Disclaimer: Digimon belongs to lots of people who aren't me. Consider this a disclaimer that covers the whole fic, should it ever become multi-chaptered.
Originally written during an exceptionally boring English class, for a friend who was probably in another exceptionally boring class at the time.
Two Out of Three
A sudden rush, a feint, two quick steps and a finely calculated flick of the foot, and the soccer ball was hers!
Sora ran a few metres, the skilfully flicked the ball into the air and caught it. She turned around and grinned cheekily at her gallant and worthy foe.
"Show off," Tai grumbled, walking back towards her.
"Just 'cause you can't take the ball off someone without knocking them down," she snorted.
As if in reply, Tai leapt towards Sora as though to tackle her to the ground. She yelped in surprise and stumbled backwards, the ball slipping out of her hands as she did so. Deftly, Tai halted his plunge and bounced the ball from his shoulder to the ground as he straightened up, then simply ran with it before Sora realised what hadn't hit her.
A few years ago, Taichi and Sora would have been playing soccer in the park every Saturday afternoon before going and buying ice-cream together, maybe meeting with Matt or Mimi. But now, they were so often caught up with schoolwork, or work at the flower shop in Sora's case. A little came of once-on-one soccer was a rare treat, all the more enjoyable for the rarity.
"And you called me a show-off," Sora muttered, jogging towards Tai. He was now entertaining himself by bouncing the ball alternately on his head, shoulders, knees and feet, a skill which had always evaded her. She frowned when he fumbled an easy bounce and the ball dropped to the ground. That wasn't like him…
Tai seemed fairly unconcerned, though, grinning sheepishly at her as the ball rolled to a stop at her feet. Sora picked it up and threw it back to him.
"Skilful," he snorted, derisively.
"Why did you stop playing?" he asked, without a hint of humour. He looked a bit sad as he said it.
"You know why," Sora replied, with an uncomfortable shrug. "Only child. Gotta continue the family business. Besides," she added, in a voice tinged with bitterness. "Nice girls don't play soccer."
"Nonsense. I used to know a girl who played soccer," said Tai, "And she was the nicest girl I ever met."
Sora dropped her head, embarrassed. It had been six months since that eventful Christmas Eve, but she still felt guilty for having turned Tai down when he asked her out. No matter how many times she told herself, or others told her, that she couldn't help who she fell in l… who she liked, she still couldn't dispel the guilt. Because she saw what none of the rest of them did. She always saw the wistful, longing, pained expression that flashed across his face. She saw it every time. Every time she and Matt were having a moment, and Tai thought they were too wrapped up in each other to notice, she saw that longing on his face. No matter what her friends said, Sora could never stop feeling bad that she could have made her friend happy, could have saved him from the pain that showed itself only in those brief but powerful glances that he thought no-one could see.
"Lucky you," Sora muttered, looking away.
They both let it drop, marked out a makeshift goal and began an elaborate game of attack and defence.
At one point, after they'd both scored a few goals, Sora aimed badly for the goal and cursed herself colourfully as the ball flew within easy reach of her opponent. But Tai's half-hearted attempt to stop it fell short, and the ball rolled through for a goal.
That wasn't like Tai at all, Sora though. She'd never seem him miss such an easy save. Well, at least, not since they were about eight. She brushed it off, thinking maybe something on the other side of the oval d caught his eye. But then she scored another goal, and another. He was really preoccupied with something. Finally, when she shot a sixth goal without any resistance whatsoever, she just had to ask him what was wrong. She turned around, her mouth already half open, to see Taichi grinning and pointing.
"Hey, look!" he said, happily. "Matt's here!"
"Having fun?" Matt asked, flashing them one of his most disarming smiles. Sora was suddenly aware of how she must look – dirty, sweaty and red-faced. She felt quite inadequate next to the well-groomed, glamorous, so-damned-sexy Yamato Ishida.
"Sora's running circles around me," Tai said, with a melodramatic sigh.
"No kidding," Sora grinned, recovering some of her composure. "Our widdle Tai-chan's really been slacking off."
"She's killing me!" Tai groaned.
"Well, someone has to whip you into shape." She punched him playfully on the shoulder.
"Hey, don't be too hard on him," Matt warned her. "He still has to do his half of our History assignment. Which, I'll have you remember, Taichi, is due on Monday."
"You're all against me!" Tai pouted. "Okay, well, do you want to come over to my place tomorrow to finish it?"
"Why do you need me there? I've already done my half."
"For the pleasure of your company, my dear Yamato," said Tai, with a flourish. "Pleeeease?"
"Oh, fine," Matt grumbled. "But don't expect me to do it for you. Again." He turned to Sora. "Well, since I'm going to be busy with Tai tomorrow, why don't you come over to my house for dinner tonight? My dad'll be there, but I'm sure we'll be able to find some time to ourselves."
He had his arm around her shoulders now, and was looking at her with those intense blue eyes, looking almost uncomfortably deeply into her own. Sora nodded her agreement and stammered something affirmative, still in the thrall of those eyes. Her heart raced, and for a moment she thought he was going to kiss her, as her friends' boyfriends so often did in all manner of public places.
But he dropped his arm and his gaze, stepping away from her. Once again, she was aware of how filthy she must look. Wasn't it the girl who was supposed to be immaculate, watching on the sidelines as her boyfriend played in the dirt?
"Well, I'll see you both later," Matt gave them one last grin and one last look with those eyes before turning and jogging away.
Shaking her head to try to clear it from its Matt-induced foggification, Sora looked at Tai, hoping to spark a conversation back up. But all words and thoughts left her when she saw the look on Tai's face.
That wistful, longing, pained expression. It was that same look that she saw every time she and Matt were having a moment, and Tai thought they were too wrapped up in each other to notice. She'd always assumed that he wore it because he still liked her. It was a fair enough assumption, wasn't it? He'd asked her out, and she'd turned him down. It couldn't get more obvious than that.
It had never occurred to her that Tai never looked at her like that when they were alone together, or that Tai always manoeuvred himself so that he was sitting next to Matt when they were in a group. It had never occurred to her that Tai's wistful glances could be directed at someone other than her.
But there could be no doubting it now. Not with that excruciating look of Tai's aimed in the direction that it was. Everything was suddenly all too clear.
It wasn't for the love of Sora that Tai suffered.
It was for the love of Matt.
TO BE CONTINUED