The first time she met Julianne, Minerva was very drunk. She hadn’t meant to get shitfaced, but her roommate Aura kept buying more drinks which she didn’t have the heart to turn down, plus she wasn’t in the habit of drinking much anymore, so her tolerance had eroded a bit. Maybe more than a bit. When she caught a glance of a familiar face out of the corner of her eye as she turned to accept her fourth (fifth?) cocktail from Aura, she nearly fell off her barstool in surprise.
Aura deftly changed the drink’s trajectory so it could be deposited on the table instead of in Minerva’s flailing hand, then asked, “What was that? Maybe you don’t need this one, if you’re already drunk enough to just fall on your ass out of nowhere.”
Minerva grimaced and took a tentative sip of her greyhound. “Don’t look, but at that table right by the door — I said DON’T look — it’s Julianne Vargas!” At Aura’s shrug of nonrecognition, Minerva clapped her on the shoulder and shook gently. “Julie Demise?! She was MVP at last weekend’s roller derby tournament in Little River? Ridiculously talented blocker whose gameplay footage I watch constantly?”
“Do you know her?”
“What? No, I don’t really know anyone outside of the rec league yet, but it would be hard to follow derby and not know who she is. She’s like if a fucking brick wall and a rhino had a baby. Just amazing.”
Aura’s smile grew wicked. “You should go talk to her! Introduce yourself.”
“Why not? You play the same sport, surely you have plenty in common. She might like to meet a fan.”
Minerva threw her head back and gave a dramatic sigh. “I don’t want to be her fan, Aura, I want to be —” She took a too-large sip of her drink while she considered her next words. “I want to be her peer, I guess, and I can barely make it through a basic scrimmage yet. I’m not — what would I even say to her? I’m too drunk, I might just start telling her how pretty she is. I can’t. I get so nervous with this sort of thing, you know that.”
Aura knew Minerva well enough to know she shouldn’t push the issue, so she mercifully let the matter drop, although she made sure to waggle her eyebrows any time she noticed Minerva’s gaze sliding over in the direction she’d indicated earlier. Minerva tried to ignore the waggling and also tried not to look, or at least not to be too obvious about it, but she suspected she was failing miserably. For a moment she thought she might have misidentified a random bar-goer as Julianne, but after she saw her stride to the bar and back for more drinks, she knew she was right. Julianne was tall, even off skates, and she had a distinctive enough face Minerva could recognize even in the bar’s low lighting: wide-set eyes, prominent nose, distractingly full lower lip. It was definitely her.
Minerva knew the best course of action would be to stop staring, finish her drink, and go home. What else could she do? Aura tried to keep the conversation going so Minerva wouldn’t get too distracted or stare too blatantly, bless her heart, but while Minerva appreciated the effort, it just wasn’t working.
“Ok,” Aura said, finally. “Why are you being all weird about her? You’ve met other roller derby players before, you skate weekly with plenty of women you look up to, this isn’t new for you.”
Minerva stared blearily at the ruins of her drink, just a sad squeezed-out grapefruit slice on a pile of ice cubes by that point. “It’s…it’s hard to describe. There’s this big derby community I want to be part of, but I’m not there yet. I’m too new and I’m too shy. She was a transfer to Little River this past season, so she came in to a team that already had a reputation for hard-hitting blockers and a distinctive coaching style, and BAM!” She thumped her hand on the table. “In, like, no time at all, she makes a name for herself on that team with a lot of competition for the spotlight. I’m in awe of that, I guess. Plus she’s huge and powerful, and maybe I just want her to bench-press me? I mean, look at this.”
She pulled her phone out of her purse and fumbled at it for a moment before pulling up the Instagram profile of @juliedemise08. “Uh, just lemme find this one, it’s from a few weeks ago I think… hm. Here.” She slid her phone across the table to Aura. The photo in question was of a tall, broad woman on skates grinning as a smaller woman hung from her bicep.
@juliedemise08: teammate Tower of Tara is helping with my weight training today! 130 <3 28 comments
Aura nodded. “Knowing your tastes, the appeal is obvious.”
“Listen, I look up to her as a player but I’m drunk enough to admit I also really want to make out with her, ok?” Minerva poked at the grapefruit slice in her glass. “I’m used to having crushes on women I admire, anyway, it’s usually the same thing.”
“The classic ‘can’t tell if I want to be you or fuck you’ problem, I suppose?”
“That’s the one. Although I can safely say it’s both, most of the time. Ugh, I’m ridiculous and this is ridiculous, I shouldn’t just stare weirdly at her even if she’s not noticing at all.”
“Aw hon, you aren’t ridiculous, but it sounds like you’re starting to get drunk-sad.” She reached forward and patted Minerva’s forearm. “Do you want to go? I wanted to bring you out to have fun, so if fun-time’s over, we should head home.”
Minerva nodded. “Yeah, we should just head back, I guess.”
They gathered their things and Aura pulled her phone out to summon a cab. As they stood up, Minerva grabbed Aura’s arm and said, “No, you know what? I should say something. I should do it. I’m going to do it.”
“Are you sure, tipsypants?”
“Yes. Well. No. But I’m doing it anyway, apparently.”
Aura chuckled at that, and patted Minerva’s arm again. “Sure, go for it. I’ll step outside so I can look for the cab but yeah, if you want to, you should.”
“I will!” I can fucking do this, Minerva thought to herself. She fished an ice cube from her glass and crunched it, willing herself to calm down enough to follow through, then started walking towards Julianne’s table before she could convince herself not to. Julianne had been sitting across from a blandly handsome man, but by a stroke of luck he’d gotten up to smoke or grab another drink or something, so Minerva wasn’t interrupting anything when she walked unsteadily up to the table.
Julianne looked up as she approached, and Minerva started talking before she could reconsider her decision. “Hi, I don’t want to be weird, but I saw you play last weekend and you did such a great job.” She distantly noticed she was wringing her hands and shoved them in her pockets to keep herself from fidgeting.
Julianne seemed slightly surprised, but thankfully didn’t seem annoyed at being approached by a nervous stranger. She smiled and said, “Oh, thanks! That’s very sweet of you.”
Quit while you’re ahead, some part of Minerva’s brain admonished, but her drunk mouth just couldn’t stop moving, it seemed. Her impulse in awkward situations was to talk enough that she left no room for uncomfortable silence. “I just, you’re an inspiration to me as a skater and I wanted to say that!”
“Oh, do you skate too?” Julianne turned her body in her chair to face Minerva fully, looking more interested than she had before.
“Yeah! I skate for Peach City. I mean. I ah, I’m just on the rec team for now. But I’m working at getting good enough to make the team for real.” She could see Julianne’s drinking companion making his way back to the table with a beer, and the potential awkwardness of having another witness to her flailing was just too much for her to handle.
“That’s great,” Julianne said. “Everyone has to start somewhere.”
She looked like she was going to say something further, but before she could do so, Minerva burst out with, “Well I just wanted to say you’re wonderful and I look up to you a lot! Okay! Uh, bye! Thanks!” and scurried away, stumbling into Aura’s shoulder as she rushed out of the bar. She didn’t dare look back to see how Julianne had reacted to that particular disaster.
Minerva didn’t say much of anything on the cab ride home. She was mildly impressed with herself for getting up the nerve to approach her roller derby idol, but a wave of embarrassment washed over her when she thought about what she’d actually said to her. She rested her head against the window of the cab, hoping the cold would either help sober her up or distract her from what had just happened. It didn’t do either.
“I’m the worst,” Minerva said, as Aura ushered her into their front room. She flopped on the couch, feeling too drunk and embarrassed to care if she was being overdramatic. “No one is going to take me seriously if that’s the sort of bullshit I pull around top-level players.”
“You’re fine,” Aura called from where she’d wandered into the kitchen. She returned with a glass of water that she pressed into Minerva’s hands before pushing at her feet enough to fit onto the end of the couch next to her. “So you were a little overexcited at someone you admire, that’s okay. She’s not going to hold it against you!”
Minerva covered her face with her free hand and moaned. “How do you know?”
Aura gave Minerva an exasperated look. “Maybe I don’t know, but I do know you can’t do anything about it now. Drink that up and get your ass in bed, okay? if you’re still feeling bad in the morning I’ll make us waffles.”
Minerva grumbled a bit, but did as she was told. She was pretty sure she’d have a hell of a hangover the next morning, but at least she had waffles to look forward to.
Minerva didn’t get a chance to talk to Julianne again, or even see her in person, for nearly two years. In that time, Minerva got more serious about her training regimen and funneled most of her free time into roller derby. She was surprised to find that with enough practice, she could actually make it through an entire bout without feeling like she was going to pass out, and with more time spent on the track, both her skills and confidence were improving as well.
Her dedication to training continued to serve her well when Peach City’s C-team drafted her about five months after that awkward night at the bar, and their informal bouts against other small, local teams helped her put the basics she’d learned in the rec league into action. Her steady improvement clearly impressed her coaches, since the year after that she was brought up to the league’s B-team, known as the Fuzz, and officially took “Min & Tonic” as her derby name. The Fuzz often traveled with Peach City’s all-star team, playing their opponents’ second-string teams as a warmup for the main event, and occasionally filling in for their top-level players in case of injury or other roster issues.
Some of Minerva’s teammates were skilled enough to serve as alternates for the all-stars, but she herself was a long way off from that particular honor. That was fine by her; Minerva was keenly aware that she had a lot of work to do before she could even dream of competing at that level, and she didn’t feel at all ready for such a prominent role quite yet. To her surprise, though, the more she trained, and the more time she spent with her teammates, the more she came to think it might actually be in the cards for her, in some distant future. She wasn’t seeking the spotlight or dreaming of being Peach City’s star player, but she wanted to be a solid part of her team, dependable and hard-hitting and maybe even able to inspire new skaters, if she ever made it that far.
The summer after she joined the Fuzz’s roster, their coaches announced at a weekend practice that the team was hosting a regional two-day training camp led by a handful of skaters from Little River Derby. They consistently placed higher than Peach City in official rankings, but their relative proximity and the frequency of transfers between the teams kept the relationship between the two leagues friendly. Minerva had found that being around much better skaters was one of the best ways for her to keep herself motivated; it was intimidating, sure, but it had helped her improve her game consistently since she’d joined the team.
There were flyers to take home at the end of practice, and when she looked at the list of skaters leading the workshops, there she was: Julie Demise, listed right between Tower of Tara and Block Lobster. She was looking forward to the opportunity to mingle with and learn from some skaters at the top of their game, but she spent far too much time in the weeks leading up to the camp agonizing over how she’d interact with Julianne. Would she remember Minerva from that awkward interaction in the bar? Would she be able to take her seriously as a skater, if so? Would it be worse if she didn’t remember?
Minerva could feel her anxiety about the camp bleeding into the rest of her life: she kept waking up an hour or two before her alarm, unable to get back to sleep, and at the practice before camp, she skated sloppily and made rookie mistakes she hadn’t made in months. She came home rattled and irritable after practice, and had the thought that maybe it would be better if Julianne didn’t even show up. In a darker moment, Minerva considered that she could drop out herself, but even in her shitty mood she couldn’t bring herself to entertain that thought for long. She was determined not to let a weird crush get in the way of becoming a better skater and player.
And sure enough, for better or for worse Julianne was one of the first people Minerva saw the moment she arrived at the Peach Pit, Peach City’s venue and practice space. She was unavoidable where she sat at the entrance, welcoming skaters and helping them sign in, and Minerva had to take a moment to take a few deep breaths and calm herself down before entering the building. Minerva couldn’t quite tell if Julianne remembered her from that mortifying night in the bar or not, although it wasn’t like any of the instructors had much one-on-one time with the skaters that first morning. Julianne was friendly enough, though, and remembered Minerva’s name after the initial round of intros, and that was something, at least. Minerva tried her hardest to be attentive and implement what all the instructors said, although if she was being honest with herself, Julianne got a bit more of her attention than anyone else.
Minerva was used to keeping her cool when surrounded by attractive women. When she was younger, the whole attraction thing had been a bit tricky to untangle, but by now it was well and truly untangled into a big glitter-and-neon tapestry that read “YOU LOVE WOMEN, ESPECIALLY ONES WHO CAN DEADLIFT YOU.” Even in roller derby, where so many women seemed to be queer anyway, she didn’t want to come off like she was being unprofessional or was there just to find dates, so she’d had a lot of practice in admiring her fellow skaters quietly and intently from a distance.
However, it was very different to see Julianne up close in her element than it had been to see her sitting calmly in a bar. There, she was striking; here, she was incredibly distracting, imposing and gorgeous while running skaters through drills and demonstrating offensive maneuvers. She wasn’t always hitting with her full strength, Minerva was pretty sure, but she still hit hard.
Minerva was determined not to let her feelings get in the way of her focus, especially given her performance at practice that week. She wanted to impress Julianne, sure; she wanted to do much more with her, if she was being honest. But what she really wanted was to get better: to skate faster, to build up her stamina, and to feel more confident. She’d made it to the Fuzz, but just barely, and she was very aware that she had a long way to go before she even had a chance to play as an alternate for the Peach City All-Stars. She knew her lack of confidence could easily get in the way just as much as her lack of skills did.
One she started making nervous mistakes it could be easy for Minerva to get sucked into a cascade of further problems, each compounding on the one before it, and she was determined not to let that happen this weekend. Despite the fact that her mind was centered on Julianne, she knew there were plenty of other people there who she wanted to impress; she was pretty sure her coaches wouldn’t appreciate it if her skills tanked just months after moving up to a more advanced team.
Thankfully, after a slightly rocky start when even her basic stance felt awkward and unnatural, she was able to relax enough to perform at the level she’d come to expect from herself. The workshops were challenging, but Minerva was certainly learning a lot, although she was mildly worried there was so much new information entering her head that she’d forget half of it. Still, by mid-afternoon she may have already been exhausted but she was certainly glad she’d come.
The last workshop she attended on the first day focused on offensive blocking strategies. Minerva wasn’t as confident in her ability to successfully remove obstacles to her jammer as she wanted to be; her strength was more on the defensive side of things and she was looking forward to learning a bit more about how to be more effective on offense so she could become a more well-rounded player. Plus, yes, Julianne was one of the instructors, along with Bruisin’ B. Anthony, one of Little River’s most intimidating jammers, and she couldn’t pretend that wasn’t part of the reason she made her way to that workshop instead of the one on edgework.
Mostly what Minerva learned from this session was that she was trailing behind where she needed to be in terms of offensive skills, but while the drills were challenging, Julianne and Bruisin’ were good instructors, and it was helpful to be able to work out a lot of her nervous energy by enthusiastically slamming into her fellow skaters.
After this final workshop, the instructors set up a few short scrimmages to put lessons learned into action. The instructors got in the mix with the students, setting up jams with one or two experts per team but letting the skaters call the shots when it came to strategy.
In one of the early jams, Minerva skated ahead of the other blockers on her team to try and break open a hole in the other team’s defensive line for the jammer to sneak through. This wasn’t Minerva’s strongest skill, but she’d just spent forty-five minutes learning how to improve it and she was ready to put that information to use even if she was feeling nervous about it. This was a friendly scrimmage, not an audition for her place on the team, but she still felt like she had something to prove. Minerva was so focused on her target, and on remembering what she’d just learned, that she wasn’t fully aware of who was next to her until it was too late: suddenly Julianne, blocking for the other team, was right there and very determined to keep her from disrupting that defensive formation. As if in slow motion, she registered the contact of Julianne’s hip against hers, her overcorrection as she felt herself unbalance, and the jarring impact of her thigh and forearm against the floor.
She landed hard, but had taken enough falls to have no problem getting up immediately, although she could tell she’d have a killer bruise on her upper thigh the next day. Minerva dropped back into play, determined to stay on her feet for the rest of the workshop, and she managed it with more finesse than she expected. Her thigh hurt like hell for a few minutes, and ached for long after that, but somehow that pain was able to clear up some of the fog that her nerves had caused; having a small source of pain to occupy her thoughts meant there wasn’t much room for other distractions. The next jam she played, she did manage to land a hit on Sir Mx.-A-Lot strong enough to open up a hole for her jammer, and that made the pain and nervousness all worth it. Getting a “Good work today!” from Julianne at the end of the day didn’t hurt things, either.
At home that night, Minerva was so exhausted that she barely had the energy to eat some leftovers and shower before dropping into bed, but still she found herself restless once she got there. Usually she could fall asleep quickly after a tiring game or practice, but this night, her mind wouldn’t quiet down enough for sleep to overtake her. Her thigh still hurt a little, sure, but not enough to keep her awake. Her mind was buzzing with thoughts about Julianne slamming her to the ground, how powerful she was, how close they’d been. She didn’t feel like this when she knocked her teammates down, or vice-versa, but this had been different. She kept returning to the impact of Julianne’s body into hers and her tumble to the floor. Her left hand found its way to the tender spot on her thigh, still swollen and sore. She knew it had been a hard hit, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise to see the bruise in the shower, but still she was taken aback by how large and dark it was already. Surely it would be purple by morning. She pressed her palm into it gently and hissed as the ache deepened. It hurt, sure, but….
Minerva imagined the impact again. Julianne colliding with her and taking her to the floor. Julianne falling with her, the weight of her body pinning Minerva down. Julianne’s hand gripping the bruise, pressing into it with her fingertips as she threaded her fingers through Minerva’s hair and kissed her roughly. Where did our helmets go? her rational brain asked through the fogginess of this fantasy, but she quickly shoved the thought aside. She pushed into the bruise with her thumb and reached into her underwear with her other hand. She was incredibly, painfully aroused; usually she liked to take her time, but she had no intention of being slow and gentle at the moment. She pictured Julianne’s hands on her thighs as her nails bit into the bruise, and she came with an shuddering moan, collapsing limply afterwards.
That, thankfully, was enough to knock her out for the night.
The next morning, Julianne found Minerva as she was finishing lacing up her skates. “How are you doing after that fall yesterday? You seemed to take it ok, but we didn’t skate much after that, so I wanted to check up on you.”
Minerva was pleased, if slightly surprised, by the question. “Oh, I’m, uh. I’m fine!” She stood up and gently patted the bruise through her leggings. “Got a bruise that looks pretty terrible, I guess, but it feels okay this morning. I shouldn’t have been caught off-guard by that hit, but I got kind of distracted by everything else I was trying to keep in mind.”
Julianne put her hand on Minerva’s shoulder and squeezed a bit. “It’s easy to get distracted, especially when you’re trying to do something new, but with time you’ll learn how to keep it from happening as much. You improved a lot from yesterday morning to that scrimmage at the end of the day, so keep it up.”
Minerva could feel herself blushing and prayed it wasn’t too obvious. “Thanks. There’s so much I know I’m not great at yet, but I’m starting to feel like I’ll get there eventually.”
“I’m sure you will,” said Julianne with a smile and another gentle squeeze to Minerva’s shoulder. They exchanged a bit more small talk before heading off to warm up, but Minerva didn’t quite retain what else was said; she was too caught up in the feeling of being praised by the beautiful woman who’d knocked her down with the force of a battering ram the day before.
At the end of the clinic’s second day, everyone took their skates off and gathered on the ratty couches and plastic chairs tucked away in the Peach Pit to watch a recording of the previous season’s championship game. It was much more casual; Julianne and the other instructors were laughing a bit more while commenting on the footage than they did during drills, and some people were drinking shitty beers, but Minerva still felt embarrassed by her behavior the last time she’d been drunk around Julianne. Whether or not Julianne even remembered this wasn’t the point; she wasn’t going down that road again.
She did, however, allow her attention to drift just a bit, and took a moment to admire the casual ease in Julianne’s posture and, yes, the thick strong lines of her thighs — which threw you to the ground yesterday, she thought, and had to hold back a shiver of desire — as Julianne leaned forward and gestured to the scene frozen on screen. Next to Julianne, Minerva actually felt small, which didn’t happen all that often. She wasn’t particularly tall, but she often felt plenty jealous of her friends who were a cute five foot two when she had well over six inches on that. Julianne existed in the world seemingly happy to take up space, to be unapologetically big with her body and her personality. Minerva was learning confidence, sure, but she still wished she could be smaller and less conspicuous a lot of the time.
Despite her admiring looks Julianne’s way over the course of the evening, Minerva didn’t let herself get too distracted, and wrapped up the night feeling like she’d learned more from the commentary on past games than she’d expected. She learned better on skates when she could turn instruction into action, but was learning to retain information taught in other ways, too.
As the assembled skaters started to pack up folding chairs and gather up their gear, one of her teammates shouted over the murmured conversations to remind everyone of an informal post-training camp afterparty being held at a local bar. Minerva wasn’t sure she had the energy for it, after a pretty intense couple days, but she knew she could catch a second wind if Julianne was going to be there, even if she felt too shy to actually talk to her the way she wanted to. Still, despite that lingering shyness, she somehow found the courage to ask Julianne if she was going to be there.
Julianne shook her head, but she was smiling. “Sorry, Minerva, but I’m driving back to Little River tonight. I have work early tomorrow so I can’t stay.”
Minerva tried her best not to let her face show her disappointment. “Oh, that’s too bad, but it makes sense. I was wondering if. Well. I guess it doesn’t matter now.”
Julianne reached out and patted Minerva’s forearm, stroking the underside lightly with her thumb as she pulled away. “Whatever you were going to ask, you should ask me next time I see you. I’ll probably say yes.”
Minerva opened her mouth to respond, but only got a little squeak out before she said “OH, yeah! Okay. Will do.” Julianne laughed at that, a wonderfully loud laugh that sounded a bit like an overexcited parrot, and gave Minerva an extra wave as she wandered off to grab her equipment and load up her car for the drive back north.
At home that night, Aura listened with impressive patience as Minerva recounted her conversation with Julianne. “I think we were flirting? Possibly? You know how bad I am at picking up on anyone’s attempt to flirt with me.”
“Hon, if you’ve told me her response verbatim, I’m pretty sure that is indeed flirting. When are you actually going to see her again, do you think?”
Minerva sighed. “I don’t know. She lives a few hours away and our teams aren’t scheduled to play each other anytime soon. But surely at some point we’ll cross paths again, I guess.” She poked morosely at her dinner. “I’m not brave enough to just go up and see her or something like that.”
They were both busy, and neither of them were heavy social media users, so it wasn’t like they exactly kept up with each other. Still, there was something going on. Julianne followed her back on Instagram, which Minerva was embarrassingly excited about for days, and occasionally left encouraging comments on pictures taken at practice.
Eventually they moved from interacting mainly on derby-related posts to exchanging comments on pictures of other parts of their lives: Minerva posted occasional thrift shopping selfies and ongoing experiments with bright lipstick, and Julianne couldn’t stop sharing pictures of her Borzoi, Eddie, and all the pies she baked in her spare time. Slowly, so incredibly slowly that Minerva barely noticed it was actually happening, they became actual friends.
There was maybe some more flirting going on, too: Minerva thought she might faint when she posted a picture of a recent manicure, and Julianne made a be-winky-faced comment about how short the fingers on her left hand were filed down. “I see you’re both left-handed and Extremely Considerate to your dates…nice.” Sure, Minerva wasn’t exactly going on a lot of dates at the moment; there had been a couple casual makeouts at parties, and one very awkward first date that had gone nowhere, but it just seemed like good manners to keep things short and tidy on that hand, just in case. She didn’t say any of that in response, though; she just blushed a lot and let the comment sit without a reply.
One day, Julianne posted a picture of her smiling with a familiar-looking man, with the caption “Only two weeks before I get to see this big nerd again! It’s been too long since I’ve visited my baby brother.” That explains who she was with that night at the bar, Minerva thought. The next Peach City home game was also in two weeks; their longtime rivals from nearby Albion were bringing both their all-star team and B-team along, so she’d even get to play. She had an idle thought of inviting Julianne to come watch, but wouldn’t that be pretty presumptuous of her? Were they even close enough for that to make sense? They’d been a bit chattier over the past several months since the training camp, but Minerva still wasn’t sure if it would be weird or not.
Once she had the thought, though, it wouldn’t leave her be. They had become friendlier, right? Inviting friends to things was completely normal and not weird at all. Most likely she was overthinking things. Finally, she wrote a comment on Julianne’s post: if y’all are free on the 14th we’re playing the Albion Rollergirls! Would love to see you there! She erased and re-typed the second sentence a few times before finally posting it.
A couple minutes later, Minerva got a direct message in reply: Hey, thanks for the invite. Grant’s been having a rough time lately and I don’t know if he’ll want to get out for something fun or if I’ll just be watching Great British Bake-Off w/him in a dark room for three days. No guarantees but I’ll try to make it!
Minerva was pleasantly surprised by Julianne’s response; maybe she had indeed been overthinking things. “Of course you were,” she said to herself.
“What’s that?” asked Aura from the next room, where she was making dinner.
“Nothing!” Minerva called back. “I’m just making fun of myself, that’s all.” She got up and wandered into the kitchen. “Augh, I just invited Julianne to our bout in a couple weeks, since it turns out she’ll be in town then. I’m sure it’ll be fine, whether she comes or not, but I’m being weird and anxious about it because that’s what I do.”
Aura nodded. “That is what you do, yes. I’m sure she’ll make it if she can, and if not, you’ll find another time to meet up. Take a few deep breaths and try to relax a little, you look way too worked up over this. And maybe help me chop some potatoes, if you’re so inclined.”
Minerva figured chopping potatoes was as soothing for an anxious mind as anything else, plus at the end she’d have home fries to eat, so she picked up a knife and got to work.
The bout against Albion’s B-team was intense. Minerva wasn’t as easily rattled on the track as she used to be, but playing for a rowdy home crowd could be just distracting enough to make her nerves act up, which would often lead to mistakes she’d never make on a good day. Although some early-game jitters meant she played sloppily and picked up more penalties in the first half than she could really be happy with, she was able to calm herself down during halftime and skated much more cleanly after that. She managed to give the opposing jammers some grief during a couple key power jams, keeping them from breaking out of the pack until after her own jammer had been released from the penalty box and was in position to score. Albion won, 112-97, but considering that they’d stomped the Fuzz into the ground at their last bout, beating them by eighty-five points, it felt like a victory all the same. She had actually worried that thoughts of Julianne could provide an additional distraction, but in truth she’d been so caught up in the game she’d half-forgotten that she’d invited her at all until after it was over.
In the intermission before the next bout, Minerva stopped at the concession stand for a drink and strolled back to the seating area slowly, keeping an eye open for familiar faces. She was friends with her teammates, of course, and a few of her other friends came to bouts from time to time, but other than Aura none of them did so regularly. She hadn’t made a ton of friends in the extended local derby community yet. Mostly, she knew, that was her own fault and not anyone else’s; she knew how to be friendly and got along with others great, but it was the process of initiating that friendship that she found tricky. She probably wouldn’t run into anyone other than league members she knew that night, but that was okay. Since she hadn’t heard anything from Julianne since that initial invitation, she wasn’t really expecting to see her there, either. It was fine.
Most of the rec league and B-team players tended to crowd into trackside seating at turns 1 and 2 for the all-star games, so she made her way past the main stretch of bleachers to that side of the track. She was so preoccupied with trying to spot an easy space she could slip into next to her teammates that she didn’t notice her name being shouted until she’d heard it a few times.
When she turned and realized Julianne was sitting almost directly in front of her, waving from the third row of the bleachers, it took her a moment to process what she was seeing. But then Julianne stood up and opened her arms encouragingly, and there was nothing else could she do but squeeze past the other fans in the bleachers and get swept up in an enthusiastic hug. Minerva returned it just as enthusiastically, trying not to think too hard about how strong Julianne’s arms felt, or how good it was to be pressed up against her.
“Hey, you! We made it!” Julianne said with a smile, once she released her hold on Minerva and they were sitting down. She wrapped her arm over the shoulders of the man sitting on her other side, pulling him forward. “This is my brother Grant, he graciously let me drag him out of the house today.” Grant gave Minerva a smile and a wave, but beyond a brief hello didn’t say much; it seemed that Julianne was the gregarious one in the family.
“Good job out there tonight,” Julianne continued, gently bumping Minerva’s shoulder with her own.
Minerva reflexively grimaced and said “Ugh, but my penalties were — no. You know what? I did do well. I need to be better about owning that when it’s true, and I feel good about how I skated, for the most part. Thanks.” Julianne grinned, and they chatted about the game for a few minutes, but their conversation died down as the all-star team matchup started. That was just fine, though; Minerva was happy to sit next to Julianne, their thighs occasionally pressed against each other — only because the bleachers were crowded, of course — and quietly watch the game together.
At halftime, Minerva ran to the concession stand for a plate of nachos and returned to the bleachers to find Julianne deep in conversation with her brother. She sat rather awkwardly next to them, trying not to drop guacamole on her shirt as she munched her chips, and wondered if she should go walk around again to give them some space. After a minute, Julianne turned to her with an apologetic smile.
“Sorry, we’re just working out logistics; Grant’s feeling peopled out, which I don’t blame him for given how crowded this place is tonight, so he’s going to head home.” She put her arm around his shoulder again, and said, “Look, just take your car. I can get a cab back to your place, it’s no big deal and you’re the one who needs to get away from people right now.”
“If you’re sure?” Grant was clearly trying to be polite, but he was also already on his feet, keys in hand.
“Yes, it’s fine.” Julianne stood as well to give him a hug and let him scoot by her. “You go take care of yourself, and I’ll be home after this. It’s no problem.”
Grant quickly said goodbye to Minerva and hurried off before the aisles filled up with people making their way back to their seats for the second half of the bout. “Is he okay?”
Julianne shrugged. “He’ll be better when he gets home, I think. Sometimes, he likes the idea of going out more than he actually likes being out, hence the early departure. Usually he’d be a bit chattier when meeting someone new so don’t take it personally. It’s definitely him, not you.” She eyed Minerva’s plate, and leaned in, looming over her. “Can I steal a couple of those nachos?”
In the end, she stole more than a couple, but Minerva found that she didn’t mind at all. The second half of the game was enjoyable to watch, but she found her attention slipping away from it, more focused on how close Julianne was sitting, how she’d touch Minerva’s forearm to get her attention before leaning in to make herself heard over the roar of the crowd, and how desperately Minerva wanted to kiss her. She was barely even aware of who won.
Once the game was over, though, Minerva realized her time with Julianne was almost up.”What are you up to after this?” she asked, as she scooped up her gear bag and checked to make sure everything was accounted for.
“I know the team’s throwing an afterparty downtown, but to be honest that’s going to be a rowdier scene than I’m up for tonight. It might be time for me to just get back to Grant’s place.” Julianne placed her hand on Minerva’s back to guide her through the stream of people leaving the building, and once they were outside she let her hand trail over Minerva’s hip as she drew it away. “I’m glad you reminded me that you were playing today, it was good to see you.”
The moment seemed to stretch out; Minerva knew she needed to respond, but it took her a moment to find any words at all. Ask me next time I see you, a tiny Julianne in her head prompted.
“Actually, uh. Do you want to come to my place for a little bit? It’s quiet there, we could order in if you’re still hungry, and after I can drive you back to Grant’s.”
Julianne grinned at her as if that was exactly what she’d been hoping to hear. “Yeah? That’s not too inconvenient for you?”
“No, it’s fine! I’m good. It’s no problem.”
“Then sure, that sounds great. Let me just text Grant to let him know, he said he needed some time on his own tonight so this is perfect. He can have his space and I can spend a little more time with you, which should be ideal for us both.” She winked at Minerva and started fishing her phone out of her bag.
Minerva pulled her phone out as well and sent Aura a quick text. Heads up julianne SHOWED UP at the bout and is uh coming home??? with me??!?for a bit so I hope that’s ok
Aura sent back only: WHAT. Before Minerva could compose a response, she continued with: I’m at Dave’s for board games until late so go nuts, I’ll open the door REALLY loudly when I come in ok
Minerva sent a quick thumbs-up emoji and shoved her phone in her bag before Aura could say anything else.
The ride back to her place was quiet and uneventful. Minerva was trying her best not to let her nerves show, so she mostly just asked questions about Julianne’s dog since he seemed like a safe topic of conversation. Happily, Julianne was the sort of dog owner who was happy to go on at length about what a Good and Handsome Boy Eddie was, and that conversation filled most of the half-hour drive back to the quiet neighborhood where Minerva and Aura lived.
When she opened the door to her house, Minerva was suddenly struck by the thought that this had been a terrible idea. She hadn’t prepared for company and while she and Aura weren’t messy, exactly, they both tended to let clutter pile up, and as a result the small living room just inside the front door looked a bit chaotic. Aura had a couple unfinished knitting projects in more or less permanent residence on the coffee table, Minerva had left a skirt draped over the back of the couch for a reason she could no longer remember, and every horizontal surface seemed to have a couple books, eyeshadow palettes, or unsorted stacks of paper on it. She was trying to feel like a confident, put-together person but she felt like a mess the moment she stepped in, as precariously-balanced as the pile of bills hanging off the kitchen counter.
“Let me just, ah, grab this off of here—” She whisked the skirt off the couch, strode to her bedroom door, and flung it inside. When she turned around, Julianne had already settled into the corner of the couch with her arms stretched out over the back, and was watching as she returned to the room.
“Cute little place! Is it just you here?” She patted the cushion next to her when she saw Minerva hesitate slightly, unsure of where exactly to sit.
Minerva curled her legs under her as she sat and turned to face Julianne. “Oh no, I have a roommate. Aura. We’ve lived together for maybe six years now? It’s her house but I moved in just after she did. She’s out with friends tonight or I’d introduce her, you’d probably get along great.”
Julianne smiled and huffed out a little laugh. “I’m sure I would, if you like her so much. But I’m wondering.”
“Hm?” Minerva pulled her eyes from where she had been idly staring at Julianne’s forearm, still draped over the back of the couch. “What’s that?”
Julianne rested her fingers gently on the back of Minerva’s hand, letting her fingertips skate impossibly gently over her skin. “Please let me know if I’m misreading things, in which case I’ll apologize and be quietly embarrassed, but I get the sense you might actually prefer it to be just the two of us here right now.”
Minerva couldn’t stop staring again, this time at Julianne’s hand covering her own. It was clearly there; she could feel the warmth and gentle weight of it and it was obviously visible, but it didn’t quite feel real, all the same. After a moment, she looked up at Julianne’s face: gorgeous, confident, patiently waiting for her to clue into the situation. “Oh. Yes, that’s definitely preferable right now.” She wasn’t sure what to do next, but Julianne tightened her grip and pulled, gently.
“Come over here?” She patted her thigh with her other hand, and Minerva realized she was being tugged up and onto Julianne’s lap, quite possibly the most blessed seat in the universe. She felt as if it should feel awkward or overwhelming to be actually doing something she’d thought about for a few years now, but in the moment everything fell into place easily: her legs straddling Julianne’s amazing thighs, her hands sliding over Julianne’s shoulders to cradle the back of her skull and thread into her hair, Julianne’s hands coming to rest gently on her hips. Suddenly, the clutter around the room seemed much less important. Her anxious energy was settling, smoothing out under the soft weight of Julianne’s hands on her.
“You really should kiss me,” Julianne barely managed to say, before Minerva breathed out a “yeah” and leaned in before she could second-guess herself.
She’d imagined this before, of course she had. Minerva had pictured kissing Julianne in all sorts of settings and scenarios, from sweaty post-bout makeouts to languid kisses on a nude beach at sunset. Once she’d imagined them both as mermaids. None of that, not even the thought of herself as a radiant sea-lesbian, could match up to seeing Julianne’s eyes flutter closed as her mouth parted gently, or to her soft sigh as Minerva finally kissed her.
It was almost a relief, after so long wondering how it might feel, for Minerva to be able to map the shape of Julianne’s lips and learn what other sounds she could draw out of her. They were in no rush; Minerva could have easily made out with Julianne for hours, and while she was sure it hadn’t been quite that long, she’d been perched on Julianne’s lap for a good while before either of them thought to move along to anything else.
“Do you still keep those nails nice and short?” Julianne asked, while sucking wet kisses into the side of Minerva’s neck, her hand sliding just barely under her shirt to stroke her hipbone through the thin material of her leggings.
Minerva’s brain was overwhelmed by sensation, moving molasses-slow, but as soon as she parsed the question, she nodded. “Always. Do you, um. Maybe my bed’s a good idea, right now?”
“Perfect. Let’s relocate, shall we?”
Minerva was almost reluctant to get up and lose that precious contact, even though she knew the loss wouldn’t be for long, but after exchanging a few more kisses she managed to stand up and tugged Julianne up after her, leading her down the short hallway to her room.
The skirt she’d rescued from the couch just minutes before had landed in the center of the bed, but it was the last thing on her mind now; Minerva just flung it over the back of a chair next to the bed and pulled Julianne down next to her. They made out for a few minutes more, and Julianne had just pushed her thigh distractingly between Minerva’s legs when Minerva pulled back a bit and said, “What, um. What do you like? Are there places you don’t like to be touched, or anything like that? I just, I really want to make you feel good.”
“You’re doing a lovely job so far,” Julianne murmured. She plucked at her shirt. “Is it ok if I take some of this off?” As Minerva nodded, she asked, “Can I take yours off too?”
“Please do,” Minerva said. Julianne slowly pulled up the hem of Minerva’s shirt, kissing the sensitive skin just under her navel before she set to work removing it and the sports bra beneath. Julianne hummed happily and ran the backs of her knuckles over Minerva’s nipples, which made her gasp and jerk a bit. “Is that ok? How sensitive are you there? My breasts aren’t super sensitive and sometimes I forget that that’s not the case for everyone.”
Minerva exhaled. She hadn’t even realized she’d been holding her breath. “Oh I’m, uh. Ridiculously sensitive. That felt great, it’s just that everything’s pretty intense when it comes to my breasts, so. Basically if you’re paying attention to them, I’m going to be happy.”
Julianne kissed her again, and traced the curve of one breast gently with her fingers. “Good to know, thank you,” she said. “To be honest, though, right now I would really, really love to get a finger or three inside me. How does that sound?”
Minerva couldn’t think of anything that sounded better. “Yes, that sounds. That sounds great. Do you want me to grab lube?”
“You probably should, yeah. You may also want to grab a towel, while you’re at it.”
By the time Minerva returned, hand towel and bottle of lube in hand, Julianne had shimmied out of the rest of her clothes and was lounging, gloriously naked, in bed. In her bed. “How on earth are you real,” Minerva said, before she could think better of it.
Julianne poked her hip, as if testing its solidity, and shrugged. “Somehow I just am. How are you so fucking cute, though? Get over here.” She made grabby-hands at Minerva but allowed her to lay down the towel and wiggle out of her leggings and underwear before she pulled Minerva on top of her, leaning up to catch her nipple in her mouth and scraping it gently with her teeth. That was enough to distract Minerva into losing track of the lube altogether, and Julianne was happy to spend several minutes learning which combination of bites and kisses could produce the most enthusiastic response.
Eventually, she pulled her mouth away and said, “I know I asked for something else entirely, but you’re so distracting, I hope you don’t mind.”
Minerva shook her head, wide-eyed and slightly breathless, and said, “I mind not at all, fuck. I’ll, ah, get back to it, though. Lost my lube, hold on a sec.” Having retrieved the bottle from the floor next to the bed, she settled in between Julianne’s legs, kissing her way up her thighs while she slicked up the first couple fingers of her left hand.
Julianne gasped as Minerva’s finger entered her, but she brought her hips up to meet her hand and sighed happily. “Fuck yes. Can you add another? I don’t need fast or anything, but if you can—” She made a g-spot wiggle with her fingers, and Minerva copied the motion. “Yep, that’s great. Just do that for a bit?”
“Whatever you want, just let me know.” Minerva kissed her thigh again, scraping the skin gently with her teeth. “Is this ok? I’m uh, a little obsessed with your legs.”
“It’s pretty obvious.” Julianne tightened her thighs a bit, squeezing against Minerva. “Feels lovely, though, go for it. Not everyone loves my beefy thighs so it’s nice that you do. I think they’re great, so you clearly have excellent taste.”
“Jesus, you’re strong,” Minerva said, as she felt Julianne’s thighs flex around her. “That’s — I bet you could crush a watermelon with these, no problem.”
“Oh, have you not seen the video?”
Minerva’s brain felt like it shorted out for a moment. “I’m sorry, what?”
Julianne laughed. “Oh yeah, there was a bet at a party a year or so back and someone got video. Maybe Tara, do you know her? I thought I shared it on my Insta but maybe not. I’ll show you, just. Not now.”
Minerva made as if to get up, and pulled her hand halfway out. “You sure? We could take a break, if —”
Julianne squeezed her thighs tighter, effectively holding Minerva in place. “Not a chance.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Minerva said. “I wouldn’t do that to you anyway. This still good?”
Julianne squirmed a bit, bucking her hips against Minerva’s hand. “Give me another? Or two? You have fucking glorious fingers. Maybe more lube, too.” She pouted a bit as Minerva withdrew her hand but was moaning again as Minerva easily slid three fingers back in, adding a fourth after a minute when Julianne nodded at her. She reached down and gripped Minerva’s hair, scratching her scalp as she pulled gently.
“Oh fuck, please keep doing that,” Minerva panted. Her thumb was awkwardly splayed out to the side as she thrust the rest of her hand into Julianne, and she experimentally tucked it into the rest of her fingers; her hand easily slid in up to the widest part of her knuckles. She kissed messily at Julianne’s thigh. “I’ve almost got my whole hand in you, do you want me to keep going?”
“Seriously? Yes, absolutely, I’ll let you know if it’s too much.” Julianne’s legs were twitching now, her thighs squeezing erratically. Her hand pulled tighter in Minerva’s hair. Minerva glanced up to see Julianne breathing heavily, her face and chest flushed with desire and her hair in a halo around her face where it had escaped her thick braid. “Please,” she said, eyes wide, and Minerva shivered. Anything you want, she thought.
For a moment, it didn’t feel it it would be possible to work her entire hand inside Julianne, but she rotated it slightly and it slipped in startlingly quickly. Julianne gave a sharp gasp as she eased in, and Minerva stilled her hand, not sure if further movement was a good idea. “Holy fuck, is this still okay?” Julianne nodded, but her free hand was covering her mouth and her breathing was erratic. “Should I pull back out?”
“No, no, it’s just…it’s a lot. I need a moment to adjust, okay?”
“Sure, take your time. You’re amazing, you’re doing great.” Minerva reached up her free hand, and Julianne took hers away from her face and grabbed it, squeezing gently. “Just tell me what you want, whenever you’re ready.”
Julianne’s hand had gone slack in Minerva’s hair, but after a moment she tightened it again, and pulled gently. She took a deep breath and said, “Okay. You can move your hand a bit, don’t pull out until I say so because I’ll have to prepare for that too.”
Minerva started to move again, slowly and gently at first, and tried to watch Julianne’s face for a reaction. “How’s this?”
Julianne let go of Minerva’s hand and gave a lazy thumbs-up. “What you’re doing right now is fantastic. I don’t love attention right on my clit but indirect contact on either side is really good, if you can do that too.”
Minerva sucked her thumb into her mouth for a moment, cupped Julianne’s mons in her hand, and rubbed gently against the side of her clitoris, through her hood, and was rewarded with a tightened hand in her hair and a clench around her left hand. “Like that?” Julianne made an incoherent squeak in response, which she took as a good sign, so she kept it up for a couple minutes, enjoying the feeling of Julianne tightening around her hand and scratching at her scalp.
Soon, Julianne’s grip in her hair tightened again, and when Minerva experimented by using a bit more pressure with her thumb, Julianne wailed and pulled so sharply she couldn’t quite bite back a yelp of surprise. “Sorry! But yes, please that’s perfect, just keep doing that.” Minerva didn’t have to keep it up for long; a few seconds later, she could feel the pulse of Julianne’s orgasm as she contracted around her hand several times before falling still. Minerva slowly lessened her thumb pressure and stilled her other hand, and after a moment Julianne propped herself up and said, “Holy shit, Min. That was fucking fantastic.”
Minerva couldn’t help herself. “You were fantastic, wow. My hand isn’t particularly small or anything.”
“It’s a perfect hand and I won’t hear any arguments.”
“I won’t make any! Uh. Should I slide it on out, though?”
“Just be really gentle. I hope your wrist won’t be too sore or anything.”
“I’ll be fine, I’m sure.” Minerva pressed a few gentle kisses under Julianne’s navel as she very carefully eased her hand out. It was a little tricky and her wrist was slightly unhappy, but after shaking it out a bit, it felt pretty much normal. Even if it was sore the next day, she couldn’t imagine that she’d complain.
“Come here, cutie,” Julianne said, patting the bed next to her chest. “I feel like I’ve neglected you.”
Minerva happily settled in next to her. “I don’t feel neglected at all,” she said, “but I won’t complain if you have something in mind.”
“Well, what sounds good to you?” Julianne asked. She bent down and gently took one of Minerva’s nipples into her mouth. “You seemed to enjoy this earlier.”
Minerva shuddered at the sensation and said “it feels amazing, I can’t describe it. Can you keep doing that? You can get a little more bitey too, that’s also great.”
“Like, leaving marks? That bitey?”
“Shit, yeah. If you’re into that. Can you use your hand, too?” Julianne responded by slipping her hand between Minerva’s legs as she resumed kissing her breasts. She covered Minerva’s chest with bites and kisses, rubbing gently against her clit while Minerva bucked and moaned beneath her. Minerva felt overwhelmed by pleasure, and it didn’t take long for so much sensation to tip her over the edge. Afterwards she slumped bonelessly on the bed, idly petting Julianne’s hair as her bites turned to soft kisses and then idle caresses.
Eventually, she rested her head on Minerva’s shoulder, and they stayed like that for a few minutes, quietly snuggling on the bed, until Julianne spoke.
“This wasn’t too much too fast, was it? I don’t know if this is what you brought me home for or not, and it was fantastic, but I hope I wasn’t moving things along before you were ready.”
Minerva kissed the top of Julianne’s head. “No, not too much at all. I wasn’t expecting this, but I can’t pretend I never hoped you’d be naked in my bed at some point. Just not now, you know? But I can’t complain.”
Julianne grinned and poked Minerva’s side gently. “I bet you didn’t think this would happen when you came up to me in that bar back when you were first starting out, did you?”
Minerva buried her face in her hands in embarrassment. “Oh god, I kind of hoped you would forget I ever did that.”
“Aw, why’s that? It was sweet. I didn’t make the connection until after those workshops, though, I wondered why you looked familiar and it finally clicked a few weeks after.”
Minerva sighed, and took a moment to gather her thoughts. “I don’t – I don’t want you thinking that I’m into you or wanted to ask you to come back here because I’m a fan or it’s a hero-worship thing or anything. Back then, sure. That’s all I felt I could be. I just…I hadn’t found my place in derby yet, you know?”
Julianne nodded and cuddled up closer, draping an arm and a leg over Minerva as she spoke.
“I knew the community was there and wanted to be a part of it, but I didn’t quite feel like I could, yet. I didn’t want to feel like the only way I could relate to other skaters was to be in awe of them. Now I feel like the people I respect, even those who are way better than me and continue to support me, are still my peers in a way, but back then I was still trying to figure out where I could fit. It’s an awkward time to think about.”
Julianne reached up and took hold of Minerva’s hand, kissing it gently, and said, “Well, tonight we found where you fit just perfectly, didn’t we?”
“You’re terrible,” Minerva said in response, but she laughed anyway, much harder and longer than the comment deserved. It was true, after all.