Blake had seen many over the years but this one felt different. It reminded her of those high-stakes games she used to compete in where her stomach would do flips. The ones for championship titles and trophies.
Only this one was just on a Tuesday afternoon in the middle of the season.
And her teammates were absolutely ridiculous.
“It’s like this; one, two, step, and—”
“Yang, not everyone is as coordinated as you.”
“Don’t be upset just ‘cause you can’t handle my amazing choreography, Schnee! Besides, this is for goal scorers only!”
Scratch that. Her girlfriend was absolutely ridiculous. Still, Blake found herself smiling as the word crossed her mind and as Yang continued to walk the offense and mid-field through some kind of celebration dance that looked far too complicated for what it was.
“Head in the game, Belladonna! I want to see some saves out there today. You can stare at your girlfriend on your own time!”
Blake blinked a couple times as she heard her coach and shook her head, shaking out her legs. “Uh, yes coach.”
She glanced one more time at Yang and saw her mouth “busted” in her direction with a smile.
Blake rolled her eyes and made sure not one of Yang’s shots made it into the goal during warm ups.
She still felt like she lost though when Yang whispered, “I love it when you get all competitive like that,” with a wink as they jogged off the field to prepare for the game.
As they gathered up to listen to their coach before the game, Blake couldn’t help but look at the opponent’s bench. She scanned over the familiar faces and a few new ones. But eventually her gaze landed on one in particular and she sighed.
“Everything okay?” Yang asked, looking past her, trying to follow her gaze.
“Yeah,” Blake said quietly, turning her attention back to their coach. “Just… an old friend.”
Yang hummed and nudged Blake with her shoulder. “You got this, Belladonna.” She nodded as Blake met her eye. “You got this.”
About a quarter of the way into the game, Blake wasn’t so sure she “had this.” Yeah, they were still tied 0-0 but Menagerie’s offense was giving them a run for their money and Blake was already starting to break a sweat. She wasn’t sure the ball had even crossed the mid-field in the last 15 minutes, let alone made it into the other circle. Honestly, she was wondering where the hell this Menagerie offense was when she played there.
“Mine!” Blake called out, running out to clear the ball before the offense could get a clear shot off. She kicked it wide, sending it right out of bounds and Blake huffed as she set up for the ball to come in again. Part of her was frustrated she hadn’t pulled back on it a little, part of her was frustrated none of her teammates were there to field it.
And all of her just wanted Ilia off her fucking pads.
“So, this is what goalies always had to deal with, with you, huh?” Blake said pushing Ilia discreetly off her, trying not to draw a foul.
Ilia chuckled. “You shouldn’t have left, Blake. Could’ve been on the winning side of this.”
“Hate to cut off the reminiscing and trash talk but we are in the middle of a game,” Yang said, wandering up to both of them as the teams set up. She positioned herself so her stick was in front of Ilia’s and shot her a smile which turned to a stern glare halfway through her sentence. “Hey, I’ll be your defender; get off my goalie.”
Blake chuckled as the ball got put back into play. The girl at the top of the circle got a quick shot off and Blake easily deflected it with a split-save but she wasn’t ready for Ilia on the rebound. Ilia was always good with her reverse stick and Blake just couldn’t recover from the initial save as the ball popped up over her and towards the goal.
In a moment of either pure genius or sheer stupidity though, Yang was there behind her trying desperately to block the ball with her stick without getting called for it being dangerous. Honestly, the only one it was dangerous for was herself because the surface area of a stick is a lot smaller than the surface area of Yang’s entire body, so naturally the ball smacked off her shoulder instead and the whistle was blown.
“Shit.” Yang instantly grabbed her arm, grimacing as she tried to shake it out.
Blake was on her feet in an instant, walking over to look at Yang; scanning over the red mark already starting to form on her shoulder. “Are you okay?”
Yang chuckled, though it seemed a little forced. “I’m fine. Twisted the skin a bit is all." She grimaced again, rolling her shoulder. "You just… take those to your body?”
Blake smirked and tapped her stick against her leg guard. “Pads, Yang.”
The ref came over briefly to check on Yang, which she quickly waved off and then he called for a penalty shot. Blake took a deep breath. She knew to expect it after what happened but still, it was never something you wanted to deal with.
Yang frowned and clapped Blake on the shoulder. “Sorry, Blake. You got this,” she said before running to stand with the rest of their team.
Blake jumped in place a couple times, then turned around to face Ilia. It was the first time she got a good look at her since the start of the game and Ilia looked good. Blake was honestly happy about that. Just because they had a falling out didn’t mean Blake wanted the worst for her.
Ilia had been Blake’s closest friend, after all. She’d gone to all the training camps with her and hung out with her after school. She was the one Blake always talked about Adam with. But she was also the one that still saw him as a great coach and leader, even after Blake had left. And Blake just couldn’t be around that.
Ilia was just a reminder of how it all blew up in her face and it was messing with her.
She shook her head as she lined her heels up on the goal line and set up for the shot. Then there were words from the ref.
A deep breath.
Blake cursed as the ball grazed the bottom of her cleat and shot into the goal. It was quite possible that would be the one and only goal of the game and Blake was pissed as she popped off the ground and cleared the ball out of the cage.
Yang was there a moment later, gripping the mask of her helmet and pulling her close. “Watch me, watch me, watch me,” she said. She grinned. “I’m gonna score.”
And then she gave a light smack to the side of Blake’s helmet and was off.
Blake couldn’t say that Yang wasn’t true to her word. Sure, it was within the last five minutes of the game. But she did exactly what she said she would.
And on a breakaway no less.
It was one of the few times that Blake had been able to clear the ball out to the sides where one of her teammates could get a stick on it and the second Nora did, Yang was off like a shot. Not many people could outrun Nora Valkyrie’s drive up the field but Yang could. Whether she was just that fast or if adrenaline had kicked in, even Blake wasn’t sure. But she wasn’t going to question it when she saw Yang get the ball, fake out the Menagerie goalkeeper, and send in a beautiful reverse-stick shot.
Yang turned around instantly, and pointed to Blake from across the field with her stick. Blake chuckled and shook her head. She looked at the five minutes left on the clock with a sigh. Maybe they could do this. It’d take work but… just maybe.
The next five minutes were brutal. For both teams this time and Blake was relieved that they’d finally found the other side of the field after almost an hour of gameplay.
Still, neither team was going to lose easily and they ended regulation tied.
And then they ended overtime tied.
And double-overtime tied.
Which meant: a penalty shootout.
Blake took a deep breath. Contrary to what earlier in the day showed, she was good at these. It was one of the reasons they recruited her for the National team. But clearly her head was clouded and she needed to clear it and clear it fast.
She was wracking her brain for ideas when Yang came up beside her. “Is it a stupid question to ask how you’re feeling?” Yang asked a crooked smiled on her lips letting Blake know she was teasing.
Blake huffed a laugh. “Super confident. Obviously.”
Yang put a hand on Blake’s shoulder. “You should be,” she said, serious this time. “You are Blake Belladonna. You are the best goalkeeper of our generation. You are the reason we’ve even made it this far in this game, because I’ve looked at the stats and we spent a single-digit number of minutes in their circle.” Yang came around in front of her, looking into her eyes and grabbing her other shoulder as well. “Blake. It doesn’t matter who’s taking those shots on you. Got it? Because you’ve been blocking all of them all day. You know every tell they have. And now, all you have to do is play like you did when it was just us. That first day. Have fun. Dive. Do a split. Make it something for you. ‘Cause I’m telling you, you’re gonna be the star of this show.”
Blake blinked at her, taking in all of her words before giving her a playful – but still firm – shove. “You can’t just say things like that. Now I want to kiss you.”
Yang laughed, stepping closer until she was just on the other side of Blake’s mask. “Later, Belladonna. When we win.”
Feeling a little more relaxed and confident after Yang’s pep talk, Blake made her way to the goal. The first shot was always important to block. It gave you momentum. So, when the whistle blew and Blake watched the ball connect with her stick on the diving save, she was relieved.
It went back and forth with the shooters and goalies on each team.
Round 1: Beacon, save. Menagerie, save.
Round 2: Beacon, save. Menagerie, save.
Round 3: Beacon, save. Menagerie, save.
Round 4: Beacon, save. Menagerie…
Yang took the line for the fourth shot. Blake knew from experience where the ball was going, just based on where Yang planted her feet. Bottom right corner.
And sure enough, she was right.
And for once it was a glorious sound to hear, followed by cheers and laugher.
Because that meant they were one save away from winning the game. Blake just had to make it through…
Before going to the cage, Blake took off her glove and lifted her mask, approaching Ilia at the stroke line. She didn’t say anything, just looked at Ilia and offered her her stick, which Ilia eyed for a moment before tapping her own against it.
Blake smiled. “Good luck.”
Ilia nodded, a sad smile meeting her lips as well. "You too."
Blake brought her helmet back down, put her glove on, and made her way to the goal. She tapped her stick to the bottom of her cleats a couple times to clear them of dirt, and mud, and grass.
Then she turned around, lined her heels up with the goal line, digging her feet into the earth to get a good grip, and took a breath.
When she looked up, she bypassed the ball and Ilia and looked beyond them, to the line of people watching. To one specific person watching with a certain amount of confidence that fueled Blake’s soul. She met Yang’s eyes and Yang smiled and nodded.
And then the whistle blew and Blake didn’t even have to think, because Yang was right: she knew every tell they had.
And Ilia’s was less a tell and more a habit.
This time, Blake didn’t even bother with the split-save, she just dropped low and dove with her stick, watching as it flicked the ball away from the cage with ease.
She was vaguely aware of the cheers from her teammates as she tried to pop back onto her feet only to be met with every single one of them running forward to tackle her back onto the ground. The first, of course, being Yang.
It took awhile to get everyone to disperse but they eventually did and Blake was grateful for the air; even if one particular person who had settled directly on top of her refused to move. Though, Blake wasn’t really going to complain about that one.
Yang looked down at her with a smile and tugged on her jersey until Blake pushed herself upright. Yang carefully took Blake’s helmet off her head, tossing it to the side as she brought her hands to Blake’s face and kissed her.
Blake laughed through it and pulled back quickly, popping the mouthguard off her teeth. “Um, mouthguard.”
Yang shook her head. “Don’t care,” she said before kissing her again. She pulled back after only a second or two – which Blake was thankful for, considering their audience – and rested her forehead against Blake’s. “I’m so proud of you,” she whispered.
And Blake felt her last bit of those nerves she'd been holding onto evaporate. Because Yang was so much more than she could’ve hoped for. Yang gave her so much more than she could have hoped for.
And so – for the moment, with Yang in her lap on a cool afternoon in the middle of the goal cage - Blake just enjoyed it; her new found love for her sport.
And her new love.