Jeremie Belpois was a man (or, boy) with a mission. It was apparent in the way his eyebrows furrowed like two yellow pine trees, the way his nose wrinkled, and even how his mouth was slightly tipped down in a straight line, as if to show the world just how serious he was. He licked the pad of his thumb and smoothed back a stray, blond strand. The first step to success was always to appear presentable and put-together. No one could say that Jeremie Belpois of all people, from his ironed Nike shorts and just-so dirtied – in the way that was making quite a wave on the runways – t-shirt, wasn't put-together.
Of course, that was only half the battle. His father had left his only son with many important treasures of lessons, the first and foremost being: the glass is always half empty. Just because Jeremie had spent hours upon hours preening in the mirror didn't mean that something wouldn't fail along the way. That was just life how life worked. This was why Jeremie couldn't get too confident lest he break his ankle or some event that was equally horrific.
"Jeremie!" Ulrich waved eagerly, sweat already creating a translucent sheen on his face. "Over here!"
There was also the small detail that Ulrich stood about seventy metres from him. It was a long distance made even longer by the trepidation that threatened to take over him. Only the thought of his end goal propelled him forward.
"Hurry up," Ulrich called. "We haven't got all day. What if XANA attacks?"
"Well, we'll just have to deal, won't we?"
"Come on, Jeremie, I know this isn't your type of thing, but you asked me to."
"I know," Jeremie sighed. On the field, Ulrich was usually right.
"Come on then," Ulrich said as the blond boy reached him, "Don't tell Odd, but I've got a date with Yumi later."
"Yeah," The captain of Kadic's football team blushed. But it was the grown-up kind of blush, if there even was such a thing, that reminded Jeremie of the reason why he was doing this.
"That's...uh, nice." Jeremie spoke, hoping his undertones of jealousy were successfully concealed. "Shall we start, then?"
"Yeah, sorry. First things first though, what do you know about football?"
Well. That was a harder question than it should've been. "I know that you've got two goalkeepers. And there's offence and defence, right?"
The two boys for silent for a bit until Jeremie spoke up. "Umm..."
"I don't think you'll do too well at keeper. Your eye-hand coordination isn't the best, I'm afraid."
"What would I do well at, then?" There went his dreams of being the next Stephane Ruffier.
"I'm not exactly sure. But how about we just kick around a bit? We'll evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, hm?"
Ulrich jogged to the ball and nudged it over with a tap of his foot. "We'll start with just kicking. You've got to kick at where your laces are, see?"
"No, no." A frown creased on the German boy's face. "You're kicking with the point of your cleat."
"How about this?"
"Better, I suppose. But tilt your foot a bit more. Like...this."
And so Ulrich corrected Jeremie's many and varied mistakes, because much to his chagrin, Jeremie was just awful at football in every way. At last, after two hours – he was just playing a friendly with Ulrich, there was no reason to deprive himself of his watch and the ability to tell time he thought – he slumped to the ground.
"What're you doing, Jer?"
"Quite tired, thank you very much."
"You've still got to improve on your kick. And your dribbling. And, your...well everything. But the point is, now's not the time to give up."
It was so strange to be on the receiving end of a pep talk. So strange that he almost snapped back before reminding himself that if there was anyone he should listen to, it was Ulrich. Who else would take two hours out of their day to teach a complete failure and amateur like Jeremie Belpois?
He was about to remark so before Aelita came sauntering over. "Jeremie!"
Ulrich slid him a sly look. "Now, I've got a date with Yumi and I decided you shouldn't be alone, so I made a call earlier. See you later."
Jeremie was too dazed to even answer. What was Aelita doing here, seeing him in this awful and pathetic mess? He should've stuck to programming where he would always be number one. Not football where he got grass stains that hadn't been exactly pressed on in the way the lastest fashion dictated (not that he cared about that stuff, but what if Aelita did?).
"Jeremie?" She put a small hand on his back.
"Oh, just taking a break that's all. Ulrich and I, were...uh, practising, that's all."
"I didn't know you were into football. Are you trying out?"
Was Aelita stupid? No, just too kind for her own good. Because tryouts were long over and Jeremie never would've made it anyway. "Oh, I just got curious. So I asked Ulrich. That's all."
"Hm." A rosy pink suffused her cheeks. "Well, Ulrich said...never mind."
"He said that you were trying to impress someone."
Jeremie's head snapped up. "How would he know that?"
"So it's true?"
"Ulrich is the best football player at Kadic and a lot of girls like him. Even you're friends with him."
"I'm friends with Odd too." Aelita pointed out. "Though I don't quite see what you're getting at."
He coughed the words out, trying to conceal them in a mess of phlegm and mucus. "I thought that if I played football, maybe you'd go out with me."
"That's what this is for?" Her eyes widened, and Jeremie almost felt compelled to point out that their leafy-forest colour was the most beautiful he had ever seen. But for today, at least, he was done embarrassing himself.
"Yeah." He muttered. And his heart sank because he knew what she would say because Aelita just didn't feel that way about him, and thought that Ulrich was much better-looking, athletic, and interesting to be around. Ulrich. He didn't have Jeremie's perfect grades, but his excellence at sports dismissed that aspect of him.
"You shouldn't have done that." She smiled gently. "Because I like you just how you are, even without being the captain of the football team."
"Really?" He couldn't help but let that hopeful word slip.
"Wait, one more thing. How did Ulrich know I was doing this to, uh..." he coughed, "to impress someone?"
"Oh, well, he probably talked to Yumi."
He'd have to talk to Yumi later, because even though he was grateful that Aelita liked him back and that it was finally in the open, he was still mad, because his perfectly organised life was not going to be run by two people who barely even had theirs figured out...
His thoughts must've showed, because Aelita put a finger on his lips and said, "So, will you go out with me?"
"Took us long enough." She laughed.
And they kissed. (mission extremely successful)