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GAME DAY! Ali awoke with a flock of butterflies in her stomach. All her life game days had meant nerves but not on the scale she has them today. Today the USWNT starts down the Road to Redemption. She sits up and stretches, glancing at the bed beside hers. Sydney sleeps splayed across the bed, her mouth slightly open. Ali chuckles.

“Just another morning,” she murmurs as she throws a pillow at her roommate. “SYD! ALARM WENT OFF!”

Sydney makes strange grumbling sounds and cuddles up to the pillow Ali had thrown. Ali reaches for another pillow then stops. There was a better way, she thinks evilly. She gets up and walks over to the bed.

THEN POUNCES!

Syd squeals as Ali begins to tickle her relentlessly. Finally the forward wiggles her way off the bed and onto the floor. Ali lays on the bed, her chin propped on her hand and looks down at her friend.

“Oh, good. You’re up,” the defender jokes.

“You suck,” Syd grumbles.

“Very well, according to Ashlyn,” Ali laughs.

“OH! OH, stop! Oh, my poor innocent ears!” Syd says dramatically.

Ali laughs as she stands. “Your ears are the only thing about you that are innocent,” she teases as she heads into the bathroom.

When she comes out, Sydney is actually up and checking over her game bag. Ali sighs and sits on the edge of the bed.

“Nervous?” Syd asks.

“Always,” Ali confirms.

“The backline is looking good. JJ has really stepped it up since Cap got hurt.” Sydney turns and looks at Ali. “You guys are going to be our stars. I just know it.”

Ali smiles. “I don’t care about being a star. I just care about winning. We let it go 4 years ago. I will NOT let it go this time.”

“Damn right!” Syd says, offering her a high-5 as she passes by to go to the bathroom.

Ali quickly puts on her make-up and pulls on comfy sweats for team breakfast. She grabs her phone and sees she has a text from her wife.

Mom and Grandma doctored my leg. Going out to breakfast with our families since Jill wants a team breakfast. Will see you when we get back. I love you, baby.”

Ali smiles and texts back her love. Yes, it took a chunk out of her savings to pay for Ash’s family to fly in but it was damn worth it. And if her agent can seal the deal on a photo shoot opportunity that would go far in putting that money back. Of course, she hasn’t mentioned the ESPN shoot to Ashlyn yet. That could be a deal killer right there if Ash doesn’t approve.

“Ah, well. Time will tell,” she mumbles as she leaves the room to head down to the team breakfast.


 

Ali is laughing at a story Pinoe is telling in a style only the crazy blonde can, when Jill steps up to the front of the room.

“Ladies! Can I have your attention please!” she calls out. She waits until conversations stop then smiles at the collected group. “Well, I don’t know if you remember or not but we have a game today.” The team chuckles. “This is the game we have been waiting 4 long years for. This is the game that starts us on the path back to the World Cup Championship game. Everything we do today lays the groundwork for the rest of the tournament. Each and every one of you are vital to our success and each of you are capable of being starters. When I call on you, I know you’ll be ready to go no matter what your role may be. Tonight we will take the pitch and show the world that the US Women’s National Team deserves the World Cup Trophy and that we will NOT STOP until we hoist it on July 5.”

The team cheers and Jill gives them a second.

“Okay, now enjoy your breakfast. At 11 we’re taking a trip to the stadium so you can walk the turf and get an idea what the conditions will be this evening. The other 3 teams will be there, too, so we won’t be doing any drills. It will strictly be a walk through and a chance to greet old friends who will be enemies for 90 minutes over the next 3 games. Let’s do this, ladies!”

The team claps and goes back to eating and chatting. Abby looks at Ali.

“Think Ash will go to the stadium with us?”

Ali looks surprised. “Uh, I don’t know. I mean, I figure no since it’s a team thing. Why?”

Abby and Pinoe exchange a look. “Just curious,” the senior forward states.

Ali’s eyes narrow. “What do you two have planned?”

“Why so suspicious? Geez,” Pinoe pouts.

“Because I can see the wheels turning in your heads. What’s going on?”

Abby sighs. “We just...want to really make sure she’s doing okay. You know, mentally and stuff. We promised you both we’d take care of her best we can and make sure she opens up about things she may not want you to know.”

Ali smiles, touched by their concern for her wife. “You guys are great. To be honest, I am sure she does need to talk. But she won’t today. She won’t take your attention from the game. Your better bet would be tomorrow after recovery and after she gets back from getting her staples out. Plus her family leaves tomorrow afternoon so I doubt she’d do anything with you all before then.”

Abby thinks a second then nods. “Good points. But we can still lay the groundwork today.”

“Right!” Pinoe agrees. “And then tomorrow we kidnap her and whisk her away to parts unknown to you for an evening of Buddy Bonding.”

Ali smiles and nods her head. “Perfect.”

As the team finishes breakfast, Alex walks up and hooks her arm into Ali’s. “So did I hear the ‘boys’ are bonding tomorrow?”

Ali starts to laugh. “Yes, you did.”

“Perfect. SHOPPING!”

Ali laughs and nods. “Best recovery plan EVER!”

Ali knows she can’t afford to buy much after the plane ticket splurge but she will definitely enjoy a day out with Alex, the Morgan’s, and her mother and soon to be step-mother. They will laugh more than buy anyway and it will be a great way to get her mind off soccer for a little while before they regroup to plan for Sweden.


 

At 11:20 Ashlyn is crutching along beside her wife and the US backline as they walk the field at Winnipeg Stadium. Hope is walking with Ash and shakes her head.

“My defenders are going to get torn to shreds on this shit,” she mutters.

“Not to mention you’re going to be diving on concrete,” Ashlyn points out. “Might want to add an extra shirt under your jersey for impact protection.”

Hope nods. “Won’t help much but I think I will.” She bends and picks up a handful of rubber beads. “Still can’t believe we are playing the World Freaking Cup on this shit.”

“No kidding,” Ashlyn agrees.

“HARRIS!”

Ashlyn stops and turns to see someone in a Matilda’s warm up racing towards her. She grins as Lisa DeVanna, Ali’s former Washington Spirit teammate, is running towards the group. The US defenders keep walking as the Aussie forward reaches Ash.

“Damn good to see you, mate!”

Lisa pulls Ashlyn into a hug.

“Glad to be seen. How are you doing?”

Lisa chuckles. “Me? I’m fine. Just playing soccer and stuff. You, though, damn! Off saving the world.”

Ashlyn blushes. “Not the world. Just one little patch of it,” she says with a wink.

“When I heard you were injured over there I was so worried. I sent Ali an email and was so happy she said you’d be fine. How long you gimped up?”

“Hopefully just a few more days. Get the staples out tomorrow and the muscle scanned and evaluated. If all is looking good I’ll be able to start rehabbing the leg by the end of the week.”

“Awesome! I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you!”

“Thanks.”

The two chat a bit more before Lisa has to return to her team. Ashlyn turns and catches up to her wife and the others. Before she gets far, a couple of players from Sweden and Nigeria catch up to her. Again, contacts through her wife and the NWSL. It touches Ashlyn that though they don’t know her as well as they know Ali, they all express their concerns and offer prayers. It is a reminder that though they are all looking to win on the field, off the field the greater family of women’s soccer players is about respect and compassion. It is a wonderful feeling.


 

Ali reties her cleats to make them as tight as possible. Warm ups were done. Now they are waiting for the call to the entry tunnel. She takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. She then reaches under her jersey and pulls out the dog tags she still wears daily.

“Love you, baby,” she whispers, before pulling them off, kissing them, and placing them in her locker.

Sure, she had seen Ashlyn a couple hours before and kissed her in person. But maybe, just maybe, Ali’s pregame ritual had become superstition. But she would never admit that to her wife, she thinks with a grin.

She stands and jumps up a few times to make sure her gear all feels right and then looks around. She sees JJ fighting to not look nervous. Ali walks over to the youngster and squats down in front of her. They lock eyes.

“I am damn proud to be out there on that line with you. We got this, right?”

JJ slowly smiles. “We got this,” JJ agrees. She swallows hard. “When do the elephants stop running through my stomach?” she asks the veteran defender.

Ali grins. “Final whistle of the Championship Game,” she answers.

JJ chuckles and actually feels her nerves settle a bit. Ali pats her on the head and stands. Today...today they will beat Australia. There is no other option.


 

Five minutes into the game, Hope makes an incredible save. And that is what is needed to settle the US a little. Prior to that they had seemed a little tentative. But now they knew they had to kick into another gear and do their best to keep their keeper bored.

And then in the 12th minute, Pinoe creates magic! A simple send trying to find Abby instead deflects off a defender and the US is up 1-0!

Ashlyn is screaming along with thousands of others in the stadium. She wishes she could jump up and down but instead has to settle for a strong hug from Ken.

“They’re gonna do this!” she screams.

“Damn right they are!” he agrees.

But the US supporters are quieted a little in the 27th when Lisa DeVanna puts one in the back of the net. As much as Ashlyn hates to admit it, it was a great shot and great feed from Michelle Heyman to set it all up.

“Damn it,” she mutters as she watches the scoreboard flick to 1-1. “Come on, ladies. You can win this!” she whispers.

It takes until the 61st minute for the US to finally pull ahead once more. An amazing, sliding send by Sydney to Christen, who calmly slots the ball home gives the US the 2-1 advantage. It is the game winner but the US wants to hedge their bets so in the 78th, Pinoe records the brace!

“PINOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOE!” Ashlyn chants along with thousands of her closest friends.

In the 79th minute, Ashlyn is excited to see Alex Morgan checking in to a game for the first time since an injury.

“GO ALEX! YOU GOT THIS, BABY HORSE!” she screams.

And though she doesn’t score, she gets time on the field to show she is nearly back to form. When the final whistle blows, Ashlyn and Ken embrace once more.

“One down, 2 to go!” Ashlyn states.

“You know it!” Ken agrees.

The two remain in their seats as the US team does a victory lap, waving and thanking the spectators. When Ali catches her wife’s eyes, she grins, bringing her hand to her heart and kissing her ring finger. Ashlyn smiles and returns the gesture.

“I LOVE YOU, ALI KRIEGER! MARRY ME!” one fan yells.

Ashlyn laughs as Ali shrugs and calls back. “SORRY! I AM TAKEN!”

Ashlyn shakes her head. “Can’t say I blame the guy for trying,” she says to Ken, who nods in agreement.


 

When the team finally starts to file into the conference room, Ashlyn pulls herself to her feet. She brings her wife into a firm hug.

“You played so good, baby,” she praises. “A brick fucking wall.”

Ali smiles, sinking into the embrace. “We had a few miscues but all in all I agree.”

Ash leans back and kisses her gently. “Miscues happen. The important thing is you regrouped and held the line the rest of the game. You make me so, so proud.” She pulls her close again. “And to see ‘Krieger-Harris’ on the back of your jersey makes me feel...feel...like maybe I am a small part of all this.”

Ali smiles and hugs her tighter. “You are a huge part of this, Ash. From helping me not give up after the ACL injury to pushing me through the concussion to just...just supporting me every step of the way. I’m here thanks to you, Ashlyn. It’s only right my wife’s name is on the pitch with me.”

Ashlyn is overcome with emotion. She forgets they aren’t alone and draws Ali into passionate kiss. It doesn’t even break when the team starts to whistle and cat-call. It ends when they want it to end. Ashlyn stares into the eyes that reflect her hopes and dreams for the future.

“I love you so much, Alex. Never doubt that.”

“I don’t. Because I love you that much, too,” Ali says.

They start to kiss again. This time they do notice the interruption.

“EXCUSE US! PEOPLE TRYING TO EAT WITHOUT GAGGING!” Kyle hollers.

The women break apart, chuckling but not at all sorry. Ali gives her family members hugs and finally sits down beside her wife.

“Hungry, Princess?” Ashlyn asks.

“Starving but just want to sit and relax a second.”

“I’ll get you something, honey. Just relax,” Vicki says.

Ali smiles and nods her thanks to her father’s fiancé. She leans against Ashlyn and accepts a glass of water from her dad as they start to rehash the game and how well the table’s favorite defender played against a strong Australian front line.


 

“Uh, are you sure you three want to be in here?” Ashlyn asks, staring at her mother, mother-in-law and grandmother.

“Of course we are,” Grandma replies as they wait for the doctor who will be removing Ashlyn’s staples. Her brace has already been removed and she lies on an exam table in just a pair of shorts. “We promised Alex.”

Ashlyn grins. “Of course you did. But this is kinda gross so I get it if you change your mind.”

A few minutes later the doctor walks in and comes to an abrupt halt. “Wow. Full house,” she jokes.

“Sorry. My bodyguards refuse to leave me alone,” Ashlyn says with a grin.

“If these women are related to you, considering what I’ve seen in your records, Lieutenant, I’m not surprised they want to keep a close eye on you.”

Ashlyn smiles as the doctor starts to examine the wound. By the time she finishes her visual inspection, the nurse has arrived with the tray holding the implement needed to remove the staples. The doctor smiles.

“All looks good. No signs of infection. Skin is slightly pink which is good so this should be smooth sailing. You may feel a slight pressure but no pain. If something hurts, tell me so we can reevaluate for infection. Sound good?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Ashlyn replies.

The doctor gets up to scrub and put on gloves while the nurse sets up the tray. Once she’s ready, the doctor opens the sterile packet holding the suture remover. Ashlyn grins.

“Kinda looks like a funky dog nail clipper.”

Deb rolls her eyes. “Only you, Ashlyn.”

The doctor smiles and quickly counts the number of sutures. She gives the count to the nurse and begins. Ashlyn’s grandmother strokes her hair, hoping to calm herself more than her granddaughter. Ashlyn just closes her eyes and concentrates on trying to feel if anything feels wrong. When the doctor finally removes the final suture, Ashlyn sighs in relief.

“Feels good?” the doctor asks.

“Thankfully yes, ma’am,” Ashlyn says.

“Good. I’ll get an orderly to come down and get you in a wheelchair. Next stop an MRI to check out that muscle. Any issues I should know about there?”

“No, ma’am. I seem to be getting the pins and needles the military docs said were a good thing. I’m praying that means all is good inside.”

The doctor pats Ashlyn on the thigh. “I’m sure it will mean just that. Let’s confirm that diagnosis.”

Ashlyn nods. She tries to hide it but the ladies in the room all see the fear in her eyes as she worries what it will mean if the MRI doesn’t confirm the diagnosis. She takes a deep breath as the doctor leaves.

“I’m scared,” she whispers.

The other three ladies simply step forward and do their best to comfort her. No false promises. No condescending statements. Just silent, strong support to remind her that no matter what happens, she will have them beside her.

Thirty minutes later Ashlyn is holding her breath as the MRI machine rumbles to life. She stares up at the ceiling but her mind is playing images of what her life could be if she loses her leg.

Working a desk job States Side her entire career.

Learning to walk and run again.

Chasing after a toddler on just one real leg.

Trying to learn to surf with a prosthetic.

Slow dancing with her wife, then watching Ali fast dance with friends because Ash doesn’t trust her fake leg.

She sighs and squeezes her eyes shut. “Stop it, Ashlyn. Just. Stop. It.” She scolds herself...but more and more images fly through her head and she feels depression trying to sneak in as she contemplates a future not even promised to her as yet.


 

The morning after the game those who had played in the game go to an athletic facility pool for some recovery. Ali eases into the pool and starts to carefully move her tired legs through the water. She strokes her fingertips over the surface as she lets her mind wander to where she really wants to be: at the hospital with Ashlyn.

As others join her in the water, she gives them a smile in greeting. Conversations go on around her but she slowly distances herself from her teammates, making her way to the opposite side of the pool. In her mind she sees a future as it could be if Ash loses her lower leg.

Watching Ash get frustrated at a desk job States Side her entire career.

Ash fighting to learning to walk and run again.

Ash chasing after a toddler on just one real leg.

Ash trying to learn to surf with a prosthetic.

Ash slow dancing with Ali, then refusing to fast dance because the soldier doesn’t trust her fake leg.

Ali hates all these negative thoughts but she just can’t shake them. She gets farther from her teammates so she doesn’t have to talk to anyone. She thought she had been sly, that it just looked like she was working her legs and not trying to hide away in her mind. Her back is to her teammates and she is so lost in her own thoughts she doesn’t notice they have gotten suspiciously quiet.

And then she is hit with wave upon wave of water splashing all over her.

“EEEEEEEE!” She squeals as she spins, trying to block the splashing of 13 women, who are laughing and giving it all they can. “STOP! YOU JERKS! STOP!”

“Okay, guys, let’s give her a chance,” Abby says. The splashing stops. “You going to keep hiding away from us and worrying about your wife or do we splash again, Kriegs?”

Ali can’t help but laugh. “Sorry, sorry! I promise to stop wallowing.” She wipes her face. “You know, I was trying to not get my hair wet.”

“I’d say you failed, Kriegs,” Carli jokes.

“No, I’d say I got ambushed. Couldn’t have just spoken to me first?”

“Where would the fun be in that?” Pinoe asks with a grin.

Ali rolls her eyes. “Where indeed?” She walks towards her teammates. “Though I may not agree with your tactics, thank you for getting me out of my head for a bit.”

“Any time, Al,” Lauren tells her sincerely.

“Well, if that’s all settled, can we get back to recovery?” Dawn asks from the side of the pool with a smile.

The team nods and gets back to the water work out that will help with their muscle recovery as they await what will likely be their toughest game of the first round: Sweden. Once Dawn is satisfied all are working, Ali makes her way to Abby.

“Thank you,” she whispers.

Abby smiles. “No thanks needed. We know where you want to be right now. Just keep thinking good thoughts, okay?”

Ali nods. “I’ll try. Promise.”


 

After the pool, the team had changed into shorts and tees for a brief, light workout with weights. Ali is the fourth player to walk into the weight room and almost doesn’t notice her wife sitting on a weight bench. When she finally notices the smiling blonde she comes to a halt. She looks down at Ash’s leg then back up again.

“Where’s your brace?”

Ashlyn shrugs. “Don’t have to wear it for rehab,” she says nonchalantly.

Ali’s eyes widen. “Rehab?”

“Yep. Start with 5 pounds on the leg lift. Will help my calf start to regain strength but won’t pull out the internal sutures that are still doing their job.”

Ali steps closer, her stomach tingling with excitement. “Doing...their job?”

“Do I have to spell it out for you?” Ashlyn teases. “I thought I was the blonde in the relationship.”

“You’re going to be okay?”

“And the lady catches up!” Ashlyn shouts.

Ali races forward and pulls her into a hug. “You’re going to be okay!”

“Yeah, baby, I am. Start rehabbing today. Still use the brace and a cane to walk but can unlock the hinge at the knee. Pretty much just need it for stability while my leg gets used to being mobile again.”

“But you’re going to be okay!”

Ashlyn laughs. “Yes, Alex, I am going to be okay. All of me will be around to annoy you the rest of our lives.”

Ali gives her a deep kiss. “Oh, thank God.”

They share a hug and the team joins in. Soon Ali is spotting her wife as Ashlyn starts down the painful path to getting her leg back up to where it used to be.


 

“Can we get an ice cream? I want to walk down the street eating an ice cream!” Ashlyn begs.

Pinoe looks at her in confusion. “Uh, why?”

“Because I couldn’t while I had crutches,” Ashlyn says as if it’s common sense.

Pinoe, Abby, Whit and Sarah Huffman bust out laughing. Whitney walks over to a street vendor and buys her best friend a drumstick.

“Here you go, 3 year old.”

“Hey! Be nice. I just said goodbye to my family at the airport and I’m just getting mobile again,” Ashlyn scolds.

“Doesn’t mean you’re not a 3 year old,” Whitney counters.

Ashlyn thinks a second then shrugs. “Huh. Maybe you’re right,” she agrees with a grin as she bites into her ice cream.

They walk along, stopping for the players to sign autographs when they get recognized but mostly just enjoying time together. At this moment, Sarah and Ashlyn are again waiting for the players to finish with a group of kids. Ashlyn looks at the shorter woman.

“This is an intervention, isn’t it?”

Sarah smiles. “Yeah, it is. We just want to do a mental check on you, Ash.”

Ashlyn nods. “I get that. I am...better than I was when I first got here but...but still working through a lot of guilt.”

“Survivor’s guilt?” Sarah guesses.

“Yeah,” Ashlyn answers quietly. “Dalton died because he took the seat I normally ride in. I didn’t say anything because he is...was my c.o. so if he wants that seat he gets that seat. The kid in the front seat died, too. I still...don’t know if they might have lived if we’d gotten them out sooner.” She blinks away her tears. “That haunts me, Sar.”

Sarah takes her arm. “Is there a way to find out?”

Ashlyn nods. “Eventually the official report will be published. It will include autopsy info. Until then I just...I just have to answer to Dalton in my dreams.”

“Oh, Ash. Nightmares?” she asks sympathetically.

“Fuck yeah. I’ve learned to control my body so I don’t scream and twitch but the images are there. No one knows but you that they haunt my dreams every night.”

“You need to talk to Ali about them.”

“Can’t. She has the tournament.”

Sarah stops walking and forces Ashlyn to face her. “And if the situation were reversed?”

“Well, I...I, uh...”

“Tell me this: if Ali were hiding shit like this from you, wouldn’t you know and worry more that she won’t confide in you?”

Ashlyn had been prepared for a different question. She had been ready to answer that, yes, Ali would understand hiding it until after the World Cup. She hadn’t expected to be called out on how well they know each other. Ashlyn leans against a wall.

“I’m an ass. She knows, doesn’t she?”

“Of course she does,” Sarah replies. “Why do you think she was so eager to send you out with us?”

Ashlyn sighs and smiles. “I just figured she was the best, most understanding woman in the world.”

“Well, she is. But she also knew you needed to tell us what you are scared to tell her. It would be more unusual if you weren’t having nightmares. Lying about it or hiding it won’t do anyone any good, least of all you. You need to get it all out of your head, Ashlyn, so when you go back you’re healed mentally and physically. You owe it not only to yourself and your family, but you also owe it to your squad.”

Ashlyn lifts off her snapback and runs a hand through her hair. She stares off into the distance as she puts her hat back on. “You’ve given me a lot to think about.”

“Good.” The two start walking again knowing the others will catch up.

“OOO! Let’s go in here!” Ashlyn says excitedly, hurrying into the shop.

Sarah laughs and follows her. “Souvenirs?”

“Yeah! I saw something I want to get Malak!”

Sarah is confused. “Who’s Malak?”

“She’s a little girl that saved my soul,” Ashlyn says as she grabs a stuffed owl, the mascot for the cup. “I saw a little girl with one and I just know Malak will love it. She doesn’t have any toys to call her own so this will be perfect, especially since she has her surgeries and stuff soon.”

Sarah chuckles at how excited Ash is. “So, what’s her whole story? What surgeries?”

Ashlyn tells her about the little girl. By the time she is done Sarah is shaking her head...and grabbing a couple of tee shirts.

“She’ll like these, too.” Ashlyn gives her a look of surprise. Sarah shrugs. “She helped save one of my best friends. Least I can do is get her a couple of shirts.”

Ashlyn smiles. “Thanks, Sarah.”

Once they have their presents for Malak, the two head back onto the street just as the other three arrive. Whitney sees the owl and chuckles.

“Malak?”

“Of course,” Ashlyn answers. “And Sarah got her a couple of shirts, too.”

“Perfect. Let’s keep walking,” Whitney says.

“Who’s Malak?” Pinoe and Abby ask.

Ashlyn just chuckles as Sarah takes both ladies by the arm and tells them the story of the little orphan girl. By the time they get back to the hotel, Malak has a few more toys, some colouring books and more clothes. Ashlyn shakes her head as she packs up the gift.

“You guys are too much. Thank you so much for this.”

“Something tells me if it hadn’t been for her, you’d be in worse shape mentally than you are,” Abby says. “I’d say this is the least we can do for her to thank her.”

Ashlyn smiles as she finishes sealing the box and addressing it to Fliss. Pinoe notices the name.

“Felicia Cousins? Wait...didn’t Ali...never mind...” she shuts up quickly, her cheeks red.

Ashlyn chuckles. “She did and this is her. Fliss and I are good friends and bunk mates.”

“Whoa. Almost incestuous,” Pinoe jokes.

The group laughs. The door to the room opens and Ali walks in.

“Hey, guys! What are you doing?”

“Nothing much. Just sending a care package to your ex-girlfriend for a little orphan girl that Ashlyn adores. Same old same old,” Pinoe jokes.

Ali laughs. “Oh, of course. So did you all have fun?”

Ashlyn pulls her into a hug. “We did. And they will give you a full report on my mental status later.” She stares into Ali’s eyes. “After I have a chance to tell you what I’ve been trying to hide from you. I’m sorry.”

Ali gives her a quick peck. “I think I know why you were hiding things. Just know it only makes me worry about you more.”

Ashlyn nods. “Yeah, I get that now. I’m sorry, baby.”

“Oh, geez, it’s about to get mushy in here,” Whitney says.

“Time to run away!” Pinoe says dramatically.

The others laugh. Everyone exchanges hugs then the visitors leave. Abby even takes the package to make sure it gets mailed out as soon as possible so it can reach Malak before the little girl leaves for the States. Once alone, Ashlyn pulls her wife close.

“Guess what?”

“What?”

Ashlyn gives her wife a deep kiss, her hands slipping up under Ali’s tee. “The doctors cleared me for sex.”

Ali’s eyes darken. “They did? Then why the hell did we spend the afternoon apart?” she asks, her hands going to Ashlyn’s pants.

“Because you knew I needed my friends to help fix my head. I love you, Alex.”

“I love you, too.”

They kiss as their hands continue to roam all over their bodies. Ali pauses when she gets to the brace.

“It’s okay, Alex. I just...can’t be on top,” Ashlyn explains.

Ali grins wolfishly. “That works.”

Ashlyn chuckles as she lies down and Ali quickly divests the taller woman of the brace, her pants and undies. Ali stares down at the sculpted beauty that is her wife.

“How the hell did I get so lucky?”

“I thought I was the lucky one,” Ashlyn says honestly. “Strip for me, baby,” she begs.

Ali smiles at the desire in her wife’s eyes. She lifts off her tee and bra in one go. Ashlyn breathes in sharply as Ali’s nipples harden at the first touch of cool air. Ali then slowly undoes her pants, watching the change in her wife’s breathing. She slides her pants down her legs, turning so Ashlyn can see the thong.

“Oh, fuck, baby. You know what it does to me when I see you in a thong?”

Ali grins over her shoulder. “I do. I read the doctor’s report and dressed appropriately.”

“Oh, fuck...”

“That’s the plan.”

Ali hooks her fingers in the side of the thong and makes a show of sliding it down her legs. She bends, her back still to her wife, showing off the wonder that awaits between her legs. Ashlyn groans.

“Oh, fuck you are so wet.”

Ali turns and carefully climbs on top of her wife. “Only for you.”

She leans down and kisses her wife. The women both moan as their breasts brush against each other. Ali spreads her legs, her moist center coming to rest on her wife’s golden triangle. Ali starts to tremble as strong hands run all over her body. Their kisses deepen. The women are parched for each other. Ali sinks down onto her wife, their bodies molded together. Ashlyn’s hands go to her wife’s strong ass and pull down as she grinds up.

Their kiss finally ends as they both need air. Ali sucks Ashlyn’s earlobe.

“God, I can’t get close enough to you,” the brunette pants.

Ashlyn just moans and thrusts up harder. They start to rock harder and faster against each other. Ali spreads her legs farther than she thought she could when she feels calloused fingers glide from her ass along her hip and then slide between them. She rises enough to give Ashlyn access to her throbbing clit.

“Oh, Ash, yes...fuck me, Ash. Fuck me,” she pleads.

Ashlyn rubs that jewel, making her wife squirm. Ali rocks faster, harder. Sooner than she wanted and yet not soon enough she throws her head back.

“YES! YES! YESSSSSSSSSSSSS!”

Ashlyn also comes as she drives her wife over the edge of passion. Ali stares into dark green eyes. She grins. It isn’t enough for either of them. She scoots down and takes Ashlyn’s breast in her mouth.

“Oh, Alex.”

Ali alternates teasing and sucking those perfect globes. Ashlyn is writhing in delight, her body ramping up once more.

“Alex...need...you...please...”

Ali grins and starts to kiss her way lower, feeling the muscles twitching in Ashlyn’s stomach. Finally Ali is settled between her wife’s legs. She inhales deeply, smiling in pleasure.

“Missed so much about you,” she murmurs. “This was right near the top of the list.”

Ashlyn grins, then throws her head back in pleasure as Ali’s tongue slides up her warm, wet slit. Ali takes her time, pleasuring every bit of her wife’s center. Finally she feels fingers tangle in her hair. She gets the message and latches onto the pulsing clit.

“YES! There! Please!”

Ali suckles hard, her teeth and tongue helping tease the bundle of nerves. As she feels her wife nearing nirvana she brings her hand up and plunges 2 fingers in deep.

“YES! YES! YESSSSSSSSSSSSS! OH, FUCK ME SO GOOD, ALEX!”

Ashlyn’s body convulses as she is ripped through with an orgasm. Ali slides off her wife and cuddles into her side. The women hold each other close as Ali caresses her wife’s stomach and arms until the blonde finally comes down from her high. Ashlyn rolls her head to the side.

“I love you.”

Ali smiles. “I love you, too.”

The share a few gentle kisses. Then a few deeper kisses. And then they are making love once more until Ali’s phone goes off warning them they have a half an hour until team dinner.

“I hate my phone,” the brunette mumbles, her face buried in Ashlyn’s neck.

“Me, too. But you can’t miss dinner, baby. You have a tournament to win.”

Ali smiles and looks at her wife. “I do, don’t I? And we’re going to do it. I really, truly believe we’re going to do it.”

“Damn right you are,” Ashlyn agrees.

The two get up and Ali carefully helps her wife to the bathroom so they can shower off. Ashlyn moans in pleasure.

“Oh, shower, I have missed you,” she says happily, glad to be able to get in there and not have to just have sponge baths to keep her wound from getting wet.

As soon as they are dressed, Ali smiles and kisses her wife again. “I love you so much. Thank you for being here and...and being mostly okay.”

“I love you, too. And I am glad I could make this journey with you but I am sorry it took this wound to do so.”

“Forgiven. This time,” Ali says with a grin.

The two make their way down to the dining room. As they walk in, everyone starts to clap and holler. Both women turn bright red.

“What’s all this about?” Ali asks.

“We stopped by to see if you two wanted to catch a movie. Turns out you were living a porno,” HAO jokes.

The couple blush even more as everyone laughs. Ashlyn shakes her head.

“I just remember why I don’t miss soccer camps,” she mumbles as she limps towards the buffet line.

Ali waits a moment, then looks at HAO. “Don’t be jealous,” she says with a wink then follows her wife.

Her teammates laugh and go back to their dinners. Yep, many things are not sacred when you spend this much time with people.