Emily plays like a madwoman on the pitch during that day’s practice. Half to prove to everyone else that even though she’s going to be somebody’s mom, she still has what it takes on the field. Half to prove it to herself. And Rose, Rose takes the brunt of her drive, the blonde seeking her out like a heat-seeking missile no matter how far apart they are from each other on the field.
“I’m sorry, okay,” Rose stands after a particularly brutal slide-tackle, one that has Becky grinning and giving the right-back a proud fist-bump, “jeez.” And even though she doesn’t sound particularly sorry, Emily accepts the apology, nodding as she jogs back to her side of the field. And if Rose seems to deliberately avoid her for the whole rest of their practice, even into the locker room after, well, everyone notices and nobody says a word.
— — —
“I’m sorry,” Lindsey whispers, curled tightly around her wife one night halfway though camp, “like really, really sorry.” But Emily’s tears continue to soak into the thin material of her T-shirt, until the brunette can feel the dampness against her skin, her sports bra clammy with the growing wetness. And she means it, she is sorry. Sorry that this pregnancy has been so hard on her partner. She hates it when Emily is hurting, and hates it when Emily cries, and god help her, if Lindsey never has to hold back sweaty blonde hair while her wife vomits up everything she’s eaten in the since their wedding reception over a year ago, it’ll be too soon.
But she also knows that her “sorry” doesn’t mean much. Not when her life and body haven’t been turned completely inside out by this pregnancy. Honestly, at the core, not a single part of her life has really been affected directly—or physically. (Except maybe about the whole “not allowed to touch her wife’s breasts” part. That part has been the hardest for her to swallow.)
And so Lindsey is sorry that her wife is so miserable, but she’s also very, very much focused on the light at the end of this tunnel? Their baby. A little boy or girl, half-Sonnett and half-Horan (courtesy of an assist from her brother that Lindsey does her very best to not think about ever) and one hundred percent miracle. And there are times when Lindsey thinks, when she feels, that the end game here has to be worth everything else.
Of course, she’s definitely too fucking smart to tell her wife that.
But then there are days like today. Days when Emily is suffering so deeply that Lindsey just wants to wrap her up tight and hold her for the next several months. Today had been one of the worse yet. The nausea hasn’t let up in the slightest; if anything, now that Emily’s past the twelfth week, it’s only gotten worse. To the point that the trainers are concerned, talking about reducing the blonde’s training load, holding meetings and consultations on how to up her nutritional intake to help offset how much weight she’s lost even just in the last two weeks. And then today, after watching Emily haul off toward the large garbage bin off the sideline for the third time, Bailey had actually insisted on an IV earlier that afternoon, hoping to get some fluids into Emily, taking her back to the hotel only halfway through their afternoon practice to get it started. And Lindsey knew just how absolutely wrecked her wife was feeling when the blonde actually agreed to it. Even more when she'd let Bailey stick her for a second time just after dinner, which Emily had turned green at the scent of and turned down completely.
Thankfully, they have tonight off, and tomorrow is a travel day, when they’ll head down toward the site of their last tournament of the year, Olympic qualifiers. Lindsey plans to make sure that her wife does nothing but rest and hydrate the whole time. She’s even enlisted the help of one of the team’s coordinators to arrange for a private room at their next hotel, just for the day. Where Emily can curl up in a great big king-size bed, her head in Lindsey’s lap, and just recover a little in privacy without the constant interruptions of camp life.
But tonight, there’s not much she can do to help with the way her wife is feeling. Still, she whispers sweet “I love yous,” moving down Emily’s body and pressing gentle kisses over the soft old Thorns hoodie her wife is wearing, the one with Horan in faded letters across the shoulders. Emily is always wearing it lately when not in their camp clothes. She claims it helps with the nausea, and even if Lindsey thinks that is completely ridiculous, she’s not going to deny that it always makes her feel better when she sees her wife in her too-big sweatshirt. (Or that she’s already so excited to watch how Emily’s body will grow with their child, and fill it out a little more.)
The brunette pushes the sweatshirt up now, just enough to see the pale skin of Emily’s belly underneath. “Hey, there, little one,” she whispers, shifting the soft waistband of her wife’s sweatpants down just a little for better access, “It’s me, your fun mom.” And Emily shakes softly with a quiet laugh, exactly as Lindsey had intended.
“Listen, baby mine” she continues, her fingers brushing ever so softly over her wife’s warm skin, “I gotta ask you for a favor. You gotta take it easier on your mama.” Lindsey presses her lips over the barely perceptible bump there, invisible to anyone who hasn’t spent the last five years memorizing every inch of this woman’s body, perhaps. “I know you’re doing big things in there, sport, all that growing and becoming, but if your mama’s too sick, she can’t do her part of the growing you and we both want so much for you to be healthy and safe. So maybe if you can, go a little easier on her, yeah?” And she rests her head there, ear pressed over Emily’s bellybutton, almost like she’s listening for an answer.
She loses track of time, laying there listening to Emily’s body, rubbing slow circles over Emily’s skin, until she can hear the slow, even breathing of her wife from above.
— — —
“I’m coming in,” Rose says in a stage-whisper as she enters the hotel room, “put your hands where I can see them and make sure all body parts are fully clothed.” It’s something she started just after Emily and Lindsey had come out about their relationship, all those years ago, and she still thinks it’s hilarious. Lindsey ... tends to disagree. But at least she hadn’t yelled it like usual, and at least Emily hasn’t stirred.
And in recognition of those things, Lindsey holds back her instinct to reach over and rumple the sheets of Rose’s bed, toss the pillows around haphazardly, like they’d been pushed off the bed in a bout of enthusiastic, athletic love-making. It’s a concession to the fact that their friend has been mostly pretty decent about the whole baby thing. She doesn’t lift her head, however, or re-cover Emily’s exposed belly. And Rose sticks out her tongue before averting her eyes in so exaggerated a manner she almost walks into the open bathroom door.
“Coaches want to see you,” she says, covering her eyes with her hands, though Lindsey can see her peeking past her fingers, and knows Rose is just putting on a show. Laughter is the best medicine after all. “They were going to call your room but I told them you’d probably be in here with your baby-mama anyway, so I might as well just pass the message along.”
And Lindsey sighs softly, unwilling to leave her wife’s side but also knowing that this is the call she’s been waiting for, hoping for. “Stay here with her?” she presses a chaste kiss over Emily’s warm skin before fixing her shirt, and then pulling the light knit hotel blanket up front the foot of the bed and covering her wife with it for good measure. She catches Rose’s scowl as she turns, searching for her slides.
“Isn’t that what they invented baby monitors for,” Rose begins to change into the kind of clothes that definitely mean she’s in for the night, and Lindsey can hear the unspoken agreement in their friend’s gentle ribbing. Rose will watch over Emily while she’s out.
“Do whatever she asks you to, Rosie,” Lindsey says in a tone that brooks no argument. But after a moment's thought, she reconsiders her words. Emily and Rose, unsupervised, can get up to some pretty serious shenanigans. "Scratch that," she tells the younger woman, "do whatever I would do for her." And she gives Rose a determined look, "or Kelley will find out exactly who dropped her wedding ring down the drain in the locker room during your dumb ring swap prank last year.” But though the threat is an intimidating one, it’s also empty. Because even Emily isn’t 100% certain who the culprit has been, and if she found out that Lindsey had known this whole time which of their teammates had made her fellow Georgian cry like that? And that Lindsey hadn’t told her?
Well, she’d would be in big trouble, that is for sure.
But Rose doesn’t know that, and so the idle threat still makes for an effective one.
— — —
“So, nothing’s been decided yet officially,” Vlatko starts off, but Lindsey waves the words away. She knows what this is about, they don’t have to beat around the bush.
“You’re benching Em and you want to know if I’ll pull out of camp if you send her home,” she says, turning the chair backwards as she sits in it, folding her arms and resting them on the back of it. She shrugs when they look at her, though Lindsey’s not certain if they’re more surprised by her bluntness or her insight. “I’ve been waiting for one of you to make the decision, and I knew Emily would never pull out voluntarily. She’s too stubborn generally and way too sensitive about being perceived as weak right now.”
The coaches nod, it was the same conclusion they’d come to. “We’re concerned that with the toll her pregnancy is taking on her physical well-being—” one of the trainers starts to say. But Lindsey just cuts him off because seriously dude? Duh. Thankfully Bailey gives him a glare and he shuts up after that.
“Let’s just cut to the chase. You don’t want her to push herself so hard she injures herself or the baby—same.” Lindsey takes a breath, feeling relieved to not be carrying the burden of that fear alone, even just for a little while.
Vlatko looks at her, meets her eye. “If we send Emily home, would you be staying through to play out the qualifiers?”
“No,” she says simply, and it’s such an easy answer to give, no hesitation or second thoughts. If they send Emily home from camp, she’d pull herself out and follow her wife back home in a heartbeat. And maybe it’s not the answer she would have given at the start of camp, or even a week ago. But none of that matters because it’s the answer she’s giving now. It’s the answer that counts.
The coaching squad look back and forth among themselves, nodding like they’d known what her answer would be all along. The head coach waits a moment, and then nods his head. “I’ll be honest, we need you with us. The money CONCACAF has invested into building the women’s game across the participating countries, our competition is better than it has ever been. And while I’ve got full faith in our squad, your presence in the midfield is going to be a key part of our game plan.”
Vlatko looks at her, and she can’t help but think back to their previous coach, and how different this meeting would have gone under her. “We’ve talked about it, gotten clearance from above to keep her in camp even if she’s not going to be a fully participating member of the team,” he tells her, and Lindsey can feel the tears gathering in her eyes. Because he understands, she can see it. He knows that if she were here, if they pressured her to stay after they sent Emily home, she’d be useless to them. And not on purpose, not at all. But her mind and her heart would be somewhere far away, wrapped around her wife, worrying and wondering.
“Thank you,” she says, so quiet it’s almost a whisper, but loud in its sincere relief. “I mean it, thank you,” Lindsey directs it at all of them gathered here. “I know the timing of this—we tried a bunch of times and it never worked, and we knew we were cutting it close with camp and Paris this summer—.” She’s rambling, she knows, and they don’t need to know this, the whole story, but there’s something inside of Lindsey that needs to explain, needs them to understand that neither she nor Emily ever wanted this pregnancy to interfere with the team like this. “So we said one more time you know, and then we’d wait until after the Olympics to start trying again ...”
There’s a hand on her shoulder, and Lindsey looks up to meet their coach’s eyes again. “We didn’t expect that last time to be the one that worked,” she looked at him sheepishly, but Vlatko just gives her an encouraging smile.
“Babies are very good about turning our expectations all upside down,” he tells her in fatherly tone. “And Bailey is already working hard at putting together a plan for keeping Emily as close to the top of her game as is safe and healthy for her and the baby, and a graduated recovery after she gives birth that will have her ready for Paris by the time we get to there.” He pats her arm. “You and Emily are integral to the success of our team,” he told her, and Lindsey can feel the grateful tears begin to fall, “and it’s time for us to think about our players and what you all need in a much deeper holistic way. So we turn over a new leaf, we try to be better than we were before, yes?”
The meeting concludes, and Bailey walks back with her to the room. “I’ve got some ideas,” she says, and Lindsey is reminded for the thousandth time of how grateful she is to have the former Thorns medic on the national team’s staff now. “And what I’d like to do first thing when we get to Texas is sit down with you both and get your OBGYN on a conference call so we can begin to coordinate all together.”
Lindsey pulls her into a tight hug, whispering her thanks, as they get to the hotel door. She nods when Bailey says she’ll come around with another IV in the morning, that it should help with Emily’s beyond-terrible morning sickness, the hour or longer she’s been spending clinging to the toilet after waking, and hopefully make their travel to Texas easier. “Thank you,” she says again, wiping at her eyes, before turning and unlocking the hotel room door.
— — —
To be honest, Lindsey doesn't know what to expect when she opens the door and steps into the dim light of Rose and Emily's room. Rose and Emily and hers, really. After the fourth day of practice she'd basically just moved in with them. And Lindsey had pointed out that there was a perfectly good bed going unused just a floor below, not even bothering to disguise her hope that Rose would take the hint and unofficially move in with the rookie keeper she'd been roomed with.
But Rose, for some reason that Lindsey didn't quite understand, had refused. This was her room, she'd told the taller woman, and Lindsey was welcome to stay but Rose was most definitely not leaving. And maybe it had been a little weird once or twice over the past weeks, but for the most part, sharing Emily and Rose's room had been going pretty smoothly so far.
Still, what she finds ... it's ... it's almost incomprehensible.
The room is still dark, only lit by the lamp between the two beds. But unlike when she left, Emily is awake now, sitting-up against the headboard of the bed and reading a book, the fingers of one hand gently tangled in Rose's hair where their friend is—Lindsey has to look twice—no, she isn't seeing things. Where their friend is asleep, her head—no, her cheek—pressed to Emily's bare belly. It's exactly how Lindsey herself had been before she'd been called into the meeting with the coaches. And she snaps a quick picture before stepping out of her slides and moving closer.
"Hey, there," Emily whispers, and she actually sounds better than she has in days. Lindsey sends up another silent prayer of thanks for Bailey and her miracle IV treatments, the woman is a genius. She squats next to the bed, on the other side from where Rose is stretched out across Emily, and brings a hand up to stroke her wife's jaw.
"You're looking better," Lindsey smiles at her, so grateful that she gets to call this woman hers. So, so happy that they've made it to this point. Even if it hasn't been easy. Especially because it hasn't been easy. "But you want to explain this?" she nods down toward Rose.
And Emily puts her book down, some title Kelley had recommend, if Lindsey recalls correctly. "I don't know, why don't you tell me?" And she raises a brow, smirking as she looks up at her wife. And her face is thinner—too thin—and her eyes are still bloodshot, but Lindsey still thinks she's the most beautiful woman in the world.
But Lindsey can only quirk her head, uncertain what Emily means. "I didn't tell her to do this," she answers, rolling her eyes., "I just told her to keep an eye on you." She doesn't bother denying it any longer, not after that first day when Rose had blurted out her secret. Not the baby, though she had done that too, but that Lindsey had enlisted her help in looking after the blonde. Emily's mostly resigned to the fact after a few weeks of it now, and Lindsey doesn't see the point in making up some story about why Rose is basically her wife's shadow lately. But this? Telling Rose to cuddle with Emily? That Lindsey hadn't done.
She doesn't think.
"Not true," Rose says from where she's laying, awake now. "You told me to do what you would do." And Lindsey rolls her eyes, because yes, okay, technically she had said that.
"I meant, like, get her a drink if she needs it or something, Rosie," she says, getting up and climbing into the bed with them, taking up her favorite place at Emily's side, sandwiching her wife between the two of them. "Not practically go down on her." But the words are full of fondness, not anger, and she presses a teasing kiss to Emily's cheek. "She's mine, remember?"
Rose blushes, which Lindsey files away in her mental Things to Tease Rose About folder, and laughs at the younger woman. "She just—it seemed like it helped her feel better and sleep when you were talking to the baby and ..." but the words fade off when Lindsey laughs, and she moves to get up.
Except Emily's hand is still tangled in her hair, and the blonde doesn't seem interested in letting go any time soon. "You were right," she tells Rose, "it does help. I think the baby likes it." She scoots down in the bed again, laying back against the pillows with her wife on one side of her and one of her best friends in the world on the other. "So don't go, okay?"
After a moment, Rose nods, and Lindsey, who is obligated by the ring on her finger and the baby in her wife's belly to do whatever Emily wants for the entire rest of their natural lives, just sighs, resigning herself to sharing the blonde for the night. "This is weird, you realize that, right?" she whispers against her wife's cheek, and she can feel the smile Emily cracks in response.
"Maybe," she says softly, combing through Rose's hair again as Lindsey cuddles in close, "but it's nice, too."
And for the life of her, Lindsey can't disagree.