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Clinching the very last playoff spot after a long week of travel isn't easy, but LA manages to sneak into the fourth-place spot after a hard-fought battle in New Jersey. One thing that might be slightly harder is captaining your team to a semifinal win in Portland while on your period, but that's exactly what Kelley is able to do with her team as Alex cheers in the stands.

 

“I'm sorry we can't celebrate the good way,” Kelley pouts when she and Alex get back to the hotel room Alex got for the night. It's a suite with a full kitchen they both know they won't use (why else would room service exist?) and a California King bed that they will only use a small sliver of (Kelley gets cuddly on her period).

 

“I'll call the front desk and see if we can get a heating pad,” Alex says.

 

“I think I'm going to take a bath,” Kelley says.

 

“Poor baby.”

 

The bathtub is big enough for two easily, and Kelley considers inviting Alex to join her for a split second before she's doubled over in pain from cramps.

 

“Baby, did you happen to bring Midol?” Kelley calls as she unzips the pink and white polka-dotted toiletry bag on the counter. She rummages through it for medicine, pushing aside orange bottles and tampons till she finds the box she needs. “Never mind, got it!”

 

She places the scattered items back in neatly, but before she zips the bag, she reads the writing on the orange bottle nestled on top. Then she reads it again, because surely it can't be right. Once she's absolutely positive she's reading this and not having a complete mental breakdown, she sets it down calmly on the counter and runs the bath to drown out the sound of her tears.

 

She takes her time scrubbing and shampooing and washing her face when she gets out of the tub, appreciating the last few minutes of normalcy she’ll have maybe in her entire life before slipping into the fluffy bathrobe hanging on the back of the door. She takes a deep breath looking in the mirror as she grips the orange bottle from before in her hand.

 

“Babe?” she calls as she walks into the main room, where Alex is painting her toenails. “Do you remember where I was on September 18?”

 

Alex looks up. “Um, no? Should I?” Kelley stays quiet as she thinks. “Wait, wasn't that when you were gone for the New Zealand friendlies?”

 

“Oh yeah,” Kelley says. “You're right. That's so weird.”

 

“Why, did you get your period then?” Alex asks, furrowing her brow.

 

“No, no,” Kelley says. “I'm just trying to figure out how I managed to fill a prescription at a CVS in Santa Monica while I was in Cincinnati.” She holds up the half empty bottle to a silent Alex, who stares at it in dread.

 

Alex stays glued to her spot, staring at the bottle instead of Kelley until finally Kelley slams it down on the kitchen counter.


"Are you going to say anything?" Kelley demands. "This is a new low, even for you."

"Kelley," Alex breathes.

"What did I say?" Kelley asks, her voice shaking. "Last time you lied to me, what did I tell you?"

Alex's lip quivers. "Kelley, please."

"I don't think you understand," Kelley says, picking up the bottle just to slam it down again. "This is how people end up on heroin. This is how they end up dead in bathtubs with needles still in their arms. This shit right here."

Alex is shaking now, her head buried in her hands.

“I didn't even take half of the original prescription,” Kelley says. “Did you finish that and half of this?”

 

“Not all at once,” Alex says, her voice small.

 

“Well yeah, you'd be dead if it were all at once,” Kelley says. “How long have you been doing this?”

 

“I'm sorry.”

 

“I don't care if you're sorry!” Kelley exclaims. “You've been sorry a million times! I care if you're alive. Do you know how many times I've woken up in the middle of the night panicking because I'm scared you could be dead?”

 

“I've never—”

 

“Just because you've never ODed doesn't mean you never will,” Kelley says, her chest tightening. “That's literally how it works. You're in control until you aren't, and then it's too late. You're just having some fun at parties until you're stealing your girlfriend’s prescription to get your fix.”

 

“I didn't mean to.”


"I know you didn’t mean to,” Kelley says. “Nobody means to become a drug addict.”

 

“Don't call me that!”

 

“You are!” Kelley shouts. “You're an addict! Can you just admit it? You got screwed by a few shitty things and don't know how to cope. You're a high-functioning drug addict, and you need help!"

"Maybe I am!" Alex yells back. "Maybe I do! But screaming at me isn't going to change anything."

"And letting you spiral out of control is?" Kelley retorts.


Alex's body continues to tremble with sobs.

"I've let you get this far because I've been terrified to confront you and take the chance I might lose you, but now I'm pretty sure I'll lose you anyway."

"I'm not going anywhere," Alex cries. "You could never lose me."

"Don't make promises you can't keep!" Kelley exclaims, opening the bottle and pouring its contents into the kitchen sink. She turns on the water and the garbage disposal, watching as the pills disappear. She buries her face in her hands, resting her elbows on the counter. "What am I supposed to do, Alex? How am I supposed to do this? I don't know how to help you anymore!" She runs her hands through her hair roughly, not even caring when her hand catches in the tangled ends she hasn't had a chance to brush out yet. "Maybe I never did."

"I don't even know what to say," Alex says. "You deserve better."

"So do you, Alex!" Kelley exclaims. "I've tried everything to give you better. I don't know what else to do. I've given you chances, I've been glued to your side because I figured if I was always around you could never slip up, I've driven you to a therapist twice a week for the past month. Where could I have been better? Why is nothing working?"

"You don't think I ask myself that every day?" Alex cries. "I haven't deserved you in a long time. I can't figure out why you stay, but I love you for staying. I don't know what to do either, and I'm so scared all the time, but when you're here, I'm not scared. I feel like my head is above water with you and I can breathe."

"So why?" Kelley asks, her voice breaking. "Why is that not enough to stop?"

"I don't know," Alex says.

“What are we going to do, baby?” Kelley asks, sitting on the corner of the bed. “I can't help you if I don't know what you're dealing with.”

 

“Maybe you can't help me,” Alex says. “Maybe nobody can.”

 

Kelley moves to wrap her arms around Alex’s shoulders as she breaks down in tears. She rests her chin on Alex’s head, rubbing her back as she sobs, lacking any words to say.

 

Alex cries herself to sleep in Kelley’s arms, but Kelley can't fall asleep to save her life. She tucks Alex in gently before moving to the couch, where she pulls out her laptop and types in the words she's been avoiding for over a year.

 

------

 

Kelley wakes up pinned into the crease of the couch with Alex tucked into her side.

 

“Hi,” Alex says, her voice gravelly like someone who just spent the night crying.

 

“Hey,” Kelley replies. She places a kiss on Alex’s warm forehead. “How are you feeling?”

 

“Like shit,” Alex says. She sits up to grab Kelley’s laptop, typing in her password to bring up what Kelley fell asleep looking at. “Can we… talk about this?”

 

“Rehab?” Kelley asks.

 

Alex nods. “Something has to work eventually, right?” she asks with a weak smile. “Amy knows people. You don't have to Google.”

 

“Did you ask her?”

 

“She's talked to me about it before,” Alex says. “Just not since I told her I quit.”

 

“Did you?” Kelley asks quietly. “Quit, I mean.”

 

“I tried,” Alex says, staring at her hands as she plays with her fingers in her lap. “I had really bad headaches, and I went looking for painkillers, and…”

 

Kelley nods.

 

“I'm really sorry,” Alex says. “I thought I could stop by myself.”

 

“I know you did, sweetheart,” Kelley says, kissing Alex’s temple as she starts to cry again. “You're okay.”

 

“Are we?” Alex asks, her blue eyes glassy with tears.

 

“We will be,” Kelley answers. “Promise.”

 

------

 

The flight home is weirdly normal, even with the dark cloud hanging over their weekend. Amy picks them up from the airport and, without saying a word, gives Kelley the comfort that maybe everything will actually be okay.

 

Amy speaks calmly as they drink freshly brewed coffee at the dining room table, explaining everything to Alex the way Kelley has heard her explain why the sky is blue and why the witch from Snow White won't sneak into his bedroom as soon as Mommy leaves.

 

Kelley had laughed it off way back when Alex described Amy, who's less than two years older than her, as “like my mom,” but now it makes sense.

 

“I'm going to call a couple places,” Amy says gently, placing her hand atop Alex’s. “I'm really proud of you, Al.”

 

Kelley barely has a moment alone with Alex before Nina bursts through the door, ending their peaceful silence with her booming voice talking logistics and “how we’re going to tackle this with the press.”

 

“They're not going to ask,” Kelley says, exasperated. “It's not like she gets followed around by paparazzi.”

 

“No, but—”

 

“So what, we work with the brands that sponsor her and schedule posts? Amy can post for her. Hell, I can post for her. This is Alex’s business.”

 

“I’d rather not make an announcement,” Alex says. “Just tell the people who need to know and be done. People can just think Kelley and I went on a postseason vacation.”

 

“I think we need to get ahead of it,” Nina insists. “We say you're being treated for stress and exhaustion.”

 

“Everyone knows what that means,” Alex says. “Can't we just take the week to think about it?”

 

Amy clears her threat, holding up her phone from the doorway. “I don't think so, babe,” she says. “The place in San Jose has an opening on Friday they're willing to give you because this qualifies as an emergency, but if we don't take it, they'll give the spot to someone on their non-emergent waiting list.”

 

Alex looks at Kelley, her eyes filled with panic.

 

“We’ll take it,” Kelley says. “Tell them she's coming.”

 

“Baby, the final is on Saturday,” Alex says. “After that, that's what you agreed.”

 

“I don't care,” Kelley says.

 

“I do!” Alex insists. “I want to be there when you win. I can't miss that.”

 

“She's coming,” Kelley says. “I'll drive her up on Friday.”

 

“What the hell, Kelley?” Alex exclaims. “You aren't doing that.”

 

“Please don't argue with me,” Kelley says, lowering her voice. “We agreed that you needed to do this. The timing isn't great, but you're the most important thing right now.”

 

Alex clasps Kelley’s outstretched hand and nods toward Amy. “Yeah,” she says. “I'll take it.”

 

------

 

The drive to San Jose should only take about five and a half hours with such light traffic, but Kelley barely goes above the speed limit, knowing this is going to be her last chance to be alone with Alex for the next month. It could be longer, warned the kind woman they spoke to over the phone, if Alex doesn't feel that she has a good grip on things at the end of the first six weeks.

 

Alex goes between crying soft weepy tears to laughing to staying completely silent for long stretches of time. Kelley stays mostly quiet, simply enjoying the ability to touch Alex, keeping a steady grip on her thigh.

 

“This is beautiful,” Kelley says, an attempt at levity when she hears Alex’s breath hitch as they turn onto the winding path that leads to the facility.

 

“Yeah,” Alex agrees, taking Kelley’s hand.

 

“I'm really proud of you,” Kelley says for probably the fifth time today. Alex just nods and swallows hard, staring out the window.

 

Kelley is the first one out of the car when she pulls it through the circular driveway in front of the main building. From the pictures they saw online, she knows the campus spreads far beyond what she can see and overlooks a beautiful forest and lake, but every part of it looks pristine, starting with the cobblestone walkway to the front door.

 

She opens Alex’s door to help her out before walking around to the trunk to grab Alex’s luggage, fighting her off playfully.

 

A petite redhead who can’t be much older than Kelley and Alex walks out of the front door, flanked by two young men who take the bags from Kelley. “You must be Alex,” she says. “Welcome home.”

 

Alex shakes her hand as Kelley’s stomach clenches at her words, even though she knows they’re supposed to be reassuring.

 

“This is my girlfriend, Kelley,” Alex says.

 

“Welcome, welcome,” she says. “I’m Trista, we spoke on the phone. We are so glad to see you.”

 

Alex doesn’t say anything, and Kelley knows she mainly doesn’t want to be rude because the feeling is certainly not mutual.

 

“You can leave your car out here,” she says. “You’re our only arrival today, so as long as you have all your belongings, I’ll go ahead and get you all checked in.”

 

Kelley holds Alex’s hand the entire time they’re checking in, to the point where Kelley wouldn’t be surprised if Alex is just doing it for her benefit.

 

Alex is kind and polite to everyone she meets, not that Kelley would expect any different from her, but she wonders how much of it is Alex’s insistence that she’s not a real addict, just that she somehow woke up in this parallel universe where she’s someone else.

 

Trista talks evenly about the expectations over the next few weeks, but she doesn’t sugarcoat anything. Alex cringes when Trista reads the information she has on file about Alex’s addiction, which reads like a rap sheet.

 

The program will last six weeks (more if needed, she reminds them), and for the first week, Alex will not be allowed to contact anyone. After that, she can send and receive mail, and she’ll have limited phone access at certain times of day, but their only real chance to talk will be during the two family therapy sessions scheduled in the middle and at the end of the program.

 

Reading the schedule, it kind of feels like summer camp between all the outdoor activities and creative workshops, but Kelley keeps that thought to herself as Alex asks questions about her room and expected level of participation in group therapy.

 

Kelley manages to put the reality of the situation out of her mind and ignore the fact that she’s literally about to leave her girlfriend alone in the hands of strangers for more than a month while she does what? Keeps living life? Acts like everything’s normal? Nothing about this is normal.

 

“Are you ready to see your room?” Trista asks gently, looking toward Kelley even though the question seems to be directed at Alex.

 

Kelley realizes pretty quickly that this is where she’s sugarcoating. Kelley won’t be allowed to see Alex’s room. It’s time for her to go.

 

Alex doesn’t catch on quite as fast, standing up with Kelley’s hand still in her own. “Sure,” she agrees.

 

“I’ll give you two a few moments,” Trista says, standing up with Alex’s file and disappearing into a room.

 

Alex looks at Kelley with pure fear in her eyes. “I change my mind,” she says. “I can’t do it.”

 

“Yes you can,” Kelley says, grabbing Alex’s other hand. “You are so brave, Al. You can do anything.”

 

Alex’s eyes well up with tears, sending Kelley right over the edge. “I’m sorry,” she says. “I’m so sorry. Please don’t make me do this.”

 

“This isn’t a punishment, my love,” Kelley says, wrapping her arms around Alex’s waist and leaning back so she can look into her eyes. “You’re here because you’re strong. You’re here because I love you and I’m proud of you and I want everything good for you.”

 

Alex lets out a wail unlike anything Kelley has ever heard from her, and she squeezes Kelley tight, sobbing into her neck.

 

“You’re okay,” Kelley says, her refrain to both Alex and herself for the past week. She rubs Alex’s back to soothe her, waiting for her gasps to subside. “I’m going to hit the road,” she says. “I’m not going far. I’ll be just down the road, okay?”

 

She hasn’t really planned that far yet, but she knows she won’t be able to get more than 15 minutes away without worrying herself sick over Alex, so she’ll look for a hotel nearby to camp out for a few days just in case she has to rush back.

 

Alex nods. “I love you,” she says. “I’m so sorry.”

 

“Say you love me again,” Kelley says. “I want that to be the last thing, not an apology.”

 

“I love you,” Alex says, finally releasing Kelley from her grip.

 

“I love you too, baby,” Kelley says. “So much.” She stands on her tiptoes for a salty kiss and gives Alex’s hands one final squeeze before walking out.

 

She contains herself until she’s out the door, but she barely makes it to the car, parked ten feet away, before losing it entirely.

 

------

 

When she finds a hotel, she calls Alex’s parents first to update them on everything and reassure them that Alex is safe. Then she texts Nina and Amy, then Mana and Allie, then her own family.

 

Against her better judgment, when she finally finishes informing the tight-knit group Alex okayed, she checks Twitter, where it seems news of her absence from the upcoming final has just broken via her coach.

 

@LAWFC: BREAKING: Kelley O’Hara to miss @NWSL final. We’ll miss you, Captain. This one’s for you.

 

She takes a deep breath before opening her Notes app and screenshotting the statement she typed out last night after Alex fell asleep.

 

“Growing up in club soccer, I never questioned when sport took priority over life. If someone wanted to schedule a wedding for a weekend I was away for a tournament, so be it—I wasn’t missing that tournament. Soccer was the most important thing in my life, so surely the world must revolve around it, right? Imagine my surprise when I found out life has very little respect for my soccer schedule.

 

“I am so thankful for the support of my coaches, teammates, and fans as I take time to handle some personal matters. I am heartbroken to miss a game that we have all worked so hard for, but I have complete confidence in my team and my co-captain to bring home the trophy. I will be cheering them on the whole way.

 

“As for you, my fans and friends, all I ask is that you respect the privacy of me and my loved ones at this time and believe me when I say my dedication has never wavered, but some things are bigger than football. All my love, KO.”

 

-----

 

She's barely been away from Alex for an hour, but her absence is palpable, particularly when she lies down and attempts to take a nap. She knows the first few days of Alex’s stay will be low-key to ease her physical aches and pains, but she still wonders what she's doing, who she's talking to, if she's missing Kelley.

 

Her attempts at napping continue to be thwarted by the buzzing of her phone, likely the result of her family group message, but when she opens it, she sees text after text from Amy.

 

“Call me,” says the first.

 

“Seriously, need to talk now,” says the next.

 

“Just left you a voicemail. Listen to that before anything else.”

 

Kelley's heart races as she listens to the voicemail from Amy.

 

“Hey,” Amy says, her voice short. “I don't know how, but it's out there. About Alex. If you get any calls or emails asking for info, just ignore them till I can get to the bottom of this.”

 

Kelley's heart sinks as she hears the worry in Amy’s voice, and she texts back quickly. “Alex cannot know.”

 

“I know,” Amy replies. “Don't worry. We’re on damage control.”

 

Out of curiosity, Kelley powers on Alex’s phone, which is inundated with texts and calls and emails. She isn't planning to look at or read any of them, but when she sees “Jonathan Gill” flash across the screen, she can't help herself.

 

“Hey babes,” it says. “Mana told me about the rehab. Shitty stuff. Get better soon so you can come back out with us all x”

 

Kelley deletes the thread, mostly out of anger, but also because she doesn't want Alex to know how this spread to him, from Mana, one of her best friends, one of the only ones who made the exclusive group that got to know.

 

She scrolls through the other messages, and while they don't all say where they heard it (the more recent ones got it from TMZ or Twitter), Mana seems to be a resounding theme.

 

Kelley's blood boils as she dials her number.

 

“Hello?” she answers.

 

“Who did you tell about Alex?” Kelley demands.

 

“Just a couple people who were asking,” Mana says. “Why?”

 

“Because it's on the fucking internet,” Kelley says. “Alex trusted you. I trusted you!”

 

“It's no big deal,” Mana says. “It's rehab. Everyone does it.”

 

“I don't care!” Kelley exclaims. “I swear to God if I hear anything else in the press coming from you, you'll never speak to Alex again.”

 

“Okay, Jonathan,” Mana scoffs.

 

“Excuse me?”

 

“You're just as possessive as he was,” she continues. “You don't own Alex. She's a grown woman. She can make her own choices.”

 

“Well she made the choice to get clean, and she’ll make the choice to stay that way,” Kelley retorts. “Do the right thing. Be a good person for Christ’s sake.”

 

“I didn't tell TMZ, for the record.”

 

“Well someone you told did,” Kelley says. “So you get to live with that now.”

 

She hangs up the phone without another word, shaking so hard her teeth are clanging against each other.

 

“Mana told the world,” she sends in a group text to Amy and Nina. “I'm so angry I can't even speak.”

 

“God help her,” Nina replies. “Don't worry, we’re handling. Just don't confirm or deny publicly.”

 

Kelley handles it the way she knows Alex would want her to: staying off the Internet and ordering far too much room service.

 

The next time she even opens Twitter is the morning of the final, sending out a tweet that says “GAMEDAY! So proud of this team. Let's get it @LAWFC. Can't wait to see @christenpress rocking that captain’s armband.”

 

It doesn't surprise her to see Alex’s name on her timeline when she scrolls through, but she is surprised about who it comes from.

 

TheDanLauletta: Presented without comment… RT @PerezHilton: Sources say Alex Morgan has checked into rehab for drug abuse :( bit.ly/CHAz5d

 

Then, of course, he fucking comments.

 

TheDanLauletta: For those asking, yes, the minor celeb referenced in my last RT is Kelley O’Hara’s rumored significant other

 

TheDanLauletta: As a reminder, we broke news yesterday that O’Hara would not be in today’s @NWSL final, citing “personal matters.”

 

TheDanLauletta: We don't publish unsubstantiated rumors, but O’Hara was unable to be reached for comment

 

Kelley can't help herself.

 

kohara19: @TheDanLauletta really? You don't publish rumors? Then what do you call your entire TL right now? Get a life, dude

 

Her next move is screenshotting her recent calls and emails, none of which came from any reporter or unknown number.

 

kohara19: @TheDanLauletta weird how I couldn't be reached for comment when nobody attempted to contact me

 

kohara19: Any Qs about rumors going around can be answered w/ my post yesterday about privacy. Thanks all for the support, it means the world.

 

She texts Christen “Don't talk to this asshat, and tell the rest of the girls they shouldn't either. Good luck today, love you” and blocks Dan before powering her phone off.

 

-----

 

LA wins the NWSL championship on a wonder strike from Christen, a huge feat for an expansion team, especially one that was barely in playoff contention in the middle of the season.

 

After the game, Christen tells the press that even though she wore the armband, Kelley was still leading the team from afar and they won it for her. Then she swiftly evades Dan’s creepy ass, and Kelley feels everything on the human spectrum of emotion at once.