Okay, so I’m actually really interested in when Ginny realized that her teenage crush/idolization of Mike had become something more. Because I don’t think there’s any way that she walks out on a first date with a guy she seems to like a lot without having realized that she feels something more for him than she does her other teammates.
Also, I couldn’t figure out an organic way to get them all playing “Never Have I Ever,” but if that’s important to you check out guys like you (which has lots of smut as a bonus if you’re into that)
just like a ring of fire | ao3
“C’mon, Ginny,” Evelyn practically whined. “You have to be in need of some serious girl time. You’ve been cooped up on a bus with just gross boys for too long. I can’t even imagine how that bus smells.”
“Like too much Axe and Drakkar Noir.”
Her friend’s nose wrinkled and Ginny had to laugh, covering her mouth with her hand. It was only half true, but she liked how easy it was to gross Evelyn out.
And it wasn’t as if Ev was wrong. She had been stewing in a lot of testosterone lately. Just, Ev’s alternative didn’t seem much more appealing.
Sensing Ginny’s ambivalence, Evelyn wheedled, “You haven’t even met most of them yet.”
“Do I need to? It’s not like that many of them liked me back in San Antonio or El Paso.”
Evelyn flapped her hand. “That was the minors.”
“You’re telling me the stakes lower for WAGs when y’all hit the big leagues?”
Evelyn, though clearly stumped by that, refused to retreat.
“Ginny,” she pleaded, doing a remarkable impression of Gabe and Marcus begging for another piggy back ride. “I already told them you’re coming. Don’t turn me into a liar!”
“That sounds like a you problem, Ev,” she replied, cursing the fact that she could already feel herself softening. Evelyn might be immune to guilt, but Ginny was not. Especially not when her friend asked so little of her.
“What did you want me to say? They were driving me nuts asking about you!”
Ginny narrowed her eyes. “Asking what exactly?”
The innocent expression on Evelyn’s face could’ve earned an Oscar it was so earnest, but it still didn’t fool Ginny for one second. She waited until Evelyn broke.
“Ugh, fine!” she exclaimed, throwing her hands up in the air for good measure. “There may or may not be a few—just a few!—worries about their husbands and boyfriends suddenly spending all this time with a pretty, single girl.” At Ginny’s outraged look, she hurried to continue, “I tried to tell them there was nothing to worry about—you’re not that cute.”
As intended, Ginny rolled her eyes, some of her annoyance draining away. Some, but nothing close to all.
“What about my code?” she demanded. “Didn’t you tell them about that?”
“I tried, G,” Ev replied, gentle. “But since you never slept with my husband, despite your many chances, I’m apparently not a trustworthy source. Or I’m trying to keep your options open so you don’t move onto Blip? I’m honestly not sure what the thought process is.”
A few humorless chuckles escaped Ginny’s mouth. “Figures,” she muttered, tugging at her lip in frustration.
“You know why it’s gotta be you. It doesn’t matter what I or Amelia or even your teammates tell them. These women aren’t going to relax until they’ve assessed the threat for themselves.”
“Threat? Ev, I’m just here to play ball!”
“You know that and I know that, but they don’t. Yet. But you come in and set their minds at ease, tell them how much worse sharing a clubhouse with 24 guys is than sharing a bathroom with your brother growing up, and they’ll realize that you have no interest and chill out.”
Ginny sighed. Unfair as it was, she really did need the WAGs on her side. The more of them that liked her, the less chance there was of stupid, unfounded rumors spreading. Both around the clubhouse and into the league. The last thing she wanted was TMZ running gossip from “unnamed sources close to the team” about how she was blowing her teammates to make up for blowing a game.
“Fine,” she agreed, reluctant but willing to admit her friend was right.
“It really won’t be that bad,” Evelyn smiled encouragingly. “Honestly, it’s only a couple who have said anything. And besides, I’ve seen you charm the chaps off a bar full of bikers, Ginny; a few WAGs should be no problem at all.”
She nodded in reply and tried not to think that she’d take that bar of leather-clad bikers any day.
They settled on a night that the guys had their own form of bonding. Even though Blip and even Lawson had told her to come along, Ginny declined. Even when Lawson raised one cocky eyebrow and asked, “Why? Hot date?” to goad her into admitting—what? That she planned on going back to her hotel room and pigging out on ice cream sundaes? Or that she really did have a date?
Sometimes, she just didn’t get him. Which only made her want to know more.
“I guess if you think Evelyn is hot, then yeah,” she drawled, rolling her eyes.
Mike’s eyes glazed over a bit at the thought, his jaw hanging open just wide enough to put his wad of gum on display. Ginny felt a flush crawling up her chest, embarrassed and maybe—just a little—intrigued at what was going through her captain’s mind right then.
It wasn’t until Blip warned, “Think very carefully about how you answer, man,” that Mike snapped out of the daze.
“Well, uh,” he practically stuttered, gaze flicking to Blip’s glowering face before it bounced away in a blink. At no point did he look anywhere near Ginny’s direction, but that just made it easier to see his ears burning a dull pink. “Out of all the happily married women in San Diego, you couldn’t do better, Baker.”
“Damn straight,” Blip muttered, though it was hard to make out over the force of Ginny’s guffaws.
God, they were easy.
Both men bore her laughter grumpily, sitting in nearly mirror images of each other at their respective lockers: feet braced against the ground, arms crossed over chests and frowns planted on their faces. Every time she looked at them, the urge to stop laughing died a quick death. Soon, other Padres were glancing over, even chuckling themselves, though Ginny was sure none of them really got the joke.
Finally, having taken enough abuse, Mike pushed to his feet, rolling his eyes. He wandered off, probably to have Kiki realign his back so he could actually enjoy his boy’s night.
Ginny watched him go, giggles finally fading away.
It wasn’t until Blip cleared his throat that Ginny realized she’d been staring. As cooly as she could, she turned her attention to Blip. He watched her with an inscrutable expression on his face and she did her best not to fidget under the scrutiny.
Finally, he shook his head, spinning back towards his cubby.
“Tell Ev I’m not bailing her ass out of jail if things get outta control tonight,” was all he said.
Ginny remained rooted to the spot for a moment, sure he wasn’t going to let her off the hook this easily. But Blip didn’t turn back around and she wasn’t about to look this gift horse in its mouth.
“Will do,” she replied, hoisting her backpack higher on her shoulders and beating a hasty retreat.
Slowly, but surely, Ginny was winning over the group of uncertainly suspicious women gathered in the Sanders house. It helped that Evelyn had been right, there really only a few women who’d actually been worried about what her presence on the team meant, maybe three or four out of the twelve Ev had invited. They were pretty easy to single out in the group of happy chatterers.
So, while Ginny only had to win over a few, they were all curious about her.
“So, Ginny,” smiled one of them. Lauren, she thought, though there was also a Laura somewhere around, too. “How are you settling in? It wasn’t too hard to leave El Paso behind, was it?”
She heard the insinuation behind the words. Did you leave a boyfriend behind? Still, Ginny smiled pleasantly and took a sip of the margarita Evelyn had pushed into her hand as soon as she walked in the door. Not the exact one, of course, this had to be her third. At least.
“It’s an adjustment,” she replied truthfully. “Not just the city, but getting used to a new team, their weird, gross habits.”
An appreciative laugh went up around the group.
“I’ve said it before, Ginny, and I’ll say it again,” Evelyn announced, “I don’t know how you put up with all of them at once. God knows I love Blip, but sometimes he’s such a dude.”
“It helps that I get my own dressing room, now,” Ginny allowed with a grin.
“So you don’t—” that was Laura, though she cut herself off with a flush. Ginny knew what was coming next. Hell, Evelyn had asked her this exact question herself. She waited for Laura to get over her embarrassment and finish, “you don’t see anything?”
A few stray giggles went up around the gathering, but Ginny knew they’d all be hanging on her every word.
This was it. This was where she set their minds at ease. Honestly, she was just relieved it hadn’t taken longer.
“God, no,” she answered, definitive and immediate.
“Not up here,” she replied, knowing that honesty would get her further than trying to seem entirely innocent. “I mean, down in the minors, I barely had a curtained off area to change in, but it’s not like I was looking, you know?”
“I told y’all,” Evelyn said, a little smug. “Ginny’s got a code.”
“Yep. Don’t date ballplayers.”
“Not even once?” That was Sandra, who, if Ginny remembered correctly, was dating Widener. She couldn’t blame the woman for being a little leery, having seen the third baseman in action. Still, she didn’t have to act like Ginny was the problem.
“Well, there’s always a reason for a rule,” she hedged, hoping they would leave it alone.
Thankfully, someone turned to the woman next to her, “That sounds like a rule you should have.”
“What can I say? I have a type!” the blonde—Jamie? Jenny? J-something-y.—giggled. Ginny thought she remembered her waiting for Hanan at the player’s entrance a few times.
“Baseball player’s not a type, Jessie,” her friend sniffed. “I mean, how far apart can you get between Sam and Mike Lawson?”
The name was out of Ginny’s mouth before she could stop it.
“Oh, yeah,” Jessie replied with a shrug. “That was in his serious hound dog phase—and before I even met Sam. Believe it or not, he’s gotten way better than he used to be, right after the separation.”
Ginny nodded and was glad the conversation moved on.
Mike’s reputation was no secret. Ginny had heard more than enough locker room talk to know that the man was no Boy Scout. And even though she vividly remembered the brunette who dropped him off before her first road trip, she’d never been confronted so… personally with the evidence of it. That was the only reason her stomach turned at this bit of information. That was the reason she felt like her lungs had shrunk, making it so hard to breathe.
It had nothing to do with the fact that when the guys talked about this stuff in the clubhouse, it was always accompanied by jeering and hoots of laughter. It had nothing to do that she could pretend it was all a joke.
It definitely didn’t have anything to do with the how it had to be a joke. Ginny didn’t want to consider the alternatives.
That she was jealous of this woman. For getting that with Mike, even if she hadn’t been smart enough to hold onto him.
Given a shot, Ginny wouldn’t make that same mistake.
A buzz in her pocket mercifully pulled her out of those thoughts. When she saw its sender, though, she rethought the meaning of mercy.
Ivy’s on Vine
Her heart began galloping along in her chest, just at the sight of his name. (Which she now realized happened every time he called or texted, as had happened with surprising regularity since the All Star Game last week.) And with the slightest provocation, that galloping transformed into a veritable stampeded. The memory of his smile. The fact that he was inviting her out again. That he wanted her there.
For a million reasons, Ginny knew this wasn’t her shot. That her shot with Mike, if it ever came, if he ever ended up feeling anything for her, was way down the line. Certainly not within her first season in the majors, and probably not even her second or third, not until Mike was out of the game for good. And who knew how long that would take?
But none of that stopped her from feeling like maybe, in spite of it all, it could be.
A flush began to spread up her neck, and sucking down the last of her margarita did nothing to help. If anything, it just made her thoughts swirl faster, spinning right out of her head, out of the house even, and into the night. Zeroed in on one person.
What had she gotten herself into?
Eventually, after another two or three drinks and dishing out all the best gossip she had, Ginny’d succeeded in winning most of the WAGs to her side. More than a few of them won her over, too. Which was a good thing. She could always use more friends.
Still, for the back half of the evening, most of her thoughts were occupied by one friend in particular.
Which was why she didn’t direct her Uber back to the Omni, but rather Ivy’s on Vine.
She was allowed entrance easily enough, even taking a selfie with the bouncer.
Like he was North, and her eyes a compass needle, Ginny tracked down Mike within moments of stepping inside.
He sat at the bar, though he faced out into the room, no doubt surveying his teammates and making sure no one was getting too rowdy. A beer bottle dangled between the fingertips of his free hand while the other arm propped him up.
In no time, Ginny was slipping onto the stool next to his, though she couldn’t quite remember crossing the floor to get there. She knew Mike had seen her, though he waited until she’d ordered a beer of her own to say anything.
“Girls night packed it in early?” he asked, taking a swig from his bottle.
“Yeah,” she breathed, unwilling or unable to take her eyes off of him. She couldn’t count the number of times she’d seen his face, it was nearly as familiar as her own, but suddenly it was like she was looking at him with fresh eyes, or, at the very least, through a new lens. With new information she couldn’t deny any longer. The bob of his throat as he swallowed, the way he couldn’t quite keep his head from nodding along to the music, his eyes scanning the crowd, no doubt cataloguing the positions and status of each of their teammates: it was all suddenly so fascinating.
How hadn’t she really realized before what she was feeling? This was no hero worship, no six-year-old crush. This was far more dangerous than that.
His attention slid back to her and he raised an eyebrow. “What?” he asked, “I got something on my face?”
It was on the tip of her tongue, this realization. Like it had a mind of its own, she wanted to blurt it out, get it out into the open, hating the way it crowded against her teeth like a mouthful of marbles. Fuck the consequences, she didn’t want to be the only one bearing this stupid, stupid feeling threatening to detonate her whole life.
Before she could, though, Mike’s eyes slid to the side. Just for a second, but long enough for Ginny to register the way his gaze trailed appreciatively over the pretty redhead making eyes at him from a nearby table.
By the time he returned his attention to her, Ginny had beat back the tide of disappointment that had swelled up her throat, into her mouth. At least it washed away the words she’d nearly let spill.
“Yeah,” she finally replied, fingers curling around her glass, “but I’m pretty sure a razor and some shaving cream will take care of it.”
He shook his head, despairing. “When are you gonna come around on the beard, Baker? This thing kills with the—”
“Okay, ew!” she laughed, hoping the churning of her gut didn’t show on her face. “If you finish that sentence with ‘ladies,’ I’m basically obligated to throw my drink on you.”
Mike laughed, too. “What if I was gonna say ‘fans?’”
“Ugh,” she groaned, wrinkling her nose. “I don’t know why, but that’s somehow worse.”
Her captain just shook his head, cheeks appling under the thick cover of his beard. “Don’t try and pretend you’re not my biggest fan, rookie,” he teased. Ginny froze for a moment, wondering if he somehow knew in spite of the fact that she hadn’t said anything. “I know all about your posters.”
She thawed, chuckling a little nervously. “Oh, it’s posters now? You’re really letting your imagination run wild, aren’t you?”
He nodded absently, but his attention was back on the redhead. She’d moved a table closer, talking to a guy there, but the way she was leaning, that put all her—very generous—cleavage on display. Pointed right in their direction. Well, in Mike’s direction.
Ginny swallowed and clambered off her stool.
“Where are you going?” he asked, just enough confusion in his voice to prod right at the ball of disappointment she’d swallowed down.
“I’m calling it a night,” she replied, signaling the bartender for her check. As she paid, she couldn’t help but add, “Besides, I think there’s someone who wants your attention more than I do.”
When she finally brought herself to look at him, his eyes were narrowed. Ginny rolled hers and jerked her chin towards the woman, who was now watching them with open interest.
Lawson frowned, “Baker, I’m—”
“Nah, go on,” she said, unwilling to know how that sentence was going to end. “Make a fan’s night.”
Before he could say anything else, Ginny was walking away. Not once did she give into the impulse to turn back and look. There was no scenario where she’d feel better by looking. Either he’d be wrapped up in that pretty, available woman or he wouldn’t.
Ginny was fine not knowing.
She just wished she could go back and not know some other things, too.