August 31st, 2020
The roar of the crowd was deafening, cresting over the shoulders of Willow Danielle Rosenberg as she took her position at the starting line of the Women's 800 meter run. It was the final day of the Olympic Games, the finals of this particular event and her last chance to prove she was the best.
This was the moment she had been training for her entire life. Although she had various jobs over the years, from grocery shop bagger to her current vocation as a secretary, her one true passion had always been the thrill of running, having spent nearly ever day for the last ten years running to and from various points from her home in Sunnydale. Just this last year, she had managed to go from her home to the library, an impressive feat considering that there was a ten block radius between the two locations. Having taken part in her high school's track and field team, she found that her love of running went beyond simple health matters. Willow loved the roar of the crowd, the attention she got from those who came to watch her and the pleasure of performing a good show for the masses.
And so she continued to run, improving herself to the point when she was able to make the distance between her home and even the furthest location without stopping. Which was good, as that was roughly the same amount of distance she would need to cover if she hoped to win the gold medal.
Turning to look at her competitors, Willow saw a slim blonde, her hair tied back into a ponytail, green eyes like hers, focused on the finish line ahead, giving no indication that she was interested in anything else.
Willow, in reading about the competition, had found out a lot about that young woman. Elizabeth Summers came from Sunnydale as well, but that was where the similarities between the two ended. For while Willow looked at running as one of many things in her well rounded life, Elizabeth was a champion competitor, devoting her entire life to the pursuit of winning championships and awards. She had even taken part in this very event four years ago, winning the gold medal in a race that many considered to be the best the Olympics had seen up to that point.
Apparently, she was the only one to not think that way, announcing prior to the start of this year's Olympics that she was determined to repeat her past success. That determination would blind the young women to any sudden actions, giving Willow the advantage. Because if there was anything she was good at, it was thinking on her feet.
The others didn't appear threatening, mostly because they didn't appear to be much of a challenge. Although it was rather egotistical of her to think so, Willow knew she could run circles around all of them, none of them were good enough to match her best time, at least, not by her own standards.
It wasn't as if this was a men's competition. Then she would be way out of her element, but at least it would present more of a challenge, and would give her an opportunity to show the men of the world that athletics wasn't a male dominated league.
Not that she had anything against men, of course. But since she came out and started to date other women, she just didn't think that men were much of a challenge.
Of course, there were times when she thought that women didn't provide enough of a challenge either, but those times were often limited to the bedroom...and were never repeated to her casual acquaintances.
Well, there was one woman she would talk to about that sort of thing. And glancing over to the final competitor, she realized that same person was also the only one who presented a threat to her. Like Elizabeth, she had long blonde hair, a dark blue headband keeping it from spilling into her dark blue eyes, red lips pursed in thought, showing a determination and passion that belied her appearance and was rather out of character for her.
Women like that were nothing but trouble, and Willow knew that, while they were the best of friends, she would have to keep an eye on her. But she also knew that if this woman was somehow able to beat her, she wouldn't be that upset. After all, she had as much right to win as anyone in this competition did.
Taking up her position at the starting line, Willow risked a swipe of her hand to clear the perspiration that was beginning to form there from the midday sun beating down on her. Any minute now the gunshot would be fired, signaling the start of the race. She placed her hand back on the pavement, and realized for the first time that it was shaking.
"Stop that," she admonished herself silently. "You're in front of a crowd of thousands, with millions watching at home. OK, that's a pretty good reason to be nervous and all, but if you don't stop it, then you won't win the race, and that'll just give everyone a chance to have a big laugh and justify being nervous. There's no reason to be nervous, after all. Just because a lot of the world's watching you, judging your performance and comparing you to the other competitors doesn't give you any right to...well, I guess it does, but...C'mon, Will! Focus! Stop beating ‘round the bush! There won't be a reason for you to embarrass yourself in front of thousands of people unless you give it to yourself, and you're doing a good job of that on your own, so there's no reason for you to think that anyone else could make things worse..."
No sooner had the gunshot been fired than Willow took off at a dash, acting as if a bee had settled down on her rear end and stuck its stinger directly into her backside, thankfully without screaming at the top of her lungs. Not that she escaped the situation without total embarrassment, as a small yelp passed through her lips before being cut off by her need to take a breath.
The surprise and embarrassment she felt, however, gave way to a rush of pride she felt at what she was doing. Adrenaline coursed through her like electricity going through wiring, driving her arms and legs to move faster than she could have thought possible. Never before had she felt like this, not even on her morning runs. There was a difference between doing a small recreational run in the early hours of the day and a full on race in the heat of the day with five other people and being watched by a crowd that, combining the number of spectators and home viewers, numbered somewhere in the millions.
That made Willow push harder than she ever had before. Not that she particularly cared about winning medals or anything else. She didn't do this for personal glory or for prizes. She did it because she felt good. Because it made others feel good.
Cresting the first turn of the course, Willow found herself behind the blonde with the headband, who appeared to be making great strides despite no real effort in her actions. Not that she was particularly surprised. Willow knew that she was as gifted an athlete as she was. She had trained her well.
Unconsciously, Willow found herself trying hard to pass the blonde. This shocked her a great deal. For while she was perfectly willing to win the race, she didn't want to do it at the blonde's expense. They were the same, the two of them. They worked hard and trained a great deal to get where they were today, and it wouldn't do either of them a great deal of good to win the race at the expense of the other.
To the others, it was a race. But to Willow, it was a friendly competition. It didn't matter which of them won, as long as they both had fun.
Cresting the second turn and heading back to the starting line, Willow found herself gaining a slight lead on the blonde. She tried to will herself to slow down, to let the blonde pass by her so that she could win.
It didn't work. If anything, the building excitement made her move faster, as if the roaring crowds were a drug used to improve her performance. That was, after a fashion, essentially true. But in this case, Willow didn't want that.
"Damn, damn, damn! I don't want this! Not at the expense of her! She deserves to win as much as I do. I want her to win! I want her to win! Damn it! If only cheering was considered an illegal drug..."
Willow's thoughts on what was happening blinded her to what was going on, and before she realized it, she had crossed the finish line, the announcer declaring her to be the winner of the Gold medal.
Coming to a stop, and trying to catch her breath, Willow looked back at the others, finding a pained look on the blonde's face that indicated that, while she was obviously happy for Willow, it was not what she truly felt deep inside her heart.
Willow stood atop the winners' podium, the two blondes at her sides, having won the silver and bronze medals. Willow truly felt sorry for both of them, but especially to the blonde at her right. She was good, and didn't deserve what had happened to her.
She accepted her medal without complaint, and headed to the locker room soon afterward, changing back into her more comfortable clothes. There were still several events before the closing ceremonies, but she didn't feel like staying to watch.
There was only one thing on her mind now.
Willow had gone back to her hotel room for a while, making sure that Tara had enough time to return to wherever it was that she was staying after taking part in the days' activities. Then, after gathering enough courage, took a map from Guest Services and made her way around the area, trying to locate the hotel where her friend was staying.
About halfway through her trip, she began to think that maybe she shouldn't have waited, for she had traveled across half the city, and had been unable to find the hotel where her competitor was staying. It didn't help that she was trying to read from a map that, thanks to her inability to speak Mandarin, made identifying where she was going and where she was ended up difficult.
As she stood in front of the latest building in her search, Willow took a deep breath, hoping that this was where Tara had been staying. She had been to three other hotels in the area before this, and none of them were able to help her. The fact that two of them were staffed by people who didn't speak English didn't help much, either.
"We didn't talk that much on the trip over here," Willow thought. "We didn't even tell each other where we would be staying. We both thought that it would be good for me if I didn't let myself get...get distracted as I prepared for the Games."
Looking at the map again, she blew out a frustrated breath. "Though I think we should have. This part of town looks as if it's still stuck in ninja times. Where are some mutant turtles around when you need them?"
Walking into the hotel, and hoping once again that she was in the right place, Willow made her way to the reception desk. After conversing with the staff member on duty for nearly half an hour, she found out that this was indeed where Tara was staying, and made her way to the blonde's room. Pausing outside it, she knocked on the door, entering a few moments later, even though she didn't get a response.
Willow looked around and found her sitting cross legged on the bed, the silver medal she had won lying in front of her. She was still dressed in her sweat pants and tank top, and from the look of things, didn't appear at all willing to change out of them. It made Willow sad to see her like this. Tara, as a popular children's entertainer back home, was so often full of life and energy that the rare times when she was downtrodden made Willow incredibly sad. That was especially true in this case, when it was hard for her to shake the fact that Tara's current sadness was very much her fault.
Looking up, Willow was saddened even more to find her eyes rimmed in red. She had been crying. But were they happy tears? Or were they hurtful tears?
Sitting down beside Tara, Willow wrapped her arm around her shoulders. "I tried, you know. At the last minute, I felt this incoming rush of adrenaline, and I couldn't stop myself from moving. I wanted to let you win, Tara. I really did."
Blowing out a breath, Tara turned to look at Willow, brushing back a strand of her hair. "I know you did, Willow. And I appreciate the fact that you went to the effort. But you shouldn't have done that. After all, we both tried our best to win, and you came ahead of me."
"Don't think of it like that, Tara," Willow said, trying to salvage the situation, but failing to find a way that seemed adequate. Tara obviously felt that she wasn't good enough to compete with Willow, an obvious after effect of the insecurities she still felt about being with someone like her. When two people were in a relationship, and one worked hard to get what she wanted and the other did the same thing with an ease that made it seem simple, situations like this were bound to crop up.
It was then that Willow realized the true reason why Tara was upset. She didn't feel sad that she had lost. She felt sad because she thought Willow was angry at her for making her work so hard. That couldn't be further from the truth. She had told herself as much before during the race. It didn't matter who won, as long as they both had fun.
But it was obvious that Tara didn't feel the same way, so she had to do whatever she could to make her feel better.
Willow placed her other hand on her chest, and felt something hard beneath her shirt. Putting her hand inside of it, she withdrew her gold medal, an act which Tara noticed.
"I'm glad that you won, Willow. I truly am."
Willow shook her head. "No, Baby. I lost."
Tara shook her head, clearly confused by Willow's reasoning. "You didn't lose, Willow."
"But I did, Tara," Willow began, her voice breaking. "I may have won the race, but I lost your affection. And that's more important to me than some medal." Willow took the medal off of her neck and looked at it for a moment before passing it to Tara.
"I think this belongs to you."
Hesitantly, Tara took the medal and looked at it for a moment. "Willow...I don't deserve this."
Willow smiled. "You do, Tara. You may have come in second in the race, but you'll always be first in my heart."
Tara smiled and enveloped Willow in a hug, a hug which Willow returned enthusiastically, knowing that Tara was happy once more.
And as the two continued to hug, the medal fell from Tara's hands, clattering to the floor beside the bed. During the night, the movement of the two under the covers caused the silver medal to follow suit.
Willow and Tara left the next day, and both medals were found by the maid who had come to clean the room. With a loss at what to do, the young women took them to the lost and found.
They were never claimed. They were nothing more than objects. And between two people like Willow and Tara, prizes and awards didn't matter. The only things that truly mattered were the thrill of competition and the enjoyment of a good game.
And the enjoyment they shared afterward towards one another which, more often than not, prove more thrilling any competitive sport known to man.