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Freeway Series

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“And now batting,” the Angel Stadium announcer said, “number 4, Korra Winters.”

The Anaheim crowd immediately booed and Korra, third basewoman for the Los Angeles Dodgers, grumbled as she trudged over to the home plate in what would most likely be her last at bat of the night, and possibly the game. The first preseason exhibition game was off to a shitty start. She’d been to the plate four times with nothing to show for it.

Her first few at bats, she hit two ground outs. In one of those at bats, she had teammates on first and second, and forced an easy double play. When she went to the dugout to pick up her glove and hat, she had slammed her helmet into her cubby hard. Miraculously,  it hadn’t cracked. Her teammates watched quietly and steered clear; they sympathized, but her temper was notorious.

During her third time at bat, she swung under and popped a foul that the Angels catcher, number 22 Asami Sato, easily sprung up to catch. That time around, she simply tossed her bat dismissively, and pulled her batting gloves off; no point in breaking a perfectly working bat, though she certainly didn’t lack the desire.

To add insult to injury, she got hit on her fourth at bat, and, while she finally got on base—which didn’t exactly give her any solace—the next batter popped out to right field, and there were already two outs. Total waste.

The Angels had this game in the bag. The score was two to nine in their favor.

At least she didn’t commit any errors on the field, Korra consoled herself. Then again, even if the Angels were on fire, they didn’t hit many balls her way, anyway. Nevertheless, Korra was in enough of a self-deprecating mood that she figured, with the the rut she’s been in, she wouldn’t have been surprised if she had flopped on a ball.

It was the top of the ninth, and Korra was ready to go home, drink a beer—or maybe two… or three—and cuddle with Naga. The good thing about the exhibition game against the Angels was that there was no traveling involved.

Finally at the plate, she adjusted into her batting stance and prepared to wait for a pitch.

Tahno, the Angels’ best closer, threw a slider that Korra was certain was within her range so she went for it. She usually didn’t like swinging on the first pitch, but she figured, what the hell, the ball looked good, and while she didn’t think there was any chance for a rally, she would enjoy making them work a little extra hard for their win if she got a hit.

“Strike!”

Well, so much for that. She wasn’t even close. Hindsight could be so annoying sometimes.

“C’mon, Avatar, you got this!” one of her teammates shouted from the dugout.

Korra took a deep breath, stepped back, rolled her shoulders and swung the bat a few times. She needed to relax.

She returned to the plate and prepared for the next pitch. A few seconds went by, and then Tahno nodded from the mound. Right when he was about to lift his leg and throw another pitch, the catcher said, “Time!”

The umpire granted the timeout, and Tahno awkwardly stopped before he released. Korra relaxed her grip on the bat, and barely resisted rolling her eyes when Sato jogged up to the pitcher’s mound.

She watched the pair as they talked. It was just her luck that Tahno would close this game. He was an ex teammate of hers from back in the minors, and she was certain that he still remembered all her quirks at the plate.

He covered his lips with his glove as he spoke to Sato, all while keeping his eyes on Korra. Korra didn’t need a look behind his glove to know he sported that creepy, slimy smirk of his.

Tahno and Sato are trying to fuck with my head with that timeout, she decided. For all she knew, they were talking about the weather, or what they would be doing after the game; they were probably discussing everything but strategy. It was a classic Tahno move he pulled when they were teammates, and while it amused her back then, being on the receiving end of it was infuriating.

Korra looked down and began digging a hole in the dirt with one of her cleats. She would not look on and give them that satisfaction. Her poker face was terrible anyway.

It wasn’t just the mind games that were getting to Korra, however. When Sato jogged up to the mound, Korra couldn’t help… appreciating the view, and the smell. She made brief eye contact with Sato, who took off her mask as she stood to go to the mound. Korra noticed the pretty green eyes immediately; she even smelled the spicy cinnamon gum Sato chewed. What’s worse, she was caught staring; Sato smirked at her as she walked by. Korra dropped her gaze, annoyed with herself. She never mastered discretion in these situations. At least she doesn’t have eyes in the back of her head, Korra thought. As Sato made her way over to the pitcher’s mound, Korra tried not to be too blatant in her staring; the way Sato’s ass looked in those baseball pants was downright criminal. Korra shook her head. She needed to focus.

Sato finally returned to the plate and squatted.

Korra took a yet another deep breath and stepped back to the plate. “About time…” she grumbled and heard Sato snort quietly.

“Whatever you say, Avatar.”

There was mockery in the way Sato said her nickname, and Korra narrowed her eyes at that, but kept them on Tahno and remained quiet. She was there to do a job. She’d get a hit, or so help her!

Tahno lifted his leg and released the second pitch. Another slider. It was nearly the same pitch, and Korra was certain she could connect this time. And she did, but it was a foul that veered towards the first base stands. Dammit. The count was oh-two.

The next pitch was a ball, one that made her lean away from the plate; it had barreled by her too close for comfort, and getting hit twice in an exhibition game was not worth it.

She shook her head at Tahno, who smirked as he watched for Sato’s next pitch instruction. He acknowledged the signal and pitched again.

It was a changeup, with a trajectory to her sweet spot—she practiced enough with Tahno back in the minors to know exactly where that ball was going to sail through—so she went for it.

“Strike out!” called the umpire.

Korra blinked slow as she replayed what happened in her mind. She was so off in her swing, it was embarrassing.

The Anaheim crowd roared in delight, and Tahno ate it right up. He removed his hat just to flip his hair. Korra hated that haircut.

“Better luck next time, Uhh-vatar !”

Korra scoffed; she’d forgotten how insufferable he could be. She began walking away but stopped when she heard Sato laugh.

“Hey, Avatar, how about you bring a guitar next time?”

Korra narrowed her eyes at Sato, who took her catcher’s mask off, and winked one of her pretty green eyes as she walked by.

“Seems to me like you’ll need something with a bigger surface area if you wanna hit something.”

Korra tightened her grip on her bat, having had enough of this Angels shit. She was well on her way to follow Sato to the mound to give her and Tahno a piece of her mind, but the umpire stopped her with a hand on her shoulder. She looked at him as he jerked his head towards the Dodgers dugout.

“Let it go,” he ordered. “Game’s over.”

For one last time, Korra released a deep breath and relaxed her grip on the bat. She turned and walked to her dugout.

At least it was over.

Korra hoped she had enough beer at home, because two or three wouldn’t be enough after this game.

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