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MVP

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~ MVP ~
by C. E. Gray


Standard Disclaimer:
This is an Uber, so the characters will probably remind you of our two favorite ladies, but other than that, it's mine. Let me know if you want to borrow anything, or the like.

MVP is copyrighted ©2001 CE Gray

Sex Disclaimer: But of course! This is the story of two women who love each other, and have been known to express that love. Nothing extremely graphic, as always, but if you can't handle a little love, I suggest you click "back".

Language Disclaimer: Let's just say I'd be in big trouble if I ever talked like this in front of my mother. There are lots and lots of bad words in here, because a six-foot tall woman is not someone you want to piss off, but when she gets mad, she does curse. Please have a bar of soap handy.

Thanks to: Again, thanks to my beta and best friend, Amber, and my friend Charlene, for all their input into this story. And for keeping this little bard going when things got tough. I love you guys!


No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.

- Robert Frost

Without further ado, the story!

Y02Mustang@AOL.com


Part 1

CHAPTER ONE

Cody Madison sighed as she sat on the bench. The crowd sounded in her ears, screaming fans cheering on the home team, but Madison had long since learned to tune them out. Nothing was worth hearing, unless Joe Henry, her coach, was talking to her, or one of her teammates had something to say.

After three years with the San Diego Warriors, still a fairly new baseball team, Cody knew what she had to do to concentrate: nothing. The woman was the only female on the team, and she had to block out the sounds of her male companions, the fans, and even her own breathing. Nothing could be focused on other than her own mind, in which she was formulating where to send the ball.

"Madison, you're up after Brunswick," called Joe, bringing her out of her thoughts, and Cody nodded. She was always up to bat after Matthew, but that was only because she had the power to hit almost every ball through nearly all the opposing team's basemen or outfielders, and Matt was usually only up when there was one out and at least one on base.

Number 23 got to her feet, stretching her tall six foot frame, making sure her long black hair was still braided tightly. She tucked it under her helmet, before picking up her trusty black wooden bat, which she secretly referred to as Dark Sky. The way she figured it, if men could give names to their cars, among other more private things, why couldn't she name her bat?

Cody stood just outside the dugout, doing a few practice swings, letting herself get back into the feeling.

Cody watched as Matt hit a strong line drive over the first baseman's head, managing to get to first safely. The bases were loaded, now.

"Go for it, Madison," said Joe, and she nodded to him. Adjusting her gloves, and her gray uniform, which had the word "Warriors" written in black cursive letters across the front, Cody Madison stepped to the plate, smiling inwardly when the outfielders took a few paces back.

The third basemen for the opposing team, the Saint Louis Cardinals, Nick Hunter, tightened his glove, hoping against hope that Madison wouldn't send a ball in his direction. The last time the woman had been on plate against his team, a few months ago, she had hit a strong line drive right to first, which Hunter had tried to catch. The ball went into his glove with such speed, that he dropped it as his wrist was wrenched backwards, spraining it severely.

He hoped he wouldn't have to go through a month of physical therapy, again.

Cody wrapped both hands around her bat, and brought it above her right shoulder, keeping a close watch on the position of the pitcher.

Hm, she thought. He's gonna try to get me to strike with a fast ball. Fat chance. Guy must be new; most know that I live for fast pitches.

Smiling to herself as she felt Dark Sky connect solidly with the ball, Cody took off for first base, glancing up just in time to see the white sphere glide into some lucky fan's glove. She jogged the rest of the way back to home plate, allowing herself to listen to the crowd, as they chanted her name.

"Way to go, Cody," said Matt, giving her a high-five as she returned to the dugout, where the entire team was cheering her. "That puts us in a 12-3 lead!"

"Nice hit, Madison," added Joe, the manager. "I knew there was a reason I liked you." Cody just nodded, and retreated back to the bench to meditate, until the teams changed positions, or it was her turn to bat again; whichever came first.

"Wakey, wakey, Cody," said Matt, a while later, tapping her on the shoulder. Blue eyes fell upon the man, as she raised an eyebrow at his interruption. "Come on, girl. We're out. Joe says he wants you to play left field." Again, the woman of many words, Cody nodded, and grabbed her glove as she followed the guys to the playing field.

Well, if it isn't the almighty Mark McGwire, Jr., thought Cody, upon

seeing who was up first to bat. Taking after his old man, who retired years ago, in 2007 or so. Oh, well.

As the blonde man stepped up to the plate, his physique rather impressive given his age, he dug his feet into the dirt, and eyed the pitcher, carefully, ready to add another home run to his record, which was steadily approaching that of his father. When the ball was thrown, Mark swung with all his might, sending the ball straight to the short stop, who caught it with ease. The legend's son threw his bat to the ground as he returned to the dugout, angry with himself.

You're letting all that fame and pressure go to your head, smirked Cody. Temper, temper. No need to throw things, Mark.

Oh, great. It's Rick Rutland, Mr. Ground Ball himself.

Cody steeled herself for the ball, which was sent to right field, so she shrugged it off, spitting out her gum as it lost its taste. It was the last inning, and there was no doubt the Warriors were going to win, but that didn't mean Cody didn't play with any less heart.

One out, one on first, and only two pitches into the last half of the inning, she thought, proud of her team. She watched, uninterested, as the next batter struck out at the hands of one of the Warriors' best pitchers, James Corbel.

And what have we here? Oh, Jim? tsk, tsk, tsk, she scolded the Cardinal's new manager in her mind. You're sending Ramirez out in the ninth? What are you smoking? Jesus Christ, man, don't send out your weakest hitter when you're this far behind! For crying out loud, use that tiny brain of yours for something, Jim!

Jesus Ramirez missed the first two pitches, giving him one strike and one ball, and told himself he had to connect with this one. His career had been going badly all season, and his fans, even at home, were depleting, so he had to bring his reputation back up somehow.

The pitch was made, and so was the hit; a low ball to left field. Cody saw this, and ran towards it, realizing it was going to bounce.

Son of a bitch!

With a burst of speed, the woman stuck out her glove as she slid on her side, and felt the satisfying pressure as the ball entered her mitt. Getting to her knees, she threw the baseball to second, where Matt caught it, and the runner was pronounced out.

A cheer went up in the stands, and on the field, as the Warriors remained undefeated. Matt helped Cody to her feet, before slapping her on the back, happily.

"That was a great catch, Cody," he said, and Cody playfully knocked his helmet off his head, revealing black hair in a crew cut, and dancing brown eyes that were usually hidden by the brim of his hat. The man looked up at her, wryly, but smiled.

"Not so bad yourself," she said, giving the man a small grin. Matt was one of the few people who could get more than a nod, shrug, or noncommittal grunt out of the tall woman.

"Yeah, just don't throw so hard next time, huh?" he asked, jokingly, flexing his wrist. "You about took my hand off." Cody shrugged, as if she couldn't help it, and allowed her teammates to congratulate and thank her, before heading into the dugout to retrieve her bat and other belongings.

"Where'd you learn a move like that, Madison?" asked Joe. "I sure as hell never taught you that!" Cody chuckled, but shrugged. "Well, good play, at any rate. We've got a few days off, and then a game in Phoenix, so enjoy it. Good game, guys," he said, and moved on to speak with the other players.

Cody placed her glove over her bat, grabbed her black baseball cap, and went to the locker room, slipping away before any reporters had a chance to catch her. Screaming fans, proud teammates, and autographs she could handle pretty well, but Cody Madison despised talking to the press. She'd avoid the torture anyway she could, no matter if she was the hero of the game or not.

Shoving her things in the locker, the woman decided to hit the showers while the other guys were busy answering the press. Not that she would've cared had the entire male team been in there with her, it was just nice to get a shower alone once in a while.

Letting the hot water run over her body, she felt her right shoulder, not happy with the way it was sore. She wouldn't tell anyone, for fear of having to make an appointment with the athletics physician/therapist, but she thought she pulled the muscle with the home run, and just aggravated it further when she had to rush the ball to second, for the game-winning catch.

Drying herself with a clean towel, Cody dressed in a pair of blue jeans, a white T-shirt, and sneakers. Taking her hair down, she slipped her sunglasses on, and put a few things in her backpack. Items she always carried, just in case, like a pen, a few extra caps, an extra T-shirt, and something no one else knew was there - a nice-sized knife. She'd had enough run-ins with crazed, drunken, stupid fans in unlit places to feel the need to carry the weapon.

Swinging the pack over her shoulder, and preparing to dodge the bright camera flashes, Cody stepped out into the public once more. Evading the numerous reporters' demands with a cold "No comment", Cody made her way to the street, glad that most of the fans had left already. Even in the year 2017, vulture-like reporters and ecstatic fans hadn't changed; neither had the all-American game of baseball, really.

Instead of going through the main parking lot, Cody went around the back of the stadium, and hailed a passing cab. She'd hitched a ride with Matt to this game, so her vehicle was still twenty-five miles away, at home.

"Hey, aren't you??" asked the cabdriver, and Cody just glared at him.

"Take me to Garret's Restaurant," she said, quieting the man, who nodded his

assent. Garret's was a small, but well known restaurant that Cody went to often when she was at a home game, which wasn't often. At least, it hadn't been, lately. The owner, Garret Wilson, was a close friend, since long before the day she went pro. A friend of her father's, he had quickly befriended the quiet teenager that was Stephen Madison's daughter, and insisted that she keep playing baseball, despite the fact that all players during that time were men.

Three years later, at seventeen, when her father died, Garret was what kept Cody in the game. He became a second father, taking her under his wing since she had no willing relatives, her mother being lost many years before. The man was very kind and understanding, and coached her until the Warriors' scout spotted her years later, and convinced the coach that she was "a real gem".

Two batting-practices and three trial games later, Cody was signed up.

"Here we are," said the driver, and Cody handed the man a twenty, not bothering to wait for her change, thanking him as she climbed out of the cab.

The tall woman entered the restaurant, which also served as a bar, and noticed with irritation that her regular table was occupied by strangers. A small blonde and her younger brother, it seemed, apparently taking advantage of the rule that children were admitted until ten o'clock.

With a heavy sigh, she decided not to tell the duo that they were sitting at her table, and took the nearest empty seat.

Within moments, Garret found her. "Hey, Cody," he greeted, and she stood,

giving the graying man a strong hug.

"Hi, Garret," she said. "How are you?"

"Oh, I'm doing fine," he said, running an aging hand through his amazingly

thick crop of black hair, which was only lightly streaked with gray. "I saw that catch, by the way. Good one, kid. Didn't I tell you that move would come in handy?" he asked, and Cody laughed.

"Yeah, sure did. You were right," she added, sitting back down. "My coach

couldn't figure out how I learned to do it."

"So, how are you doing?" Garret asked.

Cody shrugged. "Same shit, different day," she replied, grinning a little when the man set a glass of Coca-Cola in front of her. "Thanks. Say, it's not often you let someone sit at my table. What gives?"

The man glanced up, only then realizing that Cody's table was indeed taken. "Oh, sorry, I didn't notice. Want me to ask them to move?" he offered, but the woman shook her head.

"No, it's okay," she shrugged. "They look comfortable. No biggie."

Garret wanted to sit next to his girl, and get her to talk about what was bothering her, because he knew it was probably somehow connected to her lack of a social life, but he had impatient customers waiting at the bar. "I've got to run before those guys break into my liquor, but stay for a while, can you? We'll talk later," he added, and bustled off to take care of his buyers.

She was taking a sip of her soda, when someone tapped her on the shoulder.

"Excuse me," said the man, when she glanced back at him, "would you mind signing an autograph for me?"

Cody sighed, and extended her hand, into which the man placed a pen and paper. Signing her name quickly on the napkin, she handed it back to him, and accepted his profuse thanks, until it got on her nerves, and she told him to back off.

As if a neon light had been alighted above her head, saying "Hey, look! Cody

Madison is here! Yeah, she's right down here!" a horde of anxious fans surrounded the woman, demanding an autograph on something or another. One man wanted his book signed, another wanted his shirt endorsed, and one woman somehow held her bra out to be autographed, the owner of which received an amused look and a raised eyebrow from the baseball star, who signed it nonetheless.

Garret came to her rescue. "Hey, you guys think an autograph is cool, let me

tell you! I've known Cody since she was a teenager. Have I got some stories to tell," he said, and Cody didn't care which ones he told as long as it wasn't the one about her bold questioning of her mother in the supermarket at seven-years-old as to why boys were different than girls. She gave him a grateful look and slipped away, while the crowd was otherwise entertained.

"Mind if I sit here?" asked Cody, upon noticing that, while her table was still occupied by the same two people, they were the only ones in the establishment who seemed uninterested in her fame.

"Sure, have a seat," smiled the young blonde woman. Her green eyes looked

friendly, and Cody pulled out the chair, sitting beside the young boy. Cody guessed him to be about four or five, with sandy-colored hair and innocent brown eyes, and he sat in the chair next to the blonde, munching on a few pretzels.

"Trying to escape the crowd, hm?" she asked, and Cody froze. What was that

saying? Out of the frying pan, into the fire? What had she gotten herself into?

Mutely, she nodded, and another smile graced the woman's features.

"Yeah, I don't blame you. I don't see what they're all fussing about, anyway.

Garret is always telling stories about that Cody girl," she shrugged, and Cody's jaw nearly dropped in surprise. "I don't pay all that much attention, to tell you the truth."

She doesn't know who I am, thought Cody. She figured if she ever met a person who didn't recognize her that she'd feel neglected, but she actually felt pleasantly relieved. Maybe now she could be treated like a person, not some rich star that could not possibly be the same as everyone else.

"Is he? I don't come here very often," she said, regaining her voice, and the woman nodded.

"Yeah, mostly every night we've been here. Jeffrey, sweetheart, don't play

with your food," she said, softly talking to the boy, who immediately put the pretzel in his mouth, instead of running it around on the table as he had been, making galloping noises.

"Good boy," she praised, brushing the boy's shaggy hair out of his eyes, and

kissing his forehead, at which Jeffrey grinned up at her, lovingly.

Cody took a chance. "Is he your brother?" she asked, and the blonde blushed.

A charming color, Cody thought, and then shook her head of such ideas.

"No, he's my son," she said, and Cody's jaw almost dropped again. The woman

looked too young to have a kid, even a toddler! "He's five and a half," she continued.

"You look too young," blurted Cody, and the flush on the woman's cheeks

increased at the compliment.

"Well, I'm twenty-five, but thank you," she said. "I'm sorry!" she exclaimed, suddenly. "Here I've been, chatting with you, and we don't even know each other. I'm Jennie Donavon," she said, extending her hand.

The dreaded introductions, she sighed.

Cody gripped her hand, and said, "Nice to meet you, Jennie." She didn't offer her name, but knew it was too much to hope for, for the woman not to ask.

"And you are??" she asked, and Cody sighed.

"Cody Madison," she replied, but the blonde only smiled.

"That's a lovely name," Jennie said. "This is Jeffrey. He's my big stuff, aren't you?" The boy nodded, and giggled as his mother tickled him for a moment. She glanced at her watch, and her green eyes widened. "It's been very nice talking with you, Cody, but we've got to be going; my parents are expecting me. Maybe I'll see you around again sometime," she said, wiping Jeffrey's mouth of crumbs as she spoke.

"I'd like that," Cody heard herself say, and then looked away.

"So would I. Bye," she said, picking her son up as she walked to the door, waving to the tall woman before she left. Cody returned her wave, and ordered another soda, feeling much better than she had a half hour ago.

Upon catching the tail end of Garret's story, she groaned and tried desperately to crawl under the table, as the laughter echoed from the man's finish of, "So, at the top of her lungs in the middle of the checkout line, Cody asks, 'But, mom, why do boys have penises?'"

CHAPTER TWO

"That Jennie is something else, isn't she?" asked Garret, having dispersed the crowd, and taking a seat next to Cody, who just shrugged after giving him The Look for the story he'd chosen to tell to a group of strangers.

"Yeah, I guess," she said, hiding any further response by taking a long drink of her soda, swallowing nearly half of the glass.

"Quite a looker, too," he added, nudging Cody, who rolled her eyes.

"Yeah, I guess," she shrugged, again.

"Is that all you can say?" demanded the man, and Cody smirked.

"Yeah, I guess." That earned her a punch in the arm. The right arm, to be precise, and she winced.

"Oh, sorry, kid. Are you all right?" Garret asked, seeing that Cody's pain was genuine, not feigned as he had first suspected.

"Yeah, just pulled a muscle on that home run, I think," she admitted, rubbing the joint and rotating it slowly in an attempt to make it feel a little better. "It's nothing serious." Garret knew better, but didn't say anything, because he also knew Cody wouldn't go to the doctor unless she was too injured to fight off the people who would drag her to the physician.

"So, what's the game plan for the next few weeks?" he asked, and Cody sighed.

"Joe says we've got a few days off before we head to Phoenix, where it sounds like we'll play a game or two against them, and after that, I'm not sure. I haven't been paying much attention to the schedule, to tell you the truth," she said, and Garret nodded.

"That's okay. What have you been up to lately, Cody? I've missed our talks," he said, and Cody agreed.

"Me, too," she said, sadly. "But, you know me, Garret. I'm not one for conversation."

"All right, Cody Madison, what's bothering you?"

Cody's eyes widened. "Huh? What do you mean?" she asked, playing innocent.

"You know exactly what I'm talking about," said Garret. "You only turn down our talks, which usually turn out to be just a contest to see who can tell the dirtiest joke, anyway, when there's something wrong that you really don't want to talk about. So, talk," he finished, and Cody sighed, again.

"Garret, you know I love you, but?" she began, but the man cut her off, his brown eyes firm.

"No buts young lady," he said, and Cody turned back to her drink, which was now empty. "I want to know what's going on in that head of yours, and why you're upset."

Cody scowled. "Barry called me last night," she admitted, and Garret was shocked.

"Barry? As in, your brother that you haven't talked to in God knows how long? That Barry?" he asked, and Cody nodded. "Wow. What'd he have to say?"

"Not much," she shrugged. "He was just calling because he wanted money. Said since his little sister's rich, that surely she can spare some dough for her brother. He said he needed it because his daughter needed braces or some shit like that," she scoffed.

"And? What'd you tell him?" asked Garret, already knowing it would be bad.

"I told him to fuck off," she said, simply.

"Cody, he's your brother," began the man, gently, but Cody shook her head.

"No, he's not. He disowned me, remember? About twelve years ago, just after Dad died," Cody reminded him. "But now that I've got money, I'm suddenly back in the family? Hell no."

Garret sighed. He knew it wouldn't do any good to try to convince Cody to get back on better terms with Barry, because the woman could hold a grudge longer than anyone he knew, and while she had every right to be angry for the cruel things Barry had said, they were still family. But the baseball player didn't care.

"So that's what's bothering you?" clarified Garret, and Cody shrugged.

"Yeah, basically," she responded.

"Basically? It can't just be your brother, Cody, and your game's been great, so it's not that. What is it?" asked Garret, softly. Cody shifted lower in her seat, and looked away. "You're lonely," the man said, suddenly, as if it had just been revealed to him.

Cody's face held an expression of surprise and annoyance. "What? No! I'm not lonely. I like everything just fine the way it is, Garret," she sighed.

Except that I'm lonely, she thought, sadly. How long has it been since I've had a real relationship with someone? Three, four? five years? I can't even remember. Shit, Cody. No wonder you're so withdrawn. "People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges," isn't that right, Mr. Joeseph F. Newton?

"Fuck," she muttered, chewing on a piece of ice. "I hate self-analysis."

"What was that?" asked Garret, not understanding what she had mumbled.

"Nothing, just thinking," she responded, before getting to her feet. "Listen, it's been great seeing you again, and I'll probably be back tomorrow night, but I'm gonna catch a cab and head home. I'll see you around, Garret," she said, giving the man a strong hug before she left, placing a $20 bill on the table as she walked out the door.

A half hour long cab ride later, and she was home. Without bothering to heck her messages, or fix herself something to eat, the baseball star sank tiredly into bed, falling asleep with her shoes on.

* * * * *

Jennie smiled as she tucked her son into bed, and kissed him goodnight, after reading him his favorite bedtime story. They'd kneeled beside his bed as he said his prayers, as they did every night, and then they'd brushed their teeth, and he climbed into bed for the nightly ritualistic reading of Dr. Suess. The author that had been one of her favorites was now a first choice for her son.

The visit with her parents had been nice, and they really enjoyed spending a few hours with their grandson, spoiling him rotten as grandparents did, getting him all wound up and then sending him home. Jennie had managed to deftly slide out of two dates that her mother had lined her up with; more rich pretty boys, she assumed. How did she tell her mother that all she could think about all night long was a tall, dark, and incredibly beautiful woman?

"I can just see it," she muttered to herself, as she climbed into bed and pulled up the covers. "'No, mom, I'm sorry. I'm afraid I can't go out with John and Jim, because they're just not my type. Oh, what is my type? It runs along the lines of six-feet tall, jet black hair, gorgeous blue eyes, with a voice and a body to die for. Have I met him? Well, in a sense? You see, mom, he is a she.' Oh, yeah," she sighed. "That'd go over like a lead balloon."

While Jennie had not been able to get up the courage to tell her parents about her lifestyle yet, she was glad that Jeffrey was too young to remember the last time she had a girlfriend, which had been about three years before.

So, she didn't have to worry about him accidentally saying something to Grandma or Grandpa.

Jennie chuckled to herself as she drifted off to sleep, and a sudden phrase popped into her head. "Hey, Grandma! I saw Mommy kissing Mrs. Santa Claus!" Closing her eyes, the blonde succumbed to sleep.

* * * * *

The next day, Jennie didn't even have time to think about Cody Madison; she had a crisis on her hands. Two of the people who were supposed to help her take care of the kids at the daycare where she worked called in sick, so it was just her and "Uncle Mac" the entire day.

Mac Donaldson, or "Uncle Mac" to the kids, was an elderly looking gentleman, and he would have made a terrific Grandfather, except for one minor detail - he hated kids. Rather than assist Jennie in her duties, he sat in the back office, smoking a cigar and falling asleep in the big chair at his desk. The only reason he held the job at all was because he owned the place, and knew a lot of money could be raked in, in the business, if you played your cards right. Most of the parents had never met the Mac in "Uncle Mac's Daycare", and Jennie was glad - they'd pull their kids in an instant, if they thought he came anywhere near the children, which he didn't.

That Saturday had started out like any other; not many kids, thankfully, because not many of the parents worked on weekends. One of the kids fell in the small playground, so Jennie nursed a scraped knee and a wounded spirit.

While she was placing a bandage on the child's knee, and assuring her that the pain would go away when she said the magic words, a cry came from the other room. Quickly waving her hands across the injury, Jennie said, "Folly kazoo!", kissed the girl's forehead, and set her on the floor to play, which she did, happily bouncing around as if she hadn't a care in the world.

"Okay, now what's this all about?" she asked, upon seeing that the daycare's bully, James Riley, was pushing Jeffrey to the ground.

Separating the boys, Jennie repeated her question, to which James replied, "He started it! He took my crayons!"

Jennie kneeled down to be eye-level with the two. Facing her son, she asked, "Jeffrey, did you take his crayons? Tell the truth."

"No! I only used the red one 'cause he was all done with it!" the boy protested, and Jennie nodded, holding up a hand to silence James' shouts.

"It doesn't matter who took what, there are enough crayons for everyone to share, okay?" The boys nodded. "Now, is fighting how we solve things?" A shake of their heads. "What did I do to solve the problem?"

The kids thought for a moment. Then, Jeffrey said, quietly, "You talked to us about it."

Jennie nodded. "That's right. It's better to use words than fists, remember that. Now, go play," she said, shooing the boys off, and she was glad to see James ask Jeffrey if he could borrow the red crayon, to which Jeffrey nodded, and handed it over. Her grin grew when she realized the two boys were now coloring a picture together.

Adults could really learn from kids, she thought, as she went out to do a quick patrol of the playground. Seeing that all was well, she turned to go back inside, when one little girl ran up to her, in tears, holding her finger in her mouth.

"What's wrong, Nicole?" she asked the girl, smoothing her thin blonde hair back from her face and behind her ear, lovingly. The girl pulled her finger out of her mouth, and showed it to the woman, her frightened brown eyes imploring for her to do something. Jennie examined the digit carefully, and finally spied the problem - a splinter. And a nice-sized one, too.

Deep.

Well, this one's gonna be fun to get out without a scream or two, Jennie thought, leading the girl inside to find the tweezers.

"Hey, Nicole. Do you know what these are?" she asked the youngster, who nodded.

"Tweezers," she responded, and Jennie nodded.

"That's right. But, these are magical tweezers. They don't hurt," she said. "See the little point right there?" Nicole nodded. "That's where the magic is. When I use that to get rid of the nasty splinter, it won't hurt at all, because the magic will suck up all the pain, okay?" Her eyes wide, and a small expectant grin on her face, Nicole nodded.

"Where did you get the splinter from, Nicole?" she asked, trying to keep the girl talking while she dug for the splinter.

The girl didn't even flinch, convinced the magic was working. "On the slide," she replied, watching Jennie interestedly. "Is the splinter hiding?"

Jennie smiled. "Yes, sweetheart, I think it is. But, I'll bet you the magic tweezers can find it. What do you think?" Nicole nodded, and clapped when Jennie removed the sliver from her finger.

"Do you need a Band-Aid?" she asked, but the girl shook her head.

"Well, let's wash our hands, just to be sure, okay?" Nicole nodded, and Jennie

washed her hands as the girl stood on the step-stool to reach the sink, and did the same.

Drying their hands, Jennie said, "You were a very brave girl, Nicole. I'll make sure to tell your mom all about it, okay?" The girl agreed, enthusiastically, and scampered off to play. Doing one last check, and announcing nap-time for a while, Jennie served each child a carton of juice, and put them down on their blankets. When all was silent, she crept out of the main room, and into Mac's office.

The man was sound asleep, his large feet resting on his desk, as a loud snore emitted from underneath a ragged felt poor-excuse for a cowboy hat.

"Mr. Donaldson," she said, quietly. "Mr. Donaldson!"

The man jerked awake, and glared at her as he barely kept his hat from falling to the ground in his surprise. "What do you want? Is it time to go home yet?" he demanded, and Jennie shook her head.

"Not yet, sir. It's barely noon. I wanted to speak with you about the slide again," she said, and winced, knowing what was coming.

"I told you, we're not replacing anything in the playground. The brats can play with what they've got, and if they don't like it, they can stay inside!" he cried.

"They like it just fine, Mr. Donaldson, it's just that it's dangerous. You see, they've been getting hurt on it for the past few months, and it's not safe anymore. Just last week, Timothy fell off when one of the old pieces of timber on the ladder snapped. And today, Nicole came in with a big splinter in her finger," she said. "I really think we need to invest in a new slide, if not a whole new playground set, before one of the children really gets hurt."

"Kids get hurt all the time, Jennifer," he said, and she resisted the urge to tell him her name was Jennie, and it was not short for anything.

"I understand that minor injuries occur often, but I'm talking about real problems here," she insisted, not wanting to raise her voice if she could help it. "I will not stand by and continue working in a place where the children's health is at risk!"

"Then do something about it on your own time, or quit, I don't care. But stop bothering me," he said, gruffly, closing his eyes and falling right back asleep. Jennie sighed, and left the room. If it wasn't for the pay, she'd quit. But, she needed the money, and she loved kids. There was no way around it - she was going to have to find some way to fix the problem herself.

The rest of the day went fairly smoothly, with no major incidents, save another scratched knee. When the parents came, and picked up their children, they were met with a cheerily smiling blonde and a good report.

"See you Monday, Lauren!" she called to the girl, as her mother walked with her out to the car. The girl waved, and the two drove away. Knocking on Mac's door, Jennie told him it was time to go, and then locked up, before climbing in her own vehicle with Jeffrey, and driving home.

"You did good today, Mom," said the boy, and his mother smiled at him.

"Thanks, Big Guy. I appreciate that you shared with James. It looked like you two got along okay afterwards," she hinted, and Jeffrey nodded.

"Yeah," he said. "He said he thinks he has to be mean 'cause that's what his Dad does, but I told him he doesn't have to, he can be nice and still be a big kid."

"That was very nice of you, Jeff," Jennie said, wincing inwardly at the implication that James' father was abusive or controlling. She wished it didn't have to be like that, abuse in the world of a child, but knew there was nothing she could do about it, except give James a good environment at the daycare.

And Jeffrey was helping a lot, whether it was passing out the juices, making sure that if anyone got hurt Jennie was the first to know, or just being a friend to the other kids. Jennie felt lucky to have such a good son.

"Are we going to see Garret again?" he asked, and she nodded.

"I thought we'd stop by and say hello. Do you not want to go?" she asked, careful to phrase the question so it didn't sound like she was pressuring him, but the boy shook his head.

"No, I wanna go, I just hope that lady's there again. She was nice," he said.

Jennie hid a smile. "How do you know that, Jeff? We only talked for a few minutes, and she didn't even say anything to you."

The boy shrugged. "I don't know, I just like her," he said, and Jennie echoed the sentiment in her mind. A few minutes later, spent in comfortable silence, Jennie pulled into the parking lot, and put the car in park.

"Don't forget to lock your door," she said, as Jeffrey climbed out. Obediently pushing the button, he closed the door, and held his mother's hand as they walked into the restaurant.

"Hi, Jennie!" called Garret, upon seeing her enter. "Hi, Jeffrey."

"Hello, Garret," said Jennie, and Jeff waved at the kind man. "It looks like the same table's open. You wanna go sit down?" The boy was off like a shot, wolfing down the bowl of complimentary pretzels that had been placed there, until his mother sat down beside him.

"Careful, Jeff," she warned, "don't eat so fast. You'll get sick." The child slowed his pace, and Jennie smiled at him. "Do you want something to drink?"

"Yeah!" he said, happily. "Can I have one of those churches?"

Jennie paused for a moment, and then laughed. "Garret, Jeff would like a "church", and I'll take the same," she said, and the man laughed.

"Two Shirley Temples, coming up," he said, chuckling at the youngster's name for the drink, which wasn't much more than cherry flavored soda and a few Maraschino cherries on top. "Temple, church, I get it," he muttered, filling the requests.

The drinks came, and shortly after, a dark shadow loomed over the table.

"Mind if I sit down?" asked a voice, and Jennie glanced up to see Cody standing behind a chair.

The blonde smiled. "Not at all," she said, "have a seat." Cody pulled out the chair, and sat down, glancing over at Jeffrey, who was sipping his drink, contentedly.

"Hey, Jeffrey," she said, and the boy's face lit up.

"Hi, Cody!" he replied. "Want a drink of my church?" he asked, and Cody raised an eyebrow at him. With a frown of concentration, he tried to imitate her. It wasn't long before the tall woman burst into laughter, and ruffled his hair.

"Nice try, little man," she said, gently. "Now, what's that you're drinking?"

"A Shirley Temple," said Jennie, and Cody nodded.

"I see. Excellent choice," she said, the boy beamed. "Hey, I brought something for you." An excited look came into his eyes. Cody reached into her bag, and pulled out a cap, sliding it onto his head, chuckling when it fell over his eyes. Taking it back, she adjusted it, and tried a second time, smiling when it stayed atop the child's head, and showed his happy brown eyes.

"Thanks!" he exclaimed, graciously.

"You're welcome."

The woman hadn't been able to think about anything else all day, except for Jennie and her son, even during her extensive workout. She realized she felt something when she was around the blonde that she hadn't felt in a long time, and it felt? nice. And Jeffrey was a cute kid, even if he did seem kind of quiet. All in all, Cody decided she wanted to please both of them.

"Got one for your mom, too," she said, handing one to Jennie, who took it politely.

"Thank you, Cody, but you didn't have to get us anything," she protested, kindly.

Cody grinned. "Don't worry about it," she said. "I wanted to. Besides, I just happen to have a few connections with the Warriors, so it's not a problem." Neither recipient realized that their cap had been autographed by #23.

"Do you play baseball?" asked Jeffrey, sipping his drink through the straw, all the while trying to get used the feeling of the cap on his head.

Cody smiled. "Yeah," she said, "I do. Do you want me to teach you sometime?" Jeffrey nodded, and they both looked at Jennie, who tried to look firm, but finally gave in.

"Oh, all right," she said, and Cody gave the boy a high-five. "Just so long as he doesn't get hurt."

The tall woman looked at Jennie, and, in all seriousness, said, "Him? With an arm like that, I think it's me you've got to worry about!" Jeffrey laughed happily, and so did Jennie, when she saw Cody was being funny for the boy's benefit.

"Hey, Cody, when can you teach me?" he asked, and Jennie was about to tell the boy he needed to have a little patience, because the tall woman surely had other things to do, when Cody spoke first.

"Anytime you're ready, little man," she said, grinning.

God, I haven't been this at ease, or had this much fun in as long as I can remember! Cody thought, contentedly. Jeffrey really is a great kid, and Jennie's a great mom. It's gotta be their smiles?

"Mom, can we go home and play?" asked Jeff, hopefully.

"Sweetheart, we don't have any equipment," Jennie said, gently. "And I'm sure Cody's had a long day. Why don't we wait for a while?"

Cody found she didn't like seeing the boy disappointed, so she said, "Tell you what. Why don't you guys head on home, give me the address, and I can stop by after I pick up a few things? How about it?" she offered.

Jennie looked like she was going to protest, but Cody looked like she was looking forward to it just as much as Jeffrey, so she nodded. "Okay," she said, "that sounds great. Here's the address," she said, writing the details on a napkin. "Do you need directions?" Cody glanced at the information, and shook her head. "I guess we'll see you in a little while, then. Jeffrey, do me a favor and give this to Garret." Handing the boy a five-dollar bill, she shooed him off, and he did as he was told.

"Cody, I know you have better things to do than to teach Jeffrey baseball?" she began, but the woman cut her off.

"Not true," she smiled. "I have other things to do, not better. They can wait. I'll teach him every night, if that's okay. I have to go out of town in a few days, but I'll be back, and he can practice on his own while I'm gone. Is that okay?" she asked, hopeful.

Jennie decided that Cody could look just as cute as her son, and nodded. "That's great. Thank you, Cody. I really appreciate it," she said, and the star just smiled.

"Don't mention it. I'll see you guys in about twenty minutes," she said, as Jennie took her son by the hand and exited the bar. As soon as they were out of sight, Garret approached Cody, an amused look in his eye.

"Do I hear a date, Cody?" he asked, and Cody rolled her eyes.

"Not unless you'd call a five-year-old a date," she said. "I'm getting to that. I hope," she added, and Garret smiled. "I volunteered to teach Jeff baseball, and that'll keep me close to Jennie, too."

"Nice plan," he said. "She still doesn't know you're Cody Madison, Warriors' best player in the professional baseball league, does she?" Cody shook her head. "She's a smart girl, Cody. She'll figure it out soon enough, if you don't tell her."

"I know," sighed Cody. "And I hope she won't treat me any different."

"I'd bet my bar she won't bat an eye," Garret said, seriously. "Now, if I heard correctly, you've got a few stops to make before you can start in on that plan of yours. So, go. And tell me all about later," he added.

Cody grinned. "You eavesdropping son of a gun," she said. "All right, later. Thanks, Garret." Leaving the man a ten-dollar bill, although she had ordered nothing, Cody left the bar, and hopped on her motorcycle. She drove back to the stadium, found her keys, and went to the locker room to retrieve her glove and a ball. Then, running down to the local sports store, she bought a smaller glove for Jeff, and figured he could grow into it if he wanted to keep it.

With butterflies in her stomach, which she couldn't explain, Cody drove the remaining miles to Jennie's house, and knocked on the door.

CHAPTER THREE

Cody smiled when Jeffrey came to the door, asking, "Who is it?" through the wood.

"Your baseball instructor," she said, and she heard the sound of the door being unlocked, followed by the doorknob being turned. A smiling cherub of a face was revealed, and Jeffrey surprised her by giving her a large hug, which she returned.

"You came! All right! Mom, she's here!" he called, racing back into the house, leaving Cody to stand awkwardly in the doorway, before gathering her wits and deciding she should probably come inside, at least to close the door.

"Come on in and have a seat in the living room, if you'd like," Jennie called, from back in her bedroom. "Make yourself at home."

"Thanks," Cody said, and sat down on the couch, taking a few moments to glance around the house. A TV and DVD player were visible in a small entertainment center, with a boom box for a stereo system, and a small electronic keyboard. Cody noticed that while Jennie seemed to have everything a five-year-old could want, she didn't seem to have many things for herself - no books were visible, or magazines, or anything of the sort. She wondered what the woman did for a living.

Sure, she lived decently, but it didn't go unnoticed by the baseball star that Jennie wasn't living well. Cody assumed she was probably living from paycheck-to-paycheck, a way she recognized all too well, having lived like that for a few years, before her career got going, when she'd gotten into some trouble?

Before she had a chance to reminisce on the bad memories, Jennie came out of her bedroom, busily trying to get a knot undone from a small sneaker. Having no luck, Cody took it from her hands, and untangled it, handing it back to her.

"Thanks," she smiled, and Cody just nodded, not sure she trusted her voice when her heart was pounding so fast.

Yep, it's definitely her smile, she thought.

"So, Cody, do you always sign your name this legibly?" she asked, casually, examining her cap.

Cody replied without even thinking. "Well, not usually, I just? uh-oh," she gulped, audibly.

"Busted," laughed Jennie. "So, you're the Cody that Garret is always talking about," she grinned, and Cody looked chagrined. "Number 23, is it?" Cody nodded. "I'm glad you know what you're doing when you teach my son."

The star smiled, and was going to reply, when she was met with a squeal. "Is that your bike?" asked Jeff, looking out the window to stare wondrously at the light blue motorcycle that was parked in his driveway.

"Yep," said Cody, proudly. Her Honda Gold Wing was her baby. It was a classic that she'd rebuilt herself, the only change needed was the conversion of gas-powered to electric. Everything else was exactly like the 20th century models.

"Come on, I'll show you," she said. As the boy followed her outside, his jaw almost on the ground at the sight of the gorgeous vehicle, Cody reached into the rear compartment and withdrew two baseball gloves and a ball.

"This is for you," she said, giving him the smaller of the two gloves. "It's a little big now, but I'll show you how to take care of it, if you want to really get into it." Jeff nodded, slipping the glove over his hand, only to have it fall off.

Cody laughed. "That's all right, you don't have to use it right now," she said. "Let's go in the yard, and we'll start the lesson, all right?"

"Cool!" exclaimed the child, running to the yard, and standing a few feet away from the tall woman.

"Now," instructed Cody, tossing the ball up in the air and catching it in her mitt as it came back down, "it's really easy. All you have to do is watch the ball. Don't worry about your hands, if you keep looking at the ball, your hands will follow, and catch it. You got that?"

Jeff nodded. "Watch the ball, uh-huh," he repeated.

"Okay. I'm gonna throw it up in the air in an arc, and it'll come down right in front of you. Ready?" The boy nodded, again, and Cody released the ball. Just like she said, in was up in an arc, and, just like she told him, Jeffrey watched it carefully. The sphere fell perfectly and lightly into his two small hands.

"I did it!" he exclaimed, happily, jumping up and down. "Hey, mom!" Jennie was watching from the front step, and clapped, as did Cody.

"Great catch," she said. "Now, you throw it to me, underhand, just like I threw it to you." Biting his lip in concentration, Jeff jumped up in the air with the ball, but let it go, for a beautiful arc nonetheless. Cody caught it easily with her left hand, and couldn't help but chuckle at the young man's form.

"Ready?" The boy nodded, and Cody threw the ball again, smiling when the child moved a little to the left, and caught it successfully. "Good job," she praised. "This time, when you throw it back, just move your arm, all right?"

"I'll try," he said, not sure he knew what she meant.

Cody grinned. "That's all I ask," she said, gently. Putting his arm down at his side, Jeff launched his arm upwards, and released the ball, but did not move any other part of his body. The tall woman merely stuck her glove up in the air, as the sphere went high above her head, and caught it with ease.

"Well, you didn't move your body, that's for sure," she said. "Here we go." The game of catch went on for about an hour, and by the time it was too dark to play, Cody was very pleased with Jeffrey's progress. He was eager to learn, and listened well.

"You did a terrific job out there, little man," she said, and Jeff grinned, surprising her by running into her arms, and wrapping his arms around her neck.

"Thanks!" he said, and she returned the hug, a smile on her face as he pulled back.

"My pleasure," she smiled. "Let's go into the house, and I'll show you how to take care of your glove." The boy took her by the hand, and led her inside, sitting down beside her on the sofa. Cody took her time with the youngster, repeating some things, and making sure he knew what to do.

Half an hour later, the boy was falling asleep where he sat. Jennie had been looking through the paper, when a whispered voice startled her out of her thoughts.

"Psst?" said Cody, quietly. Jennie looked up to see her sleeping son held securely in the woman's arms. "Where do I put him?" The blonde smiled, and led the tall woman to Jeff's bedroom. As gently as she could, without waking him, Cody put the little boy in his bed, and covered him up. Tiptoeing out of the room, the baseball star followed Jennie back out into the living room.

"What are you looking for?" asked Cody, upon seeing that the woman was looking through the classified ads.

"A slide for the kids," she replied. At Cody's puzzled look, she explained, "I work at a daycare, and we have an old playground in the back. The wooden slide is becoming very unstable, and several kids have been injured, so I'm trying to find a replacement I can afford."

"Why doesn't the owner do it?"

Jennie sighed. "Mac doesn't care about the children," she said. "And the other two people I work with wouldn't dare use their own money, so it's up to me. I won't allow the children to be in a dangerous environment," she said, testily.

Cody smiled, and raised her hands, defensively. "Hey, you don't have to convince me," she said, and Jennie looked apologetic. "It's all right. I can tell you care for the children. Is there anyway I can help? Maybe I can get some guys together and we can build another one, or something," she offered.

"Oh, Cody, I couldn't ask you to do that!" exclaimed the woman. Her green eyes sparkled with delight at the proposal, but her heart wouldn't let her accept such an extravagant offer.

"You didn't," smiled Cody, "I offered. Besides, stars always do stuff for kids, right? I'll just talk to some friends of mine, and we can get together one day to put the playground together. Why don't you give me the address, so I can stop by and see what we'll need?"

Jennie agreed, and wrote down the information on a small piece of paper, handing it to Cody, who put it in her pocket. "Great," she said. "I'll probably be over Monday. I have to go to Phoenix for a game or two, I think I leave Tuesday or Wednesday, so I won't be here for a few days, but Jeffrey can practice on his own, and I'll be back at night to help him, if it's okay," she added.

The blonde smiled. "That's fine," she said, gently. "I really appreciate all you're doing for us, Cody. For Jeffrey and I, as well as for the children. I mean, you hardly know us, and here you are, offering your time and money to help us. That really means a lot."

Cody shrugged, embarrassed, not used to such profound compliments and thanks, even as a star. "Don't worry about it," she said. "Glad I can be of service." She smiled a full smile, and Jennie was sure it was the most dazzling sight she'd ever seen, and it warmed her very heart? and a lower region, which she didn't want to admit to herself.

"Well, it's getting late," she said, standing to walk the tall woman to the door. "You're probably tired. Thank you again for coming."

"Like I told Jeff, my pleasure," grinned the star. Grabbing a piece of paper and a pen from the table, Cody scribbled a few numbers on it. "Here's my number, if you need anything. I don't think I have to ask you not to give it out to anyone, do I?"

Jennie shook her head, and raised to fingers, imitating "Scout's Honor". "Nope," she said, "it won't leave this house."

"Great," said Cody. "You can call anytime, all right? Don't worry about what time it is, chances are, I'll be up. I'd better get going, though," she said, regretfully. "Thanks for having me over, and letting me work with Jeff. He's a great kid." Jennie smiled at the praise of her son, and stood just inside the doorway as Cody stood a few inches away, outside on the front steps.

"Uh, Jennie," began Cody, awkwardly, shifting her feet and looking at the ground. She was nervous as hell, but couldn't walk away without doing what she'd wanted since laying eyes upon the young woman; not without kicking herself later, anyway.

"What is it?" asked the blonde, kindly.

"I'm sorry."

"For what?"

"This," said Cody, leaning down to place a soft kiss on the woman's cheek, which remained there for a few seconds. When she began to pull back, the tall woman was deeply surprised when Jennie reached for her neck, and brought her head back down until their lips touched, softly.

Cody parted her lips, and pressed her tongue against Jennie's closed lips, softly, asking a gentle question. The blonde accepted her eagerly, taking the woman's tongue into her mouth as she carefully probed Cody's mouth with her own. The tall baseball star wrapped her left arm around Jennie, pulling her closer, while placing the other on the door frame to steady herself. Both women felt the exquisite warmth of the kiss as it traveled to parts that neither of them knew could feel so good.

They pulled back slowly, Jennie's hands on the taller woman's waist, and Cody caressing the blonde's face with her hands.

Jennie caught Cody's eye, and said, "Don't you dare apologize for that!"

Cody laughed, and leaned down so their foreheads touched. "Wouldn't dream of it," she promised, smiling softly as she stared into sparkling green pools.

"The way I see it, we have three options. One, which I would love to do, we can stay out here all night long, but I think your neighbors might get a little suspicious, more than they probably are already, so I guess that's out. Two, we could go inside, but I don't think either of us are ready for that, seeing as I can't keep my hands off you out here," she grinned, making the blonde blush.

"So, that leaves option number three: I force myself to go home," she concluded. "Much as I might not want to, it is getting late. I'll see you tomorrow night?" The blonde nodded, and Cody kissed her once more, quickly.

"Good night, Jen," she called, as she walked out to her motorcycle.

"'Night," murmured Jennie, as she watched the tall woman drive off.

Hm, she called "Jen", the woman thought, as she walked into her bedroom. I've never let anyone call me anything other than "Jennie"? but I think I like her calling me "Jen". Yeah, that can be her name for me that no one else can use.

I guess that answered my question about her feelings for me, she told herself, climbing under the covers, as she felt the kiss on her lips, the sensation lingering long into the night. I can't believe she was nervous about kissing me! 'Course, not like I have room to talk? I wonder if those butterflies finally left?

Still thinking of the tall baseball star, the blonde fell into a deep sleep.

* * * * *

Cody walked up to Matt the next morning, trying to hide her smile and failing miserably.

"Who'd you kill, Cody?" The woman looked confused. "C-girl, you look like the cat that ate the canary. Hell, you look like the cat that ate the damned parrot!" Matt corrected.

The woman chuckled. "I'm playing hooky from practice for a few days, all right?"

Matt raised an eyebrow, but was wise enough not to say anything. "Okay," he shrugged. Cody, you've never missed a day of practice, and you're most certainly not sick. Hm? he thought, maybe you are sick, C-girl. Lovesick.

"Thanks," she said. "I need a favor," she added, and the man nodded. "Can you, and maybe James, go with me tomorrow? I need to put together a few things, and I could use a few extra pairs of hands."

"I'll talk to James," Matt agreed.

Cody slapped him on the shoulder. "Thanks," she grinned, and walked out of the stadium, humming as she strolled along. Once she was sure she'd have enough help to build the slide, she figured the next step was going over to the daycare to see what kind of repairs needed to be made, and to get an estimate on the amount of work that needed to be done.

Arriving at Mac's Daycare around nine, Cody sauntered around to the back, which was enclosed by a chain-link fence, and peered over the top at the playground, shocked by what she saw.

"A slide with a wooden ladder, a tiny sandbox, and a rusted set of monkey-bars? You've got to be shitting me! That's it?" she said, incredulous. "Not even a fucking tire swing, for God's sake! Every kid has to have a tire swing! Well, I guess this is gonna be more work than I thought?"

The star resigned the rest of the day to searching numerous different stores for various pieces of equipment, racking up quite a bill by the time she was done. Asking everyone to hold the items until the next morning, she signed a few autographs to ensure the safety of her purchases, and left with a smile on her face.

At six, Cody dialed Jennie's number, and smiled to herself when Jeff answered.

"Hey, little man," she greeted, and heard the boy laugh.

"Hi, Cody!" he exclaimed. "Are you gonna come over tonight?" he asked, innocently.

"Jeffrey!" Cody heard Jennie scold from the background, and laughed.

"I'm gonna try, Jeff," she said, and he grinned - she could feel it over the phone line. "Let me talk to your mom for a minute, all right?"

"Here she is," he said, handing his mother the phone, as she took a break from drawing outlined pictures for the children to color.

"Thanks," she told her son, who just nodded, and went back to working with his glove. "Not in the house, honey! Hi," she said, smiling when Jeffrey obediently took his baseball outside.

"Hey," responded Cody, and Jennie felt a tremor go through her body at the low contralto voice. "I just called to see if I could convince you to let me bring dinner over, so we could eat before I started working with Jeff."

Jennie smiled. "Since I know you won't take no for an answer, that'd be great, Cody," she said, and Cody grinned. "Thank you."

"No problem," the star replied. "How does pizza sound? I'm afraid I'm not much of a cook, but I figure I can't ruin anything if I don't step foot in the kitchen."

The blonde laughed. "That sounds terrific," she said. "One thing - Jeffrey's allergic to pineapple."

"Okay. One pizza, sans the pineapple. Gotcha," she said. "And how about if I bring something for us, afterwards?" Cody's heart was in her throat as she made the proposal, and hoped she wasn't moving too fast for the gentle woman, as she subtly asked if she could stay after her lessons with the young boy were over.

"Well, I'd be inclined to agree, but I don't drink," she said.

"Who said I do? I was thinking of something along the lines of a cold soda," said Cody and Jennie agreed. "Great. I'll see you in about an hour, then?"

"Can't wait," said Jennie, before she could stop herself.

Cody smiled. "Me, neither," she replied, and both women hung up, reluctantly. Cody sighed happily as she dialed the number for the local pizza restaurant.

It's been a good day, she thought, as she placed her order for a large pepperoni pizza. I got the materials I need to build the playground, I got the people I need to build the playground, and now I'm ordering dinner for more than just myself. I'm going to eat pizza, play ball, and then drink sodas and talk for a while with a beautiful woman.

A good day, indeed.

CHAPTER FOUR

Cody smiled as she sat down on the couch next to Jennie, after putting an exhausted young Jeffrey to bed. The two had spent more than two hours playing catch, as well as hide-and-seek, and other games that Cody hadn't played in many years, after finishing off the pizza that Cody brought.

"I still can't believe we finished that entire pizza," the star said, pouring soda from a 2-liter bottle into two glasses, handing one to Jennie, and taking one for herself.

Jennie laughed. "I told you, I always eat a lot," she said.

"Could have fooled me," complimented Cody, smiling to herself when Jennie blushed, realizing she liked being able to please the woman so easily.

"Cheers," she grinned, tipping her glass towards the still rose-colored blonde, who returned the gesture.

"To the beginning of a beautiful relationship," said Jennie, quietly, hoping she wasn't being too presumptuous.

"Here, here," smiled Cody, kissing the top of the woman's head, as she discreetly scooted a little closer. "Boy, Jeff is just a bundle of energy! I didn't know who'd wear out first - me or him!"

Jennie grinned. "Yeah, he's got more energy than I do, most days," she agreed. "But, he's a big help at the daycare."

"How many other people do you work with?" Cody asked, not wanting the blonde to stay quiet for too long, because she found she liked hearing the gentle woman's soothing voice.

"Two, right now," she said, and then sighed, heavily. "I think they're both thinking of quitting, though. They want better pay."

"And you stay because of the kids," Cody stated, and Jennie nodded.

"Yes," she said. "I love children, and I need the job. Plus, I couldn't leave them with Mac," she added, sadly.

"Speaking of the daycare, I've got everything ready to go, and we can be there first thing in the morning." She grinned when her blue eyes met happy green ones.

"You're really going to do this, aren't you?" she asked, and Cody got the distinct feeling that she was afraid of disappointment.

Someone probably let her down, she assumed. How could anyone possibly hurt the beautiful woman I see in front of me? She's much too gentle to warrant any kind of pain.

"Of course," smiled Cody, leaning down for a quick kiss, which ended up deepening. Trying hard to keep her hands on respectable body parts, since Cody knew she had no chance of keeping them to herself, she placed her left hand against the side of Jennie's cheek, still holding her drink in her right.

"Keep that up, and I'll agree to anything," said Cody, as Jennie smiled, and reached up to take Cody's hand in her own, interlacing their fingers as she leaned against the tall woman, happily.

"Oh, Cody, look!" said Jennie, and Cody followed her gaze, to meet the red-orange sunset that Jennie was pointing out. "Isn't it gorgeous?"

"Absolutely," said Cody, as she rested her head against the blonde's for a moment, before setting down her now empty glass, and bringing her right hand around and placing it over her other one, totally encasing Jennie's small hand in her two larger ones.

"It's strange," the tall woman commented, after a short period of silence. "I just got to thinking about how different things are, from the 20th century, but it's not as profound as people were expecting. Sure, computers and electronics have advanced to voice commands, cars run on electricity instead of gasoline, and we have clothes that keep our body at a certain temperature regardless of the outside weather.

"But, there hasn't been the total burst of technology breakthroughs that were anticipated," she said. "My mother seemed to think we'd be living on the moon by now, or something."

Jennie grinned. "Well, most of the changes have been in medicine, I think, rather than the general public's everyday lives," she said, and Cody agreed. "Breakthroughs aside, I'm glad we haven't found a way to change the sunset. I don't think we'll ever invent anything as breathtaking as this," she added.

It was on the tip of Cody's tongue to say that something had already been invented that rivaled the beauty of the sunset, and it was sitting right in front of her, but she caught herself, and merely said, still without realizing it, "Where we cannot invent, at least we may improve."

The blonde glanced up at her, a small smile on her face. "Where'd you hear that?" she asked, softly.

Cody shrugged, and suddenly seemed uncomfortable. "Charles Caleb Colton

said it," she muttered. "My mom was big on quotes, so I'm always spouting them out, about one thing or another." Jennie just grinned, and snuggled closer to the woman, who gladly held the blonde close.

Most people gave Cody strange looks, or laughed at her, when she started reciting quotes, so she didn't do it if she could help it. More often than not, she couldn't, so she was glad that Jennie hadn't made fun of her knowledge.

She even seemed impressed, Cody thought to herself, for once not minding the silence, as she wrapped her arms around the young blonde.

It was almost 10 o'clock before Cody glanced up at the clock, and realized she'd been holding the woman in her arms for an hour.

"Jennie," Cody whispered, tilting her head to the side as she spoke, only to find that the blonde was fast asleep. Smiling to herself, Cody picked her up with ease, and carried her into her bedroom. Taking off her shoes, Cody gently tucked the woman under the covers, kissed her goodnight, and then let herself out the door.

* * * * *

Jennie awoke the next morning at 6 o'clock, when her alarm went off, and was surprised to find herself in her own bed. The last thing she remembered was falling asleep in Cody's arms.

The blonde smiled to herself - that was a nice memory. She'd felt safe, warm, and protected, all at the same time, and she'd fallen asleep listening to the beat of the tall woman's heart. It had been a while since she'd been in a relationship, but being with Cody just felt so right, she found herself feeling as though she'd known the woman for more than just one day? more like a lifetime.

Shaking her head, she realized she needed to get up and get ready for work. Running through a quick shower, she was glad to see that Jeffrey was awake by the time she finished dressing.

"Come on, honey," she called, "time to get dressed." The boy groaned a response, but got to his feet, closing the door to his room as he searched for clean clothes. Jennie raised an eyebrow, knocked on the door, and then opened it.

"Sweetie, what are you doing?"

"Getting dressed," was the response, as the boy picked out a pair of blue jeans and a white T-shirt.

"You want me to help you?" asked the blonde, helpfully, but the boy shook his head.

"No, I can do it."

"Okay," sighed the woman. "I'll be in my room if you need me. Breakfast is in ten minutes." The child nodded, and Jennie walked out the door, as her son closed it behind her. Jennie took a deep breath as she retrieved a pair of socks from her dresser.

"My little boy's growing up," she muttered, sadly. "I didn't think he'd

be so independent so soon."

Come on, Jennie, she told herself. It has to happen sometime.

Deciding not to dwell on the memories of her baby boy just yet, when she didn't have the time, the woman called her son for breakfast, feeling pride as well as sorrow when he sat down at the table, appropriately dressed. His hair was even brushed.

"My, don't you look nice. You're getting to be a big boy, aren't you?" she asked, and he grinned up at her, his eyes sparkling.

"Am I still your Big Stuff?"

"Oh, Jeff," said Jennie, kneeling, drawing her son into a tight hug. "You'll always be my Big Stuff. Don't you worry about that, okay? No matter how old you get, you'll always be my little boy," she assured him, and he smiled.

"Okay," he agreed, happily, giving his mother a hug, before sitting down in his chair as he poured his cereal, managing to keep most of it in the bowl, but let her cut up his banana. He sensed that his mother was a little sad, and wanted to do things for him, so rather than tell her that he was sure he could handle the knife without cutting himself, he said nothing, and let her help.

"Thanks." The two ate breakfast in silence, Jennie deciding not to mention Cody's impending visit; she wanted it to be a surprise, and didn't want to get the boy's hopes up, in case something came up, and the woman couldn't make it.

"Cody says I'm getting real good at baseball," he commented, as Jennie drove to the daycare.

"She does, does she?" The child nodded, and Jennie smiled. "Well, then you must be doing very well. Do you have fun with her?"

Jeff smiled. "Yeah," he said. "I like her. She's cool. Hey, mom," he said, as they pulled into the parking lot, "I don't see Uncle Mac's car. He's the first one here a lot of the days."

Jennie shrugged. "Maybe he took the day off, Jeff," she said. "I've got

the keys, so it's okay. Do you want to open up for me?"

"Yeah!" the towhead exclaimed, taking the keys from his mother, and rushing to the door. He grinned as he unlocked the door and swung it open. "I like it when it's all dark and quiet in here," he said.

"Me, too," agreed Jennie. "Come on. You wanna help me set up the chairs?" With her son's help, the daycare was open by 7:30, just as parents started arriving with their children. Stealing away for a moment, when there was a slight break, Jennie asked Jeff to keep an eye on his two friends, the only ones there as of yet, and she silently crept into Mac's office.

Knowing she probably shouldn't be in the room without the man's permission, she used the copier quickly, making numerous copies of the various pictures she had drawn for the children the night before, and then hurried out to the main playroom. By that time, more people were arriving, and the phone was ringing, so Jennie rushed to take care of it all.

As it turned out, the first two phone calls were from Theresa and Diane, the two other women who worked with Jennie, or used to - they called to leave a message for Mac, telling him they were quitting. They'd found a place with a nicer manager and better pay, and jumped at it. Jennie held back an exasperated sigh, and went back to work, knowing she'd probably be alone on the job for quite a while.

It didn't calm down until almost 9 o'clock, when Timothy, the last child of the day, was dropped off. Then, Jennie got down to work, handing out pictures for them to color, taking a moment to sit out and enjoy the peace and quiet.

* * * * *

"Now, you guys have to watch your language around the kids," said Cody, as she parked her bike, and waited patiently for Matt and James to join her, taking a few minutes to brief them before going inside.

"Us? What about you?" asked James, and Cody smirked.

"Yeah, I know. I have to, too," she agreed. "We'll check out the inside first, see if we can bring the stuff through, or if we have to go around. And, I want you guys to meet Jennie. She basically runs this place, even though she's not the owner," she added. "So, everybody ready?"

Matt grinned. "Cody, you're having us skip practice to hang out with a bunch of kids," he said. "If I knew it would do any good, I'd kiss you."

Cody raised an eyebrow at him. "Not a chance, my friend," she laughed, and motioned them to follow her inside. All three wore jeans and white shirts, and Cody had her sunglasses on again, as she almost always did. James and Matt could have been brothers, save James' green eyes, dark Italian skin - not to mention slight accent, and the fact that he was about three inches taller than the other man.

And Cody towered over both of them.

The tall star was struck by the silence that enveloped her when she walked in the building - she was expecting to see a bunch of wild kids, running and screaming, but instead found two or three dozen youngsters sitting quietly at a few tables, coloring happily.

Seeing Jennie, the woman smiled, and walked over to where she was sitting. "Hey," she said. "Hope we're not disturbing anything."

Jennie returned the smile. "No," she said, "just coloring a few new pictures."

"I see," she said. "Jen, these are my friends, Matt and James. Guys, this is Jennie Donavon."

James and Matt shook her hand in turn, Matt gripping it gently, bringing it up and kissing the back softly, lingering until Cody smacked the back of his head.

"Hey!" he exclaimed, releasing the laughing woman's hand to rub the back of his head.

"Oh, I'm sorry," said Cody, sweetly. "Did that hurt?" The man glared at her, but then all four of them grinned. "I've got everything we need. What do you think, guys? Will it fit through the hallway?"

The three workers scouted the area, and decided it would work just fine bringing the materials through the front, so James, Matt, and Cody went out to James' pickup truck to unload. Carrying boxes, lumber, and various tools in a dozen trips, they finally had everything they needed outside.

And, they had an audience. The entire daycare was standing outside, watching them, curiously.

"Hi," said Cody, smiling at the nearest little girl. "I'm Cody. What's your name?"

"Nicole," said the youngster, shyly.

Cody shook her hand. "These are my friends, James and Matt. Do you guys want to watch us work?" she asked the kids, and everyone nodded. "Okay. Why don't you all sit down on the porch, and you can watch, just stay back there, all right? Don't want anyone getting hurt," she added, and they all scampered to the concrete.

The tall woman met Jennie's eyes, and the blonde nodded that it was okay, so Cody joined James and Matt, who were already beginning to disassemble the old playground. That took just a few minutes, and soon they were putting together the new pieces, much to the delight of the children, once they realized what was being built.

"We're gonna get a new playground?" Jeff asked Jennie, and she nodded.

A few hours later, after the kids had eaten their lunches outside, Cody was connecting the tire to the chain, when she felt a hand tug on her jeans.

Glancing down, she smiled at the young child.

"Hi," she said, and the boy grinned.

"My name's James," the small boy said, his dark blue eyes meeting the older woman's. "My dad watches baseball, and you look like the lady on the TV."

Cody smirked. "Well, I am," she said, ruffling his blonde hair. "My name's Cody Madison. Nice to meet you, James. See him?" she asked, pointing out Corbel. The boy nodded. "His name is James, too." The child smiled as James waved at him, grinning.

"How many others know me?" she called, and a few hands went up. "Tell

you what. Why don't you all finish coloring those pictures you were working on when we came in, and when you get done, you can come see the new playground, and I'll sign everyone's picture. Is that okay with you?" she asked, and in response, 35 little bodies ran back into the daycare, with Jennie not far behind to supervise.

Matt caught James' eye, and they both made a snapping motion with their wrists, followed by the sound of a cracking whip. Cody shoved them, and them said, "Come on, boys. Let's get back to work."

By the time the children were finished with their drawings, Cody and the others were taking a break, having finally finished. It was hard work, and the woman had worked just as hard as - if not harder than - the men.

Jennie had to admit to herself that she couldn't help but enjoy as she watched the

play of muscles in the woman's strong arms and back as she worked, lifting the heaviest pieces of timber and the large bags of sand with ease.

"Wow!" exclaimed the children, rushing outside to examine the new toys. Laughter floated on the breeze, as they played on the tire swing, and the sandbox, and the numerous other additions they found.

Cody grinned as she stepped back to stand beside Jennie, as the blonde offered all three workers a glass of water, which they gratefully accepted.

"The best way to make children good is to make them happy," the tall woman said, as she took a sip of her water. "Oscar Wilde," she said, in answer to Jennie's questioning look. The blonde smiled, and then joined the kids to check out the new equipment, thrilled when everything was found to be sturdy, durable, and most of all, safe.

"This is great," said the woman, smiling at the only other adults in the daycare. "Thank you all, I really appreciate it. The kids appreciate it," she added, and James nodded.

"No problem," he said, smiling. "My little boy has an area similar to this, at home. I think they'll enjoy it just as much as he does," he added, and Matt agreed.

"Yeah," said the man. "I was wondering why Cody was skipping out on practice, but I don't blame her. Thanks, C-girl. This was fun," he grinned, but found Cody was shooting him a fierce look.

Jennie paused. "Skipping out on practice?" she asked, and Matt looked away.

Cody shrugged. "It's no big deal," she insisted. "My coach knows a few days won't hurt, and I keep up with the exercises, so it's all right."

The blonde nodded, and frowned when she heard the front door open. Peeking inside, she groaned. "Oh, no," she said. "Mac's here."

"Is that a problem?" asked James.

"It could be," the blonde muttered, and noticed that Cody had raised an eyebrow at her, urging her to continue.

"Mac's the owner," she explained. "I don't know why he's here at two in the afternoon, but I certainly didn't expect him to be in today. Can you stay with the kids for just a minute?" They nodded, so the blonde went inside to speak with her boss.

"Jennifer!" he called, and she approached him, slowly.

"Yes, Mr. Donaldson?" she responded.

"Where are the brats? It is Monday, isn't it?"

"Yes, sir," she said. "The children are out back, on the playground."

"All of them?" he demanded, and Jennie nodded.

Jeffrey slipped inside, watching with interest. He knew his mother didn't like Uncle Mac, and neither did he, but the man seemed particularly mean today, he noticed.

"Shouldn't you be out there watching them?" he shouted.

"Yes, sir," she replied, and turned to leave, feeling relieved. The man was obviously drunk, probably drinking out a hangover from the night before, so Jennie was glad he seemed to be content with spending the day in his office, which was where he was headed.

"Jennifer!" he bellowed, suddenly. "Get in here, now!" Her green eyes widening slightly, Jennie hurried down the hallway, while Jeffrey quietly followed not far behind.

"What is it?" she asked, softly.

"Somebody's been in my office!" he cried, and Jennie didn't know how he

could possibly tell - nothing was disturbed, that she could tell. "Who the fuck was in here?" Hearing the man curse, Jeff took off down the hallway and out the door, intent on finding the tall woman he trusted, and knew would protect his mom.

"I was," admitted Jennie.

"Without my permission? You went into my office without my permission?" he charged. "Just what the hell were you doing in here?"

"I was just using the copier," she said, quietly. "I made pictures last night, and needed to make copies so there would be enough for everyone to color."

"Why didn't you just copy them by hand, instead of barging in my office and using my goddamn property?" he demanded. "You had no fucking right! If I ever catch you in here again, you're fired, do you understand me?"

Jennie nodded, and the man made a move to grab her chin, so she would look into his eyes and tell him the truth - he knew he could, because she needed the job desperately and wouldn't quit for anything - but something stopped him. A crushing force around his hand, more specifically.

"She was only helping the children," said a voice, smoothly. "Now, apologize."

"I ain't apologizing to no one," he spat, pushing back from Cody with his free hand, managing to strike Jennie's shoulder in the process. Before he knew what was happening, he was being shoved up against the wall, as icy blue globes seemed to bore into his own alcohol-hazed stare.

"You ever touch her again and I will give you a vasectomy with my bare hands so fast it will make your head spin," she growled. "You got me?" The man tried to squirm out of her grasp, but she only tightened her grip, lifting the man's feet off the floor as she slammed him into the wall of his office again.

"I asked you a question. Do you understand me?" she demanded, and he nodded, slumping to the floor as she released her hold on his shirt. "Men are respectable only as they respect," she added, as she walked away, carefully leading Jennie out the door.

"Are you all right?" she asked, and the blonde nodded.

"Yeah," she said, "thanks."

"Don't thank me," said Cody, "thank your son. He came and got me when he

heard Mac swear, and got worried about your safety." Jennie smiled, and beckoned the boy to her. Jeff walked over to her, from where he had been hiding behind Cody, and gave his mother a strong hug.

"Uncle Mac scared me," he admitted, and Jennie squeezed him, tightly.

"I know, Jeff," she said, "but it's okay now. Thank you for getting help when you thought I was in trouble. What do you say I put you guys down for a quick nap, hm?"

Jeffrey protested, "But, Cody has to sign our pictures!"

The star grinned. "Tell you what, little man. I'll sign everybody's picture before they lay down, and then slip out while you guys sleep. Is that okay with you?" she asked, and he nodded.

"You gonna come play ball tonight?" he asked, hopefully, as James walked in.

"We leave tomorrow at eight in the morning, Cody," he reminded her. "Early flight to Phoenix."

Cody just shot him a glance when the boy's face fell, and said, "Sure, I'll be there, Jeff. You make sure to take care of your glove, okay? I've got to go away for a few days, but you can practice on your own until I get back," she added, and he looked a little sad as he nodded.

"Hey, why the long face?" she asked, tapping his chin with her finger. "I'll be back in just a few days, all right?" Jeff nodded, and went to get his picture so Cody could sign it, without another word. Cody sighed, and shoved James - she'd meant to tell the boy on her own, and in her own time.

Blows that idea all to Hell, she thought, grimly.

After signing all the kids' pictures, they laid down, and curled up on the floor with their blankets, clutching the autographs in their little hands as they slept. James and Matt took that opportunity to bid Jennie goodbye, and sneak out the front door, telling Cody they'd meet her outside.

"That Mac guy is drunk," said Cody, gently. "If he gives you anymore trouble, let me know, all right?"

Jennie nodded. "Thanks," she said, and spared the woman a quick hug and kiss on the cheek. "I'll see you tonight."

Cody agreed. "I'll talk to Jeff later, if that's all right," she offered. "I meant to tell him tonight, but James?" she ended her sentence in a growl.

Jennie smiled, and Cody's anger dissipated at once. "That's okay," she said. "Be careful, and see you soon." The star nodded, gave the small blonde a slight wink, and walked out the door, joining her patient friends.

The woman immediately slapped James in the back of the head.

"What was that for?" he demanded, and swallowed his anger when six-feet of blazing blue fury towered over him.

"For opening your goddamn mouth," she spat, out of earshot of the kids, her cursing back to its normal stream. It had been hard to watch her language, especially around Mac, but she had done it - for Jennie, more than anything else.

"I was gonna tell Jeff in my own time, in my own way," she continued. "He didn't know I was leaving, and not so soon. I was gonna break it to him gentle, you ass."

"Gee, Cody," remarked Matt, "didn't know you cared."

The blue eyes were pinned on him, next. "I do," she responded, seriously. "Now, let's head back. It's been a long day, and I just wanna go home for a bit." The men agreed, silently, and each got in their respective trucks, as they watched the blue Honda motorcycle pull away.

"Computer, messages," she said, as she walked in the door of her spacious, two bedroom, two bathroom, single-story home.

"You have one message," the automated voice replied, as the tall baseball

star glanced in her refrigerator for something to eat. "Good afternoon, Cody."

"Same to you," she replied to the programmed greeting. "Play message."

The message from Joe Henry sounded in her ears as she got the ingredients out

for a sandwich.

"Hi, Cody, it's Joe."

"Hello, Joe," responded Cody, as she spread the mayonnaise on two pieces of white bread.

"I was just calling to see if you were home sick, since you weren't at practice today or yesterday," the man's voice said.

"I do have a life, Joe," said the woman, carefully spreading the mayonnaise and mustard on the bread, along with a few slices of tomato, cold bacon, and lettuce.

"Well, give me a call when you get in, will you? I'll be home all night. Later," he finished.

"End of messages."

"Erase," she said, and the machine responded with an affirmative, and the message was deleted. "Can't take a day's vacation," the woman muttered, as she bit into her freshly made BLT sandwich.

"Computer, reminder to buy more mayonnaise," she said, and the computer, which sat on her desk in the living room, made a few beeping noises.

"Stored," came the response. "You have e-mail messages waiting."

Cody sighed. "How many?" she asked.

"Seven."

The star almost choked on her sandwich. "Seven? I knew it was a mistake to let Joe promote my e-mail address. Play e-mail messages," she ordered. They were all from fans, and she sent a quick response, basically saying "Hi, thanks for writing. Take care. Bye," adding an occasional "No, I'm not available," where necessary.

She glanced at her watch as she finished her glass of milk, washing down the remains of her sandwich. It was five minutes past four. "Guess I'd better call Joe before

I head over to Jennie's," she decided.

"Computer, dial 555-7983. Speaker phone," she added, and listened as the last numbers were punched in. It rang four times, and the answering machine picked up.

"Home all night, are we?" she asked, after the tone. "Joe, this is Cody. I'm not sick, I just had some things to finish up. Thought I'd return your message. See you tomorrow." Walking over to her desk, she ended the phone program on her computer, and entered her room, removing her clothes as she went.

Her shirt was left in the living room, on the floor next to the couch, in front of the television. The sofa faced the large TV, and a grand stereo-system was to the left, with speakers covering all areas of the room, the desk with the computer on the right. Plush grayish carpet covered the floor, with a few pictures on the wall, mainly of Cody's parents. In the back of the room, a tall bookcase could be seen, filled with books.

The star's bra was in the start of the hallway, which led to the two bedrooms and one of the baths, the other being adjacent to the main bedroom, and was adorned with various paintings. Her shoes were found at the end, in front of her bedroom door, while the other articles were dropped in front of her large and comfortable bed. Taking her watch off and setting it on the small bedside table, she walked past her dressers and closet, completely nude by the time she entered the bathroom.

Taking a long shower, Cody once again tested her shoulder, finding that the day's labors had done nothing to lessen its soreness. Drying off with a towel when she was finished, the woman dressed in black jeans, a black sleeveless T-shirt, and black tennis shoes. All in all, when she slipped on her sunglasses, she was dressed to either lurk into the shadows as an FBI informant, or play baseball with a five-year-old boy.

Cody was more interested in doing the latter.

Continued in Part 2.



The Athenaeum's Scroll Archive

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FIVE
The tall woman knocked on the Donavon's door, and cracked a smile when Jeffrey opened the door a little, to see who it was.

"Hey, little man," she grinned, but her grin quickly faded when the door was slammed in her face.

"Jeffrey!" Cody heard Jennie scold, from inside. "You know better than that! You go back out there and apologize, right now!"

A few moments later, the door was opened again, and an angry young towhead was visible. "Sorry," he mumbled, looking down at the ground.

"That's okay," said Cody, trying not to let it show how much the move had really hurt, kneeling down to be eye-level with the boy. "You ready to play?"

"Don't wanna," he said, and turned around and went to his room, muttering, "I 'pologized," to his mother as he passed by.

Jennie sighed, and motioned a grim looking baseball player indoors, closing the door softly behind them.

"I'm sorry," said the blonde, taking Cody's hand. "He's been a little upset."

"So I gathered," murmured the tall woman. "Better to be driven out among men than disliked of children. Can I talk to him?"

"Sure," smiled Jennie, squeezing the woman's hand, encouragingly. "I'll get us something to drink while you two talk, okay?" Cody nodded, gathered her courage, and walked down the hallway.

"Jeff?" she asked, gently, lightly rapping on the closed door that led to the boy's room. "Can I come in?"

"No."

Cody's heart broke as she heard sniffles in the young child's voice. "Please? I just want to talk to you, Jeff," she pleaded.

"No."

The star sighed. "Jeff, I'm really sorry that you found out through James that I'm leaving," she admitted. "I was going to tell you tonight, honest. I'd like another chance to tell you, and talk to you about it, if you'll let me," she added, quietly.

The boy inside frowned a little, as he wiped away his tears. A grown-up was asking him for another chance? Wow. He'd never felt so... big. Maybe he could talk to her, just for a minute...

"Jeff?" asked Cody, when she didn't get a response.

Slowly, the door opened. "'Kay," said the child, inviting Cody to sit on his bed.

"Thanks," smiled the woman, sitting beside her small friend on the edge of his small, but soft, bed.

"Why do you have to go?" was the first question Jeff asked, before he could stop himself.

"Because I'm a professional baseball player, Jeff," explained the star. "It's my job to play baseball, and I go where my team goes. I have to play a few games soon, and they're in another state. I won't be gone long," she added, and brown eyes met her own.

"How come you didn't tell me before?"

Cody sighed. "Because I don't want to go, and telling you means I really have to leave," she admitted, quietly. "But, I'll call you from the hotel, and I'll be back before you know it. In fact," she added, a small smile on her face, "I'm going to leave you with a very important job. Okay?"

The youngster nodded, his eyes wide. "Okay," he agreed.

"I want you to take good care of your mom for me," she said. "Now, it's a big job, but I trust you can handle it. Can you do that for me? Because I'm going to worry about you both while I'm gone, but I'll feel much better knowing you're here to watch over her," she explained, and the boy grinned.

"I'll do it!" he said, and Cody grinned.

"I knew I could count on you, little man," she said. "Can I have a hug?" The boy nodded, and threw his arms around the woman's neck, Cody hugging him back just as tightly.

"I'll miss you," he said, and the tall woman swallowed.

"I'll miss you, too," she said, and pulled back. "What do you say we play some ball, hm?" Jeff grabbed his ball and glove and ran out the door, a smiling Cody on his heels. The tall star winked at the blonde woman as they rushed out the door, playing baseball for a little more than an hour, before a tickle fight ensued, and Cody ended up chasing Jeffrey through the house. Catching him, she picked him up by his waist, held him to her chest, and let herself fall back onto the couch, releasing her hold on the boy as she landed, smiling at the laughter of the young child as he bounced into the air.

"That was fun!" he exclaimed, straddling Cody's waist as he pinned her down.

"Yeah," agreed the star, grinning. "Can I get up, now?"

"No!" he smiled, trying to hold her wrists down, and failing miserably. Even with two hands, the boy could barely hold one of Cody's wrists, much less both of them. But, Cody didn't try to get up, and let the boy think he had her.

"Uh-oh," she said, "I'm trapped. I guess this means I can't go home tonight, huh? You think this is funny, don't you?" The boy giggled, and nodded, his eyes getting very wide as he suddenly found himself on his back, Cody pinning him to the couch.

"How'd you do that?" he asked, in awe.

Cody grinned, and winked at the boy. "You'll never know," she said, and kissed the crown of his head. "Now, you'd better get to bed, before your mom kills me for keeping you up past your bedtime."

"That's right," said Jennie, and Cody glanced up at the blonde, who stood in front of the couch, the playfulness in her blue eyes sending a small shiver down the woman's back.

"Aw, but, Mom," the boy protested, and the star put her left hand over his mouth, quelling any arguments.

"No buts, little man," she said, raising a dark eyebrow at him. "Believe me, they don't work. Off to bed. I'll see you in a few days, all right? Remember what I asked you to do?" The boy nodded. "Good. Be good," she added, helping him to his feet, and tucking him into bed, somehow managing to get herself snared into reading Sam I Am three times, until the youngster fell asleep.

"Whew, I'm glad he's still talking to me," admitted Cody, as she sank into the couch next to the small blonde, who handed her a glass of soda.

"I'm glad you were able to work things out," Jennie agreed, smiling. "You know what I realized this morning?" Cody shook her head. "He's really growing up. He dressed himself this morning, and even combed his hair. It's just going by so fast," she sighed, and Cody put her arm around the young woman.

"But you know what's important?" countered Cody, and this time Jennie shook her head. "The fact that he's growing up well. He's a smart kid, a good kid, a very nice young man, and that's all because he's been raised right. You're doing a great job with him, Jen," praised the star, and the small blonde smiled.

"Thanks," she said, curling into the tall woman's side.

"And you do a terrific job with the kids at the daycare, too," she continued. "I expected to see a bunch of four-year-old tornadoes running around, wreaking havoc, but they were all very well behaved, and it's clear they adore you."

I think they love you as much as I do, she added, silently.

"Thanks," repeated Jennie, a slight blush appearing on her fair cheeks. "And thank you so much for putting up the playground. The kids love it, and it's safe," she added, smiling. "You have no idea how much that means to me."

Cody returned the smile, and kissed her, softly. "I'm glad you're happy," she said, truthfully. The blonde was leaning into her left side, and Cody made a move to wrap both arms around the young woman, but decided against it when her shoulder began screaming at her. Lifting young boys does not heal a sore shoulder, nor does lifting fifty-pound bags of sand.

"What's wrong?" asked Jennie, confused. She'd seen the woman's hand start towards her, and also saw it move back. Sitting up to face the tall star, she frowned when she noticed a look of pain on her face.

"Cody, what is it? What's wrong?" she asked, anxiously.

"Nothing," said the woman, trying to reassure the blonde. "My shoulder's just bothering me, is all. Think I pulled a muscle or something a few days ago," she added.

"And you've been playing baseball and building a playground?" exclaimed the woman, shocked. "No wonder you're in pain. Have you taken anything for it?"

Cody shook her head.

Jennie pointed to the floor. "Sit," she commanded, and Cody raised an eyebrow, but did as she was told. The blonde pulled the woman back until she was sitting on the floor next to the couch, and then placed her legs on either side of the tall star's body. Gently, but with strong and skilled fingers, she began massaging the woman's strong shoulders, loosening the tense muscles, loving the feeling as Cody's tension drained away.

"Mm," murmured the star, appreciatively. "That feels great." She closed her eyes and let her head fall forward, allowing herself to totally relax, and revel in the feeling.

When Jennie's hands were too tired to do any more, she moved the woman forward, sat down next to her, and scratched her back for a moment. If Cody thought she was completely relaxed before then, she was wrong. By the time the blonde was finished, the star was about as tense as a wet noodle.

And it felt terrific.

Turning, she pulled the young woman close, and gave her a strong hug. "Thank you, Jen," she said. "I think I should pay you. That was wonderful."

Jennie smiled. "I'm glad you're happy," she said, echoing Cody's words from earlier in the evening, drawing a knowing smirk out of the tall star. "Do you want more soda?" she offered, getting to her feet.

Cody sighed, and stood beside her. "No," she said, "I need to go." Jennie's face fell, no matter how hard she tried to stop it, and Cody pulled her into her arms. "I'm sorry, Jen. I really don't want to go, you know."

The blonde nodded, slipping her arms around the tall woman's waist. "I know," she said. "But you have to. Just be careful, okay? Call me when you get in," she added, as more of a question.

Cody smiled inwardly at the show of concern, and agreed. "I will," she said, "I promise. And I'll call every night to check on you and Jeffrey, too." Jennie smiled and her eyes danced at the offer. "Well, I guess I'll see you in a few days, then." Leaning down for a kiss, Cody let herself get lost in the feeling, as she wrapped her arms around the smaller woman, pulling her even closer.

Jennie eagerly pressed herself against the taller woman's frame, clasping her hands behind the star's neck to deepen the kiss. Slowly, Cody pulled away, much too soon for either woman.

"Now I really don't want to leave," she muttered, hugging Jennie tightly, before reluctantly letting her go, and walking towards the door.

"Cody," called Jennie, as the woman opened the door, and turned back at the sound of her name. "Be careful, please. I'll miss you."

The tall woman nodded. "I'll miss you, too, Jen. Talk to you tomorrow," she added, and gently closed the door behind her. Suddenly, the door opened again, and Cody stuck her head inside.

"Do you think Joe would miss me if I didn't go?" she asked, and Jennie laughed, walking over to give her a light kiss on the cheek.

"Go," she said. "You have to."

"Aw, but, Jen," whined Cody, and the blonde chuckled as she placed two fingers over the tall star's lips.

"No buts, remember?" she said, and Cody smiled. "Go. I'll be here when you get back," she assured, kissed Cody lightly on the lips, and then urged her out the door. "Cody Madison, if you don't walk out this door right now, we're both going to get in trouble!"

Cody raised an eyebrow over her shoulder as she walked out. "I like trouble," she said, her voice rich, sending a shiver through Jennie's body as she closed the door behind her.

My, she thought, pleasantly, what she does to me with just her voice... Worrying about the tall star already, Jennie fell into a dreamless sleep.

* * * * *
Cody sighed as she threw her bags down on the hotel room bed. The rooms were nice, a large bed with a nice TV, a VCR, and more importantly, a clean bathroom. Picking up the phone, Cody made sure the air conditioner was on - she knew as soon as she stepped off the plane that Phoenix's motto of "It's a Dry Heat" wasn't kidding - and then dialed the number for information.

"Uncle Mac's Daycare," she said, when the operator prompted her for the number she was searching for. Jotting down the number, Cody smiled as she punched them in, knowing it would surprise Jennie to get a call at work, but the tall woman had promised she'd call as soon as she got in, and they'd just arrived at the hotel.

"Uncle Mac's Daycare, this is Jennie, may I help you?" she greeted.

Cody smiled. "Hi," she said.

"Cody?" she exclaimed, happily surprised. "What are you doing calling over here? Is everything okay?"

"Everything's fine," she said, gently. "I just got in, and thought I'd call you, like I said I would. I understand if you can't talk at work, I just wanted to let you know I got in all right," she added, and pictured Jennie's smile in her mind.

"Thank you," she said, honestly. "You're right, I do need to go, but can you call me at home later tonight? I'm sure Jeff wants to talk to you."

Cody agreed. "Sure," she said. "I have a game later this afternoon, but I'll call sometime after that, if its not too late."

"Okay," said the blonde. "And thanks again, Cody. I miss you already," she admitted, softly.

"I miss you, too," said the star, and it was the truth - she missed not being able to ride over in her motorcycle and see the woman whenever she wanted, and knew it would be even worse when she didn't have a special young man to play catch with later on in the evening. "I'll call you later. Bye," she said, and Jennie echoed the same, as they hung up, reluctantly.

Damn, Cody, she thought to herself. What are you gonna do if you have to go out of town for a week, huh? Or somewhere really far away? You can barely stand three days in the next state!

A sudden knock on the door interrupted her thoughts. "Cody, its Matt," announced the man, and the tall woman opened the door.

"Why aren't you changed?" he asked, as he stood in his uniform. "Joe asked us to change into our uniforms, because he wants us out at the stadium in twenty minutes."

"Shit," said Cody, "I forgot." Tearing into her duffel bag, she changed where she was, mildly amused when Matt turned around, offering her some privacy. "I called Jen," she admitted, and Matt grinned.

"I thought so," he said, glad the woman was finally going to talk to him about the young woman. The two friends had talked about everything since high school, and he was thrilled when they met up again with the Warriors.

"She asked me to call her when I got in, and I didn't want to worry her," she continued, and Matt nodded.

"Right," he drawled, and laughed when he could feel Cody's sharp gaze on his back. "I'm kidding, C-girl. She really is a nice woman," he added, and Cody agreed.

"She is," she said. "And beautiful. You didn't really get to meet Jeff, but that's her son. He's a great kid," she gushed, glad to have someone to talk to, so she could finally let loose with how she felt. "We play catch every night, and he's doing really well."

"How old is he?" asked Matt, turning back around as Cody laced up her shoes.

"Almost six," responded the woman. "He's got the cutest laugh."

Matt chuckled. "You've got it bad, C-girl," he said. "But, I'm happy for you. It's about time you fell in love again." He paused, expecting her to deny the accusation of being in love, and his jaw hit the floor when she didn't.

"Hey, I've never been in love before her," the woman protested. "Maybe I thought it was love, but, honestly, Matt, I've never felt anything like this in my life. I mean, I want to be with her all the time, and we have a great time when we're together, and I feel like I could listen to her talk forever!" she grinned.

"I don't know if that's love, but I hope it is," she confessed, and her friend smiled. "Come on, let's go play some ball before Joe chews my ass."

The two ran down to the lobby, barely making it in time to jump into the van, where their teammates were waiting. Matt was silent on the ride over to the stadium, processing everything Cody had told him, and deciding that if Cody wanted to have a relationship again, there was nobody nicer he could think of to be the other-half.

It's been too long since she's been with anyone, the man thought. Maybe Jennie's just what she needs...

The game went well, and the Warriors won an easy 10-3 victory against the Diamondbacks. At the end of the game, everyone darted into the van, hoping to escape the press, because beating the home team usually didn't go over well, no matter how professional the reporters tried to be.

"You want some company for dinner tonight?" offered Matt. "I don't wanna go to the celebration, and I figured you wouldn't either, so do you want me to bring something up to your room?"

Cody nodded. "Sure, Matt," she said. "Thanks. I'll see you in a little while." Going their separate ways once they stepped off the van, Matt went to his room to order pizza, while Cody went to her own to dial the house of a certain blonde in California.

"Hello?" answered Jennie, and Cody grinned.

"Hey," she responded. "I know it's kind of late," she said, as her watch turned over to read 7:59, "but the game just ended."

"That's okay," said the blonde. "Jeff's been waiting up for your call, so I'll let you talk to him so he can go to bed, and then I'll get on again afterwards. Here he is," she said, handing the phone to her son, who could barely contain his excitement.

"Hi, Cody!" he exclaimed. "Guess what?"

Cody smiled. "What?" she asked, sounding just as excited.

"Mom said that if I'm good, maybe when you come back, I can go to one of your games! I get to watch you play!" he explained, happily.

Cody thought for a moment. Tickets aren't that cheap, she realized. Jennie's probably just talking about buying a ticket for Jeff, and not being able to go herself. Well, fuck that! I'll buy their tickets myself! she decided.

"Jeff, can you keep a secret?" she asked, and the boy eagerly said he could. "When I get back, if you've been a good boy, I'll make sure that both you and your mother get to go to a game, okay? But, don't tell your mom!"

"I won't," he promised. "Thanks, Cody. Goodnight," he said.

"Goodnight, little man. Sleep tight," she said, and he smiled, sleepily.

"Bye," he said, and handed the phone to his mother, before walking into his room and falling into his bed, asleep before his head even hit the pillow.

"What was that all about?" asked Jennie, pressing the phone against her ear.

"Nothing," replied Cody, smiling to herself. "We won the game tonight."

Jennie smirked. "I know," she said, "I watched you on TV. How's your shoulder, by the way?"

"It feels a lot better, thanks," said the tall star. There was a knock on her door, and she sighed. "Well, I think I'd better go. Matt's here, and he's bringing dinner. I'll call again tomorrow, okay?"

"Okay," said the blonde. "Sleep well, Cody."

"You, too, Jen," replied the woman. "Bye. Come in!" she called, as she hung up the phone. "Hey, pizza!" she exclaimed, seeing the box the man carried in his hands.

"Yep, dig in," Matt announced, helping himself to two pieces, pouring two plastic cups full of soda. "Compliments of the manager of the Pizza Parlor, when he found out who I was and just who I was having dinner with." Cody laughed, and took a few pieces for herself, before settling down on her bed for a nice night with one of her closest friends.

* * * * *
Just as Cody had said, she called every night, or before the game if it would be too late afterwards, and talked to both Jeffrey and Jennie. She made sure that Jeff was keeping up with his practices, and praised him when he told her he'd - somehow - managed to figure out how to juggle three tennis balls. The tall star kept up with Jennie, too, making sure that Mac wasn't giving her any trouble.

"I don't think I'll have time to call tomorrow before I leave, and I'll be home late, but I'll see you on Sunday, okay?" she said, when she called Friday night, being scheduled to fly back after the game the following night.

"Okay," agreed Jennie. "Be careful, and I'll see you soon." Cody smiled as she hung up, realizing how lucky she was, and just how caring Jennie was. Every phone call she'd made had ended with a "Sleep well", "Sweet dreams", or "Be careful" on both women's parts.

While it was nice to talk to them over the phone, and keep in touch, Cody couldn't wait to get back - Monday was the 4th of July, and she planned on taking Jennie and Jeffrey out to the home game for the best fireworks display either one of them had seen.

* * * * *
At 11:30 Saturday night, Cody stumbled into her house, not paying any attention to the flashing screen that indicated she had messages, just falling onto her bed, exhausted. The Warriors had won the game, but only after having to go two extra innings to break the 7-point tie, and Number 23 was dead on her feet.

The tall woman had just closed her eyes when her phone rang. Grumbling under her breath, she hit a button on the box next to her bed, enabling the speaker phone - she kept the receivers in various parts of her home, in case she wasn't able to be in the living room around the computer - and growled, "This better be a fucking emergency for whoever the hell this is to call me at 11:30 at night."

"Cody, it's Garret," said the man, and Cody frowned.

"Garret? What's going on? Can't this wait 'til morning?" she asked, rubbing at her eyes.

"No, it can't," said the man, sternly. "I've been calling every ten minutes since nine o'clock."

"Mind telling me why?"

The man sighed. "Cody, its Jennie."

The star sat up so fast her head spun. "What?" she demanded, switching on the lights with "Computer, lights." Flinching when the light was too bright, she corrected, "Dim lights," and then continued trying to figure out what was happening.

"What's wrong? Is she hurt? Where is she?" She belted out her questions as she slipped on her shoes, snarling when she put them on the wrong foot in her haste.

"She's down here at the bar, and she's drunk off her ass," he said.

Cody paused. "Wait a minute, Garret," she said, thinking that maybe the man was confused. "Jennie doesn't drink."

"Then there's some other beautiful blonde sitting here, at your table, drowning in her own scotch glass," he snorted.

"Fuck," cursed the woman. "How bad is she?"

"Do you remember that guy who used to come in here every Friday night when you were a teenager, get himself so drunk that he couldn't stand up, and then pass out on the floor?" he asked, and Cody nodded.

"Yeah," she said. Garret had been forced to call a cab for the man too many times for Cody to count. Thanks to him, Cody had learned the meaning of the words "shit-faced" and "plastered".

"Well, Jennie makes this guy look like the Pope."

"Jesus!" exclaimed Cody, floored. "Oh, shit. Where's Jeffrey?" she asked, her throat dry. She hoped the young boy wasn't watching his mother drink herself into oblivion.

What if she's drinking because something happened to Jeff? she wondered, and sank back down onto the bed with the heavy thought.

"Jeff's here, in the back room," he said, and Cody reminded herself to breathe. "Has been since they came in, actually. He just walked back here, curled up, and went to sleep. You call a cab and come get her, Cody," the man ordered. "She won't let anyone else come near her, but I'm waiting for her to pass out any second. Frankly, I'm surprised she's still managing to sit upright. I'll take Jeffrey for the weekend," he added.

"Thanks, Garret," said the tall woman. "I'll be there as soon as I can." As soon as the star heard the dial tone, she punched in seven digits, and ordered a cab, telling them there'd be a big tip if the driver could get to her house in ten minutes. The woman took that time to fully wake up, and try to figure out what in the world could have happened to drive the small blonde to drink.

Nine minutes later, the sound of a horn honking brought her out of her dismal thoughts, and she ran out the door.

"Garret's Restaurant," she commanded. "As fast as you can." The driver didn't ask any questions, he just sped down the road as fast as he safely could, stopping in front of his destination ten minutes later.

"Thanks," she said. "Wait here until I get back." The man nodded, accepting the ten dollar bill, and relaxed in his seat, wondering how long he should wait for a mere ten dollars. Figuring about ten minutes, he turned up the radio, and put the cab in park as his customer walked in the door of the bar.

"Bartender, gimme another," came a slurred voice, and Cody turned the waitress away, coming up behind the small blonde, who sat at Cody's table with an empty glass in her hand, and five others on the table.

"Hey, what're ya doin'?" she asked, upon seeing the woman with her drink leave.

"I was going to ask you the same question," said the tall woman, and Jennie tilted her head back until she could see Cody.

"Why're you standin' upside-down?" Jennie asked, a goofy smile on her face.

"Come on, Jen," said the woman, slipping her arm around the woman's waist, attempting to hold her up as they stood. "Time to go home."

"Huh-uh," said the blonde. "I wan another drink."

"You don't need anything else," said Cody, sternly. "Now, let's go. You can tell me why you're drunk later," she added.

"Cody?" she asked, her voice suddenly weak.

"Hm?"

"Why is the ground tilting?" The liquor finally taking effect, Cody caught the woman in her arms as she passed out, and carried her to the cab.

"Donavon residence," she said, rattling off the address, and the driver obeyed. "It's okay, honey," she muttered, and was extremely startled when the blonde placed a sloppy kiss on her cheek.

"Ooh, I get to sit on your lap!" she giggled. "Kinky."

Cody raised an eyebrow at her. "Well, you're a happy drunk, I'll say that for you," she said, wryly. "Think you can walk into the house?" she asked, when they arrived.

"'Course I can walk into my own house!" she said, taking her arm out of Cody's grasp, trying to walk up the sidewalk as Cody paid the cab driver, and he drove away. "Oh, oh, okay... I can do this... well, if the stupid ground would stop moving!"

Cody sighed, and placed her hands on the blonde's smaller shoulders, leading her from behind. "Jennie, tell me you have your house key," she said, and the woman happily dangled the chain in front of her face. "Very good, now open the door." Fumbling with the keys, Cody took them from her, finally found the right key, and led the intoxicated blonde into the house.

"Hey, it's dark in here!" the woman complained, as Cody shut and locked the door, putting the keys on the kitchen counter.

"Jennie!" Cody yelped, when she suddenly felt two small hands travel up her sides. "Stop that," she commanded, grabbing Jennie's hands, quickly trapping them in her own larger ones. "Come on, let's get you into bed. You're so going to regret this in the morning."

"Cody," she said, as the tall woman sat her down on the bed and began taking her shoes off.

"What?" replied the star.

"I don't feel so good..."

"Oh, no you don't!" said Cody, helping the woman to the bathroom, but not before she managed to get foul smelling bile on both women's shirts.

Thank God stain removers also get rid of odors, she thought. Finding the washcloths, Cody soaked one in cold water, and held it against the sick blonde's forehead, trying to comfort her as she peeled off her shirt.

"Feeling better?" asked Cody, when the woman sat back on the ground away from the toilet, and nodded, allowing Cody to remove her soiled shirt. "Okay. Then let's get you back into bed."

"Only if you come, too," purred Jennie, and Cody rolled her eyes. Covering the small blonde up with the blankets, her eyes widened when the woman tugged on her arm, hard, pulling her down onto the bed beside her.

"That's better," she grinned, straddling Cody's hips.

"Jen, you don't want to do this," gulped the tall star.

Shut up, you idiot! Of course she wants to do this! Who are you to deny her?

"Yes, I do," insisted the blonde, placing soft kisses all over the woman's face.

"Jen, you're drunk. You don't know what you're doing," she said, deftly sliding out from under the young woman, when nimble fingers began working on the button of her jeans. I want this, but not until we can both enjoy it. "I won't let you do something you'll regret later."

Jennie pouted. "I won't take no for an answer," she said, and Cody forced herself to climb out of the bed.

"Then I'm sleeping on the couch," she decided. "I will not stay with you when you're too drunk to realize what you're doing."

"Cody, I - I'm sorry," came the soft voice, as Cody turned to leave. "Please, don't leave. I'll behave, I promise. I just... I don't want to be alone right now. Please," she repeated, and Cody felt her heart break at the scared tone of the blonde's voice.

"Okay," said the tall woman, gently, climbing back in beside her, kicking off her shoes as she laid down. "It's okay, I'm right here. I'm not leaving," she said, when she felt the small woman grip her waist tightly, and hold on for dear life.

"Rest now," she whispered, kissing the sleeping blonde's forehead. "We'll talk in the morning."

CHAPTER SIX
Jennie groaned as she woke up the next morning, and felt like her head had been run over by an 18-wheeler. Pausing when something felt different, she was startled to find that she was at home, and had been stripped of her shirt, clad now in only her bra and jeans.

"Morning," came a voice, and Jennie jumped, turning to see a smiling Cody standing in the doorway of her small bathroom, also wearing just a bra and her jeans.

"Hi," said the blonde, tearing her eyes away from the tall woman's muscular build, as Cody walked over and kissed her forehead.

"How do you feel?"

Jennie eyed the tall woman, carefully. "Did we...?" she asked, and Cody laughed.

"No," she assured her, "but it certainly wasn't for your lack of trying. You know, you're damned hard to resist." Jennie rolled her eyes, and pulled the blanket over her head.

Moments later, it was pulled down, and the blonde looked into smiling blue eyes. "I promise, we didn't do anything. You just got sick, so I had to soak both our shirts in cold water," she explained.

"Thanks," said Jennie, and Cody grinned. "And thank you, for not letting me make a fool out of myself. You could have easily taken advantage of me," she added.

Cody shrugged. "Not my style," she said. ... anymore, her mind finished. "Hey, you never answered my question - how do you feel?"

"Better than I should, I think," she said. "I usually don't get a bad hangover, just a headache. Oh, God, where's Jeffrey?" she asked, suddenly in a panic.

"Relax," said Cody, running her fingers gently through the short blonde hair. "Garret offered to take him for a few days. He didn't see anything, he was asleep in the back room the whole time."

"Good," she sighed, curling up into Cody's side as the woman lay beside her, and snuggling even closer when the tall star wrapped her arms around her.

"Mind telling me what caused all this?" she asked, and frowned when she felt hot tears hit her shoulder a moment later. "Jen?" she asked, concerned, hugging the woman tighter when she realized she was crying. "Hey, what's going on here?"

"I just had a really bad day," she sniffled.

"I gathered as much," said Cody, softly, rubbing her back. "You wanna tell me about it?" Jennie nodded, and Cody gave her time to gather her thoughts, holding her tightly.

"It started yesterday morning," she began, "when I got to work. Being a Saturday, there weren't too many kids, but Mac was there." Cody stiffened at the mention of the man's name, but said nothing, and let Jennie continue with her story.

The bulge of a man walked in the door, and immediately wondered why there

were no children visible. Hearing laughter, he walked outside, and saw the brats and his only remaining employee out around the playground. But something was different... that wasn't his playground!

"Jennifer!" he bellowed, and Jennie encouraged the dozen children to keep playing, while she approached the owner.

"Yes, Mr. Donaldson?" she replied, coming to stand beside him.

"What in the hell is that?" he demanded, pointing to the tire swing.

"That's a tire swing, sir," she responded, and he sneered at her.

"Well, I know that! What the fuck is it doing on my playground?" he shouted.

"I replaced the old one," Jennie told him, quietly.

"With MY money?!"

"No, sir," she said. "I had a few friends take care of it for me. This one is sturdy, and safe, and the children enjoy it."

"I didn't give you permission to change a goddamn thing, did I?" he asked, and Jennie sighed.

"You said that I could do something about it on my own budget," she reminded. "And this didn't cost you a cent."

"You're getting closer and closer to unemployment with these little fiascoes, Jennifer," he snarled. "Next time you pull a stunt like that, you and your little boy will be out on the streets, understand?"

"Yes, sir," she replied, softly, as he stormed inside and slammed the door.

"Mom?" asked a sweet voice, and Jennie looked down at her son.

"What, Jeffrey?" she responded.

"Where's James?"

Jennie paused for a moment, making sure the youngster wasn't out on the playground, before remembering that he hadn't been dropped off. "I don't know, honey," she replied. "Maybe his mom didn't have to work today. They might be doing something together."

Jeff sighed. "Okay," he said. "Can you come watch me on the monkey bars?" Following her son out to the playground, Jennie clapped for him when he made it all the way across, and then started a mini-Olympics with the other kids.

By the time the kids were all on their way home, except Jeffrey, of course, Jennie had had to deal with four angry parents. Three of them were unhappy because they felt that Jennie couldn't handle the daycare by herself, when they learned the other two people had quit, and threatened to pull their children out if they complained once about not feeling included.

The other parent, Timothy's father, was upset because he said that he had been out of town for a while, only to return and learn that his son had been injured on the daycare's slide. When Jennie showed him the new playground, however, he graciously apologized, and took the child home.

"What do you say we stop for dinner, hm?" offered Jennie, and Jeff agreed, his excitement growing when he realized they were going to the local Pizza Parlor, where he could play games until his heart was content.

"Mom!" he exclaimed, as they tried to find a table to eat their pizza. "Look! There's James and his mom!" Jennie followed her son's finger, after telling him it wasn't polite to point, and sure enough, there sat the young boy and his mother, eating pizza as they talked and laughed.

It was clear that James got most of his genes from his mother, judging by the woman's long blonde hair and dark blue eyes that bordered on gray. The woman didn't look to be much older than Jennie, and she had a kind face that took years away when she laughed.

"Can we go sit with them?" he asked, and Jennie told him to ask Mrs. Riley. "Mrs. Riley," said the young man, walking up to the woman, "can me and my mom sit with you and James?"

"Hi, Jeff!" cried the young boy, scooting over to give his friend room, and Harriet Riley smiled, allowing room for Jennie, as well.

"Certainly, Jeff," she replied, kindly. "Have a seat."

"Thank you," said Jennie. "Would you like any more pizza?" she offered, but Harriet shook her head.

"No, thank you," she said. "I'm sorry I didn't call to let you know James wouldn't be in today, but I just didn't think about it, and I wasn't expecting to take the day off."

"That's all right," said the young blonde. "Here, why don't you boys go play some games," she said, both mothers handing each boy a few dollars, smiling knowingly at each other as their sons scampered off.

"Jennie, I'm sure you know by now that something has been going on at home," said Mrs. Riley, gently, and Jennie was surprised by her bluntness, but nodded.

"Jeff told me that James mentioned something to him about having to act mean because that's what his father did," she confirmed.

"Well, I kept James home because I wanted to talk with him," she said. "He decided that he didn't want to live around his father if he kept being so violent to both of us, and I know he's not going to change, so I decided to spend some time with my son, after telling him we would do whatever he felt was best. I'm filing for divorce on Monday," she added, and Jennie took her hand, supportively.

"This isn't as hard as I thought it would be," she admitted, having no clue why she was telling the small blonde in front of her everything, only knowing that she needed to tell someone, and Jennie was the first adult she'd seen all day, having spent the day at various amusement parks with her child.

"It's been a long time since we've loved each other, and I need to do what's

best for James, as well as myself," she said, and Jennie nodded.

"If you or James need a place to stay, or someone to talk to, you're welcome to give me a call," said the gentle blonde, jotting her number on a napkin and handing it to the woman, who smiled, gratefully.

"Thank you," she said. "I think we'd better be going, now." The woman finished her soda, and gave the small woman across from her a quick hug.

"Thanks again, Jennie. I'll see you Monday morning.

"James!" she called, and the young boy came running up to her, Jeff not far behind. "It's time to go," she said, and the boy looked disappointed, but waved goodbye to Jeff and Jennie, before taking his mother's hand, and walking out the door.

Jennie was glad that Harriet knew what she had to do to get a better life for both her and her son, and was willing to do it. The young blonde and her son ate their pizza quickly, and then Jennie joined in on a few games, before announcing that it was six o'clock, and time to go home.

Happily, clutching the small action figure he'd bought with his tickets, the young boy skipped out to the parking lot, and climbed in the passenger side of his mother's car, his imagination running away with him as he played with his new toy.

Once home, mother and son played catch for a while, Jennie knowing she wasn't

nearly as good as Cody, but glad that Jeff seemed to be having a good time, nonetheless.

"Mom, Cody's coming back tonight, right?" he asked, as they walked inside, the cloak of darkness having put an end to their game.

"That's right," nodded Jennie, "but she's going to be tired, so we won't see her until at least tomorrow."

The boy looked up at her, his eyes hopeful. "Have I been good enough to go watch her play?" he asked, and Jennie smiled. Her son had been very well behaved, he always was, and she was going to keep her promise - all she had to do was find the money.

"Yes, I think you have," she said, and he gave her a big hug. "We'll ask Cody when we can arrange it, okay?" The boy nodded, and sat down on the couch to watch TV, being able to stay up a little later since he didn't have school the next day.

"Can I watch my cartoon movie?" he asked, and Jennie said he could, since the

movie was only half an hour long, and he'd probably be asleep by the time it was over. Putting it in the DVD player, she hit play, and, sure enough, as the movie cut off, the boy was asleep in his mother's arms.

Jennie carried him into his room, tucked him in, and then walked back out to the living room, placing the disc back in its case. She was ready to turn the TV off and go to bed, unable to stop thinking about what Mac had said, when a scene on the news caught her attention, and she paused.

"Volume up," she ordered, until she could hear what was being said.

"A hit-and-run driver is on the loose tonight, responsible for the deaths of two people, a mother and her young son. Witnesses say the black Mercury Cougar was doing the speed limit, when a white four-door vehicle sideswiped them, sending them crashing head-on into the cement barrier here on the freeway," said the reporter. "The white vehicle then sped off, leaving the scene.

"We have just been informed that we can release the names of the two fatalities in this horrible accident. They are Harriet Marie Riley and her five-year-old son, James Douglas Riley. Both were killed on impact."

Tears fell freely as Jennie sobbed, unable to continue her narrative, Cody herself shocked by the news, as she held the woman tightly.

"I just put Jeffrey in the car and drove down to Garret's before I knew what I was doing," she sniffed. "I was so upset that something like that could happen to a child. I never thought it would happen to someone I knew. And she was so close to being happy again… I'm sorry."

"Hey, it's okay," crooned the tall woman, gently. "Next time, talk to Garret about what's bothering you if I'm not around, instead of ordering drinks, okay?" The blonde nodded, and rested her head on Cody's shoulder.

"This wasn't exactly what I had in mind to welcome you back," she said, hiccuping as her tears slowed. "I was gonna make you dinner, and watch the sunset..."

Cody chuckled, touched by the thought. "That's all right, honey," she said, not even noticing the endearment. "We can do that another time. Besides," she continued, grinning, "sleeping topless with you wasn't all that bad."

Jennie smacked her arm, but smiled. Then, she paused, going over what Cody had said. "Did you just call me "honey"?" she asked, and Cody swallowed, thinking she'd messed up.

"Yeah," she admitted, meekly, startled when Jennie laughed and kissed her lips. Cody raised a dark eyebrow at her. "You're not mad?"

Jennie shook her head. "Why would I be mad? That's sweet," she smiled.

"But, I mean, we've only been together for a week," observed the star, and Jennie frowned for a moment, thinking that it seemed like she'd known the woman for much longer than just a few days.

Suddenly, the blonde grinned. "This is definitely the fastest moving relationship I've ever been in," she said, and Cody looked worried. "I usually don't sleep with anyone until at least the second week." Cody laughed, relieved the woman wasn't bothered by the pet-name.

This is new to me, too, thought Cody. I don't usually fall in love with the first beautiful set of green eyes I see. She smiled to herself. But, there's a first time for everything!

"Cody?"

"Hm?"

"What's wrong?" asked Jennie, and Cody looked at her.

"What do you mean?" she asked.

The blonde gave her a long, hard look. "You haven't said a single quote since I woke up this morning. Just wondering if you're okay," she said, and Cody glared at her.

"I'm fine," she said. "Would you like for me to say a quote?"

"Uh-huh," nodded Jennie, and Cody bit back a pleased smile. No one had ever actually asked her to phrase the quotes she knew, and when she knew it would bring the woman she loved enjoyment, she was all too happy to comply.

"What about?"

"Hm... how about, love."

The tall woman took a deep breath, and thought for a moment, before letting

it out all at once. "Love... okay. When you love someone all your saved-up wishes start coming out, Elizabeth Bowen. ...I don't want to live - I want to love first, and live incidentally, Zelda Fitzgerald.

"And, my personal favorite," she grinned, rolling over to lock eyes with the small blonde, "is by Dorothy Parker. Love is like quicksilver in the hand. Leave the fingers open and it stays. Clutch it, and it darts away."

"I like those," murmured Jennie, pulling Cody's head down for a long kiss.

"I know lots more," smiled the star, kissing the smaller woman again. "How's your headache?" she asked, chuckling.

Jennie raised an eyebrow at her. "Shut up," she said, smirking, as their lips met again, and the tall woman above her pulled back to place gentle kisses at the hollow of her throat. Gentle hands entangled themselves in jet black hair, tugging Cody back up.

Breathless, Jennie pulled away. "Cody, this is too fast," she said, and the star sighed.

"You're right," she agreed. "Next week good for you?"

That got her a slap in the arm. "I'm serious," the blonde insisted. "That's too big a step to make in such a short time."

Cody nodded. "I know," she said. "But, is it my fault you're so beautiful I can't keep my hands off you?" The blonde blushed, and Cody laughed, kissing her forehead.

"You like embarrassing me, don't you?"

"Just stating the facts," protested the star, grinning.

"Flattery will get you everywhere," laughed Jennie, and Cody grinned.

"By God, I hope so." Jennie groaned, and buried her head in the tall woman's strong shoulder as she blushed again, feeling the woman beneath her shake as she tried to control her laughter.

The blonde raised her head to find the star biting her lip, so she rolled her eyes, and sighed, dramatically, "Go ahead." The laughter that rang out was contagious, and soon Jennie was in a fit of giggles, helped along by Cody's tickling fingers at her sides.

"Okay, okay, I give!" she exclaimed, and Cody stopped tickling her, still laughing as she gave her a hug. "No fair - you're bigger than I am."

"Yep," confirmed Cody. "That just means I can do more things for you."

"Really?" asked Jennie, raising an eyebrow at her. Playful mood, are we? "Well, in that case, the floor could use a good vacuuming, the kitchen needs cleaning..."

Cody put her hand over her mouth. "You don't want to have me around the kitchen, remember? It's a disaster," she reminded, and Jennie smiled, taking her hand away so she could talk.

"Then I'll teach you," she said.

Cody blinked a few times, obviously surprised. "You'll what?"

"Teach you how to cook," elaborated the blonde. "That is, if you want me to."

Visions of food fights and other much more naughty things to do with food danced in her mind, and Cody smiled. "Sure," she drawled. "It's just, no one's ever offered to do that for me before," she admitted.

"Well, what do you say we get started? I don't know about you, but I'm starving," she said, and Cody gave her a look that said, "Yeah? What else is new?" and received another light slap in her arm. "Come on. Hey, is my shirt clean?"

Cody shook her head. "Nope, not yet," she said. "Mine isn't ready, either." She sighed, heavily. "Guess I'll just have to stay like this."

Jennie tossed a large shirt in her face. "Put it on," she ordered. "Consider it a prevention of what shouldn't be."

"Damn," muttered Cody, just loud enough for Jennie to hear, as she slipped the shirt over her head, as the small blonde laughed and found a shirt for herself. "So, what are we gonna have for breakfast?"

Jennie shrugged. "How about biscuits and gravy?" she offered, and Cody grinned.

"Sounds good," she agreed.

"From scratch."

"Uh-oh."

Forty-five minutes later, two flour-covered women finished their meal. Cody had started the flour fight when she sprinkled a small amount of flour over the blonde's head, and Jennie had finished it by dumping a handful of biscuit batter down the taller woman's shirt. Jennie let Cody do most of the cooking, she just supervised and answered questions, and while the gravy was a bit dry, the biscuits were delicious.

"That was good, Cody," praised the blonde, and couldn't believe the woman was blushing.

"Thanks," she shrugged. "I think I have more food on me than in me," she smiled. "But, it was fun. Thank you."

"You're welcome," said Jennie, kissing her softly, squealing when Cody spread

cold batter over her chest, taking it from the remnants of the goo that was still down her own shirt. "Well, I guess it's time to clean up the kitchen."

When Cody began gathering dishes to put in the dishwasher, Jennie stopped her. "You cooked, so I clean," she explained.

"I started the food-fight that made the mess," countered Cody, with a grin, "so I'll help." The blonde smiled, and within ten minutes, the kitchen was spotless again.

"When do you think we should rescue Garret from my son?" joked the blonde.

Cody laughed, but shrugged. "I think he'll be okay through today," she said. "But, tomorrow, I'm taking you and the little man out to a ball game - no arguments. The Warriors' stadium always gives a good fireworks show on the 4th, and you may as well have the pleasure of watching me play, too," she added, waggling her eyebrows as Jennie grinned.

"Well, in that case," she sighed. "Thanks." Kissing her soundly, Jennie was glad for a moment that her son was indeed out of the house, because she and Cody made quite a scene in the middle of the kitchen.

* * * * *
Cody stayed the night, allowing herself to get roped into making dinner and doing the dishes, but she really didn't mind, because it meant Jennie finally had a chance to relax. The tall star insisted that the blonde sit on the couch while she made dinner - which ended up being soup and a sandwich, but wasn't half bad - and then served it to her where she was.

Both women ate their meal on the couch, and afterwards, Cody collected the dishes, refusing help from Jennie, and loaded them into the dishwasher. That done, she went back into the living room, and sat down next to the small woman, taking her hand.

"Thank you," smiled the blonde, happily. "You know, I could get used to having you around."

Cody grinned. "That was the idea," she said. "I really don't mind doing things for you, you know. Can I ask you something?"

"Sure."

"What do you do for fun?"

Jennie frowned. "I'm not sure I understand," she said, slowly.

"Jen, I look around, and I see everything a little boy could want," explained the tall woman. "But I don't see a single book that doesn't rhyme, a single DVD with real people instead of animated characters, or a single puzzle that doesn't say "Ages 3-10" on the side. What do you do to relax?"

The woman sighed, and shrugged. "I haven't thought about it, actually," she said. "I'm a single mother, with a full-time job. Not only do I have to make sure the bills are paid on time, I have to make sure Jeffrey has everything he needs. I'm usually too busy to worry about having fun," she admitted.

Cody paused - she hadn't thought about it like that. "There's a quote I heard, but I can't remember who said it. The quote was: "Mothers never really think alone. They think once for themselves, and then for their child". I didn't understand that until I met you," she smiled.

Jennie nodded. "That's true," she said.

"It's settled then - you and Jeff are going to a baseball game tomorrow night." Jennie grinned, and gave the tall woman a hug. Cody held the woman in her arms until she fell asleep, and then carried her into her bedroom, wishing her good night as she left a note on the vacant pillow and fell asleep on the couch.

* * * * *
When the blonde awoke the next morning, she groaned when she realized she was

in her own bed, alone, and it was already past 9 o'clock.

"First she has to come pick me up from a bar because I'm too drunk to go home on my own, then she cooks me dinner and I fall asleep on her," she muttered. "Great job of welcoming her home, Jennie."

Green eyes brightened when she noticed a note on the bed. Picking it up, she rubbed her eyes to get them to focus, and read the short letter.

It read:

Jen,
I know you must have been tired, so

I figured I'd let you sleep in your own

bed alone, since I wasn't sure what we'd

end up doing sober…! I crashed on the

couch, hope you don't mind.

See you in the morning.

Cody

Jennie smiled. Wasn't sure what we'd end up doing sober, she thought to

herself. God, how bad did I try when I was drunk?!

There was a soft knock on the door. "Jen, you awake?" came a soft voice. The blonde grinned. "Yeah," she said. "Come in."

The door opened, revealing a smiling baseball player, and her small protégé. "Morning," said Cody.

"Hi, Mom!" The young boy jumped into the bed beside her, giving her a big hug. "Cody said you didn't feel good, that's why I had to stay with Garret yesterday, but we had fun and we played games and I got to play with a cat!"

Green eyes locked with blue ones, as Cody shrugged, and the verdant gaze brightened, glad that Cody had taken care of the situation.

"That's right, honey," confirmed Jennie, returning the youngster's embrace.

"How long have you been home?"

"Since seven," voiced the star. "I picked up your car, and then drove to Garret's, where I acquired a little hitchhiker." Jeff grinned, and Cody laughed when he stuck his thumb out like Cody has shown him, when he had asked what a hitchhiker was.

"Thanks," said Jennie. "What time is the game tonight?"

"It starts at 6:30, but Joe wants us there about four to practice and stuff," she explained. "You're welcome to come with me for the practice, if you want, or you can wait until the actual game starts."

"What do you think, Jeff?"

"Practice!" squealed the boy. "Can I practice with you?"

Cody started. "Uh, I'm not sure, little man. I'll have to talk with my coach, but I'll see what I can do, okay?" she offered, and the towhead nodded. Suddenly, she kneeled down, and whispered something into the young man's ear. He nodded anxiously, and with a wink, Cody led the boy out of Jennie's bedroom.

A few minutes later, the door opened, and Cody helped Jeff balance a tray of food in his hands.

"What's this?" asked the blonde, unable to keep the grin from crossing her face.

"Breakfast in bed," replied Cody, smiling.

"Yeah!" agreed Jeffrey, jumping up on the bed next to his mother, once the tray was settled over her lap. "Cody helped me make the eggs and stuff, and I did the toast all by myself! Huh, Cody?"

Cody grinned. "That's right, little man. You did a good job," she praised, and the boy contentedly squirmed onto her lap, since his mother's was taken up by food.

Jennie smiled at her son. "This all looks so delicious, I don't know where to start," she said, looking at the scrambled eggs, toast, and fruit that covered her plate, along with a glass of orange juice.

"Here!" said Jeffrey, helpfully handing his mother a piece of cantaloupe.

"Mm, that's very good," affirmed the blonde. "Did you two already eat?" The

two nodded, so Jennie finished her meal, making sure to tell both Cody and Jeffrey how much she enjoyed it.

When she was done, Jeffrey took the tray, and carefully walked it back out to the kitchen.

"Boy," sighed Jennie, happily, "one cooking lesson and I get breakfast in bed!"

Cody smiled. "Glad you liked it," she said, stealing a quick kiss.

Turning towards the door when she heard a sniffle, her blue eyes turned worried when she saw a sad looking young boy standing there, tears in his eyes.

"What's the matter, Jeff?" she asked, kneeling in front of the child.

"The glass broke and I spilled the juice on the floor," he said, in between sniffles, feeling bad that he had ruined his mother's special breakfast. Cody had said they were going to help her feel better, and now he'd gone and messed it up.

"Did you cut yourself?" was Cody's first concern, and the boy shook his head.

"Okay. You go see your mother, and let me clean it up, so you don't get hurt. Hey," she said, tapping his chin so he looked into her eyes, "it's okay, little man. I appreciate your help this morning."

The boy smiled a little, a grin that widened when Cody ruffled his hair on her way to the kitchen, and he scampered up next to Jennie, who soothed his frazzled nerves and assured him he wasn't in trouble.

A few minutes later, Cody returned, a smile on her face. "All done," she announced. "Nothing to worry about, Jeff." The boy grinned, and leapt to his feet when the tall woman suggested they give Jennie some time to shower and get dressed.

Half-an-hour later, Jennie smiled as she opened the door, and saw Cody and

Jeffrey in the living room. Cody was pacing, and Jeffrey was imitating her, going in opposite directions.

"How long does it take her to get dressed?" asked Cody, jokingly, not realizing Jennie was nearby and within earshot. "Does it always take her this long?"

The boy nodded. "Yep," he said. Jeff had to join in; he was already pacing like Cody, like an adult, now he just had to say things he heard big people say... "Women," he sighed, heavily, and Cody burst out laughing.

"You're telling me," said Jennie, and the two jumped, looking into amused green eyes. "I'm ready. Unless, of course, you'd rather me go back and change clothes," she said, smiling sweetly.

"No, no, that's fine," said the tall woman, in fact eyeing Jennie's current

outfit rather appreciatively. The small blonde wore jeans and a T-shirt, but both were snug, and showed off the curves of her body. Cody briefly wondered if she'd need to take a stick, to beat off all the men that were sure to follow her girlfriend, tongues dragging on the ground.

"What do you say we go get lunch, and then head over to the stadium?" she offered, and Jennie agreed, insisting that she would drive. Cody agreed, and Jeffrey clambered into the back seat, as Cody got into the front passenger seat beside Jennie. The small blonde smiled when her son insisted he wanted McDonald's, and Cody quickly agreed, so she pulled into the parking lot, and the three walked inside.

Cody helped Jeffrey retrieve the drinks and condiments, and the two selected a table, happily blowing the paper from their straws at each other, until Jennie caught them. Both looked so cute and guilty, the blonde couldn't help laughing, and kissed them both on the forehead, much to the suspicion of the surrounding patrons.

"Happy meal, chicken nuggets, and two cheeseburgers," she called, handing out

the appropriate food to each one of them. As Jeffrey happily played with his toy, Cody walked up to the front counter, and purchased the other two toys in the set, enjoying them herself before handing them over to the young boy.

"Thanks, Cody!" he exclaimed, beaming.

"No problem, little man," she smiled, ruffling his hair, as she loved to do.

Jennie shot her a grin, and the star winked at her, as the people at the table closest to them left, upon seeing their joined hands.

When lunch was over with, Cody drove to the stadium, the fingers of her right hand interlocked with those of the blonde's left, as Jeffrey made up scenarios with his new action figures. Jennie, on the other hand, was constantly glancing over at the tall woman on her right, trying to get used to seeing her long dark hair in a braid. It made it easier for her to put under her helmet, Cody claimed, but it was strange for Jennie to observe, when she wasn't used to it.

"Cody, is James gonna be there?" he asked, referring to the tall star's friend, whom he remembered from a few days ago at the daycare.

"Yep," confirmed Cody. "And the rest of the guys, too. James' son is probably going to be there, so you'll have someone your age to play with," she added, and the boy seemed excited by the news.

Sure enough, as Cody led Jennie and her son through the bleachers, they ran into James' wife, Leslie, son, Mike, and young daughter, Jessica. Jeffrey and Mike hit it off

instantly, as did Jennie and Jessica and Leslie, so Cody slipped away, secretly glad she didn't have to worry about Jeffrey joining in the practice, as she met James down on the field after she changed.

They were early, as it was only about two in the afternoon, but Cody knew most of them liked to have more time to practice before a game, and even work on perfecting a few moves. Playing a quick game with the five people they had out there, one person hitting the ball to different parts of the field to exercise the catchers, before hitting one as far as they could, and running until they were tagged out.

Jennie and Leslie had a good time watching the men, and one woman, play their best, and chatted idly about raising kids. Mike and Jeff, on the other hand, ran around the bleachers, playing with Jeffrey's new action figures, and the few toys Mike had brought along.

When it was about five, people started filing in for the game, as the players

left the field, and the two mothers called their sons over to them, to keep an eye on them. Just over an hour later, the stadium was packed, and the game began.

The Warriors were playing against the Dodgers, and gave the team a run for their money. By the fifth inning, the score was 9-3 in favor of the home team, and Jennie was cheering just as loudly as the other fans, rooting for number 23.

As Cody stepped up to the plate, the fans began chanting her name, and she glanced up, sparing Jennie a quick grin as she met her gaze, and then concentrated on the task at hand. With a loud crack, the fast ball was sent flying over the wall, and every fan in the stands was on their feet, as three people crossed the plate, followed by Cody, who was met by high-five's in the dugout.

"Nice hit, C-girl," praised Matt, and the woman just smiled, accepting the applause with charm.

By the end of the last inning, with a score of 16-5, no one cheered louder than Jennie and Jeffrey, when Cody caught a home run hopeful at the wall, ending the game. When the cheering died down, the players were asked to leave the field, as the fireworks were about to begin.

Changing quickly, Cody slipped into the stands, found Jennie, and sat with her and her tired but excited son as they watched the celebration. The display was gorgeous, with red, blue, purple, green, and many other colors exploding above the fans.

When it was over, however, Jeffrey was sound asleep in the strong arms of his tall friend, not moving in the slightest when Cody carried him out to the car, and lowered him gently in the back seat.

"Did you have fun?" asked Cody, as she sat down in the front passenger seat, and worked on taking down her hair.

Jennie nodded. "That was great, Cody," she grinned. "Jeff had a good time, too. Thank you." Exchanging a quick kiss with the star, Jennie drove home, her son pleasantly worn out, not even waking up when she pulled in the driveway.

Jennie opened the back door, and was about to lift Jeffrey into her arms, when she heard the phone ring. Running to the door, she unlocked it in a hurry, trusting Cody to take care of her son, which she knew the tall woman would do without hesitation.

"Hello?" answered Jennie, breathless from running to catch the phone before

the caller hung up.

"Hello, dear," said a voice. "I've been calling all night."

"Sorry, mom," sighed the blonde, propping the phone up on her shoulder as she

motioned for Cody to put Jeff to bed. "We went to see the fireworks down at the Warriors' Stadium."

"Oh, that sounds like fun. Listen, honey, there's someone I think you should

meet…"

"Mom," pleaded Jennie.

"Come on, Jennie," insisted the woman. "It's not like you're with anyone!"

Jennie was silent for a moment, wondering what to say to that, and her mother gasped. "You are?"

"Well…" muttered the young woman, briefly wondering how fast she could

change the subject.

"That's wonderful! Why didn't you just say something?" Dana continued without waiting for her daughter to answer. "You simply must bring him over for dinner so your father and I can meet him! What's the name of your latest love?"

Jennie sighed. "Cody," she said. Well, she wasn't lying.

"Details, honey!" demanded Dana, laughing. "Tall? Short? What?"

"Tall, black hair, gorgeous blue eyes," gushed the blonde, and then bit her tongue.

"Wonderful!" her mother repeated. "Why don't we all get together for dinner

Wednesday night? How does The Olive Garden sound? Maybe you can find a baby-sitter for Jeffrey," she added, and Jennie agreed.

"Okay, mom," she said. "I'll see if Cody's free. Talk to you later. Love you," the blonde concluded.

"Love you, too, honey. Oh, this is going to be great!" Dana repeated.

Shaking her head, Jennie hung up the phone as Cody came up behind her and gave her a gentle hug. "Everything okay?" she asked, softly.

"My mom wants you to meet her and my dad at dinner Wednesday night," she said, returning the hug.

Cody grinned. "I'll behave," she promised. "Your parents will think I'm the nicest friend you've ever had."

"Cody, I'm going to introduce you as my girlfriend," she explained.

"Are you sure?"

The smaller woman nodded as she sat down on the couch, Cody following suit and sitting next to her. "I want my parents to know me for who I am," she said. "I'm tired of making up excuses to get out of dates my mother has set up. And I am not ashamed of you, so I'm not going to act like it!"

Cody smiled. "Well, I'm glad to hear that," she said. "As long as you're sure, because I'm willing to restrain myself from holding you for one evening, if I have to."

Jennie laughed. "I'm sure, but thank you. I guess this means I have to find a baby-sitter for Jeffrey, since he won't want to go with us," she sighed.

"Why don't you let me ask James? I'm sure he wouldn't mind keeping him for

another night," she said. The two women had already planned a night at the movies Tuesday night, but Cody didn't think her friend would have any objections to watching the boy two nights in a row.

"Besides, Jeff and Mike seemed to have fun together," the woman added. Jennie agreed, glad Cody had taken care of the problem, and snuggled deeper into the star's arms.

"You played really well tonight," she said, adding, "You were the best one out there," and Cody chuckled.

"Thanks," she said. "I think you're just bias."

The blonde grinned, and mumbled into the strong shoulder, "Hm, I am. Cody?" she asked, after a silence.

"What?"

"Thank you."

"For what?" asked Cody, startled by the sudden gratitude.

"For letting us go to practice with you," was the response. "Jeffrey really enjoyed it, and so did I. It meant a lot to both of us," she finished, quietly.

Cody smiled. "You're welcome, honey," she replied. "Anytime you feel like sitting in the sun and watching me sweat, you just let me know. I think we wore the little man out, though," she added, grinning as she got up and stood in the doorway of the boy's room, just watching him sleep.

Jennie came up beside her, and wrapped an arm around her waist. "He really is a great kid," whispered Cody, kissing the top of the blonde head.

"Only because he's got you for a model," came the soft reply.

"Model?" asked the star, taken aback.

"He looks up to you," confirmed the blonde, and then glanced up to see the stricken look on the tall woman's face. "Does that bother you?" she asked, concerned.

"No," assured Cody, once she found her voice. "It's just, I'm not really much of a role model."

The smaller woman smiled. "Sure you are," she said, and was startled when the tall baseball player drew back, and started walking to the front door.

"Cody?" she asked, afraid she'd said something wrong.

"I'll, uh, I'll see you tomorrow night for the movies, okay?" she said, chastely kissing the blonde's cheek as she walked out the door and into the night.

"Okay," said Jennie, to the closed door, wondering what in the world had just happened.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER SEVEN
The next morning, not long after Jennie arrived at work, the phone rang. Picking it up, all the while keeping an eye on the children, she answered, "Uncle Mac's Daycare, this is Jennie speaking, may I help you?"

"Hi, honey," came a deep even voice from the other end.

"Cody?" asked Jennie, surprised.

"Yeah," said the woman. "I just called to say hi. And to apologize for last night. I'm really sorry I left like that," she said.

"Yeah, I was wondering what was going on," Jennie admitted. "You scared me."

"I'm sorry, Jen," she said, honestly. "That was the last thing I wanted to do. I just had some things on my mind, and got to thinking about something that happened a long time ago. It kind of got to me, but I shouldn't have taken it out on you," she finished.

"Are you okay now?" she asked, kindly, and Cody was very surprised that she

wasn't going to have to go through an interrogation as to what had caused all the trouble.

"I'm all right, thanks," replied the tall star, still waiting nervously for the infamous demand of "Tell me about it".

"How'd you get home, by the way?" was the next question.

"Took the bus," Cody muttered. She'd forgotten about not having her bike until she was halfway down the street, and was too embarrassed by the way she'd acted to go back and ask Jennie if she could use the phone to call a taxi.

Jennie was relieved. She'd worried about the woman, out there in the dark, without a ride home. Knowing she got home safely made her feel better. "Well, I've got to run. Some of the kids are really upset about James, so I need to talk to them. I'll see you at home later, and we can go to the movie, okay?" she asked, and Cody agreed.

"Take care, honey. Bye," she said, and hung up. With a sigh, feeling a little better about the tall star, Jennie turned her attentions to the matter at hand - dealing with distraught children who had just lost one of their friends.

Despite an emotional morning, the day went well, and there was no sign of Mac

the entire day, which was a plus in Jennie's book. Heading home quickly, Jennie anxious to get ready to go the movies with Cody, she stuck Jeffrey in the bath while she got dressed, but ran into a slight problem, which she was still dealing with when Cody knocked.

"Jen? It's me," Cody clarified, when there was a period of silence after her knock.

"Come in!" called Jennie, and Cody closed the door behind her.

Looking around and not spying the blonde, Cody's voice rang out, "Jen? You ready to go?" They were planning to see a movie, the new one starring the kid from the old horror flick The Sixth Sense… Cody couldn't remember his name.

The small woman emerged from the bathroom. "Not yet; I'm sorry, Cody. Jeff refuses to get out of the bathtub. I'd lift him out myself, but I'm already dressed. He's just not listening; he's been in a bad mood all day today," she sighed, recalling how her son had sulked around the daycare, ignoring most of his friends, neglecting to open up to Jennie, who was preoccupied with the other children most of the day.

"Mind if I try?" When Jennie had no objections, the tall star politely knocked on the frame of the door, before entering the room. Sure enough, there sat Jeffrey in the tub, water now cold and bubbles long since gone.

"Hey, little man," she greeted, and the boy glanced up at her, warily.

"Hi, Cody." Brown eyes kept a careful watch on her as she stepped closer, and sat down on the toilet seat, now mere inches from the tub.

"I hear you're giving your mom a hard time. Want to tell my why?" The boy shook his head. "Well, your mom and I are going to a movie, but you have to be all ready for bed before we can take you over to James'."

"I don't wanna go," he pouted.

"Why not? I thought you liked James."

"No."

Cody shook her head. There was something else going on here; Jeff was typically a well-behaved kid, so this type of attitude was unusual. "Listen, do you want to tell me what's wrong? I know there's something bothering you, little man. Why don't you climb out of there and talk to me?"

"No."

"I hate to say this, Jeffrey, but either you get out right now and get yourself dressed, or I'll do it myself," she warned, evenly.

"No."

"Okay," Cody sighed, grasping the child under the arms and lifting him out of the water. Placing him on the floor, the boy still sitting, Cody began drying him with the towel.

"Stop," he whined. "I could do it myself."

A dark eyebrow was raised as Cody handed him the towel. "You certainly weren't acting like it a few seconds ago," she remarked.

The young boy frowned. "I don't want my mom to go with you," he stated, and Cody blinked, surprised by the sudden admission.

"Why not?"

"'Cause I don't see her no more, and we don't watch TV together no more and I don't get my story," he explained, and Cody paused. She'd been enjoying her time with Jennie so much she hadn't even stopped to consider if Jeff was feeling included or not.

Apparently, he wasn't, and Cody felt bad.

"Jeffrey, I'm sorry," she said, sincerely. "We didn't mean to exclude you. Why don't you hurry up and get dressed, and you can go to the movies with us? And we'll try to take you along more often, okay?" Cody offered, and the boy smiled.

"I could go with you?" When Cody nodded, the young child ran into his room to get dressed, while Cody went to let Jennie know of the change in plans.

The blonde looked almost devastated. "Oh, no… how could I have overlooked his feelings?" she muttered.

Cody wrapped her arm around the smaller woman's shoulders. "Jen, honey, you didn't overlook his feelings. We were just too excited about our own time together, we didn't expect Jeff to be interested. But we'll be sure to do better from here on out," Cody assured the blonde with a light kiss.

"Hey, there's my little man!" exclaimed Cody, seeing the boy exit his room. "You ready to go? All right then, let's head out." Jeff had thrown on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, squirming uncomfortably when the tall baseball star wet her thumb and fixed the cowlick atop his head, giggling as Cody lightly tickled his stomach after she was done.

"I guess we'll have to take your car," noted Cody. "I'd rather not take my bike with both of you."

Jennie agreed, and offered to drive to the theater. On the way there, the three discussed which movie to see, since the R-rated movie Jennie and Cody had picked out was no longer an option, with Jeffrey along.

"Jellybean!" voted Jeff, as Cody and Jennie exchanged glances. Did they really want to sit through a kid's movie about a magic green jellybean that comes to the aid of a small boy?

Only as long as it meant they could be together.

"Sure, little man," grinned Cody. "Jellybean it is."

"An' can we get popcorn?"

Jennie responded, "It wouldn't be a movie without it."

"Yea! We're gonna see Jellybean, we're gonna see Jellybean," Jeff sang, thrilled by the idea as Cody chuckled at his enthusiasm. "And we're gonna have popcorn. And candy and soda!"

"Hey, now, I don't think you need any sugar," said Jennie. "Maybe we'll share a soda, but nothing more." Both Cody and Jeffrey pouted, Cody sticking her lower lip out as far as she could, until the blonde couldn't hold back her laughter.

"All right, maybe we'll share a bag of candy, too."

"Yes!" Giving the boy in the back seat a high-five, Cody lovingly ruffled his hair, as Jennie looked on with a smile. Sometimes the tall woman amazed her with her gentleness and love around Jeffrey and herself. Even when the star had a hard day at practice, she still managed to play baseball with Jeffrey, and usually spend a few minutes alone with Jennie.

"What's that look for?" asked Cody, noticing that Jennie kept looking at her from the corner of her eye.

The blonde blushed slightly at being caught, and replied, "Just thinking about how good you are with Jeff."

"Ah, he's a good kid," smiled the star, brushing her long black hair behind her ear in a rare moment of embarrassment. The duration of the drive was spent in a comfortable silence, and the soft eyes of a child lit up with delight when the large theater came into view.

"Wow! There's lots of lights so we can see at night, huh?"

Cody grinned at the boy. "Yep, and they're also for decoration, and to make people want to stop by," she explained, patiently.

"I know that." Cody just smirked - five-year-olds were worse than teenagers when it came to knowing everything, but Cody appreciated the fact that Jeff was willing to learn.

Stepping outside and waiting for Jennie, Cody took Jeff's small hand in her own when it was offered, the boy's mother grasping his other. Walking with Jeffrey between them, the two women entertained him by lifting him over every crack in their path, smiling when the child's happy laughter filled the air.

Walking through the door after buying the tickets, Jeffrey stood in awe of the vast selection of virtual reality machines that lined the far wall, with a banner above the room proclaiming, "Games!"

Expectant brown eyes looked up at both women. "Can I?" Jeff asked, full of hope.

Cody looked at Jennie, who nodded. "Tell you what, little man," she said, kneeling down to be eye-level with the boy. "Why don't you go play games with your mom, and I'll take of the popcorn and the candy?" If Jeff was feeling that Cody was taking up more of his mother's time than he was comfortable with, Cody was determined to make sure he and Jennie spent some time together.

The blonde smiled, and took her son by the hand. "Come on, Jeff. It looks like there's a new game open, and not too much of a line," she hinted, and the boy took off towards the room, before running back to Cody and giving her a hug.

"Thanks, Cody," he murmured, and then rejoined his mom, leaving a brilliantly smiling baseball star behind him. Getting to her feet, Cody shook her head fondly, and stood in line for the refreshments.

"Pow! Bang! Boom! Ha ha!" cried Jeff, his voice ringing out as he held his hands out in front of him, curled into fists, seeing the form on the view screen in his helmet. When he ducked down, so did the display on the screen. Small boxes where in the area, available for hiding behind to dodge attacks. The game included sounds, transferred through speakers in the helmet, so neither Jennie nor Jeffrey heard Cody calling until their game ended, having fought the bad guys side-by-side.

"Yeah, we won! Cody, did you see?" he asked, bouncing around, happily reenacting a scene from the game.

"Yep, I saw you guys," she grinned, and held the door open for both Jennie and Jeffrey to enter the theater, where the lights were slowly dimming, signifying that the movie was about to start.

"Where do you want to sit, little man? It's all up to you," Cody said, and the boy chose a seat in the back - something Cody and Jennie greatly appreciated. Being away from most of the people gave them a chance to be close, without having to worry about being bothered by narrow-minded observers.

With crystal clear video and sound, the members of the audience watched George the green computer-animated jellybean learn about friends, bullies, and parents. It was a standard kid's film, dealing with the normal kid issues, but not a bad movie altogether. As long as Cody was able to hold hands with Jennie and steal an occasional kiss, she was happy.

"Did you like the movie, Jeff?" questioned the blonde, walking out hand-in-hand with Cody, the connection having become so natural she didn't even think anything of it.

"Yeah! I wanna watch it again!"

Cody chuckled, and made a mental note to buy the film when it came out on DVD. Old videocassettes were obsolete, and now qualified as subject matter for history books. Even DVDs were being gradually replaced by micro-discs, a miniature CD.

"Fucking dyke sluts," could be heard across the parking lot, and Cody instantly stiffened, searching with dangerously narrowed eyes for the owners of the voices.

Jennie relinquished the star's hand, whispering, "Just let it go," as even Jeffrey's good mood diminished, and the boy fell silent. Taking a deep breath, Cody continued on her way to the car, and was tempted to let it drop, when two large men stepped into view, one revealing a switchblade, which he snapped open.

"Let's show these bitches what a real man feels like," the one with the knife encouraged, and Cody immediately pushed Jennie and Jeffrey towards the car.

"Get in the car, both of you," she said, her voice trembling a bit from the adrenaline coursing through her veins. "Jennie, please don't argue with me right now, just put Jeff in the car and stay down," Cody ordered, lowly, and the blonde did as she was told, to Cody's relief.

When the first man, who couldn't have been older than about twenty-one, made a slash at her with his blade, she cursed under her breath, jumping back just in time to miss being hit. Her backpack was in the side compartments of her bike, and so was her knife.

She was unarmed.

"Listen, I don't want to hurt either of you," she explained, dodging another jab, and ducking as the second one threw a punch, both thugs now closing in around her.

"Oh, hurt me, baby," smirked the bare-handed man, earning himself a quick kick in the jaw before he even saw it coming, stumbling backwards, stunned.

Glaring at the man with the knife, she spat, "Try me again, ass hole, I dare you." With a growl, he did just that, and Cody leapt to the side and just missed being stabbed, wrapping one arm around his neck and the other restraining the hand with the weapon. Choking, he dropped the knife to claw at his throat, and Cody released him with a push towards his dazed buddy.

"Get out of my sight before I get really pissed, you stupid fucks," the woman cursed, and the two took off into the night, never once looking back. When she was sure they were gone, she kicked the knife away, and then went to check on Jennie and Jeffrey.

"You two okay?" she asked, opening the rear door to see Jeffrey huddled on his mother's lap. "Hey, Jen, Jeffrey, are you guys all right?"

Jennie looked up and nodded. "What about you, Cody? Are you hurt?" the blonde asked, and Cody gave a half-grin.

"Nah, they didn't get a hit in," she assured the woman, kissing the top of her head, as well as Jeff's. "Come on, let's go home. I'll drive." Their pleasant night ending on a sour note, Cody drove the two people she cared for the most in the world back home, carrying Jeffrey to bed and tucking him in tightly.

"You sure you're all right, little man? You're not scared?"

Jeffrey shook his head. "No, you're here," he stated, honestly, and Cody smiled.

"Thanks, Jeff. You get some sleep, okay? Good night," she added, shutting of the light and moving out into the living room with Jennie, who was sitting on the couch.

"Come here," the small blonde beckoned, opening her arms. Cody willingly sank into her hold, and Jennie questioned, "Are you sure they didn't hurt you? Honestly, Cody, please… are you hurt?"

Cody smiled. "I promise I'm fine, honey, but thank you for your concern. I just put Jeff to bed, and he seems to be all right." The stillness of the night descended upon the two for a few minutes, as they both took time to come down after the emotional evening, Cody trying to straighten out a few of the thoughts coursing through her mind.

"Jen, can I ask you something? You don't have to answer, I'm just curious," said Cody, her tone of voice enough to make the blonde look up.

"Of course, Cody. What is it?"

Cody paused, trying to figure out how to phrase her inquiry so as not to offend or upset the young woman. "When I told you I was going to build the playground at the daycare, you almost seemed surprised that I was honestly going to do it… can I ask what happened?" she asked, gently, and Jennie sighed, sitting up straight.

"It was a long time ago," the woman began, not meeting Cody's gaze as she fiddled with the seam of the couch, pulling at a thread. "Jeff was only about a year old, and I was with a woman named Donna. We started out as friends, but she quickly decided she wanted more, and I was pulled into her enthusiasm.

"When we'd been together for about three months, Donna and I started talking about beginning our own daycare, since she also worked for Mac, and felt the same way about him as I did," Jennie spoke, her voice low as she remembered things she'd promised herself she'd never think of again.

"It took two months of planning, but we finally had it all laid out. Donna offered to take the idea over to the bank for not only a loan but to begin an account, and I agreed. She took the money and never came back. It took me a long time to recover from that, both financially and emotionally.

"So when you first offered to pay for everything and put it all together," concluded the blonde, finally meeting the blue-eyed woman's compassionate stare, "I guess my first thought was that you wouldn't go through with it. I was cautious, but now I know I had no reason to worry."

"I'm not Donna," agreed Cody, softly. "I'm sorry she hurt you like that, but I can promise you I won't. Money's not an issue with me, and I don't want to ever do anything to hurt you in any way. You can trust me, Jennie," she assured the young woman, who smiled.

"I do trust you, Cody. I really don't believe you're the kind to act like Donna. But, it's getting late. I'll see you tomorrow?"

Cody grinned. "Yep, for dinner. Get some rest, honey. You sure you don't want me to stay? I will, if you need," the star offered, and Jennie chuckled.

"Of course I want you to stay, but I think we'll be okay tonight. Good night, Cody, and thank you for taking care of the situation tonight," the blonde added.

The tall woman leaned down and placed a gentle kiss on her lips. "I'm not about to let anything happen to you or Jeffrey. 'Night, Jen," she murmured, reluctantly pulling back and forcing herself to walk out the door and drive home.

* * * * *
The next day, Jennie became more and more nervous as time wore on. Happy as she was to be going out to dinner with Cody, she was extremely concerned as to what her parents would think when she told them who she was dating. Unable to stop time, however, the workday quickly came to an end, and the last child waved their goodbye from the back of an electrically powered vehicle.

Jeffrey readily helped Jennie close up, and they drove home, the small boy helping his mother choose her outfit. He was all too happy to have his mom go out with Cody, since Jennie had patiently explained that while she and Cody would take Jeff with them to as many things as they could, there were some places he just wouldn't be able tag along. The young boy understood, and decided that spending time with James and Mike would be much more fun than eating dinner at a stuffy restaurant with his grandparents.

Jeffrey thought the dress suit his mother wore to their occasional church attendance would be nice, and Jennie agreed, slipping on the beige slacks, white shirt, and beige jacket. She made sure she was comfortable, since she had no doubt the tall woman would ride her motorcycle.

Sure enough, not long after Jennie was dressed, Jeffrey ran to answer the door when he heard the doorbell ring. He happily let Cody inside, who wore black dress pants, with a crisp white shirt and a black coat, followed by James. Jeffrey bid his mother goodnight, and ran after the male baseball player, who led him out to the car where his son was waiting.

"Wow," said Cody, grinning as the young blonde flushed a light red. "I'm going to have to keep my eye on you, lest those line of guys outside your door get their hands on you."

Jennie smiled, and gave her a quick kiss, before heading to the door, singing, "Oh, boys!" Cody growled, and went after her, literally sweeping her off her feet as she swung her around.

"She's mine," she proclaimed, to the nonexistent competition, kissing the woman in her arms soundly on the lips to prove her point.

"And don't you forget it," said Jennie, as she climbed on the motorcycle behind the tall woman, after securing her helmet.

"Never," promised Cody, with a grin, as she revved the engine, and took off down the road. They had half-an-hour to make it to the restaurant by six, but she figured they had plenty of time.

Cody eyed the traffic with caution, noticing that the black car in front of her didn't seem to be slowing for the upcoming stop sign. Catching a movement out of the corner of her right eye, she saw a green van coming towards the intersection, without a stop sign in their way.

The noise was deafening, as the vehicles collided, and Cody did all she could to keep from adding the motorcycle to the crash. "Shit!" she cried, braking hard, bringing her hand behind her to help keep Jennie on the bike, as the motorcycle slid to a stop. By the time Cody had checked on her passenger, smoke was already billowing out of the cars, the black car having run the stop sign and slammed into the green van, who technically had the right-of-way.

Jumping off the motorcycle, and removing her helmet, Cody opened the side compartments, as Jennie looked on, startled by the sight before her.

"Call 911," Cody said, tossing her a cell phone. "Tell the dispatcher there's been an accident on…" she glanced up at the street names, "4th and Davis. I'll tell you how many are injured when I know.

"Jen, you can do it," she assured the woman. The blonde nodded, and the tall woman rushed to the smoky scene, first aid kid in hand. Laying it on the ground, she went up to the black car, which had been hit the worst in the passenger side, and opened the driver's front door.

A man, probably about fifty or so, was slumped over his steering wheel, as a young girl beside him cried and begged, "Grandpa, wake up!"

Cody locked eyes with the brown-eyed child, and tried to calm her down. "My name's Cody," she said. "I'm going to help your grandfather, okay?"

The girl nodded, and watched with big eyes as the tall woman quickly checked

the man for a pulse, and finding none, stabilized his head as best she could, before removing the large man from the crunched car.

"Come on out here," urged Cody, and the girl clambered out of the car in a hurry. Noticing she was holding her arm, where a large piece of glass was protruding, the star knew she'd have to take care of the other victims first, since the girl didn't seem to have any other injuries.

"Sit on the curb, sweetheart," she said, and held up three fingers to Jennie who was still on the phone, taking note of the sole driver in the green van, and then noticed she was gaining an audience.

"Any of you know first aid or CPR?" No one stepped forward. "Then stay out of my way. You," she said, pointing to a man who was just stepping out of his car to get a closer look, "park down at the end of the block, and direct traffic. Keep your hazard lights on.

"You, do the same up there," she instructed to another spectator, so the flow of traffic would be stopped, and the people sprang into action. "Don't need another accident," she mumbled.

"Jennie!" she called, and the blonde hurried over.

"They're on their way," she reported.

"Good. Sit with the girl on the curb," Cody requested. "Don't let her go into shock; if she complains of being really hot, or starts shivering from cold, let me know. Jen," she said, before the woman left. "Thanks. You're doing fine."

As Jennie sat down beside the child, Cody checked her grandfather for internal bleeding or broken bones. Finding none, save a concussion on his forehead, she was going to begin CPR, when the smoke snaking through the hood of the other car turned into orange flames. Since gasoline was a thing of the past, she didn't have to worry about an explosion, but electrical fires were a definite cause for concern. The old man was, unfortunately, going to have to wait, as Cody decided she'd much rather get that fire under control than to have to deal with an explosion that could injure everyone around.

With a growl, she ran to the driver's side, where the woman was struggling to get free. The doors were stuck, and the fire was growing, smoke filling the inside. Taking off her jacket and wrapping it around her hand, she shouted at the woman to cover her face and get as far away from the window as she could, before sighing when she realized the woman had stopped struggling, and passed out.

One swift punch, and the glass gave way. Clearing the glass from the frame as much as she could, the tall woman took a step back for a moment, coughing, as smoke surrounded her face. Cody worked on opening the door, but it wouldn't budge, so she quickly unlatched the unconscious woman's seat belt, and tried to pull her out, trying to ignore the blood that was running down her arm.

But, the driver's left foot was stuck between the floor and the dash. Leaning through the window, hoping she didn't cut her stomach, Cody grabbed the twisted ankle, and freed it, paying no mind to the fact that the young brunette's shoe slipped off. Taking the woman under her arms, she drug her out of the window, and then brought her over next to her first victim, noticing she couldn't have been more than 20- or 25-years-old.

"Hey!" she called, to a man who was just standing there. "Come here." Tilting the brunette's head back, she ordered the man to kneel beside her, and paused for a moment before telling him what to do.

"Anyone here have a fire extinguisher?" One woman stepped forward, shyly. "Don't just stand there, goddamn it, go take care of the van before it gets worse!" Darting into her vehicle, the woman retrieved her fire extinguisher, and did as she was told, the fire soon under control.

"Pinch her nose and give two slow breaths, and watch her chest to make sure the air gets into her lungs. Keep it up until she starts breathing on her own," she instructed the nervous man who was kneeling beside the unconscious woman. Seeing his hesitation, she continued, "She has a pulse, but she's not breathing. She needs you to do it for her. Just do it!" Gathering his courage, the man did as he was bid, and Cody checked the girl's grandfather for a pulse again.

Still nothing.

Placing her right palm two fingers above the man's breastbone, she put her left hand over top and interlaced her fingers to keep her hands steady, and leaned over so her hands were positioned right under her shoulders. Without bending her elbows, using the weight of her upper body, she started doing chest compressions.

"… and four, and five, and six," she counted, and the man beside her, who was

comforting the woman who was coughing as she breathed on her own again, just stared at her, hearing the popping noise that occurred every time Cody pushed down on his chest.

"What's that noise?" he asked, encouraging the lady to relax.

"His ribs," replied Cody, tilting the man's head back and doing rescue breathing as the bystander had done with the woman. Giving him two breaths, and watching his chest rise as her air filled his lungs, she went back to doing the compressions.

"What do you mean? You're breaking his ribs?" the man cried.

She glared at him. "I have to compress down about an inch and a half," she explained. He still looked horrified, and didn't understand that, especially with older people, the pressure of the compression was often too much for their ribs to handle, but it had to be done, if he was going to have a chance.

"They can fix cracked ribs, but they can't fix him if he's dead!" she snarled, and leaned down to give the man another breath. Before she could finish another set of compressions, the ambulance and police officers arrived, and the paramedics took over CPR. While they were busy with the more seriously injured, Cody walked over to the girl, who was sitting on the curb still, talking with Jennie.

Cody was glad the blonde had turned the girl away from the scene, so she wouldn't have to watch her grandfather being worked on.

"Hey," she smiled, retrieving her first aid kit as she approached. "Can I take a look at that arm, sweetheart?"

"Yeah," said the girl. "I'm Anna," she added.

"That's a pretty name," said Cody, as she opened several packages of gauze. "I'm just going to put these pads around the glass, so it doesn't move and hurt you more, and then I'll wrap your arm. Okay?"

"Okay," agreed the girl. "You're not gonna take it out?"

Cody shook her head. "No," she said, "the glass might be helping you. You're doing a terrific job," she praised, as she began to use the roll bandage to hold the gauze in place. If she removed the piece of glass from the girl's arm, she was afraid the blood would flow much quicker than it was, and determined that the foreign object was probably doing a good job of slowing the bleeding.

"Cody, is my Grandpa gonna be okay? I kept asking Jennie, but she said she didn't know," said Anna, and Cody sighed.

"The paramedics are helping him right now," said Cody, gently, as she tied off the bandage, and looked into the girl's face. "They'll do all they can."

Anna nodded, and threw her arms around Cody's neck, squeezing her tightly.

"Thank you," she said, and then walked over to the man in the uniform, who was beckoning to her.

The tall woman took a deep breath, and sat down beside Jennie, glancing over

at the young woman. "Are you okay?" she asked, and the blonde nodded.

"Yeah," she said, taking a shaky breath. "I think so."

"You did a great job out there, honey," she smiled, putting her arm around her shoulders. "I really appreciate your help." Seeing the paramedics load an alert, talking man into the ambulance, along with his granddaughter, Cody broke out into a grin.

"You saved them, Cody," said Jennie, putting her head on the broad shoulder.

"You were amazing. I didn't know you knew first aid, much less CPR."

Cody shrugged. "I renew my license every year," she said, casually. Reaching into the first aid kit, she took out some more gauze, and Jennie watched as she began working on her own arm.

"Cody!" she cried. "What happened?"

"Just a little glass," she said, "that's all." While her hand had been protected from the glass, the woman's arm had been sliced, and was bleeding in several places.

"You should get that looked at," said Jennie, and motioned a paramedic over before Cody could stop her.

"So, you do bleed," smiled the paramedic, as he walked up to her, and examined her arm. "Hm, not even green blood! Some of the witnesses around here were thinking you were some kind of god or something. Well, at the very least, you're an angel with very real injuries. I'll get an officer to take you to the hospital, so you can get it sewn up.

"Thanks," he added, before he left. "You saved that man's life, and did some real nice work. Take care of yourself." Cody echoed the same, and the man walked away, speaking to a uniformed police officer on his way. Cody watched the medic point to her, and saw the policeman nod, and sighed.

"Well, I guess dinner's a bust for tonight," she said, grimly. "Sorry, honey."

"Oh, I should call my parents!" cried Jennie, grabbing Cody's cell phone, and dialing the number that was tucked away in her pocket.

"Yes, will you please tell Dana Donavon she has a phone call? Thanks," Jennie said, when the man agreed. Moments later, Mrs. Donavon got on the line, and sounded concerned.

"Jennie, is that you? What's wrong? Your father and I were getting worried!"

The blonde sighed. "It's okay, mom," she assured her. "But, I'm afraid we'll have to reschedule dinner to another night. We were on our way, when there was an accident, and we stopped to help," she explained.

"Well, that was very nice of you, dear," smiled Dana. "Is tomorrow night okay?"

"Let me ask Cody," she said, and put her hand over the receiver. "Cody, are you free for dinner tomorrow night? My mom wants to cash the rain check early." The tall woman nodded, as she began to wrap her arm, and Jennie put the phone on her shoulder as she continued the conversation, taking over the bandaging.

"Yeah, that's fine," replied Jennie. "We'll see you then, mom. Good night," she said, and hung up a moment later. As gently as she could, the blonde tied off the bandage, and helped Cody to her feet. "What do you want to do with your motorcycle?"

The tall woman shrugged. "I can drive it to the hospital, if need be," she said. "I can't just leave it here… Let me talk to the officer." Walking over to the uniformed officer, who was planning on taking her to the hospital, she asked him if it would be all right if she just drove herself to the hospital.

"I'll escort you, then," sighed the man, and Cody agreed. Putting on her helmet, and helping Jennie fasten hers, the tall woman pulled in behind the black and white police car, and followed it to the medical center.

* * * * *
"Ow!" said Cody, as the doctor drew the needle and thread threw her arm. The man didn't say a word, concentrating on his task, and the tall woman growled.

"I said ow," she persisted, and heard Jennie chuckle.

"I swear, Cody, you're worse than Jeffrey," said the blonde, kissing the woman's cheek, who grinned.

"Yeah," Cody agreed, "I'm just too darned cute to resist. Ow!"

"All done," smiled the doctor, bandaging the sewn arm of his patient. "Come back in a week to get the stitches taken out. Don't get it wet, and you should be fine. Oh, and no baseball," he added.

Blue eyes widened. "What?" she exclaimed. "No baseball? You've got to be

kidding me. I have to play - I've got a game in… three days," she calculated.

"Too soon," he said. "You'll chance tearing your stitches if you exert yourself like that. Just take it easy, and I'll see you back here in a week." That said, he left, and Cody sighed.

"I'm playing baseball," she stated, and Jennie laughed at the way her lower lip stuck out as she pouted.

"Right now, we're going home," said the blonde, and Cody agreed, following the woman outside. Securing their helmets, the two climbed on the motorcycle, and Cody drove Jennie to her house, dropping her off.

"I'd love to stay, honey, but I'd have to leave early in the morning, anyhow," she said. "I've got to let Joe know I got hurt. I still have to attend practice, but I'll probably just go over some of the plays, and help the guys improve. I'll talk to you tomorrow night, and pick you up for dinner, all right?"

Jennie sighed. "Okay," she said, kissing the woman softly before she left. "Get some sleep."

"Promise," smiled the star, returning the kiss, and then replacing her helmet. "I'll ask James tomorrow at practice if he'll mind keeping Jeffrey another night, and let you know what he says." With a quick smile, the woman rode away, and the blonde watched her go, before realizing she was still standing outside in the dark, and went inside.

The next day passed quickly for the blonde. When James dropped Jeffrey off at the daycare, she thanked him over and over for letting him stay, and mentioned the possibility of another night of the same.

"Sure," smiled the man, kindly. "Jeff's a great kid, and he and Mike had a good time. I'll pick him up on break, if that's all right, and he can spend the rest of the day at practice with us."

Jeffrey was thrilled by the idea, so Jennie agreed, and James told the boy he'd be back in a few hours. Every ten minutes, Jeffrey asked Jennie how much longer, until the woman finally said she'd tell her son when it had been two hours.

"Jennifer," said Mac, coming out of his office for just a minute, "I need to see you after the kids are gone, but before you close up."

"Okay," agreed the blonde, biting her lip. Had she done something wrong? A million thoughts ran through her mind, interrupted by the sound of crying.

Looking around, she saw that Nicole didn't want to let go of her mother's leg.

"Hi, Nicole," said Jennie, kneeling down to be next to the girl, who's mother looked exasperated. "What's wrong?"

"My mom's going away!" she cried, and Jennie glanced up at Theresa, who sighed.

"I have to leave for three days on business," she explained. "She doesn't want me to go without her."

"Nicole, I think I've got an idea," the blonde said, and the girl looked at her, brown eyes curious. "Why don't you let your mom go, and we'll read some books. The sooner she leaves, the sooner she can get done with her business, and the quicker she'll come back," she enticed, and the girl thought about it for a minute.

"Okay," she sniffled, taking Jennie's hand, waving goodbye to her mother, who was looking gratefully at her friend as she walked out the door. "Can we read this one?" she asked, going over to the bookcase, and Jennie nodded, calling all of the children over for story time.

Just after lunchtime, but before their naps, James came back to pick up Jeffrey, who gave his mother a quick hug and rushed out the door. Thanking James once more, Jennie turned back to her charges, and announced that they would watch a movie before naptime.

* * * * *
Jennie knocked softly on the frame of the open door, hoping not to startle the man as he sat at his desk.

"Mr. Donaldson? You wanted to speak with me?" she urged, quietly.

The man looked up, and nodded, motioning for her to come in, checking the clock to make sure it was closing time. "Yeah," he agreed, and added, "close the door behind you, please, Jennifer."

The blonde frowned, and paused, but did as she was told. She suddenly had a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach, but shrugged it off to not knowing what he was going to talk to her about - nervousness, she told herself.

"You like this job, don't you, Jennifer?" asked the older man, after Jennie took the seat in front of his desk, and the woman nodded.

"Yes, sir," she confirmed. "I love the children."

"You'd do anything to keep this job, wouldn't you?"

A fair eyebrow made its way upward. "Yes," the woman drawled, unsure of where the man was going. Was he going to fire her? "Mr. Donaldson, if I've done something to upset you," she began, but the man cut her off.

"No, no," he assured her, with a wave of his hand. "You're a fine employee, Jennifer, and you work well for being the only one. It is just you working the daycare now, isn't it?"

Jennie nodded, alarm bells going off in her head at the man's unusually caring tone.

"I'll bet it can get kind of lonely out there."

The blonde took a moment to think about it, and answered, honestly, "It's really not that bad, sir. I enjoy spending time with the children."

"I'll bet we can both use a little adult companionship, though. Am I right?" he asked, openly eyeing her body.

Jennie swallowed, and shakily got to her feet. Not good, this is not good at all! "I… I think I'd better go, Mr. Donaldson," she said, and began walking towards the door.

Faster than she had ever seen the old man move, the door was blocked by his body, and Mac Donaldson was standing in front of her, keeping her from the only possibility of escape she had.

"Either you cooperate, or you're out of a job," he snarled, locking the door and advancing towards her.

The blonde backed away. "You can't do that!" she exclaimed, searching frantically for something to use as a weapon, if it came to that, but finding nothing.

"You don't have the money for a lawyer, and you won't quit," he pointed out. "I think I can. Now, stand still!"

Before she knew it, the blonde had backed herself into a corner, and the large man was upon her.

Minutes later, a rather disheveled looking blonde hurried from the office, and a man could be heard saying, "You're fired, Donavon!" Jennie just swallowed her tears, tried to ignore the throbbing in her left breast that the man's hard grip had caused, as well as the rumpled look of her shirt.

The woman wasn't paying much attention to where she was going, just so long as it was away from Mac, when she bumped into someone - a tall, safe, strong someone. Cody's arms went out to catch her, and keep her from falling.

"Hey, there," she smiled. She'd left practice early to surprise the blonde by picking her up at work, giving them time to talk about Jeffrey before they left for dinner, as she was sure the woman would want to know all the boy had done at practice.

"Fancy bumping into you here." Suddenly, Cody saw the tears, and noticed the blonde's disturbed appearance. "Jen?" the tall woman asked, all humor gone. "Honey, are you okay? What's wrong?"

"Nothing," sniffled the blonde, wiping at her eyes. "Nothing, I'm fine."

"No you're not," stated Cody. "If you were fine, you wouldn't be crying. Now, what happened?" The small woman averted her gaze, and Cody gently but firmly lifted her chin, until their eyes locked. "Jennie, I can't help you unless you tell me what's wrong."

The promise of the star's help, and Jennie knew everything would be okay. With a sob, she sank into the woman's arms, and cried until she wasn't scared anymore. The startled woman just held the blonde in her embrace, whispering soothing words into her ear until she calmed down a few minutes later.

"What happened?" repeated Cody, gently, holding the woman tightly against her, and stroking her hair.

"I went to talk to Mac," said the blonde, hiccuping as the tears slowed. "He… he said he needed to speak to me after work, so I went into his office, and he asked me to close the door. I did, and then he started talking, asking me how much I like this job, and what I'd do to keep it. He said if I didn't… and he fired me…" she stammered. The tears returned, and Cody's throat tightened.

Softly, she pulled the woman back, and looked into her frightened green eyes. "Jennie, this is very important. I want you to listen to me," Cody said, her voice even.

"Did he touch you?"

Biting her lip, Jennie nodded.

"Did he hurt you?" continued the tall woman.

Another nod.

Cody took a deep breath. "Did he… did he rape you?"

CHAPTER EIGHT
So help me God, if she nods, it'll be the worst murder case in history, Cody thought.

Jennie shook her head. "No," she said, still sniffling. "He just… grabbed me, and hit me when I tried to get away, but I kicked him in the groin and left."

"Good girl," said Cody, kissing her forehead, and pulling her close again. "Stay here," she said, kissing the woman once more, and heading towards the manager's office. Without bothering to knock, the woman stormed in, and slammed the man up against the wall, from his former position of sitting at his desk.

"Remember me, ass hole?" she demanded, hotly. "You had the nerve to threaten Jennie, and then fire her when she didn't let you molest her? You goddamn son of a bitch! You're lucky all she did was kick you in the groin; I would've ripped it off and shoved it down your fucking throat.

"I still might," she growled, as an afterthought. "I can have you arrested so fast…"

"What do you want?" blubbered the old man, finding it hard to breathe for the strong hands around his throat, holding him a good three inches off the ground.

"I want you to quit," she snarled. "That's right. I want you to write up a letter saying you give the ownership over to one Jennie Donavon, and I want you to do it now."

"But… I can't do that!" he protested. "This is my daycare!"

"Do you even know how many kids come here? Or how to take care of them? Or their names? Or their parents' names?" Cody demanded. "She's run this place for the past God knows how long, and you're just going to make it official. You will write that document, selling the daycare to her for one dollar, and you'll do it now."

Numbly, the man nodded, and Cody shoved him back down into the chair at his desk. "Write," she commanded. A few minutes later, the man signed his name at the bottom of the deed, and Cody fished a dollar out of her pocket after approving the document. Stuffing the money into the man's hand, she escorted him outside, shouting, "And don't come back!"

Turning around, Cody found Jennie a few feet behind her. "Honey, what would you say to running this place - officially?" she proposed, showing the document to the small blonde.

Jennie's eyes lit up. "Really?" she asked, happily taking the paper from Cody's hand and reading it with fervor.

Cody nodded. "Yep," she agreed, sweeping the woman into a strong hug. "It's all yours, Jen. Congratulations."

"Thank you," murmured the blonde, kissing the tall woman, deeply.

"Do you still feel up to going to dinner tonight?" asked Cody, reluctantly having to end the kiss to ask her question.

Jennie nodded. "I'll be all right," she confirmed, and Cody helped her close up for the night, before starting down the road towards the restaurant. The blonde was already feeling the butterflies in her stomach at the knowledge of what she was going to tell her parents in just a few minutes, and her tension was felt by the tall star in front of her.

"Are you sure you want to tell them, sweetheart?" asked Cody, over the sound of the motorcycle. "Like I said, I'll understand if you're not comfortable with it, and we can just be friends."

Jennie shook her head. "I'm sure," she insisted, "but thank you, honey. I'm just a little scared as to how they'll react." Patting her hand reassuringly, Cody tried to get the woman to relax, as they pulled into the parking lot of The Olive Garden.

"How's your arm?" asked Jennie, walking beside Cody, whose right forearm was wrapped in a clean bandage, showing her injury with the short-sleeved shirt she wore. Sans the jacket, she looked much like she had the night before - black slacks and a white shirt. Her long black hair was pulled back in a loose ponytail, and Jennie had insisted she looked beautiful.

While Cody, of course, had proclaimed Jennie absolutely breathtaking. The small blonde wore dark blue jeans, with a gray shirt, and green earrings that Cody said brought out her eyes even more. While neither was dressed up, both felt the other couldn't possibly look any better in casual dress clothes.

"Feels all right," shrugged the tall woman, nonchalantly. "Doesn't really hurt right now, so I'll be okay." The blonde smiled, and took a deep breath as the two walked in the door, and were led to a table for four, where Dana and Thomas Donavon were patiently waiting their arrival.

Thomas wore jeans and a button-up shirt, with cowboy boots and a silver belt buckle, ex-rodeo rider that he was, his black hair not even hinting gray. His smile reached his soft brown eyes when he saw his daughter, and immediately stood to give her a hug, standing at least four inches taller than his little girl.

Dana also stood, wearing a gray pantsuit, her long blonde hair still up in a bun, having just come from work, showing a house for the real estate company she owned. Her green eyes took in the tall form that was beside her child, and remembered the description Jennie had given them of Cody - tall, dark hair, with blue eyes…

"Jennie, you made it," she smiled, enveloping her daughter in a tight hug. "We were expecting you to bring your boyfriend, Cody. Who's this?" she asked, raising an eyebrow at the tall woman with dark hair, who was standing by, somewhat awkwardly.

Jennie met Cody's eyes, and then swallowed, turning back to her parents. "Mom, Dad, this is Cody," she introduced, and watched as the adults exchanged glances, before turning their gaze to the baseball star.

"Cody Madison, right?" asked Thomas, and the woman nodded.

"Yes, sir," she said, shaking his hand, and he laughed, asking her to call him Thomas.

"Honey, is this your boyfriend's twin sister? She looks just like you said he would," said Jennie's father, urging his daughter to respond with a look.

"Dad, you don't understand…" began the blonde, with a sigh. "This is Cody. I don't have a boyfriend, because Cody is my girlfriend." Waiting for the angry response, Jennie quietly took Cody's hand, and leaned into the tall woman for support, which was readily provided.

Dana spoke first, after motioning for everyone to sit down. "So, how long have you two been together?" she asked, lightly, not yet letting it show if she was pleased or upset with the information.

"About two weeks," answered Jennie, her green eyes darting from her mother to her father, trying to read their expressions, and failing.

"Does Jeffrey know?" asked Dana, and Jennie winced, but nodded. She knew her parents would disapprove of her raising Jeffrey if she was with women, especially if the young boy knew, and she was pretty sure he did.

"And what do you think of him, Cody?"

Blue eyes met green as Cody looked at Mrs. Donavon, seriously. "I think he's a terrific little boy, and a pleasure to play ball with," she replied. "Jennie's done a wonderful job of raising him, and I'm glad she's allowed me to spend time with him. I've always liked kids, but with Jeff, it almost makes me feel like a mother, with my own child," she said, and paused for a moment.

"Making the decision to have a child - it's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body," the tall star said, quoting Elizabeth Stone. "But that's the way I feel with Jeff, and it's great."

Thomas spoke up, breaking the surprised silence that had settled over him and his wife, after Cody's eloquent response. "Well, Cody, what are your intentions towards my daughter?" he asked, and Cody's jaw almost dropped at the question.

"Dad!" exclaimed Jennie, when she realized the woman was blushing to the roots of her dark hair.

The man laughed. "I'm sorry, honey. Forgive me, Cody," he said, smiling. "I just couldn't resist. Jennie, why didn't you tell us from the start that Cody was a woman?"

Jennie looked away. "I wasn't sure what you'd think," she admitted. "I was afraid you'd be angry. And I still don't know you feel!"

"Jennie, we've known for a long time," said Dana, gently. "You're our daughter; we know you. We didn't say anything because we didn't want to push you into telling us before you were ready. And just to let you know, I never really had any dates lined up for you. But, I couldn't let you know I knew, so I had to keep saying I wanted you to meet some nice guys," she smiled.

Jennie just shook her head, disbelieving. "So, you're okay with all of this?" she asked, and her parents nodded.

"As long as you're happy, that's all that matters," said Thomas, smiling to himself when he saw Cody nod slightly in agreement, and slip her arm around Jennie's waist.

The waitress came, and took their orders, eyeing the younger couple with disgust when she noticed that Cody was absentmindedly rubbing Jennie's thigh with her thumb. Seeing the woman's look of discomfort, the tall woman removed her hand, and checked her back molars with her tongue as she looked away.

"Cody, what happened to your arm?" Thomas asked, once the waitress had left, noticing the bandage for the first time, since Cody's arm was now in plain view.

Before the star could answer, Jennie said, "She cut it helping those people in the car accident yesterday. She saved their lives!"

Cody blushed again, and sheepishly nodded. "Had to bust a window," she explained, modestly. While Dana and Thomas demanded to know what happened, Cody watched with interest as the waitress spoke with the manager, and pointed over at their table. Frowning, the manager nodded, and started walking over to them.

"I'm going to let Jennie tell you the details," she said, scooting her chair back. "Excuse me for a moment." Getting to her feet, she intercepted the man's journey, and led him over to a corner.

"I know what you were going to do," she told the owner, and glared at him when he wrenched his arm free of her grasp, and almost looked as though he was going to be sick, standing so close to her. "That waitress told you that that beautiful woman and I are together, and you were going to ask us to leave, because we were disturbing people," she continued, knowingly.

"This dinner is very important to her, and she will be very upset if something goes wrong. And if she's upset, I'm upset." Reaching into her back pocket, she withdrew her wallet, and handed the man a fifty dollar bill. "You keep quiet, don't ruin the evening, and tell your waitress to stop staring at us like we're anything less than she is. If people complain, tell them not to look," she said, giving him the money.

"Do you understand?"

The man nodded, but couldn't resist saying, "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. The moment I see anything inappropriate, you and your little girlfriend are gone." Cody growled at him, but left, clearing her anger before returning to the table.

"Everything okay?" asked Jennie, and Cody nodded, eyeing the manager from across the room as she took the blonde's hand.

"Yeah," she assured her, smiling. "Everything's fine. What did I miss?"

* * * * *
The night passed without incident, and, as they drove home from the restaurant, Jennie's bubbly personality was back. Cody was glad things had turned out as they had, even though she had been worried for a while. She decided against telling the blonde about the near-incident with the manager.

"I'm glad my parents are okay with us," the young woman said. "Despite the problem with Mac, today's been a really good day. Thanks to you," she added with a smile, kissing the tall baseball player on the lips.

"Wanna come inside?"

Cody grinned, and said, as she followed the woman into the house, "I don't know if I should. Your father might not like my intentions."

Jennie laughed. "I can't believe he said that," she said, smiling when she remembered the adorably dark blush that had covered Cody's face. "You're cute when you blush," she said, and the tall woman turned a little pink.

"Well, you've got me beat," she said. "You're cute all the time." The blonde laughed, and snuggled in close to Cody's side as they sat on the couch. "Much as I'd love to stay here all night long, and wake up with you in the morning, I've got to go to practice early tomorrow. Joe wants me practicing for the game, since I have to play," she sighed.

"But, what about your arm?" asked Jennie, concerned.

The star shrugged. "Joe says I've got a good chance at becoming Most Valuable Player this year, but I have to play every game, unless I break something," she explained, evenly. "Getting MVP would be great, Jen, and I have to try. I'm sure I'll be fine," she assured her, and the smaller woman sighed, wrapping her arms around Cody's waist.

"You'd better be," she said, "or I'll hunt Joe down myself."

Cody smirked. "Thanks, honey," she replied. "I'll tell him you said that." In truth, the tall woman wouldn't say a word to her manager, because Joe didn't like for anyone in the team to date the fans. In other words, unless they were already married, or at the very least engaged, he didn't want them to have a personal life. The game was all that mattered to him, and he figured that's all his players should worry about, as well.

"How would you like to come to the practice on Sunday?" she offered. She knew the woman wouldn't be able to come to the game on Friday, even though it was a home game, because Jennie had plans to help the parents of one of her kids run a birthday party that would last well past 7 o'clock. So, practice was the next opportunity.

"That'd be great, Cody," agreed the blonde. "Jeffrey loves watching you guys play, even if you're just practicing. And I just like watching you," she admitted, kissing the tall star deeply.

"Mm," muttered Cody, "keep that up, and I won't be able to leave tonight." Regretfully, she pulled back, and kissed the woman on the forehead. "I'll see you in the morning, Jen," she said, getting to her feet, and embracing the small woman one last time before she left.

"Good night," said Jennie, and Cody echoed the same, forcing herself to walk out the door. With a sigh, Jennie dropped into bed, and considered doing something for Cody on Saturday night, to celebrate, since she had no doubts about the Warriors victory at the game on Friday.

CHAPTER NINE
Cody sighed as she sat on the plane. The trip to Tennessee really hadn't been that bad, now that she took the time to think about it. Another game, another victory, a whole week away from Jennie...

Well, two out of three.

Matt nudged her elbow, from the seat he took across the aisle. "Bet you'll be glad to get back home to Jennie, huh?" he asked, and the woman grinned, nodding. "How long have you guys been together now, Cody?"

The tall woman didn't even have to think. "Two and a half months," she responded, with a happy grin. Jeffrey's birthday was coming up in just a few weeks, and she was already planning on making it the best day the boy had ever had.

"Way to go, C-girl," he said. His dark eyes sparked mischievously as he continued, "So, have you guys, uh, you know…?" The gestures he made with his hands were unmistakable.

With a low growl, Cody shoved him, and made a move to unbuckle her seat

belt, to which the man sat quietly in his seat. "Didn't think so," he responded, very aware of the cold blue gaze that bore a hole through him.

"What the hell did you do, Brunswick?" asked James, laughing. "Oh, man! If

looks could kill, Matt, I'm telling you, you'd be dead ten times over right now." He peeked around from his place directly behind Cody.

"I think I'm gonna just turn back around and stay out of this one," he said, when the blue eyes turned to him next, and Cody smiled sweetly, agreeing with his decision.

Although the flight was only three hours long, with air flight being improved since the 20th century, Cody picked up her cell phone, and dialed the number she knew so well.

"Hello?" answered a soft voice, and the grin that spread across the star's face was unstoppable.

"Hey," she said, simply.

"Hi! Where are you?" asked Jennie. She checked her watch. The woman should be on the plane home, if all was right. "Is everything okay?"

"Everything's fine," Cody assured her, used to the small blonde's worry by now. In fact, she found she liked it. "I'm a couple thousand feet above the ground," she replied, smiling. "We'll be landing in just a few hours."

Jennie sighed. "I wish I was with you," she said, and Cody smirked.

"So do I," the tall woman echoed, honestly. "Is Jeff in bed yet?" It was about eight o'clock Jennie's time, and the boy usually crashed twenty minutes ago, if he didn't have his nap earlier in the day, which he had been trying valiantly to do without.

The blonde laughed. "Probably not," she responded. "He's sleeping over at his friend's house tonight, so I really don't think they'll get to bed on time."

"Oh, that's right," said Cody, suddenly remembering that the young boy had been very excited about being able to stay over night at someone else's house, although still a little unsure about leaving his mother.

Seeing the motions Matt was making, she sighed, heavily. "Well, I've got to go kill my best friend, so…" She laughed when the man pointed to himself, looking innocent as could be. "But, I really should go. I'll talk to you tomorrow, okay?"

"Okay," said Jennie, yawning a little herself. "Have a good flight."

"I will," Cody said. "Good night, sweetheart."

"Good night, honey," echoed Jennie, and softly hung up the phone. As Cody

pushed the power off to her cell phone, little did she know that her manager sat just a seat in front of her, and had a very angry scowl on his face for the rest of the flight, after overhearing Cody's side of the conversation.

The plane landed with no problems, and Cody stepped off, with her duffel bag slung over her shoulder, trying to give the press a quick smile or two as the flashes went off. Everyone wanted to get an interview, since the rumor of Cody's chance at MVP had gotten around, and she had, once again, ensured the team's victory at the latest away game.

To her pleasant surprise, as she glanced through the crowd, and tried to make her way through, a small blonde was seen, standing just outside the fray. With a disbelieving grin, the tall woman dodged people and reporters until she found her, and swept the woman up into a strong hug.

"What are you doing here?" she asked, happily, kissing Jennie softly, as the green eyes brightened upon seeing her.

"You were gone for over a week," said the blonde. "That's too long. I

couldn't wait until tomorrow to see you," she admitted, and Cody smiled.

"I'm glad you came," she said, and was going to place another kiss on her

lips, when she caught sight of a cameraman, ready to take the picture. Snarling, she took the machine from his hands, and punched a few buttons, looking at the display to see what photos he had taken. Finding two of her and Jennie, she deleted them, and handed the camera back to him.

Raising her voice, she said, "Any one of you that has photos of me, I ask

that you delete them. I do not give you permission to produce them." With audible groans, numerous beeps were heard, as the pictures were erased, being able to do that with the current technology and yet not disturb the rest of the film. Also, after many scandals of important people and the like had been released, it was necessary to obey the wishes of the subject - if they didn't object, or said nothing, the press could develop it. If the person said no, however, they had to listen, and remove the evidence from their

camera.

Cody really began to appreciate the new law.

What humans saw, however, could not be controlled, and the frown was set deeper in the manager's face as he walked through the airport. He'd have to have a talk with Cody sometime about that woman.

Sometime soon.

* * * * *
"Come on, James!" shouted Cody, as she ran after the man, both of them

crossing home plate, the tall woman almost tumbling over him. "Shit, James, you've got to run faster than that!" she cried, and he glared at her.

"Hey," he said, in his defense, "you've got more momentum pulling you forward than I do." At the confused eyebrow that was raised, he continued, with a forced straight face, "You're top heavy."

To his surprise, he was not hit. Cody just replied, "Oh, that's right. I keep forgetting you don't have any boobs. Or anything else, for that matter. Sorry." James scowled at her, miffed at having his own joke thrown back at him, as he stomped into the dugout after her, Matt going up to bat at the practice next.

"Not nice," he pouted, and the woman slapped him on the back.

"Don't dish it out if you can't take it, my friend," she laughed, as Joe eyed her, warily. The man had been giving her funny looks all week, ever since they'd gotten back from Tennessee, and she couldn't figure out why. He hadn't said anything to her, so maybe he was just having some personal problems.

When the practice time was over, and Cody had changed, she was not the least bit surprised to see Jeffrey make a running leap for her arms when she exited the locker room.

"Hey, little man!" she said, giving him a strong hug, before setting the boy on the ground. "Did you have fun tonight?" The practice was held from 6-8 in the evening, because Joe said he wanted to make sure everyone would be there for the full time.

"Yeah," he said, nodding. "You did really good when you caught that drive line."

Cody laughed. "Line drive, little man. And thanks," she said, ruffling his hair, lovingly. "I think it's too late for us to play ball tonight, but we can do it tomorrow if I have time, okay?"

"Okay," said Jeffrey, having gotten used to the fact that Cody didn't have time to play ball with him every night. When she couldn't make it, he'd practice by himself, or drag his mom into it.

"Good night, Cody," said Joe, tonelessly, as the trio walked past.

"'Night," responded the tall woman, wrapping her arm around Jennie's shoulders as they walked to the car. Cody rode her motorcycle, while Jennie drove Jeffrey in the car, and the tall woman once again had to carry the young boy into his bedroom.

"Thanks for letting him come," said Cody, after she'd tucked the child into bed. "I know it was kind of late for him to be up, but I think he had a good time."

Jennie smiled, and curled up on the couch next to her. "We both did," she corrected. "And it's a Friday, so he doesn't have any school tomorrow. I can't believe he'll be starting kindergarten in just a few weeks," she sighed. Every school was on the track system, where the students went for three months, and then took four weeks off, and then returned to school for another three months. The summer was either shorter or longer, depending on which track the student was on. Jennie was pleased when she learned Jeffrey's track had a longer Christmas Break.

"He'll do fine," Cody reassured her, kissing the top of the blonde head. "He's a smart kid." Jennie nodded, and was silent for a while, lost in her own thoughts, and the relaxing feeling of Cody's fingers in her hair.

"Cody?" asked the blonde, after a while.

"What?" responded the tall woman, as she ran her fingers lightly through the

woman's short blonde hair.

"Can I ask you a question?"

"Didn't give me much of a choice, now, did you?" smirked the star, and Jennie

looked up at her, meeting her gaze.

"I'm serious," she said, and Cody nodded.

"Okay," she agreed. "Go ahead."

"Have you... been with other women?" the blonde asked, and the fingers through her hair immediately stopped their ministrations.

Cody sighed. "Yes," she admitted. "There was a time in my life when I did a lot of things I'm not proud of, and sleeping around is one of them. I was a star, and the chance was always available to me, so I took it."

She paused for a moment, wondering why the woman had chosen to ask that

particular question. "Jen, you don't think I'm doing that now, do you? Because I'm not! I wouldn't hurt you for the world, honey," she said, and Jennie smiled.

"I believe you," said the blonde, kissing her, softly. "I was just wondering if you'd have more experience at this than me."

When the kissing continued, realization dawned on the tall baseball player. "Are you sure?" she asked, and Jennie nodded, taking the woman's hand and leading her to the bedroom. She closed the door softly behind them, and turned on a low light next to her bed, swallowing the lump she felt in her throat.

Cody reached out and drew the small woman close to her, kissing the top of her head softly, before placing gentle kisses on the blonde's forehead, eyelids, nose, and finally, her lips. Cody groaned as the kiss deepened, feeling more passionate and filled with more need than any other she'd felt before.

Breaking the kiss only for a moment, to remove her shirt, Cody subtly inched closer to the bed, before bringing the small woman down with her when she sat. Sliding her hand under Jennie's shirt, she felt the woman flinch as her fingertips brushed against her skin, reluctantly removing her mouth in order to lift the garment over the woman's head.

"Cody..." began the blonde, quietly, as the tall woman kissed at her neck, "I've never... I've never been with a woman before."

"I assume it's not much different than being with a man," she murmured, continuing her kisses, gently nipping at the soft skin of the blonde's shoulder, eliciting a gasp from her soon-to-be lover. "Though I wouldn't know…"

"Neither would I, Cody. I've never done that, either," said Jennie, lightly.

Cody stopped and immediately looked into the blonde's face to see if she was kidding. "You're serious?" she asked, and the woman nodded. "But... Jeff...?"

Jennie smiled. "Is adopted," she finished. "I adopted him when he was just a few months old, because I decided I wanted a child, but hadn't found the right person to consummate that responsibility with, yet."

"Jen, honey, your first time should be with someone very special," said Cody,

very serious.

"It will be," insisted the blonde.

"I'll go, then," said Cody, picking up her shirt and attempting to stand, but Jennie took her hand and forced her to remain sitting as she looked in her eyes.

"Cody," she said, but the woman looked at the floor, uncomfortably. "Cody,

look at me," she requested, softly, and blue eyes slowly met her own. "It will be with someone very special, because it'll be with you. I have never felt this way about anyone. I trust you, and I want you to be my first," she said. "That is, if you don't mind being disappointed."

The tall woman smiled, lovingly. "Jen, you could never disappoint me," she

said, honestly. "Are you very sure you want to do this? Because if you're not, it's okay, I'll understand --"

Cody's speech was cut off when Jennie pressed her lips against her own, fiercely, yet gently. Following the younger woman's lead, Cody allowed herself to be pulled down on the bed, and, to prevent crushing the blonde, easily held herself up over top of the woman with her arms.

"Jennie, I want you to understand something," said Cody, evenly, pulling away from the kiss to meet the woman's slightly nervous gaze. "I told you I've been with other women, and that's true, I have. I've had sex with more women than I care to remember, but I don't want to do that with you."

At Jennie's dismayed face, she quickly continued. "I want to do something I've never done before," she said. "I don't want to just have sex, Jen, I want to make love. They're two completely different things, you know," she added.

"I've never had anyone I wanted to be with as much as I do you. I miss you

when you're not around, and no matter where I am, I'd rather be somewhere with you," she said, and tears brimmed in Jennie's eyes at the loving words.

"You've already stolen my heart, Jen. I love you."

"Oh, Cody, I love you, too!" exclaimed Jennie, wrapping her arms around the

woman to give her a strong hug, which was eagerly returned.

"I will be as gentle as I can, because I don't want to hurt you," Cody spoke, and it was clear to Jennie that she was scared to death of doing just that.

"I know," she smiled. "I do trust you." Cody smiled reassuringly, and slowly slid the straps of Jennie's bra down off her shoulders, kissing the revealed skin as she went, occasionally making the woman beneath her shiver by lightly trailing the tip of her tongue against the same spot, before moving lower, constantly reminding herself to go slow and to be as gentle as possible. This was Jennie's first time, and the woman wanted to make it very special.

Once she'd caught her breath, Jennie was eager to return the favor, and it wasn't long before Cody cried her name into the night. The tall woman had had many lovers, that was true, but none had had as much of an effect on her as Jennie. She had never given herself up like that, not totally - and she'd never felt so loved.

"Jennie, honey, come up here," she said, pulling the woman into her arms, and simply holding her for a while. "I love you."

"I love you, too," smiled Jennie, snuggling closer into her side. "Was it... okay? Are you disappointed?"

Cody chuckled. "Oh, sweetheart," she said, "like I said, you could never disappoint me, and you certainly didn't tonight. It was more than okay, honey. That was wonderful. I have never felt anything like that," she added, sincerely. "How about you? How do you feel?"

Jennie smiled up at her. "I feel terrific, Cody," she replied. "I'm glad it was you."

The tall woman felt tears in her eyes at the admission, and pulled the blonde even closer to her. "That means a lot," she said. Jennie didn't press as to why, she just wrapped her arms around her lover, and went to sleep.

CHAPTER TEN
Cody awoke the next morning with pleasant memories of the night before, and glanced over at Jennie, who was still sleeping soundly.

She looks so peaceful when she sleeps, she thought, as she smiled. I can't believe she let me be her first. God, I love her so much...

"Honey," she whispered, brushing her lips softly across the blonde's. "Jen, it's time to get up, sweetheart."

The woman groaned, and tired green eyes slowly opened. Jennie smiled. "Morning," she said, happily.

"Morning," replied Cody, giving her a proper good morning kiss. "Any regrets?" she asked, trying not to show how afraid she was of an affirmative answer.

"Not a one," smiled the woman, returning the soft kiss. "You?"

"Never," replied the tall star, rolling her eyes as she glanced at the clock. "Shit," she cursed. "Joe wants us to practice today. I've got to go if I want to make it there on time."

Jennie sighed. "Okay," she said, placing small butterfly kisses all over her lover's face. "I'll just stay here all day and think of you."

Cody grinned. "What do you think I'm going to be doing? Don't you have to

work, honey?" she asked, after realizing that it was Saturday.

Jennie shook her head. "No," she said. "I get to sleep in. I gave notice to the parents that I'd be taking this weekend and the next off, since most people were going to be out of town for one reason or another, anyway," she added. "I figured it wasn't worth it to open up the daycare for only Jeffrey."

The star smiled. "I guess I'll go, then," she said. "I'll miss you."

Jennie grinned. "I'll miss you, too," she echoed, and kissed her, gently.

Cody dressed quickly, kissing the woman once more before she headed for the door. "I don't think I'll be able to come over tonight," she said, sadly. "I promised Joe I'd work on a few plays for him, and I need to get that done. I'll probably call you, though, okay? See you tomorrow. I love you," she added.

"Love you, too," responded Jennie, grabbing the vacated pillow and closing

her eyes again, as Cody smiled and walked out the door.

And ran straight into Jeffrey. "Hi, little man," said the woman, trying not to look as awkward as she felt. "What are you doing up so early?"

"Watching cartoons," he said, as if it was obvious. "Did you and my mom have

a sleep-over?"

Oh, boy, did we!

"Uh, yeah," replied Cody, sure she was blushing a deep red.

"Were you guys having a pillow fight or something? 'Cause you kept yelling,"

he said, innocently.

How much trouble would I be in if I told him to ask his mother? Cody wondered. Nah, I think I can handle this one myself.

"Yeah, we got in a pillow fight," agreed the tall woman, groaning inwardly that the boy could hear them.

Oh, who am I kidding? I'd be surprised if the whole neighborhood doesn't give me a funny look! Question is, do I care? Not in the slightest! she decided, happily.

"Who won?"

Cody paused for a moment, before a bright smile lit her face. "Your mother. Twice."

"Cool! I'm gonna go say good morning!" he said, but Cody caught his arm before he could run down the hallway.

"Why don't you let her sleep, little man?" she asked. "She's tired."

Jeffrey nodded, and sat back down in front of the TV, waving goodbye to Cody as she left.

"Whoa," she said, as she climbed on her motorcycle, "that was close. Wonder

what Jennie's gonna tell him if he asks her about it. Wish I could be there to see the look on her face."

Why? It'd probably be the same as the one on mine, she mused.

* * * * *
Cody's mind was on Jennie the entire day, just as she'd said, and her game was good, but not nearly as fierce as usual. If anyone noticed, they were wise enough not to say anything. Joe kept shooting her angry looks, and Matt just grinned at her, saying something about "Finally!" and earning the man a slap across the back of his head.

As the practice came to an end, and Cody gathered up her belongings, Joe approached her. "Get your stuff and meet me in my office in ten minutes," he ordered, and the woman nodded. The men on her team, of course, started humming the funeral procession, which was silenced with a single icy blue glare.

Once she had everything in her bag, she drove the few miles to Joe Henry's office, trying to decide what was going on. The three-story building looked small, but was really quite large. Joe's office was on the third floor, all the way in the back, and Cody walked the familiar route up the stairs. A desk for his secretary was visible next to the double doors, but it was empty at this hour of the night.

Cody knocked on the doorframe, noticing that the door was open, and the man looked up from the papers on his desk. He motioned her in, and she sat down in the chair across from him, wondering what her coach wanted with her. He'd said he wanted the plays in by Monday morning, so she wasn't late with that...

Joe Henry finished writing something, and finally looked up to face her. "Cody," he said, "I'm not going to beat around the bush. I know about Jennie."

Cody swallowed, but willed her face to remain impassive, praying the man couldn't tell how fast her heart was beating inside her chest, as it threatened to explode. "What do you mean?" she asked, evenly, hoping her voice didn't betray her.

"Just what I said. I distinctly remember telling you that I would not tolerate any personal relationships between my players and fans, unless they were together previously. And I know that's not the case with this particular blonde," he said, and Cody refused to let him know he was scaring the crap out of her.

"So, what are you gonna do about it?"

"I want you to break it off with her," he said. "You haven't been playing your best, and the game comes first. You've had your head up your ass since she started showing up for games, and you couldn't even concentrate for practice today. She's the problem, now correct it," he ordered.

Cody glared at him, angrily. "I love her. I'm not going to break up with her just because you say so," she stated. "Besides, she wasn't a fan when I met her."

"I don't give a damn!" he shouted, and then calmed down. The man sighed, and Cody didn't like the way he suddenly became smug. "I guess you're forcing me to play hardball, then, Madison," he warned, and Cody raised an eyebrow at him, urging him to continue.

"Remember our deal? Pauline?"

The baseball star blanched. "You wouldn't," was all she could say. "You wouldn't play that fucking card, Joe. You wouldn't," she repeated.

"Oh, yes, I would," he said. "I told you when I caught you that I wouldn't say anything if you'd keep playing for me, and if you'd put your all into it. Now, you're slacking, and it's easily remedied. Either you break it off with her, or it all goes public."

"You little shit!" she cried, getting to her feet. "You can't fucking blackmail me!"

"On the contrary," he grinned. "I can, and I am, because I always get what I want. Do what I ask, or you can say bye-bye to your career, your little girlfriend, and even your life for the next seven years or so," he said, smiling with confidence as she sank back down into her chair. "And everyone will hear about how Cody Madison is a no good gay slut with a drug problem, and jail time just waiting for her."

Cody hung her head; she knew she was beat. "No one knows about that, Joe."

God, not even Garret knows about that. He can't know… no one can.

"And no one will," he soothed, knowing he had her where he wanted her. "Just so long as you continue to play at your prime, stop seeing Jennie, and quit playing ball with the sniveling little brat. That's all I ask. You break it off with her tonight, make sure she knows the kid won't play catch with you anymore, because he's only a connection of her, and tell me in the morning, during practice. Do that, and your secret's safe with me," he said, spreading his hands.

Almost imperceptibly, Cody nodded. "I'll do it," she said, standing on shaky legs. "Just keep quiet." Joe Henry was smirking, and he made a sign of zipping his lips, and throwing away the key. "I'll tell you in the morning."

"Oh, and Cody?" he called, and she turned to him. "Don't try to fuck me

over. I'll know if you do it, or if you're just bluffing. Don't bluff. Believe me, you don't want to screw with me," he growled, and she nodded.

"It'll be solid," she said, and walked out the door. She climbed on her motorcycle, and drove what had to be the longest ten miles of her life, to Jennie's house. As she rode, letting the wind whip through her hair, she got to thinking about what she had to do, and suddenly felt as though she had been punched in the gut.

Oh, God, she thought. Last night... Dear God, I loved her last night. She allowed me to love her, to be her first, and now what am I doing? I took something extremely precious, that she can never get back, and now I have to just throw it away.

She's going to think everything I told her was a lie, when it wasn't. I've never been so fucking honest in all my life! God, I meant everything I told her, and more.

But Joe knows what buttons to push, she sighed. And there's no way I can let what I did go public. She'd turn away from me for sure, if she found out. There is no lesser of two evils in this, is there? Good old Charles Caleb Colton, once again, "Life often presents us with a choice of evils rather than goods."

Well, Charlie, what do you do when it's evil all the way around and you're screwed no matter what you do?

I either lose Jennie now and have her hate me, or I lose her later and have

her hate me. I guess I'm just speeding up the inevitable…

* * * * *
The blonde answered the knock at her door, wondering who it could be at 8:30

at night, and was surprised to find six-feet of Cody Madison standing in her doorway.

"Cody? Come in," she said, her face lighting up at the sight of the woman. "What are you doing here? You said you wouldn't be over tonight," she reminded, although it was obvious she didn't mind the change in plans.

"We need to talk," stated Cody, her face expressionless.

Jennie paused. That didn't sound good. "Okay," she said, leading them to the couch. Cody sat next to her, and the blonde took the larger hand in her own, worried. "What is it?"

Cody withdrew her hand, quickly, and knew it was going to kill her if she had to watch pain keep flickering across the blonde's face all night. She took a deep breath, and said, "It's over."

Jennie didn't do anything for a minute, and then, when she was sure she had heard the tall woman correctly, she blinked. "What?" she asked. "What do you mean?"

"I mean it's over between us, Jennie," she explained, and Jennie noticed that the woman called her "Jennie", not "Jen". That meant she was serious.

"Why?" was the logical question. Jennie's head was spinning; she couldn't understand why the sudden break up was occurring, but knew that once it was over and she had time to think about it, she'd be hurting much more than she was right now. If that was possible, which she was seriously doubting.

Cody shrugged, and tried to remain cold and distant. "It was fun while it lasted, but I need something better," she said, harshly. She had no idea how she was going to do it, when her heart was breaking already, but she had no choice.

No choice, she kept telling herself. I have no choice. I have to do this.

No choice…

"Better?" repeated Jennie, shaking her head as anger overwhelmed her. "What

do you mean, better? Are you saying it was just fun and games, a nice little way to pass the time between the games and the practices? That it was nothing to you? What we had means nothing?" she demanded, tears threatening to overflow.

The tall woman winced inwardly. Oh, Jennie. All I want to do right now is hold you, and tell you everything's going to be all right, but I can't. Damn it all to fucking Hell, I can't! I don't want to be here doing this, I don't want to hurt you. But I know that's what I'm doing and I have no choice.

"Yeah, that pretty much sums it up," she said, casually.

"But... everything you've done... helping with the daycare, and taking care of

Jeffrey…" said Jennie, rather bewildered. "What was all that for?"

"All part of the plan," lied Cody. "I knew when I saw you I wanted to bed you, and everything else I did were just things that had to be taken care of before that could happen. I always get the woman I want, no matter what I have to do, even if it means dealing with a kid," the tall woman said, nonchalantly. "I did what I came for, so now I'm moving on."

"So, everything you said last night, it was just a bunch of lies?" she asked, tears welling up in her eyes. Please, no, Cody. Don't let our love be a lie. "What you said, about making love... you didn't mean it?"

I meant it with all my heart, Jen, she thought.

The woman shrugged. "Just a line," she said. "Works every time."

Cody Madison had never been slapped before in her life, until that night. And her face didn't hurt as much as she'd expected, but her heart was dying.

Just as soon as she did it, Jennie regretted it, and the anger disappeared. She suddenly realized what she'd done, and figured she must have done something that upset Cody, or disappointed her. Maybe she hadn't been satisfying enough for the woman, but she hoped they could talk it out. Slapping her wasn't going to help the situation any.

"I-I'm sorry," she muttered, taking Cody's face in her hands for a brief moment, before the baseball star pulled back, reluctantly.

What is this? Cody thought. I just told her that our relationship meant

nothing, that she was basically nothing more than a notch in my belt, and she's apologizing for slapping me? Shit, Jennie, you're making this harder than it already is.

"Cody, listen, I don't know what I did that's brought you to this, but," she

began, but Cody cut her off. She knew if the woman started apologizing for anything else, or blamed it on herself, she wouldn't be able to go through with it.

"No, I just got tired of you," she said. "I mean, a single mom with baggage doesn't do anything for me, really. Kind of drags me down, and I don't need that. There's a lot more opportunities for something... more stimulating," she stated.

God help me, I can't believe I just said that! But I have to make sure she won't want to come back to me, or Joe will think I was lying.

"So, I'm calling it off."

"Can't we talk about it?" pleaded Jennie, and Cody resisted the strong urge to kiss away the tears that were falling from her green eyes.

Cody scoffed, and rolled her eyes. "Please, not that," she said, cruelly. "It's not enough that I have to put up with your endless drivel when we were together, but you want me to suffer through it after we break up? I don't think so," she said, getting to her feet.

"Look, I can tell you it was pretty good while it lasted, if that makes you feel better," she shrugged, as if to say that really wasn't the truth.

Come on, Jennie. Fight me for it. Yell at me, scream in my face. Do something, damn it! Don't let me make the biggest goddamned mistake of my life, Cody implored, silently.

"I guess, if this is what you really want," said Jennie, defeated, and Cody wanted to scream at her, to tell her "Hell, no, this isn't what I want! I want to tell Joe to go fuck himself in a corner, and I want to hold you in my arms and beg for forgiveness!" but she couldn't.

Cody nodded. "Glad you understand. Tell Jeffrey he needs to get a new baseball buddy," she said, as she walked out the door, and put her helmet on.

As she climbed on her bike, and started the engine, she told herself she wouldn't look back, it was just bad luck. Taking a quick glance in her rearview side mirror, the tall baseball star saw a small blonde standing just outside the door, sliding to the ground as she cried her eyes out, thinking Cody couldn't see her.

Swallowing back her own tears, Cody drove two miles into the hills, before pulling over, and ripping off her helmet. "Damn it!" she screamed into the night, making sure she was far enough away so no one would hear her. "Damn it! Damn it! Goddamn it!"

The woman kicked a rock a few times, before her emotions overcame her, and she slumped to the ground, drawing her knees up to her chest and sobbing.

"I'm sorry, Jennie. God, I'm so sorry…" her tears trailed off as she succumbed to a sorrowful sleep.

And dreamed of the day that had come back to haunt her...

It was the first game of the season, Cody's first with the team, and Cody had made the winning catch, ending the best triple play in the Warriors' history - all three years of it. The star decided to celebrate with a woman in the stands, who had been so gracious as to offer herself to Cody, who took her up on it.

"Wow," was all a breathless young blonde could manage, as Cody rolled off to her own side of the motel room bed. "What are you doing?" she asked, upon seeing the tall woman dig out a lighter.

Cody grinned. "After sex joint," she said. "Want some?" The woman shook her head, and Cody shrugged - all for her, then. She was just putting the smoldering butt out in the ashtray, and turning back to her bedmate, when the door burst open. Now, Cody was used to the situation - a woman in her bed, only she didn't have to pay this one - but being interrupted was something new.

And the woman found she didn't like it.

"Cody, is that what I think it is?" demanded her coach, Joe Henry, pointing to the ashtray.

"Jesus, Joe! What the fuck are you trying to do? Shit, you scared me," she accused, not caring in the slightest that Pat, Polly, whatever the hell her name was - Cody couldn't remember - was using the entire blanket to cover her nakedness.

"Cody, I, uh," stuttered Joe, taking a good look at the nude woman.

Cody sighed. "Put your eyes back in your head, Joe," she said, and then glanced at the man, smirking. "And tell your pants it's not polite to point. I'm getting dressed. You, too," she said to her companion, and the blonde scrambled to find her clothes.

"Can I talk to your little friend here for a minute, Cody?" Joe asked, and Cody shrugged. Joe escorted the woman outside, while Cody fished her underwear out from under the bed.

I don't remember throwing my bra on the ceiling fan, she thought, with a slight frown, as she retrieved it. Oh, wait a minute... that's not mine! She snorted. I don't think it's hers, either. Must be a souvenir from the last occupants. I think I'll leave it here...

A few minutes later, as Cody finished tying her shoes, Joe returned, looking

grim. The young blonde stood behind him, looking scared.

"Cody, you're in some serious trouble here," he said.

Cody waved him off. "Don't worry about it," she said. "I've got some flower-scented shit that'll cover it up, and I'll bury the joint in the dirt later."

Joe shook his head. "No, not that," he protested. "It seems Pauline," Ah,

so that was her name! "lied to you. She's not nineteen years old, Cody."

"So, what? Is she twenty?" laughed the woman.

"She's sixteen, Cody."

Cody's blue eyes widened. "What?" she cried, startling the blonde as she

advanced towards her, Joe's presence the only thing making her turn back around. "She's sixteen? Sixteen fucking years old? Shit!" she cursed, sitting on the bed with her head in her hands. "Fuck, fuck, fuck! She told me she was nineteen."

Pauline spoke up. "You guessed. I just didn't tell you that you were wrong," she pointed out. "You were high, anyway. I don't think it would have mattered what I told you."

"Goddamn lying cunt!" cried Cody, Joe standing between her and Pauline, again.

"Pauline, why don't you go on home." It wasn't a question or a suggestion, it was an order, and Pauline obeyed. "Cody, you're in deep here," the man said, after the woman was gone.

"I know, I know," she mumbled, searching for another joint. Finding none, she cursed, "Fuck! Hey, Joe, you got -?"

"No," he stated, crossing the room to her in three quick strides. "Listen to me, Madison. We're talking statutory rape, here. Jail," he said, forcefully. "Drugs won't help you any."

"Joe," she pleaded, "Joe, you've gotta help me. Please." Her hands were

trembling, and she collapsed onto the bed again.

She didn't see the small grin on Joe's face, contorting his features into more of a sneer. "Listen, Cody. Pauline won't tell anyone, I've made sure of that," he assured her.

"And you?"

"You stay clean, keep playing for me, and playing well, and I won't tell a soul. Just do as I say, and your secret's safe with me. All right?" he offered, and Cody nodded, readily.

"You got it," she said, proving it to him by taking the lighter out of her pocket and throwing it in the trash can on the way out. She'd never picked up a joint, a cigarette, or even a strong drink, again. Quitting everything cold turkey hadn't been all that hard for the woman, since she'd never really enjoyed doing any of it - it was more of just a way to pass the time and dull the painful reality of life.

Well, except the sex. That was hard to give up.

"That's my girl," Joe smiled. "Remember, just do as I say."

Do as I say…

As I say…

Just do as I say…

"Son of a bitch!" Cody cried, waking to the chill of the darkness. No, the night was warm. Perhaps it was the chill of a lonely, broken heart.

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."