This is for Mimi Tachikawa, who dared me to write this Taiora 'fic. She said she thought I could write a good one. I hope this is all right!
Would you look at he as she looks at me
She's got me thinking about her constantly
But she don't know how I feel
And as she carries on without a doubt
I wonder if she's figured out
I'm crazy for this girl...
Tai had a problem, something he was very unaccustomed to. Tai normally didn't let much bother him, and if something did, then he worked it out. But, increasingly, something was bothering him that he found he couldn't just shrug off. Or ignore off. Or play soccer it off. It had to be thought about and dealt with.
Mimi stared at him in confusion. "Tai, you've just managed to confuse me."
He sighed. "Well…lately, I've sort of…well, not been able to get a certain girl off my mind."
"It isn't me, is it?" she asked suspiciously. "'Cause that would be kind of dumb, talking about 'a girl' just to get advice on how to win her, and then it's me…"
Tai couldn't help laughing a little. "No, it's not you," he replied, highly amused.
She looked offended. "Well, why isn't it me? Aren't I good enough for you?" she flared.
"Huh?" Tai asked blankly.
She glared at him. "Oh, never mind. What do you want?"
"I want to know what to do."
"About your crush?"
"Ask her out, of course."
As if it were simplicity itself. Tai felt himself gasping for air. "You're not serious," he said, horrified. "I can't ask her out!"
"Why not? You've gone out with other people haven't you? And you're a popular guy, cute, a jock…I really don't see a problem here."
"No. I can't do it."
"Okay, fine. Who is this Mystery Girl? If I know that, maybe I can help."
Tai ducked his head. "You'll laugh at me."
"You would about this," he said gloomily.
Mimi laughed. "Tai, out with it."
He mumbled something.
"I couldn't hear you."
"Sora, all right?" he said angrily.
"Sora?" Mimi exclaimed.
He stared at her. "Gee, could you yell a little louder?" he requested sarcastically. "I don't think the dead guy three blocks away quite heard you."
Mimi ignored that. "Sora. Yeah, I can see it now. So why not ask her out? You've been best friends for—oh, I see."
"Yeah. We've been best friends. That's all. She won't want to go out with me."
"Mimi. That would be as weird as—as—you deciding to go out with Izzy."
"Does he like me? How cute."
"That was just an example, not reality. As far as I know."
"Oh, that's too bad. He's actually pretty cute, in his own way. Smart, too. I wonder…"
Tai could see she wasn't going to be any help. "Well, thanks, anyway, Mimi."
"Uh-huh," she replied distantly. "Mrs. Mimi Izumi…it could work…" she mumbled as he left.
Tai rolled his eyes. "This sucks," he muttered, looking at the ground. He then ran into Sora. Literally.
"Tai? What are you doing at the mall?" she asked in surprise.
"Oh. Uh, h—hi, Sora. Um, how are you?"
"I'm fine. But what are you doing here? I never pictured you at a mall."
"Well, what about you?"
"I asked first, but I'm here at my mother's insistence. 'Sora, you're a very pretty girl, but you'd never know it by the way you dress,' " she mimicked. " 'Today, you're going out and getting something nice!' "
"Your turn," Sora reminded him.
"Oh, I wanted to talk to Mimi, and on a Saturday, that means being at a mall."
"Mimi's here? Where?" Sora looked around.
"She's back in the food court, but I wouldn't bother her right now; she's daydreaming about Izzy."
Sora nodded and sat down on a bench. She shoved her bags to the side distastefully. "Look at these clothes! They're all skirts and dresses and frills! And I was going by that sports store, and there were a set of pads there I'd sell my soul for! Tai, you'd love them. But can I get them? Nooooo. Those sporty things aren't 'nice,' I guess."
"Well, when soccer season starts…"
"They'll be gone by then," Sora said mournfully. "Do you know what time it is, by the way?"
"2:15? I promised my mom I'd be done by 2!" She made a face. "She'll be happy if she thinks I'm enjoying the mall so much. Anyway, I've got to go. Nice seeing you, Tai!"
"Yeah…" Tai replied distantly. The minute Sora was out of sight, he made a dash for that sports store.
"Okay, so you bought them. How are you going to explain it?" Mimi asked, after Tai came back to the table triumphantly.
"Oh. I—I—I don't know. I didn't really think about that," Tai admitted.
"Fairly major hole in your plan, isn't it?"
"Yeah, it is," Tai agreed. "Help me, Mimi!"
She sat back contentedly. "Well, let's go through our options. Only Sora would be wooed with soccer pads," she said, making a face, "but she's not stupid."
"Not at all."
"A secret admirer type thing could work, maybe."
"With Sora? And me?"
Mimi gave him a speculative look. "No, you're right. Not with you. With Izzy, though…"
Tai groaned as he lost her again. "Mimi, thanks for all your help, but I think I'm going to figure this out on my own."
"Well, okay. If you're sure. Good luck."
"I'll need it."
"I'm sure you'll do fine. You and Sora were made for each other?"
"Oh yeah? Then why do so many people think that about her and Matt?"
"Well, those same people think that I was meant for you, so let's not judge too harshly. They're all entitled to—hey, why are you laughing? That's not very nice!"
"Sorry," Tai gasped when he got some air. "You're pretty and all, but I can't imagine you wanting to spend more than the bare minimum of time with me."
Mimi gave him a cold look. "You know, you're right. Go away. You hurt my feelings."
She turned her back on him.
"Mimi, I'm sorry, I really am. Don't be mad."
"Go away and the next time I see you, I'll probably have forgiven you."
"Okay, okay. 'Bye, Mimi."
She sniffed delicately.
Tai wandered around outside, wondering how he could get Sora to accept those pads. He couldn't just give them to her; she knew how much they cost, and she'd get mad at him for spending that much.
If only they weren't brand new…
Tai got a sudden burst of inspiration. He pulled out the pads and threw them on the ground. He kicked them around and rolled them in the grass. Then, satisfied, he hurried over to Sora's.
"Tai, what's this?"
"Those pads you wanted—"
Sora paled. "Tai, those were $150!"
"I saw that."
"You bought them?" she gasped.
Tai thought quickly. He really shouldn't lie to her—entirely. "Sora, if I did that, you wouldn't accept them." Now for the lie. "These are some of my old pads, but they're an older model. I thought you might like these, since you can't have the others."
"Oh, thanks!" Sora took them. "They feel kind of…unused."
"Well, Sora, think about it. If they fit you now, how long ago must I have used them?" Where did I get to be such a smooth liar? Tai wondered.
Sora looked at him, towering a good five inches over her, and weighing at least 50 pounds more. "That's true. Thank you, Tai. That was really sweet, and I appreciate it."
"Hey, no problem. Maybe I can get a decent game out of you now," he teased.
"Ha! I can beat you any day of the week."
"Sure, Sora. Whatever you say."
"That's it. I challenge you. At the park in ten minutes and prepare for humiliation."
"I think," he said, "that 'victory' would be the better word to insert there."
"And prepare to buy me a triple-scoop banana split," she continued as if he hadn't interrupted.
"You're on. See you there."
"I so beat you," Sora said as they stopped for a break.
"Nuh-uh. I'm winning," Tai retorted.
"No, I am!"
"No, sir, I am!"
Tai held a hand up. "Okay, look. I was supposed to buy you ice cream if you won, and you were supposed to buy me ice cream if I won. Now, even though I am your clear superior—"
"Ha! In your dreams!"
"Even though I am your clear superior," he repeated, "since we can't prove it either way, I suggest, in the name of fair play, we buy each other ice cream."
Sora mulled that over. "Well, that's fair," she concluded. "Yeah, I agree." She grinned impishly. "But I know you just want to stop before I prove once and for all who's the soccer champ of all Japan."
"Now why would I object to you showing the whole country how wonderful I am?" he asked in amazement. "I only want to stop because you're my friend, and public humiliation is so hard on friends."
"Ha, ha, and ha." Sora looked at her watch. "If we're going to get ice cream, we should leave now. It's getting kind of late."
The walk there was filled with more teasing and Tai was actually feeling comfortable with Sora again, in a way he hadn't felt since he realized he had a crush on her.
"Mmm…this banana split is awesome. Tai, are you sure you don't want anything else?"
He licked at his cone. "Yep. This is just right. You get to eat the dish, as well as the dessert. Why would you want anything else?" he finished, taking the final bites.
"Because this—" She gestured to her split "—has ice cream, bananas, whipped cream, chocolate syrup—what?"
"You've got a little ice cream…" Tai touched his cheek.
"Oh, thanks." She grinned sheepishly and rubbed in entirely the wrong spot.
"No, not there. A little lower."
"Thanks again." And she missed it again.
"Here." Tai reached over with his napkin and wiped her face lightly, perhaps letting his fingers linger just a moment longer than was necessary. "I think that's got it."
Sora lowered her eyes. "I appreciate it, Tai."
There was a sudden awkward silence that killed the camaraderie that had been there just a moment before.
"Tai, would you like some of my split?" Sora asked, trying to fill the silence.
Tai picked up his spoon. "Oh, sure, thanks. After the cone, this is the best."
"A-ha, so you admit I'm right."
He took a quick bite. "Sora, you revere all ice cream properly, but you don't acknowledge the sacredness of the ice cream cone. You're misguided, but I like you just the same."
"Thanks, I'm sure."
So the camaraderie was slowly being rebuilt when disaster struck.
Mimi walked in.
She saw them sharing the banana split.
She emitted a glass-shattering squeal.
"See, Tai! I told you she'd go out with you!" she exclaimed loud enough for the dead guy three blocks away to hear.
Tai felt his world come to a screeching halt, and he knew he turned bright red. I wonder if Mom and Dad would consider moving by tomorrow.
At their silence, Mimi frowned. "Well, Tai? Didn't you ask her out?" she asked in confusion. "Isn't that why you're here—together?"
Tai took a deep breath. "No," he said quietly, in a surprisingly calm tone. No one's ever died of embarrassment before. I just may be the first, he realized. Somehow, being the recipient of that honor did not quite thrill him.
"Ohhhh." Mimi's eyes widened as she grasped the full impact of her mistake. "Well, um, I was here," she said with accompanying hand gestures, "but now I'm leaving. Because I didn't want any ice cream anyway. So I'm gone. In fact, I was never here. Goodbye." And she practically ran out.
Tai and Sora sat there for a moment, then Tai couldn't take it anymore. "WellitwasfunSorabye," he said quickly and fled.
"Tai! Tai! Wait!" Sora called, flinging her spoon away and chasing after him.
Tai didn't want to keep going, he really should talk to her, after all, but he knew he couldn't face it.
"TAICHI KAMIYA!" she shouted. "YOU STOP RIGHT THERE! NOW!"
Tai reluctantly did so and faced her like a schoolboy about to get scolded.
"Sit," she ordered imperiously, pointing to a park bench.
"Yes, ma'am," he said meekly.
She sat down, then jumped back up. She began pacing. "Now, let me see if I have this right."
"I wish you wouldn't."
"You were going to ask me out?"
"I wanted to," he admitted.
"So…you like me." She said it in a tone of wonder.
"Yeah," he said shortly.
"You like me. You like me," she repeated.
"Yes, Sora. You found out."
"Oh dear Lord."
"I wasn't planning on it being like this," he offered. "I mean, if I ever told you."
"What do you mean, if you ever told me?"
"Well, I probably wasn't going to."
"Why ever not?" she demanded.
"We've been such good friends," he tried to explain. "I wouldn't want you to feel obligated, like you had to…"
She was staring at him in utter shock. "You thought I wouldn't want to?" she finally exclaimed.
"Well…yeah. I mean…I'm me, and you're you. I can't imagine you'd like me. Why would you?"
"I…" Sora shrugged. "I don't know why."
"See?" he said dejectedly, lowering his head.
"But, don't you see? I don't need a reason to like you. I just do."
His head slowly came up. "You—what did you say?" he asked in amazement.
"I don't need a reason to like you. I just do," she repeated.
"You mean, like I like you? Are you serious?"
"I wouldn't joke about that."
He looked at her closely, cradling her head between his hands. "You really are," he said, and then a big grin crossed his face and he pulled her close. "I wanted to die when Mimi walked in," he muttered.
"I noticed. I didn't know you could run so fast."
"But I could kiss her now. Although…" He pulled back a little and looked down at her. "I'd rather kiss you." He looked at her soberly. "May I?"
Sora nodded, not quite sure what else to do.
He ran a finger down her jaw, then tilted her head up. He stared at her so long, hesitating, that Sora thought he might lose his nerve. Then he bent and kissed her gently.
"Oh, and Tai?" she murmured as they broke apart.
"I can still beat you any day of the week," she said with a grin.
Well, what do you all think? Inquiring minds want to know! Thanks!
That song up there is called Crazy for this Girl by even and jaron.