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I May Hate Myself In the Morning, But I'm Going to Love You Tonight

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Ashlyn Harris sat in a Houston bar watching her Tar Heels play Gonzaga in the NCAA men's Final Four basketball tournament as she finished her fourth whiskey.  She was so proud of UNC on this night, this game was about the only thing that was going right in her life.  Orlando traded her to the Houston Dash for Jane Campbell at her own request.   Ashlyn was devastated because Orlando was home to her and it was a top notch organization and now she would miss the next season there in the new stadium.   Sometimes things just go terribly wrong, and it is too painful to stay in a place when everything you pass all day long reminds you of the love of your life.  For the first time in her life, Ashlyn was happy to be injured and to have missed  the USWNT camp in Dallas due to coming off of shoulder surgery.

 

Houston was also a top notch organization as far as the stadium and team went.  She was playing with Carli Lloyd, Morgan Brian, and Kealia Ohai this season.  They also had some of the best doctors in the world for sports medicine and her surgery was healing nicely.  What sucked about tonight was, the USWNT arrived in Houston for their friendly against Russia at BBVA Compass Stadium.  This meant one thing, Ali Krieger was in town.  Ali Krieger, the once epic love of her life was in a hotel a few blocks over from her downtown high rise apartment.  Ashlyn was doing her best to avoid all calls and texts from her USWNT teammates who were all trying to get her to come to the team hotel and hang out since tomorrow was their off day.  So many of them were Tar Heels and they wanted to celebrate with their buddy.

 

Ashlyn could think of 100 other places she'd rather be than the team hotel. Ashlyn really wanted to see her old buddy Allie Long and watch the game with Tobin, but it wasn't worth running into the other Ali who broke her heart in two.  If she didn't have a fan meet and greet commitment to meet with the Dash tomorrow, she would have left town all together.  Six months ago, Ashlyn and Ali had a horrible fight.  Ashlyn was done hiding.  She was done not being able to hold or kiss Ali whenever she wanted.  She was done hiding their relationship; she was done with the whole masquerade.

 

The last game they played together for Orlando, Ali scored a goal and Ashlyn couldn't contain herself with the pride she felt for the defender.  She lost all control of her emotions, ran down the field, scooped Ali up, and kissed her, completely living in the moment.  Ali immediately balked, stiffened and gave Ashlyn a look of disgust.  Ashlyn immediately released her and knew in that minute they were over.  The two had an agreement of no PDA because Ali didn't want to be scrutinized and labeled.  She was concerned what coming out would do to her career and her endorsements.  She wanted to keep their relationship between them.  Ali felt like it was no one’s business what she and Ashlyn had.  Ashlyn was not used to swallowing her emotions, as she wore them on her sleeve.  Ashlyn was a hugger and a kisser in public and Ali was not.  

 

That particular night was the final straw.  After ten years of following Ali all over the world, loving her enough for the both of them, her heart couldn't take it anymore.  Ashlyn felt like she deserved some respect.  If Ali couldn't give it to her, then she would just have to get some self-respect instead.  Ashlyn came home to the house she originally bought for herself, the one she had made theirs the minute Ali signed with Orlando and agreed to move in with her.   Ashlyn walked in and packed all of her clothes and important papers and bills.  She didn’t care about the rest of it.  In that moment she didn’t care about the house, the things in it, her car, you name it.   She filled up four suitcases with the essentials she would need for wherever she was going.  Ali could stay there as long as she wanted.  It didn’t matter anymore.  All Ashlyn knew was that she had to get out.

 

She called Alex Morgan to see if she could stay the night in her guest room.  Of course, Alex said yes despite begging Ashlyn not to do this.  Alex had witnessed on the field first hand what happened that night and she wanted to strangle Ali Krieger.

 

"Everyone knows you two are meant to be, please don't leave her.  You know this isn't easy for her.  She doesn't identify herself as gay but she's head over heels in love with you," Alex tried to reason.

 

"I can't protect her heart anymore Alex, for once I have to protect my own.  She humiliated me tonight in front of thousands.  I was so happy for her, I lost my shit.  I won't be rejected by her anymore in public," Ashlyn sniffled into the phone.

 

Ali got home a bit later after celebrating with the team, clearly tipsy.  She was gut punched when she walked in the door to find the living room filled with 4 suitcases and some other things of Ashlyn’s.  She knew the blonde was mad but she figured Ashlyn just needed some time to blow off steam.   Ali certainly needed to blow off steam after she was almost outed in front of the entire world on the pitch.   She had no idea however that it had escalated to this.  Tears began to flood her eyes and she went to find Ashlyn in their bedroom.  

 

She immediately began crying and pleading with the blonde not to go.  Ashlyn wasn't having any of it and got on her phone, leaving a message with her agent that she wanted to be traded ASAP.  Ali was distraught, she had no fucking idea how things got to this point this quickly.   All she wanted to do was apologize and comfort Ashlyn.  Ali went to wrap her arms around the blonde and Ashlyn pushed back.

 

"Don't you fucking touch me now.  That look back there that you gave me said it all.  It said that after all these years, you are still ashamed of me, ashamed of us. For many years I swallowed it.  It didn't matter as long as we were together.  Well I'm not that scared little person anymore.  I'm not scared of you or what anyone thinks.  You want to run and hide every time someone suspects us?  Then go run and hide Ali.  I'm done hiding, I'm done running.  I'm in love with you and always will be.  That should be more important than what anyone else thinks.  Instead, you put all of them first before me.  I should be your number one, your partner in this life.  I have followed you all over this globe and this is what I get."

 

"Ashlyn please don't go.  Please don't leave me.  I love you so much.  I love us.  I am not ashamed of you.  I don't know why I can't deal with it publicly," Ali cried. 

 

"I do.  Either you’re homophobic or you're ashamed to be with me.  You are a coward.  The best defender in the world won't step up and defend our love over some stupid cyber bullies who mean nothing.  We all can’t be loved by everyone Ali.  What everyone thinks means more to you than I do.  I hope they can keep your bed warm at night, looks like you are in a relationship with all of them now and not me," Ashlyn choked out.  It felt good to get ten years worth of crap off her chest. Ali was beside herself.

 

“Ashlyn, please think about this.  Where will you go?  What are you going to do?   What about us and the house?”

 

“There is no more us.  Stay here as long as you want, I doubt I will be able to return here anytime soon.   I don’t care what you do and I really don’t care what I do other than getting out that front fucking door.”

 

Ali was crying hysterically bent over on the floor dry heaving trying to hang on to Ashlyn’s shirt bottom.  It broke Ashlyn’s heart to watch this whole scene unfold but she couldn’t keep sacrificing her own happiness for this game they were playing.   She thought now that Ali was 30 and they were living together in Orlando that Ali would grow up about how she handled their relationship.   That was never going to happen unless Ashlyn took a drastic measure.  It may not even happen then, this very well could be the end.

 

“Asshhh,” Ali sobbed with red angry eyes as the blonde grabbed a snap back, her jean jacket, and headed for the living room to grab her bags.   “What am I supposed to do without you?  You are my everything!”   As if this were up to Ashlyn to provide Ali the answers of what she was going to do now.  Ashlyn didn’t even know what she was going to do herself.

 

“You are going to go be happy.  You are either going to go find some guy to be with where you can be comfortable in a relationship when the world is watching because it is what you deem to be socially acceptable.  He will give you a few babies and you will have your perfect cookie cutter life.   Or you are going to go find some girl to be with who doesn’t mind you tucking her away in your closet.   Those are the kind of relationships you want so that is what you should go find,” Ashlyn said, tears beginning to well up in her own eyes.   The thought of Ali spending her life with anyone else but her shattered her heart even further.  

 

Ali stood in front of the front door.  Her usually sweet Ashlyn was overcome by an angry demon.  Ali knew she fucked up.  She wasn't perfect.  She just felt a lot of pressure professionally.  She didn't want to be labeled "gay" or "lesbian" and have to take on a whole new battle and become the face of LGBTQ athletes.  She just wanted to live in peace.  Ali grabbed Ashlyn's car keys to keep her from leaving.  Ashlyn just went and grabbed her spare keys and began to grab her bags. 

 

“Ashlyn, I don’t want to be with a guy or some other chick.  I want to be with you.  I want to have babies with you.   I was going to propose to you this offseason.  Please think about this.  If you walk out that door, you and I will never be the same and I mean it.  Don’t do this.   You will regret it.”

 

Now Ashlyn’s blood was really boiling.  "Don't you threaten me! Do you hear yourself?  Propose?  I'm not even allowed to hug you or hold your hand in public, yet you want me to wear your ring?   I wanted to propose to you years ago, hoping one day you'd grow up.  Tonight I was reminded that if by 30 years old you haven't grown up, you never will.  I could have handled you stiffening up.  Granted, I temporarily lost my mind and wanted to shower you with affection.  How awful of me to want to love you.  How awful of me to want to celebrate with my best friend and show the world how much I love you.   But that look, that look  you shot me was full of disgust and every one of our teammates saw it and God knows how many fans.  They say if you love something, set it free.  I'm setting you free Ali, go live in your closet where it's comfortable for you."

 

Ali just sobbed with her face in her hands.  She felt like Ashlyn was being so cruel.  Every time Ashlyn made a return trip for another suitcase, she was met with a continued sobbing Ali.  There was a time when Ashlyn wouldn't have been able to go through with this, but tonight she was hurt too deeply.  Let Ali see what it felt like to have a knife twisting in her gut for a change.

 

Ashlyn stayed with Alex and Serv for a week before her agent called with trade news.  She wouldn’t see Ali or return any of her calls.  Alex felt horrible to have to turn Ali away at her door because they were good friends.   They could have traded Ashlyn to Siberia and she would've accepted.   Ashlyn thanked Alex and Serv for their kindness and left a key to her house with them in case Ali decided to leave so that someone could lock it up properly and help her keep an eye on it.   The Carrascos were devastated for both of their friends.   Ashlyn loaded up her Jeep and made 22 hour drive to Houston just a day after signing her new contract.  No further words were spoken to Ali.  The only communications they had were through text if it was regarding something to do with the house.  Ashlyn really didn’t mind if Ali continued to stay there.  Ali began depositing rent into Ashlyn’s bank account because she felt like it was the only decent thing to do.  Ashlyn got an apartment and decided to spend the offseason in Houston, putting as much distance as she could between her and Ali while she recovered from her surgery.   She took a job with a local sports radio station and a local news station interviewing athletes  and doing color segments to sustain the cost of two places to live.

 

When the USWNT landed in Houston, Ali could only think about one thing and that was her Ashlyn.   She had been miserable for the past 6 months, only leaving the house to fulfill her national team duties, training and endorsement deals.  She scoffed every time she thought of the last fight they had where Ashlyn basically told her to go find someone else.   She couldn’t even look at anyone else.  Her heart was completely broken.  She was surrounded by everything Ashlyn all day long.  Ashlyn’s side of the bed, Ashlyn’s things in the bathroom, Ashlyn’s surf boards, long boards, awards of achievement, the clothes she left behind that she slept in at night.   Ali had to fix this and she had to find a way how.  That was the problem though, she didn’t know how.  She wasn’t ready to come out or to change her ways.  She felt awkward, stupid, and like she didn’t fit in anywhere.   When she was in Germany, she wasn’t German enough, now that she was back in the states, she had a weird German accent and now she wasn’t American enough, she wasn’t gay enough, she wasn’t straight enough.  Where the fuck did she fit in exactly?  She felt like a lost floundering soul.   Before she always had Ashlyn to draw on for strength and now that was gone.

 

Ali knew it would be futile to try to call Ashlyn when they landed in town.  Alex even offered to see if she could get Ashlyn to come see her and then surprise her with Ali but Ali would not let her teammates take the fall and risk Ashlyn being angry with them.  Ashlyn had blocked her on all of her social media accounts so she couldn’t even follow up on her life.  She wanted so badly to pick Carli and Moe’s brains to find out where Ashlyn lived but she knew she couldn’t betray her friendships.    Carli tried her best to stay out of the personal lives of her teammates.  Carli was all about the work and the training.  She didn’t go out with the team, she didn’t monkey around on social media unless it was to support the sport.   This particular trip she was rooming with Krieger and she found that her heart was breaking for her.   She would watch Ali play and train her ass off and then go through the rest of the day like a robot.   On all of their other trips, Ashlyn and Ali normally roomed together, rode on the bus together, left practice together.  You could not separate the two.  Now Carli felt like she was in some kind Romeo and Juliet play.  She saw how miserable Ashlyn was in the Dash locker rooms after their practices.    She could swear she could hear Ali cry herself to sleep every night.  

 

When they arrived in Houston, they had about an hour in the room before dinner.   Ali was sitting on the edge of her bed watching TV and Carli put her ipad down because she couldn’t take this anymore.

 

“Ok Krieger.   As team captain I feel it is my duty to help you.  In all of the years I have known you, played with you, and against you, I have never seen the light leave your eyes.  That light lives here in Houston and you need to do something about it.  I can’t stand to watch the two of you suffer anymore.  What happened?”

 

Ali just looked over at Carli like she had two heads.   Was Carli Lloyed talking to her about personal stuff like a girlfriend would?

 

“Excuse me, who are you and what have you done with Carli?” Ali said with a small smile on her face.

 

Carli chuckled, “Cut the bullshit Krieger, now tell me.”

 

“It’s ok Carli, I will be ok, you don’t have to worry about me, my head will always be in the game, we will beat Russia,” Ali said convincingly to her #10.

 

“I don’t give a damn about Russia or your head.  I am asking you about your heart.   You are turning into me.  There is not enough room on this team for two boring people.  Besides, it totally isn’t you.   You need to start going out with the girls again and having fun.  What happened to your heart?”

 

Ali sighed.   She couldn’t lie to her captain.  “Ashlyn just doesn’t love me anymore like she once did because I can’t give her what she wants.   I can’t come out because I don’t know if I am gay.   I know that sounds weird, but I don’t label myself as that.  I have been with both men and women.   I just love who I love and that is Ashlyn.   I can’t give her the PDA she wants, kiss and hug her in public, and shout from the rooftops that I am in love with her.   We both know, the minute I do, I will be taking away the attention from this team and making it all about me.  Then I will become a gay athlete who is expected to represent the LGBTQ community.  Look at what happened to Jason Collins and Michael Sam.   I don’t want to live in that media circus.   Let people think what they want about us, but I am not going to make some giant splash about it.  So she left me.   She called me a coward and a homophobe and told me to go live in the closet where I am comfortable.  She won’t speak to me, she has blocked me from all of her social media accounts, and for all I know, she could have a new girlfriend.” Ali began to sob.

 

Carli took off her glasses and went to stand up and held out her arms to hold #11.  “Jesus Ali, that is a lot to take in.  This is unchartered territory with me about the gay part but to me love is love.  We don’t get to choose who we love, it just happens.  Be thrilled you found it with someone because some people never find it.   I can say for certain, she does not have a new girlfriend.  She is just as miserable if not more so here in Houston without you as you are without her.  You should ask yourself how you would feel if you did see her with another girl.  Ali, you have to fix this before that happens and it is too late.  Other female players and fans flock to her and it could happen sooner than later.  I heard about what happened at your game.  So what if she kissed you?  You still don’t have to make any public declaration.  There is no reason why you can’t live normally and tell the fans and media that you are only here to discuss the sport you play and love and no personal questions.  Celebrities dodge that shit all of the time.  Maybe you should talk to Pinoe about this.”

 

Ali pulled back out of their hug.  “Thank you, that is a relief about her not being with another girl.  I don’t think I could survive it if she was, I love her so much.   I was going to propose to her this offseason but she said I won’t even hug her in public yet I want her to wear my ring.  She is right, she is right about everything.  I suck as a human and I don’t know how to be any different than I am.  Why did she even fall for me in the first place?  And Pinoe, is out and proud like Ashlyn, she wouldn’t understand.”

 

“She fell in love with you because you were her best friend and you two did everything together.  Christ she even painted your nails for you every week, I have never seen a love or friendship like that before.  I can’t stand to watch you two apart.  I am even willing to sit down with the two of you if you need a neutral party to help you work it out.  I think Allie would do it too.  She loves you both so much.  This is breaking her heart,” Carli said, handing Ali some Kleenex.

 

“Trust me it breaks my heart more than it does yours, thank you,” Ali said, blowing her nose.

 

“Ok let me get on my twitter and Instagram and see where blondie is tonight and maybe you can go to her.  I am supposed to room with her after camp since Ella and Erin left to go play overseas.  I’d rather not give you her address and betray her trust but I will if I have to because the two of you are worth fighting for,” Carli said scrolling through her phone.

 

Ali’s eyes just lit up and Carli smiled.  “It looks like she is going to go watch the Final Four Championships tonight.  She doesn’t say where but I know she goes to this Irish pub on main street which is two blocks over.  I don’t know the name but it is like the only one there where the light rail passes by.  Since we are off tomorrow I will vouch for you if they do curfew in case you don’t come back.  Ali, don’t come back.  Go get your woman.  Take a Tar Heel with you if necessary to pretend you are going to watch the game.  Tobin, Allie, Kling, Ohai, Crystal, any of them will go.  We all have your back.”

 

“Thank you so much Carli, I will never forget this.  Will you ask Allie if she will go with me?   You know Ashlyn could never be mad at her Pookie.”

 

Carli rolled her eyes, “Yes I will call Pookie.  You guys and these names, Pookie, Harry, Baby Horse, you all scare me.”

 

Ali laughed as Carlie got Allie on the phone.  Ali could hear Allie’s excitement screaming through the phone.   Pookie was in and came over to their room so they could plot.  The three walked down to the team dinner where Ali had a smile on her face for the first time in months.  It was noticeable to the whole team and they were happy to see some life breathed into their warrior princess.

 

After dinner, Allie brought up a UNC t-shirt for Allie to wear.   She normally wouldn’t be caught dead in one but tonight was a special occasion.  They both paired them with jeans, boots and jackets before finishing their hair and makeup.  They even convinced Carli to come with them so Allie wouldn’t have to walk back alone.   Carli would not wear a UNC t-shirt though.  She had to draw the line somewhere.  The three headed off for the bar with Carli leading the way to where she had seen the place before.  When they walked in, they grabbed a booth over to the side.   Carli and Allie just looked at each other, surprised that Ali hadn’t said anything about who was sitting at the bar.

 

“What?” Ali asked as she browsed the menu.

 

“Um, aren’t you going to go say hi?” Carli asked.

 

“Say hi to who?”

 

“Your girl,” Carli said.   “Sitting at the bar.”

 

Ali looked around and saw the blonde nowhere.   “Where?”

 

Carli and Allie looked at each other again.   Then a lightbulb went off with Allie who put a hand over her mouth.  “Omg, you haven’t seen Ashlyn since she cut her hair have you?  She went back to her natural color too.”

 

Carli pointed to the bar at a woman in jeans and a long sleeved UNC t-shirt that covered up her tell tale tattoos.   All Ali could see was the back of her head but upon closer inspection she recognized her Ashlyn.  “Oh wow, no, I didn’t know she cut her hair.”

 

Allie quietly snuck up to the woman on the other side of Ashlyn and tapped her on the shoulder.  She put a finger over her lip when the woman recognized who she was.  She offered her $40 for her bar stool which she said would be returned to her or offered that she could come sit with her and Carli.  The woman gladly obliged and Allie waved Kriegs over and pointed to the stool.  All of this went unnoticed by Ashlyn who was laser focused on the game.  Allie brought the woman to come over to sit with her and Carli and Ali took a seat on the stool.   Ali would be forever grateful to her wing women.   She sat down on the stool and a jolt of electricity shot through her body just being this close to Ashlyn.  She waved the bartended over and ordered a glass of wine. 

 

Ashlyn heard a mumble that she would know anywhere.  Her eyes darted over to her left and she saw blue painted fingernails belonging to a hand that she would know anywhere.  A hand that had been on her body 1000 times, the hand that gripped the steering wheel of a white BMW she often rode in,  a hand she longed to hold in public for over a decade.  Ashlyn darted her eyes back up to the TV, she was both excited and pissed at the same time.  She had said all she needed to say to Ali Krieger.  Let her do all of the talking for once.  Instead, she just chose to ignore the whole situation.   Ali was served her wine and while she took a drink, Ashlyn called the bartender over and ordered a basket of wings.

 

Ali never felt so shy or scared.  She thought for sure by now Ashlyn would have looked over her way or recognized her but that was not the case.   She was going to have to make the first move and this was out of her comfort zone.  She cleared her throat hoping that would get a look and it did not.  She continued to eye Ashlyn out of the side of her eye.  The haircut and color were growing on her.   She was happy to see Ashlyn comfortable with her true self.  She could tell Ashlyn was transforming, going after what she wanted in life and not what others wanted her to be.  Why couldn’t things be as easy for Ali?

 

Back at the booth, Allie and Carli thought they were going to die of anticipation if one of those two didn’t make a move soon.   If Allie had to, she was full on prepared to go stand next to Ali and go full on “Pookie” with Ashlyn forcing her to look at Ali.  She just hoped she didn’t have to.  She texted Ali.

 

Pooks:  Go for it Kriegs, don’t make me come over there.

Kriegs:  I’m working up my nerve.  Give me just a sec.

Pooks:  We are growing older by the minute.  Carli is going to die from entertaining this fan girl.  Get on with it.

Kriegs:  Its almost worth drawing it out to see Carli putting up with the fan girl :)

Pooks:  Do it, or the fan girl is going to be in your lap because she loves her some “Ali Freaking Krieger”

 

Ali took another sip of wine.  It was now or never. 

 

“So, are you a big UNC fan?” Ali asked, putting a hand on Ashlyn’s arm. 

 

Ashlyn just kept watching the game. “You already know the answer to that,” Ashlyn replied never looking Ali’s way.  “So she does know I am here.”

 

“Ashlyn”  Ali said and still nothing.

 

“Ashlyn, please don’t ignore me, we need to talk, I came to see you, to talk to you,” Ali said.

 

“I’ve said everything I needed to say to you that one October night.  Nothing has changed,” Ashlyn replied.

 

“Ashlyn, look at me.  Eventually we have to talk, we are going to play together, against each other, please hear me out,” Ali pleaded. 

 

Ashlyn reached for her wallet and pulled out enough bills to pay for her drinks and tip.  She couldn’t even enjoy her game in peace.  She turned to her right to get up when Ali put a hand on her shoulder.

 

“Hand off the shoulder Krieger, I recently had surgery,” Ashlyn said and headed towards the front door, not even seeing Allie or Carli on her way out.  Allie popped up to run towards Ali after seeing how pissed Ashlyn looked.   “Go after her, I will pay your bill, Carli and I will catch up.”

 

Ali went after Ashlyn jogging to catch up with her on the downtown street.  “Ashlyn!”  Ashlyn was being stubborn as could be so Ali just ran ahead of her and then turned around.  Ashlyn decided she would then go to cross the street and that is when she met Carli Lloyd on her right side, ushering her back to the sidewalk.  Ashlyn rolled her eyes and went to turn around and was met with Allie Long on her back side.

 

“Fuck!  What the fuck guys?” Ashlyn screamed leaning her back against the brick wall of a building.

 

“You two are going to talk and air this shit out if Allie and I have to stand here all night.  We have time, tomorrow is an off day.   So you two can either do this in a mature way and start talking or you can do it Allie’s and my way where we kidnap you and force you in a room together.   Either way, this is so happening tonight,” Carli said with a look of steely determination in her eyes.

 

Ashlyn held her face in her hands.  “Fine.  Just give us a minute then.  Can we at least go into this hotel lobby before we all get accosted out here in the middle of the night?”

 

The four walked into the lobby of the JW Marriott where Ali and Ashlyn sat at a table and Carli and Allie went and took a seat at the lobby bar close enough to eye the pair but to give them their privacy so they couldn’t hear.

 

“Ok Krieger, get whatever it was you came to say off your chest so I can go home,” Ashlyn said annoyed.

 

“That makes me sad that you call you call a place here home now,” Ali said looking down at her hands.

 

Ashlyn just raised an eyebrow.   She had no intentions of making this easy for Ali nor striking up conversation.  Ali picked up on the fact that she was going to have to start talking and talking fast.

 

“Ashlyn I love you.  I am miserable without you.  You are my entire life.  I am so sorry what happened between us, if I could go back and change that night I would.  I would go back and change a lot of things.  I know you deserve so much better.  I want to be everything you want, need and deserve.   Life isn’t worth living if you aren’t in it.  Please give me another chance to show you how much.  I want to change for you.”

 

Ashlyn just smirked.  “I don’t want you to change for me Ali, that is what you have never understood.  If it doesn’t come naturally to you, then I don’t want whatever it is you are offering.  I don’t want you to be anything for me.  I don’t want you to have to engage in some chore or exercise that you think you have to do to make me happy.  I never thought I could live without you.  If this last six months has taught me anything, it has taught me that I am strong and that I can live to fight another day even if that is without you.”

 

Ali was taken aback.  This was not how she meant for this to go.   “Babe, that is not what I meant.  I want to do these things.  I have had a lot of time to think about what I want.”

 

“Look, let’s be honest.  If you wanted it, you would have done it a long time ago.  I shouldn’t have had to wait a decade for you to have some kind of epiphany,” Ashlyn said as she grabbed the arms of the chair to stand up.

Ali stood up too.  “Ashlyn you aren’t walking away from me.  I will fight for you for the next 100 years if I have to because you are worth it.”

 

Ashlyn just looked at Ali.  She was even more beautiful then she remembered.   She never wanted anything so badly as she did Ali Krieger, even after all of these years.  However, she would be damned if she was going to fall back into this trap. 

 

“I can’t do this Ali, I’ve just put my life together and I like it.”

 

Ali stared into Ashlyn’s eyes, a tortured look on her face.  “Is there someone else?”

 

Ashlyn’s jaw dropped.  “As if.  God I wish Ali.  I wish somewhere out there someone else would appear that would make me forget about you.  Someone else that would come along, hold my hand anywhere, kiss me anywhere, hug me without feelings of shame and having to look around to see who was watching.   Hopefully one day there will be.”  Ashlyn turned on her foot and headed out towards the lobby doors leaving tears to stream down Ali’s face.

 

“Fuck this,” Ali said and went to follow Ashlyn.   Carli and Allie got up to follow them out, being sure to hang back to see how this unfolded.

 

“Ashlyn Michelle Harris!!!”  Ali yelled when she got to the sidewalk.  “You know I can outrun you, don’t make me have to!”  Ashlyn stopped in her tracks.  She was so over this bullshit tonight.

 

Ali caught up to her.  “Goddammit Ashlyn!   Listen to me.   I fucking love you with all of my heart!” Ali screamed loud enough for Carli and Allie to hear.   Allie snickered and Ashlyn looked to her right to see that the two of them were about 100 yards away and could hear Ali.

 

“Be careful there Krieger.  Wouldn’t want team captain and your teammates to hear that or god forbid some fucking meaningless fan.”

 

“I don’t give a shit who hears me!  I love you, I want you, You are my life!” Ali yelled.  She grabbed both sides of Ashlyn’s face and leaned in to kiss Ashlyn as tears rolled down her own face.    Ashlyn did not kiss her back.  She kept her lips closed despite Ali begging for entrance with her tongue.   She kept her hands in her jeans pockets even though it was the hardest thing she ever had to do.

 

“Ashlyn?  Do you not love me anymore?  Look me in the eyes and tell me you no longer love me,” Ali challenged her.  “Tell me that I mean nothing to you and that you feel nothing for me when I touch you.  Tell me you don’t want to take me back to your place right now and have your way with me like I want to with you.”

 

“I can’t tell you that.  But I can tell you this.  I have to shelf my feelings for you.  I refuse to let you hurt me again.  You have to remember that I have heard all of this before.  We went through this same scenario in Europe.   Nothing has changed Ali.  Some public declaration out on a sidewalk in the middle of the night downtown doesn’t change anything.  And those two over there, like they and the rest of the team didn’t already know what was going on between us.  In fact, everyone does.  You seem to be the only one who thinks you are keeping some kind of gigantic secret.   I am not your secret anymore Ali.”  Ashlyn was determined to stay resolute on the matter.

 

“Ashlyn, stop this.  I know you feel the same way I do.  I can feel the electricity between us.  Now take me home and make me yours,” Ali said, still holding Ashlyn’s face.

 

“I’ll take you back to my place but on one condition.  My terms,” Ashlyn said.

 

Ali let a giant smile overtake her face, finally Ashlyn was beginning to melt.  “Anything, just tell me what it is baby.”

 

Ashlyn wasn’t smiling.   “We go back to my place and we fuck.  We both need it.  But there will be no I love yous, no babe, no baby, no terms of endearment.   We fuck and then you go back to your hotel.  That’s all I have ever been to you anyway is a good fuck so let’s just call this what it is and be honest about it this time,” Ashlyn said stone faced.

 

“Oh my God.  Ashlyn.  You know you were, are, so much more to me than that.  For Christ sakes you are my best friend, the love of my life, the first woman I ever gave myself to.  If I have to tell you 1000 times, you are my world, my heartbeat.  I have your name tattooed on my ass and that is because I am yours forever,” Ali said as she choked back more tears.

 

“I hear all of that but actions speak louder than words.  I was never your partner.  I was your secret.  Anyway, it doesn’t matter now.  Take it or leave it, those are my terms and I mean it Ali, I am not fucking around.   You come back to my bed and then you leave.   We will do this the way you always wanted.  No PDA, no extra anything, nothing public, no sleeping over, no meals together, no movie nights, cuddling, etc.    I will never be able to deny my attraction to you.  I can’t even look at anyone else but you will never have my heart again to stomp on.  So take it or leave it, I really don’t care,” Ashlyn said as she started to head towards her car.

 

Ali wanted to die right there.  How could she take it.  How could she not.  She would take any crumb Ashlyn threw her as hurtful as it might be.  She was now on the receiving end of being treated like shit which is what she figured Ashlyn’s goal was.  This was going to be toxic as hell but if it was the only chance she had to even spend one more night on this earth with Ashlyn Harris, she would take it.

 

“I’ll take it.” 

 

I am going to so hate myself in the morning for this, but I sure am going to love her the best I can tonight,” Ali thought to herself.

Chapter Text

Ali followed Ashlyn to her Jeep hoping that she would unlock the passenger door and let her in the car.  She was prepared to walk if she had to even though it was beginning to lightly drizzle outside.  She was relieved when Ashlyn unlocked her door.  She noticed that her door wasn’t opened for her like it always had been in the past, just another thing that reminded Ali of what no longer was.  Ashlyn drove them in silence and Ali couldn’t help but think about how she missed riding with Ashlyn, how she missed the familiar scent of Ashlyn’s Jeep.  Ashlyn’s last few words outside of the hotel were sinking in and slowly breaking Ali’s heart as they replayed in her head.

 

The more Ali thought about it, the more she didn’t want to go back to Ashlyn’s place and just fuck her.  She wanted to love her, to make love to her and to show her how sorry she was, to show her how much she missed her.  She didn’t want something fast and dirty but she knew that was what she was going to get.  She wanted to talk it out all night with Ashlyn but she knew she couldn’t.  Never before had she seen Ashlyn this angry or upset.   She could tell it was important to Ashlyn that she was now in control and in the driver’s seat.  Ashlyn had made it clear about what was going to happen between them and nothing more.  If all Ashlyn wanted from her was release, then she would give it to her.

 

Ashlyn pulled into the parking garage of her high rise and got out.  Ali opened her door and got out.     Ashlyn hit the lock button on her remote and went for the elevator.  When it opened, she didn’t hold that door open for Ali either and Ali had to wedge her foot in between the doors after catching up so that she didn’t miss the elevator.  The doors slamming on her foot hurt and stung, but nowhere near how much her heart was hurting.  There were about a million special little things that Ashlyn used to do for Ali that no longer happened

 

Ashlyn wanted to make a comment about Ali needing to be more careful with her foot since she used it to earn a living but she decided against it.   She was done showing any kind of concern about Ali anymore.  She was now going to look out for herself and herself only when it had anything to do with Ali Krieger.  She was just going to go through her day taking what she wanted much like how Ali used to do with her. 

 

As they rode the elevator up, Ali asked, “Which shoulder did you have fixed and does it feel better?  I didn’t even know you were injured.”

 

“I never told anyone because I am used to swallowing my pain,” Ashlyn scoffed.

 

“I am just asking because I don’t want to hurt you,” Ali said looking down at the ground. 

 

“I see, so it’s ok to run over my heart and hurt me that way, but when it comes to a little physical pain regarding my shoulder, you are concerned about hurting me,” Ashlyn replied getting more pissed off by the minute.

 

“Ashlyn, I never want to hurt you in any way.  I know you don’t want to talk, but if you would just hear me out, I will give you anything.  I will give up soccer for you.  I will give up anything for you,” Ali said as they got off of the elevator.

 

“Why would you think I would want you to give up soccer?” Ashlyn asked in disbelief.

 

“Because then we could live like normal people.  I would be out of the spotlight and there would be no more scrutiny, no more pressure, no more having the fans watch our every move and no more worrying about what sponsors think.  No more morality clauses in my endorsement deals.  Then it would be just you and me,” Ali said attempting to hug Ashlyn who just moved away and put her key in the door.

 

They walked in and Ashlyn slammed her keys down on the kitchen counter and turned to face Ali.  “How can you be so completely clueless?  First of all if you quit soccer for a reason like this, I will never, ever speak to you again.  What you just said to me is insulting as fuck Ali.  You’ll quit doing what you love so we can live in secret is basically what you just told me.   You fail to see what the issue is.  Who gives a flying fuck what the fans or sponsors think.  When are you going to grow a pair?”

 

At least Ashlyn was talking to her, Ali thought.   It was better than nothing.  “Ashlyn, what do you want me to do?   Do you want me to have US Soccer call a press conference tomorrow and I will tell the world that I’m gay?   Is that what you want from me?  I am at the point where I will do it.  Do you want me to come out to the Advocate or Sports Illustrated?  Will that make you happy?” Ali said with tears welling up in her eyes.

 

“Oh for fucks sakes Ali,” Ashlyn pounded her fist on the counter and raised her voice, she was so fucking angry, she wanted to throw something.  “No I don’t want you to out yourself to the world.  It clearly isn’t what you want and no one does that anyway except for a few.  That is never what I have expected from you.   All I ever wanted was to be able to kiss or hug my girlfriend when I felt like it, when the feelings of my love for you were so overwhelming that I just wanted to be able to express them to you.   To be able to do that without you turning away, worried about who was looking and what they thought.   You never had to give anyone an answer about us.   You could have simply let them all think what they wanted.  Instead you always cared about them and what they thought more than you ever did me.  It took me leaving your ass for you to even begin to see our relationship for what it was and the sad part is, you still don’t completely get it.”  Ashlyn grabbed the middle of Ali’s t-shirt.  “Here’s a perfect example, what is this?  You wouldn’t be caught dead in a UNC shirt you used to tell me.  I’d wear Penn State shirts for you.  I would go to their games with you because it was you, it was a part of you.  Never once could I get you to visit Chapel Hill with me.  How many times did I go to your games in Europe and wear a Krieger jersey?  You know why I did that?   Because I was fucking proud of you Ali.  I was overfilled with joy to be with you.”

 

 Ali began to break down sobbing.   Ashlyn continued.

 

“You act like I have made some grand gesture to let the world know I’m gay.   I’ve never came out.  I have never done an interview.  I don’t really think I need to.   I really don’t care what anyone thinks about me. My sexuality doesn’t define me.  I used to care what you thought about me but I can honestly say, I don’t even care about that anymore.  Anytime anyone ever brought it up with me, I never answered them.  It is none of their fucking business.   I always gave them answers about soccer or the organizations I support.  I don’t understand why you could never find a way to handle all of this similarly,” Ashlyn said shaking.

 

Ali now could feel her anger beginning to rise to meet Ashlyn’s.   Why Ashlyn couldn’t understand her point of view baffled her.  “Ashlyn you know how fucking hard it was for me after the world cup and when we played together for the Spirit.  All eyes were on us and people said the most horrible things about me, about us.   I was called every name under the book on facebook and twitter.   Those things hurt me so much especially since Kyle is gay too.  It absolutely broke my heart to be bullied just because I chose to love someone!” More tears of anger and sadness were streaming down her face.   Ashlyn was really twisting the knife tonight.   She had to keep reminding herself not to blow up and just leave.   That she had to work this out, as difficult as it was.   

 

“This is exactly the problem!  You let them all get to you!  You read all of that crap and you let your head blow up.  Why are you giving them the power?  You act like these are normal people that deserve to have their opinions validated!  They are sick, sorry, internet trolls that have no fucking lives of their own and have decided to sit at home on their asses and talk about us all day.  For some reason that I can never fathom, you decided to choose them and what they think over me.   You validated their feelings over yours and mine.  I was supposed to be your partner, your best friend, the one person you could count on no matter what.  But you never looked at me that way.  What I thought, didn’t matter, yet what strangers thought and said were more important to you than anything.  And now, now that’s what you are going to be left with.  The thoughts and opinions of what these asswipes think of you.   You want to know what is really sad?  When you leave the game, then you won’t have that.  They will drop you like a hot potato just like they do everyone who leaves the sport or who’s 15 minutes of fame is up.   We had a chance to build something really special that would be there long after we left the game.  You never wanted that though.  You just wanted me in your bed and then to walk five feet away from you in public.  Well fuck that Ali.  I’m done with it.  I’m done with all of it.”  Ashlyn now had angry tears streaming down her own face.

 

“Ashlyn, stop saying that all you were was a fuck to me.  You are absolutely ripping my fucking heart in two!  That is not true!  You are everything to me.  If I have to say it a million times I will until you believe it.  Ok, so I am a giant fuck up and I handled everything wrong.  I didn’t listen to you or validate your feelings and I am so enormously sorry for that.   I am sorry for not being more comfortable with us in public.  I am sorry for everything I ever did to hurt you,” Ali said as she tried to reach for Ashlyn’s hand which was pulled away. 

 

“Why because I left you?  That’s the only reason that you are sorry Ali.  Because I left you and forced you to take a look at yourself.  You weren’t sorry five years ago.  You weren’t sorry a year ago.  The only reason you are sorry now is because you want something you can no longer have.   I am not stupid enough to believe that things have changed or that things would be different tomorrow.  Look, I am so done talking about this, I have given you more tonight than you deserve.  I’m not going to argue with you all night.  I have to get up early tomorrow to have my shoulder checked with US Soccer while you all are in town.  Are we going to fuck or what?  Otherwise you can just go,” Ashlyn said as she reached into the fridge to pull out a bottle of water.

 

“Yes Ashlyn.  You forced me to take a look at myself and I have changed.  You want to know why?  Because you are worth it, you are worth changing for.  If you weren’t I wouldn’t be here right now, fighting for you, fighting for us.  And if you really want the truth, no I don’t want to just fuck you.  I want to love you Ashlyn, I want to make love to you and show you how much you mean to me.  I want to show you how much I want you and how much I need you.  The other half of my heart has been ripped out of my chest.   I wake up every morning and I feel like I am going to vomit when I don’t see you lying there next to me.   I can’t eat.  I can’t sleep.  I don’t even want to breathe without you.”

 

Ashlyn just glared at Ali.  “You know what is really fucked up about that Ali?  That is all I ever wanted to do.  Maybe now you are starting to get it.  Maybe now it’s finally fucking starting to sink in.   That is all I ever wanted to do to was love you, to show you how much you meant to me, how much I wanted and needed you.  And do you know what I was met with when I tried to do that the minute we stepped foot outside of our place, a hotel, an apartment we shared?   I was met with a hand that would push me away, a head that would snap and turn away, a body that would stiffen, and warning looks.   That’s what I got every time I wanted to show you how much you meant to me.  So now you can get a good dose of what that feels like.”

 

“Ashlyn, I can’t.  I can’t take this.  I feel like I am going to wind up in the hospital if we don’t stop this.  I can’t live like this, I can’t take the feeling in my chest.  I can’t look at you and not want to touch you or wrap you in my arms.”

 

“Then I suggest you go Ali.  I suggest you walk out of that door and start piecing your life back together.  Forget about me and go find someone that doesn’t demand so much of you like holding your hand in public.  Go find someone that is happy with never being able to touch you and has to follow you around ten steps behind following all of your rules.  You know, I looked at pictures of us online the other day of us through the years and you know what the one constant thing was in every picture?  It was me, always having to keep my hands in my pocket or to myself.  Never in one of those pics was I there with my arm around your waist.  In some of them you were allowed to slip your arm in mine, but only if it suited you.  Did I balk on you?  Did I bunch up?  Never.  Not once.”

 

Ali just closed her eyes as more tears came flying down her face.  “Christ Ashlyn.  I get it.  I get it. I get it.  I am so sorry….  Is that what you really want?  Do you really want to look at me with someone else?  Do you want to pull up a picture online of me dating someone, of me loving someone else?  Because I don’t want to love anyone else Ashlyn and I never will.  It would break my fucking heart to see with you with someone else on your arm.  I want to be on your arm.  It would break my heart to see you in love with someone else.   I want you to love me and I want to love you.  I am willing to do whatever it takes.   If I can’t have it all with you, then I want nothing.  I will gladly hold your hand in public, kiss you, hug you, love on you, whatever will make you happy.”

 

Ashlyn took all of Ali’s words in.  She hoped to God it was finally starting to sink in.  Ali had said more meaningful things to her in one night than she had said to her in the ten years they were together.  There was no way she was going to let her resolve down this quickly.  If she gave in, then everything she had been through for the last six months was all for nothing.   She looked at her watch, it was midnight and she was over the whole thing.

 

“There it is again Ali, whatever will make me happy.  This isn’t about me, it’s about you.  You say you want to do those things because they will make me happy.   You should be doing them because it is what you want without a doubt,” Ashlyn said as she grabbed her phone and began typing something into it.   “Since we aren’t going to fuck, I have called you an Uber.  It says they are three minutes away,” Ashlyn said grabbing Ali’s purse and handing it to her.   She walked over to the door and held it open.  This was the one door she would hold open for Ali on this awful night. 

 

Ali grabbed a paper towel to wipe the tears off her face, took her purse and walked out of the door, crying as she heard the door shut loudly behind her.  This is not how it was supposed to end.  She had come here to fight for Ashlyn and had failed miserably.  If she left now, she would never get her back.  She had no clue of when she would see Ashlyn again until Orlando played the Dash in the summer.  She couldn’t wait that long.   At least fighting with Ashlyn was getting to see Ashlyn.

 

Ali started to furiously bang on the door.  Ashlyn had already walked to her bedroom and took off her shirt.  She had no desire to open the door but she couldn’t have Ali out there banging on her door waking up her neighbors at midnight.  

 

“God Dammit Ali, you are going to wake up the whole floor,” Ashlyn said as she opened the door.

 

“Good, I hope we do, now let’s fuck” Ali said as she pushed hard on the door and barged her way in.

Chapter Text

Ashlyn didn’t really expect Ali to take her up on her ultimatum. She didn’t think Ali had it in her to be able to separate her feelings and just give in to her demand. Hell, Ashlyn didn’t even know if she could separate her feelings and go through with what she threatened. Deep down, if she were to be honest with herself, she loved Ali with all of her heart. That had never changed, that just didn’t go away no matter how angry she was. Now she had to put up or shut up. She had no idea how to just “fuck” Ali Krieger and touch her body without making love to her. She was so determined to make a point that she never expected to have to carry through with it and now she felt like a fool as she watched Ali storm into her living room. The words Ali said to her just a few minutes ago were still swirling through her mind when Ali asked her if she would like to see Ali loving someone else. God help her, the answer was absolutely fucking no. These past 6 months had been filled with loneliness and torture. She had the chance to fix all of this tonight with a few choice words, to end all of this. But dammit, if she did, she couldn’t trust that Ali had changed or would change for the long haul and there was no way she could go through this again. She had to trust her instincts that she was doing the right thing for the both of them. Ali was stubborn and the only way she was really going to understand this whole situation would be to get a good solid dose of her own medicine. This was hard for Ashlyn because this wasn’t who she was inherently.

Ashlyn had to think and she had to think fast. She would be damned if she let any weakness show. She had always been weak where Ali was concerned. That’s how they ended up here, in this mess, ten years later because she gave into her weakness and wasn’t more firm about what she wanted. She thought back to her college days at UNC at frat parties where she would just take a girl home and fuck her, when it didn’t mean anything other than a good time. She was going to have to get herself into that mentality and pretend this wasn’t Ali. The more she thought about it, the more she would rather fight with Ali then to have to do this. Her own heart was breaking because of the fight they just had. She wanted her life back so badly, she was angry that she had to give it all up to get through to Ali. Soon she could feel her sadness turn back into anger and that’s what she began to feed off of. That is what she was going to need to get her through what she was about to do. She knew the only way she was to survive this was if the whole thing was one sided. If she let Ali Krieger have her way with her she would crumble. Sex had never been their problem.

Ali slammed her purse down on the couch and began taking off her jacket and threw that just as violently on the couch. Ali was pissed off and turned on at the same time. She couldn’t look at Ashlyn or speak to her without being turned on. It had been like that for her since day one with the keeper. If Ashlyn wanted a good hard fucking and some meaningless sex, then that’s what she was about to give her. She really had no idea how she was going to do this because this wasn’t how things normally went down between them but whatever, she would figure it out. The last six months had been torture for her not to feel Ashlyn touch her body.

“Take your clothes off Ashlyn, come on lets fuck,” the words stabbed at her gut as she took off her shirt and reached down to take off her jeans.

Ashlyn swallowed hard at the sight before her. Ali was left in just her bra and underwear and Ashlyn wanted her bad. Things were just so fucked up and now it just didn’t seem right. “Ali, we don’t have to do this”

“Oh we are so doing this. I came to you tonight with the intentions of giving you whatever you wanted. Obviously instead of letting me love you, you want to punish me so go ahead, punish me and make sure you do a damn good job of it. As if I haven’t been in pain and living in hell for the last 6 months. You act like I am some heartless bitch who never loved you. Nothing you could dish out tonight could even begin to compare to the kind of pain I feel when I hear what you think about me and when you walked out that door Ashlyn. So go ahead, get it all out of your system. I’ll take your punishment for as long as I have to, I may be a lot of fucked up different things, but one thing I am is tough. I’m built to last so go ahead. I can already tell what you’re thinking by the angry look in your eyes. You just want to fuck me, but you don’t want me to fuck you so I can see how it feels to not be able to reciprocate my love for you. So do it. Show me how it feels Ashlyn, hurt me like I have hurt you. If it takes years for you to get back at me then fine. I will still be here waiting for you. If I didn’t love you then I wouldn’t have been with you and I wouldn’t be here tonight.”

The worlds swirled around in Ashlyn’s head. Ali had just conveyed all of the feelings that had been building up inside of Ashlyn for so long. Ali completely hit a nerve. That is exactly what Ashlyn had wanted. She wanted nothing more than for Ali to feel ten years of pent up pain and now that Ali had said those words, Ashlyn wasn’t going to turn back. She crossed the room to meet Ali and pulled her into a bruising kiss. A kiss that was anything but Ali’s sweet and loving Ashlyn. This wasn’t even like one of the hot lustful kisses full of desire they shared when they were super turned on for each other. No. Ali was right, this was going to be rough, hard, and anything but loving. Even so, Ali would take it.

Ashlyn roughly grabbed Ali as she licked, bit and sucked on her neck. Ashlyn knew Ali hated hickeys and she intended to leave a big one right on the side of her neck. She hoped it would take a whole bottle of concealer to cover. Ali wrapped her arms around Ashlyn’s shoulders pulling her in closer allowing Ashlyn to do whatever she wanted to her, she was incredibly turned on to just have Ashlyn on her again. Ali grabbed Ashlyn’s face to pull her in for a kiss and entered her tongue into Ashlyn’s mouth, giving her a kiss that told her how much she loved her. Tears immediately began to stream down Ashlyn’s face. She couldn’t do this. She wanted Ali but not like this. She thought she could handle it but she couldn’t. She had to stop this before she would hate herself forever. She loved Ali and until things were right she couldn’t just treat her this way as much as she wanted to. She was mad at herself for letting Ali get to her this way.

Ashlyn pulled back and broke their kiss and embrace. “Stop. I cant do this. God fucking help me I can’t do this. As much as I want to, I am not going to hate myself tomorrow for hurting you," Ashlyn said as she took off towards the bedroom for a t-shirt, grabbed her keys, and grabbed the door handle. “Please don’t be here when I get back.”

Chapter Text

“And you don’t think you walking out the door isn’t going to hurt me Ashlyn?” Ali got out before the door slammed.   Ali was getting tired of Ashlyn walking out of the door on her.  She didn’t run when times got hard.   She wasn’t even getting a chance to fix things or prove herself.  Just because she would wait forever didn’t mean she deserved to be treated like a door mat either.   She loved Ashlyn but she wasn’t that far gone and if she kept up at this rate, something bad was going to happen to her health because she could literally feel her heart breaking in her chest.  

 

Ali came back to her room to find Carli and Allie watching a movie.  Apparently they bonded over going out that night. 

 

"Whoa Kriegs, are you ok?  You look awful, what happened?" Carli asked.

 

"I'm fine, things didn't go well at all.  I just want to go to bed," Ali said as she put her hair up in a bun and then began bursting into tears.  She put her face in her hands and just kneeled by her suitcase as her shoulders bounced up and down as she cried.   Allie got up to kneel by Ali as she hugged and rocked her.  "Thanks Allie, that's more contact than I've had with Ash in half a year. I tried my best with her tonight.  You'd think I cheated on her the way she's treating me.  She won’t even give me a chance to prove to her that I am willing to change and give her the things she wants.  She says all I ever looked at her was as a good lay.   You know that’s not true.  I love that girl with all of my heart and some stupid game changed all of that."

 

Carli was glad Allie was in the room at the moment because this was so not her specialty.  "Honey just hang in there.  I'm going to have a talk with her at some point this weekend.  It's all going to be ok, just give it time.   Sometimes when Ash gets upset, she gets tunnel vision and she would rather wallow in anger than dig out of it,” Allie said as she handed Kriegs a tissue.    Ali got up and changed into her sleep tank and shorts

 

“So how did you guys leave it?” Carli asked. 

 

I can’t even tell you because the things she said were so horrible and before it got worse, she went towards the door and told me not to be there when she returned   That is the second time in two months since she has walked out on me.  She won’t take in to consideration that things are easier for her than they are for me.  She knows who she is and sometimes I have no clue who I am, but it doesn’t mean I’m not willing to try.”

 

Allie got up and handed out more tissue.  “Ok why don’t you get some rest because you have been crying all night.  I will have a talk with Harris tomorrow if I can.  Nothing is going to get solved tonight.  Just take care of yourself Kriegs.”

 

“Thank you Alazeh, I love you.  You don’t have to talk to her, I don’t want to drag everyone in to this.  Thank you Carli.  I am sorry to be dragging you guys into this.   I swear to you both I can keep this off of the field.”

 

“We love you Ali, we are the last of a dying breed around here on this team and we have to look out for each other,” Allie said giving Ali a peck goodnight.

 

Allie left to go back to her room.  “What the fuck was going on that was so bad that she was living in a world where Ali and Ashlyn were fighting like this?”

 

Pookie1:  Pooks, what have you done to Kriegs?  She looks like she has been crying ever since we left you.

 

Pookie2:  Oh great not you too.  Now I’m the ogre.  What about me?

 

Pookie1:  Pooks, we have to talk about this.   Let’s meet for breakfast.

 

Pookie2:  I have a fan meet and greet tomorrow at 10 a.m. with the Dash

 

Pookie1:  Then meet me at 7:00, at Le Peep, it is around the corner from the hotel.

 

Pookie2:  Fine.  *eyeroll emoji*

 

Pookie1:  Don’t you roll your eyes at me Harris.  Something is really fucked up in the world if Krashlyn is not together. 

 

Ashlyn knew it was now safe to go back to her apartment if Allie was texting her.   When she walked in, she found a note on the counter in all too familiar writing.

 

Ashlyn, you have to stop walking out on me like this.  I never walked out on you when times grew hard.  I really want to work this out with you, I can’t imagine a future for me without you in it.  I am sorry for how I behaved in the past and I want to show you how much.  So let me.

 

Love Always, Ali” 

 

Ashlyn hated the emotional toll this was wreaking on both of them.   She wanted to give in, it was so tempting.  She had to remind herself what she sacrificed for all of this.  She left the team that meant more for her to play for than anything.  She left her beloved state that she called home.  Ashlyn felt like if she gave in now at this point without seeing the changes she wanted to see, it could have been all for nothing.  It was taking every ounce of will power she had to not cave.

 

The next day Allie Long got up at 6:00 a.m. on her off day to try to go patch her friends back together.   She wasn’t even sure why they were broken in the first place.   She had heard bits and pieces here and there but not the full story.  She got dressed and walked into the restaurant and joined the table Ashlyn was already sitting at.

 

“Pookie!” Allie said, putting her arms around Ashlyn’s neck from behind and giving her a kiss on the cheek.  “How about our Tar Heels last night baby!!” Allie yelled, fist bumping Ashlyn.

 

“Hell yeah!  All the way! Even though I didn’t get to see the ending because of..” Ashlyn said making a fake cough.   She couldn’t be mad at Allie, they had been thick as thieves since their UNC days.  Allie sat down and they both ordered breakfast and Allie was eager to get this show on the road.  She was looking forward to some old fashioned beauty sleep on her off day.

 

“So, what on earth is going on between you and Krieger?  I don’t know the full story because she didn’t say.  All I know is that she looks like hell and like she is suffering from a broken heart that she may never recover from.”  Allie asked, folding her arms across her chest as she stared at Ashlyn.

                                                                                                          

“What about me and my broken heart?  Why does everyone act like I am the ogre that broke Ali’s heart  and no one bothers to ask me about mine?”

 

“Ok Ash, fair enough, I’m asking.  I haven’t seen you with the team for a while since you have been out and I am being a terrible friend.   It’s always been ride or die between me and you, so please tell me what happened?”

 

“It all happened during our last game in Orlando.   Ali scored a goal in the last few seconds of the game and I lost complete control of my mind and body.  I was so excited for her, you know that doesn’t happen for her often and she doesn’t get near the attention or accolades she deserves because she’s not out there scoring goals all of the time.   A huge since of pride came over me and I before I knew it, I was running down the field to get my girl.   I scooped her up in my arms into a hug and I kissed her.   I forgot about our rules, no PDA in public, especially after how things went during the world cup.  You would have thought I raped her or something.  This look of utter disgust came over her face and she stiffened up and gave me this go to hell look.   That was it Allie, it was the final straw.   I couldn’t take it anymore. 

 

I have been with that girl for ten years.  I have followed her halfway across the globe to be with her at different times in our lives.   I played for the Spirit for her for Christ sakes.  DC is the last place I’d be caught dead living in but I did it for her.   I’ve done so many things for her and I have never complained once.   I followed her rules because I know she struggles with herself.  So I made a mistake, I lost my shit.   She didn’t have to embarrass me in front of our teammates and a stadium full of people like that.   I would never do anything like that to her.   So I came home that night, packed my bags and I left her.  I told her that I am sorry for being a terrible person who wants to kiss or hug my girlfriend when I am compelled by my overwhelming feelings of love for her.  I am tired of shutting my feelings down for her.  I am tired of her always looking around to see who is watching us.  I am tired of her letting internet trolls, fans, and press get to her about the possibility we might be in a relationship together.  She’s worried about all of that other stuff that doesn’t matter at the end of the day, instead of me, the one person that has always had her back no matter what.  I am the one person that has sat in the hospitals with her through her injuries and has gotten her through rehabs, concussions, you name it.  Where were all of these fucks that she cares about so much during all of that?”

 

Allie ate her fruit and just took all of this in.   “Jesus, when you put it like that Ash… I totally get it…before we go further, what else did you say to her because she has hinted to something awful you said.”

 

Ashlyn huffed.  “I am pissed at her and I wanted to cut her deep like she has done to me.  So I told her that all I am is a fuck to her.   Last night I told her there would be no more us anymore, that if she wanted to be with me, it would just be for a fuck and that is all it would mean.”

 

Allie’s eyes went wide like white saucers.  “Ashlyn Harris!  Why would you say such a thing?  Baby, I know you are so much better than that.”

 

“I said it because I want it to sink in with her.  She wants to keep me as her secret, shoved away in her closet.  I can’t do anything with her in public but walk two steps to the side of her or five steps back.  I can't hug her, hold her, kiss her, or even give her a look that means anything more than friendship without her getting her panties in a wad.   However it’s all ok when we are inside of the house or a hotel room together.   Hell, I can have more PDA with you and Whitney than I can with my own fucking girlfriend.  I am not asking for much.  I am not asking to suck face with her in a restaurant or fuck outside in front of everyone on the street.   If I was a guy, this wouldn’t even be an issue.   So if I can’t do those things with her, then all I must be is a fuck to her.  I am good for a roll in the hay and nothing else.   I told her that I looked up the photos of us online throughout the years.  I think there is only like one picture of us where I have my arm around her and that is when we crashed a wedding years ago.   You can see the change in my face over the years.  I used to smile and be happy when we were together and then as I got older I am cautious and guarded.  I never have a hand on her, I am never touching her.  There are a few where she slips her arm in mine, that’s usually when we are at a function and she’s had a few.  It’s ok when she wants to do it and it is on her terms.   That is how it is with a lot of things.  I have swallowed it all down for so long.   When that game happened, I just snapped.   She needs to understand how this shit feels.   She keeps telling me how badly I have broken her heart.   Ali, Ali, Ali.   What about mine?  Not once has she said she now sees how my heart was broken.  She has acute pain right now because I left her ass.    I have an aching dull pain in my broken heart that has accumulated over years.   Any time I brought it up she just stuffed it away and made excuses and then that would lead to sex and it never got addressed.  The worst part is, I am even angrier with myself for letting her do it.”

 

Allie wanted to cry.  She wanted to crawl in a hole and fucking die right there.   “Pooks, I am so sorry, I feel like I am sitting through ‘War and Peace’ right now.  This is so simple yet so complicated.  The simple thing about it is that anyone that knows you two knows you two belong together and are meant for each other.   The hard part is, we have to figure out how to fix this shit.  There is no way your teammates are going to let the two of you break up permanently.”

 

Ashlyn sighed. “It’s not something for you all to fix.  This is between Ali and I.  She is the one that needs to fix it and that may never happen because she can’t think about anything but how she is feeling and herself.  How the hell is anyone going to fix that?”

 

“Ashlyn, do you love her?   Are you attracted to her?”

 

Ashlyn looked up at the ceiling.  “Of course I love her.  I love her with all of my heart.  It wouldn’t hurt so goddamned much if I didn’t.   I wouldn’t have asked to be traded to wind up in this hole if seeing her everyday wasn’t going to break me.   Attracted?  Allie have you seen her?   In what world would I ever look at her and not be attracted to her?  You want to know what is even worse?  She is more attractive every goddamned day.  She is one of those women who is growing into her looks.  When I met her, we were kids, she had this awkward shyness to her and a baby face.  Now she is mature with laugh lines, wisdom in her face, crinkles around her eyes and nose when she smiles and it’s fucking sexy and hot I can’t even stand myself.   I can’t even look at her without wanting to jump her.   That’s my whole point to this Allie.  I have to look at her and I can’t hold her hand or put my arm around her unless we are home and tell me when are we home with our schedules?  I can either suffer and not have her at all, or I can be with her and not have her then.   It’s fucking torture.   Look but you can’t touch.   Well fuck that.  I just won’t have it at all then.”

 

“Pooks.  Honey, if you love her this much then she is not the selfish and self-centered person you are making her out to be.  You wouldn’t be with her if she was some kind of shallow bitch who only thought about herself.  The problem is she isn’t just thinking about herself.  She is thinking about everyone and she is thinking way too much and its turned into some type of neurosis where she is terrified of what everyone will think.  She is trying to protect you and her by keeping your relationship between the two of you and out of the public eye.  Unfortunately she is failing miserably at it and now she sees her way isn’t going to work.   She told Carli and I she wants to change.  Have you let her have a chance to show you that?” Allie asked.

 

Ashlyn looked down at her plate.  “Well I only first really heard her out last night.  So there really hasn’t been the opportunity to do much else.   She actually told me more about how she was feeling last night than she has in a decade.  I guess if I am being fair, I will admit that I completely shut her out.  I won’t take her calls and I blocked her on twitter, Instagram, facebook, you name it.  I only allow her to text me about business or the house.  I really haven’t been open to hear anything she has to say.  That game and that look she shot me let the entire world know how she feels about me.  So you tell me, what is she going to do to reverse that?   You want to know what the world says about that one, what crap I have had to look at on my twitter, facebook, and fan mail?  Ashlyn Harris is a dyke who fell for a straight girl who she has been pining over her for a decade.  When she goes in to make a move with the object of her affection, she was rejected and shot down.   That’s what she gets for falling in love with a straight girl.  Ashlyn Harris couldn’t turn Ali Krieger.    Now what if I let that get right in the middle of our relationship and I took that hateful shit from people who mean nothing to me and I projected that on her?  How would she like that?   What if I took what those trolls say to heart?  They don’t know about us, they know nothing about how we met, that we’ve lived together more times than I can count on my hands, that we are practically married.  Oh and here is another kicker, she told me on that night that she was going to propose to me in the off season.   Ha!  Allie, how exactly is that going to work?  I can wear her ring but I can’t hold her hand or kiss her because then someone might suspect she is gay?  This is so fucked up in about 30 different directions that I just can’t live in this insanity anymore.”

 

Allie just soaked all of this in.  “There is not enough therapy that can solve this.  You two have got to sit down and talk without screaming, crying and fighting.  Just as you are with me and just as she did with Carli and I.     Carli and I are willing to sit down with the both of you if you need a neutral party.   Why don’t you do this.  Why don’t the both of you try a fresh start?  Forget all of the bullshit in the past and just start over.  Quit blaming each other for everything that happened yesterday.   You already have the love and attraction, that is most of the battle.  Now you two have to learn to be with each other and I will admit, she has way more work to do in that area than you do.”

 

“I don’t know if I feel like starting over.  I already have, here in Houston, alone, and I am at peace.  All of that daily anxiety and walking on eggshells is gone,” Ashlyn said sadly.

 

“Yeah, and look at you, you are miserable and the light has gone out of your eyes.   You are running.   So in this scenario what happens?  Are you going to find someone else or just be alone?  Are you looking for someone else?”

 

“No Allie, I am not.  Who am I going to look for?   I’ve been with the most beautiful woman I have ever laid eyes on and am in love with so deeply that the thought of being with anyone else makes me want to puke.  So who is out there that is just going to come in and rock my world, understand the life that I live and what it takes to be a pro athlete?   We don’t live like normal people Allie.  So it looks like alone it will be and I am ok with that.  It will give me the time to focus on what I want to do for a living after I leave soccer and allow me to plan.  That is where my head is at now.   I can’t focus on fixing Ali Krieger.  I have a shot at being #1 on the national team now that Solo is gone.   I have to focus 100% on my rehab and my comeback, and tell me, who is here to hold my hand through my shoulder rehab?   No one.  Just me. She said she didn’t even know I had shoulder surgery.  Is she living in a bubble?  Did she even notice I haven’t been at camps or training and stop to ask why that might be?   No, because she is too busy thinking about herself and how I walked out on her.  We have rode together in seats next to each other on buses for all of our training and games for a decade and have roomed together.  She probably thinks I am not there because of what happened to us and then brings that back to her.  

 

When is it ever going to be hey Ashlyn, how are you, how are you feeling?   I mean seriously, I can’t even.  She is one of the kindest sweetest people I know, but for some reason when it comes to me, I just somehow get tucked away somewhere in a corner of her mind,” Ashlyn said as she shook her head.  

 

“That’s why I had to leave.  I had to make it to where it would occur to her that I wasn’t there anymore to do everything for her and to take care of her emotionally.  Now that I am gone, this has become a huge revelation for her, and I am sorry it hurts her but there is no way else to make her understand.   If I wanted to be a huge dick about this, I would go get a girl and make sure she saw us.  One that would let me show affection.   Show her what a real relationship is like.  I am not that heartless.  So don’t let her fool all of you that big bad Ashlyn the ogre came home one day and broke little sweet Ali Krieger’s precious heart and just walked out on her and now no one knows what to do.”

 

Allie wanted to throw up her breakfast in the hedges that lie outside of the window just behind Ashlyn’s head.   How had two of the best friends she had in the world gotten to this place and how did no one see it.  How did no one see Ashlyn and her pain and suffering?

 

“Ashlyn, I am so sorry.  I am so sorry for not seeing all of this before, but I see you now boo and I have your back.  I have Ali’s back too, and I swear as God as my witness, you two are going to be whole again one day.  Please Ashlyn, don’t give up on that girl, I swear.   You two don’t know how special you are or how special what you have together is.  Some people go all of their lives and never find it.  Some things just need to be fixed, that’s all.  Thank you for being honest with me today.   I love you so much Pooks.  You are going to get through this and that shoulder of yours is going to be as good as new.  You are going to be our number one on this team, without a doubt.

 

“I love you too Pookie.  Thank you for hearing me out.   Now go beat Russia’s ass.  Maybe I will see you later, I have to drop by later today and report to the trainers.  Right now I have to run off to the Dash thing.” 

 

The two stood and hugged and now Allie felt like she too had a broken and shattered heart.  This was definitely contagious around these two.

Chapter Text

Ali woke up around ten that morning only to have her mind running a gamut of emotions.  She was right; she was hating herself in the morning.   She hated herself for many different things.  She hated herself for baring herself the way she did last night only to still be walked out on.  She hated herself for the way she handled things in the past.  She was so desperately trying to hold on to everything and wound up with nothing.  It was all a big pile of nothing without Ashlyn in her life; she had lost her best friend.  She had absolutely no clue where to go from here but she was going to try her best and that was going to require face time with Ashlyn.  She was going to take this on like she did anything else, her work, fitness, training, she would just commit to making strides every day. 

 

On this day she decided to admit to herself she was gay, accept it, and own it for herself.  For the most part she was ok with it, it was just when others started to make her feel bad about it that she became anxious.  She decided from now on, they could be the ones that were anxious about it because this was their problem and not hers.  If she wound up losing sponsors, then she would have to work harder to find some replacements.  She figured she would lose Proctor and Gamble and Jif but she was just going to have to accept that.  She had absolutely no intention of spending her life with anyone else other than Ashlyn Harris so that pretty much spelled it out for her.  Up until this point, she mainly identified more with fluidity, that a person loves who they love, be that a man or a woman.   Well there certainly wasn’t going to be another one of either of those if she had any say in it, so there was really nothing more to stew over.

 

Her phone rang and it was the team’s trainer Dawn who wanted to see her around lunch time.  The team just received a new shipment of massage machines to work out all of the knots in their legs and she wanted to try it out on all of the players.  She was bringing them down in groups down to the recovery room they had set up.  Ali decided she would get up, shower, have breakfast, go see Dawn and then she wanted to find a steam room somewhere and see if she couldn’t melt some of her stress away.  She had to start taking better care of herself emotionally or her body was going to begin to break down on her.   If she could focus on her plan of doing work on herself every day as well as attempting at making some sort of stride with Ashlyn, then maybe she wouldn’t feel compelled to cry herself asleep every night.   She just had to lower her expectations and be ok if every day wasn’t a success.

 

On the way to find something to eat, she ran into Allie.   They grabbed a coffee together and Allie revealed in the nicest way she could some of the things that Ashlyn told her at breakfast that morning.  It broke Ali’s heart even further to hear that this is what Ashlyn thought of her.  She had done a horrible job of showing her how much she meant to her.  It sunk in further that a lot of it was true in the realm of not considering Ashlyn’s feelings more.

 

Ali made it down to the team recovery room with a book in hand.   She was surprised to see Ashlyn sitting up on one of the tables with an ice bag taped to her shoulder.  Then she remembered Ashlyn mentioned she had to report in today.  Ashlyn looked as beautiful as ever; she had makeup on today most likely due to her fan event and an orange Dash polo shirt with white jeans.  Everything about her popped.  She was sitting at a table next to Carli who being treated with the new massage machine.

 

“Hello Ash,” Ali said as she walked by and leaned in to give Ashlyn a kiss on the cheek.  Then she walked around and greeted Carli hello patting her on the knee.   She hopped on one of the empty massage tables across from the two of them and pulled out her phone, laying her book beside her. 

 

Ashlyn rubbed her cheek as Carli looked over at her with a raised eyebrow.  That was the first time Ali ever did anything like that in front of one of their teammates.  One of the assistant trainers walked over to Ali to explain what the machine was going to do and what to expect.   It was a powerful hand held massager that took two hands to operate kind of like a car buffer except for the muscles.  Ashlyn watched as Paul worked on Ali’s leg.   Ali had some of the sexiest, big and strongest legs on the team due to the tireless work she put in running backwards, sideways and doing sprints.  Just looking at what that machine was doing to her leg, sending vibrations up and down her muscles was too much of a visual for Ashlyn to look at.  She was a sucker for those legs and always had been.  She pulled her phone out of her pocket and began to look at her social media to see what people were posting from the Dash event.  For some reason her twitter was blowing up.  As she scrolled through her notifications, she saw a tweet from Ali.

 

AliKrieger:  @Ashlyn_Harris  Shoulder is looking good!   Good to see you with the team today, you will be back and better in no time.  We’ve missed you around here :)

 

That was another first.   It had been years since Ali had tweeted Ashlyn.   They would like each other’s tweets, Instagram and face book posts but Ali had put the kibosh on any direct public communication.  Ashlyn couldn’t believe it.  Maybe hell was freezing over. 

 

Ashlyn_Harris:  @AliKrieger  Thank you, it’s great to see everyone again, I’m working my way back, I have missed you guys :)

 

Amy Rodriguez walked in with baby Luke and Ashlyn and Carli began to coo over him.  Ali looked over and smiled, he was such an adorable little cherub of a baby. 

 

“Ashlyn!  Oh my goodness!  It has been forever!  It’s so freaking good to see you!” Amy squealed as she hugged Ashlyn and Ashlyn held her arms out to hold the baby.

 

“Oh my God!  Amy, he is beautiful!   I am never giving him back to you!” Ashlyn giggled as she held and loved on baby Luke.  

 

Ali watched the interaction and had never seen anything she wanted more than that picture right there.  Ashlyn Harris holding a baby, their baby, and having a family with her.  She could feel tears beginning to well up in her eyes and shut them, trying to focus as she promised herself she wasn’t going to cry anymore.  God she had to fix this so that could be a reality.  There was no argument that she could have with Ashlyn that was worth winning if she couldn’t have this.  Ashlyn was so good with babies and babies loved Ashlyn, especially little boys.   Cash Dwyer was Ashlyn’s biggest fan.  Ali started to think about their arguments.  In the past she had fought to win and look where that got her.   Instead, from now on, she was going to fight for them.   She thought back to the night Ashlyn called her a coward and told her that she was the best defender in the world but wouldn’t defend them.   Now that is all she really cared about defending, the two of them over defending a soccer ball.

 

When Dawn came over to begin to unwrap Ashlyn’s shoulder, Ali offered to take baby Luke so that Amy could get started on her leg massage.  Baby Luke latched on to Ali’s hair with a tight fist and began to pull on it, making Ali laugh, which made him laugh.   Ashlyn looked over at the two and could not help but smile.  She reached for her phone and took a picture.  It was one of the most beautiful pictures she ever took on her phone.   Ali was in her black tank and black shorts with baby Luke in his little white USWNT outfit, both of them giggling.   It was a picture that Ashlyn could never grow tired of looking at, one that she had always wanted more than anything with Ali, to settle down with her and have a baby.   She just wondered if Ali would ever progress to a place where they could have that.  It took every bit of strength Ashlyn had to stay seated and not walk across the room and sit next to Ali on the table and play with Luke. 

 

Ashlyn realized that this was the first time in six months that they were able to sit in each other’s company in the same room and not scream, yell and fight.   It was definitely a huge contrast from how they spent last night.  After speaking with Carli for a few minutes, Ashlyn glanced back over to see that Luke had fallen asleep on Ali’s chest as she sat and read her book.  In that moment, Ashlyn couldn’t imagine anyone else being the mother of her children.   Her mind went back to the words she said to Ali when she told her to go find a guy to raise babies with and she instantly wanted to take it back.  The thought of Ali raising kids with anyone else other than her made her sick to her stomach. 

 

Carli sat up and looked over at Ashlyn who was staring at Ali with complete adoration. Ali held the boy’s head up against her chest as he slept while she read.   Carli just shook her head. 

 

“You two, you should look at yourselves right now.   You have no idea what the rest of us see in the both of you.  We would all have to be blind not to see it.  What is so apparent to all of us, somehow has escaped the both of you.   Life is way too short for you two to be doing this.   You will sorely regret it if you don’t make this right.  I have never seen two people that belong together more than the two of you do.   This is like being in a bad version of Romeo and Juliet and we know how that ended because of a lack of communication,” Carli said and then turned around to leave the room.  

 

Ashlyn was surprised that Ali wasn’t looking around to see if Amy, Paul, or Dawn heard what Carli had to say while dying from embarrassment.  Instead, Ali was looking straight into her eyes, boring through her soul with a look on her face saying that Carli was right.  She missed those gorgeous brown eyes so much.  

 

Paul finished up with Ali’s leg just as Crystal Dunn walked in and began squealing when she saw Ashlyn, pulling her in for a crushing hug.    Of course this woke up baby Luke who began fussing.   Crystal turned around and put her hands on her face, not realizing the little one was in the room and asleep.   He saw her and put his arms out towards her as he began to cry.  Ali just looked at Crystal with a smirk and said, “You wake the baby up, you buy.  He is all yours to fix.” 

 

Crystal laughed and said, “Sure thing Kriegs, I deserve it.  Plus I am going to teach him all about how being a forward is the most important position in soccer.”

 

Ali took little Luke’s hand and put her hand on his cheek.  “I will see you later little one.  Do not listen to anything Auntie Crystal tries to tell you about forwards.  Defense wins games and therefore, defenders play the most important role on the field.  And whatever you do, you never want to wear powder blue and white ok?  Just navy blue and white.  Now make sure you fuss lots for Auntie Crystal,” Ali said as she laughed and stuck her tongue out at Luke and waved goodbye to Amy.  As for Ashlyn, she wasn’t sure what to do about that.  She kind of felt like it was time for Ashlyn to make the next move since she was left standing in her underwear last night, left a note, and sent her a message on twitter.   What else could she do in one day before it started to look like she didn’t respect Ashlyn’s boundaries?  She was willing to do the lion’s share of the work but she couldn’t do all of the work herself.  Rome wasn’t built in one day.

 

Ali walked over to her table on her way out.  “How’s the shoulder feeling?”

 

“Cold,” Ashlyn smiled.  

 

Ali rolled her eyes.  “I hope it feels better soon.  It was nice to see you” Ali said as she squeezed Ashlyn’s foot and then went to grab her shoes, put them on and walked out of the room.  Ashlyn wasn’t sure what to do.  Last night had taken its toll on her emotionally for the day combined with the fan event this morning.   She thought back on her talk with Allie that morning and some of the things Allie said.  Then she thought about Ali was trying to make an effort with her.  Her mind went over the note Ali left her that morning where she was asking for a chance to show her how she changed and to let her.   The game vs. Russia was tomorrow and after this, Ashlyn didn’t know when she would see Ali again.  So what should she do?  Should she leave things as they were and leave the ball in Ali’s court?  Or, should she acknowledge some of the progress Ali was trying to make and at least talk to Ali about it.  Then Carli’s words stuck in her head about how they both would regret it if they pissed it all away.   Ashlyn decided the mature thing to do would be at least to try to talk to Ali a little bit more.

 

She walked down the hallway and out of the conference area of the hotel where she saw Ali in the lobby speaking to some little girls.  They were dressed in their team USA Krieger jerseys jumping up and down in laughter as they met their favorite player who was kneeling down and taking selfies with them.   Ashlyn loved how Ali always looked her fans straight in the eye and attempted to get on their level, whether that meant kneeling down or standing up on her tippy toes.   Ali always put on her dazzling smile and gave her all to her fans.   Ashlyn watched as the little girls asked her about being a world champion.   Ali took one of their phones and put it on video.  “Ok girls, on three we are going to say world champs ok?  1. 2. 3.  World Champs!!!”  The girls were so excited as Ali hugged them both, one of them looking over towards Ashlyn’s way. 

 

“Oh my Gawd!  Is that Ashlyn?” One asked as she pointed towards Ashlyn, making her smile.   Ali turned around to look at Ash and waved her over.   “Yes, that right there is Ashlyn Harris.  Number 24 of team USA.  But you want to know who she is more importantly than just our goalkeeper?  She is my best friend in this whole entire world, just like you two are with each other,” Ali said, putting her arm around Ashlyn’s waist.   Ali took full advantage of the fact that they were in front of two young girls and that it was the only contact with Ashlyn she could have in half of a year.  The gesture made Ashlyn’s heart swell.  “Make sure that the two of you never forget that about each other and that you always have each other’s backs,” Ali said as she patted them both on the heads.  

 

“Can we have a picture with you Ashlyn?” the little girls asked.  Ali grabbed their phone and stepped back to take a picture as Ashlyn bent down the best she could without upsetting her tender shoulder as Ali took the picture.   Ashlyn hugged them both and thanked them for being their biggest fans as Ali handed the phone back.   Ali waved to them and turned around as she began her path back to her room.  Ashlyn began to follow her and when they got into the hallway she stopped.

 

“Hey Ali”

 

Ali turned around just as she was approaching the elevator. 

 

“Yes?”

 

“Um, I just wanted to say thank you for that back there.  Thank you for the kiss, the tweet, and for what you said about me being your best friend.”

 

“Well, Ashlyn, I meant every word.  I also meant everything I told you last night.  You are my best friend, you are my heart, you are my world, and you mean everything to me.  If it takes me saying it for 10 years until you believe it, then I guess I will be saying it for 10 years,” Ali turned back to the elevator and pressed the button. 

 

“Look, I am sorry I walked out on you last night.  I am sorry I tried to make you leave.  I just felt like things were getting out of control,” Ashlyn said, leaning her hand up against the wall.

 

“Thank you.  I meant what I said in my note to you.  I would like to get an opportunity to show you I can handle this, that I can handle us.   That I am changing not for just you, but for me and for us, but I can’t do it by myself Ashlyn, I can’t talk to a wall or the drapes.  I need you to at least be present in order to do it.  I have had 6 months of sitting around, beating myself up, crying and moping.  Let me tell you, it solves absolutely nothing.   I know you want me to hurt just as much as I have hurt you.  I get it, so I guess I only have nine and a half years left to go.  I promised myself this morning though that I am not going to sit around and cry anymore because it is effecting my health and my spirit and it is not fair to this team.  Jill will kick my ass off this team and replace me with a 16 year old faster than my head can spin.  So if I am going to play soccer, I have to get a grip.  Otherwise I need to throw in the towel if I am going to be a crying, sobbing, driveling, mess.  So, can you give me a chance Ashlyn?”

 

“Yes,” Ashlyn barely got out as her voice cracked.

 

A small smile spread across Ali’s face as the elevator door opened.  She grabbed Ashlyn’s hand to hold and squeezed it as they got on together joining about 4 other people in the elevator.  When they got off on Ali’s floor she pulled Ashlyn off of the elevator.

 

“What are your plans for the rest of the day?” Ali asked.

 

“I don’t have any plans, this was my last obligation of the day.”

 

“I was going to go find a steam room somewhere in this town, I am wound up tighter than a screw and I have to either go do that or go to a massage place before the game tomorrow.  My legs feel great but Dawn did nothing for my shoulders and back.  Would you like to go with me?”

 

“Yes.  Actually, the Dash gave all of us a membership to Lifetime Fitness and they have a Jacuzzi, a sauna and massage therapists and I get to bring a person anytime I want, so how about we go there?”

 

Ali flashed one of her giant smiles.  “Ok then let’s do that.  I need to grab a bag with some extra clothes.  Do you need any?”

 

“No, I keep a locker with some clothes there.”

 

“Well come in then while I get my bag ready.  You can play patty cakes with captain while I get my stuff,” Ali laughed at the thought which made Ashlyn laugh.  At least they were sharing a laugh here and there instead of fighting.  

 

Carli was lying down watching a dvd she had US Soccer put together of all of her missed shots on goal and mistakes she made for the past three years.   “I guess we all beat each other up in various ways, don’t we cap?” Ali asked shaking her head.  

 

“It’s the only way we can identify our mistakes and learn from them.  We have to acknowledge what they are, identify what went wrong, and realize what we should have done instead.  Then we have to visualize what the right thing was to do and play it over and over in our heads so that we don’t repeat it.  That way, when the situation comes up again, our mind is trained to have the right reflex vs. the wrong one.”

 

“Damn you are intense Carli, but that is so true, and that’s why you are our cap,” Ashlyn smiled.   “Hopefully some of that ju ju you have will rub off on me when we are roomies.”

 

“Oh you just wait Harris, sore shoulder or not, you better be prepared to have nerf soccer balls flying at your head.  I want you to help me with something anyway,” Carli said.

 

“What’s that?”

 

“I have to work on my free kicks.   When they line up in front of the goal, I need to get the ball to lob over their heads but then come back down to be able to get into the goal.   I need to get some sort of arc projectory going.  Because right now, I am just kicking it over their heads and the ball is sailing over the goal.  I’ve got Mal Pugh and Rose Lavelle trying to take my position from me every day.  So I have to do something to make a change.  I’ve been studying Beckham, Messi and Ronaldo.    You’ve taken on just about every player in the world.  Who do you think is the best at it amongst the female players?”

 

“Stephanie Houghton with Manchester City.   She doesn’t arc the ball though.  She aims straight for everyone’s fucking head.  The ball comes off her foot with such a force that no one dares to go for a header, everyone just ducks because her balls are like missiles.   I took a shot from her once to the chest that left the imprint of the soccer ball on my body for two weeks, it bruised so badly.  Youtube her.  Oh and when you are ready to try that shit out, don’t do it on me, get one of the Dash goal keeper trainers to help you.  My shoulder isn’t ready for your torpedoes Lloyd.  Your balls are already lethal enough, I can’t imagine facing them after you see her videos,” Ashlyn laughed.

 

“You just heal up Harris, I’m not going to baby you forever.  You will be taking those shots sooner rather than later.   You’ve got Krieger here to help your recovery, I suggest you take advantage,” Carli said and winked.  “Oh and Krieger, it’s you and Johnson, the two of you against me before the game tomorrow.  I need to work on my footwork.”

 

Ali chuckled and nodded.  Carli Lloyd was the most intense person she knew when it came to soccer.  Ali grabbed Ashlyn’s shirt hem and pulled her away from the TV and towards the door as she slung her bag over her shoulder.   Carli prayed that this was a good sign that the two of them were getting back on track.  She grabbed her phone and texted Amy.

 

Cap:  Hey Amy, listen, I want you and Luke around Krieger and Harris as much as possible tomorrow. 

ARod:  Um, ok, any particular reason why?

Cap:  I can’t go into details, but that baby of yours is magic.  Can you put him in Harris’ arms tomorrow as much as possible?  Like on the bus, practice, warmups, you name it?

ARod:   Lol, ok sure.   Ash is so good with him, there’s no one I’d rather have watch him, unless her shoulder gets sore, then she can hand him off.

Cap:  Great.  Thank you Amy.  Let little Luke work his magic.  It is so good to have you back :)

 

Ashlyn and Ali took a cab to the gym.  Ashlyn offered to drive but Ali didn’t want to attempt that again since last night went horribly wrong.  When they stepped inside, Ali was impressed by what a nice facility it was.  “So what do you want to do?  Sauna, massage or Jacuzzi?” Ali asked.

 

“Probably sauna and Jacuzzi.   A massage sounds painful right now, you know they always say they won’t hurt you but then somehow their fingers dig right in your most tender spot.   I don’t trust them when I am hurt.  They all get off on that deep tissue shit.”  Ali laughed because it was so true.   She then thought back to how she used to be able to give Ashlyn the kind of massages she liked that didn’t hurt her shoulders.  She would love to give her one right now but she was terrified to offer.

 

“Ok then, sauna it is, let’s get changed and start there.”

Chapter Text

They entered the sauna in their workout clothes.   Neither could be trusted around each other if they just went in a towel.   Ashlyn took one bench and Ali took another bench.

 

“This feels nice.   It feels nice to be able to sit here with you.   I have missed you so much, you will never know.  Can I talk to you for a minute Ashlyn?  I miss my best friend and I want to talk to you without you becoming angry or storming off.”

 

“Yes I think we need it,” Ashlyn replied.

 

“Look, if you start to get upset, then I will stop.  I would rather sit with you in silence than not sit with you at all.  I don’t have much more time with you here and I don’t want to waste it on fighting.  I would rather try to start repairing us.  I need to know if you are open to letting me try or if you need more space because like I said before, I can’t do this without you present.  If you need more time, then I will have to accept it.  Will you hear me out?  I don’t even want you to feel that you need to say anything back, I just want to let you know a few things.”

 

Ashlyn felt like she was cracking inside.  If Ali only knew how badly she had missed her these past months and how miserable she was.  She leaned back into the bench and looked at Ali.

 

“I’m open to working on us.  I feel like I always have been.  I just didn’t know what else to do to get you to take me seriously on what my needs are from you.”

 

“Ok, fair enough.  You definitely got my attention.  I have heard you loud and clear.   I’m going to put the work in Ashlyn.   Before I say anything else, I want you to know one thing.  I do love you, I love you more than anything I have ever loved in this world.  I love you more than I love myself and I am going to do everything in my power to put you first.    I want to make it clear to you what I want out of this.   For me, you are my endgame.  I want to marry you, have a baby with you, and grow old with you.  I don’t want to go find anyone or be with anyone else.  So if we have an argument, from this point on, over all things, I want you to stop saying that to me because I can’t take it.   That is more hurtful to me than anything else you could say.  When we leave Houston, the morning after tomorrow, I want you to be able to count on this one thing.   I will not be out there trying to hook up with anyone else.  I think despite all of my faults, you have always been able to trust me in that regard.  I don’t think I have ever given you a reason to believe I would just dump you and go find somebody, especially when times get hard.   I would break up with you first and tell you that is what I was going to do before I would hurt you in that way.  So, can you please believe that?”

 

Ashlyn looked down at the bench, she felt terrible for what she said about this.

 

“Yes Ali, I believe you and I am sorry for ever suggesting it.  I am sorry for hurting you.”

 

“Thank you.  I am sorry for hurting you too and I now realize how deeply I did over the course of our relationship.  I just thought I could shove everything aside and make you and everyone else happy and I didn’t.  I should have never put anyone else first before you.   You know, when we met, we were just kids, playing in the same soccer circles in college and with the national team.  I guess I didn’t come with a good set of relationship skills nor a manual on how to relationship with someone.  After we became serious with each other, I should have just admitted to myself that I was gay.   I just never understood the significance of it because I don’t define who I am by my sexuality.   Heterosexuals do not go around saying, hi, my name is Bob and I am straight.   So, I never felt it necessary to say, hi, I am Ali Krieger and I am a lesbian.”

 

“Ali, I am not trying to out you in front of the world,” Ashlyn said grabbing the bench with both hands near her knees.

 

“I know you are not.  However, not admitting it isn’t getting me very far with you.  It’s caused me to behave the way I did and I have to make some sort of change if we are going to move forward.  So this morning, I at least admitted to myself I am gay.  Full on rainbow flag flying gay.  I used to think I was bisexual but if anything this fight has showed me, it’s that I have no desire or intentions to ever partner with anyone else, man or woman.   So I’m gay and I am owning it.   I’m not going to go tell the world that tomorrow but if it comes out, then I will deal with it then.   I really don’t want to take the focus and attention away from this team.  Especially at a time when so much is going on regarding personality issues with this team.   Hope and her issues caused her to lose her spot.  Pinoe is walking on a thread right now over the national anthem.   Look at the fine line everyone has walked who stuck their asses out there on the line to fight for equal pay.  Jill has made it pretty clear, she will just start bringing 18 year olds up with one misstep out of line or anyone who begins bringing controversial attention to themselves. 

 

All I ever wanted to do was play this sport without carrying someone’s cross to bear.  I admire those who want to use their spotlight to take on social issues, but that has never been me.  I want to play this game for as long as I can, get as many endorsements as I can, stash away a good pile of money so that when I walk away from the game, we can live comfortably for a while until we figure out what we are going to do next professionally.  Maybe we will want to have a baby.   God I hope you want to have a baby with me, but if you don’t I can accept it.  Regardless, one of us has to be off for a year to do that.  I want us to be able to do whatever we want without life having to be so hard.  If we enter the workplace, we are going to be starting at the bottom.  I personally would like to get on with a team in the front office and maybe own one someday or at least get into management, or maybe coach.  Regardless, no one is going to pay me right off the bat what I am making now until I rack up experience.

 

The reason I am telling you this is because that is why I have been worried about my endorsements and it is why I care about what sponsors think, especially when I sign contracts with a morality clause in them.   Do I like it?  No.   Do I think it is bullshit?  Yes.   I think that times are changing enough now where being gay won’t make me lose those contracts.  Things were much different four years ago than they are today.  It also isn’t just losing the contract, it’s considered a breach and then I have to give the money back.   However, if someone wants to be that ignorant then I will fight them.   It will take one tweet from someone like me or Abby before it gets around pretty quick that one of these companies is homophobic.    So when you say I care about my sponsors and endorsements more than I do you, that is where my mind was.    I am going to do my best from here on out to put you first and deal with all of that should it come up, but in the meantime, I am no longer going to worry and obsess over it.”  Ali slumped her shoulders and felt like a massive weight had left her body.

 

Ashlyn let Ali’s words soak in her head.  “Thank you for telling me about your feelings about all of this.  I guess I never really looked at it that way.  I didn’t know that you had all of these plans for our future.”

 

“Of course I have plans for our future.  I know I suck at talking, I know I suck at communicating, at PDA at a lot of things.  I was arrogant.  In the past I felt like I didn’t have to explain myself to anyone.  Love me or leave me.  I couldn’t play this game if I didn’t have a bit of arrogance in me and believe in myself and my abilities.”

 

Ashlyn knew it was true.  She grabbed her towel to wipe the sweat forming on her face.  “Sometimes it seems so easy for Ella and Erin.  They are married and out and no one seems to care,” Ashlyn sighed.

 

“Yeah Ash, and they aren’t playing for the USWNT either.  They are overseas playing for Rosengard with Marta to have to make a living.  Ella couldn’t make it on the salary the Dash was paying her because it wasn’t subsidized by US Soccer like yours and mine are.   We have the opportunity to make $200K+ a year without having to go play overseas away from our friends, family, and home plus whatever we make from our club play and endorsements.   We are the first ones to be coming up in the age of social media who are a couple on the USWNT, so there is no manual for this.  Sure others who are gay have played before us, but no couple has on the team that I know of and has to face the kind of scrutiny you and I do and have our relationship stared at under a microscope.  Anyway, it doesn’t matter, you and I are what matters, I am not going to worry about all of this anymore.  I am becoming some kind of bench warmer anyway on this team so my time is probably coming one day soon.  I really wanted to make it to another Olympics and I wanted to play by your side.

 

The second thing I want to discuss with you is that whole I think you are just fuck thing to me and then I don’t want to have to address it again.   Ashlyn, you know deep down that is not true or what I think of you.  If you don’t then you need to know.  Since I do suck at all those other things, I just thought sex was how I could show you.  It was the one time it was just you and me and not the entire world in our home or bedroom.   You and me, one on one.  The one time you could have all of me and I could have all of you without any distractions.   The one place we could connect fully and have each other’s hearts and minds.  You telling me that you were just a fuck to me makes me never want to have sex again if that is how you feel.  You couldn’t hurt me any deeper than that. 

 

With that being said, this isn’t about me.  It is about how I treated you and how much I hurt you.  I apologize.  I wasn’t doing it intentionally to hurt you, I was only thinking about me.  I am sorry that I didn’t give you the opportunity to show your love for me and I realize now how important that was for you.  So from here on out, if we are able to work things out, I don’t care what we do anymore or where.  You are right, let them all think what they want to, people’s issues with me, or with us, are just that.  Their issues and not ours.  I am done hiding.  Allie told me that you felt like I was trying to hide you in my closet.  I was never trying to hide you, I was hiding myself.  When I look at all of the problems or issues between us, none of them are worth losing you for the rest of my life.  I’ve been so focused on my career and our future that somewhere along the way, I lost us.  

 

The last thing I want to bring up is the last game we played together in Orlando.  I am so sorry for the way I treated you.  I deeply regret that night and if I could go back and change things, I would do it all differently.  I would scoop you in my arms and return your kiss.  I was a total asshole for rejecting you.   I can’t go back and change it but I can only change what I do in the future.  I should have never let you leave that night.   I should’ve done something else.  The city of Orlando misses you, the fans miss you and it’s all my fault.  We are building something so special there especially with the gay community and it breaks my heart that the most important person that should be there, isn’t.  So I recognize everything I did wrong and I hear you and that’s mainly what I wanted to say.  I would really like to open back up some form of communication with you if you will let me.   It would be nice if I could be unblocked from your stuff so I could at least keep up with what is going on with you.   I would love it if we could talk on the phone, text, and at least be friends again, but that’s up to you.”

“Thank you Ali, before we go on, can we please move to the Jacuzzi, my eyes are about to burn out of my head,” Ashlyn laughed.

 

“Yes, let’s go,” Ali chuckled because both were about to shrivel up.  They both took a quick swim in the pool to cool off a bit and then headed over to the Jacuzzi to let the jets work on their muscles.

 

“Thank you for everything you said Al.   I’m glad you are taking my feelings into consideration and are willing to work on things.  I would like it if we started speaking again because I have missed you more than you can imagine.  I left because I thought it was the only way I could get your attention.  I needed to focus on me for a change, get my shoulder fixed and rehabbed so I can make a serious play to go after what I want on this team.  I am sorry I hurt you too.  I promise to take your feelings into consideration more as well.   I will eat my words on what I said about our sex life, I know we mean more to each other than that, I shouldn’t have gone for your jugular.  I regret that I told you to go be with someone else because that would kill me.  When I saw you with baby Luke today, I wanted to cry at the thought of you having a baby with someone else other than me.  There is no one else I could ever imagine having a child with other than you Ali.  I won’t ever have a baby if you aren’t the mother of it.”

 

Ali smiled.  “Well you certainly have my attention. I am glad you feel that way and it is nice to hear you say it.  I hate that I didn’t know about your shoulder.   How are things going with it and what can I do to help you through it?  Lord knows you have been through my injuries every step of the way.  I want to be here for you Ashlyn.   I will be happy to fly in on my off days and get a hotel, even if it is just to be here to support you emotionally.”

 

“You don’t have to do that, I’m the one who left and wanted to be alone, so now I have to deal with that decision.”

 

“I know I don’t have to Ash, I want to.  I came to Orlando for you.  I will come to the Dash for you.   I only signed another one year contract in Orlando.”

 

Ashlyn shook her head.  “No.  I only signed one year with the Dash.  If anything I will see about returning with the Pride if things work out between us.   I need to talk to Jane and Orlando.   Both Jane and I’s salaries are paid for by US Soccer so maybe they will switch us again.   I’ve always wanted to play for the Pride, it’s my home.”

 

“Well I don’t want to live without you anymore Ashlyn.  I know that, so whatever we have to do, whatever team, whatever work I have to do, because it absolutely sucks not going to bed with you at night or waking up to you.   It’s not the same sitting with Alex Morgan on the bus who by the way doesn’t hesitate to let me know at both Pride and USWNT practices what a stupid ass I was and how I need to fix this.”

 

“I’m not happy living without you either Ali.  I have been miserable.  I can ask Alex to back off some,” Ashlyn suggested.

 

“No, don’t.  I deserve every bit of what I am getting right now.  She just cares about you that’s all.  She came to the Pride because of you and I fucked all of that up.   So let her have her say.   I am trying to convince Marta to come play with us so maybe that will make things better with Alex.”

 

“Wow, Marta, that would be something else!” Ashlyn smiled.   I told her the same thing last year.  I hope she comes to the NWSL.  

 

Right then Ali’s phone rang and it was Jill Ellis.  “Hey Krieger!  By any chance is Harris with you?  I have been trying her phone but it just rings and Carli said you both left together.”

 

“Hey Jill, yes she is, do you want to speak to her?”

“No.  Just tell her we would love to have her at team dinner tonight if she can make it.  I sent Carli up with a USA warm up suit for her to wear.  We would also like to have her on the sidelines at the game tomorrow if she wants to ride with us on the team bus she can.”

 

“Ok, I will tell her, we will be back in a few.  Thanks Jill.” Ali hung up and turned to Ashlyn, “Jill wants to have you at team dinner tonight if you aren’t busy and she sent a USA warm up to the room with Carli for you to wear.  She also said she would like to have you on the sidelines at tomorrow’s game and that you can catch a ride on the team bus if you want tomorrow.”

 

Ashlyn lit up, “Awesome, I’d love to.  Let me get a quick shower and then we will go.”

 

They walked into the locker room.  Ali took a shower as far away from Ashlyn as she could as to not tempt herself because tempting it was.  They had shared 100’s of showers in the past and they always went one way.   Ali wasn’t going to dive into sex until they worked on things, she proved to Ashlyn she had changed, and Ashlyn wanted her back.  Especially after Ashlyn’s words about what she thought sex was between them, Ashlyn would definitely have to make the first move in that department.  It was the worst shower she ever took in her life, she wanted Ashlyn so bad.

 

They got dressed and left the locker room.   Ali called up an Uber and they went outside to wait.   She grabbed Ashlyn’s arm and put it around her waist, “There, that feels better,” Ali smiled looking up at Ashlyn.  Ashlyn returned her smile.   “Yes it does, I have wanted to do this for so long.”  Their car pulled up and took them back to the hotel.   Jill happened to be strolling through the lobby when they came in.

 

“Harris!  I see Krieger here rounded you up.  Did you two have fun today?”  Jill asked smiling.

 

“We went to my gym club to use the sauna and Jacuzzi.   Dawn stuck it to me today in the training room,” Ashlyn laughed.

 

“Hell, I could have used a sauna and a Jacuzzi today.  Good for you Krieger, that means you will have fresh legs for tomorrow night.  So Dawn tells me your shoulder is looking really good and you are ahead of schedule in your recovery and that you could be back with us in a couple of months.”

 

“I feel really good Jill, I mean it’s a little tender, but I am doing everything I can to get where I need to be and to protect it.”

 

“Well good then, I guess Kriegs told you about how I’d like you to be at the game tomorrow, can you come?”

 

“Absolutely.   I do color segments here for one of the news stations.  Would it be ok if I filmed a pregame or post game segment for channel 2?”

 

“I’m sure US Soccer would love that, they are all about the publicity and growing the game.  I’ll make sure Christy gets you an extra press pass if you have a camera person and they can meet you there.   Let’s do something before the game; I will even give you a short interview.  If you want to ride with us on the bus, we leave at 10:00 am tomorrow.  I will see you at dinner,” Jill smiled as she had to go attend to one of her staffers.

 

“Thanks so much Jill!” Ashlyn beamed.

 

“Wow, channel 2 huh?  What else have you been up to Ash?  I’ve missed so much.  Please fill me in,” Ali said as they headed towards the elevators.  Ashlyn filled her in on her radio and news jobs.  “I am so damn proud of you Ashlyn, you have no idea,” Ali smiled.  They entered the room and Carli was pleased to see Ashlyn would be coming to dinner. 

 

“Here’s your strawberry warmup suit Harris so you can look like the rest of us at dinner.”  Ashlyn laughed and took the shirt and pants.   “Guess no one wanted to see me in this creamcicle shit at dinner tonight,” Ashlyn joked.   Ali got changed too and she then hopped into bed with Carli so they could watch TV.   Carli rolled her eyes and looked up at the ceiling.  

 

“In what world do you and I ever lie in a bed together and watch TV?  Do you want me to paint your toenails too Krieger?” Carli laughed at the ridiculous sight.

 

“Sure, Carli, I was thinking about doing purple nails tonight,” Ali laughed, elbowing her captain in the side.   “I figured Ashlyn would want to lay down for a while,” Ali shrugged.   She reached for the nail polish bottle in her pocket and handed it to Carli.  Carli just looked at her like WTF.   Ashlyn laid down on Ali’s bed.  It was awkward to say the least but Ashlyn knew things were still raw between them.  Carli pulled a book out on her lap and plopped Ali’s hand down on the book and began to paint her nails.  How Ali got people to do this for her she would never know, but look, there she was doing it.  Carli looked over at Ashlyn and just narrowed her eyes as if to say, “you should be doing this Harris.”

 

Ashlyn couldn’t lie, she felt a little jealous.   Not of Carli, Carli was no threat to anyone.   But that Carli was getting to paint Ali’s nails, something that used to be her job.  She wanted it to be her job again but she decided to zip it.   Carli could cut the sexual tension in the room with a knife.  She painted Ali’s last nail and decided she was going to find anyone, it didn’t matter who, before these two electrocuted her.    

 

“Ok you two.  Normally I would keep my mouth shut but what fun would that be?  I’m not going to until this shit is right,” Carli said pointing between the two of them, “I am about to get electrocuted sitting in the middle of the two of you because I can feel the tension coming off the both of you and it’s about to zap me.   I swear you two have some kind of weird static electricity thing emitting off of you and I am about to get caught in this live wire.  This is the universe’s way of telling you both to get your shit together,” Carli said as she tossed the nail polish bottle at Ashlyn.  “Now I did her nails, paint the toenails Harris and that’s captain’s orders.  I better see Ali’s toenails painted when she comes down for dinner otherwise I am going to make Jill do a beep test at practice tomorrow.   Oh and I want a picture of Ashlyn painting the nails,” Carli smiled, flipped her hair, and out of the room she went leaving the two there slack jawed.  If she had to force them to act normal again, she would. 

 

Ashlyn swallowed hard.  “Damn she has gotten bossy, is this what it is going to be like living with her?  I feel like she’s my mom.”

 

Ali laughed.   “Well, sounds like she is going to be your new roomie starting Monday.  I have to say, I am jealous.  She gets to do something that used to be reserved for me alone.  She has been like this since I started rooming with her.  I think I am getting on her last nerve.  She is used to rooming with Solo or Brun and not me.”

 

“I don’t get it, you are always so laid back,” Ashlyn said.

 

Ali looked down at her nails and frowned.

 

“What? What’s going on?”

 

“She has been having to take care of me.  I think she knows I cry myself to sleep at night.  I try to be quiet about it but she can tell.   She is used to going to bed early and I am not.  I try to be a good roommate but I can tell this isn’t her thing.  She wants Brun back, they are very much alike, quiet.  Solo was the best roommate for her because they were both alike.”

 

Now Ashlyn wanted to cry.  The thought of Ali crying herself to sleep every night and trying to hide it from Carli was an awful image.   Carli was the last person you wanted to be with if you were upset because she really didn’t do personal stuff.   Ashlyn patted the space next to her on the bed.

 

“Please come here.”  Ali walked over cautiously and laid in the bed making sure to lay on the edge of it, about three feet away from Ashlyn.   Ashlyn just looked at the ceiling and back down at Ali.  “Would you please come closer?”

 

Ali smiled and scooted closer.  Ashlyn put her arm around Ali’s shoulder and pulled her in tight for a side hug.  “I am sorry you have been crying yourself to sleep every night.   That really breaks my heart,” Ashlyn said as she reached for Ali’s foot and began painting her toenails.  Ali grabbed her phone and took a picture of which she texted to Carli so she alone would not be responsible for beep tests tomorrow.   “I hate that I am so weak but I am when it comes to you and the fact that we are broken up makes me cry every night.  I can’t help it.  I think back to 1000 different times we have gone to bed together, when we have made love, when we have just held each other and to not have that anymore just makes me heartsick.   I mean it when I say I can’t live without you Ashlyn.”   Ashlyn found the can of quick drying spray on the nightstand and sprayed it on Ali’s nails.

 

Ashlyn didn’t know what to say.  She wanted to say the same things back but again, she knew she had to stay strong so they could make their way back to each other permanently.  However, she also knew that they needed something to help halfway repair their souls.   “Can we take a nap together?” Ashlyn asked. 

 

Ali nodded her head, reached for her phone and set the alarm to get them up in two hours for dinner.  They rolled the covers down, got under them, Ali rolled over to face the window like she always did when they traveled together, and Ashlyn played the big spoon.  For the first time in six months something felt normal between them.  If all Ali could get was an arm, she would take it.

Chapter Text

When the alarm went off and it was time to go down to dinner neither Ashlyn or Ali wanted to get up.   Reality had seeped in that this was probably the end of their alone time for a long time.  They both freshened up got ready and headed down to dinner.    When they entered the team room and got in line for dinner, Amy was with baby Luke in his stroller.  He turned around and saw Ashlyn and reached his little fists out wanting her to take him.  Ashlyn scooped him up  and began to dance with him in her arms.  Many of her teammates came up to hug her and let her know they were so happy to see her.   Ali just smiled as she watched the two and their teammates love on Ashlyn.   There just was nothing cuter than Ashlyn Harris and a baby she thought to herself again.  She grabbed a second plate to make one for Ashlyn asking her along the way what she wanted.  Carli saw the exchange and smiled across the room.  She came over to where Ali and Ash were, grabbing some more napkins and said, “Nice toenails Krieger,” and then went to go sit back down. 

 

Ali took a seat to the left of Ashlyn and Jenny, the US Soccer PR person took the seat to Ashlyn’s right.  

 

“Hey Jen, how’s it going” Ashlyn asked as she bounced Luke on her lap.

“Hey Ash, I’m good thank you, how have you been?”

“I’m doing good Jen, can’t wait to join the team again.”

“We can’t wait to have you back.  So Jill tells me you are working with Channel 2 and 97.5 sports is that so?”

“I am, I just figured I would do something in the off season and while I am rehabbing to keep busy.”

“That’s great, how do you like it?”

“I love it, you know my degree was in communications, so this is right up my alley.”

“That’s great to hear.   So, we have a few little interviews lined up for you tomorrow, but I was also wondering if you would like to do something with US Soccer, like a fan Q&A between you and Krieger over there.  We have one set up between Tobin and Allie, Pugh and Sonnet, Morgan and Press, and Brian and Kling.   What do you think?”

Ashlyn looked over at Ali, “What do you think Kriegs, want to do a fan Q&A with me?”

“Sure babe, let’s do it,” Ali replied.   “Wow, babe and we are going to do something public together,” Ashlyn thought as she turned to Jen.

“Ok, we’re in, when is this supposed to happen?”

“We would like to film them tonight after dinner and then use them throughout the year as we tease and hype the upcoming games,” Jen said, writing them down as a go on her tablet.

“Ok, just come get us when you are ready,” Ashlyn got up and put baby Luke back in his stroller because he wanted to eat everything on her fork and was not ready for solids yet.    

 

Ali just looked at Ashlyn and smiled, “You are so cute with him.  He is such a good baby, Amy sure makes cute ones.”

 

“I think you would make some cute babies Ali, especially with that smile of yours,” Ashlyn said and smiled.

Ali leaned in, put her hand on Ashlyn’s knee and said, “Don’t tease me Harris.”  Ashlyn blushed.

 

They were catching up with their buddies on the team when Jen came to get them explaining she would give them both questions to ask each other.  They went into a room where there was a couch and they had to face each other as they asked questions that were provided on index cards.

 

“Hello, I’m Ashlyn, and this here is Ali, and we want to thank you for supporting the US Women’s National Team.  We are now going to take a few of your questions.   

 

Ashlyn:   Who would you want to play you in a movie?

Ali:          Mila Kunis

Ashlyn:  Oh good one!

 

Ali:          Favorite world cup pump up song?

Ashlyn:  Bad Blood, Taylor Swift.

Ali:         (laughs) She just says that because now they are besties.

 

Ashlyn:  First thing you do when you return home?

Ali:         Sleep in my own bed.

Ashlyn:  (slumps shoulders and smiles) Must be nice.

Ali:         (smiles back, raises eyebrow at Ashlyn.  Would be even nicer if you were in our bed with me)

 

Ali:         First person you hugged after the world cup?  It wasn’t me.

Ashlyn:  (Just looks at Ali with a raised eyebrow, as if she was allowed to hug Ali at the world cup)        Abby

 

Ashlyn:  Most responsible player on the team?

Ali:         Me (laughs and smiles)

Ashlyn:  You can’t do yourself

Ali:         (I’ve had to do myself for the last 6 months) Becky or Carli

 

Ali:        Favorite world cup celebration?

Ashlyn: Carli Lloyd Karate Kick

 

Ashlyn: Who on the team to you go to for advice?

Ali:        You.  You’re my best friend

Ashlyn: (Blushes and smiles)

 

Ali:         If you could be an animal, which one would you be?

Ashlyn:  A shark

 

Ashlyn:  What is your favorite thing to do in your off time?

Ali:         Spending time with you.

Ashlyn: (Ashlyn swallows hard, I can’t believe Ali is doing this for the world to see.)

 

Ali:         Who gives the best hugs on the team?

Ashlyn:  (Smiles and laughs) Definitely not you.

Ali:         Yeah, I totally don’t like hugging at all.

Ashlyn:  Crystal Dunn

 

Ashlyn:  WNT player who came through for you off of the field.

Ali:         (Laughs and smiles a nose crinkling grin)  You Ashlyn.  You.  It’s always been you.

Ashlyn:  (Looks at Ali with a lustful stare and fights to compose herself as a tear wells up in her eye.)

 

Ali could feel the sexual tension and emotions building up between the two of them and figured she would be the one to wrap it up when she saw Ashlyn become choked up.

 

Ali:    Well that’s a wrap, thank you all for sending in your questions and be sure to watch our games this     

          Summer and to come see us play in the NWSL!

 

Ali and Ashlyn both turn to the camera to wave and smile.  When they stop rolling and the camera person exits the room, Ashlyn looks at Ali.

 

“Al. Are you sure you don’t want to cut some of those answers and retape?” Ashlyn asks, sitting on her hands so that she doesn’t grab Ali and have her way with her right there.

 

“I’ve never been so sure about anything in my life.  I am leaving those answers as they are,” Ali said as she stood up to leave the room, leaving Ashlyn on the couch.  She didn’t want to push Ashlyn and if she didn’t get up right then, she wasn’t sure she could keep her hands off of her.  “How ironic, this is the same problem Ashlyn had been complaining about with me for years.”

 

Ali ran into Allie Long in the hallway who put her arm around her and steered her into one of the oversized chairs in the lobby.

 

“Hey boo boo, how are things going between you and Ash?”

 

“Things are a lot better with her today than they were yesterday so I’ll take it.  I’m trying to do everything I can to show her much I want a second chance with her but I can’t fix this overnight.  I can’t fit everything I need to do in a couple of days.  She’s been harboring a lot of pain and resentment towards me, so the ball is in her court.  All I can do is keep showing her how much I want this.  Trust me, it isn’t easy for me but it will be worth it.”

 

“Honey, at least it’s a start.  I know she loves you more than anything, just keep doing what you are doing.   I know this isn’t easy for you Kriegs.   Just know that I am here for you anytime of the day or night.  I know we all go our separate ways the day after tomorrow, but I will be a phone call away,” Allie pulled Kriegs in for a tight hug which Ashlyn saw as she entered the lobby.

 

Ashlyn was very surprised at Ali’s responses to the questions in the Q&A.  Time would tell if that video actually aired or if Ali would regret it and ask it to be pulled.  For the most part she did believe Ali was changing but her memories of what happened in Europe when they went through a phase like this once before kept flooding back into her mind.  Memories of Ali telling her she would change, but never did.  Regardless, she wasn’t cruel and she didn’t like to see Ali suffer.  She wanted to be the one to hug her like Allie was and kiss her but if she did, then what kind of signal was she sending?   She felt so conflicted about everything. 

 

Ashlyn approached the two and looked at her watch.  It was almost time for team curfew and she knew she was going to have to get going soon.  

 

“Hey you two, I guess I am going to go home and I will see you guys in the morning.”

 

“Hey Pookie.  Give me a hug and then I am going to go up to my room so you two can say a real goodnight,” Allie said as she hugged Ashlyn.

 

“I love you Pooks.  You are going to have a great game tomorrow, I have no doubt.  I wish I was behind you in goal but I will get a chance to kick your ass when you come play the Dash.”

 

“Oh you think so huh?  I will remember that when I am launching a PK at your head, oh and love you more,” Allie said and pinched Ashlyn’s cheek before she left.

 

Ashlyn was now left alone with Ali.  “Hey.”

 

“Hey,” Ali smiled.

 

“Thank you for today, I am happy that you shared so much with me today.  It was nice spending time with you,” Ashlyn said.

 

Ali stood up and put her arms out to hug Ashlyn.  Ashlyn drew her in and they stood there and hugged one another as if they were the only ones in the world.   Ali squeezed Ashlyn as hard as she could, she wanted to remember this moment for as long as she could.  Today was the first day she was able to get a couple of hours of sleep without exhausting herself by crying.   She wanted to hug Ashlyn as tight as she could so she could remember the feeling when she went to bed that night of Ashlyn wrapped around her.  She wanted to remember those arms that were the only thing that made her feel secure in this world.

 

“Goodnight Ashlyn, I had a wonderful time with you too.   I will see you in the morning.  You can come up to the room if you want to come by early and have breakfast with us, or just text me on what you are going to do.  I love you,” and with that, Ali was gone.  She didn’t want to hang around long enough to find that Ashlyn wouldn’t say it back.  She wanted to leave strong and not wind up in tears that night. 

 

Ashlyn went back to her place and got ready for bed.  It felt so good to have Ali in her arms twice that day and now that she didn’t she felt empty.  She was reminded of what it was like again to be with Ali Krieger, her other half, and now she felt like they were ripped apart.   She grabbed one of the extra pillows on the bed and pulled it close to her in a crushing hug pretending it was Ali.   The things Ali said to her today meant more to her than Ali could ever know.   Tonight, it was Ashlyn who cried herself to sleep.

Chapter Text

Ashlyn woke up the next morning hating that she and Ali were separated and that she was waking up alone.  Yesterday brought back a deluge of emotions regarding her feelings for Ali.  When she looked over at the pillow next to her, all she could picture was Ali lying there next to her with her raven hair splayed across the pillow.   She saw Ali waking up to one of her morning kisses and the dazzling smile that would spread across her face and how her eyes would sparkle.  She missed her laugh lines and the way her eyes would crinkle as she would laugh and smile in the mornings.   She missed how she would throw her head back into the pillow and heave her chest up when Ashlyn would tease and play with her in the mornings.  She missed her voice, the way she would laugh, her touch, her body warmth.  She missed the way Ali’s body would respond when she touched her.  She missed the smell of her hair and just being able to hold her.  She missed waking up to feel Ali’s arm strewn across her chest.   She hated every bit of this and was beginning to wonder if it was all worth it.  Mostly she knew it was but there were parts of her that felt like it wasn’t worth it anymore.   The internal struggle she was having with herself was overwhelming.  Distance had taken care of a lot of this over the past few months and now it had all come flooding back.

 

Ashlyn got up to shower and dress.  She texted Ali that she would be on her way soon so she could join the team for breakfast.  She knew one thing, she needed to talk to Jane Campbell.

 

Ali got up for the first time in months having slept wonderfully.   It was the first night she hadn’t cried herself to sleep and she woke up without her eyelashes being stuck together.  She was actually excited to play soccer today.   She wished this day could last forever, being surrounded by her friends who were here teammates and having Ashlyn so close by.   It was the first time that anything felt like home in the past six months. 

 

When Ashlyn got to the hotel, Ali met her in the lobby since Carli was upstairs showering.  Ali raced across the hotel lobby and smashed herself into Ashlyn for a giant hug, lifting her off of the ground a bit. 

 

“Well good morning to you too.   I like this improved Ali very much,” Ashlyn said as she pecked Ali on the cheek and hugged her tightly.   Ali just smiled and grabbed her hand, leading her over to the Starbucks that was in the hotel lobby.   They both grabbed coffee since they had about a half hour to burn before breakfast started.

 

“How did you sleep?” Ashlyn asked Ali.  

 

“I slept really well for the first time in months, thank you, how about you?” Ali asked.

 

Ashlyn just looked down at her coffee.   “Not very well,” she sighed.   “Truth is, I really, really, really, miss you and yesterday just reminded me of that more than anything has in a long time.”

 

“Well, I really, really, really, miss you too, more than you could ever know.  I wish I had a magic wand that would change and fix everything and bring you back to me,” Ali said. 

 

Just then, Ashlyn spotted a flash of blonde hair and a tattooed arm.  A girl that could be her baby sister walking through the lobby and Ashlyn waved at her and waved her over.  Jane Campbell approached them and Ashlyn invited her to sit down.

 

“Hey baby sis,” Ashlyn said as Jane laughed.  

 

“Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Ashlyn Jr. is what everyone calls me now.  How are you doing Ashlyn?   When are you going to come back and take the goal posts away from me?”

 

“Ha ha, sooner than you think Janey.    I am on the mend and I will be back giving you shit before you know it.   So how is Orlando treating you?  Do you like it there?” Ashlyn asked hoping to god she would say no or that she hated it. 

 

Jane shrugged, “It’s ok I guess, it is a little too touristy for me.  I think I would’ve liked Houston a lot better or to play for the NC Courage and be closer to my family in Georgia, what about you, are you liking Houston?”

 

Ashlyn crossed her legs, “It’s ok, but it isn’t where my heart is.  Central Florida has always been my home.  I am glad I only signed a one year contract with an option for another year.   I’d really like to go back to Florida, but I don’t want to take anything from you Jane.  I know how that feels.  I was in Hope’s shadows for years.”

 

Jane took her hair in her hands and threw it back over her shoulder.  “Well why don’t we look at making a swap then.  I’ll speak to my agent and you speak to yours.  If nothing else, maybe things will happen for us next season.   You left some pretty big shoes to fill in Orlando, and let’s face it, I can’t fill them.  There is so much going on there with the gay community and outreach and they want you back there.  The fans let me know about it in every practice.  They want Harris back.  I mean, I’m trying to do my best, but I am still a rookie.  I am trying to figure out how just to handle all of this, my new place with the USWNT, my new place in the NWSL, and I really don’t want to get attached to a team unless it is a place where I want to be.   I love Florida but I am more of a gulf coast girl.”

 

Ashlyn smiled.  “Ok, well I will speak to my agent and we can start seeing what can happen.   I will let him know what you said about the Dash and the Courage.”   Ashlyn wanted to apologize for disrupting Jane’s life too when she asked for that trade but she thought it would probably be best just to keep her mouth shut.  She figured it would be best if she just focused her attention on fixing things and on the future.  She wasn’t entirely sure if Jane knew why she was traded.

 

“Jane, I just want you to know as far as the USWNT goes, we are building something special with the keepers.  I know I am not around much right now, but Alyssa and I made a pack a while ago to love and support each other.   Hope was a great mentor for us and we want to be that for you too.  I want to be that for you but even take it further.  Hope was all about the field.   I want to be someone you can count on off the field too.  If you ever need a friend on this team or help in dealing with the fandom, fame, you name it, I hope you will call, text, dm, email, whatever.   We are the three musketeers now.  There may not even be a number one goalkeeper anymore.   Jill just may rotate the three of us after what happened with Hope.   So I want you to know, the way I look at it, we are all on the same level and we have to have each other’s backs.”

 

Jane smiled and put her hands in her lap as she looked over at Ali.  Ali had a beautiful smile on face while she was staring at Ashlyn.   Jane looked back over at Ashlyn and said, “Thank you Ashlyn, that really means a lot to me.  I am going through this awkward phase right now where I am new and I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes.  However, I know that I have to have enough confidence in myself to show Jill I am the best every day.  So I have to make you and Alyssa work for it, or so she has told me.”

 

“We wouldn’t have it any other way Jane.  I came after Hope every single day.   I never let her rest on her ass.  That turned out to be a good thing when she went through the suspensions because someone had to step up.  That’s how it goes.  Look at me, I am injured, and if Alyssa and I held you back, then you couldn’t step in for me, you wouldn’t be ready, and then we all would lose.”

 

“Babe, it’s time for us to go to breakfast,” Ali said nudging Ashlyn’s knee. 

 

Jane just looked at Ali, not realizing the two were a pair but could totally see it.  The three stood up and gave each other a hug and headed over to one of the meeting rooms for breakfast.  Ashlyn grabbed Jane’s ball cap and put I on her head backwards, then threw her good shoulder around her and hugged her sideways as they walked just like she was her little sister.  Ali’s heart swelled.  That was her Ashlyn, that is what Ashlyn did for everyone, make them feel special.  How could she have been so stupid to take that for granted for so long?

 

Ali thought back to when they first met in 2004 playing on the U-19 together.  They became fast friends, best friends you could say.  They were inseparable.  Attending different colleges couldn’t keep them apart, playing for various different club teams couldn’t keep them apart, and Europe definitely couldn’t keep them apart.   When they were apart, no plane ride was too long for one to hop on to go see the other.   There was no amount of distance that could keep them apart.   When Ashlyn was called up to the national team in 2013 their lives got so much easier because now they could attend camps together and room together without Ashlyn having to come visit Ali.  It even got better when they were able to play on the Spirit together.    Then when Orlando got a NWSL team, some of the USWNT team players had to go to the expansion teams and Ashlyn went to Orlando.   The Spirit hoed Ali over when it came time to resign her contract, and the Pride scooped her up in a heartbeat.  The response had been overwhelming for women’s soccer in Orlando and now they were getting a new stadium.  Ali ached to share these experiences with Ashlyn again.  She wanted to finish her career in Orlando and she knew Ashlyn did too.  Ali moved her whole life down to Orlando for that only to fuck it all up.  Now 1,000 lousy miles was keeping them apart and a 14 hour drive unless you spent the night along the way and then it was 22 hours.  Ali was ecstatic to hear Ashlyn speak to Jane and that her keeper was contemplating on returning home. 

 

When they grabbed their plates for breakfast, they listened to Jill as she conducted their morning meeting and showed them film of Russia.  They wouldn’t be reunited as a team until June in Sweden and Jill made sure to emphasize what she wanted the team to work on until their next camp.  She made sure to let it be known that she was bringing up younger players to get them the playing time they needed and that no one should feel secure in their position no matter how good they were.

 

After that they all hung out and visited.   Carli came over with baby Luke in her arms and plopped him right down on Ali’s lap and then took a seat next to Ashlyn.  

 

“Hey roomies,” Carli said to them both.   “So I am loosing pretty, pretty, princess over here as a roommate tomorrow and I am gaining the brick wall for the summer.  From one extreme to another,” Carli laughed.

 

“Yeah just don’t bring over all those strange guys you pick up at the club back to my place Lloyd,” Ashlyn said with a smirk on her face.

 

“Yeah same could be said about you Harris you slut.   It’s a new guy on your arm every night.  TMZ sports can’t even keep up with you.  Last we heard, you are pregnant with Lebron’s baby and that’s the real reason for your time off of the USWNT.”

 

Ali spit out her drink at the image of Ashlyn and Lebron together.   Baby Luke made a face when some of the water sprayed him.   Ashlyn glanced over at Ali wiping up his little face while he laughed and her heart felt that familiar pang again.

 

“Lloyd you are ridiculous, even Luke knows it.”

 

“So, I’m going to bring my stuff over tomorrow when we check out.  I have had my boxes shipped here to the hotel so all of it didn’t get stacked up at your place.  Would you be able to come pick me up tomorrow at check out and help me move the boxes?  It might take a few trips.  I am going to as Ohai if her brother in law Cushing is around or that beast of a boyfriend of hers, JJ Watt to help grab my recliner, massage chair, bed and dressers out of storage and put them together.”  Cushing and Watt played for the Texans and they were currently in their offseason.

 

“Sure, I can do that, you just have to do all of the heavy lifting, but I will help you with your stuff as much as I can.   I have your spare key on the kitchen counter and the cleaning crew comes by today to get the place ready for you sarge.”

Carli smiled, “Good, I am glad to see your days of living like a pig are over.  Krieger must have domesticated you.”

 

Ali was glad this time she had not taken a sip of water as she laughed again, “You have no idea Carli, took me years.  Ash here now even knows how to run a washing machine, dryer and a dishwasher.”

 

Ashlyn glared at Ali.   Carli’s eyes went wide and she clapped her hands, “Yay!  Harris I am so proud!”

 

Baby Luke then clapped his hands and started laughing and Ashlyn just shot the three of them a look.

 

“You both are asses.”

 

“As long as you are over your little pizza box sitting out for days habit and bras hanging from the lampshades, we should be fine.”

 

Ali blurted out a laugh, she remembered those days very well.  Ashlyn just looked at her again.

 

“You sure are having a lot of fun with cap here this morning.   Anything else you two want to get out of your system Ali?”

 

Ali looked back at Ashlyn while she played with Luke’s toes.  “Yes there is.   I would take back those left out pizza boxes and bras hanging from the fan blades and lamp shades if it meant you were back home with me.”

 

“Damn Krieger, um, well then, it looks like Tobin over there has a shoelace untied, I better go fix that before she trips,” Carli said and vapor trailed across the room.

 

Ashlyn and Ali just started giggling.   They were seeing new sides of Carli every day and it was becoming a fun game to see how they could embarrass her when it came to things dealing with intimacy. 

 

“Damn, if I knew it was going to be this fun publicly talking about us, I sure as hell should have done it a long time ago then.   You so have to facetime me when she’s around, we could have so much fun with this!” Ali laughed.

 

“That’s what I wanted all along,” Ashlyn said as she grabbed Ali’s hand to kiss it.  “You have been more fun and relaxed to be around than I can remember.  That’s what this is all about Al, for us to be able to be comfortable with each other and to be able to have fun together without worrying.”

 

Ali looked down at the top of Luke’s head as she ran her fingers through his hair.  “I know and you are showing me that.   I am sorry it took me so long to figure it out, thank you for being patient with me for so long.”

 

“I love you Ali, that has never changed,” Ashlyn said as she snatched up baby Luke and went in to start peppering the side of his face with kisses.  

 

Ashlyn looked over to Ali and saw her reaching for a napkin to blot tears that were forming in her eyes. 

 

“Aww, Ali, I’m sorry.”

 

“It’s just nice to hear you say it, it’s nice to hear you say something nice like that to me without it being in anger.  Thank you.”

 

Amy walked over to check on her boy and saw that Ali was tearing up.  

 

“Let me guess, Luke here introduced you to one of his whirled peas farts.  I know, I have the same reaction,” Amy said and laughed making both Ali and Ashlyn laugh.   “I’m sure I need to go change his diaper.”   Ashlyn just squeezed him harder not letting him go.

 

“Ashlyn, I promise to return him.  Unless you want to go change his poopy pea diaper and I don’t think anything in life has prepared you for one of those yet.”

 

“Ok, if you promise to bring him back.   You know the next time I see you, he is going to be twice as big.   I don’t know if I will get to join you guys in Sweden.  Unless you bring him when we play Kansas City.”  Just then, Luke let one rip right as Ashlyn was holding him with a hand on his butt.   The smell was incredible and Ashlyn held her breath and turned her head. 

 

Amy laughed and scooped him up, “I tried to warn you.  I’ll bring him, but no funny business about teaching him to be a goal keeper, I want him to have options.”

 

Ashlyn grabbed her heart acting like Amy just broke it, “so mean!”

 

Ali just looked at Ashlyn with admiration. 

 

“What?” Ashlyn asked.

 

“Well if you think about it, in the US there are only ten NWSL teams and only 3 USWNT spots.   So out of the whole US there are 23 pro spots for a goal keeper and my keeper has two of those spots.  That’s if each team has two keepers.  All of these girls coming out of college like Jane are lucky if they even get a chance.  I am so proud of you Ashlyn.  You are one of the best in the world even if you don’t believe it.   I know how hard you’ve fought to get here.”

 

Ashlyn leaned in and gave Ali a hug and whispered into her ear, “Thank you Ali, that means so much to me.”

 

The two got up so Ali could gather her bags to get ready for the bus.  Alex Morgan gladly gave her seat up on the bus next to Ali so Ashlyn could sit with her.  “This is how it should be,” Alex said, leaning over in between the two of them from behind.   Ashlyn turned around to talk to Alex for a few minutes thanking her for everything she and Serv did for her. 

 

“Please get back to the Pride Ashlyn.  I don’t care how or what it takes, we want you there, you two belong together and the team and community need you.  If I have to go up to the front office myself, I will.   Servando and I miss the both of you so much.  It’s time for you to come home so we can have some fun together.”

 

Ashlyn just swallowed hard, the consequences of her leaving were really hitting her hard this weekend.   She left Orlando out of anger and it wasn’t the most mature decision she ever made.   Ashlyn felt kind of embarrassed looking back on the whole thing.   Ali told her she would regret it if she left, Alex tried to tell her she would regret it if she left and now it was true.  She regretted it.

 

When they arrived at BBVA Compass Stadium Ashlyn could feel her excitement growing.  The Dash practiced at a soccer park and this was the first time she stepped on the pitch there this year for a game situation.  She was excited to be with the national team that day and she was excited to be with Ali.  BBVA was a soccer specific stadium that played on grass.   Maybe this year wouldn’t be so bad after all she thought as she breathed it all in.  

 

As they got their morning practice underway, Jill called Ashlyn over to do an interview about their game that afternoon vs. Russia and what Jill was looking for in her players.  They discussed the newer players that had joined the team like Oyster, Mewis, Sonnet, Campbell, Lavelle, Pugh, Short, Williams, and how they were integrating into the team.   Then they discussed the vets and what Jill expected from them and the new partnerships she was trying out.  Jill decided to go back to the 4,4,2 system which many of the fans were pleased about.  Jill then asked Ashlyn to interview Carli and Ohai since this was their club team turf, Kling since this was her first return back to the team in 7 months, Rose Lavelle and Mallory Pugh because they were a little shy and needed to get used to speaking to the media.  Ashlyn was grateful for the “gets” and turned them into Channel 2 once they were done.   She spotted some of her Dash teammates in the stands and called them down to greet them for a few minutes and chat. 

 

When practice was over, they all went into the facility to grab lunch before the game and whatever treatments they needed.  While Ali was having her legs worked on she pulled out her phone and opened twitter.

 

AliKrieger:  So excited to see you at the game today Houston!  Look who I found reporting for Channel 2!  Go get ‘em @Ashlyn_Harris !  Can’t wait to see your broadcast tonight, everyone tune into @KPRC 2night!

 

She attached a picture of Ashlyn interviewing Jill and Carli which she had one of the US Soccer people send to her phone while she was practicing.  The tweet was retweeted about 10k+ times over the course of that afternoon.   Ali decided she wasn’t going to look at her mentions since the two of them were making progress. 

 

Ashlyn was in the meeting room and sat down to right a quick note to stuff in Ali’s bag hoping that she wouldn’t find it until she returned to Orlando.

 

Ali,

 

Thank you for not giving up on us and for the effort you are putting in to fight for us.   Thank you for showing me so many things this weekend that you are willing to do for me.   It means the world to me and gives me hope that all of this was worth it.  I regret how I left, I regret a lot of things, but I feel like this is only going to make us stronger.  I just wanted you to know that I meant what I said this morning, I love you and that will never change.  Call me when you get home.

 

Xoxo, Ash

 

She went into the locker room and slipped it into the bottom of Ali’s bag before joining her in the treatment room.

Chapter Text

“Hey Ash,” Ali said as she patted the spot next to her on the table she was sitting up on.   “Will you do my hair, no one does soccer hair the way you do, Crystal comes in as a close second though,” she winked and looked over at Crystal who was sitting next to her.

 

Ashlyn smiled.  Braiding hair had somehow become her specialty since she was ten years old.  She took the hair bands off of Ali’s wrists and positioned herself next to and behind Ali so she could start braiding.  Ali Krieger had some of the most beautiful, soft, shiny, raven hair she had ever seen a person grow on this planet.   She conditioned it well and took good care of it.  It didn’t hurt that her brother Kyle was a great hairdresser and hooked her up with all of the keratin treatments.  Having Ali’s hair in her hands and her body up against her was almost more than Ashlyn could take.   In the past, she would have to braid Ali’s hair in their room, she now noticed they were doing this in the training room in front of their teammates and Ali wasn’t freaking out over anything.   It was a nice change.  Her stomach was raging an internal battle within while she listened to Ali and Crystal chat it up and laugh.  That Krieger laugh and mumble got to her every time.  When Ali spoke, Ashlyn could listen to her all day.  She had an inflection in her voice and a sort of unclear way that she got all of her words out that made her adorable.  It was almost like Ali was shy, but Ali was not a shy person and could be very bold when she wanted to be. 

 

When game time approached and the team took the field for warm ups, Ashlyn took baby Luke from Amy before they had to hand him off to the team nanny.   Luke was so excited for everything.  He kept pointing to the planes flying overhead in the sky, the fans, the practice, and his Momma.   Ali would look over anytime they paused and her heart would swoon.   If she could make a baby with Ashlyn right there in that moment she would.   Jill came over to speak to Ashlyn about what she thought her observations were so far in general.    Ashlyn gave her ideas of where she thought the team could improve such as free kicks and penalty kicks.   She also thought there were way too many missed shots on goal.  She also suggested that the team start working on taking goals from further out.  They needed some powerful long shots instead of waiting until things were getting jammed up in the box to take their shots.  Too many offsides calls were being called against them.   Why wait to get offsides anyway?   Jill took all of that into consideration.  She called one of the assistant coaches over and had them start practicing penalty kicks and free kicks and had them take shots on goal giving Jane a chance to get some work in with the team since Alyssa needed to be fresh for the game.  When balls began flying everywhere, Ashlyn decided to hand baby Luke off to the team nanny before he took one to the noggin.

 

Houston fans were going nuts for Ashlyn Harris.  Ashlyn pulled out her phone and noticed Ali’s tweet earlier about the news segments and it had been retweeted by almost every player on the team.  Then the US Soccer twitters retweeted it, the Houston Dash retweeted, and then various different sports twitter accounts as well as Channel 2 and the mayor of Houston.  Then the Astros and Texans retweeted it because all of the Houston teams supported each other.  Before she knew it, that one tweet had over 1.5M likes, retweets and replies.  It was insane what was going on with her phone, she just stuffed it back in her pocket.  She couldn’t believe what Ali had done for her.

 

When the game opening ceremonies got underway, Pinoe sat on one side of Ashlyn and Ali on the other.   Ashlyn whispered into Ali’s ear, “Thank you so much for tweeting out about my interviews tonight, you made that whole thing go viral, I think twitter broke my phone,” Ashlyn smiled and said, rubbing her shoulder up against Ali’s.  “Good, I’m glad babe, I hope everyone tunes in tonight.   We need to watch it and celebrate.”

 

The game went really well for the US.   When Carli scored on a PK, Jill came over to Ashlyn and patted her on the knee, “Well done Harris,” Jill winked and was never happier that she had them practice that today.   Mal, Crystal, and Allie also joined in with goals, Jane got to play the second half and earn her first cap.    It was a great morale boost for the team since the losses in the She Believes Cup.   Ashlyn was so happy that Ali played the entire second half and almost scored a goal herself that was saved by the Russian keeper.   Ali then almost got an assist with a cross to Pinoe but Pinoe’s foot was also blocked by the Russian keeper.   When the whistle blew signaling the end of the game, Ashlyn and the others on the bench started walking towards the pitch to congratulate their team.  Ashlyn saw a red flash coming at her wearing a bun and caught Ali Krieger in her good arm and swept her up in a hug as the team hugged and celebrated.   Ashlyn just smiled at Ali who was flashing her huge smile.  “Right here babe?” Ashlyn asked.   “Right here, in the middle of the field Ash, and you know I’m not a good hugger,” Ali said as they both laughed.  “I love celebrating with you,” Ashlyn said and smiled before withdrawing her arm as she saw Ali get tackled by a flying Kling.

 

Ashlyn lined up to do another interview with Jill and then one with Crystal Dunn and Allie Long after the game.   Carli even agreed to do another one about the penalty kick.   They all were happy to do them for Ashlyn and help her out in Houston anyway they could.  After the interviews, they did their victory lap and hung out to sign autographs.  Ali waved Ashlyn over to sign with her because there were some ‘Krashlyn’ fans.  This was another thing Ali would never do in the past, hang with her post game.   It made Ashlyn feel proud and validated in some weird way.   All she ever wanted to do was be with her favorite girl and not have to hide.

 

Jill called a postgame meeting to congratulate the team.  She added penalty kicks, free kicks, and shots on goal from outside the 18 to the list of things she wanted them to practice on until next camp and winked at Harris.  Everyone was now free to go do what they wanted and Jill encouraged everyone to catch Ashlyn’s interviews on the local news that night and support their future soccer broadcaster.  Jill then wished everyone good luck with the start of their NWSL seasons the next weekend and she let them know she would be coming to as many games as she could.   Everyone began to get dressed and showered.   Some of the team was going to go out to dinner and celebrate.  Ali came over to Ashlyn who was joking with Tobin.  

 

“Hey babe, so the girls want to go get some Mexican food tonight for an early dinner, do you want to go or do you have other plans?” Ali asked.

 

“My only plan is to spend time with you, so I am cool with whatever you want to do.  Dawn was going to give me a shoulder massage,” Ashlyn said looking at the defender, rolling her eyes.

 

“How about dinner and then we go watch some TV and your Channel 2 stuff tonight?  I can give you a shoulder massage if you would rather, we can come back to the room...”

 

“Or you can come back to my place and we can give Mom some alone time before her whole world gets rocked next week, I’d much rather have a shoulder massage from you because you do it right.  I’ve missed those,” Ashlyn smirked, searching Ali’s eyes.

 

Ali smiled back, happy with some of the progress she was making. “Ok sounds good.  Let’s do that.  Come with back to the hotel so I can get changed and grab something to wear later.”

 

They took their seats on the bus and found Carli and Amy sitting in front of them where Pinoe would normally sit.  Carli had Luke in her lap bouncing him up and down and then he began to make a face like he was going to cry.  Carli quickly hoisted him over the back of the seat into Ali’s arms.  “He is about to fuss, so he is all yours Krieger!  Amy and I need to catch up,” Carli said nudging Amy in the side.   Ali took her headphones off and put them around her neck.  

 

“Hi little Luke!  How is our team mascot doing?  Did you watch Mommy play today?” Ali cooed at the little cherub.   Luke giggled and reached his arms up, he wanted Ali to stand him up.   She did and then he put his arms around her neck, hugging her and fisting her hair from behind. 

 

“Awwwwwwwwww”  was collectively said by Ashlyn, Alex Morgan, Tobin, Press, Ohara and Dunn who were sitting behind and across from her.  Amy turned around and beamed.  “Jeez Krieger, I think he loves you more than he loves me,” Amy said smiling from ear to ear. 

 

“Well, I love him back.  I am his Auntie now and I am going to spoil him,” Ali said as she hugged him back.  He pulled back to face her and started to put his hand all over her face, bopping her in the nose and in the eyes.  Ali just laughed.   Ashlyn felt like her heart was going to explode.  She looked at the sight next to her and all of her doubts about Ali being ready to have a baby were gone.   As everyone loaded onto the bus, she began to visualize what it would look like raising a little one with Ali and all of the things they would go do together.   Ali’s smile also worked some kind of magic on babies.  Anytime they were about to cry, she just smiled and the babies would stop.  Hell, most of the time, that same thing worked on Ashlyn.   Ali was a charmer and she had a quiet beauty and strength about her.  She didn’t panic or get flustered, she just compartmentalized and tried to solve the issue why they were about to cry. 

 

Ali caught Ashlyn staring at her.  “What?”  

 

“You are so good with babies,” Ashlyn smiled and said putting a hand on Ali’s thigh.  “Oh yeah? Well Luke here and I are really good buddies and he is giving me practice for when I spit out one of your lizards.” Ali said it loud enough for Carli and Amy to hear and Carli put her hand over her mouth to control her giggles.  Amy and Ashlyn started laughing and then baby Luke started to giggle.   Even Jill Ellis couldn’t take it anymore and came over to see the baby.   Ali held him up for Jill to take and she started to swing him upwards into the air.  Team babies were just the best. 

 

Ali got ready and packed a small bag.   She asked Carli if she was coming, but Carli wanted to slide into her recovery legs for the evening and skype with her husband.  They were newlyweds and she missed him.  Ali let her know she had the room to herself that evening.   Ali was planning on staying on Ashlyn’s couch so they could spend some time together before she went home.   She bent down to give Carli a hug and thanked her for helping her out so much this trip and figured she would see her at some point in the morning when she came to retrieve her things.     She then headed down to the lobby to meet Ashlyn and some of the girls and they headed out for dinner. 

 

They got a huge table in the back of Pappasito’s which wasn’t packed yet since it was only 5:00.  Ashlyn enjoyed being back with her team immensely.   Pinoe, Morgan, Kling, Ohara, Press, Oyster, Dunn, Long, Heath, Campbell, Sauerbrunn were there and Moe joined them.  They were giving Allie shit over the black eye that was starting to form on her face from the cleat she took earlier that day.   There was one girl on the Russian team that had it out for her since she accidentally had done something similar in their game in Frisco earlier that week.  Russia always played an eye for an eye. 

 

“Fuck how bad is it, I only brought my wallet?” Allie asked.   Ali dug in her purse for a compact and handed it over to Allie who had not looked at herself since she left the hotel room.

 

Allie looked at the bottom of the hot pink crystal studded compact and saw an engraving on the bottom.

 

“To the fairest in the land, xoxo Ash.”   Allie read it and tears started to form in her eyes.  Ali just looked at Ashlyn and Ashlyn smiled back at Ali.

 

“Oh my fucking God.  Pookie!  That is beautiful.  Jesus can I be your girlfriend?” Allie said wiping the tears from her eyes.   Ashlyn just grabbed Ali’s hand under the table and they both laughed.  Ali pointed at Ash and said, “Yeah she is pretty fucking phenomenal and no you can’t be her girlfriend.  I am so telling Bati!”   Allie laughed and then looked at her eye.  

 

“Oh no.   She got me really good.  And I’m supposed to take pictures with the Thorns Tuesday, there is not enough concealer to fix this mess!” Allie said in shock.

 

Ali dug some more in her purse and pulled out a tube of NARS concealer.   “Here, it is the best stuff ever.  Put it on and let it dry first and then try to blend it in with your foundation.  No one will ever know,” Ali said.

 

“Thank you so much!  I won’t be able to go out with Bati for weeks, everyone will think he hit me,” Allie laughed with the other girls.

 

“That’s the one fucked up thing about being a soccer player,” Alex added, “Get a shiner and everyone assumes the hubby did it.  I have to defend Serv all the time, especially after we play Brazil.”

 

They all laughed because everyone knew Serv wouldn’t harm a fly.

 

They ordered dinner with Ali and Ashlyn deciding to order fajitas.  Ali was happy to be eating something that wasn’t Kale, quinoa and hard boiled eggs.    Ashlyn was happy to be doing something that felt normal with Ali.  When dinner was over, the ladies gathered in front of the restaurant to begin hugging their goodbyes as many of them would be leaving early in the morning.  This was always the hardest part.   

 

Allie pulled Ashlyn into a fierce hug and whispered into her ear, “Hang in there pooks, she loves you so much and she knows she fucked up.  Forgiveness is one of the biggest parts in loving someone.   Be honest with her, get things off your chest, then let them go, don’t punish her forever or you cant move forward.   I love you.”   Ashlyn hugged her back, “Thank you pookie, I will.  She is it for me, I couldn’t stop that if I tried.”

 

Tobin then came over to hug Ashlyn and Allie went over to hug Ali.   “Bye honey, have a safe trip home.  I love you.   Keep fighting for her.  Let her unload all of that burden she carries and then move on.   I have no doubt everything is going to work out.  Take care of that beautiful heart of yours in the meantime ok?   I am just a phone call away.  I am not going to let anything happen to either of you.”

 

Ali just smiled and cradled Allie’s face and pulled her in for a tighter hug.   “Thank you Allie, I will fight for her for the rest of my life.  I love her with all of my heart.  I am sorry I was such a dumbass.”  Allie just looked at Ali with love before breaking their embrace.   She wanted to sew them up so badly.  Her heart ached for them both. 

 

As the ladies filed out one by one, Ash was waiting on her Jeep to be pulled up by the valet when a couple of fans in Pride shirts approached them.

 

“Oh wow, its Ali and Ashlyn!” one girl said, both were teens and their eyes lit up at spotting the pair.   “We just love you!  We are such huge Pride fans!  Can we have a photo with you guys?

 

“Hi ladies, sure you can,” Ali said as she wrapped her arm around Ashlyn and the other around one of the girls as they took the photo.    “Thank you so much, great game today!  We can’t wait to see you both in Orlando!”

 

The girls walked off and Ali turned to Ashlyn who was staring off into the distance.  “Hey, what are you thinking about?” Ali asked.

 

“I guess they don’t know I am not playing in Orlando this season,” Ashlyn said with a sadness that came across her face.   “Ali I have to be honest with you about something, I need to get something off of my chest, something that I am going to say once and then I want to let it go.”

 

Ali pulled Ashlyn in for a side hug while they waited.  “Go ahead baby, say whatever you need to say.”

 

“I am really pissed off over this whole Orlando thing.  I am really upset that it took me leaving for you to understand my feelings but more than that, I am really super pissed off with myself that I acted out of anger and asked to be traded.  Why didn’t I just stay with Alex and Serv and just get an apartment there or something?  I am angry that I couldn’t separate my feelings for you and just play for the Pride.  I should have just ignored everything going on between us and acted more professionally.”

 

Ali withdrew her arm and just stared straight ahead.   “Ashlyn I wish I had the right thing to say here.  God if I could go back and change the way I behaved I would.  And I am so sorry it took me so long to grow up.  As for what you did, who could blame you.   The reason you did what you did is because there is an undeniable bond between us that can’t be broken.  We have never been able to look at each other for long and stay mad.  We are connected and always will be.  So you left because you knew that was the only way to break our bond.   You can’t beat yourself up forever for leaving.  I can’t beat myself up forever for being an asshole.  All we can do is try to move forward and make this work.  If we live in regret and keep blaming ourselves and each other, we aren’t going to make it.   I swear Ashlyn, if you can’t come back to the Pride, I am coming to the Dash.   I know that doesn’t fix things about you playing for the city or the team that you love but if you want me, I will do it and we will build something special here with the fans.   It will just be in orange and not purple.  I want you so bad and I want a future with you.”

 

Ashlyn just looked down at the ground before them.   Her silence said more than words could have.  Ali was beginning to realize maybe she had it all wrong.

 

“Thank you for being honest with me about what you are feeling,” Ali said as the car pulled up.  Ali just looked out of the side window feeling her heart break as tears welled up in her eyes.  Ashlyn noticed Ali was being quiet and was turned away from her.   Ashlyn held her hand and squeezed it.  “Tell me what is going on Al.”  Ali couldn’t find the words she was so choked up. 

 

“Al?”

 

Ali could feel a crushing pain inside of her chest.  Ashlyn didn’t want her to come to the Dash.  Ashlyn didn’t seem to want a future either.  Ali seemed to be the only one who was discussing reconciliation.  “I just..” she reached for a Kleenex inside her purse, “I just feel like I don’t deserve you.  I feel like maybe I should just let you go and let you be happy as much as it breaks my heart.  Maybe I have done too much damage to fix this.   Maybe someone else could make you happier.  Someone who doesn’t cause you so much pain when you look at them.  Someone who doesn’t remind you of all that you have lost.  All I have been thinking about is fighting for you and not giving up on us.  I have been so focused on showing you that I want to change and that I want us that I haven’t really thought about your happiness and how that may not include me.    As much as it breaks my heart to think about that, maybe I owe it to you to let you go and go find that.   I think you should take me back to the hotel.    I’m so sorry Ashlyn that I didn’t see this before.  I am sorry that I never thought about what you might want out of all of this, I just assumed it was me.  Now I realize I have reopened all of your wounds and that I should have just left you alone.   You cut off all ties to me for a reason.  But fuck, I felt like I had to come here and fight for us.  I keep telling everyone and myself that I will fight for you.  But maybe fighting for you means that I have to fight for your happiness and take myself out of the equation.  Maybe ‘us’ isn’t what you want or what is best for you.  We have been together since we were kids, I am just realizing you have never had a chance to go out there and experience adult life without me,” Ali said as she struggled to control the tears flowing down her face. 

Chapter Text

Ashlyn had never heard anything so sad in all her life than the future Ali just laid before her in the car.  She felt her chest beginning to constrict and her words were catching in her throat as she pulled into the parking garage of her high rise just a few blocks away.

 

“Ashlyn, please take me back to the hotel, I can’t do this,” Ali said as the horrible pit in her gut was growing larger.

 

Allie was right, Ashlyn had to stop punishing Ali before this killed them both.  This wasn’t how she wanted to live and Ali was going to wind up with ulcers if she continued down this path.   Ashlyn remembered the saying that only the one that breaks your heart can mend it.  It was time for the both of them to stop breaking each other’s hearts and for them to begin mending them.

 

“No, no, no!  Dammit.” Was all she could get out as she leaned over to grab Ali by the face and turned her head to face hers.  As soon as Ali’s eyes were looking into hers she brought her lips in for a kiss.   God how she missed this.   This kiss did the same thing the one the other night did to her, completely melted her entire being.   Ali could feel the pit in her stomach beginning to heal.  She leaned in closer to Ashlyn and grabbed the back of her head with her hand as their tongues fought to convey how much they needed each other.

 

Ashlyn didn’t want to continue this in her Jeep in a parking garage.   She broke their kiss and put her ass in gear.  She went to the back seat, grabbed Ali’s bag and came around and opened Ali’s car door.  She grabbed Ali’s hand, helped her out, and drug her towards the elevator.  When they were inside of her apartment Ashlyn yanked Ali into her arms and held her by the waist.

 

“Now, it is time for me to let you know something.   What I said back there wasn’t intended to punish you.  I am done punishing you.  There is no one on this planet that could make me happier than you do.  I am trying out adult life without you and you want to know what?  It absolutely fucking sucks.  Yeah, we were kids when we first got together, but I chose you, I chose you for life Ali.   ‘Us’ is what I want more than anything.”  Ali felt her legs getting weak and Ashlyn just squeezed her tighter.

 

“I woke up this morning and I broke down and cried like a baby because I miss you so much and waking up to you.  I miss the simplest things like looking at your beautiful hair splayed across the pillow and your dazzling smile lighting up the whole room.  I feel like the other half of me has been ripped out of my chest.  There isn’t anything more that I want on this earth more than I want you.  I look at you and I get the same butterflies in my stomach I did during our first week together.  You have made some tremendous strides in our relationship this weekend and as long as that is what our future looks like, then that is the only one I want.   The only future I see is one where I am married to you.  I look at you and I can see our unborn babies in your eyes, I see them with your gorgeous smile, your beautiful eyes and it makes my heart swell.  I see us building a future together and working in a soccer organization together.  I miss our Sundays in bed together, I miss you so much.  You are my soulmate.”

 

Ali couldn’t remember the last time Ashlyn said something so beautiful to her.  She could feel herself choking up and felt her stomach drop.  Tears were welling up in Ali’s eyes and Ashlyn couldn’t take it anymore.   She stared into her favorite cinnamon brown eyes and leaned in to kiss her.   Ali’s feelings were building up and were becoming overwhelming, this kiss and being in Ashlyn’s arms meant everything. 

 

“Ashlyn, please, I can’t take being without you anymore.   I’m not very good at doing life without you either.  Please let me show you how much I love you.   Let me mend your heart,” Ali said as the tears fell from her eyes and she held their foreheads together.

 

Ashlyn couldn’t carry this out any longer.  She needed to feel connected to Ali more than anything.  She so badly wanted to pick Ali up and carry her to the bedroom but she couldn’t with her shoulder.  Instead she held out her hand for Ali to take and led her back to her room.   She took Ali’s face in her hands and wiped the tears from her eyes.   She put her hands on Ali’s waist and leaned in to kiss her trying to express how much she had missed and needed Ali.  

 

The jolts of electricity that flowed through their bodies as their need for each other grew, became overwhelming.  Ali held Ashlyn tight to her body, she missed everything about Ashlyn so much, especially her body warmth and soft lips.   Ashlyn missed Ali’s body wrapped around her in this way, the two of them fit together so perfectly and it felt like her other half that had been missing was returning.   “Ali, I need you so much,” Ashlyn said into her ear as she breathed in the scent of her hair.   Ali just clung on to Ashlyn tightly, enjoying being enveloped in her bear hug, running her hands on the back of Ashlyn’s head.  “Oh Ashlyn, I need you more than you will ever know,” Ali said as she sucked all of the air out of Ashlyn’s lungs with her kiss.  “I absolutely love your hair, you are so sexy Ashlyn, you drive me insane.” 

 

Ashlyn planted kisses along Ali’s neck and along the side of her face.  Ali threw her head back and smiled as she raked her hands down Ashlyn’s back slipping them down into the ass pockets of her jeans forcing her even closer.  Ashlyn’s hands crept down to the bottom of Ali’s shirt and slipped underneath it, feeling along her sides, sending shivers down Ali’s body, flooding her core.  “God, I have needed to feel your hands all over me Ashlyn, you have no idea,” Ali said as Ashlyn moved to trace her hands up and down Ali’s abs.   Ali moved her hands up under the back of Ashlyn’s shirt and began to push it up so she could feel more of her skin.  Ashlyn did the same pushing Ali’s shirt up over her chest and shoulders making Ali put her arms up to take it off of her before tossing it across the room.   Ashlyn just smiled at the sight before her, Ali’s beautiful long hair falling over her shoulders right above her black lacy bra which held the pair of breasts that she loved so much.

 

“Ali, you are so beautiful, I have missed this so much,” Ashlyn said as she ran her hands over Ali’s bra and around the back to unhook it and discard it to the side.   Ali bunched Ashlyn’s shirt in her hands as she moved it and her sports bra up and off in one swift move.   Ashlyn brought Ali back in for a searing hot kiss as she held her breasts in her hands, running her palms over her nipples.  Ali slid her hands down Ashlyn’s belt buckle and began to undo it and the button on her pants.  Ashlyn took one of Ali’s breasts in her mouth circling her nipple with her tongue before blowing on it and then leaning in to suck it into her mouth, swirling her tongue over the tip of it.   “Christ Ashlyn,” Ali said.  She was ready to come right there, it had been so long.   She finally was able to undo Ashlyn’s jeans and began to slide them down her legs before reaching behind the band of her boxers to grab two handfuls of her ass. 

 

Ashlyn went to work on Ali’s other breast while she reached down to undo the button on Ali’s shorts and slid those down to reveal a sexy pair of black Calvin Klein boy shorts.  Ashlyn entered Ali’s mouth with her tongue as she ran her hands up and down Ali’s arms, walking them towards the edge of the bed where she laid Ali down gently.  Ashlyn crawled on top of Ali with one knee in between her legs and the other knee pressed up against the outside of Ali’s leg.   Ali loved that Ashlyn was being so gentle with her but fuck if she didn’t want Ashlyn to just take her already.  Ashlyn just combed her eyes over her body running her right hand down her chest and over her abs down to her CK’s which she hooked her fingers under and slid down and off of Ali.   She wanted to engrain this sight in her mind forever as she uncovered Ali’s glistening core and leaned down to place kisses along it and along her inner thighs.  “I love you so much Ali,” Ashlyn said as she traced her tongue along on all of her favorite places on Ali’s body.

 

“Ashlyn I love you too baby, but you are about to burn me to the wick.   Please baby, I need you.”

 

Ashlyn didn’t need to be told again.   Ali opened her legs wide, giving herself fully to Ashlyn as she reached back and grabbed both sides of the pillow her head was laying on.  She closed her eyes and allowed herself to enjoy Ashlyn’s tongue between her legs.   When Ashlyn entered her fingers inside of Ali, Ali gripped around her tight not wanting to ever let her fingers go.  Ashlyn was in complete heaven, she dreamed so many nights about being right here in this moment while they were apart.  Making Ali come was one of her favorite things to do and one of the most beautiful things she ever saw.  Ali felt like her heart was being pieced back together little by little as they were one in this moment.  She could feel the reparative process happening inside of her body.    “Ashlyn, please come here and kiss me,” Ali said as she held her arm out.   She brought Ashlyn in for a passionate kiss as she wanted to feel Ashlyn’s tongue on hers as she came.   Ashlyn increased the pace of her fingers as she pushed Ali over the edge.

 

As soon as Ali recovered, she took her legs, wrapped them around Ashlyn’s ass and flipped her over so that she was straddling her.  Ashlyn looked up and saw raw wild desire in Ali’s eyes as her raven hair cascaded around her face.   Ashlyn grabbed Ali’s face and brought her down into a hot kiss.  If she had her way, they would kiss all night, there was nothing she wanted to feel more than Ali’s tongue pressed against her own, exploring each other.   Ali grinded her knee in between Ashlyn’s legs as their tongues embraced.   Ashlyn was sucking on her tongue and would not give it back.   Ali was desperate to taste Ashlyn and as soon as she won her tongue back she moved to the side of her neck to lick her ear and nibble on her earlobe and down the side of her neck.   When she hit her most sensitive spot, she could see goosebumps form on Ashlyn’s neck. 

 

She moved her lips down to suck and bite on Ashlyn’s neck and chest and drug her tongue over Ashlyn’s breasts.   “Fuck baby, how I have missed these, you can’t keep these away from me ever again,” Ali said as she looked up into Ashlyn’s eyes with burning determination.   She took one of her nipples into her mouth while rolling the other one in between her fingers.   Ashlyn closed her eyes and gave into the sensations Ail was causing to erupt across her body.  “God, yes Ali,” Ashlyn said as she wrapped her legs in Ali’s.   Ali could feel Ashlyn growing impatient and decided to put the both of them out of her misery. She moved down Ashlyn’s body, dragging her hands over the tattoos she missed so much before settling in between Ashlyn’s legs.  Ali couldn’t wait any longer and just dove her tongue into Ashlyn’s entrance, giving it to her the way she knew she liked it, hard and fast.   Ali loved the feeling of Ashlyn’s walls tightening around her tongue before she completely came undone in Ali’s mouth.  

 

Ali crawled back up Ashlyn’s body as she watched her try to catch her breath and laid next to her, wrapping Ashlyn back up in her arms.   “Fuck Ali, that felt amazing, you have no idea how much I have missed being with you,” Ashlyn said as she put her arm around Ali. 

 

“I’ve missed you so much, I am never going to let you go,” Ali said as she threw a leg up across Ashlyn’s body.   Ashlyn grabbed Ali’s ass, “Boy have I missed this too, you are like a rock,” she said as big dimpled grin broke out across her face.  Ali just laughed enjoying being in this moment with Ashlyn.   “When do you have to report back in with the Pride?” Ashlyn asked.  “I have to report in on Wednesday afternoon for evening practice,” Ali replied.  

 

“Then stay with me.  Stay with me tomorrow and fly back Wednesday morning,” Ashlyn pleaded as she looked at Ali. 

 

Ali cocked her head back and stared into those beautiful hazel eyes she loved so much that were currently green.   “Really baby, are you sure?”

 

“I am very sure.  I can’t let go of you just yet.  I need you.”

 

Ali smiled and rolled over to find her pants on the floor to dig her phone out of the pocket.   She called her travel agent who she liked to use for times like this when she didn’t want to screw with it herself and put her on speaker.  Her agent already had all of her information necessary to make a change with and found a flight for Ali from Houston to Orlando that would get her there in time for practice and would arrange to have a car pick her up and take her to the Pride facility.

 

“There, your wish is my command.   We will have to go fetch my suitcases tomorrow, I’m already packed.”

 

“I like this new obedient Ali Krieger.  I could get used to this,” Ashlyn smirked.

 

“Yeah, I have noticed how much you are enjoying this, you are lucky you are hot and cute,” Ali said, laughing as Ashlyn pinched her ass.  “Now when do your segments come on? I don’t want to miss them.”

 

“Not until 10:00 and I have other things I want to do in the meantime.”

 

“Oh yeah? Like what?” Ali asked.

 

Ashlyn moved to whisper the dirty things she wanted to do to Ali in her ear.   Ali began to giggle and nudged Ashlyn hard on her good shoulder.  “Oh my God, babe you are so bad!  And I love it.  But first I want you to set up the DVR to record the news tonight so I can see my baby in action.”   Ashlyn got up and reached for the remote off of her dresser and returned to the bed, kneeling at the end of the bed so she could set up the DVR.   As soon as she finished, she fell victim to one of Ali’s leg locks from behind and before she knew it, she was maneuvered into some kind of MMA flip and at Ali’s mercy.   She found herself the victim to Ali’s mercy the rest of the night. 

 

At 7:00 a.m. she was awoken to the rude sound of her phone going off over and over.  Ali heard it and also woke up.   “Babe, who the hell is that this early in the morning?” Ali asked.

 

“Ugh, it’s Carli trying to face time me,” Ashlyn responded. 

 

“Oh good, well then let’s have some fun with this!” Ali said as she pulled the sheets up around them both right below their necks. 

 

“Ali, are you sure you want to fuck with Carli?” Ashlyn said with an amused look on her face.

 

“Oh I am so sure,” Ali said smiling her nose crinkling grin.

 

Ashlyn accepted the call and Carli came across the screen, her hair back in a clip, wearing a US soccer red tank top.  

 

“Hey Carli”

 

“Good morning sunshine!  Suns out, guns out!  Carli said as she made a muscle with her arm like Popeye.”  Then she squinted her eyes and narrowed them.   “Harris, are you still in the bed?  Don’t tell me you are naked?”

 

Ashlyn panned the phone so that Ali came into view with the sheets up to under her arms.   “Oh Jesus, my eyes, not you too Krieger!  Ugh, well, at least things are right in the world again, good for you both,”  Carli said turning her eyes away from the phone.   “Look, I’ve got Ohai here and her beast of a man JJ Watt and her beast of a bro in law, Cushing.  Both have their trucks here and they are going to load up my boxes, luggage and then head with me over to storage so you won’t have to come get me.  I just wanted to see if you could give me the access code and leave the door unlocked for me.”

 

“Absolutely Carli, and let me know if you need any help, we are happy to come.”

 

“Against my better judgement, you two just stay where you are, I don’t even wanna know,” Carli said handing the phone to Ohai because she couldn’t look at the two of them.

 

“Hey Ohai!” Ali said as she and Ashlyn laughed.

 

“Hey sunshines!” Kealia said, flashing them a bright smile.  

 

“Captain vapor trailed off before I could ask,  would it be too much trouble for you guys to bring my luggage?  Everything is packed except for my stuff in the shower and on the bathroom counter, my stuff is on the right side.  Can you bring it?”

 

“Sure Kriegs, I would love to.  Carli wants to know if you guys will be dressed when we come by since we have the boys with us.  She is so ridiculous!”

 

Ali rolled her eyes, “No, tell her we are going to be stark naked.  Tell her we are taping a segment of naked and afraid over here and it is for all to see.”

 

Kealia just giggled and then said she had to go when they could hear JJ enter the room since the pair were not decent yet.  

 

Ashlyn hung up the call and the both of them giggled.  “I can’t believe how comfortable with all of this you have become,” Ashlyn said smiling. 

 

“Well you said the whole team already knew and I was the only one acting like it was a surprise, so fuck it.  Last one in the shower has to cook breakfast!” Ali yelled before tearing off the sheets and running to the shower.  Knowing Carli, she would be over in ten minutes.

Chapter Text

After they showered and dressed, Ashlyn began breakfast since she was the last one in the shower.   She cracked all of the eggs she had and fried up a whole package of bacon considering who would be coming by soon.   She also started a pot of oatmeal just in case no one ate breakfast.   Ali plopped on the couch and fired up the DVR so she could find Ashlyn’s sports segment.    When the eggs and bacon were done, she brought a plate over to Ali with some toast as well as plate for herself.  Ali took a selfie of them both on the couch and then tweeted it out:

 

AliKrieger: Thank you Houston for a wonderful game yesterday!  Thank you to everyone who tuned in to see @Ashlyn_Harris on @KPRC and my teammates!   Love ya Htown!

 

As they watched the interviews, Ali said, “Look at my hot woman owning that camera like a boss.”  The interviews were great and Ashlyn flashed a dimpled smile.  “You even got Carli to say something else besides ‘training, work harder, teamwork, dedication, striving to be my best, the competition is growing harder, blah, blah, blah,’ good job babe.”  Ashlyn just laughed because it was true, every Carli interview was the same, the girl ate, breathed, and slept hard work and dedication.

 

Ashlyn checked her phone and noticed it was blowing up again.  Then she checked her emails and read one in particular from the sports director at Channel 2.   Apparently, because of social media, her segments were some of the most watched in the last quarter.   Randy wanted to meet with her during the week so they could discuss her success and more things they could do in the future.

 

Just then a bang was heard on her door and Carli came in with all of her ducklings lined up in a row.  Ashlyn and Ali stood up to help her take the things from her arms and to greet everyone.  

 

“Ali, Ashlyn, this is JJ, Kealia’s hunk of a boyfriend, and this is Brian, Kealia’s hunk of a brother in law.   JJ, Brian, this is Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris of the National Team.  Ali also plays for the Pride and Harris here plays with Kealia and I on the Dash.”

 

Ali and Ashlyn shook both of their hands and were thrilled to meet the two Texans.    Carli then handed Ali three signed jerseys for a fundraiser she was attending for a fundraiser in Orlando for LGBTQ at risk youth.   “JJ and Brian here pitched in a couple of jerseys for your event at the Zebra Coalition and here is a pair of signed cleats I wore at the game yesterday.”

 

“Oh wow, thanks so much guys, this is amazing, this will help tremendously in the silent auction.  You guys are the best.  Please let me know if I can ever return the favor for anything you have going on,” Ali said, flashing her megawatt smile.   

 

“We are very happy to do it.   You guys were nice enough to host us during your victory tour after the world cup and we have never forgotten it.   Plus I can’t thank you all enough for watching out for my favorite girl here and having her back,” JJ said as he put an arm around Kealia’s shoulder.    Ali went in to hug Ohai, “Thanks so much for bringing my stuff,” Ali said as she took her luggage out of her hand and wheeled it back to the bedroom along with the items Carli brought her. 

 

“Thank you guys for helping Carli out here, I recently had shoulder surgery and am not much of a help moving her in,” Ashlyn said to the guys.   “There’s some breakfast over on the stove if you all are hungry.”  

 

“Yeah, we kinda adopted Lloyd over here after she came to Texans training camp last year and gave us a talk about what it feels like to win a world championship.   Then we watched as she burned field goals from the 50 yard line,” Brian said as he grabbed a few pieces of bacon.  

 

“Dude, that’s pretty bad assed, you didn’t tell us about that,” Ashlyn said looking over to Carli who just shrugged and smiled.  Carli was the last one to ever brag on her accomplishments.   Brian and JJ went to go get all of the boxes while Carli started to stack them in her room.   Ali came back and fixed them some drinks and drug Ohai to sit on the couch with her so they could visit.    Ashlyn began unpacking Carli’s bathroom box that Carli brought to her and put her towels in the washing machine to get her first load started.   JJ and Brian had her bedframe set up in about 15 minutes and went downstairs to bring her mattress up.

 

“That’s so nice of them to come and help Carli,” Ali said.   “You and JJ are adorable together, what a catch!”

 

Kealia laughed and said, “Yeah, those are the perks when your sis is married to a Texan.   I’ve had a crush on JJ for years and finally last year, we went out after a Dash game and things just fell into place.  I hit the boyfriend lottery.  Plus JJ and Brian are like best friends on the Texans.    I just love my football family.”

 

“Well I couldn’t be happier for you and I am so happy you finally got the call up.  You have been scoring goals left and right for the Dash and it has been a long time coming,” Ali said smiling and at the blonde.

 

“Thank you Ali, that means so much to me.   I absolutely adore you and Ash.”

 

“You’ll keep an eye on her for me this season right?   Don’t let her overdo it in training and practice, I know her too well.”

 

“Sure thing Kriegs.   Plus, look who she has for a roommate, I think she will tow the line,” Kealia said and both of them giggled.

 

JJ and Brian brought the last of the stuff up and then grabbed a couple of plates of food and orange juice.  JJ was a huge fan of the USWNT and insisted on getting selfies with all of the girls together and then with each one separately.    He brought a football from his truck that he planned on signing for Ali’s event but had an idea before he did.   

 

“Hey Harris, I saw your segments last night on Channel 2, you did a hell of a job.  You should come by training camp this year.  Bring Lloyd with you and Ali if she is in town.  You guys are welcome anytime.   We will have to hook you up with some tickets.”

 

“Thanks JJ, I would love to come visit.   Thank you, we all would love that,” Ashlyn said and smiled.

 

“Now let’s blow up your social media some more and give you a real HTown welcome.  You got any keeper gloves around here?” 

 

Ashlyn nodded and went to the back and brought a couple of pairs of bright green gloves that contrasted with her orange Dash t-shirt.  “Ok put them on, Kealia grab my phone and shoot a few pics, same with you Ali, grab yours or Harris’ phone here and let’s take a few pics.”

 

JJ grabbed the ball and tossed it lightly at Ashlyn who caught it.  Then they took a few pics back to back with their arms crossed.  Then JJ acted like he was fake tackling Ashlyn’s torso and she was acting unaffected.    JJ also took a few more with Ali, Kealia, and Carli.   Brian joined in on the fun and took some similar pics.   JJ grabbed his phone and said, “ok, let’s show some love to our Dash,” as he tweeted out the pics.

 

JJWatt99:  Hanging with some of the #USWNT World Cup Champs and @HoustonDash bad asses today.   Show @CarliLloyd, @Ashlyn_Harris, @AliKrieger (@OrlandoPride), and @KealiaOhai some love

 

JJWatt99:  Brick Wall @Ashlyn_Harris not getting anything by her today

 

JJWatt99:  Couldn’t sack @Ashlyn_Harris today, girl is built Dash tough @houstondash  Tune into @KPRC on the weekends to see her local sports segments!

 

JJWatt99:  Honor to meet @AliKrieger, voted best right back in the world #Fifa yeah I see you Krieger, us defenders have to stick together :) @orlandopride

 

JJWatt99:  Kickin it with one of the best midfielders and scorers of all time @carlilloyd #Fifa.  I might play her when I play Fifa on Xbox @houstondash

 

JJWatt99:  Best of all, hanging with my favorite forward @kealiaohai she bleeds orange @HoustonDash

 

JJWatt99: Seriously, y’all go get your tickets to the Dash this season. I just bought my season tickets, I will be there! Let’s fill up BBVA stadium!

 

In a matter of minutes, all of the girls’ phones began dinging and blowing up.  Brian Ching, the GM of the Dash and former Dynamo and MNT player got in on the act along with Oscar De La Hoya, one of the owners of the Dash.  It just snowballed from there with a bunch of retweets and interest in the Dash.  They all had to put their phones on silent and walk away for a while because it was a pure frenzy.   JJ signed the football for Ali.  JJ invited everyone to his charity softball game and Ashlyn signed a couple pairs of her keeper gloves for his silent auction.   Carli heard about JJ’s event and she went to grab a couple of pair of cleats to sign for that as did Ali who had a pair in her suitcase.   The girls each inscribed “world cup champs” on their items to make them that much more special.

 

They all sat around and visited.  JJ and Brian were fascinated about the World Cup and Olympics and wanted to hear what the experience was like for the women.  Before long, JJ’s phone rang and it was his agent, Dan.  He stepped out onto the balcony to take the call.

 

“Hey Harris can you come here for a second?” JJ asked.  Ashlyn went out onto the terrace to see what was up.  JJ put the phone on speaker.

 

“Ok Dan, go ahead, she is standing next to me.”

 

“Hey Ashlyn, this is Dan Elliot, JJ’s agent, how are you?”

 

“Hi Dan, I am great thanks.”

 

“Listen, it looks like JJ just had a little twitter party there over at your place and I have already had a few offers come in.   Robbins Brothers, the engagement ring store wants to do a campaign with the two of you.  I can send the details over to you and your agent if you are interested.   Also, HEB, the Texas based grocery store loves featuring Houston athletes in some of their commercials and they are interested in you joining JJ in some of his and possibly Carli too.   Are you interested?”

 

Ashlyn’s eyes lit up and a bright smile spread across her face.  “Hell yes I am interested.  Wow, thanks so much Dan, thank you JJ,” Ashlyn said, giving JJ a big hug.  

 

“Ok, I am going to have JJ text me your number.   I will text you and then you can send me your agent’s name and phone number.   Your future is looking pretty bright Ashlyn, JJ here is practically the face of the NFL, I think you two will make a great team together.  Can you get Carli for me?”

 

“Sounds good, thanks so much, I will go get Carli,” Ashlyn said as she went inside to round up their Captain in her room.  Ali followed her.

 

“Holy shit dude, JJ’s agent is on the phone, the offers are already coming in from that little picture fest.  Go out to the balcony, his agent wants to talk to you.”   Carli smiled and took off to join JJ.

 

Ashlyn was beaming as she looked at Ali.  “Holy shit, I had no idea.   His agent is going to send the offers over to my agent today.   Some ring store and a grocery chain.”

 

Ali smiled her megawatt smile.  “I always knew your day was coming Ash.  You so deserve this baby, I am so proud of you,” Ali said wrapping her arms around Ashlyn and bringing her in for a deep kiss.   When Carli returned to her room she found the two standing there in an embrace.  “Seriously you two are swapping spit in my room?  Ew. Ew. Ew.  Just for that Harris I expect you to be at my youth clinic in June.”

 

“Um ok, but there were two of us involved, why am I the only one that has to go to your camp?”

 

“Because Krieger here I like, for now, but that could change any minute.”  Carli said as she grabbed a set of sheets and a quilt out of a box to go put in the washing machine.  Ali just giggled and nudged Ashlyn in the back who rolled her eyes.   Both went back out into the living room to join the others.  JJ walked back in.

 

“So I was thinking, if any of you guys would like to play softball in my celebrity charity classic, it is in May at Minute Maid stadium and I would love to have you.”

 

“Wow that would be awesome.  If it works out with the Dash schedule and training I am in,” Ashlyn said.  

 

“Ok, I will have Kealia here send you guys the details and my Mom’s email address, she coordinates it all.   If you can come, just email my Mom and she will make sure you get the necessary passes, jerseys and gear to wear.”

 

“Believe me guys, you definitely want to come, it’s like one of the biggest things to happen in Houston,” Brian added.

 

The girls all thanked JJ again and he, Brian and Kealia had to hit the road.   “Harris, I will be in touch, looks like you and I have a few commercials to do,” JJ said as he hugged all of the women and they went to leave.  Ali scooped Kealia up in another hug, “Love you, take care and it looks like I will be seeing you in Sweden.   Get that passport ready girl.”

 

“Thanks Kriegs, I can’t wait.  Safe travels home.”
 

When everyone filed out, Ashlyn and Ali went to help Carli unpack and set up her bathroom and bedroom. 

 

“Thanks guys for helping me but I’ve got this.  I want you to spend your time together before Kriegs here has to turn into a purple oompa loompa in Orlando this week.”

 

“Can we get you any groceries or anything to make you more comfortable?” Ashlyn asked.

 

“Nope I can handle that.  I think the only thing I need is a ride over to the Audi dealership if you happen to go out today or tomorrow.   They loan me a car as part of my endorsement deal and I have to go pick it up at some point, otherwise I can grab an Uber.”

 

“No way, we will so take you.  Just tell us when you want to go”

 

“Well, if you have time now, I could just go get it out of the way and then have something to drive and get my errands accomplished.”

 

“Sure, let’s do it, I love Audi shopping,” Ali said as she grabbed her purse and sunglasses.   Ashlyn grabbed her keys and smacked Ali on the ass for her comment as Carli went to go grab her jacket and purse.  They all filed in Ashlyn’s jeep and headed towards Audi of Houston as Carli gave Ashlyn directions.  Carli wanted them to just drop her off but Ashlyn wanted to make sure Carli at least had a car secured before they took off.  Ali was like a kid in Toys R Us checking out the different cars on the showroom floor.  A salesman came up to see if he could interest Ashlyn in anything and she said, “Oh no, but that may be your next victim right over there,” Ashlyn chuckled as she pointed to Ali. 

 

When the GM came out to bring Carli a car and the paperwork she had to sign, he noticed Ali and Ashlyn right away and wanted to know if they would take a picture with him and Carli.   They were happy to do it and then they happily signed a few promotional items for him.  He asked Ashlyn if she had a card and Ashlyn pulled out one of her Dash business cards from her wallet and handed it to him.   Carli got the keys and thanked Ali and Ash for bringing her.   As they went to leave, Ali spotted a Sprinkles cupcake shop across the street and jumped up and down and clapped.

 

“Squee!”

 

“What babe?”

 

“Look!” Ali pointed.  Ashlyn looked towards Ali’s finger point and soon found the object of her affection.

 

“Get in, let’s go get your favorite,” Ashlyn said knowing that nothing spread Ali’s legs open faster than a buttercream frosted cupcake. 

 

Ali hopped in the jeep and noticed the shit eating grin on Ashlyn's face.  "What?" She asked.

 

"Nothing, I was just enjoying a visual."

 

"What visual?"

 

"I was just thinking about how nothing spreads Ali Krieger's legs open faster than a chocolate cupcake with vanilla buttercream frosting."

 

Ali's eyes grew wide in shock.  "Ashlyn!!  Ashlyn Michelle Harris!  I can't believe you just said that." Ali tried not to laugh but couldn't help it as she saw Ashlyn grinning from cheek to cheek.  "I am not that easy," Ali protested. 

 

"Oh really?  We will see about that," Ashlyn said as they pulled in front of the store.  There was a line spilling out into the street. 

 

They got in line and waited, basking in the sunshine.  Ashlyn put her arm around Ali’s waist. 

 

"God it feels so nice to just be able to hold you in my arms," Ashlyn whispered into Ali's ear. 

 

Ali turned into Ashlyn's embrace, "I love you so much Ashlyn, and I plan to eat one of those cupcakes off your body when we get back."

 

Ashlyn cleared her throat, "Point made, Ali Krieger and cupcakes," Ashlyn said smiling like the Cheshire Cat.  Ali reached down and pinched Ashlyn between her legs and then put in an innocent smile and turned around.

 

"We should get Carli a carrot cake one since that is semi healthy, and have them put a soccer ball decoration on top," Ali said making Ashlyn giggle.

 

When they got inside, Ali ordered 6 different ones for the both of them and then had one made for Carli with a soccer ball and a number 10 on it.

 

"I feel like Carli never has any fun outside of soccer and that no one really does anything special for her.  I can't believe all that stuff she gave me for the silent auction.  Behind that tough demeanor lies a kind and generous soul," Ali smiled.

 

"I agree, she is good people," Ashlyn said as she grabbed the boxes and sat them in the back seat.  

Chapter Text

Ashlyn stopped off to get gas before they headed back.  Ali got out to go inside of the convenience store to grab a bottle of wine.   After she finished paying, a little tan reddish Chihuahua with no collar or tag came up to her and started wagging his tail.   Ali looked around to see if he belonged to anyone but all she saw were business people fueling up and no one was looking for him.   She went back inside and asked the clerk whose dog it was and the clerk said he was a stray that had been hanging out the past week there and no one would take him.   Ali’s heart broke right there as she watched him trying to eat a wrapper on the ground outside.   She looked around and all the gas station had was some nasty Alpo for sale and there was no way she was going to feed him that or put herself through smelling that canned crap.   She grabbed a bag of beef jerky and paid for that.  When she exited the store, there the little thing was, wagging his tail at her and dancing around her feet.  He was absolutely adorable and she made her mind up right there and then, there was no way she was leaving him there.

 

She reached down to pat his little head.  He had mostly red hair with red whiskers and little white feet that looked like socks and a little white streak on the top of his head.   The tip of his tail was white too.   She tore open the bag of jerky and fed him a piece. 

 

“That’s good stuff right there isn’t it little boy?” Ali said as she broke apart another piece.  He jumped up and pawed at her knee begging for more and right there and then she knew she was fucked.   This kind of thing always happened to her, everything was attracted to Ali Krieger even a little wayward Chihuahua.  She bent down and held her arms out and he jumped up to hug her and lick her face.  She scooped him up and carried him towards the Jeep.  Ashlyn was screwing around with the wiper blade on the rear window, so Ali just got in the passenger seat and smiled to herself.  Just let anyone tell her no, especially Miss let’s bring home every animal she thought to herself.

 

Ashlyn opened the car door to find Ali in the passenger seat with a ginger colored Chihuahua in her lap eating jerky out of her hands.  Ashlyn lifted up her Ray Bans and gave Ali a questioning look. 

 

 “Um who are you and what have you done with my girlfriend?”

 

“I am your girlfriend, now get in the car and take us somewhere to get Pepe something to eat.”

 

“Aww, he is adorable Al.  Where did you find him?  How do you know his name is Pepe?”

 

“I found him by the door over there trying to eat a piece of trash.  He is a stray.  He told me his name was Pepe when I gave him the second piece of jerky,” Ali said, pursing her lips together as she kept tearing apart pieces of jerky.  Ashlyn wasn’t sure what to do here.  She loved dogs but Ali would never let her have one.  She was afraid to speak because she really had no idea what this alien in the car with her did with her girlfriend.   She was just going to watch this play out.   Pepe had no idea that he was able to do something no other sad case before him had been able to do.  Ashlyn drove them to the Petco a few exits down the highway.  

 

Ali grabbed her jacket, purse, and Pepe as she got out.   As they headed in she grabbed a cart and put her jacket down and then put Pepe on top of that next to her purse.  Ashlyn just quietly walked behind them with her hand over her mouth trying not to laugh her ass off at the sight before her.  First Ali walked over to the shampoos and dropped a bottle of Paul Mitchell for dogs in the cart.  Next they were on the collar and leash aisle and into the cart went a powder blue collar with blue rhinestones on it and a matching leash after trying it out on his neck.   She was like some kind of instant dog expert Ashlyn thought.   Then she wheeled over to the dog food aisle and found a bag specially engineered for Chihuahuas with “all of the grains and enzymes a Chihuahua could possibly need.”   Next they were on the treat aisle and a bag of treats and chews went flying into the cart.   Then they found themselves on the back wall of the store. 

 

“Babe?”

 

Ashlyn was just snickering away.  “Yes dear?”

 

“Can you please get me that crate down?  The pink one.”

 

“Pink?  Isn’t he a boy?”

 

“Yes, he is, but real men like pink and Pepe wants a pink crate.  He does not want the ugly brown one.”

 

“Sure, let me get that down for you.”

 

Before she could get that down, a powder blue colored patterned bed went flying into the basket.  The cart was back at full speed whizzing up and down the aisles.   Next was a cat bell for his collar, two powder blue dog bowls, a place mat, a tag that could be engraved, toys of every kind, and then a quick stop to the treat bar where some dog sandwich cookie creams were thrown into a bag and ziptied.  The whole time this was going on, an unspoken pact had formed between Pepe and Ali.   Like this was his mom and he was her son.    As Ali put everything on the counter to pay, Ashlyn went to pet and hold the little man.

 

“Aww Ali, I can feel his ribs.”

 

“Tell me about it.  He needs a hamburger and a rotisserie chicken.”

 

“Ali where are we going with him?”

 

“Back to your place,” Ali said with a smile.

 

“Well aren’t you lucky that my place takes pets?”

 

“Well, if they didn’t we were going to sneak him in anyway.”

 

They left the store and Ashlyn packed up the Jeep as Pepe found his new spot in Ali’s arms, licking her face and wagging his tail.  Ashlyn was still in shock at what she was seeing before her.  As Ashlyn drove them back to her place she reached her hand over and petted what appeared to be Ali’s new child.   He began wagging his tail and licked Ashlyn’s hand.   Ali grabbed her hand and held it in hers during the rest of the ride.

 

 “So how are you going to get him home tomorrow,” Ashlyn asked.

 

“I’m not.  He is staying with you and you are going to bring him home. You are going to bring our little son to our home.  In the meantime I am going to puppy proof it and have a wrought iron fence put in so an alligator can’t come up out of the river and snack on him.  He is not going to let you forget it either because he is going to want his mom.”

 

Ashlyn cocked her head and looked at Ali.   “I see, so he is some kind of insurance policy.”

 

Ali laughed, “Your damn right he is.  All I know is that the baby is yours and we are sharing custody and child support.  That is what you get for knocking me up.  Look at him; he even has your hazel eyes.” 

 

Ashlyn had never seen a red haired dog before with greenish eyes, but there sat one right in front of her, sweet as could be, looking out of the window as he stood up on Ali’s thigh.  

 

As they walked into Ashlyn’s apartment, Ashlyn brought in the bags of stuff while Ali went to the laundry room and grabbed a towel and the shampoo.  Then she headed to the kitchen sink to give him a warm bath.  It took her bathing him 3 different times before his bath water turned from brown to clear and he began to smell like something she could live with.  Ashlyn took all of the tags off of everything and set up his little place mat and bowls next to the breakfast counter in the kitchen.   Ali took Pepe over to the couch and dried him off in her arms.    Pepe was so relaxed and was just enjoying the massage he was getting.   Ashlyn hooked the tag and bell onto his collar and brought that over for Ali to put on him.   Ali then handed Pepe to Ashlyn.

 

“Ok, now go walk him while I clean and sanitize the sink and set up his bed and crate,” she said as she handed Ashlyn the leash.  Ashlyn just looked at her.   “I guess my idea of having a big dog has gone out the window,” Ashlyn said as she chuckled.   

 

“Yes it has.  You now have a dog that can go in your purse,” Ali smiled and raised an eyebrow, daring Ashlyn to challenge her. 

 

“I don’t have a purse, I have backpacks and messenger bags.”

 

“Yes babe, and now you can get yourself one of those little front backpack carrier things to put your new baby in, I can’t wait to see the pictures!  While you are out on your little walk, I am going to call a nearby vet and set the two of you up for an appointment.  How does tomorrow afternoon sound?”

 

Ashlyn just shook her head and smiled, “That sounds wonderful dear.”

 

Ali began cleaning up and set up Pepe’s crate in Ashlyn’s bedroom with a towel and his bed with one of Ashlyn’s fleece Tar Heels blanket.    Luckily Ashlyn’s place had concrete floors throughout, so if there was an accident, it wouldn’t be a huge deal until they got this sorted out.  

 

When Ashlyn and Pepe returned, Pepe looked exhausted.   Ashlyn let him off of the leash to see what he would do and he ran back into the bedroom with Ali.   She showed him his new little bed and blanket and in two minutes he was curled up and settled in for a nap.  Ali came back into the kitchen and pointed towards the bedroom.

 

“Aww Ash, just look at him.  He is so thankful to have a bed.   He is a little doll,” Ali stated as she opened up the box of cupcakes, reaching for her favorite.   Ashlyn just watched as Ali made a show of licking the frosting off of the top. 

 

“Yeah, he is pretty damn cute.   I can already see us doing a ton of stuff together.  We have a little dog park besides the building here.  He is going to love it.  I can’t believe somehow I have gained an instant dog.  Are you sure you are Ali?” 

 

 

Ali scarfed down her cupcake and glass of milk.   Ali raised her eyebrow and then crossed the room and grabbed Ashlyn’s shirt, pulling her along with her as they headed to the bedroom and she locked the door.   She gently drug Pepe’s bed about five feet away so that he was now in the bathroom and shut that door.  Then she walked over to her girlfriend and took her hat off of her, tossed that across the room, and put her hands behind Ashlyn’s neck. 

 

“There’s one way to find out.  You know where my birthmark is.  Find it,” Ali said as her eyes grew dark with desire.   Ashlyn pulled down the side of Ali’s joggers and pulled up her shirt to find her hip and put her fingers over Ali’s Nittany Lion tattoo which hid her birthmark. 

 

“You are so fucking sexy Ali,” Ashlyn husked.

 

“So are you, Dad.” Ali said mischievously.  Something about the way Ali said that just turned Ashlyn the fuck on.  

 

“Oh I am going to show you who Dad is alright.”

 

Ali just looked at her nails like she was bored, yawned, and blew on them, “yeah sure.”  Ali knew exactly how to get the desired reaction she wanted out of Ashlyn.  Just challenge her strength, virility, or ability to please her and the blonde couldn’t take it.

 

That’s all it took before Ashlyn pounced her and threw her down on the bed pinning her hips down underneath her knees.  

 

“Ooooh Daddy, I like it when you play rough,” Ali teased before Ashlyn knocked that smile right off of her face with a long hot kiss.  Ali spread her legs open allowing Ashlyn room to get on top of her. 

 

“See, I told you.  This is why I will always buy you cupcakes, spread eagle,” Ashlyn said as she started to kiss along Ali’s neck.

 

“Shut up and fuck me before you wake the boy up.”

 

Ashlyn began to giggle and Pepe must have heard her because he began to whimper.   Ali rolled her eyes and pushed Ashlyn off of her.  Ashlyn got up and went to the bathroom to get him and put his crate in the living room in front of the TV and turned it on to National Geographic.   She placed Pepe in the crate with one of his new toys and told him to take a nap.   She then headed back to the bedroom. 

 

“I am so investing in a baby gate for the kitchen so he can stay in there for times like this,” Ashlyn said as she approached the bed.

 

“Oh are you planning on having many times like this here?” Ali asked with an amused look on her face.

 

“Only with you.”

 

“That’s the right answer,” Ali said, tugging on Ashlyn’s shorts and pulling her down on the bed.  “I guess I am going to have to fuck you so hard today that you will be sore for weeks.”

 

“Promises, Promises,” Ashlyn said before Ali shut her up and made good on her promise several times that afternoon.

 

Carli came in after running errands and put her groceries away.   She noticed the TV was on playing some kind of wildlife show.  She found two bowls and a placemat in the floor and wondered what that was doing there since it hadn’t been there this morning.  Then she heard some sort of rustling and banging coming from the living room.   She approached slowly, scared to know what she was going to find.  She looked at the TV and was horrified to see that it was some type of mating ritual show playing in Africa.  First two zebras were going at it, the male mounting the female, and the female standing there with a her mouth open and a disturbing look on her face.  Then they switched to elephants and were going to start explaining that hot mess. 

 

“Oh hell no.   What the fuck does Harris watch in this place?” Carli said as she grabbed the remote off of the coffee table and turned it on to ESPN.

 

Her eyes found a pink crate that was being jostled around.   She stood in front of it and kneeled down to find a red Chihuahua with greenish grey eyes and white feet.   It started to wag it’s tail and was begging to be let out.   Carli sighed wondering what all of this was about.  As she began to go ask, she saw Ashlyn’s bedroom door was closed and she quickly decided she didn’t want to know.  She went to her room and grabbed the rest of her bedding to take to the laundry room and got her towels out of the dryer.   She took them to her room, folded them and grabbed her new book, ‘You are a badass’ and headed to the kitchen to grab the leash she found on the counter there.

 

Carli walked over the crate, opened it, put the leash on the little dog and picked him up.  She held him up so that his eyes were looking at hers and saw a tag that said ‘Pepe’. 

 

“Hi there Mr. Pepe.  If you are Harris’ dog, I am calling you Pele.   She obviously doesn’t know how to spell the greatest soccer player of all time’s name.  What else would you expect from a Tar Heel?  I can’t believe she left that filthy show on for you.  Your poor ears.” 

 

She went over to the counter where there was a pad and pen and wrote a note:

 

Harris, Pele wanted out and we are headed to lounge by the pool.  You scarred him for life by playing him that animal mating show.  I didn’t want to disturb you in your sex den back there.  I may walk him to get some dinner later.   I am sure I will be babysitting him for the rest of the day.  You owe me Harris.  Call me if you need us. – Carli

 

Two hours later, Ali rolled off of Ashlyn in a sweaty heap trying to catch her breath.  “Fuck Ashlyn, that was mind blowing.  God I have missed you and this.”

 

“I have missed you and this too, I love you so much Ali,” Ashlyn said as she traced the tattoo on Ali’s ribcage and then ran her fingers along Ali’s perfect breasts that she loved so much.  “I better go check on the little one, you stay right here and don’t move.”

 

Ashlyn put a t-shirt and shorts on and headed for the living room where she found the crate with the door swung open.   She looked around and found Pepe nowhere.  She then noticed a note on the counter and read it, smiling to herself.  Their captain really was a big softie.  She grabbed them a couple of Gatorades and headed back to the bedroom.  She handed one to Ali who just laughed.  “I suppose you want me to hydrate after that little marathon.  How is the boy?”

 

“The boy is with Carli on some kind of adventure by the pool and dinner date.  She left a note and called him Pele.  I can already see where this is going.  I bet it won’t be long before he is wearing a jersey with a number 10 on it.”

 

“No way, I won’t allow it.  He is a Krieger and he will only be wearing number 11.”

 

“You know I won’t even mind one bit because that will be adorable,” Ashlyn said before leaning over to give Ali a kiss. 

Chapter Text

Around 6:30 that evening, Ali was famished from her marathon sex afternoon with Ashlyn.  They wasted no time in making up for the 6 months they were apart.   Ali didn’t care if either of them were sore and couldn’t walk right for days, she missed Ashlyn so much and her heart felt like it was going to explode.  By the time they were done, Ashlyn couldn’t half remember why they were apart in the first place.   She could, but the time apart just didn’t seem quite worth it anymore.   She was happy with the progress they were making, even if it was only a couple of days. 

 

“Babe, I’m hungry, you have to feed me,” Ali said, pinching Ashlyn’s nipple.

 

“Ow, damn, yes whatever you want,” Ashlyn chuckled.

 

“Get dressed and take me somewhere.”

 

“Let’s take a quick shower and rinse off, we smell like sex.   I should probably crack a window and air this room out,” Ashlyn laughed.  “I have company now.”

 

Ashlyn got up ran for a quick shower and began getting dressed as Ali bunched up the sheets around her chest and watched Ashlyn’s fine ass search for clothes.  She knew one thing, she had to sew this situation up and soon.  She needed to take Ashlyn Harris off of the market.  She shuddered at the idea of Ashlyn playing in another city so far away and having all of these fan girls ogle her.  

 

“Well?  Are you going to get up?” Ashlyn asked as she put on her sports bra, a UNC shirt, and a pair of white shorts.  “What are you thinking about?”

 

“Nothing, just what an amazing and hot woman I have for a girlfriend,” Ali smiled as she got up and put her hair in a bun and ran to the shower.   A few minutes she emerged and put on a white Nike long sleeved t-shirt and a black pair of shorts.  She brushed her hair out, put on some mascara and was ready to go, there was no point in screwing around with makeup tonight because they were just going to wind back in the bed anyway.

 

When they emerged, they found Carli on the couch watching a soccer match with Pepe in her lap asleep.  “Oh look, they are alive!” Carli said startling Pepe who began wagging his tail.

 

Ali laughed and said, “Looks like you and Pepe have met.  Ashlyn found your note, thank you for taking him with you today.”

 

“PELE and I are good friends now.  He likes his Auntie Carli and he likes watching soccer with me.  Pretty soon he will be wearing the number 10, just like me and the rest of the greats, his namesake Pele, and Maradona,” Carli said, scratching his ears.

 

“Ha!  As if Lloyd.  He is going to be wearing a purple 11 jersey because he is a Krieger and that is the end of that story.  His name is Pepe, not Pele.”

 

Ashlyn just laughed at the two alphas going at it in her living room.   “Does he need to go out?  I can walk him, we were going to go get something to eat.  Would you like to go with us?” Ashlyn asked.

 

“I was going to walk him after he got up and go get something to eat too, now that he is up I guess I will.”

“Well then come with us.  We can go to Barnaby’s, they have healthy stuff, and they let you bring your dog and we can dine al fresco if that is ok with you?  It’s beautiful out,” Ashlyn said knowing that Carli was a stickler for eating healthy.  All of them were for the most part, but Carli took it to a whole new level.

 

“I don’t want to intrude on your time together,” Carli said.

 

“You aren’t intruding, we love you,” Ali said sticking her hand out to help Carli off of the couch.  Ashlyn scooped up Pepe and put his leash on. 

 

“Ok, let’s go then, thank you guys.” Carli said.

 

Ali grabbed Pepe, “Babe you and Carli go get the car and pick me up in front of the building so I can take him for a little walk,” and in an instant Pepe was pulling Ali out of the door.

 

Ashlyn went to grab her keys, “You know you aren’t going to win this jersey battle with her, right?”

 

Carli raised her eyebrows, “Oh I so am.  This is payback for putting up with her sobbing last the half year.”

 

“Yeah about that, I feel like an ass for that, I took things a little too far.  But, I had to get a point across that I never could get through for years or it was never going to sink through, it will only be better for us in the long run.  Thank you to you and Allie for helping me face my stubbornness.”

 

“Well I am glad you two worked it out.  It was killing everyone that things weren’t right between you two.  I’ve never been big into team romances but you two have been together since before I can remember and that’s the way it should be.  You have to lock that girl down Harris, time to make an honest woman of her.  I want to attend your wedding soon, not when I’m 60.”

 

The image of Carli being 60 attending their wedding was an entertaining one.  “I plan to lock it down, it has only been a couple of years since marriage was legalized anyway.  I just wanted to get things right between us before taking that next step.  She already leads me around on a leash as it is, and I am happy to follow, but some things I had to put my foot down on.”

 

“Ok good then.  I am glad she got the message, and you can believe that Harris, she definitely got the message.  I don’t think you will have to worry about that again.   She was miserable without you.  Now get your ass going, I am hungry,” Carli said, slapping Ashlyn on the ass like she did her teammates on the field when she wanted to emphasize a point.

 

They picked up Ali and Pepe and headed to Barnaby’s.  Carli was in heaven because there was a whole page dedicated to about 20 different salads and kale items.  She found a salad that had strawberries and tangerines and the kinds of things in it that sounded like Ashlyn wouldn’t want to mix with dressing.   Ashlyn decided on the chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans and Ali decided on the red snapper, asparagus and a salad.

 

“What are we ordering for Pepe?” Carli asked.  Pepe was sitting at the table in a 4th chair on top of Carli’s team USA soccer hoodie.

 

“I think we should get him the half rotisserie chicken and ask them to chop it up.  His ribs are sticking out.  Plus his vet appointment is tomorrow afternoon and he deserves a treat before he gets poked and prodded,” Ali said.

 

“When is his appointment?” Carli asked.

 

“We take him tomorrow at 4:00.  Why do you want to come too?” Ali asked.

 

“Well, if I am going to be living with him for the next six months, I think I should learn how to help out,” Carli said and smiled.    Both Ali and Ashlyn smiled too.  “We would love that,” Ali said.  “I feel better that the two of you will be looking out for him.  I still want to puppy proof our home and yard before he comes to Orlando and part of that is putting a fence in.”

 

“That reminds me,” Ali said and picked up her phone to shoot off a few quick emails while the waitress came by and took their orders, bringing pepe his own little bowl of water.

 

“What’s that?” Ashlyn asked.

 

“I just fired off an email to Jess at US Soccer and ordered up a little #11 Krieger jersey for him.   Then I asked Tony to do the same for the pride.  He needs a little purple one too.”

 

Carli picked up her phone and emailed Jess as well.   Then she emailed Jen at the Dash and had a smart assed smile on her face.   In about a minute, Ali’s phone began to ring and it was Jess at US Soccer on face time.

 

“Hello Ali?  You wouldn’t be with Carli would you?” Jess asked with an amused look on her face.

 

“Hey Jess, yes we are at dinner.  Did you get my email?”

 

“The funny thing is, I got two emails.  One for a jersey with a number 11 on it in a baby size with Pepe on it and then a second email for a jersey in a baby size with a number 10 on it for a Pele.    Are you guys pregnant or something and what is up with the names?  Please don’t tell me you are naming your children this, not that it’s any of my business but I have known you both since you were kids.”

 

Ashlyn just burst out laughing and clapped her hands.  Ali narrowed her eyes and looked over at Carli who had her hand over her mouth snickering.   

 

“No, I am not pregnant and naming the child Pepe.   I have a new little dog and his name is Pepe and I want him to wear my jersey.  Can you get him one with the little Fifa badge?”

 

Jess started laughing, “Oh my god how cute, do you have a pic of him?”

 

“He is here with me now,” Ali said turning the phone to point at Pepe who was standing up with his front paws on the table wagging his tail. Carli took the phone from Ali’s hand.

 

“Krieger can’t spell.  His name is Pele because he is named after the best soccer player in the world.  He needs a jersey with a number 10 on it because he is going to wear the same number as me and all of the other greats.  He also wants a fifa patch on that jersey too. “

Of all of the things the players asked her for over the years, this was a first.  Jess just started laughing.  

 

“Ok you two.  How about you measure him from neck to his rear and then give me the circumference of his body and we will make him a special one that will fit.”

 

“Ok, we will do, but you might need to make it just a little bit larger because he is skin and bones right now and we have to fatten him up,” Carli said before handing the phone back to Ali.

 

“Thank you Jess. You’re the best,” Ali said and smiled.

 

“No problem, I have to say, this is a first.  Pepe a.k.a Pele is a very lucky guy.”

 

Ali hung up the phone and crossed her arms looking at Carli.  “It’s Pepe, his name is Pepe.”

 

Carli leaned forward and patted Pepe on the head.  “It’s Pele.   Pele was telling me his parents were from Brazil and they named him after their national hero.”

 

“Come here my little Pepesito,” Ali said, picking Pepe up and plopping him down on her lap, challenging Carli.  “See, how he loves his Mama?  That’s because he knows she is always right.”

 

Ashlyn was just looking at the back and forth between the both of them and decided she needed a few pictures of this for twitter because no one would believe her.

 

Carli grabbed one of the breadsticks in a package from the middle of the table and opened the wrapper breaking it in half.  Pepe caught a whiff of food in the air and began struggling to get out of Ali’s arms, jumping back over to his chair and coming straight for Carli and the breadstick.

 

“Here you go little Pele.  You love your Auntie Carli don’t you?  Of course you do, she is team captain after all.”  

 

Ashlyn sent out the pictures on twitter.  One of Ali with Pepe and one of Carli feeding Pepe a breadstick. 

 

Ashlyn_Harris:  Best night ever.  @AliKrieger and @CarliLloyd having a heated debate over which jersey number little Pepe here will be wearing.  10 or 11.  What do you guys think?

 

All three phones started to go off with notifications.   In just a few minutes an entire nation of women’s soccer fans fell in love with little Pepe.

 

“You don’t play fair Lloyd.  Whatever.   Teach him all of the bad habits you want as long as you don’t teach him to get up at 4:30 in the morning I will put up with it, but that is where I draw the line.  I have roomed with you and you are insane to get up at that hour.  You let my boy sleep.  Oh and I want pictures of whatever the two of you do when you hang out.  I need to make sure you don’t have him at some kind of boot training camp.”

 

Carli just laughed and nodded her head.  Then Ali turned to Ashlyn and poked her on the arm.  “And don’t you be feeding our boy Cheetos when I’m not around.  Carli wouldn’t approve and she will tell on you if you do.   Oh and Lloyd, I am going to need you to watch this one for me this year.   I have seen how these fan girls drool over my girl and talk about all of the things they want to do to her online.  I swear I will be on the first plane here if one of them touches a hair on her head.”

 

Carli burst out into laughter.  “You got it Kriegs.  Plus she is going to be my bitch over the summer anyway.  Moe was mine last year but she isn’t as strong.  I have plans for Harris this summer.  I am going to put her ass to work in my camp and some other things I have planned with the youth in this town.   Also, her ass is going to be mine in the gym as soon as she is cleared to resume training.   That number 1 spot is up for grabs and I expect Harris to go out there and take it even if it means I have to kick her ass every day to do so.”

 

Ashlyn just leaned her head back and put her hands over her face.  “Oh God, my life is going to be hell.”

 

“Yeah, enjoy those mashed potatoes tonight Harris, better eat all the crap you want to now, because by the time I am done with you, you will be eating boiled eggs, spinach, and doing wheat grass shots with me every morning.  You are going to wish you never reached for a cheeto.”

 

“Thank you Carli, yes whip her ass into shape.  I want her so tired by the end of every day that the thought of even taking a girl out for a meal will sound grueling.   You have my permission to wear her ass out.   That way, when she comes home to me to visit, it will be like she is going on a trip to Figi and her attitude will be just perfect,” Ali smiled.

 

“Hey you two, what do I get out of this?  This sounds like boot camp for the next six months.”

 

Carli and Ali just looked at each other and smiled, proud of themselves and their little plan.  “Carli and I always did have a wonderful understanding of each other,” Ali said as their food arrived.

 

Pepe was so excited to see a plate of chicken placed before him.  He stood up with his front paws on the table and went to town, wolfing down the chicken.   The three just laughed at him as they ate their meals in contentment.

 

When they got back to the apartment, Ali went to the kitchen and grabbed Carli’s cupcake, putting it on a little plate for her.

 

“Ok Lloyd, I know you are all about eating healthy, but you can have a cheat night for once in your life.  We got this for you today and it is carrot cake.  Plus you ran your ass off yesterday for 90 minutes.   So here you go, thank you for taking care of me and being the best roommate a girl could ask for.   I know I wasn’t easy to put up with for these last few months and you have been a wonderful friend to me.   I love you like a sister.”

 

Carli looked at the cupcake with the number 10 on it and then up at Ali as tears formed in her eyes.  “Thank you Ali, the pleasure has been mine.   I feel such a close connection with the older players on the team, we have all been to hell and back through World Cups, Olympics, and trying to grow this sport.  There is no one else I would rather do it with.  I love you back.  Now go enjoy the night and tomorrow with your woman and I will take care of little Pele here so you can make the most of it.   Come get us when it is time for his appointment.”

 

Ali scooped up Pepe in her arms and gave him a big hug and kissed his cheek.  “Thank you for that Carli, it means a lot and thank you for Pepe sitting.   Thank you for giving us some time to be together, I have missed my other half so much.”

 

“I know you have.  I feel the same way every time I am separated from Brian like I am now.  I know how much it sucks and the little vacuum you want to be sucked up in when you reunite.  Now go and thanks for the cupcake, I think I will cheat tonight,” Carli said as she went into the kitchen to grab a water and Pepe before retreating to her room.

 

Ashlyn came over to Ali and enveloped her in a giant hug and kissed her on the forehead.   “That was so nice what you said to her babe.  I can’t ever remember seeing her tear up unless we lost at the Olympics or a World Cup.”

 

“Well, she was there for me in my darkest hour and I know she will be there for you and Pepe this summer.  Now take me to bed Ashlyn and give me something to remember for this summer,” Ali said as she wrapped her hands around Ashlyn’s neck.  Ashlyn put her hands underneath Ali’s thighs.  “No babe, your shoulder,” Ali warned. 

 

“Fuck I want to carry you to bed so bad,” Ashlyn said breathing into her neck. 

 

Ali smiled and threw her head back, “Baby I know you love to do that and you will be able to one day soon, but right now we can’t.  There are plenty of other things we can do right now though.”

 

“Oh yeah?” Ashlyn asked as she slid her hands underneath Ali’s waistband and onto her ass.  “Like what?”

 

Ali knew Ashlyn loved it when she talked dirty to her.  “Like you can take me to bed, make me get on all fours and own me.  Make me beg for it Ashlyn.”

 

“Damn baby, that’s so fucking hot,” Ashlyn grabbed Ali’s hand and led her to the bedroom after locking and closing the door.”

 

“You know, I don’t think Carli will try to bust through the door babe.”

 

“No but Pepe might, especially if he hears what I am about to do to his Mama.   You know how good a dog’s hearing is.”

 

“Well, you will have to keep your voice down so you don’t scare our son.” 

Chapter Text

“I can’t promise anything.  At dinner tonight while you were telling Carli to keep an eye on me, all I could think about were those same fan girls ogling you with their little ‘Krieger Fever’ posters pawing at my girl,” Ashlyn said as she put her arms around Ali’s waist.

 

“Oh yeah, and how did that make you feel?” Ali asked, licking her lips.

 

“Like I wanted to bring you home and fuck you so hard that you’ll feel me inside of you all season.”

 

“Then do it.  Make me yours.  Don’t fuck around and tease me Ashlyn, take me right now.”

 

“God I love it when you get like this.”

 

“I’ve had nothing to think about for the last half year other than the way your hands feel on me.  Every single night I dreamed about you.”

 

Ashlyn placed a searing hot kiss on Ali’s lips and ran her hands up under the back of Ali’s shirt, sliding it up and over her head.  It was one of Ashlyn’s favorite views to see, a shirt coming off Ali’s head and the way her hair bounced back over her shoulders as she was in her sports bra and would always grab the sides of Ashlyn’s face, rejoining their kiss.   Ashlyn loved how strong and muscular Ali was and how her biceps flexed when she would grab for her body when they had sex.  Ashlyn reached down to slide Ali’s shorts off and gave her a smack on her ass as she pulled Ali’s body in towards her as they kissed.   Next she pulled Ali’s bra up and off over her head, tossing that across the room.  Here was another one of her favorite things to see, Ali’s breasts bouncing free of her bra.   She went to reach down to put one of them in her mouth and was met with, “No way,  you can suck on them later, right now I want you to fuck me,” Ali said as she reached down to take off her boy shorts to get this show on the road.  

 

Ashlyn smiled at the sight of how impatient Ali had become.   Ashlyn didn’t mind one bit.  She didn’t care if they made love or if they had hot monkey jungle sex, as long as she got to be with Ali.  She walked them both towards the bed as Ali yanked Ashlyn’s shirt off over her head and her shorts tossing them across the room.  Ashlyn pushed Ali on to the bed and Ali quickly flipped over on her knees baring herself completely to Ashlyn.   Ashlyn kneeled on the bed behind Ali running her hands up and down the strong back and backside she loved so much.  She leaned up to run her tongue on the back of Ali’s neck knowing that was a place that drove her wild.   “You’re fucking mine Alexandra Krieger, you got that?” Ashlyn whispered into her ear.  

 

“No, I’ve forgotten, why don’t you remind me?” 

 

Ashlyn moved back down Ali’s body and placed a kiss on her glistening lips running her tongue up and down  between them driving Ali mad while holding on to her ass.  

 

“Ashlyn”

 

“Tell me what you want,” Ashlyn said as she moved her tongue over Ali’s clit.

 

“Ashlyn, fuck me, please, please, please, please fuck me,” Ali begged knowing how much Ashlyn liked it.

 

Ashlyn moved her tongue over to Ali’s entrance and pushed it in, making Ali jolt forward a little bit. 

 

“God yes, Ashlyn, fuck that feels so good.”

 

Ashlyn made her tongue as rigid as possible and moved it in and out of Ali.  Ali loved when Ashlyn was inside of her like this and the more this went on the more she needed more.

 

“Ashlyn, I need your fingers inside of me right now,” Ali moaned out.

 

Ashlyn got up on her knees and wrapped her left arm around Ali’s waist to steady herself as she positioned two fingers at her entrance.  She knew Ali wanted to be dominated, “I’m going to fuck you so hard that you are going to see stars.  Don’t you even think about coming until I say you can.   I’m going to make sure you remember that you’re mine, that I own this,” she said as she pushed her two fingers in side Ali, leaning over her back, taking her fast and hard.

 

Ali finally got what she wanted and opened her legs open even more.   She loved when Ashlyn fucked her like this and how deep her long fingers got inside of her in this position.  Ashlyn began giving it to her hard and fast just the way she liked it.   Ali closed her eyes, giving into the sensation, sweat breaking out over her back as her skin began to flush pink.   Ashlyn knew Ali had a hard time of gaining control over herself in this position and Ashlyn loved making it harder on her.   “You love when I fuck you and fill you up this way don’t you?  Your pussy feels like it’s on fire, don’t you even think about coming.”

 

“Give it to me harder then so I can’t.  Make me feel nothing but you inside of me Ashlyn.”

 

Ashlyn was fighting off her own urge to come, Ali was driving her nuts talking to her this way.   Ashlyn did just that and drug it out for as long as possible until she could feel Ali tighten around her fingers.  She kneeled back a little bit and brought her two left fingers down to Ali’s clit, rubbing her there hard and fast.  “I want you to cum Ali, come all over me baby.”

 

“Fuck yes Ashlyn!’  Ali whispered out, trying not to be loud so they wouldn’t be heard.  “Fuck me! Fuck!”  Ali felt her first orgasm explode throughout her body from the clitoral stimulation.  “Yeeessssss!” Ashlyn withdrew her fingers and moved her left hand back to Ali’s waist as she began to run her other two fingers over Ali’s G-spot repeatedly, making a second orgasm rip through Ali as it chased the first one.  Ali did in fact see stars as she collapsed her head into the pillow and screamed into it, muffling her voice as best as she could.  Ashlyn collapsed on top of her, happy to get her fingers back as she fought to catch her own breath. 

 

“Ashlyn, Ashlyn, Ashlyn.  God baby, I needed that.”

 

“Me too baby, I don’t think I am ever going to forget that view,” Ashlyn said as she crawled up to put her head on the pillow next to Ali, flipping over on her back.

 

“No one could ever do what you do to me Ashlyn,” Ali happily said as she moved over to lay her head on Ashlyn’s chest, throwing her arm across her body, “I swear I am the luckiest girl alive.  I promise to show you that everyday.  I promise I won’t let you down.  I’ll say it again; life isn’t worth living without you in it.”

 

“I was never going to let you go Al.   I know I was pissed but deep down, there was no way I could let you go.  I knew the day I left the house I could never fully let you go and I never will.  This time apart has made that abundantly clear to me.”

 

“It makes me so happy to hear you say that Ashlyn, you have no idea.”

 

“Oh, and I want you to stop depositing rent into my account.  I am just going to give that money back to you.  I never wanted you to pay rent.  I was just too pissed off at you to tell you.   I would let you stay there for a million years, even if we weren’t together.”

 

“No you are not.  You keep it.  I have always felt like what is mine is yours.  Staying there without you has been unbearable; it no longer felt like my home.   I was only there a season with you and then you were gone.  It has been getting so unbearable to be there that I have been looking at other places.   It was just too painful looking at all of your things and knowing that I couldn’t have you in my life.”

 

Ashlyn just held Ali tighter.  “Don’t you dare leave.  I could never come back to that house without you in it.  I would have to sell it then and come find you and squat on your porch steps.”

 

“Well, I am glad we agree on this.   Promise me something Ash.”

 

“What baby?”

 

“Promise me that you will never leave me again.   I need to be able to count on that one thing.   And I will promise this to you, I will never leave something that is important to you go neglected.  I promise that if you come to me with something to hear you out and work on it from now on and not sweep it under the rug.  I know I still have a lot to prove to you.  I’m not saying it’s going to be easy but I am going to do my best to give you everything you want.”

 

“I promise Ali, I won’t leave you ever again.  You have to promise not to walk out on me either.”

 

“That is the easiest promise of all Ashlyn, I will never walk out on you.  You own my heart without a doubt.   You are the love of my life and always will be my one true love.”

 

Ashlyn cupped Ali’s face and brought her in for a passionate kiss.  One that sealed the promises they had just made to one another before they fell asleep in each other’s arms.  Three hours later, Ali woke Ashlyn up for sex.   Three hours after that, Ashlyn woke Ali up for sex and returned the favor.  They tried to make the most out of every minute of the last day they had together, each time falling asleep in a tight embrace, not wanting to be separated.  

 

The next morning, around 8:00, Ashlyn was the first to wake up and looked over at her phone, noticing she had a group text from Carli. 

 

Lloyd:  11 & 24, Taking Pepe to training with me this morning.  Will have him back after lunch.  Made breakfast for you two in case you decide to come out for air.   Scrambled eggs and bacon in the microwave and some sliced avocado in the fridge.  Pot of coffee on the counter. 

 

Harris:  Thank you C.  You are the best. 

 

Ashlyn laughed at Carli’s choice of names for them, forever the jock.  She was pleased with how nice of a roommate Carli had become so far and how she looked out for her and Ali’s relationship.  It was so nice to have her in their corner, even if she enjoyed giving Ashlyn shit all of the time.  She looked over at Ali who looked like a complete angel sleeping on the pillow next to her, completely at peace.   Ashlyn rolled over and drew Ali into her tightly hugging her, wanting to make her feel completely safe and protected.   She wanted to live in this moment forever as she drifted back off to sleep.

 

Ali woke up about an hour later feeling Ashlyn’s body wrapped around her tightly like a blanket.   She wanted to get up but there was no way she was going to break away from this much needed contact.  She looked over at Ashlyn who was so peaceful as she slept, wanting to engrain every inch of her face into her mind.  She had no idea how she was going to come up with the will power to board that plane to FL tomorrow morning.  She decided to think about that tomorrow.  For now she just wanted to stare at her girlfriend while she slept.  As she studied the arm she had looked at thousands of times, she noticed a new little tattoo in the side sleeve of her arm that was never there before.  In the intricate tattoo work she saw her name, “Ali.”  Then her eyes traveled down Ashlyn’s side tattoo work and this time she spotted a pink heart with her name in it again.  

 

Ali’s eyes began to tear up because she knew Ashlyn only put things related to her family on her body.  Ali thought that somehow, even though they were apart and split, Ashlyn now thought of Ali as more than her girlfriend, possibly her family.   Ali knew in that moment that Ashlyn felt their inseparable bond just as much as she did, that nothing could ever tear them apart no matter what it was.   She always felt it in her heart, but seeing that Ashlyn did that made it all that much more meaningful. 

 

At 10:00 Ali couldn’t take it anymore because her stomach was rumbling.  She slipped out of Ashlyn’s embrace and looked at her phone to read her texts.  She smiled when she saw Carli’s and responded with pink heart emjoi’s.  She looked at twitter and rolled her eyes when she saw fans were retweeting pictures of her and Ashlyn hugging after the game yesterday stating “Krashlyn is real y’all,” and “Krashlyn is back.”   She headed for the shower because she couldn’t stand herself anymore and when she got out, she found Ashlyn in the kitchen, warming up breakfast and their coffee.

 

“Good morning Ms. Harris, I think you fucked my brains out last night,” Ali smiled as she planted a kiss on Ashlyn’s cheek and pinched her ass. 

 

“Good morning.  God you look good enough to eat.”

 

“Is that a threat?”

 

“It might be, now hurry up and eat so you we can find out.”

 

Ali just laughed.  She loved her horny girlfriend.  Anytime they spent time apart, Ashlyn struggled to keep her hands off of Ali at all times of the day and night for almost a week until she became satisfied.  Something that Ali used to find annoying, she now embraced with full appreciation.  That didn’t mean that she still wouldn’t torture Ashlyn over breakfast.

 

Ali ate her breakfast painfully slow watching Ashlyn squirm.   Ashlyn was wearing a white Umbro tshirt and shorts. 

 

“Really babe?  Umbro?  Didn’t they go out of style in the 90’s?”

 

“Hmph, you just wish you were cool as me.  They are my new sponsor.  As much as I hated giving up my Nike stuff, I haven’t minded the money.  They are giving me twice as much and they want me to make them cool again in the US.”

 

“And how is that going?”

 

“Well, I told them they have a long way to go.  The clothes are hideous and the keeper gloves, omg.   I mean after so many years of wearing all of the cool Nike colors and fades, I really do feel like I am being transported back into the 90’s with them.  Everything seems to be blue and black.  The cleats, omg, I am back to wearing basic black cleats.   So I am working with them on some new color schemes and clothes designs that I think would be hot to wear.   If they decide to use them and they sell well, I will get a percentage of the profits from my clothing/equipment line,” Ashlyn said as she began rubbing her shoulder, feeling a small twinge of pain in it as she often did in the mornings.

 

“Well, I have no doubt if anyone can make them cool again it’s you babe.  Now go lay down on the bed on your stomach so I can give you a shoulder rub.” 

 

“Really?  That would feel so good.”

 

“Really, I have tiger balm in my suitcase.”

 

Ashlyn smiled her dimpled smile and went back to bed.  Ali cleaned up their plates and joined her after warming up her hands under the hot water of the sink and grabbing a towel along the way.

 

"Sind Sie bereit für Ihre massage?"  Ali asked as she entered the room with the towel draped over her arm.

 

“Fuck, baby you know you can’t talk to me that way and expect me to remain civilized.  It’s hard enough for me to just look at you most times.”

 

Ali laughed intending to drive Ashlyn nuts anyway she could for the rest of the day until Ashlyn was reduced to a puddle that evening, just the way she liked.

 

Ali hopped on the bed and straddled Ashlyn’s back as she started to work on her shoulders and upper back which also seemed to be the places where Ashlyn carried most of her stress.

 

“I really wish you would train the USWNT trainers and the NWSL trainers how to do this.  I love how you crack my back too just by sitting on top of me.”

 

“There’s no way I am teaching anyone else how to do this to you, then you won’t have any use for me,” Ali sassed.

 

“As if, Krieger.  None of those trainers could do it right anyway, even if you did teach them.  They aren’t you.”

 

Ali smiled and slapped Ashlyn’s ass as she got up.  “Now roll over.”   Ali then straddled Ashlyn’s hips as she worked on the front of her shoulders looking up at the TV.”

 

“Why don’t you ever look at me while you do this?”

 

“You know why.”

 

“I don’t, I could never get you to tell me.”

 

“Because, if I look down into your eyes while I do this, it won’t be a massage anymore.  Your eyes glaze over and your O face takes over and then you turn me into a beast and before we know it, we will have tiger balm all over the sheets.”

 

“My O face? Really?” Ashlyn rolls her eyes.

 

“Yup, I can’t blame you though, my hands are pretty good.”

 

“Maybe I just like having you on top of me,” Ashlyn said as she reached up and ran her hands along Ali’s side, over to her breasts, massaging them through Ali’s shirt. 

 

“If you are good and let me finish then maybe I will get on top of you.”

 

Ashlyn refused to be good.  She wanted Ali on her all day long.

 

“Baby if you keep grinding on me, you are going to make me come.  I’m already so close so you might as well look at me.”

                                    

Ali bit her lip and looked down at Ashlyn’s eyes seeing two green pools of desire.  Ali shifted her position down a little and continued to grind on top of Ashlyn’s center.

 

“Fuck yes Ali.  Faster baby,” Ashlyn said moving her hands to hold on to Ali’s hips.  Ali moved her hands over to the sheets on each side of Ashlyn to get better leverage.  Ashlyn reached up and held onto Ali’s strong triceps as Ali leaned down to kiss her, dipping her finger into the tiger balm jar.   She then slid her fingers under Ashlyn’s shorts and right onto Ashlyn’s clit, watching as Ashlyn’s eyes shot wide open causing her to come in seconds as the minty cool sensation mixed with a warm one making her explode. 

 

“Hell yes Ali, that’s my favorite massage ever.  I so want my massages like that from now on.”

 

Ali just laughed.  “I suppose your pussy hurts too and needs a massage?”

 

“Yes.  In fact it hurts all of the time, especially when I look at you.  So just know, you are the only thing that can make it feel better.”

 

Ali raised up and dismounted her girlfriend.  “Come on, shower now, we both smell like ben-gay.   I don’t want to hear it from Lloyd later.”

 

When Carli got home, she headed straight for the shower passing Pepe off to Ali who snuggled in on her lap as she and Ashlyn relaxed on the couch catching up on Days of Our Lives.   Carli just looked at the TV and then the both of them and raised her eyebrows.  

 

Ashlyn reached over to pet him, he looked exhausted.  Ali looked at Ashlyn, “No telling what she had him doing today.

When Carli emerged it was time for them all to head out.   “I thought I threw away your last bar of Irish Spring.” Ali stated.

 

Carli smiled, “You did, so I bought another.”

 

“Jesus, I have to send you a bottle of the good stuff and civilize you too.”

 

“Me too?”

 

“Yes.  This one over here was using Zest or something until I put a stop to that,” Ali shuddered.

 

“Well you just wait until we start bathing Pele in it,” Carli shot back.

 

“I bought him special Paul Mitchell Tea Tree shampoo for dogs so he will smell nice.   He doesn’t like Irish Spring.”

 

“Come on you two, head to the car before I video tape this conversation and show everyone,” Ashlyn said, scooping Pepe up and ushering the other two out the door. 

Chapter Text

When they hopped into the Jeep, Ali had Pepe on her lap as she reached for the radio dial.  First came on “I Do What I Want,” by Lil Uzi Vert.  Ali began singing, swaying Pepe’s paws in the air as she sang, “I Do What I Want,” knowing that this kind of music drove Carli nuts.  Then she changed the channel again and Megan Trainor’s “No” came on and she also sang that one too as she waved Pepe’s paws in the air.

 

“My name is no My sign is no My number is no You need to let it go You need to let it go”

 

Carli began to laugh her ass off in the back seat.

 

“What’s so funny there Lloyd?” Ali smiled as she lifted her sunglasses up and looked back at Carli. 

 

“You know, everyone just looks at you and thinks sweet, innocent, girl next door and I am learning you are anything but when you are away from soccer and in your element.  It’s those quiet, sweet looking ones you have to watch out for.”

 

“Sweet and innocent?” Ali just looked at Ashlyn who looked back at her and shrugged her shoulders. 

 

“How do you think I slapped it down on Harris over here?  There’s no way I would have been able to trap this girl if I was the girl next store, she is an absolute animal.  Let me see your playlist Carli, I bet Celine Dion is the first song,” Ali giggled putting her hand out to see Carli’s phone. 

 

“No way Krieger.”

 

“Oh yes, way, or Ash and I here will hug you to death when we get home.”   Carli scrunched up her nose at the thought of that and handed her iPhone over.

 

Ali brought her hand to her mouth, suppressing a giggle as she started to call out the names of the songs.  The first playlist was named:

 

“We Are The Champions.”

 

  1. Le Copa De La Vida – Ricky Martin
  2. Welcome to the Jungle – Guns N Roses
  3. We are the Champions – Queen
  4. Under Pressure – Queen
  5. Another One Bites the Dust – Queen
  6. Hero – Mariah Carey
  7. Call Me Maybe – Carly Rae Jepson
  8. Party in the USA – Miley Cyrus
  9. The Climb – Miley Cyrus
  10. Eye of the Tiger
  11. Enter Sandman – Metallica
  12. Lose Yourself – Eminem
  13. Monster – Rhianna
  14. One Moment In Time – Whitney Houston
  15. Standing in the Hall of Fame – The Script
  16. Whomp There It Is – Tag Team
  17. Seven Nation Army- White Stripes
  18. All I Do Is Win – DJ Khaled
  19. Shut Up and Dance With Me
  20. Waka Waka – Shakira
  21. Loca Loca Loca – Shakira
  22. Reach – Gloria Estefan
  23. Fireball- Pitbull

 

Ali started to laugh uncontrollably as she gasped for air. “Oh. My. God!! Carli, I love this playlist.  Especially because no one would expect this out of you.   But you know what my favorite thing about this list is?”

 

Carli just rolled her eyes, “What?”

 

“I will never look at you the same in practice because I know you are listening to Shakira’s ‘Loca’ singing”

 

‘And I’m crazy, but you like it (loca, loca, loca) You like that it ain’t easy (loca, loca, loca) I’m crazy but you like it (loca, loca, loca)

And then that’s being chased by you singing Pitbull:

 

‘I was born in a flame Mama said that everyone would know my name I'm the best you've never had If you think I'm burning out, I'm never am I'm on fire I'm on fire’

 

Ali just continued to be tickled, “This is so you Lloyd, I am going to have to steal your list!”  Carli just laughed, “Yup that’s me, baby, I’m on Fire.”  That of course got Ashlyn to crack up too. 

 

When they got to the vet and Pepe to his appointment, the mood of the three teammates changed dramatically when Pepe’s blood work came back.  They were informed that Pepe had heartworms and was going to have to undergo heartworm treatments which were basically like chemo. However, before he could go through the treatments, he had to be neutered.   All of this was going to cause him about two to three months of being crated and his excitement had to be kept to a minimum.   Ali broke down into tears as Ashlyn tried to get more information, leaving Carli to draw Ali into her arms to console her and Pepe.     Ashlyn found out that she was going to most likely need one of the cages they saw at the pet store which would be a little bigger than the crate they had and a dog stroller was probably going to be a good idea, that way she could roll him to wherever she was without him crying and getting upset.   They also discussed cones and she found out there was a cloth one that she could get so he wouldn’t rip his stitches out.   He had to be neutered so that his excitement levels would go down so he could better survive the heartworm treatment. 

 

In the meantime they got Pepe his vaccinations and his nails clipped.  He was about two years old the best the vet could tell.  All of this just broke Ali’s heart.

 

“Do you want me to take him back to Florida Ashlyn?  I know this is a lot to handle and I didn’t mean to dump this on you.”

 

“No babe, I can handle it, I am rehabbing anyway so I am probably in the best position to help him.”

 

“Harris and I can bring him to training or practice in his stroller, if nothing else one of the girls on the staff will help us watch him.”

 

“Ok, thank you both.  I hate that I can’t be here for his surgery and treatment.  Please make sure he gets some meat and plenty of treats,” Ali sniffled as she held her little boy and went to pay at the counter.  She took out her phone and did a google search and handed the phone over to Ashlyn.

 

“Can you please take me here so I can get him a stroller and the cage you are going to need?”

 

“Sure babe and I want to get one of those little front backpack things in case I have to carry him.”

 

Ali handed him to Carli while she dug in her purse for her wallet and worked with Ashlyn to schedule a day for him to be neutered.   Carli began to rock him.  “It’s all going to be ok little guy, want to know why? Because you’re going to be:

 

Standing in the hall of fame And the world's gonna know your name 'Cause you burn with the brightest flame And the world's gonna know your name And you'll be on the walls of the hall of fame

You could go the distance You could run the mile You could walk straight through hell with a smile

You could be the hero You could get the gold Breaking all the records that thought, never could be broke”

 

Ashlyn walked over with a bag of his stuff.  “Are you seriously singing ‘Standing In The Hall Of Fame’ to Pepe right now?”

 

“Damn right I am because he is going to come out through all of this like a champ.  Even if you are going to cut his balls off Harris.”

 

Ali’s eyes just widened and she put her hands over Pepe’s ears, “Don’t let him hear you say that, he can never know what is going to happen or he will run away.”

 

Carli just rolled her eyes and they headed to the car and off to the specialty pet store that Ali found over by the Galleria.

 

When they walked in they looked around and Ali brought Ashlyn over to the strollers. 

 

“Now look, I am not getting pink.  If you want a pink one for home then you can get one in Orlando but I have to maintain some level of cool.   You already have me carrying a Chihuahua around so I have to look bad assed doing it,” Ashlyn said firmly. 

 

“Well, the choices are pink, blue, orange and green.”

 

“We are getting the Dash colored orange one Ash,” Carli said adamantly.   “I will even spring for it but it definitely has to be Dash orange.”  

 

“Fine,” Ashlyn said.  As long as it wasn’t pink, she was good with it.

 

Ali narrowed her eyes and looked at them both.  “Why does he get orange and not purple?”

 

“Because they don’t have one in purple, plus Captain said, come on, let’s go pick out a cage,” Ashlyn drug her over to the cages as Carli asked the clerk for an orange stroller.

 

Ashlyn got a cage and a black front carrier that she could strap to her chest to carry him around if she needed to.  Carli found a big bag of sweet potato treats and some chicken jerky that she decided would be her things to spoil Pele with.  Then her eyes rested on a soccer ball toy and she decided he needed one of those too.   Ali found a cloth cone that was long enough so he couldn’t lick his stitches.  Ashlyn was grateful he wouldn’t be in one of those annoying plastic ones banging into the walls.  Then Ali found him a copper colored pair of Doggles to match his hair since she knew everyone would have him out in the sun and they would look cute on him.  They took everything up to the counter to pay.  

 

“Thank you Carli for getting Pepe the stroller, you so don’t have to do that,” Ali said.

 

“I don’t mind at all, Pele is sweet and it is going to take a village to raise him.  You were sweet to pick him up off the streets.  I don’t even mind going in on half for the medical bills.  I would be happy to help him out.  I really can’t have a dog with my travel schedule lately, but I bet between the three of us, we will get him good as new in no time.”

 

Ashlyn hugged Carli, “Thank you for helping us with him.”

 

“Sure, just let me know if you need me to watch him or take him with me when you cant.”

 

After they left the pet store, Ashlyn took them to Zoe’s for dinner which was another place they could take Pepe to dine.   Ali sat on the patio with Pepe in her lap, scratching him behind the ears while Ashlyn and Carli went in to get them some kabobs and salads and a doggie kabob for Pepe which was a combo of grilled steak and chicken. When they returned, Carli took her hoodie off again so that Pepe could sit on the chair without getting his toenails caught.

 

“We need to start packing him a bag with a blanket so he can sit at these places, water, and a chew,” Carli suggested.

 

“I have a Dash one at the house we can make up for him.  I will just leave it on the table by the door and whoever takes him can grab his bag, same with the stroller and his carrier.” Ashlyn said as she picked a piece of chicken off and gave it to Pepe.

 

“Oh and we need to get him a little Diesel mascot toy.  I will see if Chris will let me raid the Dash pro shop tomorrow, we can probably get him a couple of things in there.”

 

“Yes, doors to pro shops open up when you are Carli freaking Lloyd,” Ashlyn said waggling her eyebrows.

 

“Yeah, well he is going to need some Pride swag too.  I bet they will even let me bring him in to our shop and pick out what he wants,” Ali said as she chomped down a piece of steak smiling at Carli with a full mouth.

 

When they returned back to the apartment, Carli leashed up Pepe and took him for a walk.  She was disappointed they wouldn’t be able to go on runs together until he was rid of the heartworms.   She took him to walk around Discovery Park and was recognized by some little girls who loved soccer.   The three of them walked up to her.

 

“Are you Carli Lloyd?” one of the little girls asked.

 

“I am.  How are you guys?” Carli asked.  The three started jumping up and down clapping their hands.

 

“Oh my God! Is that your dog, can we pet him?” another one asked.  

 

“This is my nephew.  His name is Pele.  He is named after the greatest soccer player of all time.   You can pet him if you sit on this bench with me and are calm with him.   Are your parents around?”

 

The little girls sat down and one pointed to her Dad who was standing several yards away and waved.  In two minutes, it was forgotten that Carli was one of the best female soccer players in the world.   She just got to be regular Carli sitting with some little girls who were enjoying a pup.   Carli couldn’t have been happier and was never amazed by the power of dogs.  Pepe was having a field day.   After about 15 minutes the Dad came over and thanked Carli and the girls asked for a picture.   Carli took one with them and Pepe and then took a selfie of all of them with their phone to put on twitter.

 

CarliLloyd:  Hanging with these cuties and my nephew Pele today.   He says his Aunt Carli is the best and has the coolest friends.

 

Ashlyn had just grabbed her phone to put it to charge when she saw the tweet.   “Hey babe, you need to see Carli’s tweet.”

 

Ali came out of the bathroom and grabbed her phone and quickly began tweeting something back.

 

AliKrieger:  @CarliLloyd Cute.  Don’t you mean PEPE?  Just wait until he gets to Orlando and gets to go on a boat ride :)

 

CarliLloyd:  @AliKrieger Just wait until I take Pele to NASA with me :)

 

The fans were loving the interaction between the two.  They were all trying to figure out who Pepe/Pele belonged to as they did not know Carli was living with Ashlyn or that Ali was staying with them.  All they knew was there was a three way going over this little Chihuahua.

 

“What do you want to do for the rest of the night babe?” Ashlyn asked.

 

“You,” Ali answered since it was their last night together.

 

Ashlyn went to her room and undressed just leaving her underwear on, turned on the TV and slipped into bed since she knew where they were headed.  Ali grabbed a cupcake and brought it into the room with her.  She also undressed and slipped into bed.  

 

“I’ve missed just lying in bed with you boo.” Ali said as she brought the plate over with the cupcake, tore of a piece and fed it to Ashlyn.  Then she dipped her finger in the frosting and put it on one of Ashlyn’s nipples and leaned in to suck it off.

 

“Babe,” Ashlyn chuckled.

 

“I told you I was going to eat this off of your body.  Cupcakes taste better when I eat them off of you,” Ali said as she continued to suck frosting off of Ashlyn’s nipples.

 

“If you keep doing that, you are going to wind up pinned down begging me for mercy.  I’m just warning you.”

 

“Oh yeah?” Ali asked as she began sucking harder, putting the plate back on the nightstand, positioning herself over Ashlyn, trying to become dead weight.  

 

“It’s not going to happen Krieger, you can’t pin me down,” Ashlyn challenged.

 

“When your shoulder is healed I am going to show you that I can.   I just choose not to on most days because I know you like to feel like you are stronger than me,” Ali said seeing that she was getting Ashlyn worked up.

 

In half of a second, Ashlyn had Ali pinned down to the bed right where she wanted her, underneath her. 

 

“Told you I would have you pinned down.”

 

“Did you ever stop to think that maybe I want to be pinned down?  Maybe my favorite position is underneath you,” Ali said as her cinnamon eyes sparkled as she looked up into Ashlyn’s eyes.

 

“It’s definitely my favorite position; I think it is where you should be all of the time.”

 

Ashlyn made sure Ali was beneath her for most of the rest of the night before they finally passed out at 1:00 in the morning in each other’s arms.   Ali got up at 4:00 and began to pack and get ready and woke Ashlyn up so that she could take her to the airport.  Ali dreaded everything about this morning.   The only good part about it was that she would be on the pitch later that day.   She texted the team’s equipment person and ordered another Pride practice ensemble to be placed in her locker since she wouldn’t have time to go home.   Ashlyn got up and helped Ali pack stopping to steal a few kisses and hugs here and there.  She went to quietly grab Pepe from Carli’s bed and took him out quickly.   She then brought him into their room so he could say goodbye to his new Mama.

 

“Oh Ashlyn it breaks my heart to leave him.  He is going to think Carli is his Mom.”

 

“He will be fine.  We are going to facetime you every day so he can learn your name and face,” Ashlyn said petting him as Ali hugged him tightly. 

 

“You be a good boy for Mom over here and be strong.   You are going to be as good as new in no time at all.  I will come back to visit and you will come see me in Orlando.  I love you little liebling,” Ali said with a tear falling down her face.

 

She carried him around while she gathered everything else and then quietly went to put him in Carli’s room.  Carli was just beginning to stir awake and rubbed her face to see Ali putting Pepe in bed with her.

 

“Hey Kriegs, are you heading out?’

 

“Yeah, I hate it too.  I am really going to miss you guys, thank you for everything Carli,” Ali said as she bent down to hug Carli who hugged her tightly.

 

 

“I’m going to miss you too.  Harris and I will facetime you lots with the boy here.   Take it easy and give Alex hell for me when you get back.  I know Jill is fucking with her too and make sure she is putting in the work.  Us vets have to stick together.”

 

“I will.   Take care of Ashlyn and Pepe for me.  I love you.”

 

“I love you too Kriegs.  Safe travels.  Let me know if you ever need anything.”

 

Ashlyn grabbed Ali’s roller bags and Ali grabbed anything that needed to be carried and they were out the door.  On the drive to the airport, they tried to figure out the next time they could see each other.

 

“You know I have millions of frequent flyer miles on several different airlines, so anytime you want to come…” Ali offered.

 

“I do too baby, I have my next check up at the end of this week.  I will try to come the next time we have a few days off in a row with the Dash.”

 

“Ok,  I get my revised schedule with the Pride today.  I will email it to you when I get it and we will work this out.  Luckily it’s only a three hour flight.”

 

Ashlyn dropped the bags off with the skycap and then drove to the parking garage so they could walk in together to ticketing in peace without being yelled at to move the car.  Ali looked at her watch and she had about ten minutes before she had to go through security. Ashlyn drew her in for a hug and they just stood there in the tightest embrace they could handle tears streaming down their faces up against one of the walls off to the side of some seats.

 

“I love you so much Ashlyn,” Ali said as she pulled Ashlyn in for the deepest kiss she could muster.  She wanted to pack Ashlyn in her carry on and bring her with her.

 

“I love you too Ali,” Ashlyn said, returning the kiss.  She hated to be the one to break them apart but the time had come.  

 

Ali went back in for one more kiss running her hands through Ashlyn’s hair.  “Goodbye baby, I am going to turn around and go, I won’t be able to look back, this is going to rip my heart in half.”

 

“Please text me when you land so I know you made it ok.  I love you and I will see you soon.”

 

In a blink of an eye, Ali turned around and she was gone.  Ashlyn just stood there with her shoulders slumped as she watched her girl walk away and check through security.   There went that smile she loved so much, the thing that first captivated her about Ali so many years ago.   She already found herself missing her hair, her scent, her gorgeous body.  Walking out of that airport and going to her car felt like the worst drill she had ever been through. 

Chapter Text

When Ashlyn returned back to her place she looked at her phone and saw about 30 notifications from twitter.   She looked at her timeline and saw where someone took a picture of them in their embrace, kiss, and tearful separation in the airport and was tagging her and Ali in the photo.  Ashlyn tried not to let these types of things affect her but this was the first time a kiss or a moment like that had been captured in a photo and blasted publicly.  For the first time she understood what if felt like to be violated.   If she was feeling this way, she could only imagine how Ali would feel when she saw this.  It wasn’t long after before TMZ sports got wind of the photo and tweeted it with a caption:  “Looks like Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris of the USWNT were caught playing tonsil soccer.”

 

This angered Ashlyn to no extent because soon after, the online bullying started.   Normally she let things like this slide off of her back but she felt protective of Ali and of their relationship especially on this morning.  She was going to own who she was fully and whole heartedly no matter what but it irked her that people didn’t make other couples feel like they head to be apologetic or ashamed when they were caught in similar situations.   Ashlyn thought back to a very similar thing happened to her former teammate Abby Wambach after the World Cup when she shared a kiss with her then wife Sara Huffman leaned down to kiss her after their victory.   Abby’s world hadn’t ended and if Ali was serious about them, their world wouldn’t end either.  Ashlyn just hoped that Ali would handle this well.

 

Carli was taking a shower when Ashlyn got back.   Ashlyn found Pepe sleeping in his bed and decided she was going to go into the Dash facility and get some physical therapy on her arm.  She also wanted to work on her kicks.   She packed a bag for him and then found Carli in the kitchen making smoothie.

 

“Hey Ash, have you by any chance looked at twitter?” Carli asked.

 

“Yeah, I have.  I guess shit hit the fan. I am terrified to know what Ali will think of all of this.  She made some huge step forwards for us these past few days, I hate now that she has to be alone when she discovers this.   I honestly did not see any fans around or notice anyone taking pictures.  This is what I get for just once wanting to live in the moment.  If I was a dude this wouldn’t even be a problem.” 

 

“I totally get it.  I just know this is going to be a bit of a shit storm.  I am here for you no matter what, I have your back in any capacity you need it,” Carli offered.

 

Just then, Ashlyn’s phone rang and it was her agent.  

 

“Hello, Ashlyn?  This is Nick.  How are you?”

 

“Hey Nick, I am good thanks.  How are you?  I guess you have seen the photo.”

 

“I’m good thanks.  Yes I have seen it, but that is not why I am calling.  I am calling because Dan, JJ’s agent just called me and it seems like HEB and Robbins Brothers wants you to do some commercials for them.   They are putting together a proposal and I just wanted to make sure you were in.”

 

 

“I am totally in.  However, I wonder if they are going to feel the same way after they find out about that picture.  We need to be honest and upfront with them.  I have never really officially come out because I really didn’t think it was necessary, I figured most people could take a look at me and know, but I think they should know.  This is me.  Ali is my girlfriend.   Now she hasn’t come out so anything we say, I don’t want her name drug through it in any of my statements unless she says something first.”

 

“Ok Ashlyn no problem.  I am going to speak with Brooke, our PR person and tell her to get ready to prepare a statement if necessary.   I think it would be a good idea if you began thinking about what you might want to say if anything.  Brooke will probably call you in a few hours.”

 

“Ok thanks.  Let me know what happens out of all of this.”

 

Ashlyn hung up.   Carli looked over at her. 

“You know this is a fucking shame.   Any of us can go around kissing our boyfriends and no one gives a shit.  Abby, Meghan, or you do it, and everyone has to start worrying about sponsorships, endorsements, and their livelihood being affected.  It pisses me off to no extent.”

 

“Thank you Carli, I couldn’t agree more.  Well, let’s head over to the facility.”

 

“You wanna ride together?” Carli asked, not really wanting to leave her friend alone today.  She knew what kind of shit storm was coming, she went through this with Abby two years ago.

 

“Ok, You grab Pepe, I will get the stroller and his stuff.  I probably should go in and talk with the front office.  Will you go in with me while I do that?”

 

“Absolutely.  I will 100% back you up but I don’t think you will need it.”

 

When they pulled into the Dash front offices, both went in, Carli carrying Pepe.   Ashlyn asked to speak to Meredith, the PR person for the Dash.   Meredith came out and led Ashlyn back to her office with Carli in tow.

 

“Hey Meredith, I am not sure if you have seen twitter this morning but a picture of me and Ali Krieger is being passed around of us kissing goodbye at the airport this morning.   I haven’t had a chance to speak with Ali yet because she is on a plane back to Florida and then she goes straight to the Pride facility to train with them.  So I wanted to touch base with you to let you know yes it is out there.   I have never officially come out publicly because I have never felt the need to.  I really don’t think sexuality defines who I am and I really never felt like it was some huge secret that I am gay.  Ali has never come out publicly and so if any statement is needed to be issued, I don’t want to bring her name into anything until she says something first.  I have spoken with my agent and his publicist is going to prepare something just in case.”

 

“Thank you Ashlyn for coming in to speak with me.   Our position at the Dash is that we don’t comment on the personal lives of our players unless it is necessary.   So I will direct all press inquiries to your agent and PR person.  It is just as simple as that from our club standpoint.   We fully support the LGBTQ community, we have many players and fans that make up that community.   As far as Ali goes, we don’t comment at all on the players who belong to other teams so no worries there either.  Now if you need help in dealing with this anyway on social media or from a PR standpoint, I am happy to help in anyway or collaborate with your PR person if you need it.  Don’t fret over this too much, at most it will probably be the subject du jour for the next three days until they are on to the next thing.   I really hope that most of the response is positive for you Ashlyn.  I really couldn’t be happier for you both.  Ali is a phenomenal person and so are you.”

 

“Thank you Meredith, that really makes me feel a lot better.   This wasn’t something I had planned to come out today, but honestly, I am tired of hiding.   This is who I am and this is who I love and it is as simple as that.”

 

“Good for you Ashlyn.  Now Carli, tell me who this adorable baby is on your lap.”

 

“This is Pele, Ashlyn and Ali’s dog.  They found him over the weekend.   He has heartworms and has to be neutered so he isn’t supposed to get excited until his treatment is finished.   So Ash and I here have decided to take him with us most places we go so he doesn’t do damage to his heart.”


“Aww the poor little guy.  That’s so good of you both to be looking after him.”

 

“Do you think Chris would let me raid the Dash store to get him a few things out of there?”

 

“I bet he would.   I will tell him your story and text you a little bit later when I see him.  Good luck with him and I will keep in touch with you Ashlyn should anything arise that we need to talk about.”

 

“Thank you Meredith.  We are headed over to the training facility if you need me,” Ashlyn said, shaking her hand.

 

They got back in the car and headed over to the Dash training and weight facility that they shared with the Dynamo. 

 

“Have you texted Ali?”

 

“No.  I have no idea what to say to her Carli.”

 

“I get it.  I still think you should say something and let her know you are in it together and she isn’t alone.”

 

“You’re right.”  Ashlyn grabbed her phone and began typing.

 

Ash:  Hey babe, I hope your flight was an easy one.  I am headed to get PT on my arm.  I don’t know if you have seen twitter but someone snapped a picture of us kissing in the airport this morning.  It has been passed around twitter and found its way to TMZ Sports and God knows where it is going from there.  I just want you to know regardless of what happens, we are in this together, you are not alone and I love you.  I never even saw anyone taking pictures of us.  I have spoken to my agent and his PR person is getting a statement ready if necessary.  I told them I want your name left out of any statement that comes from me.   I told the Dash PR person the same thing just now.  I know you are going to have a busy day.  No matter what happens, I am not ashamed of loving you.  I am not going to apologize to the public.  I am going to own who I am.  I wouldn’t trade the last three days for anything in the world.

 

 Ashlyn threw her phone in her bag.  She was over it and wanted to focus on her arm rehab this morning. 

 

“Ok Harris, I am going to go start training, I guess you will be ok with the boy?”

 

“Yes, I am going to wheel him into PT with me.”

 

As Ashlyn went into the training room she was met with giggles as people saw her wheeling a dog stroller in with a Chihuahua.   A few of her teammates were in there and they all wanted to know the story of Pepe. She told them how she found him and about his medical condition that required his confinement.   Faster than Ashlyn could blink, Pepe gained about ten new aunties in that room alone.  Some of her teammates learned about the picture and all came up to express their support. 

 

In Orlando, things were much less jovial.   Ali turned on her phone and it went off relentlessly.   She had no idea what was going on because every time she tried to read something, it would get bumped by another notification and they were just rolling in one after the other.  Something about a picture.  Ali was frustrated as hell because her phone was temporarily taken hostage by twitter, text, facebook, and god knows what else.   It took almost 15 minutes before the mayhem stopped.   Since most of the things seemed to be stemming from twitter she decided to open that app first.  Right there in her notifications was a picture of her and Ash kissing this morning in the airport.   TMZ sports wrote some kind of shitty headline about them playing tonsil soccer which made Ali’s blood boil.  She grabbed her bags off out of baggage claim, went to find her private car, and got in it before she could even begin to deal with this.  

 

She began to check her voicemails of which she had calls from her agent, her mom, her brother, teammates, friends, you name it.  Then she looked at her texts and it was more of the same.   She first decided to call her agent because that was going to have to be handled first. 

 

“Hey Ali, thank you for calling me.   I was calling about the picture that has been making its way around social media this morning.”

 

“Hi Elliot.  Yeah, I just got off the plane from Houston and I see that shit has hit the fan.”

 

“Well, I just wanted to get your thoughts on how you want to handle this.  We have in house PR here so if you want to issue a statement, let me know and we will do it.”

 

“You know Elliot, I am not sure that I do.  It has nothing to do with soccer and I think my personal life should be just that.  Let them all think what they want for now.  I would really like to think about this before I make any rash decisions.   I haven’t even spoken to my family or Ashlyn yet for that matter.   I have to run straight to practice so I really don’t have much time to think on this right now.”

 

“Ok Ali.  Just know I support you fully, but as your agent I also have to prepare you for the possibility that some of your sponsors may not be so keen on this.”

 

“I know.  It has been all I have thought about for the past decade and it almost cost me everything I value the most.   I just really don’t know what I think about all of this right now but I have to get my head in the game to go be ready for practice.”

 

“Ok Ali, best of luck.  I will be in touch with anything should it arise, most likely by text if that’s ok with you.”

 

“Sure, thank you Elliot,” Ali said and hung up.   Damn if she needed this right now.  She looked at her texts and saw the message from Ashlyn.  She had no idea what to say to her right now either because the car was pulling up to the facility and she didn’t want to say something the wrong way or for it to come off in the wrong tone.  She figured it would just be best to call her later. 

 

Six hours passed and Ashlyn could see that Ali read her message but had not responded.  In one way she was worried that Ali wasn’t handling this well.  In another way she figured that Ali was at practice and having to handle the business side of things just as she had to do that morning.

 

In practice, Ali had to focus on just that.  Then she had to go lift weights and then go to their recovery room and take an ice bath.  She had no idea what to think about all of this.  She felt herself getting anxious again as she read some of the crap coming over her twitter, Instagram and Facebook.  The bullies were out in full force calling her all sorts of names.   The bible belt was out in full force saying things like “my daughter idolizes you, now what am I supposed to tell her?”  There was even one picture of some crazy bitch burning a Krieger jersey.  While she was in her ice bath she reached for her phone and texted Abby seeing if she was available for a phone call. Within twenty seconds her phone was ringing, Abby was calling.

 

“Hey Kriegs, how are you holding up?”

 

“Hey Abs, ugh, this is so fucked up.  Not well.   I feel like my whole life is in flames right now.   I got off a plane this morning, the picture went viral, those fucks at TMZ passed it around all over the internet and I had to come straight to practice.  I haven’t spoken to anyone other than my agent and I am finally in my ice bath.  They are saying every shitty thing they can think of to me on twitter, some bitch is burning my jersey and the bible belt has flared up.   So naturally, I called you,” Ali said, chuckling a bit.

 

“Ah yes, Wambach the lesbian whisperer.  First of all I don’t know what the big deal is on this day.  Everyone has known about you two for years but I digress.”

 

“Well you want to know what the really fucked up thing is?  Ashlyn left me in October, got herself traded to the Dash because for years she was begging me for us to be comfortable out in public. She was tired of me obsessing about what people thought about me and us online. I refused any kind of PDA out in public for a decade just because of this very reason.  The last game we played in for the Pride, she went in to hug and kiss me after I scored a goal and I balked.  It was the last straw for her.  I finally got to speak with her for the first time in half a year this past weekend when the WNT was in Houston to play Russia.  We reunited and now this.   I have no fucking idea how to handle this but I do know, I won’t lose Ashlyn over it again.  The last time almost killed me.”

 

“Jeez Kriegs, I had no idea, I am so sorry, I have been in my own little bubble with Glennon.  I had no idea you guys split up.   I did see everything this morning though.   Well I can tell you one thing, you really don’t have to come out now.  This has kind of done it for you.   As far as making some kind of public statement, I am not sure you need to.   When things went to shit between me and Huff I never gave a statement about our divorce.  Everyone found out about my DWI and I had to make a statement about that.  The first statement I ever made about Glennon and I was a picture of us together relaxing.  Then some more of the same, here and there of us just snuggling on the couch and then finally one two months ago with wedding rings on our fingers.  When people started to find out about us, I just decided fuck it, I was going to take control of the story, I was going to own it.  I think you should do the same.”

 

“See, this is why I called you, I knew you would have the answer.   Any ideas what I am going to do with my sponsors?”

 

“I say let it ride.  If anything happens then call me then and we will talk about it.  I don’t want you worrying about something that you may not need to.  If something does, then call me right away and we will deal with it.   I love you Kriegs, I am proud of you.  Go after what you want.  You deserve happiness.”

 

“Thank you Abby, I adore your wife.  I watch her on OWN all of the time.”

 

“Here, let me put her on for a second, she will be good for your soul.” Abby handed the phone over to Glennon who was one of the new love coaches on Oprah’s network and wrote the book “Love Warrior.”

 

“Hey Ali, it’s Glennon.  Abby here speaks so highly of you and Ashlyn.  How are you?”

 

“Hey Glennon, it is so nice to hear from you.   I have had better days, that’s for sure.”

 

“I know.  Abby told me what happened.   Look, I don’t know how much you know about me but let share a little with you.   I was married to my husband raising 4 kids for years in an unhappy marriage trying to be someone I wasn’t, trying to please the world.   One day, I said enough and I filed for divorce.   I decided to chase after the things that were going to make my heart happy.  We only get one life to live.  I decided to stop living for my family, friends, society, you name it.  I met Abby here in one of her darkest hours and when I met her, I knew we had an instant connection, one that was written in the stars.  And you know what?  I just fucking went with it and decided to be happy, unabashedly happy.  If others didn’t like it, too bad, they weren’t coming home with me at the end of the day, they weren’t in my bed when I went to sleep at night, and they certainly were not bringing me pleasure.  So Ali, I say fuck all of these people, what they say and what they think and just go for it.  Take the plunge and you will be amazed at all of the blessings that come your way.   You may be trying to hang on to things that you need to let go of in order for other blessings to take their place.   So anyone who wants you to feel shame, anything that is poisoning your relationship, just let it go.   For the assholes that want to bring religion into things, tell them that God is love, find a religion that does not teach hate, and that at least you are loving someone else and are not going to war, fighting, or living your life with hate.”

 

Ali sighed, “Wow Glennon, that was just what I needed to hear.  Hell with that kind of a pep talk I feel like I could take on the world.  Thank you.”

 

“Hey listen, anytime.  I am going to have Abby here text you my number.  If you start facing a shit storm, call me and I will help walk you through what to say.  Any friend of Abby is a friend of mine.  Call or text me or Abby, anytime day or night.  I will put Abby back on.”

 

“Ok thanks Glennon.”

 

“Hey, Ali.   Isn’t she amazing?”

“Wow, you really got yourself a catch there Abs.  This was a huge help for me.   How are you doing lately?”

 

“I’m in a love bubble with my new wife here and I have 4 amazing kids in my life right now.  I thought I would be wallowing after soccer but my life has been filled in so many other ways.  Glennon is right, when you are fighting the universe to hang on to shit that you need to let go of, you can’t receive the other blessings that are waiting to come flooding in.”

 

“I am so happy for you Abby.  I am going to take you both up on calling you because I know I have a rough few weeks coming.”

 

“Sure thing Kriegs.  I am going to text you her number.   Take care and call us anytime.  Love ya girl.”

 

“Love you too.  Bye Abby.”

 

Ali felt 90% better after talking to Abby.   She then decided to dial Ashlyn.

 

“Thank God, I was getting worried.”

 

“Hi Ash.  I know I am sorry.   I landed and my phone blew up for almost 20 minutes, I had to call my agent and then get straight into practice mentality.   I just got done and into an ice bath and then I called Abby just to get my head in the right place.  I didn’t want to text you because I didn’t want my tone to come off cold or wrong.”

 

“So how are you handling all of this?” Ashlyn asked.

 

“I was fucking livid earlier about what TMZ wrote about us playing tonsil soccer.   I’ve been called every name you can imagine on twitter, dyke, lesbian, muff diver, faggot, and every other fucked up name they could think of to call me.  One bitch made a video burning my jersey.  The bible belt is telling me I am going to go straight to hell, I am a disappointment to their little girls who idolize me, they want refunds on their jerseys, you name it, they are hurling it at me.   However, on the other hand their has been an outpouring of support amongst the fans, our teammates and family.  So I am going to choose to focus on that.”

 

There was a pause where neither of them spoke.  This absolutely broke Ashlyn’s heart and she was afraid to hear what was coming next.

 

“Ash you want to know one thing?  None of it changes my love for you or how I feel about you.  I spoke to Abby and she thinks I should take control of the story like she did with Glennon while she was divorcing Huff and that’s exactly what I am going to do.”

 

“I’m so sorry Ali.  It breaks my heart that they are calling you those names. So what are you going to do?”

 

“Well if its ok with you, I want to post a picture I took of us with Pepe this weekend hanging out.   I just want to post a picture here and there of us.  Fuck them if they don’t like it and honestly, fuck them if they do.  I don’t plan to come out and say anything one way or another.   I just plan to show them what love looks like, what two people hanging out and having fun looks like.  How do you feel about this?”

 

“I love it baby.  I have told you before, I am not going to apologize or feel ashamed of us.  I love you and I want to be able to live my life just like everyone else does.”

 

“I love you too.  I am going to try to focus on the positive and do my best. I haven’t really faced the real world yet.  How is our boy?”

 

“He is currently being wheeled around the Dash pro shop by Carli getting all kinds of swag.”

 

“Oh boy, she is just having too much fun with him,” Ali laughed.  “Ok it’s time for me to get out of this bath and start returning the 100s of calls and texts.   I will talk to you later.  Love you.”

 

“Love you back, bye babe.”

 

Ali then opened her twitter and put out a picture of her, Ashlyn and Pepe.

AliKrieger:  Missing Htown already.  Really missing my two partners in crime.

 

 

When Ali got home, the first person she called was her brother Kyle and then her Mom followed by her Dad.  The news wasn’t a surprise to any of them.  What was a surprise was that Ali and Ashlyn seemed to be back together which they were relieved to hear because they knew the last six months took a horrible toll on their Ali.

 

Ali then returned her friends calls and the calls from their teammates on the USWNT.  Just as she had finished up with Allie text came in from her agent.

 

Elliot:  Hey Ali, looks like we just lost Proctor and Gamble.

 

“Mother Fuck,” Ali yelled to no one pounding her fist on the kitchen table.   She bent her head down into her arms and just broke down right there.  The day had finally got to her and had become too much.

Chapter Text

Ali was sick and tired of crying as all of the built up tension of six months came out that night at the kitchen table.  Proctor and Gamble was a sponsorship that was worth $250K minus the 20% her agent got out of it and Uncle Sam’s portion.  It was a two year deal and she had received $125K out of the deal so far.  She tried to reason that losing $125K was no big deal, just shake it off but the more she thought about it that was like 3 years’ worth of salary at a regular job in corporate America.  If they decided to pull the morality clause crap, they could ask for the $125K back that they already paid her.  This irked her beyond belief.   She reached for her phone and began to text Elliot, she was going to be damned if she gave up this easily and just let things start happening to her to destroy her livelihood.

 

Ali Krieger:  Ugh. Is there a way you can schedule a meeting with their executives?  I will fly to them especially if something can be arranged for an early morning; it’s not a long flight from here to Cinci.

 

Elliot:  I will call them in the morning and see what I can do. 

 

Ali Krieger:  Thank you, I am not going to take this kind of shit sitting down.  I will figure out something, I am not going to let some old relic sitting around in a suit decide that being gay is a liability to their brand.  Fuck this.

 

Elliot:  I have no doubt you will

 

Ali sat around and racked her brain for the rest of the evening thinking about what angle she could work.  She was so wound up she didn’t realize she left her phone on the kitchen table.  She put her phone on silent because she was becoming tired from reading and responding.  A thousand miles away, Ashlyn was dealing with her own onslaught.  People were accusing of her being a coward for not coming out and for hiding her sexuality.  They were telling her that she had an opportunity to make a difference and impact the lives of people who were struggling with their sexuality and yet she opted to do nothing.   All of this was beginning to work on her nerves.  She took some screen shots of a sample of what she was getting and texted them to Brooke the PR person she had spoken with earlier that day.

 

Ashlyn Harris:  Hi Brooke, here is a sampling of what is beginning to come through.   I need to say something soon.   I want to address this issue that I am hiding from my sexuality.  I am not hiding from anything.  I have been gay all of my life.  I have never hid anything, I just haven’t made a written statement to the world about it and I really don’t plan to

 

Brooke:  Hi Ashlyn, Ok.  Let me come up with a few ideas and for what you can say and then you can do it in the morning.  I don’t advise making these kinds of statements at night.

 

Ashlyn Harris:  Yeah, then they will accuse me of drunk tweeting.

 

Brooke: Exactly.  Hang in there Ashlyn.  The best thing to do is address this and then leave it alone, as hard as that is.  Most people get themselves into trouble when they start to take these keyboard warriors on one by one.   The best thing you can do after you make your statement is to turn off all of the social media for a few days unless it is to promote your job, causes, or to support your friends or teammates. Don’t fuel the flames is the best advice I can give you.

 

Ashlyn Harris:  Got it.  Thank you.

 

Carli did her best to try to be supportive.  She could see what was happening to Ashlyn with all of the texts, emails and social media frenzy.  She cooked them both dinner and they sat down to eat.

 

“I hate that you are going through this.  Just weather the storm and you will be fine, really all that matters right now is you and Ali.   This entire social media thing is just crap.  One minute you are on top and the next you are on the bottom and they hate you.”

 

“You get hate?” Ashlyn asked.

 

“Oh wow.  You would not believe the things they say to me.  If I score a goal, I am a hero.  Those 3 games in the She Believes Cup where I didn’t produce, they had me washed up, old, slow, unable to execute and unworthy of the Fifa award I just received.   Then I score a PK against Russia the other day and I am back to being the best again.  If I took all of that stuff to heart, I would be a basket case.”

 

“Yeah, that is the same talk I have given Ali in the past.  I need to remember that myself today because this day has really tested me.”

 

“I know it has.  I watched Abby go through this.  She was married for a couple years and then that one kiss in Canada and she was splashed all over the papers and it wasn’t even a kiss she initiated.  She and Huff were already having problems,” Carli said as she looked down at her cooked carrots.

 

“Boy do I remember that.  Then she started drinking more.  I will be damned if I let them do that to me or us.  I am just so tired; I think I just want to go to bed.  I have been up for 16 hours.  I can’t even begin to respond to all of our teammates.”

 

“Good idea.  I will take Pele for a walk.  Which ones are texting you?  I can shoot them off a group text and let them know you are fine and will get back to them when you are feeling up to it.”

 

“Allie, Whit, Tobs, Alex, Lys, Jane, HAO, Rampone, Syd, Kling, Abby, Hope, Kelly, Pinoe, Loehman, Yael, Carm, would be a great place to start.  I would really appreciate it, I owe you bigtime.  Shit I don’t even know what to do about US Soccer and Jill.”

 

Carli was beginning a group text as Ashlyn named off the names.   “I wouldn’t say anything to Jill unless she says something to you.  She’s gay anyway so why would she care.  I am sure she already suspects you and Ali.  As long as you two don’t let it affect your play, I think she will be fine.”

 

“Ok sounds good.  Night Carli, night Pepe, Ashlyn said as she reached down to give him a kiss.  She laid down in bed and prayed to God everything would smooth over.

 

Ali woke up the next morning irritable.  Before she went to bed, she couldn’t help but turn it on TMZ which came on around ten each night.   Just as she expected, there she was splashed on TMZ kissing Ashlyn with her hand cupping the side of her cheek.  Then three follow up photos chased the first one showing her crying and hugging Ashlyn tightly.  There was nothing she could deny.  There was no way to play that off as a goodbye kiss amongst friends.   Whether she liked it or not, she was out.  The more she thought about it, she had no one to blame but herself.  She could have stayed in the car and done this.  She could have just had Ashlyn drop her off at the curb.  In her best effort to try to start living her life openly, her worst fears became true.  Everything she thought would happen was happening. 

 

She began to text Abby with all of these things that were running through her mind.  Abby was quick to shoot a text back.

 

Abby:  Yes all of that happened and it’s out there.  You like girls.  So what?  You are still here.  You have your health, you play the sport you love, and you have the love of your life.   A lot worse could happen in life.  So let’s start focusing on the positive and what could be vs. what has happened. If P&G wants to be this ignorant it will cost them more than 125K in a PR disaster.  Ask them if they want to face the same issues that Disney and Chick Fil A did.

 

Kriegs:  Thank you Abby, those are definitely some good points for me to take to them.

 

She was running on little sleep and an enormous case of the nerves.   She passed out worrying about P&G all night only to wake up three hours later wide awake.   Normally she would take an advil p.m. but she couldn’t afford to oversleep while her life was turned upside down.  There was no taking time off from this either.  Their first NWSL game was this weekend and she had to be in top shape to go to Portland.  Jill had made it abundantly clear that she would be watching how all of them played.  The next week was going to be a full on media blitz encouraging the city of Orlando to come out and fill the bowl for their home opener.  Alex Leitao, the owner of the Pride had invested a lot of money in their new stadium, their team and he expected results.  Ali began to think about how stupid she had been not to consider the timing of all of this.  Every day next week she was going to have to do radio show appearances, morning show appearances, store appearances, the team meet and greet amongst various other commitments she had made on top of training twice a day for the next week.  She was going to have to be everything everyone wanted her to be regardless of what she was feeling. 

 

As she sat there and looked up at the ceiling she decided she was just going to have to control the one thing that she could and that was herself and how she reacted to these situations.  That morning she had to do appearances on Great Day Orlando and Good Morning Orlando.  She called Julie, their PR person for the Pride and asked if she could ask the people at all of her upcoming appearances to avoid asking her anything about her relationship with Ashlyn.   She knew it was out there but that didn’t mean she was going to field questions about it in TV or radio interviews.

 

Ashlyn woke up feeling similar about what was going on in her world.  The only difference was that for her, the Dash didn’t require a lot of media or appearances from her since she was rehabbing.  In three days the Dash would play their home opener and then they had two days off.  Ashlyn didn’t have to be back to the facility until Wednesday afternoon because she wasn’t yet cleared for practice. The more she thought about it, the more she decided she was going to go home to Orlando after their game on Saturday.  She knew Ali was going to be struggling and then have the horrendous five hour flight to and from Portland.  Pepe was scheduled to be neutered on Friday and she decided she would just board him at the vet until she picked him up Wednesday unless Carli wanted to pick him up sooner.  That way he could be under their watchful eye while he recovered.  It wasn’t her ideal choice but then again, none of this was. 

 

She checked her email and found several statements from Brooke.  She decided she would just go ahead and use the one she liked most and post that to her twitter, Facebook and Instagram and just get that out of the way. 

 

Ashlyn_Harris:  I have never denied or hidden from my sexuality. Sexuality does not define who I am as a person or as a footballer.   I fully support everyone all walks of life regardless of sexuality, religion, race, gender, etc. and hope you will join me in doing the same.  If our beliefs tell us to hate another person because of these reasons, then we should probably find something else to believe in.  I believe that love is love and I choose to live a life that is filled with love and peace towards my fellow mankind. 

 

Ashlyn_Harris:  Houston, I hope to see you at the Dash game on Saturday.  While I am not yet cleared to play, I will be right there beside you, bleeding orange :)

 

Ashlyn put down her phone and began booking her flight to Orlando on Saturday.  While she was searching flights her phone began ringing.  It was Ali and Ashlyn felt a pang of relief.

 

“Hi baby, good morning.”

 

“Hi Ashlyn, how are things going for you?”

 

“Things are very fun right now but I’m dealing.  I had to put out a statement this morning and then I am just going to walk away from it all for a few days.  How about you?”

 

“Well, I was informed last night that P&G wants to drop me but I am not going to go down without a fight.”

 

“Oh God Ali, I am so sorry.  I know how important this is to you.  What can I do to help?  What is your plan?”

 

“Well, I have requested a meeting with P&G.  If they will meet with me then I am going to go in there an fight.  I’ve been texting with Abby to pick her brain on dealing with the sponsors.”

 

“Can I suggest something?”

 

“Sure, shoot.”

 

“I know a little bit about what Abby went through and I kind of know her perspective which is similar to Pinoe’s.   I have a bit of a different one though.   P&G may very well not be afraid of gay backlash.  So you may have to approach them in a different way or use a combination of both.”

 

“What do you mean?” Ali asked.

 

“Well, you may have to show them the way, you may have to pitch to them yourself and what value you can bring to the table.   It isn’t just straight people who buy Tide, Crest, Bounty and Charmin.  You have a degree in marketing and PR so pull from some of the things you learned.  They are a family brand, show them that families come in all shapes and sizes and are not just a Mom, Dad and two kids.   This is where the country is headed politically; we have made some great strides in the past few years.  They can either jump on board or remain a dinosaur.”

 

“You are so right Ashlyn.  Thank you, I will definitely take that to the meeting with me,” Ali said.

 

“….”

 

“Ashlyn?”

 

“Yes babe?”

 

“Where did you go?”

 

“Nowhere, I am just proud of you, that’s all.  A year ago you would have blown up over this and would have shut me out and shut down.”

 

“Thank you Ash.  I am trying.  I would like to think I have done some work on myself.  You kind of put things into perspective for me.  I will lose everything before I lose you again.  If I have to work the rest of my life as a waitress in a roadside diner then so be it.   I am learning to let go.  It doesn’t mean that I won’t struggle or shut down.  I feel bitter and petty over this, but instead of wallowing I am going to do my best to fight.  I have so much media, TV, press and appearances to do these next couple of weeks, I won’t have time to wallow.”

 

“Enough about me, how is your shoulder feeling?  Is there anything I can do for you?”

 

“It is getting a little better every day, thanks.  The thing you can do for me is just what you are doing, keeping in touch with me and letting me know how you are feeling.  It feels good to know we are a team and that we are in this battle together even though we are apart.”

 

“I feel the same way.  I will try my best to do so this week. Even if I can’t call, I will text.  I have a lot of media to do this week and then we have the game in Portland on Saturday,” Ali sighed.

 

“I understand, even a text is good.  Please try to get some rest this week and take care of yourself.”

 

“I will.  I love you, bye baby,” Ali said.   She had no intentions of worrying Ashlyn about her nerves and lack of sleep.  Just as she hung up, Elliot was calling.

 

“Hi Ali.  I just got off of the phone with P&G.  They are willing to have some of their executives meet with you tomorrow morning, first thing.   The meeting is at 8:30 and we can probably have you back in Orlando by lunchtime.”

 

“Thank you Elliot.  It could be worse, they could have said no.  I will be there, I’ll get started on booking my travel.”

 

Ali then called Julie at the Pride and asked her to move her morning appearances for Friday around promising to fulfill all of her obligations if they could just move them around. Ali felt lucky to play for a team that was so supportive.   They couldn’t be blind, they had to know what she was going through but they didn’t judge her for it.  After practice, training, recovery, a sports radio show interview and a store appearance, Ali came home at 11:00 p.m. exhausted.   She showered and went straight to bed so that she could get up in a few hours for her flight to Cincinnati.

 

On her flight she tried to think of all of the ways she could turn this ship around.  When she arrived at P&G’s corporate offices, she was escorted into one of their conference rooms.   Normally in these situations she would be nervous but this morning, she was letting the fact that she was so angry over this give her the courage she needed to do this.  When everyone filtered in and introduced themselves, the meeting was underway.  A guy by the name of Dan began their meeting.  

 

“Ms. Krieger, we are here this morning at your request.  As you know, we are deciding to part ways and have decided to terminate our relationship.”

 

“May I ask why?”

 

“Our first quarter sales under performed our expectations.  Our numbers are down and we have been forced to make cuts in our advertising budget.”

 

Ali smiled knowing this was complete and utter bullshit.  She had been prepared for them to whip out the morality clause but she figured they were smarter than that since they were harder to enforce in court.  So they were pulling this bad first quarter crap with her.

 

“With all due respect, I think we all know the real reason why you want to terminate our relationship.   Things spread pretty quickly yesterday and I am sure you felt some of the pressure too.  I don’t believe that it is a coincidence that shortly after those pictures surfaced you made your decision.”

 

“That event certainly didn’t go unnoticed,” Dan nodded.

 

“You can tell me that it was an underperforming first quarter all you want but I think we all know the real motivation behind ending our relationship.   I would like to give you a few things to consider before you pull the trigger.”

 

“Go ahead Ali.”

 

“P&G is a family brand.  Families come in many different kinds of shapes, sizes, races, genders, etc. today.  I would think P&G would want to celebrate diversity since that is what America is becoming today.   In ten years this country is going to look very different than what it does today.  You can choose to be on board with this movement or you can look like a relic cemented in nostalgia. 

 

I am also sure you are aware of the power of the purse when organizations like GLAAD and the ACLU catch wind of companies who practice in homophobia.  Word spreads quickly in this day of social media and when other athletes, celebrities, and public figures catch wind of social injustices, it can become a PR nightmare for companies.  I am not sure my contract is worth a PR incident like Disney, Chick Fil A and recently United have suffered.”

 

Dan leaned back in his chair and clasped his hands.  “Certainly you aren’t hinting at defamation, Ms. Krieger.  That could surely wind up in a lengthy court battle.”

 

“I feel the same way.  I feel like I am being defamed right now and yes we could wind up in a lengthy court battle that could be splashed across the papers for many years and mentioned at the beginning of every game I play.  Or we could work together and make something positive become of this.   We can embrace diversity, love and peace.  We can support people from all walks of life no matter what their differences are from ours.  Together we can show that P&G is a company that is supportive of this vision.   Most of the fans that come to watch our games are women and women I imagine make up the majority of your customers.  You have the opportunity to show that you are also in support of female empowerment and all of the different forms that comes in.”

 

“And is that what your display was in the airport, female empowerment?”

 

Ali leaned into the table, “Now we are getting somewhere.  Yes Dan it was.  Would you like to know why?  Because yesterday morning I stepped out of the shadows and decided to brave for once in my life just like many of you and your spouses would do when you say goodbye to your loved ones at the airport.   Instead of hiding, I chose to live and step up for what I believe in.   Yes there has been some negativity but the outpouring of support has largely outweighed that over the past 24 hours.  There is no greater empowerment than stepping up for what you believe in.  I’d say was largely unempowered before yesterday.  So yes, you can terminate our relationship.  Just know by doing so, you will be telling the LGBT community that you aren’t supportive of them.  Then see what happens to your sales of Tide, Pantene, Gilette, and Tampax.  Or we could find a way to celebrate people from all different backgrounds and walks of life.”

 

“Well Ms. Krieger, we would like to thank you for visiting us today.   We will discuss this with our executive team and will give you a definitive answer next week.  In the meantime we wish you the best of luck both on and off the field,” Dan said as he and the other executives got up to shake her hand.  As Ali walked out of the building and to her rental car she felt confident that she had left it all out on the table.  At least they were willing to consider what she had said.   They also didn’t seem to be pulling the morality clause on her so worst case scenario, she figured she would lose out on the rest of her contract but would not have to return the money they already paid her.   Either way it was time to return home and get to practice and then board the team flight for Portland.

 

When she landed in Orlando the news hit that Marta had signed with the Pride and was coming in a week to join the team.  The excitement around Orlando Pride soccer was amazing as was the electricity in the air everywhere the team went.   When her head hit her pillow around midnight in Portland she was absolutely exhausted.   Even though she did not have personal appearances that day, all of the players in the league were being pushed to promote the games being televised on Lifetime and the new go90 app streaming deal the NWSL had just signed with.   The Pride game was going to be televised with Lifetime so that brought Julie Foudy and Ali Wagner to their game and more interviews with them that evening. Over a week ago, the USWNT settled their collective bargaining agreement with US Soccer.   It was finally going to feel good to table business for tomorrow and get back to the pitch and what really mattered, playing the sport she loved.

 

In Houston, when Carli arrived at their place after practice she was surprised to find Ashlyn with no Pepe in sight.   Ashlyn told her that he was being boarded at the vet while he recovered from being neutered and how she thought it would be best not to dump him on her while she went back to Orlando to check in on Ali. 

 

“I will be happy to pick him up from the vet after the game tomorrow,” Carli offered.

 

“Are you sure?  I know it is a lot to handle.  I wasn’t expecting to go to Orlando this weekend but I have to go check on Ali.   Especially since P&G has threatened to terminate her contract.”

 

“How did things go with her and them today?”

 

“I don’t know.  I know her schedule today was brutal.  All she texted me was that she safely landed and was going to hit the sack.   Apparently she flew to Cinci this morning, back to Orlando for practice, and then out to Portland with the team for the game tomorrow.  She said she had to run because Foudy and the Lifetime people were there to interview them.   I can’t even imagine how exhausted she must be.”

“Wow.  She lives up to her name.  Warrior.  Does she know you are coming?” Carli asked.

 

“No, I figured I would surprise her or try to do something nice for her.  I don’t even know what that is yet, but I am going to fly out after our game tomorrow and I should get in a few hours before she gets in from Portland.   Tom doesn’t want them to get jetlagged so they leave right after the game.  I don’t have to report back in until Tuesday afternoon.”

Chapter Text

The next day, despite the much expected win by the Pride, the Portland Thorns pulled out the win even being without Tobin who was injured.   The Pride defense performed most of the work the entire game because their offense was nowhere to be found.  Ali couldn’t have been happier that Marta was coming the following week.  The other surprise of the game in Portland was the outpouring of support the Portland fans were showing her and the general love they had for her and Ashlyn was unbelievable to Ali.  The more she felt this type of energy, the more she realized that Ashlyn was right, now more than ever, about not letting social media get to her.   It was almost like that wasn’t real and this was, the people who stood before her as she signed autographs and took pictures with people after the game. After showering and loading on to the plane, her mind couldn’t help but wander to Ashlyn and how terribly she missed her.  Ashlyn was the one person in the universe she wanted at this very moment.

 

In Houston, Ashlyn couldn’t have been happier as they pulled off the first win of the season with goals by Carli, Ohai, and Daly vs. the Chicago Red Stars.  The Dash defense completely shut down Press and Hoy.  Alyssa had a terrible day in goal and Ashlyn went to see her friend on the field after the game.  Even though they were competing for the #1 spot on the USWNT, they still supported each other.  As soon as the team meeting was over she was jogging to her car to head out towards the airport. 

 

When Ashlyn arrived in Orlando, she rented a car and stopped off at Whole Foods to pick up several bouquets of flowers and all of the things that Ali liked to eat after a game.  She picked up several heat and serve meals with different proteins and vegetables.   She picked up a couple of bottles of wine, beer,  several containers of chopped fruits, a few bananas, some whole grain cereals, milk, yogurt, a few bags of almonds, cashews, pecans, cheese, and things for breakfast as she figured Ali hadn’t had much time for shopping since she returned.   When she pulled up in the driveway she was so happy to be home, how she had missed this place.  After putting up the groceries and putting the flowers in vases, she walked around the place she missed so much, and was happy to see it still smelled like Ali and all of the candles and scented oil jars she loved so much.  The place was exactly the same as when she left it.  She grabbed a beer and walked out onto her back porch that overlooked the river and for the first time in days, she felt at peace as the sun was beginning to set.  She pulled out her phone and fired off a text.

 

Ash: Hey Serv, can you give me the Pride flight info?  I am here as a surprise and want to pick up Al at the airport.

 

Serv:  Woot!  Yes, they come in at 10:30. I guess I will see you there, they are coming in on the Magic’s plane so they will be at one of the private gates.

 

Ash: Thanks bro.  See you there :)

 

Ashlyn went into the bedroom and decided to change the sheets so that Ali would have fresh smelling ones when she went to sleep that night.   On her side of the bed she found a pillow where Ali had fitted one of her UNC hoodies over it and figured that this must be something that Ali hugged every night when she went to bed.  The sight brought tears to Ashlyn’s eyes as she stripped down the bed and put everything in the washer.  She then walked over to her closet and noticed that too was how she left it, empty hangers and things that were thrown a strewn had been neatly folded and placed on the shelf in there.  A huge sense of guilt came over Ashlyn as she stood for a moment in Ali’s shoes for the past 6 months and looked at how she left things.   Her heart began to break for Ali now that she had a moment to look at this in some kind of rational hindsight.  When the dryer was finished, she remade their bed and put Ali’s recovery legs at the foot of it.  She also laid out an old clean sheet across the bed in the case that Ali would want a massage when she got home and some lotion.  Sometimes Ali’s legs were sore and would cramp after a game. 

 

Ashlyn took a minute to look at her emails and saw one from Nick her agent.  The Advocate wanted to do an interview with her and so did ESPN the magazine. She replied back that she would think about it.  She really wanted to talk to Ali before she decided to do interviews.   She then checked the score of the Pride – Thorns game.  “Christ,” she thought.  Portland handed Orlando their ass and scored 5 goals on them.  It was Jane Campbell’s pro debut.   She quickly sent out a text to her.

 

Ashlyn:  Hey Janey.  Congratulations on your first pro game.   Fuck that score and put it behind you.  Pinoe just wanted to give you the proper initiation.   Chin up, I saw some of your saves and they were beautiful.

 

 

Ashlyn then drove to the airport to greet Ali.  She was happy they were coming in on the team charter plane which the Pride would sometimes lease from the Orlando Magic when they weren’t using the plane.  She was also happy she still kept the gate access card in her wallet.  She could pick Ali up without having to worry about snooping eyes for once.

 

As she stood there waiting with Serv and some of the other family of the Pride she saw that Alex Leitao was the first one off the plane which she wasn’t expecting.   Alex came over to greet Serv, the other family members and then Ashlyn.   

 

“Ashlyn!  Good to see you, how is the shoulder?”

 

“Hello Mr. Leitao, it is coming along good, I should be back on the pitch in no time.”

 

“Well, I will say that was a hell of a trade for me, you get a new shoulder on the Dash’s dime.  But that is all that has been good about it Ashlyn.  This city, our fans, our organization, they miss you terribly.  So what are we going to do about that?” He asked still holding Ashlyn’s hand. 

 

Ashlyn ran her hand through her hair not expecting this at all.   “Well you know I would love to come back.  I just had some things I needed to take care of and get my life in order which I believe I have done.  Orlando is my home.”

 

Alex smiled, he was a kind man and Ashlyn was happy that he didn’t seem to be holding her decision against her. 

 

“Ok, well if the opportunity presents itself during the season you can expect to hear from me.  Otherwise, let’s talk once the season ends.” 

 

“That would be great sir.   I would love that,” Ashlyn said thinking that went a hell of lot easier than she thought without some awkward conversation to her agent.

 

Next Jane came off the plane where the two hugged and Ashlyn consoled her on the result of her first pro game.   Jane hugged Ashlyn back and thanked her but Ashlyn could tell she was beating herself up over it.  A few minutes later, she saw her favorite girl disembark from the plane and down the steps with her headphones on looking down at her feet.   She could see that Ali looked exhausted.  Ashlyn moved close to the end of the steps and as soon as Ali’s last step was taken she looked up a little bit and was swept up into Ashlyn’s arms.  Ali was in complete shock as a huge smile broke across her face as Ashlyn twirled her around and moved them off to the side. 

 

“Oh my God you are here!  How in the hell?” Ali asked, squeezing Ashlyn in a huge bear hug resting her head on her shoulders.

 

“I came to check on you baby.  I left right after our game.”

 

“God I need this right now, this has been the week from hell.  I just need to be with you so badly Ash.  I am so fucking exhausted and sore.  You must be tired too.”

 

“I know baby, let me take you home.”   Ali waited until they unloaded her equipment bag off of the plane grabbed it and threw it in the back of Ashlyn’s car. 

 

“My car is still at the Pride facility, we took the bus over.”

 

 “Let’s get it tomorrow.  You look way too tired to drive,” Ashlyn offered. 

 

“I am baby. That sounds great.  I just need a good night’s sleep and then I can handle things better.  I don’t even know what time zone I am in anymore.  Central to Eastern, back to Central then to Eastern, then to Pacific and back to Eastern.  I feel like a maniac.   Our defense played the whole game tonight, I have no idea where the fucking offense was.   Alex just came back from France and no one is giving her the ball.  Our timing is off.  Marta comes in this week sometime so maybe they can get that shit fixed up there.   I am now playing center back and poor Jane, they beat the shit out of her tonight.   We really need to get our shit together.  I saw your game went much better.  Ohai is a beast and Daly, what a goal that was.”

 

“I am sorry about your game baby.  I only had a few minutes to look at the highlights on twitter because I was trying to avoid our personal shit show.   Our game went amazing.  Christen and Julie were nowhere to be found for the Red Stars so we lucked out.  Let’s get you home, I already have dinner there that I will heat up.   You take a warm shower and then  we will get you a massage and into your recovery legs.”

 

“That sounds like heaven.   I might fall asleep in the shower or at the table,” Ali chuckled.

 

When they got home Ali ran for the shower while she still had the strength.  Even though she showered after the game, she still wanted another one after being on a dirty airplane and showering at facilities was never her favorite because she never knew how sanitary those places were.  She always wore her soccer slides into the showers just in case.  It still felt like cootieville.  When she emerged she saw that Ashlyn had everything ready on their bed and smiled to herself realizing this was the first time Ashlyn had been home in ages and it made her heart swell.

 

As soon as she combed her hair and put on a tank and sleep shorts, she came into the kitchen and found Ashlyn taking their dinner out of the oven putting it onto a couple of plates.  She then looked around and saw the beautiful flowers everywhere and two glasses of wine on the table.  She came up behind her and slipped her arms around her waist from behind.

 

“Wow baby, when did you have time to do all of this?  The flowers are gorgeous.   I am completely out of food, wine, everything.  I haven’t had a minute to do anything since I got back,” Ali said kissing the back of Ashlyn’s shoulders.

 

“I got in around 7 and stopped by Whole Foods.  I figured I would pick up some stuff just in case and I got all your favorites for postgame,” Ashlyn said as she carried everything over to the table.  Ali looked in the fridge and her eyes went wide, “Damn you thought of everything.  Thank you baby.”

 

“So how are you holding up?” Ali asked.

 

“I’m ok, it hasn’t been fun but I’m just staying out of the heat right now.  It real bullshit what happened, but you know what? I am not going to be made to feel sorry for it.  I am not ashamed of you or that I am in love with you,” Ashlyn said as she put her hand on top of Ali’s across the table.

 

“I’m not going to feel sorry about it either.  I worried about since we have been together.   I’m letting it go.   I will just deal with things as it comes.  I’m not ashamed that I love you either.  I never have been, I just never wanted to face everyone else’s problems with us,” Ali smiled and squeezed Ashlyn’s hand back.   “You have no idea how happy I am that you are here.  I felt like I was drowning after the game today, everything has been looking so dismal.  You are the one bright thing in my life right now.”

 

Ashlyn swallowed hard. She quickly got up and put their dishes in the dishwasher, all she wanted to do was wrap Ali in her arms and tell her everything would be ok.  She walked over to Ali and extended her hand for Ali to take.  Ali got up and managed a tired smile as she pulled Ashlyn in for a tight hug, her cinnamon eyes sparkling.

 

Ashlyn ran her hand through Ali’s hair and looked in her eyes.  “You know, sometimes as hard or as stressful as things get, it all melts away when you are in my arms.  It is like you are my safe harbor.  I was really stupid for leaving, I didn’t handle it well at all and I owe you an apology.  I shouldn’t have treated you that way, I should have found a different way.   I owe it to you to tell you that despite my stupid pride.”

 

Hearing those words meant everything to Ali.   As hard as things had been this week, at least she felt like her heart was mending. 

 

“Thank you Ashlyn for saying that.  We both have made mistakes and we shouldn’t beat ourselves up over them any longer.  I think we have a better understanding for each other right now, so let’s hold on to that.  Sometimes it takes sadness to know what happiness is and absence to value presence.”

 

“You are so right about that.   I love you so much Ali.”

 

Ashlyn led Ali into their bedroom.   “Do you want a leg massage or your recovery legs? Ashlyn asked.

 

“I want you, I love you too,” Ali answered.

 

“You have me either way.  Are your legs aching?”

 

Ali put her arms up around Ashlyn’s neck, “Even if they are I don’t care.  Something else is aching more and only you can fix it.”

 

 Ashlyn let out a small chuckle, “Oh yeah? What is aching?”

 

Ali just tilted her head and gave a crooked grin, “I bet you can guess babe.”  She reached for Ashlyn’s hand and put it between her legs as she kissed her.

 

“Oh that.  I guess it is pretty important that we take care of that first,” Ashlyn said smiling into their kiss.

Chapter Text

Ali woke up the next morning feeling happier than she had been in a long time.   Things just felt right.   For the first time in what felt like forever, Ashlyn was home, they were together in their bed, and they were both where they belonged.  It felt good to sleep in; Ashlyn had given her an incredible leg massage and had made her feel brand new in every way possible.   Ali planned to return the favor in any way she could all day long.  She looked over and Ashlyn was in a deep sleep, snoring away.   Ali smiled and got up to make them breakfast.  Usually Ashlyn liked for them to spend Sundays in bed so Ali was going to feed them and then get ready to do whatever Ashlyn wanted to do for the day.  

 

Ali started chopping up potatoes and threw those into a pan as she began scrambling eggs.  She threw a pod in the Kuerig and started on her first cup of coffee.     She took out the yogurt and chopped up some strawberries and threw some granola on top of that and put them into two small bowls.  When the potatoes and eggs weredone she put them on one big plate, grabbed the yogurt bowls, two cups of coffee, and put them on a tray which she brought into the bedroom.  Ashlyn must have smelled the potatoes because she was already up putting on a t-shirt and shorts.

 

“Good morning love,” Ali said as she brought the tray over to the middle of their king sized bed.

 

“Good morning, boy does that smell good,” Ashlyn said as came back to bed pulling something out of the closet.  “Would you like to introduce me to who this is?”

 

Ali looked at the pillow with the UNC hoodie over it and then looked down at her hands.  “That is Harris,” she mumbled.

 

“Who?”

 

“Harris.  It’s your mini me.  It is the only way I can get to sleep at night without you next to me, it used to smell like you, I grabbed it so you couldn’t take it the last night you were here.  I wanted to have one thing left of you,” Ali said sheepishly.

 

“Can I just say that I have never been so happy to just be replaced by a pillow?” Ashlyn asked with a smirk on her face.

 

“Get over here and have some breakfast smart ass.”

 

Ashlyn laid down next to Ali who started to feed her bites of eggs and potatoes.   Ashlyn couldn’t get enough of looking at how beautiful Ali was, her long black hair down thrown over one of her shoulders, her beautiful smile and white teeth, the beautiful pink color of her lips and her gorgeous sienna colored eyes that she could get lost in for days.

 

“What?  What are you thinking babe?” Ali asked.

 

Ashlyn blushed.  “I was staring at how beautiful you are, your smile, your hair, your eyes, your teeth, your heart.  I was just taking it all in.  I miss waking up to you like this.”

 

Ali smiled.  “I miss this too.  I could stare at you for days, you are the beautiful one, not only in looks but in your generosity and kindness.”

 

“Thank you.  So tell me, how did it go with P&G?  I didn’t want to ask you yesterday because I knew you were tired.”

 

“Well, when I went in there they were ready to terminate my contract, they stated that their first quarter profits were down and they were going to have to cut back their advertising budget.   I called bullshit and pointed out what the obvious reason was that they wanted to terminate.   I tried my best to turn it around and tried to show them that a PR disaster would be way more costly than the 125K they still owe me.   They brought up slander.  I brought up the possibility of us being in court for years. Then I tried to turn it around into a positive for them.  How they could use this as a moment to embrace all families who come in all different genders, shapes, sizes, ethnicities, etc.  I suggested that they could embrace female empowerment and reminded them of who the majority of their customers were buying their toilet paper and tampax.”

 

Ashlyn chuckled at that last sentence.  “Good for you Al.  I knew you would go in there and slay.”

 

“I thought about what you said and tried to bring as much of that with me as I could.  They said they would think about it and get back with me next week.  They didn’t say no, and they didn’t throw me out, so I figure it could go 50/50.  So how have things been going for you?”

 

Ashlyn looked down at her phone and pulled up her emails.  “Well, the Advocate and ESPN the Magazine are asking for paid interviews and features.”

 

“Did you accept?” Ali asked.

 

“Not yet, I wanted to talk to you first.”

 

“Ok, so what’s on your mind?”

 

“Ok I am going to be honest here and I want us to have an open and honest discussion without getting upset.  I don’t have to say yes.   However, I kind of really want to do it and just get it over with.  I mean, what came out this week was the start of it.  I don’t feel like being teased, taunted and stared at forevermore.  It’s out there and I just would rather take control of the story and do it.   I don’t know why this is some big revelation.   Then I started to think about all of my young fans out there who are struggling with sexuality and how they identify and I think it would be important to share my story while someone still cares.  Who knows, maybe I could even help someone who is having a difficult time with this,” Ashlyn said dipping her spoon into her yogurt.

 

“Baby I would fully support you in whatever you want to do.  I think you are absolutely right, you have always courageous.  Why would I get upset?”

 

“Because if I do this then I am going to tell the truth and the whole truth and I think you should do it with me.  I can’t just go in there and act like I am in a relationship by myself or with some unnamed person who everyone is going to know is you.”

 

Ali got where Ashlyn was heading with this and was taking a minute to ponder Ashlyn’s words.

 

“Look, this is what I was thinking.  I just say yes, I am in love with this person and she is in love with me.   I don’t think it is necessary to label it.  I think it would just be good to get it out there and over with and then everyone can move on and quit gawking at us like we are on display at the zoo.  I really don’t see any point in denying it anymore but if you are uncomfortable with it then I can respect that and tell them no.”

 

Ali hated times like this that were important and the words would get in the way and jumble up in her throat.  She wanted to make sure she got this right.

 

Ashlyn was starting to get worried and it was beginning to show on her face.  “Ali, please tell me what you are thinking.”

 

Ali put her hand on Ashlyn’s to try to calm her for a second.

 

“You really want to know what I am thinking?”

 

“Please tell me,” Ashlyn said as she moved the tray over onto the night to clear the area in between them.

 

Ali could feel her eyes begin to well up as she looked at the woman who she loved and how fearless she was.

 

“I am thinking about all the times you stood by me through right and wrong.  I am thinking about all of the times you have caught me when I fell.  I am thinking about your unwavering faith in me and how you have never given up on me when I have made things rough on you.  How you have stayed to see everything through.  How you have showed me what it really means to love someone.  I am thinking about how you have always met me more than half the way.  I am thinking about all of the times I let you down but you stuck by me anyway.  I am thinking about how because of all of this, there is nothing I wouldn’t do for you.”

 

Now Ashlyn was tearing up because she could feel another piece of her heart beginning to mend.  Ali reached up to wipe the tears from her face. 

 

“So yes, I will do it with you.  I just want one condition that my agent’s PR person look at the interview before it is published and I think it would be a good idea if she was there with us or yours.  Someone that will have our best interests at heart and that we have complete control to make changes before it is published.  I just want to be smart about this.  I also think we should tell Jill, The Pride and The Dash,”  Ali said.  There was a pause.  “What are you thinking?”

 

Ashlyn took Ali’s hand it moved it over her heart.  “I am feeling.  I am feeling how you are mending this and putting it back together.  I feel like you now understand and I am so grateful for it,” Ashlyn said.

 

Ali reached in to give Ashlyn a loving kiss.  “I am sorry that I broke it in the first place.  Thank you for giving me the chance to piece it back together.  I won’t do it again.”

 

“I know this is a huge step for you but I think that if we do this together, if we lean on each other and have faith in each other, so many good things can come of this.   I know the world needs to change its heart, that not everyone will agree with us.  We all need to help pave the way so that we can help make it easier on others coming up behind us.  I think we should be honest with our struggles,” Ashlyn offered.

 

“I think I bear the most of that burden.  I was the one struggling.  I thought I had everything to lose.  In the end, all that mattered losing was you.  I should have looked at it from all what I had to gain.  I should have tried to turn it into a positive.  It shouldn’t have taken me ten years to realize what was right and to not let everyone get to me.   I was my own worst enemy.  I made you struggle because you were comfortable with who you were and the person you loved wasn’t.   If anything, that is a lesson that I should tell, how I almost destroyed the best thing that ever happened to me.  I have had half of a year to do nothing but work on myself and reflect upon the things I should have handled better.”

 

“Ali, the downs have been few, trust me, you are the best thing that has ever happened to me too. This is all I ever wanted, for us to walk through this life together,” Ashlyn said as she cradled Ali’s face with her hand.

 

“I love you so much Ali, with all of my heart I do.”

 

“I love you too Ashlyn and right now, I want to show you how much.”  Ali leaned in to kiss Ashlyn who wrapped her arm around her side.   Ali snaked her hand up under Ashlyn’s shirt and let her fingers roam up and down the side of her body over to her back as she pushed her shirt further up until it was over her chest.  She began to tug on the shirt giving Ashlyn the hint that she wanted it off.  Ashlyn lifted up and took it off and then grabbed Ali and rolled them back so that Ali was on top of her.   Ali’s eyes searched Ashlyn’s with a lustful stare.

 

“What?” Ashlyn asked with a smirk showing off her dimple.

 

“I fucking love it when you are underneath me.  You are so fucking hot and arrogant when we are out in public, but I am the only one that gets to see you like this, reduced to a puddle of butter.  Everyone thinks you are this big bad ass but I get to see how loving you are.”

 

Ashlyn smiled, “Maybe I love it when you are on top of me.  Everyone thinks you are so sweet and submissive, but I am the only one that gets to see how sexy and assertive you are.  That look that comes over your face when you are about to do things to me, you have no idea how hot it is to be on the receiving end of it.”

 

A devilish grin came over Ali’s face as she came in for a hungry kiss and trailed her tongue down the side of Ashlyn’s neck while she massaged her left breast in her hand.  Her hot breath and tongue was driving Ashlyn wild.  Her tongue stopped on the top of Ashlyn’s collarbone where she sucked it hard, making sure to leave a mark.   Ashlyn moved her hands down to squeeze Ali’s ass hard beneath her fingers which caused a flood to pool between Ali’s legs due to the strength of her girlfriend’s hands.  She moved her tongue down to lick Ashlyn’s breasts, sucking on her nipples and then blowing on them, making them hard as rocks.  Ali leaned up on her knees as she crawled over Ashlyn.   Ashlyn grabbed her by the back of her arms and brought her in for one more kiss before Ali could move further down, loving the way Ali’s hair hung down and tickled her chest.   Ali broke their kiss.  “I need to taste you,” Ali whispered, her dark hooded eyes cast a spell over Ashlyn who was paralyzed under her touch. 

 

Ali slid her tongue down the side of Ashlyn’s body, over her colorful tattoos, causing goosebumps to break out along Ashlyn’s skin.  She brought her tongue down over her hip bones which made Ashlyn buck them up.  Ali ran her hands up and down Ashlyn’s thighs as she ran her tongue up and down Ashlyn’s throbbing core.  “Fuck yes, baby,” Ashlyn moaned as Ali drew circles on her clit with her tongue.  “That feels so fucking good, please don’t move, yes, yes, yes!”   Ali moved her hands up over Ashlyn’s stomach and pushed down a little bit trying to increase the pressure as she did the same with her tongue.  Ali increased the motions with her tongue as Ashlyn squirmed below her.  Ali looked up watching Ashlyn’s face as her stomach muscles tensed up and an orgasm tore through her body, spilling out on Ali’s tongue as she licked her clean. 

 

Ashlyn began to reach for Ali who was smiling and nowhere near done pleasuring her girlfriend but she would let her temporarily think she was off of the hook.

 

“Come up here and kiss me,” Ashlyn said as she tried to recover.

 

Ali crawled back up Ashlyn’s body and kissed her cheeks and forehead.  “Mmmm, you taste so fucking good baby, I crave you all of the time,” Ali said before dipping her tongue into Ashlyn’s mouth.  

 

“I crave you all of time too.  I love when you do that to me.  I just wish I could have you up here with me while you do it so I could look into your eyes and have my tongue in your mouth,” Ashlyn said as she ran her hands up and down Ali’s back and sides.  She then pushed the tank top over Ali’s head and threw it to the side.  Ashlyn pulled her up a little bit so one of Ali’s nipples drug over her lips which she nipped on and sucked into her mouth.  A lustful stare came over Ali’s face as she hovered over Ashlyn deciding that she would be taking control back.   She propped herself up on her left arm right next to Ashlyn’s right shoulder as she moved her hand down Ashlyn’s body and down in between her legs, determined to do everything possible to drive her wild.   She found where some of her passion pooled and began circling Ashlyn’s entrance.

 

“You like looking at me while I fuck you?” Ali asked at the same time she entered her two fingers inside of Ashlyn, knowing full well that her dirty mouth excited Ashlyn.  

 

Ashlyn squeezed Ali’s ass hard, “You know I love it, it is my favorite thing to see.” 

 

Ali began moving her fingers in slowly and deeply inside of Ashlyn, “You are so warm inside and tight, I love being inside of you like this.”  

 

Ashlyn felt like she might pass out just looking at the look on Ali’s face.  She reached up to nip at the sides of her throat.  

 

“Tell me what you want,” Ali commanded lowering herself a little so that her breasts drug over Ashlyn’s.

 

“I want you to fuck me.”

 

“Tell me how,” Ali commanded.

 

“I want you to fuck me hard and fast,” Ashlyn breathed out, she was driving Ali crazy trying to get her closer.

 

“Say my name,” Ali said as she started to pump her fingers out hard and fast, curling them up into Ashlyn hitting her spot everytime.

 

“Fuck me Ali, fuck me mindless.”

 

“What was that?” Ali asked as dipped her tongue into Ashlyn’s mouth eliciting a moan from Ashlyn.

 

“Fuck me, Fuck me, Fuck me,” Ashlyn moaned out.

 

Now it was Ali who was being driven over the edge, she could feel the hairs standing up on the back of her neck as Ashlyn begged her.   She moved her face down the side of Ashlyn’s neck resting it in shoulder as she fought to get better leverage to drill Ashlyn. Ashlyn crossed her legs around Ali’s ass, driving her hand in further as she wrapped her arms around Ali’s shoulders and back as they became one, Ali thrusting in and out of her furiously, driving Ashlyn wild.   Ali could hear Ashlyn’s panting  pick up and she raised her head to look in her eyes.  Ashlyn had been reduced to a series of grunts and groans as Ali began to push her over the edge.

 

“Come for me Ashlyn, fuck I need to feel you come on me baby.   Let it go, give it to me baby,” Ali said before dipping her tongue into Ashlyn’s mouth once more, sucking on her tongue, wanting to be in her mouth while she came.   Ali could feel Ashlyn loose it as another orgasm ripped through her body spilling out onto Ali’s hand.  “God yes Ali, fuck, fuck, fuck!”

 

Ali moved her mouth to suck on the side of Ashlyn’s neck as she came underneath her, pressing her full weight down on her body to control her spasms.  She stayed inside of Ashlyn until she rode it out and then brought her fingers up to her mouth to suck them clean.

 

“You are so fucking hot Ali, you make me lose my mind, I feel like I am going to float away,” Ashlyn said bringing Ali’s fingers to her mouth sucking on them too.  Ali smiled and kissed Ashlyn before lying beside her and snuggling up into her. 

 

“It feels so good to have you in this bed with me, especially on a Sunday when we can relax.  I am not ever going to let you go.  I am going to hold you captive, I will send the Dash a ransom letter if they want you back.”

 

Ashlyn laughed, “Now that would be a headline, Ali Krieger holds Ashlyn Harris captive as her sex slave. 

We haven’t seen Ashlyn in two years.”

 

Ali laughed, “That would definitely be a field day for the press, but what a way to go.”  Ashlyn turned into Ali, running her hand up and down her body, and her fingers over the ‘Liebe’ tattoo she loved so much.

“So, how is our boy doing?” Ali asked.

 

“His surgery was Friday and he was doing well.  Carli picked him up after the game yesterday.   She told me to skype her when we could today.”

 

“Can we do that now?   I want to see his little face,” Ali said as she reached for her Ipad off of the night stand and pulled the sheet up over them.

 

“Yes babe, but we should put some shirts on first, she actually expects decency from us,” Ashlyn chuckled as she went to get up, grabbed two shirts and tossed one at Ali.

 

“My tank was over there,” Ali pointed.

 

“Yes, but then you would have to put a bra on and there’s no reason for that when I am about to take that off of you in a minute anyway,” Ashlyn grinned.

 

“Oh yeah? Well I hope you didn’t like this shirt very much because the only way it is coming off of me is if you rip it down the middle and off of me.  Otherwise it stays on.”

 

Ashlyn felt an ache in between her legs again at the thought of giving it to Ali rough.

 

“Ok enough.  I can’t talk to Carli or Pepe when you are putting those kind of images in my head,” Ashlyn said as she made sure the covers were high enough, their hair was someone straight so that Carli wouldn’t suspect things.

 

“You started it,” Ali said as she opened up skype to dial Carli.  Soon Carli’s face flashed across the screen.

 

“Well hello you two flamingos, how are things in sunny Orlando?” Carli asked.

 

“Hello Cap, things couldn’t be better,” Ali said.  “Aww you two look adorable.”   Carli was lying back in Ashlyn’s leather recliner with Pepe nuzzled into her chest asleep with a towel wrapped around his lower body.

 

“He is having cone-free time right now and a little nap.   His area down there is pretty irritated down there so I put some ice in a zip lock, wrapped it in a towel just to give him a cool down.  He has been resting on it for a while now.”  Ashlyn burst out into laughter.   “You put his nuts on ice.”

 

Carli laughed, “Basically, except he doesn’t have them anymore thanks to you for chopping them off.  So I get to be the good guy, not the evil one who took him in to do that to him.  We are watching Barca right now, he is a Messi fan.

 

Ali giggled, “You are too much.  I can’t wait to tell the team about all of this.”

 

Carli narrowed her eyes, “You do and I will deny everything.  So are you two at least getting a little peace?”

 

“We are, it feels good to have a day to relax and not have to deal.”

 

“Good, you two enjoy as much of it as you can,” Carli smiled.   Just then, Messi hit his 500th goal with Barca.   Carli fist pumped and was suppressing her scream.  Ashlyn could hear it on Carli’s end and reached for the remote so they could see the celebration.   Pepe slept through the entire victory dance that was going on in the recliner by Carli.

 

“Holy shit,” Ali said, “Great job there Lloyd, you didn’t even wake him and I know Messi is your favorite.  500 goals, I can’t even imagine.”

“And that’s why the next time you see Pele, once his nuts cool off, you will see him in a number 10 jersey.  The number of the greatest!”

 

Ali rolled her eyes, “you are ridiculous but we love you anyway.”

 

“Thanks for taking care of him Carls,” Ashlyn said blowing them both a kiss.

 

“Love you guys back, now go back to, you know, and I’ll see you Tuesday Harris,” Carli smiled and hung up.

Chapter Text

Ashlyn and Ali spent the rest of the afternoon in bed enjoying each other.   Ali finally got up to pick up one ripped t-shirt off of the floor before waking up her girlfriend to hop in the shower with her. Alex and Serv invited them over for dinner and they decided they would go and pick up Ali’s car at the Pride Facility before heading over to the Carrasco’s.  Alex was thrilled that her friends and teammates had reconciled and that all was right in the world again.  Serv grilled them some fresh fish he caught on his boat that morning and the three girls decided to skype Allie Long and Tobin because Ali and Alex were not able to hang out with them after the Portland game due to their flight. 

 

“Pookie!” Allie exclaimed as she answered the call seeing Ashlyn’s face in between Ali and Alex’s.  “God what a beautiful sight this is.   The three of you in one screen, could things be more beautiful?”

 

“Hi Pooks!” Ashlyn said, thrilled to be talking to her longtime friend in a happier circumstance then the last time they had visited.   Tobin entered the screen with Allie, waved, and smiled that famous Tobin smile.

 

“Well this can only mean one thing.  Krashlyn is back and all is right in the world again.”

 

Ali smiled, “Yes, Krashlyn is back.  We wanted to thank you and let you know.   Me and this one right here are probably going to do some interviews soon and just get this over with.  No more hiding, no more running.   We are going to call Jill tomorrow.”

 

Tobin laughed, “Oh what a fun call that will be. I’d rather have the clap,”   The five girls laughed as they all knew Jill Ellis really well.  

 

“Well she should be fine, she is a lesbian too so I want to hear her just say something.  I am not going to have this TMZ crap happen to us every time we go out in public.  My visibility is rising now that Hope is off the team and the fans are becoming more and more crazy, so we are just going to put this to bed.  We just wanted to tell you guys since we are the closest with you on the team.  Please don’t say anything though until it comes out.”

 

“We are hear for you babes,”   Tobin and Allie both agreed.  Allie lifted the side of her shirt and showed off an imprint on Ali’s Nike cleat.   “Hey Kriegs, I just wanted to thank you for this yesterday,” Allie smiled.

 

Ali’s eyes went wide, “Holy shit, I am so sorry Alazay.”

 

“Yeah, well we kicked your ass and got the win so I guess it was worth it but damn girl, I’d rather be on your team than playing against you.   At least you didn’t mess up my face.”

 

Ashlyn just looked over at Ali, she never ceased to be in awe of her fearless girlfriend.   The five of them caught up on their lives before the three retreated to the kitchen to enjoy a delicious dinner.  

 

 

The next day Ali and Ashlyn decided to get up and began to seize the day.  Ali had to go into the Pride facility to get a little bit of treatment and asked Ashlyn to come with her so they could stop by the PR department and let them know what they were planning to do.   Ashlyn sat in the training room looking at the colorful walls.   She missed this place so much.  The facility was state of the art and it pained her inside to look at what all she gave up.  This felt so much like home to her.  Ashlyn bled purple and now all she could do is remember when.   Ali was having some knots worked out of her muscles with one of the massage machines.   She looked over at Ashlyn and could see the pensive look on her face.  Guilt immediately washed over her body as she felt partly responsible for Ashlyn leaving.   Ashlyn tried not to let it show but she was failing miserably at it.  She had so many hopes and dreams for this team, for this community.   She thought back to all of her plans for supporting the LGBT community here, especially since the Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting.   She wanted to help build this team into a championship winning squad and make it into something this city could be proud of.   Instead, the ending of one game manifested itself into ten years of pent up anger and she ran.   As much as she tried not to blame herself or Ali she couldn’t help but have these feelings bubble up inside of her and now they were forming a knot in her throat.

Ali could see the change in Ashlyn’s demeanor and she couldn’t say anything over the noise of the massage machine.  She knew things had been going too well and what she saw happening in front of her was like someone had let the lion out of its cage.    She really had not considered what would happen if she brought Ashlyn back into this facility.  She was just trying to take the next steps to move forward with their life.   As soon as the trainer was finished with the massage machine, their equipment manager, Tony, came in to present Ali with a tiny Krieger 11 jersey for Pepe.  Ali held it up and laughed and showed it to Ashlyn who smiled, but Ali could tell this was going to be a long day.   

 

When she finished and got dressed Ashlyn followed her out of the training room and was still brooding.

 

“Ash, what happened in there?  What is wrong?” Ali asked.

 

“Nothing,” Ashlyn said.

 

“Do you just want to skip going by PR?  I can go in there myself,” Ali suggested.

 

“No, let’s do this, we might as well since we are already here,” Ashlyn shrugged.

 

The two walked in to the Pride offices and met with Liz who did the PR for the Pride. 

 

“Hello Ali, Hello Ashlyn.” Liz said, extending her hand to shake both of their hands.  “What brings you both in today?”

 

“We just wanted to give you a heads up that we have a few interview offers that we are going to do,” Ali said.

 

“That’s great, so what did you have in mind?” Liz asked, having an idea of where Ali was headed.

 

“Well, I am sure you heard about last weekend.   The Advocate and ESPN the Magazine have reached out to Ashlyn and we are going to confirm that we are together.”

 

“Well, congratulations, that is fantastic.  Thank you for giving me a heads up.   Have you thought about who you want to talk to?”

 

Ali looked at Ashlyn.  “We really haven’t discussed that with them yet,” Ashlyn replied.

 

“May I make a suggestion?” Liz asked.

 

“Sure,” both women replied.

 

“I think if you go with ESPN you might ask for Julie Foudy.   Especially since she was a former national team player and has spent the most time around women’s soccer, media and the fans.   I think she would give you a good interview and ask you smart questions without exploiting your relationship any more than you want to.  If it were me, I would give her the exclusive and then go from there.  I would do a TV interview with her first and then look at print.”

 

Ashlyn looked at Ali and nodded her head in agreement.  “I think that is a great idea Liz, thank you.”

 

“ESPN rewards athletes who show loyalty to them.   And by reward, I mean future opportunities in broadcasting, their magazine, etc.  If the two of you have more offers come in from other magazines or TV media outlets, I will be happy to help suggest who I think would be good choices for you to go with.  This organization will definitely support the two of you in whatever you decide to do.   For the record, Ashlyn, we miss you here very much.  Alex stopped by this morning to tell me he spoke to you Saturday night.”

 

Ali looked over to Ashlyn as this was news to her.   She saw Ashlyn still looked a little upset from earlier.

“Yes, he did, I saw him when he got off of the plane.  He is a great guy.  I miss all of you very much.  Thank you for your advice Liz,” Ashlyn said as she went to get up.   Ali leaned over the desk to give Liz a hug and the two left to head towards Ali’s car.  The drive home was awkwardly silent and Ali figured they would address whatever happened once they were home because she didn’t want to do it in the car.   Ashlyn looked out the window and was hiding behind her Ray Bans as the city of Orlando whizzed by, fighting back the tears welling up in her eyes.   She was trying everything in her power to calm down, to not get angry, to not cry, to not be angry at Ali or herself, but she couldn’t help it.   That little visit and seeing the new stadium, the one that she was supposed to play in, killed her inside.  It was absolutely beautiful and everything she could have ever dreamed of.

 

When they got home, Ali put her purse and keys down and went to the kitchen to grab a bottle of water.  She knew she was in for an unpleasant afternoon but she also knew it was better to get this out now then let Ashlyn fester, blow up and leave her again.  She was not going to let Ashlyn get on a plane to Houston angry. 

 

“Ok Ashlyn, please tell me what is on your mind.”   Ashlyn was in their living room staring out the windows into the back yard.

 

“Nothing is on my mind.”

 

“Ashlyn, we both know that is not true.  We promised we were not going to do this anymore and be honest with each other.  I can’t do this by myself.  I need you to communicate with me,” Ali sighed.

 

“I am angry right now and I don’t want to talk about it, I don’t want to fight with you,” Ashlyn put her hands in her pockets and refused to turn around.

 

“Ok then obviously it is something I have done.  You are angry with me, so tell me what it is, it is the only way we can get past it.”

 

“I’m not sure I will ever be past it.”

 

“Ok, Ash, look I am not a mind reader.  I did notice your whole demeanor changed in the training room.   Could you please meet me halfway and fill me in?  Look I know this has been an emotionally exhausting couple of weeks and we are both mentally tired, but I would like to think we are stronger together.  If you are mad at me then let me have it.   I know everything isn’t going to be instantly perfect between us.  It is not like we can go hash it out in therapy right now living in two separate towns, so let’s try to work this out ourselves.”

 

Ashlyn’s shoulders slumped.  She knew Ali was right.  She needed to get these things off of her chest and not let them explode and then leave town.  She turned around, took her sunglasses off walked over to the counter and set them down.  Ali could see the muscles in her jaw beginning to tighten and the muscles in her arms begin to clench.

 

“All the memories came flooding back being in that training room today.  That was my team.  MY team Ali.   I had so many plans for that team, for this community.  Seeing that new stadium today, you don’t know how much that pissed me off.  I was supposed to be starting on that pitch.  I sat down with the team and the designers and helped design parts of the fucking thing!  From fan experiences to the fucking locker rooms, to the training rooms.  You have no fucking idea how much it hurts!”

 

Ali decided she was just going to listen.   For once in her life she was going to shut her mouth and listen.  She walked over to Ashlyn and drew her into her arms.  Ashlyn wouldn’t hug her back, she just stood there stiff and angry.   Ashlyn was expecting a fight and instead she received love and that kind of angered her even more to the point where she broke down and sobbed uncontrollably.  This was the first time since they started to find their way back to each other that Ashlyn broke down in front of Ali like this and Ali felt like it was long overdue. 

 

“I am fucking angry and I can’t help it.  I am angry at myself for taking off.  I am angry at myself for getting so fucking angry that night that I called my agent.  I am pissed off that we live in a world where our relationship ever had to be a problem in the first place.”

 

Ali continued to hug Ashlyn close and rub her back.

 

“And most of all you are angry at me for putting you in that position,” Ali said sadly.  “This isn’t going to be fixed until we are equal is it?  You had to give something up and you are going to hold this against me until I give up something equally as important right?  So what do you want me to do Ashlyn?”

Chapter Text

Ashlyn was trying to swallow her true feelings because she was angry but Ali had to voice every rotten feeling that had crossed her mind since they broke up.  Ashlyn hated that she even felt this way but when she heard Ali voice what she was feeling it struck a nerve because somewhere deep down it was true. Ali knew her too well. 

 

“I don’t know Ali!” Ashlyn said as she continued to cry. 

 

Ali knew she got straight to the heart of the matter and it now she could feel herself beginning to get angry.  She promised herself she wouldn’t, that she would allow Ashlyn to have her feelings without blowing up but Ali felt like she was bottling way too much inside too.  She could feel her face begin to get red and hot.   Ashlyn could see the vein beginning to bulge in the side of Ali’s neck.

 

“You don’t know.   Well here is what I know.  I don’t know what to do anymore.   I have apologized 50 times.   I am working on being a better person and am trying to improve the way I handle things.   You took off and flew out of here for six months and abandoned me.  I didn’t fucking make that call Ashlyn and I can’t fix your situation with the Pride.  I can’t undo that call you made that night.  That was all of your doing and you have to take responsibility for that.  If you honestly believe I haven’t lost anything in all of this, that I haven’t suffered, then you don’t know me at all.   I lost my partner of ten years when she walked out of the door that night and I feel like someone killed a part of me these last six months.   I have offered to give up soccer.  What do you want me to do Ashlyn?  Do you want me to quit the Pride, will that finally make you happy and then you can feel we are even?  Do you want me to go back overseas?!”

 

“I don’t want you to do anything!”

 

“Yes you do Ashlyn; you know exactly what you want.  I know you.  You aren’t going to be happy until you somehow settle the score and I am fucking terrified of how you are going to do it!  I didn’t think I could live without you but I don’t think I can live with what you are going to wind up doing to me,” Ali said as tears began flowing out of her eyes.

 

“Ali,” Ashlyn said as she put her hands over her face.

 

“It’s been running through your mind, hasn’t it?  I’m going to get a fucking call one day that starts out like this, ‘Ali I am so sorry, I fucked up…’ aren’t I?”

 

“Ali please don’t do this.”

 

Ali grabbed her keys and purse, the fact that Ashlyn wasn’t denying it confirmed that the thought had ran through Ashlyn’s mind and nausea overtook her stomach.  Ali made it outside to her car and lost the contents of her stomach right out there on the front lawn for the next door neighbor to see.   Ashlyn came out the door in hot pursuit just in time to see the end of Ali getting sick.

 

“Ali”

 

“Stay away from me Ashlyn,” Ali said as she bent over to puke again.   All she wanted to do was get the fuck out of there if she could get her body to quit turning against her.  She then reached for the door to her car and got in.

 

“Ali!” Ashlyn yelled, to no avail.

 

Ali peeled out of the driveway and took off.   She had no idea where she was going to go, it was Ashlyn’s house, so Ashlyn had every right to be there.   The conversations they had the prior week started to play through her mind as she drove aimlessly.  She promised she wouldn’t run, that she wouldn’t blow up, that she was in this for the long haul. They had promised each other they would quit rehashing old shit.  Ashlyn promised her that she was going to drop this Orlando thing.  Truth was, she hadn’t forgiven Ali if she was still blaming her for it.  Ali hated that she got angry but damn it, she had feelings too and had things she needed to get off of her chest.  Her insecurities were getting the best of her because her worst fear was that Ashlyn was going to sleep with someone to settle the score.   For some reason, all rationality flew out the window that day.   Ali drove to the pride facility where she had a change of clothes in her locker and could get a shower.   She had to pull over once more to throw up on the drive over. 

 

Ashlyn had no idea what just happened.  One minute she was angry over the fact she left the Pride and the next thing she knew, Ali blew up on her and accused her of putting the blame on Ali for the reason she wasn’t there.   Then Ali turned it into something where Ashlyn was going to want to settle the score by assuming she would sleep with someone else to get her revenge.   The truth was, she was just simply upset and angry.  Had she considered it over the past few months?  Yes it ran through her mind, but she could never bring herself to do it.  When Ali brought it up just now, she kind of wanted Ali to squirm a little bit, to feel what it was like to be tortured internally.   She didn’t expect that kind of reaction from Ali and now she was more concerned about Ali throwing up everywhere and if she was ok.   This shit storm was the last thing she expected when she took this trip to Orlando. 

 

As Ashlyn drove and followed Ali in the rental car, she hung back so that Ali would not see her so that she would have a fair shot at catching up with her.  All Ashlyn had wanted out of this trip was to come to Orlando and support Ali during a time when she knew she was struggling with the TMZ thing and the potential loss of her biggest sponsor.  Somehow, it all went horribly wrong. 

 

Of course she is going back to the Pride facility where we can’t talk, swell,” Ashlyn thought as she pulled into the parking lot still hanging back.  Just as she was trying to find a place to park, her phone blew up with notifications that Marta was joining the Pride and had just arrived at the Pride headquarters.   That would explain all of the news trucks she was seeing parked outside and several town cars.  Ashlyn wanted to avoid that circus altogether.  She was happy that Marta was joining the Pride but she also had played against Marta enough to suspect that Marta had eyes for Ali.  Marta was not Ali’s type at all, but this was really the last thing Ashlyn wanted to think about right now.   Marta was married with a partner in Brazil but she was on the road overseas playing soccer so much that Ashlyn wondered when they ever had time to see each other.

 

Ashlyn found a back door to go into away from the circus and went to check the indoor training facility, then the weight room, then the locker room.   It was in there she heard a shower running and was hoping it was Ali.  The more she looked in the hallways, the more she could see that a circus was forming in the building.  She wanted to talk to Ali so badly but she knew she couldn’t do it here.   She didn’t even belong in this building anymore.  She decided to turn back to her car and wait to see where Ali went next so that they could talk before the media caught on that she was there.   She pulled out of the facility and parked across the street in front of a gas station and she waited with her eyes trained on the player’s parking lot.  Ashlyn tried to text Ali a dozen times and call but everything went to voicemail.  She was on her second hour of waiting and the more she had time to wait, the more she had time to think.   She felt so stupid for ever even entertaining the idea of getting revenge on Ali.  All Ashlyn wanted was Ali and the minute she didn’t have her anymore, well, just look at her.  She was a nervous wreck and felt stupid for not saying anything before, letting her anger get the best of her.

 

Twenty minutes later, she saw Ali and Marta emerge from the building.  Marta was walking Ali out to her car and gave Ali a hug that lingered way longer than Ashlyn would have liked.  Marta seriously needed to get her hands off of her girl.  She knew this was how Marta was but Ashlyn was in no mood for this right now. 

 

While Ali was in the shower, apparently all hell broke loose and it was announced that Marta was signing with the Pride and was there.   Ali thought she was the only player in the facility since it was their off day but to her surprise, just as she had put on her shorts and a sports bra, here came the Pride welcoming crew giving Marta a tour of the facility with the media in tow to document it.   Ali quickly threw on a clean shirt before the media could catch her in a state of undress.  Marta’s eyes went wide and into a brilliant smile as she walked in to see a partially dressed Ali Krieger in the locker room to welcome her.   There was just something about those American girls and Ali Krieger was one of the most attractive ones she had ever played with. 

 

“Marta!!! Oh my God!  I can’t believe it!” Ali exclaimed.  Thank God, Ali thought, they so needed help with scoring goals. 

 

“Ali!” Marta smiled as she scooped Ali up to give her a bear hug.   She was so happy to see a familiar face.   The two spoke for a few minutes and Ali gave Marta her number to call her if she needed help with anything while she was getting settled.  Marta had to do a media day and a press conference but asked Ali to hang out so they could catch up a little.   On this particular day, Ali was more than happy to because she had no idea where she was going to go after this.  This wasn’t how she wanted to spend her time with Ashlyn in town, but she didn’t want to go back and fight with her.   Things went horribly wrong and she didn’t know how to fix them.  It was at this moment she realized she should have gotten her own place when Ashlyn left and then she wouldn’t be stuck in this predicament.   She began feeling like a fool that things would ever work out.   Ashlyn was fed up with her enough to want to leave and somehow she thought she could fix it.  What she hadn’t banked on was that even though Ashlyn would say she forgave her, deep down she never would.  She was going to blame Ali for losing her dream of playing on the team she had dreamed about since its conception.   If anyone belonged here in this town, it was Ashlyn more so than Ali.  Ali could go play anywhere and be fine.  The only reason she came to Orlando was to be with Ashlyn so they could begin a life together and retire there.  That plan looked like it was a colossal train wreck at this moment.

 

Ali decided she was going to head back home and grab a few things and go to a hotel for the night.  She was done fighting, arguing, crying, all of that.  She felt like she was trying but the more she thought about it, she wasn’t going to take the blame for Ashlyn leaving and going to the Dash when she did everything to beg her to stay that night.  She did everything short of throwing herself in front of Ashlyn’s car as she left that night.  She would take the blame for everything else she did, but she would not take the blame for that.  She had to draw a line somewhere for her own self pride and her own self-worth.  She had taken a pretty good beating for a half of year over this, she had done a pretty good job of dishing out self-punishment and she finally felt like she had enough.  She couldn’t be the only one fighting for them and right now, she felt like she was alone in this battle. 

 

When Ashlyn began to follow Ali, she saw that Ali was headed back home.  Ashlyn decided to take a short cut that Ali was not that familiar with so that she could make it back to the house first. Ashlyn made it back a full five minutes before Ali arrived and was pacing in the living room trying to figure out what she was going to say to make things right again. 

 

When Ali came in, Ashlyn was leaning against the back of the couch in the living room with her arms folded.   Ali glanced at her briefly and began to head the bedroom to pack a duffle bag. 

 

“Ali,” Ashlyn called but got no answer.   Ashlyn followed Ali into the bedroom and saw the overnight bag lying out on the bed as Ali was grabbing some clothes.

 

“Ali, please talk to me, where are you going?  We need to discuss this,” Ashlyn said, leaning into the doorway.

 

“Ashlyn I heard you loud and clear earlier.  The look in your eyes and your lack of words did all of the speaking for you. I heard you loud and clear.  I am going to go to a hotel for the night.”

 

“Ali don’t go.  I’ll go since it was my idea to just show up in town.”

 

“No Ashlyn, you stay.  This is your house.  I should have found my own place a long time ago.  If anyone belongs here it’s you, and if anyone needs to go, it’s me.”

 

Ashlyn sighed.  Ali could be so incredibly stubborn at times like this.   “Look, I am sorry I didn’t speak up earlier, I was,”

 

Ali held her hand up.   “Don’t worry about it Ashlyn.  It’s ok.  I can’t change the way you feel and you are always going to blame me for this and there is nothing I can do to change it.  You want me punished, so consider it done.”

 

“Ali.”

 

“Ali, look at me dammit and let me speak!  Look, I was just mad earlier, ok?  I wasn’t blaming you. I know I am the one that took off.   I can’t help it if walking in there stirred up a bunch of emotions and memories.  This is all going to be over within six months anyway.   I spoke with Alex and it sounds like he wants me back after the season.  So it is all going to work itself out ok?”

 

Ali smirked.  “Well, I think that is great for you.  You will be back where you belong and I wish you all the best.  Things will be right again for this club and the fans.”

 

At first Ashlyn thought she was making some progress with Ali but there was finality to her tone that was off.  Then when she saw Ali continue to pack she got the message. 

 

“So, why are you still packing?” Ashlyn asked.

 

“Because I am fighting a battle alone and I am not going to wait around to see how you decide to settle the score between us.   You may feel better now but I have no idea what is going to happen when you go back to Houston and honestly, I don’t want to know.  I know how you hold a grudge.   I had hoped that in Houston we had made some headway and that we were going to march forward, but I can see it isn’t going to matter what I do, I am always going to be the reason you left, I am always going to be the reason for your lost season with the Pride,”  Ali said as she slung her bag over her shoulder and brushed past Ashlyn.

 

“Ali, that is your guilt speaking, I am not laying any of that shit on you,” Ashlyn replied.

 

Ali turned around.   “Then look me in the eye and tell me I was wrong earlier.  Tell me you haven’t thought about settling the score with me.  Tell me you haven’t wanted me to feel the same amount of pain and loss you are feeling about not being here this season.”

 

Ashlyn couldn’t lie to Ali, she had felt all of those things but it didn’t mean that she wanted to make them come true.

 

“That’s what I thought.  I’m going to look for a short term rental and I will be out of here in a week or so.   I will put up the hurricane shutters, lock the place down and mail you your key.   I’m not going to make things hard or awkward for you anymore.”

 

Ashlyn was amused by Ali’s tantrum, like this was going to solve anything.

 

“Ali, ok, so you move out and then what is that going to solve when I get back?” Ashlyn asked as she walked right on her heels.

 

“It is going to give you a fresh start.   When you come back you are going to make a fresh start in the town you love and on the team you love.”

 

“And where exactly do you fit into all of this?” Ashlyn asked as she followed Ali into the driveway.

 

“I’m going to get a fresh start too.  Arsenal and HAO have been calling.”

 

It hit Ashlyn like a ton of bricks.  Ali wasn’t having a tantrum and she knew she wasn’t bluffing because they had been down this road before years ago.  Ashlyn positioned herself between Ali and the car door.  There was no way in hell she was about to let this happen.  She would go to jail first. 

 

“Since when?”

 

Ali put her bag in the trunk.   “Since two months ago.   I told them no and they asked me to consider it.  I was hoping that you and I still had a chance.   So I considered it.  I am not going to fight and argue anymore.   I’ve punished myself enough for the both of us.  Fuck it all.  I’m tired.  A fresh start doesn’t look so dismal anymore.  I won’t be renewing my contract with the Pride after this season.”

 

Like hell you won’t Ali.” Ashlyn said crossing her arms.

 

“Ashlyn, please move and let me get into the car.”

 

“So Marta comes back and then you are going to bail on what is probably going to be the best team in the NWSL next year?” Ashlyn was trying to figure out in what world Ali Krieger was living in right now.

 

Ali crossed her arms.  She was growing more irritated by the minute from the interrogation of Ashlyn Harris who still didn’t seem to want to fight for them but seemed to be more interested in their careers at this moment.  It was ironic that now the tables were turned and she didn’t like it one bit.  Once again, she was getting a good dose of how Ashlyn felt all these years.  She wasn’t going to admit it out loud though, what was the point.

 

“How do you know about Marta?”

 

“I followed you earlier to the Pride facility.  I was going to wait for you to come out of the shower when I saw that the circus had arrived in town and I didn’t want the media to know I was there.  It didn’t seem like the time or place for us to talk.  So I waited for you afterwards.  I saw how she was looking at you when she walked you out and how she held on to you for too long.”

 

“Well, I didn’t see you waiting for me. My decision doesn’t have anything to do with Marta, obviously, since I am leaving.  Marta can look and hold all she likes, that is never going to happen.  I don’t even know what she has to do with any of this.  Now move, so I can get in my car,” Ali warned Ashlyn.  Ashlyn wasn’t budging.  

 

“Ali, I don’t understand why I am not allowed to feel angry about the Pride and somehow it turns into you leaving.”

 

“I’ve told you why.   Now you will be free to settle the score.  I am just not going to be around to watch you do it,” Ali said as she went around the back of the car to the passenger side to get in that way.   Ashlyn burst around the front of the car and made it to the door handle on that side before Ali could get in.

 

“Ali we can do this all night, you aren’t leaving.   I don’t want to settle the score.  Ok, so yes, maybe it crossed my mind, that’s why I didn’t say anything because I can’t lie to you.  That doesn’t mean that I am going to go act out on it and make it a reality,” Ashlyn said, beginning to lose her resolve.  Looking at Ali for this long and not being able to touch her for half of the day was killing her.

 

“Yeah, that doesn’t really give me all of the feels Ashlyn but I appreciate your honesty. You’ve been thinking about it but you haven’t acted out on it.  Wonderful.  I will be in touch with Carli and make arrangements for her to send Pepe to me.  I’m not going to leave you saddled down with a sick dog.  I will take care of that situation too.  I would appreciate it if we could keep things amicable between us at camp this Summer and in Sweden if you go.  I don’t want this affecting the team more than it already has.  I will just tell Carli and Allie that we have decided to remain friends,” Ali said as she took a big hop back opened the back passenger door and hopped in.  Ashlyn yanked open the passenger front door before Ali could lock the car.  Now Ali was really getting pissed because she was trapped in the back seat, Ashlyn was in the front seat and neither of them could go anywhere.  Ashlyn almost wanted to laugh if she wasn’t so scared.

 

“You are not taking Pepe away from me.  Carli and I won’t let you have him,” Ashlyn said.

Ali was pissed off and wanted to laugh at the same time too because of the ridiculousness of this situation and she knew that Ashlyn was trying to get to her and she was going to be damned if she was the first one to break down and laugh first.  She just stared out the side of the window guessing that she would outlast Ashlyn in needing oxygen and would just sit there all night if she had to until she could leave.   It was over, she was done fighting and there was nothing left to stay for other than sit around and wait to be hurt.

 

“Look Ashlyn, I am not going to sit around and wait to be hurt.  I laid everything out on the table last week with you.  I’ve done my best to improve and make strides for us.   I will not wait around for you to go back to Houston and in one night of loneliness or rage, seek out your revenge on me.  I didn’t make you leave, I did everything I could to make you stay.   I’ve apologized for my past behavior; I laid out a plan of how I wanted to make things different for us in the future.   You haven’t forgiven me and may not ever be able to and I have come to acceptance with that.   I can’t go back and change the past and if you don’t want to move forward with me and you are going to blame me every time you have a flash back then we don’t have a future.  So please, let’s just end this amicably so we can look back on this and say we had a great run, we just couldn’t make it work out but we were able to wind up as friends.  I don’t want to wind up on an episode of ‘Cops’ tonight and wake up the whole neighborhood.   Now please for both of our sakes, get out of the car and let me leave with some shred of dignity.  I’m done talking about this.  Once again, like last week, I am the only one who seems to be doing all of the talking and I am done with that too.”

 

It had become apparent to Ali that all hopes for Ashlyn to fight for them were gone.   She got out of the car, pulled out her phone and opened up her Uber app and ordered an uber.   If Ashlyn wanted to sit in the car all evening then so be it.  She went behind the car, popped the trunk and grabbed her bag and began walking down the driveway towards the street.   Ashlyn thought she was getting her bag to go back inside but when she didn’t see Ali go to the front door, she turned around to look and didn’t see her at all.   Ashlyn got out of the car and saw Ali heading down the street. 

Chapter Text

Two streets down closer to the entrance to the subdivision, Alex Morgan was walking out to her mailbox when she saw a pissed off Ali Krieger walking down the street with steam coming out of her ears. She was in a pair of black soccer shorts, a purple Pride t-shirt, and a pair of her signature neon green Nike’s that could light up a whole neighborhood with the blue fade.  They looked just like the cleats that Ali wore on the field.   The shoes were the first thing she noticed and then that all too familiar signature bun on the top of her head.  What she didn’t understand is why there was a red Nike soccer duffle thrown over her shoulder and why Ali was speed walking like she just robbed a bank and was trying to get out of Dodge.  As her eyes traveled past Ali further behind her, an intersection away, she saw Ashlyn Harris in hot pursuit in a pair of her Ray Ban aviators, a cut off t-shirt, a black pair of jeans and some Doc Martins running behind her with a pocket chain flashing in the sun.

 

Alex didn’t know what was going on but this whole scene did not look good.   Ali never wore Pride gear when she was not playing or at some kind of team event.   Ashlyn never ran in Doc Martins because who would if they had the choice.  Why the both of them were on foot was a really good question.  Then she could hear the faint calls of Ashlyn calling for Ali and saw Ali was ignoring her, pissed off.  Ali looked like she was headed towards the gate of their gated subdivision.   Alex could tell there was some kind of argument going on and she was going to be damned if she was going to let this continue.  Everyone had been so happy that the two had reconciled and if she could help it, they were going to stay that way. So, across the street Alex Morgan went and stood on the sidewalk with her arms crossed to meet a fuming Ali Krieger who at that moment looked up to see her.

 

“Fuck,” Ali said and slowed down.

 

“Yeah.  This looks like fuck alright.  Why is Harris about 400 yards back in hot pursuit.”

 

“Not now Alex, I am in a hurry, I need to catch a ride,” Ali huffed.

 

Alex wasn’t budging so Ali tried to walk around her and Alex moved to block her.  “No way Ali,  there is no way you are getting by.  We will go 1 v 1 right here but your plan to ditch Ashlyn is over.”

 

“Alex stay out of this, you don’t know what you are talking about,” Ali said as she fake juked to the right and then crossed to the left, out maneuvering Alex and getting around her.  Alex just smiled. Alex took out in a full on sprint, bypassed Ali and got in front of her again. 

 

“Nice try but I’m not having it.   I don’t know what is going on between you and Harris, but you two are going to settle this shit now or I am calling a team intervention.”

 

Ali could see her ride pull up in the area just outside of the security office beyond the gate.  All she needed was to go about 70 more yards and she was out of there. 

 

“Alex, stop.  My uber is out there and the guy is waiting on me.”

 

“Cancel it, you won’t be needing it,” Alex demanded just as Serv walked out wondering why the front door was wide open. 

 

“Serv!  Go run to that car over there and tell him to get lost.   Pay him double if necessary, hurry run and go do it now.”

 

Serv just looked at his wife wondering what was going on and why a pissed of Ali Krieger was trying to get around her and why Alex was tugging on her shirt.  Equally confusing was why was Ashlyn running like her life depended on it just catching up to the two.

 

“Why?”

 

“Just go do it now!  Please!”

 

Serv, knew better than to question Alex again, so off he sprinted towards a car that sat outside of their security gate.

 

“No Serv! Please don’t do it!  I called that car!”

 

“Yes Serv, go cancel it!” Ashlyn yelled.

 

Alex grabbed the hem of Ali’s shirt and the hem of Ashlyn’s shirt in a show of strength that neither knew she had. 

 

“Now what in the hell is going on here?  What in the hell are you two running from?”

 

Ashlyn was bent over with her hands on her knees panting from trying to catch her breath.   At the same moment, a charlie horse overtook the back of Ali’s right thigh and brought her to the ground on the grass next to the side walk as she grabbed the muscle on the back of her leg and writhed around on the ground falling on top of her bag.

 

Alex rolled her eyes looking at the two of them.   “You know, this serves the two of you right.   This is what happens when you don’t stretch before you run Ali.”

 

“I wasn’t planning on running.”

 

“Obviously," Alex replied as she took Ali’s leg in her hands and began to stretch it out.   Servando came running over.

 

“I cancelled the driver and paid him.  What the hell has happened over here?”

 

Alex looked at him, “I have no idea, but these two fools took off running from each other and now just look at them.  Can you please go grab a bottle of water?  Ali has a charlie horse and Ashlyn is probably going to get shin splints from running in combat boots.”

 

Servando went to go fetch a some water bottles out of the garage and came back with them and a lawn chair while Alex worked on Ali’s leg.  Finally the cramp ceased and Ali was able to stop writhing in pain.

 

“Thank you Alex, Christ that was painful.”

 

“Great, now would the two of you like to begin explaining what is going on here?”

 

Ashlyn just looked down at her feet.   Ali rose off the ground and began to wipe off the grass and dirt off her back and ass.

 

“Yeah Ashlyn, how about you explain this situation to Alex?” Ali said as she bent down to grab her bag and turned on her heel to walk back towards her car before she was stopped by Alex again.

 

“No way Krieger.  Look, obviously you two have something you need to work out and it is going to happen right now.  Now both of you sit your asses down right here on this curb and work it the fuck out.   We are not going backwards to the way things were.   You two just got your shit together and ended months of misery and torture.  There is no way I am going back to looking at you two miserable like that again.  Do not make me call Allie, Pinoe, Tobin, Carli and Brun.  Serv you go cover the gate, and I am going to go cover the intersection this way.  Neither of them gets by us until they kiss and make up.”

 

Serv just looked at Alex like she was joking and then saw she wasn’t and he took off for the gate with his chair.  He had no desire to be anywhere near two pissed off females or his pissed off wife for that matter.  Alex stood at the street corner stretching her legs getting ready for the sprint of her life if necessary since she could outrun Ali and Ashlyn on any given day.

 

Ashlyn turned to Ali.  “Well this is fucking embarrassing.  Couldn’t we have done this in the house?”

 

“I don’t want to do it at all.  I tried to leave amicably but you are being an asshole. I’ve said all I have to say.” 

 

Ashlyn plopped down on the curb and pulled Ali down with her by the arm.

 

“Let go of me before I make a scene, you all can’t hold me hostage here,” Ali fumed.

 

“You are not going to make a scene and you are not going anywhere and if you do, then I hope the Arsenal need a new keeper because I will stalk you all the way over to England if I have to.  I am glad you are done talking so now maybe I can have a chance to talk and you can listen.   Look, I am sorry I got angry earlier, ok?  I know I said I would drop it in Houston last week and I fucked up and made a mistake and it bubbled up again.   I am sorry for not speaking up earlier. Ali, I am only human.   Yes revenge had crossed my mind but I meant it, I would never do that to you, I don’t want to do that to you.   I just wanted to make you squirm and it backfired on me because I was acting out of hurt and anger.   I know that my leaving was my fault, I made that decision and if I am mad at anyone, I am mad at me.  I am not going to be settling some score.  What is done is done and I am over it.   I need to focus on the Dash and let everything else work itself out.”

 

Ali just sat in silence listening as she picked at her shoe laces.  She just decided she was going to listen.  She poured her heart out to Ashlyn over a week and a half and it was becoming exhausting.  Ashlyn was going to have to give her a little bit more than that.  She needed to know she was in it to win it and that she had forgiven her.  Otherwise she was leaving and Alex Morgan could strut all she wanted but there was no changing that.

 

Ashlyn sighed and nudged Ali a little and rested her elbow a little bit up against her side.  “Look Ali, I love you and there is no way I am letting you walk away.  If you leave, then I will follow you.”

 

“Why Ashlyn, why is that?  I haven’t been the best girlfriend to you and you told me this morning that you may never be able to get past the grudge you are holding.”

 

“Because I love you with everything in me.  The minute you leave me, my heart breaks in two and I can’t stand it.  You are the only one that I want.  You are sweet and kind and you are my best friend and the best friend I have ever had.  I can’t do this without you, nor do I want to.  I am not going to live without you.  If you want a different house that feels more like yours then we will get it.  If you don’t want to play in Orlando anymore and you want to go overseas again or to a different team, then we will go together.   This will never be my home if you aren’t here.   The pull between us is too strong.  I don’t care how much we argue or fight, or how much we don’t do the things the other wants, that is never going to change.   I have decided to bury the grudge I have been carrying and just let you be.  I don’t care what you do anymore as long as you do it with me.  This has become a giant pile of madness that got way out of control and I feel empty and hollow inside without you.  You are my soulmate and I don’t care what I say when I am angry, I love you with all of my heart Ali.  There is nothing you can do to change that.  You can move, you can leave, you can move overseas and put an ocean between us and my heart will always want to be with yours.”

 

“You know that is exactly what I have been wanting to hear Ashlyn, but it sure hasn’t felt that way over the past six months.  We wouldn’t even be speaking right now if the team wouldn’t have had a game in Houston and I didn’t reach out.  It didn’t seem to bother you at all, you were living a separate life and you even told me you were doing just fine.  How do I know that you aren’t just scared because you aren’t used to living a life without me in it?” Ali said feeling like she might as well get that off of her chest too while she was at it.

 

Ashlyn began picking at the grass, “I wasn’t doing just fine Ali.  I was angry, and I was trying to teach you a lesson and make you take me seriously about the things that I wanted.   And you know what, all of that just stemmed out of love Ali regardless if I went about it the right way or not.  All that it was about was that I wanted you to let me love you.   I didn’t want to have to wait until we got home or stashed away in private somewhere.  Sometimes the feelings I have for you are so intense that I can’t help myself and I don’t want to keep my hands off of you.  I just wanted to be able to show you, just like regular people do, to just be us without worrying about the rest of the world.  I really don’t think that was such an unreasonable request, to show the love of my life how proud I am of her, how much I love her, how much I want to be with her, and how much I need to connect with her.  Ali, I need to be able to connect physically and emotionally with you.  I can’t help it, it is who I am at the core of my being.  It really hurt me inside when I had to suppress it.  I felt like when I would bring it up, you would just try to fix it with sex and don’t get me wrong, having sex with you is my favorite thing in this world.  I forgive you and I apologize for my role in this mess and if you will come home with me, I will show you.”

 

Ali wiped the tears away that were running down her face.  She needed to hear these things from Ashlyn. 

 

“Thank you for saying that you forgive me.   I guess I should have delved in deeper about your needs for PDA and where it was all coming from.   I have needed to hear those things from you too you know.  I feel like all I hear about anymore is how I have been the rotten girlfriend because I wasn’t comfortable with PDA and sometimes it becomes overwhelming for me and I began to believe it all of the time.  Then that snowballs into, I don’t even know what I am doing here anymore if I am such a terrible person and maybe I should just leave.”

 

Ashlyn put her arm around Ali’s shoulders.  “Ali you are not a rotten girlfriend.  I love you more than anything in this world.  I don’t have as much fun with anyone as I do with you and I just need to be able to show you that sometimes and that is all.  It is simple as that.   Today when you left and I followed you, I realized that you are way more important than soccer could ever be to me.   If a hurricane were to strike tomorrow, the only thing I would grab is a bag of clothes, you, and now Pepe and that would be it.  Everything else could blow away, that is all that matters in the end.  I am done trying to hurt you, it’s never what I wanted anyway.  All I ever wanted to do was just love you and show you that as much as I could. The fact that we love each other has never changed, we have just had problems with how we express it to each other.  Will you please come home with me?  Are we done with all of this talk of you wanting to move out and change teams?”

 

Ali looked over into Ashlyn’s eyes.  “Yes.  I really don’t want to move and I don’t want to play anywhere else.  I am tired, we both need to get some sleep and you have an early flight tomorrow.”

 

“There is no way I am going to go home tomorrow after this.  We have been through way too much today and I think we just made a lot of progress.  I will leave at the crack of dawn Wednesday.  I need to be with you right now,” Ashlyn said as she hugged Ali closer.

 

“I’m not going home and having sex with you.  I don’t want you to think I am trying to fix things with sex.  I hate that you thought that is what I was doing in the past.   Anytime I have ever had sex with you, it was only because I wanted to be one with you.  I wasn’t trying to fix our problems with that.  I want you to know that I am serious and I want this to work,” Ali said as she got up, once again dusting herself off.  Before Ashlyn could reply, Alex began clapping and then Serv joined in as they both approached the pair.

 

“Finally, the polar ice cap has melted and all before sunset!  I thought we might be here until midnight.  It would have been worth it though just to see you with your arm around her,” Alex said directly to Ashlyn.

 

“Thank you Alex for helping two insanely stubborn people face the music and dance,” Ashlyn said.

 

“I owe you a big thank you as well and an apology,” Ali said as she hugged Alex.  In many ways over the years, Alex felt like a sister to her because she never hesitated to give her tough love.

 

“Accepted.  Jesus, I stretched just in case I had to chase you down.  I am so glad that I don’t have to play against you anymore, you are a real pain in the ass when it comes to out maneuvering me.  I just want you two to know, several of us on the team made a pact last week, we are never, ever, ever, letting the two of you split up.  We don’t care what the two of you try to do, it’s not happening.  You two have always been relationship goals for us.  You two are stuck together forever whether you like it or not and that is just the way it is.”

 

“I think we have realized that and we are totally ok with it,” Ashlyn said as she squeezed Ali’s waist and took her bag and slung it over her shoulder.

 

“Would you two like a ride home?  I am not sure Ashlyn can survive the hike back,” Alex laughed.   Serv pulled up next to them in his truck, flipped down the tailgate and patted it.   All three hopped on the back of it.

 

“You did a great job in picking out a hubby there Morgan,” Ali said as she hugged her friend.

 

“You didn’t do so bad yourself Krieger.  If I hadn’t have found Serv, I might have given you a run for your money,” Alex hugged back.

 

“I would have had to let you down nicely regardless of that SI swimsuit issue,” Ashlyn laughed.  “My heart only beats for one person on this planet and I am never letting her go, try as she might to run away every now and again.”

 

Ali gave Ashlyn a shot to her ribs with an elbow and smiled at her.  “Brat.”

 

“Well, if I don’t see you Ashlyn, have a safe trip back to Houston.  Hurry up and get that shoulder well so I can kick your ass when we come to town.  Jill says I have to start producing more goals so I am coming after you.”

 

“Bring it,” Ashlyn said as they pulled up in front of the house and she gave Alex a big hug.

 

Serv got out and gave both of them a hug.  “Anytime you need to work things out, just give us a call and we will set up street therapy.  Just give me a heads up first, all I had in my wallet was  hundred dollar bill.”

 

“Oh my god, here, Ali said as she reached in her bag for her purse.”

 

“No freaking way, that was the best $100 I ever spent.  The entertainment value alone was priceless.  Alex here is kind of hot when she is all pissed off and bossy.  Kind of makes me want to take her home and piss her off and see if she will get that way with me,” Serv laughed.

 

“Ew,” Ashlyn said and laughed.

 

Serv earned a pinch to his nipple for that one, “In your dreams,” she said as she hopped in the truck.

 

“Thank you so much Serv,” Ali said hugging him again.  

 

When they got inside, Ashlyn went straight to the bedroom, unpacked Ali’s things and put it all away in the drawers and hid the bag far back in the closet where she hoped it would never see the light of day again.

 

Ali watched with amusement from the doorway.   This was all she wanted, to know that she wasn’t the the only one fighting for them, who wanted them.   Ashlyn walked over to her and gave her a hug.   “Are we ok now?”

Ali pulled back.  “Yes.  I am just really tired and I am still a little grumpy and sad.  Today took its toll on me.  I just want to crawl in bed.”

 

“Ok,  I am going to go lock up the car and the house and I will be back in a second. It took Ashlyn a little longer than she anticipated after she noticed that one of the front lights was out and went to change the bulb.  Once she came back, she found Ali on her side, facing her back to the room, hugging her “Harris” pillow.  Just looking at the sight broke Ashlyn’s heart a little.

Chapter Text

Ashlyn changed into her sleepwear and crawled in to bed and on to her side behind Ali, putting her hand on Ali’s shoulder.

 

“You know, the real thing is better than that pillow,” Ashlyn said as she ran her hand to her back to rub it. There was no response and Ashlyn knew that Ali was pretending to be asleep.  Anytime they had an argument or a fight like they had that afternoon, it was customary for Ali to withdraw.  Ali was usually so strong willed and minded that sometimes Ashlyn had to be reminded of just how sensitive she was under her tough façade.

 

“Ali I know you are not asleep,” Ashlyn said as she leaned into kiss the back of Ali’s neck.  Ali may have not been responding but her body was because Ashlyn could see it.  “Baby talk to me.  I love you.”  Ashlyn knew she was going to have to work on melting the glacier that lie between them before she went back to Houston.  

 

“I think I am all talked out Ash.”

 

“We don’t have to talk baby,” Ashlyn said as she wrapped her arm around Ali’s waist and kissed her neck again.

 

“Ashlyn, I can’t right now.   I am not in the mood.”

 

“Ali if you still have something on your mind then we should talk about it now, we don’t have much time before I leave and I would really like for us to part on a good note.”

 

Ali sighed.  “Ashlyn, I can’t have sex with you right now.”

 

“Can you tell me what is going on, what you are feeling?  I think it is best we start talking things out because letting them sit and fester hasn’t been working out very well.”

 

Ali turned over on her back and stared up at the ceiling.   “I just feel really sad.   I am glad we talked things out but that doesn’t mean it still doesn’t sting.   I am doing my best to listen and tune in with your feelings.  I just can’t be physical with you right now.   I am not trying to hash up things and throw them back up but last week you said you felt like I thought you were just a fuck.   Today you told me that you felt like I would try to fix things with sex and to shut you up.   So, I think it would be best if I kept my hands off of you for a while.  Those things are aren’t crossing my mind at all when I have sex with you but obviously that is what I am projecting.”

 

Ashlyn laid back on her pillow too.  It seemed like nothing was easy anymore but she was determined to get all of this worked out tonight. 

 

“Al, look, I haven’t felt that way all of the time and I am sorry I hurt you by saying that,” Ashlyn said as she threw her arm up over eyes.

 

“We have to find a way to stop hurting each other with our actions and words.  Any time we make love, the only thing running through my head is my pure desire and love for you and me wanting to show it.  I can’t help if I am attracted to you.  I can’t help if sometimes when we argue you look incredibly hot and I just want to jump your bones.  It is not me trying to distract you, it is my pure desire for you. What you don’t know is that desire takes over my body about 3 different times a day and half of the time I have to swallow it down because we would never leave the house or the bed. I can now see how it is problematic.  So I think when we argue we should just cool our jets because it doesn’t make me feel good that you think I am trying to fix things with sex.  Let’s just get some rest,” Ali said as she rolled back over.

 

“Ouch,” Ashlyn replied.

 

“Yeah, ouch is right Ashlyn.  It really hurts me when you say those things to me.  You have no idea how I feel about you and that is mostly my fault because I haven’t done a great job at showing you.  So from now on when we argue we will just have to talk but I am not going to touch you. Quite honestly, I could never have sex again with you and still live happily with you.  That is not why I am with you.”

 

“Well that would be a terrible existence, not ever making love to you again. You are right, I have to stop using my words as weapons against you.  I know how you feel about me.  I swear half of the problems between us seem to be stemming from the sexual tension that passes back and forth between us because in the end, all we want to do is love each other.”

 

Ashlyn looked over at Ali and saw her shoulder’s slump a little as she relaxed back down into the mattress. 

 

“Ali, can we please just work on showing each other how much we love each other and work towards that instead of in the opposite direction?”

 

Ali said nothing and Ashlyn knew she was going to have to work a little harder.  She rolled back over on her side and leaned in to spoon Ali.  She began to kiss on the back of her neck again.

 

“Ali I get it, I need to start fighting more fair.  The truth is, I really don’t want to fight with you at all.  I don’t want to live in a world where you don’t touch me.  I need you to touch me Ali.”

 

Ali was doing her best to get this point across.  Ashlyn’s words were starting to get deep inside of her and conflict was swimming around in her gut.  She could never not want Ashlyn sexually but how do you get in the mood to make love to someone who says that you use sex to try to shut someone up or that you just see your partner as some kind of fuck.  So the battle raged on inside of her between heart and libido vs. her mind. 

 

Ashlyn held Ali tighter and rubbed her hand along Ali’s stomach.  

 

“Ali, I love you so much and I need you, I need to be with you, I need you Ali, I need to be close to you.”  Ashlyn leaned up some so she could hover over Ali and look down at her face and saw some tears coming down her face.

 

“Oh Ali, baby, don’t cry.  I didn’t mean to make you cry,” Ashlyn said as she tried to console Ali and wipe away the tears on her face. 

 

“I can’t help it.  I have feelings too.  Sometimes you can say things that really hurt and then you can say something like that which I need to hear so badly,” Ali sniffled.

 

“Then I will tell you more often, because I do.  I need you and I want you Ali.  I always have,” Ashlyn said as she moved up to straddle Ali’s side and gently began to tug at the pillow she was holding up to her chest.

 

“I want to be that pillow right now.”

 

Ali held on to it tighter.

 

“You leave me no choice then,” Ashlyn warned as she began to tickle Ali’s side, hip and ribs.  This was Ali’s weakness and she could not help but laugh.  

 

“Stop,” Ali laughed as Ashlyn began to attack mercilessly.   Ashlyn was laughing too and Ali began to bop her with the pillow and Ashlyn’s keeper skills went into full effect and she shut that little game down really quick. 

“Ash—lyn!”  Ali rolled on to her back and Ashlyn began to tickle her some more making Ali throw her head back even more as she tried to defend herself.  Ashlyn decided to let up on her for a minute because the view beneath her was just too gorgeous.  Ten years together and Ali still took her breath away. It felt so good to have fun again with Ali.

 

“What?” Ali asked as Ashlyn was kind of looking at her funny.

 

“I was just thinking about how you still take my breath away even more so ten years later.   You are more beautiful now then the first day I laid eyes on you.  I don’t know how it’s possible but your eyes are more beautiful, you have more character to your face.   The lines in the corner of your eyes, your laugh lines, the way your eyes and shine when you smile, even your smile, everything has grown more beautiful.  You are one of those women that becomes more beautiful with age and I feel like I have won some kind of jackpot.”

 

Ali looked up into Ashlyn’s eyes as she crossed her hands on her stomach.  She was doing everything in her power to keep her hands to herself.  It didn’t matter how mad she got with Ashlyn nature always took over and she had a hard time fighting her desire for the keeper.

 

“You still take my breath away too Ashlyn.  Along with your beauty, you have also become more cocky, and god help me, I find it incredibly sexy although I shouldn’t tell you that.”

 

Ashlyn leaned down to kiss Ali, but Ali put a hand on her chest to stop her.

 

“I don’t think we should do this.   I think we should take things slow between us until you feel more comfortable about where we stand.   After the season is over and you come home then we can work on things when we have time to be together every day.”

Chapter Text

Ashlyn smiled and threw her head back and chuckled. “Ali Krieger, if you think that I am going to wait six months to be with you again, you are crazy, I will go insane,” Ashlyn said as she put her fingers around Ali’s wrists, removed them from her chest and brought them over Ali’s head and pinned them down softly on the pillows. Ashlyn stared down into Ali’s beautiful brown eyes and made a mental promise to herself to never bring sex up in a fight again. The very thought of never having her tongue in Ali’s mouth again or not being able to be inside of her felt like the world might end. Ashlyn bent down and kissed the side of Ali’s neck and into her ear, she whispered, “I love you more than anything in this world Ali and I need to be inside of you and feel you.” Ashlyn then licked the shell of Ali’s ear and down to her pulse point on the side of her neck knowing that they were the areas that Ali couldn’t resist.

It took every bit of self-control that Ali had but somewhere deep inside, she was able to muster it. She wrapped her legs around Ashlyn’s back and quickly flipped them over.

“I love you too more than anything in this world too and that is why I am doing this. Krieger Field is shut down for renovations for the Summer. I mean what I said earlier, from now on I am going to communicate with you when we are going through a rough patch. I am not going to muddle it with sex.”

“Ali, come on baby, look I was angry, I know that is not how it really is between us,” Ashlyn said as she stared up into Ali’s eyes.

Ali rolled off of Ashlyn and onto her back again. “Look Ashlyn, if you hadn’t been angry you just would have kept those feelings swallowed down. You wouldn’t have said it if you weren’t feeling it and the reason you did was because you couldn’t keep it down anymore. I am going to say this one more time, I don’t think of having sex with you as some casual meaningless thing. You should know me by now Ashlyn. Because it does mean so much to me to be with you like that, now I can’t do it with you because those words are running through my mind and it breaks my heart. This rift between us isn’t going to be fixed overnight and I know I have a lot of work to do.”

Ashlyn sighed, “Well I guess I have no choice but to except this and I just want you to know that this is the last thing I want. I am sorry and apologize for the things I said. I am glad we are at least talking things out and that you are still here and we are still together so I’ll take it. Can I please at least hold you while we sleep?”

Ali figured she was at least going to have to meet Ashlyn somewhere. The distance and time that was about to be between them was going to make things more difficult. “Yes,” Ali said as she rolled into Ashlyn draping her arm across her stomach. “Thank you for apologizing, I forgive you. I hope you can forgive me for my past actions and for making you feel that you had to leave.”

Ashlyn held her tighter. “I already have.”

Ali wasn’t sure if that was true or not but she was just going to let it be and hope that it was the case. Time would tell. Six hours ago she was fully prepared to start a new life overseas if need be. She was so tired of being upset, tired of crying, and tired of all the emotional toll this was taking on her. She was through punishing herself and she hoped that she and Ashlyn could hit a reset button for their future.

The next morning Ali woke up wrapped up in Ashlyn’s arms. The sun was coming in through the window, shining down on Ashlyn’s beautiful face. Ali wanted nothing more to wake up Ashlyn the way she always wanted to but she knew for the sake of their relationship and her own sanity, she couldn’t. She gently unwrapped herself out of Ashlyn’s arms and got up to get ready for practice. Since they lost, they had a morning practice and wouldn’t be getting the day off. She left a note for Ashlyn on her nightstand and also texted her phone that she had to go to practice for a few hours and then maybe they could meet up for lunch and go do something later. She packed her gym bag and got into her car. As soon as she backed out, her phone rang and she could see it was her agent.

“Hello Ali. Well, I just got a call from P&G and it looks like they will honor the contract and then they will re-evaluate things at the end of the term. They want to see what the feedback is going to be from the public and they will decide if they want to do a new ad campaign and photo shoot.”

Ali was thrilled. “Thank you so much Elliot, I am glad they are going to honor their commitment. Even if they don’t want to do a new campaign, as long as they honor their commitment and I don’t have to pay back anything, that is the best I could expect.”

Elliot smiled, “I don’t know what you said to them Ali but I am proud of you. It is very rare that I have clients who are willing to go to bat when something like this happens.”

“Thank you, I don’t mind it as long as it gets me closer to my goals. I want to have a baby with Ashlyn and I want to own my own NWSL team one day and both of those things take money and I have been scraping to save every dime I can get. I am about to do some interviews with Ashlyn and most likely we will be coming out as a couple. So get prepared Elliot, this is either going to be great, or cause more of a shit storm.”

“Thank you for letting me know. Let me know if I can help you in anyway, as long as you are happy, I am happy.”

“Thanks Elliot, talk to you soon,” Ali replied and hung up. She felt like a huge weight had been taken off of her shoulders. She hoped that maybe for the rest of this week, she could go back to being an athlete again.

Ashlyn woke up to an empty bed. She grabbed her glasses and saw there was a note on the nightstand about a morning practice. Ashlyn got up, showered, and ate breakfast. She was getting to experience what this house was like when Ali wasn’t in it for the second time in the past few days and she realized how much it sucked. She put herself in Ali’s shoes once again and realized how much it must have sucked for Ali being there alone. She thought about how strong Ali is and how she does endure a lot of adversity and that she should probably give her more credit than what she does. She pulled out her phone and answered Ali’s text:

Ash: Hey babe, have a great practice today. I love you.

Ali: Thank you, I love you back and I have a bit of news to share later. Let’s meet for lunch at Scratch at 1:00

Ash: See you then 

The day only got better when Ali arrived at practice because the team was so excited to welcome Marta to the team. They worked on drills all morning and Coach Sermani was trying to figure out what positon would be best for Marta to play. Alex was enjoying giving her shit at practice asking her if she needed to call her an Uber. Ali made her pay for it when they played their scrimmage. One thing was certain, the Pride were going to be fantastic with Marta and Alex striking on the front line.

 

Ashlyn headed out for lunch and texted Carli to let her know she was coming back very early in the morning and heading straight to practice. She asked for an update on Pepe and received a picture of Carli receiving treatment in the training room and Pepe lying next to her on a cooling gel pad with the cone on his head. Ashlyn forwarded the pic to Ali and left to go meet her and got them a booth at Scratch. When Ali walked in Ashlyn’s stomach dropped and her loins began to stir. She never wished so badly to take something back that she said because this period of abstinence was going to kill her and Ali was only growing more beautiful as each day passed she thought to herself. Ali approached the booth and Ashlyn got up to hug her and give her a peck on the cheek. Ashlyn definitely dressed to turn her on today and it was working. If she could make it one more day until Ashlyn left, then she could take care of herself because she sure needed some release. If things were normal between them, she would have tortured Ashlyn all throughout lunch and then took her home and fucked her for the rest of the day until she was too sore to walk. Ali shoved that thought to the back of her mind and sat down in the booth next to Ashlyn.

“You look gorgeous as always, I am going to have to sit on my hands. So how was practice?” Ashlyn asked.

“You look pretty hot yourself. It was pretty great. Alex and Marta are going to be double trouble on our front line. I feel like I can now send a cross up and someone will be there to strike it in. I think once we gel, this team is going to rock.”

“Did you see the pic I sent you?”

Ali pulled her phone out of her purse as they ordered. “Aww Ash, just look at him. My poor liebling, his thing is probably still on fire. I love Carli for making sure his little area is soothed down there.”

Ashlyn laughed. “She told me that she had the trainers put some Aloe Vera on it.”

“I am going to have to send her something for taking such good care of him. You know how itchy that shit gets once you have been cut open, and then not to be able to rub or scratch it, I can only imagine.”

“Yeah, I totally know what he is going through right now, in more ways than one,” Ashlyn said as she took a drink of water.

Ali just pursed her lips and fluttered her eyes which of course made the discomfort in Ashlyn’s loins even worse.

“So tell me about your news.”

Ali’s eyes lit up. “Oh yes, Elliot called and said P&G is going to ride things out with me and see how the public reaction goes. They may do a new ad campaign, they may not but at least I won’t have to pay anything back and they are going to honor my contract. I also told Elliot we may be doing some interviews to announce our relationship so that he could prepare for that. I told him my goals were to have a baby with you one day and to own a NWSL team and that both take money and hopefully he got the hint. I am going to go full out and try to maximize every opportunity I can find. FC Barcelona just announced today that it wants to have a women’s NWSL team next year. Well, I want one too and I want to see who else might be in. I am thinking Frisco or LA might be a good opportunity since the attendance for the USWNT games in those places are excellent. I wonder if Carli, Pinoe, and Alex would be interested in investing. Most importantly, what do you think of all of this?”

Ashlyn was looking at Ali with complete admiration. She took Ali’s right hand and held it only to have Ali squeeze her hand back. “I am so very proud of you Ali, do you have any idea the balls it takes to go into P&G and tell them how it is going to be? To own an NWSL team would be a dream, I am all in. I think we both know what it takes to attract world class players, both of those places have soccer specific stadiums, we all know what it takes to do the community outreach and what it takes to draw the fans in.”

“Well, I think with the popularity of this group we have on the USWNT now and the ones that have left since the world cup, I think we should strike sooner rather than later before someone else does.”

Ashlyn thought about it for a second. “How could we do that now and keep it under wraps, I mean we can’t be trying to do this while we are playing ourselves and I think we both want another shot at a world cup or Olympics.”

“I have been thinking about that too. That may be more likely to happen for you than it will for me. I am going to hang in there and see what happens but I have no idea what Jill Ellis’ plans are for me and I can’t sit around waiting four years only to have her hose me over. So I was thinking about contacting Abby. Abby might be able to be the face of the group for a while until we see what happens with the rest of us. She is also in LA now with Glennon and is positioned well. I think we should start testing the waters with the gals that we like and get along with. I think we need to start thinking about who all we know outside of soccer who have some star power and money. The team is not going to be great the first few years anyway, and then maybe by the time I retire, it will be just the right time to announce who was behind it all along. In the end, I want this to be our team Ashlyn. You and me as majority partners. I want the others to be supportive partners and I want that known from the very start. I really need to sit down and hammer out different scenarios. I think Taylor Swift might be interested. What is Hope doing these days. We both know she has a mouth on her but she sure as hell can attract those little girls to the games. We need money and we need star power and star power is one thing those of us who are currently not playing can give. Now I am looking at Marta right now. The NWSL can only pay her 42K but she came over here for endorsements. Well, if we could get her in LA in a couple of years, imagine that. Now Frisco would be a whole different beast but it is doable. Soccer in Texas is huge. I know how much we love the beach and the water, I love central Florida. Maybe even Alex would sell the Pride. I mean if we could own, play and coach, that would be the ultimate. I am just throwing things out there right now, the stadium would be the biggest challenge in that scenario. I mean if Janinie Van Wyk can start her own soccer club in South Africa, why can’t we have one too? I just think we need to start on this before we have to take a location in a place where we don’t want to live. I would love Tampa or Miami too, I just don’t know if the fan base is there and I don’t know what kind of money this takes but I sure as hell intend to find out.”

As Ashlyn began to listen to all of this, her heart began to soar. They could totally do this. If they got the National Team girls together that they liked and gelled with to go in, that would be incredible.

“My head is spinning Ali. Just think, Rampone already owns two Jersey Mike’s subs. We could get her in on the concessions. I would say Pinoe and I are probably the best at merchandise. Abby and Hope have the biggest sponsor star power of the players who aren’t currently playing. I wouldn’t put Hope in any kind of ownership position because she is way too Alpha for us all but fly her out once a week to broadcast the games and she brings in immediate star power and draws in the thousands of kiddos. I mean, if we got our own team, why couldn’t you and I go play for it as the two allocated players from the USWNT once our contracts are up with our club teams? Unless of course Alex wants out of the Pride and he just wants to focus on the men’s team. How could we even approach him without pissing him off?”

“I don’t mind asking him, I will find a way. He comes to our practices at least once a week, I can test the waters to see how things are going, has it all been worth it, what would it take, etc. Hell if I had to retire from the NWSL to get this done at first and then come back as a player I would. US Soccer is running the whole shebang and Jeff Plush just stepped down. I am even more interested in us possibly approaching Sunil Gulati. I feel like the two of us have stayed on his good side since you, me and Alex didn’t become the face of the equal pay fight even though we were involved. The ones that jumped on 60 minutes and ESPN are kinda in the dog house. I know ideally they want a team backed by and MSL team but I also know they are looking at individual investors and I would like to think we would have a leg up in that with our knowledge of the game and experience. We just need some money behind us and I would prefer that money to come from investors who have a lot of it and don’t want to be involved in the day to day until we could get this rolling. I think someone like Taylor Swift would be perfect because she is interested in the game. Then we have these companies, if things go well with P&G, maybe I could turn them. BP is trying to do everything in their power to rectify their image with the oil spill in the Gulf. BMW has always been behind me. I’ve been stashing away enough over the years that I could probably keep this operation going for 2-3 years alone but it would deplete every dime I have. But I look at these places where KC and the Reign play and I am like, why not us. We have seen high school stadiums that are nicer.”

Ashlyn was ready to do cartwheels, this sounded so amazing.

“Seriously Ali, you need to start writing all of this shit down so that you can start a business plan. I think the first order of business is to talk to Alex and then speak with US Soccer. We can fly to Chicago or wait until our teams play the Red Stars if we can’t find the time to go up and let’s see what cities they would consider and how open to the idea they are for expansion. If worse comes to worse, I have enough money stashed away that could support our living expenses for a couple of years but with even just one of our National Team Salaries, we are fine. I don’t want to retire yet so I really think Abby is our best option so we should talk to her immediately and Taylor, well she still keeps up with a few of us so that won’t be a problem. So let’s talk to those 4 first and then go from there. You work on Alex and Sunil, I will work on Taylor and Abby and then let’s reconvene and go from there. Wow, Glennon might have some connections too, we all know what network she is affiliated with.”

“That sounds like a plan, fuck I am so excited. Let’s do this Ashlyn, if it doesn’t work out then we become soccer moms, college coaches, or broadcasters working for someone else our entire lives. Once we do these interviews, if any endorsements should come our way, I think we should take them and add that money to the pile for a team of our own.”

“Let’s do it. Now look, I did a lot of thinking this morning and I meant what I said last night. I have forgiven you and I want to put all of this past bullshit behind us. Deep down inside, I do not mean those things I said. This is what you and I are meant to be doing, working as a team, loving one another, and starting a family. I want to marry you and I want to build a future with you. I don’t want to walk around halfcocked and sexually frustrated for the next six months. I am done dredging up the past, I am done fighting, and I just want to move forward. This is when you and I are the best together, when we are making positive shit happen for our future. I am done being apart from you, I love you so much that it hurts. Now please come home with me and let me show you that, lets become one, get in sync with our hearts and minds and show the world that we are the A-team that everyone thinks we are. Please Ali, I can’t take not being with you. I have learned my lesson and I need you.”

Ali finished her salad and decided Ashlyn was right. She was over this past bullshit too and dredging up old shit that was just going to hold them back. The two of them really didn’t need to be walking around with their pussies on fire if they had all of this lying ahead of them along with the USWNT games that were slated for June and July along with the pressure they would be feeling with their club teams, endorsements and the interviews they were about to do.

“Ok Ashlyn. If you really mean it and you promise me that you are done thinking of me and sex in that way. I don’t want to argue and fight anymore. Dredging up old shit is counterproductive and all I have wanted to do with you is move forward. Can you promise me that you are on the same page and will stop that shit?”

Ashlyn smiled, “I 100% promise you Alex. I am done with all of it. I can see the changes you are making and how your attitude is changing. I was thinking this morning about how strong you are and how you are willing to meet me half way and that I haven’t been giving you the credit you deserve for it.”

Ali could see the sincerity in Ashlyn’s eyes. “Thank you. Ok then let’s go home. However don’t blame me if you go back to Houston sore and limping. Just know what you are about to get yourself into, because I am sex deprived with you and I don’t plan on stopping. I hope you ate your Wheaties this morning.” And with that, Ali got up and swayed her hips as she walked away, knowing full well that Ashlyn would be staring at her ass as she requested her car from the valet. Ashlyn couldn’t flag down their waiter fast enough to pay for the bill.

Chapter Text

As Ali drove home with Ashlyn in hot pursuit she couldn’t help but smile. If she had learned anything these past six months it was to begin thinking on a grand scale. Her days of sweating the small bullshit were over. A year ago her worries were all about what if someone found out she was gay and what would that do to her image and career. Maybe what happened to her was for a reason and to make her grow a big pair of balls. Now she was beginning to care less about those things. If she could go into the headquarters of Proctor and Gamble and convince them not to drop her, she could probably sell others on a whole lot more. Now trying to hang on to her position on the National Team was no longer the biggest thing she had swirling around in her mind. Why should she wait for Jill to hoe her over to start working on her dream to own a NWSL team? She could begin the planning phases now and even better, she had Ashlyn on her side. Ashlyn seemed to be just as enthusiastic as she was and to do this together with Ashlyn, to be able to work side by side on this dream while living in the same city would be amazing. And what people thought of them, well she could count the fucks she could give on one hand. Ali suddenly felt renewed and for once she felt like she and Ashlyn could put all of this petty bullshit in their rear view mirror, they had way more important things waiting for them in their future. The thought of it made her horny as hell.

Ashlyn sighed as they hit every red light on the drive back home from lunch. Her desire for Ali was lighting her loins on fire to the point that it was almost uncomfortable. They made it one whole day not connecting with each other and Ashlyn was a mess. She couldn’t help that every time she looked at Ali she wanted her and she felt stupid for letting things get out of hand once again. The distance was driving Ashlyn nuts. At lunch, to hear Ali’s plans for their future, to watch her girlfriend speak like that, well, Ashlyn just wanted to take Ali right there in the booth in the restaurant. To watch Ali go through this change in life where she was thinking about their future and the more important things in life, she couldn’t help but be turned on. She knew Ali was extremely smart, but never in her wildest dreams did she expect all of this out of Ali today. It left her feeling excited and invigorated about their future which was a stark contrast from the dismal picture Ali painted for their future yesterday. Ashlyn decided to keep in mind that these petty things between them were Neanderthalish and to remember that the next time they had an argument. She really needed to keep what was important in perspective and the amazing things the two of them could do together if they worked as a team.

When Ashlyn pulled in behind Ali and walked into the house, she was instantly grabbed as the door shut behind her and she was pushed up against it. Ali was instantly on her lips and her hands were running all over her body.

“I am so happy Krieger Field is having her Grand Re-Opening today,” Ashlyn smiled into Ali’s lips as they kissed.

Ali chuckled, “Only for you. You get the special stadium tour today. Maybe you will get lucky and hit a homerun.”

“Oh I plan to hit a couple of grand slams,” Ashlyn said as she walked Ali towards the bedroom ridding her of items of clothing along the way. It was killing Ashlyn that she couldn’t pick Ali up the way she wanted to and take her to the bedroom.

“I don’t know, I hear the walls are pretty deep, this is definitely not a hitter’s park,” Ali smirked as she pulled off as much clothing as she could grab on Ashlyn.

“That’s why I brought my special bat. You see the pitcher throws a lot of heat but I know all of her weaknesses and tells. Oh and those concession stands, I could eat at them all day.”

That alone made Ali’s stomach drop as she felt that all too familiar flood happen between her legs anytime things heated up with Ashlyn. A lustful look overcame Ali’s face.

“What?” Ashlyn asked with a knowing smile.
“Nothing or no one has ever been able to turn me on the way that you do Ashlyn. You have no idea the power you have over me sometimes. I swear I would do anything for you. God help me, I would. I can’t even stay mad at you for more than a day. I hope you know that you have my heart and you always will.”

“You have mine too Ali and only you. That’s why we fight like we do because we feel so deeply about each other. If we didn’t care and love each other so much we wouldn’t blow up. Seriously though, I don’t want to do that with you anymore. I just want us to be a team from here on out. Together, we can get through and make anything happen.”

“I want that too,” Ali replied and pulled Ashlyn in for a passionate kiss. Ashlyn shed the rest of the clothes between them and walked Ali back to the bed. The feelings of love and desire she had for Ali were almost overwhelming. Ali laid back on the bed, spread her legs and held out her arms to invite Ashlyn to come lay on top of her. As Ashlyn’s head hovered over Ali’s face, Ali grabbed both sides of her face to stare into the beautiful eyes she loved so much. “I need you, you know. If I have to tell you a million times I will. My heart aches for you. I need you emotionally, I need you as my best friend, I need you in every way possible. That is how it has always been and that’s how it always will be for me.”

Ashlyn smiled and leaned down to kiss Ali. “It’s like that for me too. I don’t want a life without you in it Ali. I need you too in more ways than you can ever imagine. Things aren’t right in my life unless things are right with you and soon we are going to be together and take on the world.”

Ali pulled her down for another kiss before Ashlyn moved to her favorite part on the side of Ali’s neck to run her tongue there and along the side of her neck. Ali ran her hands along Ashlyn’s back and shoulders and closed her eyes because to her, this is what heaven felt like, to have Ashlyn on top of her, in their bed at home. Ashlyn moved her tongue up to Ali’s jaw line and planted several kisses on her face. “What do you want tonight baby?”

Ali lowered her hands to Ashlyn’s ass. “Everything. I want everything. I need you.”

Ashlyn smiled, licked one of Ali’s nipples and asked, “How about the strap on?”

“Fuck yes Ashlyn, I want you inside of me,” Ali replied. Those words alone almost made Ashlyn come right there. There was something about being on top of her that way, giving Ali pleasure and watching her face as she made love to her, that drove her insane. It was an image she wanted to engrain into her head that day to take back with her to Houston. When Ashlyn returned to the bed to give Ali what she wanted, she looked over Ali’s beautiful body and took another image to engrain in her head. Here before her lie a woman that only got more beautiful with age. Ali pulled Ashlyn down on top of her loving the way her strong keeper looked at her and felt around her. She let her hands roam up the colorful inked tattoos she loved so much on Ashlyn’s side before they found their way to hold on to Ashlyn’s biceps, another thing that drove Ali wild.

“I want you inside of me now, please don’t tease me Ash,” Ali said as she held on to Ashlyn’s face. Ashlyn did want to tease her and to enjoy every inch of her body but they had all afternoon and night for that so she decided to give Ali what she wanted right then and there.

“Ali, you are perfection,” Ashlyn said as she leaned down to kiss her while reaching down to run the tip of the cock up and down Ali’s folds, eliciting a moan and causing Ali to squeeze her harder. “I love you so much,” Ashlyn said as she went to enter her slowly, as she watched the look overtake Ali’s face that she loved so much.

“I love you too baby,” Ali said as she wrapped an arm around Ashlyn’s back and cradled the back of her neck and head with the other one. She wrapped her legs around Ashlyn’s and held on tight for the ride as Ashlyn began to suck and lick on the side of her neck. Ashlyn felt so good on top of her like this but she needed more, it had been a long time since Ashlyn had been with her in this way and it was one of her favorite ways for them to make love. Ali reached to grab both sides of Ashlyn’s face again and looked in her eyes.
“Fuck me Ashlyn, please baby.”

Ashlyn looked into Ali’s eyes and smiled and began to quicken the pace of her thrusts, fast and deep just the way Ali liked it. She went to return her face in the crook of Ali’s neck where she could get more leverage but Ali wouldn’t let her. “Look into my eyes baby, I want to see those beautiful eyes when I come.” Ashlyn was so turned on and there was nothing she would rather do than stare into those beautiful cinnamon eyes. Ali wrapped her legs around Ashlyn’s ass, driving Ashlyn deeper into her.

“Fuck yes, fuck that feels so good.” It wasn’t long before Ali couldn’t formulate words and all she could get out was moans. Ashlyn had to detach herself from her own feelings before she exploded herself and just focused on moving her thrusts faster inside of Ali. She loved how Ali’s neck and face became flushed as a look of pure bliss came over her face.

“Talk to me baby, I want to hear you,” Ashlyn commanded.

“Yes, Ashlyn, fuck you feel so fucking good. Make me come baby.” Ashlyn angled her hips upwards making sure to hit Ali’s sweet spot over and over which always made her come. “Yes, baby, yes, right the fuck there,” Ali begged feeling the orgasm she needed so badly being just seconds away.

“Come for me Ali, let it go,” Ashlyn said and drove her tongue into Ali’s mouth. That was all it took before it hit Ali. She grabbed on to Ashlyn’s shoulders so tight and squeezed her legs around Ashlyn’s ass even tighter as she rode out her orgasm. Ashlyn continued to kiss her before she fell into a sweaty heap on top of Ali. Ashlyn stayed inside of her and laid her head on Ali’s chest, listening to her heartbeat.

“Fuck yes, Ash, baby I needed that so bad,” Ali said as she threw her arm up over her eyes, smiling that beautiful bright smile as her chest heaved up and down. Just the sight of that, of what she could do to Ali and how she could make her feel made Ashlyn’s heart soar.

“You are so fucking sexy Ali. You drive me wild.”

Ali moved her arm and pulled Ashlyn up to kiss her. “I drive you wild? Christ you should see and feel what it is like to be on that ride, and the view I get is incredible.”

“I am so happy Krieger Field is open,” Ashlyn said making the both of them giggle. Ashlyn pulled out of Ali and discarded the strap on. She crawled down Ali’s body, placing kisses along her body until she ended up with her face in between Ali’s legs. She wanted to collect the present she knew was waiting for her after Ali came. Tasting Ali was something that she craved, in the months they were apart she could just be driving down the road and she could swear the taste of Ali would creep into her mouth when she thought about her. She craved Ali in that way, it was something she could never get enough of. Ashlyn leaned down to gather the nectar that was pooled in between Ali’s legs and drank it in, flattening out her tongue and running it up and down between Ali’s lips.

“Oh god, yes Ashlyn, oh Ash,” Ali moaned out as Ashlyn drove her fucking nuts with her tongue. Ashlyn ran her tongue over Ali’s clit and then down to her entrance before back up to her clit again. Then she placed her lips around Ali’s clit and sucked it into her mouth as she flicked her tongue over it hard and fast, making Ali come again almost instantly. Ali felt like every nerve in her body was sucked into Ashlyn’s mouth and at the mercy of her tongue. She felt that familiar twitch in her abdomen, curled her toes and completely let go once again in Ashlyn’s mouth.

“Fuck yes!” Ali yelled out. She felt like a complete puddle and pulled Ashlyn to come up and lay on top of her and held her, squeezing her tightly. They both drifted off into a little nap before Ali got up and returned the favor. When they finally came up for air, it was almost ten hours later until there was not one more orgasm left in either of them and they were completely drained. Ali kept her promise to make Ashlyn sore in the best of ways and they both got up to grab a shower and a quick sandwich before snuggling back into bed for the night.

“I love you so much Ashlyn, I hate that you have to leave in the morning.”

“I love you too Ali. I hate that I do too but we will be back together soon. I am going to let you sleep in, I don’t want to wake you,” Ashlyn said as she wrapped her arms around Ali.

“Don’t you want me to drop you off?” Ali asked.

“No, I have to take the rental car back, plus I don’t want a repeat of last week for our airport goodbye,” Ashlyn said, kissing Ali’s forehead.

“Ashlyn, I don’t care anymore. What happened last week was unexpected but it’s over with. It can’t be a novelty every time we say goodbye anymore. At least let me give you a ride from the rental car place to the drop off. If anyone wants to snap another picture of us saying goodbye, this time they are going to get my middle finger while I kiss you. How does that sound?”

Ashlyn laughed, “Ok baby, that sounds good. I can give them one too.” They both smiled and kissed.

“Now hold me tight like the world is going to end so I can remember what it feels like to fall asleep in your arms until we can be together again,” Ali said as she threw her arm and leg up over Ashlyn and drifted off to sleep.

The sound of Ashlyn’s alarm came way too quickly. It was loud, unwelcome, and something neither of them wanted to hear. They got up, dressed and Ashlyn pulled all of her last minute items together before sharing one last kiss before they had to leave. Although she tried her hardest, Ali couldn’t stop the tears from leaving her eyes the whole drive there. She tried to stop by the time that Ashlyn got in the car after dropping off her car, but Ashlyn could see the redness and the moisture in them. She reached over and grabbed Ali’s hand and squeezed it tightly. Saying goodbye was never easy for either of them. When Ashlyn went to grab her bag, Ali got out too.

“I love you so much baby, call me when you land and let me know how things are going. I am going to call Jill today like we planned.”

“I guess we should have done that together yesterday,” Ashlyn winced.

“Don’t worry about it baby, I got this, besides we had more important things to do then talk to her,” Ali winked and brought Ashlyn in for a kiss. Ashlyn tried to keep it to a peck but Ali wasn’t having it and deepened it, determined to be consistent for Ashlyn and show her that this is how it was going to be from now on between them. She could feel Ashlyn melt into her and smiled into their kiss and held her tightly. It wasn’t long before the tears were coming out of Ashlyn’s eyes, tears that were a combination of Ali’s commitment to her and the pain of leaving her.

“I love you Ali Krieger.”

I love you Ashlyn Harris.”

One last hug and Ashlyn was gone. Ali went to get in her car before things got any harder and drove off once she saw Ashlyn make it inside. She went home to get a couple more hours of sleep before she had to go to practice that day. As she laid her head on her pillow, she dreamed of a not so distant day when there would be no more goodbyes like this.

++++++

Ali woke up at 9:00 a.m. to get ready for the day and first on her list was to call Jill. She sipped her first cup of coffee of the morning as the phone rang.

“Hello Ali, are your ears burning?” Jill asked when she answered the phone.
“Hey Jill, um no, why is something up?” Ali asked.

“Oh, I am just sitting her going over the roster for the Euro friendlies. I might as well tell you now as I was going to call you later anyway,” Jill replied.

Ali’s stomach began to do flip flops, this was going to be bad, she could tell. “Ok, what is it?”

“You won’t be on the roster for Sweden, this is my chance to see what lies out there in defensive backs.”

Ali swallowed hard and wanted to hit the table with fist. She could feel her cheeks flush red immediately and she was trying her best to stay composed. “God Dammit,” she thought to herself. “What the fuck else could go wrong?”

“Ali are you there?” Jill asked.

“Uh, yes. Well thank you for letting me know,” Ali replied fighting back the tears. Ali wanted to rip Jill’s head off and it was taking every bit of self-control she had not to.

“Ali, take this opportunity to improve your game. I have been telling this to our whole team. You aren’t the only one I am saying this to right now.”

“Ok Jill, I hear you loud and clear,” Ali said as her fingers began to shake while holding the phone.

“So what were you calling to tell me about if it wasn’t to discuss the roster release today?” Jill asked.

“Well, I am not sure it matters anymore after this.”

“Go ahead anyway, let me know what is on your mind.”

“I was calling to just give you and US Soccer a heads up that Ashlyn and I are going to most likely come out in an interview soon. I am sure you caught wind of the spectacle last weekend. Does that have anything to do with your decision?”

Jill sighed. “Ali you know I have a partner too. What kind of hypocrite would I be if I based my decision about the roster on that? I am proud of you and that you are going to finally do it, we were wondering if you ever would.”

“Well thank you. I am not trying to cause any trouble for the team or take attention away from it in anyway but I have to start living my life too and I can’t have TMZ Sports turning my life into a circus every time I say good bye to Ashlyn. I hope you know that the both of us have always put this team first. This is why I stayed quiet for so many years.”

“You know Ali, this might be the perfect time for you to come out. Come out, do your interviews, get your house and your game in order. Ashlyn needs to rehab that shoulder and hopefully you both will have something to prove in a few months. I have to do what is best for this team to make a serious run in 2019 for the world cup.”

“Ok Jill, thank you, I will. Do I need to call anyone else at US Soccer about this?”

“No, I will tell our PR people. Do you have any idea who you are going to do it with?”

“Ashlyn and I were thinking about Julie Foudy first at ESPNW and then maybe the Advocate and SI after that.”

“That sounds like a good course of action. Just know I have your back on this, we all do. Let us know when you firm up your plans so we can be ready over here.”
“Ok Jill, thank you. Best of luck to you guys in Sweden,” Ali said as she hung up. Yeah, Jill had her back alright, a knife right in the middle of her back Ali thought as she started her second cup of coffee. All of the emotional toll over these past few months finally caught up with her and now Jill thought her game was shit. Ali felt like she was on the verge of having a nervous breakdown and decided to ask for help and called Alex Morgan.

“Kriegy, whats up?” Alex said.

“Do you have a minute to come over here before practice?” Ali asked.

Alex knew it had to be important and could hear Ali’s voice shaking. “I’ll be right over. Let me grab my bag and I will come over, we can even go to practice together if you want, I can drive.”

“Thanks Alex.”

Alex knew it was roster day and something had to be up. She quickly grabbed her practice gear, her bag, purse and headed over to Ali’s.

Ali’s next call was to Ashlyn as she was waiting. She felt like her heart was going to thump out of her chest. As luck would have it Ashlyn just landed and was still on the plane waiting to deplane.

“Hey babe, we just landed I was just going to text you.”

“I’m so glad Ash,” Ali said trying to stifle back the tears. Ashlyn knew Ali too well and could immediately hear the upset in her voice.

“Ali? Are you ok babe?”

“No. No I’m not,” Ali said as she started to freely cry and the tears began to flow. She went over to open the front door and unlock it so Alex could let herself in.

“Ali you are scaring me, baby, please tell me what’s wrong.”

Ali was trying to stop the sobs and all of the sudden couldn’t. Alex walked in and found Ali on the floor of the living room on her knees in front of the couch with her head in her hands and the phone on her ear. She ran over to Ali and knelt down beside her.

“Ali? Honey are you ok, what’s wrong?” Alex asked. Ashlyn could hear Alex in the background.

“Ali baby, please give the phone to Alex.” Ali handed the phone to Alex as she continued to sob and gasp for air.

“Hello? Ashlyn?” Alex said as she looked at the phone to see who she was going to speak to.

“Alex! I am just getting off the plane, Ali just called me and something is horribly wrong, she just started sobbing and hasn’t told me what it is yet. What in the hell is going on there. Is she ok physically?”

Alex looked Ali over and began rubbing her back to try to console her. “I think so, as far as I can tell, I just walked in, she just called me. Ali, honey, you need to calm down and breathe so you can tell Ash and I what is wrong.” Alex got up and went to the fridge to grab a bottle of water and some kleenex.

“Ash, I am going to put you on speaker while I try to figure this out ok, I need to calm her down first and get her breathing right.”

“Alex, look at her call log, see if she just spoke to someone.” Alex looked and sure enough the call before her and Ash was Jill Ellis.
“It looks like she just spoke to Jill Ellis before she called me and then you,” Alex sighed.

“Ok. Fuck. Ali was going to tell her about us coming out in an interview,” Ashlyn said.

“And, today is roster announcement day for the Euro friendlies,” Alex added.

“Damn I wish I was there. Look make sure she knows that no matter what was said or happened we are going to get through this together and this isn’t the end of the world no matter what ok?” Ashlyn could feel her own body begin to shake.
.
“I will stay on the phone for as ever long as it is needed, I am not going anywhere, I love you Ali, we can get through anything. Just take your time and let it all out,” Ashlyn tried to say soothingly.

Alex sat right beside Ali and pulled her into her lap, holding her while she cried, phone on the floor next to them as Ali broke down.

Ali wanted to tell the both of them but the enormity of everything was all consuming. All of the emotional toll of the last six months, of Houston, of TMZ, of P&G, the loss in Portland, the last fight with Ashlyn, all of it came crashing down right there and then and she couldn’t talk. All she could do was cry.

“Ali, please take a sip of water honey so you don’t hyperventilate.” Alex said and looked at her watch. She was never so thankful for a late morning practice at 11:00 that day.

Chapter Text

Ashlyn reached for her headphones in her bag to put them on so she could stay on the phone while Ali calmed down. She was never so thankful for Alex Morgan in that moment and made a mental note to send her and Carli the biggest bouquets of flowers she could find for all of the shit they had been through together in the last few weeks. Ashlyn had never wanted to kill Jill Ellis as much as she did in this moment. If she gave any grief to Ali about her coming out, Ashlyn was going to explode, especially since Jill was gay herself. She knew Jill could get a stick up her ass about anything taking attention away from the team. But when Ashlyn thought about all of the antics she had witnessed over the years, how could this be on that same level? Abby just admitted in her biography that she was out of control with her drinking and eating muffins which had slowed her down considerably the last few years but they all sucked it in and forged on. Then there was Hope. Hope who never watched anything that came out of her mouth and would get in fights with Abby, with her coaches, and public twitter wars with Julie Foudy and Brandi Chastain. Those same very girls that built the USWNT to what it was today. Then there was her suspension for her family skirmish and then another one for her hubby taking out a US Soccer van and getting a DWI in it.

So what could Ali have done or said that was so bad and what did Jill do? Ashlyn was dying to know. Ali followed all of the rules. Ashlyn couldn’t think of anyone more responsible on the team other than Carli or Brun. Ali showed up for work every day with a smile on her face, she was positive, a role model, and a team leader. The more she thought about things, the more pissed off she became as she headed towards baggage claim. She could hear Alex trying to calm Ali down still and that it was beginning to work.

“I’m so sorry Alex and Ash,” Ali said as she was fighting to stop the heaving inside of her body.

“You have nothing to be sorry for,” Alex said.

“Hey Alex? Will you please make sure Ali eats today? She threw up the day before yesterday out of upset and I want to make sure she is taking care of herself.”

“I absolutely will Ash. This is going to be the last cry Ali has in a long time. It is good for her to get all of this out now, I can tell. So that is what we are going to do. We are going to get all of this toxicity she has been carrying around out today and then we are never going to look back and we are going to take care of ourselves.”

Ali nodded as she blew her nose. Alex Morgan had never been so right, the girl she looked at as her kid sister had never been so right.

 

“Ok…. I think I can speak now. Jesus. I am so sorry, that just hit me and I couldn’t stop.”

Alex continued to rub her back and rock her. “Ok Ali, take your time, we aren’t going anywhere, tell us when you are ready.”

“I… uh.. I called Jill. She asked me if my ears were burning. Then she went on to tell me how I wasn’t going to be on the roster for the Euro games and how I needed to take this time to work on my game.”

Alex’s eyes went wide open. Ali had just been voted as one of the best defenders in the world on Fifa’s XI 2016.

“What the fuck is Jill thinking?” Both Alex and Ashlyn said at the same time and that made Ali blurt out a laugh and blow her nose.

“For fuck’s sake Al,” Ashlyn said as she walked to her car. “Work on what? You are one of the best defenders in the world. She has to be on the rag.”

“It gets better, after she dumped that on me, she wanted to know why I was calling and I told her about us coming out in an interview, that I am sure she heard what happened last week and I told her that I hope this isn’t what influenced her decision. She said it didn’t but I don’t know if I believe her. You know how she gets when anything happens that takes away from the team.”

“Too fucking bad about her, that’s life Ali, we aren’t all perfect. She is gay for Christ sakes.”

“She said she had our backs and now I could take this time to get my house in order and my game in order,” Ali said sadly.

“That bitch,” Alex added, “She needs to get her head and her shitty rosters in order. She has been threatening everyone on this team and I am sick of it. She has started in on me and Carli about goal scoring production and threatens us with Rose and Pugh every chance she gets. She totally fucked us over at the Olympics. There is no way we are going to let her fuck you over too Kriegs. You are totally going to come back from this, I will help you every step along the way. There is no one else I want on my backline that is for sure.”

Ashlyn was stewing as she listened to this. “I am so sorry Ali. Fuck her, let the team go to hell in Sweden. I hope everyone plays like shit, pardon me for saying that Alex,” Ashlyn said. “I already feel like my shoulder is giving her the excuse to name Alyssa number one but there is no excuse for what she is doing to Ali.”

Alex laughed, “Totally gotcha Ash, look we are all allowed to vent. We know we have to suck it up later”

“Well, I am glad we talked about your plan Ali. Have you told Alex yet?”

“No, I will later though. I have so much going through my head right now. Will you work to set up our interviews ASAP and reach out to Taylor ASAP too? I may go talk to Leito today if I can get my mind screwed on right.”

“I sure will baby. I am headed to training right now. Looks like the email just came over on the roster. I don’t even want to open it, this makes me want to puke. Do you want me to text those that we are close to on the team and tell them you are ok so you don’t have to answer 20 texts today?”

“No, its ok. I have to show strength through all of this. With teammates, sponsors, press, I am going to have to be stronger than I ever have been. Today is our press day with the Pride so that will be fun.”

“I will do it with you Ali, fuck the media today,” Alex said. “I will drive you to practice too and wherever else you want to go, it’s you and me vs. the world today Kriegs.”

“Thank you Alex,” Ali said as she hugged Alex.

“Thank you for being there for my girl and for us Alex, I owe you more than you will ever know,” Ashlyn said gratefully.

“We are family, we got each other. Fuck anything that tries to tear any of us apart.”

“I love you Ash, I am going to let you go, thank you for staying on the phone with me, it feels good to have gotten all of that out.”

“I love you baby, hang in there, I will call you this evening. Carli and I will facetime with Pepe, I am sure he misses you.”

Alex got up and went to the kitchen, pulled out two eggs and scrambled them as she started a piece of toast. She pulled them together on a plate along with a banana for Ali.

“Here I want you to eat this so you aren’t puking at practice. You have to go in there and be strong today because all eyes are on you with the coach, the team, and the press and we aren’t going to let anyone see our warrior crack.”

Ali nodded. “Thank you for making me breakfast.”

“Is your bag ready?”

Ali nodded no.

“Ok I am going to go get your gear together. It can’t be much different than mine,” Alex smiled.

“All I need is our practice uniform, everything else is in the trunk of my car. Alex grabbed Ali’s keys and went to her closet to grab the uniform, her team jacket and headed to the trunk to find her bag and the rest of her gear. She found her cleats and shin guards and noticed there were no socks. She went back in and found a pair of those and a sports bra that was suitable for the field. She saw a hair tie on the dresser and grabbed that too.

“Ok Kriegs, I have it all, let’s go and kick some ass. Just take this day one thing at a time ok? Let’s first focus on practice and then one thing at a time after than so it doesn’t feel like everything is crashing down at once ok?”

Ali nodded. “Ok, I am just going to try to breathe and focus and get my mind right for practice. Some captain I am huh? Shit I haven’t even thought what I am going to bring up about the Portland game.”

“Well, let’s talk about what all went wrong on the drive over and where we need to improve,” Alex offered as they locked up the house and hopped in her car.

With the grace of God, their good friend Alex Morgan helped Ali get through one of the worst days of her life. Ali didn’t want the blow to her ego to hurt so much but it did. Everything she had worked for was being flushed down the toilet and by God, she was going to fight her way out of it at every turn, anyway she could. Alex helped her to organize her thoughts about their Portland loss and what she was going to say at practice and to the press that day and all of the things they needed to work on. Alex stayed by Ali’s side throughout their press commitments and naturally word of her being left off of the National Team roster had spread and she was bombarded with those questions.

“Ali, how do you feel being left off the National Team roster for the Euro Games?”

“It feels wonderful you fucking asshat. How do you think it feels?” Ali wanted to say. Instead, she had to give the polished media response.

“All I can do is to strive to be the best version of myself I can be and if that means that I need to work on my game a little harder and make improvements then that is what I will do,” Ali smiled.

“Did Jill tell you why you were left off of the roster? What did she say?”

“She told me to tell you to eat a bag of dicks,” Ali wanted to say.

“I spoke with Jill and I feel good about my future with the National Team. Right now Jill is looking at all options for our 2019 world cup run and if that means she has to bring other players on to evaluate them while someone like me stays behind, then that is what I need to do for the better of my team. We will have to see how the next couple of camps play out.”

“Were you shocked when you got the news?”

“When you are an athlete, nothing in sports shocks you. You know that every day could be your last whether that has to do with your playing status on a team, unexpected injury, you name it. There isn’t a player on the National Team that doesn’t know that they may not be called up at any given time. Sure it is nice to see your name on the roster, but I think we all know that it is not a given and it is not to be expected. So I am going to take this break to reflect on my play and evaluate my game and hopefully I can make some improvements to come back and help my team and play for my country in any capacity that they need me. That is the last question I am going to answer on the National Team, today we are here to talk about the Pride.”

When the reporters wouldn’t take the hint, that is when Alex stepped in for her friend and began redirecting everything back to the Pride and Ali couldn’t have been more grateful. Ali got an idea to wave Marta over and that worked like a charm because immediately the press was enamored with her and her call up to the Brazil National Team with Camilla. This led for the perfect opportunity for Alex and Ali to slink away.

“Let’s go get a shower and then get some lunch in the commissary,” Alex said as she put her arm over Ali’s shoulders and walked her in. They went to grab their plates at lunch and sat together.

“So do you feel like telling me about this plan you have?” Alex said as she ate her salad.

“Would you be offended if I said not right now but I promise to tell you later?” Ali replied.

“Not at all, it has been a draining day for you.”

“It has and I am exhausted. I want to save the rest of the energy I have to see if I can catch Letio today and then I am in desperate need of a nap. Ash didn’t let me get much sleep if you know what I mean,” Ali smiled.

“Ew, TMI. But hell, I guess I should be grateful, I would rather the two of you were doing that then running some kind of relay throughout the neighborhood,” Alex laughed. Ali stuck her tongue out at Alex.

“Do you have anywhere you need to be this afternoon?” Ali asked.

“No, I am Krieger’s Uber driver for the day. Where are we headed?”

“Can you take me to the Pride offices on the way home?”

Alex smiled, “Absolutely, I have been wanting to try that beer tap they have and they have been wanting me to come in and sign some stuff for giveaways so I could do that while I wait for you and whatever social media stuff they want to do.”

“Perfect, thanks so much Alex.”

When they arrived at the Pride offices, it was like Christmas for the support staff there. Immediately everyone started to gather up all the things they wanted the two players to do. Alex ran interference for Ali with the support staff so she could sneak off and see if she could get a minute with the team’s owner Alex Leito. When she approached the executive suites to ask for Alex, she found that he was out but that even better, Flavio de Silva was in who was the majority owner. She asked if he had a free moment and was delighted to hear that he could meet with her in 20 minutes if she could hang around.

Ali went back to find Alex who was signing jerseys, soccer balls and scarves for fan giveaways. The ticket sales department asked Ali if she would mind signing some promotional items too and she was happy to oblige. The two of them hung around and signed every piece of everything the club had for them to sign. They knew how important this was for growing the game and their team and they knew how to do it quickly and how to cover a ton of items at once. What the staffers of the Pride loved the most about the USWNT ladies is that they also knew how to make things special by signing their numbers, or team achievements, and when some of the USWNT items were passed their way, or things like cleats and uniforms, they knew to write special things like “2015 world cup champs” or “Team USA” or “Go for the gold.”

 

Flavio was taking longer than expected according to his assistant, so Ali did a few videos for the Pride social media. She walked around the different cubicles and signed thigs like tickets that would be given away or bought in the future and also took time to sign things for the employees of the pride who had different things hanging in their cubicles that they enjoyed having signed. She took selfies and pictures and she and Alex signed damn near the whole office. The employees were thrilled to have two of the biggest stars in women’s soccer to treat them so nice and do those kinds of things for them. They were usually the thankless people that were not allowed to ask for anything. Ali and Alex knew the story all too well and you had to coax them so that you could give them something. When they felt comfortable enough that you weren’t going to cop some kind of attitude with them, it was amazing to watch how they would turn into kids in a candy store. That is how you built loyalty with them and these same people would wind up doing anything for you in your time of need.

Before Ali knew it, she was presented with a Pride collar for Pepe, a few mini soccer balls and some new tshirts that had just came in. Then that turned into a tote bag being filled up with more swag like keychains, car decals, and a couple of new hats, sunglasses, sweat pants, shorts, umbrellas, a flag, a stuffed lion for Pepe, a couple of pens, a phone case, a couple of more tshirts, and tank tops. Then Alex got one too and then the lead merchandise person decided that they everything wasn’t going to fit in the totes and out came two new duffle bags. They both were sworn to secrecy because the Pride didn’t do this for all of their players. Alex and Ali smiled and promised on Scouts Honor that their lips were sealed. The team new all too well that a few selfies of the two in Pride gear would boost their merchandise sales like nothing else and encouraged the two to do so which they both said they would. Ali handed Alex her bag when Flavio’s assistant came to escort her to his office.

“Hello Ali, what a delight,” Flavio said as he reached his hand out to shake Ali’s. “What brings you in today?”

“The pleasure is mine Flavio,” Ali smiled as she shook his hand and sat down. “I wanted to pick your brain about the state of the NWSL and ownership. I have thought about it for quite some time and with the growth of this league, I am interested in ownership and I would like to get in while the league is fairly new.”

Flavio leaned back and crossed his legs. “Does this mean you are retiring?”

Ali shook her head. “Not at all. I still feel like I have a lot of quality soccer left in me. I wouldn’t mind at looking at playing and ownership or ownership after I retire but I am not sure I want to wait that long to get started. I first wanted to see what the long term plans for the Pride were because I really love this city and this organization. I was just curious if the ownership group would ever consider selling and if so, what kind of an offer would it take to buy it.”

Flavio smiled. He always had a soft spot for Ali, she was a hell of a player and he was a fan of beautiful women, especially strong and ambitious ones. He pressed his fingers together and rocked back in his chair.

“What have you heard?” Flavio asked.

“I haven’t heard anything. I just have come to the realization what I want to do with my future,” Ali replied.

“Well, it must be a huge coincidence that you are here today. I heard you were asking for Alex and he is not here today. Would you mind shutting the door because I would like to have this conversation in confidence.”

Ali got up and closed the door and returned to her seat.

“The reason that Alex is not here today is because we got quite the bit of news last night. FC Barcelona is up for sale. They want to cash in on the popularity of Messi and Neymar to get top dollar and we are scrambling to throw our hat in the ring. Oscar De Le Hoya wants in. I want in. The other owners want in. While we were discussing that, then we heard that the same may be true with Real Madrid. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We definitely want to maintain ownership of Orlando City FC but we have been discussing the possibility of selling the Pride. As much as I don’t want to, if we go after Barca or Madrid, my attention is going to have to be focused there and Alex is going to have to concentrate on Orlando City FC. That is going to leave the Managing Director position of the Pride wide open.”

“Wow, Flavio, that is amazing. That would be incredible if you could buy Barca or Madrid. I promise this will remain between you and I. I would love to throw my hat in the ring for Managing Director. I still want to play and if you sell the Pride, I am not going to lie, Ashlyn and I want it. She wants to come back, this is her home, and when we were discussing it, we want to own a team and we really don’t want to have to go to LA, Tampa, Dallas, or Miami, but would if necessary. Plus let’s face it, there is a brand new world class stadium, which is way different than playing on some of the fields the rest of the league does.”

Flavio smiled. “Well, one of my hesitations with selling the Pride is that is one of my babies. I don’t want to see the team go to just anyone. I want to see it go to someone who has passion for the game, who understands what it is like to be a player and a fan. We have built something special here and I want to see it go to someone who would nurture and care for it just as I have.”

Ali leaned in. “You would have that without a doubt from Ashlyn and I. We would live, breathe, and grow this team. We love the city, we love what the team stands for and we love doing work with the LGBT community and would grow that initiative that you have started here after what happened with the Pulse shooting. We think we would have other National Team players that would be interested too, ones that could put the fans in the seats and we have a lot of ideas for growing the presence of this team and this league. So what would it take?”

Flavio got up and went over to the window to look out and think about what he wanted to do. How do you let go something that you planted from a seed? How do you not let go of it to pursue an opportunity that was so much greater. He sighed, he really couldn’t be bogged down by the small stuff and right now the Pride was part of the small stuff that he wasn’t going to be able to give his attention to should he be able to buy one of the teams of his dreams.

“Ali, I would really have to go over the numbers so this is not a definite answer. I would also have to figure out other things like how I would want to handle the stadium. Off of the top of my head, about 20 million dollars to buy the team outright. The Pride and the Thorns are the most lucrative brands in the NWSL right now and then I would have to decide if I wanted to rent the stadium to the new ownership or if I would want a percentage of ticket sales. Then there is the new training facility we are building.”

Ali refused to show anything other than a smile on her face. He might as well be asking for 200 million, but if there was one thing Ali had learned, it was that people that took these kinds of risks in life never let anyone see them sweat.

“I want it Flavio. I need some time to get my investors together but I want it without a doubt,” Ali said with confidence.

“It would be awhile before I could make the decision. The Barca or Real Madrid deal would have to fall through first. I like you Ali and I like Ashlyn too and I told Alex to get Ashlyn back here because this team and the fans love her. I am not sure what happened. How do I know if I sold the team to the both of you that her commitment is as strong as yours?”

Chapter Text

“I know where her commitment lies because we have done nothing but discuss it lately and there is no question in my mind where she wants to be. She let me know that in more ways than one this past weekend when she accompanied me to the training room. She was the one who told Marta last year that she needed to come to play for Orlando and sold her on what a world class organization it was. As for why she left, I am not going to lie, part of that was my responsibility and I am working to correct some of the mistakes I made with her. I plan on marrying her and I would like to lay our roots here and start a family with her here in Orlando. We are planning to do an interview soon and come out as a couple. We are going to be a team and a united front from here on out. There is nothing that Ashlyn wants more than that as well.”

Flavio walked back over to his chair and sat down. “That is good to hear Ali. I will tell you this, I would love nothing more than be able support two world class athletes following their dream. I have seen how you have carried yourself with the National Team and with the Spirit which is one of the reasons I jumped at the chance to bring you here. Tell me, if you were to buy the Pride, what have your thoughts been for the roles you would play?”

“I was speaking to Ashlyn just yesterday about this. I want to own my own NWSL team. Ashlyn is on board. We both would love to play and own until we retire. I think Ashlyn has a huge interest in coaching in some capacity and player development. I have an interest in those things as well but my true desire is the overall operations of the team. From ticket sales, concessions, merchandise, player contracts, the stadium, press and media presence, and player accommodations, you name it, I want to make sure we provide the best. If it required me retiring altogether I would. Not to toot my own horn, but I know I am helping to put fans in the seats right now and I think we are so very close to a championship. I have a lot of people I need to talk to but since Alex Morgan has made Orlando her home, I would definitely want her to be involved because the little girls idolize her and she brings them to the games. There is another current National Team player and a former one that I have in mind to bring on board. I have international and domestic experience and I know where sports teams are making mistakes with the fans right now and what could be done to boost ticket sales and merchandise sales that no one is doing right now. I know how to put the asses in the seats and no disrespect to anyone, I don’t see anyone doing the things that we would do and I know without a doubt they would work. Ashlyn and I would both be involved with the front office and more hands on with the team and coaching. We know what this team needs but our say doesn’t mean anything as just players. In the end, we would both know how to run the organization inside and out.”

Flavio smirked, “I don’t suppose you would like to share any of those ideas?”

Ali smiled her nose crinkling grin, “I will but I am not giving my secrets away for free and some of them might be a little unconventional and unexpected coming from me but I know what sells.”

“As much as I like you Ali, I can’t take at face value that you know what you are doing. So let me propose this. Alex Leito is on a plane to Spain right now to find out how serious things are with Barca and Madrid. If they are open to an offer from us, that is where all of his attention will be until the deal gets done. In the meantime, that leaves me with no one running the Pride while I run OrlandoFC and go seek out investors to get this deal done. If we receive word that we have the go ahead, how would you feel about a trial run at becoming interim GM of the Pride, implementing some of those ideas you have while you gather your investors and continue to play for the team?”

Ali wanted to jump out of the chair in excitement. Talk about timing, boy was she glad she brought this up yesterday with Ashlyn and went to speak with the Pride ownership today.

“I would love to. I could come in each day after training and practice. Are you ok with me being here part time?”

“This is a well oiled machine. Alex was basically working part time because half of his day was focused on Orlando City FC. So I really don’t see how it would be different.”

“Let me ask you this. I would like to do a lot of things differently for Pride games than they are done currently and for Orlando City. Would I have full reign to change things in the way we do concessions, merchandise, fan events, media/social media, tickets, etc.? I won’t know for sure if these things will work unless I can start implementing them one by one.”

“I am willing to do that. We do not have a contract with concessions. If you can boost my sales and profits and you think you have the formula, then who am I to stand in your way? However, you are going to have to run everything by me before you take action because I do still own this team and I am ultimately responsible. It is my ass in the fire at the end of each day if things go wrong. Worst case scenario in this deal, we don’t do the Barca or Madrid deal, but we decide to buy another team like another MLS team. If we don’t sell the Pride, you could still be in management. How do you feel about that?”

“I have no problem running everything by you. That is exactly where I want to be Flavio in a management position. However, I am going to be honest, I will still be looking for opportunities to own my own NWSL team. I don’t want to settle. I want to own my own team and I know I can do it. My first choice is here with you, to build a partnership with you in some capacity.”

“Ok Ali Krieger, let’s see what you have got. Give me a few days to see what is going on with Alex and if we are full steam ahead on this. As soon as I know something, I will call you back in.”

“Thank you so much Flavio, this means so much to me, if we go through with this, I do not think you will be disappointed.”

“May I ask you one thing?”

“Sure,” Ali smiled.

“What made you decide at 32 that you want to own a team?”

Ali laughed. “Let’s just say I have learned to think big. I am not going to sit around and wait for anyone to tell me that I am done and then wonder what I am going to do when I leave the pitch. I want to retire on my own terms and I want to be involved in the sport. I am not going to wait for the National Team to squeeze me out to where I have to take some kind of swan song tour. I want to be in a position of building my future and controlling my own destiny. Nothing is for certain. I could blow out a knee tomorrow. I could retire with the hopes of broadcasting like everyone else and then never get the call. I could hope for a coaching position that will either take forever to get, or not pay, or God knows what. I can sit around and hope for a lot of things to happen when my playing career is over. Or I can start planning ahead, take the bull by the horns and be well on my way to having the future I want by the time retirement happens. I do know one thing. I live and breathe this game and I do not want it to be taken away from me. I do not want to sit around and wonder what I am going to do after soccer. I do not want to have the decision to walk away from the game made for me because I have no intention of ever walking away from this game. I want to build a life and future with Ashlyn and lay down some roots and I want to do that sooner than later. I also think I have the perfect investor and sponsors in mind.”

“Well cheers to us. Let’s hope we both get to chase our dreams Ali. You coming here today has been a pleasant surprise in more ways than one.”

“I will tell you another thing, Jill Ellis may think I am done but I am not done with the National Team either. I am sure you saw the roster announcement today. I will be damned if I do not play in the 2019 world cup and I still want an Olympic Gold Medal and I may be the oldest player to play in both and I am determined to do it. If I have to live soccer 24/7 for the next four years I will, but Ali Krieger is not down for the count. You just watch the comeback I make,” Ali laughed.

“Well, I didn’t want to bring that up, but I have no doubt that you will Ali. Great things lie ahead in your future.”

Ali got up and they shook hands again before she opened the door and left to go meet Alex with a smile on her face as bright as the sun. Ali walked out into the Pride offices to find Alex enjoying a beer with a few of the male sales reps for the Pride, all grinning brightly. This is one of the things the Pride did not market right, the magnetism of Alex Morgan. Alex was beautiful, put her on a few billboards, market that and watch the young guys come to the games Ali thought. This was no surprise to any of the players on the National Team, they witnessed it wherever they played. Then her phone buzzed with a notification from a picture that Glennon Doyle Melton posted on Instagram. Ali looked at the photo, it was one of their house and she was talking about banyan trees. “Banyan Trees!” Ali said out loud causing people to look at her like she was nuts and Alex to raise an eyebrow at her. “OMFG!” Ali thought to herself. There were no banyan trees in Los Angeles. Here she thought all of this time that Abby and Glennon were living in LA. She had no idea they were living in Florida. This couldn’t get any more perfect, she wouldn’t have to convince Abby to move if she could get the Pride or a team in Florida.

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Four hours to the south, in Palmetto Bay, FL, Jill Ellis was standing on her porch in the back of her property. She had just arrived home from a couple of weeks traveling around to see some of the different NWSL games and a trip to US Soccer headquarters in Chicago. She came home to find that her partner had ran out of peacock food. Jill had thought she had bought enough before she left but it ran out. Her wife would not go buy the food if Jill didn’t. So when Jill exited out the back door to her porch and whistled for them, the peacocks came running because they recognized her call. She walked over to the bin where the food was stored and that is when she noticed it was empty. She kicked herself internally for calling the peacocks over first without checking the food supply. When she got up to turn around, there were about 60 peacocks in her backyard fussing up a storm. They looked mighty hungry and they were restless. For the first time since they started to feed the peacocks, Jill felt scared, and outnumbered. What made things worse was, her partner and their daughter was not home and several peacocks were up on the porch blocking the door. Jill reached for her cell phone in her jacket pocket and realized she must have laid it on the counter inside with her car keys. Panic came over her as the peacocks began stalking closer to her.

 

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When Ashlyn arrived at the Dash training facility she was evaluated by the team trainers who felt like her range of motion had improved to a point where she could probably start light practice. They set up an appointment with her Ortho surgeon the next day to get his opinion before they would start. She then received her PT for the day and then went to find Carli since she was sure she brought Pepe with her somewhere and could use a break. She also wanted to check up on him since his surgery. The team was at practice and Ashlyn had a chance to speak to coach Waldrum on her status and appointment that was scheduled for the next day. When they broke to hydrate, Carli came over to greet Ashlyn.

“Harris, how’s it going, how was your trip,” Carli asked, nudging Ashlyn in the ribs.

“It was good thank you, we talked about a lot of things, I actually have something to run by you later. How did you fare with the boy?”

“He is doing pretty good, he wants to rip his stitches out so it has taken a lot of aloe vera, cooling gels, ice packs, you name it. The vet even suggested some Benadryl to make him sleep so I gave him one of those earlier. He is in the Dash ticketing office as we speak.”

Ashlyn chuckled, “Ok, I am going to go fetch him from there. He is probably manning the phones selling corporate packages. Thank you for taking care of him for us Carli, I’ll see you later when you get home.”

Ashlyn left the practice field and headed over to the Dash offices. When she walked in she found Pepe next to the desk of Katie, one of the sales reps. She was on the phone selling tickets while rocking the stroller back and forth with her foot, and Pepe was inside snoring away.

Katie smiled and when she finished on the phone looked up and said, “Ashlyn, what a nice surprise, how are you?”

“I am great thanks, I am here to fetch Pepe.”

“Oh you must mean Pele, it cracked me up that Carli named him that,” Katie giggled.

Ashlyn sighed. “Carli is his aunt. Pepe is his name, Ali Krieger and I found him and named him Pepe. Carli is living out some kind of soccer fantasy right now and is calling him Pele so just humor her,” Ashlyn laughed.

“Oh gotcha! Well he is a doll and it saddens me that we can’t take him out and play with him. You have to promise me, when he is on the mend, you will bring him back when we can hug him and love on him.”

“I absolutely will, it is so nice of you guys to help us out and watch him while he is sick.”

Katie gave Ashlyn a sympathetic smile, “We love it. Also, I wanted to ask you, we are going to have a barbeque after the game this Saturday where the fans can eat with the players after the game in our Tecate Social area, would you be able to go to that, mingle with the fans and do autographs?”

”Absolutely, count me in. Who else do you need to show up?” Ashlyn asked.

“You are the first one I have asked.”

“Ok, I will ask Carli to join me then when I see her tonight.”

“Oh that would be awesome. I was going to ask her when she picked up this little guy but since you are picking him up, if you could ask her and then either text me or have her text me that would be great,” Katie said, handing Ashlyn her card.

As Ashlyn drove back to her apartment her phone rang and when she answered it, It was the GM from the Audi dealership that she had met when she dropped off Carli a week ago.

“Ashlyn, hello this Antonio from Audi of Greater Houston.”

“Hello Antonio, how are you?”

“I am great thank you. I have some good news for you. I just got off the phone with Brian Ching of the Dash. We are going to partner with the Dash and Dynamo this season and we want to do an ad campaign with you, Carli, Morgan and Kealia.”

“That is wonderful news, I can’t wait!” Ashlyn smiled and said.

“We are glad you think so. The Dash will most likely be hammering out the details of the ad campaign with your agent and the compensation. In the meantime though, I need to know what car you might be interested in driving. We are going to outfit each of you with a car to drive for the season and we are going to add Dash embellishments to each one. I am not sure if you saw Carli’s but she has a black Audi with orange leather seats, at the end of the season we will have her sign a plate on the dashboard. We would be doing the same type of thing with you as well. We don’t just sell Audi, we have Mercedes, Audi, Jaguar, Cadillac, Lexus and Rover in our automotive group. What brand interests you?”

Ashlyn fist pumped. “I would love to drive a Rover,” Ashlyn smiled into the phone.

“Ok Rover it is. I have a burnt orange Discovery here on the lot that would be perfect for the Dash motif. I will send it out to have the upholstery embellished, some custom pin striping added, and some cosmetic things done to it for the Dash. I will call you when it is ready for you to pick up and then your agent will be in touch when we are ready to shoot the commercial and ad campaign.”

“Fantastic. Thank you so much Antonio, I am so honored that you thought of me.”

“You are welcome. Good luck with the Dash and the National Team this summer.”

Ashlyn stopped off at Whole Foods to pick up one of the pretty bouquets of flowers they had there for Carli and picked her up a fruit salad. She grabbed a vase and a card on which she wrote:

“To the best Team Captain a girl could ask for. Thank you so much for helping us out and having our backs. We love you, Ashlyn, Ali and Pepe/Pele.”

She then called the florist she used in Orlando and ordered a bouquet of pink orchids, purple calla lilies and hot pink gladiolas for Ali which were her favorites. On the card she had them write:

“To the strongest woman and warrior I know. Extraordinary people survive under the most terrible circumstances and become more extraordinary because of it. You will prove it to them all, I have no doubt. I love and miss you, Ashlyn.”

She then ordered a bouquet of purple and white roses for Alex Morgan and had the florist write on the card:

“Thank you Alex for always having our back. Thank you so much for always looking out for Ali and I and for being such a wonderful friend to us. Love, Ashlyn, President of the Alex Morgan Fan Club.”

When Ashlyn got back to her apartment, she sat down and called her agent.

“Hi Ashlyn, what can I do for you? I suppose you heard from the dealership?”

“Hi Nick. Thank you, I have. They called me this afternoon and asked me to pick out a car for lease and said they would be getting with you on the details of the ad campaign.”

“Yes, I am waiting for them to fax over a contract now to send over to you. I will explain their offer in the email once I take a look at the contract.”

“Ok great. I also have spoken to Ali and we have thought about who we would like to do interviews with and come out to,” Ashlyn said, tapping her pen nervously on the counter because she knew what he was going to say.

“What’s the verdict?

“We would feel most comfortable coming out first to Julie Foudy at ESPN.”

“Ashlyn, you know that The Advocate was the first to offer. They want the exclusive and they are willing to pay.”

“I know, but now we need to convince ESPNW that they want the exclusive and let them come up with an offer. I am not sure if you heard, but Ali was left off of Jill’s roster for the Euro friendlies. So I am sure they are going to want to discuss that as well and bring a soccer angle back into it. I think Ali is in a place where she feels like being brutally honest about things and will probably let them know how she feels about it if you get my drift. Julie has been around the sport and lesbians so she will totally get it unless Robin Roberts on Mary Carullo want it. Then we can do pieces for the Advocate and SI after the reveal.”

“Aye carrumba. Ok Ashlyn, let me shop this around..”

“Just so we are clear, we aren’t necessarily looking to come out to the highest bidder, we are looking to come out to another former female athlete who gets it and isn’t going to ask us stupid questions in our first interview together, someone who is going to treat us with respect and then you can deal with money aspect of it.”

“Ok, got it. Now, let’s talk Robbins Brothers. They were pitching their campaign to me yesterday. They want to do a couple of commercials with you and JJ and see where it goes from there. The script isn’t written yet but the plot pretty much goes like this. He has proposed to a lady and has done or said something stupid causing her to take her ring off of her finger and throw it. Of course, this is where you come in, as a goalkeeper to catch the ring in your gloves and Dash uniform before it hits something and is damaged. Then you will hand it to him and explain their trade in policy. So basically if a guy buys an engagement ring there and things do not work out, he can trade it back in for a credit until he finds Mrs. Right and then can pick out a new one.”

Ashlyn laughed into the phone, “Jesus Christ, this is what we have become, ok that sounds fine. I really need to make as much money as possible right now, I think I am about to be cleared for practice soon and shortly after that, I can make my way back to the pitch. However, in this particular deal, can you see what I can work in to sit to get an engagement ring for Ali. I want nothing less than 5 carats in an emerald or princess cut, white gold or platinum band. Also I am going to need the wedding band to go with it for the wedding. Whatever I need for a wedding set, they will know. This isn’t my forte, they are the wedding ring experts so let them figure it out. All I know is that it better look classy, hot, sparkle, and be a big ass rock but not so big that she gets knocked over the head when she wears it to the grocery store. I’d like for the band to have diamonds and pink tourmalines or pink diamonds in it because she has to have her pink. I can’t even imagine writing a check for a ring like that so I would just rather work it into the deal and be able to go pick one out. You can let them know that ring will be getting exposure too if I have to mention where I got it in every interview, I will. I have no shame.”

Nick laughed. “Ok Ashlyn let me see what I can do, hopefully we can get you a ring and some money to go with it to help pay for that wedding or honeymoon you have on the horizon. Now that you have told me about that, Southwest Airlines has also been calling about you. I have quite a few offers here on the table. Would you like me to work a honeymoon or a destination wedding into a deal like that for you? That shouldn’t be hard for Southwest to pull together.”

“That would be awesome. The less cash I have to pay out of pocket for any of this the better, Ali and I are saving up for something pretty epic. Oh and this ring, wedding, honeymoon thing, that has to stay between us for now.”

“Ok, do you have any destinations in mind?”

“I know she would do anywhere in the Caribbean. St. Barts, Turks and Caicos, St. Lucia, Belize, Bermuda, even the Seychelles or Fiji would be nice. Hawaii would also work. No Jamaica and no islands where the tourists get hit over the head and robbed in port. Somewhere safe. No cruise.”

Nick chuckled, “I do not blame you there. Ok, let me put some feelers out. I have the dealership thing going, Robbins Brothers, HEB, and Southwest Airlines. Umbro is also wanting to do an exclusive deal with you on sportswear and soccer gear.”

“Jesus their shit is ugly, but ok, I will do it. Whatever it takes to get the cash flowing in.”

“If you do this deal with Umbro, you won’t be able to sell your own apparel anymore and they will want you to help design their line and make them cool again.”

“I can make them look cool again. You tell them just to look at the fans in the stands wearing all of my shark shit. You tell them that the cool factor is going to cost them a pile of moolah.”

“You know I am all about making us as much moolah as I can find. Be on the lookout for my emails this week, let’s start sewing these deals up. Also, a word of advice if I may, be careful what you say about Ali not getting the National Team call up, let that be something she handles with the press. Right now the National Team exposure is your meal ticket in all of these deals especially with Hope going down in a blaze of glory. Let how she handled herself with the press be a lesson to us all of what not to say, no matter how we are feeling.”

“I hear you loud and clear. I have witnessed it all first hand. Talk to you soon Nick,” Ashlyn hung up and smiled. She was thrilled that things were starting to happen for her. She only could hope that some of the same good things would be coming Ali’s way. She sat down with her notebook and decided how she wanted to approach Taylor Swift and began to write down the pros and cons of an NWSL team and how to pitch it to her.

Chapter Text

When Ali got in Alex’s car she decided that she wanted to know a few things about Alex before she presented the Pride situation to her. There were a couple of things that everyone wanted to know but everyone had been too afraid to ask.

“So how did things go with Alex?”

“Well, he wasn’t in actually so I spoke with Flavio and things went really well. My mind is in overdrive right now thinking about the future. Can I ask you something?

“Shoot.”

“Do you see Orlando as your future home?”

“For now I do. I mean with Serv playing for Orlando FC and me with the Pride, I know we would both like to retire here. However, if one of us gets traded or has to play elsewhere, then you know how that goes. I don’t know what we will do, we really haven’t talked about it, why do you ask?”

“I am just thinking about the future and I wasn’t sure about you and Tobin, especially after what she posted yesterday.”

Alex sighed. “I know what you are thinking Ali. I know what everyone thinks. Look that ship has sailed. I gave her three years in Portland, playing there for her, waiting for her to get her shit together and go after what she wants. Apparently that wasn’t me. We are the best of friends, everyone would tell me how in love she was with me, we fooled around and had fun, but she never made a move to make anything serious between us. Then along came Serv and he had no problem voicing what he wanted, he pursued me, he committed himself to me and he put a ring on it, end of story. I wasn’t going to wait until I was 35 to get married or yet become a spinster. Now Allie is playing with her in Portland and I see the same thing happening all over again and she let that one slip away too. Allie married Bati.”

Ali laughed.

“What is so funny?”

“The thought of you becoming a spinster.”

Alex chuckled, “Well it wasn’t like anyone was asking me out other than 18 year old boys at games. No one ever approaches me. It isn’t in my DNA to do the pursuing.”

“What?! Even after your SI swimsuit shoot?” Ali asked in disbelief.

“Nothing. Sure people tell you how hot you are but nothing serious or anything that you want comes along, I am sure you experienced the same thing with the ESPN body issue. Did you have Elena Delle Donne or JJ Watt beating down your door?”

“Um what do you mean about Elena?” Ali asked.

“Oh come on, everyone knows you have had a crush on her. I thought Ashlyn might be in trouble for a hot minute when she announced she would be playing in DC.”

Ali’s eyes went wide open. “Oh my god. I just had a crush on her from far away. Kind of like how Ashlyn has one on Ruby Rose and how everyone does on Angelina Jolie. That is nothing that I ever would pursue, she has a girlfriend and is getting married. I am not some slut. You guys know that right? Jesus, I hope Ashlyn knows that. Did she ever say anything?”

“She noticed your interest in the WNBA all of the sudden and she caught you staring at her all throughout the Olympics and at the closing ceremonies.” Alex smirked.

“Oh for fucks sakes. I was just admiring the view. That girl is tall and pretty but she is not my type. At least I didn’t publicly flirt with her like Ash did with Ruby Rose on twitter,” Ali rolled her eyes and looked out the window.

“You know Ash was just trying to make you jealous, right? What is your type? I have seen Marta checking you out in practice” Alex giggled.

Ali looked over at her and narrowed her eyes, “Marta is definitely not my type, I love her but she has tried to take out my legs from underneath me one too many times. Fuck me. Ashlyn brought the same thing up the other day. I told her Marta can look all she wants.” Then Ali put her hands over her eyes and giggled at a visual that came to her mind. “Can you imagine being in bed with Marta and taking a flying kick to the head?” Both Alex and Ali busted out in laughter.

“Ewww, ok we have to erase this image from our brains. Marta is our friend, we will not think impure thoughts about Marta. That’s Camilla’s job anyway now,” Alex joked causing Ali to laugh even more.

“You are so bad Morgan. Camilla definitely is mini Marta right now and I think it is adorable.”

“So I will ask again, what is your type?”

“What the hell Alex? Ashlyn Harris is my type. Just like Tobin is your type. Just the right amount of feminine and masculine. Not too girly or neither of us would ever get out of the house or hotel room with all of the makeup and hair products. They let us be the girly ones out in the world and then they let us be the dominant ones in the bedroom which no one suspects of us.” Ali smiled.

Now Alex’s eyes went wide. “How did you know I was the dominant one with Tobin?”

“Oh come on. You and I aren’t that different. We both started out dating guys and fell in love with women because it was hot and safe. It is safe because we can be our true selves with them. Tobin follows you around like a lost puppy dog and has that same look on her face as Ashlyn does with me. You get the same look in your eye with Tobin as I do with Ashlyn. They are hot as hell and they respect us and aren’t always trying to stick a dick up our ass and pressuring us. For once, we get to be in control if we want to. Just look at you right now thinking about her, your eyes glaze over anytime you think of Tobin.”

Alex snapped out of it and sighed. “Oh well, that chapter is over. She knows where I am, she has my number. I don’t have to worry about it though because she will never grow a pair. You would have thought my dating Serv would have given her a push, but nothing. Then the engagement and nothing. Anyway, I love Serv. I am not going to wait until I am 50 for Tobin Heath to figure it out before I can start a family. If I had any doubts before, it was confirmed yesterday when she posted her new position with the Thorns and said she had made Portland her home.”

Ali sighed and shook her head. Everyone knew deep down that Alex and Tobin belonged together but both were too stubborn to make it happen. Everyone knew that Alex broke Tobin’s heart when she dated Serv, got engaged to him and then moved to Orlando. But what could they do? Alex Morgan wanted to be courted and pursued like most girls did. The problem was, Tobin Heath wanted the same thing. She wasn’t like Ashlyn who pursued Ali to the ends of the earth and back. As Ali thought about it, she thought about how lucky she was that Ashlyn was that way or they might have never been together. Ali grew up like most of her girlfriends, they never chased anyone, they were chased after. Now Ali would chase Ashlyn to the end of the world, but that only came with age and some maturity. Sometimes her old ways would creep in, like the other day, when she had to threaten Ashlyn with the Arsenal to get her to see her point of view. However, deep down, Ali knew she was whipped. Life without Ashlyn wouldn’t last long.

“You look pretty deep in thought over there Kriegs, come on, you might as well say whatever you are thinking about me and Tobin so we can get this over with.”

“It doesn’t matter, as long as you are happy with Serv, that is all that matters,” Ali smiled.

“I love him you know. I am going to have his babies one day. It’s just a different love that you have with a man than you do a woman. You know how it goes. With a woman, you share everything. You can’t run away and hide your emotions with a woman like you can a man. You are closer with a woman because women know each other and what the other wants and is thinking. That same level of connection just isn’t there with guys, it is just different.”

“I know. I went through the same thing with Brent. I loved him but not like I did Ashlyn. It’s just that we all always thought you and Tobs would be together. You were inseparable, we all still think you belong together, but it’s none of our business. Anyway, I just wanted to see how interested you were staying in Orlando for the long haul, I didn’t mean to dig up bones.”

“It’s ok Ali. It is kind of nice to talk about it with someone for a change because everyone just stares at me, or us, and says nothing and that is kind of weird. Anyway, Tobin replaced me with Allie until she married Bati. I honestly wish Tobin all of the best and I hope one day she finds that super girly girl type that she likes who will come in and sweep her off of her feet and pursue her because I haven’t met one yet. I think what will happen one day is that she will get tired of watching them all slip away and she will finally find her tongue one day and speak up about what she wants. I can’t find the words to explain it Ali so I am just going to be crude. I don’t know how to be the guy, and yes I may be the dominant one in the bedroom between us, but I don’t know how to do that in everyday life. It isn’t who I am. I don’t know how to be the Marta.”

That caused both of them to laugh. “This is so wrong what we are doing on so many levels, but it so fun to be real for once and have girl talk,” Ali said as she giggled. “Why does life have to be so hard when it comes to these things, Gaylex?”

“Oh that little elf! I am going to kill her. I guess you saw Pinoe’s tweet to me about the WNT Pride Jerseys. She loves to make me squirm.”

“We finally get a pride jersey just when I am ready to come out and then Jill crosses me off of the roster. That rainbow number 11 would have looked good on me.”

“You are getting a rainbow number 11 jersey trust me. Jill Ellis can go fuck herself. She probably already has to, just her and her hand.”

More giggles erupted. “We are so going to hell for this conversation today.”

“I am so happy to see you laughing Kriegs. So do you want to tell me what plan you have cooked up or are you going to treat me like a mushroom and feed me shit while you keep me in the dark?” Alex asked.

“Ok, I will tell you but you have to promise Ash and I that you won’t say anything around the Pride or the USWNT. Nothing around the US Soccer peeps. You can’t tell Serv. You can’t tell anyone. Otherwise, I can wait to tell you until I know more. The only one you can say anything to will be Carli but only until we tell you it is ok.”

Alex put both hands up to her cheeks. “Oh my god, you and Ashlyn are going to have a baby!”

Ali whipped her head around. “What!?!?!”

“A baby Kriegs!!!!”

“Oh for fucks sakes Alex, I am not pregnant. When exactly would I have had time to do that? Ashlyn and I have only been back together for like two weeks.”

“Well, I don’t know, you could have, you know.”

“What gone out with some rando for a revenge fuck and gotten pregnant? And don’t even say Ashlyn, We both know if she did that it wouldn’t have been with a dude.”

Alex laughed at that visual. “Ha ha, Ashlyn screwing some random guy, yeah I could totally see it!”

“I will be sure to tell her about the delusional vision you had of her. Ashlyn with some big muscular gym rat with a small penis,” Ali laughed.

“Oh god, make it stop. I need clorox for my eyes to erase that image. Ok so no Kriegy Jr. So what is it, I swear I will take your secret to the grave.”

“Did you mean what you said when you said you would take me anywhere today?”

“Absolutely, where are we off to next?”

“Take me to ‘Wings’ I need a bathing suit and a raft, then take me to the lake and I will tell you.”

 

++++++++++

 

Ashlyn turned on the 5:00 p.m. news just as Carli walked in the door. The sports director of KPRC in Houston was coming in with breaking news in the sports world. Carli was about to say something as she went to put her bag down by the door but Ashlyn held her hand up.

“Just in, a local affiliate in Miami has just announced that Jill Ellis, the coach of the US Women’s Soccer team has been involved in an accident at her Florida home. Apparently Jill went to feed the peacocks on her property and they attacked her. Ellis was found alone on her back porch with multiple head and eye injuries as well as skin lacerations. We will update you on the status of her health as soon as we know more. We are also waiting to hear from US Soccer.

Both Ashlyn’s and Carli’s eyes flew wide open as they put their hands over their mouths in disbelief.

Carli scrunched up her upper lip and made a face. “How the hell does that even happen. See even I know you should never trust birds. Those fuckers are crazy and are capable of anything. I hope Jill will be ok.”

“You know she left Ali off the roster right?” Ashlyn asked.

“What?! No I didn’t even look at it yet, I’ve been training for most of the day.”

“Ali was completely distraught this morning. Thank god Alex Morgan came right over, had to pick her off of the floor. This all happened just as I landed.”

“What in the actual fuck? Why would she do that? Who did she call up?”

“Hinkle.”

Carli burst out into uncontrollable laughter, so much so, she woke Pepe up in his stroller and he began to cry for her.

“You have got to be kidding me,” Carli said as she went to the kitchen and pulled a frozen towel out of the freezer, picked Pepe up out of his stroller, sat in the recliner, sat the towel on her lap and then then his stitched up bits on the towel causing Pepe to sigh in appreciation.

Ashlyn shook her head in amazement. Who would have thought Carli would be a better dog mom than she was.

“Oh it has been quite the day. I guess Jill didn’t pick up peacock food and they turned on her. Normally I would feel sorry for Jill but this is karma. I have to call Ali and see if she has heard this.”

Ashlyn hit facetime and called Ali.

Ali picked up and batted her eyes and smiled flirtatiously. “Yes Ash?”

“Why are you in the bathing suit store?”

“Alex and I are going to the lake to let off some steam. I was going to call you later, I have a lot to tell you.”

“Me too, but more importantly have you heard the news about Jill?”

“Not since this morning?”

“Ali, her peacocks turned on her and attacked her. Carli and I just saw it on the news. Multiple injuries to her eyes, face, head and skin lacerations,” Ashlyn said.

Ali’s eyes went wide and then she handed the phone to Alex as she threw her hand over her mouth not believing what she just heard.

“Ash, what up?” Alex said raising her eyebrows with sass.

“I was just asking Ali if you heard the news about Jill. She went to feed her peacocks and they turned on her.”

“Ha Ha Ashlyn, ok whatever you doofus.”

“No, I’m fucking serious, here, wait up.” Ashlyn handed the phone to Carli figuring she would believe it from her.

Carli came into view holding Pepe. Alex had never seen Carli with a dog and was about to say something. “Hey Morgan, yeah, Harris here did not make that shit up. Jill went to feed her peacocks and they attacked her. She was found alone on her back porch with eye and head injuries and skin lacerations. That is all they know right now.”

“You can’t be serious.” Alex said in disbelief.

“As a heart attack. You two should drive down there, she is only four hours away and check on her.”

“After she hoed over Kriegs? She can rot. You and I are next Carli and you know it. I am not going to go kiss her ass. Let her think about what she has done when no one comes to her side. I hope those birds pecked out the decision making lobe of her brain.”

Carli laughed. Alex Morgan never had an ugly thing to say about anyone. “Wow Alex, I have never heard you say a bad word towards anyone. That made me laugh.”

“Yeah well don’t fuck with my family and fuck with our team. We have worked so hard to build the chemistry we have on the field and friendships we have only for her to get a burr up her ass and decide to tear us apart.”

“Roger that Morgan. Here let me give you back to Harris,” Carli said, handing the phone back to Ashlyn.
“How is Ali doing?”

“Much better. We are going to go float for a couple hours and talk. We have had a fun afternoon so far and have blown off a little steam,” Alex smiled.

“I am so glad you are there with her. I can’t thank you enough for taking her to do something fun. That smile when she picked up the phone was all worth it.”

“I got this Ash. Here’s yo girl.”

“Ok babe, I am going to call you later. I just found a giant rainbow unicorn raft that is calling my name.”

Ashlyn raised her eyebrow, “Oh I demand pictures of this.”

“Yup, and I found a giant swan one for Alex here to ride.”

“Sounds like Ali Krieger’s ‘Give a Damn is busted’ and she is going to ride off into the sunset on a rainbow unicorn.”

“You’re damn right I am. I’ll call you later babe. I love you.”

“I love you too. Make sure the garden is trimmed before you put that bikini on,” Ashlyn giggled.

“Ashlyn!!!!! Seriously? In front of Alex and Carli? You know I wax. So does the rest of the world thanks to the ESPN body issue. Ass. Goodbye!”

Ashlyn hung up laughing while Carli grimaced covering Pepe’s ears. “You didn’t just hear that ok little guy? Your moms were being crude and now I can’t unsee certain things, remember to bite Harris later.”

“When are you going to do the Body Issue Carlos?”

“When hell freezes over. The same day that you do it. The world will do just fine without seeing what is under my soccer shorts.”

“Don’t threaten me with a good time. I now have enough ink on my body, what are they going to see? Plus the money is saweet! It couldn’t be any worse than Pinoe, she blinded us all lol. Then there was Hope with the garden hose.. and then of course Pressy galloping naked through the desert.”

Carli put a hand up, “God Harris, make it stop. I have to look at you heathens everyday on the field and I would like to think of you all clothed. The locker room is bad enough. And I am the one that had to room with Hope after that and the leaked nude pics of her which everyone made sure that I saw.”

“Oh whatever Carli, you know you miss her and thought she was hot.”

“Harris… I swear, if you say one more word I am going to make sure that you run wind sprints up a hill for a week…”

Ashlyn got up and grabbed the flower vase and brought it over to the coffee table to set in front of Carli and handed her the card. “Here, this will make it all better,” Ashlyn said and smiled.

Carli had a shocked look on her face before a smile overtook it. “What is this for?”

“They are from me, Ali and Pepe. Thank you for having our backs, for helping us to find our way back to each other, and for all the help you have given us, especially with Pepe here. You really are the best and I appreciate you. I see how hard you work for our teams and I don’t know if anyone ever stops to thank you, so I will.”
Carli’s eyes began to well up as she reached up to wipe a tear away. “Thank you, they are beautiful. I love them. Thank you for having me as a roomie and making things so easy to live here.”

“Where did you get them? I should send some to Jill as a get well soon from the team.”

“I picked them up at Whole Foods because they have the best flowers. See, this is why you are the captain because you are thinking of Jill when the rest of us are pissed at her.”

“Well, I am not happy with her either but it would kind of look strange if we didn’t send her anything. I am going to text the team and let them know I’m sending some to her from us, despite of her twat behavior.”

Ashlyn’s eyes flew open wide and she began to laugh. Carli laughed too as she reached for her phone while Pepe slept on her lap.

As she did that, pictures started to appear on Ashlyn’s phone of Ali riding a giant rainbow unicorn at the lake and Alex on a giant swan.

Chapter Text

At Palmetto General Hospital, Jill Ellis woke up to her skin burning and on fire. The beeping sounds of machines were going off around her. Something was weird; she couldn’t open her eyes or see as something was covering her eyes. Jill began to panic, she was itching, burning, could not see and beeps were going off and it all was becoming overwhelming.

“Hello?”

“Hello?!”

“Help me! Hello? I someone there? Where am I? Hello?”

Her mind was scrambling to figure out what was going on and when she reached for her arms she could feel bandages on both of them and on the top of her hands. She could also feel an IV hooked up to the top of her hand and realized she was in the hospital. Soon her partner, Betsy, walked into the room.

“Jill, you’re awake!”

“What the hell is going on and why can’t I see?”

“Jill, sweetie, calm down. You are at Palmetto General. When I came home, I found you on the back porch passed out. The peacocks attacked you, do you remember anything?”

Jill laid her head back on the pillow as she thought back to her last memories awake. She had come home, gone to the back, called the peacock’s and there was no food.

“Bloody hell, yes, I remember I called them over and then went to feed them and there was no food. They were closing in on me and started to jump at me. It was awful, they were pecking at me with their sharp beaks and lunging at me. Then one got in my hair and was trying to pull it out and I lost my balance and fell. I think I hit the back of my head on the railing and then I felt one pecking at my eye. I was trying to cover my eyes and then they started to attack other places and that is the last I remember.”

Betsy sighed and sat down beside her wife. She gently reached for Jill’s hand.

“I am so sorry. I had no idea they could be so violent. I feel horrible, I should have picked up some food when we ran out.”

“What is wrong with my eyes, why are they bandaged?”

“I don’t know all of the details yet, they are running tests and I have yet to see a doctor. You are still in the ER right now. I followed the ambulance over as soon as I could find a sitter for Lilly. This somehow made it into the press and US Soccer called, I haven’t had much to update them with yet. The neighbor found you because she could hear your screams and called the ambulance a few minutes before I arrived. ”

“This is just wonderful. Well, could you try to find someone and tell them to come tell me what the hell is going on and that my skin is on fire and I need something for pain and some sort of cooling gel?”

“Sure thing hon. I will be right back.”

 

+++++++

Ali and Alex were enjoying the afternoon tanning on their rafts, floating in the lake. Alex was happy to see her friend smiling for the first time in a long time. Ali was beginning to look better and when Alex thought about it, what happened between Ashlyn and Ali was probably a contributing factor as to why Ali had not received the call up. She hadn’t really been paying attention to Ali’s game because she was worried about her own goal production. She could only hope that Ali was on her way to a comeback and healing her spirit was going to be one of the first steps to achieving that.

“So spill, tell me what you have been cooking in that brain of yours.”

Ali smiled, sunglasses covering half of her face, the smile covering the rest.

“Ok. So I have been thinking about the future and what I want to do. I know Jill is trying to squeeze me out and I don’t want to wait until the day I get the final axe by either her or the Pride to wonder what I am going to do. My dream is to own an NWSL team.”

Alex smiled, “Ali, that would be so awesome, you would be the best at it too. So what have you been thinking?”

“Well first I am going to come out with Ashlyn. Then I wanted to pursue an NWSL team and put my hat in the ring for one. The more I thought about it, the team I would love to own the Pride. I discussed it with Ashlyn and that is what she wants too. I really want to lay our roots down here, start a family with her and begin planning our future for life after soccer. I would love to do broadcasting, but so does everyone and their sister. I would love to coach, but who knows what good paying opportunities will be out there at the collegiate or NWSL level. Ashlyn feels the same way. However, the best scenario would be to own a team where we could play until we want to retire, coach, run the organization, or whatever we want to do. I can’t discuss any of the details yet but I spoke to Flavio to see if he would be interested in selling the Pride.”

Alex couldn’t contain her excitement, “And??!!!”

“And it is a possibility and that is all I can say right now. I have been sworn to secrecy and some other things would have to fall in place before we can discuss it further. That is why I was asking you about do you plan to stay in Orlando. If Ash and I were able to pull this off, would you be interested in being involved with this team and if not now, maybe later?”

Alex clapped her hands, “I would love it. Wow Kriegs, this would be so exciting. Do you have the money to buy a team?”

“Not yet but Ash and I are working on it. I want to talk to Abby too and possibly bring Carli on board if she is interested. I think between the four of us, we could put asses in seats, run the hell out of this thing, and work on things like player development, coaching, you name it. Between the four of us, look at the collegiate championship, Olympic Medals, and World Cup experience. We have all played internationally and we all get every aspect of this game and business, we have seen and experienced it all. I might even get a shot at a trial run. But seriously, you can not repeat this, it can’t get out to the other players, etc. until the details are ironed out.”

“My lips are sealed; wow I am so happy for you and Ash!”

“Thank you Alex. So where would your interests lie in something like this. I have plans for you Morgan,” Ali chuckled.

“I would love to work with marketing or even player or youth development, but really anything would be fun, even fan experience, or sales”

“I am glad to hear you say that because I do not think the Pride markets you the way they should. Your face should be plastered on billboards all along this city. The little girls love you and want to be like you and the young boys drool over you. You are adorable. This team is young and we all know from our USWNT experience that sex sells. We aren’t supposed to act like we notice it, but you and I damn well know what jerseys are selling and what gear shows up at all those games. This team is young and full of pretty faces and there is no reason why that stadium shouldn’t be filled. 4,000 – 8,000 fans at a game, hell, I think we could totally double it if we start doing this right. Then once we draw them in, they will respect the play and the game.”

“I completely agree with what you are saying, but you need to have that megawatt smile of yours on those billboards too. You have turned half of America gay, these women and girls go nuts over you.”

“They do over Ashlyn too and I think Danica will be next. Regardless, we are sitting on a goldmine and we have to get the faces out there. People can tell me all day long that we shouldn’t focus on looks but looks is what brings these 16 year old boys to games yelling ‘Alex-Morgan!... Alex-Morgan!..”

Alex laughed, “Please, don’t remind me. If I had a dollar for every marriage proposal I have gotten from a teen boy, I could retire today.”

“Well you just watch, if this goes through, we are going to turn this bad boy around. I have nothing to offer until I could buy the team. We have to find some investors right now and Ash is going to work on our first one. I am going to need all the help I can get from you though in order to sell this organization. And if you come on board to work for this organization in the front office, I am going to make it baby friendly. I know you want babies and so do I and I want to create an environment where we can have childcare on site. “

“I am so in Kriegs. Serv and I really don’t see living anywhere else other than LA.”

“LA is the second choice for Ash and I and Dallas after that. Both need a women’s team. However, if we can get the Pride you can retire with the Pride if you want because there is no way we would trade you unless you wanted it. So at least one of you would have job security, we could raise our kids together and they could go to the same schools. We could look out for them and for each other in that way. Who knows, if this works out, maybe we could even get the men’s team.”

“That would be amazing. Wow I would love this. Let me know when I can tell Serv something.”

“I will. It is going to be a couple weeks probably before I will know anything. This is what I have been thinking about. I want to come out and make things more solid between Ashlyn and I since all of our fights were stemming from my comfortability with us in public. I was afraid of losing my position on the National Team and I may have lost it anyway because of the stress my body went through during our breakup. I probably let it affect my play, but it won’t be the end of the world if I never get called back up. It would have been nice to get 100 caps though. I have seen the writing on the wall and I don’t want to wait until they kick me off the team to wonder what I am going to do with my life. While I see myself having a baby with Ash, I do not see myself staying at home all day, soccer is my passion.”

“I feel the same way. Fuck Jill Ellis. I am tired of feeling threatened. I think all of us have at least 5 years left and I think we all deserve another shot at the world cup and one more Olympics before she shows us the door.”

“Me too. Now push me Alex, I want to float away on this unicorn.”

+++++++

As Ashlyn cooked dinner for Carli and herself, she figured she would bring up the Pride with Carli.

“So Carlos, I want to ask you something. Are you set on playing in Houston forever?”

Carli shrugged, “I mean I like it here but I am not set on anything other than what is best for my career. I only want to play for teams that have grass fields and I really like that we have a soccer stadium. I would only play for teams that have the same setup.”

“How do you feel about Orlando?”
“I hear the new stadium is beautiful and you can tell it is a world class organization,” Carli said, grabbing the plates to bring to the table.

“Would you play there if asked? Could you see yourself living there ever or is New Jersey still your dream?”

“I guess I would consider it if they asked. I have the option for another year on my contract after this season but nothing is set in stone. Why?”

“I have something to bounce off of you but you have to promise me that I have your complete confidence.”

“Ok Harris, scouts honor. What are you thinking?”

“Ali wants to own an NWSL team and so do I. Ali doesn’t want to wait for Jill to completely hoe her over before she wonders what her next move will be. We would really love to own the Pride and are going to see if we can get some investors together and if they are interested in selling it. Otherwise we want to make an offer for a club in LA, Tampa, Miami, or Dallas. And I am just interested in seeing that if we could make that happen, would you be interested in playing, or investing, coaching or working for the Pride or a combination of those?”

Carli raised her eyebrows. “Wow, Kriegs doesn’t fuck around does she?”

“No. She has our future all planned out,” Ashlyn chuckled, “Here I am focused on my shoulder recovery and she has a whole ten year plan hammered out for us.”

“I’d definitely be interested. I mean I would have to talk to Brian first. He is trying to make the PGA tour first. He is a golf pro and could do that anywhere. You know he attended the Golf Academy in Altamonte Springs which is 15 minutes North of Orlando. Gosh, the more I think of it, it might be perfect for us, Florida has so many great golf courses and opportunities for him. I wanted to stay in Jersey because of our families but I don’t even speak to mine anymore so what the hell?”

Ashlyn smiled a huge smile because Carli was smiling and seemed to be excited and she did not excite easily.

“Well don’t get your hopes up yet, we have to see if being able to buy the team is even a possibility. We can’t say anything to anyone just yet. But Ali and I wanted to see what your level of interest is along with Abby and Alex Morgan. We get along with you three the best and between the five of us, I think we have every angle of the sport and the business covered. We have pretty much seen it all. If you got involved in the front office, what would you like to do?”

“Honestly, I don’t know how to not have a soccer ball bouncing off of my foot. I would really love to be involved in coaching or some aspect that has me on the field every day.”

Ashlyn laughed. “I thought you might say that, you and I are alike in many ways. I think we all feel that way. I think there is room for coaching, player development, youth development, and camps. I think we all could still have a foot on the pitch if we wanted to after we are done playing. I do know one thing. No one has the work ethic that you do and that needs to be shared with other players. If anyone can instill training and work ethic in others and what it takes to be a champion, it is you.”

Carli smiled, “Well thank you Harris.”

“You are welcome, now when are you going to give me a signed copy of your book, or do I have to go stand in line at your book signing this week?”

Carli laughed, “I have a few in my room, I will get one for you.”
“Thanks. Also, I have decided you are going to be my plus one this Saturday at the bbq the Dash is having to eat and mingle with the fans.”

Carli rolled her eyes, “I can’t wait. Thanks for the warning. I will be there and will be all smiles.”

“You’re damn right you will, and I am going to sit every little girl I can find on your lap so they can tell you how you are their favorite.”

“And I am going to insist the Dash have a dunk tank and I am going to encourage each of those little girls to dunk our star keeper.”

 

Ashlyn pulled the chicken out of the oven and Pepe began to cry from his cage. Ashlyn gave Carli an amused look.

“Why is he learning to cry every time I bring food out? What have you been feeding him?”

“I don’t know why he is doing that.”

“You are a terrible liar. I am so fucked between you and Ali. My wish to have this dog eat dog food only has already gone out the window. What have you and Ali been up to?”

“Ali doesn’t like that we can feel his ribs, and frankly neither do I. The boy needs meat.”

++++++

Later that night, Ashlyn hopped on the bed after showering and getting ready for bed. She was excited to facetime Ali.

When Ali answered and Ashlyn saw her, Ali took her breath away. Her hair was in a ponytail, she was wearing her glasses and had a glow from her tan. She was in a pink camisole and sleep pants.

“Hi gorgeous, god you look beautiful.” Ashlyn said, smiling with her left dimple on display.

“Hi baby, thank you, you look good enough to eat,” Ali smiled back crinkling her nose.

Ashlyn laughed, “So tell me how the rest of your day went, looks like the lake was good to you, you are absolutely glowing.”

“This afternoon went wonderful Ash, so much good news after such a shitty morning. I so needed this. So I went in to talk to Alex and he wasn’t there. Instead Flavio was which was even better. Before I get started, one of the most important parts of the conversation was that Flavio told Alex to get your ass back to Orlando,” Ali said and fist pumped.

Ashlyn chuckled, “I am glad to hear that babe. We will be back together in no time, as soon as we win the championship with the Dash.”

“Yeah, whatever. Anyways, I told him what I want and I asked him if the Pride would ever be up for sale. You cant repeat any of this. He told me that FC Barcelona and Real Madrid might be up for sale and he wants it. Barca for sure is and he wants Messi. Real Madrid is a rumor. So he sent Alex over to Spain to feel it out and start negotiations if that is the case while they are working to put together investors. Long story short, if this happens, he won’t be able to focus on the Pride. He will have to focus on Barca or Madrid, and Alex will have to focus on FC Orlando. So he might consider selling us the Pride. I told him you are all in too. He questioned our commitment level and I told him we are in it for the long haul, with each other and owning a team. I told him about our plans to come out and that would no longer be a distraction. He took the news well. Then he kind of challenged me. I told him some of my ideas in a vague sense and he said that if they make a play for Barca, he would give me a shot at a trial run.”

Ashlyn’s face lit up. “Holy shit Ali. This is amazing. So what does he mean by a trial run?”

“He would basically give me a shot at being GM while I still play and train and try to return the national team. This basically means that I would eat and breathe soccer 24/7. I probably won’t have time to fly to Houston and see you like I thought I would be able to if I get this opportunity.”

“You have to take it Alex. I will come to you if you get it. This is too big to pass up. Did you talk to Alex about it?”

“I did and she is in. She wants to stay in Orlando. I told her she could retire here. She is interested in marketing, sales, working with player development, youth development, or anywhere. I can tell she still wants to be on the pitch in some way. I also told her I need her to put asses in seats and she is willing to do whatever. That face of hers should be all over this city.”

“Oh no doubt. Alex Morgan sells a ton of shit with that face.”

“Exactly. Guess what else I discovered? Abby and Glennon are living in Florida. Glennon posted about the banyan trees in her back yard and we both know the only place banyan trees exist is Florida.”

“Really? I thought they were in LA?” Ashlyn asked.

“Me too. So I totally need to talk to Abby. Have you reached out to Carli or Taylor?”

“Carli yes, Taylor not yet. I was putting together a list of all of the pros and cons of owning a team before I approach Taylor. I want to have a proposal of sorts. Did Flavio give you a number?”

“Twenty Million as a tentative number but he really needs to think about it first.”

“Jesus. That’s a lot of money. Well I don’t think we should approach Taylor until we have a number. I think we should have a business plan put together first before I text her. I may only have one shot to pitch this to her. So let’s say it is 20 million, what would we offer her on the return in her investment?”

“Hell if I know, like I have ever done this before. Let me talk to my agent. What did Carli say?”

“Carli is interested. I could see the wheels spinning in her head. If nothing else, she is interested playing in Orlando. She wants to coach or have a role where she is involved on the pitch. I don’t think a desk job will be her thing. I told her that I think coaching or player development would be perfect for her. No one has her work ethic and she has a plethora of knowledge in training, the discipline it takes to train to be the best, sports nutrition, and she knows what it takes to be a champion at the Olympics and the World Cup.”

“I agree completely. Well, if I get to do this test run at being a GM I can get you whatever we need for the business plan. Do you know how to do one?”

“I do, and I have the software here to do one. I just need to plug in the numbers and I need to get some info on demographics which I can probably get with the Chamber of Commerce there. Once we have that pulled together and what plan we want to pitch to Taylor, then I will contact her.”

“Good thinking, see you have always been the brains of this operation,” Ali smiled.

“Hardly. I got some other good news today. The Audi dealership is giving me a Rover on lease and I will have to do an ad campaign for them and the Dash. I told my agent to start pitching the interviews and that we want Foudy and ESPN first so he is getting started on that. Robbins Brothers and HEB want to do commercials. Southwest is interested in doing something and Umbro wants me to sign an endorsement deal where I will wear their clothes exclusively and work to make their brand cool again as far as clothing and gear is concerned.”

“This is fantastic Ash! I am so proud of you baby, look at you go, the world is your oyster baby, I always knew it would be,” Ali smiled with love and admiration on her face. She wanted to be with Ashlyn so bad just to show her just how proud she was of her.

“Thank you Ali. I feel the same way about you, you make me so proud. You are blossoming before my very eyes, every day.”

Chapter Text

Back at Palmetto General, Jill had been moved to a private room on the hospital’s 6th floor. Betsy had stayed the night by her side. She was going stark raving mad because her flesh was still itching and on fire, she wanted the IV out of her hand. The IV was pumping antibiotics through her system. Her eyes were burning and were on fire. Today she would meet with the eye doctor to discuss the extent of the injuries to her eyes. US Soccer was flying in one of the premier eye experts in the country to review Jill’s condition along with the resident Doctors at Palmetto General.

Just as she was about to hit the call button for the nurse to bring her something for the pain, she heard a light knock on the door.

“Come in!”

“Hello Mrs. Ellis? I am Doctor Lucas Carmichael, I am the eye specialist US Soccer sent here to review your case. I have the results of the CT scan and the MRI here and I have been reviewing your case with the Doctors here who have been treating you,”

“Hello Doctor. So what can you tell me?”

“You have suffered a concussion. You have suffered corneal injuries to both eyes. Visual acuity in the left eye is 0.02, you have some intraocular pressure, you have a 3-mm linear perforating wound on the central cornea with a prolapse of the Iris in your right eye. The anterior chamber was shallow and contained cells and fibrin. The anterior lens capsule was torn and the lens is opaque. Your retina is detached in your left eye and it too has a tear to your cornea. Right now we are treating you with an intravenous IV of antibiotics and today we are going to start you on a topical antibiotic with an antifungal agent. Tomorrow we are going to have to go in and suture the tears after I perform surgery on your cornea, retina and lens and perform phacoemulsification and aspiration and implantation of an intraocular lens.”

Jill had no idea what the fuck he had just said other than she needed surgery on the different innards of her eyes, She pretty much got it, the birds had pecked at her eyes and fucked up her ability to see.

“Will I be able to see after you are finished? How long will it be before we know?”

“I can’t answer that at this time until I get in there and perform the surgery. First we have to let the antibiotics run their course. It is not every day I come across a case where birds have pecked at an eye with a sharp beak. I can’t even imagine how painful that must have been. Once I see what we are dealing with, I will have a better idea. It could take multiple surgeries. I am not sure if you have heard of coach Zimmer for the Minnesota Vikings, but he is on his 13th eye surgery from a similar situation that dealt with tears to his retina, cornea, lens, etc. It also depends on how much pressure is building up in the eye. I can tell you this, I am the best at what I do and I will do everything in my power so that you can see again. The recovery time from this first surgery is 8 weeks and you will have to wear bandages the entire time until your eyes have healed and we can assess your vision.”

“Eight weeks! I am supposed to be in Sweden next month for our Euro matches!”

“I am sorry Mrs. Ellis, but coaching is not something you will be able to partake in right now. First we have to fix your vision and ensure that you rest and do not engage in strenuous activities. Even thinking about things too much can cause you horrible headaches. Right now you need to focus on relaxing and not engaging in things that could cause stress to your eyes and brain.”

Jill began to cry.

“Doctor, I will make sure she follows your orders. I think we are going to need to order a home health care nurse for her when I can’t be there for her because I work and I will be the primary care taker of our daughter while Jill heals.”

“I will get with the nurses and tell them to have the case worker come up and arrange that with you. In the meantime are there any questions you have Mrs. Ellis?”

“I need something for this God Damn pain. My eyes are on fire and I want to rip them out of my head. One minute they burn, the next minute they itch. To top that off, my flesh injuries feel just the same and Tylenol is not helping. Please help me before I go drown myself in the shower.”

“Mrs. Ellis, the topical antibiotic we are going to start you on will help to soothe your eyes. We will also put a salve on them that will help give you some relief. You are going to be here for a few days so I am going to write an order to have the nurses come in every hour and treat you with salve. I will consult the other doctors on your case and request that they give you an anti-inflammatory and something stronger for pain.”

“Thank you. Are you reporting back to US Soccer? I need someone to call them and tell them I can’t make Sweden.”

“Yes I will be calling them next because they want a full update. I think you will be out for a few months at the least.”

“Months! But you said 8 weeks!”

“8 weeks is just the recovery time from your initial surgery. Then we have to evaluate and see where you are. After that will be physical therapy. We can’t just rip the bandages off and then send you out into the world even if you can see just fine. In the best case scenario, lets say you can see after the first surgery and there is no scarring. We then have to work on retraining your eyes and brain to communicate with each other and get your hand and eye coordination back to where it was before the accident. We also have to get you accustomed to light and sound matching your vision and work with you to gain your balance back. All of these things will be out of whack. Even things like walking or driving will have to be retrained.”

Jill began to cry some more.

“I am very sorry Mrs. Ellis but I am going to do my best to get you back to where you can live your everyday life again. Now, as for the concussion, are you familiar with concussion protocol?”

“Yes, it has become an everyday part of my job.”

“Ok well you need to take it easy because when you fell and hit your head on the railing you suffered a pretty big one and you have a knot on the back of your head. The swelling will go down and since you are here, you won’t be engaging in strenuous activity. I wouldn’t try listening to the TV or having someone talk a lot or loudly around you. If you are experiencing any headaches or lapses in focus or memory, you need to alert one of us right away. If you have any confusion, amnesia, vomiting, or seizures, we need to know right away. I don’t see any bleeding on the brain from your CT scan but that doesn’t mean that something couldn’t appear later. For now we are going to treat the lump with an ice pack to encourage it to go down.”

+++++++++

At the US Soccer Federation headquarters in Chicago, Sunil Galati received a call from Dr. Carmichael to update him on Jill’s status. The injuries Jill had suffered were serious and traumatic and they would be without a coach for the greater part of the Summer. Sunil decided to announce that Assistant USWNT coach, Tony Gustavvson would take over as interim coach of the USWNT until they were able to asses the situation with Jill. Sunil made the call to Tony and told him he had full say and control over the team and had full authority to make any decisions he wanted to. Sunil then called Jill to wish her a fast and full recovery while sending love and support from US Soccer. He informed Jill of his decision to name Tony as interim coach until she could come back and asked her for her permission to update the world on her condition. He made it clear to Jill that Tony would now be in charge of all decisions regarding the team and told her it would be best if she focused on her own recovery and did not think about soccer for the time being.

Sunil then scheduled a press release and a press conference to address the situation with their head coach. He then arrange to have flowers sent to Jill in the hospital along with a gift basket. He knew she couldn’t see but he didn’t know what else would be appropriate to send.

 

++++++++

Tony had been waiting for an opportunity like this for years but he did not want it to come at Jill’s expense. After hanging up the phone with Sunil, he decided he had a month to pull things together for Sweden. That morning he had been informed by the Houston Dash that Moe Brian was suffering an injury from the last game and was not cleared to play soccer. The roster was now down to 20. He had also been informed that Alex Morgan’s hamstring was questionable. While Tony agreed with most of Jill’s choices, one decision bothered him and that was leaving Ali Krieger off of the roster. He decided he would call her up since Moe was now unable to play. He could put Hinkle in another position but Ali Krieger was going to be his right back. He searched through his phone and dialed her number.

“Hello?”

“Hello, Ali, this is Tony G. How are you?”

“Hi Tony, I am good thank you, how are you?”

“I have seen better days, have you heard about Jill?”

“I have, I am so sorry what happened, how unfortunate. Will she be ok?”

“She will be ok, but she has a long road ahead of her to recover between you and I. She is going to need eye surgery, maybe even multiple eye surgeries, we just do not know yet. US Soccer is naming me interim head coach. That also needs to remain between you and I until it is announced.”

“Congratulations Tony, I won’t tell anyone, what can I do for you?”

“Well, I never agreed with Jill’s decision not to call you up for the Euro games. While I can’t undo her roster decisions, I did get an opening in the roster this morning since Morgan Brian suffered an injury in her last game and is not cleared to play. So, I would like to call you up and play right back for me. Can you come?”

Ali smiled and fist pumped. “Yes, absolutely, I will help the team in any way I can.”

“Ok great, I will have the staff get in touch with you, get all of the details to you and book your travel. Is your passport up to date?”

“Yes I have several years left on it.”

“Good, I wanted to let you know as soon as I could so you could begin prepping. Remember, we can’t say anything until US Soccer announces everything.”

“No problem. Can I tell Ash?”

“Yes, you can as long as she understands the drill.”

“Ok awesome. Did Jill get the chance to tell you about Ashlyn and I doing a few interviews to come out as a couple? I just spoke to her the other day about our plans to and she said that I needed to inform her when things were set up so that she could handle it with US Soccer PR.”

“No she didn’t. However, I am happy for you Ali. Thank you for letting me know so that I am not taken by surprise. I will let Sunil and US Soccer know that you are planning on it so they can prepare for the media interest.”

“Thank you. When I know more I will email you the details. Thank you so much for the call Tony, this means so much to me.”

“You’re welcome. Between you and I, I have no idea what Jill was thinking. I support her in most things but this call was ridiculous and we are going to get you those 100 caps Ali this Summer. You have done so much for the sport and our team. I believe you have a lot of soccer left in you and this team needs your leadership.”

“That means everything to me. Thank you Tony. See you in a month.”

Ali was ecstatic. In just one phone call, another piece of her heart felt like it was healing again. Ali had just finished practice and decided she was going to go get a massage. She had to start doing something to get her body and mind feeling like it was leveled out. This everyday up and down on her emotions was taking its toll and stressing out her body and mind. Her position with the National Team had been upsetting. Her relationship status with Ashlyn had been a rollercoaster. Trying to hang on to her sponsors and endorsements had been stressing out her mind. Then her plans with the NWSL team ownership had been exhilarating. Her nerves had been on edge and her stomach was in knots. She didn’t want to turn to alcohol for relaxation so the only thing she knew to do was to hit the spa and control the things she could until the news came in on the things she was waiting to hear about.

++++++

In Houston, Ashlyn sat in the waiting room of Houston Orthopedic and Sports Specialists. Today was the day she would find out if she could return to practice. As she was called back into one of the rooms in the rear, she walked past photos of all of the professional athletes for the Texans, Rockets, Astros, Dynamo and astronauts the practice had treated.

“Dr. Leighton will be back to see you in just a minute,” one of the nurses told her after recording her vitals.

After a few minutes the Doctor entered the room.

“Ashlyn, so great to see you. How are you feeling?”

“Hey Doc. Thank you, the shoulder is feeling so much better than before the surgery.”

“That is great to hear. So tell me what are you experiencing with it, how do you feel about your PT?”

“Well, the only thing I feel is a little tenderness and I feel a lot of weakness. I have been too afraid to pick anything up. The trainers feel that my range of motion is excellent and they think I am ready for the next step.”

Dr. Leighton smiled and began to feel along Ashlyn’s arm and shoulder, performing a series of tests in strength and range of motion.

“Well, that is to be expected. You are going to be tender and weak until you build back up strength. You are coming along quicker than I expected, you must be following my orders of heat, ice, PT and nothing strenuous.”

“I have been because I want to recover as soon as possible.”

“I don’t mind you returning to practice and training but I want you on light duty only. No diving. You can run and do fitness drills. I do not want you lifting weights. I will let you work on some hand/eye coordination, catching balls, etc. I would prefer you took the brunt of impact with your right hand and arm at first and just guide the left one along for support and then build up your endurance. I do not want you doing anything that involves diving to the ground just yet or contact with other players. I will write an order of what I will allow you to do and send it to the Dash trainers as well as US Soccer. I still want you engaging in heat, ice, massage, and deep tissue therapy. I would like you to approach your range of motion exercises slowly. I do not want you reaching up for things quickly or jerking or making sporadic movements. I also do not want you picking up heavy things. Right now we want to focus on building strength little by little and loosening you up. I will see you back in my office in three weeks and we will re-evaluate.”

Ashlyn smiled, “Ok great, thank you Doc.”

Ashlyn returned back to the Dash facilities to let the trainers in on her news before heading to tell her coaches. They would just play it by ear with her in practice and let her work on things that did not aggravate the tenderness she was still experiencing. That afternoon she called Ali so they could share their latest developments with each other, ringing her on facetime.

“Hi Ash.” Ali said absolutely beaming. She was sitting on the practice field benches with Alex and Marta who began scrunching into the camera frame waving at Ashlyn.

“Hi baby. Marta! Hello. Hello Alex! Are you guys still at practice?”

“We just finished up, we had a late one today because Tom wants us to get acclimated for the night game we are playing this week.”

“Have you heard Ali’s super fantastic awesome news today?” Alex asked.

“No, but by the way she is beaming, you can’t make me wait any longer.”

Ali cleared her throat and batted her eyes. “Did you hear that Tony was named coach until they can figure out what is happening with Jill?”

“I did. I guess Jill is down for the count for awhile.”

“She is going to need eye surgery, maybe several. Anyway, he called me this morning and told me I am going to Stockholm! He said that Morgan Brian suffered an injury in the last Dash game and can’t make it. He said that he will put Hinkle somewhere else but that he did not agree with Jill’s decision and I will be playing right back.”

A beautiful happy smile creeped across Ashlyn’s face. “Oh Ali, I am so happy for you baby. I am so glad someone has some sense. I just found out about Moe yesterday but I didn’t know that it was going to keep her from going to Sweden. I hate that for her but I am so glad you are now going baby.”

“I told her she is going to get a rainbow colored jersey one way or another. Fuck Jill Ellis,” Alex said, pushing her head into the screen and causing Marta to snicker. It was amazing how Marta didn’t speak a lot of English but she sure as hell understood it.

“Hell yes she is. I will be here with Moe cheering you all on so loudly. I got some good news today too.”

Ali clapped, “Yay, what is it baby?”

“I have been cleared to return for light practice and training. No lifting, no diving, but I can start inching my way back into some kind of normal routine.”

Ali, Marta and Alex all cheered and clapped for the keeper. Ashlyn just loved the soccer community, some of them where like one big family even if they weren’t on the same teams.

“I so wish I was there right now to celebrate with you. I’m going to tell Carli to take you out for a big fat steak dinner.”

Ashlyn busted out laughing, “Ha ha, as if. You know that woman has me eating crap like quinoa, kale, and turkey burgers? I dread every time she cooks, I am wasting away. She will feed the dog meat and yet she wants me to eat like some kind of yoga master. I had to put my foot down at wheat grass shots. I refuse and I won’t do it. I don’t care what she says, that shit is just nasty. She has the kitchen smelling like a freshly mowed lawn in the mornings and it makes me want to barf. God, I would die for a steak and mashed potatoes.”

The group busted out into laughter as they caught up. It was nice to be sharing good news with each other for a change and to giggle.

The next week seemed to fly by. Ashlyn was happy to finally be getting back into a routine that included both practice and training. Pepe was healing nicely and when they were able to take his stitches out, he became a lot easier to manage. Carli and Ashlyn still decided to keep his action limited because the following week, he would begin his heartworm treatments which would last about a month. Both Ashlyn and Carli were frustrated because the Dash were not winning and Ali felt the same way in Orlando as they were not winning either. Ties felt like losses and losses felt even worse. The one thing that did seem to be going well was their personal lives and the plans they were making.

Nick called and ESPN definitely wanted the interview with Ashlyn and Ali and Judy Foudy was on board to do it. They would do it the week before they left for the Euro friendlies so they would have the piece ready to tie around the games since they would be aired on ESPN2. The first weekend in June, ESPN would fly Ali out to Houston after her game with the Pride since Judy would be in Houston for the Lifetime game that they were airing and then it would be right before the break for the USWNT games and Ali could spend a few days with Ashlyn before she and Carli would have to fly to Sweden.

He also let her know that he had set up the commercial shoots for Robbins Brothers, HEB, and the photo shoot for the automobile dealership and Southwest Airlines during the two week break in June. Carli would have to shoot her parts of the HEB campaign and the auto campaign before she left for Sweden, but this way, Ashlyn could do her parts of the HEB and Robbins Brothers commercials with JJ Watt. Her Umbro deal would begin June 1st and a whole shipment of clothes would be arriving once he got her size. She would be exclusively wearing the brand for cleats, gloves, and casual clothing and part of the deal is that she would be sure to instagram, tweet, and facebook photos of herself wearing the brand as she went about her daily life. The money was sweet and she was going to stash it away along with everything she made from the other endorsements so that she and Ali could have a nest egg to live off on should they need it while they went after team ownership.

The other good pieces of news were that Robbins Brothers agreed on the 5 carat engagement ring and band Ashlyn had requested plus some cash for her first two commercials. When the representatives from their company came in for the commercial they would meet her at their store in Houston so that she could pick out a ring and band and were planning to have additional ones sent there so that there would be a wide variety for her to choose from. They also agreed to let her change it out should Ali decide she didn’t like the ring Ashlyn chose. That was one of the things the store was known for so that there was no buyer’s remorse.

Upon finding out that Carli and Ashlyn were living together and Carli was all about healthy eating, HEB decided to give them 6 months of their new repeat delivery service of healthy foods. Once a week, fresh produce, fruits, meats, nuts, healthy snacks, and protein shakes were delivered to their apartment. This was a god send for them both because it was one less thing they had to do so they could focus on the business end of their careers. They would of course have to regularly share on their social media about the service and tweet pics of their deliveries. Southwest had caught wind of the plans that Ashlyn and Ali had flying back and forth from Houston to Orlando. Ashlyn would be signing a one year deal with Southwest Airlines that would include billboards in Houston since it was a hub for the airline and photos of her throughout their Houston Hobby Airport. She would also do a few commercials for them about their routes from Houston to Orlando as they were about to begin promoting Disney packages for the summer. So, as part of her deal they were going to give her one year of free flights for anywhere she wanted to go in the US. They would also give her a 7night/8day stay and travel to and from a 5 star resort in one of the locations she requested along with a small beachside wedding at the resort that would include a wedding officiant, cake, food and drink for 50. Anything over that and guest travel and accommodations would have to be taken care of by either the couple or their guests.. They would hammer out the details of when and where once the couple were engaged and decided on when and where. She would also receive cash as part of the deal. Ashlyn liked these deals that included cash plus the things she was going to need to marry Ali and that way Ali wouldn’t grow suspicious of why the keeper was not receiving money for her endorsements so she could keep everything as a surprise.

Two new gigs showed up for Ali too. As team captain, she was gaining exposure for some of her local news pressers with the Pride and Bank of America whose headquarters were in Jacksonville, FL decided to sign her for a deal. She drove up to their offices on her off day to sign the contract which both her agent and she looked over. She made sure to that they understood her plans to come out in a few weeks and she wanted to make sure there would be no bullshit with a morality clause. The same day they did the official photos for her ad campaign with them for free checking bank accounts that would be featured throughout Florida of her in a Pride jersey. She also was offered to do color for the FC Orlando soccer games and figured that one came her way from Flavio.

Chapter Text

It was two weeks since Jill had her eye surgery and Doctor Carmichael flew in so that they could take off her bandages and see how she was coming along. Jill was having a hard time adjusting to life without vision and Betsy had never been happier to have a home health care nurse to help her out. It had taken a week to get Jill familiar with using a cane for the visually impaired; however they found it just easier on most days to let her use a walker around the house. That way she had a barrier in between her and whatever she was about to run into. Jill was never so happy that they had bought a one story ranch rambler in Palmetto Bay so that she didn’t have to navigate steps. For someone who had been athletic for the most part of her life, this really sucked not being able to do much.

Betsy was adamant about removing all of the peacocks from their property and surrounding area. She didn’t tell Jill about it, what Jill couldn’t see, wouldn’t hurt her. First of all, tracking down peacock food was a pain in the ass and required going to some special feed store. Secondly, they were vicious bastards that could have robbed her wife’s eyesight. She didn’t care how pretty or how hungry or wayward they were, they were going. She contacted a local bird and wildlife sanctuary who was willing to take them in and distribute them to various zoos and animal parks throughout the country. However, they did not have the resources and time to come and collect them, that would have to be something Betsy would have to figure out. So, Betsy found Flamingo Bob, the local bird rescue man who rescued pelicans, cranes, herons and other birds in distress. He set up trap cages throughout the property and so far, in two weeks, had successfully captured 23 peacocks. They only had about 40 or 60 to go. Betsy was not going to miss them or the bird shit all over her back yard.

When Doctor Carmichael took off the bandages and examined Jill’s eyes he was pleased with how the suture job went and how her eyes seemed to be healing. Jill was not so pleased because all she could see was white blurriness with red rings. Dr. Carmichael told her that was not out of the ordinary and reminded her that this visit was primarily to look at the results of her surgery and how the repair of the tears was coming along. He bandaged her back up and told her to stay on the drops and moisturizing salve and that he would see her again in two weeks. Jill continued to complain that her eyes were still in pain and itching. He prescribed her some more drops with steroids. Every time she said anything, he handed her another bottle of drops.

 

+++++++

It was a week since Ali and Flavio last spoke when Ali received a call from the Pride offices. His assistant was calling and wanted to see if Ali could stop by the Pride after her training that day since they didn’t have practice. Ali said she would be right over after training. When she pulled into the Pride parking lot next to the offices, she smiled when she saw that one of the parking spaces next to Alex Leito said “Ali Krieger.” Excitement rushed through her body because this could only mean one thing as she pulled her white Rover into the spot. She tried to control the rush of butterflies that overtook her body and took a sip of water to calm down.

She walked in and waved to everyone who was waving to her and calling out her name before checking in with Flavio’s assistant. She was asked to have a seat in the Pride Pub where she was handed a beer and a bag of almonds. She was thankful to get a minute to relax in the comfortable chairs as a replay of both the Pride game and the FC Orlando game replayed on the monitors. Ali frowned as she watched the Pride game, their last one where they lost in the last few minutes of the game despite the early strike from Camilla and Spencer.

Ten minutes later, Ali was requested in Flavio’s office.

“Hello Ali Krieger!” Flavio said with a huge smile, enveloping her in a hug before closing the frosted glass door to his office and motioning for her to sit down in a chair. She loved how the Pride offices were made of glass and could be turned into opaque glass with the flip of a switch if privacy was needed in them. This way, you could see all of the action going on out in the sales and marketing offices if you wanted to.
“Hello Flavio, how have you been?”

“Stressed. It looks like indeed that Barca is for sale. We can’t get a definitive answer on Real Madrid, half of the ownership wants to sell, the other doesn’t especially since they just won the Champions League for the fourth time. So, there may only be a stake in ownership available for Real Madrid. While that is tempting, we have decided to go after Barca where we can get complete ownership.”

Ali smiled, she could see this was Flavio’s dream. “I am happy for you Flavio and I certainly hope you can get it, I know how big of a deal that is for you. I can’t even imagine getting Messi and Neymar, what a dream.”

“It is Ali and my wife is from Spain. She really wants me to get this deal done so we can live there part time and she can be near her parents for part of the year. Oscar De La Hoya is excited too and I am trying to rope in the remaining investors it will take to get this deal done. So with that being said, Alex is going to be tied up in Spain for a while and I am going to Mexico to meet with Carlos Slim. We are definitely going to get this deal done Ali, I don’t care what it takes. Barca is going to be ours. That leaves the Pride needing a new GM and my offer still stands. Did you see your new parking spot when you pulled up today?” Flavio smiled as he wrote some notes down on his desk pad.

Ali broke out into a megawatt smile. “I did and it took me about 20 minutes to get the butterflies and my excitement under control. I definitely want to do it. I am not sure if you heard today, but the National Team has called me up for Sweden. I leave for the first week in June for Houston to do our interview with ESPN and Julie Foudy before flying out to Stockholm to meet up with the team. I hope that will be ok.”

Flavio smiled, “Of course it will be ok. Watching athletes reach their goals and chase their dreams is why I do this. And if I may be a bit selfish, every time our players go to play for their National Teams, all it does is increase ticket sales for me when they return.”

“It definitely puts asses in seats,” Ali laughed. “May I ask, have you thought of a definitive number you want for the Pride?”

“Yes I have. I want 23 million and I have decided that I want 5% of ticket sales for each game which will cover the costs of the stadium rental for the pride and the rental of the offices here. I am willing to split the parking revenues 50/50 since I and FC Orlando will still own the stadium. If that is unsuitable then we can work out a flat rental fee for the stadium and you can find your own offices for the Pride.”

“May ask you one more question? If we do this deal and I turn the Pride into a success would you give me the first option to buy FC Orlando and the stadium should you ever decide to sell it as well?”

Flavio sat back in his chair to think because his MLS team was way more lucrative than his NWSL team was. “I would as long as you were able to meet the asking price and come in as the higher bidder. If I ever do sell FC Orlando, it will go to the highest bidder but I would certainly give you the first option to buy it if you meet the price and you make the Pride sustainable and successful. I can’t promise you that we will ever sell it though.”

“Fair enough, I just appreciate the opportunity. As far as the Pride goes, I will begin plans on starting a business plan and making a pitch to our investors.”

“That sounds fine, I am in no rush to sell the Pride right now so I can wait, and mainly I just need it to be cared for while our attention is focused elsewhere. So with that being said, let’s talk about your salary while you are interim GM. I am willing to start you out at $2,000.00 a week. That is on top of your NWSL salary which is subsidized by US Soccer anyway. I will let you decide when you want to come in around your practice and training. I think you should take off the day after each game for your own physical recovery since you will still be playing.”

Internally, Ali was doing cartwheels. Even if she couldn’t make the Pride deal happen, she would be getting a salary of over $100,000.00 a year without having to work her way up through the ranks of an organization. This was mainly because of Flavio’s belief in her and the experience she had gained over the years on an international and national level and what she could bring to the table of an organization like the Pride.

“I am all in Flavio. I will hit the door running as soon as you are ready. I would like to start off by meeting the staff and visiting with the different employees to get a better understanding who they are and what they are responsible for.”

“I have a contract drawn up here. You can run it by your lawyer or agent and let me know when you are ready to sign it. Anyone who signs with the Pride’s front offices is subject to a 90 day probationary period, so in the chance that things do not work out, you will just go back to being a player. As soon as you sign, we would like to issue a press release and make an announcement to the organization. At that time we will set up a meeting where you will meet with management and at that time you can begin to meet the employees and get an understanding of the roles everyone plays. I am going to tell you one thing; you will have my full support 100%. I must warn you, there may be some animosity amongst some since you are a player with no front office experience coming in to run the organization. I am going to make it crystal clear that I will not stand for any resistance or bullshit, and if someone doesn’t like it, I will be happy to show them the door. You will also have the authority to do so. The reason I am giving you this kind of power is that if you are going to buy the Pride, it is going to be your team anyway, so we might as well lay that ground work right off of the bat. I will set up a meeting with you and our legal department so they can act as a support system to you while Alex and I are gone. I will be running the FC Orlando operations from the road.”

“That sounds perfect to me Flavio. I plan to make this team better and do everything I can to increase ticket sales, revenue, and get our brand out there.”

“So have you thought about the changes you want to implement? If so, I would like to go over them now before I leave for Mexico.”

“Would you be surprised if I told you that it was all I have been thinking about since our last meeting?”

Flavio laughed and sat back and put his feet up on the desk. “Ok Krieger hit me with it.”

“The first thing I want to do is get asses in seats because you know once they are there, then they spend money on everything else. Right now attendance seems to be around 4k-7k a game depending on the teams we play. I am noticing a trend in the league and it seems to matter what team is in town and how many US National Team members are on that team so they can get autographs, etc. I think this is a trend we need to change because NWSL contracts are only for a year with a one year option to resign. The allocation is no longer guaranteed. We have Marta, but do people know who Marta is? Does this city understand that she is the greatest player in the world according to FIFA? Do people understand how great the Brazil National Team is and who Camilla is? So I think we should do a campaign with Marta and Camilla in Brazil Jerseys and Alex Morgan and I in USA Jerseys. Three of are ranked in FIFA’s top 11 players in the world. We should do an ad campaign stating that on billboards and encourage them to come see 3 of the top players in the world play for their Orlando Pride.

Secondly, I think we need to give some tickets away to local girl’s youth soccer club teams, and get the soccer team from University of Central Florida at our games and give out tickets on that campus. The general admission benches are empty so we can give tickets away for those seats which may encourage them to come back and want to purchase tickets in the lower bowl. By giving the tickets away to begin getting asses in seats, we will begin to make money on parking and concessions. We should also give them out to local middle school and high school teams; get their parents coming to these games with their wallets. We should be visiting the soccer fields on Saturday mornings and handing them out. Let’s try it for six games and see what happens. Parking should be no more than $10 for the Pride games while we are starting out.”

“Ok Ali, I can deal with this, I will have you meet with the head of our sales,” Alex wrote down on his pad.

“Since you do not have a contract on concessions, that means we can make and sell whatever we want. I want to visit with the chefs and concessions manager. First of all, it is hot as hell in Florida and people want something cool at these games. I want us to offer ice cream, frozen margaritas, pina coladas and frozen rum runners. I want us to offer a sherbet or sorbet served out of a half of a coconut. I want to lower concession prices to encourage people to buy food and come to the games with their families. I think paying $12 for a soda is ridiculous and I want to switch over to Coke vs. Pepsi. Everywhere I go, I hear people groaning when they ask for a Coke and the place sells Pepsi. Everyone knows that Pepsi has to give their product away basically and has to undercut Coke. So while it may be more profitable a drink, it isn’t selling very much if no one wants to buy it or not that much of it. I think $8 for a hot dog is outrageous. I think we should have $2 hotdogs and that can draw in the people that need an affordable option. While pizza, nachos, and tacos are great, I know those are not things my friends and I want to eat at a game. I think we should try a couple of new options and see how those go. I would like to see us offer a pretzel, a good one that is buttered up with salt or cinnamon, not one of those stale ones rotating in a case. I want us to offer a really good sub sandwich and I know just the person who can help us with that. People like to eat things in a wrapper at games and a sub is perfect and not sloppy. I think we should offer a gourmet grilled cheese and a few finger foods like wings and a shrimp basket. I would also like to see a barbeque sandwich and some potato salad as well as a healthy option such as a sandwich wrap and a good looking fresh fruit cup that we chop on site that looks attractive. I do not think most of these things should be over $8 to encourage people to buy multiple things and the smells of food should be wafting throughout the facility to encourage people to buy. At most of these games, no one is in the lines buying anything because the food is crappy and the prices are too high so they eat before or after the games instead of at them. We can try these things out a few at a time and see what sticks.”

“Ok so setting up a meeting with Ali and head of concessions,” Flavio smiled and wrote down more notes on his pad.

“Then I am going to approach the Pride merchandise. You should hear what all the fans have been telling me. First, if they live out of town, they haven’t been able to order a jersey online. The kits didn’t come in on time, then the numbers and the letters were an issue. Then they only go up to a 2xl. The fans are asking for larger sizes, not everyone is a medium and a large. I get it. So we are going to start off with a couple of t-shirts that go up to a 5xl and stock a few jerseys in the same sizes and see how they do. Then they tell me they want our away kits because not everyone likes dark colors, especially in the sun. So we are going to offer our away jerseys for sale and see how they do, starting with a small quantity. Then we are going to offer some shirts in whites and in our lighter colors. Same with hats and visors, there is hardly anything offered in the Pride online shop. That is going to change. We need Pride soccer balls, flags, you name it. We need some rainbow stuff, we need personal fans, and we need posters and things they can get signed. Again we start out with a few of my ideas and see how they take off. The merchandise is where I think we have a right to ask for more money. People don’t want to come to a game when tickets are $20, parking is $20, a drink is $12 and a hot dog is $8. I hear what the fans say. I also do not think United World Soccer should be the place the fans have to turn to get Pride merchandise; we need to control our own destiny and offer all of the cool stuff. I want us to be customizing jerseys at these games while the fans wait. I think we should have a booth set up at the Orlando Pride parade selling our merchandise and have a big presence at that event. No more sitting around with our thumbs up our asses, everyone should be out helping to sell this stuff and increase the brand presence of this team in this city. I got over 250,000 hits on my Instagram the other day when I sent out a picture of myself floating on a rainbow unicorn raft. Everyone wanted to know where I got it. That got me thinking, what if each one of the players brought their own personal flair to one piece of merchandise? You could have an Ali Krieger Rainbow Pride Unicorn Raft. We know that Marta is into cowboy hats and the fans are enjoying that. So have her design one that somehow integrates purple and the Pride or the light blue and white. We know Pressley likes the snap backs, so have her design one. I know what these fans want, they want tank tops, boy shorts, sunglasses, temporary tattoos, and polos. Each player could bring their own flare to a piece if they want to. When Ashlyn comes back, she could design some shark Pride gear. You have seen how much the fans have bought into that.”

“Set up a meeting with head of marketing and merchandise,” Flavio wrote down on his pad.

“Then we are going to sell some experiences. We will pay the players a couple hundred or whatever to do them. We will offer lunch with Marta and Camilla, dinner with Alex and me, golf with Tom, learn to do a flip throw with Evans, footwork lessons with me, glass bottom boat tour with Catley and Kennedy, come sit in on a practice with the Pride and then have lunch with us after. These kinds of things could bring in thousands and this is what we need to do to grow this game and the sport. We can pre fixe the price or they can bid on them.”

“We could certainly do that and bring that up with the marketing team,” Flavio said.

 

“Then there is the aspect that we need to win. I think I can get Carli Lloyd to come play here next season and of course, Ash will be back, how could we not score goals with Carli, Alex and Marta up front? I want Evans out there flip throwing every game because that excites the fans to no extent. Hell she can do cart wheels across the middle of the field for all I care. We need to turn these games into the greatest show on earth. We have the Lion, we have the smoke flares, we have the drums beating, we just need to add to the atmosphere. I want that atmosphere in the stands like we have at the world cup games, people dressed like eagles and USA hats and all of that regalia, but Pride regalia, lions, sharks, unicorns, you name it, and I want to be the one selling it to them. Have a stand selling that shit right next to the line they are standing in to get into the stadium while they are sitting ducks, sweating their asses off bored.”

Flavio continued to write on his pad, his hand couldn’t write fast enough. “I feel like Hurricane Krieger has just swept into my office,” he chuckled as he scrambled to keep up.

“She has and we are going to get these little girls to get their parents to these games with their wallets. I want the Pride to be a game where a family can actually afford to attend a game unlike the other sporting events which are too pricey. The players are already invested. What other sport do you go to where the players will stand around for an hour and a half and sign everything in sight and take selfies? The more money we make, the more we can pay our players and then go from there. It won’t happen overnight but if we can get this going where I would like to see it go, we can ride this momentum into the 2019 world cup. I would like to see what I could do to possibly get Allie Long and Kelly O’hara here. I also want to start reaching out to different companies to start getting endorsements for these players. I know one of the attractions to Marta coming here was the endorsements. Well, if we do a deal with Coca Cola, then let’s see what kind of endorsement for her we could wrap into the deal, maybe she gets put on the souvenir cups or maybe we even get her one for Brazil since Coke is huge there.”

“I think all of these are excellent ideas Ali. I think we should start off by implementing one or two things in each area and then see how they go and then add to them or change them up as you go. I haven’t heard one bad idea yet, so as long as you don’t try to do them all at once, I will give you the green light.”

“Thank you so much Flavio, I completely understand what you are saying and I agree. They are all going to take time anyway but I am willing to work on all of them and not cause a huge disruption to everyday business and take on all of the costs at once. None of it will mean anything if we do not get the asses in the seats. Oh and I also want to work to improve our social media presence too. I think for the most part we do an excellent job but there are things that I want to tweak.”

“Ok you’ve got it. Here is the contract, go over it and get back to me as soon as you can with your signed copy. Then we will go from there.” Ali and Flavio shook hands and she left to go home. She could not wait to get home to call Ashlyn who apparently had been blowing her phone up with texts. Her keeper missed her and she missed her back.

When she got home she changed into a tank top and shorts because the Florida heat and humidity was stifling that evening. She pulled out her iPad and hopped on the bed on her stomach, crossing her legs behind her, allowing her body to stretch and then dialed her love.
“Hi baby,” Ashlyn said with a dimpled smile on her face.

“Hi beautiful, ugh, look at that dimple, damn I miss you so much.”

“I miss you too gorgeous, look at you in your ponytail and glasses, you do that to me on purpose, and you know it’s my favorite.”

“I did do it on purpose and I am not one bit sorry for it. You are all I think about and I will do anything to see that smile. I love you; it feels good to be able to say that again when I couldn’t for so long. If we didn’t have a game tomorrow, I would have been on a plane this evening and would have just taken you in the airport bathroom and then returned to Orlando. I need you so much Ashlyn Harris.”

Ashlyn laughed, “Damn, well I would have let you. I love you and need you too Ali. Now before you get me all worked up, I just tweeted you a present.”

Ali grabbed her phone to look at her twitter. “Oh my god you got it! I love it, he looks so cute.” In her timeline was a picture of Pepe in his new little purple pride jersey with Pepe Krieger on the back and a number 11 with a matching purple Pride collar. “This is adorable. Can you take one of the front of him so we can send it to Carli and torture her?”

Ashlyn carefully picked up Pepe and sat him facing her on the couch and sent Ali the front and back facing pics. Ali had a sly look on her face as she tweeted out both pictures.

AliKrieger: Here is my little champ, Pepe. Doesn’t he look amazing in Pride purple? @Ashlyn_Harris @CarliLloyd

Ali fired off the tweet and began to giggle, it was game on.

“You know I have to live with her right?” Ashlyn smirked.

“I do and in about two weeks I am sure she is going to tell me all about it. By the way, I should probably book us a hotel for the few days that I am there so we don’t scare her. I want a proper send off before I go to Sweden and I don’t plan on being quiet. I so wish you were going on this trip with us Ash.”

Ashlyn chuckled, “Well, I think that may already be taken care of, she said that Brian was coming into town that night of our last game before the break and that he booked them a few days at the Houstonian so they could have some spa time and play some golf and reconnect. I don’t think Carli plans on being quiet either.”

Ali scrunched her face. “Ew. There’s a visual, ok, ok, ok, think other things, think other things,” Ali laughed as she rubbed her temples. “I have to room with her you know.”

“What, is the visual of Carli riding Brian cowboy style too much for you to handle?”

“Ashlyn!!!!! Stop. It. Now. No. no. no. no. La la la la la la la la la la la la la la.”

They both erupted into laughter. “The only thought I want in my head of anyone riding anyone cowgirl style is me riding you that way or vice versa. Wow, now I really actually want to make THAT visual happen the next time we are together. You riding me, I will even provide the cowboy hat,” Ali said shooting Ashlyn a mischievous look. “Now, how is your shoulder and how has practice been going?”

“It has been going pretty good, I am working to get my coordination back and they are letting me work on my kicks. At least it is something.”

“Good baby. I am glad; you will be back out there in no time and hopefully on the west coast for the tournament.”

Chapter Text

“I can’t wait for that so we can spend more time together. How are things with you?”

Ali picked up her phone and texted Ashlyn a picture. “Check your text.”

Ashlyn saw a picture of a parking space with Ali Krieger on it. Her face lit up into a huge smile. “Ali does this mean what I think it does?”

“It means that Barca is up for sale and that you are looking at the new GM of the Pride because Alex is having to focus on that deal. He said Real Madrid is up in the air, and since they just one the Champions League, that probably isn’t going to happen. Flavio is going to give me a shot, all I have to do is sign the contract which I am about to look over and have Elliot do the same. He sat down with me and I started to tell him all the changes I want to implement.”

Ashlyn listened as Ali went over all of her ideas for the pride from tickets, to attendance, to concessions, to merchandise.

“Holy shit Ali, you are like a tornado. I love it. If anyone can do this it is you.”

“Thank you Ash, Flavio called me Hurricane Krieger,” Ali giggled.

“Well, I have to agree, I have no doubt you will be able to convince him that you’ve got this. Did he give you a definitive number for the team?”

“23 million. He wants 5% of ticket sales to cover the costs for stadium rental and to share the offices, he said we could split the parking 50/50, or we could do a flat rate rental on the stadium and find our own office space. If we can pull the investors together, I am going to counter at 18 million and 3% of ticket sales for the first two years and then we will can revisit that deal. If attendance gets up to 25,0000 where I would like it, then that 5% is going to get out of control quickly and he will be raking in $450,000.00 a year and that’s just based on the average cost of a $15 ticket. However, I can’t offend him right off the bat. The worst he can do is say no but I think I will be in a better position to negotiate if I can turn the Pride attendance and revenues around. I also asked him if he ever decides to sell FC Orlando, can I have first option to buy. He said yes, but that club will go to the highest bidder. I really think once he gets involved with Barca, the pull to go manage that team will be greater for him what he has going on over here in the US. I also think if he can get Real Madrid, he will go after them too, it is too tempting. I could be wrong but that is the read I got on him.”

“I’m glad he gave you the numbers, even if they make me want to choke,” Ashlyn laughed.

“I know baby. I’ve got plans though. It definitely will be a risk but I want to do it and Florida is the perfect place to do it for other reasons.”

“What are you thinking?”

“I am thinking about us and our future. I think that FL or TX has a built in safety net for liability for us. If the league were to fold and god forbid our company go bankrupt, Florida and TX have protections built in to where they can’t come after our personal assets. I just signed an endorsement deal with Bank of America. I opened a dialogue with them when I met with them about possible financing to buy a NWSL team just to keep our options open. I have been thinking about if we get married and how to protect us until we are out of the clear. I want you to think about this, even discuss it with your lawyer if you want because I will with mine. One scenario I have been thinking about is that you and I can always get married in front of our friends and family, but we don’t have to file anything legally down at the court house. No one has to know if we file the piece of paper or not. In this scenario, everything goes into one of our names. The house, the cars, every asset and most of our personal cash, jewelry, belongings. I am thinking about it going in your name in this scenario. Then if everything were to go to hell, I would go down in a ball of flames and not you. One of us keeps the good credit, the assets, etc. and the other goes down with the team if the league should fold. The second scenario is that we do legally get married and then we pick a family member that we trust and put the house, cars, other assets into a trust and one of our family member controls that trust and our names are off of everything. There may be some other options out there but I think we definitely need to cover our asses financially before going into this deal,” Ali sighed.

“Well, let’s consult our attorneys and see what scenarios they come up with. I was thinking that the cash, national team money and the money I am making from KPRC, 97.5 and my endorsements, I should stash away for our own personal living expenses while we work to get this off of the ground, and maybe the money you have stashed away could go towards the team or vice versa. One of us has to keep our personal ship running.”

“I agree. I am so glad we are on the same page with this, regardless, whatever we do Ashlyn, I am all in with you, committed 100% and we are in this together. Regardless of what we have to do legally to make this work, whatever paperwork we file or don’t file, we will make those decisions together and you have all of my heart. I just want you to know that and I didn’t want this to be a problem between us. If you have any reservations or any feelings about it other than what I intend it to be, then I want you to speak up and tell me. I have never taken on anything this big before, I have no idea what I am doing, and I just want to make sure that no matter what happens, you and I can walk away without having lost everything.”

“I think what you are saying is smart. I know that if we turn it into a corporation or an LLC it separates us from liability unless we sign a loan or a binding contract. So it doesn’t matter whether investors or a bank lend us the money, one of us will be liable for that regardless of a corporation, LLC or not.”

“Exactly.”

“So it makes sense that we set it up in one of our names so that we both don’t go down in flames if this league doesn’t make it. As much as I want to marry you so badly, I am willing to do it in ceremony only and not file the papers if it means that we save our asses. We can always do it legally later if we want to, either way, I am committed to you 100% just the same, either way. The only way this ship will go down is if the league doesn’t make it.”

“Well I am hoping that my ideas with the Pride work and if they do, the other teams will follow suit with what we are doing and grow their own attendance. Everyone will want to be like the Pride. So I plan on singing this ASAP to get started. Are you ready to do the business plan?”

“I am, I contacted the Chamber and got the latest demographics, per capita per household, etc. I am going to email you the list of numbers I am going to need as far as how many season ticket holders there are, what the different levels of ticket prices are, and avg. attendance per game. I am going to need you to send me the list of all of the changes you said you want to make. I can state the current status of things versus what we project what will happen after you implement your changes. You should send me the financials on the current state of affairs so then I can make projections with your changes. In the end this is all bullshit, we know what needs to happen but this is necessary to have when pitching to investors. I am going to need you to send me the Pride logo, photos of the stadium, offices, team, and practice facilities so I can make an attractive looking presentation.

“Thank you for being the brains of this operation babe. I will get you anything you need. I also start meeting with everyone very soon and I will get the staff to get me all those things. I have also decided that some way or somehow I am going to get P&G to sponsor us. I am going to make them eat that little shit show they put me through without them knowing it. I just haven’t figured out how yet.”

Ashlyn laughed, “Baby you are the only person I know that could make someone eat a shit sandwich and make them enjoy doing so.”

“I have a sandwich here I would like you to eat and it isn’t a shit one. I swear I have no control when it comes to you, just looking at you laying there in bed, I swear. I should go so I can actually read this contract tonight and not think about all of the things I want to do to you.”

“Or I could tell you about the things I want to do to you and you could give me a little show while I do so,” Ashlyn quirked one of her brows.

Ali put up her fingers in a cross. “No I will not be tempted by you, evil seductress. I will stay strong. No show for you until we see each other next so I can ravage you the minute I see you. I love you, sweet dreams tonight.”

“I love you too, sweet dreams,” Ashlyn smiled.

Ashlyn got up and went into the living room with Pepe where she found Carli watching the Champions League game she DVR’d.

“Hey Carli, how’s it going?”

“Hey Harris. What exactly are you doing to Pele?”

“Um, I was going to find his leash and take him for a walk?”

“No I mean what is that atrocity you have him wearing? Why is he dressed like Barney? Where is your sense of loyalty?” Carli then threw a small orange jersey at Ashlyn which she caught. Ashlyn looked at it and on the back it said “Pele” with the number “10.”

“Well, at least you haven’t lost your skills. Now I want Pele in that jersey and we are going to tweet out a picture of him in it, especially to show our loyalty to the Dash and the staff that has been looking after him. You can tell everyone that Pride jersey was a lapse of judgement and that you were picking out his Halloween costume early.”

Ashlyn narrowed her eyes and when she went to open her mouth to speak in objection, Carli folded her arms and gave her “the look,” challenging Ashlyn to just go ahead and say something. Some days, between her girlfriend and her roommate, Ashlyn felt like they both held her balls in their hands. How did this happen to her?

“You are just taking advantage of my good nature,” Ashlyn said as she sat down on the couch with Pepe and took the Pride jersey off and replaced it with the orange Dash one.

“And the collar too,” Carli said, tossing a Dash one Ashlyn’s way and a Dash bandana. As soon as Ashlyn got the collar on, a leash came flying next to her on the couch.

“Now you both look presentable and like something I can associate with in public. Let’s go for a walk,” Carli said as she took a picture of Pepe and Ashlyn.

CarliLloyd: That was a cute Halloween costume you picked out for Pele @AliKrieger. Unfortunately purple clashes with ginger fur. Everyone knows Pele is a member of the @HoustonDash family. Nice try though @Ashlyn_Harris.

As soon as Carli sent out the photo, her twitter went nuts along with Ashlyn’s and Ali’s/

AliKrieger: @CarliLloyd Why is my boy dressed like an orange creamcicle? You just wait until Sweden. I will have you wearing purple in your sleep.

CarliLloyd: @AliKrieger fat chance, keep it up and I will insist that team curfew be 8:00 p.m.

Kohara19: @CarliLloyd @AliKrieger Um, excuse me, do I need to sit on Krieger or something? Because I will not go to bed at 8:00 p.m., I just wont!

SydneyLeroux: @CarliLloyd @AliKrieger @Kohara19 Yeah really Kriegs. Zip it now, none of us want an 8:00 p.m. curfew.

AliKrieger: @CarliLloyd @Kohara19 @SydneyLeroux Fine!!!!

“How the hell do you do that Carlos? I can’t even whip my girlfriend into line like you can. You can just say one thing or give her a look and she instantly obeys.”

Carli giggled as they left the apartment. “I never show weakness, and this look on my face instills fear into many.”

“Oh bull, you are just a big softy and if I didn’t know that before, Pepe proved it.”

Carli took Pepe in her arms as they rode the elevator down. “Your eyes deceive you Harris, I’ll never admit it.”

 

++++++

Ali called Alex Morgan over the next morning and made her breakfast. Like the true blue friend Alex was, she came right over and Ali slid her a piece of toast with eggs and avocado on it along with a fresh cup of coffee.

“So what’s up Kriegs?”

“Ok, so between you and me, Flavio is going to give me a chance at GM and to buy the Pride. I just signed the contract this morning. You know nothing until it is made public,” Ali smiled after drinking her coffee.

“Oh my god! Ali, congratulations! This is amazing! I am so happy for you!” Alex flashed Ali a huge smile and got up to hug her.

“Thank you Alex. I appreciate it. I am telling you because I am going to talk to Tom about you being team captain as soon as they announce it. I don’t think it would make much sense for me to be team captain and GM, plus you have earned it.

“Well thank you Ali but I don’t think the rest of the team and certainly not me are going to change our impression of you. We want you as our captain.”

“That is very sweet, but seriously, I’m not going anywhere. I just don’t think it would be appropriate any longer. If you think about it, I am now Tom’s boss. I have to play my cards right here and I can’t look like some kind of egomaniac. I have to be very careful in the roles that I play as to not upset team chemistry. When I am on the field, I am going to be a player just like everyone else. I am going to have to make that clear to the team and the coaching staff as they won’t know I am looking to buy the team. They aren’t going to understand this decision right now and I can’t tell them why. I am going to need your support Alex in helping me with the team. They may look at me differently now and they aren’t going to understand why I am not hanging out anymore, etc. I have to now focus on helping this organization in other ways. I don’t really anticipate much of a problem, but I just in case there is, I could use some help. Other than playing, my focus is going to be to get our attendance up.

“Ok Kriegs, you’ve got it and thank you. However, don’t be surprised if the team won’t go for it and still wants you as captain and I will be voting for that right along side of them.”

“Thank you Alex. Now since you are here, I was thinking of doing fan experiences with the players to raise some money. How would you feel about doing dinner with me and a fan or maybe giving a personalized stadium tour to a fan?”

“Sign me up for both,” Alex said. Ali was so grateful to have such a wonderful teammate.

“Thank you so much Alex. One of the things I want to work with is team visibility and getting our players out there and making them recognizable faces which is going to include player endorsements. I am going to try to get everything I can for everyone and make our players happy so they will want to stay here. I think the main focus has been giving everything to the men’s team and since I have no association with them, I am going to get everything I can for us.”

“You’re the best Kriegs, I am digging the new Rover. Can you get me one of those?”

Ali laughed, “I will certainly see what I can do. My lease was up on the beamer and Land Rover Orlando offered me a two year lease. I haven’t told Ashlyn yet because she got a similar deal in Houston and I don’t want to steal her thunder. A lot of good things have been coming her way in the endorsement world, Ashlyn is finally getting the attention she deserves. Anyway Audi partnered with the men’s club so I can see if Land Rover Orlando will partner with us. If not, I will try some of the other luxury brands.”

Later on that day, Flavio showed up towards the end of the Pride practice and joined Tom on the sidelines. They chatted for a bit and then Tom called the team over so he could speak to them about practice and their objectives for the week before giving Flavio the floor.

“Hello ladies. I am here today because I have an announcement to make. Ali please come forward.”

The players were suddenly afraid that maybe Ali was in trouble, or even worse, might be retiring and they began to take a defensive stance and tightened up.

Flavio laughed, “Relax ladies this is good news,” he said as he put a hand on Ali’s shoulder and shook her a little bit making her smile and laugh.

“A once in a lifetime opportunity has presented itself to me and the other owners of this team and we are actively pursuing it. It is a chance to own a new team, one I have dreamed of owning since I was a little boy. While I can’t say which one at this time, it is one of the reasons why Alex has not been around as much because he is helping me to negotiate this deal. Both of our attention and focus is going into this deal and I am going to be running Orlando City SC while he is gone. Over a week ago, Ali approached me about taking the next steps towards her future and I have decided to name her GM of the Pride until we see where this deal goes and what the future holds for Alex and I. Ali will still be playing for the Pride as your teammate, but I just wanted you to hear it from us first.”

The players and coaches stood around smiling and clapping for Ali. They were proud of their teammate and happy for them.

Ali stepped forward, “Thank you so much Flavio and thank you guys so much. I am looking forward to this opportunity with the Pride, it is a dream come true. I want you to know that I am only here to improve things for the Pride and while I may be GM, when I am here at practice, training and on the pitch, I am still the same Ali, your teammate and nothing more. Tom is our coach and what he says goes regarding that matter. I am not someone you have to fear or be afraid to speak freely around, we are going to continue on like we always have. My focus right now is to get the fans in the stands and work on our revenues and community visibility. I am here to do whatever I can to make things better for us in the long run. With that being said, I think it is appropriate to hand my duties as team captain over to Alex Morgan. I want everyone to feel comfortable that they have someone to go to who is not a part of team management.
Who all agrees with me on Alex Morgan as our team captain?”

The players clapped, hugged, and congratulated both Ali and Alex. “We love you Ali, we wouldn’t have minded if you remained captain,” Kennedy said.

“I love you guys back, thank you, I am not going anywhere, you can still come to me with stuff. I couldn’t be more grateful to Alex who is willing to this so I can focus on the things I need to. I will still be your teammate and your friend. I just won’t be arranging your rooming situations on the road and organizing player meetings and bonding activities. I am going to need everyone’s help to grow this team’s presence in the community and get more people coming to the games. Now let’s go out there and get the win this weekend!”

When the huddle broke up, Tom Sermanni came up to Ali and threw an arm over her shoulder as they walked towards Flavio.

“Krieger, congratulations on your news, I always knew great things were destined for you. Look at you, you are the big boss now,” Tom chuckled.

“Thank you coach, I just want you to know that I believe in you and I couldn’t imagine a better coach to play for or a better coach to lead us. I am going to stay out of your way as much as I can and let you do your thing. My focus for the immediate future is to grow our attendance, revenues, and community presence,” Ali smiled. She felt a little guilty that she couldn’t tell everyone what her ultimate plans were but it was for the best.

 

++++++

When Betsy pulled up in the driveway after work, she was greeted by Flamingo Bob who presented her with an invoice for $2800 for capturing 55 peacocks. It averaged out to about $50 a peacock capture. Betsy knew Jill would kill her for spending this kind of money to get rid of her pets but she would deal with that later. As far as Flamingo Bob could tell there were about 20 peacocks left to go to catch. He had let Betsy know that the bird sanctuary was planning on shipping the peacocks off to the Disney Wild Animal Kingdom in Orlando. Betsy quickly wrote Flamingo Bob a check and shoo’d him out of the driveway before Jill began to wonder what was taking her so long to come inside.

 

++++++

After practice and a shower, Ali drove to the Orlando Pride offices in her Pride track suit. She was so excited to begin her first afternoon with the Pride. She loved everything about the offices, the laid back atmosphere, the friendly staff, the casual dress, the pub and the beautiful offices, she was excited to meet Flavio and jump right in. As soon as she arrived she was greeted by Olivia who was Flavio’s assistant and was going to be her assistant for the time being. She presented Ali with a badge that would grant her access into the Pride offices at all times and escorted her to what would be serving as her new office. It was beautiful, one side had windows that overlooked the city, there was beautiful thick carpet that had the Orlando City SC logo in the middle that one day she hoped would be the Pride. There was a beautiful desk, credenza, small fridge, a private bathroom and shower.

“This will be your office Ali, Flavio will be by in just a few minutes. The supply closet is right across from my desk. Is there anything I can get you?”

Ali smiled, “Thank you so much Olivia. Can you help me get a financial statement for the Pride? I am looking for anything I can get numbers wise on the team. I would like a breakdown on our attendance, revenues and costs on merchandise and concessions and what our advertising and marketing budgets are for the year and what we have spent so far.”

“Sure, I will get with Matt, our CFO to begin pulling those things for you.”

“Ok great, I also could use some help from someone to teach me the computer system you use, what programs we use and for what so I can begin putting the computer to work. I also need someone to set me up with a pride email, get me a list of the employees who work for the organization, what they do, and their extensions. Can someone also go over the phone system with me and anything else like that I need to know to get started and to be able to navigate the organization?”

Olivia smiled, “Absolutely, I can help you with most of that so you can hit the ground running after you meet with Flavio.”

Ali went to the closet to grab a note pad and desk calendar and began plotting down all of the ideas she had gone over with Flavio the day before and the different departments he had told her she would need to meet with. Soon, Flavio walked in.

“Hello Ali, long time no see,” Flavio joked.

“Yes! It has been forever. Seriously, I am so excited to be here. Thank you for the beautiful office.”

“I am glad you like your digs. Has Olivia been helpful?”

“She has, she is pulling together some of the financial statements, numbers and info I have asked for.”

“Good. So I wanted to go over your general day to day duties. You will be over seeing the day-to-day operations of the Pride. From administrative affairs, to PR, to advertising/marketing, promotions, concessions, merchandise, etc. You will be supervising coaches, support staff, and will be in charge of recruiting, trading and dismissing players, though I don’t anticipate you will have to do much of that at this time. You should also have an eye on scouting potential future talent for the Pride in the NWSL, the NCAA, and in international play although I am sure you are pretty familiar with most of that. I would like you to visit with Tom and for the both of you to assess where you think our weaknesses are, in what positions and what changes we can make to rectify that either this season or in the offseason. We also have a talent scout that can help you with that. We should already be thinking about the draft. I want you to familiarize yourself with our budget, our upcoming half time entertainment, and the promotions we have hammered out for the upcoming games.

I have set up a meeting for a half an hour for you to meet with the heads of all of our departments where I am going to formally introduce you and you to them. There you can set up meetings with each of them to go over some of the ideas you want to implement and get a full understanding of what roles they play. I have asked them to take you on a walkthrough of our offices and introduce you individually to all of our employees so you can understand what they do and use them in whatever capacity you need. I hate to load all of this on you in one day but I take off for Mexico in a few days and everyone needs to be on the same page. I want you to email me with anything you put into place or decide to change and I will email you back with an approval or disapproval. This is how I worked with Alex. So let’s say you want to install a frozen drink machine. I want to know where, how many, what the cost is of the machine, what the cost of the drink will be, and what we plan on charging. You will do this for every single thing you want to do and then I will respond in an email. This way we will have an electronic trail of everything we do. After getting an approval you will write up a change order and submit it to the department head and one to our CFO so he knows to be expecting the expense.”

Flavio slid her over a book with the change orders that had carbon copies behind them.

“While this could be done through an email, I prefer this way. You just drop them off in their interoffice mail boxes. That way emails don’t get lost or disregarded and you have the original copy of your order in your book that you can go back to for reference. I think the next few days, you should spend familiarizing yourself with our departments, what everyone does, and how our systems work. Feel free to sit in with the employees and watch how they do their jobs, that’s how I learned. If you have questions about anything, Olivia is our right hand and she knows how most things work and how we like them done. However, you can always email me as well. I may not answer right away but I will always answer late at night.”

“Thank you so much Flavio, I appreciate the support and help.”

“I am here to make sure you and the Pride succeed. Now, for a little fun before we have to get back to business.” Flavio reached for a box in a bag he brought in and slid it across the desk to Ali.

Ali opened it and smiled her megawatt grin. In the box lie a pair of royal purple suede addidas shoes with the three signature white stripes across the sides and the Pride logo on the toes in white. Along with it lie a box that enclosed a royal purple Cross Century rollerball pen with the Pride logo on it and a diamond that adorned the top tip of the pen.

“Wow, Flavio, these are beautiful, thank you so much,” Ali looked up at him in disbelief.

“You are welcome, every member of our management gets that upon joining our team, so welcome to our management team. You are now a part of the Pride through and through, probably more so than anyone here because you play for us too. I was really impressed by your action earlier to make Morgan team captain; I thought that was really well played.”

“Thank you, I thought it was only fair, pass on some of the glory to someone else. The last thing I want any of the players to think is that I think I am some hot shot now with all of the power. I want to make it clear to management today that I am here as a team player while they also know that they have to respect my authority and that I am not just some dumb jock. It is going to be a delicate balance with the players as to the way they view me, as well as a delicate balance with management as to the way they view me. The two groups couldn’t be more different.”

“I couldn’t agree more and I am glad that you see and understand that and you know what challenges lie ahead for you. Well, put on your shoes and meet me in the conference room in ten. It is at the very end of the hallway, past my office.”

Ali put on her new shoes and smiled to herself, “How about this? I am finally going to get to put my advertising/marketing degree to use. I never thought I would see the day.”

Chapter Text

Ali spent the rest of the afternoon familiarizing herself with the Pride staff. She knew most of the management team but from the aspect of a player. Flavio was making a formal introduction and establishing a chain of command that would be important while he and Alex were gone. He made it understood that he wanted all everything to be reported to Ali and that she would be the one communicating with him just in case there was any animosity towards a player with no front office experience taking over the team. He couldn’t explain why he was making this decision because he didn’t want anyone to know that he was considering selling the Pride. He also didn’t want his staff to think that Ali was some temporary project or experiment and that she was to be respected just as they would respect Alex or himself. He explained that they all would be meeting with Ali individually and that she would be shadowing them and their employees for a few days to familiarize herself with the front office and to cooperate with her on any information she asked for. Luckily for him, Ali was pretty well respected in the world of soccer and if anyone had a problem with it, they weren’t showing it.

Ali then got the opportunity to introduce herself and some of the goals she wanted to implement with the Pride. Alex asked her to explain her experience to the group as a player which she did. Four consecutive Big Ten Championships with Penn State, a Bundesliga Championship, German Cup Championship, and UEFA Cup Championship with FFC Frankfurt, Algarve Cup Championship, 97 caps for the USWNT which included a World Cup Championship and an appearance in the Rio Olympics, and her fifth year in the NWSL as well as leading the Spirt to the title game last year. She wanted everyone to understand that she knew the game at every level and had an excellent understanding of the experience that fans wanted and that she had a good understanding of how to bring them in.

After the meeting, they all walked around the offices together introducing Ali and her new role to the employees and showed her the different departments. She took the time along the way to shake each hand and learn each name and then set up meeting times for the rest of the week to meet with each department head and she wanted to start with the CFO.

When she returned to her office she found Olivia at her desk, setting her up with her email and access into the computer system. Olivia agreed to stay late with Ali and teach her as much as she could absorb that night and Ali called to have takeout delivered for both of them to thank the woman for helping her. By the end of the evening she had all of the financials on her desk and the other information Ashlyn had asked her for in order to do the business plan. She would let Ashlyn work on that and those numbers while she got a grip on the organization. They agreed to go over everything when they met up in Houston and compare notes.

Ali informed Flavio that while she would be familiarizing herself with the organization that week, she wanted to at least give tickets away to this week’s home game and see what impact that would have on their attendance, concessions, merchandise, and parking sales. She wanted a promotion for $6.00 for two hot dogs and a soda. The game would be aired on Lifetime and she didn’t want the stands to look barren. She asked Flavio for the seats in the general admission end zone and the seats that would be across from the press box and the camera’s pan. Flavio approved and now she had to figure out how to get them passed out quickly. She met with the promotions team and told them she wanted 60 tickets to be given to every radio station in Orlando so they could give them out in 2 and 4 packs. She then asked that a majority of the tickets be distributed throughout the Orange County Public School system with priority allocation going to the girls’ soccer teams. Upon finding out that Publix was one of their sponsors, she asked that several hundred tickets be dropped off at the grocery chain’s headquarters. She then requested the staff gather a list of the different youth club teams in Orlando and see if they could find a way to get tickets distributed amongst them.

As Ali left practice that day, she smiled to herself. For the first time in a while, she was completely feeling whole again in both body and mind. Her brain was firing on all cylinders and gone were the days of wallowing in self-pity and depression. Finally she felt like she could breathe for a moment and there wasn’t drama and conflict surrounding her everyday life. She was proud of herself for getting her ass in gear and pulling herself out of one of the darkest periods in her life. Just two months ago she was crying herself to sleep every night and her body was in the middle of a system meltdown which ultimately affected her play and jeopardized her spot on the National Team. Now she was back on the National Team, GM of the Pride, playing for the team she loved, and in a city she never expected to be playing for but now embraced her as one of her own. She couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. She could feel her dream of owning an NWSL team just within her grasp, and in a week, she would see the love of her life and do something she never thought she would in a million years. Come out to the world.

Oddly, this no longer terrified her and this new journey of acceptance she was on had become so rewarding. Not only was her relationship with Ashlyn improving because of it, but she genuinely felt happier and she felt that she was becoming the person that Ashlyn deserved. She felt like Ashlyn was happier with her as a person and that is really all she wanted in the first place. So there would be no more surprises, she had Elliott reach out to all of her sponsors to let them know about her plans to come out so they could head off any potential animosity because of it. So far, everything seemed to be working out. Instead of heartache her life now was filled with hope and optimism just like it used to be. She could even see an improvement in her appearance, the health of her hair, skin and nails was looking better. She vowed to herself to not let herself go back to that place ever again. She also made a commitment to herself to do what she could to make Ashlyn happy because whether it was right or wrong, her happiness did depend on Ashlyn’s happiness and no matter how she tried to deny it, they were just connected that way and the past year had taught her that.

She had an hour for lunch until she had to be at the Pride offices. She decided she wanted to start working on one last plan she had for their future, asking Ashlyn Harris to marry her and she was going to need a ring. She needed to start looking for one because she planned to give Ashlyn both an engagement ring and a wedding ring. Ashlyn liked and wore everything from feminine rings to more masculine ones and she liked gold, rose gold, silver, platinum and white gold. It usually depended on what watch she was wearing as to what rings she would pick to wear with it. So Ali decided that she would give her one ring in white gold or platinum and one ring in gold or rose gold and then she could wear whatever she wanted. Ali didn’t really care what Ashlyn wore as long as the rest of the world knew that Ashlyn Harris belonged to her. One of the perks of being an athlete and one of the sweethearts of the world cup team was all of the contacts she met along the way.

She had been approached by a representative at Cartier around the time of the NYC ticker tape parade who let her know that if she was ever shopping for a special piece of jewelry, to contact them and she planned to. She drove the Mall at Millenia so she could begin looking in stores for something that Ashlyn might like. Ashlyn was always pushing the limits of masculinity mixed with femininity, and while some would call this androgyny, Ali called it hot and it turned her the fuck on to no extent. She got the best of both worlds with Ashlyn and it excited her. In Cartier, Ali found a rose gold love wedding band at Cartier with 8 recessed set diamonds all around the band that would go with some of the gold watches Ashlyn liked to wear. This band looked more industrial and would be the one she would propose with. Then she found a platinum diamond sapphire princess cut channel set band that was a little more feminine. It would give Ashlyn a little more flair if she wanted and would go with the silver and white watches she liked to wear. This would be her wedding band. She took pictures of the rings and emailed them to the person at Cartier who slipped her a card to see what kind of deal she could get if she bought both.

On her way out of the mall she stopped at a specialty jewelry store and her eye rested on a ring without question she had to get for Ashlyn that would have nothing to do with engagement or getting married. This ring spoke to her in a different way, this was a ring that she wanted to give Ashlyn for when she came home to her, for when she returned to the Pride, and would be perfect to give to her if they were able to buy the team. It was a ring that would signify a new beginning for the both of them. It was a black gold band with channel set princess cut amethysts around the front half of the band. It was in the Pride colors and it was as unique as Ashlyn was. She purchased the ring right there and then and into her purse it went.

+++++

Rings happened to be on Ashlyn’s brain as well. As Ashlyn would receive the updates from Ali on her new gig with the Pride and as the information was rolling in for the Pride, she couldn’t help but be proud of her girlfriend. Her heart swelled with pride and she decided she was going to get something nice for Ali to show her appreciation for all that Ali was doing for them. Not just her plans for the Pride, but for taking the leap to come out with her and for so many of the things she said to her recently about what she meant to Ali. Ali was better with words than Ashlyn was and Ashlyn was better with gestures to show how she felt. So after an intense day of training and practice, Ashlyn headed to the David Yurman store in the Houston Galleria and picked out an amethyst and diamond chatelaine ring. David Yurman had been a thing between the two of them for years and they often gave jewelry to each other to mark milestones in their lives. It matched the Pride colors and the pride Ashlyn had for Ali and how hard she was working at everything in her life. Ashlyn purchased the ring and into her backpack it went. She would give it to Ali when she came to see her in a week.

When the morning of the Pride game rolled around, Ali was both nervous and excited at the same time. She got up, showered, put her hair in a ponytail and began packing for her visit to Houston and for the games in Sweden. It took her an hour to locate her passport which she had hid on herself but that hour was another hour that she didn’t have to focus on if people would show up or not. She was so hoping that her plan would work and that they could significantly see an attendance boost at their game that night. She hadn’t had a chance to do much but she was hoping that the concessions special would be helpful too. She would be gone for a little over a week but she left instructions for everyone to give her the numbers after they were tallied. Olivia would hold down the fort while she was gone, and she would handle anything she could by email. Aly Wagner and the Lifetime crew showed up to do an interview and they set up in the living room. Aly got a lengthy interview from Ali regarding her announcement of being promoted to the GM of the Pride, what that meant to Ali, how was she handling it all, and why make such a bold move now? Then the conversation turned to Ali’s age because at 32 everyone thought that was an age of a dinosaur to be playing professional soccer on the USWNT. The subject came up of how did Ali feel when she read that she was left off the roster. Why did she think she was left off of the roster, and how did she feel about Jill Ellis. Ali handled it all like a champ and gave all of the correct rehearsed answers she had learned over the years being a soccer pro.

She drove to the Pride facility after she packed and grabbed her gym bag to take inside when Marta and Camilla jumped out of the bushes to scare her as they filmed their live Instagram stories. The two were laughing hysterically in Portugese and Ali decided since they had enough time to do that with her, they could join her outside the facilities to sign autographs for the fans who were waiting.

By the time they were ready to leave the locker room and head into the tunnel for practice, Ali could feel her nerves eating at the bottom of her stomach. It was just warm ups, but she wanted to see how many people had shown up early. As they ran out to take the field, her shoulders slumped a little when she saw that it looked like just the regular sized group that gathered to watch warm ups. As she stretched, Aly Wagner came over to ask Marta and Alex Morgan for interviews for Lifetime which both obliged.

As they did their warm up drills, Ali could swear she started to hear twitter notifications going off on phones simultaneously. Something was up and she made a mental note to check her phone real quick when she returned to the locker room to dress. At almost 30 minutes before the game, her heart began to swell. The benches in the general admission section behind the goal were beginning to fill up and so were the other seats they handed out. Then a wonderful smell hit her nose, the smell of hotdogs. They were buying them and as she looked around she could see them everywhere. Her plan seemed to be working; now only the numbers would tell.

As they ran back into the locker room, Ali grabbed her phone and saw about 100 notifications on it. She started to read and couldn’t believe her eyes. The Lifetime segment had aired and where they had set up in the living room, the front door to their house was in the back drop. Fans were posting side by side pictures of the front door behind Ali’s head on camera and a photos Ashlyn had taken of herself inside the house with the same front door when she first moved in. You could even see the same plants in the reflection of the windows. #Krashlyn living together was in every tweet and so were things like coincidental front door, same exterior bricks, and whatever else they could match up in the pictures. The interview she had to do with Foudy the next day couldn’t come soon enough, she was so tired of this stuff and just wanted it to be over with already.

She decided against texting Ashlyn about any of this. All she wanted to do is focus on getting a win, fulfill her fan obligations after the game, and then get on a plane to Houston where they would deal with it in person. She didn’t even want to read all of the comments.

Alex Morgan caught wind of what was going on and walked over to Ali. “Hey Kriegs, how are you holding up?”

“Hey Alex, I am ok, it’s just, is anything sacred anymore? You know you go and do an interview like that and you don’t even think about what all you are going to reveal. I just can wait until Ash and I do our interview with Foudy tomorrow and all of this comes out next week so this foolishness can stop.”

“I know how you feel. They would do the same thing to me and Serv and try to figure out whose house I was in and was I sleeping in his bed because the sheets in one of my pics looked similar to the sheets in one of his pics. You can’t keep a secret from them. Before you know it they have you pregnant with twins.”

Ali laughed. “Well I am glad I don’t have to beat off pregnancy rumors. Thank you Alex, now lets go out and whoop some ass on the field and turn this season around.”

The Pride came out stronger than ever and scored two goals in the first 15 minutes. One from Marta, and one from Alex. The crowd energy was amazing and a lot of the lower bowl was filled with fans who were generally with their eyes in the game. Flags were waving, smoke canisters were blowing and everyone was cheering. Ali couldn’t have been happier when the game ended on another goal, this time by Camilla.

After their team huddle, the players stayed to sign autographs for every last fan and there seemed to be a lot of new Pride gear being handed to them. Ali was asked repeatedly if she was living with Ashlyn and if Krashlyn was for real. She told everyone they would have to wait and see and they would be finding out sooner than later. Afterwards, Ali went in to shower and grab her bag before heading across the parking lot to her office to grab the things she wanted to take with her on this trip to help Ashlyn gather their plan together. She checked her phone and saw the texts from Ashlyn. She told her that she was about to board her plane and they would talk about it when she landed.

In Houston, Saturday, the morning of their Dash game, Ashlyn picked Pepe up at the vet. He began his first round of heartworm treatments on Thursday and they informed her that this was like going through chemo for dogs. That he would be puking and that he was not to get excited. She drove over to the Dash facilities early with him in the stroller to see which one of the staffers would be able to watch him that day. She had to do several segments with KPRC and 97.5 sports radio. It wasn’t before long that JJ Watt and Brian Cushing showed up along with Brian’s wife, Kealia Ohai’s sister. They were asking about Ashlyn and her predicament with a stroller that housed a Chihuahua in it and of course, JJ and Brian gave her shit about it. Because of that, Brian’s wife decided that JJ and Brian would be on stroller duty that day and would take Pepe with them up to the friends and family suite and look after him. She sent Brian to go buy him a hot dog and handed JJ Ashlyn’s backpack to wheel Pepe up to the suite and get a water bowl ready for him while she held a child in each arm. The crowed hooped and hollered and JJ as he wheeled a dog stroller along the lower bowl and carried it up the steps to the suite. Ashlyn thanked them all and told them she would see them in the tunnel after the game to fetch Pepe. Brian’s wife said that you had to put those two lug heads to work or they were nothing but trouble together.

Ashlyn went to change and found Carli in the locker room, they began to chat about the care Pepe would need so that Carli was on the same page. Suddenly Ashlyn’s phone began to blow up as hundreds of notifications began to come over her phone. Carli saw that Ashlyn’s cheeks were beginning to turn red.

“Ashlyn, is everything ok?”

Ashlyn looked up with tears beginning to burn in her eyes out of anger.

“Ashlyn, what is going on?”

Ashlyn handed her phone over to Carli who began to see the pictures and the comments and she sighed in disgust.

“You know I am sure Ali never even thought about that,” Carli said handing the phone back.

“I’m sure she didn’t. You know, you don’t do interviews like that and think about every god damned thing like is the front door going to be in the photo and then have you ever sent out a pic of the front door before. Everybody has to be a god damned Sherlock Holmes. Now they are going to bombard us with questions. For fuck’s sakes, one more day is all they had to wait for us to do our interview with Foudy. I was really looking forward to tonight and now its probably going to be all fucked up when Ali sees this shit show. Their game is already underway.”

Carli went over to hug Ashlyn tight. “Look, Ali is going to be just fine, she loves you and she is doing everything she can to make all of this right. So don’t worry about it ok. Several months ago she would have freaked out, but honestly, right now, I think her give a damn is busted.”

Ashlyn hugged Carli back and wiped the tears from her eyes.

“Why does everything have to be so god damned hard?”

“Because nothing worth having is easy. You and I both know that. Now tie your shoelaces and come help me practice on my kicks. Fuck the phone, fuck the fans, fuck shitbook, instawhore, twatter, and all that other crap and lets go get this team rallied to win a game. We have to pick Ohai and O’Brian’s spirits up today too, you know they both want to be in Sweden this week. Let’s go do what we do best and put on a brave face.”

Ashlyn shook her head, put on her gloves and followed Carli out to do light goalkeeping work in practice. The fans began cheering at the site of Ashlyn in a goal keeper uniform.

Chapter Text

Ali texted Ashlyn as soon as her plane landed in Houston. Ashlyn was waiting in baggage claim for her worried about if Ali was going to be upset after what happened that afternoon on social media. Ashlyn had nothing to do but look at some of the comments and while most of them were just people interested their private life; some of the comments had to come from the bible beaters who told them they were living in sin. Ashlyn sighed; she figured she could expect more of that after their interview came out. She was worried about Ali’s reaction and if this would cause her anxiety. Maybe Ali didn’t realize what she was getting herself into. Maybe this would be too much for her now that everyone knew they were living together. Maybe Ali would back out on their interview tomorrow.

Maybe Ali wouldn’t. Maybe the fact that Ali got on a plane that just landed was all she needed to know. Ali had made a lot of strides to prove that she had changed and Ashlyn decided to have faith in that. She would know in a few minutes by the look on Ali’s face. The anticipation was killing her and she was working herself into a ball of nerves. She was wearing her orange Dash Polo and a pair of jeans because she left right after their bar-b-que with the fans to head to the airport. Carli decided to take Pepe from JJ so that her husband could meet him on the way back to their apartment and she could fetch her bags for their spa retreat. A few fans noticed Ashlyn and came up to her for autographs and photos. Ashlyn welcomed the distraction and was happy that no one was asking her invasive questions. As soon as she took her last photo with a few little girls, she looked up and she saw Ali in all of her beautiful glory walking down the long corridor. Her hair was down and beautiful as always, hanging over her black Nike warmup suit, her Beats headphones were in her ears, her megawatt smile was on full display, and in her arms were her pillow, purse, a carry on slung over her shoulder and a stuffed shark was tucked under her arm.

When Ali saw Ashlyn, it looked like Cupid just shot her right in the ass. A smile spread across her beautiful pink lips, her eyes were gleaming, and her hand ran through her hair to fix it as she headed straight for Ali to help her carry her things. Ali couldn’t help but smile at the sexy woman who still took her breath away. Ali’s eyes went straight to that favorite tattooed arm she loved so much and then back up to Ashlyn’s eyes. Ali felt that familiar pang in her gut anytime they reunited and her heart began to flutter. She knew by the texts she had received from Ash earlier that she was nervous and worried about Ali’s reaction. Ali wasn’t going to leave such a delicate matter up to words in text where the tone could be misconstrued. Instead she was going to show her.

“Hello gorgeous how was your flight?” Ashlyn asked as she reached Ali and started taking things out of her full hands. As soon as Ali’s right hand was free, she reached up and placed it on the back of Ashlyn’s head and pulled her in for a deep kiss. Ali gave Ashlyn a kiss that told her that they were the only two that mattered and put her instantly at ease. Ashlyn smiled into the kiss, put her left arm around Ali’s waist and pulled her in closer. She wasn’t going to question or worry, this is what she had been wanting for so long and she was finally getting it.

“Hello sexy, it was good,” Ali said and went in for another kiss. Ali didn’t want to let go but she heard the announcement for her luggage carousel and the sooner she could grab her bags, the sooner she could have Ash all to herself.

“Baby I want to grab my bags and bust out of here, will you grab me a cart. I had to bring extra for Sweden.”

“I will, I want to beat this joint too,” Ashlyn laughed. Ali went to fetch her bags and loaded them onto the cart that Ashlyn brought her and handed Ashlyn the stuffed shark.

“I figured Pepe would like a shark like his mom,” Ali smiled.

“Oh this is mine, he can’t have it,” Ashlyn joked.

“I brought you a shark too but you don’t get to have it until later.”

Ashlyn’s eyes lit up and she was five again. “Listen I am going to go get the car. I had to park on the top level and it’s raining, there is no point in both of us getting wet as well as your luggage. Stay here on the curb and I will be right down. Before Ali could object, Ashlyn had already turned around and took off. Ali just smiled to herself, that was her girlfriend, always so thoughtful, always doing things for her. It was those small simple gestures that Ali always thought were the sweetest.

When Ashlyn pulled the Jeep up and popped the trunk Ali was thankful the backseat was already folded down. Ashlyn knew her well and knew there would be three suitcases, a carry on and god knows what else. Ali loaded up her bags and hopped into the passenger seat and Ashlyn drove off.

“You know, I was kind of hoping to pounce you in the parking garage before we left,” Ali chuckled.

“I wouldn’t have objected, but the sooner we get on our way, the sooner we can pounce all we want. What would you like to eat?” Ashlyn asked.

Ali looked at Ashlyn and licked her lips. “You.”

“Ok then, I am going to take that as you would like to pick up some tacos and go home,” Ashlyn smirked.

Ali put her phone down in the console and looked over at the beautiful contoured profile she missed so much. She reached over to lick the side of Ashlyn’s neck and moved her hand down to in between Ashlyn’s legs sending a shiver throughout Ashlyn’s body. “This is the taco that I want,” Ali said giving Ashlyn a slight pinch. “I’ve missed you so much,” Ali said as she pulled away and decided to not make this drive a hard one for Ashlyn.

Ashlyn swallowed hard, “I have missed you too baby, I can’t wait to get you home and show you how much.”

Ashlyn pulled into Taco Cabana and they both went in to order. If Ashlyn just ordered the tacos to go, they would have never eaten at the rate they were going.

Ali sat in the chair next to Ashlyn and grabbed her hand to hold as they waited for their food to arrive. She had the biggest look of mischievousness on her face, her eyes were dancing and her lips were pursed. Ashlyn knew exactly what that look was, it meant it was going to be a long night between them and that Ali was using self-control to behave herself. Ashlyn pursed her lips in a closed lip smile too as her eyes took in every inch of her beautiful girl.

“I’m so happy you are here, I wasn’t sure what to expect after this afternoon, I can’t believe what happened,” Ashlyn said honestly.

Ali’s eyes flicked open wide for a moment and she squeezed Ashlyn’s hand hard. “Baby, I have so much to tell you. A lot happened today and this week, but nothing so monumental that I wouldn’t have shown up. I wasn’t expecting that, but fuck it, they will all find out soon enough and then we won’t be as much of a novelty to them anymore. There is nothing that could have kept me from getting on that plane this afternoon Ashlyn, nothing.”

“Thank you Ali, I am so proud of you baby, all the things you are going through right now and the pressure, and look at you, you are thriving, you look so happy.”

“How could I not be happy? We won our game today and I am with my best friend. It doesn’t get any better than that,” Ali smiled.

“It shows baby. I couldn’t be any happier either and we finally got a win today too. I actually dressed today,” Ashlyn beamed.

“Congratulations. How is your shoulder doing?”

“It has been doing really well with the light practice, a tinge here or there but it is a lot better. I think I will be back on the field by the time we come to play you guys.”

“I can’t wait for that day. I can’t wait to be back on the field with you.”

Their tacos came and they ate in happy silence. They had both had a tiring day and although Ashlyn was curious about how all of Ali’s plans were turning out, she could tell her girlfriend just wanted to decompress and she didn’t blame her. She could also tell by the look in Ali’s eyes that she had one thing on her mind and one thing only. It was turning Ashlyn on to no extent, she loved that Ali was never hot and cold, she was just hot all of the time and ready to go for her.

“Before we get home, I just want to let you know, Carli brought Pepe home and she put him in his cage. I am going to have to get him and take him for a walk and he doesn’t like to go in the rain. He is going to be super excited to see you so I want you to go in first, go right into his cage and pick him up so we can keep his excitement to a minimum. He has been nauseated so watch for that. Then I am going to give him his pill the vet gave us that will help him go to sleep. The more he sleeps, the better off he will be so his body rests through this treatment.”

“So my plan to have my way with you up against the door just got thwarted,” Ali laughed.

“Yes it did and that’s exactly why I am telling you. You have to wait to have wild monkey sex.”

They both laughed. “Babe wild monkey sex with you is all that has been on my brain for the last five hours.”

“Mine too and looking at you is making it worse so eat up so we can get this show on the road.”

When they got back to Ashlyn’s, Ali did as instructed. She went straight to the cage and found Pepe sitting up and saw that he threw up in his cage, luckily missing his bed and water bowl.

“Aww, my sweet boy, how are you little Pepe?” Ali said as she held him to her chest tight, his little tail just thumping against her stomach. Ashlyn wheeled in the luggage and went to grab the leash and umbrella.

“You guys go, and I will clean up his cage. My poor liebling.” Ali handed Pepe to Ashlyn and kissed her just as a giant clap of lightning and thunder struck. “Please hurry and be careful out there.”

Ali cleaned up the cage and hated that this storm was happening because it meant that Pepe would have to stay in the cage. Tomorrow they would try to gate him off to a small area in the kitchen. She rolled her luggage in and brought the bag she needed for her stay into the bedroom, unpacked it and rolled her soccer suitcase off to the side in the living room. She found the pill that Pepe would need for sleep which had to be taken with food. When she opened up the fridge she found a giant Tupperware container of chopped up chicken and fixed a little bowl of that for him. Then she found the cheese and wrapped his pill in that so he would be all ready to go. She left everything on the counter and retreated to the back to take a shower and wash the airplane germs off of her.

Ashlyn came in and was grateful that Ali had Pepe’s regimen laid out for her. Ashlyn loved that about Ali. You didn’t have to spell out everything for her or tell her what to do, she just knew what needed to be done and took care of it. Ashlyn grabbed a couple of vitamin waters and headed to the bedroom after putting Pepe to bed. She could hear that Ali was showering and began undressing until she was in her sports bra and boy shorts. The storm was really picking up and went over to the thermostat to turn the air down in case the power went out and turned on the TV so there was ambient light in the room. Next to the TV were a couple of floor to ceiling windows that gave a beautiful full view of the city of Houston at night and all of the lights. The purple and pink lightning flashing across the sky was beautiful and she got caught up watching the display in front of her. Soon, the smell of a freshly showered Ali snuck up on her nostrils and she felt two arms wrap around her waist from behind, holding her in a tight hug as they both watched the storm rage through the windows.
“That is so pretty out there. God I missed you so much Ashlyn, and you know what storms, you, and a bed do to me,” Ali whispered into Ashlyn’s ear, sending another shiver down her body. Then she caused Ashlyn's stomach to drop as she went to lick and bite the back of her neck.

Ashlyn was being driven crazy ever since she saw Ali in the airport. She turned around and roughly grabbed Ali around the ass and pulled her into her, returning the favor on Ali’s neck. If they didn’t have to be on camera the next day she would have left a mark. She could tell by the lustful look in Ali’s eyes what she wanted and she was going to give it to her just how she liked it when a storm was brewing outside. Ali moved her hands to cradle both sides of Ashlyn’s face and drew her in for a hot kiss. Their tongues dueled and neither one would submit. Ashlyn pulled back and stared into the eyes she loved so much.

“I missed you too Al, you completely set me on fire, as much as you burn my insides baby, I should be ashes by now,” Ashlyn said as she went in for another passionate kiss. “I burn you? You take the wind right out of my lungs, you take my breath away,” Ali husked. Ashlyn tried to move Ali backwards to the bed but the defender was standing in place in her resolve. From time to time, Ali would do this on purpose so that Ashlyn would completely dominate her. Ashlyn loved when Ali got like this because she could do anything she wanted to her.

“Oh, you’re going to play it rough tonight, huh Krieger?” Ashlyn smirked and challenged her.

Ali challenged back and reached for Ashlyn’s shorts and roughly pulled them down and off and smiled back and they both heard some part of them tear. Ashlyn lifted her eyebrow and went back to attack the side of Ali’s neck and collarbone while ripping her robe off and discarding that on the floor. Just then a loud clap of thunder and a fierce wind blew up against the building causing Ali to jump a little and the power to go out. The light from the lightning lit up the room and the glow of Ali’s body in the raging storm was one of the most beautiful things ever.

“You are so beautiful, just look at you,” Ashlyn said as she ran her hands up and down the sides of Ali’s body. She tried once again to get Ali to move back and she wouldn’t, and though she was not supposed to lift anything, in that moment she didn’t care. She knew what Ali wanted and she knew what she wanted. For the first time in months, she picked Ali up, carried her to the bed, climbed on top of her and began to have her way with her. Ashlyn was surprised that it didn’t hurt a bit and she smiled to herself knowing that the strength training was paying off.

When Ashlyn threw Ali on the bed and pounced on her, Ali felt excitement course through her body. She pulled Ashlyn on top of her and raked her nails down Ashlyn’s back. Ashlyn always took a good cajoling in the locker room at the claw marks that were often left on her back. She carried them as a badge of pride because she knew they wouldn’t be there if she didn’t give it to Ali good. She couldn’t think of anything she’d rather have on her back to let the world know that she could make the hottest woman in the world that crazy.

“Fuck Ashlyn, you feel so fucking good. I’ve gone to bed every night thinking about you being on top of me like this.”

“Well now I am and I am going to give you something to remember,” Ashlyn replied as she continued to tease Ali behind her ear, on the side of her neck and all of the areas there that were sensitive and made Ali’s core soaking wet.

Ashlyn grabbed Ali’s wrists and brought them over her head, pinning them down on the pillows, giving them a firm press. Ali’s breath hitched in excitement and her nipples stood up rock hard. Ashlyn took a moment to stare into the eyes she loved so much that were glistening in the dark, waiting for her hungrily. She leaned down to pull one of Ali’s lips in her mouth and sucked on it, teasing it with her tongue. Ali darted her tongue into Ashlyn’s mouth, eager to connect with her and join their bodies anyway they could. Ashlyn returned her kiss hungrily until they were both gasping for air and moved to Ali’s neck licking the skin behind her ear. Ali turned her face to the side to allow Ashlyn more access to the area that was driving her nuts. Ali was trying to free her wrists but Ashlyn just pinned them down tighter.

“Ashlyn, I need you,” Ali whimpered as the rain drove hard into the side of the building.

“You’ve got me baby,” Ashlyn said as she moved her mouth down along the side of Ali’s neck and made her way back to Ali’s mouth again to kiss her. Ali felt like she was about to explode by the combination of Ashlyn teasing her and the sounds of the storm outside. She wrapped her calves around Ashlyn’s ass to get her body to press in closer to hers and to ease some of the ache that was raging in between her legs. Ali could feel how wet Ashlyn was as their bodies rubbed together. Ashlyn let go of Ali’s wrists so she could move down to her breasts sucking a hard nipple into her mouth and running her tongue over the tip of it. Ali was so sensitive, she almost came right there as she ran her hands around Ashlyn’s shoulders. The room was getting darker as the lightning seemed to have let up and now she could no longer see Ashlyn but she could feel her on top of her and her tongue driving her body wild.

Ashlyn was moving her hands along Ali’s sides and her tongue down the center of her body until she dipped it into Ali’s navel causing another shudder to roll throughout her body. When Ashlyn moved in between Ali’s legs, she paused a moment to take in Ali’s scent and kissed and licked at her inner thighs. She then ran a light lick up and down the outside of Ali’s bare pussy.

“God baby you taste amazing,” Ashlyn said as gently nibbled and sucked at her lips.

“And your tongue feels fucking amazing and I want more of it,” Ali replied, spreading her legs open further.

Ashlyn flattened out her tongue and plunged in, giving one long hard lick from Ali’s entrance up to her clit and back down again.

“Fuck, yes Ashlyn!”

Ashlyn continued that same motion a few more times before focusing her tongue’s attention on Ali’s clit, sucking it hard into her mouth before running her tongue over the tip of it and then releasing it. Ali felt like her whole being was at the mercy of Ashlyn’s tongue in that moment. Ashlyln then began to run her tongue over Ali’s clit in circles.

“Oh yes, baby, fuck. Oh, god yes. Right there. Faster, “ Ali chanted out as Ashlyn gave it to her harder and faster, just the way Ali liked it. Ali clinched her ass muscles as she felt like her clit was going to explode and an orgasm ripped through body and spilled out onto Ashlyn’s tongue. Ashlyn licked up every last drop before plunging her tongue inside of Ali’s entrance turning it into a tight strong muscle that was working the inside of Ali’s core. She then withdrew her tongue, crawled up Ali’s body and inserted two fingers inside of her.

“I want you to taste how sweet you are,” Ashlyn said before plunging her tongue into Ali’s mouth making her moan as she pumped her fingers in and out of her.

“You are so fucking amazing Ashlyn, fuck me baby, make me cum again, make me cum all night,” Ali said, digging her fingernails into Ashlyn’s back.

“I would love to make you cum all night; there is nowhere I would rather be than inside of you. Your pussy is hot, wet, and tight, I could just crawl up inside of you and live there,” Ashlyn replied as she continuously hit all of the right spots inside of Ali and continued to whisper dirty things into ear. Ali wanted to draw it out longer to feel Ashlyn inside of her for as long as she could take it, but her need to cum again was greater.

“Ashlyn, fuck yes, baby, fuck me harder,” Ali managed to get out as Ashlyn picked up her pace and began to drill her fingers in and out of her. Ali gripped Ashlyn’s back tighter, dug her fingernails in deeper, wrapped her legs around Ashlyn’s back and hung on for the ride as a second orgasm ripped throughout her body, her pussy throbbing around Ashlyn’s fingers as her body got the release she so desperately needed. “Yes! Oh Ashlyn, Ashlyn, Ashlyn, Ashlyn,” Ali yelled as she hung on for dear life. Ashlyn wanted to hang longer but she couldn’t, Hearing Ali call her name like that and what was happening underneath her turned her on so much that she came hard.

“Oh fuck! Ali!” Ashlyn moaned into the side of Ali’s neck as all of her weight collapsed on top of her, both of them struggling to breathe in a sweaty heap. Ashlyn rolled off Ali and lie next to her, her arm laying across her forehead while she fought to control her breathing. Ali felt like she left her body and was floating around the room.

The lightning and thunder picked up again and both of them felt so good and relaxed with the covers of the bed gathered around their intertwined ankles. After a few minutes, Ali rolled into Ashlyn's arms as her body began to calm down. Ashlyn ran her right hand up and down Ali's side, caressing her gently. Her eyes rested on the body that she'd never grow tired of looking at. Her muscular ass, those beautiful thick and strong thighs. She thought about how Ali would always get pissed off when she would go shopping for jeans because she couldn't fit skinny jeans over her thighs and ass. Ashlyn was secretly happy she couldn't. She loved the body that soccer built. She loved the way those strong thighs would cross around her sides when they made love. She loved the way those strong calves would pin her body down on top of Ali's. She loved the way those arms could be so gentle one minute, and then strong when they wrapped around her back in the throes of passion. Then she thought back to when they first met. As the lightning flashed once more, Ali could see that Ashlyn was deep in thought, looking at her.

"Ash, what are you thinking about?" Ali asked as she reached up to run a hand through Ashlyn's hair.

Ashlyn smiled, "You."

"What about me?" Ali smiled.

"I was thinking about how when I met you, I thought you were the most beautiful person I'd ever met and just how wrong I was."

Ali's smile turned into a pursed lip, "And now you don't feel the same way?"

Ashlyn quickly realized how that sounded and gripped Ali tight. "No, what I mean is, I never imagined you would even get more beautiful than the first time I saw you. You were gorgeous then, but now, I can't even describe it."

"Nice save Harris," Ali smirked and tried to roll over to face the other way but Ashlyn wouldn't let her run. "No, I mean it. First there is your heart, how you have opened it up, and how much love it holds that you give more freely now. Then I was thinking about how much I love this body that soccer built. How I love this," Ashlyn said as she squeezed Ali's ass, "despite the fact you get mad at it when you can't get skinny jeans on. Then I was thinking how I love these," Ashlyn said as she grabbed a thigh in her hand, "even though you get mad at them too because you can’t pull on the skinny jeans that you want to wear. I love the way they wrap around me when we make love and how strong they are," Ashlyn said as she grabbed Ali's leg and placed it up over own hip. “And my god Ali, when you do wear jeans, you have no idea how hot you are in them.” She then grabbed a hold of the calf that was resting on her ass. "Then I was thinking how I love these, when they pin me down closer to your body, despite the fact that you get mad at them because you have a hard time getting boots on over them in the winter.
Then Ashlyn grabbed Ali’s lats. “Then I was thinking how I love your lats, even though you get mad at them sometimes when they stick out of the side of a dress you wear because you think they make you look too big, but to me, they are sexy and strong.” Ashlyn then moved her hands to Ali’s shoulders, “Then I was thinking at how much I love your delts,” Ashlyn said as she reached in to lay a gentle bite on Ali’s shoulder which she followed up by running her tongue over the bite area. “I love them, especially the way they look in a suit.” Then Ashlyn moved her hands down to Ali’s arms, bringing her left one up to her mouth to kiss her “Liebe” tattoo. “Then I was thinking about how I love the way your arms can be so gentle, and yet so strong and full of passion when we make love.” Ashlyn then moved her hands to cup Ali’s breasts, “Then I was thinking about how I love these, because they are so soft and perfect and I could suck on them for hours, even though you sometimes wish you had bigger ones, to me they are the most beautiful ones I have ever seen because they belong to you,” Ashlyn said as she looked into Ali’s eyes watching tears flow out of them. Ashlyn smiled a dimpled smile and brought a thumb up to Ali’s face to wipe the tears away. “Don’t cry baby.” Then Ashlyn moved her hand to place it over Ali’s heart. “But most of all, my mind wondered back to how beautiful your heart is, because you are so kind, you always have a smile on your face, and you are so strong.”

Ali was completely overtaken by emotion at the words that Ashlyn was saying to her. Ashlyn didn’t often express her feelings like this. She was trying to choke back the tears but she was failing miserably.

“So the first time ever I saw your face, what I thought was the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen, I was so wrong. I had no idea you'd get better with age, how you would mature and become more gorgeous as a grown woman than you were as a younger girl. Every time I see you after we've been apart, you're more stunning than the last time I saw you. You have no idea what that nose crinkle of yours does to me or how gorgeous you are when you smile and these beautiful lines appear around your eyes. I wish you could see how your eyes sparkle and shine and the inner beauty that radiates out of you. I wish you knew how just hearing your voice calms me, or how happy sharing a laugh with you makes me. I wish you knew what the sound of your laughter does to my soul. Ali, I have been in love with you since the first time I laid eyes on you and I fall more in love with you every day.”

As soon as she said that, the power came back on, and much needed cool air began to fill the room. As much as Ashlyn hated to make Ali cry, she knew this was a good cry and they were feelings that she needed to convey to her for a while now. Ashlyn pulled Ali closer into her arms tightly and let her rest her forehead into her shoulder as she cried and let it out, feeling Ali’s body jerk up and down as she sobbed. Despite the rough patch in the road they had hit this past year, before they went into that interview tomorrow, Ashlyn wanted Ali to know everything she was feeling. It wasn’t lost on Ashlyn that in their past few visits, Ali would say things like, “It is nice to hear you say that.” She knew that she had been holding back for a long time mainly because she had been angry or upset over the reasons that led to their break up. Ashlyn needed to say them as much Ali needed to hear them as part of their healing process as a couple. She thought back to a time when she used to compliment Ali all of the time and build her up. Then somewhere along the way, the words began to get in the way as relationship problems would pop up here and there. She locked up that part of her heart a long time ago and now it was time to open that corner of it up again. Ashlyn rubbed Ali’s back and felt her breathing begin to calm. Ali lifted her head up and looked into the eyes she loved so much

“Ashlyn, you just said the most beautiful things to me, I haven’t heard you talk to me that way in so long,” Ali said as she stared into Ashlyn’s eyes, her own still wet with emotion. “I know you love me but I was beginning to think that maybe you didn’t feel the same level of feelings for me as you once did, like when we first got together. I knew part of that was my fault but I was willing to live with it anyway. I’d rather have just a piece of your heart than nothing at all.”

“You have all of my heart Ali, you always have and I couldn’t change that if I wanted to. As stubborn as I may be at times, my heart only beats for yours, that connection will never break. I meant every word.”

“I love you so much Ash. I needed to hear that so badly, thank you."

Chapter Text

Jill walked out on to her back porch, guided by her walker, for the first time in weeks. Something was off as she sat in her rocking chair, she could no longer hear the sounds and mating calls of the peacocks. She would have to ask Betsy about this later she thought, as she reached into her pocket and pulled out a hydro codeine pill that she was able to get the US Soccer team doctor to prescribe and mail to her. She washed it down with a water that she pulled out of her track suit. She was still in a lot of pain and her eyes were driving her crazy, all part of the healing process, everyone would tell her. Damn these bandages, she thought.

 

+++++++

 

Sunday morning, Ali woke up feeling blissfully relaxed in the arms of her partner. She opened her eyes and watched Ashlyn sleep as she thought back to the beautiful things she said to her last night. She knew she should let Ashlyn sleep in until the last minute before they had to get ready to meet Julie Foudy and ESPN. They were going to do the interview and then go out for a nice dinner. She couldn't help it, she wanted Ashlyn now. She had to make the most of every minute she could get with Ashlyn in bed because they were spending too much time apart. However, she let Ashlyn sleep, she knew they had to get up and shower.

As she lay there for a minute longer watching Ashlyn sleep, she wondered if there would ever be a day when she looked at Ashlyn and wouldn't want her about four times a day. It amazed her that they ever got anything done and the level of self-control she often had to exhibit not to stay in bed and make love to her all day. She thought back to a time when she had a boyfriend when she knew Ashlyn in her college days and how she never felt this way about him. He wanted her all of the time and she was happy to have sex with him two or three times a week. She'd often wake up to the feeling of his boner pressed into her lower back in the mornings and she would roll her eyes. With Ashlyn, she couldn't have felt more different. As she thought about their interview that day and some of the feelings she wanted to convey, she knew it was because of love and it was just completely different being with a woman. They could have sex four times a day and she would still want more, it wouldn't bother her at all. When Ashlyn would wake her up for sex sometimes in the middle of the night, Ali would happily oblige, roll onto her back, spread her legs open wide, and enjoy the ride. It didn’t matter how sleepy she was and Ashlyn didn’t expect anything from her in that regard, she could just be. When Brent tried to do anything like that, she'd get royally pissed.

Ali couldn't help the dirty thoughts rolling through her mind that morning. She loved Ashlyn so much and just wanted to be connected to her. She let her mind wander off and thought about what it would be like to have a cock and what it would feel like to fuck Ashlyn with it, what it would feel like to be deep inside of her connected that way, skin on skin. Ali thought about how it probably was a good thing she didn't have one because she would be hard all of the time and would probably try to sleep with it inside of Ashlyn each night. She laughed at herself internally for how bad she was being but she couldn’t help the things that wondered through her brain. She chuckled some more as she thought about her fantasies and wondered how the rest of the world would like that if she told Foudy that in the interview today. That would give P&G something to really think about. She thought about Foudy asking her, "If you could leave this world anyway you wanted to, how would you go out?" Her answer would be "Underneath Ashlyn Harris being fucked to death on my 5th multiple orgasm." She wondered what Zico water or JIF would think about that.

Once Ali decided to get up she was all business. She gently shook Ashlyn but her girl was snoring. She shook her some more and nothing. So she got up, put on her sweats and went to get Pepe out. He was asleep too and she had to nudge him to wake him as she pulled him out of the cage.

“Good morning liebling, you are such a good boy. Momma loves you,” she said as she kissed the top of his head and held him tight. She brought him over to Ashlyn’s side of the bed and let him lick her face.

“Ali?” Ashlyn smiled, her eyes still closed.

Ali rolled her eyes. “No not Ali. Ali doesn’t lick your face like that to wake you.” Ashlyn’s eyes popped open and she saw Ali and Pepe beside her.

“Good morning you two,” Ashlyn smiled.

“Good morning love. Thank you for last night, you made me feel incredible.”

“Al, come back to bed,” Ashlyn groaned.

“I would love to baby but we have to get up and get our asses in gear for the interview today. I checked my email and we have to meet Foudy early at the JW Marriott for brunch and to go over what we want to talk about and her questions. I am going to make you a cup of coffee and I’ll set it on the counter. I am going to take Pepe for a walk and if you could get showered by the time I get back that will be good because I have to blow out my hair today and you know what a process that is. But I promise you, tonight and tomorrow we can stay in bed as long as you want,” Ali said as she tussled Ashlyn’s hair.

She grabbed her cup of coffee in the kitchen and started the Kuerig to make Ashlyn’s and out the door she and Pepe went. Like a good girlfriend, Ashlyn got up and went straight to the shower to shock her system and get it out of the way. This Sunday would not be all day in bed and she would have to jolt her body with a cold shower to get on the same page as her. Especially with Ali being so close to her, she would have to think clean thoughts today and clear her mind about what all she wanted to say. She knew that Ali must be doing the same thing, it was nerve wracking for the both of them.

When she got out, she brushed her teeth, put on a tshirt and shorts and headed to the kitchen to grab her coffee and a banana. Just then, Ali was returning from their walk and handed Pepe off to Ashlyn before she changed her mind about being good that morning. She had probably an hour and a half of hair and makeup to do so that it would look right for the camera. Ashlyn was lucky, she didn’t have to work so hard at looking flawless.

After Ashlyn could hear the blow dryer stop she decided to walk into the bathroom. It was makeup time and her bathroom had been transformed into something that looked like the MAC counter in Macy’s. Ali had one of those makeup bags for travel that rolled out across the counter with everything you could possibly need along with her travel magnifying lighted mirror, flat irons, blow dryers, etc. Ashlyn just smiled and looked at her woman whip up a storm.

“Babe, if the thing doesn’t work out with the Pride, I am sure we could get you a job as a makeup artist at Paramount Studios.”

“Oh hush, now come over here. Would you like me to do your face? I can do both of ours at the same time.”

“Ok. Let me go get my stool.” Ashlyn left to bring a stool in and grabbed her foundation tube because she didn’t know if Ali had her color or not.

“I love this Tarte foundation you found. I do not know how, but it goes on like shit and you think it isn’t going to look right, and then it dries out and it makes your face flawless.”

Ali smiled, “It is so much better than that other stuff you were using, I am glad you like it. It took a lot of research at Sephora to get this shit right,” Ali laughed. She took out her different dior moisturizers and spread that on both of their faces to moisturize and soften them, and then started with their foundations, face shimmers, bronzers and a slight twinge of blush. Ashlyn liked to do her own eyes and Ali was thankful for that because it was hard doing eyes that weren’t your own.

“There now you can do your eyes and lips, you look flawless, look at those contours of your cheeks and jaws. How you are not a supermodel in New York, I will never know,” Ali said, flashing her the megawatt smile.

“Thank you Al. Have you looked in the mirror this morning? Baby you are a vision.” Ashlyn loved it when Ali got made up and did her eyes, because it really brought them out. She loved it when she was in this stage and had her hair twisted back into a loose hanging bun behind her head with a pencil stuck through it.

Ali began to work on her eyes which was a process because she had a different method for doing her eyes when she was going to be on camera than she did for when they went out at night. She didn’t do a smoky eye for camera usually, but she did like to line them, do mascara, and blend eyeshadow. Ashlyn usually did the same regardless but would get more dramatic with her eyes if they went out at night. They both went with a light pink lip and then Ali packed everything up, put it in a small bag to take with them and finished the process of blowing out her hair straight. Ashlyn got her hair styled just right. They both decided they were going to wear their white US Soccer warm up suits since this was going to be a piece on the upcoming summer friendlies, them coming out, and they were going to be touching on the subject of equal pay for equal play. It was going to be a one hour ESPN 30 special that was going to air before the friendlies in Sweden. When they were both looking good and smelling good, Ali pushed Ashlyn away from her.

“You look good enough to eat. I can’t even look at you right now or we will never leave this place. Seriously, do not even look at me for the rest of the day or I will ravish you.”

Ashlyn laughed as she went into the living room and went to grab the leash to take Pepe out one last time. “You should talk Krieger. You know what you do to me with your hair like that. How am I supposed to sit next to you or across from you and not fuck you with my eyes today?”

“Hush and go take our boy out, he is crossing his legs he has to go so bad. I will fix his lunch.”

Ashlyn put on her Ray Bans and took Pepe out. She was all smiles as she thought about all of the times they didn’t make it out of the door when they got dressed up. There were a lot of times, Ali didn’t even get a chance to get dressed because as soon as she did her hair and makeup, Ashlyn would either pounce her, or throw her over her shoulder and take her to the bedroom, or lift her up by her hips and throw her on the bed, or have her up against a wall or door, and they would be late to wherever they were going if they went at all because Ali would have to do her hair again or fix her makeup. Then there were the times they had in fact made it to the car but Ali couldn’t control herself and before Ashlyn could throw the car in reverse, she would have her pants unzipped and fingers in between her legs. It always made for an interesting evening but it also took some of the pressure off of them for the night until they could return home and finish what they started.

When Ashlyn returned, she put Pepe in his cage and gave him a bowl of water and chicken that Ali had waiting. She had to suck down her feelings and look at Ali as her teammate for the rest of the afternoon if they were going to get through this interview. Ashlyn would be happy when she was living in Orlando again and the pull between them would settle down some. Ali checked her email once more to make sure they had the directions of where they were supposed to go and meet.

When they arrived at the JW Marriott they headed straight for the elevators to the 18th floor where Foudy had a huge suite set aside for production. Julie hugged and greeted them and Ali and Ashlyn felt like she and Mia were still like the Moms of the USWNT who paved the way for them. Julie walked them to them to the dining room where they placed their orders for brunch and took their jackets off. They first got to catch up on all of the team gossip and some of the things that Julie could not ask in her interview.

“So Ashlyn, your time has finally come and you can’t imagine how happy I am about that,” Judy giggled.

Ashlyn laughed. “I know there is no love lost between you and Hope. It is nice to finally have a chance.”

“Has she even reached out to you since she left?”

“Nope. Not one tweet, text or call and that’s unfortunate because I would have liked to have thought we were friends. I mean we weren’t best friends and it’s not like we hung out, but still, we spent every day in camp together, trained together, practiced together and we had a lot of fun together. We played catch together or dribbled together every day for Christ sakes.”

“Well that’s Hope for you. She was so happy that Heather Mitts took her under her wing as a rookie and I would have really liked to have seen her do that with someone else. She half assed it with Kelly and Carli but still, it would have been nice to truly see her pay it forward. I really never had a problem with her until her attitude got the best of her, and even then I tried to keep that quiet, but she just had to take things to twitter and we haven’t spoken since her outburst towards me a few years ago. I didn’t care for her calling us the ponytail squad. We were never like that. Abby could tell you that and she would often call Hope out on her shit.”

“Yeah she has no filter and she has been taking credit for the collective bargaining agreement we reached in February. I know she was fighting for equal pay too but she wasn’t in that room with us that day for 9 hours. She gives us absolutely no credit,” Ali stated.

“I’ve been noticing that. Well, it will certainly be interesting to see where she winds up or if she joins the LPGA tour,” Julie rolled her eyes. “So, I wanted to go over with you what I plan to bring up today and if you are uncomfortable with anything then tell me now or if something comes up you don’t like, we can edit it out later. However, I will tell you, I am not going to go super easy on you because I want you to convey your struggles. It is Pride month and it is important for others to hear what athletes and celebrities go through too. So I would like to lead with the games in Sweden coming up, what happened to Jill Ellis, how you Ali were left off and then called up, how these transitions are all leading up to the 2019 world cup run, how you feel as players, the fight for equal pay and then I want to transition into the TMZ thing by showing a picture from what happened there and then let you two tell your story of how you got met and got together, coming out, and what the future holds for you. We should also probably address what happened yesterday. I would like to hear you talk about your struggles and how it was not easy for you to get here.”

“Ali reached across the table and handed Julie back the piece of paper. Julie I think I am going to just let you ask me whatever. If it becomes too hard or it is something I don’t want to be aired, then I will ask you to cut it. Part of me doing this is to be truthful and to start living life as my authentic self,” Ali stated.

“I feel the same way Ali does. I am doing this because it is Pride month and I never officially came out because I thought it was pretty obvious I was gay. I never went into a closet because I thought I was being pretty clear who I was. But, if this helps some young people struggling with their sexuality out there for me to come out and do it, then so be it. I don’t think that either Ali or I identify ourselves by our sexuality,” Ashlyn added.

“Well good then. We can always stop. I just want you both to feel comfortable. Now let’s eat,” Julie smiled as room service brought their food. After they ate, Julie’s team began to get the room ready, they put back on their USA jackets and sat in a couple of chairs that sat in front of windows showing the Houston skyline. Julie began rolling.

“I am joined here today by Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger of our U.S. Women’s National Soccer team as we lead up to their summer friendlies in Sweden and on the Pacific Coast later this summer. Ashlyn Harris is currently battling it out with Alyssa Naeher for the the number 1 goal keeper spot on the team and Ali Krieger was just voted as one of Fifa’s top 4 defenders in the world of 2016 on Fifa’s top 11 players in the world. Ashlyn currently plays in the NWSL for the Houston Dash and Ali Krieger currently plays right back for the Orlando Pride. I am sure you know them as our 2015 world cup champs.” Julie ran a video montage of the whirlwind 2015 road to the world cup, their victory and then their victory tour.

“So let me first start by asking you to explain what the feeling was like winning that world cup?”

Both Ashlyn and Ali Smiled. “I can tell you as a footballer, it is what your dreams are made of, it is what you play for all of your life. It is what you envision, and when they place that gold medal around your neck and you lift that cup up as a team, you realize all of your hard work has paid off. All of the long days of training, practice, fitness and nutrition, all of it pays off in that one moment and you are on top of the world.” Ali looked over at Ashlyn.

“It was the most exhilarating feeling in the world. Since Hope was our keeper, I watched it all from the bench and our hands were clenched so hard as we held each other’s, I thought they were going to break. To feel the love and all of the fan support was absolutely amazing. Some of us went from being nobody to being instantly famous overnight. And, then to get a ticker tape parade in New York City, that was amazing and unheard of. Because of that moment, we have all been able to experience some of the most amazing things and experiences. From walking out on stage to Taylor Swift concerts, to attending the Super Bowl, to getting incredible swag, it has really been something else. But what has meant the most to me, is the impact I have been able to have on so many fans and young girls because they learned about my story. You know this best Julie, you were part of the 1999 world cup champs. You paved the way for players like Ali and I and we couldn’t love you more for it.”

Julie chuckled, “Well you ladies certainly made us 1999’rs proud. So let’s go from one of the highest moments in your lives to one of your lowest moments, Brazil. The Olympic games last summer in Rio,” Julie said looking at Ali.

“Well for me, it was another chance to fulfill a life long dream. I had to miss the 2012 games in London due to a torn ACL. So when Rio came around, I was the oldest player to start in the Olympic Games on the women’s team and that wasn’t lost on me. The last game we played came down to penalty kicks against Sweden and it ended in heartbreak and penalty kicks. While there was a lot of heartbreak and controversy around that game, the way it ended, and the things that were said, in the end, we didn’t get it done in the first 90 minutes. When you do not get it done in the first 90 minutes then you can’t blame it on anyone or anything because anything could happen. Trying to win a game in penalty kicks is about one of the most dangerous things you can do as a soccer player. The tension and nerves are enormous and in the end, that just wasn’t our day. I would have loved for Ash and I to win a gold medal.”

Julie then asked her next question. “So you go come home from that game and then the controversy starts swirling around Hope Solo’s comments, let’s take a look at them and can you tell me what you thought about them?”

Ashlyn nodded. “Yes so then we come home and Hope is suspended. I personally wasn’t happy with her comments. I mean we all played for Pia, we know playing keep away in a defensive stance is what she does, she did it with our team when she coached us. You can’t call a team cowards when they score 5 penalty kicks on you, and that is all I have to say about that. We could have played keep away too but that wasn’t our strategy that day. Obviously Sweden had the winning strategy. You know, this game isn’t just about who wins and who loses. They used to teach something called sportsmanship and we need to be reminded of that sometimes. Many of us have played with those Swedish players on club teams or internationally. In the end, it is just a game, it is not like we are landing spaceships on the moon.”

Julie then led into, “So that happens and now you find yourself in a battle with Alyssa for the number one goal keeper spot. What is that like for you?”

Ashlyn crossed her legs. “If there is one thing every player on this team knows, it is that tomorrow is not promised and every day you have someone trying to prove that they are better than you. There is no resting on your laurels. The younger players are coming up and they are fierce competition. They want our spots and they are out to prove every day that they deserve them more than we do. So it keeps you constantly on your toes. As far as Alyssa and I, we are friends and are supportive of each other. Jill has said that she may not have a number one keeper so that means that Alyssa and I have to duke it out every day and compete with each other and push the other as far as we can to be our best. At the end of the day, we are friends, we eat and watch movies together, that is what team life is like.”

“So that then leads me into equal pay for equal pay. You guys come back, Jill restructures the team and your contracts were all set to expire on 12/31/16 and you would not resign them because you demanded to be paid equal to the men. Please elaborate on that,” Julie nodded to Ali.

“A couple of years ago, Hope, Abby and some of our vets sat us down and showed us the men’s contracts and explained the importance to us of demanding equal treatment and compensation. We knew we had a really good team and a legitimate shot at a world cup and global attention. Abby explained how we not only needed to do this for ourselves, but for the future generations coming up behind us. As the world cup came around, our attendance and TV ratings were higher than the men’s games and we knew we had a legitimate argument although, it shouldn’t have to come to that. We are just as good of players as the men are. We knew the only way we were going to be paid equal to the men was if we stood together unified, no matter how difficult it was, kind of like a union would. So we did. Gone are the days of if we lost, we got paid nothing but the men got paid $1500 each a game. Now if we win a game, tournament, world cup, or Olympics, we get paid the same bonuses as the men do. Now if we are playing overseas, we get to fly back in business class just like the men do vs. coach. You might not think that is a huge thing but it is when you have just played 90 minutes and your legs and back are screaming to stretch out your sore and tired muscles. We can now hold our heads high because we fought for what was right and there is no longer pay disparity amongst our teams. After the World Cup, during the victory tour, we were being put up in hotels with bed bugs in the mattresses. This is something that US Soccer would never do to the men. The fields we were being scheduled to play on, the turf was in disrepair and Megan Rapinoe suffered an ACL tear because of it. So we also demanded the same playing conditions as the men, no more turf fields, only grass. Turf is horrible on the body. We had players like Sydney Leroux suffering from turf rash up and down the entire front of their legs. Let me tell you, that feels like your skin is on fire for three days straight.”

“That leads me to the friendly games in Sweden and in California and Seattle this summer. Jill Ellis has said several times that she is restructuring this team to get you ready for the 2019 World Cup run. Did you think your USWNT career was over when she didn’t call you up to camp?”

Ali smiled, “Our careers could be over any day, I could blow out a knee tomorrow and be done. All I can do is be at my best, train my best, and play my best. I can’t control what is going to happen but I can control my attitude and work ethic. So that is what I did, and when that unfortunate accident happened to Jill, and one of our teammates was injured, Tony called me and invited me to Sweden. So I am ready to help my team in any way I can. “

Julie then played a clip of what happened to Jill. “How is the team feeling about this?”

“We all have the deepest sympathies for Jill, she has our utmost loyalty and respect and we all wish her a speedy recovery. We will see you back soon Jill and we hope you feel better soon,” Ali and Ashlyn smiled and waved and rolled their eyes inwardly as they did it.

“So now this leads me to now, June, which is Pride month in this country and is becoming a big part of sports and fan bases, especially in women’s sports. It also leads me to the main reason why we are doing this interview today to tell your story. For those viewers who are not familiar with some recent events, I will try to fill it in a little bit and then let the two of you tell your story. In 2015 around the time leading up to the World Cup, our USWNT’s popularity was on the rise and most of the players were under a close microscope which included their sexuality, especially if the players were not married. So it was beginning to gain attention on social media that neither of you were married and were often photographed together, inseparable. Rumors began swirling about your sexuality and it was suspected that you were a couple, although it was never confirmed. Then last October, at the end of an Orlando Pride game, Ali scored a goal, which is huge for a defender, because it is something that rarely happens. That night the world witnessed Ashlyn run up to you and kiss you and it seemed to be a gesture that was unwanted on Ali’s part. More speculation fueled the rumors until a few weeks ago, when TMZ sports captured this moment of you two kissing at the end of what seemed to be a tearful goodbye. And just yesterday, in Ali’s NWSL interview with Lifetime and Aly Wagner, at Ali’s home, more speculation arose when Ali was seated in front of this door which is the same door that Ashlyn has posted pictures of on social media as also being the front door to her home. This caused a whole new firestorm of rumors to come out yesterday that you both are indeed a couple and living together. So I will let the both of you set the record straight.”

Ashlyn began, “Well first Julie, let me begin by thanking you for agreeing to sit down with us today, there is no one that we want to tell our story more to, we respect and trust you. This hasn’t been the easiest decision or road for Ali and I to travel down but we feel as though there could not be a better time to set the record straight. As I told you earlier, one of the most important things to happen out of all of our newfound fame is the impact I get to make on people’s lives every day. I see the struggles they are going through and so many young girls have told me how I have saved their lives, that they look at me and can identify with me and if I can turn out ok and succeed, they believe they can too. I kind of really always thought it was obvious to the world but clearly it hasn’t been, so yes, I am gay. I have been since the day I was born. I just haven’t always been open about it, there was a period in high school where I tried to wear dresses and fool the world into believing that I wasn’t, I was even Prom Queen.”

Julie smiled, “So that explains this picture,” and up on the screen flashed a picture of Ashlyn in a blue dress with a crown on her head.

Ashlyn laughed, “Yes, that was definitely in my period of denial. I never dated boys, I was always attracted to girls, I just didn’t let everyone know it. I began to embrace it in my college days at UNC and that is when I began dating girls openly. I also began embracing who I was and dropped the dresses and changed them out for tattoos and menswear. By the time I made it to the USWNT, I thought it was pretty apparent outwardly who I was and I didn’t think there was really any need to come out as being gay. It doesn’t define me who I am as a person, I mean do you go around saying, Hey, I am Julie and I am straight?”

Julie laughed, “No I certainly don’t, I totally understand your point.”

“Well, same here, I never went around and said, ‘Hello, I am Ashlyn and I am gay.’ But I understand people’s curiosity, so here I am. The main thing I want people to take away from this is there is no right or wrong way to identify or profess your sexuality. Embrace who you are and be that and do not worry about what other people think. And if you are currently in school, let me tell you this one thing that everyone I know agrees with. The day you graduate and leave high school, things get so much better. You are instantly thrown out into the world of adults and every aspect of who you are is no longer picked apart on a daily basis, it is like all of the sudden, no one cares anymore, and you get to just be. So believe in that, don’t ever give up on yourself, and get some help or talk to someone if things get too overwhelming. There is an organization I partner with called To Write Love On Her Arms. If you need help, reach out to them and you will have it. As for Ali, I am going to let her tell her story.”

Julie smiled with pride at Ashlyn. “That is a great message Ashlyn. That brings me to you Ali, what would you like to share with us about your journey?”

Ali smiled and grabbed Ashlyn’s hand and held it. “First I would like to say that I am sitting here today because of Ashlyn, what she means to me, and how she has helped me grow as a person and accept myself. So I am going to start by saying yes, I too am gay, I am in love with Ashlyn and she is my partner. Now everyone can pick themselves off of the floor, and I will talk about my journey,” Ali laughed causing Ashlyn and Julie to laugh too.

“My journey was way different. I grew up with my brother who was outwardly gay since the day he was born. He is a celebrity in his own right on YouTube and is a hairdresser to the stars in LA.” A photo flashed up on the monitor of Kyle and then of the two of them together. “I watched how easy it was for him and I never felt the same ease about who I was growing up. I honestly don’t think I knew who I was. I dated guys in high school and in college but I was also attracted to women and I noticed this while I was playing soccer. If I really think about it, I was probably attracted to them starting in middle school. You spend so much time together in school, on the soccer field, in the locker rooms, on the buses riding to games and I could feel myself being drawn to some more so than others. However, I never acted on those feelings because I just never felt comfortable in doing so. I had no way of knowing if those feelings would be reciprocated. It is soooo much easier to know if a guy is interested in you than if a woman is because we are often more guarded.”

Julie laughed, “No truer words were ever spoken. So how did you and Ashlyn meet?”

“Well I had first met her during my time playing for the U-19 and U-21 and that was probably back in 2003-2004 so we were running in the same soccer circles. I thought she was really funny and we became friends but mainly just at the camps. I guess you could always say there was an unspoken attraction between us. Then our paths crossed again in 2005 during my Junior year playing at Penn State when she was playing at UNC. When our teams played each other, we would hang out, we became best friends and would try to see each other anytime we could. We kept in touch when I went overseas to play for FC Frankfurt in Germany and in 2012 Ashlyn came over to play for FC Duisburg in Germany. Ashlyn called me up, suddenly finding herself in a foreign country, struggling to learn the language and the game and I think I was one of the only Americans she knew that might be able to help. When she called she was so upset so the first thing I did was hop on a train on my first off day.”

Ashlyn laughed, “Since we are being honest today, I will say, she may have been the reason that I chose to play in Germany and that is not the only reason I called her up that day, but it was a damn good reason to tell her why I was.”

Ali laughed and looked at Ashlyn, “Really? Well this is the first I am hearing about this.” She looked back at Julie and pursed her lips into a closed lipped smile.

“Ok so that is why I thought Ashlyn was calling. And I thought I was hopping on a train to rescue her and help her with directions, trains, and simple phrases she could use to speak to with her teammates and coaches.”

Ashlyn blushed, “And really I just wanted to hear her speak German and reconnect with a girl whose smile and personality captured my heart 8 years prior.”

Ali looked at Ashlyn again and her heart was melting. These were little details that somehow Ashlyn forgot to mention all of these years. “Julie, can you come visit us more often? I am not sure what it is about you, but you are some kind of truth serum for Ashlyn over here, I’d like to see what else you can get out of her,” Ali said as she smiled and squeezed Ashlyn’s hand.

“I gave into my feelings for Ashlyn because there had always been a magnetism between us that I couldn’t explain and I did not feel about any man I had ever dated the way I felt about Ashlyn. I basically fell in love with my best friend. So we started to see each other more seriously in Germany and then the NWSL started up and I was drafted to the Washington Spirit in 2013 and so was Ashlyn. Because of our careers we have lived together off and off a few different times. People really didn’t know about that because I insisted that we kept our relationship between us. This the part of my past that I am not proud of, that I kept us a secret,” Ali said, letting go of Ashlyn’s hand.

“Why did you feel that you had to keep your relationship a secret?” Julie asked.

“Well, as you know, great strides have been made in the past 8 or so years when it comes to LGBTQ rights and perception. Nine years ago I joined social media and I would read the ugly comments and take them to heart when anyone would begin to suspect that I liked women or was dating a woman. There were also positive and supportive comments too but it would always be the bad ones that would stick in my head and make me feel ashamed or guilty. I am not going to lie, I struggled. Ashlyn was so patient with me but I insisted that our relationship be kept behind closed doors. I had also signed several endorsements which had morality clauses in them. At that time, being gay could be in violation of one of those morality clauses. Just imagine signing a multi-year deal for a couple hundred thousand dollars and then having to pay it back. So I was careful and guarded, but most of all I was a coward.”

Ashlyn grabbed Ali’s hand back and squeezed it as a tear rolled down her face and she grabbed for a Kleenex.

“Now isn’t that a wonderful feeling? To be in love with your best friend, to have found the love of your life, but you are terrified of anyone finding out for fear of what it might do to your career and the brand and image you have been building? Then imagine how it felt for Ashlyn, someone who did not have these same fears, who wore her heart and feelings on her sleeve and didn’t care who knew. She just wanted to be able to express her feelings with me out in public and I wouldn’t let her. When the World Cup hit in 2015, all eyes were on us all of the time. Everywhere we went, every move we made, there was all of this speculation and I thought let them all speculate, it is none of their business, and I didn’t want to live in a media circus or take attention away from the team. Ashlyn was then drafted to the Pride and moved to Orlando. I was then dropped by the Spirit and the Pride signed me and I moved in with Ashlyn once again. So then we fast forward to last year, the Pride game you brought up where I scored a goal. It was one of the happiest times for my career and one of the worst days of my life because of an awful choice I made and my behavior.”

Ali went to grab another Kleenex and dabbed at her eye.

“Tell us what happened that day, take all of the time you need,” Julie said soothingly.

“Only if you want to Ali, I think people understand what happened and where we are now,” Ashlyn said.

“No, I definitely want to because it is important for people to see that decisions have consequences. So here we were, in love with each other, living as a couple and I was still stubborn in my convictions of no PDA. When Ashlyn ran up to kiss me in that game, that was her pure emotion, her love for me and I rejected her. I rejected her in the worst way possible, in front of a stadium of fans and in front of our teammates and families. I drove Ashlyn away and we separated. I wasn’t strong enough to fight for us and I really didn’t think that I had anything to lose and I couldn’t have been more wrong. Ashlyn moved to Houston and signed with the Dash. So when you saw those pictures on TMZ, that was our goodbye after we had reconnected after six months, and I agreed to work on my issues that I had with us as a couple. As for what happened yesterday, I will say to everyone, yes, Ashlyn and I do live together as partners so mystery solved.”

Julie smiled, “I think that is pretty brave of you to tell that story, I am not sure everyone would be open to admitting all of this.”

“I have grown a lot in the past year. I am ashamed of the way I acted. I never wanted to keep Ashlyn as my secret, I was just too afraid to come out. I was stupid to act the way, my brother was gay, our best friends are gay, we have played with many players who we love so much that our gay and I feel like somehow, my actions probably told them I was not ok with being gay or gay people and that was not true. I was terrified of what people would think of me, their hurtful comments, and the possible downward spiral of my career if I came out. My separation with Ashlyn forced me to take a good hard look at myself and how I was hurting the people around me and most of all, myself. So I can honestly say, those days are over, I am proud of who I am, I am proud of who Ashlyn is, and I am proud of who we are together. I play for a team that is all about LGBTQ pride in a city that was rocked by the Pulse night club shooting and I can no longer suppress who I am if I want to be authentic to myself. I want to be involved in LGBTQ visibility and take a role in supporting and advocating for gay rights and anti-bullying in any way I can. We are either born straight or we are born LGBTQ, we are not born prejudiced. This is learned from other people, friends, family, parents, neighbors, society in general and we need to stop it. The change begins with me, the change begins with you.”

“I am so happy to see the woman you have become Ali Krieger. I can remember when you were just a girl coming up through our development program and I think you are brave and amazing. So what does the future hold for the both of you?” Julie asked Ashlyn who was dabbing at her eyes with a kleenex.

Ashlyn chuckled trying to get the tears to stop. “I feel like this is one of those Barbara Walters moments where she makes everyone cry. I think our future is insanely bright, I know with certainty it holds marriage and a family. I hope that it holds another World Cup and Olympics for us and hopefully an NWSL championship. Ali here has so many amazing plans for our future professionally but I can’t elaborate on them now. I am going to continue my support for LGBTQ youth and people in general who are struggling with sexuality, depression or self-harm and let them know what resources that are out there and tools they can use to overcome dark times in their lives like others did for me.”

“That sounds amazing. I am proud of you too Ashlyn Harris, I too remember you coming up through our development program and I love the woman you have become and that the both of you continue to inspire the younger generations. I see the time and effort the both of you put in with the fans and what you do to grow the game and our sport. I want to thank the both of you for sitting down with me, for your honesty and for sharing you stories. I wish you nothing but the best,” Julie said and then the camera cut.

“Wow, I feel like about 1000 lbs. has been lifted off of my shoulders,” Ali said as she stood up to receive Julie’s hug.

“You both did amazing, I meant what I said, I am so proud of the both of you. I am going to get this out to edit and we will send it to you by email for you to view before it airs before the game on Thursday. I am sure both of your lives are about to change, promise me that you both will be there for each other no matter what happens. The whole world can see you two belong together, and we have all seen it for a very long time. Ali, I am flying to Sweden tomorrow so here is my number, call me if you need anything or you just need to talk. I am going to check on you after the game on Thursday and I will be traveling with you guys to Stockholm, so I will be there every step of the way. Pinoe is going to be there too and she has already been through this before.”

Julie then turned to Ashlyn, “As for you missy, I know most your support group is in Florida and in Sweden, so I have arranged for Abby to come visit you and watch the game and interview with you on Thursday. I know you guys were close friends on the USWNT and she has already been through this before. I am going to make sure the both of you are surrounded by love and supportive people when this hits who will not let the haters get to you.”

“Thank you Julie, you don’t know how much that means to us, I was a little concerned that we were going to be apart when this aired.”

“I figured you would be. We are a big USWNT family and you will find that out and appreciate it more when you leave the game. You will understand that you are now part of a sorority and we all look out for each other. Ok, girls, I have to run to edit. I love you both.” Julie said and hugged them both one more time.

Ashlyn and Ali gathered their things and went to leave. Ashlyn looked at her watch and it was close to 6:30, she had no idea where the day had gone or that they had been there almost seven hours. As they both stepped on the elevator, both of them let out a collective sigh of relief.

“I am so proud of you Ali, you were amazing,” Ashlyn said as she leaned in to kiss Ali.

“I am so proud of you too baby you are everything I could have ever imagined in a partner,” Ali said kissing Ashlyn back. “Now I could really use a drink.”

Ashlyn laughed, “Me too and a steak. I am Carli free this week and I want a good drink and some red meat and potatoes. I don’t want to see one piece of greenery crawl near my plate. Let’s go to Shula’s.”

“We should go change first,” Ali suggested.

“We are ok the way we are, it is Sunday night and casual there on Sundays. Plus if we go back home, we will never leave because I will be too busy showing you how amazing I thought you were today.”

“Well, you will have to get in line because you have no idea what you did to me today, even before you woke up, and last night. It is your lucky, lucky, lucky, day Ashlyn Harris.”

Chapter Text

“Jill? Jill, honey, where are you?” Betsy called out, looking throughout the home for her wife. There was no answer. Betsy had an unsettling feeling rake over her body. She looked out through the back windows and saw Jill sitting on the back porch.

“Jill, honey, why are you out here by yourself? Where is the nurse?”

“I sent her home for the day, I wantto be by myself.”

“Is everything ok?”

“Where are the peacocks Betsy?”

Betsy sighed. “Just because I can’t see doesn’t mean I can’t tell they are not here. What have you done with them?”

“Jill, there were like 80 of them. I had Flamingo Dave come get them and take them to a bird rescue sanctuary and from there they are going to be distributed to animal parks throughout the country.”

“How could you do that to me Betsy, you know how much I love those birds.”

Now Betsy was getting mad. “What do you mean how could I do it? Do you realize what happened to you? They damn near pecked your eyes out and left you defenceless on the porch. I don’t even know if you will ever see again. What if that would have been our daughter, huh?”

Jill sighed. “I just feel like everyone is working against me and plotting behind my back.”

“Ok, well maybe that is because you can’t see right now babe. I did what was best to keep my family safe. Who else is working against you?”

“Tony called and he called Krieger back up to the team and it kind of pisses me off. Do you know the Pride just named her as interim GM? How does that even happen to a 32 year old?”

“Ok, well, you can’t dwell on what decisions he makes with the team right now, you have to focus on getting better and this afternoon you have another eye visit, so let’s get you ready.”

“I want to know where the peacocks are going Betsy. I mean it or I will find out myself.”

Betsy crossed her arms. “Fine, I will ask. Now let’s go.”

++++++++++

 

As Ashlyn and Ali were seated in a secluded booth in the rear of Shula’s, a much welcomed blast of air conditioning hit them in the Houston heat. When the hostess handed them their menus, Ashlyn's eyes could only seem to focus in one place, on Ali's breasts, especially since the cold air must have had her feeling nipply. Ashlyn loved it anytime Ali wore her US soccer warmups; they fit her perfectly showing every line and curve just right.
"Ash, my eyes are up here," Ali said, running her hand through her hair and pursing her lips in one of her closed lip flirty smiles.

"Well, then tell your boobs to quit staring at my eyes," Ashlyn was quick to reply. Ali threw her head back in a laugh and reached for her warmup jacket to put on so they could attempt to have a conversation over dinner. Ashlyn's eyes were dancing in amusement.

“Are you punishing me for looking?” Ashlyn asked as her phone started dinging.

“No, but I would like to have a serious conversation with you and then I will let you look all you want later. Who is dinging your phone?”

Ashlyn looked at her phone, “It’s Mary Lee.”

Ali raised one eyebrow. She knew most of the people Ashlyn spoke to and Mary Lee was certainly new.

“Dare I ask who Mary Lee is?” Ali asked with a smirk.

“Mary Lee is a bad assed great white shark who keeps pinging on the east coast. Every time she pings I get a notification from @OCEARCH.”

Ali was trying to stifle back a laugh. Of all of the things she thought Mary Lee could be on a Sunday night, the last thing she expected was a great white shark.

“Do I dare ask why we are tracking great white sharks? Is it shark week or something?”

“No that is next month. I am watching Mary Lee because she is swimming up and down the East coast, lately she has been terrifying swimmers on the Jersey Shore. I just want to make sure that when we come to play Orlando and I want to go to the beach, she is still up at the Jersey Shore.”

Ali burst out into laughter.

“Oh you think this is funny?”

“No, but you act like Mary Lee is the only great white shark out there. She probably has like 100 friends and family swimming along with her, she just got tagged is all.”

“You should be happy that your woman is trying to keep you safe when out on the water.”

Ali smiled and patted Ashlyn’s knee. "I am babe, I always feel safe when I am with you. I just refuse to participate in your sport that makes you look like something that Mary Lee would like to eat. As much as you love and know about sharks, you still get on a surf board and disguise yourself as a baby seal. I will never understand it, but you like living on the edge so all I know to do is pray that you don’t get snatched. We really need to find something else for you to participate in on the water that will keep you safe. I am going to keep you so busy at the Pride that you will be too tired to surf.”

“That is something that I won’t mind baby.” Ashlyn then ordered them an expensive bottle of wine. "We have a lot to celebrate Ali, I'm so proud of you and how you tackled that interview today."

Ali smiled and grabbed Ashlyn's hand, "Are you happy with how it went babe? I kind of feel like I did more of the talking but I wanted to make it clear that most of the things that haven't gone right are because of me and not you."

Ashlyn squeezed her hand back, "I think it went better than I could've imagined. Now we just wait until the real test on Thursday. I was looking at the comments on US Soccer's Facebook earlier underneath their post about the rainbow jerseys and I just have to warn you. It wasn't pretty Ali. They were so hateful, talking about gays living in sin and how being gay is a mental disorder. I just want you to brace yourself for Thursday. I'm used to it but this breaks my heart for you and our teammates," Ashlyn could see Ali's eyes beginning to well up.

"Then I'm double happy our interview comes out before we put those jerseys on. I'll wear mine proudly. Do you know how much that breaks my heart to hear you say you are used to people saying that about you? And why? Because you chose to love me? And I chose to love you? That's a mental illness? Oh just let them say something like that to me directly, I sooooo feel a Facebook post coming on. I can speak freely about this now so fuck them. God help them if Pinoe or Abby catches wind of them talking that kind of shit. I'm done with days of feeling bad about myself and what people think. Every time I look at you, I know I made all the right decisions when I picked you, when I chose to love you and let you love me."

Now Ashlyn's eyes were welling up. Ali searched those beautiful eyes that felt so much but couldn't always express everything they felt. Ali reached for her purse and pulled out a box and grabbed Ashlyn's right hand.

"I was going to wait until you came back to the Pride and home to me to give you this but I can't think of a more perfect time. I am so proud of you and what you said today and I feel like this is a huge milestone in our lives. Plus I am so excited to start this next chapter in our lives together and what we are going to build. This is a small token of my gratitude for you sticking it out with me despite what a pain in the ass I can be."

Ali opened the box and revealed the black gold band with the channel set amethysts and placed it on Ashlyn's right ring finger. Ashlyn looked stunned and a smile spread across her face.

"Ali, that's so beautiful, I love it, wow. I have never seen a ring like this. You know I'm not 'sticking it out with you' loving you comes as natural to me as breathing air does. I love you so much, thank you."

"Well every time you look at that I want you to think about coming home to us and how much we have to look forward too especially if we can get the Pride. It's you and me in this together for the long haul babe."

"You know those are my favorite colors. I will definitely think of you every time I look at this," Ashlyn said as she twisted to her left unzipping the front pouch of her MCM bag pulling out the David Yurman box and setting it in between them.

"So, I might just be super proud of you too babe. All of the strides you have been making for you, for me, for us, I see you Ali Krieger. I mean who walks into the offices of the Pride and tells them they want to buy the team, starts making it happen and then gets the GM job? I can remember two months ago, you having doubts about your career after soccer. Just look at how you grabbed the bull by the horns and turned those fears into a bright future. I also made the right decision in picking you. No matter how anxious I get about the future, I can always draw upon your strength."

Ashlyn grabbed Ali's right hand and placed the cushion cut amethyst ring surrounded by diamonds on Ali's right ring finger. "You know, for your rock collection and all. I want you to look at that and remember how proud I am of you and what you are doing for us."

"Oh my god, Ashlyn, it's gorgeous," Ali said as she held her finger up to admire it and wiped the tears in her eyes away with her left hand. "Baby I love you so much, you'll never know." Ali grabbed both of Ashlyn's cheeks and pulled her in for a kiss to try to show her.

When they broke the kiss, Ashlyn pulled Ali into her side in the circular booth and Ali rested her head on Ashlyn's shoulder. “God you are even going to get luckier tonight after this Harris. You have no idea.”

"You know this is all I ever wanted right? The freedom to just be us. Thank you for giving that to me Ali. It means more to me than I can ever say. I’ve wanted this for so long," Ashlyn said, squeezing her arms around Ali’s shoulders.

"Thank you for making me see it Ashlyn. Our life is so much better because of it, even if I was being a brat about it."

They decided on the steak, scallops, mashed potatoes and a crab cake so they could share everything.

"So I'm dying to know, how did things go this week and have you got to implement any of those awesome ideas of yours?"

Ali smiled and her eyes lit up. "Oh it's been so awesome. I met with Alex and he gave me the coolest pair of purple suede Pride Adidas shoes and a beautiful pen to go along with my gorgeous office. I met with the whole executive team and got to shadow them for a few days. We have agreed to take these changes a few at a time not to overwhelm the organization. So I asked for 5,000 tickets to pass out to local radio, schools, sponsors and club soccer teams. I made them do a $6 2 hot dog and soda special and made them drop the parking down from $20 to $10. Yesterday, right before the game, the sections for the tix we gave out were full and it smelled like a hot dog factory. I get the numbers tomorrow and we will see if it was a success or not. Plus we won! So tomorrow I'm going to implement my next plan."

"I have no doubt you're going to be a success at this Ali. I was pretty much able to finish up the business plan, we just need to go over it tomorrow and draw up our personal financial statements and then it'll be time to call Taylor. Have you spoken to Abby yet?"

"I haven't, I think I want to have something real to offer first. I can't thank you enough for putting all that together. You are so going to rock this too babe. I'm so happy you were able to work on Carli a bit. Just between you and me, she's 34 you know. I’d love to see her be an assistant coach under Tom and even a coach one day. What do you think about that?"

"The more and more I watch her every day, she'd just a natural born leader and leads by example. She's got the attitude for it to, she takes no bullshit but at the same time, she's gentle and she remembers what it was like to be young just coming up so she's never cruel or harsh. I'd love to see her coach the pride one day and I'd love to be the goal keeper coach and coach beside her when my playing days are over as well as work in the front office."

Ali smiled, "Ash, I can't wait for you to join us. That's kind of another reason I want to hold off on Abby. I want to give you the opportunity to join the front office and decide what you want to do. You get first choice; this is your dream too. Then we can figure out Abby, Carli and Alex. But I do know I want Carli in our midfield next season. I want her bought in 100% before a university tries to snag her to coach or before the lure to go back to jersey is too tempting. I think FL would be perfect for her husband if he is going to continue as a golf pro. Let’s just hope both of them see it. I am going to talk to her on our trip. Alex has really become someone I can count on too, I really have loved getting to know her better. I feel like I had this kid sister that is all grown up now into this beautiful, intelligent, woman.”

Ashlyn nodded her head completely understanding what Ali was saying. “So what are you coming up with for next week?”

“I need to motivate this team in the goal scoring and wins department. We need to finish up front. I can send 10 crosses up and someone should be there to knock them in. It isn’t like we do not have the talent, it is just like the chemistry is not there. What do you think I should do about that?”

Ashlyn chuckled, “Well there is one thing that would motivate the hell out of me to score one and that is money.”

“You mean like an incentive or bonus?”

“Yes. The NFL teams do it with touch downs. I don’t know what your budget is, but I would say $500 or $1000 to a player for every goal scored.”

“Ok but what does that do to the girls on defense. Not every defender has a legitimate shot at scoring goals.”

Ashlyn wiped her face with her hand as she thought. “Ok, why don’t you start out $500 for every ball a defender helps clear out of goal to back up the keeper. $1000 to the keeper for every clean sheet. $500 for every goal scored. You can always increase later as the team makes more money.”

Ali smiled, “You are a genius babe. I am not sure how Alex will receive this, you know management thinks it should all be part of everyone doing their job, but if you dangle candy out there, it is amazing who will reach up and try to snatch it. I will see if I can get it implemented. You know, it is like Spencer. She has been hot and cold. Some games she is brilliant and some days she is nowhere positioned where she needs to be. I just want to scream. Why isn’t someone up there in front of the fucking goal to knock the ball in? Abby Wambach knew how to do it. Look at how quickly Allie Long figured it out.”

“Other than this, I am going to start adding a few items to our concessions and work on some new merchandise. Do you want dessert babe? If not I am going to ask for the check.”

“I want to try the new molten cake at the concession stand at Krieger Field tonight for dessert,” Ashlyn smiled a dimpled grin and reached under the table to pinch Ali right where it counted. “I may have ordered a ‘Krieger Field’ and a ‘Krieger Fever’ t-shirt this week. You just watch the response when I tweet those out, they’ll be begging for that merchandise.”

Ali almost spit her wine out that she was drinking. “Ashlyn!!!! You did not. Yeah, I wouldn’t look like an asshole at all if I started selling that at the Pride store. You better not be telling the fans what Krieger field means either.”

“You just watch, you’ll see,” Ashlyn smirked. “So I am going to go up front and hand our ticket to the valet. I want to get this show on the road, you promised me I could look all I wanted to tonight and I plan on looking a lot. Prepare to be ogled.”

“Only if I get to ogle back. I am going to get you pregnant tonight,” Ali smiled as she signed the credit card receipt.

Ashlyn could not control her laughter at that one. That was one of the funniest visuals she had ever heard of.

Chapter Text

When they returned to Ashlyn’s apartment, Ali went straight for Pepe’s cage to let him out and Ashlyn was right behind her with the leash ready to catch him to quell his excitement. This was the hardest part of the day with him because he couldn’t help himself and would wiggle and paw at them. He especially loved Ali because she was the first out of his new little family he met.

“Such a sweet boy, calm down baby,” Ali said as she and Ashlyn held him tight in a group hug.

“I am going to take him out for about 15 minutes, he has been cooped up all day,” Ashlyn said.

“Do you want me to go with you, or do you want me to fix his dinner?”

“Dinner and pill, the faster we get him settled, the faster I get to ogle you,” Ashlyn smirked and then whisked him away outside because they had left him so long.

Ali chuckled to herself and went to inspect his cage to make sure everything was still clean and began prepping his dinner. She couldn’t wait until this awful treatment was over and they could spend time together like a real family. She let herself envision a time a few months from now when they would all be together all of the time and things would level out a bit. Every moment they would spend together would not feel like it was going to be the last for a while. They wouldn’t have to maximize every single minute being attached to try to tide them over until the next time they saw each other. Not that Ali minded it, she just wanted them back in Florida, all together. She left the bowl of food out and his pill and headed towards the bedroom to dig Ashlyn’s shark surprise out of her suitcase.

 

+++++++

Betsy drove Jill to her eye appointment and called the bird sanctuary to find out where the peacocks were going to be placed on their way to the doctor’s office so that Jill would calm down.

“Ok Jill, the peacocks have been transported to Disney’s Animal Kingdom in their bird sanctuary.”

“How in the hell does that make sense? Do they know they attacked me? What if they do the same to small children? Betsy you have to take me up there so I can speak to the caretakers,” Jill stated in a tone of frustration.

“Jill honey, look you have to let this go. I know that the peacocks and soccer are on your mind a lot right now but that will all change when you can see again. We have to find something else for you to focus on. I can’t take off work right now to go to Disney World and our daughter doesn’t get out of school for the summer until next week.”

“Fine, then I will go by myself.”

Betsy rolled her eyes, “Sure you will Jill, you can’t even see right now and you need assistance to get around, I can’t think of a worse idea.”

Betsy was trying her best to be supportive. She wasn’t used to having Jill around this much, usually Jill was traveling for soccer or to go see the NWSL games so this was the first time they had spent every day together like this in years. She didn’t expect everything to be rosy after the accident but things were difficult between them and she couldn’t remember the last time they were on the same page or even intimate with each other. She was hoping that lesbian bed death syndrome wasn’t showing up in their relationship. As they waited in one of the patient rooms, Betsy searched on her phone and found an article “11 Tips To Fix Lesbian Bed Death,” and began reading. She had to do something to begin changing Jill’s mood. Just then, Dr. Carmichael walked in.

“Jill, it is good to see you, how are you feeling?”

“I am going nuts, I want to see again, my eyes still itch and get dry.”

“How is the pain?”

“They become painful when they get dry and sometimes I do get headaches.”

“Ok Jill, why are they getting dry when I have given you drops and salve?”

There was silence.

“Ok, let’s take off the bandages and see what we are working with today.” He removed the bandages carefully. “Well, everything is looking good like it is healing properly from the surgery. I think today we can test your vision, would you like to do that?”

“Yes I would.”

Dr. Carmichael walked over to dim the lights. “Ok Jill, I am going to dim the lights and I am going to flush out your eyes and get them well lubricated and we will then see where your vision is ok? Then I am going to inspect them with my flash light and run a pressure test and then we can go from there.” He removed the piece of surgical tape that was helping to keep her eyelids closed. “Ok Jill, I want you to open your eyes just a little so I can flush some saline in.” They did that and then he added the drops. “Now open your eyes slowly and let your eyes adjust to the room. We are in no rush so do everything slowly and tell me what you see.”

Jill slowly opened her eyes and she could make out a dimly lit patient room vaguely.

“I can see the room, it is dim, but everything is fuzzy or blurry.”

“Ok, give your eyes some time to adjust, I am going to give you some steroid drops and let’s see what happens. Do not blink until I get the drops in and then close your eyes and don’t open them until I tell you tell. Let the drops do their work.”

When he said she could open them, she did and there was an improvement. “Ok now things are more fuzzy than they are blurry.”

“Ok, I am going to turn the lights on, tell me what happens.” He did. “Oh! Oh noooo, turn them back off, I can’t take it! Too bright!!!”

“Ok Jill, they are back down. I am going to put another drop in your eye that is going to sedate them so that I can examine you with a light. These will take the pain away. Let me get a good look and then I will make sure we do something to soothe them.”

After the examination Dr. Carmichael searched through the drawers for eye patches. “Ok Jill, so this is what we have. I am not going to put bandages back on you because your eyes have healed up well from the injuries and surgery. However we still need to cover them or you are going to go insane. You are going to need another surgery just as we discussed in the beginning. We need to reshape your corneas and you are going to need Lasik surgery for that. It may be one surgery, or it could take several. I don’t know yet. The main thing is that your retinas have reattached and that is good news. I am going to put you on steroid drops and I want you to keep your eyes lubricated at all times with these drops. The steroid drops you will do 4 times a day but I want you to lubricate all day long. I want you to wear the eye patches because your vision is blurry, you are sensitive to light and you are going to have problems with depth perception. Salt water also does a miracle on healing the body and will help with soreness. I don’t think it would hurt you to have one beach day between now and the next time I see you. I want you back in here in two weeks to do the next surgery.”

Jill held her face in her hands and cried. This felt like a prison sentence and she was scared she would never see right again.

“You’re just going to let her sit there and cry?” Betsy asked.

“Normally I wouldn’t, but Jill has been through quite a trauma and I can’t tell her how she should be feeling. Plus when she cries, that helps her eyes to lubricate and to be honest with you, we should be happy that her tear ducts are producing tears. We could be in a lot of trouble here if her tear ducts were dried up from the injuries she sustained and were not producing tears. So I am not being mean, I am just looking at this from a different point of view. If Jill wants to cry, let her.”

++++++

When Ashlyn came back, she fed Pepe and gave him his pill and put him back in his cage. He cried and she hated this but they only had three more weeks to go of this and then he would be a normal dog. Ashlyn figured she would cry too if she had to spend her entire day in a cage or a stroller. She shut off the lights in the living room and just left a dim light on in the kitchen so he could begin to settle down. She walked towards the back to where the bedroom was knowing she was about to see one of her favorite sights, Ali Krieger, hopefully on full display.

When she stepped one foot into the room her jaw dropped to the floor. Ashlyn just stood there and leaned on the door frame looking at the sight in front of her on the bed. Ali was sitting on the bed, up against the head board with her IPad on her stomach. She had her glasses on, her long beautiful hair was hanging down over the front of her shoulders and she was smiling at something she was watching. A smile spread across Ashlyn’s face causing her dimple to emerge when she saw that Ali was wearing a knit crocheted thong that had a shark head resting in between her legs and a flimsy bra to match with the same sharks covering her nipples. It had to be one of the cutest, sexiest and hottest things Ashlyn had ever seen her wear.

Ali could feel Ashlyn’s presence. “Are you going to stand there and stare all night or are you going to come and get your present?”
“Can I do both? Can I stare and then come get my present, because this is an image I want to burn in my mind to hold me over for a long time.”

Ali laughed and looked at Ashlyn over the top of her glasses. Ashlyn would get like this from time to time. She would just want to stare at Ali when she was in some sort of state of undress. Ali was so used to it that she didn’t find it to be weird at all anymore. When they first got together she felt self-conscious about it, but now she was comfortable with her body because Ashlyn made her feel like the sexiest woman alive. She enjoyed looking at Ashlyn just as much. She was also happy that Ashlyn wanted to look at her versus another woman. During the course of their relationship, Ali had tested Ashlyn many times and it didn’t seem to matter who was around, Ashlyn’s eyes were always on her. The ultimate test was one night at a Sports Illustrated swimsuit party they attended with Kate Upton and some of the other models. As they mixed and mingled throughout the night, every time Ali would look over at Ashlyn, Ashlyn’s eyes were on her unless she was in a conversation with someone. She loved Ashlyn’s loyalty and it made her feel good that Ashlyn’s eyes were always on her.

Ali took her glasses off and set them on the nightstand along with her IPad and looked at Ashlyn and smiled. She opened her legs up some and decided she would stare right back and enjoy Ashlyn just as much.

Ali got off of the bed and walked over to Ashlyn. Ashlyn enjoyed the site of that shark thong and bra if you could call it that, more like pasties, headed her way. Ali walked over to her and put her arms around her neck, running her fingers through the short hair on the back of Ashlyn’s head.

“So I have to know something. Was that true what you told Julie about coming to Germany?”

Ashlyn smirked, showing her dimple that Ali found irresistible.

“Every word of it.”

“Why didn’t you ever tell me? I thought you came because that was the only offer you had. What other offers did you have?”

Ashlyn put her hands on Ali’s hips. “I had offers with Olympic Lyonnaise, Paris St. Germain, Barcelona and Rosengard.”

Ali’s eyes widened and she playfully pushed Ashlyn’s shoulder. “Ashlyn! Oh my God, seriously, Lyon Paris, and Barca? How in the hell did you turn those down and why didn’t you tell me?”

Ashlyn just looked at Ali and cocked her head with a half-smile. “Now gee, why do you think?”

Ali didn’t think her heart could swell more with love for Ashlyn.

“Ali, it was never about winning a Champions League for me. All I ever wanted to do was play in the States and for our National Team. When the WPS folded I didn’t care where I went to play. I would have preferred England where I at least knew the language, but as long as I was making enough to support myself I didn’t care about those other teams. Half of my heart was already living in Germany.”

Ali blushed and swallowed hard. “Ash, why didn’t you ever tell me, I would have fought to get you a spot on Frankfurt.”

Ashlyn grabbed Ali’s hips tighter as Ali began to unzip her jacket and ran her hands up Ashlyn’s strong shoulders and over her back.

“I know you would have and you would have felt like I was your responsibility. I didn’t want to tell you that I was head over heels in love with you and that is why I was moving there. What if you didn’t feel the same way? What if you avoided me after that or things got weird between us? What if I scared you off so much that you never returned to the States or the National Team? Back then your last relationship was Brent, I wasn’t even sure if you would be open to giving us a go. So I signed with the club and then acted like I couldn’t find my way out of a shoe box just to get you to visit me. Then I made you teach me German even though I wasn’t paying attention to learning it, I just wanted to hear you speak it because it was the sexiest thing I had ever heard. I feel that way when you speak English too, I could listen to you talk for hours.”

“Jesus, Ashlyn, you could have let me know. I wouldn’t have run, even if I hadn’t felt the same way I would have remained your friend. I fell in love with you the first day I met you. I tried to play it cool but I couldn’t drag myself away from you. Why do you think I broke up with Brent?”

Ashlyn shrugged. “I figured it was because he was going off to med school and you were going overseas.”

“Ashlyn, it was because he wasn’t you. You had to have noticed that I never let other girls get close to me the way I let you. I never hugged other girls for long periods of time, sat in their laps, fell asleep in their arms on the couch, slept in the same bed and let them hold me at night like I did with you. Did you ever see me in any of our other teammates rooms in bed with them, letting them paint my nails, eat with them, nap with them, or watch movies with them? Did you ever see me sit next to anyone else on a plane or bus other than you? Did you ever see anyone make me laugh as hard as you do? Then I’d go back home and lay with him and I would become sick to my stomach. He was a great friend to me but I no longer wanted his hands on me, I no longer wanted to kiss him. I only wanted you, your lips and your hands on me.

He figured out that I had fallen out of love with him. He asked me if I was in love with you and I said yes. It just came tumbling out of my mouth. He thought I had cheated on him and I had never even kissed you but I knew I was in love with my best friend. I didn’t even know if I could go through with being with another woman sexually but the overwhelming feeling that I felt in my heart, it began to not matter to me. I was at a point that I didn’t care if I ever had sex again, I would just be happy to be in your presence. When I finally got myself in a place to where I had the nerve to tell you, I saw a pictures of you kissing another girl. I saw one of Allie Long kissing you and that just broke my heart. Here was my former teammate of one year who I had grown to like at Penn State kissing on the woman I loved after she transferred to UNC. So I figured my ship had sailed.

When I made the decision to go play overseas, there were no options here in the States and I thought I had probably lost any chance of us happening. You were still in school fucking Allie Long’s brains out for all I knew. It was either stay here, get a job and pine after you or go follow my dream. My heart was broken in half because I ended up over there with no one. I would go to bed thinking of you every night and I would wake up thinking of you every morning. Do you think that ‘Harris’ pillow that I have back at home is new? I used to have one just like it in Germany with one of your UNC t-shirts on it back then. I would hold it tight every night praying to God it was you, that you were there lying with me. I was so god damned jealous of Allie fucking Long. Of course she was the one getting to go to bed with you at night, I mean just look at her, she was blonde, beautiful, and had a loving heart and personality of gold that she wore on her sleeve just like you. Here I was, this dumb ass that couldn’t express my true feelings for you and was focused on my soccer career. So I let my hopes and dreams with you wither away. I will never forget that day I got your call that you were in Germany. My heart was pounding out of my chest but I had no idea that you sacrificed your career choices for me.”

Ashlyn was trying to be strong and fight back the tears from leaving her eyes but Ali had just reduced her into a puddle as the tears fell down her face. Ali pulled her in for a tight hug and just rubbed her back. Ashlyn tried to keep a straight face, she didn’t like to break down and sob in front of other people and let it show all over her face unless she was alone.

“Let it out Ashlyn, we have been doing a lot of this lately and it is good for us, it is good for us to get all of these pent up emotions out. This is what is going to make us stronger, communicating like this, no more bullshit, just being honest. No more being on guard and protecting ourselves from one another. It’s time we gave our hearts to one another fully baby.”

And that was it, Ashlyn did break down, completely. Ali got her to take off her pants, socks, and shoes and brought her over to the bed to lie in her arms and just held her while she cried.

“You really thought Allie Long was my girlfriend? Jesus Al we were just friends.”

Ali laughed, “Well, I know that now but at the time I didn’t. You look at that picture and tell me what you think it looks like. I can tell you I never kissed any of my friends like that. She certainly never acted that way towards any of the players on our Penn State team. She kind of has that effect on people sometimes. Do you know that Alex feels like she took her place in Tobin’s heart? I love the girl and all but she just has a very open way of expressing her love that is threatening to you if she is doing it to someone you are in love with.”

“I don’t even know what picture you are talking about. Oh god, I didn’t know that about Alex and Tobin. That was one of those things I was too afraid to ask the three of them about,” Ashlyn said wiping the tears from her eyes.

Ali raised an eyebrow. “Oh I still have it on my phone, here let me show you,” Ali said as she turned towards the nightstand and grabbed her phone. “It is one of yall’s greatest hits, there are even a dozen roses behind you, all that is missing is the champagne bottle,” Ali chuckled and thumbed through her phone to find the folder named “Allie.”

“Here you go. Now you look at that and tell me what you would think if you were me.”

Ashlyn looked at the picture that was 11 years old. “Ali we were roommates and you can see that I didn’t reciprocate it. It was a kiss on the cheek.”

“Well I took one look at it and it spoke volumes to me. Look it doesn’t matter if anything did happen, or if you were a couple. It wasn’t like you didn’t have the right to see other people. I was too much of a coward to tell you I was in love with you. At that time we were best friends and it wouldn’t have been fair to me to come tell you I broke up with Brent because I loved you and then leave the country.”

“I have never been more happy that I came to Germany then. It was totally worth it. I thought you figured your feelings out after I moved over there. Skyping you just became more and more painful because I missed you so much and I couldn’t hold or touch you. I wanted to be in the presence of that beautiful smile. No girl I ever met compared to you or got me the way you did. No one had your sense of humor, or was brave enough to talk sense into me like you did. My heart ached for you and the ocean that kept us apart was killing me. I don’t want you to feel like I sacrificed my career for you because up until that point, I was sacrificing my heart and that is what I couldn’t take.”

“I can’t help it because you did, and then after we became a couple, I couldn’t sacrifice my career for you.”

“Don’t.” Ashlyn said as she put two fingers over Ali’s mouth. “We are past that now.”

“Thank you Ashlyn,” Ali said, wiping away the tears on Ashlyn’s face. “Thank you for coming to get me. I can’t imagine how empty my life would have been if you hadn’t. I would be miserable and alone because you were it for me. I knew it the moment I could no longer look Brent in the eye.”

“I would have found a way to you somehow Ali. I was terrified you would meet someone else and fall in love. I would sit over here in New York and think about you in the arms of Hans or Fritz having little Hansels and Gretels eating chocolates and I wanted to puke.”

“Really Ashlyn? With all of my soccer goals, how was I going to fit in having a few Hansels and Gretels?” Ali burst out into uncontrollable laughter which caused Ashlyn to do the same. “I couldn’t help it. Who could look at you and not want to fuck you like a rabbit. I had no way of knowing what you were doing.” They had a wonderful laugh for a few minutes that broke all of the sadness and tension and was just what they needed.

“You see that? Who else can do that to me like you do Ashlyn? There is no way Hans or Fritz could,” Ali said as she rolled Ashlyn over on her back and straddled her with her hair cascading down around her face. Ashlyn reached her hand up to hold her cheek and to stare into those beautiful cinnamon eyes before bringing her down into a loving kiss.

“Now this,” Ashlyn pointed to a shark that covered each nipple, “This is the best shark gift you could have ever brought me.”

“Yeah, I thought you might like these sharks better than the one I brought for Pepe,” Ali said as leaned down for another kiss enjoying the way her tongue felt in Ashlyn’s mouth. They had nowhere to go or nowhere to be the next couple of days and she planned on kissing Ashlyn for as long as she wanted. Nothing felt as good as kissing Ashlyn Harris. Her big bad keeper was reduced to a puddle underneath her and was gentle and loving just like a big teddy bear. She reached her fingers to trace the bottom of Ashlyn’s t-shirt and slipped her hands up underneath it running her hands up and down her sides. Ali leaned back and wagged her finger for Ashlyn to come closer. When Ashlyn leaned up, Ali slid her shirt and sports bra up and over her head. Ashlyn was a goddess beneath her in just a pair of white CK boy shorts. The new ring on her finger looked so sexy as she would grab her face to pull her in for a kiss. Ashlyn’s hands moved to hold Ali’s breasts in her hands as she slid off the tiny shark garment.

Ali leaned back to sit up and stared into Ashlyn’s eyes. As much as she loved it when Ashlyn was dominant sometimes, she also loved her like this where she could do anything to her. She scooted down some so that her pelvis began to grind on top of Ashlyn’s.

“Fuck that is so sexy Ali,” Ashlyn said pointing down to the shark thong that barely covered anything on Ali.

“Mary Lee says hi,” Ali smirked as she slid her fingers under the waistband of Ashlyn’s boy shorts and moved out of the way so she could pull them off and toss them to the side. She also took off the thong and tossed it too so that they were both completely naked. Ali then proceeded to tease and drive Ashlyn completely nuts by dragging her tongue over every single one of Ashlyn’s tattoos on the side of her body and on her thighs.

Ashlyn felt her whole body ignite, she was completely at Ali’s mercy. She was trying to hold on as best as she could because she just wanted to watch the show that was happening on top of her. It was so hot watching Ali’s tongue work up and down her sides and legs as her breasts dragged along her skin. However, the flood between her legs was becoming too much, she needed relief, she needed Ali’s touch.

“Al I need you so much.”

Ali looked between Ashlyn’s legs and smiled because there lie exactly what she was hoping for. Nothing tasted sweeter than Ashlyn’s pussy. Ali spread Ashlyn’s legs and sucked her lips into her mouth, letting each one go with a pop. Then she moved her tongue over and ran it up and down Ashlyn’s center before removing it and blowing her hot breath on it making Ashlyn shiver.

“Please don’t tease me Ali, I want you so bad. I want you inside of me,” Ashlyn begged in desperation.

Ali gave in and dipped her tongue back inside of Ashlyn. “God, yes baby, that feels so good,” Ashlyn moaned as Ali gave her nothing but pleasure. She slid two fingers inside of her and swirled her tongue over her clit. “Ali, fuck yes, Al.” Ashlyn’s breathing was becoming hard and Ali could feel Ashlyn begin to tense up. She increased the pace of her fingers and curled them up being sure to hit Ashlyn’s g-spot each time. Ashlyn could never last once that happened and Ali loved that she could make the keeper fall apart so fast. She then sucked her clit into her mouth flicking the tip of her tongue over it before she felt Ashlyn quake beneath her. “Allllliiiiiiiiiii fuck baby! Yes” Ashlyn came hard and fast and Ali plunged her tongue deep inside of her to drink up every drop she had to give her, running her tongue along the inside of Ashlyn’s walls. “Oh Ali, fuck, baby, I, you’re going to make me…” Ali reached up and pinched Ashlyn’s nipple hard between her fingers and Ashlyn came for a second time. Ali cleaned Ashlyn up before crawling up her body.

“Fuck Ashlyn, that was so hot. You taste so fucking good baby, I could eat you all day,” Ali said before running her tongue behind Ashlyn’s ear, letting her come down and catch her breath.

“Fuck Ali, you are so fucking hot. That felt so fucking good. I love you so much.”

“I love you too baby.”

“Give me just a minute and I will…”

“Nope, not right now. Enjoy it baby. You can give me my favorite later. You know I haven’t had it in forever.”

Ashlyn’s eyes filled with a lustful stare as she looked at Ali. “Oh god Al, you know I love doing that, it’s one of my favorite things we do, especially the look on your face.”

“Good, then you can look all you want because that’s what I want later. Nothing feels better in this world than when you do that.”

Chapter Text

The couple was lulled to sleep by another rain storm that swept through. Tropical Storm Cindy was supposed to hit Houston according to the forecasters but it went to Louisiana instead and just kept sending rain bands over to Houston which was just fine by Ashlyn. It just meant that their time spent together would involve indoor activities instead of outdoor ones if they ever left the bed. If they didn’t, that was just fine by Ashlyn too. She woke up around 4:00 a.m. because she could hear Pepe crying and decided to get up. She wasn’t sure what was wrong with him so she took him downstairs to use the bathroom, gave him a few pieces of cheese and then another Benadryl. He seemed to calm down by her presence so it could have been the rain that he was scared of. She would be so happy when she could just bring him to bed with them and play with him. Then she remembered. Carli. Carli and her 4:00 a.m. wakeups, that’s why he was up. Ashlyn shuddered at the thought of starting the regimen that Carli did each day at 4:00 a.m. but that is why she was one of the best players in the world. Luckily Ashlyn didn’t have to run her ass off for 90 minutes each game and have the expectation to score goals placed upon her.

When she returned to the bedroom the light from the storm and the downtown lights was bringing a soft illumination into the room. Ali was much like her, they could sleep anywhere and did not require a pitch black room to be able to sleep. Both could fall asleep in a room full of lights if necessary with TV’s going. You learned to adapt when you traveled for a living and had a wide variety of roommates. There were layovers that required you to get your sleep in airports and you had to learn to sleep on planes, buses, and trains. Ashlyn loved being able to look out over a city like Vegas, Santa Monica, Seattle, or Chicago and see all of the lights at night before she fell asleep.

However tonight, the view she was enjoying was that of Ali Krieger who looked like an angel illuminated by these lights who was sleeping on her back with her hair splayed across the pillow and her arms up by her head. She was right where Ashlyn wanted her and Ashlyn was about to give her what she asked for earlier and got herself ready. Ali could feel the bed dip when Ashlyn got up and immediately missed her warm presence but drifted back to sleep. Her favorite thing in the world was happening, it was raining and she was getting to sleep with her partner and this is when she slept best. Something about the rain made her feel extra groggy and sleep was all that more blissful. It was also important for the body of an athlete to get some reparative sleep. She was having a wonderful dream in this state, her eyes were heavy and her sleep was deep. The bed felt so wonderful and so did her body. She felt a warm heaviness over her like one you get in the winter when it is cold outside and you are wrapped up in a warm heavy comforter. She felt like she was drifting out to sea, gently gliding over the waves one by one. And then she felt it.

“Ashlyn…” she said subconsciously. Even in her sleep her body knew that only one person could make her feel this way.

Ashlyn looked down at the beautiful body and face that lie beneath her. She dipped a finger down in between Ali’s legs to make sure she was still aroused from earlier and found that Ali was soaked. How she could fall asleep in that state of arousal, Ashlyn would never know. Ali’s favorite thing to have done to her regarding sex was to wake up to having sex with Ashlyn’s strap on buried deep inside of her and not be required to do anything other than lie back and enjoy it in a half state of sleep. This was just fine with Ashlyn because it afforded her an incredible view. It took a couple of years for Ali to build up this kind of trust with Ashlyn where she got up the nerve to voice something she wanted but kept tucked away in a corner of her mind. All of those years of wanting Ashlyn but not being able to have her would cause her to dream about Ashlyn. She would often wake up morning in Germany dreaming of Ashlyn fucking her. Her dreams would feel so real and then she would wake up to the disappointment that Ashlyn wasn’t there with her which often left her reaching for her vibrator. So now that she had the real thing in her life and no longer had to dream about Ashlyn, she decided to take the plunge and tell Ashlyn one of her biggest fantasies. If one of her ex boyfriends had ever tried to do this to her she would have knocked him on his ass.

If Ali was sexy with her eyes open, she was just as sexy with them closed and the peaceful look of sleep that took over her face. People thought when Ashlyn called her Princess sometimes; it had to do with Ali’s nickname “Warrior Princess.” It in fact had nothing to do with that and was an inside joke that Ali and Ashlyn shared which usually earned Ashlyn a slap to the shoulder when she said it. As tempting as it was to let people in on why she called Ali “princess,” the end result would surely end in Ali shutting down Krieger Field for a long, long, long time and that just wasn’t worth a little joke.

Ashlyn continued to tease Ali with the tip of the cock before slowly entering her and receiving a small moan from Ali. She leaned down to lick one of Ali’s breasts and suck on her nipple as she began to slowly move in and out of her.

“Mmmmm Ashlyn, that feels so fucking good,” Ali said, as her body began to wake and become more aware of where she was and what was happening. Ali reached her arms up to hold onto Ashlyn’s back.

“You remembered, fuck, this was so worth the wait,” Ali said as she pulled Ashlyn’s face to her own and deeply kissed her.

“Of course I remembered and so did your body in its sleep. Your nipples were hard like berries.”

“Fuck me Ashlyn. Knock my ass out and put me back to sleep baby.”

Ashlyn began to thrust faster as she reached down and began to suck the side of her neck and behind her ear. Ali spread her legs wider and wrapped them around Ashlyn’s back giving her more room to work her magic.

“God, yes, baby, faster. Give it to me good Ashlyn.”

That was all that Ashlyn needed to hear. She repositioned herself so that she hooked her arms under Ali’s shoulders, her own weight supported by her elbows and began to give it to Ali just the way she asked for it, hard and fast while she looked into her eyes that were glistening in the dark. Ali dug her calves into Ashlyn’s ass and dug her fingers into Ashlyn’s back as Ashlyn drilled her.

“Fuck, Ash, yes, yes, yes!” Ali said. “Oh god Ashlyn, baby, fuck me Ashlyn!” Ali said as she felt utter bliss overtake her body and an orgasm building in deep in her loins.

“I love you Ali, cum for me Al, let go baby, give it to me,” Ashlyn said into Ali’s ear driving her wild. Ashlyn could feel Ali’s body begin to shake and tense up and she leaned down to kiss her. Ashlyn wanted to feel Ali’s tongue on her own as she came and two seconds later she did. Ali unraveled underneath her and Ashlyn sucked on her tongue with her lips before letting go of her mouth so she could breathe.

“Asssshhhhhhlllllllyyyyyynnnnnnnn!” Ali got out as soon as their mouths parted. “Fuck you are so amazing baby. God you feel so fucking good.” Ashlyn moved to pull out but Ali wouldn’t let her.
“You’re not going anywhere, you are staying right here,“ Ali said, pulling Ashlyn down to rest her head on chest hugging her as hard as she could.

“I love you so much Ali, just look at you, you are absolutely gorgeous,” Ashlyn said as she lifted her head up to look into Ali’s eyes.

“I love you too Ashlyn, you are a goddess. The way you make me feel is awesome. There is nothing like waking up to this. Ali unwrapped her legs around Ashlyn and let her pull out. Ashlyn discarded the strap on and laid next to Ali who drew her in for another long and loving kiss.

“Thank you for that, I have missed that so much. I think about that every morning when I first wake up, how I wish you were on top of me being the one to wake me up. I wake up soaked every morning at home just thinking about you when we aren’t together.”

“Well, just think, it won’t be long until I am back home to take care of your morning wood every day,” Ashlyn chuckled, earning a smack to the arm by Ali.

“I wouldn’t have morning wood if you weren’t so fucking hot and if you weren’t so good at fucking my brains out. My body knows what it wants and who owns me.”

Ashlyn pulled her in close and they both drifted back to sleep with Ali’s head lying on Ashlyn’s chest, her arm draped across Ashlyn’s stomach, and her left leg thrown across Ashlyn’s lower body. This is what heaven felt like to both of them.

When they woke up, hours later, they got to have one of Ashlyn’s lazy mornings in bed pleasuring one another, snuggling, and reconnecting. They both went for a run together around Discovery Green park as soon as the rain let up and came back to walk Pepe a little. They took a shower together went for another round in the shower until they were too sore to do anything else.

“Now that you have broken my cooch, let’s sit down, have some lunch and go over our Pride plans,” Ali said, hugging Ashlyn from behind as soon as she put on her shirt and shorts.

Ashlyn laughed, “I broke yours? I can barely walk. Thank god I have some recovery days before I have to train again. “

“Well, I have to make sure yours gets worn out before I leave for Sweden. I can’t have you going around half cocked with all of those horny teenage and college girls trying to grope you, hand you their panties and their phone numbers.”

“Well, it is too bad for them that I only like playing on Krieger Field and I only find real women attractive and not young girls.”

Ali pinched her ass and smiled. “So how about eggs and mushrooms?”

“And toast and bacon?” Ashlyn asked flashing her dimple. Ali rolled her eyes, “Fine, but you are only getting away with this because Carli isn’t here and you are on break. You can get the coffee started, feed Pepe the leftover steak and potatoes from last night, give him his pill and wash his bed. If I eat toast and bacon then you are going to have to work it off of me later. Beginning tomorrow I can’t have anything bad,” Ali said as she skipped towards the kitchen.

“A little protein won’t hurt you,” Ashlyn called out.

“Yeah, that’s what all the guys say,” Ali called back.

“Eww,” Ashlyn said as she walked out to get her duties in the kitchen started. Ali loved to remind Ashlyn as much as she didn’t want to admit that she too once had dated guys in high school and her freshman year in college and the gross things they would say.

“I’m crazy and you love it,” Ali said, smacking Ashlyn’s ass with the spatula she just pulled out of the drawer.

“I do, I can’t deny it. Now why does Pepe get the leftover steak that I was planning on enjoying with my eggs?”

Ali crossed her arms and looked at Ashlyn raising an eyebrow. “Because you are supposed to be fattening him up and I can still feel his little ribs sticking out of his sides.”

“Carli and I are trying but it’s hard when he throws everything up,” Ashlyn protested.

“I am not sure what Carli’s version of fattening anything up is and I am not sure that any meat that would fatten him up is making it to his mouth before it makes it to yours. So feed him the steak and then later, we are going to go get some hamburger and rice so I can make him a pot of meals for the rest of the week and I need avocados.”

Ashlyn made a salute and began chopping up the steak. “By the way there is rice in the cabinet and hamburger in the freezer. Carli picked up avocados for you, they are on top of the fridge, we can still go out though if you want to.”

“That is so nice of her. I love that she always thinks of me. I brought her a gift I plan on leaving in her room before I leave.”

“She is really fond of you Ali. She was pretty angry when she saw that Jill didn’t call you up and despite that she was the one that sent Jill flowers from the team when she got hurt. She really doesn’t vocalize her feelings much I think because, you know Hope and all.”

“Well, I love her as a friend. I should tell her that, Carli I love you, and see what kind of face she makes when we room together. You know how much she loves sharing feelings. I think Hope taught everyone a good lesson who was old enough to be around for her mistakes and the things that came out of her mouth. It is kind of funny how those two were best friends yet Hope never rubbed off on Carli. Carli definitely got a bird’s eye view of how what you say can get you in a world of trouble. I didn’t want to say much to Julie yesterday but I sure do not miss the days of Hope and Abby fighting and scratching it out in the locker room and team meetings. I am glad there is no more fighting on the team. I sure as hell don’t miss her screaming at me from goal. There were days I wanted to strangle her and say, ok Hope, here let me stand in goal and let’s see you chase down Marta and Sinclair. I almost did one day but Pinoe stuck a big piece of double bubble in my mouth and it was the best thing Pinoe ever did for me. I really have no idea how you listened to her critical mouth all day. I loved her the minute we could go out and do things like eat and shop but as a co-worker, every day I lived in fear of the likelihood of her kicking my ass.”

Ashlyn laughed at the sight. “I don’t miss those days either, especially because then Hope would want to come and take it out on me in practice. However, I should be grateful because she helped shape me into the keeper I am today, I learned behind the best in skills, but that salty tongue used to work my nerves. Pinoe and Abby kept me sane in dealing with her. Anyway, Carli also wanted me to let you know here protein shake packs and smoothies are in the cabinet up there and to help yourself. She also has bagged frozen fruit in the freezer and almond milk in the fridge she said you can use to help make your smoothies. She also has almonds in the fridge. I just paid for her last grocery run because I knew we would probably be eating everything while she wasn’t here. She paid for Pepe’s last treatment. You should see what a help she has been with him, she has been an amazing co-mom. I hate to tell you this, but Pepe has three moms.”

Ali laughed. “I am totally ok with that. I feel so bad that I can’t be here to help take him to his visits and help out with him. I know it takes a village especially with the two of you having the same job. That is so nice of her to share her nutrition program with me.”

“She takes him into our ticketing office and has found a girl in there to help watch him during the day who basically rocks him back and forth with her foot while she makes calls,” Ashlyn smiled shaking her head.

Ali plated their food and they sat down at the kitchen to eat.

“So tell me more about Pookie and for the record, I want you to be absolutely certain, nothing ever happened between us. There is no way I could ever sleep with someone and then carry on as best friends like her and I do. Just like I couldn’t accept your offer of being ‘just friends’ when you bring that up in argument. There is no way I could do that Ali. My heart doesn’t work that way and I would never do that to you, bang her, and then make you watch us be friends. You have to know that, right?”

Ali smiled, “Babe, I do now, but a decade ago I didn’t not until I figured out she didn’t sleep with women. Anyway, between you and I only, I was having a candid discussion with Alex. We were talking about you and me and my feelings for you and somehow that turned into her and Tobin. I have never spoken to her about Tobin, I mean we all always suspected but no one ever really knew if something happened between them more than friendship.”

“Well?”

“Well, it looks like it did and Alex was in love with her but wasn’t going to wait for her forever.”

Ashlyn got a confused look on her face. “What do you mean, wait around? What was there to wait on, Tobin followed her around like a lost puppy with heart eyes all the time, laughing and smiling at everything she said. You couldn’t separate those two. They didn’t even leave an inch of space between them on the team bus.”

Ali shrugged. “Alex didn’t go into all of the hairy details but we broached on the subject of how different is being with a woman, how much safer you feel. So she began to share about Tobin and said that she loved her but she couldn’t wait on her forever, that she wanted to be pursued and that Tobin wanted to be pursued too. So I guess you had two people that both wanted to be courted and chased after. I don’t mean that in a sexual sense like one couldn’t make the first move because obviously they got that far. Alex said she gave Tobin five years to figure out what she wanted, even moved to Portland to play there with her. I think she was waiting for Tobin to make it official, to ask her to be her girlfriend, or marry her or something along those lines and Tobin never did. Alex told me she couldn’t be the Marta, she needed someone to be the Marta for her.”

Ashlyn burst out into laughter at that analogy. “Oh my god, I so get it now. They are both the same. I never took Tobin for taking on the submissive role in a relationship. I thought she was more like me, I mean, wow, now I am trying to think back. There is no way Press is being the Marta with Tobin right now, is she?”

Ali leaned back and quirked one of her eyebrows up. “Oh so I am the submissive one in our relationship?”

Ashlyn’s face dropped. She could see the gates to Krieger Field begin closing fast.

“Oh no, I didn’t mean it like that. Look I was just trying to be politically correct. I’m just going to give it to you straight then. What I meant was, I didn’t know that Tobin was such a girl. I mean you look at Alex and she’s totally the super girlie one. I just never in a million years would have guessed Tobin didn’t have the balls I thought she did.”

Ali cocked her head to the side in a closed lip smile pursed thing she did as she watched Ashlyn dig herself in deeper which was quite amusing.

“So I’m the girl in our relationship and I don’t have a pair? I suppose I am the bottom too and you are the top? I think I am pretty bad assed on the field and could wipe the field with your ass if I wanted to. I think we both know that I have no problem being the top as well.”

Ashlyn put her fork down. Those gates were closing even faster and she had to dig her way out of this. “No baby, I would never say that. You are a warrior and one of the strongest, fiercest women I know. But you can’t deny that you are more feminine that I am and there is nothing wrong with that, it works for us. Where would we be if I was more feminine and girly than you? We would be right where Alex and Tobin are.”

“Nice save Harris, I just wanted to watch you squirm a little bit,” Ali smirked. “But I said the same thing to Alex, if you weren’t the pursuer in our relationship, we might not have happened, especially after what I saw with Allie.”

“So what does all of this have to do with Allie?”

“Well, Alex said she moved away to Orlando hoping it would give Tobin a swift kick in the ass. She said that Servando was already trying to ask her out and was showing a genuine interest in her. She said Tobin did nothing and acted unaffected and replaced her with Allie Long.”

Ashlyn’s eyes grew wide and she threw her head in her hands and began laughing in disbelief. “What?! What universe do these two live in? Does Alex not know how much Allie likes dick? She fucking loves men.”

“Well, like I said before, it is kind of hard to tell sometimes when she is hanging all over the girl you love calling them Pookie and Harry and wrapping her arms around them, kissing their cheeks, sitting in their laps. Don’t get me wrong, I love Allie, she was my teammate before she was yours. She is responsible for helping to put us back together, I love that woman. She just shows her affection differently than most people do and unless you know her really well, you don’t get that. I don’t think Alex has been around her that long, just since she started getting call ups. She felt like Allie Long replaced her.”

“Even though she married Bati? Christ, everyone knows Tobin was shattered after Alex left.”

“Well, apparently everyone but Alex Morgan. Tobin plays her feelings close to the vest and I guess she didn’t let it be known that Alex broke her heart. I don’t think Alex knows that Tobin was about to make move when she announced her engagement to Serv. Tobin just let her marry Serv and didn’t fight for her.”

“This is so fucked up,” Ashlyn said banging her fist on the table, causing Ali’s eyes to go wide before she laughed. “Whoa, there stud, you are going to scare the boy,” Ali said. “You know, this same thing could have happened to us had we not fought for each other. I don’t even want to know where we would be had I not showed up here in this town begging for you forgiveness. This is what happens when two people do not fight for each other. So let that be a lesson to us both.”

Ashlyn nodded in agreement. “Ali this is so fucked up. I could kick Tobin’s ass right now. If Alex would have just waited.”

“Alex said she gave Tobin five years and she wasn’t going to wait another five for her to get her shit together because she wanted to get married and have a family and no one would approach her to ask her out.”

“What?! How is that possible? Have you seen the girl? That can’t be true. Guys drool over her at the games. You can’t tell me that other athletes haven’t tried to pursue that. Not one NFL or Baseball player?”

“Apparently only Servando. And you know what else? I think she is still in love with Tobin and I am not sure what she would do with Servando if Tobin ever did grow a pair and told her and made some kind of commitment to her.”

“Does Alex even know about her and Press?”

“I have no idea. It really is none of my business. Part of me wants to tell Tobin but I love Servando so much and that would be like home wrecking. Just look how good he has been to us.”

“Ugh, I totally agree. Fuck, why does life have to be so hard? Now I know what Carli meant when she would look at us and say we had some Romeo and Juliet shit going on between us that we needed to fix or it would wind up in tragedy. This, what happened to them is a tragedy. If I had known this I would have given Tobin such a swift kick in the ass. I would have flown to Portland and made her propose to that girl.”

Ali just looked at Ashlyn and thought “Really, why don’t you kick your own ass? You won’t even propose to me, look who has the balls and who doesn’t.” However, she swallowed that one down and got up to collect the dishes to clean before Ashlyn could read her face.

Chapter Text

Ali finished the dishes and headed for the bathroom and locked herself in it trying to pinch back the tears that were filling her eyes. She didn’t know why that statement made her so emotional all of the sudden. She had been together with Ashlyn for ten years and they were as committed as any couple could be. They had recently even talked about weighing the option to get legally married or not if they bought the Pride. That conversation didn’t bother either of them at the time, so why was it bothering her so much about what Ashlyn just said about Tobin?

“Because for some reason, Alex Morgan is good enough to marry but I’m not,” Ali told herself silently. This had nothing to do with Alex or Tobin. It had to do with her and Ashlyn and Ashlyn’s reaction. She felt so strongly about how Tobin should have grown a pair and asked Alex. However, Ashlyn didn’t feel that strongly about her and it hurt. She had to swallow this down and fast. There was no way she could confide in Ashlyn about this one, she would be damned if she guilted Ashlyn into proposing to her. Anyway, she was going to propose to Ashlyn. “Fuck, why does this hurt so much?” Ali asked herself.

She had no one to blame but herself on this one. Ashlyn had already told her the reason she didn’t want to marry her that night in Orlando. It was because of her behavior and the fact that Ashlyn thought she hadn’t grown up. That was a tough pill for Ali to swallow because she felt like she had grown up, she had evolved as a person over the past few years. Yes she had fucked up here or there but who doesn’t? Maybe she shouldn’t ask Ashlyn to marry her despite having already ordered the rings. Maybe she should just wait until Ashlyn thought she was good enough to marry. Who knew if that day would ever come, could she ever be good enough? Could she ever be deserving of Ashlyn? She knew Ashlyn would say the nicest things to her and loved her but there was still a piece of her heart she didn’t have. Maybe she was being selfish. You couldn’t hurt someone the way she had hurt Ashlyn over the years and then expect her to want to marry you. She decided she would drop the topic of marriage and family all together. She was putting unnecessary stress on the both of them by ever bringing it up in the first place. She would have to learn to be happy with how things were and how they had been. Maybe if she hadn’t been such a jackass putting a World Cup and Olympic gold medal as being more important than Ashlyn, maybe then Ashlyn would be putting her first right now. Maybe if she had put Ashlyn first then she could have had her dream making Ashlyn her wife and having a baby with her. She couldn’t blame Ashlyn one iota and Ashlyn’s response back there at the table told her everything she needed to know. Shut up and be happy with what you have.

She was in the bathroom for about 15 minutes when Ashlyn knocked on the door. “Is everything ok babe? I have everything ready when you are.”

“Yes, I will be out in a second, I am having trouble with my contacts all of the sudden, allergies I guess. Give me a few minutes; I am trying to flush my eyes out.” It was a giant lie and Ali knew it but it was the only way she was going to get through this afternoon. They had a lot of work to do and Ali didn’t want it to become a pattern that every time one of them visited, they would have an epic fight. She also knew that Ashlyn had no idea of what she just said, that she hadn’t said it out of malice or was aiming that anywhere near towards Ali. Oh but it still cut like a knife. “God dammit, get a grip, Ali,” she told herself. She went over to the sink and scrubbed her face really well after she willed herself to stop crying. She knew that most of what she was feeling was because of the god damned physical distance between them and once again, who was to blame for that? She dried off her face and went back into the bedroom and put on a pink t-shirt discarding the tear stained one she just changed out of. She grabbed her glasses and her contact container and took her contacts out. She found her eye drops and put a few of those in to try to soothe her angry eyes. She grabbed her laptop, her drops, and a Claritin because now, she probably would get allergies and walked into the dining room.
“You ok babe?” Ashlyn looked at Ali with concern.

“I’m fine, I just got some kind of allergy attack in my eyes. I think my contacts were bothering me,” Ali said as she grabbed a water out of the fridge and swallowed her Claritin.

“Damn babe, your eyes are red. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought you were crying.”

“Nope, nothing to cry about,” Ali tried to say convincingly in a half smile. “Let’s get started, I want to check my emails first and see how we did with the Pride game.”

Ashlyn wasn’t sure if she should buy this answer or not. Ali did get allergies but she had never seen anything happen to her eyes just like that out of nowhere. Maybe it was the Houston climate she thought. Maybe it wasn’t, because it seemed like Ali’s demeanor had changed. Maybe that was due to the attack she just had. Ashlyn tried to think back to their conversation but knew that couldn’t have been it because it wasn’t even about them, it was about Alex and Tobin. She figured she would just let sleeping dogs lie, she didn’t want to upset Ali.

Ali was sitting across the table from her which Ashlyn thought was a little strange and she got up to move her stuff to sit in the chair next to her so they could look at each other’s screens. “I have definitely done or said something,” Ashlyn thought to herself. She went to lean in and put her arm around Ali’s shoulder and felt her stiffen up momentarily before relaxing into it. Ashlyn hated mysteries and activities where she would need to put the clues together or get out a map. Analytics just were not her thing, she would rather just air everything out so then she could do what she needed to do to fix things and make them right. She could practically feel the steam coming off of Ali and this time there was no Alex or Carli to save them. If Ali bolted for a door she would have to rely on her sheer speed to track her down so she decided it was probably best to let her calm down and focus on whatever Ali wanted her to despite her heart wanting to do the opposite.

Ali could feel Ashlyn catching on to her and trying to work things out in her head. Ali realized that there was nothing Ashlyn could do or say to make this better because basically her actions already had spoken for her, as did her words about what Tobin should have done, combined with her words last of October of Ali not being grown up. So a grown up is what she would give her. She knew she wasn’t selling this well enough so she slumped her shoulders and put a hand on Ashlyn’s thigh. This was the first time she would fake it with Ashlyn. She never faked anything with Ashlyn but there was no way in hell she was having this conversation.

She opened her emails and began reading them one by one from the Pride and a smile crept across her face. Parking revenues were up $45,000.00 the last game. Concessions were up $24,000 and most of that was due to the hotdog and soda special. Attendance was up 4,600 people mainly due to the tickets they had given away. Sales in the team shop were up $14,000.00. They also signed up about 43 new season ticket holders behind goal in the general admission seats where she had given away the free tickets. They had also sold around 50 multi game packs. When all was said and done, revenues were up around $90,000.00 and she felt like she really hadn’t even tried. She turned her screen to face Ashlyn so she could read this too and crossed her arms over her chest, took off her glasses holding them in her hand and smiled. She didn’t know if she could expect this every time but giving away the tickets had certainly worked and gotten people to spend money in other areas.
“Holy shit Ali, this is fucking amazing! Ashlyn said as she read the email and squeezed Ali’s shoulder. “Look at what you did babe. Has Flavio seen this?”

Ali smiled, “He was copied on the email, so I am sure he will. I am going to write a thank you to the staff and then an email to Flavio with the next ideas I want to implement for the next game. Our next home game is against you guys and it airs on Lifetime. I want those seats across from the camera full. It is going to be star studded especially if you are in goal by then. You, Carli, Moe, Alex, Marta, Me, Camilla. I want the 6 of us on a couple of billboards throughout Orlando. I saw this delicious looking thing on facebook the other day that was a steak and shrimp burrito with rice, cheese and sour cream and I want to sell it in our concessions along with frozen drinks. I also want us to get these straw cowboy hats to sell that will have a purple band around the middle and say Marta and she can design what goes on the band. Plus I want us to start selling some things outside of the stadium in the same trailer we use for the Orlando FC games but I want it to be Pride stuff.”

“Look at you go baby. I am so proud of you Alex. Well fire that off to Flavio and then we will get started on this, I want to make the pitch to Taylor this week.”

Ali composed the email to Flavio telling him what all she wanted to do for the next game and waited for his response. She had already pulled the pricing together of these items the prior week and what she figured they could make on each item. They would still offer the hotdog combo. She pressed send and now they would wait.

Ashlyn then pulled out her business plan and power point presentation. Together they filled in the blanks on all of Ashlyn’s remaining questions. If Ali couldn’t find the answers in the Pride’s software program, then she made calls to the staff and got the answers. She also got any stock pictures she needed of the team and any animations they needed from their IT/Audio department. Every plan she had for expanding the Pride’s revenues were listed in the plan as well as all of the community outreach they planned to do to boost ticket sales. It was pretty obvious they already had the players and coaches. Now the question would be could they pull together the investors.

When Ashlyn and Ali were satisfied with the product they held hands and made the big decision, Ashlyn would text Taylor Swift telling her she had a proposal for her on something she might be interested in. Ashlyn hit send and the two prayed hoping that she would be interested.

 

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Flavio was in Mexico City ready to pull his hair out. He was ten million dollars away from his dream of owning Barca and that was just to buy the team and didn’t include operating capital. All of his investors were tapped out to the max. Oscar De La Hoya threw in the last penny he was willing to throw. He called Flloyd Mayweather and David Beckham who also were going in on the deal. Carlos Slim had thrown in his final penny and wasn’t willing to do a dime more. He was forced to call Lebron James that afternoon and that was the call that got him just ten million dollars away from owning his dream. The US Banks were not willing to participate in such a risky endeavor overseas where they could not keep a close eye on things. The Spanish economy took a hit a few years ago around the time things went bad in Greece and the European countries threatening to pull out of the European Union were causing fear in lending. Alex was meeting with Donatella Versace the next day in Milan to see if she was interested. Flavio was trying to track down Rod Stewart who owned a football club but he was on tour and was a pain in the ass to get a hold of. Barca had given Flavio only a few more days to put this deal together. Then there was Ali Krieger and the Pride. Flavio had felt a little guilty for highballing her on that deal but he was also a smart business man. He knew he had to leave himself plenty of room for negotiations. As he sat in the lobby bar of his hotel, sipping his Jimador tequila, he began writing down on his pad the potential people he could still contact in one column and then what he bought the Pride for and the lowest price he was willing to sell it for. Two years ago, he bought the Pride for 8 Million. Now he needed 10 to buy Barca. Even if he took 10 Million for the team, he would still be making two million. He was able to value the team at around 25 Million because of the franchise’s potential worth and the stadium they got to play in. This was driving him nuts. He did not want to sell the team for less than half of asking price but dammit he was against a wall. Then a thought occurred to him. A conversation they had about Orlando City FC. If he did a deal on the Pride, then if he had to sell Orlando FC he could make up some of the money on the Orlando FC deal. If need be, that is what he would tell Ali in justifying his change of heart.

++++++++

Ali Krieger might have seemed like a nice person, one that you could easily snow but she was a Leo through and through. She knew she was playing with the big boys. What Alex and Flavio didn’t know is that she became well connected with international sports media when she was playing over in Frankfurt and one of the reporters that used to cover FC Frankfurt, now covered FC Barca and Real Madrid. Juan Carlos Puentes turned out to be a very good friend during her time in Frankfurt and he harbored a major crush on Ali Krieger. He tried to date her many times and would still send her messages on FB messenger to test his chances. One of the reasons they got along so well other than being attracted to the other’s looks was that no one wanted to give either one of them the time of day half of the time because neither one spoke German at first. Ali was learning German and spoke English and Juan Carlos spoke both English and Spanish. Half of the time, Ali was the only one that would give him an interview and he never forgot it. He also looked out for her quite a bit when he could whether it was the German press or overzealous German men that would overstep their boundaries when they ran into her after games.

Ali decided to send him a text to test the waters and see if she could call him.

Ali Krieger: Hello Juan, long time no speak. I was wondering if you had time for a call?

Juan Carlos: Hello bella, of course I have time for a call from you. Are you finally going to accept a date from me?

Ali Krieger: Ha Ha. I am still the same Ali, still in love with the same person. I actually wanted to ask you about something else.

Juan Carlos: Ok, well at least facetime me so I can see your beautiful face.

Ali rolled her eyes. Men and their one track minds. However this would be worth it, she dialed his number from the living room couch after telling Ashlyn what and who she was about to call so Ashlyn wouldn’t freak out. Ashlyn knew all about Mr. Blast from the Past.

“Hello Ali! How are you my dear?”

“Hello Juan Carlos, I am great thank you. How is life in Spain treating you?”

“Ali it is so beautiful and wonderful, although it would be more so if you were here to enjoy it with me.”

Ashlyn rolled her eyes. Mr. Slick was up to his old ways of trying to be a Don Juan.

“Well, as you know, I am very happy playing here in the states. I wanted to ask you though, have you heard anything about the FC Barca sale and how that is going?”

“Ahhh bella, yes, Football’s worst kept secret. Well I hear they are very close to doing a deal.”

Ali laughed, “Do you happen to know how close?”

“I might, if I told you, what would be in it for me? Do you have any of your beautiful footballer friends that would give me a date?”

Ali could feel Ali’s eyes boring in to her from across the room, just daring her to offer up something that had to do with Ali and a date.

Ali smiled at Ashlyn, trying to cut some of the tension in the room. She felt like waving her bare ring finger at Ashlyn in that moment and offering him a date just to be an ass but she decided against it.

“Are you covering the USWNT in Sweden next week?”

“I am, I will be at the game in Stockholm.”

“How about I guarantee an interview with Alex Morgan and I?”

“Oh that would be more than my heart could take, the two most beautiful women on the team with me in the same room?”

“Well, it would be on the field at one of our practices. I can get your press credentials cleared for the day before the match.”

“Ok, you have a deal. Ok so what do you want to know?

“How close are they to doing this deal? Where does the money stand and how far away are they? Why isn’t it done yet?”

“Last I heard yesterday they were about ten million dollars away and it was nonnegotiable.”

“Ok, I see. A friend close to me had been approached and wanted to know before talking to the investor group.”

“I don’t suppose you would divulge the name of your friend?”

“I am sorry, I can’t Juan Carlos.”

“You can’t blame a guy for trying. Ok, well it is late here so I will see you and Alex in Stockholm later this week.”

“Yes, I will contact US Soccer PR right now and tell them we will do an interview. I’m going to contact Alex right now. You will still have to apply for your press pass though.”

“Ok Ali, thank you, goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

Ashlyn squinted her eyes at Ali as Ali got up to grab another water. Ali laughed at the sight of her jealous girlfriend.

“Ash you know I wouldn’t have made that call unless I had to. Juan Carlos has his nose in everything when it comes to European Soccer. Now I know where I can really start out and just how hard up Flavio is. It has been days since we last talked and no announcement has been made on the sale of Barca. He is still hunting money and I just confirmed it. Ten million dollars to be exact and you know what that tells me? I don’t need to ask Taylor Swift for 25 Million. I need to ask her for about 13 million and tell Flavio that all I have been able to come up with is 10 million and watch him dance. So if I have to bat my eye lashes at Juan Carlos for a few minutes in an interview, it just saved us about 12 million dollars.”

“And what do you think he is going to do when he figures out you played him?” Ashlyn asked.

“You are cute when you are jealous babe. I will then offer him an all-expense paid trip to Orlando where he can hang out with the club for a few days and drool over the pretty American girls he loves so much and then send his ass back to Madrid.”

“You have been watching too many old episodes of Dallas and Dynasty. I had no idea you were a shrewd business woman,” Ashlyn chuckled.

Now Ali squinted her eyes. “I just happen to not be as gullible and stupid as I look or as people think I am and you and I both have been around this sport long enough to know that because we are women, everyone thinks they can rape us financially. You have seen it in enough endorsement deals to know. Plus that is 10 million dollars Flavio is taking out of the mouths of my future… never mind. Anyway now I have a plan, a bargaining chip, and I feel a lot better asking Taylor for 13 million than I do 25. She is going to want a return on her money and I hoping that she will take 20% which is about 2.6 million. Worst case scenario, 5 million tops. I think she likes to help women succeed and won’t completely murder us.”

“Alex you continue to blow me away. You know I don’t think you are gullible or stupid right? And why didn’t you finish that sentence? Ali please tell me what is going on, I know I said something to offend you earlier and it wasn’t your contacts. You know you can tell me right? And god, you have to know, whatever stupid thing that came out of my mouth, I didn’t mean it. I have been racking my brain to figure out what it might have been,” Ashlyn said sincerely.

“You didn’t do anything. I am just having one of those days where I still need to work on my personal growth as a person to become worthy enough for everyone else. I need to prove myself to everyone right now. Now, excuse me while I go call Alex,” Ali responded.

Ali walked out on the balcony to call Alex and Ashlyn was left sitting there to try to continue to figure out how she fucked up. She knew this was one of those read between the lines riddles and not necessarily particular words that she said. Ali had just given her more clues with the words “stupid” and “gullible” but she didn’t know how those applied to Ali or why Ali was implying that Ashlyn might think that of her because it couldn’t be farther from the truth. She was walking on thin ice and she knew it.

Just then her phone began dinging with an alert. She closed her eyes praying it was Taylor. Instead, it was Mary Lee. She had now made her way down to Virginia and was swimming around Newport News and the Chesapeake Bay according to the latest pings from her tag surfacing. Then came in the ding she was waiting for, a reply from Taylor.

Tay: Hey Ashlyn!!! How are you and Ali! I would love to hear your ideas. I have a few minutes, you guys call or facetime me.

Ashlyn Harris: We are great! Ok we will call you in a min. let me grab Ali.

Chapter Text

Ali Krieger was a Leo (the Lion, King of the Jungle) and Ashlyn Harris was a Libra. Leos were one of the most difficult signs in the zodiac for an air sign like a Libra to handle. When Ali felt like opening up, she was an open book but when she didn’t, God help you if you were in the path of that wrath. Ashlyn looked up astrology a lot when it came to dealing with difficulties in relationships. One reason why they were attracted to each other so much is because they were opposites. Typically Leos were strong, fierce and went after what they wanted. They also wanted to be adored and so did Libra, both needed affirmation, validation and approval. Libras were more laid back, chill and could often be lazy at times about certain things. When Leo and Libra were in sync, they had a lot of fun together. Libras admired Leos a lot for their self-confidence and ability to make things happen. Leo’s were a fixed sign and could be stubborn and unwilling to compromise where Libras had an over willingness to compromise and this is where the mental differences between the two could cause problems.
Libras liked to support the creative sparks in Leos. They would oftentimes offer inspiring feedback that gave the Leo clarity and boosted their ego. Leos admire this in Libras and their flow of ideas often excites them. Libras often admire that the Leo can take an idea or concept they have and make it a reality, especially when the Libra is too lazy or exhausted to execute it. This excites the Libra. The tradeoff for this is that the Libra will have to live with less than perfect peace in their lives, somehow absorbing the lion's wrath and bluster without growing resentful. Leos have to find ways to satisfy the Libra’s need for mental harmonizing. When both of these signs get out of sync then that is when you could stand back and watch the explosion. One thing Ashlyn remembered reading about the two of their signs was this:
“Leo in Love is proud, jealous and demanding of respect.”
“Libra in Love is gracious, sensitive to reactions and extroverted.”
So, when Ashlyn went to cautiously open the balcony door and heard Ali say, “I don’t care, she can do whatever she wants,” she stopped dead in her tracks. Ashlyn didn’t know if that was about her or not but if she had to guess, she would guess there was about a 90% chance that it was. If there was one thing Ashlyn Harris knew for sure, it was that if Ali Krieger said, “I don’t care, do what you want,” under no circumstances, did you in fact, do what you wanted. It was best to just stand still, not blink, not answer, not breathe and just play dead. However that could also set her off by making her feel like she was victimizing you and that also pissed her off. So in this situation, it was best if a hole would just open up in the floor and swallow you whole. The problem was, there was no hole appearing and Ashlyn had already opened the door which she now wished she had not done. She knew she had to distract and diffuse and do it quickly.

Ali saw Ashlyn and decided to wrap up her call with Alex. Alex who like the best friend she was, agreed as always to help Ali out. Ali promised her she wouldn’t leave her alone with Juan Carlos and they would do the interview on the field around US Soccer folks. There would be no other rendezvous scheduled with Juan Carlos to put Alex at ease. Juan Carlos definitely had a reputation. As soon as Ali hung up, Ashlyn put operation distract and diffuse into quick action.

“Hey Al! Taylor just texted back and she has a few minutes. Let’s go sit at the table and pitch this shit! I am going to go grab the IPAD. You’ve got this Ali, you will own this like a boss!” Ashlyn said before trotting away with her life intact. Ali went to her purse, put a brush through her hair quickly, grabbed her glasses, and tried to keep her heart from pounding out of her chest. Ashlyn came back with the IPAD, set it up on its stand, and positioned them so that they were both in view. When they were ready she hit the call button. Just a few seconds later, up popped Taylor Swift on their screen.

“Oh em gee! Look at the two of you! You both are so freaking cute! I love the hair Ash!”

“Hey Taylor! How is it going? Thank you, you are looking good as always girrrrrrrrlll,” Ashlyn said.

“Thanks gurrrllll! I have been keeping up with you guys, how is your shoulder? And Ali, I swear I thought I was going to have to kill Jill Ellis myself! I have been keeping my eye on that little troll!”

Ali and Ashlyn burst out into laughter, “Ash’s shoulder is much better, she will be back in the game here soon. Jill had an accident from a peacock attack so you won’t be seeing her in Sweden this week.”

“Hmmm, karma is a bitch, isn’t it? I effing love those rainbow uniforms!”

“Would you like one? Just give me your size and I will make sure we get one for you. Tell me the name and number you want on the back and who you want to sign it and I will make it happen.”

Taylor’s face lit up. “Oh. My. God. Are you serious? I want one that says Krieger on the back with a big fat number 11 on it signed by you!”

Ali blushed. “Ok then, I can DEFINITELY make that happen. If there is anyone else you want, speak up now.”

“Can I have an Ashlyn Harris keeper jersey and a Carli Lloyd?” Taylor asked sheepishly.

“Hell yes you can. What size?”

“I’ll take a large, I like them baggy.”

“Ok. Done. I will even have you a Swift one made too. Ash here will text you for the address we need to send them to. We will get you game worn ones from, me, Carli and Ash and then you can wear your very own to the games.”

“That would be so fucking cool. You rock. You know I adore the USWNT and the NWSL and you guys let me know when and where you want tickets for the next time I go on tour. It was so fucking cool to see you guys at the Super Bowl parties, I still talk about it with my squad! Ok so enough about moi, tell me about this idea you have!”

As they discussed previously, Ashlyn would start out and approach her from an indirect route.

“Well, Ali here has come across a pretty lucrative deal. She has the chance to buy the Orlando Pride and the timing couldn’t be better.”

“Holy shit Kriegs! That is amazing, that is one of the best teams in the NWSL.”

“Yes, and Ali happens to play for them now and was just offered the GM position after going in to ask if the team was for sale. So the reason for our call was, would you happen to know anyone who would be interested in being an investor and backing us?” Ashlyn asked.

Taylor pretended to think hard, tapping her finger on her chin. “You guys, you KNOW I would love to get on something like this. What is it going to take?”

Ashlyn smiled, she and Ali just loved Taylor Swift since the day they met her. “We have a business plan and a presentation we can email you,” Ashlyn replied.

“Ok please do that but bottom line me, how much do you need?”

“We are looking at roughly 13-15 million right now. Worst case scenario would be 25 million. I think we can come in closer to 13-15 though because there is another deal surrounding this one. Have you ever heard of Football Club Barcelona? It is a popular men’s soccer club that Messi and Neymar play for,” Ali answered.

“I have heard of them, they are hot right now aren’t they?” Taylor asked.

“They are and the team is up for sale for hundreds of millions. Between us, the guy that owns the Pride that is willing to sell it to me wants to buy Barca and he is about 10 million dollars away from making it happen. Now in an off the top of his head offer, he first offered the team to me for around 23-25 million depending on some minor details. Tonight I found out they are 10 million away and there could be a chance I could get the team for that plus I would need about 3 million for operating costs just to ensure the franchise does well for the first few years. But in one week of being GM, I have been able to increase our revenues around $90,000 just by implementing a few ideas because as players, we tend to know what the fans want. So you were the first person we thought of when we thought of potential investors. Is this something you would even entertain?”

“Wow, good for you Ali, getting shit done like a boss! Hell yes I would entertain it. Why don’t you send me your business plan over and the numbers of what you think you might need and I will take a look at it with my entertainment attorney? I meet with him tomorrow morning; do you think you could send it by then?”

Ali turned the screen to face just her while Ashlyn got up to grab the lap top and email everything. “Ash is going to send it over right now, what email do you want it sent to?”

“Send it to BadBlood@gmail.com ,” Taylor responded.

Ali smiled as she wrote it down. “Cool will do. I will have Ashlyn text you my phone number and email so you will have that too. I could get a call from Flavio any day now out of desperation if this plays out how I think and we could get a total deal out of this.”

“Make sure Ashlyn gives you my number too. Wow this would really be cool. Would you own that pretty new stadium down there?”

“No, we would most likely have to rent it. However, I did ask for first rights to bid on Orlando City SC the men’s MLS team should they ever put that up for sale and that would definitely come with the stadium. So that option might even happen sooner than we think. I can tell from meeting Flavio that he really wants to own Barca.”

“How much is Orlando City SC Worth?”

“It is worth about 240 Million, they bring in about 40 million a year and they have Kaka playing there which is huge.”

“Ok, look I am not going to lie, I would love to get in on owning a team but two teams and a stadium? That would be epic and you know Gaga, Jlo, and Ariana Grande have been looking for an endeavor to go into to. Let’s say all of this pans out, once I look it over with my attorney, since this guy that owns both teams in in some kind of a pinch, why don’t we make an offer for both and then we could always back down to just the Pride. Would you be interested in the men’s team? Or what if we did something where we helped invest the money for the women’s team where you two could have full ownership and then we all go in together on the Men’s club? The worst he could say is no, right? And maybe we could get a deal, maybe they are so desperate to own Barca that they would give us a deal on both? It sounds like right now is the time to get a deal because desperation will do things to people. Then maybe one day you guys could buy us out. Of course, we can’t be hands on, we will want reports of the financials but you would have to put the team in place to run it. Do you have the personnel?”

Ali’s mind was about to explode with joy and fear at the same time and it was everything she could do not to lose her shit. “Well, first there is a great group of people already in place so this show is running itself, it is just going to need the upper level management. Alex Leito, the guy who has been GM along with Flavio have been running it. However, if they get Barca, I think they are going to wind up running over to Spain. So the question will become, do they want to hire a GM to run Orlando and then have to babysit it, or do they want to throw all in for Barca and put all of their attention in on that, I am thinking that latter but I don’t know. Alex Morgan is on board and I think Carli Lloyd could be persuaded. I have also been thinking about Abby Wambach and there is always the possibility of asking Julie Foudy or Mia Hamm. Heather O’Reilly is over in England playing and Christine Rampone are two other people I would consider asking. I would really like to surround our group with likeminded women who are business savvy and know what it takes to run and coach a team as well as knowing what the fans want. So many of these teams are making mistakes about knowing what they want and I proved that in just one week. There could even be the smallest possibility of Tobin Heath and if not now with some of these girls, then maybe down the road. You know the Pride has Marta right? If I have my way, they only way she will be returning to Brazil is to vacation,” Ali laughed.

“Hell yes I do, I couldn’t believe it, I have watched her kill it with Brazil for so many years. Look, if there is one thing I have learned, it is that sometimes you have to think big and take risks. If I could get the other ladies interested then these are the kinds of things they are going to want.”

“Shoot,” Ali said moving the screen now that Ashlyn joined her.

“Ok let’s say we do this and we get both. As I am talking to you, I am googling Orlando City SC and in only its second year it is one of the most successful MLS teams… Ok anyway, they would want things like access to using the stadium. Now of course they play much bigger venues but sometimes an artist just wants to do a concert here or there without going on tour just to test out new material. Also, each of these ladies has their own things like clothing lines, perfumes, vodka, waters, you name it. So they would want some of their things to be sold in the shops there or we could make another store that features more of these items that would be in addition to the team merch. Then they will want their music to be played during breaks, before and after games, etc. and they would want cross promotion. They may want tickets to games for friends and family or a suite made available or something like that. Would that be a problem?”

Ali smiled, “That would not be a problem. That would be amazing; do you know how much cross promotion would help drive the fans in? That is what I am trying to do right now, you have no idea how badly I want to take control of this ship so that we can be smart about all of this. Ash and I plan on being co-owners and CEOs and we want to be involved in every aspect, from playing to coaching to sales, marketing, promotion, concessions, merch, fan experience, and community outreach. I know that Gaga is big on helping the LGBTQ community and there is no greater place than Orlando for that. We are still recovering from the Pulse shooting as a city.”

“We could all pitch in for sure with that. Ok, the way I see this is that Flavio is asset rich and cash poor and right now he has a cash flow problem. I am just thinking out loud here because no deal is a done deal until the ink is signed on the contract. I can put feelers out tonight to see who is interested but I really think I know who will be and I don’t think it will be a problem. Orlando is huge for any artist especially because of Disney and it draws in all of central Florida.

If Flavio comes back to you desperate, why don’t you offer him 175 for Orlando SC and the Pride and see what he says? His men’s team may be valued at 240 Million but he didn’t pay that for it. He bought in at 40 Million it says here and then bought the land for 8.2 million for the stadium. The stadium was 155 Million to build. So in cost alone we are looking at 203 Million for the team and he has a 155 Million dollar loan to pay off on the stadium alone which has to be beating the hell out of him for his chances to buy Barca. I say we start off at an offer of 175 Million for both and let him sit on it for a few hours. 210 Million would be my limit but we could increase the bids at 5 Million each time. If we can get a steep discount on both then I would be willing to give you more of a deal on the Pride because we know he probably only paid 5-8 M for that.

You know him better than I do but it is always best to start low because he will start high and then we can meet in the middle. If he doesn’t want to sell Orlando SC and just wants to sell the Pride then let’s start out at 10 Million there, 15 Million would be my limit and if we only do that deal, I would be the sole investor. Of course, this is all pending on review of the Pride tomorrow and we would also need to review the Orlando SC financials too if he wants to do a package. I know one thing, soccer is on the rise here and the men’s world cup is coming up and then yours is and we all saw what happened with that.

Anyway we could always throw the offer out there and then counter if I can’t get this done, but what I am trying to give you is the confidence to do what you need to. So why don’t you keep in touch with me, send me a text tonight and I will send you one in the morning about what I think about the Pride. In the meantime, if you can get your hands on an Orlando SC financial statement and send that to me on the down low, that would be great and I could get you a definitive answer.”

“Ok Taylor, I will see what I can do. I am so happy to hear that you are just as excited about this as we are! I will get those jerseys for you this week and I will see if I can drum up some Pride gear too. We will be in touch, thanks so much for your time,” Ali smiled.

“Thank you Taylor, we never go out of style,” Ashlyn fist bumped towards the screen causing Taylor to return it.

“Night ladies, let’s see if we can get some sleep after this tonight,” Taylor giggled.

They closed face time and turned the IPAD off and then just looked at each other and said, “Holy Shit,” at the same time.

Ashlyn began texting Taylor Ali’s information and Taylor texted Ali back with hers. Ali went into the Orlando City SC computer system and was able to pull up a financial statement just like she had been shown to do with the Pride and emailed that to Taylor from her personal email tagging it with a “confidential” flag in the subject line hoping that this wouldn’t come back to bite her in the ass.

“Ashlyn my nerves are about to explode out of my body I am so god damned nervous, I am shaking. Either way, it sounds like she is in on the Pride but we could come out of this running the whole damn show in Orlando and part owners of the men’s team. Fuck if I even know what to do anymore or even with you. You will have to break your contract with the Dash if we do this but it will be worth the penalty unless you become a non-interested or active part owner until the season is over. You have to think about your endorsements too.”

“Well what if the Dash traded me to the Pride for Jane Campbell and anyone else you want to get rid of? Then I wouldn’t be breaking my contract or any of the endorsements I have going on in Houston?”

Ali smiled. “Shit why didn’t I think of that? I think Spencer could be included since she is inconsistent. If we can get Carli, we will have plenty of forwards/ midfielders. The only thing that bothers me is that we can’t rape every team of their National Team players because they are so important for the attendance across the league. So maybe Carli joins us after her career is done and same with Tobin if we can fix her and Alex. I swear my brain is on overload and is fried. I mean I was all put together with the Pride, but when she brought Orlando SC into the mix, that changed everything. But she is right you know, now is the time to strike on that too while they are in a pickle. You know, Flavio may need 10 Million just to buy the team but he needs operating capital too. If he sells both, he has it made in the shade as long as the other owners are in on it too. He was dealing with some shady assed people to finance that stadium and this way he could pay off the Chinese. He won’t be making the bankroll he expected for both clubs, but then again, they all will get to own their dream team. In the end, they will make twice as much over there with that team.”

“Ok, let’s go for a walk and calm down and clear our heads. I will put the dog pouch on over my chest and that way Pepe can go with us and we can take him to the bathroom before my heart explodes out of my chest. We need to talk this out a little,” Ashlyn suggested.

“Ok, let me put my hair up and grab my shoes.”

As they began walking through Discovery Green and downtown Houston, Ashlyn could feel Ali relax a little.

“Ok so what are your biggest fears?” Ashlyn asked.

Chapter Text

“Ok so what are your biggest fears?” Ashlyn asked.

“Well, the Pride, I knew I could handle myself and still play until you got there. Orlando SC is a whole new animal.”

“Ok so I go to the Dash and tell them the deal and they trade me for Jane and whomever else you decide. Problem solved.”

“Ok, so now I have you there which will be a fucking godsend. I will have to bring you up to speed on everything Pride so I can go do the same thing with Orlando SC and dive right in and figure all of that out. Now neither of us is done playing or giving up our dream of an NWSL championship, another World Cup and Olympics, so it’s going to put a huge amount of stress on the both of us,” Ali responded.

“Ok, so we get a top notch GM for the men’s side if we can’t handle it. Now who do we want or know who can do that?” Ashlyn asked.

“Well I know it has to be someone that can take direction from women because this is going to be a whole woman owned and ran show. Someone who has played or coached would be ideal.”

“Have you thought about your Dad?” Ashlyn asked.

Ali had not thought about either. “Wow that just blew my mind. No I haven’t, and what if he doesn’t work out, then I have to fire my Dad and I don’t know if he would take direction from me in a position like that. We won’t own Orlando SC outright, so we can’t fail the investors there and I don’t want to make some douche move bringing in family. My mind keeps going to Foudy and Hamm. I just really want to see a woman in this position. However, Anson also comes to mind. I really need to take a look at who all is out there.”

“Ok so a potential Orlando SC GM, let’s think on that. While you are in Sweden you pick Foudy’s brain and see where she is in life. While Abby is here I will pick her brain and I will see where I think her potential could be and if she would leave Naples and what her interest in soccer still is. What else is scaring you?”

Ali reached up to take Pepe, put his leash on when they came up to a few trees. “The structure of this deal. I have a plan on how we would pay back Taylor for the Pride. I have no idea how part ownership would work for Orlando. And then there is us, do we set up a trust or how do we do this? Some way I want to stash away a pile of money for us that no one can touch if things go wrong.”

“Ok so let’s call our attorneys tomorrow and talk it out with both and see what they say,” Ashlyn said as they walked over to a bench to sit down.

“What else?” Ashlyn asked.

“Well then there is the huge responsibility of reporting back to people like Taylor, Gaga, JLO, Ariana, or whoever else she digs up. These people don’t fuck around and we will need to lawyer up.”

“No they don’t, but neither do we. Hey Ali," Ashlyn grabbed Ali’s hand, “We’ve got this and we don’t have to do both teams if it is too much.”

“I know but Taylor is right, if we don’t do this now and we wait, by then the team could be 300 Million or 400 Million. If we want to do this and never have to worry for a day in our lives again, we do this now while Flavio is in a pinch for Barca.”

“I agree, but can I remind you of something? You do realize between the two of us, we make like over 600K together a year right? That was before you just got the new GM salary and there are our endorsements. I don’t think we will be going broke anytime soon, you seem to be anxious about this lately, so let’s talk about it.”

Ali sighed. “It’s age Ashlyn. I am 32 and you are 31, we won’t be raking in those national team salaries forever or the endorsements. Jill fucking me over here recently rattled my cage, nothing is guaranteed.”

“Ok but we have been making that for years and saving for years. It isn’t like we have blown through our money. I really think we are going to be fine even if we can’t buy either team. I think your new Pride position proves you are not going to be starting out as a temp making $10 an hour. And I have been getting into TV and Radio a little bit so I think I can always fall back on that.”

“You’re right. I just felt like I started to lose everything at once. First my position with the Spirit, then I lost you, then one of my major endorsements was threatened, then my National Team spot was threatened and I feel like I have to grab on tight to everything. I am taking on things at 32 that I didn’t think I would be taking on until 40. But 40 isn’t going to wait for me Ashlyn, all of the opportunities are right now, at least the ones I want.”

“Ok so you go after them, let’s just take all of this one thing at a time as it comes our way and not let ourselves get overwhelmed. We can do this baby.”

“I know, and I know I can only do it because you are beside me or I would have freaked the fuck out by now.”

“Ok one last question and please don’t dismiss me. What happened earlier this afternoon? Please don’t keep it from me Ali, I need you to be open with me. I can’t let you fester and this grow into some kind of epic rift between us. My heart is going to break and I can’t have you flying off to Sweden and not tell me. Ali I am trying to grow here too as a person and I don’t want to just piss you off and not be able to correct what I did.” Ashlyn said as she put a hand on Ali’s shoulder. Ali reached down and scratched Pepe’s head on her lap as tears fell out of her eyes.

“See there baby? I know I said something to hurt you this bad. I can’t live with myself knowing I did that to you. I am trying to hard not to hurt you anymore, so please tell me.”

“I can’t Ashlyn. It hit too deep and it has nothing to do with you and it’s all my fault anyway. Then if I tell you, you will feel obligated to fix it and I don’t want you to fix it because I don’t deserve it and I don’t want to guilt you into things. So just let me deal with it, I will be over it by the time I return from Sweden. I don’t want us to fight and argue every time we see each other Ashlyn.”

Ashlyn reached up to wipe the tears off of Ali’s face. “Al, I can’t let you go to Sweden with a heavy heart like this. We have to be a unified team and on the same page if we are going to take all of this on. Baby, I love you so much. I promise I won’t try to fix it if you don’t want me to or do anything out of guilt, but dammit you have to tell me what it is because it is eating me up inside and I am so sorry I hurt you. I don’t want to fight either but when we fight it means we care. We have had a lot of shit to work out lately and I think we are making good progress don’t you?”

“Yes I do. But this isn’t really about you. I have no one to be angry with but myself.”

“Why are you angry with yourself,” Ashlyn asked rubbing Ali’s back.

“It was a comment you made about Tobin and Alex that set me off.”

“Ok. What did I say?”

“You said,” Ali looked away at one of the street lamps. She could feel the tears starting again. Ashlyn reached for her face and turned it towards hers. “I said what baby?”

“You said that had you known about their problems, you would have flown to Portland right away and told Tobin to grow a set and propose to her,” Ali said as more tears fell and she began to sniffle.

Ashlyn was trying her best to figure out why that was wrong and couldn’t. “Ok, baby, can you please tell me why that hurt your feelings? You know Tobin is my really good friend right? And you know how close I have grown to Alex especially since she moved here right? I didn’t mean that I would bully Tobin or anything.”

Ali closed her eyes wishing she could stop the war that was going on inside of her head. “It wasn’t that Ashlyn. It was that you were so quick to immediately take that stance with them when you don’t feel that way yourself about us. When I brought it up the night of our breakup you basically told me that you thought I might be grown up enough by now to marry but that I wasn’t and you completely balked at the idea of my proposing to you. I got to thinking about it and in ten years you haven’t felt like I was good enough to marry because I haven’t given you everything you wanted. I can only blame myself for that and I don’t want to turn this into something that you have to fix and I don’t want you to propose to me because of this. And I don’t want to propose to you because you don’t feel I am good enough to marry or am the person you deserve. I realized that I have been bringing it up lately and I shouldn’t have. This is just something I need to work through and I just need to be happy with the way things are and not think about this.”

So that was it, Ashlyn thought. Jesus she would have liked to have never figured it out. You would have thought someone had been diagnosed with some terminal illness or something that couldn’t be fixed.

Ali continued, “Your immediate reaction was that Tobin was stupid for not asking her and that you would fly right over and knock some sense into her. Yet you don’t feel that same way about us because you don’t think I am a mature enough adult that can handle it and provide to you emotionally the things you want and deserve. And you know what is the worst? You are absolutely right about all of it and I can’t blame you one bit, my behavior was assholish. I know we have been working to put everything back together that was broken between us, but we have only seen each other about 4 times since all of that happened. Losing you shook me to my core.”

Ashlyn swallowed hard. “Ali, baby, that isn’t true at all. I said some horrible things that night. We have been over this before. I would take them all back if I could because they’ve done some horrible damage. I just exploded on you that night. Ali I have been in love with you for so long, there is nothing I want more than having you as my wife and for me to be yours. I just didn’t think you wanted it all of those years so I never asked. How were we going to be married if I couldn’t introduce you to people as my wife. If I couldn’t show you affection in public then how were we going to be married and wear each other’s ring? I was getting mixed signals from you. That is all I was trying to say but I turned it into a cheap shot because I was furious with you. I didn’t know how else to make you see things. I do think you are mature enough to handle anything. Ali you have always been the woman of my dreams and since this happened to us, you have been working your ass off to change and fight for us. Please don’t think I don’t see it or that I don’t notice it or that I don’t want to be married to you. I am just trying to get my shit together now and make things right and work on us. I left quite a quake behind me when I left and you deserve for me to do things the right way and to do right by you and I am working on it. I am working to mend some of the things that I broke with you and that includes relations with your family. They look at me and see someone who completely shattered their daughter’s and sister’s heart.”

Ashlyn reached for Ali’s hand and squeezed it. “I have been thinking a lot and I think we have both become emotional wrecks since our separation. I think for the most part our bodies were in sync with one another because we were together for so long. Then the minute that bond broke, we sort of went into a downward spiral hormonally. I think we are going to be just fine after I move back and we are together but for now, things are just crazy. We love each other so much that we cry and argue all the time because we want to be together. Everything we fight about leads back to one thing and that is that we are apart. We have been apart before but that was always because of soccer and never over a break up. We need each other. It is because we are soulmates; it is that same thing all of our teammates talk about that we have. Not everyone is lucky enough to have this and it doesn’t mean that it’s always going to be sunshine and roses. One set of events on one night almost cost us everything and you are not solely responsible for that nor should you carry the complete burden. I promise you this turmoil is going to go away as soon as we are back together Ali.”

Ali looked over at Ashlyn and then up into her eyes. “Ashlyn, you are my rock, I need to know that you are going to stay, that you aren’t going to leave, that if we have some major problem, you won’t take off.”

“I am staying Ali, I promise, I won’t leave again. I have learned a huge lesson. You are my rock too Ali, I need to know the same about you too. I need to know that if we have a fight, you won’t leave and takeoff to live and play overseas.”

“I promise Ashlyn, I won’t take off or leave you. No more running from either one of us. We have to stick together.”

Ashlyn leaned over and kissed Ali with everything she had to seal their promise, almost smooshing Pepe in the process.

“You know Ali, sometimes in the process of mending a broken heart, it breaks or fractures a little bit more while we are trying to put it back together. But that is only going to make us stronger. Look at us, we just got through that, we can talk about anything and get through it because we are stronger together.”

Ali nodded. “Thank you Ashlyn. And my family doesn’t hate you. I won’t let them. I told them I acted like a bitch towards you and that I got exactly what I deserved.”

Ashlyn sighed. “Ok Ali, would you please do something for me? Would you please stop being so hard on yourself because it breaks my heart. You have acknowledged what happened and you have made some amazing strides. You have apologized and you have followed through with your actions. I mean you just came out to the world with me the other day and you are in for a shitty ride because of it. You have made the change that I asked you to. Do you realize that? Would you please give yourself some credit? You have done everything I have ever asked. Please forgive yourself because I forgive you.

Do you think the Ali Krieger of a year ago would have kissed me here on this park bench just now without freaking out? You just did it like it was the most natural thing to do among about 100 other things you have done recently. You are the perfect woman and I couldn’t ask for anything more. Now, I want you to take this guilt you are carrying and bury it. I need you to be strong and happy because we have a hell of a ride in front of us and the next few months are going to the most difficult, rewarding and challenging we have ever faced. You are going to need your energy for that and so will I. So no more of this stuff that is going to set back our progress and if it happens then we just have to remind each other like you did with me when I was in Orlando. This is all so temporary Ali, trust me. And please don’t try to hide from me, I know you way to well to buy some allergy story when your eyes look like they are about to pop out of your head from crying. I am sorry I made you feel that way. I would have never known had you not told me.”

“Ok, you’re right, I will. I just want to make you happy.” Ali said as she wiped the tears away with the back of her hand. Ashlyn picked up Pepe and put him back in her pouch and then put her hand around Ali’s waist and drew her in close to her side as they walked back home.

“I love you Ali and I love our little family we have right here and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. As long as I have you, I have everything.”

“I love you too Ashlyn.”

They fell asleep that night this time with Ashlyn wrapped around Ali so tight like she was preventing her from disappearing. Ali felt better after that she got what she needed to off of her chest. She wanted to wake up like this every morning and knew that she would do whatever she needed to in order to get the Pride and make that happen. Ashlyn could be home in a matter of days or weeks vs. months if she did. She was going to have to draw from within deep and she was nervous.

She got up and dug through her suitcase to pull out a Pride bandana, a soccer ball signed by Pele, and a Rutgers hoodie and went to place them on Carli’s bed with a thank you note. The bandana was just thrown in there to get a rise out of Carli. The hoodie and the ball were tokens of Ali’s gratitude for all that Carli had done for them, she picked up the hoodie the last time she played the Sky Blue. Ali was able to get Marta to make a phone call and get Pele to send a signed ball personalized to Carli since he seemed to be her favorite. The thank you note was signed by Ali, Ashlyn and “Pepe” not “Pele.”

She then fired off an email to the equipment manager for the USWNT asking for a Krieger, Harris and Swift Jersey with rainbow numbers and then asked the same of the Pride equipment manager so she could get that project started. Ashlyn was still asleep, so she went to the kitchen, made a smoothie, took Pepe out and fed him, and then went down to Discovery Green to run around the reflection pond and park. While she was out for her jog she ran into Morgan Brian and Kealia Ohai who were a welcomed sight. They ran two miles together and joined each other to do sprints up and down a nearby hill. Morgan brought a soccer ball with her and they played a game of monkey in the middle to practice their footwork. Ali’s heart was soaring that morning, she was finally back focusing on soccer at its highest level. This is what she was born to do and if Moe Brian couldn’t make you laugh, then no one could. This was exactly what her overworked brain needed, to connect with a soccer ball and let some of her aggression out.

When Ali returned to the apartment that morning and checked her phone, she had a text from Taylor Swift which was giving her the news she had been praying for all night. Taylor Freaking Swift was ready to do this and she had already made some calls. She instructed her to check her email. Ali, still sweaty, threw a towel over one of the chairs at the dining table and opened her laptop. She opened Taylor’s email and the proposal that was attached basically reiterated what Taylor told her she was willing to bid. They would offer Flavio a packaged deal but the Pride would be separate and not part of the investor group. She would want 20% back on her investment with the Pride and they had 15 years to pay it off.

For Orlando City SC, she had put her group together between last night and this morning. Taylor Swift didn’t screw around. If you wanted in on the deal, you had to pitch in 25 Million. She would front Ashlyn and Ali their 25 Million and wanted a 20% return on that. Each shareholder would get a piece of the Orlando City SC profits and the terms would be that if they wanted their share to be bought out, each investor would get a 20% return on their investment. So, if you put in 25 Million, you would be bought out for 30 Million and you would make 5 Million on your investment. This deal was going to be equal all around and fair. In the end, Taylor would be the only one making more than anyone else because she would be getting 20% on her return for Ali and Ashlyn’s share and 20% on her own if she chose to be bought out and that would let her walk away with 10 Million. Since she was putting the deal together and risking the most money it was only fair. She would probably walk away with 2-3 Million on her investment in the Pride. The Orlando SC deal would go like this:

Taylor Swift: 25 Million
Gaga: 25 Million
Gwen Stefani: 25 Million
Shakira: 25 Million
Dolly Parton: 25 Million
Ali/Ashlyn: 25 Million
Emilio and Gloria Estefan: 25 Million
Gisele Bundchen: 25 Million
Koby Bryant 25 Million

“Holy Shit,” Ali said to no one. She got up and went to the bedroom and went to wake Ash up.

“Ash, baby, I need you to wake up,” she said shaking Ashlyn’s arm. “Baby, Ash, hurry, I need you to get up.”

Ashlyn opened one eye and then slyly smiled at the sight before her. Ali Krieger in a bun, sports bra, soccer shorts and her body glistening with sweat. She went to grab Ali but Ali jumped back.

“Ash, good morning baby, but I am all sweaty and gross and I need a shower. I really need you to get up though because amazing things are starting to happen and I really need your help.”

Ashlyn sat up because it was rare that Ali ever asked anything of her in the mornings. “Ok babe, what do you need?” She asked as she rubbed her eyes and ran her hands through her hair.

“I can’t stand myself one minute longer and need to bathe, while I am doing that I want you to go look at the email that is open on my laptop from Taylor. Then I want you to call your attorney and explain things to him after he agrees to sign a confidentiality agreement. Have him look over the proposal and then discuss the things we have talked about, like how we can stash away some of our own money and protect it from this deal so we don’t sink if it does. I know Florida is a homestead state so no one could grab the house, but I need to know what to do with our cars, money, and other assets. When I get out I am going to do the same with my attorney and then we will compare notes. Now, chop chop baby, get up, make some coffee and I will join you in a few.”

Hurricane Krieger just hit Ashlyn’s bedroom with a force. Ashlyn was just going to have to suck it up and get after it because they didn’t have much time before Ali left the country. She put on her glasses and when she sat down and read Taylor’s email, she almost shit herself in disbelief and now understood why Ali was wound up tighter than a spring that morning. She got on the phone with her attorney and he agreed to sign the confidentiality agreement. Ali and Ashlyn had one of those already ready in their repertoire of forms for different people they had to deal with in their professional lives. She was waiting for him to sign it and return it to her before she would call him back. So she got up and fixed a bowl of cereal and a cup of yogurt. Just then she heard the water from Ali’s shower turn off and then saw Ali’s cell phone ding with a missed call and a text from Flavio asking her to call him.

Chapter Text

Flavio was sitting in the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills hotel going crazy. He just exhausted Oscar De Lahoya’s final lead. He still couldn’t reach Rod Stewart and David Geffen just turned him down over lunch. He reached out to George Clooney and Brad Pitt, both who turned him down. Steph Curry, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan had all also declined. Everyone was either over extended or not interested in European Football. If he had more time, he could find the investors in Japan or China but Barca was basically giving him 24 hours at this point. Donatella told Alex she was not interested and none of the fashion designers they knew were interested in Milan. Alex was able to get Ferrari interested but they would only commit to a sponsorship deal and were not interested in ownership.

Flavio had no choice but to call Ali Krieger to see if she had come up with anything, he was not going to let this deal fall apart over ten million. He and Alex could both sell their homes and get it but that wouldn’t be fast enough. He had no idea where he was going to get the operating capital but figured he could always go to the Chinese or Japanese for that once they had more time and got the deal done. Plus there would be something in the Barca coffers and Barca had a game next week that would bring in some revenue. If they could get this deal done tonight or tomorrow morning, they would draw up the papers and have this sealed up in a week or two.

+++++++

Ashlyn got the confidentiality agreement and then called her attorney to let him know about the deal they were looking at and then shot him over the financials for both teams and the proposal from Taylor. She then shot off to the bathroom.

“Babe, hey your phone just went off, you missed a call from Flavio and he just sent a text that he wants you to call him ASAP. I think right now you need to say fuck the hair and call him. I just sent everything over to my attorney.”

“Fuck, I was hoping we had more time and they could look everything over before Flavio called. Well like Taylor said, nothing is set in stone until the ink is on the contract so we can always negotiate and wait for things to come in. I knew when I didn’t see anything about Barca selling this morning that it was a good sign. Grab me a t-shirt and shorts and I will be right out.”

Ali wrapped her hair in towel put on her clothes and went to look at her phone. “Ash, grab your laptop and IPAD, a calculator, a pad, pens and your phone in case it is go time.”

Ali took a deep breath for a moment to collect her thoughts before she jumped out of her own skin. She had no fucking clue what she was doing. She was either going to come out of all of this as a winner or she was going to potentially fuck up her career and future. What else was new she told herself as Ashlyn brought everything over and sat next to her.

She first texted Taylor.

Kriegs: Hey Taylor, got your email and looked over everything, looks wonderful to me. Flavio just texted, I think it is Showtime.

Taylor: Then let the games begin! If it gets to the point where it goes to 210M or over then let me know, you can call, I will have my phone with me.

Kriegs: Ok then I am going to call him. Wish me luck

Taylor: You’ve got this Kriegs ;)

Ali dialed Flavio’s number on speaker wishing she had a valium she could take. She grabbed Ashlyn’s hand, closed her eyes and told herself “Just be a phone actress, you are playing a role.”

Flavio answered, “Hello Ali, how are you?” Flavio asked, trying to calm his nerves and not give away his predicament.

“Hi Flavio, I am great thank you, how are you?” Ali asked, squeezing the fuck out of Ashlyn’s hand.

“I am good Ali, thank you. I’d say those numbers from the game over the weekend were pretty impressive, congratulations Ali. I am sorry I haven’t had a chance to look over the new things you want to implement, I have had more pressing issues to deal with.”

“Thank you, that is no problem, I know you are focused on Barca. Is there anything I can do to help?” Ali asked.

“Well, I was wondering if you had put together any investors yet for the Pride?” Flavio asked.

Ali decided to use a little reverse phycology to test the waters. “I have but the group that I am speaking with wants both teams and I am not even sure you would entertain the idea.”

“Both teams? But Orlando SC is not for sale.”

“That is exactly what I told them, but they want the stadium and both teams so that they can support one another. So that is why I haven’t even brought it up with you.”

“Can you hang on just one second Ali?” Flavio asked.

“Absolutely,” Ali responded.

Flavio put the phone on mute and his head in his hands. Fuck, fuck, fuck. What in the hell? He began to think about the big picture of this deal. If they sold both, then he could pay off, the loan for the stadium. That would free up his balance sheet and would let him borrow more money as well as give him the operating capital he needed for Barca. If Real Madrid went up for sale he would need to borrow money as well as chase down a new group of investors and being tied up in Orlando wouldn’t help make that a reality. Orlando. A team he built from scratch after coming over here from South America to live out his dream. This was killing him but Barca was the big leagues and Orlando wasn’t.

“Ok Ali, sorry about that, I am in a restaurant and the waiter was serving me lunch. Ok let me hear the offer.”

“No problem Flavio. They want both teams for 175 Million.”
Flavio wanted to laugh. 175 Million and people in hell wanted ice water too.

“For both teams? There is no way I could do that,” Flavio responded. Ali let some silence hang in the air while she thought about this. Flavio was thinking about what he owed for everything.

“Look Ali, before we even go any further, I need to call the others and see if they would even entertain the idea of selling Orlando City and then I will come back with our counter. Give me a few minutes to call the others and I will call you back.”

“Ok Flavio. I will be by the phone. Thank you,” Ali said and hung up.

“175 Million, someone is dreaming,” Flavio thought to himself. Then he thought some more. No one else was offering him 175 Million in cash right now. Even if he put out word that Orlando SC was up for sale, it could take days or weeks for someone to make him a serious offer. He knew the other owners all expected several million dollars in return on their investment and they all thought they had years to make that happen. He may have to sell this deal to them to where they would be breaking even but Barca was where they were going to make their real money. He began to dial Oscar De La Hoya.

++++++

“Ashlyn, I feel like I am ready to barf,” Ali said after hanging up trying to settle her nerves. Ashlyn got up and grabbed her a Gatorade out of the fridge. Ali was notorious for puking when she got overly upset or anxious. Ashlyn then doubled two plastic bags to have a barf bag on hand in case Ali’s stomach betrayed her.

“We basically have 35 Million to play with. This is not my fucking forte. All I can say is that maybe there was a reason I had to negotiate with the others for 8 hours in that collective bargaining agreement with US Soccer. I guess that was setting us up for something greater. The question is, do I stop around 200M and then call his bluff and say that is firm?”

“I think you should stop at 195M and say that is firm. Then if he balks, you say you have to go back and talk to everyone. You can talk your way into and out of anything, just be confident like you always are and don’t let him see you sweat,” Ashlyn responded.

Ali nodded and then fired off an email to her attorney to get the process started with him, sending him her confidentiality agreement.

A few minutes later, Ashlyn’s attorney called and Ashlyn put that call on speaker as the two listened to what he had to say. The financials looked solid and the proposal that Taylor sent over was a fair one and standard for investment groups. He then let them know that if they did this deal, what things they should expect to be in the deal. Of course he would go over it as he was sure the investors attorneys would too. They needed to demand that the stadium be paid off in full, along with the land, and the offices, parking etc. and the deeds be turned over within ten business days. They also needed assurance that the property taxes were paid off for the year or reduce the asking price by that amount. He went over the team’s accounts payable with them to let them know what they would be expecting to have to pay the first day they walked in the door and took over the teams. Then he began to answer their questions about their personal assets and how they would structure this so that they had some protection.

They would set up a corporation and as far as their personal assets went, Ashlyn’s home would be protected. He suggested they add another layer of protection by setting it up in a trust. He also suggested a combination of a trust and an offshore account for any money they wanted to stash away and put that in someone else’s name if they wanted to protect themselves from future bankruptcy. Both Ashlyn and Ali agreed that Ali’s mom, Deb, would be the person they would trust with that. They each agreed to stow away $250,000.00 a piece in that. They would have $500,000.00 stashed away for their future if they went bankrupt and everything went to hell. He said they should start that process immediately before they signed any contract and that he could begin drawing the paperwork up that day.

He then offered his advice to them if they should get married to both sign a prenup. They should agree to split everything in the trust down the middle as well as their shares in both teams and agree to walk away with anything they both entered the marriage with. Ashlyn’s house and other assets should remain hers and Ali’s assets should remain hers as well too. Ali told him she still wanted to consult her attorney for a second opinion which he had no problem with. He told her that he would overnight the papers to them that day so they would get them the following morning and have them on standby should they decided to pull the trigger. They would have to sign them and overnight them back immediately along with a check or bank draft. Setting up the house in a trust would take longer but at least they would have one of their major assets protected.

“Well, I feel better, at least we have one attorney’s opinion so we are not just shooting in the dark here,” Ashlyn said.

“I agree. This is insane, how am I supposed to leave for Sweden the day after next with all of this going on? How am I supposed to play soccer? I am going to shit myself across Europe the way my stomach feels right now,” Ali said holding her face in her hands which caused Ashlyn to burst out in laughter. Then of course Ali followed.

“Ali, if this happens, do you realize that by next week we may be going to the Dash and I could be back in Orlando with you in a week or two? Jane could take over my part of the lease and move in with Carli if they both agree to it. Will you ask Carli and see if you can pick Jane’s brain in confidence when you see them? I seriously may need to get some moving boxes. Christ, just think in two weeks we might be able to focus on playing soccer again. I shoot all of my endorsements this week,” Ashlyn chuckled.

Ali got up and sat in Ashlyn’s lap and gave her a hug, holding her face. “See, that is my motivation right there, getting you and Pepe home to me as soon as possible. Ok, man the phone so I can go comb my hair out real quick before this towel falls off.”

Ali went into the bathroom and took a few deep breaths. Christen Press would tell her to meditate but she didn’t have time for that. So she tried to calm herself down and control her breathing and relax her brain. In a normal situation, an agent or an entertainment attorney would negotiate for her but she didn’t want to pay them 20% on the deal and she had already started this privately with Flavio. It would save them both millions, so she just had to suck it up.

She could hear Pepe beginning to hack in his cage and sure enough he threw up his breakfast by the sounds of Ashlyn’s squealing. She hurried up and finished her hair so she could man the phone since Ashlyn was now playing barf patrol. Ali hadn’t thought that through because the minute she walked in the living area and smelled the puke her stomach decided it had enough. Just as she grabbed the plastic bags and ran to the kitchen sink, up came the contents of Ali’s stomach.

Ashlyn looked at both Ali and Pepe and thought, “Really, what the fuck just happened? Fuck me.” Ashlyn felt like putting them both outside. Luckily, most of Ali’s hit the plastic bags but were in one side of the sink. She was washing her face on the other side of the sink and rinsing out her mouth with the mouthwash Ashlyn kept next to the kitchen sink, why in the kitchen, Ali didn’t know but in that moment she was grateful it was there. Just as she dried her face, the phone started ringing. Ashlyn was left holding a trash bag, Clorox and obviously was on barf cleanup. The sight of both made her want to barf too but she willed herself to get through this and clean. Thank god she didn’t have time to eat her cereal earlier.

“Hello, Flavio?” Ali said as she patted her sweaty forehead down with the damp towel.

“Hello Ali, Ok so I was able to speak with everyone.”

“What did they say?” Ali asked.

“Much to my surprise, everyone is open minded to selling both teams,” Flavio answered. They were even open to take a loss as long as it wasn’t too big but he wasn’t going to tell her that. Everything was riding on Barca for this group. They were all itching to own this team.

Of course they were, Ali thought. Open minded to selling both teams my ass, she thought. Taylor was right, they were in a pinch and desperate. That was the only reason she was getting this call this morning and Ali’s inner Lion could smell blood. The nerves completely left her body.

“Well that is excellent news,” Ali responded.

“Yes it is, however they won’t sell for 175M. They want 215M.”

“Wow, we are so close but yet so far away Flavio. We just can’t get there. 180M is the best we can do.”

Flavio sat in silence. Jesus this would be a 20 Million dollar loss and wouldn’t cover all of their costs but it would free up their cash.

“I can’t do 180M Ali. The team is worth 240M.”

“I understand Flavio, like I said, it is the offer I was presented with for now. I could always go back at just looking at the Pride but it is going to take me a few days on that deal. This particular group wanted both teams or bust.”

Flavio thought about it some more. His original investment on Orlando City was 40M and so any losses his group took was most likely going to come out of his portion of this. This wasn’t even including his investment in the Pride. However, the money he stood to make on Barca was so much greater. He could make back his losses in months most likely. His wife was going to be so pissed, but this was going to be the cost she would have to pay if she wanted to live close to her Mother again.

“190M Ali and we have a deal.”

“Are the property taxes paid off this year for the stadium, parking, land and offices?”

“Yes, all taken care of earlier this year,” Flavio answered.

“Can you give me just a moment and let me see if they are willing to throw in anymore,” Ali responded.

“Sure, you can put me on hold,” Flavio responded.

Now Ali knew she had him if was willing to hold while pretended to call her investors. Ali put the phone on mute and walked into the kitchen.

“Do you need any help babe? I am so sorry, I will clean this up.”

“Really Ali? Are you serious right now, look at you owning him like a boss. Puke is the least of our worries, how the hell are you not puking right now? Our fucking dreams are about to come true!”

Ali laughed, “I just know that I have him. The fact that he called me back and said they were willing to entertain the idea was his tell. Who is doing the begging here and who isn’t?”

Ashlyn hugged Ali, “Well go own that shit, close this bitch and then we can celebrate tonight.”

Ali smiled and walked back over to the phone hitting the mute button again.

“Flavio?”

“Ali.”

“My investors are at 185M firm. I am so sorry it looks like we just couldn’t get there,” Ali said smiling at Ashlyn.

Flavio sat in silence. Fuck. He didn’t know if she was bluffing or not. It was 4:00 p.m. in Barcelona right now and he didn’t have time to fuck with this and loose a deal over 5 million dollars.

“This is all cash right?” Flavio asked.

“All cash deal,” Ali responded.

“Ok, done. Ali Krieger, congratulations, you are the owner of two Orlando soccer clubs.”

“Congratulations to you too Flavio, sounds like you are the new owner of one of the most successful football clubs in the world.”

“Thank you Ali.”

“Now before we go further, I have to ensure that the loan to the stadium will be paid off. My group wants the deed to the land, stadium, parking and facilities within ten business days of us signing the deal and cash exchanging hands.” Ali stated.

“That won’t be a problem, as soon as we get the cash, we will make the payoff. I can our legal team started on the paperwork this afternoon.”

“Ok great. I leave for Sweden the day after tomorrow but I can sign anything I need to over there or when I return over here. I will give you the attorney’s info. for my investment group.”

“Ok, I have to go let Barca know that they have a deal so they can get started on the same thing for me. It may take a week or two for all of this to go through, the main thing is that we have come to an agreement so I can go to Barca. It is now all paperwork and logistics form here. Do you have any questions?”

“Is there any way we can keep my end of the deal under wraps until we sign and do the deal? I do not want it getting out that Ash and I bought the teams until I get back from Sweden. I am already coming out this week with my lifestyle, I don’t want to be any more of a distraction to the National Team than that. Plus I have to deal with getting Ashlyn out of Houston and back to Orlando and I want that deal done before the media catches wind.”

“That won’t be a problem at all Ali. We can leave everything in place as it is until you get back to Orlando. We can also say we sold the team but will be revealing the new ownership at a later time.”

“Thank you Flavio. That would give me time to tie up any loose ends.”

“Ali, I have to give you credit, you are one exceptional young woman. Do you realize you and Ashlyn will be two of the youngest owners of a sports franchise ever? Today you became a pioneer. Please promise me that you will take good care of my baby, I built that place from the ground up and both are only two years old. I will make sure Alex is at your disposal for the next two to three months while you transition. I will send him back to the states next week. That way you won’t be left out in the cold and he can begin putting his house on the market and packing up. He can teach you and Ashlyn the ins and outs of both organizations. I suppose you are going to ask the Dash to trade Ashlyn?”

“Thank you so much Flavio, you don’t know what a welcome help that would be. That was one of my biggest concerns. Yes, as soon as the deal is done, right before we announce that we are the new owners. It will force the Dash to trade her for Jane and probably someone else.”

“Well if it were up to me, I would offer up Spencer, she has been hot and cold this season but the Dash could really use a striker up front.”

“You and I think a lot alike Flavio,” Ali chuckled.

“Ok, I have to go call Barca. So in the meantime, let’s keep our investors reigned in and everyone’s mouths closed. I am going to fly into Barcelona tomorrow and will probably be there the next week. I can even deliver the papers to you in Sweden for your signature if need be, we will be in the same time zone, so why don’t we plan on that?”

“Ok that will be great, as long as our attorneys have had time to look everything over. Make sure to confirm with me that they have before coming over. Let me know if you want to come to one of the games and I will leave tickets for you in the friends and family suite.”

“Sounds good Ali, I would enjoy that. Ciao.”

“Ciao.”

Ali hung up the phone and was ready to burst right there all over Ashlyn Harris’ kitchen table.

“Fuck Yes!!!!!!” Ashlyn yelled and met Ali halfway who ran straight to her, flying through the air and wrapped her legs around Ashlyn’s hips. She kissed Ashlyn so hard and sucked the breath out of both of their bodies. In that moment it was just the two of them.

Chapter Text

“Do you fucking believe this Ash? Our fucking future is set. We don’t have to give up football, not ever baby. We don’t have to wonder what we are going to do after soccer or what our lives are going to be like when we have to give up the sport we love. This is the rest of our life Ashlyn. What do you think about that?” Ali said, absolute joy spreading over her face.

“My heart is about to burst Ali! I have no idea how a girl from Satellite Beach came to be so fucking lucky. We are in it to win it baby, you and me in a great big purple rainbow for the rest of our lives. And you know what is even better? I get to come home! No more sticking it out with the Dash and I can toss everything creamcicle! And holy shit, we are now a part of the MLS! You and me and you know what else? Fuck Jill Ellis, just wait until she finds out about this! God we have so much to think about. How are we going to handle this with US Soccer?”

Just then, Ali’s phone began to ring and she ran across the room to pick it up. It was her attorney. He had sent back the signed confidentiality agreement and she proceeded to tell him what all was going on. He said mainly the same things as Ashlyn’s attorney did. So they agreed that they would let Ashlyn’s attorney draw up the papers for their personal finances and assets since he was based out of Florida. Ali’s attorney happened to be a sports attorney as well and was a former agent so she began to pick his brain on some of the logistics. He represented Hope Solo, Mia Hamm, Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan and Heather O’Reilly so he was familiar with US Soccer.

Ali explained to him that she and Ashlyn would own the Pride outright and were backed by a single investor. She then explained that they would own a stake in the men’s MLS team along with the other investors. However, in no way were their soccer careers over. They still wanted to play with the Pride which wouldn’t be a problem, but they still aspired to play on the USWNT and wanted to try to make the next World Cup and Olympic team, so how would they go about dealing with this and what precautions would they need to take in any announcements?

They both pulled up their US Soccer contract. There was nothing in it that said they couldn’t own or be part owner in an NWSL, MLS or any other professional sports team. They decided that it would be best for her and Ashlyn to go to Sunil Gulati of US Soccer after speaking to Flavio to see how he wanted to break the news to US Soccer that he would be selling the team. Ali fired off a quick text to Flavio to please call her back that afternoon when he was done with Barca. Since Ali would be in Sweden, it would probably be best for Ashlyn to fly up to Chicago and meet with Sunil after they spoke to Flavio and Flavio spoke to Sunil. They would need to show Sunil that they were committed to the Pride and to playing for the US to bring a World Cup and Olympic gold medal back to the states. They were going to have to emphasize their commitment to training and playing as well as making the Pride and Orlando SC more successful than it already is and a lot of that would involve delegation to a fabulous and ex