I Found My Heart In San Francisco

Book 14

Nurture

By SX Meagher

Part Six

The next morning, Mia got out of bed at five o'clock, having been unable to sleep for more than an hour at a time. She was physically tired, but her mind was running at full speed and had been even while she was sleeping. She took a quick shower to clear out some of the cobwebs then put on a pair of sweats and a T-shirt. Remembering that it would be colder later in the day, she grabbed a Cal sweatshirt and draped it around her shoulders.

It took three trips to carry down her stuffed bags, but she was able to wedge everything into her trunk. She stashed Jamie's cooler full of Diet Coke and ice on the backseat. In the front, on the passenger seat, she put the case with her favorite CDs, the Mapquest printout for the quickest route to Colorado Springs, and a paper bag filled with gum, mints, candy and pretzels.

Her excitement was building, but she took the time to go back into the house one last time to make sure she'd collected everything on the list that Jamie'd insisted she make. Satisfied that she had everything, she started to walk out. Something stopped her, and she turned around to look at the still-dark parlor.

Her mind flashed back to the first time she and Jamie had seen the place. They were just about to graduate from The Oaks and were so excited about having their own home for the next year that they were giddy. They'd driven to Berkeley with their mothers and had spent about an hour in the place, running from room to room like a pair of terriers, making so much noise that Anna Lisa told them to quiet down and act like adults.

But neither girl had felt like an adult that day-at least Mia hadn't. She'd felt like a kid who was going to be able to run wild the next year-and that's exactly what she'd done. Jamie and Jack had started to spend all of their free time together, and by the time the girls had moved into the house, Jamie was already acting like a mature woman. But Mia's childhood had continued unabated.

Upon reflection, Mia realized that it was only when she'd met Jordan that she'd started to settle down. And even then she'd had a few less-than-mature indiscretions. But when she looked at the house now, she felt a mix of tender emotions-not for the house itself, but for all of the milestones that had occurred during her time there. Her eyes clouded with tears, thinking of the boyfriends whom she'd sworn she loved, the heartbreaks, the insecurities, the joys and the pains of growing up-most of them had happened right there. And all of them were linked to Jamie.

She'd never known what it was like to have a sister, but she was sure that a blood relative wouldn't have had a more secure place in her heart than her friend did. They had been through some trials together and had shed many, many tears. But most of their days had been nothing but fun. And since Ryan had moved in, they'd truly become a small, same-sex family. It was very hard to leave both her birth family and this one that had been cobbled together, but it was time to go-to move on with her life with Jordan.

Knowing that she had Jamie and Ryan's full support made the leaving easier, but it still filled her with a sense of loss, the intensity of which surprised her. She'd been so preoccupied with the break with her parents that she hadn't considered how leaving Berkeley would affect her. It was hitting her hard, and she felt like going upstairs and climbing into bed with her friends for one more hug, but it was time to go.

She closed the door, hearing its weighty, reassuring click when she turned the deadbolt. Kissing her palm, she placed it on the oak and let it rest there for a moment. Then she wiped her eyes and sprinted for the car, determined not to look back. This was a day for looking to the future-a future with the woman who'd helped her to grow up enough to make this decision and suffer the consequences.

As she pulled away, she didn't see the tall, dark-haired woman looking out of her bedroom window, crying silently.

* * * * * * * *

Jamie woke when she heard Ryan start the shower. She stretched and fought the temptation to stay in bed for a few extra minutes. Forcing her feet to the floor, she walked into the bathroom and snuck into the back of the shower, surprising her lover by wrapping her arms around her steamy, hot body.

"Where'd you come from?" Ryan asked.

"Our warm, soft, cozy bed," Jamie said. "I wanted to be with you for a few extra minutes. Don't ever say I don't love you." She squeezed Ryan, expecting to hear a laugh in response to her teasing. But Ryan dropped her head, her black hair falling forward. Her belly began to shake, and Jamie turned her around and saw that her face was contorted with sadness. "Baby, what's wrong?"

Ryan put her head on Jamie's shoulder, which caused the hot water to hit Jamie right in the face, but she stayed right with her lover, tilting her chin so the water didn't pummel her eyes.

"I don't wanna go," she said.

"I don't want you to go," Jamie soothed. "I'd much rather have you right here all weekend." She kissed her wet, warm cheek then whispered in her ear, "I always want you with me."

Ryan nodded then stood up and started to wash-first her partner, then herself. She didn't say anything else, but Jamie knew she was holding back. Usually, when Ryan was upset, crying a few tears cleaned out her system and let her get back to normal. The only time she didn't snap out of it was when there was something that she was reluctant to admit.

Ryan grabbed a towel and started to dry Jamie's hair, giving it a rough rub. Then she draped the towel over her own head, took a fresh towel and dried her partner's body.

This was all done in silence, but that wasn't odd for them. Jamie wasn't usually very talkative until she'd had her coffee, and Ryan had come to respect her natural inclinations.

Today, though, it seemed to Jamie that Ryan was not only being sensitive to her needs, but that she was brooding over something. She took the towel from her shoulders and started to dry Ryan's back, being gentle and loving with her. She kissed every part she dried, and held on to the larger woman when she was finished. "Tell me what's bothering you. Is it Mia?"

Ryan nodded. "I don't want her to move away."

"I don't either," Jamie said. "It's gonna be very lonely around here for a while." She looked at her lover and added, "Especially this weekend. I wish you didn't have to go on a road trip."

Ryan started to cry again, crying so hard that she stumbled blindly back into the bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed.

Jamie followed her and held her, running her hand through Ryan's wet hair. "Honey, please tell me. I know it's not just Mia's leaving."

"I don't wanna go to Fullerton."

It was a little hard to understand her words since she was crying so hard, but Jamie managed. However, simply understanding the words didn't help her understand Ryan's mood. "You've gotta tell me more, baby. I don't have a clue."

"I don't wanna go on a road trip," she said, still sniffling, but more in control. "I just don't want to."

Jamie was confounded. Ryan almost never complained about her obligations, and she'd never said one bad word about the softball team. "Is there something about Fullerton that " She trailed off, not even knowing what question to ask.

"No!" Exasperated, Ryan got up and started to pace across the room. "I'm tired of being gone every other weekend. It seems like you're gone when I'm home and I'm gone when you're home. I want you I need to be with you more."

Jamie walked over to her and put her hands on her shoulders. "Are you thinking of leaving the team?"

Ryan's head shook, and Jamie could see how frustrated she was. "No! I love being on the team. I just don't want to go this weekend."

"Could you call in sick or something?"

"Of course not!" Now Ryan looked like she was about to explode. "I don't wanna go alone!"

"Well, Jesus! Why didn't you tell me sooner? I could have arranged to come with you."

Calming noticeably, Ryan said, "You have a paper to write. You can't spend the whole weekend sitting on a bench." She tried to avert her eyes, but Jamie wouldn't let her.

"It's not fair of you to decide what's best for me." Ryan's eyes went round at her lover's sharp tone. "It's not," she repeated. "The only way to have a real partnership is if you tell me what you need. Then we figure out a way to make it happen, or we jointly decide that we can't manage it. But your deciding what I have to do and where I have to do it just isn't fair."

"I'm sorry," Ryan said, looking contrite.

"I don't want you to be sorry," Jamie said, kissing her head. "I want you to understand. We each have to tell the other what we need. Even when it's hard." She pulled Ryan down and kissed her.

Ryan's hands rose and encircled Jamie's back, and they kissed for a long time. Soft, gentle, sweet, love-filled kisses.

Jamie reluctantly pulled away. "Promise me that you'll try to tell me when you need something."

"I promise I'll try," Ryan said, kissing her again.

Patting her back, Jamie said, "You'd better get moving. It's 6:30, and you haven't dried your hair."

Walking towards the bathroom, Ryan mumbled to herself, "I should have cut it off before volleyball season. Save myself ten minutes every morning."

Jamie started for the kitchen, determined to give her partner a proper breakfast. "Cutting hair is a joint decision, baby, and my vote is no."

* * * * * * * *

As soon as Ryan left the house, Jamie got on the phone and called Jennie, happy that she caught her before she left for school. She spoke to her housemother for a few minutes, then the girl picked up. "Hi," Jamie said. "Is anything special going on at school today? Any tests or quizzes?"

"Uhm no, nothing special. Just another day. Why?"

"How would you like to ditch and go to Fullerton with me for the weekend?"

"Yeow!"

Jamie pulled the phone away from her ear and let the ringing subside. "I guess that means you're in?"

"Where do I go, what do I do?"

"I haven't figured that out yet. I just now decided to go, and I thought you'd be the perfect person to go with me. Let me get on the phone and figure out which flight we can make, then I'll call your school and tell them you're with me."

"Do you need my teachers' names?" Jennie asked.

"Nah. I'll just call the office. Don't worry about it."

"I'm not worried about anything," Jennie said, unable to stop giggling. "Thanks a lot, Jamie, really."

"My pleasure. You just pack a light bag and stay by the phone. I'll call you when everything is set."

"I won't move," Jennie said.

Jamie had a feeling she meant that literally.

* * * * * * * *

Late that afternoon, Jamie and Jennie sat in the dugout of the softball complex in Fullerton, California, watching Cal warm up on the neatly tended grass field. They were the only Cal fans in attendance, and when Jamie said hello to Coach Roberts, he invited them to sit in the dugout. Because of their position, Ryan couldn't see them, and Jamie was able to indulge in her favorite sport of watching Ryan when the tall woman didn't know she was being watched.

Even though she had attended many games, Jamie hadn't spent much time watching warm-ups, preferring to sit at a nearby picnic table and read. But since Jennie was with her, she felt she should be more a part of the total experience. She didn't mind the sacrifice in the least, however, and as she watched the women preparing for the game, she decided that it was actually fun to watch them get ready to play.

The focus of her attentions was one particular player. This woman, significantly taller and more substantially built than most of the others, caught and held Jamie's focus completely.

The team was wearing shorts for the first time that season, and Jamie marveled at the expanse of leg that was revealed by Ryan's dark blue pants. The shorts covered some of the other players nearly to the knee, but Ryan's exposed more than a foot of tanned thigh, much to Jamie's approval. She had been a little worried when Ryan revealed that they sometimes wore shorts, thinking that her partner would be a mass of scrapes and scratches by the end of a game. Much to her pleasure, everyone wore long white socks topped by navy blue kneepads, which Jamie was certain would protect Ryan's lovely long legs.

The players assembled in a large circle and began to toss the ball around lazily, just letting their arms get warm. Even though they were stretching, the more important activity seemed to be chatting, and Jamie noted that every player was involved. It seemed more like a sewing circle than a group of athletes preparing for a contest, but Jamie was enormously pleased that Ryan was able to share her sport with such a nice group of women.

One of the things Jamie really liked was that the coaches let the players warm up at their own pace. They remained on the bench, idly commenting about things they observed, but not closely supervising the women. After Ryan's unpleasant month with the basketball team, she knew that her partner greatly appreciated the fact that the coaches treated the athletes like sentient beings.

When everyone was warm, the outfielders got to work near the left field fence. Even though Ryan had only played first base in games, she was the primary replacement for all of the three outfield positions, so she stayed with the starting fielders to work on the long throw.

Surprisingly, the four women began to toss a football back and forth, and after a relatively short time, they stood at least fifty yards from each other and tossed the ball lazily, continuing to loosen up their arms for the more stressful long throws.

Jamie could see the trajectory of the throws getting progressively lower, and she heard a bit more pop when the ball was caught. By the time the fielders were throwing tight spirals, they switched to softballs and started to throw the balls in to the catcher. They had about fifty balls in a big bag, and by the time they had fired them all in, they came in for fielding practice.

"She's coming in," Jennie said, elbowing Jamie. "She's gonna be so surprised!"

"She sure is," Jamie said, gulping as she spoke. She was worried that Ryan would cry when she saw her, and she knew nothing was worse for her partner than crying in front of her teammates. Fortunately, Ryan spied them before she hit the infield. Jamie saw her flinch, then Ryan ran back to the outfield fence and did a few sprints, running from the second base bag to the fence and back-obviously just to collect herself.

When the lanky woman was composed, she ran by the dugout, nodding towards Jamie and Jennie. "Isn't there a rule against groupies?" she asked the coach.

"You wouldn't hear me bitchin' if a pair of good looking girls followed me around," Coach said, chuckling.

"Be sure to let us know the first time that happens," Ryan said. She traded her outfielder's glove for her first baseman's mitt and ran to catch up to the start of infield and batting practice.

"Isn't she glad to see us?" Jennie asked.

"She's thrilled," Jamie said. "Trust me."

* * * * * * * *

Organized chaos reigned during the next fifteen minutes. Everyone got to take ten pitches, then the starters had another round. The players not batting were far from idle. Ryan was on first, working with the back-up shortstop and second baseman on fielding quickly thrown grounders; another knot of women stood in the outfield waiting for batted balls; and a third group of pitchers went to the bullpen to warm up.

Heather spotted Jamie and Jennie and ran over to say hello. "I didn't know you guys were coming," she said, smiling at them both.

"We just decided today," Jennie said. "I got to skip school!"

"Cool," Heather said. "I gotta go warm up." With that, she dashed over to the bullpen and started to work with the other pitchers.

Once batting practice was finished, the starting infielders took the field, with Coach Roberts hitting sharp grounders to all spots, really making them hustle to reach them. Since Ryan wasn't a starter, she went out to the edge of the field and ran sprints. She was out there as long as fielding practice lasted, and when they called all of the players in, she was sweating freely.

Coach called them all together for some last minute tips, then the team lined up along the baseline for the playing of the national anthem. Ryan ran over to the dugout and tugged Jamie and Jennie along with her, and the smaller woman couldn't help sneaking an admiring look up at her partner-singing at full voice, with her cap held over her heart.

* * * * * * * *

The weather forecast called for rain the entire weekend, and by the third inning it became clear that they'd be lucky to get the game in. Very dark clouds were gathering, and a few scattered droplets of rain started to fall. Ryan seemed oblivious to the weather, however. Her attention was fully engaged by watching the pitcher and the catcher, and seeing how the fielders positioned themselves for the various batters.

She barely spoke when her team was at bat, unless someone was on base. Then the entire team joined together to repeat some form of cheer or chant that had them all laughing. Even though she was mostly silent, between innings she was quite voluble, chattering on like she hadn't been quiet for the previous ten minutes. "You know what I like best about softball?" she asked Jamie during one such break.

"Nope. Don't have a clue."

"It's the only collegiate sport in which you can eat during the whole thing." She laughed. "That's epic."

Jamie looked down at the pile of spent sunflower seeds under her lover's feet. "At least I know why you always smell like nuts after a game. Why do you do that, anyway?"

"Do what?"

"Spit the seeds out that way. It looks like you're chewing tobacco."

The look on Jamie's face did not give the impression that she approved of the practice, but Ryan just grinned at her. "It's a great tension reliever," she said. "I've gotta have some way to vent."

Jamie waited for the punch line, but she soon realized that Ryan was serious. Even though she rarely played, she was perched on the edge of the bench like she was waiting for the fire bell, and when she wasn't tapping her cleated feet against the concrete, she was spitting sunflower shells onto the ground. Try as she might, the smaller woman couldn't understand why her partner was so agitated. Watching softball was akin to watching grass grow for Jamie, unless, of course, Ryan was playing.

Suddenly, realization dawned on her. Ryan felt just like Jamie did, but instead of being interested in one player, she was interested in all of them. She growled in sympathy at every strikeout, moaned when a player was badly fooled by a pitch, and grunted in frustration at every hit the opposing team made. In short, she cared deeply for her team and her teammates.

Reaching over, Jamie gave her partner's bare thigh a squeeze. "I'm glad you have this, sweetie. This is the right sport for you-even though it takes you away from me too often."

* * * * * * * *

Heather sat on the far end of the bench with the other pitchers. Jennie was more than a little disappointed that one of her favorite players wasn't sitting with them, and she leaned over and spoke to Jamie the first time Ryan's attention was elsewhere. "Why's Heather ignoring us?"

Jamie winced, knowing that Heather liked Jennie as a person, but as a very young person. She thought of how she'd felt when a girl from her neighborhood started to ignore her the minute the older girl had entered high school, and tried to think of a way to save Jennie's feelings. "Oh, it's a jock thing, Jen. Hanging out and looking cool is all part of the image."

The younger girl nodded towards Ryan. "Ryan's not doing that."

"Oh, that's a girlfriend thing," Jamie said, smiling. "Being a girlfriend takes precedence over everything else."

Ryan heard her and nodded to Jen. "She's a wise woman, Jennie. Listen to her."

* * * * * * * *

The rains finally arrived, and after struggling through the last two innings, the coaches got together and decided to call the second game of the doubleheader. The weather report said that lightning had been spotted in Buena Park, so rather than risk any lives, the thoroughly drenched crew headed back to the hotel.

After an early dinner, the team voted to take in a movie. When Jamie learned that their choice was Scary Movie, she elected to pass.

Ryan nodded. "Okay, we'll just stay in."

"No, you should go," Jamie insisted. "You like that kinda movie, and I know you want to hang around with your pals. Besides, I need to work on my article, and I'll be more productive without you around."

"Gee, thanks," Ryan said, feigning hurt.

"You know I love to have you with me," Jamie assured her, "but I really do have to work on this. You've a very distracting presence, you know."

"I have my moments," Ryan agreed. "Okay, Jen and I'll go out and play. Work hard, babe."

Jamie watched her walk through the lobby, one arm draped around Jennie's shoulders, already joking and teasing with her friends. I can't imagine a better antidote to the poisonous atmosphere of that basketball team. I'm just so happy she's gonna finish out her career with this group.

* * * * * * * *

Ryan was still chuckling when she returned to the room a few hours later. "You missed a funny one," she said, crossing the room to place a kiss on Jamie's head. "How's it going?"

"Fine. I still have a couple of hours of work to do. It's going well, though."

"Does that mean, 'Be quiet?'"

Jamie bit her lip and nodded.

"Have at it," Ryan urged. "It's only ten o'clock." She picked up her room key. "I'll be down at Jackie's. Room 212. We're gonna play cards."

"Don't rob them blind," Jamie called after her. "They're your teammates, not your cousins."

* * * * * * * *

An hour later, Jamie knocked on Jackie's door and heard a muffled, "It's open." She went in to find most of the team sitting on the floor playing poker or sprawled across the beds watching the game. Jennie was sitting on a pillow, obviously trying to learn the game by watching the others. Lupe was sitting directly in front of Ryan, holding her cards so that the significantly larger woman could see them. Ryan leaned over slightly and whispered into her ear, then Lupe nodded once and discarded one card and asked for another. Jamie walked over behind her partner, and Ryan leaned back against her shins. "Nice backrest." She grinned up at her.

"What are you two doing?" Jamie asked.

"Lupe's never played before, so we're playing together. I'm sure I'll regret telling her my secrets later in the year when she starts kicking my ass," she said, laughing.

The diminutive woman slapped at Ryan's thigh with her cards. "That'll take many years of instruction," she said, "and you're graduating this year."

"Not if I keep skipping class to go watch Jamie play golf," Ryan predicted. "Oops it's our turn, Lupe." She leaned over again and whispered something, then Lupe called, forcing the remaining players to show their hands. She won the hand with two pair, and she was beaming when she slapped excitedly at the long legs that surrounded her.

"We won!" she cried. "Let's play again!"

"That's the devil talking, Lupe. Let's quit while we're ahead." She extricated herself from her place and took Jamie's hand. "We leave for the field at 9:00, guys, and coach wants us to meet for breakfast no later than 8:00. Time for bed. You too, Jen."

With very little grumbling, the game broke up and everyone headed back to their rooms. Jennie was taking Ryan's spot with Jackie, so she was already in the right place. Lupe gave Ryan a hug, her arms barely able to encircle the large woman. "Thanks, Ryan. That was fun."

"Any time," she grinned. "We can team up whenever you want."

Heading back to their room, Jamie asked, "So, how much did you win?"

"Oh, we don't play for money-just bragging rights." They reached their room, and Ryan started to strip before she had walked two steps.

"I'm still in the mood to write. If I'm up really late, I'll sleep in and take a cab over to your game."

"I was going to suggest you do that anyway," Ryan said. "It hasn't stopped raining, and it doesn't look like it's going to. There's no sense in your sitting over there in the rain."

"It's a deal. Now brush all of your cute little teeth and hop into bed. You're barely going to get your eight hours tonight."

"You know," Ryan said, putting her arms around Jamie and letting her hands rest low on her hips. "You could skip the game entirely and work."

Jamie looked up and her and saw the spark of lust in her clear blue eyes. "What are you suggesting, slugger?"

"Well if you don't have to do anything tomorrow, you could go to bed right now. We could " She squeezed Jamie's ass as she bent to kiss her. "Think of something to do to relax."

"That's the voice of the devil," Jamie said, wrinkling up her nose. "You know I'd love to, but I'm really in the mood to work. Besides, since Jennie is with me, I've got to hang with her."

Ryan let her lower lip stick out in a pout. "You do still like to " she inclined her head toward the bed, "don't you?"

Slapping her hard on the bare butt, Jamie said, "You've got a lot of nerve to even ask me that!"

"Just checking," Ryan said. "It's been a while, you know."

"Almost a week," Jamie said. "I keep track, too."

"Okay, okay." The taller woman went into the bathroom and brushed her teeth. When she came out, Jamie was sitting on an upholstered chair, reading some of her research materials. Ryan stuck out her hands, then slapped them against her chest. "Last chance," she said, turning slowly. She twitched her ass as she turned, then smiled impishly at Jamie. "Sure you wanna pass this up?"

"No, I don't," Jamie said. "But I have to."

"Fine," Ryan said, feigning hurt. "Kiss me when you come to bed."

"With gusto," Jamie said, grinning wickedly.

* * * * * * * *

At 2:00 a.m., Jamie was in good shape. She had a little more polishing to do, but she knew she could get that done in the next two days. She was too tired to write any more, but too wired to sleep, thanks to the Diet Coke she'd been drinking all night. Nonetheless, she brushed her teeth and got into bed, snuggling up against her partner.

Ryan woke partially, patting her arm and mumbling, "Go sleep."

Now she wants to sleep, Jamie groused. I'm wide awake in a motel room in Fullerton, with nothing to do and no one to play with. I wonder if they have a gym here? No I can't leave the room. She'd freak out if she woke up.

She lay there quietly, thinking that just being near Ryan would calm her down, but the opposite seemed to happen. Ryan's smooth, steady breathing made her more aware of her own alertness, and soon it began to irritate her. Great. Now I'm mad at her.

Jamie got out of bed and went to her suitcase to look for something to read, but all she'd brought were things related to her article, and she'd had enough of that. She lay down on the other bed, her head at the foot, and turned on the TV, lying so close she could have the volume at a whisper. She channel surfed for a while, then lit on Cinemax After Dark, a series of very soft-core porn movies made for people who couldn't or wouldn't buy the real thing. She and Ryan had on a few occasions laughed at the ineptitude of the stories, and at the surreal attributes of the women, but she lingered longer than usual this time. Still, she found that the silicone-pumped blondes didn't do a thing for her. The loveliest woman she'd ever known was lying in the next bed, and her thoughts turned to her partner's magnificent attributes, some of which were totally visible.

Jamie rolled over onto her side and gazed at her lovely partner, sleep rendering her more beautiful than usual. Her lips were slightly parted, and a thick lock of hair partially covered her eyes. Sitting up, Jamie pulled a pair of pillows down and slipped them under her head. Concentrating, she stared at Ryan, feeling her libido spark to life. She thought about waking her partner, but realized how utterly selfish that was. Even though she knew Ryan would be happy to participate, it still felt a little exploitive to wake her from a sound sleep.

Her temperature was rising, and watching Ryan's breasts rise and fall wasn't cooling things down. Jamie lifted one knee and started to touch herself, feeling just a little guilty. She knew that she had nothing to be ashamed of, but she and Ryan had had so few opportunities lately that she felt like she was wasting one of them.

Reminding herself that Ryan wasn't lying there wanting sex, she continued to stroke herself, getting into the experience more than she thought she would. She couldn't remember the last time she'd masturbated, but she guessed that it had been before she and Ryan had made love for the first time. So, this is how it is after a year, she thought to herself. Masturbating in a cheap motel while you watch your partner sleep. I guess the honeymoon is officially over!

* * * * * * * *

Ryan woke with the sun the next morning, but it took her a few moments to get her bearings. The TV was on, and Jamie wasn't in bed with her. Blinking, she saw that her partner was lying in the wrong direction on the bed next to hers, and that the TV was on very low. She didn't have a clue what had gone on the night before, but she was very glad that she'd been able to sleep. I guess I don't need to sleep with her, she thought. I just need her in the room. That's progress.

* * * * * * * *

Struggling against the heavy hand of sleep, Jamie forced one eye open at a sharp noise, expecting to find the maid trying to make up the room. Both eyes opened when she saw that her partner had returned, looking a bit like a drowned rat. "We got rained out," she said with a great deal of enthusiasm.

Yawning, Jamie mumbled, "And that's good, why?"

Ryan jumped onto the bed, her wet clothing soaking through the sheet in moments. "We're going to Disneyland!"

"Get off me, you lunatic!" Pushing her heavy partner with all of her strength, Jamie grunted from the effort. "Damn. I can't move you an inch."

"Not when I don't wanna be moved," Ryan agreed. "C'mon, babe. Time's a wasting."

Rolling out of bed, Jamie ran a hand through her woefully disordered hair. "We're going to Disneyland in a driving rainstorm?"

"Yep! I bet there won't be any lines at all." Ryan started to hop around the room as if she were riding a pogo stick, which made her partner giggle at her antics.

"Did they put something in your breakfast, honey? You act like you've got ants in your pants."

"Nope. I'm just excited!" she proclaimed. "I love Disneyland, and I especially love it when everybody else is too intelligent to go."

"Words to live by," Jamie mumbled, trying her best to capture some of her partner's zeal for the endeavor.

* * * * * * * *

Much to her surprise, Jamie found that going on rides in the rain with her giddy partner was a hell of a lot of fun. Ryan and Jennie were clearly the most enthusiastic pair of the group, but Ryan's passion for the place and the rides quickly became contagious, and the rest of the team got into the mood as well.

All of the players except Ryan wore their Cal rain ponchos, which did a great job of keeping the rain off their torsos while their warm-up pants quickly became sodden. Once she'd heard the weather forecast, Jamie had insisted that her partner bring her full rain suit, so Ryan and Jamie were both completely dry, allowing them to be oblivious to the elements. They each had their hoods up, and each wore a Cal visor to keep the rain from her eyes.

It seemed that the only people in the park were young, local kids, who probably had season passes. Lines for the most popular rides were no longer than five minutes, and child-focused attractions like Toon Town were completely deserted.

They'd been at the park for two hours and had been on all of the best rides three times when Jamie pleaded hunger. After a quick stop, they took off again, managing to go on each of the roller coasters five times.

A few of the more prudent women, Jamie included, wanted to spend a couple of hours at indoor attractions and shows, and after a little negotiation, they agreed to split up into two groups. Ryan and Jennie wanted to keep going on rides until they threw up, which didn't seem to be very far in the future in Jamie's privately held opinion. So they agreed to meet on Main Street at five o'clock, which was when the bus was set to pick them up.

Ryan found Jamie in the biggest gift shop just before 5:00 and chuckled. "I had a feeling you'd have to stop to buy a few things."

"I saw this cute Hawaiian shirt that I thought Conor would like, but then I had to get something for Brendan and Rory," she explained. "I couldn't leave out your father and Maeve, and since Caitlin's outgrown the sweatshirt we got her last time, I got her another."

"About done?" Ryan asked patiently, not even considering chiding her partner for her buying habits.

"Yep. Are we ready to leave?"

"Uh-huh." Ryan had a ghost of a frown on her face, and she said, "My stomach's a little upset. Must've been something I ate."

"Yeah, that's probably it," the blonde agreed, mentally rolling her eyes.

* * * * * * * *

Part 7

Return to the Academy