a/n: I'd like to dedicate this chapter to animeaddict2323232 because it was she(i believe you are a she? =D) who, after reading her inbox message, prompted me to finish this chapter. Kudos to you! Enjoy!
The air was bitter. The wind was biting. The ground was hard as stone. In short, absolutely perfect weather for a soccer game.
Our cheeks were stained red, not from makeup or embarrassment. We were wearing shorts and blue jerseys made of simple, thin cotton. Yet we weren't cold. Not at all.
"This is it."
No one spoke a word. Together as a team, we listened.
"You know what to do. You remember last year. Finish it, girls… Finish it."
Coach Karp spoke, looking fiercely at us all. We all stared back with the same heated intensity. Tightening my grip on my teammates' shoulders, I inhaled a deep, calming breath. Our circle loosened slightly as one of its members broke off into the center.
Slowly, together as one, our feet started to lightly pad the ground beneath us.
"ARE YOU READY?" Kelsey yelled to us all.
Our voices rose.
"ARE YOU FEELIN' ME?!"
The ground shook beneath our feet. The crowd screamed with us.
"WHAT'RE WE GONNA DO?!"
There was a roar in my ears as we broke off, taking our positions on the field. Kelsey clamped my shoulders and I heard her laugh.
"We should really thank Varsity Football for that…" she said, grinning at me.
I didn't respond. Another pair of hands grasped my arm.
"Come on, Yumi," it was Celeste now. "Lighten up. It's gonna be fine."
"Define fine," I replied, blowing into my hands to keep them warm.
They both rolled their eyes, releasing me as we broke off to take our separate positions. I approached the center circle. I saw Justina, laughing coolly, hands on her hips opposite me outside the circle. For a fleeting moment, she caught my eye.
I smiled slightly, smugly. My lips curved into a taunt.
"Bring it, Justina," I said clearly, right to her face.
Her eyes blazed, her small form now buzzing with animosity. I rolled the ball under my foot, still smirking.
"Ha," she smirked. "Ishiyama… Long time, no see."
"Keep it to yourselves, ladies," the ref. interrupted, whistle in his mouth as he prepared to call the start of the game. "I want a clean game."
Checking with both keepers, the whistle blew and the game had begun. As players charged at me from all sides, with a quick flick of my legs, I sent the ball spinning back towards Kelsey. Completely confident that my pass was accurate, I sprinted up the field as Kelsey clogged the center with the rest of our middies.
We needed a quick start in this game. It was essential—to knock the wind out of Taft's sails from the start. Taking my stance in the center of their defense, I whirled around to see Kelsey sneak a quick pass through to our wing forward. A speedster, the girl raced up the field, a Taft defender quick on her tail.
Adrenaline surging, I advanced into the goal box.
So far, so good. If I can just punch this ball in, it'll give them a good shock.
Our wing was right at the corner flag. She had an opening—
"CROSS IT!" I screamed. "CENTER!"
With a powerful arch of her leg, she struck the ball. The ball soared over my head only to be deflected by the goalie out of bounds. Not bad. At least we get a corner.
"Calm down!" Coach Karp instructed from the silence as we set up the corner kick. "This is a good aggressive start but we need to control the ball better, ladies!"
"Six pack," I said to my teammates. We all huddled together in front of the goal, slightly smug as we watched the Taft defense scramble to figure out our scheme.
Over near the flag, our player raised her hand and we broke off. I charged the goalie, watching the ball as I ran. Again, the kick was long. But not too long.
There was a confusing cluster of bodies as both teams battled for control of the ball only yards away from the goal. I held my position next to their goalie, barely keeping the temptation down to go into the mess myself. Finally, someone managed to boot the ball out of the goal box.
Sinking with disappointment, the second that I had lost interest, I heard an unmistakable sound.
Or rather, the sound of her foot making contact with the ball. Before I knew it, the ball was surging towards me. Fighting for position, I rammed the goalie with my body. We both jumped for the ball. She was taller than me. I couldn't see a thing as we both fell to the ground, our legs twisted together.
Jumping up, I screamed.
Jubilation surged through me as I raced towards the sea of blue that had engulfed Celeste. Grinning madly, I flung myself into the pile. After our celebration, I came out with my arms around Celeste, hugging her so tight I thought I would suffocate us both.
"I love you!!!" I told her sincerely, still smiling hugely.
She laughed, throwing her head back.
"More than Ulrich?" she teased.
I rolled my eyes.
"Don't push your luck, girl," I smiled and we both dissolved into laughter.
"Bitch," a familiar snarl.
My smile was now a ghost on my lips. I turned, feeling my skin bristle with rage.
"That was interference," accused Justina, murderous, storming towards me. "I can't believe the ref. didn't call that on you. You can't just take down our goalie."
"Let's see you do something about it then, Justina," I spat. Celeste gripped my arm tight, dragging me back. "Come on. Foul me."
My voice dripped with acid. Her eyes clenched with anger. I knew she wanted to punch me. It wouldn't take much more.
"Yumi," Celeste hissed in my ear. "Stop it. No. We don't need you thrown out of this game," I remained still, glaring at Justina. "You know that one isn't going to be enough."
This got my attention.
"I know," I said to her. "She's just such a bitch."
Celeste smiled knowingly, giving me a pat on the shoulder as she said, "You got that right."
But a one goal lead ended up being enough—for the first half.
After Coach Karp gave us a little half time pep talk, I sat on the bench, huddled together with Kelsey and Celeste to stay warm.
"Are you going to keep talking trash to her for the whole game?" Kelsey asked me.
"Yep," I answered plainly, staring ahead blankly.
"You know it's going to end badly."
"But don't you have Ulrich's Christmas party tonight?"
"Yumi, don't get hurt, please. Ulrich's gonna be so upset if you can't go," Celeste added in, looking at me with worried eyes.
"Let's not go there again, Celeste," I answered. "He already threatened me. But I've got it all covered. If I somehow managed to get injured during the game, I offered Hiroki up as a replacement date. Then if Hiroki somehow can't do it, I told him he could have my mother as a death choice."
Celeste and Kelsey snorted, laughing.
"You do know that my sister is madly in love with Hiroki," Kelsey said. "Millie will be broken hearted if he goes with Ulrich."
"Not to mention the fact that if Ulrich tried to put the moves on my mom, my father would probably castrate him," I added, smiling despite myself.
I started to laugh. And we all looked at each other, suddenly breaking out in infectious giggles.
"Shame for you, Yumi," Kelsey exclaimed, grinning.
I swatted at her, blushing madly.
"Ladies, ladies!" We all looked up to see Odd before us, wearing his "hawk" mascot suit. "What's all the laughter about now? There's no laughing in soccer!"
"Shut up, Odd," Kelsey said, her voice cracking with laughter. She leaned on me for support, still getting over her giggles.
"Besides," Celeste added. "It's confidential. You wouldn't want to hear Yumi's dirty ramblings would you?"
Odd waggled his eyebrows, looking interested.
"Oh really now? Care to share, Yumes?"
The ref. blew his whistle.
"And," I said, my voice drawing on. "This is where I make my exit."
Standing, I made my way back towards the field.
"Nice job practically murdering their goalie, Yumi," a smooth, pleasant voice was teasing me. "I couldn't have done it any better myself."
I faced William, my brows knitting in concern.
"Hold on," I said. "I didn't hurt her, did I? I mean, she's all right?"
He smiled, moving closer to me.
"I'm kidding, Yumes, chill out," he patted me on the back.
"William," I groaned. "I told you not to get into the habit of calling me that—
He frowned, opening his mouth to protest.
"Look," I continued. "You know I don't mind it—but if… other people… hear you calling me that—
"You mean Ulrich," he managed to interject sharply.
"I've told you before, I don't know why you're with him," he said, his grey eyes hammering into me. "He's so overprotective. He wouldn't let you out of his sight if he didn't have too!"
"Let's not talk about me and Ulrich, okay?"
"William," I said fiercely, now facing him. "I've already heard you tell me this a million times. I don't feel the need to listen to your stupid rant again. Now, just go back to the stands, I've got a game to finish."
He stepped backward, not looking as if my threat had damaged his confidence at all.
"Fine," he agreed harshly. He smiled. "I'll catch you after the game then?"
"Well, uh, I don't know—
"Oh right," he said, his face darkening. "I forgot. You've got the Stern Christmas party. "
My eyebrows furrowed and I wasn't sure whether I wanted to apologize or not.
As the wind gusted into a bitter gale, the game was nearing its end. Breathing harshly, my body stung with raw scrapes and bruises, acquired from fighting tooth and nail against Taft for possession of the ball. My skin felt like ice, my joints screaming to remain still for just one more moment of relief…
But we just had to hold on for a few moments more.
I took another fall, a foot sweeping my legs out from under me. My shoulder slammed into the ground, roaring fierce with pain. I could hear Coach Karp screaming from the sidelines.
Determined, I stood, my nerves clenching in distraught protest.
Taft was attacking. Justina had the ball and I was too far away to stop her… someone take her out… I begged desperately.
"No…" I whispered, the reality so awful, so unbelievably horrid, that it seemed blind before my eyes. Someone screamed. Someone fell to the ground, ripping the frozen grass up from the earth in rage. Someone walked past me, hooting in triumph. And just like that, the game was tied.
"Shit out of luck, Ishiyama," Justina smirked. "Poor you, you must be so exhausted chasing after me all day, you like you're about to collapse."
My lips frozen, I couldn't reply. She sauntered past me, rallying with her teammates.
"Shake it off, defense, shake it off," Coach Karp was trying to be positive. "It's zero zero again. Five minutes left, girls…. You can do this."
Beside me, Kelsey put a hand on my shoulder.
"You need to come out, Yumi?" she asked worriedly. "You look completely roughed up."
"I'm fine," I muttered incoherently. "We have to win this, Kelss. We can't let them steal this game from us."
"We won't, Yumi," she nodded determinedly, gripping my shoulder. "We won't."
"All right ladies, lets go," Celeste shouted, clapping her icy hands together.
Despite the aches stinging throughout my body, I walked up to the center circle. Rolling the ball under my foot, my eyes sought the crowded stands. Sitting bent over his knees with his hands clasped, his face strained with tension, was Ulrich. His eyes found mine across the field. As his lips softened into a smile, something in my chest fluttered and warmth surged to the tips of my fingers.
Inhaling a deep breath, I knew I was ready. And at the sound of the whistle, the struggle began. It would come down to a chance, one opportunity.
The ball was passed across each team's midfield, neither side budging an inch and letting their defenses slip. Three minutes passed and my frustration broke. No more waiting, I was going to make something happen. There was no way in hell this game was going to penalty kicks. We were going to win it now.
Giving with the spin of the ball, I weaved up the field. Finally, after sneaking past three of their midfielders, I passed the ball to the wing and fought for position. Meanwhile, the ball was sent back to the person I trusted most: Kelsey.
And soon enough, she found an opening. Bursting with speed, she beat her mark up the wing, barely keeping the ball in bounds. I surged forward and screaming frantically, darted into the open space. Kelsey's foot connected and moments later, the ball was at my feet, in front of the goal.
There it was, a crack between the goaltender and the post…. If I could just sneak the ball past, it would trickle into the net… It was so close. The goaltender scrambled to the side, blocking my angle and the second's doubt, that sliver of hesitation, cost us the chance. But a breath later, my head cracked with pain and I was slammed into the icy ground.
My head was spinning and Justina was screaming.
"You cannot be serious?!" she snarled. "She slipped."
"With the help of your foot, twenty-four," the ref responded coolly.
Clenching my eyes with pain, I slowly sat up. Hands enclosed around my elbows, pulling me up. I swayed as dizziness clouded my vision.
"Yumi…" Kelsey whispered as I tried to keep myself standing. It felt as if I had been run over by a truck.
I squinted as a familiar figure, clad in what looked like a fuzzy olive coat, towered in front of me. A finger gently lifted my chin and I staggered forward, whispering in bemusement, "Ulrich…" as I coughed out the air that had been clogged in my chest.
While I was bent over his shoulder gasping in air and trying to collect myself, he pulled me to him, circling me in his arms.
"Yumi, you need to come out of this game," he said, phrasing his words gently.
My head throbbed and I shut my eyes, rattling my head side to side in protest.
I must have started to struggle in his arms, for he clutched me closer, his voice tightening with urgency.
"I know you want to play, but you're going to hurt yourself."
Battling his grip, I struggled free, my gaze laced with determination as it locked fiercely with his own.
"Don't tell me what to do, Ulrich," I said and turned my back on him. "You can't stop me."
There was a muffled thud as Kelsey grabbed Ulrich's shoulder and restrained him from chasing me.
"Don't," I heard her whisper. "You'll only make it worse."
"Yumi, I swear, if you die, I am going to tell my contacts in heaven to never let you hear the end of it until I get there and can harass you myself." said Ulrich and I could feel his eyes on my back.
Kelsey released a chuckle and gently coaxed my boyfriend off the field.
"I want the shot," I told the ref.
I must have looked pretty awful pissed, because the guy looked slightly intimidated. He nodded. There was absolutely nothing, not even the man I loved, that was going to stop me from freaking burying this ball in the corner of that stupid net.
Moments later, the tension melted and euphoria broke free. Kelsey and Celeste reached me first and it was their arms that wrapped around me. Besides the ball resting in the corner of the net, nothing made me grin ear to ear more than seeing Justina's absolutely bull shit face.
It was such a rush, those next fifteen moments. The faces blended and my bruises screamed their agony. When I sat down in front of the locker room heater, I could have sworn that I actually had reached heaven.
The only problem, Ulrich Stern was nowhere in sight. That's the only reason I knew I was still alive.
"Mom, please, please, please stop hovering."
My voice was a weary growl.
Still in the locker room, I had already disappointed some twenty dozen people when I had informed them that I wouldn't be attending the victory celebrations.
And don't look at me like that, guys!
I have a perfectly good excuse, okay.
It's taken these trainers, assisted by worrying mother, almost two hours to take care of all my scrapes and bruises. I've almost had to slap myself a few times to keep myself from falling asleep.
"I'm sorry, darling," she said testily. "But I am doing this in your best interest."
I rolled my eyes.
"Between you and Ulrich, you'd think that I could barely breathe on my own."
"You should be grateful that you have a boy who cares about you so much, Yumi."
"Mom—despite my exhaustion, trying to be humorous here, okay? Stop acting like I'm dying."
She looked scandalized.
"Yumi Ishiyama, this is not the time or place for—"
"Hey," a deep voice broke my mother's indignant response. Ulrich brushed the curtains aside and appeared before me. "I got your hot chocolate."
"Thank you, Ulrich," I said, taking the beverage from him. I turned to face my mother "Mom, you're shift's over. Ulrich can now relieve you of your hovering duties. Don't look so concerned, I assure you he's a first-class, professional worrier. He would make even you proud."
Ulrich knotted his brows together, frowning. My two caretakers exchanged a look.
"Well, Ulrich," my mother, refreshing her indignant tone with its full vigor. "I hope you have better luck teaching my daughter to appreciate when those concerned for her well being attempt to make sure she's okay. Hmph."
She marched from the room, the curtains swooshing closed behind her.
"Really now, Yumi?" he asked, looking wary himself.
"I'm sorry!" I exclaimed as he sat himself next to me on the examination table. "I just can't stand when she gets like that.
"Well, I think someone gets a little punchy when they're tired."
Ignoring his little jab, I glanced over at his profile appreciatively.
"I see you're all ready for the party."
He glanced at the cuffs of his dark suit, his lips gathering into a small smile.
"Well, you know… I figured…" He paused momentarily, running a hand through his already tousled chestnut hair. "You know that you don't have to go, Yumi…"
"Ulrich," I said gently, coloring my voice with as much sincerity as my weariness would allow. "This isn't just my Christmas. It's our first Christmas and we should spend it together. Even if the trainers told me I had broken my leg in three places, I would still find a way to make it to this party."
My words made a grin spread onto his features.
"I know you would," he laughed.
We sat together, an unlikely fashioned couple. I sat slouching with sleepiness, clad in a sports tank and shorts, while Ulrich sported a sleek black suit and slacks.
Smiling an impish smile, I leaned over and threaded my hands around his elbow, dragging him close so that my lips grazed his ear.
"Ulrich, my love, my darling, my knight in shining armor," I whispered in a sultry drawl. "Could you be a doll and go harass the trainers for me? I'd like to get out of this clinic so I can dazzle your family with my loveliness."
He tilted his face, grinning a playful smile, so that our noses kissed endearingly.
"Is this what happens when I let your mother torment you for too long?" his eyes sparkled suggestively. "I get sexy whispers and irresistible bribes?"
"No, this is me being a good child and taking my mother's advice. I'm trying to be more appreciative. Is it working or am I going to have to beg?"
Ulrich groaned and withdrew from me, slinking off the exam table and onto his feet.
"No, because I know better," he replied. "You're going to pester me until I do what you say."
I grinned, rolling my eyes playfully.
The key to being a successful girlfriend?
Trickery and bribes, ladies, trickery and bribes.
a/n: holy bajesus, it's been a while! Well, this chapter has been coming along for quite a couple months now. I hope you guys don't find the soccer too much of an overdose. I tried to wrap it up quickly at the end so I could get to the Yumi/Ulrich interaction that I know you've all been waiting for. Sadly, I think this is probably going to be the second the last chapter of this story. I love Code Lyoko to death, but I've moved onto other TV addictions. CL will always have a special place in my heart, though. I'm sure there will be more Yumi/Ulrich one-shots from me sometime in the future.
Please stay tuned for the last chapter of HSM. I hope to make it a beautiful, if rather abrupt, I guess, ending. I do think Yumi and Ulrich in this story have come a long way. I hope the last scene shows it. Reviews are love! =)
PS: This story will be finished before the summer is over. Perhaps in the next couple weeks.