A day after Ali leaves for the Algarve Cup, Ashlyn goes overseas with Major Nettles and Colonel Menninger to help them follow up on some of the activities their teams had gotten running in Thailand. This was a trip where Menninger would be gathering facts and testimonials to prove the value of his teams to the Department of Defense and the members of Congress who sit on the United States Senate Armed Services Committee. With so much being spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there had been a lot of people asking why we bother with sending help to third world countries who don’t seem to appreciate it. And people also want to know why the millions spent on these teams isn’t being spent on people who need it right here in the U.S.A.
“I hate politics,” Menninger mumbles on day 4.
“Right there with you, sir,” Ashlyn agrees as she enters information on yet another purchase order in the stat sheet Menninger will need.
“Sir, I think I have something you need to see,” Nettles states as he walks into the small hut Menninger is using as his HQ.
“This, sir,” Nettles says and offers a tablet computer to him.
Menninger takes it and hits play. Ashlyn is typing until she hears her voice coming out of the tablet.
“No, sorry, kids, I have to go.”
“Nooooo!” multiple kids yell.
Ashlyn laughs. “Okay, okay, one more game.”
Ashlyn leaps up. “What the hell is that?” The men look at her in surprise at the uncharacteristic lack of rank decorum. “Um, sirs?”
Nettles chuckles. “It’s you and 3 of your men giving out toys and soccer balls. Then you playing with the kids. At the start of this film, these kids have dead eyes, they aren’t smiling, they are...are lethargic. What you and your boys did that day gave them a new lease on life.” He turns back to Menninger. “You show that to our doubters and they’ll have to shut their mouths. We build homes, we build businesses, and we restore lives, one child at a time.”
Ashlyn is blushing furiously. Menninger replays the whole video once more and then sits back in his seat. He slowly nods.
“Any asshole who questions us saving kids and making their lives better will look really bad in the press.”
“Damn right,” Nettles agrees.
Menninger thinks a moment then looks at Ashlyn. “What do you say, Lieutenant. Mind if I use this to get a point across?”
Ashlyn wants to say no; wants to keep her name out of political circles and just do her job. Then she realizes she may not have a job if the funding for these teams is cut. She slowly nods.
“Use it, sir. My desire for anonymity pales in comparison to the lives lost and spirits crushed if our teams are disbanded.” She slowly sits down. “Thank you for asking, Colonel.”
He gives her a nods. “You’ve always made me proud, Harris. Keep that up.”
Ashlyn chuckles. “Yes, sir.”
The team continues to gather information until March 7. That morning, Menninger packs up everything he has, ready to go pull it together in a PowerPoint presentation he can give to the Congressional money men. As Ashlyn closes her last evidence box, Menninger walks over and hands her a piece of paper.
“Good job, Harris. Not just this week but every day since the day you showed up at Belvoir.”
Ashlyn smiles. “Thank you, sir.” Her eyes glance down at the paper she is holding and her head snaps back up. “Sir? What’s this?”
“It’s called a pass, Lieutenant,” he answers with a grin.
She blushes and chuckles. “I, uh, got that part, sir. But why?”
“You’ve earned it, Harris. In other news, a cargo plane leaves in 20 minutes for Spain. From there you can get a jump to Portugal. That’s a four day pass that starts tomorrow. That will give you Tuesday through Friday off from work, plus the weekend.” He pauses and smiles. “Tell your wife hello for me.”
Ashlyn smiles. She nods. “I’ll tell her. Thank you so much, sir.”
“As I said, you’ve earned it. Now get your gear and get on the plane. They are expecting you but won’t wait.”
Ashlyn starts towards the door. “Got it. Thank you again, sir. And give ‘em hell in DC.”
He chuckles. “I will, Lieutenant. I will.”
As soon as she clears the door she breaks into a run, eager to get her bags and get on the plane to start her trip to her wife and friends.
The USWNT is gathering in the lobby of their hotel. They are getting ready to go out for their team dinner the night before their second match of the 2013 Algarve Cup. Ali’s eyes light up when she sees her phone ringing. “Hey, baby! How’s it going?”
“Going great. In fact, our fact gathering trip ended this morning.”
“Yeah. Even better is Colonel Menninger gave me a 4 day pass that starts tomorrow and arranged a couple of flights to get me to Portugal.”
“ARE YOU SERIOUS?!” Ali screams excitedly, drawing looks from her teammates. “When will you get here?”
The answer Ali gets is not from the phone. It is from right behind the team.
“About 5 minutes ago.”
Everyone spins around. Yael and Broon are nearly knocked to the floor as Ali pushes past them to leap into the arms of her wife. Ashlyn smiles at how happy her wife is, not to mention the other players. She has just put Ali back down and started to greet the team when the coaching staff arrives. Tom Sermanni steps through his players to the ACU-clad blonde.
“Something tells me you know this soldier, Krieger,” he says with a smile.
Ali’s beaming smile is on full display as she nods. “Yes, sir, I do. Tom Sermanni, this is Ashlyn Harris, my wife.”
“Ah, the woman behind the dog tags,” he says offering his hand for her to shake.
Ashlyn smiles, nodding. “Yes, sir. Good to finally meet you. Ali has said a lot of nice things about you.”
“Obviously not after I’ve had the team doing sprints,” he jokes. “I’ve heard a lot about you, too, Harris. Thank you for your service in some fairly ugly circumstances. And thank you for pushing this one,” he gestures to Ali, “to get better.”
“First was my honor, second was my pleasure, sir.” She turns to Ali. “Well, you all head on to dinner. I have a room here so give me a shout when- -”
“You’re welcome to join us, Harris,” Sermanni offers.
Ashlyn blushes. “Oh, no, sir. It’s team dinner and no one outside the team should be there.”
“My team, my rules. I insist, Harris. My way of thanking you for everything.”
Ashlyn looks at Ali, who nods. She then looks at the others to see if they care.
“Come on, Ash. We want coach to get to know you. It’ll be better to have you there as we tell embarrassing stories about you,” Pinoe insists with a grin.
“If you guys are sure,” Ash says, this time looking at Carli, who is very team-focused especially the night before the game.
Carli rolls her eyes. “It’s only my family I ban, Ash. Unless our parents have been lying to us I think it’s fine for you to go.”
Ashlyn chuckles and wraps her arm around Ali’s shoulders. “In that case I accept.” She looks at Sermanni. “Thanks, Coach.”
He nods and the group leaves the hotel to start the two block walk to the hotel. As they walk, Whitney walks over and wraps Ashlyn’s waist up from the side opposite Ali.
Ashlyn grins and pulls her wife and best friend close. “Two hot chicks in my arms. Life is GOOD!”
Everyone chuckles as Whit and Ali both slap her in the stomach.
“So besides still being a pig, how have you been?” Whitney asks her best friend.
“I’ve been good. This trip the only danger I was in was possibly a paper cut. The Armed Forces Committee is considering cutting our budget. That would essentially cause us to lose 2 of the rapid response teams. This was to gather everything we could to show why what we do is so vital and how it ends up saving time and money in the end by getting things running smoothly and adjusting needs faster than a slow roll-out.”
“Cool. I’ve been watching what your teams do,” Becky joins in. “It is amazing to me to see areas go from nothing left to livable conditions so quickly. I can’t imagine how that could happen if you all rolled in days later instead of hours later.”
“You’re right, it couldn’t. We go with rations, buildings, water, and basic medical equipment. We’re able to immediately call for increases to what is being brought and arrange for medical flights for the seriously wounded. By the time doctors and nurses show up, we have a facility built for them and the medics have triaged the worst of the patients. Some of the military doctors were able to give us documentation on the number of lives they would have lost if aid had been delayed even by just a day. Our argument is strong. We just have to hope the politicians listen.”
Becky nods. “And good luck with that one. Hopefully you have more than just stats to show them.”
“Yeah, you need something to hit them in the heart,” Whitney adds.
Ashlyn blushes, her mind on the video. “Uh, well, they have one thing that a local shot and gave to my major. Hopefully it will help them see the humanity not just the numbers.”
Ali grins, recognizing the look in her wife’s eyes. “It’s you. What are you doing in the video?”
Ashlyn sees several are waiting for an answer and she sighs. “Playing soccer with a bunch of kids.”
She tells them about walking into a little village where just about every building had been taken to the ground. Men, women and children walked around in a daze. They hadn’t had much and now it was all gone, taken by the tsunami that had run through the town like a soulless demon. After getting basic needs taken care of, Ashlyn had pulled out the sack of toys and balls. She and her men had started handing them out and sad, little faces had come alive.
“Some of those kids had never even had toys. One little guy was so cute with his teddy bear. He carried it on his hip like parents carry kids. He hugged, it talked to it, loved on it just like his parents had obviously loved him. Some of the older kids begged us, through our interpreter, to play with them. So a few of us set up some make shift goals and started a soccer match. I’m not even sure what the teams were because it was just about having fun. Parents, grandparents, all watched and were smiling. With a bag of toys and 10 minutes time, we had that whole village believing things could be okay.” She pauses. “So, Colonel Menninger is going to play it when he presents to the committee.”
Becky wipes a tear from her eye. “That’s amazing, Ash! Oh, I wish we could see that just to see those little faces.”
“Seriously, that is the coolest thing I’ve ever heard,” Abby says, patting Ash on the back.
Ashlyn smiles. “It’s always the best part of my trips. I’ve even thought about maybe contacting Nike or Adidas or Wilson to see if they’d donate shoes and balls and stuff. The more we can take the better things can be but my budget for that stuff is crazy low.”
Abby and Christie exchange a look.
“I’ll call Adidas,” Christie volunteers.
“I’ll call Nike,” Abby offers.
Ashlyn’s eyes widen. “Oh, wait...seriously, guys, I wasn’t asking you to do that!”
“I know. We offered, Ash,” Christie replies.
“If we all call, maybe they will act faster,” HAO points out.
“Then let’s just do it,” Sydney puns, making everyone chuckle.
Ashlyn slowly shakes her head. “You guys are amazing. Thank you.”
“Any time, Ash. Any time,” Abby says sincerely.
Ali smiles, tears in her eyes. Her love for this team had just grown exponentially. She squeezes her wife’s waist. Ashlyn tilts her head and kisses Ali’s temple. This surprise trip had just given her heart a bigger boost than she would have ever predicted.
Ashlyn gives Ali a kiss the morning of the China game. “Good luck, baby. I’ll be in the stands cheering the loudest.”
Ali grins. “Maybe today I’ll score a goal for you.”
Ashlyn laughs. “Maybe, my right back. Just make sure it’s in the other team’s goal.”
Ali pushes her playfully. “Jerk.”
They hug and kiss again.
“A whole freakin’ hotel at their disposal and they can’t get a room!” Pinoe hollers across the hotel lobby.
“Yeah! Getting all mackin’ and gross right there in public. Ewwww!” Sydney echoes.
Ashlyn pulls her blushing bride into a protective embrace. “Y’all are just jealous you don’t have anyone as gorgeous as this woman to kiss.”
“Ooooh, that is smooooth,” Whitney says. “No wonder she always had dates in college.”
Everyone laughs as Ashlyn steps back from her wife. “Can’t wait to see you play, baby.”
“I’ll see you after the game.”
They kiss once more then Ali joins her team in filing out to the bus. Ashlyn waves goodbye then goes inside to get a bite to eat before heading to the field to watch the US play China.
Ashlyn had not expected this trip to pop up. As such, she is in clothes borrowed from members of the team. She looks at herself in the mirror and nods.
“I look pretty good in Hope’s pants and Abby’s shirt,” she praises herself.
One thing is for sure, she truly did feel like she was still part of the USWNT family. She gathers all her things and slips into her sneakers, which she had luckily had in case she had a chance to work out. In 30 minutes, she is making her way to her seat in the stands as the US subs move to the bench while the starters wait to file out for the anthems. She shakes hands with a few of the officials sitting in the stands reserved for special guests then sits to await her wife’s entrance.
When the teams and refs take the pitch, Ashlyn is hollering and whistling along with the crowd. She smiles brightly as Ali glances her way, lifts her dog tags up, and gives them a kiss. Ashlyn gives her a thumbs up to show she had seen. When the US scores in the 14th minute, Ashlyn leaps to her feet.
“YES, SYD! WAY TO GO!”
But when she sees the play start to develop in the 32nd minute, Ashlyn’s heart really starts to pound. She watches the cross take flight, sees her wife do a little hop and connect with the ball.
“YES! ALEX! YES!” Ashlyn is screaming and jumping as her wife scores her first official international goal.
Ali grabs the crest on her jersey and signals #1 as her smile beams wider than ever. Yael gets to her first and envelops her in a hug, soon followed by the rest of her teammates. When she finally gets out of the mob, she looks up towards her wife and brings her hands up in the shape of a heart. Ashlyn smiles and returns the gesture, mouthing, “I love you” to the elated right back. A man in the stands claps Ashlyn on the back.
“That was a heck of a goal!”
Ashlyn smiles proudly. “Damn right it was, sir. She’s earned it.”
“Yes, she has. It’s great to see her back better than ever.”
“Always knew she would be,” Ashlyn says, her eyes on her wife as play resumes.
“Just wish we could have still seen you out there, too, Harris. You were great at the U-19 Cup and through all our development squads.”
Ashlyn frowns in confusion and slowly turns to face the man. Her eyes widen when she sees who she is talking with. “Mr. Gulati, I...didn’t realize it was you, sir. I didn’t see you there,” she says to the president of the USSF.
He smiles. “I slipped in just after the game started. I guess you’re just here for the end of the tournament?”
“Actually, I am on a pass that only lasts until Sunday. I’ll get to see the Sweden game before flying home.”
“That’s a shame. If the team keeps playing this well they should be a lock for the championship,” Gulati notes.
Ashlyn nods. “Definitely. But duty calls, unfortunately.”
“Yes, it does.” He pats her on the shoulder. “I’m sad you’re not in our pool anymore but I am proud to know you’re serving your country, and the world really, the way you are. I brag on that quite a bit.”
She smiles. “Thank you, sir. I miss the game but I know I’m where I am meant to be.”
He nods and she turns her attention back to the game. She erupts when Pinoe puts up goal 3 in the 46th and then gives Ash a salute. She is thrilled to see newcomer Press continue to show why she is the hot up and comer on the team. And then to prove that it is just a day that Ash can call her own, a fifth goal goes in in the 83rd, making her leap up and down again.
“WHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT! YEAH, BABY!”
Having her wife and best friend both garner goals as they ran up from the defense makes this the sweetest game Ashlyn has ever watched.
“I’m going to have to buy the colonel something damn nice before I leave to thank him,” she tells herself.
When the final whistle blows, Ashlyn races down to the barrier at the end of the stands. She doesn’t have to wait long for #11 to race over to greet her. Ash quickly scales the fence and drops down in time to grab up her wife in her arms.
“FUCKING INCREDIBLE, BABY!”
They share a passionate kiss. Ali leans back.
“I scored for you,” she says, her smile still ear to ear.
Ashlyn nods. “You sure did. Maybe your coach will give me a chance to thank you later by letting you score again.”
Ali’s eyes darken with lust. “Hopefully.”
The two kiss again, slowly forgetting they are not alone in the stadium. Their hands stay above clothes but they are definitely caressing each other.
And then multiple streams of water hit them.
“WHOA!” they both exclaim as they jump apart.
Ali’s teammates are laughing at them.
“Uh, Krieger, did you forget about a quick team meeting after the game? I know it’s a new thing. I mean, we’ve only been doing since 1985,” Christie jokes.
Ali blushes. “Um. Sorry.” She looks at Ash. “I gotta go.”
Ashlyn nods and kisses her nose. “I know. See you at the hotel, baby. I’m so happy for you.” She looks up and meets Whit’s eyes. “Happy for you, too.”
“So do I get a big kiss, too?” she taunts.
Ashlyn frowns. “Ew! That’d be like kissing my sister. Go away!”
The team laughs. After a quick kiss goodbye, Ali runs off to join her team as Ashlyn makes her way out of the stadium to catch a cab back to the hotel.
Ali’s naked body is snuggled up to her wife. Her leg is thrown over Ashlyn’s as the blonde lightly rubs up and down her wife’s back. Ali sighs.
“Mmmm. Best damn goal celebration ever.”
Her wife chuckles. “Oh? How many celebrations like this have you studied?”
Ali giggles and slaps toned abs. “Jerk.” She shifts so she is straddling her wife. She stares down into hazel eyes still full of desire. “I am so glad you are here.”
“I am, too. Any chance I get to watch and support you I will. I hope you know that.”
Ali smiles. “I do.” She studies her wife a moment. “Will you...or I...I mean...” she takes a deep breath. “Will I ever be able to visit you on one of your missions?”
Ashlyn frowns. “Alex, why the hell would you want to do that? It’s dangerous, unsanitary, and...and so many other reasons you shouldn’t want to go with me.”
“You see what I do. Heck, you’ve done what I do. I want to see and understand more about your job. Please? Maybe at least ask Colonel Menninger?”
Ashlyn stares at her a moment. “It really means that much to you?” Ali nods, biting her lip. Ashlyn shrugs. “Okay, I’ll ask. But you wouldn’t be allowed to go until things are stable. Most likely not until I would be prepping to return to Belvoir. And any security and safety precautions you are given you have to follow, even if it means you don’t hug me or acknowledge me as you wife.”
Ali frowns. “Why can’t I say you’re my wife?”
“Because people can’t see you as my weakness. I have to maintain a sense of order and decorum to keep the respect of some of the people we deal with on site. Some places it would be okay for you to be my wife. Other places...it would just be bad. You have to trust me on that.”
“In those...other places...is it bad if they think you are a lesbian?”
Ashlyn lets out a slow breath. “Honey, it could be fatal if they found out I am a lesbian. They would have no respect for me and that would translate to no respect for the men and women that follow my orders. It would create anarchy and a potentially explosive situation. Again, not everywhere, but in some places.”
“Holy fuck, Ashlyn...” Ali’s voice trails off as she imagines a violent homophobia she had never contemplated before. “Fuck...”
She leans down and kisses her wife deeply, trying to convey love, respect and fear all at once. Her hands start to roam the body below her once more. She kisses and bites her way down Ashlyn’s jaw, chest, stomach, and finally down to the apex between her legs. Ashlyn is panting, recognizing these actions as Ali grasping for control after learning about the uncontrollable. Ali looks up, her eyes black with lust and possession.
“Mine,” she whispers.
Ashlyn doesn’t even have time to respond as Ali’s mouth sucks the blonde’s clit into her mouth. Ashlyn hisses, her hips shooting up as Ali’s mouth makes love to her in the most intimate way. Just when Ashlyn is ready to explode, she feels nimble fingers enter her quickly and deeply.
“YES!” she shouts out.
Ali’s teeth, tongue and lips continue to work the pulsing clit she has captured. Her fingers penetrate deeply, twirling around, making sure to reach that spot deep inside that drives Ash insane. Long fingers entangle in Ali’s hair, making sure the brunette cannot stop her attack. Ashlyn’s long legs are as wide as she can get them, making sure Ali can reach whatever she wants.
But Ali needs more. Ashlyn nearly cries when Ali’s mouth briefly leave her center. But then she moans in anticipation as she sees her wife spinning around and dark, neatly trimmed curls lowering to her own eager mouth. Her hands grab Ali’s hips, positioning her perfectly. The women start to simultaneously pleasure each other and though they had started their climb at different times, they both arrive at the top of the mountain at the same time, screaming against each other’s centers as they cum as one.
Ali rolls off and the women lay in Ashlyn’s bed panting, holding hands between them. After a few minutes, Ashlyn sits up and pulls her wife up into a hug.
“Are you okay?” she asks, her hands rubbing Ali’s back.
“Yes. I just...I needed to...I had to...” Ali can’t put her emotions and actions into words.
Ashlyn leans back and meets her eyes. “I understand, baby. It’s okay. I’m sorry I scared you about...us and stuff.”
Ali strokes a hand down her wife’s cheek. “No apology needed. I’ve told you I want to know, honestly know, what your job entails. I still want to visit if it can be arranged.”
“You do? Really?”
Ali smiles. “Really.”
Ashlyn gives her a hard kiss. “You so totally rock, baby.”
Ali grins. “I know.”
Ashlyn laughs as Ali gets resituated in the bed so they can cuddle some more. In the morning they would be traveling to Lagos for the next round of the tourney. But for tonight...tonight it was just about the two of them and the love they share.