Actions

Work Header

Chapter Text

CHAPTER ELEVEN
Cody walked listlessly into the stadium the next morning for practice, looking like Hell, having spent the night on the ground on some dirt trail beside her motorcycle. The woman hadn't even bothered to go home - she knew if she woke up in the morning it would be more than she deserved.

She ignored everyone as she walked in, even Matt.

The man looked hurt by the rejection, but shrugged it off. Cody was known to have her moods, after all. He'd just talk to her after practice, and hope he could find out what was wrong.

"It's done, Joe," she said, finding the man on the field.

Joe merely nodded. "I know," he said, not bothering to look at her. "Get changed and meet back here in ten minutes!" he called, and the players jogged from the field.

Cody changed slowly, not caring whether or not she was late. Matt came up beside her, fully clothed and ready to go, as she buttoned up her shirt. "What's wrong, Cody?" he asked. The woman just shook her head. "Well, if you wanna talk, I'm here," he said.

"Thanks," voiced Cody, quietly. Matt just smiled, put a hand on her shoulder, and walked with her out to the diamond for practice.

Cody was paired up with Matt for ten minutes of long, fast catches, after their stretches and warm-up exercises. Matt would throw as hard as he could, and Cody would catch it with ease, throwing it back as though it didn't matter.

"Come on, Cody!" urged Matt. "You can do better than that! Give me a challenge."

"Madison!" called Joe. "Let's pick it up! Play like you mean it!"

Cody growled, and launched the small white sphere with all her strength. Matt brought is glove up at the last moment, to avoid being hit in the face.

"What was that for?" he asked, but Cody had no response. For the entire practice, her sadness was replaced with anger. Anger at Joe for pulling a trick like he had, anger at herself for going through with it, and more anger at Joe. And she played with more determination than anyone had ever seen.

After practice, in the locker room, Cody sat on the bench with her head in her hands, as her teammates changed and carried on.

"Hey, what's up with Madison?" she heard one guy ask.

"I don't know. Think she's awake?" another laughed.

"Wanna find out?" the first asked, twirling a wet towel in his hands, and Cody growled without looking up.

"Snap me with that towel, Corbel, and I'll relocate your gonads to your throat," she warned, and heard the man back up as his friends laughed. "Anybody else?" The laughter abruptly stopped as she stood and faced them.

"Easy, Madison," said James. "We didn't mean nothing."

"Then back off," she said. "I'm not in the mood for fucking around." James pretended to be disappointed, and snapped his fingers, muttering, "Damn," before catching Cody's glare, and wisely moving back to his own locker.

"Okay, Cody," said Matt, sitting next to her, having changed into his boxers and a light T-shirt, "what's wrong? And don't give me that 'nothing' crap, because I know something's bothering you. You look as though somebody's kicked you in the gut," he added. "You have all day."

"I don't wanna talk about it," she said, only then beginning to change.

"Sometimes it helps," Matt encouraged, gently.

"No."

"Cody, you know you can come to me with anything," said the man, sounding hurt. He was the first person Cody had talked to about being gay, back in high school, and he still felt honored that he trusted her. Why wouldn't she talk to him now?

Cody sighed. "Yeah, I know, Matt. Thanks," she added. "I just, I don't want to talk about this right now, okay?"

Matt agreed, and then got an idea. "Hey! Why don't you talk to Jennie? You said she's a good listener," he added.

Cody winced, and shook her head, before slamming her locker shut, and collapsing back on the bench, tears in her eyes. "Goddamn it," she cursed, wiping at her eyes, angrily. "I won't cry; not here, I won't!"

"C-girl," said Matt, softly. He was a little unnerved by his friend's reaction, but wanted to be there for her. "C-girl, there's no one here but us. They all left. It's okay," he added, and she sniffled, hanging her head. Matt thought she'd be okay, but noticed the shaking shoulders, and realized she was still crying. He placed a friendly hand on her shoulder, and was startled when she looked up at him. Her once proud blue eyes were dull and lifeless, her confident composure had crumbled before his eyes, and, for the very first time, he could see into her heart.

It was empty.

"Christ, Cody," he swore, pulling her into a bone-crushing hug which she gratefully returned, "what happened?"

"She's gone," the woman mumbled, incoherently, into the man's shoulder. "She's gone and it's all my fault."

"Who? Jennie?" Cody nodded, and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, again. "Is she hurt?" The tall woman shook her head. "Then why do you keep saying she's gone?"

"Because she is," insisted Cody. "I broke up with her."

"What? Why?" Matt was baffled.

"That's what I can't talk about." Her mouth said she couldn't, but her eyes pleaded for a chance to talk. Matt already learned she wasn't comfortable with talking about it, but if whatever it was continued to affect her like it was, he'd put an end to it and demand that she tell him.

He knew when to back off. "All right," he sighed. "I don't understand any of this, but whatever you did, you obviously didn't want to do it. Will you tell me when you can?" he asked, and Cody thought about it, before nodding.

"Want me to give you a ride?" Matt offered.

Cody shook her head. "I've got my bike," she said. "I'll head home now, don't think I'll stop by Garret's. If you see him, let him know it might be a while before I talk to him." Jennie goes there, and I can't handle seeing her right now... the hate that I know will be in her eyes. What's fucked is that she has every right to hate me - and that hurts, she admitted to herself.

Matt nodded, and bid Cody a careful drive as he left. Twenty minutes later, having forced herself to change into regular, more comfortable clothes, Cody hopped on her bike and drove home.

"Good afternoon, Cody," greeted her computer.

"Fuck you," she spat at the cheery female voice, letting her bag drop to the ground in front of the entry way. "Messages?"

"You have two messages."

"Play," she said, as she sat on the couch, trying not to think about Jennie.

"Message one."

"Cody, it's Jennie."

Fuck! God, I hope You're having a good old time torturing my heart! she thought.

"Uh, your baseball glove is still over here. I'll leave it at Garret's if you want to go get it," said the blonde's voice, and Cody's heart broke as she distinctly heard her crying. "Well, bye."

"Message two."

"Cody, this is Garret," came the voice, and Cody knew what was coming. "Jennie just stopped by, and gave me your glove, said to give it to you if I saw you. What's going on? She seemed really upset. Give me a call, will you? Bye," he finished, and Cody sighed.

"Seems no matter what I do I won't be able to put Jennie out of my mind," she said, aloud. "This sucks. No Jennie, no Jeffrey... fuck! Damn you, Joe!" she cried, tears streaming down her face once more.

* * * * *
Nearly an hour later, once her tears had dried, Cody decided it was time to get her glove and get it over with. She knew Garret would want an explanation, but she wasn't sure she could give him one. The tall woman couldn't bear to see the disappointment she knew would be on the older man's face if she told him what she'd done in her past.

She went over her speech as she rode to the restaurant. "Garret," she said to herself, "I just came to get my glove, that's all. I don't have time to talk right now, I'll call you later. And then, I walk out," she coached.

"That's all I have to do."

Pulling into the parking lot, she took off her helmet, pain flashing over her features as she found some dust on it, and was reminded where she spent the night and why. "Get it over with," she mumbled, and walked into the establishment with more courage and confidence than she felt.

"Cody!" called Garret, the moment she walked in.

"Crap. Hey, Garret," she said, walking over to the man, who was behind the bar. "I just came to get my glove. You called and said Jennie left it here."

"Yeah, she did. She didn't look very happy. Mind telling me what's going on?" the man questioned, and Cody sighed.

"I want my glove, Garret. I don't have time to talk right now. I'll call you later, okay?" she proposed, holding her hand out for the item. With a hard stare, the man retrieved the worn glove, and handed it over to the tall star he'd come to think of as a daughter. He knew something was bothering her, and had a hunch there was something wrong between her and the young blonde.

"Call me tonight, okay?"

"I'll call you when I can," she muttered, gripping the glove in her hand and walking for the door. "Sorry," she murmured, when she bumped into someone who was coming in just as she was going out.

Oh, fuck, she thought. I'd know those green eyes anywhere.

"Jennie," she acknowledged, and quickly walked out, but not in time to miss the pain that flooded the emerald eyes she loved. Taking a deep breath, she was on her way to her motorcycle, when something attached itself to her leg - a five-year-old something, to be exact.

Damn, she sighed.

"Cody!" cried Jeff, hugging her tightly.

"Hey, little man," she voiced, hoarsely.

I may have to brush off Jennie, but I'll be damned if I'm going to be mean to a child, she told herself. I just hope I can do this without breaking down... oh, shit.

"Cody, are you mad at me?" he asked, his gentle eyes filling with tears as he stared up at her, beseechingly.

Damn, damn, damn!

"No, of course not, little man," she said, kneeling down to be eye-level with him, finding it hard to speak for the lump in her throat.

Oh, hey, isn't my heart supposed to be down a little lower? she wondered, grimly.

"Then how come my mom said you couldn't play baseball with me anymore?"

She sighed, and wondered if she could explain blackmail and spineless cowards to a kid. "Jeff, it's not you, okay? It's me," she said, and the boy looked at her, confused.

She tried again. "I just have to leave for a while, and I won't be able to see you or your mom while I'm gone. I won't even be able to talk to you," she added, and felt tears spring to her eyes as the boy's lip trembled.

"Will you come back?"

"I hope so," she said, honestly.

"I love you, Cody."

This sucks. Goddamn it, Joe - couldn't you have at least let me save some part of my heart, you bastard?

"I love you, too, Jeffrey," she echoed, using his full name for the first time, biting her lip as a tear rolled down her cheek. "You be a good boy, okay? Take care of your mom for me," she added, tears falling freely, now.

The child nodded. "Come here," she said, and pulled him to her, the youngster gripping her for all he was worth, and Cody doing the same. She stood, still holding him in her arms, as he wrapped his legs around her waist.

"Cody?"

"Yes?" she whispered, not trusting her voice to go any louder.

"When you come back," not if, the woman noticed, "will you make my mom happy again? She doesn't like it when you go away," he stated, innocently.

Mayday, mayday!

"If I can," she replied. "I promise you, Jeff. If I can come back, I will do all I can to make your mom happy again, okay?"

"Jeffrey," called a voice, tonelessly, "come in here, please."

"Go," urged Cody, giving him one last squeeze before she set him down. "Don't tell your mother what we talked about here, okay?" Jeff nodded as he dried his eyes and scampered into the restaurant after Jennie. Leaning on her motorcycle for support, Cody took a moment to take control of her emotions, at least well enough so she could drive home.

Once there, she let go, and sobbed into her pillow until she couldn't cry anymore. And then she slept off and on for a few hours, crying fresh tears every time she woke up, until she fell back into an exhausted sleep.

The tall woman decided that if it wasn't for the slight hope Jeffrey had given her that she'd be able to come crawling back to Jennie one day, she'd have ended her life three hours ago - when the last of her heart crumbled away.

* * * * *
It was a few days before Cody felt well enough to even venture to go outside. She knew she wasn't physically sick, but her emotional health was bordering on terminally ill. The tall woman missed Jennie and Jeffery more than she thought was humanly possible, and found herself unwilling to do much of anything but cry.

Unfortunately, she soon discovered she still needed to eat, and was forced to make a trip to the store. Unplugging her motorcycle from its nightly charge, she set off down the road, grabbing a cart as soon as she got there, refusing to look anyone in the eye, for fear of finding a pair of green eyes that would tear her apart.

Throwing a few items into her cart, she was moving into the checkout line, when a brightly colored display caught her attention: Jellybean was for sale on DVD, only $19.99 the sign said. That was the movie she'd been meaning to get for Jeffery, to surprise him with it on his birthday, which was rapidly approaching. She hadn't gotten it yet, because she was planning on discussing it with Jennie to make sure the woman wasn't going to purchase it for the boy.

Now, it looked like she wouldn't be giving it to him at all, since there was no hope in Cody's mind that Jennie would ever let Jeffery accept a gift from her. Almost as if in slow motion, the baseball star watched herself place the package into her cart, and then store the item in the side compartments of her motorcycle.

Although it was a children's movie, she watched it while she curled up on the couch with a picture of Jennie and her together at the park that had been taken a month before, Jeffery proudly holding his baseball glove and wearing his hat. Staring at the photo, she felt the hot tears that had seemingly become her constant companion sting at the back of her eyes, and cried until she fell into an exhausted sleep.

* * * * *
The months passed quickly, as time has a tendency to do, and before Cody knew it, it was the last game of the season. She'd had a good year, as far as baseball was concerned, but anyone who knew her after the game, like Garret and Matt, knew the real Cody was gone. The problem was, neither of them could get her to explain any further than "She's gone".

And Cody herself knew she was being a bitch. She didn't mean to be, but she just couldn't help it - she had nothing since Jennie and Jeffrey were out of her life. But, she'd never forget the day, many months ago, when she felt again. Okay, so it was guilt, but it was something...

Garret watched the tall woman out of the corner of his eye. She was sitting at her table, as she always did, at noon, because she knew Jennie wouldn't be in that early. And the last thing she wanted to do was see Jennie - that much Garret had figured out on his own. The mystery was "why".

"Want a refill?" the man asked, referring to Cody's empty glass, as he sat down beside her.

"Sure," she said, handing him the glass, not bothering to look up from whatever she saw in the spot she was staring at on the wall.

A few minutes later, with a full glass of dark soda, Garret returned, and set it down in front of her. "You can have this on one condition," he said, and Cody raised an eyebrow at him. "You tell me what happened between you and Jennie."

Blue eyes narrowed, and the woman conveyed the message that she was not amused. "Give me my drink, Garret," she growled.

The man shook his head, and took it out of her reach, annoying her all the more. "Not until you talk to me," he said. "Cody, it's been three months since whatever happened, happened. You're like a daughter to me, Cody, and I want to know what's bothering you."

Cody's expression didn't change. "I want my drink." A refusal from the man next to her. "Garret, I can't talk about that."

"Can't, or won't?"

She glared at him, icily. "Does it really matter? All that matters is that I am not in the best of moods, and..."

She was going to continue, but he cut her off. "Are you ever, Cody?" he demanded. He didn't open to the public until two in the afternoon, so he was glad Cody couldn't use the excuse of "too many people around to talk", because they were the only ones there.

"Ever since you and Jennie broke up, you've been gone. I want to know how to get you back," he admitted, quietly.

"You can't get me back, Garret," she said, softly. "I'm sorry, I really am. I just can't tell you what's going on right now. I know I'm being a bitch, but there's nothing anybody can do about it. Now," she sighed, irritably, "can I have my drink?"

Garret shook his head. "You didn't talk," he stated.

"Goddamn it, Garret!" she said, jumping to her feet. "I told you already! I can't talk about what happened, okay? It's not a matter of won't, it's a matter of can't. If I could tell you, believe me, I would."

"Did she dump you?"

"No."

"So, you dumped her?"

"Yes."

The man glanced at her. "Then why are you so broken up about losing her if you dumped her in the first place?" he asked, beginning to tire of her attitude.

Tough love, he told himself.

The woman broke. "What the fuck do you know? Huh?? You don't know why I did what I did, or how I've been living in Hell ever since," she cried. "You don't know how badly I want to crawl on my knees and ask her to forgive me! You have no fucking idea how much I miss her, how much I want to just hold her against me one more time! You don't know anything!" she shouted.

Dropping back down into her chair after her rant, she muttered, "How can you?" He reached out a hand to her, but she snarled, "Don't touch me," and pulled away.

"Cody," he said, his voice stern, gripping her chin and forcing her to look into his eyes, "look at me."

With a cry, the woman pushed him away, walking around the tables for a while, trying to stop the flow of tears that had, unbidden, found their way to the surface at the memory that the simple phrase drudged up. Garret followed her every move, no matter how much she screamed at him to get away from her. Finally, she sank into her chair, sobbing.

"Cody, you don't smile anymore," he said, and she looked up at him, realizing he was right - she couldn't remember the last time she'd smiled. Well, so she could, rather easily, in fact, it was just too painful. "If you'd just talk to me, it might make you feel a little better," he urged.

The tall woman just sighed, and shook her head. "Forget it, Garret," she said.

There was silence for a while, as the man tried to think of a way to get her to open up. She seemed to say more when she was angry...

"Did you really love her, Cody?"

"What?" asked the star, disbelieving what her own ears told her she'd just heard.

"Did you really love Jennie?"

"Of course I did!"

"Are you sure?"

Blue eyes widened. "You son of a bitch," she spat, vehemently. "You're questioning my love for her?"

Garret shrugged. "I just think, if you'd loved her, you wouldn't have broken up with her," he stated. "Well, unless there was something wrong. She did talk a lot," he mused, and Cody brought her hand to her head, warding off the impending headache, as her own words were unwittingly thrown back in her face.

"She could get a little annoying at times," he continued, hoping he could get Cody to explode with the reason she broke up with the blonde. "And she'd talk your ear off if you let her."

He found the breaking point. Cody leapt up from her chair, and grabbed him by the collar of his shirt. "She had a beautiful voice, you bastard! She was wonderful! It wasn't her fault, and if you ever blame her again..."

Realizing just who she was threatening, the woman released him, and stormed out of the place.

She'd returned twenty minutes later, after she'd cooled off, to apologize, and Garret had forgiven her, of course. That's just the way he was. Cody's encounter with Matt had gone just as well, both men trying to push her to blurt out the reason, both pushing too far, and Cody snapping, only returning later on to apologize for her actions.

It had been spread through the locker room grapevine that Cody was in a foul mood early on, so it was no surprise to the tall woman when she walked in to change for the game, and everyone grew very quiet.

"It's the last game of the season," she announced. "Don't let me ruin your celebrating." Instantaneously, everyone started talking again, laughing and cheering, as their only female team member sat silently on the bench.

Cody really couldn't blame them for being happy - most of their contracts ended today, Cody's included, and while many were staying on, Cody was doubting if she would. She wanted to keep playing, because it paid well, and she liked doing it, but she wasn't sure if she could keep up her standard game. How could she put her heart into her game when she didn't have one left?

"This is it, huh, C-girl?" asked Matt, coming to sit beside her as she changed.

"Yeah, I guess so," she agreed. "You staying?"

"Yep," he smiled. "Too many girls would miss me if I left. You?"

She shrugged. "I don't know," she said. "I might, I might not. All depends on the weather."

"Joe wants you up first," he added, as he walked with her out to the field, and she nodded, becoming the silent baseball player she was often known for by the press, who frustratingly only wrote about what she did, not who she was, because she always avoided them.

"Meet me out front after the game, okay?" asked Matt, as the woman adjusted her gloves, and got ready to play. Cody raised an eyebrow at him, but nodded. "I just want to take you out somewhere to celebrate away from the others."

Cody sighed. She knew that meant the man wanted to talk, but didn't take back her agreement. Stepping up to the plate, she concentrated, expecting the curve ball that the pitcher threw, and sending it past the short stop, making the right fielder run after it. She made it safely to second, and watched as, in two more batters, she touched home plate, as did the man behind her.

Unfortunately, the Warriors lost to the Padres, 5-8. It wasn't Cody's fault, she'd played very well, making an exceptional catch, and even hitting a home run to gain their fifth point. The men on her team, however, seemed to be too excited about the last game to really concentrate, and, as a result, the Warriors lost.

"Don't forget to meet me out front. Ten minutes," reminded Matt, as he called the shower, and Cody nodded. She changed quickly, into black jeans and a white T-shirt, slipping her sunglasses on as she walked outside, breezing past the reporters. Standing in front of the stadium entrance, she watched people go by, most having to stand in line to leave, signing a few baseballs and T-shirts here and there as she waited for Matt to arrive.

Probably flirting with some girl, she sighed, thinking of her friend the heart breaker.

One fan in particular caught her eye - a young woman, blonde, with blue eyes.

Any less clothing and George could arrest her for indecent exposure, she chuckled to herself. Hell, any less clothing and she'd be naked! The woman's face looked vaguely familiar to the tall baseball player, and it took a moment to register in her mind.

Is that…? Nah, it can't be, Cody told herself, but she couldn't shrug the feeling of knowing the woman years before. Well, only one way to find out.

"Hey, George," Cody called, and the security guard glanced at her. She motioned for him to come closer.

"What can I do for you, Cody?" he asked, as he gave her a quick hug. The two had been friends since her first game, the man seeing the player's potential early on, and she enjoyed conversing with him before and after a home game.

"See that woman over there?" she asked, pointing to the scantily dressed blonde. The guard nodded. "Can you do me a favor and obtain some ID from her?"

George's brow furrowed. "Why?" he asked, curiously.

"Just a hunch," she replied. "I need to confirm something."

"Cody, I've got no grounds," he began, but the woman cut him off.

"Remember that ball I got George Jr.? With all the players' signatures on it?" Again, George nodded, albeit reluctantly. "Let's just say I'm calling in that favor."

The tall guard sighed. "Okay," he said. "We're even." Straightening his shoulders, he approached the blonde, and spoke with her for a few moments. Cody watched as she dug into her purse, and gave the guard her ID card, which he thanked her for, and then walked back over to Cody.

"Thanks," said Cody, glancing down at the card. "Pauline Yetter, 1780 West Road, yeah, yeah... Here we go! Born February 2nd, 1995! Yes! Thank you, George!" she exclaimed, giving the man a kiss on the cheek. "I love you!"

"Hey, I can get somebody else's ID for you," he offered, and she chuckled. "I take it you found what you needed?"

Cody nodded. "Yep," she said. "I'll give that back to Ms. Yetter." Taking the card, she approached the woman, and handed her the ID. "Thanks, Pauline." The blonde's eyes widened upon seeing her, but Cody winked, and was gone before she could say anything.

The baseball star knew exactly where she was going: Joe Henry's office. Matt would have to wait - she was extremely upset, and wanting to hit something - a managerial something, to be exact.

As she stormed in, his secretary said, "Hey, you can't go in there, miss! Mr. Henry is in a very important meeting at the moment!"

"I don't give a shit if he's talking with the fucking President of the United States, I'm going in there!" she swore, and the woman once more tried to stand in her way.

"Do you have an appointment? You have to have an appointment!" she insisted.

"I just made one," growled Cody. She didn't want to harm the secretary, but her patience was growing so thin it could pass for transparent.

"If you'll just take a seat, I'm sure Mr. Henry will see you when he's finished."

Cody glared at her as she pushed her out of the way. "I just crashed the party," she said, bursting open the double doors that led to Joe Henry's third floor office. The two occupants in the room looked up when she stormed in, and Joe had the nerve to smile, and look pleased to see her.

"Cody," he said. "We were just talking about you. Mr. Edison, this is my MVP, Cody Madison. She's one of the," Cody cut him off.

"Last people you wanted to fuck with, Joe," she spat, and both men looked surprised at her language.

"Cody, what are you talking about?" Joe asked, glancing nervously at the man seated across from him. This was a big deal, he had a great chance, and Cody's interruption was going to blow it!

"You know exactly what I'm talking about, you spineless shit," she said, approaching the man's desk in two strides. He took a step back, at the feral look in her eye. "Guess who I ran into today? Pauline Yetter. Ring a bell?" she demanded, and watched as the man swallowed, before regaining some of his composure.

"What does that have to do with your storming in here and ruining my meeting?" he asked, upon noticing that Edison had left. "What kind of fucking stunt are you trying to pull?"

Cody had her hand around his throat, and was pressing his back against the wall, next to the window, before he knew what was happening. "It won't be a goddamn stunt when I throw you out of this fucking window, Joe. Pauline was born in 1995, you lying sack of shit. February, of 1995, to be exact. She is now twenty-two years old," she calculated.

"That means she was nineteen when I slept with her three years ago, in March. She was nineteen! Not sixteen, you stupid son of a bitch!" she yelled. "You set me up, didn't you? You knew she was nineteen, you just wanted to have the power over me. You knew how old she was, didn't you? Didn't you?" she demanded, when he didn't answer.

"Yes," he voiced, trying to loosen her hold.

"Why did you do it? Why did you blackmail me with a fucking lie?" she asked, but he didn't say anything. "Either you answer me, or you can tell me which one of your eleven fingers you want me to start cutting," she said, the implication clear as to where his "eleventh finger" was when her eyes shifted lower.

He didn't answer, and she withdrew her knife with her free hand, placing it just below his waist. Joe squirmed. "Okay, okay! I'll tell you! Just, just put the knife down," he begged, and Cody agreed, slipping the weapon back in its sheath.

"You can let me go, I said I'd talk," he said, and she released her grip, but walked over to the doors and blocked them with her body, standing in front of them, so he couldn't make a run for it.

Joe sighed as he sat down at his desk. "I knew if I could just catch you doing something, that I'd have everything I'd need. You're a great baseball player, Cody, and I knew that already back then. I knew that if I could keep you with me, you'd make MVP easily, and I'd be famous for having the best player in the league," he said, and Cody sighed; she knew it was just a power trip.

"So, how'd you manage to get Pauline in on this little scam, and make sure she wouldn't squeal?"

"I have my ways," he said, and she fingered the sheath of her knife. "She's my niece; not gay, but I knew she'd do it anyway. There's a price for everything, I just stuffed her wallet a little. And, I knew she'd stay in it, because I guaranteed her a couple hundred every few months, as kind of a thank you for going through with it," he added.

"You did all that, just for fame? And just for me?" The man nodded. "Under any other circumstances, Joe, I'd probably be tickled pink. But, considering you made me lose the best thing in my life for a fucking lie, I'm not particularly happy with you."

"Hey, remember," he said, "I've got all the connections. My mom's a lawyer, my brother's a cop, and my dad's a big name in Congress. You can't do anything to me. You'd get in too much trouble," he sneered.

Cody grinned, and walked up until they were nose-to-nose. "Not if they never found the body," she stated, and his eyes got wide. "Or if the evidence was in too many tiny, itsy-bitsy, little pieces to identify," she added, raising her thumb and forefinger to show a diminutive amount of space, and the man looked like he was gonna pass out.

"You look a little green," she smirked. "You know what the difference is between me and you, Joe?" The man shook his head. "I've got balls. Fuck you and your goddamn family connections. I quit."

"W-what?" he stuttered. "You can't quit!"

"I can and I am," she said. "I've got a space already lined up in Arizona for next season, and a couple more after that." That wasn't entirely a lie - she'd been talking with an old friend who just happened to know the manager of the Diamondbacks, and he'd mentioned the idea of her changing teams. She knew she'd have no problem getting in.

"But, your contract," he began.

Cody cut him off with a grin. "Ended today. This was my last game, remember? I quit, and you're no longer my manager. If I ever see you again, if you come anywhere near me, Jennie, or Jeffrey, so help me God all the connections in the world won't save you. I don't care if you lick the boots of the Big Man Himself," she said, pointing upwards, "you're a dead man. Do we understand each other?" she demanded.

"Perfectly," he said, numbly, as she walked out the door, slamming it behind her.

CHAPTER TWELVE
"Good evening, Cody," greeted the computer, as she walked in her home. "You have one message."

"Play," she ordered, as she took off her shoes.

"Hey, C-girl, it's Matt. Just wondering what happened to you. I'll be at home if you need me. Talk to you later. Bye," finished the man, and Cody sighed. She'd forgotten about her arrangements to meet her friend for dinner.

"End of messages."

"Erase," she said, and waited a few minutes before dialing the man's number.

On the second ring, it was answered. "Hey, Cody," said the man.

"Hey, Matt," she replied. "Sorry about dinner."

"Ah, that's okay," he smirked. "Found a girl to take your place."

"Really?" An eyebrow was raised. "Have fun?"

"Not really, no," he sighed. "Unfortunately, as it turned out, she was just waiting for someone. And it wasn't me."

Cody shook her head. "Sorry, buddy." She took a deep breath - she wanted to tell somebody about Jennie, now that she could, but the trouble was, could she really do it?

"Listen, Matt, are you busy tonight?"

"No," he drawled, curious. "Why?"

"Because, I was kind of hoping I could talk to you," she blurted. Well, I guess I don't have a choice now. I have to tell him, the woman decided.

Matt's jaw dropped. "Yeah, sure!" he said. "I'll be there in ten minutes, okay?" Cody agreed, and hung up, thinking of what she had just gotten herself into.

"Cody," she chastised herself, aloud, "you do realize this means you're going to tell him everything? From ten years ago to twenty minutes ago." The tall woman sighed, and answered herself. "Yeah, I know. It's gonna be hard, but I have to tell someone! I guess I'll have to tell Garret next - and then Jennie.

"Oh, God... Jennie," she sighed. "Is she even gonna talk to me? I doubt she'll just let me in to her house, so how am I going to find her to talk to her?" Her worries continued to be voiced until there was a knock on the door.

"Come in," she called, knowing it was Matt.

The man walked in, and closed the door behind him. "What's up, Cody?" he asked.

"Sit down, Matt," she said, gesturing to the couch in her living room. "It's gonna be a long night." At a slow pace which Matt gratefully accepted, Cody told her tale - everything. She told her friend about the drugs, the alcohol, and the sex that she had turned to after her father's death, all going on under Garret's nose. She told him about getting caught with the "sixteen" year old, and the deal she'd made with Joe. Then followed Jennie, and the reason for the break-up, concluded with her discovery and confrontation with Joe.

For a long five minutes afterwards, neither of them said a word. Matt was too stunned by the sudden flood of words from his friend's mouth, and what he'd been told, and Cody was too afraid to say anything else.

Finally, she couldn't stand it. "Damn it, Matt, say something!" she said.

"She was nineteen?"

Cody sighed. "Yes, Matt," she said. "Joe lied to me so he could get what he wanted. She was not sixteen, he knew that, and he used that to make me break up with Jennie, the son of a bitch."

"And you went through with it?" he questioned.

"I figured she'd leave me if she found out what I'd done anyway," shrugged the player. "She'd hate me either way."

"And her kid? Jeffrey? What's going on with him?" he asked.

Cody looked away. "I... I don't know. I couldn't just push him away, like I had Jennie, so I told him I had to go away and wouldn't be able to talk to him or his mom. Do you know what he asked me?" Matt shook his head, concerned by the tears in his friend's blue eyes. "He asked me if, when I came back, I would make his mom happy again, because she didn't like it when I went away. Damn it!" she cursed, wiping at her eyes.

"What are you gonna do?"

"I'm going to tell Garret tomorrow," she said, and suddenly sounded very tired. "And then, somehow, I'm going to find Jennie and tell her. Then, I don't know. I'll do whatever it takes to get her to take me back."

Matt sighed, and licked his lips. "Cody, you have to look at this realistically," he said. "It's been a year since she's heard a single word from you, and the last she heard from you was that you didn't love her because she wasn't good enough in bed, and that was when you dumped her. How receptive do you think she's going to be to your just reappearing?"

Cody leaned back against the couch, stretching out her legs. "Do you have to be so damn right all the time, Matt?" she asked. "I know she hates me, no more than I hate myself for what I did to her, and she has every right. But I have to talk to her, to explain to her what happened, Matt. I have to," she repeated. "I love her with all my heart."

"I know you do, C-girl," agreed the man, putting his hand on her shoulder. "And I know she felt the same way about you. I just hope she can find that again."

"You're no help."

Matt shrugged. "I do what I can," he smirked, and Cody glared at him, before breaking out into a grin at his expression of complete innocence. He placed his hand over his heart, feigning utter shock. "Oh my God! She smiled!" he cried. "Holy shit! Stop the presses!"

Cody raised an amused eyebrow at his antics, and punched him playfully in the arm. "Knock it off," she growled. "You know, just about the only thing I didn't do when I was a teenager was commit murder. Think I could start now? I really, really, wanna kill that goddamn lying son of bitch."

* * * * *
The next day, just as she'd said, Cody walked into Garret's Restaurant, and sat down at the table. The restaurant was closed, but she had a set of keys, and the man was still surprised to come out of his back room and find the woman sitting at her table.

"Cody!" he said, happily, giving her a hug. "To what do I owe this visit?"

"Garret, I need to talk to you," she began, gathering her courage as she spoke, telling the man everything in a rush of words, trying to get it over with. When she was done, there was a thick silence that hung in the air, nearly smothering the tall woman.

"Cody, I knew about your little habits while you were living with me," he said, and the tall star's jaw hit the table. "I didn't stop you because I knew it wouldn't do any good - if you really wanted to do it, you'd do it whether I permitted it or not. I hated having to watch you go through that, though," he admitted, softly.

"I'm sorry I put you through all that, Garret," she said, honestly. "I don't think I even knew why I did half the things I did."

"Are you going to tell Jennie?" was his first question.

The woman nodded. "I'm going to try," she said. "If I can find her, of course, since I don't think she'll just let me into her house, considering what I did to her the last time we spoke. Do you know where she is?"

The man shrugged, and Cody's heart fell. "She hasn't been in here very often, but when she does come in, she mentions something about how Jeffrey has a game every Saturday, and practices after school for his softball team almost every day," he said, helpfully.

"Of course!" said Cody, smiling as it hit her. "There's a park not far from their house. I'm sure that's where she takes Jeff to practice! Thanks, Garret," she said. The two talked a while longer, until the man opened his business, and Cody left to find Jennie.

It was a Saturday, so the tall woman sneaked over to the park, where a Little League game was going on. Sitting astride her motorcycle, she watched from the street, knowing very well that Jennie was somewhere in the stands, and she didn't want the blonde to see her just yet.

As Cody watched, Jeffrey ran after a pop-fly ball, and caught it with ease. He was one of the smaller boys on the team, but thanks to his training from Cody, he was the best catcher the coach had. Staying until parents and kids began filing out, the star drove home, and spent the rest of the weekend trying to figure out what to say to Jennie when she saw her.

Monday afternoon, just after five o'clock, Cody headed over to the park again, this time, searching for Jennie. She knew the woman would be off work, and assumed she and her son would be out practicing ball before it got dark. Stepping carefully, and making sure Jennie didn't happen to see her, Cody's blue eyes looked for any sign of the woman she loved.

Cody held her breath when she caught sight of the blonde woman, as she hid behind the nearest concrete picnic area, hoping that the half dozen benches and tables wouldn't give her away. Watching the young blonde and her son, the latter of which was catching a baseball in his glove, Cody frowned when a taller blonde approached Jennie.

From what Cody could see, the woman was about 5'9'', with long wavy blonde hair, and a thin build. She had hard, brown eyes, and a stoic face as she walked up to the smaller woman, anger evident in her stride. The two women seemed to be squabbling about the time, because the tall blonde kept pointing to her watch. Cody was too far away to make out what they were saying, but Jennie apparently said something that upset the other woman, because the gentle blonde received a hard slap across the face - which Cody heard.

She looked away for a moment, resisting the urge to march up to the tall woman, whoever she was, and beat her within an inch of her life for hurting Jennie.

No, Cody, she told herself, you can't do anything - you have no right anymore. She's not your girlfriend, you're the one who dumped her, and she hates you. She's a big girl, she can choose her own relationships.

She sighed. But, goddamn it, I don't want her to!

Upon seeing his mother hurt, Jeff walked up to the woman, and told her off, judging by his clenched little fists and angry face. With a snarl, the woman backhanded the child out of her way, unaware that the cool blue eyes of the tall baseball star who was watching her just narrowed into hostile slits.

Charging out of her hiding place, Cody approached the woman, angrily. "Why don't you pick on someone who can fight back?" she demanded, and the woman had the nerve to laugh in her face.

"And who the fuck are you? The brat's watchdog?" she grinned, evilly, as Jennie tried hard not to feel anything from the woman's arrival, although her heart wanted to leap for joy at the sight of Cody.

"Just a friend," stated the star. "If I see you strike him again, I will make you very sorry you ever thought of harming a child."

"Hey, he likes me! Don't you?" asked the blonde maniac, glancing down at Jeffrey, who tore his gaze from Cody long enough to shake his head. "You brat!" she exclaimed, and grabbed his arm, bringing him close to her face so she could yell and scream at him.

Cody growled, and removed the woman's hand, gently nudging Jeff towards his mother, before turning to face her opponent.

"Sandra, please, let's just go," said Jennie, tugging on the woman's arm, only to be shoved to the ground.

"No," she said, harshly. "Bitch wants to play." The two circled each other, waiting for the other to make the first move.

Jennie tried to dissipate the fight once more. "Please, Jeffrey's here," she said, and, for an instant, Cody paused, thinking of the example she was setting for the boy.

That was all the opportunity Sandra needed. She got so far as to connect a solid punch to Cody's face, and a kick to her side, before the woman regained her senses, and began to fight back.

"It's not so bad picking on defenseless little kids, but I'm gonna kick your butt," growled Cody, watching her language since Jeffrey was within earshot.

As if to prove her point, Cody spun around, catching the side of the tall blonde's face with her heel as she completed her full 360-degree spin.

Immediately, the woman gave up, and Cody was disgusted at her lack of bravery once she was injured. "Fuck this," she spat, "you can have her, if that's what you want. I'm out of here," Sandra said, walking away, gingerly touching her jaw with a manicured hand.

The tall star shook her head, and turned around to face Jennie, only to see that she and Jeffrey were already walking away.

"Jennie, wait!" she called, jogging to catch up to them when the woman didn't stop. "Jen, please, stop. I need to talk to you."

"Why?" she asked. "You just cost me my girlfriend, and now you expect me to listen to you?"

Cody's jaw hit the ground so hard she thought it'd bruise. "That was your girlfriend?" she exclaimed. "You've got to be kidding me! Jen, why would you be in an abusive relationship like that?"

God, don't tell me she went to that when I left her...!

"Why do you care?"

"You deserve better," said the woman, gently.

"Like you'd know," she retorted, and continued walking to the car, leaving Cody to nurse a bloody nose and bruised ribs, not to mention a wounded heart.

* * * * *
Cody winced as she held the bag of ice against her side to keep the swelling down on her bruise. Her nose had already stopped bleeding, and was left feeling raw and dry. Sniffling, and tasting blood in the back of her throat, the tall woman groaned.

"I should have killed that bitch when I had the chance," she cursed, angrily. "Radio on, volume up," she ordered, when all she held was a bag of water, and decided the shower was calling her name. It would make her body feel better, Cody knew, but nothing known to man could ease the hurt in her heart.

A light rock song was playing, but she ignored it, making her way to the bathroom. Stripping down to nothing, which didn't take long, considering she had removed her shirt in order to ice her ribs, she stepped gratefully into the cascade of hot water. Simply standing under the spray for a few minutes, Cody let the water pound against her skin, and wished she could cleanse the pain from her soul.

Indulging in a twenty minute shower, Cody was drying off with a towel when the lyrics of a song on the radio caught her attention.

Baby set me free
From this misery

I can't take it no more

Since you ran away

Nothing's been the same

Don't know what I'm living for

Here I am so alone

And there's nothing in this world I can do

Until you're back here baby

Miss you want you need you so

Until you're back here baby

There's a feeling inside

I want you to know

You are the one and I can't

Let you go

So I told you lies

Even made you cry

Baby I was so wrong

Girl I promise you

Now my love is true

This is where my heart belongs

'Cause here I am so alone

And there's nothing in this world I can do

Until you're back here baby

Miss you want you need you so

Until you're back here baby

There's a feeling inside I want you to know

You are the one and I can't

Let you go

And I wonder (wonder)

Are you thinking of me

'Cause I'm thinking of you

And I wonder (wonder)

Are you ever coming back in my life

'Cause here I am so alone

And there's nothing in this world I can do

Until you're back here baby

Miss you want you need you so

Until you're back here baby

There's a feeling inside

I want you to know

You are the one and I can't…

Until you're back here baby…

"That was Back Here, Baby, by BB Mak. Man, that's a great classic song if…"

"Radio off." The DJ was interrupted by the woman's stern command, as she stood in her bathroom, frozen in time as the realization hit her. Suddenly, Cody knew what she had to do; she had to tell Jennie the truth, even though it meant telling her everything. The whole thing began with a lie, so perhaps the only to fix it was with the absolute truth.

If I explain everything to her, maybe she'll understand, she hoped, getting dressed quickly. Deciding she had to put her all into it, and bare everything if it gave her a chance to get Jennie back, she'd do it in a heartbeat. Revving the engine on her motorcycle, she traveled a road she hadn't been down in a year.

* * * * *
Jennie walked through the house, searching for her keys, finding them next to her purse on the counter. Turning to address her son, she called for his attention, drawing him away from the TV screen.

"Now, I'll only be gone for a few minutes. I'm just going to the post office to drop these packages off for Grandma's birthday," she reminded, and the boy nodded. Jennie hadn't seen her parents in a while, simply because each time Dana was around her daughter, she insisted on broaching the subject of Cody and requesting more details, which Jennie refused to give.

"And I'll make dinner when I get back."

"Okay."

"You remember the rules, right?"

The boy sighed. "Yes, Mom. Don't answer the phone or open the door for nobody," Jeffrey recited.

"Anybody," corrected Jennie.

"Yeah," he grinned. "I'll be okay, mom, you can go." Kissing her son on the top of his head, Jennie walked out the door and locked it behind her, leaving Jeffrey watching his cartoons. She knew the boy would be fine by himself, but the blonde couldn't get it out her head that Cody was going to try something.

I wouldn't put it past her, that's for sure.

* * * * *
Taking a deep breath, Cody knocked on the door. She'd waited about a minute after Jennie drove away, to make sure she was really gone, and figured she'd at least talk to Jeffrey for a bit, just to see how the child was doing. Even if she didn't get a chance to talk to Jennie, she did miss the boy immensely.

Jeffrey froze, brown eyes wide. No one had ever actually called or come to the house while he was home alone, so he had never had to enforce the rules. He thought about ignoring whoever it was and hoping they'd go away, but the voice that drifted through the wooden door made him pause.

"Jeffrey? Hey, little man, it's me; it's Cody," the woman said, adding, "Think I can come in for a minute?"

"Mom said I'm not supposed to let strangers inside," he pointed out, quietly.

"But, I'm not a stranger, you know me. And I just want to talk to your mom when she comes home," Cody explained. "It's very important that I speak with her."

The boy was silent for a moment, and Cody was afraid he'd left.

"Jeffrey?"

"Did you come to make my mom happy again, Cody? 'Cause you said you would," Jeff recalled.

Cody bit her lip. "I came to try, Jeff," she replied, honestly.

"Okay." Unlocking the door, figuring he wouldn't get in trouble because his mom would like Cody again and everything would be back to normal, he let the woman inside, and then locked the door again. The two stood there, each starting at the other for a few moments, neither of them saying a thing.

"I missed you, Cody," were the first words out of the boy's mouth, and Cody drew him into a fierce hug.

"I missed you, too, little man," Cody responded, tears surfacing as the child wrapped his arms around her waist, hugging her as if to disprove the theory that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time.

"I'm glad you made Sandra go away," said Jeff, abruptly. "I didn't like her. She kept being mad at my mom and called her stupid and stuff."

"Why would Jennie stay with her?" came the muttered question, which wasn't meant to be answered, but Jeffrey piped up anyway.

"Mom said 'cause she wasn't like you."

Cody winced, and tried to change the subject before the pain in her heart became too much. "How's Little League doing?" she asked, smiling weakly.

"Good. I like my coach, 'cept I wanna practice with you again," he added, innocently, and Cody decided she couldn't handle anymore talking for a while. It just hurt too much, and she was expecting the major injury to come later, via a certain blonde.

"What do you say we cook your mom dinner?" she suggested, thinking that perhaps a surprise meal was a good way to begin groveling, since she highly doubted that Jennie's love of food had changed at all in the past twelve months. With practice, however, her cooking skills had improved.

"Yeah!" Jeff exclaimed, happily. "Can I help?"

"I couldn't do it without you," she grinned, and led the boy into the kitchen to work on supper. Finding a packet of stir-fry mix in the freezer, Cody settled on that, and asked Jeff to help her with the toast while she started cooking the chicken for the main dish.

Seeing her take the salt and other seasonings down from the cupboard, the young boy requested, "Can I put some of that in?"

They'd been discussing Jeffrey's Little League game, so Cody was startled by the sudden question, but nodded. "Sure you can, little man," she smiled. "Here, just take a little bit of the salt… There you go, that's all you need. Now, sprinkle it over the chicken.

"Can you reach it, or do you want me to lift you up?"

Tongue out of the side of his mouth in concentration, Jeff rose to his tiptoes, saying, "No, I could do it." With Cody's hands mere inches from his shoulders, ready to catch him should he lose his balance and fall, the tall woman couldn't react fast enough when the small arm faltered, and delicate skin landed on the edge of the pan, eliciting a yelp from the boy.

"Cody!" he cried, as the star whisked him up into her arms, setting him on the counter and immediately running cool water over the red, tender area. Tears streaming down his face, more scared than hurt, Jeff nodded when Cody asked him if he was all right.

"Come here, little man," she urged, kneeling on the floor and drawing him into a comforting hug. Examining the singed skin, Cody was glad to see it wasn't bad enough to blister, and gently kissed the injury.

"Let's put some ointment on it to make it feel better, and then get back to dinner. Do you want a Band-Aid, too?" With the small mishap behind them, both returned to the kitchen to finish cooking, Jeffrey staying a safe distance away from the stove at all times.

* * * * *

Jennie unlocked the door more than a half-hour after leaving her son alone, and was ready to apologize for being gone so long, when she stopped in her tracks. Was that chicken she smelled? Sure, her little boy was growing up fast, but he certainly wasn't capable of cooking on his own!

"What's going on here? Jeffrey?" the blonde called, and the child stepped out of the kitchen, a big smile on his face.

"Hi, Mom. We're cooking dinner!" he announced, proudly.

The woman paused. "We?" she echoed, an eyebrow raised. "Jeffrey, I told you not to let anyone in the house while I was gone, and I meant it!"

Cody came into view, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Don't get upset with him, it's my fault. I knew what you told him, but I convinced him to let me in," she confessed. "He helped me make dinner, and…"

"Jeffrey, go outside please." Jennie's expression was unreadable, but Cody guessed she wasn't real happy. Her tone said whatever was going to happen wasn't going to be pretty.

"But, mom…"

Cody interrupted his protest. "Do as she says, little man," she told him, gently squeezing his shoulder. With a heavy sigh of dejection, the boy trudged slowly out the front door, closing it tightly behind him.

"Are you happy now, Cody?" demanded Jennie, brushing past the woman to see the damage done to her kitchen. To her surprise, she found chicken stir-fry on the stove, toast by the toaster, something in the microwave, and dessert in the freezer. Everything was in one piece, and the aromas were wonderful, but that did nothing to improve her mood.

"What do you mean?" asked Cody, evenly.

"My girlfriend dumped me and my son loves you. You won, Cody."

"No, Jennie," Cody corrected, softly, looking down, "you're wrong. I didn't win; I lost. I've lost everything."

Sighing, Jennie asked, "Why are you here, Cody? What do you want to accomplish by cooking me dinner?"

Sad blue eyes looked up. "I just want to talk to you, Jen," she assured. "I only want a chance to explain."

Jennie snorted, and crossed her arms. "Well, let's hear it."

Cody blinked, surprised by the abrupt command. "Uh… do you want to eat first? I mean, it's ready now, and…"

"No, I want to hear what excuse the great Cody Madison can possibly come up with to explain herself," retorted Jennie, figuring it was going to be a long talk and led the way to the couch, Cody sitting cautiously at the other end.

"I don't have any excuses, Jennie. Only regrets."

"I don't understand why you feel the need to tell me anything, Cody. I thought a single mother with baggage was too much for you to handle, after all," the blonde stated, sharply, and Cody flinched.

"I'm sorry, Jen," she said, honestly. "I never wanted to hurt you, I swear it. I love you, Jennie, and I've never stopped."

"You've got one hell of a strange way of showing it." It was clear none of Jennie's pain had eased, and Cody wished to God that she had never been the cause of the injury. She'd do anything to go back and change things, but she had to settle for fixing things in the present.

"Look, I guess the beginning is the best place to start," Cody began, taking a deep breath. "I'm going to ask you to listen, Jennie. I really need you to hear me, okay? What I'm going to tell you is the truth." The blonde rolled her green eyes skeptically, but said nothing, so Cody kept talking.

"I already told you my mother died when I was young; I was only eleven. It was hard enough being without my mom, but my dad didn't have much of a clue on how to raise a girl. He was always much more interested in my brother, Barry, who was two years older than me. They were constantly playing baseball, and I figured if playing baseball would make my dad proud, then that's what I would do," the tall woman explained.

"But my dad never had enough time, he said, and baseball wasn't 'for girls' anyway," she quoted, lightly. "That's were Garret came in; he'd been a good friend of my father's for many years, and he was the one who pitched to me when my dad was too busy working.

"Six years later, when I was seventeen, my dad died of what the doctors called a stroke. I've always thought he died of loneliness, being so long without my mom, and never desiring to date again. I never knew that it was really possible to die of a broken heart… until last year." The implication was clear, but Jennie was silent.

"Anyway, after my dad passed away, I just lost it. My brother had moved out the year before, and refused to acknowledge me as his sister once he discovered I was gay, informing me of this at my father's funeral, adding how glad he was dad had died before he found out. That just tore me apart, and even though Garret was kind enough to take me under his wing, I didn't really notice.

"I started ditching my last year of high school, and almost didn't graduate with my class. I did drugs; I did everything under the sun. I smoked pot, dropped acid, did a few lines of crack, and even did an occasional shot of heroin. I've still got a scar on my arm, but most of my tracks have faded," she said, showing Jennie the inside of her arm, just above her elbow, touching the small white line that was evidence of her dark past.

"That's why it freaked me out when you called me a role model for Jeffrey, because I'm not a very good person to look up to. Or, I wasn't.

"Not only did I abuse drugs, but I abused my body. I had sex with any woman that was willing, and all this went on right under Garret's nose. He tried to keep me on track for baseball, and encouraged me to train for the pros, even though women weren't known to play. It paid off, but even when I was signed with the Warriors, I didn't stop my addictions, and I continued to spiral downward.

"It was the night after my first game when everything really fell apart, I guess," Cody continued, with a sigh. "Joe caught me and another woman together in a motel room. We'd… slept together, and Joe told me she was only sixteen years old.

"I completely flipped out. I mean, I was facing statutory rape charges if Joe or Pauline, the girl, decided to tell anyone. Joe promised me she wouldn't say a word, and neither would he, as long as I played my best and stayed clean. Of course I said I would; I didn't want to lose my career so soon, so I relied on Joe to keep my secret. I depended on him, and he knew it," she sighed.

"That night," she didn't have to say which one, they both knew, "Joe called me into his office. He told me he knew I was seeing you, and somehow he knew about my teaching Jeffrey baseball, and that if I didn't quit, because it was affecting my game, he'd go public with everything that happened three years ago. He said I had to break up with you, or else.

"I didn't want to do it, Jen. God help me, I never wanted to say those things to you, but I knew if I didn't , Joe would tell the cops, I'd go to jail, you'd hate me, and I'd lose you anyway. So, I did it, just like he asked.

"Jesus Christ, that hurt. All I wanted to do was take you in my arms and apologize, to tell you everything, but I figured you'd turn away from me and I'd go to prison, so it wouldn't do any good.

"But just last week," she said, coming up to the present, "I happened to run into Pauline at the stadium, and I found out she wasn't sixteen when I was with her, she was nineteen. It had all been a scam between her and Joe, and I'd finally stumbled upon it. I was royally pissed, to say the least.

"The first thing I did was confront Joe with what I knew, and he broke. It turned out Pauline was his niece and he had me set up from the beginning, wanting to catch me in the act so I'd be sure to keep playing for him. When he felt that my game was slipping by being around you, he threatened me to keep me in line, and it scared me bad enough to work.

"I quit the team, since my contract was up anyhow, and then I told Matt and Garret what happened," Cody stated. "Finally, I came to you. I have to make this right, Jen, and I'll do whatever it takes to do that. Come on, say something," she pleaded, when Jennie was quiet.

With an expression void of any emotion whatsoever, the blonde met her gaze, and said, "You expect me to believe that you broke up with me, and you said all those horrible things because of a blackmail that was a lie anyway, and therefore should have had absolutely no effect on you? I don't think so."

Cody hung her head and broke eye contact; she'd tried her best and failed. Jennie didn't believe her, and she'd told the truth. There was nothing left for her, and she'd never felt so… hollow. Jennie stood, but the way she bit her lip told Cody she wasn't going to like what was coming next.

"I gave you everything I had, Cody, and you threw it all away. What's more, you make it worse by coming here and expecting me to believe some lame lie, just so you can get me into bed and do the whole thing all over again," Jennie accused. "I'm not going to fall for it, and I don't know why I did in the first place. I believed in you, Cody, and I trusted you; but I was wrong. You used me like Donna did, only worse.

"I wish it wouldn't have happened, I really do. I wish I could take it back, and I wish you weren't my first, Cody," she finished, and made a move as if to walk away, but was stopped by a desperate hand gripping at her arm.

"No, Jennie!" cried Cody, blue eyes wide with fright, heart pounding and chest suddenly tight. "God, please, please don't say that, don't say you wish… That is supposed to be a very special time in your life, and you have no idea how much it meant to me that I was the one you chose to share it with. I couldn't stand it if you regretted it."

Seeing that the blonde still didn't seem to acknowledge what she was saying, Cody implored, "Look at me, Jennie, please. You've only seen me cry one other time, and I meant it then, too. You might not believe my words, but I can't fake my emotions!" Tears leaving their marks on the woman's face, sapphire eyes searched frantically for the smallest sign of trust or belief or compassion…

… and found nothing.

Clenching her jaw, Jennie uttered, "I think you'd better leave," and removed her arm from Cody's grasp, briskly holding the front door open. "Don't come near us again, Cody, I mean it. Just leave us alone."

Head low, Cody murmured a strained, "I love you, Jen," as she walked past, and was answered by a slamming door. Turning to head numbly towards her motorcycle and perhaps ride off some steep cliff, Cody was met with an expectant cherub of a child.

"Cody? Did you eat dinner? Did mom like it? Did you make her happy again?" Jeff asked, brown eyes full of hope and trust that tugged at Cody's already broken heart.

Swallowing hard, she admitted, "I tried, little man, but it didn't work. She's still very mad at me, and she has every right to be, but I did all I could."

"You promised! You said if you ever came back you'd make her happy! You promised you would! I hate you! " he cried, and went to run off, but Cody dropped down to his level and turned him to her, holding him tightly by the arms.

"No, Jeffrey, please. Your mom already hates me enough, I don't want to lose you, too," the woman said, voice thick with emotion. "I tried hard to keep my promise, honest. I'm sorry, Jeffrey."

The boy seemed to accept her apology, but still had tears in his eyes. "Can you come to see me play?" was his concern.

"Oh, I don't think so, little man."

"But I just want you to be proud of me," he bawled, and Cody pulled him into a hug.

"Jeffrey, I am proud of you," she insisted, "so very proud of you. Don't you ever forget that, okay? I know ho good you are at baseball, and I will always remember our practices, no matter where I go."

Jeff picked up on the last part of her statement. "Where are you going?"

Cody sighed. Damn it. "I'm not sure, but I might move to Arizona," she said, even though she wasn't really considering that option; she just didn't want to tell Jeffrey his mother had forbidden her to see him. "You be a good boy for your mother, okay? Keep playing Little League, and maybe I'll surprise you one of these days and show up at one of your games if I can.

"I love you, Jeff," Cody added, choking back a sob.

"I love you, Cody. I don't want you to go."

"I don't want to go, either, little man, believe me. But I have to," the woman stated, gently. "Listen, you'd better go back inside now, all right? Take care of your mom."

"I will," the boy promised, walking slowly into his house, entering the kitchen just in time to see his mother dumping the dinner he and Cody had cooked in the trash can.

It wasn't until the sun had set and the streetlights flickered on above her that Cody realized she hadn't moved for fifteen minutes. She was still standing in the yard, staring at the Donavon's front door. The star didn't have the desire to go anywhere else, and leaving would make it real.

Too real.

Garret's didn't sound good, because Jennie wouldn't be there. The stadium wasn't an option, because there wouldn't be anyone of any importance in the stands. Her bike wasn't even appealing to her, because Cody knew it would sooner or later take her home, but Jennie would never call.

The only thing that meant anything to her was inside that house, and didn't ever want to see her again. Her heart had shattered with the slam of a door, and nothing short of a miracle could save her soul.

Reluctantly walking to her motorcycle, Cody swing her leg over the seat, started the engine, and pulled out onto the road. She simply drove, not knowing where she was going, and not caring. It didn't matter how many miles she put between her and Jennie; the blonde had already dug an unsurpassable chasm between their hearts.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN
When Matt called the next day, to ask how things had gone with Jennie, he hurried over to the woman's house when he heard tears in his friend's voice. In fact, he was lucky to make out anything she said at all, she was crying so hard.

"Cody? It's Matt," he said. "Open up, Cody." In a moment, the door was unlocked. As soon as the man opened it, his tall friend fell into his arms, sobbing as he held her. He'd never seen her such a wreck, and gently guided her to the couch.

Sitting beside her, he wrapped his arms around her, and let her cry until she ran out of tears. When that finally happened, twenty minutes or so later, she sheepishly wiped at her eyes, and blew her nose, before facing him again.

"I take it things didn't go as planned," he said, gently, and she shook her head.

"She didn't believe anything I said," explained the woman, sniffling as she held back the tears at the remembrance. "She hates me, and she has every right, but, God, it hurts. Matt, she said she wishes she'd never given herself to me. She wishes I wasn't her first," she sobbed, and the tears returned full force, but she was able to stop them a few moments later.

"Keep trying, C-girl," he urged. "Don't give up."

"But, she said she didn't want me anywhere near her or Jeffrey," she protested, softly. "She said so."

"Well, if you're in Arizona, you don't have to worry about that, I guess."

"I don't know if I'm going anymore, Matt," Cody sighed. "I mean, I know she hates me, and I know she doesn't want me to see Jeffrey, but I want to watch him play. And see him grow up. I don't want to leave her."

Matt sighed. "So, what would you do? Keep playing for Joe?" he asked.

The woman shook her head. "No," she said, quietly. "I've done well, Matt. I was MVP this year. That's all I've hoped for. Maybe I'll retire," she decided.

Matt was silent. He didn't know exactly what to say to that.

For the next two months, the rest of the fall, Cody tried weakly to get Jennie to talk to her again, thanks to the persistence of her friend. The tall woman had the door slammed in her face more times than she could count on two hands. She didn't even want to try to remember how many times the dial tone had sounded in her ear.

"I've tried everything, Matt," she said. "I've told her I still love her, I've told her I hate myself more than she ever could, and she just won't listen! Sure, I could make her sit down and listen, but she'd just ignore me, because she thinks I'm lying," she sighed. "I talked to Luke, the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks; I may as well go ahead and sign with them. There's nothing for me here, now," the woman admitted.

Her friend was quiet for a while, thinking. Cody had become a very different person over the past few months; with each rejection, a little more of her heart died. She'd sneak a few minutes out of every weekend to watch Jeffrey play on his Little League team, and that made her happy, but it was short lived when she realized she'd never actually be able to sit in the stands and cheer him on. And the boy could never know how proud she felt to watch him employ the lessons he had taught her.

Maybe it was time for a little intervention on the behalf of friendship.

* * * * *
When the phone rang, Cody grumbled as she was roused from sleep. "Lights," she said, and winced when the bright lights came on. Squinting, she realized it was already eight in the morning. "Crap… dim lights." A few seconds later the light was lessened, and she hit the speakerphone button.

"Hello?" she croaked.

"Hey, C-girl," came the response.

"Hi, Matt," she replied. "What's going on?"

"Oh, not too much," he sighed. "Can I get you to do me a favor?"

Cody didn't hesitate. "Sure," she said. "What do you need?"

"Well, you see, I'm over in room 131 at the new hospital on 17th," he began, and Cody was quick to interrupt him.

"The hospital? What's wrong?"

"I got in a car accident," he said, lightly. "I'm all right, just busted my leg. But, I need a ride, since my car is totaled."

"I'll be there in fifteen minutes," she said, and her next call was to the cab company. Quickly getting dressed, she jumped into the cab, and asked the driver to wait, since she was bringing someone down with her. Racing up to 131, she helped her friend to the car, and settled his crutches next to him.

"So, what happened?" she asked, as the cab driver drove to the Brunswick residence.

He got settled in the seat before he answered. "Believe it or not, I was on my way to see Garret yesterday," he said. That wasn't actually a lie; he was just planning on making a short stop at a small blonde's house first.

"This huge truck came out of nowhere, the driver was drunk, and slammed into me. Of course, I'm driving my Porsche," he said, sniffling. "Anyhow, he ruined my car, but I didn't get hurt too bad. He hit a tree, though, and didn't make it." Matt sounded sorry. "But, that's what happened."

"And you're all right?"

"Yeah," he assured her. "Broke my right leg in three places, and a small concussion, but that's it," he said.

"Good thing you have a hard head," she smiled, and ducked the punch he threw at her. "This kind of ruins the first half of your season, huh?" The man nodded. "Sorry, Matt. Hey, I just realized I'm taking you home. I could take the chance to see your pigsty of a bachelor pad!"

Matt groaned, and covered his eyes, trying in vain to lock the doors when the cab driver came to a stop. Getting out, and watching the cab take Cody away, he knew what he had to do - try to reach Jennie again. Just because he messed up his leg didn't mean he'd quit.

He couldn't.

* * * * *
"Who is it?" called Jennie, in response to the knock on the door.

"Matt," was the reply.

The blonde frowned for a moment, pausing in the mending of a broken action figure. "Matt?" she repeated, trying to place the name.

The man sighed. "Yeah," he said, "Matthew Brunswick."

"Oh!" exclaimed Jennie, laughing as she rose to answer the door. Halfway there, she stopped, as a thought hit her. "Is Cody with you?" she demanded, her voice terse.

"No, it's just me," assured Matt, and the blonde peeked through the peephole, just to be safe.

"Sorry about that," she said, opening the door when she was sure he was alone, gasping when the man hobbled inside on his crutches. "What happened?"

"Car accident," the man said, grinning a little. "Broke my leg when a drunk driver hit me. Lucky nothing else got busted."

"I guess that means your season's shot, huh?" asked Jennie, gently, and the man nodded.

"Yeah, but that's all right," he said, surprising her. "Joe's being a jerk anyway; we're all trying to think of a way to get a new manager without changing teams." His brown eyes seemed darker at the mention of Joe Henry's name, and his feelings for the man were clear.

"Been a while since I've talked to you," commented the blonde, and the man agreed.

"I know," he said, "but I've been pretty busy, trying to keep in shape for the season and all. Fat lot of good it does me now, but..." He sighed, and there was an awkward silence for a moment.

"Oh!" he said, suddenly, reaching behind his back. "I almost forgot. Cody mentioned that Jeff's playing Little League now, so I thought he might like to have this. I know it's kind of beat up, but it serves its purpose."

That said, he withdrew an old, worn out baseball cap - no logo, just pure black. He decided against telling the woman that it was Cody's first baseball hat.

"I figured he could put his team name on it, if he wanted," added Matt, and Jennie smiled.

"Thank you," she said, placing it on the counter to remind herself to give it to her son when he returned home. "Jeff's at practice right now, over in the park, but when he gets home in a little while, I'll be sure to give it to him."

"Jennie, there's another reason I came here," the man admitted, and the blonde was immediately on edge. "I came to talk to you about Cody."

I knew it! thought the woman, angrily.

"Matt, nothing you can say will change what she did."

"I know," agreed the man, asking permission to sit down on the couch, since he was getting tired of being on his feet. Jennie nodded, and even sat in the recliner next to the sofa, ever the polite hostess, even when all she really wanted to do was ask him to talk about something else.

"What Cody did was wrong, but you have to understand that she only did it because she felt she had no other choice," Matt insisted. "Everything she told you, about what Joe did, it's true. He manipulated her into believing he was the only way out, and in a way, she depended on him for privacy and safety.

"She had no idea he was tricking her - how could she?" he questioned. "When she found out he'd lied to her, the first thing she did was tell him she quit the Warriors. After that, she told me everything, and then Garret, and finally, she came to you.

"When she broke up with you, she was torn up for the longest time," he confessed. "She was like a different person - she didn't smile, she didn't laugh, and she certainly didn't allow anyone to talk bad about you. She never told anyone why she did what she did, because she thought she couldn't, but she stopped living after that night. Hell, she barely existed.

"Cody loves you, Jennie. She's always loved you; even now, when you won't have anything to do with her, and she's hundreds of miles away, she still loves you." The man took a deep breath, and continued, "Like I said, she's not playing for the Warriors anymore, she's going to try for the Arizona Diamondbacks. That means leaving you and Jeffrey - it didn't matter to her that you hated her, and wouldn't allow her to see Jeffrey - all she wanted was to be close to you.

"She even considered retiring early, just so she could stay in California, but I convinced her to take the chance she had," said Matt. "Cody still plays the game like the MVP she is, but it doesn't mean anything to her anymore. Nothing does, except you."

Seeing the blank look on the blonde's face, Matt sighed. He wasn't getting through to her, but he wouldn't quit until she realized Cody still loved her - really.

"Jennie, I can tell you don't believe me, and I can't really blame you," he said. "You probably think Cody put me up to this, but I can assure you, she didn't. She'd probably be upset with me for bothering you, if she knew I was here. I came for you, and I came for Cody, because I know how much you two loved each other, and I know you can find it again."

With a heavy sigh, he made one last effort. "I want you to do something for me, Jennie," he said, and the woman raised an eyebrow at him, but nodded. "I want you to close your eyes." She did. "Now, run back through everything Cody said to you in the past few months, all the explanations she gave you, and the times she tried to apologize and make things right. Do you remember?"

"Yes," said Jennie, speaking for the first time since Matt had started his tirade.

"Listen to it again, but this time, let her words into your heart," he instructed. "Don't hear them with your ears, convinced she's wrong because she hurt you, listen with your heart, and hear how bad her own heart is breaking when she finds out you don't believe her. Feel her pain when you tell her you regret that night when you made love.

"Now," he said, after a pause, noticing tears in the corners of the woman's eyes, "tell me she was lying."

Green eyes opened, and Jennie's hand flew to her mouth, unsuccessfully holding back the sob that came through. Tears ran down her cheeks, as she replayed every heartfelt word that Cody had uttered, and realized she had been baring her heart and soul - and Jennie had simply looked the other way.

"She was telling the truth," she muttered. "Oh, God... I didn't hear her! I never really heard what she was telling me. I have to talk to her," she decided, wiping away the tears with the back of her hand. "Where is she?"

Matt glanced at his watch. "Probably a couple thousand feet in the air somewhere between here and Phoenix just about now," he said, and grinned, brilliantly. "The game starts at five, and it's just after three o'clock now. Get Jeffrey, and I can have us all on a plane to Phoenix, with front row seats to the game, in a little over an hour."

Jennie flew into the man's arms, and gave him a strong hug, even kissing his cheek. "Thank you so much!" she cried. "How can I ever thank you?"

The man smiled. "Just love her," he said, "and make her happy." The blonde nodded, and bustled about, throwing numerous clothes and other items into a large bag. When that was finished, she asked Matt to watch the house for a minute, as she ran across the street and brought Jeffrey home, much to the boy's dismay, who was in the middle of running to home base when his mother called him.

"Mom!" he whined, as she urged him to go home. "I was gonna win the game! Where are we going, anyway?"

"We're going to Arizona, to watch Cody play baseball," she said, and he grinned, almost tripping over his own feet in his disbelief.

"Really? But I thought you didn't like her anymore," he said, cautiously.

The blonde sighed, and stopped a few feet in front of her house, kneeling down to speak to her son. "Jeffrey, Cody and I have a lot to talk about. Matt's here, and he managed to talk some sense into me, and I realized I was wrong. I still love Cody very much, and Matt's going to fly us over to Phoenix so we can have a chance to get back together."

"Does this mean she can play baseball with me again?" he asked. When his mother nodded, he squealed with delight, and ran into the house, giving Matt a huge bear hug.

"Hey, Jeff," smiled the man. "Ready to go see Cody?" The boy nodded, and helped his mother carry their bags out to the car. Matt sat in the back seat so he could stretch out his leg, and Jeffrey sat in the passenger seat, eagerly reading each road sign that led to the airport.

* * * * *
Cody sighed as she adjusted her gloves, and smoothed down the strange uniform. It felt the same, but looked different. The name, the colors... it would take some getting used to, but she had to admit she was glad to be back in the game.

Of course, since I'm a former MVP, Luke wants me to go first, she thought, thinking of her new manager and friend, Luke White. Grabbing her bat, she readjusted herself, and did a few practice swings just outside the dugout.

As she stepped up to the plate, she cursed under her breath. The pitcher was Brandon Thomas - a man who, since she'd caught his near home run at the wall, had been her archenemy. He was an extremely good pitcher, throwing fast balls that were often clocked at over 90 miles-per-hour, and curve balls that even she had a hard time hitting.

Watching his position, she slid her left foot out a little, deciding he was going to try for a fast ball. The ball was thrown - a curve - and the tall woman had to jump back to avoid being hit in the side.

Shit! she cursed. He gave me the wrong signal! Glancing back, she noticed that even the umpire and the catcher were exchanging a quick glance, and Cody wondered if they'd also been caught off guard.

Taking a moment to calm down, she concentrated on the short stop, since that's where she was planning to hit the ball, and returned to the plate, unaware that a small blonde and her son had just found their seats in the stadium, not far behind her.

All right, Thomas, she thought, I'm ready for you, this time. Bending her knees, she clenched her teeth, and was sure he was going to throw another curve.

The man looked behind him, as was his habit, to check for anyone stealing a base, even though Cody was the first batter. Nodding slightly when the umpire reached the sign for a slow ball, he drew back, and threw with all his might.

And things seemed to go in slow motion for the tall woman at bat.

She saw him come out of the throw, and knew something was wrong - that wasn't a curve ball! Hell, that wasn't even a slow ball! Brandon Thomas threw a fast ball, as hard as he could, and it was headed straight for her. Her stance had been prepared for a curve ball, and she didn't have enough time to react, before the hard white sphere slammed into her left knee with a sickening crack. If she didn't know better, she'd have sworn the man had been aiming.

Dropping the bat, she fell back to the ground, clutching her knee as the umpire and catcher crowded around her, her teammates soon following.

"Gary, are there any cameras on me?" she hissed, biting her lip as the pain brought tears to her eyes. Glancing up, the catcher shook his head, and the tall woman let loose with a string of profanity that turned his face beet red, and even made the umpire look away.

"Motherfuck that hurts!" she cried, when the doctors lifted her onto the stretcher, since she couldn't walk. They asked her, when they first arrived, if she thought she could stand, and she felt like laughing at them.

Breathing hurts, and they want me to move? she thought, deliriously. After examining her in the physician's office, they decided she needed to be transported to the hospital, because the doctor said there was a good chance the 97 mph impact slipped her kneecap out of place, or did some other amount of significant damage.

The paramedics were called, she was taken to the nearest hospital, thankfully given something for the pain, and then prepped for operation. The last thing she remembered was a nurse telling her to count backwards from 100. By the time she reached 95, she was out like a light, and the surgeons were busy putting screws in her knee.

* * * * *
The next time she opened her eyes, her vision cleared, and she saw Matt standing there, crutches and all.

"Hey," she croaked, and he handed her a glass of water.

"Hey yourself," he grinned, as she swallowed the liquid gratefully, handing him the empty glass a few moments later. "How do you feel?"

"Like shit," she replied, "thanks for asking. I guess this puts a damper on my season, doesn't it? What are you doing here?" she asked, not waiting for an answer to her previous rhetorical question.

The man shrugged. "Oh, you know," he said, "just happened to be in the neighborhood, thought I'd drop by and say hi. Actually, there's someone here who wants to see you."

Cody raised an eyebrow at him, intrigued. "Who?" she asked.

"Wait here," he said, walking towards the door, and the woman chuckled.

"I'm not going anywhere," she smiled, rubbing at her eyes as the pain in her knee began to compete with the pain in her head.

She heard the door opened, and her surprised blue eyes focused on...

"Barry," she said, tonelessly. The tall man stood before her, a woman with a small child in her arms, and two girls by her side. Besides looking a little wider, her brother didn't look all that different from the last time she'd seen him, save the fact he had a wife and kids.

"Hey, Cody," he smiled. "This is my wife, Mary, and my two daughters, Sarah and Carrie," he introduced, taking the youngest girl, Sarah, in his arms when she began to fuss. "That's Benjamin, he's four months," the man added, motioning to the young boy Mary held in her arms.

The woman in the hospital bed nodded curtly, but said nothing. "What do you want?" she asked, tersely.

"I just came to see how you were doing," he said, sounding a little hurt. "I don't live far from here, and I go to every Diamondback game, so when I saw you get hurt, I thought I'd come to check up on you," he explained.

"You never cared before," was the cold response.

"Cody, I know what I said to you so long ago was wrong," he confessed. "I realized it a long time ago, I was just too proud to say anything. But now, I want my daughters to know their aunt. You've always been great with kids, Cody, and I know, if you just try, you'll love Benjamin. Please, let's just try to forget about the past, and move on from here," he begged.

Cody sighed. "I guess this is as close to an apology as I can hope for from you,"

she said, and the man looked down.

"Cody, I'm sorry," he said. "I should have said it earlier, years ago, and maybe we wouldn't be so distant now. But I do miss my baby sister," he smiled.

The tall woman smirked at him. "Who you calling 'baby sister'?" she remarked. "You disowned me, remember? Or did you forget just what you said to me?"

Barry shook his head. "No," he said, softly, "I remember. And I'd like to take them back, but I know it's much too late, so I'm just asking for a second chance."

Cody crossed her arms in front of her chest. "What's it worth to you?" she asked, and the man looked up, catching on to their long-forgotten game they used to play as children.

"Five bucks," he said, and his wife glared at him, disbelief crossing her face.

"Fifteen," Cody bargained.

"Seven."

"Twelve."

"Ten," said the man, firmly, and Mary looked like she was ready to slap him a good one right across the back of his head.

"Deal," grinned the woman, accepting her brother into a large hug that very nearly squeezed the life out of both of them. "I've missed you, Bear."

"I missed you, too, Cody," he said. "So much."

There was a small tug on her shirtsleeve, and Cody glanced down into the innocent brown eyes of her eldest niece, Carrie.

"Yes?" she asked.

"Are you my Aunt?" asked the girl, and Cody grinned, hefting the youngster up into the air, settling her over her lap.

"I guess so," said the woman. "Is that okay with you?"

The girl thought for a moment. "Yeah," she responded. "Daddy says this means we get to see you on our birthdays and stuff. Will you get us presents?"

"Carrie Nicole Madison!" scolded her mother, but Cody just laughed.

"Sure, princess," she said, tickling the girl's sides, until she was laughing so hard Matt came in to make sure everything was all right.

"Everything's great, Matt," she smiled. "Thanks."

The family stayed for a while longer, until Mary and Barry noticed that the tall woman seemed to be getting tired, and decided she needed her rest.

"We'd better be going," said the tall man, and hugs were exchanged once more. "Our phone number's on the card, so is our address. See you around, sis," he said, and Cody grinned, waving goodbye to her brother, sister-in-law, and nieces as they left.

Sighing, she fell into a light sleep, which was uninterrupted until she awoke an hour later, feeling a little better than she had before.

Once again, Matt was there.

"What, do you just sit there and stare at me while I sleep?" she joked, and the man laughed.

"Yeah," he agreed. "You're kind of cute when you're sleeping." The woman growled at him, but grinned. "I've got someone else who wants to see you. Actually, Barry wasn't my idea, he just kind of showed up on his own."

"So now who is it? I'm gonna be surprised as Hell if you found my long-lost sister," she said, and he frowned.

"Cody, you don't have a sister," he said, and Cody smiled.

"I know," she said. "That's why I'll be surprised if you found her."

The man just shook his head, and opened the door, motioning the people inside. Cody glanced up from the get well card she was reading, and was sure the medicine was making her hallucinate.

It can't be, she thought, swallowing hard as she just stared at the two people in front of her. It just... it's not possible!

She was still convincing herself she was seeing things, when a small boy rushed up to her side, jumped into the bed beside her, and gave her a big hug around the neck, holding her tightly.

"Cody!" Jeff cried, and the tall woman held him as if she'd never let him go.

Too surprised to speak, she just let the tears well up, and pulled him closer. Suddenly, two gentle hands lifted the boy out of her arms, and placed him on the ground. Blue eyes locked with green ones, and for a moment, neither woman said a word.

Then, Jennie asked, "How's your knee?"

"It hurts," acknowledged Cody, never taking her eyes off the woman, for fear she'd disappear into the medicinal induced haze if she did. "Are you... are you really here?"

Jennie nodded, and softly stroked Cody's cheek, placing a feather-light kiss on her forehead, before the tall woman wrapped her arms around her, and held the blonde in a tight embrace, her arms threatening to never let go.

"Jen," she choked out, through her tears, as she sobbed into the woman's shoulder. "Oh God, Jennie, I'm so sorry. I thought I'd never hold you again," she muttered. "I missed you so much! Oh, Jen, I love you. Believe me, Jen, I love with all that I am; I always have. Please, don't leave me," she pleaded, and Jennie pulled back, tears in her own eyes.

"I won't," was the whispered promise, as Jennie leaned forward, so their foreheads touched. "I won't if you won't."

"Never," said Cody, firmly. "Never again, Jennie. God, I never wanted to hurt you, sweetheart," she insisted, and Jennie nodded.

"I know," she said. "I know that now. Matt came and talked to me, and I realized I was wrong. We have a lot to talk about. Cody, come home with us," requested the blonde, and Cody couldn't believe her ears.

"Yes," she replied, leaning over to include Jeffrey in the hug, "God, yes."

Matt came in, and cleared his throat. "Sorry to interrupt, Cody, but I've got to ask you something," he said, and the woman raised an eyebrow at him.

"What?" she prompted.

"Well, since this injury kind of screws up your next season, how'd you like to be manager?"

The star's jaw dropped. "What did you say?" she asked.

"I asked if you wanted to be the Warriors' new manager," he repeated. "You did a lot of the plays for Joe anyway, and he was a jerk to all of us - no one liked him. We're gonna see if we can't convince him to take an early retirement, and you'd make a great manager, Cody," he insisted. "What do you think?"

The tall woman was silent for a moment, and looked at Jennie, lingering on the young face of Jeffrey, before forming her response.

"No," she said, shaking her head, "I don't think so. I know how much work that takes, and I've got a lot of catching up to do. Besides," she grinned, ruffling the youngster's hair, "if I'm manager, I can't be home to root for the best Little League player in California, now can I?"

The boy's smile was from ear-to-ear. "Are you really gonna come to my games, Cody?" he asked, and the woman nodded, earning her a large hug.

"Wouldn't have it any other way, little man," she agreed. "I see you got my hat," she smiled, tapping the cap on the boy's head, and his smile grew, if that was possible.

"This is yours? Cool!" he exclaimed, happily.

"You know what I'm gonna do as soon as we get back, honey?" asked Cody, knowing the word "honey" had never felt so good coming out of her mouth, and Jennie shook her head. "Cook you biscuits and gravy for breakfast." Tears came again as the blonde smiled, and enveloped the tall woman in a fierce hug, her son wriggling in between them, wrapping his small arms around them both.

And here, suddenly no longer able to feel the pain in her knee, only aware of the immense love radiating from heart that swallowed the two people she loved most in all the world, here is where Cody was struck with one of the most important thoughts in her life: there was someone out there who really loved her; not just a woman with a lot of money, not the Warriors' Most Valuable Player, but Cody Madison, for all she was and would be. The young blonde in her arms enabled her not only to love, but to forgive, and allowed her to realize there were more important things in life to an MVP - things that came before baseball, and even before her own life.

Things like love.

EPILOGUE
Two weeks later, Cody was hobbling around the house on crutches. She was still getting used to taking small steps, and had learned early bumping her left knee hurt like hell. Jeff made a point to walk on her left side when he saw her, so she wouldn't accidentally hit anything.

It was a Saturday, and the tall woman was frantically searching for her sunglasses. Jeffrey had a game in an hour, Jennie would be there any minute to pick her up, but she couldn't go without her sunglasses!

A knock on the door startled her, and she called, "Come in!", grateful to see the blonde she loved walk in.

"Ready to go?" Jennie asked, with a smile.

Cody turned wide blue eyes to the woman. "Have you seen my sunglasses, sweetheart?" she pleaded.

Smirking lovingly at the tall woman on crutches, Jennie walked up to face her. Standing on her tiptoes, she dropped the said sunglasses from the head they rested atop, placing a gentle kiss on Cody's lips at the same time.

The tall woman grinned, kissing Jennie's forehead. "Thanks," she said, chagrined.

Jennie shook her head, teasingly. "What on earth would you do without me?" she asked, grinning.

Blue eyes turned serious. "I don't know," she confessed. "I have no idea how I survived the last year without you by my side, love. I'm -"

Cody was cut off as the blonde put two fingers over her lips. "Cody, honey, we've been over this a million times in the last two weeks since you've been home. You saw you're sorry, I forgive you, we hug, we kiss, we make up," she smiled. "Please, let's not discuss this anymore. At least, not right now. If there's something else you want to talk about, we'll sit down tonight and talk; but for now, we have a baseball game to watch, okay?"

With a sigh, Cody nodded, and pulled the woman to her in a tight hug. "I do love you, Jen. So much," she whispered.

"I know, honey. I love you, too," echoed Jennie, before leading the tall woman out the door. "Jeffrey will be disappointed if we don't see him play. He's so excited that the coach has let him be up to bat first."

Cody grinned. "I'm glad I get to see his game from the stands," she stated, and Jennie raised an eyebrow at her. The woman blushed at her slip. "I watched him play a few times from the street. I knew you were there, so I never got too close, but I had to see him play," she admitted.

"I'm sorry I shut you out of his life," muttered Jennie, and Cody reached over and squeezed her hand.

"I thought we weren't gonna talk about this right now," she pointed out, lightly. "But, I do think we need to have a long talk later. I've done a lot of the talking lately, and I think it's time for me to listen."

Jennie agreed, and helped Cody from the car when they arrived at the park. Sitting on the front row of the bleachers, since she had trouble climbing stairs, Jennie sat beside her, and smiled as they watched Jeffrey practice with his team, the Little Warriors. Jeffrey had been chosen to help pick the name, and everyone agreed that was a good title.

Cody was tickled pink.

The small boy played extremely well, drawing from the things Cody had taught him, as well as what he had seen Cody and her former teammates do. As the tall woman watched, she couldn't help but relate to the small blonde how things could be done better, or what the coach could do to improve. Jennie noticed the intense look in the blue eyes she loved, and took note of it.

Jeffrey stepped up to the plate first, as the coach had promised, and missed the ball the first two pitches. On the final pitch, he connected hard, and sent the ball flying down center field, making it safely to second base. The next boy up struck out, but the one after that sent him home.

The game went by quickly, and before Cody knew it, it was almost over. Catching the final pitch, which was a grounder, Jeffrey threw it as hard as he could, and the runner was pronounced out at first. He'd won the game for his team!

After his friends had congratulated him, he ran over to his mother and Cody, and laughed happily when the tall woman lifted him onto her shoulders.

"Way to go, little man!" she praised. "That was a great catch."

"Thanks, Cody," he smiled. "Mom, the coach is gonna have a party at his house tonight for all the kids on the team. Can I go?"

"Sure, Jeff," she said, giving him a big hug. "You did a good job out there, Big Guy. Do you want to come home first, or stay with the team?"

"Is it okay if I stay?" he asked, glancing from his mother to Cody. When his mom nodded, he grinned, and gave both women a hug. "Okay! I'll see you tomorrow! Coach says he'll drop me off," he said, and scampered away to join his friends in the water fight they'd started.

"What do you say we go home?" offered Jennie, and Cody nodded, wishing she could take her hand as they walked, but having to maneuver her crutches instead. Once home, the tall woman joined Jennie on the couch, and adjusted her position until it was comfortable for her leg.

"You wanted to talk?" prompted Jennie.

Cody smiled, and took the two small hands in her own. "So did you," she reminded, softly. "Why don't you go first?"

"Okay," said the blonde, and took a deep breath. "When you first showed up again, out of nowhere, I was angry. I still loved you, and I knew deep down I did, but I didn't want to admit it to myself," she sighed. "I thought maybe if you just left, I wouldn't have to think about what had been said in the past.

"When Jeffrey seemed to be close to you again, I was upset that he could just forgive you so easily. I knew I wouldn't be able to, because of how I felt," she said, and was going to continue, when Cody said, softly:

"I hurt you."

"Yes," nodded the blonde, "you did. But when you tried to explain, I didn't listen; I was sure it was a lie. I couldn't understand how you could say the things you did, and still love me like you claimed," she said. "I never really heard what you said, Cody. You were telling me everything, giving your heart to me, and I just crushed it. I'm sorry," she said, tears in her green eyes, and Cody pulled her closer to her, holding her for a moment.

"You have nothing to apologize for, sweetheart," she murmured.

"But, I've always thought I was a forgiving person," the blonde protested.

Cody smiled. "You are," she said. "Jen, you are the nicest person I know, and I love you with all my heart. But I hurt you horribly, and I broke your heart. I took something very precious that you had given me, and basically threw it away. I still don't exactly understand how you could have forgiven that, but it really doesn't matter why. I'm just glad to have you in my arms again," she confessed, quietly.

"I'm glad to be here," Jennie agreed, snuggling closer into the warm embrace. "Cody, what were you doing out there tonight; critiquing the game?"

"Yeah," laughed the tall woman, "I guess I was. It's just a habit for me to watch the baseball games closely, and see what could have been better."

"But, honey, it's only a Little League game," Jennie pointed out, gently. Cody frowned, wondering what the blonde was getting at. "Cody, baseball is your life. Maybe you should reconsider the offer to manage the Warriors."

"Sweetheart, being manager means I have to go to every game, home and away," said Cody, quietly. "I don't want to be away from you like that again. Not after I just got you back."

Jennie agreed. "I know, Cody, I don't want you to be gone for that long, either," she said. "But, I also know how much you love the game, and how good you are at setting up the plays - why do you think Joe had you write all those plays for him? You're great at the game, Cody," she stated. "Promise me you'll talk to Matt on Monday, and ask him if the position is still available."

Cody nodded. "Okay, Jen," she sighed. "I'll ask him on Monday. Jen?" Green eyes turned to her. "Thank you for offering me the chance, honey."

Jennie just smiled, and wrapped her arms around the woman, hoping she'd made the right choice.

* * * * *
Monday came quickly, and Jennie was glad she owned the daycare - she handled new charges herself, and didn't have to worry about any parents running into Mac anymore. It relieved her of a lot of the stress she'd been under before.

She was fixing dinner, and Jeffrey was drawing in his room, when the front door opened, and Cody came in, wearing a black baseball cap.

"What 's this?" asked Jennie, motioning to the cap, which had the letters "LW" on it, for Little Warriors.

"Coach Lewis says I can be assistant manager and help to coach the kids when I don't have an away game," she smiled, and Jennie was silent for only a moment, before realizing what that meant - Cody was manager of the Warriors!

"Congratulations, honey!" she exclaimed, giving the woman a strong hug. The tall woman still walked with crutches occasionally, but was beginning to experiment with using a cane. "I'm sure you'll do great."

"Thank you for letting me live my dream, Jennie," said Cody, whispering into the woman's ear, as she held her close. The blonde knew she'd miss the woman she loved when she had to leave, but also knew baseball was what Cody needed. And if she couldn't play, she could coach.

"Where are you going?" asked Jennie, when the tall star began making her way down the hall towards Jeffrey's room.

Cody grinned, and replied, "I'm going to check on my future MVP."