Return to The Game of Love Chapter Twenty-Eight

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!

It took all of Willow's self restraint not to run onto the court to see if Tara was ok. She knew that she would probably be held back. Looking at Coach Giles she saw that even he hadn't gone onto the court, and was standing at the side lines, looking anxiously towards the huddled girls around Tara.

"This could be bad" Willow heard, and realized that Emily had also stood up beside her. "Tara's ankle is weak...always has been, even before her most recent sprain..."

"Most recent?" Willow asked, turning towards Emily for a second.

"Yeah...on an average Tara injures her ankle every 10 months...usually sports related injuries. In fact, she's even got very weak knees..." Emily stated, drifting off as she noticed the girls on the court start to move aside.

The Columbus team was taking full advantage of the time out, with the girls standing around their coach. Willow looked their way for a second and saw Faith very obviously yelling at no.9. "She looks like she wants to hit the girl" Willow decided, before looking back in Tara's direction, Emily's words leaving her more worried than before.

The girls began to part ways, and Willow watched as Anya and Cordelia emerged from the crowd, supporting Tara in the middle. The blonde had one arm around each girls shoulder, and Willow immediately noticed that she wasn't putting any pressure whatsoever on her right ankle. The referee was walking two paces beside the girls, and joined them as they reached the UC Sunnydale bench.

As they drew closer, Tara looked up, and met Willow's gaze. It was only for a second, and then she looked down. However, that was all it took for Willow's heart to break.

She'd seen the acute pain in Tara's eyes.

Finally all four drew to a halt, with Anya and Cordelia bending simultaneously to help Tara sit on the team bench, before straightening up, and the referee turning to talk to Coach Giles.

"The game has to go on..." he said, looking rather apologetic.

Coach Giles nodded his head, and turned to Jessica. "Go on, play outer". Looking at Anya he said "Captain now. Let Samantha come in from her outer position, and take Tara's place. Jessica will take Sam's position".

Anya said nothing, and simply nodded her head, before looking at Tara. Tara looked up at her, nodded her head, and Anya walked off, back towards her place at the goal.

Cordelia also turned and left after gently squeezing Tara's shoulder.

The referee moved to the officials table, to confirm that he had awarded UC Sunydale a penalty. In the commotion after the foul, no one remembered whether the whistle had been blown long enough or not.

No.9 was off for two minutes, and Willow looked over to see that she looked rather glum, but it didn't seem like it was because of the fact she'd injured a plyer. it was more like she was unhappy she'd been yelled at.

If no.9 had looked up at Willow at that minute, the death look in the red heads eyes would have haunted her for the rest of her life.

Willow sat back down on the bleachers with Emily, and looked at Tara, willing her to look her way. The blondes eyes, however, were fixed on her right ankle, as Coach Giles slowly unwrapped the bandage from around it.

Willow saw her eyes widen slightly, and looked down at Tara's ankle, to see that it was swollen up...badly swollen up.

The whistle blew, and Tara's gaze immediately turned to watch Cordelia attempt to convert a penalty.

She shot...the Columbus keeper made a brilliant save.

Columbus was still in the lead by one.

Willow once again turned to look at Tara, and heard her say "I think the bones shifted slightly".

"The bones shifted slightly???????" Willow thought. "How can she be saying that in such a calm voice? I can only imagine how much it must hurt..." Willow realized that she wanted to be sitting next to Tara right now, somehow help her ease her pain a little...

Coach Giles nodded his head, and then Tara looked back up at the game. No.9 was back on, and she's just created a lovely gap for Faith to go shoot through.

The whistle blew...Columbus was leading 2-nil.

Willow saw Tara's jaw clench, and the blonde looked back at her ankle. Coach Giles was moving it around slightly, trying to see the extent of the damage. Willow heard Tara draw in a quick breath, as something hurt.

Willow felt the pain.

She couldn't stop herself.

Rising Willow walked over to Tara. Not being a player she couldn't sit on the bench, so instead she kneeled in front of the bonde, next to Coach Giles. Resting a hand gently on Tara's left knee, making sure she put no pressure on Tara at all.

"How are you?" Willow asked, thinking of how stupid that sounded right now.

She watched as Tara tried to act tough and said "It's not too...ugh!" Tara said, as once again Coach Giles reached a hurting spot.

Tara looked up as there was a loud cheer, and saw that Columbus had stolen possession from UC, and three of their girls were doing a three-man rotation towards UC's goal. Willow too turned as she saw the expression in Tara's eyes, and was just in time to watch one of the Columbus girls convert a goal.

Columbus was 3-0 up.

Willow turned to look back at Tara as the Columbus girls celebrated again. The UC Sunnydale team was definitely looking dejected, and then she heard Tara speak.

"Jerk it back in place Coach".

Willow froze, before she quickly looked at Tara with her eyes wide.

Even Coach Giles didn't believe it. "What???" he asked, incredulously.

"Jerk my ankle back into place...I'm going back on". Tara stated, her voice firm.

"No can't do that..." Coach Giles began.

"Look Coach" Tara interrupted him. "Either you're gonna do it, or I will. Either way, one of us is gonna put this ankle back in place. If you do it, there's a better chance it'll be done the rigth way. I might just aggravate it. Anyway, I'm gonna go on there gain today...hobbling or whatever".

Willow looked into Tara's eyes, and for the first time realized how stubborn the girl could be...And she liked it.

"She's hot stubborn..." Willow thought, before stopping herself short and frowning at her new line of thought.

"Are you sure?" she heard Coach Giles ask, and watched Tara nod her head.

"Alright..." he said, his voice still uncertain. Anyhow, he placed his hands on either side of Tara's ankle, and Willow saw Tara close her eyes.

Somewhere in the background Willow heard a whistle blow, and the referee announce "Goal Columbus. They lead 4-0".

As Willow watched Tara's eyes shut, she found her hand reaching for Tara's. When her fingers touched Tara's palm, the blonde opened it up to accomodate Willow's hand, without once opening her eyes. Willow gripped Tara's hand, lightly squeezing it once.

Willow saw Coach Giles take one more look at Tara before looking back at her ankle, and quickly jerking it.

Tara made no sound, but Willow felt her tightly squeeze her hand, and watched her clench her jaw at the pain.

A second later, she opened her eyes, and, without letting go of Willow's hand, slowly moved her ankle this way and that. Although Willow could still see the pain on Tara's face at the movement, Tara said nothing, and let go of Willow's hand after giving her a quick half smile and the hand a gently squeeze.

"How is it?" Coach Giles asked.

"It should start getting better now" Tara said, as she began re-wrapping the bandage around her foot.

About 30 second later the blonde was gingerly standing, and slowly shifted some weight to her right foot.

She stood there a few seconds, before looking back at Coach Giles, and giving him a slight nod.

Coach Giles returned the nod, and immediately called for a time out.

Tara was ready to go back on.

Continue to The Game of Love Chapter Thirty

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