After getting the brush off from her wife, Ashlyn had paced around like a bull in a cage for a few minutes. She had then gone down to the hotel gym to work out, hoping it would settle her mind and help her get over her anger about her wife’s attitude. Yes, part of her got why Ali wanted to be left alone but a larger part of her is hurt that Ali won’t lean on her.
Ash does a 30 minute run on the treadmill, followed by weights, and was in the middle of doing her third set on a the dip stand when Major Randolph walks in. She drops to the ground in confusion as he holds some papers out to her.
“Uh, what’s this, sir?”
“It’s Saturday, Lieutenant.”
Ashlyn glances at her watch and sees it is, indeed after midnight and so technically Saturday. “Um, yes, sir.”
“You have off today and tomorrow. Additionally the top paper is your clearance for a 72 hour pass.”
“A pass. It means you have 3 days off. Add in the weekend that should give you enough time to fly to Vancouver, check on your wife, and get your ass back here in time to be in class Thursday.”
“I...I don’t understand, sir. The class ends this week.”
“For the others. You’ll stay the weekend with me and catch up on what you missed. Should still get you back to DC on Sunday so you can report to Belvoir on Monday morning.” He nods to the paperwork she now holds. “You’ll also find the information on your ticket. Huntsville to Denver to Vancouver. Sorry we couldn’t get you a direct flight.”
“Flight? Sir, I am so confused.”
“Your team came to me after you returned from the bar. They told me what happened to your wife. I called Colonel Menninger and he approved the 3 day pass for you. Your team then went to the others in your class and they raised the money for the plane ticket. You see, Lieutenant, the Army takes care of their own in many ways.”
Ashlyn’s eyes fill with tears. “I...I don’t know what to say, sir.”
“Say goodnight, Harris. You need to pack and get to the airport for a very early flight.”
Ashlyn manages to smile. “Yes, sir. Thank you, sir, for everything.”
“I expect you to study some while you’re gone, Harris.”
“I will, sir. I promise.”
He nods. “Good. I hope your wife will be okay.”
“Thank you, Major Randolph.”
They walk out of the gym together. Ashlyn hurries up to her room and packs her backpack, not wanting to worry about checked bags. She puts in a pair of jeans, a few shirts, undies, socks, and bras. She then adds some workout clothes, knowing Ali will probably piss her off and a workout will be needed to blow off steam. She then bags up the two sets of ACUs she had worn that week and hangs them out with a dry cleaning request so they will be ready when she returns. She then tries to go to sleep. She has over 7 hours of flying to look forward to the next day.
“But I’ll be there to help Alex and show her we’re better together,” she says as she tries to will her now excited body to sleep.
Ali is sitting in the doctor’s office waiting on the MRI results. She had purposely “forgotten” her phone in her hotel room knowing Ash would be calling or texting her. As bad as it sounds even to Ali herself, she just doesn’t want to speak to her wife right then.
“So, can I get you anything?”
Ali looks over at the team trainer that is with her. “No, I’m good,” she says with a forced smile.
“Maybe it’s not as bad as it seems. Could be a sprain. Let’s stay positive, okay?”
Ali just nods. She is tired of people telling her to stay positive. She had felt the hit. She’d had sprains and hyperextensions before. This is different. This is the pain Ashlyn had once described to her. Ten minutes later the doctor walks in and sits down at his desk.
“I’m afraid it’s not good, Ms. Krieger. Your ACL and MCL are both torn.” Ali gasps. “Additionally, you’ve also damaged your meniscus. The good news is, you’re in very good shape. Once the swelling goes down some your surgeon should be able to repair everything and then it will simply be a matter of getting back to your playing level.”
“So...I could play again?”
“Yes, I’m sure of it.”
“Well, your surgeon will be able to give you a better time frame once he has seen everything inside and made the repairs. My guess just based on pictures is maybe 8 months or so.”
“But...but that means...no Olympics...” she notes with devastation in her eyes.
“Don’t rule it out yet, Ms. Krieger,” the doctor cautions. “I have simply looked at pictures on a screen. Sometimes once the surgeon sees what’s going on first hand it’s not as bad as it seemed. Now, do you have a doctor you plan to use?”
The trainer sits forward. “We have one we work with in the DC area. He’s been contacted and will be watching for Ali’s MRI and x-rays. He can see her on Friday.”
“Good, good. I’ll make sure he is sent everything we have. What will you do until then?”
“I’ll stay here until Thursday so I can work with the trainers on getting the swelling down,” Ali tells him.
“Good. Well, if you need anything or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call my office.” He stands, signaling the end of the conversation. “Good luck with everything, Ms. Krieger.”
She gets on her crutches and follows the trainer out the door. He glances at her as they walk down the hall.
“Uh, Ali, can I ask a question?” She just shrugs. “Why didn’t you tell him it’s actually Mrs. Harris?”
“Actually it’s Krieger-Harris. But it doesn’t matter. He’s just a temporary doctor and I didn’t feel the need to tell him. That’s my prerogative.”
“Of course it is. I was just curious. So you going to call Ash and let her- -”
“Can we not talk right now? Please?” she interrupts, her nerves on edge.
He nods. As they get in the van he glances at his watch. “Um, we missed the team lunch. Want to stop for something?”
“No. I’ll just order room service. I want to be alone a while.”
“Ah. Okay.” He can see she is slipping into depression. He sighs. “Ali, it’s easy to only see the bad right now. Lean on your friends and your wife. They can help.” He holds up her hand to stop her rant. “That’s all I will say. Promise.”
When they get to the hotel, he lets Ali off right at the front doors before going to join the team at their afternoon session. Ali is thankful to finally be alone. She carefully crutches into the hotel. That morning after the MRI she had gone by the team practice. Getting the hugs from her teammates had almost been harder than anything. The sorrow and pity in their eyes was as painful as her knee. She was happy she was going to have some time to reflect.
And then she sees her wife stand up from the lobby sofa.
They stare at each other a moment, then Ali bursts into tears. Ashlyn is there in a split second. She pulls her wife into a hug.
“I’m here, baby. I’m here. We’ll get through this, baby. We will,” Ashlyn whispers.
“I’m so scared, Ash.”
“I know, honey. I know. Hold on a second.” Ash runs over and grabs her backpack. She slides her textbook into it and slips it on her shoulders. She then hurries back to her wife. “Got your room key?”
“Yeah, right here,” Ali says.
Ashlyn lifts her wife up, careful to keep her injured leg stable. Ali starts to protest but the blonde ignores her and just carries her to the elevator. Once inside, Ash leans her wife near the control panel so Ali can punch in the floor. Ashlyn never sets her wife down until they are in the hotel room.
“Let me get a pillow for your leg,” Ash says as Ali gets settled on the bed.
Once the brunette is comfortable, she studies the woman standing near the dresser.
“How are you here?”
Ashlyn smiles and tells her about her classmates. Ali’s eyes tear up.
“Yeah.” Ash walks over and sits on the edge of the bed. “What did the doctor say?”
Ali grabs a Kleenex and gives her wife the rundown. She wipes her eyes as she can’t stop the tears that seem to flow whenever she thinks about her dwindling Olympic hopes. Ash rubs her thigh comfortingly.
“I say we just stick with the positives for now. I know it’s hard, but it’s all you can do.”
“I’m so scared, Ash.”
“I know. You’re tired, too. Why don’t you try to get some sleep?”
“You look pretty tired, too.”
Ashlyn smiles. “The woman that makes up 99.9% of my world got hurt last night. Kinda made it hard to sleep. And then I was traveling for over 7 hours.”
“You should take a nap. The gals will be excited to see you later.”
She lifts Ali’s hand and kisses it. “All I care about is seeing you, sweetheart. But I tell you what: I’ll nap if you nap.”
Ali smiles and scoots over farther in the bed so Ash can rest on the side of Ali’s good leg. “Deal.”
Ash smiles and unties her boots and kicks them off. She takes off her ACU jacket and lays it neatly on the dresser. Her pants follow a moment later. She then crawls into bed beside her wife. She slides an arm under Ali’s head and nuzzles her as close as she can.
“I love you, Alex. I will be beside you every step of the way as we work to keep your Olympic dream alive.”
Ali finally stops fighting the tears. She lets them flow, sobbing and clinging to her wife. Ash just holds her, stroking her hair comfortingly.
“That’s it, baby. Get it all out. No need to fight it, honey, just let your emotions go.”
She kisses her temple and holds her close even after Ali cries herself to sleep. Sure they will eventually need to talk about Ali’s initial dodging of Ash but for now the blonde is just happy her wife is getting some much needed rest.
Heather Mitts eases open the hotel room door as quietly as she can. She hears nothing and hopes it means Ali is asleep. She gets around the wall that closes off the bathroom and nearly squeals when she sees Ali is, in fact, sleeping. And she is sleeping very well cuddled in the arms of her wife. She turns around and hurries out into the hall to see everyone.
“She’s asleep! With Ashlyn!”
“Ashlyn? Is she AWOL or what?” Abby asks in concern.
Mitts’ face pales. Everyone can completely see Ashlyn going AWOL to make sure her wife is okay. Abby, Christie and Mitts all enter the room. Abby walks over and taps Ashlyn on the shoulder, careful not to jostle Ali. Ashlyn just moans.
“Ashlyn!” she whispers harshly. Still nothing. She looks over at the others. Christie just shrugs. Abby turns back and slaps Ashlyn’s arm. “ASHLYN!” she whispers a little louder.
This time Ashlyn jumps and rolls over, her eyes barely open. “What the fuck?”
“Dude, are you AWOL?” Abby demands to know.
Ashlyn starts to chuckle when she sees the concern in her friend’s eyes. “No. Now leave me alone.” She starts to roll back over but Abby pokes her. “What, dammit?”
“Are you sure?”
“Fuck, Abby, I am not AWOL but I am damn near exhausted, as is my wife. Give us a couple hours and we’ll explain everything, okay?”
“Okay. Uh, sorry. Unless you’re lying to me in which case I will kick your ass later,” Abby warns.
Ashlyn just grins. “Love you, too.”
Ashlyn rolls back towards her wife and settles back into her nap. Mitts, Christie and Abby stare at the two a moment then step back towards the door.
“Hopefully Ashlyn will get Ali to really talk about what’s going to happen the next few days and what it could mean for this summer,” Christie notes.
“Ali was shutting me out last night. I’m glad Ash is here. She’ll help Ali start to process everything,” Mitts tells them.
Cap and Abby leave and Mitts grabs a change of clothes so she can shower and relax a little before the team dinner.
Ali’s eyes slowly flutter open as she feels a lock of hair being moved off her face. She stares into eyes filled with love and smiles.
“You’re really here.”
“Of course I am, baby,” Ashlyn whispers and leans in to give her a kiss. “So, you ready to talk about your knee yet?”
“Fair enough. What about dinner with the team? Mittsy let me know it’s in about 20 minutes and Pia said I am welcome to join. But if you’d rather order in that’s fine.”
Ali strokes a hand down Ashlyn’s cheek. “Let’s go down. Everyone will want to see you and maybe you’ll help deflect questions off of me.”
“Okay. And I’ll need to book a hotel room, too.”
“Right. I guess three is a crowd, right?” Ali grins.
Ashlyn slowly sits up and stretches. Ali takes a moment to admire her wife’s hard body. The soldier glances over and sees the light in the brown eyes. She grins.
“Like what you see, baby?”
“No?” Ash frowns.
Ali grabs Ash’s hand and pulls her close. “I love what I see.”
The women smile and share a smoldering kiss. When it ends, Ash stands and starts to get back into her clothes. She pulls on her ACU jacket and sees her wife is still staring hungrily at her. She grins.
“At ease, Krieger.”
“I’ll have you know it’s Krieger-Harris, something I am damn proud of,” Ali corrects.
Ashlyn just grins as she pulls on her boots and ties them. She looks at her wife. “Do you need the bathroom, Mrs. Krieger-Harris?”
“Yep. Need to freshen up a bit.”
“As you wish.”
Ashlyn walks over and easily lifts her wife into her arms. Ali moans.
“Do you know how sexy it is when you do this?”
Ashlyn just winks. “Hell yeah.”
Ali laughs as her wife deposits her in the bathroom. Fifteen minutes later they are on their way out the door. Ali turns the handle and Ash hooks the door with her ankle to open it all the way. Kelley happens to be passing by and sees them.
“Whoa! Let me get the door!”
She holds the door open as Ash carries her wife into the hallway. Kelley grins.
“If I stub my toe will you carry me, too?” she teases.
Ash grins. “Sorry. Only the wife gets to ride me,” she wiggles her eyebrows to stress the double entendre. Ali just rolls her eyes as KO blushes and walks with them to the elevator.
“You look hot in uniform, Ash. Good thing you’re married.”
“Yep. There’s only one woman I care about thinking I’m sexy. Luckily it is the beautiful woman in my arms who agreed to wear my wedding band.”
“And dog tags. She wears your dog tags, too,” Kelley adds. “We think it’s cute as heck. Especially when she has to take them off and gives them a quick kiss before tucking them away.”
“KELLEY!” Ali scolds, blushing.
Ash smiles. “You do that? Really?”
“Yes,” Ali admits quietly.
Ash kisses her cheek. “Thanks, baby. That means a lot to me.”
Kelley gets the door to the conference room so Ash can walk in with no problems. As they enter, several players see them and they are greeted with a round of “Awwws.” Ali just blushes and tucks her head into Ash’s shoulder.
“Sit her here, Harris,” Abby calls, motioning to a chair that already has another chair ready for Ali’s leg.
“Yes, ma’am,” Ash says and walks over to gently place her wife down. She then looks up and sees the irritated look on Abby’s face. “Uh, what?”
“Ma’am? Seriously?” Abby asks as several people snicker.
“Oops. Sorry. Habit, Abs.”
“Right,” Abby replies with a smirk.
Ashlyn stands and follows the forward to the buffet line and quickly makes up a plate of Ali’s favorites. She then gets her a lemonade and returns to the table.
“Need anything else, sweetheart?”
“No, Ash, I’m good.”
Ashlyn nods and goes back to help herself to dinner. At the table, HAO leans towards Ali.
“Damn she looks good in that uniform, too! I mean, she looked good in her dress uni but wow! And carrying you like that? And not even out of breath? Damn, Al!”
Ali grins smugly. “You got that right.”
Ashlyn has just set her dinner down when someone pats her on the back. She turns and smiles at the NT coach.
“Hey, Coach. How’s it going?”
“Good to see you, Ash,” Pia says, pulling the former keeper into a hug. “You look good. We miss you here.”
“Thanks. Some days I really miss being here but I know I made the right choice.”
“I’m happy for you. And I’m glad you’re here. Your wife definitely needs you right now.”
Ashlyn looks down at her love. “I know. Thankfully I work with some good people that made this happen.” She looks back to Pia. “We’ll be working to get her back to you ASAP. Whatever it takes. She’ll be better than ever.”
Pia nods. “I believe it. How long are you here for?”
“I have to fly back Wednesday morning.”
“Well, you’re welcome at all meals. You’re one of us and always will be.”
“Thanks, Coach. I appreciate that.”
Pia pats her shoulder and walks away. Ash sits down and notices everyone grinning at her. “What?”
“You stood at attention. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you stand at attention for a coach,” Tobin notes.
Ashlyn blushes. “Habit,” she blames again.
“And an adorable one at that,” Ali gushes as she pinches Ash’s cheek.
Ash laughs and pulls away then settles in to eat and catch up with her friends on the team.
At dinner the couple had learned that Mittsy decided to room with a couple others to give the couple time to themselves. Pia approved the move, knowing her number 1 right back was not going to playing the rest of the tournament. In the morning, Ali goes to work a bit with the trainers, while Ashlyn has a workout in the hotel gym and then settles in for some studying. When she hears the key in the door, she leaps up from the desk and runs over just as Ali gets the door open.
“Baby, why didn’t you call me?” Ashlyn scolds.
“I just needed time to myself,” Ali says. She carefully sits down on the bed then chucks her crutches away. “Stupid, fucking pieces of tin,” she mumbles.
Ashlyn sighs and sits down on the other bed facing her wife. “I guess we need to discuss the next steps?”
“Surgery, rehab,” Ali states. “What the hell else is there to know?”
“Right. I guess it’s a good thing we’re still living with your dad, then. That way if I get called away he’ll be around to help you.”
“Maybe,” Ali whispers.
“Maybe? What do you mean maybe? You can’t possibly be considering our own place now, are you?” Ashlyn asks incredulously.
“You hungry? I’m hungry. But I don’t want to be around the team. Can we just order in?”
Ashlyn studies the brunette a moment. “Sure. But don’t think I’m forgetting what you said about your dad. We can talk more after lunch.”
“Okay. So, uh, what are you studying?”
The couple spends the rest of the morning together. Ashlyn tells Ali a little about her classes. They watch a movie. They order in lunch. Finally the blonde glances at the clock.
“Uh, shouldn’t you be getting ready to go back to the trainers for a while? I mean, the team will be leaving for the afternoon session soon.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
Ashlyn takes her wife’s hands and turns to stare into her eyes. “Alex, you’ll come back from this. You are a warrior not just in name. You will come back better than ever. I know you will.”
“So, I am going to schedule the surgery for as soon as possible,” Ali states, ignoring her wife’s encouragement. “Then I’ll do some rehab in Northern Virginia.” She takes a deep breath. “Then we’ll see what happens.”
Ash takes a deep breath. “Alex, I think...as soon as the docs clear it...you should report back to Frankfurt.”
Ali looks up sharply. “What? Why?”
“You know as well as I do they’ll set you up with a 9-5 rehab program that will bring you back better and faster. I know it will suck being so far away but I think it will be best for your career.”
“So you’d want me to go away while still hurting? What kind of monster are you?”
“Sweetheart, I’m not a monster. I want what’s best for you. You know that.”
“Oh, and sending me off is best for me? Maybe it’s best for you? I’ve seen the way even straight women stare at you, especially in uniform. Maybe that’s why you want me so far away,” Ali accuses.
Ashlyn sits back like she’s been slapped. “Okay, I can either chalk that up to you being cruel because you’re in pain or you are a true asshole. Which is it, honey?” she laces the term of affection with sarcasm.
“I just don’t want us split up right now, Ash!” Ali hollers. “Can’t you understand that? I’m scared you’ll suddenly think I’m not good enough if I’m not on the National Team.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake, Alex: I love YOU, not your jersey. And you going away for a few months won’t change that! It will be like you are deployed instead of me. It’s something we need to get used to. Are you really so worried that our relationship is so fragile it can’t withstand a separation?” Ashlyn asks in frustration.
Ali doesn’t answer right away. Her eyes flicker with doubt. And those two things are all Ash needs to see. She drops Ali’s hands and stands.
“Holy shit...you really don’t trust us if we’re apart? Are you fucking kidding me? What is it, Alex? My old reputation? Or are you worried you’ll suddenly prefer dick to pussy again?” she asks harshly.
“ASHLYN! STOP! I’m not going to suddenly like guys again.”
“Oh, so it IS my old reputation. Good to fucking know.”
Ashlyn grabs her wallet and storms out of the room, ignoring Ali calling after her. She heads down to the hotel restaurant and drops into a seat at the bar.
“Jack and ginger, please. Make it a double,” she asks the bartender.
The bartender nods and soon serves up the drink to the angry-looking blonde. Ash stares into the amber liquid, wondering how many it will take to erase the conversation she had just had from her mind.
The team gets back to the hotel about 4. As they are walking through the lobby, Lori glances into the restaurant and stops.
Abby follows her eyes and sees the still angry blonde at the bar. Abby sighs. “I got this.”
“You sure? If she’s drunk you may need help,” Lori cautions.
“I’m sure. If that changes, I’ll call you. See you at dinner.”
Lori nods and gets into the elevator with Mittsy, HAO and Lauren. She tells them where Abby is going and the other ladies sigh, knowing Ali’s depression probably led to the former keeper’s bad mood.
Abby walks in and drops onto the stool beside her friend. “Jack and ginger?” Ashlyn nods. “Ah, the happy couple. Good drink. How many have you had?”
“This is my first.”
“Ah, so you just got here?”
“Nope. Been here a couple hours. Just...too many people in my family go to liquor to solve problems. I’m trying to solve the problem before I drink.”
“I see. So what’s the problem? Maybe I can help?”
Ashlyn laughs humorlessly. “Got a way to erase my old college reputation? I mean, I swear, Abby, I have not even thought about sleeping with another woman since Alex and I started dating. So to find out she doesn’t trust us enough to spend months apart fucking hurts. Like, hurts like I can’t even explain! How the hell will she handle it if I get a yearlong deployment? If she doesn’t trust me we’re done before we’ve barely gotten started in this marriage.”
Abby pats her on the back. “From the beginning, Ash.”
Ashlyn twirls her glass as she tells Abby about the conversation she and Ali had regarding her next steps in getting back in the game. Abby just nods her head. She is impressed that Ashlyn was willing to suggest Frankfurt as the best avenue for Ali, even though it meant separation. And she was disappointed that Ali used ancient history as an excuse to not want rehab. Truth is: Ali is scared she won’t make it back so she is deflecting her feelings using other excuses.
“Ash, if she didn’t trust you, you’d have been broken up long ago.”
“Oh, really? Then why have I been sitting down here so long and she hasn’t even tried to call or text me?”
“Because she knows she is wrong. And she is still scared. She’s probably just hoping you’ll return when you’re not mad and she can apologize in person.” Abby’s phone starts to ring. She answers as Ashlyn mulls over what the forward has said. “Hey, Lor,” Abby answers. She listens a second. “Oh, fuck. Okay, we’ll be right up.”
Ashlyn’s head whips towards her friend. It had to be about Ali. Abby reaches over and grabs Ash’s phone off the bar and tries to get it come on. She sighs.
“Your battery is dead, Ash.”
Ashlyn frowns and takes the phone. She tries to get it to come on. “Well, fuck...”
“That was Lori. Ali is a wreck. She thinks you’ve left her. Like, left her, left her, not just stormed out of the room. That in itself should tell you she’s not emotionally stable right now, Ash. She doesn’t get hysterical just because you two have a disagreement.”
“Well, fuck...” Ashlyn mutters again. She knocks back the drink and stands.
“Got a solution?” Abby asks.
“Yeah. We need to talk. Like really talk and listen to each other. But first I need to remind her this band of gold I wear means I am dedicated wholly and completely to her. She needs to know that and never, ever doubt it. It fucking hurts that she does.”
“She doesn’t, Ash. I promise you she doesn’t.”
The two get up and head upstairs. They find a small group of people in the room with Ali. Abby nods to several, silently telling them to get out. Ash walks over to where HAO holds a sobbing Ali. She kneels down beside the bed.
“Alex...” she says softly.
Ali stares at her a moment, then leaps into her arms. Ashlyn just holds her close.
“I’msorry. I’msosorry,” Ali rambles hysterically.
“Shhh, baby. It’s okay. We’re okay, honey. I promise. We’re okay.”
Everyone exits the room, letting the couple work through their problems in peace. After a few minutes, Ali sits back.
“It’s not you, it’s me.”
Ashlyn gives her a sly grin. “Oh, that old cliché?”
Ali chuckles as she wipes her cheeks. “Yeah, that did sound cheesy, didn’t it?” She takes a deep breath. “I’m struggling emotionally, Ashlyn. Last time I had an injury this bad...I nearly died. And now I can’t help but worry about that and I can’t help but think you’re not going to want to deal with everything this injury could entail. And then you suggested Frankfurt and my first thought was it was a way for you to get rid of me. I know, I know,” she says stopping Ashlyn’s protest, “it wasn’t. Baby, I trust you with my heart and my life. That was all my own doubts just bubbling over and finding a way to blame you for the crappy way I was feeling. I am so, so sorry. You didn’t deserve that especially considering the sacrifices you are making to be here for me. I am so sorry I hurt you.”
Ashlyn leans forward and kisses Ali’s forehead. “I forgive you. And I’m sorry I forgot to charge my phone last night. We could have solved this long ago if I’d done something that simple.”
Ali smiles. “I should be used to that by now.”
Ash blushes. “Sadly, that’s true.” She takes a deep breath. “So, um, what about what I suggested?”
Ali bites her lip a moment. “I want to play again. I want to be better than I was before this injury. I want to make it impossible for Pia to keep me off the team.” She takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. “And I think that means Frankfurt.”
Ashlyn nods. “Me, too. But know that whatever you decide, I back you 100%. You make the call, Alex. Okay?”
“Okay.” She runs her hand down Ashlyn’s cheek. “I love you so much. Thank you for...for always having my back and being my number 1 supporter.”
“You never have to thank me for that. I love you, Alex. No one will ever mean to me what you do. And no woman will ever hold a candle to the beauty you have inside and out. You’re it for me, baby. Have been since our first date. Trust that.”
Ali leans in and gives her wife a tender kiss. “I do.”
After the emotional afternoon, the two women lay down to rest a little before dinner at 6 with the rest of the team.
Ashlyn finishes zipping up her backpack and turns to her wife. Ali sits on the bed, her knee on a pillow with a bag of ice. Tears run down her cheeks but not because of the injury. Ash walks over and sits down beside her, running a hand through her hair.
“No crying, baby. I’ll be back in DC Sunday night with you. And by then we’ll know the next step in your recovery.”
“Actually, I’m crying because I am just so thankful for you. I didn’t know how much I needed you here until I was in your arms. You made this seem...seem...God, not bearable because it isn’t but you helped me see there are more possibilities than the only one I saw: career ender.”
Ashlyn smiles. “No way this ends your career. You’re Ali Freakin’ Krieger-Harris. You scored the game winner against Brazil. You are the best damn right back in the world. And you are super sexy.”
“What does that last part have to do with my knee?” she asks with a giggle.
Ash shrugs. “Nothing. I just happen to like that part. A lot,” she adds, wiggling her eyebrows. Ali laughs and the blonde pulls her close. “I love you, Mrs. Krieger-Harris. Call me Friday as soon as you get an answer from the surgeon. If I’m in class, and let’s face it I probably will be, leave a message and I will call you as soon as I can, okay?”
“And know if it wouldn’t get me slammed in the stockade I’d be there with you talking to the docs.”
“I know,” Ali says, stroking her cheek. “I love you so much, Ashlyn. Thank you for loving me, sweetheart.”
“Easiest job in the world,” Ashlyn says and pulls her wife close.
The women get lost in a kiss, trying to convey to each other that everything will be okay. They finally pull apart when there is a knock on the door. Ashlyn smooths down Ali’s hair.
“That’s my ride,” she says with a choked voice.
“Yeah. God, why are we being all sappy? We’ll be back together in a few days.”
“It’s okay, Alex. You’re just upset you won’t see my sexy body for a few days. I get it,” Ashlyn teases as Ali slaps her.
“You’re so bad.”
“I know.” She takes a deep breath. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
They share another hug and kiss. Then like ripping off a Band-Aid, Ashlyn stands, grabs her pack, double checks that her phone and wallet are in her pockets, then heads for the door. She pauses to wave. Ali smiles through her tears and waves back.
Ashlyn steps out into the hall to find most of the team standing there. She gives them a smile. “Take care of her for me.”
“You know we will,” Pinoe says. “You take care of yourself no matter where the Army takes you.”
She gives everyone a hug, thankful when she sees Mittsy and HAO head inside the room to be with Ali. She takes a deep breath.
“I love you, guys. Give ’em hell this tourney.”
“Next goal is for you,” Abby promises and pats Ash on the shoulder.
Ashlyn nods and quickly walks away before her friends can see her tears. When she gets down to the lobby she is surprised to find Pia waiting for her. The coach shakes her hand.
“We’ll take care of her until tomorrow. Then I am trusting you to do what’s best for her, not necessarily what’s best for me.”
Ashlyn smiles. “I understand. We came up with some plans last night that I think will get her back on the pitch soon. Maybe even in time for the Olympics. Don’t count her out too soon.”
Pia smiles. “Ali Krieger would be hard to count out no matter what the injury.” She offers her hand. “Good luck and stay safe.”
“I will, Coach. Thanks,” Ashlyn shakes her hand then goes out to catch her cab to the airport. In her heart she hopes Ali can defy all medical expectations and make it to the Olympics. In her opinion, her wife deserved her shot at Gold. Of course...some may say she’s a bit biased. She sits back in the seat and sighs. “You can do it, Alex. I know you can,” she whispers as the hotel drifts out of sight.