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Bitter Pill

Chapter Text

Christen really doesn’t want to be here. The only real reason she agreed to fly from D.C. to Montreal with her best friend’s brother to watch the United States play Germany in the semi-final game is because he promised to pay for her ticket. Sure, she can cross visit Canada off of her bucket list, but is it really worth listening to overly rowdy twenty-something year olds chant the defensive midfielder’s name? She thinks not.

She has a valid reason not to like the woman. She really does.

Picture this. It’s the start of the NWSL season. Christen’s cousin is visiting from LA, and she thought it would be fun for them to take his five year old son to the Washington Spirit’s home opener. She has season passes because her best friend plays for them, and she was planning on going anyway. He loved the game; they all did. The Spirit won, and everyone was at their peak of excitement. Until it came time for the autographs.

Her cousin’s son wanted nothing more than to have Julie Johnston sign his cleats. His dad bought them specifically for that reason, but when it came time for the players to make their rounds, the defender only stuck around long enough to sign three things before she was jogging back to the locker room with the majority of her teammates.

It was rude, but that wasn’t what made her dislike the woman. She understands that they only have a limited time to do that kind of stuff. Ali had made it a little clearer the previous year, telling Christen that the players have a ton of press to take care of after every game, plus they’re extremely exhausted. She still notices that Ali tries to sign way more autographs than the coaching staff in comfortable with letting her, and it makes her happy that her best friend is such a genuinely nice person.

What really got to her was what happened as she tried to find Ali to congratulate her on the win. She got lost, as only Christen Press would. Her sense of direction is as poor as they come. She turned around the wrong corner only to witness none other than Julie Johnston macking on some brunette. She couldn’t care to remember the woman’s name. She thinks it was one of the opposing players, though. It doesn’t matter; the only thing that does is that it happened, and she saw it with her own two eyes. She tried to duck her way back behind the corner before the blonde could see her, but she was too late.

Their conversation went a little like this.

“Oh, wow, I-uhm,” Christen stutters out with wide eyes.

“For fuck’s sake,” the blonde groans, hastily pulling away from the small brunette in her arms. “Don’t these people have anything better to do than stalk me for a fucking signature,” she mutters beneath her breath, but Christen hears her loud and clear. The blonde turns to her, a friendly smile now adorning her face, but she knows it’s faker than the bleach blonde hair attached to her head. Or maybe her hair’s real; it doesn’t matter. “Who can I make it out to?”

“Actually—,” she watches Julie uncap a pen with her teeth, and when she doesn’t answer, the defender rolls her eyes. The brunette can’t help but scoff at that. “You can make it out to yourself. Maybe you can sell it on eBay and buy yourself a better attitude with the money,” she mentally pats herself on the back for her on the spot thinking. “I’m looking for Ali Krieger, so if you or your,” she pauses, looking to the forgotten doe-eyed brunette standing in the corner. She looks like she’d rather be anywhere else but here at this moment, and Christen doesn’t blame her because she feels the exact same way. She begins again, “if you or our friend could just point me in the right direction, it’d be greatly appreciated.”

That conversation took place a little over three months ago, but it still leaves an awful taste in her mouth. After that day, she vowed to never attend another soccer game ever again unless Ali gets down on one knee and begs her to. Obviously she didn’t follow through with that plan because her best friend doesn’t even know she and her brother are coming to the game. It was Kyle’s idea, and while Christen’s happy that she’ll get to experience this with Ali, she’s really only on board because it’s a free ticket to Canada and a much needed break from her hectic job.

So, this is where she finds herself. Sitting in the stands right next to Kyle, watching the U.S. take on Germany in an elimination match. The German player had just missed the PK, and the crowd’s going wild, herself included. They’ve been wild the whole time, really, but now they’re even louder than they were before, and Hope didn’t even have to make a save. The woman completely fucking butchered the shot, yet the fans are still screaming the keeper’s name. Christen loves this aspect of the sport, but as sick and twisted as it sounds, she’s glad it was Julie’s fault that the PK was given.

Or maybe she’s just bitter. It doesn’t matter because the fans are still chanting Julie’s name. They’re praising her still even after that monumental fuck up. Christen wonders if they’d still be cheering for the woman if they knew how she really feels about signing autographs for them.

The U.S. wins the game by a score of two to nothing, and it’s not until then that Kyle tells Christen that they’re going to surprise Ali on the field. He’d bought press passes to meet five of the players, his sister being one of them.

“Julie Johnston is on the list of people we get to meet,” he shrieks. “I mean, I’ve met all of them before, but it gets even more exciting each time,” he continues, all excited like a little kid on Christmas morning. Christen subtly rolls her eyes because of fucking course, the only person on the entire team she doesn’t want to have to interact with would be one of the five players (Krieger, Solo, Johnston, Leroux, Morgan) to meet with fans after the game. “There they are,” he whisper shouts as they make their way towards the middle of the field. Fortunately, Ali is the first one to hear his distinctive voice and runs full speed to envelope them both in a giant bone crushing hug. Not so fortunately—some would say unfortunately—their shrieks of excitement cause the other four girls to turn around, and crystal blue eyes meet hazel ones, much to Christen’s dismay.

“How are you not hyperventilating right now?” Kyle asks because he knows his sister’s best friend has dreamed of being able to come to one of the most important games in Ali’s career as a professional soccer player. Working in the NICU doesn’t exactly allow Christen to have the luxury of following her friend around the world. She wouldn’t change it for anything, though, and she knows Ali understands that her job has to come first. “All of these players are standing right in front of you. Like, Julie Johnston is right there. How are you still alive?”

They’re standing directly in front of the five women now, and as hard as she tries to keep the next comment to herself, she just can’t hold it in. “Because I don’t like her, Kyle.”

“You don’t?” It’s not her best friend’s brother’s voice that says it, and internally she’s kind of freaking out because she didn’t think she’d said it that loud. It’s that damn Krieger stage whisper shit that she inherited from spending too much time at the Krieger household throughout the years. “Can I ask why?”

Christen tries to bite her tongue because she really doesn’t want to offend Ali’s teammate. She really genuinely doesn’t want to put her friend in an awkward position either, but the way the defender’s smirking at her just sets her off. “You think you’re the best player on the pitch. Which would be okay if you weren’t mediocre at best. Your keeper saved your ass more times than I can count on all ten of my fingers. I’d have to use my toes too, and even then, I’m not so sure it’d be accurately describing the situation,” she shrugs as Kyle stares at her wide-eyed with his mouth hanging open in shock. Ali’s choking back a laugh, and Christen figures it’s because no one ever talks to Julie like this. Usually men and women alike are swooning over her, though the men know they have no chance. “And, frankly, you’re kind of a dick.”

“You’ll have to excuse her,” the only male in her generally vicinity says, shooting her his best glare. It’s a look she and Ali both know all too well, and it’s screaming at her to be nice. “She’s off her meds.”

The youngest of the three scoffs, rolling her eyes in annoyance. “No, I’m just not obsessed with blondie over here like everyone else seems to be. In fact,” she turns toward the other four players, “I’d rather spend my time supporting players that actually like signing things for their fans that spend a lot of money just to see them play. If your fans knew what I know, they wouldn’t be supporting you in any way, and that is why I don’t like you.”

“That was you?” The blonde more-so states than asks. Christen nods, and Kyle looks between the six women like he missed an entire year of his life because he has no idea what’s going on. “I can totally explain.”

“Save it for someone who cares,” the brunette replies, shaking her head and holding her hand up when Julie starts to open her mouth again. “Great game today ladies,” she directs to all of the players, the Arizona native included. She gives them one last smile before turning to Ali and enveloping her in a tight hug again. “I’m sorry I can’t stay for the final. Preemie babies have no respect for my social life,” she laughs, pulling away from the hug and wrapping her arm around Kyle’s. “But, we’ll see you later tonight, yeah? I expect a full tour of the most beautiful places in Canada before I leave tomorrow morning. Now go celebrate with your team,” she finishes, basically forcing Ali away from her.

They can celebrate together once they win the whole damn thing.

~ ~ ~

Christen’s halfway to the rental car when she hears footsteps behind her, and her first thought is to start walking faster because she’d quite like to live for at least another year. If Kyle didn’t have such a weak bladder, she wouldn’t be as scared as she is right now; no one would fuck with her after seeing a buff older man on her arm. She’s seen way too many horror movies involving unsuspecting women getting abducted in parking lots to just brush this off, so she picks up her pace a little, her heart skyrocketing well beyond what it should be. It’s basically a fucking lifetime movie waiting to happen.

She reaches the car in record time, and she’s about to open the door when she feels a tap on her shoulder and jumps about a solid foot into the air. “I didn’t mean to scare you,” the person says, and Christen has never wanted to hit someone so much in her entire life.

The brunette turns around, training her most heated glare on the sheepish blonde defensive midfielder. The very same player that got her ass handed to her on a silver platter by Christen no less than five minutes ago. “If you’re here for another round, I’m not interested in humoring you, Johnston,” she says monotonously, rolling her eyes for the billionth time.

Julie heaves out a laugh. It’s a forced one, the neonatologist notes, but it’s a laugh nonetheless. Truth be told, it only makes her want to hit the woman more. “You caught me at a really bad time that night, y’know.”

“Clearly,” she retorts sarcastically, unamused with the player’s antics. “Is that all you needed?”

The blonde smirks again, and now Christen is seriously debating whether to punch her straight in the throat or not. That would be sure to wipe that stupid ass look right off of her face. “I actually came out here to get an apology from you.”

“Oh,” she covers her mouth to stifle the sarcastic laugh that’s just itching to pop right out. “What exactly am I supposed to apologize for? Being right or the part where I dragged you in front of your teammates?”

Julie bites her bottom lip, releasing it with a pop as she steps closer and closer to Christen with each word that comes out of the shorter woman’s mouth. “Okay, fuck the apology because I’m obviously not getting one.”

“Damn right you aren’t.” The blonde narrows her eyes, and Christen raises an expectant eyebrow. She’s growing more and more impatient by the second. And, really, she just wants the girl to go the fuck away. She’s not sure if she should be cursing Kyle’s weak bladder or just cursing his name in general at the moment.

“You can make it up to me by letting me take you on a date after we come back to the states with our gold medals.”

Christen’s eyes widen substantially before she schools her features, then she’s laughing uncontrollably because there’s no way in hell she heard the defender right. Hell would have to freeze over, thaw and then freeze over again for her to agree to that. “Absolutely not,” she lets out a final laugh, finally opening the door to get in the car. “I wouldn’t let you take me on a date if you were the last woman on earth,” she waves Kyle over when she sees him looking for their car.

Julie opens her mouth to counter, but Christen closes the door before she can and waves as Ali’s brother drives off.

An hour later finds Christen and Kyle sitting in Ali’s hotel room while she tries to decide what she wants to wear. Her brother reminds her that they’re just going to the gardens a couple blocks away, but the right back won’t have any of it. They know she never goes out unless she looks good, so the youngest brunette understands. She had to deal with it all throughout high school, so she’s used to it by now.

Once she finds something reasonable to wear, the three of them make their way outside. Kyle offers to drive, but the two women wave him off, calling him a lazy ass. Christen would rather walk. She basically walks for a living, anyway. It’s up and down the same hallways every single day for her, but she loves it.

“So, tell me about the babies,” Ali comments, hooking her arm through Christen’s like a giddy school girl. The younger woman likes that about her best friend. She’s always been interested in Christen’s job. She always asks about the kids and how their parents are doing. The soccer player even stayed up with her all night long while she cried when she lost her very first patient. He was born a month early, and Christen did everything she could to save him. It just wasn’t enough.

The neonatologist chuckles at her excitement. “Little Lizzie can finally breathe on her own. I wanna keep her for another week, but I think she’ll be ready to go home by Friday,” she smiles at the thought of the little girl. She was transferred to D.C. almost four months ago, and Christen has been with her the entire way. She was born six weeks earlier than she should have been, and she’s practically a miracle baby. Every preemie baby is a miracle in her eyes.

“How about Carter?” Ali questions with a nose-crinkling smile. At first Christen’s surprised that she remembers the little boy considering he was just brought in a couple days before she left for Canada, but then she recalls that her friend was visiting her for lunch at the hospital the day they wheeled him in. She had apologized profusely for having to cut their interaction short and promised to make it up to her, but Ali easily brushed it off. She understands hectic schedules after all, and Christen appreciates that. “He’s not—did he make it?”

The younger brunette nods enthusiastically. “Yeah, he’s not breathing on his own yet, but I know he’ll get there. CT’s a tough one.”

“That’s the one up for adoption, right?” It’s Kyle that poses the question this time. “I remember you telling me about him. His mom is sixteen, and the dad’s a total flake. Is she allowed to see him?”

The doctor sighs, nodding her head sadly. “She is, but I never see her in there. It’s sad, y’know. This little guy’s in there fighting for his life, and his mom doesn’t want anything to do with him.”

“So, what? He gets better and just goes straight into the foster system? That’s fucked up,” Kyle states boldly, and the women shake their heads sadly in agreement. After that, they continue their walk to the Montreal Botanical Gardens in a comfortable silence. Christen’s glad neither one of them pushed the issue further. Carter’s case is a particularly hard one for her. Mainly because he had no chance at survival when she first got him, and on top of that, he had no support system. The doctor is his only support, and she fully intends to push through for him.

When they reach the entrance, Christen’s immediately taken aback by the beauty. She’s never experienced anything quite like this, and before she can ask which area they should look at first, Ali’s pulling her towards the Japanese Garden section. It’s immaculate and breathtaking, and Christen never wants to leave. There are countless amounts of streams and waterfalls, and she can see the carp swimming around in them. There’s a pretty decent sized pavilion in the middle, and she thinks it’s one of the most beautiful buildings she’s ever seen. Something about this place—the water, the fish and the beautiful plants, even the company—just gives her a genuine sense of tranquility. She figures that’s what this place was designed for; she thinks that if she resided in Montreal, she’d be here after almost every shift to just clear her mind thoroughly.

“These fish can live to be fifty years old,” Kyle’s voice breaks her out of her trance, and her and Ali both giggle at his surprised face. “If these suckers can last that long, how come mom told me my pet goldfish could only last for two years? We’re gonna have such a long conversation about this next time I see her.”

Ali slaps him lightly, and he glares at her. “You were twelve. Get over it.”

“Speaking of twelve year olds,” Christen begins in an apologetic tone. “I’m sorry for making a scene in front of your teammates earlier,” she whispers so as to not disturb the peaceful atmosphere. “That girl just works on every single one of my nerves.”

The right back chuckles, as does Kyle. “She’s young and cocky, and she thinks she knows everything,” she states, having spent enough time with the twenty-three year old defender to know all about her personality and how she approaches situations. She pauses, looking back to the view of the waterfall in front of them. She watches the fish swim around for a couple seconds before she turns to face her best friend again. “She remind you of a certain friend’s wife?” Christen cracks a small smile and nods her head. “Ashlyn was the exact same way.”

“Ash wasn’t a total ass when you guys first met, though,” Kyle interrupts with a hint of sass in his voice, and the doctor high-fives him because at least he gets it. When everyone else fails her, she knows she can count on her friend’s brother to have her back. “Don’t get me wrong. Julie’s fun to be around; especially the last home game I went to, and I was a little shocked that little Pressy here called her out today, but she just needs to get her head out of her ass and stop being so cocky. Isn’t that why the last girl broke up with her?”

His sister shakes her head, motioning for them to follow her because a few employees are making their rounds, telling the visitors that closing time is nearing. Christen didn’t even realize they were standing at the pond talking for so long. “They were never together,” she replies as the three of them exit the gardens to start their trek back to Ali’s hotel. Her roommate, Christen thinks it was Sydney Leroux, gave them her bed for the night in favor of rooming with Alex and Cheney. The younger brunette has no idea what either of them is talking about until Ali clarifies. “The woman you saw her making out with. Julie didn’t know she was coming to the game. Ashlyn said she was freaking out for a solid five minutes after I left the locker room. She didn’t say why, but I’m assuming it had to do with Jackie.”

“Probably because she asked me who she could make an autograph out to and I told her to make it out to herself, sell it on eBay and buy a better attitude with the money,” Kyle cackles wholeheartedly and wraps his left arm around her shoulder and his right around his sister’s. Ali’s laughing now too, and the whole night is going according to plan. Well, up until they hit the entrance of the hotel and find none other than Julie Johnston standing outside.

Ali shoots Christen a look, pleading with her to at least be pleasant because the blonde doesn’t look like she’s in the greatest of moods. The youngest brunette nods her head once, agreeing to play nice for the next couple minutes but only for her friend’s sake. Not because she wants to. Kyle mumbles out something that sounds like a goodnight to all three of them and disappears behind the hotel doors while Christen glares at his retreating form.

“You know Jill would kick your ass off the team if she caught you down here smoking, right?” The right back hesitantly asks, coming to stand beside her teammate.

Christen thinks about leaving; just bidding them adieu and turning in for the night, but she doesn’t. For some reason, the look on Julie’s face won’t let her walk away, and she doesn’t know why. She doesn’t even like the woman. She wouldn’t go as far as to say she hates her, but she’s not fond of her at all. Still, she stands next to Ali while she walks on eggshells trying to gain some insight on what’s wrong with her teammate.

The defensive mid blows out a puff of smoke, dropping the half-smoked cigarette on the ground and stomping on it with her heel. She smiles almost sarcastically at Ali, and Christen notices that her friend’s face hardens just the slightest bit, and when it does, Julie’s smile disappears completely. The doctor has been on the end of that hardened glare far more times than she’d like to admit, and it’s not something she would wish on anyone ever. She thinks the blonde’s lucky she wiped it off before Ali even had to say anything, or their conversation would end up going in an entirely different direction.

“It’s the first one I’ve had since I started training with this team,” she finally replies, brushing a strand of loose hair behind her ear. “It’s not a habit or anything. Just something I do here and there when everything else in my life is going to shit. No big deal.”

“You’re about to take part in the biggest game of your life,” Christen inserts her own two cents, finally finding her voice. “What could possibly be going wrong?”

Julie lets out a humorless laugh, tucking her hands in the pockets of her jeans. “Be careful; someone might actually think you care if you go around asking me questions like that, Christen Press, world renowned neonatologist,” the younger brunette’s eyes widen then narrow in confusion. She doesn’t remember ever telling the woman her name. “Don’t look so surprised. Kriegs is always bragging about you. Save any lives lately?”

The fact that she’s trying to make small talk with a woman that genuinely can’t stand her kind of makes Christen’s blood boil just the slightest bit. It’s not like she hasn’t made it known that she doesn’t like the soccer player. She clearly stated earlier that she doesn’t want anything to do with her, but she guesses she’ll have to get used to the blonde if she’s going to be attending any more of Ali’s games in the future.

“No offense, but I’m not discussing my profession with you,” she states, sighing heavily.

Her work weeks are more stressful than she lets on most of the time, and when Ali calls to ask her how she’s doing, she usually lies and tells her she’s doing perfectly fine. Two weeks ago was the last time she lied to her best friend over the phone. Ali had called after their win against Nigeria to ask about her day. She had known that Christen acquired a new patient and wanted an update on the little girl’s progress.

She passed away that morning, but that’s not what she told Ali. She'd told her that she had high hopes for her, and when she hung up the phone, she cried for a solid fifteen minutes straight. The little girl was the third patient to pass away under Christen’s care, but it didn’t make it hurt any less. Sure, the first is always the worst, but it doesn’t get any easier for her. She becomes attached to these babies that don’t really have a chance at survival, then when one of them passes, a part of her goes with them. It’s an inevitable cycle for the brunette, really, but this is what she chose. Still to this day, Ali has no idea that she lost another patient. The right back is only aware of her first loss and the second one that came a couple weeks after the first.

She also doesn’t want to offend Ali by saying what’s really on her mind. She respects her best friend’s profession; she really does, but kicking a ball around a field is not as stressful as loosing lives on the daily. In her eyes, there’s not really anything stressful about it, but she keeps her mouth shut. She knows Ali would understand where she’s coming from, but she doesn’t want to get into it with Julie. Frankly, the blonde doesn’t deserve a decent conversation from her, and Christen isn’t about to humor her with one.

“Why not?” Julie queries, and for a split second, it actually sounded genuine. “I’m sure your life is all rainbows and sunshine. You probably drive this nice car and live in this huge house. You don’t wanna brag about that? I sure would if I were you.”

Christen didn’t hear anything after your life is all rainbows and sunshine. “Yeah, but you’re not me. It’s not about the money at all,” she sasses about to get right up in the blonde’s face. Ali steps in between them with her back to Julie. Her hands are pushing against her friend’s stomach, silently pleading with her to turn around and walk away, so she does. Not before getting the last word in, though. “Go to school for eight years just to learn how to keep innocent children alive only to lose them months later. Lose three patients that seem to be pretty promising, then come fucking talk to me about how shitty your life is.” She gives in to Ali’s pleading, silently making her way to the entrance, ignoring Julie’s attempts to talk to her.

She doesn’t notice the confusion in her best friend’s eyes until they’re standing in the elevator. She reaches out to push the button for the fourth floor, but Ali smacks her hand away with a chuckle, pushing the number seven. She could’ve swore Ali’s room was on the fourth floor a couple hours ago, but then again, she wasn’t really paying attention to much.

“When’d you lose the third one, Chris?” She asks tentatively, wrapping a comforting arm around the brunette’s waist.

“Remember when you called me after the Nigeria win?” She puckers her lips, waiting for Ali to scold her for not telling her. It never comes, instead she’s met with a look of sympathy. “I didn’t wanna bring you down from your high. You deserved to feel every minute of that win. Plus, your mom always promised to be there for me, so that’s where I went.”

She remembers it like it was yesterday. As soon as her shift ended, she had called Deb to see if she was busy, and in typical Krieger fashion, the woman automatically knew something was wrong. She can read Christen like she’s her own kid. She broke down in her best friend’s mother’s arms that night. Sure, she wishes Ali would’ve been there because the right back knows exactly what to say to calm her down. She’d done it two times, after all, but Deb is a close second to her daughter.

The elevator opens, and they’re met with Ashlyn’s face on the other side. The keeper doesn’t hesitate to wrap her arms around both women, kissing Ali on the top of the head when she pulls away. “Everything okay?”

Christen nods, a small smile making its way onto her face at the woman’s genuine concern. She loves that about Ashlyn. She and Ali really complement each other in that aspect, and she’s glad her friend found someone as compassionate as herself to spend the rest of her life with.

“Just JJ being an ass again,” Ali tells her, and the youngest woman notices the goalkeeper roll her eyes. Placing a hand on her shoulder, Christen hopes to convey that everything’s fine; she didn’t say anything too out of line. Yes, she was rude as all hell, and had Ali not been there, the brunette probably would have played right into her game, but it’s not worth a second glance; she doesn’t want Ashlyn to worry about having another talk with the defender. Somehow Julie’s screw ups always end up being Ashlyn’s responsibility. Christen hasn’t gotten the full story from Ali yet, but she intends to eventually. “Is Kyle in my room?” She diverts, hoping to distract her wife from the incident. “Maybe we could have a movie night? I wanna spend some time with my two favorite girls before they leave.”

Christen snorts—literally snorts—at the look of clear mock surprise on Ashlyn’s face. It disappears soon enough, and she’s left laughing as the blonde throws her best friend over her shoulder and starts running up and down the hall with her. “Ash!” She calls, cupping her hands around her mouth. “You know she’s gonna throw up if you keep that up, right?” The goalkeeper stops in front of their door, pouts and places her wife back down on the ground. She earns a slap and a hard glare, but Christen thinks it was some pretty quality entertainment for the night. It’s probably just because seeing the two act like complete children around each other gives her hope that someday she’ll find someone to act like that with her. “Come on, goofs. I believe we have some movies to watch.”

~ ~ ~

The night comes and goes, and before Christen knows it, she’s standing in the airport with Kyle and the entire women’s national soccer team. She knows their flight leaves the same time her flight does, but is it really necessary for Julie to be staring at her from across the room? She doesn’t think so.

Ali and Ashlyn are on either side of her, so she doesn’t think the defender will try to approach her. Or maybe she’s just hoping she won’t. If she’s learned anything about the defensive midfielder in the past couple of hours, though, it’s not to underestimate her in the slightest because just when you think she’ll shut her mouth, she’ll open it right back up.

To say Christen is upset about last night is an understatement. She’s more pissed than she’s ever been. Her job has never been about the money. She works her ass off to earn that shit, but it’s not the sole reason she does it. She does it for the kids, to give them hope, to give them an actual life. She does it to make a difference. Could Julie say the same thing about why she plays soccer? Probably not, the doctor thinks. She made it pretty clear last night that money is a big convenience for her, so she can’t help but wonder if that’s the only reason Julie still plays.

Then she wants to smack herself for actually caring about the cocky blonde soccer player at all. Maybe it has a little to do with the fact that Julie caught her staring and is now walking over to her. But it’s mostly because she shouldn’t even care, but she does. The doctor in her wants to know what was bothering Julie last night, but the rational person in her wants to walk right up to her and smack her across the face.

“I’m sorry for what I insinuated last night,” the blonde comes to a stop in front of her, stepping back a few inches when Ashlyn wraps her arm around Christen’s shoulder. The brunette doesn’t even have to look at the keeper to know that she’s shooting hardcore daggers right at Julie. She notices that the defender’s biting the inside of her cheek, using her fingers to tug at her lips. It’s a nervous tick, the doctor notes. “It was wrong of me to belittle what you do.”

The apology seems forced to Christen, and then it clicks. Between Ashlyn’s arm currently wrapped around her shoulders and Ali glaring at her, she knows they put her up to it. “You really had me going there for a minute,” she chuckles humorlessly, shrugging the keeper’s arm off of her. “You’re apologizing for belittling my profession, while you should just be apologizing in general for being an ass, and frankly, I just don’t wanna hear it.”

Flight 54 to Washington, D.C., now boarding.

“Go win the cup for me Kriegs,” she says, hugging the older woman and her wife before parting ways with them.

Chapter Text

The U.S. have done it.

They’ve won their third world cup.

As of one week ago, Christen’s best friend is a world cup champion, and she couldn’t be any happier for her. Ali deserved that gold. The whole team deserved it, really, and she’s glad that their hard work has finally paid off.

She was bummed she couldn’t be there to see them kick Japan’s ass in person, but she was also excited to inform Lizzie’s parents that they’d be able to take her home that same night. As attached to the little girl as she was, she was glad to say goodbye to her. It was quite a different feeling for her as opposed to any other time she’d had to say goodbye. Some of the cases ended poorly; as in the patient would either be transferred to somewhere that could offer them better care, or they’d pass on. Unfortunately for Christen, she’s had to say one final goodbye to three patients, and as much as it pains her, she knows they’re in a better place.

Carter’s case isn’t such a tough one anymore. She knows he was born two weeks prematurely, which isn’t quite as bad as most of the patients that she has had in the past or the ones that she’s still currently taking care of. It took Christen all of ten minutes to figure out what was completely wrong with him once she sat down and actually thought about it, other than the fact that he was born early, of course. Sleep apnea is her final diagnosis, and it basically means that while he’s awake, he can breathe like a normal baby, but while he’s sleeping, he stops breathing for about twenty seconds off and on. It used to be a continuous cycle before Christen caught it, instructing the nurses to bring her a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine right away. While anyone of any age can be diagnosed with sleep apnea, it’s most common in premature babies.

She’d originally thought it was something more serious, but she’s relieved to know that this is the only problem the little boy faces as of right now. Although she doesn’t expect his condition to worsen at all, she’s always on guard. That’s part of her job; to hope for the best and be prepared for the worst. So, she makes sure she monitors his breathing and heart rates as much as possible and keeps medication, specifically caffeine, close to her at all times. There’s no way she’s letting this one slip away from her.

She’s making her final rounds around ten o’clock when she comes to a sudden stop right outside of Carter’s room. There’s someone sitting beside his bed, and it confuses her because no one has been in to see him since he was born. The young mother had already decided that adoption was the best route for her; she’s sixteen after all, and no one knows where the father is. Which doesn’t surprise Christen because he’s only a year older than the mother. She knows they’ll both come to regret giving up their child, though. They always do. She knocks lightly on the door, her eyes growing wide when the brunette turns around with a bright smile and a gold medal hanging from her neck.

“What the heck are you doing here?!” She rushes in, hugging Ali as tight as she possibly can. She’s probably squeezing the life out of the poor girl, but it’s totally worth it. She hasn’t seen her since the Germany match twelve days ago. Generally speaking twelve days really isn’t that long to go without seeing your best friend, but to both of them it’s a lifetime. Christen has so many questions about the ticker tape parade and just everything. She’s like a little kid on Christmas morning, waiting to open the biggest present out of the bunch. She’s trying to be quiet, but it’s not really happening, as Carter’s cries fill the room. “Hold that thought,” she pulls away from the hug, walking calmly over to the little boy. His mask sits snugly on his face, and he doesn’t seem to be happy about it, so she takes it off. Picking him up, she turns back to face Ali and raises an eyebrow.

“What?” The older woman asks nonchalantly, as if she hasn’t placed a sticker on his onesie, as if said sticker isn’t a little black and white soccer ball with the name Krieger scribbled on it. “Listen, if he’s gonna be part of the family, he’s gonna have to start early. Ash would kill me if I let him pick any other sport.”

The younger woman doesn’t quite get what her friend is trying to say, so she chooses to ignore her in favor of changing the little boy’s diaper. She doesn’t even get it halfway off before her eyes bug out of her head, and the soccer player lets a laugh bubble out of her throat. “You and Ash are the family interested in him?” It’s more of a statement, but it comes out as a question. Obviously, her best friend wouldn’t joke about something like this, especially since she knows how attached Christen is to him.

“Yeah,” Ali mumbles, almost shyly. “Kyle has been keeping me updated on his condition and everything. I’m surprised you haven’t noticed that he visits pretty regularly,” she chuckles. “I know that you’d adopt him in a heartbeat if you could, Chris. Ash and I talked about this for a while before we decided that we aren’t getting any younger, and neither one of us wants to carry. Then, I remembered you saying that no one comes to visit him, and his mom put him up for adoption. This—this is okay, right?”

Christen nods frantically, practically crying because of course it’s fine with her. Obviously he has to stay in the hospital for a little while longer, but there’s no one she’d rather let take him home. Both girls let out a laugh as the doctor goes back to changing him. “He already kinda looks like a Krieger,” she says as she finishes up and hands him to Ali. Her friend is hesitant to take him at first, but Christen smiles reassuringly, so she cradles him in her arms.

“I actually feel kind of bad about using this little cutie to butter you up,” her best friend smiles sheepishly while the younger woman raises a curious eyebrow. Ali shifts on her feet a few times before deciding to just sit down in the rocking chair beside Carter’s bed. “What are you doing on the fifteenth?”

That’s two days from today, Christen realizes, mentally going through the giant list of meetings she has yet to attend. There’s six of them just in the month of July alone. “I’ll be in LA for the National Neonatal Forum. They’re supposedly bringing in some top doctors from India.” She leaves it at that because she doesn’t want to bore Ali with all of her medical mumbo jumbo. Contrary to popular belief, Christen just so happens to be quite the nerd. She wouldn’t have been able to get through medical school otherwise.

The soccer player squeals ever so slightly causing the little boy to whimper a little, and the doctor chuckles quietly to herself before she’s forced to pry him from her best friend’s arms. Ali pouts at her, begging for a couple more minutes with him, but it doesn’t work. He’s on a specific sleeping schedule—babies sleep all the time, so it’s not really a schedule per se—but she’s not willing to ruin it. Plus, once she’s in doctor mode, there’s no arguing with her, no matter how adorable the pout. (She recognizes that it’s weird to think her friend’s pout is adorable, but it’s whatever. Semantics and all that other bullshit or something like that.)

“Okay, so since you’re already going to be in Cali,” she starts, and Christen knows that nothing good can come of this. Ali’s making that face that just screams I need a favor, and you aren’t going to like it one bit. The younger brunette shakes her head once. “Chris, please just hear me out.” Christen shakes her head again with a sigh before motioning for the older woman to continue. “The ESPYS, as you know, are Wednesday night. Ash and I are flying out tomorrow morning.”

“And you need me to, what, water your plants after you leave?” The brunette quips. "Sure."

The defender rolls her eyes, biting her bottom lip, and now Christen definitely knows that she isn’t going to like whatever favor her friend is about to ask of her. “I need you to be JJ’s date. All you have to do is show up, take some pictures. Maybe just pretend you can actually stand her for an hour. Two at the most.”

“I’m a doctor, Al,” she hisses under her breath so as to not disturb Carter, who’s sleeping peacefully now—though she doesn’t understand how anyone can sleep through the noise that damn ventilator makes. She turns to walk out the door in an attempt to finish her rounds so she can finally go home. She’s working on her second double in just six days, and she’s exhausted to say the least. “Even I can’t make that miracle happen.”

“Will you just think about it, please?” Ali asks when they come to a stop at the next room. If she didn’t look so pathetic right now, Christen wouldn’t even give her a second glance. It would be a solid no right from the start, but she knows the older woman only comes to her when she absolutely, positively needs her. That’s not to say that she doesn’t ask for favors every so often because she does. In fact, she’s the one that got Children’s National to sponsor the Spirit. The team was going through some money issues a while back, and in return, they let the kids in for free. All they have to do is bring money for food and drinks. “Look, her date dropped out last minute, and neither Ash nor I want to see her go through this alone. This is a big deal for us as athletes, obviously. That’s what the ESPYS are all about.”

Christen sighs, groaning as she looks through the next patient’s chart. She’s a full term baby new to the hospital, one day old as of a couple hours prior. She’s diagnosed with transient tachypnea, which basically just means that she breathes faster than normal babies. The fluid buildup in her lungs makes it harder to take in oxygen. Despite the little girl’s parents’ concerns, the doctor is adamant that she’ll be completely fine. The condition typically only lasts for three days. Obviously, Christen won’t be able to check up on her due to the conference she’s required to attend, but she has left the case to her most trusted fellow, and she’s confident that Dr. Christopher Harris will get the job done.

She was kind of skeptical when Ashlyn had begged her to put her brother under her supervision, if she’s being honest. It’s not that he’s not good at what he does; in fact, Christen would go as far as to say he’s the best doctor she’s ever worked with. That is, if she wasn’t already the best at the job. She didn’t want anyone to think that he’s only on her service because her best friend’s wife is his sister, so, as only Christen Press, MD would, she made the younger man by a year prove himself just as she would with anyone else. He loved her as Ali’s best friend, but once he started working on her service, he hated her. The first two months were torture, but he eventually proved himself, and the rumors floating around about the reason he was brought in stopped circulating.

The real reason he relocated from Florida to D.C. is because he was getting himself into some trouble. Nothing illegal, though. His marriage started falling apart, and instead of trying to fix it, he ran to the bar almost every night. Instead of showing up to work hungover, he’d barely ever show up at all. Once Ashlyn had found out, she hopped on the first plane to the Sunshine state and smacked some sense right back into him. Two years later, he’s happily remarried with two kids, and he just so happens to be one of the most promising Neonatologists at Children’s International, alongside his attending, of course.

“I’ll think about it, alright,” she murmurs, physically drained from their conversation combined with what little sleep she has had in the past day and a half. “I’m not promising that I’ll go, so don’t go telling her that I’ll be there.” Ali eyes widen at the statement, and Christen immediately catches on to the fact that Julie has no idea her teammate went behind her back. “You sneaky little bitch,” she laughs lightheartedly, relishing in the fact that her best friend hasn’t changed a bit since the day they met. “Anyway, I’ll see how I feel after the conference,” she turns to walk away before stopping midstride to turn back around. “And I’ll arrange a meeting with Carter’s caseworker for when you’re back from LA.”

~ ~ ~

It’s not until she’s sitting in the car on the way to the award show that Christen starts to kind of regret her decision to come. She could have easily told Ali that she couldn’t make it, that the conference ran longer than she’d originally thought it would. The only problem with that is the fact that her best friend can read her like a damn book; she’d she’s lying right off the bat.

It’s not really that she doesn’t want to go, although she really doesn’t. Julie Johnston isn’t her friend or her girlfriend. She’s not anywhere close to being either one of those. So, she’s not really sure why she agreed to this even after spending the past four hours hung up in a room with some stuffy ass older doctors. She loves her job; she really does, and she’s probably the biggest nerd ever, but four hours is too long to be stuck in a conference room discussing new techniques and a bunch of other, to put it frank, boring junk that has no relevance to her position. Which is weird because neonatal was in the title of the forum. Basically, she wasted her time, and now she’s about to go waste her night playing nice with the devil.

She takes it back.

It has a whole lot to do with the fact that she doesn’t want to go.

Once the car pulls up to the venue, she pulls out her phone to text Ali to find out where she should meet them. She figures the only way she’ll be able to get into the building is by walking on the red carpet, and there’s no way in hell that’s happening. The lights would probably temporarily blind her, causing her to fall flat on her face. The last thing she needs is pictures of her face down, ass up on a red carpet to surface. Her colleagues would get a real kick out of that.

Instead of chancing it, she looks for a better route, spotting one on the right side of the building. She’d have to go through some type of security checkpoint type thing—not like the airport at all, just two men acting as bouncers, she guesses. She nods, stupidly, to herself before opening the door and making her way towards the door. She gets there just as Ali’s head pops out. She’s donning a red dress and an impeccably white smile.

Christen kind of wants to hit her because she looks perfect all the time. It’s annoying, really, but Ali has said the same thing about her every chance she gets. Tonight she’s wearing a simple black strapless dress with some heels. A light amount of makeup covers her face, and small silver hoops hang from her ears.

“Does she know I’m here?” The younger brunette gets right to the point. Ashlyn was supposed to have told Julie about her date situation the day prior. Christen suggested not telling her at all, but the goalkeeper fixed a hardened glare on her that shut her right up. Apparently her best friend’s wife gets all protective over the defender now. She’s not exactly sure why; though, there could be no real reason other than the fact that the twenty-three year old is her roommate. She figures there’s probably a handbook somewhere with shit ton of rules in it stating that she has to take Julie’s side in every single thing or else. Else what, though? Who knows.

Ali nods, and Christen sighs outwardly, preparing for her night to get much, much worse than it already is. “If it’s any consolation, she didn’t look upset about it at all. I didn’t exactly hear anything that was said because I was fixing my mascara,” she pauses, waiting for the younger woman to make a stupid comment. The doctor lifts an eyebrow and chuckles, nothing further comes, though. “Maybe you’ll have a good time.” She finishes, grabbing her friend’s arm and pulling her to their seats.

As luck would have it, Christen actually has to sit right next to the spawn of Satan herself. She’d thought that she’d just come, maybe make Ashlyn sit between the two of them and go home afterwards. It’s not the case at all, and she’s none too happy about it, but she sits down anyway.

“You finally decided to take me up on my offer?” Julie addresses her a couple minutes later, seemingly done with the conversation she and Heather were having when she’d first sat down. She ignores her as best as she can, but she can feel the blonde staring at the side of her face. She rolls her eyes, turning to face her. She won’t lie; Julie looks good. Really good, in fact. Ashlyn must have helped her get dressed because she’s wearing a form fitting white button up shirt covered by a suit jacket and black dress pants. A red tie hangs around her neck, and Christen would love nothing more than to tighten it a little further just to wipe that stupid ass grin from her face. “I distinctly remember asking you to go on a date with me a couple weeks ago.”

The brunette snorts, rolling her eyes. She’s been here less than five minutes, and she’s already annoyed. “For one, you didn’t ask. You demanded,” she huffs out in a whisper as the host takes the stage. “And two, this is not a date. This is me doing a favor for a friend.” A friend that’s so going to be paying her back in a huge way once she finds out exactly what kind of favor she wants in return.

“Look,” the defender says with a somewhat serious undertone. “I’m not exactly thrilled to be here either. The only difference between me and you right now is that I have to be here. You could have easily said no.”

“Have you met Ali?” Christen asks incredulously, her eyes widened just the slightest bit further than usual. “There’s no denying her anything. Hence the reason I’m here, sitting next to the one person I have no intentions of ever being friends with. I get that your original date couldn’t come, but you’re probably used to that by now.”

It was a low blow, and she knows she’s acting like a complete child, but she doesn’t care. She just sat through a four hour meeting, and now she has to sit through this three hour long award show. She could have easily said no, but she knows it would’ve been to no avail; Ali would not have let her skip out on this because in a way it was probably important to the soccer star that she’d attend. Add all of that onto the fact that she misses her patients. Sure, most of them can’t talk; she’d still kill to just be in their presence. It’s taking all of her willpower not to sneak off to the bathroom and call Chris to check in on all of them.

“Are you implying that my sexual skills aren’t up to par, Dr. Press?” Julie raises a mischievous eyebrow. Her hand lands on Christen’s knee for a moment before she pulls it back, dragging every last finger slowly across olive colored skin. The brunette surmises that it’s just to get on her nerves. It works; she focuses a hard glare on the blonde out of her peripherals. “They’re phenomenal. I’d demonstrate, but we’re in public. Y’know, cameras are around, and I wouldn’t want to show you up.”

“I’m gonna need you two to stop flirting over there.” Both women whip their heads towards the voice. It’s Megan Rapinoe. Of course it’s her. She’s the only one that would ever mistake snarky jabs as flirting. Christen doesn’t even have to look at Julie to know that she now has a huge ass smirk on her face. She just fixes another glare on the woman—probably her fifth of the night by now. She’s really on a roll. “I’m just kidding, but really, stop,” she directs the command at the defender, and the doctor can practically feel Julie’s eyes rolling into the back of her head as she mumbles something to do with Megan not being her mother and not having to listen to her. Something along those lines but she ends up obeying the order anyway.

Christen’s thankful for that because if the blonde wouldn’t have shut up soon, she wouldn’t have been liable for her actions. She’s not a violent person by any means, but she’d make an exception if it meant she’d get to hit Julie Johnston just one time. One time is all she needs, really. Soccer players don’t use their hands, so she doubts the blonde defender would have any idea how to fight. Then again, she’s a little rough around the edges, so it’s a possibility that Christen would get her ass kicked. Not only does she not know how to fight, but she also needs her hands to do her job, so maybe it’s best that she doesn’t go around hitting people. Even if that person happens to be the single most annoying one that Christen has ever met in her life.

The show ends with United States Women’s Soccer winning the ESPY for best team. Or something like that. Christen was only half listening because she was too busy staring at Julie walking down the aisle in that tight black suit to care about anything else going on around her. She can’t deny that the blonde is attractive. She’s gorgeous, really. She just has an ugly personality as far as Christen’s concerned. In another life—one where Julie isn’t so cocky and her head isn’t huge and she’s not a colossal-sized pain in everyone’s ass; one where she’s not on the front page of almost every magazine for some stupid stunt she pulled; one where she respects other peoples’ professions; one where she’s kind and everything Christen needs in her life—maybe they’d be together.

Her eyes widen as soon as that thought enters her mind, and she shakes her head to clear it, realizing just how absurd the idea is. She hates this girl—hate is a strong word, but if she’s going to hate anyone, it’s definitely Julie.

“Are you comin’ to the after party?” It’s Heather that finally brings her out of her thoughts. O’Reilly, she thinks, because she only ever hears Ali call her HAO. “I wasn’t sure if your date asked you to attend or not, but I’m offering. We’re all going back to my place to act like drunk college kids again. It’s gonna be fun.” She drags out the ‘u’ in the last word making Christen grin widely and stifle a chuckle behind her hand.

She really doesn’t want to spend much more time around Julie, but now that she thinks about it, she didn’t agree to go to the after party as Julie’s date. She has no obligation in regards to the woman, so she could just go and have a few drinks. Reminiscing on old times with Ali and all of her friends—they’re kind of Christen’s friends too considering she’s been around them as long as Ali has been on the team—sounds like quite the much needed break. Plus, if she goes back to her hotel room, she’ll just end up calling Chris over and over again for updates on all of her patients. If she goes to the party, Ali won’t even let her look at her phone to check the time.

So she nods definitively.

She’s going to the party; Julie Johnston be damned.

Chapter Text

Heather’s house is on the beach, and Christen has never been more surprised in her life than she is right now. Not that she didn’t think a soccer player—a female one, at that—would be able to afford it or anything like that. She’s mostly surprised that Heather O’Reilly lives in California to begin with. She doesn’t seem like the type to frequent the beach, though she tells Christen that she’s always there when she’s home. She seems more like the type of woman that would enjoy a nice cozy cabin up high in the mountains of Tennessee. Or maybe that’s just Christen’s wishful thinking. She could really go for a low key hangout, and right about now, it’s anything but.

Not all of the teammates could make it; most of them wanting to get back home to their families after already having been away for so long. It doesn’t help that the victory tour—which the doctor just found out about earlier today—starts in a little over a month. Couple that with the fact that they’re all probably exhausted from flying around so much lately; she doesn’t blame them for wanting to go home.

Right now, she’s sitting in a circle with Ali to her right and Ashlyn to her left. She who shall not be named sits across from her, and every once in a while, she’ll catch the blonde’s gaze lingering a little too long, and when their gazes meet, she’ll open her eyes a bit further as if to say what’re ya looking at without actually saying it out loud. Julie will just shrug and turn her attention back to the game.

The game that just so happens to be spin the bottle.

HAO really wasn’t kidding when she said they’re going to act like drunk college kids. Although, Christen distinctly remembers playing spin the bottle in high school. Her college days were mostly spent bent over a medical textbook, trying to figure out which path she’d wanted to go down. In the beginning, she was torn between PEDS and neonatology. They’re kind of the same thing, in a way. The main difference between the two is the fact that pediatricians deal with children up to seventeen years old—some even go as far as to deal with nineteen year olds—while neonatologists do not. She knew from the get-go that she wanted to deal with babies, but she wasn’t so sure about teenagers. Hence the reason she eventually chose the path she did. Plus, she can be called in as a consult to help children of other ages, so, really, she gets the best of both worlds.

Unlike any of her high school parties, there are actually men participating in this game. She doesn’t know any of them, thankfully, so it’s not like it’ll be awkward if she has to make out with them for a couple minutes. HAO had even said that she could opt out of it because she knows Christen isn’t interested in men. Granted, you don’t have to be interested to share a kiss. People kiss others for no reason at all every single day. Still, she had thanked her profusely for that.

The only stipulation Heather had enforced is that every time you choose to skip, you have to do a truth or a dare instead. Christen decides that skipping a little kiss wouldn’t be worth it. She already knows what type of shit these women can come up with. Which was proved when Syd spun the bottle, landing on Alex. Her eyes had widened, and she apologized to number thirteen for a full five minutes after the fact for dissing her, stating that it would be weird as fuck, and now she finds herself in just her bra and underwear for the rest of the game after picking dare. She would’ve been fine with just a peck, but this is girl’s night, and Pinoe always demands that you go hard or go home. Literally. She’ll kick you out of HAO’s house; she doesn’t care.

Christen’s not sure how long the game is supposed to go on, but she hopes it’s not much longer because she’s exhausted, and the drunker everyone gets, the more likely it is that she’ll have to do something that she really doesn’t want to do.

It’s Julie’s turn to spin when her phone starts ringing. Any other time, she’d have thought nothing of it, but it’s the ringtone—the one that says she has an incoming call from Dr. Harris. Ali glares at her as she reaches into her pocket to grab it, and she sends her a pleading look, showing her the screen. The right back’s face softens substantially.

“Whoa!” Pinoe yells, scaring the shit out of everyone. Christen’s almost certain she peed a little at the outburst. “Speaker phone that shit. I mean, ask him what it’s about first because I know—patient confidentiality and all that shit,” she rolls her eyes. The doctor only laughs, answering the call. She does as Megan says, and soon, Chris’ voice is filtering through the now quiet room, everyone having stopped their conversations to listen in.

“Hey everyone,” he says excitedly. Christen rolls her eyes because it’s a typical Chris move—to prolong the news a little further by ignoring her presence on the phone altogether. “Good job kicking ass at the cup,” he murmurs something off to the side—probably excusing himself to his office. They—he and Christen—tend not to talk on their personal phones unless they’re in their respective office. More so for privacy than a common courtesy. “It’s a shame my own sister was in D.C. a couple days ago but couldn’t bother to visit.” His tone is teasing, and all of the girls laugh as Ashlyn tells him to fuck off and that she had more important things to do. Christen realizes that she’s hinting at something sexual a little later than everyone else, a grimace briefly overtaking her face because Ashlyn’s talking about banging her best friend. Clearly they’ve been active in that department for a while—since high school—but that doesn’t mean she wants or needs to hear about it.

“Back to the reason you called, Harris,” she switches back to doctor mode. “I swear, if you killed any of my patients, your ass is grass.” She watches as Ashlyn makes a face at her tone, and she raises her eyebrows as if to tell her that she absolutely means it. Obviously, some cases can’t be helped. Sometimes things happen beyond any doctor’s control, but the fact that she’s not able to help from so far away if anything were to go wrong is heightening her anxiousness over the matter.

There’s silence for a good two minutes before he speaks, but when he does, she turns to Ali with a matching smile. “Carter started breathing on his own. He’s breathing forty breaths per minute, and before you ask, baby sister, it’s normal for children to breathe faster than adults. Normal as in healthy. He looks to be out of the woods so far, Dr. Press. I’ll keep monitoring him, but I was actually wondering if you’d want to try to take him off of the CPAP for tonight. Just to see how it goes.”

She hums, debating whether or not she should chance it. “You said his stats are stable?” Chris makes a noise of acknowledgement. “Alright, do it, but I want him monitored even more closely now. I’m talking every half hour as opposed to every two, and if his stats start to decline, you put that mask right back on his face. I’m not about to gamble with his life any more than I already have to.”

They talk for a couple more minutes—most of it spent with the girls pestering Ashlyn’s brother to send them pictures of the little boy—before Christen hangs up. She motions for Julie to spin the bottle when she realizes that everyone’s eyes are on her. Literally. Everyone’s staring, and she self-consciously wipes at her face even though she knows there won’t be anything there. “What?” She ignores them in favor of looking down just in time to see the bottle stop on her, and she audibly groans because the last person she wants to kiss is the most annoying person here.

“Did anyone else think that was a little hot?” Lauren Holiday asks. It’s rhetorical, and they all know it, but they’re showing signs of approval anyway—Julie included. Not that she was paying any attention to the infuriating blonde. She just so happened to be looking in that general direction when the midfielder asked the question. She’s sure the tips of her ears are bright pink. “Like damn, Dr. Christen can come out to play around me any time she pleases,” the older woman by a year fans herself, blowing out a puff of air that lets the doctor know that she’s just teasing.

She smiles sheepishly and blows a raspberry. She’s not uncomfortable by any means—no one is making her feel that way either. She just doesn’t like the attention. As if sensing the doctor’s distress—or maybe she just wants this stupid game to be over too—Julie changes the subject. “I’m gonna pass and pick truth because, well, we all know why.”

The group collectively agrees that Lauren will be the one to come up with the truth, and it’s actually something Christen herself has been wondering all night.

“Why couldn’t your date make it tonight?”

The blonde smiles, taking a swig of her Miller Lite. Her voice is soft when she answers. “My date was supposed to be my sister, and she’s about seven months pregnant, and yeah. I didn’t really think things through before I asked her to come,” she smiles sheepishly, and the doctor feels like a genuine piece of shit for the comment she’d made earlier that night.

“You know pregnant women are allowed to fly, right?” Christen asks. She’s not being snarky which is quite the change, and she can tell Julie’s shocked that something other than an uncalled for insult is directed at her just by looking at her face. “Unless she has some kind of other medical condition or she’s at risk for premature labor, she’d be fine until thirty days before her due date.” She stops rambling to look around the room where, once again, everyone’s eyes are on her. “Sorry,” she giggles embarrassedly. “I can’t escape the doctor role. It follows me everywhere.”

“Can we all just agree that doctor talk is extremely attractive?” It’s Lauren that asks the question, and all the girls laugh again while Christen groans. “It’s not a bad thing, Pressi-Poo,” the midfielder makes a face—almost as if she’s apologizing with her eyes for that terrible nickname.

“Honestly, that was the most boring truth in the entire world, and I demand a redo!” A very drunk Megan Rapinoe slams her fist down on the table jokingly. At this point no one is surprised by anything she does. They all kind of just shrug their shoulders at her and comply because none of them are really ready for this game to be over anyway.

And so Julie spins the bottle again.

And it lands on Christen and she’s officially over this fucking game.

Again. It lands on her again.

Fate. That’s what Kling and Pinoe called it.

Christen thinks fate’s really testing her patience with this shit. She really has no choice but to kiss the blonde now. If she backs out, they’ll probably just tell Julie to spin the fucking bottle again, so what’s the point? They say third time’s a charm, so she’d rather get it over with.

Her mind’s screaming at her to just get it out of the way, so she kneels over the bottle, closing the distance between the two of them until she’s almost touching the younger woman’s lips. She’s not doing it to be a tease. She’s doing it to give Julie an out. No one wants to make out with someone that doesn’t want to kiss them back, right? So, really, she’s just being a good person at this point.

And maybe a little bit of her wants to see if Julie will meet her halfway.

Seconds later, of her own accord mixed with a little push from Ashlyn, she does, and Christen’s immediately pissed because she’s a great kisser. It sounds twisted—to hope someone is terrible at something because you don’t like them—but she can’t help it. It seems unfair to Christen that she’s better at kissing than she is at playing soccer—which is a compliment because, despite her hatred for the woman, she can admit that she’s a phenomenal player. Maybe not quite as great as her best friend, of course, but the doctor has always been biased in that respect.

Christen knows that if she doesn’t put a stop to the kiss soon something bad will happen—like a moan will pop out or she’ll get the sudden urge to burp. Oh, God, she doesn’t even want to imagine the embarrassment that second one will cause. She starts to pull away but feels the blonde’s hand caressing her neck, her thumb lightly smoothing across the expanse of flesh.

And, fuck, she feels a whimper coming.

Luckily enough for her, Ashlyn pulls Julie’s attention to her by resting her hand on her shoulder. It’s a clear sign for the defender to stop, and she does, pulling back with Christen’s bottom lip still trapped between her teeth. She’d be turned on if Julie wasn’t sporting that stupid fucking smirk that always seems to be on her face. It’s like she knew what she was doing to the Johns Hopkins graduate. Christen knows there’s no way she could’ve known. Julie just always has to be an asshole. So, in return, she rolls her eyes with a scowl on her face.

“I’m gonna head out,” she says, causing Pinoe to protest along with almost everyone else in the room. Ali’s the only one who doesn’t, and she’s thankful for that. “I’m sorry guys,” she apologizes. “My plane leaves around two tomorrow afternoon, and it’s already close to two in the morning. My body craves sleep right now. I need sleep to make good decisions for the babies, Pinhead,” she steals Ali’s nickname for her teammate. “You don’t wanna jeopardize the babies, do you?”

No one argues with her further, which is relieving, as Ali leads her to the front door. She lets out a tired laugh when Kling jumps into her arms to hug her goodbye at the door.

“Call me when you get home tomorrow?” Her best friend asks, and she nods with a smile.

Chapter Text

Being a doctor is Christen’s favorite thing in the entire world. Nothing compares to waking up in an on-call room after a double shift. Most people probably wouldn’t enjoy the long hours and sleepless nights, but Christen loves them, especially when one of the babies pulls through. Watching these tiny humans take their first breaths without the help of a machine is what she lives for. It’s why she’s already dedicated eight years of her life to this career.

The hardest part of her job is losing patients, and the second hardest part is telling the family that they won’t be able to take their little bundle of joy home. It has been almost a month since she’s had to deliver that type of bad news, the last time being June 16. All good things must come to an end, though. That’s the saying, isn’t it? Life can never just give Christen a break.

Dr. Harris offers to deliver the news for her, but she shakes her head. It’s her job to do this. It was her job to keep the Jones’ baby alive. In the back of her head, she knows this wasn’t her fault. There was nothing she could do to prevent it. She’ll still blame herself, though. She always does.

She cries in her office for ten minutes before she can manage to pull herself together enough to look moderately presentable. She stares at herself in the mirror hanging on the back of her door, wiping a few stray tears from her face and whispering encouraging words to herself before opening her door. She walks with a false sense of confidence, though she’s not sure any of the other doctors can tell the difference, when she rounds the corner and runs directly into someone.

“I’m so sorry,” the woman’s voice stutters out almost frantically. Christen knows the voice. God, does she know the voice. She bites back the groan in the back of her throat in favor of a polite smile. Not because she wants to give this person a polite smile but because this is her place of employment. She’s not about to get fired for being rude. And to Julie Johnston, no less. Her boss practically worships the United States defender. “I’m looking for Melanie Johnston’s room. She was rushed in earlier, and I was in practice. I got here as soon as I could. If someone doesn’t tell me where the fuck her room is, I swear,” the irate blonde trails off as Christen places a hand on her arm. She has tears in her eyes, and the brunette almost feels bad for groaning in displeasure a couple seconds ago. Almost.

“You need to lower your voice,” the doctor asserts in the calmest tone she can manage. “Melanie is in my care. She’s in room 315, and she’s fine.”

Julie wipes her eyes and runs her fingers through her hair roughly. “And the baby?” She asks with a pleading look, and Christen smiles tightly.

The baby is as fine as a two-month old premature infant can be. Telling Julie that the baby is fine would lead her to assume that he’ll stay that way. It’s never black and white with these cases. Sometimes bad things happen, so she tells her all she can at this point. “He’s stable for now, Julie. That’s all I know at the time being. Make a left up there. Your sister’s room is the third door on the right. I just have to make a quick stop, and I’ll be right in.”

As she goes to walk around the blonde, she feels a tug on her arm. She glares hard, and Julie drops her arm like she’s been burned and apologizes. “Are you alright? I mean, obviously you aren’t. You’ve been crying, but can I do anything? Ali’s downstairs. She should be on her way up.”

“No!” She blurts out quickly before softening her voice. “I just have some not so happy news to deliver. So, if you’d excuse me,” she says, walking around Julie to continue on her path to the waiting room.

It feels like the hall is getting longer and longer the closer she gets to where the Jones’ are sitting. She can feel her chest constricting, and the tears are barely being held back. She knows she has to be professional about this, but how is she supposed to do that? She has become so attached to these people and to their baby, and now she has to tell them that they’re going home with an empty car seat. It doesn’t matter how many times she has done this; it never gets any easier.

Almost as if God decided to answer just one of her prayers, Ali comes into view. She’s making Mr. Jones laugh, and for a split second, Christen forgets that she’s about to deliver the most devastating news.

Avery, the Jones’ daughter, was born three days ago, 8 weeks earlier than she was supposed to be brought into the world. She wasn’t breathing upon delivery, and naturally, everyone thought the worst. It was a couple minutes before a cry could be heard, and the team kicked into gear. After everything was said and done, she ended up in Christen’s care where she was hooked up to a CPAP machine to help with her breathing.

She was doing fine until she wasn’t.

Mrs. Jones spots her first, waving to her with a big smile on her face that soon drops as the doctor gets closer. Ali and Mr. Jones stop their conversation, and Christen knows as soon as Ali makes eye contact with her that she knows exactly what news she’s bearing.

“Mrs. Jones,” she starts, biting nervously on her bottom lip before gathering the courage to continue. She knows the woman knows what’s coming next, and it doesn’t help that she’s already hysterically crying into her husband’s shoulder. “I’m so sorry. Avery fought extremely hard, harder than almost any other newborn I’ve dealt with. The surgery was just too much for her body to handle.”

She feels Ali’s hand on her shoulder as she turns to leave, and she stops, closing her eyes tightly for a few seconds. She places her hand on top of her friend’s to let her know she’ll be okay and continues on her way.

There’ll be more tears. There always are, but she’ll save them for later when she’s at home where she can ugly cry and watch terrible rom-coms with predictable endings.

Right now, though, she’s got a mother of a two-month old premature newborn waiting for her.

She’s not sure what to expect when she walks into Melanie Johnston’s room after knocking, but it’s certainly not the sight that she’s met with. There’s blood on the floor, but once Christen realizes it’s not her patient’s, she relaxes a little. She’s still a doctor though, so before she knows it, she’s rushing towards Julie to find out what happened.

“My nose just started bleeding,” the soccer player informs her before she can even open her mouth. “I didn’t even notice until Mel pointed it out. It’s not a big deal.”

The blonde is covering her nose with a paper towel, getting ready to tilt her head back when the doctor slaps her. “Tilt your head forward, nimrod.”

Julie complies with a roll of her eyes, “Happy?”

Before Christen can sass the defender back, a throat is cleared, and the two women turn towards the source. “So, is this the Christen you were talking about a couple days ago?”

“Shut up,” Julie grumbles, shooting her sister a glare that’s meant to be a warning.

Christen blushes but doesn’t comment. Instead, she gets right down to business. She starts by checking Melanie’s blood pressure, though it’s not really her job to. There’s an RN that’s supposed to take care of the baby’s mother, so Christen can focus her attention on the baby. In this case, though, the baby is already stable and taken care of, so she’s taking it upon herself to make sure the mother is doing well too. (She may know more about infants than grown women, but she’s a doctor for goodness sakes. It’s her job to make sure everyone is taken care of.)

“Your bp’s a little high, but it’s fine considering the circumstances. You’ve had quite the day, Ms. Johnston,” the patient laughs a little which is what Christen was going for, so she smiles. “Your little boy is stable as of right now. I don’t have anything more than that at this moment. We’re waiting on some test results, but we’ll know more in the next couple of hours.” After making sure everything is fine with her patient, she goes back to examine Julie’s nose.

Christen’s in the middle of smacking the blonde’s hand out of her way, so she can get a better look when Ali walks through the door. “What fresh hell am I walking in on?” She directs the question at Melanie who shrugs with a roll of her eyes in response. “We talked about this, Chris. You can’t just go around hitting people. It’s not good for business.” She does it in jest and perhaps to gauge whether or not Christen is okay. It’s appreciated, nonetheless.

“Oh, har, har,” the doctor replies sarcastically. She knows Ali is just kidding; she almost always is in some way. Which is quite refreshing, actually, because Christen is stuck in a hospital for days at a time (most of the time) with stoic doctors and hormonal mothers. “Her blood pressure is probably through the roof.”

Julie makes a face, though Christen can only really tell because of the way her eyebrows scrunch together, the tissue she’s still holding to her face getting in the way. “That’s what caused this?”

“A lot of things can factor into it,” the brunette replies, not intending for it to sound like she’s bragging but not really caring if it comes off that way. She didn’t go to med school for eight years for nothing. She figures dropping some knowledge sounds better than the consult she needs to be making her way to. Dr. Harris can definitely handle the fourteen-year old spawn of Satan himself. (Chris’ words, not hers.) Julie is in dire need of her assistance right now. “They’re more common in the wintertime because upper respiratory infections are more frequent during that season. There’s a lot more science to it, but it generally comes down to temperature change. It’s not winter though, so there’s really only two causes for your nosebleed.”

“High blood pressure. Yeah, I got that,” Julie rolls her eyes, annoyance clear in her tone, and Christen chuckles to herself. “What’s the other one?”

The doctor smirks, fully intending on getting a rise out of the infuriating defender. “Trauma,” she states plainly with a shrug, only continuing to explain when Julie’s eyes narrow at her. “You stuck your finger too deep when you were picking your nose.”

Julie’s eyes widen in—what—shock? Christen’s not sure, but she definitely got the reaction she wanted out of it. The two other occupants of the room trying but failing to stifle their laughter is just a bonus, really.

“I’ve got a consult to get to, but when I get the test results back, I’ll be in.” She gets a nod from her still giggling patient, and that in itself makes her feel a little better about her job. Though the woman is still clearly upset about her baby being rushed out of the room, she’s in better spirits than she was before Julie and Ali got here, and she’s thankful for the distraction they were able to provide. “Also,” she pauses at the doorframe, training a glare halfheartedly on her best friend, “I expect my Godson to be here when I return. So, you know, call in all the favors you have to.”

Ali shoots her a thumbs up, already pulling her phone out of her pocket.

She’s almost ten minutes late for the consult, and Chris isn’t upset at all, but he definitely looks relieved to see her. And, in Christen’s mind, that only means one thing. He’s gotten nowhere with the patient, and he needs her to help him get the little (fourteen really isn’t all that little, is it?) boy to open up if even just a tiny bit.

“Hey,” she says, knocking on the door to get the room’s attention. Brayden (Satan’s spawn, according to Chris) sobers up as soon as he sets his sights on her, and she smirks slightly at the groan that comes out of her colleague’s mouth. He’s quite possibly one of the cutest teenagers she has ever seen with his barely-there orange hair and his bright blue eyes. “How are we feeling today?”

“Dr. Harris won’t let me leave my room,” the boy grumbles, training a glare at both of the doctors in the room. Though the one he directs at Christen is less malicious, she still flinches a little at it. His face softens as she steps closer, taking a seat on the edge of his bed. “I just wanna go outside. I can’t stand just laying here anymore.”

“I know, buddy,” she replies with a tiny smile. “I promise he’s only doing his job. I know you feel like you have a lot of energy right now, but it won’t always be like this.” She’s not trying to make Brayden mad, but she also knows that the only way to get through to a headstrong teenager is to give them some tough love. So, her only real option is to tell him how it’s going to be. “There’ll be days where all you want to do is run around like the crazy boy we all know you are, but there’ll also be days where you won’t want to get out of bed. Some days will be way tougher than others, and I want you to know that you can always, always, tell Dr. Harris to leave you alone.”

“I already do that. He’s not a very good listener,” Brayden says and all the adults laugh at the male doctor’s expense. “Why can’t you be my doctor? No offense to him but you’re my favorite.”

Christen smiles, her first real smile of the day, and pats his leg with a laugh. “You’re my favorite too,” she winks, and the boy’s cheeks turn a deep shade of red. “But, I’m a baby doctor, and you’re practically a grown man. I promise I’ll visit more if you promise to be nice to Dr. Harris.”

“Nicer?” He whispers causing Christen to laugh out loud and everyone else to wonder what on Earth he’d said that was so funny. She pretends to ponder the offer for a minute before nodding and sticking her hand out for him to shake. He takes it hesitantly, almost skeptically. “I’ll be nicer, but I’m not gonna be his friend.”

She spends the next ten minutes joking around with Brayden and his parents before she decides it’s time to make her way down to the lab. The Johnston baby results should be in, and she’s anxious to learn what she’ll be dealing with. She hopes it’s nothing too serious. She’s had enough of that in the past few months. The world owes her a pretty decent amount of favors. She’s aware that that’s not how it works, but it doesn’t hurt to hope.

“He’s only nice to you because he has a crush on you,” Chris grumbles as he sidles up next to her to wait for the elevator.

She rolls her eyes, stuffing her hands into the pockets of her lab coat. “He’s fourteen, Chris,” she chuckles, stepping into the elevator as it arrives. The lab is on the fourth floor which means she has to stand through an awkward silence for three floors.

She knows exactly what Chris’ problem is. After her last girlfriend completely screwed her over, he’s oddly protective which shouldn’t be weird at all. She’s known him since high school. Sure, he was two grades ahead of her, but she was always at his house hanging out with Ashlyn and Ali. In a way, Chris is like the older brother she never had growing up, so she appreciates when he tries to be all big-brother-like. (Not that he needs to be in this situation considering Brayden is a fourteen-year-old male and she’s very much into twenty-something year old women.) Now’s just not the time because she’s having the actual worst day of her life.

After what feels like the longest elevator ride of her entire life, she arrives on her floor. Muttering her farewell to Chris, she silently makes her way to collect her results. She only stops when she notices that her favorite nurse is sitting at the nurse’s station, but even then she just says hello and passes by with a smile.

Julie’s nose has stopped bleeding by the time Christen arrives back at Melanie’s room with the results. Which is no surprise because nosebleeds don’t usually last more than a couple minutes at most unless something is seriously wrong.

Christen still stands by the fact that the blonde did, indeed, pick her nose. No one will ever change her mind, and she’ll probably end up teasing her about it every single time she sees her.

She has a job to do right now, though, so instead of making fun of the soccer player any further, she pulls a chair up next to her patient’s bed. “Jace has a condition called sleep apnea, which is the absence of breathing for twenty seconds or more depending on the severity of the condition,” she pauses as she thinks the woman is about to ask a question. The only sound that escapes is a muffled cry. Christen’s used to the reaction, but she’s also pretty good at getting the mothers to calm down. “Your son’s case is mild as of right now, but to prevent it from getting worse he has to be hooked up to a machine that’ll help him breathe.”

“For how long?”

The question comes out of Julie’s mouth, which surprises Christen a little, but she answers anyway. “A couple weeks. Once I see that he’s improving, I’ll slowly wean him off of it. There will always be someone watching him, whether it be me or another doctor, while we go through this process, and once he can go a couple nights without needing assistance with his breathing we’ll let him go home.”

“How do you know when to take him off of it?”

Melanie asks the question this time, and Christen smiles. “It’s experimental, really. I usually like to keep it on at all times for three weeks before I try anything unless I see a drastic rise in stats. I’ll let you know before I do anything, though, so you know exactly what’s happening. I like the parents to be involved in as much as they can.”

“Will she have to go home?” Julie asks, biting her lip. “Like, while he’s still in here, will she be allowed to stay? How does that work?”

Christen hums, pursing her lips. “Since there was no C-section or complications during the birth, she’ll be released after 24 hours,” she pauses turning her attention from the blonde to her sister. “You’ll be allowed to come up whenever you want as long as it’s within visiting hours, which range anywhere from 9am until 6pm.”

She stays to chat with the two women until her stomach decides that she needs food, then she makes her way to the cafeteria. She’d skipped breakfast because she’d had a late dinner. If she could even call half of a doughnut and terrible coffee dinner. It’s the perks of being a doctor, she supposes. Here she is, preaching for patients to eat better and at appropriate times, yet she’s doing the complete opposite. How doctor-ly of her.

The hospital’s café is just about packed when she walks in, so she grabs a turkey sandwich and scans the room for a spot to sit. Her eyes widen, and she smiles in satisfaction when she spots Ali in a booth in the back corner away from all of the chatter. Ashlyn’s sitting next to her with a bright-eyed, bushy tailed Carter resting his head on her chest.

“There’s my favorite little guy,” she says quietly as she reaches the table. From the looks of it, he’d just woken up, and she knows from experience that talking loud is a definite no-no in this instance. She sits in the booth across from them, picking her sandwich up, moaning unintentionally at the taste. She really shouldn’t have skipped out on breakfast. “How’s he doing?” She asks after swallowing the bite.

“I think he’s okay?” Ali says with a sideways glance at her wife. “He’s been a little cranky lately, but all babies have those days, right?”

Christen laughs lightly, knowing exactly what Ali’s getting at. Ali has always been a worrier, so she’s not surprised at all. “Calm down, babe,” she smiles as Ashlyn shoots her wife an ‘I told you so’ type of look. “If something major was happening, he’d let you know. Trust me. Babies are the most vocal beings when it comes to their needs.”

The brunette glares at her wife, abandoning her half-eaten sandwich in favor of picking up her phone. She purses her lips, blowing a raspberry before meeting Christen’s eyes. The doctor raises an eyebrow in question, and before Ali can even open her mouth, she knows what’s about to come out. “Do you mind if JJ joins us?” She asks the question tentatively as if Christen is absolutely revolted by the idea of sharing a table with the one woman she can’t stand.

“No,” she shrugs, taking a short swig of her water. “I’ve gotta get back to work anyway. I just thought I’d stop by to see my favorite Krieger for a couple minutes.”

Ali sighs, and Christen can practically feel the disappointment radiating in the air. “I know you don’t like her, but could you at least try to get along with her for my sake? She’s not as bad as she makes herself out to be, you know. Ask Ashlyn,” she says, slapping her wife’s arm lightly.

“I’m with child,” the blonde states with a sassy tilt of her head. Ali ignores her, choosing to just smile cutely instead. “Babe, I’m not hyping Julie up because you’re convinced they’d be a cute—she’s convinced you two would make a cute couple. There, I said it, and maybe you guys would. Who knows? Christen’s obviously not interested though, so you need to let it go.”

Christen laughs at the pout that Ali throws in her wife’s direction, smiling when the blonde leans in to kiss her chastely on the lips. Then she thinks back to the ESPYs and the after party at Heather’s house. Kissing Julie was liberating in a way. It had been a while since she’d let herself go like that. Even saying she let herself go is pushing it considering she drank little to no alcohol whatsoever. If she’s being honest, she’s not surprised that Ali thinks they’d be a cute couple. The brunette has always been set on hooking her up with people she claims are worthy of her best friend’s heart.

Before Christen can reply, the topic of their conversation is sliding into the booth beside her. Her eyes are still a puffy red and her hair is thrown up in a messy bun. It’s evidence enough for Christen to assume that she hasn’t been home since she got here.

She doesn’t say anything when she first sits down, and while Christen isn’t complaining, she’s kind of worried. In the time that she’s known Julie, the defender has been an outspoken, cocky mess. She’s not so sure she prefers quiet, reserved Julie Johnston over that. Ten more minutes pass without a sound from either side of the table, Carter having fell back asleep.

“What are the real chances that Jace actually makes it?” She finally asks, turning to face Christen in the booth. Her right leg curls up on the seat, and she looks so vulnerable that Christen can’t help but feel at least a little bad that she isn’t fond of her. “Because he’s all my sister has. Her boyfriend left her when he found out about Jace, and now he’s early, and I’m a mess. And I need you to just be real with me for once.”

Ashlyn’s eyes widen at her sudden outburst, and while she and Ali both want to be around to support their teammate and friend, they decide that this conversation is better left between the two women and ultimately bid them goodbye.

“I can’t really give you what you want, Julie,” is what comes out of her mouth before she can even think about a genuine heartfelt answer. Technically speaking, she’s not even allowed to discuss this with anyone aside from Melanie. “I can only give you hypotheticals and what ifs.”

Julie rubs her forehead, obviously irritated beyond belief. Christen knows because it’s the same thing she does when things aren’t going her way on the field. Not that she pays a considerable amount of attention to Julie. It’s just easily noticeable during close-ups. “Then give me hypotheticals, Christen. Tell me what happens if he doesn’t start breathing on his own.”

“The worst thing that can happen is he doesn’t make it, Julie. Is that what you want to hear me say?” She whispers harshly. The blonde should know the hypotheticals without Christen having to explain them. This business is pretty black and white for the most part. If the best case scenario doesn’t happen then it’s possible the worst case scenario will. That’s all common sense to Christen, and she wishes Julie would understand that. “He’ll be assisted by the CPAP machine for as long as he’s willing to be.” She can feel herself getting worked up over this. Not only did she have to say goodbye to a patient today and deliver the bad news to the infant’s parents, but now she has to sit here and listen to Julie basically criticize her. “Excuse me,” she says, standing and gathering her trash.

Julie gently grabs her wrist before she can leave the table, grabbing her attention while she’s at it. “I’m terrified. More terrified than I was when I gave away that PK in the semi-finals against Germany. I’ve never been so scared in my life, and I just need someone to tell me that it’s not irrational of me to feel this way. I mean, he’s not even my kid.”

As much as Christen dislikes the woman, the sight of her tearing up is driving her insane. She cradles Julie’s face in her hands, wiping her tears away with a small smile. “It’s okay to be scared. You’re human, after all.” Julie at least laughs a little at that, which will be counted as a win in Christen’s book. “Look, I’m not really allowed to do this, but you kind of look like you could use some sleep,” she pauses, pulling the blonde up by her hand, “and a shower. Definitely a shower.”