Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Author's Notes: What can I say? This was something I created on a whim. An idea that popped into my head that wouldn't go away. I just hope you guys like it, and don't forget to click that review button at the end! I would love to hear responses of all kinds!
So.. here it is in all its somewhat-edited glory!
Play Like There Are No Rules
"You're breaking the rules!" Taichi Kamiya called to the back of his opponent.
The accusation brought Sora Takenouchi to a grinding halt, the well worn soccer ball forgotten for the moment. "Rules? What rules? I thought you said there was only one rule!"
"And you're breaking it," he said, exasperated, as if it were obvious.
Now she was really confused. "B-but... I thought... didn't you-" she sputtered. "You said that the one rule is that there are no rules! How could I possibly be breaking it!"
"You're playing like there are rules," he replied simply.
Her mouth opened to reply, but no words came out. She couldn't deny that her playing tonight was below her usual standards.
He continued, "Listen, it's only you and me out here. Forget about playing nice. Just play." He smirked, an unmistakable glint of mischief in his eyes. "I mean, unless you don't think you can handle it."
"What?" She seemed genuinely offended, but she knew a challenge when she saw one. "I can handle it just fine, thank you."
"Then show me," he dared as he brushed by her to retrieve the ball.
Gritting her teeth, she tore down the field after him.
He was approaching the goal quickly. Too quickly to her liking.
He could see her rapidly gaining speed out of the corner of his eye. She braced herself. He knew that she was about to check him; he had played with and against her too many times to not recognize her positioning and techniques. This was the soccer player in her that he wanted to see: violence, attitude, and all.
Thinking he had her right where he wanted her, he prepared to take her by surprise and lunge right back at her. But instead of the bone crushing contact as he had expected, she pulled away at the last moment leaving him to expel his attack right into the ground.
She winced at the thud of his fall, knowing she shouldn't have held back so carelessly. Now he would know for sure something was not quite right.
He let out an aggravated grunt and quickly got back to his feet. Marching over to where she stood, he barked, "Damn it, Sora! Why did you pull back? What the hell are you so afraid of?"
"I don't know," she timidly replied, put off by his harsh tone. She looked away, anywhere but at him. "I guess I'm just not in the mood today."
He sighed. "It's not like you have to be afraid of hurting me, you know."
Her wandering gaze darted to him. Hurting him? In soccer? Not possible.
"You really should know how the game is played by now," he chuckled, if only to himself. "I know you don't really want to hurt people. But sometimes you're gonna have to if you want to get to the goal."
She had a feeling this wasn't about the game anymore.
"You're always doing this." He shook his head in mock disapproval. "Pulling back so someone else can win. But when you hold back like this, then the other team didn't really win then, did they?"
"What are you talking about?"
He sighed again. He paused before asking, "You really like him don't you?"
She was taken aback for a moment, surprised by bluntness of the question. So much for dancing around the issue. This conversation had taken a drastic turn into a direction she didn't want to follow. "Who?" she asked dumbly, knowing exactly who he was referring to: a certain blue-eyed, blond friend of theirs.
She could only avoid the topic for so much longer. She knew that if they approached the subject, it would only end up with someone being hurt. And that someone would be Taichi. In the end, the least she could do was spare him the physical pain of their violent games. She knew it was a pathetic shot at redemption, but in her mind, at least it was something.
"Don't be stupid. You know exactly who I'm talking about."
Reluctantly, she nodded.
"So you like him?" But it didn't sound quite like a question. After all, it was a question he knew the answer to. But he needed the confirmation. He needed to hear her tell him herself that she liked him. He knew she did. He knew it. And there was the underlying fact that she didn't feel the same way for him. But if she didn't say anything to deny... No. He had come to terms with the fact a long time ago. He would just have to deal with it.
Besides, this wasn't about his bruised ego anymore. In truth, he just wanted the real her back. His best friend. Not the one who forced him into one-sided conversations because she had stopped listening hours ago. Not the one who had the look in her eyes wishing she were somewhere else. He wanted the one who could at least give him a decent soccer game.
In reply, she nodded and let her head hang, as if she were ashamed of the fact that she had feelings for someone else. As if these unrequited feelings were somehow tainting her relationship with her best friend.
"There's no reason for you to feel guilty about it. You can't help feeling the way you do." He gave her an encouraging smile, which quickly faded. "No one can."
She balked. He was so accepting and forgiving. There was no way she could turn away from him now.
"I know you're not up to playing right now." If it was anyone that was going to end this tension between them it had to be him. "So just go to him."
"But... we haven't even finished our game. And there is no way that I'm just going to leave you here."
"Forget me for a second and think about yourself for once. Go to him." His tone was bordering on desperate.
She froze, unsure. Could she really just leave him? To leave, and go after the one her heart yearns for; an enigma to discover, a whole new person she somehow felt drawn to. He was a journey she couldn't possibly experience with Taichi. Or she could decide to stay here, side with her best friend. The one who had always been there for her, who she knows will always be there for her, whose spontaneity would always be an adventure to her.
But his repeated words wrenched her from her thoughts. "If I win because you're letting me, I didn't really win then, did I?"
She finally lifted her head to look at him, really look at him, and understood what he was saying completely. In order not to hurt him, she had tried to drown out the unrelenting idealistic romantic fantasies in her mind instead of living them out. But in the end, she had failed, doubly so by hurting herself in the process.
Her decision made, she turned to leave, but not before turning back around to throw her arms around his neck.
"Thank you," she whispered into his ear. And before he could even recognize the familiar warmth of her embrace folding around him, it was gone. His eyes followed her until he couldn't see red locks and soccer shorts anymore.
He fell back onto the grass, suddenly feeling more tired than if they had finished their game. Gazing up at the first solitary star of the night, he couldn't help but worry.
Did he just lose his best friend? Did he just make the biggest mistake of his life?
He smiled to himself.
In making her happy, it's never a mistake.
End Notes: Just to make things clear, I have always been a Taiora fan (although lately I have been leaning towards Taiorato.. hehe), and I hate one-sidedness of all kinds. I just had to get this out of me, but I'm only somewhat satisfied with it. I felt there was nothing more I could do with it. By the way, this was a one shot. It stands on its own.
Ehh... But what did you guys think? Let me know by clicking that button!