Hello everyone! My love for Digimon came back when I visited family in Japan for my spring recess this year, and I thought I'd try to pen a Taiora. I adore Tai, and I was admittedly one of those fans who was extremely disappointed that he didn't end up with Sora—or to be more accurate, I was appalled at the fact she ended up with Matt.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy.

Disclaimer: I don't own Digimon. Rated T for mild language that will get worse in later chapters. Taiora, Sorato.

A Losing Game
Squit Ayumin

"Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Tohoku, Nagoya, Shinshu, Hitotsubashi.

"They're all coming this season, and they're all coming to see you.

"You're our star player.

"Kamiya, go make your school proud."

Chapter 1

Tai Kamiya reeked.

It was getting to the point where he couldn't even stand it himself.

He slowed his pace and grabbed onto a pole of the goal net, finally allowing himself a well-overdue break.

In addition to his foul odour, he was dripping in sweat and gasping for air.

He took off his sweatband, it no longer having any use other than as a drenched piece of cloth clinging to his hot skin.

Each cusp of air he took felt like a thousand knives ripping his throat open. He couldn't remember the last time it hurt so much to do something as essential as breathing.

His legs were trembling, begging him to stop the torture. The pains searing through his nerves warned him of an imminent breakdown.

His throat and lungs throbbing, he let out a hoarse cough that began a chain of uncontrollable coughing. The violent spasms erupting from him added to the difficulty he already had of breathing. They were choking him.

Every sane part of his body told him to call it a day.

"You may be this school's ace, Kamiya, but there are plenty of other players who are much, much better than you. If you want to gain even a sliver of these scouts' attention, you have to train and train until you pass out; even then, you better get off your ass and train some more."

He pressed two fingers to his throat and coughed with all his might, allowing oxygen circulation, however painful, to ensue.

Tossing his sweatband aside, he forced himself to pick up his legs and run onto the field again.

He had only kicked around the ball a few times before he stopped himself.

It wasn't because of his stench, or his lack of air, or his strained muscles.

Rather, it was a girl standing right where he had moments ago by the goal post, smiling sympathetically at him.

"S…Sora?" he managed to pant. "What—haa—are you—haa—doing—haa—here…?"

She walked closer to him, his abandoned sweatband in her hand. "Don't you think you're overworking yourself just a little?"

Even though it was only Sora, even though she had seen him smelly and sweaty a million times, and even though he had seen her just as unappealing—

Despite all that, he suddenly became a little self-conscious of his outer appearance. "Er, d…don't come—haa—too close—haa. I—haa—smell—haa—really bad…."

"Believe me, I can smell you plenty from here," she assured, though her expression showed no discomfort. "I think you're done."

"No, I'm not." He tried to speak as normally as possible, desperately trying to control is erratic breathing. "That was just a warm-up. Now, I'm going to—" He stopped, quickly catching something mid-air that had been thrown to him.

A water bottle.

Sora had picked up his Gatorade bottle and was shaking it to show there was nothing inside. "If you're going to do these insane workouts, the least you can do is hydrate yourself, Tai."

His urge to prove her wrong wasn't strong enough to keep him from downing the precious drink in a few, large gulps.

His own drink had disappeared about an hour ago. He had never gone back inside for more because he didn't want to interrupt his flow of training.

Sora smiled at him. "I just finished tennis. You look like you're about ready to finish up too, so I guess I can wait for you."

He felt slightly irritated. "Actually, I'm planning to stay for a few more hours. Just go home, Sora. You're just wasting your time if you wait for me."

"I'll wait a few hours then." She looked up to the dim sky. "It'll be dark soon anyway. You'll need supervision on the way home."

His irritation increased, though he knew she was joking. "Suit yourself. If you want to sit here for the next three hours, it's your problem, not mine."

She seemed unfazed by his rudeness. Instead, she nodded and walked to the edge of the field. She smiled at him again before sitting down on the floor.

He pretended to disregard her and focus on the ball in front of him instead, but less than ten minutes later, he had given in and was heading towards the locker room.

As the cold water cascaded down his body, Tai decided showers were God's giving. His skin agreed, relishing in the hydration of clean water as opposed to his grimy sweat.

Even though it was only a dirty, public shower stall, he could stand there all day.

Except Sora's waiting outside in the dark for you by herself.

He wouldn't say it to her, but he secretly wished she hadn't shown up. First, he had been forced to end his practice early. Now, he was forced to essentially jump in and out of the shower he had been looking forward to since he had first gotten onto the field.

Oh well. It couldn't be helped.

He quickly soaped his hair and body, giving it almost no time to seep in before rinsing it away. He turned off the water and stepped out, grabbing his towel to dry his semi-clean body. He decided to do Sora a favour by spraying some cologne before running out to find his friend.

His shower would have to continue at home.

His duffel bag slung over his shoulder, he glanced at Sora and replied dully, "Not really, no."

"Come on! My treat!" she insisted, taking him by the arm and pulling him into the passing shop.

Tai was starving, but Coach had put him on a diet to build muscle and increase energy.

Ice cream, he was fairly sure, was off limits.

"I'm not really in the mood," he tried again.

She gave him a knowing look. "It's not going to kill you. If you're going to be a girl about it, just have frozen yoghurt." She looked at him again and gave a soft giggle. "They have different flavours and everything. You can even get fruit on it!"

The stab at his masculinity was so great that he couldn't string audible words in his defence.

"Welcome to Miotsu Ice Cream. How can I serve you today?"

Tai noticed for the first time the attractive girl behind the counter, beaming at them.

He added yet another reason as to why he wished Sora had never shown up.

"Could I get a small strawberry ice cream and a small frozen yoghurt with—" She turned to him. "Pick up to three toppings."

"I don't want frozen yoghurt!" he snapped finally.

Sora smiled at her irritated friend. "Then what do you want?"

He grumbled beneath his breath.

She smiled knowingly and turned back to the working girl. "Could you make that frozen yoghurt a double chocolate instead?"

Tai looked away, not wanting to succumb. He would work it off later. After all, it was only ice cream… And since when was he one to stick to such a strict dietary regimen? He had fast metabolism.

"That will be ¥700."

His mind immediately shifted gears as he went to Sora's side, grabbing her purse from her hands.

"I'm not going to make you pay for me!" he responded, incredulously.

"Why not?" Sora blinked, as if what she was doing was perfectly acceptable. "I said I'd treat you."

He didn't respond, instead searching through his bag for his own nearly-empty wallet.

"Tai!" Sora complained. She reached for the wallet in his hand, but he just raised his arm higher. "Tai!"

He continued to ignore her, finally tugging his wallet out of its compartment and digging through it for coins.

"Don't pay for me!"

He finally handed the girl a banknote. "Don't worry about it, Sora."


"You would have damaged my pride if you didn't let me pay."

The ice cream girl giggled. "You have a very sweet boyfriend."

Sora blushed and hit Tai in the arm, holding onto it as she said, "I said I'd treat you…"

She hadn't refuted the girl's comment, and he didn't care enough to correct a stranger—albeit one he would have asked out if not for the presence of said assumed girlfriend.

As she gave him his change, Tai wished Sora would release her arm around his. It was in the way of—

For a split second, he wondered if she was flirting with him. After all, Sora wasn't really a touchy person, yet she was clinging to his arm as she continued to tell him how she had wanted to pay.

The thought disappeared with the appearance of their respective ice cream cones, and he released his arm from her grasp himself to reach for the tantalising chocolate.

"Tai, I think you're pushing yourself too hard," Sora began as they left the shop and began to walk home. "I'm sure you'll get an offer even without this maniacal training, and I'm pretty sure you won't get one if you're dead."

"What are you talking about?" Tai grinned and raised his arms in the air. "This is just the beginning, Sora! I'll have to work a lot harder if I want to play soccer in university."

"Are you going to try to become a professional?"

Tai's smile faded, and he looked deep in thought. They had known each other for so long, yet this was the first time either had asked about the distant future.

He shrugged. "Probably not. I'm not good enough, and it's better to aspire for something a little more realistic."

"I see…"

"But I'm playing it for as long as I can!" Tai added, beaming. "I'd be happy with anything, but I really want Tokyo or Hitotsubashi. I just need to train more." He grinned and nudged her. "Or maybe Kyoto will recruit me and we can go there together."

"They haven't accepted me yet!" Sora protested quickly. "But I believe in you, Tai." She grabbed the sling of his duffel bag to stop him, giving him a serious look. "And you're wrong. You're really good. You could probably become a professional if you tried. Come on, Tai, you're our school's godsend!"

"I'm not, but thanks for the flattery." He laughed as he began walking again.

"I'll tell you what, Tai." Sora stepped in front of him and stuck out her pinky finger to his chin. "If you get an offer, I'll take you out to the best restaurant in Odaiba—no, Tokyo!"

He looked at the finger in front of him.

This was a first.

He laughed and clasped his own finger around hers. "All right, Sora. It's a date."

He had walked her home, of course, even though her home was farther away than his.

"I'm home!" he announced as he entered his flat.

"Welcome home, darling. Dinner will be ready in a few minutes!"

Tai stopped by the kitchen. His mother was busily in the midst of mixing a rather grey concoction in a pot. "Hi Mum."

"How was practice?" she asked, nodding towards his dirty uniform. "You certainly look like you got a lot done."

"It was all right," Tai answered hazily before disappearing into his room.

He immediately threw his belongings to a corner and collapsed on the bed, his sore legs finally failing him.

"Tai, did you just lie down on your bed without showering? I just washed your sheets!" came his mother's scolding voice from behind the door.

"I showered at school!" he hollered back, half-honestly, before passing out.

To those who don't know much about Japanese geography, Odaiba is a district of Tokyo.

I decided to call football "soccer" in this story because of the tremendous American base this site seems to have.