The red LED display reads 11:00 and Gabby Douglas can't sleep.
In the morning, she has to compete.
In the Olympics.
She smiles at that, because this has happened before.
Gabby is awake and she shouldn't be.
She's sitting on the edge of her bed, feeling her stomach turning as she thinks about the next day.
It's her against the world, but her against herself as well. There's a lot on the line.
A quiet knock on the door breaks through her thoughts. Gabby looks up.
The door slowly opens and it's Aly Raisman, looking at Gabby, wearing her crooked smile. "Can't sleep?"
Gabby chuckled and shook her head. "Nerves. They always get me."
"Me too." Aly sat down on the bed next to Gabby. Gabby felt some of the tension in her shoulders leave.
"How do you deal with it?" Gabby shrugged.
"I don't, really. I wait it out." She'd gotten good at functioning on very little sleep.
Aly let out a laugh. "Of course you do."
"What's that mean?"
"I'm just marveling at how you're so amazing."
Gabby felt heat rushing to her cheeks. A lot of it. "If that were true, I wouldn't be up right now."
Aly rolled her eyes. "If anything, you're the amazing one."
Aly looked taken aback. "Me? Really?"
Gabby laughed at Aly's surprise. "You're the team captain! And you work harder than anyone else does." She thought it was obvious.
Aly stares at the ground and Gabby crosses her legs. "Thank you."
Gabby's eyes flick towards Aly. "For telling the truth?"
Aly breathed out a laugh. "For being so...you."
Gabby felt a warm rush embrace her body. She was grinning, she could feel it. Her heart beat faster than normal.
She needed to get Aly's focus off of her. "I know what you need for your insomnia."
Aly blinked. "What?"
Gabby thought, wildly casting around for ideas. Aly raised an eyebrow.
Got it! "A..." Gabby launched herself at Aly, who froze. "Tickle fight!" Aly shrieked as Gabby landed on top of her and started tickling her sides. "N-n o!"
She tried to roll away from Gabby but Gabby's thighs held her in place. Aly shrieked again and started laughing to the point of tears.
Gabby was giggling as she mercilessly tickled Aly's sides. So she didn't notice when Aly freed her arms, grabbed Gabby's wrists, and pulled her down on top of her. The room fell dead quiet.
Gabby stared into Aly's eyes, surprised, and saw them swimming with something other than mirth now.
Something deeper. "What I was going to say before you interrupted me," Aly whispered, warm breath spreading tingles down Gabby's spine. "Was thank you, for being so unbelievably strong and amazing and so, so beautiful." She swallowed under Gabby's steady gaze. "You--"
Gabby's emotions had been building up, coming to a cresting peak the whole time Aly talked. With every word Aly said, Gabby felt fuller and fuller until she thought she'd explode. What Aly was saying sounded an awful lot like a...
The wave crashed down and Gabby couldn't take it anymore.
Gabby lunged forward and met Aly's lips in a searing kiss. She felt the other girl freeze for a moment, but soon felt her lips moving back against hers. Gabby slid a hand under the nape of Aly's neck and ran her fingers through Aly's hair there, splayed across the bed.
Soft. A performing Aly Raisman was all-business and hard-headed, but in this moment the only thing Gabby could feel was soft.
Her body, her hair, her lips. Gabby felt it all, and was absolutely soaring.
Later on, Gabby and Aly talked.
"You never did let me finish what I was going to say."
"There's always later."
Aly turned to face Gabby.
"There'll be a later?" she asked, eyes shining. Gabby smirked at her. "Depends whether you tell me what you keep wanting to say or not."
Aly smiled her crooked smile right back at Gabby. "Guess I'll have to wait a while, then."
Gabby leaned forward and kissed Aly briefly, then pulled away. "Stay here for now?"
Gabby stood on the podium after the individual all-around. The anthem had just played and she couldn't seem to dry her eyes. The lights shone down on her and the gold medal she had won.
She did it.
Gabby thought of all the people that she was thankful for. Her parents, her family, her coaches.
She got back to the sidelines and walked over to her bag. Her phone was lit up with a recent text.
aly: I can't tell you it yet
but you know what i want to say to you right now
She did know.