Chapter Fourteen

Take (Me) Out (to) the Ballgame

After a healthy dose of good-natured laughter, the four adults managed to finish loading the bulbous yellow Capsule Corp. aircraft, and soon realized that they needed to get going before Goku was hungry again. The two teenagers and their charges waved goodbye as the jet faded out of sight, and then it was time to head to the stadium.

It was two-thirty, still an hour and a half before the first pitch, when Videl guided them to a landing just outside the gate. They had opted to use her jetcopter, figuring that four people flying in by any other means might have attracted unwanted attention.

They approached the massive stone archways that marked the main entrance to the open-air stadium. Goten and Trunks were already bouncing around in excitement, drawing a warm smile from the elderly lady who took their tickets and greeted them at the gate.

They thanked the ticket taker and entered the stadium, admiring the pleasant atmosphere of the park. The West City Dragons had a fairly modest home, but that made it no less impressive. The main gate was situated beyond the outfield fence, and they entered to the sight of the open grass picnic area that also served as the outfield seating. A concrete walkway ran around the back of the grassy embankment, and it led into the concourse under the massive double tiers of stadium seating that wrapped back around from the foul poles to the rest of the park. The gigantic scoreboard was set behind the concrete walkway outside of right field, along the stadium wall. A jumbotron screen was currently shifting through a variety of advertisements, and the digital scoreboard was blank aside from the labels for innings and the teams, which prominently displayed the West City Dragons and, in a much simpler font, their opponents, the North City Titans.

The stadium was still almost empty so long before the first pitch, but that was the intent of arriving early. The group of four began walking along the path towards the third base-side concourse, Goten and Trunks looking around with wide eyes at the impressive display that was Victory Field.

With the two terrors entranced for the time being, Videl turned to Gohan. "You know, I think this little situation might be a blessing in disguise," she said, pointing to their eerily similar attire. "It would be a relief not to be recognized for once."

"You're right," Gohan agreed. "It'll be hard enough keeping these two on a leash without being swarmed by autograph hounds."

They walked under the concourse, where the concession stands set along the back wall grabbing the attention of the two small demi-Saiyans. It was no small struggle to convince them not to go charging off, aided mostly by promises of coming back down to get one of every edible ware as soon as they found their suite. While the outer wall to their right was lined with the shops, the view to their left overlooked the lower level of seating and the field itself. Ground crews were hard at work preparing the field for the day's game, to the accompaniment of various classic baseball tunes over the stadium's public address system. Staircases alternated along the concourse, leading by turns down to the lower seats and up to the second level.

A hallway led off the concourse at the center point behind home plate, with a pair of elevators in the cramped area. Gohan was just browsing over the directory to check which floor their luxury box was on when one of the elevators opened in front of them. A man in an expensive business suit stepped out, bearing an ostentatious name tag that identified him as "Varian Tressting – Stadium Director." He spared the group a quick glance, but even as he turned away to move on, he stopped dead in his tracks. He wheeled back around to stare at Videl, his eyes wide in obvious recognition. Gohan flinched before the man even spoke. So much for being incognito, he thought, dejected.

To confirm his fears, Director Tressting's mouth turned into a smile so wide it must have hurt. "Miss Satan! I can't believe it! What an honor to have the daughter of the World Champion come to see a game at our very own Victory Field!" he gushed, running over and latching onto her hand and shaking it, oblivious of the death glare he was now receiving from the target of his attention, and equally oblivious of the other three people standing in the cramped hallway. "Oh, my, this is so unexpected! If only you had called ahead to let us know you would be attending, we could have set something up." The director spoke very rapidly, growing more breathless with every word.

Videl didn't bother to suppress her grimace. Despite the clothing, the hat, and the odds, her cover was blown before they had even found their seats. She resigned herself to the necessity of once again playing the role of "daughter of the champ," but decided she could at least try and keep a small bit of control over the situation. "Actually, I'm here with some friends of mine. We have the Capsule Corporation box." She nodded her head towards the three ignored members of her party, since her hands were still stuck in the director's grip. "This is Gohan, his younger brother Goten, and Trunks Briefs."

The director seemed to allow the first two names to go in one ear and out the other, but he gave a start at the third. He released Videl's hand and spun on the lavender-haired demi-Saiyan. Ignoring the crossed arms and imperious gaze from the young boy, he knelt down to tousle his hair. "Well, Mr. Briefs, we're certainly honored to have you here as well." The director's eyes widened and he shot up, spinning back towards Videl. Gohan thought that if he didn't stop wheeling around like that soon, he would pass out from dizziness. Not that that would be an entirely bad thing.

"Miss Satan, I know you've left us with short notice," he said, blind to the possibility that she had not wanted to give any notice in the first place, "but I already know what we can do! We still need someone to throw out the first pitch for the season, and here you are! We would be delighted to have your services, and the fans would love it!" He beamed as if she had already agreed, despite the fact that Videl looked as if she would rather eat a gallon of pine tar. "And as for our young celebrity," he said, whirling back around to Trunks (Gohan was beginning to notice a slight wobble in the man's stance), "how would you like to be an honorary bat boy for the West City Dragons?"

Trunks, who had been playing the role of pint-sized prince to a tee and looking upon the man with undisguised disdain, did a one-eighty. His face lit up and he looked ready to start hopping up and down in excitement. "Really? That would be awesome!" he said, but his smile faded and he looked somewhat thoughtful. "Can my friend be a bat boy too?" he asked, pointing to an eager-looking Goten.

"Of course!" the director said, not missing a beat. "We'd be glad to have him as well."

Meanwhile, Gohan was looking on helplessly at the situation unfolding before him. What had promised to be a quiet day at the ballpark was turning into a situation that was out of control. The prospect of Goten and Trunks being off on their own was in and of itself inviting Armageddon. "Ah, sir, excuse me?" he said, trying to gain the director's attention.

Mr. Tressting wheeled around again to face him, and regarded him as if noticing his presence for the first time. "Yes, can I help you young man?" he asked officiously.

Gohan blinked once at the man's sudden change in demeanor, but plowed ahead. "Sir, I think it might be better if these two stayed with Videl and I for the game," he suggested.

The director's brow furrowed, but then he seemed to remember that the daughter of the champion had introduced this young man as being in her company. His businesslike expression turned into a smile, and he waved a hand dismissively. "Oh, don't worry young man. You should just enjoy yourself. We can take good care of them, and they are obviously looking forward to the chance!" Indeed, the two demi-Saiyans were now looking at Gohan with pleading puppy-dog eyes.

Gohan's brain was scrambling for some sort of excuse to keep the two terrors with he and Videl, but he was coming up blank. After all, he couldn't exactly say "Oh, actually, I think it would be better they stick with me, or else they might blow up the stadium."

Before his thoughts could get anywhere, the director clapped him on the shoulder, construing his brief silence for agreement. "There's a good lad. Don't worry, they'll be safe with us. Just relax and enjoy the game. Now, if you'll excuse me, I must make arrangements! Just wait in the lobby on the second floor through the elevators, I won't be long!" Before another word could be spoken, the man bustled off at nearly a run in his excitement.

Gohan was still gawking, his mouth opening and closing like a fish. Goten and Trunks were running in circles around the older demi-Saiyan in excitement, chanting "We're gonna be bat boys!" over and over. Videl was leaning against the cool concrete wall, one hand pulling down the brim of her cap to cover her face as she muttered under her breath.

The teenage demi-Saiyan was broken out of his stupor by a sudden, insistent tugging on his sleeve. He looked down to see Goten and Trunks looking up at him with inquisitive expressions mirrored on their faces. When they had his attention, Goten asked, "Big brother, what's a bat boy?"

-- --- --

Without any better ideas presenting themselves, a very resigned Gohan and Videl led the group up to the second floor lobby as the director had said. If nothing else, Gohan was afraid that if they didn't show up, Director Tressting would launch a massive search for them that would leave them worse off than they already were.

The lobby had three walls lined with comfortable couches, above which were mounted a series of pictures displaying the most famous players, both past and present, to take the field for the West City Dragons. A reception desk took up the wall opposite the elevator, with a hallway beside it that led back into the administrative offices of the stadium.

Goten and Trunks were clambering over the couches to look at the portraits, somewhat more subdued now that their initial excitement was fading. Oddly enough, they seemed to regard the task of being bat boys as quite interesting, despite Gohan's description of how tedious the job would be. He had placed heavy emphasis on the tedium. By now, the elder half-Saiyan wondered how much of their interest was in the actual job before them, and how much was for the opportunity to be out of their teenaged supervisors' direct sight.

Gohan and Videl were sitting side-by-side on the couch closest the elevator, sulking over their rotten luck. Their thoughts were broken when Goten gave a shout of surprise. "Hey, everybody, come look at this!" he called, hopping up and down on the plush furniture while pointing at the picture above him.

The rest of the group walked over, and when Gohan got a close look at the portrait Goten was pointing to, he laughed. "I don't believe it," he said, smiling and shaking his head.

Videl's brow furrowed as she peered at the picture. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say that was Yamcha," she said, a hint of disbelief in her voice.

"Believe it," Gohan said. "I heard Krillin mention once that he'd gotten himself into the sport professionally after he gave up fighting, but this is a surprise."

Indeed it was Yamcha, telltale scars still showing up clearly despite his distance from the camera in the picture, and his identity was confirmed by the plaque beneath the photograph. The former fighter was in the familiar Dragons uniform, his wiry black hair hidden under a batting helmet. It was an impressive action shot, with Yamcha in mid-swing connecting with a pitch over the heart of the plate.

"Wow! Gohan," Videl's eyes widened when she looked at the label beneath the picture, "look at the dates on the plaque – this says he's still playing for the team."

It was Gohan's turn to be surprised. "You mean we're gonna see him play? Oh, man, just wait 'til we get to tell everyone else."

"Never mind that," Videl said, a wry grin spreading on her face as she turned to face Gohan. "Just wait until those two get into the dugout," she said, jerking a thumb towards the young boys.

Goten and Trunks shared a devious glance. "You mean we get to be bat boys, and get to play with Mr. Yamcha?" Goten asked, his cheery voice tinged with an unmistakable trace of mischief.

The elder half-Saiyan gave a lopsided grin, realizing he needed to do some quick defusing of the devilish duo's sudden opportunity. "Yeah, you will. But that also means that Yamcha gets to keep an eye on you two when you're down there. Videl and I may not be able to see you from the box, but unless you want Chi-Chi and Bulma to get an earful when they get back, you had better keep yourselves under control."

The scheming pair shared another glance, but this one was decidedly less mischievous. It was obvious that the threat of their mothers' vengeance was still fresh enough on their minds to keep them somewhat subdued. With faint sighs, they looked up at Gohan and both gave him a resigned nod.

Any further discussion was cut short by the harried re-entrance of Director Tressting. He noticed the portrait they were observing and beamed. "Ah, yes, Yamcha, our star player! We were so glad to see him back this season," he said. "He had taken a couple years off from the sport, but it's good to have him swinging for the fences for the Dragons again!"

Before anyone else could get a word in, however, he was back to business. "You'll be pleased to know I've sorted everything out," he said, failing to notice that the two teenagers present looked anything but pleased at the news. "We'll be happy to have you down for the first pitch, Miss Satan, after which you're welcome to watch the game from the Capsule Suite you've already reserved – our finest luxury box, bar none. Quite regrettable that the Briefs rarely use it, but oh well. Young Mr. Briefs and his friend will of course be seeing the game from the dugout. The other two batboys seemed a bit put out by the news, thought they were getting second fiddle for a moment I suppose, but I think you all will get along famously."

The director finally paused to take a breath, and looked down at his watch. "My, how time flies!" he exclaimed. "It's almost time for the first pitch, we have to hurry. Miss Satan, Trunks, Goten, if you'll follow me? I'll show you to where you need to be."

He started shuffling the two boys out, but Videl sidestepped him and turned to Gohan. "See you in the box?"

"I'll wait up there for you," he confirmed. "According to the directory, it's on the fourth floor, corner suite, third base side." Videl nodded and followed the other three to the elevator, tossing Gohan a last wave as the doors began to close.

"Try not to kill the catcher!" Videl's wave turned into a thumbs up, and he caught a hint of her impish smile as the elevator doors closed between them.

-- --- --

Gohan waited for the elevator to return, then took the short ride up to the fourth floor. Instead of the spacious lobby on the second floor, the elevator opened this time to a well-lit hallway lined with thick blue carpet. The pristine white wall in front of him was set with evenly spaced doors that led into the suites themselves. He took the left path down the slowly curving hallway, double checking the numbers over the doors as he passed. A few of them were open, revealing the well-appointed rooms and groups of people inside who were settling in for the game. Almost all of the spectators he saw were wearing suits, and had the distinct air of businessmen; obviously, the luxury boxes were catered towards the team's more affluent clientele.

The end of the hallway came into view, the carpeted walkway ending with a window that looked back across the lower concourse and out towards left field. The door to the suite was closed, but a placard next to it displayed the familiar logo of Capsule Corporation. With a satisfied smile, he turned the knob and stepped inside.

It took Gohan all of a second to realize that this room definitely lived up to the name "luxury suite." First to catch his eye was the picture window at the opposite end of the room, which displayed a wide, unobstructed view of the field. There were bar stools and a counter set beneath the window, with baskets that looked to be filled with snack foods. There was a large television suspended from the ceiling, and a couch and several plush armchairs set against the walls under and across from it. Stepping inside and closing the door, Gohan noticed the area directly to his left was a corner kitchenette full of cabinets, a counter, and a small refrigerator. A quick check revealed that the kitchenette was stocked with everything from soft drinks to potato chips to a vegetable tray. When he walked over to the picture window, closer inspection revealed a door that led down to a private seating section with a dozen of the fold-up-seat chairs found throughout the park.

I'm going to enjoy to this, Gohan thought, letting loose a long, low whistle of awe.

After admiring the view of the lush green field and watching the teams warm up for a few minutes, he headed back towards the refrigerator. It was past lunchtime, and he had a while still before the first pitch, so he figured he might as well see how the food was.

-- --- --

Director Tressting showed Videl, Goten, and Trunks down into the lower levels of the stadium, leading them through the bare concrete corridors at a brisk trot. He pointed out a few things along the way, indicating the locker rooms and equipment closets with equal excitement in his breathless speech. He stopped when they reached a door labeled "Bat Boys," and turned to look at Goten and Trunks. "You two can change in here and then head down to the dugout, which is at the end of this corridor," he explained, pointing down the hall they had been walking through. "I've had some uniforms and hats brought down, they should fit you well enough. If you have any questions, you can ask the other two bat boys when you get to the dugout. They've done this before, and I'm sure they'll be glad to help. Good luck!"

After ushering the boys into the small locker room, he turned to Videl. "This way to the dugout, Miss Satan." He checked his watch. "Good, good, right on time. Won't have to wait long at all," he said briskly.

Videl just rolled her eyes and followed after him. As if being recognized at all wasn't bad enough, she was about to be placed front and center before the entire stadium.

They turned a corner, and bright sunlight could be seen streaming in from the end of the hallway. The dugout was mostly empty with the players out finishing up their warmups. Videl looked out onto the field, trying to spot Yamcha. The director, meanwhile, pulled out a handheld radio from a holster on his belt and spoke quickly into it. A few seconds after he replaced it on his belt, the music over the public address faded away, and the players for both teams started jogging back into the dugouts.

"Follow me, please, Miss Satan," the director said, walking out onto the field. The bright sunlight was refreshing after the damp corridors, but the announcer's words over the stadium speakers drained what little was left of her good mood.

"Victory Field welcomes you to opening day of the West City Dragons' season! Before the starting lineups, we are pleased and honored to present you with the first pitch ceremony, to be thrown by none other than the daughter of the World Savior and Martial Arts Champion. Please give a warm West City welcome to Videl Satan!" Her name was greeted to raucous cheering from the packed stadium, and she noticed the jumbotron flashing her name in bold, colorful letters out of the corner of her eye. She managed a halfhearted wave to the tumultuous fans as she reached the pitcher's mound. One of the Dragons' bullpen catchers was standing at home plate with the umpiring crew, and even they were applauding with enthusiasm.

"Now, don't worry about throwing a strike or anything, just toss it in there," Director Tressting told her, nearly shouting to be heard over the din. He handed her a baseball that looked to be fresh out of the box and stepped away, now clapping with everyone else.

Videl couldn't suppress the grin that rose to her face as the catcher slapped his mitt and crouched behind the plate. Might as well make this look good, she thought. She twirled her arm a few times to loosen up the muscles as she stepped onto the mound.

The southpaw vixen toed the rubber and took her stance, pausing only a moment before beginning her windup. With a practiced precision, she hurled a fastball straight down the pipe.

Had it been anyone else on the mound, the sight of someone treating the ceremonial first pitch so seriously would have elicited a few chuckles from the crowd. They were used to seeing long-retired players, celebrities, or politicians do the honors, or athletes whose talents lay in other sports. Therefore, they held low expectations, other than getting a good laugh when an ungainly toss sent the catcher lunging to put leather on the throw. Consequently, the fans would have been surprised enough to see anything resembling a strike.

After the catcher was lifted straight into the backstop with the sheer momentum of the throw, the deafening silence that ensued was priceless.

Videl wore a satisfied smirk as she sauntered back towards the dugout. She tossed a little wave to the mute masses, not caring that all the people in the stadium, save two, were staring slack-jawed at her as she stepped out of sight. One was up in the luxury boxes, shaking his head in bemusement with a broad, admiring grin on his face, while the other was standing in the corner of the dugout, hand clamped over his mouth as he tried desperately to contain his laughter.

Not pausing to acknowledge the dumbfounded stares of the majority of the players in the dugout, she stepped briskly into the corridor, heading back the way she had come in. She passed Goten and Trunks in the hallway. Both had managed to get into their Dragons uniforms, though Goten's was several sizes too large, the cap included. The young boy was positively swimming in the outfit, but his face was plastered with a massive smile. Despite his large head of gravity-defying hair, his cap dropped down to nearly cover his eyes. "Don't we look cool?!" he chirped.

"You look just like real players," she said, smiling. She crouched down and plucked off his cap to tousle his hair. "But don't get any ideas, or you-know-who will hear of it," she said, putting the cap back on Goten's head and pulling the brim down over his eyes with a playful tug.

"C'mon, Goten, or they'll start without us!" Trunks urged, grabbing one of Goten's overlarge sleeves and dragging him towards the field. The youngest demi-Saiyan turned to wave back at Videl as they left, his hand not escaping the fabric of his uniform.

The teen smiled to herself and headed back up to the stadium proper. Now that the annoying business of the first pitch was out of the way, just maybe she could get up to the luxury box and try to enjoy the game.

-- --- --

Yamcha had been speechless when he had seen who was throwing out the first pitch for opening day, but that had faded at the comical display that ensued. Poor Bryers wouldn't be taking pitches from anyone for a while. Yamcha was still trying to keep himself from laughing when his teammates and the crowd had awoken from their stunned stupor, but at what he saw next, it was his turn to stare in open-mouthed shock.

The sight of the dynamic duo was unmistakable, and they had just walked into the dugout, wearing bat boy uniforms and looks of excitement and anticipation. He gulped. With Videl being famous and all, seeing her here to throw out the first pitch hadn't been too unnerving. But the sight of Goten and Trunks was a shock to the system, especially for someone who knew their tendencies towards mayhem and devastation. And they were going to be bat boys, no less!

So much for a nice, relaxing game of baseball, he thought with resignation. And with an excited cry from the direction of the dugout entrance, he knew that he'd been spotted.

"Mister Yamcha!" Goten called, quite literally hopping over the players in the way as he ran over. Trunks weaved in and out of the forest of big-leaguers, and Yamcha didn't like the grin on the lavender-haired boy's face. He didn't like it one bit.

"Hey there big guy!" Yamcha greeted with a good natured chuckle, giving Goten a high-five that the tiny demi-Saiyan leapt six feet in the air to deliver. "What brings you two dudes here?"

"Some director guy saw us when we came in, then when he heard who my mom was, he said we could be bat boys," Trunks explained. Before Yamcha could reply, a nasally drawl rose from behind him.

"So it is you. Are you little babies sure you can watch the whole game without needing your diapers changed?" Whoever it was sounded as if he had a rather severe head cold.

Yamcha saw the death glare Trunks gave the speaker, a scowl worthy of the son of Vegeta. The fighter-turned-ballplayer turned to see the stare's recipient. A tall boy, who looked to be about sixteen, was leaning haughtily against the side wall of the dugout. He was skinny and pale, and his long blonde hair ran down to his shoulders from under his baseball cap. Yamcha faintly recalled seeing him as a batboy several times during the last season he had played… and one other time, at a very memorable World Martial Arts Tournament.

"I think you should be more worried about yourself," Trunks replied coolly, ignoring the jibe, "since a weakling like you might not even be able to lift a bat back to the dugout."

The teen bristled at the insult, but quickly regained his haughty expression. "So you think you're so tough just because you used cheap shots and fancy tricks to win that tournament? You got another thing coming." He loosed a combination of a snort and a quick laugh that sounded like a pig attacking a trough.

A second boy walked up beside the first teen and crossed his arms with a similar glare. He was shorter than the other, with a pug-like nose and unkempt, greasy black hair that stuck out from under his own ball cap. "Well, well, Idasa. If it isn't the little toddlers from the tournament," he said in a raspy voice. "I didn't think they carried uniforms in your sizes." He paused, and took in Goten's oversized attire. "And I guess I was right," he snickered.

Goten cocked his head to one side and looked thoughtful, bringing one sleeve-shrouded finger up to scratch his chin as he observed, "But big sister said we look just like real players."

The two older boys shared a glance, and then burst out laughing. "I think your sister needs to get her eyes checked!" the black-haired boy cackled.

"I don't know what would be funnier," the other sniggered, "whether she actually thought that, or that you believed her! What do you think, Ikose?"

Yamcha saw Goten's lip begin a dangerous quiver, and was about to defuse the argument, but that was before he saw the positively wicked smirk appear on Trunks' face. Oh, this ought to be good, he thought, holding his tongue until the young prince could deliver his own retort.

"You'd better be careful what you say about his big sister," Trunks said offhandedly, placing subtle emphasis on the last two words.

"Why's that?" the blonde replied. "Is she some giant fatty who'll sit on us if we're mean to him?" he asked through a half-stifled round of fresh laughter.

Yamcha winced, ruefully thinking, Fighting isn't the only thing Vegeta teaches his kid. These two idiots had just been led into a verbal trap by an eight year old.

"Hmm, now you'd really better be careful," Trunks said, looking down to inspect his fingernails. He paused, waiting for the teens' laughter to die lamely. He leveled his gaze back on the skinny blonde, Idasa. "The Champ might not like you talking about his daughter like that."

The two older boys' mouths dropped open as if their jaws were lead weights. "B-b-but… Hercule's d-daughter? His s-s-sister?" Ikose stuttered lamely.

"Oh, not his real sister, you simpleton," Trunks explained with a casual venom only the son of Vegeta could muster. "He just calls her that because she hangs around with him and his brother so much."

The older boys were both still staring wide-eyed at them, their mouths opening and closing in ridiculous parodies of puffer fish, when Trunks tugged Goten's sleeve and led him towards the other side of the dugout.

Yamcha just shook his head, chuckling to himself, and followed them. With those other two kids in the dugout to keep Goten and Trunks occupied, maybe he could relax and watch the show, instead of his back.

-- --- --

Gohan was still half-smiling from Videl's display as he worked through the food supplies of the luxury suite. It had been a struggle at times, but he had managed to leave some of everything for when Videl made it to the box. He watched the players take the field while they announced the lineups, while he assembled his sixth sandwich from the tray of bread, meats, cheeses, and every condiment a Saiyan stomach could desire. He had already attacked the dozen varieties of snack chips, the refrigerator full of every kind of refreshment he had heard of, and some he hadn't, and had been halfway to Otherworld when he had first tasted the basket full of chocolate chip cookies that were so fresh, they were still warm. By the time the starting lineups were being announced, Gohan had eaten his fill for the time being. When I tell Vegeta about this, he's going to become one huge baseball fan, he thought with amusement.

Gohan's ears perked up when he heard Yamcha's name announced over the stadium speakers. A closer look revealed that his father's old friend was now jogging out towards right field to a louder-than-average greeting cheer from the hometown crowd.

The distinctive click of a door being opened came from behind him, and he saw Videl literally jump inside, slamming – and locking – the exit behind her. He caught a glimpse of the rabid crowd of groupies, fans, and photographers before the door slammed shut, and he could still hear their muffled shouts begging for autographs and interviews through the thick wood of the door. The young woman smiled at him, however, having reached relative safety. "Did I miss anything?" she asked, grinning as she walked over towards the window.

"You're just in time," Gohan replied, gesturing down to the field. Indeed, the first batter was just now beginning the process of kicking dirt over the chalk of the batter's box. "In fact, you might still have time to sign a few autographs…" he suggested casually, though he was betrayed by a mischievous smirk.

"I'd rather kiss Vegeta than go back out in that," she said, jerking a thumb towards the door, which was rattling on its hinges from incessant knocking. "At least with him, death would be quick and possibly even painless."

"Painless? I'm not sure. It depends on who got to you first: Vegeta, or Bulma," he said, grinning.

"Point," said Videl with a smile. She stopped to take in their accommodations. "Not bad," she observed, nodding and looking impressed. "I'm glad to see you left at least a little food for me," she said, taking in the discarded wrappers, plates, and the half-empty sandwich tray.

"I aim to please," he chuckled. The half-Saiyan grabbed one of the baskets and offered it to her. "Try these cookies, they put even my mom's to shame," he said. It was high praise indeed; for a son of Chi-Chi to disparage her cooking in the slightest was to risk capital punishment. Videl grabbed one and took a bite.

"Excellent," she agreed, nodding. Their attention was drawn to the field as cheers rang from the crowd; a check of the scoreboard showed the count was now no balls and one strike.

While waiting between pitches, Gohan grabbed a program off the counter and flipped through it. He found the lineup card, which listed the two teams' starters and their statistics. As it was opening day, the stats were listed for the previous year. However, he noticed an asterisk next to Yamcha's column, which said the stats were actually from three seasons ago.

Videl leaned over to skim the stat sheet for herself. "Wow, Yamcha was doing pretty well," she observed. "The director wasn't kidding when he said he was their star player."

Gohan, whose experience with baseball had mostly involved history and record books, was impressed as well. "You can say that again. I think I know why he took the last few years off, though; if he wasn't careful, he'd be really turning some heads with these numbers."

"You know, I thought his name seemed familiar when I met him six months ago, and now I know why. He was on the sports highlight shows basically every night that last year he played," Videl said. She glanced up to see the 2-1 pitch buzz in for a second strike, spurring more cheers from the crowd.

It made sense, of course, for Yamcha to stand out in a sporting event when competing with "normal" humans. Even having given up fighting, and never really training up to the standards of his friends in the first place, the former desert bandit was more than capable of regarding a 100 mile-per-hour fastball like a slow-moving semi. Gohan didn't know how much Yamcha had had to suppress his strength, but judging by the numbers, it looked like the old wolf was allowing himself to show off at least a little bit.

The stands outside erupted with a called third strike, inspiring Gohan to look over the statistics for the players in the Dragons' starting pitching rotation. Their ace for opening day was a solid hurler, he noted, leading the league in both strikeouts and ERA the season before.

"Hey Videl, you better be real careful if you see the director again," he said, struck by playful inspiration.

"Why's that?" she asked, regarding him quizzically. "Aside from the obvious, of course."

"After your little show with the first pitch, he'll probably try and sign you up," he said, grinning.

She laughed, her azure eyes sparkling. "Oh, that's just what I need. Though, maybe if I tell them about your two-story jump last year, you'll be the one they're after."

"I'm telling you, it was the shoes!" he said, regarding her with mock exasperation.

Their laughter mingled with the cheers outside as another batter went down on strikes.

-- --- --

"Trunks, this is boring," Goten complained. "When do we get to do something?"

"Just wait, Goten," Trunks said, though his voice was stressed with his own obvious impatience. "It's almost our turn."

"But even if it is, we might not get to do anything!" Goten said. He leaned forward from his position on top of a large, cylindrical water cooler. "I haven't even seen the other team's bat boys. What if our guys walk back every time too?" he asked worriedly, observing the fact that both of the batters for the opposing team had struck out and carried their own bats back with them to the dugout.

"Oh, you kids don't have to worry about that," one of the players piped up from the bench beside them, his voice muffled by an enormous wad of chewing gum. "We'll keep you plenty busy once we get our turn at the plate," he said, punctuating the statement by producing a large pink bubble. It popped, and the player worked the gum back into his mouth.

"I hope so," Goten pouted.

On the edge of his vision, Trunks caught the unwelcome approach of two very familiar faces. He rolled his vivid blue eyes. "Here they come again," he mumbled.

Goten caught the whisper, and tracked his partner's line of sight. His expression went unnaturally dark when he saw the older boys who had made fun of him, and even his adopted 'big sister,' Videl. He didn't like them very much.

"Wow, you two are still around?" the tall, nasal-voiced boy called. "Isn't it time to go get your bottles from your mommies?"

"Go away, you insects," Trunks replied, not even bothering to look at them.

The teenagers glared rather pathetically at him. They weren't used to their prey talking back, and it showed. "Can it you pint-sized… uh… half-pint!" the black-haired boy sputtered.

"You could at least make up your mind if you're going to try and insult me," Trunks drawled, still not turning his eyes from the field.

Ikose resumed his puffer fish imitation. However, his older brother rounded on Goten, who was still crouched on top of the cooler, looking like a perched bird, albeit in extremely baggy clothing. He had sensed earlier that this boy would be a lot easier to get to. "Hey, kid, they run out of uniforms in toddler size?" he quipped. In a testament to his stupidity, he decided to travel the same disastrous course his brother had attempted not ten minutes ago.

Goten wasn't going to be egged on so easily this time. His usually good-natured features frowned darkly as he looked down at the blonde boy, who was a foot below him thanks to his high perch. "Big sister says I look just like a real player, and she knows a lot more than you," he said firmly, sticking out his tongue.

"Shut up, kid," Idasa shot back. "There's no way you know the daughter of the champ. You're just making that up, you liar!"

Goten scowled at him before replying. The look on his face contrasted sharply with the loud cheers that boomed from the stands, as the Dragons' left fielder made a great diving catch on a line drive for the third out. "I'm not a liar! You're just jealous. Big brother says people like you are ig… ignur…" he stopped, his face screwing up in thought.

"Ignorant," Trunks supplied offhandedly.

The blonde boy growled. The effort was rather pathetic, and wholly ineffective, directed at children who had stared down the likes of Majin Buu, Vegeta, and, most notably, Chi-Chi. "You just wait you little runt!" Idasa nearly shouted. "You'll get—" He stopped abruptly, and sniffed the air. A faint wisp of smoke was rising from the area at his feet. He looked down, and realized the wisp of smoke was coming from his feet. Or, more accurately, a burning strip of paper inserted into his left shoe.

He began jumping up and down wildly, a look of panic on his face. His frantic stamping carried him towards the other end of the dugout in his frenzy to extinguish the hot foot, his brother following him, waving and shouting.

Goten and Trunks burst out into wild laughter, with the youngest demi-Saiyan nearly tumbling from his perch atop the cooler. As their laughter died down, they noticed a half-suppressed snigger coming from the gum-chewing player they had talked to earlier.

"I've wanted to do that since the first time they let those spoiled brats in this dugout," he chuckled when he caught the young boys' gaze, smiling broadly. He flipped open his palm, revealing a cigarette lighter cradled by his thumb: the weapon responsible. "Our little secret, m'kay?"

The two demi-Saiyans nodded vigorously, still smiling. They definitely liked this ball player.

Yamcha reentered the dugout just then, tossing his mitt onto the bench and sitting down. "You keeping these two out of trouble, Baxter?" he asked, reaching over to fill a small cup from the cooler Goten was still hovering on.

"Oh yeah," the other player replied, popping another large gum bubble. "While you're out there trimming the hedges, we get to have some fun," he said, jabbing Yamcha in the ribs with an elbow.

"Glad to hear it," the former fighter laughed. He paused, and looked around over the brim of his cup as he took a sip. "Where'd those two other kids go?" he asked.

"They had to hop off somewhere," Baxter said, winking at Goten and Trunks.

Yamcha noticed the unspoken exchange, but didn't press the matter, deciding from experience that he didn't want to know. He supposed it was fate that the two biggest troublemakers in the solar system would be inevitably drawn to the Dragon's resident prankster. He only hoped that those two snotty teenagers would keep the three of them busy long enough for his own hide to survive the day.

A new round of loud cheering roared through the stadium as the Dragons' leadoff batter singled into right field. "One of you guys going to get that bat?" Yamcha prompted, standing up and tossing aside his paper cup.

"Ooh! Ooh! Me! Me!" Goten said, darting out onto the field like a mongoose. He returned not two seconds later, the large timber instrument cradled in his small arms, which were still completely covered by his long sleeves. "What now? What now?" he asked eagerly, hopping up and down in excitement. His bouncing caused his oversized ball cap to fall down over his eyes, and the vivacious young boy pushed it back up with one sleeved hand.

"C'mon, I'll show you," Yamcha offered, starting to walk over towards the shelves at the other end of the dugout. "I've gotta get my own bat, I'm on deck."

"Next time it's my turn, Goten!" Trunks called jealously as they walked away, with Goten still hopping up and down as he went.

-- --- --

"There he is!" Videl called, pointing down to the field.

Gohan looked up from the program, and saw Goten rush out to the batters box, grab the waiting bat, and streak back into the dugout in the span of a few seconds. "Oh man, you were right, that uniform is huge on him!" Gohan laughed, able to pick out his younger brother's oversized attire easily, even from this distance. "He's swimming in it!"

"This is where I'm supposed to say how cute he looks and how horrible it is that we don't have a camera," Videl said, not quite sarcastically.

Gohan eyed her slyly. "But you won't, of course."

Videl turned up her nose and crossed her arms. "Of course."

After a few seconds: "But it doesn't mean it isn't true," Gohan admitted.

Another pause. "After all, the photos would make wonderful blackmail material."

"Now, is that any way for Saiyagirl to think?" Gohan asked.

"Absolutely not," Videl said, sounding scandalized. "It's the way Saiyagirl's alter ego thinks, though. Calculating and devious to the last."

"And Saiyaman and his alter ego wouldn't have it any other way."

They smiled as cheers came from the crowd; the second batter had walked. Gohan and Videl learned forward eagerly. Yamcha was up.






Next chapter: Take (Me) Out (to) the Crowd