Bound in Cages

Benny laid back on his sleeping bag with his arms up above his head, listening to the sounds of the crickets outside and Ham snorting in his sleep every once and a while as the other guys snored lightly. The only person that was silent in their sleep was Chris. She had taken the second upper bunk that he usually slept on, no one actually saying it aloud when he told her to sleep there. She was basically right above where he was sleeping, if he were to sit up then he'd be able to see her.

It was nearly sunrise, the colours barely touching the horizon. Benny didn't dare move so he didn't wake anyone up, he would have to climb over a couple of different bodies in order to get to the door so there wasn't any point. Also, Christine's arm had fallen to drape partially over the side of the 'bed' she was sleeping on and her hand was hanging only a couple inches from his stomach. He didn't want to risk bumping her arm and waking her up. He also took notice that it was her injured arm.

Baseball. She had said several times that it was baseball that had caused her injury; Scott had brought it up once with him while they were hanging out, but the actual event that caused the broken wrist had never been brought into conversation. He wasn't so rude otherwise he would have asked.

He sighed silently and looked over to the hand that still hovered above his stomach, wishing that he could ask her about why she had played baseball. She seemed to avoid talking about herself when with the guys and they were talking about that particular sport. She wasn't shy about anything else, but she avoided baseball like it was the plague. She always shifted the topic to Scott, teasing him, or asking one of the guys a question efficient enough to distract them.

Benny's attention was drawn to along her wrist, one long surgical scar visible along the bone and several smaller punctures up along her forearm. The white scars stood out extremely harsh against her sun kissed skin. His eyebrows drew down in a frown of confusion as he pulled himself up slightly, placing his hand under her own and raising her arm lightly to get a better look at it. He recognized the pattern of the scars on her arm.

Christine's arm jerked as she woke up at the contact, moving to draw her hand away. Benny could see her face as she looked around herself groggily, trying to decipher what had happened to wake her up and where she was. She finally looked over to him, her blue eyes registering surprise. There was a seriousness to his face that she had only ever seen when he was playing baseball.

"What?" she asked quietly and kept her voice down so the others didn't hear her. She had a strong feeling that many of them slept like the dead, but she didn't want to risk it.

"Your scars," he began, looking to the arm that she had pulled toward herself when she awoke, "They're in the shape of cleat marks."

Her tan face seemed to pale in the dim light as soon as he spoke, but she said nothing and didn't look away from his brown eyes. Benny looked away first to glance around the room, seeing a path that they were able to take to get outside without stepping on or kicking anyone. He got to his feet carefully and quietly, watching her look turn to confusion.

"Come on," he offered, holding his hand out to help her up. She hesitated only a moment before taking his hand in her left and allowing him to help her off her 'bed' and weave around the boys effortlessly and without problems. He stepped down the ladder first, touching the bottom before he turned his attention to her. She hadn't put on her brace and her arm was protesting the work so soon. When she was far enough Benny took hold of her waist from behind her and lifted her down the rest of the way to the ground. She let out a startled gasp but allowed herself to be moved.

"Thanks," she mumbled quietly once she was on her feet, the grass and sand crunching beneath her red converse. He had been surprised to learn that she had slept in her shoes, but most of the other guys did, too, when in the tree fort. Him included. "I'm guessing you want to know the details?"

"Yea," Benny said as though the fact were obvious. "But let's go over to home plate, I don't want to wake up the guys."

The horizon was alight with the rising sun, the large ball not yet peeking over the edge or their sights. The dew kept the grass they walked on wet, dampening both of their shoes. Christine could still feel the chill of early morning on her bare legs as they walked, the movement helping to warm her up. She had fallen asleep wearing her bright red jacket so she wasn't overly cold. Benny walked into the dugout that they had made for themselves near home, soon followed by Christine.

"Alright," Christine began, falling to sit on the wooden bench a couple feet from Benny. She turned herself so that her feet were on the bench with her knees tucked up toward her chest, facing the tanned baseball player. "What do you want to know?"

"Everything; about baseball, your arm," he answered, motioning to the bare injury.

"That's a long story," she replied quietly. Benny laughed, throwing her off a moment.

"Those guys sleep like the dead! Trust me, we've got time." The smile that he wore exposed his perfect white teeth, causing her to smile in return. She took a deep breath before letting it out in a quick huff of air.

"Alright, well, I guess that the beginning of all of this would be two years ago," she began, meeting his eyes as she spoke. "I had always loved playing baseball; playing any sport, really. But I did have a favour for baseball. Anyway, there wasn't a girl's baseball team at our school—they had softball but it wasn't the same—and a couple of the guys that I played ball with after school suggested that I try out for the guys team."

Benny had been nodding along as she spoke, watching as she looked around every so often as she remembered things that had happened during the moments that she spoke to him about. But her blue eyes always returned to his chocolate brown ones.

"A couple of my friends were on that team and they fully supported the idea. So, I approached the coach on it and he immediately laughed in my face, saying 'a baseball field is no place for a girl, go back to the pools where you belong'. I hated him after that and gave up trying."

"What?" Benny asked, shocked. She raised an eyebrow and gave him a look, silencing him. He nodded for her to continue, looking sheepish about his interrupted.

"But," she started again, punctuating the word, "The guys talked me into coming to watch one of their practices one day. I felt bad for saying no just because I didn't like the coach so I went, I sat in the bleachers and watched them play. When practice ended I went down to talk with them and they suggested that we play for a bit, just have fun. I was at bat and I accidentally put a ball through the coaches office window. I fully expected him to furious, but when he came out with the ball and demanded who had hit it, he told me to meet him after school the next day for a try-out."

Benny interrupted a bit more politely this time, "Wait, wait, are you telling me that you broke a window and were offered a place on the team? You got on the team by accident?"

"Technically, yes. I went to the try-out and apparently I was good enough because he offered me a place on the team. Of course, I took it. At first the guys didn't like having me around, or most of them anyway. They tried everything to get me to quit. But I didn't let them get to me, ever. They finally started getting used to me when we started playing against rival schools. They finally accepted me as a part of the team fully when I won a game for us when it would have been a tie by getting a homerun. The other guys all got to home plate as well as myself, of course.

"My mom was relieved beyond belief when I finally had something to do after school and she didn't need to worry about me getting myself into trouble anymore." Benny could tell that that was the ending of her first story, about her playing baseball. She had played it for a long time, but now he knew why she didn't have a thing against playing with a group of guys like him and the gang.

"What about your arm, what happened to break your arm?" he asked carefully. She shifted the way that she was sitting so she had her legs crossed with her back leaning against one of the support beams. She looked down at her arm and carefully ran a hand over the scars.

"The last game that I was supposed to play with my team was against one of the other schools that we had the worst relationship with. They were known to vandalize all the schools that they lost to, sometimes even when they won just for spite, and we were determined to win just to shove it in their faces!" She smiled at the memory of her team all talking trash before the game to get themselves fired up.

"I was up to bat, the bases were loaded and if I messed this one up then we'd lose," she started, her face losing any trace of happiness. Benny leaned toward her in anticipation, wondering what she was going to say. "I hit the ball far into the outfield, but it wasn't a homerun. I started running to first, the others all started running their way to home. The people in the stands were going crazy. I could hear Scott yelling from the fence, "Run, Chris, run!" And I ran, I passed first and second base easily, but I knew the ball was coming back.

"I was looking over to the rest of the team, all standing waiting for me to pass home. I didn't see when the guy on third stepped in my way. He didn't have the ball, but he blocked me and I was knocked onto the ground. I got the wind knocked out of me so I wasn't really sure what was going on. Everyone was yelling, the players, the coaches, the fans. The guy from third was fighting with one of the guys on my team when he stepped forward and tripped on my legs, pushing the guy from second backward when he tried to catch himself." She paused a moment as her thumb stroked over a couple of the small puncture wounds on her arm. Benny remained quiet, waiting.

"He stepped backward to catch himself and ended up stepping on my arm. His cleats cut me up a lot but his weight was too much and he ended up breaking my wrist."

Benny remained quiet for a moment as he watched her, seeing the unhappiness that filled her eyes, in complete contrast with earlier. The sun was beginning to crest over the horizon, touching the tops of the trees with sunlight and warmth. The extra light allowed him to see her better, his eyes inspecting her arm. The marks matched her story perfectly. He could see it happen in his mind, the scream she must have let loose and the fury of her team members.

"What about when your arm's healed?" Benny asked carefully.

"I don't know," she admitted. "God, I miss the game. You have no idea how much I want to play baseball. But every time I touch a bat or pick up a ball all I can think of is what it felt like when that guys stepped on my wrist, or when I was pushed to the ground and couldn't breathe-"

"Hey," Benny interrupted, relieving her this time. He took a hold of her hand in his, the weakened appendage gently clutching his back. "It's all in your head. I'm going to tell you what I told Smalls when I was teaching him to play. You've got to stop thinking so much. You should know that."

"When you play the game, yea, but this is different! This isn't just not being able to catch or throw. I know it's all in my head, but it's not so easily forgotten!" Benny hadn't seen Chris angry before, he had seen her when she was joking around or pretending to be angry with the guys, but he hadn't even seen her get mad and yell before. "I'm afraid! It's not just that I can't do it, I'm afraid to!"

Benny knew from her reaction that she hadn't admitted this to anyone else, she had hid it away from everyone; probably even Scott. He didn't know what it was like to be afraid to play baseball, it was something that he had lived and breathed for so long that it was life for him. The way that she spoke about it made it sound like it was more than just a hobby to her as well, and he couldn't imagine being afraid to play it.

"Maybe things will change when you actually try and play. I mean, up until now you weren't able to play because of your wrist, right?"

"I don't know," she whispered. "I won't know until the doctor gives me the green light to play and even then I don't know if I'll be able to bring myself to do it," she explained, leaning back against the beam again. Benny turned her hand in his, exposing the scars from the accident.

"These marks will only ruin you if you let them. The same goes for all those memories of yours, you can be strong enough to fight against them if you really want to. Remember, they're just memories, they can't hurt you anymore." He grinned then, causing her stomach to flutter at the happiness on his face. "Besides, me and the guys won't let anything happen to you."

She smiled back, knowing full well that he was telling the truth. She had grown to really enjoying hanging around with the guys, and not just because they shared her love for the game. It was just a relief to be around a team of guys again. She had spent so long with male friends that it was harder for her to make friend of her own gender then it was with a group of guys her age.

"I know you won't," she agreed finally, nodding her head with a smile. She squeezed his hand gently to let him know that she was alright before she rose to her feet, moving over to press a kiss against his cheek with her cheeks flaming with a blush. "Come on, before the guys all get the wrong idea of us being alone," she teased.

"I think they already have that idea," he joked back but still rose to his feet, releasing her hand and beginning to jog back. "Race you!"

"Hey!" she yelled in protest before taking off after him, catching up fairly easily and racing him back toward the ladder that led to the tree house. She beat him, of course, but she just knew that he had taken it easy on her. Whether it was because he wanted to be nice to her or because he felt that it was because he had an advantage over a girl she wasn't sure.

Wow, been a while since I've update. So sorry! I made sure this chapter wasn't short, so that makes up for it slightly… Anyway, hope everyone liked it and I REALLY hope that I get some reviews…