in tights and a leotard and that in and of itself was a once in a lifetime event that Coach was not about to pass up.
“No one knows about this,” she said, hands planted firmly on her hips. “And it’s going to stay that way.”
The look on her face told him that the video camera in his bag was probably a bad idea, but he’s convinced that someday she’ll thank him for this. “It’s just between you and me,” he said with a smile. “Break a leg.”
+ + +
Just before the championship game. Kara’s ability to dodge and weave her way around the other players had increased exponentially, but it didn’t matter one damn if she put her foot down the wrong way. Coach could hear something crack as she went down in the middle of practice, taking two of her teammates down with her. The damage required surgery to fix.
The hospital room was sparse when Coach went to visit her. The cast on her knee had been signed by the other members of the team, but other than that there had been no sign of any other visitors.
“How’d we do?” she asked, not bothering to meet his gaze.
Coach gave a defeated shrug. “We lost.”
A strange smile curved her lip, not quite happy, but not quite sad either. “Couldn’t pull it off without your star player, huh?”
“Something like that,” he said.
Kara’s hand curling into the sheets was the only indication of how lost she truly felt. She didn’t talk much about her home life, but in what little he’d pieced together, Coach knew that she would do just about anything to avoid it. Kara had lost her “ticket out of this shithole” was gone, and she was hanging on for dear life.
+ + +
Summer was rolling around again—classes winding down, students gearing up for the vacation, and seniors impatiently waiting for graduation, which was just around the corner.
Coach wasn’t surprised when Kara didn’t show up to the pyramid team’s end of year party. She’d been on medical leave from physical education all year, though as the last month of school drew to an end, he assumed at this point it was just an excuse to play hooky.
He had begun to think that maybe his initial assessment of Kara Thrace had been wrong. Maybe that lonely girl he’d seen that first day in the gym truly felt she didn’t need anyone, didn’t see the value of team work, effort, and sacrifice—would never see it no matter who guided her. He had begun to think that he would never see that girl again.
It was the day before graduation when Kara finally re-appeared, poking her head in at the door to his office. He couldn’t put his finger on it exactly but she looked so vastly different from the girl he had last seen laying in a hospital bed. She was walking fine; her knee had apparently healed nicely. But beyond her physical health, there was something that looked good, hopeful even, about her.
“I’m sorry,” he muttered, wryly. “But who are you, again?”
She moved from the doorway and stepped into the office. Kara leaned forward as she placed her hands on the edge of his desk. In a very serious tone, she said, “One of the newest privates in the Colonial Fleet.”
“You’re joining the military?”
“My doctor gave me the all clear. I start boot camp next month and then I’m looking to get into OCS.”
So, he hadn’t been wrong after all. He had known, from the first day he knew Kara Thrace, that she was the kind of person who was going to go far—all she needed was someone to give her a kick in the right direction before she got too far along the wrong one.
“Sounds like you found one hell of a ticket out of this place,” he said with a smile. “Congratulations.”
He extended a hand to her, and she shook it. “Thank you, Coach.”
“Just do me a favor and don’t go cursing out your superior officers,” he said. “Unlike me, they might not take to it so kindly.”
Kara shrugged. “Guess they’re going to have to figure out how to deal with it.”