Return to The Game of Love Chapter Thirty-One

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 the girls form a huddle and cheer. They screamed and yelled with joy, with Anya's "Woo Hoo" loud enough to be heard even at the far end of the stadium.

Willow just stood and watched them celebrate for a few moments, before walking towards Coach Giles, who was sitting on the bench, his head in his hands.

Willow put her hand on his shoulder, and he looked up at her with utter amazement in his eyes. "We won..." he said, sounding like he didn't believe the words coming out of his own mouth.

Willow grinned at his expression, and nodded her head enthusiastically. He rose slowly, and turned towards Willow, before suddenly enveloping the red head in a bear hug.

Willow was taken by surprise, but stil managed to return the embrace, before saying to the Coach "Erm...Coach? I sorta need to breathe..."

"Oh of course of course" Coach Giles said, springing back from holdong Willow. Willow simply smiled at him, before she was suddenly hugged fiercely from behind. Willow looked ahead of her and saw that most of the UC Sunnydale girls were shaking hands with the Columbus team, WIllow especially noticed that Tara was talking to Faith...

"We won!!!" she heard a voice squeal, and looking back she realized it was Buffy.

Laughing Willow turned and hugged her back too, saying "Hmm...yup YOU'LL won! I'm glad the effort you put in throughout the tournament made a huge difference!"

Buffy pulled back from the embrace, a pout gracing her features, but her shining eyes giving her away.

Suddenly Willow was aware that Tara was walking towards ger. Willow noted that the limp was still there, but Tara was moving a lot better than she'd have expected her too.

"Hey..." Willow said, as Tara drew nearer. "You won" she smiled.

"Yeah" Tara grinned, and simply looking at her with a very satisfied look onher face.

Willow was about to tell Tara how well she played when once again she was wrapped up in a hug. Her first instinct was to hug the other person back, and as she did so she realized that this time it was Anya holding onto her...a very emotional Anya!

"I'm so happy!!!!" the goalkeeper was saying. "This is the first time UC Sunnydale's won...and it's a big deal...and we won!!!..."

"Yeah Anya, you won!" Willow grinned, slowly pulling back."And I must say you were brilliant!"

Anya's grin widened at that, as Tara said "It's true Ahn, you were great today...and through out this tournament really. Really really good stuff!"

"Well, you weren't too bad yourself you know missy?" Cordelia said, making Tara blush.

Willow watched the blonde duck her head, and once again found herself thinking how cute she looked all shy.

That's when they heard the announcement for the post match ceremony. The teams were being called to gather around the small presentation area, and the UC Sunnydale team began to walk there, with Coach Giles leading the way.

Tara and Anya started to move together, before Tara turned around and saw Willow and Emily staying behind. \

"What are you'll waiting for? Christmas?" she said, with her right eyebrow raised.

The two girls laughed and began to follow the rest of the team onto the court, stopping where the girls were assembled.

The presenter began speaking, talking about how "UC Sunnydale, the 'dark horses' to win the tournament, have exceeded our expectations with their brilliant team performance throughout these Championships. They deserve to be taking the trophy home!"

The crowd erupted at that, cheering wildly, and Willow looked upto see Mike and the rest of the kids waving a banner they'd made that read "We Love Tara Maclay". Willow looked at Tara, and realized that the blonde too had just noticed the banner, since her eyes went wide, and immediately her whole face began to turn crimson! "Aww...she's shy again..." Willow thought, unable to take her eyes off the blonde as the presenter droned on.

A few moments later there was polite applause as Faith led the Columbus team towards the presentation ceremony, and each player was awarded with a silver medal that was put around their necks.

After all 12 girls and their coach had received their medals, the presenter once again took up his microphone.

"Well, its almost time to hand over their winnings to the voctorious team. But before then, it's time to honour the Player of the Championships." Willow was still gazing at Tara, who was paying attention to the man who was speaking. However, this speech had caught the red heads attention as well, and she turned to see what was happening.

"This year we've seen a number of great performances. Charlotte Hill from Kings played a great few matches, but the team didn't get as far ahead in the tournament as we'd expected, so we didn't get to see as much of her as we'd probably have liked." Polite applause.

"Faith Maguire from Columbus", the presenter was interrupted by thunderous clapping when the girls name was taken. Willow looked at Tara to see that the blonde too was applauding with the rest. When the ovation died down, the presenter began again, "Faith Maguire from Columbus had a great tournament. As captain of the second best team of the tournament, she played brilliantly to score 16 goals throughout the championships. Anya Harris from UC Sunnydale," once gain he was interrupted by clapping.

"Anya Harris from Sunnydale was hands down the goalkeeper of the tournament" he continued, stopping once again at the ovation the girl received." She played a vital role in their victory, stopping as many as 12 penalty attempts, apart from some other spectacular saves." More applause, and Anya waved her hand around the stadium, acknowledging the support.

"But our Player of the Championships is, without a doubt, Tara Maclay". This time the applause went on for a good 20 seconds, with shouts of "Yeah Tara!!!" and "That's right!!!" coming from every which direction.

Willow was watching Tara, who barely managed to keep looking up every few seconds, so shy was she with the attention she was receiving. When the clapping died down, the blonde looked up and smiled at the crowd, before her eyes immediately turned towards Willow, and the smile deepened slightly.

Willow once again felt her heart leap. She loved when Tara looked at her. The presenter started to speak again, and Tara looked bck at him, followed by Willow a few seconds later."Captaining the winning side, she led by example. The top scorer throughout the tournament with 27 goals in 4 matches, she came back from what we all know was a bad fall, to lead her side to victory, playing a huge role in not only the scoring, but the assists as well." More wild applause.

"Will Tara Maclay please come up here and receive her trophy to mark her exquisite form throughout the championships?" the speaker requested, and Tara once gain looked at Willow for a second. She seemed to gather courage from the emerald eyes, as she began to walk towards the presenter, her head held high. "

Her pink cheeks are the only give aways!" Willow realized, her heart filling with pride as she saw Tara shake hands with a suited gentlemen, before taking the trophy of a girl playing handball, poised to shoot.

The speaker then announced that it was time for the winning captain to collect the trophy, and Tara did so, taking the gong from the same suited gentleman, before raising it over her head and showing it off to her team, her grin wide.

A few seconds later, the speaker asked the rest of the girls and Coach Giles to come up as well, to recieve their winners medals. Tara was the first to get her gold medal, and the others followed, a very pleased looking Coach Giles bringing up the tail.

"They totally deserve it!" Emily said, as she watched the UC Sunnydale team walk towards where the photographers were beckoning them to come pose for the newspaper with their bounty. Tara aksed Coach Giles for something, and Willow watched him pull a phone out of his pocket, proceeding to take pictures on it."They really played well! That's one talented team we're looking at!"

Willow nodded her head, watching them all touch the trophy with fascination, and keep on hugging one another with pure joy.

About 10 minutes later the rest of the girls were back, all except for Tara, who, along with Coach Giles was standing in the midst of the reporters, giving her post match interview. She was all smiles and all confidence, Willow noted.

As Tara started to walk back towards the team, the phone, which Coach Giles had put back in his pocket began to ring. Taking it out he handed it to Tara, who looked at the number and quickly answered the call. "Mom? We won!!!!!!!!!!!" Tara practically yelled with joy! Smiling she walked towards a bleacher and sat down, grinning all the while.

Willow watched her for a few moments, glad to see the blonde so happy. Then she turned her attention back to the rest of the team, who were still buzzing with excitement.

"Bronze tonight?" she heard Anya ask the other girls, and everyone nodde their agreement. "Buffy you?" Cordelia conformed, wanting to make sure that everyone was coming.

Buffy was standing, leaning into Zak who had joined the celebration at some point. "If Zak can crash the party!" Buffy said, and Anya rolled her eyes before saying "Of course he can!"

"Then count me in!" Buffy said happily, as Zak's arms wrapped around her.

"Willow?" Anya asked, and Willow smiled "Sure. Sounds like fun!"

Anya and Cordelia began to make sure the other girls were coming too, and Tara walked upto the group after hanging up."Yo, Tara, Bronze tonight" Emily stated, and Tara just nodded her head.

"Is everyone coming?" Tara asked everyone in general, but she was looking at Willow.

"Yeah" Anya said, as Willow nodded her head at Tara, smiling.

Tara returned the smile. "That's cool then!" Tara said, before she added "But don't expect me dance! I know I played a match with this foot, but that was desperate measures! I'm just there to chill tonight! Capish?" she smirked, as the rest of the girls laughed and nodded their consent.

Tara just held Willow's gaze and grinned.

Continue to The Game of Love Chapter Thirty-Three

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