Return to The Game of Love Chapter Twenty-Seven

The Game of Love

Author: Shai
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: Unfortunately neither Tara nor Willow are mine. Neither's anyone else in this fic for that matter!

Willow watched as Tara made her way to the changing rooms. Her eyes followed the blonde till she had disappeared, and Willow finally tore her gaze away from that direction to look back at the court. She noticed Faith staring at her with a curious expression on her face.

When the brunette realized that she'd been caught staring, she immediately turned and began to lead the Columbus team towards the chabging rooms reserved for them.

Willow sat down on the bleachers, and immediately heard someone say her name.

Looking up she saw Emily looking down at her, before sitting down beside her.

"Hey" Emily said, smiling.

"Hi" Willow smiled back.

"This place is really filling up" Emily said, looking around.

"Yeah" Willow said, watching as seats were being taken up all around the bleachers.

"That's the UC girls' families" Emily pointed out at a group of people. "See, that's Anya's parents, sitting next to Cordy's, there's Samantha's Aunt and Uncle with her folks, Nicole's Dad with her kid brother, Sophie's Mom and Dad, and on the next row there's Cameron's big sister with her boyfriend and their parents" Emily pointed them all out.

"Buffy said the rest of them told their folks not to come, since all they do is sit on the bench anyway!" Willow laughed, and Emily giggled.

"Well it's not their fault! The UC team is just brilliant this year! I mean if I was playing I'd be on the bench too!" Emily laughed.

Willow smirked, before realizing that no one had come to watch Tara play. "How ironic" she thought. Tara was the best player in the team..."In the whole tournament" Willow's mind said, and she really deserved to have someone come watch her...

Emily asked "So did you have a good time with your folks?"

"Yup" Willow said, being taken out of her thoughts, before explaining about how all they did was eat dinner and talk, and that it was nice to bond with her parents after so long.

Emily responded with "hmm's" and nods of her head, and after Willow was done she said "Tara and I were talking about you last night."

"Tara was talking about me!!!" Willow thought, as her heart did a few leaps in her chest. Trying to no sound to excited she asked casually "Yeah? What about?"

"Nothing huge really..." Emily said, before trailing off, loking somewhere. Impatiently Willow turned to look at what the other girl was staring at, and noticed that the UC Sunnydale girls were out and ready to play. Without making their way back to the bleachers at all, they walked onto the court where Coach Giles was waiting for them.

Tara began to jog, and as she did she looked up, her eyes searching for Willow. When their eyes met, Tara smiled slowly at her, before giving her full concentration to the warm up.

Willow wanted to ask Emily again about what she and Tara had been speaking about her, but knew she shouldn't push, or it might look strange.

She watched as Faith came into sight again, this time changed into her uniform, that consisted of darl blue shorts and a sleeveless white jersey. Willow couldn't help but appreciate the other girls beauty. Willow watched as the other girls from Columbus followed her on court.

The red head immediately looked to see if Tara was watching Faith, but saw that Tara was more engrossed in warming up her shooting arm. Turning her attention back to Faith, she saw that the brunette was looking at Tara.

At first glance it would look like the opposing player checking out her opponents prowess, but as Willow narrowd her eyes and gazed at Faith she realized the other girl wasn't checking out Tara's obvious handball skills.

She was checking out Tara's obvious beauty.

And Willow didn't like it.

No, she didn't like it one bit.

Faith tore her gaze away from Tara, and looked straight at Willow. The red head realized she was caught looking with a less than friendly expression on her face, and immediately looked down at her hands. Seconds later when she looked up, Faith was looking at her with what could only be described as a knowing expression, before beginning her warm up.

Emily's voice broke Willow from her thoughts. "You know that King's has been winning here for the past 9 years right, ever since the tournaments been started?" Willow nodded, turning to give the dark haired girl her undivided attention.

"You know who's come runner-up all those years?" Emily asked, and Willow shook her head.

"Columbus" Emily stated simply, before turning her attention back to the court.

Willow let out a soft gasp as she realized the implication of what Emily was trying to tell her. One - Columbus would think this was their best chance yet, and try to grab it. Two - If they were runner up all those years, they must be a pretty good side.

The teams were off, and Coach Giles was calling for prayers. Willow made her way to stand in the circle. "Why do they call it 'prayers'?" She wondered. "I mean its not like Tara reads something outta the bible or anything...then again, I guess its a lot nicer than calling it 'The Captains Last Minute Inspirational Words'..." she ended her inner dialogue as she reached her spot next to Tara.

As soon as everyone was around her Tara crossed her hands and started. "I want to win". The other girls looked at her, slightly startled. "I'm serious, I want to win. I want to be a member of the team that was the first UC Sunnydale side to bring the trophy home. I'm proud of the fact that I can call myself captain of this team. If yesterday someone had told me that a team that hasn't practiced together even once would make it to the finals of the Championships, I'd have laughed. but the fact is, I have some very capable players under me, who rock. Now let's go kick some ass and take the trophy home!"

This was greeted by "Yeah!"'s and "Let's Go!"'s, and as the group seperated, Tara began to turn and walk out onto the court. Her eyes met Willow for a second, and she smiled, before starting to walk away.

A hand on her arm stopped her. Looking down, Tara followed the hand to the arm, to the owner of the arms face.

"Go get 'em" Willow said softly, letting her hand fall from Tara's arm.

Tara once again looked down at her arm, which was still tingling from the contact of Willow's hand. Looking back up, all she could so was give the red head a wide smile, before turning and walking on court.

Willow watched as the coin was tossed. She heard Faith call 'tails'. "Tara always lets the opposing captain call the toss" Willow realized, as she watched the coin in the air. She remembered how Tara would simply gesture towards the other captain when the referee asked who would be calling.

The coin landed, and the referee, Faith and Tara peered down at it, before Faith straightened up with a smile on her face, and said something to Tara that looked a lot like 'Tails never Fails', before looking at the referee and saying something.

Willow saw Tara nod her head, and walk towards her team, who were looking at her with expectant expressions. "They won the toss, and have elected to start" Tara said simply. "Let's get into position".

"Oh no!" Willow thought. Through out the tournament Tara had been winning the toss, and Willow didn't have agood feeling now that they'd lost the toss.

The whistle blew.

The match had started.

Columbus made their way to the 9, and after one rotation, the outers began to fake their way in, and at the last minute they'd pass to the player next to them. Willow had to admit that they were very well co - ordinated.

"That's called the 'wave'" Emily explained, "See how they move?"

Willow nodded her head, as she saw someone make an attempt to get in and score, only to be stopped by the UC Sunnydale defence.

Columbus was awarded a 9.

As soon as the whistle was blown, Faith, who was playing centre, collected the ball that was thrown her way and made a perfect leap into the air, before shooting.

The ball zoomed past Anya, into the back of the net.

Columbus had scored.

"Now we're one down for the first time in the tournament. This is no good" Willow thought, as she watched the Columbus players rejoice.

The UC Sunnydale girls made their way to the half line, with Tara saying aloud "No problem guys...we're just one down" before Cameron started play.

As soon as the UC girls entered their half, a Columbus girl jogged up to her and stood on her path.

Willow watched Tara's confused expression, and saw realization dawn upon her at the same time as it did on Willow.

The girl - no.9 Willow noticed - was being used for the same thing UC Sunnydale had been doing all through out the tournament...

A player was used to mark the oppositions main scorer.

Tara was being permanently manned.

Tara just sttod there, as the rest of the Sunnydale girls moved ahead.

No. 9 had her back to the game, and her sole focus was Tara. "Not a bad focus to have... not a bad focus at all..." Willow thought, before shaking her head and silently reprimanding herself "Willow! Focus!!!"

The UC Sunnydale girls attempted a shot, and were stopped. However, they were awarded a 9.

Because of the 3 metre rule, no. 9 had to go back to the 6, as Tara made her way to the 9. Willow watched Tara whispered something to Cameron, who nodded her head.

As soon as the whistle was blown, Tara began to charge in, much in the same fashion that Faith had only a few moments ago to convert a goal.

Willow watched as Tara collected the ball, and took 2 more steps...

What she didn't see was no. 9 come up to Tara as she was instructed to by her coach, as a permanent defender....

She didn't see her deliberately stick her foot out and put it on Tara's right, as Tara was about to unbend her knee and elevate herself...

Willow watched as Tara rose, only to be held down by the pressure on her foot...the foot with the injured right ankle....

She saw Tara's face contort with pain as she started to fall down...

She heard the cry of pain that came out of the blonde mouth as she felt her ankle hurt...

She knew that something was wrong as she watched Tara crash down, immediately reaching for her right ankle...

Willow heard the referee blow his whistle to stop the clock. He rushed to the Tara, who was now hidden by all the girls standing around her.

"This is bad...this is very very bad..." Willow thought, as she stood up to try and get a better view of what was happeing, but Tara was still covered by the other girls.

About 30 seconds later the referee emerged from the swarm of girls. He looked at the officials sitting between the two tem benches, and called out...

"Time out. Player down".

"No... no... nooooooo" Willow thought.

Continue to The Game of Love Chapter Twenty-Nine

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