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The Softball Game
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The Softball Game
by Twig

Harmony Softball Field
The next day

Morning dawned bright and clear over the town of Harmony, and as eight o'clock drew closer, the citizens were drawn to the softball field like moths to a flame. Young and old alike made their way down the street, attired in all sorts of varied sports apparel.

"Look Simone!" Kay exclaimed, gesturing to her softball uniform that proclaimed HARMONY in bright letters across the front, "Miguel and I are wearing the same uniform!"

Simone looked from her friend to the object of her affections, "Kay…you two are on the same softball team. Of COURSE you're wearing the same uniform."

"Don't try and distract me Simone, this is my big chance."

Simone merely rolled her eyes as they headed over to Grace, who was standing amidst the chaos with two large clipboards and a megaphone.

Sheridan tugged awkwardly at her blouse and jeans, realizing that she'd dressed inappropriately for the affair.

"Oh great," she muttered, "Now Luis will never let me hear the end of it."

She momentarily wished that she had never answered Hank's phone call, but then she saw Luis emerge from a dugout wearing his sport pants and a tight white muscle tee, and she forgot all about her troubles.

Unfortunately, Luis did not. "Well well well, what have we here," he smirked at her outfit, "Preparing for a rough day at the fields, huh?"

"For your information *officer* I can play just fine in these clothes."

"I guess we'll see about that, won't we?" he sounded entirely too smug, and she was overcome with the urge to knock him flat on his back.

"I guess we will," she shot back, turning to walk away.

"Hey," he said softly, "Wait a second."

She turned around, "Now what?"

He reached out and placed a baseball cap on her head, "That's better."

"Thank you."

"Don't thank me, thank the fat sweaty guy over there who volunteered his hat up for you."

Sheridan's horrified look caused Luis to dissolve into laughter, immediately alerting her to the fact that he was only joking.

"You shouldn't joke about something like that Luis, you never know how one might choose to get you back."

"Is that a threat?"

"You bet your ass it is," Sheridan responded with a smirk.

Before Luis could make a sufficiently witty comeback, they were interrupted by the arrival of Hank, who hurried up, wearing a bright purple shirt that proclaimed in white letters: BENNETT.

"Hi Sheridan!" he said eagerly, tossing a casual greeting to Luis as well.

"Hello Hank," Sheridan said warmly, glancing at his outfit, "Um…where did you get that shirt?"

"Grace made them up for everyone in the family…except Kay of course. She's on the softball team."

"That was nice of her."

"She's really into this whole thing," Hank said easily, "She loves community bonding."

Luis looked decidedly uncomfortable, "I think I'm gonna go find Sam…see if he knows what team everyone is on."

He loped off into the crowds, and Sheridan couldn't help but admire his form, as well as thank the heavens that he had the foresight to wear a baseball cap over his butchered hair. She reminded herself once again never, ever, to let Theresa near her hair.

"Well," Hank was grinning at her, "You and Luis don't seem to be getting along any better. Back to arguing as usual, huh?"

"Yeah," she said distractedly.

"Guess you're glad I'm here then," Hank slung his arm around her shoulder.

"I'm thrilled Hank."

He did not notice the sarcasm in her voice.

Theresa and Whitney stood by the dugout, softball gloves in hand, watching as Ethan approached.

"Oh Whit," Theresa said excitedly, "he came! It's fate!"

"Oh my god," Whitney said glumly, "Theresa, if you say 'fate' one more time I think I'm going to scream. I mean it."

"But it's fate!"

Whitney opened her mouth to scream, but suddenly…

"Whitney! Theresa!" Chad was walking over from the other direction.

"Hi Chad," Whitney said softly, gazing into his eyes.

Theresa grinned from ear to ear as Ethan walked over. "Hello Theresa," he said with a smile, "Hi Whitney, hey Chad."

Everyone exchanged greetings.

"So," Ethan said with a grin, "Gwen decided to stay home. She's not much into sports."

Theresa beamed.

Tabitha, wearing a shirt that proudly proclaimed her as UMPIRE, stood behind the plate, holding Timmy, who was dressed in a baseball uniform and even sported a tiny mitt.

"Awww," Charity said, walking over, "Your doll looks so cute Tabitha! Where do you find all those outfits for him?"

Unseen over Tabitha's shoulder, Timmy grinned from ear to ear.

"Oh, well," Tabitha absently played with the fringe on Timmy's shirt, "Hobby shops mostly."

"Awww," Charity said again, in a syrupy sweet voice.

Miguel strolled over behind his girlfriend, "Come on Charity, we're about to start the game."

"Okay," Charity said to him with a smile, "Bye Tabitha."

She and Miguel headed over to where Grace was waiting.

"Okay," Grace shouted into the megaphone, "With help from my daughter, Kay, I have divided all of you into two teams. The first team, the Harmony Eves, are Luis Lopez-Fitzgerald, Hank Bennett, Sheridan Crane, Reese Durkee, Jessica Bennett, Charity Standish, Simone Russell, TC Russell, and um…" her eyebrows raised up almost off of her head, "Julian Crane."

"What?!" Eve exclaimed, horrified, watching as Julian ambled over to where the rest of them stood. He was wearing a pair of loose jeans and a baseball jersey with the number 33 and CRANE written on the back.

"Team two, the Harmony TC's, consists of Kay Bennett, Miguel Lopez-Fitzgerald, Sam Bennett, Theresa Lopez-Fitzgerald, Whitney Russell, Ethan Crane, Chad Harris, and…" for the second time her eyebrows popped up, "Ivy Crane and uh…her guest."

"This is Millicent," Ivy introduced, pointing to her rather unhappy friend. Then the two of them walked unhurriedly towards their team.

"I can't believe Julian's here!" Sheridan hissed to Luis, who looked suddenly nervous.

"Just pretend you hate me," Luis whispered back.

"Shouldn't be too hard."

"I can't believe I'm stuck on this team with YOU," Luis said loudly, shooting a withering glare in Sheridan's direction.

"And I can't believe that you don't have anything better to do than stand around here playing softball. Shouldn't you be arresting somebody?"

"I could always toss you back in jail."

Sheridan crossed her arms, "For what this time? Insulting a police officer in a public place?"

"You know, I'm amazed that you're even here. You're not world renowned for your athletic ability."

"You think that just because I'm a Crane that I can't play softball?"

"Is that the most farfetched assumption in the world?"

Sheridan glared at him, "For your information, my whole family is here."

"That's just too bad."

"Wait just one minute-"

Just as expected, Hank stepped between them, holding up his hands, "Hey! Enough! This is supposed to be fun."

"How can it be fun with *him* here?" Sheridan narrowed her eyes at Luis.

"Just ignore him, okay?" Hank was doing his best to be charming, "Just focus all of your attention on me."

Luis rolled his eyes.

"Now," Grace was still babbling on, "Eve and I will be the official scorekeepers. Is everyone ready to play some softball?"

"Yeah!" the two teams shouted enthusiastically. Eve gave a long-suffering sigh and headed over to her place by the dugout. Julian stepped up to stand next to her.

"Hello Eve," he said with a smirk, gulping something out of a flask.

He was interrupted by the arrival of Grace, who meandered over to stand next to Eve, "Oh, Julian!" she exclaimed in surprise, "where did you get that jersey?"

Julian tilted his head to one side, "Oh, I used to play a little baseball in my day. I always made it home, if you know what I mean," he leered at Eve, who made a disgusted noise. Grace, ever naïve, simply smiled at both of them.

"HEY!" TC snapped, hurrying over, "you stay away from my wife, Crane!"

"Oh don't get all bothered," Julian grumbled, "I was just being friendly." He stumbled back down into the dugout and sat rather gloomily on the bench.

In the other dugout, Sam was watching everyone else with an unhappy expression. Ivy pranced over and sat down on the bench next to him.

"Hello Sam," she said with a grin.

Sam ignored her.

"Sam," Ivy tried again, "I wanted to introduce you to my friend Millicent. Millicent, this is Sam Bennett, Chief of Police."

"How do you do?" Millicent said politely, brushing some dirt off of her sleeve.

"Nice to meet you," Sam responded, keeping his voice neutral.

Ethan strolled over, "Mother! I didn't know that you were going to be playing on this team."

Ivy jumped straight up in the air, "Ethan! Um, why yes, I am. I brought Millicent with me. You remember Chief Bennett, don't you?"

Ethan looked at her oddly, "Mother, I know who he is."

"You do?" Ivy was nervous, "How could you possibly know?"

Ethan eyed her suspiciously, "Mother, I've met Chief Bennett many times before. You were there."

"Oh! Of course you've met him. I didn't realize that's what you meant."

"What did you think I meant, Mother?"

"It's not important, my darling son. I think Theresa over there is trying to get your attention."

She pointed to Theresa, who was waving frantically.

"Oh, yes, I think she is. I'll go talk to her."

Ethan walked off at an unhurried pace.

"Well, Sam-" Ivy began, turning back to face him, only to discover that Sam had disappeared.

"LET'S PLAY BALL!" Tabitha crowed from her place behind the plate.

"The Harmony Eves are up first!" Grace announced from her spot by third base. Eve shot her a pained look from where she stood behind first.

As the members of the Harmony TC's headed out to the field, they began to quibble amongst themselves about who got what position.

"I call second base!" Kay snapped, "Miguel gets shortstop. That's where we always play."

Miguel grinned, "That's right Kay."

Chad shrugged, "I guess I'll play catcher."

"I'll pitch," Ethan offered.

"Come on Theresa," Whitney said, "We'll take the outfield."

Theresa and Whitney took their places in left and center field.

"I'm at third," Sam said with a smile.

Millicent, not intending to be stuck anywhere in the infield, made her way out into the outfield, attempting not to get her expensive new sneakers dirty.

"I don't know how to play first base," Ivy said worriedly, standing directly on top of the base.

"You don't stand on the base," Sam said impatiently, and she moved over.

"I hate you for this," Millicent snapped to Ivy from right field.

"BATTER UP!" Tabitha cackled, motioning frantically to home plate, bracelets clacking against one another.

Hank stepped up, brandishing a wooden bat, "I'll hit a home run for you Sheridan," he said, tossing her a stupid grin.

"You do that," she said with a sigh.

"He won't hit a home run," Luis mumbled from where he stood next to her. "He could never hit them in high school."

Sure enough, Hank smacked the ball into the outfield, where it bounced in front of Millicent, spraying her with mud. She whimpered and picked it up delicately, tossing it to Ivy, who missed it by a mile. She ran after it, scooped it up, and flung it to Sam, even though Hank was just stopping at second base.

"Told ya," Luis said with a wink, as Sheridan headed out to home plate.

Ethan grinned and waved to his favorite aunt, before lobbing the pitch over the plate for her. She swung mightily, the force spinning her around and knocking her to the ground.

"Ooof!" she exclaimed, surprised.

"Strike one!" Tabitha yelled unnecessarily.

From the dugout, Luis chuckled.

Sheridan's second swing did not fare much better, but she managed to stay on her feet.

"Strike two!"

"Come on Sheridan!" Hank cheered from second base, earning a suspicious glare from his niece, Kay.

Ethan tossed the pitch over the plate as slowly as he possibly could. Sheridan swung hopelessly and missed for the third time.

"OUT!" Tabitha said merrily.

Sheridan made her way back to the dugout, handing her bat to Luis.

"Aw," he said, not sounding sympathetic at all.

She shot him a withering glare, but anyone who looked closely would swear that there was a hint of affection hidden in it.

Ethan threw the ball over the plate, and Luis smacked it into the outfield, far over Millicent's head. Throwing her hands into the air, she trudged off to get it, as Luis easily rounded the bases and ran home.

"HOME RUN!" Tabitha yodeled.

"Just like old times!" Hank said with a grin, slapping his old friend high five. Sheridan, back in the dugout, did her best to look unimpressed.

"Lucky swing," she muttered.

"You just keep telling yourself that," Luis smirked.

Charity stepped reluctantly up to the plate and hit a grounder to Kay, who gleefully threw the ball to Ivy for the second out.

"It's okay Charity," Miguel called from the field, "You'll get it next time!"

Reese got up to bat and hit the ball to Sam, who threw it to Ivy, but she was so flustered that she missed, leaving Reese safe on first base. Then Jessica struck out to end the inning.

Both teams changed sides. Luis stood at shortstop, Hank at second base, and Sheridan took third. Reese was the catcher, and Jessica was at first base. TC took center field, Charity took right field, and Simone took left. Julian marched proudly to the mound.

"Julian's pitching?" Luis exclaimed in dismay.

Julian whirled around, "I'll have you know, in my day, I was a damned fine pitcher."

"Batter up!"

Theresa led off, and Julian launched into an elaborate windup before burning the ball right past her into Reese's glove.

"Strike one!"

"Oh no!" Theresa said out loud, "I have to hit this to impress Ethan!"

Julian wound up again and released the ball, and this time Theresa swung and hit it to Sheridan, who bobbled it briefly before throwing it in Jessica's direction.

"SAFE!"

Julian winked at Theresa, who didn't notice at all.

Whitney got up next and hit one cleanly up the middle, sending TC limping off in pursuit. Then Millicent got up and promptly struck out, letting out an annoyed shout of frustration. Ivy followed suit.

"Two outs!" Tabitha announced from home plate. Miguel got up next and hit a high pop up, which sent Sheridan scrambling underneath it. Everyone held their breath as the ball came down, and down, and finally landed neatly in her glove.

"YES!" Luis yelled, and then quickly glanced around. Fortunately, everyone had mistaken his elation as happiness that they had gotten out of the inning.

Tabitha watched nervously as everyone left the field, trotting across the dirt. She clapped her hands together with glee as TC stepped directly in a pile of the blue dust she had scattered earlier.

"AHH!" TC yelled, tumbling to the ground.

Eve rushed over, "TC, are you all right?"

He winced, "It's my leg. It gave out on me."

"Come sit down," she ordered him, "No more softball for you."

"Now we're short a teammate," Reese complained.

"I'll play," Beth Wallace stood at the edge of the field. She hurried over and smiled sweetly at Luis.

"Okay," Grace nodded, marking the change on her clipboard, as the teams continued switching sides.

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